One And A Quarter

(For a picture overload of Gwen over the last couple months, click through to my photo blog!  I just but a few photos in this post of her little outfit, there are lots more here.)

My sweet Gwendolyn is 15 months old!  


I can't believe how much Gwen has changed since she turned a year.  She is growing so much every day!


A fun thing has been seeing how she has learned to walk!  She is a very good walker now, and follows us everywhere.  It's so funny to me to watch her walk around, because she is still a baby in a lot of ways - it's just funny to see such a tiny little girl walking around.  She toddles, and carries things that are bigger than her (like the step stool from the bathroom, or large stuffed animals), and she tries to run.  She really does live up to her nickname and reminds me of a penguin sometimes, because she'll walk really fast with her arms held straight behind her.  It cracks me up!  I think her learning to walk so well, so fast has a lot to do with her trying to keep up with Wyatt.  It's adorable.

She has several words now - I think we are up to twelve words?   "Hi", "Mama", "Dada", "thank you" (which sounds like "dee-doe" - she only says it when she is handing me something.  Both of my kids say thank you when they want you to take something away from them), "up", "out", "arm", "drink" (which sounds like "deek", and is usually accompanied by her reaching her hands out and opening and closing her fingers - that's how she lets me know she's thirsty), "cheese", "dog" and "doll" and "duck" (which sound exactly the same, but I know she's trying to refer to each thing individually).  And I think that's it.  Most of the time she gets away without talking because Wyatt does a lot of the talking for her, so I'm trying to make her say things herself more.



Those are all the words she says, but there are a lot more words that she knows.  It's amazing to me, because she keeps surprising me at how much she understands me.  The other day Derek told Wyatt to grab his shoe, but before he could respond Gwen ran over and got his shoe for him!  I also asked her for a kiss the other day, and she knew exactly what I meant and gave me a kiss right on my cheek.  It was so precious.  There have been other times when I tell her something, and I can just tell that she knows what I'm saying.

Favorite toys include cars, her purse, the push car we've had since Wyatt was little, and her glow worm.  She is especially attached to her glowworm.  She loves to turn it on, and then she'll sway back and forth to the music it plays.  She also gets a huge grin if you sway with her to the music!

She got her first two upper molars at the beginning of March, and I think she's working on her lower ones now.

She is still so funny about "no" - whenever I tell her no to something, she laughs at me, and then she obeys.  I kind of love that she thinks it's fun to listen when I say no!  The only time she gets mad when I say no is when she wants something to eat and I tell her she can't have it.  Then she cries.

I love, love, love the baby kisses.  Gwen is such a little girl - she loves to give kisses.  She presses her lips together and says "Mmmm" - occasionally finished off with a "wah".  She also knows how to blow kisses now, and it is just so adorable to see her little fingers all splayed out as she presses her hand to her mouth.  She is really good at waving goodbye to people now, and she loves to get attention.  She smiles at complete strangers and says "hi" (still her favorite word).  It makes me kind of sad when people don't say hi back, because her face just falls!


Lately she has been sitting still with me more, and she was fallen asleep on my lap several times.  She usually doesn't do that, so I just soak it up when she does.  I want to enjoy those times when I can get her to settle down next to me, because she is usually on the go all the time.  There have been a couple times when Derek has been gone that I have sneaked her into bed with me, and she just curls up with her head against my shoulder and falls asleep.  I love feeling her little breath against my collarbone. When the new baby comes it will be harder to have her sleep in bed with me, so I love every time we get to do that now.

She still loves her blanket (she has to have it when she sleeps), and I think it's so funny because when she gets sleepy she sucks her thumb - but not in a traditional sense.  She more just hooks it into the left side of her mouth, and it cracks me up!

She has the funnest little personality, and she is always laughing and playing.  When I was looking for her outfit for her one year old pictures I had to nix all the things that were more pastel-colored, because it just didn't seem to fit her.  She is just such a bright, happy girl, so bright colors fit her better.  I think that still holds true!  She brightens up everyone's day with her happy little personality, and I love it!


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Miss Gwen,

You are growing so fast!  I can't believe how much you have changed in this past month.  There are so many little things that make you "you", things that I love about you.  

The little gap between your front teeth when you grin.  The way your hair curls, and that impossible rats nest you develop on the back of your head (sorry baby girl, you got that from me).  Your tiny little feet - they are so small and delicate.  The way your face looks in the morning when you first wake up - cherub cheeks and squinty eyes.  Your chubby little baby legs and rounded tummy that make you look so much younger, even as you are running around the house like a "big" girl.  

The way you want to do everything that Wyatt does, how you follow him around all the time.  When you run over to your daddy with your arms stretched above your head so he'll pick you up.  The way your face lights up when you see someone you know. How you lay your head against my shoulder when you have a rare shy moment.  Your lips pressed together in that funny way when you give me a kiss.  

I want to remember all these little things you do right now, Sweet Girl.  You will continue to change and grow, and I know I will love every new thing I discover about you through the years, but I don't want to forget these sweet details - how you were at 1 1/4 years old.  You are so precious to me.  I love you, my Doll Baby.

