The tribe of five

I know, I know, I’m a day late, but I got my wisdom teeth out yesterday so get over it! Of all the random, made-up holidays, #nationalsiblingsday has got to be the best. When I think of my sisters, the first thing that comes to mind is *lucky*. I’ve always felt so special to be one of the Collins sisters…It felt like we were a tribe and I was just lucky to be in it. Each of my sisters brings me so much joy and inspiration and without them I would be so different… I am happy and confident and self-assured because they love me. They are my best friends and the best women I know.

7 Dave-Ramsey-Inspired Tips to Really Help You Curb Spending

My husband and I have been listening to Dave Ramsey as of late, in an effort to curb spending so we can start saving. We both feel trapped, because neither of us can do anything risky, such as take a low-paying job or plan a trip out west, when we are tied down to a million payments. We have to make a lot of money to support this lifestyle, and yet we aren’t even getting what we really want! For me, a lot of it has to do with emotional spending. When I feel self-conscious, or upset, the easiest way to cheer myself up is to get online and buy something adorable. And with Amazon Prime or Target RedCard, there is no shipping, so I can just get online and buy something. So instead of really living the life of my dreams, where I am able to work with passion and travel with passion, I am stuck in a rut with a bunch of cute trinkets that I keep having to clean up. It is such a slow way to die. So, without futher ado, here are a couple tricks I’ve discovered as I’ve been going on my journey to frugality. (And it is a journey, friends. A journey with a long road ahead!)

1. Unsubscribe. Take an hour (or two) and unsubscribe from every promotional email list for which you’ve ever signed up. Just go through your trash folder and knock em’ off, one by one. It is SO hard to resist a sale, even though we all know that no sale can ever really save us money… without taking some money first! So get that digital clutter out of your inbox and start off the day without a million little temptations. Out of sight, out of mind. julia-kostreva-desktop-designlovefest-soul-xs 2. Go on a spending freeze. Do you ever have those times where you binge shop like no body’s business and then feel super guilty? *raises hand* Sometimes my husband and I will go on a spending freeze, where we don’t buy anything except groceries (notice I didn’t say food… I’m looking at you, Chipotle). We tried to do it for a month once and it didn’t work in the least. So take it in smaller chunks… a day at a time is a great place to start and build up to a week. Everything, except groceries, can wait a week. It causes you to be innovative and trust that you can live without. Run out of conditioner? Use some coconut oil! Catch my drift?

3. Have a spending day. The one thing about Amazon Prime that I truly dislike, is the temptation to buy every little thing that comes to mind, right when it comes to mind. Like cottonballs, or coffee, or little boy’s suspenders. I can just log on, and press “buy now.” No shipping and hardly any thought- let alone feeling- goes into the purchase. The myth that Amazon would like you to believe is that this will save you time and money. They are completely playing you (and me too). You end up with a bunch of things you hardly use or don’t work well for your life. And you don’t really feel like sending it back… so the junk piles up. Instead, keep a running tally of things that you need to buy. Have one day a week that you sit down and do the shopping, online when possible. I guarantee you that at least a couple of those purchases you thought you absolutely needed will fall by the wayside (read: little boy’s suspenders). The rest of stuff you actually do need, you’ll be able to get all at once, which will cut down on any shipping fees, and the best part is that you will actually know how much money you are spending a week on MISC. Also, you won’t be on the internet shopping throughout the week, so you won’t be drawn to stuff you never would have thought you needed anyway.

4. Ignore the sales. This one is SUPER tough for me. But this has the same sort of principal that Dave Ramsey applies to credit cards: the amount you save is completely nullified by the amount you will spend. The company is counting on you spending money with them that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Read that again: that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Meaning… had their been no sale, you never would have spend $100 at Gap. The $20 you save has nothing on the $100 you wasted. *The one exception I have for this is: if there is one article of clothing or item that you are just dyyyying to have, you can wait for that to go on sale. Just don’t get distracted and buy 3 other shirts just because they are on sale, too.

5. Cancel your credit cards. Dave Ramsey just comes out and says this one. Like, a LOT. For the longest time, I always pushed it aside. I have always paid off my balance every month, so I thought it didn’t apply to me. But the reason he tells you to cut up your credit cards is because swiping a credit card has no emotions tied to it. And the “points” or “miles” you gain by spending with a credit card pale in comparison to the money you spend because you don’t feel anything. If you think about how much you will save by just paying with cash or debit cards, you’ll be able to afford a MUCH nicer vacation with that money.

6. Don’t feel “frugal shame.” I am totally guilty of being embarrassed by being frugal. For instance, if I am out with some friends, I hate to be the only one to buy the PBR, when everyone else is getting a craft beer. Or I hate being the one to suggest going to a cheap restaurant. Or I REALLY hate being the one giving the inexpensive birthday gift. But if you compare yourself to, say- your sisters or your parents- you will not live within your means. You will begin living within their means, which you can’t afford. Don’t compare yourself. Period. Just asses where you are, and what you can afford! There is no shame in that, and try to remember that everyone has been exactly where you are.

