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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

I have seen a couple posts lately by people whose babies are about the same age as Bert mentioning that their children can crawl, can pull up to standing, can eat the same dinner foods that the parents are eating. I'll admit it, I freaked out. And, like most rational, calm people, I immediately began Googling "8 month olds and ______" *fill in whatever verb I'm worried about* I saw phrases like "typical babies" and "most babies" at 8 months old can do things like roll a ball or spot a toy across the room and crawl over to grab it.

WHAT?

I definitely began beating myself up, wondering what I've been doing wrong with Bert and why he can't do these things other babies can do. I was really worried, and I was also really embarrassed.

This morning I got up really early, and I began to think about Bert and how he is a unique child, how he "doesn't know what the internet says he's supposed to do" as Joe rightly says, and how, most importantly, he was made in God's image.

So, with a deep breath, I thought that maybe it would help someone else to know the following:

Bert turned 8 months old this past Saturday, April 4. Bert just recently started being able to sit for longer than a minute or two. Even now, after a short period of time sitting, he begins to tip forward and cry because he's uncomfortable. He's unable to really play while he sits because 99% of the time he needs at least one hand on the ground or on his leg to stabilize himself. He is nowhere near being able to to crawl, nor has he shown any interest in standing, let alone walking. He still eats pureed food only and has only recently (read: yesterday) been able to eat tiny chunks of banana that aren't completely pureed or mashed. He struggles to pick up a piece of food and put it in his own mouth. He has tried 15 foods and is still on the "try a new food, wait three days to try a new one" eating plan. He is not in the ballpark of eating what we eat for dinner. Bert cannot roll a ball. He cannot spot a toy across the room and crawl to it. He can't say any words, he just makes noises.

And he is a person, and I love him because of who he is, not what he can do.



And I think that's the lesson I need to take from all of this. There is nothing -- NOTHING -- that Bert could do that would make me love him any more. The love I have for my son comes from his personhood, not his achievements or abilities.

Even as a mom of only a few months, I already see how competitive moms can be with other moms, trying to "one up" with their kids' achievements -- from straight-up bragging to indirect comparisons and those ever-famous "humblebrags" -- even when their kid is only a few months old! (Not saying that every status update is one of those things; some people share just to give a genuine update. I'm sure you understand the difference.) I'm so happy for you and your child and what he or she can do. That's amazing and you should be proud, mom! But friends, this is where I officially step out of that race. I've never been a fast runner anyways. I never, ever want my little guy to feel like I'm disappointed in him or embarrassed by him because he cannot do what other kids his age can do. What a horrible disrespect for him and his soul. And I also want him to learn to be intrinsically motivated to do things and not do things for the recognition he will get from the world.

And when I thought about it more, I realized that, in fact, what I've been doing is projecting my own insecurities and shortcomings on Bert. I have always been achievement-driven and for many years felt that I "deserved" love because of the things I accomplished. I still struggle with this.

So maybe you're reading this and you don't have kids or your kids are all grown up. But here's what I think you can take from all of this: I think it's so easy to compare ourselves to others, no matter our age or situation. Other people your age might own a home/have a fabulous job/have a lot of savings. And maybe you don't. This age of social media just makes it worse, and I won't add to the commentary on that since there's already been so much research done on the topic. But I'll agree it's true. I think now, with the virus crisis we're all in, it's even worse because we all have so much more time to surf social media or the internet and see that other people are devoting their unexpected time off to learning new skills/taking online classes/running. And maybe you're not doing any of those things and your biggest lock down "achievement" has been watching all nine seasons of The Office on Netflix (again).

Friend, not that you need me to tell you this, but in case you do, I want you to know that your value as a person comes from WHO YOU ARE not WHAT YOU DO. 

It Came Just the Same

Monday, March 30, 2020

On Friday we found out that our diocese officially cancelled masses through April 19. While I think we all knew this was coming, I have to admit it was truly a gut punch to hear that we will not be assembling for Mass on Easter Sunday. EASTER SUNDAY. 

I am still trying to wrap my mind around this. Easter is the most holy of days in the church year. Easter Sunday is always so beautiful: looking around church at all the people who maybe haven't come in a while, all the people spending time with their families, all the bright and beautiful colors people are wearing after a long Lent and an even longer winter. Even if you don't go to church, I believe Easter is still -- like many holidays -- a time that you want to spend with your extended family, a happy occasion to look forward to. 

After hearing the news, I sat there for a few minutes, just stewing. Easter is cancelled? EASTER is CANCELLED?! I thought about how I won't be able to celebrate Bert's first Easter in the usual way. About how my sweet sister-in-law Alex won't get to join the Catholic church as she has long been planning. My previously upbeat attitude took a sharp turn downward, and I was just ready to throw in the towel. But all of a sudden, out of nowhere as I was mopping the floor, a line popped into my head:

It came just the same. 

You know this line too. Of course, it's from Dr. Seuss's classic book How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And while that story is about another holiday, the more I thought about it the more I realized that the lesson of that book can absolutely be applied to our situation now. More than "can be" -- MUST. 

Remember all the things the Grinch did to "steal" Christmas from the Whos? He thought if he took all their stockings and their toys and their food that Christmas just wouldn't arrive. He would stop them from joining together and singing praises. But remember how confused and surprised the Grinch was when he realized that nothing he did would ruin the Whos' Christmas? Dr. Seuss writes:

Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Was singing without any presents at all!

He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

My friends, will this Easter be weird, painfully weird? Oh yes, it will. But the thing is, even without the egg hunts and the Easter baskets and the picnics and, most importantly, church, Easter will come. Easter cannot be cancelled as I first thought. No amount of social distancing, of illness, of empty grocery stores can stop Easter from coming. Jesus will still be risen, a sign of hope in our hurting world. Like the Whos, we must not focus on what we are losing this Easter, but instead we must focus on what we still have, what we are gaining. 

