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The Best Inexpensive Products

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

If there is one thing in life that I love, it's finding a good deal on something. But honestly, if I could love something even more than that, it would be when I find a great product that has a price that is always a good value, no sale or coupon required! (And I am the kind of person who's like don't even come at me with the word "clearance" unless it's at LEAST 70% off, so you know I'm serious when I say I'll pay full price for these things!) I don't know about you guys, but I don't have endless amounts of money to spend, so today I've rounded up a list of products that I love that I feel are an excellent value for the price.



1. Raw Sugar The Moisture Smoothie Conditioner, $9.99 for 18 fl. oz., Target
I don't really have great hair. It's very oily, but the ends are also really dry. (Could some of this be because I haven't had a haircut since before Thanksgiving? I mean, maybe. Don't worry, I have one scheduled for this Friday!) I love this conditioner. I bought it on a whim at Target based on some good reviews I saw, and I'm so glad I did. I think it's what allowed me to have hair that didn't look TOO terrible for all these past months. It's hydrating, yet light. 

2. Coppertone Sport Clear Sunscreen, $7.97 for 5 fl. oz., Amazon.com
If there's one thing I know, it's sunscreens. I am obsessed with wearing sunscreen any time I am outside, and I reapply frequently. I've been known to use an entire can or bottle of sunscreen during one pool or beach day. This sunscreen goes on so smoothly, doesn't leave your skin feeling greasy or dirty, and is incredibly light. 

3. Day Designer Day Planner, $19.99 for 8.5" x 11.0" (also comes in a smaller size), Amazon.com
I am a die-hard devotee of the paper planner, and trust me when I tell you I've tried a ton of them. I've done the Kate Spade, the Erin Condren, and, most recently, the Plum Paper. These babies aren't cheap! This year I decided to try a less expensive planner, and I am very happy with my choice! This planner features both month at a glance (which is a requirement for me) as well as weekly options. It also comes with a pocket folder as well as some fun stickers. If, like me, you live by the academic year, you can buy a 2020-2021 planner now. There are also a lot of pretty cover options! Consider splurging on some great pens to go with it, like I did. It's an inexpensive way to feel good!

4. imPRESS Press-On Manicure, $5.99, Target
Guys, I almost didn't want to tell you about this one because I don't want there to be a run on my favorite colors. But I couldn't keep it from you! I always like having my nails done. No matter what I look like or what I'm wearing, having my nails done just really makes me feel put together. I had been getting my nails done every couple of weeks for a few years, and man, it's nice, but it can get so expensive. On top of that, it takes up a lot of time, and on top of THAT I have tried so many nail salons in the greater Atlanta area and just haven't found one that I really like. My nails grow fast, so I need the polish close to my cuticle, and I also just can't deal with chips or peeling polish. Someone I know mentioned these nails on Facebook several months ago, and I was like -- yeah this SOUNDS awesome, but press-on nails, really? Like is it 1992? But I decided I'd buy one box, thinking I'd give it a try, they'd pop off, and I'd just be mad and go back to doing whatever else the next day. I was so, so wrong. These nails are incredibly easy to apply (NO GLUE!), they are incredibly easy to remove (NO ACETONE!), and they last about seven days. I'm not kidding when I tell you I wash dishes in these, I work outside in the yard in these, I go to the pool in these. They stay on so well and look great! And the truth is, even if one of them does pop off, there are so many extras in the box that you can find a similar sized one to replace it with. I usually buy mine at Target or Walmart where they are $5.99 a box, but you can also get them at Walgreens or CVS where they are $7.99 a box. (Still a great deal!) The only place I wouldn't buy them, weirdly, is from the imPRESS website. Their customer service and communication aren't great, but I've never had an issue just buying them straight from the store! If you change these nails weekly for a month, you are spending around $24.00 for your entire monthly manicures when just one gel manicure plus tip is around $40. My advice for these is to apply them at night so that you give them some time to adhere before you get your hands wet. 

