Blog Update – Reflections of An Overthinker

So it’s been a few weeks since our last update and lots of things are happening. Job searches, interviews, planning, financial fun, outdoor weather, a baptism, and a busy lifestyle are keeping us at bay. Pair that with neither of us being big writers and having little motivation to do anything and you get some downtime from blog posts.

Also, we’re not seeing much in the way of traffic movement either. Despite trying to churn out blog posts, being active on Twitter, and some SEO, we’re getting maybe 1 visit a week. It’s difficult to be motivated when you spend hours writing blog posts but get no traffic. Our main concern is quality and content and we know it was going to be awhile before we built up any traffic. We’re not here just to get a bunch of visitors and call it a day. We want to product quality content, get our names out there and start building a good brand. We also committed to ourselves of at least 6 months – 1 year of quality writing before we got discouraged.

On top of having a 5 month old son who’s now starting to become more vocal and active, I’ve also made it a bigger commitment to be more active with our family and spend more time together. Mentally, with everything that I have going on, I’ve been distant lately since I’ve prioritized things differently. I’ve been prioritizing other things ahead of family in the short-term but I’ve since re-prioritized family as my #1. Really, family will always be #1 to me but I had to focus some of my energy away from them so as not to hinder them. Long story and I’m not making sense now but some of you may understand where I’m coming from.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking to decide what’s best for my family. Often times I feel like Walter White in Breaking Bad…trying to make sure my family is prepared in case anything happens to me. No, I won’t resort to manufacturing drugs or killing people. But I do spend a lot of time thinking how I can make life better for my family and how that aligns with my life. I want to make more money to pay off debt and help us better financially so that we can plan vacations and spend more time enjoying things. But how to make more money is another task. I won’t pick up a PT job again since I worked 6 days a week and all day Sunday  the last time I did that. Sure I’d love the extra grand it gave me each month but not at the risk of losing family time and not seeing my son grow up. I quit the PT job earlier this year to give Mrs. RR support in her final month of pregnancy and to also make sure that I was there for her (and baby RR) when they needed me.

I’ve also been agonizing over how Mrs. RR can get down to PT/no work at all, another correlation with how we can make more money. I’m trying to set things in place to build a better life to get more money (see: priority issues above) but still have more thinking to do. Previously, I’ve always been against having someone be a SAHP (Stay At Home Parent) but I can see how much she wants it and how important it is for her. If there is some way that we can swing it then I’d love to do that because it would not only make her happy but also give us a better work/family life balance. But again, this comes with more money.

I let her know that she can do whatever she wants as long as we can make X per month (with a reduced budget). Unfortunately, with our set expenses (mortgage, insurance, student loans, hospital bills, utilities), that figure is kinda high. We’re paying over $700/month alone in student loans (go me!) so that we can have them paid off in 4 years. But if she wanted to go to school or do something which would be a short-term setback but long-term gain, I tell her to go for it and we can swing it. We can always make it work because we’re investing in both of our futures and happiness with such a decision.

My ultimate goal is to have student loans and other big expenses cut back a lot along with a higher salary which would cover our household expenses. That doesn’t mean making $120K a year (although it would be nice) but enough to cover our expenses and allow us to do family things together while also investing in our long-term future. We’d also love to retire earlyish. My goal has been to BE ABLE TO retire at 55, although I’ll always be doing something once I retire from the “real world”. By aggressively paying down debts and simplifying our expenses, I’m hoping that early retirement will be feasible for us both.

In other news, Baby RR is doing quite well. He’s putting on even more weight and no one can believe that he’s only 5 months old. He’s becoming more vocal and active and is always kicking his feet and moving his head up and down. He’s also inherited Mr. RR’s appetite and likes to eat everything in sight so I fear I may be homeless in 10 years due to our ridiculously high grocery bill.

We also had him baptized recently which was fun considering that neither of us had a church until last week (long story). Between the multiple phone calls to find a church, talking with a pastor, answering the faith questions, and scheduling the actual date/time of the baptism, that’s also been a fun experience as well. But at least now he’s baptized and we hope to start visiting church more regularly so that Baby RR has a good foundation for himself.

So that’s everything in a big nutshell. We’ll do a better job of posting more frequently and keeping the quality content but it’s been a crazy month here for us. I’d also like to start doing our monthly expense reports again although the past couple months have been embarrassing. We’re also doing a “no spend August” month so it’ll be fun to chronicle that. Until next time…

We Bought a Truck!

The RR family (mainly Mr. RR) has been looking to upgrade his Toyota Corolla for a few months now. Ever since I gave up my SUV a few years back I instantly regretted it after another big snowstorm. We live in a big snow belt in the Northeast so we get pounded a lot with snow and every year I hate the slipping and sliding as I’m trying to drive through 8” of compacted snow. I’ve been stuck a few times and have had to call off work a couple times because of 2-3 ft snow hitting us overnight. It’s great being able to rely on a nice 4WD vehicle which some would say would almost be a requirement up here just for the snow alone.

On top of the snow, there’s also the ability to haul/tow. With summer projects going on, we’ve had to borrow my parent’s SUV’s or trucks to haul mulch or load up stuff that wouldn’t fit in our sedans.  Every few weeks we’d have to ask to borrow their vehicle for some project we had going on and we hate to inconvenience people on top of feeling somewhat embarrassed about it. Last week we picked up 2 ceiling fans from Home Depot to install in our house (cut back on AC usage = save $$$) and we could barely fit them in our Corolla.

We don’t plan on doing any towing projects in the near future but it’s definitely a plus to be able to do so if need be. The truck has a tow package (tow brake and trailer hitch) and we have a tow trailer in the family that we can use for mulch, soil, garbage or other random junk. It’s also nice knowing that when I buy a nice giant yacht I’ll have something to tow with (no thanks).

