2013 Resolution Review

We've got just a bit over 3 weeks till the new year.  Can you believe it?  If you don't know already, I am passionate about New Year's Resolutions.  I feel like it's just a good idea to start out each new year by assessing where you've been, where you can improve and setting some goals. 

If you've never set New Year's Resolutions or you've never been successful at them, check out my Top 10 Resolution Setting Tips.

But before I finalize my goals for 2014, I want to assess my 2013 goals and how I did.

1. Read the Bible more & build my faith/relationship with Him: I made progress, so I guess this one gets the green light as complete.

2. Reduce screen time : Epic fail.  I don't think this will be on my list in the same format as last year, but I am hoping some of my other resolutions will help me reach this goal.

3. Have a healthy pregnancy: WooHoo!  Success!  I gained a healthy (but less-than-with-Nora) 25 pounds, didn't eat my weight in junk food (at least not every day) and carried to 40 weeks.

4. Have a healthy post-pregnancy: So far, so good!  I've lost all my pregnancy weight and a few more pounds, leaving me hovering right around my pre-pregnancy weight with Nora.  I managed not to get the baby blues so severely as I did with Nora.  I reached out for help with nursing during those tough early weeks and now nursing is going swimmingly.  Checks in all the mini-goal boxes for this one.

5. Give more gifts: This is an example of didn't-make-an-action-plan-so-I-forgot-about-it.  It may or may not make the list this year in some form.

6. Save Money: Check!  We both cut expenses and put some money away this year.  It wasn't a ton, but enough to call it a success.  Now we just need to make this a lifestyle.

7. Make Action Plans: I didn't follow my own advice!  My goals for 2013 weren't really too lofty, so I was able to reach several without the action plan. You'll see that the ones that were at the forefront of my mind were reached and the ones that weren't...weren't.  It's hard to forget you're pregnant (or have a newborn), we took a financial class in 2013 and my husband is a Pastor.  So it's clear which ones were easy to remember and which ones weren't.  This one goes back on the list this year.

Now's the time to get your thinking caps on for your 2014 goals! 
If you'd like, you can go back and see what made my list for 2012 and the full explanation of my 2013 goals.


Ugly Honesty and a Little Redemption

Tonight it happened. I was putting the kids to bed and was just at the end of my emotional rope. I felt as if the dog barked at one more thing, if Nora said, "Mama" one more time, if Judah cried for one more minute, that I would just calmly walk out the door and go. Somewhere. Anywhere. It was ugly. I was ugly inside.  

As I sat there nursing Judah, hoping against hope that he wouldn't wake and cry when I laid him down and wishing Nora could just put herself to bed, I prayed. I prayed that God would redeem parenting for me. 

I left Judah crying while I helped Nora get ready for bed, even though I've tried not to leave him to cry at night. And Nora got her Bible story and prayers, but no extra frills at bedtime; even though there's this inspiring blog post being shared all over about how "sometimes bedtime takes forever (and it should)", this Mama's love always stretches to forever, but sometimes her kindness doesn't.  

The crying subsided and even though the dog still barked and I still heard my name at least 10 more times, I didn't walk out the door.  And at first I heard nothing in response to my request about redemption. So I headed to the only place that made sense. The Bible. I looked up some passages about parents and children. And felt discouraged.

I always think of redemption as God taking something that was His that sin made ugly and making it what He intended it to be again. I can think of at least three times that redemption has been mentioned in this context in the past several weeks during sermons: redeeming marriage, redeeming singleness, redeeming gender roles. These have all been nice, easy concepts of redemption for me. Like when God redeems us from sin, these three have been taking something stressful and messy and made it better. Made it easier, gave relief, gave peace. 

Redeemed parenting? It wasn't shaping up to be so nice, easy, clean, or relieving. I was hoping for a nice metaphor. I was hoping for lots of passages saying things like, "children are a gift" or "being a parent is a joy"...at least then all I'd have to do is grapple with how to get my emotions to reflect what the Bible said. 

But God doesn't deal so much in emotions as He does truth.

The truth that I kept coming across was that passive parenting is not what God intended. I found time and time again a charge for parents to pass the scriptures and the testimonies of what God has done in their lives down to their children. I found Hannah who prayed so hard for a child that Eli thought she was drunk and when she received him she dedicated him back to The Lord. I turned to that darn Proverbs 31 woman (who I often feel I hold so little in common with--especially tonight) and found that she actively worked hard to provide for her children and they called her blessed. I found that she had "faithful instruction on her tongue". I found that parenting is hard. 

I began to think God was telling me my picture of redemption was skewed. This is what I found when I started digging a little: 

"The most common definition provided for the word redemption is to buy back. However, in studying the use of this word in scripture, this simplified definition is found lacking. While it does provide a nice simple definition for many instances of scriptural redemption, it does not adequately define the word as used in the most significant biblical redemptions. A more accurate definition of redemption, as used in scripture, would be to justly bring about the end of a covenant of bondage by which someone or something belonging to God is being held captive." (http://josephjpote.com/what-is-redemption/)

So the thing in captivity which is God's is my parenting and my children. What, then, is the bondage?Our pastor mentioned a few weeks back how what the world advertises as freedom is often slavery.  What am I being told in the parenting world is freedom for my children?  The thing that has come to me strongly is this: freedom of choice. It starts early and only escalates as they grow. 

"Susie didn't want bedtime prayers tonight, so in order not to spoil them/poison her against them, I didn't force the issue."

"Johnny chooses to play 4 sports, be in band, take private music lessons, dance classes and be a Boy Scouts."

"Jane is too old for me to be approving what she wears."

"Chris didn't want to come to church/Sunday School/Youth Group today. I can't make him, it's really his choice."

Then we sit back and wonder how the next generation's morals, values and priorities got all mixed up. Look back at that definition of redemption. Buy. Bring about. Verbs. Action. Passive parenting is creating a prison for our children. Our choice not to set a standard or expectations makes our parenting a covenant of bondage with our children. 

God then directed my thoughts back to the few passages I did find about children being a gift and  to parables like the talents and those beautiful metaphors I was looking for like gold being made perfect in the refiner's fire. God has lent us His children here on earth. Our sweet little ones are but borrowed. What will we do to improve them while they are in our charge until God comes back for us or for them?

We must choose action. 

