Life Update

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It feels like years have passed since I last posted! It also feels like whenever I do post now, it is just for a quick update! Well, such is the life of a mother. Unexpected, busy, and messy.

I’ve taken a part time job as one of our county’s sexual assault advocates. As you can imagine this is hard work, and can demand a lot of decompression time after a training or shift. So far, I haven’t had to work face-to-face with survivors, but the research and training a lone is rigorous and for me, can only be taken in small doses.

When I’m not doing that, I am trying as best I can to be present to my family and cherish them. Getting a first hand look at the atrocities humans commit against one another intensifies my instinctual desire to bond closely and love on my children. To leave them without a desire to look for an imitation of my love elsewhere, and to find certainty and confidence in it.

Both jobs have been equally exhausting and rewarding. As rigorously as predators are planning their evil, there are amazing humans planning prevention against them. My work has strengthened my faith in humanity more than it has robbed me of it.

In any case, that is why I have been so absent. I’m still taking time to care for myself. Zumba, weight lifting, tea, and books have all consoled me and relieved my stress at different times these past few weeks. J and I celebrated our 5th anniversary and have been making some plans to really focus on that success next month when the calendar is less congested. Until then, we are just taking it a day at a time.

Wishing you well, readers! Have a good week.

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Unconditional Love

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When you think of toddlers and babies, your first thought is probably not “unconditional love.” I mean, they tantrum when you won’t run on the TV, cry when you walk in the room, and even say “No like you, mama.” The unconditional love I’m talking about is one that doesn’t see my weight, skin color, or life accomplishments. My kids don’t care that I never went for my masters degree, they don’t care that I’m a solid 40 lbs overweight, and they don’t care that I’ve been swearing under my breath since 6 am.

All they see when they look at me, is the mama who has nurtured them from birth, snuggles with them on the couch, and plays with them during the day. Even on my worst days as a human being, Sophie still wants to give me a good night kiss. Her love sees beyond my failures as a mother. When I am at my limit, and exasperated because Cora won’t sleep, she gives me the biggest grin as I attempt to swaddle her again for the 1,000,000th time. At this stage in life, my babies don’t hold grudges (even if I WON’T turn the TV on). There is a bliss to their innocence and ability to be easily distracted. A simplicity and forgiving spirit that I wish I had, but one that I am thankful to be the recipient of.

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Cora, 4 Month Update

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Didn’t I just do one of these? I can’t believe how fast she is growing! Cora is sleeping better, fussing less, and smiling more. She still wakes up throughout the night, but the period of time which she spends sleeping has increased to 4 hour chunks, which makes getting up a little easier. Still no teeth in sight, but don’t let her get your knuckle in her mouth or she will bite, HARD. Cora is as active as ever, rolling around on both sides, kicking her legs like crazy, attempting to sit up when she is put in a reclined position, and standing in her exersaucer. Despite all the energy she burns, she has still been able to pack on the pounds. She loves being lifted up into the air while I say “super baby!” That usually gets me a smile and some giggles. We still giver he a pacifier, and she shows no sign of giving it up any time soon, which is fine by me since it does its job of pacifying her on a daily basis.

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We like to hold her up like she is standing, and then pretend to have Cora chase Sophie. Both of the girls get a kick out of it, and so do we! Cora is extremely alert, loves conversation, eye contact, and physical touch. The epitome of an extrovert!

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My new ring sling has become our best friend. Since she likes that constant contact and attention, being worn in a baby carrier is the perfect solution for us. Sophie didn’t like being confined by any type of carrier or wrap, but Cora couldn’t be happier.

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We are bonding a lot better, especially now that we are both getting more sleep, and allowing our best selves to shine through, even in the tough moments. The more we learn about Cora’s personality, the more we fall in love with her.

