July 30, 2013

"Don't Judge Me!" A Follow-Up

If you missed the first post on this topic, you can read about it here.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing about having a relationship with the Lord is how He is constantly molding me into the woman He wants me to become. He is a very real and living God. He guides me. He puts things on my heart to write about.

Yesterday, He put this on my heart:

When I originally wrote about this passage, I had come across three instances within a two-week period where I heard people use the same scripture out of spite or general misunderstanding. I stand by what I wrote, but I think I need to add to it today...particularly about the verse that says,

"Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." Matthew 7:5
I believe that if we spend the appropriate amount of time examining ourselves, we will have little time to worry about how God "should work" in the lives of others. When I am feeling tempted to point out someone else's failures or wrongdoing, I must remind myself that I, too, have failed people. I have failed God. I received forgiveness, therefore I should be quick to forgive, quick to give the benefit of the doubt, and quick to understand that some things are better handled by God. After all, isn't He in just as much control of this whole wide world today as He was on the day He created it?

The bottom line is: we should spend more time examining our own hearts, motives, actions, etc...before worrying about others' mistakes. That alone can be an effective witnessing tool.  Also, it wouldn't hurt to spend way more time encouraging each other in the Lord and resting in the peace that He gives.

Have a great day!

July 18, 2013

Shopping for Granite: What I Learned

We recently decided it would be a good idea to put new counter tops in our kitchen. The photo above is not my kitchen...but isn't it gorgeous? We had never done a project like this before, nor do we have many friends who have done it, so we were pretty much learning as we went along.

Important things we learned: 

1. Shop around. 

We found that the best price came from a big box store, but we actually preferred using a local business. When we told the local guy of the better quote, he was able to match the price. 

Also, every single place we got a quote from gave us different measurements. We found that the big box stores had computer systems that seemed to make the measurements most accurate. This can make a big difference in the cost when you are getting different quotes.

Don't forget to ask about warranties. Make sure you are comfortable with this aspect of the deal before you sign the dotted line. 

2. What's in a slab? 

Big box stores (like Lowe's or Home Depot) can tell you the approximate color that your granite will be. Think of it this way: granite is cut much like a loaf of bread. The big box store will show you a representation of the "loaf", but not necessarily your "slice".  There may be differences or imperfections from one slab to the next in a large sample of granite. 

We are fortunate to live within driving distance from a granite warehouse and were able to pick our exact slab, which was one of the reasons that we liked the local business. Shopping for our slab was so much fun! 

I was also concerned about having seams in odd places, so you may want to ask about that if you have large sections in your kitchen/bathroom. Thankfully, all the stones in our kitchen are one piece.

3. Pricing

Big box stores sell granite per square foot because they might be using parts of different slabs to complete your order. 
Local businesses in my area sold entire slabs of granite. If you have a lot of counter top surface area, you might need to purchase two slabs. 

Be wary of deals that sound too good to be true. They probably are. If you are going to use a local business, find someone who has been in business for a long time. Find testimonials. Read reviews. Visit the showroom. Ask lots of questions about warranties & workmanship. Are they bonded and insured? Do they have a rating with the Better Business Bureau?  If something seems fishy to you, don't buy from them! 

4. Hidden Costs

Everyone we got a quote from charged extra to remove the old counter tops. I assumed that installing new granite would include removing the old surface, but it doesn't. Expect anywhere from $100-$250 for this service. Some places charge a flat fee, others charge per linear foot. Of course, you could do it yourself. We didn't want to go that route...just because we didn't want to accidentally ruin our cabinets in the process.

If you are getting a new sink, you will have to pay extra for the plumbing to be reconnected. It costs even more if your new sink will be deeper than your old one because the plumbing will have to be reconfigured. More work = more cost to you. The big box stores include this cost in their quotes. Local businesses ask you to find a plumber to do the work, or they may recommend a good one.

Some companies include a new sink for "free", but others charge quite a bit extra. One company we visited charged an additional $250 for the same sink that everyone else included for free. 

If you have a breakfast bar or island that will need to be supported (because granite is really, really heavy), expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $150 per corbel, depending on how fancy or custom you decide to make it.  

