Friday, May 30, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 27)

+JMJ+


Linking up with Jen and the rest of her Friday crew! 

--- 1 ---
Are you reading this on a feed reader? Or on your phone? If you are, I don't think you'll be able to see my pretty little (brand new) header! Up until this point I've always designed everything for my blog. However, there came a time when I longed for something a bit beyond my limited skills. This blogging mom's solution? I asked for nothing on Mother's Day except for a customized header for my blog. Kind of ridiculous, but I'm excited one and the same! Thank you to my dear husband for indulging me in this manner. :)

--- 2 ---
I love this blogging community. Seriously. Thank you to all of you who read my blog on a semi-regular basis (or even just once!). And another even bigger "thank you" to those of you who write blogs I enjoy reading, too! It always helps to know there are others out there who understand my life. This week that prize goes to Katrina because she recently wrote a piece about clogged milk ducts (and how to unclog them). If I hadn't read her blog, I wouldn't have known what was going on when this happened to me recently. I had no idea this was a common thing, y'all. I feel so blessed not to have experienced it until now! May God bless you, Katrina. What would we do without the people who are willing to take one for the team and write the "awkward" posts that can help so many of us?

--- 3 ---
Last week I wrote about "Ferberizing" our baby with some real sleep training. When he slept through the night on Night 3 I thought it must be a fluke (he was probably just really tired and didn't wake up, right?). Then I wondered if Night 4 was a fluke. And Night 5. By Night 6 I was pretty sure that Gabriel had to have woken up during those nights even though he didn't make a peep. It wasn't until Night 6 that I finally dared to speak the words aloud. Ladies (and gentlemen? Any of you out there? Probably not after take #2), I am happy to announce that our baby is finally sleep trained! Knowing that I can put him down for bed and not have to worry about getting him out of his crib or feeding him until the morning is...mind-blowing.


--- 4 ---
We've officially lived here for 4.5 months! After getting married we lived in Michigan for 10 months then Florida for 6 months. And now that we are here we have made better acquaintances and friends in 4.5 months than we ever did in either location throughout the previous 16 months. It sounds kind of sad when I say that...but really it's a testament to how very happy I am here. The people we have met here are so good to us and it's the first time in a long time that I think Michael and I have really felt like we have a local community. And it's not just the people; it's the place, too. There were elements we loved about both Michigan and Florida, but if it were a contest...the suburbs of Philadelphia are winning. I just can't stop thanking God for all the experiences we've had in these 3 places together as a family...but especially here. This place is such a gift for my soul.


--- 5 ---
Speaking of the great things going on around here...I began a Catholic moms group this week! After coming to know the area a bit better, searching for various mom groups, speaking with other Catholic young adults, and noticing a lack of existence of such a group within our county (except for one parish - one out of many, many parishes), I decided to bite the bullet and get this party started. In less than 4 days the group (which I created via Meetup.com) grew to 12 members...and 5 showed up at our first play-date yesterday! I was amazed at how quickly (and comfortably) we began chatting about pro-life ob/gyns, local NFP instructors, and more. I think this is something we all needed and I'm so grateful that I'm at a time and place in my life as a mother that I can organize this group and help build up this community - not just for myself but for one another. Even if the group never grows bigger than it is right now, this is a solid, beautiful group of ladies that I might not have ever encountered otherwise. Do you have a Catholic moms group near you? I'd love to hear what you all do when you get together!

--- 6 ---
Last week Michael and I realized that with his Xbox Gold membership (how we watch Amazon Prime or Netflix) there are several other video apps we could download for free. Included in these free apps? Not one, but TWO video apps that are solely providers of Korean Dramas. And good Korean dramas that have aired recently. WHAT?! Thank you, God, for this little slice of heaven under our roof. You'd better believe we're cancelling our Netflix subscription asap.

--- 7 ---
It's no secret that even though we have quite possibly the happiest baby under the sun, we've had some real struggles with foods. Gabriel is doing great with solids at this point, but I'm not above asking for prayers as we work towards him drinking from a cup on a regular basis. This has proven to be quite a challenge since he always refused bottles. Sippy cups, straw cups, lidless cups, cups with lids. We've done it all. I think we've found the right cup for him and we've had some truly radiant glimmers of hope this past week with some water, but we're not quite at the point where Gabriel will accept a cup of milk. I would love it so much if he would do this just for one meal a day on a consistent basis. Just one would be so great until we could work up to more. By one year I want to be done nursing and I'm already starting to get that antsy longing to be done. If I could stop before a year I would - but I don't think it's going to happen without drastic measures. So please pray. Please, please pray for him and for me.

That's all I've got. Time to take advantage of what little is left of this nap-time and hop in the shower! Happy Friday, friends. Oh! And please pray for the repose of Michael's grandmother's soul. We're traveling again to Ohio for a long weekend leading up to the wake and Monday's funeral.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Our Abode: Philadelphia Suburbs

+JMJ+

Throughout my childhood, I lived in 5 different places within the states of Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois. The final move (which took place the summer before I began 6th grade) landed us in the small Indiana town that I would proceed to consider my hometown and permanent residence throughout middle school, high school, and even my college years.

