Friday, May 31, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 15)


Check out Jen's blog for more quick takes from others!

--- 1 ---
Now that I'm in week 29 of pregnancy I feel hungry all the time. I remember feeling this way towards the end of the first trimester and I'll admit that currently I don't feel nearly as ravenous as I did back then, but I can still tell we've entered into another "major growth" period. 

--- 2 ---
I've been very conscientious of choosing snacks that are healthy and more filling so I (hopefully) don't overeat and take on much unneeded weight (I already know I'll be pushing that 40-pound recommendation for women who started their pregnancy at a low weight but I want to make sure the pounds I'm gaining are healthy). Some of the common snack choices I currently make are: yogurt, bananas, cottage cheese + granola (delicious!), apple slices + almond butter (simply because we tend to have that and not peanut butter in our pantry), oatmeal, trail mix, crackers + tuna (only once or twice a week, of course), a variety of smoothies, and spinach-leaf salad with almonds. Do any of you have other healthy snack ideas for pregnancy? I'm always on the look-out for new ideas!

--- 3 ---

Michael and I realized this week that we need to learn some DIY frozen yogurt recipes. Believe it or not, my husband has more food cravings (especially for sweets) than his pregnant wife and lately - probably because of the evolving weather - he always wants to get ice cream after dinner. However, this past week the couple of times we went out for dessert I successfully talked him into getting frozen yogurt with fruit toppings instead because I know that I'm already going to gain about a pound a week from here on out and don't want to be gaining much more than that if it's unnecessary. Plus, fro-yo is delicious...but it is expensive! So thank you, Pinterest, for existing. I've already found several recipe ideas! Do any of you have a favorite homemade frozen yogurt recipe you'd like to share??? I'll keep you posted as we try to make our own.

--- 4 ---
While I was scouring Pinterest for frozen yogurt recipes I got distracted (of course) and began looking at other pins...and I found this handy source for praying novenas! delivers monthly novena prayers to your email inbox so that you can join in one novena per month and not miss out on novenas for major feast days. How awesome is that? I found it just in time to begin the Novena to the Sacred Heart which ends in time for June 7 - this year's feast day. Pray with me?

--- 5 ---
Speaking of the novena, are you familiar with the promises and graces associated with a devotion to the Sacred Heart? I knew it was supposedly a pretty powerful novena and devotion, but never before had I prayed it or looked into it (there's always a new prayer resource to discover in Catholicism!). I'm so grateful I found that novena website when I did and finally learned more about the Sacred Heart of Jesus! Ironically enough, I had just been talking with my husband about the Sacred Heart about a week ago; God's timing is truly providential, is it not? I want to begin incorporating this devotion into our home. 

--- 6 ---
This week I discovered two exciting things! 1) I was nominated for the Very Inspiring Bloggers Award! This means I wrote a response piece in which I nominated a few bloggers who inspire me. You should check it out and visit the blogs of all the lovely ladies I nominated if you get a chance. 2) My readers can get a discount on lactation cookies! If you or a loved one you know plans to breastfeed at any point you may want to check the offer out here

--- 7 ---
Today Michael and I will be driving to my hometown in Indiana because tomorrow is the day of the baby shower!!! Words cannot express how happy I am at the thought of seeing some of my closest friends and finally getting to celebrate this pregnancy and our baby boy with people I love (other than my husband, of course)! Plus, I haven't seen my mom, younger sister, or my grandmother (all of whom will be in attendance) since Christmastime. I cannot wait! 

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lactation Cookie Discount Offer!

Oatmeal chocolate chip - yum!

Remember those delicious-looking lactation cookies I mentioned before? Well, normally you would have to spend $16 plus shipping to get 2 dozen of these bad boys, but because I happened to mention them on my blog the Etsy shop owner, Vicki, has contacted me and generously offered my readers a discount!

All you have to do is email Vicki directly at and mention my blog - and you can get 2 dozen cookies for only $12 (+shipping)! Twenty four cookies that will enhance your milk supply for only $12? That sounds like a pretty sweet (pun intended) deal to me.

So if you are the friend or family member of an expectant mama who plans to breastfeed (or if you're the one expecting!), consider purchasing these cookies as a thoughtful gift. I don't believe there is an expiration date on this offer, so if you (or your loved one) aren't due quite yet just tuck this away in your memory bank for future use. Thanks, Vicki!

"Babies are always more trouble than you thought - and more wonderful."
-Charles Osgood

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Very Inspiring Bloggers


In recent weeks I've started following several new blogs that I enjoy reading. However, because of that I've found it practically impossible to read every single post written by these marvelous people and often find myself playing "catch up" several days after things have been posted. This morning I was doing just that when - imagine my surprise - I realized that Stefanie at A Dreamer's Wife nominated me back on the 17th for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

After feeling sheepish that I hadn't noticed her nomination in a very timely fashion I immediately switched to feeling shocked and humbled! After all, I find Stefanie's blog inspiring to me! To think that it's a two-way street certainly makes me smile and thank the Lord for the technology that gave us the blogosphere.

