Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Smells Like Birthday Cake"

(by Tim Hawkins) Smells Like Birthday Cake - Cletus Take the Reel

It's my birthday today!! At this point in life, I don't really care about how old I am. It'll probably bother me one day, but I'm OK for now. I've had people actually believe that I'm 28! {ha ha!} For the record, I never lie about my age. I've just been testing a theory: You know how people lie & say they're 29 (or 39, or whatever)? And people always respond with, "Again?" My theory is that if you say something ending in an 8 instead of a 9, it's more believable. I've been testing it out, and nobody seems to bat an eye. Though I always say that I'm just kidding, because I really don't want them to think that I was 16 when I had my baby girl! ;)

Anyways, if you know me at all, you know why this day is so exciting for me: birthday dessert!! I seriously love dessert! I know it's not healthy, but it's pretty much my only guilty pleasure (other than coffee). It is the main reason why I eat dinner. I know I should eat dinner because it's sustenance & all, but I really just eat it so I can have dessert. There. True confessions of Amy. Anyways, birthdays are the only time when I don't feel the least bit guilty eating dessert. {OK, while I'm confessing, I'll just go ahead and say that I don't feel guilty eating dessert very often. But I especially don't feel guilty on/around my birthday!} And in celebration of birthday dessert, I decided to compile all the pictures I could find of my birthday desserts through the years! Oh boy, are you in for a treat! {ha ha!}

Here I am at age 2:

& this is when I turned 6 ~ what you can't see if my beautiful Strawberry Shortcake dress. And that's a strawberry cake :)

Age 11...this was obviously the 80's ~ complete with the unicorn cookie cake, my off-the-shoulder sweater & slouch socks.

For my 17th birthday, my friends took me to the Magic Time Machine. I promise we were happy about it. I think we were just a little weirded out by Bacchus & the Jolly Green Giant singing...

Muffi (my matron of honor) surprised me with a cake for my 20th birthday. We didn't want to light the candles for some reason. And apparently when I pretend to blow them out, it looks like I'm trying to kiss them.

I turned 21 on our honeymoon. When my mister told the waiter how old I was, he seemed quite excited to serve me some alcohol. My mister knew that I didn't care so much about that, so he said, "No, just something chocolate!" :) We don't have a picture, though. It was before digital cameras, so we thought we got one but didn't really. There's a picture of part of my face & something (maybe a finger?) in the way of the lens! But I had to mention this particular birthday story, because it confirms the fact that birthday dessert has been important to me for a long time! :)

Then there was the year I turned 27. Remember that one, Natalie?! Y'all were on the mission trip in Hollywood & called me throughout the day, but somebody didn't buy me a present! And for the record: I will never let him forget it! :D It was all good, though, 'cuz my sis-in-law made me a beautiful cake!

No, the following picture isn't of birthday dessert, but a birthday nephew is way better! And I could just eat him up! :) I never knew anyone with my birthday until Chase was born. He's just about the best birthday present ever!

I got to celebrate my 29th in Hollywood! We searched all over Universal CityWalk for the best birthday dessert. We ended up at TGIFriday's, because it had the shortest wait. While we sat outside waiting, a bird pooped on my head! This happens to me all the time, but I must say I was most disappointed that it would happen to me on my birthday! I told the bird that it wasn't a very good present, to which Jeremiah replied, "It was all he had to give!" :D Anyways, the following picture is of J re-lighting my candle after he accidentally blew it out!

That night, we got back to the Oasis (the ministry headquarters) & found a little birthday cake waiting for me! Chris swears that he didn't tell them it was my birthday! I didn't really care how they knew ~ I was super excited to have another birthday dessert! {See? It looks like I'm kissing the candle again!}

My 30th birthday was the best ever! Not only did I get LASIK, but I got FOUR birthday desserts!! Three days in a row, my family took me out for my birthday: once with my dad, another time just the four of us, and then with Dan & Amanda after church on my actual birthday...

Then that night at the home church we were attending, they had a surprise party for me! They had "30" signs everywhere & a pink crown for me to wear! Plus, there was cake!

