Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year in Review: Farewell, 2016!

It's the most reflective time of the year!! The last day of 2016...we're all three fighting colds and it's a dreary day outside, so despite my foggy brain, it's a good day to sit down with a cup of tea (good ol' echinacea for sickness!) and reflect on the previous year as well as perhaps a few goals for the coming one.

This year proved to be less eventful than 2015 but still quite big year when it comes to milestones and life changes.

January- My husband led two buses to the March for Life in Washington D.C. despite a giant snowstorm. They were stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for almost two days on the way back, but God (as He so often does) worked good from the bad when their bus driver confessed an old abortion wound and found healing and prayer with them.

I began the art of breadmaking. ;)

February- P surprised me with a homemade meal, a trail of rose petals, and a handwritten card for my birthday when I got home from work. I'm pretty sure the morning sickness was gone by then. I made my very own German chocolate birthday cake from scratch and it was delish.

K and R came over for my birthday and we spent the day making greeting cards. Oh, how I miss my girlfriends now that I live farther away! Our times together are few and far between.




March- We found out we were having a GIRL! We both had been quite sure that baby G was a boy and even had 'his' name picked out. So much for mother's intuition! I was thrilled, though! I come from generations of beautifully strong woman (my mom, my grandma, my great-grandma...) and I remember crying during the ultrasound with joy and hope that this little lady would be strong too and make it to the end of the pregnancy healthy. I was also very excited about my emerging bump.





April- Spring was arriving at our new home and I loved seeing the blooms at our house and throughout the neighborhood. I'm in love with this weeping cherry tree by our porch...it's the closest thing to the weeping willow tree I've always dreamed of having. ;)

We had a beautiful, emotional fundraiser for the crisis pregnancy where I work. My handsome hubby was the emcee that you see on the screen. ;)




May- I continued to get bigger. :)

P and I stole away for our FIRST ANNIVERSARY! So exciting. Nothing big, but we loved our little getaway to Amish Country. Great food, no responsibilities, beautiful weather, and even a buggy ride.



June- Two weeks off work. Two baby showers. Lots of traveling and lots of summer heat!! We visited my husband's big brother and his family down south and enjoyed some hiking.



July- Our precious daughter was born. You can read her birth story here.  So thankful. So thankful. She had tons of dark hair, which delighted me. And I was able to eat Subway once again and devoured a 6-inch within hours after birth. 


August- A blur of new baby adjustments! Lack of sleep, painful breastfeeding, lots and lots of snuggles and wonder. Many smiles (mine and hubby). Many tears (mine and baby). 



September- Beautiful fall weather. Lots of walks with the stroller. I chopped off six inches of my hair. We attempted a date night out with the baby and decided to never do it again wait awhile before attempting again.



October- I joined a mother's group at our church and it was so helpful for me. I didn't feel as isolated and I was able to laugh more at the hard parts of motherhood instead of feeling like I was doing it wrong. My friend and I began hosting our monthly book club and between these two books and women's events, I was soaking up so much wisdom! (if only it would stay...) My family visited us for our annual trick-or-treat in the neighborhood (we all dress up, adults included). P was a baseball player, I was Mary Poppins, and baby G was a ladybug. My parents and brothers definitely topped us all with their Downton Abbey costumes!!!

I went dairy and soy free for G's tummy issues. 

And oh yeah...I found the perfect bread recipe. ;)



November- I returned to work at the pregnancy center one day a week while P stayed home with G. It was SO hard to get her to take a bottle and it took months until she would. It was great to get out once a week without the baby and re-charge with other likeminded women. We celebrated Thanksgiving with my family and put our Christmas decorations up that weekend. We hung outdoor lights for the first time and loved their cozy twinkling through the window. 


December- A lot of good and a lot of hard. Baby G went through some tough transitions with sleep that left us without much free time or time as a couple. However, it was also special to celebrate Advent and Christmas as a family. 





















All in all, it was a beautiful yet challenging year. I learned a lot about myself (a few strengths and many weaknesses!). I'll save some of that for a future post in the new year. ;) 

For now, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to yours. Many blessings to you, sweet friends, and thanks for being with me this year. I'll leave you with a great quote I read this morning...

