Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Guest Post at Day in the Life: Mandi's Vocation as Wife and Mother

If you haven't already seen it, Emily of Day in the Life is running a guest post series entitled "Wives' Vocation".  The purpose is to see the many different ways that women live out their vocation of marriage.  As anyone with a Christian counseling degree knows, it is important to discern one’s vocation and live it out. I am happy to announce that today you can read my take on living out my vocation as wife and mother: 
I always wanted to be a mother. Long after most young girls changed their answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” from mother to lawyer, doctor, botanist or dancer, my answer remained. Growing up, I didn’t think nearly as much about being a wife, although I assumed that I would one day get married and raise the children I so desired with a loving father. It wasn’t until I started dating my husband that I began to think of the role of a wife as distinct from the role of a mother. But now that I am a mother, I realize just how important it is that I put my vocation as wife first...continue reading at Day in the Life

If you are visiting Catholic Newlywed for the first time from Day in the Life, I'm glad you've stopped by!  I write about being a mother to my sweet baby girl, Lucia, a wife to my grad student husband, David, learning to keep house and live on a tight budget, all with a little of my Catholic faith sprinkled in.  I also host two series, On Marrying Young about the joys and struggles of marrying early in life and Baby on a Budget which offers tips and tricks to saving money with a little one.  I'm always looking for guest posters as well, so don't hesitate to contact me if you'd like to write a piece for one of these series (or on another topic you'd think would be a great fit!).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How to Be an Active Gift Receiver

When my husband and I got married two years ago, we were surprised just how generous people were toward us.  As a young couple, we were thankful to receive gifts that would help us start our lives together.  But more than that, we grateful for what those gifts represented: well wishes for our marriage.  We experienced the same outpouring of generosity after the birth of our first child a few months ago. (I previously wrote about the thoughtful and generous gifts we received at my baby shower.)

bridal shower gifts
It is important that the kindness of others doesn’t go unnoticed.  Although many people view gift receiving as a passive activity, it really shouldn’t be.  If someone takes the time to be generous to you, you should take the time to be appreciative.  Consider these two gift giving scenarios I experienced a few years ago:

Scenario 1: A friend from high school invited me to his wedding.  I was engaged to my husband who was living out of state at the time.  We planned for him to make a trip out over the weekend of the wedding, because it was important to me that he meet my friend and join me for the occasion.  It was in our hometown, but my friend and his fiancée were living out of state, so I selected a gift off his registry online and had it sent to his apartment.  I never received a thank you note and only knew that it was received because I had paid extra to make sure he had to sign for it.  The following summer, when I got married, I invited him.  Since he was living out of state, I didn’t expect him to come, however, I never received so much as a card.

Scenario 2: A friend from high school invited me to her wedding.  I was engaged to my husband at who was living out of state at the time.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to attend because it was on a Friday night and he couldn’t take to the day off of school to fly in early enough.  I attended alone.  I selected a gift from her registry and brought it to the wedding.  Within a month of the wedding, I received a heartfelt, handwritten thank you note accompanied by a picture of the couple on their honeymoon.  The following summer, when I got married, I invited her.  Since she was living out of state, I didn’t expect her to come, however, there was a sweet card and thoughtful gift waiting for us in our apartment after we got home from our honeymoon.  Every once in a while, she will mention in a letter to me that they regularly use our gift and thinks of us each time they do. 

Which gift giver would you want to be: the one that never receives a thank you note or the one that not only receives a thank you note, but is also reminded in words and actions that your gift was appreciated?  Which gift receiver would you want to be: the one that doesn’t show gratitude or the one who repays a friend’s kindness with appreciation?

Here are a few tips to being an “active” gift receiver:

Send a thank you note.  Even if you thank the gift giver in person, it’s is a polite gesture to send a thank you note.  If a gift is received in the mail, a thank you note is also the way you let the person know you received it (otherwise, he or she may worry that it was lost in the mail).  A message on facebook, email, or generic thank you aren’t enough.  It really should be hand written.  It doesn’t have to be long, but it should specifically address the gift. (How do you plan to use it? What specifically do you like about it? If it was money, what do you plan to spend it on?)  There are many online resources that give tips for writing good thank you notes if you need inspiration. 

Thank you notes should be written in a timely manner.  I don’t necessarily agree with the formal etiquette rules that say you have one month after such-and-such occasion and only two weeks after another.  I moved out of state as soon as we got back from our honeymoon; since it took a few weeks after the wedding before I could start on thank you notes, I gave myself a little more time and just made sure I got a few done every day.  As I’ve received gifts for Lucia one at a time, I’ve tried to get thank you notes out within two days.

Lucia in a quilt made for her
Send a picture.  Nothing says you liked the gift more than taking a picture of you “using” it.  Of course this doesn’t work in all situations (there really is no need for you to take a picture of where you hung that painting on the wall).  However, if you used the money toward your honeymoon, why not send a picture of you and your new spouse enjoying yourselves?  This works especially well for baby gifts: take a picture of your little one wearing that cute outfit, snuggled up in that homemade quilt, or riding on the rocking horse you received.  Usually you won’t be able to do this before you send a thank you note so you’ll have to send it separately later, and it certainly isn’t necessary, but imagine how touched the person will be when they see how useful and appreciated your gift is!

