Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kitchen update and a Blizzard!

You may have seen on the news that we had a historic blizzard blow through on Monday. We were a lead story on CNN and ABC's nighttime newscast. Kind of crazy here in little 'ol Amarillo! Also, I haven't posted any pictures from our kitchen remodel and I know a lot of people have been requesting them!

Things are mostly done. We're still waiting on the electrical guy to come fix a few outlets that aren't working. There are also holes around the breaker box we're waiting to get fixed...but at least we're back in the house and the stress level has been reduced after spending three weeks in a hotel.

First we start with the before pictures:

This picture shows the layout of the old kitchen. We decided to flip flop the design as you'll see we know have an island that juts out on the other side. The flooring as you can tell had been replaced and was somewhat new, but because the tile was laid around the existing cabinets, there were holes in the floor after the cabinets were ripped out that we could not match tile for. Keith, the guy in the denim shirt closest too us, had lived in the parsonage previously after his family's house burned down (if you recall that was part of the call process story of getting into the house). He suggested we change the tile orientation and pick a tile to match the back splash and thus separate the eating area and the kitchen area. Apparently, he did something similar at his new house. It turned out fantastic!

If you notice the guy in the picture and how the counter tops are below his waist, you'll realize how low our counter tops were! The flooring had been replaced so many times that it kept making the counter tops lower and lower. I for one didn't really mind :), but Stephen had to practically bend over to prepare food.

The house was retro fitted with a dishwasher and because the counter tops were so low, a portion of the counter top was taken out and this faux wood block was put over top the dishwasher that then sat about two inches above the rest of the counter tops. It also didn't really drain properly because of the way water was having to be rigged to get to it. As we continued to face problem after problem it became clear the kitchen was really in need of an over haul.

And now...

The room looks and feels 3 times bigger just by knocking out the wall that existed over the old island on the other side of the room. You can kind of tell that the counter top closest to us juts out. The 10 inch over hang will eventually have bar stools under it so we can eat there, but we also thought it would be an excellent place to put food servers out when we have people over. Notice the diagonal pattern of the tile. It stops just after the refrigerator where the old told begins again.

From this orientation the breakfast bar pictured before is to Stephen's right. We love this picture and it picks up the orange tint in the wall. We purchased this picture at the gift shop at Cumberland Gap the summer before we moved out to Amarillo when we stayed at a family friends lake house for about five days. We still look fondly on how peaceful that trip was...the fall colors on the mountains, the lake view, the hammock I read in for hours. Looking at the picture brings back those memories and we're happy to have an honored place for it now!

Stephen hung blinds and the curtains on the window opposite the wall with the picture, as well as over the sink.  He did a fantastic job. The best part about this window is the blinds were $32, and the curtain rod and curtain came from Tuesday morning for $11 and $7 respectively. Now that's an affordable window treatment! 

This is a picture of the wall before the picture was hung showing this side of the cabinets. Behind the block of knives is this fantastic feature:


That's right. Our kitchen is tech savvy with USB ports right into the wall. Another shout-out to Keith for hooking us up with such an awesome outlet! It pays to have a guy who just recently re-did his own kitchen head up the project. Who knew all this cool stuff exists? Keith does! Who spoiled the pastor and his wife? Keith does! 

Here's a better picture after we got things set out the way we wanted them a few days after we moved back in. Another cool feature of our cabinets and drawers? They're spring loaded and quietly close themselves after a gentle nudge shut. Great for not waking a baby while cleaning up the kitchen! 

AND NOW> News on the blizzard!

Day three and schools are back in session but things are not really thawed out much. After 19 inches of snow and high winds that caused snow drifts 3-6 foot high - you can imagine that takes a while.

I was surprised Amarillo ISD didn't have a delay at least this morning because our roads are still covered, icy and slick. It sounds like most of the major roads have now been plowed, but it will be a while before that's the case in our neighborhood. 