The virus hadn't stopped Easter from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

Springtime Bert with his bunny best friend, Benedict.

Happy News

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

I feel like I've been handling all of this pretty well, but last night I kind of hit a wall. I know you might think that being forced to stay at home wouldn't be that different from my usual life of staying at home with Bert, but it really has been. I found that I've really come to rely on our weekly trips to the library, our Target runs, our random errands, and our walks with our friends. Joe has been home a lot, but he's also had to leave for work still, too, so I've been feeling somewhat isolated, as I'm sure so many people have. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that it's been in the 50s and raining the past few days, but I was thrilled to wake up today to sunshine and a temperature that will reach the 70s today. Indeed, the rest of the week should be mostly sunny and will also be in the upper 60s to the low 80s (!!!), and I truly think that will help. As soon as I could this morning I opened a bunch of windows, opened all the blinds, and lit a springtime candle. I am thanking God that this is all happening when we have the opportunity for open windows, walks outside, and lighter evenings instead of in the depths of December and January. It makes me a little sick to my stomach to even imagine that, so I won't.

I have been surviving by making Bert new foods to try (this morning was his first day trying Greek yogurt, and I mixed some peaches and banana in for him) and working on our house. We have a lot of work to do in both the front and back yards of our house, and we are taking every opportunity to work on it. It just feels good to get outside, to sweat, to feel dirt in our hands.

We have also tried not to watch *too* much news. I do turn it on in the mornings to just check in, and I do try and tune in when there's a White House update, but other than that, I really need to avoid it. There are so many opinions, so many people placing blame, so many people arguing -- it's just too much. And all that hoarding?! Still happening?! Sheesh. Here's what Bert thinks about all that selfishness:

I bet you feel bad now, don't you?
Are you feeling a little down also? I think you might be, so I thought it might help all of us to hear a little good news. I scoured the internet to bring you some happy stories!

1. Some awesome people I know in Huntington have organized a "scavenger hunt" for families in town that can be done from the comfort of their cars. Check this out. Isn't it amazing?

2. Public Relations students at Marshall University hold a fundraiser every spring to help the Ronald McDonald House. Of course, since school is no longer being held in person and every event in the country has been cancelled, they can't hold their normal fundraiser this year. Instead of just going home, doing their online classes, and blaming the virus for their inability to help RMH (which they could totally do!), they are holding an online fundraiser because they are so dedicated to their mission! Check it out!

3. The NCAA has lifted a regulation that does not allow student athletes to use their likenesses for crowd funding. This was in direct response to Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and his girlfriend raising money online for family relief and support for virus victims. Lawrence and his girlfriend, also a student athlete, also plan to write letters of encouragement to those who are suffering. I've always liked this kid a lot (and have shared this video with students in the past), and I'm proud of him for using his fame for good.

4. A student I know from Fatima (who is the nephew of our very own Aunt Sarah and Uncle Drew!) is writing letters of encouragement and love to nursing home residents whose families cannot visit them. How cute is that?! I think I will write some too!

5. Aunt Jena's school is having a virtual spirit week so that students and teachers can connect! Each day is a different theme, and teachers and parents are sharing photos on social media. Although I don't have a classroom this year, I can truly understand the heartbreak of losing students without any notice. I'd be devastated. I think this is a wonderful way to help teachers feel like they still have their babies and help students know they are still loved and supported.

6. Amazing author and illustrator Mo Willems is teaching a daily drawing course for children called "Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems"! He is the creator of one of our favorite books, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. I just read it to Bert yesterday.

7. Bert has learned no new skills and accomplished absolutely nothing, but here's him looking like a Bert-rito!




8. There are so many cool virtual field trips! Check it out:

San Diego Zoo

The Louvre

Mars (seriously!)

National Parks

There are so many more, too!

9. And finally ... I accidentally hoarded bananas. I know, I know. I put 9 of them on my Walmart order. Then the app told me the bananas weren't available, so I found some organic ones that were, blah blah. Long story short: between the time I originally added the bananas to my cart and the time I actually checked out (a day or so later), the bananas became available again. So when I went to pick up my order ... 21 bananas, a mixture of regular and organic. And last week the max you could order was six! The Walmart people probably think I'm insane. I already cut up five of them to freeze and will likely make Jane and Asha some dog ice cream too. I can't believe I did that! Luckily Bert, Joe, and I eat them every day.

I know there have to be more happy stories out there! Will you share some that you've seen? Also, if you need any fun ideas for Language Arts or Social Studies for kids in grades 5-8, please let me know. I'm happy to dig some things out, and it would be fun for me to do!

Spring

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Bert woke up this morning at 7 a.m. as he usually does. Joe went in to pick him up and change him as I began to prepare to feed him. Although Bert wakes up happy, he usually starts crying pretty soon after when his brain catches up with his stomach and he realizes he's starving. As he does, Bert started crying as Joe was changing his diaper, and I heard Joe say, "Buddy, you don't have to cry. We've never let you down."

And I stopped in my tracks because ... Joe is a father reassuring his child that he doesn't have to cry because he's never let him down. And I immediately thought: this is exactly what God is saying to us right now, too.

I admit that I have been rather calm about all this, until yesterday when news began to come out that said that the virus may be more harmful to children than previously believed, specifically to babies and toddlers. Most of you know that my son was born with several health complications that landed him in the children's hospital for several days, and my mind immediately went to seeing my son suffer once again. I had to actively remind myself that God has taken care of my son before, and I have no reason to believe He won't this time, too: He's never let us down.

One of the strangest things about all of this is the lack of Mass. My grandfather, the oldest member of our family, is almost 90, and he has never seen this in his lifetime. As of yesterday evening, there are NO public masses anywhere in the United States. None. I said to Joe last night: did you ever think that here in the United States of America we wouldn't be able to go to Mass? It's so unthinkable that it's laughable. But here we are.

