Wednesday, December 11, 2013

the debt reduction diaries: holy smokes we did it for a year

so, our Belize trip happened in July, and then on Aug 1st our world was rocked by the death of our sweet friend Katie, and after that I never got back into blogging about money.  There are a variety of reasons for that I guess, but now that we're coming up on ONE YEAR of rice and beans, I thought I'd give a quick little update.

First of all, I never mentioned the money miracles that happened in connection to our Belize trip.  We raised our 1/3 of the trip cost very easily thanks to many of you, and were able to put more than our share in the group fund!  We praise God for that!  We also had so many people give us money to use for personal expenses, which was a HUGE part of the financial stress we had for the trip!  It was incredible to watch God at work in His people and all the random (well, I guess they weren't really random, now, were they...) things that happened to make this trip work for us.  We had WAAAAY more trip expenses than we ever thought we would.  It turned out that we were going to have to pay about $200 of our own money (no, we didn't know where it was going to come from yet...) to make sure we had what we needed to go, even though people were crazy generous with what they gave us.  We just had no idea that passports, travel stuff, and SHOTS were going to add up to be so crazy much.  So anyway, there we were, a few days from leaving, and not knowing what to do, when a neighbor lady stopped over with some money for us, and then we got more from Steve's aunt who had always meant to send it earlier and never did.  and in the end, we had $16 more than what we needed for our personal expenses.  I realize that I just wrote that whole paragraph with so much emotion in my heart that you can't READ, but I was just amazed at how God met every need we had concerning that trip.

Another little blessing was that a family that I babysat for during most of my life in OC also decided to send some money, even though they knew we had what we needed.  They knew that me taking a week off of work being self-employed would be a kicker, and wanted their money to help with that.  and i was like WHAT!?!?!  I probably never even thought of the extra work I'd have to be doing with the pinkadink for taking a week off, but God had.  and they had.  and so even the KIDS (who are older now but still TEENAGERS) gave out of their own money for us to be able to cover some of that burden.

and I just felt SO BLESSED to have grown up in such a loving family and community to see all that money pour in to support us on that journey. Our hearts are forever changed because of it.

So anyway, the rest of the summer and the fall were full of financial surprises.  Here are a few of the ones I can remember. :)

We had to get a new water heater.  The guy who came to take a look said we were so lucky to have gotten 34 years out of that thing, but we decided that all the previous owners were the lucky ones, and not us! :)  anyway, long story short, we had an extra paycheck from Steve's work because he gets paid bi-weekly so twice a year there's an extra paycheck.  and even though I certainly didn't have "new hot water heater" on the top of my list of things to spend that check on, it was the winner!  But it felt so good to have the money on hand and write the check instead of waiting to see how we'd figure this one out! It gave us some serious perspective of how our future could be when we're done paying this debt and saving up for things like that.  This time still felt like a miracle, but in the future I hope to be in the same boat because of good planning and stewardship of our money!

another odd thing...I'm convinced that someone payed our medical bills.  I had an appointment this summer for just my regular check up and mammogram.  and when I went to pay the bill, I realized it was actually two bills and we couldn't pay both that month, so I was going to wait til the next month and pay it then.  Well then when I went to pay it the next month it was gone from the system.  I was so confused but in a hurry so I couldn't look into it at that time.  And then later I got mail from the clinic and thought surely it was my bill and instead found an overpayment check of like $30 or soemthing.  So I was SO confused and went back to my bank records and searched and searched for my payment and couldn't find it anywhere.  SO, my only conclusion is that somebody must have paid it.  I feel like I remember asking one time about my OWN bills over the phone and they some weird thing about how they can't tell you the amount over the phone.  so if someone did that and didn't get an exact answer, and then just paid what they thought and over paid by $30 or something, that's the ONLY thing that could possibly make sense in my head!!!  So if it was YOU who did that, I don't even know how to say thanks except for on here, and just pray that you know how much we appreciate it!

ok but here's the weirdest thing about that situation.  I was feeling a little sick about this whole blog and the idea that I was writing what was hard for us during this journey and then all these awesome people would step up and help to make it easier for us, with food, or money, or whatever.  And I just had this thing in my heart bugging me about if I was really trusting God, and what would happen if I didn't even tell anyone what was hard, and THEN what would happen?  was it really a trust in God to provide or was it a trust in my blog readers?  (that's one of the reasons I quit blogging these last few months.  I didn't feel like I could be honest about it all because the people are too awesome and want to help!  so I guess I needed to feel like I could do it without the blog.)  so anyway, I had only told ONE very close friend that I couldn't pay the bill.  and she swore she didn't pay it.  so, I don't know.  somebody was listening to God I guess.  oh my gosh, I just have to figure out what I can do for someone else after a story like that.

ok, um...another sweet deal...we had a hail storm in March or soemthing.  April maybe?  and just a few weeks ago got all the work on the house done!  so YAY, we now have a new roof, the house is painted, the deck is re-done, and we didn't spend a penny (well, except for our deductible I guess, but we didn't have to write the check)!  We actually knew we'd have extra money from the claim so we used a little to buy a new (the very cheapest, but way better than what we had) sliding door for our back deck.  It was a MUCH needed investment for this little home, but now we are getting all the final numbers figured out with the insurance company and the contractor and all that, and we're nervous that we may have spend prematurely.  The problem was that winter was coming and our neighborhood had seen a spike in home break-ins through the back doors, and ours was falling apart so bad that you  just had to lift it a little and slide it open, even when it was locked.  So that made us nervous enough to make the investment at the time, but now we're wondering how it'll all turn out.  prayers appreciated as we wrap up that process!  (we DO have money in our "van fund" from that hail damage if we need it, but we're also getting nervous that our little Honda is gonna bite the dust soon, so we'd rather not use it.)

so yeah, our house has just been totally freaking out these last few months.  We also had a bathtub spazz out and insist on staying ON unless we jimmy-rigged this huge pole thing to put pressure on the knob to not pop out.  anyway, we eventually got it fixed, but of course it wasn't as easy as it seemed and ended up being a huge project!  ugh...

our van battery was also giving us many problems, and I had about ten dead batteries in the course of a couple months.  But my daddio came to the rescue and bought us a new one, so that's one more thing off the list of "things to replace around here."  thanks Dad. :)

Then we had a leak under our sink that made the bottom of the cupboard so soggy that our water filter system crashed through the floor of it.  So Larry was back again (our handy-man-hero) this week to fix another Hydeen House problem.

so, like I said, it's been a few months full of surprises.  some good, some bad, but in general, we feel really grateful to God that we started this journey in January so that things like this aren't totally major stressors in our life.  When we have something come up, we just pay for it and take it out of the next month's debt snowball.  and that really sucks but it's what we have to do.

and speaking of debt snowball, we officially paid off $10,000 of debt this year.  About $6000 was the minimum payment due on all our freaking loans, but that also means that we put $4000 extra toward it this year, which is so exciting!  When I think of all the money we had to put toward the house, and all the money we tithed this year (it was our first official year of really truly tithing), I'm just AMAZED at how God has met all our needs!  Last year at this time, it seemed impossible to even be able to tithe, but we stepped out in trust and not only did we tithe, but we have done much more than that!  Yes, it was a lot of hard work, and we still feel like we're in the same boat as when we started: tons of student loan debt and no grocery money. :)  BUT it's totally worth it to know we won't be in this boat forever.

it's been incredible to have our monthly budget meetings, and spend that whole month's money in one shot, and then just trust that it'll all work out for the rest of the month.  We've used some extra pinkadink money to make up for the snowball when we've had home repairs and such, and then I just have to PRAY that for whatever reason, lots of people will order stuff that month, and then I sit back and watch it happen.  It feels like I've got a front row seat for watching God go to work.  It's probably been this way all along, but I'm just so much more aware of it really being God and not me.

We're so thankful for all our random sources of income.  the pinkadink (I made a profit for the first time this year!), 88improv, my photography, daycare.  all these little amounts that, put together, allow me to be home while we tackle this debt.

and so.... we carry on. :)

I'll be adding a baby to my daycare situation next year, just a few days a week.  because who doesn't love to get paid for snuggling babies??? :)  and my very first plan for that money is to up our grocery budget!  wooooo hooooo!!!!

but besides that, we plan on just trucking along the way we have been!  I'm planning on being done with daycare for next year when Brielle goes to kindergarten, so that'll change things up agian for us, and we'll see what happens with our income at that point!  eek!

as we finish out this year, it's been fun to explain to the kids that because of all the choices we've made with our money this year (yes, the same ones they've complained about), we have a little money to choose how we want to spend it, and for the first time we're getting them a Christmas gift!  I'm not sure if they've ever realized it or not, but they've never gotten a "real" gift from us.  so this year we have a real christmas budget and if I thought it was fun to buy Christmas gifts for people before, well, it's a million times more fun when you're financially prepared!  We also did Christmas cards instead of just printing a picture, which was really fun for me too.  I did the photography, the designing, and ordered them as business postcards and used a coupon to get them for only 40 cents each, and I love how they turned out! plus it's a postcard so I save a little on postage to.

so all in all, I'd say it was a very successful year for our family with our debt reduction.  I'm sure Dave Ramsey and his hardcore fans would find many areas we could have done better, but we're focusing on US and what WE want to do with God's money that he's given us to use.

