Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Trendy Tot Tuesday: Picnic Pretty

I am so excited to be the guest host this week of Trendy Tot Tuesday!  I linked up to a few of the very first posts in this link up and although I haven't linked up every week, I love peeking at all the stylish kids around the web!  Won't you join us in showing off a picture of your kiddo in some dashing duds?

Last week's Tots of the Week were Lexie, Dylan and Lily.
So precious, right?
  • Trendy Tot Tuesday is a chance to talk about kid's style, and pretty much anything goes.  Pictures of your cutie, talking about their style (that you buy and dress them in, ahem!), a Polyvore board, linking to the new kid's line at the Gap - anything!  All ages welcome, from you sweet pregnant mamas stocking up a closet to the teenagers that probably pick all their own stuff out now ;)  
  • This is a hop-style link up - please follow your hosts (KellyLindsay and Megan) and our guest host (Mandi). We are in spots 1-4.  Also, jump around to meet other bloggers!  We hope everyone gains some new followers from this link-up and finds some fabulous new blogs!
  • Please link back to (at least!) one of us, and feel free to steal our badge if you'd like.  If you're a tweeter or instagram-er, use #trendytot
  • Interested in guest hosting?  Please email Megan to get added to the list!

Now, on to Lucia's outfit for the week:

Rocking a dress and jellies on our weekend picnic.  And shades, can't forget the shades.  Although they are more often in her hand than on her face.  It's supposed to snow again on Wednesday (MAY 1st!), so who knows how long the dresses will be out, but it was fun while it lasted.  

It's funny that this is "Trendy" Tot Tuesday, because I wouldn't often describe her clothes as trendy.  I'm more into classic little girls clothes.  You know, the kind of outfits that my mom might have worn when she was a girl.  Rompers and dresses.  Plus, I really do think that dresses are so much more practical, comfortable, and easy to move around in for little girls (not to mention easier to put on).  It's nice that I don't have to worry about outfits looking dated when they are passed on to future daughters (hopefully).  Some things just never go out of style.  Of course, toddlers in dresses aren't exactly ladylike, but little girl's dresses always come with adorable matching bloomers.  Do you lean toward a particular style for your little ones?  

Monday, April 29, 2013

WIWS: A few new additions & a naughty, naughty toddler

  skirt: Talbots | shirt: can't see it anyway, so who cares?
baby carrier: c/o Boba | headscarf: gifted | shoes: Payless

The clothes I wore to Mass yesterday weren't nearly as noteworthy as my two new additions: a baby carrier and head covering.  I've covered my head before for Latin Masses before but not for the Ordinary Form.  I've been thinking about wearing one for a while and when I received this lovely scarf from my best friend for my birthday (purchased from Turkey), I thought I might as well try it out.  I was a little worried about calling attention to myself at Mass, but I think the screaming toddler did a much better job at that than a head scarf.

Our Boba was an attempt to keep Lucia happy, but it came off about five minutes into Mass.  I was sent the Boba to review and I have been amazed by how much Lucia loves it.  We hadn't babyworn (is that a word?) since she was maybe six months old in her Moby so I was afraid she wouldn't like it.  Well she does.  As long as I'm moving.  But standing/sitting in a pew?  Apparently it elicits wild animal howls.  Although, to be fair, the howling at the moon didn't end when I took her out.  It didn't really end until we walked out the front doors after Mass.  David and I decided to give her a Mass grade of 5% which was only that high because she did put her hands together to pray for about 30 seconds toward the end of Mass and crossed herself with holy water (and then proceeded to scream because she wanted to do it again.  and again.)  Yeah, it was a rough day.  (The picture above was taken before Mass and she already had a sour face.  We should have known.)  We contemplated leaving halfway through Mass and spent the entire time camped out in the lobby but we made it through.  It's days like that when I contemplate going to a different church so I don't have to see all my students and their parents staring and me and my screaming toddler.  Ugh.

By the by, I'm guest hosting "Trendy Tot Tuesday" tomorrow, so head back to link up a post about your stylish little one (doesn't have to be a tot, a child of any age is great!) or just to check out the cute fashion mavens in the making.