Speaking of how heavy granite is, you may need to have your floors reinforced to support the weight. Support beams may need to be added under your kitchen floor. As you can imagine, this can get expensive. However, if you have a concrete foundation, this will not be an issue for you. 

Don't forget to think about the back-splash area. Are you going to have a 4-inch granite back-splash? That can cost more, especially if you are buying granite per square foot. If you are having tile work done, don't forget to add the cost of that to your budget. I hear that tile is an easy project, but we decided to hire someone to complete ours (it was a small and tedious job).  Even if you do it yourself, natural stone tile can be pricey. Shop around for that, too. 

After all is said and done, you will probably have areas of your kitchen walls that will need to be repaired. You can easily do this with a putty knife and some compound, but after you finish sanding, you will need to paint again. This can add to your total budget as well. 

5. Budgeting

Before you even start shopping, decide on a budget for everything. Stick to that budget. You can easily be wooed by more expensive and more beautiful materials. Don't be afraid to admit that you have a budget when you are getting quotes. Ask if certain slabs are on sale. Find out what is included in every quote. And don't ever underestimate the power of competition. You never know, one reputable company might want your business enough to beat the lowest price you find.  

July 16, 2013

Raising Rough and Tumble, Lovable Boys

My husband got me a fabulous book for Christmas last year. I've just now gotten around to reading it and I must say, it's been very helpful.

As a new mom, I was hoping that this book would help shed some light on how I can raise my son to be a God-fearing, family man. It does just that and more. I hardly think anyone could accuse Dr. Dobson of being a feminist sympathizer or politically correct (which is perfectly fine with me).  He shares hard truths, statistics, and sound, Bible-based common sense. This book had me laughing and crying at different moments. Above all, it has once again renewed my fervor in praying for my son's future and my beloved country.

Anyway, it's definitely worth the read if you are a girly-girl turned mommy to a rough-and-tumble boy.

July 13, 2013

Kitchen Upgrades...Finished!

It all started when I mentioned a summer project: fixing some settling cracks and painting the kitchen. That conversation led to a decision to put in new counter tops...
Way back in April, my husband and I started shopping for granite.

The thing that made our decision difficult is that we already loved our kitchen. The cabinets are in great shape. The layout is great. The back-splash is beautiful. It's neutral, which means it will be easy to sell. While the appliances don't fit the latest stainless steel trend, they are practical for everyday life with a soon-to-be toddler. You know what I mean. Fingerprints galore. All of these things are working for us, but we just wanted it to feel a little more like a custom home.

Here's what we started with:

 And here it is today:

 While we were at it, we decided to extend this counter top to be a full breakfast bar length.

And here you see the finished product:
Eventually we'll invest in enough bar stools to go across the whole bar.


New counters. Finished tile work. New sink/faucet/plumbing. Slightly darker paint color (still neutral, but it highlights the crown moulding better). And painted corbels & trim

I love this new sink! It's so much deeper than the old one... deep enough to fit an entire pizza pan!

I had a hard time choosing which beige would be best. We ended up going with the middle one. My husband is convinced they are all the same color. Ok, maybe they are.

After the granite was installed, we had to find tile to match what was already existing. Let me tell you, this is not an easy task. Of all the local tile shops where I live, there was only 1 that carried a natural stone tile to match. And it wasn't cheap. However, it was far cheaper than tearing out the old and replacing everything.

Corbels had to be added to support the weight of the granite. Lucky me got to paint it all (another way to save a lot of money).

At one point, my wall looked like this. Demolition is not exactly fun to look at. I had to keep in mind that it's not the finished product. Keep calm. Thankfully, we hired a professional to install the tile.

And a few hours later, this it what it looked like (sigh of relief). Much better. So glad we hired out this job.

So there you have it. Our first ever kitchen upgrade. Stay tuned for all the little things we learned along the way. :-) 

July 12, 2013

Inhuman Project

Perhaps you have heard of the Kermit Gosnell case, the Philadelphia abortion doctor who was convicted (thank God!) for murdering a newborn baby during a botched abortion. If not, please consider taking some time to read this post: A Discussion Worth Having.  If you are familiar with this case, perhaps you were as shocked as I was to hear of his barbaric abortion methods. I was shocked at the unbelievable cruelty and lack of compassion, so I started digging a little deeper.

