Friday, June 28, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 19)

+JMJ+


--- 1 ---
If you read virtually any of the other blogs I do, you probably already know about Cari's fundraiser for Dwija. If you somehow missed the memo, please click on the link and get caught up! Every cent and every prayer can help as Dwija faces some serious complications with her pregnancy. Please consider offering up what you can.

--- 2 ---
The generosity that people from all over the world have shown in lifting up Dwija in her time of need makes me smile. Times like this make me so thankful for the blogging world and social media! Sometimes it really unites people in the best of ways. If only the interwebs were always such a place of generosity, compassion, and peace. However, such harmony and understanding is not always the norm. Sometimes I am downright frustrated/annoyed with social media and how it seems to pit people against one another as people go publicly campaigning for something or other (yes, I'm staring at you, Facebook). I think I'll just let Kendra take it away from here. She explains pretty well why I find this image to be confusing and troubling and why I won't be making this image my profile picture any time soon either.

--- 3 ---
So sometimes the internet is great, sometimes it sucks, but here is one technology that I think is just great: Ereaders! I'm not going to lie, I haven't always been a fan. I definitely fall into the camp of people who much prefer the look, feel, and smell of a real book - but with a baby on the way I've become more realistic about all of this. Several months ago Michael and I heavily contemplated purchasing some kind of reader or tablet but decided against it - and we were right that we wouldn't have gotten enough use out of it to justify purchasing one at the time. Then last week I read Jenna's review of the Kindle Paperwhite and it got me thinking about it again.

I had been racking my brain for something to do when the baby arrives and I soon spend a lot of time nursing. Some people say you should pick up a hobby, but considering we don't have cable (nor do I like watching much TV anyway) and all of my hobbies require the use of more than one limb I was struggling. The only thing I could imagine myself being happy doing as I breastfeed is reading. And Jenna's review made it all so crystal clear!


Long story short we did a bunch of research and decided the Kindle Paperwhite was, after all, the perfect choice for what I wanted. We bought one two nights ago and I am already in love! This actually makes me excited to spend hours and hours sitting and feeding my baby (although I'm pretty sure in the early days I'll be staring in amazement and talking to him so I won't get much reading done). But eventually it's going to be the one-handed, great-in-all-lighting-Godsend I was searching for.

--- 4 --- 
Speaking of the baby coming - we are so close! 33 weeks down, 7 (quite possibly less!) to go! I am getting excited excited excited.

--- 5 ---
Last night we attended a class on breastfeeding and it made me feel much more prepared. Beforehand Michael kept asking me how on earth a class on breastfeeding could last 2 whole hours - which made me worry he was going to be incredibly bored. But surprisingly neither of us were! We both agreed that the time flew by and even though about 98% of it was geared towards me, it was still really good for us both to be there.

--- 6 --- 
Saturday morning we have our Childbirth Education class which is the biggie I've been dying to take for a long time. The actual labor part is what I'm still trying to wrap my head around and make informed decisions about. I'll feel so much more prepared once it's laid out for us and we can figure out what birthing method and/or techniques we want to follow.

--- 7 ---
All in all, I guess this has been a week full of baby preparations and it's hard for me to have much else on my brain at the moment. So for your enjoyment, I'll leave you with this link to an entire Pinterest board of Asian and half-Asian babies that I happened to stumble upon. Whoever created this board is a woman after my own heart and made my life so much easier by compiling all these photos in one place. Not that I've been googling Asian babies for the past few years or anything...(if you read that link you know that's a lie). At least I can justify it now by saying that I am soon going to have my very own half-Asian baby! God is funny (and awesome!) like that sometimes.

Have a good weekend! Don't forget to head over to Jen's for some more Quick Takes!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

33 Weeks and Counting!

+JMJ+

Thirty three weeks doesn't initially sound like a long time...but then I remember to divide that by 4 and quickly come up with the number 8. Eight months?! That sounds much longer than 33 weeks.... Although then I also remember to compare the number "33" to the *full-term "40" and suddenly begin to freak out that 33 is so incredibly close to 40! It is a "far along" number after all! Then I have to remember that 7 remaining weeks translates into over a month and a half...and then I calm down again. We are getting close but not that close quite yet. All of it's more than a little mind-blowing, baffling, and exciting.

The odd thing about pregnancy (based on my sole ongoing experience thus far) is that it somehow manages to feel like a never-ending story and as if it happens in the blink of an eye. When I think back to that early December day when Michael and I first knew for certain that I was pregnant it feels like such a distant memory...and yet the first minute I told Michael and showed him the positive test - where we were standing, what he did next, how he smiled at me - are all locked in my memory as if it happened yesterday. The amount of time that has elapsed since then seems like somewhat of a blur - as if me being in my eighth month of pregnancy just happened overnight and is the most natural thing in the world (it is one of the most natural things in the world, but that's beside the point I'm trying to make).

When I stop to think - to really think - about the past 8(ish) months of my life I realize just how much has happened and how much life Michael and I have lived together in a short amount of time. We briefly lamented no longer being able to plan a 1-year anniversary trip to Europe and quickly replaced those sentiments with the joyful anticipation of a baby and memories made on our wonderful weekend trips to D.C., Chicago, Niagara Falls and Toronto, Cambridge/Boston, and Mackinac Island.

