Tag Archives: home

Away From Home

Hello, followers and friends!

Thoughtfully Sought has been neglected these past few months, as I started a full-time position outside of the home.  Being a full-time mom doesn’t change when you become a full-time employee.

This has been an eye-opening experience, to say the least.

SAHD

Although I am quite sad to miss out on my babies’ activities for much of the week, I am blessed with a wonderful husband who is trying quite hard to “fill my shoes” as a stay-at-home dad.

I keep telling him (and have to remind myself) that neither of us should be expecting him to do as I did when home with the children.  We are different people; we are going to pursue common goals differently.

Plus, his workload while home with the kids isn’t what mine was.

I worked on the house.  I was a mother as much as I was a cook and housekeeper and teacher.

The BHE just isn’t.  He is the driving force behind all the work that needs done on all of our properties.  Getting two houses ready for the market while doing upkeep on the third so it won’t be so much work when we go to move into it is much different than what was on my plate when the kids weren’t demanding 100% of me.

Still, this has been bumpy.  That’s parenthood.

And marriage.

Goals

The Murphy Momentum is the same.  We still want to get the little house done and on the market to be sold, so we can use the proceeds from that sale to fix the house at the farm.  When the farm house is ready for us to move in, we can finish the work on the big house to sell it.  And those proceeds will go into creating the farm itself.

The property is there; soon we must prepare it for animals and gardens and more.

My long-term goals have not changed since I began my job.  The steps I’m taking to get down this path are to be thought out differently, though.  Let’s not neglect the idea, either, that some of my loftier goals may need moved to the Dreams column on one of my ever-present spreadsheets.

Blogging

Sadly, this blog has been moved further down my priority list.  Spending time with my children, catching up on the housework that’s been neglected, and sleeping are really my top three just now.  I feel like I’ve fallen behind with my friends, too.  There’s just so much and it feels like it is all at once.  Even though I’m constantly thinking, “Hey, that would make a great blog topic,” I know that blogging is on my back burner.

Speaking of back burners, I’m losing my touch with creating new menu items.  I feel like it is more of a rush to get food on the table than before.  I have two new recipes to share with you, though, so stay tuned to Thoughtfully Sought to learn how I make a super-fast Italian dinner for a weeknight and our family favorite Asian-inspired dish that changes every time I fix it.

Bear with me

I want to grow this blog.  I want my readership to grow.  I want to reach more people to help them discover their own paths through life and how to thoughtfully seek out the best steps to take towards their goals, be it with family, diet and weight, marriage and children, household, or faith.

Stick around.  I will do what I can when I can.

Make sure you’ve liked Thoughtfully Sought on Facebook and are following my path on Instagram.  You’ll find me on eBay and Etsy and Bloglovin’ and Twitter and Goodreads… and there’s more to come.

Thanks for your support.  God bless.

Murphy Momentum: Plans and Thoughts

So much change in so little time…

We are still reeling from the changes of the past year.  Our path has been altered so much, yet we are still able to see how we must and can move forward.

After the deaths of three of the most beloved people in our lives, we became inundated with grief…and their stuff.  We accepted furniture and dishes, we inherited a house and property, we have had to reimagine our dreams and redesign our goals, and we now feel confident about this new path we’ve been set upon.

Forward Thinking

All our hopes and dreams seem within grasp now.  It will not be easy.  The steps we see laid out in front of us, the process we’ve created to handle what comes our way, the plans we have developed to see us from this point to the fruition point are all thoughtfully sought and spiritually guided as we rely on our Maker once again.

We have been through hard times, and we have always been surrounded by bountiful blessings.  Now that we recognize them, we see where we have been blessed, we know how to be thankful and less fearful of the future.

Where We are Now

Yesterday morning was greeted with a lot of excitement and a little trepidation as I phoned my new boss to inform her that I would accept her offer of a position.  I will be the Communications Specialist for the local diocesan office.  My “vast skill set” and “impressive education” have landed me my dream job!

We worked hard to get to this point, but this is merely one step.  Much work will still need to be done.

The BHE will be stepping up around the home as he steps out of the traditional role of breadwinner.  Shortly after I got off the phone, he called his boss to deliver his two-weeks’ notice.  The BHE is now a SAHD!