The rules of the award are as follows:
  1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you. 
  2. Post the award image to your page. 
  3. Share 7 facts about yourself – fun things, favorite things, humorous things, or things that inspire you.
  4. Nominate up to 15 other blogs and invite them to participate.
Seven facts about me:
  1. Currently I am 29 weeks pregnant with our first child - a boy!
  2. I absolutely love inspiring quotes...which is why you may notice I end each of my blog posts (minus any link-ups I participate in) with a quote that I find relevant.
  3. I met my husband at a bar (it's not as bad as it sounds) during a concert.
  4. I am fascinated by fitness, wellness, and especially exercise physiology (which is why I got a BS in Kinesiology).
  5. I am proud to be a Hoosier
  6. I love being active and outdoors (kayaking, hiking, you name it).
  7. My confirmation name is Stephen (the first martyr for the faith).
Bloggers who inspire me (I'm narrowing it down to a few I haven't highlighted before):

Katrina at Cedars and Tiny Flowers - First of all, her blog is named after a St. Thérèse quote - need I say more? On top of that she lives in South Bend and considering my older sister and brother-in-law are Notre Dame alums I can certainly appreciate her everyday photos and stories involving idyllic ND locations (the basilica, the grotto, etc.). Plus, seeing the way she dresses her adorable little boy has made me incredibly excited to have a boy and start buying him fashionable church clothing!

Megan at Purity of Heart - Her blog is all about spreading the truths and beauty of womanhood as God intended it to be...and she does so with classy, feminine style that I admire! Her posts are nearly always short, sweet, artistic, and leave me feeling uplifted or inspired. I cannot help but feel like her blog title, Purity of Heart, describes her blogging style perfectly. 

Kendra at Catholic All Year - As a Catholic newlywed and now expectant mother myself, there are seemingly a million things that inspire me about Kendra's blog! She is a devout Catholic mother of six (with number 7 on the way!) that manages to run a God-centered household, home-school, maintain a captivating blog, and somehow cook insane amounts of food and throw awesome parties for multiple Catholic feast days throughout the year. I enjoy learning how she does what she does and hope to glean some skills of my own from her helpful and insightful blog!

So there you have it - a few facts about me and a few bloggers I really enjoy following. Thanks to anyone who takes the time to read my humble little blog and a special thanks again to Stefanie for giving me hope that the everyday anecdotes I write are somehow inspiring to others. ;)

"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."
-Blessed Mother Teresa

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Second Trimester: A Recap


This is officially "week 29" of pregnancy which means we've only got 11 more weeks to go!!! Some of my books start counting the third trimester at week 25, others 27, and some at week to play it safe we'll just say that we've officially been in the third trimester for at least a week now. :)

When I think back to the first trimester it doesn't seem like there was too much going on - but we all know that simply isn't true considering virtually all of the baby's crucial development takes place then. Not to mention, those were the days of extreme food aversions, fatigue, and trying to memorize what foods I wasn't allowed to eat any longer. However, my body remained outwardly/visibly changed very little. The second trimester, however, is another story entirely.

In case you missed my previous pregnancy update that unveiled a timeline of photos from weeks 12-20, here's a little flashback:

In that entry I also shared our week 20 photo and the exciting news that we will be the proud parents of a baby boy! Since then it has only been 9 weeks, but it feels like so much has happened.

For starters, I clearly remember the weekend (week 17) when I realized I could no longer get by with my jeans and belly band (mine was a BeBand from Target). Michael and I quickly searched for some maternity jeans and there has been no going back since (for the record, Target maternity pants fit me horribly and in my opinion all of the Old Navy pants that have the "secret belly" are horridly I wound up with the one Old Navy maternity jean they had in the store with a demi panel). I clearly "popped" sometime in week 18 and others began to notice my pregnant bump everywhere we went. Not to mention, the same weekend I realized I needed real maternity bottoms was the first time I knew that those fluttery little "popcorn" feelings were, in fact, our baby kicking and moving around. Thankfully Michael was with me the first time the baby did all of this in a manner that left me no doubts and was able to feel my belly and share in that experience with me. :)

The 20-week ultrasound was a day I'll never forget - because it was the first time we laid eyes on our baby's hands, feet, head, heart, and everything else you can imagine. Seeing how much he had grown and learning that he was completely healthy was cause for a celebration and Michael and I treated ourselves to a fancy dinner that night to celebrate all of this new-found knowledge about our baby boy. I still sometimes pull out the photos we were given at that appointment and smile when I get to the one of him yawning - too cute!

It was definitely an exciting and fun time in our baby's development and I remember the great sense of relief and comfort I felt as I was finally able to move beyond that "transition" phase and actually fit in maternity clothes! All of this made me feel so "big" for a couple of weeks as I felt my bump growing but pretty soon I would become surprisingly comfortable in my body and I no longer felt large. My hands and feet did begin to swell and by week 24 or 25 I could no longer wear my wedding rings on my finger - but even this is something I've adjusted to and learned to live more comfortably with (it certainly helps once you have shoes that allow you to do so - and a larger ring to put on your finger so people know that you are, in fact, married).

Toward the end of the second trimester (over the past 3 weeks or so) I have begun feeling "big" again as I witness the baby (and my body) growing more rapidly...but for the most part the last few months were some of the more comfortable. The only noticeable physical discomforts I can recall are the swelling in my hands and feet and the lower back pain I've begun experiencing if I don't have a pillow or have to sit anywhere for too long. Thankfully I have hardly been a victim of the dreaded acid reflux and because I recently discovered that I like the elliptical (for the first time in my life!) I'm feeling better able to get a good work out once again.

The second trimester not only brought the joy of knowing our baby's gender, but also gave me much happiness as we began compiling the items for our baby registry. Somehow picking out what kind of clothing, nursery decor, toys, and baby gear we wanted made everything feel that much more real. All of these things combined with how frequently our baby boy now moves around ("an active baby is a healthy baby," as my ob/gyn says) make our due date seem suddenly so very near! Realistically, though, I know we still (God-willing) have plenty of time and will be experiencing several new things in the remaining weeks ahead (and thank goodness, because I haven't been able to take any of those hospital classes yet!).