This was my 32nd birthday lunch with my family at Johnny Rockets. I have no idea why I had both a sundae & a shake! I must have been sharing with someone...?

Y'all may remember the birthday when Alex thought I needed a candle on my sundae ~ Amy didn't have regular candles, so this is what I got:

Then there was last year at Benihana...

...& a delicious homemade cake from Amy & my birthday girls. I usually delete don't post terribly unflattering pictures of myself, but this one is hilarious! It makes me laugh, so I thought you might enjoy it, too!

I have no idea what that face was all about, but I can't bring myself to delete it! And because I can't leave y'all with that crazy picture, here's one more:

{again with the "kissing"! Geesh!}

Wow, this post ended up WAY longer than I expected. Thanks for hanging with me 'til the end! :) I'm off to eat some birthday dessert...


Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Why Do You Love Me"

(by The Reliques) Why Do You Love Me - Peacock Wood

What a crazy/awesome week this has been! I had every intention of blogging every day this week, and I'm pretty sure it was going to be a record. Unfortunately, I ended up with a terrible stomach ache on Wednesday, and I could barely sit/stand up straight for at least a full day. This happens every once in awhile. I keep thinking I'll go to the doctor, but then it'll go away for a few months. My yearly physical is coming up, and I promise I'll talk to the doctor about it! OK, moving right along...

As I mentioned the other day, we celebrated our 15th anniversary this week! It just so happened to fall on the terrible stomach ache day, so I wasn't able to thoroughly enjoy our food & such. A nice lady took this picture of us before dinner {which is a good thing because in the official picture from the Benihana staff, I'm hunched over in pain with a fake smile. Not so good!}

The student ministry Ladies Night on Thursday was extremely tacky & wonderful! I'm hoping to post more pictures when I get a chance, but here's a glimpse of the tackiness (in case you didn't see the pics on fb):

Yesterday was my nephew Chase's birthday party! We had to take our annual birthday aunt/nephew picture where I'm happy & he's just humoring me! {He takes after my brother & isn't a fan of having his picture taken}

My niece Julia made me these beautiful bracelets for my birthday! & again (like father/like child) she's thinking something along the lines of, "Let's humor Aunt Amy & take a picture with her, but I'm not going to be happy about it..."

OK, I have to confess that today's song isn't really the one that I listened to the most this week. There was a little issue with the scrobbler, so I really have no idea what today's song should be. But Laura & I went to see The Reliques last night/this morning in College Station ~ so I thought I'd post one of their songs! They were in Houston on Thursday night, but we couldn't make it (due to the aforementioned Ladies Night). We've been talking about taking a little CS road trip for awhile now, so we decided that last night was a great time to do it! Laura & Sarah M were sorority sisters, so we thought it would be cool to see her band in concert. She's really nice, and the band is great. So you should totally check them out! {Oh, and we got hit on for the 2nd time in a week...I think I've met my quota for the next 15 years!}

Anyways, we asked Chris to take a picture of us before we left {& the humidity wreaked havoc our hair!}

{Crazy fact: I'm standing on the stairs & still not as tall as Laura! I'm so jealous of her height!!}

The Reliques have been touring with Brother of Pearl, and I snapped this terrible picture:

{Mama needs a good camera!}

Alrighty, well I'm off to see my baby brother, attend my adorable neighbor's birthday party & babysit sweet Isaac. Unfortunately, I only got a few hours of sleep & have no chance for a nap until Thursday...If only I could convince myself to go to bed at a reasonable time this week. We'll see if that happens. Otherwise, expect some caffeinated randomness as soon as I have a chance to do some blogging!! I hope you're having a super great weekend! :)


Friday, July 29, 2011

"I'm Debt Free"

(from the Animal Crossing soundtrack)

I've crossed another thing off my list!! This one is super exciting for me, & I've been waiting a LONG time to say it:

{except for the house}

I cannot tell you how excited I am to finally say that! I feel like a huge burden has been lifted, and it is so incredibly liberating. I know that I have mentioned this burden before, but I haven't told the entire story (though I've said bits & pieces in my "Through the Years" series). So partly for you & partly for me, I want to tell about our journey. As any story should be told, I'll begin at the beginning...

