Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Child Is Born!

How blessed we are to celebrate the Saviors birth with family and friends and a seemingly endless supply of delicious food. One of my favorite parts is watching others reactions to gifts they receive. It makes me realize what our reaction to the best gift of all ought to be. The pomp and circumstance and celebration and decorating and gift giving....all a reaction to God's gift of his son to us as humans.

I pray you had a wonderful Christmas surrounded by those you love with many reminders of Christ's love for us!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Advent Unplugged Wrap-Up

This Advent I linked up with other bloggers and took intentional steps to "unplug" from social media as well as make this season a time of reflection as we prepared for Christmas. You can read about my goals for Advent here and how it was going about half way through here.

After mass this afternoon, we will officially begin celebrating the birth of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ! It seems Christmas is sweeter this year because of the steps I took to make it reflective. Below are a few updates on how this Advent went for me:

I really appreciated not having the Facebook app on my phone. I found I wasn't as distracted from what was going on in my own house and conversations with my husband and I was using the time when I was nursing to read things that were enhancing my life in some way. I'm really not convinced that I'll download it again. In full disclosure, there have been a few times where I did use safari to go on FB for one reason or another, but it definitely wasn't the norm. As I said last week, I think there was more addiction to this form of social media than I originally thought; so glad that it became more apparent to me so that I can avoid being that "into" it again. 

The Relevant Radio app was actually only used a handful of times, but I found it fruitful when I did tune in. I'm excited to keep using this as a way to learn more and grow in my faith and am grateful that it was part of this Advent season for me.

Being aware of the daily readings allowed me to follow along with the Advent season and gave me something to reflect on each day. This is something I have done intermittently in the past, but I really hope to keep this as a part of my day from now on. 

Setting aside time for Brandon and I to reflect upon quotes from Padre Pio and a corresponding bible verse was also helpful. We talked about things we wouldn't have otherwise and it was a good reminder each morning and evening that Advent is a time for reflection and preparation and prayer. 

Last week in a meeting someone asked, "Are you all ready for Christmas?" 

"I still have presents to buy and wrapping to do. But I'm really not feeling stressed. Advent was a time of preparing my heart for Christmas and remembering the true reason for the season, and I'm just really looking forward to Christmas."

Thanks to Haley for providing the inspiration to unplug and be intentional this Advent, and for hosting this link-up.

Have a very, very Merry Christmas. I wish you and your family many blessings as you celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Five Favorites (vol. 10)

Winter is upon us here in Iowa which means I'm cold. Let's be real, though, I'm cold in July. Below are my five favorite ways to warm up!

We put a Keurig on our wedding registry--and received it from my generous aunt and uncle. I am so glad we have this thing because I have to be honest and tell you that I hardly ever brew coffee in our normal coffee maker. I drink the coffee when the hubs makes it on the weekends and otherwise go the lazy quick route and brew up a cup o'joe this way. yum-O.

This isn't the exact one I have, but heating blankets are super swell. Especially when my husband is walking around in shorts and a tee and doesn't think it's freakin' freezing in the house like I know it is!

Have you heard of arm knitting? My SIL turned me onto it--get thee to youtube to learn how! It's seriously the fastest project and you get a beautiful, chunky scarf to keep you warm (or just accessorize your outfit!) If you have knit scarves before, here are two warnings: 1) You will be amazed at how fast this goes and 2) you will feel like you cheated because it's so instant gratification.

Love me some glittens. I love that you're wearing nice, warm mittens but have the capability to quickly utilize those digits for things like texting, strapping in your small child in the carseat, or finding something at the bottom of your bag. Bought a pair two years ago, lost one. Bought a pair last year, lost one. You see a trend? I'd love a pair like the ones above in black and white! 

5. Cuddling. You knew it was coming. Having a husband who puts off heat like a radiator is pretty economical. Sometimes I have to ask him if he needs more space before I fall asleep because I pretty much claim the middle of the bed. A few inches over is just too cold!

Catch more quick takes and their lovely authors over at Hallie's!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Balancing Act

Recently I was catching up with a friend who had her second baby about 8 weeks ago now. She was looking forward to returning to work the following week because she's been coming down with a case of cabin fever lately.

"I know what you mean," was my reply. And I feel like I really do. I'm an extrovert who stays (mostly) at home with my almost 8-month-old son. I really believe in the choice I've made, consider it a blessing, and know that it's what I'm called to do at this point in my life. But it's hard!

As we continued to chat, we ended up deciding that although being at home with little ones is not anywhere near boring, it really takes a lot of balance. She was wondering what I was doing to find that balance. At the time, I was confidently able to rattle off quite a few things that I do in search of it:

I'm someone who needs to be doing things with my brain. I read dozens of journal articles and blog posts and editorials from all over the internet. I'm always in the middle of a few books and will frequently listen to podcasts as well. I also write in this blog, though more seldom than I wish.
I also need interaction with people: I have more energy and am a happier person after a coffee date with a friend, meeting with coworkers, or a weekend at home with family. So I still have a very part-time job where I get to facilitate a class on the college level and coordinate the logistics for said class. I'm the chair of the young adult ministry for our parish. There's a group of 8 or so lovely women and their babies, all less than 2 years old, who I get together with each week for lunch and conversation. I attend bi-weekly breastfeeding support group. And then there's the daily chat with my mom on the phone.

And that's how I stay perfectly balanced.

Not. I'm totally still on the journey to finding balance and since having this conversation my lack thereof has become glaringly obvious. I get pretty antsy by he middle of day, especially if it happens to also be the middle of the week. Even if I had a coffee date that morning. If I haven't left the house all day, my husband is greeted by somewhat of a cold shoulder, because I almost feel like I'm out of practice having conversations when I haven't had one yet.

Lately I'm left wondering: I'm able to do exactly what I wanted and be my son's main caregiver--why aren't I over the moon with gratitude and feeling really refreshed everyday in this job?

