A Letter To Me

Dear Erica –

I know you’re feeling terrified right about now. You just welcomed the most handsome little boy into your world, and you’re not sure what to do next. It’s not like the movies – you aren’t going to fall head over heels in love with being a mother right away. Maternal instincts will kick in eventually. For now, give yourself some grace.

There’s nothing that will rock your world more than having your first child. Your relationship with David will change, your relationship with your friends will change, even your relationship with yourself will change. With Finn comes a lot of change – some of it welcome, most of it, not.

I’ll be honest, those first three months are the hardest. You won’t be sleeping much, and Finn will demand your attention around the clock. Your body will be different – puffier and wider. Your boobs will leak all. the. time. Yes, you will need to wear a bra to bed. You won’t feel like yourself. You won’t want to do much of anything. You may feel a little depressed.

And then one day, you will wake up from the fog of the infant stage and realize that your baby can sit up, and eat real food, and sleeps through the night. He will start interacting with you, and soon, he will start walking, and running and even talking back. It doesn’t get harder, it just gets easier. Each stage has it’s pain and difficulties, but the newness of it all wears off over time. You both have learned how each other works. You fall in love with each other. You depend on each other.

Three and a half years into this motherhood thing, you’ll hardly remember what life was like before Finn. Now you have Reese, too, and unlike the first time, the second one was much easier. You’re an old pro – look how far you’ve come! Reese will teach you new things, too. Like how to take risks and how to feel content.

Motherhood suits you.

You’re not the first mom to feel all these emotions, and you won’t be the last. It’s all okay, it’s all normal, it’s all part of the journey.

It’s okay if you don’t want to take it all in. It’s okay if you need a break. It’s okay if you don’t love every minute of it. Just remember, motherhood will be the hardest job you’ll ever have, and most of the time it will be worth it. If you’re having a hard day, however, go for a run, watch some Real Housewives and drink a little too much wine. The days are long, but the years, they are already going way too fast.

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A Look Inside Our Monthly Budget

monthly budget

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about why we decided to get debt free. I found Dave Ramsey through some other podcasts I listen to, and once I started listening, I was hooked. David and I have been working our way through Financial Peace University – essentially a class about how to get out of debt and build wealth.

The first lesson of FPU is about living on a budget. The word “budget” gets such a bad rap, and I have to admit, even now it sometimes makes me cringe. There are so many negative connotations when you hear the word “budget” – mainly that you can’t afford something or that you’re cheap and don’t want to spend your money.

However, since taking FPU, we have started thinking of living on a budget in a completely different way. In fact, now we kind of get excited about setting our budget each month – kind of. 🙂 We also challenge ourselves to actually stick to the budget, and in the five months we’ve been planning out our spending, we’ve gone over budget twice. It’s harder than you think! FPU reminds you that having a budget gives you permission to spend money, which is a nice way to look at it

How We Set our Budget Each Month

With our FPU membership came a year long subscription to the EveryDollar Budget app. I’ve used budgeting apps before, but this one is beyond any I’ve seen. You can connect it directly to your bank account and each time a charge appears, you simply drag and drop it to the spending category.

Before each month starts, we plan our budget down to the dollar. First, we list all of our income first. Since my income can be a little unpredictable, we always round down, that way we don’t go over budget, and if we have a little extra at the end of the month, we can put that towards debt!

Speaking of debt, this is usually the next budget item on the list. We list our debt payments and assign them the dollar amount we plan to pay. We know this is money going out the door that month, so might as well take it off the top!

Next, we list our other payments including cell phones, electricity and internet. We count these under “living expenses” because they are necessary to live! Other fixed costs each month include childcare, our gym membership and some business expenses.

Next we assign a dollar amount to gas and groceries. These tend to stay roughly the same each month except if we know we need an oil change or something like that. For instance, when we were in the Adirondacks in July, our grocery budget was lower because we knew we wouldn’t be buying groceries while we were there. (That money was assigned elsewhere in the budget).

Our next category is any one time expenses that we may have that month like property taxes, any fees associated with preschool, haircuts, money for birthday gifts, etc.

