Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Round Up

Lullabies whisper from an iPod across the dark room. A soft glow from the screen in front of me blocks the view of the toddler who is fighting sleep in the bed on the other side of the room. I sit here quietly, as a motivation for him to stay in bed in a strange location (grandma's house), but also because in the last few months, sitting with Levi as he falls asleep is one of my favorite quiet meditative times. So how fitting for me to use this time tonight to look through my blogging from 2012. I'm feeling sappy and grateful in so many ways.

I'm overwhelmed at the graciousness God has shown me in the last 12 months. When I renamed this blog My Hope Fulfilled, I was mostly talking about our recent adoption, but in my heart, it's evolved to so much more than that. My hopes are constantly being fulfilled, tiny or large, because this girl has a big, faithful God who answers prayers. And having a blog has been a really good way to acknowledge those blessings, answered prayers..hopes fulfilled.

That being said, I think I will use my last blog post of the year to recap my (yes) 12 favorite posts of 2012.

 Beach Baby: this post recaps one of the most special days and sweet realizations of the year

 Beautiful Things: My self proclaimed song of the year. I heard it at a wedding in April, used it in Levi's birthday video in August, and even got to help perform it at Girlfriend Getaway in the fall

 Chosen: the greatest yet most obvious biblical parallel I've seen between adoption and God

 The Civil Wars my favorite new-to-me band of the year

 I Missed Out and I'm Over It: 2012 was the year I got my first nephew! Meeting him also gave me a boat load of closure in the adoption department

  Return of the Bangs: six months later and the jury is still out on my bangs, but some days it's been a really fun addition to my face

 Round Two: to expand our family, or not, that is the question

 SettlingGod brought me to a place of contentment in our housing situation, and then a month later provided us with a new place to live

 This Is Why We Party: my justification for throwing a big party for someone who won't remember or notice the details gleaned from hours of pinteresting

  We Have No Explaining to Do : open adoption is really awesome, and the comments we get from people are entertaining, too

 When Both Shoes Drop You Put Them Back On: May was a tough month for us financially, but things worked out pretty well in the end

 WhenHabits Become Desires: this post has many things I have loved about 2012- Levi's incoming personality, lessons in obedience, and kissing toddlers

I also enjoyed doing my 12 Series, I think it stretched me as a writer to talk about some things I maybe wouldn't have otherwise.

I'm not sure what 2013 hold for me as far as blogging goes, but I'm hoping for more toddler antics, awesome God moments, and thoughts on a very loving and open adoption. Won't you join mr for the ride?

Now your turn - any favorite moments from your life or posts from this blog that you loved in 2012? Anything in particular you'd like me to write about in 2013?

Happy new year!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

I hope you all are having an amazing, merry, and joyful Christmas!  I can't wait to blog about how exciting the last few days have been, especially from the eyes of a very happy two year old.  

Merry Christmas, friends!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Levi Lingo

Two year olds are a laugh a minute.  These are just the kinds of things that would be better with a video, but that would require a child who is not camera or speaks on demand. That being said, here are some of the funnier things we've heard out of Levi's mouth lately.

L: "I want the kale."
M: "Levi, you can have more kale when you finish your grilled cheese."


L: "I want it, the fire truck." 
L: "I see it, the cow."


Daddy: "What does mommy say?"
L: "Hi Eeeeby!" in a very high voice
D: "What does daddy say?"
L: "Hi Eeeeby." in a very low voice


Levi, counting: one, two, three, four, nine, sebin, eight


Levi, shouting and pointing to nothing in the living room: He's here!
And then a whisper: Santa's coming...
I start laughing hysterically, Levi starts chanting in a whisper: Santa, Santa, Santa!


Levi, pointing to my keyboard amp: Mommy, where this come from?
Me: It's for my piano.
Levi, picking up a quarter inch cable, shoving it in the amp ( in the correct jack, no less), and saying with confidence: THAT'S for Clair Brothers.

(Clair Brothers is the sound company Herb works for, although I don't  remember ever telling Levi that's what his dad does at work.)


When one of us coughs, Levi: You kay?


L: "Hey, where's the sun?" 
M: "I don't know, what do you think?"
L: "It's asleep."
And finally, some lessons in Levi-ese

Mommy dudin?
Translation: What's Mommy doing?

Cenent Minner
Translation: Cement Mixer

Translation: Fire Truck

Translation: Levi

Translation: Joelle

Translation: Jocelyn


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I Love the Numer 12: December

Ah! I made it!  I set a goal to blog on the 12th day of every month of the 12th year of this millenium. Why?  Because it's my favorite number!

It started with being born on June 12, becoming part of an "us" on January 12, and becoming a mom on October 12.  I've celebrated special people in my life with birthdays or anniversaries that fall on the 12th (July 12, November 12), and remembered a special friend who is running with Jesus now, who also happened to have a February 12 birthday.  I've used the twelfth of the month to write about my meaningful Mother's Day, which fell very close to that date.  I pointed out the irony in all our former addresses (312).  I've discussed things I love, like music, eggs, and donuts. I've shared my favorite Bible verse (Proverbs 13:12).

To be honest, it's a little bittersweet to write my last installment in this Series 'O Twelve. Any guesses what today's topic will be?

 Here's what I'm not going to write about, which receive an honorable mention:

The Last Repeating Date of My Lifetime
1-2-1-2-1-2 : Sound Check Day
The 12 Days of Christmas

The Grand Finale of the 12 Series, is ... my neice, Joelle.  

