Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Nearly 18 Years With Uli Lou

Last night I got the call, the one I have known was coming, but somehow knowing it was coming and having it come are two very different things. Our beloved Uli Lou - dog to our family since 2001 - has passed away.

Uli was born May 22, 2001 at 5:55 PM. We had to run over to Laurie's house just in time to see Uli be born. Mama had said we could only have a girl puppy and Uli was the only girl in the litter, she was meant to be ours! She came home to us at the end of July and from then on she has been a part of every moment, every memory.

Uli was with me through all of my high school years - seemingly cheering on my successes, posing for prom pictures, and taking the annual girls and pets Easter picture in stride as she tried to get the cat each year. It was Uli's fur I cried into when friends were mean or I didn't score as well as I wanted to on tests and when I didn't get into music school. I cried the hardest about leaving Uli when I drove off to college. She was always my first "hello" on trips home from Louisville. Uli came to visit me on campus, at camp in the summer, and even at my apartment. She sent me off on my wedding day. She stayed at our apartment and our first house some when Mark and I worked flipped shifts and I just needed a buddy. Eventually, she got to old to travel so we just made extra trips home to see her. In October 2017, she seemed in poor health, and I remember a trip the kids and I made home alone. I spent a good, long time saying good-bye and made a point to whisper everything I could have ever wanted to say to her before we left. This past New Years we were home and I got the stomach flu. Uli, who has been less cuddly as she has gotten older, stayed with me in the bathroom the whole time. Always faithful, always giving.

After the call came, we were in the car, and the hardest part was telling the kids. They knew I was upset and their little hearts just broke. Annabeth, who has known it was coming, and I think especially knew after our trip home a few weeks ago cried and cried. Owen took some time to process but could feel how upset we both were. Unfortunately, Owen's Bible story yesterday was Lazarus so on top of only being three he kept insisting that we could just pray Uli back to life like Jesus did with his friend.

I am thankful for the nearly 18 years, well over half my life, that Uli has been ours. When talking to her a few weeks ago, I said "How do I say thank you? How do I say thank you for an entire lifetime of love?" I am confident that no dog was better loved by their family. I am also sure that no dog has better loved their humans than Uli loved us.

Annabeth and Uli sharing a 5:30 Breakfast
November 2012

Owen and Uli lined up on their blankets
November 2015

Monday, February 25, 2019

Going Gray: 4.5 Month Check In

Today was the BIG day - COLOR DAY!!

Remember, that I initially thought my hair would go from gray roots to completely gray in about six months..maybe not! I then debated what to do: strip all the color right away (Mark and Annabeth both rejected this idea as they wanted to see the transformation slowly), let it just go and hate the ever-growing skunk stripe for 18+ months, or do this highlighting to help it all blend more. I went with the highlighting option after meeting with the amazing Christy Stearns!

Here is a "before" picture from last Thursday.
**I will say that I had my hair pulled back and was looking more white than days when my hair was down and styled more carefully**

Enjoying the Garfield Park Conservatory

Tonight I headed over to Christy around 5:15 and walked out three hours later feeling better about my hair than I have since my roots began showing in November! She was so incredibly patient and helped me make it all work out okay. 

Tonight's "Before" Photos. 
You can see the gray ring around the top and the dark down below.

I am not exactly clear on the whole process tonight but we did some highlight foils, sat under a heat lamp for a while, and then did lots of rinses and washes. I don't think anyone is hoping for a step-by-step or a how-to so I'll leave it at that. I'll just get to the good part...the AFTER photos!!

Front View. 
It's hard to see my hair so light as I've always
had dark hair. That being said - I feel like it looks
very natural and blended. 

No more "she let herself go"
but more of a
"you go girl!"

Loving it way more than I thought I would!

This has been such an emotional night. When she lifted the foils to peek, I saw just how light my hair was getting. Then, after we washed it was scary! It didn't look like my hair at all. I thought, "Oh no. This is going to look so fake. So not like me" And then she blew it dry and styled it and she was right. It looked natural, like I had done it on purpose, and had 100% fixed my grow-out issue! 

I want to say such a HUGE THANK YOU to Christy at Hair by Christy Stearns. I really did do this on a whim and then completely panicked at the thought of 18+ months of skunk hair. Christy gave me this great cut and this amazing color blend! She is the best! 

So, I have to say that at 4.5 months in of Going Gray I am feeling my very best with gray! 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Frugal Friday 283

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- Last weekend the kids and I took a long weekend and headed to Evansville to visit my family. We enjoyed TWO sushi dinners at Fujiyama, tons of playtime, and finally made it to Owensboro to celebrate Christmas nearly two months late.