We were blessed this morning because our wonderful parish priest, Father Jack, said a Mass that was broadcast on Facebook Live. Joe, Bert, and I sat on our kitchen stools participating with Father Jack as we watched him on our laptop. Father Jack said something that really struck me. He said that God is using the situation we are in to give us a glimpse of what hell is like. Hell is total physical isolation from God and others; it's the ultimate social distancing. And don't we all hate this? As Father Jack also said, we are made for community and family and this is our time to look at all the things in our lives that we take for granted and begin to show our gratitude for them.

And it really made me think because according to Sister Lucia, one of the Fatima children, the final battle between God and Satan will be over marriage and the family. I think we could all agree that we are having marriage and family problems in the world right now. How else could God shift our focus back to our families and force us to really spend time with them than through a situation like this?

I realized this morning that it's Spring. SPRING. What a miracle. And here in Georgia it will be 77 degrees and sunny today. After we watched Mass this morning, Joe and I opened all our windows. We took the time to really clean our house -- not just the usual Thursday cleaning, but all the things we never make time for like scrubbing out our windowsills (those things are gross!) and really mopping our floor with Pledge and not just a quick wipe with the Swiffer. I put away our Snow Lodge candle and pulled out the spring-smelling Cactus Blossom candle I bought right before all this happened.

Are we scared? Yes. Well, I am. Joe, as always, is calm. But I look around my house and realize that Joe is home, we are healthy, our house is clean and smells fresh, and there is fresh air and sunshine pouring in the windows. Those are all blessings. We have to continue to find them where we can.

And remember: Buddy, you don't have to cry. I've never let you down.

Bert thought his legs looked especially toned and trim in this outfit, so he wanted to share a picture of himself with you!

Go Home and Love Your Family

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

You know when people are asked the question, "What do you want most?" and we all make fun of that cliche answer "World peace"? The truth is, I think all of us would absolutely like to see world peace, we just truly have no idea how to go about it. Or, perhaps, we have so many ideas that we can't agree on or implement one to see if it would work.

Well, years ago Mother Teresa (now Saint Teresa of Calcutta) told us all very simply what we needed to do to achieve world peace:



This quotation has been on my mind the past couple of days as we have all been trying our best to navigate the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in. Right now, we are all being forced, more or less, to be at home with our families. Only our families.

I would obviously never wish for this virus to happen. The amount of death, sickness, fear, selfishness, and other negative things that are happening is truly awful. Like many, I especially worry about our children, making sure they have enough food and worrying about the ones with questionable home lives. But the truth is, this is where we find ourselves and any amount of wishing we weren't or placing blame or whatever else isn't going to help anyone right now. I think what we're left to do right now is try to find any good we can in this situation. And here's what I've been thinking about that:

I think most of us would agree that Americans are very "busy" people. I think busy is sometimes worn as a badge of honor for people, like we feel if we are not busy busy busy then we're not doing what we're "supposed" to do. I can be very guilty of this also. When I first became a stay-at-home mother this school year, I found myself "justifying" my day to Joe when he got home from work (even though he didn't ask and didn't care): I would enumerate the list of ways I had contributed to our family that day -- laundry, cleaning, making dinner -- as though taking care of 1-month-old baby, or, heck, just simply being a person in this family, wasn't enough. I had to train myself to think differently, and I'm still working on it. I feel like most people I know are always running around: they don't have time to cook dinner or eat as a family, they don't have time to read or rest, they don't have time to do things just for fun. Do you know anyone like this? But think about what's going on now. We are literally being told -- almost ordered -- to just stay home. We can't go to work or school. We can't go to restaurants or bars. We can't go to the movies or the library (sob!). Kids can't go to afterschool activities or sports. Heck, we can't even walk in the park with our friends unless we stand six feet away from them. The only thing left for us to do is to stay at home. That's it. We have to stay at home with our immediate families.

Maybe we could see this aspect as a blessing? A way to promote world peace, as Mother Teresa said.

Again, I know that there are many people who have incredibly difficult home lives. There are also so many people -- many I know and love -- who are doctors, nurses, paramedics, law enforcement, and people who provide products to these industries and who do not have the luxury of deciding to stay at home. But for those of us who are able to stay at home maybe we could take this opportunity to slow down, reset, and rediscover our love of a simple life at home with our families?

Joe is having to work some right now. He is trying to do as much as he can from home and limit his out-of-home work to smaller places and spaces. But he has been here for breakfast these past few days, and it's been so nice. He usually only eats with us on Saturdays and Sundays, but this week Joe has been able to feed Bert his breakfast. It's been so wonderful for both of them. Joe has been here more often, which means instead of seeing Bert only from 7-8 a.m. and then again from 6-7 p.m. Joe gets to see him during a usual day doing his usual things that Joe hardly ever gets to see. I choose to see this as a blessing to our family.

I spent a couple of days being very upset (I mean actually crying upset) over the selfishness I was reading about online and seeing on the news: all of the hoarding of supplies and not leaving things for others. It was really getting me down, but then I realized that there was nothing I could do about it and that I needed to focus on better things. And when I looked around I realized that I was seeing people donate to food banks, the school cooks and bus drivers in my home county of Cabell, West Virginia, making sure that children have food to eat, people offer to do shopping for the elderly and others at-risk, people sharing their toilet paper and paper towels with others, people calling to check on each other to be sure everyone is okay. Personally, many of my friends have checked in with me to be sure we're all doing okay. Our local friends have called and texted to see if they can get anything for us at the store or add anything to their grocery pick ups for us. Guys, this is amazing. What a wonderful display of community.