The blizzard was supposed to start Sunday morning and it was hard to believe we were going to be as bad as they were forcasting when this is what the weather channel was saying.

That's just Texas weather for you. Come this Sunday we'll have a high of 69! I appreciate this kind of snow. It melts quickly and the sun comes out!

This was the view out our back door on Monday morning. Look at the tiki light to gain a perspective on how much snow that is! Being pregnant and lacking sufficient clothing for this kind of weather (not to mention now good way to health care if I fell!) I did not go out, but Stephen just had to! A big snow and he's like a kid in a candy store!

Photo: It is cold. The snow doesn't stick and the wind is blowing really hard. 

Here's one of his famous self-portraits we all know and love!

It wasn't until things started to clear off that we realized just how poor visibility was! Yesterday he got out and shoveled the sidewalk in front of the house. (What a good husband!)

Photo: Victory is mine!  Until it all refereezes. 

  I was impressed and thankful for his hard work, because just past the steps was a four foot drift he had to dig through. I rather think he enjoyed playing in the snow though! 

I've always had a theory that every time we have a wind storm that it makes a whirlwind in our back yard between all our buildings. I took this picture yesterday when the few inches left around the tree had melted...but I had confirmation based on the snow blown pattern!

Photo: The power of the wind. 

My usual route to church is through the back yard here into that playground outside the nursery but if you look hard enough, you can tell there's a drift that's piled up against the door...guess I'll take the long way around tonight!

And in case you were wondering...this is what the cat thought of everything.

Photo: Lazy snow day.

He alternated between this and facing out the window to see what was going on...but most of the time, we was sleeping. Imagine that.

And the baby didn't know the difference all curled up warm in my womb. She continues to kick up a storm and they are getting a lot stronger! Every now and then I feel hiccups. Last night I woke up yelping in pain as I felt a "pop" sensation around one of my ligaments low in my belly. Then, I swear I felt the rest of my stomach stretching. The weird sensations of pregnancy no one really says anything about...I feel like I did an ab workout in my sleep. Her kicks make me feel like I'm using a muscle I wore out but I'm taking it all as a sign she's growing and healthy which after what we've been through in last couple weeks, I am all for it!

Last Wednesday, I cantored Holden Evening Prayer and none of the cinctures (the ropes around the alb) would fit around my belly. I had Stephen take a picture.

I love Holden Evening Prayer, but I also loved feeling as though I was serenading baby girl and bring her to worship God before she really knows what's going on. I can't wait to take her to church and sing hymns to her and teach her liturgy so she sings it by heart before she reads...(Oh the dreams of a Pastor's wife!) It also makes me feel a little bit like a rebel serving God as a woman leading a service with a big ol' pregnant belly. :-) Yes, that's how a woman serves her God! ROAR! Girl power...hahahaha....

Hope this finds you all well!  Thank you for your continued prayers!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Baby girl, you're my favorite valentine!

Dear Baby Girl,

You have been kicking up a storm today. I was nervously waiting on a test being done to tell me if you're coming soon or not and you kept kicking the heart monitor. It made me giggle and cut my nerves in half - thank you.

Today is Valentines Day. You will probably learn it's about love for another person. That butterfly feeling in your stomach when you really like someone and want to tell them. I have felt that way about your dad for nine years now...well ok, I'll be honest, a little longer than that because he took some convincing! But today, I have love for you different than the romantic love I have for your dad. I have love for you that I have never imagined and you don't even have to make an fact I hope you don't! (At least for a while)

For the longest time, I agonized over taking medicine for fear it would harm you, but I decided to stay on something to help me keep happy and calm so that you might have a better chance to grow strong and healthy. But you threw me for a loop when you made me so sick. In fact, you made me throw all those worries out the window because all I wanted was my sweet little baby to grow healthy and strong, and after I stopped throwing up all those good nutrients I was trying to give you, I was convinced those medicines were for the best. I still think they were because otherwise we wouldn't have made it this long!

