Finding Hope

**Forewarning: This isn’t as fun or happy a post as I wish it was…but it is me.  It is me right now.**

 

If you’ve been following the goings on of my family you know that we picked up and moved 2,272 miles across the country at the beginning of August.  What. A. Trip.  My dad and step-mom came to Southern California to help us pack up and make the drive.  Without delving into all the details, I have to say that this move was the most stressful move in the history of the universe.  Ok.  So that may not be 100% true since I don’t know what moving has been like for everyone in history, but it was certainly the most stressful move we have ever made.  Since our marriage nearly 7 years ago, my husband and I have lived in 4 different apartments, 1 rental house, house sat long-term for a friend while we tried to find our own place, and have lived with our parents twice.  So when I say that this was the most stressful move ever, it isn’t because we don’t have experience with moving or even moving across the country.  This is our second cross-country move.

We had issues with our moving company, Josh did not join us right away, and I got really sick on the second evening of our 4 day trip.  It was miserable.  I just could not wait to get to our destination so we could settle in, get well, and start exploring our new home.  Things didn’t quite work out like that, though.  Instead, I stayed feeling pretty yucky for a good week.  I finally started feeling better only to get sick again just another week or so after that.  I thought that I must have a horrible bug or something.  But then I got sick again (same symptoms all three times) a few weeks after that!  So, since our move at the beginning of August I have felt crummy pretty much every morning I’ve woken up and then on-and-off every day.  I’ve done lots of lab work and it all comes back normal.  My symptoms aren’t considered diagnostic and the 3 doctors I had seen have had no clue what to tell me aside from saying that maybe they were episodes of hypoglycemia…which didn’t leave me feeling very confident or satisfied.

Finally, I went to see a naturopathic doctor to get his take on my symptoms.  I’ve never been to a naturopathic doctor before because they’re generally expensive and we are a single-income family of 5.  We don’t have much disposable income, but I’m at my wits end at this point.  I just want to get well.  I cannot describe how desperately I want to wake up feeling healthy rather than nauseated.  Being sick like this has turned me into an emotional wreck.  I don’t feel like myself at all.  I feel frustrated, tired, and really miss doing the things I enjoy the most like playing with my kids, exercising, going for coffee, going on walks, exploring… I just don’t feel like I have the freedom to go anywhere or do anything because I run the risk of getting sick.  Well, this naturopathic doctor actually treated me like a human being.  I’m not saying the other doctors weren’t nice, it’s just that I felt like, because my lab work returned with normal results, that they felt like I was making it up or it was all in my head.  Because I didn’t have a diagnosis, clearly my symptoms were really not important or couldn’t be that bad.  It is so frustrating to feel like you’re not being heard.  So finally, when someone spent 2 HOURS asking questions about me as a person, my whole health history from birth to now, my personality, my family, and my symptoms, it felt really good.  What felt great?  That he was not at all stumped or confused by my symptoms.  In fact, he said that lots of people go through what I’m going through.  Better yet, he believes that,not only can we treat the symptoms, but that we can get my body back to normal without having to treat symptoms all the time.

SO, why is this titled “Finding Hope.”  Is it because I’ve found hope for what’s wrong with me in a naturopathic doctor?  No.  That is true, but no.  Is it because I’ve found hope in leaving California and moving here?  No.  It’s because that, even in the midst of feeling horrible, God has shown Himself to me in new ways.

You see, at first when I started having these episodes I thought, “The timing could not be worse!”  In some ways, the timing couldn’t be worse.  Who wants to be sick when they’re stuck in hotel rooms and day-long car rides?  Not me.  It’s horrible to not be able to be comfortable in your own bed or in your own home.  It’s horrible when you can’t just get rid of whatever it is that is ailing you.  The second episode, though, came on right after I picked up my husband from the airport.  He has been working from home.  I can’t tell how much help he has been to me.  He has been able to adjust his schedule and work later or on the weekends so I can go to doctor appointments.  He has been supportive of me and comforting.  If we had been back in Southern California, he would be working 40 minutes away from home.  I would be on my own each day when I’m feeling crummy.  On top of that, we have been staying with my parents and not having to pay a bunch of rent.  That has freed me up to be able to do many trips to the doctor, lab work…etc.  Somehow, as crummy as it all is, God has put this in a time when it’s going to be OK.

You know, its’ hard for me to even write that right now.  Right in this very moment I’m feeling pretty crummy.  In this very moment I want to burst into tears and ask God, “Why!?!?!  Why is this happening!?!?  I am so sick of feeling sick!  It is so hard to do my job when I feel like this!  Don’t you want me to be a good mom!?”  But that’s faulty thinking.  God didn’t cause this.  I know He is capable of healing me without any thought at all. I know He can do it.  For some reason, though, He is choosing not to.  He is trying to do something in my life.  He didn’t make any promises that I’d have a healthy, happy life without pain.  He promised the opposite, really.  He forewarned me that I will have troubles in this world, but that I can take heart knowing that He has overcome them and that this is all temporary.  His priority isn’t my comfort as much as it is my character.  Even though I believe these words, it still hurts.  I don’t even know if I can go on typing.  It hurts and I’m frustrated.  I know that God is near me.  I know He is here and sees what is going on.  I even have moments when I feel that He is comforting me and speaking to my heart.  Then I have moments of hopelessness when I fear that this will never end.  I have moments of doubt that I will ever get my life back to normal.

This morning I listened to a message by Jon Courson about the promise of God’s presence and it brought me so much comfort.  God is there.  He goes before me.  You see, part of me wondered if we misread what God was saying when we moved out here.  Part of me thought that maybe I’m being punished or something…like a Jonah situation (he went somewhere else instead of where God called him and God sent a storm and a fish to turn him around).  Is this my storm?  Is this sickness sent to swallow me up until I am forced to admit my mistake only to be spat out back where I should have been in the first place?  Is this my warning signal that I’ve gone the wrong way?  We prayed ardently before moving and everything seemed to fall into place to allow it and make it work.  We really genuinely believed we were doing the right thing…I still think we did, but I can’t help but wonder, at times, if this is a sign that we didn’t.  In Jon Courson’s message he talks about how God has our backs.  God goes before us, and he comes behind.  He knows where we are going and wants us to follow Him, and if we move forward with a decision and we have sought Him and believe we are doing the right thing, then God will honor that and He will help us figure things out.  He protects us.

Right now I’m sure not feeling particularly protected.  I’m waiting for God to step in and save the day.

I have considered driving up to the church and asking for prayer.  We have found an awesome church.  We love the community of people and the small group we have joined.  You see, my husband and I have been praying for the church and specific small group that we knew God had in mind for us since May.  We prayed that He would make it clear quickly where He wanted us.  We prayed for the small group we would become a part of and that God would prepare us to bless them and open their hearts to welcome us as friends.  We have been so blessed.  We LOVE our church and small group.  We have made our friends quickly and enjoy them so much.  We look forward to what else God has in store for us and for them.  The Bible says to bring the sick to the elders of the church and to pray for healing.  There’s a part of me, though, that feels unworthy to even ask.  There’s a part of me that says, “I’m not dying.  I don’t have cancer.  I haven’t had a horrible accident.  I would just be wasting their time.  They don’t want to hear from me about something that is so insignificant in comparison to what it could be…what others have.”  But is it?  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  Maybe I don’t have enough faith to do it.  Maybe the reason I really haven’t gone is because I’m afraid.  Maybe I’m afraid that I will go and it won’t work.  Maybe I’m afraid of going and praying and feeling the same way tomorrow as I feel today.

