Step 2

I had the chance to rough-in our budget today, and have allotted $300 per month for groceries. My plan is to use up everything in our pantry and freezer, filling in only with milk, bread, produce, and other perishables that won’t last if bought in bulk. The next step, therefore, is to make a list of everything in my pantry and freezer, as well as the quantity of each thing, and plan meals around them, It’ll take some creative planning and will probably result in some interesting combinations for dinner, especially toward the end, but I’m looking forward to “making do” with what I have, and being content to put food on my table rather than insisting on perfectly home cooked meals with tons of ingredients. If dinner ends up being pasta with canned sauce, and hot dog buns turned into garlic bread, so be it. The important thing is, bellies are full. Less food in my pantry also means that if and when the Air Force says it’s time to move again, we won’t have to figure out what to do with all of our pantry stock!

I also told Tim to expect to only eat meat 2-3 dinners per week. I’m moving toward an anti-inflammatory diet in order to feel better, and it’s been recommended that I eat actual meat very rarely, and when I do, only organic grass-fed. Other meals I’ll fill in with beans, lentils, and other protein sources with lots of fruits and vegetables.

Tomorrow’s post will include my “groceries” for the month, so I’ll be asking for your favorite low-budget recipes!

Happy Saving!


Step 2

A New Leaf

One of the most candid and raw posts I’ll make so far. Please be gentle.

It’s that time of year again. The time where we reflect on the past 52 weeks and resolve to change some things. For some, it’s losing weight and eating healthier. For others, it’s forgiving and letting go, or breaking a bad habit. The possibilities for these resolutions are endless, and all of them are personal.

I make a list of these resolutions every year. Last year’s list was 5 items. I don’t remember what they were, because sadly, I stopped doing them around January 3rd.

This year’s list has only one:

  • Set and stick to a budget

You see, I’m a spender. A big, fat, horrible spender. I try to stick to a “budget,” but it’s only in my head, and since I have a debit card, it’s easy to justify stupid purchases I think I “need” and transfer more money from savings. It all adds up though, and pretty soon there’s no money left and I really can’t say I have anything to show for it.

And, it really is true that finances are a huge stressor. Life is strained, marriages are strained, you sleep less from worry, and the list goes on.

This week I’m working on our family budget. Our plan is to only buy the necessities and work on paying off accrued debt, and then use only cash for expenses.

Last week when I looked at our accounts and began to realize how dire our situation could potentially become, I devised a plan. A friend gave me the brilliant idea to start with a “no spend January,” where except for groceries, gas, and other actual family needs, there is no extra spending. I thought about my home and family and came to realize this would be a fairly easy task for us. I figured out a January plan and a Yearly plan. Here are the short lists:


  • Only put money toward mortgages, and perishable groceries
  • No more putting groceries on the credit card.
  •  No more shopping at stores just because there’s a “deal” or we have a coupon (unless we need that item as part of our living expenses, and it’s already on our list of things we need).
  • No more coffee shop. That’s the big one. I can justify drive-thru Starbucks at least 4 times a week, and sometimes I treat the kids too. I tell myself it’s “free” because I’m putting it on my Gold card, so I’m not actually pulling money from the account. But what I fail to also tell myself is that once the card balance is empty, I’ll just add another 20 bucks without even thinking about it. Adding it all up, I’m guessing those seemingly harmless coffee shop trips equal easily $100 a month, at the minimum. This is for coffee and lemonade I could easily make at home, put into to-go cups and take with us, and put that $100 toward debt we already have. Tim gave me a $50 Starbucks card for Christmas. My plan is to make it last until May, at least. I’m limiting my Starbucks purchases to MOPS mornings. This way I still get a treat, but it’s twice a month instead of twice a week.
  • No impulse buys. I can justify crap at the grocery store. Stick to the list and DO NOT buy anything else, no matter how tempting. No aisle browsing
  • Save eating out for once or twice a month. It’s a treat, not a substitute for poor meal planning.


  • Stick to the “January Plan” as much as you can, filling in grocery staples when you run out.
  • No clothes or shoe shopping unless it’s a necessity, such as wear and tear or outgrowing.
  • Tithe 10% of our income
  • Pay off all credit card debt, then cut those suckers up and close the accounts.
  • Pay cash. If we want to plan a vacation, make sure we have the cash to pay for what we want. If not, plan a smaller vacation or keep saving until we have what we want.