We must set an example of a heart that loves God and pursues His heart.

We must offer guidance and that faithful instruction mentioned in Proverbs 31. 

A diamond in the rough does not become a sparkling gemstone without shaping, gold does not become beautiful without refining. 

We must choose discipline for ourselves. To commit to redeemed parenting. 

We must pray hard for our children. Hard like Hannah. 

We must dedicate them to The Lord. 

No. I did not find a nice, easy, comforting lesson tonight. But I did find peace.  Parenting is tough, but the redemption is mine to receive, not to create. I am not the redeemer, I am the redeemed.  The freedom for me tonight in my moment of ugly is knowing I don't walk this path without the Wonderful Counsellor by my side giving me faithful instruction so I can make the right choices.

Thank you, God, for answering my call tonight, even though you answered it much differently than I expected. 


Back Taxes and Code Violations and Water Leaks, Oh My!

When it rains it pours, amiright?  We've been in the house 8 months now and have been on maintenance mode for a while due to prepping for Judah's arrival and then surviving the first few months with him.  Zach is also in the community musical again this year and so rehearsals eat up his evenings a few nights a week. 

But we are back in the business of whipping this house into shape.  We started painting the living room over the weekend which is a whole post and adventure of its own.  We also bought the plastic shrink-wrap style window coverings to hopefully hold some warm air inside this winter.  We'll be putting those on after we finish painting, which we hope to complete this week with every minute of spare time afforded us.  With the help of Sean from our family group we have gotten the kitchen baseboard heaters working (hooray!) and it has already made a difference in the amount the furnace for the down stairs runs. 

We've had a few hang ups in the house department lately, too, as you can see from the title. 

One of the joys of buying a home out of foreclosure is that there are usually property taxes that have gone unpaid that the new homeowner inherits when they purchase the home.  New Homeowner=Us.  So we've been working on that.  Ugh. 

Wilmington also just started enforcing new residential building codes and a friend spotted a city worker taking pictures of our house last week.  So while we don't know that our house is in violation, we are expecting a letter any day now asking us to get up to code on something...or somethings.  We think the most likely culprits are the grooming of the ditch outside our fence, the holes at the bottom of our fence gate, the wiring running into our house (it is safe per the home inspector, but it is ugly and does not look safe) or the paint on our house...or lack thereof.  It was primed by the previous owners, but never painted and the primer is chipping pretty extensively in some areas.  If we get a letter requiring us to paint the house that would be a big setback in the savings account department.

Finally, the water leak.  Oh my.  We noticed a small water leak in the basement  about a week ago that only leaked when we ran a lot of water from the kitchen.  Like if we were running water in the sink at the same time the dishwasher emptied.  The glue on the PVC pipes had come undone and needed fixed.  Simple fix, we just needed to get some plumbing cement and fix it sometime that we weren't doing dishes.
Well, last night I went downstairs to throw some laundry in before heading to youth group and discovered water dripping off the ceiling of the basement onto the deep freeze and the floor.  I categorized it as a river.  Zach called it a trickle.  "Stream" is where we've landed in naming the resulting water feature.  It turned out to be a very leaky dishwasher hose.  It is probably a minor fix, we just have to figure out how to access the source of the leak to either repair it or replace the hose.

Oh, and mice.  The cat caught one the other night and kindly left it displayed on our bedroom rug for us.  Gross.  We don't think there's a big problem.  We don't hear or see them or find droppings.  There is, however, a distinct dead rodent smell in our kitchen.  It seems to be emanating from behind the dishwasher or cabinets.  We are losing love for that dishwasher daily. 

Not really.  Please don't die, dishwasher.  We don't want to live without you ever again!

So those are our most recent house adventures.  Hopefully I'll have some pictures of the new paint color in the living area sooner than later!

Also, the misty rain that has been coming down most of the day is starting to turn to a wintery mix and I'm hoping for some snow before the evening is out!  I would never want to skip Thanksgiving (especially since we're visiting my family in just 17 short days!), but this weather sure puts me in the mood for Christmas!


Judah David

I haven't posted in a long time.  If you're a friend of mine on Facebook or Real Life you already know this, but just in case there are some other readers out there, the reason is because on July 12 Judah David made his grand entrance into the world!

I was a little miserable and had nothing nice to say for a couple weeks before his arrival and since then I've been adjusting to taking care of a newborn again, learning to breastfeed, figuring out how to have two kids and stealing some sleep here and there.  So, needless to say, no blogging has been happening.  But I'm back, Baby!

Let's start with some stats.  Judah was 7 lbs 10 oz and 21.5 inches at birth.  The nurse who measured him actually looked at me, asked how tall I am (5'4") and then declared, "This is one long baby to have been inside you!".  He made it here at 2:28am on July 12, 2013.

I was having contractions all night from the 10th into the 11th.  On the morning of the 11th (my due date) the contractions were regular and even though they didn't hurt I called to check in with the doctor's office.  They told me it was a good day to have a baby and to head to the hospital.
I had been told how fast labor usually goes with the second child and even though I wasn't hurting, I didn't want to be that mom that has the baby in the car on the side of the road or at the emergency drop off at the hospital.  I also didn't experience natural labor with Nora because my water broke before contractions began so they were induced when I arrived at the hospital.  So I gave into ignorance and we headed to the hospital.  We were giddy excited.  Like wedding day excited.  That was nice because I was much less nervous this time than last time.

Labor was long and I should have stayed home muuuuch longer, but the hospital was nice, my nurses were all fantastic and they let me eat until they started Pitocin.  And then didn't bust me when I was obviously sneaking food after that point, too.  Nobody ever specifically said "don't eat", so I figured I'd play dumb if anyone made an issue out of it.  But no one did. 

As I just mentioned, I did end up with a Pitocin drip because after about 3 hours of walking the halls I'd barely made any progress.  They gave me my epidural early and I was grateful for that--if you don't know, Pitocin artificially induces contractions and produces harder, faster, more painful contractions than you would normally have in a natural birth.  So the epidural was welcome.  It took unevenly, so I was experiencing significant pain in a band around my right side, but it ended up being a good thing because I knew when to push when the time came. 

Finally the doctor and nurses decided it was time to push.  The room transformed into delivery mode and everyone was taking bets on whether the baby would be a boy or girl.  I did a "practice push" to help me remember what muscles to use and how (and make sure I could with the epidural--no problems there) and pushed through exactly 1 contraction and he was here.  So easy to deliver!

