Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lip Ties and Tongue Ties

Four months ago, I had never heard of a lip tie or a tongue tie. I knew that I had trouble nursing, but all of my meetings and research simply pointed to a colicky baby and a strong letdown. I scoured the entire internet, talked with lots of ladies, and kept pushing forward.

Then one day while Piper was napping (she was 9 months old and no longer nursing), I was reading through some recent research a friend had posted on lip ties and tongue ties. I always skipped these posts before, because my baby didn't have one. While reading through this article, something jumped inside of me. Call it Mother's Intuition or the Holy Spirit, but I knew at that moment. I said out loud "Piper has this!". I looked through pictures and read more until Piper woke up. I checked her mouth. This is what I saw...
Everything in me broke at that moment. All of the pain, disappointment, and failure flooded me again. I burst into tears. Why didn't I know!? Why had no one told me? If I would have known and fixed it, could she still be nursing? Was she in pain? What now?

I called our lactation consultant and went in to see her. She confirmed it, and apologized for not noticing earlier. She couldn't have, she didn't know either. She discovered that Piper also had a slight posterior tongue tie too, meaning that her tongue was attached a little too tightly and far forward. She referred me to a dentist who does a laser procedure to release both. My mentality was "do it now, fix it now". I probably felt this way out of guilt and regret too, just for not knowing.

I had also heard that tongue ties and lip ties can cause trouble for child in nursing, eating, speaking, and they can contribute to sleep apnea and behavioral disorders. I wasn't about to risk my child developing ADHD because of a lip tie. We scheduled with the dentist as soon as possible.

When the day came, I did my best not to cry. I didn't know what to expect- holding her down for the laser procedure? Hurting her? Not doing it? The dentist confirmed it and said that he could do the procedure, but it was elective. He knew how to release the ties, but he had no knowledge of lip ties or tongue ties and could no diagnose them or give us any information of what would happen if we didn't do it. He simply said "if you want it, I can do it". We agreed to move forward anyway. And then came the kicker- because she was so much older and stronger, she would need to be sedated for the procedure. So we left our information and waited for a call from the office to schedule us when their anesthesiologist would be in.

You see, when a tongue tie or lip tie is found within the first days or weeks of a baby's life, it can be snipped quickly without any medicine and little pain. May times, a midwife or someone at the hospital can do it. Once they get bigger and can fight it, it becomes dangerous and difficult.

The doctor called us a few weeks before the appointment to answer questions and talk about the procedure. There are still risks to sedation, and I wasn't really comfortable with my 18lb infant undergoing anesthesia.  At that moment I also found out that she was not allowed to eat ANYTHING for 6 hours prior to her appointment. If you know my child, you know she can't NOT eat. This changed my mind. I didn't think it was worth it. The thought of holding her off from any form of food until 12:30pm.... that sounds like pure torture for both of us. She can still pucker her lips well, we don't have nursing issues, she eats and babbles like any other baby. she clicks and sticks out her tongue. I talked with Daniel.

A few days before our appointment, I called and cancelled it. Was I failing as a Mom again? It didn't feel right to go through with it right now. I then ran into our lactation consultant and told her about our decision. She reassured me that she wouldn't do it on a 1-year-old either- that it was a bad age. She said as a newborn or an older child it would be easier. We decided to wait until Piper is older so we can explain to her why she can't eat before and why we have to do it (if we do!). Daniel was never sure of the procedure in the first place, wondering if the ties would really affect her in the future. I was too cloudy-minded and guilt-ridden and just wanted to fix the "problem" ASAP without really thinking much about it.

We will wait to see if the lip tie and tongue tie affect her further. The lip tie is pretty severely attached, so we are expecting orthodontic issues at the least. As she begins to talk, we will watch her closely. I'm thinking in another year or two we will know if the procedure needs to be done (she is 1 year old now).

This is simply our story and our decision- I am not giving an medical advice here. I have many friends who went through with the procedure and are so glad they did. Many of these women also still breastfeed- which was a huge factor in us NOT releasing it right now (I don't breastfeed anymore). I hope this gives you some insight into making your decision and doing what is best for your family.

And when you have a newborn, PLEASE see a lactation consultant and get their tongue and lips checked! In the long run, it could save you a ton of pain and suffering later on!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tips for Living Frugally

I know, I know... there is tons of information out there about how to live on less money, get out of debt, spend more wisely, etc. But I wanted to share with you a few ways that have personally helped me. And I will not admit to being a pro at it, sometimes the budget just "doesn't work".... ya know? Anyway, here are a few pointers for those of you starting to take charge of your finances and you life!