5. Auden brand bras, $9.99-$21.99, Target
I have been either pregnant or nursing a child for about a year and a half now. Bert is slowly being weaned from nursing, and I realized I needed some new bras. Bras are expensive. SO EXPENSIVE. And it's not like you can go without them. The thing is, I needed more than one, meaning I couldn't really spend $50 on a single bra. I don't know how I stumbled across this brand, but I saw these bras on the Target website for prices like $14.99 and $16.99. I couldn't believe it. I read the reviews, and they were generally really good. I ordered three (two different kinds), and I was so impressed when they arrived. They fit great, they are comfortable, and there aren't any weird gaps. I will be honest that I haven't had them long enough to speak to how they hold up to several washings, but right now I am really impressed. 

6. NYX Eyebrow Powder, $5.49, Amazon.com 
My good friend Story inspired me to start filling in my eyebrows several years ago, and shortly after I started I couldn't live without it. Filling in your brows just totally changes your face. I am serious when I tell you that if I could only keep a single makeup item in my life it would be this eyebrow powder. Honestly, ask me if I filled in my eyebrows when I was in labor with Bert, and I will not be embarrassed to say YEP! I didn't have any other makeup on, but I just had to use this powder! Even on days when I don't leave my house, I use this product. I love it! I use Black/Gray, but it also comes in Brunette, Taupe/Ash, Dark Brown/Brown, and maybe some others, too. 

Are there any inexpensive yet great products you can't live without? Let me know! 


Best of the Summer So Far

Monday, July 6, 2020


I hope you had a great Fourth of July holiday! Can you believe it's already July?! I feel like June flew by -- after a spring that seemed to last for years -- so I'm hoping and praying time will slow down a bit again so that summer will feel like it lasts forever. We are gearing up to take a trip next week, so this week will bring a lot of list making, laundry, and packing. And, of course, reading! I have five unread books from the library, plus one I need to read for my Litsy markup postal book club, plus another two to review for Netgalley. Oh, and I'm scheduled to do another library pick up tomorrow. Have I gone a little overboard with my to be read list lately? Mayyyyybe. Point is, I need to get reading! 

Today I wanted to share with you some of my best of the best summer reading so far. We're one month in, and I feel pretty lucky to have read so many good books so far this season. (Book links will take you to my shop on Bookshop.org or to Amazon.com via my affiliate link.

Best Book With a Sequel 
This one is a tie between two sets of really great books:

The Book: Beartown by Fredrik Backman (Find at Bookshop.org or at Amazon.com)
A small, dying town is holding on to its junior hockey team as its last hope for success. One night, an incident occurs between two teens that rips the town apart. 

The Sequel: Us Against You by Fredrik Backman (Find at Bookshop.org or at Amazon.com)
A dying rural town is about to lose its beloved hockey team. The ex-players are mostly transferring to a rival team. A new team is built around a few hardworking young men. Sadly, tensions between the two towns escalate to a point of no return. 

The Book: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus (Find at Bookshop.org or at Amazon.com)
Five high school students students go to detention, but only four make it out alive. It's The Breakfast Club turned deadly in this novel.

The Sequel: One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus (Find at Bookshop.org or at Amazon.com)
In the wake of the shocking events of the first novel, a new mystery student starts a Truth or Dare game at Bayview High that turns deadly. 

Best Book About Loving Books

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (Find at Bookshop.org or at Amazon.com)
Nina Hill is a book lover who works in a bookstore. She is anxious, organized, and a planner. She also values her solitude and quiet life. Out of the blue she meets the (large) family of the father she never knew. 

Best Book By a British Author

The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan (Find at Bookshop.org or at Amazon.com)
A young woman returns home after suffering a tragedy. She has always had a strained relationship with her mother while harboring fond memories of her childhood nanny who abruptly left. The woman soon learns that what she thought was true might not be. 

Best Book by an Author With a New Book Coming Out Soon

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware, new book One By One out in the US on September 8 (Find at Bookshop.org or at Amazon.com)
A woman gets a job as a nanny in a remote house in Scotland. As soon as she arrives, strange things start happening, climaxing with the death of one of the children. 

Best Early Book by Someone Who Became Famous With a Later Book

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, her most famous novel Gone Girl was released in 2012 (Find at Bookshop.org or at Amazon.com)
A reporter just out of a psych hospital is sent to her small hometown to report on the murders of two young girls. By the end of her stay, she unravels the mystery surrounding the death of her own sister as well. 