So without further ado, here's what most of you have probably been waiting for - a photo collage of 5 different weeks that have tracked my/the baby's growth pretty well:

Wow. What a visible change! I remember feeling big at around week 18 but now that seems laughable. I was hardly showing whereas now I am at the point of everyone around me clearly knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that I'm having a baby. The crazy part is that I know I'm not anywhere near done growing. In the weeks ahead our baby will nearly triple in size and supposedly I will be gaining about a pound a week! I can't wait to reveal the future "third trimester timeline photo"...because let me tell you, even the week 28 photo brings with it a sense of "what?! How did I get that huge in only a week?!"

Thank you to all of you that have offered up prayers, words of encouragement, and support as Michael and I continue to prepare ourselves for the day we meet this little boy face to face. We truly appreciate your support!

“When a child is given to his parents, a crown is made for that child in Heaven, and woe to the parents who raise a child without consciousness of that eternal crown!”
-The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Friday, May 24, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 14)


Linking up with Jen again!

This week's entry will probably speak to anyone who is Catholic and/or curious about Catholic teachings. I promise that if you hold out until the end there will be some quick takes that have nothing to do with the Church or current events - or if it's been a long week and you want to read something less intellectual you can just skip ahead to #6. :)

--- 1 ---
You know who I think is a fabulous leader? Francis Cardinal George, OMI of the Chicago diocese. Check out this beautiful statement he released regarding the verdict in the Kermit Gosnell murder trial:
"I am grateful that the jury in the Kermit Gosnell murder trial recognized the value and dignity of children born alive after an attempted abortion. I hope that the scrutiny this trial has received will bring a greater public recognition of the extremity of America's abortion laws and a more stringent regulation of the abortion industry. I ask people of good will to join me in praying for the day where every child, born and unborn, will be respected in life and fully protected by law and, in a particular way, I reiterate the promise made by the Catholic Church and the pro-life community that any woman who feels she has no "choice" but to end the life of her unborn child can come to us for assistance and support." -Francis Cardinal George, OMI

--- 2 ---
Keeping up with the Catholic theme for a moment, let's take a moment to talk about the Huffington Post and how they just love to report on the Catholic faith even though they clearly have no idea what they're talking about. One of the most amusing things I saw on Facebook this week was a friend's status that read:
"Stop the presses! The Holy Father affirmed another Biblical belief maintained by the Church for 2000 years and found in the Catechism! This just in!
Speculating about the number of people who may get their news about the Church from Huffington Post is unsettling."
That deserves another Amen! And in case you have no idea what this friend is referring to, Brandon Vogt's explanation of the difference between redemption and salvation should greatly help to clarify the assertions made by a recent Huffington Post article about Catholic teachings. If you haven't read it, please do (especially if you're Catholic!)...because it's important to understand that:
"...Christ's redemptive sacrifice on the Cross is not the same thing as salvation. Salvation is the result of accepting Christ's redemption and applying it to our lives. Catholics know that Christ died for our sins but that we must receive that free gift by trusting in him, accepting his proposal of love, and following him with our life.
So while it's true that Christ redeemed all people, even atheists, that doesn't mean all atheists have accepted this gift or will be saved." -Brandon Vogt
--- 3 ---
Since I'm on a roll here with quotes and articles that riled me up, amused me, or inspired me this week, I'd also like to share Bad Catholic's response to Fr. Gary M. Meier's declaration about being openly gay upon the release of his book, "Hidden Voices, Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest." Don't have time to read the entire piece? Here are my favorite 2 paragraphs from his response piece...which pretty much sum up the Catholic Church's teachings and how I feel about all this:
"If they are being give this message, it is not by the Church. The message the Church has been consistently giving to LGBTQ youth is the same message she gives to heterosexual youth — you are not your genitals. Stop introducing yourself with your penises. 
We take offense at the Church when she says that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered,” (CCC 2357) but only because we put her words through the mind-numbing blender of reductionist thought which defines people as being their sexuality, as being heterosexual, being homosexual, being a lesbian, being pansexual, etc. The LGBTQ movement is so concerned with developing and refining their plethora of scientific labels by which to reduce human beings to a word describing their genital behavior that they — and the culture they own — have forgotten a very simple fact. You are not what gives you a boner." -Marc Barnes, author of Bad Catholic
Can I get another Amen?!

--- 4 ---
Still with me? Great. At this point I'd like to share this clip of Ryan Anderson on CNN's Piers Morgan. The reason I'd like to share this particular clip is because I truly respect and admire Mr. Anderson for how calmly, clearly, and respectfully he explains his position while being attacked by a room full of people and a heavily biased interviewer (Piers Morgan - who surprisingly self identifies as a Catholic). Who is Ryan Anderson, you ask? Well he is none other than one of the 3 authors of the book What is Marriage?, which explains, defines, and defends traditional marriage (p.s. if anyone wants to buy it for me, I'd love to read it).

But seriously. Even my friends who are "in favor of same-sex marriage" should be able to watch this clip and recognize the logic, reason, and class this man delivers...especially from 5:00-6:40 when he is told by Suze Orman that he is uneducated for having the position he does. Check it out:

What is extraordinary to me is that Piers Morgan tells Ryan (at about 3:30) that his traditional view of marriage is "extraordinary"...when Ryan's position is the same one societies across the globe have defined for nearly 2000 years.

--- 5 ---
Okay, one more before we move on to less polarizing topics of discussion. I mentioned that Piers Morgan is a self-identified Catholic. Why did I express surprise at this? Because an atheist can better comprehend, explain, and defend the Catholic Church's teachings in regards to the Pope and his role as a conduit to God - and why this means Catholics who criticize or "argue" with the Pope's infallible teachings clearly don't understand the beauty or theology of their own Church which was founded by Jesus Christ himself (skip to 1:57 if you don't have time to watch the entire clip):

Enough said.