I'll admit I was afraid something would be wrong with you. Maybe you wouldn't have five fingers or five toes, maybe you wouldn't see or hear well...maybe you would have a hard time living life on your own. But now, I could care less and I vow to protect and love you and take care of you for as long as you need me. (Which if you're anything like me...that will be a long time because your Mimi has been a big helper during this pregnancy with you, and I am taking a wild guess she'll only be more help in the future!)

Truth is, I don't care how you come out as long as your alive and able to breath and have a heartbeat that is all your own. I hope you stay inside me long enough for that to happen and the longer the better. I can protect you and take good care of you and as your mom who loves you SO much, I want nothing more for you!

For the record, you've already captured your dad's heart too. You don't know this but he gave you a pep talk to stay in there before I went for a test this morning. You are so loved and this Valentines Day, not only are your mommy and daddy filled to the brim with love so is the rest of your family who can't wait to meet you in due time. 

I wish you could understand this love and I bet you will someday when you have your own little one...when your thirty in a strong relationship with someone. ;-)

Happy Valentines Day, baby girl.

I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

::Little Stinker, stay PUT!::

It has been an interesting turn of events. Yesterday, I was told to go into Labor and Delivery after experiencing contractions about five minutes apart - out of no-where, I might add.

We had such an excellent report at 20 weeks I was hesitant to report but when they started getting rhythmic I decided now wasn't the time for second guessing. Fortunately, I have a very proactive team at my OB office and they did not second guess either and sent me right on up to the third floor of BSA.

Stephen and I, me in particular because it's less my personality, remained eerily calm until we had some answers from the doctors, but we got some fairly scary news from the nurses first. I'm currently at 23 weeks (most of my family reading out there knows I was born a miracle at 27 weeks - so naturally I leaned on mom for some comforting advice). For a baby to be considered viable they want you to be at 24 weeks because there is a lot of lung development that happens this week.

The nurses (two of whom checked me) said they thought they felt that I was dilated and in some ways I think the RN was a little more nervous for me than I was. Mom and I decided God provides the calm because that's exactly what mom and baby need. She was also calm with me. I can't help but think this little girl and I have been through so much together already, surely this isn't the end!

Again, because of the great team of care I was surrounded by, after a sonogram with no clear distinction on dilation or how much, they did not hesitate to call the doctor on call - which fortunately was my doctor whom I love and trust. He checked me and did two different types of sonograms to confirm I'm NOT dilated and we all breathed a little easier. However, the contractions had not stopped so blood work and iv fluids were ordered to see if maybe dehydration was factor.

I did not think it was because I've had fluids enough this pregnancy to know what dehydration feels like. My veins were easy to do an IV and after the bag was done in a half hour, I was about to die to pee. As a reference point, sometimes it took hours after I got fluids in the ER...

But confident things weren't changing and or progressing they sent me home (which is currently a hotel five minutes down the road since our kitchen isn't finished with the remodel) with the promise I would call if I continued to have contractions or anything changed.

It calmed down after I had dinner and went to bed, but I woke up with contractions again at 3:00 am and laid awake as they continued in a less severe, less rhythmic pattern, but their none-the-less. I woke up again about 5:00 am with them and then again around 7:30 when Stephen's alarm went off, so as soon as the doctors office was open, I called again.

I was sent to Labor and Delivery again and this little stinker is causing her daddy problems on Ash Wednesday of all days! With a service at noon, I drove myself and told Stephen I would call him  or text if there was an update or an emergency. Dr. Anderson happened to be in surgery at the hospital and had been briefed that I was back.