Oh, right. Because it's still hard. And while many days I do feel like I'm in a really good place, some days are just harder than others. Putting his needs before my own means I have to die to myself a little bit. I have to plan my days around his nap times and eating times. Sitting down and writing or reading often needs to wait until he's content playing on the floor or sleeping, and often it's interrupted. The busy-body in me really misses days of hustle-and-bustle until I drop but babies just don't hustle.

Although I don't when (or if) I'll ever feel like I really have this mom thing all balanced out, I do know that God is using this role as momma to make me a better person. To draw me closer to Him, because you'd better believe it takes quite a few Hail Marys to garner up the patience needed to stay awake with a fussy baby at 3:30 in the morning. I'm being shown what virtues I'm lacking through this form of suffering. And each day, if I accept the grace God constantly extends, he reveals to me the beauty of motherhood. It's all truly a balancing act.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a baby boy who would like to be held.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent Unplugged: Week 2


I intended on publishing a post or two this past week. I even started one and saved a few other ideas. But, what can I say? This season of life is one that is filled with caring for a little boy during the day who happens to be a bit needy...he's such a baby! My nights have been spent knocking things off my to-do list which seems so long this time of year and spending some quality time with the hubs. There's something about the cold, dark nights that make me just want to curl up on the couch. And so my writing has been neglected and I just have to be A-OK with it.

But how is my Advent going? Have I stayed true to my goals of being "unplugged"?

Delete facebook from my phone. I have remained true to this promise and have not even logged into facebook via safari! This is a big deal and the longest I have stayed away from FB via the iPhone since it's been in my possession. I have to say, there is a peace that has come with this decision. When I have a moment to actually use the computer, such as during nap time, in the evening, or when baby is happily playing on the floor, I'll log in quickly to check notifications and peruse my news feed for a few minutes. Then I close the browser and am done. A stark dichotomy from reading every post until I come to the last one I recognize. Perhaps I was more addicted to this form of social media than I realized, but I'm glad to be taking strides to walk out of that fog.

Download the Relevant Radio app. I haven't used this app as much as I originally thought that I would, but what I have been able to listen to has been really fruitful and on my mind for days! If you have this app and are looking for great insight on what it means to be humble, you may want to listen to Fr. Boniface Hicks podcast on Humility. It can be found under "The Inner Life" in "Podcasts."

Read/listen to daily readings each day. Over the last week I can only think of one day where I never went into Laudate (which is a fabulous Catholic app if you've never heard of it!) to read or listen to the daily reading, psalm, and Gospel. This simple, intentional step allows me to make the connection of the day to the greater liturgical season of Advent. God constantly extends huge amounts of grace to us through the readings and I believe I'm taking a small step this Advent to accept these graces, something I've been praying for lately. What a great reminder of the somberness of Advent as we wait for the celebration of Christmas.

Reflection as a family. Brandon and I continue to use our little "Advent Reflections with Saint Pio of Pietrelicina" booklet every morning and evening and have really enjoyed them! They are super-duper short, though, and I'm yearning for a little more depth and braininess this Advent, so I'm also borrowing The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI as something I'd like to read over the next two weeks! I'm only about 6 pages in but already have learned something! (Did you know that exegesis means a critical interpretation of a text?)

Advent is nearing it's halfway point. While I'm making progress on my "goals," I'm hoping that as this somber season continues I'll feel a little less anxious and a little more at peace. Hope you get the opportunity for some intentional reflection as we await the coming of our King!

Check out Haley's page to see how others "Advent Unplugged" are going!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent Unplugged: Week 1

Advent is upon us and this year I'd really like to honor this part of the liturgical year for what it should be: a time of intentional preparation, anticipation, and reflection as we wait for the celebration of the birth of Christ!

I'm linking up with Haley over at Carrots for Michaelmas for "Advent Unplugged" and have come up with my own plan for unplugging, primarily from Facebook, during this season as well as making an intentional effort to infuse my daily life with opportunities for reflection.

My Advent Plan:

Delete facebook from my phone. If you're keeping up with my posts, you'd be confused right now because didn't I just delete it about a month ago? Yes, yes I did. But it found it's way back to my phone when I wanted to easily upload a few photos to facebook. The app makes it about 33 times easier than trying to do it using Safari. Soo...the plan is to allow myself to upload photos to facebook using the app on Sundays, if I wish. Otherwise I just automatically scroll through the news feed while I'm nursing and I'm positive there are better uses of my time.

Download the Relevant Radio app. So...maybe this seems counter-intuitive to the whole "unplugged" thing. But my father-in-law had been telling me how much he likes the programming on Relevant Radio and it seems like an easy way to infuse some intentional programming into my life. I'm someone who really needs to be taking in information throughout the day, which is why I default to Facebook so often. With just me and a 7 month old at home, I know that I can still fully meet his needs and be present to him while listening to a radio show or two. And it's surely better than looking at my phone screen.

Read/listen to the daily readings each day. This liturgical season is full of readings that should fill us with anticipation, reminding us that our entire lives are actually "Advents" for the promise of heaven! In his homily on Sunday, the priest pointed out that the daily readings really don't talk about the first coming of Christ in Christmas until around December 18th! Instead, they point towards the second coming of Christ, that which we're all still waiting for. Reading these each day (or listening to them via the Laudate app...I know...more "plugged" but I can do it while holding Silas or getting ready in the morning!) will allow me to remain focused on Advent, the season at hand, instead of getting swept away in all things Christmas too soon!

Reflection as a family. Brandon and I are going through a little reflection booklet together. And it's an actual book--not something online for once! It's actually quotes from the writings of Saint Padre Pio coupled with a bible verse. We each read the page for the day separately when we eat breakfast in the morning (Brandon's up and ready early and I sleep as long as little man will let me!) Then at dinner we read it aloud and talk about if it struck us in anyway.

