Monday, March 26, 2012

Wildflowers, Broken Glasses, and Miracle Cars

We've ben incredibly blessed as people have given us almost all of our possessions. Our home is filled with things from other people. This home we rent is a huge blessing in and of itself. I could write for hours describing the blessings we have received since we have been married. Sam is blessed with a generous stipend through his graduate program. The amount he receives is almost enough for us to live reasonably on, but not quite. Despite the generosity of others and our attempts to be frugal and make ends meet, we've had to get some loans.

We've also tried to make sacrifices in order to somehow live on what Sam earns.

Things like Sam giving me wildflowers he picked out in the country and a homemade card for Mother's Day.
Like not fixing a laptop in need of a new battery.
Like having a cell phone plan with few enough minutes that we really have to keep an eye on them at the end of the month to avoid going over.
Like fixing simple meals.
Like buying needed items second-hand.
Like teaching piano lessons to bring in a little extra money.
Like finding free things to do when we go out on dates.
Like Sam wearing broken glasses that are taped together and being teased about his nerd image.

You know...pretty normal ways to save money.

But recently, Sam and I have both felt a push to try harder to cut things down even further so that maybe, just maybe, we can live on the stipend he receives. As we've discussed our options, the sacrifices we have decided to make have interfered with our normal lives a bit more than before.

Things like giving up our cell phones and instead using a Magic Jack landline which will cost only $30/year. It is going to take re-learning how to manage life without a cell phone.
Like making sure lights are always off when we're not in the room, turning down the hot water heater, and taking short showers.
Like letting our stomachs growl a little bit and reducing the amount we eat.
Like setting a $5 limit on gifts for birthdays, Christmas, etc.

As we have tried to make bigger sacrifices, it has been amazing to see how the Lord has blessed us. It has been a huge testimony to me that when the Lord tells us to do something and we strive to obey but our resources just aren't enough, He provides the way:

Shortly after we determined that we really needed to make a more conscientious effort to live within our means, I walked out to the mailbox and found an envelope inside that said simply, "Brady's" on the front. I opened the envelope and much to my surprise found $400 cash! If the angel that left us such a substantial gift is reading this now, thank you. Not only was the money a very helpful contribution, but it helped us see that God is aware of us and encouraged us to keep trying.

It's kind of stressful to have an unexpected stay in the hospital with a newborn with RSV, and aside from the emotional stress of it all, the bills are amazingly huge. I am so grateful for the good medical care we are able to receive. But how grateful I was to go to the pediatrician for a well-baby checkup and find out that our insurance had changed so that well-baby checkups now have no co-pay! That saves us $30 each time we go! Not only that, but we received a really large tax return--more than enough to cover the bills from when Wesley was born and those incurred from his RSV stint.

I decided to try to take on some more piano students. Just hours after I posted an announcement, a woman that used to be in my ward responded and said she had been looking for a piano teacher for her daughter but hadn't known where to find one. Another friend in the ward also wanted to start her daughter.

Again, shortly after we started making these efforts, Sam found out his stipend was being increased $3000/year! His professor worked hard to make that happen. It may not seem like that much to some, but that is huge to us.

The final blessing I wanted to mention came in a very interesting way. We were going to the Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting and when we arrived at the Stake Center, the power was out, so they sent us home. We were on our way home when our car was rear-ended! My parents gave us this car about a year and a half ago. It is 17 years old and has over 300,000 miles on it, but it just keeps on running. An old woman was driving behind us and wearing a medical cast/boot on her foot due to recent surgery. Her boot got stuck and she couldn't push on the brake, so she hit us. Our bumper was crunched in and our trunk wouldn't close, but we were all just fine. However, since the car is so old and has so many miles on it, the damage was enough to total it. The insurance company gave us around $1,700 dollars since we elected to keep the car. We were going to just fix it enough so the trunk would close, but to make a long story short the repair place said they couldn't do a partial fix for liability reasons. So we were going to take it to a different shop that would do the partial fix. We picked the car up from the first repair place and brought it home. Much to our surprise, their taking the bumper off, doing the diagnostics, and putting the bumper back on was enough to knock the trunk latch back into place so the trunk was functional. The significantly crunched in bumper had also somehow popped out enough to not be a really big deal. The surprise continued as we have driven the car and the bumper has popped the rest of the way out. So, in the end, for some very minimal cosmetic damage we received an extra $1,700! It is unusual to pray in gratitude for a car accident, but I do often.

