Light at the End of the Tunnel

This is our final week working on the RV. We are scheduled to move into it next Friday, God willing. Things are finally starting to look up as our major repairs are drawing to a close. Hallelujah!

 Here is our progress in the master bedroom:

        

Ta-dah! Our master bedroom has been transformed! The damask print is a plush headboard. The cabinets above will now have wicker baskets to increase storage. 

Here is our progress in the living area:

   
 

We replaced the subfloor with new plywood and will be laying new vinyl today! You can also see that I replaced the border and recovered the valences. It’s looking great!

Here is our progress in the kids room:

   

We removed a bunk to make a play area for the kids. The curtains are up as well as a special own door knob on their closet.

With only 5 days until move-in, we still have much to accomplish. But, as you can see, we are getting there!
 

I Love the Smell of Sawdust

I’ve been dying to update everyone on all the progress we’ve made renovating the RV, but I’ve been working so hard I haven’t had any time to write. The work has been hard and long, but I have really enjoyed spending time with my mom and learning every square-inch of our new home. 

  

Since my last update, we discovered that the leak in our bedroom was more extensive than we thought. We ended up needing to remove almost the entire back wall all the way to the studs and metal. Apparently, the roof was leaking all across the top, not just in the corner as we had first thought. 

  

We cut out all the old, wet wall board and scooped out the soggy insulation. Then we removed the studs that we water logged and replaced them. My mom had a genius idea to add new support beams across the front to support the sagging roof. It worked beautifully!

Next, I repaired the leak in the roof by using a six-inch-wide adhesive tape that was made for RV roof repair. I went over the whole front seam 3 times. We plan on going back over the entire roof with a product called Liquid Roof to make sure the roof is fully sealed. But we have to wait for some dry weather. It’s been monsoon season here in the hillcountry!

  
Today mom and I plan on working on the slide out. We discovered that water was wicking up from the underside of our slide and soaking the subfloor. We have attempted to repair this area 3 times on our own, each time tweaking the process slightly, but every night the rains came and soaked the floor again! We finally ended up with a solution on the 4th try. I won’t bore you with the details, but I will say that installing a 4 inch rubber drip edge did the trick. 

  

We’ve been waiting for the plywood in the slide out to dry so we can treat it with some epoxy to harden it up. Then we plan on reinforcing it with 2×4’s, which shouldn’t show since they will be behind the dinette and couch. Once that’s complete, we can add linoleum in the slide and replace the furniture. It all sounds so easy! But I have learned that each project takes twice as long as you think. Unforeseen problems always crop up, but mom and I like to think of them as opportunities to be creative. 

  
This process has made me extremely thankful for my mom and her construction expertise. I have learned so much from her. She has taught me to remain positive and keep looking for a solution, especially when it looks hopeless. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to learn from her and lay my hands on all the guts of our home. Even though it’s been tough work, I wouldn’t trade one day of it. Plus, I love the smell of sawdust!

We Bought a Truck!

  
We have been cruising Craigslist for about a month, getting to know what kinds of trucks are out there and how much they are going for. We knew we needed at least a 3/4 ton to successfully pull our 30ft RV (the dry weight is around 8,000 lbs). We pretty quickly narrowed our search to Ford F250 and F350 crewcabs with 7.3 liter PowerStroke Diesel engines. 

Our maximum budget was $9,000, so we were pretty much looking at 2000 year models and older with around 200,000-300,000 miles on them. Most of the ones we were finding on Craigslist were less than ideal. Lots of them either had mechanical problems or rough looking interiors. But we didn’t want to compromise, knowing that we would need something reliable for our time on the road. We knew God would provide just the right truck for us. 

While we were in Bandera working on the RV, Caleb was cruising Craigslist again and found our perfect truck. It is a 2001 Ford F250.  Just what we wanted! It was located in north Austin so he drove there right away to look at it since the good ones go fast. He came back 6 hours later with our new set of wheels!

It feels weird to drive such a huge, loud truck. But I have to admit, I kinda like it. It’s very roomy and will do an excellent job towing our rig. I can hardly wait for our maiden voyage!