I was also telling Joe last night that I have already become more grateful for the things I have previously taken for granted. One thing we're low on is paper towels, so Joe and I literally ask each other in a situation now, "Is this a good use of a paper towel?" I'll admit that I am a HUGE over-user of paper towels, and I am learning now not to be. I am also especially grateful for my Walmart grocery pick up I have been doing every Tuesday at 11 a.m. When I couldn't do it this week, it was hard for me. I miss my schedule and my nice pick up guy! (I'm worried about him and hope he's okay. We see him basically every week!) I am no longer taking for granted that if I want a dozen eggs I can just go to the store and get them. As a first-time stay-at-home mom who previously worked outside the home and was "busy" (see above!) and who now is home with a baby all day, I am definitely not going to take for granted the opportunities I have to get outside the house and see people, now that I can't. Most importantly, I will not be taking for granted going to church, now that that has also been taken from us. (Still cannot believe this. I talked to my grandmother yesterday. She is 86 and my grandfather is almost 90, and neither of them has ever known Mass to be cancelled.)

These are indeed tough times. There are so many unknowns. It's easy to let fear and panic take over, but I really don't think that will get us anywhere. I think we have to remember what Mother Teresa said and go home and love our families. We also have to find the best in ourselves and remember our responsibility to each other.

Joe and I do a nightly devotional, and it always starts with a verse. The following verse was last night's. I was simply floored when I saw it. It is not a verse I am familiar with, but I thought it was so pertinent to what is going on right now.



May God continue to bless you, your family, our nation, and our world. If there's anything I can do to help you, please let me know.

Bert Alert - March 2020

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Some funny little things in the life of Bert lately:

- We were away from home somewhat late last Saturday evening, and so Bert ended up in bed for the night wearing a long sleeve onesie and black socks (no pants). Bert is -- how should I say it -- not a svelte person, and Joe took one look at him lying there in his crib and called him "Pugsley." I about died laughing, and the nickname has stuck. We love you Pugsley!





- One of my favorite things about Bert is how he opens his mouth up wide every time you put something anywhere close to his mouth. Even when he nurses, he will just lie there with his mouth open waiting to latch on. He's been doing the same thing with food, only it's more hilarious. If he even sees the spoon close by, that mouth is open!







- ... unless it's green beans. He tried those for the first time yesterday, and I have never seen his mouth shut so tightly! Once he tasted those, nothing could make him open that mouth! Little does he know, he'll be trying these again today! Ha.







- In case you ever wondered what the bib of a baby who recently sneezed while eating carrots looks like, here you go!



- I told Joe the other day we have to start thinking about getting some baby gates, and Joe was like, "Well, he still can't sit up, so I think we have time." And it's true. Bert still can't sit up. Honestly, he's not even trying. Most people were like "Your arms will get so toned carrying the baby around!" Uh, what has actually happened is I have chronic back pain and I think he sprained my left forearm with his fat.

Taken in the seconds between me propping him up and him face planting. I give this a D-, Bert!



And that's what's new with Bert!

I am Like You I am Like You

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

I was re-reading my favorite poem last night, and it made me think of someone I love very much, and so I shared it with her.

But then I realized, I love you, too, and maybe you should read this also.

It's called "Come Closer" by Anis Mojgani, and you can read it here. I have also included a video below where the poet is reciting this poem himself.

Guys, I beg you ... listen to these words:

He made you and he was happy
You make the Lord happy

Did you hear that? Did you hear that?

It's all lovely. All of it.

May we all remember that everyone -- no matter how happy they look or seem on the outside, no matter how perfect their life looks to you or if you can't believe they'd have any reason in the world to feel bad -- is hurting. Something is hurting them. You would not believe the amount of people you encounter on a daily basis who are not sure they will be able to make it another day. Truly. We must speak life into each person we meet, always. Guys, we have to. We must. People are the only important things in life. Relationships. The rest of it, it doesn't matter. It just does not matter. Loving people is what matters. It's the only thing that matters.

Whatever is hurting you, please know

I too at times am filled with so much fear, so much fear, but like a hallway must find the strength to walk through it.
Walk through this with me.




I am like you 
I am like you

Walk through this with me
Walk through this with me



Dedicated to you. You know who you are. And I love you. So much.






Don't Overthink It

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

I stood there considering my options. I looked them all over carefully, reading about each one, holding each one. I circled back to where I started and began the process all over again. I thought about how I might feel about it when I got home, how Joe might feel. What if I made the wrong decision?

I am, of course, talking about the monumental choice of which Wallflower scent to purchase at Bath and Body Works.

If you're sitting there thinking ANNA. COME ON. Well ... you'd be right.

I am a classic and chronic overthinker. I overthink what I'm wearing, what I'm packing, what I'm writing in an email, what someone said to me six years ago, what I might say in a conversation before I say it.

For years I thought that was just my personality (if I even thought about it at all). But I recently read a book that gave me a new perspective on overthinking. That book is Don't Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel, commonly known as Modern Mrs. Darcy.

I forget when I first began reading Anne's blog -- I know it had everything to do with my love for Jane Austen -- but I have been doing so for a number of years. She recommends great books and creates helpful reading challenges like the one I'm participating in now. She's written two other books, and I was fortunate enough to join the book launch team for her newest book, Don't Overthink It (which means I got to read an advance copy -- yay!).

I knew this book was for me early in the first chapter when I read one of Anne's definitions of what overthinking looks like: "Sometimes it looks like worry. We might feel stuck reviewing something we've done in the past or imagining something that might happen in the future. ... We might lie awake at night wondering what our friends think of us or if a loved one seems tired of us or if our library fines are getting really and truly out of control." After reading this, I immediately wondered how it was possible for Anne to have looked inside my head! In this book, she offers a truly helpful perspective on overthinking plus concrete suggestions on how to stop doing it.

One suggestion I particularly like regards making sure your decisions reflect your values. She recommends putting this in practice in small decisions as well as large ones. Anne writes,

"Our lives should reflect who we are and what we care about. We may think we know what we value but find that those values don't actually influence our decisions."

