Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Next year we'll have a cute little one to dress up!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday 5 - Gratitude (vol. 2)


I'm grateful for the baby I'm carrying.

I'm grateful that my little one has a little while longer to stay snuggled up inside me and continue to grow.
(Due date is four weeks from today.)

I am grateful that I've had a wonderful partner in my husband with whom I've shared this pregnancy.


I am grateful that this baby will be born to parents full of love for him/her and for each other.

I am grateful that I can trust in God to guide me into my unknown future as a mother.

Maternity pictures were taken by Red Fern Photography.  If you live in the Raleigh-Durham area, I highly recommend Rebecca.  She spent two hours with my husband and me, was incredibly sweet and professional, and very reasonably priced.  I don't receive anything from recommending her, I simply want to pass on this information to anyone else in the area that may be looking for a great photographer.  I can't wait for her to take our newborn photos when our baby arrives!

I'm linking up to the Sunday 5 - Gratitude with Letters from Momma.

Friday, October 28, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 31)

1. My husband’s cousin and his wife welcomed their son into the world on Tuesday!  A few weeks ago, I asked for prayers for them because the pregnancy had many complications.  Thank you to all those who prayed for them, both mama and baby are healthy! 

2. My brother-in-law proposed to his girlfriend on Wednesday! The two met on Catholic Match earlier this year (it’s becoming a family tradition) and only met in person a few months ago, but I have no doubt that this was God’s plan for them.  We were fortunate to be able to meet her last month at my baby shower.  She is very sweet and I look forward to finally having a sister!  (And maybe this means our baby will have a little cousin in a few years.)

3. It seems our family is growing quickly and our little one is the next one to make his or her big entrance.  I only have about a month left until my due date.  It seems like there is simultaneously so much longer to wait and not enough time to get everything done before the baby is here.  Although I have a strong feeling that the baby will be late, so I may have more time than I think.

4. In my opinion, one question you should never ask a pregnant woman is “How are you feeling?”  I appreciate the concern, but I have to answer that question at least five times a day.  And it’s such an awkward question to answer.  Does the person really want to hear about my swollen ankles and constant trips to the bathroom?  Regardless of the intent of the questioner, I don’t want to complain because I truly am thankful for this baby and therefore the pregnancy, discomforts and all.  So my answer is usually the ever elusive “Fine.”

5. My husband is working a ten hour day tomorrow.  He found a second job where he will be helping to run science experiments two Saturdays a month at workshops for middle schoolers.  I am so thankful that he this opportunity came up because we really need the extra money, but I despise the thought of him working six days a week (and he actually worked last Sunday to get caught up with some of his research, so this has turned into a seven day work week).  I am grateful that he works so hard for our family and I often wish that I could do more to relieve some of the stress and financial burden he feels. 

6. I wrote a blog post earlier this week about needing an adult wardrobe after the baby is born.  I got a great comment reminding me that not all clothing styles will be practical for breastfeeding – something that I hadn’t thought of at all!  Does anybody have any suggestions of what style of clothes (maybe even particular brands) I should be seeking out that will fulfill my desire for a classy adult wardrobe while being breastfeeding friendly? 

7. Here's a sneak peek at our nursery so far.  I can’t wait until the room is all ready – at this point all I really need is some kind of storage containers to hold all the miscellaneous baby items (bath towels and toiletries, cloth diapers, wash cloths, etc) that are currently strewn haphazardly across the room.  

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 10/24

This is my first time attempting to write a meal plan for the week.  The problem I have with planning meals is that I always make full recipes (which are usually written to accommodate 4-6 people) so we always have a day or two of leftovers after every meal.  Some people don’t like eating the same thing two days in a row (my dad HATES it!) but as long as it came out well the first time, my husband is usually requesting the leftovers the next evening.  So I usually only make 3-4 “new” meals each week and the rest of the days are leftovers.  This week, I’m sure, will be no exception.

Tuesday: Leftovers
Wednesday: Breakfast burritos (my husband requests this at least once a week!)
Thursday: Cheese Enchiladas with refried beans
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Creamy potato soup
Sunday: Stir fry (ingredients will depend on what’s available at the farmer’s market) with rice

You might notice that none of the meals specifically include meat.  I’m a vegetarian (and my husband isn’t) so I try to make a lot of meals where meat isn’t a main ingredient but could be easily added.  For example, the quiche recipe fills two pie shells – I’ll put cubes of ham in one for my husband.  My husband always adds sausage to his breakfast burritos and I plan to make some of the enchiladas with chicken.  I could also throw in some chicken to half of the stir fry when it’s almost done, but lately David’s been preferring his stir fry sans meat. 

Also on the cooking schedule this week: Black Bean Lunch Wraps to freeze for meals after the baby’s born.

