Quality Over Quantity

One of the biggest concerns I had before committing to the RV life was the lack of space. The house we lived in before the RV was over 1,700 square feet and naturally we managed to fill all that space with things we need, along with plenty of things we truly don’t. That’s one of my favorite things about RV life – you have plenty of space for the necessities, and still a little room leftover for extras.

Nothing will force you to reevaluate your belongings like putting yourself in a tiny space. When we first took the RV out for an extended period of time, it was under the rush of getting to the Houston area after Hurricane Harvey. I didn’t have time to pack anything except our absolute necessities. I quickly grabbed clothes for that season, toys that LG was currently playing with, and the work supplies my husband and I needed. Y’all, that’s it. Because we moved in with family after selling our house, all of our other belongings (extra clothes, kitchen supplies, etc.) were all in storage and I didn’t have any time to rummage through boxes. But this turned out to be an incredible opportunity for us!

Would you believe that after settling into the RV, there were (and still are!) empty storage spots that we didn’t know how to fill?! That sounds insane, right? But there’s just something about an RV that makes you feel like you don’t NEED anything except the basics. The space fosters a feeling of simplicity that bleeds into so many aspects of living – material needs, how we spend our time, financial priorities, etc. While I knew downsizing would help us downsize our belongings, I had no idea the impact it would have in how we choose to prioritize the rest of our lives.

We may not live in an RV forever but I am certain that no matter how long we do live here, this experience will have a lasting impact on how we choose to fill our home and our time. As you begin a new year, I’d encourage you to take a look at the ways you’re using the space you have. I promise – simplifying your “things” will simplify so much more than you realize!

2-Year-Old Daily Routine

If you follow me and the other wonderful teachers/mommas at www.tenspire.org, you saw the routine I tried to follow with LG when she was about a year old. As you can imagine, things have changed quite a bit. We now have a spunky, adventurous 2 year old on our hands and our days look a little different. If you’re looking for a routine that might work for your little one, I’d love to share ours with you!

2 Year (Flexible) Routine

8am – LG is almost always up and ready to go by now. She takes after her momma and doesn’t love to eat as soon as she wakes up. So, we sip on some coffee and juice together while we watch cartoons and ease into the day.

9am – We try to have breakfast going by now to keep us on track for the day. LG loves fruit and oatmeal for breakfast. Sometimes she enjoys eggs for breakfast, but we usually save them for lunch since that’s when this momma finally eats a real meal. Ha!

10am – After she has a full tummy, I try to get some practice in with LG. She’s still itty bitty, but she sure loves to learn! We practice our colors, numbers, shapes, animals and letters with magnets, puzzles, dry erase markers, etc. We try to practice each skill for at least 15 minutes before having some independent play or craft time. Then, we start with another skill! (If we have errands to run, I usually try to take care of them now. That way I can get out of the RV for a bit, feed LG lunch and let her fall asleep in the car for naptime on the way home.)

12pm – I feel like this is probably the only event in our day that is always exactly on time. Haha I don’t know what it is about lunch time, but we never miss it. LG enjoys lunch and a “movie”/cartoon and a little play time after. Then, she’s more than ready for her nap!

1pm-3pm – Most days we get a good nap in. Unfortunately, she’s had a cough lately that’s been interrupting her sleep. But she usually goes down easily for naptime.

3pmish – LG is up and ready run! We grab a snack and head outside or break out our sensory bins for some fun! If we had errands that we couldn’t run in the morning, now is the time to get them done! Otherwise, we break out the craft supplies and a movie after our sensory bins so that dinner can get started.

6pm – If there’s any other time that stays consistent, it’s pretty much dinner time. There’s something about meal times and the fact that they always, no matter what, have to happen every single day that makes them easier for me to consistently schedule. Crafts and practice may get rearranged to make time for other activities, but you can’t just skip a meal. So, we try to have dinner ready between 6-6:30 every night.

8pm – I won’t lie. We’ve been pretty bad about keeping a regular bedtime since we moved out of our house over 6 months ago. We’ve gone back and forth between living with family and living in our RV, so it was a struggle for me. Our goal for this new year is begin our bedtime routine at 8pm. This includes bath, milk/snack, Bible stories and snuggles. So far, so good!