At first I was like um, yes, my decisions do reflect my values, don't everyone's? But the more I thought about it, I began to question if I was really making value-driven decisions. For example, last Friday our church had its first Fish Fry of the Lenten season. Joe and I talked about going, thinking about Bert's bedtime, our eating out budget, and our desire to drive 30 minutes on a Friday evening. We decided to go. Come Friday, Joe came home from work early so we could leave for dinner early,  but even that afternoon we continued to debate whether or not we wanted to go to that dinner, going through all sorts of reasons as to why we might or might not like to go. We ultimately decided to go, but in retrospect, our decision could have been made quickly and easily if we had originally just said to ourselves, "We value our church, we love it there, and we value supporting church events, so we're going." Bam. Done.



My most favorite thing about Anne's book is she reinforces an idea I have been learning about over the past year from my therapist, Sharon: that our thoughts have a huge effect on how we live our lives, and we must "learn to tend our thoughts with care." This directly relates to  what is called "schema." Psychologically speaking, Schema is "an outlook or assumption that an individual has of the self, others, or the world that endures despite objective reality. For example, 'I am a damaged person' and 'Anyone I trust will eventually hurt me' are negative schemas that may result from negative experiences in early childhood." (Source.) Sharon is a big believer that schema is everything. For a lot of people, myself included, schema is negative, meaning thoughts that automatically come to mind in many situations are negative ones. These automatic negative thoughts (or ANTs as Sharon calls them) must be actively fought against. As Sharon says, your schema fights for survival and one must work hard (trust me, I know) to essentially retrain the brain. As I read the chapter in Anne's book devoted to this idea that our thoughts affect everything in our lives (Chapter 7 -- "Tend Your Garden"), I found myself nodding along so hard because I already knew this was true because of my own life, thanks to Sharon. I'm not even sure that Anne is aware just how spot-on she is, psychologically speaking, with her words on thoughts. I mean, read this:

"It's a mistake to give all your thoughts equal weight. Some thoughts do not deserve to be taken seriously, so don't dignify them with a response. That only serves to empower them, because the effort you use to combat the unwanted intrusive thought only serves to strengthen it."

Amen, Anne. Amen.


If, like Anne and me, you have found yourself losing sleep at night over a short email from a colleague or boss; stood in an aisle at Target for an inordinate amount of time trying to decide between two brands of granola bar; or put flowers in your cart at the grocery store, then put them back, then picked them up again all while debating their $5 price tag, then your life will be changed for the better by reading Don't Overthink It. I'm super excited because I get to meet Anne and have her sign my copy in less than two weeks!

 And, #buytheflowers



Morning Smoothies!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Joe and I are moderately healthy people. By that I mean, we try and eat fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats, but we also eat pizza every Friday, and we love donuts and desserts too. One thing we've talked a lot about recently is how we need to make food-related adjustments now while Bert is still too young to observe what his dad and I eat and how much and when. One of our plans to help with this is to plant a garden of food this spring. We are blessed with a yard that offers ample space to plant, and we have been looking at the types of things we'd like to try and grow. I need to investigate more, but right now we are hoping to grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, and herbs of all kinds. (We already have TWO pear trees that offer an ABUNDANCE of fruit. Sadly, pears are low on the fruit favorites list for Joe and me, but we are learning to like them. They'll also make great baby food!) I have a hope that we won't have to buy as much produce from the store and instead can go outside and gather lots of things we need. I also have a dream of Bert playing in the dirt, helping plant and harvest the garden, and picking all his summertime snacks straight off the vine.

One thing I thought of that would help us get more nutrients is to have a smoothie with or for breakfast. I don't know about you guys, but sometimes my food plans for the day can go by the wayside for any number of factors, no matter how much I plan, but starting the day with a healthy smoothie at least guarantees that we've had some sort of serving of fruits and vegetables in a day. I've made smoothies in the past, and one thing I've learned is there's really no "recipe." But here's what I've been playing with that I like:

- Plain Greek yogurt (This is the "liquid" base for ours. I love Greek yogurt! It is low in sugar and high in protein. We just use the Great Value brand for the sake of economy. I just put "some" in. If I had to guess, maybe half a cup? I don't know, I'm poor at physical estimation.)

- Half a banana (This is great for us because I only like bananas that are green, but smoothies are a great place for bananas that are a little past their snacking prime. No waste!)

- Whatever fruit we have on hand (We always have fresh apples, red grapes, strawberries, and blueberries. Lately I've also been buying frozen mango, raspberries, and peach slices. It's fun to play with the combos to figure out what you like!)

- A handful of spinach (Yep! I pluck the stems off of ours and just toss it in! You can't taste it at all, and think of the nutrients!)

AND THAT'S IT! If I don't use frozen fruit, then I'll add a couple ice cubes because we like them really cold. But you don't have to! And if I feel like it's a little too thick, then I'll add in a splash of almond milk.

I'm hoping to add more things in the future, like maybe some kale or a splash of elderberry syrup. (The other day I bought some off of a neighbor who makes herself, and I'm really excited. I plan to make some gummies with it, so I'll let you know how that goes when I do it!)

Some fruit combos we've been liking are strawberry/mango and blueberry/peach. But I really can't see you going wrong with any fruit combo! I'll usually toss a handful of grapes into every smoothie. We've been doing our morning smoothie for several days, and Joe told me this morning that his (maybe about 12 oz.?) smoothie fills him up till about 2:00 p.m. Wow!

Right now I use a simple Ninja that my aunt got me, which works just fine, but I'm looking into buying a blender (we don't have one) that's geared toward smoothies to see if I can make them just a little more smooth!

As an aside, one thing that has been absolutely LIFE CHANGING in terms of us eating more fruits and veggies is that -- if it's a snacking-type food -- I wash and cut it up as soon as I get it home from the store. We don't have cartons of strawberries or blueberries or random bags of baby carrots or grapes lying in the fridge. I bring these things home, wash them and cut them up (if applicable), then store them. Yes, it's more work up front for sure, but I am willing to spend the extra 15 minutes up front for the ease of grabbing them for smoothies, to put in yogurt or fruit salad or lunches, or as snacks. SO MUCH EASIER and so much more likely we'll eat them and they won't go bad. 

