Saturday, October 13, 2018

Cozy, Snowy Cuddles: A Children's Book Review

What I Loved: It's a nice size, nice length of story, has rhymes on each page. The touch and feel element is fabulous-- my kids love textures, especially "fuzzy animals" like these. I like the themes of winter, animals, and cozy snuggles.

What I Didn't Love: It's not as good of quality as some board books. I like when the covers of board books are the "bubble" type-- they just seem sturdier. This one feels like it could possibly get bent, yet it's definitely thicker than basic cardboard. Although I love the rhymes on each page, I would have liked an actual story. This is simply four-line rhymes on each page describing the animals cuddling. Definitely still a sweet idea, but my daughter is starting to like the idea of stories.

Overall, not my favorite board book, but it's a sweet gift idea (and good price!) for the holidays. Little ones would definitely like the lovely illustrations and the touch and feel furry animals.

4 out of 5.

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for my complimentary copy in exchange for this honest and original review.]

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Currently // October

It's been so long, I can't believe how the days fly by...yet the days are "not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string." -Anne of Avonlea 

It's a perfect season to quote Anne, no? I have her famous October quote on my chalkboard this year. Here's what we're currently up to these days...some of our pearls slipping off a string.

wearing // the baby. haha. a lot! He still takes the majority of his naps in the Lillebaby carrier but here and there will surprise me with a longish stretch in the crib. Other than him, I want to be wearing cute sweaters and leggings as soon as our crazy weather cools down. We're still pushing 80's this week.

collecting // a handful of fall recipes to make. Little G loves to make muffins with me these days-- we made some delish chocolate chip pumpkin ones, and a few days ago I made to-die-for Snickerdoodle Pumpkin Bread. This weekend I hope to make Butternut Squash and Spinach Sausage Penne for dinner.

making // more time for prayer. It's an ongoing process but it's encouraging to feel closer to the Lord and to find time to seek Him even with the littles around. I'm also trying to be more intentional praying for the 40 Days for Life campaign going on right now and was able to organize a pray-from-home network of other moms who can't commit to go to the actual abortion clinic to pray on a weekly basis.

taking // life slowly. My schedule has slowed down so much the past month and I'm finding that I love being home with the kids and having a mostly free schedule. It's so much easier to roll with the craziness of an infant and a toddler when we don't have lots of deadlines. It also frees me to be more creative at home, more on top of the laundry (but never completely! ha!), host a play date, or take fun trips like to a park or the library.

planning // Christmas presents. I know, I know, I am definitely getting excited about the holidays's such a great time from here to the rest of the year. I love fall, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas. And I'm getting the crocheting bug again and started on a market bag. I also plan to try my hand at rubber stamping some drink coasters. We shall see.

That's it here! What are your current pearls slipping off a string?

Linking up with another famous Anne for the Currently link-up! ;)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

God Bless Our Bedtime Prayers: A Book Review

I just love this author and series of books. Beautiful illustrations, sweet rhymes, good quality board books that are just the right length for young attention spans. This particular book is about the animals at bedtime as well as different prayers to help kids learn all the things you can talk to God about. It's a lovely way to introduce bedtime prayer to children as a way to talk with God about your day, your struggles, or your desires rather than having bedtime prayer be just a mindless habit. You can never start too young to introduce your children to the God who loved them into being. Books like these are a great way to do that. 5 out of 5.

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

Friday, August 17, 2018

7 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

I recently read 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke and it was fascinating. Like, the best book I've ever read on technology/smartphones. I'm usually pretty into articles that discuss the neurological and psychological effects of technology...I think it's because I grew up during the unveiling of the internet and didn't have a cell phone until college. So I remember the Dark Ages, haha, and have memories with which to compare the status quo. And while there are definitely perks to social media and the internet, I'm not convinced we're actually in a better place. 12 Ways focused more on the spiritual side of things than the psycho/neuro stuff, and that actually was more compelling for me to make changes. No it's wasn't that it's a sin to have a smartphone but rather he talked about ways our phone might be holding us back from prayer as well as becoming the people we're meant to be. Here are a few ways our smartphones are changing us (a la the book. GET IT, by the way. ;) But be prepared for it to change your life if you read it slowly and intentionally.)

1. We have a constant temptation for distraction. Yes, even without media we'll be tempted to distraction from the important or mundane things (that's human nature as well as spiritual warfare) but never before have we had such flashy, ever-changing, cutting-edge distractions literally at our fingertips.

2. We are conditioned to skim articles, books, and other written sources by our phones which teach us to scroll quickly due to information overload. We also develop a decreased attention span because of this. Anyone notice their ability to focus in prayer or spiritual reading decrease with an increased use of smartphones or internet, or is that just me?

3. We become desensitized to real and lasting pleasures or beauty. For example, we see pictures of vacations (Grand Canyon, etc.) or nature or cute kids through our feeds and get so used to the mediated thing that the real things holds less pleasure for us. We also become addicted to the quick flashy updates and don't have that deeper appreciation for real beauty around us.

4. Technology can feed superficial relationships. Our online friendship habits (clicking 'like', a quick comment here or there) become our real-life relational habits. We keep it quick, superficial, and avoid long or difficult encounters. Even our emotions are altered by our online habits-- instead of sitting with a grieving person and learning how to grieve, cry, or be silent with them, we can simply click a "cry face" and move on with our scrolling. We are bombarded by multiple emotional events in a simple scrolling session (ones inciting joy, sorrow, anger) but we don't pause long enough to truly feel these feelings. It's not normal and it's changing us and our ability to empathize.

5. Our phones create isolation as well as false community. The marketers for technology sell more items when they make them smaller and for the individual. No longer do we enjoy music via a theater orchestra or even a radio, now we have individual iPods. No longer do we watch live musicals (well, sometimes) or go to movie theaters as much, we can simply watch on our phones or iPads. We are encouraged to isolate ourselves. When we're in public, we isolate from real-life people by using our phones. When we're in private, we fear isolation and loneliness so we go to our online 'communities' and 'groups.'

