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Okay...this is going to be a very painful blog entry to write....mostly because I have to admit some things about myself that I struggle with and.....that pride thing. Ugh. Thank God for His mercy and for giving me a husband who is so patient and merciful with me!

Before having our little one, I thought I trusted my husband in all things 100%. Turns out, I didn't trust him as much as I thought or as much as I really need to. Why is that? The trust I struggle with has nothing to do with fidelity. It all has to do with my expectations of him and trusting him to fulfill his vocation as HE'S meant to...... as we both enter this daunting yet amazing journey called, "Parenthood". *Insert heralding trumpets here*. 

Ten months in, I am doing much better (still not perfect!) at letting go and trusting God and my husband. Looking back on this time of growing pains, there are many things I've learned as I continue discerning how God wants me to be a better wife and mom. I hope I can make sense of it all. Here goes!

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3 medium cucumbers peeled and sliced in circles
1 medium sweet onion, sliced into thin pieces
3 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/4 cup Distilled Vinegar
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 c. Apple Cider Vinegar

Directions: Combine all above ingredients into a large storage bowl with lid. Fill bowl with filtered water until ingredients are covered. Stir. Refrigerate overnight to allow it to marinate. Serve chilled. *If you'd like the salad to be more or less sour/tart, just add or take away from the amount of Apple Cider Vinegar/Distilled Vinegar listed. This recipe is perfect for summer picnics and potlucks!

Our little one just hit the nine month mark. HOW did this happen? Time has flown and I cannot believe she is so grown up already! Any week now she will be walking. She has teeth coming in constantly. She is on the move.....get out of her way!

I have to be honest....while I love watching her grow, explore, and discover the world around her, part of me mourns the loss of those days when she was cuddly, tiny, and well.....immobile! I could put her down in one spot and know she wasn't going to go anywhere or get into trouble. I could take her into Eucharistic Adoration with us and she would coo and sleep and snuggle the whole hour! Going to Mass was a breeze! Now, about 20 minutes in she's pushing and pulling for me to let her down so she can crawl through the mysterious tunnels under the pews and between the jungle of parishioners' legs. She wants to play on the hymn books like they're drums or she screams when I don't let her chew on the tithing envelopes.

On a daily basis, the tasks that were once super simple are getting to be much harder. She has outgrown her "click 'n go" system, so I can't strap her into her carseat carrier and move her seamlessly from the car to her stroller. Now, I have to completely take her out and either carry her or put her into an actual stroller. "Running" into the store takes longer. Going to a doctor appointment is more difficult because she is now wanting to crawl all over the floor, tear up the tissue paper on the table, eat the cotton swabs, etc. Am I complaining? No-I am SO grateful for this gift of motherhood! These are just my observations of this awesome adventure! This experience is helping me to understand how much of an adjustment it is for new moms through the first year. It also makes me appreciate and admire the moms who tackle the day-to-day with multiple kids! How DO you do it?!

My husband and I are completely open to as many children as God wants to give us, but I cannot help but wonder.... as a stay-at-home mom, will I be capable of juggling multiple children at different stages of development? While pondering this question, my gut tells me, "Absolutely. OF COURSE you can! Helllooooooooo Phillippians 4:13?! You are not in this alone, sister!" But as I dig even deeper into reflection, I think about all of those small (but HUGE) moments when a complete stranger has stepped up and opened the door for me when I was having trouble getting the stroller through; when a stranger in our pew at Mass started making goofy faces at our baby to distract her while she was crying; when a family member or friend graciously gave or let us borrow a super helpful baby item when they know my husband and I are agressively trying to save money and get out of student debt; or when someone in an online mom group took time out of their day to research and answer a question I had about breastfeeding! 

While we struggle to stay above water in our overwhelmed minds and think, "HOW am I going to get through today, tomorrow, or when she starts walking?!", we have to remember that it really does take a village and we aren't in this alone. The other day, I was visiting a fellow momma friend of mine and, no sooner had I come through the door with my little one and she offers me HOMEMADE COOKIE DOUGH/CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES. WHAT?! These little things are like God filling our lungs with fresh air and giving us a little rush of adrenaline. Moms, He loves you so much that He is constantly finding little ways to spoil you and push you through your hard days. That sunrise you're admiring on your way to drop off your child at daycare at way-too-early-o'clock in the morning? He is written ALL OVER that! The extra few minutes that allow you to finish your meal or drink your cup of coffee while they're still hot while baby sleeps? Yep. God.