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

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Christian Parenting Handbook Review

When I think of "Christian" parenting philosophies, I often think of harsh parenting techniques backed by heave dose of corporal punishment.  I'm sure those books are in the minority but they were, unfortunately, my perception of the topic.  The Christian Parenting Handbook: 50 Heart-Based Strategies for All the Stages of Your Child's Life has changed this stereotype.  It combines the gentle parenting that I employ with my daughter with the love of the Gospel.  

I'm still working through the promotional copy of The Christian Parenting Handbook that was sent to me, but it has already changed the way I've approached discipline with my toddler.  It's a lengthy book, but the beauty of it is that it's divided into small chapters, each of which discusses and models a different "heart-based" strategy.  This is the perfect format for busy parents, who can pick up the book in a few spare minutes, read a chapter, and immediately begin to use that specific strategy without having to read the entire book first.  With so many strategies, a parent is able to pick and choose which will work for their family or for each specific child.  If one isn't working, there isn't an entire parenting theory or philosophy to throw out as with many other parenting books, there are still 49 more strategies to try.  This is one of my favorite aspects of the book - that it can be used to make, as the book calls it, "your biblical philosophy of parenting" which looks unique to each family.

The other aspect of the book that stand out to me is the focus on character and "heart issues".  The strategies are not meant to correct a certain behavioral problem, but to help uncover the character weaknesses that underlie those negative behaviors.  For example, they may help parents identify that a child's continued refusal to take out the trash may really be an issue of laziness, or perhaps lack of dependability or even time management problems.  Once the root issue is found, the strategies help them address the "big picture" instead of only solving one part of the problem.  And it's all done in a loving, God-centered way!

I received a free digital advance copy of The Christian Parenting Handbook to facilitate this review.  I was not required to write a positive review and opinions are 100% my own.  The post also contains affiliate links.  See disclosure policy. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (87)

--- 1 ---

On Sunday, when I wrote about our discouraging experiences with our toddler at Mass, I had no idea I was writing on an "it" topic.  It was simply prompted by the previous night's Mass and not some greater blog movement, but it feels nice to be contributing to an up-and-up topic.  (It almost instantly became one of my most commented on posts to date, despite the glut of similar content around the web.) The same day I wrote my post, Dr. Gregory Popcak wrote about the same topic.  Largely in response to another blog post.  Which was the response to yet another.  And in case you haven't gotten enough of the topic (or you've become disenchanted by some of the nasty comments on those posts) here's an older post from the perspective of non-parent who welcomes the distractions of young children: Your Screaming Children are Distracting Me.

--- 2 ---

A sweet, sweet blog reader emailed me last week about a possible job opportunity for David!  He's had a few phone interviews and may be flying out to interview in person next month.  So exciting! 

--- 3 ---

We are traveling out of state next week to visit family.  When we lived in Indiana we got to be very close with David's cousin and her two kids.  The oldest is celebrating his First Communion and while we are there I'm hoping to see my friend's new baby (only days old now).  

--- 4 ---

Why oh why do vacations have to be so stressful? We're dreading the plane with Lucia. (Your best toddler on a plane tips, please!) Writing lesson plans and preparing to be gone is so much more difficult than just teaching myself.  And David is working two jobs (subbing and Starbucks) on the three days before we leave, giving us little time to get ready.  Boo.

--- 5 ---

Want to write guest posts for me to publish while I'm gone?  I'd love you to!  Email me with your ideas (messywifeblessedlife@gmail.com).

--- 6 ---

Anything worth doing is worth doing badly. 
-G.K. Chesterton

I was listening to Dr. Ray Guarendi on the Catholic radio station yesterday and someone called in asking for advice for reducing distractions while praying the rosary.  That could have been me, but not only during the rosary, but also during Mass, etc., etc., etc.  Anyway, Dr. Guarendi mentioned this quote by G.K. Chesterton and I thought it was pretty encouraging.  I really don't know much about G.K. Chesterton other than the fact that I'm a terrible Catholic for not knowing anything about G.K. Chesterton, but every time I hear a quote by him, I like it.  I'll read something by him someday.