Because of all the moving and house hunting my family did when I was between the ages of 3 and 10, I probably grew up far more interested in housing architecture and home decor than the average child. In college, people tended to think it was pretty weird when I revealed how much fun I have looking at the aisles of light fixtures, floor tiles, kitchen counter-tops, or varying styles of bathtubs and toilets you can find at places like Home Depot or Lowe's. I blame my parents for taking us along as we built one of our houses and/or searched for the perfect home every time we moved.

Now that I'm out of college, married, and a mother, none of what I just described seems very odd anymore. I am so looking forward to the day when Michael's career allows us to "settle" a bit more and search for or build our first house. In the meantime, however, I have the pleasure of traveling around to different parts of the country and scoping out all kinds of different apartments. Due to how quickly we tend to move (because of my husband's job) we haven't been able to look at apartments in person before our two most recent moves. Thankfully there's such a thing as the internet - which helped us find our place in Florida and here in Pennsylvania sight unseen (I don't mind this at all for apartments - but I have great respect for people like Dwija who choose to do this with a house!).

Where am I going with all of this?

In short, I get really excited about choosing apartments and discovering what they have to offer our little family. My experiences living in no less than 6 apartments in the past 5 years have helped me better understand what things I am looking for (and NOT looking for) in a more permanent future home. For this reason, I decided to document the various apartments we've lived in since beginning our married lives in 2012. 

Without further ado, here is our current place in the suburbs of Philadelphia!

ENTRANCE & KITCHEN
This apartment has a very small entryway with a little coat closet on the left. Just beyond the closet you'll find the door to Gabriel's bedroom - but if you move forward you will find yourself in the main living space with the kitchen immediately on your right.




DINING ROOM



Ignore the empty stroller box waiting to be taken to the trash. That big closet contains our washer & dryer.

LIVING ROOM

Favorite features: tray ceiling, step down into the room, ceiling fan, and variable lighting

The door at the edge of the dining room & living room leads to the guest bathroom.
These doors lead to the master bedroom.
That balcony porch is the largest I've ever had in any apartment. Just trust me - it's huge.

MASTER BEDROOM & BATH



Oh, look! The living room. That other door is our closet - and although it's big, it's not Florida closet big, so...no pictures.
The rosary hanging on the wall was my Grammie's.

This bathroom doesn't beat Ann Arbor in the "tiny-with-no-elbow-room" department, nor does it beat Florida in the "I can't believe how huge and pretty this is" department. It's a pretty normal bathroom in every aspect.

GUEST BATHROOM


As seen when entering from the dining room.


Inquisitive baby not included.

SECOND (GABRIEL'S) BEDROOM


This bedroom actually connects to the guest bathroom. This view is the room upon entering from the bathroom. The main bedroom door can be found on the left - just beyond the dresser.
Someday we'll get some decorations on this wall. Assuming we live here long enough for that to be worthwhile.
That's our boy's closet...and that's our boy being a little explorer.
This captures the two entrances - from the guest bathroom and the main entrance (you can see the kitchen across the hall there). 
This one photo of details on Gabriel's dresser encapsulates most of what you probably need to know about our family.

FAVORITE AND LEAST FAVORITE FEATURES

Let's begin with the favorites:
  • Lighting. We have ample overhead lighting everywhere but the bedrooms (where we have our own lamps). The dining room and living room both have variable lighting which is rarely found in apartments!
  • Layout. As soon as we moved in we kept marveling at how much this apartment felt somewhat like a house. The bedrooms are on opposite ends  with Gabriel's room being far away from the living room (which is great if you have a baby you don't want to wake). The use of space is efficient and nice for hosting friends.
  • Living Room. This room is sunken down one step below the rest of the apartment (which gives Gabriel good practice in "stair climbing" without being able to hurt himself much). It has a ceiling fan, overhead lighting, and variable lighting. The built in shelves are the perfect size for our TV.
Least favorites:
  • White counter-tops. Seriously. Why? They're in the kitchen and both bathrooms. So hard to keep looking nice.
  • Small kitchen with little (reachable!) cabinet or counter space. Mind you, it's better than our tiny, L-shaped kitchen in Ann Arbor. However, it has the tiniest pantry of all our apartments, little cabinet space (meaning we have to put our plates and lots of kitchen items on the shelves above the washer and dryer), and even less usable counter space.
  • Doors. Gabriel's room, the guest bathroom, and the master bedroom all have these fancy-looking double doors (which equal the width of one normal door)...which are terrible for having small children. Even when they're locked our baby can easily push them open because of the way they meet in the middle. 
  • Carpeted dining room. We've had this in all of our apartments - but now that we have a baby that eats at the table I realize how awful this truly is.