Follow up.  If you find yourself using a specific gift often, tell the gift giver!  Especially if you are still using it years later.  Although you could write a note, this doesn’t need to be that formal.  It is perfectly appropriate to do this by email, facebook, or to mention it when you are already talking to him/her on the phone or in person.  Again, this isn’t necessary, but so appreciated!

Example: The last few months of my pregnancy, I had terrible heartburn and drank a lot of heartburn tea.  My husband made it for me every night in the same mug - a “Mrs.” mug that my friend made for me as a wedding gift (she made the match “Mr.” mug for my husband that he uses everyday for his coffee).  Every night it made me think of her and her thoughtfulness, so one night while I was drinking out of it, I wrote her a message on facebook saying that I used it every night and I thought of her each time I did.  I could tell by her response that she was so happy that the time and energy she had spent making those gifts for us were still appreciated and remembered over a year later. 

Reciprocate.  If someone thinks of you on a certain occasion, you should do the same for them if a similar situation arises.  If you receive a gift or card for the birth of your child, send one when your friend has a baby.  This doesn’t mean that you have to buy a gift in the same price range, it just means that you should be thoughtful.  In the first scenario, it hurt that my friend didn’t acknowledge our wedding, not that he didn’t spend money on us.  A card with a heartfelt, handwritten message would have been just as appreciated.  It really is the thought that counts. 

How do you show your gratitude for gifts?  How do you feel when your gifts go unnoticed or unappreciated?  Do you have any notable stories of gift giving or gift receiving? 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Baby on a Budget Guest Post: Turning Your Current Belongings into New Baby Items

You might remember Liz from her guest post in the On Marrying Young series, Married Young in New York.  When she wrote it, she and her husband had recently decided that they no longer had reasons to postpone pregnancy and now they are expecting their first little one!  Now she has the experience to contribute to the Baby on a Budget series too!

When Liz sent me a draft of this post asking me if she thought it would fit in with the series, I was thrilled!  Not only does it fit perfectly, but it's on topic that I know nothing about.  While I do consider myself pretty savvy about saving money, I haven't explored making money with current belongings beyond selling a few items on Ebay over the years.  I can't wait to go through my own books to see what baby items I can turn them into (although I admit I'm a book hoarder and will have the hardest time separating with any, even if they haven't seen the light of day in years).


My husband and I are expecting our first child in May and we couldn’t be more excited. One of our major concerns has been our financial situation due to our student loans. Right now, we are both working but I plan to be a stay at home mom if possible. Therefore, we are trying to save as much as we can.

One of the ways that we have started getting ready for the arrival of our little one is by cleaning out all of the things we don’t need or haven’t used in a very long time. My brother is “King of Saving Money”. He is an economist for the U.S. Treasury Department, so you could say he knows a thing or two about finances. He led us to Amazon Trade In.

Amazon Trade In is possibly the easiest site I have used recently. They accept used books (mostly textbooks/nonfiction), electronics, video games and DVDs. The hubby and I both have attended graduate school/law school, which has resulted in a dramatic amount of books that we no longer use. As a student, I always thought I’d keep my books because I’d need them down the line. I’ve been working in my field since before graduation and have never touched them. The time has come to get rid of them. I do not believe in throwing away items that are in good condition and can be used by someone else. This is where Amazon came in.

Amazon will instantly give you a price for any item that they will accept. You will print out a shipping label. You will drop your box off at UPS or USPS. Amazon will receive it and process it. Once your box has been processed they deposit a virtual gift card into your Amazon account for the amount that they offered. Thus far the hubby and I have accumulated enough gift cards to purchase our car seat and our crib mattress completely free. Larger items qualify for the Amazon Super Saver Shipping therefore, it works out to be completely free!

Another fantastic way the hubby and I have found to purchase items for our little one without spending extra money is to use Coinstar. We both have a lot of change and we put it into a large jar. I find it hard to carry around large amount of change in my purse (especially now). Coinstar usually charges a few to change your coins into dollars. However, when you choose the gift card option, they fee is waived. Guess which store is listed as an option? BABIES R US! I was so excited!

Coinstar does not give you an actual plastic gift card. They give you a voucher/receipt that has a gift card number and a pin number on it. You can use the voucher online or in the store. We used our first one recently and it went smoothly! I can’t wait to see what we can turn our change into next!

Liz is a New York native, married to a wonderful man. He is a Maryland native who moved to New York in 2005 to further their relationship. They were married in July 2010 and are expecting their first child in May 2012. She blogs about their life together at Tales From Astoria.

Please check out the other posts (including some great guest posts) in my Baby on a Budget series.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Our Wedding Cake

Like any other girl, I started imagining what my wedding cake would look like long before there was even a groom!  By the time I got engaged I had a million different wedding cake ideas floating through my mind, but I ultimately decided to go with a simple cake and traditional bride and groom cake topper.  The only detail I just had to have were those little dots all over the cake.  For some reason, I think they are just so cute and classy.

I bought this Precious Moments figurine about six months before David proposed.  A local store was going out of business and it was discounted to a price I just couldn’t resist.  I bought it without any particular purpose in mind, although I did have some friends that were getting married later that year and thought it might make a nice shower or wedding gift.  When I showed my mom, she instantly loved it and insisted that I save it to use at the cake topper for my own wedding cake.  At that time, we knew that David would be proposing soon (he had already asked for my great grandmother’s ring which would become my engagement ring), so I put it away in my hope chest with anticipation that I might have the chance to use it soon.

