Dancing Boy and Walrus

Here’s my kid, doing a few “pirouettes”.

This walrus has been performing in Turkey for years, dancing to Michael Jackson!

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Rachel’s Water

You should really see this. It will make your day!

 

It’s About Time

 

 

 

The NEWest plan!

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

There are many people that ascribe to this school of thought. I definitely think it is essential to remember that, ultimately, everything we do is up to God.

However, I think that this quote is really misleading and damaging for a variety of reasons. For one: this quote has always seemed mocking to me, as though God is up there, laughing at our audacity like an Olympian Immortal. Secondly, I think that it is part of our duty as human beings, made in the image of God, to thoughtfully make plans for the future. When it comes to finances, I think this is even more true. Being ignorant of your situation and what you could do to improve it is akin to being a slave to it. You cannot be generous with your money if you are a slave to it. Furthermore, you cannot serve God if you are a slave to anything.

For this reason, I am a fan of plans that involve enough planning to free us from constraints, but not ones that involve tying us down, making us a slave to our money/budget. In other words, if our plan gives us freedom, I’m all for it. Surprisingly (for me, especially!), budgets give me a HUGE sense of freedom! I didn’t think it was possible, because it seems so counter-intuative. Once I became accountable and really took a hard, honest look at where the money was going every month, spending became a way to honor God, instead of something I did sneakily within the shadows.

There’s a curious overlap between contentment and planning, however. My definition of contentment, in this regard, is whether or not I’d be okay if all of those plans were ripped away from me. Certain plans, I feel okay with changing– others, not so much. So I’m definitely learning about that balance! Anyone else?

Okay. The newest plan.

Our last “almost bought a house” experience taught us a few things this past year.

1. FHA loans are expensive to close. The closing costs are a whole lot higher than a conventional loan– definitely more than we anticipated (around $10k).

2. FHA loans are picky. We were advised that unless the inspections came back perfect, we probably wouldn’t be able to get the house financed. If we go the FHA route, we will have to be looking for something brand new. This would be great, except for the fact that while we’re teachers, we will have 3 months off every year– time we COULD spend putting equity into a house. If we had our choice, we’d want a house that we could update (minor things, like floor, kitchen, windows, landscaping, etc.).

3. Without a 20% downpayment, one is locked into a PMI (property mortgage insurance) rate for 5 years minimum. I didn’t think this was a big deal, until I saw our final printout– over $200 a month towards the PMI! That’s $12,000, DOWN THE FRICKIN DRAIN! Holy Smokes! I understand that could be a small deal for some, especially when they are dying to get into a house, but it is a hard pill for me to swallow, that’s for sure (also, some people have a lower PMI. Ours just happened to be really high!).

So, as you can probably guess, our newest plan involves avoiding the FHA loan at all costs. If our credit scores are high enough (which, I just checked, and they are!), we can still get a good interest rate using a conventional loan.

Sounds dandy, except for when you realize that in California, 20% down is around $40,000! Um, yikes. Double yikes.

But I think I have a plan. Oh golly, there’s that word again. Haha, maybe I should substitute “dandelion” for the word “plan” to make this more interesting (plus it’s got all sorts of poetic implications)….

I think I have a dandelion.

The dandelion goes like this: We save $2,000 a month for 15 months.

That’s it! Sounds brilliant, right?

Except for….our teaching salaries are kind of embarrassingly low.

So, part of the dandelion has looked like this: whittle all of our monthly expenses (utilities, rent, groceries, gas, car payment, minimal extra spending) down to just what we make from teaching. This was surprisingly easy– our utilities in our “magic house” are only around $40/month. We have a pretty low-key Netflix membership, and we are switching cell phone companies in one month to get a MUCH better deal (buh-BYE Sprint!). I tracked our grocery/eating out purchases for the month, and we underspent my budgeted amount by nearly $150!

In fact, I whittled things down so drastically, without a ton of pain or effort, that we will be able to save at least $400/month just from our teaching salaries!

But, as the dandelion likes to remind me, $400 is not $2000.

Fortunately, I have yet to factor in my piano-teaching tuition. Since this number can often fluctuate, depending on family vacations, sick kids and 4-week months vs. 5-week months (ah, the joys of self-employment!), I do not want us to depend on any of this income for our monthly budget. It’s too risky. Instead, I want it ALL (and I mean ALL) to go into a separate savings account.

I already have between 8-10 students on a reliable monthly basis, which adds up to about 5 hours a week of work. In order to meet our savings goal, however, I am going to need at least 6 more.

So, August/September’s goal is: aggressively campaign and obtain 6 more students! Start saving $2,000/month, add it to what we have, and boom! 20% down plus closing costs! Piece of cake, right?

If we can make this happen (and, by “we”, I am mainly talking about God, here, since saving this much money seems virtually unreal to me) it will set us up to be “free” in a variety of ways. Given the fact that we won’t have a PMI, AND the fact that we will already own 20% of the loan, we will be able to afford a 15 year mortgage vs. a 30 year. Since we will be used to saving lots of money every month, we will be able to start throwing drastic amounts of $ at increasing the property value, our retirement, not to mention quickly getting rid of any other small debts we have. Within 15 years, we will own our home, free and clear of any debt (and, hopefully, we can also get a return on the repairs we’ve done). Sounds rather spectacular, no?

a dance…about babysitting!