That's it! Overall, we love this apartment. The size is very similar to our roomy place in Florida and even though our kitchen and master bathroom are noticeably smaller, the layout is much more "homey" and better conducive to family life.

Curious about our other places? Check out the pictures of our apartments in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Palm Beach County, Florida.

"In our home let love abide, and bless all those who step inside."
-Anonymous

Friday, May 23, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 26)

+JMJ+


Happy Friday, friends. Make sure you head over to see Jen at Conversion Diary for more Friday quick take fun!

--- 1 ---
I had been trying to finish Jen's book, Something Other Than God, ever since it arrived on my Kindle. Thanks to our decision to "sleep train" our 9.5 month old son this week, I certainly found the time! In fact, I'm contemplating writing a review on Amazon because this was the perfect book for sleep training my son. I needed something I was interested in to help me wake up in the middle of the night and be coherent enough to follow the sleep training schedule. But, I needed something that would not hurt my brain to read at 3am. That was this book. Such an easy, well-written, refreshing, and fascinating read! If I weren't the mother of a child going through lots of baby transitions I'm sure I would have finished it in only a day or two. If by some crazy chance any of you haven't heard of her book and read it yet, YOU SHOULD. I mean, check out this review someone left on Amazon:


--- 2 ---
Speaking of "sleep training," we've basically been following Dr. Ferber's Progressive-Waiting Method. Most of you already know what that is...but have you read this blogger's explanation and review?! HILARIOUS. Her blog post about it was very helpful, not only because she listed out the 7 day program (listing the wait times for each night), but because she knows how to properly convey what you should expect. Check it out:

First, take a couple shots of the hardest liquor you can find – the kind that’ll put some hair on your chest. Spam your neighbors with lengthy letters of apology (include bribe money). Purchase NRA-approved ear muffs for yourself and possibly your neighbors. Then crumple up into fetal position holding onto that bottle of liquor and cry like your baby.
You’re going to hate yourself. You’re going to think you’re an awful, cruel, heartless parent. You’re going to cry Uncle, want to give up after the first 30 minutes, and make up excuses as to why this was a terrible decision. As a Sleep Training Survivor (and there really should be some fancy medal parents can wear after going through this), I know that it’s the hardest thing to hear your adorable, helpless flesh and blood crying … in their crib… all alone. It blows. But… and there’s a big BUT. The rewards are so worth it.
I appreciate moms that keep it real. Fortunately for me, I had Jen's book to get lost in so I could better ignore my baby's screams in between check times. :)

--- 3 ---
Final mention of sleep training: last night was Night 3 and...Gabriel never woke up. From 9pm-8am he did not make a peep. I'm a little confused about this. Should I rejoice?! Or should I lament the fact that because he never woke up, I didn't get the chance to continue teaching him to soothe himself back to sleep? On Nights 1 and 2 he woke up once (I can't imagine doing this with a much younger baby that still wakes 3-4 times) and took about 45 minutes to fall back asleep. I was looking forward to tracking his progress and seeing how it takes him less time each night with me checking in on him less frequently, but Night 3 threw it all off. Such conflicting emotions! Am I supposed to be happy or what?! I suppose I should stop over-thinking it and just say "thank you" for the first uninterrupted night's sleep in...way too long to count. Here's to hoping he just sleeps like this every night from here on out.

--- 4 ---
Please pray for my husband's family. More specifically, please pray for the repose of his grandmother's soul (she passed away early Monday morning) and especially for his mother.

--- 5 ---
Originally we had plans to visit Michael's family for Memorial Day Weekend, but obviously all of that changed due to our last-minute visit last weekend and our plans to go again next weekend for the wake and funeral. As we tried to figure out what we should do this weekend, I received an email inviting us to a cookout on Sunday. Considering the invite said to "bring roommates/friends/people with babies" I am really excited for this get together! I'm always on the lookout for opportunities to meet new mom friends. More importantly, though, please pray for all of those men and women of the US Armed Forces who lost their lives serving and protecting our nation. God bless them.

--- 6 ---
Not too long ago, some of our new friends here found out that I am (was?) a dancer. As I explained all the types of dancing I have done, I learned that some of them don't know what "contemporary dance" looks like. In an attempt to give them a visual, I went online and found quite the satire (seen below). So very funny. It's funny because it's eerily true. I shared this video with one of our friends - but made sure to follow it up with a legitimate video of a real contemporary dance performance. If you're curious, check them out:

Satirical video explaining contemporary dance:


"Real" video example of contemporary dance:


--- 7 ---
Perhaps some of you saw this video last year, but...dancing babies. Gangnam style. What more needs to be said? Enjoy. 



Happy Friday and Happy Memorial Day to you all!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Why I Haven't Blogged in 7 Days

+JMJ+

What a week it has been. I'm going to preface this by saying that it doesn't exactly have a "happy" ending. Except for the fact that...in a way it does. Which is why I wanted to write about it (in addition to needing to mentally un-jumble and process some thoughts). This is also going to be on the lengthier side - so I won't be surprised if a lot of people don't sit and read it. However, it's for my family, so I refuse to skimp on what it is I'd like to put down in writing.

