Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Our Family of Four Living on a Teacher's Salary

I've been doing my The Teacher's Salary posts for a while now, but this is basically the simplified version...the Cliff Notes version, if you will.  

Are those even still around?  :-)  



PLEASE don't take this post as anything more than me sharing the practical ways we are able to make this work.

Even though money can be very tight, I consider it a blessing to be able to have the option to stay at home with our children.  I know that it's not always a possibility for families, so I don't mean to suggest that our way is the only or more superior way.  And I definitely know that there have been many people who have helped up along the way to make it so we are even in the position to make this work.

With all that out of the way, here goes!!


1.  We bought a house based on one income
Before kids were even on our radar, we decided to purchase a house that we could afford on one income.  I knew I wanted to stay at home and did not want our mortgage payment to be the main reason I would not be able to do so.

From what I've been told, back "in the day," banks would not lend money for a mortgage if the payment would be more than 25% of one's monthly income.  I'm not sure if that is a fact, but it certainly makes sense to me.  Our payment was more than this when we bought our first home, but I'm so thankful that our recent move {2 years ago} has allowed us to get to that percentage.

Our home is not large and we are constantly adding to our home project {or wish list}, but it's within our means.  If we hadn't done that, I'm almost certain we would have been forced to downsize or else we'd be looking at foreclosure.  My heart truly does go out to those who may be facing that because I can only imagine the stress involved in living in a home you can't afford.




2.  We do not have debt {except for our mortgage}
I've written about our journey to debt-free living before and if you've read here long enough, I'm sure you've gathered that I am not a fan of owing people money.  I never have liked it.

But, at this point, debt isn't even an option for us.  We couldn't afford a car payment even if we wanted one - which we definitely don't!  I'm so thankful that we took care of all that before we got to a place where monthly payments were no longer possible.  We got serious {and passionate} about paying off the debt we did have before our income was cut in half.

What this does mean is that we drive old cars, we don't make a habit of charging things {we pay them off if we do charge things}, and we have an emergency fund to tap into so we don't have to accrue debt in emergency situations.


3.  We live on a tight budget      
Before I quit work, we had a very loose budget.  Now, loose budgets aren't an option.  I sit down each month and input Kev's income as well as all the monthly bills and my allotments for the remaining budget categories into our budget spreadsheet.  It's nothing fancy, but it's where we decide where our money will go for the month.

After I prepare the budget, we sit down to discuss it and make sure we are both on the same page.  We tweak it as necessary until we are both satisfied and in agreement.  It gives us a both an opportunity to know exactly what the month will look like for us financially.  Will it be tighter because of car expenses?  Or will we have some extra cash to go out for a date night?

We've also started our weekly budget check-in meetings, which have been a huge help in keeping us on track as the month unfolds.  We can also troubleshoot as the month unfolds rather than wonder what went wrong at the end of the month.  Sometimes our meetings are really short, but they are still a nice way to keep communicating about how things are going.
   



4.  We shop strategically 
Since money is pretty tight, we have to be strategic about what we buy.  Whether it be for groceries, household items, or clothes, I use coupons as much as possible and try to stick to buying things that are on sale based on my weekly menu plan.

I certainly haven't mastered the art of couponing, but I have been shocked at how much I can save by just planning shopping trips in advance, building a stockpile, and by playing the drugstore game.


5.  We have old stuff and are not afraid to buy used
If we can't find a great deal on something new, then we typically have to buy used.  I have been a fan of Craigslist for quite a while {even before I quit work} and much of our furnishings came from there.  We also have a lot of old furniture as well.  Kev and I are sleeping on my childhood full-size bed and Savannah's "new" twin bed came from my grandmother's house before she passed away a couple of years ago.  My dad painted it for us and she LOVES it!

I am also becoming more and more familiar with thrift stores, yard sales, buying consignment, and trying to repair things we have rather than automatically replacing them with new items.

Don't get me wrong, we do buy some things new, but we just have to either plan for it or make sure we find great deals!