Love,

Mama

A Broken Kind Of Beautiful Review

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A Broken Kind Of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert is the story of Ivy Clark, a high fashion model who is "past her prime" at age 25.  Desperate to take keep her creed going, she takes a job as a model for her stepmother's bridal line.  BUt being back in Greenbriar, South Carolina brings up bitter memories of her father.  She gets to know Davis Knight while she is there, but through it all she can't seem to get past her own emptiness, until she finally realizes she can find the unconditional love she always wanted in a relationship with God.

I really enjoyed this book!  I was afraid at first that all the focus on the emptiness of Ivy's lifestyle would make the book depressing, but I actually thought the book was a very interesting read, with a lot of truths scattered in.  I liked the way the author developed the relationship between Ivy and Davis - it was a sweet love story, without being too obvious.  However, their story was not the main focus of the book - the other relationships were just as much a focus point, and just as interesting.  Ganshert is very good at portraying character development (which I like).

I also felt like the overall story was very touching.  Throughout the book Ivy has a hard time believing God could love her unconditionally because no one in her life has ever loved her like that - but as a reader, you know that Marilyn, her stepmother, has had a deep love for her from the time she was a little girl, and she repeatedly shows her love even when Ivy pushes her away.  By the end of the book Ivy finally realizes that Marilyn has shown her the kind of love she always wanted, and if Marilyn could love her, mane God would too.  I felt like crying at that breakthrough, because int he first part of the book I wanted to shake Ivy for not seeing how much her stepmother cared.  It was just really sweet.
Anyway, I'd definitely recommend this book, and now I want to read more from Katie Ganshert!

Note: I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multonomah in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.

Maternity Wardrobe: Tops

 I'm continuing my series on building a maternity wardrobe today - if you missed my first post (my thoughts about maternity pants), you can check it out here!

I have a few thoughts when it comes to finding cute tops and outerwear when you are pregnant.

1.  Don't limit yourself to the maternity section.  You would be surprised at how many non-maternity tops will work (and look cute) while you are pregnant.  And I don't just mean the looser, flower styles that have room for a belly.  You can find fitted tops too.  

2.  Look for tops that are extra-long.  My favorite place to look for tops is Forever 21, because they sell "bodycon dresses".  These are basically skin-tight, super-mini "dresses" that I would never in my life actually wear as a dress.  Why do they work?  Because they are usually made of stretchy fabric, and they are long.  Anything that is stretchy is good for obvious reasons, and if you can find something that would normally hit just past your bum, you can take the fabric and bunch it up so it will accommodate your pregnant belly.  Like this:

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(Baby #3 at 32 weeks - this lace top was one of those Forever 21 "dresses".)

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(28 weeks with Gwen in a "dress" that I just bunched up around my belly.  This one is so stretchy that it looks fine even when I'm not pregnant.)

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(Almost 39 weeks pregnant with Gwen - that is a non-maternity top too.) 

All of those tops are just long shirts or dresses.  I usually buy a size larger than my normal size (one size larger will still fit relatively well in the shoulder/chest area, but it will give you more room in the tummy).  

3.  Look for things that will work during and after pregnancy.  The major plus to buying extra-long non-maternity shirts or dresses is that they usually work well after you are no longer pregnant too!  When you shrink back to your regular size you can wear them as a tunic with leggings, or if you are done having kids you could probably even shorten them to shirt length.  Obviously it helps a lot if the fabric has some stretch to it, because it will be less likely to stretch out too much in the belly.  I wore/plan on wearing all the shirts I showed you above after I have this baby too.

4.  Sweaters and jackets always work, whether you are pregnant or not.  I think the open maternity cardigans that some stores sell are so funny, because they are basically no different than a regular old non-maternity open cardigan.  If you want a cardigan or jacket that will button over your belly, you'll need to go to a maternity store - but open jackets and cardigans look just fine.  I wear all my regular sweaters and jackets unbuttoned when I'm pregnant, or I might throw a belt around a cardigan over my belly.  Save yourself a little money and just stick with non-maternity cardigans and jackets.

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(The jacket Derek gave me for Christmas, 23.5 weeks pregnant here.)

5. Layering tanks.  I haven't bothered with maternity layering tanks.  The ones I usually buy when I'm not pregnant are these inexpensive, exra-stretchy ones at Charlotte Russe.  My regular ones fit during the first half of my pregnancies, and then I have a couple of the same layering tanks in the next size up for the second half.  Toward the very end of my pregnancies they have a hard time stretching all the way around my belly, but for the most part they fit great.

6.  Coats.  I have no advice on where to buy a maternity coat.  Even though I have been pregnant during the winter all three times, I have not bothered to buy a maternity coat.  I just couldn't bring myself to spend the money.  When I was pregnant with Wyatt, I went to Ross (yay discount stores!), and found a coat/jacket that had a good amount of stretch to it, and it lasts all the way through my pregnancies (I can even button it up all the way!).  For the most part I just wear my regular coats and jackets open, or I use my Ross faux-maternity coat, and I just don't stay outside that long.  Would a maternity coat be worth the money?  In hindsight, yes, it probably would have been worth it for me since I have been largely pregnant in the winter months all three times, but there was no way of knowing that beforehand.  If my next babies had been summer babies the maternity coat would have only been used once.  You just have to decide whether it's okay for you to buy a coat that you might only wear one winter in your life.


