Free Fun Family Mar 29 2019

Welcome to the weekly update! (You can read how my updates, started on Sundays and moving to Fridays as of today, work in the first one).


With the beautiful weather, we’ve been spending a lot of time preparing our vegetable garden. Min wanted to build some raised beds using concrete blocks, as you can see in the picture above. The whole family enjoyed some time digging in the dirt, replanting seedlings and preparing for the end of the frost. While gardening (especially expanding gardening) is not a free activity, it is fairly low cost. Hopefully, we’ll end up with some yummy vegetables we grew ourselves!


I’ll take this present, thanks!

We celebrated my 38th birthday on Saturday with a trip to my favorite coffee shop downtown. H declared that my “present” was my family. Sounds good to me!

Last night, we went to see the Golden Dragon Acrobats and ran into J’s best friend’s family also catching the show. The tickets were a present from my mother. The performances were mesmerizing, athletic, and artistic. It was a late night for the kids, but worth their wonder and awe.


I continue to be impressed by the programming and variety of spiritual development offered by UUCF. In just two months, my children feel welcomed, affirmed, and empowered by the activities designed for them on Sundays. It’s become something they (and I) look forward to at the end of our week. By participating, I feel a greater sense of peace and connection to my spiritual practice. It’s been one of the best choices I’ve made so far in my commitment to exploring my values for 2019. For a person who has never (ever–not even as a child) participated in a faith community, this is a surprise and joy.


The Destination Imagination state tournament is tomorrow. I am so proud of what my team and J’s team have accomplished. However, I will also be grateful to return to a simpler schedule. I need the time to reclaim my exercise routine and reconnect with my family.

Challenge Day Seventeen: Preparations

Getting the house ready for the roofers this week, finishing my cleaning/organizing tasks, and meeting with our house/cat-sitter made today busy.  However, I like the productive feeling I got from carefully planning this week’s food use to minimize waste and airing all the sheets/blankets so everything will be fresh when we come back from Korea.  I even cleaned out the cars of the accumulated junk.  Even with a midday niece visit, I got a lot done.

No wonder I’m so tired!

I’m especially proud of how I’m sticking to my entertainment budget and no grocery shopping, even with some temptations.  I’ve also been making plans for the final few days of this challenge that were quite unthinkable in the beginning because of how stuck I’ve been on autopilot.  I’m amazed at how this focus–even though it’s not clearly delineated, specific, or lengthy compared to many blogger challenges–has brought me awareness and helped me work through the ways discomfort often takes me away from my true values.

I am so happy I’ll see my family before the week is out!

Tomorrow’s Challenge: Final Food Prep for Travel (This didn’t happen–I scrambled last minute to do it later), instead a friend and co-worker died suddenly

Challenge Day Two: Decluttering Round One

Yes, this is the “after” picture. I cleared out two bags’ worth of trash from these shelves. Still way too much stuff, but almost none of it is mine. At least now we can find all of it.

Two kids + two adults = lots of stuff.  Lots and lots and lots of stuff.  Because I tend to dislike rampant consumerism, I have strong minimalist impulses (living in another country for three years helps you realize just how little “stuff” you actually need).  I don’t buy many material things for myself, but in practice, I’m not a great minimalist. I own a lot of clothing and shoes, even as I’ve culled the collection for only pieces I love and wear regularly. I like and accumulate books (though I use the library more these days). I have a hard time getting rid of things that I already have–whether gifted or purchased (What if I need _______ someday?).  Combine my own inconsistent commitment to minimizing clutter with two young children and a husband who struggles even more than I do with the desire to hoard things “just in case” (he actually won’t let me take bags to Goodwill without checking through them and “rescuing” an average of three items that then sit unused in our house for another six months until I try again) and there we are: clutter disaster!

I do recognize that our stuff–even as messy and chaotic and excessive as it seems–does also serve a purpose. Another deep value held by our family is that children should be offered a variety of creative, stimulating activities to spark their interests.  The books on this shelf are regularly read and re-read by our kids.  The cans on top of the shelves have art supplies (markers, paints, pencils, scissors, tape, glue, etc.) that become all sorts of unique creations. The bucket in front has a collection of musical instruments (including the bucket itself that becomes a drum) my husband is teaching my children to play. One of the reasons I have a hard time purging is that when I go to do so, I realize that most of the “stuff” is actually regularly in use.

This conflict of values (minimalism vs. creative stimulation) drives me insane (especially when company is coming over), but since much of the stuff belongs to my children and husband and (this is important) they are the people who are in the house most of the time, I cannot just get rid of what I deem to be excessive. This makes me feel overwhelmed, so I tend to just avoid dealing with the stuff–even though taking responsibility for my part of it would help reduce the clutter by a lot.  I’m working on this.  We do a “10 minute clean up” most days, where we set the timer and all pitch in for 10 minutes.  It never gets super clean that way, but it keeps much of the mess in check.  Lately, my husband has been more committed to reducing things we don’t need, too.  It’s all moving in the right direction.