Whether you're a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, a fostering and/or adoptive mom, a single mom, a frustrated and sleep-deprived mom.... He's right there with you and sending you His strength through small acts of kindness from others or little moments of bliss in the midst of our crazy days (and nights!). Take a step back, look around you, and know that He is there. If it's really hard for you to see Him in the day-to-day, don't be afraid to reach out! Your fellow moms believe in you and we are here for you! 

Here are some ways to build your "village" and help you on this incredible and oftentimes crazy adventure!

1. Become active and involved in your parish. Seek out mom groups, playdates, women's prayer groups or Bible studies. Become part of a "village" that helps other moms and may in-turn offer you support when you need it!

2. Volunteer with a local pro-life or crisis pregnancy center that really helps women who are in need.

Not only are you participating in an INCREDIBLE act of mercy, but serving other moms will give you so much perspective and makes you so grateful for what you have. It also helps you channel any negative thoughts into doing something good for another. AND you are channeling Him through your own hands and feet and becoming a support network and village for other moms!

3. Join a facebook/online Catholic mom group.

Most major US cities have a Catholic mom group on facebook. I've been a part of one for a while now and I cannot tell you enough what an amazing and valuable resource it has been! So many moms have tons of helpful wisdom and information to share and you can tap into it from the privacy and comfort of your own home! Not to mention, it's a huge comfort to know there are moms out there rooting for you and praying for you, too!

4. Follow a handfull of quality mom blogs.

Some of the blogs I follow have been great resources in teaching me ways to balance my new life as a mom, how to be thrifty, parenting skills and tricks, etc. A few of my favorites are: Carrots for Michaelmas, Whole Parenting Family, A Knotted Life, Under Thy Roof, Now One Foot, and Mercy in the Mess. These moms are warriors and are so generous with their honesty, wisdom, and encouragement.

5. Reach out!

Mommas, the devil is all too aware of the power of motherhood and he is constantly trying to break it down. That insecurity you're feeling? That voice that tells you not to reach out for help because people will think you are a bad mom? That's him. Tell him to SHUT UP and STEP OFF! The journey of motherhood is made all the richer when we share it with other moms. One of the most amazing parts of my journey has been the wealth of information and wisdom I've been blessed with when I've reached out to women in my family or girlfriends who have kids or are doting aunts, Grandmothers, and Godmothers. They've been there and are so happy to share their advice and encouragement! 

On a greater scale, when we come together as moms to support each other, we are empowering one another. We are creating a culture that values all life and shows moms in crisis or unexpected pregnancies that there is help and support for them and they are not in this alone. We are creating a culture that tells new moms who are scared or are doubting their abilities as moms, "Hey! YOU are AMAZING and YOU have what it takes! God gave you this incredible body and the wisdom to bring up this baby. He believes in you and I believe in you! We're here to help you!" 

I want to leave you with this amazing quote I read in a beautiful publication by April Oursler Armstrong from the 1960s. She was so brilliant and her message is absolutely relevant now as it was then! 

From: How to Have a Baby, by April Oursler Armstrong

"THE MOST tremendous thing a human being can do is to consecrate the Host at Mass. The next most tremendous thing is to bear a child for baptism. A priest by God's power changes the substance of bread and wine into the flesh and blood and soul and living presence of Christ. But you as a mother, by God's power, change the substance of your own flesh and blood into a child. You are bringing forth a person who will become part of the Mystical Body. That is a sacred and overwhelming task. You honor the nuns, who make altar bread, the artists who create chalices or build churches, altar boys carrying wine and water. Your honor in pregnancy is not different. The child whose heartbeat rests on yours is one day to be transformed spiritually into Christ, to hold His life in the chalice of his own. I think perhaps one reason God did not choose women as His priests is because in motherhood all are priestesses unseen and unsung."

If you'd like to read this phenomenal piece in its entirety, go HERE. It is brilliant, beautiful, and will leave you in awe of our God who has entrusted these precious little souls to US. He believes in YOU. He has chosen YOU to be their mother. Now, you must believe in yourself! 

 

 

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In part two of this series, I'll be listing some recommended items for helping the new parents welcome baby! For photos and current pricing, click on the product name for a hyperlink! Feel free to leave a comment if you'd like to share your recommendations!

1. Marimekko Bib

These are so durable, easy to use, and most important....clean! Just rinse with soap and water underneath the faucet and hang to dry!You can also machine wash for a deeper clean and hang to dry. The bib clasps with a soft velcro and have a pocket in front to catch the run off from baby. You can find all kinds of designs online. They run around $20 for one and around $38 for a set of two. They seem a bit pricey, but trust me-they are so worth it!