--- 6 ---
Cookies! Yum.
On a less serious note, have any of you heard of lactation cookies before?! Thanks to Jenna over at Call Her Happy I now know that such things exist (to help increase a mother's milk supply - something I'd imagine makes life easier for the baby and mom). I'm tempted to purchase some of these cookies from her doula's Etsy shop when we get closer to the baby's due date. Of course if anyone in my life is out there reading this you can always feel free to send some as a gift...and know that I will graciously accept and be thrilled! ;)

--- 7 ---
On the fitness front, let's talk about the elliptical. As someone who studied kinesiology in college I obviously understand the point of an elliptical (and which populations might benefit from them more) and had a few clients that loved doing their cardio on them...but personally, I couldn't stand them. This is probably because I ran and compared to running the elliptical felt easy and weird. But now that I'm 28 weeks pregnant that has all changed! I stopped running a long time ago because it felt very uncomfortable and I began speed walking for my cardio instead. However, the bigger my belly gets the slower I have to walk if I want to keep it up for any length of time...which has made me feel like I never get my heart rate high enough to get a good cardio workout anymore. 

Cue the elliptical! A couple weeks ago I took a long walk around our apartment complex and ended in the small fitness room which only has one treadmill - which was not working. I improvised and hopped on the elliptical instead and it kicked my butt...and felt amazing! Ever since then I've been making it a point to use the ellipticals at our gym or at home in our apartment's small fitness room and I feel so much healthier. I never thought I'd say it, but currently I love the elliptical!!!

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, friends!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Movie Review: What to Expect When You're Expecting


I'm sure many of you have heard of (or even read) the infamous book, What to Expect When You're Expecting. Personally I have steered clear of this book, only glancing at it a bit whenever I wander into Barnes and Noble. My older sister warned me early on that the book was more likely to completely freak me out instead of helping me feel more at ease about everything. At the same time, my ob/gyn said she thinks the book is fine and can be incredibly I'll leave the book debate up to you. Feel free to leave comments with your thoughts on it because I'm genuinely curious what most women's reactions are to the book!

However, I'm not here to talk about the book. Instead I'd like to talk about the 2012 movie this book inspired which is also titled What to Expect When You're Expecting. For those of you that are concerned about spoilers, I can assure you that whatever I write in this review will stay generic or surface level and should not spoil details or rob you of your movie-watching experience (because I can't stand when people ruin books or movies for me!).

According to IMDB: Comedy, Drama, Romance

The Premise
The movie follows the lives of five interconnected couples as they each experience different journeys toward having a baby for the first time. Two of the couples have struggled with infertility issues but one of them ends up finally conceiving after almost throwing in the towel; the other couple decides to adopt a baby from overseas. For the other three couples the pregnancies are more of a welcomed surprise and the path toward parenthood brings some of them (especially the couples who aren't married) much closer together. One of the five women ends up miscarrying, so her path becomes one of healing and learning to move forward in a world surrounded by other pregnancies and babies. Ultimately the movie journey ends shortly after the babies are within the arms of their parents and viewers have been able to witness each of the characters' joys and struggles from conception to birth (or beginning to end of the adoption process).

My Thoughts/Reactions
As a woman who is 28 weeks pregnant I found certain parts extremely relateable or humorous, especially because each of the women have unique pregnancies and deliveries. One woman is a celebrity personal trainer and remains insanely buff throughout the 9 months but tends to think she is superwoman and has to learn not to push her body too hard. One woman experiences the "classic" nausea and bodily discomforts, which is exactly the opposite of what she envisioned her pregnancy "glow" to be like. Another woman is the quintessential pregnant lady that all women can't stand; she never gets sick, isn't uncomfortable at all, continues wearing stiletto heels the entire time, has a magical labor, and delivers her twins with basically no effort. In other words, I think any woman could find something relateable and/or amusing about one of these characters (whether it's one of these 3, the woman who adopts, or the woman who miscarries). There were also several heartwarming, endearing scenes that have the potential to make any hormonal pregnant woman shed a few tears.

But don't think for one second that this is entirely a "chick flick." The men in these relationships are undeniably present and part of the storyline as they navigate becoming fathers for the first time. One of them joins a "dudes group" which basically entails walking in the park with their children and commiserating over all the unfortunate things they've accidentally done while taking care of their babies. While I understand that this "dudes group" is meant to provide much comedic relief, some of the things they did or discussed did not sit well with me. At one point one of the dads is blatantly checking out female runners and a few minutes later most of the (also married) fathers are ogling a picture of an Australian woman on their friend's phone and making crude comments about her breasts.

Because of the brief ogling of women and the fact that some of these couples having babies are clearly not married I would not recommend this film to anyone who wants a plot line completely in line with Catholic morals. However, I would say that the crude comments and actions of the men are milder than most of what I've seen in countless other movies or television programs...and the couples who aren't married do care greatly about one another which (in my movie-watching world) allowed me to continue watching without getting hung up on the morality of it all.

Overall I'd have to say that this movie is "okay," which means that I didn't mind watching it once but probably wouldn't watch it again unless it was mindlessly playing in the background while I spend time with friends. It kept me entertained and captured my attention the first time through, but wouldn't be as interesting or entertaining beyond that. Considering it got an average of 5.5 stars out of 10 on IMDB, I'm guessing a lot of people feel similarly to me.