Does this routine look similar your child’s? Completely different? Leave me your favorite/most useful routine tips and tricks!

Why an RV?

As you can imagine, we get some interesting looks when we’re asked where we live. “You live in your WHAT?!” Of course, there are always a few people who think the idea is intriguing. But mostly we’re met with people who think we’re slightly insane for (currently) raising our toddler in a 35-foot-long travel trailer. And I’ll be honest. When you type it out like that, it does seem a little crazy. But y’all. This RV life makes me so stinking happy. Here’s why.

Ability to Pay off Debt

I’m not going to say that living in an RV eliminates all of your financial burdens. But it certainly helps! When looking for a new house, we were met with a major decision. Did we want to buy a home now and work on debt later? Or would it be wiser to stick with our RV and make a big dent in my student debt before adding a mortgage to the picture? In the end, paying off debt won and it feels SO GOOD.

 

Lower “Home” Expenses

I’ve been asked a lot about how much this is actually saving us. Every situation is different, but for us it has been completely worth it. Here’s a rundown of the numbers.

We sold our house at the top of the market, after property taxes majorly increased. If we had continued to live in our home, our monthly mortgage would have been about $1,500/month. In addition, we had bills of at least $100/month for electricity, $100/month for water and $125/month for cable and internet. So this put our monthly home costs at over $1,800/month on one teacher’s income. It was rough.

Living in our RV is a different story. After putting some money down, our monthly payment is about $250. In the DFW area, most RV parks average about $500/month for “rent”. This includes water, cable and internet, and you usually pay around $100/month for electricity. This puts our monthly home costs at just over $800/month TOTAL. Y’all. That means we’re saving $1,000/month! For us, that’s a game changer.

 

Financial Freedom

Done the right way, saving this kind of money by living is an RV is amazing. (I say “done the right way” for a reason…) It feels so good to enjoy family activities we normally wouldn’t have been able to afford. Our current family favorite is spending the day at the zoo and grabbing lunch or dinner after. It’s now such a stress-free outing.

However, this financial “freedom” can become dangerous. The worst thing we did in the beginning was get into the mindset that we were saving so much, we could do whatever we wanted. That a really great way to throw away all your savings super quick. So learn from our mistake and continue to keep your eye on your budget!

 

Life is Simple

My final, and favorite, reason for living in our RV is the simplicity it brings to our life. Because of the small space, daily chores at a minimum. I don’t spend all day cleaning up messes all of the house, or sweeping, or cleaning bathrooms. Yes, I have to hand wash our dishes (gloves are a lifesaver, just sayin’!) and we’ve had to get creative with organization, but our daily lives are so much simpler!

You might be wondering how on earth we survive with a toddler in here. I’ll get to more on that in another later post, but if you’ve got a curious little one who’s into everything they can find, the RV life if perfect. I can see LG from any spot in our RV and don’t feel nearly as stressed about her getting into something dangerous. It’s the best!

If you’ve been curious about whether or not the RV life if worth the spatial sacrifice, I hope I’ve given you some reasons to believe it is! Do you have other questions? I’d LOVE to hear from you!

Keeping Sensory Play Simple

Hi, my name is Kaitlyn and I’m obsessed with sensory bins. There. I said it. If you’ve been following my Instagram account lately, you’ve probably noticed this recent obsession. I’ve always thought they were such a fun way to practice sensory and fine motor skills, and now that LG is old enough to be interested I just can’t get enough of them!

Although I think LG would do best with a giant sensory bin that she could make a mess in, we just don’t have the space for that currently in our RV. I’ve had to get creative with making simple bins that are still engaging for her. So today I’d like to share with you my strategy for creating a month of meaningful, fun sensory bins in our tiny space!

