Summer with Littles (and Bigs)

Summer is here! We are finding our stride and I posted this photo on Instagram yesterday and the comments told me I should maybe resurrect the old blog and post about it. Here’s the deal: I love having my kids home. I love spending time with them. I love Summer – days at the pool, relaxed schedules, vacations, later bedtimes. I love it all.

But, I have 4 kids ages 1 – almost 7. That’s a lot of different age groups to cater to. Also, Nell was in school 3 afternoons a week last year rather than mornings, so she was only gone while Peter napped, so as far as Peter knows, he has never had a second of a day where Nell was not a part of it. And Peter and Nell love each other, but as summer was approaching I had the feeling that they’d already had too much togetherness and we were in for a LONG summer if we didn’t make a plan. Add to this the fact that last summer was postpartum mom fog combined with a newborn that couldn’t be out in the sun too much and we had kind of a lame summer. So as 2017 Summer approached, I decided to up my fun mom game. I wanted planned activities we could all enjoy together daily, a tiny bit of learning to keep the summer slide from happening, and lots of fun in the sun, outdoor time, and general summer activity fun.

So, I came up with weekly themes for us and I pinned a million activities for each theme, and we’re running with it.

Summer Schedule 2017

So far, the kids are loving it. I’ve tried to come up with a craft, a science activity, an active activity, loads of library books and a field trip for every theme. You can see what I’ve found on my “Summer Fun” Pinterest board. Now, not all of this is set in stone — at this point we have an at home summer planned, but if we decide to take a vacation one week, our vacation will become the theme. We will still play and go to the pool and read quietly at home and have a lazy, laid back summer…but with a tiny bit of structure to make our days go smoothly.

We’ve also got a chore system going that is working well and helping us all have some accountability for how we take care of our things and treat our home…maybe I’ll share that when I know it’s working for real.

Kids’ Bathroom Mini Makeover

The kids’ bathroom remained the only honey oak cabinets in our house after we renovated our master bathroom last year. I thought that it was the perfect room to do something a little different in because the vanity is small and we can always repaint if we want. So, on a whim one week while B was gone, I picked up a quart of Benjamin Moore advance cabinet paint in Kendall Charcoal (same color as Graham’s crib) and painted when the kids were in bed at night. The next week while B was out, I painted the walls (Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter) and hung some shelves over the toilet, and then just this last weekend B installed a new vanity light and hardware for us. And we have a fresh little bathroom makeover for right around $300 (most of which went to the light).


Here was the before: Honey Oak cabinetry, Hollywood bulb vanity light, and never painted builder-primed walls.

dsc02113   The whole point of this mini-makeover was to make the laminate counters and linoleum floors work with what I updated. I know no one likes laminate and linoleum anymore, but with kids who can’t manage to keep the toothpaste off the counters and 3 boys that will all be using this bathroom, easy to clean counter tops that I’m not worried about and no grout lines to scrub toilet misses out of are a little slice of heaven. I knew that I wanted to do the cabinets Kendall Charcoal, so I grabbed some greige paint swatches at Benjamin Moore and just held them next to the linoleum and picked a greige that was the same as the darkest gray in the linoleum, which just so happened to be Revere Pewter. It perfectly brought the beige and gray together and I love this color.

dsc02544 The shelves were fun – I needed something above the toilet but didn’t want anything that would stick out too much for kids to hit their heads on as they grow. These added just enough warmth and texture and let me add little moments of personality to the kids’ bathroom.

dsc02548 It was a simple little update to bring the bathroom up to speed with the rest of the house. Next Honey Oak on my list? The bannister. Oy.


Life With Four

We’re 3 months into life with four kids, and I figured I’d write a post about it for posterity’s sake. This is going to be very stream of conscious style because that’s how I roll these days.


4 kids. B and I look at our kids sometimes and look at each other and say, “Man, we have a lot of kids.” Everywhere we go, people ask us if we’ve figured out how babies are made yet. I can’t go anywhere without being told my hands are full (they are!). We are, most places except Costco, treated like a walking circus act. And it’s wonderful. Crazy, but wonderful.