With that said, if you're a woman who has experienced (or is experiencing) pregnancy this film has the potential to bring you a few good laughs. My husband agreed that the movie was okay, although he asked me at one point if I was having him watch it to "freak [him] out" because one of the women experiences some labor complications and nothing goes according to her birth plan. I assured him that wasn't my intention, although as I reflected on the movie I came to the conclusion that they did a decent job of conveying realistic struggles or dangers while keeping it pretty lighthearted and heartwarming.

So if you're in the mood for a lighthearted comedy that also has a blend of drama and romance, go ahead and give this movie a try. I could honestly see some people loving this movie and some people feeling pretty bland about it. If you watch it, let me know your thoughts!

"I just wanted the glow. The one that they promise you on the cover of those magazines. Well, I'm calling it - pregnancy sucks. Making a human being is really hard. I have no control over my body or my emotions."
-Wendy from What to Expect When You're Expecting

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Watching My Husband Become a Daddy


Thinking about my husband taking on his new role of being a father makes me smile uncontrollably. Obviously I can anticipate what kind of parent I might be, but the journey of discovering and witnessing my husband's emerging personality as a parent never ceases to amaze me. I'm sure this journey of parenthood is one that will cause our parenting styles and personalities to evolve constantly, but right now as we prepare to welcome our first child into the world it makes me giddy just to think about how Michael will be with our son (and any other future children) someday.

Last night a situation occurred that helped me clearly envision exactly what kind of father my wonderful husband will be...and I can't get it out of my head (or stop smiling about it).

We were sitting on the couch discussing our baby's development in utero when I excitedly asked Michael to go get a flashlight. Our son can now distinguish our voices, hear loud sounds, and even detect and react to some levels of light/brightness. We know firsthand that he has been responding to sounds (i.e. when Michael sneezed loudly twice in a row the other night the baby immediately started rapidly wiggling around after each one), but we hadn't tested anything out with lights yet.

One of my pregnancy books had suggested (for fun) shining a flashlight on my belly and watching the baby react/move towards it. I was excited to do this and began shining the light in different spots, watching in amazement as the baby clearly pushed on me where the light was. Michael, on the other hand, didn't seem excited at all. In fact, he seemed hesitant about me doing this and kept telling me things like, "okay, stop - you're probably bothering him" or "it's like you're teasing him." 

Wow. I didn't think this light activity was a big deal whatsoever (especially since I knew the baby was already awake and kicking about before we did this) but my adorable husband was clearly concerned with our son's well-being and didn't like the thought of us bothering the little guy when he is in such a vulnerable state in the womb. I turned off the flashlight but have yet to switch off thoughts about how Michael's reaction will correspond to our future as parents...which means I can't stop smiling about it!

My husband on our Mackinac Island trip

The entire flashlight ordeal helped me to better envision Michael - not just myself - protecting and caring for our little baby. Because of this I'm over the moon thinking about how much fun it will be meeting our baby and coming to know my husband in a new way when he is a father. It helped remind me that not only am I about to experience the immense joy of becoming a mother and taking care of our baby, but that I also have so much to look forward to within my relationship with Michael. I cannot wait to see more fully how he will be as a new daddy and thank God for blessing me with such a wonderful man to have and raise children with! I am truly blessed.

"Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand."
-Blessed Mother Teresa

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mackinac Island: Michigan's Paradise


Michael had been longing to explore Mackinac Island together from the moment we returned from our honeymoon and I moved to Michigan. Unfortunately we were so busy moving into our first apartment together and getting our lives sorted out (you know - all those newlywed things like writing Thank Yous, changing my name, getting added to his health and car insurance, combining our bank accounts, acquiring furniture, etc.) to make it there in the autumn. He jokingly likes to blame it on me, claiming I am the one who held us back and said we were "too busy" and that he would have gladly gone in October...but God's timing is perfect and this past weekend was undoubtedly the time we were meant to experience this Michigan beauty together.

Saturday afternoon we packed our overnight bag, some water and snacks, and began the drive upstate to Mackinaw City where we would catch our ferry to the island. Michael did all of the driving that day which is a testament to how good of a husband he is/how supportive he has been about the pregnancy - because he strongly dislikes driving for more than a couple hours but knew all the back pain I've been experiencing lately on long car rides would prevent me from comfortably taking the wheel.

As we headed north we enjoyed watching the scenery change and gawked at the thermostat while we lost more than 20 degrees of warmth in a matter of only a few hours. After arriving in Mackinaw City, buying our ferry tickets, and eating a quick dinner we hopped on the last ferry of the day and enjoyed this view of the Mackinac Bridge:

The 5 mile-long "Mighty Mac" - connecting the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan

As we rode the jet-ferry boat and took in the views I was overcome with absolute giddiness. I could do nothing but hold my husband's hand and continuously turn and grin at him as if we were about to experience a wonderful treasure together (which we were!).

For those of you unfamiliar with Mackinac Island (I was until I finally did some research last week), it's a small Michigan island in Lake Huron that has an approximately 8-mile long coastline. About 80% of the island is the Mackinac Island State Park and only about 500 people live there year-round...and it absolutely provides a "different" way of life. There are no cars/motor vehicles allowed in order to preserve the park and nature of the island (just bicycles and horse-drawn carriages!) and everything about it is reminiscent of "simpler" times. Nearly all the buildings functioning as hotels or shops in the quaint and bustling (with tourists) downtown area were built in the 1800s or early 1900s. The island has quite a rich history ranging from Catholic Jesuit (and later) Presbyterian missionaries, the lucrative fur-trading industry, Fort Mackinac, the filming of a couple famous movies, and more. The island is also now well-known for their fudge and you can't walk even 100 feet (my not-very-exaggerated estimate) without passing one of their many fudge shops.

