September 2015 Goals

1 September 2015

Well, I was on a good streak there for awhile where I was checking off 100% of my monthly goals… but not this month. I’m not sure if my apparent response – to double my usual number of goals for September — is the correct one, but I’m going for it! Lots to do, and one of my favorite months to do it in!

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The view from one of our favorite running routes!

Revisiting my goals for August:
Frame and hang our two new pieces from Framed & Matted Love them! More about this soon but you can see one here.
Finally paint the tray I primed about a year ago (No progress here… moving to September)
Make progress on goal no. 37 Made progress here, including a new storage solution and some weeding out!
Post an updated house tour here after our tour appears on Southern Weddings (Not yet – have to finish photographing a few of our less-finished spaces. Moving this to September!)
Do some sort of exercise every single day this month (I probably missed about 10 days. While working out 2/3 of the days in a month is good, it’s also my norm, so I didn’t really get at the heart of this goal!)

September goals:
— Paint my tray
— Post an updated house tour
— Start a registry for Baby Thomas
— Run my first ever 5k!!
— Make nursery plans so that we are ready to paint when my parents come in October
— Celebrate our third anniversary!
— Volunteer and shop at my church’s awesome kids consignment sale (if you are local and want to go, here is the info!)
— Finish organizing our upstairs closets
— Visit my younger sister in Nashville! Figure out how we are going to eat twenty meals in 2.5 days!

If you’ve posted your goals somewhere, I’d love to see – or just drop them in the comments!

Fall clothing favorites

28 August 2015

The weather has been just a tad bit cooler here the past few days, which has me thinking ahead to my fall wardrobe! Normally I wouldn’t switch things up too much, but I think I’ll need some different pieces due to a changing shape over the next few months. For right now, the plan is to supplement with drape-y, longer tops that can be worn over leggings (not something I currently have a lot of). I also bought a belly band and wore it for the first time today, so hopefully that will stay me for awhile with my current pants. Here are a few of the pieces that have caught my eye:

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First row: heather gray hi-lo tee ($17), striped cardigan sweater ($25), and tab sleeve tunic ($42)

Second row: Monaco blouse ($69) and lace-trim top ($31)

Third row: striped sweater dress ($54), Poet blouse ($25), and high/low cardigan ($54)

Any recommendations along this line, friends? I’m all ears!

Marvelous Money: Our car fund

25 August 2015

Friends, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on my last post!! It meant so much to me, and I loved reading all of your comments. I will be back with more about how we shared the news with our families soon, but first I wanted to turn to a different subject: our car fund! I mentioned it briefly in last year’s big paying off debt post, but since it has been our biggest financial goal for 2015, I figured it was time to write about it!

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In my debt post, I mentioned that we were planning to pay off our two car loans in mid-2014. We did (hooray!). For a little back story, we purchased both of our cars in 2011. Both of the loans were about the same – about $250 each per month at about 2.5% interest. Though I generally try to avoid debt whenever possible, I am grateful that loans exist and that we were able to get them to help us secure reliable cars.

After tackling our other financial goals throughout our first few years on our own (I talk about them more here, but they went in the general order of emergency fund –> wedding –> house down payment –> student loans), it was pretty quick work to finish off our car loans. And even though, as I said, I am so grateful that car loans exist and that we were able to get them the first time around, John and I are committed to never taking one out again. We believe this is possible, and I believe the same is totally within your reach, too!!

Establishing a car fund is what I would call a “second level” financial goal. Since it’s a saving goal rather than a paying off debt goal, it only makes sense to tackle it after you’ve paid off any credit card or educational debt, and obviously after you’ve paid off any car loans. The mechanism is simple: as soon as you’re done paying off your car, you begin putting the exact same amount of money as your payment (or more!) into your own account. Continue doing this until you’ve amassed the amount you plan to spend to replace your vehicle.