We then give ourselves and the kids some spending money – even Juneau gets a category, although he usually spends all his money on treats. We find that by giving ourselves a limit of spending money each month we don’t feel guilty about buying things we may want, but it also keeps us in check. This item is last on our list because it’s usually anything extra we may have. It’s nothing crazy (the kids get $25 and we each get $100) but we think it’s a necessary category to have!

How We Manage Our Budget

The great thing about the EveryDollar app is that you can update it every single day and you can adjust as the month goes on. For instance, if we notice we are going to be way short of our gas budget for the month, we can move that little extra to our debt snowball and get ahead on those payments.

David and I discuss our budget before each month begins and then check in every week or so. Now that we are a few months in, things tend to stay the same from month to month so it’s not necessary to adjust as much as it was when we first started.

To be honest, we weren’t very good at sticking to our budget at first! But just like anything, we had to do it for a while to become good at it. We like to give ourselves a little grace, and as long as we are paying off the debt that we planned to each month, we tend to think of that as a success!

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How to Embrace the Season of Life You Are In

embrace the season of life you're in

We have a tendency as human beings to wish away time. The ironic thing is, as soon as we do, we wish that time hadn’t passed so quickly. Sometimes, you have to remind yourself to stop and smell the roses. Because seriously, time flies whether you’re having fun or you’re not, so why not try to enjoy it!

A year ago, I remember crying to a coworker about how I was “in the hardest season of my life.” In reality, I was depressed and pregnant and probably hot cause Virginia in August is the worst. I remember her looking at me – also a mom of two – and nodding. The next day she came in with a basket full of goodies and I cried some more, this time because of her thoughtfulness.

At that point in time, I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my baby girl. I had just bought a house. I was working fulltime in a dead end job. David and I seemed to be passing in the night. I was looking for a way out. Little did I know, everything would change as soon as I stopped feeling bad for myself and started to take action.

The point is, everyone has bad days, bad weeks, bad months. It’s how you react to it that really makes a difference. You can sit around and feel sorry for yourself for a year (like I did) or you can embrace what you’ve been given and take a leap of faith.

When you stop letting life happen to you and start taking control, it’s crazy how much easier it is when you are dealt a bad hand. You feel prepared. You feel like you have a plan.

Pay attention to the things that bring you joy, and actually do them. Wake up early and schedule out your day. Celebrate the small wins, and definitely celebrate big ones!

Things, in theory, should have gotten harder for me when Reese was born. However, it was in having her that I was given the clarity that I needed – that I needed to stop and slow down and realize that these are the days. Instead of feeling bad for myself, I woke up feeling grateful for all the things I was given. I remember early on thanking little Reese for allowing me to watch an entire episode of Game of Thrones completely uninterupted. On that day, it was exactly what I needed.

All this to say, if you’re going through a hard time, stop pushing back. Embrace where you are. Understand that whatever it is, it will pass. And if you are in a wonderful season of life, embrace it even more! Take lots of pictures and write down the memories!

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How Motherhood Made Me a Risk Taker

photos by naomi johnson

As I type out the title of this post, I’m giggling a bit. I used to think I was a huge risk taker – I mean I moved to new states, gambled on some decisions. What I’ve learned is that was more spontaneity rather than risk taking. It was more, “sure! What the hell, I’m down for anything!”

Taking risks is different – taking risks mean that you do something, knowing full well that you may lose or fail, but you do it anyway.

Something changes in you when you become a mother. I still can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m just not the same person I was before. I enjoy the same things, but I enjoy them more deeply. I value time spent rather than money spent. I feel less shame about silly things. I feel calmer, more at peace and at the same time worried sick and fraught with anxiety about the unknown.

One thing that I can grasp is how little I care about outside opinions anymore. Mommy guilt is a real thing, but I read a book not long ago that put this into perspective for me, too. The book essentially said that there are women in the world who would give anything to be able to provide a good life for their child. So if you’re a working mom, or just a mom that needs a break from mommy-ing, just know that you are blessed to be able to do so! In addition, I truly believe that no matter the mom and no matter the situation, God made you your baby’s mom because He knew you would be the best mom for your baby. No one else will ever love Finn and Reese like I do, and that’s why I was blessed to have them be mine!