We got to hold and snuggle him, nurse him and then they cleaned him up and weighed him.  Even his first bath was in our room.  He was perfect.

Judah will be 11 weeks old tomorrow.  He loves cuddles, batting at hanging toys, putting things in his mouth, cooing and being naked.  He also loves to be outside.  He hates the swing and having a wet/dirty diaper.

I love to be outside.
This is what I look like when my pants are wet.
Nora loves him most of the time (when he's not crying).  She wanted him to sleep with her the other night and when I came into the living room the other day after leaving them there for a minute she was "reading" him a story.  They are on their way to being lifelong friends.

This was the first time she told him she loves him.


4th of July in Chicago--tips and tricks

At the 2013 fireworks
 Last night we took our 2nd annual trip to downtown Chicago to watch the 4th of July fireworks.  We spent the day up there last year on the 4th and had so much fun that we hoped to make it a family tradition.

Let's just say we learned some things on this trip and that spending the 4th up there each year has its pros and cons.  Here are a few of our observations.

You need to spend at least part of the day there.    We live outside the suburbs in rural Illinois.  It's close enough that the city is attainable, even just for dinner.  But it's far enough away that deciding to go takes at least a little planning.  *AHEM* this is not our family's strong suit *AHEM*.  Yesterday we spent the day at a friend's home and then left in the early evening to head up just for the fireworks.  We made it, it was enjoyable and the fireworks were BEAUTIFUL, but the display was not really enough to justify the trip. 

The Fix: Next year we plan to leave earlier so we can spend time taking in a museum or tour and eat before watching the fireworks.  Even arriving by 3 or 4 (maybe even 5) would make the trip worth it.

And along with that, Think long and hard about how you're going to get there. We love public transit, but it also has its downsides, including the time suck.  We know plenty of people who prefer to drive themselves. If you will need to use multiple modes of travel (Metra and CTA or CTA and Taxi, etc.) or if your family is large (littles are free to ride, but if you have older kids, they require a ticket) it may be more cost effective to drive, though remember that you have to pay (outlandish amounts) to park just about anywhere.  Just look into it and do a little math ahead of time.

We have made 2 different fatal errors in the transportation department for these trips. 
Location!  Last year, we decided we were going to go to Lincoln Park Zoo, North Beach, and then to Museum Campus for the fireworks.  That might all look close on a map, but it's NOT.  Also, consider where you want to go and how easy it is to get there on public transpo or if there is nearby parking.  Lincoln Park Zoo, for example, takes a loooong time to get to by train/bus. 

Our little champ walking back to the station
This year we decided to take the Metra train because the stop is so close to Museum Campus and I was not feeling up to a mile or two walk each way from an L station.  However, unlike the L, the Metra runs on a schedule.  The waiting, you guys!  Even though we looked up the schedule it was not updated in the app (and there was not one posted at the station) so we arrived at the station and had over an hour wait for the train.  The wait was much shorter for the train back, but it was the last train of the night, so if we'd missed it we would have been in a world of hurt. 

Tips/Fixes: I could write a whole post on the pros/cons of public transpo vs. driving.  Who knows, I might!  Until then, there is often a Groupon for the CTA and sometimes you can get tickets cheaper online, but this may require the tickets to be mailed to you.  Metra is a totally different animal and just takes some time to get used to--for example, yesterday you could buy a round trip ticket on the train, but there was not an option to buy it from the ticket machine in the station.  Also, while it may happen, we've never experienced the train attendant charging the extra $3 fee for buying your ticket once you've boarded.  We found the app "Embark Metra" (it's a black icon with an orange M with a circle around it) to be more accurate than the "onTime Metra" app.  If you're going to stay within walking distance of one location all day (or plan to rent bikes), you may save money by driving yourself if the traffic isn't a deterrent for you.  Also, bathrooms are few and far between on the CTA and Metra, so it turned out to be good that we had some wait time to find a bathroom for our little potty trainer!

Getting tired waiting on the train

Consider your kids.  This probably goes without saying.  Every kid has what I call "meltdown o'clock" and each kid's personality raises different challenges.  Nora is super easy to handle and is very easygoing, but next year we'll have to assess the new baby and see what will be best to accommodate his or her personality as well as Nora's as she grows.  Some things to consider: motion sickness and being in VERY close proximity to strangers (if you do the train--they are usually fuller at the end of the night...you know, when your kid is at their wit's end anyway), heavy traffic/sitting at a standstill (if you drive--especially on a holiday), behavior/reaction to being in a crowd (which usually includes leashed dogs), loud noises (especially for the 4th, but Chicago can be a noisy city on any day), lots of walking or riding, heat/sun safety, potential for plans to change suddenly including having to wait longer between potty and/or food breaks, being out late.

Past her bedtime
Tips/Fixes:  PACK SNACKS AND DRINKS!  I had plenty of drinks, but only had about a quarter of a bag of trail mix to snack on.  Our plan was to get hotdogs from the vendor on Museum Campus, but he was SOLD OUT of EVERYTHING.  Thankfully we'd eaten a late lunch and had been grazing all afternoon, so nobody was too hungry and cranky.  Nora didn't even ask for dinner, was just disappointed not to get ice cream and that our picnic turned out to be just sitting on a blanket.  Bring a stroller if you need one, but pack light. Because of how close our train stop was we only carried my purse, a small diaper bag and our blanket.  Bringing a comfort item is probably a good idea, especially for little ones.  We took Nora's monkey--he's special enough that he brings her comfort, but not SO special that if something tragic happened to him (being left, falling off the train platform, being eaten by a pack of hipsters) she would have been devastated.

Hopefully these tips help you out on your next trip to the city...or your next trip anywhere!


Pregnancy Update--Just 9 days to go!

Well, folks, we're in the home stretch!  Looks like this baby is taking after his or her big sister and staying in utero for the long haul. 