"New Year's Eve--this is the moment of beginning again...the moment in which the old touches the new, in which we offer gratitude to God."  -Catherine Doherty

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Celebrations: A Holiday Cookbook!


So I continue to be on a dairy and soy free diet for our little babe and her allergy/intolerance. Thankfully, we saw a specialist this past month and he reassured us that she will likely outgrow it within the year and that the benefits of breastfeeding are well worth getting through time as her tummy heals.

In the meantime, I'm always looking for great allergen-free recipes and this time of year is no different. Christmastime has been somewhat challenging because of my great love for Christmas cookies. Thankfully, I've found a few alternatives...and even purchased some coconut milk 'egg nog' at the grocery! ha!

But cookbooks like this not only make me feel less alone in my diet, but they even make me excited about it! Celebrations is a cookbook by Danielle Walker ("Against All Grain") and the subtitle says it all: A year of gluten-free, dairy-free, and paleo recipes for every occasion. The cookbook is a gorgeous hardcover with pictures on every page. A delight to look at for sure. She organized the cookbook by holidays within the year and has menus for each one-- starting with a New Year's Eve Cocktail Party and ending with Christmas Dinner and Treats. The beginning of the cookbook featured some education on allergies and intolerance, alternative ingredients, and just general healthy eating. I really appreciated her insight!

The only thing I wasn't crazy about is that every recipe is gluten-free. While this would be a gold mine for someone with Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, it makes it difficult for me to choose certain recipes (like cookies or bread) in this cookbook over a different recipe that would use wheat flour since I just don't generally keep coconut or almond flour on hand.

All in all, I really enjoyed this cookbook and would recommend it. While there were some things that were either too 'fancy' or 'alternative' for me, I loved that I could peruse this cookbook and know that I could make any recipe for me and the baby without having to modify it or worry about allergens. I'd give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

[Thank you to Blogging for Books for my lovely copy at no charge! This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

My Birth Story: The Finale

High time I finished this, huh?? Now where were we...oh, yes:

Pushing!

This was actually the part that I was somewhat worried about. Because well...you know...it was still kind of hard to believe a baby could come out of...you know...

But pushing ended up being one of my favorite parts of her birth! It was so exciting to know we were at this stage and our baby would be in our arms soon! (And it was good to know all the pain and craziness would be over soon! Kind of. Recovery isn't exactly a picnic.)

They sent a resident in to help me push. And it did not go well. She tried to coach me when to push and it just did not feel natural. I was also flat on my back. Thankfully, Peter had been texting with our treasured doctor throughout labor and she was planning to come to the hospital as soon as she finished her office patients even though she wasn't on-call (because she is just that amazing). She came within a few rounds of pushing and she was such a breath of fresh air coming through the hospital room door.

Dr. M is one of the greatest women I know. She is intelligent, compassionate, competent, and godly, with a warmth and peace about her that can only come from Christ. She also volunteers her time for our crisis pregnancy center. When she came through the door after a long day at work (it was 7pm at this point!) she came in smiling and energetic. She quickly and confidently gave orders to the medical staff and things started to get SO much better. She coached me correctly with pushing each contraction, I was able to change positions somewhat and be more inclined, and we were getting somewhere now!! It was actually kind of exciting, although I was still worried about the baby and the meconium issue but NICU nurses were standing by with their equipment.

I pushed for ten minutes. That's it. So wonderful. I've heard many first-time births have 1-2 hours average of pushing. I think it actually helped that I didn't have an epidural because I could feel each contraction and thus could feel the urge to push. Pushing actually helped relieve the pain-- another plus.

Dr. M asked me if I wanted to watch. She was getting more and more excited so I knew the baby was coming. Plus that "ring of fire" they say you feel? Yeah. I felt it. However, despite our pre-birth conversations (that I would want to watch the baby come out and Peter would NO WAY be down there and seeing anything since he gets queasy with medical stuff)...I replied to her question about watching: "No. I'm focused." And I was, haha. Eyes closed, I was completely focused on pushing because I did not want a baby to be half out of me and then lose the contraction and have to wait for the next one (probably an irrational fear). HOWEVER, my sweet queasy husband watched every moment of our precious daughter arriving without feeling queasy at all. He said it was incredible. I am so darn proud of him. He even cut her cord (another thing he had not thought he'd want to do).