6. Because our phones and the internet can connect us to people all over the world, we're less likely to focus on building local community or allowing ourselves to be rubbed by people who are slightly different than us and could help us grow. We simply seek like-minded people online instead of doing the work of building relationship (and evangelizing) with those who truly live near us.

7. We become addicted to novelty. We would rather mindlessly scroll through our social media feeds than take time for reflection. It's easier to sort through fun things in the here and now than allow ourselves to sit with the past or ponder the future. We're afraid of them and don't allow the time to focus on see where God might be inviting repentance and growth, change and freedom, redemption and mission.

Not all of us are affected by every single one of these points, but our world in general is definitely affected by all of them. I see our phones changing our social abilities, our spiritual abilities, our intelligence. I see it changing my own. This book was a powerful read for me, so much so that I decided to delete social media apps on my phone and do a "40 Day Smartphone Fast." I'm already seeing fruit from it after only a week, and my ability to live more fully is enhanced. I'd love to hear your own thoughts on how you manage technology and smartphones in your own life. I'll never completely eliminate it (hello, blogging!) but I'm more convicted than ever to put it in its rightful place, to use it for God's glory, and not allow it to become an idol.

Sorry but not sorry for such a serious post! Normal content and kid pics to resume soon, haha. Happy weekend, all, and stay off your phones! ;)

Joining Kelly and the gang for Quick Takes!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Safe in His Arms

I cried at the county fair tonight. And then laughed at my silly tears. Hormones, I said as I shrugged to my husband and shifted the sleeping infant in a carrier on my chest. We were watching the Terror of Vikings ride-- that huge long boat that goes back and forth like a giant glider swing. When I was a kid, it was called the Banana Boat. Terror of Vikings sounds much cooler and more fitting. But I digress. On the very tip of the boat, the part that goes the highest, sat a young boy and his dad. The boy's face held a mix of fear and excitement as the swing went higher and higher. The dad's arm was draped around the boy and held his son tighter each giant swing back and forth, a gentle smile on his face as he enjoyed the ride with his son. The boy began to relax and laugh with delight despite (or because of?) the height and speed of the ride.

And that's when the tears came. There was something so incredibly beautiful about seeing the peace and security that come from a loving, protective father. It was a small moment that spoke of a larger truth. In a world of absent or dysfunctional fatherhood, seeing this sweet cameo of true fatherly love and protection, seeing the confidence and joy it brought to the son, made my heart swell with how good and right the picture was.

It was also a glimpse of the great love our Heavenly Father has for us. This all-powerful Father who allows us on the ups and downs of life because He's right there beside us. He holds us tightly and wants us to trust Him and His protection. Only through leaning on Him can we truly begin to relax and see the view.

His arm is around you and holds you safely. Open your eyes, throw up your hands, and enjoy the ride.

Monday, August 6, 2018

More Summer Book Reviews

This lovely little journal caught my eye one day when I'd been noticing I was in a negative slump. You know, the one where you've slowly gotten out of the habit of being grateful for the everyday blessings and you start to see only the annoyances and irritations and monotony of everyday life. (Oh, I'm the only one that does that?) Even though we know being grateful each day brings joy, it helps so much to have a tangible reminder to do so! This journal is a daily devotional with a Bible verse, meditation, and a unique question for journaling to get you started in counting your blessings each day. It's a beautiful hardcover with a ribbon bookmark. The pages have color illustrations and each place for journaling is just a few lines (nothing too intimidating!). Some of the devotions were beautiful and thought-provoking but some were a little generic or superficial. I don't think this journal would necessary deepen your relationship with the Lord in big ways but I do think the daily habit of writing down blessings and pondering the verses and meditation is helpful in cultivating a joyful spirit-- and this journal is a creative, guided way to do so instead of just writing them down in a blank notebook. 4 out of 5 stars.

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

Oh, the Clarksons have done it again with their thought-provoking Lifegiving series. This time it was The Lifegiving Parent. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about all three books (Lifegiving Home, Lifegiving Table, Lifegiving Parent). Sometimes I feel like their views are idealistic and unattainable, yet I have to say there's a lot I love about their books! I think it's okay to read books that we can be inspired by without fully emulating all they contain. I really appreciate the Clarksons' emphasis on raising children to know deep love within their family and deep love in the Lord. They focus on excellence in every area of life, with that excellence giving glory to God. Lifegiving Parent was very in-depth and I'd have to read it every so often to pick up new things, or perhaps even read a particular chapter here and there. It was less practical than the other two books and more philosophical. Overall, I think it's a great read to ponder the magnitude of the gift as well as responsibility we have in raising children-- shaping minds, hearts, souls for eternity by the ways we spend our days. (But if it's one of those motherhood days where you are going crazy and need to plop your kids in front of Daniel Tiger with some microwaved chicken nuggets, shelf this sucker and pick it up a different day. We all have those days, even the Clarksons. ha.) 4.5 out of 5.

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

Saturday, August 4, 2018

7 Quick Takes

1. It's been a long week but things went better than expected. My husband flew to Arizona to the USCCB pro-life directors conference (he was even one of the speakers for a panel there-- good job, babe! ;) ) and I was home with the kiddos. My MIL stayed overnight with me the first night, I traveled to stay with my parents the next couple nights, and then did the solo parenting thing the last night back at home. Our kids are tough at bedtime and wanted me the whole time (and at the same time *so many tears*) but both my mom and MIL were so helpful with other stuff like meals and the dog and keeping me sane.