Let me know if you have any great smoothie ideas!

Breakfast With Bert

Friday, February 28, 2020

As of this morning, Bert is up to THREE solid foods he's tried: rice cereal, oatmeal, and sweet potatoes. I shared a little the other day about Bert's first bites of solid food. Let me show you how it's been going since then:

Day 4: Oatmeal for the first time


Okay, this isn't bad. 



In fact, I think I love it! It tastes good AND you can wear it! Let me just stick my hand in there so I can share more of it with my pants.

Day 5: Oatmeal for the second time



Oh, food, awesome! My nose loves it!


Wait ... didn't I eat this same thing yesterday? I think I'll try this bib instead.


You mean to tell me I'm not getting anything different? Well, then, I am QUITE finished. 

Day 7: Sweet potatoes for the first time


What, ma? You made these yourself? I guess I'll give 'em a try.


Excuse me, please shovel those things in faster. I'm so hungry I have to eat my own thumb!



I feel just like my role model, Augustus Gloop!

Basically you either think this is the cutest thing ever, or you are too grossed out by looking at sweet potatoes mixed with drool that you won't be able to eat your own lunch. 

One boiled sweet potato will last Bert for at least 14 meals, so I'm glad he likes it! In the next couple of weeks we'll be trying some carrots and maybe some green beans and avocado too! We'll see what we come up with. 



Beach Bert

Thursday, February 27, 2020

I have to share something that I just love. Recently there have been some tough days with Bert where he's been pretty whiny. He turned 6 months old this month, and I think he's growing and his schedule changed practically overnight, so things are just tough for him and for me right now because of all the changes.

One day last week, in the late afternoon, I had just about hit my limit on what I could take in the whining department. Bert was dry, fed, and rested, and we had read and played with toys. He was just pretty much over everything. Frankly, I was too. We still had a while before Joe got home from work to shake things up for us, so I thought about what I could do to prevent Bert from contacting the authorities to demand a new mother or me from jumping out a window.

I decided to put on some music to change the atmosphere. I quickly asked myself what was the happiest music I could think of. And it hit me a second later:

The Beach Boys

I mean, right?! So I quickly pulled up YouTube on my phone and hit "play" on the first Beach Boys song that popped up: "Wouldn't It Be Nice."

Oh man -- you would NOT believe what a difference this made in our day. We went through all the hits and survived the afternoon. When Bad Attitude Bert showed up again the following afternoon, I decided to try it again. I wised up this time, though, and just bit the bullet and went to iTunes and downloaded the Beach Boys Greatest Hits. Did you know you can get this entire album on iTunes for $7.99?! SEVEN DOLLARS and NINETY-NINE CENTS! Worth every penny I tell ya.

This morning I needed to dust our upstairs, so I laid Bert down on a blanket in his room with some toys. Before I left his sight to quickly dust the other bedrooms, I turned on the Beach Boys. Please look at Bert's face when he heard the familiar beginning notes of "California Girls," you know which ones I mean --




We might need to buy this kid some board shorts and a surfboard!

Have Mercy On Me.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

In the early afternoon on Sunday, I found out that my cousin died suddenly. It was quite a shock. Yesterday, Monday, around the same time of day, I found out that our former neighbor/friend who has been battling breast cancer for a while died. Both my cousin and my friend were young, not older than 40.

I received the text about our friend -- from her mother -- when Bert and I were driving to a store. When we arrived at the store I just sat in the parking lot in my car and cried. As I sat, listening to the rain pound down on my windshield and hearing the sounds of my son in the backseat, my first thought (after thinking of my friend's family, of course) was

God, have mercy on me, a sinner. 

As I sat there thinking of my friend, the only child of the mother she left behind and herself the mother of a 10-year-old daughter, I recalled the things I have complained about lately:

- The dogs shaking their fur on everything
- My bras not fitting (too big)
- My bras not fitting (too small)
- Having to get up early
- Bert whining
- My new cell phone won't fit on the wireless charger as easily as the old one

God, have mercy on me, a sinner. 

I mean really, right? Now, please don't misunderstand me. Something that really bothers me is when people respond to others' suffering or pain by saying things like "You're lucky it wasn't worse" or "There are people who have it worse than you do." Responding like this when someone is sharing his or her heart with you only shuts them down and shames them. In fact, I read an article about this very thing the other day, and I couldn't agree more. Suffering is not a contest of who has it worse. 

But guys, look at my list. I wasn't complaining about things that are of any consequence whatsoever. I am getting ACTUALLY PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY IRRITATED because some of my nursing bras are now too large. (Oh, and I actually have ones that fit fine, I just have more that don't fit, so clearly a valid complaint.)

It seems that there has been so much sadness lately, specifically with untimely deaths. This type of tragedy has hit everyone from celebrities such as Kobe Bryant to a 50-something father at Fatima in West Virginia to my cousin and my friend. After each death, Joe and I would just look at each other and say, "You never know." And you don't. I think many people say this sort of thing after hearing about a tragedy, but I am ashamed to say that I think like that for about 30 minutes and then go back to failing to appreciate my husband, son, etc. because, you know, my bras don't fit and I have one more dirty pan than will fit in the dishwasher.

One very ironic thing in my behavior that I've noticed recently is that I will think back to a period of my life or an event that took place in the past and think, "I wish I would have enjoyed that more at the time" or "I wish I could go back there and experience that again." And I think these things WHILE FAILING TO ENJOY EXACTLY WHERE I AM. My son is over 6 months old now. He wears 9-12 month clothes, has two teeth, eats solid food, and is about to sit up on his own. We just packed away some of his things that have been staples since the beginning (like his Boppy Lounger), and it makes me so sad to see these things go because they have been such a big part of our lives. But do you think I loved looking at Bert on that dang thing every day? No I did not. A lot of the time I was probably just wishing he'd stop crying. Will I ever learn?

