Monday, April 30, 2012

New Blog Design and April Sponsors

Don't worry... You're in the right place!  How do you like my new look?  Angie from Thirsty Hearts Design and I have been emailing back and forth for weeks until we got this thing looking just right.  I LOVE it.  Seriously, having a new blog design is like getting a new planner or a new journal (only better) - I just feel so "fresh" and "inspired" right now.  Thanks Angie!

And now, some other things I love...
My fabulous April sponsors!

Windows by Melissa is new here this month.  But, you might recognize it from this post where I bragged about winning the perfect curtains for Sam's bedroom and how crazy it was that the seamstress lives right in my neighborhood.  Seriously, so cool!  Anyway, if I won the lottery right now, I'd order custom-made curtains for EVERY room in my house.  I just think they add SO much and make any space look so sophisticated and put together.  Ahh, I dream...  Finding Melissa was one step closer to that dream - haha.  Not only does she make beautiful window treatments and accessories, but she's also super easy to work with AND, get this, affordable.
Melissa's curtains that I won, finally up in Sam's room.  Seriously, perfect!
Classic Flat Roman Shade in a random kitchen (not mine).
Even though she probably won't be able to hand deliver for all of you like she did me ;), ordering from her is still quick and easy on her brand new website www.windowsbymelissa.com/. You can also find her handiwork in her Etsy shop here, and on her blog right here.  P.S. She's hosting an awesome giveaway on her blog now through Tuesday night.  Hurry!


I'm sure you remember the ADORABLE boy clothes from Room to Romp I introduced last month.  Sandy could probably single-handedly make Sam the best-dressed baby in town.  I LOVE her stuff.  Here are some of my current favorites in her shop:
Retro Monogrammed Tee
(Does it get any better than retro and monogrammed?
Blue Green Romper
Be still my heart. :)
Red Gingham Knee Patch Pants
(Because I'm sure, eventually, he'll have to wear jeans and these seem like an excellent compromise!)
By the way, you'll be seeing more from her later this week in a very special giveaway... Just you wait!  Until then, buy now with coupon code EMIFREESHIP and get free domestic shipping.  Good stuff.


Last but certainly not least, the genius iron-on bowties, ties, and other appliques from Boy Oh Boy.  If you are sick of boring old white onesies, this is the shop for you!  Leanne has SO many great patterns and styles in her shop right now, just perfect for summer.  Here are a few I have my eye on:


And, as if she isn't already affordable enough, Leanne is extending her offer of 10% off with coupon code EMYSELFI thru June 1st.  Go crazy friends!


Ok, that's all for today... Hope your week is off to a good start!

*Yes, these shops are paid sponsors for the month of April. However, I found both shops organically and truly LOVE the products both are selling. I would never feature something I didn't like myself. Promise.

*Email me if you are interested in seeing your pretty little button on my sidebar in May. Rates are low, and I'd love to have you! e@emyselfandi.com.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Blog Gems This Week

I might start a new little weekly series called "Blog Gems."  (I say might, because we all know how good I am with follow through.)  Anyway, throughout the week, I find myself frequently wanting to share something I read on another blog with you guys; but, I can't necessarily justify a whole post just to point you over there...  So, instead, I'm thinking I will just keep a running list and do one big post on the weekends with links to lots of my favorites from the week before?  You like it?  THEN, if there is something you read (or wrote) that week that you'd like to share too, you can just leave a link in the comment section.  We are so social. :)

And now ladies (and gentlemen), without further adeiu... I bring you my Blog Gems this week --

"I Sold My Soul to the Pacifier" from Baby Rabies.  Guilty.  :) This girl CRACKS me up.  She also, desperately, needs a Wubbanub. Ha!

"The Hardest Part For Me About Being a Mother" from 503 Galleries.  Jessica hit the nail on the head with this one... Her post is about the fine line between letting our babies be babies and teaching them independence. It was the perfect read for me right now in this place I'm in with Sam (more on that tomorrow).

"Letter to My Future 'I Want a Third Baby' Self" from Loves of Life.  I love Katie.  She is adorable and hilarious.  If you are considering a third (or second, or fourth, or fifth, etc.) baby some time in life, you might want to read this first. ;)

Free downloadable state prints from QA Design.  I'm totally printing Virginia for my sunroom. *This was actually posted several weeks ago, but I just found it this week via Effortless Style Blog.

I think I like this.  I had fun collecting favorite posts this week.  Now, it's your turn... Tell me: What gems have you found this week?  Please leave a link in the comments below so I have some good reading material to procrastinate doing my piles of laundry and school work this weekend.

Current Obsessions

I'm linking up with Sara over at Saige Wisdom again today with my current obsessions...
My New Blog Design from Thirsty Hearts
Yep, it's coming Monday... I cannot WAIT to show you!

