Saturday, November 29, 2008

The City of Brotherly Love

We just got back from visiting my brother in Philadelphia. We had a great time! Here are some pics from our trip.
The Liberty Bell:
Independence Hall:
Ben Franklin's resting place:
Betsy Ross' house:
We were able to stand where Abe Lincoln once stood:
And we were in the room where the United States Constitution was signed:
And what would any trip be without pictures of Steve trying on hats and masks?
Not to be outdone, Matt showed off one of his many talents:
Thanks, Matt and Randi! We had a wonderful time!!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's Official

I, Amy, am officially now a Texan (or at least on paper anyway). After two years of residency and six attempts to get a Texas Driver's License, I was finally issued one today after losing my Oklahoma license at the airport last week. Believe it or not, if you lose your license, it makes transferring from state to state much easier than actually surrendering your license (at least in Texas).

Also, as of tomorrow, the holiday season officially begins. The Nortons are ready! We have ordered our Christmas cards, have purchased our Christmas stamps, have completed most of our gift shopping, have decorated both the inside and the outside of our house for Christmas and have made our travel plans for the month of December. Let the festivities begin!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

FOTOS, Continued

WOW! We have been really busy the last few days. Decorating for Christmas (the outside display begins today -- brace yourself), getting new furniture, switching some of the rooms in the house around, going to Tulsa, then off to Philadelphia real quick to meet Amy's brother's GF, and finally back home to a host of unfinished projects. I (Steve) wanted to finish off our Mexico pictures with some intermittent commentary.

The Polaroid camera used by the lady in the picture above was a HUGE hit. So many of these people had never had a picture of themselves. The most touching was a mother who got the first picture of her baby.

These two pictures are of our dramatic production. I was the understudy for Jesus, seen laughing above. (Thankfully, Jesus had a sense of humor). The lady seen reading from the script in the photo above was the self-appointed director of our little production. As the director, she made several comments that had the rest of us chuckling. Some of her comments, made before, during and after each performance, were:
  • "Off the stage!" -- As you can see, there was no stage.
  • "Please, people! Get off my stage!"
  • To the translator who was wonderful with the children, "You're not the narrator. I am!" (The director did not speak a word of Spanish.)
  • "That is why there is a script!"
  • "Get ready, Jesus!"
  • "Jesus has no lines."

Miss Abigail leading a time of worship. It was really neat to watch. Most of the kids really enjoyed it.

The lady above left is named Billie. She was accidentally assigned to the construction team with me and Amy. Soon after our arrival in Mexico, she defected to the cooking team. Billie is a very sweet lady and a great source of humor.

A time of reaching out and helping others -- this cat loved nacho cheese chips.

A lot of horse drawn carts in the city.

And what would a trip to Mexico be without a display of their cultural design techniques? Our room was pretty good compared to some of the others. There were two ladies who didn't have a toilet seat, perhaps it was discontinued.

Leave it to me to end a post with a picture of a toilet. All that's left of interest in our Mexico file was the fun crap that was sold at the border crossing -- there was a gigantic bleeding Jesus on a cross, lots of porcelain crap, the usual food stuffs and, a first for me, Miniature Schnauzer puppies. We were tempted by the puppies, but Maggie would not have approved.

This week is pretty mellow. We will spend Thanksgiving at home this year - a first for us. Coming up -- pictures from our trip to Philly and, of course, Christmas decor.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Today we are celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary!!! The last four years have been amazing!

I love you, Steven! Thank you for marrying me! Happy Anniversary, my love!

P.S. If you haven't seen Steve's post from earlier today, see below. It's hilarious!!!

Well Now I've Seen It All

A quick break from our Missionary Montage and on to a little humor to keep you all chuckling on a beautiful Thursday.

Our new BFF we met while on our trip to Mexico works at a certain Natural History Museum and informed us of a fun addition to the gift shop. I'll give you all a few hints

Yes it comes with five loaves of bread
Yes it comes with two fish
Yes it comes with a jug for turning water into wine
And yes, of course, it comes with "GLOW IN THE DARK MIRACLE HANDS"

Here we have it!

A Deluxe Jesus Action Figure (indeed)

Monday, November 17, 2008


Here are a few of my (Steve's) favorite pictures from our first day in Mexico -- most of them speak for themselves.

