Wednesday, December 07, 2011

More Surgery and Update on Little Philip

Helen had her tonsils and adenoids removed this morning, marking our third family surgery in less than twelve months.  She came through like a champ, and is resting comfortably in her mom and dad's bed right now.  We know the next week will be rough, but we've allowed plenty of time for cuddles, extra attention, and patience as she fully recovers.  We hope this will help her sleep through the night since she never has, even in the womb!

In other  news, we did hear back on Little Philip's test results today which confirmed that he does have Neurofibromatosis Type 1.  We will be scheduled to see Dr. Bruce Korf in January to learn more about managing this condition in our son.  He will have a brain MRI to rule out any major concerns or, at least, be aware of any concerns that may need to be addressed.  Again, there are far worse diagnoses we could have been faced with as parents, so we are trusting in God's timing and plan to help us discern how to approach this as symptoms present themselves in throughout his life.  He is a perfectly healthy little boy, incredibly smart, with the biggest heart you've ever experienced, and the best friend any kid could possibly have.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

Little Philip's Surgery

Little Philip had neck surgery on September 12th, where an ENT removed what we thought was swollen lymph tissue that had not gone down in size after over a year.  Some of you may recall that he had a surgical biopsy last December 2010 where the first swollen node was removed.  At that point we were told that the pathology came back as "nothing" and all blood work since we first became concerned about the large size of these nodes has also come back healthy.  

Dr. Woolley, our ENT that performed the surgery,  contacted us to let us in late September to let us know that the pathology results on his tissue revealed a neurofibroma benign tumor.  This kind of tumor is not malignant but is a nerve sheath tumor that can indicate a condition called neurofibromatosis.  Dr. Woolley sent us to meet with a pediatric geneticist that next week.

Due to the confirmation of the neurofibroma tumor in his neck, as well as the observation of several cafe au lait birthmarks, we were sent to Children's Hospital to complete the blood test that provides a 95% accurate diagnosis of either NF1(Neurofibromatosis 1) or Segmented Neurofibromatosis .  Dr. Robin, our geneticist,said that it is highly likely that we will receive a positive result that Little Philip has one or the other of these.  If that is the case, then we, as parents, will be tested to see if one or both of us is a carrier.  If either of us test positive, then they will test Helen as well.  

The good news - we have ruled out Neurofibromatosis Type 2, which has more severe complications since the tumors with this disorder tend to show up on the brain and spinal cord.  We are thankful that this is not the case for our son.

Also good news, no matter where you are in the country, the blood test for NF is sent right here to Birmingham in the genetic lab we visited today.  We are blessed to live in the city with the best NF specialists.  

Bad news - We will not know the results of the blood test until the middle of November.  We are seeing an ophthalmologist in mid-December to examine Philip's eyes for lisch lesions on the iris (benign, do not affect the sight, but are indicative of NF1 so this could further confirm a diagnosis).  .  

Since most NF1 and Segmented NF patients lead a completely normal life, many not even aware of their prognosis, we are praying for only routine tests that reveal nothing of concern.  I won't bore you with the details of how NF could develop of the course of Philip's life but in a nutshell, grade school and the onset of puberty are when NF complications can arise so right now and at puberty will be the times we will be closely monitoring him for any growth in tumors that could be the cause of learning disabilities, cosmetic disfigurement, etc.  We are trying not to let our minds go to these scenarios.

Despite the uncertainty, we are thankful to God for this prognosis.  When we received the initial call from Dr. Woolley, there are much more terrifying things that he could have told us.  We have friends who have received such a terrifying phone call and our heart goes out to them.    Big Philip and I have drawn closer in our desire to be faithful in our relationship with God.   We have wrestled with questions, doubts, fears, but ultimately rested in the peace of knowing that God does not make mistakes, and that He has a plan for our son to prosper, not harm him (Jeremiah 29:11).  We continue to be prayerful and vigilant as we wait for the blood test results and be the "normal" family we always have been (some of you have met other members of our gene pool and should be laughing right now). 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

When People Ask Me What I Do for a Living...

Whenever people ask me where I work I say Samford University.  90% of the time, the next question is "what to do you teach there?" which leads to my answer "No, I am an administrator. I work in campus life."  At that point, the person either remembers a curmudgeon dean that punished them for a sensational college prank or they think I plan parties all the time.