I'm linking this post to Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.  Check out the all the other menu plan links for some meal plan inspiration this week!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It's Time I Have a "Grown-Up" Wardrobe

In the process of packing up to move from Indiana to North Carolina this summer, I took a long hard look at my wardrobe.  Although I have never considered myself stylish or fashionable, I certainly still try to dress nice and while going through my clothing, I realized that there were many pieces I could say goodbye to for good.  I am a bit embarrassed to admit this, but some of the shirts I had dated back to middle school!  Some clothing was easy to get rid of because I hadn’t worn them in years.

For many other pieces, I found myself using one simple question to decide whether I should keep them or not: “Is this appropriate for a mother to wear?”  Some of the items were inappropriate because they were not modest, although I found that these pieces generally could be grouped with those that I no longer wore.  Over the past few years, as I became more dedicated to my faith and confident of my self worth, I unconsciously gravitated toward more modest clothing.  The vast majority of clothing that I purged from my closet was inappropriate for a mother to wear because it was juvenile, sloppy, or just plain unattractive.  I had grown up, gotten married, and was pregnant with my first child, yet my wardrobe looked like it could have been that of a 15 year old girl.  Embarrassing!

I’d like to say that I’ve remedied that problem and my closet is now filled with classy, understated pieces.  Not quite.  What clothes I do have in my wardrobe is nice, although I have many gaps to fill in.  Getting rid of most of my clothes during pregnancy meant that I have not yet had the chance to acquire new pieces.  I don’t know yet how pregnancy will affect my body size (and shape) in the long term, so it will still be several more months before I look for new clothing. 


My husband and I don’t have a lot of money right now to spend on clothing (we don’t have much money to spend on necessities either!), but I know that when I do buy more clothing that I want to buy good quality pieces.  Instead of buying tons of clothes that wear out quickly or that I rarely wear, I’d rather spend the money on a few pieces of clothing that I can constantly mix and match with one another to make lovely, classy outfits.  For some people, I’m sure that’s easy, but for me it’s a daunting task.  I always wear the same pieces the same way.  Throughout this pregnancy, I’ve been bookmarking Betty Beguiles’s amazing fashion advice (for example this post My Simple Formula for Wardrobe Domination).  I can’t wait to put her advice into action!

Something else I can’t wait for postpartum – to buy an adorable dress from Shabby Apple!  Isn't this one just gorgeous - and the perfect color for fall? Although by the time my little one is born (5 weeks until my due date!) and I figure out what my postpartum body will look like long-term, I will have missed fall altogether!  That's ok though, I'm sure by then I'll have my new favorite Shabby Apple dress. 



 I love virtual window shopping at Shabby Apple’s website because I know that everything they have meets my two non-negotiable wardrobe criteria: modest and classy.  Since I often can’t trust my own fashion sense (believe me on this one, I have worn many a hideous outfit while thinking it was quite cute), I feel like I can’t go wrong with getting something from Shabby Apple.  I need to find a few more stores like this and shop exclusively at them so I avoid more fashion gaffes.

I was really hoping for an excuse to buy one of Shabby Apple's pretty maternity dresses during my pregnancy (why couldn't anyone get married this fall???), but nothing arose and I couldn't justify buying such a pretty dress with no where to wear it.  My favorite maternity dress was "Fruitful".  Isn't the name just fun too? 

If you are interested in shopping Shabby Apple, check out my right sidebar.  They almost always have a promotion going on and I try to keep them updated here on the blog.

Does anybody have any great fashion tips for me to make sure that I buy clothes that 1) I'll actually wear on a regular basis, 2) Look "grown up", and 3) Can easily be mixed and matched into a variety of different outfits?  I know there are many very fashionable ladies out there that have some wonderful advice!

Friday, October 21, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 30)

1. We’ve been spending quite a bit on groceries recently, so I decided that I would not go to the grocery store at all this week.  I’ve been having some fun getting creative with what we already have in the cupboards, although the meals have been quite rudimentary.  I’ll be happy when I go to the grocery store next week to buy specific ingredients for some more complex meals. 

2. I found a recipe for apple bars this morning and was very excited that I already had all the ingredients for it at home!  I’ve never baked anything with apples before, so I was a little surprised that it came out really well.  The only problem: David loved it so it’s already half gone! 

3. This past Sunday, David and I had some maternity pictures taken.  My mom was so sweet, she sent us the money and insisted that we get maternity pictures with each pregnancy.  The photographer spent two hours with us and I can’t wait to get the pictures back!  I’ll make sure to share some of them here after we get the CD.