33 weeks = a 4(+) lb. baby! And yes, that's a fake ring
(2 sizes bigger than normal) on my finger.
Physically I can still recall what my body was like in early December...although it's sometimes hard to imagine when I look in the mirror and see the product of the gradual (and drastic) progress my body has made while growing our baby. Most days I forget that I wasn't always like this and am content to just embrace everything about my pregnant body as my new norm...but some days I take absolute comfort in knowing that I wasn't always like this and won't be forever. Getting winded or short of breath easily (no matter how many cardiovascular workouts I do on the elliptical) as the baby grows and everything pushes on my lungs is not a permanent state of being. Having to walk s-l-o-w-l-y up the stairs to our 2nd floor apartment is not a permanent thing either. Nor is sleeping on my side (what? I can't remember what life was like before this...) or constantly requiring the use of a pillow when I'm laying down or sitting anywhere. I really can't envision what it looks or feels like to go anywhere without having to use the restroom but I imagine that it's something I could happily get readjusted to. Being able to fit back into my old shoes and my wedding rings? Not having psycho (sometimes terrifying) dreams and waking up sweating when I don't even have a blanket on? Now I'm getting way ahead of myself....

In the past 33 weeks I've also transitioned from not being able to envision or feel our baby whatsoever to knowing all-too-well whether or not he is awake, asleep, stretching, kicking, rolling around, hiccuping, or responding to food, my voice, his daddy's voice, or music. This part really makes me smile, though, because although it may sometimes hurt, catch me off guard, or even cause me to instantly feel as if I need to pee, it makes all the other things (including the recently cracking/popping hips - thank you, week 32) completely bearable.

Wall of our consolidated baby gifts - which I plan to
reorganize as I begin washing clothing & bedding!
I could go on and on recounting all the pregnancy symptoms I experience on the daily but when people ask me how I'm feeling I never fail to give a genuinely positive response with a smile. Because the reality is that I do feel great and I am managing well. The symptoms I've experienced (whether they are inconvenient, frustrating, painful, or surprisingly entertaining) all come with the territory and I thank God that I haven't had any symptoms or complications out of the norm. I would even dare to say that I've experienced some of these normal symptoms (nausea, acid reflux, and leg cramps to name a few) to a significantly lesser degree than most women. Please don't hate me for saying this, but for being 33 weeks pregnant, I really do feel great! Plus, I can hardly remember what life is like without all of these pregnancy symptoms, so that probably adds to how good I'm feeling about everything (like I said - I just accept all of this as my current norm and go with it).

The bottom line is this: my body has gradually changed (a lot!), our baby has grown a lot (he should be over 4 lbs. now!), and while I've experienced an array of pregnancy symptoms and already gained about 35 lbs. the baby and I are both healthy, happy (I know he is based on what my ob/gyn says about an active baby being a healthy baby - because believe me, he is active!), and surely looking forward to meeting one another outside the womb for the first time (if he knew such a thing existed, that is). :)

Thank you for all of your prayers! We've only got 7 weeks to go (maybe sooner!) and it's definitely starting to feel within reach. Oh, and KelleyAnnie, if you're reading this: I haven't forgotten about that guest piece I'm writing for you! The dreaded "pregnancy brain" has finally started to catch up with me and cause me to draw occasional blanks - making it difficult to sit down and write coherent pieces. But I will get that to you soon. :)

*Just a note that while doctors use 40 weeks for the baby's due date, 37 weeks is actually considered full-term. Everything beyond that is simply extra time for the baby to keep growing.

"Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch."
-E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

Friday, June 21, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 18)

+JMJ+


As always, for more quick takes head over to Conversion Diary with Jen!

--- 1 ---
Yesterday I wrote a couple entries (Part 1 and Part 2) about my experiences forming friendships after getting married. If you read part 2 you know that my friend, Stephanie, and her family could use some serious prayers in this unforeseen time of loss. Please say at least one, quick prayer for them!

--- 2 ---
I'm tired of people claiming that the Catholic Church is somehow imposing its views on society in this whole marriage debate. Anyone who thinks this clearly doesn't understand what the word "impose" means and should check out this concise explanation from Leila at Little Catholic Bubble. She hashes out an explanation of the word as well as why this is a ridiculous claim - and highlights who is actually imposing their views on society in this debate.


--- 3 ---
Do you like traditional or classic church music? Have you heard of either De Monfort Music and/or the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist? I've highlighted our very own Ann Arbor Dominicans on here before, but this time it's to make everyone aware that they are releasing a CD of sacred music on August 13! I simply cannot contain my excitement! Here's a little sneak peak for anyone that may be interested (bonus - you also get to see inside their gorgeous chapel in this video):


I attended a retreat hosted by these lovely ladies back in December and they truly are immensely joyful witnesses of God's love for the world. You can pre-order one of their CDs by clicking this link!

