Friday, August 31, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 66)

--- 1 ---

The Intersection of Faith and Science I've been reading and following blogs for about two years now and I've read some beautiful posts from time to time, but this is probably one of the most touching ones I've ever read.  A blogger friend of mine, Kaylene, wrote about finding out that the baby she is carrying might have special needs and how she and her husband reacted.  I can only hope that if I am ever in the same situation, I can approach it with as much faith as they did. 

--- 2 ---

21,915 Days of "I Still Do"  My grandparents celebrated their 60th anniversary yesterday.  Check out my post about how they "beat the odds" (and to see a rockin' vintage photo of those two). 

--- 3 ---

Speaking of anniversaries, this week I posted a DIY tutorial of the map wall art I made David for our anniversary last month.  It was really easy, took only a few hours (including shopping for supplies), was under $20 (basically just the price of frames), and came out fabulous.

--- 4 ---

Today completes my second week of teaching.  It's exhausting.  Being in the classroom on my feet (both literally and figuratively) all day is hard work, but the planning is really what is sucking the life out of me.  I teach K-8 so I have nine different classes to plan.  I try to do some similar activities in various grades to save time, but the real lifesavers for me have been Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers.  Thanks to those two sites, I have tons of ideas for activities, games, and worksheets to keep each class interesting.  How did new teachers survive their first year without the internet?

--- 5 ---

A Lucia update: (I know her nine month post is coming up buy I just couldn't wait) She's pulling up on everything she can and is getting quite adventurous about letting go.  She also added a new word to her vocabulary: "mama".  Be still my heart!

--- 6 ---

We spent last weekend with my in-laws.  My husband's brother and his wife came down too and we had a really nice time.  Unfortunately, much of the time I had to work on lesson plans, but it was still nice.  It's especially fun to see Lucia with my sister-in-law, those two are quite smitten with each other!

--- 7 ---

This weekend, my aunt is out for my grandparents' anniversary.  I'm going to be spending the long weekend relaxing with family and baking.  I just haven't had the time to bake with my new job and I can't wait to get a few goodies in the oven.  Have a blessed (and safe) holiday weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

21,915 Days of "I Still Do"

Sixty years ago today, a 16-year-old Hispanic Catholic with tattoos and broken English married a 21-year-old German Jew (much to his mother’s chagrin) in a little Las Vegas chapel called “The Hitching Post”.  It seems the odds were stacked against them.  They were young.  They were naïve. They were broke.  In fact, the young man had to sell his beloved fishing gear to pay for the gas from L.A. to Albuquerque to ask for his sweetheart’s parents for her hand in marriage. 

And yet today, three children, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren later, these two celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.  

 I’ve seen people of my generation brush off the long marriages of older generations with the excuse, “Back then, divorce wasn’t an option.”  Not so.  That young man vowed to care for his beloved in good or bad, sickness or health, as long as they both shall live despite having been raised by a single mother after his parents’ bitter divorce at an early age.  Divorce was an option, but so was life-long love and commitment.  And I’m glad those two chose the latter.

Marriage has never been easy; it certainly wasn’t any easier “back then” than it is now.  That young couple could never have imagined that their life together would be filled with as many sorrows as blessings.  That someday, each would have to nurse the other through cancer treatments.  That they would never have much more money than they did their wedding day.  

When I look at my husband and contemplate the blessed marriage we have, I am filled with gratitude to my grandparents who provided an example of marital love and fidelity that has been passed down through the generations, first to my parents, and through them to me.  Yes, the effects of divorce are profound, but a loving marriage has the power to transform generations.  

Thank you, Nana and Papa, not just for that first “I do”, but for 60 years of saying “I still do” even when you thought it might have been easier to walk away.  You made the choice to love every day for 21,915 days.  And though you might not be commemorated in history book or statues, through your love, you have changed the world.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Anniversary Gift: Mapping Your Love Story

Our two year anniversary was last month, so you could say this post is a bit late, but I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to share the Pinterest-inspired anniversary gift I made for my husband.  In our first two years of marriage, we moved around a few times so there are several places that played an important part in our "love story".

Long before our anniversary, I started noticing and pinning some very sweet DIY map wall art on Pinterest.  When our anniversary came along, we were both unemployed and had just moved back in with my parents.  A DIY map art project seemed to be the perfect gift to commemorate the important places that defined our first two years of marriage.  Not only that, it would be easy on the pocket book and would help up to decorate our room in my parents house so that we could make it into our new home.