Me, two kids, and the dog. We got this. (Thanks to mom and nana ;) )

2. On a related note, I'm pretty sure we're going through the 4 month sleep regression here. Send help. Send coffee. Send chocolate. Um, and maybe send a maid service? hahahaha. Kind of. But this too shall pass and I'm a little more chill about it than I was with G because I'm less concerned that it's something I'm doing wrong and more aware that it's a normal development stage and we'll make it through. (A special thanks to cosleeping, babywearing, dairy free chocolate, and covered coffee mugs to keep it warm.)

Morning snuggles make me forget nighttime troubles!

3. It's climbing temps again this weekend and we'll be hitting in the 90's by Sunday. Time to fill up G's new (hand-me-down) pool from the cousins. And it's big enough for me to sit in as well if I can convince the baby to nap on daddy for awhile. Anyone have a swimsuit they want to recommend? I'm looking for a cute print, modest yet attractive (dump the frump), relatively inexpensive new swimsuit and thus far I'm returning the five I got from Amazon. #notpickyoranything

4. G's second birthday was last week and it was the best. The best. I'd like to call it The Old-Fashioned Non-Pinterest Birthday Party. I'm not against Pinterest but sometimes you just need a good ol' birthday celebration without consulting them, you know? For her first bday, I had the whole ice cream theme with food and decor and games and it was great. But this year I reveled in a simple, homemade 9x13 frosted cake with candles, a family trip to the zoo (our last time for the under 2 discount haha!), and some grandparents and cousins singing happy birthday on our back patio. It was so sweet. We all chatted outside on a gorgeous evening while the kids played in the backyard.

Tuckered out at the zoo

Check out the size of this pool! I'm as excited as she is
although I don't think I'll fit on the slide ;)

5. On a less happy note (#understatement), there's the McCarrick scandal going on right now within the Catholic Church. It's so deeply disturbing to unearth such corruption. Yet I really appreciated this letter from Ralph Martin of Renewal Ministries. It's long but comprehensive, and he makes some great points about the amount of corruption we allow when we gloss over the Gospel and the hard teachings of Christ. That it's okay to be upset with this and acknowledge there is corruption within the Church and still acknowledge that this same Church will withstand the gates of hell in the end. Pray, pray, pray. And maybe take some time to read it for some helpful thoughts.

6. I'm still loving my Kindle and reading lots of books this summer. I'm currently in the middle of 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (can't remember the author right now), and I just finished Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. The latter was a painful read as it's based on a true story (a woman who stole children from poor families and sold them as 'orphans' to the rich from the 1920's to 1950). I haven't decided if I'd recommend it or not but it was a powerful read that's staying with me. Kinda like The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I think I need some light fiction for awhile.

7. I'm so excited to be a new contributing writer for! I'll be writing once a month for them. Check out their website for tons of resources for living your vocation to the fullest. I love their book lists and went there last year to look for ideas for my book club.

Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy the other quick takes at Kelly's!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

I Like Big Trucks {A Book Review}

Little G is currently into anything that moves. She loves trains, fire engines, and trucks. It's cute to see my little girly-girl princess also get so excited when she hears the trains go through our town or sees a big truck working on the new houses in our neighborhood. I thought this book would be a fun one for her, and likely baby J will enjoy it when he gets older too. The book is a sweet little story with lots of fun trucks to look at-- and feel! Touch and feel books are a lot of fun for her at this age. My favorite part of the book is the last page, after the trucks have done their jobs for the day, because it says "Goodnight and God bless." Just a sweet reminder of why even non-religious stories can bring the Lord into everyday life when they're from a Christian publisher. I appreciate that. The only negative to the book was that it seems a little more cheaply-made than some we've had from this publisher. The pages a slightly thinner than a normal board book so I'm hoping they don't bend. The touch and feels could be a bit more raised as well. Other than that, it's a cute addition to our shelf.

4 out of 5 stars.

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

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Quick Takes // Vacations, Babies, and Life Lessons

1. Our homeless house guest is no longer homeless! He will be moving into an apartment this weekend. There is just so much I could say but I might instead write a post about some things I've learned in the last six weeks...when J came into our home, I was a woman recently diagnosed with postpartum depression with a transitioning toddler and a non-sleeping reflux newborn. We were probably crazy for doing what we did, but maybe sometimes God calls us to the crazy, you know?  And there's always grace in the crazy. God provided in many incredibly tangible ways. We also had some powerful and beautiful moments with J when it came to sharing our faith in Jesus and His plans for us. But to keep it real, there were also many moments when I realized I am definitely not Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side. ;)

2. We are having a very hot summer, but are enjoying it nonetheless. G still takes a decent nap in the afternoon, so I tend to avoid the hottest time anyway. Our mornings and evenings are pretty pleasant and I've loved seeing G explore and play outdoors. Her favorite things right now are chalk, bike rides, and playing basketball with daddy. We also enjoyed this fun moon sand recipe.

3. Y'all know my love for garage sales. There are three neighborhoods around here that have such great, family-friendly garage sales each year and I always mark my calendar like it's a holiday. It makes it easy for me to clothe our babes and find toys/gifts to put away for birthdays or Christmas. My hubby laughs at me for making it such a big event and says he never sees me happier than when I'm going garage-saling, haha! I do love a good deal and it's so fun to see the random finds! This year I found adorable trick-or-treat costumes for the kids (see pics below), lots of clothes for our little boy, a Bumbo seat that I've been wanting, and some cute wall, and more, haha!

4. So real life. I started this on Friday during naptime and am now finishing up on Sunday after the kids are sleeping (one of them on me right now, of course...).

5. We had a great time this weekend with my family's second annual "river vacation." My parents live on a river and my siblings and their families all came and spent the night. It was our first time taking the little man on an overnight trip and for the most part, both kids did really well but I had a few unseemly moments of letting the stress get to me. (why do I always feel the need to confess on this blog to you all??) Despite my weak moments, we so enjoyed the rest of the trip, especially a boat ride with sweet G (she looooved 'driving' with Grandpa) and the public splash pad near their house. G cracked me up by carrying around a plastic watering can the whole time, barely wanting to get wet, and with a very intense look on her face as she filled and emptied the can over and over and over.

