What a wonderful Christmas it was this year, getting to enjoy lots of time with family with our lovely little girl!

On Christmas Eve Eve my mom and dad came up to visit for a couple of days. Josh & Erin were in Massachusetts for the holiday and Michael & Jenna were spending time with Jenna's family, so Mom & Dad decided they would pay us a visit for a little bit rather than being alone on Christmas Eve. I was so glad to have them around. Brent worked most of the day on Wednesday and Thursday (Christmas Eve), so my parents gave Lydia and I some wonderful company. :)

Wednesday night we hung out and made frozen pizzas and drank homemade malts while watching a marathon of Christmas movies. Lydia showed off all of her tricks for Nana and Grandpa including cruising along furniture at the speed of light and army crawling all over the living room. She's also getting very good at learning how to obey simple commands like "No touch" and "No mouth." Additionally, her sign language for "more" and "all done" is greatly improving. We're all so proud of her!

Christmas Eve morning my daddy made us a yummy big breakfast of eggs, bacon, biscuits & gravy. Then it was time to get all cleaned up and ready for the CedarCreek Christmas Eve service. What a great service (check it out here if you are interested)! I've said it before and I will say it again: I am truly grateful to be part of a church that is so faithful to God's plan. We had over 20,000 people attend church this weekend across our 21 services at 3 locations. Wow!

Lydia did great and had fun with the other babies at church. She's a social girl, that's for sure. After leaving the Creek we headed for a late lunch / early dinner. The plan was Cracker Barrel but they closed at 2 so we ended up at Bob Evans. Once we got home we spent the rest of Christmas Eve just hanging out. We munched on some of my favorite foods from our traditional family Christmas Eve: chex mix, fudge, rotel dip, and wassail. Have you noticed that food is one of my favorite things about getting together with family? Ha! We watched more Christmas movies and played a few rounds of Mexican Train dominoes until Brent got home from work.

Christmas morning was calmer than I expect future ones will be. Lydia slept in a bit later than usual, followed by her typical morning routine. Once everyone was up, we gathered in the living room and let Lydia open up a gift from Nana and Grandpa. Most of her gifts from them will be opened later at our Cinci family Christmas, but they wanted to bring one up for her to get on Christmas day. It was an activity table that she could stand at and play with the different toys. Lots of music and buttons and lights... Lydia loves it! She really got into the idea of opening gifts and seemed to understand the concept of it. She would rip at the paper until she could see the toy, then would want the toy. But even while playing with a toy, if another gift was offered to her, she'd dive at it to open it up. She really seemed to understand that if she tore off the paper she'd get another toy!

After opening gifts, Lydia took a nap, we all ate breakfast, and the men assembled the new toys for Lydia to enjoy. She loves having new toys that she can stand and play with. Besides the table from my parents, we gave her a walk-and-ride toy that she can hold on to and walk with. At first she seemed pretty cautious, but she quickly got the hang of walking with it across the room. She is already getting herself into trouble walking up to things she shouldn't touch! The ability to steer isn't quite there yet, but it's a lot of fun to see her growing and changing like this. I love her so much!

My parents left for home after the morning festivities while Brent, Lydia, and I went off to spend the rest of the day with Brent's family. At Tom and Rita's place we ate lunch and hung out for awhile, then began the gift exchange there. Lydia got to open her gifts first so she'd have plenty to keep her occupied while the rest of us opened ours. Boy did she get spoiled! Lots of new clothes and lots of new toys. She even got a huge stuffed horse. What'd this girl do to get a pony on her very first Christmas?! Despite her lack of interest in our Christmas tree, she seemed quite smitten by Grandma's tree. When finished opening her gifts, she kept flopping onto her belly and trying to crawl over and grab the lower branches. There just must be something special about Grandma's tree!

Thankfully Lydia was able (and willing) to take a nap over at Grandma's house before we headed over to Brent's grandparent's house for more Christmas festivities. She slept for over an hour before I went in to feed her, change her, and pack her up for the next visit. At the Pirolli household was more yummy food (of course!) and lots more people to love on my sweet Lydia. She cuddled with Great Grandma & Grandpa for awhile, then wanted to hold hands and walk around the house. She did VERY well for Daddy when he told her not to touch the the candy on the table and was generally delightful. At least for the first part of the evening. It had been a very long and busy day and it eventually showed in her demeanor. By gift-opening time she wasn't very interested anymore. She kept wanting to crawl away from me but would then get mad and not really want to play with anything around her. Poor thing was probably pretty worn out! But she was a trooper and we didn't face any major meltdowns. Nothing we couldn't ward off with a distraction or two.

All loaded up with food, toys, books, clothing, and other gifts, we got home after 9:00 that night. It was well past Lydia's bedtime and she thankfully made up for some of it by sleeping in until 8 this morning. Today we spent the day trying to get things organized around the house before we do our last Christmas gathering of the year with my family on Monday. Lydia got so many new clothes that I had to do two large loads of her laundry today! I am so very thankful for all of our family who love our daughter so much. I might manage to get things put away and organized just in time for her first birthday in a couple of months!

Oh and I forgot to mention the lovely gift that I got for Christmas... digital scrapbooking software! My dear sweet hubby got me the Creative Memories storybook software and I am sooo excited to try it out and make my 2009 photo book. Alas we've been so busy that I haven't even had time to install it yet! Two big projects to come in the new year: making my 2009 scrapbook and finally turning our bonus room above the garage into a playroom so I have someplace to put all these toys!

Soooo big!

Yep that's right. This is Lydia's newest skill! I tried to teach her this about a month ago, then stopped thinking about it for a couple of weeks. Then all of a sudden, she's in playing with Daddy and bam! She's an expert. What gives? I slave all day for her and then she always does her new tricks for Daddy first. No fair! :-P Regardless, it is the most adorable thing ever. I love watching her reach those little arms up whenever I ask her "How big is Lydia?"

She's really beginning to understand a lot. I continue to use some sign language with her, and I think she generally understands what they mean, but I still haven't seen her sign anything to me. I think she's close to doing "more" and "all done"... it's sometimes hard to tell if she's just clapping or waving her arms though! Lydia does wave bye-bye. I guess that can be sign language too!

Today Lydia and I went to the evening service at church and she did excellent going into the nursery, but man oh man has she been severely attached to mama at home lately! This morning she was sitting all snuggled with Brent on the couch watching TV when I came down from a shower. The instant she saw me and I didn't come get her, she WAILED. But I guess all kids get that way at some point. I try not to let it get to me too much and try to make her get used to having me go away some. It's important that she learn that mommy can go away and that mommy will always come back.
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I have a Thanksgiving blog already in progress, but put it on hold so I can take the time to write about my sweet girl's latest developments. Holy cow she is changing fast! In the last few weeks she has really been working hard on a lot of new things.

First my favorite -she's been so cuddly! She has really started to show how to "love on" things. It is the best thing ever when she puts both her arms around my shoulders and snuggles up to me. Lydia has always been such a wiggle worm and wants to look around at everything. She just hasn't been super affectionate because there's always too much other stuff to look at! I've really enjoyed how cuddly she has been lately. She even sat and snuggled with me to watch a TV show yesterday!

Clapping continues to be one of her favorite things to do. She now notices when other people clap, even on TV, and promptly joins in. She doesn't even have to be facing the TV... if she hears clapping, she starts to clap as well. Too funny!

I can tell Lydia is getting more and more frustrated by her inability to crawl/walk. She's trying really really hard to figure it all out and it shows with a lot of crankiness. She is very close to getting into crawl position, but then stretches her legs out to be on her belly. It works well to get her from sitting to lying down, but not so well for movement. I've seen her inch worm a little bit, and she moves backwards pretty well on the hardwood floor (I don't think it's intentional though as much as she just slides around). On the walking front, she walks quite well if you hold both of her hands and she does a little bit of creeping along furniture (mostly when I'm not looking). Lydia has wonderful balance and plays very well standing up against a couch or chair. I'm still unsure about whether I think she'll crawl or walk first. She seems to just want to figure it all out at the same time!

Speaking of things happening at the same time, Lydia now has her first AND second teeth! I first noticed the sharp point of the first tooth on November 30th (halfway through our trip home from Oklahoma), and today I confirmed my suspicions that the second one was coming... sharp point #2 verified! Poor baby must be in terrible pain. On top of the teeth situation, we've all had colds. Runny nose, watery eyes, sore mouth... sounds fun, eh?

I suppose all of this gives her good reason for being a TERRIBLE napper lately. She's (mostly) still doing well at night, but daytime sleep is a battle. It doesn't happen without a lot of screaming, then only lasts for 30 minutes or less... at which point she wakes up screaming again. She's also been super clingy to me. I put her in her exersaucer and take 4 steps away and she starts pitching a fit. She isn't that bad all day long, but for most of it. Since getting back from our trip I've had a really hard time getting things done around the house because Lydia is either fussy because she's trying to crawl/move and can't, or she's fussy because I'm not within 2 feet of her at all times.