--- 4 ---
Did you hear the breaking news from the Vatican this week?! The 2nd miracle of Blessed Pope John Paul II has been approved! This means his canonization is surely on the horizon! I am so so happy! +Blessed Pope John Paul II, pray for us.+

--- 5 ---
Some of you know that my oldest niece and Goddaughter (who just turned 3 years old last weekend!) is basically a little saint in the making, but for those of you who haven't had the pleasure of hearing any adorable stories about her, you're about to get a taste. My older sister shared this conversation she had with her eldest daughter on her Facebook wall this week. Brace yourself:
My niece: I love God. God is the bester of all. Mommy is best, but God is bester.  
My sister: That's great, honey. It makes God happy when you love Him.
My niece: Yes, but even if He's happy, He can't clap His hands. Because bread doesn't have any hands.
If you aren't dying of cuteness right now, you should probably head to the doctor because there may be something seriously wrong with you.

--- 6 ---
Last week I finally purchased a maternity swimsuit! I had been searching far and wide before eventually pulling the trigger...and I'm pleased to report that I am very happy with said purchase. I was very hesitant about ordering anything offline without being able to try it on so I opted to only look at stores in my area that have maternity swimsuits in stock (a wise choice considering I thought I'd wear a small top per usual and that was definitely not true). I got both of these Liz Lange pieces from Target:

Tankini Swim Top, Black Paisley ($24.99) + Swim Skirted Bottom ($19.99)
Initially I was looking for something a bit brighter/lighter (I can't believe how dark all the swimsuits I found were!), but this top and bottom are plenty feminine, fit well (with room for my belly to keep growing), and definitely serve their purpose - so I've been able to enjoy a few afternoons at the pool.

--- 7 ---
Parmesan-crusted on the outside, mozzarella and pesto on the inside

Last night I made this delicious grilled cheese recipe and paired it with tomato basil soup. It was phenomenal - and my husband loved it, too! It was so delicious I felt I had to share. If any of you try it out, let me know how you like it. :)

Have a great weekend, friends!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Forming Friendships after Marriage, Part 2

+JMJ+

To get caught up on this entry's back-story, make sure to read Forming Friendships after Marriage, Part 1 before continuing any further. Part 1 ended with me explaining that in my struggles to make new, local friends the Lord often gifts me with some encounter or realization that provides me a sense of renewed hope and strength to persevere in my efforts. This is where Part 2 begins:
"This week that renewed hope and strength came as a result of one friend's tragedy...which just goes to show that God truly works in mysterious ways...."
On Tuesday I received a text from a dear college friend - who also happens to be named Stephanie. She is an awesome woman of the Lord and although we were never "best" friends she is without doubt a true friend and someone I always loved as we attended and then led retreats side by side throughout college. We were both leaders in campus ministry and share much in common, including the fact that we each have 2 sisters whom we love dearly. I don't communicate with Stephanie on any sort of regular basis, but she is one of those sisters in Christ that I will always feel connected to and know I can rely on if/when I need prayer support. A few weeks ago she even offered to come visit once the baby is born if we still live here in Ann Arbor.

The text she sent Tuesday afternoon requested prayers for one of her sisters - who was in critical condition with a very poor prognosis. I had no idea what was happening but I immediately began praying for Steph and her family.

Stephanie & me in spring 2010
A few short hours later she texted to inform me that her sister had gone to heaven along with her sister's beautiful baby boy. The complications had arisen as her sister underwent a c-section to remove her stillborn son. When I learned that her sister was gone my heart was absolutely breaking. Steph is one of only a couple people I use as an example of pure and sincere joy, love, and happiness whenever I try and explain to Michael what someone's personality is like - or what kind of friend I can envision them being. He has met Steph and understands immediately what I mean if I compare someone new to her...which says a lot about her because as I said, she isn't even my best friend and I communicate with her irregularly/somewhat infrequently yet she holds such a special place in my life.

My heart may have been breaking for her, but I quickly pulled it together because Steph had sent her message as a group text to 3 people and requested that we help spread the news to some family and friends. Having been given a task that could help in her time of mourning I immediately focused on doing what she asked. I spread the word to 7 or 8 mutual friends and knew that they would lift up her family in prayer and pray especially for the repose of her sister's soul. The next morning I awoke to a text from another mutual friend (who I accidentally left off my contact list) who had heard from yet a different friend. Everything has snowballed since then and when I logged onto Facebook this morning I saw that Steph's wall had already been covered with 50+ different messages expressing their deepest sympathies and promising their prayers...and I'm sure there are several more that have flooded her private inbox. This young woman and her family are some of the most radiant followers of Christ and the outpouring of support for them in this sorrowful time is only a further testament to this fact.

Watching our mutual friends spread the word to one another like wildfire has been so beautiful to behold...and it blows my mind when I realize how many faith-filled, genuine people I managed to meet through my campus ministry involvement in college.

As I reflect on all of this I can see plainly that I still need to find a way to socialize with people here in my current city...but I also understand more deeply that I am in no way, shape, or form alone. Witnessing these friends and acquaintances lift Stephanie and her family up in prayer and communicating with one another has made me so incredibly grateful to be part of such a network of brothers and sisters in Christ. I know now that no matter where I move or how few friends I may be able to find in each new place, these people will continue supporting one another and would be there praying for me if I ever needed it.

