Book Review: Love & War Devotional for Couples

Having recently celebrated 18 years of marriage to Steve, the reminder for me to do this book review came at the perfect time! Steve and I went through this devo a while back. I have read (and LOVE) John Eldredge's book, "Walking with God" and so I was pretty excited to get this devotional that his wife, Stasi joined him on. The devotional was very easy to do and didn't take hours of our time, which is good because a) neither of us have that kind of time and b) Steve does better with the shorter "bites" of Bible study than the longer, more abstract ones. It's 5 days worth for 8 weeks which is an easy committment to make. And while I think Steve and I would both agree, we do have an extraordinarily good marriage, there is ALWAYS room for improvement. You don't have to have read the companion book to enjoy and get something out of the devotional one. I haven't read the book yet either, but if you are a couple with little ones and not tons of alone/quite time, this is a great devotional for you. As the book starts out, there's no sugarcoating the truth: "...marriage is hard". Indeed. Anyone who has ever been married can attest to that! The book served as a very good reminder to me that as happy as we are, there is SO much more we could be doing to make our marriage even better. It will never be perfect this side of heaven, but keeping God in the center is a good start. Steve and I have always struggled with doing any type of devotional or Bible study together, mostly because we learn in different ways and it's hard to find a study/devo that we both enjoy, not necessarily in concept but in layout. This one was just about perfect for both of us. Even if you think you have a good marriage, this book is a good reminder of the things we knew when we first married. I would recommend it for couples in all stages of marriage. I received this book for free from the publisher’s Blogging for Books program in exchange for this honest review.


Approximately 731 day ago…

…this happened.

Gotcha Day, March 2012

And this sweet baby girl changed our lives forever.


I’ve said it before, and I will say it again…adoption is not for the faint hearted.  From the outside looking in, it looks so happy and rewarding and it is.  More than you can even wrap your mind around.  But sometimes getting there is hard.  Painful. EXHAUSTING.  And terrifying.

It was all those things for us.  But asked if I’d do it again…the answer is a resounding ABSOLUTELY! 

So, on this day that we celebrate having you placed into my arms for the first time, I watch this video and weep all over again for the blessing that is you, Kylie Liann Yingbei Taylor.




Let’s Go Team!

Kylie changes at such a fast pace that I feel like sometimes my blog is all about her.  As Jenna hits the dreaded teen years, I am more conscious about what I post about her since she could easily be embarrassed about something I put out here.  So if you see less of Jenna, it’s not because there’s nothing going on, it’s because she might not want it posted for the world to see.

For the past 2 years, September has brought cheerleading for Jenna.  It’s something she enjoys doing even though I’m not sure she’s continue on through the rest of middle and high school.  There are a lot of good girls on the squad and it’s been fun watching them cheer.


I will admit, some days it’s hot as heck out there and with a toddler, it’s not a lot of fun, but I enjoy chatting with the other moms of both football players and cheerleaders.


Kylie typically is happy for about the first 1/2 hour and then she’s tired and ready to go.


I’m proud of my big girl!


This is my favorite photo!!




Another First-Kylie Goes to School

Still trying to play catch-up and this is one I don’t want to ever forget!  It was such a big milestone for our little girlie!

We had always known that we wanted to put Kylie in some type of preschool or Mother’s Day out at some point.  I know this can be a controversial topic in some circles, but we are big proponents of this for a myriad of reasons.  It is NOT for everyone or every child, but Jenna benefitted greatly from daycare/preschool and we felt that when the time was right, Kylie would too.

The problem is that in our little town, there’s not a ton of choices.  There was on very popular Mother’s Day Out program which is admittedly very well known and very good.  But y’all.  People CAMP OUT to get their kids in there.  You know, CAMP OUT like on Black Friday eve.  And after much consideration, I just decided it wasn’t for me.  I don’t do Black Friday for a reason and I figured I’d find something else less stressful than sleeping on a gym floor with a bunch of strangers (although there is something to be said for the special bonding that takes place when you do that).