Stepping on the island certainly felt like stepping into a different time period and Michael and I were immediately blown away by the amazing location of our hotel. We knew the entire downtown is only about a mile long, but arriving in person and seeing everything for the first time was another story. After checking in we immediately headed down the strip to begin exploring the fudge and souvenir shops. :)

Our hotel, Michael's brand new glasses (love!), Mackinac Island Fudge ice cream, and an adorable pillow we admired in one of the shops

Pretty soon the wind picked up and the temperature dropped more, so after we spent a couple hours peeking in almost every shop we retreated to our hotel for the evening. We then planned out our schedule for the next day - the day our "real" excursions would begin!

Sunday we were up bright and early to do some exploring before 10:30 Mass at historic St. Anne's (the only Catholic Church on the island). We walked from our hotel to the opposite end of downtown in order to check out Mission Point Resort. The resort is one of two hotels used in the making of the classic Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeves movie "Somewhere in Time." We saw the theater used in the movie then headed to the observation tower to soak in the view. Their observation tower functions as a museum (including info on the making of Somewhere in Time) and the highest look-out point of any of the island's buildings. We looked out upon the entire downtown as well as the lake before heading back down the street for church.

Photos from St. Anne's and Mission Point Resort

After celebrating Pentecost with about 120 other Catholics (the vast majority of whom I would guess were also tourists) we strolled down the street to get lunch at a waterfront restaurant. The fresh, grilled food was delicious and the view was so tranquil - except perhaps when we witnessed two horses hitched to a carriage relieve themselves in the middle of a boardwalk (but that gave us a good laugh).

Next we got some hot chocolate and bought our tickets for our group carriage tour of the island (definitely the way to go!). The carriage ride meant we would get a tour of nearly all tourist attractions downtown and in the state park without having to hike or bike (something I definitely could not have done/would not have been allowed to do at this point in the pregnancy). On the tour we learned a lot of island facts and history, explored the butterfly conservatory, saw notable locations in the park, and went past Fort Mackinac. At all of the notable locations we were able to get off the carriage and explore for a bit before moving on.

Our view at lunch (upper right) and images from our horse-drawn carriage tour

We were then able to end our ride at the Grand Hotel (yes the Grand Hotel used in Somewhere in Time [I can hear my mom swooning]), which is what Michael and I opted to do. Even though the hotel charges a fee of $10 per adult to enter and tour the hotel (a complete rip-off they know they can get away with) we knew we had to see this historic place. If nothing else, we needed to get some photographs for my mom because she is a huge Somewhere in Time fan. Fortunately for us, though, a generous couple sitting behind us on the carriage handed us their already-purchased day passes for the hotel! This meant we could get in and walk about freely without spending an extra $20 - which was a happy incidence that made me feel like God was watching over us and blessing us in yet another small way on our trip!

We had fun admiring the elegant decor of the hotel, the classy servers that waited on guests' every need, and made sure to sit on the famous front porch for a few minutes and soak in the gorgeous view. We also headed up to the Cupola Bar, which we had learned from the couple who gave us the tickets was the highest point in the hotel and had the best view of the Straits of Mackinac. The views were so breathtaking and peaceful....

Images from the Grand Hotel (we sat on the porch in those chairs!)

We ended our visit at the Grand Hotel by checking out the ice cream parlor and purchased a praline pecan cone to accompany us on our ten-minute walk back to the downtown area. We then made our final purchase before leaving the island - fudge, of course - and caught the 5pm ferry back to the lower peninsula.

Even though we were on the island for a little under 24 hours Michael and I agreed that we felt as if we experienced a much longer vacation. Enjoying just one day on an island with no cars, no distractions, and nothing but beauty, history, and all things charming (horses, carriage rides, fresh fudge, historic architecture, wilderness, the friendliness of a very small town, etc.) made for a rejuvenating, romantic, fun-filled trip! I can absolutely understand why the people of Michigan rave about this place...and why they love to return to this place with their families year after year if possible.

Our last trek down Main Street before leaving Mackinac Island

I truly thank God that we made this trip a priority site to visit before the baby is born and am so happy we crossed another item off our "Michigan to-do list!" Even though this place is within our own state it was every bit as exciting as all of the other weekend trips we've taken in recent months. I think becoming pregnant and realizing we wouldn't be headed to Europe this year as originally planned has been such a wonderful blessing - because the weekend trips we've taken instead to D.C., Chicago, Canada, Boston, and now Mackinac Island have given us memories I wouldn't trade for the world. God is so very good!

"The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land." 
-G.K. Chesterton

Friday, May 17, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 13)


Linking up with Jen like every Friday!

--- 1 ---
Kermit Gosnell was convicted. I am grateful to know that he was found guilty for several of his heinous crimes, although part of me feels a little downtrodden simply because there are so many other people out there who kill babies (in utero) every single day...and they're "allowed" to in this nation. But, let's focus on the positive here! Some justice has been served and I pray that this case has opened the eyes of many - especially individuals who consider themselves "pro-choice."

--- 2 ---
On a related note, this piece I found on Public Discourse is worth a read: Kermit Gosnell and the Logic of "Pro-Choice." Here's a little snippet for you:
In statements issued immediately after the Gosnell verdict, the slave-dealers’ lobby—Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America—reacted as though the real problem with Gosnell is that he preyed on women and endangered their health. To be sure, he did just that. But Gosnell victimized these women as the logical extension of these groups’ moral reasoning and public policy goals, which they have advocated for decades. They have devoted themselves to teaching American women that their unborn children simply don’t count in any moral calculus, and horrors like Gosnell’s clinic are the fruit of their diligent work.
--- 3 ---
A final thought on the Gosnell topic: let us pray for him and all others supporting or even working in the abortion industry. Let us pray for their change of heart and true conversions rather than speaking negatively about such people or wishing bad things upon them. Because otherwise what kind of pro-life people are we? Every life is precious and every life has the chance to repent and do good in this world. If you don't understand what I mean (or simply want more on the topic), check out this think piece by Abby Johnson.

