"But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure." Psalm 71:14-15

Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Holidays!!!

I know it's been forever, but we've been busy around here! We celebrated Thanksgiving with the Needhams. I'm so lucky to have married into such an amazing family. Truly, they rock!!!


Our family, not really sure what our moms were doing here


Mom and me being silly making "the face"


Those that started it all. Aren't they the cutest? I didn't take this pic, but I love it!


Then we celebrated the 3rd anniversary of our engagement by decorating our Christmas tree on December 6th, like we do every year.


the tree


the stockings


the precious pups. don't let them fool you, they are not as angelic as they appear.


We celebrated Christmas in Alabama with my family. We had lunch with my brother and nephew, then we partied with the Trousdales. They are good folks who know how to party!

My brother Bo, my nephew Johnathan, me


the kids, we look ecstatic!


the girls, I'm pregnant. that's my excuse.


My sweet husband got me a new-to-me Cannon Rebel camera!! I took lots of pictures of my cute animals, here is a sample. Aren't they the cutest?


We celebrated the New Year at Matt's parents' house with their family that usually gets together for Christmas. Dinner was postponed a week due to SNOW!


The Matthews family

I hope your holiday season was merry and blessed! Happy 2011!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rumble Tumble KICK!

I've been feeling Sweet Pea's little movements consistently every day since about week 16. At first it was just a little tap tap tapping, very subtle. As Sweet Pea grew, the movements became more noticeable. Recently, I've been able to feel the flip flops of full turns. It's been so exciting for me, and I want so much for Matt to be able to feel the baby too. The last week or so I've noticed more distinct movements that feel like kicks and punches! I think we've got a strong little baby in there!

This morning was RARE. Matt has the day off and I am working from home, so we were here together in the morning time. This has not happened in a really long time. Matt leaves really early for work during the week. I've been working every Saturday since the beginning of October, so I get up while he sleeps in on those days. And Matt and Daniel have been going to the gym together super early in the morning on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday for a while now. Matt and I haven't been home together in the morning in forever it seems.

Anywho, Matt and I were enjoying our lazy morning together this morning all snuggled up, tummy to tummy. I was getting REALLY hungry, so I knew Sweet Pea was hungry too. I had just said something about the baby getting hungry when all of a sudden, POW POW!! And then again, POW POW POW!! They were the strongest kicks I've felt so far. I asked Matt if he felt it and he said yes! Then he was frustrated because the baby stopped kicking after that. I'm just glad he got to feel the baby kick him in the stomach like s/he does me! It was thrilling for both of us, and such a nice way to spend the morning.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

We're having a....

BABY!! NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH!!! We are still not finding out the sex of the baby. We made it through our mid-pregnancy ultrasound without any spoiler incidents. Sweet Pea looks perfect, other than his/her HEAD is measuring 1.5 weeks ahead!! Thanks for that, Daddy. DH's head was so big he got stuck and my MIL ended up having a C-section, which I REALLY REALLY would like to avoid. But truly, it's in God's hands.

Here is our little Sweet Pea. Yes, we are having an alien. (I like the Olan Mills/Napoleon Dynamite pose Sweet Pea is striking with the little hand up to the chin, head tilt!!)


Sweet Pea's sweet little smile, see it?


Here is a nice forearm block and a couple of knees. Daddy says Sweet Pea will be a black belt!


Sweet Pea was over the portrait session, so s/he put both hands and arms in front of his/her face. :)


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

For Sweet Pea

Today I started to think about the things I hope for you, our little Sweet Pea.

I hope that you are healthy and happy.

I hope you grow to be a loving, caring and concerned adult (and if it's not too much to ask, a Democrat).

I hope you like to sleep as much as your dad and I do! We are not morning people, and our fear is that you will wake up at 5am every day of the week for your entire childhood.

I hope you enjoy baths as a baby and as you grow. I love and am so relaxed by showers, I hope you are calmed and comforted by it as well.

I hope the breastfeeding and cloth diapering goes well. I want to give you the very best of everything, starting with what you eat and wear.

I hope you grow up loving books and school. Your dad already reads to you in my belly before bed at night.

I hope that you love food of all kinds, like your dad and I do. We try to eat healthy whenever we can. It may cause lots of bumps in life if all you eat is chicken fingers and mac-n-cheese, but we will love you and work through it no matter what!

But most of all, I hope you learn to love God and rely on Him for every good thing in life. No matter what happens in life, HE is the one that will be with you through it all.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Solid Ground

Most of you probably take for granted that you are on solid ground. You aren't physically sinking in quicksand (or at least I hope not). You may feel like you are financially or emotionally sinking, but at least physically you aren't. We sang a great version of Amazing Grace with the chorus (and to the tune) of Peaceful Easy Feeling by the Eagles at church yesterday.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I'm found,
Was blind, but now I see.

I've got a peaceful, easy feeling,
And I know you won't let me down.
'Cause I'm already standing
on solid ground.

After church, Matt and I were talking and I about lost it. I don't feel like we are on solid ground at all. Our relationship is wonderful, the pregnancy is going great, our jobs are stressful, but not a big deal. Really what is getting me is our house, the new one we moved into last year, not the old one we can't sell. We have renters now, so that one is out of our minds for now.

A few months ago, we started noticing that our doors weren't shutting properly. And as I came up the street about a month ago, I looked at our house and about had a heart attack. From the road in my car I could see a huge crack in our foundation. When I say huge, it's about 2" wide. You can stand in our basement and see daylight between the floor of the sunroom and the foundation wall. That one corner of our house is literally sliding out from under us, and the only thing holding the sunroom on the house right now are the floor boards. Luckily, as I write this, my dear husband and our pastor/friend are in the basement putting a support beam and jacks in place.

We have gotten OBSCENE estimates on fixing our home. We are slashing and burning our budget like never before, including drastic measures we thought we'd never take. We are also looking at some creative budgeting and finance options so that we can get our house repaired and build a fence* before Sweet Pea arrives.

*Some of you may wonder with a foundation that is sliding out from under us, why a fence is still a priority as well. This is why:

His name is Einstein and his howl is painful to the human ear and at a volume that is unimaginable. But look at that face. That face may not live through a colicky infant, just put to sleep, me with no sleep and a mail man driving by... let your imagination finish the rest.

