Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dear Men, Please Keep Telling Her She Is Beautiful

Dear Men,

If you tell your wife or girlfriend she's wearing a pretty outfit, but she shrugs and says she thinks it looks frumpy...please keep telling her she looks pretty.

If you tell her she looks sexy in a ponytail with no make up, but she rolls her eyes and says "whatever"...please keep telling her she is sexy.

If you tell her she is perfect the way she is and you wouldn't change one pound or inch on her, but she continues to frown into the mirror at wrinkles or wiggles...please keep telling her she is perfect just the way she is.

If you tell her she is beautiful, but she snickers and claims "Eh you're just supposed to say that"...please keep telling her she is beautiful.

Because, you see, inside she is probably thinking...

He thinks I look pretty.
He finds me sexy.
I am perfect in his eyes.
I am beautiful.

Men, please, please tell her she is beautiful.  Even if she doesn't seem to accept it or believe it, please keep telling her.  For the sake of women everywhere faced with today's epidemic of low self esteem and high worldly standards, say it, proclaim it, repeat it.   Tell her, remind her, convince her.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Summer DIY List aka Getting Our House Ready For Kids

I/we have got our work cut out for us this summer...lots and lots of ideas rolling around in my head for getting our house ready for kids.  So I made a list.  Because it's what I do best.  The list is typed and posted on our foster care organization station and I am posting it here as well, partly to just share the progress of some fun ideas I have, but also because when I post things on here it puts a fire under my booty to actually tackle them.   So...

Baby Room
We are going to equip one bedroom as a baby room or nursery that would be suitable for age zero to three-ish...or whenever a child moves from a convertible crib/toddler bed to a real bed.  This room has been used as a guest room so far and here is a very old picture of it (as many of these pictures will be).  It has a small closet and half bathroom around the corner to the right.

And here is the list for this room:

-paint walls above wainscoting sky blue with mix-in sparkles
-paint inside of closet white (with sponged blue polka dots?)
-paint mural of clouds, picket fence, grass and sun (aka check myself into a psych ward??)
-new curtains
-buy and hang Numbers 6:24-26 art
-Special hidden blessing (more on that later)

Kid Room
We are going to equip a second bedroom for a child that is a bit older, aka, sleeping in a regular bed.  Since we are going to sign up to take either one or two children at a time, ages 0 to 7, we need to be ready for both or either.   This "kid room", for lack of a better or more affectionate title, has been our office so far and is actually the most re-done and polished room in our house.  (It has long since received crown molding. Again, this is an old picture.)

Aaaand, the list:

-new curtains
-buy rug
-Trent finish building skinny, tall shelf
-paint shelf with chalkboard paint for labeling shelves, writing notes, chore lists, rules, I love yous
-anchor shelf to wall between closet doors
-buy chalk and holder/container, attach to side of shelf
-DIY United States map art (to be revealed later)
-buy and hang Numbers 6:24-26 art
-Special hidden blessing (more on that later)

Our New Bedroom
Our current bedroom is waaaaay at the back of the house, about ten miles from these future children's bedrooms at the front of the house.   In an effort to save both us and the children a lot of wandering in the dark during the wakeful nights that I know we'll have plenty of, we are going to move our bedroom to the big room at the front of the house that has so far been my craft room.  The room at the back of the house will turn into guest room/craft corner/storage closet/extra full bathroom to run to instead of all of us always sharing the one in the front of the house.

This is the front room we'll be moving to, pictured a few days after we bought the house.  There's a closet to the right.

And the list:

-paint walls yellow
-paint closet doors, inside of window box seats and lumber for new wide trim white
-put up new wide trim to cover up wallpaper border (add crown molding to the top later?)
-hang full length mirror on wall behind door
-stencil the inside of window boxes grey and yellow like this
-buy grey/yellow/white(bad idea) rug
-buy new grey/yellow bedding
-buy and hang new wood window blinds
-replace beige socket and switch covers with white ones
-new, not-so-dinky paddle fan?

