Monday, October 31, 2011

Treasured By Pearl: Children’s Consignment Stores & Events

Everyone is on a tight budget, right?  I know I am.  James and I were very fortunate to be given so much before and after Lydia’s birth and so we only had to buy her a car seat, stroller, a piece of furniture for her bedroom (more on that in this article), and a few other random, less expensive things.

I hope you are as fortunate!  My friend Jenn, spoken of often in this blog, gave us SO MANY clothes that her daughter, Shelby had grown out of.  Probably several hundred dollars’ worth, if not more.  Carter’s , Ralph Lauren, Baby Gap, Old Navy, you name the name brand, it was in one of the bags she gave me.  I am so fortunate to have met her when I did.  Lydia is now 5 months and is (fortunately) a small baby (still in 3 month clothes), and we haven’t purchased the first item for her to wear, thanks to her and all those that gave so generously.  (Okay, I bought her a pair of socks the other day, just because she has long, skinny feet and nothing seems to want to stay on, but I think that we’re doing pretty good so far!)  I am, however, going to have to break down this month and spend some money on clothes for her, as she must have recently hit a growth spurt and is in need of some bigger clothes. 
Good thing Wee Trade is coming up!  Have you heard of it?  OH it’s AWESOME!  It is 30,000 square feet of the Ag Center FILLED to bursting with pretty much anything you could want for your child.  Racks and racks and racks of clothes, rows and rows of tables with bedroom d├ęcor, toys, books, swings, bouncers, walkers, strollers, car seats, carriers, furniture, EVERYTHING! 
I went with Brittany to the one in August.  I spent $65 and got about $300 worth of stuff.  I couldn’t believe it.  I bought a baby tub that at Target is $18, but at Wee Trade was just $3!!!  I got a $60 activity mat for just $20!  (Great investment, BTW.  Lydia LOVED that thing.  One of the dangling toys was the first thing she grabbed, and though she doesn’t care for the mat itself anymore, she still plays with all the detachable toys!)  I got a couple Baby Wise books (see blog) for $10, brand new.  For some reason, I’m drawing a blank as to what else I bought there, but you get the idea.
The only bummer about the event is that you have to stand in a REALLY long line.  I didn’t mind b/c I had good company – Brittany and our gorgeous girls.  It moves a lot faster than you think it will, and the deals are worth it.  The next Wee Trade is November  18-20, and you can bet I’ll be there!  Admission is free, and if you plan on buying a lot, I suggest bringing a laundry basket or something to carry your stuff around in.  We saw one lady that had tied a rope to her laundry basket and was pulling it around behind her.  Some other people were using their strollers, which is what we did.  There are LOTS of people there, so just be aware that you will have to negotiate tight spaces if you bring your stroller.
I also LOVE the Children’s Consignment stores.  I have found three in the Asheville area, though I am sure there are more that I haven’t visited.  (I just did a Google search, and there are a couple more that I’ll have to try!) 
When I was 8 ½ months pregnant, James and I took a whole day shopping ALL OVER town (I think we went to about a dozen different places!) for a piece of furniture for Lydia’s room.  We had seen a hutch/changing table/dresser combo at Children’s Trading Post on Airport Road that was over $500, and though it was pretty perfect, we didn’t have that kind of money to spend.  Well, as that exhausting day was drawing to a close and we still hadn’t found anything, I decided to call CTP to see if that piece of furniture was still there, and it was. 
The beauty of consignment stores is that most of them have gone to a pricing system that lowers as the products spend more and more time on the shelves.  When we first saw that piece, it had been in the store for some time and the price had lowered once, but it was still too much.  When I called that day, the price had just gone down to $370!  Being originally over $1,000, I’d say we got quite a deal.  It’s in immaculate condition, and we can use it for our future babies, or Lydia can hang on to it when she is older. 
Also, Children’s Trading Post has a “frequent flyer” program, if you will, and for every $20 you spend, you get a stamp.  When you have 10 stamps, you get $10 off your next purchase.  At the Merrimon Avenue location, I put my first filled card toward my sling (see previous article), which worked out great!    I’ve gotten a couple other random things there, like my Hooter Hider (for nursing in public) for $8 (new they are around $20), and a package of gDiapers Biodegradable Refills for $11 (at the store, they’re anywhere from $13-$17, not a huge savings, but hey, every dollar counts!). 
My favorite children’s consignment store, however, is Lollipops.  Located in South Asheville on Hendersonville Road (near Asiana), it is just up the street from me.  I went in (even though the sign said “upscale” – I read “expensive”) and was pleasantly surprised.  It was clean, bright, and the employees were friendly.  The prices were comparable to that of the other stores, and unlike Children’s Trading Post, there was plenty of room to move!  (That’s my complaint about CTP – it is overly cluttered, and I have a hard time finding what I am looking for.  I usually just ask one of the employees, who are more than willing to help – usually.) 
On my first visit, I found a Bumbo Seat there in the color that I wanted (Lilac) for just $22, where at CTP they run about $30 +/-.  In the last article I wrote, I told about when I bought my Baby Bjorn, said that the price was unbeatable, but I forgot to mention that while I got the Bjorn for $34 at Lollipops, the same one (different color) was $77 at CTP! 
I “friended” them on Facebook and wrote a recommendation, and the owner sent me an email with a coupon for 25% off any one item!  Just goes to show how far a kind word can get you.  Lollipops also holds events at their shop, things like So Impressed and photo shoots. 
If you aren’t local, be sure to find the children’s consignment stores in your area.  They are a great source for most anything you need, and it’s a great way to save money.  I haven’t personally consigned anything yet, but I’ll be sure to let you know about my experience then I do! 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Treasured By Pearl: My Baby Carrier