Weight Watchers Ice Cream Candy Bars
No, I still have not started Weight Watchers (let's be honest... I'm not going to); I just like these a lot and I don't feel quite as guilty when I eat three two in one sitting.

Ann Lamott

Source
I've mentioned her book Operating Instructions before - it is my favorite new-mom read - and I'm reading Bird by Bird right now... Both are SO good.  She just came out with a new book that she wrote with her son, Sam (one of you mentioned her/him this week in a comment), that I'm excited to read next. Her writing style is as if we were sitting in a coffee shop talking about parenting, writing, life, and faith. (And her hair is awesome.) She's quickly moving up my list of "people I'd like to be friends with in real life" these days. 

Dangly Earrings
A pair I'm loving from Anthropologie
I know most people have been wearing dangly earrings since the nineties; but, until recently, I've only worn them for special occassions because they always made me feel like I was getting ready to go clubbing (which I never do).  Now I'm trying to work them into my everyday wardrobe, and I really like it.  Someone told me I looked "snazzy" today at school.  I'll take that.

Sleep Training
This is SO Jeff and I; and, I'm sure the fact that the babies name is "Elizabeth" is not lost on my mom... Apparently, Sam gets his poor sleep habits honestly.
If by obsessions you mean things you LOVE, this doesn't really work.  It falls more into "things you are obsessing over" definition of the word.  Yesterday, Sam got the "all clear" on his ear infection from the pediatrician, and we officially got the go-ahead to start some sleep training.  Operation - I cannot go another night feeding my nine month old boy twice a night is officially underway as of last night.  We're doing the Ferber Method - mainly because it is the closest thing Jeff and I can find to a compromise (I'd just let him cry it out straight through, and he would never let him cry).  Night one involved a lot of crying and a lot of "checking." Wish us luck.  *Yes, I realize I'm opening up a can of worms here... Bring it on! Seriously, mama (and baby) need some sleep.


What are you obsessing over today?  Link up at SaigeWisdom now!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Baby Name Etiquette

So this post earlier this week stirred up quite a bit of discussion - thanks for joining in ya'll - and reminded me that there can be A LOT of drama surrounding the naming of a new baby.  Since I'm all about helping resolve drama in the world, I thought I'd put together a few basic rules of Baby Name Etiquette for you today.  But first, a little personal anecdote...

When we first found out we were having a boy, I wanted to name him "Max."  I loved the name - still do.  (Seriously, how awesome is Max Chapman?)  But, Jeff's dad said it sounded like a dog name, and Jeff just couldn't handle that so... We moved on.  Fast forward about eight months and my friend Pryor, her husband, and their two dogs (one of which is actually named Max) are in town to visit and meet our new baby - Sam.  In casual conversation, I mention that I really wanted to name Sam "Max."  Pryor and Gregg give each other a look.  Then, she explains... Apparently, they had originally named their Max "Sam."  But, after a couple of months of discussion and debate, they decided they really liked the name too much and wanted to save it for a future baby.  So... they changed his name to "Max" - problem solved.  Until... two weeks later, I (totally oblivious to all of this) sent out an email announcing that we had decided on a name for our baby boy... SAM. 

Did you follow that story at all?  If so, then you get my gist here... Is "Sam" off limits for my friends now?  Even though, clearly, they loved it before I "claimed" it. 

It's touchy really. But, here are a few basics I'm feeling:
Source
1. You should NOT give your child the same name as anyone in the same generation that you see/interact with more than once every two months and/or of which you share more than 25% of the same social group. (Fair?)

2. A name is officially "claimed" upon its announcement - NOT once the child is born. *For the love, do NOT pop your baby out first and steal it from right under their noses. It's a race to the announcement people. And, if you choose to keep your name a secret, you just run that risk.  I'm sorry.

NOTE: This does not apply to the naming of "maybe babies."  A baby must be in utero before the name becomes "off limits" for those falling into either of the categories mentioned in point #1.  Fantasy names (you know, the ones we jot down in notebooks from the time we are 12) are fair game.  One must carefully consider the pros ("claiming" a name early and hoping that people will respect it as yours) and cons (throwing your name out there for all the world to see - and use) before discussing fantasy names with others.

3. The more creative and personal a name is, the more one should steer away from "copying" or "stealing" it.  (This even applies to "maybe baby" names in certain situations.)
4. IF someone does steal your baby name - and you legitimately had it first - consider it a "compliment." (Yea right, I know.) Seriously though, everyone that knows you both knows you had it first. And, everyone that doesn't know you both doesn't care. Besides, chances are one of you will move (or unfriend each other) before the kids enter Kindergarten. However, in the unlikely event that said same-name kids do end up in the same class one day, it is the responsibility of the SECOND named (see #2) to adopt a nickname pronto.