However I feel, whatever my emotions are telling me, I need to cling to what I know to be true.  I need to remember all that God has provided, all He has promised, and cling to that as true.  What I am feeling now is not eternal.  It is not the final word on who I am or what God has planned for me. God has plans to prosper and not to harm me.  All things work out for my good because I love him.  One way or another I am going to have to choose to remember what I know to be true.  I’m going to have to choose God’s promises for my life.  I’m going to have to choose to be thankful for all He has done.  I’m going to have to choose to allow him to develop character and hope in me.  I will find hope.  God is my hope.

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The Big Move

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So we made an announcement a few weeks ago to our friends and family that we are moving from Southern California to North Carolina.  (Just in time for the hottest month of the year!)  While we waited until about a month before our move to make an “official” announcement on Facebook (because we all know that nothing is official until it’s on Facebook), we had told our parents and siblings back at the end of May.  There were so many unknowns back in May that we just knew there was no way we could answer the influx of questions we were bound to receive upon making our announcement.

Well, it’s funny because even though we have everything mostly planned with the big move only a couple weeks away, we still lack answers to many questions that people have asked.  Now, I have to clarify that neither Josh nor I believe we “owe” anyone an “explanation” as to why we are moving, but we feel that we can provide some information to avoid any speculation as to why we are leaving.

“Why?” is such a difficult question for me.  I am more the, “why not?” type of person, myself.  I should say that it was never my intention to spend the rest of my life in Southern California.  If you wonder why, just read this post that I wrote back in April of 2012.  I think that will answer a lot of the “why” questions about leaving Southern California.  Ultimately, I think it is most simple to say that Southern California is not for me.  Josh and I even had a conversation once that included something along the lines of, “Even if we had unlimited funds and could afford to buy our own home here and do all of the things we would want to do, I still wouldn’t want to live here.  The things that make me not like Southern California are things that money cannot change.”  Southern California makes about as much sense for me as a hairless dog living in Alaska.  We don’t fit.

That being said, I LOVE our friends and family here (And Disneyland).  Our choice to move has only been delayed because of our friends and family.  Nothing happened.  There was no falling out.  There isn’t a big fight or argument or underlying issue going on here.  We LOVE our friends and family.  We are so thankful for all of the support, encouragement, and love that they’ve given us over the last 5 years of living here.  It took me a long time to make the friends whom I have here and I am going to miss them all desperately.  We love our church family…I just pray that we find one where we can fit and feel as welcome as we do here.  We have shed many tears as we anticipate our last days with our friends and family here, but take comfort knowing that, without a doubt, we will be back to visit.  It also makes us more thankful than ever for social media so we can stay connected on Facebook and Instagram.

So, why North Carolina?  Well, we spent a lot of time (probably a good part of the last 4 years) talking about moving and WHERE to move was by far the most simple and most complicated question of them all.  It was simple because we had already determined in our minds that we didn’t want to be somewhere without one of our sets of parents within an hour of wherever we would live.  That left us with 3 options: California, Wisconsin, or North Carolina.  That was the simple part.  Of all the places in the country where we would have maybe wanted to live, they were all narrowed down to just 3 options.  Now, we have already made it clear that California wasn’t at the top of my list.  Wisconsin, while it is a state I love and feel attached to, isn’t really at the top of Josh’s list.  While his reasons are his own and I don’t necessarily share his feelings, I can completely understand them and would never want him to live somewhere where he would be unhappy.  I know that he has nothing against my friends and family there and I know that he recognizes the pros and cons and, for him, the cons just outweigh the pros.  It makes sense to me and I am on board!  So, that left North Carolina.  We had been, for a while, a bit hesitant to move to North Carolina because neither of us have any roots there.  We were concerned that, after the novelty of our closeness wore off, my dad & step-mom would become weighed down with being the sole people we could depend on for tangible help and support as we raise our 3 children.  We would hate to destroy a relationship with our parents because they feel used and abused.  We realized, though, that while Josh’s parents are the only two family members who have been very close and capable of babysitting or sharing in meals with us, we have made friends here in Southern California who have become like family to us.  They have given us an infinite amount of love and support, babysitting, listening ears, hugs, encouragement, advice, truth, grace…the list goes on.  Our friends have turned into an amazing support system and there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be able to find some amazing friends who will be dear to us in North Carolina as well.

Now that we had all of our logistics cleared up (the “where” we would move and “why”) we wanted, ultimately, to be sure that we would be within the will of God.  Regardless of the logistics we didn’t want to go if God wasn’t at the forefront of everything.  Was God blessing the idea or closing the door?  So we began to pray for wisdom and clarity about if and when we actually took the plunge.  The best counsel we remember receiving was, “Is God using you here?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Will He use you in North Carolina?  Yes!  Absolutely!”  I think God cares a lot less about where live than how we live and who we are living for.  We can live anywhere and live with love, compassion, grace, truth, and serve God and our community wherever we are!

So when we started to look at our options God opened doors.  We went through them and here we are: 2 weeks away from our move to North Carolina. We are so excited and so overwhelmed all at the same time.  So much is yet to be done, and yet so much cannot be done right at this moment.  So many dates and appointments with friends and family, and yet none would be enough to prepare us to say, “see you soon,” to any of them.  I don’t know that I will ever be ready to say “goodbye” so I am glad that I won’t have to.  I’m glad to know that we will be back for visits.

What it boils down to is that we feel that this is the best decision for our family.  We know that some friends and family are very excited for us and have been really encouraging and supportive with comments of how beautiful it is in North Carolina and how some of their favorite cities and restaurants are there.  We also know that others are left feeling lonely, hurt, and just plain don’t understand.  We respect that.  I can see, I suppose, how it may seem like the move is coming out of left field even though we have talked about moving someday in our home and with our closest friends for a long time.  No amount of “talk” can really prepare one for the day when the “talk” becomes the “walk.”

What we really want everyone to know, though, is that it isn’t personal.  This was a decision that Josh and I made together for our family because we believe it is the absolute best thing.  We believe that North Carolina offers both of us what we are seeking: clear seasons that aren’t extreme, affordability, friendly atmosphere, plenty of green space, lots of variations in the weather, big cities nearby, recreational activities, proximity to family, small towns, career opportunities, family friendly…etc.  We would appreciate your prayers, love, and encouragement.  We pray that you would keep in touch with us on Facebook and Instagram and let us hang out with you when we come back to visit!  We love you all! 🙂

Tips for Surviving Pregnancy

So, you’re living with surviving life with a pregnant woman?  First, let me tell you that you are really in for a wonderful adventure.  Whether this is your 1st, 2nd, 7th or 10th baby…it doesn’t matter.  Each baby is a wonderful gift…and a true miracle.  So many things had to take place at just the right moments for this pregnancy to occur!  You are so privileged to witness the growth of new life!  You may be the daddy of the new baby to come, or you may be the grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister or friend.  But either way, if you’re reading this, you’re likely to know a pregnant lady right now.  So, I thought I’d give you some tips to surviving the next several months with this pregnant woman!

*I will refer to the pregnant lady in your life as your wife, just for ease of writing this blog.  If she isn’t your wife, insert your relationship to her in those areas…*

1.  Nausea, vomiting, gas OH MY!  Depending on how far along your wife is, you may have already noticed one or all of these things.  The moment your wife got pregnant a surge of hormones took place in her body.  This surge of hormones is believed to be the cause of her nausea, increased sense of smell (contributes to the nausea) vomiting, and gas.  These hormones can wreak havoc on your wife’s body, but these hormones are a really good thing.  If your wife is sick and gassy, it is a good sign that her hormones are at a high enough level to keep this baby going.  So, as fun as it isn’t, the nausea, vomiting, and gas are a good sign.  Due to her nausea and vomiting it is unlikely that she feels like doing a whole lot with you or for you.  She may seem lazy, but trust me, her body is doing a lot more work on the inside.  If your household was like many in the world, your wife was probably responsible for making dinner or other meals, grocery shopping, and other errands.  Do your wife a favor and take over these tasks without complaint.  Your wife doesn’t want to feel sick.  She just does.  If there were more she could do about it, then she would.