4. I had my 34 week appointment at the birth center on Tuesday.  The midwife said everything looks great and the baby is already head down and ready for his or her big entrance.  This was the first time we met this midwife and she was very quiet and soft spoken.  After we left, David mentioned that he was worried about how she would be if she was the midwife we get for the delivery since she was so quiet.  I think that comment was insightful regarding the different ways each of us are thinking about the delivery.  I loved that she was so quiet because it made me think that she would be very calm and provide a peaceful atmosphere for the birth.  On the other hand, David is worried because he wants to make sure that the his wife and child are being taken care of by someone assertive and confident. I think his concern is very sweet, but soft spoken people can be assertive too!

5. On Tuesday night, we went to check out a pediatrician’s open house.  I’ve been a little overwhelmed about picking a pediatrician because I wasn’t sure what to look for, I mean, all pediatricians are the same, right?  Wrong.  I knew before I left the office that this was not the pediatrician for us.  She was very opinionated about non-medical issues (she insisted that parents put babies to sleep in a crib in their own room from day one and was very negative about using cloth diapers) yet she was not very opinionated about health issues.  Breastfeeding versus bottle feeding isn’t just a personal choice, it’s also a medical issue with research to back up its health benefits.  Doctors can’t make women choose to breastfeed, but they certainly should encourage it.  This pediatrician’s response when all the moms there indicated that they planned to breastfeed? “Good luck with that.”  So the search continues…

largest watermelon - 262 lbs!
Isn't this flower just gorgeous?
6. David and I went with some friends to the North Carolina State Fair yesterday.  I’ve never been to a state fair before, and to be honest, I was somewhat disappointed.  The county fairs I went to back in Colorado had more animal, plant, and craft exhibits than this state fair.  The fair was large with tons of food booths (deep fried Kool Aid anyone?), rides, and games, but I was really hoping to learn more about my new home, its agriculture and history, than about fried foods.  What are fairs like where you live?

7. On last week’s Quick Takes, I wrote about wanting to find a rocking chair.  Well, I found one!  We bought a beautiful oak rocking chair from someone who was advertising on Craig’s List.  We are slowly crossing necessary baby items off our list in anticipation of the little one’s arrival.  Still on the list: burp cloths, cloth wipes, rocking chair cushions, diaper pail, and baby toiletries.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday 5 - Gratitude

Kaylene of Letters from Momma is hosting a weekly link-up, Sunday 5 - Gratitude.  I love the idea of setting aside a day to thoughtfully reflect on the blessings in my life, so I’m joining this week.

1. While it sometimes is difficult, I am grateful that my husband is a graduate student because he has a flexible schedule and is able to spend so much time with me.  He is able to attend every midwife appointment.  We have dinner together every night.  And he will be able to cut the hours he’s at school to be able to spend a lot of time with us after the baby is born.  I know that jobs keep many a husband away from the home until late in the evening or for long periods of time and I don’t want to take the time we have together for granted.

2. My pregnancy has been very healthy and uncomplicated so far.

3. My mom will be flying out a few days after the baby is born.  At first, I had told her not to worry about coming, but now I’m starting to realize just how difficult those first few weeks might be and I am very grateful to have the extra help.  And I can’t wait to see my mom with her first grandchild, she is just so excited!

4. The weather has been just beautiful here!  It’s been in the 70s and sunny the past several days.  I hope it stays this way for a while.  If this is what fall is like here, fall may be my new favorite season.

5. On Friday, I was at the mall and happened to see that Sears was having some clearance sales.  There were racks of clothes for only $2.99!  I found two polos and a jean button up shirt for David, several nice shirts and a dress for myself (for after the baby), a few adorable dresses for David’s little cousin for Christmas, and a few outfits for the baby.  The total was $47 and when I got home and added up the original prices, it was over $400 worth of clothing!  Money is very tight for us and I was so grateful to be able to get a few Christmas presents and much needed wardrobe additions for me and David without spending much. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 29)

1. I really want to make a fall decoration for our front door, something other than a wreath.  When I was a small child, my grandmother told me that “in her day” a wreath on the door signified that someone in the home had passed away.  I think wreaths are lovely, especially all the beautiful ones I’ve seen on Pinterest, but I just can’t bring myself to put one on my own door because of what my grandma told me.  Any other fall decoration ideas? 

2. The North Carolina State Fair started today.  David and I are looking forward to going sometime this weekend.  From the news coverage, it seems like we should be looking forward to deep fried brownies and cupcakes that look like hot dogs.  I don’t think we’ll be trying either of those.

3. I came across this article by the Pew Center about declining births in the US corresponding with the downturn in the economy.  While it makes sense that people are putting off having children (or having fewer children) because of difficult financial situations, that’s certainly not the case with the people I know, I can’t even count the number of family and friends we know that had babies this year or who are currently pregnant.   