5. In the end, remember that it really is just a name.  Sure, names are important; but, ultimately, it will be your child's character, quirks, and personality that define them and set them apart.  (Not to get too sentimental or anything.)  If you really have your heart set on a name and someone else uses it first - just be honest about it, have a good laugh with your friend, and then - for goodness sake - give your kid that name.  Now it will be up to them to make it mean something. 

Now tell me, what "rules" would you add to this list?

P.S. Pryor and Gregg, I've talked it over with Sam Sr., and we've decided that we are fine with you using the name "Sam" for a child of yours one day.  The only condition is that you give him the name "Chapman Junior" for a middle name.  Fair enough?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Midweek Confessions

- I find myself using dog commands like "stay" and "drop it" way too often with Sam.

- I have officially turned in to the parent that cages in her child.  Remember my cute sunroom? Well, enter "Baby Gate," and now it is one orchid away from a prison.

- Even though I'm an English teacher, I over-use quotation marks, and I'm not entirely sure what the correct usage of them is.  (I'm also not entirely sure that that last sentence was grammatically correct.)

- I'm pretty sure Sam is spoiled, like, not in a good way.  (More to come on this soon.)

- I have been organizing my closet/getting out my spring clothes for close to two months now.  It is on my "agenda" every weekend; but, yet, the guest room still looks like a tornado went through it.

- I do not handle change well.  Currently, this personality trait is manifesting itself in the form of anxiety over Blogger's new dashboard.  Why isn't anyone else complaining about this.  Deep down, I know it isn't even all that different, and I can definitely still navigate it; but, I'm so stressed by it.

The End.

Link up and take a load off!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Name Envy

Ok... I'm about to give a BIG confession here... brace yourself...

I'm not crazy about my son's name.

Whew... It feels good to have that off my chest! ;)

I know... This is absurd, because - duh - I gave him the name... But, here's the deal... I like Samuel.  It is OK in my book.  I think it is a strong and classic name with a good meaning behind it.  But, our guy? He is such a Sam.  I never call him Samuel.  In fact, when someone else does, I wonder who are they are talking about for a few minutes...  But, let's just be honest, really, Sam by itself is a hard name to make work with a middle name.  Samuel was much easier.

On that note, I'm a classic kind-of girl.  I'm not trendy, and I like to keep things simple. I even have kind-of convinced myself that giving your child a unique name is becoming so popular that basic names are actually unique. (Does that make any sense at all?)

BUT... I must admit...  sometimes when a friend names their baby something more "creative," I get a little case of... Name Envy.

Here are some recent examples... Meet
Keller

Shepherd

and Raleigh
Ok, Raleigh is a girl... But, I think it could go either way. Right?

Maybe Baby #2?  (One day... don't get any ideas.)

Tell me I'm not alone here!  Do you have any name envy?  What are the names?  Maybe we can copy each other... ;)

*All photos stolen from Facebook without permission.  At least two are my friends.  The other is kind-of a stranger, and I'm kind-of a stalker - hope she doesn't read this blog! 

More on baby names and STEALING/COPYING later this week.  Big topic folks.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Theater Debut

Well, I survived my theater debut without "breaking a leg" as they say - which is a good thing, because I was on roller skates!

Back in December, when our drama club announced that the spring production would be Footloose, I knew I had to weasle my way in! One of my 30 Before 30 goals is to be in a play; and well, Broadway wasn't really an option. ;)

Anyway, they cast me as Betty Blast - the Burger Joint owner, and I have exactly five lines - six if you count the fact that there is a slight pause in one.  It's nothing to brag about (although, you know I still do); but, I did get to wear a microphone taped to my face a' la Brittany Spears. 


Here's a photo Jeff took on his phone Friday night.  My dad took some much better ones (yes, I was the teacher with a whole posse in the crowd - cameras and all - for a little cameo), but I didn't want to post clear pictures of students on the internet without their permission... At least you can get the idea.


A few thoughts...

Being in a play is a BIG endeavor.  I was lucky enough to show up for a few practices here and there and it was no big deal; but, many of these kids practiced every afternoon for months leading up to the show, and were at school until the wee hours many a night the week of.  From my own experience as a high schooler and sadly, now as a teacher, I know that they don't get nearly the attention and credit they deserve.  There was SO much talent on that stage.  Several of the lead characters were only 14 or 15 years old, and many were brand new to the school this year. It takes GUTS to sing and dance infront of your peers... Truly, I was honored to be a part of it all.

Also, I think it was really good for me to do something "fun" and get to interact with students again right now.  I'm entering a really really busy season for testing, and I often feel like the "grim reaper" of standardized tests.  Getting to hang out with the kids "after hours" and having that role reversal where they were the experts and I had a lot to learn from them was a much needed perspective check.  I remembered this week (even though I missed being home with Sam for bedtime and fell a lot behind on housework) why I love my job.  I know many of you are teachers too, so if you ever have the opportunity to do something like this, even if it is just working the curtains or set-design, I strongly recommend it.  We are always "too busy," but it is worth it.  This week/weekend was one of the busiest I've had in a while; but, I still feel like I'll start the work week Monday feeling refreshed and energized. (Also on that note, you wouldn't believe how much the kids appreciate you just attending the shows.  They were constantly telling eachother what teachers were in the audience and where they were sitting.)