She was here. She was on this side of the womb. NICU took her first but I don't remember that. All I remember is Dr. M holding her out to me a few minutes later (tears coming as I write this) and asking if I wanted to hold her. Since I hadn't seen NICU evaluate her, I kept saying, "Is she ok? Is she ok?" When they reassured me that she checked out just fine, they laid her on my chest and Peter and I looked at each other with so. much. joy. Peter laughed with true, pure delight. What a moment. I'm so grateful our doula snapped a picture at that moment (without us knowing until later) because despite my bedraggled appearance, all I can see is beauty and joy.

Sweet baby G, you have been prayed for and loved your whole little life long. We are so grateful for you. This story is for you.


"When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world."
 -John 16:21

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday Talk #60: A Case of the Cozies

What a great weekend. Neither one of us had commitments outside our home, so we enjoyed a cozy weekend together as the inches of snow fell outside!

On Friday, my brother-in-law visited and brought us a gorgeous shelf from my sister-in-law that she didn't want anymore. It's an loooong oak shelf with pegs made by the Amish. It looks so home-y in our living room! P said we should hang Christmas stockings on it. :)

Saturday morning we hosted a brunch for a group of young missionaries visiting for the year. They are in our diocese to speak to schools and youth groups and young adults about the beauty of the virtue of chastity, self-worth and dignity, and living and loving as God intended. It was so great to get to know them better and hear their heart-thoughts. So blessed to have them here.

Saturday evening we settled in for a Christmas movie and popcorn! I've totally surrendered the sleep struggle with Baby G and we are all so much more peaceful! So she simply slept in my arms while the hubby and I enjoyed a long-desired movie night together! We'll figure out the crib in a few months. ;)

On Sunday, the snow continued to fall so beautifully and we went to Mass for the Third Sunday of Advent. Baby G and I dressed in our liturgical pink. :) Afterwards, our Sunday consisted of Christmas and Advent reading and mugs of hot chocolate. I started reading The Reed of God, by Caryll Houselander, which was recommended Advent reading by several people. So far it's been very insightful and is giving me lots of food for thought as I slow down and ponder this Advent season.

Today I'm simply easing into the week with mountains of snow outside and mountains of laundry inside...and hopefully finishing writing our Christmas cards today to send out.

Here are some pics just for fun:


My tree salvaged from inside an old barn...not too shabby once she's all dressed up!

Nothing like these evening snuggles with the Christmas tree lit and the twinkling lights outside.

We like to dress in the liturgy colors for Mass :)


Thanks to my parents and aunt for sharing their old decorations with us for the outdoors!




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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Currently: December

So we are struggling big time with getting baby G to nap or sleep in her crib. It's 5 o'clock and while I do have dinner on the stove and zucchini bread in the oven, that pretty much feels like it's all I've accomplished. I'm in yoga-style clothes with my hair piled on my head, no makeup, circles under my eyes, and breakouts on my face. And a little girl finally sleeping on my chest. In a carrier, which means I have two hands to blog. So I'm just going to join the 'currently' link-up.

Doing: um. see above. As in getting the baby to sleep in the crib. Although since we're not actually doing this, it really can only be called trying. Details, details...anyway, people tell me I'll look back on this time and wish that I could just hold her and let her nap in my arms. So I'm trusting their advice when I can't get her to sleep in the crib and we just cuddle.

Enjoying: My hubby. He's so into Christmas this year and it just melts me. I think it's having a child. He's all about hanging lights on our house and putting up the tree with me and driving around to look at lights and watching Christmas movies. And he's so great with the baby and making both of us smile. :)

Cooking: Too many new recipes. I'm realizing that I need to simplify with the babe and just have a rotation of tried-and-true, simple recipes and maybe try only one new one each week. Plus with the dairy/soy free diet, it's tough to continually find new recipes that both of us like. However, I currently have a dairy-free pot pie sitting on the stove and it looks AMAZING. Lucky for me, it's a favorite of both of ours.