Best Young Adult Novel

Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda (Find at Bookshop.org or at Amazon.com)
A 17-year-old girl begins packing up the bedroom of her boyfriend who has just died. As she goes through his things, remembering parts of their relationship, she learns things are not what they seem.

Best Book to Read With Your Book Club

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser (Find at Bookshop.org or at Amazon.com)
A woman and her two young children disappear the morning after she spent an evening drinking wine around a fire with her neighbors. The novel examines the lives of several women as they struggle to find out what happened to their neighbor. 

Best Book by an Author You've Never Heard Of

The Longest Day of the Year by Kim Wright (Find at Amazon.com)
Four women sit on the beach and talk. They are different ages and have seemingly different backgrounds, but somehow they are all connected. As they talk about their lives, it becomes clear that the one thing they all love is their precious beach. 

I hope you have a beautiful week! 




Happily Ever Krafter Recommends

Thursday, June 11, 2020

One of my favorite things is when I find a source I trust to recommend books. Of course, we all enjoy different things, but when you find a good source whose taste seems to match your own -- or who will provide a thorough enough review that you can decide whether or not a book is for you -- you latch on. There are so many great books out there, and sometimes deciding what to read next can be overwhelming!

With that in mind, I have opened up a "shop" on Bookshop.org. Have you heard of this? Bookshop.org is an online bookstore that financially supports independent bookstores. Their website states:

As more and more people buy their books online, we wanted to create an easy, convenient way for you to get your books and support bookstores at the same time.

If you want to find a specific local bookstore to support, find them on our map and they’ll receive the full profit off your order. Otherwise, your order will contribute to an earnings pool that will be evenly distributed among independent bookstores (even those that don’t use Bookshop).

Doesn't this sound great? 

When you visit my page on Bookshop.org, you will see several lists of books I recommend in different categories; I like to think of it as my own virtual lending library! So far my categories include:

Book Club Picks -- Looking for a new selection for your book club? Here are my suggestions for compelling books that would make for interesting discussion!

Middle Grade Readers -- As a middle school teacher, I love finding out what my students are reading. Here are some great ideas, both classic and contemporary.

Books About Reading -- If you love reading about reading, these books are for you!

Bert's Books -- Here is a list of books my baby loves!

Summer Reads -- Perfect books for lying on the beach or lounging by the pool!

Classics to Rediscover -- Maybe you forgot how much you loved them; maybe you never read them at all!

Suspense and Thrillers -- Do you like to be kept on the edge of your seat with a little mystery? These are the books for you!

Fiction -- Some of these novels are serious, others funny, but the one thing they have in common is that they're compelling!

I'll be adding books to each category as I find new things to recommend, and I will probably add more categories too. If there's a category you'd like to see, let me know!

Please visit me for book recommendations at Bookshop.org at my shop, Happily Ever Krafter. As always, you can also find me on Litsy and Goodreads. Happy reading! 


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A little disclaimer: if you purchase a book on Bookshop.org through my shop, or via an Amazon Affiliate link, I will receive a commission of 10%. You know I will never suggest any book I don't love (NO MORE BORING BOOKS, remember?), so you can trust that all opinions are my own. I appreciate you supporting this blog and the stay-at-home mom who runs it! 


Summer Reading 2020

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

GUYS. IT IS TIME. The best reading season of the year: SUMMER!

In August of 2016 (theme: The Summer 
We Read Austen) and August of 2017 (theme: More Alive and Less Lonely) I wrote posts detailing all of the books I had read those summers and included my favorite quotations and pieces of books that really spoke to me. At the end of summer 2018 I didn't do this as I had just gotten married, moved, and started a new job. I also failed to do this in summer 2019 because we had bought a house and I had a baby. But I am determined to complete another summer round up this August because I have missed looking back on my summer reading.