Timeline

Many friends have asked about when we are moving into our RV and when we are hitting the road. Here is he condensed version of our plan… And a picture of Caleb making his “how-in-the-world are we going to afford a truck” face. 

  

May- selling everything, finishing renovations in the RV and buying a truck to tow our home. 

June 1- turning in the keys to our apartment, living full time in the RV here in Austin.

July 6- hitting the road! Heading to the Denver area to do some serious Bearded Brothers promotion.

August- taking a break from “work” in Estes Park and Caleb runs Leadville as a pacer for our friend, John Ryan. 

September- heading to Utah for more work and Caleb runs Wasatch 100!

September 19- heading back home to Austin, just in time for Abby’s 3rd birthday. 

We are still trying to decide where we will park full-time when we return in September. We have a couple of options, but will know more as it gets closer. Right now, our best options look like Mid-Town RV Park in East Austin and Sunset RV park near Dripping Springs. 

We plan on staying a few months at a time in Austin so Caleb can work. I’m not-so-secretly hoping we can spend December in California. We’ll see!

How to Survive IKEA

I love IKEA! But have you ever noticed that everyone enters IKEA smiling and giddy only to be released hours later looking war-torn and weary? How sad. Well, I treated myself to a spur-of-the-moment IKEA trip yesterday and I thought I would share my four tips on how to survive and come out smiling. 

 

   
Rule #1:  Shopping trips and inspiration trips are two separate things. I love walking around the acres of showroom IKEA has to offer. But if you are going to BUY things, I seriously suggest you skip this area altogether. I prefer to browse the showroom only on leisure trips where I am there for the specific purpose of looking around and getting ideas. This leads me to…

Rule #2:  Shop online first! IKEA has a great website where you can create a shopping list of all the things you like. You simply select which store you plan on going to, and it will generate a printable checklist, complete with aisle and bin numbers… So you can skip the showroom and go right to what you need in the marketplace! Brilliant!

    
Rule #3:  Never shop hungry. Whether I am there to shop or just look, my first stop is always the cafe. My favorite thing to get is their chocolate indulgence cake and a free cup of coffee. Yep, coffee is always free for IKEA Family Members! Now that I am thoroughly caffeinated and sugared up, it’s time to end with…

Rule #4:  Head toward the exit at the first sign of weariness. Even if you stick to my previous rules, the sheer amount of stuff IKEA has to offer will eventually drain you. As soon as it does, put down that throw pillow and head to the check out! You will do a much better job shopping if you return another day refreshed. 

  
Here is a little sample from my shopping trip. I would show you more, but I don’t want to give it all away before the big “reveal!”

  

WE’RE DEBT FREE!

Next Tuesday, we will appear live on the Dave Ramsey Show to scream to the world that we are debt free. If you don’t listen to his show, this is something called, “the debt free scream.” We are making a special week-long trip to Tennessee to celebrate our new-found freedom from the chains of debt. It’s been a long road and we are so ready to celebrate. If you are curious, listen to the show! We will be on at 2pm Tuesday, May 5th (find a station in your area).
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Our journey into freedom started on our wedding day. A good friend, actually Kristy’s boss at the time, gifted us with the best present you could give two newly weds: Financial Peace University. This is Dave Ramsey’s 12-week class on how to become debt free and build wealth. It took us almost a year of looking at the box before we actually got moving.

At that time, Caleb was working on starting Bearded Brothers and Kristy was working full-time at a non-profit. We were living off Kristy’s income, paycheck to paycheck. We were surviving, but not thriving. We knew something had to change if we wanted to start a family someday.

So we signed up for a Financial Peace class at a local church. The class was amazing and inspired us right away to start a budget. This was tough, as both of us were 30 years old when we married and had plenty of time to get set in our ways as to how money should be managed. But God was good to us and we were able to each make sacrifices to live on one income.

Once we got on a budget, then it was time to tackle our debt. Together we had over $60,000 in debt! About $40,000 of that was Kristy’s college tuition. $10,000 was Caleb’s 2009 Subaru Outback and we owed about $10,000 to Caleb’s dad. At first our progress was slow and torturous. We could only scrape together about $100 each month extra to put toward the Subaru. There were days when we felt like giving up and just going out to eat (our biggest temptation). But somehow we muscled through.