David and I later received a Precious Moments engagement figurine from a dear family friend as an engagement gift.  For our first Christmas as a marriage couple, my parents got us the Disney bride and groom figurine (we went to Disney World on our honeymoon and wore bride and groom Minnie and Mickey ears leaving our reception).  These, along with our cake topper, have started a Precious Moments collection which we will continue to add to as we experience other notable occasions as a couple.  I plan to ask for a christening figurine to commemorate Lucia’s baptism for my birthday next month.

This cake cutter set was an bridal shower gift and was a sweet touch for our wedding.  It was engraved with not only our names and wedding date, but also one of our engagement pictures.

When we got married, I ate a vegan diet and it was very important to me that I be able to eat my own wedding cake at our reception.  It took us quite a while to find a baker that had a vegan recipe, but we finally did!  We only had the top layer made without dairy products, so instead of cutting the bottom layer of the cake as everyone watch, we cut the top layer.  It was difficult and frustrating as we struggled while everyone looked on, but it probably took much less time than it seemed like in the moment.

A bride and groom feeding one another a piece of wedding cake signifies their commitment to provide and care for one another.  It was a very sweet moment for us and we did it lovingly (no smashing cake in each others' face!).  Unfortunately, that little bite was all I got of our wedding cake.  After we cut the cake, we mingled with guests and by the time I went back for a piece, all the vegan slices were gone.  Maybe someday if we move back near my hometown, we’ll have the baker make a miniature version of the cake so I can enjoy it.  Although to be perfectly honest, I don’t remember what all the flavors and fillings were.

A family friend offered to help with the wedding, and since she makes beautiful cakes, we asked to make a Cubs cake as a surprise groom’s cake for my husband.  He didn’t know about it until his cousin (a fellow Cubs fan) came up to him at the reception to tell him how much he loved the Cubs cake.  My husband lived out of state when we were planning the wedding, so he left most of the planning to me.  I was very excited to be able to include a personalized touch just for him.  

For more wedding cake stories, see the Wedding Cake Link Up at The Magnolia Pair:

Friday, February 24, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 48)

--- 1 ---

David has been working from home all this week and it’s been wonderful!  He’s at the point where he is finishing up his research and devoting most of his time to writing his dissertation which he can do from home.  I can’t begin to explain the difference it makes in our household.  Even though he’s been working longer hours, we’ve been able to see him more when he takes breaks.  And I’ve been able to get so much more done.   I can’t really explain why, but I tend to do more when he’s home.  Plus, when Lucia takes a nap, I’ve been able to leave her in the apartment with him while I go work out.  I just hope I haven’t been bothering him too much and he’s been able to get a lot of writing done too.

--- 2 ---

Lucia grabbed a toy for the first time yesterday.  She was laying on her play mat and I held it up in front of her.  She reached her arms out and grabbed it with both hands as if she had done it a million times before!  At first I was thinking it might have just been a fluke, but she did it several more times with other toys (until she bopped herself hard in the face with one!).

--- 3 ---

I featured a new Baby on a Budget guest post earlier this week about stocking up for baby by Rachel of The Atwoods.  Rachel and her husband started buying baby items and maternity clothes before she was even pregnant because they were such good deals!.  Go read her advice on getting the best prices for baby items.  Then check out her blog and don’t miss the awesome story of how she met her husband!

--- 4 ---

One of my Lenten goals is to write a letter everyday.  A letter to a friend.  A thank you note.  A birthday card.  A love note to David.  A letter for Lucia in her journal.  All and any of the above, just as long as it’s heartfelt.  So far so good.  Here’s a thank you note I made the other day for my parents.  Not every thing will be homemade, but there is no better way to make sure it’s heartfelt than to make it yourself!

--- 5 ---

We received a large package in the mail this week full of clothes for Lucia!  David’s second cousin and his girlfriend have a daughter about three months older than Lucia.  When we were out in Colorado over Christmas, they gave us all their daughter’s 0-3 month clothes and this box was full of 3-6 month clothes.  We feel very grateful and very blessed to have them as family, and hope that we’ll be able to move back to Colorado so Lucia can grow up playing with her little (third!) cousin.

--- 6 ---

It’s always such a humbling experience to see fellow Christians wearing their ashes as they go about their otherwise ordinary days on Ash Wednesday.  If you feel the same, you might find this article about a photographer who takes pictures of people wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday.  The pictures are awesome. Students attending Christian schools may be
inspired by these pictures.

--- 7 ---

I have a few prayer requests this week.  Would you please pray for my friend with thyroid cancer?  She is having surgery to remove some or all of her thyroid and possibly some of her lymph nodes as well if it’s already spread to them.  I’d also appreciate prayers for my friend’s husband who just had a stroke.  She told me that it was minor and that he is doing well, but he’s in the hospital and I’m sure could use some prayers for a swift recovery.  Finally, prayers for my husband while he works on his dissertation would be much appreciated.  He’s had to deal with frequently broken equipment which has put him behind.  His defense is a month from yesterday.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Children Attending Births

I was very intrigued by this week’s Friendly Debate with the Danielles topic: children attending births.  Since we hope to have more children, we most likely will have to make this decision regarding Lucia presence at the births of her younger siblings. 