Things will look a little different reading-wise for me this summer than in summers past. This is the first summer I've had a child to take care of and not the endless amounts of hours I used to have to read. Admittedly, this is a little hard for me. I love my husband and son, but I sort of just wish that they'd leave me alone so I could read! I mean, Bert will be 10 months old tomorrow; he can watch himself now, right? I frequently take a nostalgic look back to the summer of 2016, heretofore named "The Perfect Summer." This was the first summer I had since I started teaching where I was a. not working and b. not taking a full-time load of graduate courses. I did take on some part-time work at church two days a week, but five days a week I had nothing whatsoever to do. On Tuesdays I would take a morning yoga class, stop by the library to pick up my stack of books, and then head to the pool. I'd stay at the pool until I finished a book, then I'd head home and continue to read. No one needed me, I didn't have to go anywhere, I could just read books in peace. Sigh. Those were good days. I mean, I like my life now, too, don't get me wrong, but sigh -- those were the good old days! 

Truthfully, though, I have been attempting to train myself to do some reading while Bert is asleep in the afternoons and after he goes to bed and we eat dinner at night. I try to complete all my house chores and responsibilities in the early and mid-mornings and leave some time later in the day for reading. I enjoy it, yes, but I have also found that I am a much nicer person when I've had time alone to read. It just makes me who I am. I am excited that our library is back open for pick ups, and I have been weekly for the past three weeks and will go again Thursday. I might not make it through my stacks as quickly as I used to, but I am still making it through the stacks! Also, both Bert and I are registered for our library's summer reading program. I am so excited for Bert's first summer reading program ever. (The first of many, I hope!)

It sounds like it would be the opposite, but I actually read LESS during quarantine. One reason is because Joe was working from home, so we had more time for yard and house projects that kept us really busy. The bigger reason, though, is, I GOT STUCK WITH THE MOST BORING BOOK WHEN THE LIBRARY CLOSED! Remember at the beginning of the year when I vowed NO MORE BORING BOOKS?! Well, apparently someone up there was laughing because after an on-fire January and February, I got stuck with a super boring book in March when the library closed. So, although I had made that promise to myself, I tried so hard for weeks -- months! -- to read that boring book until one day I was like THIS IS STUPID. Guys, just stop reading boring books. 

I'm still keeping up with my Modern Mrs. Darcy 2020 Reading Challenge, but not exclusively so. Here's what I've been reading lately:

Beartown by Fredrik Backman
- I highly recommend this book. I had read two of his books previously, and this one did not disappoint. A note to people who have read his books before: I found this one to be much heavier than the other two I've read (My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry and Britt-Marie Was Here). I am now reading the follow up to Beartown called Us Against You.



- I can't remember the last time I read a modern heroine that so totally reminded me of myself. The main character is anxious, a planner, organized, loves books and trivia, drinks wine, and loves being alone. It's like Abbi Waxman looked into my life. I recommend this if you are looking for a light, fun read with a plot that talks about a love of books!

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
- I'd love to talk about this one with someone who has read it. It's an intense family drama, and I usually enjoy these types of stories, but this one felt to me like it was, I don't know, unfinished maybe? Let me know if you read it so we can talk about it!

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
- I have read two of Shari Lapena's prior books (The Couple Next Door and A Stranger in the House), and I liked this one as well. She had me hooked from the first few pages because there were so many parallels between it and my favorite novel of all time, Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. Reading the beginning vignettes about each character's arrival to the inn where the story takes place is so like Agatha Christie's novel that I almost expected to see the characters from that book show up in this one too! Shari Lapena is known for a good twist ending, and this one did not disappoint! 


Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
- This is a young adult novel, and I like to keep up with these as much as I can since I enjoy talking about books with students and former students. I really enjoyed this debut novel about two teens who get involved in an all-out Twitter war between their families' restaurants. 


If you want to keep up with everything I'm reading, and more importantly, my ever-growing list of things I want to read, please follow me on Litsy or add me as a friend on Goodreads

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This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a book through this page, I may receive a small commission. All the thoughts shared here are my own.

June 1

Monday, June 1, 2020

Today is June 1. 

We've all been looking forward to this, haven't we? Or just me?

There's something beautiful about the beginning of a new month, and it seems even more magical when the first is on a Monday. It seems like a double fresh start. And, for me, June 1 means summer (even though I know it technically isn't, not yet) which is the best time of the year. And after the dumpster fire that was March, April, and May, I think we were all hoping that June would bring some sort of peace to our lives. 