The biggest thing motherhood gave me was the freedom from other’s opinions. This alone let me feel comfortable in my new role as mom, but in my role as wife, my role as friend, sister, daughter… you get the idea. It also allowed me to see more clearly the direction I wanted to take my life. Without the worry of what others thought, I’ve been able to make decisisons based on what I want and what is best for my family.

Motherhood has given me a confidence in myself that I never knew I had. This confidence has allowed me to start a business, meet new people and try new things simply because my focus is on what really matters in life.

Quitting my job was the biggest risk I’ve taken in my entire life. I left a “sure thing”, a great income, healthcare, the respect of my colleagues to go out on my own. The motive behind this? To spend more time with my kids! Even on days when I question my move and wonder if entrepreneurship is really for me, I remember that I’ll never regret spending this time with my kids.

I wonder if other moms feel the same way. Did motherhood change you? Did you become more “yourself” in the role?

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Why We Are Getting Debt Free

debt free

David is probably rolling his eyes at the very title of this blog post! However, becoming debt free is by far the biggest change in our marriage this year, and to not talk about it seems weird.

When I left my job earlier this year, David and I took a long hard look at our situation to ensure that financially we could afford to take a hit for a few months while I build a business. It seemed possible and, therefore, I made the leap. But during our digging we started paying closer attention to where our money was going, and we weren’t happy about it.

When the comfort of a steady paycheck is taken away, it wakes you up a bit. Finances, like anything in life, can become passive. Everything is on autopilot nowadays – direct deposit into your account, paper-free auto-withdrawals to pay bills, you never actually see the money. It can be convenient, but it can also cause bad habits.

Around the same time, I was reading a book by Rachel Hollis. She wrote a bit about getting debt free and quoted this guy named Dave Ramsey. I honestly didn’t give it a second listen at first because being debt free wasn’t even an idea that I thought was possible let alone something we could achieve.

But as you start taking control of one part of your life, a funny thing happens – you start wanting to take control of all parts of your life. I started getting intentional about setting goals. One day, I sat down and wrote out where I saw our lives five and ten years from now. Among other things, I saw us being business owners, investing in real estate to flip, and eventually putting our children through college with money we’ve saved. I had always said that I didn’t want Finn and Reese to have the weight of student loans when they graduated, but I also joked that I’d still be paying off my college by the time they went to school.

It dawned on me that many of my five, ten, twenty year goals required financial freedom. So one day on my walk I turned on Dave Ramsey’s podcast and realized that within two years, David and I could be completely free from debt.

When I brought this idea back to my husband, he thought I was crazy – and he still does. However, when I told him why I wanted to get rid of our debt, he started to see the bigger picture. He listened to a few of the podcasts and started to realize that it was possible as long as we started to pay attention.

I called my mom later that day and asked her to buy us Financial Peace University as an early anniversary gift. Much to David’s chagrin, we sat down that night at watched the lesson on budgeting and then about getting debt free. Afterwards, David got up, grabbed our credit cards and cut them in half. That night we were able to pay off two of our smallest debts with money we had in savings. It was game on.

We’ve been working this plan for about three months now. The first two months we sucked at budgeting! This month, our primary focus is to stay on budget with the idea being that we know where every single dollar is going each month, and anything extra goes to pay off debt. As I mentioned earlier, with today’s calculations, we will be debt free in two years!

I don’t know if I’m comfortable talking about how much debt we have at this point, simply because there’s a lot of shame associated with it. I know when the day comes that we pay it all off, I will gladly share how much debt we no longer have. At this point, we are fairly “normal” – car payments, credit cards and student loans. We will have both cars paid off before the end of the year!

By focusing on our finances, David and I have had to have a lot of tough conversations. We also know there will be a lot of sacrifice in the coming years, but by the time Finn goes to kindergarten our lives will look dramatically different!

I will be sharing more of our #DebtFreeJourney over the coming months. I’ve learned so much about finances, investing, and budgeting. However the biggest thing for us is the why! When we see our future it’s full of fun vacations and great experiences! We are willing to sacrifice now for all of that down the road.

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