I love it. :) Seriously, this is a tough patch in the mommy life... but I love it all. This too shall pass. Good or bad, it will all go away in time. I want to enjoy the ride. I sure do love watching my lovely little girl grow, learn, and develop. What an amazing gift she is! As I write this she is lying on the floor next to me (after a failed crawling attempt) playing with her feet, blowing raspberries, and yelling "eeeeeeee!" ... her favorite noise haha. She makes my heart smile. :)
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What a Thanksgiving we had this year! To make a long story somewhat shorter, we were supposed to have Thanksgiving with Brent's family and Christmas with my family this year since we did the reverse last year. However, when my brother announced that his family was going to go out of state for Christmas but planned to join my parents in Oklahoma for Thanksgiving, we opted to switch as well.

My parents, my oldest brother along with his wife and 3 daughters, and Brent, Lydia, and I all drove from Ohio to Oklahoma to visit my extended family. My mom's parents and my dad's dad all live out there, plus a smattering of aunts, uncles, and cousins. On Thanksgiving day my grandparent's house was filled to the brim! In addition to the adults, there were a ton of kids... especially little girls! For my own future reference, here's everyone we saw during our visit: Mom, Dad, Grandma Bea, Granddad, Joshua & Erin & girls -Hannah (6), Abby (4), Michaela (2)-, Uncle Brad & Glenna & girls -Haleigh (7), Brittan (4), Brianna (1)-, Uncle Brian & Tish, Crystal & Daniel, Pam, Diane & Jay & kids -Trey (12), Christi (10)-, Aunt Rhonda, Eric, Aaron, Elliot & kids -Evan, Jaxson (3), Jailyn (3)-, Grandpa Kuntz & Emily, Aunt Lou Anne & Taylor, and Uncle Jim (plus myself, Brent, and Lydia (9m)).

Whew! That was a lot of people. Most of whom we saw on Thanksgiving day. On Friday we went to visit Uncle Jim. He lives in an assisted living facility due to his MS, but is always in high spirits. Such a wonderful example of faith and joy despite circumstances! It was great to get to visit him and also to see the rest of Dad's side of the family. That was definitely a highlight of the trip.

Other highlights included watching Lydia play with my Grandpa, taking walks with Grandma Bea, getting to eat Granddad's gravy & Grandma Bea's strawberry jelly, and going to Murphy's. Ah yes, Murphy's... one of my favorite things about Bartlesville! Those hot hamburgers are absolutely delicious and unlike anything else I've ever eaten. Brent and I even decided we needed to buy Murphy's shirts to honor the tradition.

After all of the chaos of Thanksgiving passed, Brent and I got the chance to see my good friend Allison and her husband Eric on Saturday night. Allison and I were great friends in grade school and remained close despite moves to different states, but the last time I was able to actually see her was over 5 years ago at my wedding! It was wonderful to speak in person again and to hear about how her life is going. We had dinner at Mazzio's then hung out for a bit at my grandparent's house until they could meet up with the friends they were spending the night with.

The last night we were in Oklahoma Brent and I decided it would probably be best for us to sleep in different rooms so that Lydia didn't wake him up in the morning. We needed him to be rested for driving! That turned out to be a very wise decision. Lydia had a VERY rough night that night... she was waking up screaming every couple of hours. Little did I know at that point that this was fully due to teething! Yep, Sunday night we stayed at a hotel and when I checked her little mouth, sure enough there was a nice sharp point in there. That evening continued to be an adventure. Between Lydia's teething and the fact that we were all in the same room together at bedtime, things were definitely interesting. Despite Tylenol and Oragel, Lydia cried off and on for over two hours after going to bed. I felt so bad about it since we were in a hotel... where other people were staying! But we made it through the night and finished up the long drive home on Monday. We even stopped to get a walnut bowl on the way. :)

The matter of modesty has been on my mind lately. As a Christian woman, how am I supposed to present myself? What is considered right or wrong in terms of fashion, makeup, or figure? This question can be as simple as addressing what clothing we wear, or can run as deep as whether or not we should diet, paint our nails, or wear makeup.

I'm sure we all agree that what is on the inside, what our hearts are like, is what matters the MOST. But once you address what matters most, is it okay for all of the other stuff to matter at all?

1 Timothy 2:9-10 states that women are expected to "dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God."

Granted, there's probably some cultural context to that verse, but those are still pretty strong words. If as a woman you profess to worship God, modesty is a must! But what of adornments? What would "braided hair, gold, and pearls" be in today language? The Message translates this verse as the following: "not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it."

Personally I'm a pretty plain person. I've never been very fashionable, so I stick with jeans, t-shirts, sweaters... whatever is comfortable. I try to look "nice" when out of the house, but certainly don't go to any great lengths to "wow" the public eye. I wear very little or no makeup most of the time. It's just a personal preference... I don't want to look like a different person after I wash my face at night. And as far as accessories go, I pretty much stick to the minimum. No fancy purses or jewelry... just a simple bag, my favorite necklace & earrings (if I feel like wearing jewelry at all), and my wedding ring.

I guess I just don't understand the point of investing the time and money into the relatively unimportant outward appearance. I just want to be real. If people don't like me for who I am, then I'd rather not be around them anyway.

But are there reasons that we SHOULD be concerned about outward appearance? Well there are the obvious matters of health and hygiene. If I overeat and smell bad I'm not doing the kingdom of God any favors either. Not only am I not taking care of the body that God gave me, but it might be hard to get someone to listen to the message of Christ if they can't get over the distraction of the body odor. But beyond the basics, I don't know that we are necessarily given any Biblical reasons to worry about appearance. Jesus himself was said to have "no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." (Is. 53:2)

There are times when I wish I were prettier. Let's face it... I'm a woman and every woman struggles every now and then with her appearance. But when I question why it is that I would want to look different, I can never come up with a reason other than what the media and society pressures that I "should" be doing. Now I like to dress nice and feel pretty every once in awhile. There's nothing wrong with that. It's nice to fancy up a bit for a night out with my husband, and it feels good when other people compliment my appearance. But this definitely isn't something that consumes a large portion of my thoughts. I guess it's just never made sense to me to spend money, time, and effort in this area when it could be spent on things of much greater value in the eyes of God.

What are your thoughts? What do you think of fashion, modesty, makeup, and general appearance? Is it important to look pretty in the eyes of the world? Why or why not?
Here we are just days away from Lydia being 9 months old! Craziness. We had her checkup at the doctor today. Everything looks great! Doctor said we're all doing fine and there are no reasons at all for concern. Here are her current stats:

Weight: 18lb 9oz (50%ile)
Height: 28" (55%ile)
Head: 17.75" (75%ile)

Funny to see how her length has gained and her weight has dropped. She's averaging out nicely. I'm not too shocked by the numbers (though I expected a little heavier... I am, afterall, the one who has to haul her around everywhere!). I could tell she was getting longer lately. Those little arms and legs keep growing right out of sleeves and pants! And she's starting to look more lean. Losing a few of the chunky rolls. Still got those adorable chubby cheeks though!

She's working a lot more on pulling herself to a standing position and then playing while standing up. Today she pulled up on the side of the bathtub trying to reach for the shampoo! And as I've been working with her on standing up while holding on to the couch or her exersaucer, she is getting much more stable. It reminds me of when she started sitting up on her own. It only took her a week or two to transition from instant flop to being able to sit for as long as we'd let her. After just a couple of days of actually working at standing she already has great confidence to stand and play. She even lets go sometimes and can catch herself before she falls down.

My birthday is just a couple of weeks after Lydia's and my mom said I was walking around by Christmas the year I was born. Will Lydia be cruising or even walking by next month? Yikes! I guess we'll just have to see. She picks up on things so quickly that I wouldn't be surprised if it happens, but at the same time she is also generally content and may not feel adequate motivation to take off just yet. Only time will tell. :)
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our health! As flu season is upon us, I can't tell you how many Facebook status updates I've seen of various friends and family battling illness. It's especially sad all of the children and babies with terrible coughs, fevers, and other general "ickies." I can't even imagine how hard it would be as a mom to listen to your baby struggle all night long! I suppose someday I will probably have to deal with this, but for now I'm very thankful that Lydia (and the rest of us) are staying healthy. Other than a minor cold when she was 1 month old, Lydia hasn't let anything slow her down. :) Thank you, Lord, for my beautiful family and for keeping us healthy!
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Just a couple of nights ago Lydia decided to make up a new game to play. Brent and I were enjoying a little TV time while our sweet baby was happily playing on the floor nearby when suddenly I hear a rattling noise. I look over to see her shaking half of a plastic barrel with a wooden block in it. No big deal. But it wasn't long before I realized that she was doing this intentionally! Whenever the block would inevitably come out of the barrel, Lydia would concentrate and work very hard to manage to get it back in. I kept thinking I must be crazy... just imagining that she was doing this on purpose... but she was noticeably fussy when she couldn't quite get it where she wanted, then super happy as soon as she would get it back into the barrel.