- Mark headed up north with his Scout Troop for Winter Camp last weekend. He said they had a good camp and he was happy with the turnout and weather.

- My parents sent us home from Evansville with tons of goodies - cookies, bagels, and some snacks. It helped our grocery budget for the week as we didn't have to buy any "fun" items.

- We received many snack samples in our recent Zulily and Boxed orders. The samples that the kids wanted made extra fun snacks and the Non-Anna-Safe options were donated along with our other donations to the Meal Bag Project that we love to support.

- Wednesday the kids and I enjoyed our monthly storytime at the Church of God in Franklin. We are studying the fruits of the spirit and the kids love seeing their friends there each month. They were especially excited about the bounce house at the end. After story time, we had lunch out downtown thanks to a giftcard from my birthday. Thank you Mark for that special treat!

- Wednesday night Mark and I surprised Owen with an eat-out-ice-cream-treat. He was SO SO SO excited to be out with just the two of us by himself. It was a great reminder that we need to be more mindful about time out with each of the kids by themselves.

- Yesterday, it was 40 and sunny and I couldn't stand the thought of being home all day. We drove up to the city and checked out the Garfield Park Conservatory. I was excited about how wonderful it was and admission was just $2/person. We were the only ones there and we enjoyed hours of exploring in their indoor rainforest and the sunken garden. The kids, and honestly I was too, were so happy to be outdoors, in the sunshine, learning and loving life together!

We were so happy to see more than 
100 plant species from all around the world.

- Last night it was finally sitll warm enough and light enough to take our first post-dinner bike ride of the season. In the spring, summer, and fall we bike/trike/walk every night that we are home after dinner. I feel like that extra hour outside just makes all of us happier! 

- This week I kicked off my Spring Book Drive for the Riley Cheer Guild. If you are interested in helping raise books for children at Riley Children's Hospital I encourage you to check out our link here:

We are looking forward to a weekend where we are all in town and Mark is off one of the days! Woohoo!

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Frugal Friday 282

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- Mark worked a ton of overtime last weekend and I worked my Usborne Books & More business.

- Sunday, we had some time between events in Greenwood, so we ran over to the mall to walk a few laps. It was much better than waiting in the car or just sitting at a place. It felt good to stretch our legs with the mall-walkers.

- Sunday afternoon we had a beautiful snowy day! The kids and I played outside for 2.5 hours. We also shoveled our drive, sidewalks, and our neighbor's drive. Our sweet neighbor paid Annabeth and Owen for shoveling her drive. Annabeth chose to use her portion of the money to buy Valentine's candy for her friends to add to her homemade Valentine's. We added the rest to their piggy banks.

- I sold quite a few items on Facebook. Made: $37

- We had ordered a ton of veggies from Imperfect Produce in anticipation of a birthday party last Saturday. We ended up canceling the party due to sick kids so I cooked what I knew we would eat this week and froze the rest. You can click here to get $10 off your first order with Imperfect.

- I redeemed some credit at and was able to ship my coffee for the next month for just $1.98. You can shop with our link here for $15 off your first order.

- I hosted an Usborne Books & More and Color Street mashup. We had a good time and I am loving my affordable, at home manicures from Color Street. Want to see more? Check it out here: Color Me Red Party

- I turned 32 yesterday. The kids and I enjoyed the morning downtown. We did some window shopping, checkout Marshmallow Monkey, and then enjoyed lunch for mostly free thanks to a gift certificate to Ann's Restaurant. We came home and enjoyed a quiet afternoon playing and painting together. Owen was surprised by his love Officer Floyd from FPD - she brought the kids paint sets and he gave her the Valentine he made. Mark and the kids took me out to pizza dinner and surprised me with a sweet card and giftcard to my favorite coffee shop. Mark and the kids were all asleep by 7:30 so I watched Netflix.

Owen makes everything silly.

 Birthday/Valentine's Picture with my loves

I hope you all had a very Happy Valentine's Day!
We are looking forward to lots of fun this weekend and hope you are as well!
Happy Savings to All!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Going Gray - 4 Month Check In

I am letting my gray hair grow out. That's a simple statement with a whole lot of emotion behind it.

 4 months without color 

I started going gray in high school. Thankfully, I had a mama who could highlight my hair for me to hide it. By college, I was pretty gray at the roots so I started coloring it every 6 weeks. Most of the time I did box color but a few times over the years I have splurged for salon color. Either way, every 6 weeks (8 weeks if I was on a time crunch like summers at camp) I colored my hair.

