Steve and Jaylene

Welcome to our lives and times ....

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Lydia's Birthday Party

video
We celebrated Lydia's birthday today. Since we live so far away from family, we just had 3 of Lydia's friends and their parents come to our home for a small party. It was fun! We colored pictures of ladybugs, played with all of Lydia's toys, had a lunch and ate some super cute cupcakes made by my friend Kristi. Lydia loved opening all of her presents - but especially playing with the tissue paper, the boxes, and the wrapping paper!
Here are a few cute photos of the event (more on my facebook page):
We call Lydia our "Liddy Bugs" so my friend Kristi made these super cute lady bug cupcakes.
Lydia had some balloons to play with, and she loved them!
Lydia and her friends colored pictures of lady bugs. Lydia actually did color a little bit before she started eating the crayons.
Lydia enjoyed her first experience with cupcakes.
Lydia got tired of opening presents and started chasing after her new toys.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Frugality goes the extra mile

When we moved to Georgia, it was with the agreement that I would be a stay-at-home mom and Steve would bring home the paycheck. His salary is enough to cover the bills - barely - so we thought we'd be ok if we just lived frugally. Hence, we only have one car, don't get TV, don't go out to eat, etc. But then the car broke down and it cost us hundreds of dollars to fix it. And then I started thinking about emergency situations like that - and how it would be very, very difficult to make it with Steve's salary if we have to pay for extras. So, I decided to become very creative in saving money. I also am advertising for private students, which should help, but right now I only have one. I am grateful for him, though! Better one than none.

Anyway, I think one of my most creative approaches to saving money has been by learning the art of "couponing." I found this site: www.southernsavers.com, and it has helped me so much! I have gone from paying $100 in groceries each week to just slightly over that for the entire month of November. Of course, we have been eating our food storage and a lot of pasta (which I now get for free). I love going to drugstores now - and I NEVER used to go to these because I thought that they were too expensive. That was before I learned how to use their rewards systems. Here are a couple of pictures of what I'm able to do now:

I got these things at Walgreens. By using rewards, I paid a total of 72 cents out of pocket, which basically covered the tax. Who wouldn't love to get diapers for 72 cents, let alone this other stuff?

This is actually missing a Reeses - Steve got to it before I could take the picture. I'm actually very proud of this purchase because after I get back a mail-in-rebate for some shampoo and conditioner, I actually made about $5.00 for taking this stuff away from CVS.

Some weeks are better than others. Some weeks I get nothing, and this week I only got contact solution and lip balm, but hey, it was free!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Park fun!

We have a park and a zoo just 5 minutes down the road from our house. We got an annual family membership, because we're so far away from family and it gives us something to do. It's a lot of fun, with great playground equipment and cute animals. Except for the alligators. I think I'm developing an irrational fear of alligators. I mean, I know these ones are behind gates and all, but .... they're scary!


Daddy came with us to the park for the first time yesterday, and we had a great time on the swings!

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fun in Fall

October has always been one of my favorite months. I love the leaves changing colors and the cool crisp air. I have even recently learned to love squash in all of its forms (even zucchini!), which are abundant in the fall. So, I have been excited to see what the fall holds for me in Georgia.
1. Leaves changing color? Um, some of them. We have a lot of evergreen trees around, so the few trees that aren't are slowly deciding that it is fall and they can go ahead and change. It's getting prettier by the day - maybe November will see more leaves change.
2. Cool crisp air? Not so much. It's still getting into the 80s and it was recently in the 90s one day. Steve claims that it's getting into the 40s in the mornings, but I don't believe him (and neither does weather.com). It is slightly cooler in the mornings, but it warms up in a hurry. So, again, maybe November will be a little better.
3. Squash? Check! We have had a lot of squash recently, and it's on the menu again this week in the form of this wonderful-sounding squash and pomegranate salad our friends suggested. (Thanks, Beans!) I know, I know, we're turning into those "strange vegetarian people" you know. Hey, don't worry - I still eat chicken occasionally.
4. The lovely sound and sight of the cotton harvesters. Cotton fields are blooming everywhere! It's crazy - we're almost in November, people!
5. And finally, Halloween! We didn't take Lydia trick-or-treating, because she's not eating candy yet and we didn't feel we needed any more sugar in our lives. But, we did dress her up in a lady bug costume, and I think it turned out really cute!
6. One more thing, I guess. We took Lydia to the beach in Florida for her first time. She had a great time playing in the sand, until we took her into the water. She HATED it! I think it was probably because the water was just a little cold and took a little getting used to. Eventually she warmed up to it - a little bit. She tolerated it. We'll have to practice in big swimming pools until we can get back there.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Reluctant Vegetarian