6. My husband and I had been talking about doing a small mini family vacation this month (we're pretty satisfied with just the fun of a night or two in a hotel and something nearby touristy...or maybe that's just because about all we can afford! ha!) but JP is not a fan of his carseat lately. As in screams and screams anytime we put him in the car and only occasionally calms down if we have the AC on the can't-hear-myself-think-its-so-loud-level and put his window down we're rethinking the timing of a trip until he's a little older and (hopefully!!) outgrows this anti-carseat phase. Hubby (a history major) wants to go to Gettysburg and I (just general history buff) am totally up for it if said little man gets better with car trips. Until then, it might just be a staycation around here...

7. Here comes the photo dump. Hope you had a fabulous weekend, friends! Get your coffee ready for tomorrow...we can do this, Monday!

Thankfully my parents are only an hour away...

He just wants to eat the monkey up...I just want to eat him up.

The Pinterest play sand. 

My little zoo. Love these two so much. Motherhood is so hard some days,
but these babies just have my whole heart.

Perfect way to end the day. Water can be so peaceful.

And there's me, hanging out in the bow. This weekend of sun and swimsuits
made me realize how much baby weight is hanging on me for dear life!!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Everything Is Already Okay

A newborn, a toddler, and a homeless man. Never in a million years did I think I'd be living with all three under one roof. Yet here we are.

When my husband originally asked me if we could shelter this man with no family and no money, who had lost a job and would soon have to move out of his current apartment...I said no. I was overwhelmed with a reflux baby, sleep deprivation, and a moody toddler. I could barely find time and energy to take care of our little crew, surely God wasn't calling us to do this and add one more? (I know, I know. So selfish of me when we are so blessed, but I'm keeping it real, y'all.)

But then a couple days later in prayer I knew He was. And so we invited him (or Him? -Matthew 25:40) into our home.

About once a week I start to get panicky about finances and time and energy and how long can we keep doing this. In the middle of last week, I had one of those days. I was on the way to the grocery and just feeling weary and overwhelmed. Not quite discouraged, but just on the brink. I asked God for some sort of sign. He's already given us several affirmations (like the time a family sent us a random gift card in the mail, not even knowing about our guest, that just happened to be the amount I had spent extra on groceries that week) but I felt like I needed a hug from God...a sign that He was with me, He cared, and He would work things out for all of us.

He sent me that sign in the meat section of Aldi's. A lovely middle-aged black woman saw me looking at the chicken prices while my sleeping baby was strapped to my chest in a carrier. She oohed over him and asked a few questions, then when we were going our separate ways she pointedly and emphatically said, "GOD BLESS you honey, and GOD BLESS your baby." Immediately my mind went back to my prayer and I had tears in my eyes as this woman blessed us. I wanted to share it with her but was afraid I'd break down in the grocery and how silly that would look over a simple "God bless you."

Instead I silently prayed for her as I continued through the grocery, encouraged by God reaching out to me through her. After bagging my groceries and heading out to my car, I noticed her getting into her van. She saw me walking through the parking lot and drove over, got out of her car, and started loading my groceries into my trunk. "That way you can get the baby into the car sooner and out of this hot weather," she said.

I knew there was no excuse to not share my story with her now, so I quickly mentioned how I'd prayed for God to reach out to me today and how much it meant that she had been a believer and blessed us in the grocery. Before I could even finish, she wrapped her arms around me and the baby in a big hug and started praying over us. It was so beautiful. The best part was when she prayed:

"Lord, we know that you are at work and going to make everything okay...we know that because of You, everything is already okay."

And then she was gone. And my day was changed.

What an incredible encounter. It was such a powerful reminder that when we ask God to show up, He does. When we ask Him for a hug, sometimes He gives us a real one.

And when we know Him and trust Him in this life, everything is already okay.

(I would love your prayers for our friend...God has found him a job and now we are looking for inexpensive apartment.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Summer Bucket List 2018

Since it's only a couple days until summer officially begins, I decided I need to finalize our Summer Bucket List! My husband and I have been discussing things to put on it and I realized we both have different ideas when it comes to the goal of a bucket list! My Type A personality wants to put all realistic yet creative things with the goal being to cross the majority-- if not all-- of the items off. His spontaneous, dreamer personality wants to put all sorts of fun and crazy ideas on a bucket list even if we only get the chance to do a few. What do you like to put on a bucket list?

(For the record, this one will probably include more the small-scale, realistic stuff I'd like to do with the kids...and then we'll create a bigger, more outlandish family one, haha!)

Summer Bucket List 2018

1. Schedule a family photo session
2. Go on a hike
3. Decorate the house with some fun summer photos
4. Go to the zoo
5. Pack a picnic
6. Swim in a pool
7. Visit a local festival
8. Make fruit-infused water (strawberry-mint-cucumber is amazing!)
9. Run with our jogger stroller
10. Take a mini vacation
11. Visit family around the state
12. Enjoy the farmer's market
13. Go to a baseball game
14. Make popsicles
15. Sit around a backyard campfire
16. Pick berries
17. Explore the library / Go to storytime
18. Meet up with old friends for a girls night out
19. Run through a sprinkler
20. Grill peaches and pineapple

Saturday, June 16, 2018

God's Blessing Day by Day: A Book Review

I've always really enjoyed daily devotionals. Maybe it's type-A of me, but I like a structured daily plan for spiritual nourishment and inspiration. I definitely like other forms of prayer, but daily devotionals help keep us accountable and consistent in our walk with God, and they encourage us to set aside time each day to spend with God.

