This Site is Moving!

I am happy to announce that this blog is turning into Family Makes Cents and is moving to its own domain! It can now be found at:

www.familymakescents.com

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I was starting to run out of media space on the free site so I decided to take the plunge and own my very piece of the internet! At Family Makes Cents, I will be talking about all things family + finance. I decided to start a family finance blog to share tips, document our debt payoff progress, build community, and provide encouragement. You can read more on the about page.

So head on over and check out the new site!

And you can stay connected by following me on Instagram, Facebook, and signing up for the newsletter.

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When Date Nights Become Food Fights

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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My main Valentine is working the long shift so today I’m trading truffles for teething rings, a bottle of wine for a bottle of milk, mood music for white noise, and a high class dinner reservation for food fights from the highchair.

The other day an article was shared with me from The Gospel Coalition talking about not putting our hope in date night. It’s no secret that we don’t have date nights very often.. (we’ve been on 1 in 7 months.) Between taking care of a child, long hours at work, busy schedules, and our debt free journey, it’s not always possible to find time to get away sans the little one. Valentine’s Day is no exception. But that’s okay. Our marriage isn’t suffering.

I found this part of the article particularly encouraging: “God is gracious to provide many ways for couples to connect and grow deeper in their love for one another beyond a night out.” Our Valentine’s date night may look different from others.* And that’s okay. We may have to get creative or celebrate a different day. That’s okay, too.

Instead of looking around at what other people are doing, I’m choosing to be content. I’m choosing to be thankful that my husband works hard protecting the community. I’m choosing to treasure this day that I get to spend with just me and my tiny Valentine.

*unless scrubbing mashed potatoes off the floor has suddenly become all the rage.. then I was doing it before it was cool so #hipster.

Confessions of a Social Mediaholic

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder. At least, that’s clearly the principle I’ve been operating on when it comes to this blog but not the rest of my social media.

I’m at war with myself.

We are fortunate to live in the age of connectivity. Digitally, you are seconds away from the person halfway across the world. Social media can be a wonderful tool and creative outlet. We can watch news unfold before reading about it in the paper the next day. When we power up an app we are immersed in another’s real time happenings.

I get sucked in.

But with great power comes responsibility. There is an expectation that you can and should be reached at any moment of any day. Everyday, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger, Insta/FB/Snap stories, Google, and more, are vying my attention and my brainpower.

I’m overwhelmed.

I stocked up on stamps for the new year with the hope that I’d send more hand written letters. When I sit down to write, there’s nothing left to say because it’s all been posted on various social medias. When I post something, I’d tell myself that “it’s for me, not them” but my excitement and/or disappointment to reactions received (or not received) reveal it’s not for me, it’s for them. Who is “them” anyway and WHY DO I GIVE THEM SO MUCH POWER OVER MY HAPPINESS?

I’ve lost sight.

My husband called me a “social media maven” and of the two of us that is probably accurate. He unplugged a while ago but that left me to be the connector between him and the rest of the world. (Or maybe that just comes with the territory of being a wife.)

I’m putting the rest of the world on hold.

I need to take a break to ask myself why I am doing this in the first place. Quitting cold turkey isn’t really realistic for me and becomes the fad diet tricking me into thinking I’m making a lifestyle change. Don’t get me wrong, social media can be a great creative outlet and I personally don’t think it is inherently evil, but I need to switch things up a bit. So I’m figuring out what does and doesn’t work for me because the goal is sustainability.

I’ve found a place to start.

For the rest of this week, I’m turning off my notifications. I want to have the luxury of connecting on my terms, and not being sucked in by “so and so liked your photo” or “so and so just posted”. I’ve deleted the apps from my home screen and replaced them with organization and productivity apps. I’m finding a designated spot for my phone and leaving it there. I’ll still check my phone periodically for important messages but the goal is to keep it in that spot (unless, of course, I need to take a million pictures of whatever cute thing my baby is doing so I can share them with my husband later). At the end of the week, I’ll evaluate and adjust.

I’m rethinking my priorities.