So unfortunately, although it was a lovely song, I am far from feeling as if I'm on solid ground. Actually, I feel like our house is sliding out from under us, because it IS. It is hard to feel at rest about anything or even enjoy this blessing of a pregnancy, when your house is falling down around you. It may sound over-dramatic, but have you ever had to worry about your house falling down? OK then, don't judge me. Just pray for us if you are so inclined.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Blue Screen of Death

That was the diagnosis when I took my computer to the IT department at UTC. It booted fine on Tuesday, I closed it to put it to sleep, and the next time I opened it I got some error message on a black screen. The guys in IT are great. They assured me that they will most likely be able to recover the documents on my hard drive. They helped me finally get my work email coming in on my phone, which I've needed. I felt ok, until today.

I got an email from our administrative assistant that, "The hard drive crashed and there is no way to recover any of [my] files. But the good news is it's under warranty and [they've] ordered [me] a new one." Are you kidding me? I don't give a crap if it's under warranty, MY FILES ARE GONE!!! It doesn't come out of my pocket if they have to buy a new hard drive!

I feel like such an idiot. There is an external hard drive sitting on my desk that I haven't backed up to in 2 months or more. We are never in the office, and when we are, I'm not thinking about backing up my computer. I usually have other things to do. Yes, I did lose work files, but hopefully that won't affect me too much.

There is one thing that I've lost that I absolutely cannot replace. I started keeping a pregnancy journal when I found out I was pregnant. I was recording my journey, with dates and weeks of pregnancy, and writing letters to our baby. I was planning to make a bound book with pictures of my belly growing inserted into the journal, something that the baby could keep forever and read exactly what I was feeling while pregnant with him (or her). It's gone, all of it. I haven't backed up my files since before I got pregnant. I can try and recreate the "bones" of it, writing about milestones and such, but the sentiment can never be recreated. I will never get those words back and I'm so sad. I've looked forward to being pregnant my whole adult life and my diary to remember it by is gone. I don't even know if I want to try and start over now. If I do, from now on may be wonderful, but I'm afraid the beginning will sound textbook and cold.

Well, lesson learned. I will probably obsessively back up my hard drive for the rest of my life. But for now, it's too late and I choose to wallow in self-pity.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cloth Diapering Sweet Pea

Hello all!! As promised, I wanted to share how I came to choose the cloth diapering system I've chosen, and impart as much wisdom from my research as I can. As I said many moons ago, there are lots of great reasons to choose cloth diapers and many options out there for anyone interested in using cloth as an alternative to sposies. My previous blog post is packed full of resources, videos and statistics for anyone interested in reading up on cloth. So I won't repeat myself here, I'll just share with you what we've decided to do.

I've been sold on cloth for a while, and I was REALLY nervous about getting Matt on board with it. I was sure this would be some sort of toe to toe face off. So I pumped myself up for a "hard sell," armed with all my statistics and cost savings, and went into the trenches. Matt's response was, "OK. I've never changed a diaper before, so I don't have anything to compare it to. You're going to have to show me how either way. I don't care." WHEW! That was easy! We've made a deal, I do diaper laundry, he'll do baby clothes laundry. Yes folks, he's all that AND a load of laundry! :D

I have a dear friend who took the CD plunge first, so she's a great resource! What I've learned is that most babies don't fit well into the one-size, lasts most of the way through diapering, adjustable diapers until they are 12-15lbs. So I was nervous about what to do for the beginning. I joined The Pin and got to work gathering advice from experienced CDing mamas. I posted a thread on their forum asking for newborn cloth diapering advice, and got tons!! What I came to understand is, in the beginning, they go through so many diapers, you want something cheap and easy that launders quickly. It shouldn't cost too much because they outgrow the newborn system so quickly. I have a feeling ours will get plenty of use between the 2 we plan to have and the friends in line to use our stash!!

There are lots of options of CDs to begin with. You have the traditional Prefolds

Above are Orange edge organic prefolds from Green Mountain Diapers, and 6 preemie prefolds for stuffing pocket diapers

Prefitteds (prefolds made into fitteds, with or without closures)

Pictured are 6 Workhorse dipes from Green Mountain Diapers w/o closures, hence the Snappis and pins

Fitteds

L-R Small Sandies fitted diaper, 2 Swaddlebees pocket velour diapers (discontinued, hard to find)

All of these types of diapers must be used in conjunction with a waterproof cover.

L-R are a NB Bummis Super Bright, a Thirsties Duo Wrap Size 1, and a Small Polar Bummis (discontinued, hard to find)

Pockets (waterproof outer, wicking inner layer w/ stuff-able pocket to adjust for heavy wetters, inserts are used for absorbency)

Pictured is a Happy Heinys MINI on the left open w/ micro terry inserts for absorbency, on the right are 2 One Size pockets - a Happy Heinys and a FuzziBunz

AIOs - all in ones (waterproof outer and absorbent inner all in one, no stuffing, just like a sposie that is washable)
These are Lil-Joeys NB size AIOs, see the snap-down for umbilical chord healing?

There are many brands and options of each of these types, but these are the basics.

The resounding feedback I got regarding the newborn system was prefolds or prefitteds with covers, because they are more affordable and wash and dry quickly (pockets and AIOs, anything with the waterproof outer must line dry, the prefolds/prefitteds go in the dryer because they are cotton). I bought 6 Workhorse Diapers from Green Mountain Diapers (GMD), which are their version of prefitteds, without closures (can use a snappi) in infant size. They were the "Beta release" so I got them for pretty cheap. I started thinking, "I sew, I can make my own prefitteds for way cheaper." So I asked for a serger for my birthday and found a great deal on Overstock.com. I bought 18 orange edge organic prefolds, and 12 yellow edge organic prefolds, that's enough to make 18 of each size prefitteds from GMD (I already have 6 yellow edge workhorse diapers). These are the favorite prefolds among most CDing moms, from what I can tell.

I've been buying used (and some new) newborn and infant covers from The Pin FSOT (for sale or trade) forums. We also plan to register for CDs, and will get more covers there. I've collected a few additions to my newborn stash as well. I got a set of Lil-Joeys from Rumparooz (NB AIOs pictured above), a Happy Heinys MINI (Xsmall one size pocket diaper), and a couple of Monkey Doodlez micro (small size AIOs) all for going out or church or convenience diapers for sitters. I also bought a couple of fitteds and velour pocket diapers to go under covers as well. I'm completely bummed that these Swaddlebees velour pocket dipes are discontinued, because I heard they were great for nighttime/naptime because you can stuff them with as much absorbency as you need. So other than covers, we are set on our small size diapering system.