I took several examples from Pinterest as inspiration, but I ultimately came up with a design all my own, in large part dictated by which supplies I could easily find.


maps for each significant place in your "love story"
square picture frames (or one short, long frame to place all maps within)
cardstock in colors that complement your decor and map colors
heart stencil, ruler or other straight edge, pencil, & scissors
repositionable glue

In all, I would say this project cost less than $20.  My mom is a AAA member, so she was able to get me the maps for free.  I only used a small portion of each map, so I folded them back up to save them for future craft projects (I'm thinking of making some coasters by using Mod Podge to stick maps to cheap tiles from the hardware store).  The picture frames were the main cost - I think each of these came out to around $5 on sale.  I used cardstock I already had, but it's fairly cheap anyway.  I bought a heart stencil for about a dollar.  The repositionable glue was a few dollars.  I hate including the full price of craft projects like the glue stencils or pack of cardstock since only a small portion is used for this particular project and these are items that I know will get used up eventually.

Even if you have other craft glue at home, I still recommend that you get repositionable glue.  It takes the pressure out of lining everything up perfectly the first time and potentially having to spend more money (and time) if you have to buy new supplies ans start over. 

While I initially loved the idea of putting all three places within one short, wide frame, I opted for three separate frames so we can add more as we add more children to our family or move away for more adventures together.

I also assumed we would put hang these on the wall (and we might eventually) but for now, I'm loving how they look lined up on the top of the desk hutch in our room.


Basic instructions:

1. Trace the heart stencil around significant places to you and your spouse (or the couple your are gifting this to). Cut the hearts out.

2. Cut out squares from two different colors of card stock to serve as the mat.  One should be the size of the glass in the frame.  One should be the same proportions as the frame, but smaller as to leave a border of the other color.

3. Using repositionable glue, glue the two pieces of cardstock in the middle and the heart in the middle of that.

4. Place in the frame and wrap for your honey or for a lucky couple celebrating their wedding or anniversary.

5. Receive an outpouring of gratitude and amazement for your sweet gift.

My favorite part about this gift is that it is very sweet and sentimental, but perfectly suitable for a man.  (Men may refuse to use maps, but they do think it's pretty studly decor.)  It's also a great conversation starter, when people visit your home, it's inevitable that they will ask the significance of the places on your wall.

The three places I chose to frame are "where we married", "our first home", and "where our daughter was born".  You can include little titles within your frame like these, if you like.  I had intended to, but due to the size of the frame and the heart stencil, there just wasn't enough room.


Some places to commemorate:

where you met
where you got engaged ("where she said yes!")
where you married ("where we said I do")
your first home
where each of your children were born
where you went on your honeymoon
each city/state/country you've lived in
where you married & each of your parents married

Another fun idea (one that I'm toying with as well): hang another picture below each of these of the two of you together in that place.  Or you can actually connect the two together by hanging them both on a ribbon and then hanging that on the wall.

Which places are part of your "love story"?  

Have you completed any DIY projects lately?  I'd love if you would leave the link in the comments so I can check out what you've been up to!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Time to Celebrate!

This month has been huge for my blog!  Which is a bit unexpected since this past month, we moved back to Colorado and I started a job, so I really haven't spent as much time on it as in the past.  But isn't that how everything seems to work?  You put tons of time into something and don't seem to see much output.  Then you get busy, back away a bit, and BAM! Things just start to pick up on their own.  Here are a few big milestones this month:

22,000 pageviews so far (and the month isn't over yet!)

15,000 unique visitors

And take a peek at your browser bar...
that's right, my very own domain!

To celebrate these exciting happenings, I'm giving away "Premium" ad space to two lucky readers who would like to take advantage of my skyrocketing stats to promote their blogs or businesses.  All ad packages come with a "sponsor spotlight" blog post where you can really make your blog or business sparkle.  To check out the prizes (or book an ad because you just have to have one right now!), see my sponsorship page.  As always, I will only put up ads to sites that are family friendly!  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, August 25, 2012

WittleBee Review

      opening up the adorable WittleBee Box            looking beachy in a tank & shorts from Wittlebee

If you've been following my blog for any period of time, you would know that I absolutely love "monthly boxes" as baby shower and new baby gifts.  I absolutely squealed with delight when I heard about WittleBee, a truly unique monthly subscription that combines my two of my favorite things: clothing and babies!  For $39.99 a month (even less with a several month subscription), you get a box full of "basics" for your baby or child (up to size 5T) worth about $100.  What do I mean by basics?  Shirts, shorts, onesies, leggings, etc. that can easily be worked into your child's wardrobe.  The idea isn't to take the fun out of shopping for those cute little outfits, but to supply you with the basics on a regular basis.