Last Wednesday night my husband started burning up with a fever (on top of dealing with seasonal allergies). He ended up working from home both Thursday and Friday and in the midst of everything Gabriel got sick, too. Thankfully, our baby only had a high fever (not high enough to go to the hospital or anything) for less than 24 hours. He refused all solid foods, but nursed every couple hours per usual and remained hydrated. At some point I contracted a sore throat - but that along with feeling achey was all I got. By Friday, things were looking up for us and even though Michael was still suffering a bit we were pretty much recuperated. At least, we were recuperated enough to travel to Indiana for a very dear friend's wedding!

Nothing was going to keep me away from that wedding. There were moments on Friday (due to everyone's recuperation processes) that I wondered, "Should we stay home instead? Are we going to be able to do this?" But my husband never doubted the travel plans, so off to the airport we went.

However, it wasn't meant to be. Blessings often come in disguise - and this past weekend was one glaring example of how God's plans are always so much better than ours.

We arrived at the airport Friday evening. We were a little tired, but so excited for the wedding fun that was to be had. On top of that, we had plans to see my parents in my hometown before we headed up for the wedding. When we tried to check our bag we were notified by the little kiosk that there was an error: our flight had been cancelled. What?!?! Nooooo!

We made our way into the line of people dealing with similar scenarios. Was it supposed to be bad weather? I had no idea, but apparently a lot of flights were being cancelled.

Shortly before we left for the airport we received word from my mother-in-law that Michael's maternal grandmother (Halmoni, which is "grandmother" in Korean) was having emergency surgery. It was something sudden with her colon and we were waiting to see what happened.

As we waited in line to discuss our flight's cancellation, I turned to Michael to run through some possible scenarios. If we couldn't get to Indiana, maybe we could try and get a flight to Cleveland to be with his family instead? We agreed that this was a good idea, but unfortunately this was also not a possibility. We worked on getting refunds for our flights, hotel, and rental car, picked up some Chinese food, and returned home - lamenting the fact that we couldn't fly anywhere. We were still waiting to figure out if we needed to drive to Ohio, but knew that with how late it was we wouldn't leave until Saturday morning. If all was well we would hold off on visiting until Memorial Day Weekend as originally planned.

We should have been better prepared, but we weren't. As I was resting (because Gabriel decided to get up far earlier than normal), Michael received the call. We needed to get to Ohio ASAP. At first, Michael had been saying he would go on his own if need be, but when the call came we both knew that between everything going on in his family, how long the drive was, and the fact that he was still recovering there was no way he would be going it alone.

I took a quick shower, we threw some outfits and toiletries in a duffle bag, and boom- we were out the door and on the road (no small feat with a baby, might I add). We said some prayers, I led a rosary while Michael drove, and we did whatever we needed to help Gabriel out, but it was mostly a quiet trip. No music. Just our tired thoughts and prayers.

It's too tiring and unnecessary to go into all of the medical details, but we had a very long weekend traveling with Gabriel (it takes close to 8 hours with him) and got all-too familiar with the waiting room in the ICU.

ICU waiting room. Grateful the hospital staff turned a blind eye to their
"no children under 14" rule the entire weekend.

Halmoni was suffering from ischemic colitis. A lot had happened very quickly and things weren't looking good. Shortly after we arrived, a doctor sat with our family for a solid half hour explaining everything that had gone on thus far, answering questions, and weighing in on possible scenarios. Because her entire large intestine was dead and had been removed and the fact that she was now in multi-system failure, the mortality rate he gave us was high. Not high enough to dispel all hope, but high enough for us to brace ourselves for the worst. Fortunately, she was awake and we were able to go visit her. She couldn't speak due to the tube in her throat, but she could hear us just fine. We said all the things you can say in such a situation.

Fortunately for us, Halmoni was at a Catholic hospital. Michael and I returned in the morning just in time for the 9am Mass in the chapel before heading upstairs for the overnight updates. Things were somewhat better.

There wasn't a lot of change as we sat around on Sunday and we were very optimistic. Her body was fighting an infection and she had been put on dialysis the previous night - but they had successfully weaned her off of some meds and she was much more alert. She fully understood everything we said as we told her that we had to return to Philadelphia, but that she just needed to rest and we would come back and visit her next weekend. And, of course, that we loved her.

December 2013

While we were on the road, things took a turn for the worse when they tried to wean her off of more meds, but there was still hope. We continued driving in silence, waiting. We arrived late Sunday night - emotionally and physically weary.

Monday morning we received the call from Michael's parents. Halmoni passed away around 6am. She had no chance of making it through the night and she was ready to go. They were able to be with her, speak with her, say goodbye, and she wasn't in pain when it happened.