On top of that, I am so grateful to be connected through the blogosphere to so many fantastic women of faith! As I have struggled to make new, local friends this blog has introduced me to countless women I genuinely relate to. I fully plan to continue seeking out friends I could socialize with in person, but the blessings of technology that have introduced me to so many other newlyweds/wives and mothers - as well as keeping me connected to my closest friends and family - are an amazing gift I am deeply thankful for. I appreciate every single one of you that has offered up prayers for my pregnancy, our growing baby boy, or any aspect of my newlywed life since I began this blog. If you could, please send up a prayer or two for my wonderful friend, Stephanie, and her family during this difficult time. May God bless you all!

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."
-Blessed Mother Teresa

Forming Friendships after Marriage, Part 1

+JMJ+

When some people first get married they settle in an area where they are surrounded with pre-existing friendships or there may even be family members nearby. Others get married and move somewhere new, plunging into work or grad school, beginning to form new friendships, and slowly building a new support system around them. Neither of these scenarios have exactly been the case for Michael and me.

So blessed and eager to begin our lives as husband and wife. Brian Powell Photography.

I've mentioned before that Michael works as an engineering consultant, which often translates into: we are here temporarily. Even if the project he is working on is scheduled to end on a given date, timelines and budgets are constantly evolving and we must always be ready to search for a new project and pack our things at any moment (or be prepared to stay longer than we initially anticipated, as has been the case here in Ann Arbor). Our hope is that future projects will better communicate their plans for consultants in advance, but as it is right now we are never comfortable scheduling anything in our lives more than 2 weeks in advance. Getting back to what I was saying earlier about friendships and support systems, you can probably begin to see at this point how my husband's work begins to impact this aspect of our lives.

Amazingly enough, within the past 6 months or so two of Michael's friends from college (one being the Best Man from our wedding) landed full-time jobs at the very same company Michael has been doing his consulting work for. Not to mention, my husband attended college in Toledo, Ohio (45 minutes away from Ann Arbor) and still has friends - and his sister, who just graduated from medical school - there. To have so many of his friends and his sister nearby has certainly been a blessing, although the facts remain that 1) we are all busy people and don't see each other as often as you'd imagine and 2) even though I love spending time with several of these people they aren't really my friends so much as they are my husband's.

In the nearly 9 months since we've been married and I joined Michael here in Michigan I've relied heavily on phone calls, texts, and Skype to stay in touch with my family and closest high school and college friends in order to remain socially connected in some manner. I've worked on getting involved in our parish - substitute teaching, seeking out the unofficial "newlyweds" group, getting connected to the "Moms" group, and have yet to find anyone I can call to meet up during the day with me. We love fitness and have a gym membership, but this has yielded no friendship prospects either. I know there are people here that I can easily forge friendships with but for some reason I have yet to find them. So many factors have contributed to this, but especially my husband's job - which is such a crucial step in his career path that we are both on board and willing to make sacrifices for it (and as I've mentioned before, there are also several blessings we are given because of his line of work - so I in no way want to paint the picture that I am unhappy with his career. I'm very proud of him!).

This is a photo I snapped of a painted window downtown - the biggest little city in the middle!

When we first got married we anticipated being in Ann Arbor for only a few months...but God had other plans. Neither of us tried extremely hard to meet people those first few months since we thought we'd soon be moving on to a new project and new location. As it became apparent that we'd be staying longer we tried a little harder. Every time we get close to finding social networks something happens to change it all, which leaves me in this odd place of being a (normally) very social person without anyone to socialize in person with. My husband and I have discussed this several times (and Lord knows I've prayed about it) and we recognize that it isn't healthy. Although at the same time, we've cherished all the quality time we've had alone together as newlyweds and as we prepare for a baby to enter our world and forever change our family dynamic. We recognize that our vocation is to one another and our growing family, but we also recognize the importance of friendships and that they are crucial to individual and marital bliss.

I've never mentioned it on here, but this has been one of the greatest struggles I've encountered in the past (almost) 9 months. My husband and I are very outgoing people and he manages to get a decent social fix through work and the guy friends he now has in the area. I, on the other hand, haven't been doing any full-time work because we anticipated having to move...and then I became pregnant which gave me zero motivation to get out of the apartment much those first few months as I battled fatigue. Since then I've sought out various avenues of getting involved and while we've met some great people, I still haven't found anyone to spend time with. Another component in this has been the pregnancy - because it has placed me in this odd limbo where I'm not yet a stay-at-home-mom (or SAHM, for you mom bloggers out there) but I'm mostly available during the day (like SAHMs) when other not-yet-SAHMs are in class or at work. This makes me look forward to the birth of our son even more - because I cannot wait to finally fit into a social demographic that will make it easier for me to find some friends, regardless of whether or not we stay here longer or move somewhere new (for the record, I recently got hooked up with our church's moms group, so I fully plan to meet these women soon). From what I can tell, there are so many mom groups out there to help keep SAHMs sane!