As with any purchase, there is a downside. The downside here is lost fuel economy (20 mpg vs 28 mpg for the Corolla), more miles (45k to 63k), lost trunk space and extra cost for car payment ($30/month). All in all, the extra expenses would be about $ 500/year between gas and car payment. We weighed the options and decided that the extra money was worth it in the convenience factor (future blog post). The $42 a month is worth it between not only the snow and hauling but also in the event that an emergency happens and we need to get out. If we had a truck when we got 5 ft in 3 days last year, we may have been able to get out early to get supplies for us. Especially now with having Baby RR, you never know what can happen during bad weather. Call it an excuse if you want but we don’t mind paying a bit more for such a big added convenience.

It’s a used compact truck by the way, not a giant Tundra (my dream vehicle). I’m hoping we can run this truck into the ground since Mr. RR generally takes very good care of his vehicles. I hate having an extra payment for another 5 years but the good thing is that pick-trucks have good resale value so it should have good value if/when we go to sell it. I’ve initially been looking at SUV’s because pick-ups cost more than SUV’s but this deal came along and we felt like it was a great deal for the price and quality. Pick-ups are great values because they generally have greater towing capacity and their beds don’t limit your overhead like an SUV or car would.

We plan on adding a few accessories to the truck over the next year. We miss having a car starter which is great when it’s 10 degrees outside not only for the warm cab but also to properly warm up the engine and oil. Those would cost between $200-300 so that’s not a need for us now, it’s more of a luxury buy. We would like to get a bed cover to keep some accessories in the truck bed (tow chain, emergency kit) so that they don’t get wet/stolen. Bed covers are about $ 300-400 if purchased online so we’re going to save up for this purchase as well. We only want accessories that we deem as an actual want and not a luxury buy (car starter and new fancy rugged tires for example). As with any new purchase, there’s always the temptation to buy more accessories to go along with it but we don’t want to get complacent and caught up in the euphoria.

And as a reminder for why a truck is a better bet and why it holds value longer – case in point my Home Depot visit on Saturday night. I had to run there to get some materials for a small job. While I was leaving, I saw a guy in an SUV with one of those giant wicker chairs in his SUV trunk.  He had to remove it from the box because it was too big and even with the lone chair it was still turned sideways, angled and jammed in. If he had a pick-up truck, even a small one like mine, he would’ve been able to fit it in the bed with no issue. As I mentioned above, that’s the beauty of the pickup – you don’t limit your overhead space and they typically have better towing power.

Father’s Day

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I’m a procrastinator. And by procrastinator, I mean LAZY. But that’s just between you and me.

Father’s Day is just around the corner (literally 3 days away-actually a week ago now, by the time I finished and posted this thing) and I’m JUST about to start my gift-making. We try be smart and do everything we can on a budget. For Mother’s Day I decided to make our mothers (Baby RR’s grandmas) stepping stones with his handprint in it. Well, one thing you should know about me is I HATE CRAFTS. I have ZERO patience for them. Growing up my middle sister always managed to get me wrapped up in whatever craft she wanted to do-which always turned in to a DISASTER. One “craft” she got me involved in was when I lived with her and she wanted to paint her kitchen cupboards multi-colored argyle print. No. More. Needs. To. Be. Said. I think that was my last straw on ever liking to do crafts.

But alas, here we are. Having a life style on a budget means you have to get creative. So, as I was saying, for Mother’s Day I decided to make something cheap, and what I thought was easy. I looked on Pinterest and found a recipe to make Salt Dough Footprint Keepsakes. How hard could this be? All I needed was salt, flour, some water, and, of course, my child. It called for ½ c of salt, ½ c flour, ¼ c water (give or take) that was then kneaded together and baked for THREE HOURS (UGH!) at 400 degrees. I separated my dough in to two and shaped them each in to a heart (cute, right?), added the kiddo’s hand print, name and year. I realized I ran out of room for his name so I could only do his first initial and part of the year (’16). It wasn’t exactly what I envisioned, and it MAY have looked like a kindergartner made it, but I created a cheap homemade gift. GREAT!

Going back to not having patience AT ALL, after the THREE hours were up I noticed the stone wasn’t completely baked through so I turned the stone over and baked it for another half hour (per the instructions). I may need to mention it was now 10:30 pm as well and this girl was TIRED. After that last half hour was up, I gave up. I took the stones out, which still weren’t done by the way, and let them sit on the cookie sheet over night to hope they would continue to cook on the still hot sheet (my solution to every baking problem). I looked at the stones the next day and (surprise, surprise) they still weren’t done. My thought: “Whatever, I don’t want to ruin them so I’ll leave them alone. Maybe they’ll cook in the sun when the grandma’s put them in their garden”.

Fast forward to a week or so after Mother’s Day and I see my mom’s stone on her hutch all bumpy and crackly. I asked her what happened and she said she put hers outside in her garden and it got weird and semi-mushy in the sun then it rained and it got all bumpy. Awesome. THIS is why I don’t do crafts! I can’t have my kids’ first piece of art looking like that! So I am using Father’s Day to make up for it (clever, huh?).

I decided to go in a little bit easier route and get a kit. I didn’t want to spend a fortune so I looked online at who had the cheapest option. I came across JoAnn Fabrics and a kit called Stepping Stone Kit (straight to the point). It came with outdoor cement, a hexagon mold (they had other shapes as well), mosaic glass pieces, and two-sided alpha-numeric stamps (exactly what I needed!). The best part was it was on sale for 40% off! It was originally 12.99 and I got it for around $7 each. Perfect! I of course got 2 because I figured I should fix Mr. RR’s parent’s stone while I’m at it. So for around $15 I got 2 gifts.