2. Phase 5 Bottles

My aunt and cousin surprised me with these at my shower and I am so glad! I love how durable and safe these are to use. They have a glass interior and plastic exterior so if baby drops it, it doesn't shatter! They are very easy to cean and are BPA free! You can find them at www.5phases.com, at Kohls, or on Amazon. They run around $20 for a 4oz bottle starter set and around $40 for a full starter set. They are so durable we haven't even had to use the glass or nipple replacements!

3. Hallmark Gift Card

So mom can go shopping for all of her baby sentimental needs!

4. Gift card to a nice restaurant or coffee house

So mom and dad can have a date after baby is born!

5. Aden and Anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets

These are a must have-especially for summer babies! They work great to swaddle baby, drape over mom during breastfeeding, lay on the floor for tummy time, wipe spit-up, cover baby when they are in the stroller/carseat, etc. They are so useful, durable, and easy to clean! I LOVE their beautiful designs, too! You can find them at Target for around $40 for a set of four, or you can pay a bit more for organic cotton at adenandanais.com. They have so many beautiful prints to choose from and they are SUPER durable!

6. Baby Banz Headphones

Life shouldn't stop once you've had a baby! We bought these to protect baby's ears when we're on the dance floor at weddings, at loud sporting events, or concerts. They are so worth the investment and they are super adorable! You can find them on Amazon or at Buy Buy Baby. They are usually around $20. 

7. Ingenuity Booster Seat

Save money and space and get the new parents this smaller and efficient booster seat! It has a removeable and easily-stored tray that you can snap on, and an insert that you can remove when baby needs more room in the chair! We could start using this to prop up our little one around 4 months and just strap it onto our dining room chairs when she joins us at the table during meals! It's super easy to wipe it down and the detachable tray is dishwasher safe and fits easily into the sink for washing. It is very light and can be taken with you to grandma and grandpa's house or for a family night out at a restaurant. Runs around $40 and can be found at Babies R Us or Target.

8. Amazon Prime Membership

We have saved SO. MUCH. MONEY. on shipping for the various odds and ends we've needed to buy for baby. From diapers to clothing to baby gear-this membership pays for itself! It is $99 a year and has so many benefits. Not only do you get free shipping on almost every item you are looking for, but you also have access to free online streaming of great movies, family-friendly programming, tv shows, and music. 

9. J.J. Cole Diaper Changing Clutch

This is one of my favorite baby products! It's super durable, cute, and is easy to throw into your diaper bag or stroller when you're on the go! You can even buy a spare to keep in your car or keep at Grandma and Grandpa's house. There is a concealed inside pocket to store wipes and diapers! The interior lining is waterproof and easy to clean. It runs around $20 at Target, Babies R Us, or Buy Buy Baby.

10. Eye Spy or Peek-a-boo Bag

These are a hit with little ones! They just love to sift through them, shake them up, and search for the interesting objects inside! You can find them on Amazon for around $17. They are totally worth it!

I hope this blog series was helpful to you! If you have any further questions on a product, don't hesitate to contact me!

*I do not make any commission from these recommendations. I am just passing on my motherly advice!

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It is RAINING babies right now. Every where I turn, it seems another friend or family member is pregnant! I LOVE babies and we are so blessed to live in an age where there are so many thoughtful, useful, and clever gifts to shower on expectant mothers. 

When I was pregnant with our little one, I found it SO overwhelming to build a registry. There is SO MUCH out there! We felt incredibly blessed that so many people wanted to come to our shower and spoil our family! During that time, my husband and I were in a tight financial place so every gift was very welcomed and NEEDED.

So, as I was researching item after item, I kept thinking to myself, "Will I actually end up using this or will it end up collecting dust? When will I need this item? Can I do without this item? Is there a simpler way of doing this baby-caring task that doesn't involve a big and bulky piece of equipment?"

As you go shopping for the expectant moms in your life, or if you are expecting a baby of your own, here is a list of thoughtful items I've put together that many of us don't know of or think about! In this installment, I will be recommending items for the expectant mother during her pregnancy. In part two, I will cover recommended items to put in a registry or give at a baby shower!

For moms during their pregnancy:

1. Baby Bargains

This book is AWESOME. A friend recommended this to me and it was a life and money saver! They come out with a new addition every year so it is up-do-date on all the latest trends and products in babyland. It contains honest reviews and safety ratings on everything from baby-wearing wraps to diapers to cribs to strollers, etc. The main thing I loved about this book was that it's main goal was to help you save money by simplifying the baby gear buying process so you don't overspend on things you don't need, and when you do spend money, it's money well-spent. This makes a great "Congratulations, you're pregnant!" gift!