The blessings have continued in other ways. We see the Lord's Hand in our lives daily. It is amazing to see how the Lord blesses His children as they submit their will to His and do their best to obey. I share these experiences not to boast--please don't think that! That is not my intent at all. My hope is that testimonies may be strengthened as mine has been when I have read others' accounts of the Lord's Hand in their lives. I am so grateful for the things we are learning in the midst of (and even through) the challenges we presently face. And I know that someday, when things aren't so tight, I will look back with fondness--perhaps even a little wistfully--on the days of wildflowers, broken glasses, and miracle cars.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Time for some Videos

Well, it's been a really long time since I've posted any videos, so here are a couple.

This one is Wesley putting himself to sleep a month or so ago. He went through the high-pitched scream phase for a couple of weeks. I loved it!

Talmage is so incredibly social. He absolutely loves people. This movie is evidence of that. He has his daddy's gift of never forgetting names. And actually, since I filmed this he has learned a lot more. We're looking forward to General Conference!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wesley's Turn

I seriously cannot believe how fast this little guy has grown up! In 4 months he went from being an 8 lb, 9 oz, 21 3/4 inch newborn to being a 16 lb, 11 oz, 26 1/4 inch long baby! (That's 75th percentile for weight, 90th for height.) He is nearing 5 months now, and he is sitting, loving solid food, and stealing my heart every day. :)

He is extremely wiggly. For the last month or so he has been scooting himself all over the place, although it has only recently become intentional, I think. He doesn't like to be on his stomach, though, so he lays on his back and pushes off with his feet. I frequently find him with his upper body under Talmage's bed.

He has super high pain tolerance. When he was 2 weeks old, they had to do the 2nd PKU screening (the one where they get the blood droplets from the heel). He didn't even cry when they jabbed his foot with that huge needle! And then, at his 4 month check-up, he got two shots without crying as well. He looked a little disturbed at the first one, and then the nurse warned me the second one would really hurt him. She gave it to him and he just started making a few loud grunts that stopped when I picked him up. 
Talmage often rides him like a horse, even bouncing up and down, and as I stop him and tell him it hurts Wesley my words aren't very believable because Wesley just smiles. The other day Talmage was saying prayers and Wesley was sitting on his bed. I had my arm across his stomach so he wouldn't fall off, but he dove forward and somersaulted over my arm and landed on his back on the floor. My eyes flew open and I worriedly looked down to see him looking somewhat startled, but again, not even crying. He just smiled when he saw me looking at him. Also, last night I discovered he has a tooth! His top left front tooth has come through, and I didn't even know it was coming because he wasn't drooly or fussy! Sometimes I wonder if he has a normally functioning nervous system...

He is still spitting up a lot. When Talmage was a baby, I talked to the pediatrician about how much he spit up. He told me there were two classes of spitters:  those who experience pain when they spit up, and those they call "happy spitters." Yep, I think this boy can also fit into the category of a "happy spitter!" This is a very frequent image at our house!

He wasn't crying here, but he was definitely trying to free himself of the Bumbo. He started doing this just a couple of weeks after he got it for Christmas, actually, so we don't use it as often as I had imagined...

Sadly, he doesn't like riding in the car very much if the car ride is more than a few minutes long.

Talmage is his favorite buddy--he always wants to watch what he is doing and smiles and laughs at him all the time. He LOVES fruit and tolerates some vegetables, namely pumpkin and peas so far. He concentrates very intently on whatever catches his interest.

We love this little boy! He has such an innocence and enthusiasm for life. He is a spot of sunshine in our lives!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Still Looking Somewhat Alike

We still get mixed reviews as to whether or not Talmage and Wesley look alike. Some can't see it at all, and others tell me they look like the exact same baby. As for me, I still say they resemble each other but definitely have their own look about them. I put these pictures side-by-side tonight and saw how they definitely do belong in the same family! They are almost the exact same age in the pictures (Talmage top, Wesley bottom).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Talmage Post

A couple of months after Wesley was born, Talmage started developing some pretty bad sleeping habits. He wakes up in the middle of the night (it used to be almost every night, but now only happens about half the time) and comes up to our room and climbs into bed with us. Sam and I are both really deep sleepers, so we usually don't even notice until we wake up in the morning. He also started having really short naps and would wake up at 5:30 or earlier (even 4:30) in the morning and not go back to sleep. So he was overtired and cranky, and between he and Wesley I was (am) pretty tired myself. His bad habits are getting resolved, but in the midst of this I discovered that if I pretended I was asleep when he would come running upstairs after his short nap, he would climb up on our bed and go back to sleep.

He loves helping me cook. Here he was sauteeing some onions.