This family is getting a new house compliments of the SOS organization. The gentleman in this picture helps SOS with every project they take on, often putting their work before his own needs. He hoped to eventually be able to raise his house to put a concrete floor in under it. They just decided to build him a new one -- which is why we are moving bricks in the picture below.

Above is Ms. Sophia and her 'Esposo' -- Amy and I worked on their house for about four hours on Saturday, painting it pink inside and out. Their home has a dirt floor , no running water or electricity. There is no insulation, holes in the roof (it was too windy to fix the roof), no inside walls, and a large hole in one wall where snakes, cats, and scorpions, often crawl in to visit.


We just returned from a three-day missions trip to Reynosa, Mexico. In one word, it was "fantastico"!!!

We met some wonderful friends on this trip, and we were able to minister to those in need. It was amazing! More details will follow in upcoming posts later this week; but for now, here are some of our pictures.Team 4: The construction team - (front row) Tracey (our new best friend), Angel, Billie, Maria, Paulette (Team Leader) and Sean (Team Leader) - (back row) Amy and Steve (the most fun couple EVER), John (our fearless van driver), Barbara and Dailan

These people made up the best team. We had so much fun together. These are friendships that will last a lifetime.

There were 42 people who went with us. What an amazing group!

Here are some of the faces we fell in love with while in Mexico:

Later this week, we'll share more details about our trip, the projects we worked on and, of course, Steve will share some of the humorous stories. In the meantime, you can see more pictures from our trip as well as learn about the organization we worked with by visiting the Sons of Salvation blog.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Please Buy Something...

Before I get started with the long awaited 'Childhood Memories' post I must share that as I sit here in my hotel room I am for some reason stuck on channel 18 which is a mesmerizing leased access channel currently showing Morris Moore Automotives inventory. The guy is literally going to every single car and talking all about it -- one line that he cannot seem to stop saying is 'Yes it does have power locks, windows, cruise, tilt, and CD player...' -- its a bit exhausting, I'm turning it off. I couldn't tell you why I've watched it as long as I have, but whats done is done.

Moving right along -- kids are so uniquely innocent and faithful in so many ways. When I was a child I remember thinking that nothing was impossible. Anything I wanted to happen I could make happen if I worked hard enough. I guess to some degree I still think and believe that way, the difference I've finally learned to think big. As a child I was forever coming up with get 'rich' quick schemes, and it all started with what Amy likes to call 'The Pet Rock.'

My father was working on a contract on Mt. St. Helens in western Washington when I was about nine or ten years old. I remember going with him on the weekends and while he was working (they were tunneling under a part of the mountain to restore necessary drainage) I would go on these crazy hikes of about three or four miles on the face of the mountain looking for rocks. I'm not sure what motivated me, but I would collect as many rocks as I could fit in my back pack and take them home with me.

I would clean these rocks, rate them, sort them, and put them in different boxes based on their visual appeal. One day completely out of the blue I decided to go down to the highway I grew up near and set up shop selling these rocks, 'Surely somebody will buy them' I thought to myself.

Would you believe it was like setting up an ATM machine. Car after car would stop, sometimes I would have two or three stop at once and buy rocks like they were going out of style. Naturally my rocks were ridiculously under priced, as I remember after about four hours or so of selling I would have finally earned enough money to go to the local mini-mart to get some delicious chicken strips. That was it, a simple business plan -- elementary execution, a little faith, and whala, the Pet Rock is born.

After about a year of this my inventory was dwindling and what remained was disposed of, much to my disappointment (that's another post in its entirety). So I found other odds and ends to earn a few bucks here and there (usually complements of one of my grandparents), then a visit to my Aunt Lori one summer. There I learned about the wonderful art of ColorPoint. Okay so Colorpoint was a cleverly marketed version of puffy paint where a pattern is ironed on a T-Shirt and the dots are filled in with various colored dobs of paint. I remember helping her with one of her projects, saving up lawn mowing money and one day buying an entire ColorPoint kit just for me.

You have to know that I was the king of sales as a lad -- I would attack any school fundraiser so ferociously that I was frequently a top seller, and had even established my own little route, where people saw me coming from miles around and either hid and locked the doors, or came out to welcome me -- check book in hand. So I practiced on a few shirts to get the hang of it, then I set out on my route ColorPoint book in hand to sell hand designed T-Shirts to people. (I honestly cannot believe I am telling this story, I'm so embarrassed for me right now) -- anyway, it wasn't the hit I thought it would be, but I did sell a few (again grossly under priced considering the time, effort, and expense of this venture.) The best though was this nice lady who would order anything I was pushing -- she ordered a shirt with a cat design on it. The most intricate thing, it took me two weeks to pump this baby out. As I was nearing the end of the project I accidental dropped one of the paint bottles on shirt where there were little dots of wet paint that had just been applied.

