State of the Bus Address

Lots of things are a-happenin’ ’round here.

BUS STUFF

It’s been a little over five months now since our move in day (can you believe it?) and we’ve come a long way from spending that first evening unpacking in the dark. The novelty is wearing off (in direct correlation to how my pregnancy has advanced and the heat of the summer has increased, interestingly enough), but I think we’ve developed a rhythm of sorts.

There have definitely been good days and bad days and I’ve been thinking about whether or not I would recommend this lifestyle to anybody else. It’s really difficult to say because there are so many different variables to consider:

Do you have kids?

Are you pregnant?

Are you staying in one place or traveling?

Are you going to be in a 45-year-old school bus or a brand new RV?

How big is your personal space bubble?

What kind of climate do you live in?

Are you adverse to participating firsthand in the removal of your own waste?

You see? Lots of things to think about. Lately, whenever I’m tempted to whine (because I’m kind of a whiner), I think about this family that travels in their RV with 9 kids (down from 12, at one point). Her comment came up after mine on this post from Money Saving Mom about a single guy living and traveling in his van.

Between us, the Ticknors and Foster Huntington there are three alternative living situations that seem similar, but have completely different tradeoffs in terms of comfort, saving money and feasibility.

I just found the whole comparison very interesting and it probably warrants further expounding upon in a different post. Maybe.

In other news: Now that we’re nearing the end of the summer, we’ll need to ramp up our solar set-up a bit – this will include buying more batteries, at least one more solar panel and probably a bigger inverter. (Eventually Noah will have a minute and write a post explaining how we make our current situation work… and if not, I’ll go ahead and do a hack-job of it.)

LOAN STUFF

You guys.

This whole “borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to build a house” thing is ridiculous.

Remember how we found a broker that we knew and trusted and came highly recommended from friends? Well, he was definitely a stellar guy, and at first the loan seemed like it was exactly what we needed. As we went along with the process, however, we realized that the lender (totally separate from the broker, who, again, was great) was charging us an arm and a leg and they kept wanting us to give them more and more and more without giving US anything additional in return.

It was extremely frustrating and I kind of felt like we were being bullied (which is possibly an exaggeration, but that is how excitable my hormones are right now, don’t judge).

We finally found ANOTHER reputable lender that we’re in the process of getting approved through that will potentially save us at least $10,000 over the course of construction. Which is extremely exciting for me, especially since that business gets charge compound interest over the life of the loan, so in reality we’re saving… like…  $30,000. Or some other, larger, amount that would require a calculator to figure out.

Either way: hooray!

I’ll provide more details once everything is settled into place, but I feel a LOT better now and things look like they’re going to go pretty smoothly… as long as horrible things don’t happen.

VEHICLE STUFF

Unfortunately, the Murano is going to cost a lot to repair. A lot more than we are willing to put into it right now, in fact. We are instead ignoring it like a red-headed step-child.

In the meantime, the ignition on the Pathfinder has been fixed, so I’m back to using a real key like a grown up!

We still need to find and purchase a vehicle that will fit our entire family before our new arrival… arrives. Noah is in favor of an SUV with a third row and I am firmly in the mini-van camp. Any opinions? 

To fund this purchase we are probably going to sell the RV pretty quick here, hopefully at a profit since we put in laminate flooring after we bought it.

KID STUFF

Lily starts school again next week.

NEXT WEEK!

I am utterly flabbergasted.

The school Lily attends is a local public charter school that operates on a home school – hybrid schedule. Lily attends “workshop” two days a week with a certified teacher, and I teach her the other three days from home using materials provided by the school. They offer a curriculum, but I am free to supplement and interchange things to best fit her learning style and interests.

The school also offers the option of homeschooling 5-days per week with a lot more flexibility with regard to curriculum, but Lily LOVES going to class, so.

Although I have my likes (flexibility! parent/teacher partnership!) and dislikes (waking my kids up early on school days… driving across town… making lunches…) of the program, for the most part it’s been a wonderful fit for our family.

Yesterday we went to pick up her books (and CDs and games…) and my brain was completely torn between “Mmmm… educational materials…” and “WHERE AM I GOING TO PUT ALL THIS STUFF?!”

Then I spent the rest of the day trying to get organized and discovering that I had unwittingly packed away a lot of necessary materials (sheet protectors! binders! three-hole-punch! Where are you?). So that was fun.

END STUFF

Aaaaaand that’s where we stand right now. Please be advised that any and all questions, comments, compliments and arguments will be fielded in the comment section. Thank you and good day.