Typically I don't like to share such stories on my blog - stories that are heartbreaking and give readers an insight into any hard times our family may be having - but this one is different. Seven years ago, when Michael's paternal grandfather passed away, Michael was unable to make it home in time to say goodbye. He drove frantically from his engineering co-op in Indiana but got there a couple hours too late. This weekend we were supposed to be in Indiana celebrating love and marriage with lots of wonderful people. As heart-wrenching as it was to know what we were missing out on, our cancelled flight was the best thing that could have happened to our family this weekend. We made it to Ohio, Michael had quality time to say what he wanted to say to his grandmother, and we were able to be there with the rest of his family. Gabriel did what he does best - which is to bring joy to others, regardless of whatever else may be happening around him.

Halmoni with her great-grandson in December 2013. So much joy.

Michael and I have already experienced the loss of all our grandfathers, but it was just this year that my Grammie passed away and now his Halmoni. Fortunately we were able to see my Grammie a few months before her passing, but I certainly wasn't there when we knew the end was drawing nearer. I'm so thankful that we could do this for Michael, his family, and most of all, his Halmoni. If you had asked me last week, I would have told you that nothing could keep me away from Steph's wedding. However, God truly watched out for us and took care of our family in the way He knew we needed. Had we been at the wedding, we couldn't have said goodbye or been there with Michael's family. Had we been at the wedding, our joyous celebration would have been clouded by doubts and worries about how to change our travel plans and whether or not we could do so in time. Instead, God shut down the possibility of us being at the wedding in order to clearly send us directly to Ohio.

Amid the sadness and the grieving, Michael and I had some beautiful conversations this past weekend. At one point, he revealed to me how much more at peace he was with whatever happened than he had ever been with his paternal grandfather's death. Why? Because he was experiencing this situation now as a Catholic - as a man who believes in life eternal and trusts in God's plans to take care of us beyond death. We know that Halmoni doesn't simply disappear forever when she leaves this earth; her soul lives on and we can pray for her and she for us. How grateful I am for all of this.

It's worth saying that Halmoni will be deeply missed. I have always loved my interactions with her - from the first time Michael brought me home to meet his family. She had such a fun-loving sense of humor. She was always cooking Korean dishes, telling us to "eat, eat." She loved her family dearly and helped raise Michael and his sister from a very young age. It breaks my heart when I think of how much love she gave to everyone - but it's a happy kind of heartbreak that knows I will always smile when I think back on all the memories I have of her - dancing at our wedding, playing with Gabriel, forcing me to wear her slippers so I don't catch a cold, and all the other things a loving grandmother does. I'll never forget her words of wisdom every time we would visit: "Don't work too much. Too much stress is not worth it. Don't fight. Enjoy each other. Just be happy, okay?"

Halmoni breaking it down on the dance floor at our wedding. Brian Powell Photography.

Overall, our little family is doing very well. But please pray for the rest of Michael's family - especially his mother, who is an only child who just lost her only remaining parent. Please, please lift them up in prayer so that they may all find comfort and peace during this time.

"Eternal rest, grant unto her O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace. Amen. 
May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How I Cleaned My Satin Shoes

+JMJ+

Remember that wedding I attended recently? The one I was insanely excited about? Well, in addition to all of the important reasons why I was excited there was also a little, fashion-related cherry on top: I got to re-wear my wedding shoes. 

You can't tell in black and white, but they had been dyed ivory to match my dress. Brian Powell Photography.

That is, if I could get them clean.

When I pulled the shoes out of their box a couple weeks ago, I was so disappointed to see how dirty they had become from just one day's use! The grass from our outside photos combined with all the walking and dancing they endured on our wedding day left them looking like this:

Not pictured: a huge grass stain on one of the shoe's sides

I quickly searched online for all the supposed methods of cleaning satin shoes. I was hesitant to try anything because I read all about the water leaving marks, but I didn't have much to lose. There was no way I would wear these shoes in public again without attempting to clean them first.

What I Used
  • A bowl for water (somewhat unnecessary if you clean them near a sink)
  • An old hand towel (pretty sure any kind of soft-ish towel would do...)
  • Oxi-Clean Baby (because I have a baby - not because I think the baby version works better or anything like that)
  • A hair dryer

I simply filled the bowl with some lukewarm water, dipped the hand towel in so it got a little wet, then dabbed the shoes. Scratch that - dabbing was highly ineffective. I had to actually scrub the shoes. After I got over my fear of ruining them, it worked brilliantly. Important note: when rubbing on the satin you should always go with the grain of the material so it doesn't fray!

As soon as I got the shoes wet, I began to see a big change in their color. I was paranoid about leaving noticeable water stains, so I decided to get the entire shoe wet to even out the color (not by submerging them in water, mind you - but wiping them with the wet cloth). That way, if the water permanently altered the color, at least it wouldn't be splotchy.

On tough stains: I got the hand towel wet, dabbed it in some of the Oxi-Clean powder, then proceeded to scrub.