That's why I made my 30 Before 30 list... To keep me young and alive!  It is working.  So, here's to crossing one more off the list!

4. Perform in a play

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Nine Months + Baby's First Easter (A little late and a lot of pictures)

I started this post over a week ago... It is a little "outdated" now, but I still want to get this stuff documented (since his baby book is pretty much non-existent).  So... we'll move ahead....


Another month and it just keeps getting better and better.  From what I hear, I'll keep saying that for the next ten years, at which point things begin to get progressively worse and worse for another ten years until - Lord willing - it finally starts to get better again. ;)  Either way, let's focus on the here and now...

Friday the 13th was Sam's nine month birthday.  As someone put it, that means he's been out as long as he was in (which isn't technically true, but still interesting to think about).  This month has been so good.  Sam is so fun and full of personality.  I love watching him meet milestones and grow up and develop into a little boy with a mind and spirit of his own.  I feel like every single day he is doing and learning something different.  I LOVE it.


Here's the update:

Size:  At his nine month appointment, Sam weighed 20 pounds and 2 ounces.  That's down a little bit from my eight month estimate, but the doctor said it is pretty normal for babies to lose some weight and/or slow down on gaining at this stage because they are eating more solid food and less milk and moving a lot more.  Makes sense.  He was 28 inches long putting him in the 50th percentile for both height and weight again.  His head continues to be in the 90th percentile.  My big brain boy.  He is still wearing size four diapers and mostly 12 month clothes.  Not much change since eight months, except he doesn't fit in ANY of his footsie pjs anymore.  Once Upon a Child, here I come!

Development: Probably the biggest milestone this month has been watching Sam move around the house like a champ.  His "crawling" isn't much in terms of technique, but his execution is superb.  He gets wherever he wants to go; including, as recently discovered, up a step or two if the situation calls for it. He is so curious, wiggly, and in to everything.  Changing his diaper and giving a bath are a two-man job these days!


Sam is trying to pull up on everything, but not quite to a standing position yet. *Edited to add: TODAY (4/21) he officially pulled himself to standing on several occasions - including twice in the crib.  He has not figured out how to get down yet; however, so we have a few new bumps and bruises now.  He still loves to stand, and his legs are super strong.  He can even balance on his own for a few seconds if we let him.  He also loves "walking" around with us holding his hands.  I wonder how long it will be now... I'm in no hurry!

He makes all sorts of noises like "BaBaBaBa" and "MaMaMaMa," but I don't think he recognizes them to mean anything just yet.  I am so anxious to hear what his first word will be - I really want it to be something cool like "dog" instead of just "DaDa," but I'll be proud either way.

Personality: Sam is happy and playful and LOVES attention (I have no idea where he gets that). He is easily adapted to schedule changes etc. and easy to take out - whether it is a restaurant, the mall, or just running errands.  We even traveled just the two of us this past month and he did great.  I was proud as a peacock of my "good boy."  We deserve it after a few rough months at the beginning (right?) 

That said, I think we are going to have our hands full as he gets older.  He definitely has a feisty side and keeps us on our toes.  He has also discovered his lungs and LOVES to scream when he is mad/bored. 

Likes/Dislikes: Sam loves Addy and really wants to get his hands (and mouth) on her toys.  (Oh how the roles have reversed.)   He loves going to his grandmas' houses and seeing his friends and babysitter Miss Rita every morning - which makes it SO much easier to leave him for work.  And, his favorite toy these days is the Vtech Learning Walker - it keeps him entertained for about 15 minutes at a time (which is major)!

He does not like laying on his back - even just for a diaper or outfit change - AT ALL.  Also not a fan of socks, having is face wiped, or being buckled in to his carseat, high chair, etc.  (Once he is in, he's usually just fine.)

Food: Eating is going well.  We are transitioning to more solid food and less milk.  The main change is that we are trying to give him solids first and then milk.  When we do that, he eats A LOT.  I've hardly given him anything he doesn't really like (maybe blueberries?), and he especially likes to feed himself.  This month we have tried macaroni and cheese, chicken, waffles (not together), cottage cheese, american cheese, berries, etc. *The pediatrician has ordered that we give him "whatever we are eating except for nuts," but the problem with that is - I don't really cook and we eat way too much junk.  I'm working on that... We are also practicing drinking from a cup - so far, only water - and he's actually pretty good.