Ah! I love this kid!! Today, on 12/12/12, Joelle turns 2! When Joelle was born, I wrote this:
"...I pray that she finds a friend some day like her mom has been to me."
God has already started to answer that prayer.  Joelle is such a beautiful, loveable, friendly little girl.  She's got a pretty big fan club for being a two year old.

And yes, she's already got her momma's friend skills - she is Levi's all-time bestie.  I hoped they would be close some day, but I never expected these two year olds to talk about each other the way the do.

Every day when I ask Levi what he wants to do today, he says, "See Gielle! Play toys!"  (That's how he pronounces Joelle.)  At night he asks to pray for "Uncle Josh, Jon-a-nin (Jocelyn), and Gielle."

Joelle and Levi have brought an incredible dynamic into the life of our family, as I'm sure that most grandchildren do.  I know this is normal, but it is amazing to watch these relationships unfold and blossom first hand.  If our family had only Levi or Joelle, I'm sure it would have still been incredibly special, but the fact that God chose to bless my brother and I with children just four months apart in age is icing on the cake.  In fact, I think I'd place that in my top five favorite things God has ever done in my life.

Dear Joelle,

You are truly a joy.  I hope you and Levi continue to be the best of friends, getting each other in trouble for the next couple years while it's still cute, but keeping each other out of trouble and accountable when you're older.  For your second birthday, I'm praying that you understand what a fulfillment of hope YOU were and continue to be!  I can't wait to see what a beautiful, intelligent, and caring person you grow into. Happy birthday, sweet girl.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Push, Part Two

So, despite the whole "push" scenario, vising the new baby Sunday was just fine.  I could feel genuinely happy for my friend.  Bitterness was not invited to the party, and by the grace of God, she did not show up.

But there they were, as I walked out to my car - sharp tears stinging my eyes.

"You'll never be here."

"You'll never be pregnant."

"You're probably done with babies."

"You have no control of your family planning."

And really, the infertility issues for me stem primarily from the control issues.  Would I like to carry a baby safe inside me for nine months?  Eh, sure. Breastfeeding?  Yeah, I wouldn't have minded giving it a go.  But adopting was so awesome.  And so physically pain free.

What I am really mourning is the lack of control.  The missing conversation that goes like this,

"Hey, do you want to have another baby?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"Cool, let's pull the goalie."

Instead our conversation goes like this,

"Hey, I want to have another baby."
Long pause.
"But how?"
Then a long conversation about options, all of which seem too expensive or unattainable.

So really, it's about the lack of control.

I called another friend on the way home from the Baby Taj Mahal, "I thought I dealt with this already," I said.  "Why am I here again?"

And she, ever so gently, reminded me of Paul.

A lump swells in my throat as I recount the conversation.

Our infertility is not going away, but it is something that God has used in my life to draw me closer to Him.  It is the proverbial thorn in my side.  It is a process of sanctification.  It has caused me to rely fully on Him in this area of our lives (and honestly in so many other areas, too).  And for that reliance, I am grateful.

Because I promise you, the brief moments of disappointment I felt Sunday as I left the Baby Taj Mahal were nothing in comparison to where I was three or four years ago.  Nothing.

I am stronger now.

I know that God's plan for my life, for my family, is so much bigger than what I could plan. (Jeremiah 29:11)
I know what hope fulfilled feels like. (Proverbs 13:12)
I know that with God, nothing is impossible. (Luke 1:37)

And because ultimately, what I want in my life is relationship and closeness with Jesus.  If this is the sacrifice (fertility) that gets me there, I accept it.  What I really want is more of Him.

And I think that was the whole point of my mini-meltdown.  I needed to be reminded of these truths.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Over the weekend, my friend had a baby!  She is one of the friends I mentioned here - the kind the you reconnect with in an awesome way when you become moms.  Her son is a few months younger than Levi, and now she has a baby girl to add to the mix!

Yesterday, while Levi and Herb napped, I ducked out of the house to go give this new baby a squeeze.  Momma and baby were still in the hospital - the Taj Mahal of birth hospitals around here, from what I understand.  My lady doctor is in part of this building, but this was only the second time I'd ever been to this place to visit a new baby.

Security is pretty tight at the Baby Taj Mahal.  You have to sign in with first and last name and then you get a time stamped badge with a bar code which is programmed to only open the door to the corridor where you are visiting.

I waited in line and received my badge.  I walked down the long hallway towards a locked door.  I scanned my bar code, nothing.  I scanned again.  Beep beep beep.  Still, no door popping open.

I walked all the way back down the hall and told the lady that my bar code didn't work, she said, "I'll open the door for you."  When I approached the door, again, I stood there, waiting for it to automatically open.

"YOU HAVE TO PUSH!" the desk lady shouted for the whole lobby to hear.

As I pushed the door and walked down the hall to meet the new baby, I couldn't help but laugh and cry at the irony of being told to "push" at the Baby Taj Mahal.  That's a first.  And a last.

Yeah, it was kind of sad.

But I'm really glad I could go meet the new baby and visit my friend during this special time.  It was a privilege to get to see her in the hospital in those intimate very new moments.

(I think there's a part two of this coming.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Levi's First Movie & Adoption Month

November was National Adoption Month.  For me it's one of those things where I always mean to celebrate it (somehow) but time and intention never intersect.  Luckily, this year Herb was on the ball!

The Adoption Coalition of Lancaster County hosted a free movie night at a local movie theater to celebrate National Adoption Month.  Being that it was, well free, we thought it would be a good opportunity to go to Levi's first big screen movie.