 

Two Random, Unrelated Money Saving Tips

This is not a sponsored post and I am not affiliated with Glacier or Dorco in any way. I just like sharing about good deals because saving money is so much nicer than spending a ton of it unnecessarily.

I’ve mentioned before that this whole bus-dwelling project has come with its own set of unexpected expenses that has kept us from saving every penny of what we were previously spending on rent.

Because of this, and also because I would probably still try to find ways to save money even if we were millionaires, I was excited to discover two things that will potentially save us quite a bit of money this year and I wanted to share them.

The first tip is for people who purchase bottled water.

Before we moved into the bus I didn’t drink tap water simply because I didn’t like the taste (never mind all the junk that’s probably floating around in it). I found a Pur (affiliate link) filter on clearance and we used it for years (if this is the route you go, can I also suggest purchasing Target’s replacement filters? I found them to be much less expensive than the name brand and they fit both Pur and Brita filters).

Since the move, however, we have been buying bottled drinking water because we simply don’t trust what might be in these decades old pipes, and didn’t know if it would be filtered out. If you had done the cleanout, you wouldn’t either.

At first we just bought the big packs of 16 oz bottled water, but I kept finding half-empty bottles all over the place, plus the fact that we have to pay CRV on each individual bottle and I quickly got over that. So we started buying the 2.5 gallon jugs with the pull-out dispensers, but the kids kept having trouble with them and we wound up with water all over the floor on a daily basis. Finally, I just started buying gallon jugs at about a dollar a pop.

It wasn’t until that point that I finally started paying attention to something I had been overlooking forever:

water

I had always thought that those big water-dispensers you see outside of grocery stores were only for filling up the large, five-gallon jugs. Turns out, they also have a 1-gallon dispense option and it’s also only 25 cents per gallon. That’s a savings of 75% every time we fill up water AND it’s eco-friendly because we’re reusing water bottles.

There are, of course, much less expensive ways to get clean water, but this makes it a whole lot cheaper if this is the route you need to take.

The second tip probably applies to more people because who doesn’t ever buy razors? Aside from Noah during Chargers season, of course. (Anybody else with a slightly superstitious spouse?)

I have been an avid couponer in the past, and those of you who are know that good deals on razors aren’t terribly infrequent and you can often get them for free or cheap. We kept a stockpile that was purchased extremely inexpensively that way for a long time.

However, our stockpile has run out and I haven’t been diligently couponing since the move (in part because we live farther away from town now and it is frustrating to make a special trip only to find what you need is out of stock already – a problem I frequently had when trying to get deals on razors).

I had heard good things about the Dollar Shave Club, and Noah and I cracked up watching their hilarious ad (it’s posted directly on the site if you’re interested). Some people love it, and Stephanie from Six Figures Under did a write-up of how much they like it here.

However, I was kind of disappointed to discover that their lowest level of subscription is actually $3 a month when you add in shipping and it’s only for twin blades.

Upon doing a bit more research, I was able to find what I believe amounts to a better deal going straight to the manufacturer that the DSC uses: Dorco.

I ordered the August “Frugal Dude” Pack, which qualifies for free shipping AND I found a 20% off coupon code from RetailMeNot.com which brought the total down to $30 for 29 individual blades of different kinds (if I did my math right – the two packages with reusable handles each came with 2 blades). They arrived within just a couple days and here is what I received:

razors

It’s a sample-pack of different kinds of blades, from 3-blades to 6-blades with a trimmer. Dorco claims that this is a year’s worth of razors, which is probably variable depending on how sensitive your skin is and how well you take care of your blades.

In our situation (football season excluded), because Noah has super sensitive skin, he usually only uses a blade once or twice, but then I’m able to use it to shave with for weeks. I’ve also heard that storing your blades in mineral oil (or baby oil) helps keep them clean and sharp. (I’ve even gone so far as to shave with baby oil with great success as far as skin-smoothness is concerned, but it’s really, really bad for your plumbing and not appropriate if you recycle your grey-water, so I don’t recommend it.)

I can’t speak for the quality of all the razors yet, but I’ll post an update in a few weeks and let you know.

I hope these were helpful money saving tips for someone out there. I’d love to hear some of yours!

Yes Day

Friends, I gotta tell you something.

This summer I have been pretty much a terrible mom.

Not an abusive, someone-needs-to-take-my-children-away-from-me kind of mom. Just your average kind of terrible. The kind of terrible where you move your children into a bus, then a week later find out you’re pregnant and you spend your summer feeling uncomfortable and irritable and snappy and don’t want to get up off the couch and do ANYthing that involves movement. You know what I’m talking about, right?