And now the fun part-creating the stone. The kit did come with instructions and a few patterns that you could use to help place the stones. There was a lot of laying things out and tracing patterns, blah blah. I don’t really like to read instructions or follow rules so I made up my own pattern and hoped for the best. I added water to the cement and mixed it until it became the same consistency as pancake mix. I poured the cement in to the hexagon mold and added the stones where I wanted them. Once those were placed I let the mold set for about an hour then used the stamps to write Baby RR’s WHOLE name and the WHOLE year (YES!). The little guy then made his appearance and I got his hand print to fit perfectly with everything else. This was working out exactly as planned! It’s like I knew what I was doing or something!

The following night I made the second stone. It of course came out a little better than the first (I was more experienced for this one). Looking at both of the stones I was very proud of myself. Baby RR gave them to his grandfathers Father’s Day weekend and they both LOVED it. My dad, being the sarcastic human he is, asked if this one was going to disintegrate as well. VERY FUNNY DAD. I definitely learned my lesson!

Going forward I will of course try to go the BUDGET route, but if I know it will be over my head, I will save the agony (and frustration) and find the next cheapest route. Crafts and I still don’t get along but we’re working on our relationship. I think it will always be a work in progress.

If you’re reading this and you have some fun, semi-easy and cheap projects that you’ve tried please let me know what they are in the comments. I’d love to hear different ideas!

Side note: If you’re wondering, I did not forget about Mr. RR on his very first Father’s Day. I used my good friend Shutterfly and made him a desk plaque for work. It has all of my favorite pictures of him and Baby RR together (mostly of them sleeping because I think it is the cutest thing). I can already see the special bond those two have and I can’t wait to see it grow over the years.

So for all of the dads, step-dads, granddads, great-granddads, and even MOMS who are both mom and dad, HAPPY (belated) FATHER’S DAY! Sometimes you are the forgotten half of the equation-but you’re just as important.images

Why You Need Your Own Set of Life Rules

I’m a big fan of the TV show NCIS. I used to watch it on cable whenever it came on but since we dumped cable for antenna TV I haven’t had a means of watching it. I recently discovered it on Netflix so I started watching it again and thoroughly enjoy it. I’m a combination of Gibbs/McGee/DiNozzo but I see eye to eye with Gibbs on most things. I value honesty, loyalty, love, family and respect above all else.

One of the things I like most about Gibbs is that he has his own set of rules that he lives by. These rules are brought up during the course of the series as he teaches these rules to his coworkers. There’s about 50 of them and they’re always brought up with relevance to whatever is happening during the show.

Some of the rules are work-specific: Rule 1) Never let coworkers stay together. Rule 2) Always wear gloves at a crime scene. Rule 10) Never get personally involved in a case.

Some are generic: Rule 18) It’s better to seek forgiveness than ask permission. Rule 7) Always be specific when you lie. Rule 12) Never date a co-worker. Rule 9) Never go anywhere without a knife.

As I’ve been watching the series, I realized how valuable it would be for everyone to have their own set of rules. As John Wayne once said, “A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by”. These are your life rules, your “life hacks” in a way. This gives a person a clear set of rules and expectations to live by and focus on. These are your “above all else” rules that override every other guideline or action and keeps you thinking straight. They allow you to keep your focus and stay in line rather than aiming meaninglessly and losing your way.

Set of coffee mugs owned by yours truly
Set of coffee mugs owned by yours truly

You can have any number of sets of rules – personal rules, work rules, house rules, family rules, whatever you want. I recommend keeping them together if possible (as Gibbs did) because sometimes the rules overlap each other and can be used in various capacities. You don’t want to have too many sets of rules because you’ll simply forget them all.

Also, you’ll want to keep your rules specific and without exceptions. No “If…then” rules. You want your rules to be direct and to the point because that will make it easy to comprehend and apply them. It will also make it less open to interpretation and easier to follow if you decide to make this applicable to a group of people (family, co-workers, teammates, etc.).

So because of NCIS and Gibbs, I’ve made my own set of personal life rules to live by. Nothing too heavy or too specific, just general guidelines to keep me going. I spent a couple months thinking of these rules but I’ll continue to add rules and modify them as I see fit. As an adult with ADHD (future blog post), I crave direction and focus. I’m always making up lists of chores, projects, to-do’s and want-to-do’s because if not, I’ll forget 90% of the items on that list. That’s why I wanted to put my rules together because it’ll help me to stay focused. That way, I can put 90% of my energy into useful tasks without losing energy on meaningless dribble.

I also want to pass these rules down to my son someday and help him craft his own set of rules. With any luck, these rules will help guide him throughout the tough times in his life and help him to avoid problematic conundrums if they occur.

One of my favorite quotes from my favorite actor/role model
One of my favorite quotes from my favorite actor/role model

So without further ado, here are Mr. RR’s rules to live by –

  1. Life isn’t fair, get used to it
  2. People are stupid
  3. Always be prepared
  4. Don’t assume anything
  5. Always be aware of your surroundings and have a backup plan
  6. Under-promise, over-deliver (inspired by Scotty from Star Trek: TOS)
  7. People lie
  8. Only buy what you can afford
  9. If you have to lie, be specific
  10. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is
  11. Always get the facts and double-check
  12. Your word is your bond, never break it
  13. Don’t pick a fight, but if you find yourself in one I suggest you make damn sure you win (John Wayne)

Do you have your own life rules to live by? Share some with us!

(Special thank you to http://ncis.wikia.com/wiki/Gibbs’s_Rules)

the only 3 things you need to know about becoming a new parent

Last summer, Mrs. RR and I were walking into our supermarket when I told her that I had been thinking about kids. I didn’t want to scare her off since we’d only been dating about a year at that point so I just told her that since I was 31, I’d like to have kids within the next 2-3 years. I didn’t want to be a 38-year-old first time dad because that meant that I’d already be 60 by the time they graduated college (if they ended up going to college…new post idea!). I want to be able to spend time with my kid(s) growing up, engaging them in sports, hanging out, etc.

She of course said that was fine…until 2 days later when she texted me at 9am and told me that we needed to have a talk later that night. The conversation went something like this-

Me – Fuck. Are you cheating on me?

