Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Living on one income. $$$

I don't know about you stay at home mom's, but I have frequently been hit with questions like, "how the heck do you live off one income?" "does your husband work a lot of different jobs to support you?" "well you must have to sacrifice a lot" or "well he must have a really good job".
The answers? 1) very carefully. 2)no, he only works one. 3)yes, we do sacrifice. 4)he has an ok job, but he's not Donald Trump.

While I was pregnant with Eliana it became a very real question, to stay home or not to stay home? As a child I had always dreamed of being a wife and mommy, but then it turned out that I did pretty good in the big wide world of banking, who knew! I worked 6 days a week, and too many hours in my opinion. I moved my chair at my desk so the evening cleaning ladies could empty my trash if that gives you any idea. So, once I was pregnant and I looked into the price of daycare I kind of flipped! Almost $900 a month for the place near my work and that was if I picked the baby up by 6pm every day. Well, I pretty much never left work by 6. The biggest issue though was that every time I thought of putting my baby in daycare my heart would start racing and my chest felt tight and I wanted to cry. I felt desperate to not miss out on her childhood. I did the math. Just mortgage, utilities, and car payment, Craig's pay wasn't enough. This was a hard pill to swallow. We had been praying for a year for a raise for him or for something to happen and nothing happened. I was getting so discouraged. Everyone at work kept asking if I'd be coming back and I had to say the truth, "as far as I know, yes." Well, about a month before my due date Craig finally got a raise. And wow, it was just enough to cover our most basic bills and leave a few hundred for groceries and diapers. With our income literally cut in half I knew things would be tight, super tight actually. Pretty much no wiggle room. So, cut to Elly being born.....with her colic and acid reflux (more on that another time)there was just no way I could go back to work. What daycare would take a baby that screams all day??? I had a note from my doctor who was pretty emphatic that my child was not daycare eligible. I pretty much just think that God was making sure I would stay home with her :) Just before my 3 months of leave I officially gave my notice. I was in tears because I'm so responsible, always have been, and I felt really crappy leaving my coworkers hanging. But my family comes first and so it did.

I had sat down and worked through the numbers. We had just enough for basics. No home phone, no tv, no eating out, no buying coffee in the morning, no vacations, etc. Craig and I agreed it was worth it and we were both willing to make the sacrifices (that's the key ladies, you BOTH have to be on board!). And contrary to popular belief I am very low maintenance :) Haven't had a mani or pedi in two years :) Seemed we had it worked out and would give it a try.

WHAM!!!! Did you feel that? Um, that was the feeling of Craig getting laid off 1 month, yes 1 month!!! after I gave my notice. Are you freaking kidding me? So, we went from two incomes making good money if I'm being honest, to absolutely zero income with a new baby. Scary. Gladly I had put our tax refund in a liquid CD and we lived off that and the measly unemployment check that was left after Craig's child support payment was taken out (again, that's another story). We cut back, ate the stuff piling up in our cabinets, and quite frankly didn't have the energy to go out to eat. And like many new parents will tell you, going to a movie? What is that?! Anyway, 9 weeks later, he was able to go back to work, Praise the Lord. 9 weeks doesn't sound so bad, but when I look at the lost wages, it is bad.

So, how do you live on one income? You cut back, you budget, and you spend carefully. I admit this is difficult. I love to shop as much as the next girl, but I also know how to say no. In fact, this is almost a fault for me. For instance, I bought a $25 washer/dryer set at a yard sale a month before Craig and I got married. I totally thought I would replace them within a year as they were from the 70's and rusting (ewww, rust on clothes). Did I replace them? Um, no. I kept them for 3 1/2 years until I had a soapy load in the washing machine and it just quit working. That caused a frantic search for a new washer and dryer which I scored with an online coupon, price match discount, and some other discount that I forgot for the amazing deal of just over $700 for front loading Whirlpool Duet (the set). Ok, that was a tangent (I love a deal!!!). My point was that I let things go. I hate to spend money on stuff. My underwear has holes (don't tell anyone), my shoes are ripped, my jeans are 4 years old, and I haven't colored my hair in a year. So maybe I should spend more money.....but in my defense, it really does take sacrifice to live off one income and not have racked up home equity lines of credit, credit cards, personal lines of credit, etc. Trust me. I did this for a living. It was shocking to see the hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt that people would accrue. And for what? New tv's? A new Coach purse (I have one I got at an outlet 3 years ago :))?, mani/pedi's? Cable tv in every room? Brand new cars?