As for CDs after 12-15lbs, we are registering for a couple of diapers of about 4-5 different styles and brands (a combination of pockets and AIOs, all one-size that will grow with baby). We will use what we get for a while and decide what we want the bulk of our stash to be after use, although I have a feeling we will use FuzziBunz. FuzziBunz seem to be a favorite among mamas, they dry quicker than AIOs, they are the most adjustable b/c they use an elastic system instead of snaps, and people love the convenience of pocket diapers. They say it's nice to have options for different situations, and our registry variety will give us that. I've done quite a bit of research, and Kelly's Closet seems to have the most extensive stock of choices for a registry, so that's probably the way we will go. If you want to watch video reviews of ALL DIFFERENT TYPES and brands of cloth diapers, go to Dirty Diaper Laundry. I've found her videos to be really helpful in deciding what to register for!

If you go with pocket diapers for your main diapering solution, you have lots of options for stuffing. Most diapers come with their own inserts, but you can also purchase extra inserts for nighttime or heavy wetters. Hemp is the most absorbent type of insert out there, although they take a bit more prep before use than other diapers (properly prepping your CDs is SO important and every shipment I've received so far has come with prepping and washing instructions). My CDing friend's favorite insert are the Babykicks Hemp that come in several sizes as your child grows.

We will also be doing cloth wipes along with cloth diapers. It would be a pain to have to separate throw away wipes from washable diapers! I will likely be making my own out of flannel and old towels. Most CDing moms say you need a stash of about 36 or so cloth wipes to get you through 2 days of changes before laundry time (obviously more if you have twins ;)).

Other necessities are: wet bags for the diaper bag to store dirties in, special detergent for cloth diapers (it's important to use detergents that don't leave residues that can affect the diaper's absorbency), a diaper sprayer to clean the yuckies off in the toilet, and a diaper pail liner (or 2) that is waterproof and washable with the dipes. The links above are all to the products that I've read the best reviews about for each item, and the ones that we will have on our CD registry.

So there you have it! That is all the knowledge I have to impart as a future-CDing mama. I'm sure I will have more advice once we actually have our Sweet Pea here and in cloth! I will definitely be sure to post pics of the sweet fluffy bum!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Our Sweet Pea

Well folks, I'm preggers. Yep, that's right, the "waiting" is over and now we just wait on Sweet Pea to arrive! Matt and I are beyond excited to be entering this stage of our lives and feel very blessed that it went as smoothly as it did.

For the most part, I have not been sick (barring one incidence of sensitive gag reflexes and a toothbrush). I have been EXTREMELY tired. I just finished traveling back and forth to Nashville 3 times in 4 weeks on top of teaching a Tuesday/Thursday class in Central time that was 1.5hrs away. On top of that our bathroom has been under construction for over 3 weeks now. We've been showering at the "other" house while we ripped out the fiberglass drop-in tub and shower and installed a gorgeous new tub and tiled shower surround. All of this would have made anyone tired, but it's been especially difficult during my first trimester.

We had our first ultrasound very early on, about 7 weeks and 4 days, and were able to HEAR and SEE the baby's heartbeat! It was so precious. The baby even waggled its head back and forth for us like it knew we were watching! We've had tons of fun telling all our friends and family. Now we get to keep planning for our little bundle to arrive next spring!


Sweet Pea

A few of the things we've chosen to do that are getting us some flack from friends and family: cloth diapers, natural childbirth, and not finding out the sex before the birth. That last one has incited some angry mobs, letmetellyou! People REALLY have an opinion about this! Folks are ANGRY because they can't know the sex of our baby. It's hilarious.

Well, that's the update from our corner!! I'll blog more extensively about the cloth diapers I've chosen to use and why later. Plus I just have to show off all the cute fluff I've gotten so far! :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Things that should have stayed in the 80's...

OK, I need to do a silly/fun post today. Now, I appreciate the '80s for all of the good things it gave to my life: all of my memorable childhood (I mean I was born in '79, but it's not like I remember the 70s!), GREAT TV that could never be matched again in its wholesomeness and entertainment value (Cheers, The Cosby Show, The Facts of Life, Family Ties, Growing Pains, the list goes on), music that we all love to party to even today (you know you love The Breakfast Club and go to see them whenever they come to your town just to remind you of college!), and FABULOUS movies (most of which starred either Molly Ringwald, Matthew Broderick, Tom Cruise or Kevin Bacon).

HOWEVER, there are things that were popular in the '80s that should have STAYED in the '80s and never returned. Here is my list of those things:
  1. leggings - Yes, those tight, spandex looking pants that hug every curve of your leg should have stayed in the '80s. Whether worn under skirts or under big baggy shirts or sweaters, this fashion trend does not make sense to me. It does not look good on anyone and does not serve any sort of purpose unless you are under the age of 3 and still have a habit of pulling your skirt up over your head.
  2. leg warmers - We all loved Flashdance, or at least I did. And yes, I wanted to rock me some leg warmers after that movie because I thought I needed them to dance better. But come on people, as adults, who among us wants to draw attention to our ankles?
  3. the recession - OK, so the recession we are in now kicks the crap out of the one in the '80s, but it still should have stayed there. Did we not learn anything about deregulation the first time, we have to learn it again!?!?
  4. baby names - the '80s' Jennifers, Heathers, Amandas, Matthews and Adams are the parents of today's Isabellas, Olivias, Lilys, Jacksons, Jaydens and Aidens! Surely enough of us lived through being Amanda M. (me) or Matthew B. (my husband) that we would do better for our children! The names aren't coming back, but I guess the trend of popular names will always exist!
  5. Sylvester Stallone movies - We all loved the original Rocky, right? OK, so technically it was made in the '70s, but I didn't see it until the '80s when all the sequels came out because I wasn't BORN yet when the original was made! Let's just remember him at his best and NOT suffer through anymore please?
I'm sure there is more, and I may update this list later, but I think it's a good start!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Prayer Request

My dear sweet friend, Adair, and her precious babies are heavy on my heart. Adair is one of the most beautiful people I've ever met, inside and out. She and her husband Cal have been on a long journey over the last 2 years to bring them to this place. They have been through so much to even GET these babies, and now they are facing more trials.