1. Start with a cash budget. This is easier than it sounds, although it may take a few weeks to get it down. Read my post here on the Cash Flow System. If you know exactly the amount of cash you have to spend, you are more likely to hold onto it longer and make wiser decisions when letting it go. Much different than mindlessly swiping your credit card or pushing "buy" on Amazon or Paypal since your information is already saved! That's where I get into trouble.. I love knowing how much I have to spend and not answering all the bank statement questions for my husband...

2. Bring down house costs. For example, don't leave the water running, knock up the temperature when you leave the house, unplug appliances, hand wash dishes, etc. It doesn't seem like much- except a little annoying- but it can actually make a significant difference on your monthly bill. Give it a try.

3. Shop Groupon, Living Social, Deal Chicken, etc. Always check these places first when you are planning a vacation, buying electronics, printing picture books or canvases, getting a massage... we have saved a good amount of money booking hotels through Living Social and they are nicer than we would usually stay in! I also just bought a deal for $70 worth of photo items from Picaboo for $12.... then I shared it on Facebook, 3 of my friends purchased it, and I got it for FREE. I will be using it for Christmas cards and photo books I have ready and waiting! Be sure to check expiration dates- you don't want to buy it and not use it in time!

4. Start a Cash Saving Jar. Some people don't like this (like my husband) because it is cash in the house. That's fine, but find a way to keep track of a little "secret savings". I'll usually stash leftover dollar bills from my cash budget or money from gifts. I try to follow this exactly because it's a fun challenge and you know exactly how much you have! I think I only got to about Week 11 and then spent it. Then to week 5 and spent it. But I keep starting over!

5. Save your change.  This little piggy can hold up to $100 when it's full! Right now it says Hawaii Fund because that was the last thing we used it for... in 2011. But every bit helped! And now I just continue to fill and and empty it as I want. I will usually pull this money out around holidays or my husband's birthday. It's nice to have that extra cushion that hasn't touched your budget or bank account! Although, If you are using a cash flow system, you tend to use every dollar and dime you find. So it can still be a stretch filling this. It doesn't hurt to try though!

6. Shop off-season. Because many of us live in AZ, this is an easy thing to do. All the new school year and fall clothes come out in August and September- with pants and long sleeves. And we're over here trying not to melt in our shorts and tank tops! It's easy to walk into Target, Kohl's, JCPenney, Old Navy, etc. and find clearance prices on things you could wear RIGHT NOW. It's also really easy to do this for baby and children clothes, since they *generally* follow the typical size for their age. I got Pip a bathing suit last year for this summer for about $2.50 since it was considered 'last season'. On that note...

7. Only Shop Clearance Racks. My sister is the best at holding me accountable to this. Once we were shopping together and I showed her an adorable dress I picked up. She said "it's cute, but it's not on sale. I already looked at it and it wasn't on a clearance rack. Put it down". I had been caught! If you don't even look at the regular racks, you don't know what you're missing. They'll make it to the clearance racks soon enough. And clearance for me is anything below $10. If it's a shirt or dress still looming around $15, I try to wait it out and go back later.

8. Shop On Holidays or Sale Days. Since we now have a gazillion holidays in America, it's pretty easy to wait for the next holiday. Old Navy recently had their annual denim sale right before Labor Day where jeans are on sale between $15-25 for adults, $10 for kids. We walked out of there with 2 pairs of jeans, a pair of hiking pants and a shirt for my husband, and 2 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of shorts for me, for about $105. Score.

9. Use Coupons and Free Gift Cards. I get these babies in the mail often. They're my favorite. I created a game for myself. Spend some time in the store shopping all the clearance stuff, and spend as close to the $10 as possible, without going over. I usually use these to buy gifts to stock up for birthdays or holidays, or I've let Pip pick out a little toy before. Last time, I bought 2 pairs of sunglasses and a pair of earrings (all clearance, of course), and my total came to $9.57! The cashier was amazed. She also told me that my total savings for all the items was $72. It was actually more, considering that it was all FREE for me! I also get a free panty from Victoria's Secret often, and I always use those! Most of them now have $10 off a bra attached too. I got lucky last time I went it and got a free panty and 2 bras for about $30 after my coupons!

