What if?

So, what if we need a new roof? What if the car breaks down? What if someone is sick? What if there aren’t enough driving lessons? What if vacation plans change? What if we can’t pay for college for the kids? UGH! The list of “what ifs” certainly can damper the success of what we have accomplished so far.

There is ALWAYS the potential for something to go wrong – and we have been on the occasional derailed path of many things going wrong at the same time. We have had the furnace go out, the hot water tank quit, the remodeling jobs that would never end, the remodeling jobs that were finished and really aren’t right, mechanical issues with vehicles, and more mechanical issues with vehicles, and larger than expected college bills thanks to incidental fees. Sometimes we get several of these incidents all at the same time. It is easy to become overwhelmed; it is easier to start to panic; there is sometimes a little sadness as you watch the “categories” you have built up be depleted much quicker than they filled.

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But, reality is that this is life and we (personally) are in a position to manage all of these situations without difficulty. Our determination to buckle down and save has provided a financial safety net AND a psychological safety net. We do sometimes find ourselves still asking “What if?” but, when we take the time to step back and look at the situation – it never is as bad as we thought. The past 22 years have taught us many things (good/bad/scary). One of the most valuable lessons is to live life with gratitude.

                                        Gratitude turns what we have into enough!

 

The realization that these “What ifs?” are just part of life and that we CAN get through them really helped us kick into the quality versus quantity frame of mind. As I have mentioned in prior posts, we do have things that we “splurge” on – vacations; laundry detergent and cleaning supplies that I don’t make (don’t let this fool you, I still use a lot of vinegar and baking soda for various things); eating out with the family once in a while; and plenty more luxuries that just make our lives a bit easier or happier sometimes. Don’t judge us – we won’t judge youJ But, our focus is totally different on where and why we are putting money in certain “envelopes”. Literally, we have tipped the scales.

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The Slide Continues

So MrTB4M has a unit meeting scheduled at work for last week. All of the “big” bosses are coming into town for Monday and Tuesday. These are the kinds of meeting that the corporate world folks dread – a lot of man hours spent in close quarters listening to quotes and formulas, projections and short-comings; time being asked for opinions and feeling pretty strongly that the question is only a formality.

Then, the Friday before MrTB4M gets a call from a co-worker. The co-worker has been reassigned to a special project. The proverbial writing on the wall. We have anticipated this for weeks and now it seems it is imminent. Yet, the weekend was peaceful – no anxiety, no palpitations, no panic. There was still the Sunday night dread of what Monday and Tuesday would entail, but no panic over the announcement anticipated.

Sure enough, by end of day Tuesday, MrTB4M has about as many details as he will get. The department is being evaluated to be stream lined into desk operated positions utilizing external vendors for cost containment. The process will be quick with most of the pilots to be maximum of 6 months. Suffice it to say there were many in the group that were flustered, angry, nervous, and outright scared of what the future holds. But, not MrTB4M – he was calm, relaxed, and at peace. This solidified his plans to leave and maybe even pushed up the date a little. We had been planning on July 2019……….but, it could be much sooner. I dare say there was relief in his shoulders.

I never would have dreamed that we would be calm and relaxed when faced with the reality that we are a family of 10 with two in college and we will soon be operating on one income. I mean really, in this day and age there are plenty of two income families that are barely making it – and here we are almost looking forward to the hatchet falling.

MrTB4M didn’t miss a beat, he got right to what he does best – calculating. AND he found out that we were actually in a better position than we thought – even after the sliding stock market and the dives of our retirement funds. We can do it, it will be fine!

Don’t be fooled – it took a lot of work to get to this peacefulness (and a lot of envelopes and scratch paperJ). But, we made it and it feels so good!opportunity

On FIRE Despite Rain

We intend to be financially independent and retire early. We have 8 kids. We are transitioning to MrTB4M becoming a SAHD. We HAVE a plan. OK, well we have a few plans and backup plans and plans we didn’t even know were plans. But, the gist of it is we know where we are headed and have a decent idea of how we are getting there.

