Wednesday, March 18, 2015

We Are Debt Free!!!!!

I can barely believe we did it.... We are officially debt free!!! Wahoo!!!!!!  Although I should preface this by saying that we do still have our mortgage. That sucker isn't going away for a while. But all other debt is gone! Nada. No more. Forever gone. I am by no means a financial expert of any sort, but here's how we did it thanks to Dave Ramsey.

But first a little back story. Brian graduated in 2009 with a handful of student loans, I graduated in 2010 with a handful of loans, in 2011 we bought a car and financed the whole thing, and then we had a baby in 2012 over two insurance years, and had to pay 2 years of deductibles which were on payment plans. We also moved cross country, and went 3 months without either of us working in-between jobs, which added on some credit card debt. So come January 2013 we realized we were sitting on $35,000 of debt, and only paying the minimum payments on everything. The rate we were at, we were going to be making payments for what seemed like forever, and quickly realized this was not the way we wanted to live.
So February 2013 I went back to work part time as a nurse, working night shift so we wouldn't have to pay for child care, and we started tackling our loans one at a time. While we followed majority of Dave Ramsey's advice, one thing we did not do was start with the smallest loan. Instead we started with the highest interest rate, and as soon as we paid off one loan, we snowballed our payment into our next highest interest rate loan.

One of the downfalls of Brian working in a job that is 100% commission, is that some months we could significantly contribute to our debt pay off, while other months we were scraping the bottom of the barrel to get by. So another way that we didn't totally follow Dave Ramsey is that instead of only keeping $1,000 in our emergency fund, we kept $5,000, knowing that some months (the slow months) we were going to have to tap into this.
Those first few months, we did well, pinching pennies where we could, and we made some significant headway. And then I got pregnant, miscarried in April, had a D&C and were stuck with a $4,000 medical bill.... paying for misery. And then the following week Harry had a fever of 106, so to the ER we went, and $1,200 later we were told he had a virus. Back to what felt like square one.

In June of 2013 we found out we were pregnant again, and once I was through the worst of the first trimester, I added more hours to my schedule, and instead of working 15hrs/week, I went up to 30hrs/week. I had the mentality that I could do anything for 6 months, and if we wanted to significantly pay off debt, this is what it was going to take. More then once (more like every weekend I worked) I would begrudgingly go into work, however having the mindset that this was temporary definitely helped. We were gazelle intense!
Come February 2014, we had paid off about $25,000 (in my book not bad for one year!), and we welcomed sweet little Oliver into the world. We were able to cash flow all $6,000 of his medical bills (thank you crappy insurance) and I took 4 months off of work to be home with the boys. Not much debt paying off happened then, but I wouldn't trade those first few months being at home and figuring out life as a family of 4!

Also in February, Brian started a new job that was again all commission, so those first few months not much money was coming in. At all. I look back on those months and wonder how we got by, but God provided as he always does, and we came out on the other side in the green.

June 2014, I went back to work, but instead of working like crazy, I worked an average of 12/hr a week. We eased off being gazelle intense, and instead paid what we could, but enjoyed life along the way. We also took my parents up on an amazing opportunity to move to one of their vacant houses, and rent out our house for some extra revenue. You'd think that decision would be a no brainer, but it was a tough choice for us to make to, not wanting to leave our newly purchased house, and not wanting to move, again, for the 6th time in 5 years. However wanting to put ourselves in a better financial situation, we went with our head and not our heart and moved to generate some rental income.

While I feel like most people start slow and ramp up, we kind of went the opposite. We never fell off the bandwagon, but the first year we paid off $25,000, and second year $10,000. Granted circumstances were much different the two years. We always kept the mindset that we were going to do our best to pay off debt, however we did buy a house, travel to Florida and Colorado, and went on a once in a lifetime vacation to St Lucia in those 2 years. We never ate rice and beans for every meal, actually we still bought mainly organic. I told you we are no financial experts....