We arrived late, as usual, but the movie hadn't begun.  We got the last two seats in the packed theater. There were two adoption related movies to choose from that night - The Blind Side and Meet The Robinsons.  We chose the Disney cartoon (which we had never seen, and knew nothing about).

It was awesome.

If you've never seen Meet The Robinsons, I definitely recommend it.  It was adorable and there were tears invovled (on my part and Herb's).  In fact, even as we walked out to the car, I felt like I was one deep breath away from the ugly cry.

My only complaint about the movie, and I don't want to give anything away, was the way the main character's birth mom was written off.  He searched for her for the whole movie, but eventually realized that he didn't need her anyway.  While I can appreciate the healing that took place in his life, I wish they would have found a better way to bring closure to that situation.  I guess I need to realize how blessed we are to be involved in an open adoption, and know that everyone is not so lucky.  Either way, that's the only issue I found with the movie.

And Levi?  He sat catatonically for the entire film and loved it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Prune Belly Syndrome

I can't believe in all my years of blogging and even talking about Herb's illness, I've only typed the words "Prune Belly Syndrome" one other time.

Have you heard of it?

PBS is the disease my husband was born with - you know, the one that gave him a life expectancy of 1 year?  It's incredibly rare - something like 1 in 40,000 live births.  You can read more about symptoms and such HERE.  In our lives, Prune Belly Syndrome is the reason behind the kidney transplants and the infertility, as well as high blood pressure and a few other not-so-major things.

In his lifetime, Herb has known about three other people with the disease - some healthier and some sicker than he.  But they were mostly from his childhood, and before the rules of HIPPA kept people with similar diagnosis from connecting.  Herb's been generally healthy for almost seven years (transplantiversary this month!!) and with the onslaught of social media, had never really considered connecting with other people who have PBS.

About a month ago, soon after we moved, Herb was at our storage unit closing out our account.  On the counter sat a jar with a sign that said, "Noah's Fund:  Noah will need a kidney transplant when he turns two."  He asked the cashier if she knew any information about "Noah," and she told him to look on facebook.  Soon he found Noah's facebook page, and before the night was over, Herb was connected with Noah's family and found out that not only does Noah need a kidney transplant, but he also has prune belly syndrome.

Herb and Noah: Prune Belly Brothers
After several emails, we got to meet Noah (who is around Levi's age) this past weekend.  We met in the lobby and chatted in the cafeteria of Herb's childhood home away from home: Hershey Medical Center. In addition to discussing medical procedures and common doctors (Noah has several of the same ones that treated Herb as a child), we had fun playing "who do you know in York" game, and realized that they live less than a mile away from our house in York.

You can follow Noah's journey on his Facebook Fan Page: Noah's Fund.

If This is Baby Fever, Please Pass The Tylenol

She crept in so sneakily, I didn't even  notice she had arrived.  She found little crevices and cracks, open and unattended.  As round two announcements came, she grew, little by little.

I don't even know that I want what she pines for.  Why does she even have a place in my life?

She is unwelcome.  Her name is Bitterness.

I thought she was banished away for good when the aching arms were filled and the childless woman became a mother.

Everything about my family is just right for now.  Dare I say parenting a single child teeters on the border of being "easy?"  Who would want to change that?  And if I admitted I wanted to, I feel like that makes me fifty shades of ungrateful for the miracle that has already happened in our lives once before.

But tonight I noticed she had arrived.  Still  just a spark, not yet a flame, but present just the same.  When I should have been saying, "Congratulations," I found myself backing into a corner and putting up my walls.  Don't say a word, don't acknowledge the pain of having no control.

So now I grab her and say, Leave, you have no place here.  I replace her lies of comparison, jealousy and incompleteness with truth.


"Cling to each other," she said with tears threatening to breech the barrier of the eyelids which held them in.  "In can all be gone so fast, but you know that already."

"Yeah, we try to keep it real," was all I could say.  But she already knew all that we had endured , much before we became man and wife.

Two weeks ago we lost a friend.  Technically, he was the father of our good friend Brandon (B-Rex), but Rex (his dad) was our friend, too.  He was the kind of guy that dominated a room with his laugh.  Gave a great hug or a word of good advice.  We camped with B-Rex and his family a few years at Creation, and I am so grateful for the time that we got to know Rex and Jan. A few years later, Rex was the Emcee at our wedding.

His funeral was touching.  The span of lives that he had touched was evident at the standing-room-only funeral.  The legacy he lived was described in his well delivered eulogy, touching on the promises he made and committed to as a man of God.

I can't imagine there are many words that are comfort when you lose your husband or father or brother or son so suddenly, so unexpectedly, but I do know of the hope.  I know there is relief and anticipation of meeting Rex again.  There is promise of eternity for this man who loved Jesus with everything that he had.

In the meantime I will take the advice of Jan, Rex's wife - I will treasure the now and the time I have with the man I love.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Kinda Calm, Definitely Bright

I had to post a picture of Levi's BFF, our Christmas tree.

Actually, what I really wanted to show was the wreathe I made today - it's my third attempt in three years at the oh-so-pinteresting ornament wreathe.  Two years ago, aka before pinterest, Jess saw this wreathe on a blog and clued me into it.  Back then our best idea was to hot glue the ornaments to a wreathe form.  It worked ok, but did not withstand the elements. Last year, I got smart (like everyone else in blogland) and did the ol' wire hanger stringing of the bulbs.

2010 Edition - Yikes

This year - I did both, but with the old bulbs from the last two years.  I strung the bulbs but then also hot glued them to each other.  This sucker is not going anywhere.