I was out and about today and met some radiant mamas-to-be, and ya’ll know me, I was bursting at the seams to give my advice!  (I think I may have even gone overboard…  Imagine that!)  Anyhow, that got me to thinking that I need to blog about my favorite products, things that make my life easier or that Lydia seems to enjoy, so here it is!  (My A#1 favorite baby innovation is my gDiapers, which I’ve already written about and you can read about here, so I will not be reviewing them again.)

(Also, I think I’ll format this one a little differently than the previous blogs.  I believe I will post as soon as I have one product --or two or three-- reviewed, instead of waiting until I have them all done.  This way, you can have instant gratification and not so much content that it overwhelms you.)
The Baby Carrier.  The thing that struck up my conversations with the future mamas today was the Baby Bjorn.  A lot of mamas you see out and about like strollers, and don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a time and place for them, but I LOVE wearing Lydia!  My carrier is comfortable, user-friendly, super easy to toss in the car, doesn’t take up much room, and I know she is safe and secure b/c she is RIGHT there.  It’s got the closeness of carrying her in my arms, but my back doesn’t hurt after I take her off, and I have free use of both hands!  As afore mentioned, the brand we have is a Baby Bjorn Active. 


This is the third carrying device I’ve used.  The first was a sling (there are many brands – Hot Slings, Jelly Beans, etc.) which was perfect for her when she was newborn.  I had a Jelly Bean (a Target Brand) that I bought for $25 at the children’s consignment store (more on the importance & amazingness of consignment stores later).  The sling carries them very similarly to how they rode in the womb, and though they may look wadded up, it is comfy for them b/c it reminds them of the warm, cramped way life was before they were born.  She quickly outgrew that, though, and that’s saying something b/c she was only 6 lbs. 10 oz. when she came out. 
James with the Bjorn and my sister-in-law, Ashley, with her newborn, in my sling
(Sorry, that's the best pic I have of the sling.)

The second was a Snugli that my friend, Brittany, loaned me.  It was great b/c it folded up nice and compact and was very handy.  It held her a little more comfortably (for me AND her, I’m sure) than the sling, and she faced me (or James) til she could hold her head up on her own, when we turned her around (which she loved!).  When she got a little bigger, however, she got kind of top heavy in the Snugli, and the way this one was designed, you couldn’t wear her facing out so that she WASN’T top heavy.  Plus, there wasn’t too much back support, so even after just a few minutes wearing her, my back hurt. 