6.  We do whatever we can to bring in extra income
Kev has done all sorts of things to try and bring in extra income.  He's worked summer school, an extra class during the year, athletic events, mowed yards, as well as other part-time jobs.  Currently, his main source of extra income is a part-time job and his enlistment in the National Guard.  I'm so thankful to have a husband who is willing to work extra jobs to make this work for us.

Although I'm not doing it currently, in the past I have babysat for children and done some painting to earn some extra income.  My kids alone keep me pretty busy, but I'm always on the lookout for ways to help.  Once this baby comes and we get into a new routine, I'd like to investigate some more options in the short term.

I've been dabbling in selling things on eBay and sold some of our items recently at a consignment sale, but those aren't really dependable sources of income at this point.

This blog is a very small source of income, which I'm hoping will grow over time as I am able to invest more efforts into it down the road!!  If you like what you read, please tell your friends about me!  :-)



7.  We have stayed committed to tithing
When we have really tight months, it has been tempting to give up tithing.  God has laid tithing on our hearts and I believe that He has blessed that commitment.  There have been months when we weren't quite certain how we'd make it work.  As tight as we try to live, there have been times when it just doesn't look like it will be possible to get through the month on paper.  But, just like Jesus multiplied the fish and the loaves, God always seems to make it work somehow.  I can't explain it other than to say that God has blessed our efforts to be obedient to tithing.

* * * * * *

Do you live on one income?  
What are the main ways you are able to make it work?


Linking up with:
Ruth for Thrifty Thursday
Allison for Handmade Hangout
Carrie for Think Tank Thursday
Sarah for Frugal Friday
Wendy for Frugal Friday
Cheryl for I'm Lovin It
Jerri for Friday Favorites Linky Party
Jen for Link Party Palooza
Melanie for Skip the Housework Saturday
Six Sisters for Strut Your Stuff Saturday


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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Gestational Diabetes Journey

Happy Tuesday!

Sorry for the silence on the blog over the past week.  We are still alive and well, but this past week and weekend was a bit of a whirlwind and blogging just didn't get to happen as I would have liked.  I've missed it {and you}!



Part of my crazy week last week was due to the topic of today's post {along with normal doctor appointments, preschool drop off, waning amounts of energy, and Kev being at a 3-day drill} .

My Story

Back when I was 28 weeks, as is routine, I was drank the delicious {yeah right!} glucola beverage and was screened for gestational diabetes.  I was told I passed the screening, so all was well and I continued on with one less thing to worry about this pregnancy.  

Then, at my 34 week high-risk growth ultrasound, I got some interesting news.  I was told that our little man might not be so little and they asked whether I had gestational diabetes.  I told them that I didn't have it and that I had passed my screening.

Being the investigators they are, my high-risk doctor looked up my results and noticed that they had been barely below the "abnormal" range.  Combine those results from 28 weeks with a baby that is measuring in the 90th percentile, and my doctor was insisting I be screened again for gestational diabetes.  

Last Monday, I got to the call that I was dreading.  While my doctor said she can't confirm 100% without having me come in for the 3 hour test, she was suspicious that I did have gestational diabetes.  Since I'm so close to the end, she felt that there was no need to have me come in for the definitive test, but that we should proceed with treating me.  For me, it meant starting with diet modifications.

The following morning, I met with a diabetic educator who explained everything to me - from what gestational diabetes is, how it can impact the baby if left untreated, and what changes I'd need to start making in my diet to compensate for it.




What it means now

As I've stated on this blog before, I'm not a medical expert, so I won't even try to go into details explaining the science behind gestational diabetes.  Simply put, the baby's placenta is making my cells less responsive to insulin {a hormone that helps glucose to pass from the bloodstream into the cells to be used for energy}.  My poor pancreas is on overdrive to produce enough insulin to ensure I don't have too much glucose in my bloodstream {and therefore going to the baby}, but it isn't able to produce enough to keep up.  

The first course of action for me is diet modification.  Since my body isn't producing enough insulin to keep up with my blood sugar levels, then the thought is to simply reduce my blood sugar levels through adjustments to my diet.