Maternitywardrobetips

Check back soon for a post on the stores where I shop!

Home Stretch! {36 Weeks With Baby #3}

Nine months pregnant this week!

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I am feeling pretty good overall.  I get this awful hip pain at the end of the day sometimes (mostly in my left hip).  Heartburn is still pretty strong, especially when I lay down at night.  I feel some pressure down low, mostly when I've been on my feet for a while.  And I've been having a lot more Braxton-Hicks contractions in the last week or so!  Not more than three in an hour though.

The nursery is pretty much completed!  I got the glider put together (all by myself, I might add - yay me), I got the quilt back and finished it, and I sewed together a pillowcase for the glider pillow.  I have a few more ideas for decorations on the walls, but I can't do them until we know his name for sure.  Even though we are 95% positive we have his name figured out, I just feel safer waiting until we see him and it's on the birth certificate.  Just in case we change our minds last minute.  I'll probably do the full nursery reveal after he's born and I have a chance to finish the walls, but I will show you the baby quilt before that, so stay tuned!

I have my hospital bag packed, and it's in the car ready to go.  I want to have it ready whenever I go out, and especially on days when I have doctor's appointments, because you just never know if they might catch something at the office and send me over to the hospital.

I think Baby has definitely been growing bigger the last couple weeks.  I was thinking maybe he moved back up under my ribs again, but then someone commented that maybe he's just getting bigger, and I think that is more likely.  He's definitely heavier - when he pushes out the side of my belly it is more forceful.  I don't think he is in the same position as Wyatt and Gwen were at this point though - I'm not sure what that means.  It just feels different.

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I'm kind of crossing my fingers that he'll decide to come by 39 weeks, because Derek will be working closer to home for the next couple weeks (only two hours away)!  After that he'll be about five hours away. I wouldn't mind a bit if this baby decided to show a week or two before my due date if it means we can skip having Derek so far away!  We shall see.  It will all work out, right? (I always think of the movie Leap Year when I say "it will all work out").

Updates from my doctor's appointment today - I am dilated 1 cm, and about 50% effaced.  That is about where I was with both Wyatt and Gwen at 36 weeks too.  Next week will be the interesting appointment, to see if there is any progress.  

I didn't gain any weight in the last two weeks, so the rapid weight gain has finally evened out!  I didn't change my eating habits much in the last two weeks either, so it's probably that weight plateau you can hit before baby decides to come.  I'm holding steady at 28 pounds.  We'll see if I gain any more in the next week.

They measured my uterus today and I'm measuring about 3 weeks behind - 33 cm.  So they decided to schedule a growth check ultrasound after my appointment next week to make sure he's growing well in there.  My doctor didn't seem too worried because she says he's probably just tucked further down in my pelvis. This happened with Wyatt as well, and he measured fine on the ultrasound, so I think this little guy will too.

I can't believe I'm 36.5 weeks already - this pregnancy went by really fast in a lot of ways.  It's crazy to think that in a few more weeks we'll have another little one here in our arms!  It almost seems surreal to me right now.  The end of this pregnancy snuck up on me, but I'm getting more anxious to see his precious face!  I am so thankful, and excited to meet this sweet little blessing!

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Hermie And Friends DVD

We don't watch  ton of children's TV around here.  If I let Wyatt and Gwen watch anything on TV, I put in a pre-approved movie for them, referable one that teaches biblical lessons.

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Tommy Nelson gave me the opportunity to receive a Hermie and Friends DVD, and I thought it would be a great addition to our collection!  We received the I Will Trust God set, which included two Hermie and Friends episodes.

In the first episode, God tells Hermie (a green caterpillar) to build a boat.  He doesn't tell him why he just wants Hermie to trust Him.  Hermie obeys and builds the boat, and saves himself and all his bug friends from the upcoming flood!  It was a cute bug-version of a Noah and the ark story.

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The second episode is about Freddie the Flea.  Freddie realizes how talented all the other bugs in the garden are, and he starts to feel like he can't do anything special.  He has to trust that God has made him for a reason and has a plan for him.  

Hermie and Friends was created by Max Lucado, and he comes on between episodes and pulls the lessons out of the stories in cute conversations with Hermie.

I thought these stories were really cute, and I loved that the lessons were stated so clearly.  The kids really seemed to like the videos too.  Gwen giggled and bounced up and down at all the exciting parts, and Wyatt was enthralled through the whole thing.  I'd definitely recommend these videos - great movies to entertain young kids and point them back to God!

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Tommy Nelson is also offering one of my readers their own Hermie and Friends DVD!  Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win!

Note: I received this DVD for free from Tommy Nelson in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.

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Gwen's One Year Photos!

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This is a little sneak peek of what we wore for our family pictures for Gwendolyn's one year session a couple months ago!  I'm finally getting around to posting them.  These aren't our exact outfits, but they are similar.  Head on over to my photo blog to see all of Gwen's one year old pictures!  