The den is a big, wonderful living area in the back of the house or "house #2" as we sometimes call it.  It is not high on our priority list this summer for fixing up cosmetically just because it's suitable as-is, not going to have anyone actually sleeping in here or calling it their own space.  So we'll see how far we get with this list...we'll for sure clean the carpet and probably try to swap the arm chairs for a sofa, but otherwise who knows.

The den list:

-paint walls tan
-replace paddle fan
-get rid of arm chairs
-buy small sofa
-create drop zone next to back door with jacket/backpack hooks and maybe shelves
-replace the lovely dark brown socket and switch plate covers with white ones
-get carpet professionally cleaned
-way down the road replace carpet with tile (not at all on this summer's list)

Otherwise here are some other general items for various areas of the house that we want to tackle.
-paint front door red
-finish dining room re-do that began in 2009 (ashamed)
-hang dining room mirror and art
-paint "Be silly, Be Honest, Be kind" stencil on big canvas to hang in living room
-buy and hang new wood blinds in dining room

This does not include our "Outdoor" list and our actual Fire Department and Health Department lists of tweaks and fixes that are required.  These are all just things we want to do.   Trent looked over the list and said "...that's a lot..." and it is indeed a lot.  We've got a mental priority ranking, some of the things can be nixed or down later or gradually.  It'll be alright...right?

Let the games begin!  Oh wait, they already have...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Can We Borrow Your Kids?

So...we've devised a plan to help us get ready to be foster parents and it involves borrowing our friends' kids.  We promise we'll give them back.

We are soon going to have various sets of children of various ages plopped into our home at a few hours' notice and we're going to have to jump right in as best we can.  No context or history of what that child likes to eat, wear, talk about, sleep with, play with, nothing.  That's a little daunting.  So we decided it might be a good idea to get a little practice.

Here is where your kids come in.  Can we borrow them?  In actual conversation, this will be masked as a civil offer to babysit your children free of charge and give you a night off or out.  And that is truly a goal and side effect of this, one that I'm sure won't be argued with.  But in reality, we need some experience taking care of kiddos of various ages with whom we have very little history, if any.  

It was a sweet cutie patootie little girl that brought on this idea.  

An offer to babysit little Elizabeth and give her parents a night out made me realize...I didn't really know what is ok for a 1.5 year old to eat...or what they like to play with...or what time they typically go to bed...or what items in our house are within the reach of little hands that shouldn't have them...

We had a very fun and nonstop evening with Elizabeth but it got me to thinking about all this. I know there is a whole lot we are just going to have to take in stride and figure out as we go when we begin to take care of kids in our home as foster parents.  A whole lot.  But in the meantime, I figure it wouldn't hurt to gain a little bit of experience.

So...can we borrow your kids?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How To Create A Debt Payoff Plan And Amortization Schedule (Free Template!)

I'm back with another nerd post, to continue my somewhat slow going money series.  It's been a while so if you need a refresher, here's where we've been so far:

Every Dollar Has A Name
Bank Account Business
Why A Monthly Budget May Be A Terrible Idea For You
Budget Basics Part 1 - How To Create A Budget & A Free Budget Template
Budget Basics Part 2 - How To Maintain A Budget
Operation Debt Smackdown aka How We Paid Off $20,000 Of Debt Last Year

Moving right along...buckle your seat belts.

In this post, I'm going to talk about how to create an amortization schedule, which is a fancy phrase for a debt payoff plan.   Here's a screen shot of the finished product, to give you an idea what we are going for, before we break it down.  This is actually the amortization schedule I have kept for Trent's car note.  Click here for a sample template of this type of schedule.

Here are the items you'll need to have handy in order to create this schedule:

1.  Loan balance (either original or current, wherever you want to start)
2.  Interest rate
3.  Monthly payment amount
4.  Monthly payment date

Here are the steps to creating this schedule:

1.  Set up your interest rate cells
Somewhere at the top of your spreadsheet, enter your annual interest rate as a decimal, aka our 9.79% interest rate translates to 0.0979 in decimal format.   This cell is really just a reference cell for the next one you'll create, which is to divide this decimal by 12.