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Cora Update: 2 Months

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If babies could be manic depressive, that’s what Cora would be. Her 3 moods involve screaming melt downs, emotionless stares before eventually sleeping, and hyperactive kicking while smiling. Of course the happiest of those moods is the rarest, which has made her entrance into our family difficult. To be frank, I’ve had a hard time bonding with her because half the time I’m just as mad as she is during those colicky fits of screaming, and would love nothing more than to drop her back off at the hospital. It may sound cruel to you, but for any one who has had a baby with persistent colic, these feeling are quite normal.

Of course the mom guilt sinks in the moment she settles down and transitions into one of her smiley moods. Some times I think, She’s my baby, I love her, how was I ever mad at her? But then I remember 5 minutes later when she is inconsolably screaming again. I’ve cut out dairy, eggs, soy, shellfish, gluten, peanuts, and now raw vegetables. Desperate to help her in anyway I can, I’ve cut out what used to be the majority of the foods in my diet to help Cora, but it hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference. It seems hopeless….

…at least for now. The pediatrician, as well as other veteran moms, have told me that this doesn’t last more than 4 months, which means we’re already halfway through the hardest part! I know I may come off as cold and distant when I talk about Cora, and in some ways I do feel distant from her. It makes me sad to think that this newborn stage was my favorite part of Sophie’s infancy and possibly the most irritating part about my time with Cora. I have to remind myself though, that I DO actually love her. It may not *feel* like love all the time, it may not console me like emotional love would, but the love I have for my child is protective and strong. I try to calm her when she’s upset, I give up eating most foods just at the possibility that it may help her, I pray for her, I clothe her, I’m constantly making sure she’s safe, and I’ve fostered a loving relationship for Sophie with her. Recalling these things reminds me that just because the love feels different doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Plus, every time we lock eyes and she flashes me a big smile, I feel a glimpse of that traditional “warm fuzzy” love that I used to have with Sophie. Lucky for me, the ore time passes, the less colic she seems to be suffering, and the more smiles I get!

Now. in terms of milestones Cora is incredibly strong! Even from her first week of life she has been picking up her head and moving it from side to side. Now, at the 2 month mark, she has even more control than before. She responds to light and sound, and has began cooing back when you make noises at her. She loves attention, to be admired and talked to. Her smiley eye contact is by far, her most endearing trait.  Her screaming is perhaps the most… sanctifying? Even though she’s a tough cookie, I love her to death and love watching her grow and become a bigger part of our family.

And that’s Cora at 2 months!

Our Last Date

The week Sophie was born, I have a very distinct memory of Justin and I going to see whatever X Men movie was out at the time. Despite my love of Hugh Jackman, I wasn’t eager to go being a few days over my due date, but my mom convinced me saying that the time of “just the two of us” was limited, and I should take advantage of the “extra” time I was given, being past due. Its a find memory that J and I recalled frequently during tough times during our first year with Sophie.

At 38 weeks, J lured me up to Pittsburgh to go to The Cheesecake Factory, with coupons for 2 free slices of cheesecake. There was no blizzard like we’ve had the past week, the sun was shining, and it felt so nice to get out of the house.

Now, I recommend a small date or even full on “babymoon” vacations to other women I know who are pregnant. The third trimester is tough, and little outings like this help the end to be a little more bearable! My mom comes in this weekend and I can’t wait to see her. It will be nice to have the extra help and maybe get to sneak in another date before baby arrives.

Valentine’s Day

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We all know it’s coming up!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a Catholic, and so it should come as no surprise to you that Valentine’s day is more symbolic to me than just the cheesy, Hallmark version that gets perpetuated every year. You may be surprised to know that the Catholic church actually knows very little about St. Valentine, except that he was martyred, and many of the stories and miracles attributed to him [that occurred during his lifetime] and dependent more upon legend than fact. Being a student of literature, and particularly fond of fiction, this doesn’t pose a problem for me, as there are plenty of moral lessons to be learned from fictitious tales. Different depictions of St. Valentine’s arrests tell that he secretly married couples so husbands wouldn’t have to go to war, while another variation of the legend says he refused to sacrifice to pagan gods, was imprisoned and while imprisoned he healed the jailer’s blind daughter. On the day of his execution, he left the girl a note signed, “Your Valentine.” This is how the tradition of leaving “valentines” is said to have begun.