10. Don't Impulse Buy. Just be patient. If you go home and can't stop thinking about it for 3 days, then get your butt back to the store and buy it. That's my rule. If it's still there, it's meant to be! I've been watching this great twin sized blanket at Target that has been on sale for weeks, but hasn't dropped yet. I'm not willing to pay more than $20 for it, so I've let it go, but I keep checking just in case. When it drops, I'm ready, but I don't NEED it right now. Something else that helps is writing a list of all the things you want when you "wanter" goes off. Sometimes I have a hefty list, but as the days and weeks go by, I don't really want or need those items anymore. It's worked wonders!

11. Pinterest. Make all your Christmas gifts, creative meals, activities ideas, toys, dates... you name it!If you actually take the time to do it, you will feel great and save money! There will be a post on this in the next few months... until then, enjoy my Things I've Done Board.

12. Do a Clothing Swap. BEST.IDEA.EVER. I just finished my second clothing swap of the year. It's perfect- one is April as the weather changes, and one in September. It's like getting rid of all your unworn clothes and sprucing up your wardrobe for FREE! Everyone brings their stuff to donate, you spread it all out, and go at it- picking and trying things as you go. Even if you leave with only a few good items, you got rid of things you weren't wearing and got 'new' clothes for free! There is nothing better. Read my post on the first clothing swap we did in April. I will probably arrange a swap twice a year for the rest of my life.

13. Build/Make Your Own House Decor. Check out my links here and here for some home projects that I have done myself! Saved alot of money and made it feel more personal!

14. Craigslist and Consignment. This is not one that I am very good at yet, but my friend Krisann  is a pro! She shops stores and websites like crazy to find exactly what she wants without compromising price or quality. Check out her post here on how to work craigslist, and here on how to cosign your clothing!

(From Oh Krisann!)
15. Meal Plan. Again, it takes a little time and effort, but it helps. You then know exactly what you need at the store, how much, and can account for leftovers for lunches. Try tricks like using only 1/2 pound of ground beef when it calls for 1 pound- try adding more fillers like beans or rice. Buy veggies in bulk when they're on sale and chop and freeze them. I always have a bag of chopped onions and green bell peppers in my freezer that I pull out a few times a week for meals. Make your own meal planner here.

16. Make your own house cleaners. A little vinegar and baking soda can go a long way! Cheaper, cleaner, and safer for those of us with little crawlers and walkers. Check Pinterest for a gazillion different ideas and recipes.

17. Create a gift basket. By a gift basket, I mean a basket fun of little trinkets and gifts that you always have on hand for different occasions. They can be saved up for Christmas and birthdays, or used as little thank you gifts. I am determined to start buying little things as I see them on sale to add to this basket. Here it is so far!

18. Pick Names for Christmas. Our family has gotten so big in the past few years that we have started to do this every year for Christmas and it works great! We don't include our parents or the grandkids yet, since they can be happy with a cheap toy from each other. We usually have a $25 limit for each person, and then we plan a night before Christmas to get together, exchange gifts, and open in front of everyone. It's fun and simple, and something that we all really look forward to!

Well there it is. Hope these ideas stir up some creativity in you! Good luck, and be frugal!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Be Who You Want to Attract

I am constantly shocked and discouraged by the amount of inappropriate pictures posted on Facebook and Instagram. Let me explain to you what "inappropriate" means to me- it is a picture that could be categorized as "sexy" and conveys sexual thoughts and ideas by the viewer. This could be a skimpy bathing suit, a very undressed female (or male), a couple laying in bed, and even some kissing pictures (bedroom-only type!).

Yes, you can call me prude. You're probably right. But as the wife of a youth pastor, we are constantly and painstakingly teaching young girls to guard their hearts and their bodies, and teaching young men to respect females and learn to love them for who they are.

Men are physical- we know this. They are attracted to the female body and all that it holds. This is RIGHT within the confines of marriage. Before marriage, these men need to treat these women as if they could be someone else's wife. When my husband and I were dating, he was very careful about "how far" we went because he didn't want to take anything away from my future husband (if it wasn't going to be him!). THIS is how a man should treat a woman.

Women don't help this. Many times they do nothing to help these men stay pure in thought and action. Many times they encourage the negative attention because they are flaunting themselves for all they believe they are- a pretty face on a sexy body. If you want to marry a good guy, then why do you keep throwing yourself to the shallow ones? Now, don't get me wrong, I'm sure the Godly guys like a sexy picture just as much as anyone else, but they aren't going to look at it and say "wow, I bet she'd be a great wife".