The third is the Baby Bjorn.  With the Bjorn and the Snugli, they have to be at least 8 lbs.  I decided on the Bjorn as opposed to something like the ErgoBaby (what I originally wanted) b/c in the Ergo, the baby can’t face out, which when Lydia is awake, she only likes to face out.  She likes to see what’s going on!  Plus, I found the Bjorn at the children’s consignment store for $34!  It has great back support and is easily adjustable, so it’s comfortable for both James and me.  My one complaint about the Bjorn is that it doesn’t fold up nicely like the sling and Snugli did.  I just carry it in one of our reusable bags.  Oh, and it doesn’t have pockets like the Snugli.  Oh well.  Can’t have my cake and eat it, too!

I use the Bjorn every day! 
I had originally wanted an ErgoBaby (new, over $100) b/c of all the great things I have heard about them.  I am glad that we didn’t have the money for one before she was born b/c she wouldn’t have liked it much anyway, and then we would have been out a lot of money!  My suggestion to you is to get a cheap carrier (or start with a sling, like me) and figure out if they prefer facing you or the world.  If they like seeing Mama and Daddy, go with the Ergo!  Check Ebay!  There’re great deals on those things on Ebay.  I’ve only seen one used in all my visits to the consignment stores, but check there, anyway.  However, if they prefer watching the world, there are many other options – my preference is, obviously, the Baby Bjorn Active.  They have another top-of-the-line carrier, called the Baby Bjorn Comfort, which, like the Ergo, has a comfy hip strap that provides extra support.
Here is a webpage that tells about reasons why it’s great to wear your baby.  It talks about convenience, physical development, communication, bonding, safety (I wear her when I go down the steps of our upstairs condo, for example, b/c I have no fear of dropping her, and I can grab the rails) economy, etc. 
Anyhow, that’s my first one!  Look for more to come. 
Mamas: do/did you wear your babies?  Experiences?

Monday, October 17, 2011

To Vaccinate or Not?