That’s it! I know this will be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done given my history. I feel like a smoker or drug addict who’s quitting cold turkey, but I also know that if I don’t do it this way, this resolution will go by the wayside like all my other resolutions did, and we literally cannot afford for that to happen. Wish my luck on my endeavor, and please pray for me and our family. I’m scared to do this, but I’m more scared not to.

A New Leaf

Open Letter to the “Columnist” who Won’t Let His Wife Quit Her Job

The following is the text from the above link. I have included my own thoughts inside the text in italics. They may sound harsh, but they are my thoughts on what I felt was a very self-centered, arrogant man’s reasons for not “allowing” his wife to choose to be a stay-at-home mom. I realize some parents do not have the option of one parent staying at home. That’s not what this is about. Please do not turn it into that.

Editor’s Note: Sean Dunbar, 32, is married with two children. He spent four years in the Marines and Navy Reserve. Here, he explains why he’s against his wife being a stay-at-home mom.


As I get older, more of my friends are telling their wives to quit their jobs and be stay-at-home moms.

Many people in our circle repeatedly ask us why my wife works when I make decent money.

I absolutely hate being asked this question so often.

No, I’m not cheap.

I’m not jealous because I can’t stay home — and I don’t think it’s the wrong thing for a woman to do.

Yes, being a stay-at-home mom has many benefits for the entire family.

But I want better for my wife.

So far, Mr. Dunbar, you’ve spoken only about yourself. “I’M getting older.” “I make decent money.” “I’m not cheap.” “I hate that question.” “I’M not jealous.” “I want better for my wife.” Really? YOU want better for HER, or deep down, is it really that you want better for YOURSELF? Honestly at this point, and I’ve only read a few sentences, I really think the issue is that you are embarrassed that your wife would consider being “just a mom.” Do you think it would make you look bad? It won’t, I promise, but what does make you look bad is centering the potential outcome of your wife’s choices and desires around yourself.

Am I a bad man for wanting this? Am I being a male chauvinist for even saying that?

The short answer is “yes.” The long answer continues below.

Women look at me as though I have some sort of insecurity for wanting my wife to work. In some ways, that’s true — I do have fears about her staying home.

What are you afraid of? The stigma it has on your family? An emptier bank account? Did you know that although your bank account will be emptier, your family’s hearts will be fuller? Think about that. You can’t take your incomes with you when you die, but your children will remember not having to be in daycare. They will remember spending time with their parents, who made the choice to stay at home, despite having fewer toys and things money can buy.

I met my wife while she was in college. She was 20 and pregnant with our daughter by her junior year.

Perhaps if your “goal” for your wife to finish college and have a career was in your forefront, you should have made better choices about getting pregnant during college. I’m speaking to both of you here. Pregnancy is preventable when you use proper birth control methods correctly. You didn’t have to have a baby in college. I’m just saying.

At the time, we had nothing.

Wrong. You had a baby.

The pregnancy was a few years after I got out of the Marines, and I was chasing my own dream to get a college diploma. My wife immediately said she was going to drop out of college to focus on work and earn a living so we could afford the baby.

Great idea. I know lots of mothers who chose this path, and they are able to provide for their families despite not having a degree. There is nothing wrong with choosing to earn a living as opposed to getting a four-year degree. Bachelor’s degrees aren’t for everyone.

I knew what college meant to my wife and her family. I told her that giving up on a real career was not an option. I dropped out of college and got a full-time night job at a maximum security prison and two part-time day jobs. I also joined the Navy reserve for the benefits.

So…it’s okay for you to drop out of college to support your family, but not her? Why? What’s the difference? Giving up on a “real” career was not an option? If you don’t think being a stay-at-home parent is a career, I suggest you try it for a week. It may not bring home a paycheck every week, but I guarantee, it is a full time job. Your insisting that your wife go to college, get a degree, and take care of her child full time (because by your arrogant tone, we all know you’re not really helping out at home), is something I don’t think you could ever handle yourself. Kudos to your wife for putting up with you along with the stress of everything else you’re burdened her with.

I have other thoughts about your joining the Navy Reserves for the benefits, but I’ll save that for another post.