Be who you want to attract. 

As the mother of a young daughter, I have become even more impassioned on this subject. My daughter's looks speak nothing of her self-worth, and I hope they never will. I will teach her that she can be beautiful and attractive without being "slutty" or "easy". The best compliment I ever received from a boy in high school was "you're like the prettiest girl here, in a very covered-up way". That gave me all the confidence I will ever need.

I appreciate the human body. It is amazing and strong and beautiful. Seeing a healthy and hard working body can be encouraging, especially for someone who has worked so hard on their fitness. But that doesn't mean you need to prance around in undergarments and show sex-hungry guys something that should be cherished by you and your husband. You ARE beautiful and sexy- you don't need to prove it to anyone.

I understand that I can flip on my tv, walk out the door, or drive down the street and see something on a billboard or a commercial that I don't like. I have no control over this, and I never will. Sex sells. But the things I do have a say in- my daughter's life, youth girls, friends... you better believe that I will speak up for them and stand for a better self-worth for them than they are.

And to be clear, someone like me would not be "hating" on your picture with jealousy, it's because I care. The saying "she's just jealous" is often VERY wrong. It is used as a poor and uneducated excuse for a female to not feel convicted when she is called out on something that may be destructive in her life.

So instead of getting angry or making excuses when someone speaks into your life, take a moment to step back and assess the situation. Is this person a friend? Do they care about your well-being? Is the picture (or statement, comment, issue) inappropriate? Does it portray you as loving yourself and worthy of more?

Care about yourself. And be who you want to attract.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Our First Year- 14 Lessons I've Learned

 Today I have a one-year-old.


One year ago today I was in a hospital bed struggling to deliver my baby after 4 long days of labor and a couple transfers. It was the day that my life would change forever. It gave me a new job, a new identity, and a new meaning to life.

Over the past year of parenthood, I have discovered a few things that I would love to share with other young mothers. Lessons that I have learned both the easy and the hard way- lessons that pushed me to the end of myself and into the arms of our Savior. Some are funny, some are tough. But if you can take a little bit of advice or encouragement from it, that makes it all worth it.

Body image isn't everything. I've written on this before in my Scars and Flaws post. In this life, we have been tricked into thinking that how we look determines who we are. That if you are overweight, you must not care about yourself. That if you are too done up, you're vain. Well let me tell you ladies, when you come out of the battlefield of labor with stretch marks, bloating, baby weight, and multiple other things, it's not very pretty. And on top of that, you jump into feedings every 2 hours (or less if you're lucky), no sleep, nerves that are completely fried, and a small human who you must keep alive. Motherhood is fun, isn't it? So let me tell you, give yourself a break. I'm still not to my "pre-baby weight" at a year post-partum. And sometimes I would rather take a nap with her that workout. Or introduce her to her first ice cream cone. Or have a drink with my husband. I want to be me. The "perfect body" will come with time, whether that means losing weight or just accepting myself as I am. I am a mother now, and my main priority is keeping this little human alive and nurturing her as she grows.
A pink ball for Uncle Trev.
 Get in a mommy group ASAP. I went to my first mommy group at 37 weeks pregnant. I didn't go to another group until she was about 5 weeks old, and even that was hard. You're afraid that you won't be able to calm your baby when she cries, that breastfeeding in front of everyone will be embarrassing, that you'll forget a bottle or a pacifier or a diaper. NEWSFLASH- the mommies don't care! We're all dealing with the same fears and insecurities. Sometimes yelling at each other over our crying babies were the best conversations we had. We swap advice and tips, we check in on each other and how the sleeping is going. We share food, laughter, tears (LOTS of tears) and encouragement. We all feel like the worse mom in the world at some point, and when we finally conquer at something, the rest are proud and excited! My group of mommy friends is so diverse. One is a military mom. One is a photographer. One is a pageant queen. One is a teacher. One is a nutritionist. One knows everything about wine you would ever want to know! A handful of us are "just" stay-at-home-moms. Some have degrees, others don't. Some are single. Some are in their twenties, and some are nearing 40. We don't have much in common besides the fact that we are all new mothers and we all need each other. Ladies, you NEED mommy friends.