I just HAD to post this dance from tonight’s SYTYCD episode! Napoleon and Tabitha (our favorite choreographers) are about to have a baby, so they created a dance routine that perfectly captures the craziness that is trying to get a baby to go to sleep. It’s absolutely brilliant. If you wanna laugh your face off (and, if you’re a parent, cry a little inside), you should watch this!

Farmer’s Market

I love the summer time– we have so much great (and cheap!) produce for sale, just minutes away! For $15, we bought a TON of strawberries, peaches, tomatoes and sweet peas! When we got home, we ate a bunch of the strawberries, and, I kid you not, they were the sweetest, most delicious fruit I’ve had in a long time! I loved being able to meet/talk to all of the growers and ask what kind of fertilizer they used, not to mention making sure that they don’t use pesticides.

It was a beautiful 80 degrees today, so we decided to walk

 

Two best boys in the world!

Anthony 3 Month Letter

Dear Baby Wee,

You have really turned a corner this last month! There are so many things that we love about you, and I will try to list just a few of them!

1. When your Daddy and I were talking about all of our favorite things that you do, your pouty face made the top of the list. Boy does it ever! Your pouty mad face is pretty much the CUTEST thing we’ve ever seen! Picture this face, but you’re wailing, “GOOO!!!!” or “GEEEE!” You sniffle a little, and then you stick your lip out again. I kinda hope you’re always this cute when you’re upset.

See what I mean?

2. You are so chunky and big! You’ve now been in 6-9 month clothing for 3 weeks– anything smaller doesn’t even button! One lady at church asked us jokingly if we were giving you steroids. Then she said, “No seriously, are you already feeding him solids?” Mommy loves that you’re growing so well. It’s probably what makes you so jolly!

Look at all those rolls!

You’re so long!

3. You are so interactive and joyful! The moment anyone looks your way, you crack the biggest grin. You jabber away constantly, looking your audience straight in the eye the entire time.

You have a few fussy times every day, but they are brief and curable, especially now that your horrible reflux has been going away.

Chattering away!

4. You are a FANTASTIC sleeper! All we have to do to get you to sleep is swaddle you and walk away. That’s it! You don’t take a pacifier, Mommy doesn’t have to nurse you to sleep, you don’t need white noise, nothing. You just are an excellent self-soother!

Lately, you’ve been sleeping from 10pm-6am, with 2 “sleep” nursing sessions, and then you take 2-3 hour naps all day long, with 1 hour awake periods in between. We can tell you’re tired because you stop wanting to look us in the eye and you get mildly fussy. What a wonderfully easy baby!

Cute sleepy face

5. You ADORE your older brother, even when he does funny things to you, like stuff pacifiers in your mouth or “pretend” to pee on you.

6. You love your baths! It’s difficult to get everything out of all those rolls though, which is why you sometimes smell like old milk…oh well, you can’t be perfect, right? After your baths, your hair is so soft and shiny though…still super dark. You are turning into my dark haired, blue eyed boy! Your umbilical hernia is almost gone as well.

Our chubby bathing beauty

7. You love to giggle when Mommy kisses your cheeks. Seriously, it never fails! You will giggle over and over and over again– dozens of times in a row. You also giggle when you’re being tickled at your neck. Your smiles and giggles are two of Mommy’s favorite things in life. Oh, and your smile almost always includes your tongue.

8. You found your fists this week, and you love to slurp/suck on them. This little skill helps when you are sitting by yourself in your bouncy seat. You are surprisingly content for a baby– you’re so quiet, we have to be careful you don’t get neglected!

You are such a wonderful kiddo– such a wonderful balance between a long, great sleeper and a happy, interactive boy! Your brother loves you, and your parents love you. Someday, we hope you will love us just as much πŸ™‚

Love, Mommy

Projects Around the House!

Where to start? I’ve been going hog-wild the past couple of days.

Let’s start with the pillows (inspired by this $169 version!):

The yellow one on the right used to be two napkins that match my tablecloth

Yes, I even stenciled the letters myself!

I’m super proud of this one. I made an envelope-style cover! The stripes even match up

What good are pillows without a matching bench? We decided to go with Ikea’s Expedit for extra table seating. Since our table is trestle style, there are no legs to interfere with the seating, plus the bench is the same height as our chairs, AND we needed additional storage near our garage door for shoes/sandals, and also near our sliding glass door for all of G’s backyard toys.

We made the bench cushion using burlap from fabric.com and a cushion from Home Depot

You’ve already seen the sign, but now there are curtains and a bird canvas (inspired by this Pinterest find) to match.

Closeup of the kitchen curtains

Closeup of the matching bird canvas (I used fabric from the curtains)

And then there’s our floormat. We used this tutorialΒ from Pinterest in order to create a child-friendly rug for our kitchen/dining nook. I’ll tell you now– it works! Tried and true! After we completed the 3 Polyurethane coats, we added the Ikea Stopp Filt Rug Pad (Only $9.99! A steal!).

Using the same fabric as the pillow cover (from fabric.com, Premier Prints Lulu Twill), I hemmed it before we started rolling it

Another view with a little different lighting

Thank God for summer, and thank God for a selfless husband who watches the kids while I complete my “projects”!

Update from Sleepy Summer Land

I’ve been posting less as of late, and there is a very simple explanation– the cord to my Macbook went through its final death throes last week. I’ve been having to borrow Jesse’s laptop in order to check my email, and since he’s almost always typing or researching stuff for school, those opportunities are hard to come by.

My new cord came in the mail yesterday, and so I am a happy camper again! I should be getting around to loading my 4th of July pictures soon as well.