Monday, December 31, 2012

Best Posts of 2012 + Link Up

This was a huge year for our family!  Jan. 1, 2012, Lucia was baptizedDavid graduated in May.  We moved back to Colorado (and in with my parents) in July.  I started my first teaching job in August.  
It's also been a big year for the blog.  Catholic Newlywed became Messy Wife, Blessed Life and I got a whole new blog design and domain to go along with it.  If you are a new reader (or just want a recap), below is a list of my favorite posts of this past year.  I did this last year too (if you want to reach deep into the archives).  At the bottom, link up your own favorite post of the year so I can check it out!

Most beautiful post: My Sister's Necklace

I wrote this post back in January but it's remained one of my favorites.  There are a few other posts I consider beautiful (Lucia's milestone posts, Prayer for a Working Mother) but those just don't hold a candle to this piece that is a beautiful example of my mother's love.

Most popular post: 25 Activities for Your Older Baby (6-23 Months)

This is the most popular post in my blog's history, largely due to Pinterest.  It has tens of thousands of pageviews more than the next most popular post (this one).  I can't take much credit for it since it is largely a compilation of ideas from other moms and bloggers but I'm glad that I've been able to give other moms suggestions of activities to do with their little ones.  I know the "research" I did for this post has made me a much better mother by challenging myself to find fun and educational (and cheap/free) activities to do with Lucia.

Most controversial post: Birth Control for Teens?

Need I say more?  Discussions of teenagers and sex are always controversial (heck, discussions of birth control are always controversial), but I had to put in my two-cents (and my personal experience) .

Most helpful post: My Two Favorite Homemade Products

In reality my most helpful post is probably the same of my most popular one, but for the sake of offering a variety of links to posts, I chose this one.  I've actually had quite a few "informational" and "DIY" posts this year that I could have chosen from, but I decided that this one was most helpful because I actually received a message from a reader who said she tried the shower cleaner and even her husband noticed how clean the tub was.  Maybe some of the runners-up (20 Coping Stategies for Working MomsBaby on a Budget: What You Really Need, and 21 Ways to Share the Faith with Your Toddler) were more helpful to readers, but since they haven't told me, I'll never know.

Most honest post(s):  On My Heart: The Post I Didn't Want to Write about Struggling Financially and Mommy Body

I couldn't decide, these two post cut to the core of some very difficult issues: finances and body image.   It's difficult for me to write about my imperfections, but I was very candid about the body changes (good and bad) that have come with being a mother.  Writing "Mommy Body" forced me to come to terms with the fact that I won't ever look like I did before Lucia but that my life is filled with so much joy now that it's more than worth it!

As for "On My Heart", writing about my fears, my frustrations, and the blatant truth of how we are struggling financially wasn't easy.  But I received such wonderful feedback from readers who offered encouragement (or said they were glad I shared) made it worth it.  Putting it down also helped me to see that despite not having much, we are able to get by and God has provided for us which has, in turn, allowed me to turn over my fears and trust Him more.  This is why I blog - to connect with other, to share stories, to give and gain encouragement, and to learn more about myself and my relationship with the Lord.

Post whose success surprised you most: Bridesmaid Style Board 1: Shoes

Although I've gotten more fashion-bloggy in the past few months due to What I Wore Sunday, this post about bridesmaid shoes probably my first every fashion-related post back when I was figuring out what to buy to be a bridesmaid in my brother-in-law's wedding.  Apparently it has some good search engine words in it, because it is the third most popular post to date.  Crazy. (My accompanying bridesmaid dresses post didn't fare as well.)

Post that didn't receive that attention you thought it deserved: Lulu's First Birthday Party

Probably because I worked so hard on this birthday party, I expected to get at least a few more pageviews.  I included some recipes/DIY for the decorations and food for an adorable teddy bear party and included some pictures of my little one, but no bites.  That's ok, I suppose it's really selfish to want some recognition anyway.  Lucia enjoyed herself and that's all that really matters!

Post(s) you are most proud of: Lucia's monthly updates
Of course, I'm a proud mama showing off my baby, but I'm also proud that I stuck with it and didn't miss a single monthly update during her first year (although some were weeks late!).  I'm planning to turn them into a photo book that I can share with her when she's older.  I think it will be neat for her to compare her development with her own little ones someday (if her vocation is marriage and motherhood).

Your turn! Link up the one best/most popular/favorite post on your blog this year.  I promise I will read and comment on each one.  The linky will be open for one week.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

What I Wore Sunday: Judgment Free

Skirt: Kohl's (ABstudio) | Shirt: Wrapper
Tights: unknown | Boots: Big Buddha

Purse: Coach Outlet

I used to get a little annoyed with women who had Coach purses.  Or any fancy schmancy designer clothing.  I'm a purse and shoes girl, fo' sho'.  I love clothes.  I even love designer brands.  But most of my clothes come from either thrift stores or clearance racks.  I bought this skirt yesterday for $13, but I thought that was even too much (I only got it because I had a gift card).  So hundreds of dollars on a purse seemed like such a waste.  I mean, how many meals for the poor could you buy with that?