Social media needs to earn back it’s place as a tool and not as a default. I’ve been letting it consume so much of my time and mental energy. I have hopes and dreams for a blog one day but first I need to get this under control. I need boundaries. In the meantime, I’ll be practicing hand lettering, learning some photography and videography skills, and just creating. And oh yeah, being a mom to a baby on the move whose newfound mission is to get into everything.

And now, I’m allowing absence to make my heart grow fonder.

 

 

Setbacks and Trenches

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You know you must be doing something right when things start going wrong.

This new year we have been making a conscious effort to work as a team in our marriage in a God honoring way.

We’ve been attacking our student loans with gazelle intensity for a total of 4 weeks now and we’ve already had what feels like 2 major setbacks within a day of each other. It’s so discouraging.

1. We got slammed with a not-so-little hospital bill from the birth. Giving birth is expensive. And even more expensive sans insurance. But what about our awesome insurance that pays for almost everything? Well they would if they were given the chance. It’s such a mess. Long story short(ish): the hospital billed insurance practically as soon as we left the hospital. Babies don’t get added to insurance that quickly.. the hospital is claiming insurance rejected it because the baby wasn’t on insurance and insurance says they’ve never received the bill in the first place. Insurance says we have 1 year to add the baby to our policy and we added him within a month. Fast forward through MONTHS of back and forth and many conference calls with the insurance and the hospital. Each one ends with the assurance that the hospital with resend the bill to insurance.

And then the collector is calling us.

There’s miscommunication somewhere because the hospital swears they are sending it and insurance swears they aren’t receiving it. Come to find out the hospital is refusing to resubmit it due to “timely filing”. What?! When we got a bill we would take it to insurance and they said they’d take care of it and that we weren’t supposed to be doing that- it was the hospital’s job. The hospital said they attempted to reach us via letter and we didn’t respond so now they won’t refile. Between giving birth, recovering, hormones, learning to breastfeed, baby blues, house purchase falling through, uninhabitable living conditions, mold sickness, having a 3 day moving notice, finding an apartment, moving, and oh yeah, taking care of this new baby.. things.. that letter.. most likely slipped through the cracks. Having to relive that over the 2 hour phone call with a screaming child was mentally and emotionally draining.

This will for sure be an expensive lesson to learn that even when people say it’s taken care of, don’t trust it. Call them and bother them until they are so sick of you that they finally and truly take care of it. Now I periodically call the hospitals and clinics we’ve been to and ask if there is an outstanding balance.

But wait, that’s not all.

2. Our only car won’t start. Oh and the Tahoe broke down.. again.. but that’s old news. This time we’ve decided we aren’t going to fix it. Each $500 fix only lasts a few months until something else breaks. It’s not worth it anymore. We’ve decided to go back down to one car. It’s a great way to save on gas, insurance, and maintenance, especially during our debt free journey. We’ve done it before for a whole year without too much trouble. We now live close enough that my husband can walk to work. So far it’s been working out pretty well. It just requires a bit of extra planning as my husband’s work schedule coincides with the baby’s sleep schedule. If my husband takes the car before the baby wakes up, I’ll just plop Little Man in the stroller and go get the car if I need it. When I’m done using it I drop it back off and stroll on home. It’s only a mile and it’s good exercise! We’ve been at it for a month. Knowing that this is now our only vehicle, we even took it to the mechanic for some preventative maintenance. #adulting

But now… the car won’t start. My forever reliable 2003 Toyota Corolla won’t start. Because it’s too cold. We’ve had some pretty cold winters in the Midwest but old faithful has ALWAYS started up in the morning. But it’s getting up there in years and now it’s in the -20°s and this coming week the windchill is supposed to be -50° to -65°. We were banking on this car lasting the rest of the year at least. Now what? There are options: changing the car battery or starter, changing the oil, etc., even renting a car just to get through this cold spell will be cheaper than buying a car. I have no doubt that once the weather warms (even to 0°) the Corolla will be old faithful once again.

But through it all, God is still good. God is still sovereign. God is still on the throne. He still provides. We did the baby steps a little out of order and funded our 3-6 month emergency fund before attacking our debt. Previous job loss + a new baby + being a saver + my need for more than a $1000 starter emergency fund to feel secure = me wanting a funded emergency fund. That’s what the fund is there for. So instead of these being full on emergencies they are more like setbacks. Wildly discouraging setbacks.