Filler Materials

The first thing I do when planning each month’s bins is think about what seasonal, inexpensive filler materials I already have or can easily get my hands on. My goal is to have at least 4 fillers each month. We have several favorite staples (black beans, colorful pom-poms/pouch lids) and then search for other relevant materials. For example, in January we’ll be adding “snowballs” (cotton balls) and blue tinsel/shredded paper. Then comes my favorite part! I LOVE roaming through Hobby Lobby and the Target “Dollar Spot” to find little manipulatives that will be fun to scoop or pick out of the filler materials!

Filler Storage

To keep preparations simple, I like to have 2 prepared sensory bins each week that LG can play with when she chooses. Then I store the rest. Because we are limited on our storage space in our RV, I keep the fillers we aren’t using in gallon sized baggies and stored in our “hall” closet with the rest of LG’s crafts and “school” materials. Here I keep extra sensory bin fillers on a shelf, her matching activities on another shelf, and her manipulatives in a separate drawer. This makes putting together bins a breeze!

While I only use 4 fillers for the entire month, I do rotate the activities so that I can make the most of my small amount of fillers. Each week LG has one bin with a matching practice activity and one bin with manipulatives to scoop and play with. To give you a good idea of how I plan this out, here are our ideas for January’s sensory bins!

Week 1/Bin 1: cotton balls/January matching practice #1

Week 1/Bin 2: blue tinsel/icicles

Week 2/Bin 1: black beans/January matching practice #2

Week 2/Bin 2: pom-poms and lids/Snowman craft

Week 3/Bin 1: blue tinsel/January matching practice #3

Week 3/Bin 2: cotton balls/snowman erasers

Week 4/Bin 1: pom-poms and lids/January puzzle #1

Week 4/Bin 2: black beans/Snowflake craft

Now, I know what you might be thinking and you’re probably right – this looks a little crazy for planning activities for a 2 year old. Planning like crazy is just what I do. The lesson planning teacher still lives in me and I can’t get rid of her. Ha! So, I embrace it because just like when I was teaching, planning large chunks of time makes my life so much easier. And I hope my crazy planning makes your life just a little bit easier, too!

 

 

New Year, New Adventures

Well, it’s been over 6 months since my last blog post which can only mean one thing – life happened. In an attempt to get back on track, here’s a summary of our craziness since my last post. Buckle up!

July – Matt got his first experience with catastrophe adjusting working alongside his father is a small town in Iowa. LG and I spent our days at an incredible farmhouse AirBnB, and explored what we could of Des Moines, Iowa. By the first week of August, we were back home and hitting the ground running for the wedding of one of my best friends.

August – The RV hunt was on! We spent almost every day for a couple of weeks checking out RVs. We finally settled on this beauty and have absolutely loved it!! As soon as we bought it, we took it for a test run near Austin, Texas for a much-needed family vacation with LG. Thank God we bought it when we did because…

September – Matt got called for his first solo deployment! Almost as soon as Hurricane Harvey hit, Matt was called to Austin to wait until it was safe to start working claims. When he was able to get to work, LG and I joined him outside of Houston. I’d be lying if I told you I remembered everything that happened those first couple of busy weeks. Matt did an INCREDIBLE job of jumping in as a newbie, and LG and I got a good taste of daily life in the RV. The first month and a half were a bit difficult because I didn’t have a car. (You can find my post about selling my car here.) We had to get really creative to keep ourselves entertained in an RV all day, but Matt was such a good sport about getting us out in the evenings after he’d been working all day. By mid-October, this momma had a new car!!! It was so good to be able to run around during the day and even make a few trips home to visit family.

November – After the first week of November, Matt was told to finish up his work and head home. We were thrilled to be back in time for the holidays! We spent about a month living with my grandparents and looking at houses. However, we eventually realized how much we loved and missed our sweet little RV home and decided to move back in full time! (More about that here soon!!)

Clearly, our living situation has taken quite an interesting turn. To match, I’d love to adjust my blog content as well! From here on I’ll be posting about our full-time RV life, life at home with our spunky little 2-year-old, and my educational resources. I can’t wait to share our new beloved lifestyle with you all!