The gas is also due to hormones.  It is believed that the hormone, Progesterone, that is racing through your wife’s body slows down digestion.  The longer the food sits in her digestive tract, the longer the healthy bacteria that lines all of our digestive tracts has to feed on that and create gas.  So your wife may be burping and farting a lot more often than she used to.  Now, some husbands are really really grossed out by this.  And some may take it as a duel to see who can burp or fart the loudest.  Neither of these would be good things to think or express.  Just like the nausea and vomiting, your wife doesn’t want to feel like this.  The gas likely makes her feel really uncomfortable and can make her nausea worse.  And as far as turning it into a contest??  Refer, again, to nausea.  Your smelly farts just may cause her another trip to the bathroom.  Take heart!  This often ends as the first trimester comes to a close and the second trimester begins.  And if you’re one of the lucky ones whose wife falls into the 20%-25% of women who eek out of the nausea, vomiting, gas…etc…let me just speak for the rest of the world as we all say, “I hate you.”

2.  Headaches  You can blame hormones for just about every annoying thing that happens during pregnancy.  Headaches are no exception.  It is believed that the surge in first trimester hormones and the increase in blood volume in your wife’s body are the main culprits of the torturous headaches she experiences.  I remember the headaches being so awful when I was pregnant with my first son that I thought stabbing myself in the head would feel better than my headache.  Obviously I didn’t test it to be certain, but it really was torturous.  As her hubby, there are just a few things that you can do to help.  One thing you can do is try to keep the noise, lights, activity…etc to a minimum.  Let her relax and closer her eyes or take a nap if she needs to in order to escape the headache.  Massaging her temples may be really helpful and offering her an ice pack or cool washcloth may be helpful as well.  Try to take your cues from her…but certainly offer to do what you can to help.  Like the nausea, the headaches should subside by the second trimester.

3.  Weight Gain  Most women don’t gain a whole lot of weight during their first trimester (refer to nausea and vomiting) and do not begin showing much until the middle of their second trimester…especially if this is the first pregnancy.  Weight gain is different for all women and varies from pregnancy to pregnancy even in the same woman (with my first, I gained 35 lbs and gained 25 with my 2nd).  Generally, though, women who were at a healthy weight before pregnancy ideally gain between 25 and 35 pounds by the end of the 42 weeks.  This varies greatly if your wife was under-weight, over-weight, or obese before pregnancy.  You can visit the American Pregnancy Association for more information about how much weight you can expect your wife to gain and for a breakdown of just where all of that weight is going.

The second and third trimesters are when your wife will put on the bulk of her weight with weight gain averaging at a rate of 1-2 pounds per week.  As your wife starts seeing the numbers go up on the scale, she will probably feel very uncomfortable and self conscious.  And, while most men tend to be attracted to their wive’s new curves, she may not feel very attractive. It is really important that you don’t talk to your wife a whole lot about her weight gain unless it is to tell her how beautiful she looks when she is pregnant.  It is also helpful to her if you don’t eat out a lot…especially at fast food restaurants.  If your wife is eating healthy foods during her pregnancy in healthy portion sizes, she will still gain weight, but it will be just what she needs to make sure she and your baby are healthy and ready for the big day.  So just remember that your wife isn’t “getting fat” and isn’t “unhealthy” if she is gaining weight.  The appropriate weight gain is a very very good thing during pregnancy.

4.  Emotions  Those pesky hormones are at it again.  One minute your wife is fine.  The next minute she’s crying over a Hallmark commercial.  Then, when you laugh at how ridiculous you think that is, she practically comes at you with a knife.  Yeah…Emotional roller coaster is an understatement.  You may be thinking, “What on earth was I thinking?  I should have had a vasectomy!  I am never having children again!”  Well, trust me, unless you end up dead via emotional wife, the baby is totally worth it!  If your wife has not quite started having these crazy emotions yet, just wait…they’ll come.  If your wife suffered from crazy emotions during PMS, depression before pregnancy, or any other emotional disorder, then it will likely only be worse when the hormones go wacky during pregnancy.

The emotions can often be unpredictable and seem to be unreasonable.  Chances are, they are unreasonable…and chances are your wife is overreacting to whatever dumb thing she thinks you just did.  Now, this can be really really frustrating for you and everyone else in her path.  Do try to be understanding.  She doesn’t want to feel this way any more than you want her to act this way.  In reality, there isn’t anything she can do to control her emotions.  She feels the way she feels and cannot control her feelings.  However, she CAN control her reaction…or at least can learn to.  Well, maybe not the crying so much, but the anger or fits of rage.  I did say up above to be understanding, but also don’t let her walk all over you either.  Just as you need to learn to control your anger if you have a testosterone or adrenaline surge when someone cuts you off on the road, flips you the bird, or disrespects you out at a club or restaurant…etc., she needs to learn to control her anger as well.  No one would ever excuse your outburst if you punched someone in the face because you just couldn’t handle your emotions.  The same should be expected from your wife.  She can’t use her hormones as an excuse to hit you, throw your phone, scream in your face, break your computer…etc.  This may be really really difficult at first because most pregnant women are used to getting a get-out-of-trouble “I’m pregnant” free pass.  If you notice that her fits of emotions are getting out of control, then you need to find an appropriate time (maybe a public place so you have witnesses if she murders or assaults you…;-) ) to bring it up.  If you do find that this step is necessary, try to express that you understand that she doesn’t want to feel this way and that she isn’t trying to hurt you or be a jerk (or other word…), but that acting out like that is unacceptable.  If she needs to take a walk to cool down or be by herself, then that’s OK.  But help her to find a different outlet for those crazy emotions.

With that said, don’t push her buttons.  If she isn’t feeling well, don’t get all whiny and crabby that she didn’t make your dinner or clean the bathroom or want to sleep with you.  Try to remember how difficult it is for her to control the emotions and attempt to avoid doing things that may encourage her to have outbursts.  But remember, don’t pour gas on the flames to try to put out the fire.  If she starts screaming at you, don’t respond by screaming back.  If you need to just stand there and put up with it or just calmly walk away, then do that.  But don’t fuel the fire by trying to prove who is right or who is wrong.  The more you respond in kindness, the more likely she is to come to her own conclusion that she has over reacted.

**A note to wives:  You know darn well that you can control the majority of your reactions if you would just take the moment to think about it and take a deep breath.  If you can control your emotions with your co-worker, boss, friends, pastor, parents, teacher, or stranger on the street…then you can control your reaction with your husband.  Just because he might put up with it, doesn’t mean you have a right to dish it out.  It is no more fair for you to have an emotional outburst and scream in his face than it would be for him to do the same thing to you if he was having a hormonal surge.  Keep yourself in check.  If you need to take a walk–do it.  If you need to walk away–do it.  If you need to take a drive–do it.  But come back together at the end of it.  You know as well as I do that the grand majority of these outbursts are caused by something small and accidental.  I used to get so mad at Josh for making eggs when I was pregnant.  Oh my gosh.  The smell of eggs made me so ridiculously nauseous.  Once I told Josh about it, it made it a lot easier for him to avoid making eggs when I was around.  Yay, problem solved.  Maybe it’s leaving dirty laundry on the ground.  Maybe it’s leaving dirty dishes laying around.  Chances are, the things he is doing are things that he was doing before you were pregnant and may bother you more now than they did.  It is unlikely that he’s trying to get on your last nerve.  Communicate more effectively by not yelling, screaming, or throwing a tantrum.**

5.  Sex/Intimacy  Now, this might be a really uncomfortable topic for some, so feel free to move on if you’d rather not read this.  But, if you are the husband of the pregnant woman or the pregnant woman herself, or trying to conceive, I would not skip over this.  Let me start off by saying that every woman and every pregnancy is different when it comes to being intimate.  With that said, I will go into what the majority of women and men experience during pregnancy.