I'd like to instill this practice into my children, and I know it will change and evolve over the years. So far we have been trying to get into the habit of offering our day to God (Morning Offering), asking our guardian angels to watch over us (Angel of God prayer), and then praying for a couple specific requests for the day (daddy's job, play date friends, etc). Eventually I'd like to add a song, more prayers, saint of the day, and a children's devotional or Bible reading...maybe even all kept in a "Morning Prayer Basket."

God's Blessing Day by Day would be a great addition to that basket as the kids get older. It's a devotional for all the days of the year, but not marked by date so you can start it any time of the year. It has cute illustrations, a Bible verse to ponder, a reflection, a short prayer, and a summary phrase to remember throughout the day. I would say this devotional would be best for maybe ages 5-10, although since we don't have kids those ages yet I may be way off. The content is beyond toddlers for understanding, yet possibly too childish for kids over 10. I like the simple lessons of each devotional-- things like helping others, remembering God's love, being a good friend, singing for the Lord, and God taking care of us. It's definitely pretty basic when it comes to faith topics, but that can be good for children. I'd prefer it were a Catholic devotional because it definitely would be great to have additional content on the grace from the sacraments, our friends the saints, and our Mother Mary, but this could still be a good supplement in addition to other things like a Saint of the Day book, etc.

4 out of 5 stars.

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

Friday, June 8, 2018

Seven Quick Takes // Summertime

1. I never know how quick these quick takes will be because it's usually during naptime. Oh yes, my friends, both kids are currently sleeping right now. Their naptimes have been overlapping this week and it's nice to get an hour (sometimes two!) to myself...although today I let my little love nap on me awhile after nursing. You can't get those moments back, you know?

2. I'm not sure if I'll write more on this or not, but I'm emerging with a deep, beautiful breath of fresh air after being treated for postpartum depression. (I went the natural progesterone route thanks to the amazing Naprotechnology.) It's been a hard and humbling postpartum, yet the reality is there have been good and beautiful days, too, even during the hard. Not every day was dark or depressing, but I am so grateful for my loving and compassionate doctors helping me get to a better place. My OB even prayed over me during an appointment and reminded me that the devil often tells us negative lies about our motherhood to discourage us. Best. Doctor. Ever. She's a saint.

3. I thought I loved our son and was bonding even in the midst of the struggles, but man, lately the mama love has been kicking into overdrive and I'm just so in love with this little guy. I think there's an even stronger bond having gone through our struggles together-- him with his reflux and me with the PPD. He's cooing and smiling these days and I just melt. Our sweet big sister is loving him too. She often shares stuffed animals and toys with him and likes to lay on the ground beside him. ;)

4. We currently have a young man living with us who is going through a rough time without a job or a home. I was at first opposed to the idea when my husband presented it and even said no (um, hello, we have a toddler and a newborn and I can barely keep it together!), but during prayer time a few days later I strongly felt called to tell him I changed my mind. It's been amazing to feel the grace and affirmation from God...we are definitely confident we are supposed to be doing this and we pray (and ask your prayers!!) that we can help him find a job, a home, and a deeper relationship with the Lord.

5. Does anyone feel in denial that we're a week into June already??? Slow down, summer!! I've been starting to make a bucket list for the summer. What are you desires or plans for these months?

6. My sister-in-law had a reflux baby a few years ago and has been a great rock for me with understanding the difficulties of the diagnosis and treatment. She and her husband sent us a Roku and subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. If you know me and P, we have been living under a rock with just a handful of antenna channels so this is a pretty drastic change for us!! Thankfully we're too busy with the kiddos to fully binge-watch, but we've definitely enjoyed The Crown and Fuller House so far. Okay, just me for enjoying Fuller House, ha!! Hit me with you favorite Netflix shows or movies!!

7. How about summer reading recommendations? I'm currently into three stellar books right now: Only Love Today, by Rachel Macy Stafford (my new mantra, seriously-- we all need to live life this way); What's It Like to Be Married to Me?, by Linda Dillow (great marriage book so far-- even just the title makes you think!); and My Daughter's Legacy, by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould (fiction by my fave author Mindy).

7.5...because I forgot to mention GARAGE SALES! You guys, I'm getting so many great deals!! Adorable Melissa and Doug toys, a video baby monitor, cute linen lined storage of my favorite (geeky?) summer pasttimes...

And some photo dumping just because.

Linking up with Kelly! Happy weekend, friends!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Light little updates

I've written some heavier posts lately, so it's time for just some lighter news bits (but unfortunately there's no Quick Takes linkup this week!).

1. Our little love is getting baptized this Sunday. We're so excited to welcome him into God's family and the Church. We're also hoping some of the grace will help him sleep better. ;)

2. I'm currently dairy-free in an attempt to improve our babe's reflux (have tried EVERYTHING) and the diet is not as bad as I remembered from G. Have you ever had sloppy joes over sweet potatoes? Pretty tasty. And this stuff makes morning coffee delish.

3. I do however greatly miss milk and cheese. And we're also literally missing some cheese around here...I made macaroni for lunch today for Miss G and in an attempt to distract her from her hangry-ness I gave her the cheese packet while I was cooking the pasta. I have no idea where she took it and could not find it anywhere in the house when it was time to mix the pasta with it...

4. We had a tiny bit of spring weather here but seem to have mainly skipped from winter to summer...although I suppose it is Memorial Day weekend already and that's the beginning of summer around here. Temperatures are in the high 80's and 90's this week. I'm not complaining. It makes the mornings and evenings perfect and we are chillin' in the house during the high heat for afternoon naptime anyway.

5. We have ants in our kitchen and they are not the cute "Picnic Panic" kind (anyone remember that game??). We get them every year. Same spots. And they drive me nuts every time. What are your favorite remedies? My neighbor said to try diatomaceous earth. Pretty sure I misspelled it yet again...Google usually corrects me when I look it up to order. We'll see how it goes.

