Sunday, April 15, 2018

It's a boy!

I'm so full of joy to introduce to you our son. He came early in a whirlwind of a series of complications but God's grace was so incredibly tangible throughout, and the labor and birth was a powerful and beautiful spiritual experience. We are so deeply grateful for him, and for all those who helped him get here safely as well as all the friends and family that have supported us in the postpartum period as well. I look forward to sharing more details of his birth. But for now, we are in the cocoon of early postpartum with all its sleepless nights and snuggly days, its roller coaster emotions through all the adjustments, and the indescribable current of awe and deep joy that runs throughout as we take in the reality of having these two precious children and the expanded hearts with which to love them.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

What I've Been Flipping Through: Book Reviews

If you're looking for a gorgeous, gorgeous book to look through, this is the one! What a delight for the eyes! I was initially attracted to this book by the title-- So Much to Celebrate: Entertaining the Ones You Love the Whole Year Through. I love holidays and seasons, and it's so much fun to celebrate them with special little touches...particularly food! When I received the book, it was different than I anticipated in both positive and negative ways. So I'll fill you in. ;) The good: It was soooo pretty. I love flipping through the pages and just seeing all the beauty in the book-- artfully arranged flowers and decor, delicious-looking food, feminine floral outfits, and creative themes for parties and gatherings. I could just look at this book and dream and dream. The not-as-good: it feels a little over the top or unrealistic, at least for my current place in life (that is, raising little ones on a budget!). Many of the parties were way more than we could afford to throw, and several of the recipes seemed time-consuming to prepare with kids or a little too unique for me (Fish Tacos with Grilled Corn Slaw and Strawberry Mango Salsa). That being said, it was a book to aspire to. Even if I couldn't do all the ideas presented, I could still be inspired by them and do them in my own way (for example, there was a Milkshake Social...what a cute idea for a party!). I would still recommend this book, but more for the fun of looking through it and getting ideas, rather than for a practical, realistic guide for celebrations. 4 out of 5 stars.

[Thank you to Booklook Bloggers for my complimentary review copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

I've been wanting to read this one for years, as it's a Christian classic. Essentially it's an allegory of when the soul chooses to follow Christ and leave behind the past fears and burdens. The main character "Much-Afraid" learns to leave her family, The Fearlings, and follow the Chief Shepherd to higher places. I've struggled to get into this one more than I thought I would. It's a really sweet story, and I generally like allegories. I have not finished the book yet, but am struggling to relate to the main character-- even though I like have all her issues myself, haha! Maybe it's a little too much obvious with the allegory, and a little too sweet. I think it would almost be better if I read it in my early teens, or read it to an older child. I do think the book has great potential but it has not captivated me as I thought it might. This particular edition is beautifully illustrated and has some journal spaces too. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

[Thank you to Tyndale Blogger Network for my complimentary review copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Friday, March 23, 2018

Quick Takes Friday: Welcome, Spring!

I started writing most of these when I was in a pretty good mood yesterday...which is a good thing because today has been somewhat the opposite thus far. G has not been sleeping well (or napping, which has already interrupted this post so far) and woke up crying several times, I had to wait a half hour this morning for my hour-long Non Stress Test at the OB simply because a front desk person didn't notify the nurse I had arrived, and other annoying little details of the day that really should not change my mood in the big scheme of things...but well, #thirdtrimesterhormones be raging. Nonetheless, I'm going to sip my Peaceful Mama tea (I'm trying, people, I'm trying!) and catch up on some blogs and blogging as well as pray Lectio Divina (see #2). Anyway, onto the more happy writings from yesterday. ;)

1. March has proved to be a much more positive month for us, so spring really does seem to be arriving in many ways and I'm grateful! Today G and I had to meet daddy halfway from work because he had left his computer here at home. We met at our church, so it was lovely to have a little mommy/daughter date at the Adoration chapel and then take a walk around the block in the sunshine. Pregnancy has slowed me down so much...but sometimes it's for the better as I let go of my natural tendency to plan and rush and instead live more in the moment.

2. Lent has been unusual for me this year. I can't decide if I'd consider it a failure or a success. I've failed in several of my chosen things to do (totally cheated with social media and can't figure out why I didn't have the motivation this time!)...yet I've also established some good disciplines I hadn't chosen originally, like a daily lectio divina prayer routine at naptime. I've also stopped more often at Adoration or quiet churches to pray and realized it's not as tricky with a toddler as I (or the devil makes me) think.