Wrapping: nada. Still shopping, although I have some cute ideas this year!

Playing: my Spotify Christmas list. Includes all the goodies from Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and (for my teenage self) Plus One.

What are you up to currently? Link up with Anne in Residence and join the fun!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tuesday Talk #59

I've been shamefully remiss with Tuesday Talk, but am remembering to post the link-up this week! I hope you are all having a blessed Advent season. As a peace offering, I'm just going to recommend one of my all-time favorite books for Advent....love me some Ann Voskamp:



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Monday, December 5, 2016

Four Months


Oh, you sweet girl. We've had so much fun this past month. You are blossoming and it's beautiful. You are out of the "fourth trimester" and learning so much about the world around you. You reach for and grab your toys. Everything goes into your mouth. You roll onto your side easily, and a few times onto your tummy. You are truly a happy baby (most of the time). You smile abundantly and your eyes crinkle and your dimple shows and we melt. You laughed for the first time, a real tummy laugh, but we haven't been able to get you to do it again yet! You nap best on mommy in the Tula carrier (you disdain the pack-and-play as well as your crib for sleeping or napping). You and daddy are getting to be the best of friends. He loves spending the day with you once a week while mommy is at work. He makes you smile even more than I do. You found your feet this month and love to grab your toes. You are holding your head well with just a bit of bobble here and there. ;) You tolerate tummy time for only a short while. You were busy this month, with a trip several hours away to your uncle's birthday party, to your grandparents for Thanksgiving, and to your other grandma's for a surprise visit. You also were the cutest little ladybug ever last month for trick-or-treating. Holidays are fun with you even though you're too young to notice. Daddy and I hung Christmas lights outside while you slept on me in the carrier dressed in your warm snowsuit. Your favorite toys are your colorful Taggie friend, your crinkle book, and your Wubbanub frog (yet you still won't take the pacifier, you just put the frog stuffed animal in your mouth!). We love you so much, little G.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

This.

This post written by Jenny pretty much sums up how I've been feeling about social media lately. It's been long coming, and there's a part of me that fights it, but I've given up Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest during this Advent season-- and I've already seen a huge difference in my ability to be present, to be content, to be truly connected to people.

My hubby uses social media for his job, but is only checking it twice a day during Advent. We also decided to turn the TV off during 8-9pm and we've used that hour as a somewhat sacred hour to talk, pray, and read. Neither one of us would have said we're addicted or obsessed with social media but it's amazing to see the results of intentionally 'unplugging.' We've struggled to find time to pray together but all of a sudden we have a whole hour conducive to it.

I'm entering into moments more fully-- the good, the bad, and the ugly-- and it's freeing. Is this the right step for everyone? I don't know, I just know it's right for me in this season. To focus on my husband, my daughter, my family, my co-workers, my friends, even the people God sends into my particular sphere (like the single momma I wrote about). I feel more peace living small. I hear God more in the silence. I see reality more clearly without a screen.

It's hard to let go sometimes in a world that praises quantity more than quality. That esteems busyness and accomplishments over solitude and soul-work. But my book club chapter this month spoke of listening well when God speaks twice. And I just feel like He's continuing to speak to me about the value of an unplugged, hidden life lived well. We'll see where He takes my small offering this Advent...

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

On the Bookshelf: Reviews!



I asked my hubby if we could put up the Christmas tree last weekend. He looked at me like I was going crazy. And since he's the one who would have to bring it up from the basement, I think I'll be waiting until after Thanksgiving. Then again...I'm not above dragging it up myself (#girlpower and all...). But until then, I've contented myself with reading this adorable book (A Royal Christmas to Remember, by Jeanna Young and Jacqueline Johnson) to baby G (except she was sleeping while I held her, so I kind of read it to myself. And the inner princess in me enjoyed it immensely.) Seriously, though, this book is soooo cute! The illustrations are definitely my favorite part!! Very Disney-style-- colorful and so detailed! The story itself was sweet yet simple and would keep the attention of an older child (age 4 and up, perhaps). I liked that the back of the book even had a "lesson" and Bible verse after the story was finished. I'd love to get the rest of the books in this series and follow the adventures of Princesses Joy, Grace, Faith, Hope, and Charity. Princesses, Christmas, and a parable story all make this a 5-star book for me!

