Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Business Meetings

Every married couple handles finances differently. John and I talk openly and frequently about our money matters. Since John's degree is in accounting, he handles the major bookkeeping while keeping me informed of everything coming in and everything going out.

Last night, we held our first "official" Sykes Family Business Meeting. We plan to hold these quarterly. We call it a business meeting because that's exactly how we approach our finances. We are a partnership where we take all of the emotion out of it and just look at the facts.

(While Milo brings no income to the household, he still felt the need to participate in the meeting. He quickly became bored and fell asleep.)

I made out an agenda yesterday afternoon so we didn't leave anything out. Our agenda went something like this:
  • Account Balance Review
  • Remaining 2011 Payments
  • 2011 Goals
  • 2012 Goals
  • 2013 Goals
  • Miscellaneous
During the meeting, John used the computer to get exact balances on things, and I took minutes. As always, we discussed our needs before our wants. We discussed what we have to do now in order to get where we want to be in the long run. Again, the key to these meetings is to remove all emotion. Communicate openly and honestly. Resolve disagreements before moving to the next item. Allow ample time for the meeting - we spent one hour on this one. Keep a record of the agenda/minutes from the previous meetings so you can review it at the next one.

Our next meeting will be November/December. I really like this idea and hope we stick to it. These meetings will hopefully prevent us from talking about finances when we really don't need to. If there's something that needs addressing but can wait, we'll just add it to the next agenda and discuss it then.

Monday, August 29, 2011

We Survived!

We survived Hurricane Irene! She made landfall on Saturday at Cape Lookout, NC as a Category I storm. In Knightdale, we braved lots of rain and 20-30 mph sustained winds with gusts to 50mph. Mom and Dad in Wendell got a little worse than us, and John's parents in Rocky Mount got even worse - they were without power for a long time!

Here's how we spent some of our day:
Just relaxing and reading in our PJs on the front porch. Since we never lost power, we spent a lot of the day watching hurricane coverage and movies, napping for 3 hours and eating way too much.
I should mention that we had a little damage. I woke up at 7:30a to check out our poor A/C. The water was about an inch from flooding the unit, so I woke John up to figure out what to do. We ended up digging a 30 ft. trench from the unit to the backyard so the water could flow down the natural slope of our yard. It was a horrible mess, but since the rain got worse as the day went on, we were glad we fixed it. Making the yard ugly is a lot better than having to replace an air conditioner.

This weekend, John and his Dad will be installing a french drain to help drain the water away from this problem area in our yard. We'll also be putting out the late summer fertilizer treatment so our yard stays healthy and pretty!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Here She Comes

Last night, we gassed up the cars, bought batteries and groceries (we spent $54 and saved $47!!). We are ready for Irene, whatever she chooses to do. The only things we need to take care of tonight are moving patio furniture and the grill into the garage. While we won't get it nearly as bad as the coast, they are forecasting 1-3" of rain, 30-40mph sustained winds with gusts 40-50mph for us. Since winds from thunderstorms have toppled our patio accessories in the past, it's best to move them inside.
I swear Milo senses that something's just not quite right. He's been hiding between the bathroom door and shower lately if he is anxious. Poor guy.

Stay safe everyone!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's Britney, Baby!

My secret is out. I am a Britney Spears fan. Up until right now, I have been in the closet about it. Now the world knows, and we're gonna keep on dancing till the world ends!
That's right - my FABULOUS husband surprised me with tickets to Britney Spears last night! He snagged tickets for great seats at an awesome price at the last minute yesterday afternoon.
While she didn't even make her appearance until 9:30P, she put on a great show!! You can tell that her body and her moves have aged a bit, but she can still rock it.
While at the concert, I learned a few things:
1. I am not as cool as my husband. DJ Pauly D was one of Britney's opening acts, and he had to explain to me who he was.
2. I am not as young as I used to be. After about 10 minutes of dancing, I had a cramp in my side.
3. Gay men LOVE Britney Spears. Seriously. But gay or not, the PDA going on at this concert was ridiculous. Get a room, people.

So there you have it - I am a Britney Spears fan. Always have been. Always will be.
Thank you baby for surprising me with awesome tickets. It was a fun, spontaneous night!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Earthquake and Hurricane in One Week

"For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows." Matthew 24:6-8

I experienced my first ever earthquake today. I was sitting at my desk chatting with a friend in Wilmington when I felt a little rumbly in my chair. It continued and got stronger, so I said to my friend, "I think we're having an earthquake." Minutes later we learned than a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit in Mineral, VA - just west of Richmond. The Washington Post reported that it could be a foreshock and the worst could be yet to come. They still don't know exactly what Irene is going to do! We'll see what happens. Everyone hang on to your hats!