I'm asking for prayers for this sweet family. As I write this, Adair has been admitted to the hospital indefinitely for pre-term labor. Today she is 26 weeks and 4 days pregnant with their twins, Jack and Lucy. These babies need to get to 28 weeks to be out of the "scary" part of the woods. Would you please pray for my friends and their babies, that they will stay safe in her womb for as long as possible?

UPDATE

God is truly taking care of Adair and her sweet babies. After weeks of "off and on" contractions, there is absolutely NO CHANGE in her cervix (I think it must be made of steel or something). She got to go home for a while, but is back in the hospital. Her faith and attitude through all of this is amazing. As of LAST Wednesday (8/25), she was 29 weeks and the babies are weighing 3lbs 7 oz (Lucy) and 3lbs (Jack). Adair will be 30 weeks in 2 days, PRAISE GOD!!!! We are just praying those babies stay in there as long as they can, and giving HIM all the glory for these miracles so far! Thanks for your continued prayers for my dear friend.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sweet Cecily

One of my BFFs Lamm had a sweet baby girl on Monday, July 5th. So, I took Friday off and hopped on down to the ATL to see them. Lamm is doing great, and so is her hubby Keith. Their son Knox was asleep the entire time I visited :( so I missed seeing my little buddy. But I got LOTS of snuggle time with sweet Cecily!!




Lamm is such a good mommy!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

In the waiting...

Upon seeking council from a very good friend, she gave me some wonderful advice. Her own experience in her journey to becoming a mother had some bumps along the way. She and her husband had planned out the "perfect" time to start their family, but things didn't work out as they had hoped. She told me that while they were waiting for God to bless them with the child they desired, she decided to use the time she was given (even though it was against her plan and desire) to prepare herself for becoming pregnant and being a mother. Instead of being sad or discouraged about "be[ing] still and wait[ing]" (Psalm 37:7), she made the most of her time by preparing to receive God's blessing.

I decided to follow this wise council for myself. Matt and I have been trying to lose weight and get in shape for a while now. So I felt good about already being on my way. I have a walking partner that I try and meet up with several times a week, and I've decided to start adding in some weight training activities at home.

We have fallen into a rut with our dinner menu. I find that we eat the same few staple meals over and over again. I'm trying to find creative ways to incorporate more "color variation" in our diet, specifically more green veggies. Matt is much pickier about his green veggies than I am, so this one is difficult! I have to sneak some spinach into the quesadillas and hope he doesn't notice!

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this on the blog, but I'm an addict. I have fully embraced the fact that I'm addicted to coffee, and not just coffee, the caffeine in coffee. I LOVE COFFEE, and rather enjoy my addiction to it. If I don't have my morning cup of leaded joe, by 3pm I don't want to live my head hurts so bad. I've always said that if I make it through life and coffee is my worst vice, I've done fairly well.

Well, as of this past weekend I'm slowly giving up my love. I figured weaning myself off of caffeine now would be much easier than quitting cold turkey once I get pregnant (removing caffeine withdrawal from all the usual early pregnancy physical ailments). This way Matt won't have the desire to smother me in my sleep and put us both out of misery from the demon that takes over during my withdrawals. I've quit caffeine before, it AINT pretty. And the withdrawals can last a week or more. UGH.

So, in order to avoid the VERY unpleasant withdrawals from my dear love, I've started by drinking 1/2 caff and 1/2 decaf. With each week I will add a little less caff beans and a little more decaf beans to the grinder until I'm brewing all decaf (otherwise known as USELESS) coffee. So I'm still a little bitter about giving it up, sue me! Hopefully, when the time arrives, I will be caffeine free and feeling fine. :)

I also want to start preparing spiritually by doing a new individual study book of some kind. I haven't visited the book store yet, or put out feelers to acquire advice from knowledgeable friends. Any suggestions are appreciated. My search begins soon!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I've decided...

to stop pouting, complaining, obsessing over the things that are not going my way right now. Because I have MUCH to be grateful for. Mainly, this guy.

Easter Sunday 2010

He's awesome. He is so loving and understanding and patient with me this crazy wife. And I love him lots. We are blessed beyond measure and THAT is what I am keeping close to my heart.

This turn in events was, in no small way, facilitated by MDH saying that HE is going to stop focusing on the house we haven't sold and that HE is moving on mentally from it. Hey, someone had to go first.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Feels like I'm cheating... AGAIN!!

If you want a YUMMY 20 minute dinner that's diet friendly and sure to impress, this is it! BBQ Salmon, brown rice and sugar snap peas.

Here's the WW point breakdown:
Salmon fillets = 3 pts
BBQ Sauce = 1 pt
Sugar snap peas = 0 pts
1/3 cup dry brown rice = 4 pts
Dinner total per serving = 8 pts

If you forget to thaw your salmon overnight in the fridge, soak in cold water for 15 minutes. While gathering your supplies, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Your rice takes the longest to cook, so throw it in the water and turn it up to boil. Spray a baking dish with Pam and arrange salmon fillets in the dish. Brush BBQ sauce to cover tops, and the excess on the bottom of fillets. Bake in the oven for 14 minutes. Lastly, throw the "steamable" frozen sugar snap peas into the microwave for 4 minutes.

Enjoy your super easy dinner, that is good for you and tastes like you worked hard for it!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Show Us Your Life - Baby Names!!!

I know this seems like a crazy (or torturous) post after yesterday's depressing one, but I've always (like my girl Adair) been obsessive about baby names. So I wanted to participate, even if it is a day late, in Kelly's Korner's blog carousel!!!

Show Us Your Life with Kelly's Korner

I have lots of "name rules" that I'm a stickler for (in no particular order):

1. The name that they "go by" can't be too common. With every name we consider, I check the social security rankings. I'm not kidding people! It cannot be in the top 20 for that gender, preferably not in the top 50. My "given" name was Amanda Jill. I was an Amanda born in 1979. There were 4 Amandas in my Kindergarten class of 20 kids. That's 20% of the class!!!! I got sick of being Amanda M., so I decided in the 1st grade that I wanted to go by Jill. I love it, it fits me, but I don't want this to happen to my child.