Here's the bottom line folks; if you don't have it, don't spend it. I know that's a crazy idea to comprehend and maybe someone oughtta pass that along to our government.....(I'm just saying!). If you think you really want it, put it on a wishlist. Think about it for a while, price shop (I love amazon, ebay, target, tj maxx). Make sure you're getting the best deal. If that seems like too much work, then you really shouldn't be buying that item that you "can't live without".

I have a Word document that has all of our bills and monthly expenses on it (including savings and tithe). If we spent it, it's on here. This is where our money is allocated. It's especially helpful if I feel like, "there's no money! how can I pay the bills!" If that's the case then it means I spent money where I shouldn't have. Tighten up the belt!

Don't get me wrong, I know things happen. Trust me, I know that. That's why you need a savings. I think at least 10% of your pay is ideal, but Craig and I are currently doing 5%, it's all we can and it's better than nothing. I do have credit cards, one with a small balance ($3,000) that I am working on paying off. I NEVER had a balance, but things changed a little with both of us not working and still having a mortgage, car payment, child support, medical bills (another story),etc. Credit cards are for emergencies and that sort of thing. Not because you want to go to Tahiti.

On a side note, if your credit is trashed, you need to fix it. When I met Craig his credit score was shocking. I read the number and thought it was a typo; unpaid medical bills, a Sprint account his ex had started and never paid as a one Miss Sara Frazier( um, they were never married, what a hack!), a video this same ex rented in Nevada and never returned (seriously??? um, yes). I spent a solid year before we were married fixing his credit (ask me for help and how to do it!). I believe at this point his credit is better than mine. How does that happen? :) Diligence. Your credit is your future. Cliche, but true. We're talking the difference of thousands of dollars on a mortgage, car loan, etc. Over 700 should be your goal. The closer you are to 800 the better. NEVER be late on a credit card payment. Speaking in general terms, there is no grace period on credit card payments. If you are even 1 day late you will get a late fee and could see your rate rise to the default level (which is usually over 20%). Never miss a mortgage payment or car payment. That being said, mortgage payments and car payments typically have a 15 day grace period. Check with your institution for specifics. Also, I don't recommend using that grace period on a regular basis. You may get used to that later payment date and when something happens and you actually need that 2 weeks, you won't have it. If you miss payments you'll pay for it later in terms of crappy credit agreements with high interest rates. www.annualcreditreport.com is a great resource for pulling your credit reports for free. Pull one from each bureau (transunion, equifax, and experian) as things are reported slightly different among the bureaus. Annoying yes but it's a fact. Take out a highlighter and go through them. Look for anything you don't recognize. Mark the heck out of them with notes on what stuff is and if you need to call and follow up on stuff. You can't fix it if you're not willing to take a good hard look at the mess. Ok, I can give more help....just ask!

Back to living on one income! I think, speaking in very general terms, we want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to spend all day with our children but also eat at the Melting Pot every weekend and have a new wardrobe each season. I hate to say it, but unless your spouse has been blessed with a megabucks job, you're gonna have to choose. I think a lot more women could stay home if they were willing to cut coupons, stay home instead of be out spending money, etc. I don't mean to point fingers here, I know that some people literally have no choice and I empathize for you. I know this can be a heated debate. If you feel like I'm stepping on toes here, maybe think about why you're feeling that way. I just really and truly feel that anyone that can raise their children...should. Think about it.

I am definitely not perfect in the financial area, but I am really trying. Could I really use a vacation? Yes. Do I miss just simply spending money? Yes. Am I SO glad I'm home with my daughter and raising her myself? YES!!! If you are walking this fine line ladies, let me just encourage you to take a leap, cut back on your spending, and spend time with your children. If you can't, but you want to, pray about it. Really really pray about it. I know that it can be easy to get our identity from our jobs. I get this, I was good at my job! But just maybe God wants you to find your identity in being His daughter; beloved and perfect to him. It's not about achieving or even earning and spending. It's about doing His will and being obedient. For the first time in years I feel like I am doing God's will in my life. This brings so much peace and happiness and I wish that for all of you. I wish for you to be present and experiencing all of your child's firsts and being your spouse's best friend and most important, living in the center of God's will for your life.