Stats (as of 38 weeks, 4 days):
  • 0 cm dilated
  • 0% effaced
  • +25 lbs

Favorite things to do:
  • Sit and think about the things I should be doing around the house
  • Boss my husband around
  • Go for walks/do prego yoga
My doctor appointment took forever yesterday--I think I was not the only patient who was rescheduled last week.  I thought I would be very disappointed to find out that I was not dilated, but I actually was not.  I was just glad to hear that things still seem to be on track, that baby's heart sounded good and it was just good to know where things stood in general.  I got the epidural release--they like you to read it before the "heat of the moment".  She also gave me the "when to call" and "what to do when it's time" sheet.  All things that keep reminding me that the time is near. 

I don't think I'll be stressed to the max if I go past my due date like I was with Nora.  I mean, the due date is really just a guess--it's kind of a 50/50 chance, just like whether I'm having a girl or boy.  So no biggie.  I am blessed to be able to carry a baby to full term--so many are not so fortunate and the longer baby stays in there the healthier baby will be when he or she makes his or her debut. 

So today I'm in a good place. 


Worst.Mommy Brain.Ever.

Soooooooooooooooo...remember that time that I announced our baby names?  Well, I announced one of them wrong.

If you don't have kids, I want to give you a little PSA: Mommy Brain is not a myth! 

Shouldn't there be some kind of activist group for combatting the cruelties of Mommy Brain?  Like "Save the Whales", but it would be "Save Mommy's Brain Cells" instead? 

There probably was, but all the mommies forgot about the meeting.

Anyway, here are the CORRECT names for Baby G2:

Eleanor Ivy
Judah David

For real this time.  I hope you all have a wonderful day and that you don't forget anything important!


Desperate, Restless, Respect & Taming the Tongue

How's that for a title?  Have any idea what this post is about?  Me, either, just yet.

A few months back a friend on Facebook recommended this book:
Click on the pic for link to the website and a video about the book

I jotted down the title and author on a post it and stuck it in my desk drawer.  Every time I opened my drawer I thought about the book and then had some reason not to order it.  None of them were very good excuses considering it's only $10 on Amazon. 

Then a month or two ago I ran across this article by Sarah Mae.  I was intrigued by the title ("I've Stopped Trying to Tame My Children's Tongues") and recognized the author's name from the aforementioned book, so as soon as I had a few minutes, I jumped over and read it.  In it she talks about how the approach of correcting a child's hurtful or rude words does not address the root of the problem because of the truth that Jesus spoke:

"The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45

She has begun to discuss her children's words with them, trying to address the heart issue behind their words and trying to cultivate hearts full of good treasure. 

I immediately ordered her book.

Fast forward to this week.

I ran across this article about respecting our husbands (thanks, by the way, to all my Facebook friends who post great articles!).

Our small group is studying James right now and I was reminded of this verse:

"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires."  James 1:19-20

I wouldn't have said that I was a person who is quick to anger...but I am quick to sarcasm, snappy remarks and passive agression.  It suddenly all clicked. 

I have been trying for too many years to tame my tongue without surrendering to God the condition of my heart.  I have prayed for slower speech.  I have prayed for patience.  I have prayed for the ability to "let it go" when snappy and hurtful things come to my mind.  I have been praying to receive the result without the surrender.

I let "Desperate" lay around the house for several weeks before opening it.  The tagline reads, "Hope for the Mom who needs to breathe."  Being a working Mom, I thought this book might not be for me.  I worried this book was not for me.  But then I opened it up and read and cried.  I cried from the foreward all the way through the end of the first chapter.

See, this book isn't just for Joy--the Mom.  It's for Joy--God's daughter, Christ's bride.  The first chapter talked about ideals and how Sarah found a picture of an ideal and purposed to be that.  She did not take into consideration that she is human with a sin problem.  She did not consider her strengths and weaknesses and God-given gifts.  She did not purpose to be the best version of herself or to be who God wanted her to be.  She purposed to be an un-real, unattainable, idyllic woman. 

Is that not me?  I have been purposing to be THE Christian Woman, the good Pastor's Wife, the Good Example, the Good Mom.  The woman with the right words and actions.  What I need to be pursuing instead is God's Heart, surrender to God's molding.  Really.  Not just on the exterior, or in my words, but truly in my heart. 

It's an easy prayer to pray and I've done it a thousand times: "God, give me your eyes to see your people the way you do, your hands to serve, your heart to love them, your ears to hear what they really need and want to say." 

It's even easy to mean it emotionally.  But it's not so easy for me to soften MY heart in order to give God access to work in me and consequently, through me.

These lyrics from Audrey Assad's song "Restless" have been my prayer and encouragement the last few days:

Oh, speak now for my soul is listening
Say that You have saved me, whisper in the dark, the dark'
Cause I know You're more than my salvation
Without You I am hopeless, tell me who You are
You are the keeper of my heart
You are the keeper of my heart

And I am restless,
I'm restless
'Til I rest in You,
'til I rest in You

Still my heart, hold me close
Let me hear a still small voice
Let it grow, let it rise
Into a shout, into a cry
This week I'm focusing on resting in God's plan for me.  To stop straining for perfection and to stop covering up my imperfections with a false show.  To release my heart of stone and receive the heart of flesh that God has for me instead.  To accept the pruning and tempering that I need from Him.


Pregnancy #2 Update

33 Weeks
Here I am, just 8 short weeks away from our due date (7 now, I started writing this a week ago).  I can't help but continue to compare and contrast this pregnancy with my pregnancy with Nora.

Something I couldn't have told you early on about the differences between this pregnancy and my 1st is that a lot--most, even--of them have more to do with me and my life than my baby and gestation.  Here are some updates and comparisons.

Overall Physical: I am feeling good. I would say I am in better shape and taking better care of myself this time around than I did the first time.  Even though I started this pregnancy heavier, I'm more responsible in my eating and exercise habits.  I'm even still able to cruise around town on my bike.  I do find myself easily winded sometimes, but that seems to be more connected to stress than physical exertion.  The 3rd Trimester tiredness has kicked in again, but I'm noticing that instead of needing a 2 hour nap to gain any energy, just 15-20 minutes of quality rest (not even sleep necessarily) can get me through my tired period.
Update: one week after writing the above paragraph, I am now feeling a little huge and hard to maneuver and have felt a little blah for several days in a row.  Today I feel good, though, so maybe it was just a transition as baby grows and shifts.

Overall Emotional: Aside from a few epic blow ups and tear-fests, I don't really remember what my emotional state was like when I was pregnant for Nora.

