Wednesday, February 24, 2010

First Hair Cut

This is Miles right after he was born. He had a ton of long, black hair. Then all of that kind of fell out and he grew back long, lighter brown, stringy hair. I had gotten it trimmed around his ears before, but now it was time for the "real" hair cut.
So here he is BEFORE...
He's now my little bald baby! Isn't it cute! And it shows his chubby cheeks and big brown eyes even more. I love it!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Budget

It's sad to say, but I am finally learning how to stick to a budget. Honestly, since Mike and I got married we have never had an official budget. That doesn't mean we were crazy with our money. We have always been frugal and spent our money wisely, but we also went out to dinner often and I had a little bit of a Target habit. It was never any big deal until just this last year, when, like everyone else, the economy put a little cramp in the Harker financial household. Mike took a 10% pay cut, I couldn't get a job at the school with enough hours. Then Mike went and tore his Achilles tendon, I had a baby, and hospital bills started piling up. To top it off, I had gotten a little to careless with my spending habits, and before you knew it, we were in over our heads.
So back in December, Mike and I decided that we had to get our financial lives under control. Thus, "The Harker Budget Book" was born. Mike figured out what income we had coming in and placed a value on all our "fixed" expenses; tithing, car payment, house payment, bills, etc. What was left we divided by four and that was the money I could spend for the week on everything else; groceries/food, entertainment, clothes, gas, haircuts, hobbies, and everything else we need to live. And guess what? It is HARD! There is way more things I need/want to buy and not enough money in week to pay for them all. So guess what I am learning? Delayed gratification and not getting everything I want when I want it, and sometimes, going without.
I now cook dinner every night. We used to go out at least once a week. Mike is now taking his lunch to work every day. He hasn't done that since the first year we were married. I only go to Target and get what I need instead of wandering aimlessly through the store and putting random things in my cart. I cut coupons like mad and make a strict grocery list by price matching as much as possible.
We have been doing this for about three months now and I don't see things changing anytime soon. We are trying really hard to get out of debt and follow the council we've been given for years of living within our means. Its hard, I get frustrated, and I wish we had more to spend. But at the same time, it is making me feel powerful and in control. I know where every single penny we have is going. I am choosing how to spent my money the best way for my family. I am learning how to make meals that will not only feed us for dinner, but for Mike's lunch too. It is working. It is hard, but we are doing it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Grow Up...Never Mind

My little sunshine, Mason, is now a little Sunbeam and gave his first talk last Sunday in Primary. He did awesome and spoke up nice and clear in the microphone. Grandma came to take a picture for me. So for the last few months, I've just been wishing that Miles would get bigger, just to make my life easier. I wanted him to sit up, hold his own bottle, and just be able to entertain himself more. Well, he is now finally doing all those things and I think I'm not really ready to loose my "baby." I've realized, this is it. I will never have another newborn baby ever again. All of the sudden it seems like it went too fast. It is fun to watch him grow though. One day he couldn't sit up, and the next day he could. I do like that he can hold his own bottle, but I liked being able to snuggle with him while he ate too.
He is even starting the process of crawling. He can reach and stretch and scoot to get what he wants. It won't be long now till he is crawling all over the place. He will also be receiving his first haircut soon!
Just this morning I put him sitting up in his baby bathtub and he discovered how much fun it is to splash! I really do love this little guy. Having four kids has been quite the adventure and I always feel pretty frazzled and behind on everything, but I wouldn't trade it for the world!

My Sweet Valentines

I love you boys!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Look at me, I'm thirty-three

I celebrated my thirty-third birthday this past Tuesday. It was a pretty low key affair since I had just returned from the trip of a lifetime, but it was still a good day. I only received one present though from my thoughtful son Max. He drew me a picture and wrapped up some of Grandma's candy. I ate the M&Ms and he asked if he could have the sucker. Sure! We went to lunch at Artic Circle because my friend's son was also having a birthday that day.
Then we took the kids to "Jumping Jacks" to bounce the afternoon away while us moms just sat and talked.

After I was done driving Mitchel to scouts and basketball practice, my parents came over to wish me Happy Birthday.
Mike had a basketball game that night so the kids and I went to Aunt Tracy's to watch "The Biggest Loser" and eat pie! (I know, nice combo right!)
So there you have it. I am now another year older.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Time of my life!

