"When a soul recognises the will of God and shows a readiness to submit to it entirely, then God gives Himself to such a soul and renders it most powerful succour under all circumstances." - Rev. Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Friday, January 19, 2018

Come at me, 2018 (7QT)

I'm getting so creative with my blog post titles, right?

Ah, a new year. So many possibilities. I tend to love this time of year yet January always seems to be such.a.hard.month. We're always hit with illness and other ridiculous things. I'm not kidding. Every January.

So that's part of why I'm just now getting around to fun stuff like my word and saint of the year. That, and the fact that I've really been thinking a lot about what I want this year to look like. And then I think that it might end up looking completely different than what I want, but that I need to still be cool with that. (Part of me wonders if my blog title references God's will so I get the reminder alllll the time. Because I am stubborn.)

Anyways! Goals and stuff! New year thoughts! Let me hit you with some quick takes, linking up with Kelly once again. (This is not an exhaustive list...just stuff I'm willing to share on the world wide web.)

1. Spiritual stuff

-Read the Bible in a year. I'm using Meg's guide! So far, so good. Pictured above.
-Incorporate more silence in my prayer time. Liturgy of the Hours and the Rosary have been my go-to the last couple of years, and I kind of feel like I let them be my excuse "but at least I'm praying!" That being said, I'm still keeping up my daily Rosary, but have replaced Morning Prayer with my Bible reading. I need to delve more into meditative prayer too, and I'm hoping reading Scripture every day will help with that.

2. Personal stuff

-Run a 5K. Man, I was in such a great running groove and then December hit and I just can't.get.the.motivation to run now. But we have a couple fave 5Ks coming up in April and I want to have a decent time for at least one of them! So I'll slowly get back into running by then.
-Read 45 books. See my book list here.
-Finish writing a book. Yeah. I said that. Honestly, I probably have 2/3 of one written (!!) but am having a heck of a time organizing it. So I guess you could add to this list, dedicated writing time. I finally have a new laptop now (almost 4 months later) so this is gonna happen!! (If I keep saying that, it'll come true, right? RIGHT??)
Apparently 90% of the books I'm reading this year are on my kindle. But that's cool. I love my paperwhite!!


3. Marriage stuff

-Attend another retreat. I'm still bummed the one we planned on going to last fall was cancelled! But we WILL make one happen this year. Still trying to decide on the date.
-Go on a cruise. Yep, this is one of those wishful thinking items buuuuut maybe it'll happen by some miracle!

4. Family stuff

-Enjoy our family of 5. Because our boys are so freaking fun right now (and exhausting, yes) so we want to soak that up before (if?) another pregnancy happens.
-Go on a mini-vacation to somewhere new! I'm really not sure we will be able to swing a longer vacation this year because of our financial goals (see next take) but we do want to do something.

5. Financial stuff

-Buy tires for the van. We really want to do this in the next month or so, so everything extra is going towards this right now.
-Save another $1,000 for emergencies. We've had a few scares with house things lately so we really need more peace of mind if something major does break.
-Buy a reclining loveseat. Okay, this is our "treat yoself" thing we want to do (but might not be able to) because our living room furniture are hand-me-downs and, um, old. We can dream though!
-Get a month ahead of our expenses. We've actually been able to start making headway on this for the first time since I stopped working, thanks to YNAB. So dang pumped about it.

6. Saint of the year

I've been using Jen Fulwiler's name generator and this year mine is St. Conrad. I had never heard of him before, and I'm still kind of perplexed about him, because he is the patron of hernias and he and his wife separated - him to a group of hermits and his wife to a Poor Clare monastery. So yeah...strange. But I'm hoping/praying that St. Conrad will help me out with some things this year.

7. Word of the year

God seriously gives me the perfect word every year. In 2014, it was trust - we had to trust that Chase (in utero) was going to be okay, despite everything saying otherwise. In 2015, it was sacrifice - I learned to sacrifice with a loving heart, not a resentful one. In 2016, it was rest - God knew I needed that after a year of sacrifice, and I was able to soak up the newborn phase with Aaron! In 2017, it was peace - I've been struggling with anxiety and really needed the reminder to cultivate peace in my heart and our home. And now, 2018. Grace. God will give me the grace I need to do the things He is calling me to, even when (especially when!) I don't feel adequate. That I need to remember to ask for grace, and that gift is available to me at every moment if I just ask.