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It took us just over a year to pay the car off. Oh, and in that time we had our first child! And we paid cash for her birth! We felt like we were finally seeing some traction. But this was also a time of testing. We had decided that it was a priority for Kristy to stay home and raise our daughter, but she was the only wage earner. Caleb was working diligently at getting the business off the ground, but it was an uphill battle and he still was not earning a paycheck. Kristy’s maternity pay came and went. She quit her job in faith that God would provide. We lived on savings for 3 months. Just when Caleb was considering taking a night job, we saw God’s provision. The business got some major promotion and took off! Soon Caleb’s salary replaced Kristy’s. God is so good!

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Next, we tackled the student loan. At $40,000, it was a beast. But Kristy’s midwife had taught her an inspirational saying during childbirth, “push harder than it hurts!” So we leaned into the pain and didn’t shy away. We continued cutting corners and living on as little as we could. We created handmade Christmas gifts instead of buying people things. We invited people over for dinner instead of going out. It was tough to say no to things our friends were doing, but we knew this was short-term pain for long-term gain.

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Soon we were seeing light at the end of the tunnel. We found out we were pregnant with our son AND paid off the student loan, less than a year after paying off the car!  The biggest contributor to paying off the student loan was the sale of Caleb’s house in Denton, that had been rental property for the previous four years. At this point we were high on paying debt. We only had $10,000 to go and we threw every extra dollar at it. Things moved very quickly at this point, as our debt snowball had reached $900 per month. We paid cash for the birth of our son and were nearly ready to pay off Caleb’s dad when Kristy had some major medical issues postpartum. An ER visit and surgery cost us around $5,000 after insurance. But thanks to Dave Ramsey’s plan, we were not discouraged. We put Dad’s payments on hold and put our entire debt snowball toward the bills.

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Now here we are, less than one year after our precious son’s birth we are completely and totally debt free! Heck, we even had enough money to buy our first home! We are so thankful to God for giving us the strength to persevere and for the support of our friends and family. We are blessed indeed.

Stress Bomb

With 30 days to go until we move into our RV, I’m a total stressed-out maniac. I don’t want to be, but I look at my calendar and know there is no earthly way to get it all done. We still need to sell 90% of our belongings and finish the remodeling on our RV. 

Our house looks like the bottom of a toaster. There are piles and boxes everywhere. I hate this phase. I thrive on order and simplicity… And right now I can’t find either. 

To make matters worse, I feel like a mom-failure. My son turns one in two weeks. I think we will celebrate by installing a new light fixture over the dinette. Happy birthday, Joshy!

Sigh.

If you think about it, say a prayer for me. I know there is peace outside this circumstance. I’m just having a hard time seeing past this temporary chaos. 

RV Remodeling Rollercoaster

I have spent the past week at the ranch with my mom and step-dad working on the RV. It has been one heck of a learning experience and a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I’ve wanted to post updates all week, but I honestly felt exhausted at the end of each day and too frazzled to write anything at all. I love a hard day’s work. The hardest part of all this has been the ups and downs that come with a remodel project (or so I’ve learned from watching HGTV).

We bought our rig for $7,000 and budgeted another $1,000 for repairs. I was hoping to come in a little under that to have some money for changing the decor. When I got to the ranch on Tuesday, Skip has already made a list of the necessary repairs with an itemized parts and labor estimate. If we did everything we would be $550 over budget.


So we nixed the power hitch and hoped we could get lucky with some savings somewhere. That evening I grieved a little. I had really hoped there would be money left for new flooring and other cosmetic updates to the interior. I talked to Caleb and we agreed that those things could be done later as we saved more money. Sigh. 

The next morning, Skip went to the RV supply store and got our parts. To our surprise he was able to get a discount and save us over $250! And he bought us a power hitch as a “bon voyage” gift! Things were looking up.

That evening our repair guy, Armundo, came over to clean the roof and get it ready to be resealed. We got some bad news. The roof was in worse shape than we thought. As he cleaned it, he found some cracks that, while not a problem now, could lead to a new roof in the future. To make matters worse, we got a heavy rain that night (just after he had removed all the old dicor sealant from an area the previous owners had repaired). We woke up to this.