Then, my husband bought me my first Coach purse at the outlet near my home for our first Christmas together (when we were dating).  I got another one from him the next Christmas (we were engaged).  Do you see a trend?  Well, the following two Christmases were our first two together as a married couple (read: poor) and our gift spending limit was only $30, obviously not enough for a Coach purse even at an outlet.  So I continued to use the last purse he gave me.  For three years.  Seriously.  It's only now just beginning to wear out.  I used to have to buy a new purse about three times a year (what can I say, I'm rough on them, they go everywhere with me and hold my entire life).  A $100 Coach purse from the outlet store actually saved me money, since I would have bought nine $30 purses during the time I used it.  Who would have thought a Coach purse was a thrifty buy?

Anyway, the point of the story is that I no longer judge women on their clothing (or accessories).  I've scored some really nice name brand clothing at thrift stores and wonder how many people are wrongly judging me.  How many people know that we are living with my parents and have a little one to care for and assume I'm racking up the credit card bills to buy fancy clothing?  How many people at Mass think I should give a little more to the collection and a little less to my closet?  Yep, I used to be the judgy judger in the pew next to you giving your Louboutins "the look".  Not anymore.  Feel free to wear your designer duds and I promise I will be judgment free.  I've learned my lesson.

On another note, Lucia was a terror in Church today.  Not awful, but utilizing Grace's Mass behavior grading scale, she'd get a solid D.  But she would have been an angel, I'm convinced, if we hadn't been sitting in front of those kids.  The ones that ate an entire meal during Mass.  That ran around like wild apes.  And my well-behaved girl got just a tiny bit confused and thought that maybe, just maybe, that was appropriate Church behavior.  So yeah, we'll get to the Church right before Mass next time and pick a seat next to some really well-behaved old folks who we would like our impressionable one-year-old to emulate. 

On yet another note, the priest gave a powerful homily about giving our best gifts to God based on the first reading in which Hannah left her son, Samuel, at the temple.  Can you imagine letting go of your beloved child, the one you'd prayed so hard for?  How often do we give God our "leftovers", the things we don't want, those last few minutes at the end of the day when we are too exhausted to mutter anything but a simple prayer of rote memorization?  I think that describes me to a tee.  I'm not huge into New Year's resolutions, but if I was, I think mine would be to wake up fifteen minutes early each day to pray before the stress and busyness of the day stripped away my best self.

I'm linking up to Fine Linen and Purple's What I Wore Sunday linkup.  Check it out for more church attire inspiration.

Friday, December 28, 2012

My One Year Old

Lucia is one!  It's been a full year since she was born.  A full year of motherhood and of love more profound than I could ever imagine was possible. Aside from being a very emotional month as she officially became a one-year-old, her twelfth month has also been full of surprises.  She is so smart and able to do things I never imagined a baby could do at 12 months.  I think because she still isn't walking and stands up no more than 10 seconds by herself, I underestimated her mental abilities.  While she may still crawl like a baby, she is smart like a toddler.  She also has great fine motor skills.

Here's a few examples of what Lulu's been up to this month:
a favorite pastime: scarf in a tissue box
  • Puts shapes in her shape sorter.
  • Places coins in a water bottle and her piggy bank (and almost never tries to put them in her mouth, she knows where they go and it's not her tummy).
  • Helps put on her clothes - trying (unsuccessfully so far) to put shirts over her head, but succeeding in putting her arms through sleeves.
  • Loves playing with blocks and has figured out how to put her Mega Bloks together (and take them apart).
  • Cleans up after herself.  If I tell her to put her blocks away, she'll put them in the bag.  
  • As evidenced by the last one, she listens to and understands directions.
  • Knows what "no" means and gets a sheepish look when she gets caught doing something she's previously been warned not to do.  
  • Dances to any and all music, even music she makes herself with her musical instruments and toys. 
  • Says "papa" and "more".
  • Puts her head on the ground and looks through her legs. All the time!
  • Gets down from the couch/bed by herself by laying on her stomach and swinging her legs down over the side.  (This one really surprised me!)
One of the most endearing things this month is Lucia's new buddy-buddy relationship with our dogs.  She's loved them since day one, but they have mostly ignored her.  She's found a way to ingratiate herself to them: food.  You know the one above about her knowing the meaning of "no"?  Well, she loves to hold her food out to the side of her highchair and drop it for the dogs.  She's often so sneaky we don't catch her doing this because the dogs eat it before we even notice.  One day, I caught her doing this and firmly told her no.  So what does she do?  Grabs a piece of food and sticks it under the tray for the dogs to eat it out of her hand.  How smart!  How naughty! 

The dogs have started laying next to Lulu and letting her pet them.  We have to be careful to tell her "gentle", but in general, she is very loving and sweet toward them.  Both our dogs are getting up in years so I'm trying to get some good pictures and video of her with them because I have a feeling someday she won't remember them.  Another new "doggy development" is that she'll often bark in addition to saying "dog" when she sees a dog (or any animal, she thinks they are all dogs).  Her "ruff, ruff" is pretty cute.