While I worked hard, my wife worked harder. She worked and went to school, both full time. She graduated from East Carolina University with a 3.5 GPA, a 1-year-old child and a full-time job.

I watched what that struggle made my wife. She holds her head high and tells people how hard she work for her diploma. After college, we both started new careers.

My wife has always been an all-star at work. She would come home in the greatest mood, talking about her accomplishments. My wife was reaching for goals and achieving goals. She was truly filled with confidence and self-worth.

Oh, finally. I thought you’d never mention your’ wife’s feelings about her accomplishments. I was beginning to think that you really did think this was all about you.

Then the second pregnancy came.

My wife started getting overlooked for promotions because her employer feared her maternity leave. This crushed her and changed her whole demeanor. She was embarrassed and disappointed to be pregnant in a competitive workforce.

All of a sudden, my wife accepted her position and just stopped trying.

She’s exhausted and overwhelmed trying to keep up with her/your career, taking care of your child, and your silly demands that she do it all. I’d quit trying too. It’s obvious you still see her continuous hard work, as well as desire to stay at home, a weakness. She didn’t stop trying. She was wearing down. A person can only handle so much, you know.

She started asking me whether she could quit her job and stay home with the kids. I danced around the issue, telling her things would get better.

Better for whom? Your wife is clearly desperate for a break (since I’m assuming from your arrogant tone that you think it’s also her job to tend to all the household needs along with your list of other things YOU want her to accomplish), but you’re still only thinking of yourself. I was wrong a couple paragraphs ago.

But my wife could not wait to have the baby and be done with work.

You’re lucky that’s all she’s ready to be done with. If it were me, I’d be ready to have the baby and be done with your crap.

By the time our son was born, my own career couldn’t have been better.

Lucky you! Too bad you had to drag your poor, desperate-for-your-understanding wife through Hell so YOU could have a wonderful career. Pardon me while I allow you to pat yourself on the back for YOUR accomplishments. Lordy.

We could handle my wife not going back to work. We spent many nights talking about options for her: work from home, sell crafts — even get involved in one of those “pyramid schemes” — anything.

You mean YOU could handle your wife not going back to work. YOU felt you had worked hard enough to “allow” her to finally stay home, which, newsflash, was what she wanted all along. Please don’t think that her not working was all your idea. Your wife had that idea years ago. You just chose to ignore her pleas.

I was so afraid of my wife becoming stagnant.

Here we go again. YOU were afraid. Why were you afraid of her becoming “stagnant?” Were you afraid she’d fall into that awful stereotype that all stay-at-home moms do is sit around eating bon-bons and watching soap operas? That your friends would think less of you because your wife stayed home all day while you worked to support your family? Boo hoo. Cry me a river.

Then, she found something. For the past six months, she’s been working from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. — and she loves it. My wife picks up the kids, takes our daughter to tae kwon do and reads to them before bed.

Still sounds like a full-time job to me. Didn’t you just say you were in a place where your wife could NOT work? 7am to 4 pm is 9 hours a day, buddy. 45 hours a week that she’s “not” working.

She’s not losing time with them and is still fully involved in their lives — it’s just harder.

Another newsflash: She IS losing time with her children, contrary to what you may believe. I’m guessing that if she works at 7 am, she’s easily getting up around 4 am to start getting herself and the children ready for the day. She’s packing lunches for daycare or school, finding clothes and dressing children, preparing breakfast for 4, putting away dirty dishes, planning dinner for that evening, pouring coffee, and jetting out the door to drop off children at school before arriving to work. At 4 pm, she’s exhausted from her day of “not working,” as you said she was allowed to do before. She hurries home after tae kwon do to hurriedly prepare dinner, stuff it in some faces, and clean up before the children put on their pajamas and have story time with mom. She’s not “fully involved.” She’s driving kids to school, karate, and home again, and reading bedtime stories. That is not what fully involved means.

Most of our friends think I’m a jerk because my wife works with the job that I have.

Guess what? Most strangers think you’re a jerk too. Jerkface.

I do wonder a lot whether I’m a bad man for pushing her to do so even though she says she wants to stay home with the kids.

Stop wondering. Start believing. Your wife wants to stay at home. You can afford it. Let her follow her dreams.

I’m just terrified she’ll lose her drive.

Her drive is in taking care of her children. At home. Where she wants to be. Again, this is not about you and your feelings. It’s about her and her feelings.