This week was full of a few little rain showers on our flamesL In case you were unaware – the stock market was WAY down two days in a row this week. Now, there are plenty of people that follow the advice to not check your retirement and savings accounts everyday – and then there is MrTB4M. He checks at least once per day; and on days the market is swinging either high or LOW, he checks it several times. He can’t help it! So MrTB4M checked and checked and checked again and watched the numbers drop. Well, we think to ourselves, we can overcome this. Just a little mist on our FIRE.

Then MrTB4M finds out that his job (that is the current FTE job that he was going to work until July 2019) is more than likely going to be eliminated; and possibly eliminated in the next 3 months. Definitely rain shower number two for the week. But, this one was pretty easy to take. There was no sense of panic, no anxiety. We know that this means just a little different plan or plans – which we have already worked on: 1) we switch up the vacations we were planning long term and delay some of the bigger ones, no big deal or 2) the driving business will get a little more advertisement and bridge the gap. Neither of these options are very stressful. You notice we said we will switch up the vacations, not skip vacation; and we could actually advertise the driving business other than word of mouth referrals. What you didn’t read was that we were immediately updating CVs and looking for jobs for MrTB4M. Nope! We are in an amazing place right now and this is just a minor sprinkle.

Next up for the week is college talk. We filled out the FAFSA for the boys – again. It is that time of year. We really weren’t expecting much financial aid since this is our biggest income year – ever! That goes along with being on FIRE….you have to work at it. But, it was disheartening to see what our expected contribution was for each of them. It is so strange, 2 kids in college and 6 more dependents at home and it looks like there will be no financial aid for 2019-2020. Even more frustrating is that J2 had a higher expected contribution than J1. Who would have thought?! That was our third rain shower of the week.

After all that, our flame isn’t out. We haven’t changed our goal. We are embracing the possibility that it may happen sooner than July 2019. This path to FIRE sure is one big comfy umbrella for us.

Organized Chaos

Many times I have heard “How do you do it?” The “it” in question varies from keeping track of kids, to participating in activities, to homeschooling, to feeding a crowd. My standard answer is “Some days are better than others”. Now that may sound cliché – but I assure you that I mean EVERY word of it. There are some days that are just better than others and I pray that those are the days we are in public.

Here are just a couple of things we do to help organize around our house. First we use a buddy system. The oldest pairs with the youngest and second with second youngest, etc. This means when we go out as a family, there is someone “responsible” with the littles; someone to hold hands crossing a parking lot, someone to help get food from a buffet, someone to help go to the bathroom, someone to sit next to on the Zoo train, someone to push the swing, someone to help littles get dressed or bathe – the list goes on. Reality is that neither MrTB4M or myself can do all of this for everyone, we are simply outnumbered. As the older ones have left for college, the ones left at home have automatically restructured their system so that no one is left out.

So the buddy system assures that once we get somewhere everyone has a partner. But, how do we know where we need to be? The household calendar is a “small” project of mine. EVERY month I sit and create a family calendar. On this we list everything that has to take place outside of the house – appointments, youth group, volunteer activities, practices, games, travel. To make it easy to decode and simplify how much I have to include in print I have assigned everyone a color. This was an accidental process; but man am I sure glad I stumbled into it. See after kid 2 it was getting pretty tight in a calendar box – by the time I would write J1 – Dr. Knight 1100; J2 practice 1700 Ferdinand Park; J3 practice 1800 Ferdinand Park – I would be out of space and it was “busy” to look at. Now with an assigned color I get by with Practice 1800 Ferdinand; 1700 BMAC #1; 1800 Koch #2. I save space in the boxes and it is easy for the kids to pick out their specific activity based on color code.

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These may not be helpful to any of you, but both of these tactics work for us. AND whether or not these could be helpful to you or not, one thing is for sure – everyone can relate to the phrase “Some days are better than others”.