Okay, what are your plans for 2018?? I love hearing people's word and saint of the year too!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Good riddance, 2017

I know, I'm dramatic. While we didn't have any major life events like moving, a new baby, or something...2017 was just hard. Just a bunch of things that made life so overwhelming. But I'm glad I decided to go back and review the year because it turns out we did have some really great moments.

So I'm linking up with Bobbi for her 2017 in 12 Photos part of her recap series! It was really, really hard to just pick one picture for each month, but I'm too lazy to make collages. So one picture plus quick highlights it is! And I decided to throw in a link to my favorite blog post that month too.

January

Highlights: hmmm, I got nothing
Fave post: My favorite books I read in 2016 (soooo many good ones, y'all)
The zoo!


February

Highlights: I hosted A Month for Your Marriage here on the blog, we celebrated Mardi Gras
Fave post: hard to decide but let's go with A month for your marriage, week 4 - sacrificial love
Brownies and mimosas for St. Valentine's Day because we are so classy


March

Highlights: Lent, we took professional family photos
Fave post: The crosses we bear
The boys and I did the Jesus Tree for Lent and I'm looking forward to it again! This year I laminated a cross and ornaments so we can reuse it each year. (The Jesus Tree is by Nancy at Do Small Things with Love)


April

Highlights: Easter, we visited my grandparents in Missouri
Fave post: Rocking Motherhood (aka the post I will read when I need encouragement about my mothering skills)
Our usual self-timer family photo on Easter Sunday


May

Highlights: Landon finished Pre-K, we finally put up our fence, started our Summer of Fun, Logan turned 31
Fave post: Confessions
We are still loving our backyard


June

Highlights: the infamous pukefest (keeping it reeeeeal), Landon turned 5, Logan and I celebrated 8 years of marriage, Aaron turned 1, and we had our big ol' birthday bash for all the boys
Fave post: Pregnancy loss, the Rosary, and a book I wish I had years ago


July

Highlights: the boys and I went to Kansas City for a family reunion, Chase turned 3, we went to the beach with friends, I turned 31
Gulf Shores, Alabama



August

Highlights: I went to Edel, Landon started kindergarten
Fave post: That time I let my husband pick my clothes
 Soaking up the last few days of summer!


September

Highlights: Aaron started walking (I think?? 😂 #thirdbaby)


October

Highlights: I blogged every day about marriage (still can't believe that, honestly), our annual trip to the pumpkin patch, All Saints Day fun at church
Fave post: so hard to decide out of the 31 posts (!!) so I'll just go with one of the most popular...Disillusionment {day 13}
Pumpkin patch fun


November

Highlights: Thanksgiving at my parents' house
Fave post: NFP, veiling, Christmas, and my red ranger (7QT)
We took pictures hurriedly before my sister left and I reallllly wish we had gotten everybody, um, dressed. Because look how cute this came out! Chase wins for best pose.

December

Highlights: St. Nicholas Day, it snowed, Advent, Christmas!
Fave post: 8 years later
 The boys got Power Ranger toys because Logan likes living vicariously through them 😉


Whew, major fist bump if you made it this far. Hopefully I'll get around to sharing my word of the year and all soon...

Friday, January 5, 2018

Keeping the 12 Days of Christmas

I've been trying to be better about celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas over the years, and I think we finally got it! Honestly, I think it helped that most of our holiday break was full of sickness - it motivated me to make things a little fun around here.
We got the boys one gift/toy for Christmas Day because we wanted to incorporate other gifts on the other days of Christmas. So that meant for each of the following 11 Days (last day today!) + Epiphany (tomorrow!), the boys got one gift to open together. (Honestly, I did not plan on having 12 gifts - just 12 special things, whether it was a gift or activity. Sickness changed those plans! But it all worked out fine, because I ended up buying a few of the gifts during Christmas clearance anyway!)