Sleep: No comment. ;)

In all seriousness, poor guy has actually had a double ear infection for most of the month.  We went through one round of antibiotics and thought he was better, then after weeks of waking up screaming at night - we went back only to find that it had gotten worse.  He never really complained during the day, but I think laying on his back at night made it worse. So... One step forward, two steps back.  We had made a little progress with the Ferber method, but are on pause right now until we get these ears figured out.  Mama is tired, but I'm trying to be patient.  One day we will sleep again. :)

And now... A few photos from Baby's First Easter:
Easter basket from "the bunny."  Cards from Gigi and Aunt Delores.

Opening his treats with a very interested sister-dog.

With great-grandmother Barnhart outside of church.

Easter loot from Gigi and Bear.  (SO spoiled.)

"Walking' with mom and dad.  I love this picture!


My boys at Easter lunch.
(Sam's Easter outfit courtesy of GiGi via Toad'ly Kids in Roanoke.)

Have a great weekend - updates on my big acting debut coming soon!  (For real.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Midweek Confessions

Hello again.  Worst blogger ever here. Sorry friends - the next thirty days are ROUGH in terms of my job.  Also, Sam has had a double ear infection (again), and both Jeff and I are suffering with bad allergies/not sleeping at night because of a sick baby so.... Excuses, excuses.  Anyway, how about a few confessions?


- Four nights out of five, I go to bed having done absolutely NOTHING to prepare for the next day and set my alarm for 5AM to have plenty of time to do everything in the morning.  Four mornings out of five, I sleep through my 5AM alarm, and my 5:30, 6, & 6:30 ones, only to jump out of bed at 7AM and run around like a wacko to get out of the house in 45 minutes with a baby. Fail.  (This might be a repeat, sorry!  I only do so many embarrassing things in a week people!)

- I have weasled my way in to the school play in order to cross another item off my 30 Before 30 list.  Yes, you read that right.  I have my big debut as Betty Blast in Footloose this weekend.  (More to come on that for sure.)

- I used to judge moms with babies who had runny/snotty noses all the time.  Now I have that baby and I am that mom.  My sister would say "Karma's a b*^%^."

- I skipped church on Sunday to clean my house and catch up on laundry right after I posted my testimony for all the world to see.  It might not have been from a Saturday night hangover, but even "good Christian girls" skip church for bad reasons sometimes.

- In our conversations about me possibly getting to be a SAHM sometime, I always promise Jeff that I will cut back on my spending and live more "frugally."  I am sincere in that promise, but I also have the strong desire to "stock up" on new clothes and stuff now while we are both working.  This totally goes against the "long-term plan," but it makes perfect sense in my mind.

- Almost every time I rent a movie from Redbox, I never watch it, and I forget to return it for at least six days.  Nothing like flushing $6.00 down the drain.

Ok... It's been a while.  I'd love to hear what you are confessing today!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Story

Well, I promised this on "Sunday," I just didn't say which one... Thanks for your patience with me as I've taken my sweet time writing this.  It proved to be MUCH more difficult than I expected; but really good too...  Anyway, if you haven't read "The Prologue" to my story, start here...


If my story is a love story, it is one of an arranged marriage (although, don't read too far into that analogy, ok?).  I don't really remember a time in my life where I didn't believe in God.  My parents are Christians and raised my sister and I in a home full of love, Bible stories, and bed-time prayers.  We grew up in a traditional Baptist church - the same church that my mom attended as a little girl, where my parents were married, and - later, where Jeff and I would walk down the aisle.  My parents and grandparents were very involved in the church - cooking meals, serving as Deacons, organizing activities - and, so, my sister and I naturally were too. Many of my earliest and fondest childhood memories come from that church - Sunday school, VBS, summer camps, children's choir, Halloween parties, etc. etc. etc.  Church was a vivid and happy part of my childhood.  I am thankful for that, and hope that one day Sam will be able to say the same of his life.

On the Sunday before my 10th birthday, I was baptized before our church congregation.  At various points in my faith, I've questioned whether it was "real" or not because I was so young; but, I've concluded that I DID - in my ten year old heart and mind - believe. I believed that God made the world, and that he made me.  I believed that the Bible was true.  And, I believed in a man named Jesus that died on a cross for our sins.  That said, I did NOT understand at that point what all those things meant for MY life.

From the day they say their vows and sign their papers, an arranged marriage is very much the real thing.  The two are tied to one another and committed to one another for life - at least in the legal sense.  But, I'd imagine that the real work of developing true, deep, love takes TIME.  In the same way, my baptism committed me to Jesus.  It was real and for life.  BUT, I wasn't transformed at that very moment.  In fact, from the outside, my life didn't look much different before or after Christ.  That's been a part of my story that I've wrestled with for years until, only recently, I've understood that it has been my HEART all along that He has changed - dramatically, really.