Since I'm being so honest, I might as well share that last week I had a total 31-weeks-pregnant emotional meltdown as I cried to Michael about not having local friends even though I've tried so hard. I've had a few of these meltdowns lamenting my lack of friends over the past several months (although this one was probably the worst), but each time this happens I usually encounter something else to carry me through and give me a renewed sense of hope.

This week that renewed hope and strength came as a result of one friend's tragedy...which just goes to show that God truly works in mysterious ways....

In part 2 I'll share with you how God has brought me to such a place of comfort and peace in my own struggles while one friend has been given a very heavy cross to carry.

"The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread."
-Blessed Mother Teresa

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Michael's first Father's Day

+JMJ+

Last weekend was filled with good memories including dinner with friends, a free outdoor blues concert, eating authentic Chinese food from our favorite local place, going to the movies, relaxing at the pool with my man, and of course - Michael's first Father's Day! A quick shout out also goes to my oldest niece and Goddaughter who turned three years old on Saturday; I love that little girl so much!

Obviously next year will be the first Father's Day after Michael has actually experienced firsthand what it is to care for a child of his own, but that didn't stop us from celebrating his new role as "father" as we prepare for the upcoming birth of our first son! I have already caught glimpses of my husband's emerging personality as a father and wanted to take some time to acknowledge that and celebrate him this past Sunday.

The day was filled with joy and I did my best to make it all about Michael. After sleeping in, attending church, and eating lunch we decided to spend the afternoon soaking in the sun from our apartment's pool. Before that, though, I made sure to give him the Father's Day card I had picked up for him earlier in the week - which he didn't anticipate, making it all the more pleasant to watch him read. We then had fun sitting, chatting, and simply enjoying one another's company at the pool before heading home and deciding to do whatever he wanted for dinner.

I sort of wish I had snapped some photos to document the day, but other than taking a picture of me being 32 weeks pregnant that simply didn't happen. The photo on the left is from October 2011 - about 3 months into our dating relationship (shortly after we first discussed a possible future being married to one another). I stumbled across the Proverbs quote as I searched for something to write inside his Father's Day card and immediately knew that it was perfect. I am so blessed to have a husband - and now father of our first child - that walks in his integrity

...and how blessed our son shall be because of it.

"A righteous man who walks in his integrity-
How blessed are his sons after him."
Proverbs 20:7

Friday, June 14, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 17): Ann Arbor Photo Edition

+JMJ+


Head over to Jen's for some more Quick Takes!

--- 1 ---
I realized this week that I can't think of much to say. Sure, I could go through a list of things I've accomplished this week or highlight my new maternity swimsuit (I'll save that for next week) that I was so excited to purchase...but this 31st week of pregnancy has been mentally/emotionally draining (you other mamas know what I mean!). So instead of trying to make my brain do too much, I'll simply give you a post full of photos. The only thing that came to mind was to highlight a few of Michael's and my favorite places in Ann Arbor...so until next week I hope you enjoy this random assortment of photos I found online. :)

--- 2 ---
Source.
This is our church, St. Thomas the Apostle, which many of you already know I'm in love with. I love many, many things about this parish beyond the impressive, stone architecture but just take a moment to bask in that beauty.

--- 3 ---
Source.
This is a photo from a park near us - Gallup Park. Michael and I have spent many a spring or summer evening walking some trails at this place either before or after dinner. You can also rent kayaks and canoes here!

--- 4 ---
Source.

Clearly this is the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market. We began frequenting this place last spring whenever I would visit (back when we were engaged and in a long-distance relationship). It's open on Sundays and is literally a few, short blocks down the road from our church. We used to (and sometimes still do) take a walk after Mass just to check things out...although I don't think we've bought anything here a single time yet.

--- 5 ---
Source.
Cherry Republic is a shop downtown that sells all things cherry-related. And not just any cherries...we're talking Michigan cherries. I've honestly never been too enamored by cherries in general, but this place sells some amazing goodies like cherry salsa, cherry cream soda, chocolate-covered cherries, and much, much more. One of the best parts? They always have free samples - which makes it a lovely shop to stop in if we are ever taking a leisurely walk downtown.

--- 6 ---
Source.
This place is called Bubble Island - and while we don't particularly care to spend time sitting down (it's located on South University Ave. and is always teeming with students) we have stopped here several times to purchase some bubble tea or mochi on the go. If you like bubble tea or mochi (although we have plenty of Asian markets where you can buy mochi that's just as good or better), you'll like this place.

--- 7 ---
Source.
The Arboretum is...huge. It's a great place to picnic, walk/hike/run trails, sit by a river and feed ducks or geese, or simply enjoy the outdoors. They have a large peony garden that we have yet to see in bloom, so perhaps we'll make another trip here soon.

And that's all she wrote! I hope you all have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Doctor in the House!

+JMJ+

Last weekend Michael and I headed to Ohio to witness and participate in some of his family members' milestone celebrations. On Friday, June 7, we drove down the road to Toledo for my sister-in-law's graduation from medical school.