As Advent continues I'll update on how well my adherence to the plan is going!

Hope your Advent is off to a reflective, intentional start!


Monday, November 25, 2013

Let's Be Thankful.

Oh, it's that time of year again--the last week of November. The season of having no idea what holiday we're celebrating.

When I was in 7th and 8th grade, my English teacher would always wonder aloud what an alien who just landed on earth would think about certain situations. She was getting us to see life from a different perspective. And, you know, I think I'd be a super-confused outer-space species if I landed in the USA during the last week of November.

Can you imagine? There are fall leaves and turkeys next to snowflakes and elves with a splash of scary ghouls hanging from trees (Yup, I have actually seen at least a dozen houses that still have Halloween decor strewn about their lawns...) It's a time spent with family, eating a whole lotta delicious food and really taking a moment to be grateful for what we have. Until we turn around and go shopping because we must buy all.the.things. And the music sings of the most wonderful time of the year which isn't actually happening right now. "Holiday" drinks are available, not the national holiday we're celebrating this month, but for the one more than 30 days away that stores and malls and banks and people-a-plenty have also already decorated for. It's not yet Thanksgiving and we're pumpkined out, already feasting our eyes on the beauty of Christmastime.

Now, don't get me wrong--I think it's great that we eventually find so much cause for the celebration of the birth of Christ, I'm just not so sure it's a great idea to celebrate this holiday before Advent is even upon us! And when I say "we" I mean we. I'm pointing fingers at this strange cultural phenomenon we find ourselves stuck in the middle of each November, but also pointing a big, fat, flashing arrow right back at myself. 

Because I luvah me some Christmastime. 

The teensiest bit of a chill in the air and my thoughts sprint right to Christmas carols and cookies and decorations. There's this fluttering of my stomach while the Nutcracker theme frolicks around my head. Oh the season of wrapping gifts and receiving Christmas cards and delicious cookies...Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la...'s...the middle of November.

When I wake up with Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree stuck in my head (like this morning), I have to remind myself that Thanksgiving marks more than just the beginning of another season. It is a holiday where we have the chance to focus on what is most important to us and verbalize our gratitude. We gather for a delicious meal with the people we love and celebrate what we have been gifted with over the last year. And did you know that scientists have proven that one of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness is how much gratitude you show?

I must say, happiness is an understatement to what I feel about this past year. I'm thankful for the life of my son, for having the opportunity to spend so much time with him. I'm thankful for the constant support of my husband, for his patience and willingness to do whatever is necessary for the good of our family. I'm thankful for my mom and dad and sisters and grandparents and all of Brandon's as well. Thankful for friends, new and old, for the house we call home, for our parish and the thriving community we've found there. Thankful for the gifts and talents I have and for the opportunities to grow.

For just the next few days, let's abandon decking the halls and focus on the holiday-at-hand. Let's show gratitude for the gift of family and friends; for the hardships we've overcome and the ways we've grown; for the blessings of health and home; for the grace received. Let's be thankful without getting knee-deep into the next holiday's celebration. Let's be thankful.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Five Favorites (vol. 9)

Well it's almost Wednesday which means it's time to share my five favorite things o' the moment along with sweet Hallie and the other Favoriters. The prologue portion of this post should include something about having a sweet tooth on and you'll see why!

I love ice cream. Always have, always will. And I equate frozen yogurt to ice cream because it's just as good! We don't always have it in the house...but usually we do. Meet the most delicious frozen yogurt known to man:

Blue Bunny Caramel Praline Crunch frozen yogurt. Your mouth will dance. Oh, and you're welcome.

I'm a grazer and snack much of the day. Last week I found myself standing in the trail mix aisle at Target. I must've (can you do that...should + have = should've so must + have = must've??) Anyways, I must. have. blacked out because suddenly I'm home unpacking groceries and this large tub of trail mix somehow found it's way!

A Handful of Everything from Target.

I couldn't pass up a 5% discount on Cartwheel...that 21 cents really would've broke us. Okay, let me just explain to you how good this stuff is: it's pretty much a handful of a warm, sunny, clear day with big, fluffy white clouds except you get to ingest it kind of joy. Amazing, right? The "everything" is really just dried apricot, pineapple, coconut, and banana chips, with almonds and yogurt covered peanuts and chocolate chips. Why the italics? I may or may not eat chocolate chips straight from their bag sometimes often when I don't have any other good snacks in the house. So eating them with fruit and almonds is wayyy better (or something.) Let's just say my container now contains a handful of nothing.

My other favorite middle of the day pick-me-up is wine. Kidding. I totally reserve that for after baby boy's bedtime. It's taking a nap! I take my naps very seriously and am a serious nap-taker. I have trained myself to fall asleep very quickly--enough of this sleep training for babies, you gotta know how to sleep train yourself so that you can get sleep when the baby does! Thankfully he slept for almost an hour and a half yesterday which means I got to as well=happy momma.

Quick power-napping is a skill I've been perfecting ever since college, when I would have approximately 20 minutes between a class and a meeting, 10 of which would be taken up walking to and from my reshall room. (It's a Residence Hall, peeps, not the dreaded "d" word. You can tell I work in Higher Ed.) I'd get to my room, throw down my stuff, and roll right under those covers, setting my alarm for 10 minutes later. Fairly certain I was asleep within 30 seconds. After college when I was teaching with Teach For America, sleep became somewhat of a luxury with the long hours and tons to do...the first year of teaching is really is as hard as everyone says. So I made sure that I worked right up until I had to go to sleep to get 8 hours (which I soo need unless I want to fall apart the next day) and then I would literally go. to. sleep. Maybe someday I'll post about what I do to get to sleep so fast. All of this to say, napping is my fav.

