Finley’s 3rd & 4th Month!

I have been trying to get this post created for (obviously) two months ::face palm::. I have been making a concerted effort to get TONS of pictures of our life with Finley as she gets older. I’ve been taking my camera everywhere and unapologetically been demanding pictures because the cliche saying that they grow up too fast is too true – THEY GROW UP TOO FAST. I’m so glad I have these images and these frozen moments in time but now I have a back log of images to share :). A good problem to have, no doubt.

That other cliche saying of “I wish there were more hours in the day” is also very true of parenthood. In the hubbub of Fall Minis, a 12 week growth spurt, the holidays, Christmas shopping, and a four month sleep regression, I have found so many excuses to put off writing this post. The thing is, I WANT to share these images because in a few months, a year or more I will be so glad that I can look back on this post. I have been blogging here since 2011 and every so often I’ll go back in time and look at personal blog posts of what I was randomly doing. This place is like a scrapbook of my post college life and I LOVE it! So as much as I’m sharing these images for you to see – I’m totally sharing these images for me. 🙂

NOW the reason for the post – Finley updates!!

In the past two months she has really grown SO much! Not only is she significantly bigger but she also has a bigger and bigger personality! Between 3 and 4 months she became so much more interactive and you can see it in the pictures below. At three months she’d make eye contact, track us and smile but also had a real serious face (as seen below) and would still space out. Jump to 4 months and she smiles ALL the time, has tons of little facial expressions and even laughs! Even her doctor kept saying at her four month check up “WOW she is so expressive!” :).

I love that she LOVES being read to and will even grab the book and push to move the pages. She is OBSESSED with her play mat and all the things we have hanging from it for her to grab, chew on and feel. She found her hands and loves chewing on them. She LOVES the bath and makes a HUGE mess as she kicks like crazy – splashing water EVERYWHERE. 🙂 At 11 weeks she started sleeping through the night but has recently hit a bit of a sleep regression. We’re hoping it won’t last long but who knows. It’s hard that she struggles to fall asleep but I do love that she’s easily comforted by being held and snuggled, so I’m exhaustedly soaking up the snuggles.

I’m so glad to be sharing these images and want to give you fair warning that this is a pretty big photo dump. 🙂 We love this girl more and more and as hard and exhausting as it is – it is truly the so much fun watching her grow and learn!

Finley LOVES this fox. We named him “Mr. Fox” and she thinks he’s the greatest.
The face on the left KILLS ME – I’m DYING laughing!!

The next few pictures are from the beginning of October when Finley had just turned two months (and was in her third month – thus being included in this post). We had just taken the Perez family pictures and we hung back after their session so Sterling could get some pictures of me and Finley. She looks SO different here! It’s amazing to see the difference, she’s so much more interactive with people and her surroundings now.

One day this past October I was driving past the Maryland Agriculture Resource Council and noticed this GORGEOUS road that was tree lined with BEAUTIFUL colorful leaves. I came home and said to Sterling that we HAD to get fall pictures there before the leaves fell. Thank God we did because three days later I drove past it again and EVERY leaf had fallen off. We tried so hard to get a family picture together using my tripod but the distance was too far for the phone remote app and none of them turned out. I’m so grateful I got preordered a clicker for my camera to own for any future spontaneous photo shoots. 🙂

When we were in Richmond for minis Sterling’s family came over from Charlottesville to have a socially distanced lunch with us. Sterling’s sister’s family had never met Finley so it was especially nice. His mom even got a COVID test so she could hold Finley.

GiGi and her Granddaughters


Now for some iPhone pics

These bear outfits kill me 🙂
Holding her bottle for the first time. I only sobbed a little bit 🙂
She looks so much smaller here!!
My friend Jessie, Finley and I went to a park and walked around together. We took off our masks for a second to snag our own socially distanced pictures in front of this really cool painted barns.
Oh she just loves her Daddy
Happy Halloween indeed.

Surprise! We’re Pregnant!

A year ago this month, doubt started to creep into my head.  Something that seemed normal and easy for everyone else around me, was starting to not be easy for us. November had come and gone, December too, then January and February joined the mix of disappointments.  Month by month I went from hopeful and excited to sad and distant.  Each month I would take a test I dreaded knowing it would be no but secretly hoping I’d be wrong.  Each no making me feel more and more like a failure.