Even though these are "basics" to supplement your child's wardrobe, they aren't just any old pieces of clothing.  When you sign up for WittleBee, you start by filling out a "style profile" with your child's age, size, gender, and style preferences.  A "stylist" will then contact you to flesh out your preferences even more.  The box I received was based on a "hipster" profile, and I have to say that I love every single piece.  I was especially excited to see a Star Wars onesie since that would be traditionally considered a "boy" item; I specifically requested less "girly" items since Lucia only gets girly, girly, girly (pink, pink, pink) outfits from family and friends.  

What makes WittleBee unique?  WittleBee takes the difficulty out of clothing your child without taking out the fun and style.  Because I was able to pick my style preferences, I still felt like I had a hand in picking out the clothes, yet I also had such a fun surprise in opening up the box.  I love that WittleBee sends the "basics".  I still get tons of outfits as gifts from family and friends, but 90% of them are fancy and frilly, not really fit for my little one to crawl around and play in.  This makes a great gift for new parents because clothing is an ongoing need and expense since babies are outgrowing their clothing quicker than you can buy them more.  It's obviously a great deal as well ($100 worth of clothes for $40). 

These are the items I received in my box:
2 tanks
2 onesies
1 shirt
2 pairs of leggings
1 pair of shorts

Some of them are brands that I've never heard of, while others are brands that I know and love (Tea, Old Navy, Carters).  I was very pleased to notice that all the items in the box were a little on the larger size - some fit right away, some she needed to grow into, but none were too small.  Although the items came in a variety of colors and prints, I was able to easily incorporate them into Lucia wardrobe.  A few of the pieces (like the Tea onesie below) have become our our favorite go-to clothing items.  

Lucia in her adorable Tea onesie
My verdict: WittleBee provides an incredible service to families by regularly providing them with wardrobe basics during those early years when children are constantly outgrowing their clothing.  They do this at a great value and in such a fun manner!  You won't believe how exciting it is to receive your box in the mail, open it, and pull out your child's cute new wardrobe one piece at a time.  I would recommend WittleBee, without reservations, to anyone looking for a unique yet highly useful gift to someone with small children or a baby on the way or to a mom who looking for a few ways to find extra time.

Want to try WittleBee for yourself?  Click here for $10 off your first box and free shipping!

I received one WittleBee box free to facilitate this review.  All opinions are 100% mine.  Please see Disclosure Policy.


Friday, August 24, 2012

How going to the dentist is a lot like entering the confessional

I went to the dentist yesterday.  I didn't want to go.  I never want to go to the dentist.  I'm not sure why I dread it so much.  Perhaps it's a few bad memories of the dentist as a child.  Or maybe it's because I let my mind run wild and envision the worst possible scenarios.  Regardless of the reason for my fears, I force myself to go to the dentist regularly because I know that it is best for my teeth and that the state of my teeth affects my entire well-being.  As usual, my time at the dentist was not as bad as I remembered.  It went by quicker that I thought it would.  Before I knew it, I was walking out, relieved that it was over but so glad that I went.  My teeth were so clean!  As I left, I brought with me the renewed desire to avoid anything that would stain my teeth.  My teeth were perfect - clean, shiny and good as new; I was determined to keep them that way!  And when I do slip up, as I am bound to do eventually, it will be time to go to the dentist again.  I thank the Lord that I have the ability to go to the dentist to keep my teeth clean in spite of my failings to avoid all that threatens to rot them.

Now, read this paragraph again, only substituting "confession" for  "the dentist" and "soul" for "teeth":

I went to Confession yesterday.  I didn't want to go.  I never want to go to Confession.  I'm not sure why I dread it so much.  Perhaps it's a few bad memories of Confession as a child.  Or maybe it's because I let my mind run wild and envision the worst possible scenarios.  Regardless of the reason for my fears, I force myself to go to Confession regularly because I know that it is best for my soul and that the state of my soul affects my entire well-being.  As usual, my time in Confession was not as bad as I remembered.  It went by quicker that I thought it would.  Before I knew it, I was walking out, relieved that it was over but so glad that I went.  My soul was so clean!  As I left, I brought with me the renewed desire to avoid anything that would stain my soul.  My soul was perfect - clean, shiny and good as new; I was determined to keep it that way!  And when I do slip up, as I am bound to do eventually, it will be time to go to Confession again.  I thank the Lord that I have the ability to go to Confession to keep my soul clean in spite of my failings to avoid all that threatens to rot it.