I know what you're thinking - that's a lot of gifts! But most of them were little crafts, like making ornaments or a gingerbread house. I just wrapped them to make it more exciting! I also waited to find really good deals because I'm one of those frugal shoppers. Here are some ideas for gifts if you want to try it one year:
  • Movies (Lego Batman was on sale for $10 at one point so that's what we got and it's so good)
  • Books
  • Costume stuff
  • Craft kit
  • Art supplies (I actually found a kit on sale for $2 way back when and it has everything! Crayons, colored pencils, paint, markers, sharpener)
  • Outside toys (big, big fan of outside toys...maybe it's a boy mom thing)
  • Tickets to the movie theater or some other attraction
  • Gift card to a restaurant to eat out at that day
  • Board games
  • Special treat that you don't typically buy (Trader Joe's jo jos and cookie butter, I'm looking at you)
  • Puzzles
  • New cookie cutters to make cookies
  • Gingerbread house kit
  • Coloring books and crayons
  • King Cake (for Epiphany, obviously)

Those are 15 ideas, and you only need 12, assuming you already have gifts for Christmas Day! You're welcome. (Man, I just thought of some of those! Gotta remember this post for next year.)

The boys just loved it, and it made my little momma heart swell when they would work together to open a present instead of whining about having to share. Aaron is still young (18 months) and doesn't really know what's going on yet, so I have to admit that most gifts weren't really for him. So next year I might have to brainstorm a little more. This will probably get harder (and more expensive) as they get older, so it might not always work, I suppose.

My kids love stickers
 They had to put the colored beads in the ornament frame and then we baked it! I wasn't sure how it would turn out (and they needed my help more than I thought) but it worked and the boys thought it was so neat.
Not gonna lie, I think I'm enjoying the scoop and ball set more than they are...
Some of my favorite ornaments are the ones I made as a kid, so I'm alllll about the kid ornaments. No shame.

We also did other special things in addition to the 12 gifts but they weren't really planned because of sickness (plus we had to get creative since we couldn't really go anywhere). So, we got donuts for breakfast one morning and drove through a lights display one night. Once the big boys were feeling better, Logan took them to a toy store to pick out a new toy with their Christmas money.

Oh, and Logan has been moving our Wise Men around the house and they will arrive at our Nativity scene tomorrow. Landon totally knows Logan is moving them but still really enjoys - and remembers the second he comes downstairs - looking for the Wise Men's new location.

So all in all, we've just really enjoyed the Christmas season this year - it actually felt like we've been celebrating Christmas this entire time, not just for one day. Bonus points is that Christmas itself wasn't really overwhelming when it came to gifts, we were able to focus more on Jesus's birthday, and the boys have actually been playing with each and every thing they got.

I can't guarantee I'll be on top of things enough to do this every year, but I will still really, really try.

What do you do to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas?

Monday, January 1, 2018

Books I'm reading in 2018

Here we go....my third annual book list. (Check out my 2016 and 2017 lists.) I will keep doing this because apparently it's just what I need to be a consistent reader. You should try it too. I kind of pride myself on reading good books, so all of these are pretty well rated and recommended, based on my research. I also try not to spend too much money on books (because I read wayyyy too many to have to buy all of them), so most of these are available from my library, I already own, or I can borrow from someone. I'll fill in the gaps with my Amazon gift card. Reading on a budget, basically. You know how it goes!

I probably read less fiction than most people....so fair warning. Nonfiction is my jam. Sorry not sorry.


Listed by my super fancy and professional (ha) categories because I'm what you would call a temperamental reader.

Marriage


  • By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride by Alice von Hildebrand - I honestly can't believe I haven't read this yet but sooo many people have recommended it
  • The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse by Art and Laraine Bennett - this is the only temperament book by the Bennetts that I haven't read, ironically enough
  • Naked Marriage: Uncovering Who You Are and Who You Can Be Together by Corey Allan


Parenting


  • The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive by Daniel J. Siegel
  • The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child's Heart for Eternity by Sally Clarkson


Spiritual/Catholic


  • Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly
  • Divine Mercy for Moms by Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet
  • Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Fr. Jacque Philippe - I think I'm most excited about this one
  • Ignite: Read the Bible Like Never Before by Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers and Sonja Corbitt
  • The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise by Robert Cardinal Sarah


Fiction/Classics


  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  • The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot - AKA my marathon book for this year (800+ pages!)
  • Little Women (Book 2) by Louisa May Alcott
  • Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novel by Mark Sullivan


Biography/Memoir (my favorite!!)