Irene.

Let's not all freak out just yet. We've got a potentially major hurricane heading our way this weekend, but we don't know just how bad it's going to be yet.

This morning, the forecast track (per weather.com) looked like this:
Now, it's looking a little more like this. You might not be a hurricane expert like me and Steve Lions, so let me explain why it's better if the hurricane tracks more east...

See, hurricanes are the worst on the eastern side of the storm. It's typically where most of the precipitation can be found. If the storm tracked more west for a direct hit around Wilmington at a Category 3, then we'd have a repeat of 1996's Hurricane Fran.

I think we all remember what that was like.

So Irene, do your thing, girl! We'll just sit here and watch you for the next few days and go crazy on Thursday, if we need to.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Art Time!

Office Max had 24 count Crayola crayons for $0.15 (limit 2) and 70-sheet spiral notebooks for $0.01 (limit 5) this weekend! I finally made my way to Mom and Dad's to pick up my childhood table and put it in the bonus room.

After dusting the table really well, I went to Office Max for some supplies. Each child (except for Collins - she's too grown up!) has their own coloring book and doodle pad!


I put their names on the pads with my handy dandy label maker! This will, hopefully, reduce the "that's mine!" argument.
I have many fond memories at this table as a child.

I hope that they are able to make some fun memories, and pictures, as well!

I can't wait for them to come over next time and discover the fun stuff!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Strategic Savings

So much of my week is spent strategizing how I can save our family the most money on the things we need. I'm an expert at how WE save, so I thought I'd share...
  • Getting gas is typically done on a bi-weekly basis for us. We gas up at Sheetz on New Bern Avenue and use our Sheetz Rewardz card each time, which saves us $0.03/gallon. Sheetz already has cheap gas, but adding the extra savings on to that is even better. While it is not always the most convenient, it is $0.10+ cheaper than the station closest to our house.
  • Every Wednesday, I create my grocery list. While we usually shop at Wal-Mart and they don't have sales (because they don't have to), I do look at the Lowe's Foods and Harris Teeter ads just in case they're having super doubles or triples. I have a mental inventory of what we have in the freezer, fridge and pantry so I don't overbuy. I also have my coupon book close by so that I can combine the sales with the coupons I have for maximum savings. Now, I'm not a crazy couponer, but I do like to try and save us as much money as possible each week.
  • While doing all this, I also make a meal plan for the following week based on the sales and coupons I have. I use a simple calendar template on Word and keep a record of the previous two weeks' meals so as to avoid repeating meals too often. Each meal includes a meat, a starch and a vegetable. Having a meal plan helps me avoid wandering around the grocery store aimlessly and buying things we don't need.
  • We are Sam's Club members, so anytime we need to buy meat in bulk or purchase non-perishables, we go there. I like to buy spices, rice, pasta, meat, wine and soda (although we're starting to cut these out completely) at Sam's. I also like to buy cleaning and laundry supplies there.
  • A note about Wal-Mart: Shopping for groceries at Wal-Mart saves us $25/week on average when compared to our bill at a regular grocery store like Lowe's or Harris Teeter. This is why we shop there. We go to Wal-Mart with a plan and on a mission, so we're typically in and out in 30 minutes. We wipe down the cart with a sterile wipe and use hand sanitizer. John pushes the cart while I fly through the aisles. In fact, I make my grocery list in the order that the aisles are organized in the store so that we can get through it quickly. A great benefit of Wal-Mart is that you can get non-grocery items, should you need them, without having to go to another store. Wal-Mart doesn't double coupons (again, it doesn't have to), but they accept competitors coupons (like Target specific coupons) and they price match the grocery store's weekly ads. Another thing they do that we love is they honor, for example, a coupon if you bought the Special K Oats and Honey cereal instead of the Special K Red Berries like the coupon was for. You best believe we take advantage of all this. We are patient in the check out line and are friendly to the sour clerk. It usually brightens his/her day, and that makes the trip worthwhile.
  • If/when we go out to eat on the weekend, it's typically something inexpensive to begin with and we always use a coupon. We have no shame in doing this. It allows us to eat at Chili's for $15 TOTAL. It allows us to eat at Zaxby's for $9 TOTAL. Sometimes, it allows us to eat at Chickfila or Hardee's for $5 TOTAL. We Groupon and print out online coupons. We use a coupon everywhere we go, and we love it!
These are just a few ways I help our family save a little cash. We do this because we have a goal in mind. I'm looking forward to sharing our goal and strategy with you in a few months. Saving money is something I've been very proud of my entire adult life, and I love helping people do the same!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Jane Doe and her Babies

Look who joined us for family time outside tonight!!!!!