Truth be told, when I found out I was pregnant with Graham, I was a bit shaky.  I was never convinced we were “done”, but Peter was a really tough baby and I knew that at a minimum, I needed some time to just enjoy our family of 5. I prayed a lot asking for guidance on our family size. Not looking for controversy here, just saying: I’m Catholic, but I take issue with the Catholic church’s stance on birth control and strongly believe that a couple needs to make choices for their family – after lots of prayer, I felt pulled to research and consider an IUD, and scheduled an appointment with my OB. We were in Hawaii and I was watching our kids play on the beach (at the ages of 5, 3 and 15 months) and thinking, “Wow! I feel really at peace with this being our family. I’m good with this. Two years from now, I might actually get to read a book on vacation.” And then I found out that I was pregnant – while we were in Hawaii. Not a subtle answer to that prayer. The receptionist at my doctor laughed when I called to change that IUD appointment to a prenatal appointment. I told her, “I know it’s funny. I’m not there yet, but I will be someday.” I talked B into finding out if Graham was a boy or a girl – because the kids wanted to know, but I also think I secretly hoped it would help me connect to the idea of having another baby. Life was just busy already, and I didn’t have time to sit and savor the kicks or think about who this baby might be.

But, the second he was born? I couldn’t imagine our family any other way. I will pile my kids in the car or the stroller and I will think, “This is exactly how our family is supposed to be.” It helps that Graham is the best baby ever – we’re all smitten with him. I’d gotten rid of all the baby gear almost a year to the day before he was born, and we didn’t purchase much. I had kept our double stroller (though had told B 2 weeks before I found out I was pregnant – the day I sold our carseat – ha! – that I thought we were probably getting close to being able to sell it and just have a single stroller – LOLZ), the pack n’ play (Peter still uses it on trips) and our bouncer seat and the rock n’ play for visiting babies, so we had those. I found a Britax carseat and stroller system on clearance at Target right after Christmas and scooped up 2 – one for me and one for one of my best friends who was also pregnant after getting rid of the baby stuff. I bought a Solly Wrap because I wanted something cute and new and knew I’d be wearing this baby enough to justify the purchase.  I recently bought a play gym mat and a sitting-up device, and that’s what we have for baby gear.  And it’s great. I’m not looking disdainfully at giant plastic exersaucers in the middle of the floor.

So reality with 4 kids (ages 6, 4, 2.5 and 3 months): It’s nuts. 4 year olds are great with new babies. Thomas was awesome with Peter when he was born two years ago, and Nell is in LOVE with Graham. We’re pretty sure she thinks he’s her own real life baby doll. Thomas is in love with his baby brother, but he has a bigger life now – school and neighborhood friends and sports, and so while he loves his Graham time, he’s not overly interested. And Peter. He loves Graham. He loves him hard and he loves him fiercely, and the sentiment behind that love is wonderful, but it means Graham is attached to me in a babywearing device of some kind at all times that Peter is awake.

Logistically, we’ve kind of settled into 4 kids easily, though there are some learning curves we’re still working through. The first two weeks home were nuts – Graham was a great baby, but the other kids and their dynamics made those two weeks a blur. I felt like I was just starting to get my feet under me, and then we spent 3 days in the NICU with Graham (he’s fine, thank you, Jesus! – had some gagging issues that doctors couldn’t figure out, but it ended up being silent reflux – which B and I thought from the start until doctors started scaring the pants off of us), but after that coming home was crazy. I was on edge about Graham while he was asleep, trying to love on my big kids but really just wanting to hold that baby who had scared us to death.  I would say it took another 3 – 4 weeks – when I went off dairy and Graham stopped gagging – for us to really take a deep breath.

