Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Budgeting, the Newkirk Way: Step 4

Well, I took a little break from posting to enjoy the 4th of July holiday week with my girls.

But I'm ready now to share about Step 4 of our budgeting plan.

Step 4 will include using the monthly calendar to track bills, like my mother-in-law showed me a few years ago.  

This is a step that might seem a little unnecessary to some people, but it is SO nice to have things written out on paper.

Okay, so the first thing you're going to do is buy a cheap monthly calendar.  I have found that the kind of calendar that has one month on a two-page spread works the best.  The boxes are big enough to write in, but you can still find these calendars for next to nothing.

After you have your calendar, you're going to get your monthly budget out and start plugging in your income on the dates it will come in.  Matthew gets paid on the 5th and the 20th, while I get paid on the 25th and the 30th.

Our bills are due at all different times.  The time period between the 5th and the 20th is the time we have to make our dollars "stretch" the most, so we only plug in the bills that are absolutely due between that time period on our calendar.  The majority of our bills get paid between the 20th and the 30th because the majority of our income comes in then.  We also track our fuel expenses, groceries, and other expenses on this calendar.  

So after plugging your income in, you're going to write down all outgoing funds on the dates that you'll pay them.  Start with those debt snowball items, add in your other fixed expenses and utilities, and then add in your other necessary items (groceries, fuel, etc.).  

If you fill up your gas tank once a week, choose a day from each week and write "Gas $__" and however much it takes you to fill up.  

If you grocery shop once a month, but seem to run out of money during that pay period, you might have to break it up into two shopping trips or a once a week trip.  We try to only spend $50 from Matthew's first check on groceries and then spend $150 (or less) later in the month.

Add in your tithe and charity giving, your kids' lunch money, daycare expenses.  If any of these expenses are taken out more than once a month, list them on the various dates that you will pay them.

  
Here is what my budget planner looks like.  We have various expenses that come out during each pay period and I add those onto my calendar in pencil.  When we have some extra income, I plug it in to the first item on my debt snowball and change the expense in this calendar.  I try hard to remember to track even unexpected expenses (and unexpected income!) on here, so we can have a record for building our next month's budget.

When I pay each bill, I put a checkmark through it and when the bill comes through the bank, I mark through the bill completely.

Okay, so that's your job for today...add all of your income and expenses into your monthly calendar so you can make sure you don't miss anything each month!  :)

Hope you're still enjoying these!  
Hannah

Friday, June 27, 2014

Budgeting, the Newkirk way: Step 3

Today, we're going to actually get a preliminary budget down on paper.

The first step is to choose a form to plug things into.

This can be a paper/pencil format, an online budget-building tool, an excel spreadsheet, an app, or a template on Microsoft Word or Pages for Mac.  

Surprisingly, although I prefer technology for everything else, for this step I use paper and pencil.  

Let me emphasize the PENCIL part of that.  It bothers me to scratch anything out in pen, so I use pencil with a really good eraser.  Otherwise, I have to start all over if I mess up or if something changes.  

Start by filling in your estimated income.  I always shoot LOW on Matthew's checks because he is paid hourly, not salary.  I use a lower number than he usually gets paid and sometimes we're pleasantly surprised by a bigger check.

Next, start subtracting out your monthly fixed payments.  This would be any items from the debt snowball you worked on in step 2.  It would also be any fixed utility bills or other payments (charities, insurance, etc.).  You should have these listed on your notebook paper from the other day.

Finally, subtract an estimated amount for each of your other necessary expenses.  This would be fuel, food, household items, pet items, etc.

When we were first starting to budget, I left off any entertainment items, eating out, and other unnecessary purchases.  We lived VERY frugally for several months, until we got our credit cards paid off.  

After that, as I mentioned before, I became a little lazy and unfortunately, started spending more on entertainment, eating out, and other unnecessary items.

I'm revisiting our budget because of the dollars we are WASTING every month on these items.

In our current budget, we try to plan for eating out two times a month.  We take the girls out once to a nicer dinner and then Matthew and I try to go out on a date every month.  A lot of times, we use gift cards for these nights, but it's good to plan for no gift cards and if we have extra money leftover...that's even better!

In our monthly budget, Matthew gets $100 cash a month.  That way, it's coming out early on and not when I see online that he spent $14.00 a day at Casey's on breakfast.  :) 

When the $100 is gone, it's gone.