The happiest times I have seen my wife (besides with the kids) is when she has achieved professionally. I don’t want her to look back and say, “I could have done ‘this’ with my degree.”

You’d rather she look back and say, “I could have done ‘this’ with the children, but I was working 45 hours a week?”

I worry if something were to happen to me, she’d have to start over at a much older age.

I’m scared my wife will feel inferior to me — and resent me.

ARE YOU SERIOUS??? She’s more likely to resent you for making her work when she had other dreams you wouldn’t let her follow.

More so, I think about our daughter. I don’t want her seeing mommy at home, thinking she needs to do the same because that’s what she grew up seeing.

Why not? There is nothing wrong with striving to be a mother. One who stays home for cuddles, playdates, music class, dance class, PTA meetings, field trips, or the stability of knowing someone will be home when school lets out.

I lay in our daughter’s bed at night, talking to her and listening to her dreams about going to Mars or being the first female president.

We don’t talk about her dreams of becoming a trophy wife or stay-at-home mom.

I imagine this is because you dance around that question and avoid it, just like you did your wife when she expressed the desire.

I don’t want to pay for our daughter’s college tuition, just to see her walk away and let a man take care of her.

Wouldn’t want her to waste all that precious money, huh?

I don’t want our daughter — or my wife — to ever be in a bad marriage and feel they are stuck because they have no experience, no options or can’t make enough money to sustain themselves.

Your wife is already in a bad marriage with no options. You refuse to give them to her.

A self-sufficient, independent professional also keeps a husband on his toes.

I respect women who find being a stay-at-home mother to be fulfilling and satisfying.

You didn’t with your wife. When did you EVER respect your wife’s desire to be a stay-at-home mother? She felt it would be fulfilling and satisfying, but you wouldn’t allow her to do that. You insisted that she work two full-time jobs, one outside of the home, and one inside the home. Admit it: you do NOT respect women who find being a stay-at-home mother satisfying, or you would have supported your wife’s dream to do so.

I just have different expectations for my wife and our daughter — what more can I say?

I. I. I. I. I.

All I’ve heard throughout this diatribe is how YOU feel. How YOU are affected. How YOU feel you’ll be looked at. How YOU want the best. How YOU this. How YOU that.

What can you say?

How about write another piece where you ask your wife the questions, and you listen to and respect her responses and write those down. I bet your eyes will be opened.


Open Letter to the “Columnist” who Won’t Let His Wife Quit Her Job

Room Temperature Coffee, anyone?

If You Give A Mom A Muffin
by Beth Brubaker

If you give a mom a muffin,
she’ll want a cup of coffee to go with it.
She’ll pour herself some.
Her three year-old will come and spill the coffee.
Mom will wipe it up.
Wiping the floor, she will find dirty socks.
She’ll remember she has to do laundry.
When she puts the laundry into the washer,
she’ll trip over shoes and bump into the freezer.
Bumping into the freezer will remind her she has to plan supper.
She will get out a pound of hamburger.
She’ll look for her cookbook
(How to Make 101 Things With a Pound of Hamburger.)
The cookbook is sitting under a pile of mail.
She will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow.
She will look for her checkbook.
The checkbook is in her purse,
which is being dumped out by her two year-old.
Then she’ll smell something funny.
She’ll change the two year-old.
While she is changing the two year-old, the phone will ring.
Her five year-old will answer and hang up.
She’ll remember she was supposed to phone a friend
to come over for coffee.
Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup.
She will pour herself some more.
And chances are,
if she has a cup a coffee,
her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.

This rings all too true in my house. Every. Day. It is 3:45 pm now, and I’m just sitting down to my first cup of coffee. I have 30 minutes until it’s time to go pick up the kids from Mother’s Day Out. I’ve gotten one (yes, one) load of laundry done. Dinner is half prepped, and by that I mean the spaghetti squash is still sitting in the microwave after being cooked in there an hour ago. The hamburger for the sauce, however, is still in the freezer. The breakfast crumbs (enough for another whole muffin), have just been swept off the kitchen floor, but the sticky strawberry juice from yesterday’s lunch is still there. We’re leaving town Friday, but not one article of clothing is in a suitcase. The playground sand from Monday is still sticking to my bare feet because I still have not vacuumed.