Having a child is a confusing, world-upending time.  Your hormones are nuts, you have this tiny creature who depends on you completely for every aspect of life, and now you have to become a master at decision making.  My mom has always called me her “Fickle Pickle” for a reason: I go back and forth between two sides and can never make a decision without wavering and wondering if it was the right one.  When the decision is made, though, I tend to stick with it.  Getting there is the hard part.
With all the controversy in the media about vaccines, one cannot help but be curious as to which camp to join.  If I do not vaccinate, there is the risk that my child could contract a preventable disease.  If I DO vaccinate, my child may have a reaction that includes side effects of a mild fever or even autism.
Needless to say, I have been doing some research. 
I first read The Vaccine Book by Dr. Robert Sears.  (I would recommend this to any parent with a new baby or even one whose child had not received all the “mandated” vaccines, and also to unvaccinated adults preparing for world travel.)  It is a captivating book from the beginning, and written in easily understandable language (a. k. a., you don’t have to possess a doctorate to understand its’ contents).  It is comprehensive and unbiased, expounding upon every vaccine-preventable disease, what the disease encompasses, how common or rare it is, it talks about what the vaccine ingredients are, who manufactures them, possible side effects of the vaccine, and why people choose or choose not to get the particular vaccine. 
This was helpful, and James and I discussed vaccinating Lydia at length, but I think that in the end, he was just as unsure as I was.  I did, however, feel I gained a better understanding about vaccines from this book. 
Then there are all the print-outs I got from the doctors.  I really wonder about these, how biased they may be, b/c of who may or may not be in whose pocket.  Of course, the majority of medical doctors are pro-vaccine.  They say that the benefits far outweigh the risks.  They say that if too many people go without being vaccinated, our country, in which polio has been eradicated and (if I am remembering correctly) so has diphtheria, we risk losing the “herd immunity”.  (Herd immunity is what the population gains from the majority of the population – the herd - being vaccinated against said disease.  Anyone who is unvaccinated or in whom the vaccine is not effective is protected by those surrounding him/her that are vaccinated.)  (Information from this paragraph from: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/policies/downloads/vacc_mandates_chptr13.pdf ).
And of course, there is the fact that since vaccines became a mandate in 1986, cases of autism rose from 1 in every 100,000 to 1 in every 1,100.  There have been extensive studies that have come to the conclusion that there is no way that autism is linked to vaccination, and that the coincidence of the manifestation of autistic tendencies shorty after vaccination (particularly the MMR – Measles, Mumps, Rubella vaccine) are just that: coincidence.  However, I have a dear friend, Dave, whose son became autistic shortly after receiving his vaccinations, and that hits really close to home.  (His son’s twin sister is not autistic.)
There are others in the anti-vaccine camp, like Jenny McCarthy, whose child became autistic after his vaccination, too.  There is a website, http://jennymccarthybodycount.com/Jenny_McCarthy_Body_Count/Home.html , on which they bash her and accuse her of being responsible for vaccine-preventable illnesses and vaccine preventable deaths, and actually have a “body count” tabulation.  I personally am proud that a celebrity is taking a stand for her child.  She saw a regression in her son after his four-year vaccinations, and I can’t say that if I were in her shoes that I would not speak out against vaccination myself.  She is angry that only two vaccines out of the thirty-six that are administered have been looked at for their possible relationship to autism.  Frankly, I think the pro-vaccine camp is glad to have a famous scapegoat.
There are ingredients in vaccines that are controversial.  I am sure that all of you reading this blog have heard of the mercury (Thimerosal) in vaccines, as well as formaldehyde (Formalin).  A lot of vaccines also contain aluminum in toxic amounts, and funky, awful ingredients like monkey kidney cells, vesicle fluid from calf skins, embryonic fluid from chickens, and yes, even human cells from aborted fetal tissue.  (Facts from : http://www.oasisadvancedwellness.com/learning/informed-vaccine.html).  I DO NOT want Lydia to have any aborted fetal cells in her, and I WILL NOT support the abortion industry.
Also, I personally do not understand why, shortly after birth, it is recommended that your newborn be vaccinated against Hepatitis B, an STD contracted mainly in adults who use intravenous drugs or who engage in at-risk sexual behavior.  (We chose to decline this vaccine at birth.  If Lydia or our future children find it necessary later in life, that choice will be up to them.)
Up to this point, Lydia is unvaccinated.  We declined the HepB shot in the hospital, and have so far declined all other vaccines as well.  Our pediatrician’s office even made us sign a release form saying that we were aware of the dangers of not vaccinating.  Lydia’s doctor has been very respectful of our wishes and has not pushed the issue any further with us. 
Last night, Lydia got a fever of 102.  She was absolutely pitiful.  My girl is a wiggle-worm, and whenever she is awake, she’s moving.  She lay on my chest for at least an hour last night awake and still.  She would look up at me like, “Mommy, I don’t feel good,” and it was awful b/c I didn’t really know what to do.  James got her a cool cloth for her forehead and that seemed to help her feel a little bit better.  I grabbed one of my references, and it said that when babies in her specific age group get a fever that high, to call the doctor.  So I did.  The doc on call asked me if she had been vaccinated and I said no, and then she kind of made me a little worried when she mentioned the pneumococcal virus.  I asked how it can manifest, and she said it could be anything from cold symptoms, to an ear infection, to meningitis. 
All from a “vaccine preventable” disease.  The thing is, though, that there are many strains of pneumococcal virus, and the vaccine only defends against one strain.  I like how it was put that “Vaccines are safe and effective, however they are neither perfectly safe nor perfectly effective”.  This was said by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/policies/downloads/vacc_mandates_chptr13.pdf .  Serious complications from pneumococcal virus are rare, however. 
Last night, I asked James what he seriously thought of vaccinating Lydia, and his conclusion was that he and I were both vaccinated and we are both fine.   And it’s not that I don’t agree with him, but then I found out today that he and I were only required to have 10 vaccinations, encompassing about 7 diseases.  Now, the mandate is for 36 vaccines, against 16 diseases (if I am counting right).  Wow.  That’s a big difference in just 30 years. 
There are excellent arguments for each side, but I don’t know that I am fully sold on either.  I watched a video on Netflix put out by PBS Frontline, called, “The Vaccine War” (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/vaccines/ ).  On this video, there was a baby that was just over a month old who had caught Whooping Cough (Pertussis).  Whooping Cough causes the windpipe to constrict, and a baby’s windpipe is already so narrow…  The paramedics had to insert a tube down her throat and supply oxygen through her nostrils just so she could breathe.  It was heartbreaking to watch her on video.  (She recovered, thank goodness, but only narrowly escaped death.)  That video made me rethink my desire to not vaccinate.
Then, of course, there are the countless parents whose children suffered adverse side effects after inoculation, either due to the vaccines themselves or because the children were genetically predisposed prior to their shots, and the vaccines triggered something within their chemistry to go haywire.  And, as afore mentioned, there are the questionable and downright abominable ingredients, though not every vaccine contains them.
Anyhow, I was just telling my husband that I am unsure as to which camp is best for our family.  I just want my daughter to be healthy and live a long life.  I don’t want to make a choice for her that could impact her life in a negative way forever; if I vaccinate and she has a terrible reaction, I’d feel like I made the wrong choice, but if I do not she could contract a vaccine preventable illness and could suffer irreparable damage from that, too.  Which choice is right?
Even as I draw this article to a close, I still cannot answer that question entirely for myself.  For the time being, we have decided to put Lydia’s vaccinations on hold until she is done breastfeeding.  Then we will pick and choose the vaccines that we feel are most important for her to have at that time.  I know we will not vaccinate against polio, as it is not a real threat in this country.  If, later on in life, she chooses to travel the world, that is something that she will need to get, and the choice is up to her at that point.  I also know that I will not permit any aborted human fetal cells to be injected into her.  And if it is up to me, I’d rather she contract the Chicken Pox at an early age b/c the vaccine doesn’t always do the trick, and it is SO much worse to have it as an adult. 
For the time being, that is all I know for sure.  In the meantime, I will continue to do research in the hopes that I can come up with some more concrete answers.  Please post your thoughts and decisions on here, and THANK YOU to Tawny, Jenn, and Sarah W. for all the information and inspiration – keep it coming!!   

