Friday, March 25, 2016

Monica Jane: 6 Months

My sweet Monica,

You are rolling all over the place and it is awesome. You spin around on the floor, you intentionally reach for toys and you start to notice when something you have/want gets taken away. Your first tooth is poking through juuuuust barely and we're predicting a couple more are following close behind. I feel like the time is just flying by with you, so I've been making an extra effort to soak up every moment of your soft, chubby, cuteness.

You're into baby cereals now, which we just started giving you a couple of days ago. It gets a little tricky trying to get it into your mouth with you being so grabby, but when you do get a good bite you give me a huge smile and try to lap up more off of the spoon.

Loud noises bother you, and you get startled pretty easy. It makes you a pretty light sleeper, which can be tricky. You're getting better at calming yourself back down though, especially if you have the bunny we bought you. I was really hoping that would become your lovey. It makes me happy to see you favor it so much.

You talk quite a bit. We have so much fun watching you figure out how to make different sounds and experiment with them. You even wake up and coo and chat to yourself in the middle of the night sometimes... Something tells me you and I are going to be the talkers in the family and we're just going to gab everyone else to death.

You and Celine are still getting along pretty well, although she is still working on sharing. You like toys that light up and play music (big surprise, you're a baby), but those also happen to be the ones Celine likes the most too. Just make sure you remember to take turns and give each other space when you need it. It's going to be hard sometimes, but you're sisters, so you have to love each other.

You make me laugh so much and it seems like you never. stop. moving. Your favorite thing above all is your feet (especially chewing them), you are VERY ticklish, and it is a miracle to change your diaper without you trying to roll away 800,000 times. And those muscles! You have amazing abs and you can do better crunches than me. You will be sitting up in no time!

My sweet girl, I love to watch you grow. You will always have a special place in my heart that is reserved just for you. You are my precious gem, the apple of my eye. Things are pretty crazy around here most days, and I know I don't get to spend as much quality time with you as I should, but please remember that you will never get lost in the shuffle. You are so special and I love, love, love you.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Holy Week Roundup

It's the most emotional, intense, and sacred time of the year. I almost see Holy Week as like the Catholic finals week; crunch time to prepare for Easter. Planning Easter brunch and prepping baskets and egg hunts are hard enough in themselves, let alone the ever-important task of making (and keeping!) prayer as a priority. Hopefully these links will help take a little of the stress off of you and help bring back the real meaning of Easter.

Blessed Is She is an amazing ministry, providing community for women across the country and daily readings & devotions sent right to your email inbox every morning. Convenient much? Click here to become a part of it!

The wonderful women of Blessed is She, also put together this beautiful Bible study for Easter... I'm a little late to share the Lent study, but if you order it now you'll get it in time to read/pray along!

via Instagram
I'm all about learning through conversation and discussion, and Ascension Presents helps me meet that need for different applicable topics with their videos, all around 5-8 minutes or so. This one is my guide for Holy Week this year. Don't forget to like them on Facebook for videos in your news feed (aka in the place where I'm already spending time, I might as well learn something worthwhile while I'm scrolling ha ha).

If you're looking for family-friendly ideas for observing Holy Week, Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas has some great suggestions. 

Still haven't put together Easter baskets? This is the first year we are doing them for our kids and we got some great ideas from Rosie at Blog for My Mom. Check out her suggestions here!

Also, in case you haven't heard, Pope Francis has Instagram. As if I couldn't love him more. 

Happy Holy Week!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Chasing the Butterflies in Marriage

Everyone loves the feeling of falling in love. It is terrifying, exhilarating, warm, and exciting. I believe Peter Parker said it best in Spiderman when he told MJ:
"When you're looking in her eyes and she's looking back in yours, everything feels...not quite normal. Because you feel stronger and weaker at the same time. You feel excited, and at the same time, terrified. The truth is, you don't know what you feel except you know what kind of man you want to be. It's as if you reached the unreachable and you weren't ready for it."
 Yup, sounds about right. 

When Joel and I fell in love, I really believed that we would be that couple that would gross people out forever. We were so smitten with each other. We've gone back and read our instant messages back and forth and it was pretty nauseating how gushy we were. But at the same time, it was so perfect. It felt so good, it was so right, and I was elated to have finally found the man of my dreams. Let's call it "shout it from the rooftop" type love.

But until Joel, I hadn't been in a serious relationship longer than a year. The beginning of our story was filled with milestones: first phone call, first Skype, first time we met in person, meeting each others' families, Joel moving to Iowa, our engagement, and six months later our wedding. We always had one more exciting event coming up, and it kept us perpetually giddy and mushy.