As a result, the kids greet Noah’s arrival home every evening like they are being released from a lifetime sentence because HERE COMES THE PARENT THAT WILL PLAY WITH US! Which, okay, they greet him like that anyway, even when I’m at my best, because I am more the read-out-loud, let-you-cook-and-bake-with-me kind of parent. I don’t give them “superman” swing pushes right (although sometimes they will settle for a “super-mommy”), I’m not tall enough to lift them up into the branches of the trees and spot them while they climb around and I pretty much don’t have a “let’s build an entire play house out of pallet wood!” bone in my body.

Plus, they’re with me all day, every day and Noah has the distinct, somewhat enviable advantage of novelty.

The point is: when Noah mentioned last week that he was going to be working 12-hour shifts for the next nine days straight, which includes TWO weekends in a row, the kids and I all looked at him like he was announcing the death of everything good in the world. Lily actually burst into tears.

I knew that this called for drastic action, so I announced that while Daddy was gone we would have a “Yes Day”.

“Yes day” originated after reading this book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal a few years ago. We’ve had a few since then and they usually occur as a result of extremely good behavior or because I’m feeling guilty about not being fun enough. (So we should probably have more of them than we do.)

Basically Yes Day is just a day when the kids get to hear “yes” to (just about) whatever they want, all day long. Wanna stay in their pajamas all day? Sure. Wanna watch a movie in the middle of the day? Go for it. Want a slice of cake before lunch? Be my guest.

It’s actually kind of an easy day to be a parent.

There are restrictions, of course:

1. It has to be actually doable (we’re not talking last minute roadtrips out of state here)

2. It can’t cost a ton of money 

3. They have to agree together what they want to do

4. Their behavior has to be completely acceptable throughout the day

I retain ultimate veto power, obviously, but I try to use it sparingly.

You know what always surprises me about these days though? The fact that their requests are so simple. I remember the first time we did it, they asked for me to play dress-up with them, they wanted to all make a salad together (!) and they wanted to watch The Land Before Time five times in a row.

This time they wanted

1. To go to the mall

2. To have chicken nuggets for lunch

3. To go to the park

4. To get to help make pancakes for dinner (“silly supper”)

That was it. Their expectations have been kept remarkably low – these are actually things that we do on a pretty regular basis. Aside from having chicken nuggets for lunch. I think it was just the thrill of getting to choose that is so exciting for them.

There were some other small requests throughout the day as well, but those were their main criteria.

finnturtle

We went to the mall first thing in the morning before most of the stores were open. However, while we were walking from the play-area to where the little “rides” are, Lily’s sandal strap snapped. We were, of course, on the opposite side from the shoe shop. The only store close by that was open so early was JC Penny, so we popped in and got her some new ones. Since they were having a “Get $10 off any $25 purchase” sale, I was able to also buy a pair for Em for only $5 extra.

Extra bonus: I had a gift card left over from when Noah and I got married with almost two dollars left on it. That’s right, I’ve spent nearly seven years carrying that sucker around and it finally paid off.

newshoes

I also brought along a coupon I had gotten in the mail from Bath and Body Works for a free travel-size lotion or body wash, so I surprised them by letting them pick one out to share.

We then had to pop into the store to pick up some necessities and they each picked out a single-size fruit yogurt (I normally just buy plain greek yogurt and add flavorings, so this was like dessert in the middle of the day for them).

We went home and while Finn napped we made chicken nuggets, mixed the dry ingredients for the pancakes and read some chapters out of Lily’s newest book craze.

Next, the park:

park

emupsidedown

lilyupatree

And then home to make dinner.

I have no idea how future Yes Days will go as they get older. I imagine that eventually they will start asking for me to say “yes” to just dropping them off at the mall with their friends and some benjamins.

For now, I am basking in the glow of being told more than a few times today that I am the best mom ever. I’ll take what I can get.

Why We’re Doing Things the Way We’re Doing Them (Part 2)

This is a continuation from my previous post answering questions about the reasoning behind our seeming madness.

FIRST, I have a quick request for the public at large:

A couple days ago Finn snapped the key off in the ignition of the Pathfinder while making some pretty serious attempts to drive it. AAA quoted me $140 to send someone out to fix it. I said I’d see what my husband could do when he got home. Noah was reduced to taking off the whole front part of the ignition switch.

ignition

To the left is the front of the ignition. To the right is what I am now using as a key until we can figure out some way to get the remnant extracted.

It is, how do you say? Très ghetto.

So, if you happen upon a black, 25-year-old Pathfinder with three car seats in the back, please do not steal it, even though you totally could.  It would make a certain family very, very sad.

Moving right along, then.

After delving into why we’re going into debt to build a house, and some of the other avenues we’ve explored to try and reduce the cost, we were left with one more option: building a small house for, hopefully, a smaller cost.