And in case your name is Jess or Lauren or you are interested, this is what the rest of my living room is looking like.  Please disregard the mess on the desk.  I "just moved," okay?

The feather tree - Target knock off!  Ironically, my mom said to me in Target the other day, "oooh, look at this feather tree, it's so you!"  What she didn't know is I had already made one...2 years ago.

And of course, the Baby Jesus, also known as "Charlie" around these parts.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Oh Christmas Tree

It's our seventh Christmas tree, Levi's third, but the first one he's really seen.

The tradition in the Suereth household is that the tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving.  I'm usually exhausted from shopping all night.  Herb is usually exhausted because he works really hard with little breaks and then chooses to go shopping with me.  To say the least, we're not always in the best of spirits when we put up the tree.  Sometimes I wonder if we shouldn't just wait a day or two and spend that black Friday afternoon napping instead.

In fact, our first epic fight as a married couple came about as a result of the hanging of the greens.  It was a time when a certain president was coming under harsh criticism, the economy was about to blow, Pinterest was not invented yet, and we thought it would be super patriotic to have a red, white, and blue Christmas tree.  You know, honor God and country at the same time?  I don't  know what we were thinking, in hindsight it was pretty tacky.

So that first Black Friday we stopped at Walmart (our first mistake) to buy red and blue plastic ball ornaments for our hand-me-down artificial tree, and a string of each red, blue, and white lights.  When we got home to decorate the tree, we discussed lighting technique and came to the conclusion that the lights would look MUCH better if each strand alternated red, white, and blue, rather than just having a string of each solid color. We proceeded to pull out every bulb from each of the three strings and separated the colors onto respective piles.  It was only then that we realized the bulbs weren't all exactly the same, therefore not being interchangeable.  Things only escalated when we couldn't agree on small white lights or large colored bulbs to string from our 5 linear feet of patio space.  We didn't speak to each other after that fight until the next Christmas.

Just kidding.

But I digress.

This year's tree decorating was fantastic.

I mean it, it really was.

Maybe it was the fact that Herb and I only did a small amount of shopping during semi- normal waking hours Friday morning and therefore weren't as devastatingly exhausted.  But I think it has more to do with the little boy who constantly exclaimed, "Hey!  I see a kihmih tree!!"  And with every little job we gave him to do to "help," he said, "Thank You!!"  For example,

"Levi, can you go put this string that was holding the branches together back in the tree box?"
"Thank you, Mommy!"

We were pressed for time on Friday night and only got the tree put together and lights (small colored, a comprise) strung before the little guy went to bed. The next morning when Levi woke up, he barely noticed the tree in his tired, grumpy stupor.  But when breakfast was over and we walked into the living room, the flood gates of excitement exploded.

A deep breath.  An exclamation.

"I see.... A KIH-MIH TREE!"

"I see a ball!"

"I see a red ball!!"

"I see more ball!!"

"I SEE A FIREWORKS BALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" (an ornament with glittered snowflakes painted on)

"I see a drum!  I see a guitar!  Mommy, a piano!!"

Seriously, this tree is like the best thing that ever happened to Levi.

A few minutes later we went upstairs to get dressed.  I turned my back for a minute and Levi was gone.

"Levi, where are you?"
Halfway back down the stairs he replied, "I go see the kih-mih tree."

We've also had some nice talks about the nativity - the kings with the birthday presents, the mommy and daddy, the angel with good news, and of course the little baby Jesus.  Although if you ask Levi, the baby's name is Charlie.  (And we did have to tell him that baby Jesus is not a golf ball, so please don't hit him with the golf club, thankyouverymuch.)

Christmas through a two year old's eyes.  Simply amazing.

Click. click. click.  Mental pictures hopefully engraved on my heart forever.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Next week is Thanksgiving, and my news feed is exploding with people being thankful for something specific each day of the month.  I don't have the energy or willpower to actually keep this up every day for a month, but I wanted to pop in and share some of the things that have me totally stoked and grateful these days.

- My parents (and step-parents, too).  I probably have said it before, but I didn't' realize when we moved to Manheim how extremely grateful I would be to be about 30 minutes from them (as opposed to over an hour).  I see them about once a week, and they are so willing to jump in and watch Levi, help us move, cut our furniture in half. I am an adult, I have my own life going on, but I think I need my parents now more than I ever did.  Or maybe I just appreciate them the most now because I "get it."  Anyway, I love you.

- One of my BFFs, Lauren, is moving to the east coast (from Hawaii) in LESS THAN A MONTH.  I cannot wait to see her so soon!

- I have a functional washer and dryer again!  When we moved last month, we had to provide our own laundry appliances.  We had a (very  nice) washer (from the days that we were kid and debt free, living frivolously on two incomes).  Unfortunately, I had sold our dryer a few months ago, justifying that we got it used, it would be easy to get another used one when we need it.  Well, in the last several weeks, buying a new dryer has ranked pretty low on the money priority list, especially when compared to things like food and furnace oil.  And then, SWOOP!  That's my dad, saving the day.  He got us a free dryer, and then delivered it, and hooked it up, all while he and my step-mom were on Levi duty.

- This house.  It's so much better.  I'll do a post soon with a little house tour, but here's a picture of our living room (which still has some unpacking/cleaning up to be done).

- Cascade Complete.  I tried to use cheapo dishwasher detergent; it sucked.  I bought the most expensive stuff, and my dishes are SPOTLESS, even in my ancient dishwasher.  Oh, did I mention I FINALLY have a dishwasher again?!  See, I told you this house was better.