Many of the programs and events I plan are fun but at the heart of it, there is a serious intent - To prepare students to lead lives of responsibility, character.  I try to do everything I can to plant the seed of compassion and service in their hearts so that they are actively engaged in their communities and of service in their lives post-graduation.  I want them to be a good neighbor, a real friend, even when that someone they encounter or befriend is outside of their comfort zone.  I want them to feel comfortable leaving their comfort zone.  I want them to lead a life of transparency.  And it is my prayer, that they will welcome Christ into their hearts so that others will see Him present in all of their actions, their decisions, and their behavior, rather than simply in the preachy words they might "use" rather than live.  For those students that have already welcomed Christ into their hearts, it is my prayer that college will be a time of refinement, where they will deepen in their faith, wrestle with the difficult questions of life, and find strength and encouragement in their faith.  It is my prayer that in life's most difficult of circumstances, their faith will sustain them and that God would show and grant me the opportunity to be a source of encouragement and support.  It is my prayer that I will deepen in my own faith through my work with these students, that they would see me, wholly imperfect except for the grace of God, working out my own faith on a daily basis, as I too, wrestle with the difficult circumstances of life.

Yesterday, over 700 new students chose Samford to begin what will be the best four years of their life, if they allow that process to take shape.  It can be a time of great joy, and memories that will last a lifetime.  Every one of those students comes with a different heritage, a different background, different values, differing levels of confidence, courage, understanding, encouragement.   This is what makes college such a thrilling time.  It is a blessing to me to engage with these students.  I love my job.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Class of 2015

For those of you who know us, you know we work in higher education.  If that still baffles you, it means we work college students.  Each year, Beloit College publishes something called the Mind-Set List that gives some perspective on who the incoming college freshmen across the country are.  Here is this years, Class of 2015 list.