Honestly, I could care less how big our house is. We got along pretty comfortably with three kids in about 1000 square feet, and we’re doing okay in 400 square feet with another one on the way. I don’t care about a big house as a status symbol and I think that smaller houses have a LOT of advantages, including big savings on utility bills. As I said before, when we were looking for a house to buy instead of build, we cared much more about the size of the land than we did about the house on it.

Our original idea was to build a house no more than 1400-1600 square feet. We pushed for it again and again. Initially, it seems like it would make perfect sense – the fewer square feet you build, the less you pay, right? However, as we discovered after talking to multiple builders, that isn’t necessarily the case.

Some of the highest expenses when it comes to building a house are the foundation, the grading, the permits and, in our case, the septic system. None of these costs are necessarily reduced by building a smaller home (we opted for a two-story over a ranch-style to lessen the cost of the foundation and still have four bedrooms).

Within the house itself the pricier areas include the kitchen and the bathrooms, and a lot of those costs are designated not necessarily by square footage, but by finish work (appliances, cabinetry, flooring, etc). Making bedrooms and living rooms smaller to reduce the footprint doesn’t actually make as big a dent in the overall picture as you would think, because all those really entail are framing, drywall and flooring (at their most basic).

Another aspect is the fact that since we are getting a loan, we have to consider what the potential resale value of the home will be. Despite the fact that we are building with the intention of living here forever and ever and possibly being buried somewhere on the property, the bank is looking at is an investment. They take a look at our plans and decide what the “loan-to-value ratio” is – how much they’re lending us versus how much it will all be worth when it’s done.

Turns out, a big house on a large, flat lot in a desirable area is worth quite a bit more than what we’re paying for the construction.

Finally, we’re taking into account our own (growing) family size and the fact that we’d like to be able to comfortably host events like Christmas and Thanksgiving with extended family (we’re on our way to four kids, I’m one of five kids, my mom is one of five kids… it’s quite a lot of family).

Long-term, we’re thinking forward to when our children get older and are spending more time with friends, we hope that our house is the place they choose to be. To that end, we aim to make it spacious and comfortable. Some of my fondest memories growing up are from when our house was packed full of my brothers’ friends and my friends and it was scarcely-controlled, but terribly fun, chaos.

Though, I probably won’t appreciate that scenario nearly as much as a parent, now that I think about it.

At any rate, there you have it. It’s definitely been a long journey and I think that we’re making the best decision that we can given the information at our disposal.

Is there anything that we’re missing? I would love to know: What would YOU do in our situation?

Why We’re Doing Things the Way We’re Doing Them (Part 1)

A few weeks ago, I asked you all to introduce yourselves and gave everyone the opportunity to ask whatever questions they had about our plans, project, lifestyle, etc.

One of my favorite questions was from Gira:
“…I would love to know why are you guys building a house? Especially one that will require a giant loan? Since you seem to do just fine with a bus, maybe you can buy one of those pre-fab homes and save a lot of money? Or build a log cabin or one of those house in a box things? I apologize in advance if you have already answered this question in a previous post. I would hate to see you guys saddled with such a giant loan for a house. Thanks!”

I’m actually surprised that this is the first time a reader has brought this up, because it’s a fantastic question. If we’re doing pretty well in a small space, why are we going into a huge amount of debt to build a great big one?

There are a lot of aspects to this question and a lot of answers since we’ve been working on trying to get a house built for almost two years now and have gone down quite a few paths in our journey. (In case you missed them, I’ve written a couple posts on Our Journey to Now, including how we wound up building in the first place, all about construction loans and the modular debacle.)

First and foremost let me address the issue of why we are going into debt at all to build a house, rather than parking ourselves here for an indeterminate amount of time and building things piece by piece ourselves in order to pay cash as we go. This is definitely something that we considered and are SO inspired by the many stories we’ve heard of people doing exactly that.

The biggest deterrent to doing things in that fashion is that in our area (I’m not sure if this applies to other states, counties, etc.) once a building permit is issued, you are given a specific amount of time to finish your project and you have to show proof of progress every so often in order to retain your permit. In addition, if you choose to live on the land during the build, you are required to obtain a temporary occupancy permit that also expires after a certain time period. The typical time allowance for a building permit and temporary occupancy permit is between 2-5 years.

Extensions aren’t unheard of, but the amount of time that it would take us to save up for each portion of the project, even without having to pay rent, well exceeds the limits that they provide.