This time I would usually tell you that I'm doing well emotionally, but looking back at the last couple of weeks, I'm actually teetering on losing my crap most of the time.  I'm a ticking time bomb.  Usually when I get pushed over the edge I go straight to mean-spirited snappy or sarcastic comments.  Occasionally there is yelling.  Occasionally there are tears.  I'm actually enjoying the tears some.  Tears from something touching my heart have been really rare for me since I had Nora, so the fact that they come pretty readily now is a welcome change.  I kind of hope they stay.
Update: Again, a week later, I'm feeling more emotionally stable, yay! I think since I really thought about my emotional state I have been focusing on managing stress better and it seems to be helping.

Concerns/Worries: I remember feeling stressed about delivery with Nora. I was worried I would miss my window to get an epidural and of the pain. I wasn't too worried that I wouldn't be able to deliver Nora, just afraid of how much it would hurt.

In the time since I had Nora there has been this huge natural wave among my friends.  I've gotten on the bandwagon on some things and chosen to ignore others.  Natural delivery, the way mothers are treated at hospitals, and being robbed of a particular birth experience are all hot topics right now.  I've read up on birthing methods and read birth stories. 

It feels like everything out there says that if you have a birth in a hospital with any kind of medication with your feet in stirrups that you had a bad ("traumatic" is the buzz word) birth experience and if you don't feel that way, you're uneducated or you're a bad Mom.  I've been struggling with that because even though there are things I want to change this time around (no narcotics for this Momma!), I don't feel like my birth experience with Nora was a bad one.  I feel so to the contrary that I intend to almost completely replicate it this time: give me that epidural! 

What I think is being lost in the movement for positive birth experiences, though, is that what people are supposed to be advocating are the rights of the mother to have her wishes respected, not advocating a certain type of birth.  I've struggled through this a little bit and have decided that as long as we all try together (our family and the docs and nurses) for the type of birth that is ideal to me and as long as any changes are necessary and not the result of bullying, that's all I want.  And I can attest that being a good emotional state after birth is paramount to the health and bonding of your baby, possibly even more so than the decisions that got there.  I want a healthy baby regardless of how s/he gets here and I want to be involved in the decision making process.  Those two things will make it a positive birth experience to me.

OK, I'll step off my soapbox now...it's just be weighing on me lately, can you tell?

Nesting: I have a tendancy to nest about stupid things.  I had to organize thousands of photos from my childhood.  I really am about to lose it if we don't get the new light in Nora's room hung or the fan in our bedroom fixed.  I feel compelled to make laundry and dishwasher detergents, but don't really feel compelled to do the laundry or dishes.  It's weird.  And useless.

Cravings: Salt (oh, the salt!) and ice. 
We're not talking about salty snacks, here, folks.  We're talking about pouring salt into my mouth by the teaspoon.  Gross, I know.  I even crave different types of salt.  Lately it's been iodized table salt.  A few weeks ago I couldn't get enough sea salt (and virgin margaritas).  I've even craved inedible salt like rock salt (like for making ice cream) or the salt you put in a water softener (I don't give in on those cravings).  It's ridiculous.  My doc said to resist the temptation to eat it straight because I'll swell up like a balloon.  Great.  I've snuck some now and then, but at least there's not a salt shaker on my desk now.  That's a step in the right direction, right? 

I also want ice all the time.  And I can tell the difference--size, texture and taste all matter.  The bagged ice from one grocery store in town is way better than the other.  The ice we make from our tap water tastes good, but the texture isn't great.  I love Sonic ice, but it's 30 minutes away, so I don't get it often.  There was this place we ate on our anniversary that had stellar ice.  If I could have stayed there all day munching on ice I would have!

Body: Feeling a little huge lately, like I said above.  My old stretch marks from Nora are more visible than usual, but have stayed that old-stretch-mark silver color.  I have a couple new ones, but overall the stretch marks aren't bad at all.  No swelling so far, either.  I looked back at some pics from when I was pregnant with Nora and would guess I look about 3 weeks ahead of where I was at this time with her.  I've gained 19 lbs as of my check up last Friday.

Names: We've finally settled on names!  Drumroll, please..................................

If baby G2 is a boy, he will be Judah Michael Update: the middle name is David.
If baby G2 is a girl, she will be Eleanor Ivy

Thanks for sticking with me on this loooong update!  Hoping to have an update on the nursery soon...why can't my nesting instinct want to get THAT done???


10 Ways: Keeping it Cool this Summer

My doctor cleared me to chaperone Summer in the Son, the youth conference/camp we’re taking our high schoolers to next month. 

She was a little apprehensive considering it’s in Eastern Kentucky which is many, many hours away from her and I’ll be 36.5 weeks pregnant at the time.  She was convinced to let me go because I will have the opportunity to sit or lay down when I need to, that we’re in real rooms with A/C (not tents or cabins) and Zach is also going to be there. 
My clearance didn’t come without a few stipulations, though.  We have to stop every 2 hours on the way there and back so I can walk around and stretch, I have to stay hydrated, listen to my body and take breaks as needed, have my medical records with me, and know where the nearest hospital with a labor & delivery unit is.  Also suggested: take along my hospital bag, car seat, going home outfit for baby, etc. 
So with all this in mind, I thought I’d make a stay-cool list for my trip and to share with any Momma-to-be trying to keep the heat away this summer.
Drumroll, please:

1.       Water bottle: refillable because I love the earth and because it’s way cheaper considering the amount of water I should be drinking.  I also know I’ll have ready access to water fountains all week.

2.       Gatorade:  I figure if ever I could use the extra electrolytes and don’t have to worry about the carbs, it’s now!  Growing a person in the summer is definitely harder than a workout!

3.       Fan: I’m thinking of taking a folding fan that I can stash in my purse/bag.  Even when I’m not pregnant I get car sick/sick to my stomach in stagnant, hot air, so this could be a life saver.

4.       Sun Hat

5.       Hair ties

6.       Sun Block:  giant and sunburnt doesn’t sound like a good combo to me (and I think I’ve read that you’re more susceptible to sunburn when pregnant)

7.       Sunglasses:  this one is more for other Mommas than me since I wear glasses (which have UV protection), but I may toss a pair into my bag for some of our free time when I know we’ll have the opportunity to hang out at the lake.

