Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Debt Story: Part 12

I apologize for the lack of details in these last few pieces of our debt story. The truth of the matter is, once we had our momentum going to get the debt paid off, and once Simeon had been born and we'd sold almost everything, things settled down into a paycheck by paycheck process. The details of each of those weeks of waiting has been lost into the abyss everyday life and parenting four children; however, there are a few things I still remember during those last few months and those are what I've chosen to highlight here.

Working to pay off our debt had been an exhausting process. With every paycheck we paid our bills and put the rest toward our credit card. Watching the balance slowly melt away every month felt empowering and gave us the momentum we needed to keep moving forward. Even though the sacrifices were difficult, we felt rewarded at every turn. In a sour economy Mike was given raises. When people were watching their livelihoods fall apart, losing their homes and their belongings, we were feeling the freedom of financial fear slipping away. Seeing God bless us in a financial way was almost overwhelming and there were times we felt a kind of guilt for being blessed.
Between paying off our credit card and paying off our car there was really a lull in life. Each paycheck came in and the money went right back out. We were able to keep our emergency savings account at $1000 and somehow managed to live well below our means.
We preached getting out of debt as if our lives depended on it. We sold so much people were afraid to give us anything. Once, Mike's brother complained that he was worried to lend Mike a t-shirt for fear that we would try to sell it on Craigslist. Our own children cried and begged us not sell our television when my brother-in-law (who was working for the cable company at that time) came over to help Mike with some internet issues. We feared we would scar them for life. My mother even felt inclined to remind me that "salvation is not in [your] finances."

Admittedly, we were obnoxious to be around.

When we began to tire of the process, when I wanted to go out for dinner, when Mike wanted to buy something for the house, when I grew tired of carrying a calculatter around the grocery store we reminded each other of where we'd been. We remembered not being able to buy groceries without using the credit card, we remembered Mike having to work overtime just to pay the bills ... when we remembered where we had been and the goal that lay ahead, our energy became renewed and our resolve was refreshed and we were able to keep going.

In the beginning of our journey, when we decided we were not able to tithe and would have to give from any excess, we were surprised to see there was always excess for us to tithe from. Our lawn turned brown, the gravel in the driveway became spotty and I spent a lot of time at home with the children but one day ... one day we made a payment and our credit card was paid off. It had taken us less than 6 months to pay off over $12,000. In an unbelievable fit of happiness and joy I made our final payment and Mike called to cancel the card forever. And then we began working on paying off the car.

Making the final credit card payment..I can't help but remember selling this computer cabinet to help pay off the car!

First it was an additional $570...then another $430... every once in awhile we made a payment of $20 or less towards the principle balance. I remember wondering where all the money was coming from? How is that we could live so many years depending on a credit card to get us through, and now money was pouring in above and beyond what we needed. Literally so much more money that we were going to pay off our credit card AND our car within less than one year of each other?

On July 20, 2009, two days before Mike's birthday...we made the final payment on our car. We were able to make a payment of $1013.20 and we were out of debt completely. I felt completely overwhelmed with emotion and unable to process what we had just accomplished. My heart felt light and happy and I could not stop smiling. Mike was working that day but the kids and I kept yelling "We're debt free!". I felt like I was walking taller and was a feeling I find very difficult to describe.

Two years earlier we'd gone to Outback for Mike's birthday dinner. We'd invited some friends to come with us and decided we should pick up the tab - we, of course, had no money so we'd put everything on our credit card. After dinner I took Mike by Best Buy for him to pick out the iPod he'd had his eye on. Again, we put the purchase on our credit card.

Now, after having made a payment of over $1000, we went back to the Outback to celebrate again ...

We paid cash. And regardless of paying on credit or with cash...the food there still stinks.

To be continued...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mommy's Busy ...

My sweet cousin started a Mommy's Prayer Group on Facebook. My cousin, Jessica...she's amazing. She has a really awesome story and when I look at her I see this happily married mother of two adorable girls and I can see visual tangible evidence of a God who loves and cares for us. I love that every good thing in her life she says is from God and that all the trials led her closer to God. She's truly an amazing woman.