Another consideration is the fact that doing our best to save a lot of money during that process would require Noah to do a lot of the work himself. While Noah is more than capable of doing the work, the idea of him working full-time at his normal job (which contains its own stresses), keeping things maintained on the bus-front AND trying to wear the hat of a General Contractor/Owner-Builder is a lot more than our family is prepared to take on at this point.

Having said that, Noah is planning to do a lot of the finish work and HVAC installation (which was his trade for over 10 years) in the current agreement we have with our GC in order to shave off some labor costs where we can.

Okay, you might say, but what about going with something less expensive to cut down on the cost of the house altogether?

This is also something we have gone over again and again together and with multiple contractors. We originally did try to go with a modular home and you can read that post to see the reasons why that didn’t work out so swell.

After that whole mess went away, we looked at several companies that offer “kit homes.” A kit-home is different than a modular home because instead of shipping a whole, pre-built house to you, they ship you all the pieces and you put it together yourselves which supposedly saves a ton on labor costs.

The company that we finally decided on was Endeavor Homes. They’re based in Northern CA (the closest place we could find) and we had several conversations with the owner about their services and their plans. We had a plan picked out and were ready to pull the trigger, but weren’t sure whether it would be more cost-effective to do the work ourselves, without having to pay others for labor, OR to hire a GC with subcontractors to get it done faster and save on the amount of interest we would be paying during construction.

We decided to meet with a local GC, explain to him our project and see what he said. He was excited by the opportunity, but also asked if he could run some numbers on what it would cost him to do the work himself and see if it was comparable.

As it turned out, because of the added price of engineering and shipping (multiple, large shipments over hundreds of miles) that Endeavor quoted us, it cost about the same amount to simply go for a  stick-built with our own custom design.

That still leaves one last question though: why go with a big house at all? Doesn’t building a smaller house equal out to a smaller pricetag? You’re obviously thriving in only 400 square feet, you’d be the perfect candidates for a tiny home!

That is a question that I will answer in the next post, along with any other ones you might pose in the comments, such as: “Did you think about alternative building materials? They make some awesome houses out of adobe/strawbale/shipping containers!” or “This all seems so complicated and time/money consuming. Why don’t you just NOT build a house at all?” or “This was an extremely long post – why couldn’t you have explained all this in 500 words instead of 1000?”

Those would all be great questions, too.

And then, after that, I promise I will have a nice, newsy, picture-filled post of some sort, even if I have to make it up out of thin air.

 

 

A Blog Tour

I’ve been at this whole “blogging” thing for a little less than 6 months now and I honestly still don’t really know what I’m doing. So, when Jayleen from How Do the Jones Do It? invited me to participate in a “Tour Through Blogland” I had a lot of questions.

Turns out, it’s pretty simple and a great way to discover smaller bloggers that you might really enjoy. For example: Jayleen’s blog features all sorts of posts pertaining to gardening, finance, crafty tutorials and more! Her post on how to make shorts out of highwater jeans might seem super simple to some, but it was totally an “aha!” moment for me because my fine motor skills haven’t improved since around 3rd grade and I can never manage to cut anything in a straight line with scissors. Ahem.

I also figure that this would be a nice point to kind of stop and recap some of the highlights from this crazy journey and give those of you who are just joining us a place to catch up.

So, without further ado…

We started this blog in February of this year after finding out that our landlord was selling the rental we had been living in for almost four years.

house

Since we owned a parcel of land that we had been planning to build a house on anyway, the decision to move into the double-decker bus that was sitting in our driveway made at least a LITTLE sense to us. Kind of. The very first post is me describing our reaction to that turn of events.

We had a lot of work to do. Like, a LOT a lot. but everybody helped.

girlshelping

It took a couple of weeks to finish it all up  and we did our BIG REVEAL!

Before
Before
After
After

We then had the process of moving the bus out to the land without it falling over. It came pretty close.

businside

In the middle of March we moved in and immediately started dealing with problems. There was no running water, no electricity and we had to figure out what we were going to do with all our, um, waste.

Just to top it all off, we then made a surprising discovery.

pregtest

Thankfully, Noah is just about the handiest, most hard-working man on the entire planet and got everything hammered out so that since then we’ve been living in (relative) comfort. We have even talked about the things that we DON’T miss about living in a house (but there are plenty of things that we DO – more on that later).

I have written about our house-building project, posted the floorplan, and have even gone into details like how much our land cost, how we wound up deciding to build instead of buy and our attempt to go with a manufactured house instead (spoiler: it didn’t work out).

I’ve also posted about a day in the life on a bus, my fear of other peoples’ perceptions, and the high cost of being rent-free.

WHEW. I think that pretty much catches everything major.