Before Chris & I got married, we had read through Larry Burkett's "Money Before Marriage". We set up a budget, used the envelope system & only used credit cards for major car repairs. In our first two years of marriage, the most we had on a credit card was about $1,500 for a transmission. Then we bought our house, and that was our only debt for the next couple of years. When we finally had the extra money in the budget for a car payment, we bought a van. (We had been sharing a vehicle for a good portion of our first five years). Then a year or so after that, we bought a new car for my mister. We were slowly "becoming a slave to the lender". At some point along we way, we started using one credit card for most of our purchases, but we paid it off every month. {The reason we started doing that was because we earned points that we would redeem for gift cards that allowed us to go on free dates! It's not something I'd recommend to anyone, but it worked for us at the time.}

The real problem began with the move...We sold our house to a good friend, but there was about a month between my mister's last paycheck & closing on our home. Since we were in the habit of using our credit card, we simply continued to do so at that point. Christopher had joined a band & started his own business, so he needed a new bass, amp & computer. By the time we actually moved, we had already racked up a month's worth of expenses and his new equipment ~ all on credit cards. Rather than paying those expenses off with the proceeds from the sale of our house, we stuck the money in a CD that we had to keep withdrawing from in order to pay our car payments & anything else that we couldn't charge on a credit card. That money ended up lasting about a year.

For most of that first year, we lived at my dad's house. That helped us cut down on expenses, but it was never intended to be a permanent situation. We found a place to rent before the new school year started, but the added expense of rent didn't help our debt situation. I wasn't real concerned about it at first; but the more time that went by, the more we saw the debt accumulate. Clients didn't always pay on time (or at all), and there were unexpected expenses that would arise here & there. We saw many times when God provided miraculously, and it was truly an awesome experience.

For some unknown reason though, there were many times when that wasn't the case. I can't explain it, because I know how God feels about debt. I simply know that we would wait until the last minute, hoping that invoiced payments would arrive in the mail. When that didn't happen, we would use a "convenience check" to pay for whatever was due. We also played the "balance transfer game", where we'd get a 0% interest offer & transfer the balance from a card that had a higher interest rate. I can't even tell you how many times we did that!

We honestly didn't spend extravagantly during this time. The one splurge I can definitely name was LASIK for my 30th birthday. Other than that, the biggest "extras" were our "family fun" events on Saturdays & eating out a lot of Sundays for the first couple of years. {That can add up to a couple hundred dollars a month pretty quickly!} My main mistake was not budgeting. I had always been a budgeter up to that point, but it's a lot easier to do that when you actually have a dollar amount to budget with!! So I regularly spent more than I should have on groceries, household items & the dreaded car repairs!

In the Fall of 2007, we took a Financial Peace University class. We had known Dave Ramsey's principals, but it was incredibly helpful to really learn how to put them into practice. {He even had a few suggestions for those of us who were self-employed!} And it was amazing to see God's blessing once we truly made the commitment to be debt free! We stopped used credit cards & made a budget based on the least amount of money that we thought Chris would earn each month. In the Spring of 2008, Chris & Freddy sold their company and went to work for the company that bought them. We were able to pay off about 1/3 of our remaining debt at that point, which was awesome!

Little did we know that Chris would get diagnosed with cancer that Fall, and we would have a HUGE tax bill the following April (for the year that he had sold his company). We ended up having to rely on debt with those two little "hiccups", but we explored every other option beforehand. I even checked Dave Ramsey's site when we got the tax bill! [For the record: he doesn't want people in our situation to be tempted to use a credit card for that, because you can work out a payment plan with the IRS. The government's interest rate is pretty low, but our credit card's interest rate was less than 1/2 of theirs. So we did end up using a card. I think he'd be OK with us paying less interest, though!]