1. There has always been an Internet ramp onto the information highway.
2. Ferris Bueller and Sloane Peterson could be their parents.
3. States and Velcro parents have always required that they wear their bike helmets.
4. The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major-league sports.
5. There have always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded some U.S. Navy ships.
6. They "swipe" cards, not merchandise.
7. As the students have grown up on Web sites and cellphones, adult experts have constantly fretted about their alleged deficits of empathy and concentration.
8. Their schools' "blackboards" have always been getting smarter.
9. "Don't touch that dial!" ... What dial?
10. American tax forms have always been available in Spanish.
11. More Americans have always traveled to Latin America than to Europe.
12. Amazon has never been just a river in South America.
13. Refer to LBJ, and they might assume you're talking about LeBron James.
14. All their lives, Whitney Houston has always been declaring, "I Will Always Love You."
15. O.J. Simpson has always been looking for the killers of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
16. Women have never been too old to have children.
17. Japan has always been importing rice.
18. Jim Carrey has always been bigger than a pet detective.
19. We have never asked, and they have never had to tell.
20. Life has always been like a box of chocolates.
21. They've always gone to school with Mohammed and Jesus.
22. John Wayne Bobbitt has always slept with one eye open.
23. There has never been an official Communist Party in Russia.
24. "Yadda, yadda, yadda" has always come in handy to make long stories short.
25. Video games have always had ratings.
26. Chicken soup has always been soul food.
27. The Rocky Horror Picture Show has always been available on TV.
28. Jimmy Carter has always been a smiling elderly man who shows up on TV to promote fair elections and disaster relief.
29. Arnold Palmer has always been a drink.
30. Dial-up is soooooooooo last century!
31. Women have always been kissing women on television.
32. Their older siblings have told them about the days when Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Aguilera were Mouseketeers.
33. Faux Christmas trees have always outsold real ones.
34. They've always been able to dismiss boring old ideas with "Been there, done that, gotten the T-shirt."
35. The bloody conflict between the government and a religious cult has always made Waco sound a little wacko.
36. Unlike their older siblings, they spent bedtime on their backs until they learned to roll over.
37. Music has always been available via free downloads.
38. Grown-ups have always been arguing about health-care policy.
39. Moderate amounts of red wine and baby aspirin have always been thought good for the heart.
40. Sears has never sold anything out of a "Big Book" that could also serve as a doorstop.
41. The United States has always been shedding fur.
42. Electric cars have always been humming in relative silence on the road.
43. No longer known for just gambling and quickie divorces, Nevada has always been one of the fastest-growing states in the Union.
44. They're the first generation to grow up hearing about the dangerous overuse of antibiotics.
45. They pressured their parents to take them to Taco Bell or Burger King to get free pogs.
46. Russian courts have always had juries.
47. No state has ever failed to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
48. While they've been playing outside, their parents have always worried about nasty new bugs borne by birds and mosquitoes.
49. Public schools have always made space available for advertising.
50. Some of them have been inspired to actually cook by watching the Food Channel.
51. Fidel Castro's daughter and granddaughter have always lived in the United States.
52. Their parents have always been able to create a will and other legal documents online.
53. Charter schools have always been an alternative.
54. They've grown up with George Stephanopoulos as the Dick Clark of political analysts.
55. New kids have always been known as NKOTB.
56. They've always wanted to be like Shaq or Kobe; Michael Who?
57. They've broken up with significant others via texting, Facebook, or MySpace.
58. Their parents sort of remember Woolworths as this store that used to be downtown.
59. Kim Jong-il has always been bluffing, but the West has always had to take him seriously.
60. Frasier, Sam, Woody, and Rebecca have never cheerfully frequented a bar in Boston during prime time.
61. Major League Baseball has never had fewer than three divisions and never lacked a wild-card entry in the playoffs.
62. Nurses have always been in short supply.
63. They won't go near a retailer that lacks a Web site.
64. Altar girls have never been a big deal.
65. When they were 3, their parents may have battled other parents in toy stores to buy them a Tickle Me Elmo while they lasted.
66. It seems the United States has always been looking for an acceptable means of capital execution.
67. Folks in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have always been able to energize with Pepsi-Cola.
68. Andy Warhol is a museum in Pittsburgh.
69. They've grown up hearing about suspiciously vanishing frogs.
70. They've always had the privilege of talking with a chatterbot.
71. Refugees and prisoners have always been housed by the U.S. government at Guantánamo.
72. Women have always been Venusians; men, Martians.
73. McDonald's coffee has always been just a little too hot to handle.
74. "PC" has come to mean personal computer, not political correctness.
75. The New York Times and The Boston Globe have never been rival newspapers.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Our Week In Review

Thursday, August 4th - we receive an offer on our house
Friday, August 5th- Marathon search for houses all afternoon.  While driving around we commit to be under contract to sell our house.
Saturday, August 6th - offer on our new house and we wait.  House is in different school system.
Monday, August 8th - we go to Meet the Teacher at Hall-Kent.   Philip texts me while we are there asking me to come home to sign contract paperwork on our future house.  We politely excuse ourselves from the class meeting and head home.

Tuesday, August 9th- We frantically work on paperwork to switch Little Philip from Homewood to Vestavia schools since school starts Wednesday at Homewood and Friday for Vestavia.

Wednesday - Thursday, August 10-11th - Renie hosts her Campus Life staff training and rounds things out with a cookout at our house Thursday night.  Enjoyable and fun.

Thursday, August 11th - 9:40 a.m. we complete paperwork and start  the 10:00 a.m. Meet the Teacher at Vestavia, finding out that Little Philip is in Mrs. Ratliff's class.  We are thrilled.  We also see his sweet friend, Erin, is in his class.  Erin and Philip are good friends from preschool.  Things are looking up.

Friday, August 12th - Little Philip starts school.

Mamie and Bop Moss spent a good portion of the weekend with us while Bop was here for a veterinary conference.   The kids have been nothing short of amazing through this past week, barely having any attention from us as we have been on the phone with potential lenders and signing mountains of paperwork. Little Philip especially has been an incredibly cooperative little boy considering the transition he has been through.  Having Mamie and Bop love on them was just what they needed, and lunch with Nee Nee and Poppy after church tomorrow will be icing on the cake.  We are pooped but very happy with how things are turning out.  More on our September 7th big move soon!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Little Philip Wrote a Song

This morning while brushing hair and teeth for the day, Little Philip walks into the bathroom and says, "Mommy, I wrote a song, do you want to hear it?"