In addition to being loving with the dogs, Lucia's been very sweet and snuggly in general.  She's the queen of kisses and will often surprise family members with unexpected and unasked for kisses.  It's not uncommon for her to crawl over to one of us and climb in our laps and put her head on our shoulders.  She's also started really loving on her stuffed animals.  They get tons of kisses, but also are patted and rocked to sleep by little mama Lucia.  It's darling.

Bedtime has gone more smoothly lately.  After trying nearly every sleep "philosophy" including co-sleeping and staying in the room with Lulu until she fell asleep, we finally resorted to "cry it out".  After a few nights, she started falling asleep almost immediately and sleeping through a night.  Our bedtime routine goes like this: diaper change and jammies, brush her teeth, read a book while she sits on one of our laps, prayer (our bedtime prayer is "Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I trust you. Amen."), then we hug and kiss her goodnight, set her in her crib, put her glowworm, Zoey, in her arms, turn out the lights and leave.  If she's had a few good naps, she'll simply close her eyes and fall asleep.  If she hasn't napped well, she'll cry for a minute or two.  She sleeps through the night! 

On days when she doesn't have to go to the babysitter's, she often wakes up in the morning (around 7), plays quietly by herself in her crib for about an hour or so, then falls asleep for her morning nap.  She naps well for David, but when home with me, she refuses to nap unless she can nurse to sleep.  We're working on it, but it seems that she thinks she can get milk from mama whenever she wants.  (And she's right about that.)

My heart melts when my little girl wants to nurse.  It's still such a special time for us, although she certainly doesn't lay in my arms and nurse anymore.  She's constantly moving - standing up bending over, upside down, etc. - all while nursing!  It's so hard to keep a nursing cover on her in public and she makes mama blush a little when she sticks her hands down my shirt in public.  I'm trying to teach her the "polite" way to ask for milk is to make the milk sign, but she has a mind of her own and would rather reach for what she wants!

Lucia really looks like a toddler this month.  I look at pictures of her just a few months ago and can't believe she was ever so little and so chubby.  She's certainly long and lean now.  Her newly-pierced ears make her look so grown-up and so girly.  I often catch myself staring at her and thinking, "I can't believe she's mine.  I can't believe she's my baby girl.  I can't believe I'm blessed enough to be given the gift of mothering this little one."  She constantly makes me smile and laugh.  Her cheeks are dry from all the kisses she gets from mama, daddy, nana, and papa. She's such a delight and we are so grateful that she continues to be a healthy and happy little girl.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

What {We} Wore: Christmas Edition

Grace, who is hilarious, stylish, and blogs at Camp Patton, is hosting What I Wore on Christmas after her What I Wore to Thanksgiving Dinner was such a success.  Lucia and I couldn't resist the chance to show off our Christmas duds.

Christmas Eve

We went to Mass on Christmas Eve.  Last year we went on Christmas and I haven't quite decided which I like better.  If we go on Christmas Eve, I feel like Christ gets lost amongst the presents of Christmas Day.  I suppose we have a few more years to decide before Lucia is old enough to feel like either way is a tradition.  Anyway, we went on Christmas Eve and had to stand most of the Mass because it was so full (we were in the overflow children's Mass in the gym of my school) but it was lovely to see so many of my students dressed in pretty dresses or dashing in their sweaters.  I teach cute kids.

My family's tradition is to go out to dinner on Christmas Eve and this year we (my parents, mom's parents, brother, and our little family unit) went to Red Lobster.  We aren't Italian at all, but I felt like I was celebrating my imaginary Italian roots eating seafood on Christmas Eve.
 Skirt: unknown | Shirt: Worthington (JC Penney) | Tights: No Nonsense
Jacket: Nordstrom Rack | Shoes: Payless

I've had this skirt and jacket since high school, the shirt and shoes for around five years.  I've never worn them together, but I kind of like this outfit.  I threw it together very quickly after spending the morning, wrapping presents, keeping the baby out of trouble, and baking these pumpkin cheesecake-filled cupcakes.  They were delicious, looked great, and the recipe was very easy to follow.  I had planned to throw on one of my old Christmas dresses but realized at the last minute that none of them are breastfeeding friendly and there was no way we were getting through Mass and dinner without Lucia wanting some mama's milk. 

  Dress: Laura Ashley Mother & Child | Tights: Unknown
Shoes: GenuineKids (Target)

When I originally saw the tag of this dress said "Mother & Child", I assumed that meant there was a matching mom's dress somewhere out there (thank goodness that thing is not in MY closet) but after further googling, it seems that is simply a brand name and the world was not in fact subjected to an adult sized version of this dress.  Lucia had two Christmas dresses this year, one for Christmas Eve and one for Christmas, thanks to garage and consignment sales.  Even with two outfits, we spent less than on her Christmas dress last year (and that was at a steep discount too)!  These dresses are way too cute to only be worn once; I can't wait to give Lucia little sisters!