However some things we did do:
-Significantly cut back on eating out. Having kids big time helped with that considering going out with them is not fun at all...
-Started shopping 2nd hand for clothes. It amazes me how many cute, in style, brand name clothes with tags on are at thrift stores.
-Stopped shopping the clearance section at Target. I was really good at convincing myself because something was 70% off, it was worth buying. I'm learning that if I wont pay full price for it, I don't need it.
-Read Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, and let this book be our guide
-Made our own laundry detergent and household cleaners
-Learned to coupon
-Said no to many things. There were times when we wanted to go out, or buy something, but instead stuck to paying off debt.
-Continued to give of our money. It's really never our money to start with, so we gave a portion to our church monthly
-Instead of grocery shopping at Whole Foods, we grocery shopped at Aldi
-Stopped buying things we wanted, and only bought what we needed

And a few anti Dave Ramsey things we did:
-We still contributed to Brian's 401K with each paycheck. Brian's employer matches up to a certain percent, so we felt like we were throwing away money but not optimizing the employer match
-We still contributed to the boy's college fund.... don't ask me my reasoning, we just did.

So there ya have it! The nitty gritty of how we became debt free. Now onto building our emergency fund, and saving our money for a minivan, because I have minivan fever like you wouldn't believe.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

March Inventory

Back in July I did a little "taking stock" blog post, and I thought it was about time I did another one! It was so fun to look back on the July post, and it took me right back in time to the day I had typed it, so here's to remembering that random March day that I stayed home sick from work.

Making: A head board. Well sort of. If you count having most the pieces and just waiting to buy the wood and actually start...
Cooking: Banana oatmeal breakfast cookies
Drinking: 7 up. The flu bug has hit our home....
Reading: The Girl on the Train. So good!
Wanting: To not have the stomach flu.
Looking: At the TV all day binge watching Netflix.
Playing: Jesus Culture Pandora.
Wasting: A gorgeous day inside. It's over 60 degrees out! In March! And people say Minnesota is too cold....
Sewing: Ha. Sewing....
Wishing: That I had more energy to clean and do laundry.
Enjoying: A quiet house which is a rarity around here.
Waiting: To feel like I actually know what I'm doing at work.
Liking: The ages the boys are at. 1 and 3 is pretty dang fun.
Wondering: Where we will someday live.
Loving: Brian. And his amazingness of being a dad.
Hoping: To be able to go to work tomorrow.
Marvelling: That spring is right around the corner! This winter wasn't half bad.
Needing: A king size bed. Well not really need, more want.
Smelling: The peach prosecco candle burning in the kitchen.
Wearing: Work out clothes. Although yet to work out today.
Following: The weather forecast. It just keeps getting better and better!
Noticing: How good I have it.
Knowing: That the days are long but the years are short.
Thinking: That being home sick isn't nearly as bad when the boys are at school. Still stinks, but nearly as bad as it could be.
Feeling: Nauseous. And no I'm not pregnant.
Opening: The sliding glass doors! Come on in fresh air! We have missed you!
Giggling: At the funny pinterest pin Kelsey sent me.
Feeling: A little lonely. Isn't it funny as a mom you long for the days when you have some time for yourself, and then you get one and you miss your littles. 

New Job

There have been a whole lot of changes going on around here, and slowly we are adjusting to the new norm. Hence the radio silence around here.... Almost a month ago, I started a new job, and while I have been loving it, I am also a little exhausted, but first a little back story.

I had mentioned a little bit here, but back in October I received a call to interview for a hospital position I had applied to 6 months prior, and the first interview led to an intense second interview in November, and then I waited, and waited, and waited. I spoke to HR on a near weekly basis, with their answer continuing to be that they hadn't made any final decisions yet. Talk about God testing my patience and to trust in His timing! And then on January 16th, on our way to the airport to leave for St. Lucia, I received a phone call with an official offer of a position on a geriatric med/surg floor. Before she could even finish telling me all the details, I blurted out "Yes! Yes! Yes! I will take the position!" Vacation couldn't have started in a more perfect manner.