Ash Wednesday...her little cross was mostly rubbed off
by the time mass was over :D

3. On the note of the devil, I started reading this book and it's SO GOOD so far. The book club I host read the author's book Unleashed last year and we loved it. This one is proving to be just as powerful. My parents generously surprised me with a Kindle last month and I'm in love. I never thought I'd enjoy e-books as much as a paper copy I could hold...but it is SO convenient to read one-handed (esp with a newborn coming soon!) as well as instantly download books from the library. If you have a Kindle, tell me your favorite ways to snag cheap or free books! ;)

4. It's getting more and more real that we're going to have a baby sometime next month. I'm super excited to meet this little one...and I'm almost just as excited to be able to eat and breathe normally again. ;) So many third trimester symptoms and still lots of medicines and testing but it's okay. Baby and I are both healthy and doing well. I'm also feeling pretty good about preparations but there's always more I'd like to do. We set up a crib and mini nursery last weekend and it's adorable! I'd show you a picture but it would give away the gender, so you'll just have to wait. ;) Yesterday my brother came over and helped me make five chicken pot pies. We ate one for dinner, froze three, and dropped the last one off at my friends' who just had their first baby. We are blessed to have a church community that is big into meal trains for postpartum moms, but I know it will be nice to have some freezer meals for when that tapers off and I'm learning to cook with two kiddos around!!

This little girl is going to be a huge help! Look how she
has mastered cleaning and caring for a 'baby' at the same time!

5. Do you all use Shutterfly? I'm really kinda in love with their photobooks...mostly because I haven't found a great system for printing and saving our pictures, and their "free" photobooks (pay shipping but it's worth it to me) provide a way for me to compile some great pictures of our past year and create a family album for us. However, I'm currently struggling with the teeeeedious task of uploading my husband's phone's pictures to use as well (mine automatically upload because of the Shutterfly app). Tell me how you do pictures!! I was just lamenting to a friend that I almost wish we still had rolls of film we developed and you got what you got....rather than going through hundreds of digital takes.

6. We hosted a young single woman for dinner this week who recently moved to the area and is looking for Catholic community. It was so nice to invite her in and learn more about her. I'm hoping we can connect her with some great people. I also realized with the invitation that I've learned to streamline my hosting to be welcoming yet not overly stressful perfection. It was a freeing realization that I can still welcome people into our home even with a toddler and a giant belly. My tips: tidy at the last minute (because #toddlers), plan a simple meal that doesn't take a lot of steps (mine was Caprese layered chicken, a salad mix, a loaf of grocery bakery French bread, steamed broccoli, and a crockpot fruit cobbler), quickly clean the bathroom they would use (as in wipe down the sink and shake the rug, haha!), and be so friendly that they don't notice any of the other imperfections of the evening, hahaha.

7. I really would love to hear from some of you bloggers about your personal motivations to blog in the midst of parenting. I've found in this pregnancy that I've really retreated into a smaller space of my family and home, my local community and church family, and simplicity in day to day life. Yet I also love the connection and community of blogging. I don't aspire to be a big blogger, I don't always feel like choosing writing over other pursuits during naptime, yet I can't quite give it up despite always toying with that idea. Tell me how you manage it with littles and that it's worth it. :)

Until next time, have a fabulous weekend and a beautiful Palm Sunday!

Linking up with Kelly!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Another Sweet Bedtime Story

I really wanted to save this one for an Easter gift for little G but I just couldn't. She was so excited when a package came in the mail and I was excited to check out this book with her! It is ADORABLE! It has all the elements of a delightful children's book: nice illustrations, rhyming storylines, and 'touch and feel' portions the such as the curly sheep hair or the soft kitty fur. One of G's favorite parts is that the tractor appears on almost every page and she loves finding it and pointing it out-- it has even become the fourth word she can say, haha! My favorite part is the end where all the animals on the farm are asleep and we're reminded that God loves us too and watches over us while we sleep so we can say "Night, night, God." We have several books of this author (Amy Parker) and each time I've been impressed with the quality of them. My only con to this book is that some of the 'touch and feel' parts on each page are not easy for kids to see/feel. Most of them are the furry animals, which are great, but there's also a few that are a little trickier or less tactile, like a glittery sun. There are also a couple rhymes that feel like tongue twisters (sheep dreaming of hoppy, happy days). Very minor criticisms but just keeping it real! Overall, this book was be a fabulous gift or addition to your own library! 5 stars.

[Thank you to Booklook Bloggers for my complimentary review copy. This contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Friday, February 23, 2018

Quick Takes (and Good Riddance, February!)

Okay, so not really but kind of? Normally, February is one of my favorite months (thanks to my love for Valentine's Day and my penchant for celebrating my birthday all month long) but this year it was just not a very fun month due to sickness, third trimester hormones, home repairs, and glooooomy weather. I'm quite ready for a fresh slate of a new month with March next week.

1. We finally have almost all our home appliances repaired or replaced that broke down this past month. Totally first world problems, but I'm definitely grateful to be using the washing machine and the dishwasher once again!!

2. There's that fine line in blogging once you're married and have a family of not sharing too much, but the month wasn't the greatest for our marriage either. Lots of disconnect, feeling pulled different directions with our missions and ministry, and miscommunication. Thankfully, we seem to be on the up and up. It's amazing how the little things can improve a marriage. I've also realized (thanks to Kirby's fabulous series!) that my love language might just be more of Quality Time than I realized instead of Words of Affirmation!