And because Lucia's Christmas jammies were quite cute, you have to have a peek at 

What {She} Wore Christmas Night:

Bearington Bear Lil Prancer Pajamas (reindeer included)

Aren't they seriously timeless Christmas pajamas? They were left on our doorstep by a dear friend.

Christmas Day

We spent Christmas morning in pajamas.  My grandparents joined us for our traditional Christmas brunch (tamales, eggs, hash browns, refried beans, holiday breads) and we opened presents.  Then all of us (except my brother) drove two hours to my in-law's for Christmas dinner.  It was nice to have both sides of our family together.  There were thirteen of us total, including one set of grandparents each (we are so lucky to still have grandparents in our lives and in the life of our daughter).  We were having so much fun that I didn't get an "outfit" picture, but we did get a few of our little family.
Shirt: Express | Slacks: Loft
Earrings: Claire's
Lucia wouldn't set her shoe down for the picture. Nor would she smile. But she's not wailing, so we call it a win.

These were in my stocking.  David and I fill the other's stockings (my parents always did that and I think it's a sweet tradition) and he did great this year.  I love these!

  Dress: Luli & Me | Tights: Gymboree
Shoes: GenuineKids (Target)

 Do you remember this post?  The one where I told you I got this $120 dress new with tags for only $1.50?  No?  Well, you better go check it out.  I also got these gingerbread(wo)man tights that weekend too.  Because they are, like, so cute, but so not worth paying full price to wear once.  To make them worth full price, we would have to have ten daughters who wear them every day for two weeks leading up to Christmas. 

Will someone inform me why my daughter likes playing with her shoes more than the 3,724 brand new toys she got for Christmas?
Last Sunday of Advent
Technically shouldn't be part of this post at all, however, I took a picture of my outfit on Sunday but with the madness of Christmas preparations, it  never up.  So here's a bonus outfit, because I know you are dying for more.
  Dress: Lauren Conrad (Kohl's) | Tights: Simply Vera (Kohl's)
Boots: Bare Traps | Headband: Francesca's | Necklace: Premier Designs

Monday, December 24, 2012

Our Christmas Decor

At the last possible minute, mere hours before it closes (and before Christmas is officially here), I'm joining Katie's Christmas Decor Link-Up to share what our house looks like at the holidays.  Since we're living with my parents this year, we didn't get out any of my personal Christmas decorations.  And since this has been a busy month year for us, we didn't put much up other than our tree, but I do have a bit to share.  Keep in mind, this isn't the best of our Christmas decor, this is ALL OF IT this year. (Usually my family goes a bit overboard. Nothing like busyness stress to make you simplify.  
 The only reason this baby made it out is because it's a brand new gift from my grandma.
 I'd love to meet the builder of our home and ask what he was thinking not building a mantle for the fireplace.

Cute new deer homemade by a friend of my dad. (My mom already has plans for my dad to make more next year.)

Lucia's holiday stuffed animal collection (the mouse was mine as a little girl).

Card hanging idea courtesy of my sister-in-law.

Santa Claus with maracas who sings "Feliz Navidad" - a gift from a student.

 This year, our tree is out in our sun room so baby hands don't get too curious.

 Wonder and awe.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

21 Ways to Share the Faith with Your Toddler

Pope Benedict announced that this is the Year of Faith, a time to learn more about the Church and grow closer to Christ.  This is an invitation for all members of the Church, even the very smallest!  My daughter is just barely a year old, but she is not too young to start learning about and loving the Faith!  In brainstorming and searching for ways to teach my little one, I came across some great ideas.  I hope you'll share some of your ideas as well.  Here are my favorites:


1. Take your toddler to Mass.  It can be difficult to get a little one to stay quiet and still, but it's important that your child experience Mass from a young age.  Going to Mass is also important for learning about being part of a faith community; your little one will see that not only mama and daddy worship God, but also men and women of all different ages and races.  Most people don't mind a talkative or squirmy toddler, and if they do, your little one is just helping them learn the virtue of patience!  Babies and toddlers are part of the Church too!

2. Go to adoration. Here's a quote from Anne that made me realize adoration is for little ones too: "I have been taking my 22-month-old to adoration with me for a few weeks now. I go when the adoration chapel is empty (but would take him in even if it wasn't). He sits on the chair and I kneel to pray for about 10 minutes or so, then I gather him on my lap and we talk about Jesus and then finish by saying the "Our Father" and singing (quietly) "Jesus Loves Me." My son is always in perpetual motion, but as soon as we get in the chapel he is always SO STILL. It amazes me."

If your Church doesn't offer one, you might see if they would be willing to start "Toddler" adoration once a month or so.  Kaylene wrote about recently taking her daughter to toddler adoration and was blown what a great program it is.  And here is a great "How-To Guide for Adoration with Small Children" by Dianna Kennedy.

3. The Sign of the Cross.  This is the perfect first prayer for a toddler.  It's short.  It includes hand movements.  It can be regularly seen and heard many times a day.  We start working on the Sign of the Cross with Lucia when she was only 10 months and she LOVES it.  She smiles and laughs every time we do it and tries to follow along.  She usually touches her forehead or chest while we do it.