It's been a ride, folks, and I"m mighty sick of rice and beans.  Thanks for the encouragement along the way. (can you believe it's been a year already?)  I know I checked out of the blogging part of the journey, not that you even noticed, but it was good.  So many of you have said that you're in the same boat, so if nothing else, I just want to encourage you to make little changes that seem insignificant til you add them all up.  every little bit counts.

so, I'm not sure if this is officially the end of "the debt reduction diaries:" series, but it's been fun.

thanks for reading. :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

halloween: 2013 (wicked)

I love Halloween.  I know lots of Christians have strong beliefs about not participating, and okay, whatever for you.  But I'm gonna.  We never do anything scary or evil, but playing dress up, meeting or chatting with the neighbors, and getting free candy all sound like a pretty great evening to me!!! I could write an entire post on that whole idea, but I think other people have already done it, and said it better than I could, so I'll just carry on with the costumes. :)

luckily, my kids are at the age right now where most of my ideas still seem pretty cool.  (I realize my time for this phase of life is limited.)  so, when we decided last year to have a family theme every year for Halloween, they were all for it.  The problem is that our budget for Halloween is teeny tiny.  so we have to be creative.

This year, we just had to do the Wicked theme again because Lillian has been DYING to be Glinda since the day after Halloween when she was 5, which was when SHE was Elphaba.  remember this?? 

Lillian as Elphaba, 2009 (the unedited (barely green) picture bc I can't find my pics from that

So finally this year I agreed to it, and our theme was set.  

My original plan was for Elphaba, Glinda, Dr. Dillamond, a flying monkey, and an Emerald City resident. luck would have it, I couldn't find ANYTHING that would work for Dr. Dillamond besides like a $70 mask I found online.  not gonna work.  and I also couldn't find anything for Josiah to be a flying monkey, especially because, well, the monkeys in Wicked don't really look a whole lot like monkeys, so we went with plan B. 

Here we have this year's Elphaba: 

For Brielle's costume, we already had that blue jumper thing, but for some reason I could NOT find the blue turtleneck from Lillian's year, but thankfully Goodwill had one for me!  we had also gotten this purple jacket as a hand me down, and I threw it in the costume box just in case we'd need it for Elphaba some year, and I'm so glad I did!  of course we already had the knitted hat, but needed a new wig since Lillian's got destroyed long ago.  and after Lillian got her fake glasses, Brielle REALLY wanted some, so we got here these so they could be used sort of generically, and they worked for Elphaba, even though they look nothing like Elphaba's glasses. :)  so, wig, turtleneck, and glasses.  that's it!  oh, and green facepaint, even though you can't tell (again...the same thing happened in the pictures of Lillian!  oh well..).  

The deal for Miss Glinda this year was that she'd have to wear our Cinderella dress instead of buying a new one, since it was practically perfect for Glinda, even though it has Cinderella carraiges on the bottom, which REALLY bugged her, but at least I clipped off the Cinderella jewel thing on the bust.  so the only purchase for this costume was the foam crown from Hobby Lobby for like $1.50 or something!  Thanks Hazel for letting us borrow your wand! 

These Emerald City folks were the hardest.  I searched like 3 different Goodwill stores and finally found that perfect green dress for me, even if it was a little big.  hello?!?!  green ruffly dress?  at Goodwill?  perfect.  and I also got the boa from Hobby Lobby at 40% off, and the little mask for Josiah too.  I made his bowtie, and even though you can't see it, we bought green spray for his hair.  in real life it was green!   For my hat, I used these big ball party decorations I bought a few years ago for Lillian's birthday party.  They collapse to store flat, and when I saw them that day in the basement I decided to make myself a hat out of them!  So I folded the big one inside itself and put my bun thing through the hole, and then grabbed a smaller one and flipped it the opposite way and stuck my bun through that one!  easy peasy, and it really made the whole outfit come together!  oh, and the scarf is pinkadink material I already had!  woot!  

Lillian told him that in the Emerald City scene, they're always dancing.  so here's Josiah...dancing. :)
here's the 4 of us waiting for our wizard to get home!!!

he arrived!! :)

Steve's costume was easy because we have dutch costumes in this house!  So he got his fancy jacket and top hat from his costume, added a white shirt he already had, used my scarf for his big thick tie, and a pin striped vest from one of his suits from back in his hotel days when he wore suits every day.  we bought him the mustache sticker and the fancy cane, with grand ideas of singing "wonderful, they call me wonderful" all the day long.  which we did.   

and, because the patriarch of the fam is an actor, we needed a "dramatic" photo.  You can tell the Brielle and I are obviously the most comfortable with that decision. ;)  whatever.  if I get to dress you all, I'll "pose" for a photo or two.  

and for those of you who aren't familiar with WICKED (you poor, poor things!) then maybe this little visual will be of help. :)  Here's the characters from the musical, and our attempt at looking like them without spending more than a few bucks here and there. :)

so, there ya have it.  Happy Halloween from the Hydeens! :)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

heart-felt weekend.

When I opened up blogger to write this post I had FOUR draft posts that never got published, or probably even completed.

I guess you could say I've been in a "funk" since my last post.  Katie's death really put things in perspective I guess, and nothing else really feels like it matters.  too often I use my blog to complain about kids, or about money, or whatever.  too much negativity.  and I've just realized that when it comes down to it, lots of things don't matter.

but also, lots of things do.

This weekend I left by MYSELF to the Orange City area.  It's weird for me to be by myself.  I'm not very good at it even though I love it.  so it left me with mixed emotions to be heading out all alone.

at 5:45am on Saturday morning I left, and sat with myself for over two hours to get to my craft show in sioux center on time.  I haven't slept much for the last two weeks.  staying up til midnight or so most nights, and then up at 5:30 or so to sew before the day begins.  and just for some perspective, I'm usually an 8 hour sleeper who also naps on a regular basis.  so I was very tired after two weeks of burning the candle at both ends, or whatever the saying is.  and the first hour of my drive was brutal.  but sometime between 7 and 7:30 the sky started changing.  I was on I-29 and it was all happening to my right.  the sun rising and filling the sky with beautiful colors, mostly pinks, lingering over the cornfields until the blazing glow of the actual sun peeked up.  It felt like a little painting from God, for me.  a little treasure and a whisper of his presence.  and my heart actually felt different.

and that was the start of it.  I had no idea what my  heart was in for over the next day.  so many many different times where I could feel the actual organ of my heart swelling with emotion over this little life I'm living.

my peaceful ride over to Sioux Center ended abruptly when I arrived with 45 minutes to get my whole booth ready for the craft show.  and then it was a whirlwind of a morning taking orders, etc. for the show.  but at one point I just stepped outside my body for a minute to take a look at the situation.  and there I was, with this business I created, working the booth with my sister (if ONLY that could be real life every day!!!), and people actually wanting to buy my stuff!  and yeah, my heart swelled.  and I felt so blessed by the way this little thing called the pinkadink has evolved into that moment there with my sister.

after that I went to spend a few minutes with my nieces and nephew.  when I don't have my kids with me I enjoy them so much more bc they actually remember that I exist as a real person instead of just filling the role as their cousins' mom. :)  so anyway, I was DOG tired but they just wanted to play with me, so up they climbed on the couch with me, waiting patiently while I rested so I could play barbies for about 2 mintues.  (I tried to warn Hazel that I was bad at playing barbies, but she didn't seem to care.  we played "speed barbies" and got them all ready to go to the ball, which was perfect, because I had to go before the part I'm bad at, which is, like, making up conversations between them and actually playing WITH them.)  But once again, I found myself with a sort of out of body experience watching this 32 year old playing barbies in fast forward with a 4 year old who just thought it was awesome. and my heart smiled.

from there I was on my way to meet a new friend for supper.  I say "new friend" but she's actually been in my life for....well, forever it seems.  since I was 16 I guess. the big sister of my boyfriend's (now husband's) best friend.  I've always known her, just didn't realize that we are like SOUL SISTERS or something with very crazy similarities.  and recently we've become really great email friends, since we rarely see each other in person.  but by golly, we both deserved a girls night out, so we took one.  ended up at the hatchery for fried mushrooms (yep, still love them.) and a really mediocre supper.  (it's hard to eat vegetarian in a small farming town like OC.)  and we sat and talked grew our friendship in real life instead of email, and it filled up my little conversation tank.  see, I've recently realized I'm introverted.  ok, so I guess I've always known that but the recent part is that I've figured out what that means in my life.  I'm very very very strongly ISFP for anyone who cares about that. :)  being an introvert for me doesn't mean I don't like being with people though.  it just exhausts me. and my ideal situation is actually to be with people, just maybe like, one or two people at a time.  it allows you to get away from the superficial conversations, ya know?  so sitting and talking with a friend and moving beyond all the stuff you scrape the surface on with everyone else was just so delightful.  and then, because I felt totally jipped about the fact that I NEVER get to go out to eat, and then the one time I do I'm sorely disappointed, I decided we had better go get some frozen yogurt to numb the pain of money wasted. :)  so off we went.  two friends sitting and talking and eating ice cream.  just what my heart needed.