My contractions proved present, but less severe and we waited word from him on what to do next. After about two hours, he ordered a couple tests, one for Strep B which is a strain of strep found in the rectum and or vaginal cavity (sorry for the details) which can cause preterm and delivery problems. The other (and this test is really cool!) is a test that can predict if you're going into labor in the next two weeks, however you have to have not had your cervix checked for 24 hours (which I had about three times the night before) so I am getting that test done tomorrow morning. It's not always accurate, but can be an good indicator in whether or not more aggressive treatments like steroids for growth or progesterone need to be administer to help baby grow quicker.

I will follow up with the doctor on Friday and have been put on bed rest until then. What I'm hearing right now,is that I'm not in immediate danger of going into labor but the contractions are worrisome that I may go into preterm labor sometime in the near future that we want to stave off as long as possible and in particular AT LEAST until next week.

Again, I'm oddly calm and Stephen is taking things in stride as well. All we can do is sit, wait and follow the directions for bed rest and fluid intake and pray she stays put because the rest we don't have control over.

I'm trying not to think too much about the kitchen not being done, or how I might organize a kitchen while on bed rest or whether or not I'm going to actually get to sew things for the nursery. It all seems a little trivial anyway. I just want my little girl whom I love so much already to stay put and quit misbehaving! Well, she can keep misbehaving by kicking me as much as she wants because that and her strong heartbeat are definitely helping me keep my wits! I can't help but think with a Ward disposition she's got to be as stubborn as her mamma to be in this world and hopefully she got an ounce or two of Friedrich patience to stay in long enough to give herself a fighting chance!

She received ashes from her daddy today when he brought some to me. I told her she would return to dust in due time but a LONG, LONG time from now - SO STAY PUT! Dad seconded the though and keeps telling her she needs to keep her hands, feet, bottom, head and everything else well inside her mamma until we're and the world are good and ready for her on the outside!

We are doing ok, for now. I am allowed to get up to shower, make food and use the bathroom which is a little more self-sufficient than I was back at the beginning of the pregnancy, so hey, there's a bright side! We do ask for your prayers as an army of prayers surrounding us has gotten us so far already. Our biggest hope is that this is all a fluke and she stays where she is for a while with me just dealing with contractions intermittently or not at all. Most of all, we're just praying our hearts out, telling baby girl how loved she is and trusting that God is in control.

Thank you for taking this journey with us!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A fantastic report!

Monday brought an excellent report from the doctor. Baby girl is measure in the 50th percentile on almost everything. (For those of you like me that had to ask what that meant - she is growing right down the average growth rate for her age of 20 weeks when the ultrasound was done.) Her arms, legs and vital organs look great and the thing I'm excited about - she's measuring neither too big (THANK YOU JESUS!) or too small.

I know lots of people have C-sections but I would prefer to avoid recovering from major surgery and figuring out this whole baby thing at the same time, so not having a baby that's measure big makes me SO thankful...I'm not that big of a person myself! I just hope nothing comes up in labor to require it...but lots of other tough mammas have made it so if it comes down to that, I'm sure I'll make it through.

Her kicks are getting more powerful in that I'm feeling minute movements as opposed to just intense jabs. I tried to see if Stephen could feel it on the outside but she kept wiggling away from his hand. Maybe in a few more weeks...should I be secretly happy she might be a mommy's girl? :-) I don't know...I have a prediction she might get Daddy wrapped around her little finger.

Because I lost so much weight being sick at the beginning of pregnancy, I've only gained three pounds at this point. I was so shocked because my belly popped - I feel huge and was so sure I'd gained ten pounds. I can also tell I'm holding my body differently and my back, knees and ankles definitely feel like they are holding extra weight, or at least weight differently. I have found my maternity belt takes a lot of pressure off my back and supports the weight of the belly. Little weight gained or not, I can tell carrying a baby on my small frame is already taking its toll, and I'm not looking forward to getting bigger.

Since baby girl is measuring average and healthy no one is concerned about the weight and it's not like I didn't get into this situation with a little extra padding anyway. The third trimester brings the most of the weight anyway so I'm glad things haven't gotten out of control so far.