- My Sunday School.  We're studying the book of Mark, and we have homework.  Confession: I like homework.  I guess I kind of miss my student days.  But what I like even better is learning about the Bible.

- Levi's speaking skills.  He's a laugh a minute.  Yesterday he told me that my shirt looked nice.  Thanks, kid.

- The warm body that is my husband.  Last night I was having a dream that I was freezing cold and trying to get warm.  Of course I woke up and realized that I actually was freezing cold.  Nothing that spooning up to a bearded man can't solve.  Unfortunately I slowly pushed him out of our king sized bed all night.  And then this morning instead of scolding me, he kissed me and said, "I love you."  Yep, that's love.

- All the family time coming up in the next week!  Celebrating with one side of the family on Sunday, the other sides on Thursday.  I am excited to see everyone and excited to eat some crazy good food.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I Love the Number 12: November

November 12 - My friend Melody is turning 30 today! Melody and I met through our husbands who work together. We knew of each other for a few years, and were even facebook friends, but had barely exchanged hellos up until about a year ago when she invited us over for dinner.

"Can we be real life friends?" she asked.

 And as luck would have it, she and her three beautiful daughters live a mere ten minutes from us. Just what I needed when we moved back to Lancaster County a year ago - a mommy friend who lives a short drive away. Better yet, a mommy friend who also enjoys blogging, crafting, all things home related, with a busy husband, and heart that is crazy about Jesus.

Melody is the perfect example of what I'm thankful for on this 12th day of November.

My friends.

 No matter what season of life I'm in - college, single, newly married, infertile, new mom - God brings me just the right people at the right time. 

There have been some pretty amazing people along the way. 
(OBVIOUSLY these are in no particular order.  In fact, I worked hard to randomize them.)

  • The one who walked the long road of adoption and infertility toward motherhood with me. 
  • The one with history a mile long who became part of the family. 
  • The one with whom I shared a tough medical journey, a million neighborhood walks, desperate prayers, and a lifetime bond. 
  • The one who I became close to through a mutual pain, but has blossomed into something much stronger. 
  • The one who took my hand, prayed with me and for me, and mentored me in ways I never knew possible. 
  • The ones who I was close to at one time, fell away from, and now under the umbrella of motherhood have joyfully reconnected. 
  • The one who lives thousands miles away, yet God continues to make our lives run parallel, keeping us connected and close despite the distance. 
  • The one who birthed me, was my first confidant, and always my biggest fan.
  • The ones who also hold the term family, but are ladies I would have chosen to be friends regardless. 
  • The ones who live in my computer - on my facebook feed and blog roll - but remind me I'm not alone.  
  • The ones who I don't see but once a year, but have a blast reconnecting with when that time rolls around.

And as I reread that list, I realize several of the women who are so special to me fit in a couple of those categories.

God is good, all the time.

Times when I felt alone, He provided a friend who had been there or was willing to encourage me while I was there. My only wish is that I lived just ten minutes from each one of them.

So happy birthday, Melody, thank you for being my friend. And as for the rest of you, I hope you know how truly treasured you are, too.


 I am so blessed.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Christmas is Upon Us!

It was Levi's Birthday, then Fall Day, the we decided to move, then Halloween snuck up on me, and now my sister in law is inviting me to pin to her Thanksgiving board for our celebration next weekend.

What the heck?  I was still looking for a spot in my calendar to squeeze in one more visit to the public pool and bam, Target is in full-fledged Christmas mode and Levi is telling me, "I want a Christmas Tree."

I say bring it on.  In fact, I told Herb since we're unpacking anyway, let's just throw up the tree while we're at it.  He said no.

Last weekend my bro suggested a field trip to a local beautiful spot to take Christmas card photos (can't share them yet).  At least someone is on the ball.  So now I'm perusing Christmas Cards and feeling somewhat ahead of the curve ball for once.

In fact, if you've started down that rabbit trail too, and haven't decided on a certain card - I have a giveaway!!  Shutterfly is offering one of my readers $50 off a $50 or more purchase!  You just have to pay the tax and shipping on the goods.  And if you don't win the $50, you can check out their Special Offers page.  And if you don't need $50, you can win it and share it with a friend, too!

If you'd like to win $50 towards some Shutterfly goodness, leave a comment with a line from your favorite Christmas Carol.  I'll pick a winner on Sunday, November 18.   Only one entry per person.  And - you don't even have to be a "follower" of My Hope Fulfilled to win!

In the meantime, here are some of my favorites - which one is your favorite?

Love the vintage look of this one!!

Could this little girl be any cuter?  Black and white with bright accents, I think yes.

It's A Wonderful Life is Herb's favorite movie - so this would be fun.

This one says it all.

Aqua, red, and retro - my greatest weakness.
This post is sponsored by Shutterfly, but don't worry, the opinions and terrible grammar are all mine.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mommy, I'm....

Hey!  Old friends!  I'm still here!

This is unofficially the longest I've ever gone without blogging.  We moved two weeks ago and just got internet again yesterday.  Sure, I do have a fancy schmancy phone from which I can blog, but who wants to type on that thing if they don't have to?  (We switched to Virgin Mobile - hello $45/month for unlimited data, texting, and 1200 minutes).

I want to jump back on the blogging train, and I think I have lots to say, so for today I'll leave you with a funny story about Troy Aikman...also known as Levi around these parts.

(Isn't he cute?!)

