Happy Things

There are some days when I struggle to think of a good, picture-worthy blessing to be thankful for. Lately, that has not been the case.

After writing Wednesday’s blog (on Tuesday afternoon), Dan emailed me with news about another house. On Wednesday evening we went to look at it, already almost certain this would be ours. By Friday we had filled out the paperwork to put in our offer, it was accepted, and suddenly we’re on our way to having a home of our own. As things fall into place, I plan to share more about how God brought everything together for us.

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Also on Wednesday, Lydia started to figure out potty training. It’s a work in progress, but now it really is a work in progress. This is making all three of us so happy. (Abby doesn’t know what all the fuss is about).

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On Sunday, we packed up a picnic and met up with my parents and brother on their way back home from vacation. After lunch, my mom took Lydia over to the playground while Dan and I chatted with my dad about their vacation.

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It was good to see them again, especially after such exciting times with the housing (and potty training).

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And I’m only days away from finishing the front of Abby’s quilt and moving on to the actual quilting step. I thought this day might never come.

Today is a drizzly day outside but here in this home we are overflowing with blessings. I just wanted to share a little of that overflow this afternoon.

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Bedroom Remodel…Almost

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Last Friday I threw my routine out the window and spent the whole day organizing our bedroom. Still a mess from when we moved in, I just haven’t had a good chunk of time to tackle this project, so I’ve left it a mess for far too long. When Dan commented on the mess (for the first time in six months) I decided enough was enough. I’m almost too embarrassed to share the “before” pictures, but this is our real life. And, they make the “after” pictures so much more impressive.

Here’s the view when you walk into our bedroom:
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I managed to rearrange our furniture in a way that made the room feel more cozy. And I successfully hid Lydia’s old crib in the back of our closet. It’s not ideal, but it’s practical for the amount of storage space we have right now.

To the left you can see our closet:
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I promise I only did a tiny little bit of mess-transferring. And the only messes I transferred were transferred to their rightful locations.

When you turn around you can see Abby’s crib and Dan’s desk:
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Now Dan has a relatively spacious place to work away from the rest of the family. And he can actually get to it now that I moved his bike!

So, no, we didn’t actually remodel anything, but the change is just as refreshing. Instead of costing us a small fortune, this project was free. In fact, I found 74 cents in the process! I can’t help but grin when I walk into our room now, and I found myself wandering back there Friday night just to keep looking at it. And our routine-free day was actually not stressful or crazy like I imagined. In fact, I’m thinking of making it a regular practice to occasionally ditch the routine and tackle a project, just to keep things interesting.

Next up: That Elusive Laundry Room!

Changes…for the Better

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When I was a little girl, I remember coming home from church and promptly going to our rooms as we announced, “I’m going to change”. We, of course, meant that we were going to change our clothes. But my dad would often respond, “Change for the better!” Well there have been changes happening around here lately, and they have all been for the better.

First of all, I know all parents think their babies are the cutest, as they ought to think. So I know I am completely biased, but, isn’t that the most adorable picture you’ve ever seen?

Abigail has been sleeping through the night all week. The first morning we wondered if something might be wrong with her. Lydia, despite half a million attempts to get her to sleep through the night, continued to get up once a night until she was almost two. Abby has been sleeping from about 10 until about 6 or 7. Lydia doesn’t know the difference. Mommy is thrilled. And Daddy might be just a little bit concerned (will she keep gaining weight now?). Abby is over nine pounds now, and continuing to grow at a satisfying rate.

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This kid is getting bigger and bigger, and her hair is (finally) getting longer and longer. The big change for her, though, is that we’re going to be attempting potty training starting on Monday. Our first potty training attempt didn’t work out, but we are hoping the past few months have prepared Lydia a little more. We’re stocking up on “potty books” from the library and we’ve been spending a little time each day this week praying that all will go well.

And now that Abby is sleeping through the night and we’re settling into our routine, I’ve actually been able to start getting things done. After calculating that I have about half an hour extra each day to do something profitable, I made a list of all the tasks that need to get done and asked Dan to prioritize them. We prayed about it but didn’t feel any one thing was more important than another, so I’m tackling them each one day of the week. It’s only half an hour a day, but it sure makes me feel great to make some progress on long-awaited projects.