The next few things coming up is the test for gestational diabetes and blood work in about three weeks. I'm pretty nervous as I still regularly deal with some nausea which sugar doesn't help. If I have something on my stomach other than pure sugar I do ok, but drinking a sugary concoction made to jack up your sugar makes me nervous. The OB is very understanding and for the first hour is starting me on the lowest dose to produce results. He also told me to pre-medicate right before I come with the Zofran and Reglan so the strongest dose is still in my system. I'm trying to think positive!

Everyone keeps asking us about names. We have a few in mind and have mostly been going down the traditional route, but we're keeping them to ourselves. :-) Although people generally mean the best, I don't want anyone ruining our thoughts on names and with a whole church supportively waiting on edge in addition to friends and family members, it's just too much! We're thinking we'll go in with two or three and chose one when we meet her, anyway.

Thanks for your prayers and keeping us with us! Keep 'em coming!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

South Texas Extravaganza!

This past week, as part of my Christmas present, I got to go with Stephen to the annual Tri-Synodical Gathering in New Braunsfels, TX. Yes, I consented for it, and yes, I was excited, so yes, I guess that makes me just as much of a nerd!

All kidding aside, I really went for a few reasons.
1. Road trips with Stephen will be far and few between in the coming months and years.
2. Kenda Creasy Dean, one of our favorite authorities on Youth Ministry was speaking at the conference.
3. We took some extra time to get down and back and were able to do a little Texas sight seeing on the way.
(4.) As a nice side benefit that was somewhat unexpected...the kitchen remodel finally began so we were able to be out of the house for some of that.

For those of you unfamiliar with Texas geography, New Braunsfels is located just outside of San Antonio in the Southern tip of Texas, a fair distance away (8 or 9 hours) from Amarillo. We went two ways - through San Angelo on the way there (which is nothing to write home about...) and Austin which alotted for a quick pop through Barnet where we met up with some old Southern Seminary friends.

Photo: Deep in the heaarrt of Texas!As big as Texas is, it was fun to see some of the different geography on the way there and back. Unfortunately I'm not able to tell you where some of these were, but here's a glimpse of what we saw.
One thing we learned, just because a town is listed on a map, it doesn't mean it's going to be a place to stop! We had to take mostly country roads and let's just say driving with a pregnant lady whose bladder is compressed and body needs to move every two hours proved to be challenging!

We were able to find places, but sometimes we, and by we, I mean me...came close to not making it!

For some reason, I can't get this one to flip, but it was a really pretty sunset as we arrived in what is referred to as "Texas Hill Country". A definite foreign concept from what we're used to in Amarillo. Although, I will say, Amarillo can have some pretty impressive sunsets. I can't really speak all that much to sunrises...;-) Although I'm sure they are equally gorgeous!
After what seemed like a very long two days of traveling, we arrived in New Braunsferls and stayed at the "Historic Faust Inn." I wish I'd thought to take pictures. It was a cute quaint room, but very tiny!
We even ran into some of the interns from Southern Seminary who were first year students when Stephen graduated. Hard to think we've been out that long! They were a sight for sore eyes...say hello to Christine and Curtis!
That first day we heard from Kenda Creasy Dean who has written several books on youth ministry. She was absolutely fantastic and if you want to read about what we learned, hop on over to Stephen's blog on the BSLC website. Click on "Tri Synodical Day 1". I stole Stephen's pen because I forgot one and took a furious three pages of notes - you may reap the benefits on this post! Check on day 2 and 3 for other highlights from another speaker, Diana Butler Bass.
Yes, this post is all kinds of imformative now!
After our three days in New Brausfels, we decided to take the long way back and go home through Austin, Barnet, and Abeline.
For those who don't remember their third grade capital memorization tests, Austin is the capital of Texas. We decided as official citizens of the state of Texas that we needed to do our civic duty and stop by the state house. We took a brief tour which I felt like I needed to have learned more Texas state history in school to understand but if you would like to know more about South Carolina's state house, I could probably help you out more. Never-the-less here are some fun pictures, complete with our stop at the Texas gift shop for a little spoiling of our own little Texan.
If you think I look excited about this pink t-shirt dressing my belly up that says "Made in Texas" you would be right. I was so tickled! The shirt is a size 2 and so she won't be wearing it any time soon but I still couldn't resist! I think baby girl clothes might be the death of me and my "blow money" in our budget.