--- 7 ---
David has been subbing at my school this week (and will be next week too).  I love it!  Driving to school together makes my mornings so much better (I am not a morning person).  And teaching next door to a super cute teacher puts a pep in my step all day.  I know many couples say they could never work together but I think we'd love it!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why I Blog

I started blogging on October 2010, three months after I married my sweet husband, David.

David and I met in March 2008.  In August of that year, he moved out of state to start graduate school.  I thought a long distance relationship would never last. 

 We got engaged in July 2009 and married one year and one day later, just after I graduated from college. 

When we married, I moved out of state to be with him.  I loved never having to say goodbye to my husband.

  But I was unexpectedly lonely. For the first time, I was far from family and friends, in a new place where I could only venture to the grocery story without getting lost.  Not only that, I was figuratively in a new place as well.  I was the first of my friends to marry.  I felt all alone. So I started my blog. 

Those first few months of blogging were such a blessing, especially as struggling with the decision of whether or not to try to conceive.  It wasn't something I could talk about with my single friends.  They had the same view of motherhood that I had when I was single, just a few months before: that we should wait to get pregnant until my husband graduated, got a good job, and we bought a house.  But being married changed my heart and we unexpectedly found ourselves eager to become parents.  And a few months later, we were on our way:

When I became pregnant, blogging became about something bigger.

My husband and I were in this together, so I didn't exactly feel alone.  But I felt inexperienced.

 Through blogging, I connected with other young moms.  I found answers to my burning questions on pregnancy and motherhood.

 I found other women that were just as intimidated and inspired by motherhood as I was.

This blog has gotten me through unexpected hardships and the winding road of life.  

We've made two moves since my blog began.  From Indiana to North Carolina when my husband's graduate adviser moved unexpectedly.  I was five months pregnant.  

After my husband graduated last May, we moved back to Colorado (and in with my parents) while he continues his job search. 

Since becoming a mother, my blog has changed and so has my reason for blogging.  It's still a source of incredible community with other women, but now it's also become somewhat of a love letter to my family.

I celebrate the beauty of motherhood.  

The gift of life.

The love of family.

I record the little moments, holding on to them, as she grows...

And grows...

I seek advice.

I share what works for us.

The joys of motherhood.

The  blessings of marriage.

The hardships too.

I blog because this life is too big not to share.
My life is messy, but I am so, so blessed.
Thank you for living life with me here at Messy Wife, Blessed Life.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A letter to our baby (long before she was born)

I wrote this letter to Lulu the day after we found out we were pregnant.  I didn't know I was writing it for Lucia, I just knew that I was writing it for our first born, for the child we so desired, for our baby that we would love with all our hearts.  And that's exactly who Lulu is.  I found this in a file on David's laptop.  It's quite possible that someday (soon) the computer would die and the letter would be gone forever, but thank goodness I found it.  I can't wait to share it with Lulu some day and it just felt appropriate to share it with you.  My blog was very small when I found out was pregnant (in fact, I don't remember receiving a single comment when I shared the news on my blog) so I never thought to post it back then.  I had planned to write the baby letters throughout pregnancy, but this ended up being the only one.  Reading it now, I think it's enough.  It tells how much we loved her from the very beginning and that is all that truly matters.

March 22, 2011

Darling Little One,

Only yesterday did your daddy and I learn of your existence.  We were truly as happy as any new parents who learn that they finally have a child after months of waiting.  You are much loved, little one, even before we see your face or I can feel your presence in my belly.  We prayed the Rosary last night in thanksgiving for you, because you are truly our gift from God.  I felt very peaceful knowing that the Holy Mother is watching over us as I learn what it means to be a mother myself.   
Already our life together is changing, because although you are still tucked safely inside me, we are already a family of three.  You are coming into a family full of love, and will grow up with parents who not only will love and adore you but dearly love one another.  You are the fruit of our love.  Your grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, and all the family will be so excited to greet you when you arrive in this world, although they do not yet know that you are coming.  Your daddy and I want to take time to privately celebrate your presence in our lives before we announce to the world that you are on your way.  And of course, your life will be filled with the love of God, who created you and placed you in our care. 
I try to imagine what you will be like, to imagine the life you have before you.  I do not yet know if you are a boy or a girl, but I know that God has great plans for you.  He made you with a purpose and he made you perfectly.  I pray that I may be the mother you deserve, that I may help you to grow into a strong man or woman of God. 