After finishing the first shoe, I blow-dried it to minimize the risk of leaving behind any water marks. Then I repeated the process on the other shoe and they came out looking like this:


Practically brand new! And zero water marks. Here's another snapshot in better lighting that reveals the side that initially had a huge grass stain (it's truly unfortunate I didn't have a "before" picture of how very large and green it was):

Do you see a tiny little spot? That is what remained of a massive grass stain.

Perhaps they wound up looking a tiny bit more white than ivory, so it's possible that cleaning them faded the color a bit...but you won't hear me complaining. At least they are now clean and wearable! Thank you, water and Oxi-Clean.

"Cleaning is my favorite way to relax. I clear things out and get rid of the stuff I don't need. When the food pantry and the refrigerator are organized, I feel less stressed."
-Jennifer Morrison

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day

+JMJ+

Happy (belated) Mother's Day! This holiday brings about mixed emotions for so many (depending on whether or not you're a mother, have a mother, are grieving the loss of a mother, are hoping to be a mother, or perhaps are a mother grieving a lost child, etc.), but I hope that each of your days was filled with some kind of motherly love and tenderness (and hopefully joy!). We have always celebrated Mother's Day in my family - even if it's to simply say "thank you" and "I love you" to the mothers in our lives. Speaking of which, I have a pretty great mom.

Our little family's Mother's Day was pleasant and relaxing. We began the morning with church, ate some leftovers for lunch, then got milkshakes and walked a couple of miles in the warm sunshine at a nearby park. At 80 degrees it felt refreshingly like summer!
On Saturday we visited a nearby Korean grocery store (located in one of several Korean pockets around Philadelphia) and stocked up on most of my husband's favorite things. Then, on Sunday night he cooked us a delicious Mother's Day meal of Korean BBQ (so good). After dinner we enjoyed some Korean pears for dessert (which Gabriel had the best, wide-eyed reaction to!), gave our baby a much-needed bath before his bedtime, and relaxed by watching (surprise, surprise) a Korean drama.

As a mother who celebrated Mother's Day for the first time this year (with a baby ex-utero, that is), I have so many thoughts on motherhood swirling around inside my head. However, because I'm a mom I tend to be short on blogging time...so I'll try to keep it simple:

I'm so thankful to God and my husband for making me a mother. These past 9 months (not to mention the 9 months of pregnancy before that) have taught me so much about life and motherhood. I've come to respect mothers in ways far deeper than I could possibly have imagined. Not only that, but I've discovered more of who I am now that I'm a mother. It's so obvious to me that God designed me to be a mother. I can see how He has been preparing me for it for years - and I can see how He continues to help me every step of the way. I know I still have a lot to learn about motherhood, but I'm grateful to be on this path.

I'm so thankful for God's timing. Before Michael and I got married, we told everyone we would "probably wait a year" before trying to have a baby. Thank goodness the Lord knew better and we allowed Him to work in our lives through our openness to life - because our baby boy (who was 8 weeks old on our first wedding anniversary) has increased and magnified the love in our lives in both tangible and completely intangible (yet very real) ways. I can't imagine having had to wait any longer than we did to embark on this parental journey.

Last week I sat on the floor, playing with Gabriel. Out of nowhere I heard words coming from my mouth - words that I hadn't formulated yet in my mind (which meant I wasn't 100% certain what I was about to say). "God knew how much I needed you, didn't He, Gabriel?" Never before had I vocalized this thought, but I knew immediately that it was true. Had we cut God out of the picture and not been open to His plans, we would have been sorely missing out on this little boy that God brought to us through His wisdom and timing. What a blessing his young life has been in ours.

Finally, I'm so thankful for Gabriel. Not just because he is our baby, but for who he is. Gabriel's body and soul are unique and I simply cannot imagine my life without this boy now that he is here. I'm so blessed to be his mommy.


"The most important person… on earth is a Mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral – A dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body. The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. 
They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new souls to heaven. 
Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the creator than any other creature. God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation… 
What on God’s good earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother?"
-Cardinal Mindszesty

Friday, May 9, 2014

Old, New, Borrowed, & Blue

+JMJ+


As soon as I saw that Stephanie at Captive the Heart was hosting this wedding detail-oriented link-up, I knew that I wanted to join in the fun. I've only been married a year and a half so I'm still eager to share about our nuptials. Plus...posterity. 

Honestly, I hardly thought out what my old, new, borrowed, and blue items would be until it got very close to the wedding date. Somehow it all just fell into place. So without further ado, here's a little bit about my somethings "old, new, borrowed, and blue."

OLD


This one was easy. The diamond in my engagement ring has been in my family for approximately 120 years. The solitaire diamond initially belonged to my maternal great-great grandmother. This diamond helped my family to keep their house during the Great Depression because they put the ring up as collateral. Later on, they were able to get the diamond back. Talk about a family heirloom! 