And so it begins…

And so it begins1

This past weekend, our family’s new adventure officially began! Although my husband had been away working for two weeks, it didn’t feel “real” until LG and I hit the road from Texas to meet him in Iowa. We’re now living the travel life and absolutely loving it!

For those of you who may not yet know, my husband just made the career switch from elementary music teacher to independent insurance adjuster for catastrophe claims. When storms hit, we head out so he can work the aftermath. We’ll be living a pretty “on call” life but we’re already finding that the family travel is SO worth it!

On Saturday, my brother made the brave commitment to begin a two-day road trip with me and LG. I tried to be intentional with our travel schedule to make it easiest on LG and was pleasantly surprised with how AMAZINGLY she handled the drive! My biggest take-away was to let her hang out with the grown-ups until we all went to bed instead of putting her down at her normal time. We left around 10:30am and she slept for an hour, hung out until we stopped for lunch, and then went back to sleep for her normal long afternoon nap! It was perfect! Our drive was 5.5 hours each day so she basically slept for half of the drive and hung out like a trooper for the rest!

At 18 months old, LG is already turning into more of a traveler than I’ve ever been. She is naturally so curious and easily excitable, so visiting new places seems to fit her perfectly. On Saturday, we stopped and stayed for the evening in Wichita, Kansas. LG got to enjoy some awesome BBQ for dinner and play for the first time in a fountain! I’m not sure the other parents were very pleased that I was letting my kid play in a fountain they tried to pull their kids away from, but considering how well she did ALL day in the car I said “go for it!”. She was ecstatic! (To see her splashing away, visit my Instagram for the video!)

On Sunday, we got up and started the same routine! After lunch LG got play at a park in the beautiful Lawrence, Kansas. I’ve never seen such an adorable town! The houses were all restored historical homes and the campus (University of Kansas) was incredible!

And so it begins4

To end our weekend of travel, LG and I took my brother to the airport in Des Moines, Iowa. Before we had to say goodbye, we had a lunch date at a nearby mall and took a quick trip to the state capital for pictures. It’s such a beautiful building up the hill from downtown Des Moines!

Being such a homebody and lover of homemaking, I thought that the travel would be fun but something I’d have to really amp myself up for. But after this weekend, it feels so natural that I can’t imagine us doing anything else right now! Have you ever felt like you were living a dream but it felt completely normal at the same time? Because that’s pretty much how I’m feeling right now. I’m so proud of my husband for busting his behind to prepare for his new career and just glide right into it with no issues. And I’m so thankful that he’s bringing us along for the journey! He found us a perfect Airbnb on an incredible piece of land, so LG and I will be spending our days here until further notice! In the meantime, I can’t wait to share with you all how we stay busy at the house and what other sites we get to see! Thanks for following along!!

And so it begins7

Stepping Stones

Stepping Stone2

Well, I did it again. Sorry for leaving y’all hanging for nearly a month but let’s just be real. Packing up a house with a toddler while your husband is going through training for a new job isn’t the easiest thing in the world. But. WE DID IT! We survived packing and our (first) move, and are so ready to stay put….. for like a minute.

Stepping Stones

For the last week and a half, we have been living with my grandparents in their beautiful house in the sweetest little town. I can’t imagine a smoother transition, especially for LG. As any parent knows, switching up routines can cause all sorts of trouble for little ones so I was super nervous about the move. However, LG must have felt like she was right at home and has been an awesome sleeper almost every nap and bedtime! Of course, I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that my grandparents’ house has a staircase and playroom to help her burn lots of energy.

While this stay is just a stepping stone during our family’s new adventure, we are so grateful for the time we’re getting to spend with family and their willingness to house us while we get all of our ducks in a row!

Stepping Stone1

Stepping Stone4

Stepping Stone3

Next Step

What’s our next step? Good question! HA! Matt has been ridiculously amazing in terms of getting his new career up and running, and will be ready to go in no time! For those of you who don’t know, his new job will require that we travel for several months at a time and then come home for several months. We’re still in the process of prepping for our new, nomadic way of life and if you follow me on Pinterest you’ve probably noticed my new Renfros on the Road board. I’m gathering tons of ideas for décor, storage and toddler activities while traveling in an RV and would LOVE any input you may have! I can’t wait to get started!