If you (like me) are taking better care of your teeth than your soul, you might want to hie it to Confession.  39% of Catholics that attend Mass weekly go to Confession less than once a year (see statistics here).  What percentage do you think go to the dentist at least once a year?  I bet it's more than 61% (this article suggests that 66% of Americans do).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The First Day of School

Today was my first day as a teacher.  I think it will be a while before I can call myself "teacher" without feeling like some sort of imposter.  The most common thought running through my mind is "Seriously, parents are trusting me to teach their children Spanish?"  

When my daughter was born, I thought I would never have a "first day of school".  I am Lucia's first and best teacher, and I was content with that.  I never imagined I would teach Spanish, or teach elementary school, but here I am.

Today went really well.  There were a few squirrely students and a technology mishap, but nothing out of the ordinary.  I'm starting to think, "Hey, I can do this! I can manage a class! I can plan lessons! I can TEACH!"

I have blisters all over my feet.  My calves are on fire.  I am exhausted and ready for bed before nine.  My heart aches from missing my baby girl all day.  But I made it through my first day of school.  And on Friday, I'll make it through my second day.  One day at a time.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Blessed Mother Word Art {Printables}

The Blessed Virgin Mary has been on my mind and in my heart quite a bit lately.  Maybe it's because we just celebrated her assumption into heaven.  Or maybe it's because since I've started back to work, I've called upon the Blessed Mother to comfort me as I struggle leaving my little one.  For whatever reason, there she is, always with me.  

I've been playing around with some online tools to make visuals and worksheets for my Spanish classes, but instead of making anything for my students, I ended up making some neat word art about our Blessed Mother.  I thought I would share.  Feel free to use these anyway you would like.  I would love it if you attributed these to me, but that's not necessary.  The real glory goes to Christ anyway.  Click on the links under the images to go to a printable version.

 inspired by the many titles of Mary

 based on just the "Queen" titles of Mary
 same thing in white

 My favorite! Inspired by the "Hail, Holy Queen" prayer.

Linking up with:

Friday, August 17, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 65)

--- 1 ---

I went "back to work" this week, starting my new job as a part-time Spanish teacher.  School doesn't start until next week, so this week has been meetings, preparing my classroom, and lesson planning.  The first few days were quite stressful as I worked out my schedule and cleaned out (all the junk from) my classroom.  Now that my classroom is shaping up, I am also finding some confidence and coming up with some exciting lesson plan ideas.  I'm starting to think that I just might pull this off!

--- 2 ---

Leaving Lucia has been heartbreaking.  Yesterday, Lucia pulled herself up in her crib for the first time while I was at work.  I struggled not to cry when David told me about it tonight.  I worry that I will miss big milestones like her first steps while I'm gone.  She has also been noticeably different since I started work, clinging to me when I'm home and crying when I put her down, hand her to someone else, or leave the room.  I worry about the effect my absence has on her.  I don't understand why God is calling me to work right now while David stays at home with Lucia, but I have faith that His plan is greater than mine.

--- 3 ---

I've been working this week on decorating my classroom, which I have to say is a difficult endeavor (especially since there wasn't much to work with).  As in most cases, Pinterest both helps and hurts.  The ideas you can find are amazing (for example, visit the school supply addict), but they often are not feasible for me, either because of my limited budget, limited time, or limited craftiness.  I was able to make some cute bunting for the front white board (perhaps I'll post a picture later) to add a personal touch.  I'm going to be going to a "teacher store" (aka so-expensive-I-can't-believe-anyone-on-a-teacher's-salary-can-afford-it store) later today to try to get some charts of verb conjugation, etc. for my classroom.  I'm not sure that the school will reimburse me for it, but if not, it's necessary since I have absolutely nothing on my walls.  I would have loved to have seen how the classroom was before I got there, because there seemed to be nothing to decorate with.

--- 4 ---

Now that my room is starting to look like a place of learning, I'm turning my attention to classroom procedures.  I will be going into the 1-4 grade classrooms, so I don't really have to create my own procedures with the little ones.  I will have grades 5-8 in my class and I need to figure out how I will handle turning in assignments, participation, etc., etc., etc.  Are there any veteran teachers here that can share the procedures that have worked for them?