after that I parked the van at NWC and walked over to the band competition.  if you were never involved in field band in high school then I'm really sad for you.  I've always felt like I was a musical person, and I'm very easily moved by music.  the problem for me was that they put a clarinet in my hands and I was stuck.  I thought about switching when i was in middle school, but that would have been way too much work, so I just stuck with band because I loved band, even though I hated my instrument.  So finally in high school I begged my band teacher to let me do other things in the band besides play my clarinet, and I was the proud carrier of the POD banner at one point. :) and eventually I auditioned for the field conductor position my senior year.  and that year, for the first time I felt like I was able to express myself musically, IN BAND, because I was able to be a part of it without playing an instrument.  so there's a lot of emotion tied up for me in field band.  It was like all the years I stuck with the stupid clarinet that I hated, paid off when I got to be up there on that box doing something musically.

so anyway, I arrived by myself, and I found the first spot on the aisle that I could bc I refused to walk down in front of everyone looking for a spot by people I knew.  I kept my head down, walked to the aisle, found the first spot I could (by a random stranger) and totally annoyed her by sitting on the edge of her bleacher.  but there I sat by myself, watching these bands do their thing and getting more and more impatient for the POD to perform. that was when I realized how much I belong with Steve.  I literally felt my heart aching for his presence.  not because I was feeling sorry for myself being all alone, but just because I know how much more I enjoy experiences with him by my side.  and I was FREEZING and just really wanted him with me!  thankfully my friend called me and I joined her and her family way up at the top for the last three performances.  She's no Steve, but it was so much better to be enjoying it with other people! :)

when my high school band took the field, my heart was pounding.  (I am fully aware this is all sounds so ridiculous to so many of you, but whatever.)  If you could peek in my brain and my memories and see all the emotion attached to my own band competitions in high school, then in college traveling with my parents to watch my sisters, and all the relationships and memories that grew when you're out in the freezing cold with your friends or your family and the emotional experiences the music gives you, you might 'get it' a little more.  but anyway, there's "my band" on the field, and they begin the warm up facing the back the doxology.  the warm up.  I was already crying at the warm up.

and then they start the show.  and if you didn't have ears, you'd still be totally amazed at the art created before your eyes.  and if you didn't have eyes, you'd be crying at the sound of the music, even without the drill.  but when you're blessed with both, and you can see and hear at the same time, and the whole show is about Iowa, and homesickness, and you're having a seriously nostalgic weekend to begin with, well, then you're toast.  your emotions, and memories, and love for your people and your town and your childhood come spilling out.  for real. in tears.

after that I met up with another friend.  for maybe only like 4 minutes or something.  and we didn't really get a chance to get past the whole "hey!  how are you?  how are your kids?"  "we're good!  how are you?  how are YOUR kids?" thing.  but when you see someone who has played a really big part in making you into the person that you are, it doesn't really matter how many words are spoken, or if you only see them once every one or two years.  you can feel it in your heart.

and that's what the whole weekend was.  experiencing all these little pieces of my life, present and past, without the distraction of my kids to pull my mind back to reality.  and really feeling them in my heart.

I've been missing my mom so much lately.  and I think that's a huge part of it.  She loved the fall so much.  and being in orange city by myself (so reminiscent of my life before marriage and kids), feeling my mom all over the place, and talking with her old friends, and my old friends, and being with family, and just ALL of it.  it made me feel like I should go home and find her sitting with her cup of coffee on the front porch swing or something.  and I could just sit and talk with her for hours and try to explain all these things that were making my heart FEEL in ways it just really hasn't in a long time.

so yeah, it was a lovely day in my hometown.  had a majorly dead battery in my van, so I didn't make it back to omaha in time for what I was hoping to be home for, but it allowed me the chance to go to church with my sister, and get some serious snuggle time with my baby niece, and a quick dinner with my sister's family, and just so many more little blessings before I headed back home.

and THEN...when I got home, there were signs to greet me on the door.  my sweet kiddos make "i love you mommy" signs and my heart was a little pool of goo in my chest.  i can't believe they love me as much as they do, when I'm such a nag to them so often!

and THEN I walked in the door and was blinded by the sparkling clean-ness of my house.  now, you people don't understand.  I have not done a single thing for 2 weeks except for make food and sew.  my day time hours are spend playing with Maddie and Brielle, and the second Maddie leaves, I "go to work" in the basement.  so when I left on Sat morning, my counters were covered in dishes, the floors were covered in smashed cheerios and spilled who-knows-what, and the table was nasty, caked with about 2 weeks worth of spills and crumbs, and the bathrooms were nasty and smelly, and the hallway was just gross, and, well, you get the point.  I kept saying that I'd just get through this weekend and clean next week, and to not let it get to me.  We had NO toilet paper.  none.  and no food.  sorta.  and when I came back it was sparkling clean, all of it.  with toilet paper on the rolls.  and almond milk in the fridge.  and even though you aren't supposed to love people based on their actions, my love for my man grew.  by a lot.

they weren't home yet, so I had a few minutes to just sit here and think back on the weekend.  my heart still fluttering with all the emotion of it all.

They got home, many hugs were exchanged, and I took a long lovely nap with my hubby, and then the 5 of us went for a walk at Standing Bear Lake.

and GOOD GRIEF!!!  if there was ever a way to end a lovely weekend, it would be with my four favorite people, swinging high as the sun sets behind them.  my heart was overflowing.  I am living my dream.  my whole life is my own dream come true, and it's so easy to forget that sometimes!

so yeah, it's been a long break from blogging, but there are things worth remembering, and things worth forgetting.  and when you have a death to remind you of how you want to be living your life, then you should live it that way.  my heart needs to feel more, to be more involved in my every day life.

If I saw you this weekend, you were a part of something special.  even if I didn't say a word to you.  you're  a part of my life.  my heart.  my dream come true.  and I'm so blessed to have been with you this weekend.  and even more blessed to be home now. :)

Friday, August 9, 2013

radiant: Katie

my heart is so heavy and sad right now, I hardly even have words to write. but I can't just go on with my life here without Katie and not allow her to impact as many people as possible, even in her death.  God is certainly being glorified in her death, just as he was in her life.

Here's the thing about Katie.  Every single person who knew her is grieving so intensely because Katie loved so much, and so well.  It's been said a million times in the last week, but it's true, that she really made every single person feel like they were the most important person in the world when they were with her.  so selfless, so good at listening, so good at asking questions, so happy to see you, no matter what.

She was 8 when I first moved to Omaha.  We started attending our church and there were a RIDICULOUS number of tall, long-blond-haired girls from a variety of different families, and it probably took me at least a year to place each one with the correct family.  the gronewolds, the pfeiffers, the nissens, the graszes.  probably more.  there were so many girls in the same age range, with such similar looks. it was crazy, or so I thought then, because now I can tell them all apart quite easily. :)

but the first one I learned was Katie.  She was one of the youngest, and was so STINKING CUTE that everybody noticed her.  and she was the first blondie that I placed with the correct parents, and from there I could figure out who else belonged with them.  And names were a completely different challenge.  at least the gronewolds were in alphabetical order.  that was helpful.  but the other families took me a while.  except for Katie.  Katie the Cutie.  so easy to remember.

Lots of people told me lots of stuff about being a mom when I was pregnant.  but no one EVER described the new kind of love that would develop specifically for people who love your kids really well.  it started with Tabi.  Tabi and Katie were best friends, but Tabi and I had worked out a sweet deal where I would tutor her in  her college level spanish classes and she would babysit for trade.  so Tabi very quickly became the favorite babysitter in the Hydeen house.  But whenever Tabi was unavailable, Katie was always the requested replacement, and came in at a very close second place to Tabi, which of course she didn't mind. :)  and oh my heavens, if there was ever a Hydeen-kid babysitter utopia, it would be the Tabi-Katie-combo, which was a dream come true for all three.  like, seriously, jumping and screaming and practically shedding tears they were so happy to hear the announcement.  what I wouldn't give for a video of that now.

So my love for Tabi and Katie has grown over the years in a way that probably not every mom has experienced.  But to know that my kids have been influenced by these sweet girls with a crazy love for Jesus has changed my heart forever.  and my kids' hearts too.

But something changed in my relationship with Katie while we were in Belize.  She was so excited that we were coming.  Every time we had a meeting or a fundraiser or anything, she'd walk up to me and say "I'm seriously SO GLAD you guys are coming!!!" in a soft, high pitched but not annoying voice.  (everyone who knows her can just hear it now, I'm sure.)  :)  and she'd put her super long arms around me in a hug, but more like a side hug, but with both arms, right above my belly button.  it was like the signature katie hug I think.  just sweet and sincere.  **ok, I just took a little break to look at her pictures on facebook to see if I could find a picture to explain the Kaite hug, and oh my.  it's everywhere.  not always with the front arm too, but you can see her little hand peeking out and around everybody's waist, because she didnt' ever just put her hand on your back, it was ALWAYS a hug.  search Katie Nissen in facebook if you want to see what I"m talking about.  love it!!!!**

so anyway, if you've ever been on a mission trip with anyone, you understand that bonds are created there that cannot be explained.  She slept right next to me every single night, right in Steve's spot, and told me she didn't care if I accidentally snuggled up to her in the night. :)  and I feel like I had more little "moments" with her on that trip than I did anyone else.  it's the little things, like your first greeting in the morning and your last conversation at night.  it's the big things like braiding girls' hair like maniacs every single day, and trying to figure out if they want the type of braids that Katie was braiding, or the type of braid that was in Katie's hair, and laughing as we work together in the "salon."  on the day I was so sick, she rubbed my back like a little mama when I went to lay down, and I'm quite certain she even kissed my head.  it didn't take very long for me to realize that I didn't just love Katie in a you-love-my-kids-and-my-kids-love-you way.  I loved her in a I-need-more-of-you-in-my-life-for-ME way!