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Getting "Veggie" in the Kitchen

My apologies for the delay in getting a new posting up.  To be honest, I haven’t really had much on my mind to write about, and I have been too exhausted to sit in front of the computer to type an article.  We’ve had nine mostly sleepless nights in a row now, due to Lydia having really bad gas that’s been keeping us both up.  We can’t seem to figure out what’s causing it, despite alleviating possible culprits from my diet (including my vitamins), which is what sucks the worst.  It’s awful having to watch my little one suffer…
Anyhoo…  I believe I have mentioned in passing that James and I recently got our “numbers” checked, and said that, unfortunately, his numbers were terrible.  High blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, BMI, etc.  (And though my BMI was too high, the diagnostic people failed to take into account that I just had a baby four months prior.)  That got us thinking that we needed to do something pretty drastic with our lifestyle, changing the way we view exercise and eating. 
We watched three documentaries that got us thinking about our food intake, and how we can choose life or death when we choose what to eat.  We have decided to cut out almost all of the meats we were eating (though I am still eating more than he is b/c of nursing), to eat more fruits and veggies (especially raw), cut way back on sugars, and avoid processed foods in general.  With the kitchen as mostly my domain, this felt like a daunting task, but I knew I was up to it. 
I grabbed a couple cookbooks from my mom, got a couple ideas from my imagination, from the internet, and from picking James’ brain, and we went to the Farmer’s Market and the grocery store.  It was a fun afternoon!  We decided that our health was definitely more important than keeping strictly to our budget, and just had a good time.  We enjoyed picking out our favorite kinds of produce together, and buying several that we’d never experienced before (i.e. leeks).  We grabbed everything from potatoes to Portobellos to eggplant, bananas to pineapple to Muscadine grapes, heck, we even picked a peck of apples! 
I have had such a good time getting creative in the kitchen.  Cooking (mostly) vegetarian is actually quite the adventure.  I have had difficulties in the past with getting stuck in a rut with what I cook, and I feel like now that I have the freedom to get gourmet, I can really get crazy and discover a new talent and passion. 
Here are some of the dishes I have been making, please let me know if you’d like a recipe!
Ratatouille a la Stevie with Spaghetti Squash
Pinto Beans and Rice (simple, I know, but I’d never made beans before!)
Roasted Portobello and Red Pepper Sandwiches with Cayenne Aioli
Stuffed Bell Peppers (made with yellow rice, Portobello mushrooms, onion, and yellow bell pepper)
Creamy Potato and Kale Soup (Vegan, and one of my FAVES so far)
Chicken Noodle Soup (though it was not vegetarian, it was DELICIOUS, and approved of by both James and Brittany!)
I recommend watching Food, Inc. to anyone with Netflix.  It will change the way you view the foods you see at the grocery store.  It will cause you to be curious about where your food comes from, and it may even make you mad.  That said, I’m sure that I will have turned you away from watching it. 
It’s been an adventure for sure, this lifestyle change, be we feel better physically and mentally, knowing we are investing in our health.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Why I Love My Marriage