In Search of More….

 

Things were good, I was home; the house was running relatively smoothly; the kids were happy. Relatively smoothly, is such an odd term, really it means some days are better than others and the important things get done.

Then MrTB4M gets word that the company may be eliminating jobs within his department. UGH! A family of 10 and the possibility of no income.  As luck would have it, my old boss (as in former, not aged) contacted my husband to see if I was by chance ready to come back to work after a 3 year hiatus.  Maybe even a little divine intervention came into play.  A series of phone calls, an updated resume, an email or two, a background check and I had a job.

Then, about two weeks before my start date, MrTB4M finds out he was not without a job. So many conversations were had – along the lines of “what are we doing?” “How will this work?” “Do we really need this?”

Well, I can’t very well quit before I set foot in the building! AND there will be a college tuition coming soon.  So, April 11, 2016 I returned to work.

MrTB4M was thrilled, I was hesitant, and the kids were down right unhappy with the idea. It seems that they had gotten used to PBJ sandwiches and free outings to the park or museums; in their minds the extra income was not such a big deal.

We SHOULD have listened to the KIDS. (But, don’t tell them that.)  We arranged babysitting, hired a nanny made plan after plan.  The first few months went well.  Then, the nanny quit.  She reportedly didn’t know it was a long term commitment?

A few tears, a few screams, and MANY prayers – in a two week period I have enrolled 4 kids in school; taken their transcripts and book lists; bought uniforms and supplies; and essentially felt like I was letting my kids down. I tried to be “excited” so that the kids could be as well.  When they came home frustrated, we were prepared to tell them to give it time; assure them it would work out; and pray that some of that was true.

That worked for a while. J4 has the hardest time; girls are simply MEAN.  She didn’t wear short enough skirts, she didn’t have name brand shoes, she didn’t wear makeup, and she wasn’t “cool enough”.  Of course at age 11 she did not understand that cool enough really means that you are comfortable without sweating and still not in need of a jacket.  But, we were getting through it.  Then, I went to teacher conference.  I was not prepared at all.

Teacher #1 “I am impressed how well J5 has done, she is actually able to get along with the kids in the class.” Me – “Oh, I am sorry I forgot to tell you we didn’t live in a CAVE.” Teacher #2 “Everything is fine except J4 doesn’t seem to fit in and she reads well above level so I don’t know what to do.”  Me – “Really?  I thought we were paying tuition for you to teach her, not tell me that she is too smart for you to teach.  I mean after all she is just a homeschool student.”  Teacher #3 “where are you sending J3 to high school?”  Me – “considering homeschool.”  Teacher #3 “Why on earth would you do that?  He will never get into college that way.” Me – “Really?  Could you explain how we have 3 college acceptance letters at home right now for J1?  See, he was homeschooled too and he did get into college.”

I went home defeated. MrTB4M could do nothing but shake his head.  Our older boys were in disbelief.  That was a turning point.  I was beyond offended, I was nearing the point of disgust.  To think that in 2016 people still considered homeschooled children to be backwards and introverted and socially inept.  All the while, it wasn’t my kid that refused to make room for new people at the lunch table, or laughed because someone made “different” drawings.  No, those “special” traits were reserved for the perfectly “normal” traditionally schooled students.

Luckily, we got occupied with high school graduation and managed to finish out the school year. In the mean time we took the kids places, bought the kids things, and really never found that happiness we had.

College started for J1 and the kids were back in school. Only this time we were determined it was the last year.  NO MATTER WHAT, we were going to figure out how to bring the kids back home.  We needed the time with them; they needed the time with us and with each other; they didn’t need to be bullied or ridiculed because of having “extra” siblings.

The more we thought about it, the more we knew it wasn’t just the kids that needed more. It was all of us.  Thus we began our search for time over money.  We committed to living on one salary so that we can eventually both retire early.  Week by week and paycheck by paycheck we mark things off the list (college accounts/home repair/new vehicle/ vacations).