That’s right, folks:  my bearded, hardworking, dedicated, driven, intelligent husband will be caring for our children day in and day out.

But what about the projects?!  We have so many projects between the three properties we now own that, yes, the BHE is going to need some help.

We discussed at length how we must set aside our control-freak natures and accept the assistance of others.  We must tamp down our pride and stubbornness to get ahead by asking our friends, family, and neighbors for help.

Assistance and Accountability

I’ve been working diligently on 1-year, 2-year, and 5-year plans to show us each step of the way to our goals.  I have been plugging projects into a spreadsheet and constantly jotting down ideas that I toss at the BHE and he tosses back at me.  I am researching ballpark figures for what we want to do, where, and when.  We even had a realtor come out to give us some advice.  Yes, folks, we are moving forward like a steam engine, chugging along but aware we need to slow well before the curves.

The first thing I believe we will ask for is help with the children.  When I enter this 8-5 M-F office job, the BHE is going to need someone to rely on a few days a week to care for our babes.  He can’t get work done with two toddlers!  We figured with the Angel starting PreK in the Fall on MWF, it would be best if he was SAHD those days but a friend or neighbor watched the kids on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Evenings and weekends will see me back in my Mommy role when he can get even more work done.

What is that work, you ask.  Well, that’s where the Accountability comes it.

As much as we would like physical help, like people to paint or build or mow or roof or watch the kids or whatever, we also need to be reminded where we are on our path.  It is all well and good if I print up a pretty checklist or create a spreadsheet that we look at from time-to-time, but we need to be reminded to check things off and follow the steps we have laid out.

When I complete my projects list, when I finish those long-term plan sheets, I will post them here for you to see where we are and where we are going.  I keep thinking something cheesy like Friday Facts to share what we’ve completed and learned then Momentum Monday to explain where we hope to go next.

For instance, this week, I’ve built up our inventory on the eBay site and accepted a new job; next week, I will complete my father-in-law’s taxes so we can be (almost) all caught up on the clean-up of his estate and take a day to myself to prepare my body and wardrobe for the return to the workforce.  This week, the BHE made serious progress on finishing the final bedroom upstairs at the big house and made some dough taking a truckload of cans to the recycling center; next week, he will complete that bedroom and order the replacement windows for the little house.

See?  I’ve told you what we are doing.  Now I feel like I’ll be letting you down if we don’t do it.  That’s how this accountability thing works on my end.  On your end, you get to share in our triumphs and pick us up when we falter.  Thank you, dear reader, for agreeing to be part of our village.

That’s What Friends are For

I look forward to not only getting stuff done but getting connected to my village as we complete projects, move forward, and stay on our thoughtfully sought path towards our dream goals.  In return, I will learn more about you so I can find opportunities to assist you where you need it.  Networking is a powerful tool.  Apply it correctly and we all see our goals come to fruition.

Where are you on your path?  Do you need some help getting up and moving forward?  Do you know how you can help others in your village to do so?

Confessions from the “40 Days to a Clutter-Free House” Challenge

Oh, the things you learn about yourself when you clean out your house…

It feels good to see all those Xs!

It feels good to see all those Xs!

Confession #1:  I completed all but two tasks on the list in the 40-day period I set for myself (August 3 – September 12, 2015).

Confession #1 a:  I still haven’t completed those two tasks.

What I have left on my list are #s 10 (living room closet back shelves) and 29 (under kitchen sink).  My excuses are as follows:

The living room closet is, essentially, the BHE’s.  He keeps almost all of his clothing, his jackets and coats, his shoes, and the contents of his pockets in that closet.  And random tools and rolls of roofing tape.  And all of his hats.  And a couple pool cues.  And did I mention the contents of his pockets?  I mean, like, every day, he empties his pockets on part of a shelf then takes just what he needs for the next day, leaving crumpled receipts and candy wrappers behind.   While I do park the vacuum, mop bucket, toilet paper, and paper towels in this closet, it is considered “his.”  Therefore, cleaning up a closet that is larger than most bathrooms that is full of someone else’s things is not really a task anyone should tackle.  Really.  I think I’d just piss him off.  And then spend the next three months being asked where such-and-such is.  Not fun for either of us.  I did tidy up the things that are “mine” and removed that which I should never have put in there (gifts from baby showers before Angel Baby was born that were most definitely for little boys*).  Honestly, though, if you opened that closet a month ago and then again today, you wouldn’t notice a darn bit of difference.  Whatever.