In general, I think that having children attend births is a very natural and beautiful way to include them in the expansion of the family.   I also believe it is important that as a society we are more knowledgeable about the birth process so that it can be normalized and no longer feared.  What better way to do that than to include children in births, like our ancestors once did? 

I do believe that certain circumstances have to be in place, however, in order for it to be a healthy experience for the child.  If there are any serious complications that endanger the mother or baby, it’s probably best that a young child is not involved.  Additionally, there should be someone at the delivery whose sole purpose is tend to the child at all time, comforting her if she is scared to see mommy in pain, explaining what is going on, and able to take the child out if any complications arise or if she becomes too uncomfortable.  And not all children may be able to handle the intensity of a birth; parents should be able to judge if their little one is capable of attending. 

That said, I’m not sure that we will be able to have our children attend future births.  When I had Lulu, my husband, the midwife, and a nurse were the only people present.  While this was partially due to our recent move far from family and friends, even if we lived nearby I don’t know that I would have been comfortable having others in the room with us.  While many women want their mothers with them, I was afraid that would have only made the situation more stressful.  My mother had all her children through c-sections, so she never went through labor or natural delivery.  Since she didn’t know what to expect, and because she is a worrier, I think she would have pushed for me to go to the hospital (I birthed at a birth center) and have interventions even when while the labor was normal and healthy. 

If we are living back in Colorado when our next child is born, I could potentially ask my future sister-in-law who had previously attended births of a good friend who is a nurse to join us for the birth and watch Lucia.   But I don’t know yet if I would want them there.  Having just my husband with me during labor made the experience very intimate.  Looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else present even if it would have been possible.  The main question I will have to answer when it comes time for another child is not whether I want to have extra support people in the room, but rather would the birth be complete without our daughter present. 

What’s your take?  Would you have (or have you had) your other children attend a birth?  Who have you had in the room with you for support?  

See my response to other Friendly Debates with the Danielles topics:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ash Wednesday - Penance

I was once told that more Catholics attend Mass on Ash Wednesday than on Christmas or Easter.  While I am not sure that this statement is true, I certainly understand why some people may cling to this tradition long after they have shed all other vestiges of the faith.  The ashes are an outward sign of repentance before the Lord and the concept of penance resonates deeply within the hearts of all humanity.  Although our society often teaches us to shift all blame away from ourselves, to instead place it on our parents, on our education (or lack thereof), on the media, or on the influence of others, there is a sense of peace that comes from taking responsibility for our shortcomings.  Only by acknowledging our sins can we truly be free of them.

Although I don’t go as often as I should, I have never taken the sacrament of penance for granted.  This is not to say that confession is ever easy.  Like most Catholics, the minutes and hours leading up to the moment I step into the confessional are full of anxiety and doubt.  My grandfather entered the Catholic Church in December 2010 at the age of 79.  When he was baptized, he was cleansed of a lifetime of sin.  When I asked him to explain what he felt, he told me that he felt as if a great weight was lifted from his shoulders and all his cares evaporated.  I experience this on a smaller scale every time I leave the confessional.

Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality. On Easter, we will celebrate with joyful hearts the resurrection of the Lord.  But first we must meditate on his death, for without his great suffering, there would be no reason for joy.  May this Lent be a solemn and contemplative season that brings you closer to Christ.

Linking up to Catholic Blog Day Ash Wednesday post on Penance.

Lent 2012

Lent is upon us.  It is my favorite liturgical season because after forty days of fasting, abstinence, and penance, I can approach Easter with a simplified life, clean soul, and joyful spirit.  I’ve been thinking about what I need to do to make this Lent solemn and transformative, and here are my Lenten plans for this year:

My personal goals:
  • Limit internet time to 1 hour per day (I’ll still be writing blog posts, just not while on the internet - it’s not blogging that takes up so much time, it’s all the other distractions online!)
  • Write one letter per day to a friend, family member, to David, or a letter to Lucia in her journal
  • Take Lucia to daily Mass at least once a week

Our family goals:
  • No sweets.  In the past (and probably still in some areas of the world) all Catholics gave up luxury foods, such as butter and sugar, during Lent in order to maintain its austerity.  If they could do it, so can we.  We tend to have dessert every night, and I imagine we’ll continue to do so, but brownies and ice cream will become fruit and yogurt.
  • Say the rosary together every night.  We say the rosary together most nights already, but during Lent, I want to make sure we (more like I) don’t make any excuses to skip it.

Solidarity with the Church:
  • I won’t be fasting on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday due to breastfeeding, but I will eat only simple meals those days.
  • Since I’m already a vegetarian, I will be eating vegan meals (like my vegan coconut corn soup) on Fridays.

Throughout Lent, I’ll also be looking for and recording ideas for celebrating Lent with children.  It will still be a few years before I can do much with Lucia, but since I didn’t grow up in a household where liturgical seasons or Church feasts were celebrated, I want to have several ideas stored up to try with our family.

What are your plans for this Lent?  What are past sacrifices or additions you’ve made during Lent that you found particularly successful?  Have any of them changed your life and your habits in the long term?  