Today there are two mothers and two fathers who are grieving the loss of their children. There are two daughters and one son grieving the loss of their parents. If I allow myself to put myself in their places for longer than a moment, I will shut down entirely, as I cannot fathom how they must be feeling.

God, please give me the grace and wisdom that I need to appreciate my life: the big things and the little things, the wonderful things and the petty annoyances. Give me the gratitude I need to enjoy every moment and the understanding I need that it could be taken away at any moment. Open my eyes so that I see myself and others the way that you do. Bolster me with the perseverance to always say and do what is right. Bless my words so that they can be used to lift others up and not bring them pain, embarrassment, or stress. Allow me to feel that each day is a gift from you so that I may live life the way You intended: with joy and peace, loving You and loving all of Your children the way you do. 




"I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I"
- Hillsong UNITED

"I was held in Your arms
Carried for a thousand miles to show
Not for a moment did You forsake me"
- Meredith Andrews


May Chris's and Mona's souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. 

Bert's First Bites

Friday, February 21, 2020

"Oh, um, excuse me, but -- what is 'dis? What am I wearing? Where I am sitting? What are you putting in my mouth?" 




"Oh, um, well, actually -- this might be pretty good."


"And now I'm over it. What is going on over 'dere?"



***

Bert had his first bites of "real" food today! I say "real" in quotation marks because I'm not sure how "real" 1 tablespoon of rice cereal mixed with 4 tablespoons of breast milk is. Basically, it's just slightly thicker breast milk (barf!), but it was fun to get him started on it! Next week I plan on making and having him try some sweet potato! We'll see how it goes.

P.S. Bert and I plan on collaborating on a "big and tall" baby line. He's never fit into the "right" size clothes and stuffing his giant thighs in this Bumbo was like trying to push a giant marshmallow through a pin hole. :)

Baby's First Foods Tracker

Thursday, February 20, 2020

We went to see the doctor today for Bert's 6 month checkup! The most exciting thing about this time in his life is it's time to start solid foods! I love Bert's pediatrician's approach: try one food at a time, wait 3-5 days before trying a new one, make sure to expose him to peanut butter and eggs, and have fun! Low stress, something to enjoy!

Since I know myself, I knew I'd need something to keep track of Bert's foods on. Most people probably have an app for that, but I'm a paper kind of gal. Always have been. So, I did a quick Google search, but I couldn't find anything that I liked ... for free. Haha. So I decided to quickly make my own little chart and post it here, in the event someone else might like or want something like this.

I made three kinds:

Baby Foods Tracker -- Black and White
Baby Foods Tracker -- Color
Baby Foods Tracker -- Art in Color Only

Gerber Photo Search 2020

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Today I entered Bert in the Gerber Photo Search 2020 because why not, right? We squeaked in just under the deadline of February 21. We were allowed to submit one photo and one video, and I learned in my search process that my baby is very photogenic but terrible in videos. So I guess he'll do print and not runway.

Here's what I chose (with Erin's input on the photo):






I also had to answer two writing prompts. The first one asked me to tell Gerber why my baby is special. I really think we're going to win with my dazzling answer, which can best be summarized as: he's not.

I'll let you know how my career as a stage mom goes!

Breaking Hearts and Blasting Farts.

Friday, February 14, 2020

It's hard to believe that on this very day last year -- Valentine's Day -- we were finally able to tell our closest friends that we were expecting a baby. I added a little heart graphic to our most recent ultra sound photo and texted it out to his "aunts" Colleen, Melissa, Story, and Sarah wishing them a Happy Valentine's Day!

At this point, we had no idea if our baby was a boy or a girl, but we knew we loved him so much and were so happy to have him!

Now it's one year later, and our little guy is now 6 months old! It's a cliche, but it's true: time FLIES.

Happy Valentine's Day from Bert and his two favorite things: breaking hearts and blasting farts. :)

Hope your day is LOVE-ly!

Trips and a Tribute.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Wow! What a busy couple of weeks it's been for us. It seems like we have not a lot going on, and then suddenly -- bam! We have a bunch of things happening all at one time! Does this happen to you, too?

Joe ended up having to go to Tuscaloosa for work a couple days during the week of February 3, so Bert and I tagged along. Unfortunately it was pretty rainy and stormy, and the downtown where we stayed was being ripped apart for all kinds of construction, but we made it work. Bert and I had fun walking around while Joe was working, and then we tried some great places for dinner the three nights we were there. We weren't able to walk around campus like I had hoped, due to weather, but we did get to take a quick drive around! And Bert turned six months old (what?!) while we were there.

Bert enjoying the space exhibit at the Children's Hands-On Museum in Tuscaloosa.

Enjoying the traditional 6 month treat. :) 

Just a random cute picture (if I do say so myself!) that I took of Bert at the hotel.


When we returned to Georgia we had a quick turnaround of laundry and cleaning before we were set to head to West Virginia on Sunday the 9. Joe had work in Lexington a couple days that week, so we headed up to Huntington to visit since it's so close by. We decided not to leave for West Virginia until after the first birthday party of a little friend of Bert's on Saturday the 8th, so imagine our shock when we woke up to this:


Bert's first time seeing snow. He wasn't sure what to think.

"Let me in! Can't you idiots see I'm freezing out here?!"

Wow! My first winter in Georgia (last year) I saw ZERO snowflakes. Not even one flake. We were so shocked to get this much! Needless to say it melted pretty quickly, and it's 64 degrees today, but it was really cool to see that much snow for a hot cold second!

We had a nice time in West Virginia. We went to a mass that was said by the new bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, and he blessed Bert, which was so nice. My mom and dad also joined us for our weekly hike, which we took around Ritter Park on Sunday. I was also able to take Bert around my old school, Fatima, to visit with the teachers and my former students. It was really hard and sad for me to be there in some ways, but I was so glad to see everyone and so glad Bert got to meet them all!