500 Hats Of A Modern Day Woman Review

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The 500 Hats Of The Modern Day Woman is a book by Joyce Ellis that discusses some of the various roles that women fill in our everyday lives.  These roles might include wife, mother, working woman, daughter/daughter-in-law, and others.  Ellis offers advice and insights for 10 different "hats" that women wear in the chapters of this book.

I thought Ellis's writing style was conversational and easy to read.  She offers lots of stories to illustrate her points.  She concludes each chapter with resources to help with the particular "hat" she is discussing, as well as Bible verses and questions for further personal study.  This book would be great for a Bible Study in an individual or group setting, especially for those who are new to Bible Study since it was more light and conversational.

I felt like the train of thought in some of the chapters was a little disorganized for me.  I like clearly laid out points (that is probably my Type A personality showing through), and each chapter felt more like a stream of consciousness, so it as hard for me to pull individual points out at times.  Also, though she briefly touches on it in the final chapter, this is not a book on how to balance all of our "hats" as women - you won't find time management or organizational advice in this book.

Still, I thought the thoughts Ellis shared in 500 Hats Of The Modern Day Woman were helpful, and this was a fun book to read.

Note: I received this book for free from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.

Maternity Wardrobe: Pants


Maternitywardrobetips

Shopping for clothes when you are pregnant can be challenging.  Finding stores that sell maternity clothes is just the first step - you have to find them, and then you have to find the select few items that fit well and don't make you feel like a whale.

This is my third pregnancy, so I've had a little practice, and I have specific maternity clothes shopping tricks.  I also have a few places that are my favorite places to shop when I have a little one on the way.  Since I was asked recently where I shop for maternity clothes, I thought I'd write a post and let you all in on my strategy!  

When I actually sat down to write about maternity clothes I found I had a lot more to say than I thought, so I'm going to split this into a few posts to make it more manageable.  

Today let's talk about pants.

Maternity pants can be so frustrating - I have found precious few that have actually fit me.  Maternity pants designers seem to think all the baby weight will go directly to your behind - but for me, I actually lost whatever extra "padding" I had back there when I was pregnant with Wyatt.  

The pants I have found that fit have been from Old Navy, Kohls, and Motherhood Maternity, but they were the exceptions - most of the ones I tried on at those stores didn't fit me well.  This isn't a problem for all pregnant women, but it's one of my biggest maternity wardrobe challenges.

Because of this, I have two main strategies for pants.

1. Stay in my non-maternity pants as long as possible.  I use the rubber band trick, Belly Bands, and long layering tanks to make my regular pants work as long as I can.  This works better than you might think.  I was able to stay in my regular jeans for 6-7 months with this baby before I had to start resorting to my maternity pants.

2. Buy a size up.  When I was pregnant the second time, after my regular pants started getting too uncomfortable, I went to Forever 21 (mainly because they have cheap, stretchy jeans) and I bought some jeans that were a size bigger than my normal size.  I could actually button them!  Though they were a little baggier in the legs than my normal pants, the waist and bottom fit alright because of my growing belly.  Those jeans also ended up being great postpartum pants too - for that awkward period when you don't want to wear maternity clothes anymore, but you can't fit back into your old size just yet.

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(I was so excited when I found this pair of pants at Papaya when I was around 22 weeks pregnant - they are a bit bigger than my non-pregnant size, so they still buttoned comfortably for several more weeks of my pregnancy.  I think I got them for $5 on clearance?  The stitching on the side makes them unique for maternity wear, and they'll be perfect for those first several weeks postpartum too!)

Are non-maternity pants comfortable when you are pregnant?  No, not as comfortable as maternity pants.  But if you have trouble finding maternity pants that fit (like I do), actually feeling good in your clothes might be worth a little discomfort when you are going out.  I just change into my lounge pants when I get home.

Finally, when you just can't stretch the non-maternity pants anymore, the only piece of advice I have is to search high and low and try on every pair of maternity pants you see until you find a pair that works.  I have yet to find a store that carries maternity pants that I know will fit - I have just found a few pairs scattered here and there.  When you finally find a pair that fits, it's pretty satisfying!

Concerns About The Birth

I wrote last time about my occasional labor anxieties when I think about my last labor experience.  However, there are other things that make it hard for me not to worry about the birth of Baby #3.

I occasionally worry that somehow my labor will progress even faster this time than it did last time and I still won't make it the hospital.  I think that is probably unlikely since I'm planning on going down at the very first contraction, but you just never know.  I know someone who had a two hour labor!  At least if I end up having my baby in the car or ambulance again, I'll know what to do because I've done it once before.  But I really would rather not.

I'm worried that if I go into labor while Derek is gone he won't make it to the hospital in time for the baby's birth.
 Neither one of us want him to miss it.  He has talked to his bosses repeatedly about working from home or finding some other solution so he won't have to be so far away, but it doesn't appear that any of that is going to work out.  I constantly rehearse things in my mind, wondering when I should call to have him come home if he is not here - should I wait for contractions to become time-able?  Or should I call him at the very first twinge?

The major concern, however, is that Derek just happens to be traveling with his work through many of the weeks in April.  He'll be 5+ hours away in the weeks leading up to my due date - not constantly, but 3-5 days at a time.  I am very concerned that I will go into labor while he is gone.