We sat near the end of an aisle in case I had to make a brief exit, but by the grace of God I experienced a 30-weeks-pregnant-miracle and didn't have to use the restroom once during the three-hour commencement ceremony. This made me happy because I had never attended any graduate school commencement exercises (I was unable to be on the east coast when my sister received her Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard), let alone a doctoral hooding ceremony.

It was plain to see that the MD profession is largely a family tradition and it was awesome to watch so many of my sister-in-law's classmates get hooded by their father, mother, mother and father, spouse, brother or sister (or both), or in one endearing case: grandfather and father. At one point the lady sitting to my left asked who we were there for and whether or not she is the first doctor in our family; as I thought of my response I quickly realized that my sister-in-law is, in fact, the very first doctor in Michael's entire family. How awesome! She is so gifted and I know that she will be an incredibly successful neurologist.

My husband and his Doctor sister and some family
Sunday, June 9 (almost 31 weeks pregnant!)
After everyone finished taking a million photos we all headed to a buffet dinner to celebrate. Because Toledo is so close, Michael and I returned home to relax that evening before heading out on Saturday to meet back up with everyone in the Cleveland area. We spent Saturday afternoon and evening celebrating Michael's cousin (pictured above on the far right) as we enjoyed her high school graduation party. This allowed us to spend some rare quality time with Michael's sister, one of his other cousins, and various family members.

Before we knew it the weekend was nearly over. On Sunday we managed to take some more family photos and get lunch with Michael's family before driving back to Michigan and heading to an evening Mass. Although it seemed to fly by, the weekend celebrating and eating good food with my in-laws was both fun and laid-back. And now we can officially say that there is a doctor in the house!

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose."
-Dr. Seuss

Friday, June 7, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 16)

+JMJ+


Make sure to check out Jen's blog for more quick takes!

--- 1 ---
Today is the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus! Since it's a solemnity there is a second reading at today's daily mass and I found myself loving this excerpt:
"But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood,
will we be saved through him from the wrath.
Indeed, if, while we were enemies,
we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son,
how much more, once reconciled,
will we be saved by his life." Romans 5:8-10
Beautifully written. Thank you, St. Paul

--- 2 ---



Have any of you seen the movie Courageous? I saw it last weekend and wrote a review that basically suggests you watch it right away if you want to see a wholesome, family-friendly film. 

--- 3 ---
Speaking of being courageous, I received an interesting email from our local Pro-Life Action Network this morning. Apparently there is a pro-abortion documentary entitled After Tiller that highlights (and essentially praises) the four doctors who still perform late-term abortions in the United States...and it's being shown here in downtown Ann Arbor tomorrow night. The email was seeking pro-life volunteers to peacefully protest this screening with various pro-life signs and whatnot. I immediately saw the date and time and knew I couldn't help out but it also made me wonder if I'd be courageous enough to go join these protesters if I were available. I would hope so, considering my husband and I attended this year's March for Life, but I've not yet done any local demonstrations. Please pray for all of the pro-life protesters as well as all those who attend the documentary viewing! May the hearts of pro-abortionists be changed so they can more clearly see the human dignity of unborn children.

--- 4 ---
On a somewhat (but not really) related note, I'll move on to babies and baptism. I've mentioned before that Michael and I absolutely l-o-v-e our parish here and part of that has to do with how extremely serious these people are about catechesis! Michael received excellent RCIA instruction before we were married and I was really looking forward to attending their baptism workshops (which consist of 2 different 2-hour sessions - a total of 4 hours of baptism prep instruction!). Unfortunately, their upcoming dates didn't work out for us and we had to attend a baptism class at another local parish. Instead of receiving any sort of enlightening or inspiring instruction we basically experienced a quick, in-and-out meeting where we were given a packet of info and simply asked why we wanted our child baptized. Oh well; the people were nice and we got our certificate saying we completed the class which is all the documentation we needed for our parish. I suppose we'll just be doing our own personal baptism preparation through prayer as we get ready for the impending birth of our first son!

--- 5 ---
On another related baby note, this past week I discovered I'm no longer the only one of my friends who is pregnant! Two of my friends informed me of their expectant status this week and I'm so so happy for these ladies (and their men)! Please pray for them and the health of their precious little ones. 

--- 6 ---
Random note: This week I've had a lot of encounters with annoying animals. For starters, the new girl that moved into the apartment below us (and is much louder than the previous tenant) has a dog. That's cute and all, but this dog barks...loudly...a lot! In a way, though, it gives me hope that if we still live here when the baby is born there's a chance we will not be the most annoying neighbors because I think this dog could give a crying baby quite the run for their money. 

Secondly, there is a male robin with a nearby nest who has taken to flying into our glass balcony door about a million ten times a day. And when I say ten times a day I mean "he flies into the glass about 30 times in a row at a steady pace...ten different times a day," which translates to smacking into our window about 300 times a day. Needless to say, it's been driving me crazy but I did learn that this is normal bird behavior. Essentially he sees his reflection and thinks he sees another bird...so he flies into his own reflection to "scare himself off" and protect their nest. Awesome. At least he is a protective father!