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for providing a copy at no cost to me. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]




And then this book arrived just in time as we learned that I would not only need to eliminate dairy and soy from my diet but now also adding beef. Nourishing Meals, by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre, is such a great cookbook for me! I love that I can peruse it freely without wondering whether I'll have to substitute ingredients or tweak the recipe. The idea of a whole cookbook dedicated to allergen-free recipes is wonderful. I'm a big fan of pictures in cookbooks and unfortunately this book does not have them for each recipe but there is a large section in the center with pages of colored pictures of different recipes. There are definitely some unique ingredients in some of the recipes but overall it seemed to be much more friendly to your average fridge and pantry than some regular cookbooks! I also really appreciated the beginning chapters about processed foods, healing the gut, and the rise in food sensitivities/allergies. Great educational information. This cookbook definitely surpassed my expectations. I'd give it a 4 out of 5.

[Thank you to Blogging for Books for my copy at no cost to me. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Tuesday Talk #58: The {Social} Media

I'm in one of those anti-media moods.

Not anti-media, as in all the election-crazy news people. But anti-social media...

My hubby says I tend to be all in or all out. That I go on these media fasts and wash my hands of it...and then binge. Lol. Maybe so.

But lately I'm just questioning it all. I think it's motherhood, honestly. For a lot of reasons.

I have a lot of single friends and I remember being single. I don't want to be the blog/FB/instagram post that makes them feel alone.

I have a lot of friends that struggle with infertility. I don't want to be the baby picture post that cuts deeper into an ever-present wound. I remember that wound.

I want to be real and post the hard times. But I also want to be respectful of the other people in my life-- my husband and child-- and not share their stories that are so intertwined with mine.

And the final reason is life is so good and precious right now that I find myself less entranced by social media...and even disgusted when I find myself wasting time on it. The moments when I'm checking my phone and I look down and see my daughter watching me. These years are fleeting and it's not worth being distracted from the gifts God has placed in the here and now. My brain is fried enough from lack of sleep and baby care, I don't need to fry it more with technology. ;)

Even if that means life gets a little smaller.

Part of me is craving the small and simple. I don't need more FB friends; I need to pour more into my current friends. I don't need more decor or recipe ideas; I need to simply use what I have and my own creativity. I don't even need to document my moments with Instagram; remember those days when I actually printed out pictures and scrapbooked?

These are the thoughts mulling around in my brain these days. I have a feeling they're going to give birth to a decision in a few weeks as Advent begins. My favorite Church season. It's all about the small and the simple.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to do something drastic. Like give up all social media for the month. Maybe I'll even call it the Old-Fashioned Christmas experiment.

Social media has completely and undeniably changed our lives-- and our brains. I'm just not sure I want to be part of that anymore even if I'm missing out on some of the good stuff of it. The reality is that while we may be missing out on things if we don't have social media...more and more I'm being convinced that we're also missing out on things if we do.

What do you think about social media? Am I being crazy?



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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Meaningful Life and Abortion

A little boy is going to be born soon and I can't wait to hold him. Many months ago, I wondered if he would live to see this side of the womb.

I sat across from his momma visit after visit as she talked about her reasons to have an abortion. Each week, my faith would falter and I wondered if this would be the visit she would cancel, telling us she had had the abortion. But each week she showed up, tearful and undecided, letting us love on her and be a safe place to process her unplanned pregnancy. I'll never forget when she tearfully told me on her third visit that she had decided she was going to "terminate." She felt there was no other option.

But through God's grace, the power of prayer, and lots of love and tangible resources, she's now awaiting the birth of her precious son. Her ultrasound with us was the first ultrasound she had ever seen. The flickering heartbeat that first connects a mother to the life within her.