During the fall and winter months I love dark nail polish on my fingers. I put the dark stuff on my toes all year round! My favorite color since I started memorizing OPI colors is Lincoln Park After Dark:
OPI Lincoln Park After Dark
with a close second by Eiffel for this Color:

Yes, I know it's weird that I have nail polish color names memorized. But it's only like 10, I swear. And it's only because OPI is so clever. Although it seems really glamorous (or something) I promise there's a million things better for your brain to know and I kinda wish I had more room for less trivial knowledge.

So I mentioned wine earlier and now I'm coming back to it. My favorite is Cabernet, so here's a three for the price of one three current favorite cheap-o delicious cabs. (woman, that's a lot of adjectives):
Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon--Typically $6.99 at our nearest grocery store
Cellar No. 8 Cabernet Sauvignon--Usually priced between $7-8
 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon--This is priced a bit higher, between $10-15 I believe. But we drank it one night on our honeymoon so we like to "indulge"--if it could even be called that--for sentimentality sake.

Hope everyone has a fabulous hump day! Thanks for such a fun link-up, Hallie!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Snow and my "sunny" side

I am absolutely an optimist. And most of the time it's really not on purpose. Where some people's thoughts immediately jump to the negative aspect of a situation, typically mine head straight for the positive. I've come in contact with people who aren't so thrilled by this personality trait of mine: rolling of eyes or giving me a blank stare when I point out the "sunny" side of an otherwise displeasing situation.

And so I surprised myself yesterday when the first good snowfall of the season put me in a serious funk. I was not impressed, to say the least.

It started snowing shortly after I woke up. Really it was somewhere between rain and sleet at first. No big deal. Then there were flurries. Weird...I didn't know it was supposed to snow. The flurries turned into big flakes and the flakes came down, at times heavily, for the better part of two hours! There was snow covering the ground and not melting quickly. And suddenly I felt myself panic. Snow?! But it's only November.

I stood by our back door with Silas in tow and watched as the big, beautiful flakes of November snow hit our deck and stick. But I couldn't muster a single optimistic thought. It's accumulating? My freaking out increases, as does Silas' intrigue. What.the.heck? (as heard on instagram) I was not emotionally prepared for snow.

But why should I need to be? Where did my "make the best of every situation" disposition run off to when I needed it most? For the first 25 years of my life snow incited a feeling of excitement and anticipation for me. I have always loved snow, no matter how early or late or surprising it was. So what happened?

As much as I am an optimist, I am also an extrovert. Although I've known this for a long time--being dubbed "gregarious" as a child and scoring an "E" when taking the MBTI in college--I've been realizing lately just how much of my energy comes from interactions with others.

Answer: a lot.

I find that I'm so exhausted on the nights where I haven't interacted with anyone except Silas. He's really great, a fantastically happy baby, but he just can't carry on any sort of recognizable conversation. I'm pretty short with Brandon when he gets home from work if I haven't been out all day. It's like I need conversations to have conversations. And although I prefer chatting in person (over a large cup of coffee...), I feel refreshed being able to talk on the phone with a friend or even just texting or having a convo on gchat! Pretty sure I might die within just a few days if I was ever relegated to solitary confinement.

So why did I freak the heck out as the snow fell to the ground? Because this year the impending cold weather season means more than the beauty it brings. This year I'm home with my beautiful babe. It's so much harder to trek out in winter weather when you have a sidekick and I'm nervous that it will leave me feeling cooped  up in the house. I'm anxious that it will lessen my chances at consistent adult conversation and leave me feeling exhausted with a side of cabin fever. I don't like losing my optimism, but that's the side effect when the extrovert in my doesn't get what she needs--a daily dose of people.

Around noon yesterday the snow stopped, but it was still brutally cold outside (for November, anyway). Although I had a few errands to run in mind, it just seemed like a lot of work to get the baby all bundled up, to take him in and out of the car seat multiple times. "Stupid snow" and "stupid winter" were the thoughts that alerted me that something was definitely going on...

Sometime between when it started to snow and noon, I had lost my "sunny" side. I realized, though, that getting out of the house was exactly what I needed to get my optimism back. Human interaction, even if just via the cashiers I'd see, would allow me to more easily see snow as I always had in the past; not something to complain about, but as something that is beautiful and induces excitement for the season. Off we went, bundled baby and all. And I have to say, the day got sunnier indeed.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Waiting on Writing

Since a few months before Silas was born I have been following blogs. The idea of regularly reading what a complete stranger had to say was at first just that: strange. Now, though, I have around 40 blogs whose posts pop up on my feed and I really have found that they enhance my life in many ways. They're usually well-written. Many of them are quite humorous and make me laugh out loud at the screen. They inspire me to try new things, direct me to new, fun websites, lead me to research different subjects, and think about things with a new perspective. I am so grateful for happening upon the lives of these women (I'm pretty sure every blog I regularly read is written by a woman...) through the words that they choose to write and post for the world to see.

What I've found, though, is that I have become a bit more intimidated to publish blog posts myself. There have been plenty of times when I am struck by something or feel the desire to write, but find myself wondering if what I have to say is really interesting enough to put out on the internet. I've become more critical of writing, more self-aware in a not-so-positive way. In a hindering way. Because when I question if something is "enough"--interesting, reflective, deep, inspirational-- I am, in that moment, taking away my  ability to create. Through my self-doubt, I am robbing myself of the space to work out my own thoughts and document the happenings of this season of life.

And so as I was reflecting today on why I haven't actually written much of anything lately, blog post or otherwise, I decided I need to stop wondering how my writing may be perceived, waiting for the perfect topic, and comparing what I write to others. I need to get back to writing for the person that needs it most: me. I need to tell my story, jot down my thoughts, document my reflections.

I'm going to make it a goal to post at least once per week in the next month, not including any link-ups I decide to join. I know that writing helps me fight cabin fever, and I know that cabin fever sets in quickly. We got some snow today and I felt myself being thrown into a panic that this is the beginning of being stuck in my house for the season. Writing helps me sort through my thoughts. When life feels crazy or overwhelming writing puts me back in a state of peace and optimism, so that I can be a better wife and mom and friend and not be so crotchety when the daily grind throws a swift kick to my shins. It also feeds the part of me who really needs to achieve a tangible accomplishments--I am happiest when I feel useful.