{One other thing that we didn't do quite by the plan was buy our house almost two years ago. We had been renting for four years, and the tax credit that year was too great to pass up! Plus, we got a great deal on the house, & the payment isn't much more than we were paying in rent. Now that we're out of debt, we'll continue with the Baby Steps & get the house paid off as soon as possible!}

So here we are, nearly four years later: DEBT FREE (except for the house), having paid off somewhere in the neighborhood of $72,000. That total includes two cars (we still owed around 1/3 of the original loans at the time of the FPU class), LASIK, part of our living expenses for 2-3 years, a hefty tax bill and medical expenses. Now that the burden is lifted, we have started on Baby Step 3: Build our 3-6 month emergency fund. Once we have that built up, we should have money in the bank to handle any future emergencies so there'll be no need to rely on credit cards. Ever again!

I didn't say all of that so you can think we're so great because we were able to pay off so much. Without God's help, we would not have been able to do it. Throughout our journey, my faith has grown tremendously. There were times along the road when I really felt like it was such a huge burden & I couldn't take any more. I would go through the numbers & try to figure out a way that we could cut more from our budget (sometimes obsessively). I would eventually get to the point where I knew there was nothing more that I could do. And it was in those times that I would cry out to God, and He would answer me. Sometimes, it was through a part-time job literally falling in my lap that would still allow me to be home when my kids were home (except for one job that I had for a few months when Cody was still a pre-schooler, but he stayed at home with his dad). Other times, He would use His people to bless us financially or show up at our doorstep with bags of groceries. And still other times, there would be a surprise check in the mail (for example, a year after our move we got a refund from our homeowner's insurance. Turns out, it had been paid out of escrow two weeks before we sold the house, so we got nearly an entire year's worth back!) Also, it had never even been a thought in our minds for Chris & Freddy to sell their business, and there's no way we can deny that God's hand was in that (especially considering the whole cancer thing that came up only six months after he started receiving way better insurance benefits). And there was a little photo contest that we somehow won, even though there were way better pictures than ours! {Thank you again to all our friends who voted & reposted on facebook!!} I could go on, but I think you get the point. I simply can't tell our story without giving Him the glory He is due.

One more really neat thing before I go...I just have to tell you about the money that allowed us to pay off our last bill today! It came from a client of Chris & Freddy's, and this client also happens to be a friend! His name is Bob {respect the 'stache} & we volunteer in the student ministry together. He & his wife have two beautiful girls that I love!! {they're a couple of the teenagers that I get to hang out with at church!} Bob is also an insurance agent who is endorsed by The Dave Ramsey Show. I thought it was pretty cool that our last remaining bit of debt was paid off because of a Dave Ramsey ELP and a friend! How cool is that?!

Believe it or not, this is an abbreviated version of the story! Thanks for sticking it out through this rather lengthy post. I hope it has been encouraging for you if you are still on this journey. If we can do it, anybody can!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Love You 'Till the End"

(by The Pogues) Love You 'Till the End - P.S. I Love You (Music from the Motion Picture)

15 years ago today, I married my best friend! ♥


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Hey Mama"

(by Mat Kearney) Hey Mama - Hey Mama - Single

Last night I went with a motley crew of ladies to see Mat Kearney:

He played at the House of Blues, and he did an amazing job! There was WAY too much light when he was standing up front, so you can't see his face in any of the pics of him playing guitar :( So this is the only decent picture I got:

Mat opened for Owl City (again, not the best picture):

{This picture was taken after Heather told me, "It's OK if you stand in front of me to take a picture. I can still see!" Oh, how nice it would be to be tall!}

I did get a few pictures of us ladies:

Meredith & Mel :)

This was Heather & Diona's response to the "come hither" looks that the Owl City cellist was giving the audience!!

How cute is Mel with her awesome dance moves?!

& here's one more of Laura & me:

While Adam Young is a great performer, we decided not to stick around for the entire Owl City concert. Most of the songs sound the same {no offense, Adam, we love the fact that you love Jesus!} & there were a couple of pregnant ladies who needed to get off their feet! So we sat in the lounge of a bowling alley across from the HOB & had some good conversation & appetizers. We also got hit on (sorta). It's been so long since any of us have been hit on that we're not really sure what that looks like. We came to the conclusion that maybe he was pretending that he was new to the scene & wondering what to do for fun (just in case it didn't work out when he tried to pick us up)! The caffeine that we picked up at Starbucks on the way began to wear off around midnight, so we drove back to suburbia in the party wagon. It was a super fun night!! :)


Monday, July 25, 2011

"Signature of Divine (Yahweh)"

(by NEEDTOBREATHE) Signature of Divine (Yahweh) - The Heat

This is my 400th post!!