Either way, this was a man who was the depiction of love; love of God. His example of love, in any of the given stories, is one to be celebrated. It brings to the forefront of my mind, not only the love I have for my family but also my love of God [which is arguably more important]. So yes, I hang cheesy, red and pink heart decorations around the house. My husband and I exchange gifts and usually go out on a date. We even exchange gifts with Sophie, as that was a tradition my mother used to with us that always made me feel special and loved. Not to mention, I like an excuse to eat chocolate just as much as the next person.

So take time this weekend to tell the people you care about that you love them! There’s nothing stupid or overrated about showing love and appreciation to the important people in your life.

Hubby’s Birthday

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J turned 28 yesterday and we had the most fun celebrating him this past weekend. So, let me take a minute to brag about my husband… pretty much every morning, for the past 10 weeks, J has gotten Sophie out of bed, allowing me to sleep in, he feeds her breakfast, gets her dressed, brushes her teeth, and then tucks her into bed with me [and some times my cell phone on “kids mode”] before he leaves for work. This allows me to sleep in even longer, as long as Sophie is content to be in bed with me. That is just ONE of many things he does to try and make my life easier.

Since we plan on moving in the near future, he’s only showed me more how great of a father he truly is. He works hard to provide for us [and clip coupons for us], making sure we have enough food for the week [thank you coupons], that I can have the heat on as long as I want during these frigid Ohio winters, enough clothes [thanks again to coupons], and finally a home. Becoming a home owner is a big deal, and as the sole provider of this family, I’d think the process would stress him out or be a burden on him, and all I’ve heard are remarks of anticipation from him, and how he can’t wait to build a home with me and our 2 baby girls.

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He is silly, makes me laugh, is kind and tender to this overly-emotional, some times seasonally depressed California girl. I feel so blessed to have him in my life, and I couldn’t have concocted a more perfect spouse for myself if I tried. Now, I’m not saying he’s perfect, that’s definitely not the case… but I see where his weaknesses collide with my strengths, and vice-versa. Furthermore, I see how our chemistry together will help us to raise beautiful, God-loving girls.

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So happy birthday to the best dada and hubs I know! You bring so much joy to my life!

New Year

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On December 31st I had a tough morning. I slept horribly, I was frustrated that our Christmas vacation had been ruined by a plague of sickness, and so I gave Sophie to my mom and told her I was going to the beach. As I watched the sunrise, I tried to sort through all my thoughts and emotions so I could return to my family a little more clear-headed, and able to celebrate our last night together before we headed back to Ohio.

Whenever one takes time to think on New Year’s Eve, its almost impossible not to have the word “resolution” pop into your head. When I made resolutions last year, I was surprisingly easy on myself. I didn’t set goals that were unmanageable, and many of the goals were based on virtue as opposed to physical attributes (i.e. “give more quality of time to people” versus “get to such-and-such weight”) I certainly failed in many aspects of my resolutions, like my commitment to “complain less” yeah…. safe to say I didn’t make much of an effort in that area… But, my resolutions are a bit different this year knowing that we are headed into 2016 expecting a baby.

Some thing I want to focus on this year, is soaking in those rare but sweet moments. I slept horrible last night, so when Sophie woke up, I had her come back to bed with me so I could continue to rest while she played with my phone. About 20 minutes in, she set the phone aside, lay down next to me, and began stroking my hair. Then, every 10 strokes or so, she would kiss the top of my shoulder. When she was bored with this, she sweetly said “oooooh-uvv-you” (which roughly translates to “I love you”) before rolling back over to play with the phone again. It was such a sweet moment that I intend to recall for the rest of the day. I mean, I like to recall all the naughty things she does throughout the day, why not try to recall the sweet things just as often? (if not MORE often)

What are your resolutions?