So anyway, shortly after the Black Friday midnight madness enrollment there, I was talking to a friend from church who said her daughter and son went to a fabulous program at a large-ish local church in the area and they have enrollment ONLINE.  What a novel idea!!  So, I literally put Kylie on their waiting list in February from my iPhone.  That’s how easy it was.

And I got a call in the summer that she was IN if we were still interested.  Why yes we are.  Monday and Wednesday 9-2 and there were only 5 other children in class with her.  Monday and Wednesday was PERFECT because she was already doing speech therapy on Tuesday/Thursday.  We went for tours, orientation etc. and were very impressed with the curriculum.  But, we were also very concerned at how she would handle being left because we’d had her in daycare on Fridays just to get her some socialization (she loves being with other kids) and give Steve a break and she’d started really crying when he would leave her.  So we had some valid concerns about this MDO.  But we talked it up as “big girl school” and then the day finally arrived…September 4, right after Labor Day…I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…


New shoes?  Check.  New lunch box?  Check.  New thermos?  Check.  Tiara? Um, OF COURSE.


Oh.  My.  Heart.  Carrying her own lunchbox and pink monkey…


Getting’ ready to go in!  She walked right in, went to the kitchen area and told Steve “BYE!”…I almost cried with relief!  She has the best, sweetest teacher ever and she is learning so much!  The curriculum is truly a two day curriculum so it’s not 5 days crammed into 2 or adjusted to a 2 day program.  It’s written for 2 days a week and it’s so good. 

Y’all, one evening, just a month after she started, I was getting her ready for bed.  And, as always, she was talking up a storm.  For you non-cleft readers, when I say “talking”, I mean, she was jabbering a mile a minute but I could understand none of it.  She was fiddling around her room when I could make out “Eee, Eye, Eee, Eye, Oh” and I said, “OLD MCDONALD!!!” and she started singing it!  And I could UNDERSTAND HER!  It was the first time that she’d said something out of context that I could understand.  That right there is priceless to me. 

She loves singing the songs she learns there.  She can do Old McDonald with a variety of animals that she thinks up herself, Jesus loves me, Itsy Bitsy Spider, the Alphabet song and a host of others.  We are so proud of what she has learned.  She certainly has come a long way!



County Fair (2013)

Every year we have gone on vacation and then come back to the little county fair in our area.  We had already lived in this county for several years when the fair started coming and it’s grown (at least in attendance) every year.  We usually wait until the last night and go in the early evening then have “dinner” there which usually consists of corn dogs, funnel cakes and deep fried sweets of some kind topped off with a huge sweet tea. 

This year Kylie was old enough to understand and enjoy the animal part of the fair, so that’s where we started.


This little farming area was great fun for little ones.  Plus, it was hot as the blazes outside and this afforded us a tiny respite from the heat.


This cracks me up.  What’s funnier than a little Asian girl milking a cow? 


After you made it all the way through you could get a treat and of course, Kylie chose chocolate milk.  You can tell how hot it is just by looking at her.  God bless Jenna and her friend Grey…they helped her all through this place so I was free to take photos.


And just like her sister, Kylie wasn’t afraid to pet the animals at all.  We sometimes had to remind her to use gentle hands, but otherwise she was great.  It was so hot, but a good time none the less.

Jenna took her friend Grey but they ended up not riding too many rides.  The line get longer every year and it’s just so expensive to buy ride passes.  But we do enjoy the food, people watching and just being out there in general.  It’s a good way to kick off the fall season and it has become tradition for our family.



The End and the Beginning

Well, I thought I was done blogging about the beach vacation we had last July/August, but there’s just a few more words left in me.  The funny thing is that as I wrap up last year’s vacation, I am booking this year’s!  We thought we’d go back to Pensacola Beach but we are gypsies when it comes to vacation spots.  I always wanted THAT spot that we always went back to year after year but even when we find somewhere we love, the next year, we want to try something new.