The forecast for the next day said more rain so Mom and I had to get some gorilla tape and tape up our roof. Yep, our trailer has a duct tape roof… Keepin’ it classy! Mom did a great job and no further damage was done.

The bad news was that we found two more leaks. One in the skylight in the bathroom.

The other leak we found in the corners of our slide out as we were removing the couch.

As you can imagine, at this point I’m feeling pretty down. With these new leaks, repair cost will go up. I’m wondering what in the world we had gotten ourselves into.

My mom sensed that I have taken a downturn and suggests we do some shopping for inspiration. She assures me that it’s all going to work out and be beautiful. And when she says this, I believe her. She has a proven record of turning trash into treasure.  She got out several Home & Garden magazines and together we dreamed. I sketched out my dream plan for the RV and we talked colors and fabrics. I found this inspiration pillow at IKEA. The next day we hit the shops with wind back in our sails.

   

Mom had already said she wanted to recover our couch and dinette cushions in leather as a birthday gift for Caleb and I. Woohoo! Things were looking up! Next we found some great upholstery fabrics for the backs of the dinette cushions, the new headboard for our bed and some pillows for the couch. All of which were on super-sale at JoAnn Fabrics!


We still don’t know yet what the full cost of the skylight and slide out repair will be, but we will make it work. We trust that God has set us on this path. In the words of my mother, “It’s all going to work out beautifully!”

Inside Pics- Before the Remodel

Our friends and family have been anxiously awaiting photos of he inside of our first RV. We were so excited and flustered during the sale that we forgot to snap any pictures. Kristy has spent the past week at the ranch with Skip and Lorilee, getting it all cleaned and prepped for some remodel work (more on that later). So, here are the “before” pictures:

Removing the old awning. Yuck!

Master bedroom. The previous owners left us a bunch of stuff, most of which we donated or posted to Craigslist.

Living area “entertainment center.” We plan on ditching the TV and making better use of this area.

 

Living area. There is so much I want to change in here, but we will have to see what the budget allows. So far, we know the couches and dinette will be recovered and valences changed.  I would love to change the flooring throughout, but for now we will steam clean the carpet and hope for the best.

I’m glad you can’t smell this couch right now!

Kitchen area. The previous owners were very clean. Not much has to be changed in here, though I would love to paint the cabinets. But that is certainly out of our budget presently, and they are not in bad shape.

Our tiny bathroom.

Another view of the bathroom. I’m thrilled that it has a tub so we can bathe the kids!

Speaking of the kids… Here is their room! We plan on taking out one bottom bunk to give them some floor space for play.  Oh, and there are a few of these weird carpeted storage boxes in both bedrooms. I don’t know what to do with those. All I know is that stinky carpet is not staying!

I hope you’ve enjoyed our little tour! We’ve already begun the remodeling, so check back soon to see our progress.

Capsule Wardrobe

As you can imagine, the closets in our new home are tiny. I haven’t taken measurements yet, but I knew we would need to weed through our clothes big-time. This is something I enjoy doing a few times a year. Yeah, I’m a weirdo who likes throwing stuff out. As I was surfing Pintrest looking for some good RV organization tips, I found this blog about building a Capsule Wardrobe. Immediately I was sold.

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I have long fantasized about having a small choice of high-quality clothes which easily coordinate into many outfits. This method speaks my language. The idea is to simplify the choices so you have more time to think about and do other things. Now, I don’t stand in front of my closet for hours deciding what to wear each morning (I have toddlers and am basically invisible to the general public), but I do have more clothes than I wear.
Enter the capsule wardrobe! Here’s how I did mine. First, I wrote down the least amount of clothes I would need for a season. I did two seasons labeled “warm” and “cool” because, let’s face it, I live in Texas. Here’s what my list looks like:

Next, I went through and pulled out things from this list, starting with my favorite, go-to items. The main idea is to only keep what you LOVE and wear a lot. Once I had the things on my list, I threw the rest in a Goodwill pile. Done! Here is an after picture of my closet.:

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My wardrobe is not perfect. I would love to replace some of the cheaper things with long-lasting, high-quality pieces, but that will have to come in time. For now, my clothes will fit in my RV closet, and that makes me happy.