Now that our days are more normal, things are better. I do lose my patience more than I used to, and I’m working on that and asking for forgiveness when I do yell. Totally honest here: Especially earlier in the summer, I didn’t want to play with my big kids. I was tired and hormonal and on edge about Graham, and I felt like as soon as I sat down to play, Graham was awake or Peter was trying to feed Graham a baseball and I had to stop the games and it was way more effort than it was worth. I felt a ton of guilt over this, so I do make a better effort to play with them each day, though the really beautiful thing about having kids close in age is that they do just play together. I think Thomas has noticed this more than anyone and I’ve noticed that in his attitude – a little eye rolling and sighing and what I interpreted at the beginning of the summer to be a lack of appreciation for the things he does get to do. Part of that is normal for his age, part of it is my time being spread more thin – and all of it is being handled with parenting and one-on-one time when it makes sense for our family. Our best weeks are the weeks when B is out of town for work only because I always approach those weeks with plans: activities, help dialed in, meals figured out in advance, etc. Which tells me I just need to be better about scheduling our time and asking for help when B is IN town, but that’s not natural for me as I normally just like easy, relaxed days with my kids.

Room sharing is…interesting. It’s been almost 6 months since we moved Peter and Tom together and Peter does not fall asleep before 9pm because he’s so busy talking. This was a kid I put into his crib at 7 and he’d be asleep by 7:15 when he was in his own room. So, we’re working on that – putting Pete to bed first, trying to give him some wind down time before bedtime. It’s still a work in progress. B asked me the other day, “How much longer do we give this experiment?” as we listened to Peter chatter at Tom (not with – Tom was sound asleep) until 9:15. I looked at him, truly baffled, and said, “Honey, this isn’t an experiment. This is our life.” We laughed, he mentioned that we could bunk Tom and Nell together or put Graham in our room for a few months and give everyone their own rooms again. I feel like we need to stay the course, but I do feel guilt about it. I KNOW kids share rooms all the time, but Tom is an introvert and he craves his alone time and right now Peter is not really at a reasonable age. I KNOW that this will be good for both of them long term, but six months into this non-experiment experiment, I still feel guilty. I’ve googled “making a bedroom over a two story family room” more times than you want to know. It doesn’t look like a good idea. I’ve setup searches for houses in our neighborhood that have 5 upstairs bedrooms – they don’t appear to exist. We will stay the course, but if anyone has advice, I’m listening.

For the most part though, it’s crazy and loud and really fun. I love our family of 6. I do have to make a more concerted effort to spend time with each kid individually. B and I are trying to carve out date nights. Getting places on time (which is important to me!) is tough, and we have to get in the car about 10 minutes before we have to leave to make sure we are good, but we do it. We’ve booked our first vacation as a family of 6 and we feel confident that we can rock it. We broke down at bought a Toyota Sienna (we ordered it over a month ago, but we just got it last week) after trying to get us all to the mountains for the 4th of July and realizing we just can’t get our whole family and gear places in the Honda Pilot.  I knew it was practical, but I was reserved in my enthusiasm for that van. But after one day of running errands with all 4 kids in it and I’m googly-eyed in love with it for it’s function (that’s not to say that I’ll want to drive it forever, but for the next 6 – 10 years, it’s going to be great). I wish we’d bought it 2 years ago when we just had 3. Everyone asked me right after Graham was born and school was finishing what our plans for summer were and I would answer, “Survive with a smile on my face”, and I’d say I’ve done that.  I love our wild, crazy family. I am excited that as our kids grow up together, they will have the chance to be the best of friends. I love the idea of an overflowing Thanksgiving table when all our kids are home for the holidays in the future.

As for if there will be more? Nope. I mentioned above that I think couples need to make decisions for their marriage and their families – in our case with prayerful guidance – and our family needs to be done expanding until our kids get married and have babies of their own. Could we handle more? Probably. But I want to be present for all four of my children. I want to be at their games, and sit with them before they go to bed at night and talk to them about their days. I want to continue to prioritize my marriage. By the time I wean Graham after he turns one, I will have been pregnant or breastfeeding for 7 and a half years of my life. That’s a lot. And I loved that phase, but I will be okay with that phase being over when that time comes, and I’m looking forward to the next phase, however that may look!