Why does this happen? I truly believe it’s because we’re tired beyond belief and there seems to be no end in sight to our busyness. Most moms I know haven’t drunk a cup of coffee hot (or iced) since their first child was born. I jokingly tell people that’s what I’m going to do once all of my own precious ones are finally in school (if I don’t decide to homeschool, that is). Right now, however, that morning cup seems to cool down to room temperature, or if iced, the ice has melted and it’s a watered-down, room temperature mess by the time I get around to finally having a sip. And yes, I drink that stuff down like it’s liquid youth, even if it is room temperature and has that “skin” on it that putting cream into it creates.

We’re exhausted. Even if we’re delusional enough to think we might get a second to sit down, our children remind us that this isn’t so, and that they need juice right now or they’re going to die of thirst, even though you just asked them if they wanted juice before you sat down. The baby finally went down for her nap? Great! A chance to sit down! Not so fast though, because there’s the doorbell, which makes the dog bark, which wakes the baby. It wasn’t even an important doorbell ring; just the mailman leaving a package for the neighbor who isn’t home. But up and running we go to fetch the baby from her ten minute nap and wrangle the two-year-old out from under the dining room table legs. Days like this are endless, it seems, and when bedtime finally comes, we’re too exhausted to even want to wash our faces.

But you know what? I wouldn’t trade this for the world. I may long for those early mornings where I sneak downstairs before everyone is awake and just sit in the quiet, turn on the news, and read my devotional, but I also eagerly await the sounds of my children thumping down the stairs on their bellies (did you know you can slide down stairs like a penguin when you’re 4 and not look too silly?). I look forward to their make-believe games of building blanket forts in the living room and pretending they’re castles. I eagerly lie on the floor and wait for a pile of children and babies to come running and tackle their mom, their squeals reverberating through the house. I watch repeated episodes of Umizoomi and Sofia the First so I can have an excuse to snuggle up on the couch with them. I answer the question “why” so many times in a day, but it makes me glad to know my children wonder about their world and want to know how it works.

Seasoned mothers tell me, “Don’t blink; it goes fast.”

“Someday you’ll long for these hectic times.”

“Enjoy your children now while they’re still young. They’re not as fun when they become teenagers.”

Lots of times I roll my eyes at them (in my head, of course), because these sentiments usually come at the most inopportune times, like during a temper tantrum in the Target parking lot during a rainstorm, or while standing in line at the bank, where only one teller is working, and it’s naptime. Seriously. Want to trade? I’ll give you these three for your teenager in moments like those. But I see what they mean. In just 4 short years, I’ve gone from having one tiny, helpless infant boy to having a full-blown preschooler, a two-year-old mini me, and a baby. And I don’t remember where the time went in between.

I’m tired, but it’s a good tired, and I’m so very thankful for my children, even if it does mean being satisfied with room temperature coffee for the next 4 years.

Room Temperature Coffee, anyone?

Goodbye, Facebook, Hello, world!

I’ve decided to leave Facebook for a good long while. While I truly love all the people I’ve connected with, I feel my time to leave there is long overdue. It used to be fun to see things on my timeline, to laugh at my friends’ posts, comment on them, and stay connected with dear friends from all over the world whom I’ve known for 30+ years, or those I met just last week. Lately, however, I’ve started feeling like Eeyore after being on only a short while. Posts are offensive at best (my own included), and comments start arguments and end friendships quicker than I’d like them to.

Facebook has also sucked up precious time with my family that I will never get back. I have three adorable children, but to be honest, I’ve missed a lot of their childhoods because instead of playing tea party or blocks, or picking up bugs outside, I’m “busy” commenting on yet another news story. That time stops now.

I’m a mom. But I’m so much more.

I have a heart. I have dreams and wishes that come with visions. I have a faith. I have a career. I have goals.

I have baggage. I have feelings. I have opinions. I have questions. I have thoughts. I have frustrations.

While I hope to keep this lighthearted and fun for the most part, there are issues going on in our world I feel strongly that I will still write about. I hope you will read, listen, contemplate, and love me despite our sometimes differing opinions on things, and I hope you understand how vulnerable I am in putting my thoughts and feelings out there for the world to see and judge. I know and you know that you’ll do it, but that’s okay. I kind of want you to.

Goodbye, Facebook, Hello, world!