No more waiting on the perfect thought or topic or revelation to write: I just need to write.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Five Favorites (vol. 8)

It's a lovely Wednesday yet again, and this time I actually have a moment to participate in five favorites! Find more over at Hallie's.

As a new momma, I have found that the teensiest bit of pampering goes a very long way. The smallest treat can really turn around my entire attitude/day. Below, find my five favorite ways to retreat from the monotony of life with a babe!

A cup of the good stuff. And by this I mean coffee in any of it's many beloved forms. Cup o' Joe, flavored latte, cappuccino, chai latte (okay, I know this isn't actually coffee, but it's close enough...or something), iced coffee... I've pretty much tried it all and love it all, especially when it contains quite a bit of sugar.
I used to drink coffee everyday but stopped when I was pregnant--not because I was "supposed to," but because for the first 18 weeks or so it was practically repulsive! Good thing that didn't last all of pregnancy and good thing pregnancy doesn't last for life.
On our honeymoon we were always on the hunt for two things: coffee and churches. Oh, and see those cannoli? We were in Sicily and I am sure I will never, ever have cannoli as good as those anywhere else.
A coffee drink of some sort always feels like a treat to me, whether it's from the Keurig in our kitchen or the coffee shop down the street. Not something I need, but something that can help to start out my morning (or, heck, afternoon!) the right way.

Pedicures. I really love the process of getting a pedicure--there are few things better than having your feet rubbed. I also really love looking down at my toes weeks months later and seeing them all cute and painted. When I was living in Kansas City, I'm pretty sure my roomies and I went once every few weeks to get a manicure and/or pedicure. You can guess that I wasn't on any sort of budget at all. Now I'm married and have a husband who's super good at keeping us on track. So good that we have a "Prettifying Danielle" budget and I get to save up our pennies until I have enough for a mani/pedi/massage/haircut. Last Saturday morning I decided it was pedicure day and got to sneak out of the house for an hour to indulge in that little treat--such a great way to start a weekend!

Adoration. Now, I'm sure this isn't on most people's top 10 list for getting "pampered." But the purpose of taking a little retreat from life is always to feel less stressed, right? For me, 30 minutes spent in prayer adoring the Blessed Sacrament is exponentially relaxing and stress-relieving and can absolutely turn my day right-side-up again. PTL (Praise the Lord) that there is a 24-hour Adoration Chapel just 3 blocks from our house! Truly, this is a treat I should indulge in far it's the only one that's free, enhances my life for the long run (although the argument could be made that coffee has this ability), and allows me to accept the grace God is always gifting us with.

Red wine. So mom of the year award goes to me because Silas has definitely visited the winery at least 4 times in his short little life. What can I say? We like wine around here. Especially the red stuff.
Silas is more into the glass itself than the delicious drink it holds.
On the weekends the hubs and I will have a glass after baby is in bed and it's always such a delicious way to end the day! It's funny how just one glass of wine also helps me remember that there's life outside of babyland. Not that I dislike being steeped in all-things-baby all day and spending lots of time with him, it's just so easy to get lost in that world! My glass of wine whispers to me, "Hey, you're an adult and you can think about adult things sometimes."

Chatting with a friend. What a God-send the telephone is! While I have a handful of fabulous friends where we live, I've only been here for a bit over 2 years and so most of the besties aren't in town! Being able to talk to my momma everyday and several of my friends regularly really is a kind of pampering for me, a break from the day. Talking to those who I don't have to explain anything to is comforting and it doesn't matter how long it's been between phone calls, we can just pick back up where we left off!

Taking a little moment to pamper yourself today--you'll be better for it! I find that I can be a better mom and wife and friend when I take care of myself.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Silas James at 6 months


Today you are 6 months old. You've almost tripled in weight, and I'm sure my heart has grown at least five times in size for you since we first met. It's hard to remember how little you were on the day you were born, and sometimes I forget that even now you are so little after carrying you around all day.

You are such a cuddlebug and are usually most content in someone's arms. You've begun giving Daddy and I "hugs and kisses," which really means you reach all the way around my neck with both hands, grab onto my skin and pull as hard as you can, while simultaneously opening your mouth wide and licking my cheek.

Sometimes you fight sleep when you should be napping. I turn off the lights and nurse you and rock you. And when that doesn't work, I put my lips on the skin next to your ear and make a "sshh-ing" sound while bouncing around the room or rocking in the chair, and you calm down. This may sound terrible, but the little fussy face you make is just so.darn.cute and I hope I never forget how you scrunch up your nose and eyes in an expression of frustration and let out a little complaint. Life can be so hard for babies.

You are really getting the hang of sitting on your own. You lose your balance and fall flat on your face sometimes, but you don't cry--you just chuckle. Quite the tough guy already. We build you towers out of nesting cups and you knock them down every single time, grabbing one of the colorful cups and bringing it straight to your mouth. Until another cup grabs your interest and you pick that one up instead.

You get the hiccups at least once a day and you sneeze even more. 99% of the time you laugh right after you sneeze, as though it's the most delightful feeling in the world.

Diaper changes also delight you and you just can't wait to stick those toes of yours in your mouth. You smile and giggle, especially when we blow raspberries on your tummy and neck. We’re met with the softest, squishiest skin! You've always been a wiggle-worm, but in the last month you really like to show your stuff when it's time for a wardrobe or diaper change. And you just love bathtime! No longer do you just look at us calmly while we wash you. Now you’re turning and grabbing the faucet and the sprayer, putting your face in the water as you attempt to suck on your toes, and grabbing onto the cup as we pour water over your head.