My forever-image of Katie the Cutie is from our day of snorkeling.  I always knew she was good at swimming, like, one of the best in the state or something. but to see her in her element was breathtaking.  ok, so it might have something to do with the fact that I was very much NOT in my element, but still.  after our snorkeling "tour" we took a boat ride over to the shark area.  and that's where we just go to hang out in the water and touch the sharks and stingrays and do our own thing.  And there's me, choking on water in my snorkel and blowing salt water out my nose after screaming about the fish that almost crashed into me, and then there's Katie.  She must have had her mask and snorkel on, but that's not part of my memory, because she looked so beautiful.  she'd go down to the bottom, swimming like a mermaid, blond hair flowing behind her, and then she'd surface a little and blow the water out of her snorkel and head back down again.  I think I spent most of that chunk of time just watching Katie.  My favorite was when she swam down to the bottom, and started writing her name in the dust on the back of a gigantic sting ray.  I think she only got the "Ka" written, but still, it was so beautiful.  and forever etched in my mind.  Katie in her prime:  a week of serving Jesus and then a day off to swim in God's creation.

after she died I was having a really hard time sleeping.  I'd just lay there for hours and cry for her family, and for my kids, and for me.  and then I'd go to sleep and dream about her, and wake up again and start all over.  I only remember one dream really clearly, but it stems from the memories of snorkeling with Katie I'm sure.  In my dream, "we," whoever we all were,  were rollerblading around the streets of Orange City.  We all knew that Katie was going to die, we just didn't know when.  And Katie and I were in different groups of people taking different paths around the town.  But every time I skated past her I would just yell "KATIEEEEE!!!" and she'd turn and look at me, and blow me a kiss!  I'd wave at her and show the "i love you" sign, and she'd say, "it's okay!  really!  it's okay!!!  I love you!"  and blow more kisses as she spun around on her rollerblades while her blond hair spun above her, in a way that doesn't happen in real life, unless you're in the water. and it just happened over and over, where she'd blow me kisses and tell me she loves me but that everything was okay.

At her celebration service we found out that her favorite verse was Psalm 34:5.  "those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed."

for real?

if there was ever a word to describe our sweet Katie it would be radiant.  she was a walking beam of sunshine, with Jesus shining through always.  which is why it makes no sense that the rest of us are weeping, still.  I know it's a part of the grief, but it's so not Katie.  On her last night with us in this life, we had a prayer service at one of the local churches (bigger than ours!).  a storm rolled in, quite fitting for our moods, and the thunder joined us as we sang and worshiped our God, and the heavens wept with us as we mourned the coming loss of our friend.

and again on her celebration service day, we drove to the church in torrential rains, as if God was saying to us, "I get it.  I know.  I'm mourning your loss with you."  but then I saw, way in the distance, blue skies with white clouds.  and I thought, wow.  blue skies a-coming, even though it looks so far away.  and my heart just felt like it was overflowing with emotion about it all, and about my mom's death, and how sometimes I still wonder where the blue skies are, and how much we just need Jesus to come back and rescue us from this world of sin and pain and brokenness.  but blue skies are coming here in this life, eventually, and then streets of gold, and forever and ever and ever (which will make this life seem so short) with the ones we love.  so when we walked out of that church to a beautiful day, I was not surprised.  it was much more of a "katie" type of day.

the kids have all handled it very differently from each other, but very true to their personalities.  Josiah found out first and just exploded in tears, which sent Lillian running.  and she, too, allowed herself to just weep over her loss.  Brielle asked what happened, then turned around and continued on with whatever she was doing.  And after a while had passed, Lillian got a look on her face that she was going to do SOMETHING, and she took off to her room.  Josiah eventually began asking questions like "mama, why are you STILL crying???  Katie's in HEAVEN!!!"  and I thought, "oh God, please give me more of that.  help me to grieve, but then give me THAT."  And Brielle eventually vocalized a little, but only enough to say, "I just don't want to talk about it." When Lillian came back from her room, she had  an envelope with her money in it, and a note saying "I know this isn't much, but I just wanted to help however I could."  My sweet girl.  She's a giver, that's for sure.  Always buying things for others, with her own money.  so after a nice little talk about the fact that they didn't need our money, they needed our prayers, she was still set on giving them her money.  so I let her, because I sure don't want to be the one to squash her giving nature.  And Katie's mom let Lillian decide which memorial she wanted the money to go toward, and she chose the Crisis Pregnancy Center to receive a $6 donation in memory of Katie Nissen. :)

I'm still struggling.  way more than I expected.  I think this loss has been the most significant in my life since my mom's.  I've had other dear loved ones pass away, but not in a "robbed of life" sort of way.  So it's just all bringing up so much emotion.  such a hard loss.  When we were in Belize and I spent a significant amount of time with Pam (Katie's mom) and Theresa (another awesome mom of high school/college age kids), I was really feeling the loss of my mom.  Not that anyone could ever replace her in my life, but being with those ladies who had such similar qualities to my mom and my aunt, just made me really want those relationships to grow.  I was telling my friend Rachel, on Sunday, that my master plan had been to make a deal with Pam that if she would be my life mentor, I'd be that to Katie, and what a dream come true that would be to me.  of course it never happened, but then I found out from her sister at the visitation, that on the Saturday before she died, Averi (the sister, who also plays on my sand volleyball team) asked Katie who she would choose if she could pick anyone she wanted from church to be her mentor.  and Katie picked me.  (so many tears....)  I don't know if she listed 4 people and I was one of them, or if she only said me or what, and I don't care.  Because that one little comment made me realize that the I-need-more-of-you-in-my-life feeling was mutual, even though that sort of just makes it sting even worse.

so now here we are, with the pain of loss burning our eyes every single day.  burning in our hearts.  (is there some medical reason that I really truly feel it in my HEART???)  left with so many questions for God.

but also with the knowledge of truth.

Katie is with our Savior, because she believed in Him as her only way to salvation.

This loss is not from God.  The whole idea of God's "plan" has always been hard for me, but especially now.  I don't believe for a second that God wanted this to happen.  Death and sadness are not FROM God.  yes, he knew it would happen, and he had Katie's days numbered before she was even born, but this death is a result of the fall of man, of this sin-infested world, and not how he created us to be in His TRUE plan.

Faith is a gift.  Sometimes, especially times like this when there's so much I don't understand, I feel like I sound totally crazy for believing in God.  for believing that He's GOOD.  There are times when the miracles of God and the other stories in the Bible just sound ridiculous, and I wonder what I would think if other religions said the same about THEIR god.  but I believe.  I really do.  Because God has given me that gift of faith.  and I'm so very grateful for that.  so that even when things don't make sense, I still believe.

Katie's life will live on. There were probably over 1500 people at her service on Tuesday, and our awesome pastor did not shy away from the truth of the gospel.  and hopefully hearts were stirred that day and many will come to Christ because of the life of Katie.

I will never be the same. I will still live my life as Katie's mentor, doing my best to point out Christ at work in her life to my kids, and striving to be more Christ-like in all that I do.  I am forever reminded that this is not our home, and things of this life are fleeting.  and my job here on earth is to point others to Him and allow Him to work in me and through me, all for His glory, not mine.  and I have had the perfect example set for me.

so Katie, sweet Katie.  you are gone from our lives but never from our hearts.  thank you for being a 17 year old role model for every single person in your life, no matter their age.  Thank you for loving my children in such a special way.  thank you for serving me, and with me, in Belize, and for our special bond.  and I can't WAIT til the day when we all "sacatecas" out of this world and spend eternity forever, doing what you do best my dear, praising Jesus.

love you.  always.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

belize 2013

I started to write out some details about the trip last week but I just deleted it all (on purpose) because it's just too much stuff that's not important.  So I guess I'm starting over and I'll just write out some of the major stuff I learned (and that I'm still learning) from this trip.

1.  I am way more emotional than I thought, and I already thought I was very emotional.

It all started two days before I even left.  couldn't sleep.  cried all night.  lots of mixed emotions about leaving my kids, plus some major feelings of inadequacy as we got nearer to d-day. Then, I lost it again in the airport before leaving (probably normal) and found myself in tears all but ONE day on the trip for one reason or another.  feeling so sick I cried (possibly normal), riding on a boat (probably not normal), missing Brielle's bday (possibly normal), hearing about Steve's bad dream (probably not normal), and saying goodbye to my new friends (probably normal) are a few reasons for some of the tears. I knew I was emotional, but good grief.  that's too much crying. :)

2.  God can use even me.  (or not...)

Like I mentioned before, I was really struggling with inadequacy.  Here I was with an education degree and a spanish degree but still wondering why I was the one in charge of heading up the VBS (probably bc God made me volunteer to do it).  Long story short, we did it.  thanks to the awesome music team (and the fact that music is the universal language!!!) and the craft and activity teams, we actually pulled it off.  I'm still struggling with the fact that it wasn't as seamless in real life as it was in my head, and I'm not even sure if the kids were impacted by the stories we told or not.  But what I do know is that they felt loved by us, and if what sticks in their little minds about the love of Jesus is how they felt when they were with us, then it's a start.  a seed.  so anyway, all the prep work and prop finding and trying to keep it simple and everything I was stressed out about for the story time was maybe used by God.  or maybe not.  but he put me there for a reason.  and I survived!  and yes, I know he probably used it all to His glory, but I'm just saying, even if he didn't, it doesn't change the fact that I did what He asked me to do, no matter what comes of it.  I'm obviously still sorting out all those feelings.