Goodnight everyone. I hope I have maybe challenged your priorities and if I've made you mad and that made you think....then I'm glad :)

I've been spooned! and other breastfeeding things :)

Eliana and I (and my mom) went to the monthly La Leche League luncheon. Mothers that make it to one year of breastfeeding get an antique spoon picked out for them by Katie, our dear LLL leader. I received a beautiful spoon that Katie titled "Strength and Purity" for me. I can't believe that a whole year has gone by. It has flown. BF (breastfeeding) started out pretty tough. I couldn't get Eliana to latch on in the hospital. The lactation consultant helped some but she'd still only latch for a little bit and then pull off. I ended up going to a nipple shield. Then we got home and I couldn't get her to eat with or without the shield. I was so scared. It's the worst feeling in the world to not be able to feed your child and to know they are hungry (I imagine it's a tiny bit how it feels for poverty stricken families to watch their babies starve). It's SO so scary and I know many mothers that have felt those same feelings. I kept debating buying formula and honestly was just ready to give up on the whole BF thing. My mom and family were supporting me and encouraging me to keep trying. Finally at the end of day 3 she latched on (with the shield) and ate like a champ. I was nervous that it was a one time thing, but from then on out she ate fabulously. Not that it was always easy. Feeding a baby with acid reflux and colic can be challenging. She wanted to comfort feed all the time because the warm milk made her raw throat (from the reflux) feel better, so I was literally nursing every 30 minutes. Of course this made my boobs huge and swollen, but what could I do! Especially at night, nursing was the only time she didn't scream. But, we have persevered and here we are :) She's never had an ear infection and never been really sick other than a small cold. Her height and weight are perfect. She loves nursing and I still enjoy it, too. Sometimes she gets so excited she'll start breathing heavy and waving her hand all frantic until she's latched. As far as the shield goes, I never got her off of it. I definitely intended to, but then her colic kept going on until 4 months and I just couldn't see adding in one more thing to my days. I was surviving, literally just surviving. It is so taxing to only get 2-5 hours of sleep at night for 4 months. It took all I had to just take a shower and eat something, let alone try and wean her from the shield. I did try occasionally but she'd scream and purse her lips and was definitely not interested in 'just me'. I've tried since then as well and she's really not open to it. Oh well. To me, the most important thing is that she is BF. The means is not so important. I know of women that have had to pump for months and months and months. Really, who cares how you do it, the fact that you do it is absolutely amazing and applaud able! I hope with future children to not have to use the shield, but it's really not that big of deal at this point. Anyway, I could go on for hours about BF and if you ever have questions, please please ask. It is like second nature now and it was great to get my spoon today (thank you Katie!).
The next dilemma with nursing is what to do about TTC (trying to conceive) again. I required Provera, Metformin, and Clomid (conceived on 200mg) to conceive Elly as I have PolyCysticOvarianSyndrome aka PCOS. Dr. Hale, the foremost expert on medication and breastfeeding cites Clomid as an L3 drug, http://www.amazon.com/Medications-Mothers-Milk-Lactational-Pharmacology/dp/0981525725/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256785193&sr=8-1, meaning the benefit of breastfeeding outweighs any dangers of the medication. However, many physicians simply will not prescribe Clomid to breastfeeding moms. I have made an appointment for after Christmas with a new physician, Dr. Quimby (tons of my friends love her). At that time we will talk about Clomid and TTC and see what to do next.I am not ready to wean Elly right now and bottom line she is not ready either. I do not want to force it on her. FYI; LLL recommends 2 years or longer if it is mutually desirable.
Ok, that's all for now. I hear Eliana waking from a quick nap.
Blessings all tonight. Oh and don't forget to watch Glee, I love it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A day in the life of a Stay At Home Diva Mom :)

After many requests by family (namely my mom!) and friends that I need a blog, here goes. I may be the only one ever reading it, but an online journal of sorts might just do me good. I chose the title because well, I am a stay at home mom. But I think that all of us SAHM's have a little bit of Diva in us. We kind of have to! To do all the things we do and not really get any break, there's gotta be a tough, strong, resilient diva inside!

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009. Today was weird but pretty darn good. My daughter, Eliana, who just turned 1 year, slept in til noon. That is definitely a record. Needless to say she didn't need a nap today!

I finally got my wedding ring re-sized. I haven't worn it since I was half way into my pregnancy with Eliana. After having her I lost all the pregnancy weight in 6 weeks yet my ring still didn't fit. I kept thinking, 'if I can just lose some more weight it'll fit right!' While that might be true, it just isn't happening. So I had to suck it up and get it re-sized. And I'm actually super glad I did. I forgot how much I like my wedding ring and it's nice to see those sparkly diamonds on my finger!