Son to the tune of Three Blind Mice....

God made me, God made me.
God made my family, God made my family
He made everyone in the world, He made everyone in the world.
God made me, God made me.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Overheard at the Moss House

Conversation between Mommy and Philip

Philip, one day you are going to have to make the right choice, even though your friends will try to make you do something different.  My prayer is that you will know what the right choice is and have the courage to tell your friends no, and be an example of how to make courageous right choices.

I know, Mommy.  I know what you are talking about.  That's called temptation.  It's when someone tries to make you do something you know you shouldn't do.  I know not to fall for that.

That's my sweet boy.  Prayers that he remembers these conversations in the years to come!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tiny Blessings

Wednesday - van needs two new tires - one tire had a chunk of wood through it, the other a long screw.

Thursday - six foot black trim piece is missing from driver's side of the van.  Lovely white bracket squares now adorn the side where the black trim piece once was.

Sunday - driving home from church we spot the trim piece on the corner of Greensprings and Lakeshore.  

Unlike the Mazda, bread ties are not holding that trim piece on the van right now.  We think it will hold this time.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tenth Anniversary

Post by Philip:

July 21st 2001 was one of the hottest days of the year for an out door wedding.  We started the day with our photographs at 9am.  There was a small rain shower then that had us all worried about an outdoor wedding.  However, the rain passed and it was clear and hot!  I remember thinking on that day how lucky I was to have such a wonderful wife.  Here, ten years later, I still have those same feelings.

On July 21st 2006, for our fifth anniversary, my wife posted a wonderful blog post about the starting of our relationship and the things that she appreciated about me over the first five years. I think that it is only appropriate that for our tenth I post a similar list.

She is driven: As I look to start a doctoral program next weekend, Renie is already talking about when she will start ‘her’ doctorate. Renie has had several jobs with tons of responsibility and always done a great job. She also goes well beyond just ‘doing the job’, and looks for things to add or change…mainly to help others.

Her desire to save the world: Renie wants everything to be better after she leaves. All that she touches she wants to improve. Jobs she has taken and volunteer opportunities Renie looks for things that can be done to help others more.

Sense of humor: It is hard to be around Renie very long without laughing. Her taste in movies and her appreciation for “clever’ writing will often bring me to tears as she recounts what she read or saw. Since having kids we have been to very few movies but as they get older I am hopeful we will have more opportunities.

Her strong faith: Renie has never stopped praying for me and our family. She is always praying with the kids and talking to them about spiritual things. She makes me want to do a better job in my spiritual leadership with my family.

Her love for people: This is strongly tied to my second point but I wanted to include it as a different point because her love for others is what leads her to want to save them. She loves her kids and as we continue to ‘learn’ how parent I constantly learn from her interactions with our kids.

Her beauty: Since day one, I have been drawn to her. It doesn’t matter the length or color of her hair everything about her is attractive to me. It is probably tied to her loving spirit but I truly think she is beautiful.

She loves me: In spite of my failures and mess-ups over the years she has stuck by my side. I did not anticipate the move to Birmingham six years ago and I do not know where God will take us over the next few years but I know that together we will be fine!

There are plenty more things that I could write about my wonderful wife. I am truly blessed by God with her in my life. I do not deserve the blessings I have experienced over the past few years.  I look forward to seeing where God will lead us and our beautiful kids in the years to come.

Monday, June 27, 2011

How to teach repentance

Many family and friends know that my son is quite the literal child.  Something either is or isn't.

Lately, he has really been motivated by what he is learning at church.  He'll talk about it repeatedly throughout the week, explaining it to his little sister, his classmates (or so I'm told by their parents at birthday parties) and to us.  I think he is at that age when the stories from the Bible are incredibly vivid, and exciting, sometimes adventurous or mysterious.  I'm just happy it rivals his two year obsession with Scooby Doo.  This past Sunday he learned about Jonah and the worm (worm, not whale Jonah 4:5-11).   The lesson from the day taught him about the word "repent" and what it means.  A great start to the week...