3.  God at work isn't always something I can recognize.

I struggled the first few days with really SEEING God at work.  I kept thinking that my heart would just be bursting with all the wonderful things God was doing in us and through us.  But instead I found myself wondering on many occasions what the HECK I was doing on the trip.  The evening after we got there was great, but the next day I was SUPER sick, thinking surely I was going to throw up, and wanting it even.  It was the only way I could see relief in my future.  But thanks to the zofran (which I was really excited about at first, so that I WOULDN'T throw up) I was completely unable.  so instead I just sat there feeling like I was transitioning in labor, when your stomach is freaking out, you're sweating, shaking, and needing to puke, and just not sure how it's all going to play out.  so that day was really hard, and included my team locking me in the church while they drove to another village for church so I could hopefully sleep it off.  which worked.  thank goodness, bc I had VBS to lead the next day.  but the whole day I just kept thinking "I KNEW I shouldn't have done this! I'm such a travel whimp!!!  why did God think this was a good idea???"

and then those first few days of VBS were harder than I expected just because of the language barrier (we did everything in English, but had a translator for the story, all per their request) and everything that I already talked about before.  So, yeah, by the evening of day 3 I was sort of to the point of saying, "ok, God, WHAT THE HECK.  where are you and why don't I feel you???" (I was feeling very brave to say that to God.)  and the very next day was July 18, and if you have the Jesus Calling devotional, you should read July 18.  basically it says that sometimes you feel alone, because your union with God is invisible. and then it says  "ask me to open our eyes, so that you can find Me everywhere."  gulp.  I did it, and He showed me.  in so many different ways.  and I was totally humbled (and embarrassed?) that once again I put God in a box, and expected my own version of Him.  but once again (he's GOT to be sick of this!) he just gently showed me more about Him.  Man, he's awesome.

and, of course, after that moment not only did I see God working in many little ways, but I could also look BACK and see the ways he already was working, even though I'd missed them.  Thank goodness for his forgiving nature!

4.  I have a lot more anxiety than I thought.

I knew without a doubt that this trip would stretch me in ways that I haven't been stretched in many years.  What I didn't realize was how crazy my mind would go with the idea of the bazillion things that could happen to orphan my three dear kids.  leaving them was VERY hard and I don't normally feel that way.  I'm the first to promote mom-breaks.  but man, this was some "break."  Every situation had my mind reeling.  I'll only go into detail about one for you though. :)

so, I'm not a fan of water.  I think it mostly stems from the little girl drowning in our pool in California when I was a little girl.  I would just much rather be on land than in a boat, and if I'm feeling brave I'd rather be on the boat than in the water.  I've been like that for many years.  yes, I've tried skiing a few times.  it was sorta fun, until I fell and then went back IN the water.  I'll take the boat, thankyouverymuch.

oh, and also, I am not a huge animal lover.  I love them from a distance, but in general, I just don't trust them.  might be because my mom had dog bite scars on her face for her whole life.  might be because of the crocodile wrestler guy I saw at Busch Gardens on vacation as a kid who had to RUN for his life out of the pit thing because they turned on him, OR, it might be the fact that the real crocodile hunter guy DIED, and he knew everything there was to know.  so I'm just saying, I don't trust animals.  only puppies and kittens, and only for a short period of time.

so you can imagine my anxiety bubbled over when I boarded a boat (where I couldn't see out the windows!!!!) for a TWO HOUR boat ride to an island to go snorkeling (swimming WITH THE ANIMALS!!!).  I have told Steve many times before that he should never surprise me with a cruise.  not on my bucket list.  have no desire, whatsoever.  we did a dinner cruise on our honeymoon and that I could handle.  nice little boat.  but that's good enough for me.  so anyway, I don't know how serious Steve ever took me about that whole thing until Friday morning when everyone was filling the boat with excited chatter about the day ahead.  and suddenly he looks over to his left and finds his bride crying uncontrollably but hopefully not-so-noticably.

I was a total disaster.  I was trying really hard to stop crying and to not allow my mind to wander unnecessarily.  but man, it took like at least ten minutes for them to get this boat ready, and it felt like FOR.EV.ER.  It was not working to try to calm myself down.  it was not working to snuggle into Steve's arm.  It was not working to recognize the fact that this was from Satan himself, and I knew he'd attack me in this way (I just didn't know it would be that bad!!).  Eventually, I convinced myself that as soon as the boat started to go, I had to give it to God.  I did not want a miserable day of fear and anxiety.  I wanted to experience God's creation in a way I never had before.  I wanted to feel His peace.  and sure enough, the boat started to go, and I let out a big sigh, like I was blowing it all out of me and up to God.  and it worked.  God gifted me with his peace, and in that one moment I knew my anxiety was gone.

see?  I could even take a picture!  it doesn't look that scary now... :)

ok, well that was until I got in the water and had a school of those little trumpter looking fish RIGHT AT MY EYEBALLS!  It took a little more prayer for me to trust the snorkel equipment and convince myself that I could, in fact, breathe, even though I was under the water.  anyway, once I realized that the fish had a ridiculous ability to not crash into people, that helped, and I actually ended up enjoying my little journey on top of the sea.  I still had some major freak out moments, but thankfully Steve was there and I could make bug eyes at him or squeeze his hand when I was feeling particularly proud of myself for being in the water with certain creatures.

well, THEN...we got back in the boat and went over to the SHARKS.  I'm not kidding you. I'll have to see if I can upload video on this blog so you can see what I swam with.  I was swimming WITH sharks, and I touched one!  and Steve held it and I didn't totally spazz out!  and I touched these HUGE stingrays!  me.  I touched them.  on purpose.  it was crazy.  one of our guides, though, Rex, must have caught on to the fact that I was particularly jumpy, and decided on more than one occasion to throw chum at me so that this HUGE school of fish would race right toward my face!  I screamed every time and had to surface to get all the salt water out of my snorkel and my mouth and my nose because apparently I lose the proper hold on the mouthpiece when I scream.  He's lucky I didn't start crying again or he would have felt bad!  instead he just thought it was really funny that I did the same thing every time.

so there ya have it.  my most anxiety filled day turned out to be some of the memories that will last the longest I'm sure, and certainly be the most clear.  I'm so thankful to God for his peace during that day!

5.  I'm a very relational person.

I already knew this, but it had been a while since I felt the effects of it.  My favorite times of the whole trip were the ones where I was just hanging out with people.  I LOVED being with the girls after VBS and braid-braid-braiding all their hair.  they loved it.  I loved it.  and something really special happened because of that.  After one day of doing only girls' hair, on day 2 this cute little old lady Flora (aka mi favorita) asked me to braid her hair.  her long beautiful hair went down past her butt, and she wanted "two" on that day.  so I gave her two.  and then on day 3 a few more of the ladies asked me if I would do their hair, and by day 4 I was doing almost only the ladies' hair, and teaching some of them how to do it too!  I think they're crazy because I really like Katie's (my braiding partner) style of braiding better than mine, but they all seemed to love the clean tight braids that I can't seem to get away from even when I try. :)  so that turned out to be this little thing that only I got to experience-the women coming to VBS to get their hair braided afterward.  It also allowed me to talk with a few of them (sometimes in Spanish, although they also like to practice their English) about the church there and encourage them to come on Sundays.   it was so great.

another memorable moment for me was on Monday, day 1, when after lunch I sat down with the pastor's wife Elsa and sweet Veronica who made us lunch and asked if they'd be willing to talk with me in Spanish.  So there we sat for probably a half hour, talking about families and villages and Belizian customs in marriage, and all sorts of fun stuff.  I wish I had more confidence to speak Spanish here, because I know that I CAN do it, but it's just been so long since I felt fluent.  So anyway I felt like God gave me that little moment to remind me that I really can still do it. :)  oh, and I was also the translator for the kids.  whenever our team didn't understand, they'd bring the kid to me to figure out what they were saying.  fun!!!

and, of course, I can't forget about how much I loved our team bonding.  we played so many fun games.  most often it was UNO or Mafia.  The best part to me was that by the end of the week, our "team" bonding included a bunch of our new Belizian friends from the church where we stayed (which was different than where we did the work and the VBS).  We also ended up having a potluck turned worship time on Thursday night.  It was so great and felt like a little slice of heaven where we all worship together in different languages, and the whole evening ended up being a HUGE blessing to everyone involved.

**OK, gotta wrap this up.  I've been working off and on on this post for the last couple weeks, but it's been hard becasue (shocker) my body freaked out when I got back to the US and I've been fighting a huge cold or allergies or something that is totally SUCKING out all my energy.  Plus I had Maria and the kids here for a week which was so fun but hard to blog, and now this week I'm hosting the 5 Day Club at our house (like a mini VBS).  so my thoughts haven't been fully forming in this whole thing, but I have one more thing to say.