Now, there are some questions that come along with the blog-tour that are supposed to give you a behind the scenes look at my “writing process”… this would probably be more applicable if I actually had one.

What am I working on?

Pretty much I just calls it like I sees it to give you all an overview of a lifestyle that most will never experience. As things stand now, we’re working on finalizing our construction loan and dealing with the insane heat. Noah has been mulching and composting the yard like a madman and we’re about to give gardening another go after all our sprouts were toasted by the sun.

How does my work differ from those of my genre?

Is this a good time to say that I have no idea what my genre is? Additionally, I don’t think I actually keep up with other people within whatever genre my genre is, because I read very few blogs about people living in buses. Well, except for Nina, but she’s more of a simple/natural living blogger who happens to live in a bus – it’s more of a sideline within her genre rather than a genre in and of itself.

Maybe I should branch out.

 Why Do I write/create what I do?

Honestly, it was Noah’s idea to start this blog with the idea of making some money through advertising and sponsored posts and what have you (because who isn’t trying to make money blogging these days?) But then nobody wanted to sponsor us or advertise with us because we had no readership. And then I realized that I don’t like reading sponsored blog posts from other bloggers, so why would I make everybody else do it here? And so, aside from the whopping $3 we have made through Amazon Affiliates that covers about 5% of our hosting fees, this is a profitless venture solely devoted to preserving the memories of this journey that we’re on.

Having said that, if an opportunity to make a lot more than $3 off some sort of advertisement or sponsored post should fall into our laps, you will hear about it because we will be shilling whatever it is with all our heart. Even if it’s something completely unrelated, like luxury time shares.

How does your writing/creative process work?

A large proportion of the creative posts and funny quips you read pop into my head at 5 in the morning when I am inadvertently woken by the full weight of a developing fetus pressing down on my bladder.

Once the ideas have percolated through my sleep-deprived brain for a day or two, I wait for a time when Finn’s nap doesn’t coincide with my need to cook or clean or take a nap of my own (or I feel justified in ignoring all those chores) and then I sit down at the computer and pound them all out while repeatedly telling my older two that I will do whatever it is they want me to do with them in “just a minute” and threaten loss of dessert if they keep asking me the same thing over and over again.

Eventually, I hit “publish” and then spend the day or so checking my phone for comments and affirmation until I can repeat the process all over again.

I mean, you wanted the truth, right?

Last but not least, it is my pleasure to introduce the next stop on this blog-tour that I have been honored to be a part of: Hilary, from Hil’s Kitchen! Hilary is fantastic cook and recent mom of one. Her posts about her new foray from the kitchen into parenthood are poignant, thought-provoking and very relatable for any mom.

This concludes this portion of the Blogland Tour. Please exit to your right and we hope you have enjoyed your stay.

Quick Clicks

Happy weekend, everybody! Here are some of my favorite things from around the interwebs this week:

-Weird Al Yankovic’s new video Word Crimes will leave the grammar nazis nodding and saying “THANK YOU!

-Why Readers, Scientifically, Are the Best People to Fall in Love With @ Elite Daily – a bit over the top, but that didn’t stop me from sending to Noah to justify my bibliophile tendencies.

-Bad Day for Bad Teachers, Good Day for Kids @ Mish’s Global Econoic Tend Analysis -I found this article about teacher tenure laws fascinating and I would love to hear others’ opinions about it.

-What I Instragrammed Vs What Was Really Happening @ Bustle – I knew it!

-My newest app addiction is Quiz Up (available for both iPhone or Android) which allows you to take short, timed quizzes in pretty much any topic you can think of against other players around the world or you can challenge friends who have joined. Noah and I have been dueling each other in The Office trivia and I am currently ranked #1 in California for Children’s Literature. Look me up and I will take you on!

What We’ve Been Up To

I have had to stop myself a couple times this week from jumping on here and announcing that we’re done, we’re dropping this whole project and we’re going to move somewhere with air conditioning and electricity and a floor big enough to rough-house with the kids on. It has been ridiculously hot and everyone has been sweaty and cranky and sleep deprived due to Finn waking up almost every night this week due to unknown causes.

Plus, over the past couple of weeks Noah has had to replace the radiator in the Pathfinder, fix an issue with the solar set-up and unclog the bathroom sink.

Not to mention that we were having issues with our loan process – namely that our “surprise bargaining chip” turned out to be completely UNimpressive to the lenders and they still wanted a co-signer for the construction portion of the loan (not the final mortgage). Because they were aware of the gift funds we used to purchase the land they wanted Spencer’s assets on the line as a part of the process and wouldn’t talk to us otherwise. It was very frustrating.