Mother's Intuition is a REAL thing. We know our babies better than anyone else. When something happens and you feel uneasy, trust yourself. Yes, sometimes you might just be acting like an overbearing fearful mom, and other times you just might be plain RIGHT. I was reading an article on lip ties and tongue ties a few months back while Piper was sleeping. It hit me like a ton of blocks: PIPER HAS THIS! I had never checked- it never even crossed my mind. But I KNEW. When she woke up, I checked her mouth. Yep, I was right. She had both a tongue tie and a lip tie (more on this in a later post). If you feel uneasy, do your research, talk to other moms, and go from there. But trust your intuition- God gave it to us for a reason!
Hot pink everything!
Saying NO is hard. I'm talking about discipline here. My child has reached the age where we have to tell her not to open and close cabinets, pull on cords, hit the dogs, eat the dog food, climb on the rocking chair, bang on the tv.....and on and on the list goes. As much as I have always believed that I would be a strict and no-nonsense mom, it's not easy to say no. It's hard to be having a fun and playful day, and then have to switch to discipline. I don't like discipline, but in order to have the well-behaved children and adults that we are responsible to raise, we must be consistent. Children thrive within boundaries and it is very rare that they are "too young" to understand. My husband says "we can spend 3 days breaking the habit now, or 3 years trying to correct her all the time". I want children that are nice to be around. I'll sacrifice a few days of hard discipline for a life time of good behavior. 

Stop comparing yourself to everyone else. And stop judging them too. Your baby is different than any other baby, and you are different than any other mom. God has chosen YOU to parent your child, so it's hard to do it wrong. Take the advice that fits with your life, philosophy, and family. Leave the rest for someone else. My mother recently told me that the moment you accept this, your child starts school. Then it starts all over- there's the pretty mom, the working mom, the fun mom, the fit mom, the cupcake mom. Some give all, some give nothing, and there's lots in between. DO what works for you. The only person you have to answer to is your husband and your God. Be confident in yourself and who you are!
There is always more to give. This is hard to believe, but let me remind you of something... remember when baby was brand new and you finally sunk into bed after a full day up with  cranky baby... you finally closed your eyes and you were sure they would never open. Your body ached with tiredness and you felt like you may not move for days. Then the baby cries out. What happens? You eyes pop open and you're out of bed faster than a bolt of lightning. Remember that? I never liked the saying "God never gives us more than we can handle" because it's untrue. I believe that God ALWAYS gives us more than we can handle because that's when we choose to lean on him, the ultimate giver. So when you feel like you can't go on, just remember that you can. Keep giving, and he'll keep filling you up again.

Her first time playing at a splash pad = SUCCESS!
Hurting for your children is no joke. I have already experienced this once, and I know this is just the beginning. Something that I feel is hurting my child (even though she doesn't understand) and I have no control over it. My little sister, and Piper's second favorite person in the world, moved across the world last month. It tore my heart to see her go (and she is now a military wife- so she may always be away from us!), but I also hurt for my child. I knew she would no longer see Hahna coming into her room in the morning. No longer cuddle on the couch and take pictures with her. She wouldn't reach for Hahna anymore. I love my sister and my daughter both so much, that I my heart swelled because of their bond. This was the first time that I felt like my daughter may be missing something amazing in her life. And on that same note...

I can't protect her from everything. Not only can I not protect her from hurt, but I can't protect her physically all the time either. She will get hurt in life- emotionally, physically, spiritually. She will endure death and disease, poverty and hate. I wish I could put her in a little bubble and keep her in her bedroom all the time. I wish she would always stay as pure and innocent as she is right now. But that's not what life is about. She needs to experience things and learn for herself. She needs to become independent, and lean on God, not on me. Right now, this lesson is only coming in the form of tummy aches, bumps and bruises. And even those are hard. I'm afraid this will be a lesson for the rest of my life.

The transparent wrapping paper from Dave and Remy!
 Learn to learn at almost everything. She has pooped through her clothes at church, tried to undress me in front of strangers, splashed bath water everywhere, thrown food everywhere, slept and not slept, and many more things. Daniel and I have learned to laugh at the small things that she is discovering as she experiences life. Sometimes if we don't laugh, we'll cry. So we try to laugh. It also helps to bring light and joy into our home.