The result was sheer horror, these little dots of goo turned into a smeared mess that I was just sure had ruined my little labor. Thinking I couldn't possibly make things worse I rushed to the bathroom and tried to wash out the wet paint from this white shirt. I worked and worked, but really to no avail. The result was a reddish blue smudge right in the middle of the cat's leg that measured about 2X3 inches). Knowing that starting over would certainly result in a loss I somehow rationalized that she was paying so little for the shirt that a smudge was really no big deal, and pressed on. I finished the shirt and delivered it folded in such a way as to not show off the error in crafting. I remember purposely saying, "Oh yeah and there is this one spot, over here, I think you should be able to get that out in the washer, I just didn't want to wash your new shirt." She TOTALLY bought in, like 'Oh yes, that's no problem.'

The story gets even funnier when I showed up on her doorstep a few months later selling magazines or something for school and finding her wearing the cat shirt, spot and all, proudly for all to see. I quickly abandoned my short lived love for ColorPoint, but the memories live on.

This is only the begining -- I was forever the adventurous one, always coming up with some new scheme, idea, or plan to get what I wanted -- more to come.

Have a good weekend, and look forward to pictures from our trip to Mexico early next week.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Did You Get It?

Tis the season for the flu shot! Amy and I went to get ours today at our rather snooty doctors office. Sitting there in the lobby was just like walking onto the set of Desperate Housewives. These ladies, well two in particular, were just a hoot. She started in talking about the series of books that she was reading, and how badly everyone else in the room needed to read the same smut. While Amy and I only gave a half encouraging chuckle or grunt to her rants, the lady next to her began a dialogue. I'm not kidding within a few minutes these ladies were comparing plastic surgery procedures, and discussing the pros and cons of each procedure. The whole room was in silent stitches.

Then off to the WalMart -- we needed a few odds and ends for our Mission Trip to Reynosa, Mexico (where evidently I am going to be a roofer, and Miss Amy is going to take up painting). Anyway we walk into the store through the little entry/cart storage area. And there is an older lady on one of those little MartCarts. She is reversing into a parking spot at top speed when suddenly her cart slams into the wall throwing the woman's head back and likely doing some damage to the cart/wall. She then promptly and immediately got up and nonchalantly walked out the door, as if the slamming into the wall was some sort of intentional ruse to give her the momentum she needed to get out of the MartCart.

I had to look away as I was (as usual) overcome with laughter. Today we begin decorating for Christmas, we are very excited about Christmas this year, and thought we would kick off the decking of the halls a little earlier than usual, look forward to pics in a coming post.

And tomorrow I will share one of my embarrassing childhood memories I know you all have been longing for.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Let The Planning Begin

I LOVE CHRISTMAS!! -- I especially love decorating for Christmas. I have refrained from hiring an electrical architect to help design my annual display (perhaps you've heard, Amy is retired, and I'm trying to cut back). I ran into some random luck earlier in the year when my brother in law held a moving sale. He had the most superb addition for my display, which I quickly skyped. I cannot wait to show it off to all the world through our handy blog, as a hint I'm wondering if I should alert the FAA for possible airspace penetration?

I asked Amy if I could get a super bright beacon so I could point out our little extravaganza to unassuming passengers underway with me, but I was told no. No doubt the one ridiculous thing about Christmas lights is the power consumption. Last year wasn't a big deal because due to the deregulation of electricity in Houston I was able to hedge our cost of power to a ridiculously low level. Sadly (and probably not surprisingly) the company I had the agreement with went bankrupt this summer, and we are stuck with far worse terms than we once enjoyed.

I may only be able to illuminate the Norton estate from 8:00-8:05 every night, but you can bet the farm we will be a beacon in the neighborhood (no pun intended). So anyway in less than a month you can look forward to great pictures of our labors. December is getting very full for us, we are planning at least three trips (anyone care to join us in NYC?), and we have company coming for two different weeks, which we are excited about.