{I know it's random, but since we were just in NM I thought this pic of Route 400 was perfect!}

Speaking of random, this post is all over the place! {What's new, right? I'm pretty sure my last post was all over the place, too!} I have a couple of exciting events & things coming up this week, but when I saw that I was up to post #400 I thought I would just make it a random one...

This is several weeks overdue, but I finally remembered to get a picture from Amy. I have to brag on my sweet boy for a minute! When Amy, Wade & I went to pick up the boys from camp, we got there just in time to see their counselors give out awards to each boy in their cabin. The counselors had observed the boys all week to pick a godly character trait that they saw in each boy. They had a certificate for each one & took a minute to describe the character trait and give a scripture for them. I kept waiting for Cody's turn, but he ended up being the last one. The counselor started out by explaining that the last award was a special one given to only one person per cabin. He said that this person helped out a lot, cared for others and showed a servant's heart. He gave the "I am Third" award to Cody & asked him what it meant. Cody explained that it meant God first, others second, and I am third. This mama had tears in her eyes! I love that boy!! ♥ He got his certificate as well as this cool shield that had been a part of a game one day:

{He chose the song for today, because they sang it at camp. He didn't realize that it's a NEEDTOBREATHE song ~ but since I knew it was, I thought it was a great song choice!}

I also finally remembered to get a picture from Mister Christopher. I briefly mentioned that my mister & I went to see our friend Jeremiah's band a few weeks ago. What I didn't tell was that the bass player suffered a little injury. He had come out from a well-lit backstage to a dark room, and the previous band had left some equipment on the ground. Not seeing it, he tripped over it & fell. All night, he was in intense pain ~ but he played the set anyways. The next day, he went to the doctor and found out that he had broken both elbows! How crazy is that?! The boy broke both elbows yet played an entire set! Anyways, we paused afterward to take this silly photo:

{Where's Waldo?}

One other funny bit of randomness...The other night Chris was working upstairs, & I hollered up to him that I hadn't had any chocolate all day because we didn't have any. You're probably thinking that I shouldn't interrupt his work for something seemingly as minor as that. But it's a tragedy to me! And apparently he thought so, too, because next thing I knew he was grabbing his keys & kissing me goodbye. I asked where he was going (because I usually know when he's going somewhere), and he said, "You shouldn't have a chocolate-less house" (or something along those lines). He came home with a bag full of fun-sized chocolates:

Alrighty, well I better get some chores & errands done today! The next 7 or 8 days are filled with fun stuff! {My counselor thinks I keep myself busy so I don't have time to think about things. I think he might be right! Am I screwed up, or what?} Anyways, I'll be busy with things like: a couple of concerts with girlfriends, an anniversary, ladies night with my favorite students, fun in the sun (& water ~ 'cuz it's stinkin' hot!), hanging out with this cute boy, and a few birthdays {including mine!}

Oh, and I'm sure I'll be doing plenty of things to prove myself worthy of my new title "Queen of Awkwardness" (or "Quawk", as Cody likes to call me now)! It was given to me after a hilariously awkward conversation with my friend Julie's cousin at church yesterday. I would try to explain it to y'all, but it would be awkward. And it probably wouldn't be funny to y'all, 'cuz you sorta had to be there. I was told later that I added to her family's lunchtime conversation & was the cause of a chuckle on her cousin's drive home. Hey, whatever it takes to make people smile! :)
Cody wanted me to show y'all his picture to explain why he calls me "Quawk":

I'l close with these great words from today's song:

Take me and pull me through.
Cause I can't move without You.
"I won't leave you alone," You say,
"It will be okay."