You CAN still have a life with a baby. I didn't say it was the same life. Just A life. You will get to the point where you can leave the baby with family or with a sister and go on a hot date. You will figure out how to make baby nap in a carrier while on vacation. You will still go to parties, weddings, and church events (with or without baby!). Life will be different, but this IS your life now. It will never be dull or boring again- it is full of surprises and each step holds something new. You will learn to be parents at certain times, and lovers at others. Your relationships will change. Some may take more work, others you will fall into very naturally. This new life will be your life from now on- and it will feel normal very soon.
Yes, those are mini-plush Star Wars characters and a light saber. Thanks to Uncle Randy. And she's wearing her new Keens from Grandma and Paps!
Don't sweat the small stuff. There's no use crying or spilled milk. Unless it's breast milk- then you have my permission to let the rivers flow. Your dirty kitchen, 3-day-old hair, unmade bed... they won't matter years from now. Yes, I still try to keep a nice home and tidy life, but sometimes I just need to cuddle my girl at bedtime instead of leaving quickly to get the dishes done.

Do sweat the small stuff. I know, I just said to NOT sweat it. By this small stuff, I mean the things that baby does. Remember that when she smiles, she will never NOT know how to smile again. She will never NOT crawl or NOT walk again. Or NOT have teeth! I have tried to savor and cherish every tiny milestone- even if it seemed insignificant. I have watched her form countless hours over the last year as she grows and changes, and although I didn't miss one thing, I still feel like I did because she changed so fast! Don't ignore these little ones, because before we know it they are grown!

I don't remember life before baby. After I gave birth, I hated this saying. I DEFINITELY remembered life before her. It included lots of SLEEP, fun vacations, late nights, junk food, impromptu date nights, camping, adventures.... you name it. I remembered! And I didn't appreciate that this little person had taken that all away from us so quickly. I struggled with this. But as she grew older and began to respond to us, smile, crawl, laugh, play... we suddenly couldn't remember what we DID before her. Now, weeknights are filled with family dinners, walks in the park, bath time, playing on the floor with toys, laughter, exploring, and cuddles. What did we do before her? Watch TV? Weekends consist of family chores, maybe some shopping, more playing, more eating, and Sunday naps-for all of us. The only thing I can remember from weekends before was going out to eat! What DID we do?! As I sit here today, I finally understand this saying and I have to concur.  

We told everyone there was no need for presents- and this is what happened!
There is nothing like seeing life through a child's eyes. There is nothing like seeing life through a child's eyes! Have you ever watched their face as they touch water for the first time? Or sit in grass? Or hear a dog bark or an airplane fly overhead? The first time they hear the door open and realize that Dada is home from work. There are so many more that I can't list them all! I have so much more appreciation, patience, and joy for life as I watch her experience things for the first time. Every sight and sound becomes magical. I have never loved zoos and aquariums so much! I feel overwhelmed that I get to experience life for the first time again, through my daughter's eyes.

What I life I have. As I sit here now, I don't want to take another moment for granted. I have been given the most beautiful and unique gift, and I get to live life with her! Lucky Me.

Happy Birthday Pip. Mommy would be lost without you.

P.S. Here is our good friend and worship pastor, Randy (see Star Wars picture above), singing a song that he wrote for Piper around Christmas. This song perfectly embodies the way this little girl has mesmerized and changed all of us over the last year. Enjoy- and tell me what you think.

Friday, September 13, 2013

DIY Shelves and Headboard!

What have I been up to lately? Well, just a little bit of house reno, selling a few things, building a few things... you know. When my friends were over earlier this week, they loved my new shelves and headboard! So I decided to write a little post about how I did them.

First of all, these are SUPER easy and SUPER cheap. My two shelves cost about... $30. maybe less. And that's just because I also had to buy the screws and nails. But now I have them, so the next set will be even cheaper!

First, choose what size shelves you want. 4ft? 10ft? I chose to have two 5ft shelves to not overwhelm my wall. To make it cheapest and easiest, I went to Home Depot and bought two 10ft boards (for the bottom and back of the shelves) that were 1X4s, and then one 10ft board that was a 1x2 (for the front lip). I then had the wood cutting guys (that's my construction talk) cut my boards straight in half to give me that materials for two shelves. It was free- I read that they may start charging after the 4th or 5th cut. The larger boards were $6-7 a piece, and the smaller one was $2-3. Best of all, they fit in my car! In the front seat, with the seat leaned back. Do whatcha gotta do!

 Then I took them home and started putting them together (during naptime, of course). Basically, all you have to do is put about 4 screws in the back to take the larger boards together, and then use small wood nails to tack the front lip on. My husband actually had to help because I wasn't strong enough to use the drill...
 After putting them together (and quickly), I sanded a few spots that looked rough so that there weren't splinters sticking out. Since it's on the wall, I'm not too concerned with little hands touching it and getting hurt, so just enough for good looks.