Stay tuned for my next post explaining more about Matt’s new job and how we’d like YOU to be involved in helping us make this an amazing ministry opportunity! As always, we appreciate your support and prayers during this exciting transition!

Leaps of Faith – Part 2

Leaps of Faith - Part 2

“We aren’t in our current situation because we have created this path for ourselves. We’re here because God has repeatedly opened doors, giving us opportunities to trust and obey Him. These open doors sometimes seem scary or uncomfortable, but have led to a deeper trust in Him each time. I know that this is preparing us for even larger jumps in the future!”

Does that sound familiar? If you’ve been following my blog (with the exception of my recent 2-month hiatus…) you read that at the end of my very first blog post. In that post, I explained how God had convicted my husband and I of the need for me to stay home with our daughter, and the doors He had opened for us to make that happen. I talked about how God kept giving us opportunities to take “leaps of faith”. And here we are now, taking our biggest leap yet. Funny how God works, right?

 

Bye, Bye House!

We closed on our house today. Yep. It’s sold. As we were going through the process of doing a cash-out refinance, a career change presented itself for my husband. (Perfect timing, God!) It’s so obvious to us now that everything we’ve gone through for the last 18 months has set us up perfectly to take this opportunity.

For years now, Matt has talked about the idea of joining his dad in the world of insurance adjusting for catastrophe claims. This job requires traveling for at least half of the year, so taking it either meant I left the classroom to travel with him, or we’d be apart for a few months at a time. Neither of those options were going to work for us. I loved teaching and wasn’t ready to leave. However, now that I’m staying home and have always had the intention to homeschool anyway, what’s holding us back?

 

What’s Next?

Our biggest concern when we first discussed trying this new job was the financial risk. You can be completely certified and ready to work, but end up waiting months for a storm to go work. Living in our current house with a limited savings, there was no way we could take that chance. Then we found out what our house is worth. And y’all. God. Is. Good. Between buying our house at the bottom of the market, doing a major remodel thanks to a leak and nice insurance check, and booming new projects in our town, there’s never been a better time to sell. Isn’t that crazy?! We never would have guessed 4 years ago that we were buying a house that would set us up for an incredible adventure. But God knew!

As much as we love our current town, we have always wanted to get back home to our families in the Fort Worth area. Selling our house is giving us both the financial cushion to wait out a call for work, as well as the opportunity to move back home. It’s a win-win! However, it is still a leap of faith considering we are starting a new, unique job and moving at the same time. We are so fortunate to be able to stay with family during the transition, but God knows it’s pretty scary to think about moving your family without an official home to call your own.

We are so excited about this new adventure that we will officially be starting in 2 weeks! We would greatly appreciate your prayers as we begin our mad dash to pack and figure out our new life! Stay tuned for updates on where God sends us!

Loaded Hash Brown Casserole

We. Love. Breakfast. Food. Notice I didn’t say we love “breakfast”. I don’t usually have anything for breakfast except a big ‘ole cup of coffee, but you can bet I have some type of breakfast food at some point each day. My favorite thing to eat right now is this delicious loaded hash brown casserole.

Breakfast Casserole

My loaded hash brown casserole is an adaptation of my mother’s breakfast casserole. As much as I LOVE hers, I had to stop eating it when I went gluten free because she used whole wheat bread as the base. Y’all. “Sad” doesn’t even describe how bummed I was. Her breakfast casserole has become a tradition during holidays and anytime a big group of family is in town. It felt like I was having to skip out on a family tradition! Then it hit me to try using hash browns as the base, and BAM! It turned into a completely different dish!

You’ll Need:

1lb breakfast meat (sausage is our favorite, but I bet ham and bacon would be great!)

12 eggs

Splash of milk

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

15oz frozen hash browns

Butter

Salt and pepper

To Make:

1) Brown your sausage/breakfast meat of choice.

2) Coat a 9×13 baking dish with butter.

3) Spread your hashbrowns in the dish.