A few nights ago he disobeyed me when I asked him several times to come upstairs from the basement (he loves our new house, by the way).  Following the 1, 2, 3 count off, he had a two minute time out, which he very obediently sat and served.  When the timeout was over I reminded him what had caused the time out and I asked for an apology.  He said, "No."

I told him when he said, "Mommy, I'm sorry," then he could get up.

Forty five minutes and a temper tantrum later, there was still no "I'm sorry."

And unfortunately, we were out of time.  I had to run to piano lessons, Herb had some errands to run.  We put Levi in the car, but told him there would be no going to the "Tih-tar" store (guitar, for those of you who don't speak Levi).  He was kind of upset about that.

So I said, "Levi, to you want to go to the guitar store?"
Levi: "Yes!"
Me: "Then you have to say, "Mommy, I'm sorry." Can you say that?"
Levi: "Yes!"
Levi: "Mommy, I'"

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!  Herb and I both almost lost it.  One of us to laughter, one of us to rage, but I won't say who was who.

We drove in more silence and finally about a minute before I had to get out of the car, a tiny voice piped up,

"Mommy, I'm sorry."

And thus ended the one hour discipline match.  I'm not even sure who won that one.

(Lauren, this is totally a story I forgot to tell you the other night! )

Friday, October 12, 2012

I Love the Number 12: October (2 Years!!)

When I think back to October 12, 2010 (the favorite of my 12th days), I can't believe how much my life has changed in just two years.  And more than just a career change and a new roommate, as I so nonchalantly announced on Facebook the day we brought Levi home.  I have changed, Herb has changed.  Life has changed.

Today we celebrate Levi's "Gotcha Day," the day he became part of our family.  Ah, what an amazing day that was.  The end of a long journey, the beginning of an even longer, yet very wonderful, one.

I love being a mom, I mean I looove it. This is my thing. Strike that - it's not mother hood - it's him - Levi is my thing.  Pouring my life into this tiny human - this is what I was meant to do.  There are successes and there are (plenty of) failures, but at the end of the day there is, hands down, the best thing that ever happened to me.  For me.

Yet, I can't think about the day Levi came home without remembering the bitter-sweetness that laces Oct 12 for someone else. Herb put it so well, "I cannot thank her enough and every year I am reminded of her sacrifice which strengthens my commitment to raise Levi to be a strong, loving, God-fearing man."  I am so grateful that Jen is still part of our lives.

Today my favorite song, "Beautiful Things" has been on repeat in my head.  

I think about where I was emotionally and mentally two years and a day ago... "All this pain, I wonder if I'll ever find my way, I wonder if my life could really change at all."  

I think about the devastation and pain of infertility, the waiting for baby, and the roller coaster that adoption can be, "Could all that is lost ever be found?  Could a garden come up from this ground at all?"   Yeah, I was there.

 I think about that crisp Tuesday morning two years ago, when God so lovingly fulfilled our hopes and dreams, "All around, hope is spring up from this old ground.  Out of chaos life is being found in You."  

At the end of Levi's birthday video, it scrolled through 24 pictures, one for each month of his two year old, and it lined up with the bridge as they sang, "You make me new, you are making me new."  I couldn't help but think as each picture changed and showed Levi growing, how much I became a new person with each month that passed, too. 

God has renewed and restored my heart.  He has filled empty places and brought together open spaces.   He owed me nothing, he didn't need to prove his love for me; but he blessed me with the gift of a son anyway.  He placed a desire in my heart to be a mother and then when all seemed lost and impossible, he went ahead and fulfilled it.

For me, Levi is proof.  Proof that beautiful things can come out of dust.  Proof that prayer is powerful and works.  Proof that with God, all things are possible.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Towels and Toilet Paper

About a year ago I adopted a "chore of the day" system to keep my house in order.  I rarely ever get to everything each week, but when I do, wow, does our house look good.  I operate my week like this, but you can adapt it to what works for you, too.

Monday - Money and Market (I balance the checkbook, pay bills, and go to the grocery store)
Tuesday - Tubs, Toilets, and Towels (I clean the bathrooms)
Wednesday - Wash (Laundry, obviously)
Thursday - Dusting (This pretty much never gets done)
Friday - Floors (Sweep, Vacuum, Mop)

Today, being Tuesday, I was on my A game.  It was 8am and the bath towels and mat had already been thrown in the wash.  I had big plans of packing up the bathrooms today (you know, for our pending move) instead of cleaning them.

An hour later, I hopped in the shower, deciding that being clean today was a good choice.  Levi was especially graceful in letting me have a shower without crying outside the bathroom the whole time because I wouldn't let him in.  In fact, when I opened the curtain, he was off in his room, probably playing trains.

Oh no.  I forgot to grab a new towel.

"Levi!" I shouted.

He came running in, train in hand.

"Can you get Mommy a towel?"

He pulled one clean towel out of the cabinet, and two more followed onto the floor.  He handed me my towel and then put away the two towels on the floor.

It. was. awesome.

I suddenly had all these memories from my own childhood of someone shouting, "Can someone bring me some toilet paper?"  Why we kept the extra toilet paper in the hall closet and not the bathroom, I will never know.  But this situation has been remedied in my house - the extra toilet paper lives on the tank.

All that to say, this morning was a cool "full circle" mom moment for me.

Ask not what you can do for your kid, but what your kid can do for you, right?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Here We Go Again

Yeah, so, for all that talk I've done in the past few weeks about "settling," we are now moving!

In less than a month!