Check out the Lent Link Ups at The Alluring World and
 Equipping Catholic Families for more posts about Lent.
Equipping Catholic Families

Monday, February 20, 2012

Baby on a Budget: Stocking Up

Rachel originally wrote this post for her blog, The Atwoods, but received a tip to contact me about adding it to my Baby on a Budget series as well.  And it couldn't be more perfect for the series.  Rachel is a girl after my own heart, hitting up garage sales, thrift stores, and clearance sales, but what I love most about their saving for baby strategy is that Rachel and her husband started saving up baby items before they were even expecting!  And from the pictures, it looks like that strategy has really paid off!  Rachel, many blessing for your little boy on the way.


When Nathan and I started to really talk seriously about trying for a baby, we both decided it would be a good time to start preparing ourselves for all the stuff we'd need to buy.

Since Nathan is in management at a local retailer, he sees all of the sales/discounts in his store weekly and he's always aware of the great coupons that are floating around. He took it on as his job to start stockpiling the baby basics - diapers, wipes, baby lotion/oil, etc.

As most of you know, my mom and I make weekly shopping trips to our local Goodwill, so I decided I'd start perusing their racks for maternity clothes too. And now that we're actually expecting baby #1, we're so glad we got a jump start on stockpiling this stuff; all of which we managed to score for a great deal using coupons, or buying stuff 1/2-off at the Goodwill.

I thought I'd share some of our tips in case any of you are planning/trying for kiddos's never too early to start saving money on these things!

Diapers, Baby Lotion/Oil, Bath Wash, etc.

Nathan's tips for buying these everyday items include:
  • First educate yourself on how much diapers cost at their regular price (i.e. Walgreens store brand usually runs about $10/pack, and that big box of Pampers can run upwards of $30 - these are our prices in NY, so make sure you check your local stores to find out for sure)
  • Shop drug stores for clearances, mark downs, and Buy One-Get One Free sales. 
  • Pair the sales in the stores with any manufacture coupons you can find online or in weekly ad circulars. 
  • Stock up if it's a great deal! We know diapers don't expire, so we weren't afraid to buy the "size 3" diapers this early on - we know we'll use them eventually!
All of these same tips apply for any other nonperishable baby items - lotions, oils, wipes, shampoos and bath wash.

With the help of these tips, Nathan was able to score all that stuff pictured above, and we're only halfway through our pregnancy! The Walgreens brand diapers were Buy One, Get One Free so that's why he snagged so many of those, and the Pampers boxes were on clearance so we snagged 2 big boxes of those too. I feel good knowing our little one will have a squeaky clean bum for half the cost! ;)

Maternity Clothes

See those two totes marked "Maternity?" Those suckers are piled high with maternity clothes, and the best part is - I paid no more than $5 for any one item. In fact, a lot of the items cost me $2-$4 each! 

Rachel's tips for buying maternity clothes:
  • Shop your local Goodwill, thrift store, consignment shops first before hitting the major department stores. (All of mine came from Goodwill, but it took me roughly 4 months to stock pile 2 boxes worth.)
  • Buy items that are multi-seasoned. Because I wasn't sure when I'd actually wear the maternity clothes, I only chose items that I knew could be good for many seasons (i.e. a short sleeved shirt that could easily be paired with a cardigan or sweater for fall/winter, thin long-sleeved shirts that could easily be worn in fall/spring, pants that could be worn any time of the year, etc.)
  • And my own personal Goodwill shopping rule - Only buy if it's 1/2-off, UNLESS it's a really really good deal. For example, a few of the maternity work pants were too good to pass up, so I think I ended up paying $5 for them. They were name brand and some even still had the store tags on them, so I think that's worth snapping them up!
And here's a peek at a few of the great items I've found...

Striped dress, originally from Motherhood Maternity 

 Pink top, originally from Kohl's

Maternity below-the-belly panel jeans, originally from Old Navy

Other items that you just want for fun!

I don't know why, but I have always wanted a BabyCook baby food maker. I know you can do the same exact thing with a food processor and a pot of water, but these are just plain fun, and I assume make things a bit easier. However, for the $200 price tag, I just resolved I'd never have one.

Until one sweet day when me and my friend were yard saling and stumbled onto a lady willing to hand hers over for $15. You read that right - $15!!! Did I mention she also included 32 of those little containers for preparing and freezing the baby food?!? Crazy!!!

My tip here? Make a list of these big ticket items that you want/need and then yard sale (or scour Craigslist) like crazy. People are always giving away baby stuff for barely anything at yard sales, so it's an expectant mother's gold mine! 

Now I know what some of you are thinking...wasn't it a bit presumptuous of us to stock pile baby stuff and maternity clothes before we even got pregnant?!?! We thought so too at first. But then, we realized the deals were too good to pass up and decided if we couldn't use them then they would always make great donations or gifts to other expectant parents in need.

What about you guys? Any mother's out there who want to share their tips for finding good deals? We'd love to hear!

Rachel is an Alabama native that moved to cold, snowy Upstate New York several years ago. She fell in love with a red-headed cutie named Nathan and they said 'I-Do' in June 2009. They bought a little place to call home and have been fixing it up ever since. She blogs over at The Atwoods about their DIY house projects, recipes they enjoy, and their most recent adventure...getting ready to welcome a new (little) member into their family in June!