One of my favorite high schoolers EVER was on this trip with me.  Her name is Katie and she's just really freaking awesome and loves Jesus and people so much.  I slept right next to her all week and warned her that she was in Steve's spot so sorry if I snuggled up to her in the night. :)  she's just the sweetest girl I've ever known and after a trip like this you feel really close to your teammates.

anyway, this last week she's been having severe pain in her head.  She's been struggling with migraines for a while too.  So she was admitted to the hospital here for a series of tests and such that could give her and her parents some answers.  Things seem to keep getting worse, and yesterday she ended up in the PICU in a medically induced coma.  now there are more problems and they need to wake her up today.  This is all just so scary and I feel so sick about it.  We are giving our presentation tonight at church and it's just so sad that she won't be there, and all our minds will be with her and her family while we gather without them. :(

so, if you're the praying type, PLEASE storm the gates of heaven with us on the Nissen family's behalf, asking God to intervene and give the doctors insight and the family peace.  Pray that Katie will be pain free when she wakes up today.  and that there will be no long term effects of all these complications.  and pray that God will begin using this horrific time RIGHT NOW to begin drawing people closer to him.  I'm sure Katie has a bazillion friends who are struggling with this right now that God can work mightily in.

I feel like I'm not done talking about Belize.  if you ever talk to me in real life you'll get more bits and pieces.  but I can hardly even focus my mind off of Katie enough to finish up this post.  I'm sure that I've changed in a way that will come out in all my future posts, even if you don't notice. :)

God works in so many ways, and I'm just so honored that He chose ME to go on this trip, and to learn to know him more, and to be stretched and poked and prodded by Him in so many ways.  I'm already thinking about the next trip and when we can take each of our kids and go back and see our friends again.  I didn't expect to make FRIENDS, and after all the hard things for me during the week, I was shocked when it was still so hard to leave.  so I guess the only answer is to go back! RIGHT?!?!?!?

anyway, gotta run.  thanks for all the donations to make this trip possible.  I didn't even talk about the money part which is totally awesome.  another post I guess.  probably a budgeting post. :)  and thanks for all of you who prayed for me.  I can't imagine how I would have survived without your prayers, since there were times I felt like I was barely surviving with them!!!

Please pray for Katie!!!!

til next time, and after I am hopefully back to 100%....

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

the debt reduction diaries: June-schmune

I know it's late, but gotta do the june update.

june sucked.

we haven't actually even done our July budget meeting yet so I forget all the details.  it was supposed to be done before the month started, but basically, when you know you're getting all these bills from dumb stuff like doctors physicals and mammograms and spraying for the disturbing number of ants we had and what we THOUGHT was a cockroach (we had a major cockroach problem in our apartment, so we don't mess around when it comes to that), and a broken dryer and a bunch of other things that I'm forgetting, and you know you will have already passed your snowball amount, well, it's just not fun to do the budget meeting. all the more reason to make it a priority I guess. BLECH.

We had a GREAT weekend though in June, celebrating our 10 year anniversary.  if you remember from a previous post, our plan was to go to an all inclusive resort somewhere like Mexico, so many many years ago we started saving a few dollars here and there in an old baby wipes container.  and of course, last year, we had to make the decision: mexico or continued shower issues that might result in falling through the floor to the garage.  it wasn't that bad YET, but we had to spend every saved penny (our guy literally cut the cost $25 for us because we only had a certain number of dollars to spend) on a SHOWER.  boo.

so anyway, no big trip this year, but Steve parents ended up taking the kids to Colorado that week, very last minute, so we had 5 days to ourselves!  Steve had gotten a $200 improv check that we decided to dedicate to our weekend, plus we got a little money gift from each of our parents, so we had a GREAT weekend spending money!  :)  of course in the midst of all the other financial issues, I felt a teensy bit guilty, but I didn't want it to ruin our weekend.  I felt like we "deserved" to stay in a hotel (stayed in omaha to save on gas, which the kids thought was WEIRD!!!!) for a night and go out to eat and celebrate ten years of ups and downs and all arounds. :)  AND we had free college world series tickets, which was AWESOME!  it was a much needed break from the reality of kids and budgeting and cooking. so yeah, it wasn't Mexico, but it was just what we needed. and we took a nice little shower together to celebrate our money well spent. :)

I'm quite certain that the reason behind the financial issues and discouragement comes from fact that our BELIZE TRIP is right around the corner!!!  I was talking with another teammate this past week about how this is the time for Satan to attack.  We've been fighting financial issues, both non-trip related and trip-related (did you know that shots can cost $650???? yeah, me either...), work overload, feelings of major inadequacy (why are WE in charge of the VBS!!???!!!!????), and I have a MAJOR case of nerves.  I'm scared to leave my kids, scared for the plane rides, the boat rides, the change of diet, the bugs, all of it!  When people ask me if I'm getting excited, I either lie and say yes or tell the truth and say that I"m actually only getting more and more nervous.  But I'm fully aware that it's the devil's attack on my mind because he knows something major is about to happen in my heart.  so, I have to change my attitude, and just say BRING IT!!!  in four days I'll be there, serving God, no matter what he tries to  send my way before then.

so there you have it, a not very detailed account of June.  We almost convinced ourselves to quit all this debt reduction stuff and just go back to paying our monthly minimums (because by the time we pay for all the unexpected stuff, that's what's happening anyway...) and decrease the amount of stress we're under each month, but about two minutes into that conversation we decided against that. :)  it would just stretch out this phase of life where we can't do what we want with our money even LONGER...and that's just dumb. :)

so, we carry on. thanking God for the things we have, and the realization of how many things we don't actually need. and we carry on eating rice and beans and spaghetti unless Tom and Carla take us out. :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

the story of us

I was in 6th grade when I first saw him.  he frightened me because my pesky brother told me he would be very very short, and when he came to the door (it was a middle school church event, and we were knocking on doors) he was HUGE and I ran away.  He wasn't really that huge, but he was up a step from me and he was already tall for an 8th grader.

I was always aware of him, from then on I think, even though I had other boyfriends and a major crush on Michael Greller who knew not of my existence (except, of course, for my pesky brother (again) who told him one time, right in front of me.  traumatic for an 8th grader, Joel.  thanks.). but even while I cheered for #4 (pathetic, I still remember) I was always aware of him.

Eventually I ended up in high school with him and wondered if I'd marry him some day.  we both lived very separate lives for a few months, but eventually, since many of my friends from church were his close friends, we started hanging out in group settings, hanging out at the Huismans', playing sand volleyball at Vet's park, hot tubbing at the DenHartogs', the usual "good kids" high school stuff. :)

There were times I wondered if he might like me, and other times I wondered if he noticed me at all.

At one point, the summer after my freshman year, when I was 15 years old, we had a date set up.  We had not communicated even once about it (hilarious now), but our friend had all the details worked out.  that date attempt failed, however, when his grandpa died and he left for like a month or something, and when he got back I left for a family vacation.  and, um, when I got back from vacation he had a girlfriend.  (give him a break, he was a normal 17 year old boy...)

On my 16th birthday I was with him.  me and him and two other friends, swimming in the pit at Carnes.  he still had 'said girlfriend' so it wasn't like I was flirting.  I was just noticing how good he looked in his swimming suit and wondering if someday I'd marry him, that's all.  100% innocent, I promise.

and then that same weekend we went to have a campout at the lakes.  a whole bunch of us, maybe like 20?  it was so fun except that the girlfriend was there when she was supposed to be at college but whatever.  I didn't notice. ;)  that was also his birthday weekend so his parents threw a little ice cream party for him when we got back, and I gave him the only card i could find at my house which was full of trains and cars and airplanes and had some cheesy little boy message on it.  but I thought maybe he'll keep this forever and some day we can give the same card to our son. :)

soon after that, when he and the college girl had broken up, I thought maybe it was my chance.  I remember being at a high school dance (the band dance maybe?  although I feel like i remember it in the gym, not the lunchroom).  anyway, I was dancing with this guy(who shall remain nameless, to protect his innocence and his feelings for the fact that I did NOT want to be dancing with him), when I spotted him with another girl.  I totally saw their connection and probably left the school in tears and shouting "I HATE YOU STEVE HYDEEN AND I NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU EVER AGAIN!"  ok maybe not because I wasn't THAT dramatic, but I DID decide to be done having a crush on him. i was done. ;)

I went to homecoming and on quite a few other dates with another guy (many of them group dates with steve, not that I was noticing...) and it was good for me to have a break from the drama of a teenage girl's heart.

now, if you want to blame someone for what happened next, you can blame Gail Marincovich.  I will love her forever and always.

see, it was right during the fall high school production of Oliver, and Steve was Faggin and I was on hair and makeup crew.  Gail (the director) gave me the responsibility of "graying" Faggin's beard.  (never mind the fact that she and my mom were good friends and my mom probably paid her to give me that job.....juuuuuust kidding.....)  Gail and Rusty had also planned a trip to DesMoines to see Les Mis for the following weekend and offered to chaperone any high schoolers that wanted to go, and Steve and I and a bunch of our friends signed up.  and, well, steve also happened to break up with his girlfriend that weekend.  I was in the band room after the football game when I heard.  not that I remember or anything, or that it mattered to me at all. ;)

the stars were aligned.

at some point when I was graying his beard for the production that night, knowing that we'd be on a trip together that following weekend (with like 10 other people too), I knew I had to be fair and break up with the guy I was dating.  It was mean horrible and I still feel guilty about it, except for the fact that we're friends now (it took a while) and both happily married to the loves of our lives. :)  and it would have been meaner to NOT do that, since I knew I wanted to marry Steve Hydeen.  the whole world knew I wanted to marry Steve Hydeen.

so anyway, the following weekend we were in a van on the way to DesMoines talking about eye color or something equally gag-worthy, all for an excuse to gaze into each other's eyes.  and the rest is history. :)  actually, it took awhile for us to finally become official.

we had a long talk on the way home from Jantina's where we watched My Best Friend's Wedding, and he whisper-sang in my ear "the way you look tonight" during the scene on the boat (i almost died).  anyway, the talk on the way home was about Brandon's cousin who liked this girl and I thought, hey, maybe this will lead to a conversation about US and WHAT WE ARE.  but no, he went on and on about Brandon's cousin and never once talked about us.  until, of course, we got to my driveway and he explained that brandon's cousin didnt' exist, and it was him, and he liked this girl, and what should he do?  and it was so cute and I was almost past my curfew and so I told him to 'go for it' and hopped out of the car.  I went in the house and downstairs to my mom and dad's room, where I announced (to my dad, who had recently told me that steve should either "shit or get off the pot") that steve did, in fact, shit.  and it felt really weird to say shit to my dad when I was 16 years old.  but I was a giddy mess.