Coming back from St. Lucia we had three weeks to figure out childcare for the boys, and to say that it was stressful was to put it lightly, but after touring many facilities, and checking into numerous options, we were able to get a spot for both boys in a montessori school. It was such a hand of God that we found this option, and after the first day, I had absolute peace that this is where they are meant to be. That if I'm not the one caring for my boys, that this is who I want to be.

So now my job.... I am 4 weeks in and truly loving it! I love that I feel like I am putting my brain to use again. I love that I have coworkers that are funny, and caring, and a great team to work with. The older patients keep my laughing every shift, and I feel like I could already write a book on some of the comical things I have witnessed. And while there are definitely some hard aspects to the job, like non compliant patients, feeling like I can never get everything done in my shift, and learning hospice nursing (something I never thought I would do!), I feel so grateful to have been picked for this position. And while hindsight is always 20/20, it is so evident now how God has used many things since graduation to prepare me for this position.

However I am learning that working and being a mom is some tough stuff. I feel 3 years late to the game considering a lot of moms go through this when their first is born, so I've got some catching up to do. The crock pot has become my new best friend, and I am learning to lean into Brian for more things, knowing that I just can't do it all. Our house is certainly in need of a good deep clean, however now my time at home is that much more precious, and instead of cleaning, I'd rather spend time with my boys. And instead of giving my boys half of my attention (which happened a lot of days I spent at home with them) I find myself not even wanting my phone near me, and wanting to give them my undivided time and attention. I have become a lot better at not wasting time, and making the most of the time I do have.

While I am definitely still in the "honeymoon phase" of working, and have lots to learn both at work, and as a working mom, I have felt God's hand on every step, knowing that this is where I am supposed to be right now.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Final Days in St. Luica

Well now that birthday week is over, I finally found some time to get back to this last post of St. Lucia. The more I look back on this vacation, the more I realize it was a trip of a lifetime. Everything was just perfect, and being back in Minnesota makes me miss the warmth so much along with the greenery, the slower pace of life, and the simplicity of it all. I miss reading books, I miss not being tied to my phone, and having so much quality time with Brian. Ever since we got back we have hit the ground running with jobs, birthdays, and attempting to figure out childcare and preschool and it has been so very stressful. Looking back on these makes my heart beat a little faster, and makes me want to start saving now for our next vacation. So instead of carrying on with this sappy post, I'll just cut to the chase and shoe you the last few pictures.
Our second to last day we didn't go anywhere, but just enjoyed the house, the pool, the sunshine and views.
Some bananas grown right at the house.
That morning the gardener came by and collected a few coconuts for us, and with his little machete he chopped it open, and showed us how to eat the jelly out of the inside.
And while I laid out in the sun, Brian had a hey day with the birds and our remote control for the camera.
That night we poured ourselves a couple drinks, and watched our last St. Lucia sunset form the bedroom balcony.
For dinner we made the 15 minute hike down to another resort called Hotel Chocolate, and for all my bachelor loving fans, yes this is where Juan Pablo and Andi stayed for their fantasy suite night.
From the restaurant we watched the last colors of the sunset fade to black, and ordered a couple drinks.
What was fun about this restaurant is that every single thing had some amount of cocoa in it, hand picked from St. Lucia. The menu says it all in the picture below:
One thing we learned is that according to St. Lucia time, we are are early eaters. Every night we would try and get the earliest reservation, the earliest being 6:30, however we hardly ever got out of a restaurant before 9pm. Every dinner was a full 5 course meal, and I don't even want to add up how much we spent on dinners this trip.
Brian with his chocolate banana cocktail.
For desert we got the cocoa sampler platter, and we quickly learned we do not like 100% cocoa, at all. Bt it was fun to try all the different chocolates.
The 15 minute hike all uphill was the perfect way to burn off some the meal we just gorged on, and as soon as we made it back to our house, we started the dreadful packing. The next morning we gathered the last of our things, and the maid came one last time to prepare a final glorious breakfast. This was just 1 of 5 plates.
The day we left was the only day it really rained, St. Lucia must have been sad to see us going. But it made us feel not quite so bad to be headed home.
Our last Piton pic. A little more rested then when we arrived, and a lot more relaxed and even more in love.
We said goodbye to the villa, hoping to someday return.
Our driver picked us about around 11pm, and we made our way towards the aiport. The roads were so twisty and windy that I immediately felt car sick. That and the truck in front of us had a bunch of blocks with no straps and nothing to secure it, so needless to say the drive was not very fun.
And about 15 minutes in we got a call from the maid that I forgot my pump parts. Nooo!!!! So back on the twisty roads we went, me feeling more car sick by the minute.
After 30 minutes in the car, I had had enough, and made the driver pull over so I could find my zofran in my suit case. One thing I have learned is that having some extra zofrans thanks to awful morning sickness from my pregnancies has come in handy more then once!
The rest of the way I munched on crackers, told myself "you can't throw up!" and tried to enjoy the last little bits of St. Lucia.
About 5 minutes from the airport, we stopped for lunch right on the beach, and watched the waves roll in.
We also got a kick out of watching all the windsurfers, while sipping our last vacation pina coladas.
Our trip to St. Lucia was definitely one for the books, and we feel so fortunate to have gotten to go at a time when we felt a break was truly needed! But now back to reality we go, with fond memories of the days where we did nothing more then drink coconut water, lay at the beach, eat fresh local food, and spend time just the two of us.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Harrison is 3!