I have been given recommended carbohydrate levels for my 3 meals as well as 3 snacks.  Who has time for 3 snacks?!  :-)  In many ways, I feel like I'm back on Weight Watchers - reading nutrition labels and measuring serving sizes, although I'm counting carbs and not WW points!  

In addition to monitoring my carb intake closely, I've become the proud owner of a glucometer.  I have to test my blood sugar levels 4 times day - as soon as I wake and then again 2 hours after each meal.  

The goal is that my diet modifications will keep my glucose levels under control and spread out across the day so that I'm getting the nutrients the baby and I need, but that my body can process it as it should and we don't have excess going to the baby.  {The main concerns there are that the baby gains too much weight or that the baby's pancreas compensates by producing too much insulin even after delivery.}

I bring my numbers to my appointments so the doctors can keep an eye on them.



What it means later

I'm not really sure what this all means post-pregnancy.  I've been told that this should go away as soon as the baby is born, but I'm sure they will want to monitor it after delivery and in the weeks following.

The part that bothers me is that having gestational diabetes does put me at a higher risk for developing diabetes later in life.  It doesn't run in my family and the doctors have told me they don't think I will need to worry about it, but it's hard not to wonder.  I'm hoping the fact that this happened late in my 5th pregnancy {although 4th full-term} will work in my favor!


The emotional and spiritual side to things

If I'm totally honest, this was a huge blow last week.  Emotionally speaking, I was left nervous and somewhat anxious.  My high-risk doctor joked and said that it was their job to panic, and in some ways I'm thankful they take these things so seriously, but I think the combination of my already stressful pregnancies with this news was just a lot to process.

The first couple of days I feel like I almost went through a process of grief - feeling like I was a failure, that it was my fault, and that this was something I had caused.  I'm thankful my doctors and those close to me have helped me nip those thoughts in the bud.  They were getting me nowhere and simply not the truth.

I'm also somewhat embarrassed to confess that I've been a little frustrated with the Lord over all this.  I know that we all face trials {some of you may be facing things far more serious than gestational diabetes}, but I felt like the Lord was just allowing one more obstacle to be placed in our path.  The Lord and I have "made up" over this, but I'd be lying if I said that this news didn't have any affect on my relationship with Him.  I know He is with both the baby and I and that none of this is a surprise to Him, but I still had to let Him know how I was feeling about it all.  :-)  


So far, things are going alright.  It's been about a week since I've officially been on this new eating plan and I'm still learning the ropes.  Things started off great at the beginning and my levels were great, but I've had a couple of slightly higher sugar levels {usually after a meal where I don't have access to food labels}.  I plan to discuss this with my doctor in the morning.

I'm hoping I can continue to tweak things as I learn how my body responds to certain foods {or when I am not good about spacing out my snacks}, so that I can avoid medication.  Time will tell, I guess.  :-)

* * * * * *

Have any of you been diagnosed with gestational diabetes?  

I'd love to hear your experience or even recipes that worked well for controlling it.  


Linking up with:
Kelly for Whimsy Wednesdays
Rachel for Wednesday Whatsits
Ruth for Thrifty Thursday
Allison for Handmade Hangout
Carrie for Think Tank Thursday
Sarah for Frugal Friday
Wendy for Frugal Friday
Cheryl for I'm Lovin It
Jerri for Friday Favorites Linky Party
Jen for Link Party Palooza
Melanie for Skip the Housework Saturday
Six Sisters for Strut Your Stuff Saturday

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Why I Am a Kick Count Advocate

Happy Tuesday!  I meant to get this post up at the end of last week, but it was pretty busy and it just didn't happen.  So, here it is on Tuesday!


If you've read here for any length of time, you know that my pregnancies are not easy.  Since we unexpectedly lost our first child at 38 weeks, pregnancy has never been the same for me.  Pregnancy after a loss is hard  - there's really no way around it.

Fortunately for me, my doctors have rallied around me and been super supportive.  In subsequent pregnancies, I have seen by my normal doctor, but also a maternal fetal medicine specialist {which is just a fancy name for a high-risk obstetrician}.

