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!

Money Savers Part 9: Utilities and Up-Front Purchases

The two money-savers I’m talking about today seem kind of randomly paired. But I promise if you stick with me, you’ll see how this makes sense!

Utilities

How many of you grew up with your parents telling you to turn off the lights when you left a room? Annnnd how many of you realized when you got your own home that they knew what they were talking about??? It was such an eye-opener when I started paying my own bills and saw the effects of not being intentional with the “little” things. These “little” things can be the easiest and hardest things to save on at the same time. It definitely takes a little extra thought, but is very worth it! I (try to) save on things like…

– turning off lights when you leave a room

– keeping the thermostat set to a manageable temperature

– keeping the TV, computers, radios, etc. turned off when not in use

Up-Front Purchases

Now, I promised that these two money-savers would make sense. The biggest way that we have seen “up-front purchases” affect our utility bills is by purchasing items that help conserve or that work very efficiently. The first item we purchased when we moved into our house was a new HVAC system. We moved in at the beginning of May, and by July our system was out. It. Was. Miserable. But it ended up working out for the best! The system we bought was definitely a bigger expense, but it has saved us so much on our monthly bills that it was beyond worth it! We have easily offset that cost in monthly savings.

Money Savers - Part 9

My favorite way to save with “up-front” purchases is by taking something that we enjoy going out to do and making our own “homemade” version. The most fun example – our coffee bar! Anyone who knows me knows that I love me some coffee! (It’s a family trait. Ha!) I love to go out for coffee with friends and family, but that really adds up. So this summer my wonderful husband put this coffee bar together for us! He found the table online for super cheap and made the shelf with leftover wood and paint we had from another home DIY project. (How handy is he?!) The up-front investment for us here was our espresso machine. All summer and on weekends he makes us special coffee treats that easily beat going out for. Plus, we get to drink them in our jammies!

Sometimes it’s hard to pull the trigger on an expensive purchase. But when you think about how much you can save over time with that item, it’s really helpful when you’re trying to save! What are some up-front purchases you’ve found helpful?

Money Savers Part 8: Selling and Flipping

money-savers-part-8

After being MIA for way too long (sorry about that guys), I’m going to keep today’s post short and sweet. While this post may be short, the number of possibilities with this money-saving strategy are endless! Depending on how attached you are to your things or how great you are at already keeping your house uncluttered, this could be one of the first things you do or one of the last things you do to help save money. For us it’s become pretty ongoing as my husband has kind of found a new hobby. Ha!

Selling

We all have extra stuff. Whether you realize it or not, your house probably has a hidden treasure trove of items you don’t really need or want. It could be clothes, books, tools, you name it. We learned very quickly when we bought our house that you tend to fill the space you have. And when you have a good amount of space, you’re going to end up with things you forget about and don’t really need. This is the perfect place to start and considering it’s the end of February, it’s a great time for Spring cleaning! We have sold appliances after replacing them, tools that were no longer needed, etc. While each item might sell for a little, they all add up to be great help financially!

Flipping

This is something my husband was doing before Baby Girl was even born. He got into the hobbies of mountain and road biking a while back and has enjoyed buying and flipping them. Not only does it help him figure out exactly what he’s looking for in a bike, it also helps bring in a little profit if he’s changed or added anything to the bike. He’s enjoyed doing this with a number of “dude” things and it’s been good for both of us. It may have been a little scary to see some chunks of money leave the bank in the beginning to get started, but it’s been a good opportunity to show I trust him with our finances. Of course it helps that he makes wise decisions and is super picky about what/when he sells!

I’d love to hear if you’ve had any luck with either of these strategies! Maybe you sold something and were surprised by the outcome? Have you found a great item that flips quickly and easily! Please share!

Money Savers Part 7: Paid Hobbies

money-savers-part-7

This “Money Saver” has probably been my favorite so far. I am all about the idea of taking something you enjoy doing and using it as a way to make extra income. There are so many ways to do this. It just takes having a “whatever, just try it” moment and going for it!

TeachersPayTeachers

When I was still in the classroom, my go-to spot for adorable and useful resources was TeachersPayTeachers. Not only were the products super cute and fun for my kiddos, they were also created by fellow teachers who knew firsthand what worked for students! Even if I spent a fortune, I knew my money was going to other hard-working, broke teachers. So I didn’t mind too much. Ha! I remember thinking how awesome it would be to make and sell products, but thought were was no possible way that I could be computer savvy enough! And while working, I just couldn’t find the time to give it try.