So anyway, the next day I tested her again and this time grabbed the camera to capture the moment. Video was too distracting, thus making it very long... so you get pictures instead and just have to trust me that I wasn't helping her at all.

I'm probably just an overly enthusiastic mom who is just certain her kid is super smart. Maybe all kids her age can do things like this? But this sure seems like some major cognitive and fine motor skills for a mere 8.5 month old! I mean come on, she made her own rattle! ;)

(Oh and in other news, today she decided she was totally capable of eating her finger food puffs all by herself. I've been trying and trying to get her to eat them on her own, then she goes and does it like a pro when DADDY is giving her lunch. Go figure! Lydia can officially self-feed now.)
My dear daughter on whom I bragged so much about her good eating habits may finally be starting to develop preferences. I noticed about a week ago that Lydia sometimes wouldn't eat much food when I expected she should be relatively hungry. So one evening when Brent was unsuccessfully trying to get Lydia to eat her squash (something she loved the first time she ate it), I decided to try a different approach. Rather than just assuming she wasn't hungry and putting the food away, I got out a package of green beans and tried offering those to her. She gobbled up nearly the whole container!

So it seems I now have to start being more attentive to which foods I pick out for her. No longer can I be sure that she'll eat until she's full regardless of what's on the menu. Thus far it seems she no longer cares for squash, peas, or the mixed veggie combo of peas, carrots, & spinach. She'll do okay with bananas, but they aren't preferred. Most fruits go over better than the previously mentioned veggie varieties, but there are a few that she certainly doesn't gobble up like others. Her favorite things so far seem to be pears, apricots, green beans, carrots, and sweet potatoes. She also likes when things are really runny as opposed to thicker. This may be what she doesn't find too appealing about bananas.

Does anyone know if grocery stores will let you trade baby foods? I had just bought more before Lydia's change in tastes, so I have a few unopened packages of the foods she has decided she doesn't like. Any chance a store would let me trade them for foods she will eat?

Another interesting development with Lydia is that she is suddenly getting all jumpy about certain noisy objects in the house. Two days ago I went to blowdry my hair and she flipped out as soon as I turned it on. Now this was not the first time I dried my hair with her in the room. She never minded it before. So I figured I must have just startled her and maybe she was sleepy and it all upset her. But today I tried it again. I made sure she was looking at me and aware of the dryer so it wouldn't completely startle her. The instant it turned on the "I'm going to scream!" look spread across Lydia's face. This time I continued to dry my hair despite the look, telling her it was okay, smiling at her, hoping she'd realize it was fine. She didn't. She fussed the whole time. What's the deal? Then this afternoon she freaked out about the vacuum cleaner. She didn't mind it when I was on the other side of the room from her, but as I got closer to her (in her exersaucer), I got "the look" again. What on earth has caused this sudden dislike of household noises? Silly child...
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This past Wednesday night our home group watched one of the messages from Andy Stanley's Go Fish series. What a powerful message it was! He spoke about the partnership between us (the fishers) and the church... how we are not meant to be in this alone. As we go out on our mission to be "fishers of men" we are to be inviting people to come and see what Jesus is doing. And the church is the place where we should find that!

There were so many great points in this message and I will in no way do them justice trying to explain them myself, so I'll try to just stick with one. Andy pointed out how Jesus and his disciples had a "come and see" approach when it came to Jesus. Those who were curious about who he was were told, "follow me" (by Jesus) or "come and see" (by others). John 1:45-46:

Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. "Come and see," said Philip.

Philip didn't stress out about Nathanael's response. He didn't go, "Oh dang, Nate doesn't believe me, I guess I should stop talking." Nor did he sit and try to have a discussion with Nathanael in response to the question about Nazareth. He just told him to come and check it out. "Trust me, Nate. Just come see this guy and you'll know what I'm talking about."

That is exactly how it is supposed to be in our world today. Where is Jesus working? Matthew 18:20: For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. As Andy Stanley puts it, when we gather on "official Jesus business," Jesus shows up. This is the role of the church. The church is meant to be a place of official Jesus business. People should be able to see the church and simultaneously see Jesus at work.

All that is left to do is to simply invite people to come and see. Just come see it for yourself.

The partnership between the church as a whole and the individual members of the church is a beautiful thing when it is working in this way. Jesus shows up and lives are changed.

So what about your church? Is it a place where you can confidently approach your friends and invite them to come and see? Is Jesus present there in such a way that invites the lost to keep going back... to keep learning more... to follow Jesus? What are you doing to provide an atmosphere of "official Jesus business" where Jesus promises he will indeed show up?

We are not meant to be solo fishermen. This is a corporate affair. If we want to be good fishers, we absolutely must find where Jesus is so that we can confidently invite people to come and see.
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This is me. Well, at least it was me when I was 25... before I had my baby girl and life changed forever. But you get the idea.

I am a jeans & t-shirt, meat & potatoes kind of girl. I love the outdoors (hiking, camping, fishing, etc) but also love my computer and have my "hermit" moments. I am in no way, shape, or form artistic. To this day I have no idea how I managed to get an A in a high school painting class (the only art class I took... I didn't dare tempt fate twice!). I deal in facts & figures and prefer things to be black & white, figuratively speaking. My only creative venues are singing & crocheting, but I don't take much time to dabble in either. My husband makes fun of me constantly about my love of list-making & budgeting and I secretly wish I could marry a spreadsheet. I wear my heart on my sleeve most of the time, so if you frequent this blog you are quite likely going to get a pretty good picture of who I am.

I was born in Missouri into a family with two very loving parents and two (pretty cool) older brothers. I consider myself blessed to have had the wonderful Christian home that I had growing up. My parents worked hard to teach me and my brothers solid morals and values, and I'm grateful to have come to know Jesus Christ at a very young age.

My family moved from Missouri to Ohio in 1995, and I graduated from high school there in 2001. I continued my education at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio where I originally set out for a Math Education degree but later decided teaching wasn't the right fit for me. I graduated in 2005 with a degree in Computer Science and immediately began a career in that field. However, I was never meant to be a career woman. My heart and passion has always been for one thing: to be a wife and mother. Long before I had achieved any significant level of education I knew I wanted to be a stay at home mom someday. I am so thankful that I am now living my dream, staying at home with my beautiful daughter!

But we'll come back to her in a minute. As the saying goes (before the baby carriage) - first comes love and marriage! Brent and I met in college. February 21, 2002 to be exact. One week prior, after a rather horrid Valentine's Day experience, I had gotten serious about giving God control of my love life. It was important to me that the next relationship I got into be one in which I was playing for keeps. I was tired of playing games and wanted to focus on preparing my heart for my future spouse.

It was almost frightening how quickly thereafter God brought Brent into my life. We met after church group on a Thursday night and spent all evening (well into Friday morning) talking and getting to know one another. We were pleasantly surprised to find how similar our values were... including more "extreme" things like keeping the door open when hanging out in a room alone with the opposite sex - to avoid temptation or even the appearance of sin. We really "clicked" right away, but because of my strong desire to be sure that this was the real thing, and because I felt I had already committed this time to focus on God alone, we remained just friends for the next six months. I told Brent we could talk about dating in September... so of course, September 1, 2002 we had our first official date and have been together ever since! By Christmas time that year we were comfortable with the thought of getting married someday. It was official in May 2003 when we were engaged, then on May 14, 2004 I became Mrs. Sarah Pirolli.

Brent is currently employed by our church, CedarCreek.tv, where he has been involved in one way or another since the church's beginning in 1995. He works as the full time IT Director while I have been able to do part time work from home on the church's website since May 2009. He is a big-time tech guy who has been building computers since the age of 12, so this job really suits him and he loves that he gets to use his gifts to serve the church.

After getting married in 2004, we were on the 3-5 year plan regarding starting a family. It was important to us from the start to make sure we took some time to just be husband and wife before kids came into the picture. Additionally, because I wanted to be able to stay home with our children we felt it wise to plan financially for this goal. God blessed our plans and life progressed just as we had hoped.

Meet Lydia. She stole our hearts forever on February 22, 2009 (I find it fun to note that that is just 1 day past the 7 year anniversary of Brent and I first meeting). Right now she is only 8 months old, so there's not a lot to say about her history, but this blog ends up being 95% about her... so you can read about it as it happens.

Lydia is an absolute joy in my life. "Joy" is really the only word I can come up with to describe it. She is always filled with smiles and laughter. I can't wait to see her joy continue to grow and flourish as she gets older! There are no words in the English language that can capture the love I have for my child. My heart practically explodes on a daily basis just watching her smile and learn and grow.

I serve a great God and am eternally grateful and humbled by how richly He has blessed my life. My prayer is that my family and I will continue to serve Him with everything He has given us and that we will be good stewards of these gifts.