--- 5 ---

David is applying to substitute at my school.  One of the teachers will be gone for surgery in a couple weeks and David is going to fill in.  I was looking for someone to care for Lucia on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday when we will both be working (in classrooms next to one another).  I posted something about it on Facebook and an old friend from high school that I haven't spoken to in years volunteered.  How sweet! 

--- 6 ---

Yesterday, my parents celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary and they are going out of town for the weekend!  You have no idea what a big deal this is - they usually don't do anything but go to dinner with family for their anniversary - not even anything for their 30th anniversary!  My grandparents will be celebrating their 60th anniversary in a few weeks.  My aunt is coming out for it and we asked my grandparents what they want to do...they want to go to Red Lobster!  I don't know about you, but I think 60 years of marriage should be celebrated with a little more decorum than dinner at a restaurant we go to for nearly every family occasion!

--- 7 ---

As I get the school year started, I might not be blogging quite as much.  While I'm busy, do me a favor? Enter my giveaway for Guylian Belgian chocolates!  And if you are looking for some new blogs to read, be sure to check out my sweet sponsors and blogger buddies on my right sidebar!  (If you are interested, I have some very affordable advertising options, starting at $3 for one month or $7 for three!)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Monday, August 13, 2012

On Marrying Young: The Adventure Continues

It's been awhile since I've had a new post to publish in my "On Marrying Young" series and I was just delighted to receive this submission.  It addresses one of the main issues that many people seem to have with marrying young - the idea that the "adventure" is over.  Society tells us that once you marry and "settle down", life is boring.  There is no time for trying new things.  Life becomes laundry and dishes and obligation.  Well, of course there is laundry. (Wasn't there laundry before too?) But marriage is also the opportunity for two people to start a new adventure together!

My husband and I met and married young.  When I was ten years old, my family moved to a new town and I started at a new school.  My husband was in my fourth grade class.  In a way, we are "childhood sweethearts" because that's when it began for me; but to make a long story short, we didn't start "dating" until the end of our freshman year in high school.

I don't think I ever really gave much thought to an exact age at which I thought I would get married.  In some abstract way I think I imagined I'd be 25-ish, but that sort of thing is difficult to imagine until you have some real experience.  I decided my husband was marriage material (in a rather mature manner for a 14/15 year-old) before we started dating, but we didn't really talk about it in any real way until we started college.  What I found quite funny was that when I was in high school, the idea of marrying my boyfriend was considered laughable; once I crossed into college 2 months later, it suddenly became an acceptable quandary from friends and relatives.

We knew it was best to wait until we finished school since couples who marry during college have a very hard time if their decision is not supported by their family (which ours would not have been), but I will admit that this was something he felt much more strongly about than me.  (I am quite blessed to have a husband who regularly outshines me in the decision-making department!)  In the end, he proposed during our senior year of college and we married that summer after we graduated.

Many people I knew in college were adamant that they would not marry before a certain age or before they had visited here and there or accomplished x, y, and z.  I understood this idea--after all, living in exotic places or suddenly moving on a whim are much easier without another person to consider.  However, these people had not met anyone with whom they could imagine spending their lives.  It was easy for them to say.  All I could think was that perhaps there were some things I could have done for a few years post-graduation, but would I have wanted to walk away from what many people spend most of their lives looking for just so I could say how independent I was for a few years?  I think it was a wonderful blessing that I found my husband so young.  We grew up together--in every sense.  Our seven-plus years of dating contained all of the milestones on the path to adulthood--driving, jobs, college, finances, etc.  We grew and changed together--and unusually enough, that worked for us.

Also, just because one gets married does not mean adventures have to end.  If you have ever read my blog, you can see that our short, 3-year marriage has been more chock-a-block full of adventure than some marriages several times as long.  Before our next anniversary we will have lived in at least 6 different apartments in 2 different states and 2 different countries.  We have traveled and explored.  I still don't quite understand couples who seem to think that marriage requires one to be ready to "settle down".  Why not take that person with you?  Why exactly are you not "ready" to marry the person with whom you have shared life and now maybe even a home?

I will say that we have been blessed to have not faced many challenges specific to being young.  A lot of credit for that should go to our families.  We began our marriage with a relatively new car we didn't buy and never made a payment on, loads of shower and wedding gifts, and monetary gifts that helped us get started.  We had educations that were mostly given to us and very little debt.  We also knew lots of other people in our circle of friends and community who married young.  Even though my husband was in graduate school the first two years we were married, his education was paid for and he received a stipend.  I worked full-time as a nurse and we usually felt quite comfortable.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing for us has been meeting married couples our age in church.  Unless you attend a conservative, evangelical or Baptist church, most churches these days are missing young married couples.  They return to church just before having kids because they want the children to grow up in church, but don't feel it's necessary when it is just the two of them.  If I just described you, I hope you'll consider that there may be a couple just like you hoping that you'll show up at church someday.