Tonight, my little man had a rough night.  It could be that being without Daddy most of the month is really starting to take its toll on all of us.  I know I've not been as patient and all-forgiving as I should be as a mother so why wouldn't it also be the case for this almost six year old little boy of ours?  It doesn't matter what the problem was but the result was that he had a consequence for some repeated behavior tonight.  He had multiple warnings and then I had to lower the boom and he lost one of his three books at bedtime.  The wailing, the tantrum, the screaming commenced and when he finally stopped, we read his two books and began our nighttime prayers. We always follow the prayer outline of "thank you God for...forgive me God me God with...I praise you God for..."  His prayer was first "I'm sorry that I disobeyed" but quickly followed with "please, God, remove my consequence and let me have my third book back" and despite my best efforts to talk with him what repenting means and that it is not about regaining what we lost or want back, it just didn't sink in.  I'm blanking on how best to approach this.  Alongside what I hope is a growing relationship with God, I want him to learn to accept the inevitable possibility of consequences between himself and peers and sometimes teachers without being on full tilt temper tantrum mode for the rest of the day following an incident.  We all mess up sometimes and sometimes we have to have a time out or consequence.  How can I get him to cope with this aspect of life?

So moms out there that may be struggling with the same challenge, any thoughts or words of advice?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Awkward Church Directory Picture

Recently, our church announced that a new church pictorial directory was to be produced. We have been attending our church, Mountain Brook Community Church, for over a year now and recently made the decision to formally join. It seemed fitting that we should make every effort to present ourselves as children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation, Philippians 2:15. Of course, we are full of faults, inside. We are very imperfect, I mean inside and out, and for that reason, desperately need God's saving grace in our lives. And by grace, I mean this mama REALLY needs that grace. For here is story of how our church directory picture might end up on

Our church directory picture appointment was originally scheduled for, Saturday, April 30th. For anyone who watched national news that weekend, you know that the Birmingham area was devastated by a series of tornadoes on Thursday, April 27th. One of those early morning tornadoes severely damaged our church (see post below) so church pictures were cancelled and rescheduled.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when Philip and I decided to take the family to our local favorite pizzeria, New York Pizza for dinner. While waiting for our pizza, Helen decided she really wanted a tiger tattoo from the vending machine. Daddy gave in and allowed her to try for it. Instead of a tiger (the tiger propped on a mound of human skulls, by the way), the grim reaper tattoo came out, prompting an all out temper tantrum from Helen who did not understand why she could not be guaranteed the tiger tattoo. At this point I gave in after an exhausting day and walked over to the vending machine, put in two more quarters, said this prayer "Lord, if you will just let the next tattoo be a tiger, it would really help soothe my nerves and make me a patient parent right now and for the rest of this evening." And poof - God was merciful and granted the tiger tattoo.

Once home, Helen and Philip gleefully asked me to put the tattoos on their arms which I did, but not without making it clear that we would have to remove the tattoos prior to our church directory picture three days later. I also removed the mound of human skulls from Helen's tiger tattoo because a tiger by itself as a tattoo is so much classier on a three year old little girl's arm. I decided to let the scythe wielding grim reaper tattoo on Philip's arm remain in its original form. I just couldn't figure out how to remove the gruesome death symbolism from the herald of death himself.

Three days later, five minutes before our church directory picture appointment, I realize I have forgotten the appointment. I toss two kids and a husband in the van, and we make it just in time. And so, charming son in white polo and seersucker pants, beautiful daughter in smocked dress complete with bow in hair, and two smiling parents arrange themselves on the picture stools when to my horror I realize that the children's tattoos are still very visible with no way to hide them. The photographer promises she will digitally remove the tattoos so I remove myself from the ceiling and smile.

Last week the freebie church directory picture was waiting for me in the foyer. To my horror, this is the picture that was enclosed.

Need a closer look at their arms?

Lovely isn't it? However, it should be noted that a quick phone call to the church office was made. A very friendly photographer who remembered me (who wouldn't!) said she will for sure digitally removed those tattoos prior to the printing of the MBCC church directory.

This might go down as one of my top five parenting failures and more proof of why the Junior League just ain't ready for me.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Overheard at the Moss House

Helen: Mama, you got a sticker on your face?
Mama: What, this, Helen? (pointing to an constantly enlarging pimple on her chin)
Helen: Oh, is it a boo boo? You want me to get a band aid for you?