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." Ps. 118:29
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As always, things keep changing around here. Here's the low-down on Lydia's latest developments.

She still isn't crawling yet, but tries really hard when enticed with a toy. She still prefers to roll and will often give up the crawling attempts and simply roll over unless you block her sides. I try to do a little bit to encourage her in this area, but I'm not pushing it too hard. She is pretty mobile just with rolling and I trust she will move on when she is ready.

Lydia also seems to be trying really hard to sit up on her own. Quite often when I go to get her out of her crib she is craning her neck forward, legs and arms stiffened, trying with all her might to do a sit-up. These attempts of hers may be part of the reason I'm seeing her struggle with sleep lately. She puts up more of a fight when I put her down for a nap, often wakes earlier (crying), and wakes more frequently when I put her down for the night. Last night she went to bed at 7 but fussed for 2 hours before I finally rocked her to sleep. But who knows... the time change that happened this weekend may be factoring in as well.

In the realm of food Lydia fed herself finger food for the first time yesterday! She's so silly with the little baby puffs. She seems to understand that they are food and eats them up when *I* feed them to her, but when she gets them in her hand she just stares at them or drops them on the floor. If I put one on my hand and offer it to her, she will move her mouth towards my hand... or grab my hand and pull it towards her... but she doesn't like to take it off my hand with hers to eat it. Silly girl! But she did do a couple on her own yesterday, so we'll keep practicing. :)

We've officially dropped the late night nursing and are strictly doing feedings between 7am & 8pm. I've been working on doing solids 3 times a day instead of 2 for the past week and plan today to try to get away with 4 nursing sessions instead of 5. In theory, I'll nurse her every 5 hours until bedtime... so 7am, 12pm, 5pm, and then somewhere between 7 and 8pm whenever she goes to bed. So far today we're doing well with this schedule. She nursed first thing this morning (7:30) then ate some fruit after getting up from a nap at 9. It's 11:45 now and she's napping, so I'll nurse her when she gets up then she can have more solids around 12:30 or 1. Right now I think my plan is to have 5 hours between nursings, but do solids in there too to have her still eating something at least every 4 hours. She'll see the pediatrician in a couple of weeks so there's a good chance I'll change things up again after that, but for now this is my plan.

In other news, halloween was this past weekend. My parents decided to come up for a visit (yay!) so they got to see Lydia dressed up in her monkey costume. Isn't she a doll??

It was a crazy day, but I think Lydia had a lot of fun. She was REALLY tired because I forgot to put her down for an afternoon nap (oops!)... she had just been so happy all day that I never got that "she really needs a nap" signal until we had to walk out the door. So all evening she was running on a 5 minute catnap that she grabbed in the car. We first drove out to the Whitehouse campus to visit Daddy at work. He enjoyed showing off his little monkey girl. :) Next we headed to Grandma & Papa's house, then finished the evening at Great-Grandma & Grandpa's house. Despite being so sleepy, Lydia was mostly a happy girl. Oh speaking of being a happy girl, she went to the nursery at church on Sunday and when I picked her up they told me she won the best baby award for the day. Those things always make me smile. See? I'm not lying when I say I have the best baby ever!!

I know you folks are out there even when you don't comment... so today I'm asking for some feedback! If you read this, I would love to hear your response.

Just a question that I have been pondering. How many of you out there have prayer lists? And what do those look like? In a recent series about prayer our senior pastor talked about his prayer list and encouraged us to do the same in our prayer life. He has specific things/people he prays for each day of the week.

Now while I would love to do this because I'm definitely a "list person" and structure helps me stay focused and disciplined, I've never liked it much for prayer. It just doesn't feel meaningful to me and I don't know how to keep things "fresh" ya know? For example, let's say one of my Monday list items is our country. I would quickly feel very repetitive each week praying the same "God bless America" prayer. But I guess when the alternative is constantly forgetting to EVER pray for our country, maybe the structure of a list is better?

So what do you do? What does your prayer life look like? Do you use a structure such as a list? Why or why not?
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I had an epiphany the other day when I went to Babies R Us. I realized that baby stuff is EXPENSIVE! Yes, it took me 8+ months for this to really sink in, but as I prepared myself to spend another $40 on 2 sleep sacks because my wiggly baby may never keep real blankets on, this epiphany finally hit me. I very quickly passed up the pink dots and cute girly prints for the gender neutral green fleece and teddy bear print sacks. I plan to have more of these little bundles in the future and I can't be certain they'll all appreciate pink!

So here's my advice to new/expectant moms out there: go gender neutral whenever you can. Now I understand there are some things you are just gonna want to go all out boy/girl with. Clothing is a big one for me. I hate dressing my girl up in yellows or greens (unless obviously girly styles). When we go out, I want people to know she is a GIRL! But I'm starting to let go on some of the other accessories. You can spend hundreds of dollars in blankets, toys, carseat accessories, and baby equipment. Imagine having to do it again if your next kid is a different gender! Trust me, your baby girl will not care if she doesn't have the fancy pink stroller with pink strap covers, pink toys, and pink diaper bag hanging off the back. If you go pink with the clothing and stick with gender neutral for everything else, people will have plenty of evidence that she's a girl.

Yes I know what it is like to find out the gender of your baby and be soooo excited with visions of filling that nursery to the brim with everything pink imaginable... but do yourself a favor and try your best to reign it in a little. Your wallet will thank you later!
Is it normal to feel like my heart is absolutely going to explode with an abundance of love when hanging out with my daughter? I'm not entirely sure I can take much more of this! Lydia is off the charts adorable and sometimes I literally feel like it is too much to bear!

Today my sweet girl is 8 months old. As my gift to her, we spent most of the day out and about. As her gift to me, she didn't fuss. :) The day started with huge doses of giggles as I nibbled her fingers in the morning... and ended with an equally large dose of giggles while she "wrestled" with Daddy and played peek-a-boo before bedtime.

Someday I'm going to have more kids (God willing)... and if the amount of love increases as the amount of kids increases, I'm going to explode. Seriously. I don't think that much cute can be contained without some casualties.
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Periodically I like to try to capture in text (as much as possible) what my life is like at the moment. Obviously life changes constantly around here with a growing girl, so jotting down some things along the way will help me to remember where we have been.

Currently our days start around 7am... sometimes this is closer to 8, but not usually. Lydia's demeanor upon waking ebbs and flows, but lately she's been very pleasant when she wakes up. She might stir and cry for just a second around 6 or 6:30, but then quiets down, goes back to sleep, and wakes up later cooing, squealing, laughing, and other happy noises until I go in to get her. I feed her, change her, and give her her vitamins then we proceed downstairs for a little playtime. Typically she is ready to go back to sleep by 8 (or roughly an hour after she wakes up). She'll nap for 30 minutes to an hour then our day "officially" begins.

Every day might be different from that point. Sometimes she is fussy and tired after being up for just 2 hours at a time, and other times she can go 3 or more hours. Besides the early morning one though, she typically gets 2 more naps. One is usually shortly after lunchtime and the other around 3:30. Each last for maybe an hour.

Food has kinda been an adventure. As she started eating more solids she started having issues with her poop. Without going into a bunch of details, her body just needed to adjust to the diet changes. She had been eating fruit at lunch and veggies at dinner, but now I've changed to wheat cereal mixed with apple juice for lunch and either a fruit or veggie at dinner. The apple juice seems to help her stay more regular, but now with only one additional solid meal I have a harder time giving her a lot of variety. She eats well, though, and hasn't rejected any foods I've offered her. Oddly enough she prefers baby foods to anything else I offer. The first time I let her have some smooshed up "real" banana she made the most disgusted face! I've gotten the same face letting her try apple butter and mashed potato. But packaged baby food peas? No faces there! Silly kid.

Lydia is now nursing just 5 times a day. Her pediatrician said she may drop down to 4 times when we increase to 3 solid meals each day, but at this point I'm not sure how I'd want to schedule those. Presently she nurses first thing in the morning, around 11:00 (shortly before lunch), around 2:00, around 5:00 (shortly before dinner), and then before bed. I'm contemplating dropping the 2:00 feeding and working towards a structured 3 meals a day (nursing + solids) but we'll see. She doesn't exactly "ask" to be nursed in the afternoon... I just offer and she eats. So maybe she'd be just fine if I stopped offering. We'll see. Her doctor expected we'd move up to 3 meals a day around 9 months of age, so we have another month yet to see how things go. I've only recently been able to regularly not nurse her in the late evening (before I go to bed), so I don't want to rush any more meal changes.

When she isn't sleeping or eating, Lydia is a very happy baby playing with her toys. She's content to sit on the floor with toys to shake & chew on. I try to read her books occasionally, but she will either wiggle and squirm so much that I can't hold her and read, or she will insist on eating the book instead of listening to it. Pretty much the only thing that captivates her enough for her to actually sit still is her Praise Baby DVD. She loves that thing! She also enjoys rolling around on the floor. No crawling yet, but she does a good job of rolling herself around to get to the things she wants.