2. I'm traditional and Southern, so I want at least one of their names (first or middle) to be from our family.

3. The entire name, first middle and last, has to sound good together. To achieve this, the following guidelines must be followed:
  • The name they go by has to sound good with our last name.
  • The last letter of the first name and the first letter of the middle (or last) name cannot be the same letter or sound. We could never have a Jacob Brooks Black, for example.
  • The first, middle and last names together must have an odd number of syllables, because it's just more pleasing to the ear. If you don't believe this one, try it. It's true.
4. The name has to sound right for an adult. With every name I think, "Could s/he become a CEO, an engineer, a doctor or an attorney with this name and be taken seriously?"

5. No ridiculous spellings of traditional names. Don't ruin a perfectly good name like Caleb by spelling it Kaleb. It just makes you look like you can't spell!

I can't help it! I'm OCD! Don't judge me! Now, on to the names.

Ever since I was a young girl, I've heard stories about my great-grandmother (my mom's maternal grandmother), Grammie. By the time I came along, she lived in a nursing home and had severe Alzheimer's. She was struck with this horrible disease, that also took my Meme (her daughter), at the age of 55. You read that correctly, she was 55 years old when she began to show signs of early dementia that eventually developed into Alzheimer's. She was an AMAZING, TOUGH, Southern woman. She divorced Poppa after her children were grown, because he was mean-as-a-snake, back when it was not common at all. And she supported herself by turning sheet metal on an assembly line in an aluminum plant next to some of the roughest men around. When I say she was a tough lady, I mean it. She was a woman that most certainly passed on her strength and determination to the women in our family (we get the crazy from her ex-husband!). And for that reason, if we are blessed with a daughter some day, she will carry on the legacy of my Grammie with her name.

Clara

It's classic, beautiful, not too common and I LOVE IT! We still have not decided on a middle name. This topic of conversation even came up at dinner last night with no resolution. Since she will have one family name (which I'm very insistent upon with our children), I don't mind if we just pick something we like. We will probably use Matt's middle name, Lindsey, which is much prettier for a girl than a boy! There is also Matt's mom's middle name, Erin, that we like. I also like Faith, just because. But Faith would break my "odd number of syllables" rule, so I don't know if I could. We'll cross that bridge someday, I hope!

For a boy's name, we are still somewhat undecided.

I had it all worked out when it was just me (you forget that you have to agree with someone else as a teenager). My Papaw was my-most-favorite-very-special-person. He was the man who stepped up to be my father, when my own was nowhere to be found. He was the first "love" of my life really. Words cannot express how special this man was to me, and he was taken from me much too soon. I was 14 when he died from bone cancer. I always thought I would name my son for him, and still might. ;) My Papaw's name was J.T. He, like Adair's grandfather, named himself. It was common back then for people just to name their boys initials only, which is what my great-grandparents did. When Papaw went to register for the draft for WWII, they asked him his name. He told them J.T. was his name. They insisted that those were initials, not a name, and asked him what they stood for. So he told them the first thing he could think of, James Thomas. My cousin Jennifer, whose father's name is also Thomas, used that for her son's middle name. I always thought I would use James with Grammie's maiden name, Durham. But we can't have ALL the names come from my family. :)

Right after we got married, I fell IN LOVE with a boy's name. It's not a family name. It has no particular meaning for us, other than I love old Hebrew boy names from the Old Testament. Think about it, Elijah, Ephraim, Abraham, Asher, Canaan (I still love this one, and is in contention for a second boy's name as far as I'm concerned), Jacob, Caleb, Matthias (which I think is an awesome take on Matt's name, Matthew), Joshua, and the list goes on. It took Matt a while to come around to the name I fell in love with, but he loves it too now. If we are blessed with a son, his name will be

Levi

Like Clara, it's traditional yet not too common. Besides, Levi Black sounds like a jazz musician's name to me. Since our family is full of engineers who play the trumpet and are not particularly athletic, I think it fits. :) As for his first or middle name (he will be called Levi either way), that is still up for debate. Matt is sold on a VERY non-traditional first name, which breaks my rule of at least one family name. However it would give him the same initials as Matt (MLB), which he feels is sufficient for the family name tradition. It's a name that I kind of like, but it will get strong reactions either positive or (but mostly) negative from our family and friends. Matt wants to name our son Memphis Levi Black.

Being a child that chose to go by her middle name, I know full well that our child may choose to do the same thing. I want to LOVE both names that we give our children. I also want to ensure that we follow rule #4, which I'm not sure Memphis does. The only Memphis I've ever heard of is Memphis Raines from "Gone in 60 Seconds" and he's a car thief. This is not a legacy I want to pass to our child. But remember, parents have to AGREE on a name, and I have to let Matt have an opinion, right? So I'll save my veto for when I'm actually pregnant. ;)

Other family names in the running to be paired with Levi, as a first or middle name, include: James (after my Papaw, Matt's grandmother's brother and Matt's aunt Jamie), Victor (Matt's GP and uncle), William (Matt's stepdad), Wesley (Matt's cousin, MDH has not signed off on it's candidacy but I love the name and this is my blog!), and Mitchell (Matt's uncle, who has two sons that may want to use the name so we will probably defer this one, but it's a great name).

So there you have it! Still much to be negotiated when the time finally arrives, but the names that we will call our children are pretty much set. Now if Clara or Levi happen to have a sibling of the same sex, Lord help us because we have no idea!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

"You take it on faith, you take it to the heart.
The waiting is the hardest part."

I feel like this is my theme song (by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers). So here goes. I did not clear this blog post with MDH, and he rarely reads it, so don't mention it ok? We are waiting on a lot of things, and it SUCKS. We are waiting for this house to sell so that we can move on with our lives.

Let's face it, I'm approaching 31 and I can't just assume that I have all the time in the world to have children. All I've EVER wanted to be is a mom. Anyone who knows me IRL (that's blog speak for in real life) knows that I am, and always have been, a very maternal person. Motherhood is the deepest desire of my heart, and I will take it in whatever form it comes, but I have a real and deep longing to be pregnant. It's normal, age appropriate, biological, and I'm not going to pretend it's not there anymore, because it is.

I've also been plagued by the fear that I wouldn't be able to have a baby. Infertility is a real problem that many of my friends have faced, and it is a very real fear for me. There is no medical reason that has surfaced to support this fear, but it's real just the same. The thing about fertility is that you don't know whether you can or can't have a baby until you start trying. And we can't start trying until the house sells.