So, this Mommy's Prayer Group...I ignored the invite for a few days until I noticed some of my other friends were posting stuff so I finally gave it a look. The reason I ignored it is two-fold. First, I don't really want to join another 'Mommy Group'. I just don't. I have a bad attitude and I need to let it go.

Secondly, I'm not sure I want to open up to these women.

I have major pride issues. This all started in infancy (my infancy, that is) and has only festered and grown the older I get. After having children it pretty much blew up and out of control. People would say things to me like, "Wow! How do you get out of the house with four kids? I can hardly do it with one!" and I would think, "Because I'm awesome." Or they would say, "Your baby sleeps through the night? That's amazing!" and I would think, "Yeah, I know." Or they would say, "Your kids are so well behaved! Good job!" and I would think, "Hell ya."

The other day a woman said, "You have four kids AND you homeschool? You must be a saint!" Outwardly I smiled but what I thought was, "Doing this thing...this mothering and homeschooling is going to kill me. It may literally kill me. So if that's what it takes to make one a saint then I suppose I am." The reality of it is, every time I get a compliment I think, "If you only knew. If you only knew how they cried as we were trying to get out of the house and how I sobbed for ten minutes in the parking lot. If you only knew the amount of nights my other kids weren't sleeping and how sleep deprived I really am. If you only knew that my son just threw a fan at my head (true story) and that I drank three glasses of wine in order to cope with it."

If they only knew.

My problem has been (and often, still is) that I don't want them to know.

How do I tell them that being a mother is the fulfillment of every dream I had as a child? But sometimes, I feel like being a mom is a living nightmare?

How do I explain to them that I would give my life for my kids? But at times, I feel like they are stealing the life right out of me?

How do I explain that I love the sound of when they say, "I love you Mommy!" but they tell me they love me in order to get a bite of my food or out of going to bed and I doubt they really love me at all?

How do I tell them that today, for the first time in over two weeks, I cleaned the bathrooms and mopped the floor? And I really half-assed it, because I didn't want to bend over to clean out the tubs. And then I double half-assed it because I only cleaned the kid's bathroom because I don't have the energy to clean mine.

Will they find me cruel if I admit that I wait until the kids are in bed to eat dessert because I'm so sick of having to share?

Would they understand that I love homeschooling but at the same time think it would be so nice for the kids to be gone all day so I could have some time alone?

Will they forgive me if some days the only reason I am excited for Mike to come home from work is because the kids will have someone besides me to talk to?

Would they still want me to pray for them if they know I spent half the day hiding in the bathroom so I could hear myself think?

Will they think less of me if they know that I totally blew it and instead of kissing my daughter's owie screamed at her not to be so clumsy and to JUST LISTEN to me for once?

If they know the real me, the me with faults, the me with struggles, the me with issues...the me, that sometimes, doesn't like being a mom at all...will they still let me be a part of their group?

I guess my answer is, I'm not sure. Maybe they won't. Perhaps they will snub their noses at me and think (as I have often done) that they would never behave as I have.

Or maybe...

There's a chance that I'm the reason that Jessica decided creating a prayer group for moms was a good idea. Not me precisely, but me as in, other mothers like me. Maybe, just maybe, one of the other moms yelled at her kids this morning too. Perhaps there's another mom out there who hasn't cleaned her tubs in a couple of weeks. There may even be a mom or two who don't really like being a mom every minute of every day. I wonder if there's a mom out there who's already had a glass of wine today?

So, ladies...this is me. My children, ages 7 1/2, almost 6, 4 and 2 1/2, are the greatest gifts God has given to my husband and me. As my friend Kimberly so succinctly put it, no one else in this world can melt my heart and make my blood boil in the same instant.

I'm a mothering mess and I'm pretty sure, if you're still reading, you know how to pray for me.