This time I polled my town’s Facebook friends and got 70+ responses for beaches in the 7-9 hour driving radius.  (This is the coolest part about having most of the town we live in on a FB page.)  We first looked for condos…back to vrbo.com.  But they are so hard to gauge not seeing them personally.  Finally, I decided to look for actual houses on the beach because even with a condo, you still have to carry chairs, toys, bags, towels, Kylie etc. to the beach.  And even from the 4th floor condo and less than 50 yards of boardwalk, it’s still tiring.  But houses are SO expensive.  Much more for a family or two and you don’t find many houses literally ON the beach.  Well, thanks to VRBOs filtering capability, I noticed townhouses were an option and BINGO!  We found the perfect place for us.  With the damage deposit (which we will get back) and taxes, it’s a wee bit over our budget, but y’all…you walk down the back deck stairs into the sand.  YES.  I can’t wait to go.  But I digress…back to Pensacola…

After the professional photo session, I decided to try some of my own with the girls…it was evening on a different night and to be honest, they didn’t turn out too bad.


By this point, we were all peeling!


Absolutely my favorite.  This one went with our most recent post placement report!

One afternoon late, Jenna was getting bored so we rode around and found some go-carts.  Obviously, Kylie was too little to ride and that seemed like something Steve would enjoy, so I sent them around the track a few times while Kylie and I enjoyed a late afternoon sweet.


I’m also including this one (and the next) to prove I was on this vacation too.  Smile

We made the most of the last few days we had and boy did Kylie start to enjoy the beach and our new “home”.


I have a bunch of photos of her on me in various stages of cheesin’.  I’m just so glad she loved the beach.  I can’t wait to take her back!

Contrary to how it might appear, Kylie was not always happy.  In fact, most nights at dinner, it was hard.  She didn’t eat well and we were starting to tire of seafood (I know?!?).  Our last evening there we went to a Greek place.  The only way we could get Kylie to settle down, not scream and eat just a little…was this…


I’m not joking.  She sat at the table the entire time like this.  Eating her food.  Luckily, we were about the only folks in this joint.  I tell you…this kid always makes me laugh!

After checking out for the week (and waiting on the elevators for at least 30 minutes), we headed towards the Aviation Museum which was not too far away and FREE. 


Steve really enjoyed this and I would have too had it not been for Kylie.  Walking around a museum after a long week at the beach is just not her thing.  While we were there, Jenna found some authentic fighter jet seats you can sit in.  While trying them out, a gentlemen, retired Marine himself and volunteer at the museum, came up and offered to strap her in the way they were really strapped up.


This guy was super nice and it was interesting to see where everything clicked and buckled together to make you super tight.  I’ll admit, I was a little afraid of getting her out because he did walk away after he was done.  Then, I started to actually consider that it might be a good thing…


Oh well…it was a fun thought!!  Not really…but Jenna enjoyed being shown something like this from someone who had actually strapped himself in a few times.

After we finished at the museum, we were homeward bound.  It was bittersweet, but we knew we’d be back…


(special thanks to all of you who have stuck with me as I go back in time…lucky for you we are almost caught up…almost, but not quite!)


Ah Summer…

The weather has been crazy this winter and so we are already planning our beach vacation for the summer.  Silly, maybe, but it’s getting me through these long, dreary, days!

I’ll hurry and wrap up our trip to Pensacola beach.  Most of the week we hung out at the beach and the pool.  We had great weather just about every day.  There was one day where we spent a good portion of the day driving down to other popular beach towns just to give our skin some rest from the sun.  We had scheduled professional family photos while in the area and we didn’t want to look like crabs fresh from the ocean!