Along with tackling those projects, I’ve begun my post-baby tradition of training for a 5K. After Lydia was born I actually trained and ran a 5K, but this year I’m just doing the training. Since the whole point is to give me a workout plan and get back in shape from months and months of sitting around, I didn’t feel it necessary to spend extra money on the race part this time.

So that’s us: sleeping through the night, potty training, exercising, and getting things done.

DIY: Homemade Herbal Tea Bags

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As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the Taylor family decided to do all homemade gifts this year. For Dan’s Dad, we decided to make homegrown herbal tea. Way back in the spring time we bought a couple of herbs: peppermint and lemon balm. Despite our frequent moves and time in the hospital we managed to grow and harvest enough to make enough tea bags for one Christmas gift. If we’d been more diligent about harvesting our plants, or if we’d had better growing conditions, I’m sure we could have made a lot more.

The first step, once the plants were growing well, was to harvest the leaves periodically. I snipped off shoots and leaves with some kitchen scissors and set them on cookie sheets to air dry. You could also use a dehydrator, the oven, or hang them upside-down in brown paper bags, but I chose the lazy way.

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By December I had a nice collection of dry leaves. It only took me one night to put them all together, although it was a late night. I made ten tea bags and it probably took a couple of hours. To make your own tea bags, you’ll need:

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-herbs of your choice (I used lemon balm and peppermint)
-coffee filters
-mortar and pestle (optional, totally unnecessary)
-sewing machine (also optional, but speeds up the process considerably)
-white thread
-card stock
-sewing needle

I smashed my leaves up up in a mortar and pestle, but you could also just use your fingers.

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Next I cut out my tea bags from coffee filters. I took apart a store-bought tea bag and cut my own to match, but you could just eyeball it. The exact dimensions aren’t extremely important.

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Now fold your coffee filter in half, hotdog style, and line up your edges. Don’t flatten the fold down, because this is just a temporary fold. Sew with a 1/4 inch seam all the way across. Trim your thread.

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Next you’ll open up the tea bag and fold it with the seam on top.

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Flatten your seam open.

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Was that too confusing? Here’s a picture that shows the process, top to bottom:

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Now for the fun part! Fill your tea bag.

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I found the best way to do this was to pour about half a tea spoon in to the tea bag, shake it down toward to bottom (pinch the end so none falls out), then pour the second half in. This way the tea is distributed throughout the tea bag, which is important because the next step is to fold your tea bag in half, hotdog style this time.

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Looking good, right? Now, you’re going to fold down your corners and the top opening as seen here:

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Back to the sewing machine, if you’re using one, for the tea bag string. Start in the center on top of the tea bag and sew down a few stitches. Don’t forget to backstitch here too. Then pause with your needle all the way down. Rotate the tea bag 180 degrees and sew back up.

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I actually had a friend cut out and make my labels from card stock. These are the little tabs that hang off the end of the tea bags. I copied the store-bought tea bag method of attaching these but it was unnecessary. You can just tie them on, but for completeness I’ll show you what I did:

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Tie a knot where you want the tag to rest. There’s my knot:

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Cut a small notch in your tea bag tag.

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Then thread one strand of the thread you just knotted into your needle. That’s only one strand, not both. Poke your needle carefully through a little bit below the notch you just made.

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Pull all the way through until your knot is resting against the tab. Pull the other thread down through your notch and tie the two strands together. Trim your extra thread.

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I put mine in a couple of little magnetic tins with their labels showing:

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And there you have it. Homegrown, homemade tea bags, start to finish.

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Abby and her Quilt Updates

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Weight: 2 pounds, 7 ounces

Today we said goodbye to my parents who have been helping us out since Saturday. Their visit allowed us to formulate a rough idea of what the coming weeks will look like, rest and recover as they chased around Lydia, and spend time alone with Abigail. They also helped out with cooking, cleaning and laundry. I don’t know what we would have done without them!