Okay...now that you've got your income listed and you've subtracted out all of your estimated expenses, evaluate your spending.

There is a chance, that since you are just starting this budget, you might be at a negative number by now.  Well...that simply can't happen.  You can't build a budget and end up in the red.  So this is where it's time to start cutting.

Of course, the best place to start cutting would be with those estimated expenses you added at the end.  Fuel might be hard to cut down on with the prices going up, but your grocery bill is a great place to start!  I'll be posting about how we plan our menus and do our grocery shopping in another post in a few days!

Your budget should equal $0 by the time you're finished.  After you have cut where you can cut, you take whatever you have leftover each month and plug it into your debt snowball.  By adding extra dollars on top of your snowball, you will start paying off those debts in no time!

When we got to just a few low-interest items on our snowball, instead of putting our extra dollars on top of the snowball, we started putting them into a separate checking account to use for things like medical copays, gifts throughout the year, and our year-end taxes.  

Our main goal is to not touch either savings account through the year, unless it is absolutely necessary.   There have been a few times that it has been necessary, and it is a great feeling to know we've got a little saved back to take care of that.

Alright...so work on that step 3 and I'll be back with another post SOON!

Thanks again for listening!
Hannah


Budgeting, the Newkirk way: Step 3

Today, we're going to actually get a preliminary budget down on paper.

The first step is to choose a form to plug things into.

This can be a paper/pencil format, an online budget-building tool, an excel spreadsheet, an app, or a template on Microsoft Word or Pages for Mac.  

Surprisingly, although I prefer technology for everything else, for this step I use paper and pencil.  

Let me emphasize the PENCIL part of that.  It bothers me to scratch anything out in pen, so I use pencil with a really good eraser.  Otherwise, I have to start all over if I mess up or if something changes.  

Start by filling in your estimated income.  I always shoot LOW on Matthew's checks because he is paid hourly, not salary.  I use a lower number than he usually gets paid and sometimes we're pleasantly surprised by a bigger check.

Next, start subtracting out your monthly fixed payments.  This would be any items from the debt snowball you worked on in step 2.  It would also be any fixed utility bills or other payments (charities, insurance, etc.).  You should have these listed on your notebook paper from the other day.

Finally, subtract an estimated amount for each of your other necessary expenses.  This would be fuel, food, household items, pet items, etc.

When we were first starting to budget, I left off any entertainment items, eating out, and other unnecessary purchases.  We lived VERY frugally for several months, until we got our credit cards paid off.  

After that, as I mentioned before, I became a little lazy and unfortunately, started spending more on entertainment, eating out, and other unnecessary items.

I'm revisiting our budget because of the dollars we are WASTING every month on these items.

In our current budget, we try to plan for eating out two times a month.  We take the girls out once to a nicer dinner and then Matthew and I try to go out on a date every month.  A lot of times, we use gift cards for these nights, but it's good to plan for no gift cards and if we have extra money leftover...that's even better!

In our monthly budget, Matthew gets $100 cash a month.  That way, it's coming out early on and not when I see online that he spent $14.00 a day at Casey's on breakfast.  :) 

When the $100 is gone, it's gone.

Okay...now that you've got your income listed and you've subtracted out all of your estimated expenses, evaluate your spending.

There is a chance, that since you are just starting this budget, you might be at a negative number by now.  Well...that simply can't happen.  You can't build a budget and end up in the red.  So this is where it's time to start cutting.

Of course, the best place to start cutting would be with those estimated expenses you added at the end.  Fuel might be hard to cut down on with the prices going up, but your grocery bill is a great place to start!  I'll be posting about how we plan our menus and do our grocery shopping in another post in a few days!

Your budget should equal $0 by the time you're finished.  After you have cut where you can cut, you take whatever you have leftover each month and plug it into your debt snowball.  By adding extra dollars on top of your snowball, you will start paying off those debts in no time!

When we got to just a few low-interest items on our snowball, instead of putting our extra dollars on top of the snowball, we started putting them into a separate checking account to use for things like medical copays, gifts throughout the year, and our year-end taxes.  

Our main goal is to not touch either savings account through the year, unless it is absolutely necessary.   There have been a few times that it has been necessary, and it is a great feeling to know we've got a little saved back to take care of that.

Alright...so work on that step 3 and I'll be back with another post SOON!