Harrison, my little booger, turned 3 last Friday. Gulp. 3. Oh my, I might just faint because I have a 3 year old. That's 2.5 years away from kindergarten. I'm not old enough to be the mom of a 3 year old right?!?? Well somehow 1 turned to 2, and 2 into 3, and now here I am wondering where time has gone. No way no how do I want to go back to when Harrison was a baby, because well, the bulk of that was just awful. I am happy to be on this side of it all, but I do scratch my head trying to figure out how it goes by so dang fast.

So here is what my little crazy 3 year old is up to:

-Harrison loves singing. Some of his favorite songs being Let it Go (go figure what child doesn't love this song) and Good Morning God. 
-Would still prefer to never wear clothes. Ever. Bribery is involved to get clothes on so we can get out the door in under 1 hour.
-He has quite a big imagination. On a daily basis we go to the farm, the moon, school, and McDonald's. We cook gourmet meals, and pancakes ALL from the comforts of the play room. 
-Is very very attached to a green and brown blanket that he calls Grandma Jan's blankie. Every nap time and bedtime he covers himself chin to toes and get's quite cozy.
-The kid can climb! Some of the favorite things being to climb on the counters....
-Is an early bird. Is awake and in our room by 5:30am every morning
-Sleeps in his own big boy bed, although won't use the covers, just grandma Jan's blankie
-Has turned out to not be such a picky eater after all. He is actually quite adventurous with foods and will usually eat whatever we are eating for dinner.
-Still takes (and needs) an afternoon nap every day 
-Loves writing the letter H and O
-Still wearing diapers... #momfail. However next week we are cracking down and potty training!
-Is my little cuddler and loves to sit on my lap any chance he can get
-A few names he goes by are: Hare Bare, Harry Barry, Bubba
-Trucks, and trains, and tractors and tools are all his thing! He is a boy through and through.
-Every single day asks to facetime someone. and I mean Every. Single. Day.
-Is a whiz on the iPad... it's actually a little scary considering we do not give it to him that often
-Must sleep with his door open or all hell breaks lose
-Curious George is a favorite character  of his along with Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates
-He is a persistent little thing, and does not take no for an answer!
-Loves being outside, in the summer loves to mow the grass, in the fall rake the leaves, and now winter shovel snow

Ollie's 1!