4. Pray the Rosary.  Although they may be too little to follow along with the prayers, just having your child present during a family Rosary is a huge blessing (and teaching opportunity). This seems to be a popular prayer activity because the bloggers at both Working to be Worthy and For Love of Cupcakes suggested it (we do it in our home too).

5. Pray before naptime.  In addition to the "traditional" prayer times, in the morning, before meals, and before bed, introduce a special toddler-centered prayer time: prayer before naps!  What a great suggestion from Working to be Worthy.


Lucia's Saint Lucia doll from Frassencraft
6. Music. Make religious songs part of your child's day.  You don't have to set aside a special time for these songs, it's fine if they are squeezed between "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "If You're Happy and You Know It".  In fact, isn't it a blessing if your child sings, "Jesus Loves Me", "He's Got the Whole World", and "Lord of the Dance" as much as he sings "traditional" toddler songs?  You can also sing and play music you hear in Mass, not just children-specific music. 

7. Dolls. Such a great way to help little ones visualize Bible stories and interact with Jesus and the Saints.  You don't necessarily need religious dolls to do this (you can act out a Bible stories with the toys you have) but they certainly help.  Gina of My Broken Fiat suggested Little People toys (there is a Noah's Ark set and a Nativity set) and has a great blog post of her son with nearly life-sized Jesus and Mary dolls.  There are also some great ones on Etsy (just search the Saint you are looking for).

8. Crafts. The ideas for faith-focused crafts are endless.  You can make a cross out of nearly anything (beads, popsicle sticks, cardboard, blocks, etc., etc., etc.).  You can make a lamb out of cotton balls.  Most toddlers seem to love stringing beads, so a rosary would be perfect (a one decade rosary is great for a little one).  As your child strings the beads, say the appropriate prayer for each one. A paper plate can turn into an angel, a monstrance, etc.  Catholic Icing has so many crafts, including many that are appropriate, or can be adapted, for toddlers. 

9. Include faith items in your child's dress up box.  A blue sheet to dress up as Mary.  A simple brown robe (or brown pillow case with head and arm holes) and stuffed lamb to dress up as a shepherd.  A multicolored sweater to dress up as Joseph.  Or perhaps a few articles that represent a Saint that is important to your family - a crown for one of the many royal Saints (or for Christ the King), a crown of roses for Saint Rose of Lima, a fishing pole to represent one of the many fishermen apostles, armor to represent Saint George/Saint Michael.


10. "Baptize" a stuffed animal/doll. A fellow teacher shared this idea when we discussed how to get our students involved in the Year of Faith. Since Baptism was when our "door of faith" was opened, it's a great place to start teaching your little one about faith. 

11. Go on a nature walk.  It is hard for little one to understand how BIG God is, bigger and greater than mama and daddy even!  Take a walk through the mountains, on the beach, in a national park, or just a neighborhood greenbelt and show him everything that God made.  This is also a great opportunity to integrate science and faith.  Explain (in simple terms) how plants get food from the sun and how it is a part of the perfect plan God has for all his creatures. 

12. Read. A few board book suggestions: Baby, Come to Church!, Celebrating Mass, Daily Prayers, and Our Blessed Mother.  (Actually, all of the St. Joseph board books look great!)  I also love the Catholic Children's Treasure Box set.  It has stories, games, songs, and crafts for children age 2-5.  I was lucky to come across them at a used book sale at my church for only $30 (and they looked brand new), but I still think that at $5 a piece it's a good investment, especially if you'll have several children that will use them.

13. Help your child care for others.  Teach your little one about helping others by donating her toys and clothes to families who need it.  Especially during the holidays or birthdays when your toddler gets many new things, have her choose some of her toys to give away.  (Bonus, this helps reduce clutter!)  Another idea is to specifically pick new toys or clothes for another child, perhaps by picking a name on a Jesse tree during Advent.  Be sure to explain to your child that she is doing God's work by helping care for others.

14. Point out examples.  Use everyday interactions with family, friends, and strangers to teach about the God's love.  When your spouse cooks dinner (even if he/she does it everyday), use the opportunity to point out to your little one, "See Mommy making dinner?  She does that because she loves you and wants to take care of you.  God does that too."  If you see a stranger help another stranger pick up something he's dropped, that's a great learning opportunity too!  It's important to help your toddler learn explicitly about the connections between God and love.


15. Celebrate your child's Baptism Day.  This is your day that your child became part of the faith!  What a special day for her and for the whole Church!  Some ideas to make it special:
  • Take out a photo album and show her pictures of her baptism day.
  • Show her the baptism gown she wore, her baptismal candle, or any other mementos from the day.
  • Make a special cake or treat.
  • Give your little one a special gift to help her further her faith: a prayer book, a saint doll, a rosary, a religious picture to put on her wall, etc.