If you’re trying to conceive, and have been for a while, you may already feel like the intimacy in your marriage is starting to dwindle and sex has become a means to an end.  I’ve had the privilege of speaking with many women who have had just this situation.  Try hard to find time to be intimate when you’re not necessarily “trying” to get pregnant.

If you are in the first trimester, then sex probably feels like a thing of the past.  With the nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, gas, bloating, headaches…need I go on?  Your wife probably doesn’t feel a whole lot like having sex.  A lot of women also fear sex, especially during the first trimester, because they are worried that it will somehow hurt the baby or cause a miscarriage. Now, if your wife has been spotting in the first trimester, it is probably best to not have sex and to visit your doctor or midwife.  In most healthy pregnancies, though, it is safe to have sex.  It shouldn’t hurt the baby at all.  However, it is important that you don’t push the topic.  If your wife isn’t feeling well or isn’t feeling up to it, be understanding of how she feels and find different ways to be intimate together or just wait until she is feeling better.  Try not to view these first several weeks as a trial that is so hard to get through.  Instead, view it as a practice run for how you can handle not being intimate for 6+ weeks after the baby is born.

If you are in the second trimester, congratulations!  Chances are that you’re baby is healthy and going to be OK if you’ve made it this far.  The chances of miscarriage, while possible, are much lower once you’ve entered the second trimester.  Also, most women start to feel a lot better and begin regaining energy by this point.  She may be getting those lovely curves, too, that you may find so attractive.  Now, if you’re one of the small percentage of men who aren’t exactly attracted to your pregnant wife’s new body–GET OVER IT.  Your wife wants to feel secure in your love and companionship and that your love for her is unconditional.  So, by all means, figure it out.  This is your best chance at being able to be intimate for a long time, so you’d better take advantage of that while you can.

If you are finding yourself in the third trimester, your wife is probably showing more now.  Sex is probably getting uncomfortable for both of you.  The baby hasn’t even been born yet, and he/she is already coming between the two of you…literally.  Try not to be discouraged…and don’t be afraid to get creative.  If it just isn’t working out…well, you’re not alone.  Many couples experience this.  Find new ways to be intimate with one another.  Try to get as much alone time as possible in together during this last trimester.  Soon enough you’ll have a little one who is in your bedroom…and that can complicate things as well.  If you’re late in the third trimester, your wife may be getting antsy.  There are a lot of women who believe that having sex causes labor to begin.  This really isn’t entirely true.  Doctors aren’t quite sure what exactly sparks labor, but they do know that it is connected to the hormone oxytocin.  While oxytocin is released during sex (as well as during labor and nursing), it is unlikely that it is going to shove her full speed into labor.  Some also believe that it has something to do with sperm causing contractions…anyway, it isn’t likely that your wife is going to go into labor because of sex.  However, take her up on it if she’s offering.  Again, this may be the last chance you get for a long time.  Please, though, don’t attempt to have intercourse if your wife is in labor and the water broke.  You would think that this would go without saying…but apparently it’s been done before because EVERY BOOK about pregnancy that I’ve read emphasizes this point.  You may be wondering why?  It could introduce bacteria into your wife’s body and to the baby as well.  It’s just better safe than sorry.

So, what can you expect after the baby is born?  Not much.  For a non-complicated vaginal delivery doctors ask a minimum of six weeks before resuming sexual intercourse.  Your wife’s doctor will likely wait until after her 6-week postpartum check up and then either give her the go-ahead or tell her to wait longer.  Now, just because your doctor said that your wife looks all healed up, it doesn’t mean that she is going to feel like sleeping with you.  I know.  Shocking.   A human being just emerged from her body 6 weeks ago and she bled for a few weeks after that…may have required stitches and walking may have been difficult for weeks and she doesn’t want to sleep with you.  Unbelievable, right?  On top of that, you probably have a baby who isn’t sleeping through the night and may be sleeping near your bed or even in your bed.  If you’re wife is nursing, she is probably extra tired.  Either way, your wife is still recovering.  And remember all those hormones that she experienced during pregnancy?  Well a whole new set has made itself at home and has likely lowered her sex-drive.  My best advice is DON’T PUSH IT.  Just because the doctor said, “you’re safe” doesn’t mean that she is ready.  Be patient.  Be patient.  Be patient.  If you push, whine, complain…etc…Chances are it will backfire on you.  Try to gently suggest other ways to be intimate and let her know how much you love her no matter what.

**A special word to wives on this post-partum sex matter.  Once you are feeling better physically, and your doctor has given you the go ahead, try to be understanding of your husband’s needs.  Chances are the last 9+ months have been really rough on him too.  He may have been so understanding and so patient with you from your very first headache until now.  But do try to be fair.  You may not feel like it emotionally and you may be exhausted.  But you are your husband’s only healthy outlet for this particular need.  Treat your husband with love, respect, and understanding that you so desire before, during, and after pregnancy.**

6.  Stretch Marks, extra skin, losing weight…After Pregnancy  So, you probably noticed sometime near the end of the 2nd trimester or in the 3rd trimester that your wife has some fun new stripes on her body.  They may be on her stomach, hips, legs, butt, breasts…You name it.  If it got bigger, it may have stretch marks.  Stretch marks are scars that develop when the skin stretches apart. Simple, right?  Well, they’re not so simple to prevent.  There are a lot of companies that claim to prevent stretch marks, but mostly it is in her genes and there isn’t much you can do to avoid getting them.  Some women get very few stretch marks…and others look like a zebra by the end of their pregnancy.  Chances are, if your wife has developed stretch marks, she is very self-consious about them.  You may not be super thrilled about them either.  Keep in mind, this isn’t something she has much control over.   Chances are that the marks will lighten up over time and will become less noticeable.  There are also procedures that can be done to help lessen the appearance of stretch marks (not really any over-the-counter creams…sorry) after you’re all done having babies.  If you meat with a dermatologist or plastic surgeon he/she can give you some tips about what would be good for your wife.  However, I would not recommend doing this on your on volition.  If you suggest surgery or some other procedure to your wife, it may make her feel even more self-consious.  Again, it is likely that these marks will fade significantly over time.  And there’s no use trying to do anything about them until you’re completely done having children…and procedures are never guaranteed to be a complete fix.

Extra skin often comes after pregnancy.  Oh man, it is no fun.  Your wife’s stomach may look like a sad, deflated balloon for a few weeks or months after the baby is born.  It is not fun for her to look at and may not be exciting for you either.  Over time, her stomach muscles and skin will start to tighten up.  Every woman’s body is different and the amount of weight she gained and the size of the baby can greatly impact how much extra skin she has lying around.  This is another one of those things that is best for you to not bring up.  Unless she is blind, this is something your wife may spend hours staring at in a mirror.  With healthy weight loss, a lot of the skin will tighten up.  But, for most women, her tummy isn’t likely to look like a model again.  Some, however, are very lucky and have been able to achieve amazing results with diet and exercise.  Genetics plays an important role in this as well.

Lastly, losing weight after pregnancy.  Well, she will probably lose a good portion of weight during labor and delivery and in the couple of weeks following as she sheds some pounds that are no longer necessary.  Most doctors do not recommend exercise for at least 6 weeks postpartum, so don’t expect her to get out and jog as soon as you leave the hospital.  With healthy diet and exercise your wife is likely to get back to a more reasonable size.  Now, this is where genetics come to play a role again.  Some women never get back to their pre-pregnancy weight.  For some, it takes years.  For some, nursing helps a great deal to shed the pounds as your body burns a lot of calories to create that milk.  For others, the body holds onto fat stores until they’re done nursing.  Keep in mind that it took 9 months to get to this weight.  It could take that long or more for your wife to get back to her pre-pregnancy weight…if ever.