This translates your annual interest rate into a monthly interest amount, for use in multiplying times the balance later:

2. Set up your headings
This step is easy.  Just set up heading across the top of your spreadsheet that show Date, Payment, Principal, Interest and Balance, like so:

3. Enter your beginning balance
If you are starting this schedule for a new loan (or wanting to create a history for a loan you've already been paying on), you should enter the original principal balance of the loan.  If you are jumping in in the middle and just want to track a loan from now on, you just need to look up your current balance.  You can probably do this through an online log-in, or a call to your lender could provide this amount to you.

In this example, Trent's car started out with a total loan balance of $9,825.32, which we were able to find both on our purchase documents and our online log-in.

4.  Set up your dates column
Enter your first and second payment dates, then drag the cells down to repeat the pattern and add each payment date by month, for the whole life of the loan.  So, if you make your payment on the first of the month and your loan term is 5 years, you're going to be doing a lot of dragging, 60 cells to be exact, for 60 monthly payments.  This is if you just plan on making the monthly minimum payments.  If you plan on making extra payments here and there throughout, in order to pay off a loan early, you'd simply insert an enter line for that extra payment and enter the appropriate date.  As you can see below, we just did minimum payments for three months, then started to add in extra payments when our Operation Debt Smackdown turned its attention towards this car loan.

5. Set up your payment amount column
This one is easy since you will have the same payment each month.  Just enter the monthly payment amount and copy it down the whole length of the dates column you already set up. We'll talk shortly about how this can be changed up with additional payments if you are working on paying down a loan early. That is in addition to the regular payment and doesn't go in the payment column, so go ahead and just copy down the regular payment for the length of the loan.

Note: for steps 6-8, just set up the first row and don't drag the formulas down yet.  It won't make much sense or show any values until you have all formulas initially in place.

6. Set up your principal amount column
This one requires a formula and it will make a little more sense once the interest column is also set up.  The Principal amount column represents the amount out of each monthly payment that is actually going towards principal and knocking down the balance of your loan, verses going towards interest each month.  The formula is simply your monthly payment amount minus your interest amount:

Until you enter your interest amount formula, this will just equal your monthly payment amount.  It will adjust once you actually put a formula and value is the Interest box, aka D7 in this example.

7. Set up your interest amount column
Here is where the monthly interest rate you already calculated comes into play.  The amount of interest paid each month is found by multiplying the current balance of the note times the monthly interest rate.

Note that I used the dollar signs in the interest rate cell to fix or lock that cell in the formula so when I drag it down to copy the formula, it sticks with the interest rate amount (in B3 in this example) instead of dragging that part of the formula to B4, then B5, etc.   (Ignore the fact that the first two interest amounts don't actually calculate with this formula, if you happen to be looking that hard.  We had some catch up on interest because we bought the car in August but didn't have our first payment until October 1.)

8. Set up your declining loan balance column
This is my favorite step.  It's where you really get to see that your loan is actually going away and lessening.  It's really simple.  Just take the previous month's balance minus this month's principal payment amount.

9. Drag all these formulas down through the length of the schedule.
Just grab the corner of your first cell in each column and drag it down through the length of your schedule. If all is set up correctly, you should end up with a loan balance very close to zero at the end of the schedule.

A few final notes...

The orange highlighting you see is just my way of indicating which amounts have already been paid and where we are at in the schedule.  You can take it or leave it.

If you are going to be entering extra payments, in addition to your regular monthly payment, just enter an entire additional line with the date of the extra payment and the amount.  Just hard enter your amount in the principal column.  You do not need to enter the formula because this entire amount is principal, since it is extra. Then just drag down your declining balance formula again to account for extra principal payments like this. Or if you are consistently going to pay extra each month than the regular payment, you can just enter that amount as your monthly amount instead of the minimum payment. These are where you really see your pay off progress.  It will start to bring your actual pay off date earlier and earlier and you can then delete the extra lines and dates you had set up before.

This schedule should jive with your budget schedule.   If your budget schedule shows that on December 5th you have enough cash flow to make an extra principal payment of $300, that should be entered in your budget as well as in your amortization schedule.  You can even use formulas to link between the two if you wanted.