I think the hardest part of walking through 12 months of NOs was that feeling of deep failure only to walk into the next month and have to try and find hope again.  For me, praying kept me hopeful.  I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would give us a chance.  That God would give me patience and remind me that this was not on my schedule, my timeline, my control.  Real talk? This sucked and was really hard.  For someone like me who loves to plan and finds comfort in knowing, not having any control was disheartening.  Part of me thinks God was waiting for me to stop planning, stop counting months, stop worrying and just TRUST him.   Let go of the control, let go of the anxiety and fear and just give it to him.  Read More »

Cromwell Valley Park Fall Portraits

Let’s keep it real. There may or may not have been a snake(s) in that field…. We will never know.

FACT about me. I am NOT brave. Not in an obvious way that is. I cry when getting shots, I jumped around like a LOON to scare away any snakes in this picture and I normally would NEVER be brave enough to wear a hat like this. I am a Plain Jane. I order what I know I’ll like at restaurants, am too nervous to online shop, and try to avoid change at all costs.Read More »

Our 2nd Year of Marriage

Our second year of marriage was really lovely!  Compared to how many curve balls our first year threw us with changing jobs (twice for EACH of us), new schools, TWO moves and all the “did that seriously just happen”s in-between we learned how to lean on each other as the best source of stability and comfort!  Which led us into our second year which was smooth sailing!  Read More »

The Dave Ramsey Life – Our Road to Being Debt Free

On Monday we did something so exciting!! I have been looking forward to this moment for MONTHS (18 to be exact).  When the time came to hit the submit button I was OVERJOYED because this online click represents a year of changes, struggles, anxiety, pain, joy, and pride.  This past Monday we PAID OFF MY CAR!!! We are on our way to financial freedom having paid off almost all our debt (still working on student loans) and I’m thrilled with our progress!

This time last year we were living on one paycheck and felt like we were in a HOLE that we couldn’t get out of.  Two humans, two dogs, too high of a rent payment – one paycheck.  We were stressed, emotional, trying to keep up with the same lifestyle we had just a few months before and realizing that we needed a change.

The backstory of all of this can be read here: Part 1  & Part 2 but the long and the short of it is that in February/March of last year Sterling left his job.  We were left with one paycheck, all the same bills and a rent that was too high for our current status.  We also had student loan payments, and credit card payments.  We felt totally hopeless.

And then I realized that other families do this all the time, they live off one paycheck and far less than what we have.  There were people coming out of debt and finding a manageable lifestyle within their means that I could look to as an example.  So I started looking up budget solutions because I felt like there had to be a book or something that could help us figure out how to do this.  Then one night we were in Barnes and Nobel and I asked Sterling if we could go to the financial section and SMACK.  Right in front of us was Dave Ramsey’s whole collection of books including “The Total Money Makeover – A proven plan for financial fitness“.  I thought well geez looks interesting so we sat down in the aisle of Barnes and Nobel and skimmed it.

The book is funny!  And honest!  And it gave real step by step plans for how to live in our means, get out of debt and save for our future to live like no-one else.  I looked to Sterling and said – “I think this could really help us – I think we should buy this, both read it and try his plan”.  He was a little hesitant at first because Sterling doesn’t like gimmicks and neither of us was sure if what Dave Ramsey said would really work, but we thought – “Well… it can’t hurt” and we bought the book.

This decision has changed our lives.

I don’t really mean to be dramatic but I seriously know that this book, this plan and this moment in Barnes and Nobel was an answered prayer and one that has changed not only the past year, but our future.  Why?  Because we have a plan.  A plan for how to save, how to use our money down to the penny, how to get out of debt and make money work for us.  It hasn’t been perfect but it’s been good.  The best, and I mean BEST part about this has been the peace of mind that this has made us feel.

Dave Ramsey’s plan taught us simple little truths and challenged our lifestyle so that we could pay off our wedding ring payment, two credit cards, a $25000 car loan and make long term plans for student loans and retirement.  Here’s some basics of how this happened for us but for the whole Dave Ramsey plan I HIGHLY recommend reading his book.

FIRST: We reviewed past statements
The first step for us was going through and looking at old bank statements to see where we were spending money and what things we could cut.  This also helped us see where we were wasting money and what kind of budget we needed for things like food.  We realized we were spending and wasting a lot of money on eating out and food when we could have been making food at home.