HOUSE = BABY

We can't afford childcare as long as we are paying two mortgages. And we can't afford two mortgages if I'm not working (at home with a baby, eliminating the need for child care).

So we wait. We wait for the house to sell. Because there is nothing else we can do. We wait, and wonder, will we be able to have the family we desire when we are done waiting? Only God knows. In the mean time, we wait. And it sucks.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Happy Graduation!!!

I'm so incredibly proud




of my husband



for getting his Master of Science in Engineering




and his cousin Alex, on his way to being a CPA


(after passing a few tests) ;-)


Happy Graduation!!!!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Things I hate about being 30

There are many things about being 30 that one can appreciate. Being more respected as a knowledgeable professional, an established group of good friends (if they've made it this far, they are likely to be around a long time), and a firm grip on reality are a few examples of what is good about being 30.

There are however, things that really SUCK about being 30. And I feel well qualified to write about these things since I've been 30 for 9 months.

First off, apparently your body gets some sort of cosmic memo when you turn 30. All this crap that has never been a problem starts going to hell in a hand-basket. Take say, your metabolism. In your teens, you are in the best shape of your life. You eat anything you want and still have an amazing figure, yada yada. I've accepted that reality as GONE. However, I had no idea that the instant I turned 30 my body would SLAM ON THE BREAKS of my metabolism like the metabolism train is about to plummet off a proverbial cliff! It's ridiculous! I'm having to work so much harder than I used to to stay a size 8. A SIZE 8 PEOPLE!!! I've never even had kids and I'm struggling to stay a size 8! I have a tiny frame, TINY. A size 8 is at the TOP of my healthy weight range, just before being overweight.

Secondly, you begin to have problems sleeping. If sleeping were an Olympic sport, I [previously] would have earned a Silver metal. The Gold has to go to my cousin Erika, she's the champ. I was SUCH an awesome sleeper, my mom had to wake me up on EVERY Christmas morning of my childhood to see what Santa brought. SERIOUSLY. I love sleeping, sleeping's my favorite. Too bad I can't fall asleep to save my life these days. I actually have to have a set bedtime ritual, executed to perfection, in the hopes of falling asleep. RIDICULOUS.

Thirdly, and this is just for women in my situation (married near or after 30 who are not pregnant or do not have children yet), people think it is their place or business at all to remind you of the age of your uterus. Those well meaning ladies at church who are friends with my mother-in-law ask me, "So when are you all gonna have us some babies?" [insert my polite answer as to why we are waiting that is truly none of their business] Followed by their response, "How old are you?" I'M THIRTY, [THANKS FOR THE REMINDER, LADY]. While raising their eyebrow they respond, "hmm." AAARRRRGGGGG!!!!! Thank you for not-so-silently judging me, my life and our family decisions. I'm KEENLY aware of how old I am, how old I will (or hope to) be when our children graduate from high school, and what the risks are. But really, it helps for you to remind me with your raised eyebrows.

So there you have it, my top 3 things that SUCK about being 30.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Baby Industry Soap Box

**WARNING** This post is likely to offend you if you are now, or have ever been, pregnant. I love all of my friends with kids, and most of this blog post is driven by the industry not you. However, please read with caution.

If any of you have had a friend or TEN go through the pregnancy/registry/shower/baby process, you will know what I'm talking about. With new technology that allows us the opportunity to discover the sex of babies before they are born, the baby industry has gone over the deep end. I call it the baby industry*, because that's what it is.

*It's very similar to the wedding industry, making brides feel like they HAVE to have this and that for their wedding. It is exactly the reason that the average wedding in the US now costs between $21,000 and $24, 000!

But I digress. Admittedly, I do not have children, and have never been through the pregnancy/registry/shower/baby process. I do have some sort of idea that babies need a lot of stuff. However, I don't think they need as much stuff as some people are convinced that they need!

Like I was saying before, the baby industry has gone nuts with gender specific baby gear. I can understand wanting to know the sex of a baby before it is born. You are able to buy gender specific clothes and decorate a nursery. I get that part. What I don't get is the compulsion to get everything you "need" for a baby in gender specific colors.

I have a family member who is expecting their first child, a girl. Everything on their registry is pink, DOWN TO THE BABY BATHTUB! What will they do with the bouncy seat, highchair, bathtub etc that they could have used with their next baby if it happens to be a boy? I've seen people out in public with a pink stroller and car seat (and it was obviously a first child)! REALLY?!!?!! Those are big ticket baby items that could be reused with a second baby if the parents hadn't lost every sense of practicality that they previously possessed before being handed a scan gun in the baby store!!

Of course, there are always exceptions. If you are having multiples of the same sex and your hubby is going in for the snip-snip the week after you deliver, fine. Buy/register for all the pink or blue crap that you want. But I just don't understand not wanting to, or having some understanding that you could, reuse some things from one child to the next. It's more crap you have to buy (which I guess is why all that stuff comes in pink or blue). I understand that some things wear out and can't be reused, and I get being excited about your baby. But I really don't understand wanting everything in your house to be pink/purple or blue! I'm sure even if your gear is gender-neutral, that people will know what sex your baby is by the pink/purple or blue clothes they are wearing!

Although I have heard from many moms that this is not always the case and people are totally oblivious when saying how cute "he" is when "he" is wearing a pink shirt with purple flowers all over it!

Clothes are a whole different matter all together. I've heard from the older generation that baby and children's clothes were much cuter 15-20 years ago. Baby clothes were all in soft colors of yellow, green or white with baby type designs. That may or may not be your taste. But apparently the older kids' clothes were much more diverse in color, not just pink/purple or blue. Because parents get so used to buying pink or blue for their infants now, clothes makers aren't even trying anymore. I know parents who get excited if they can find clothes in any other color (and I'm sure I'll be one of them some day)!

So there you have it. I've finally owned up to my #1 baby industry pet peeve. Maybe it's the hippy in me not wanting to over-consume or be wasteful. Maybe it's the frugal wife who sees all the other things that can be done with money that is spent replacing every piece of baby gear between children. I don't know. But it is my absolute NUMERO UNO pet peeve about the baby industry.

If I've offended any of you, I am sorry. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, or piss anyone off. If you bought a pink car seat, that's your prerogative. It's just something I don't understand.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Waiting...

I'm tired of waiting. For this house


to sell. So that we can get on with our lives.