The Inhuman Project is presented by LiveActionFilms. A pregnant woman was sent undercover into several abortion clinics across the country, asking lots of questions about the abortion she was supposedly there to have.

Please watch at least one of these:

New York

Washington D.C.

You don't have to watch long to get an idea of the depraved attitudes that these abortionists have toward unborn human lives. I believe that there are more Kermit Gosnells out there who need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. LiveAction is doing great work to uncover the horrific reality of abortion in America. 

Please consider getting involved with LiveAction at www.liveaction.org

July 11, 2013

Precious Moments Alone

One of the most challenging things about staying home with my son has been adjusting to the very few moments that I get to myself. Before I became a parent, I had ample time to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to do it (as long as it came after work). Now, not so much. While my husband's work day ends around 5:00 most days, mine goes from "son up to son down".  And nap time is getting shorter as my precious boy grows. So, basically, I have come to understand that moments like right now, when my awesome husband volunteers to take care of our little man and give me a break, I am taking full advantage.

I don't think I mentioned that my baby has cut 3 molars in the past two weeks, did I? Well. Yep. We are on teething overload around here. That means less sleep, more fussiness, and longer days in general.

So it's moments like these that make me love my husband even more...

Here's to all the awesome husbands who get it. :-)

July 5, 2013

Kitchen Progress...

Remember this post?

Kitchen Upgrade: Preview!

Well, I'm just ONE short step away from finishing the kitchen updates that we started so long ago.

We have installed the granite.
We have had the plumbing redone under the NEW sink.
We have finished the tile back splash.
We have painted the kitchen/dining area.
We have hung the curtains a little higher (in the dining area).
We have painted the new woodwork and touched up the trim.

And once I finish adjusting the curtains (I need some pins before I sew)... I'll have "after" shots of this project to show you! Understand, the changes are subtle and we like it that way, but oh, it feels so much nicer now!

Here's what it looked like the night before the granite guys came...

Stay tuned for more! :-)

July 3, 2013

How To Take a Road Trip with a Baby

It's summertime! And with a mobile baby boy, I have little time to rest, much less keep up this fun blog. However...he is taking a long nap today (thank goodness for nap time!).

Recently, my little family took our first very long road trip. It was about 17 hours each way. We drove for a total of 4 full days...with a baby...in our smallish vehicle...filled to the top with suitcases and supplies.

I was so nervous about the trip.
I prepared myself mentally that we would be stopping every hour.
I prepared myself to listen to a lot of crying/whining.
I was not exactly looking forward to the drive.


I got some advice from other, more experienced moms. This has proven to be my best source of information and help when it comes to "tricks of the trade".

They suggested occupying Baby Boy's time with three main things:
1. Food
2. Naps
3. New, never before seen toys

I also brought along all of his favorite books and a few favorite toys.

We took a special trip to Target just find some new toys in the dollar bins and we also got some with lights and buttons and noise (my least favorite type) and packed them in the car with easy access for the trip.

These methods worked wonders. I kept a stash of cheddar Goldfish and a sippy cup for whiny moments. I introduced new toys when we could not stop to get out. We took nice, long breaks at state parks or local attractions along the way (shopping!). We ate picnic lunches where Baby Boy could run around instead of being made to sit in a highchair at a restaurant. And he actually did take long naps, which was wonderful!

Actually, the last hour of the trip home was the longest for this mom and dad...but Baby Boy was perfectly content playing with a cell phone.

All said and done, we'll do it again. I think it's easier than flying because when my baby is crying, nobody is there to give a nasty look, you know, the shut-your-kid-up-and-give-us-all-some-peace look. I hate that look. It stresses me out. And we didn't have to worry about carrying all that extra baby stuff through the airport, in and out of security, on and off different connecting flights, etc.

A longer trip, yes.
A more stressful trip, no.
It was much better than I had anticipated.

We're already planning our next road trip! :-)