8.     Corn Starch:  two words: heat rash.  Nothing like sweaty preggo thighs rubbing together to make a gal uncomfortable!

9.   Loose Sandals:  I know I’ll be swollen both from the heat and the late stage of pregnancy, so I’m going to always have on hand (or foot, as the case may be) my loose, comfy sandals.  I bought them when I was pregnant with my first, so they are fitted for my pregnant feet already.

10.   Will Power:  I’ve always been a person who will stay up far later than necessary because I don’t want to miss something.  I’m also that person to push my body to the limit—I’d be the idiot to climb all the way to the top of a mountain only to realize that I don’t have the energy to get back down.  I know I can’t do that on this trip and so one of the most important things I’m packing is my willpower to do what’s right for me and my baby.  A little common sense can be the difference between a really fun week and a trip to the hospital for dehydration and/or exhaustion. 



  Wowsa!  That last post was tough!  It was my first time putting a video on the blog, I guess; definitely the first time putting up a video longer than a minute or so.  Hopefully house tour videos will be shorter and more polished in the future, but we've got a while before we'll be due for another one of those. 
As I mentioned in the video notes, we got several projects under way this weekend, so I thought I'd share some of those.
First, we had a huge, unmanageable weed of a tree growing in the back yard on the edge of what used to be a koi pond.  Zach and his Dad remedied that.
Tree limbed up--looking from the patio
Same view as above, but now with the tree down
And the patio view again, but this time with the tree hauled away!
From the back of the yard, tree down
From the back of the yard, tree gone!
Well, it's still not what I'd call pretty, but it's definitely progress!  What I wasn't able to capture in the pics I took was the cloud of pollen that puffed into the air when each of the limbs came down.  It literally filled the whole back yard and looked like smoke.  I've never seen so much pollen in my entire life!  I'm so glad to have that giant allergen producer out of my yard!
Yesterday I moved Nora's play kitchen.  It was always looking really cluttered and the space on the landing above it was always collecting "stuff", so I just put the kitchen up there and it is a perfect fit.  However, I failed to think like a toddler and Nora promptly threw half the kitchen items and toys over the railing to the floor outside the bathroom.  Nothing broke this time, but it's only a matter of time.  I'll have to watch more closely and catch her while she's doing it next time and quash that game.  I didn't realize what was happening because I was cooking dinner and thought she was just banging around in her kitchen like Mommy.  Silly Mommy.

Play kitchen area before (and this is with it all contained!)
Landing before

From the great room floor after

Play kitchen after
I mentioned in the house tour video that we have a huge closet in the living room for games and blankets and DVDs.  What I didn't mention was that everything was still in boxes in that closet and it wasn't organized or useful at all.  So yesterday over lunch I got rid of about 5 boxes of stuff that were stashed in there and organized.  I don't have a "before", but here's the after.  How awesome is that closet?!

 Zach's Mom also brought our finished curtains.  Her friend's Dad is selling his house and we were able to get quite a few (16, I think) curtains for free.  They're cotton and white, so we figured there was a lot we could do to make them work in our room.  We talked about valances and dying them, etc.  Then we got the curtains up here...and they were far too short for our windows (20 inches!).  Thankfully since there were so many, Zach's Mom could splice two curtains together with a stripe of accent fabric between the sections.  It added visual interest and prevented an awkward seam.  There were plenty to cover the windows in the living room section of the great room.  Having them up helps the room look a lot more finished. 

Living room before curtains
Living room after curtains
With the help of some friends at about 11pm on Sunday night, we rearranged our living room furniture, too.  We really like it a lot better and now when our small group is over there won't be awkward seats where people can't see each other.  Above is the old arrangement and below is the new.
We've got some work to do on the TV arrangement, but we think this arrangement is the winner for the long run.  We've currently got cables run under the rug, but it should be easy to add an outlet where the TV is now because there's a closet with electric already run in it on the other side of the wall (master bathroom closet).  We're planning to mount the TV and get rid of teh stand it's on.  We may build in some shelves for the things on the stand--again not a tough undertaking because of the closet on the other side of the wall.  We'd lose a little depth, but the closet behind there is deep enough that our whole family could get into it if we had to (I'm not kidding!), so it's not like we can't spare the depth in the back/bottom of that closet.
Well, there are our little changes from the past few days.  Thanks for keeping up with our progress!

House Tour Video!

Hey, blog friends! Welcome to our first ever house tour! We closed on the house on February 26 and moved in a week or two after. We have been living in the house for a couple of months now, but clearly haven’t had enough time or money to do every project on our list. Some rooms are at a complete starting point while others are in transition and still others are nearly finished. This video was taken on Friday, May 8.

Notes on the Video:

·         Just FYI, I’m 31 weeks pregnant in this video.

·         I say that the exterior is “primed” but it sounds like I say it’s “a crime”, which is pretty accurate, too.  Our neighbors will probably throw a party when we put siding on this eye sore!

·         Sorry I’m so awkward in this video.  For someone who talks to people I can’t see for a living, I felt really awkward while doing this.  Plus, baby brain makes it really hard to form complete thoughts sometimes.

·         As you can see from ALL THE PATCHING in EVERY ROOM, the previous owners were shelving-happy.  Looking at the patch situation in each room is a good indicator of whether or not we’ve painted a room yet. 

·         The guest bedroom was not in its best form for the video.  Those beds are trundle beds, so when the room is not in use one pushes under the other to make that room not seem so tiny and cramped.  There’s also a huge box of decorations in that room eating up some space.  You’ll also notice pieces of the crib and other baby things in this room because we were in the process of painting the nursery.

·         If I look super awkward (especially in the nursery) it’s because Zach was giving me cues on what to say and I was trying to figure out what his hand motions meant. 

·         The going-to-be-bathroom is currently our paint supply closet…that’s what’s all over the place in there.  No judging—it keeps that stuff contained!

·         You may notice water damage on the ceiling in the eating area of the kitchen.  It’s old damage and the sky lights have since been fixed, so no worries there.  It all just needs painted.

·         We’ve still got some boxes hanging around as you can spot here and there in the video

·         I mention being open to suggestions on the living room arrangement.  Just last night we moved the furniture in there.  Watch for another post tomorrow with pictures of some of the projects we tackled this past weekend.