So we have been living in southwest Georgia now for about a month, and for just that long, I have become a sort-of, kind-of vegetarian. Not really my idea. But, Steve decided when we moved that he wanted to make some life changes to become a better person. So, we made some drastic changes.
1. We gave up TV. We still have one, and watch movies sometimes, but we no longer have cable or satellite. I didn't really think I could make it without one, but through the miracle of the Internet, I can get my TV fix through USA and TLC online, plus Hulu! It's actually great because I'm finding a lot more time to read and accomplish a lot of goals I've had for a long time. I don't think we'll be getting TV service anytime soon.
2. We only have one car. With Steve being the only breadwinner at the time, we decided we could save a lot of money by only having one car. Steve still has his motorcycle, so it's really not an inconvenience at all. Except when we first moved here and the car broke down and it took the car shop 3 weeks to figure out what was wrong ...... I should save that for another post :)
3. Steve decided that he wanted to lose some weight. In the past, he's tried many different diets: South Beach, Atkins, etc, but he decided the good, old-fashioned way of eating healthier and exercising more was probably going to be the best way. Great. I am all for eating healthier. But when he announced that he was going to become a vegetarian, I freaked out! I love chicken and ribs and bacon and ..... I'm salivating right now so I should stop. Anyway, his compromise is that he still sometimes eats fish, eggs, and dairy. I was very hesitant to help him with this goal because I love meat and I hate beans (where most vegetarians get their protein) and I just didn't know where to start. But, because I love my husband, I reluctantly gave some vegetarian recipes a try. And it's actually not all that bad. We've even had a couple of recipes that we LOVE and will keep on our menu for the rest of our lives, such as:
*Shrimp and Peanut Stir-Fry
*Potato and Kale Enchiladas
*Pinapple Cashew and Quinoa Stir-Fry
*Broccoli and Swiss Soup
*Homemade Pizza with Wheat Crust
*Spinach and Broccoli Lasagna
Now, I should mention that I still eat meat. When Steve's at work during the day, I will sometimes cook myself some chicken or beef for lunch. We went out to eat at Outback last month. Steve got salmon, and I got steak! But I'm seeing some good results happen from this diet. Steve has already lost 25 pounds! I have only lost 2, but I've been eating some candy, so that's something I'll have to change. We have found ourselves trying new veggies, and because of that, we're feeding them to our daughter. Lydia loves them! Maybe this new diet will help her be healthier, because we haven't even introduced any junk food at all to her (besides the 1 lick of ice cream Steve gave her a couple of months ago) and hopefully she will continue to like good, nutritious food. Luckily, with this new diet, we haven't totally cut out dessert. We just eat it less frequently. For example, I made homemade peach cobbler, and we both just loved it! Anyway, we'll see where this diet takes us, but I'm less reluctant than I was at first to eat like a vegetarian.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lydia and moving


As many of you know, we are moving to southwest Georgia because Steve got a fantastic job teaching voice and choir at a 2-year college. We are excited for this move, because it is really his dream job, and I can start my dream job as a stay-at-home mom!
Unfortunately, Steve had to start working before we had time to move out of our apartment in Ohio, so he stayed in Georgia at a long-term stay hotel while I stayed home and packed. Everything. With a nearly 9-month-old daughter who thinks she should be the main focus of attention all of the time. I have had to be very creative with my packing and cleaning techniques. Luckily, several neighbors have been very generous and helped watch Lydia for a couple of hours here and there so I could get things done. But the majority of my time is spent arranging Lydia in creative playing positions so she is distracted for a few minutes: she has played in normal places like her crib and her exersaucer, but also creative places like the kitchen sink, a bedroom closet, and laundry baskets. Don't worry - I'm keeping a close eye on her, but this way frees me up so I have 2 hands with which to pack things.
I am happy to move this way, but I'm really hoping that when we ever move again, my husband will be here to help! I've never been so exhausted.
Anyway, more blogging to come about our final months in Ohio and the start of our lives in Georgia!



Sunday, May 9, 2010

Party Time!

POOL PARTY!

Lydia was invited to her first party ever - her friend Graham hosted a pool party at his house. (OK, really it was his mom since he's 6 months old). The weather was cold and windy, so the pool was moved inside as we watched all of the babies splash around, or in Lydia's case, well....you'll see.

Here is a basic timeline of the events according to Lydia:

Shortly after 3 pm. Lydia arrives at the party and changes into her swimsuit. It's her first swimsuit ever! Isn't it cute!?!