MrTB4M started his own business. 8Js Driver Training.  He likes it, and is busy.  Most weeks he is limited by his “real” job.  So our latest plan on the journey is that in less than 40 weeks he will be home, using the driving business to supplement the income and help with college; I will continue to work at the office 4 days per week temporarily.  You see, once he is home our next stretch will be for me to join him.

Oh, and this year we sent J1 back to college for year 2; J2 off for year 1; and everyone else is being homeschooled. Back to night/weekend school and help from dad since he works at home.  Best of all, the kids are happy.  When they smile, their eyes light up; they laugh; they help each other out (most of the time); and we can see the difference in our family.

Life by Envelope

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About the time the desire to buy a house and start a family kicked in – there was an earth shaking development in our marriage. You could say we were both in an agreeable extra-marital affair – but that sounds so questionable!  What it really means is that we both fell in love with Dave Ramsey.

If you have heard of Dave Ramsey – you either love him or hate him. We can’t get enough.  Now that isn’t to say we follow everything he says – but we do appreciate his “plan”.

So, when we got serious about looking for a house we really got serious about looking to see where our money was going. We had car payments, I had student loans, and we had some credit cards (nothing crazy – but it was still there).  We started using envelopes for everything, groceries, haircuts, clothes, eating out, “fun”, bills, you name it and we had an envelope for that.

There were times it wasn’t easy; and going to the grocery store with a limited amount of cash is a daunting task for sure. But, we are proof it can be done!  Besides the grocery envelope also taught us the value of a menu and list PRIOR to going to the store.  Of course, MrTB4M RARELY goes to the store by himself (list or not) because if it looks good – he buys it.

Slowly, the envelopes were working – we had an emergency fund; we were clearing the snowball; and then we found a house. A nice small 1000 square foot started home.  Of course, eight children later it appears it will be our finisher home too (at least the grounded finisher home).  But, now we have a mortgage and all the extra things that go with that (like a lawn to mow – which means lawn equipment; appliances; furniture; home owner’s insurance; and real estate tax).

We were determined to stay on the plan as best we could. There were no significant updates to the house.  Here is an example, when we bought the house in 1998 there was no dishwasher (YIKES!).  No one could believe it.  We lived without a dishwasher from 1998, when we bought the house, until 2017 when we finally had the kitchen remodeled and paid entirely in cash.

Now we did take down wall paper and paint and fix things as they needed; but, there were no major changes to the house. Of course, I could daydream about all kinds of nice things or decorator ideas – new furniture, fancy fixtures, updated electronics – I could even explain how much happier it would make us.  Then there was reality, it is all fluff.  We really do have more than what we need with the basics we have.

So, money came in; money went in envelopes; and money left. The circle was brutal.  It sometimes felt we never saw the money at all.  Then we started adding little people to the mix.  Well, they may be little – but they are EXPENSIVE.  There is no single envelope big enough for all the “extras” for babies.  Of course, there are plenty of ways to be frugal (from nursing to cloth diapers to hand me down clothes to borrowed items, and the list goes on) but no matter how you look at it, babies are an added expense.

We stayed the course. We kept at the envelopes.  We added more babies.  We sometimes worked more hours and sometimes less.  The kids were growing (in number and size) and we knew we needed to step up our game.  The plan was to pay off the house; have college savings for the kids; and for me to stay home.  We buckled down.  It wasn’t easy, but it really wasn’t HARD.  It was just a lifestyle that we chose.

By this time the envelopes were replaced with a spread sheet (thanks to Excel) and most things are paid electronically. Even groceries are via debit card (and then a quick deduction from the spreadsheet).  We still make menus and lists; we still plan for big expenses (like new furniture/computer/clothing) but we were determined I would not have to work anymore.