Abigail is continuing to do well. Within the past couple of days, she has begun to digest her milk! She is breathing very well on a high flow nasal canula, although she doesn’t like it and often gets caught trying to pull it out, and her feeding tube as well. Until today, Abby was kept in an isolette with humidity, to protect her skin. Today, our nurse informed us that her skin looks great (and has since birth) and they turned off the humidity. The only slightly unhappy news is that Abby was back on the bilirubin light, although we were warned that she would be. Her levels have climbed over the past day and she still has bruises from the labor and delivery. Both the bilirubin and bruises will go away as her liver continues to do its job.

Dan and I are pretty worn out from all the running around. My parents helped us make a massive grocery trip, stocking up on nonperishables for the next month so we won’t have to go out again. Today was also nonstop as Dan and I signed our lease for the apartment we are scheduled to move into this Friday. However, I have been able to hold Abby on three different days and Dan has gotten to hold her once. Those times are very special, although a little scary as she is so tiny and is connected to so many wires.

Praise the Lord
We are thanking God for:
-My parents visit and all of their help
-A plan that is starting to come together
-Special times alone with Abigail
-Abby’s improved digestion and that she’s off humidity

Please Pray:
-that Abby will gain weight
-that her bilirubin levels would drop as her liver improves
-for continued healing for me as we are often on the go
-that Abby’s ultrasound tomorrow would show no bleeding in her brain

The rest of this post is actually a post I wrote the day before Abby was born, intending to post on September 11, which turned out to be her birth day. Rather than take the time to change it, I am posting it as written, even though Abby is obviously here now. (Time is a scarce resource around here these days)

Thanks to all who gave feedback on my quilt color dilemma a couple of weeks ago! I so appreciated all of your creative and girly ideas. Now it would only be fair for me to share my revisions and update you all on the quilt’s status. As a refresher, this was my initial design:

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But it was too green and not very girly. I had played around with the colors but was just stuck. My Mom and sister, Christina, sent me these color revision ideas:

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And many others made suggestions as well: make the sheep pink, lighten up the colors, use patterned fabric for the hills…I liked a lot of the ideas, but couldn’t incorporate them all. Here are some of the ideas that I had to give up on:

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1. I actually had this idea from the start, to put Baby’s name right there on the quilt. However, I also thought that maybe Baby would want to use this for her own kids someday (one could only hope), and so I decided to leave her name off of it just in case.

2. I think the quilt could have looked really cool with some patterned fabrics. However, I am new to this whole quilting thing and not extremely artsy myself. Just walking through the aisles of fabrics at the store was overwhelming. On top of that, I think it would have taken me ages to find fabrics that all went well together and I had an impatient toddler and eager-to-leave husband wandering around the store while I made my decisions. In the end, it took long enough just to find solid fabrics that went well together!

3. I think this picture with the bow on the lamb’s ear is very cute, and meets that girly need. But, what I don’t have shown in the picture, is that the sheep and sun are going to have “rag quilt” seams. I’m already nervous about sewing some curves and a friend a church suggested using the frilly external seam to make these curves less bothersome. So, the sheep and sun will have different textures and 3-D-ness already, and I didn’t think I could fit a bow in on top of that without things getting too busy.

4. I love the way this ruffle edge looks on the quilt, and I may still end up using it. However, with all of the embroidery, hand-quilting and stitching, and curves to navigate, I think this project is going to take me ages as is. So, while I may change my mind, for now I’m going to stick to the traditional binding.

So what am I going to do?

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1. First I took the collective advice to lighten up the greens. I’m actually not a fan of pastel colors, and was hoping to keep the blanket bright. However, I realized it didn’t take much adjusting to make the greens look more girly and to make them more compatible with other girly colors.

2. The second thing I did, that made a huge difference, was take out the orange and lighten up the sun. The orange was clashing with almost everything I had tried.

3. Next, I lightened up the black on the sheep to a grey. I had never thought to do this and it also made a big difference. I decided to play around with the colors on the border a little more as well.

4. Once I picked out new colors for the quilt borders, I added in some embroidered flowers using the same colors. This brought the pinks from the border into the quilt and seemed to tie things together.

So, here is:

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On the left you see the original design. On the right is the new and improved color-scheme. (The flowers on the real quilt will not look like a four year old drew them) The writing around the border will match the darker pink, and the writing on the hill will remain a dark green.