6. Two teen girls from our Catholic community came this morning to help out with the kids for a couple hours. I was really anxious about it and don't know why, but I'm thinking it has something to do with my introvert/perfectionist/controlling tendencies because I was hesitant to invite them into my less-than-perfect, out of control, postpartum mess. But it was such a joy to have them here. Miss G had some meltdowns but eventually warmed up to them a little more and I enjoyed just having their friendly selves around as they got to know the kids and I got to know them. Without family nearby, I'm realizing I really need to get more comfortable with accepting help from 'church family.'

7. I've been reading a little less than I was a few weeks ago but I've recently finished All the Light We Cannot See as well as The Nightingale. Both fiction books were excellent and thought-provoking. A little on the melancholy side and tough to read at times (set in WWII and didn't shy away from some of the horrors) but I loved them for the most part. I also read One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler and have been getting together with my moms' group to discuss it. Her writing is so fun and funny, yet I've also wrestled with my thoughts over it and how it can apply to my own life when it comes to blending your other dreams and callings with the ultimate calling of motherhood. It's a perfect one for a moms group to discuss because you can bounce ideas off each other.

Happy holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Loved for Who We Are

Teacher's pet. Straight-A student. Valedictorian. Commencement speaker. I was all of them and more growing up...from wowing my kindergarten teacher with handwritten stories to shaking hands with the dean of nursing at my college as she offered me a future job. I'm grateful for these opportunities and accomplishments, but there's a dark side to them.

I grew up addicted to achievement. I craved success, perfectionism, and the resulting praise. I unknowingly became a believer in performance-based acceptance.

When I became a young adult post college, life wasn't quite so simple. You could work hard, research and study incessantly, do all the right things...but success didn't always happen. Life got messy. In a span of a year, I had a broken engagement, a diagnosis that could cause infertility, and had moved out on my own as a result of (what felt like) my parents selling my childhood home out from under me.

I was broken. I didn't understand how all of this could have happened to me when I was doing everything right. That season of life was one of the most painful and one of the most growth...but isn't that the way life goes? I learned so much about the false but deep roots of performance-based acceptance. Feeling broken was the best thing that ever happened to me because all of a sudden I really needed God. And needed grace. I was letting go of the perfect and finding peace. I was seeing my imperfections, my messiness, my lack of control, and my inability to orchestrate life. But I was also experiencing deep mercy, joyful freedom, and powerful unconditional love.

I learned that God loved me for who I was, not what I did.

Fast forward a few years or ten. I fall in love again. I get married. We buy a house. All good gifts from above. I'm grateful. We're surrounded by a large faithful community. Life is good. God is good.

But then we have a miscarriage. More diagnoses and treatment. We go on to have two more beautiful (and living) children. Life happens. The house breaks down. Sometimes the marriage breaks down. Daily life is hard and mundane. Motherhood is hard and taxes me physically, emotionally, mentally. Is life still good? Is God still good? Does God still love me when I'm selfish and whiny and ungrateful for my blessings? Yes, yes He does. You learned this years ago, remember?

But maybe the bigger question is do I still love God?

In the hard moments, I wonder why He doesn't fix things that are broken, heal things that are wounded, give things that are desired, take away things that are unwanted. I don't want to love Him until He does.

And then I realize I only learned part of the lesson ten years before.

In the deep parts of my soul, I realize that perhaps I've learned that God loves me for who I am and not what I do...but that I haven't learned to love Him for who He is instead of what He does (or does not).

If my relationship with Him is merely about the things I want fixed, healed, given, and taken...then my relationship with Him is performance-based acceptance. The very thing I tried so hard to get away from.

He is always good. He is always giver. He is always grace. He deserves every part of my heart and every ounce of my love and more-- simply for who He is. Goodness itself. Love itself. When I focus on who He is, there is no need to focus on what He does or does not. He is enough. His love is enough. And then life is enough once again.

Life is beautiful again.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Something Bigger

I can't do this anymore.

I have thought this thought a thousand times in the past month. When I'm crawling out of bed to nurse a crying babe who just ate less than an hour ago but the burning acid in his throat makes him want comfort food yet again. When I'm sleeping in a chair in the wee hours of the morning because my reflux baby just can't breathe lying down from all the congestion that's accumulated overnight. When I'm starving from breastfeeding hunger and all of a sudden the toddler wants food stat, the dryer is ringing off with good clothes that can't wrinkle, and the newborn wakes up screaming when you thought he'd sleep at least another half hour. 

These are such small crosses. So why do they feel so heavy? 

Because I haven't slept more than two hours straight in weeks...and I'm lucky if I catch two sets of two hours per night. Sleep deprivation will show you the worst of you. It will take you to mental and emotional depths of despair (you know it, Anne Shirley) that you hadn't known you could reach. Some days you'll feel like a robot, utterly disconnected from everyone you love, even that sweet and precious new baby. 

It's hard, guys. It's so hard. I wrestle with the fact that this suffering is so small compared to others. I recently read this book and I can't begin to think of the suffering of those living through WWII, especially in the concentration camps. We don't have chronic or terminal diseases. We've had church family and friends (even blogger friends) shower us with prayers and love and support and meals (someone even paid for an appointment for our son and made me cry with gratitude). For goodness sake, our cross is in the form of a beautiful, beloved child when so many of our friends are suffering from infertility. 

But this is me. Stripped of all pride that I'm doing this motherhood thing well and right. I'm simply surviving and hoping for resolution. Hoping for guidance and healing and grace...for my little man's pain-- and for the ugly parts of me that have surfaced in the struggle. 