Saturday, July 23, 2011

"The Earth is Yours"

(by Gungor) The Earth Is Yours - Beautiful Things

How awesome is this song?! I've just recently discovered this band, and I am loving them! I found out about them last week when we were at a little coffee shop in my dad's hometown. It reminded us of the coffee shop we had at our church back home, because Christian bands play there a lot. The kids & I were feeling nostalgic & looking at the band posters on the wall. I recognized a lot of them (like Jimmy Needham, Phil Wickham & Everyday Sunday) and started talking to the owner about them. He was impressed that I knew so many of them {'cuz I'm cool like that! ha ha!} I told him about the coffee shop we used to have & some of the bands that played there. Of course I couldn't remember any bands that are still together! {And Chris was in the van on a business call, so he wasn't there to remind me! I think he was quite ashamed that I didn't even think to mention Modern Day John. How could I forget?!} Anyways, I asked him if he knew any cool worship bands {remember how I've been looking for new ones?} & he told me about Gungor. Turns out I already had a song of theirs! {It was a freebie on the same Christmas album as "You Make the Cold Disappear" ~ that's when I fell in love with Amy Stroup, so I guess I only had eyes ears for her at the time!} Anyways, you should totally check them out!

I've been super busy this week...
  • As the kids have gotten bigger, so have the loads of laundry ~ it seems like it took forever to get caught up on it after our trip!
  • The kids & I went with the youth group to volunteer at a thrift store that assists those in need.
  • I also got to spend a few hours with Misty! She works for NASA, and it was the day of the last shuttle landing. Kinda sad! :(
  • I got to have a mindless TV day with Amy ~ which we haven't done in nearly a month! I hope HGTV & Food Network's ratings haven't dropped because of us! ;)
  • I met with Jana & Julie to plan a fun girls' event next week. I think they're going to love it! But it's a secret, so I can't tell y'all about it quite yet!
  • We spent some time with old neighbors that now live in our new neighborhood. Their son likes to play the Wii with my kids! :)
  • We had two different sets of visitors from Dallas. Both visits were way too short, but we're always glad to see our old friends!

And apparently Pepper was glad to see them, too! Have I mentioned that she's a bit of a scaredy-cat? She's afraid of anything & everything, so she doesn't generally get along with people that don't live in our home ~ at least until they've been here for a couple of days. I don't know if it's related to boarding her while we were on our trip, or what, but she jumped up next to Alyssa just a couple hours after she & Erick arrived:

She let Elizabeth pet her several times:

And she hopped into Naomi's lap!

One final thing...Mister Christopher had a doctor visit on Tuesday, & it was the shortest wait we've ever had for Dr C (the one we've waited on for up to an hour & 1/2 before. And the same one we had to reschedule after an hour & 1/2 another time). It was looking pretty bad when he wasn't even in the building at 20 minutes after the appointment time, but he actually showed up about 15 minutes later! Anyways, Christopher's visual acuity is about CF 1', and there continues to be more radiation damage. There are some new spots indicating lack of circulation, as well as some new blood vessels that concern Dr C. As explained in a previous post, these vessels form haphazardly and can lead to glaucoma (which if left untreated, could cause him to lose his eye). Dr C is especially concerned that these vessels may form in the front of the eye, which will cause his pressure to increase quickly. The cataract is also worse, and because of it they can't treat the damaged vessels with laser. He may be treated with a shot (in his eye ~ ouch!) if vessels form at the front of his eye, if the current ones get worse, or if his pressure increases. I asked if the shot would prevent him from requiring surgery, and Dr C said, "Postpone." So, it looks like another surgery is inevitable. The upside to that is they'll go ahead & remove the cataract when he has to have surgery. That won't improve his vision, but it'll be one less thing for them to keep noticing and commenting on. As things stand now, if Chris notices anything different, he is to call immediately. And we're back to seeing Dr C every 2-3 months. If you recall the last time we saw him, things were looking stable. In fact, because his pressure was down & he was seeing Dr B the following month, we didn't have to go back to Dr C for 5 months. But now, even though we're seeing Dr B in 2 months, we have to see Dr C then, too. Fun stuff... :/

I hope y'all are having a great weekend!!