I call the church where I grew up "traditional" because it has a white steeple, pews, hymnals, and we wore dresses with black patent leather maryjanes on Sunday mornings.  But, it wasn't a traditional church in the stereotypical uber-conservative kind-of way.  Thankfully, neither were my parents... While church was a big part of their lives, they also had lots of other interests too; and, they were FUN.  We had dance parties to Madonna and I often saw them enjoy a beer with friends.  However, even despite the environment I grew up in, as I got older, I still somehow associated being a Christian with rules and performance. 

I'm a rule follower.  Maybe it is the first-born in me; but I LOVE rules.  To this day, I feel incredible guilt when I drive the wrong way down an aisle with a painted arrow on it at the grocery store.  It can be a real problem.  And so, I guess it makes sense that when I took "vows" of True-Love-Waits and thou shalt not smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol with the heathen teenagers at the high school at my middle-school church camps and Bible studies, I took it pretty seriously.  I think, somehow subconsciously, I made the decision during those all-defining adolescent years, that I would be known as a "good girl."  That would be my identity.  I wish I could say it had more to do with Jesus; but, honestly, it was a lot about reputation and wanting to be known as something in the big sea with LOTS of fish.

As I entered high school and was faced with actually "living out" some of these rules; I found that being good came easily, and I liked the attention it got me from parents (both my own and my friends'), teachers, and my peers. Also at this time, I became involved with Young Life and gave much of my time and energy to that.  I went to camp, invited friends to club, and got up at 6AM to go to Campaigners before school once a week.  Although I really believe that God was softening my heart through the stories of Jesus and his relationships with people that I heard there; still, I don't think the theme of LOVE had sunk in just yet.

At least in my own memory, I was happy and nice to people on the outside.  But, on the inside, I was focused a lot on my image - on what other people thought - and not that much on Jesus and who He is.  One of my most shameful memories  is of keeping a Bible on my night stand and only flipping it open when I heard my parents coming up the stairs to check on me...

Do I believe I was a Christian then?  Absolutely.  I think God captured my heart and mind early and he did not leave me.  BUT, I think I was missing out on the LIFE He promises in favor of rules and reputation instead.

By my senior year, God was beginning a "behind the scenes" work in my life.  He was going to intervene with his plan whether I liked it or not... To this day, I have no idea why (other than the above statement), but I adamantly decided to leave behind the image I had worked so hard to build (not to mention my new boyfriend - Jeff) and go to college out of state.  In the grand scheme of my life so far, I think this was one of the best and most life-changing decisions I ever made.  God had to get me out of my comfort zone, to really get me...

My roommate freshman year was a divine appointment - and I don't use that terminology lightly.  Pryor was my first best friend.  We went to preschool together starting at age 2.  It seems funny to me now to think that I had a best friend - someone I had met on my own, not been forced to play with because our moms were friends - at 2, but I did.  We were soul sisters - which only proved to be more obvious 15 years later when we realized (though her family had moved to Tennessee and we hadn't talked in over a decade), that we were both planning to go to Clemson University in the fall. 

Our stories had been very similar throughout middle and high school.  Pryor too had become involved in Young Life and was living out her faith.  When we decided to be roommates, in addition to picking out matching Pottery Barn bedding, we discussed going to Young Life leader training together and which Bible verses we'd write with swirly markers across our mirrors.  It was a match made in heaven - literally.

Once we got to school, many of my expectations were met.  Pryor and I picked up right where we left off, and our freshman year started beautifully. BUT, inside, I was struggling with the fact that no one knew me here; and, more importantly, no one was particulary impressed by me.  (Isn't that awful?)  That fall, Clemson was named the #2 party school in the nation and the #1 school for church attendance by US News... Neither road of good, or bad, behavior was very novel at my new home.

Furthermore, Pryor (and many of the other girls I was beginning to build friendships with) seemed to have real faith.  In fact, Pryor actually read her Bible before bed instead of just using it as an accessory. There were lots of people in my life now that were "good."  All the sudden, being good wasn't enough; there was always someone better.  I couldn't be good enough.  It was a hard semester - next to marriage, and now parenthood, one of the most refining periods of my life so far.

Something happened in my heart that year that no college-prep book could have prepared me for.  I gave up trying to be the best and realized that I was a mess.  I began, for the first time, to see that I was full of sin and I needed Jesus - He didn't need me.  Through Young Life leader training and my new-found friendships with an incredible group of girls - all at different places in their own walks - I started to really understand the relational side of faith and the concept of GRACE.  I saw how Jesus loved people - people who were not at all "good" - and how His message was always one of love and forgiveness - not rules.

I didn't go off the deep end in my newfound freedom that year - again, I don't think my outward "behavior" looked all that different than before - but my heart was made new.  A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders as I allowed myself to just be loved by God instead of always doing.  For the first time, when someone asked me "how are you doing spiritually" - which people do a lot in the Christian community - my first thoughts went to how I was loving other people, instead of how many quiet times I had or hadn't had in the last week. 