February 2013 was it. I no longer had a paycheck coming in.  We were a family of 9 living on one paycheck; in a 1000 square foot home; driving a 2010 twelve passenger van.  We had no debt.  We did (and still do) have bills – living expenses such as electric/gas/water/food/phone service/etc.  The only difference was we are a bit larger than most families and we had less income than a lot of families.

On Our Path

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38 states so far, and to date Glacier National Park in Montana is hands down our favorite.

Of course, the next logical thing is baby #5.  Now baby #5 is quite a story all on her own, suffice it to say she arrived in a matter of 21 minutes after only 1 contraction, in the middle of our bathroom doorway.  To this day she is the only child of ours ever to ride in an ambulance and is absolutely mortified by her birth story.

By this point the new baby thing has worn off for MrTB4M and he goes back to work rather quickly after I am home from the hospital.  I do take a full 12 weeks off this time – which was really probably the beginning of the end of my ER career.  Being home was SO much work and yet so rewarding.  The kids were happy; the house was “cleaner”; MrTB4M got home cooked meals every day (which goes a long way in helping his disposition); and we were happy – I was often exhausted, but we were HAPPY.  When I went back to work it was a struggle – not the job, I could do the job!  The struggle was finding joy in the job.  I no longer felt that the job was rewarding – I was tired of being there when people were diagnosed with horrible diseases; I was tired of putting people together after devastating injuries; I was tired of watching families grieve when loved ones passed away.  I knew that there were plenty of times when what I did made a difference, when people got better, or got the help they needed; but, it wasn’t enough anymore.

I make those statements as if it was a quick and clear revelation.  The reality is that it took a good years before we were both convinced that making a change was the right choice.  So, in 2009 I put in my two-week notice, of course I worked my final holiday and weekend shift to avoid the dreaded “do not rehire” list and Labor Day 2009 was officially my last day in the ER.  I didn’t have a job (officially) and we weren’t ready for one income only.  I had interviewed for a position doing chart reviews but had not heard anything yet.   Technically I was unemployed for the first time since I was 14 years old.  I would have no income, no contribution to the family.  Talk about pressure.

As it turns out unemployment didn’t last long and by mid-October I was gainfully employed.  The catch was I was full time, corporate job – no weekends and no holidays; why didn’t we realize this meant Monday – Friday?  Ugh!!!! This meant kids back in school, child care for little ones, and new routines to learn.  Guess what?  Everyone was unhappy.  The boys didn’t like school and MrTB4M and I were spinning our tires trying to keep up.  By month three we knew it wasn’t working for us.  We would finish the year and then we would make a change.  Ultimately, the boys did not return to school for the following year.  This is where it gets really crazy – remember we both work full time – and we are going to homeschool again?  Yep!  We did.  Our kids went to “night school” for grade school.  We did school in the evenings and on weekends- when we needed to.  I slept less.  We all complained less.  It was working.

Then along comes baby #6 and because J5 made such a quick entry, this was a well-planned event from the beginning.  We knew we would be induced once we got close to the due date.  We had 9 months to get ready and we were – up to a point.  You see, we had outgrown our 7-passenger vehicle (or at least at delivery we would).  Logically, I deliver on Friday; come home on Sunday; and test drive a 12-passenger van on Monday.  That is correct!  MrTB4M comes home mid-morning on Monday with a van for me to test drive, not even 72 hours after delivery and I am tooling around in a very large silver 12 passenger van.  It sure isn’t pretty – but man is it practical!

We have a new baby and a new vehicle.  The kids and I did a ton of school while I was off on maternity leave – and before I knew it I was back at work.  Now this was no fun.  I was gone every day for 9 hours.  This was a brand-new feeling.  In the past, I had always worked either 12-hour shifts (meaning only 3 days per week and NEVER all in a row) or I worked night shifts (meaning nearly everyone slept the entire time I was gone).  This time I was working all day and coming home to do school work or sports practice carpool, or dinner, then be up at night with J6.  As bad as it was being up all night, those were my favorite moments.  It was just he and I (I mean really – no one else wanted to be up all night with the baby, and that was OK).