--- 4 ---
Now on to lighter topics! :) After literally months of me telling my dear husband that he should get a pair of glasses (to act as back-up for his contacts) he finally agreed to do so! We've looked at frames for him in the past, but last night he actually said he wants to go get some today. Unfortunately, he was prompted to decide this because his allergies have been insufferable this spring - which has made him realize it would be good to have a pair when his eyes are constantly irritated. So "boo" to allergies and my husband having to deal with miserably high pollen counts...but "yay" to getting him some semblance of relief through eyeglasses! He knows I've been rooting for this for awhile because even though I think he looks handsome all the time, he seriously looks good in a pair of glasses, too.

--- 5 ---
What's new on the pregnancy front? Not too much other than starting to actually feel like I'm in the third trimester, going to the hospital for my glucose test this week (I always heard that stuff tastes nasty but they actually had decently flavored drinks for me to choose from so it wasn't bad at all!), and when I thanked Michael for doing all the driving when we went to Ohio for Mother's Day last weekend his response was, "you're welcome. I don't think I had much of a choice because you complain [about back pain] all the time." Hey, at least he's honest and still offers to drive me around a lot. He's a keeper and I love him. :)

--- 6 ---
Oh, and the most exciting pregnancy-related thing to happen this week was the fact that I got 2 new pairs of sandals! This sounds vapid and shallow, but anyone who has been pregnant understands that what I mean to say is, "I got 2 new pairs of footwear that actually fit my swollen feet and don't make me feel like I have to sit down after 5 minutes of walking!" This makes me (and my feet) very, very happy. Here's what they look like:

Merona "Essie Woven Upper Slide." Target: $19.99
Comfort Plus "Lucca Ornament." Payless: $19.99 (on sale!)
Everyday/casual wear on the left and dressier (good for church and baby shower?) pair on the right. I made sure to get sizes that give me some extra room to grow swell even more so I should be good for a little while now that the weather is (mostly) nice enough to wear sandals all the time. I also read somewhere that shoes with slight heels and good arch support are better than flats in pregnancy (which I can now say from experience is true), so I'm pumped to have some options that follow these guidelines in addition to having my Merrell's for walking. Do any of you have a favorite "pregnancy" shoe or sandal? 

--- 7 ---
I mentioned in my post about the Ford Museum that Michael and I want to go to Mackinac Island...and we've decided to go this weekend! We've been trying to figure out when to go for awhile now but we have several busy weekends coming up in the near future (family members' graduations, the baby shower, etc.) and we want to go before the baby comes (and preferably while my bump is still smaller/more comfortable) so this weekend it is! We're only staying for one night so it will be a quick trip - but it's a small island and at least we'll be able to feel like we've soaked it in and crossed something else off our "Michigan to-do" list before we have the baby. I'm so excited for this mini-vacation!

Have a great weekend, friends!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fun at the Ford Museum


Because Michael and I first began dating when I moved to Chicago for a year-long volunteer program, a large part of our interactions have always centered around exploring together. We took advantage of my time there as best we could whenever he visited and made sure to really learn the city together - checking out all the museums, different neighborhoods, local food, festivals, etc.

Michael's work as an engineering consultant has kept this desire to explore and experience new areas together very much alive because we never know exactly how long we'll live in a given area before we pack up and move on to the next project. If we were at the point of my husband switching back to "normal" full-time work and were settling somewhere a bit more permanently, I don't know if we would take advantage of all our city had to offer in quite the same way because we would feel like we had plenty of time to do so. Needless to say, his consulting work helps keep us on our toes and probably ensures that we stay adventurous!

All of this rambling is really just to paint the picture that ever since we got married and I joined Michael in Ann Arbor we've been constantly tracking down fun "Michigan" things to do. We've done a pretty good job of experiencing and learning Ann Arbor, but there have been a few other things about the rest of the state we've been wanting to check out - and this weekend we were able to cross one of those things off our list!

My husband inside the cabin of an Allegheny locomotive
On Saturday we headed to the Henry Ford Museum not realizing just how massive it truly was (even though the bank teller I had a friendly chat with last week when depositing a check practically went bananas when I mentioned heading to the museum - and proceeded to tell me that there is so much to do there). Of course I had looked up some exhibits and information online before we went, but we didn't quite get the big picture until we arrived and witnessed the Ford campus firsthand.

Call us naive, but we envisioned the museum mainly being a collection and history of Henry Ford's endeavors and successes within the automotive industry. And in some ways I suppose you could say this was true, because this did make up one large exhibit...but by no means was it the sole purpose of the museum.

1. Rosa Parks bus  2. Awesome train  3. Dymaxion House  4. Oscar Meyer Weinermobile  5. Massive steam engine
6. Sitting in the back seat of a 96-year-old car  7. The Lincoln Chair

Within one of the exhibits was a brief video explaining some of the history behind automotive inventions and the impact it has had on today's society. It actually surprised me how many things I've grown up with and never once thought to connect to our country's history with motor vehicles (suburbs, shopping malls, hotels, travel plazas, road trips, etc.). The rest of the museum tied this theme together by providing demonstrations and explanations of how vast the impact of various inventions has been throughout our nation's history.