Dear God, please give us the strength to withstand the evil one.

The temptation is to turn on our spouse and blame “why didn’t you.. you should have..” but that’s just what Satan wants. We’re in this together, as a team, in the highs and through the trenches. He wants to discourage and distract us from living out a marriage that is pleasing to God. We won’t let him. We’re going to keep loving each other. We’re going to keep plugging away at our debt. We will get through this.

Pregnancy | Simeon’s Thoughts

It was obvious to me that Natalie was pregnant.  Early on she started acting differently than normal.  The things that are normally non-issues were suddenly highly frustrating to her.  The pregnancy was confirmed in my mind when I found Natalie crying while watching videos on YouTube about conception stories.  Natalie never cries in movies!

The things that have stood out the most to me are reflections that I’ve had during quiet moments at night.

1)  I’m going to be responsible for two people now and in more than one way.  I was talking with a friend after sharing the news with him and I was marveling that, somehow, a new soul came into existence; that more than just fertilization occurred when our baby was conceived.  He looked at me and said, “just wait until that soul is looking to you for spiritual guidance.”  Hearing those words, I felt a mixture of fear and amazement wash over me.  Even now, thinking about the weight of responsibility causes me to feel both trepidation and an eagerness to begin this new adventure.

2)  I’m convinced that God is never satisfied with our current condition.  He continually guides us through circumstances that progressively require more than we can give on our own strength.  Becoming a parent is one of those things that is causing me to examine myself and find that I am lacking.  On the other hand, when I see that I am lacking, that is when I finally seem to be able to see that God is sufficient.

3)  We work our way through life always wrestling for control of our situation.  We work hard for that perfect job, that perfect house, a perfect financial situation, a perfect body.  In our core being, I think we’re afraid of seeing how little control we really have in life.  Being able to control the little things seems to give us a false sense of security in regard to the big picture.  “If I can control my immediate surroundings, I feel like I’m in control of my whole life.”  Suddenly, you are faced with a situation over which you have little or no control and you are faced with the question, was I controlling my circumstances or were my fears controlling me?  If you’re still following me, I’m almost at the point I’m trying to make.  Trusting God is the antidote to the poison of fear.  If my life is poisoned by fear, I tend to busy myself by controlling everything, trying to prevent my fears from coming true.
We have a little unborn baby that just over 4 weeks along.  I’ve been told by people not to tell anyone yet because, statistically, 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage.  If you do an internet search on pregnancies, you’ll find endless lists of things that can go wrong.  You’ll also find endless advice on how to try and reduce risks but you’ll never be able to fully eliminate all the risks.  We’re in a place where no matter how hard you try and control everything, so much is out of our control.  If you’re like me, being helpless is terrifying.
I’m in a position where I can either obey God and turn over my fears to him, or I can focus on those fears and worry myself into insanity.  God is giving us an opportunity to trust Him.  The peace that comes through surrendering fears and worries to God is the reward of trust, not the product of control.

1st Trimester Recap:

This pregnancy has been a roller coaster of emotions, marked by learning and personal growth.  It started out with excitement as we waited in anticipation to see if Natalie was pregnant.  I watched Natalie try to contain her excitement and subsequent disappointment each time the pregnancy test would come back negative.  I’d remind her, “it’s too early to tell!”  Natalie had purchased a pack of twenty pregnancy tests for $7 on Amazon.  (Prego-tip: Those tests were more sensitive that the ones in retail stores and we saved a lot of money.)

Continue reading “Pregnancy | Simeon’s Thoughts”

Pregnancy Update | 3rd Trimester

I’m down to the last weeks of pregnancy!

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These last few weeks are starting to feel longer than the rest. Mostly because I’m just so excited to meet our little man!! It feels so close, especially knowing that I could go into labor at any time. There is not much left to do before his arrival.. except agree on his name. Other than that minor detail, we are ready when Baby is! I find myself wanting to go into labor.. I can’t wait to hold him!! But I also want him to stay in there as long as he needs to. Continue reading “Pregnancy Update | 3rd Trimester”

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