With all my love,

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sponsor Spotlight: ...and twins make four

I almost didn't put "Sponsor Spotlight" in the title of the post.  But then I thought that might be confusing..."Is Mandi announcing that she's pregnant with twins?"  No, definitely not!  And then there would be the "But, I don't get it...Mandi, her husband, her daughter, and twins make FOUR?"  Nope, that doesn't work out any way you slice it.  But Sarah was pregnant with twins and now those twins are adorable baby girls and I'm sure you'll be much more enchanted by what she has to say than my ramblings:

Hello to all of Mandi's lovely readers! I'm Sarah, and I blog at ...and twins make four. Wife to Dan. Mother to Emily and Erin. Daughter of God. Lover of family, faith, food, and life.
Prone to silly outfit poses...</ td>
As you might have guessed from the title of my blog, Emily and Erin are twins!

4 days old
Erin (left) and Emily (right), 9 months old
I knew our lives would change once we had children, but finding out we were expecting twins really changed everything. For the best. Our beautiful girls have truly made us a family. Sure, I do more laundry, more dishes, and change (and wash) lots of diapers. But I get to share the beauty of God's creation with my precious daughters, and that makes all of the above worth it.

I get a lot of comments and questions about being a mother of twins. The most common comment: "I can't imagine having two!". The most common question is some variation of "how on earth do you manage?!" If you're curious about life with twins, from pregnancy to standing, I'd love to share more with you. We haven't mastered everything (far from it!) but we've picked up some helpful tips and tricks along the way. Ever wondered what you really need to buy for newborn twins, or how a mom of baby twins goes grocery shopping? How about cloth diapering twins? If you're curious (I know you are), head on over to read more. I'm looking forward to meeting you all!

Many thanks to Mandi for letting me share a little about our family and our life with you! I'm super excited to be one of her sponsors, because hers was one of the first blogs I started reading - even before I had my own. She obviously was, and still is, very inspirational. Thanks again!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Church: Babies & Toddlers Not Welcome?

Due to David's work schedule this weekend, we went to Mass yesterday afternoon at the church closest to us, which is not the church where we are parishioners.  (If you're wondering what I wore, it was a rerun of this outfit sans leggings.)  Every time we attend this church, we feel extremely unwelcome and yesterday was no exception.  The reason we are unwelcome is because we have a toddler who, at times, can be noisy.  Today, we were told we must take her into the cry room. In fact, it was the last straw. 

David and I are working very hard to teach our daughter appropriate Mass behavior and involve her in the Mass.  We don't allow snacks or toys, instead opting for children's books about Mass.  When she gets particularly noisy, we take her out into the lobby, as we did yesterday , and bring her back in when she is settled down so she can participate in the Mass.  Today we were told that even being out in the lobby, she was too loud and we must move into the cry room. 
even crying, this girl is a beloved child of God

How are we to teach her appropriate Mass behavior in the cry room? 
There are no kneelers there, the windows are more like mirrors that one can barely see through because of the reflection, and there are not other people around us for her to see as an example.  In addition, when we were told to go to the cry room, no one came with us to tell us where the knob was to turn on the sound or to tell us how to get out since the door between the cry room and the church automatically locks.  I felt very unwelcome and contemplated just leaving Mass because we were essentially told that our family can only take part in the Mass if we were locked away in another room. 

I'm not writing this to complain on our behalf, but instead on the behalf of other parents of young babies and toddlers.   How is it that the Church constantly talks about the dignity of the human person and the defense of the unborn, but once those precious children are born, they are not welcome at Mass as babies and toddlers?  This is inconsistent with Church teaching.  Christ did not say to only allow the little children to come to him if they were old enough to be quiet and behave at all times.  David and I are devout Catholics and would never leave the Church for any reason, including the unwelcoming comments of fellow Catholics.  The Church is comprised of sinners and I can't fault Her for their human failings.  But there are many other parents out there that may become so discouraged that they seek a local Protestant church that shows the love of Christ to all its members, including those that are young and noisy and an "inconvenience".  (I will fully admit that Protestant churches are much better at welcoming young families and providing support and ministries for them.  We have a lot to learn from our Protestant brothers and sisters.)  It's not uncommon for Catholics to stop going to Mass for years altogether when their children are young because they don't receive support from the Church community.