Do Not Disturb. The floor often becomes his office space.

He's getting so big!

Talmage is always trying to use Wesley's toys, high chair, bouncy seat, etc. I try to convince him that he's too big for them and they are just for babies, but that didn't stop him.

He can't get himself out of here, though, so finally one day after he climbed in I didn't get him out for 20 minutes or so even though he wanted to get out, and he hasn't gotten in since.

He occasionally watches an episode of Mr. Rogers online. There are 26 full-length episodes you can find on pbs!

I was making sweet potato fries, and Talmage decided to eat one before they were cooked. Even though his face looks less than thrilled, he actually ate the whole thing and wanted more. I guess our picky eater likes raw sweet potatoes!

I love this little boy. Sometimes I feel really guilty that Wesley isn't getting the one-on-one time I was able to give Talmage and I start to worry a little bit about it. But then I realize there are pros and cons to each position in the family. Wesley may not be getting as much undivided attention, but we are learning a lot about parenthood from Talmage that will make Wesley's life easier as he grows. Talmage gives us a run for our money often, especially in the area of discipline, but we are slowly learning what is effective with him and how to show discipline with love. We are so grateful to have him in our family, two-year-old antics and all.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Brothers In Deed

I had to save this picture even though Talmage's hair looks ridiculous (there's that cowlick I was referring to earlier...) and Wesley's face is completely washed out due to poor lighting. Because, after taking many, many pictures of these two, I have learned how rare it is for BOTH of them to be smiling at the same time!

And this picture just makes me laugh. Heads and bodies tilted exactly the same way. Exact same facial expression ("Mom, you're weird.). Yep. I'd say it's pretty clear that they're brothers!

Friday, March 9, 2012

We Love Playdough

I'm frustrated with the lack of consistency I have had with doing our little school time each day. In my head, I have this idea that we will have a theme each week, with some themes going on several weeks. Each Tuesday we go to story time at the library, I buy a used children's book for 50 cents or a dollar (depending on the size and paper back/hard back), and I want to start checking out a bunch of books that go along with our theme, as well. Then, each Thursday, we have a little field trip that often corresponds with the theme. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I will do one-hour lessons with the books we check out, songs, and activities.

But I seem to be failing miserably at making the time and planning ahead well enough to be consistent with it. We were having a month-long unit on animals, but this is one of the only days I managed to do a lesson with Talmage. We did, however, make it to free day at the zoo, PetSmart, Bass Pro Shop (like Cabelas), and to visit a lady who breeds bulldogs and has pet donkeys for our field trips. I really need to get more on the ball with this idea and put it into action, because it makes Talmage so happy and he really learns a lot. He is always bringing me the children's encyclopedia we have and asking me to "read about bodies and animals," since I used that book to help with those units.

Anyway, now that I've shared the idea, perhaps I'll be better about it. It's amazing what accountability does to motivate me. :)

Here's Talmage playing with playdough. We were making animals with it!

I made the pig, obviously, but he liked adding his own touch to it.

Love that concentration!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Solid Foods

Wesley has been having lots of fun with solids! I started him a bit early--around 3 1/2 months--because he seemed so interested and when I gave him a taste of applesauce he loved it SO much. This was his first taste of rice cereal.

"What is this???"

"Hold on, Mom, let me take a good look at this..."

First taste

"Hmm...let me think about this..."


Major success.

"Now, let's just do something about this obnoxious bib."

A couple of weeks later, I gave him some carrots I mashed up. He wasn't particularly thrilled about them, to put things lightly.

His absolute favorite is mashed up bottled pears. He completely devours them!

They make him so happy.

But just remember to keep them coming fast enough! :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sitting Up

This little man is getting to be pretty good at sitting up!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Painting Fun

A few weeks ago I was painting some canvases to go in Talmage's room. Normally I wait until nap time to work on messy projects like that, but Talmage was having an unhappy morning and I realized we could just paint together to keep him entertained. So I covered him in a garbage bag, and let him have at it on a piece of cardboard. I was a little apprehensive letting him use acrylic craft paints, but he did great and we have no stains left from the adventure.

He was very careful to paint the edges of his cardboard, just like I was painting the edges of the canvases.

He had such a great time! I think we'll need to get some washable paints in the not-too-distant future so he can paint more often.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Uncontainable Happiness

Wesley's smiles are often SO big it looks like his face simply can't hold them! He is our happy, happy guy. Here are a few pictures of him at about 2 1/2 months (1/13/2012). Do they remind you of these? Talmage was a month older, but it's the same idea. :)

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