But it didn't happen, did it? 

I was hopeful this morning when I woke up, hopeful in the far-fetched, no real reason to be kind of way that I sometimes am. Then Joe read aloud some of the news he was looking at this morning. When he got to the part where there are reports that people in Austin, Texas were laughing as a homeless man's possessions were set on fire, I couldn't hear any more. 

I've recently learned that I'm a highly sensitive person. I mean, I've always known that I am really sensitive, but I've recently learned that being a highly sensitive person is actually a thing. Honestly, it helps me to put a name on it because I feel that the more you can learn about yourself, the better you  become at making choices that help you and your mental health. For me, when I hear about a homeless person's belongings being set on fire and people laughing, or a person being literally murdered in the street because of the color of his skin by a law enforcement officer sworn to serve and protect while other people just watched, or any of the other many, many sad and awful things that seem to happen on a daily basis, I am broken up about it for a while, and it affects my daily ability to live life. When Joe told me what he told me this morning, I literally sat there in bed rolling it over again and again in my mind. A HOMELESS man's belongings were set on fire and people were laughing. A HOMELESS man's belongings were SET ON FIRE and people were laughing. A HOMELESS MAN'S BELONGINGS WERE SET ON FIRE AND PEOPLE WERE LAUGHING. That sentence joined the other ones that are still taking up space in my head: A BLACK MAN WAS LITERALLY MURDERED BY A POLICE OFFICER IN THE STREET WHILE PEOPLE WATCHED. PEOPLE ARE DAMAGING AND STEALING FROM SMALL BUSINESSES THAT ARE OWNED BY LOCAL PEOPLE WHO HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG AND HAVE FAMILIES TO SUPPORT. What happens is, it makes me unable to engage with my baby who is smiling and playing right beside me. So I made I decision I have been thinking about for the past couple of days. 

I am getting off Facebook. 

At first it might not sound like Joe telling me something relates to me staying off Facebook, but the truth is I've spent the past couple of days being disturbed all day long by things I see on Facebook. I don't spend much time on it, truthfully, but as a stay at home mom who is isolated at home with a baby who can't talk all day, sometimes I need to see what the world is up to. And lately it's been dragging me down. Probably not just lately. Forever. Joe is not on Facebook -- or on any social media (except Pinterest, long story, and I know it sounds hilarious!) -- and he is always saying how awesome it is to just live his life. And he's right. On Facebook lately all I've seen are people saying awful things, numerous headlines about violence of all kinds, and people posting statuses like they are experts on literally everything and their opinions are the only ones that matter. I can't even get on my neighborhood's Facebook group any more because there are people on that page who say rude and aggressive things to other neighbors. We're supposed to use that page to talk about the hours of the pool and to check in with each other about safety issues and things like that! 

Please don't take what I'm saying as meaning that I plan to bury my head in the sand and just pretend things aren't happening in the world. That's not true. All it means is that I can control the time and place I choose to read news and take in headlines, which will allow me to be more mentally and emotionally available to my husband, son, other family members, and friends. It also gives me the time and clearer head I need to decide how to take action and find out how I can best help. 

I plan to jump on Facebook to update my Happily Ever Krafter Facebook page with any blog updates, but other than that, I won't be there. The app is already gone from my phone. So if you'd like to engage with me via social media, find me on Instagram (which just seems generally to be a nicer place; maybe I'm wrong) where I might be from time to time, or, better yet, on Litsy, my most favorite app because it's all about books, and Goodreads because I will most likely just be online to read about reading all summer.

***

When I came downstairs this morning, I was overcome with the need for a little pleasant company. Joe was getting ready to leave for work (they were cleared to start working outside the house again on Friday), and I just needed a little light company. We don't usually have the TV on during Bert's awake hours (except on Friday mornings when we let him watch a little Batman), but today I decided to turn on Sesame Street. We have access to the HBO Go app courtesy of my parents' cable package, and you can watch classic Sesame Street on that app. I want Bert to watch a little Sesame Street because first, it's a great show that I've always loved, and two, well, his name is Bert! I watched a lot of Sesame Street growing up, and I remember loving Maria, Gordon, Bob, Linda, Luis, Mr. Hooper and all the characters. 