7. Envision your payoff. Do whatever you need to do to envision the payoff at the end of saving. Whether it be a new car, a trip to the beach, or just a debt-free life, envision it!

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all images via Design Love Fest

You’re not welcome back

This is hard to write about. But I guess that means that it is the most worthy.

Sex still hurts. A ton. A year and 3 months in. And there is this clash– I want to make love to my husband, but it hurts. And the creighton method makes it even tougher because there really aren’t enough days that we feel comfortable using. Especially while breastfeeding, it seems like I can never be totally confident. The sad sad truth is that we haven’t been able to make love since the 56 day mark. Creighton says that if you are exclusively breastfeeding, you will be infertile for the first 56 days. But since that mark, I haven’t felt confident enough to use any days. So it’s been a while. Definitely the longest we’ve ever gone. And I’m scared. Will it hurt as bad as the first time? Will all of my progress have been for nothing? Will I inevitably end up pregnant once again? (Will I be pregnant my whole damn life?)

I got my cycle back, too. I’m sorry if that is TMI, but the whole reason I created this blog was so that I could be vulnerable and maybe help someone else trying to do this whole newlywed, new mother, natural family planning thing. So yeah, I got my cycle back… And I’m mad. Why can’t I be one of those women who doesn’t get it back for months and months? It’s only been 3 and I’ve exclusively breastfed this whole time!

It feels like we will never be able to make love again. And when we do it will hurt like crap. I know it isn’t true, but still. But… I find a lot of solace in how wonderful our marriage is, though, despite the lack of sex. I couldn’t love my husband any more and he makes me laugh. He makes me laugh, people! There isn’t anything more important than that. Not even sex.

Wet and Wondering

Pink tile from the seventies and the rush of fog over my face. The only time I am really alone with my body, naked in the shower. I rub my hand over my stomach- the stomach that I was proud of a year ago. The stomach that grew my favorite human, and that shows that struggle in the sag above my scar. I wonder to myself why it is taking me so long, why I don’t look at all like I used to. Why I can’t fit into any of my clothes. And as I squeeze the water out of my long ponytail- and am left with a hand full of hair- it hits me that beauty is fleeting. Why am I chasing something that, eventually, will always leave me anyways? This beautiful, thick hair that I grew while I was pregnant is now all falling out. And each year I gain new wrinkles, new grey hairs. Yet with those wrinkles, those grey hairs, comes wisdom, and freedom, and love. With each day that passes, each wrinkle I get, I learn how to be a better mother. A better wife, a better friend.

My new normal

It’s my second day back and I’m getting used to our new rhythm. In a lot of ways it actually isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I am going over to the daycare to feed T twice a day (we share a parking lot so it is very close) so that makes it indescribably easier. I had to take a paycut, though, in order to take these breaks. I would have had to take this cut even if I was pumping. I know it’s illegal but I can’t do anything about it until I get a new job.

Nursing in our little room at his daycare.

Nursing in our little room at his daycare.

On the positive side, I am actually liking having some routine in my life, which I never expected. But then there is the fact that I don’t get to see him smile nearly as much. What if he starts smiling for his caretakers more than me? He is pretty much tuckered out for the night by the time we pick him up at 5:30, so it feels like we dot get any quality time together. How do you mamas out there handle this? How do you compensate?

Modern feminism

There are some hardships of motherhood that can not be helped. Sleep deprivation, for example. But there are other times that being a mother doesn’t have to be hard… Until someone decides to make it that way.

I met with my boss to discuss the end of my maternity leave and what it would look like for me to return next week. Boy oh boy, I had NO IDEA what I was in for during this meeting. The first thing she said was that she needed me to be at my desk from 8:30- 5 with a break for lunch at lunch time. Basically, she doesn’t want me to take breaks to pump or nurse. When I tried explaining, she even said, “I don’t understand what you mean when you say you have to nurse.” SERIOUSLY?!?! You don’t know what will happen?!? Let me tell you: I will leak milk all over the place, will be in enormous amounts of pain until I properly release myself and I will get mastitis. After that, she proceeded to tell me that she has completely changed my job and given my office to the intern. I’m completely serious. I, meanwhile, will be sharing a conference room which also doubles as a hallway. Nifty, right?! It is clear to me that she is trying to force me to quit so that she doesn’t have to accommodate a working mother. Never mind that she was a working mother herself 30 years ago! #IRLbully

All this bullcrap has made me really understand that women’s rights are NOT a given and they definitely still need to be fought for. We still need feminism, people. Even in 2014. And even when your boss is a woman. Even if there were laws to protect women against this, most women could be walked all over anyways because who can afford legal representation? And who can afford to really lose their job. WHAT IF YOU LIKED YOUR JOB?!?! At this point, I’m not even going to fight it— I’m just going to find another job. In the meantime I’ll be taking a pay cut and becoming an hourly worker so that I can continue to breastfeed my baby.

What didn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Maybe one day I will get the chance to fight for women’s rights and protect other women who are being abused like this. I sure hope so.