This lady has a story that I don't remember...but the important part is she's holding up the ever present Texas star!

Here is Stephen pictured underneath Davy Crockett. Add Sam Houston in the mix and we're convinced the best Texans come from Tennesee first!
After our visit to the state house, we went to this hole-in-the-wall place called "Magnolia's Cafe" after a recommendation from a friend of Stephen's at first call thelogical education. It was yummy. I think I could eat there every day and not get sick of it. We were told we had to get the "mud" which was a bowl of layered dip with beans, guacamole, pico-de-gallo and cheese. Another menu item that got me all kinds of excited was a comibination of my two favorite middle-eastern foods - hummus and tabouli. The tabouli was the best I have ever had. The cracked wheat was soft and tasted like it had soaked up the best of the lemon juice. I'm salivating just thinking over it. The oranges and strawberries tasted fresh too. Stephen ordered a side salad and split my plate and the "mud" and we were two happy eaters! The place even had fantastic service. After spilling a little "mud" on my white shirt, the waiter brought by soda water free of charge as a suggestion and empathizing with me about a stain on his pants which he just recently got rid of having discovered the miracle of soda water!
The people in Austin were so nice! Of course, this was the "artsy" place to go if you wanted to get a real tast of Austin culture. What we loved most were the bike lanes, the walking paths and over all commuter friendly nature down town. These weren't the last friendly faces we'd see that day though!
Ricky and Cricket Leapheart were friends of ours at Southern. Ricky was a classmate of Stephen and Cricket got to do a few things with the spouses group while we were there. They are tride and true South Carolinians who also got uprooted and called to be among God's faithful people in Texas. It was so good to see them, hear their story and the good things God's got going on in Barnet. Like us, the seem to miss home and the family there (who woundn't?) but seem to have also found themselves in a place where God is at work and the people are taking good care of them. It is so wonderful to be on this side of seminary and see the good things God is up to - especially when we think back on all those days where we though "What in the WORLD have we gotten ourselves into!"
It also helps us feel less "alone" because we have history with them - kind of like family, and eight hours sounds a HECK of alot better than eighteen! We had fun talking about how different things are and some funny things about Texas culture compared to where we come from. It was nice to have that kind of conversation and have someone else understand where you are coming from - what your home looks like and the towns and places around it. Well, I could go on for hours and we only spent about two with them. Let's just suffice to say, it was a sight for sore eyes!
We arrived home yesterday and the reality of the kitchen remodel sunk in...we concurr with about everyone we've ever talked to. Remodels are NOT fun. We don't have any pictures yet as there's not much to report. Like we figured, the electrical has taken longer to figure out, but the good news is, the new part of the kitchen floor has been laid down (without grout yet) and it already looks fantastic. Stay tuned as I'm sure we'll have more pictures once we can get in there.

Coming home to a torn up house when we were both worn out and sick with head colds was not easy to take, but I did have a very bright spot come in the mail! Kelly, my best friend of 26 years who will be an aunt to my child no matter how far away she lives (currently in Rock Hill, SC) sent a package of the cutest onsies and outfits for her niece. I'm telling you, it may stink being so far from everyone we love, but I get constant letters and packages that say you all love us very much. This was NO exception! Check out my favorite onsie of the bunch!

Mommy...tee, hee! That's me! :-)
On Monday we get to hear all the good news from the ultra sound a few weeks ago, so expect an update soon! Thank you all for loving and praying for us!