3. My mother is law is here to visit and that's been hugely helpful this week. The toddler has also slept (almost) through the night for three nights in a row and it's amazing what better sleep can do for your mental outlook. So was the isolated afternoon of gorgeous weather-- we went from 20's and 30's to a day of 69 degrees!!! Little G and I spent over an hour outside walking and playing at the park. Give me ALL the vitamin D!!!!

4. I've been making lots of comfort food these winter months and have tried to increase the amount I make for certain meals so that I can freeze some extra for post baby. Yesterday I was able to freeze two meatloaves. Today I'm planning to make a double batch of muffins recommended by Jen and will freeze a dozen. It's kind of my lazy freezer meal planning. ;)

5. Have you watched any of the Olympics? We've enjoyed having it on each night more than I thought we would! I generally thought I was a bigger fan of the summer ones, but it's been fascinating watching the skiing, skating, and even bobsledding! (Though I can't watch bobsledding without thinking of the movie Cool Runnings! lol!)

6. If you're Catholic, you know the current conversation starter is 'how is your Lent going?' I'd say mine is off to a decent start, but I'd like to be more intentional about it. I gave up social media, which is always helpful for me to reprioritize and have the extra time and presence throughout the day. I'm also committed to praying a daily rosary for our marriage and have been trying to use naptime more for prayer. Today I prayed the Stations of the Cross, which is always strangely comforting and nostalgic for me...probably because we went to them weekly when I was growing up.

7. Unfortunately, the abortion clinic I mentioned to you has pressured the local hospital to sign a transfer agreement with them so they can remain open. This is devastating news for all of us. My husband mentioned the grave reality that in a way the blood of all those children who will be killed in our town is on the hands of the hospital board members who voted in approval. It's very disturbing to us that a hospital would stoop to a partnership with an organization whose sole purpose is to end life rather than save it. We plan to change hospitals now for our services but are continuing to work and pray for a change in the agreement. My husband was on national Catholic radio with Teresa Tomeo to discuss the situation and he did a wonderful job. I was so proud. Please keep us all in prayer as we continue to fight the decision.

I hope you all are staying warm and cozy and fighting the winter blues with me! Do something to treat yourself this weekend (or at least on Sunday because, you know, #Lent). ;) And for some extra clicks, check out the rest of the quick takes gang at Kelly's!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

God Bless My Family: A Children's Book Review

So to offset my doom and gloom post of yesterday ;) I thought I'd review this precious little book. There's nothing like puppies to take away the blues. For the past week as we all recovered from The Plague, we watched a lot of TV and read a lot of books to little G. This new one is so sweet. As G gets older, I realize how significant the content of books is for her growing mind! It's so important to me to have wholesome and faith-filled messages. I want her first impressions of faith to be joyful, warm, and loving-- just like her Heavenly Father is. This book is a great one for that. Each page there are different pictures of "puppy families" and words describing  the blessings of different family members-- aunts, cousins, brothers, mothers, and so on. It's very cute to see the different dog breeds and the different activities they are doing (baking a cake, racing outside, etc.). My only cautions with this book would be that 1) not everyone may have or be close to all the members mentioned (sister or brother, even grandma or grandpa), and 2) some of the descriptions are stereotypical and a child might wonder why their aunt doesn't bake or their sister doesn't play dress up. Probably miniscule things, but just keeping it real. Other than that, we're thrilled to have it on our bookshelf. 4.5 stars.

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for my complimentary review copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Spiritual Battles

In about a month's time, I've been in the hospital for early contractions, we all developed the worst stomach flu ever in one weekend (esp when you're third trimester preggo), and we've had multiple (expensive!) appliances break down: my car brakes, the garage door, our dishwasher, and today the washing machine (naturally the washer and the dishwasher would be out of commission as I'm continuing to clean up the massive amounts of laundry and dishes after last weekend's Plague).

To say the least, dear friends, I am utterly overwhelmed.

We heard yesterday that our last local standing abortion clinic has been ordered to close by the state. This is what my husband has been working towards in his job for several years now and it's incredibly good and grace-filled news. Not only do we believe in the sacredness of all human life, but this particular clinic has been sited for multiple issues that would have shut down any other medical facility much sooner (an OB with a child porn record, transferring an emergency patient to a hospital in an employee's car, and more). Women deserve so much better than that (and they deserve better than abortion...but that's another post.) The clinic plans to appeal the order so the war rages on.

Are the crosses my family is experiencing directly related to such happenings? I don't know. My husband is a firm believer in spiritual warfare. I am a little less quick to link the ordinary happenings but this time around I'm inclined to agree. It's just been too much and too coincidental.

Whatever the case, it's been excellent preparation for Lent next week.

Please say a prayer for us-- and also for the clinic to close its doors for good for the sake of our women and children-- and let me know how I can pray for you!