You Are More

Friday, August 21, 2015

We Bought a House!

"God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us." 

If you follow along with me via Instagram, you will have already discovered that we bought a house! This adventure has been one of the most exciting, overwhelming, stressful, and incredible things I have ever experienced. Everything has been such a whirlwind that it is almost so surreal that this is happening. I have been waiting for closing before sharing this journey and how God put this all together and I am so excited to officially say that this beautiful home is ours. 

We all love a good story, don't we? So let me tell you how this baby came to be...

We have been completely and totally blessed to have "kind-of" free housing while living in the church parsonage. When we accepted our ministry job in Saint Louis, the move was so quick, we had just had our first baby, and there was no way we could have looked for a home in that short amount of time with where we were currently at. The church offered the parsonage to us and it has been a complete and total blessing, but we knew it wasn't our forever home. We didn't always want to be in the parsonage, but we had no idea how we would ever be able to own a home of our own. I remember telling Chad at times it seemed so impossible to ever dream of being home owners.

Fast forward two years of living in the parsonage and we came across some programs that could help us to buy our first home. We started moving in that direction, with a plan in mind, and door after door kept slamming in our face. It didn't seem like it was going to work out at all. So we just decided to wait a year and maybe we would be more ready then. Literally a month later everything changed. The church came to us with a proposition of moving out of the Parsonage so that they could move in some new hires, and if we still were interested in moving they would bring it to the finance board and see what they could do. So we said yes, and I started looking at the market again and day after day kept getting so discouraged. There was nothing. When we looked a month ago there were options, but all of those options were not under contract. I was really stressed out by this point about even finding a home. Two weeks pass by and this house pops up on the market a little further south then the town we were originally looking in, but in the same town as my in-laws. I completely fell in love. I called the realtor immediately and since it was late Tuesday night, and we had Church Wednesday, we set up a time to see it on Thursday. Well the church came to us on Wednesday saying everything was approved and I just couldn't shake the feeling that we needed to go see that house that day. So I called the realtor and we decided to go during Chad's lunch break.

Can I just say when we saw the house it was even more beautiful than the photos? We were absolutely in LOVE. My husband is a processor, he wanted to bring his parents back the next day, take time to think about it, and make sure he knew what he was doing. So that's what we left the house thinking...until we were home not even thirty minutes and were told that if we didn't place an offer by 5pm we would lose the house because there were already two offers put in! So we scrambled around for the next three hours, made some phone calls, and took the leap and put in an offer. It was the craziest most stressful three hours of my life. I was running around like a crazy lady thanking the Lord it was nap time for the kids. 

Offer was in and we were told we would know by 8pm or sooner. At 7pm I got a phone call from the realtor saying that we were in a bidding war. We couldn't go any higher than we already put in for, so she suggested that we write a letter to the sellers thanking them for the opportunity to see their home and talk about how we could see ourselves in it. When she said that I knew exactly what to write. When we went to the house that afternoon Jase was running around the newly fenced back yard and as I was watching him my eyes filled with tears and I thought, "this is what I want. This is what we have been looking for." I couldn't get over how happy he was to have a yard to run and play in. So I shared my heart with the sellers, submitted the letter, and waited.

At exactly 8pm I got a text from my realtor asking if we were ready. After minutes...which felt like hours...staring at her little dots typing she exclaimed we got the house! But the God thing is that we weren't the highest bid! The sellers chose us all over our letter. They wanted us to be the ones to purchase the home that they so well loved, that made us feel incredibly special!

God's hand was in this entirely! We would have lost the house if we would have waited one more day to see it. The house was on the market less than 24 hours before the offers were put in. We didn't offer the highest bid and the sellers chose us. I am just so an awe of how God works things out. I never thought this dream was possible, and it's so crazy how God had it play out. Originally we had our own plan of how we were going to work it out, but that wasn't the way God had things planned. So He closed the doors until we were on the same page and then they began flying open. How the Lord's ways are mysterious, but far better than we could imagine. 

I am so excited for this new journey with my family and the chance to make this house a home!

Do you have an awesome story to share from buying your first home? Are you dreaming of the day you do? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

5 Tips for Keeping Marriage Alive After Kids

Bringing a baby into a marriage is a huge change. You go from worrying about just the two of you, your schedules, your mood, what you want to do and don't want to do to having to focus on a new little demanding bundle of joy. Before children there's a lot of time to be as spontaneous or not spontaneous as you want. But adding a baby in the mix you quickly realize that things change.