I'm imagining walking into work tomorrow with a Superhero band aid plastered across my chin.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Tornados Hit Alabama 4/27/11

This is the guided prayer video used at Samford University's 5/3/11 Worship Service that followed the 4/27/11 tornadoes that ravaged Alabama. It's too overwhelming to write about now but we were left unscathed, except for massive amounts of survivor's guilt. The pictures within this video were taken in and around the Birmingham and Tuscaloosa area.

Our church, Mountain Brook Community Church, was also hit by a tornado that came through the Cahaba Heights and Vestavia area of Birmingham. The church will be fine and no one was harmed during the tornado but the damage is still jarring to see considering how many churches are normally places of refuge after a storm. So many churches were destroyed in the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham area, as well as in Cullman and Ft. Payne.
The tornado touched down in Tuscaloosa, remained on the ground and never let up as it scarred the state for hundreds of miles, leaving over 200 dead in its path. One of the local news editors had this to say to describe the devastation:

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Goose

In the early morning of Friday, March 25th, at age 93, my grandmother, Helen McCown Wettermark, passed away. Grandmother was a character. That is what I have heard my entire life. Phrases like "she had a zest for life" and "passion for life long learning" and "social butterfly" were all phrases I overheard by family and friends in the days that followed. I am the oldest granddaughter of twelve grandchildren. And perhaps the most memorable item in our childhood treasury of memories with our grandmother is the goose pictured above. Allow me to explain.
Grandmother received this goose from an anonymous friend or family member. No one to my knowledge, has ever owned up to it but I suspect one of my uncles sent it to her. The story I always heard was that a box with air holes was delivered to her front door, with the note "birds of a feather flock together." Contained inside was a beautiful white goose with leather beak and feet, and a wooden stick up the middle enabling the holder to make it look like an absolutely real live goose. Grandmother immediately took to "goose" and carried it with her everywhere, especially in her car. One summer, when we were young, Grandmother took me and my cousin, Alfred, to a nature camp held at Camp Alpine in Mentone, AL. Alfred and I were trying to remember how old we were when this trip happened and we suspected we were around 8 years old. On the way there, Grandmother was pulled over for speeding, something I remember happening at least one other time when I was in the car with her. As the state trooper approached the car, she turned down NPR, which was the only channel she listened to. Terrified, I watched as grandmother was confronted for her speeding. She pulled the goose out from between the seat and had the goose try to get her out of the speeding ticket. The goose did all the talking and it worked. The state trooper didn't know what to do other than try his best to hide his smile and send us on our way. And that's one of my favorite things about my grandmother. She could always get her way with that zest for life, quick wit, and despite what many considered a bit of madness, she knew was she was doing. And so, "goose" sat right there at the front of the door to welcome guests to the Wettermark house on Tuesday, March 29, 2011, serving as the gracious host for the celebration of the life of Grandmother, or Mama Jel, or Aunt Helen, or Miss Helen. Whatever you called her, she was one heck of a lady.

Grandmother would often pat my knee and and say "you ain't perfect yet..." She's right but I'm glad to know she is made perfect in heaven now.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bond Family Needs your Prayers

Family and friends, please take a moment to read the new blog family link to your right at "Bond Family." This is a fellow Vanderbilt alumnus, Elisa, and her husband, Nathan. Tragically, they were both recently diagnosed with cancer, stage 3 and stage 4 each, only nine days apart. They have a beautiful 18 month old daughter, Sadie.

It's unreal to think about such a thing happening to a family. And yet, even in the storm, I believe God has a plan through it all. Please take a moment and pray for Elisa and Nathan and if possible, contribute to their fund as they will surely need financial support to fight this awful disease.

Here is a link to the the blogspot that describes their recent diagnoses and has links to provide support to them during this difficult time. Otherwise, every now and then take a moment to click on their family blog link to the right to pray specifically for them as they journey through this nightmare.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Moving time

For two years now, we've talked about whether or not to try to move up into a larger home. The economy being as bad as it has been, we have chickened out on more than one occasion but not before doing a little annual home renovations here and there. This time we are serious.