4 Reasons We Didn’t Cohabitate

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Disclaimer: typically I hate disclaimers, because I shouldn’t have to apologize for having an opinion or sharing my life experience with my readers, but I’ll give you one anyway. This is not a condemnation of couples who choose to cohabitate, nor is it a religious post… these are 4 logical reasons J and I decided not to cohabitate before marriage, and why I recommend it to every engaged couple I know.

I have an amazing marriage. Even though it’s not without it’s problems, I credit a lot of our success to our more “traditional” practices, including not living together before we were married. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my news feed was full of couples announcing their engagements which made me feel happy and nostalgic about mine and J’s engagement period. I began to think about how “different” we are than a lot of other people our age, but how I wouldn’t change a thing about the way we prepared ourselves for marriage. So, without further ado, here are the reasons why we chose to live separately:

  1. It was cheaper. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard couples try to justify living together before marriage because “it’s more affordable.” Really? Allow me to explain why you’re wrong. I was splitting the cost of rent and utilities with 2 other women. J was splitting his costs with 3 other men. The more people you have sharing the cost, the less each of you have to pay. I really don’t see how J and I living together in a house and being responsible for all the costs would have been the more economical choice.
  2. We were trying to practice chastity. Now, I don’t want to argue with you about chastity, but I will say this… remember those days of raging teenage hormones that had you in a perpetual state of lusting? Yeah, chances are you didn’t make the best life decisions back in those days, at least I know I personally didn’t. When I went away to college, I promised myself I wouldn’t be guided by sexual desire ESPECIALLY when it came to looking for a future spouse. Why didn’t we ‘seal the deal’ after our engagement? Because, contrary to popular belief, engagement is still a trial period. Granted, it’s a more serious, more committed time in your relationship, but it’s your last chance to make sure you’re picking the right person to spend the rest of your life with. I knew if I gave myself over physically and emotionally, my judgment would be completely clouded. I can’t tell you how many of my friends I have seen justify their boyfriends bad behavior because they gave themselves over too soon. Again, not a judgement, just my personal experience. I wanted a clear head. It was much easier to commit to chastity when I wasn’t going to sleep next to the love of my life every night [and trust me, it was still hard, even though we lived apart].
  3. “How do you know if some one is good for you unless you live with them first?” I’m calling BS on this argument too. In fact, I think living together before your married tells you LESS about a person as opposed to more. When you live together, decisions are easier. You don’t have to coordinate pick ups or drop offs, you just do what you want to do together. When you live apart, every choice involves communication. “Where do you want to meet? What time do you want to go? What time do you need to be home? Is there anything you need to get done before we leave or can I come over before?” Any old married couple will tell you how key communication is in a relationship. Living apart forces you to communicate with your future spouse, and I think that practice makes perfect. There is a lot of coordination and communication that has to happen when you live apart, and it made a huge difference for us in learning how we  communicate.
  4. Bachelorette Pad. I got married 10 days after I turned 21. That’s pretty young, especially for some one of my generation. What I hear most often from college sweethearts is that they feel like they didn’t get to take advantage of their “best years” before tying the knot.  Living apart from my future spouse gave me one last shot at living it up as an unmarried woman. I could dance in my underwear, invite all my girlfriends over late at night, binge on ice cream while watching chick flicks endlessly, have people stay the night, be as clean or as messy as I wanted to be, have pink curtains and a hot pink bedspread… I mean, the list goes on. I didn’t have Justin waiting up for me, expecting me home at certain times, wanting to eat every meal with me, or not wanting to have all my crazy friends over at what would have been “our house.” I got to spend time with him, and then go get to be a crazy girl on my own time. The fact of the matter is this, the “two” hadn’t “become one” yet, so there was no reason to pretend or act like we had. I mean, if you’re getting married you literally have the REST of your lives to figure out how to “become one” …it certainly doesn’t need to start the moment your realize your boyfriend is “the one.”