On a different note I'm recovering from our weekend. Saturday morning we woke up fully planning on going to Sunrise Farms http://sunrisehillfarm.org/ to get some great pumpkin patch pictures. How quickly our day took a different turn! Let's back up....... Our dog Max, a 4 year old Shih Tzu whom we rescued, was becoming too much for us. Our house, believe it or not, is barely over 700 sq ft. We are on top of each other (and not in the good way!). I only have so much attention to give and Max was getting neglected. He also was not too fond of Eliana. I believe that was the case because of her 4 months of colic screams (that's a whole other story). Anyway, after lots of talks we decided to see if there was a nice family that would like to make Max a part of their family. I posted on Facebook and nothing really came of it. I then sent out an email to some family and an old coworker sort of as a last effort. The coworker responded immediately that they had wanted a dog and couldn't wait to meet Max! I was so surprised and really felt that this was a door opening and thank you Lord. Last Thursday we brought Max to their house along with all his things. They loved him right away. We said our goodbyes and went home to our small, empty house. I couldn't sleep that night. I kept thinking, does he feel abandoned? Is he lonely, scared? Is he okay? Friday I did okay and then Friday night I was back to worrying, but it was a little better than the night before. Ok, so Saturday came and the sun was shining, a perfect day for the pumpkin patch. Then I got a call that Max has started peeing blood and they were in the Vet's waiting room and would let me know what they find out. I was in shock. He was perfectly healthy when we had him, what in the world was going on with him? I felt so bad for him. In a new place with new people and now having troubles. I anxiously awaited the news and we decided not to head out anywhere. A couple hours later we found out that he had 2 kidney stones about the size of golf balls and was in a lot of pain. The bleeding was getting worse and he'd need about $3000 of treatment. OMG. Thus began the day of sobbing. I knew we couldn't pay that. We just simply don't have it to give. I knew what we had to do. My DH, Craig, called my mom and she came over to watch Eliana. Craig went and met the poor adoptive family at the Vet and picked up Max. He was having trouble walking and had to be carried. Craig and I drove to the Humane Society. I had Max wrapped in a towel on my lap. He was going in and out of a sleepiness; not his usual self at all. I was crying, Craig was crying. It was absolutely horrible. I never imagined the pain of losing a family pet. I felt so sad and guilty about it all. If I had known he was sick I never would've given him away. I would've kept him and let him sleep in my bed and jump on the couch and eat people food. I would've cherished him and been as nice as possible. I just wished more than anything I could've saved him. He started crying as we pulled into the parking lot. I think he knew what was happening. I asked Craig to pray over us all. We were both in tears, my face was all red and splotchy. We got out of the car and I set Max down on the grass and he tried to walk but could only hobble sideways and then there was more blood. I picked him up and hugged him. We walked into the animal admittance entrance. I couldn't stop crying. I just felt so horrible and in shock that this was happening. We hugged more, pet him one last time and told him we loved him and were so sorry. Goodbye Maxie.

After that it was a blur. I sobbed so hard in the car that I started coughing. It felt like I couldn't breathe the sorrow was so deep. To see my strong, manly husband crying was humbling. This had affected us all. We went home and Craig began to dig the grave in our backyard under the plum tree. We made a cross and wrote messages on it about how great a dog Max was and that we were sorry we couldn't save him. I was emotionally exhausted. How different this day had ended that when it started. Luckily my sweet baby girl had no idea what was going on and it was good to have her needing me. I didn't have the luxury to crawl under the covers and ignore the world. Her sweet smile and giggle were soothing. Craig and I went back and forth between being fine and crying. It was sort of a cycle all night. We went to bed early, just totally beat.
I woke up Sunday morning hoping it was all a bad dream and wishing I could hear Max's little feet on the floor. No such luck.

It's been a couple days now and I know it will just take time. Yesterday Eliana saw a picture of him and started waving hello. She's been dropping cheerios off her highchair tray and looking to see if Max will come running to eat them like usual. It's more sad for me than for her. I wish there was some sort of redo. Would I maybe have noticed anything to point to him being sick? Would I have treated him better, loved him more, cherished him more? This whole ordeal showed me once again how temporary life is. We have to love and show our love while we can. Things can change so quickly. I really hope that there is a doggy heaven.

As of right now I am listening to Biggest Loser in the background next to the soft (for now) snores of my hubby on the couch. I am tired but find my brain going nuts at night with all the things I could do, should do, haven't done, etc. I love the peacefulness. I love not being 'needed' by anyone. The day is full of hugs, kisses, kiddie songs, don't touch that, come here, eat this, do you want milk?, and I love you's. As rewarding and fun as it is, it is tiring, too. Night time is my solace.

Anyway, I hope that this blog gives you a window into me and the crazy world of a stay at home mom. As you get to know me you will discover there is a lot I have been through and experienced. I pray that my pain and learning will be your discovery and prevention. Feel free to pass my blog along to other eyes. And if you have any questions or something you'd like to know, please ask :)

May God bless you immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine.

Diana