·         The patio isn’t on our list for a couple of years because it’s going to be a big undertaking.  We can’t just cap it off with some concrete or it will look exactly like it does now in a few years.  It’ll take at least 3 inches of concrete to keep it from chipping, so we’ll probably tear the whole thing out somewhere down the line and we’ll decide then if we want to replace it with more concrete, pavers, a deck or something else entirely.

·         I discovered the other day that our dryer vents out on to the patio—what bad planning!  That seems like quite the task to re-route, so we’ll be looking into that at some point.  Once we clean that patio, we’ll never be able to KEEP it clean with that vent emptying onto it like it is now.


Nora's 2 year update

Nora is now actually 25 months old, but we're going to still call this the 2 year update.  There is so much to report that I don't even know where to begin and I'm sure I'll miss some things!  I'm just going to be up front and let you know I'm going to brag in this post.  Hope you don't mind.

She is such a fun kid!  She repeats anything she hears, so while you have to be careful what kind of environment she's around, she's also really funny.  Some of her favorite phrases right now are "Oh boy"(via Micky Mouse), "let's roll" (via Super Why), "seat belts so we can be safe" (via Dora) and "no way, Jose" (that's us).  So far she hasn't come away with any unsavory phrases, for which I am thankful.

She is still tender hearted and wants to please.  Sometimes she's a little stubborn and tests us, but in the long run, she wants to make us happy.

She knows A LOT. 
  • She knows the difference between big and small. 
  • Whenever we drive she delights in telling us "red light stop" and "green light go". 
  • If you point to a smiley face and ask her how he's feeling she'll tell you happy and recognizes sad as well. 
  • She can sing the ABC's almost all the way and is beginning to recognize some letters.
  • She can count well into the teens and recognizes numbers when she sees them.  She has also recently begun to be able to count items.  Before she would just count as high as she cared to, now she assigns a number to each item that she's counting and stops when she runs out of things to count.
  • She knows all the standard colors including: black, white, brown, red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple, and pink.
  • She knows several shapes including: square, rectangle, triangle, circle, oval, diamond, heart, and star.
  • She is showing strategic problem solving abilities.  She is better at puzzles every day.  There is one game on my phone I let her play occasionally and she is able to do an 8-card matching Memory-type activity on it.
  • Her fine motor skills are getting better--she can now put the straw back into a juice box, holds a crayon/chalk/marker/spoon/fork well and (sadly) can navigate my iphone pretty efficiently.
  • She can understand simple games like toss and chase (in various forms)
  • The above isn't that new, but the fact that she now plays these games with other children with no adult initiating or facilitating the activity is.  Parallel play is quickly becoming a thing of the past.  She is starting to pick up on taking turns, though sometimes she still feels it should be her turn every time.  Today we were at a softball game and she approached two young boys playing catch and asked for a turn.  They graciously let her play (one boy was probably a year older than her and the other 3-4 years older) and she did well understanding who to throw it to each time (the littler boy showed her) and taking turns.  Neither the boys' mom nor I assisted in this interaction at all.
  • She is showing lots of independence.  She doesn't usually come out of her room until she's hungry in the morning--she just reads books or plays with toys or colors till we come get her.  We had 3 bounce houses at the park this past weekend and she gladly travelled from one to the next without a care as to where Zach or I were for several hours on Sunday afternoon.  (We, of course, always had an eye on her from nearby)
  • She repeats prayers with us (we'll say a phrase and she'll repeat) and can say a simple mealtime prayer herself, "Jesus, thank you for food.  Amen". 
  • She knows a ton of people's names from church.
  • I can't even begin to give you an idea of her vocabulary.  If she's heard a word, she'll use it.  She's making more complete sentences every day.  She still gets some sounds mixed up, but that's pretty typical for a few more years now, right?  Our favorite ones that she mixes up are "f's" sound like "b's"--"fish" comes out "bish".  But "th" sounds like "f"--"Kathy" is "Kafee".  She sometimes adds letters, too, or doesn't realize when something is 2 words.  It took me several days to figure out what she wanted when she said "Caribou".  She was saying "Carry you" and she meant "Carry ME". 
  • She does not eat beef well, eats chicken OK, but loves pork.  Sometimes she's a big fan of fish as well, but you have to catch her on a day she's in the mood for it.  She loves all fruit.  She likes just about every veggie (exception: zucchini), but she is more selective about veggies as to what she is in the mood for on that particular day.  Tuesday she may devour her weight in carrots, but Wednesday she won't touch them.  Basically if you put it in front her, she'll give it a go (exception: eggs).  She's even eaten Mongolian barbeque, tuna salad, Chinese and a whole host of other foods that most toddlers reject.
  • We have settled on almond milk for her and that along with limiting her dairy, banana and rice intake has almost completely solved her bowel issues.  These foods aren't eliminated, but they are closely monitored/moderated.   Stress seems to affect her bowels as well, so being away from home or having all different house guests binds her up some.  I'm afraid she has her Mommy's tummy.
  • She loves music and loves to sing--she is picking up on songs more easily now and sings songs from her favorite TV shows and from church.  I love to hear her singing songs from church. 
  • She enjoys sidewalk chalk, riding her trike, playing kitchen, playing in water in the sink ("wash dishes"), LOVES our cat, likes coloring and would watch TV all day if we'd let her.
  • She does not like getting her hair wet/rinsed, big or strange animals, sharing or loud noises (she thinks our neighbor's muscle car is scary).  She also gets frustrated somewhat easily (much more easily at meal times or when she's sleepy), but remains pretty easy to calm down.  It's usually possible for me to get her to tell me why she's crying and I can usually correct it (she wants a fork instead of a spoon) or reason with her (you get to have fruit snacks, but you need to eat a few more bites of your sandwich first).
  • She's starting to understand our baby a little more.  She occasionally talks about it and rubs my belly--the other day she even asked to kiss the baby.  We've discussed giving the baby some of her things now that she's a big girl and doesn't need them. 
I don't know how tall she is or how much she weighs, but she's busting out of many 24mo/2T's.  3T's and even some 4T's fit her well except for length.  She is very short legged with a long torso (like my Dad), which makes for some long sleeves and pants legs on clothes that otherwise fit her well in body length and waist size.  She is wearing a 6-7 shoe. 