A Vintage Vignette

Our house, built in 2000, has a few cutouts and ledges (or as my hilarious sister-in-law calls them, “Crap Catchers”) where you’re supposed to display things. They’ve always driven me crazy, but since we love the bones and layout of our house, I deal with them. I conquered the giant window-to-nowhere in our living room by hanging a vintage window there (pre-Fixer Upper days, even), but there’s a ledge at the top of our stairs that has always just collected the things that need to go somewhere else. I was over it being an empty space and feeling inspired to do something there, when my cousin gave me a great vintage window that she had laying around her house. And a little vignette was born.

farmhouse decor



vintage window vignette

A Navy, White & Gray Nursery…Take 2

Sweet baby Graham got a few tweaks to Peter’s Navy & White Rugby Stripe Nursery to make it his own. Peter was taking his crib with him to his new room (Tom and Pete’s shared room). So we pulled Nell’s turquoise crib out of the crawl space knowing we’d be painting it because the turquoise made the gray paint in the kids’ rooms read a bit turquoise. After keeping our baby’s sexes a surprise for rounds 1, 2, and 3, we found out that Graham was a boy at our 20 week ultrasound. So the turquoise crib went dark gray for baby boy McKevitt.

 kendall charcoal painted crib

We kept the navy and white rugby striped curtains my mom and I made for Peter’s nursery, the dresser I’ve used as a changing table for all four babies, and the paint stayed the same.

gray painted crib

If we could play a game called “Stupid stands stubborn Emily took that she should have just caved on in the beginning”, the glider in the nursery would be at the top of the list. Luckily, these are first world problems. But, really. When I was pregnant with Thomas, I was 25, married for a minute under two years, and having a baby a few years earlier than we “planned” in the midst of a bad economy. So I took a stand on not buying a glider and used the wooden rocking chair my mom rocked my sister, brother and I to sleep in in Thomas’s nursery. Two years later, Nell came along and I wanted to change the nursery up with more color and less brown, so I bought an IKEA chair that didn’t glide and used that in both Nell and Peter’s nurseries. When we announced that Graham was on his way, my mom said, “I am just buying you a glider, I love rocking your babies and it drives me crazy that I can’t rock them at your house.” Now, 2008 scarred me for life so I’m always going to be budget conscious and I picked the glider out when Target had a great baby sale in January, but that Caroline was right. Should have listened to her and let her buy me the glider 6 years ago when she offered the first time…or two years later when she offered again…or a year and a half after that when she offered the third time. Oh well, we’ll thoroughly enjoy it for this last sweet baby to make up for it.

gray glider in nursery

A new changing pad cover on the dresser I’ve changed all my babies on. I love this dresser (and the $30 price tag…told ya, that 2008-2011 Emily was scrappy with a penny).

antique dresser changing table

A sweet little magazine rack bookshelf right as you walk into the nursery.

pottery barn kids bookshelf

And the sweetest little pumpkin that occupies this room. Though we’re still working on getting him to occupy it all night long, he loves looking at his mobile and playing in his crib.

graham 3 months

And you all know I love a “big picture” picture to really give the lay of the land.  That’s our sweet Graham’s nursery.

navy gray and white nursery

To take a look back at all my nurseries: Thomas’s Brown and White Board and Batten Nursery. Nell’s Nursery with Painted IKEA crib. Peter’s navy and white nursery.