Speaking of getting on with our lives, Matt has 2 more days of grad school left.

FINITO!!!

Which is making both of us a bit more antsy about the ONE THING that's holding us back.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

And we keep trying... and praying

Look at those beautiful azaleas in bloom!!!

The Open House on Sunday did NOT go well. We had one couple, one single lady (who wasn't sure if she wanted to move or not) and 2 ladies from the neighborhood come. No real potential buyers. The ladies from the neighborhood were nice and complimentary. They said now that they had seen the property, they would refer anyone they knew to us.


So after lots of crying (me), and prayer (both), we've decided to pay more $$ and upgrade our online listing to include an MLS (Multiple Listing Service) listing. By doing this, all property searches that use MLS will now return our property in their searches, for hopefully more exposure. We are also offering a 3% finders fee to the buyers agent, so that agents will show our property to their clients without fear that we may not pay them.


For those of you out there that are praying folks, please pray that we find our buyer soon. It's not about the money, but the emotional burden. I've blogged about not being able to sleep, chronic exhaustion, sadness, feeling overwhelmed, etc. It's all STRESS from this HOUSE. Stress can do nasty, nasty things to a person, physically, mentally and emotionally.


Luckily, since God and I had a heart-to-heart on Sunday evening, I've felt much better. Add in my exercise accountability and walking buddy helping me MOVE and work out some of that stress, I feel like a new lady. But it seems cyclical. I'll do well for a while, then get overwhelmed or sad. It's the WAITING and NOT KNOWING and being POWERLESS to do anything that is so BURDENSOME. So those who are so inclined, please send up a prayer for Matt and me while we wait!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Seriously Cool DIY find of the Day!

Confession: I'm addicted to the DIY Network. All of it. Sweat Equity, 10 Grand in Your Hand, and Yard Crashers (more for the host than anything, WHEW Ahmed is hot!) top the list. Because I'm constantly watching DIY, I'm constantly coming up with crap to do to our house(s) UGH!

Our NEW home has a fantabulous bathroom,



with original 2" black and white tile floor



expertly made classic cafe curtain in a lovely damask print




we'll overlook the little sewing accident while making said curtains




and some kickin' artwork (if I do say so myself) courtesy of the LOVELY Melody Hood



One of our projects on the list is to ditch the ugly CREAM (no idea the thought there when the tile was "aged" white) tub and shower surround, replace (if needed) underlying tub, and tile the shower in such a way that pays homage to the rest of the fabulousness in the bathroom. I'm thinking white subway tile with a banded inset of 2" black and white checkered mosaic tile that matches the floor! Ugly tub and shower surround not pictured, because no more people than HAVE to look at it while showering should suffer.

That's a longterm project goal that may never get accomplished if we don't sell THIS house!

However, something that I'm considering doing fairly soon was inspired by the Seriously Cool DIY find of the Day. Obviously being over 70 years old, the original tile and grout on the floor need some TLC.

The era of the home dictated that the tiles were UNsealed, which means that they are stained in some areas. I'm going to try this cleaning technique and pray it works on MOST of the stains.

Then I'm going to PAINT AND SEAL the grout in one step with this product in the Natural Gray color, because that's the main color (other than the stains that are present) that the grout has aged to over time. And with this house, we are doing everything we can to keep the integrity of the Craftsman Style and period in which it was built. It will be labor intensive considering the floor is 2" TILE (think tiny art brush and hands and knees), but will give us pretty, clean grout that is stain-resistant!

The LAST step is to go ahead and seal the tile to prevent further stains. I know this will take away a little from the authenticity of the floor. But it will prevent further staining of the tiles over time, and make the floor a bit more slip-resistant (which is important for a bathroom!). Hopefully by choosing the "Natural Look" Penetrating Sealer they won't look too glossy for the period.

So there you have it! For all you DIYers out there with old, dirty, unsealed (or OLD-sealed) grout, I wanted to share this project. This also may be good for those of you out there trying to breathe life into your grout in order to sell a home! I totally wish I had found this project a month ago or I would have done it in our old house before the Open House tomorrow. OH WELL!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It feels like I'm cheating Weight Watchers recipe of the evening

Hi all! I thought I would share this yummy dish I just whipped up in literally 15 or 20 minutes with what I had in my house! I had some left over asparagus from an Easter casserole that was about to go bad, 2 TBSP of 1/3 less fat cream cheese from a Sip-N-See I hosted a couple of weeks ago, a lemon that was about to spoil from the punch at the same shower, and an opened box of whole wheat spaghetti. Then I remembered a yummy recipe from a cookbook of mine to adapt and voila! Since my husband hates asparagus and I love it, I made 2 servings - one for dinner and one for lunch tomorrow. :)

Here is the adapted recipe:

2 servings of whole wheat spaghetti (8 points)
1/2 bundle of asparagus cut to 1-1.5 inch pieces (ZERO points)
1 TBSP olive oil (1 point)
1 garlic clove (ZERO points)
1/2 cup skim milk (1 point)
2 TBSP of 1/3 less fat cream cheese (2 points)
Zest of 1 lemon (ZERO points)
dash of nutmeg
1/4 tsp of salt
ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (3 points)

2 servings = 15 points, 7.5 points per serving

1. Cook spaghetti until al dente

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and asparagus and sauté, tossing constantly for 2 minutes. Pour in about 2 TBSP of water and cover pan. Cook until asparagus is just tender, about 5 minutes. Combine milk, cream cheese, lemon zest, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Pour mixture over asparagus and bring to a boil, let simmer until preferred consistency.

3. Drain pasta and return to pot. Pour on the asparagus sauce, toss, and stir in Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

YUMMY! It feels like I'm cheating, but I still have 3.5 more points for the day! Time to raid the Easter candy ;)

Under Attack

So I'm ready to completely acknowledge that I am under attack. For those of you who feel that spiritual warfare is "wierd," you may want to skip this post! We Methodists don't really talk about spiritual warfare often if at all, but I grew up in a Methodist church in ALABAMA. Truly, it was more like going to a Baptist church where we said the Apostle's Creed, but I digress.