Thanks again for listening!
Hannah


Monday, June 23, 2014

Budgeting, the Newkirk Way: Step 2

Alright, so now that you have gone through your bank statements and, if you're like me, beat yourself up over those $5-10 purchases that have now added up to hundreds of dollars, it's time to move on to step 2.

You did go through your bank statements, right?

If not...don't keep reading!  Go do that first!  

It's a very important step!

Step 2: Building Your Debt Snowball

As I mentioned in my first post, Dave Ramsey has been a huge influence in the way we're focusing on paying off debt.  His "Total Money Makeover" method has helped us to build an emergency fund, put a little money into another savings account each month, and pay off debts faster than we would have originally, if we had just stayed with the minimum payments each month.

One of Ramsey's claim to fame is his "debt snowball" method, that I'm going to share with you today.

He outlines steps to becoming debt-free, building wealth, and then being able to give generously with no worries.  One of his biggest taglines is to "live like no one else now, so you can live like no one else later."

It's really about putting our instant gratification aside, and focusing on the big picture.  Before making any purchase, I always think to myself, "What Would Dave Do?"  :)

Okay, so back to the debt snowball.

If you've been reading my blog over the last few years (or if we're friends on social media), you might recall a post I wrote back in April of 2013 on our debt snowball.  It has changed a bit since then, but that might give you a little background knowledge on our financial progress over the years.

Alright...ready to get started?

Ramsey's first step is to get a $1,000 emergency fund stored away somewhere, just in case.  The way we did this was to put that emergency fund as the very first item on our debt snowball and then pay a payment to that account every month.  We started with $100 a month because it's what we could do.  If there was any extra money leftover in the budget at the end of the month, I moved that money over to the emergency fund also.  It should have taken ten months for us to build our emergency fund, and with the snowball method, it took us six.

The next step is to list all of your debt, from the lowest balance to the highest balance.

Now, I will be the first to admit that we strayed a bit from this method.  Mary Hunt, another well-known financial guru, says you should list your debts from highest interest to lowest interest.  Ramsey says lowest balance first because those small victories of paying debts off will propel you into paying the higher balances off with newfound motivation.

I agree with both Hunt & Ramsey's methods, so we took a cue from each and put the debts in an order that worked for us.

After the emergency fund, we put any debts that were under $500.  Those would be easily paid off within a few months and would give us extra dollars to put roll into our debt snowball.  

Then we kind of went with Mary Hunt's method and started higher interest items.  We have a vehicle loan that is our highest interest item.  It's not terrible...I think somewhere in the 6% range, but over the years, that 6% will add up for sure.  So we put that loan next.  We stay with our smaller loans first and get all of them listed in the best possible way to pay off debt quickly, stay motivated, but not give too much interest away, in the process.

Those "huge" debts you have should be saved until the very end.  In our case, this is our mortgage and my student loans.  We put those as very last.  Pay off your smaller debts and you'll be able to put thousands of dollars on your house payment sooner than later!

Alright, so here is our current debt snowball items listed.  Your list should look similar to this.

- Emergency Fund ($100 monthly payment)
- John Deere ($161 monthly payment)
- Overland Park Regional ($150 monthly payment)
- GMC Denali Payment ($352 monthly payment)
- GMC Truck Payment ($311 monthly payment)
- House ($860 monthly payment)
- Student Loan ($250 monthly payment)

Our Emergency Fund is already funded, so on our debt snowball, we have that marked off as paid.  

The $100 that we were putting into that account now goes on our John Deere loan, making that payment $261.  

When we pay off the John Deere loan (in just a few months!), we'll add that $261 onto the hospital bill and that will be a payment of $411.  

Do you see how this method is like a "snowball"?  We keep rolling our payments onto the next payment and we will have these items paid off in no time!  Plus, we'll be saving the interest that we would have paid to them!

Now, before you start rolling anything into a snowball, you must make sure you are current with all payments.  We cannot budget correctly if we aren't current on our bills.  And don't get ahead of yourself on the snowball.  Only add extra money to the top item and watch those smaller debts quickly fade away.  For me, it's like a game.  I try to pay off as much as I can in one month and try to "beat" myself on the dates I had originally planned to pay things off. 

Like I said in my first post...I'm a total nerd.

Okay, so now we have our debts in whichever order you feel is right for you.

Next, we're going to add those debts to some sort of a snowball tracking form.  There are many options for this.