2. Hallmark Gift Card

Moms, let's be honest. We are SO sentimental and thoughtful. It's one of the amazing gifts God gave us as women! When I was expecting, I wanted to catalogue every milestone and sentimental moment! It only got more intense when baby was born! Hallmark has some BEAUTIFUL gifts and creative ways to memorialize the motherhood journey. I love their picture frames for holding ultrasound images and I really love their archival and acid-free photo albums. I REALLY love their beautiful and thoughtful Baby's First Year books! We have this one and just love it! It even contains tailored pages for mom's whose babes are growing in their hearts instead of their wombs! 

Also, if you are thinking about making a creative birth announcement for baby's grandparents, you can surprise them with this really neat story book where the grandparent can record their voice, reading the book to baby! There are many other titles to choose from.

3. Pool Membership

Find out where the expectant mom's local YMCA or health club is and offer to buy her a pool membership for her pregnancy. When I was pregnant, it felt SO GOOD to walk in the pool when my legs were tired and swollen from being so pregnant-especially in the final months! We were strapped for cash, but felt it was necessary to keep me healthy and sane during the last trimester. 

4. Pregnancy Journal

A friend of ours gifted us with a pregnancy journal so that I could catalogue every emotion, thought, discomfort, health concern, baby movement, etc. I love reading over it and know I will look back at it should we find ourselves blessed with another pregnancy! It is also a thoughtful way to remind the mom-to-be that her journey is so important and sacred! 

5. Pregnancy Devotional

Motherhood is physical, emotional, and also very spiritual! Here is a BEAUTIFUL testiment to the sacred vocation of motherhood. It can be read as a devotional. My brother gave this to me several years ago and I loved reading it in the months and days leading up to our baby's birth. I found it comforting, encouraging, empowering, and so relevant-even though it was written over fifty years ago! Here is the link so you can view and print it off for free!

How to Have a Baby, by April Oursler Armstrong

Another beautiful devotional I found was A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism. I didn't find it in time to use it myself, but it looks really neat. If you get it and try it, let me know what you think!

6. Massage Gift Certificate

When our baby was born, my neck and shoulders became SO sore from bending over and admiring our newborn and from breastfeeding. My husband is very good at giving shoulder rubs, so thankfully I didn't need the skills of a professional masseuse. Not all moms are so lucky! A massage certificate for her to use before or after birth is a great gift! It doesn't have to be a long massage-even a 15 minute chair massage at those walk-by masseuses at a shopping mall work great!

7. Hospital Self-Care Kit

Labor can be very unpredictable, so no matter how long the hospital stay is, here are some thoughtful items to put together for the mom-to-be so she can feel loved and pampered-even during delivery and recovery!

-Cozy slippers or socks with bottom grips

-Non-scented chapstick or lip gloss-I LOVE Waxelene-you can find this at Whole Foods. It is safe for everyone and is all-natural

-Green Tea packets-this is safe for pregnant and nursing mommas. A hot cup of tea during my recovery was so nice! Not every hospital cafeteria has this. 

-Hair head bands with grip-my hair was a mess during and post-birth, and having a working hair band to pull back all of the fly-aways was so nice!

-Hair ties

-Natural mint essential oil-I would rub this just under my nose. It helped me relax and covered up the weird smells of the hospital

-Soft bathrobe (if mom doesn't already have one)

-Fragrance free lotion-Hospitals can be very dry and this is something that can be used to rub on sore feet and calves pre/post-birth

-Large water bottle with straw-Sometimes the nurses don't refill your water as quickly and as often as you like, so having a large container to keep you hydrated is very necessary! The straw makes drinking easier while you're in labor and need the use of your arms!

-Large pack of sensitive and fragrance-free diaper wipes-No body tells you what a mess birth can be...um....down there. So having wet wipes on hand to keep you feeling fresh and clean is really helpful! These are also great for cleaning up messes, washing off make-up, etc. 

-Maxi-pads-See above reasons

-Writing pens

-Pack of Kleenex

-Mint Sugar-free gum

-Throat lozenges-because the hospital can be very dry

-Contacts case and solution, if they use contact lenses

-Small bottle of hand sanitizer

8. Organize a Meal Train

Once the new proud parents and baby are home and resting, it is a HUGE relief not having to plan and prep meals. You can use an online organizer like http://www.takethemameal.com/index.php to plan a meal schedule so friends and family can pitch in a meal or more during the first few weeks after baby arrives!

Tips: Make sure to check in with the parents-to-be to find out any dietary needs, a drop off location, best times to drop off, and a contact phone number. Also, be sure to confirm that it's okay to give out their address. This meal organization site is password protected, so only those given the password can see the meal recipient's contact info.

*I do not make any commission from these recommendations. I am just passing on my motherly advice!