Marrying young isn't for everyone.  But I hope that couples who feel it is the right choice for them will find the support they need.  I also encourage individuals to not put an age on when the right time to get married will be and to leave your future open so that if God brings the right person to you, you will not walk away because it is "2 years too early".  And finally, don't shy away from marriage so much.  It's a big deal, yes.  But if you are committed to each other and are living together, really consider why it is that you aren't "ready".  The rewards of marriage are plentiful :-)

KelleyAnnie and her husband, Brice, have been married for three years and currently live in Germany.  Their blog has been chronicling their married life from day one.  You can follow their adventures (with a current heavy focus on European travel!), read book and movie reviews, recipes, and a hodge-podge of other faith-based thoughts at Over the Threshold.

My Eight Month Old

A sweet little girl turned eight months old last Sunday.  If you're thinking, "You can't be talking about Lucia! She's not eight months old yet!" you're thinking the same thing I am.  How did my eight pound newborn turn into an eight month old crawler? Lucia just doesn't even look like a baby anymore, she is starting to look like a toddler.  Before we know it, she will not only look like one, she'll be toddling around too!

This month has brought so many changes for our family.  Lucia now gets to spend every evening with her Nana and Papa when they get home from work and has gotten a lot of love from her Grandpa and Grandma, great grandparents, aunt, and uncles as well.  At first she was a little reticent about all the new faces, but I think that had more to do with the move and large adjustments in her life than a real sense of "stranger danger".  After warming up to everyone, she seemed to go back to being her happy, friendly self and since then hasn't seemed to upset with new people.  

Another large change has been Lucia's sleeping pattern.  At first, I chalked it up to the change in time zone and in location.  She has been sleeping in a playpen as we are waiting to put up her crib until the new carpet gets put in.  More recently it seems that she has new teeth coming in and gum pain is keeping her up.  Regardless of the reason, she no longer sleeps through the night.  She wakes up around two in the morning, daddy brings her to bed, and I nurse her back to sleep.  For the rest of the night, she is restless, waking up every half hour to an hour, rustling around, and then nursing back to sleep.  End when she is bed with us, she immediately turns perpendicular and pushes both of us off the bed, funny girl!

Lulu is so cute, so full of personality.  She's always been quite the talker, but now she's saying actual words!!!  In the past month, she's learned to wave and say "Hi!"  She says "dada", which of course melts David's heart.  Only a few days after saying "dada", she started saying "dog".  Not surprising since she LOVES dogs.  We have two dogs in our house and as soon as we walk out of the bedroom with her in the morning, she looks down and her head swings back and forth searching for the dogs.  Once she sees them, her arms and legs go wild and she jumps up and down in our arms.  She waves to everyone (including Olympic athletes waving on television), but she waves to the dogs more than anyone. And her waving is always accompanied by "Hi, dog!"  We went to a cute little children's story last week and in the front of the store was a little pet rabbit.  David leaned Lucia over the little gate to see it and she became so excited, exclaiming, "Dog!"

Although Lucia has started talking, she is still signing and has added a few extra signs to her initial "milk".  She makes a sign for dog (of course she does!) and in the last few days has started signing "more" (although it doesn't look much different than clapping at this point).  She has yet to say "mama", which I will admit makes me a bit sad, but I think that she views "milk" as the sign for me because I always come to her when she signs it and I've noticed her using it even when it is clear she isn't hungry.

in front of the fan full blast
Lucia's diet is still 90% breastmilk.  She usually eats about two other times a day when we eat foods that can easily be given to baby.  So far, she hasn't outright rejected any foods but does make some silly, silly faces when a new one is presented.  I think it's the new texture that throws her for a loop.  After a few bites of something, she seems to genuinely enjoy it (hence "more" being the third word she learned to sign).  Sometimes, I'll put some Cheerios or other small snack on her high chair tray for her to self-feed and in the couple weeks I've been doing this I've already noticed a marked improvement in her motor skills and ability to feed herself (early on very few Cheerios made it into her mouth).