You can write them down on paper and track it that way.  I did that for several years before I found the iPad app I use now.  Every month, I redid my snowball and accounted for any extra "found" income that I could roll on top of it.  Good old fashioned Pencil & Paper is totally acceptable!

You could make a spreadsheet on the computer.  I also did this for a few years.  At the top, I put the months and down the side, I put my debts.  Each month, I added the payments I would be making and added whatever extra I could to the next debt in line.  A spreadsheet works too!

Dave Ramsey has a website that will help you build your snowball, but it's a $9.99 per month subscription.  I did it for a while and one day just decided that I could be putting that $10 a month on top of my snowball!  Every little bit counts!

The tracking device I use now is an iPad app called "Debt PayOff Pro".  I think it's $.99 in the App Store.  Or at least it was a few years ago when I started using it.  You plug in your debt snowball items, with their current balances, interest rates, and monthly payments and then you choose a payoff plan.  This could be lowest balance first, highest interest first, or a custom set up.  You can also add an "extra" monthly payment.  For example, let's say in the fall, we teachers get a raise.  I could keep my budget completely the same and just add my monthly raise to my snowball.  

I prefer the app because it does all the work for me.  I can add just $20 a month and it shows me how much shorter I'll be paying on a specific bill.  You would be shocked at what $20 a month does in the long run.

Regardless of the method you choose to track your snowball, you have to track it somehow.  Otherwise, you'll lose motivation when it comes to paying down your debt.

Alright...so that's your assignment for today!  BUILD YOUR SNOWBALL!

Does anyone else think this is kind of fun, or is that just me?

Talk to you soon!
Hannah

  

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Budgeting, the Newkirk Way: Step 1

I've had some people ask me about how we deal with our finances here at the Newkirk house.  I have always loved talking about this and if we're being honest, I am a complete and total nerd about making the dollars work for us.

Most of the time.  

However, I will be the first to admit that over the last nine months, I definitely have missed some huge saving opportunities and often took the "easy way out" instead of the "frugal way out".  

You see, with this pregnancy, for whatever reason, I was a lot more tired than I ever remember being with the older two girls.  I'm not sure if it's because I had two other children running around involved in activities, I was teaching fulltime and still running a photography business, or just because I'm five years older than I was with the last pregnancy.  One of the many joys of being 30.  :)

Regardless of why I was so tired, one thing is for certain...planning a menu, grocery shopping, and cooking at home were NOT on my top priority list.  And so, we ate out far too often.  In fact, when I looked back at the bank statements from the last few months, I was mortified at the amount of money we spent at random fast-food establishments.  Mort. I. Fied.

The other piece to this puzzle is that in the last few months, I have nearly shut the doors on my photography business.  I am taking a few clients here and there, doing some mini-sessions, and shooting a few weddings each year.  However, this will be a substantial loss of income for us.  It has definitely been worth it so far this summer to be spending time at home with my dear husband and babies, but it is also becoming quite the adjustment financially.

And so...we're back on the budgeting band-wagon.

And we'd love for you to join us.


Over the next few weeks, I'm going to post a step-by-step plan of how we deal with our finances.

Today, I'd like to help you get started on writing a household budget, by answering some key questions about what works for us.

Where did our budgeting method come from?

My budgeting method has really changed over the years.  

My parents have been the most influential in my financial journey.  For as far back as I can remember, my mom has worked and reworked their budget at the beginning of each month.  I can remember her getting out an old green amortization book to see how quickly they could pay off our house and how much extra it would take added on the principle to take a certain amount of months off of the loan.  I'm thankful that she talked with us about this, from a young age, to help us value being proactive to pay off loans.  

My parents have also always spoken with us about giving.  They are avid tithers, giving more than 10% of their income every single month.  Even on very, very hard months, they still give to the church.  When people need financial assistance, they are extremely generous and always quick to help in any way they can.  I believe that God has blessed this and because of that, Matthew and I really believe in tithing and giving to others as well.  Yes, my parents have influenced the way we budget our money.

When we first got married, I visited with our good friends Danny & Sara about how they budget, as well.  Sara showed me an excel spreadsheet of their spending and showed me how she entered their receipts and tried to stick to their alotted amounts.  She also showed me how she planned their menu and grocery shopping lists every month, in order to save the most money possible.  She probably had no idea over ten years ago that I would still be using a lot of what she taught me in our marriage!  Thanks, Sara!