I am worried about giving false alarms because I'm paranoid about Derek being so far away.  I'm more worried that I won't recognize when I'm in labor and I'll call him too late.

I am worried about being alone when I go into labor.  I'm thinking I can ask my mom to stay with me in April, but I think she'll only be able to for part of the time.  If things go like they did last time the first part of my labor will be really mild and manageable, but still.  I would like emotional support.

I'm worried about not being able to get a hold of my mom to come to the hospital with me, or not being able to get in contact with someone else to come stay with the kids while we go.  What if it takes me an hour+ to get everyone on the phone and we leave for the hospital late again?

I am worried about laboring at all without Derek here.  Derek has always been such a calming presence for me when I'm dealing with contractions.  He knows me, and we've been through all this before together.  It's hard for me to picture going through any of the hard parts of labor without him.

I am worried that I'll have to be induced (for reasons that I don't want to get into here).  On the one hand, at least Derek could be there, which would be a huge plus.  On the other hand, I really would rather not be induced, and I hope it doesn't get to the point where I have to make that decision.

I admit I've had a few crying spells thinking about how unpredictable all this is.  I don't like unpredictable.  I wish I knew when I'm going to have this baby so I could mentally prepare and come up with a plan.  But there is no planning this.  The whole third trimester/labor and delivery is going to be a fly-by-the-seats-of-our-pants event.

I think I'm mostly in a good place now.  It's a lot of logistics to worry about, but I've come to this point where I realize I can only control so much.  Actually I can control almost nothing, and thinking through every possible scenario isn't going to give me any more control.

But I do know Who is in control.   It's comforting that the Lord already knows how this is going to go, and it's comforting that I can present my requests to God about this whole thing.  Maybe He'll let it go the way I want - maybe He won't.  But He knows, and I feel like He's given me that "peace that passes all understanding".  I feel like it's going to be okay.

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Would you mind praying for me too, friends?  I'd specifically like to ask for prayers that I will go into labor on a day when Derek is home, and that this will happen before we have to make any decisions about induction.

And if you want to throw in a little prayer that I'll make it to the hospital this time, that would be nice too!

New Rainboots (And Why I Am Not A Model)

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The one and only pair of rainboots I ever owned were black, rubber goulashes.  They were the same exact pair that my brother and sister had.  And the only time we wore them was when we had to muck out the horses' stalls (we had six horses growing up).  This was the limit of my rainboot experience.

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When I grew up more, I realized that you can actually get rain boots that are also cute - and that they can be a fun fashion statement!  Who knew?  I never got a pair of fashionable rainboots, but I admired them from afar.

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 Joules is a clothing company based in the UK, and they also have a broad selection of adorable rainboots!  I was so excited when they offered to send me a pair!

I had a pretty hard time deciding which ones to pick, but I finally settled on these purple striped rainboots.

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I finally got them in the mail the other day, and I love them!  The sizing seems to be right on - they might be a smidge big, but it's the perfect amount of room for some thick socks to keep my feet warm in the colder months.  I also thought it was cute because there is a touch of the traditional rainboot yellow on the back of the boots - I don't know if all Joules boots have that, but I loved the nod to tradition on these boots!

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They are completely waterproof, which is perfect for the schizophrenic weather we have at this time of year - they work in snow, slush, puddles, or mud.  Practical, but I love that I can feel like I look cute wearing them at the same time!

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These are just one of a ton of patterns and colors of rain boots that Joules sells - check out their website to see all the options!  Personally, the brown floral rainboots and pink polka dot rainboots also caught my eye, but they also have more neutral colors and patterns for those who don't want such bright boots.  If you are in the market for wellies (or other types of clothing, for that matter - I thought a lot of their dresses were also adorable), definitely check them out!

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And just for fun . . . all the pictures above are the ones that turned out fairly well - the other half of my pictures are always so goofy!  I never know what to do with myself when I'm taking outfit pictures.  

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Derek is always my photographer for these pictures, and I can't remember which one of us had the brilliant idea to try a jumping photo, but I felt ridiculous and Derek was pretty much cracking up laughing at me.

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And this, my friends, is why I would never make it in the modeling industry.

Note: Joules was kind enough to send me a pair of rainboots for free in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus Review

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(Excuse my smudged table - that's about as clean as it gets with toddler fingers!)

Recently in a sermon my pastor referenced a book that was coming out soon called "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus" by Nabeel Qureshi.   Shortly after I saw that it had become available through Booklook, and I had to request it.

This book is Qureshi's personal testimony of coming to know Jesus.  I never quite know what to expect when it comes to biography-type books - I think sometimes they can be a little dry.  This one was most definitely not dry!  I  started reading it and could hardly put it down!  It was very well written, and the story was fascinating to me.

The first part of the book describes Qureshi's upbringing and what Islam teaches, and I learned a lot of things I never knew about what Muslims believe and what the culture is like within Islam.  Later in the book Qureshi becomes friends with David, who is a Christian, and it is through their friendship that he starts to look more closely at the claims of Islam and the claims of Christianity.  Finally, after three years Qureshi's worldview is in pieces, and he asks God to send him a sign to show him the truth.