About 5 months after Baby Girl was born, I felt like I had {kind of} found a decent routine. When she went down for her naps, I started looking at clip art on TPT and messing around with PowerPoint. This quickly became such a fun addiction for me!! After years of preparing for the education world and several years of teaching, I felt like I could still be connected while being away from the classroom. It took a little while to see results, but by November I was beginning to see steady growth in profit. This made it even more addicting! It has made for such a fun naptime hobby.

What Do You Enjoy?

So not all of you reading this are teachers. And not all of my teacher friends are so super interested in spending even more time working on classroom related projects. No big deal! What DO you enjoy? If you enjoy checking out new clothes, there are brands to sell from home. If you love using oils for yourself and family, there are amazing organizations to get involved in! Love painting or making paper crafts? Etsy is your place! The key is finding something you look forward to doing, but don’t have to commit a major chunk of your time in case you need to focus on more important thing. So grab some coffee and have a good time!

Money Savers Part 6: Gifts & Clothing

I have a love-hate relationship with purchasing gifts. I LOVE hunting for something special that will make the receiver excited! But I HATE putting it away when I realize it’s way over my budget and I don’t have time to wait until it’s on sale. So this new year I started doing my gift shopping early!

Grab It While It’s Hot!

I’ve decided that I’m going to try to take the same approach I use for stocking up on groceries/household items and apply it to gift shopping. When I see something deeply on sale, I’m grabbing it. Even if that person’s birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas, etc. is pretty far away. That way I’m 1) not in a rush to find something last minute, and 2) getting great deals on items I would normally have to pass up! Since I just started earlier this month, I’ve only grabbed a few things for Baby Girl’s next birthday/Christmas. But considering I got 2 expensive items on clearance at an already marked-down store for $10, I’m pretty stinking excited! Hopefully shopping this way will help keep the excitement of spoiling the people I love, and prevent the stress of working on a limited budget.

money-savers-part-6

Clothes Shopping

While I’m pretty good at making the most of my clothes (I’m still rocking some clothes from college, ha!), buying clothes for a growing baby seems never ending. I can’t say our bank account loves spending money on her quite as much as I do. So I’m trying this same strategy here as well, and have already been so pleased! During the after-Christmas sales, I purchased these clothes at Carter’s for Baby Girl to wear this summer. They were originally priced at over $135, and I paid a whopping $25!! I’d say this is proving to be pretty successful!

Do you have any tricks for saving on gifts and clothing? How about favorite stores that have the best deals? I’d love to go for a hunt!

Money Savers Part 5: Mortgage

money-savers-part-5

I don’t think anything makes me feel more “adulty” than talking about mortgages. Y’all, it’s just weird. Here I am, 28 years old with a mortgage to think about. I’m not even sure how that happened. But it did, and that thing has to be paid. Bummer, right? Luckily, we have been put in a circumstance that is going to be greatly beneficial to us and I pray that you may be in the same boat!

Exciting Time to Sell!

Don’t get worried, I’m not announcing on today’s post that we’re selling our house. But if you are in a place to consider selling your home, now could be a good time to look into doing so! For those of us who bought our homes within the last 5 years or so, we’ve gotten into a pretty exciting situation. When we bought our house in a Dallas suburb, the market was perfect for new buyers. Our interest rate was low and we were able to afford a home we loved, not just settle. We were thrilled!

I’m not sure about where you live, but our area has seen a major increase in value in the last 3.5 years we have lived here. This might be tough news for someone looking to buy, but it means our home is worth far more than we bought it for! After first hearing this, we were planning to sell and reap the benefits of our major equity. Then, a friend mentioned a different option to my husband.

Cash-Out Refinance

I’m not going to go into crazy detail here because this is very “adulty” business and frankly I don’t think I know enough to chat about it all. (My husband is handling this part, ha!) Basically, what we’re doing with our home is a “cash-out refinance”. We are refinancing our house for more than we currently owe and getting a portion of our equity. In some cases, this might raise your monthly payment. For others, it won’t. (We are still saving on our monthly payment. If you’d like to know more about that, I’d be happy to chat with you!) We will then use this equity to add to our savings, pay off a hefty chunk of student debt or buy another car since we’re currently a one-vehicle family. (Stay tuned for my next post to read more about that situation!) Regardless of which route we take, we have been blessed with an opportunity to use our home to help relieve some of our debt. Who would have imagined that?!

If you currently own a home, this might be worth looking into! (Especially for our friends who live near us – you won’t regret checking it out!) Whether you choose to sell, refinance, or find a different solution, it’s always nice to know what you’ve got!