Saturday, November 8, 2014

November 2014 -- Debt-Free Update

October came and went with some pretty significant unexpected negative life events.  BUT, because we are debt-free, they really were just annoyances.  Money that used to go to student loans was used to cover us this month, where needed.  On top of that, we've had some identity theft issues. It's humorous, really, how quickly things can spiral out of control.  I'm pretty sure that the Lord made me an optimist for this very reason, haha.  So, here's a recap:

1.  Oscar put a rock in his ear one day at school.  Why the primary schools use pea gravel to cushion falls on the playground, I do not know.  On Sunday morning, we were eating brunch and he announced that his ear hurt, that there was a rock in there.  Say what?  I looked, and sure enough, there it was, and it had been there for several days.  So, we had to go to the doctor to have the rock removed.  Thankfully they were able to flush it out.  While this was not a great expense, it was the beginning of a expense snowball.

2.  I got sick.  I never get sick, so you know this had to be related to allergies.  At the end of the school day one Monday, the world started darkening and closing in.  I was feeling very woozy, so I made sure I was sitting on the floor.  Eventually, the school nurse was called and she forbade me from driving (I wouldn't have anyway).  She called Eli to come get me, and they put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me to the nurse's office.  Of course, right when he showed up, I threw up.  It was awesome.  We picked up G and they took me to the urgent care office, where they told me what I already knew--inner ear issues.  A steroid shot in the rear, a Z-pack, and some sudafed, and I was an almost better girl.  Almost.

3.  Eli's truck got broken into.  I found out about this because I forgot to take my sudafed in the morning and I had to run home to take my meds.  The police were already on my street inspecting vehicles, and when I came out, they asked me about the truck parked to the side of our house.  It had been one of several vehicles on the street that had been hit.  So, my quick trip home turned onto about an hour filling out the police report, etc.

4.  We drove to Florida to visit friends, and someone backed into my van, hit-and-run on the street overnight.  At first, it was a mystery, but we figured out that the car in the driveway opposite was the culprit.  When the police officer came out, he also determined that that was the car that hit us, but none of the possible drivers would say that they were in the car.  The owner of the car gave me the insurance info reluctantly, and I filed a claim.  The insurance company found her liable, so they paid for my van to be fixed.  The rental we got was a late model version of mine, and while it had leather seats and satellite radio, I just wasn't impressed--at least, not $30,000 impressed, which is about how much more it would have cost us to get a newer van.

5.  There were multiple attempts by an unknown user to access my bank account online.  I've had to have my accounts locked down and jump through security hoops to get that all under control.  Sheesh.

6.  Our sweet Coco (cat) needed to go to the vet and due to infections in his mouth had to have four teeth extracted.  Holy cow are vet visits expensive!  I'm pretty sure that after Coco dies, we will not be getting any more pets.  But we will love this one as long as we can!  Poor guy spent a day wobbling around, unable to walk.  We locked him in the bathroom for his own safety.  Thankfully he's back to being mostly himself.  But, he's a little pushier.  I was feeding Gladys the other day and he just climbed up on top of her, wanting to be the only one that I was holding, and I kept putting him down.  He was very persistent. :)

So, lots of stuff in October and early November, but we have a lot to look forward to, as well.  This month will bring a trip to visit DAVE in Nashville, a trip to see family and our last remaining grandparent between us.  A good month to spend family time together, because December brings a pretty big chunk of time where Eli will be gone completing the advanced course up in Virginia.  Pray for us!  We'll update after we meet DAVE!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Why I Love Home Depot Kids Workshops

I first heard about the Home Depot Kids Workshops before E&O were old enough to participate.  As soon as I felt like both kids were coordinated enough to use a hammer, I decided to try out these Home Depot Kids Workshops.  Actually, Elsie came home from PreK last year having completed one of their projects and I realized it was time.

Here's why I love Home Depot Kids Workshops:

1.  They are FREE.  Plus they give out a free apron to each child.

2.  Depending on how much a parent helps or doesn't help, they can be empowering confidence boosters for the kids.  Most times, E & O enjoy pounding away at their projects (O is a natural with a hammer).  When we made the pencil crate, Elsie wouldn't let me help her at all, and while it wasn't perfect, it was hers and she was so proud!