How can I even begin to describe one of the most amazing, relaxing, unbelievable, fun, and best vacations ever!!? Well I will do the best I can by giving you a peek into some of my favorite parts of it all. We cruised the Western Caribbean for 6 days and 7 nights. I had Mike with me, along with my sister, Tracy, her friend, Kathryn, and her two friends, Lisa and Leesa.
The Boat
Our ship was called "The Independence of the Seas" by Royal Caribbean. The thing was massive. I was still getting lost after being on it for seven days. It had everything you would ever want plus more. This is us on our very first day boarding the ship.
We saw some amazing sunsets. This was after a big rain storm on our first day out to sea. After that, the weather cleared up and we were in the 80's for most of the trip.
This is what they call the "Royal Promenade." There are some shops and restaurants along here and they also did a couple of parades during the week.
Just look how big it is (the boat, not me)!
This is while we were docked in Costa Maya along side another Royal Caribbean ship. Ours is the bigger one in the back.
The Food
Lets face it, the real reason you go on a cruise is to eat! And we all did plenty of that. There was always food available. We ate dinner each night in the formal dining room. We were presented with a menu full of fabulous appetizers, main courses, and desserts. We could order as many as we wanted, so we did. There were some nights where I had 3 appetizers, 2 main courses, and 4 desserts. Seriously! And it was all delicious!
Here is just an example of one night's dinner.
And desserts.
For breakfast and lunch, we usually ate in the "Windjammer" which is an all-you-can-eat buffet in the top of the ship. They had just about everything you could imagine. But on two mornings, we had time to eat in the dining room for breakfast. The best french toast I have ever tasted!
The Excursions
We had three ports that we stopped at and at each one, I got to do something unique that I have never experienced before. Loved all of it!
Our first one was in the country of Belize. We went "cave tubing." Basically we rode a bus to the rain forest. Then we got a tube (like the ones you use at a water park), a life jacket, and a helmet with a headlamp. Then we hiked about a mile in to a river. We got in our tubes and floated down the river through about a mile of cave. The water was just cool and the river was wide and went through a very dark cave, hence the reason for the headlamps. I don't have any pictures to post yet because I used an underwater camera and haven't gotten those developed yet.
Our next stop was in Costa Maya. We again took about an hour bus drive to some old Mayan ruins that have just recently been uncovered (about 2002). Our tour group was put together by our travel agent so we were all from Utah. I think these ruins hold special meaning for us since we understand who these people really were (Nephites and Lamanites).

The last port was Cozumel, Mexico. This was probably my favorite excursion because I have never done any thing like it. We did what they call "Snuba." It is a cross between snorkeling and scuba diving. We had a breathing apparatus, but the tank of air floated above us on a raft while we were hooked to a 25 ft. tube. So you could go down and breath and swim underwater, but you didn't have all the equipment hooked onto you. It took me a little longer to feel comfortable, but Mike and my sister were like little fish.
Our guide/teacher was really cool and from England.
The Shows and Entertainment
I could not believe the quality of the talent and performances I saw on this ship. At home, I would pay $40+ dollars to see one of these shows, and here I was watching one every night! They had musical plays, singers, dancers, a juggler, orchestra, and comedians. All very good and professional and wonderful!
We also watched live game shows. This one is called "The Quest" where they ask people to do crazy things. Pretty funny but got a little riske by the end. There was also a "Love and Marriage" game and a music game show.
On the ship was a small ice skating rink. You would think that they couldn't do anything amazing on it. But that show was the most amazing of all. The story, skating, and costumes were unbelievable. This was by far my favorite show!

The Service
If you ever want to know how rich people live, go on a cruise. My room was cleaned and made up TWICE a day! They left cute towel animals and made my bed, restocked the towels, and made it so I never had to lift a finger.
We had a main waiter and assistant waiter at dinner every night. The main waiter was from Columbia, and our assistant was from India. They were adorable and took care of every thing we wanted and needed (but laughed at us when we ordered so much food each night).
Our head waiter asked about where we were from and, when he heard Utah, asked if we were Mormon. He said he had a cousin that had been baptised and had heard of Joseph Smith. We asked it he had a Book of Mormon, but because of his broken English, we couldn't quite tell. Meanwhile, we had met an LDS couple on one of our excursions who happened to bring with them a Spanish Book of Mormon to give away. They let us have it and we all wrote a little message to him and gave him the book. Who knows what will ever happen with it, but I'm pretty sure the Lord orchestrated the whole thing. It was just to miraculous to be coincidence.

The rest of the staff that helped do everything else was awesome too. (And most were pretty cute with wonderful accents).
All the Extra Stuff
Like I said, this ship had everything. One thing we tried on the first day was the rock wall. It's a lot harder than it looks. Mike scaled it in no time, but I got stuck half way up and had to come down. Fun though.

They had a full gym on board (although I don't know when people find time to use it). Tracy and I took advantage of it at least on the first day while it was pouring down rain. I don't think it helped very much burning off all the calories we ate.
Mike enjoyed the basketball court. They had a "Hot Shot" competition and Mike took second place. He has a silver medal to prove it.
The coolest thing was the "Flow Rider" that simulates surfing a wave. Mike was brave enough to try the standing surfing, while Tracy and I stuck to the boogie boarding. Again, harder than it looked but also a blast!!
I have pictures of me too, but they are still on the waterproof camera.
So, basically it was a "DREAM" vacation and was everything I ever hoped for and more. It was a wonderful time to spend with Mike and experience such amazing things together. I could never thank my mom and Mike's mom enough for watching our kids for us while we were gone. They had just as much fun as we did. For those of you that have never been on a cruise, I highly recomend it! I know I will be doing all I can to be able to go on one again someday. Loved every minute!!!!