Her – No

Me – Fuck. Are you breaking up with me?

Her – No.

Me – Well then what it is? You can’t tell me this and leave me hanging for 12 hours.

Her – I think I may be pregnant.

Me – Cool.

Her – …

And so this lead into our 7-month journey into figuring out what the hell we were going to do now that we had created a human being. We both heard a lot of advice from others who say it’ll change your life forever (check), you won’t know how you lived without him/her (check check), and it’s the most amazing feeling in the world (big check there). We didn’t want to research it because we wanted to go with the flow and not get stressed out about it.

If there’s any advice I can give you, it’s in the 3 things below. This isn’t a specific “You need to feed them x times per day with x many ounces”. This is a real world gut-check into the lives of new parents.

This is Your New Life

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Your life as you knew it doesn’t exist anymore. But don’t worry, this is a good thing….in fact, a GREAT thing. You have 1 responsibility now – your family. You won’t have time to hang out solo with friends, do things by yourself, go to happy hours, etc. Everything you do will be based around your little one. When you sleep, when you eat, where and when you go out, everything. No longer will a quick trip to the store take 5 minutes; it’ll take double that by the time you get the diaper bag ready, put him/her in the car seat, make sure they’re situated and comfortable, get to the store, set him/her in the shopping cart, constantly check on them to make sure they’re OK…you get the idea. You’ll start re-thinking things you do and realize those quick trips aren’t worth the hassle.

But it’s not just about things you can’t do, more importantly it’s about what you’ll WANT to do. You will WANT to spend more time with your other half and your newborn. You will WANT to give them all your love and attention and never leave them. You will WANT to take care of them, make sure their needs are being met, bend over backwards for them and do everything in your power (and beyond) to ensure their complete satisfaction. Sure, it sucks getting up at 3am to feed your newborn and it sucks to change their diapers every 2-3 hours but that’s what it takes. He/she is your responsibility now and the joys of having just created a human being and watching him grow up FAR outweigh the disadvantages of cleaning diapers or nightly feedings.

Studies have shown that men’s testosterone levels actually drop once his new child is born. Reason being? Scientists believe this is actually nature’s way of allowing a man to slip into the Provider role and help them commit to their family role more. Take this excerpt from a NY Times article

The study, experts say, suggests that men’s bodies evolved hormonal systems that helped them commit to their families once children were born. It also suggests that men’s behavior can affect hormonal signals their bodies send, not just that hormones influence behavior. And, experts say, it underscores that mothers were meant to have child care help.

“This is part of the guy being invested in the marriage,” said Carol Worthman, an anthropologist at Emory University who also was not involved in the study. Lower testosterone, she said, is the father’s way of saying, “ ‘I’m here, I’m not looking around, I’m really toning things down so I can have good relationships.’ 

Don’t Worry – It’ll Come Naturally

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My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t know what to do or how to take care of Baby RR. I didn’t do any reading or talk with other fathers about how to do things because I didn’t want to go overboard and over analyze things like I often do. I still remember the first time I had to change Baby RR just a few short hours after he was born. I had absolutely no idea what to do. Sure, I knew you had to wipe his butt and put a new diaper on him but I had no idea how to actually clean him or put a new diaper on. But you know what, after the first time it just clicked. Everything became natural. Same with bottle feedings – I had no idea how often to feed him, how much, nor how to actually feed him and in what position. But again…after the first time, it clicked. You learn how much formula/breast milk to give him, what size nipple to use for his bottle, how to hold him, how to soothe him, how to burp him (finally almost got that down after 3 months and over 200 feedings), how to lay him down, how to pick him up, etc.

Your first 1-2 weeks with him will feel like he’s a $100-million-dollar vase that’s very delicate and brittle and must be held just right. After a week or two, it will all come naturally and you’ll learn how to pick up him, cradle him and hold him. It almost became like a sixth sense for me: I knew how to do things instinctively that I’d done once before or perhaps never before. It was as if I had learned these things in a past life and they had just woken up inside of me. Perhaps I was a baby whisperer in my previous life?

You Will Love Him/Her Like None Other

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As Mrs. RR said in a previous post, her biggest fear was that she wouldn’t love our son once he was born. I, too, had that fear but it’s silly to think that it was actually a real fear of ours at the time. Once he was born and we saw him for the first time, reality hit us and so did the love bug. He was so cute and precious that it was hard for us to believe that we’d created something that perfect. Yes, I’ve become one of those parents that talks about their kids all the time and posts baby pics all over their Facebook page but you’ll understand why once you become a parent. You both literally created a human being together and it’s pretty surreal once you think about it.

When I was single, I’d look at the parents who had kids like they were idiots. “Who the hell cares that the baby is mumbling or making goo-goo noises?” “Oh look, he’s crying again, can’t wait for that.” But once your baby starts doing these things, it’s a whole new world. It’s amazing to see how 3 months ago, all he did was sleep, eat and cry. And now he’s actually looking at you, smiling, laughing, trying to talk, making weird faces and growing before your eyes. It’s very surreal but at the same time very ultimately rewarding.

The hardest part of our day, especially Mrs. RR’s, is when we have to drop our son off at grandparent daycare and leave for work. All we want to do is be at home with our son, watching him grow up and playing with him. We don’t want to be away from him at all because that means not being able to fully watch him grow up. You won’t fully understand this until you have kids of your own but trust me – it’ll hit you hard once you go to work and have to leave him for 8+ hours.