I know babies aren't supposed to control your life or your marriage, but the reality is that they are very demanding of your time. Babies take a lot of work, and your schedule really does revolve around them especially for the first year. Babies are a huge blessing and every second of the extra work and days being wrapped around them are worth it, but sometimes it can leave you feeling a little drained in all areas of life, including your marriage.

After making it through the first year of parenthood with our first, and now two years down the road of parenthood and having added our second there are a few things I have learned to keeping your marriage strong after having a baby. We aren't perfect by any means, and we have to continuously remind ourselves of the importance of all of these things numerous times, but we are committed to making our marriage a priority.

1. Communication is HUGE! Especially the first few weeks after having a baby. There is a lot of change, a lot of hormones, a lot of unknown and not just on the women's side. Communication is the best way to make it through all the little hurdles of unknown through parenthood. There is no such thing as over communicating. Talk about how you're feeling, talk about what you need help with, talk about whatever you need to get off your chest. I know it can be hard to find time to talk, but it is so important to do so. Communication alone can make you feel so much closer. I love taking even just five minutes when my husband gets home from work to ask him about his day and get some time to just talk to him.

2. Share the load. Parenting is a tough gig. Not one person can do it on their own. I can't tell you how many times I've thought, "Wow, God really knew what He was doing when He designed parenthood for marriage. I could not do this alone!" When the baby is fussy take turns. When your toddler needs some time from you because the baby has been begging for your attention all day, give the baby to daddy. Tag teaming helps you get through the rough days and sometimes it helps you catch your breath. It takes two to make a baby and two to raise a baby! Some nights I even ask my husband to take both kids for even just 15 minutes so I can get a shower in. It helps me feel refreshed from the day, which helps make me be a better wife!

3. Discuss realistic expectations. A lot of times we get into arguments over things that aren't even a big deal, but we tend to think it matters more than it does. Maybe you're stressed because the sink is full of dishes and the baby has needed you all day and you think your husband is going to be upset with you for the dirty dishes, but in reality that doesn't bother him. What does your husband need from you and what do you need from him during this stage of life? If you talk about the expectations you both have, and realistically think through where your time is needed, then you can allow grace in other places. What do you need from each other that will in turn help you to be a better spouse to the other?

4. Make time for intimacy, even if you have to schedule it. Let's be real, making time for intimacy with a baby around is really difficult. I think since having the second kid it's been twice as difficult. But it is important. So even if it means you make one night a week a no excuses night to spend with your spouse, then that's what you do. Sure it's not like the movies, but it shows just how much you value your spouse to set aside time just for them. It also helps you to look forward to a time to be with your spouse and not focus on the kids.

5. Keep Dating. This one is hard when you don't have access to babysitters or when you're exhausted at the end of the night. But when I haven't gone on a date with Chad for awhile I can feel it. I feel stressed, I feel like I can't enjoy him, I feel emotional and disconnected from him. Taking time away with each other is huge. I know budget is a big deal for some people, but I can argue that even once a month makes a huge difference. That's really easy to add into the budget, even if it's just coffee or an ice cream cone! Date your spouse, after all you do like them, don't you?!

What are your tips for marriage after baby comes? Do you agree with these or do you have more to add? Tell me in the comments! 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Baby's First Year | Take Two: Sleep Troubleshooting

Any mom can agree that when your little one isn't sleeping it can be one of the most frustrating things, especially when there isn't an apparent reason for this interruption to sleep. It can be even more frustrating when you're following a pretty good routine throughout the day to help them sleep and in fact it's not helping at all.

Elyse was all over the place for a while. I had already done everything needed to get her eating every three hours during the day, and her nights and days were regulated, but for some reason we were still pretty inconsistent. One night she would sleep through the night, and then the next she would wake up multiple times throughout the night and I could not figure out what the reason was.

I am not a very rigid person with my child's schedule at all, but I am also not a go with the flow let the baby lead everything kind of person either. I like to combine both methods into one and find a middle ground between the two. I like to guide my child into falling into a pattern, but I listen to their cues along the way. I don't think every baby fits into the steps A, B, & C because every child is their own person. I do however believe that a lot of the main concepts in sleep training and implementing a normal routine can help any baby sleep through the night.

So when Elyse was still inconsistent with her night time sleep I decided to do what I like to call "sleep trouble shooting." I posted on Instagram about how successful our round of sleep trouble shooting went and there were so many people asking for the details, so I wanted to put together a post to help other mamas in the middle of those sleepless nights. So, let's talk sleep trouble shooting.