This book is such a powerful testimony, and I picked up two main things through it - first I think I gained a real appreciation for how difficult it is for a Muslim to choose to follow Jesus.  They aren't just changing their minds, they are giving up their entire life, possibly putting their own lives in danger, and their decision to follow Jesus affects their entire community.  That is another reason why I think this testimony was so powerful to read - Qureshi had to give up so much, but he knew he was gaining Christ, and that was enough.

Second, I now have more of a desire to know more about Christian apologetics and be able to present the evidence for my faith.  I was so impressed throughout the book at how much David knew about what he believed and how he was able to have intelligent discussions with Nabeel about specific issues and evidence for Christianity.  I have always liked apologetics, but I would like to be more familiar with different topics so I can "give an answer to everyone who asks" (1 Peter 3:15).

This book was so interesting and an excellent look at apologetics as it relates to both Christianity and Islam.  I highly recommend it!

Note: I received this book for free from Booklook in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.

34 Weeks, Baby #3!

Here we are at 34 weeks pregnant!

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Baby is growing bigger and bigger!  The average baby's length is about 18 inches at this point, and both my kiddos were 20 inches when they were born.  It's weird to think that he's probably so close to that length already!  I think he is head down, but I might ask my doctor if she can tell at my appointment this week.

Not too much new to report.  I posted last week about all the things I've been able to cross off my to-do list.  It feels good!  Right now I'm just waiting for the baby's glider to come in, and to get the quilt back so I can finish it.  I decided to start knitting a baby blanket (since I knitted one for Wyatt and Gwen).  It probably won't be finished before he comes, but I'm hoping to have a big enough chunk done to include it in a few of his newborn pictures.

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I'm reading Ina May's Guide To Childbirth, because I was hoping it would help me mentally prepare for labor.  I'm still in the birth story section.  It's interesting, but I feel like a lot of the birth stories are a little idealistic.  I guess I was hoping for more pain-coping strategies, but maybe that's still coming.

We took our maternity pictures on Saturday!  It snowed Friday night, and I was worried it was going to ruin our pictures, but thankfully it had melted a lot by the next day.  Danae posted a sneak peek on Facebook, and I'm so excited to see the rest!  I think the kids actually cooperated for a few of them too, which made me happy.

I've been having a lot more heartburn over the last couple weeks, and it's strong.  Now I'm totally confused about whether or not I think this baby will have hair.  I was convinced that he was going to be bald, because I had mild heartburn through my entire pregnancies with Wyatt and Gwen, and they both had hair, and I hadn't been having any heartburn up until this point.  But now that the heartburn has started, it's so much stronger than anything I had with Wyatt and Gwen.  So now I think he'll either have more hair than Wyatt or Gwen had, or he'll be totally bald.  I guess we shall see!

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Wyatt talks a lot about the new baby, and he's already distinguishing between which toys are his, and which ones the new baby can play with (we're still working on the whole sharing concept).  Wyatt likes seeing all the projects I've been working on for the nursery, and he talks about how "that's for New Baby's room", and he'll kiss my belly when we ask if he wants to kiss the New Baby.  Gwen actually showed some interest in my belly the other day, and was patting my tummy as I was telling her there is a baby in there.

Baby Boy still likes to roll around in my stomach - he's pretty gentle, overall.  He doesn't kick so much as he just rolls his limbs across my belly.  I love it!  I love feeling his little feet too. Derek got to sit on the couch with me the other night and felt him move a lot, and he was talking about how he can already picture this little guy running around the house.  It was nice to have that time together.

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Daniel and Noah Books (+Giveaway)

A couple months ago the kids and I got a couple of "My Story" books - My Story: David and My Story: Joseph.  We just got a couple more!  My Story: Noah, and My Story: Daniel.

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The stories are told accurately as far as I can tell, except for at the end of the Noah book when they said a rainbow is a sign that God will never destroy the earth again.  Genesis actually says that God will never destroy the earth with water again, and we are told that heaven and earth will pass away (Luke 21:33, 2 Peter 3:10) and God will create a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1).  That might just be me being nitpicky, but sometimes I wish these books were a bit more precise in details like this.

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(Get a sneak peek at the My Story: Noah book here!)

That said, these books are fun!  The illustrations are bright and quirky, and different things in the book are labeled, which I just find cute and humorous.  The stories are written as if Daniel and Noah are telling them themselves - though simplified for young kids.

I also like the books because they include a "sticker journal" in the back and a couple pages worth of stickers!  I'm trying to keep Wyatt from realizing this until he's a little older and can have more funs with putting the stickers on the right pages, but it adds another element of fun to the books.

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(Get a sneak peek at the My Story: Daniel book here!)

The kids like the bright illustrations, and I like that they have some fun books about biblical characters.  I'll sneak Bible stories in wherever I can!

If you would like a chance to win a copy of these books for your kiddos, enter the giveaway below!

Note: I received these books for free from Tommy Nelson in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.




Happy Wife, Happy Life?

Note: Just to be clear, I'm talking about the average, mentally healthy female here.  There are many women who struggle with clinical depression or anxiety, and I don't pretend that those people can just "choose" to change their attitudes or feelings.  These women may need to seek some sort of professional help to address those issues or disorders, and there is no shame in that.  This post is meant to address the rest of us who just complain too much sometimes!