4. Do you send Halloween cards? What about Thanksgiving cards?  Most of the people I know of my generation don’t even send Christmas cards, but I love sending out mail.  My mom always sends out cards for all holidays, never misses a birth, anniversary or another occasion to send out a card.  I started sending out cards of my own as soon as I moved out of the house for college.  I love getting mail and I hope that other people feel that same way when they receive my cards.

5. I only have a little over 6 weeks until my due date!  We have almost everything we need and I’ve washed all the baby clothes.  But I still haven’t really started on my before baby goals.  I’m a procrastinator by nature and up until this past week, it felt like I had an eternity before the baby would be here.  Guess I better get started…

6. David is preparing for the baby by reading The Birth Partner I am so grateful that I have a husband who is wanting to participate fully in the birth of our child (even catch the baby!).  I know that not all men feel comfortable even being in the labor room, and I want to remember not to take my husband’s enthusiasm for granted. 

7. One thing we do still need to get is a rocking chair.  I want a real rocking chair, I’m not very fond of gliders, but it seems that classic rocking chairs aren’t as easy to find as they once were.  I thought I might be able to find one on Craig’s List but I haven't come across any that would work yet.  I am going to start looking around at thrift stores before I break down and order one online.  

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Working On Our Marriage

I've been thinking quite a bit about my marriage recently.  Betty Beguiles's request for honeymoon stories certainly got me thinking about how far we've come since our own honeymoon only 15 months ago.  But marriage was already on my mind, specifically how our marriage is going to change once the baby makes his or her big entrance next month. 

My husband and I have been blessed with a really wonderful marriage so far.  The first few months were difficult as we adjusted to our new life together, which was complicated by the intense homesickness I felt having just moved away from my family and hometown for the first time.  But after the initial adjustment phase, marriage has come so easy to us.  We really haven't had to put any effort into making our marriage great, it just is.  There are a few aspects of our life together that I attribute this happiness and ease to: 1) We do put effort into making God the center of our lives, our relationship and our family. 2) Our marriage is still young, so we haven't encountered many difficulties that have tried our relationship yet. 3) We are very well-suited for each other - we are alike in the ways that matter most (religion, life goals, spending habits, belief in the importance of education and hard work) and opposites in a way that complements each other well (David is very patient and calm while I have a bit of temper, I am a planner while David is a bit scatterbrained). 

Although it's come easy to us so far, I know that once the little one is here we'll have to make a more conscious effort to spend time on our marriage.  So I'm going to be trying something new: consciously working on my marriage!  I want to be proactive and consider preparing ways to care for our marriage part of the overall preparations I'm making for the baby to arrive.  It's every bit as important as having the nursery ready (well, even more important - the baby doesn't need a crib right away or cute decorations on the wall; he/she, however, does need two parents that love and care for him/her and one another).
Earlier this year, my husband and I attended a one-day marriage retreat at a local Catholic Church.  One of the speakers addressed the five love languages I’ve been wanting to read the book by Gary Chapman since I first heard about it when I was still in high school, but I think that I pretty much got the gist by listening to the presentation.  I’m reticent about going into too much detail about the love languages because it seems like most people I run into have already heard of them and have a general idea of what they are (if you aren’t one of those people or need a refresher, you can take a quiz to find out your love language and learn more about them here). 
At the end of the talk, the speaker asked us each to write down our love language and what we thought our spouse’s love language was.  After only 6 months of marriage, we already had each other pegged.  Neither of us have one clear front runner, but rather two love languages that best explain how we feel loved.
My love languages are physical touch and gifts.  My husband’s are acts of service and words of affirmation.  No surprise there, I knew we were opposites in a million different ways when we got married. 
The love languages were very helpful for understanding how to show love and kindness to one another and made an immediate difference in our relationship.  But as time has gone on, we haven’t made as much effort to think about one another’s love languages and perform acts of love specifically tailored to them.  While thinking about ways to ensure that our marriage stays strong while we adjust to a new baby, my thoughts constantly came back to the love languages.  Once you know your spouse's love language, you can do small actions to make them feel appreciated and those small actions will have a big effect.  Sounds perfect for a busy new mama who won't have much time to plan extravagant gestures of love!  In fact, now that I've been mindful of our love languages recently, I’ve noticed some ways that we’ve been fulfilling one another through our love languages unintentionally:
My husband commented recently (a few times) how much he liked it when he came home and the bed was made.  Before I got married, I rarely made the bed (I’m one of those people who doesn’t see the point if you are just going to get back in it at the end of the night).  But hearing how much my husband liked it, I’ve been making an effort to perform this act of service for him every day.  It’s such a small thing, but it obviously makes him so happy.
About a week ago, my husband presented me with a "just because" card that he designed and printed at school.  It was so sweet and so pretty.  When we were first married he used to bring flowers home all the time (at least once a month), but now that I’m not working and we have a little one on the way, we don’t have money for him to bring me gifts.  But my love language isn’t gifts because I like people to spend money on me, it’s because I like to know that someone thought of me and knows me intimately enough to choose something personalized for me.  The card didn’t cost him a thing but meant so much to me!  