3.  They're well-executed -- today, for instance, we made an EMS truck.  And wouldn't you know, they had a real ambulance, a fire truck, and a police car out for the kids to explore.  The kids got fire hats and other goodies.  Chick-Fil-A minis were also given away.  It was awesome.  When we went the weekend of the first Auburn home football game, they had face painting and Chick-Fil-A.  Win-win.

4.  They are scheduled for weekends that we can be there.  It's like the Home Depot execs are in my brain and know what we have going on, and when we have a free weekend they say, "Hey, let's have a Kids Workshop for the Beavers."  Or something like that.

5.  They give out pins that the kids collect.  It's like getting badges in scouting.  Except I don't have to sew them onto a sash or vest.  It's beautiful.  This is probably my favorite part, actually.

6.  It can be a great family adventure, but I can also take the kids solo--depending on the weekend.

The other home improvement store in town (rhymes with "rows") also has free kids workshops to help them "build and grow," just so you know, but you have to register in advance and there are a limited number of spots.  I've never been able to get one.  Plus, they seem to host their workshops on weekends that we are not available anyway.  I really would like to try them out, but from what I've read, their projects are better for older children anyway, so I'm not in a hurry to get in there and experience it.  I do want to get the child-sized safety goggles and pick up a couple of child-sized hammers soon, though.

Anyway, I was just thinking about this and wanted to put my thoughts into words.


Friday, October 3, 2014

5 Months of Gladys

I blinked.

Five months!?!  Yes, Gladys Ann is still the sweetest Beaver baby.  She's smiling up a storm and is starting to giggle.  We are still in size 2 diapers and will be for a while.  Just this last week we pulled out the 6 months clothing sizes, but we may have waited too long, if the feet in her sleepers are any indication.  Haha.  At her 4-month check-up, she was 15 pounds, 2 ounces--and she's continuing to grow.

The news for this month is that she is starting to cut a tooth...a molar on the lower right.  I've noticed the spot on her gums for a while--white instead of pink, and thought it must be some sort of mouth sore because she's too young!  Nope.  It's a tooth.

She hasn't rolled over yet, but it's coming soon.  I know that once she starts moving, she's going to get trucking!  She is scooching all over the place when she's laying on her back, pushing herself backward and sideways.

Gladys is also doing fairly well at daycare.  This month she's done the hunger strike thing a couple of times.  She's not cranky or anything, but she's not eating.  I figure if she's in a good mood and she's growing fine, then that's not a problem.

Also, this month, I went ahead and got some pacifiers to have at the house, because of this:

She's not a thumb-sucker, per se, but she getting to the point that she wants to have something in her mouth as she falls asleep, and if I had to choose, I would NOT choose thumb.  So, Soothie it is.

Some friends lent us the exer-saucer thing, and Gladys has love it (you know, except for the first time she fell asleep in it--pictured above).

Also, September is rife with football games, so while Eli takes the big kids off my hands on Thursday nights, G & I head out to be with the cheerleaders as the middle school plays.  She is such a good baby.  She's either smiling or sleeping (pictured above).

I had to fold a ton of clothes the other day, and Gladys did not want to be put down.  Those two things did not mix.  So, I gave her a towel to fold.  It had to re-washed later due to massive amounts of baby drool, but it did the trick.

I'm trying to make the most of these baby months as I know that they are fleeting.  This girl is going to be something special, temperamentally--and yet I can't figure out what she'll be like!  Love this girl!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Debt Update, October 2014 -- Debt-free and continuing forward...

Yes, it's a been a long time coming (six years and seven months), but we are finally debt-free, except for the house.

To recap, we took Financial Peace University at our church in Tuscaloosa in February of 2008.  That's when we were introduced to Dave Ramsey's biblical money-handling ministry.  We were young (I was 27, Eli 26).  We thought we were doing pretty well financially as far as how we were handling things and paying back our debt, but I had always been interested in personal finance, so I dragged Eli to the class.  By the third week of FPU, he was on board.  Boy, did we have a lot to learn.  Shortly after we graduated, I lost my job, and Eli found a job in Opelika, so we moved.

Fast forward three and a half years to the fall of 2011.  We had two kids and house.  We were still paying faithfully on our debts, but our snowball got derailed by daycare for two children.  We had paid off the smaller amounts--a vehicle, credit cards, my student loans--and were faced with two MASSIVE student loans for Eli's undergrad and law school.  It was daunting, to say the least.