Then I used my leftover stain from my table project and applied one coat to the entire thing (except for the side that would go against the wall). The can of stain says to use a paint brush or a sponge, but I actually found it so much easier to use a cloth to get a more uniform look and not as dark of a color. Maybe I should have stained and then put them together... I don't know, I'm new at this. But it worked just fine!

We let them dry overnight, and in the morning we simply measured, leveled, found the studs in the wall, and drilled the shelves straight in! It immediately looked awesome!

Then comes the hard part... picture frames and pictures! We chose to go with a stain on our boards since our walls are a really light seafoam color, and we wanted more of a driftwood look. The picture I went off of had white shelves and all white frames- it looked awesome!

 For the headboard, we bought the same boards, but in a different size. The entire thing cost between $10-15. I measured my bed and knew that the best size to fit the bed would be 6ft. So I bought five boards six feet across, stained them, and put them on the wall the same way. Since these won't hold any weight, we only screwed them into two studs. We're tempted to go back and buy more to make the headboard stretch to the top of the windows! We'll see.

The hardest part of this project was standing in Home Depot and trying to find the straightest boards. I would pull them out, drop them on the floor to see if there was a bend in them, and put them back. A few of the boards had a slight curve, but the screws helped to straighten them out. We also wanted to try using just Command Velcro strips for the headboard, but since the wood wasn't completely flat, it wouldn't hold well. Don't settle, spend time looking for good pieces!

Well, there it is! I will probably make more shelves in the future since they were so fast, easy and cheap! Hope this helps you!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Live Like You're Dying

 My parents own a condo in Hawaii, and for the last few years, their beloved friend Patty has been doing the upkeep on the place in between renters. Suddenly this summer, my mom received an email from Patty casually stating that she had been diagnosed with cancer and was given 6 weeks to 6 months to live! She had decided to go back home to be with her family during her last days.

News like this is always completely heartbreaking to hear. No one wants to hear about someone who is dying, and suddenly. But here's the reality- WE ALL DIE. Yep, we do! So what about taking a different approach when it comes to death? For example, read this letter below that Patty sent my mother today...

Aloha Robyn!

Boy, I miss living where I here Aloha daily! 
 Things are going well.  The cancer is progressing - has moved to other locations - but I have NO PAIN.  I feel great - the only real issues are my lack of breath (if I walk 50 feet I'm winded - pretty bad for someone as active and high energy as me!).  I'm praying that I continue to feel well until the end - or at least close to the end - and leave Max without the agony of watching me suffer for an extended period.  Besides, I probably would not be very nice if I was in pain and I would like to go out gracefully!
I'm having a wonderful time witnessing to others and have been so blessed by so many sharing with me the impact I have had in their lives - it has been wonderful beyond description.  
I've planned my funeral - made my own slide show - video of me with my testimony - wrote my obit - created my memorial card and made all my funeral arrangements.  The only thing left out is the date of death and the date of the service (haven't got that info yet !)
My funeral is going to ROCK!

I think of you often (truly) and am so grateful for the time God allowed us to share.

Wow. This woman has planned her own funeral! Created videos, made arrangements... and is joking about the time and date! Now I am not saying that death isn't difficult, heartbreaking, or something to mourn. I have experienced lots of death in my life, and it doesn't make me smile! But after going to Bradley's funeral a few months back, my husband and I began looking at life differently. Living differently. What would it be like to live like you were dying? What would it be like to live for your funeral? What would people say about you at your funeral? About who you are and how you lived?

I want to live with purpose. I want people to remember me as loving, understanding, and a good listener. I want people to see that I care about investing in others. I want them to see my passion for my family. I want them to see Jesus. 

If I truly lived like I was dying, I wouldn't waste time or energy on materialistic things. I wouldn't be bent out of shape when plans change. I wouldn't worry about how my body looks. I wouldn't worry about the house I live in or the car I drive. I would worry about the unseen things- the things that will outlast me. I would take every change as a new experience. I would remember good times playing with my child and living life in my home.

What would it be like to live for your funeral? Just think about it a little bit. And then go do it.

“The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”- William James

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Boy or Girl? Why We Didn't Find Out!

"You're not finding out? Why? That would KILL me!"
"I have to find out. I need the time to prepare." 
"I don't have patience for that."
"I want to feel like the baby is part of my family before I deliver."
"How do you know what colors to decorate or have the right clothes?" 
"What if you're disappointed when the baby is born?"