Once the baby is here, I want to continue to remember to do the little things that make my husband feel loved and appreciated.  What do you do to work on your marriage?  What makes your marriage great?  Do you have any tips for how to keep our marriage happy after the baby arrives?

If you've enjoyed reading about my new adventures in marriage, 
you can check out more adventurous bloggers at Alicia's Homemaking

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Magical Honeymoon

I don’t remember when or exactly why we picked Disney World as our honeymoon spot, but I know that it had to do with the fact that my husband was (and still is) a graduate student and we would be getting married shortly after I graduated from college, meaning that neither of us had an actual job with an actual income in which to fund a foreign honeymoon.  We briefly talked about a Mediterranean cruise (and we still talk about one in our future, maybe a 10 year anniversary trip?), but quickly settled on picking a domestic honeymoon location. 

I’m sure Disney World was my idea.  I can’t really explain why, but it just fits with my personality.  Although I know many people who think Disney World is probably the least romantic place on earth, I think there is something inherently romantic and sweet about a young couple being able to have fun and act like kids together.  For couples who wait until after their wedding to be intimate, honeymoons can be nerve-racking and stressful enough without the added pressure of wanting to make everything romantic or sexy.  Disney World is far from sexy (although there were definitely romantic moments) so we could just focus on becoming comfortable with our roles as husband and wife while we played together.  Someday, when we bring our children to Disney World, it will be extra special because of the memories of the two of us there together.

leaving our reception
(we had a balloon release)
At my bridal shower, my mom gave us bride and groom mouse ear hats.  They sat on our head table in front of our place settings, we wore them as we left our wedding reception, and again when we went to the Disney parks.  It was so fun! 

We stayed in a condo that my aunt got for us through her vacation club.  It was wonderful, because we didn’t have to deal with the hubbub of a hotel.  It felt very private and homey, and we particularly appreciated having our own kitchen.  While we didn’t make any big meals, it was nice to eat breakfast and lunch in privacy. 

 At Medieval Times
In addition to Disney World, my new husband and I went to Discovery Cove where we swam with dolphins, played with stingrays, and laid on the “beach” (it’s an artificial beach).  What an incredible day and even more so because I could share it with my husband (even now, it still sounds amazing to refer to him by that word!).  We also spent an evening at Medieval Times (for those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a medieval dinner and jousting show).

The last night of our honeymoon, we went back to our condo, got all gussied up, and returned to Epcot for dinner at a gourmet French restaurant, Bistro de Paris.  It was incredibly romantic, located in the upstairs of a building in the France area of Epcot, with a view of the lake and soft lighting.  Disney only hires wait staff from Paris, so it has a very authentic feel.  And the food was delicious - I was so proud of my new husband for trying escargot - and we finished with a dessert of various crème brulée inspired sweets, including the traditional crème brulée, crème brulée mousse and crème brulée ice cream! 

Bistro de Paris at Epcot

Thank you so much to the lovely Hallie of Betty Beguiles for hosting a honeymoon link-up
I can't wait to read about all the other romantic getaways!

Vegan Coconut Corn Soup

My husband is not a vegan - he would like you to know the he likes his meat very much, thank you - but this is one of a few recipes that he constantly asks me to make.  When we got married last year, I worried about how I would make dinners that would both satisfy my vegan diet and my husband's love of meat; however, he has surprised me by being very adventurous - trying new foods, including some entirely vegan or vegetarian meals.  To his surprise, he found many of the meals were filling and he didn't even notice the lack of meat.

Although called a "chowder" in the cookbook I originally adapted it from, this recipe is thinner than what I think of when I think chowder, more of a soup.  This is a great time of year to use fresh corn, but we often substitute frozen corn and it still tastes great.  

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups white or yellow corn
1 avocado, diced
sea salt
ground black pepper

Warm olive oil in a medium stockpot on medium heat.  Add diced onion and cook 2 to 3 minutes until onions become somewhat translucent.  Add diced bell pepper and minced garlic and cook for another minute, constantly stirring.

Add vegetable stock, coconut milk, and corn.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  

Distribute diced avocados evenly among serving bowls and ladle soup on top.  Serves 4.

Since this recipe only uses about half a can of coconut milk, I usually use the rest to make (vegan) coconut rice pudding (another of my husband's favorites) on the same night that I make this soup.  If that's too much coconut for you in one night, you can always save the extra coconut milk in a container to finish another night, or you can make the pudding and wait until the next day to eat it.  It tastes great warm, but my husband prefers it cold.  