I turned it on and put Bert in his high chair to eat a few Cheerios while I emptied the dishwasher, made coffee, started laundry, and made Bert's breakfast. At one point I looked up, and this is what I saw:


Do you see what I see in this photo? We have Gordon, Olivia, David, and Susan who are African American; Bob, Linda, and Mr. Hooper who are white; Luis who is Mexican; Maria who is Puerto Rican; Mr. Hooper who is Jewish; and Linda who is deaf. This show that started in the 1970s has always had a beautiful and diverse cast, and it is a beloved show. People are all treated the same on Sesame Street and differences are celebrated and used as opportunities to learn about others' races, religions, and cultures. Sesame Street has been getting it right for decades, but in actual America we are still ... well, you see where we are and what's going on. 

EDIT:

Sesame Street is still on, and Bert and Ernie just finished singing a song that goes, "I don't like everything you like, but I like you." 

***

Yesterday we got to go to mass for the first time since March, and it was wonderful. We love our pastor, Father Jack, and he always knows just what to say. He frequently talks about current issues and sensitive topics, but it is always done in a way that is hopeful and centered on Christ. Yesterday, Pentecost, he made the comment that, "They [the apostles] spoke different languages but understood each other. In our country, we speak the same language, but we don't understand each other." That really struck me as so true and so sad. He also reminded us that God has something to say in every situation, and we have to look and see what He is trying to say to us. Father Jack also said that it is our responsibility to stand up for -- and lay our lives down for -- people that are more vulnerable than we are. He said that Christ did not wait for justice, he was willingly crucified and brought justice because He brought mercy. There can be no justice without mercy. 

*** 

My friend Sarah got me a wonderful daily calendar that features scripture or uplifting sayings on each page. Here's today's:




As always, I appreciate the time you take to read what I write and the kindness you show in allowing me to say it. I hope you have a beautiful week. 

EDIT:

I just saw that I posted this post on June 14, 2016, almost exactly four years ago. It begins with a sentence I could have begun with today. In that post, I also cited another post that I wrote in November 2014. It breaks my heart to read it all over again. 

Top 9 Things New Moms Need at Home

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A couple of months ago (which feels like a couple of YEARS ago now that we're in the midst of a pandemic, let's be honest), I wrote a post about what I feel are nine of the top baby items for birth through six months of age.

Today I'm going to share what I feel are nine of the top things a new mom should have at home waiting for her when she returns from giving birth. This list is definitely not exhaustive, but thinking back to my first days home from the hospital back in August, these are nine things that definitely saved my life and made me feel good. (Let me also add that I delivered Bert vaginally -- notice I did not say "naturally" because ALL BIRTH IS NATURAL but that's a post for another day! -- so if you have a C-section there are probably different items you might like!) I am very honest in these recommendations, so read at your own risk! Okay, here we go!




1. Carnation Breakfast Essentials Light Start -- I got these shakes a couple weeks before Bert was born because I had a coupon and thought why not? I am so glad I did. Breastfeeding made me SO hungry, and I definitely woke up every morning starving, but sometimes (alllll the time!) baby can't wait to eat. Luckily, with these shakes you can drink one really fast right before you feed your baby, or you can even drink it as you feed your baby because it only takes one hand! I especially like the "light start" ones because they are low in sugar but high in protein. I like both the chocolate and vanilla flavors. 

2. Cliff Bars -- This goes along with number 1, but basically these Cliff Bars are packed with good things, easy to eat, and delicious. They filled me up enough to feed Bert, and just like the breakfast shakes I could eat them while feeding him if necessary. My favorite flavor is Chocolate Chunk with Sea Salt. 

3. A good water bottle -- I'd been using the Camelbak Eddy since the beginning of last school year, and I love this water bottle! Breastfeeding makes you THIRSTY (at least it does most people) and having a full water bottle at all times is so important! 