Let me stop here and give a huge shout out for the condo we stayed in.  Our good friend Will B. recommended it as somewhere his parents had stayed recently and it was very economical.  The pictures on the website don’t do it justice.  It was much roomier than we thought and it was plenty of room for our family of four with one bedroom and a pull out couch.  My biggest concern was whether it was “ON” the beach.   So many hotels and condos say they are “on” the beach and it really means they are really close, across the street from, near a public part of or 300 years from the beach.  But this place was ON.  THE.  BEACH.  As a condo, it was in a building several floors high, but we were located on the 4th floor.  The owner has a reserved parking spot in the covered garage which meant our black truck was always cool and the spot was literally about 5 steps away from the elevator.  Once on the 4th floor, the elevator doors opened and about 3 steps away was the front door of the condo.  The beach walkway was probably 50 yards long.  It was HEAVEN.  I can highly recommend!

There was one day where Jenna and I went parasailing.  We debated on renting a pontoon boat but we passed on that idea.  Jenna really wanted to do a jet ski but we decided to parasail instead.  It was not Jenna’s first trip up, nor mine.  And I had a wrist camera they gave me where photos were taken just seconds apart the entire time we were up there.  Since I didn’t take my laptop, all of them are loaded on Steve’s PC…I’ll try to load them up later for some laughs.

But we did find a photographer who was reasonable and available the time we were there.  We ended up using Savanna’s Studio.  The weather for the day we selected was perfect and it was even a good hair day (to start with) for me.


The problem was that Kylie was not enthused.  We managed to get some decent shots but the pics would have been oh so much cuter if Kylie had be the normal happy girl she usually is.  She did great on the car ride down (which given her meltdowns surrounding being in a car seat was a miracle) and back and she loved the beach.  Restaurants and photos weren’t always easy.  Of course, this was the first “big” trip she’d been on since she had been home so I am sure some of her behavior was just her being out of sorts.

I was determined we were NOT going to do matching khaki and white.  I wanted COLOR.  I think we ended up coordinating pretty well.  And I got the color I was after.  That’s part of the reason I chose Savanna’s Studio was their spectacular use of color.  I didn’t want to be washed out into the background of the ocean.  And they did not disappoint!  Here are a few of the better shots.  And trust me…I had no trouble spending a ridiculous amount of money on the ones we did get.  Smile I’m a sucker that way.  And if you need a photographer in that area, check out Savanna’s Studio!  You’ll be pleased, I promise!


This one of Jenna was one of my favorites.  There were some pretty corny shots but this is the most genuine of them all.


Don’t be fooled.  She is smiling, but just a little.  And just because we were letting her do whatever the heck she wanted.


What you can’t see in this one is the reason why Kylie was ticked. There was a bright pink stuffed monkey (hereinafter dubbed “pink monkey”, not to be confused with “green monkey”, “blue monkey”, “purple monkey” or “red monkey”) that we’d just bought her (and which started the monkey craze) that we refused to let be in the photos.  The dang monkey had a freakin’ eye patch!  But yes, the thing not only made most of the photos, but was toted everywhere from that point on.  She is her mother’s daughter (and so is Jenna) when it comes to stuffed animals.  Also notice the broken sail on the little boat?  That was a prop of the photographer and yeah it took Kylie about 3.2356 seconds to break it.  Fabulous.


At least it’s not a scowl but this was still early on and Kylie was not happy.


Yep, so my hair is blown all the heck and Steve’s back is about to break and if you look closely, Kylie has a big handful of my hair in her hand.  But she’s got a small grin, so this made the cut.


And this one pretty much sums up the whole experience.  Katie is just thrilled to be in the picture and basically thought it was playtime in the sand.  I’m all hunched over, hair blowing across my face and my breasts nearly hanging out of my shirt thanks to Kylie.  Kylie scowling at Katie for even thinking about having a good time.  Steve looks like he’s about to cry or laugh, who knows which and then Jenna who amongst all the chaos was managing to pose like a dang model.  Sigh.  This is the story of my life summed up in one photo.

But it was a good time and we were able to laugh about it later.  Like, much later.  As in, when I saw for myself that we did get several good shots.  And in the end, I’d do it again.  All of it.