Ok.  I think that's it.  Lots of words.  If you hung with me for this long, I commend you.  As always, let me know if there are any questions, suggestions or further explanation needed.  Happy amortizing!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dear Men, Love Openly

Dear Men,

Do you love openly?

What I mean by this is, do you express your love for your wife or children frequently, fervently and publicly?  Does your family know and feel and hear that love daily?  Do the people in your world know that you are a man who loves because they have heard you say so?

I think some men out there feel like they aren't so good at the mushy gushy stuff, that maybe it lessens their masculinity to fling around phrases like "I love you", "you are precious", "I'm so blessed to have you in my life".  I think some men instead try to show their love by working hard, supporting, being strong, etc, and there is so much value in that, don't get me wrong.

But love also needs to be spoken. It needs to be proclaimed. It needs to be heard.

There is no way to misconstrue a verbal and sincere "I love you".   There's no chance of doubting a man's love for his wife or family when you hear it exclaimed straight from his own mouth and heart.

So, men, whether it's love for your wonderful wife, your sweet daughter or yes, even your teenage son who doesn't seem all that interested in you right audibly, love outwardly, love openly.


Loved by a man who would shout it from our roof top if we had a ladder tall enough to get him up there

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Happy 5th Anniversary aka We Bought a Boat

As of today, Trent and I have been married for five years.   FIVE YEARS!!!  Man, time flies when you are having fun.   To celebrate our anniversary, we spent a few days at Juniper Cove Marina on Lake Whitney.    Lots of fishing, grilling and relaxing.

And then this happened.........

Let's back up for a moment.  You see, Trent and I have heretofore said we would never own a boat, that it is an extravagant and unnecessary expense, that there are many other better ways the thousands of dollars typically spent on a boat could be used.  And yet, here we are: boat owners.   What gives?  Why the sudden change of heart?  Oh, there was no change of heart.  We still think expensive boats are ridiculous. But this is a different story.   Scroll back up to the picture above.  See the fishing boat, the trailer and the motor?

We got it all for $150.

No, I didn't forget any zeroes.  One hundred and fifty dollars.  We had been looking for a canoe or small flat bottom boat to fish from and couldn't even find one of those for $150.  But thanks to a good ole boy who had no time to use or mess with this boat and a very badly labeled Craiglist ad called "man things for sale" that somehow came up in Trent's search, we've got ourselves a 1968 Skeeter Hawk fishing boat with Johnson motor and trailer.

Now, we aren't entirely sure if the motor works and we hear we should not turn it on out of water or else it'll burn up.  (True or false, anyone know?)  But we can back it down a boat ramp or otherwise get it in water and my handyman husband can probably get it running if it's not already.  If it's a goner, we can hope for more Craigslist luck and find another motor.

There are some plants and ants growing in it...

 And until it gets a good bath, it'll turn ya green...

We fully realize that it needs a little lot of TLC and probably some repairs.   In fact, as we pulled it down the highway towards home, still in disbelief of what had just transpired, we got caught up in a fit of giggles and hollered to some unhearing cars, "Hey look at our crappy boat we just bought!!"

It is indeed a crappy boat.   But for a start up cost of only 150 bucks, we can put a little more into as needed in order to get it up and running and not feel like we need a tetanus shot before going out in it. We'll also very shortly find a place for it to live besides the front of our house.

Worst case scenario, if the whole thing is a bust and it ends up being a stupid dead end, we could probably sell it off as-is and get back our cost.

Worst, worst case scenario, we paid $150 for some delicious fits of laughter after driving off with a boat hitched to the back of our truck and some more proof that our life is crazy, ridiculous and absolutely wonderful.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Foster Care Round 2

Ladies and gentlemen, we have lift off!  Finally...

As I mentioned in this post, Trent and I had our intro meeting with DFPS yesterday evening (5/13).    It was efficient, informative and encouraging.  It was good and we are stoked.  So, what's the new plan?  Here are the steps in front of us now:

1.  Complete and mail in a three page initial application.  Already done!

2.  CPS conducts background check assessment.  Upon clearance, we will be provided with all our paperwork and invited to pre-service training. The next training in Waco is in August.  At first we were bummed to hear that it's not sooner but actually that works out perfectly because June and July are packed as usual with youth ministry and August is currently empty so we can easily fit in 35 hours of training.