It took a textversation with my girl Christie for me to realize that the devil has been really working me over lately. She texted me at 11:20pm to make sure I was ok, because she had been thinking of me all day. Luckily, I was able to "talk" because I'm having trouble sleeping... I was telling her about how much that our house not selling was weighing on me. She was telling me to "COMPLETELY give it over to God," so that I could quit worrying about it and "pray for God to take it everytime it crosses your mind. Because if you've really given it up to God completely, and you're still thinking about it, it's the devil trying to take control of it."


I was amazed that I had been on her mind all day. Matt and I had a rough night the evening before, really talking over how emotionally burdensome this house has become. And I woke up meditating on Matthew 11:28, "Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." The Holy Spirit is cool like that. He gave me the words I needed, and encouraged a friend to pray for me all day. Because He already knew what I discovered while texting with Christie, that I was under attack.


I told Matt before he went to bed (and before Christie texted me) about the verse I woke up meditating. And I told him, "I know the scriptures. I have the answers. I just need to be reminded from time to time. The Holy Spirit and I are cool like that." Talking about the Holy Spirit kinda wierds Matt out (he grew up in the church we now attend, which is more like an actual Methodist church where you don't talk about spiritual warfare). It brought me comfort to be reminded in such a direct and obvious way that God is with me wherever I am, whatever I'm going through. As much as I KNOW that I am under attack from the evil one, I am reminded that GOD is fighting for ME, so I need not worry!

Cool, huh?

Friday, April 2, 2010

New landscaping!

No, not on the house we live in. We can't do anything there until THIS house sells:

And why wouldn't it sell? There is nothing left to do to it!


I will admit, I had lots of fun at the nursery picking out the flowers for the window box. Hopefully in a couple of weeks you will be able to see them well. There are dark pink geraniums, light purple torenias (clown roses) that will cascade, and 2 vinca vines that will cascade as well. We also got pink petunias for the hanging baskets, and of course the azaleas went in last week (they are a dark pink/light purple like the torenias).

I'm not really a fan of pink, but flowers come in limited colors! I could have done some red today in the window box & hanging pots, but the azaleas were already in and they were PINK so I had to stick with it. I can't have my flowers clashing and looking all crazy.

So now we are officially finished with all the improvements at 146 Lynda Circle. The landscaping was the last thing left to do, and it's finished. I'm so glad. Now if we could just get someone to come look at it! Hopefully our open house on April 11th will go well. If you are in the area, come check it out & bring a buyer with you!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Struggling...

So, obviously I've "fallen off the wagon" with Lent, so to speak. It started out so well, and I was so enthusiastic, but here lately I'm struggling. My Lent was about something that I should be doing all the time, not just for 46 days. I should be focusing on the blessings that I have and the things that are going my way, instead of selfishly obsessing over the things I don't have. I know all of this in my head, but my heart is stubborn like me. And so I struggle.

My struggle is ambiguous. It's hard to describe or pin down into one thing. But it's real just the same. I have a job that I LOVE. I have family and friends that I LOVE. I have the most AMAZING husband that I LOVE and adore with all that I have in me. I have a gorgeous house that I LOVE, with a front porch and a rocking chair that I get to enjoy while I'm working (in a job that I LOVE). I mean look at what we're doing this afternoon:





I am blessed beyond measure, but still I struggle. I'm having a hard time falling asleep, even when I'm exhausted. I'm trying to stay positive about the house we're selling, but look at how long it's been since we started trying to sell it! That's right folks, over 7 MONTHS. UGH. We had it listed with a realtor for 6 months to no avail, and now we are doing it on our own. We've worked really hard in the last few weeks improving the one thing that was consistently lower on the feedback from our showings, curb appeal. We are hosting an open house on Sunday, April 11th 2-4pm. Hopefully something good will come of it.

This is before:

If you can't tell, the foundation and trim are a "country blue" color that I've ALWAYS hated!


This is after:

Taupe foundation and black trim, with landscaping and shutters (those teeny bushes are azaleas). Tomorrow we add a window box under the picture window & hanging plants!

If you know ANYONE in the Chattanooga area looking for a great starter home, that's close to downtown, in an awesome neighborhood in Red Bank (that's county not city taxes people), please send them our way!!! I loved living in this house, and am very attached because I bought it as a single girl. It's a great house that I spent lots of time and money updating and, if I do say so myself, it's a fabulous buy! Here's the link to our listing!!!

In the mean time, I'm going to continue to remind myself how blessed we are that we could even MAKE this move and afford 2 houses so that we could get the house of our dreams while we wait on the perfect buyer (or ANY buyer) for our first home. I'm also going to try and pull myself up out of this funk, with the good Lord's help. Prayers are appreciated, buyers welcome!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lent is a process...

SO, I missed Sunday AGAIN. But I'm still grateful! Obviously, these Sunday Gratitude postings are not in order of priority, but they are inspired. This week I am particularly grateful for GRACE! That ultimately means that I'm grateful for my salvation, yes. But even more than that, I'm grateful to be a child of God. I'm glad that HE is my Father, my Judge, and my Redeemer. I'm grateful that God sets the standards for me, and gives me GRACE when I fail, just like a Father does with His child.

Sometimes I feel guilty, because I take for granted the amazing gift I've been given. My heart has belonged to the Father since I was so young, it's part of who I am. I can't look back on a time "before" I became a Christian. I was raised in the church, by a wonderful loving mother. I was Christened at 3 months old. I asked my mom if I could be baptized again when I was 8, and my pastor agreed to do so (even though I don't think it's technically Methodist doctrine to re-baptize someone). And the Holy Spirit entered my life in rather dramatic fashion when I was 14. In the [paraphrased] words of Brother Jim (according to my mother), 'I've never seen the Holy Spirit get hold of a child the way He did Jill.' I don't say this to seem Holier than Thou or brag, but to illustrate that God has always been in my life in a very real way. And for that I'm truly grateful.

Now, I admit to you that at times in my life I walked close to His side, and others I've been further away. But His presence never left me, and I'm constantly convicted and drawn back closer when I stray. Conviction is not at all bad. It's the loving correction of the Father, and I cherish it. Like any parent-child relationship, discipline shows the child you care about them enough to set limits for them. I'm grateful for God's conviction, knowing that with it comes His GRACE.

God loves us enough to walk with us, comfort us, guide us, convict and correct us. He loves us enough to cherish us, and count each hair on our heads (even the gray ones!). God loves us enough to create us, and draw us into His presence through the sacrifice of His only Son. Most of all, more than anything, I'm grateful to be a child of God.