Now we have definitely become a bit of a spectacle everywhere we go.  Not only is there the big silver van; there are also 6 children that climb out anywhere we go.  You can likely imagine the comments – “are they all yours?” – “YEP!”; “you know what causes that, right?” – “Yep, and obviously we are pretty good at it”; “Did you plan that?” – “Nope, but long ago we figured out that the plan really isn’t ours”; “are you crazy?” – “Most of the time, but we are never bored”; “how do you do it?” – “Some days are better than others.”

Just when we finally get into a groove (or at least what groove you can get into with 6 children), here comes baby #7.  OK, now that was a little of a shock -but, we can do it.  I mean, so what that J6 was just then sleeping well, or that school was really clicking, or work was going ok?  Routine must be over-rated.

AND if the comments above weren’t enough, they were magnified as baby #7 was announced.  Our families had certainly decided several Js ago that we had more than enough.  We rarely saw the grandparents except for holidays or when we asked them to babysit – and then they would have to “talk about it” before committing.  We were so jealous of many friends that had grandparents always willing to help, and even better offering to help before they were asked.  However, jealousy got us nowhere.  It certainly didn’t change anything.  So together we decided that we would do our best to be ambivalent to this.  Easier said than done for sure and there are times we are still facing the demon.

Nevertheless, J7 was coming and like J6 we had a plan for a well-controlled, induced hospital birth.  Only problem was that two weeks before the “plan” I started contracting – enough that we had to go be monitored.  Naturally, my blood pressure was a little high (I mean nothing was going the way I needed it to….I still had things to finish up) and coupled with the contractions our planned arrival date was sped up.  J7 arrived on February 19, 2013.  We took him home on February 21, 2013.  Seems perfectly normal right?  Yep, except for the massive snowstorm blowing through Saint Louis that day.  MrTB4M left our house to pick us up with light flurries; by the time he drove 12 miles to the hospital he had needed to stop twice to deice the windshield and the roads were covered.  I was wheeled out of the hospital (I had been waiting at the door) and into the van (a whopping 5 minutes tops) and we were on our way home.  The highway was a mess – several inches of snow had fallen in less than an hour.  For Saint Louis this was a big deal and a nightmare for the highway department.  Luckily, we made it home without incident.

We should have realized the snowstorm might have been an indicator of things to come.  I do not say this lightly, J7 is by far the most challenging child we have.  He didn’t sleep through the night (or for more than 2 hours at a time) until he was almost 18 months.  He was crabby and cranky and even when he was happy he screamed.  He was adorable, big blue eyes, blond hair – looks like a little elf.  But, his disposition was a challenge.  He is five now and there have been major improvements; however, there are still days when we just can’t even begin to figure him out.

Now, after J7 I didn’t return to work.  Once we knew we were expanding the family we buckled down and paid the house off.  We added to college accounts and we got serious about me staying home.  There were many parts of this that were amazing, and just as many that were horrible.  You see, MrTB4M still worked out of the house, so he was ALWAYS home.  Everything had to be on a rigorous schedule and expectations were beyond my capabilities.  This was a terrible time for us.  I couldn’t measure up to his ideals and he couldn’t understand why not.

I tried to take care of the kids, do the schooling, do the laundry, do the cooking, do the cleaning, go to the grocery store, and keep everyone happy.  Guess what?  There was no way – the laundry fairy never came, the cost of groceries went up and up, kids wanted to do things, and having 9 of us home all the time naturally made messes.  I really felt like being home was what the family needed, but I really needed to feel like MrTB4M recognized what I did, and not what I didn’t do.