2/3 cup jasmine rice
10 fl. ozs soy milk (I use vanilla soymilk)
8 fl. ozs unweetened coconut milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 fl. ozs water
3 Tbsps turbinado suger

Combine rice, soymilk, coconut milk, vanilla extract, and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent rice from sticking to bottom.  Add the sugar and mix well.  Serves 4.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday, Sunday

Sundays are my favorite days.  I love waking up and getting ready for Mass first thing in the morning.  (By “first thing in the morning,” I mean Mass at 10:30.)  I truly believe, at least for me and my family, that attending Mass on Sunday mornings sets certain spiritual tone for my entire week. 

I didn’t always attend Mass on Sunday mornings.  While I was in college, I attended Mass on Sunday evenings because I volunteered at my church’s high school youth group afterward.  While I gained great spiritual growth through time spent with the youth of my church, I simultaneously felt that other aspects of my spiritual life suffered from attending Mass on Sunday nights.  Instead of centering my day around God, it always felt like I was hurried to get homework and housework done Sunday morning before tacking God on to the end of my day.  And without a full day devoted to the Lord, it became easier to forget about Him during the rest of the week.  Since getting married, it’s become very important to me that as the woman of the house I purposefully cultivate a restful, reverent atmosphere every Sunday.

With just my husband and me, it’s easy for us to keep Sundays uncomplicated and relaxing.  Sunday mornings are devoted to Mass.  After Mass, we usually go to the farmer’s market to pick up some vegetables for our Sunday night stir fries, maybe go for a walk or watch a movie together, and now that it’s fall, David watches a few football games.  While we wouldn’t turn down invitations to go somewhere simply because it’s a Sunday (in fact, last Sunday we went to a friend’s apartment to watch football and play board games), we are also careful not to overbook ourselves. 

When I was young, Sundays were spent with family.  My family didn’t always attend church on Sundays, yet even when we didn’t, the day was set apart as a day to rest and be together.  We would drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park to go hiking or watch the colors change.  We would go to the archery range with my dad.  My parents would make sure to be home all day and even if that just meant that my dad was watching football in the living room while my mom did our finances on the kitchen table, we were all there and my brother and I knew they were available for us for anything we needed.  And I know that this wasn’t how it was just in my family, it was the same in the households of all my friends.  Yet I feel like that isn’t necessarily the case anymore.

My husband’s cousin has two children who just turned 5 and 7.  She recently told me that she believes that Sundays are no longer considered family days as they once were.  Nearly every Sunday, she is taking one or both of her kids to birthday parties or other activities.  I worry about the choices I’ll have to make when my own children are at the age when they will be invited to activities on Sundays.  It seems that Sunday has become just another hectic day to get things done.  Stores are busy on Sundays and businesses that formerly were closed on Sundays (or all weekend) are now open seven days a week so they won’t miss the opportunity to make money on Sundays. 

David and I try not to shop on Sundays unless we really need to get something for Sunday dinner.  Although we know that the two of us don’t make a difference on our own, if a significant population stopped shopping on Sundays, many companies wouldn’t find it profitable to remain open on Sundays.  Their employees would be able to stay home with family and attend church.  My brother isn’t able to attend Mass most weeks because he works two jobs and is always scheduled Saturday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday night between the two of them.  He’s been trying for months to get Sunday mornings off, but since it is a busy time for his employer (a national retail store), he hasn’t been able to switch his schedule. 

Since Sundays are such a wonderful day for us because we start it with Mass, I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to start each day with daily Mass.  Now that I’m not working, I’ve had dreams of going to Mass everyday, yet I haven’t gotten to daily Mass even once since we’ve moved here.  I’m making it a goal to go to Mass at least one day this week.  

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Odd Pregnancy Symptoms

When I got pregnant, I certainly wasn’t expecting pregnancy to be nine months of comfort and luxury.  I expected there to be a level of discomfort and even pain, but I thought I knew all there was to know about pregnancy symptoms: morning sickness, heartburn, back pain, swelling.  What I have since come to find out is that pregnancy hormones are unpredictable and their effects manifest in a variety of ways, including some that are just downright weird.  My husband has been referring to What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Google quite often over the past few months, but it seems like all my symptoms are within the broad range of “normal” for pregnancies (but honestly, what isn’t?).  Here are just a few of the unexpected pregnancy symptoms I’ve experienced in the past 32 weeks:

Attribution Some rights reserved by ralph and jenny
1. Food allergies: As a woman who has never had food allergies in her life, it took me about a month to realize why I would randomly have a scratchy feeling in my throat and break into coughing fits.  There was nothing random about it, I finally realized that I had developed allergies to bananas, almonds, and strawberries during my pregnancy.  Apparently they will go away as soon as I give birth, but I haven’t been able to find any information about how this may affect the development of food allergies in the baby.
2. Worsening eyesight: I definitely don’t see as clearly as I did before I was pregnant, in fact the difference is quite drastic.  I can tell my contacts don’t fit my eyes as well as they did before (I wear hard contacts).  Just like food allergies, my eyesight should change back after the baby is born.  It’s certainly not worth it to go to the eye doctor or get new contacts for this short period of time (plus, I think they will continue to change for the remainder of the pregnancy anyway).