A few years ago, I was headed north to do some shopping and called Matthew's mom to see if she needed anything.  She wanted a thin year-long calendar that has one month on each two-page spread to put her bills on.  This peaked my curiosity, so when I picked her up one, I got me one too.  And when I got to her house that evening, I had her show me how she put her bills on there to stay organized.  I loved it and have been using the same method ever since!  I'll show you all how she does it in a few days!

One of my other big influencers is Dave Ramsey.  I read his book "The Total Money Makeover" and was inspired to really try and get out of debt.  I will admit, we haven't been the best at this, but have been paying off several debts through the years and are still working hard to "work our snowball", as he says.  You can look forward to more information on that later this week, as well!  

Where do I start?

Alright.  Let's get this budgeting party started.  

Step 1: Collect some information.

The very first thing you need to do before diving into paying off debt, building your savings, menu-planning, coupon-shopping, and "budgeting" is to collect some information about your current finances.  We'll use these bits and pieces of information over the next few weeks to build a budget for July.

The first thing you need to know is what income you will have coming in.  

I am paid on a salary schedule, so every single month, I know exactly what my check is going to be.  Matthew is paid hourly, so we know that his check will be around a certain figure.  He gets paid twice a month and when I am making my budget, I always put that number as the lowest possible figure it could be.  When his check ends up to be bigger than I planned for, we put that money right on top of our debt snowball.  It's always better to plan lower than higher on the income side.  So on a piece of notebook paper, add all of your monthly income that is FOR SURE coming in.  I add a section for "extra income" also, and add it through the month (this would be my photography income, any side jobs Matthew might do, etc.).

Now, collect your bank statements from the last 3-6 months.

You'll need four different colors of highlighters.  

Mark your fixed debt items in one color.  This would be a mortgage payment, car payments, and any other loans you have.

Mark your other fixed monthly bills in another color.  This might be your utilities, any rent, any subscriptions, insurance payments, monthly charity donations or tithe, or anything else of that nature.

Use a third color to mark other necessary expenses.  This would include fuel, groceries, medicines, and anything else that you cannot cut out of your budget.

Finally, use your final color to highlight anything that would be considered unnecessary expenses...the extras.  Now, this isn't to say that there won't be any extra spending money at the end of each month, but this is where we cut first.  

If you're like me, you'll be floored at the amount of money you spent over the last 3-6 months on these unnecessary items.  When we're not tracking them, it's so easy to spend hundreds of dollars, $5-10 dollars at a time.

Once you've highlighted all of these items on your bank statements, add them to the same notebook paper that you put your income on.

Start with your debt items.  List the name of the debt and the monthly payment.

Then move on to your fixed bills.  Again, list the name of the bill and the monthly payment amount.  If your utilities aren't fixed, aim high.  For example, our electric bill is usually between $160-180, but has been as high as $300 in the winter.  I put it in our budget as $225 just to be safe.

Next, add your other necessary expenses...fuels, groceries, medications, subscriptions, etc.

That's it for today!  I hope you're feeling good so far about joining me in getting our finances back on track!  :)

Talk to you soon!
Hannah

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tomorrow.

It seems like with every pregnancy, my nine months of preparation time has gone faster and faster.

With #1, I remember waiting and waiting to "show".  I spent lots of time wondering if what I was feeling inside of my belly was her moving.  It seemed like it took forever for people to realize I was pregnant without me telling them.

With #2, the reason I even THOUGHT I could be pregnant is because I started to "show".  It all happened earlier that time.  I started showing at 6 weeks.  I remember feeling her move pretty early in the pregnancy.  And when we went to my doctor's appointment on the morning they decided to induce me, it felt like we had just found out we were expecting.  Yes...#2 was faster.

And tomorrow comes #3. 

#3 has been a whirlwind.  From finding out we were expecting, announcing it with a photograph of my older two girls, to numerous doctor's appointments over the last nine months (many of which I was measuring WAY ahead of schedule), to moving through the entire school year and longing for summer to take a short rest before she joins us.  And now.  Here she comes.  Tomorrow morning.

I don't even remember a time that I wasn't showing with this pregnancy.  From the time I took a test, she was already shaping up inside there to give me that nice little baby bump VERY early.  I remember feeling her move MUCH earlier than the other two girls.  And I remember this pregnancy being a little bit more difficult on me.