I took to the discussion forums at for some advice and encouragement, and someone mentioned creating mini thermometers, breaking the large number up into more manageable chunks and so that's what I did.  I looked at what we had left after paying for 3.5 years--approximately $52,000--and borrowed a fundraising thermometer from a friend's adoption blog, and posted those bad boys one by one, $10,000 at a time, at the side of the blog for all to see, starting October 1, 2011.

  • Debt Thermometer 1, $10,000, October 1, 2011 - April 28, 2012 (7 months)
  • Debt Thermometer 2, $10,000, May 1, 2012 - December 30, 2012 (7.5 months)
  • Debt Thermometer 3, $10,000, January 1, 2013 - September 23, 2013 (8 months)
  • Debt Thermometer 4, $10,000, September 24, 2013 - April 17, 2014 (6 months)
  • Debt Thermometer 5, $10,000, April 17, 2014 - August 11, 2014 (4.5 months)
  • Debt Thermometer 6, $3,596,  August 11, 2014 - September 24, 2014 (1.5 months)

Looking at the numbers and the timeline over the last almost-three years, we paid off half of that debt in one year!  It seems surreal.  We worked our buns off, Eli particularly so, and it happened more and more quickly.

Somehow, it all seems both invigorating and anticlimactic, haha.  We still have work to do.  Lots of work.  Remember the Baby Steps?  Well, we just finished Baby Step 2 of SEVEN.    So, we keep moving forward.  Baby Step 3 is to save up three to six months of expenses, so the ideal plan is to spend the next year and three months throwing money at our emergency fund so that my "security gland" is satiated.

But, mostly, I can't believe that we're done with the debt part.  There were times that it seemed to be interminable, that the progress was slow-going.  Knowing that I felt like that has helped to frame some of the best lessons along the way.

Here are some things I learned while becoming debt-free.

  1. We can't make progress if we don't begin.
    • Seems like common sense, right?  A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and all that.  Start.  Now.  Otherwise, precious time is lost. 
  2. It helps to set goals, short- and long-term.  Visuals are a great help!
    • I ran a marathon in San Francisco in October 2007.  The last five miles were a long, straight, stretch of highway along the Pacific coast, but it was peppered with traffic signals.  While I knew I had to go the entire five miles to finish, I still had to challenge myself to get to each of those traffic signals--microgoals, if you will.  Knowing I could achieve those little goals gave enough small boosts of confidence to spur me on.  That's what the debt thermometers were for me--traffic signals on the road to the finish line.  
  3. We don't have to be perfect.
    • This is where I say that I am thankful for the grace lavished on me by my Lord and Savior that I do not have to be perfect.  We stumbled.  We made mistakes.  I lost all the money for the month--twice.  We stopped and splurged (but paid cash!) on things when the money could have been going toward debt.  We still took trips (but paid cash!) to see friends and family.  Unlike the Pacific highway, our path was not perfectly straight.  But we kept correcting to get back on track.
  4. Keep moving forward.  Keep looking forward.
    • Runners often hit a wall--it's both a mental and physical block.  But we have to keep moving, even if we're taking trudging steps forward.  There were times when it felt like this would never end, that we would never be out of debt (and I use never in the most melodramatic way I can drum up).  I wanted to have a toddler tantrum greater than any I've witnessed from my children.  But then I would look forward, toward what the end might look like.  I blogged about it a few times actually.  I talked with Eli and close friends about it.  I tried to celebrate the progress, however small.  And we are at the end of it.
  5. It helps to have help.
    • You will have to forgive me as I one more time brag on Eli.  He has worked so hard.  He joined the Army both because it was something he wanted to do and also to bring additional income to help pay down the loans.  He's had more than his share of days away from us over the last four years--the sacrifice has been great.  So, we've kept each other on track as best we can and moving forward.  When others have commented that we're wasting our children's childhood by not spending money on things like dance and soccer, we've stuck to our guns, together.  We've planned together, we've dreamed together, and we've worked together.  I LOVE THIS MAN!
There's a bulletin board at the school where I work that has a great quote, and this is what I want to share with you if you are thinking about becoming debt-free, or are anywhere on the continuum.

It totally is.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Did you hear??

(except for the house)

Final $3600 CHUNK!, started 8/11/14, FINISHED 9/24/14!!!!!!
  fundraising ideas
Fundraising Thermometer