I never understood why so many Catholics don't follow the church's teachings on contraception, but I feel like I am beginning to understand why many Catholic women use birth control and have the same 2.3 children as the rest of our modern society.  They think that if they do follow the Church's teachings by using NFP* and only postponing pregnancy when they have a serious reason to do so (and therefore having larger families), they won't receive anything but nasty comments from the parishioners, volunteers, and staff alike and they are banished to the cry room.  Many churches don't bring meals after a baby is born or have mothers groups (or mothers days out) for struggling moms with young children.  This is a shame, considering the view of the Church that children are incredible blessings from God!  We need to put our time (and money) behind our convictions.

I believe that every pastor should put a policy in place that dictates exactly how parents of small children should be treated in a welcoming manner (and all church staff and volunteers should be made aware of this policy).  Also, it should be announced to the parishioners that the Mass is for all Catholics, even the smallest among them, and that one way they can show the love of Christ is by tolerating noise from small children who are every bit a part of the Catholic Church as they are.  Of course, a crying baby should be taken to the lobby (and I don't think I've ever seen a parent who hasn't done this) but a young one who is more moderately fussing or babbling (or a toddler talking about Mass!) should not have to leave.  Parishioners should be able to handle a little bit of crying from out in the lobby without banishing the family to the cry room.  Mass is not about comfort or lack of inconvenience, it's about Christ and I hardly think He would approve of His little children being treated the way they are. 

Not all churches are like this.  Our parish is generally very welcoming to small children, although it doesn't have ministries in place for young families.  (I hope to work with our priest this summer to change that.)  Is your church (Catholic or not) welcoming to young families?  What exactly do they do that makes you feel welcome there?  What ministries do they offer?  How to members act toward your disruptive little ones?  I'd love to hear your experiences and ideas!

*Natural Family Planning (NFP) is scientifically proven to be as effective as most forms of birth control in preventing pregnancy, however, there is still a common misconception that NFP is the same as the old rhythm method that is not very reliable.  Therefore many women think that if they use NFP they are destined to have a large family.  That's not the case (unless they do in fact want a large family!).  There are many methods of NFP and while none of them work for all women, there is a method that will work for each woman.  Find out more about NFP here. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (86)

--- 1 ---

I'm looking for advice on long distance relationships.  I've had many readers over the years ask for advice, knowing that David and I were long distance for two years before we got married.  I've been dragging my feet writing that post because I don't feel like I really have that much advice.  I have a few ideas that pertained to our specific situation, but each relationship is different and I'd love to offer a variety of tips and strategies that will work in various situations and for people of various temperaments.  If you have been in a long distance relationship and have some advice to share, please click over here and fill out the form with your tips.  They may be featured in a future post.

--- 2 ---

I have a guest post today over at Fine Linen and Purple about putting a little spark back into your marriage by dressing for your husband Here's a sneak peek:
In a book I’m currently reading (Bringing Up Bébé), the author, an American raising her children in France, notes that the French don’t understand the concept of “date night”. 

“Date night, with it’s implied sudden switch from sweatpants to stilettos, sounds contrived to my French friends.  They take issue with the implication that “real life” is unsexy and exhausting and that they should schedule romance like it’s a trip to the dentist...continue reading at Fine Linen and Purple

--- 3 ---

I have a giveaway going on right now for fellow Catholic blogger Kathleen Basi's newest book, This Little Light of Mine: Living the BeatitudesI really enjoyed the book (you can read my full review here). 

--- 4 ---

I cannot believe that the biggest snowstorm of this winter was in spring.  And not even the beginning of spring but mid-April! We had 2.5 snow days at school, which I normally would be really excited about but we were doing the big "Spanish Market" event with the students.  Murphy's Law at it's best.  The snow is super beautiful though and we really, really need the moisture here to try to avoid a major drought (and probably a lot of wildfires) this summer.  Having a snow day Wednesday also gave us the blessing of having a family day together because David and I otherwise wouldn't have had any days off together this week.