Standing inside the Rosa Parks bus
Beyond cars, the museum had exhibits of historic trains, planes, items from the Industrial Revolution, the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, and more. Easily the most surprising items we were able to see in person were the chair President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in and the "Rosa Parks bus" (the one she refused to give up her seat on in Alabama). We had no clue these items would be on display there...which clearly shows we didn't do that much research before deciding to spend our Saturday there. Oops. But overall it made for a pleasant surprise.

Truth be told, there was a lot to see at the Ford Museum but our brains and our bodies (especially mine!) were not fully equipped to soak all of it in at once. We spent much time tediously reading about the things that most interested us but walked quickly through more than one exhibit that didn't interest us as much.

We spent about 5 hours at the museum and saw everything we wanted to (aka everything we could handle in one trip). I simultaneously realized that 5 hours is probably my new, current time limit before my pregnant self needs to go home and recuperate. Even with amazingly comfortable and supportive walking shoes I had to stop and rest on several benches the longer we explored. But it was worth it. We had a lot of fun together and I'm so glad we finally got to experience this Michigan "must see" tourist attraction. Now we only have one more major "Michigan thing" we really, really want to visit before we head somewhere new - Mackinac Island!

After our trip to the museum we headed to Ohio to spend Mother's Day with Michael's family. This meant we had a pretty packed (and tiring) weekend, but it was a fun one we won't soon forget. I thank God so much for all we were blessed to do this weekend and especially thank Him for the good health and energy levels I've had these past 27 weeks of pregnancy. Please pray for us as we move further into the third trimester and increasingly "uncomfortable" days...and that we'll get to visit Mackinac Island and eat some of their famous fudge in person very soon. :)

"I believe God is managing affairs and that He doesn't need any advice from me. With God in charge, I believe everything will work out for the best in the end. So what is there to worry about."

-Henry Ford

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day: A Love Note (with Photos!) for My Mom


Happy Mother's Day! I know several holidays have been crafted and promoted as "Hallmark" holidays, but if it means taking the time to actually tell my mom how much I love her like I should every day then I'm all for it! After all, the role of a mother is one that's easily under-appreciated because (in my experience) our moms do so much for us behind the scenes. My mom is amazing and if yours is too, you're blessed! 

When I look back on my childhood I can see how greatly my mom has always managed to influence me - not because she forced her opinions or tastes on me but because I love her, respect her, and learned to appreciate the things she does because...she does. My mom is a very intelligent, well-read, generous, loving woman of God. In a lot of ways my mom embodies the spirit of the ultimate mother; her heart is so big and she loves children so much that she has always managed to "adopt" several of our friends (and sometimes strangers) into our family. To this day she still refers to my best friends (and my sisters' best friends) as her other daughters and she manages to remind them of this every time she sees them. 

My mom considers any child who needs and deserves the love of a mother (which is every child in the world) to be her own which is something rare and beautiful to behold. So not only is my mom always there for me, but she serves as a spiritual mother to many. I think this has a lot to do with why she is a great high school teacher - because students seek her out when they need support and she always goes above and beyond to provide it. Now that her three daughters are fully grown and out of college, my mom continues to pour her heart out for us, her grandchildren, and has even taken on the role of a "prayer warrior" for the orphan children of Reece's Rainbow in the last couple of years. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is: Mom, I love you! Thank you for all that you do for me, our family, and the entire world. I love you more than is possible to express fully in words. So to help with this, here are a few pictures to (hopefully) make you smile. I hope you enjoy these photos of your 3 little girls as well as the evidence that you've always been there cheering me on well into my adult life.


For any of you that can't tell:
I'm the middle child in the pretty pink dress

My little sister loooved the camera when she was little - not.
She more than makes up for it nowadays, though. :)

Chillin' at the bus stop, I think. And yes, I'm rockin' the
"mom jeans" look.

At this point (because I don't have digital copies of my entire childhood) I'll skip ahead to my college years. Here you'll be able to see how my mom has always been there supporting me in all that I do. :)

My freshman year in college

Mom with her 3 daughters

I couldn't find more pictures on my computer of me with my mom that year,
so here's one for my mom to enjoy!

My sophomore year in college

My 20th birthday

My mom cheering me on at a competition my college dance team competed at

Cheering my team and me on at my college's intense running relay, the Little 50
(50 laps of quarter mile relay sprints...aka each person sprints 3 miles, one quarter of a mile at a time)

My junior year in college

Helping me move into the residence hall where I worked as an RA

With my little sister and me at my cousin's wedding reception

Cheering me on for the second year in a row when I ran in IU's Little 50

My senior year in college

Ringing in the New Year

Celebrating Easter Sunday afternoon with family friends

Helping my mom teach (and be the "snake handler") on the day
my mom brings in our family snakes to show her bio classes

My fifth year in college

Visiting my mom in her classroom and wearing that hoop nose ring she hated
(Sorry, Mom)

I know, it's a blurry mess - but it's evidence that my mom came to cheer me on
every single year I ran the Little 50 race!

After my college commencement ceremony

Beyond college

Can you tell that we're related???

Supporting me on my wedding day

Three generations

Walking me down the aisle (which clearly shows how much she's been a
part of my life - because I wanted my dad and her to walk me together)

Passing of the peace

She is so happy for us!

Once again - Happy Mother's Day to my mom and all the other wonderful mothers out there! You're all in my prayers...especially those of you that I know are also expecting your first child. :) May you enjoy this day and celebrate the beauty that it is to sacrifice so much of yourself for the good of another. God bless!

"Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in.  It is what God gave you time for."
-Neil L. Anderson