4. Extra heavy overnight maxi pads -- So in the interest of full disclosure, the most shocking thing I learned in pre-baby class was I would likely bleed for six weeks after having my baby. SIX. WEEKS. I was appalled! The upside of pregnancy some people say is you don't have a period for about nine months, but people fail to tell you that once you deliver the baby you will basically get all your periods at once. I was outraged. I called my mom and asked her if she knew about this. Haha. 

5. Hemorrhoid supplies -- I had to go to Walmart and buy hemorrhoid cream and witch hazel pads AFTER I had the baby, and Walmart was not the place I wanted to be three days post-partum. Do yourself a favor and get these things before. Also, my mom sent me the Rachel's Remedy Down There Relief Pack, and it was great. All I will say is I was woefully unprepared for this situation. WOEFULLY.

6. Flushable wipes -- I doubt you really need me to say too much about this, so I won't. Get some. 

7. Nice pajamas -- Chances are you will be wearing pajamas a lot the first few weeks, and having nice, clean pajamas really made me feel good. I had ordered a pajama dress from Amazon prior to Bert's birth which I really like (still wear!), and I was also really fortunate because my mother-in-law got me this really nice pajama set from Soma too. At night I would lay out what I wanted to wear the next day so I was ready to go when I got up early, and I would just wear that thing all day and sleep in it too. I can't tell you what a difference nice, clean pajamas made in my overall outlook on life. Get yourself a couple of nice pairs. 

8. A comforting show to watch -- After Joe returned to work and all the grandparents went home, I was left alone with Bert for the first time. It got a little lonely around the house, and it really helped to have a familiar show on in the background during the day. It might sound silly, but it helped me feel less alone. I was a big fan of Jane the Virgin when it was still on TV, and so I would turn it on on Netflix during the day when I was home alone with Bert. I recommend this show because it's funny and over-the-top dramatic while also being incredibly heartwarming and well written. It was especially fun to re-watch Jane during her pregnancy and delivery after I had just been through my own.

9. A new show to watch -- My friend Maggie recommended to select a new show to watch during the night when I was breastfeeding Bert. It was great advice! I just kept my Chromebook plugged in near the love seat in our room where I did Bert's overnight feedings. While Joe was changing Bert's diaper, I'd prep my show. Joe would go back to bed, and I'd watch the show while feeding Bert. I'd turn the subtitles on so it wouldn't be too loud. It really gave me something to look forward to during those lonely overnight hours. I watched Dead to Me and also Good Girls, both of which are on Netflix. 

Along with these nine things, I'd also suggest making sure your medicine cabinet is stocked with Advil and Tylenol. 

Parents, siblings, significant others, and friends of new moms -- maybe consider getting the new mom in your life something from this list like nice pajamas, easy to eat snacks and drinks, or a Netflix subscription if she doesn't already have one. One more suggestion would be meals or a meal service. I got REALLY strung out by the thought of meal prep before Bert was born. It was nothing at all for me to sit in his room for hours organizing his clothes by size, but the minute I thought about prepping meals for the freezer, I panicked. I'd look up recipes, see there were more than four ingredients, and panic-close the browser tab. I mentioned this to my sister Erin one day and she said something that changed my life: "Meal prep is for people who enjoy meal prep." I have never enjoyed cooking or making meals, especially ones that involve a ton of ingredients, and I realized how right Erin was. I mean, I plan a weekly menu of dinners for our family every week, but that's about as much as I can do. What helped was that Erin and my other sister Emma made several meals while they were here and put them in our freezer (because they like cooking). My mom and Joe's mom also cooked while they were here. Finally, some of our extended family who live far away sent us a week's worth of meal delivery from Freshly. I told Daniel and Catherine this, but I didn't realize how much energy I spent planning meals every week until I didn't have to for a while. 

The last thing I'll say is this: whatever your "feel good" thing is, do that thing. This might sound really stupid, but I really like to have my eyebrows filled in. If I could have only one make up item, it'd be eyebrow powder, I'm not even kidding. So even when I was showering every other day or so, had dirty hair, or was wearing pajamas, I filled my eyebrows in every day. It made me feel awesome. So if you have something like that, give yourself permission to do it. Your baby won't miss you for the three minutes it takes you to fill your eyebrows in, do some stretches, or sit outside in the sun. 