Here are a few other questions you might have if you’d like to do this yourself:

How much money should I save each month? As I noted above, the easiest way to transition into this is to simply transfer the same amount you were paying on your loan (if you had one) into your own account. However, depending on how soon you’d like to replace your car, how nice of a car you’re planning to get the next time around, and how risky you’d like to be with your investment (more on that below), you may want to beef up that amount. Right now, we are contributing $1,000/month to our car fund.

What sort of account should I use? A simple savings account, like you’d get at your local bank or credit union, is definitely an option. If you’re not looking to purchase for 3+ years, you might look into opening an investment account through a low-cost brokerage firm like Fidelity, Scottrade, or Charles Schwab. This exposes you to more risk but gives you the potential for a higher return via additional investment options. Whatever type you choose, I’d recommend stashing the money in an account that’s separate from everything else – general savings, emergency fund, etc. – so that the purpose is clear and you’re not tempted to touch it.

What should I invest the money in? I am NOT a financial advisor, so I’m definitely not going to advise you on this! It’s all about deciding how comfortable you are with risk and choosing accordingly. It’s also important to think about your time horizon – it might not make the most sense to invest money you’d like to use in five years entirely in stocks. Asset allocation mutual funds might be a good vehicle to look into because they have pre-assembled stock and bond mixes from which to choose.

The beauty of this system is that even though your budget looks the same despite paying off your loan – the same amount is still going out every month – you’re now paying yourself, and EARNING interest instead of PAYING interest! A much better arrangement! And how good will it feel to walk into a car dealership one day and pay cash for your chosen vehicle? I can’t WAIT!

Friends, I would love to hear: how long have you had your car, or how long do you plan to keep it? We’re planning for our two to last for at least ten years, but mine is on year nine and still going strong, so I have high hopes we’ll be able to keep it for longer!

Deciding to have children

18 August 2015

I have never been a baby person. It’s fairly well known among family and friends that I “don’t like babies,” as I mentioned in our announcement post. I’ll never be the one offering to hold your baby, and I don’t even think all babies are that cute. I even had a pact with a dear (baby loving) friend in high school that she would take any of my future babies from ages 0-2 and I would take hers from 14-16.

Rather than a cold, cold heart, I think this stems from a general uncomfortableness with the littlest among us, since I was never much around babies growing up. I did babysit, but only for kids out of diapers! Babies just seemed very fragile, and they can’t use words to tell you what they need (and I like words).

Perhaps because of this, even coming up on our third anniversary, John and I were never on the receiving end of the stereotypical pressure to have kids. I’m sure I probably would have hated it if we had been, but at some point, I actually started to get paranoid – do people think we aren’t fit to be parents?? This obvious (to me) conversational hole was especially ironic, because that very topic was in almost constant rotation between the two of us and our closest friends.

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18 weeks!

Thinking back, we began having serious conversations about the future of our family at the beginning of 2014. This was my starting point: I can’t really vocalize why, and I’m certainly not convinced that I’m going to love the baby stage, but when I picture my life, there are treasured children in it. For me, that was enough to move forward. I also knew I wanted to be a younger mom, having my first child before 30.

My hunch is that John started from a similar position, but unlike me, he was not willing to move forward without being able to vocalize a more concrete and rational reason that we should do so. To gather ideas, we embarked on a yearlong quest to answer the question, “Why do people have children?”, hoping to find answers that would resonate with us. We posed this question to each other countless times. We did the same to friends with and without kids, those who knew they wanted them and those who were undecided. We researched online. We read books and blog posts. We listened to sermons and podcasts. We prayed.

The problem is this: all of the “negatives” about having children are very real and concrete: they cost a ton of money. They restrict your freedom. They can derail your financial progress and goals. They complicate your schedule. They complicate your travel. They’re messy. They’re needy. They keep you up at night. They don’t know how to use the bathroom.

On the other hand, the positives are generally intangible, and, almost by definition, unable to be understood or experienced before actually having children of your own.