Your wife’s body shape will likely be permanently altered.  The bones in your wife’s body started to soften up a little when she was pregnant to make room for the baby…so her hips may have grown out and may not go back down…etc.  So her pre-pregnancy jeans really might not fit ever again either.  It really depends from woman to woman.  Again, with healthy diet and exercise, her body should become a bit more normal.

Having a baby is a huge decision and will change your lives forever.  This is such a blessing.  Pregnancy can be a blessing too…but it can also be really stressful.  No matter how you look at, pregnancy brings on many changes.  I hope that this helps you to sort through some of those changes and learn how to be a good husband, friend, parent, or sibling to the pregnant lady in your life.

Who am I?

To say that raising children is hard to do would be an understatement.  Raising children is so much more than changing a few dirty diapers, a few first days of school, and lots of money.  In fact, the goal of raising children isn’t to raise children at all–it’s to raise responsible, well-rounded adults.  But how do we do this?  And what do we do when that part has already been accomplished?

As a new mom, I remember one of the hardest things to maintain was a healthy marriage.  That sounds pretty ridiculous as you would think that in order to make that baby, we must have had a healthy marriage, right?  Right.  But after Emery was born, my world became so completely and entirely about Emery.  I became a stay at home mom and the rest of the world just disappeared.  Including my husband.  I remember him feeling so left out of my life and asking to be a part of it again.  I did not understand what his needs were at all.  All I knew is that I was so completely worn out and any hugs and kisses I needed were being fulfilled during the day by Emery.  My body was, once again, not my own, but belonged to Emery as well.  I had simply forgotten that my previous co-partner of my body was my husband.  He had loved me long before Emery was even a thought in our minds.  I had forgotten that love and it took some time to regain that.

One thing that kids desperately need to become well-rounded adults are well-rounded parents.  This isn’t to say that kids of totally messed up families cannot become great adults…they can.  But their parents sure aren’t giving them their best possible chance in life.  Kids need parents who love each other, who can work together and demonstrate how to come to a compromise even when they don’t agree.  Kids long for the security of a loving family that will always be there to catch them when they fall.  When they feel secure at home, they can go out into the world feeling secure that “home” will still be there at the end of a day–pass or fail.

All too often I have witnessed parents deciding that being friends was more important.  I feel this happens especially in the teenage years.  Parents are afraid that their kids will rebel and run off if they have too many rules.  Moms want to be the “cool mom” that all the other kids go to for advice.  They want to be the go-to place for hang outs, parties…etc.  In these parents’ minds it would “make more sense for the kids to be getting drunk or having sex at my house when I am here to supervise than it would be for them to be doing it somewhere else.”  While I follow the reasoning, I disagree.

Kids don’t need more friends.  Kids have plenty of friends at school.  What they need are parents.  They need someone who loves them enough to say “no” even when their kids might hate them for it.  They need someone who loves them enough to protect them from the things that they don’t even realize will hurt them.  I remember reading a book by Dr. James Dobson, The Strong Willed Child, in which he describes a mother of a toddler allowing her son to just cruise down the middle of the street in his tricycle because it was just too hard to say, “no.”  She was tired of fighting and allowed this little guy to hit her and drive off.  While I can totally relate to the feeling of wanting to throw in the towel, I cannot imagine allowing my child to literally ride down the street risking his life because he feels like riding his tricycle that way.

Similarly, the friendly parent just doesn’t want to risk the hitting, pinching, and temper tantrums to say, “No” when kids are risking their lives by underage drinking, sex, drugs…etc.  Drinking in and of itself is not a terrible thing.  Jesus had wine.  The problem with teenagers is that they don’t really know when enough is enough.  They already lack so many skills to make responsible decisions.  Sure, let’s just throw some alcohol on it to help!  Really??  No.  So many young women are raped while drunk or otherwise sexually assaulted.  Kids get behind the wheel while drunk or high and kill themselves and/or others.  I’m sure that the mother of the child who killed himself while drunk would give anything to go back to the moment when she had a choice to say, “No.  You’re not going” and have an angry son with her than a dead one.  This may sound so harsh…and it is a terribly harsh reality.  And of course I’m not saying that it is the parents fault when a child is killed or hurt in these accidents.  The kids made those choices.  But as parents it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to keep these kids safe.

Now some parents go in the exact opposite direction.  I had a friend in school who was never even allowed to spend the night at anyone’s house ever.  NEVER.  Seriously.  Maybe when she was seven years old and they weren’t likely to be drinking or getting into trouble.  But she was never able to spend the night or go out with us.  Even our freshman year in college I came home for winter break and she had an 11:00 curfew.  I remember being surprised by this.  My brother had a classmate who was not allowed to play video games, watch TV, listen to the radio…everything modern, it seemed, was from Satan.  I mean, really…it was quite dramatic and very serious.  This type of parenting can have some serious consequences as well.  Sure, some kids turn out totally normal.  But most of them will go through either a period of total fear of the world and an inability to stand on their own two feet.  These are the kids that are 30 and still living with mommy who does their laundry and cooks all their meals…and some moms want it that way.  If they don’t do that, then they’ll often have a period of rebellion because the first night in the dorms is the first night they’ve experienced the chance to make a decision for themselves.

I remember growing up in the icy cold winters of Wisconsin.  I lived in a small town with a lot of surrounding rural area.  I remember having to drive through some country roads to get to school in the mornings and they would be covered in snow and ice.  There were many times that my car would start to fishtail (the back end of my front-wheel-drive car would loose traction on the road and start swerving back and forth).  Your gut reaction when your car starts to spin side-ways is to turn that wheel and slam on the breaks.  You want to gain back control of that vehicle before you hit someone, something, or go into the ditch.  However, if you do start spinning that wheel like crazy and slamming on the breaks, you’re really only going to spin out more.  The best thing to do is to carefully and gently guide the wheel and take your foot off the gas and lightly pump the breaks until you can find some traction.  I stopped myself from spinning out many times that way.  Maybe this isn’t the technical way to do it, but it sure worked for me and prevented lots of accidents.

The above style of parenting can be so much like that icy road.  Sometimes you feel like you need to slam on the breaks and turn that wheel to gain control.  But sometimes, the harder you grip that wheel right now, the closer you’re getting to the ditch later.  You need to take it easy, keep calm, and focus on just slowing down and finding some traction.

Now, I see no need to lie to your kids.  It can be a scary world out there.  There are people out there that you can’t trust.  There are kids in school that would not make good friends–“Bad company corrupts good morals” after all (1 Cor. 15:33).  There are movies and video games that may not have the best influence on your kids.  But you don’t want your kids to grow up in a home that is living in constant fear of what consequences there may be out there. Kids need room to dream a little.  They need room to make their mistakes while the consequences are still small and mom and dad are still there to catch them when they fall and wipe the tears away that will surely come.  But they don’t need you to be their friend.  They need you to be their mom or dad.

I remember a fellow blogger saying that she prays that her children get caught when they make mistakes.  This way they can change their behavior.  Right now, stealing a pen or pencil from a classmate might end up in some embarrassment and a time out or something, but stealing when they are adults can land them jail time and large fines.  Let’s let our kids get out there and dream…make some small mistakes…and correct them when they do.  There is such a fine balance to this and I just pray that God gives me the grace and wisdom to find that happy medium.

So, what about when you already have a well-rounded adult child?  For eighteen years or more, your life and schedule has been defined by this other person.  Now, that other person has a life of her own.  She is married with a family of her own.  What now?  Now who am I?