Starting at 32 weeks, I see the MFM specialist for a weekly biophysical profile, where they measure the health of the baby.  Needless to say, these weekly appointments have been very helpful in relieving some of my fears of another full-term loss.      

In addition to the weekly monitoring, one of the things they encourage me to do is daily kick counts.  And at the end of each appointment, they always ask me the same question, "How are baby's movements at home?"  

What exactly are kick counts?
A kick count is exactly what it sounds like - counting the number of baby's movements.  Doctors may differ regarding the specifics, but the idea is that Mom should feel a certain number of movements within a given period of time.  My physicians recommend I do them twice a day and that I should feel 10 movements within an hour.

**I am absolutely, positively not a medical professional, so please consult your doctor if you have questions about what kick counts are, when to start them, how to do them, and how often to perform them.



With that being said, I am a BIG proponent of kick counts.  Certainly my medical history plays a role in that, but I still think there are valid reasons for doing them even if you don't struggle with anxiety during pregnancy or have never had a loss.

Here's why I think every expectant mother should do kick counts, regardless of whether you are high-risk.

1.  Mom is the best fetal monitor there is
While weekly monitoring is great, not everyone has that option.  And even if weekly monitoring was offered to every expectant mother from 32 weeks on, Mom is still the only 24/7 fetal monitor there is.  While this could be a little scary and put a lot of pressure on Mom to be paying very close attention, performing kick counts can help Mom to have a "method" for keeping track of how much baby is moving.

2.  Allows Mom to learn baby's movements
Doing daily kick counts allows Mom to learn baby's movements.  Mom will likely discover when baby is most active or how baby responds to certain foods Mom eats.  When Mom has learned baby's movements, it's easier to determine if/when there is a change in them.  A change in the movements might not mean anything, but if Mom notices a change in the number of movements, then it could be a sign of distress.      

3.  Forces Mom to stop twice a day to concentrate on baby's movements
I don't know about other women, but it became even more challenging to keep a check on baby's movements once we had other children at home.  My kids are constantly on the go, which means I'm constantly on the go, making it harder to pay close attention to baby's movements.  That might sound bad, but sometimes it's hard to remember that last time baby moved when I'm so busy keeping up with my kids.  Kick counts force me to stop my activity and focus on baby's movements.    

4.  It's better to be safe than sorry!
I know that kick counts do not mean unexpected, traumatic losses will cease to happen.  I do believe that God is sovereign and that some tragedies are unavoidable, however, kick counts are just another way to alert Mom to any possible fetal distress.  They are not foolproof and I don't want to suggest that they are, but they are just another option for alerting Mom to possible fetal distress.  The worst that can happen is that you suspect a lack of movement, go to your doctor to get checked out, and then get told that all is well.  Better to be safe than sorry!


I am not a medical expert.  I'm just a mother who believes in the benefits of performing daily kick counts.  I did not perform them with my first baby {whom we lost} and while I do not blame myself or feel like I was the cause of his stillbirth, I do think I could have been more aware of movements or lack thereof along the way.  There's really no harm in them, and they are a great excuse to kick your feet up twice a day!  What expectant mother doesn't like that idea?  :-)

* * * * * * 

Did you perform kick counts during your pregnancies?


Linking up with:
Cindy for Made By You Monday
Sarah for Homemade Mondays
Kristi for Inspiration Monday
Emily for Create Link Inspire
Kathy for Titus 2 Tuesday
Leslie for Twirl & Take a Bow Party
Kelly for Whimsy Wednesdays
Rachel for Wednesday Whatsits
Ruth for Thrifty Thursday
Allison for Handmade Hangout
Carrie for Think Tank Thursday
Sarah for Frugal Friday
Wendy for Frugal Friday
Cheryl for I'm Lovin It
Jerri for Friday Favorites Linky Party
Jen for Link Party Palooza
Melanie for Skip the Housework Saturday
Six Sisters for Strut Your Stuff Saturday

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