Weekend Wrap Up

This weekend was absolutely fabulous. We kicked it off Friday night with dinner at Bojangle's and grocery shopping at Wal-Mart. Would you believe that our bill was only $0.30 more than last week? How often does that happen!? Anyway...

We woke up slowly on Saturday morning with every intention of hitting the pool for several hours. As we ate breakfast, the skies started clouding up. I went outside to spray some weed/grass killer, pull some weeds and water some plants that sit under the front porch. By the time I came inside, it was completely overcast. The pool plan was out. Not so Lucky for John, we cleaned the entire house instead! He did the floors while I dusted and cleaned the bathroom. We made delicious grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches for lunch and watched some TV before heading to Garner to see The Help with my parents.

The Help was FANTASTIC! The book was much better, but the movie was really awesome! The theater was sold out and the line to get in filled up the theater lobby. We went to Chickfila for dinner where my parents told us about growing up with help. My Mom grew up with help in the summer, but my Daddy was practically half-raised by help - a woman dear to his heart named Rebecca. It was hard to believe their stories, knowing that it was just a mere 50 years ago that white families in the United States actually hired black help to take care of their homes and children. We've come a long way...

Sunday kept us busy. We served at church in the morning, then came home to eat lunch and prepare for the coming week. We ran an extra TV we had to my brother and saw Reagan on her First Day of Kindergarten Eve - she was so excited! I just know she's having the best first day at NRCA. When we got home, my parents came to pick us up to go to my company's Friends and Family Open House. We had Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and got to "show off" our new digs! When we got home from THAT, John left about 15 minutes later to serve at Sunday night service at church. I stay home from that service so that dinner can be on the table when he gets home, since it's not until about 7:30pm (way past our regular feeding time!).

Now, it's Monday. Again. We both have regular weeks ahead, and John leaves mid-day Friday for a childhood friend's bachelor party in Myrtle Beach. Since I really don't like being alone anymore, I'm heading to Wendell to hang out with my parents for the weekend.

Hope you had a great weekend too!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Today

I almost forgot.

How could I?

Today we reached the THREE MONTH post-surgery mark for Milo. The vet told us that if the cancer was going to return, it would do so within three months of his surgery.

While we had a little scare last week, we are still cancer free.

I'm believing that God will continue to put His healing hands on Milo and keep him healthy for many years to come!!

Friday Smiles


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Motherhood

Today has been another one of those days where motherhood has been a hot topic. I read about it first this morning on a friend's blog, and then ran across an article via another blog that really made me take a step back.

Read this.

You're all familiar with my inner struggle about having children v. not having children. I love our nieces and nephews and know that we would be awesome parents. I admire Michelle Duggar so incredibly much that it's almost embarrassing. I love looking at pregnant women and their precious newborn babies. I love hearing first hand what it's like to be pregnant, give birth and then adapt to life with a little one.

There are women in my life who do nothing but complain about being someone's Mama. Perhaps motherhood does not come naturally for them. There are other women in my life who rarely complain about being a Mom. I cling to their optimistic point of view. I realize that being a Mom isn't always daisies, but neither is life. I get it.

I don't know - I guess today has just made me think, once again, about becoming a Mother. Just last night we were lying in bed talking about having children who remember certain things about us, like the way we smell or feel - we reminisced about our own parents in this way. Can we really live the rest of our lives without this? I just don't think it's possible.

Now, before you get all excited and cross your fingers, know that there's a plan. The plan is to become free from student loans and car payments (ETA: January 2013) before we bring a child into this world. The plan is for John to be in a position at work where he could support me being a SAHM. The plan is for us to get on a fixed rate mortgage. There's a plan - our plan and God's plan, of course.

To all you mothers out there, thank you for going before me and being such a source of wisdom and guidance. Thank you for your honesty about the good, bad and ugly of motherhood. Maybe when all you girls are having your second, we'll be having our first!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Idle Mind

