Cowgar Family Adventures

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Welcome to our Family

So I decided to start a life blog for the New Year, to keep my family in check with the goals we are working towards. It also gives me a place to vent, and a place to hold myself accountable. So, lets get started with some background.

The Cowgar family consists of my husband Luke, myself (Holly), and our two daughters Alexis (2) and Lillian (1). We also have our dog Athena, our cat Socks, and some miscellaneous fish. We live in the very liberal artsy-fartsy type town of Wooster, Ohio.
Our goals and how we are achieving them are as follows:

1. Live as eco-friendly as possible.
Our town has blue trash bag recycling, so we put all recyclables in a blue trash bag and take it to the curb every week. There is also a yearly hazardous waste recycling in our county, so we save electronics, batteries (hoping to go rechargeable sometime soon), chemicals, and tires. We were composting our organic scraps, but since it’s really cold out now, we have really been slacking on that. We use CFL bulbs in most areas of the home, and are slowly making the transition complete (except Luke’s office, because he is a pain). We have bunches of cloth rags to use and reuse. We clean a lot of things with baking soda and/or vinegar. We make our own laundry detergent out of washing soda, Fels Naptha soap bars, and Borax powder. We don’t use dryer sheets, and in the nice weather, we hang out our clothes to dry. We do use some hand-me-down and thrift store clothes, as well as some new, (but new is mostly from other people or very much clearanced).

2. Eat as healthy as possible.
We buy cage free/free range eggs. We just purchased locally raised beef and pork (From SIL’s father and my Uncle). I plan to have a more productive and bigger garden than I had this past year. We try to eat more fruits and veggies. We try to stay away from high fructose corn syrup, MSG, red dye #40, yellow dye #5 (well most dyes in general), sucralose (and other refined sugars), and anything else we find out is really yucky for you. We also try not to eat out much, although Starbucks and Arby’s tend to be our weaknesses.

3. Get out of debt and be financially responsible.
I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 2 years, and just recently picked up a part-time gig at the local K-Mart on nights and weekends. Not because I needed out of the house, but out of necessity to our current budget. Luke makes plenty to live by, if we didn’t have the debt we have. We got off to a rough start after buying a house, needing repairs done to it, having high deductibles and lousy insurance while having 2 kids. To top it all off, we were set to be consumer debt free by the end of 2008, but we suffered a miscarriage in May 2008. On top of that my beater car of 7 years had a structural break on the frame, so in about 2 months time, we racked up about $12,000 in debt, both consumer and car. We just lost control and ate out so much. We were devastated and didn’t grasp hold of the situation. We also had over $800 in medical expenses, since everything is out of pocket until we reach our high deductible, so needless to say, we need money…ASAP! On top of about $20,000 in consumer debt, we have about $5,500 for the car, and around $10,500 to Luke’s dad, because he was kind enough to loan us the down payment on our land we purchased before we bought this house. Then of course there is the land mortgage, which is around $15,000, and of course the house, but I don’t care about the house, because hopefully one day (sooner than later) we will sell it, but we do have some unfinished projects that need done. So, to combat the debt, we have a detailed excel spreadsheet for our budget, and we are snowballing our debt, curbing our eating out, lowering our grocery bill, cutting out some unnecessary expenses, selling on E-bay and Craigslist, and I baby-sit my friend’s daughter, so hopefully we will make some quick progress.

4. Starting up business ventures.
Luke has expressed interest in starting up a photography business. With the equipment we already have, we should be able to do it without needing to tie up any more money into it. He has 2 cameras, numerous lenses, photo editing software, and a lighting kit. He is still in the practicing mode right now, and we have a blog set up The money is in portrait and event photography, but he does enjoy nature photography more, and we hope to create a website soon that will feature some of his nature shots available as prints to buy. On another side, I completely dislike working out of the home right now. I worked for 7 months after Lexi was born, and it was the toughest months of my life. I missed so many family activities, my first Mother’s Day…just everything. I’ve been working at K-Mart now for a month and a half, and not a day goes by that I don’t cry because I have to leave the kids and work there. It’s taking a toll on life in general right now, and I think we would all be much happier if I was back at home, even if it meant paying off debt a lot slower. I think it would be fun to have a small home-based business, so there would be no need to leave the home, and we would have the freedom we had when I didn’t work. In the 6 years we’ve been together, I have talked about it off and on, so we purchased a web domain that we could use not only for Luke’s nature prints, but use for other products as well. Primarily, it would be the crunchy hippie stuff, like candles, soaps, and homemade trinkets of sorts. We need money and time to invest in setting it up, so right now it’s just a brainteaser, but one day it may happen.

5. Start the path towards home schooling our kids.
The girls’ cousins on the Cowgar side are home schooled, and that has been an influence on Luke and I considering home schooling. I love the idea of no set wake-up times, field trips wherever-whenever, and the ability to go into detail on things the kids find interesting, instead of them skimming over it in a public school setting. It gives Luke and I the opportunity to give so much more to the children education wise, that I know they wouldn’t receive at a public school. I want them to be able to learn things for real life applications, and not focus so much on mumbo jumbo that they may never use again. Luke and I are both products of a public school system, and not a day goes by that we wish we had learned something useful there. I have a few tubs of miscellaneous school books, teaching aides, and crafty supplies. I had every intentions of starting something up this fall, but I haven’t been able to manage the house, the kids, and this new job very well, so it just hasn’t happened.

6. Start living with less.
One look at our house, and you can sum it up with one word; CLUTTER! We have too much stuff, and not enough room. We hold on to things we will never use, or feel bad about letting go, and enough is enough. Luke and I talked recently about how cool it would be to get debt free and buy and RV, and then just live in it for a while and travel the country, since his job would allow him that freedom. Well we wouldn’t fit in an RV with all the stuff we have shoved in this house, so it’s time for a change. I have boxes piled in the foyer for a yard sale next year, and bigger items we have put up on E-Bay or Craigslist to sell. We cleaned the basement recently to organize it better, and we had boxes that had sat down there since we moved in…back in 2004! Obviously we have more than we need, so I am slowly downsizing and reorganizing the house. Hopefully this blog will keep me in check, and I can put some before and after pictures to help keep myself motivated to the task.

7. Live an adventurous life.
As stated above, Luke and I have talked about the RV experience once we are debt free, before building a house on the land. That being a few years down the line anyways, we need to make changes now to our life. We are hoping to be a lot more active outdoors, taking more hikes, attending more functions and classes at the surrounding park systems, and showing the girls appreciation for nature. It will also help out Luke with many opportunities for nature photography throughout the year. We are saving our tax return for a trip to Florida sometime during 2009, so we can see a shuttle launch before the current shuttles are retired for good. We plan to spend some days at the beach, and drive home, hopefully stopping in North Carolina at the Emerald mines, and making our way up to Washington D.C. before heading back home. I’ve never seen any of those places, and it would be a great family adventure for the girls.

To sum everything up, I am keeping this blog to keep me in check with all of these goals. I am hoping by putting everything on the table, out in the open, that it will keep me motivated and hold me accountable, so we can achieve these goals more easily. I guess it will also give the extended family an insight to our everyday life, and a journal the girls can look back on later in life. So sit back, hold on tight, and enjoy the ride…hopefully!

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