Sleep trouble shooting starts with a series of questions that you ask yourself to help determine why your baby isn't sleeping:

1. Could he/she be hungry? This one is always really hard to know for sure. You don't want to feed them every time they wake, because you want to encourage them to make it through the night without needing to eat. You also  don't want to start feeding them just because they are waking and end up creating a habit for them to need to wake and eat at that time either. If your child takes a pacifier, I recommend trying that first. If they take it and drift off to sleep, but end up waking up multiple times after that I would try feeding. Maybe they really are hungry! If they don't take a pacifier see what you can do to soothe them back to sleep without picking them up before feeding. If there is just no soothing, and your child is giving you hunger cues go ahead and feed them! It's not going to help you get any sleep if they are in fact hungry!

2. Is it habitual waking? Is your child consistently waking up at the same time every night? If they are it could be a habit. If they are waking and aren't really interested in eating, they may just have gotten used to waking at this time and you'll have to break them out of it. You may have to go in and try to soothe them by patting them, giving the pacifier, adjusting a swaddle, or whatever else you can do without picking them up. You just want to try and avoid picking them up so they can eventually learn to self soothe a little. Sometimes even letting them fuss and whimper for a minute or two can be all you need. Now, I am not a cry it out person so I completely understand if that's hard on you. But I promise you sometimes two minutes of whimpering and they're back out!

3. Could something be waking them? Is your child in your room? Is there an alarm that goes off around the time they are waking? Are they waking shortly after you have gone to bed? Is there something that could be disturbing their sleep? Try to go through your mind and see if there is anything that could potentially be waking them at night. It could even be something small!

When asking myself those three questions, I realized that Elyse was in fact hungry when she would wake at 5am. If I tried to pacify her she would wake up multiple times after that until I started her day, but if I would feed her at 5am she would sleep perfectly until it was time to start the day. She just needed a little something to help her make it that extra stretch. So for a couple weeks I fed her at this time.

I knew that Elyse wasn't waking out of habit at the other times she woke, because she was waking so inconsistently. She was never waking at the same time every night, some nights she wouldn't even wake at all. I started to wonder if something could be waking her. She was sleeping right next to me so maybe even my movement was bothering her. I know my husband can be a noisy sleeper so I thought maybe he was bothering her. So, even though I hated to move her this early, I tried her in her own room. She had been taking naps in her crib like a pro so I thought maybe it would make a difference at night.

The first night was AWFUL. She woke up every hour and I was exhausted. But I didn't want to give up because of one night, so we tried again the next night and she slept through the night without waking once!

In addition to asking myself these three questions and determining if those could be the cause of some of our sleep issues, I made sure to do a few things. Now these things are probably the hardest to follow through with on a sleepless night AND with a toddler running around but this is what is going to help more than anything in encouraging your baby to sleep.

1. Start your day at 7am. I don't know what it is, but 6/7am seems to be the magic number. Babywise, Baby Whisperer, Baby Sleep Site, anything that has been put out there to help your baby sleep always suggests starting the day at 7am. I am not sure the exact reason, but I know that it works. So, when Elyse was all over the place I started our day at 7am. Even that night that I was up every hour I started the day at 7am because I knew that even though I was absolutely exhausted, it would pay off. Starting the day at 7am means that immediately after feeding is wake time, no matter how tired her or I were from the night we were going to stay up for that wake time.

2. Consistent Schedule. When your baby is not sleeping well at night, the more consistent you can be during the day the better. You may think if your child gets no sleep during the day that they will sleep great at night, when in fact the opposite is true. Too little sleep can result in a very tired baby meaning no sleep at night. Stay as consistent as you can with your feedings to make sure they get everything they can, and keep them up at age appropriate lengths for their wake time and encourage those naps! And don't forget that longer wake time at the end of the day.

3. Be Consistent. No matter how rough your night was, how fussy your baby is, how tired you are, or how much you just don't want to deal with it...if you put in the work now, it will definitely pay off. I was exhausted for a good week while sleep trouble shooting with Elyse. It was hard to wake up at 7am when I was barely getting any sleep at night. But I can officially say it was worth it, because all it took was one solid week. She has been a great sleeper since! She definitely does have her random nights where she wakes and can't put herself back to sleep right away, but they are few and far between and nothing like they used to be.