3.  We will spend between now and August working on the small amount of paperwork due before training and working on the many projects and tweaks needed on our house.  These include:
                    -Painting and furnishing children's rooms
                    -Various home improvement projects not really related to foster care but that we won't
                     have time to do once kids are here
                    -Moving our room to the front of the house because our current bedroom is at
                     the back of the house ten miles away from future children's rooms
                    -Get one of the windows in the front kid bedroom to open for fire safety since both
                     are painted shut
                    -Install a grate across the front of our fireplace
                    -Add a couple more smoke detectors
                    -Generally whip our errant shrubbery and flower beds into shape
                    -Get HVAC and fire extinguisher inspected
                    -Get a gun safe, separate ammunition lock box, medicine lock box, chemicals lock box...
  I'll stop there...that's just a few.

4.  During our training classes in August we will complete the bulk of our paperwork (though we have the list and will get a jump start on it before then) and will have our home visit/inspection from a Foster and Adoptive Home Development (FAD) social worker.

5.  After that we will have our home screening which is a series of meetings to assess the overall suitability of us and our home.

6.  Once all that is complete, the ball will be out of our court while our information is verified and approved, then we'll be licensed and ready for a placement.

So, we may have a child or children with us by October.  That's quite a bit later than our original plan with the Bair Foundation, which was to be ready for a placement right now as I type, but we are ok with it.  One thing we like the prospect of with DFPS as opposed to working with Bair is that with DFPS there is a lot more training required.  Bair required about 16 hours but DFPS requires 35 and that doesn't include CPR and First Aid training on top of that.  It's a lot of hours, but we need the information. Yes please, give us more training.

Overall, we feel really good about this and are ready to go.  Praying that it all works out this time!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Adoption Spotlight - One Less Orphan, One More Trimble

I'd like to introduce you to the Trimble family...

Eric, Stacy, and their four kiddos are the youth ministry family (because when a church hires a YM, it hires the whole family!) at the church Trent's family attends.  Stacy and I became friends on Facebook recently after Trent's sister told them about our hope of fostering and adopting.  We are now online friends that have never actually met, but share a bond already.  

The Trimble family is in the process of adopting from Uganda.  

I want to take some time to spotlight their family's heart for adoption and their experience with it so far.  I also want to shamelessly drum up support for their active step of faith in bringing a child into their home and family.  First, I'd like to share this special video of theirs that can give you a glimpse of their family, their journey and their heart for adoption:

As you can see, this is a family dedicated to this calling and willing to stretch their limits and their wallet to provide a home for a child in need.  The Trimble family is currently on a waiting list to be put on a waiting list.  Kind of confusing I know, but basically they are waiting to step in line to wait for their referral or their "match" with a child.   

So, how can you help the Trimble family bring home their son or daughter, brother or sister?

You can like their Facebook page and follow their adventure by clicking here.

You can send a donation to their Paypal account, via

You can purchase one of Stacy's beautiful hand made Ring Slings to "wear your baby" close to your heart.  Many, many pretty patterns available.  Check out her Facebook page for pictures and prices: Baby Hugger Ring Slings And Tiny Things.  

Pockets available!

She can even make dolly sized slings for your daughter.

I bet if you asked, she'd jump at the chance to make some manly camo, striped or solid color slings so all those baby boys and daddy's girls out there can hang out close to Daddy.  

The final way you can help this family is to pray for them.  Pray for Eric and Stacy and their precious children, the four already living with and loved by them and the one they have yet to welcome into their family.  Pray for calm and perseverance.  Pray that God would continue to prepare their hearts for this new member of their family.  And pray for their son or daughter, brother or sister, wherever they are right now.  Pray for safety, food, shelter and peace as this child waits for his or her forever family.

Will you jump on board with me and help support this sweet family in their adoption?