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 decor...um, 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 slightly...so 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 baskets...one 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.