When we first bought our house in March of 2005 we had a hard time finding home insurance because the roof was so old, there was no documentation of the last time it was replaced. The floors were hardwood, but bared from years of wear and tear. The kitchen was doable, but had verdigreen marble laminate counter tops, a pesky white porcelain sink that stayed stained, and matching stick up plastic laminate posters that were also verdigreen marble. To match that lovely green someone had painted the kitchen walls adobe orange. It was lovely.

The master bedroom had cheesecloth from what we assumed was a grasscloth removal project gone bad. There was also a random door jamb that protruded from a bad drywall job in both the master bedroom and what is now Little Philip's room. We assume this was the original back door to the house before the addition of a third bedroom (circa 1975 maybe?). To divert attention from the cheesecloth, the previous owners apparently sponge painted orange and yellow on the walls, and added purple drapes to complete the Mardi Gras look.

Since then we have:
Replaced the roof
Replaced and expanded the deck
Refinished all the hardwoods in the house
Replaced the hot water heater
Gutted and renovated the master bathroom
Added crown moulding to all rooms but the kitchen and baths
Put up wood fencing facing the street
Replaced the counter tops, sink, and all appliances in the kitchen
Replaced the cracked sink and fixture in the front bathroom
Replaced old ceiling fans and fixtures in most every room
Painted over knotty pine in the laundry room, and replaced the flooring
Painted every single room in the house, even changing colors ourselves a few times

All of the above projects were done out of love for our family, with the hope that yes, our house will sell quickly this spring but also, if it should not sell, that is is exactly what we wanted to do for ourselves in our home to make it more livable for us.

We love our little house and we hope someone else will fall in love with it too.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

2011 New Year's Resolutions

Let's return to 2010 to see how we did with our 2010 resolutions. Did you know that 80% of all resolutions are broken by Valentine's Day?

Renie's 2010 Resolutions
Lose 25 pounds and keep them off. - FAIL. I think I needed glasses because clearly I thought it said GAIN 25 pounds from the looks of where I stand this year.

Organize the house from top to bottom.
Well, we kind of got this done because we had an itch to sell the house last July. Then we chickened out because of the economy. So we are again organizing the house, decluttering, and making it a goal to put the house on the market March 1st, just in time for the medical residency match that comes mid-March. We pray that our efforts to declutter will pay off and we can sell our house and move up to have a little more room.

Quiet time. I'm not going to set a daily goal because I know I will not keep it. Let's just say I need to reintroduce quiet time in my life.
I'm going to claim victory on this one, but with the caviat that 2010 was a bit of an emotional roller coaster so there were definitely some times when I dropped quiet time from my routine. I lost several beloved grandparents and dealt with some major life transition moments. All the more reason why this needs to stay on my resolution radar for 2011.

2011 New Year's Resolutions:

Renie's Resolutions
1. Lose 50 pounds. OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration but at least 25 pounds need to go away, and quickly. We got Xbox Kinect from Santa for Christmas so I'm working through Your Shape Fitness Evolved. It's amazing, but it will only work if I stick with it.

2. Stick with quiet time. God is really working on my heart right now. I sense a growing boldness in my spirit. While many who know me think I'm pretty bold, when it comes to my faith, I tend to keep it under wraps. Something is stirring in my spirit and I look forward to what comes from that.

3. Keep up a personal hobby while balancing family, work, and home. I think it will be sewing, but it's all been put up in storage for now until we can have more room in a larger home. It was just sitting there staring at me through three huge clear rubber maid tubs so I had to move it until it can come back out. For now, I'll be working with ready to smock dresses rather than pleating and sewing my own from scratch.

4. Balance work and home. This is always going to be a struggle but it's gotten better. Samford is a great place to work, as was BSC, and I'm thankful that working on a college campus is so family-friendly. Still, my children and my husband need a priority place too, and I'm just going to have to be more diligent about this.

5. Start writing again. I don't know what I will start writing, but for now I'm might just start journaling in the hopes it might turn into a short story, for better, an idea for a novel.

Philip's Resolutions
1. Eat healthier (Renie's gonna force some broccoli down that throat)
2. Start a regular work out routine
3. Enter graduate school again, the gaol being to earn a doctoral degree.
4. Work on my spiritual health.