I could literally write six more pages, but I'll stop here.  That year was BIG, but it wasn't the end.  If Freshman year was a turning point, I've probably had three or four more since then.  As I said before, I'm a Peter... This is a walk for me - not a final destination.  One of my biggest fears in writing my story down is that someone who knows me well today will think this all sounds "fake" because my life isn't always a  reflection of the work in my heart.  But, the truth is, I'm just as a big a mess now as I ever was - I just recognize it a little more now.  I'm always going to be "working it out." God is still writing my story and changing my heart. Thank goodness.

*I realize that sharing something like this brings up all kinds of deep theological questions about what it means to be saved, the purpose of baptism, free will vs. predestination, etc.  I think all those things are important to think about sometimes, but I don't think they are necessarily vital to my faith.  So - try to just hear the message of Jesus and love and grace, and let Him work out the rest in your own heart, ok?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Letters

I saw this on a few other blogs today and thought it was cute (and easy), so I'm giving it a try.  I promise I'll have some "content" soon. :)

Dear Blog,
Sorry for being a dead beat parent this week.

Dear House,
Really? Would it be too much to ask of you to stay neat and tidy for ONE week? 

Dear Spring Break,
You went WAY too fast.  I love you, but you are a little bit of a tease for summer break.

Dear Summer Break,
Hurry up!

Dear Self Tanner,
Is there a reason why you hate me?  Why you only stick to one lovely spot on my ankle and NO WHERE else?

Dear Sam's Fangs,
We've been patient long enough, and even accepted the fact that you make my son look like a freak-of-nature, come IN already.

Dear Children's Tylenol,
I love you as much as I love chick-fil-a and my husband.

Dear Weekend,
Come on in and make yourself comfy.  Stick around for a while, k?

Source

Monday, April 9, 2012

Little Blog Break

Hey guys.  In about an hour, Sam and I are heading south with my friend Meg and her two month old little Ruby to visit our friend Courtney - who is expecting a baby girl in August... (Yep, Sam will be going on his first official back-seat date today.  Luckily, he and Ruby have invited both of their moms along to keep it clean.  Such good kids.)

Anyway, as I write this, I am literally surrounded by piles of laundry, and I haven't packed a thing.  I'm sure you all are shocked, really.

So... I'm taking a little blog spring break for a few days.  It wasn't my intention, but I want to be fully present with my girlfriends and just relax a bit.  Because you are wonderful, I know you understand.

As you probably noticed, I never got my story published yesterday.  Sorry about that. I started writing it, I really did, but the process proved to be much harder than I anticipated.  There is just so much I want to say, and I don't want to just get it down, I want to say it right and have it mean something.  So, look for that some time in the near future.  Sorry!

Also, lots of pictures of Baby's First Easter coming soon.  For now, here's one my sister posted on Instagram yesterday --- isn't my boy the cutest thing you've ever seen?  And, yes, Jeff and I look like dwarfs that have never seen the sun.

Ya'll follow her (kat5886) - she's funny, beautiful, and doesn't have many followers ;)

See you later this week!

Friday, April 6, 2012

My Story (The Prologue)

I played around with how to title this blog post...  I've written my Love Story and my Birth Story and, of course, each of those stories have defined me in HUGE ways...  But, this story is different.  My Testimony sounds too stuffy, and my Jesus Story sounds unneccesary... The story of my faith and how I've come to know Jesus is, just that: My Story. Period.  It isn't just a defining moment, it is who I am. 

Honestly, I'm ashamed that I've been writing on this blog for almost three years and have never sat down to really tell my story.  Sure, I've written lots about my faith and what I believe.  And, of course, I hope that Jesus seeps through my every day and people see Him when they look at my life on these pages.  But, in truth, I haven't written this story because it isn't like the other stories I tell.  It doesn't have a clear beginning or a clear end, and the English teacher in me needs a climax and a resolution to be complete. 

For years, I thought I didn't have a story.  I thought a story was something you shared at a Young Life camp about a wild life you were living - one filled with booze and sex and sneaking out - and then one day, BAM, God interfered and you quit drinking and partying and started reading the Bible and, somehow, your life got better.  I thought because my life has mostly been ordinary - two parents, a loving community of friends, grandparents, etc., and pretty much zero rebellion - that I didn't have a story... 

Then one Easter just a couple of years ago, on my parents' back patio over wine and deviled eggs, my uncle said something that changed everything about how I viewed my story.  He said:

Some people have Paul conversions - where they are living one way and then something major happens and EVERYTHING changes - they are never the same again.  And other people have Peter conversions - where they walk with Jesus for a long time.  They know Him all along, but they go through different seasons of being close to Him, and doubting Him and being transformed by Him.

I am a Peter.  And my story is simple - it isn't going to be a Blockbuster or a best-selling memoir probably, but it is my story.  It is a story that He has been writing since I was a little girl of walking and running and falling and getting up; and, through it all, I am His beloved friend.