SECOND: We downsized 
Soon after starting this path we knew we could not afford our current rent and needed to downsize.  So we went to the leasing office and changed our lease over to a one bedroom.  Our new tiny (but affordable) space didn’t have enough room for our things so we had to make cuts.  We gave away a good 1/3 of our stuff to Goodwill, packed and stored another third in friends and families attics, basements and sheds and moved into a teeny tiny (but affordable) space.  This step was hard because we had to change from a lifestyle of saying yes to fun things with friends and things we wanted to only working with things we needed.  Our friends were amazing and people who knew the story were really supportive but it was hard explaining our choices to people on the periphery.  I actually had someone, after telling them we were downsizing, look at me and go “What are you BROKE or something?!”  Ow.  If you’re choosing to get financial freedom and make good decisions for your family, these comments might/probably will happen but don’t let it get to you.  While last year that comment really hurt my feelings, now I can shrug it off because we’re in a much better place!

THIRD: Mapped out a CASH budget 
After we looked at the old statements we sat down with a google spreadsheet and mapped out all the money coming in, all the money that HAD to go out for bills, food etc. and then what was left over.  We cut our food budget down to $75 a week which meant we couldn’t eat out like we used to.  As per Dave Ramsey’s suggestion, we would sit down together each month and make the budget together with honest conversations about what we needed, wanted and could live without.  We took out CASH for each of these budgets and put them in envelopes for each week.  This helped a TON because we had to use only that amount of cash and when it was gone – it was gone.  We started grocery shopping at discount places like ALDI and Lidl and found that we saved SO MUCH money and the food was just as good!  We started seeing that this strict budget was actually not as uncomfortable as we thought and we still had a fine lifestyle – we could have even sacrificed more.

FOURTH: DUMPED into Debt! 
All the rest of the money that was left over after our cash budget and bills, we DUMPED into our debt.  Last spring when we just had one paycheck had nothing extra and could only pay minimum payments.  But when we moved up to Baltimore and transitioned back to two paychecks we kept our same strict budget from before and had a lot left over to dump into debt. This is what helped us pay off our credit cards, ring payments, and our car in just 18 months.  When our income shifted back to a higher rate – we could have easily increased our fun but being on the strict Dave Ramsey plan taught us that we really didn’t need to – we still had plenty of fun living in our means while dumping down on our debt.  Last year before reading Dave Ramsey’s book –  I never would have imagined that we could pay off all this debt so quickly.  NEVER.  I never would have believed that we had excess to put towards debt.  But we did.  We just never realized it because we didn’t force ourselves to make sacrifices and live within our means.

So where are we now!? Now we are at a place where we only have student loans left (which we are kind of treating like a mortgage) and are able to save for a down payment for a house one day and any other emergencies that might come up.  We feel way more in control over our money and where it’s going in our future.   Just the freedom of feeling more in control over our money has made a HUGE difference in our lives.  We feel so blessed and are so grateful to be moving forward in the Dave Ramsey plan!  We are moving on to baby step 3 and are SO EXCITED!

If you’re in a place like we were last year I highly recommend checking out Dave Ramsey’s resources.  The reality is though that there are a lot of resources out there can help.  Dave Ramsey really helped us but in all honesty, it was US that had to do the hard work.  Just mapping out our budget, telling our money where to go and taking out cash was a huge step forward for us.  Then when we started cutting things we didn’t need – it started to change our mindset, we didn’t need all this stuffHere is a blank copy of the spreadsheet we use to budget – feel free to make a copy of it and adapt it if you want.  If it doesn’t make any sense you can always reach out and I’ll explain how I formulated everything – sometimes it takes a little tweaking.  🙂

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Sterling Turns 30! Happy Birthday!


Today’s blog post is a personal one because my husband, Sterling, has officially left his twenties and joined me in the 30s!  THIRTY feels like such a HUGE milestone so I was shocked when I went to the store to grab him a birthday card and couldn’t find any that were specifically for 30.  There were lots of cards for 40, 50, 60, even 80 and of course your teen milestones and young milestones like 5, but none for 30.  When I turned 30 it honestly felt like the new 21!  My friends and I went to Austin Texas and had a merry ole time.  For Sterling’s birthday, we’ve planned quite the treat.  His best friend Bobby and I have been planning a surprise birthday party for him for this Saturday.  Now you may be thinking ALEX!  YOU JUST RUINED IT!  Well, spoiler alert the surprise is busted, BUT, we’re still going along with the party and he doesn’t know anything about who is coming or what is in store so it’s still kind of surprise.  I’ll share more details later – don’t worry.Read More »