Yet there's the smallest part of me that desperately wants to whisper tentatively that maybe...just maybe...sometimes I am doing this motherhood thing right and well. That the stress arguments with my husband, the resentment that the baby is crying yet again, and the bitterness toward God for not helping us in my timing versus His...that those things happen less often than the smiles and strength (and even a few laughs) between my husband and I as we share the load and remind each other we'll get through this. The times that I snuggle and sing and play with my daughter and my son and feel their soft skin and hold them close and memorize their faces and know that this is true gift. The hundred times I've gently rocked my son close and spoken softly to him telling him that I'm here, I'm here for him in his pain. 

In another book I'm reading, Fr. Mike Schmitz speaks of the importance of remembering in our suffering that we are part of something bigger. Even in the most isolated crosses, we are a part of a larger plan and those crosses can have meaning and purpose. Nothing is wasted. We must have hope in this. Not a false optimism but a deep, abiding hope that God is with us in the hardest moment and He is bringing us through it. That He is using it for greater good. Not in our way or our time, but His. And He is good. 

So I hold on to that. In the hard moments that I cannot think straight from fatigue and the days feel like a blur of caring for these tiny humans and figuring out how to help one of them feel better, I will remember that we are part of something bigger. My children will grow up to (hopefully) contribute to this world and be with all of us and the Lord in the next. Our little home is a launching pad for a mission we cannot see during these days. Only God knows. But He is with us and He is at work. We may not see Him center stage during our sufferings, but we can trust He is behind the scenes.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Currently // May

In which I venture out of my postpartum hole and share with you a bit of what we've been up to! (*hint* Not much going on around here, we're pretty boring and desperately sleep-deprived, but we're so happy and thankful for the gift of our little family.)

celebrating // the birth of our sweet son! It's so crazy how much life changes when your child is on this side of the's like you know it will be different but then all of a sudden they're here and you almost can't remember what life was like before them (or maybe that's the sleeplessness affecting your memory...haha).

creating // Memories for our daughter. Hobbies for me right now are at an all time low with a toddler and a newborn taking virtually all of my time, but it's fun to use my creative juices to come up with ideas for little G. Last week we made homemade playdough that was colored (and scented) with Koolaid packets! Disclaimer: I'm in no way "Pinterest perfect" when it comes to this stuff. We have plenty of non-creative days when Daniel Tiger and Pinkalicious fill in the gap for me.

wearing // Lots of stretchy pants, messy buns, and still my maternity clothes. It has been both fun and terrifying to begin to try on my non-maternity "normal" clothes on my postpartum body. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised and gain a new outfit to wear from my closet...and sometimes I go into crisis mode wondering where my waist went and why the shirt that used to cover my rear now looks like a crop top. But hey, we're only four weeks here so there's a lot of grace for that. ;)

sharing // my vulnerability in this postpartum season with my besties: my mom, my sister, and my husband. The three of them have been my rocks as we deal with an unexpectedly difficult time with a reflux diagnosis and because of that a baby who has not been able to sleep the majority of the time unless held upright in our arms. We just had a lip tie laser revision yesterday and are hoping for some symptom relief in the coming weeks, as a tie can greatly contribute to reflux.

going // on so many walks in our neighborhood and tiny town. It's soooo great to have beautiful spring weather finally! Our neighborhood is full of white flowering trees, yellow daffodils, and purple violets. I'm also really glad we registered for a double stroller for my baby shower a couple years ago -- the time has flown by and we're already using it for two kids. I felt silly the first year taking it around with one baby in it but now my frugal self is quite pleased we don't need to purchase another stroller to accommodate two kids. ;)

What are you currently up to? Linking with Anne!

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!

Friday, February 2, 2018

{Really} Quick Takes ;)

...just to let you know I'm still alive.

1. Poor, precious G either had a fast and furious tummy bug or ate something disagreeable at dinner. She got sick over twelve times in two hours and continued on through part of the night until finally stopping and sleeping around midnight. Saddest thing ever as a parent. She's doing much better today but we're just taking the day slow with lots of crackers, water, and even some Barbie Rapunzel movie time. ;)

2. Naturally, our weekend is unusually packed so we're going to have to play it by ear with what we can or cannot keep on the schedule. I will probably cancel my book club in the morning to have some more rest and a slow Saturday morning as a family. We may be visiting a dear friend in her new home for dinner tomorrow and then on Sunday we plan to host a Super Bowl party (which in my mind = good food).

3. Winter is starting to get a little long, which is rare for me. I think it's the realllly cold temps we've had because I can't even bundle us up for a walk. I am enjoying my cozy naptimes with crocheting a blanket for the baby and reading the book Caroline: Little House Revisited, by Sarah Miller. The book is just like the Little House series but for adults and from Caroline's perspective. I've really enjoyed it so far and am amazed at her strength in traveling over the prairie with two littles and one in the womb!

4. I'm also getting a little tired of winter food and have been craving anything from a farmer's market. ;) Tell me what you're eating or making lately and inspire me!

5. I'm planning to make chili for the Super Bowl party and possibly that delish buffalo chicken dip. When I was pregnant with G, I used to eat Red Hot by the jar poured on tortilla chips. I loved everything spicy with her.

6. So proud of my hubs lately. He does such great work for our diocese. His latest endeavor is a pornography recovery/support group for men that meets monthly. They've seen some powerful things happen in the men's lives and it has made my husband even more passionate about the need for men in the church to have other male friendships and accountability/mentoring.

7. It's my birthday month. :) I used to 'celebrate' all month long, haha. Which pretty much just meant using my birthday as an excuse for anything fun, celebratory, or tasty to be enjoyed shamelessly. ;) Maybe I should do that again this year...but then again Lent is happening in a couple weeks! ;) I've started to reflect on how I want to grow/fast/pray...would love to hear your ideas!