Then, last fall, my hair started falling out in chunks. I had bald spots from so much hair loss due to a hormonal imbalance before I had my surgery. I colored my hair right before my surgery and then... recovery took longer than I expected, the holidays began, I was busy. I went and got a great haircut from Hair by Christy Stearns in November and thought "I'll color it next week."

 My awesome November haircut from Christy Stearns.
This was with about 4 weeks of white growth at my roots. 

I didn't realize at that appointment that I wouldn't color my hair again. I noticed that as the weeks went on my hair was becoming so much softer, prettier, and easier to style. By January, my hair had gotten past just a bit of white roots and more into a strange stage that made me feel like people were going to think, "Poor Amy, she is letting herself go" but I've pressed on. My hair has definitely not grown as fast as I thought it would. In four months, I've only acquired about 1.5 - 2 inches of new growth meaning it may take 18+ months for it all to grow out. Now that I have decided to do this I felt like I needed to make a big statement to let people know "Hey! I have a plan! I'm in the process of something here!"

Top view of 4 months of growth.
The top is more streaky whereas around my face and in the back
it's basically pure white. 

Tonight I met with Christy again, did a color test, and came up with a color game plan (I go in two weeks for that appointment and will update with pictures) Until then, I went for a big cut to help have less dark to light contrast.

 A big haircut is always so freeing!!
We went for a long-bob cut. 
It's still really dark through the back so Christy came up with
a great grow-out plan for me

Here's the heart and soul of it:
I made this decision without even realizing I was making it. I just kept letting it go because I was loving the softer texture and more natural feel of it. I never felt like I had that, even with expensive salon treatments. I fully committed to this decision in my heart before doing any research and weeks before going to the salon. I felt cool, calm, and collected.
A huge part of this decision for me was having a close friend go through chemo, lose her hair and then facing my own testing/surgery last fall. In the weeks before I had test results, I came to the stark realization that if I did have cancer I would do chemo and I would lose my hair. I am thankful for benign results and a true peace about the fact that hair is just hair. 
I feel really excited about it now. My hair is naturally almost black so I've had black, dark brown, lighter brown, red, and various highlights in between. It'll be fun to be something totally new!

**Edit: I had worked on this post all day and just added the haircut pics this evening. Then, I ended up seeing a group of friends and telling them what I was doing. Absolutely nothing could have prepared me for their response. I cannot unsee their shocked faces! I have quite a few friends who have done the purposefully dyed white or gray in their 20s and I see it in magazines so I didn't really think I was so crazy for doing it at 31. Apparently it's not as popular as I thought. That being said - I didn't run to my car and cry or buy hair color on the way home. I plan to keep on growing it out and we'll see what happens. I am surprised at how okay I was with their in person responses which gives me confidence that I really am ready to do this*

I will do an update at 4.5 months after my first color blending session with Hair by Christy Stearns

Friday, February 8, 2019

Frugal Friday 282

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money:

- I closed out a fundraiser at the kids' dance studio through my Usborne Book Business. This was the third time I have run this fundraiser this year at the studio and we were able to bring in almost $250 for dance families this month!

- Last Friday, we made our twice-a-month grocery trip. We spent $180 for the two weeks which included candy for baby shower prizes and a giant box of wipes to give as part of our baby shower gift. Some meals we had this week - homemade veggie bean soup, sloppy joe's, spaghetti and meatballs, and lots of leftovers from those meals and the freezer. We also made chocolate chip M&M cookies this week as we had some "It's a boy!" M&M's from a baby shower. That was a fun treat for the kids - they both love to bake.

- Saturday we helped host a baby shower for our nephew who is due in the next month or so. Annabeth and I were tasked with games and prizes and we played three little games and gave out big boxes of candy as prizes. We enjoyed celebrating a special couple and their new baby.

- Sunday after church we ran to Barnes and Noble so Owen could spend a giftcard from Christmas. He chose a noisy truck book and then three easy readers - a wolf one he LOVES that we have had from the library many times, a double story Paw Patrol, and a Pete the Cat book. I love that he loves the stories now and that they will would work well in Kindergarten and 1st grade as well. Mark also gave Annabeth a budget and she chose three "Who Was..." books. After the gift card and my educator discount we spent just $11 OOP. Thank you Uncle John for the giftcard!