It's nice to meet you.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The obligatory Valentine post

Although Mike and I have never made a very big day out of Valentine's Day, since the kids have come around we've started doing little things we think they will enjoy. It's not that I don't like Valentine's Day - I really do. It's just that we celebrate our anniversary right before it and we generally put quite a bit of energy (and money) into that. By the time Valentine's Day rolls around our wallets are fairly skinny.
The kids though - they get left out of the whole anniversary deal (doy) - so we make Valentine's a little more about them. This morning Mike made them heart shaped pancakes and bought each of them little heart shaped boxes of chocolates. They were thrilled! I'd also bought them some off brand croc's that were on clearance at Target - they'd been begging for some forever and for $3? How could I not?
Mike surprised me and had a huge bouquet of flowers waiting when I woke up (after letting me sleep in!) as well as some mango nectar. I found an awesome recipe for mango margaritas to make for me and my sister-in-law during the SuperBowl but I could not find the stinking mango nectar! He knows what makes me smile.
The kids sure love being spoiled and ... so do I. My kids pick up on that. All week Lincoln has been bringing me 'secret' Valentine's. And this morning, after breakfast, Brooklyn handed me her box of chocolate.
"Mommy," she said, "this is for you." She gave it to me with a huge smile and a giant bear hug.
"Are you sure?" I asked. They were actually hers, after all.
"I'm sure Mommy. Happy Valentimes. I love you."
And then I opened this ...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Random Sprinkling of Vacation-missing Thoughts

Wanna see something?

The other thing I wanted to show you was this ...

Actually, that's not really it either but since most of the country is covered in snow and ice I thought a gorgeous tropical sunset might make you smile.

Also, even though the sun is shining and we finally have a break from the rain, I cannot, for the life of me, get warm. I stand in front of the oven, in front of the fireplace, drink tea ... nothing helps. Not even the extra 6 pounds (gulp) I gained during our trip is able to keep me warm. But the memories...oh the least my heart is warm.

This is what I really wanted to show you. It's the painting Mike bought me while we were in Lahaina. The people we rented from are amazing artists and every night we came sauntering back up to the house they would be out on their porch painting away. Steph was working on this one when we arrived and I fell in love with it right away. There's just something about it that spoke to me ... I feel like it encapsulates my life so well. Steph, and her hubby Auggie, have a whole collection of amazing pieces they have worked on individually and together. Their son also paints, amazingly well, and they display most of it for everyone to see.

There were quite a few pieces I loved.

The pictures I took don't do the paintings justice. (Kind of on purpose since selling their art is their livlihood and I don't want anyone to cheat and just copy...not that any of you would.) If you are ever in Maui you have to stop by their little studio in Lahaina and check out what they have to offer. And if you aren't ever going to Maui, then I feel really sorry for you. Heh heh. They have a website you can look at and peruse...even if you can't buy right now, it's worth a look.

All of that to say ... I finally have an original piece of artwork that I cannot wait to display in my home.

I took this picture the first hour we were there. I wanted to capture the warmth and water so I would never forget. If I stand in front of the oven and look at this picture my legs start to defrost.

A little.

Monday, February 7, 2011

My MP Designs

This post is looooong overdue!

My dear wonderful friend Melissa who has helped me and guided me along on this whole internet adventure has finally (I only say finally because she should have started doing this on a professional level long ago!) begun her business designing websites, logos, watermarks, etc. You name it, if it has to do with making a website look amazing, she can do it. (Not to mention, she's also a homeschooling mother of four so I'm pretty sure she can do just about anything anyway!) Since I began blogging she has helped me out with my blog headers and designs and she was the first person I went to when I decided that it was time to take my photography business live.

She is genuinly talented and I encourage you to check her out at My MP Designs.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Home Again

Ten years ago today, I married the man of my dreams. I so love him and spending 8 days with him, completely alone, affirmed that he is indeed, my most favorite person of them all. God willing I will never tire of waking up and looking at his face.

Getting home from vacation on the actual day of our anniversary was a good decision. It's as if we've come home and been reminded of the wonderful life we've made together and being with our kids after an 8 day absence has made us appreciate the gifts that they are even more.

I missed this.

I even missed this.

And this ...

is a replica of our wedding cake. We're eating it for dessert tonight!
(Mike says we'll eat it for dinner. Ha!)

Every detail is the same as the original...even the roses on top.
Thank you Patty. You are wonderful. :)

I have lots to say about our trip. I have many posts that I began and never posted, mostly because I was busy doing things like going to the beach and taking long naps. I'll finish those up soon, though.

For now, I'm going to enjoy my husband and the pitter patter (...crash, bang, scream) of little flip-flop clad feet running around our house.