These are a few of the many statements that we received when asked what the gender of our baby was, and we revealed that we didn't know! Although they are all valid reasons, none of them mattered to us. You see, we chose not to find out the gender of our baby....

I never wanted to find out what I was having. Even as a girl dreaming of becoming a mother, I knew that I wanted it to be a surprise. I think most of this was because my own mother had 5 children, all of which were natural and beautiful deliveries (the last 2 at home), and she chose not to find out for ANY of us. By the time the last one was born, I was old enough to understand what was happening and I enjoyed all the guesses and bets. Believe or not, my mother's chiropractor was the only one right about the sex of her last baby! 

At 12 weeks pregnant, we walked into Babymoon Inn, the birth center where we planned to have our baby, for our first visit. The kind nurse, Amey, talked with us and got to know us. She then went on about how she LOVED births where the couple did not know the sex of baby because they were so exciting, emotional, and thrilling! At this point, we had decided to find out because my husband wanted to. He had all the reasons that I stated above. After this conversation with Amey, we left and my husband began to consider NOT finding out! He loved the idea that when the baby arrived, he could be the one to open the legs and announce what/who our child was! After a few weeks of talking it over, we made our decision. We would NOT FIND OUT.

This really caused an uproar with our family and friends! No one is patient nowadays, and everyone was dying to know who our baby was. We also didn't really share names (I know, we're THOSE people). We even had a few people say to us "Let me go to the ultrasound with you. I'll find out but I won't tell ANYONE. Not even you guys! But I have to know!". Um, thanks but NO. Truthfully though, this amused us. It made us even more set on not finding out because we kind of liked how it drove everyone crazy! 

Our 20 week ultrasound came. On the way there we discussed again whether we were strong enough to not find out. As tempting as it was, we didn't! We technician had us turn away for a few minutes while she checked everything and took pictures. There were notes in all of our files that we didn't want to know. Now, being the control freak that I am, I can handle not knowing the baby's sex, but it was REALLY hard to know that some stranger knew who my baby was and I didn't! After this appointment, I was torn. The technician told us that if we changed our minds, we could come back. Well THAT makes matters easier!

I started to doubt our decision a little bit. And become impatient. I just didn't know. One night when I was sitting in my room just thinking, God brought this verse to my mind:

Psalm 139:13-16
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

I grabbed my bible and started reading up. I read a little earlier in the chapter and found this:

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.

I burst into tears. I was pregnant okay, give me a break! At this moment I realized that ever though I didn't know who this baby was yet, God did! He knew my baby! He knew if it was a boy or a girl. He created "it" and formed "it" perfectly. He knew my baby. At this moment, I breathed a sigh of relief and knew that we wouldn't find out. If God already knew, then why did I need to know? How comforting this thought was. I shared it with my husband, and we both felt peace with our decision again. 

We had another ultrasound at 35 weeks. 35 WEEKS!!! We both pretended to take peeks at the screen, but we didn't find out! I also wanted the fact of 'not knowing' to encourage me in the tough natural and unmedicated labor that I had planned. Maybe it would give me the drive to get that baby out! I was dying to know. 

We painted the baby's room a pretty gray color. We left one wall blank to eventually be turned dusty pink or cobalt blue (I already had them picked out, and they both looked great with the gray!). We bought white furniture for the nursery. I got a cute white and yellow duck outfit for the hospital. I had a box of newborn girl clothes and a box of newborn boy clothes ready (luckily my sister already had one of each). 

Labor began, Everyone involved was so giddy about finding out who this littler person was. Our nurses, our doulas, our families, our friends. Everyone was on edge waiting for the next piece of information.

 And then the moment came. THIS moment....
 And this moment....

And lastly, this moment...

A little girl. A perfect little girl. A little girl whom God had thought of, formed, and grew in my body. A little girl who was always meant to be ours. A little girl that we would have loved regardless of who she was. 

She will always be ours (on loan from God, of course), so waiting a few extra months to meet her was absolutely worth it. With the way that our culture hungers for instant gratification (sex, money, information, etc.), this was one little thing that we could wait on, that was our greatest surprise. 

I'm not trying to convince you to wait to find out the sex of your baby. Okay, that's a lie, actually I am. It was one of the only surprises that we can leave ourselves in this life now, so savor it. Dream, wonder, and wait. 

We will have more children, and we won't find out. That should drive everyone crazy again!