Little Philip's Resolutions
1. Learn to tie my shoes
2. Count by 2's and 5's
3. Learn to put my head under water and swim without swimmies (He is screaming bloody murder next to the comptur right now, saying he doesn't want to do it until he is at least 10.)
4. Learn to ride a bicycle without training wheels.
5. Finish reading the entire Chronicles of Narnia (we just started Voyage of the Dawntreader)

Helen's Resolutions
1. Work on wearing something other than a tutu every day.
2. Sleep through the night on a regular basis
3. Learn to swim!
4. Understand that being a princess is about what is in your heart, more than what you put on the outside (This is the only way Mommy is going to survive the princess years).

Riley the Dog's Resolutions
1. Lose a little weight. I'm an old dog now, and getting a bit rotund in the middle.
2. While I will continue to drink out of the toilet, I will try to lick my lips and keep from dripping a gallon of water across the floor as I leave the bathroom each time.

Atticus the Cat's Resolutions
1. You think you're old, you silly dog? Try being 13 years old and be the handsome tomcat I still am! I plan to keep on being that in the coming year.
2. I plan to continue to throw up my food about 3 minutes after eating it. I'm beginning to think it adds to my life longevity in some way.
3. I will continue to demand my water directly from a slow running faucet stream immediately after Renie gets out of the shower each morning. Just so she doesn't forget, I will meow incessantly on the counter in the bathroom for the duration of her shower until she gets out.

Julep the Cat's Resolutions
1. I will continue my conquest for Riley's entire dog bed. No longer will he be allowed the remaining corner he sleeps on since I always plant myself there first each night.
2. I will continue to keep Atticus young by chasing him around the house.
3. I will stop hissing and throwing a huge fit when both of my human grandmothers come to visit. If I cannot do this, I will at least treat my human grandfathers the same way so that my human grandmothers will not take it personally.

Couponing Again

So I fell off the coupon wagon when I went back to work full-time in July. It's not that we are rolling in the dough, it's that I didn't reschedule my life to include grocery shopping in a routine regular place each week. As hard as it is to keep a routine with both parents working, it really is the only way to make it work. So that is one of my new year's resolutions, to get our household and family routine back in shape.

My wonderful coupon binder sat on a shelf for months, and our two Sunday papers that are $1.00 a piece, delivered to our home each Sunday, kept piling up until my bedside table looked like a shot from Hoarders. So, just before our holiday break ended, I spent several hours getting the coupon binder up to date, and every coupon that had not expired in its rightful category.

For the last two weeks, I've done my shopping by couponing again. I have literally been spending about $250 more each month in groceries or eating out, by my estimation. Knowing what I can save by couponing, it makes me sick to think what a terrible steward we have been of what God has given us. More so, it sticks in my heart and gut about where that money could have been put, since we had it to spend on groceries. Really makes me think more about what we need to do to be more honoring to God about the blessings He has given us.

Since I do work full-time now, I can't do my weekly shopping on Wednesday morning like I used to, just after finding the match up coupons from the Tuesday Publix flyer. So I did my shopping today, Sunday. It's not ideal, but when the kids are napping, it seems about right. I'm not sure I'll stick with this day but it worked for today.

My total bill was $49.33 and I saved $50.00. That being said, it was a weird shopping day. We can eat Aunt Jemima waffles for days now, and since I depleted my razor stash by not couponing the past four months, it was nice to begin that new stockpile with the savings on the Quattro disposable razors today. Otherwise, we got some free Jiffy popcorn, eight cans of super cheap Progresso soup (will help out with my diet and eating on the run on campus each week). There were a few other good deals too, which you can see at which is my weekly visit to match up on coupons. My percent savings would have been higher but I also bought two bagged salad mixes, two fresh tomatoes, two candy bars that were on clearance, and two bags of mozzarella cheese for the kiddos to make a pizza. And that is how I also recommend shopping for those of you who are new to couponing. Don't make it an idol in your life! Recognize that you are saving a bundle so if you want to (and can) splurge on some special cheese or another item that is not on sale or you don't have a coupon for, you can, because you've made a little room in your buggy and pocketbook to do so by your couponing efforts.