Please check out the other posts (including some great guest posts) in my Baby on a Budget series.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 47)

--- 1 ---

My mom’s received the results to her recent cancer scans.  The cancer has not returned, but some of her thyroid remained despite her surgery and radiation.  She will have to undergo more radiation to get rid of the rest of her thyroid (as a precautionary measure).  Normally this wouldn’ t be a big deal, but she had a very extreme adverse reaction to the radiation last time, and we worry what an increased dose will do.  Thank you to all who prayed for her!  I appreciate your support and ask that you continue your prayers for her until she gets through radiation (it’s not scheduled yet, but will probably happen sometime next month.

--- 2 ---
One of my best friends was diagnosed yesterday with the same thyroid cancer my mom had.  Just like my mom, her prognosis is good and she will probably live a long healthy life after she undergoes the same surgery and radiation.  But I still can’t help worrying and I know that she is very scared.  It is a blessing that she is able to have my mom as support.  I’ve been friends with her since childhood and she is very dear to my family as well.  It is extremely difficult for me to be so far away from her.  She was there for me and my family when my mom was going through treatment, and I wish I could be by her side while she goes through this.  I ask for your prayers  for her as well.

--- 3 ---

I promising this is my last depressing medical Quick Take (and it’s not really all that depressing) and then I’ll get on to something more happy.  My other best friend is having surgery next month, and I just booked a flight for me and Lucia to be there when she has it.  She just moved to Atlanta to start grad school in the fall and I didn’t want her to be without someone she knows intimately to care for her.  It was really important for me to be there for her and David was very supportive of me going.  He even offered to stay home with Lucia while I was gone, but my best friend is looking forward to seeing her and David will be finishing his dissertation at that time (not to mention that being separated from her makes me very anxious), so it’s just much easier that I take her.

--- 4 ---

Lucia and I are going to infant massage classes on Mondays.  The teacher needs to teach a certain number of class hours before receiving her certification, so it’s free!  We went to our first class this week and I’ve been giving her a massage every day.  She loves it!  Although it doesn’t really calm her down at all, instead she becomes a chatterbox and is all smiles and wiggles.  I love it too; it’s some very special skin-to-skin bonding time between the two of us.  David’s coming to the class next week because it’s supposed to be great bonding for dad and baby since he doesn’t get skin-to-skin time with her like I do while nursing.

--- 5 ---

David and I went out to dinner on Monday for Valentine’s Day.  Lucia tagged along too of course.  We had a couple gift cards for the restaurant from Christmas, so we splurged a little and bought ourselves drinks as well.  I had a margarita, the first drink I’ve had since before I was pregnant and it was so delicious!

--- 6 ---

I bought my bridesmaid dress and shoes.  The restaurant we went to dinner at was near a Ross and TJ Maxx, so I went into both just to see what they had and was surprised to find exactly what I was looking for.  I got my shoes at one and my dress at the other (still need cowboy boots though).  Needless to say, they were at great prices.  I was shocked to find a dress that looked nice on me even though I haven’t lost too much of the baby weight yet (and will look even nicer if I do lose some more before the wedding).  I found a picture of it online:

--- 7 ---

Lucia was quite the heartbreaker this week.  She got Valentine gifts from two cute little boy babies this week.  But she only had eyes for one young man.  Here’s a picture of her with her real Valentine:

This week's Quick Takes are hosted at Betty Beguiles!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Guest Post at Letters from Momma: Pacifier: To Use or Not to Use

I have a guest post today over at Letters from Momma about deciding not to use a pacifier with Lucia.  Kaylene and I became fast friends after she found my blog and we realized that we have so much in common (young Catholic wives and mothers, who are taking some more "natural" parenting approaches).  She has written a few guest posts for me (about being a one income family and marrying young) and it was about time I reciprocated.  Here's a little excerpt:

When my husband and I chose to cloth diaper, exclusively breastfeed, and co-sleep, we expected our choices to be controversial among some of our friends and family.  For this reason, I thoroughly researched our decisions and was prepared to defend them.  While we did receive some raised eyebrows and disapproving comments about these “unconventional” parenting methods, I was surprised to find that, thus far, we have received the most questions about our decision not to use a pacifier...continue reading at Letters from Momma

 If you are visiting my blog for the first time from Letters from Momma, I hope you'll take a little look around.  I write about many parenting topics, from cloth diapering to co-sleeping, and am currently hosting two blog series, one On Marrying Young, the other on having a Baby on a Budget.  I'm also always looking for guest posts, so don't hesitate to contact me if you'd like to contribute something.

Our Success Story: Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I originally wrote this as our Catholic Match "success story" in June 2010, shortly before our July wedding.  I need to write update our success story since I now have our wedding and the birth of our child to add, but for the time being I thought it was perfect for a St. Valentine's Day post and perhaps a nudge for single Catholics out there that are contemplating online dating.