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen, the only 3 things you need to know about becoming a new parent. Thoughts, questions, concerns, random monetary donations of $1M dollars? Feel free to leave a comment with your own advice on becoming a new parent.

jyjodm0

May 2016 Expense Report

May was a very busy and expensive month. We had several long-term planned expenses, some unexpected expenses, and some one-offs. Here’s our expense breakdown from last month-

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May 2016 Expense Report

$4K…holy shit! The 2 biggest ones that stand out are Auto & Shopping. Auto had some double-payments so it really should be around $762. Shopping was a lot of miscellaneous stuff; Amazon purchases, work clothes, summer stuff, etc. To break it down even further, here’s what we look at via a pie chart-

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So now for the breakdown-

Auto & Transport$1,262.98

This should actually be $762. Mrs. ORR paid her car payment 2x since she missed last month’s and my auto loan got taken out 2x by my lender. We’re actually about $100 better than last month since we’ve been carpooling to work 95% of our days. We work 5 minutes apart from each other so even though Mrs. RR gets out early, she picks me up so that we can save gas money. The eventual plan is to get down to 1 car which would save us $450/month but we have a long way to go to get there.

Education $562.64

This should actually be $ 5,562.64. I had a lot of excess money sitting around in my emergency fund so I decided to take $5K out and do a 1-time payment against my smaller student loan. I have about $2500 left on that one and $27K on the big boy. I figure I have enough liquid money elsewhere that I can take out with little/no penalty so I wanted to get the small loan paid off quicker. Once that $115/month payment goes away (actually $215 since I’ve been putting an extra $100 against it), then I’ll combine that into a debt snowball with my bigger loan to go from $396 à $714/month. Currently I’m on pace to pay that off in about 6 years but I want it gone NOW! The more money I throw at it, the closer we’ll get to an extra $700/month cashflow!

Home $489.97

$475 of this is for our mortgage which actually just got lowered to $425. Tell me somewhere else where you can get a mortgage on a 3bed/1bath 1200 sq ft house for $425? Told ya.

The rest of this money is for Home Depot – Mr. RR’s favorite store. I’ve been working on filling in the cracks of our concrete patio so that we can paint it. Unfortunately, I’ve gone through about 3 different types of cement crack sealer which set me back an extra $20 or so. Home is usually a big discretionary spender of mine since I enjoy housework so add another $50 onto there for good measure.

Food & Dining $413.71

This category will be the death of me. This is our biggest discretionary spender category. Our budget is $200 but we did have some long-term planned expenses along with 2 birthday events, hosting a family cookout and going out to eat for the first time in several months (Mother’s Day). Both times we had gift cards but went over a little bit between food and tip. We also purchased $142 dollars’ worth of Arnold Palmer iced tea for $71 bucks (50% off!) That’s our long-term planned expense. We drink a lot of iced tea ourselves and also between hosting cookouts so it’s a win for us. Instead of paying more money for unhealthy pop or beer, we drink AP iced tea which has less calories and is non-carbonated for a cheaper alternative. The BOGO AP iced tea happens every few months at Rite Aid so we stocked up with 7 cases. Again, long-term expense which should last us the rest of summer/into early fall.

Between the cookouts, we had to buy an ice cream cake, hot dogs (on sale), hamburgers, rolls, snacks, the works. We went to Aldi’s and spent pretty cheaply which definitely helped us out. I also cut back on my work lunches and only paid about $28 there (half of that was for beverages since I’m not a fan of drinking water). We’re also paying about $100/month for formula but we get the Sam’s Club brand which is far cheaper than anywhere else we’ve found.

Bills & Utilities $340.51

Both of our cell phone bills are $125 combined. Mine is realistically about $50 but I put an extra $25 in since my brothers and I use more of the data plan that they do (ie paying my fair share). Electric, gas, last water bill for Mrs. RR’s old house that she sold last month (woo ho!) and my high high internet bill that I got cut by 40% after finding out how much a new “contract term” cost me.

On the plus side, our electric-AC bill should be way down this summer. We bought new storm doors and entry doors for the front and side doors of our house which also come with slide down screens. We’ve been using these screens to help circulate cool air throughout the house on the main floor whereas previously we would put the AC on. We’ve had to use the AC a few times when there was no breeze and it was in the 80s outside but nothing extreme. Even with the AC on, we keep it around 75-77 degrees F so we’re not freezing each other out. We’re also having a big picture window put in within the next month or 2 which has sliding windows to help circulate air. This was a planned expense but long-term it’ll definitely pay off between lower AC bill and resale value on the house. We’ll also be putting in a ceiling fan to help circulate air some more and also give us a big central light instead of the 2 small lamps we have on our end tables.

For the upstairs, we’ve also been using a window fan with the exhaust/intake options that we switch up at night/morning to maximize air circulation. We have a 15×15 bedroom upstairs with only 1 small 4” vent so it gets pretty muggy at night. But so far between the ceiling fan and window fan it hasn’t been too bad. We have a circulating fan we can use to blow on us in extreme cases but we’re not there yet.

Shopping $289.01

While “only” comprising 9% of our budget, this is another category we need to cut back on. $50/month goes into our Christmas fund via Smartypig.com. Our goal is $500 for Christmas this year but we’ll probably spend half that amount and put the remaining into savings/vacation fund ($100/month).

The rest of this is trips to Dollar General, Wal-Mart for food/new clothing/household items, and buying off Amazon. Unfortunately, summer time is Mr. RR’s favorite so he likes to spruce up the outside a bit so quite a few one-off purchases. Still an area to cut back on.

Health and Fitness $205.74

$45 for Chiropractor visits for Mr. RR, $52 in 5K race fees which we’ll get fully reimbursed on, and $ 107 in gym fees for the RR couple.  Mr. RR’s gym classes cost $49 a month and they doubled up on those last month. However, those have been cancelled so an extra $50 goes to cashflow each month!

Each Chiro visit is $45 but I’ve been using my HSA fund to pay for this until recently when I got low. I’ve also been paying Baby RR’s hospital, ENT, and pediatric hospital visits using the HSA fund so the balance got a bit low there. Mr. RR goes to the chiropractor 1-2x a month and Mrs. RR will also be going 1-2x month as well (using her own HSA fund). I run 1-2x 5K’s a month but I have those race fees budgeted out.