Under the kitchen sink isn’t as bad as it sounds.  Most people automatically cringe at the thought of cleaning out under their sink.  For us, because we have uber-limited cabinet space in our kitchen, it has to stay organized under there.  We can’t afford to lose any cabinet space to stuff we don’t use.  What stops me from actually getting under there to clean it out with sponge and vinegar is the same reason that I crossed #26 (clean around washer & dryer) off the list:  spiders.  Nope, not getting myself into a cramped space that is full of creepy-crawlies.  Can’t make me. The only place under the kitchen sink where the spiders are is the only place that really needs cleaned, of course.  Where the pots, the colander, the cutting boards, et cetera are happens to be spider-free due to the regular use of those items.  But where the trash can sits?  Yeah, I’m not going behind that unless I’m wearing long sleeves and gloves, which just isn’t feasible in late summer around here.

Confession #2:  I am an anal neat-freak to the point of almost being OCD.

There were quite a few items on the list that didn’t take much time or energy due to the fact that they were recently done or are always kept neat/tidy/clean/etc.  Seriously.  Take our bedroom, for instance.  The drawers were recently completely dumped and sorted.  Everything maintains its folding and organization because I’m the one who does the folding and putting away.  Under the dresser and bed?  Nada.  I keep those clear so I can easily sweep under them… when I sweep once a week.  Same goes for our closet.  It was already fully organized and can be easily swept.  The one thing I did do in there is finally moved the two totes of Christmas stuff into the attic.  I have no idea why I left them in our bedroom closet in the first place.

Here’s what took under 20 minutes, or I didn’t do at all, because it had recently been done or is constantly kept organized:  6. Under upstairs bathroom sink, 7. Under downstairs bathroom sink, 8. Downstairs bathroom shelves, 19. Full freezer clean, 24. Under our bed, 33. Microwave corner,  and 40.  Upper kitchen cabinets.

Confession #3:  This is a great project for anyone to complete prior to bringing a new baby into the world.  It is also a horrible project for any pregnant woman to tackle on her own.

During one day’s nap (Angel Baby puts in 1.5-2 hours daily), I did #39:  Honda Pilot.  I pulled the car into the yard so it was near the back step and proceeded to clean it, top to bottom, inside and out.  Jeeeebus, that was stupid of me.  Good golly, I was BEAT for two days after that.  Washing and drying a car is one heck of a workout for anyone, really.  Add to that cleaning out the car then vacuuming it, all at high speed because you’re sure you have less than two hours… ugh.  Next time, not pregnant, it’ll still get two days.

The BHE was a huge help on some of the projects.  I wanted the wood rack out the back door cleared off.  It gathers so much random stuff when it isn’t full of wood (so basically mid-April to mid-October).  One day while I was working on some other task, the BHE did this one (#38)… without me saying a thing.  I don’t even know if he knew it was on the list.

Now that I have done almost all of the tasks, I can see so much more clearly what needs to be done … and what doesn’t need to be worried over.  Cleaning out the foyer closet (#11) showed me how much winter wear both myself and Angel Baby really have.  Going through the peak room (#s 2, 3, 12, 13, 14) to get it cleared for renovating and becoming Angel Baby’s “big girl room” gave me a chance to reassess furniture and yard sale items.  Cleaning out her dresser drawers (#21) gave me a tote of goodies to pass to my bestie who has a daughter one year younger than Angel Baby; plus, it gave me an idea of what sizes/seasons I need to shop for.  The full fridge and freezer clean (#s 18 & 19) and cleaning out the pantry (#s 5, 31, 32) showed me what foods we have, what we should stop buying altogether, and what we eat the most of.  As one of my Instagram commenters said, meal planning is much easier now.

Confession #4:  I didn’t take enough photos.

I really wanted before-and-after photos for just about every task on the list.  I didn’t do that.  Sorry.  Here are some highlights, though!