  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
  • Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table With Recipes by Shauna Niequist
  • The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr


Self-help/personal development/non-fiction/I don't know


  • Not of This World: A Catholic Guide to Minimalism by Sterling Jaquith
  • Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss
  • You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life by Eleanor Roosevelt


Possible re-reads


  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • Who Does He Say That You Are? by Colleen C. Mitchell
  • 33 Days to Merciful Love by Michael Gaitley


Last year my goal was to read 36 books, and I ended up reading 54. So, I decided to meet somewhere in the middle with a goal of reading 45 books in 2018.


I'm still doing a reading challenge with my friends, and here's the graphic with our categories! Feel free to use it. In October, for "a book picked from a drawing," everybody (there are 9 of us) will put the name of a book they read into a hat, and everyone will pick one. That's something new we're trying this year!

Modern Mrs. Darcy posted her 2018 Reading Challenge if you want to do that one too. Happy reading, everyone!

Friday, December 29, 2017

8 years later

Grief is a funny thing. Just when you think that maybe you're actually moving on, the sadness hits you like a ton of bricks. I didn't think I was going to post today, because it's already been a really hard year, for a bunch of reasons that I haven't really explained on the blog, and I didn't really want to dwell on the most difficult day of my life. Yet here I am.

It was 8 years ago today that I held our firstborn son, Levi, who never took a breath outside the womb. 8 years ago that my heart was completely ripped into pieces and I honestly thought I would never recover.

The years following didn't look like we planned. Do they ever? Yet God has this crazy way of leading you exactly where you need to go. I know I'm a better person, Logan and I have a better marriage, and that we love our children more because of what happened with Levi. Gold is refined in fire, after all.

Logan and I often talk about the future of our family. We love our boys so much and life is so full already. How could we possibly open our hearts to another? Especially when that openness can result in another big loss?

I have to remind myself that even a loss can be a blessing. No matter what, we would still have another child, we would still have another saint in heaven, and our family would still grow in size and in love.

Most years, on Levi's birthday, I've been able to think about him with gratitude. I still very much remember those months he was in my womb (probably because my brain hadn't yet been sucked out by childbirth, ha!). I still vividly remember the first time I felt flutters and the first time Logan was able to feel Levi kick. Those memories are such blessings. (I also vividly remember the first time I threw up from morning sickness, but you don't want to hear about that, do you?)

This morning, though, I had to catch myself from bursting into tears. I felt so silly, too. It was 8 years ago! I have 3 healthy boys now! Why the heck am I crying?

Because my heart will never be the same. Levi took a little part of it with him to heaven, and by golly, I really hope I make it there to see him again.

I guess I'm also a little emotional because it's no guarantee that we will even have another baby. Levi is a big reminder of that, especially this year because I'm not pregnant or nursing a baby like the last 6 years.

And that's one thing that Logan and I always think about....we've been taking some time to discern when exactly is the right time to have another baby (this is the first time we've had to do this, really), and while we're not quite there yet, what happens if we're not able to get pregnant when we're ready? Or we do get pregnant and keep suffering losses?

Being open to life is so complicated. But God will give us the grace we need. We just need to ask for it.

Levi Anthony, pray for us! We love you. ❤️

Christmas Day 2017. No fancy church clothes because sickness has plagued our house for a week now...

Thursday, December 28, 2017

My favorite books I read in 2017

Whew, it was hard to pick my favorites this year. I spent much time cultivating a list of books to read and made sure there were good ones. There were! (Stay tuned for 2018's list!) I ultimately decided to pick ones that I would recommend to anyone, anywhere, and saved my honorable mentions for more specific audiences (like married people, people experiencing pregnancy loss, etc.). You'll see what I mean.

I'm kind of stingy with my 5-star ratings, but all of these received that precious title from me. All of these books have stayed with me throughout the year and many will likely be reread in the future. Just so you know. Now let's get to it!



33 Days to Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley

I'm looking forward to reading this again. It just might be my yearly Lenten read.


Left to Tell by Immaculate Ilibagiza

Immaculee's story and trust in God is amazing and inspiring. I literally read this in 2 days.



Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

This was not what I was expecting but it came highly recommended and I loved it.


The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

I still think about this a lot. This past year I've been even more convinced of how sneaky the devil can be, and this book is the perfect reflection of that.


Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

People in the health care industry will probably find this more fascinating than most, but I think it's an important read for everyone.


Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

This is extremely relevant right now, as it deals with white supremacy and racism. Page-turner, for sure. Some parts are hard to read, though.


Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

When I first read this, I thought that maybe it would only be good for people who have difficult relationships. But now I think that anyone could gain some insight from this book. Relationships are hard...but they don't have to be.


Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Gregory Boyle

This will make you think twice about stereotypes...I think Fr. Greg just came out with a new book too!



A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Scott Hahn

I just finished this so it'll probably be in my next Recent Reads post. Not the easiest read at times (but maybe I was just distracted by other books too), but it helped me greatly appreciate and better understand the Old Testament and God's plan for salvation.


Honorable Mentions:

  • A Severe Mercy: A Story of Faith, Tragedy, and Triumph by Sheldon Vanauken - mentioned in this Recent Reads post
  • The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell
  • Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb: Rosary Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss by Heidi Indahl - you can read my review here
  • The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian
  • Boundaries in Marriage by Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend - I'll be sharing about this one in my next Recent Reads post but basically, I think every married couple should read this!
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott - I think every writer should read this, but fair warning, she has a bit of a potty mouth and a weird sense of humor (which I personally found hilarious)
  • The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery - the word that comes to mind when I think about this book is "delightful." Predictable, yes, but such a fun read.

I probably could add a few more buuuuut I think that's enough. You're welcome.

Oh, and in case you're curious, I've read a total of 54 books this year and might even finish one or two more before the year is officially over. I definitely did not expect that (my goal was 36) since I knew Aaron would be more mobile and I wouldn't be nursing anymore halfway through the year. I'm still trying to decide on my goal for 2018...

So what about you? What were your favorite books this year?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

What I'm loving lately

Well, it's been a more difficult month than expected....so perfect time to share some things that have brought me joy lately, right? I know Christmas is like 10 minutes away (okay...3-ish days), which is crazy, and I should probably be cleaning the house or baking a dessert or something. But bloggers gonna blog. Some of my fave things lately:

Every Sacred Sunday

At Edel, I had the privilege of meeting the lovely ladies responsible for this beautiful journal. I also got to look at the prototype and knew I wanted it! Logan and I have actually been using this together. The idea is to read the Sunday (or Holy Day) readings together before Mass, pick out our favorite verses, talk about it, and write down prayer requests and what we're thankful for that week. We haven't been perfect about it, but I love the times we've done it and I'm looking forward to having this journal for the entire liturgical year!

Rooted in Hope 

Gosh, two journals, Jen? Yes. That's how I roll. Honestly, I haven't been the best about the actual journaling part in this one, but I'm loving the Scripture parts and reflections. My favorite part is probably the big layout at the beginning of the week, where you can plan out each day, list tasks you need to accomplish, and things to take care of to prepare for Christmas, etc. It makes my organizational heart so happy.


Random games with Logan

Why yes, we randomly played Bananagrams on a Tuesday morning. Logan was determined to beat me....and didn't. 3 times. He's still a little bitter. (Love you babe! Don't ever question my spelling skills again.)

The weather

It was in the 70s today. I'm okay with wearing flip flops in December. I will never move. #louisianaforever
It's supposed to drop into the 40s for Christmas Eve and Day, I think, which is cool. But I'd be okay wearing flip flops then too.

Our Advent wreath time

Okay, I should say that we have kept it very simple and low-key around here, which is good because life got crazy. So that means we only light the Advent wreath on Sundays. But Landon (5) and Aaron (1) love it. Landon sings O Come, O Come Emmanuel with us now which is adorable and he usually has a really good answer to our reflection question. It's cool having kids get old enough to participate more! Chase (3) just tries to ruin everything by tackling Landon to the ground while we sing, but we'll take what we can get.

My kids waving to strangers and making their day

Chase and Aaron like to wave at random people. It's weird....but pretty cute. This week, I was at the store with just Chase, and he starts waving at someone. I turn, and realize he's waving at this older lady 20 feet away who doesn't notice. She seemed a little stressed. But then she suddenly noticed Chase waving at her....and she immediately smiled big and waved back. It was such a precious moment. Crazy how a simple wave and smile could really turn around someone's day.


My crazy toddler throwing cereal everywhere

....just kidding. I don't love that. This is what happens when I try to blog. 😉 (Also, evidence that having a dog can be helpful sometimes. But that's also why she's fat.)

I hope all of you have a blessed and joyful Christmas season!

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