Last week, I stood on the sidewalk by the abortion clinic for a peaceful prayer vigil and I talked with a fiery pro-choice protester. We discussed our thoughts on abortion, on post-abortive women, on poverty and privilege. I was grateful for the discussion because so often in this deeply emotional topic, we stick closely to our own sides and regard the other as enemy. This young woman and I parted ways in peace, not anger, and even discussed our own motherhood and wished each other well for the weekend.

But there's something she said that's sticking out to me like a thorn. Because I think it's indicative of how so many view abortion today. She said she knew that a life was ended in abortion, but that it wasn't a meaningful life. The 'fetus' as she preferred to call it didn't have a meaningful life. And if the mother was poor, even after being born it would not have a meaningful life.

Is this where we are as a society? We can look at a human life and decide if it has meaning and should or should not live? What if we disagree? What if I think it has meaning and someone else does not? This is so relative. It pains me. The child gets no part in the decision of whether or not its life is meaningful.

So much can happen in nine months, both in a woman's situation and in a woman's heart. Yet I see the pressure in a woman's mind and heart to make a hasty choice when she finds herself in an unexpected pregnancy. The pro-choice protester argued with me that if a woman can't afford to eat, you can't blame her for choosing an abortion and that we should give her that right. I think that's a sad solution to her struggle-- let's give her the right to spend hundreds of dollars for a decision that will likely wound her soul and still leave her poor in both body and spirit. Why do we think this is a solution? Shouldn't we instead be rising up to give her money, resources, love and support instead so that she can choose parenting or adoption? Shouldn't we be feeding both instead of ending one's life and continuing to allow the other to starve?

I recently sent an email out to friends, family, and church members asking for diapers or meals for my sweet client due soon with her baby. I was overwhelmed by the immediate responses of these people, offering meals, money, diapers-- even one woman offering to buy baby food for her six months from now! One friend who leads our mother's group at church wrote and said they had decided to host a baby shower for her. The Body of Christ showed up and I was humbled.

These pro-life people are the ones that the world would have you believe are only 'pro-baby' or 'pro-birth,' that they don't care about the woman but only that she chooses to give birth.

I don't think so.

These are the people who believe that every life has meaning. The woman's life. The baby's life. Even the life of the abortion doctor. From conception to natural death.

And so I keep praying. That abortion will become illegal, but even more that abortion will become unthinkable. That those who are pro-choice will see that the choice of abortion leaves one life ended and another life deeply wounded. That we will cease to see abortion as a solution to a problem, but instead to see it as a symptom of a greater problem. And that more mothers will have the strength within and the help of the community around them to choose life for their children. And that every single one of us will regard every life-- from the smallest to the greatest and including our own-- as having meaning simply because we are created by a loving Father.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Really Woolly 5-Minute Bedtime Treasury: A Book Review


I wasn't familiar with the Really Woolly books but I love bedtime treasuries, as they remind me of a specific one my mom read to me growing up. The Really Woolly 5-Minute Bedtime Treasury is a beautiful book of stories, rhymes, and devotions for a little one at bedtime. Actually, the whole book is more like a devotion for little ones for bedtime. It's really (woolly) sweet. ;) Each chapter contains scripture, instruction, poetry, and stories related to that theme-- forgiveness, peace, God's guidance, thankfulness, and so on. At the end of each chapter, there's a "bedtime treasure" which consists of a summary point ("Every good thing comes from God") and a question for discussion/thought ("What has God given to you?").

I expected this book to be a collection of stories about the Really Woolly lamb, but instead it is definitely more of a devotional with rhyme and scripture, as I mentioned above. Neither is better than the other, just different. Though I'll always love bedtime stories and plan to read them to G. as she grows, I do like this concept of a devotional for young children. I'm not sure if bedtime is the best time or if I'd like it better for morning, but either way it's a lovely book-- content, cover, illustrations, and a great way to introduce spiritual concepts and the attributes of God to little ones.

4 stars. :)

[This book was provided to me by BookLook Bloggers at no cost in exchange for a review. This post contains my honest and original thoughts.]