Peter knew Jesus.  For three years he had gone everywhere with Him.  He had heard his teaching so many times that he could probably recite it by memory.  He had seen His power at work in incredible ways - seen Him turn water into wine, heal people, bring people back from the dead.  And, he saw first hand the way Jesus LOVED people (oh how He loved people), even, no especially, the people no one else loved.   He knew Jesus was a good man.  He knew He was different.  He believed that He was who He said He was (Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20).  How could he not?  He was his BEST friend.

BUT, he also doubted (Matthew 14:28-31).  He got mad and did stupid things (John 18:10). And, perhaps most painfully, he denied he even knew Jesus when it wasn't convenient, or cool, or easy (Luke 22: 54 - 62).

THEN, on this day all those years ago - Good Friday we call it - I think Peter finally GOT it. Obviously, I don't truly know what was going on in Peter's heart on Good Friday in Jerusalem, but I can imagine... I imagine that seeing someone he loved hanging on a cross to fulfill God's word - to save us from sin - changed him. 

Perhaps for the first time, Peter didn't just know things about Jesus; but, he knew how much he desperately NEEDED Him.  I think maybe he understood then that this man was so much more than preaching and miracles - He was His SAVIOR, and the real journey was only just beginning...


My actual story to come on Sunday. ;)

Happy Easter Weekend!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Sunroom Progress (& a Home Tour)

Do you remember my home goal for 2012

Well, as you've probably figured out by now - goals are not my forte.  HOWEVER, I'm actually making some progress on this one...

I'm not quite finished - I still need to add more to the walls, some colorful pillows, and a few other little things - but, I thought I'd give you a sneak peak of my little sunroom re-design today...


I'll do a whole post with before and after photos as well as details and sources when I'm all done.  But, for now, I'm giving a little house tour over at Karen at Home today.  Karen just had a baby and has invited some lovely ladies to share their homes on her blog while she tends to diapers and nursing and not sleeping.  So fun (the home tours, not the not sleeping)! Go get your snoop on... Go ahead. ;)


See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Midweek Confessions

Another Wednesday is upon us friends, and you know what that means...

Here goes nothin':

 - Monday night Jeff and I met at the grocery store (Sam accompanied us) to do some shopping for a dinner we are having tonight at our house.  On the way home, we stopped at our favorite "burger joint" for dinner.  I was almost giddy with excitement for this "night out."  It felt SO fun. Sad what my life has come to.

- I am reading Catching Fire (the second Hunger Games book) aloud to Sam.  I plan on reading the new Jodi Piccoult book and Bloom to him next.  Is that bad?

- Sometimes I pretend like Sam is still eating/fussing/etc. so I can read rock him a little longer and let Jeff clean up the kitchen.

- Today I am wearing my new red skinny pants I got for my birthday (woohoo).  I am also wearing an oversized MATERNITY sweater, because the skinnies are a little snug on the butties.  I am basically a walking oxymoron.

- Speaking of being snug, genius here paid for three months of Weight Watchers back in January - wishful thinking.  I "tracked" for all of one day during those three months.  Then, like an idiot, I forgot to "unsubscribe" and they automatically charged me for April too.  You'd think I would find this motivating - what with flushing money down the drain and all - but, so far, no such luck. Maybe next month. ;)

Ok enough about me. Won't you join in on the fun?



And P.S.  I'm sure I'll be doing plenty of confession-worthy things, but I'm going to take a break from Midweek Confessions next week, as I'll be on a little road trip for my spring break.  Make this one good folks, it's got to last you two weeks!

Happy Hump Day before SPRING BREAK!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Thank You Jessica Simpson

I'd like to take a moment to publicly proclaim my appreciation for Jessica Simpson. (Never thought I'd do this...)


THANK YOU for showing the world (or at least Hollywood) what a REAL pregnant woman looks like.
From one Big Mama to Another,E

Monday, April 2, 2012

Did You Know You Were Getting Engaged?

Random question today...

Before your fiance or husband proposed, did you know it was coming?

I remember vividly the week before Jeff and I left for Utah, in December of 2006, shopping with my sister and saying something like "I bought some cute pink skiing goggles because, you know, if I get proposed to on the slopes, I need to look good."  Ridiculous, but reality.  Right?

Truth be told, I did get proposed to on the slopes, but cute pink goggles just didn't do the trick.  I still looked windblown and tired (and I also had an eye infection at the time which was super attractive).  Another bonus: because we were outside in the cold, when we finally got to the lodge and could take pictures of the ring/text them to everyone we knew, my fingers swelled up like vienna sausages.  My beautiful diamond looked more like a health risk to the circulation of my ring finger.

Oh well, even swollen fingers and a red-eye couldn't spoil the joy of that day.

Source
So... Did you know you were going to be proposed too, or did it come as a TRUE surprise?  And, if you did know, did you do anything to prepare? 

Let's chat!


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