Graham Patrick McKevitt

Oh the blog. Last on my priority list these days. Graham Patrick McKevitt was born on April 28th and is just about as sweet as can be. We’re totally smitten with him. His delivery was rough – I had really hoped to go into labor on my own (Nell was my only kid who decided to show up on her own terms), but after weeks of regular contractions but making no progress and missing his due date (seems to be a common theme for my boys), and my OB being concerned about me going too far past my due date due to heart rate issues we monitored through the end of my pregnancy, I was induced. I had Mother’s Day tea dates with my biggest kids the next week at school, and when my OB gave me two date options – one that would have me out of the hospital in time to attend those teas and one that had me in the hospital and missing them, I opted to make the teas.  My induction was easy – no progress even with pitocin until my water was broken (just as I told my doctor and the nurses to expect), at which point things happened quickly. Graham was born “sunnyside up”, which made the actual delivery and my recovery a bit rough. If I had known what my recovery would be like, I might have opted for a C-Section, but we are ending our baby having years with a 3rd healthy VBAC – I don’t know if I ever would have thought that was possible 6 years ago after that traumatic C-Section delivering Thomas.


Graham is a wonderful baby. He gave us all a scare and ended up in the NICU at two weeks old for monitoring after a scary night of choking in his sleep. They weren’t sure what was happening and tested him for infection after infection, and all came back negative (Thank you, God!), and he was eventually discharged with a diagnosis of silent reflux. I’m a pretty calm mama when it comes to medical stuff, but I was a wreck about the whole ordeal and barely sleeping after we came home just listening to him breathe. A little over a month out from that experience and we’re all doing much better – I’m sleeping again and Graham is a much happier little pumpkin. I’m off dairy and that has made a huge difference in his reflux (and also combated the colic that was starting to show up after our NICU stay) so now he’s back to being the best baby we’ve ever had (though I vaguely remember thinking Nell was the best baby ever…so maybe Graham’s awesome sleeping evens out with the fact that Nell never required a scary hospital stay :).


Graham’s name threw most of our friends for a loop. Not the Apostle name they (or we!) were expecting, but the names we had on the top of our list just didn’t seem right. Our landscape designer actually suggested Graham on an Instagram post when we announced he was a boy. I mentioned the name to B, and he said, “I LOVE THAT!” I said, yeah, I do, too, but it’s not a Saint. We kind of cast it aside but kept coming back to it. You have to love the name you give your baby. Graham Patrick just fit and plays well with our other English/Scottish/Irish name picks. I remember talking to one of my best friends before Graham was born and saying, well, we definitely have a Catholic thing going with our boys’ names, but all of our kids’ names are all also far more popular in the UK than they are in the US – so maybe I need to consider that route.  In the end, Graham was our top choice going into the hospital, but it still took me 5 hours to commit after he was born. We also toyed with spelling it “Graeme” and would have if we lived across the pond – and we also would have used that spelling for sure if we were using it as a middle name – but we decided to give him a spelling that he won’t have to correct people on for the rest of his life here in the US.


So that’s that. Almost two months old and just getting his announcements addressed and his post written. Welcome to the McKevitt family, 4th baby 🙂



House Tour: Dining Room

Following up the Living Room tour from last week, let’s move onto the Dining Room. It’s not a huge room – it’s to the left of our front door when you walk in our home, opposite the living room which is to the right of our door. A dining room was a must have on my list when we were house hunting – but in actuality, we’ve eaten in here maybe 10 times in nearly 3 years. At our old house we used our dining room ALL THE TIME and therefore I didn’t want to move to a house without one. But, at our old house our dining room was part of our family room. In this house, the dining room is closed off enough from the kitchen that it’s just not the most convenient place to eat when we have a big eat at island and a dining nook in the kitchen. I’ve toyed with different plans for this room in my head a bunch – turning it into an office and letting our office be a playroom, closing off the entry to the front of the house and making this a big mudroom and project room since it’s right inside the door from the garage. But, it will probably just stay a dining room :). We’ll see what the future holds. Here’s the dining room now:


industrial cottage dining room

urban cottage dining room

And here’s a look back at what the dining room looked like when we closed on the house – we moved in on a Sunday and I painted over the red (with Benjamin Moore Gray Owl) on Monday. Later we switched out the chandelier for something a little less ornate. If this room stays a dining room, I think we’ll eventually add wainscoting to the room to add some charm and brighten the room up a bit – the one window in the room is small and off center and doesn’t offer great light.

And that’s the dining room 3 years later. Living Room and Kitchen are next up!