Some of you may be wondering how this diamond didn't make its way onto my older sister's hand and the answer is fairly simple. When she got engaged the ring was still in my grandmother's possession and my brother-in-law designed a gorgeous ring just for her. In between the time she got married and I got engaged, my grandmother downsized, moved into a retirement community for women, and passed the diamond on to my mother. My mom had no real need for it and my younger sister had her eye on a different family diamond (her vocation is TBD) so it got held for my future engagement. After receiving my parents' blessing and the diamond ring, Michael had the diamond placed in an entirely new setting, band, and added the halo design. When he proposed I did not know that he had done all of this and it took my breath away. My man has taste. 

Somewhat related story: whenever people asked to see my engagement ring I always made sure to tell them that the center diamond belonged to my great-great grandmother and that Michael had added/designed everything else. A former roommate expressed her exasperation at this - because she thought I was somehow trying to downplay what Michael had done for me. She was quite mistaken because I think the family heirloom aspect of the ring only enhances how special it is to me. In fact, I had told Michael that it wouldn't bother me one bit (and it truly wouldn't have) if I was someday given the family diamond exactly as it had been. He wanted to put his own, special twist on it, though, and if you've seen the matching band you know that Michael pulled out all the stops. Again - my man has taste.

NEW





This really could have been any number of things. Technically the dress, shoes, veil, and almost everything I wore (even the make-up) was new. However, the most fun choice is clearly the dress. My parents and my grandmother (the former owner of my ring) paid for my dress and I still think it's beautiful. When choosing a dress it can be easy to get hung up on finding "the one," but with a mere 7.5 month engagement I did not want to be too choosy. They say to leave 6 months for alterations so I wanted to find my dress asap.

I wanted lace (especially on the back), some sort of straps or sleeves, a relatively high neckline, and really liked ivory. My ivory dress had cap sleeves, a modest neckline, a back full of beautiful lace, and was the 4th dress I tried on at the first and only dress shop I went to. 

Before making my final dress decision, I slid the dress on a second time, added a veil, and walked down the "aisle" in the store. The sales associate instructed me to close my eyes, envision my groom waiting there for me, then told me to open my eyes in front of the mirror. I looked - saw myself as Michael would see me - and immediately teared up while feeling my heart begin to race ever so slightly. It was "the one." Could I have had that moment in a different gown? Sure. But it was the dress I chose, Michael loved it, and I got married in it so that makes it pretty special.

BORROWED



I know I am supposed to select one item for each category, but I think it makes sense to choose two for this one. First, the earrings I wore belong to my sister. I wasn't trying to be sentimental about borrowing her jewelry (though it is pretty sweet), but they were the only earrings I felt looked good with my dress (without purchasing a new pair somewhere). I'm so thankful she brought them for me to try on!



Secondly, I borrowed a traditional hanbok (Korean dress) from my groom's aunt for part of the wedding reception. I wanted to do something special for my in-laws that would acknowledge and showcase my husband's heritage - whether it was the Chinese or Korean side of his family. I'm only a couple of inches taller than Michael's aunt and the dress fit, so she generously allowed me to wear it for part of the evening.

BLUE



Confession time: my plan to incorporate blue into my outfit was actually to tie a bit of blue ribbon around my garter. However, in the midst of trying to keep track of a million other things, the ribbon got left at home. Conveniently enough, our colors were royal blue and light yellow, so blue was already a major part of my bouquet. To top it off, the morning of my wedding my mom gifted me a cute pair of bluebird earrings in honor of our bluebird theme. I wore the little birdies the entire morning as we got ready at the hair salon - which you can see in the photo featuring the precious baby (that's my niece that just turned 2!).

Thank you, Stephanie, for giving me a chance to walk down memory lane! I can't wait to read about everyone else's wedding details and traditions.

All wedding photos in this post were taken by Brian Powell Photography.


"Make [your wedding] a real celebration – because marriage is a celebration – a Christian celebration, not a worldly feast! … What happened in Cana 2,000 years ago, happens today at every wedding celebration: that which makes your wedding full and profoundly true will be the presence of the Lord who reveals himself and gives his grace. It is his presence that offers the 'good wine', he is the secret to full joy, that which truly warms the heart.

"It is good that your wedding be simple and make what is truly important stand out. Some are more concerned with the exterior details, with the banquet, the photographs, the clothes, the flowers…These are important for a celebration, but only if they point to the real reason for your joy: the Lord's blessing on your love."
-Pope Francis, address to engaged couples in Rome on February 14, 2014

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Five Favorites (Vol. 5): Health & Beauty

+JMJ+


I realize that nearly all of my other Five Favorites posts tend to be baby-themed...so this one is for all you ladies out there! This week I'm going to list out 5 of my favorite health and beauty products as of late. Some of them are more "affordable" than others, but I was given a nice Sephora gift card for Christmas - which gave me the funds (and the guts) to splurge a little. If these are up your alley, perhaps you mamas out there can give your husbands a little hint hint about this upcoming Mother's Day....