Business Services  $181.28

Sounds like we run a legit escort business doesn’t it? Pretty boring actually. $100 is for Mrs. RR’s will creation and $81.28 was for our BlueHost yearly subscription. Nothing more to say here…

Personal Care  $100.00

Hair and other personal care items for Mrs. RR.

Vacation $100

$100 for vacation fund to be used in early spring possibly.

Kids $58.03

Baby RR’s first pair of shades along with some baby formula. We were lucky to have a big diaper party and also received a lot of gifts and $$$ at our (her) baby shower so we don’t need too many items. We’re pretty simplistic with our needs so we try not to go overboard and buy useless/fancy baby items that we don’t see a need for.

 

Budget Categories Guaranteed to Decline for July

Auto     1) Double-billed for vehicle payments and 2) Continued carpooling. Estimated budget $ 765

Food and Dining     No way we’re getting close to the $400 mark again…fingers crossed

Health and Fitness   No more $49/month classes, this should be $9.99/month going forward. We have some races planned but those are budgeted and $30/month on avg.

Business Services   This should be $0 next month. No wills being created nor domain names to be registered again

Personal Care      Mrs. RR gets her hair done every few months so this isn’t a monthly thing

 

Goals for July

  • Keep food budget to $225 or less. We were doing well with this in March and April but May tanked us with holiday cookouts, birthdays and some 1-time purchases. Summer will be tough since we host cookouts and attend cookouts/birthday parties/grad parties/holiday events.
  • Keep shopping budget under $ 150. This will be really tough but we think we can do it. Unfortunately, we have 4-6 grad parties to attend this summer (downfall of having a large family) and a bridal shower to attend. We’ve dropped $100 so far on landscaping materials but technically this should go under Home. We’re being aggressive but most of these expenses are random trips to Dollar General or Walmart for crap.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Feedback? Criticism? Death threats? Hate mail? Generous $1M donations?

Hit us up!

Tongue Tied and Twisted

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Will I even like my kid?

My biggest fear whenever I thought about having children. People would always tell me “You’ll fall in love the second you see them”, or “You don’t realize what love is until you have a child”. Blah, blah.

Well ladies and gentlemen, IT’S. TRUE.

Baby RR came in to this world via c-section and, while I couldn’t see anything when he came out, I knew instantly that I loved this child. Before I even laid eyes on this boy my life way changed, I was overwhelmed with LOVE and happiness. Those crazy people were right!

When I was in the hospital all I wanted to do was be near my boy. I was in some pain after the delivery but it didn’t stop me from getting to my son whenever he started whining or even moved! I couldn’t get enough of him.

Shortly after he was born we found out that he was tongue tied. WTF is that?!

Tonguetied (ankyloglossia): is a condition present at birth that restricts the tongue’s range of motion. With tonguetie, an unusually short, thick or tight band of tissue tethers the bottom of the tongue’s tip to the floor of the mouth.

That’s all from my friend Google. Basically, he couldn’t stick his tongue out. Poor baby. Apparently it’s common and it can either be fixed or left alone. We were told by our pediatrician that if it wasn’t fixed, there was no evidence that he would have a speech impediment, but we wouldn’t know until he was older. If we did fix it, it would limit his chances of having said speech impediment and also help with breastfeeding (I had to use the DREADED nipple shield to help him latch on-super annoying).

Decisions, decisions. Already, at not even a day old, we were thrown in to parent-mode and had to make a big decision regarding our child. Do we take a chance and let it be? Or do we alter his perfect little body?

We were told that if baby RR got his tongue snipped right away it would take not even a minute, he wouldn’t feel a thing and there would be just a “drop” of blood. If we waited and it needed to be done when he was a toddler or older, he would have to be sedated. NOPE. Not our kid! We decided to go forward and get it snipped.

Our pediatrician gave us the name of a Ears, Nose, and Throat doctor they recommended and at a week and a half old we were walking baby RR in to their office. Talk about being in MOM-MODE. I was nervous, sad, scared, any type of emotion you could think of. My poor baby was going to be hurt. I hated hearing him cry on a normal day and I needed to rush to him as quickly as I could. This thing I had no control over. I couldn’t hold him or soothe him while they did it. I just had to sit there and try not to cry myself! Mr. RR thought I was nuts but I couldn’t stand the fact that someone was “hurting” my baby and I couldn’t do anything about it.

Let. Me. Tell. You.  The doctor came in, went right to baby RR, took him out of his car seat and just held him and talked to him. I was shocked! What doctor does that?? That put me at such ease (not enough to calm me down during the actual “procedure”, but just enough to know he was in good hands).

It did take about a minute, he did cry for a couple seconds, and there was a little bit more than a drop of blood, but guess what? HE WAS FINE! He acted like nothing ever happened. We won’t even talk about the look Mr. RR gave me after it was all done- yes, I get it, I may have overreacted. But, I’M A MOM! I get to act that way!

That was my first test at what it’s like to be a mom; all of the crazy thoughts and feelings that go on when you can’t protect your child. It really is amazing. Knowing you would do anything and everything for that little human. I look at moms (and dads) in a completely different light now. I will never understand how anyone could take that precious life for granted.

However, talk to me in about 12-18 years. We’ll see if I still stand by those words!

Funerals Suck

Hello folks. We’ve had a busy week at the RR household. Unfortunately, Mr. RR’s grandmother was moved to Hospice last week and passed away just 4 days later. Between the family meetings, building photo collages, writing and re-writing a eulogy many times, practicing speaking that eulogy countless times and trying to keep it all together, it’s been a hopping week.

Grandma had a great life. She was married to my grandfather for 61 years before he passed a few years back. They led very active lives and enjoyed vacationing during both their work years and especially their retirement years. He worked for a large well-known grain mill company for over 40 years and she worked at a bank for a few years before becoming a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM). They never had a lot of money but they kept it very simple – vacations, volunteering often and having great friends around.