I joined Catholic Match on a whim, partly to help me heal after ending an unhealthy long-term relationship. In reality, I joined only to read the profiles and remind myself that there indeed are good men out there. Many of the problems of my previous relationship were due to fundamental differences in our core values. Since all of my personal values could be traced to my Catholic faith (which my ex-boyfriend did not share and in fact often belittled me about), I decided that in the future I would only date fellow Catholics.  However, at that point I believed that it would be months, if not years, before I was ready to date again and I was content with only looking at profiles. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that God had other plans for me!
Shortly after joining Catholic Match, I started exchanging messages and instant messaging with a few men on the site. While several seemed to have the qualities I looked for in a husband, I was instantly drawn to a particular young man named David. We began exchanging messages in early March 2008, shortly before my twenty-first birthday. We talked on the phone a few weeks later (including one night in which we spoke for 8 hours straight!) and met for the first time on March 29.  I was very nervous waiting for him to arrive at my house, but the date went surprisingly well. He was exactly the same in person that he presented himself as on the website and over the phone. 
Within a few months, I knew that this was a man that I could marry and raise a family with. Although I found him to be good-looking and intelligent, I was most attracted to his strong faith. When he graduated from college a few months after we started dating and decided to go to graduate school out of state, I was devastated. While I knew that long distance relationships work for some, I thought that they would never work for me. I began to ask God why he would have put this wonderful man in my life only to have him move away. It was with this mindset that we agreed to try a long distance relationship. 
Once again, God had surprises in store for me. Not only did our long distance relationship work, it flourished. Without being able to see one another on a regular basis, we were forced to talk often and learned more about each other in the first six months of dating than most couples learn in a few years. The long distance also forced us to make a commitment to each other early on, and David gave me a promise ring in September of 2008 when I flew out to visit him. The distance has not been without its difficulties and I especially struggle with having “two separate lives”. I am very close to my family and a small group of friends, and they have not had the opportunity to get to know David and spend time with him as much as I would like, although they have all given me their approval and blessing. 
David proposed to me on July 16, 2009 while on a camping trip with my family. He asked my father for his approval beforehand and I said “yes” without a doubt in my mind that he is the man that God led me to. I graduated from college this May and we will be getting married on July 17, 2010. I will be moving to live with him until he graduates with his Ph.D. and am very excited to not only be his wife but to finally be able to see him every day. 
I will be forever indebted to Catholic Match. I joined the site with no expectations and within two weeks found the man I am going to marry. Although it is not often that people look at modern technology as an instrument of God, I know that He was at work on Catholic Match.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Organize the Internet with Clipix

As many of you already know, I am currently in the process of finding bridesmaid attire for my brother-in-law and his fiancée’s wedding.  My soon-to-be sister-in-law is letting the bridesmaids pick their own dresses, heels (for the church), and cowboy boots (for the reception) within a few certain guidelines.  So I’ve been scouring the internet for the perfect outfit, and I’ve found the perfect online tool to help me keep all my ideas in one place: clipix.

Clipix is a website that stores all the neat ideas you come across on the internet.  Once you drag the “Clip” button to your toolbar, all you have to do it click on it when you want to save the information you are looking at for later.  You can customize your own clipboards to make clipix work for you.  For example, I have a clipboard for all the great baby and kid activities I come across, because although Lucia is too young for them now, I don’t want to have to search again for the ideas when she’s ready for them.  I also have a clipboard for Catholic articles, because I always want to link my posts to a great article I just read, but can’t ever seem to remember where I saw it.

Some of my favorite features of clipix:
  • When you clip something, you don’t have to write a caption, it already takes one from the page (and it’s almost always exactly what I would write myself).  For example, if I clip something on a store’s page, the caption will be the name of the product and name of the store.  If the clip is of a product for sale, it will almost always include the price as well.  Sometimes I’ll add additional notes (for example, if the dress I’m clipping is currently out of stock or the particular color I’m interested in if it comes in several), but usually I’ll just leave the self-populated caption.  It makes clipping that much more fast and easy.
  • You don’t have to include a picture.  If there isn’t a picture on the page (or one that corresponds to the content you’re interested in), you can just type in a description (for example “article about preparing for Lent” or “activities for toddlers on long car rides”).
  • You can easily share not only an individual clip, but also an entire clipboard.  There are buttons to share on Facebook, Twitter, or through email.  This would especially come in handy if I wanted to email the bride or get advice from all my Facebook friends about which bridesmaid dress is best (I’m so indecisive, so having others help narrow down choices is very important to me). 
  • There are privacy settings for your clipboards.  You can make them visible to every, just to your Clipix friends, or only yourself.  So if I share that a clipboard of dress ideas with my sister-in-law and she wants to check out my other clipboards, she won’t stumble upon my clipboard of wedding gift ideas.
  • You can make “multiboards”, which are several clipboards put together.  I am an organizer and this option just makes organizing clips that much easier.  I currently have a “Bridesmaid” multiboard that includes four boards: “Bridesmaid Dresses”, “Bridesmaid Shoes”, “Cowboy Boots”, and “Hair Ideas”.  I also have a recipes multiboard that includes both “Recipes to Try” and “Recipes I Love” (for the tried and true recipes). 

The ideas for clipix are endless.  How would you use it?  What hobbies do you have that could be simplified by clipix?

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On Marrying Young: Reflecting on 10 Years of Marriage

Here is another wonderful guest post in the On Marrying Young series, but unlike past posts, this one is from from a wife who had many years of marriage under her belt.  Many people assume that a marriage is doomed if the couple marries too young and I find it inspiring to hear stories of couples, like Jen and her husband, who have proved them wrong.  Jen and Jon, wishing you many more decades of a successful marriage!


It never failed. Anytime I met someone and they found out how old I was, they would look at the silver Celtic knotwork ring I wore on my left ring finger. After finding out that I was 20 (and then 21) and engaged, the reaction was almost always the same.

"You're too young!"

"Don't you want to live first?"

"You're only [insert age]!"