The mantra: I am responsible for me.  My household is my responsibility.

This 21 Day Challenge is the perfect time for me to do the more complex work of organizing, cleaning shelves, repairing, and reducing as needed.  I know my children will be even more likely to use and respect the things we keep well-maintained.  Today I’ve decluttered the entire main floor (except the kitchen)–living room, dining room, play room (pictured), the master bathroom, and the bookshelves and surfaces in the master bedroom.  I feel good about the progress I’ve made and will continue my decluttering project throughout this challenge.

Other activities today:

  1. Gym class (BANG Powerdance–love it!)
  2. Laundry
  3. Mom took me out to dinner (Serenity Tea Room–AMAZING + live music)
  4. Reading great books
  5. Keeping up with food journal and no caffeine after 3

Plan for Day 3: Read a whole book in one day–start to finish

About that Emergency Fund: Roof Replacement

Ours is the end unit. See that roof with those two leak holes–I mean skylights? This is from three years ago when she was already an old lady. Farewell, girl. RIP.

We’ve known since we moved into our beloved home five+ years ago that we were due for a new roof.  The house is 24 years old with the original roof–four years past the maximum expected for the current roof.  We’ve known that we were going to have to cough up $4,000-$8,000 at some point, but we kept hoping we could save up for it after debt repayment was complete.  This weekend, the rain finally won–we have a small leak around the skylight in the master bathroom.

I’ve had a variety of emotional responses to a major home repair in the middle of finally mastering debt and crawling out of our hole.

“It’s not fair!”  It’s not.  Toughen up, buttercup!

“Maybe we should just repair it and wait?” (This is the method Dave Ramsey recommends, by the way, which made us give it more thought than we really should have since we knew the roof was past its time).  Wait for what?  The drywall to soak through and mold to start growing in the attic?  Our debt payoff will take another 21 months or so.  No thanks!

“What’s the point?  Every time we get a little bit ahead, we just get sucked back into debt!” This is a dangerous line of thinking for me, because when we emergency replaced our HVAC unit last summer (where a substantial portion of our current debt comes from), I gave into this and it caused me to increase our debt in the second half of the year because the number just felt too high and ridiculous!

“You could use the IRA contributions… you haven’t touched them to pay off your debt, but this is your HOME!  It’s an emergency!”  Yes, but it’s one we knew was coming and should have planned for.  Just like we should have managed our finances better and not been in this precarious debt situation in the first place.  We did this to ourselves–the IRA is for retirement.

I knew I needed to do something different here.  We needed a new roof.  Ultimately, being stingy here would make the final costs much greater.  Instead, I took a deep breath.

I looked at the big picture of how far we’ve come in four months.  We’ve reduced our credit card/consumer debt by almost $7,000 in just four months.  That’s enough to pay for the roof plus some!  Our habits are changed.  While we have a big vacation coming up that was planned pre-debt-elimination, and we will enjoy it, we have no other major expenditures planned/anticipated for the next few years other than the roof.  We have some things we WANT for the house, but really the roof was the last thing hanging over our heads as a NEED.  We have $1,000 in the emergency fund and can tighten our belts even more in the coming months.  I know I’m getting a raise in July (final amount pending, but it was approved by the governing board) and that our frugal habits are sustainable.  We can do this!

We took a few bids from local, highly rated roofers and decided to go with a local guy who could squeeze in the job while Min and the kids are in Korea, so they don’t have to deal with a construction site one day.  He quoted us a touch over $6,000 ($4,800 for the roof and $1,200 to replace the skylights).  His bid was in the low-middle of the offers (ranged $5,500-$7,000).  This guy, specifically.

Now, how to pay?  We could put it on a credit card, but I’m so focused on paying off that debt, I really don’t want to add to it.  It would feel like a step backwards.  I looked into home repair and home equity loans.  Too much paperwork and fees!  In the end, I decided on a $5,000, 3-year personal loan with an interest rate comparable to our (low interest) credit cards, no origination fees, and no prepayment penalties.  Hopefully, we can zap the balance when we’re done paying off the credit cards, but this will keep the loan manageable and fast.  We used SoFi, if you were interested.

Bye, bye emergency fund!  I guess I am going to have to try to sell off some stuff to restock it to $1,000 quickly.

This journey to gain control of my finances has made me feel more confident about this emergency, even with the fears of hopelessness, than I have felt about similar problems in the past.  I have the confidence to keep going down this path to building wealth.

They say when it rains, it pours; luckily it’s just a trickle right now.  Easily patched.

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  I only recommend services and products that I use.

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