Lots of great memories of both of them. It’s still a very surreal feeling. I know that she’s gone and it’s tough acknowledging that I won’t ever see her again or hug her again but at the same time it still hasn’t quite hit me yet. We were very close which made it even more difficult during her wake and funeral.

Writing a speech to say at her service was hard because I didn’t know where to focus. I had a lot of good memories of her growing up but they were scattershot and I didn’t know what to focus on or where to even begin. I tried googling ideas but they were mostly informal, drawn-out speeches with little personal touch.

In the end, after several rough drafts and many practice speeches, I finally had my speech for her. I wanted to do her justice and to speak from the heart, not give a word-for-word written out speech. Problem is I get distracted and lose my train of thought a lot so I need a written out speech. The key for me is memorizing my speech well enough so that I can make a lot of eye contact and not have to look down while reading the entire speech.

Anywho, without getting further off track I’d like to share my speech with you all today. It’s short and sweet and is very personal to me. Who knows, maybe it’ll help out someone facing the same difficulties one day?

(Note – names mentioned here have been changed to protect the innocent…or something like that)

Hi everyone. For those of you that don’t know me- I’m Mr. RR, X and XX’s middle son, and the proud co-creator of the 3-month old poop machine at the back there.

First of all, I would like to thank everyone for being here today and joining us in celebrating my grandmother’s life.

My grandma was a very special person and one of my favorite people. After my grandpa passed away 6 years ago, I grew even closer with my grandma and took it upon myself to look after her whenever I could. She always had little odds and ends that she needed done in her apartment but would always put it off. She said the apartment maintenance guy would do it. I asked when; she said oh they just hired a new guy so I’m sure he’s behind on his work. This went on for over a year. Every few months I’d ask her, every few months it was the same response from her; she just didn’t want to burden anyone. So instead of waiting for them, I did whatever work I could myself. Changing lightbulbs, digging up plants, fixing her kitchen drawers at 11 o’clock at night after Christmas dinner. Whatever she wanted done, I would do it for her in a heartbeat, just to get a chance to see her.

I always enjoyed having her over during our summer cookouts at my house. She would always bring food or try to help out in the kitchen even though we’d ask her not to. I tried to have cookouts as often as I could because that meant more time spent not only with my family but especially with my grandma.

After she had a stroke last year, it was hard seeing her like that but she never fussed about it. As always, within a month of being there, she had new friends and would stop and talk to everyone she saw as we walked up and down the halls, chit chatting with everyone we ran into. That was one of the best things about her- no matter where she went or whose house we went to, you could sit her anywhere and you’d come back in 5 minutes to find her talking to whomever was next to her.

 I’ll never forget how happy she was when we told her that she was going to be a great grandmother; she was so excited. Once our son Baby RR was born, we would try to surprise her at the nursing home whenever we could. She loved being around him and holding him and he was always a very happy baby whenever he saw her.

It’s tough not being able to see her anymore but I’m glad that she was able to become a great grandmother before she passed. She lived a long, happy life and I know that she’s up in heaven with my grandfather, looking down at us right now.

First and Foremost

Well here I am- Mrs. RR. Never in a million years did I think I would be a “blogger”. It’s funny how life takes you in crazy directions. Sometimes you don’t see it, but there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. This past year I definitely was travelling towards that light (not “THAT” light).

Last July Mr. RR and I found out we were expecting. What. A. Shock. A pleasant, exciting, and sometimes overwhelming, shock. Up until then we were just casually floating by. We knew we would eventually move in together, get married, live the rest of our glorious lives together, but this news made us kick it in to high gear. We had a lot to figure out: where we were going to live (since we both owned our own homes it was a tough decision), how we were going to raise our child (really though, how were we going to do this?!), and, among other things, the DREADED BUDGET. Our two separate lives were quickly coming together.

The good thing is, we are a GREAT team. I think that’s the main reason why the RR household runs so smoothly. We keep each other in check. Mr. RR is a thinker and a planner. I, on the other hand, like to fly by the seat of my pants most of the time. His mind is always going, which can be a good thing because he makes me think of things I normally wouldn’t, but sometimes I need to reel him back in. We, for the most part, are on the same page with a lot of things so making decisions on how were going to run the RR house is usually figured out with little discussion (or arguments).

Now on to our little boy-Baby RR. WOW. How life changes once you have a baby. Cliché, I know. Again, I am NOT a planner, so when I found out I was pregnant I was SUPER excited but I didn’t do any research. I just thought the kid would come, we would figure it out and move on. NOPE. As it got closer I became TERRIFIED. I knew NOTHING. Research should’ve been my friend, but I knew the more I read, the more overwhelmed I would become. And yet the more I didn’t read, the more overwhelmed I became. Then the day came when he decided to make his entrance in to this crazy world and nothing mattered any more. I didn’t have time to think. I just jumped in to “mom mode”. I never thought I would have a “mom mode”. He changed my life, for the better.

We brought him home and Google became my best friend. From “How much should a 5 day old be drinking?” to “What foods to eat to produce more breast milk” to “Do I point his wiener up or down when I put his diaper on” (literally Googled EVERYTHING). The more I read, the more overwhelmed I became. Again. I didn’t want to be a bad mom. I wanted to do everything I could to give my son what he needed. Looking back (yes, its only been 3 months) I wish I was more prepared, I wish I saw the bigger picture. Reading blogs, and Pinterest, and my friend Google, I saw all of these moms as “Super Moms”, moms that know everything and live a fairy-tale life. I felt I was not that person. Those blogs and articles were hard to relate to.