Happy Friday, happy weekend, happy Super Bowl!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Bishop Robert Barron on a Sunday Afternoon

A biography is not generally the first book I'll pick up to read. But one of my moms groups is doing a Bishop Robert Barron Bible study and I've really enjoyed the videos that accompany it. Bishop Barron is both eloquent yet relatable, extremely intelligent yet casual, and friendly yet completely passionate and on fire for the Catholic faith. I would love to be like him when it comes to sharing the faith with others, so when I saw this book not only about his life but also about his thoughts on effectively sharing the Gospel in our current culture, I was intrigued. 

The book did not disappoint! It was so interesting to read about Bishop Barron's childhood, priesthood vocation, faith background and journey as well as the beginnings of his now worldwide ministry Word on Fire and where he'd love to see it go in the future. While not written by him, there were many interviews and quotes of his. I loved hearing his thoughts on different issues the Church and the world face today. He has a deep well of knowledge when it comes to the faith and is completely faithful to the teachings of the Church (including the hard ones!) but he's so passionate about reaching those who have left the faith or those with no faith at all and helping them understand the 'whys' behind the teachings and how they bring us to true freedom and joy-- and God's love. 

One of the things that has stuck with me most was his thoughts on liberalism. He prefers to avoid the labels of 'conservative' and 'liberal' because of how divisive they can be. While he obviously is conservative in a lot of his views and approaches, I thought it was really neat how he said the liberal movement of the Church brought some good with it and we don't need to denounce that. What we need to do instead is move beyond it. It's good to care for the poor, be passionate about social justice, and work hard to speak and act for change in these areas. But he calls stopping there a "reduction" of the Catholic faith. We can't reduce the faith to simply outward actions of caring for those in need, we must also have a relationship with God, cultivate prayer, and learn God's word through Scripture and Church teaching and history. It's a "both/and" kind of deal. Too often I think we like to label ourselves and hang out with like-minded people, but Bishop Barron is bold and passionate about moving beyond these labels to the heart of the New Evangelization.

There were a couple times near the end of the book when I found myself wanting to skim or getting slightly bored, but overall I thought this was a fascinating read that made me want to dig deeper into the wealth of Church history and writings as well as evangelize in the modern world as winsomely and persuasively as he does!

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Little Randoms (and Some Photo Dumping)

1. I'm in need of some new books to read. Hit me with your recommendations. I usually like to have a fiction, a nonfiction (usually related to marriage/parenting/homemaking), and a spiritual book going. I have a spiritual one but that's it...and shallow as it is to say, I have to admit I'm really missing my fiction! I recently finished this book and it was fascinating, particularly because it came from a secular, nonreligious viewpoint but stressed the importance of the mother's presence in the first three years of her children's lives for healthy brain development and attachment/relationships. Obviously, God's grace helps fill in the gaps of our parenting mistakes (thank goodness!!) but I'm still amazed at learning the way the human brain develops and how crucial it is for safety, security, and affection in those early years. This book was so countercultural to the way we view children and motherhood and parenting here in America, yet the author's tone was very open and encouraging and helpful. Loved it.

2. I'm cleaning out evvvvverything these days and it feels so good. I had intended to use January to start organizing baby stuff, making freezer meals, and all that...but once I took down the Christmas stuff and started to clean out a few areas, I realized a much bigger project was in store. I told you before about this fabulous book that you need to read, and it is completely revolutionizing my January. I'm realizing that in the childbearing years (and maybe beyond??), I just don't need or want a lot of stuff. I don't have a lot of time to decorate, scrapbook, etc, and too much stuff just stresses me out. I want a simplified life so I can focus on my family and our day to day needs and goals. I'm not saying I'm 'throwing away' the other parts of me...just that they don't feel as desirable in this season. I don't need ten thousand hobbies; I'm content to have my crocheting and a few cardmaking supplies (or even just reading books with a cup of tea refreshes me!). And I don't need tons of decor; the toddler will just spread it all around the room. I'm finding minimalism and simplicity is extremely freeing mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So I keep opening cupboards and drawers and filling boxes to go out! Do I sound off the deep end yet? ;)

My sister and mom have been my partners-in-crime for a lot of cleaning out and it's been fun to have our G and my niece get to spend more time together.

3. My mother-in-law came to stay with us for several days after my hospitalization last weekend. It was so great to have her, she's always a joy to have around and a huge help with G and housework. My dear friend from Kentucky also came to visit while her husband was on a work trip. I hadn't seen her since her wedding last summer, we stayed up until 1am talking the first night (this from the tired mama who didn't even stay up for NYE)! She is preggo with her first and we are due TWO DAYS APART! Exciting. My husband actually had both of us on his radio show while she was here to talk about spirituality and pregnancy. It was a lot of fun. Maybe I'll be brave enough to share the podcast with you once it comes out. :)

On the air in 3, 2, 1...
Twin baby bumps!

4. We've had tons of snow this year and it's been very pretty. Sadly the temps have been sooo low that we've only been out once to play in it. But today it's "warming up" to the 20's, so that's a positive thing, ha! 

Our backyard view
5. This little chica is growing up so fast and turning into such a little lady. It's just awesome to see how her personality and intelligence are developing more each day. She understands so much and is a fun little playmate. My favorite thing she does is "pour tea" with a plastic teapot and cups and share it with us. She even makes the sound effects. Is it too soon to introduce her to Anne of Green Gables or Little Women? ;)
She finally started walking full-time this month and it's crazy to see her walk into a room.

Can't forget the handsome hubs!

6. Because of my little hospital stint, we got to have another ultrasound and see this little one. I LOVE 4D ultrasounds...the baby literally SMILED as she was taking the picture. It was awesome. 

It's beautiful how the heart expands to love each child as much as only one.

7. Well, look at that. This could be a quick takes post, after all. Maybe I'll link to Kelly this Friday. ;) Have a great week, friends!