I can honestly say that a large part of me dreads this period in my life.  I love having a hand in the lives of my boys.  When they grow it is going to be so hard to remove that control and allow them to make decisions of their own.  I think that a part of me will feel useless and I won’t know what my role is anymore.  But, I can tell myself, “Remember when you wanted to be friends with them?  Now is your chance!”  My kids will no longer want my advice unless they specifically ask for it.  I will no longer be able to just go to them and say, “No, you’re not going here or there.”  That will be their decision.  The choices they and their families make will be their own and I will no longer have the right to interfere.  (This is, of course, unless the kids are totally going off the handle and putting people in danger…)

I believe, though, that so many parents struggle with this time.  You hear the term “monster-in-law” all the time for a reason.  There are so many mothers (and fathers) out there who just cannot let go.  They use the love of their child as manipulation to get what they want.  They try to divide their son or daughter’s marriage so he/she will come running back and fall into their arms of safety again.  They long to remember the times of childhood when their sweet baby fell asleep in their arms.  But as sad as it is, that time is OVER.

There are lots of Bible verses about leaving your family and being joined with your spouse and all, but there are just a few places where I feel like the consequences of not allowing your kids to leave are really spelled out.  The story that first comes to mind is the story of Jacob, Leah, Rachel and Laban.

Genesis 29  comes out of a totally different messed up family situation and Jacob finds himself in the land of his relative, Laban.  Jacob is thrilled to find a safe-haven to rest his head and begins to work for his uncle, Laban.  After about a month, Laban asks Jacob what he would like in return for all of his hard work.  Jacob has had his eye on Rachel, one of Laban’s daughters, for quite a while.  So, he says that he will work for Laban for seven whole years just if he can have Rachel as his wife.  (This was not uncommon to marry a relative back then…).  Laban says, “Sure…why not?  Better you than someone else.  It’s a deal.”

After seven long years the day finally comes for Rachel and Jacob to be wed.  Well…Laban decided to get sneaky on Jacob and switched out Rachel for Leah.  Keep in mind that women wore veils, there wasn’t electricity…etc. so Jacob didn’t notice that it wasn’t Rachel.  You can imagine his frustration when he woke up in the morning.  When he approached Laban he said that he couldn’t very well marry off the younger daughter before the older one and, “I’ll tell ya what.  Work another seven years and I’ll give you Rachel too.”  And you know what, Jacob did it.  He worked another seven years to get Rachel.

Let’s pause here for a moment.  This is a HUGE problem.  Maybe Laban thought he was being a good dad by marrying off his daughter, Leah.  But this could not have been a worse decision for Leah, Jacob, or Rachel.  Sure, Jacob must have been totally mortified when he woke up to see another woman in his bed.  But think about Leah too.  Jacob takes one look at her and screams.  Now that’s what you want to experience the morning after having sex with this guy.  Jacob screams and says, “What the heck are you doing here!?!?!?  Laban!!!!  What did you do to me!?!?!”  Poor Leah got the short end of the stick.  Not only did her father use her against her cousin, Jacob, who is now her husband.  But Jacob doesn’t even love her.  He doesn’t want her.  And think about how angry Rachel must be too.  Rachel has to watch Leah get pregnant from this guy that she is supposed to be married to.  I mean, could there be a more awkward love triangle?  A love triangle that none of the three really want to be in??   And who is to blame?  Laban…the father in law…the father of these two girls.

Of course the story doesn’t end there.  Laban still can’t keep his filthy hands out of the lives of his daughters and ends up causing Jacob to pick up with his whole family and try to escape.  They can stand it no longer and have to get out of Laban’s grip.  When, in all reality, Laban needed to get a grip!  A grip on reality.  All of these things that he thought he was doing to keep control of his family and what he wanted and thought was best are the very things that forced everything as far away from his control as possible.  Laban just could not let go.

There are so many parents who, in essence, do the same thing today.  Their kids grow up and get married and they just can’t keep their hands out of the marriage.  They ask probing questions hoping to find marital problems.  They talk badly about their child’s spouse to everyone including the grandkids.  They may even go as far as to admit that they want this family torn apart and cannot stand that they are together.  What’s sad is that many of these parents are successful at tearing their family apart.  The whole while their hoping to hold their own little family unit together, but what they are actually doing is tearing it apart and their going to be left with an angry and bitter child who cannot forgive them for ruining their marriage.

So, to the parents who say that they feel like they no longer have a role in their adult childrens’ lives, I would respond by saying, “Yes you do.”  You get to choose the role you’re going to take.  You can take the hands-on approach like Laban.  You can try to manipulate and control the decisions your adult children make.  You can load on the guilt trips.  You can set them up for complete failure and all the while say, “I just want what is best for you.”  Or, you can let go.  You can tell your kids that you love them and become their friend.  You can support them in their adult lives and endeavors and encourage them to be the best possible husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, father, mother, daughter, son, employee…etc that they can be.  You can continue to lead by example.  Live a life that you’d be proud for your kids to follow.  But let go of the control.  Keep out of the marriage (unless your child is in danger) and the marital problems.  Quit trying to raise your grand kids.  Allow your children the same opportunity that you longed to have–to raise your family your way, not your parents way.  The harder you grip, the less control you will have.

Happy Bithday, Levi!

It has been a whirlwind of a year, but Levi finally turned 1!  Oh wow.  *deep breath*  We made it!!  If you haven’t read about our first few months with Levi, you can read about our roller coaster ride here.

Anyway, Levi has been such a joy in my life and I am so grateful that he has been given as such a precious gift to us!  I cannot imagine my life without him.  So, I planned to throw a party that showed just how much I love him and wanted to invite as many people as possible to share in our joy!

Picking a Theme

Here is the basic idea of the invitation we did without any of the details.

Like most families, we are on a budget.  I just happen to have an amazingly talented graphic designer for a husband, so I get a lot of things that would normally be pricy for dirt cheap.  Customized items like invitations, game cards, signs/posters…etc all for pennies.  So, I must first say that I am so overwhelmingly thankful to have a husband who is willing to come home from his 40+ hour/week job and spend even more time creating masterpieces for me.  He is also very patient with my picky behavior.  I knew exactly what I wanted and would not settle for anything less.

Here is the trivia game that Josh designed for the party. It turned out great. The prizes were homemade mustache mugs made from a kit.

So, with that cost out of the way, I was able to take inventory of what I have.  One way that I like to do this is keep a Rubbermaid container of my party and craft supplies.  I threw a shower back in February for my dear friend, Jen.  I had some leftover mustaches that I used for an activity during her shower that I purchased from TheSweetPaperie on Etsy.  I thought they were just the cutest things so I decided that they would work well for a starting point for me.

Now I knew I wanted mustaches and just had to figure out what else to go with it.  I sifted through some pictures of mustache parties on Pinterest and found mostly weddings or other silly adult parties.  I did find, however, some fun colors that I knew I would want to use.  So, I started a PinBoard to help some friends and I organize an inspiration board.  I love places like Farrel’s and Main Street in Disneyland and PRESTO!  I had a theme!  I decided we would celebrate our “Little Man” (mustaches) and have an Olde Time Soda shop feel to our party.

Party Details

When I throw a party, I prefer to go all out.  I knew that I wanted a bash and would invite everyone and anyone who would want to come and celebrate with us.  This gets expensive, though.  So, being on a budget, I had some details to work out.

Outside of picking a date, the first thing to think of is the time of your party.  There is a tiny little sweet spot in the afternoon where you can host a party without having to provide food.  This little sweet spot is from 2-4.  Unfortunately for us, that is smack dab in the middle of Levi’s nap time.  So, we knew that wasn’t going to work for us.  We were either going to have to choose a lunch party or a dinner time party.  Lunch is too close to nap time and it also creates a really hectic morning of set up.  So we chose to do a late afternoon dinner from 3:00-6:00.