Our pastor called last week an said he had driven by a 3 bed (1 tiny bath) semi-detached townhouse with a delightful fenced in back yard. He had already negotiated the price down for us and said if we were interested we should call the landlord immediately.

Fast forward a week and I am starting to pack and plan room layouts.

I am beyond excited..... An extra room, basement and attic storage, the yard, being 1.0 mile from Herb's work instead of 1.1 miles, and a dishwasher!!!!

Yesterday I said, "Levi, we are going to move to a new house again."

He replied, "Baby. I see a baby."

Just putting that out there in case it turns out to be true and I have some kind of two year old prophet. Just kidding.

Kind of.

So, here we do again!!!! Bring on the boxes! You know I thrive on this stuff though, right?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Settling: The Living Room

So here's what happened a few weeks ago.

It was Monday morning and I was on my A game.  The coffee had been downed, the Bible had been read, I was dressed, and I was upstairs getting my little boy dressed for the day.  I threw a load of wash in the our upstairs washing machine (oh so convenient), and was organizing said little boy's sock drawer.

The sun was shining brightly, but from his upstairs bedroom, I could hear a sudden downpour outside.  "Wow, freak rain fall," I thought.  It was loud.  Really really loud.

I went downstairs to see the rainfall from the patio.  As I turned from the stairwell into the living room I quickly realized the rainfall was not outside and it was not rain.  A literal sheet of water was pouring from my ceiling into my living room through a crack between two drywall pieces and on to my desk/computer/important papers.

Things drying on the patio.
The washing machine had overflowed (a quick fix there).  My mom and the apartment complex handyman quickly came to the rescue.  The water was cleaned up, the computer was actually not damaged beyond a ruined keyboard and mouse, and the ceiling now supported by what I lovingly called "2x4 city."  And it stayed that way for over a week.

2x4 City
Do you know how much it sucks to have a really small house and then lose the function of your living room?  And basically your kitchen, too, because all the stuff from the living room went into the kitchen.

Anyway, everything is back to normal now, although the ceiling still hasn't been patched.

The silver lining was that when I put the living room back together, I had the perfect opportunity to rearrange it (just a little bit).  Previously, I had our very large entertainment center and comfy huge chair diagonally on corners for reasons of feng shui and tv  viewing.  When I put furniture back, I squared the furniture up.  It's not as feng shui, but I squeaked out a few extra feet of floor space.

See?  Craft junk barely visible from the door.

This rearrangement also gave me a hidden corner for my craft cabinet and some floor toys, and more of a purposeful cubicle-esque office space.  Please don't judge me for my mess of a craft cabinet - I'm actually considering a tension rod with a curtain between the entertainment center and wall to cover it up.

I donated my office floating shelf back to it's rightful owner (Levi's nursery) and crafted up a new pin board, using this tutorial from Emily.  I didn't have any burlap or linen on had, or any money to spend, so I cut up a brown twin size sheet from my goodwill pile.

Pin board close up.
Another problem area had been the guitar corner.  Fighting for floor space were several guitars, curtains, and a floor lamp.  The floor lamp had to go.  The curtains got raised and on ring clips now, they are much more moveable and I think it makes a huge difference.

To compensate for the lost floor lamp, I moved my hanging drum pendant light to the guitar corner and brought the blue gourd lamp into the living room.  That blue gourd lamp used to be amber glass and I got it for $5.  I love it, Herb hates it.  We did a facebook poll and I won, so the lamp stayed.  I think he actually likes it now that it's spray painted blue.

Another fun change (which Herb is legit happy about) is that the light switch now turns on two lights (gourd and hanging), the baby monitor, and my Scentsy burner.

Dare I say when I walk in to my living room and it is this clean I actually (gasp) like it?  It's crowded and multi purposed, but it works for us.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Settling: Levi's Room

It all started with a train.

Levi got this little train set for his 2nd birthday.  As soon as Herb set it up on the living room floor, we realized it really needed a more permanent home.  (Someday I'd love to build something like this, but we'll get there.) A few days later I started my "settling kick" and Levi's room was the first to get hit.

Step one - get rid of the huge twin size bed that has literally never been used.  I blogged about Levi's room last November, but here's a little reminder:

The "Before"
We held on to the twin when we moved because a) my dad made the bed and dresser and I wanted it to be Levi's big boy bed one day and b)  I thought having an extra bed in our house would be good, even if it was in Levi's room.  Well, our couch has been working just fine for overnight guests and I finally found a solution of the unused bed and terribly valuable real estate in Levi's room.

The twin mattress got sent to our storage unit and the wonderfully sturdy, solid captain's bed (made by my dad) became a train and car table.  

Also, I stole Levi's dresser/changing table for myself (as seen here).  Levi really didn't need all the storage that the dresser and bed offered, in fact, half of the drawers on the bed were going unused.  But I still needed a place to change my baby's diaper.  Thank you Craigslist and lady in Lititz for the $5 changing table.

In rearranging the room, I realized most of the things hanging from the ceiling and on the wall needed to get moved around too.  The little shelves moved with the changing station.  The red lanterns which were crowded in the reading nook now serve as a mobile.  The large floating shelves finally made their way home to Levi's room after a year hiatus since we moved.  The birthday pennant banner now lives in a 2-D location instead of crossing the room.

I had some fun "styling" things on the large floating shelves - although I'm not sold on their placement.  The shelves house Levi's baby gift zebra, several trucks from Herb's late grandfather, a sentimental picture frame, a basket of baby necessities, and a sentimental airplane print.