--- 7 ---
Last weekend we got to see some of my family in Indiana for our baby shower and this weekend we'll be in Ohio with Michael's family. My sister-in-law graduates from medical school today and my husband's cousin just graduated high school and has a party tomorrow. I hope you all enjoy your weekends while we visit with family, celebrate, and eat lots of good food. :)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Movie Review: Courageous

+JMJ+

I'm sure many of you have heard of the 2008 hit Christian movie Fireproof (if you haven't, you should probably go rent it...immediately) and/or the best-seller book inspired by the movie, The Love Dare. But how many of you are aware that the Kendrick brothers have also written and produced three others movies? The fourth and most recent film they made with Sherwood Pictures is 2011's Courageous.

Genre(s)
Drama, Christian

The Premise
The movie portrays four policemen and the struggles they encounter as they strive to protect and serve - both at home and in the workplace. When tragedy strikes, they make a bold decision that will help them take charge of the paths they're on, particularly in their roles as husbands and fathers. The film shares their individual successes and failures as they learn to how to stay true to their Christian values.


My Thoughts/Reactions
Considering I watched this movie with my family on the night of our baby shower, I was all about this movie. I couldn't help but feel as if the timing was perfect since my husband and I are currently preparing ourselves for the adventure that is parenthood...and the straightforward message of the movie has much to do with fatherhood.

I felt that the movie contained a healthy blend of humor, action, and drama...all while providing good examples of how a Christian husband and father should act. Normally I have more to say about movies, but there isn't much more I can think to share other than the fact that I appreciated and enjoyed watching it greatly. The dramatic aspects of the film are enough to tug on anyone's heartstrings, which clearly means that I found my pregnant self tearing up in more than a couple of scenes. However, I wouldn't define the film itself as a "tearjerker" because it contains plenty of happy, uplifting, and humorous scenes as well.

It's quite obvious to me in the Kendrick brothers' movies that they come from a Baptist background, but I don't think it matters much what denomination of Christianity an individual practices in order to appreciate their films (nor do I think you have to necessarily be Christian to enjoy them either). Sure, as a Catholic I visibly notice that the characters are not Catholic, but at the end of the day their core messages are ones that all authentic Christians share in regards to marriage, family relationships, and repenting and avoiding sin.

Overall I'd say this is a family-friendly movie that is hard to come by these days (at least within mainstream media). Because the main characters are policemen, there are a few crime-related action scenes, but nothing parents should be too worried about school children watching with them. The tragedy that takes place could be difficult for young children to digest, so if you're concerned in any way I'd simply recommend previewing the movie before determining whether or not your children can handle it...but I'd venture a guess that most children would be completely fine (especially with a parent there to explain anything they may be confused or worried about).

Have any of you seen Courageous? I'm always curious to know what you all think, too!

"So where are you men of courage? Where are you, fathers who fear the Lord? It's time to rise up and answer the call that God has given to you, and to say, 'I will. I will. I will.'"
-Adam from Courageous

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Let Your Light Shine

+JMJ+


Have you ever written or said something, only to wonder how it will be received or perceived by others?

If you said "no" I don't believe you one bit. It's human nature to wonder how others will react to the things we say and do in our daily lives. However, with practice (and often necessarily with prayer) I fully believe one can learn to free themselves from obsessing too much over this while still maintaining a healthy concern for how we present ourselves to the world. In other words, I think it's wise to be aware of how we conduct ourselves and pay attention to the feelings of others - but perhaps even more wise to know the cutoff point at which this becomes self-obsessive, restrictive, and essentially keeps us from being the people God created us to be.

So what am I really getting at here? I recently read Dwija's beautifully honest piece about how she used to worry if sharing her happy news might rub salt in the wounds of those who may not be experiencing happiness within their own lives. I think her concern for others in this regard is wonderfully kind - although as she came to realize with time, it's also unnecessary.

Dwija shared that while she is currently going through some serious, scary stuff with her pregnancy (please pray for her and her family!), she is not sad when she reads or hears happy stories from others. Instead, she rejoices that there are healthy moms and healthy babies out there!

When I read her sentiments about all of this I felt so grateful for her testament. Too often we hesitate to share good news with others because we are worried that it will somehow appear as if we are rubbing it in the faces of others that we are experiencing such joy and they, perhaps, are not. But God didn't show us His light and love only to hide it beneath the proverbial bushel.
"nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:15-17
And as Dwija so eloquently stated,
"...there is nothing that makes me happier, gives me more peace, than knowing that there are women enjoying trouble-free pregnancies. How wonderful! How hopeful! What a relief it is to know that not everyone is suffering this same kind of suffering. I'm just so grateful on their behalf that they are not asked to bear this particular cross. Healthy pregnancies are out there! Full term babies are out there! Membranes of steel are out there!
...Please don't ever be afraid to share joy in the face of contrasting sorrow. There is not a finite amount of grace or happiness or peace or regularness in this world. If your situation is filled with grace or happiness or peace or blessed regularness, I know you haven't snatched my share from me."
Amen. Just as sharing our heartaches, burdens, and the crosses we carry can sometimes help others see that they are not alone, it is equally important for us to shout God's goodness from the rooftops when He blesses us with good, happy, uplifting experiences! Rather than fearing that we will drag depressed individuals further down with our happiness, we should take comfort in knowing that it's quite possible our joy will uplift, inspire, or encourage those around us so they may be reminded of God's goodness and rejoice with us. 