16. Celebrate Saints' Feast Days.  I didn't grow up celebrating Feast Days so this is very overwhelming to me.  My goal this year is just to pick two or three Feast Days and do a little something special for them, and hopefully add a few extra each year as my children grow up.   
  • Read a book about the Saint.
  • Make a special meal or dessert that has significance for the Feast Day.  I love the ideas from Catholic Cuisine.
  • Print out Saint coloring sheets.
  • Do toddler-approved crafts.  I love the idea of contact paper art for little ones that aren't quite ready for coloring or painting.  Cut out various items that represent the Saint and let your little one place them on contact paper.  You could do this for any Feast Day, holiday, or just for fun.  Here's an example from The OT Mama.  There are also countless art ideas on Catholic Icing.
  • If your child is named after a Saint, do a little something special on that Saint's feast day and let your child know that Saint is his special friend in Heaven.

17. Celebrate Advent/Christmas:
  • Felt Advent wreath
  • Nativity for small hands
  • Fill Baby Jesus's manger:  We started doing this when my brother was in preschool and he loved it.  Find a small basket, Baby Jesus figurine, and pieces of straw to fill the basket.  Put the empty basket in a prominent place and the straw nearby.  Each time your child does something kind, have her put one piece of straw in Baby Jesus's manger. The idea is that your child is preparing for the arrival of Christ through kind deeds; by Christmas the basket should be filled and your child can place the Baby Jesus in it.
  • Make a birthday cake for Jesus.
  • Have an advent calendar with daily faith-based activities to do.  Each day you could pray for someone different, do a kind dead, etc.  You can incorporate them into traditional Christmas activities, for example, one day could be to make Christmas cookies to give to a neighbor or to pick out a toy for a less fortunate child while doing Christmas shopping.  
  • Don't end the Christmas season on Christmas day, keep your decorations up and celebrate the Epiphany with a few small gifts from the Reyes Magos (Three Kings).  Or reverse the gift giving and have your toddler make three small gifts for Jesus to be given to him on the Epiphany.
  • There are more great ideas in this 10 Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas (for Kids) post at It's Just Called Spicy.

18. Celebrate Lent/Easter:
  • Bury the "Alleluia" at the beginning of Lent and dig it up on Easter Sunday.     
  • I love the ideas of a Lenten Chain and a Jesus Tree that I found at Baby Love Slings.
  • To symbolize the Easter theme of rebirth, help your little one plant a seed and care for it.
  • Make a Lent tray of items as described at Montessori Living Now.
  • Have (make) a cross with a figure of Jesus that can be detached.  On Good Friday, put Jesus on the Cross and explain (in simple terms) that Jesus died for our sins.  Later that afternoon, have your toddler watch you "bury" Jesus somewhere (ex. in a cabinet).  On Easter morning, have your child help you open it to see that Jesus is gone.  Have your child look for Him "risen" somewhere else in the house.  Again, explain in simple terms the Resurrection.  (This might be a great use for a Jesus doll!)
  • Hide Easter eggs that include religious messages/symbols in them.  A lamb for the Lamb of God and Good Shepherd, a small cross, a prayer card, a butterfly to symbolize the Resurrection.


19. Put holy water fonts in your home at toddler height.

20. Place physical representations of the faith in every room of your house so that your little one learns that your faith is part of every aspect of your life.  These could be crucifixes, paintings, statues, quotes, etc.  We make it a point to have a crucifix in every bedroom in our home.

21. Have a little corner of your child's room dedicated to God. Include a baby cross or crucifix, perhaps a picture of the saint he/she was named after, a rosary, Biblical coloring books, and a basket of faith-filled toys (saint dolls, Noah's arc, etc.).  During the holidays, help your child decorate this area with religious decorations (a child's advent wreath or nativity).

Saturday, December 22, 2012

New Design, Name & Domain

As I've hinted at a few times now, my blog is getting a new design, a new name, and new domain!  Along with that change, I may be changing some of my social media (particularly Facebook) if they don't allow me to change the names of my current accounts.  I'll have a post coming up to explain my new name (long story short: I'm no longer a newlywed).

Friday, December 21, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 74)

--- 1 ---

This might be my last post as Catholic Newlywed.  I'm been planning for a while now to change my blog name and design a bit and it's currently in the process.  Everything should be up today or later this weekend!  The focus of the blog won't change and all my old posts will still be in the archives, but I'm no longer a newlywed and this blog is so different than it was when I started that I'm ready to retire the name. 

--- 2 ---

I have about 25 posts partially written in draftsIncluding Lucia's 12 month (one year!) post and a post on sharing the faith with your toddler.  Now that I have 17 days off for Christmas break, it's time to play catch-up.

--- 3 ---

Christmas dinner is at my in-laws' this year. They have invited my parents, grandparents, and brother as well, so it will be a large gathering.  I love that I don't have to "split" the holiday this year!  I dream of hosting Christmas at our home one day with both sides of the family there and I didn't imagine we would have a chance to all get together before then.  I am also super grateful that David got Christmas Day off and only has to work until 1pm on Christmas Eve!