In a day when divorce rates are up beyond 50%, even in the Christian community, I just want to have a marriage that stands out and stands strong.  The Lord has given me such a thing! 

A lot of people thought James and I were crazy, getting married after knowing one another only 6 months, and it is true that we could have made a huge mistake.  Fortunately, God knew what He was up to in putting us together, and we had enough sense to trust what He was telling us. 

I want to tell you a little bit about my husband and my marriage.  I’d like to share with you some of the reasons why James and I work.
 
James and me right after our wedding ceremony.

 
We are very different, but we see eye to eye.  He makes me think outside the box in the way he presents ideas to me.  He is highly intelligent, much smarter than me, and that's saying something, (NO I'm not that cocky, I'm kidding!) but he never makes me feel like I am any less intelligent than him.  When we talk, I realize how different we are, and I think that makes it all the more interesting.  It gives us lots to talk about, which is something we do all the time. 

We don't own a television.  A lot of people think we're nuts (especially the cable company telemarketers!), but we like that we are different from the herd.  We don't have the distractions and constant noise of a TV.  We had both noticed that even though a lot of the programs are good and wholesome, the commercials are racy and filled with images that are hard to get out of your head (i.e. violence, scantily clad women and men, etc.).  I had actually hardly ever lived in a house where there was cable, either growing up or after I'd moved out on my own.  I prefer to read, personally.  I love that we have a quiet home.  It feels more like a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the outside world, and you can actually breathe and relax and her yourself think here. 

We had also agreed not to have internet for the first year of our marriage, and until we bought this computer a couple weeks ago, we still didn't have it.  We decided to get the net b/c James is the web "guy" for his band, and he needed to be manage their multiple websites (Facebook, Twitter, BandZoogle, MySpace, ReverbNation, etc.) from home b/c he couldn't do it at work.  Also, staying at home with a newborn for me got to be a little monotonous (I have to admit it, I am not perfect), and I wanted to keep in touch with a lot of people from all over.  It's cheaper and easier to have Facebook than to have all your phone numbers and to have to print off and send you photos of Lydia. 

I think this was for my b-day?  But it might have been Valentine's...


We have common goals.  We are really into Dave Ramsey and his plan for becoming debt free.  If you want a quick, easy, inspiring read, pick up The Total Money Makeover.  We have decided to never use credit again, unless it is to purchase another home, and though we have put our debt snowball on hold for a bit (we need new windows, have a gutted bathroom to finish, and a couple other things that unfortunately cost money), we are not creating any new debt and therefore will someday be completely debt free!

After watching 3 documentaries (Food Matters, Food Inc., and Forks Over Knives) and receiving a LOUD wake-up call, we decided to really get close to where our food is coming from, and even begin to grow some and learn to can on our own.  For our insurance, we have to put in our "numbers" or else our rates go up about $50 per person per month, so my husband's company has a "Know Your Numbers" event where your blood gets tested and they look at your height and weight, and so on.  My numbers were all good, except my BMI (Body Mass Index), but they failed to take into account that I just gave birth four months ago.  James' numbers, however, were all in the red, aside from his glucose.  His triglycerides and cholesterol were especially bad. 