Bert taking a grandparent snooze.

After our hike in Ritter Park.



***

We got back yesterday and are busy trying to unpack, do laundry, grocery shop, clean -- all the things you do after being gone for an extended period of time. We are SO EXCITED because Sarah and Drew are coming to visit this weekend. We cannot wait!!!

***

I know I'm a little late posting about this, but RIP Mary Higgins Clark. I have loved her and her books for many years. I've read them all. In fact, I have almost all of them in both hardback and paperback. You see, my grandmother loves her, and my mom does too. When MHC would come out with a new book, Mamaw would buy it and read it, pass it to mom who read it, and then mom would pass it to me, and I got to both read it AND keep it. Also, Mamaw has been scouring used book sales for years to make sure I have a complete collection.


Not much else going on right now. Just trying to settle back in and counting the minutes till Daylight Savings Time on March 8!!! Hope you're having a good February, too.

Trusting Your Taste.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

One thing that has been occupying a lot of our time lately is home improvement. Well, that's kind of misleading because "home improvement" is not "one thing" but many, many (MANY) things. Neither Joe nor I have ever owned a home before, so we are really enjoying working on this home we bought together.

When looking for a home in our area, our choices really boiled down to two things: a brand new home, completely updated, with modern fixtures and paint colors (subway tile, white kitchen, etc.) that has absolutely no yard to speak of and is 8 feet from neighbors on either side or an older home in need of updates, fresh paint, and landscaping but that has a huge, fenced-in yard and space to breathe between houses. Combining our knowledge of our personalities with the fact we have a child and two dogs, and the choice was simple: older home. The way we see it, you can update and modernize your home over time; however, you cannot add a yard to your house.

That being said, Joe and I have a long list of things we'd like to do around here: all new interior paint, landscaping in the front and back yards, updated kitchen and bathrooms, hardwoods upstairs, new lighting fixtures ... the list goes on and on. (In fact I completely see now why my parents always spend so much time at Lowe's and Home Depot!) We cannot afford to do all this at one time, and honestly, I kind of enjoy it that way. Sure, it'd be great to have everything done at once, but also it's been really fun to focus on different projects, taking time to decide what we like and saving up for it. We have been updating and decorating as we can, doing things like updating ceiling fans and adding things like new rugs and decor. If you read my post the other day, you know that we have taken a lot of time to decide on paint colors, and we hope to have the interior painted in the next month.

One area I really struggle with is interior design and decor. I can see items and examples and tell you individually what things I like and what things I don't like, but when it comes to designing a room, I can't say I really have any vision. I watch design shows or see photos of other people's rooms and homes, and I think -- wow. That's amazing! But when it comes to trusting my own taste, I'm not really sure I have any.

There are so many opinions out there about what paint is in, what tile is in, what colors do and do not go together, what kind of style curtains you should have for the windows you have. It can be overwhelming, and, let's be honest, also a little defeating. Complicating matters is that on design shows the "reveal" never shows the homeowners' real lives: it doesn't show the baby's Exersaucer or play mat. It doesn't show the box of crackers or bag of chips on the kitchen counter. It doesn't show the school reminders tacked to the fridge or the dog toys on the floor. In fact, every time we watch one of these shows and the reveal happens, Joe always (without fail!) asks, "WHERE IS THE TV?!" And you know what, he's right! The finished homes almost NEVER show a television. How many people do you know that don't have a TV? (Joe also always wants to know where the ceiling fans are. The guy loves a ceiling fan. We have several.)

The thing is, with our home, we've just really had to jump in and do it. Joe and I both really like visiting our favorite stores -- both chain and local -- to see what they have and what we like. We also like to talk about other people's houses that we've visited and what we like about those homes. (In fact, Aunt Jen, when we're faced with a decor conundrum, Joe often asks, "What would your aunt Jennifer do?" So if you're reading this: he really likes your house! So do I!) What we have realized during the past few months is -- we don't just like one thing. We like that modern farmhouse bedroom set, we like that mid-century modern lamp and chairs, and we like that traditional couch. Heck -- we even love that industrial table we randomly see over there. Joe and I kind of laugh about our lack of design cohesion, but then it hit me one day: we should be filling our home with the things we love. Sure, it might make more sense to pick a style, find things that match that style, and go on with it. But I realized that the most important thing is to fill our home with the things we love because then we will really enjoy and appreciate them. I told Joe that sure, we could go to one store and see what room ideas they've got set up and take all that stuff. But when we slowly acquire things we find that we love -- whether mass-produced at Target or individualized at my favorite place in Metro Atlanta, Status Home Design -- then we will truly LOVE our things. When I sit in the chairs we recently bought for bedroom after looking and saving for months, I'm like DANG I LOVE THESE CHAIRS! Not that we need stuff to make us happy, but when we find things we do love that help make our house a home, it brings us joy. It makes us feel cozy and comfortable and gives us a haven to come home to.

Perhaps the best example I could show is the following pictures. Our mid-century modern mirror, our modern farmhouse wreaths, and our industrial table. Friends, all three of these things are in the same hallway. But we really like them!





No idea yet what we're putting on this table. Chances are it will absolutely not match the industrial style at all!

Other people might look at our decor and be like: this is terrible. This corner needs a taller object, this mirror is too big for this space, this rug doesn't match the one in the entry way. And, realistically, they are probably right. But we really like our little home, and we have fun figuring out what works and what doesn't as we get better at it. (In fact, I am stalking these chairs for our library on a daily basis for a price drop!) More importantly, we really enjoy the time we spend together updating it and finding new things for it. It's a hobby we can do as a family.

I am working harder to trust my own opinion and taste. And I'm really having fun.

Metro Atlanta stores we like:

Status Home Design -- I could seriously LIVE HERE
C.C. Liquidations

Chain stores we like:

Target (specifically the Project 62  and Hearth and Hand brands. Give me all the things!)
Home Goods

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