While an interesting exercise and good conversation fodder, this seemingly unending quest was at times frustrating to me – it seemed like there was no possible answer that would convince John, and all I wanted was to move forward since I believed we were ultimately on the same page and kind of just wasting time. Just recently, though, I read something that really helped me understand why this wasn’t possible for him. It’s from his results from the scarily-accurate, Myers-Briggs based 16 Personalities quiz:

INTJs will strive to remain rational no matter how attractive the end goal may be, and every idea, whether generated internally or soaked in from the outside world, must pass the ruthless and ever-present “Is this going to work?” filter. This mechanism is applied at all times, to all things, and all people.

Apply it we did. We heard many perspectives from many people, and generated several ourselves, as to why people might have children. Ultimately, these were the most convincing to us:

Children will crack open a part of your heart that can’t be opened any other way. Not a new idea, but I would say the way Darren Whitehead in particular described this was extremely moving and heartfelt. I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to learn about love.

Your relationship with your children will teach you more than anything else can about your relationship with God the father. This totally makes sense to me. I know what being a child is like, but even just being pregnant, I can already tell that experiencing the parent half of the equation will be truly eyeopening. I’m so looking forward to this.

You get to rediscover the world as you teach and walk alongside your child. This is the most obviously fun one! Though the magnitude of shepherding a child is not lost on me, I’m also so excited for all of the people, places, things, and ideas I’ll get to introduce our little one to – and experience anew alongside him or her!

Having children is the greatest expression of hope humans can participate in. We believe the best is yet to come. We are not cynical people. Deciding to have children is tantamount to saying we believe the world they will grow up in will be bright and beautiful, and that’s a statement of faith we want to make.

One more reason on my list: my husband is so precious to me — truly one of the best people I know — that it’s hard for me to even imagine getting to parent someone who was made from him, alongside him. Just thinking about that kind of makes me feel like my heart might explode.

By the end of 2014, we were convinced that children were in our future. However, even armed with that knowledge, we still felt hesitant about jumping in! With our backgrounds, I don’t think either of us would ever have stated that we felt 100% prepared or ready (financially, emotionally, or otherwise) to have a baby. But that’s the beauty of the system – you don’t just decide one day that you’re ready to have a kid, and one arrives on your doorstep the next day.

Once we flipped the switch and actively started trying to get pregnant, it’s kind of crazy how quickly my feelings of hesitation turned to impatience and even anxiety – I wanted to be pregnant immediately! There are so many (really hard and sad) stories of infertility and miscarriage in my circles, and despite the fact that there was no indication in our families or my medical history that either would be a problem, my mind instantly went there. So when we did see PREGNANT show up on the test after just a couple of months, there was relief and joy. No tears :)

We waited a full five weeks to take it, and agreed to look at it together after waiting the obligatory three minutes — but he peeked and saw it first! I know many people find a clever way to share the news with their husbands, but I can’t imagine finding out without John by my side. That didn’t stop us, however, from coming up with creative ways to tell our families and friends – more on that in my next post!

To conclude, one of my biggest fears was that by lingering on The Question for so long, as well as all of the potential negatives of adding a baby to the family, we’d never get out from under them — that even once I was pregnant, John still wouldn’t be excited. However, I needn’t have worried, as that couldn’t be further from our reality now. He is SO excited — probably more excited than me — and clearly already loves this baby so much. (Another gem from 16 Personalities that helps explain this: INTJs trust their rationalism above all else, so when they come to a conclusion, they have no reason to doubt their findings.) People ask us if we’re nervous, and the answer is no – I think we thought through all of our nerves already, and now only joy and peace are left!

Friends, I’d love to hear: have you always felt clearly about having (or not having) children? If you have children or know you want to have them, why? Do any of the conclusions we came to resonate with you?

Maine 2015

14 August 2015

The nice thing about going back to the same place every year is that even though it’s your favorite place in the world, it’s okay when you leave… because you know you’ll be back. I’ll be back next year, and the year after that, and the year after that — and that is a huge blessing. Here are a few favorite photos from our 2015 week in Maine!

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damariscove island

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I have to say, after hanging out with my niece for the week, 18 months seems like a GREAT age. Like, actually legitimately fun. I think she learned 100 new words in the ten days we were together!

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!!