--- 4 ---

We hit the year mark of breastfeeding.  Technically, that was the same day as her birthday, but it's a whole different achievement, I think.  My goal was to breastfeed for a year and anything past this is a "bonus".  I'll continue breastfeeding as long as possible, but won't feel as much pressure to keep my supply up.  Lucia is eating a ton of food now (she had an entire cheese enchilada the other night, plus beans!) that her breastfeeding has gone down quite a bit.  I have to decide in the next week or so whether I'll continue renting a breast pump and I think I'll just return it.  I have a hand pump that works pretty well and don't need to pump as often as I once did.

--- 5 ---

I made cookies for my students this week and they came out fabulous.  Not just any cookies, the official state cookie of New Mexico, biscochitos.  (I wonder what the state cookie of Colorado is?  Anyone else know their official state cookie?)  My grandmother is a proud New Mexican who can trace her family back to the first Spanish settlers in the territory in the 1500s.  New Mexico has a rich culinary history unique from that of Mexico and I believe that biscochitos are one of its gems.  We couldn't find the family recipe on short notice, so I used this recipe, tasted just like I remember.  I'm going to make more to bring to Christmas dinner.

--- 6 ---

Anyone else not done with Christmas shopping?  Usually I only have one or two left this close to Christmas, but I think we still have about half our list to go.  David works everyday until Christmas, which means that it's up to me to pick presents for his family.  Yikes!  They are a difficult bunch to shop for, David even struggles with picking them gifts (and he is a really great gift giver); I don't know them nearly as well as he does, so if he doesn't give me any hints, they will all end up with chocolates.

--- 7 ---

I'm pretty sure these antlers are for our dogs.  We don't usually dress our dogs, but my mom can't resist a dog costume on sale.  They have a few Halloween costumes to choose from, antlers for Christmas, and my poor Jack Russell sometimes gets tortured with a Christmas sweater.  Aside from the sweater, they all fit Lucia and will for the next few years, so expect some "who wore it better" posts in the future with my daughter squaring off against the dogs.  Yes, I realize that someday she will be humiliated by pictures of herself wearing dog costumes, but I also realize that about ten years after that, she'll think they are just as funny as we do.  Hopefully.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Juppy Momentum Giveaway

The Juppy Baby Walker is one of my favorite "baby gear" items because it fulfills three of my requirements: it's (comparatively) inexpensive, it takes up virtually no room to store, and Lucia loves itThe Momentum is the newest (only one month old!) design that improves comfort for both mom/dad and baby!  Read my full review here, then enter on the PromoSimple widget below.  Open to US residents only.  Giveaway runs Dec. 17-24.

Juppy Baby Walker Momentum Review

The Juppy Baby Walker is one of my favorite "baby gear" items because it fulfills three of my requirements: it's inexpensive, it takes up virtually no room to store, and Lucia loves it I had seen the Juppy on a few other blogs before I was given the chance to review it myself.  I'll admit, at first I was a little skeptical - about how much we would use it, about how well it would work, about whether Lucia would even like it - but it has far exceeded my expectations, so much so that I would suggest it for any parent with a pre-walker.  I would try to describe exactly what it is and how you use it, but a video is just so much better.  Here's Lucia going after one of our dogs with the help of Daddy and the Juppy:

I have to say, babies are just so darn cute in the Juppy!  Doesn't she look like daddy's little marionette?  The Juppy is so small, that it can be tucked into the little bag it came with and carried in your diaper bag.  A walker on the go is just so convenient for a weekend away or just an afternoon in the park.  It truly is a back saver too - no more bending over uncomfortably to help little one walk!  

My favorite aspect of the Juppy is that Lucia loves it.  Once we take her out of it, she'll point to it and make her fussy noises because she doesn't want the fun to end.  Of course, I can't really tell what Lucia's thinking when she's in her Juppy, but it seems that she has a little more confidence when she's walking in it.  She's not being directly supported by an adult and isn't holding on to anything, so she's getting a taste of what walking is really like.  She seems to be very cautious regarding standing on her own and will sit as soon as she realizes that she's doing it.  I think that the Juppy is helping build her confidence and the sense of adventure it will take for her to make her first steps.  

We plan to use the Juppy for many children to come.  In fact, I was offered the opportunity to personalize the Juppy with Lucia's name but decided to forgo personalization so we could use it with future babies; I'm so glad we did.  (We picked the black Juppy for that reason, as well.)  Lucia certainly won't be the only baby to use it. 

I want to note that this is the new design - The Juppy Momentum.  It's brand new, only about a month old!  The new design has a few differences - It has soft handgrips for mom and dad and velcro straps over the zipper for enhanced baby safety and comfort.  It also can be used with babies up to 35 pounds while the other designs only accommodated 30 pounds and under. 

Juppy Baby Walker is giving away a Juppy Momentum to one Catholic Newlywed reader, complete with personalization!  Click here to go to the giveaway.