3:15 pm. We take pictures of the kids who have arrived already (more come later) and Lydia tolerates it.




3:30 pm We get the babies in a shallow pool with warm water, some bath toys, and even a few bubbles. Most of the kids are having a great time. Lydia is not sure what to think. She kind of just sits there.


3:33 pm. After careful consideration of everything that has been going on for 3 minutes, Lydia has decided that she, in fact, does NOT want to go swimming today. She starts crying and looking at me with sad little eyes. So, I get her out of the pool, change her into some dry clothes, feed her a little bit, and then:

3:45 pm. Lydia is OUT for the next hour while Mommy eats the snacks, talks with friends, and eventually takes her home.

All in all, it was a fun experience. Lydia went to her first party and made it over 1/2 hour. Hey, it could have been worse!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Steve and Lydia - what fantastic accomplishments!


Steve and Lydia have both recently achieved fantastic goals.

Steve is in his last year of graduate school, and has recently been very busy with trying to wrap up his Master's projects, taking oral examinations, and basically doing WAY too much. Today, he has reached yet another benchmark towards graduating - conducting his graduate recital program. He has been working with a choir at OSU and they performed their concert. They did a wonderful job - and I have to say that Steve really looked at home on that stage. I think he's going to do well on the career path that he has chosen!

But, on to the most exciting news of all! Lydia has started to sleep through the night! (ish). She will sleep at least 7 hours at night, and one night this week she even slept for 9 hours! We are absolutely loving this latest development and hope that it continues! It has really helped with going to school and work - we are not quite the zombies that we used to be. I am still exhausted, but it is definitely getting better! Lydia is the cutest baby! She has started to smile and "talk" to us, and has so many people wrapped around her little finger! She is the darling of the OSU Choral Music Department, and has people falling in love with her wherever she goes.

Friday, March 5, 2010

6th Anniversary

We have now been married for 6 wonderful, wonderful years! We were able to celebrate our anniversary by going out to a nice dinner at Chili's, where we had our first date, while a friend watched our daughter. (Thanks, Katrina!) We are more in love now than we were 6 years ago, and hope the next 6 years are even better!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mom is back at work


So, I was really dreading Tuesday, January 19, 2010 because that was the day that I had to send my precious little baby to the babysitter's and go back to a job that, to put it mildly, is not my favorite job I've ever had. I had a rough night's sleep the night before and pretty much cried all the way there and much of the day. It was tough. Really tough.
But, I've decided to look on the bright side of life, because I think that will really help me get through this next little period in my life the best. So, I've decided to count my blessings. I have so many, but I'm focusing on these ones for the next little bit:
1) A very supportive husband.
Steve is amazing! He gets up with Lydia in the night, changes poopy diapers without complaint, and has the ability to sense when I'm getting really frustrated, because he'll come and say - "Let me hold my daughter for a little bit while you go and do ______." I seriously won the husband lottery. I couldn't have done many things without him.
2) Health insurance and a paycheck.
While my job is really tough, I do get enough money from it that we are able to afford life, especially doctor visits with our new little girl, without going into more debt. If I had quit my job like I had wanted to (and Steve was really even pushing for this), we would have had to take out loans to make it through.
3) The most wonderful baby in the world.
Lydia is such a blessing. I love her so much! I look at her every day and fall a little more in love with her. She has reached the point where she has started to smile at me, and it melts my heart every time. She won't do it a lot, but when she does, it's worth all of the bad things I have going on in my life.
Lately, she's also taken to sleeping with a fist in the air. I don't know how she can do it, but she does and it's one of the most adorable things I've ever seen in my life. See the picture at the top!
It also helps that she's a pretty easy baby and our babysitters (2 really great friends) have not disowned me or refused to see my baby anymore!
God has given us the best gift in the world and I am grateful for her every day.
4) Wonderful friends and family.
We have such a great support system with all of your prayers and good wishes. Thank you so much for the love and support you have shown us, not only recently, but pretty much for always.
5) 86 more days.
Not that I'm counting or anything, but after 86 more work days, I can be done and become a stay-at-home mom! I know I can do this. It's one of the hardest things I've ever done - to work and be a mom - but it will so be worth it in June.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Baby Shower



We have such wonderful friends! With both of our families living so far away, it was up to our friends to pull off a baby shower for Lydia. And boy, did they do a great job! Jaylene and Lydia had a great time today at the baby shower. We received many fabulous presents - cute outfits, toys, books, a diaper cake, and even a couple of beautiful handmade blankets, but the gift that seemed the most common was .... SHOES! Lydia is such a girl already. She received 5 pairs of very, very cute shoes. And that's to go with some that she already got from Grandma and Aunt Evelyn! Her closet is filling already, even though her feet are only like 1 1/2 inches long.
We want to thank everybody who was there in person or in spirit! We feel such an outpouring of love and support from our friends. Thanks for everything!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Our Road to Adoption