Anyway, I know every person/relationship is different, but I am so glad J and I did things the way that we did. I feel like we had a really solid foundation before I walked down that aisle, and the ways living separately forced us to grow, were invaluable tools that helped us survive that first year of marriage.

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Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

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Did you know Thanksgiving is only NINE days away?! Mamas are busy ladies, and it’s understandable that we end up unprepared during most of the holiday season. These important meals sneak up on you, and there’s panic when you realize you have no plan for what to bring.

I’ve only hosted Thanksgiving once, but since becoming a married woman, I feel it’s one of my responsibilities as a member of the family to bring something to Thanksgiving dinner. Growing up, you usually have 1-3 women who do ALL the cooking for 30 people. When you’re excuse is being a 10 year old kid, ok don’t pitch in, but once you have your own job and apartment, it’s time to bring some thing to Thanksgiving dinner. I felt I had even less of an excuse not to contribute when I was a newlywed, and all the women of the family had just spent hundreds of dollars on getting me kitchen supplies. It was time to put those handy tools and supplies to work!

Anyway, in light of the fast approaching holiday, I wanted to share my greatest Thanksgiving hits with you. It’s intimidating to share a recipe with family for the first time, especially during such an important meal. These recipes are pretty easy and don’t require too many ingredients. So, if you still don’t know what you’re bringing to Thanksgiving, hopefully some of these ideas will inspire you!

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Pumpkin Cupcakes – I brought these to my first Thanksgiving ever, with J’s family. If you’ve never brought anything to a Thanksgiving dinner before, you can’t go wrong with dessert! Since it was the first time I had ever spent Thanksgiving with a family other than my own, I wasn’t sure who typically brought what. I knew that in my family, certain members were known for certain dishes [everyone LOVES my Aunt Julie’s rolls, and Grandpa always did the gravy, etc.] so I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes by attempting a traditional side-dish. This recipe is delicious and a great alternative to having too many pies.

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Sweet potato hash – My second year with J’s family, was our first Thanksgiving as Mr & Mrs. I felt more confident to bring a dish to go with dinner, so I brought this sweet potato hash. My first year, I noticed that his family only did the sweet potatoes with marshmallow on top, so I thought I’d bring a savory version too. It was a big hit! Not to mention, a healthy hit, too! This recipe is a vegetarian version, but you can swap out the veggie patties for sausage patties and it tastes GREAT.

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Spinach Salad with pear and cranberry – I have to admit, while I found this recipe on my own, I was attempting to imitate a salad my Aunt Julie would bring to either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. When I was younger I thought the only dressing that could go on a salad was ranch. In the name of trying new things, I picked up a scoop of her sweet, fruity salad and immediately fell in love. I knew that the first Thanksgiving dinner I hosted, this side would definitely have to be on the table. I was cooking for 20+ traditional Italians and I wasn’t sure how a salad without Italian dressing would do with J’s crowd. Luckily, everyone LOVED it! In fact, I completely ran out of salad as people were asking for second and third helpings.

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Cornbread stuffing – For the most part, I try to stick to a gluten free diet… but around the holidays that can get pretty tough! Once I found Martha Stewart’s cornbread stuffing, it was a total game changer. I LOVE this recipe, and so did the rest of the family. I was able to make it gluten free by making my own corn bread from scratch, but you can make it as easy or as difficult as you want depending on how much time you actually end up having.

Those are by far the best recipes I’ve ever brought to Thanksgiving dinners in the past. Like I said, if you have extra time or are feeling especially domestic, you can personalize these recipes as little or as much as you want to! For the salad, I make my own candied pecans to sprinkle on top and some times, I even make the dressing from scratch. Hopefully some of these recipes inspire you and take some of the stress out of planning for the big turkey dinner next Thursday! Good Luck!