Actually, the airplane is printed/stuck to the glass and there was a picture of a sunset behind it.  This picture hung in my dad's office for most of my childhood, and when it was on his "goodwill pile" a few weeks ago, Levi picked it up and said "Airplane!!"  Levi loved and and I swiped it for sentimental value.  I did swap out the picture of the sunset for some gray and white chevron, but the sunset pic is behind the chevron if I ever want it back.

Levi loves playing in his room now.  We went from just books and stuffed animals in his room to a afternoon of occupation.  He loves turning on his music, putting money in the "money pig," and playing with puzzles or trains at his table.  Another favorite activity is to see how tall he is.  Most nights before bed he says, "TA!"  Which means "tall."  Notice that huge growth spurt between May and June?

It's still not my dream house and a little more cramped than I'd prefer, but it will do.

For now.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Beach Love

In case you didn't notice the deafening blog silence last week, I'll let you in on a little secret - WE WENT ON VACATION!  And it was awesome.

Originally, our plan (well, Herb's secret mother's day surprise plan) was to road trip it in our super gas efficient car to Florida for a week.  But when we started crunching numbers - 20 hours each way in the car ($300), one day and one night in Disney ($500), food (who knows) - we realized we were quickly spending much more than we planned, even though we were going to stay with family for most of the trip. Not to mention even though we had a full week set aside for our trip, almost 4 entire days would be spent in the car.

So scratch that plan.  It's a shame too - this is the last year Levi can go to Disney for free, and we also had plans to see family in Florida, Georgia South Carolina, and also get to meet Jack and Christina's twins (Herb's cousin in GA). Hopefully we'll get down there soon another time.

Back to the drawing board for us - we had one week of vacation, and wanted to spend waaaay under $1000.  In fact, we were really hoping for $500.

We rented a house in Bethany Beach, and my mom and step dad came down with us.  Then my brother, sister-in-law, and niece joined us for the end of our vacation on the weekend.  This was the first vacation my family has taken in years, maybe even more than a decade.

Here's some things we did that made this trip AWESOME...

1.  We went to the beach.  Enough said.  I think my beach loathing husband actually enjoyed himself.

2.  We went to the beach in September.  Have you ever done this?  Oh my goodness, I'm never going back to the beach in June, July, or August.  It's just not worth it!  September is SO gorgeous, perfect weather (around 80 all week), and because it's been baking all summer, the ocean is still warm enough to jump in.  Also, the beach was empty. We parked incredibly close to the water every day.

3.  Since it was after Labor Day, our beach house rental was CHEAP.  Especially when split with my ma and my bro chipping in.  And then we split the cost of groceries and ate in all week, too.   All told, we ended up spending about $600 for the rental, food, gas, and parking, but really $200 of that is gas and grocery money that we would have spent during a week at home, and another $250 was money Herb had set aside from a guitar sale.  So really, we only spent $150 on vacation.  How's that for awesome?

(I know, I talk about money too much, I can't help it, thriftiness excites me.)

4.  We opted for the bigger and nicer house that was farther from the beach (three miles).  In the past, we have stayed at some amazing beach houses with Herb's family directly on the water.  But since we weren't splitting the cost between 20 people, and just 4, the houses on the sand were definitely out of our price range.  In fact, they cost 3-4 times more that the house we rented.  Even when we looked at houses that were walking distance to the ocean (one block), the price was still hundreds of dollars more than we wanted to spend, and the houses were small and groody.  We decided that if we're going to "get away" it would be more fun and enjoyable to stay in a house nicer than our own, and it really felt luxurious.  But again,  it was after labor day, and 3 miles from the beach, so it was super affordable!

5.  The beach house came equipped with EVERYTHING we needed for the beach.  Boogie boards, beach chairs, bikes, bike with baby trailer, kayaks, sand toys.  Literally, the only thing we packed for the week was clothing, toiletries, and linens.

6.  Have you seen this article on pinterest?  Basically, if you are all sandy, or your two year old is all sandy, all you have to do is sprinkle baby powder on the sandy areas, and ta-da, you are all clean.

7.  We ate in every night except one,  well technically two.  Herb and I had one date night (one of the many benefits of vacationing with grandparents) and then the whole gang went out on the last nigth to celebrate my mom's 53rd birthday.  I was worried cooking and cleaning up meals woudl be annoying to do on vacation, but in all honesty, I loved it.  Working in a nice house with a big kitchen and a dishwasher was actually a pleasure.  And everyone helped out, too.

8.  Herb and I had a date night.  At the beach.

9.  Levi slept in a closet all week.  We grabbed the master suite (I know, we're jerks) and the closet was big enough to easily fit three pack and plays.  Levi called it his room all week, mommy and daddy got some privacy, and we all slept better because of it.

10.  The beach house we stayed in is kind of blog famous.  It is owned by the father of the author of one of my favorite blogs.  It was completely random - we had already decided we wanted to rent this house by the time I realized the last name of our landlord was the same as the bloggers.  I'm kind of embarrassed by how cool I thought this was, so I am definitely not going to say which blog it was because I don't want to seem like a stalker.  But here's a clue - Herb called our vacation "Beach House Love."  ;)

11.  Our vacation was planned at the beginning of a very busy and fun month.  So even when vacation was drawing to a close, I knew I had fun things to look forward to - this month is filled with a class reunion, a wedding, starting a new job, and the welcoming of amazing fall weather.

12.  We got to spend major quality time with my family.  I only wish my sister could have been there, too!

Vacation was so awesome, I actually got teary-eyed as we pulled out of the driveway.  Can't wait for next September to come!!