*For many reasons, we chose not to learn the gender of our baby until she was born.  That didn’t stop many well-meaning people from believing whole-heartedly that they knew we were having a boy and therefore gave us very “boy” gifts.  May I ask that if you do happen to do this to parents-to-be that you please give them a gift receipt as well?

Oh Say Can You Say How You Spent Your Money

(Admit it: you read that title and made it rhyme.)

Open communication

The BHE and I have talked about saving and budgeting and just managing our money better since, oh, the beginning of our relationship (we’re talking 2005, folks!).  Sadly, as money is such a major factor in the average American’s life, it is something that ought to be regularly discussed with one’s significant other.  Complete and open communication or any monetary goals will not be fulfilled.

In the almost-decade we have been together, we have managed to pay off cars and credit cards, buy one house for cash and then mortgage it to buy another, put me through grad school, and start a family.  We don’t miss payments, we rarely charge anything, and our debt is pretty small compared to the average American family.  We have one mortgage for two houses, one smallish car payment but three vehicles and two trailers, minimal credit card debt (that we haven’t added to since September), and my ridiculous student loans.

Next step

When we decided it was time for us to try to grow our family, there were many conversations about day care vs. one of us staying home to raise our children.  No brainer:  one of us stays home.  At that time, we both made about the same amount of money per hour.  Then I started grad school, switched jobs for a pay cut, and then got pregnant.  No brainer:  I would leave my low-paying, benefits-less job to stay home with our child once he or she was born.

The hard part would be adjusting our lifestyle to accommodate halving our income and adding a whole new person.  Let me be honest here:  we didn’t change a damned thing until that first electric bill after Angel Baby was born.  The whole pregnancy, knowing we had 9 months to clean up our act and start really budgeting and saving, we were tossing out money left and right.  Y’know, we HAD to have a whole new bedroom suite for the baby.  And that bedroom needed completely remodeled before the baby was born.  And we needed the matching car seat, stroller, pack’n’play, etc.  (Thank you, Aunt Jan, for the pack’n’play!!)

First light

That first electric bill was a doozy!  We use cloth diapers, which means more loads of laundry.  Lots more.  We also had put in a dishwasher while I was pregnant.  So there was even more electricity being used to clean things.

I’ve got another blog post in the works about our indoor laundry line.  Stay tuned!

Second eye-opener

The BHE takes a quasi-voluntary layoff for 2-3 months every winter.  Luckily, he receives unemployment benefits and has the peace of mind that comes with knowing he has a return-to-work date.  Unluckily, those benefits change every year and can be so low it is almost comical.  Almost.

With that uncertainty, and knowing he will only earn his regular pay 9-10 months of the year, budgeting is a necessity in our household.  Ok, let’s be honest:  budgeting is a necessity in every household.

Coincidental moment on our thoughtfully sought path through parenting:  the day Angel Baby had her first solid food was the first day of the BHE’s layoff last year.  Yay… adding one mouth to feed while subtracting regular income.  Uff.

Third and final straw

We agreed to save X amount of dollars prior to the BHE starting his Winter 2015 layoff.  In order to do so, we had to know where our money was going.  Really, it is hard to say where you’ll start cutting back when you don’t know how much you’re spending.

I gathered all receipts I could for September 2014 and thought, “Huh, not too bad.”  But that wasn’t the whole story.  We needed to keep all receipts in one spot so that I could really and truly see what was what.  October was a different story.  Not bad, just a more complete story.

Without giving you too much, let’s just say we spent over $450 in October, $520 in November, and $760 in December.  Ouch!

Where did it all go?

When I say “groceries,” I mean anything and everything bought at:  Payless (Kroger), WalMart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, Aldi’s, D&R Meat Market, and the like.  So “groceries” can be food, alcohol, diapers, toilet paper, cat litter, candy, paper plates, etc.

Knowing that, it is understandable that our December total was so high.  There were gifts for the nephews bought at Target, there was our annual Christmas party to supply, and of course more food than normal was bought to feed us through holidays and my birthday.

Still, unacceptable.  Honestly, what in the hell are we doing with $450 or more in groceries?