Sleep trouble shooting is definitely a trial and error type thing. I would say the entire process of figuring out what the problem was with Elyse took a couple weeks. In retrospect, if I would have consistently started the day at 7am and not gave into my sleepless self we might have progressed a little quicker. I also think if I would have switched her to her own room sooner it would have paid off. She must be an incredibly light sleeper! I remember thinking, why can she make it some nights but not every night? Then I realized, if something wakes me up, even if it's as simple as needing to use the bathroom. Sometimes I can't fall back asleep because once I woke up my body realized it was hungry, and unless I get a little snack or a glass of milk there is no way I can ignore the hunger pains and sleep again. Something was waking Elyse, and she was realizing she was actually too hungry to fall back asleep! So remember, it happens to us too! A little sleep trouble shooting and a lot of consistency can definitely help!

Do you have any sleep trouble shooting tips of your own? What do you think helped your baby sleep through the night?

Friday, August 14, 2015

When You Realize You Can't Do It All

We as women have this determination inside us, it's a beautiful thing really. When we set out to do something, when we are passionate about something, we give it our all. We aren't likely to give up. We aren't very quick to say no. There is something inside of us women that just doesn't want to give up, something that refuses to back down easily. When we are committed in our hearts to do something we press on, we do, we try, and we keep on going never looking back. It's an inner strength found in women and it truly is remarkable.

But there is something else about this determination that we don't always realize. We as women are really good at trying to take the world upon our shoulders and keep on trucking through with that incredible determination inside of us. We think we are strong. We think we are unbreakable. We think we can fix everything. Those are special qualities God gave to women, strength, determination, the desire to hold things together around us. But there comes a time that we realize that if we keep trucking along and not looking back it's only a matter of time before we can't carry the load we've picked up. We start to carry too much on our shoulders that we start to get buried beneath it all.

God gave women this determination for a reason. He didn't give us this so that we could one day realize we have taken on too much and now we are buried and struggling to breathe. He gave us this determination so that we could take that determination, place it in His hands, and see what He could do with a life that possesses this kind of strength. These qualities of strength, they are present in our lives for a reason. God has created women to be a special strength within her family. A nurturer that guides the lives around her. A fighter who refuses to give up on what she really cares about. God gave women these qualities so that we could take that inner determination, pair it with the strength that only God can give, and see what He can do in and through us.

Sometimes we pick up more than we can handle. Sometimes we think we are strong enough to take on the world. Sometimes we forget who placed these qualities in us is the same person we need to give us the strength to possess them. Sometimes our determination causes us to forget to look to the One who is the propelling force behind all that we do. Sometime we need to take a moment and realize that we can't do it all, and that's okay. At the end of the day, what's left undone is undone and that's okay. God's mercies are new every morning. His strength is there to greet us every day. He made us like this so that we would lean and depend on Him to be our strength, and so that we would accept His grace day after day.

So today, press into Him. Remember that force within you was planted there by Him. Do what you can today, and leave what you can't until tomorrow. Embrace His strength. Accept His grace.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Will I love My Second Like I Love My First?

I know you're sitting there with your hand resting on your pregnant belly watching your first born play and your heart is bursting. You're thinking this love is something you can't contain. This love is impossible to bottle up and measure. It's incredibly intense and it takes every ounce of your being. How could you multiply that love? How can you fathom loving another just as much? How can your heart hold much more when it's already bursting through your chest?

Oh, mama, let me tell you what happens.

When you hold that second baby in your arms that all consuming love just rushes over you. You find yourself staring at every little feature on that precious babe of yours in disbelief that your first baby was ever that small. You're overwhelmed once again wondering how it's possible to love such a tiny person as much as you do that very moment.

But it doesn't end there.

When you're sitting there on the couch watching your first baby on the ground talking and playing with your second baby your heart explodes. Those times your eyes filled with tears when you saw your babies for the first time, those tears start bursting out. You can no longer contain them. This is an entirely new love. This love is even stronger than the first. This love is watching a relationship that only you could make happen. You gave your first born a best friend for life. You gave them what no one else could. This is love multiplied over and over. This is the love you created over flowing into the love that is created in the bond between the two children before your eyes. This is new. This is powerful. This is an all consuming love that just keeps growing.

You will love your first baby as your first baby. You will love your second baby as your second baby. Then you will see them together and you will love stronger and harder than you ever have before. It's amazing how much love a mother's heart can hold. It's amazing how much it can grow with each passing day. It's this that makes a mother so incredibly special. It's this love that continuously has a mother living a life overflowing.

You'll love mama. You'll love like you never loved before. You'll love a love that just keeps on growing.