I’m not here to preach about how to raise a child, or how to be the greatest mom out there. I’m here to be me. I’m still learning as I go (I don’t Google as much but it’s there if I need it). Like Mr RR said in the first post, we’re doing this to keep ourselves in check, to hold ourselves accountable for what we choose to do. Yes, I want to help other moms and give advice, but I’m also here to learn. I’ll be writing about things I’ve found helpful (and not so helpful) but I also want feedback. I want to know what other moms like me are doing to raise their kids in a realistic setting.

Our life is simple. We are trying to figure out what is best for US. If we can help a few people along the way with this blog then we have succeeded. We’re just trying to figure out life, one day at a time.

Sweat Equity and Patience – An Introduction

Owning a home is definitely enjoyable but it’s often loaded with responsibilities. It’s great to have your own independence and the ability to do whatever you want with it but at the same time it requires a good amount of time and money to upkeep. We’re always looking to improve the RR household and now that summer is right around the corner, the outside prep work begins.

This summer, now that Mrs. RR has moved in with me, it’s more enjoyable to work as a team than having to do the work by ourselves. Over the past couple years, we would each do our own thing or help each other out at our own homes if we needed help. Last summer, I helped her father put in new drain tile. The year before that, a new roof on the garage. We didn’t want to do a lot of work to either house last year because we didn’t know where we were going to end up. Now that we’re all under one roof, we can concentrate on making this our permanent house for the foreseeable future instead of bouncing back and forth between homes and in-between projects.

Outside work has always been my favorite part of home maintenance. I much rather prefer throwing on my boots and jeans to go outside and cut the grass or shovel stone than vacuum or dust inside. I enjoy the physical labor aspect much more than the “light duty” housework. Maybe it’s the masculinity in me, probably is, who knows. I just enjoy doing more laborious work and feeling closer to the land than I do being inside.

Most of the projects that I do tend to revolve around enhancing the outside. Unfortunately where we live, we don’t get to enjoy the outside as much because of our weather patterns and seasons so I try to make the outside as enjoyable as possible to make up for it. I always dress up the outside with flowers (mostly annuals, some perennials – I love colors and variety), new black mulch, freshly cut green grass and a nice fire pit to go with it.

Year 1 in the new house was mostly outdoor cleanup. I ripped out some giant bushes that were always attracting hornets; cleaned out space for the vegetable garden and built up the front flower beds with lots and lots of topsoil. But by far my biggest project was re-wiring my garage and installing new outlets/shop lights/indoor lights. It went from mid-summer of year 1 and lasted mid-way through summer of year 2.

Year 1 was definitely overboard on my part but I wanted to make a mark on my new house and show my new neighbors that I was a neighbor who cared about his house and wouldn’t let it fall to waste. I live on a quiet street where most neighbors have lived in their homes 30+ years so I wanted to show them that this young 27-year-old kid was going to take care of his property and accept responsibility like an adult. I tried to do things simply and plainly but sometimes I became too consumed by doing things and went overboard.

Year 2 was outdoor cleanup continued but also new additions. I continued re-wiring the garage, installed a few new outdoor floodlights and also some shop lights for the garage. I dug out a fire pit in the backyard behind my garage since I enjoy having campfires from the late spring- early fall seasons. I built up the front flower beds and back vegetable gardens more and tried new weed-preventing measures in the veggie garden. Another project was to put in fill in the rock beds both behind and on the side of my house with black border edging and new white rocks to make it look snazzy and new.

Year 3 was organizing and being smart. With the help of my father, I built new garage shelves which were 12L x 8H x 4D. I had extra firewood and lawn furniture (which I got rid of that year) and I needed a place to put my excess things without taking up too much room. I also did some painting outside, pressure washing, rototilling and preparation.

My shed floor was starting to warp due to the lovely fact that the previous owners put down a wood shed on 2×8’s with no structured base. You need to put down a concrete slab or at the very least crushed stone to ensure proper drainage; they did neither. Instead, the bottom floor joists are sitting directly on the ground and are absorbing moisture and rotting away. Several spots in the shed floor are very soft and squishy to walk on so I had to re-inforce them with sheets of wood in select areas. Eventually I’d like to try and find a way to fix up the floor and bottom part of the shed. The shed itself is very good structurally but the floor and outside floorboards continue to rot due to insufficient drainage.

Year 4 started off with a big project – installing a new wood fence. I came home one day in late November of Year 3 to find that a fence panel had broken off in some high winds and fell down. I was going to repair that panel but then after some family discussions, we decided that we (some family and I) could repair it ourselves for about $500. As we put up the new fence, we found that the previous owners had only cemented in 2 of the 7 posts and the other 5 were just sitting on top of the ground. Also, the fence was standard pine and not pressure-treated which I consider a must because of all the snow and rain that we get in our region.

Now that the fence project is all set, we have many more projects on our list. Since Mrs. RR has officially moved in with me as of January, she’s been a great help assisting me with these projects. She keeps me grounded on a lot of things. I’m often 10 steps ahead of everyone else in terms of thinking about projects so it’s nice to stay on the ground. Since we don’t know if this will be our permanent home or not, we don’t want to invest too much into it. Since I enjoy projects and doing things the proper way, I often tend to do a bit too much instead of simply doing the basic that’s required. Once we find our permanent home, then we can go about long-term planning.

I had initially intended this post to be a list of our Summer To-Do chores but we can keep that for another time. I want you to get a grasp of our thinking and understanding that you don’t need to do everything all at once (as I used to think early on). Projects take time and patience. You don’t need to dump a lot of money; often times all you need is some paint and/or flowers to spruce up the outside. Then you add to it every year – one year it’s a deck or some lighting; the next year it’s a new garden bed or a fire pit. Bit by bit, things will start falling into place. You don’t want to stress yourself out after working all day just to come home and work outside for hours on end. Besides, when you rush through things, the results often come out very sub par (unfortunately I know this all to well).

By living simply and patiently, you’ll learn to do things the right way without stressing yourself out. What’s the point in doing all this hard work if you’re too stressed or rushed to enjoy it?