Many of our friends have asked us about our adoption story. I think I am finally ready to tell it. Our path to adoption has been a long, hard road. We were married in March of 2004 and always knew that we wanted a family. For the first year or so of our marriage, we didn't really try or stress too much, because we were finishing school and getting to know each other. However, when I (Jaylene) graduated from college in 2005, we thought it would be a good time to start trying. We wanted several children, and we thought it would be best to have them while we were young-ish and had energy! So, we started trying.
A year and a half later, when nothing happened, we went to the fertility specialists. They tried many options with us, and we even started looking into invitro fertilization. However, after several long, stressful months, they came back and told us that there was no way that we could have biological children. Both of us are at fault. This news devastated us. It was a true low point in our lives. As I look back on it now, I'm not sure how we kept working and going, but I know that I have never prayed so hard in my life.
In 2007, we had the opportunity of caring for a foster daughter in our home. She was 4 weeks old when she came to us, and was almost 6 months when she left. At the time we were placed with this little girl, we had been thinking of pursuing adoption, but some doubts kept coming up. However, because of this baby girl, we really felt that adoption is something that we needed to do. We learned how to love like we'd never loved before. When our foster daughter left us, it was a very difficult time for us. We loved her like she was ours, and to have her leave created a large void in our lives. Just weeks after she left us, we moved to the Philippines - kind of as an escape to that pain, but also because Steve got a great job there.
We lived in the Philippines for 6 months, and met with lawyers and pursued other avenues towards adoption, but nothing seemed to be working out. We were getting frustrated and worried that nothing would ever happen. Finally, Steve's job went in a direction that we weren't comfortable with, so we left the Philippines and moved to Ohio so he could attend graduate school.
We were excited to move, to get a fresh start on life, and weeks after getting settled in Ohio, we met with our adoption agency and started the paperwork to get approved for adoption. It took us 10 months to complete our paperwork, including another move to a different apartment in Ohio, so we could prepare our lives for a baby. Finally, in November of 2008, we became officially approved for adoption. Then came the waiting game. We heard nothing for 2 months, and then all of a sudden, we received fantastic news - a birth mother in Ohio had picked us and was expecting a baby in February 2009! Everything seemed wonderful. We met with her, went shopping, figured out how to get maternity leave from my job, and went to the hospital on February 9 where a beautiful baby girl was born. We stayed with her in the hospital for 2 days, and then took this little girl home. We were so happy - we were finally parents! Or so we thought. The day after we took her home, we got a phone call from our adoption caseworker that the birth mother had changed her mind and would be at our home the next morning to take her back. That day was Friday the 13th. This was an all-time low for us. We couldn't understand why this was happening to us. We still don't understand.
Months went by, and we heard nothing. We got a couple of emails from potential birth mothers, but nothing happened. We were becoming increasingly discouraged and almost resigned to a childless life. On December 2, 2009, we were both at home working really hard on projects for school and work. It was a very busy time of year for both of us, and just trying to get everything done seemed difficult. But that evening, we received a phone call from our caseworker. He told us of a baby that had been born the day before that he was trying to find a home for. He told us that he was calling several couples to see if we'd be open to such a sudden placement and would make the final decision by the next day. As soon as we got this news, we knew that we wanted this baby! We felt something telling us that this would be right. The next morning, our caseworker called and said that he had picked us! We were going to get a baby! In a rush of getting things worked out with school and work, we weren't able to get to the hospital until about 10:00 pm that day, where we were told we were too late to see our baby. So, we had to go home and go through another day of school and work before we finally got to the hospital at about 3:00 in the afternoon. We saw our beautiful baby girl for the first time that day! We fell in love right away, but because of all that had happened to us in the past, we didn't tell many people until it became official on Saturday, December 5. Our daughter, Lydia Nicole, was born on December 1 at 10:49 pm. She weighed 5 pounds, 7 ounces and was 18 inches long. She is beautiful, and we are so grateful to have her in our home! All of the paperwork has been signed - but we do have to wait until June to have the adoption finalized. But, everything looks perfect, and it seems as though we have finally started our family!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Bookworm

I am quite a book nerd. I love to read! I have a giant stack of books on the nightstand next to my bed (seriously 20-30 books) that I hope to get through. I'm a member of goodreads.com and am always looking for things to read.
So, if anybody out there has any great recommendations, I'd love to hear them!