Granted, I turned 30 in March.  Baby #2 is now 5.  My body hasn't done this in a while and things change in five years.  I was much sicker at the beginning.  My joints ached throughout.  I didn't sleep well from day 1.  I'm getting older...this I know.

But, oh my.  

What a blessing it has been to be able to feel one more baby kick me from the inside.  To be able to share that with my older two girls.  To hear that heartbeat and see those sweet sonogram pictures.  Yes, even with the lack of sleep and aching joints...what a sweet blessing.

What a reminder of the power of our God.

That He can take a baby from this...


to this...



in nine short months.

And tomorrow, we'll finally meet her.

Wow.  

Now, I will admit that I'm a bit anxious about this delivery.  The older two babies were natural deliveries with no complications, whatsoever.  For a few reasons, #3 will be a planned cesearean section tomorrow morning, June 11th, at 10:30 a.m.

People have c-sections every day.  My doctor and her partners perform c-sections every day.  Many, MANY of my friends and family have delivered their babies via c-section and they are absolutely fine.  But I'm still a bit nervous.  

I know I'll survive it.

And I know that somewhere around 11:00 tomorrow morning, we'll be holding our sweet girl.

We'd appreciate your prayers as we start this journey with baby #3.  Please pray for a safe delivery, a healthy baby, and for both of our recoveries.  Please pray for our older two girls, as they make this adjustment and for the Matthew & I as we start this trip into parents of three kids.  

These last nine months have flown by.  And once again, I am reminded that we are so very blessed.

<3  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dreamer.

Spring Break.  Sigh.

All school year, I've been planning for all of the progress I'm going to make over this one week...my beloved spring break.  

I made a list MONTHS ago of things I wanted to accomplish over this week.  And to be honest, I've met some of my goals.  Of course, my lists are always extremely long and drawn out and more detailed than anyone would ever need.  Not to mention the fact that they're completely unrealistic.

Anybody else have this problem?  You have much higher hopes for yourself than would ever possibly happen?  Yeah, me too.  And it's okay.  

Small progress is better than no progress.

The weirdest thing about this break so far is that I cannot sleep at night and when I finally do fall asleep, you would expect me to be able to sleep in.  Nope...4:00, 5:00, 6:00 a.m. and I'm wide awake and ready to start the day.

And here I am right now, when I should be utterly exhausted because I didn't sleep last night and have been going strong all day, wide-awake and thinking and planning for the weeks to come.

Pinterest definitely doesn't help my sleeping problem. 

Yes, there are wonderful ideas on Pinterest and I've even used some of them.  Probably less than 1% of what I've pinned, if we're being honest.  But it's fun to pin and dream and pin some more.

And so tonight, as everyone else in my family is snoozing away, I'm sitting here dreaming.  

Dreaming of actually keeping up with my blog eventually and not simply posting every few months. Dreaming of this blog being a journal of family progress, memories, and things I want to remember.

I'm dreaming of what life will be like when I no longer run a photography studio.  I can't even imagine it, to be honest.  To just be a fulltime teacher.  A wife.  A mom.  A mom to three little girls.

I'm dreaming of a house that is decluttered and clean and organized.  Dreaming of a time in my life when I don't feel the need to keep every single little thing people have given me.  When my house includes ONLY items that we love and use regularly.

I'm dreaming of meals on my table every night that I've planned and purchased frugally...like I used to.  Family devotions around that table.  Good conversation about school and church and life.

I'm dreaming of summer nights with two little girls running around the yard chasing fireflies, while baby sister sits with me on the patio.  Dreaming of family storytime by the fireplace in the fall.  Dreaming of dressing up my three lovelies in matching Christmas dresses next December.  

Dreaming.  Dreaming.  Dreaming.

And you know what?  I feel like this spring break has been the start of something.  

The start of me being able to put some of those dreams and goals and plans into place.  

The start of me being able to let go of some things, in order to make room for things that really, truly matter.  

The start of me being able to feel contentment and peace and excitement for what's coming to our little family.  A bigger focus on my classroom planning and instruction.  More free time with my family.  And of course, Baby M in June.

This spring break has brought me a glimpse of a wonderful future in our little, cozy home.  A glimpse of three precious girls and many, many memories.  

And based on these glimpses into our future, I think it's safe to say that dreams really do come true. <3