Lulu never sits still anymore.  It's so fun (and exhausting) to watch her move around and play, but sometimes I miss cuddling with my baby.  Being cuddled and snuggling with mama is boring so the only time I get to just hold her is when she's sleeping.  But I've also come to love our play times.  She truly is such a fun girl.  She giggles when she's tickled, she loves to explore, and she can't keep her hands off anything.  She loves to touch our faces and mouths when we hold her.  She picks up block and toys (and throws them down).  She loves on her dolly.  But her one true love is paper.  Apparently she thinks paper is oh so yummy, because it's all we can do to keep her from turning all paper in sight into a soggy, crumpled mess.  For the most part, she's so easy going, but she's starting to get an attitude - you know the one - she lets you know when she wants something and wants it now.  I can see the terrible twos around the corner.

I've been working hard to find activities to keep my eight month old entertained She's played with a sensory bin made out of a glass casserole dish filled with lentils and colored wooden shapes.  We've played ball, played with blocks, danced and sang.  I've tried to be creative by filling several colorful bowls with Cheerios and letting her play (an eat them).  She lost interested in the bowls quickly, crawled over to the Cheerio box, and preceded to play with that.  When am I going to learn that non-toys are just so much more interesting?  Lucia has also become quite enamored with clapping, so we've been doing all kind of clapping songs and nursery rhymes.  "Pat-a-cake" is her current favorite!  We try to read books too, but books are about as exciting as cuddling with mama (unless they are in her mouth, then they are quite interesting).  My mom and I went on a book shopping spree last week, buying Lucia all the classic baby book.  My mom was so thrilled and couldn't wait to read a few to Lulu, but she just wouldn't stop wiggling long enough to listen to Nana.  Our local library has story time for babies and I can't wait to take Lucia and see what it's like trying to entertain a roomful of babies that could care less about a book!

caught in the act
Lucia is crawling!  She's been able to get around for a while, creeping around through a combination of rolling, and scooting, but now she's full-scale, fast-as-lightning, hands-and-knees crawling.  Her first day of "real" crawling was on Sunday, her 8 month "birthday".  I'm having a hard time believing that that I have a baby that crawls and talks; it's going to be incredibly surreal when she starts walking!  My dad loves holding her hands and helping her "walk" around the house.  I never realized that babies have the strength to hold themselves up on their feet long before they walk, that it's a lack of balance that keeps them down.  And it never seems like she'll get her balance, how can those tiny little feet balance rolls and rolls of adorable baby fat?

Still a daddy's girl, I can tell my little one has a soft spot for mama too.  A few days ago, my father took Lucia upstairs telling David and I that he had "something to show us".  We followed him into the bathroom, where he sprayed me in the face with the diaper sprayer he just installed.  Lucia saw it and was terrified, screaming as if she had been hurt!  The rest of the night, she didn't want to be separated from mama.  My sweet girl, she was so scared something happened to me!  Melted my heart!

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Guylian Chocolates Review and Giveaway

I was recently given the pleasure of trying Guylian Belgian Chocolates.  My first impression of the company was this little note that was included in the box:
In 1958 Guy and Liliane joined their names, both in marriage and in their company name creating Chocolaterie Guylian: a small, artisanal chocolate maker in Belgium.
Sigh.  Not only Belgian chocolates but a love story as well?  How could I not love these chocolates?

Even more impressive than the story behind the company is the taste of it's praline truffles.  My husband and I absolutely adored them!  They were so rich and creamy that one or two truffles each night after dinner satisfied my sweet tooth (unlike cheap chocolates which leave you wanting more after an entire box).  Not only are they delicious, they also make a truly unique chocolate experience as the truffles are in the shape of seashells and sea horses.  Everything about these chocolates make them a beautiful gift for a hostess or significant other.

We also had the opportunity to try the Guylian no sugar added chocolate bars in both the dark and milk chocolate varieties.  After tasting the truffles, we had high expectations for the chocolate bars and they certainly met those expectations!  I am a dark chocolate addict and my husband likes milk chocolate and we've found that it's difficult to find one brand that excels in both varieties, yet we were both very pleased with what Guylian had to offer.  I think many people, including ourselves, have come to view "no sugar added" as a healthier but less tasty alternative to traditional sweets, but I think I wouldn't have  even known that they were "no sugar added" if I hadn't read the packaging.  

Connect with Guylian by visiting the Guylian website, signing up for the Guylian newsletter (at the top of the homepage), liking Guylian on Facebook, or following Guylian on Twitter.