Did anyone see where the first dog bit a reporter? -- I won't bore everyone with a YouTube link, but its true, little whats his name bit a reporter who stupidly reached out towards the dog in a rather dominate manner. Maggie bit me once, she apparently wasn't in the mood for a bath. I no longer pick her up for her baths, I simply bribe her with treats, which I find far more effective and less painful.

And finally does anyone watch that show on TLC 'Jon and Kate Plus Eight'? -- I must say that I am really disappointed in how those people treat each other (mind you I don't have eight children). Amy and I strive to always be kind, and supporting to each other. We don't make jokes about each other, and when people we might find ourselves around start complaining about their mate, we simply point out the wonderful things that we do for each other. It's amazing how quickly the conversation turns when we do this. Little Miss Jon and Kate do not share our views on this topic. They are very nit-picky and tacky to one another, they are quick to place blame, or cast bad lights on each other. Don't do that to your mate, its not nice, put your mate on a pedestal, admire them, remind them everyday that they are the best thing that ever happened to you. Make them feel important, and thank them for everything they do. And guys when your wife wants you to go shopping (and its not somewhere fun like Ross) just offer to carry her bags, follow behind her, and occasionally call her pretty.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fun At The Department Store

Okay -- here we go, some more fun stuff! Amy and I have been known to occasionally stop into a certain department store that specializes is selling things no other store is able to. One of our favorite places to eat is Outback, and this store just happens to be in the same parking lot. So after enjoying one of the 'worst foods in America' (in all fairness we only get the half order and we split that), and feeling a little guilty we will often walk over to this little gem.

In all honesty Ross really does have SOME quality merchandise for a fraction of its original cost. I personally buy t-shirts at Ross, Amy loves to hunt housewares, and we have both found some pretty nice name brand outfits a couple of times. It's kind of like shopping and hunting all in one, there is certainly a skill to it; but with some practice we're nearing the pro level.

If you ask Amy she will tell you that shopping with me, can at times be like shopping with an 8 year old. I like to hunt for the most outrageous clothing item, most absurd hat, or occasionally the odd nick knack -- I will sneak the said items into our cart just to see the look of horror on Amy's face when we reach the checkout line, and the attendant begins to judge us for our apparent poor taste in fashion, goods, or decorating sense. Good times.

A couple of months ago we were on one of our evening jaunts over to Ross, we were looking at bed linens; I selected something to put in our cart but Amy quickly realized I had chosen the wrong basket. I asked her how she knew since our cart was empty, and so was the one I put the item in. She stated that our basket didn't have a pole! -- I was rapidly overcome with laughter. I began looking around the store, and just over all the racks and shelves there are poles moving around all over the store. Yes this is Ross's anti-cart-theft device -- a pole.

You may not find the pole as funny as I do, but next time you are in a Ross seriously look around, all you see are poles meandering around the store, its very funny.

Now on to the items that do not necessarily fall into the the 'SOME quality merchandise' label that I defined earlier.
Here we have a fat ceramic pig sitting in a flower bed and wearing a bow -- seriously!
Okay the clearance rack at Ross -- this is the result, some very odd ceramic things, I believe on the left we have a yak with a horn looking at a scarecrow, and on the right a dog doing whatever ceramic dogs do.
Okay the owls are a hoot -- (literally) -- and the porcelain bird with gold trim is just too much.

This could be marketed as a 'Cirque du Soleil' character and fetch a pretty penny, but no -- it is labeled, "Home Decor"

This just screams "Great For Hosting!" -- sadly they didn't have service for eight, just the one.
At this point you may be wondering if anyone looked at me funny for taking pictures all over Ross -- yes they did!! The key here is to remember that I often ride a scooter to work that is just a little too small for me, and of a color that doesn't really meet societies expectation of what a grown man should ride. So in other words, I'm used to weird looks.

The shoe aisle is by far my favorite, there are usually some doozies -- this day they weren't as fun as they could have been. I like this one because there was only one, and the post hole digger on the back of that thing is out of control.

And these slippers were just fun -- I must tell you that my partner in crime -- a certain Miss Amy would select certain items that she thought would be fun to share, set them out; signal me, and then quickly vanish so as not to be a recipient of the weird looks.
This 'Plush' aisle was slightly askew, I'm sure a member of management must have thought I was with quality control or something, but not to my surprise I was never approached; and the plush aisle remained askew throughout my stay at Ross.