Personally, I designed and began this blog with the intention of sharing the parts of my life that radiate God's love with others...and I have occasionally wondered if any of my readers are under the impression that my life is somehow "picture perfect" or if I paint a picture of joy to the extent that it becomes unbelievable or possibly unrelatable. However, at the end of the day my life is not perfect and Lord knows there are aspects that I don't highlight for the world to read - but mostly I have simply been blessed in this season of my life in ways that I (thankfully) don't have any crosses that are so heavy I need to write about them on here. But if/when I encounter such situations, I take hope in the fact that there are so many other wonderful, brave, and strong women out there with voices that would remind me I'm not alone.

So whether we are experiencing seasons of joy or sorrow, as long as we keep God at the center it's important to simply be ourselves and not hesitate to share our individual journeys with others - because in our sorrows we can find and promote a community of support and prayers...and in our joys it's possible that our good news may nourish and uplift the souls of those carrying a different cross.

When I reflect on all of this I thank God for blessing us each with unique life experiences - both easy and difficult, happy and sad. Because we can always rest assured that there is someone else in this mystical body of Christ who can relate to or perhaps be inspired by our stories. AMDG.

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." 
Matthew 5:17

Monday, June 3, 2013

Showered With Love

+JMJ+

I mentioned on Friday that this Saturday, June 1, was the day of our baby shower! Despite how uncomfortable my body currently feels sitting in a car for 5 hours, I was more than happy to make the trip to my Indiana hometown for this celebratory event. My mom had graciously offered to throw the party and hosted it in our home which, in my opinion, ended up being perfect.

Amazing "diaper cake" that my mom and little sister
stayed up late Friday night to make & surprise me with
Because hardly any of my friends live in or around my hometown area there were several people who (not at all surprisingly) couldn't attend - but I'm so grateful for the 8 lovely ladies that did! The small number of guests made it a very intimate and relaxed gathering - and I can't help but think that the combination of hometown friends, college friends, and family made for a wonderful blend of personalities that I couldn't have meshed more beautifully if I tried. Everyone seemed so comfortable and I had a blast the entire time - whether we were sitting around eating delicious food and chatting, playing creative baby-themed games, or opening amazing gifts.

The small number of guests also made it much easier to feel like I spent quality time with everyone in attendance. Not only that, but it made it easy for guests to meet any others they didn't know - and anyone that knows me understands how much I love introducing my friends from different groups to one another! After all, life just seems easier and more complete when all the people in my life that I'm close to have met one another.

Posing with my husband (and our son!) after the party
Since my mom hosted the party it was easy for Michael to make an initial appearance and greet my friends before disappearing quietly upstairs while the women chatted, laughed, snacked, and had fun playing the games my mom had planned. Then when it was time to begin opening presents Michael came back downstairs and joined us - which was a definite perk of having the shower at the house and something we had decided last minute would be fun for him to do since the number of guests was so small (he really doesn't like being the center of a large group's attention, but as I said already - the gathering was intimate and laid back). I absolutely love that my husband was able to be there and see what we were so generously given as we unwrapped presents together. Plus, I cherish the times when Michael is able to be around my friends and they have the opportunity to get to know him a bit more since we all live so far apart these days. I'd also like to mention that even though there were only 8 guests in attendance we were seriously showered with an abundance of thoughtful gifts! I am so blessed to have such kind-hearted people in my life and can't get over how many things we were given to start us on the path of parenthood in addition to getting treated to an afternoon with these wonderful people!

This little baby has no idea how many people love
him already!!!
When I think back on this weekend all I can do is smile and reflect on how Michael, our little baby boy, and I were completely showered with love. It was evident that my mom, younger sister, and grandmother had worked tirelessly to prepare and decorate the house, the food, the games and prizes, their gifts, and everything else that goes into planning a baby shower. Clearly these people love me and our little baby to have gone to so much trouble for us and I do not take their hard work for granted one bit! One of my best friends - bless her heart - had also offered to show up early and helped my family do whatever still needed to be done to decorate and set out the food. It just astounds me that people would go to such lengths to celebrate our growing family!

After the guests headed out we proceeded to quickly clean up, reorganize and pack up all the gifts into my car (which included installing our brand new car seat!), and simply enjoy the fruits of my family's labor. We spent the entire evening relaxing, enjoying one another's company, and watching a movie that was (ironically and quite appropriately) all about fatherhood (movie review coming soon - because it was that good). After church and some additional quality time spent together the following day, Michael and I made the trek back to Michigan late Sunday afternoon.

I'm so grateful to have had such a rejuvenating and fun-filled weekend with my family and friends! My love and prayers go out to all those who celebrated with us both in person and in spirit. I truly thank God for each and every one of you!

Now I can't wait to continue preparing for our baby to arrive. :) Only 10 more weeks to go until our due date!

"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures."
James 1:17-18