3. Runny nose: This started very early on in my pregnancy and still continues today.  Apparently, during pregnancy, your body increases mucus production to protect you from germs.  Makes sense, but I can’t recall noticing pregnant women with red, runny noses, even now that I’m looking for them. 

4. Leaky nipples: Well, actually, I expected this one.  What I didn’t expect is that it would begin around 16 weeks.  Every pregnancy book I’ve looked at doesn’t seem to mention leaky nipples until the eighth or ninth month.  Apparently, unlike the procrastinator I am, my breasts like to be prepared extra early.

5. Leg cramps: I guess these are a very common pregnancy symptom, and perhaps it’s just showing the naïve state I was in when I got pregnant, but I seriously had never heard that pregnant women get leg cramps.  I’ll be laying in bed and feel the need to stretch out – bad idea – once I stretch my leg straight and point my toes, that’s when it hits!  It’s excruciating pain, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot bend my foot back.  Thank goodness these only happen at night when I’m in bed because that means I have my husband right next to me and as soon as he hears my screams, he’s able to flex my foot and massage my calf until it goes away.  A couple of times my calf has actually been sore for three days after the cramp!  And what’s the worst about these leg cramps is that doctors don’t really agree what’s causing them so there isn’t really any definitive way to prevent them (although taking quinine, stretching and staying active supposedly help).

    All that said, I’m still enjoying my pregnancy very much and, of course, the baby is worth each of these inconveniences and discomforts!  But I just thought I would share some of these symptoms so they don’t catch some unsuspecting mama-to-be unaware.  If these things happen to you, don’t worry they are normal.  Well, as “normal” as leaky nipples and sudden-onset food allergies can be.
    On a more serious note, you should still discuss all your symptoms with your doctor or midwife, even if you think they are perfectly normal.  A young woman I graduated from high school with was experiencing the symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma while pregnant, but just chalked them up to pregnancy symptoms.  After her little one was born very premature at 26 weeks, her doctors discovered the cancer when these symptoms didn’t go away.  (Thankfully, mama is in remission after a round of chemotherapy and baby is at home now and doing well!)

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 28)

    --- 1 ---

    I grew up in a household where nothing was made from scratch.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining - my mom’s cakes and cookies tasted great even if they were made from a box mix and I never felt deprived.  But it gave me the (faulty) mindset that making food from scratch was difficult, time consuming, and required a pantry filled with specialized ingredients.  Recently, I’ve slowly been changing this mindset.  Last Sunday, I increased my repertoire of homemade recipes by making chocolate pudding.  On a whim, I decided that I just needed to make something new from dessert, looked up a recipe (from Pinterest, of course) and had all the ingredients (there were only 5!) on hand.  My husband helped me whip it up and I am quite happy to say that it didn’t take much longer than instant pudding and tasted so much more delicious!  

    --- 2 ---

    Actually, I wasn’t telling the whole truth when I said my mom didn’t make anything from scratch, because I just made French toast this morning from the memory of my mom making it for me as a kid.  David was impressed because he’d never had anyone make French toast for him before and felt like he was getting a fancy breakfast.  And I was quite proud of myself because I’d never made it before, was simply going off memory and my knowledge of what French toast should taste like, and it came out really tasty!  

    --- 3 ---

    Yesterday, I had my 32 week appointment at the birth center.  Once again, everything looked (and sounded) healthy.  I am so thankful for this healthy pregnancy!

    --- 4 ---

    My husband’s cousin and his wife are expecting a little boy due around the beginning of November and they’ve had a very difficult pregnancy fraught with complications.  This is the miracle child they gave up trying to conceive several years ago.  I would really appreciate if you would pray for the health of mother and child over the next month.

    --- 5 ---

    I just received a new book today from the Catholic Company reviewer program: The Church and New Media.  I have heard so many great things about this book that I can’t wait to read it.  I just wrote a review on Weightless by Kate Wicker a few days ago, so I was surprised to get this new book in the mail so quickly!

    --- 6 ---

    I spent most of the day with Kendra of The Nerdy Wife.  I never thought I would meet a fellow blogger in real life (although I can’t really imagine why I would think that, I did meet my husband online after all), but this is the third time we’ve met up and it’s so great to have made a friend in a new city.  We went to a couple thrift stores today and I found a really great grey sweater (new with tags still on!).  