I met my husband Jon online in 1998. He was a senior in college and I was a senior in high school. We bonded over discussions of Celtic Christianity but lost touch for a year after I came back from a trip to Ireland with walking pneumonia in both of my lungs. The online discussion picked up again in July 1999 and in January 2000, we started "dating". We met for the first time in March 2000 and hit it off instantly. That August, Jon proposed. Our engagement was more than a year and a half long owing to my need to finish college and me insisting on 6 months in the same zip code to make sure that we could co-exist without killing each other. On March 23, 2002, we got married in my Episcopal church in northern California.

Our first week of marriage was a chaotic mess. The only time we got together before starting back up at the seminary was the day after the wedding when we were flying back to school in Ohio. Not only was it the first week of the quarter, it was also Holy Week and as two seminary students, that meant extra worship services in addition to the daily chapel service and worship on Sunday. Some things worked -- we were both students so we understood that there would be times when a paper or exegetical was due and the other would need to be quiet or vacate the apartment so that the one with the paper could write it. Jon actually *likes* to clean so I was more than content to let him do that while I managed the finances.

In August of 2002, we moved to Newark, Ohio where Jon would be doing his pastoral internship. Normally, the pastoral internship is done during the third year of seminary, but Jon did a year of CPE (chaplaincy) so his was a terminal internship. It was the first time since preschool that I had not been a student and the adjustment was difficult. Additionally, I did not have a driver's license and Newark had no public transportation at that time, meaning that I spent a lot of time in the house by myself with the two kittens that we had just adopted. Another problem was that I was the youngest married woman in the church and almost all of the other women had children or grandchildren my age so they had a hard time treating me like a peer when I was just a kid to them.

One good thing that happened that year was that I joined an online Christian blogging portal called blogs4God and got to know other people that way. I became one of the moderators in 2003 and had the opportunity to do some writing for them. It helped me channel some of my pent-up energy and frustration and gave me a voice at a time when I felt like I had none. Another blessing was that Jon and his supervisor started to take me on hospital visits with them and I found that I had a ministry in doing that. In August 2003, Jon finished his internship and became the pastoral assistant, a job he held until his ordination in December 2003.

Fast forward eight years and two parishes, we will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary in March. Among the lessons I have learned:

[+] Sometimes, it's just better to go to bed angry than try and discuss things out when you are both tired and irritated. Things never look good late at night but they usually look better in the morning. Being the hot-headed and stubborn person I am, I've learned that things just work better if I'm given time to cool down.

[+] You can get through a lot of things together that are terrifying when you are by yourself. Our son Daniel was born by emergency c-section in 2009. Jon was out of town when I ended up in the hospital and received a few terrifying phone calls telling him the extent of my illness, that they were ambulancing me 90 miles south to the nearest BIG hospital, and then that they would be doing an emergency c-section to try and save both our lives. I think it was probably a relief to get the phone call that Daniel had been delivered safely despite his tiny birthweight and that I was going to be OK. The next week was one of the worst of my life as we dealt with the reality of having a preemie (29 weeks), trying to figure out how we were going to pay for what was probably going to be a massive hospital bill ($250,000 when all was said and done), and how we would somehow balance things for the months that Daniel would be in the NICU. (He went home on his 2 month birthday.) I could usually make it without crying during the day when my mother and Jon were with me but nights were really difficult. Having Jon at my side helped out more than one can express and we found that we could cope better at that time if we faced it together rather than separately.

[+] Respect each other's needs. I am one of the worst people to be a pastor's wife because I am incredibly introverted and I really resent people attempting to draw me out of my shell. Once I got my driver's license (after almost two years in the parish), I could leave after 5 minutes of the coffee hour following worship and let Jon stay at church to socialize and have the conversations with people that are important for pastors to have. There were always some parishioners who complained but Jon learned to back me up because I was a better and more patient wife if I could have the time to recharge after being around people.

[+] *Try* to have some separation between work and home. In Jon's first two parishes, this was impossible as the parish office was in our parsonage and all of the pastoral calls went directly to our phone line. For me in Jon's second parish, it was easy because I always had at least a 20 minute commute home from work and at the place where I worked full-time, it was an hour commute each way. It meant that I had an hour to decompress from whatever stress I had at work and could usually avoid bringing it into the house.

[+] Work together. When I was hired by my full-time job in Montana, I lost the ability to get some things done that I was used to doing in the marriage because things like banks were open during the hours I worked and my office was 35 minutes north of town. (I worked for an import brokerage on the Canadian border.) Jon, on the other hand, had a fair amount of flexibility with his schedule and could do things like get the money orders for his tax estimates. (Clergy are considered self-employed and the IRS tends to sit on checks for weeks so we learned to get money orders and cashier's checks to pay the tax estimates.) The supermarket was on the way home for me so I could do the grocery shopping and not make Jon come into town on days when his duties were out at the churches.

I will leave you now with the Old Testament passage read at our wedding:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
--Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Jen is a Lutheran pastor's wife living in northern California with her husband Jon, son Daniel, and four very spoiled cats. She is not quite sure when she lost her mind, but blogging at ::Meditatio:: seems to help. When she isn't being a mom or herding cats, she reads voraciously and is active with the Promise Walk and preeclampsia awareness. She also loves crocheting and cooking but can't seem to find the time (or counter space) to do either right now.

Please check out the other posts (including some great guest posts) in my On Marrying Young series.