She still really enjoys being out and about. Every time I take her anywhere people are always commenting about what a happy baby she is. Lately it doesn't even matter if she is tired. She'll stay up longer and still be pleasant as long as she's got lots of new and interesting things to look at. This has certainly helped our schedule be a lot more flexible!

I can't believe my baby is going to be 8 months old in a few days. I say it all the time, but this really is going sooo fast!
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This weekend while leaving church - Lydia strapped in the backseat of the car happily giggling at herself in the mirror - I found myself thinking about Abraham. I thought about the faith required to be willing to truly give it all to the Lord. My mind immediately recounted the story of Abraham's trek up the mountain to sacrifice his beloved son... tears streamed down my face before I had even pulled out of the church parking lot.

How could he do such a thing? I glanced at my precious daughter still laughing behind me and the tears came down faster. I'm sure that Abraham and Sarah loved Isaac just as much as I love Lydia... and I can't even begin to dream of giving her up for anything!

I think too often I take for granted the fact that I know the end of that story. I read about Abraham's calling to sacrifice Isaac, and the 3 day walk up the mountain, and I forget how Abraham's heart must have been absolutely crushed to bits when his son innocently asks, "Where is the lamb?" Abraham did not have the luxury of knowing the ending. He didn't know that God would ultimately spare Isaac's life. Every gut-wrenching step up that mountain required immense faith.

As I drove home from church remembering this story, I had to admit that I don't know that my faith is that strong. In fact, I had to admit that I've really been holding back... clinging to my family, utterly afraid that if I let go and give everything over to God He will ask me to do the unthinkable. Sometimes I feel as though it will take something huge in my life to really bring me back to the close relationship I desire with God, and because I'm so afraid that the huge thing would be harmful or painful to my family, I resist asking for it. Why do I struggle so much to just let go and trust that God will provide?

One of the verses in my Bible study for today stood out to me. Matthew 6:33-34: Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else...

I'm still not where I want to be. I'm still scared to death to truly place my entire life - my home, myself, my family - upon the altar of the Lord, trusting His will. But I'm really praying for strength in this area. I love my family more than anything else in this world, but they are God's first. And He loves them too. Abraham knew that and was able to trust that God had a perfect plan for his family. I want to have a faith like that.
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So I haven't blogged in awhile. Part of that is because we were on vacation and another part is because I just haven't felt like I've had anything blog-worthy to post. I guess there are the run of the mill details on our vacation and the recent opening of the CedarCreek Whitehouse campus (yay!), but I don't have much profound to say about them.

Vacation was fun. Nice to get away with my family and I'm thrilled Brent was able to come as well. We had a good time.

Lydia learned to clap recently and very much enjoys clapping throughout the day.

After lots and lots of hard work, the CedarCreek Whitehouse campus opened this past weekend with around 1800 people in attendance! I am amazed by what God has done in my church. We stand in awe.

Beyond all of that, life is just normal. Busy but normal. So I really don't have a lot to say on here. Sorry about that. If you've read this far into this lame post, my apologies for boring you. There is indeed stuff on my mind but nothing I wish to post publicly.

So with that, I will end this sad excuse for a blog post and go watch Biggest Loser with my hubby. :-P
Part of the beauty (and frustration) of the internet is the ability to leave out the details. The author of a blog has the ability to choose exactly what is revealed to his/her readers and therefore the readers likely never get a real picture of who the author is and what his/her life is really like. They just see the snippets that are shared. There's nothing really wrong with that. Like I said, it's part of the beauty of the internet. We are able to share our lives with others without sharing our ENTIRE lives with others. But if we aren't careful, it can become easy to think that these snippets are all there is. Kinda like when we watch TV shows or movies and sometimes slip into thinking that that's what life is really supposed to be like.

I know I've done it before. Lots of times. Whether it's been through blogs or just with friends whom I don't see very often, I know I've had lots of times where I let myself slip into believing that these other people have the "perfect" marriage, family, life, etc. I swear they never fight or have bad days and their houses probably look spectacular and smell like roses all the time. Ha!

Anyway, my point is that these things probably aren't true. I'm seeing a very narrow piece of the whole of their lives. And the same is true of this blog. As the author of this blog, I do want to do my best to be real here. I've always been a heart-on-my-sleeve type of person. But, I also strive not to complain. I don't want my blog to be an outlet for ranting about life's frustrations... mainly because ultimately I know my life is pretty darn awesome and God has blessed me greatly. But to those of you out there who read this (however many or few of you there are), know that my life still has ups and downs. I post mostly about the good things... about fun vacations and how much I love my family. But my life is definitely not roses all the time. I fight, struggle, doubt, cry, and hurt at times too.

I've been struggling lately with a number of things, mostly related to a lack of discipline. It's been over 7 months now since my life felt routine and a lot of stuff is starting to suffer as a result. So last week I decided I was going to commit to some improvements.

Around the house: I'm at home practically all day every day. I decided that I need to start seeing my home as my job and get serious about keeping it presentable. I likely will never become a super neat-freak, but I do want to try to make more effort. It's a really satisfying feeling to have a clean house. So, I've divided up the chores and tasked myself with something each day of the week. For example, today is kitchen day and tomorrow I clean the carpets.

Spiritually: I hate to admit that this has been lacking but yeah... it has been. Majorly. But knowing the importance of spending time with God, and after our church's series on prayer, I knew I had to get more disciplined in this area. I've been spending Lydia's first nap of the day reading the Living It Out Bible study and journaling prayers. Have I immediately returned to feeling on fire for Christ? Nope. I wish it was that easy. I truly miss that fire. But this relationship, like any relationship, takes time and effort. I'm working on the first step right now... taking the time to invite God to work in my life again.

My marriage: Nope, I don't have a perfect marriage either. Told you my life isn't roses! Even with 5 years of experience under our belts, Brent and I still miss the mark a lot. After spending time praying about marriage, I had to laugh a little when my friend Kim blogged about how to like your husband again. God always has fun ways of communicating. In addition to working on following Kim's advice, I started reading through the book "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. I've read most of it before, but I wanted to examine it again. It's given me some new insights into what I need and what Brent needs from me. We had a great talk last weekend and I already feel like we're doing better. (Note: I don't mean to imply that we've been having serious marital problems, just that no marriage is perfect and ours is no exception to that.)

There are tons of other areas of my life that need improvement as well, but the above three are the ones I've been focusing on lately. One step at a time, right? I want to make the most of this life that I've been given. I am far from perfect and I make a LOT of mistakes. I'm just grateful for a loving family and a gracious God who are willing to be patient with me.
It's late and I'm tired and I want to go to bed, but I have to take a second to just capture this memory before it is lost.

Tonight after dinner I cleaned Lydia up and put her on the living room floor so she could relax/roll/play a little bit before bedtime. She was in such a silly little mood and she kept laughing, so I got down on hands and knees with my face directly above her and we just had the best time smiling and laughing at eachother. Her entire face smiled with her big blue eyes fixed on mine just soaking in all of the fun. Everything I said or did was hilarious and she'd just go crazy laughing and grabbing at my face. I loved it!

I guess what was so special was the fact that she was so fixated on me. Lydia is an incredibly happy baby most of the time. I get the joy of hearing her laugh and squeal with delight a million times a day it seems. But usually she is quite easily distracted. It was awesome to have that moment where we were truly enjoying one another. No toys, no music, just mommy and baby having fun making eachother laugh.

I love my life. :-)
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My dear sweet Lydia has always been a noise maker. So it's certainly not surprising to hear all kinds of things coming out of her all day long. But lately one of her favorite things to do is SCREAM. And let me tell you, she can be loud! We took her to a restaurant last night and let her play with a straw. This, of course, was the best toy ever and required many many joyous screams. Brent was noticeably embarrassed (I mostly found it cute... what mom wouldn't?), so the straw was soon taken away.

Other fun noises in Lydia's repertoire have been growls, lots and lots of raspberries, and my favorites: babbling "mamama" and "dadada." And beyond straws at restaurants, kitchen items have also become popular toys. Lydia's favorite currently is a spatula, though she also got a kick out of holding a tupperware container to her face and babbling into it. Her real toys are no longer interesting. She will ALWAYS choose something on my desk or an item offered from the kitchen over the bright, soft, jingly, musical, or otherwise "cool" baby toys.

She is growing increasingly intelligent. It so fun to watch her learn! She's quite good at pulling on blankets to move toys closer to her. I even watched her figure out that she could get a balloon in her hands by pulling on the ribbon to make it come down. Is she supposed to be this smart already?

People keep commenting that we're going to see teeth soon. But people have been telling me that for 3 or 4 months... and ya know what? We got nothin. Lydia gnaws on everything in sight, but we still haven't seen any pearly whites making their debut. I'm fine with them waiting awhile to show up. I don't look forward to getting bit while nursing, and I kind of enjoy not having to be TOO worried about stuff she's chewing on knowing that she can't easily bite pieces off yet.