And guess what?  The forecast calls for more snow on Monday!  Although I've lived in Colorado for 15 years (not including the two years I lived in Indiana and North Carolina) and it has snowed in May a few times, so I really shouldn't be so surprised.  I guess it's just a readjustment after living in gorgeous North Carolina last year.  It was routinely in the 50s and 60s during the winter and lightly snowed once.  

--- 5 ---

Did you see that David wrote a post for me this week?  It was random facts about me, so head over to learn about me from my loved one's perspective.  I also wrote a heartfelt post about what it means to me to finally have a sister

--- 6 ---

Last week I mentioned we would hear back today about a job opportunity for David.  He applied for Teach For America and we found out today that he has been put on the "wait list".  We weren't sure that Teach For America was best for our family and were prepared for an answer either way.  We were just so happy that for once we knew he would hear back from a job he applied for and had a particular day that we would get an answer.  Well, that backfired since he once again didn't get a "yes" or a "no" but a "maybe".  So frustrating!  We're going to treat it as a "no" and just move on. 

--- 7 ---

Could you please pray that a job comes up for David soon?  Thanks!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Sister

When my husband's brother married his wife last June, I remember thinking, "Lucky guy!"  His new bride is absolutely sweet, intelligent, faithful, and interesting.  She's beautiful and fashionable.  A culinary school graduate, her simplest meals outdo my "fancy".  She's very crafty and their wedding was the epitome of a DIY Pinterest wedding (you should see their apartment too!).

What I should have been thinking was, "Lucky me!"  You see, I grew up without a sister.  I always imagined that I would marry a man with lovely sisters and I would finally have sisters of my own.  But, just like me, my husband only has one younger brother.  And so my sister-in-law is the first sister I've ever had.

And she's exactly the sister I would have picked had I been given the choice.  My sister-in-law is proof that God has intricate and beautiful beautiful plans for our lives.  I'm not claiming that God put my husband and me together and his brother and his wife together only for me to get a wonderful sister.  But I do think that somewhere in the finely crafted details of the life he created for me, He considered my life-long yearning for a sister.

meeting their niece
A few weeks ago, as David and I drove home from an evening of dinner and games at his brother's, I realized that there was only one word to describe how I felt at that moment: complete.  The family we are born into isn't the only family we will have.  Our families will grow through marriages and births.  Through the family we are "stuck with" and the family we choose.  And sometimes the family we're stuck with is the family we'd choose anyway.

When we got married, my husband and I started praying the rosary together every night.  And one of our daily prayer intentions was this: "that our brothers will find good Catholic wives."  And when Johnny met Rebecca, we knew half our prayer was answered (my brother is dating a nice Catholic girl, but is a long way from marriage, so we're still waiting to see how that turns out).  What we didn't realize was that other prayers, ones that we didn't even know to ask, were answered as well.  Rebecca was always meant to be the aunt to our children, long before she met my brother-in-law (long before I met my husband).  And she was always meant to be a sister to me.

the day Lulu officially got an auntie
It's been less than two years since I met Rebecca, but I knew from the beginning that she was someone special.  David and I chose her and Johnny to be Lucia's godparents before they were even engaged.  Because I knew.  I knew that Rebecca was the one for Johnny and that she was already part of our family.  I think the only other time I've ever truly known something like that was when I met my husband and I knew

When David and I think about our future, we dream about living in the same neighborhood as his brother and Rebecca.  Our kids will run over to play with their cousins at a moment's notice and our nieces and nephews will burst in our backdoor unannounced.  My sister-and-law and I can spend our days together as well, bring each other's families food during times of sickness or a birth of a new baby, drop the kids off at each other's home when one of us needs to run to the store.  I'm aware that this is somewhat unlikely.  It's quite possible that when David eventually finds a job, it will be out of state and we'll have to settle for visiting a few times a year.  But it's still a nice dream and one I'm not going to give up on yet.