I received the Juppy Momentum to facilitate this review.  I was not required to write a positive review. Opinions are 100% my own.  See Disclosure Policy.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What I Wore Sunday: One of My Faves

 I missed What I Wore Sunday last week.  I actually wore pants since I had finally found a decently priced pair of slacks that fit perfectly.  My first pair of slacks post-pregnancy.  I was excited to show them off but the day got away from me and no picture was taken.  This week, I'm back to dresses.

 Do these boots look familiar?  I wore them here. And here. And here. My mustard cardigan can be seen in this pic and this one. And this exact same outfit (sans jacket) was worn on my first day of school. I'm a normal girl, I don't have an endless wardrobe.  And I like to rewear those outfits that just make me feel so pretty and that I get compliments on.  This is one of those outfits.

Dress: Dress Barn | Cardigan: Dress Barn
Jacket: Target | Boots: Big Buddha

After Mass, we had some family pictures taken today.  Combined Lucia's first birthday pics, family pics, Christmas pics (that obviously aren't making it in Christmas cards).  I didn't wear this outfit, but hopefully you'll eventually see the photos (I know they are going to come out just perfect - if you need a suggestion for an awesome photographer in northern CO, let me know!) and the other (two) outfits I wore today.

I also changed into my pajamas early tonight and we watched "Home Alone" and ate popcorn after Lucia went to sleep.    David and I fill each other's stockings each year and I was so excited to find "Home Alone" and "Home Along 2" for a good price and include them in his stocking two years ago (our first married Christmas - aw!).  This year, I am so behind on Christmas shopping!  Good thing Thursday is my last day of work until after Christmas break.

I've been so busy lately that the blog has been put a bit on the backburner.  I do have a few posts in the making, including one on our little Catholic celebrations this month (Saint Nicholas's Feast Day and Saint Lucia's Feast Day) and have some big blog things cooking, including a new blog design AND new name (I haven't been a newlywed for a while now)!  Probably a new web address to go along with the new name as well, so keep an eye out!

I'm linking up to Fine Linen and Purple's What I Wore Sunday linkup.  Check it out for more church attire inspiration.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Datevitation: The Perfect, Personalized Gift for ANY Significant Other

I was recently contacted by Datevitation to review and giveaway one of their gift books.  Even if they weren't sponsoring this post, I would be sharing this gift idea with you because it's an absolute winner for ANY significant other. (Men, are you listening?  Your lovely lady will like this too!)  It solves the issue of the picky significant other and the significant other that has everything.  

You've heard of love coupons right? I've seen them in stores and I've even made my own. Well, is the web's first online platform to create a custom love coupon book. It's so much easier than making your own, looks much more polished, and unlike those in stores, is completely customizable. The "date library" has over 200 date ideas to choose from with adorable stick figure pictures to accompany them. They come with prewritten text to get your creative juices flowing (the little quotes are SO cute!) but you can personalize them as you'd like. The dates are well organized into categories - from adrenaline to sports to dining in - so there is definitely something for everyone. There are even "adult only" sections, but you have to verify that you are at least 18 to see those, so don't worry about stumbling upon them accidentally if you don't want to see them.  In addition to choosing the dates to put in your book, you can also choose the cover from over 60 different designs for every holiday and occasion.

I was given the opportunity to review book with five custom pages, but I ended up paying for an additional five because there were just so many romantic date ideas that fit our relationship perfectly. I initially chose around 20 and it was agonizing trying to whittle it down from there. One of my favorite things about the whole process was how easy and quick it was. I customized my whole book in about 10 minutes and received it in the mail less than a week later. I know that David is going to think it took much more time and energy than it did. I can't give too many details of exactly what's in our book in case David stumbles upon this post (I banned him from my blog until after Christmas, but I will say that it looks fantastic!

Books start at only $20 making it both a thoughtful and economical gift. You can get $5 off your purchase this month with the code 'NEWLYWED'. THE LAST DAY TO ORDER AND GET IT IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS IS DECEMBER 15th! Although it makes a great significant other gift, you could also make one for a good friend, sibling, parent, or someone else special in your life who you think might enjoy some special time with you next year. 

A little side note about the founders (don't you love to hear the stories behind companies, especially when they're love stories?): Alex Karpman founded Datevitation in 2011, after he bought his then-girlfriend Olga an iPhone.  Olga was way more excited about the thoughtful note he included than the iPhone itself, so Alex set out to create the most thoughtful gift ever and Datevitation was born. Alex proposed to Olga in December 2011.  A video of the proposal was posted on Youtube as a Save The Date, and now has over 750,000 views (you can view it here)!  In September 2012, Olga and Alex married and are now run Datevitation together.  You can check out their blog for Datevitation here and their podcast here.

Now, giveaway time! Enter on the Rafflecopter below to win a Datevitation gift book with 5 custom pages. (Note: Winner must pay $3.50 for shipping and handling.  Tax will be applied to books shipped to California.  Books ship to U.S. only.) In order for the winner to be able to order the prize in time for Christmas, the giveaway is going to be a short one. It ends this Thursday, Dec. 13th at midnight! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


I received Datevitation gift book to facilitate this review.  I was not required to write a positive review. Opinions are 100% my own.  See Disclosure Policy.