Now, planning a meal for 50+ people can be really expensive.  Especially when you think about doing the meat.  We thought about burgers and hot dogs, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted a hot grill running when we had kids running all over the place.  I also wanted the hubster to be able to enjoy the party…not stand in front of a grill all afternoon.  So, were a little nervous about what we would serve. We lucked out, though.  Back around Easter our local grocery store had pork shoulder roasts on sale for $.50/lb.  That’s right!  I was able to buy 10 lbs of meat for just $5!  (ps–I took advantage of this deal and bought 20 lbs and saved the other half for my 4th of July party this summer!)

Instead of freezing the shoulder roast and having to take it out a week ahead of time to thaw and cook…etc, I cooked it right away.   I made shredded pork for sandwiches.  That’s right.  I got out 3 crock pots and cooked 20 lbs of port in a couple days.  I put it all in zip lock bags and tossed ’em into the freezer to be taken out before the party!  This idea was probably the best thing I thought of doing.  Not only was it a great deal on food, but it saved me so much time the week of and day of the party.  I had zero cooking that I needed to do.  I simply tossed the meat back into a crock pot on low until it thawed out and then put it on warm throughout the party.  We had almost none left!  So, it must have tasted good.

Now, people can’t eat just pork sandwiches for dinner.  There are all kinds of sides to bring.  So, when a friend asked me what she could get for Levi’s birthday I said, “Actually, he really doesn’t need anything.  We could use a veggie tray or something, though, instead of a gift!’  And you know what??  She was more than happy to do that instead!  So, I asked a few people if they’d be willing to bring one of their famous sides!  Someone brought the buns, someone else brought the fruit…etc.  It worked out great!

Here are the cupcakes & strawberries I made. They ended up looking just adorable. I made the stache toppers by glueing the mustache cut outs I told you about to 1/2 of a bamboo skewer. Super simple!

So, so far I spent $5 on food (tehehe).  Then there are desserts.  I decided on cupcakes because it helps to prevent the use of more paper plates and forks..etc during a party.  It’s also way easier than cutting a cake out for that many people.  Now, I wanted to make the desserts in our theme colors.  Luckily, I used electric blue food coloring in Emery’s party last November.  So, I used it again in our buttercream for this party  (I made the buttercream frosting on Wednesday evening before the party –buttercream with no milk lasts a while.  So I skip out on the milk that is called for in the recipe I posted if I’m going to make it several days in advance).  I made the cupcakes (1 batch chocolate, 1 batch yellow, and 1 batch Gluten-Free chocolate) the day before the party.  When a friend asked what she could do that week to help, I handed her a box of cake mix and some cupcake liners and asked, “Do you mind making some cupcakes?  I can frost them, but it would be so helpful to have one less box to make!”  She was more than happy to do that.  I knew this was right up her alley too!  So, on Friday afternoon I frosted the cupcakes and put them in a box in the fridge.  I didn’t top them with their toppers or cherry candies until the hour or so before the party on Saturday.  I threw in some chocolate covered strawberries because they were on sale! 🙂

I think I spent a total of $20 for the food for the party including cake mixes, butter, powdered sugar…etc.  The bulk of my budget, though, went into the candy display.  I probably spent an additional $20 on candy.  I wanted to find some nostalgic candy to go into these jars.  I found Clark bars, Necco Wafers, tootsie rolls, hard candy sticks, suckers, licorice, and, of course–the candy probably held most responsible for cavities back in the day–Taffy!  I found most of my candy in random places like grocery stores, a little shop called Mast General Store in Greenville, SC (while on Vacation…), and used leftover candy from other parties that we have had.  You may recognize the big lollipops from Emery’s party back in November.  In order to avoid buying every single candy in sight, I set out some criteria.  It either had to A-Be in our theme colors or B-Be nostalgic.  That really limited the candy that was available and kept me from over-indulging :).  I placed all of the candy in Mason jars and apothecary jars and put them on our bookshelves.  I placed wrapping paper (from the Dollar Tree) behind the bookshelves to give it a more festive look.  The paper is still on the roll too!  So, I was able to just roll it back up to be used another day!

In the end, it was a beautiful day celebrating our little man.  The weather was perfect and everyone had a great time playing outside!  This is probably the last time I will do such a large birthday party for a long time, but I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to do it!

Thanks for reading!

Kristin

I dipped the strawberries in melting chocolate that I had on hand. I then used a toothpick to draw out the little mustaches on each. It was much easier than it looks…just very tedious.
We kept the favors, photo opp props, game cards, and paper bags (so people could take candy home 😉 ) on one table. Keeping everything together helped people to get all of these things done at one simple little stop.

I framed the dessert display with some tissue paper pom poms! They are fun, colorful, inexpensive and easy to make. I covered the table with a gray bed sheet that I had on hand.
Here is Levi’s Smash Cake. This was a gift from my dear friend Trish with Cicco Creations (CiccoCreations.com)

Who Wants a Smartphone Anyway?

I’ve always been a late bloomer, technologically speaking.  My first cell phone was when I was 17 years old.  It was a really cute, little blue and silver Samsung phone.  The screens were not yet in color and my ringtone was Fur Elise.  I loved that phone.  We have come a long way since 2002.  Phones are now capable of multitasking.  Think about it.  We can now talk on our phones at the same time that we send a text message, update our calendars, and send an email…practically all at the same time.

Unless you’re me.

I don’t have a smartphone.  I have a stupidphone.  I would call it an ignorantphone, but it has no hope for the future.  I have a Pantech Jest 2 slider phone.  I hated my “first generation” (I put that in quotes to emphasize how ridiculous it was for them to come out with a 2nd generation), so I’m not sure what inspired getting a 2nd generation.  I must admit, though, that it isn’t nearly as bad as the first.

So back to the smartphone.  I remember when the iPhone was first introduced back in 2007.  I wasn’t quite finished with college and I wasn’t sure what all the hype was about smartphones.  I actually don’t think very many people had smartphones yet…and if they did, they had a Blackberry.  (See this video if you want a little Blackberry humor).  I secretly wanted one, but they looked a little complicated (I had just gotten an iPod Nano…) and there was no way I could afford one.  I also didn’t want to “butt call” anyone.  (Do you remember that???)

Weeeeeellll…the iPhone 4S was born… The desire deepened exponentially when saw that it came in white.  It is seriously the most beautiful phone I’ve ever seen.  I need it.  They even have fun cases for it like this Gameboy Case or a Cassette Tape Case.  Oh how I want one.

Can I justify spending $30 a month on one, though??  How can I get an extra $30 a month to pay for that beautiful piece of technology??

I’d be happy to wait tables…mow lawns…do dishes…maybe even laundry (which I loathe & detest).  But, I don’t have to.  I’ve recommitted to working on my Pampered Chef business.  I simply have to be active each month (submit $150 in sales) to pay for the iPhone plan.  So, that’s what I am going to do.  I don’t plan to stop there, though.  I plan to maintain some level of consistency…

At this point in my life, I realize that I am unwilling to put in as much effort as it would take to push my business further and further…to be really making the big bucks.  My children and family are so important to me that I am simply unwilling to be gone more than one night a week from them.  As my boys get older and have more needs…like private school tuition, sports, music or whatever other hobbies they will enjoy, then I can do the work that it takes to push it up to the next level.

I am thankful to be able to make my business what I want it to be.  Whether that’s $30 a month for an iPhone…or more.