Daddy and I just watch you in awe. It's incredible to see the little personality you’re already developing and we find so much joy in you, laughing at every single thing you do. We get such a kick out of the blank, stoic stare you give us sometimes and we love to watch you sleep peacefully. We have so many nicknames for you and will frequently call you Si guy, Little Man, Mr. Man, and lovebug.

It's always hard to imagine the future, but after having you in my life for just 6 months, I am so curious to see what it holds for you. What kind of foods will you love? What will pique your curiosity? What will you find joy in? And what will define your childhood when you look back on it as an adult? 

You’ve brought joy to our lives and we thank God everyday for the wonderful little child we are blessed to care for.



Friday, October 18, 2013

7 Quick Takes about Sleeping, Food, and Fall (what's not to love?)

So I've been thinking about my next blog post for 2 weeks. So much thinking that it led me to an accidental hiatus from writing at all. It was as though I really wanted to have something great to say. Something that reflected how deeply my thoughts have become lately. But every time I'd get on the computer to start I'd be distracted by email or facebook or the baby would wake up. So I'm just going to give up on trying to write something meaningful for the time being, and instead indulge in a little bit of miscellany with these 7 quick takes of what's been going on around here. (Check out much more interesting quick takes over at Conversion Diary!)


Little man is going to be a whole half-a-year tomorrow! It's been the longest and quickest 6 months of my life, and I have an almost 20 lb baby (and quite the lower back ache!) to show for it. He is such a wonderful baby and we've pretty much had zero of the horror stories people love to tell you about when you're around 38 weeks pregnant. Silas is mostly happy with a side of complaining every now and then, and has been a fabulous traveler and sleeper (the two things I'd always joke we were praying for in a baby!)

Yes, I just said he's a good sleeper, and I mean it, too--he will typically go to bed around 7:15 and be mostly sleeping until around 7 the next morning. He does sometimes wake up for a feeding or two, and sometimes he doesn't want to go back to sleep unless he's laying in bed next to me, but overall he's quite the bedtime winner. 

BUT, I suppose this wasn't good enough for me because I tried "Cry It Out" on Wednesday and ohmygracious that was so not fun for anyone involved!

Okay..let me back up. I've been reading "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" because it was recommended by many other mommas. And in there the author talks about how important it is for babies to 1) be on a regular nap schedule (which we most definitely are not) and 2) be able to go to sleep on their own (which doesn't really happen unless he's in the car or stroller or nursing.) And he says that babies can do it by 16 weeks.

SO I looked at my 26 week old child and I tried it. And although I only tried once and you're supposed to give it at least a week: I'm not a believer. Nor am I a Belieber. So we will never be doing it that way again and I am going to say never, Mr. Bieber. Baby boy can sleep when he wants during the day and even take 4 little catnaps. Because he's generally a super happy camper and something else that the book emphasized was that bad sleepers=difficult babies and we just don't have one of those up in here.

Last night I went out baby-less with a few friends who also left their small children with other caretakers. And it.was.great. Sangria + a perfectly cooked burger topped with provolone cheese and bacon (oops, you're drooling!) + having a full conversation with other mama's about any/everything was super nice. Of course we still chatted about our lovebugs, but absence makes the heart grow fonder, yes? Even if maybe it's only 2 hours of absence. I'm feeling blessed to have these women in my life who are in similar situations! I can bounce questions of off them regarding parenting...although I think I may be learning more about food from them than anything else! Who knew I was so food-illiterate? Kimchi? (yes, I googled how to spell that...) Fried okra? Scotch egg? You're probably laughing at my naivete/lameness...and this was just last night's lesson based on what was ordered around me.

And so I'm trying to step up my food game just a teeny little bit lately. Mostly for my husband's sake. Tomorrow I will be making Minestrone Soup! Ok...I the crock pot. But I thought of it ahead of time, made a shopping list, went to the grocery store, and will now prepare it! Gold star, right!?

I just can't get over how beautiful the trees are looking! Boy, do I love fall. I mean, take a look at the tree below. I snapped a photo of it while sitting at a stop sign. 
Here's the funny thing: As much as fall is my absolute favorite season weather-wise, as soon as there's even the slightest chill in the air, I find myself thinking about Christmas. Not just the day but the whole season! There's this little knot of excitement that forms in my stomach, a feeling I've only ever had incited by all things holiday and advent and thinking of the perfect gifts for friends and family members. See, I'm getting myself excited already. I have to remind myself that there are other holidays that happen between now and December 25, other holidays that I really like! So I just need to keep remembering how much I love the leaves and the pumpkin spice everything and the walkable weather and not let myself get wrapped up in the Christmas season quite yet.

My husband and I are Downton Abbey fans. (Haven't seen it? Do what we did and buy all three seasons and watch them as rapidly as possible because they are that good!)

We are really ready for season 4 and really kind of jealous that in the UK they've already seen like 4 episodes! Looking forward to January 4th!

This weekend is soo much slower and less jam-packed than last, and I'm glad for the break. Looking forward to cuddling with hubs and baby and not having any sort of schedule.

Hope yours is great too!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Five Favorites (vol. 7): Photos!

So it's been quite the while since I've written a post, which has been pretty accidental.  It's like my computer knows it's been awhile and is rusty because my "q" key just got stuck. Anyways, there's been lots o' fun things happening around here and we've had the perfect balance of busy and free time. Lately I've been busy writing about 12 posts in my head and then not quite remembering what I wanted to say, and so these thoughts never make it to the keys. But there's a lot to reflect on when you watch a little one take in the world for the first time. He's figuring out how to interact with his surroundings and it's incredible to guess what he's learning by reading his little expressions.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the last few weeks, to give a glimpse at what's going on in our world:

My sister is engaged! SO excited for them as they look towards their lives together. They got engaged about two weeks ago and already have a date and the church and reception hall booked. woah. Let wedding planning commence!