Now here is where I give kudos to all those that MrTB4M knows “that can make this work without effort” – I do not know how you do it and I am in awe!  My reality is that I can’t do it.  Long ago I realized that I have limitations, and that no amount of extra effort is going to produce the dream vision.  It took me a long time to accept that and I still struggle on occasion.  This part of the journey is mine – and I owe a lot to all those who profess they have the same struggles (of course, from my view they are doing it all so much better than I – but, I will take their empathy!)  Even more so, I owe a couple of HONEST friends that shared they have housekeepers (no wonder their house is clean) and other family members that pitch in (AH HA!).  My reality is that on most days I do the absolute best I can for the family and I strive to make sure the important things get done.  That means people are taken care of, fed, and well loved; school is done; and the house is cleaned a room at a time (the downside of course is that I don’t even finish all the rooms before the first is a mess again, but life goes on).

Well, that was a struggle.  But, not everything was bad, and before long J#8 was on the way.  Did I mention I was tired? And now pregnant and even more tired.  I was really losing myself and when well meaning (nosy) strangers commented about the size of our family it really was a struggle to be polite.  In fact, one day we needed groceries (remember the grocery fairy didn’t visit us) and it was unfortunately HOT and rainy.  I loaded everyone up and off to the store we went.  The kids were being relatively good (anyone with kids knows what relatively good means – they weren’t screaming at each other; they weren’t fighting; they weren’t running all over; but they weren’t quiet) and here we are a cart of kids/a cart of groceries/ and a few walking along next to the carts.  A very “kind” lady stared at us for several aisles until finally she smiled and said “Oh, my dear are those really all yours?”  It apparently wasn’t a day of tolerance for me because without missing a beat I responded “No, ma’am.  As I drove here I saw these poor kids standing out on street corners and since it was raining I didn’t want to leave them out there.”  Then I turned and quickly got in line.  My kids were in shock – they had never seen me say anything like that to someone, especially a stranger.  In my mind I am thinking, “Are you crazy? Do you really think someone would drag kids to a grocery store in the pouring rain, if they weren’t related?”

October 2014 J8 makes his arrival.  He was stubborn, didn’t like the idea of induction, and refused to position himself well.  This made for a long evening and at several points during the process I nearly asked for some pain medicine (hadn’t had pain medicine since J3 but I was seriously contemplating it here).  When he was born we knew the girls would be temporarily disappointed.  They had desperately wanted a sister, only to get a new little brother.  Between the two of us we decided that the news would be best delivered in person.  So, after the little one and I were settled, MrTB4M went home for a little rest.  The next morning, he loaded everyone up and brought them to meet the new addition.  The entire time not revealing it was a boy.  As expected, there was a momentary period of frustration from J4 and J5, and then it didn’t matter and we could not keep them away from him.  J8 is so much like J1, he is certainly the calm that we needed to settle our family storm.

The excitement of a new baby wore off and we were back into the old routine.  Not necessarily happy, but not miserable either.  Then out of the blue, my old boss messaged MrTB4M asking if I was interested in coming back to work.  In a whirlwind of action, I was heading back to the corporate world, the kids were going back to school, and MrTB4M was happy.  The new merry go round ride didn’t last long before we remembered exactly what didn’t work the last time we tried this.

There were two grade school schedules and two high school schedules to manage.  I was working 4 ten-hour shifts.  So, I leave the house at 5:20 am Tuesday – Friday and return a little after 4 pm.  MrTB4M has to get the kids up and to school.  When I get home, I have to do all the homework, dinner prep, sports practices, and other household “stuff”.  Every week there is a special project or activity that requires extra attention or money; there are “optional” donations – which in reality are not optional because if you don’t donate your child is the one that doesn’t participate in the special event/dress down/snack/recess/etc. There are numerous performances and awards that take place during the day that we miss.  Worst of all, the bright light in our kids’ eyes is dimming.  They are smiling, they are laughing – but the light that used to be so bright with joy, is fading.  Our family is suffering.

Wow!  That is a kick in the gut for sure.  Here we are doing exactly what we thought was best for the kids – and it is hurting us all.