House Tour: Living Room

So, I’ve been meaning to update pictures of our house for years. We’re coming up on 3 years in our house, and I’ve just not gotten around to getting pictures of everything all in one place. But as I was taking down the very limited Easter decor I put up this year last week, I figured I’d snap a couple pictures as I went room to room and just get it all done. Now, as you know with me, this is imperfect. I believe in real and I believe in honest. I’m not a designer, I’m not a career blogger – I’m a casual, Colorado girl who’s current role in life is to provide a warm, inviting home for my family and raise these young pumpkins of mine to {hopefully} be kind, loving, upstanding members of society.  You will not find perfectly styled, magazine-worthy vignettes in my home. There are 5 (countdown is on to 6) humans and a golden retriever who live their lives in this house every single day. The floors are scratched, the walls are dinged, and any flowers I were to put in a vase would be demolished by a football in 30 seconds. We live here, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. There is likely a basketball or a coloring book under a chair here, there and everywhere. And I take pictures of full rooms because I think you should see a full room, not just the pretty pillows on the one clean section of the white sofa or a stack of pretty books styled to perfection (if you’re looking for that, move along right now. I don’t know how to do that :)).

We live in a suburb of Denver in a home that was built in the late 90s. You can see what the house looked like as we moved in here and after unpacking (and making do with some things that didn’t quite fit in this house from our last house) here. We spent the first year of living here neutralizing all the paint, and since then we’ve gotten rid of some furniture that just didn’t work, rearranged about 30 times, and bought a few new pieces to put a little more of our touch on the place.

Let’s start today with the Living Room. My goal is to get the first floor done and blogged about before #4 arrives in a few weeks. So here we go: You walk in the front door of our home to a pseudo-entryway and our informal “formal” living room. I love this space and we use it a lot. Since moving in, we’ve painted the walls (Benjamin Moore Gray Owl lightened 50% – when we repaint if I stick with Gray Owl, I will just do full strength everywhere. The lightened version looks a bit blue in certain lights) and replaced the curtains. Next on my list is to replace the blinds – the blinds that came with the house are all orange-y wood and were never my taste, but they were fine and did the job. But that front blind isn’t functional anymore, so it’s time.

urban cottage living room

industrial cottage living room

I took away most of my signature green accents in my house last Fall. Simultaneously, I just felt like something was off in our house, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The rooms didn’t spark joy as I walked through them. In a use-what-you-have-and-for-the-love-brighten-up-the-house-for-Spring moment a few weeks ago, I pulled out my old green pillow covers and spruced up the pillows on the living room sofa. And bam! Energy and good vibes came flowing back through the windows. (Might also have something to do with the fact that green is returning outside and I’m a Spring and Summer girl over Fall and definitely over Winter…but regardless, green in my home makes me happy. So what if Pantone and their color of the year disagrees. Do what you love.)

white ektorp sofa ektorp sofa with pillows

The antique window I hung in our 90s cut-out niche is still one of my favorite things and adds character to a feature I otherwise don’t love in our home. And I love it even more since I hung that puppy long before I’d ever heard of Fixer Upper. Not that I was the first person to hang an old window, far from it, but you know…it’s the little things.

how to decorate a niche cutout

  green black and white living room  living room

 So that’s our Living Room as it stands today. Stay tuned for the dining room…

The Boys’ Shared Room: Navy, Gray & Rugby Stripes

We moved Thomas and Peter into a shared room the day after Pete turned 2. I shared my inspiration for the boys’ room a month and a half ago, so I’m back with the current final reveal. Here’s what the room looked like when it was just Tom’s room. Peter will move out of the crib sometime this year (no rush, baby boy!) and at that point we’ll have to figure out a new bed situation, so the goal was to make due mostly with what we had and simplify the room so that when it’s time to get rid of the crib, we have some wiggle room to make more changes if needed. So this is a “for now reveal” of the boys’ shared room.