After I came up with a design that Dan and I both liked, we took a trip to Jo Ann’s and bought some of the first supplies. However, I realized, in the process, that it’s not always so simple to match fabric colors that are available in the store with a picture on a computer! So, I did my best, wrote down the fabrics I liked, but only bought the light pink and embroidery materials. I know embroidering that passage is going to take a very long time, so I’m going to wait before buying everything else. Only time will tell how the quilt will turn out in the end, but I’ll keep you updated as I make progress.

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AND to go along with an update on the quilt, I thought I might give a Baby update as well. I am now just past 28 weeks!  Reaching 28 weeks is a big deal because 90-95% of babies born after 28 weeks survive. However, a recent prenatal appointment gave us a heads up that Baby just might want to come early after all. So we’re taking extra precautions, making preparations for Baby to come early, and I’m handing over my “standing” responsibilities to Dan and Lydia while I keep off my feet as much as possible. It makes things a bit more chaotic than they were before, but we’re adjusting ok. Dan’s already taking over so much (laundry, dishes, cooking, Lydia’s baths, cleaning…) so I was mentally preparing myself for a slightly messier house, toys always all over the living room, and an unmade bed each day. It was to my own pleasant surprise Monday morning when I walked into our bedroom after Dan left for work and the bed was made. It’s the little things.

Surely Goodness and Mercy

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In the first few weeks after we found out we are expecting Baby Two, I had to wrestle through the fears of having another preemie. There’s nothing like having a baby born early to make you realize how little control you have over when a baby arrives. The biggest fear, then, is that Baby will come too soon, too soon to survive, that is.

I spent quite a few nights laying awake and praying for Baby, that she would make it to term, and that I would not be anxious all pregnancy long. After a while, Psalm 23 would start to come to mind every time I prayed for Baby, specifically the part in verse six that says “surely goodness and mercy will follow me”. I began to feel like God was confirming that “surely goodness and mercy” were going to follow Baby.

This wasn’t a guarantee. I had no assurance that Baby would even stay put long enough to reach an age when she could survive if I suddenly went into labor. However, I began to trust that she was safe in God’s hands. Maybe she would make it to term. Maybe God would take her home. Either way, God’s goodness and mercy would surely follow her.

Then one night I woke up with some pain. I immediately thought I was having contractions, Baby was coming, and it was too soon. There was nothing I could do but drink water and lie down and pray. As I did that, different verses from the same chapter sprung to mind: “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”. The valley of the shadow of death: that place where the fear of death lingers uncomfortably and inescapably close. We made it through the valley that night, and I finally fell asleep with some peace; God’s rod and staff were comforting me.

As the pregnancy continued, and I would often pray for Baby, a picture started to fill my mind: a happy scene with rolling green hills, a sunny sky, and a safe and happy little lamb. In my mind, the picture took more and more form until I realized it would be a beautiful quilt, and I began to pray for the chance to make this quilt for Baby.

I’m not a very experienced quilter. I have made one quilt for my nephew, and it was a rag quilt, pretty simple. The only other projects I’ve ever even sewn were an apron for Lydia’s birthday (using an online tutorial), a dress for Lydia that sort of turned out, and a cover for her diaper changing pad (which needs some repairs). But soon I had my sights set on this quilt for Baby, if only God would provide money for the materials.

Well, thanks to some kind gifts from my husband, my Mom, and another family member, along with some of my own savings, I now have enough money to make Baby’s quilt! So here is the grand introduction and also a request for some input from my readers. This picture is the computer generated version of what the quilt will look like:

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I’d like to keep the design unchanged, but I’m having a little trouble working out the colors. We’re having a baby girl (according to our ultrasound), but Dan and I think this quilt looks a little too boy-ish and certainly is dominated by greens. I’ve tried changing the color of the writing around the border and the background, but nothing seems to fit well with the rest of the picture. I’ve also considered using a patterned fabric for the dark green border and binding, but haven’t found a fabric that would match the inside picture and bring in more girly colors. Thoughts? Suggestions? Specific fabric recommendations? I appreciate any comments, and I look forward to keeping you updated on the quilt’s status and the months go on.