Hi, Sprout!!

Baby Sprout is here! He arrived July 12– 8 days AFTER my due date– at a whopping 9 lbs 5 oz. I’ve been writing our birth story and I will post that soon… It’s been really hard to get through, though. It was definitely traumatic for me, both emotionally and physically.

welcome, sweetie!

welcome, sweetie!

So here we go again, on this NFP journey. They say that for the first 56 days post-partum, if you exclusively breastfeed, you are infertile. Well, we are coming to the end of that little grace period and I have to say… I’m terrified. I’m terrified that I will get pregnant again immediately. Just coming off being pregnant, and after such a hard pregnancy and delivery, I am very much NOT ready. So we will be extremely careful– as careful as possible– but the whole point with NFP is that we are trusting God’s will for our family. We know from first hand experience that if we are meant to be pregnant, we will be pregnant. Like I said… Terrifying.

There is one great comfort to me, though, and that is our little love, Thaddeus. He is the living proof that God’s plan is good. He is living proof that God’s plan is more beautiful and wonderful than I could ever imagine. So even though it is the hardest thing, here we go again, trusting God’s plan.

Ignorance is not bliss

As if God heard our prayers, and decided “today, I’ll give them mercy”, we are–miraculously–still pregnant. My doctor, who is fully trained in high-risk and endometriosis pregnancies, told me that she had no idea why I was bleeding. And she had no answer. She did all the tests she could, and could see no reason why it was happening. Call me crazy, but when science can’t explain why there is still a baby in my belly, I call it a miracle.

I have a friend who got married about 2 months before me and got pregnant immediately. And I remember thinking, damn. That must be REALLY hard– being a newlywed AND being pregnant– I’m so glad we’re waiting. But the funny thing is that now I think it is such a huge blessing. That we got pregnant after 3 months. There is this side of my husband that I had only glimpsed before we were pregnant. A side that is extremely and inexplicable giving and generous and selfless. At the risk of sounding like a brat, he does everything for me. He brings me juice in the morning, and my medicines at night. He makes the bed and does the dishes and cooks me dinner. I’m feeling better now, but for a while there I couldn’t do anything, other than go to work and sleep. And you know what? Despite how I totally doubted him, he picked up the slack. Times a million. And it makes me love him so very much. It makes me feel his love all day, everyday. Amazing how pregnancy really does bring a couple so much closer. Someone kick me in the shins, I keep forgetting God has a plan.

Limbo

And then, we were struck by Irony.

Hubs and I have been getting wonderfully joyful and excited for the little Sprout growing in my belly. We’ve been praying for peace and we found it, as much as I think it can be found in times of financial stress. We told our families and my best friend. I was extremely excited to go through pregnancy just six weeks behind my wonderful older sister. 

But on Sunday, I began to bleed. Just small amounts of blood. I tried not to worry very much. But then Monday morning, the bleeding continued, and my mucus took a huge turn. It went from being 2AD, everyday, to a huge amount of 10CK. That was alarming, as that can indicate possible miscarriage. As the day progressed, other symptoms began slipping away, and I slowly began to feel less and less pregnant. I know it is a black and white kind of thing, but it felt like I was slipping into it. Like this wonderful joy was slowly and painfully being pulled from my body, like some sort of punishment. Punishment for not being ready. Punishment for feeling terrified and unqualified at the beginning. 

Since Monday, the docs have been doing blood tests and today I had an ultrasound. Things are inconclusive. It looks like everything is in place and how it should be… except for the fetus. They couldn’t “find” that. This could go two ways. Either, A.) I am too early, and the fetus is too small to show up. or B.) I am in the process of miscarrying. We’re praying very very hard for option A. 

I won’t know for sure until Thursday night. It is going to be a long next two days. It’s funny though, because at this point, I feel like God really knows what He is doing. There is nothing like the threat of loss to kick you in the pants and make you realize how much you want something, right?

Getting creative

When Ford and I FIRST got married (I’m talking first 5 days, here), we were fertile, and therefore spent our wedding night being…creative. I was sincerely sad; I had looked forward to that night since I was about seven years old. Weird, maybe. But totally true. I was thankful that I had planned on that happening (I had an inkling that’s how things would pan out). But it still stung. And I spent the morning of my wedding sobbing to my older sister.

I had a friend tell me, “Just so you know: things get pretty crazy there toward the end (we had sooo many things just totally go wrong) and you might feel like someone is doing it intentionally. It is on purpose! I really think that the devil hates marriage and married couples, so he’ll try to get you two to lose your cool. Just hang tight and keep praying and hold onto each other.” That was the absolute best advice I ever received. Because when we became fertile the DAY OF the wedding, it definitely felt intentional. It felt like an attack or a curse.

Things can be really hard with Creighton. But the good that comes from being totally honest with my husband, from being disappointed and excited together, from feeling confidant that (in this little slice of our life) we are absolutely doing God’s will…. that definitely outweighs the hard.

And when it came time for our vows?

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Nothing else mattered.

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