gray owl boys room

boys shared room


I bought a new, lower bookshelf to act as a bedside table between the two beds. I hunted for a long time for a vintage piece on wheels to no avail. Finally, I was about to buy an IKEA 4×4 Kallax shelf and put it on casters, when I discovered that Target sells copies in a “wood” finish that I like a lot more than IKEA’s, and in a lot more size configurations. Love that Target and their knock-offs. The lighter wood tone is the direction I was hoping to go with the room anyway. My style has changed a lot since I bought the trundle bed for Thomas 4 years ago – I like a more collected look now – a little modern, a little vintage, far less traditional than I used to be, and their future beds will likely not be espresso – metal or painted, or who knows!?. I like that I have some time to decide on that.  We put the shelf on casters so we can wheel it out of the way to pull out the trundle bed when Nell wants to bunk with her brothers.


I bought two of these trunk baskets to house the boys’ “treasures”. The texture is a nice addition to the room, the gray wood tone helps to tie in the new bookshelf, and Thomas is a bit of a “collector” and having a place for all of his stuffies so they’re not overflowing onto the floor was necessary.


So that’s that. It was an easy and inexpensive re-do, and works really well for the boys for this stage of our lives. No telling what the room will look like in a year when Pete’s out of the crib, but this is the boys’ room for now!

Room Sources:

Paint Color: Benjamin Moore Gray Owl

Bed: Similar to Pottery Barn Elliot Bed

Crib: Similar to Pottery Barn Kendall Crib

Trunks: IKEA

Bookshelf: Threshold by Target (casters added)

“Brave” Canvas: Hobby Lobby

Envelope System of Budgeting: Refocusing and Refreshing

Back when I was a new blogger and a newlywed, I posted frequently about our budget. We got married right at the beginning of the 2008 economic downturn, and with a mortgage, car payment and a volatile job market, we got strict about living on a budget. I was laid off 4 months after our wedding from my job in marketing at an internet start-up, and while I luckily found a job again quickly, at the age of 24, B and I became acutely aware of how quickly things can change. We started living on Dave Ramsey’s envelope system of budgeting to sock away a 12 month emergency fund (because we didn’t feel 6 months was enough in the economy at the time), pay off that car loan, and save wherever we could. We did well, loved the cash budget system, and paid off our only debt other than our mortgage (that car) by age 25. Then we had kids – we bought a used family car in cash rather than taking out another loan, continued to be dutiful about saving and living well within our means, and moved forward with our financial goals – eventually for me to stay home with the kids, to buy a bigger home and to long-term provide for our family’s future needs. And in those years that I was blogging frequently about budgeting, it was a hot topic. But have you noticed that it’s kind of gone away? Blogs have turned from “DIY this! Save money!” to “Buy this amazing sofa right now!” And that’s okay, to an extent. The economy is better. But that doesn’t mean that living on a budget should go away! So, I’m bringing it back up – let’s talk about it, even if it’s not cool anymore.


We credit the envelope system of budgeting with where we are today. Over the last few years, we decided we didn’t really want to stick to just cash budgeting anymore. Part of it was laziness, part of it was a lack of need to account for every single purchase, part of it was just the feeling of a comfort and a better economy. We’ve usually done one or two “No Spending Months” a year to reel things in and reset when we felt like we were getting a little too spendy. We saved cash for our bathroom remodel, and are now saving cash to purchase a new vehicle (or maybe a slightly used one) to tote our soon to be family of 6 around town (and the country…because 6 plane tickets makes me think we’ll be driving to many of our vacation destinations in the future). We have good budgeting principles and do pretty well with our monthly spending – that doesn’t mean we don’t have months that get a little out of hand and we have to reel ourselves back in, but overall, we live well within our means.