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We've all heard the phrases.

"Happy wife, happy life."

"If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

There is certainly some truth to those statements.  Wives and mothers often do set the atmosphere for the household, and if they are unhappy, it's harder for everyone else in the house to be happy.

However, I was reading a book recently (The Happiest Life by Hugh Hewitt - read my review here), and something I read made me think of these phrases again - and about how, while they are accurate to a certain degree, they also can lead to some attitudes that might not exactly be correct.

First of all, I always hear these phrases mentioned in reference to the woman needing something to ensure that she's happy - whether that is needing "me time", needing to take care of herself, etc.  But I feel like looking at those phrases that way implies that it is up to everyone else in the household to keep her happy - and if they fail, everyone in the house should also be miserable, because if mom isn't happy, no one else can be either.

That is an incredibly selfish thing.

I think by and large people have taken the idea behind this phrase and turned it backward.  The truth is, it's not up to everyone else to keep the lady of the house happy - it's up to the lady of the house to choose to be happy.  It's up to her to choose to set a happy tone for her household.  Expecting your husband or your kids to do things to keep you happy is unfairly placing the burden onto them when it is your responsibility to create a happy atmosphere by choosing to have a cheerful attitude yourself. 

Secondly, I think these phrases overlook the second half of the equation - because a happy husband makes a much happier household too.    I'm not sure why "happy husband, happy house" isn't a phrase people say (maybe because it doesn't rhyme?), but something Hewitt said in his book made me realize that such a statement would be just as true as "happy wife, happy life."  

I feel like focusing so much on the "happy wife" phrase might make us overlook the fact that as much as we as wives appreciate (and maybe even expect) gestures to make us happy, it wold also be a good thing to think of little things we could do to make a happy husband.  His mental state affects the atmosphere in the home just as much as ours does.  And even though it is his responsibility to choose to be happy, just as it is ours, I think we can all agree that it is that much easier to choose to be happy when little gestures of love are received.  Especially from a spouse.

Bottom line - as a wife and mother, focusing on what would (or wouldn't) make me happy is not going to make anyone else's life happier.  Choosing to focus on making the lives of my family happier, through my choices about my own attitude, is what is going to lead to a "happy life".  I need to choose to have a cheerful attitude for the sake of my family . . . I need to choose to do things that will help others in my family feel a little happier as well.

Maybe it would be better (and more clear) to rephrase the statement.

"If you choose to be a happy wife, you (and your family) will have a happy life."

The beauty of it is that giving happiness to others usually comes back to make your own life happier as well - it is more blessed to give than to receive.  That applies to happiness too.


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Nesting

I think it's safe to say that the last couple weeks I've been in a full-on nesting mode.  After my shower I just decided that the nursery must be ready, and it must be ready right now.  The house must be clean, and it must be clean now.  

It's weird how nesting strikes you at unusual times.  I'm not expecting the baby to come even in the next few weeks, but I just feel like I need to be ready.  It's been a very productive time, though not for writing.  When I have a to do list hanging over my head I find it hard to get up the motivation to sit down and write a post.  My house is happy, my blog is not.

I'm getting very close to finishing everything I wanted to complete, so I should be back into writing substantial posts soon!  But in the meantime, I thought I'd share my list of accomplishments with all of you.  Because I know you're just dying to know how I've been spending my days (I'm not a sarcastic person, but pretend that last sentence was in the much wished-for sarcasm font).

In the last two weeks I've:


1. Cleaned out the nursery, which had a lot of non-nursery items piled up in it.

2. Bought canvases from Hobby Lobby and created my own DIY nursery art.  Post coming soon.

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3. Went thrift-store hunting for a cheap lamp.  Painted said lamp.  Hunted for a cheap lamp shade for said lamp.  Total: $10

4. Sewed a blanket for the toddler bed that also resides in Baby Boy's nursery.  It actually ended up being more of a duvet cover, because when I sewed it together I wasn't happy with how the material was laying.  So I took one of our old, flattened duvets, folded it in half, and sewed it up inside the material.  So now it's this poofy, comforter-type blanket, and I kind of wish it was big enough for me to use.

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5.  Sewed a pillow case to go with said duvet cover.

6. Organized/washed/put away all the gifts I got at my baby shower!  Ashley also sent me home with some of the shower decorations, and they are currently being employed in the baby's nursery.  It's cute.  I promise I'll do a reveal post eventually.

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7. Cleaned out my computer desk and mail baskets.  This doesn't sound like a big deal, but trust me - it is.  The clutter was getting out of control.

8.  Ordered nursing paraphernalia.  Ordered the baby book.  Ordered crib sheets.  Ordered that sleep shirt I wanted for the hospital.

9.  Ordered a glider for the nursery.  We used to have a rocking chair in there, but I put it in Gwen's room when we moved her.  I just have this weird thing where I feel like each kid's room needs to have a chair.  I'm pretty excited about it, because it's pretty, and it looks comfy.

10.  Hung up a banner in the nursery.  I made it a few weeks ago - it turned out pretty cute.

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11. Met with the nurse at the hospital to discuss my birth plan.  A post about which is coming soon.