In the realm of feeding, we're working on a few changes these days. As of yesterday I'm starting to give her solids twice a day instead of once and I am now attempting to drop her late night nursing (the 10:30 one). She did pretty well yesterday and last night. She had pears at lunchtime and carrots at dinner (while we were at Red Lobster... that made life interesting!). Bedtime feeding was around 7:45 and she slept until 5:30 this morning at which point I went in and found her crying on her belly. So I'm not sure if she woke up due to hunger or because she was on her tummy and too tired to roll back over.

It makes me a little sad to be decreasing nursing times. I love nursing Lydia and I know how healthy it has been for her, but I also know that I have to allow her to grow up. At some point she will need to adjust to "real" food and it has always been my intention to wean her at a year old. So, it's only a matter of time before this will come to an end. One of many phases that I will see come and go throughout her life.

Going to try to take some 7 month pictures of her today. Keep an eye on Facebook and Shutterfly to see them!
Well, except for the cold nights! While I found myself nice and toasty warm inside my sleeping bag, I also found myself constantly worried about my baby girl in her Pack N Play on the other side of the tent. But all in all, it was a great trip!

The weather was absolutely perfect camping weather. Sunny, light breeze, highs around 75 degrees. Perfect. Lydia had so much fun being outside and getting attention from her cousins. I knew she'd love it.

Friday night Lydia decided that bedtime was really just naptime and woke up crying shortly after going down. She didn't want to miss the campfire!

She slept okay that night (once finally back in bed), so I guess she stayed warm enough. But when she did get up in the morning, her little hands were just FREEZING! I wish I could have covered them up, but since she sucks her thumb I know she'd rather have cold hands than not have them at all.

Saturday was all about relaxing and enjoying the outdoors. We sat around the fire in the morning until it warmed up, had our typical breakfast of eggs & bacon, and spent the afternoon napping, playing, chatting, and snacking. Exactly the way a camping trip is supposed to be! Naps were a little difficult for Lydia though. By mid-afternoon the inside of the tent was SO hot. Even in just a onesie she was sweating like crazy. I realized that a tent nap was not going to happen, but my tired baby really needed to rest. So... out came the Pack N Play. By the time I got it out and set up, Lydia had caught a second wind and it took her another hour before she finally fell asleep. There was just far too much stuff to look at outside!

Just as a random side note, there was a large group of Amish people camping a couple sites down from us. Made for interesting people-watching opportunities!

Saturday night we had an interesting experience around the campfire. Lydia was already in bed and my sister-in-law Erin was heading to the bathroom with her 3 girls to get them ready to go to sleep when she saw a raccoon! Right by our picnic tables! Trying not to alarm the girls, they moved on to the bathroom. Meanwhile, myself, my dad, my mom, Brent, and my brother all tried to figure out what we were going to do with this cute-but-don't-want-it-around-camp pest. The men tried to scare it away but it would just run back up the tree then eventually creep back down. It found the Trix under the table that had spilled that morning and didn't seem too bothered by our presence as it chowed down.

After a few attempts, we thought it was gone. They'd scared it off and we watched it run across the other campsites (right towards the Amish!). Back to enjoying the campfire we went. Later Brent is melting the extra marshmallow goo off of the roasting forks... he pulls them out and they are red hot. Someone cracks a joke about him getting the raccoon with the red hot pokers... we laugh... Brent turns around... and there is the stinkin raccoon on top of our picnic table! At this point Brent grabs a log from our firewood pile and proceeds to whack the raccoon. It runs off, ducks into a drain pipe, and Dad & Brent blocked the pipe with a big log and put stakes around it so it can't move. That was the last we saw of the raccoon.

(For all those concerned about it, I'm sure the 'coon was fine... we fed it before pinning it in a hole and removed the log in the morning... chances are it managed to get out the other side of the pipe and just stayed away from us point forward)

Saturday night was cold yet again, so again I worried that my sweet Lydia would be chilly. She did fine until around 6 or 6:30. At that point I got her out of her PnP and snuggled her in with me in my sleeping bag. I nursed her there while warming her up and she fell asleep all bundled up next to me. I didn't go back to sleep because I was making sure my baby didn't get smothered in the thick sleeping bag... and because I was fully enjoying having my sleeping baby snuggled up next to me. For safety reasons I do not co-sleep with Lydia. Never have. And I don't regret that decision. But that morning I really did love having her bundled up in my arms while she slept. :)

The rest of the trip was pretty typical. Breakfast Sunday morning followed by tearing down the camp & heading to the Pizza Hut buffet for lunch.

I'm so glad Lydia is already getting the chance to go places and have different experiences. We've already been camping twice and spent a week at the beach... and in a couple more weeks we're heading to Gatlinburg! Lydia loves travelling and she does it so well! I have a feeling that she will keep me on the move as she gets older!

Crazy busy week with family things, MOPS, and trying to get the CedarCreek website ready for launch. With any luck I'll find some time to blog about the camping trip between work, Lydia, and the other activities!

Pictures are up on Facebook & Shutterfly.
I am in the BEST mood today. Lydia has been an absolute delight all day... smiling, laughing, just being a super happy girl. She was totally cracking up when we were in her room and I kept exclaiming "MMMMMM...MAMA!" She played happily while I ran about doing laundry and packing for our weekend. Another thing that made her giggle: I was counting out diapers for the weekend and asked her if 15 would be enough. "That should be plenty, right baby girl?" She promptly responded by giggling. Should I be worried? ;-)

The weather today is FABULOUS. Lydia and I walked out to get the mail and I decided it was too nice out to waste. So we went in, grabbed a picnic blanket, some toys, and the book I'm reading and set up camp on the porch. Lydia played and watched the kids walking by on their way home from school while I got a chance to finish the chapter I was reading in my book.

Another reason for my good mood: we are going camping tomorrow!! I love camping. It's one of my favorite family activities and fondest childhood memories. My parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, and nieces head north from Cinci... Brent, Lydia, and I head south from Toledo... and we meet roughly in the middle for a camping extravaganza! (Perhaps I exaggerate, but the sentence sounded better that way). The weather for the weekend is also supposed to be FABULOUS, so it should be an awesome time. Just praying that it doesn't get too cold for us at night... mostly for Lydia. Low temps are supposed to get down to lower 50's and we'll be in a tent. I'm bringing multiple layers to bundle up my baby, so she should be set. Assuming she stays warm enough at night, I know Lydia is going to have so much fun. She's such an outdoors girl and a social butterfly. Spending the weekend outside with her cousins is going to be the best!

Lots of great things to look forward to. Camping this weekend, family dinner with the in-laws on Monday, and MOPS starting on Tuesday. Life is grand!
A few new developments in the life of Lydia:

- She is totally into fake coughing to get attention.

- She is now all about rolling across the room, but only to her one side. She is not an ambi-turner.

- She LOVES being chased. So much so that she laughs hysterically even when we aren't intentionally chasing her... like when Brent carries her up the stairs for bed and I am following behind them.

- She eats socks. Funniest thing lately was when we were in the car and I turned around to see that she had pulled off her sock and had it dangling from her mouth. No hands involved, just a sock stuffed in her mouth. Silly girl!
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Lydia is currently in her crib crying. I have been running in and out of her room for over an hour now. Every time I comfort her, calm her down, tell her it's time for night-night, and leave. As soon as I am out of sight, the screams begin again. This last time I cuddled her a bunch, then put her in her crib and stood to the side. She smiled and babbled to me, and happily began to suck her thumb (a typical bedtime ritual). But again, as soon as I left it was as if something was ripping her leg off.


She just quieted down again. I'm hoping she's finally going to sleep. I've heard that around 6 months it is very common for separation anxiety to kick in and it is also common for this to disrupt nighttimes that are typically without issue. Oy. I had hoped we were past the need to cry it out. If this was a one-time thing I'd think less of it... but she was doing the same thing last night too. If she does it again tomorrow, I'm going to be in trouble. Brent and I are supposed to go on a date to a Mudhens game tomorrow night after Lydia goes to bed. Bad timing, sweet daughter! :-P

Just another day in the life of this mom... dealing with the ever changing phases of my growing girl.

Still hearing silence over the monitor. Maybe victory at last!


It's 9:20 now... about 2 hours since bedtime began and Lydia is completely asleep. It really did end up being a sweet night though, despite the struggle. My earlier proclamation of victory was premature and Lydia began crying again not too long after I wrote that. So again I went back up to her room to pick her up and calm her down. This time I decided to sit down with her in the rocker and see if I could manage to get her to sleep.