So why go back to cash budgeting? First, no matter what situation we’re in, we spend less money when we use the cash budget and saving – no matter how good the economy is – is always a good reason to do something!  There’s that likely car purchase on the horizon (I need to install 4 carseats in my Pilot to see just how imminent that purchase is). And anytime there’s a big purchase in the future, I feel the need to really save to help offset that expense even if it’s one we plan for and can afford. But, mostly, it’s driven by teaching our kids about money. I recently read Dave Ramsey’s “Smart Money, Smart Kids” book. We’re at the age with our oldest two where we need to start teaching them about money – how to make it, how to spend it, how to save it, how to give it. B and I have slightly different philosophical opinions on allowance and kids earning money and I needed to be informed before we entered into that world – I like the idea of giving the kids an allowance because they are active participants in our household and we do things to help around the house, B prefers allowance to be tied to work performed. Dave Ramsey sides with B on that one, and while I don’t agree with everything in his book – I will NOT be paying my kids to make their beds every day, they make their beds because in this house, we make our beds! – I do see a lot of value in teaching them that money is earned, not given. As I was reading the book, I realized that I can’t ask my children to budget if we’re not actively and outwardly living on a budget either. As I thought about the relationship I want my kids to have with money, I realized we needed to model that. Nell LOVES to pay for our groceries. But paying for groceries, these days, involves me handing her our credit card to swipe (we still pay our credit card off in full every month, but she doesn’t see that side of things, she sees a piece of plastic that magically buys food!). I see how it would be so much more powerful to count out the $75 -$100 I spend each grocery store trip with her, and let her hand it over to the cashier.


And then there’s the fact that I’m a planner. I tend to be a bit of a worst case scenario-ist when it comes to the economy, but I’m not convinced that the current economy is here to stay. I personally believe (and have done very little research to back this up, so this is strictly my personal opinion) that low interest rates have driven home prices up and allowed people to buy more house than they can really afford. So, I’m not convinced that the strong housing market in Colorado is here to stay. There’s retirement, which we contribute to pre-tax but I think we could always pump more into. Not to mention the fact that we’ll have 4 teenagers (three of them boys) to feed one day – I told my neighbor (with two boys) a couple months ago when she was lamenting the cost of groceries and how much her boys eat, “You know it’s not going to get better, right?” She looked at me like I was crazy, and then she told me the next day, “When you said that I really had to think! You’re totally right – I will just continue to spend more on groceries. It was alarming, but a good perspective change for me.” Sports and activities are absolutely choices, but are things that we feel are healthy and important parts of kids’ childhoods, and they cost more and more the older and more competitive they get. We would love to give our kids the gift of a fully paid for (in-state) college education. B and I were both given the huge gift of graduating from college without debt. We’d love to give our kids that same gift – there will be expectations for performance and behavior attached to those gifts, but it’s something we really want to be able to do for them. We will have 16 years of college educations to pay for in the not really all that distant future – and those 16 years will be paid over 10 years due to our 2 year apart kid spacing. I googled “Colorado in-state tuition and room and board cost predictions for 2028” the other day. Don’t do it. Or do. But, those 529s are gonna need a little more attention than we’ve currently been giving them.


So, we’re getting serious about the budget again. I’ve simplified the categories a bunch from when we first started this in 2009. Rather than having a category for absolutely everything, I’ve roped our spending into 6 categories: Food (groceries, eating out, any beer or wine that is purchased, etc), Household expenses (anything not food that you might buy at Costco or Target, including diapers, plus fun stuff like home decor), Pets, Gifts, Clothing for the entire family, and spending money. We will continue to pay all of our bills online via our credit card and pay that off monthly, and we pay gas via our credit cards, too. Another thing I’ve changed up is to pay ourselves first. In the past, I’ve had our budget, and whatever we had leftover was our savings. Instead, I’ve setup automatic transfers from our checking account to our savings account for a specific percentage of our income every single paycheck – and I’ve done the same with our charitable donations (church & a few non-profits we support). I think those two small changes – paying our savings first, and then paying our tithe and other donations before allotting money to spending, have me feeling the most energized. I might need to read a Dave Ramsey or other budgeting book every three months to keep me energized, but for now, I’m feeling good about getting back to our budgeting roots – so that we can raise our children to do the same!

{All the old blog posts on our budgeting adventures can be found here.}