Oh! And I would also like to preface this with saying that my skin was always difficult to find good products for growing up. My skin was oily (though not so much now that I'm 26 and 9-months postpartum), I dealt with acne for years, and my skin is sensitive and very fair (hi, I'm Scandinavian). Any products I give a thumbs up must work with fair skin, sensitive skin, shouldn't clog my pores, and cannot feel greasy/oily. Here we go!

--- 1 ---
Givenchy Mister Light Instant Light Corrective Pen.



I am in love with this concealer made by Givenchy (Sephora, $34). I struggled to find a concealer I liked for literally years - mainly because it took me forever to spend a bit more money. In my opinion, concealer is a make-up product that delivers what you pay for. Nothing found in common drugstores ever truly concealed any blemishes, acne scars, or dark circles under my eyes. This one does and it feels great on my skin (and doesn't clog my pores!).

--- 2 ---
Givenchy Photo'Perfexion Fluid Foundation with Sunscreen.


The Givenchy Photo'Perfexion foundation is every bit as good as their concealer (Sephora, $48). I squeeze a tiny bit onto my hand then apply with a brush and it feels like I'm hardly wearing anything! The big difference is that I am wearing something and it evens out my skin tone beautifully. I had the ladies in Sephora test this out on my skin the day I bought it and when I got home Michael's response was, "Your skin looks so...even." Success! The only downfall (in my opinion) is the $48 price-tag...but it is well worth it (especially with a gift card!) considering how little of it you need at a time. It is the only foundation that has ever made my skin look this nice and  (bonus) it has an SPF 20 sunscreen.

--- 3 ---
Eucerin Daily Protection Moisturizing Face Lotion.


Perhaps I should have led with this because it's the first thing I apply out of the shower. My face gets d-r-y and itchy if I don't use a moisturizer every single day. Normal lotion (not made for the face) is too thick for me and often feels greasy. Plus, when you look for a face lotion you can find some that are non-comedogenic (read: don't clog your pores!) like this one. I've tried the Aveeno equivalent because I typically love Aveeno products, but their face moisturizer feels wayyyyy too greasy and goes on too thick for my liking. I prefer something lightweight that doesn't feel like I've applied anything - especially if I'm going to then apply make-up. This Eucerin one doesn't take very much, feels very lightweight and clean, and includes an SPF 30. One bottle found at your local drugstore (approx. $8) tends to last me 6+ months.

--- 4 ---
L'Oreal Hair Expertise EverSleek Intense Smoothing Shampoo.


Check it out. Did you know that L'Oreal now makes a line of shampoos and conditioners that are sulfate-free??? If I had to label myself when it comes to health and wellness products, I suppose I'd say I'm "semi-crunchy" (is that a thing?). I look for less harsh beauty products and prefer non-toxic cleaning products (God bless you, distilled white vinegar) whenever I can manage it without too much effort or burden. Over the years I've read about how most shampoos contain sulfates (which are actually damaging to your hair). Who wants that? I don't! But who wants to pay $30 for hippie shampoo in the organic aisle of the grocery store? Not this gal! Nor am I crunchy enough to want to deal with doing the whole "no shampoo" thing.

Cue L'Oreal. I first bought this shampoo and conditioner when it was 50% off on sale. I was hooked and have tried a few different fragrances - but this sunflower one is my personal fave. When you pay full price it's probably about double the cost of most "normal" shampoos (approx. $7) - but I'd consider it to be one of the most affordable sulfate-free shampoos out there.

Bonus: when I got a (much-needed) hair cut last week the hairdresser raved about how soft my hair was and wanted to know what shampoo I use. She also asked if I had ever dyed my hair because it looked like "virgin hair." If you knew me in college that is a huge (laughable) compliment because I dyed my hair all.the.time. Never in my life has a hairdresser asked me what product I use. When I told Michael this, he said, "Maybe it's because you're post-partum." Maybe. But at 9 months I've already shed a LOT of hair and I don't think that's it.

--- 5 --- 
bareMinerals Marvelous Moxie Lipstick.



Full disclosure: I have never loved a lipstick more than my new bareMinerals Marvelous Moxie (Sephora, $18). I was recently in the market for a lipstick that moisturizes, doesn't feather (so annoying), lasts a long time without needing reapplications, and is formulated without parabens, sulfates, or phthalates. That is a pretty tall order that very few lipsticks can fill and this was my winner! I love, love, love it and keep wearing it for every fancy occasion and plenty of not-so-fancy occasions, too. Mine is in the Call the Shots "blue red" shade as pictured here:

"Call the Shots" Marvelous Moxie lipstick

I highly recommend checking these out in person because the colors looked very different from the online images. Seeing them in person completely changed my mind on what shade I thought I wanted.

Make sure you all head over to The Rhodes Log where Kate is guest-hosting the link-up for Hallie this week if you want to see more 5 Faves! Thanks, Kate, for hosting!