Guylian is generously offering one lucky, lucky Catholic Newlywed reader the chance to win the following Guylian products

One – 22 piece box of Guylian Artisanal Belgian Original Chocolate Truffles 
Two - 6 piece Original Chocolate Truffle Box 
Four - 2 piece Original Chocolate Truffle Box  

Enter below on the Rafflecopter.  Contest will close Thursday, August 23. Only open to US residents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received Guylian chocolates to facilitate this review.  All opinions are 100% mine.  Please see Disclosure Policy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bibliophile Date: The Book is Better than the Movie

This post is part of my date idea link-up! Check it out for more unique "pre-planned" date ideas from other amazing bloggers (and add your own)!

source: Piotr Bizior - Bizior Photography
This date idea is inspired by an actual date my husband I had a few months ago.  In fact, it was the first date we went on since our daughter was born six months before and I was quite nervous that with all the recent changes in our family and relationship, we wouldn't have anything to talk about other than the baby; however, centering the date around a book and a movie (in our case The Hunger Games) led to ample conversation comparing the book and movie, discussing our favorite parts, analyzing for deeper meaning, etc. I suggest this date for any couple that loves to read and especially for couples that feel like they need some new conversation material. The preparation time is great (the time it takes for both of you to read the book), but so is the date!


Choose a book (and read it): The options for books made into movies are endless.  There is something for everyone, regardless of your literary preferences.  Although, if you and your significant other have vastly different interests, agreeing on one may be a challenge.  Choose a book that neither of you have read, choose one of your favorite books to share with your significant other (or decide to read that book that he's always talking about), or revisit together a classic that you both read back in high school.  You can choose a book whose movie has been out for years (for an at-home date) or one that will hit the theaters soon if you are wanting a date night out.  

Book Suggestions:
In theaters soon: If you are looking for a classic book that will be in theaters later this year, I highly suggest The Great Gatsby which will be out on Christmas!  Also out later this year is The Life of Pi in November. And those with true literary daring, try Anna Karenina also out in November. 
Other books: The Hunger GamesJane Eyre, The Reader, The Time Traveler's Wife, Nicholas Sparks films (Message in a Bottle, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember), Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter books, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Help, Jane Austen books (Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility), Schindler's Ark ["Schindler's List"], To Kill a Mockingbird, Chronicles of Narnia books, No Country for Old Men, Jurassic Park, books turned into Disney movies (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Swiss Family Robinson), Shakespeare plays

Quick reads (for the less-than-enthused reader, to plan your date soon - some you can even read together right before you see the movie): Dr. Seuss books (The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who, Dr. Seuss, Cat in the Hat), other children's books (Babar, Where the Wild Things Are), short fiction ("Breakfast at Tiffany's", A Christmas Carol, Secret Window, Secret Garden [Secret Window], "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow")  or open a volume of Grimm's Fairy Tales to uncover a wealth of movie inspiration ("Snow White" ["Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", "Snow White and the Huntsman"] "Cinderella", "Sleeping Beauty", "Rapunzel" [Rapunzel], "The Frog King" ["The Princess and the Frog"])

Looking for more ideas? Check out this extensive book-to-movie list.  

Date night:

This date is a twist on the traditional "dinner and a movie" date with the focus being discussion of the movie (and comparison with the book).  That said, the movie should be first and the dinner come later!  How many times have you finished a date with a movie either at the theater or at home and after the the movie been to tired to do anything but go to sleep?  So make (or buy) a few snacks to get you through the movie, then head out to a restaurant or eat in for dinner afterward.  (If you eat in, I suggest you make something ahead that you just need to warm up, do take out, or cook together, so you can get right into conversation after the movie).  Some suggestions to make the night extra fun:

Some traditional and not-so-traditional movie snack ideas:
sugar cookies in the shape of traditional movie snacks
homemade popcorn popped in coconut oil (and sprinkled with jalapenos if you're a bit odd like me!)
homemade sweet popcorn varieties
savory spinach bites
trail mix
peanut butter bars

Make a book-inspired meal: Depending on which book you pick, you may be able to make (or buy) dishes (or desserts) that complement the book.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:
If you are reading/watching….

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
Turkish Delights (or plan a tea like this “Tea with Mr. Tumnus”)

The Hunger Games


The Help

The Great Gatsby
Gin Rickey (or really any type of pretentious booze!)

You must also check out the lovely blog Yummy Books.  Browse the archives for even more literature-inspired recipes.  For some visual inspiration, check out "Fictitious Dishes".  Or find yourself a copy of The Book Club Cookbook, The Book Lover's Cookbook, or Literary Feasts: Recipes from the Classics of Literature.

Grab the Button:

I'm also linking up with It's Just Called Spicy's Linky Party!