You are Never Ready.

Monday, April 20, 2020

I know a couple of people who are expecting babies and people who are thinking about having babies, and I have found myself saying something a couple of times lately that I think it's important for people to know. I am not here to give advice (check it), but this is not advice really; I'd like to think that it is a supportive statement. So here's what I want you to know:

You are never ready to have a baby. 

Joe said this to me a lot during my pregnancy, and man, he was so right. The thing is, we tried to be as prepared as we could be for Bert; we made sure he had a crib and car seat, we painted his bedroom, we took a birthing class. And you know what? He popped out and threw us all for a complete loop. Even if he had come out completely healthy and fine, there is still no preparing for those never-ending nights that finally end, the weird crying over what seems like nothing, and just generally what it feels like to be completely responsible for another human being 24/7.

Friends, there is nothing you can buy, no amount of money you can save, no plan you can make that will completely prepare you for a baby. And while that might sound scary, it's actually not, and here's why: because God has already given you everything you need to be your baby's mother (or father). It's like what a fellow teacher told me once about being a new teacher: you give 100%, and maybe your 100% is only 30% of what your baby actually needs, but that's okay because God will give the other 70%. He will plug in those holes, and it will be beautiful. My friend Maggie reminds me a lot that Bert is Joe and my child for a very specific reason. God gave Bert to us because we are exactly the parents that Bert needs. We were all made for each other. Also, Joe tells me a lot too that Bert doesn't know what the internet says he should be doing or accomplishing, and that's true. Maybe you've never been a mother before, but guess what? Your baby has never been anyone's baby before either.

If you're reading this, here's what I know about you: you are already a great mother. And you have everything you need.


I mean, look how happy this kid looks, right? I'm clearly killing it as a mom. :) 


My Babies Grew Up

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

If you've been reading this blog for a while, or if you know me in person, then you definitely remember my group of students that I lovingly referred to as my "ragtag group of weirdos." They were my first class of seventh grade students my first year of teaching, and I had them in eighth grade as well. The class started with 11 boys and one girl and grew to 11 boys and two girls by the end of the eighth grade. I had been warned that they were badly behaved and difficult to handle, and at first they were. I can't put my finger on exactly when things changed or why or how, but this wild, rambunctious, off the wall class became the thing I loved most in life.

I could sit here all day and list stories about them: the funny things they said, the pranks they pulled, the gift they gave me which I will never forget (and still follows me to new classrooms to this day). But I don't have all day, so all I can say is I love, love, love them dearly and I'd do anything to get all 13 of them back in one room just one more time.

I've been thinking about these students a lot lately because they are getting ready to graduate high school. I honestly cannot believe it. I have been thinking a lot about my time with them and all the things they did and the things we went through together, both awful and wonderful. And I realized that this group, who were always in some kind of trouble for doing some sort of nutty thing or other, this group of ragtag weirdos whom I loved more than anything, are now these people:

- Eagle scouts (Two students!)
- Going to West Virginia University on a soccer scholarship and is the salutatorian of her class
- Going to West Point on a tennis scholarship
- State golf title winners (Two of my students from this class were on this team, plus one student I had a couple years later was on the team, too! And one of my students was the team leader.)
- Selected for the West Virginia Youth Symphony Orchestra and also the National Youth Symphony Orchestra 
- 4.0 students

And these are just the things I thought of off the top of my head that have happened lately and don't even include just the general ways in which they have done good deeds or made other people's days brighter.

***

Tyson, Emilie, Chase, Tanner, Devan, Sam, Armaan, Matthew, Gabe, Tommy, Cameron, Tucker, and Ian (see I can still even put you in alphabetical order quickly!):

I always knew that you would be a huge part of my life's story while I was only a small part of yours. I continue to thank God every day for blessing me with you. Thank you for the joy you brought to my life for the two years I saw you every day. My heart hurts a little bit when I think of those times because I miss them so much. But I am so happy when I think of all the things you'll do with your lives. I love you all dearly, and I am so, so proud of you.

Love,

Miss L. 




Value

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!

____

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a book through this page, I may receive a small commission. All the thoughts shared here are my own.

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!

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