First kiss was valentines day weekend on the night of Winter Ball.  it was the sweetest set up where he made me supper and spilled sparkling duck on his mom's new carpet (sorry Carla!).  it was too foggy for stars outside so he stuck glow in the dark stars on his mom and dad's living room ceiling so he could dance under the stars with me.  and that's where he kissed me.  We argue to this day about who stuck whose tongue in whose mouth, but I guess we felt the connection and went with it. :)  now I think 16 year olds have no business with their tongue in anybody else's mouth, which is a sure sign I'm getting old. :)  but yes, our first kiss was a doozie. :)

soon all our friends began to hate us because we always wanted to be together, but when you wait that long and he's finally yours, nothing else really matters. i'm just glad I actually married him or it would be really sad to make my friends hate me for no good reason.

We had a short little break up after he went to college and I was like THIS SUCKS and he was like PROM SUCKS. just kidding he never said that and was a real trooper going to prom TWICE as a college kid.  but that little two week break confirmed that I never wanted another day of my life without him in it.

our college years were probably the hardest years of our whole life together.  I came into college with a boyfriend so it was kind of assumed that I didn't need girlfriends.  which was sorta true (I've never been a huge girl-friend person because I've been so close to my sisters) except for the fact that my boyfriend was a theater major and had ZERO time to ever do ANYTHING except memorize lines and be on light crew til 4am and other stuff that was very much not a part of my life.  he left in the summers to go on DME tours and it was just really hard.  they say marriage is hard work, but man, I thought college was way harder.

after my sophomore year (like, RIGHT AFTER) I got my wisdom teeth out.  it was his graduation weekend, and he was finally done with college.  He came to my house the day after and found me with my huge puffy cheeks and sweaty workout clothes in front of the tv doing Arms and Abs of Steel.  You can see how well that worked out for me.

He wanted to go on a picnic, so after driving around the WHOLE town of OC, we finally found one park that they were done mowing! (it was Tulip Festival weekend and the whole city was in "clean up" mode.)  we parked over by kinderspeelland, set out a blanket by the shelter house, and had a little picnic while I sucked down food instead of chewing it with my sore mouth.  I noticed a police officer just sitting in the parking lot, and thought to myself, ha!  that guy totally thinks he's going to witness a proposal here. Little does he know that MY man plans picnics on a regular basis and that's probably not what's going to happen here!  He wouldn't do that to me with my PUFFY CHEEKS and sweaty clothes!

soon after that though, steve was playing me a song on his guitar (also not the first time that happened, he's a romantic...) and next thing I knew he was down on one knee (or UP on one knee I guess) asking me to be his wife.

brains are very fast and I thought a lot of things in that one millisecond  "how could you!  my cheeks!" "that cop was right!" "my fingernails look horrible!" "it's my dream come true!" and a bazillion more.  but the only one that came out of my mouth was "yes! of course!"  and then I cried.  it was really perfect because I thought for sure I would know when he was going to do it.  I thought he'd go all out and the whole date I would know and just wait for it to happen.  but he chose to just be US, doing something we often did, and it was perfect.

our wedding day was perfect.  filled with friends and family and the presence of God.  I really felt it.  it rained and thundered during our vows, and then the skies cleared, and we had the best dance party EVER in my parents' back yard.  I crack up now at the decorations, the dresses, the style of it all, but then it was perfect.  there was no pinterest to compare it to, no digital pictures to put on facebook, nothing fancy, just a dream come true.  sometimes I think I should get a do-over and plan a wedding with all the cool stuff people do nowadays. :)  but I wouldn't change a thing about the day I married him.

our wedding night was perfect, after I finally got all the bobby pins out of my hair.  we went home to our teeny little apartment because we just wanted to be HOME, even if it was only for a few hours before we flew out for honeymoon.  it was sweet and romantic and perfect.

but let me just say, to all those 16 year olds who are tempted to do more than put their tongue in someone else mouth, don't bother. :)  out of pure love and respect for my husband, I have to say that if it had not been our wedding night it would not have been worth it.  am I allowed to say that?  here's the thing GIRLS, your bodies are a big huge freaking puzzle that will take YEARS for your husband to figure out.  and if the moment doesn't have the emotion of it being your wedding night and waiting your whole life (however long that is) for this very moment to be one with your husband, then there's a good chance that you'll just find yourself saying "what the heck?  for real?"  it just takes a while to get it all figured out, so don't waste it on some dumb experience in someone's basement or wherever it's happening these days.

because someday it will be something really special.

We honeymooned in Charleston SC where it was approximately 700 degrees every single day but we loved it.  I wanted to rip my fake fingernails off because they are really bad for scratching itchy legs (and if you know me, you know i always have itchy legs) and i also had the worlds WORST bladder infection. I got home and called my mom and said, "um, mom?  do you get bladder infections from having sex?" and she said "Oh honeyyyyyyy, I should have told you. " and I said "YES YOU SHOULD HAVE!" there are a few other things I wish I had known but whatever.  and so now you all know that.  should I delete that whole paragraph????

anyway.....since the day we got married, life has given us so many ups and downs and ridiculous "highs" and a few too many "glad we don't have hidden cameras here" moments.

we've lived in OC, Spain, Council Bluffs, Bellevue, and Omaha.  We've been through births and deaths and everything in between.  We've been the best parents in the whole entire world and the worst parents in the whole entire world.  I don't need to write the rest out, since most of it is on facebook or this blog anyway.  but the last ten years have been a ride.

this man, the same man as the KID I was crushing on, is mine forever.

You all  have no idea what he sees every day.  he sees me at my most selfish.  my crabbiest, whiniest, neediest. He watches as he gets better and better looking, and I get softer and saggier and wrinklier. :)  He knows I'm a lot of work but he keeps on trying.  He knows I need his time, his touch, his presence.  he has a bazillion things on his plate at all times and still finds a way to meet my needs.

There are times when I look back and think about how I didn't  really even know that boy I had a crush on.  and there are other times when I look back and think he's the SAME now has he was then, only he's MINE.

It's hard to talk about the little things that bother you so they don't become big things.  It's hard to know when to say no and protect your family time.  it's hard to watch someone else's dreams come true, sometimes at the cost of your own. lots of things are HARD in marriage.

but one thing is for sure.  it's EASY to spend the whole morning thinking about and writing our story when i should be doing a million other things.

and it's EASY to love him.  for ten years and forever.

Friday, June 14, 2013

is it fall yet????

Summer days are long.  and I just added 3 hours to mine by getting up early to finish a pinkadink order.   Every so often I have "that order" that every possible thing that could go wrong goes wrong, so I end up staying up way too late to finish it (and by way too late I only mean midnight, but I'm getting old and if I stay up til midnight it's usually because I'm sleeping on my husband's lap "watching" a movie). and when I'm up late then weird things start happening like not looking when I'm cutting or not realizing I ran out of bobbin thread 3 seams ago and the like, so it's not worth staying up anymore and I force myself to get up early.

so that's where we are.  up early.

the best part is that Josiah came down to the basement this morning, embroidery hoop in hand (we've started hand sewing, and so far they love it) and in a way that only a 6 year old can appreciate the hours before 8:00 am says, "Mama, can I sew with you???"  and sat himself down right in front of my sewing machine and got to work on a gift he's making. :)

it's a good thing when I have those moments.  and I need to make sure I document them, because otherwise all I'll remember is the long summer days when the kids fight with each other and how I join right in because I have to work really hard at being a GOOD parent, and it just seems like too much work lately. But I have to document the "mama, can I sew with you"s so that some day I'll say OH LOOK!  there's proof that I tried!  I tried to do fun things, to encourage creativity, to enjoy our time together, to have special things to do together!

because seriously, it's just way easier to join the 'fun' and be crabby.  I know I've mentioned my "30-teen reaction" on here before, where I act like a sassy teenager even though I'm a thirty-something woman.  its in full force these days, guys.  full freaking force.