It's mid-afternoon on Tuesday, and it already feels like it should be Friday. Time is dragging, and we all know what that means. With an idle mind comes lots of thinking, so here goes nothing:
  • It seems like a lot of big expenses are piling up in the next four months - a bachelor party out of town, car insurance, a wedding out of town, new tires for John's car, Christmas shopping and dental surgery for me. It's overwhelming sometimes.
  • Loving what you do will take you far. It keeps you motivated and on top of things. I love home, family, Milo and church. Maybe this explains some things...
  • I absolutely love french fries - preferably from McDonald's. I think I could eat them everyday with a side of ranch dressing.
  • Did I mention my clothes are still fitting snuglydifferently? I shall blame it on the slow descent to 30. And that's not 30,000 feet, my friends.
  • I am frustrated with the state of our country. At this point, I don't care whose fault it is, I just want things fixed and turned around.
  • However, "If you voted for Obama to show you're not a racist, please vote against him next time to show you're not an idiot."
  • College football season starts in just a few short weeks and I am SO excited! We are looking forward to tailgating and hosting folks at our home to watch away games. We have a fun tailgate tent for the back porch and a corn hole game for pre-game festivities.
  • Also, NCSU will most definitely win their game against UNC. What was UNC thinking anyway?? For those folks to be so smart, they sure made some dumb decisions!
  • College football season also ushers in cooler Fall weather and decorating! I can't wait to put up our cute scarecrows, pumpkins and State mailbox cover and flag.
  • One day, when I'm a SAHM, I will write a long post about lawyers. Goodness gracious, Lord help their souls.
  • I absolutely, 100% love being married. There's nothing I don't like. I was made for this.
  • I am working on how much I complain and judge. Truth is, I do it a lot. I do it without even realizing I am doing it. I want to be better about this.
That's all for now. Happy Tuesday!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Gunner

No, we didn't get another dog, but a good friend of ours did! Aldo and Nicole Cox had to put down their six year old Boxer in April as he lost his battle with incurable canine lymphoma. They had been thinking about finding a rescue dog when this little guy crossed their paths this weekend:

Meet Mr. Gunner!
Gunner is an 8-10 week pit bull puppy who was found wandering around a not-so-great neighborhood in Southeast Raleigh this weekend. A rope had been tied tightly around the lower half of one of his back legs, causing it to die. They will have to have it amputated. His ears had also been cropped with what appears to be a pair of scissors, so they are scabbed over and uneven. These will heal over time. He is such a sweet boy that they are showering with love.

Isn't he so handsome?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

My 28th birthday weekend was absolutely wonderful!
I started off the weekend by taking Friday off to have my hair cut at Knightdale's newest salon, Heavenly Beauty Salon and Spa and have lunch with a friend. John's parents came into town that afternoon to have dinner with us at Waraji. They came bearing gifts! My sister in law sent yummy Bath and Body Works hand soaps - thanks Geo!
My parents in law gave me Zumba for Wii, so now I can Zumba at home on the nights to don't go to class! Thanks Cathy and Tommy!
John ordered me a delicious cookie cake, so after dinner, we had cake and ice cream! Thanks, honey!
We had dinner with my parents on Sunday night, and they gave me new PB pillow covers I'd picked out. They are beautiful in our living room.
Thanks Mom and Dad!

And thanks to everyone who helped make my birthday special. It was a wonderful weekend!

Milo's Birthday

I'm a horrible Mom for posting these a week late, but here are a couple of pictures from Milo's birthday.
Here he is chowing down on his birthday cake - a frosty paw with a Milkbone on top!
Cute, huh!?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Celebrate Good Times, Come On!"

We took Milo to Dr. Jon last night to have the spot on his leg checked out.

We got EXCELLENT news!!

After aspirating it and looking at the cells under a microscope, he found NO cancerous cells at all!! Mast cells usually appear very active under a microscope, as they rapidly shoot off histamine (mast cell tumors are caused by overactive histamine). Dr. Jon couldn't find any mast cells anywhere! He thinks it could just be tissue or maybe something as simple as a bug bite. We will keep an eye on it just to make sure.

We are so thankful to God for continuing to protect our sweet boy. He is our Jehovah Rapha and we praise Him for His goodness!!!

Thank you for all your prayers - they were absolutely felt.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Unfortunate Reality

This weekend, I discovered a growth on Milo's leg where the tumor used to be. It's very small - about the size of a pencil eraser - red with a little black dot in the center. It's not bothering him at all, and he didn't seem to mind me messing with it. It's not solid, in fact, it's very soft like a skin tag (or keloid) might be.

Since Dr. Jon told us that the tumor would grow back within three months (IF it was coming back), I'm a bit concerned. We're not 100% sure it's another tumor, but to be safe, we're taking him back to the vet tomorrow night. Dr. Jon will do a needle aspiration and look at the cells under a microscope to determine if they're mast cells. If they are, we'll do another surgery.

This one will be very invasive - worse than last time. And, it breaks my heart.

We'll discuss with Dr. Jon when we need to do surgery. Can we wait a couple more months? I hate to put him through it again so soon. Will another surgery guarantee getting all the cells and prevent another tumor?

There are a lot of unknowns and a lot of what-ifs at this point. We are praying for a good report tomorrow night so that we can avoid another surgery. I'm thankful that if we do another surgery, I know what to expect and how to take care of Milo. I know that I'll need to take several days off work, so we'll aim for the week of Thanksgiving if we can.

Please pray for us. All of us. Especially Milo.

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