However, that’s been settled and we’re preparing to move forward with the process. Currently we’re reviewing our contract with our builder and  double-checking that we have all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed so that there aren’t any major unexpected expenses.

There have been some positives though! After mercilessly killing all our seedlings, we are taking another stab at this whole “gardening” thing. Our neighbor came over with his tractor to till our plot the other day and Noah picked up a truck full of free, organic compost from a local farm to mix in. Thank you all for your encouragement to try again, I was pretty despondent at the sight of all our dried up sprouts! tractorgarden Noah’s niece, Haley, who happens to work for National Geographic (subtle brag),  also visited and taught him a thing or two about photography. Maybe it was the lessons about lighting and shutter speed or maybe he just has amazing subjects, I don’t know, but these were some of my favorites: finngrin finnaway emmylou littlebit littlebitsilly And here is an example of why we have so few decent pictures of all five of us together: family3 family4 family6 At least in this one we’re all looking at the camera and smiling at the same time, even though Lily is obviously trying her hardest NOT to be a part of the family: family7 I honestly have no idea how we’re going to get that done when there’s 6 of us. I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

Plans for Having a Baby in a Bus

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I’m looking at that title and I’m thinking that maybe people are going to mistake this for a home/bus birth post. It’s not. Maybe if I were a stronger, braver woman… but I’m going on 24 weeks now and if I stumbled upon someone handing out back-alley epidurals I would be sorely tempted.

No, in this instance I’m simply referring to our plans for bringing our newborn home in a few months to a brand new type of living situation. I use the term “plans” loosely because, like just about everything else in this situation, there’s really no telling how it’s all going to turn out. We could wind up abandoning this whole endeavor and the blog title might be changed to “Tiny Apartment in the Suburbs”, who knows?

However, for now we’re thinking that we’re just going to stay the course and take things as they come. Currently, that entails planning to welcome Baby Springfield the Fourth to the Busosaurus and  having a place for him or her to sleep and some clothes to wear.

What? You mean no fancy swing? No colorful tummy-time mat filled with mirrors and buttons for the baby to swat? No diaper pail, changing table, light-up mobile, johnny-jump-up, baby-food-processor, wipes warmer,  bumbo-seat or boppy?

Yup. I feel like the amount of things new mothers are told they NEED is one one of the biggest marketing ploys since DeBeers started trying to tell people that diamonds are actually valuable.

At least to start with. With such minimal space, I am paring it down to just the basics. As things progress, and since we’re in a new situation, this might change, but I’m thinking we’ll obtain things as we need them and not before then. In general, my list of essential newborn items includes:

1. Clothes. Onesies for Summer, cozy pajamas for Winter. I find that dresses and shoes and all that jazz are more useful when they’re older.

2. Crib/bassinet. Even that could probably wait a while since all three of mine so far have co-slept for at least the first two or three months.

3. Some sort of sling or baby carrier. I’m not a baby-wearing connoisseur – from newborn until they get too heavy I’ve worn the Baby K’tan because the learning curve on the Moby was too steep for me.

4. A blanket or two to lay the baby down on. Noah’s mom has made a special quilt for each of our kids, so I generally use that and then keep another clean blanket as a spare or a thinner one to use as a nursing cover.

Of course, I’m making the assumption that I’ll be able to breastfeed and so I’m not including bottles and the associated trappings on that list. If things should turn out differently, because sometimes that happens, then we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

So, as far as “baby gear” goes I don’t go in for a lot, but am I forgetting anything?

As far as our particular situation is concerned, I’m thinking that we’ll have the girls share a bed (which they do voluntarily already), move Finn onto the other one and then the baby will have the porta-crib. Here is a reminder of the bedroom set-up (when it’s clean):

kidsroom

Finnegan and the new baby will be the closest together of all my kids (he’ll be just 20 months when I’m due in November), so I’m not sure how smoothly the transition is going to go moving Finn to a bed and having the newborn take “his place” in the crib. He can already climb out of his crib on his own (so we’ve already got safeties in place for when he gets out of bed) and since it’s just a mattress on the floor I’m not worried so much about him falling out and getting hurt.

Any suggestions about how to make the transition and whether to do it earlier or later?

The biggest obstacle to work around seems to be the ladder leading to the upper story.

ladder
Please ignore my streaky mirror. Small children have no respect for reflective surfaces.

This is a problem even before the baby arrives because in the evenings I get hip pain which makes going up and down moderately excruciating. It’s not unbearable yet, but Noah and I have plans to start sleeping on the futon downstairs if things get too bad. We might wind up keeping the baby down there as well, rather than carry him or her up and down the ladder. It could just be as simple as strapping the baby into the carrier before going up the ladder, but getting a small bassinet for the downstairs is a part of the contingency plan.