What can I say?  Like most Americans, we love to eat junk.  We crave it!  Anyway, the point I was getting to is that, together, we are changing the way we look at food.  We have pretty much eliminated processed sugars, fast food, and meat for now, (it will be more of a treat when we do eat it, and we will be sure to obtain it from ethical, wholesome sources) and have dramatically upped our intake of fresh fruits and veggies and also vitamins.  We are starting our days with a liter or so of water and are really just looking at what we eat as either death or life.  We can go have a fast-food cheeseburger and love every bite, but we're going to pay for it down the road.  (A staggering fact: did you know that ground beef can have the meat from as many as 1,000 cows in it?  That just kind of freaks me out.)  We only have one body, and that body is the temple of Christ Himself, so we are going to take care of it dutifully.  Plus, we owe it to our daughter to live healthily, be active, and educate her on the importance of nutrition, especially with the rising rated of juvenile obesity and diabetes.

Another common goal is that we want a big family.  We are having so much fun with Lydia, watching her grow, change, and become a little person.  We are excited to meet her siblings, whenever they may come.  We feel that it is what the Lord wants for us.

We love the Lord and know He loves us.  We know that it is by His GRACE that we are saved.  We cannot do anything on our own to make us worthy of eternal life, but God still wants us anyway.  He gave us His Son, Jesus, the Christ, to take our place on the cross, to die the death that each one of us deserves, just so we wouldn't have to.  It is still an enigma to me, but God is teaching me a lot about how He loves us through my daughter.  Our beliefs are what brought us together in the first place, actually, and still are the glue that holds us together.
 
This was taken on our 1st anniversary, May 15, 2011, 10 days before Lydia's birth.

We talk.  All the time.  As mentioned before, we don't have the distraction of TV, and didn't have internet for a long time, either, so what else was there to do?  We are both big talkers, but are also both good listeners, too.  We value what the other has to say. 

We are good at realizing when we are wrong and are never too ashamed to apologize.  We love each other, and though we sometimes have to remind ourselves that we are on the SAME team, not opposing ones, we remember that we are walking this road together, side by side.  Yes, we argue, but I wouldn't say we fight.  We don't raise our voices, we don't call names, and we put old disagreements to rest.  We get it out, figure it out, and move on.  This is kind of an art form, in my opinion.  I have had to really push with James in this area, as he is one to bottle up and then when there gets to be too much pressure, things end up being explosive.  But God is good and prayer works.  Myself, my marriage and my husband are proof of that!

We have separate activities, but we are together most of the time.  He is very involved in his awesome band, and I have friends that I like to hang out with when he is at practice.  That is twice a week.  He works, he comes home, and we hang out, go to the park, watch a movie on the computer, or do whatever.  We spend most all of our free time together.

We put each other before our daughter.  That is not saying we don't meet her needs and shower her with love and affection, but it is saying that we are husband and wife before mother and father.  The greatest gift we can give to Lydia is a loving, stable marriage.  She will naturally just be secure because of our obvious love and respect for one another.  We do our best to live out the biblical model of marriage and family structure.  He is the provider, I am the caretaker.

We are KIND to one another.  One of the "Pearls of Wisdom" we got at our wedding was to me from my elderly friend, Allie Rose, who had been married twice and widowed twice to two pastors.  It said "Men need lots of praise.  Admire him often."  I took that to heart from someone who knows!  Whenever I see him doing something I appreciate (be it putting out clean towels, loving on the baby, or taking the initiative to get healthy), I tell him "I'm so proud of you," because I am.  He is a husband to be proud of.  He is complementary of me, too.  He knows my need for verbal affirmation, and he meets that need.  He is very sweet! 

It is for these and so many more reasons that I love my marriage.  I hope my words have been an encouragement to you, friends.  I hope that you, too, have the marriage of your dreams, or that it is on its way to you.  Much love and blessings!