Her eyes have remained blue like her Daddy's and her hair is curly as the day is long.  It's a little tough to deal with, but it's beautiful and I wouldn't change it. 

She would brush her teeth 5 times a day for 30 minutes a piece if we'd let her.

She is still a sleeping champ.  She usually sleeps about 12 hours a night and is bouncing between 1 and 2 naps depending on the day.  If she wakes up early she'll just play in her room till she gets tired again and then lays back down if we haven't come to get her yet.  If it's not a day that she needs to go to the sitter I usually leave her be until she calls for us.  She let me sleep till 9 on Saturday morning!

She got her first throwing up stomach bug a couple weeks ago.  It was so sad.  She didn't understand what was happening and hated us putting the trash can in front her her to throw up in.  The only upside to a sickly little one is all the cuddles.  Thankfully it only lasted one evening/night and then took a few days to get her energy back. 

So that's the (extremely long) 2 year update.  I'm so proud of our wonderful girl and am just loving watching her grow even though it means her growing out of the baby phase.  That's OK, she'll always be my baby!


First World Problems

Photo Credit: http://www.lolhappens.com/67129/first-world-problems-2/

My heart has been troubled over the last few days.  I'm sure by now you've seen the First World Problems Memes floating around the internet.  They're meant to be tongue-in-cheek about the things we in industrialized countries find as concerns that someone in a Third-World country would roll their eyes at--if not be glad to have. 

They've made me laugh a few times over the last few months, but this week, in light of some things God has been showing me, running across this list of them just made me sad.  I couldn't help but think of the season finale of "The Neighbors" (the one where the neighbors are aliens) when Larry Bird says to his alien father that this world is interesting and crazy--half the world doesn't have enough water to support daily life and the other half has so much they pee in it.  What a poignant thought, even if it was meant as half joke, half jab.  Think how richly blessed we are that we have safe tap water! Yet so many people scoff at it and choose to buy bottled water or feel that it has to be filtered to be useable.  Even if you drink your tap water, how many times have to poured half a glass down the drain because it set out for an hour and got warm?  I've been guilty of it.

And even though this attitude has been weighing heavy on my heart lately, this morning when I went to make breakfast, I felt a moment of disappointment when I realized I'd bought plain yogurt instead of vanilla.  I've been guilty more than once of complaining about my iPhone charger cord being too short.  I've had to stop myself from writing a post on facebook lamenting the fact that due to the size/setup of our new house the baby monitor doesn't reach where we'd like it to.  We fuss when the wireless router doesn't have strong enough signal, when Hulu is down, when I get Super Why songs stuck in my head. 

Instead I should be thanking God for healthy and filling choices for breakfast--and the money to buy them, for power in our house and the ability to be connected to my friends and family at any moment, for the wonderful blessing of our new house, for technology that exists sheerly for our pleasure, for educational TV shows that I don't have to worry about my toddler watching.

And like I said, God has been showing me some things.  I've found myself bothered by campaigns that, when compared to people's problems in other parts of the world, seem frivolous. They're mostly good causes and someone needs to be concerned about them...but when you pair a campaign about whether or not to vaccinate your child next to the fact that people of all ages all over the world are dying of treatable diseases; about organic food being overpriced next to the reality that people die of starvation and thirst each day; about every pet deserving a home while children are orphaned by disease and disaster and people are being sold into sexual slavery daily.  It makes some of the things that seem to matter so much seem like First World problems.

God's been interweaving this with another thought to form a heavy concept for me. 

Yesterday I ran across an article from Relevant Magazine called "The Socially Acceptable Sin".  I honestly didn't read the whole thing, but what I read described our culture looking the other way in the face of the sin of gluttony.  The writer stated, "At its simplest, gluttony is the soul's addiction to excess."  That description hurt because not only did it point the finger at my country, but also at my Christian culture, at my loved ones and at me.  You probably don't have to look far to find what you're a glutton for...or for the excuse you use to justify it.  Do you upgrade technology of some kind every chance you get?  Do you spend money you don't have?  Do you covet your neighbor's vehicle?  Home?  Do you have more pairs of shoes than you could ever need?  Buy too many things for your kids?

We've become accustomed to comfort and when you have all you need for comfort, the next step in the human nature is to want more.  While some things may seem justifiable or "not a big deal", by always having a spirit of wanting you are essentially telling God that the portion He has ordained for you is not enough.  That God's Goodness is not good enough.

This tendency comes from a fallen nature, but how can we circumvent it?  By seeking the Lord for our fill.  Remember Audio Adrenaline's song "God Shaped Hole"?  I tend to roll my eyes at that phrase now because it's been so used up in talking about how non-Christians who feel like they are searching for something need to fill their hole with God instead of worldly pleasures. 

But guess what?  Christians have a God shaped hole, too.  When we stray from intimate fellowship with Him on a daily basis, we open up space in our hearts--space we can easily fill with junk.  Look at what the Bible says about filling that space with God instead:

"Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!" Psalm 34:8

"Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live." Isaiah 55:2-3

"I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh."  Ezekiel 11:19
 "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Ezekiel 36:25-27
"They [the Lord's compassions] are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”" Lamentations 3:23-24
So we remember or relearn to seek God earnestly, constantly.  We look to Him for satisfaction for our souls.  We thank and praise Him for his many blessings.
Of course no hard lesson comes without some life change, right?  I've felt a little convicted about our new house.  It's big.  We've justified it by saying that our family isn't finished yet and that we like to have people over and we got a great deal on it.  But it's true that we have always had a little dose of house envy.  Whether someone's house is bigger or nicer looking or laid out better or is in a better location, there's always something better about someone else's house.  When we were blessed with this house I laid in bed on our first night here and offered it to God.  I walked around and prayed over the areas of our house and how God will use them.  Now I pray for how this house can be a tool for love and mercy rather than an evidence of gluttony.  We are working to make this a place that is safe and comfortable for our teens.  We want to allow God to make this a place that travellers can feel at home.  Where friends can come to feel a sense of family and refreshment. 
I've been thinking about other ways in my life to waste less, to be thankful more and think of others first.  Ways to ordain not just the things in my life, but my thoughts and myself to God. 
What are your First World Problems?  What can you change to be freed from gluttony and complacency?  What's the first step to ordaining your life to God?
Finally I'll leave you with the verse that God has been placing in my path over and over in the past few weeks:
Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."