In sum: our plan is pretty much to prepare for the bare minimum, add to it if necessary and just kind of see how things go.

I would love to hear if you feel there’s something I’m leaving out or that it seems like we haven’t thought of yet or if you have any ideas on how to get a baby up a ladder that don’t involve strapping it to the pulley and hauling it upstairs (because trust me, we thought of that first).

A (Kind of) Confession and a Challenge We’re Facing

Is it seriously already Wednesday? We have been busy with VBS and check-ups at the dentist and the OB, but I have been thinking about writing this all weekend!

Wow, friends.

You guys came out of the woodwork to introduce and share a little bit about yourselves. I tried to respond to every single comment and I hope I didn’t miss anyone (I also asked a few follow-up questions, ahem-hem). I absolutely loved reading a bit about who YOU areand why you read here.

The biggest questions it seemed people had were in relation to our solar set-up, our plans for our (un)expected arrival, and why exactly we’re going to build a large house if we seem to be doing a-ok in an itty-bitty space, so I am planning posts addressing each of those issues specifically in the upcoming weeks (when I say “planning posts” what I really mean is that I think about them for a while before sitting down at the computer and hammering one out while Finn is napping – just so we’re clear).

One of the things that struck me the most is how many of you have your OWN stories to tell. Some of you own land that you want to build on someday, some of you have spent time living in unusual spaces. Many of you are just interested in a simple, less expensive, less consumerist lifestyle. Me too.

My confession is this (and maybe it’s not much of a confession because it’s probably glaringly obvious): I have no idea as of yet what exactly a simple, less expensive, less consumerist lifestyle consists of for us, necessarily.

So far, living in the bus hasn’t been exactly simple OR less expensive and we’ve had to buy a lot of things! There have been a plethora of problems to deal with and some additional costs that we hadn’t really planned on.

As far as living with less is concerned, there are things that I packed away thinking that they would only contribute to cluttering up the small space that I really wish I had out right now (certain electric kitchen tools specifically, since our electricity is free and propane is not). There are other things that I kept out or even purchased that are turning out to be a pretty useless waste of space (most of the under-couch storage that I bought from Ikea is practically empty and just makes it harder to sweep under the futon). There is also a ton of stuff we have packed away in storage that I think is going to go directly to Goodwill when we finally unpack it.

I think, though, that all that is just part of the journey. We’re not experts or professionals in any capacity (except the capacity that Noah is a professional in… which doesn’t relate to bus-dwelling at all). We really are just a normal family trying out a very un-normal situation in the hopes that it will help us reach our goal. We are bound to make a huge load of mistakes along the way, but hopefully we’ll come out the other end stronger and wiser and with lots of stories to tell!

Having said all that, and now that we all know each other, can I present to you a particular challenge that we’re facing?

Since a big part of this endeavor is about saving money, it is terribly frustrating when certain aspects of this lifestyle cost MORE than when we were living in a house. I’ve mentioned before that one of those higher cost areas is our grocery budget. Many of you noted that you found this blog after my guest posts at Money Saving Mom and at Southern Cali Saver, so I feel confident that I’m dealing with a group of financially savvy individuals.

However, our situation is rather unique due to the fact that one of the big principles of saving money on your grocery budget - Stock Up on Good Deals – is harder to do when you don’t have a freezer and your fridge space is very minimal (think hotel mini-fridge size). I find that I keep having to go to the grocery store to buy fresh food (milk especially, since we can only fit one or two gallons and we go through much more than that weekly), when before I could buy and cook in bulk and freeze a large portion of food. I have also had to pass up deals on meat on clearance because I had no way to save it before it would go bad (I’m thinking of you, giant, half-off ham).

Some of the things I’ve been doing to try and combat this include buying lots of shelf-stable fruits and veggies and keeping them out on the counter (works quite well), buying canned goods (although not my favorite thing health-wise) and baking more (which uses more dry ingredients like flour).

We  do own a full-size fridge/freezer, but it won’t run off our little solar set-up (one thing I’ve learned since being out here is that the appliances that take up the MOST energy are those whose purposes are to heat or cool things). Our current fridge actually runs off propane, and propane freezers are crazy expensive (from what I’ve seen).

So, any ideas on how to save money on fresh food without a freezer and only a teeny fridge? Running to the store all the time is killing me AND our budget and definitely not contributing to “living simply” in any way, shape or form.

*Interesting side-note: In relation to the issue that we’re having, it strikes me that there are probably many people who are unable to afford to eat fresh, healthy food due to the inability to stock up or store it properly. What are your thoughts?