So, if you’re like me and you’ve been thinking, “Who wants a (submit desire here) anyway?”  (suggested examples: flexible schedule, vacation, new car, a house)  Then consider getting involved in direct sales.  Of course, my suggestion would be the Pampered Chef.  You really have nothing to lose.  The start-up costs are as little as $80–and chances are good that you’ll make that back, plus some, in your first show.  (I recommend trying 4 to see if you like it)  So…what do you have to lose??  Even if you end up hating it (and I doubt you will), you’ll have purchased a kit full of great products that you get to keep, have made money, and have earned more free products.  Doesn’t sound bad to me.

If you’re not like me and you don’t have any unfulfilled desires, you can always contribute to mine by booking a fun show.  Even if you live super far away–it’s OK.  You can book one online.  What’s in it for you??  Well, you get lots of free products of your choice.  Discounts for a year, free shipping, good food, a fun night with friends…You can’t go wrong.

Visit my Personal Website for more information. I’ll let you know when I get my iPhone. 🙂

Update-Cloth Diapers

If you have been curious about what cloth diapering is like, then it might be best to visit my previous post.  This is simply an update about some diapers that I had purchased and had not yet gotten a chance to use them.

I had mentioned, in my previous post, that if I was to try some new diapers again that I would go with the Best Bottom Diapers or the bumGenius! Flip System.  When I wrote this post I was pregnant with my 2nd son, Levi.  My 2-year old was still in diapers and using our bumGenius! All-In-One One Size diapers and they were literally falling apart well-loved.  (If you read my previous post, you’ll read some of the reasons why that is)  I decided I’d better invest in a few more diapers for our son, Levi.  So, I purchased some of the two diapers mentioned above.  Here is what I’ve found.

The Best Bottom Diapers are super cute and come in all kinds of fun colors and designs including a fun cow print.  We ordered “Chunky Monkey”.  So, more importantly, how do they work??  Best Bottom Diapers are a pocket-type diaper.  This means that the cotton inside and the water-proof outside are separable.  Let’s go through the pros & cons of this specific diaper.

First off, this diaper washes & dries very quickly.  This is a great help from the All-in-One diapers.  During wintery or windy days, when hanging my diapers out on the line to dry would be very inconvenient, I have been able to just put them inside on a compact clothes drying rack (like this).  It does not take very long at all to dry.  Why is it so important that diapers dry so quickly??  Well, there’s a faster turnover, so you don’t necessarily have to invest in as many diapers.

Another great thing about this diaper is that the insert actually snaps inside the diaper cover.  This is so wonderful compared to other pocket diapers that can tend to move around with a wiggly baby.  The snaps are sturdy and keep the absorbent pad in place.

Speaking of absorbent pads–this pad is super absorbent.  We purchased the basic “Stay Dry” insert, so I can’t really say how absorbent the hemp ones are, but the “Stay Dry” is really great…and less expensive.

As far as cost goes, I would say that these are really a fair price.  We purchased the smallest package which included 3 shells and 9 inserts.  Do I think this is enough??  No.  If I had ONLY this diaper for my kiddo, I would be realistic and purchase their largest package.  I am saying this completely honestly.  Nicki’s Diapers has NOTHING to do with my posts and I have never been paid for any of my endorsements as to the quality of their products.  I am simply saying this from the last 3 years worth of cloth-diapering experience. The more you have, the less you’ll have to do laundry.  If you’re headed for your first child, it may not seem like a big deal, but it is nice to not have to do a ton of laundry…and when you find yourself down to 1 or 2 inserts and a full diaper pail, you’ll wish you had purchased more.

Keep in mind how many inserts you’ll need for each weight.  The small size goes from birth-14 lbs, Medium goes from 11-22 lbs, and Large is 16-35+.  Newborns tend to need their diapers changed very frequently.  My second son needed a diaper change 3-4 times a night for the first couple months.  While this is pretty unusual, I want you to realize that it can happen.  Most newborns get their diapers changed once every couple hours…and sometimes more.  It isn’t that unusual for them to go immediately after you change a diaper.  I say this because you’re going to be one sad mama (or daddy) when you go through all of your diapers within a day.  24 inserts should last a newborn about 2 days…maybe 3.  But, take heart!  This phase doesn’t last forever.  Pretty soon you’ll be changing diapers every 4 or 5 hours and, hopefully, not at all at night.  My little guy weighed over 14 lbs by his 4 month visit and my oldest was over 10 lbs by the end of his first month.  So know that they will be moving from one size to the next fairly quickly.  You may be considering that it might be more cost-effective to hang out in disposable diapers until they reach a weight/size where they’ll hang out for a while.  Don’t be fooled.  Disposables, even the store-brand, are very expensive and you’ll go through them really quickly.  So don’t think you’ll save anything that way.  I would not consider myself to be very “granola” (no offense to those of you who are…you know who you are), so I would have no qualms with having a diaper raffle baby shower and asking specifically for sizes 1-2 to get you through those first few months as you head into a size medium if you’re trying to save a few bucks.

OK…on with the PROS.  These diapers are quick and easy to use.  They don’t take a rocket scientist to figure them out.  (Where did that saying come from, anyway?  Why do rocket scientists seem to know how to do EVERYthing??  I digress…)  I think I’ve really hit everything.

So what stinks about them??  Well, like most cloth diapers, they do kinda stink sometimes…but you can strip them when necessary.  Check out my previous post to get more info on stripping diapers.  If you have a size that is too big, you might end up with some messes…so make sure they’re in an appropriate size.  They’re not quite as quick of a change as an All-in-One, One Size diaper, but, again, they’re not complicated either.  Just be prepared to get pee on your hands…and maybe poop sometimes too.  Really, that’s it.  I can’t think of anything bad about them.

Bottom line:  Would I recommend buying these diapers??  Absolutely.

So, the bumGenius! Flip system… OK.  So these are OK and come in really cute colors.  I really like their concept, but if they attached inside the diaper, they’d be a lot better.  You can read a little bit about them on their site, but they have tried to combine the All-in-One, One Size diaper into a pocket diaper.  Again, I really love this concept.  It makes the investment way easier on the wallet because you don’t need to buy 24 of each insert size. (YAY!)  The insert adjusts in size by folding at the labeled creases.  Again, this is easier to understand if you go to the site and look at the description.  The shell is a one-size fits all as well.  If they found a better way to keep the inserts in place, I would LOVE this diaper.  But honestly, the insert really wiggled around until my little guy was big enough to just put it at the large setting.  Other than the wiggly insert, I would say that it carries on the pros as the previous diaper.  They dry quickly, easy to wash, easy to use…just not as easy as the Best Bottom diaper.  Sorry, bumGenius!.

Bottom line: Would I recommend buying these diapers??  Well…that’s more complicated.  I’d ask you more questions about your budget and ability to purchase more inserts…etc.  So, I wouldn’t say to absolutely NOT buy them and I wouldn’t say they’re PERFECT either.  It just depends, but they’re not my favorite.  Are we still using them?  Of course.  I bought ’em, so I’m keeping ‘ em!

So, of the 3 types of cloth diapers that I own, which would I purchase again?  If I had no financial constraints, I’d purchase the bumGenius! Organic One-Size AIO and lots of ’em.  I originally bought them with Velcro, but I would definitely purchase them with snaps.  Why??  they’re just so darn easy to use.  There is nothing special that you have to do.  The only con is that they take a long time to dry…which is why I’d buy so many of them.  In the real world, knowing that most of us have financial constraints, I would purchase the Best Bottom Diaper…hands down!  I truly believe that Nicki’s Diapers got it right with a fair balance between ease of use, ease of care, and ease on the wallet.

Good luck!  I’d love to hear any of your questions or comments on cloth diapering.  Remember, it is way easier than it sounds and will save you a TON of money in the end.  I would recommend cloth diapering to any family on a budget.