4.) Add cooked meat over hash browns.

5) Beat 12 eggs with a splash of milk and salt/pepper to taste. (To make mixing easier, I add about 3/4C of the shredded cheddar cheese to the egg mixture.)

6) Pour egg/cheese mixture over meat and hash browns.

I’ve baked this casserole two ways and definitely prefer one over the other. The first time I baked it I left each ingredient in its own layer. That’s good if you’re not a fan of your food being too mixed up, but to go with the “hash brown casserole” style I like it much better if I stir all of the ingredients up in the dish. Add the other 1/4C shredded chedder cheese and salt/pepper to the top and then pop the dish in the oven! I bake it at 400F for 45 minutes covered, then 5 minutes uncovered at the end.

Now, I said this casserole is gluten free. What I didn’t say is that it’s healthy. So, sorry about that. Ha! We try to eat pretty healthy except for when it comes to breakfast food. This is an easy recipe, though, and lasts us about 3-4 days if the two of us have a piece for brunch every day. Spreading it out definitely makes it cheap, as well. I hope you enjoy it as much as well do!

Money Savers Part 10: Vehicles

Money Savers - Part 10

Well, I saved this one for last on purpose. This money-saver was the hardest for me to get on board with, and it was the last option on our list. However, I don’t regret it a single bit.

One-Car Family

Yep. You read that correctly. For a while now we have technically been a one-car family. You might think that’s crazy, and when the idea first came up I thought it was too. I couldn’t imagine being cooped up in the house all day every day without any way to get around. But the more we thought about it, the more it made sense for us. The amount of money we saved each month between my car payment and insurance was a HUGE help. As an elementary teacher, Matt has very good work hours and can usually make it home at a reasonable time if I absolutely need to go somewhere. But that was what did it for me. Wasn’t the point of being a stay-at-home mom to spend time with Baby Girl at home anyway and to keep from rushing her around constantly?

For the most part, having one vehicle has been nice! Of course, saving a big chunk of money is always great. But not always having a car available during the day has encouraged Matt and I to get out more as a family. We tend to be hermits and love our dinners in with movies or games. Since going down to one car, we go out in the evenings more often. When the weather is nice we may take Baby Girl to the park to run around, or grab a snack and walk around a shopping center nearby. When the weather stinks, we pick up some coffee and stroll through Target. It’s been nice for me to get things taken care of at home during the day and then get out for family time in the evenings!

The Bike

The biggest down side to having one vehicle for me is not being able to do any traveling apart from each other. My family and I are extremely close but live about an hour apart. When we had two vehicles, Baby Girl and I would make weekday trips home while Matt was at work. That’s something I couldn’t do having only one vehicle. So, Matt proposed a solution.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Matt has an amazing knack for finding great deals and flipping items. Because of this he’s able to sell these items when needed. When he could tell how upset I was about not getting to see family as often as I normally had, he decided to sell his mountain bike and buy a motorcycle to drive to work so I could use his truck. We’d still have no monthly payments, just additional insurance coverage. While this was such a sweet gesture, I immediately turned it down. A motorcycle?! Doesn’t he KNOW what happens to people who ride motorcycles?!

After several days of tripping out, I calmed down and took the time to think it out. For us it made perfect sense. I only take Baby Girl out while Matt’s at work a couple times a week so he wouldn’t be driving his motorcycle every day. In addition, we live so close to his work that he could ride his road bike if he absolutely wanted to. There was really no good reason for Matt NOT to get a motorcycle, other than my paranoia of what could happen during his <5-minute commute to and from work. Along with the many decisions we made leading up to me becoming a SAHM, this situation screamed “leap of faith” for me. So, that’s what I’ve done.

I think a lot of the time, trusting God looks like trusting others. For me, I’m not just trusting Matt to be safe. I’m trusting that God will give him the wisdom he needs to make safe decisions while driving, and that God will guide the drivers around him. When I realized that this is about my trust in God and how He often provides in ways we don’t love or understand, it made it easier for me to trust Matt to do what he thinks is best for our family. I’m so thankful to serve a God who controls all of these things!