Lydia has not fallen asleep in my arms in a long time, so I didn't expect much. I just wanted to give her some snuggle time and see if I could at least get her to go back to sucking her thumb and relaxing. We sat there snuggling in the dim, quiet room, just rocking and staring at eachother. Lydia would gaze at me with a look of complete wonder, then she would reach up and touch my mouth and nose. She'd then pull her hand back and suck her thumb for awhile, still staring, before reaching up again and repeating the process. I couldn't get over how amazed she looked. It was as if she was seeing my face for the first time ever and was trying to take in all of the details.

Eventually she went back to sucking her thumb and her eyelids started to get heavier. I watched her as each blink got ever so slightly longer. Her thumb in her mouth and her fingers gently gripping the zipper of my sweatshirt, she finally drifted off to sleep. We stayed snuggled up in the rocker until her little body went completely limp. Ever so gently I stood up and slipped her back into the crib.

What a beautiful night it turned out to be. :)

No, this isn't something I intend to make a habit of. I'm still a firm believer that it is best for the whole family for her to be able to put herself to sleep. But tonight I didn't mind bending the rules. Just for one night. Sometimes it takes just a little bit of rule bending to form the best of memories.
In my last post I mentioned how every mother settles into their own method based on their unique lives & children. I said that most parenting books probably only 100% worked for the mothers that wrote them.

With that in mind, let me say how much I hate hate hate HATE reading stuff from people who accuse mothers of being unloving if they do things a certain way. I hate it! Very few things that I read can get me fired up, but know-it-all folks who act like it is their way or the highway can definitely set me off. Come on people, let's be real here. Different things work for different people and just because they don't agree with YOUR way of doing things does not make them cruel, cold, and heartless!

The "cry it out" way of handling a baby and sleeping has been one of the big subjects where I've seen this annoying trend. Some people who oppose this idea practically paint a picture of parents who are sitting around laughing and eating bon-bons while their child lies alone - cold, crying, in desperate need, eventually giving up on the world and falling asleep in pure exhaustion. Give me a break!! Seriously. Can't we all just acknowledge that 99.9% of parents out there LOVE their children and make choices based on that great love for their child? Did I let Lydia cry it out? Yep. Did I make absolutely certain that she was warm, changed, fed, and otherwise comfortable before I did so? Of course! I also was very careful to assess the situation. If she was happy as a clam and then started screaming the instant I put her in her crib, I knew that she was only reacting that way because she did not want to sleep. Despite being tired, she wanted to fight it and stay up and play. She was reflecting her WANTS, not her NEEDS. She needed sleep.

I also never ever just left her there crying for hours upon hours (though sometimes 5 minutes felt like 5 hours to me!). I checked on her frequently, went in to pat her on the back and help her to calm down, and always made sure I was assessing the situation to know if she truly needed something. And no, she did not lay there screaming until she, exhausted, gave up on the world and resigned that life was cruel. She eventually would quiet down, still awake, and then peacefully drift off to sleep.

Anyway, this post is not supposed to be about my feelings on crying it out. It's supposed to be about my feelings on "to each his own" and the fact that too many people don't embrace that mantra when it comes to parenting. I chose not to co-sleep because I felt it could be dangerous and out of love didn't want to endanger my child. Others choose, out of love, TO co-sleep because they feel it is the nurturing thing to do. Am I appalled by their choice? Do I go telling them how awful they are or how I feel they could endanger their babies? Nope. Because I know they are only making that choice because they feel it is the most loving choice for their family. And I respect that. In the same way, I expect respect from other moms who may not choose to do things my way. I love my baby girl more words can express, please stop painting me as cruel for making the choices I feel are best for MY family.

I remember shortly after Lydia was born looking at an article about co-sleeping vs crying it out. The author set it up as if he was going to explore the pros and cons of each. Yay! Something that acknowledges that both sides have risks and benefits... at least so I thought. I got down to the lists of pros and cons and they read like this: "The benefits of co-sleeping; The so-called risks of co-sleeping... The so-called benefits of cry it out; The risks of cry it out"

SO-CALLED? I immediately wrote the article off as biased and closed it right then and there. I get so tired of know-it-alls. Can't we all just acknowledge that no one knows everything and that all things come with pros and cons? And for the love of God let's realize that, besides the random few psychos out there, every mother wants the absolute best for her children and makes her choices based on love, not cruelty.

I could go on and on about other examples of this. Spanking vs not spanking is another of those hot topics. But the discussion is pretty much the same as above. Bottom line: If I choose to spank, it will be a choice I am making because I love my children & want the best for them. If I choose not to spank, it will also be because I love my children & want the best for them. And I personally choose to acknowledge that other moms make their choices for the same reasons... and I will respect their choices, even if they are different from my own. All I ask is for the same respect in return.
Spring and Summer always seem to disappear too quickly. It seems like I just busted out the shorts and sandals, now here I am wearing jeans & sweatshirts with the heat on in the house! Granted, it's unusually cold here right now. The last few days in August had lows in the 40's!

A year ago right now I was preggers in Gatlinburg with my family. Is it weird that I've spent practically this entire year constantly thinking about what I was doing at that time last year? I'm going to assume it is okay and that it does NOT mean I am crazy because hey, 2008 was a big year for me! But anyway, I recall how stressed out I was at this point last year. I was 15 weeks pregnant and still experiencing a lot of spotting. After a huge scare at 12 weeks, I knew that things were fine but I was beyond ready to feel like I was having a "normal" pregnancy. But all of that stressing aside, I was enjoying the experience. I made my first maternity clothing purchases that week in Gatlinburg and I started feeling like I was really showing. Here's a picture of me from September 1st last year... walking in Gatlinburg after dinner at Calhoun's.

Hmm... I really didn't intend this post to be all about reminiscing. And now Lydia is waking up from her nap so I can't really dive into much more now. :P

In short, what I wanted to blog about is the excitement of events to come. Next weekend (the 12th/13th) we will be embarking on another camping adventure. I did enjoy camping with Lydia last time and am looking forward to it again. Just hoping it won't be too cold! And of course, I always love getting to see my family. Camping has always been one of our favorite family activities.

Then at the beginning of October, we're off to Gatlinburg again! Another of my family's favorite locations. Unfortunately Brent is so busy with work and the upcoming launch of our church's Whitehouse campus that there's a possibility he won't be coming with us. This would make me very sad. :( Please pray that everything will get done that needs to get done to allow him to go on vacation. While I'll have my parents with me, it'd be nice to have my husband too!

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Parenting is one of those things that no amount of instructional books can fully prepare you for. I babysat a lot growing up. I knew quite a bit about babies and I read a lot before Lydia's arrival. I felt like I had a plan in place and was ready to go. Perfect, right? Well of course I bring my sweet, innocent little bundle home and she decides that she doesn't like the plan. She has her own plan. And part of that plan is to change the plan as soon as I think I've figured out what the plan is.

But despite all of that, I do feel like I have learned a lot as a parent just through my experiences thus far. I've battled through colds, ear infections, sleep training, traveling with an infant, learning to nurse, learning to spoon feed, treating dry skin & diaper rash, and cleaning up whatever liquid of the day is spewing out of my child. I feel like a mom. :) When I first started this mommy gig, I was so terrified of messing up. It was as if some part of me truly believed that I would kill my baby (or at the least scar her for life) if I didn't do things the "right" way. A billion opinions are out there and if you aren't careful, you'll find some that practically imply that you WILL greatly mess up your child if you don't do things THEIR way.

Well I did things MY way and Lydia and I are still here. I suppose I don't really know yet if I've scarred her for life, but the constant smiles and giggles give me pretty good indication that she's doing fine. This morning I tried to think back on how I've done things the past 6 months. Is there anything I would change? They say that the first child is your practice kid and that you know better ways to do things with subsequent children. So, have I learned anything in retrospect that I'll want to change for kid #2? Honestly, I can't say that I have. Partially because I am not so naive as to think that kid #2 will be exactly like Lydia. Things that have worked with her may not work with #2... and things that I could not for the life of me get Lydia to do, #2 may fall beautifully into compliance. Or maybe I'm just tooting my own horn and think I managed to do things so perfectly with my "practice" child that I'll just do it again with the next. Ha!

I suppose my current mindset is just evidence of how being a mom has changed me. I went into it with all sorts of ideas and plans, a belief that if I followed a certain set of guidelines my baby would be happy and healthy... and so would I! But as it has turned out the #1 thing I have learned about being a mom is that you have to roll with the punches. You can read up on the methods and guidelines, but you will ultimately learn to pick and choose little bits of that knowledge to piece together methods that are unique to you and your family. I think it's probably pretty rare to find a mom who followed any textbook method to a T and had it work out (except maybe the author of the textbook!).

So is there really nothing about my "method" that I think I'll change next time around? Well... maybe a few adjustments to diaper changing to avoid flying poop splatter on the wall, or some choices of medications that ultimately weren't necessary, or possibly a bit more bottle use so that #2 doesn't decide that bottles are for sissies... but you know what? I'm not making any plans just yet. ;)
Starting the post off with a few of my favorite pictures from Lydia's 6 month "session"...