I still remember when that feeling started to fade. It was gradual, and it didn't happen at the same time for each of us. Joel slowly started to settle into our new normal first, and I was still hanging on his every word and trying to hold his gaze for as long as I could so we could just stare and daydream and just, well, be in love I guess!

It didn't take too long for the new-ness and excitement start to wear off for me, too. I was devastated, and I convinced myself that all of the "spark" in our marriage was already gone. We still love each other and get excited to see each other and spend time together, but it has changed and grown and matured since those into-the-early-morning phone calls in the first few months of our together-ness.

Since then, I have wasted a lot of time trying to get that feeling back. I've missed the butterflies, the wondering if he's thinking about me all day, the struggle to focus on anything because I'm too in love to fully pay attention to anything else. I have tried to recreate moments, talked our love story to death, and scoured Pinterest for "how to fall in love with your spouse again" types of posts. Granted, we're still madly in love, but is it as mad as before??

What I've recently come to realize is this: there is a reason we have that high in the beginning. It is inspiring, empowering, and enlightening. It gave us the courage and the zeal to make a HUGE commitment in front of God and all of our family and friends. It gave us a taste of the joy God has in delighting in each of us. But our lives go through seasons, and marriage is no exception.

Joel and I have been married for 2 1/2 years. We are still in the beginning of our story. I don't want to waste any more time looking back on how things were. We are not the same people we were then; we have grown and changed and formed individually and together. We have shared new experiences, explored new places, and welcomed two precious daughters. I'm not going to look back anymore and try to recreate what once was. Instead, I've decided to fully embrace the here and now.

The love is still alive. We continue to romance and share and sacrifice with and for each other, but it evolves. It is not a set in stone thing; it evolves and takes on different forms. And that is not bad! This is just the season that we are in now. We don't know if the gushy-ness will make another appearance in another season down the road. But day in and day out, Joel is still my best friend.

(insert heart eyes emoji here)
I may not feel the same butterflies I did when I waited with my computer open to see if that cute guy from Twitter might chat with me, but now I swoon from watching him love and nurture our little family. Our relationship is growing richer and stronger every day that passes, by the grace of God. My heart is just as full of love for him as it was before, but now it's just bigger and I wouldn't trade that to go back in time for anything. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Living Room Reveal!

Hey all! Our house is a work in progress, but we are happily chugging away, piece by piece, to make it our own. I am so used to having a dorm eclectic style (by default), and I have been having a blast figuring out my own design style as an adult. I'm starting to be a little bit more picky about the things we let into our home instead of just buying things because they are cheap or a good deal or "I'll eventually find a place for that." So here we go!

*Pardon the toys strewn about... this is real life here, folks. As it will probably be with all of my room makeover posts, some things will continue to change and there are always a few more last things to be added (in this case, trim around the floor is #1). However, if we wait until we have the perfect room, we might be waiting forever. This is us finding "perfection" in the progress. ;)

Let's start with a couple "before" photos...

When we bought the house

30+ year old carpet
Our first night in the house
Decorations for Celine's birthday last August
Our "entertainment center" and toy storage

And finally, the after!

These chairs were a clearance find and I am so glad I snatched them up when I did. They were a breeze to assemble by myself (patting myself on the back) and I still can't get over how replacing ONE oversized recliner with TWO slipper chairs has not only added another place to sit, but also made the room feel bigger. Score!

I was anxious to find another toy storage solution that still worked with the decor. These cubbies are perfect for organizing the girls' things in a way that is still stylish and toddler-accessible. 

Shop the look: chairs  / storage shelves / drawers / lamp / shade

Our gallery wall has been a work in progress, but I love the personality of the mismatched frames, brought together with the cohesive matte. The mismatched frames we found just around the house or at garage sales... the best places to find unexpected treasures!

Shop the look: blonde frames / brown frames

The entertainment center is really our pride and joy. We finally have an affordable, functional entertainment center that we put together (literally!) ourselves. We combined two bookcases and tv stand to make the design we had in mind fit the small space. I still haven't figured out quite how to style the shelves, but it's a work in progress. ;)

Shop the look: tv stand / bookshelves / clock / wreath

By far the darkest piece in the room, our couch is stylish, comfortable, and for the most part kid friendly. Of course, about a week after we splurge and buy it, Celine gets the flu... I'll let you put together the rest. The coffee table was custom made by home decorator/DIY expert/bargain hunter extraordinaire, my mom :) The pillows came with the couch but I recovered them with Hobby Lobby fabric. 

The glider is on loan while baby girl is little... we're using it ALL the time in this season of our lives 
Shop the look: couch / throw / pillow fabric

Next up: the curtains and finishing the gallery wall, then moving on to the next room!

I tried to find the exact items online but because some of them were clearance items from years ago or TJ Maxx/Homegoods/Marshalls finds, I linked to similar items instead. :)