    --- 7 ---

    If there are any pregnant mamas out there suffering from heartburn, you have to get heartburn tea!  It is a miracle worker.  I know that there are some medications that doctors say you can take, but I haven’t wanted to take any chances with medicine while pregnant, so I’ve just been suffering through it.  I wish I had discovered heartburn tea earlier, but at least I don’t have to suffer any longer!

    For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    Why I Love My Husband (vol. 5)

    He gets so excited when he feels (or sees) the baby kick.  He is constantly telling me (in a proud daddy voice) how strong and healthy the baby is. 

    I have a hard time drinking enough water everyday, and since I've become pregnant, David made it his goal to make sure I'm drinking enough.  When he's home, he's always filling my glass, but I can go the whole day while he's at work without drinking anything.  Every night, I make a to do list for the next day (using this printable sheet) and in the "Don't Forget To" section, I write "Drink Water."  Today when I looked at my list, I saw my husband had written: "Drink water. Seriously! Don't Forget! As soon as you read this, do it!"  I drank four glasses of water today before he got home.

    Yesterday, we were at a certain baby store picking up some items I had ordered online (crib sheet for $4.48, sheet savers for $2.68!).  My husband noticed a "heartburn tea" on one of the shelves and insisted we buy it for me because I've been having terrible heartburn.  Then he made me a cup before bed last night!  And guess what?  I barely had any heartburn at all!

    Even though graduation is still seven months away, he has been working really hard to get in contact with professors in Colorado so he'll potentially already have a post-doc position when he graduates.  Several professors have shown interest in working with him, which makes me so proud!  I can't wait to see where he ends up in his career.

    Why I Love My Husband was started by Kaitlin or More Like Mary ~ More Like Me.  Go tell her how much you love it!

    Monday, October 3, 2011

    Book Review: Weightless by Kate Wicker

    When I was in fifth grade, I quit ballet.  As much as I loved dancing, that love didn’t compare to how intensely I hated the way I looked in a leotard and tights.  In a ballet studio, with every wall covered in mirrors and unforgiving lighting, I became acutely aware that I didn’t fit in with the petite girls in my class.  When I look back on it now, it saddens me that I gave up something that brought me so much joy because of an insecurity with my body.  What is even more disheartening is that this was not the only time that I let my weight affect my life choices, rather it was the first incident in a more than decade long battle with body image. 

    While in high school, I realized that my relationship with food and perception of my body was not only unhealthy but verging on dangerous.  I instinctively turned to the constant source of stability and security in my life: my Catholic faith.  However, I found that there were few resources available that addressed healthy body image and eating through a faith-based perspective.  When I read about the new book Weightless: Making Peace With Your Body a few months ago, I rejoiced!  This is the book that I had so desperately sought.  While my need for it may no longer be as great as it once was, I was still looking for faith-based resources on body image and healthy eating. 

    The first thing I noticed about the book when I received it in the mail was its length; at only 83 pages, I wondered how it could possibly live up to my expectations and thoroughly cover the topic.  Yet, the book did not leave me unsatisfied or longing for more.  In fact, I was impressed with how comprehensive the book was.  Author Kate Wicker approaches the topic from many angles: personal anecdotes from her own struggles with an eating disorder, quotes and wisdom from scripture and the Saints, and practical advice for common situations and issues.  While some of the chapters in the book may not apply to you specifically, for example, the chapters that address postpartum body image, aging, or modeling healthy body image for your daughters, there is something in the book for everyone. 

    While I could have easily seen a book like this becoming predictable and repetitive, Kate Wicker does not stick to the same old Bible passages about loving yourself and your body as a temple (although these are included, of course!).  Several times while I was reading I was tempted to check the Bible to see if the passages she quoted were really there – I had never heard them before yet they fit the topic perfectly!  And who would have known that so many Saints talked about food?  Finally, here was the wisdom that I had been searching for!  That’s the genius of this book – Wicker’s ability to bring together Catholic wisdom on this topic from such diverse sources. 

    Each chapter ends with “Soul Food”, “Meditation”, and “For Your Reflection” sections.   They explore the spiritual sides of the issues in greater depth, provide a plethora of quotes from the Bible and the Saints, as well as questions for further reflection.  I suggest reading the book with a journal and Bible close at hand.  I used my Bible on several occasions to look up passages Wicker suggested or to read the greater context of the passages she provided.  While reading, I was constantly jotting in my notebook new ideas, quotes I liked, or answers to the questions Wicker posed.  Usually, I would read a short book like this in a day, but Weightless gave me so much to reflect on and respond to that I couldn’t read more than one chapter in a sitting.  Due to its short chapters and questions for reflection (and the universality of the topic), it would also work well as the focus of a women’s group or book club.  Regardless of the how you decide to read the book, I strongly suggest you do. 

    This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Weightless - Making peace with your body. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.