- Sunday we spent the afternoon at Mark's brother's house. We all enjoyed playing together and watching a bit of the Super Bowl. Mark's parents and brothers' families provided lunch and we provided delivery pizza dinner. We all had plenty of leftovers to bring home for the week!

- Last month, I mentioned a "great" Groupon deal that I got. It ended up being a very frustrating order that came weeks later and in many packages. The items also weren't what I expected. For the first time, I wrote a negative Groupon review. The company made it right and refunded my shipping ($9.99) since my order came AFTER the birthday it was purchased for even though I had ordered 3+ weeks before the event.

- I received my quarterly eBates check - a little over $9. I used it to help with our donation to a cousin's school fundraiser. I usually add this check to savings each quarter but this time it came the same day as her fundraiser request and we were happy to add it to our gift.

- Two friends used my code and we now have $30 credit with them. Haven't shopped Boxed yet? Save $15 on your first order here

- Owen was sick allllll week so we cancelled most of our plans and did things around the house. Annabeth made lots of progress on some school things, I did some deep cleaning, and Owen got lots of rest. He also enjoyed quite a bit of snuggles with Mama and Daddy.

It's a bit grainy but I was trying to sneak this picture.
Annabeth was, as almost always, so patient and kind to Owen ths week.
She read him probably 40+ books to help him pass his sick time.

We are looking forward to Annabeth's first dance competition this weekend as well as a birthday celebration on Saturday.

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Frugal Friday 281

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- My sister surprised us with a visit last weekend. We enjoyed taking her to the FCHS basketball game to watch Annabeth's cheer camp performance and also treated her to breakfast at Don & Donna's on Saturday morning for breakfast. We spent the rest of the morning/early afternoon playing board games. She also brought up some items she had saved for the junk exchange - we were really excited that two items on our "to buy" list for dance were in her box! Thank you Lu!

- Saturday afternoon we celebrated our nephew's 7th birthday. The kids LOVED spending the whole afternoon with cousins and friends playing at their school gym.

- Mark worked overtime over the weekend and I worked on my Usborne Book business.

- Owen and I scored an AWESOME deal on Christmas clearance toys. We got a $50+ toy for a first Christmas gift for $9! I will have to store it until December but it will be well loved and I loved getting such a great deal!

- Monday morning we made 50+ homemade Valentine's. The kids each made a list and went to work. Owen worked on and off but Annabeth was very methodical and made some really cute Valentine's over the course of the morning.

- Monday afternoon, I went to take our recycling out and heard rushing water. I found water pouring down the water heater (if you are a long time reader, you know we replaced all of the innards of our water heater last January) I grabbed towels, called Mark, and tried to get the water turned off. He ran home and quickly, THANKFULLY, detected that it was just a burst hose. He did have to run to Lowe's to buy supplies but it was a relatively quick, easy fix and was much, much less than the cost of a plumbing house call or a new water heater.

- Before the cold, cold weather came in we made sure to stop by the grocery for essentials and the library for a huge, new bag of books. I let the kids each pick one school movie as well - Owen chose an animal show and Annabeth chose a special on Marie Curie.

- I made a commitment to use at least 25% of my Usborne income each month for a principal payment on our mortgage. When I started with Usborne Books & More I had planned to use nearly all of my paycheck for that purpose. That being said, plans change and this money has been a HUGE blessing in paying thousands of dollars of medical bills in 2017 and 2018. I want to be very mindful of how I am spending my income and want to do everything I can to decrease our final debt - our home mortgage.

- We continued to eat out of our $160 shopping trip food. Owen and I did a slight refill ($40) over the weekend and we continue to receive our produce via Imperfect every Tuesday. On the menu this week was - shrimp over spaghetti squash, shrimp tacos, shrimp fried rice, and chicken and noodles. Can you tell I found an awesome deal on shrimp over the weekend?! haha! All of these dinners were served with fresh fruits/veggies and made at least one complete meal of leftovers as well. We also were blessed with dinner at a birthday party and two lunches served at friends' houses.

- Annabeth was VERY proud to earn her splits shirt this week. She can do her right, left, and middle splits all the way down. This was her #1 goal for the season and we are so proud of her for accomplishing it so early in the year!

- We were able to run down to the Louisville area yesterday to celebrate two very special little boys' birthdays. The kids were so excited to give the books and cards they had chosen. I was excited to spend hours talking with my best friend and eating cookies. Thankful for precious time together!

We are looking forward to a busy weekend: filling meal bags, celebrating a special baby coming soon, and lots of Super Bowl snacks and fun with Mark's family.

Happy Savings to All!