My first niece arrived on Saturday! SO excited for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law on their little bundle of joy--Isabella (Ella) Therese! She is adorable, has the cutest head of black hair, and the sweetest little ears.  Ella made me an aunt and I'd have to say that so far it's pretty wonderful.


This wreath also arrived on Saturday. Okay, so I bought the materials and made it and put it there...but that still counts, right? I was feeling pretty crafty and saw a link to this wreath on Pinterest, claiming it was the "easiest wreath you will ever make." I'm all for I gave it a whirl! And, yes, I do agree that it probably could not have gotten much easier.


You'll never guess what else happened on Saturday (it was such a crazy day!)...we visited Brandon's Alma mater for Homecoming and his five year reunion. It was really a lot of fun to see so many friends and Silas was very well behaved and smiley for the most part. 


On Sunday we headed to my parents house for a wedding. The fam hadn't seen Silas in almost two months, so he was showing off his sitting skills and chuckling quite a bite. He took a lot of interest in Hobo the dog, and boy was Hobo interested in him! Although it was such a quick trip, it was soo nice to see my parents, sister, and grandparents again (although we really missed you Tori!)

Friday, September 27, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Fall, Facebook and Pope Francis

Hello?...yes, is fall available? I really thought fall weather was supposed to be here for the season, I must have misunderstood because it's been in the high 70s-low 80s all week! We sure have been enjoying this weather, getting outside to a park or for a walk every day.  Although I do love the cooler weather fall typically brings, it has been a treat to get a little extended summer!

On Tuesday Silas dressed up in his little overalls and we headed to a friends house with some other babies and their mamas to take some fall photos! Here are a few of my favorites that I took, but there were so many cute ones that others took, as seen on facebook.


You can imagine how difficult it is to get 7 babies in one photo looking in the same general direction. I'm sure it would have been funny to get a picture facing the other direction, as all of us mom's are clapping and yelling and frequently jumping in to position babies.
Our oven has been broken for a little over two weeks now, which means we've had to be pretty creative when it came to dinner.  Crock pot, stove top, grill. Tonight we decided to be uncreative and go out to eat! This is pretty rare for us so it was really nice to not have to cook or have any dishes in the sink. We went to a local place for Mexican food. Yummm.

I've said it before, but I am way too addicted to checking facebook and have been reflecting a lot on how much time I waste. It really starts out innocently, I just check it from my phone as I nurse Silas.  I know, though, that there are about 1,001 other things I could be doing with that time! It's not enhancing my life like reading a book or saying a rosary or calling a friend would.
This morning another blogger (Hi Rosie!) mentioned that she was getting a smartphone for the first time and mentioned that she was going to avoid installing facebook because she'd spend too much time on her phone otherwise. This comment hit me--well, duh! SO I took the plunge and deleted it off of my phone. I can still access it if I absolutely need to from Safari (but in what circumstances does a person absolutely need to connect to FB via their cellular device?) I can feel the fresh liberation already.

The latest interview with Pope Francis has made waves and been taken completely out of context and been the talk of the town for the last week. I read a few articles describing it and quoting it, and I decided I wanted to read it for myself.  So I am, and actually have been reading it aloud to Brandon the last few nights before bed.  We're about 3/4 of the way through and I'm super encouraged by his words and reflections. It's so interesting to me that the media is reporting on what Pope Francis has to say so frequently lately, and also that they so easily take his words out of context. I still have a little bit of reading and a lot of reflection to do before I can make any sort of comment on it.

Want to read it for yourself? Check it out here. Want to see what others have to say about it? (Note: Not all of these interpret the interview in context. It seems like a pretty important thing to do, doesn't it?) Check out what CNN says, what Fox News says, what Kendra says (with links to quite a few other articles on the topic), and what Calah says.

I do have to say that it's amazing how the Holy Spirit works, though. How incredible that Pope Francis can make such an impact on people in the short time since he's become Pope. So excited to see how he will be used to evangelize and change the world.

Lately I've been getting this excited feeling because it's almost October which means it's getting closer to Christmas. I seriously love Advent and Christmas and the Christmas season.

I'm missing my family lately.  It's been about a month and a half since we've been home, which is not super long...but it seems like a lot has happened both at home and developmentally with Silas. Fortunately I've been chatting a lot with my mom lately and I even got to talk to my youngest sister for about a half hour this week!! She's in her first semester of college, so she's pretty busy--so great to chat with her for a little bit, but I cannot believe she is old enough to go to college.
Time really doesn't seem to make sense lately. The days are long but the nights should be longer; he's growing up fast and I can't believe we've had him five months, but I can't imagine what life was like before him.

Have a great weekend and check out other quick takes over at Jen's!


Monday, September 16, 2013

What pumpkin spice lattes taught me about life.

It's obvious that fall is on it's way. We're experiencing cooler days and there's a crispness to the air that whispers rumors of the impending arrival of another season, forcing out it's apparently stale predecessor. Facebook and Pinterest have been flooded with hopes of wearing hoodies, pumpkin-flavored absolutely everything, apple picking, and savory crock-pot meals.

I have to admit, I'm a fall fanatic. I love me some cuddling under a blanket while fresh air whips around the house. I'm all about warm drinks and candles with dancing flames and cozy smells. And if I'm really honest, I'd have to tell you that long sleeves and scarves and hoodies are just a few of my favorite things (all of which must have been runners-up to Maria's list in The Sound of Music!).

But let's rewind to...oh...the beginning of April this year. It had been a loong winter by many standards: many days with low temps, lots of snow, and few signs of spring by the time it typically found itself rolling into town. It seriously snowed on April 19th. Everyone was just set on when will it finally be spring already? pleading with winter to politely make it's way out of our lives for a good 9 months or maybe even forever, because we've really just had enough.

And then do you remember May and June? So much rain! Wasn't it time for spring to be over and summer to be here? Longing for hothothot temperatures so that the pools could be put to good use--so that it would finally feel like summer already.