(More pics can be found on Facebook... and more still on Shutterfly...)

Isn't she just growing up so beautifully??? I love her! It's hard to believe that we are halfway through her first year already. Halfway through breastfeeding, halfway to her first cake, halfway to her first party, etc. Sometimes it's like she was just born yesterday, but other times like life before her was ages ago. She is at such a fun age right now... and probably the easiest stage (for me) of her little life so far! She sits up so well now that she is content to sit on the floor and play with whatever toys are available around her. I was able to vacuum the entire house the other day while she sat in her room playing (of course I still kept my eye on her). It's nice that she isn't mobile yet. A lot easier for me for sure!

There are certainly a lot of things I'm starting to miss already about the days gone by... and also a lot of things that I'm really really looking forward to in the future (like the words, "Mommy, I love you!")... but I'm mostly trying to focus on how much I enjoy who she is right now. My mom continues to remind me of the phrase "this too shall pass" ... whether good or bad, every bit of it will pass. So I want to enjoy every second before it's too late!

Alright, in my last post I promised I'd post her 6 month stats... so here they are:

Weight: 16lb 9oz (60%ile)
Height: 26" (50%ile)
Head: 17" (75%ile)

Yep... still got a big noggin. ;-) She didn't weigh as much as I'd expected. She's been riding along the 75%ile curve most of her life, so I anticipated her being 17lb by now... but it's nothing at all to worry about. The doctor said she looks fantastic and is doing really well developmentally. We talked a lot about solid foods and I'm feeling a lot less stressed out about them. I went out and bought a bunch more baby food varieties and we are slowly trying them out. Lydia has had prunes and sweet potatoes, and we just tried bananas today. She made a face at the new taste, but got used to it and kept eating. I'm enjoying taking things slowly. We're introducing one new thing every 3 or 4 days and only doing solids once a day. She nurses before the solids so she doesn't eat much. Just enough to practice a little and learn some new flavors & textures. I still think she's more excited about the spoon than she is the food that's on it... it's like a cool new toy to chew on!

Lydia continues to be the happiest baby I know. She is so easy to please and will just laugh and laugh and laugh at the smallest things. She thinks trips to the store are the best thing ever and will just squeal with delight the whole time we walk around. Who needs fancy places like the zoo or aquarium when we have Walmart to explore! Hahaha. Now that she is sitting up so well (and getting so heavy!) I bought a shopping cart cover for her and next trip we're going to try letting her sit in the cart. She's also going to move up to sitting in the "big tub" at bath time. During her last bath in the infant tub she discovered she is long enough now to stretch her legs out against the end of the tub and arch her back like she's trying to stand up. She kept doing it over and over and would hurt her back on the edge of the seat every time and start crying. I can't have a baby trying to climb out of her tub and hurting herself, so we bought a no-slip bath mat and will try the big tub for bathtime tomorrow.

The list of items she is outgrowing keeps getting longer and longer! Just this week I've put away clothes, the Bumbo, the infant tub, and her hanging toy bar. Her swing will likely be on that list soon too (she's getting to the point of trying to climb out of it).

Maybe I just need to hurry up and have another one so I don't have to keep putting things away... hahaha!

1 week old:
6 months old:

It is absolutely insane how much Lydia has grown in the past 6 months! I treasure every last second of it. We have her next doctor checkup on Monday, so I will post again then with all of her new stats... plus new 6 month pictures!

6 months ago right now, I was mere minutes away from setting eyes on my sweet girl for the first time. Happy 1/2 birthday, baby love. You are such an amazing blessing!

The term "vacation" takes on a strikingly different meaning when toting along a 5 month old baby. Roughly translated, "vacation" = "a whole lot of work in unfamiliar territory." Feeding her, changing her, bathing her... they all had to be figured out within the confines of a rented condo that we shared with two other couples (friends of ours from church). Every outing required extra attention to what gear was required, what clothing Lydia should wear, if she needed sunscreen, and would she make it without a lack-of-nap meltdown.

We ventured to the beach 3 times with the baby, and once to the pool. Each time we had to very strategically plan out exactly what we could squeeze in during the approximately 2 hours we had between naps (tired Lydia = very very cranky Lydia). The typical scenario was this: Lydia would wake up, eat, get a bathing suit on, and get sunscreened. We would gather all of the gear together (stroller, sun tent, bumbo, beach towels, body boards, toys for Lydia), figure out how to manage to carry it, and make the quick walk to the beach... thankfully just across the street from our condo! We'd then spend the first 15 minutes at the beach finding a spot and setting all of the junk up. Brent and I would take turns attempting to keep Lydia occupied and sand-free (we didn't particularly want her to eat it) while the other one would spend a little time in the ocean. Riding waves alone is far less entertaining than doing so together.

After maybe 30-45 minutes at the beach, Lydia would be getting very bored and nearing the cranky tired meltdown stage. There's only so much you can do to entertain her while keeping her shaded. So we'd pack it all up, drag things (wet & sandy) back to the condo, and attempt to get ourselves and the baby rinsed off and decently clean before putting her down for a nap.

A lot of work for not a lot of time out.

This was a stark contrast to our kid-free friends who joined us on the trip. They enjoyed the luxuries of coming and going as they pleased... staying out late, sleeping in, spending hours on the beach or at the pool. That is not our life anymore!

But seriously, I wouldn't trade it for the world. I love my baby girl and we really did have fun taking her on vacation. Yes, it was a lot of work, but it is an experience we will never forget. She liked sitting out on the balcony with me, feeling the breeze and watching the ocean. We took her out to eat with us and discovered she loves sucking on lemons. She enjoyed the pool and the beach, even though our time at each was minimal. And we got to hang out with Brent's old friend Tara and her 3 month old baby, Lucy. Lydia and Lucy were immediate friends!

We also got to see how Lydia could do on long car rides. She did great! On the way down we drove through the night, so she slept most of it (yay!). When we came back it was during the day, so she was awake more but was generally content to sit in her carseat and chew on her toys. She wasn't a big fan of being nursed in the car and/or under the nursing cover, but we made due and all got home safe and sound... even took a different route home so we could spend the night at my parent's house!

All in all it was a lovely vacation. Not sure I'd suggest others do the same with such a young baby (especially one that cat-naps like Lydia does), but certainly an experience worth remembering.

In other Lydia news...
My baby girl is now what I would consider to be an "independent sitter." I have been sitting her on the floor today with no pillows or other items to support her and she will stay there playing for very long periods of time. She sat by herself the entire time I prepared and ate my lunch, and while I worked on organizing her clothes. Speaking of clothes, she's moving up to her 6-9 / 9 month clothing now. I held up a 9 month sleeper and thought to myself, "This looks huge! Surely it won't fit her, at least not very well..." But yep. It fit. Quite well actually. Weren't her clothes all of 20 inches long just yesterday???

She is growing and changing so quickly these days. I made my first official venture into the baby food aisle a couple of days ago and made our first purchases. I grabbed one each of the "1st foods" for us to try out. This past Monday I started getting "serious" about solid foods for Lydia. The entire time we were on vacation she was extremely interested in watching us eat and kept grabbing for things on the table. So I decided she might be ready to give it another try. Indeed she was! I mixed up some cereal on Monday and she actually seemed to enjoy eating it. So I've continued giving her cereal once or twice a day all week. I think it plugged her up, though, because today (Friday) was the first time she pooped since I started doing the cereal daily. I'm going to start introducing other foods soon and we may decide to pass on the cereal. It's not very nutritious anyway.

I'm trying really hard to be excited about all of these changes. Typically I'm not a big fan of change. I like structure and routine, so once something becomes routine I don't like to have it shaken up. I'm entering new and unfamiliar territories which always makes me feel unsure and incapable. But, I have to remember that I am in no way blazing new trails. Millions of moms have gone before me and they all managed to figure out how to get through the changes. So here we go... onward!
Alright, so I admit I am a total rookie housewife. I'm in no way a clean freak and the house primarily gets cleaned when it needs to be (ie, when company is coming). When it was just me and Brent, this wasn't a huge deal. We aren't very messy people.

Enter baby.

Things got a whole lot messier when our sweet little bundle came home... and my desire to have things clean also got a whole lot stronger! But alas, I'm still a rookie and feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. So I'm asking for your help! What are some of your favorite cleaning products? What are some good things for cleaning up those baby messes (wiping off highchairs, cleaning spit-up off the carpet/pillows/everything, surface cleaning the cloth toys that baby insists on stuffing in her mouth all the time, etc)? What do you use to disinfect toys that were, for example, thrown in the sand at the beach?

Cleaning products make me so nervous because I want to make sure anything I use on Lydia's toys or eating surfaces are safe.

Then of course there are bathrooms, floors, a kitchen, and more to be cleaned. So any tips you fellow housewives can pass on would be super appreciated!
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