12. Met my new niece!  My brother and sister-in-law had their baby.  She's super-cute.  I am itching to go visit so I can hold her again.

13. Got caught up on the kid's baby books.  Started filling out the pages of the new baby's book.

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14. Wrote overdue thank you notes.

15.  Washed the car seat cover and blanket.  Now I just need to figure out how to get the car seat installed in the van.

16.  Finished reading and wrote review posts for several books.  I'm up to 19 books already in 2014!  What can I say, the book worm bug strikes again.

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17. Started cleaning the house.  Got distracted.  House got dirty.  Started cleaning it again.

18. Started packing my hospital bag.


And by the end of this week I'll be able to cross "Get my hair highlighted", and "Get maternity pictures taken" off the list as well!  After that, things will be almost ready - I'll just have to get the baby's quilt back and finish it, and get the glider put together.  Oh, and deep-clean the house.  Then we'll be set.

I'm also happy to report that most of this was done while the kids were napping or in bed for the night, except for the house cleaning.  It's so nice that they nap at the same time.  I'm already anxious about the day when I can't get them all down at once anymore.

Labor Anxiety

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(This was the bump about a month ago.  Yeah, I'm a lot bigger than that now.)

As most of you know, my labor and delivery with Gwen was quite an adventure.  For the first few hours it seemed to be a pretty normal labor - then within the span of 45 minutes or so I went from having contractions 12 minutes apart to being ready to push.  We live about an hour away from our hospital, and I ended up giving birth in the back of an ambulance!  You can read the full birth story here.

In general I'm not too concerned about not making it to the hospital again.  My whole labor was about 5 hours or so, and that would have been plenty of time to get to the hospital if I had left at the first contractions - the problem was that I waited until they were about 7 minutes apart to call my doctor, and by then it was too late.  If I just leave at the very start of my labor this time, I'm pretty sure I'll be fine. 

(I'm still planning on keeping some old towels and a blanket in my car for the last few weeks of my pregnancy, just in case, but I'm fairly confident that I won't have to use them.)

I've never felt overly anxious about labor and delivery in my past pregnancies.  Mostly because I was of the mindset that I'll just deal with whatever happens at the time, and I don't think about it too much.  That has been a pretty successful strategy for me, and in a lot of ways I'm doing the same thing this time.  I'm not particularly anxious about how things will go, mostly because of the push-it-to-the-back-of-my-mind technique I've perfected.

However, occasionally I'll be surprised by a little anxiety when I think back to my delivery with Gwen.  It wasn't because my experience last time was particularly painful - it was more because it was a bit traumatic in an emotional way.  When things started progressing so fast, I was scared.  When I got in the car and felt blood and got that urge to push, I was terrified.  I didn't want to have my baby in the car!  In the ambulance I was still afraid, until I decided (by necessity) that this baby just wasn't going to wait until the hospital and I pushed.

When we came home after having Gwen, I had ever-so-slight anxiety for the first couple days just walking through my house, because I was remembering.  Remembering how I fell down on my hands and knees for a contraction at the top of the stairs and realized they were down to 3 minutes apart.  Remembering going through transition while I was sitting in our room.  Remembering kneeling beside my bed and freaking out because I felt so much pressure and my mom hadn't arrived to watch Wyatt yet.  It didn't last longer than a day or two, but it was a weird experience.

This past Christmas I had anxiety because I kept having these labor flashbacks.  I really wasn't remembering the pain - I was more just remembering my emotions.

But whenever I start to feel anxious about it, other things come to mind as well.  

Such as how nice it was to have such a fast labor.  Such as how amazing Derek was through everything.  

Such as how I screamed out my prayers for the Lord to help me, and how I know He was with me then.  How He let me know when to push.  How He took care of Gwen and me so that there were no complications in the ambulance.  How we are both okay (and have a great story to tell to boot!).

And then I don't feel anxious anymore, I just feel thankful.  I know that if labor doesn't go like I expect this time (which, from past experience, it probably won't), we'll be okay - because the Lord will be with us, just as He always is.  Whatever happens.


More on specific concerns with this baby's labor and delivery, and our plan, coming up!

A Godward Heart Review

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I have never read anything by John Piper, though I have heard good things.  I saw the A Godward Heart was up for review, and I decided to request it since I had been wanting to read one of Piper's books.

A Godward Heart is somewhat like a devotional book - it contains 50 chapters, and they are short enough to read in 5 minutes or less.  I think some of the readings might be excerpts from some of his other books, but I don't think all of them are.

I would say that this was not like a typical light devotional!  Piper discusses some deep theological topics and tough issues in light of what Scripture says.  Each chapter really made me think, and it brought my focus back to God.  I found myself reading several at a time, because though the subjects were not light, it wasn't the kind of book where you have to stop and think about each point before moving on to the next one.  Each chapter encouraged me and made me want to read the next.

After reading a Godward Heart, I am interested in reading more by John Piper!  I'd definitely recommend this for anyone who is looking for a devotional book that goes deeper than the surface and dives into biblical truths.

Note: I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multonomah's Blogging For Books program in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.
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