I create meal plans.  I do our grocery shopping on 2 (or 3) days during the month.  Typically, I do one major shopping day of four or five stores at the beginning of the month.  Then about two weeks later, I hit one or two stores to get more milk, eggs, and fresh produce.  If there’s another trip before the month is out, I kick myself repeatedly as I go get what we need.  We live in the middle of nowhere so factoring time and gas for each trip, you can understand why I don’t want to shop more than a couple days a month.  Plus, everyone knows that you buy more than you intend to each time you go to the store; going multiple times during the month means multiple times you will spend too much.  Stick to your lists (yeah, that thing you tend to leave on the kitchen counter).

Something needed to change if our monthly expenditures on groceries could fluctuate from $450 to $750 without us blinking an eye.  Something really needed to change if I had no set limit for spending.

My two favorite R words:  reading and research

Of all the books and articles, financial advice from experts to stay-at-home-mom bloggers sharing their experiences, I’d say the two most influential authors are Dave Ramsey and David Bach.

(If you would like to know the books I’ve read or at least see the authors who have influenced the way I look at and deal with money, here’s my shelf.

Both of these men are renowned financial advisors.  Both have books and workshops read and attended by millions.  In fact, if you haven’t read or attended something by either of these men, chances are you know someone who has.  Ask your librarian to reserve a handful of their books for you.

One of the ways to budget and save that I’ve read about and talked to friends about is Dave Ramsey’s “envelope system.”  I’d never tried it myself but it sounded (a) logical and (b) straight-forward…which is, in my humble opinion, the best way to deal with ANYTHING money-related.

One more try

For the month of January 2015, with the BHE on his layoff, I decided to keep on with the mental budget I’d set for us.  I decided we could live comfortably with $400 for groceries and $100 for anything for the house.  (The BHE spends his layoffs working harder at home than he ever does at work.  Our 110+ years old house has been a major project that is still going.)

I did my shopping as I always do, but I would add on my smartphone the prices of the goods I would put in my cart.  Then I kept a mental tally of what I spent at each store.  At the end of January, I tallied up the number of days we went shopping, the number of stores we visited, and the amount of monies spent overall.  We kept to our $100 house budget but went almost $120 over our $400 grocery budget.  Not cool.

Read the next Thoughtfully Sought blog post to hear about February 2015.

One holiday down (Surviving the Holidays series, pt. 1)

Wow.  That was one of the least stressful holidays I’ve ever experienced.  Considering I made two pies completely from scratch, three batches of fudge, and some homemade crackers for the weekend, I must say that was the easiest Thanksgiving I can remember.

My older brother lives about an hour and a half away.  He hosted last year so I contacted him early in the month to see if he was doing so again, hoping he was.  When your in-laws live on top of you, getting away to your own family is a needed relief.  BHE and I showed up with pies, fudge, and Angel Baby, determined to consume mass quantities of food and alcohol, all while talking over football on TV.  Sounds like the all-American way of celebrating Thanksgiving, right?

Making it through the weekend

Knowing how crazy the holidays can be, and we have many branches of our families to see, I didn’t want to have a four-day crazy-ass weekend.  I warned my sister-in-law (BHE’s sister) ahead of time that all I really wanted to do on Black Friday was consume wine and pie.  And maybe leftovers, if there were any.

On Friday, I had steel-cut oats with raisins, apples, and honey for breakfast, fudge and Chardonnay between breakfast and dinner, and a slice each of apple and pumpkin pie for dinner with a side of Moscato.  Yep, wine and pie.

Moral of the story:  plan to not stress out.

How we travel

We use cloth diapers but not exclusively.  Depending which brand is on sale, we use Seventh Generation or Babyganics disposable diapers when we aren’t home.  We live in the middle of nowhere, which means anytime we go anywhere, there is a fair amount of travelling involved.  Just assume that if I’m not at home, Angel Baby is in a disposable.

Also, we heat our home with a woodstove.  There are ways to stuff that sucker (BHE calls it “banking the stove”) so that it lasts quite a long time and still leaves you plenty of coals to work with.  Still, we have a propane-fueled furnace as a backup.

Being thankful

I am thankful for my family, for their health and their love.  I am thankful for the means with which we can put food on the table, regularly as well as in abundance on the holiday.  I am thankful for my friends, for my home, and for the vehicle that safely gets me from one to the other.  I am thankful my home is warm and it is a healthy, happy place to return to when the day is done.

Stay tuned for the next part in my Surviving the Holidays series.