Happy First Birthday Oliver!!
All parents say it, so why not me too..... time flies by ESPECIALLY with the second child.  It’s hard to believe that we have already been through an entire year with Oliver. One winter, spring, summer and fall. And here we are, back in the cold of February, remembering the day he was born.

This past year has truly been such a joy, and has been such a redeeming year for me as a mom, that I am not a total failure. Harrison gave us a serious run for our money, and I often found myself asking “What am I do wrong?!” or more so “Am I doing anything right??”  But instead of being terribly fussy like his big brother, Oliver has been such a peach from the very beginning.

From day 1, he was good to us in the sleep department, and has been ever since. He was a champion nurser, and really, what more could you ask of a baby then to be a good sleeper and a good eater.  He fit into our family like he always belonged. Like Harrison has always been a big brother, like we have always had 2 children.

There are days that I feel guilty that he hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention, or he hasn’t gotten rocked to and sung to sleep 1/50th of what Harrison did. He hasn’t been read quite as many books, and many days have revolved around Harrison’s schedule, not his own.

But I like to think he has also gotten the better deal of the two, because instead of stressed out frantic mom, he has gotten go with the flow mom.  A mom who doesn’t stress over milestones, a mom who learned comparison gets you no where, and that days where he only eats crackers are ok.

So enough of my ramble…. Here a few random things that Oliver is up to right now, precisely at 12 months.

-This boy could eat table food all day long. Well does eat all day long. From sun up to sun down, if I had to guess he spends about 3-4 hours in his high chair just eating away. I’m still not sure how he doesn’t weigh 30 pounds.

-Speaking of 30 pounds, he’s actually quite a peanut. I don’t have official stats, but If I had to guess he is just hitting 20 pounds now, most 9 month clothes still fit him, but I did just bust out the 12 month bin. Oh and size 3 diapers.
-As far as sleep, night time he is great. Almost every night he sleeps a solid 12 hours. Nap times are a little trickier. I can tell that he is getting ready to drop the morning nap, and when he does I will do a little victory dance! I can’t wait to not have life revolve around naps! But currently between his 2 naps he gets about 2 -3 hours of sleep

-The boy loves playing patty cake. On average we whip about 50 cakes a day
-He really is the mellowest boy. He loves to just watch the world go by with a huge grin on his face
-We are still going strong with nursing, and I keep mulling over the idea of quitting. I want to be done; I don’t want to be done. It seems to change by the hour. However I did just get him down to 3 feedings a day, which I am feeling quite proud about.
-Took a paci for his first few months of life, but ever since wants nothing to do with it other than randomly gnaw on it when he finds it in the toy bin
-For the first time this week, stranger danger has set in. He has always happily been handed off for bible study, or at lifetime, but this week the tears came in. Thankfully he has always calmed down in about 2 minutes, but it still breaks my heart to leave him crying

-Loves to pull hair. Just loves it.
-If we don’t have the gate on the stairs going upstairs, every free chance the boy gets he crawls with all his might as fast as he can over to the stairs, and will shimmy his way up in no time at all. 
-He is not showing any signs of walking any time soon. And I’m also quite ok with that. He will stand and walk around the furniture all day long, but as soon as you hold his fingers to start walking, he plops right down. I would be shocked if he walks before 14 months….
-Has 8 teeth, four on bottom, four on top
-Thinks he is so darn funny to drop his food from his high chair. When he is done eating he will piece by piece, drop everything that is left. Having a dog would come in handy these days….
Ollie baby we love you so so so very much! Having you as our second born has been the biggest blessing, and every day we give thanks for you!!!!  We can't wait to see your little personality unfold more this next year, and see just the little man you are going to be!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Setting Up the Tree

Remember two months ago when all was festive and everyone in the Christmas spirit?! Well that is when you typically do posts like this one, but somehow it fell by the way side and never got published. So here this is, two months late. 

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