I'm just so good at being a lazy parent!  when Lillian gets back from her friends house, it's like she has this realization that her life is HORRIBLE and her Mom is SO DEMANDING and nobody else's mom makes them unload the dishwasher and her siblings are just SO ANNOYING and her life is OVER because she has a reasonable bedtime, all of which she escaped from for a few hours at her friends house.  In that situation it would be good parenting to sit her down and talk out her feelings and remind her why I have her help around the house, and why it's good that we give her responsibilities, and encourage her to have grace for her siblings.  But it's so easy to just complain REALLY loudly to Steve and say (in a voice that Lillian will definitely hear), "It drives me CRAZY when she goes to her friends' houses and comes back feeling all entitled to whatever she wants!  She better get this figured out if she EVER wants me to say yes to a friend's house again!!!"  Mom, if you're reading this from up there, I apologize for not using "I feel" sentences and talking it out with my daughter.  I know you taught me better than that.

and Brielle is in this phase of scream/crying about everything.  like, for real, everything.  falling and almost breaking a bone? scream/cry. a tiny ant on the ground? scream/cry. wanting a toy that her sister has (after being the one to GIVE it to her sister 30 seconds before)? scream/cry. spilling her snack on the ground? scream/cry. huge ever-growing bugbite on her back? scream/cry. everything.  so when that scream/cry wakes me up at some point in my trying-to-make-the-day-feel-shorter excessive morning sleep, it's much easier to just open the door to my room (which she's right outside of, because she's ALWAYS right outside my door) and yell "DON'T SCREAM LIKE THAT!  JUST DON'T DO IT!  YOU CAN NOT SCREAM LIKE THAT IN THIS HOUSE!!!!!" and slam the door closed and hope that the mom-in-her-undies-with-morning-breath combo will be enough to scare the screams out of her for good.

and I'm not joking when I say she's always outside my door.  you know that picture on facebook of the bathroom door with the little baby fingers sticking out from under it and the caption "they will find you...."  or somehting???  ok, that's my real life, with an almost FIVE year old!  she sits outside the bathroom door while I pee.  every time.  with my other kids I could always say "mommy needs to go to the bathroom a minute!" and since they were (and still are) obsessive about privacy, they got it.  and I could take a breather.  not so with this one.  she's been sticking her fingers under the door for almost five years now.  every. time.  she's the one who wants to be by my side and all up in my space at all times.  and not only that, she thinks that if she's armslength away from me at any given moment, then her stuffed animals want to be all up in my space.  cuddling in my neck and stuff, which they know is my insanity-inducing area.  They are NOT allowed to cuddle in my neck. only daddy is.  but, you know, it must not count for shoving stuffed animals in the forbidden area.  and it's so sweet and cute and she's growing up so fast and it's so cute she's my baby and GET THAT SPARKLY TURTLE OUT OF MY NECK!!!!!

part of what May such a hard month is that I got really selfish.  I'm having a hard time balancing this whole "selfless heart" (which every mother needs to have if she wants to avoid a total meltdown from doing everything for everybody) thing, with the "mommy doesn't have to do EVERYTHING for you" mentality (which every mother needs to have if she wants to avoid a total meltdown from doing everything for everybody).  I do think it's good for kids to learn how to do stuff on their own!  but I also feel like I should find a little more joy in serving my family than I do right now.  and it's only gotten worse in June since we're together all day every day.

When I mention the fact that my kids are making me question my sanity to my friends, I often hear "ALREADY???"   and I say YES!  because we aren't used to being with each other 24/7!  that's a lot of sweaty hair and stinky feet and elbows in the way and toy sharing and snack finding.  it'll be much easier in a month when we have figured out how to not drive each other crazy, right?  and GOD BLESS THE HOMESCHOOLING MOMS who do this year round.  I live in a 'circle' that's heavy in the homeschooling world.  and y'all must be way better people than me.  way better.  because I'm ready for fall.

now listen here.  I love these kids.  sometimes it brings me to tears how much I love them.  if you could see inside my heart you would see this thing you couldn't really describe but it would be blazing with love for them.  we're just in that phase of trying to figure this whole summer thing out (again).  they probably want time away as much as I do. and is it just me or is EVERYBODY going on awesome vacations this year?  is it because I'm mourning the fact that my 10 year anniversary trip to Mexico turned into a new shower so that our whole bathroom didn't cave into the garage?  because I swear, since the day we got that shower, everyone started going on awesome vacations.  or maybe that's just when I started noticing.

but in one month I'll be in Belize (which is a different kind of awesome vacation, but not really a vacation at all with the work we'll be doing) :) with someone else's kids, and I'll probably be a wreck without my own three.  it seems a bit dysfunctional, when I think of it that way.  the whole, can't live with them, can't live without them type of thing.  but I guess that's why it's love.  you put up with the hard stuff because of that thing in you that you can't explain. and if I have to be with three little people all day every day, then THESE are the three that I'd choose!  hands down, face in my neck, absolutely positively.

These are the three I'd choose to try to survive summer with.  just, um...let me pee in peace.  :)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

the debt reduction diaries: May

well gosh, we're almost halfway in to June already, but I suppose when I look back on our debt reduction I'll want to know how it went it May.

It's hard to know what to write and what to skip.

May was really hard on me emotionally, for lots of reason.

it wasn't all bad though...we had a HUGE delivery of tons of fresh fruit and such from Steve's parents, plus we had also been given some gift certificates to Aldi (where we do most of our grocery shopping) at the end of April which we were able to use in May.  so awesome.

It baffles me that somehow we still ended up SCROUNGING around for food at the end when we had so much more to work with throughout the entire month.  but that's just proof that you spend what you have for, no matter what.

but it's a really good thing that we had all that extra because I was just in a really hard place for the month of May and obviously didn't focus very hard on meal planning.  I was feeling really burnt out by the pinkadink, discouraged that I feel like I work so hard for hardly any money.  (I've since raised my prices a bit, if you haven't noticed.  I'm hoping that helps.)  It's frustrating to see my business growing by leaps and bounds (I had a crazy dollar amount of sales last year, which was awesome, but also why I felt like I should have a little more in my pocket than I do, but my supply cost and all that is obviously too high for me to make money...)

and speaking of money in my pocket, we went to tulip festival with ZERO dollars in our pockets.  Grandma bought a couple rides for each of the kids, and also had a house full of food like she does every year, so we didn't eat a single thing downtown.  no schnew wagon, no poffertjes, no cheeseballs. nothin.  and guess what!  it was still fun!

The easy solution is for me to add money would be to daycare kids, but that's hard too.  I don't like the "daycare setting" that i've had before where I run myself ragged all day trying to keep up with all the kids in my care, and then find myself with NO ENERGY at the end of the day for sewing.  Plus, it would have to be the perfect match for a family to choose me to take care of their kids.  I'm not licensed, have to drive kids for drop off and pickup every day at preschool, and don't have a "play area" in my house, since I took it over with sewing equipment. :)  With Maddie here the girls just play in the living room, play outside, or in Brielle's room.  and it's not a big deal bc it's just like I have an extra kid in my family. :)  but if I added more, I would only want ONE kid, so I wouldn't have to get licensed, the parents would have to not care if I drive their kid around every day, and the parents would have to be okay with it being short term, since I am hoping to be done with daycare after Brielle goes to kindergarten.  so, it would likely have to be someone contacting ME to ask, instead of me searching out someone to watch.  so that's just not as easy as it sounds.

but of course I keep thinking that if God provides me with the perfect opportunity, it would be the best way for us to pay down our debt a little faster.  it seems to be crawling right now.  We finally got our snowball built and now it's just hanging out at around $300 a month, which doesn't go very far.  Each month we have to pay out from our snowball anything that we were unable to budget for.  Remember that our budget doesn't consist of anything except grocery, gas, and "other" which never lasts very long.  So for example, when I had a bladder infection and had to go in for a test, we had to pay that bill out of our snowball, since it's nowhere else in the budget.  and when Steve's car had to be fixed, we had to pay that hundred bucks (which was a miracle since we were first told it would be about $1200!!!) out of our snowball too.  so when you chop the snowball in half from paying out other things, it doesn't go very far.

we also were not approved for our refinancing, which was really discouraging to me.  our house had a REALLY low appraisal, and so in order to get the loan, we'd have to come up with almost $3000 in closing costs.  well that doesn't exactly fit into our plan with only a $1000 emergency fund.  so, we lost the 3.375% interest rate we were locked in at, and had a huge pity party that we won't be able to save $140 a month on our house payment after all. that was a sad sad sad day.  and I'm still mad about our appraisal.  I know there was a "drop" in the housing market, but it didn't seem to affect the value of our neighbor's house like it did ours, and I"m still bitter about it.  that whole appraisal system is shady if you ask me. :)

so yeah, there ya have it.  sucky month.

but we're past that.  I'm "back in the saddle" after doing bare minimum for the pinkadink during May, and already having a great month so far.  summer is in full gear which makes things tricky for getting pinkadink stuff done, but we'll just play it by ear for now.

oh, and we joined a sand volleyball team, which was the best way EVER to spend twenty of our "other" dollars last month, because we are finally doing something together that's super fun for both of us. :)

June finances are already getting very tricky, but you'll have to wait til next month's report to see how it all turns out!  we're refusing to pay our "10 year anniversary date money" OR our snowball on the extra bills we got for this month, but now our plans to celebrate are all falling apart too.  it's not looking good, but at least we get to live life together every day! :)  I better go sew so I can pay those darn bills!