But here we are, longing for fall in a bad way.

We get pretty caught up in what the weather's doing--and why shouldn't we? Should I wear 5 layers today because when I head out it's going to be 30 degrees cooler than when I head back home? Do I need to grab an umbrella? Should I hide in the house all day for fear of melting? There's a reason we watch the news to catch a glimpse at what the weatherman predicts (the only job where it doesn't matter if you're right!). Conversations about the weather are unavoidable and you'll even share your opinion about today's forecast with the cashier at the coffee shop.

When it comes to seasons, you really have to live in and deal with whatever the weather has in store at that time. You cannot wish away a three-foot snow drift off of your driveway, you have to either shovel it yourself or find a husband that will in order to get on with your day. It's not necessary to make sure you have enough layers with you in the middle of the summer, nor would you be looking for your other flip-flop in the winter. As summer comes to a close, we predict based on past experiences what it might be like to experience fall again (and many of our predictions include pumpkin spice lattes) and know that, whether it's our favorite season or not, we must be ready to live in and deal with it.

And isn't this how the seasons of life work, too?

Here I am in a new season, one entitled "Mommyhood." And it's all pretty different than that of "College Student" or "Newlywed" or "Student Activities Asst. Director." It's taking some getting used to, but I'm realizing that I just have to live in it and deal with it. Not in a sarcastic, bitter "deal with it!" way...a day-by-day, learning the ropes and the pace and experiencing it's joy kind of "deal with it." I had nine months of knowing I would birth this precious child, pregnancy being really it's own kind of season.  I prepared for this season by listening to what others had to say about it, by reading books and being prayerful and intentional about what we wanted our lives with children to look like.

And while it mostly resembles the pumpkin flavors of fall and the blooming flowers of spring, it also looks like a driveway that needs to be shoveled sometimes. I find myself loving kissing his scrumptious cheeks, watching his curiosity at what's going on around him, his cute little chuckles as he grabs his feet on the changing table; all the while aching just a little bit for previous seasons when I could make spontaneous plans and take a shower without being interrupted. I'm also caught longing for the seasons to come, when I can leave him at home to run to the store, watch him find his passions, when he will be able to tell me exactly how he feels and what he wants in life (although maybe I won't be so grateful for that during the teenage years...).

There are times when I'd watch people who were clearly in a different season than me and find myself wondering what it would be like to go back, or spring forward, to that time. Would it be easier, more carefree? Do they appreciate how "easy" they've got it? Would I remember how it felt to be right where I am now? Are they looking at me, wishing they had little ones again?

I've realized that in order to get through this season of life--filled with long days with someone who can't carry much of a conversation, seeing 3am more often than I'd prefer, being so busy but feeling like I got nothing done at the end of the day, changing many diapers and having a little one practically glued to my side--in order to really thrive right now, I need to just live in it. I need to appreciate cuddle time with the little man, my ability to give him exactly what he needs during mid-night wake-up calls. I need to remember that he won't be small forever, snuggle him close and tickle his little toesies often. I need to know that I'm fully equipped to be his momma, even when I'm going through learning curves myself and feel like a mega-failure.

I know I'll look back fondly on these days, the joy they brought and the journey they led to. I need to live in and deal with the challenging--mentally, physically, and emotionally--because this is just a season of life.

And how quickly the seasons change.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Five Favorites (vol. 6)

Back for more five favorites because it's just such a good excuse for a random blog post. Guest hosted by the lovely and hilarious Grace over at Camp Patton.  If I choose this week's theme to be "no theme," have I actually chosen a theme?

These pretzels.
Um, excuse me Snyder's of Hanover but pretzels aren't supposed to be this delicious or addicting.  I meant to bake bread yesterday to bring as my snack to pass for Park Mama's, but Silas was preeettyy clingy, and so that just didn't happen. What did happen was me stopping at the nearest drugstore and picking up some of these puppies, and I believe I may have passed on my addiction to a few others (so sorry I'm not sorry!) Fortunately Unfortunately there was a bit leftover that I brought home with me and now I'm just like "eat all the pretzels!"

In less overly-processed food news, I was totally "pinspired" today. Recently I've realized that I need to back off from Facebook, ie: going on like 30 times a day for no good reason and against my better intentions. So I've been checking out pinterest when feeling the need to do something with my brain while nursing. I pinned a link to crockpot meals and decided the lasagna one sounded uh-may-zing, and so it is currently cooking on my counter! Usually I'd give myself pretty low marks when it comes to thinking of what to make for dinner prior to 5pm, so I'm just a little bit impressed with myself.

I'm currently in a Facebook Women's Bible Study. (I'm aware this doesn't help the whole "don't go on FB as much, but at least it's using it in a much more intentional way!) We're studying the last chapters of Luke currently and I have to say that I'm really enjoying this structured and accountability-driven way of diving into Scripture. It has led me to really think about my vocation, loving others, humility, and my prayer life. It's really interesting to be able to share our reflections with one another and be inspired by these women without ever setting foot in the same room with them. Technology has it's downfalls, but it's inspiring to see it's fruits as well!

This post by Ashley at Narrative Heiress really struck a chord with me.  She talks about being at home with babies and the aspects of life that come with it...I find hope in reading other mom blogs because it reminds me that there are others out there doing what I'm doing. They're doing the silence and sometimes-isolating and the hard and the exhaustion...and they're doing the fulfilling and wonderful.

My little man and I get to spend a lot of time together. There really is nothing like being a parent. and we were told this over and over when we were pregnant. "You'll never feel so much love as you do looking at your child, and we can't explain it...but you'll know when you feel it." It's like trying to describe what it's like to see a shooting star, but you really can't imagine it until you watch one cross the sky.
Silas wasn't quite sure what to think of his first swing ride.

Happy hump day! (in the Geico camel's voice, of course!)

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