Ordinary Joy Mama Review

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To read my review of this 3-in-1 cover from The Undercover Baby (and for a discount code and giveaway opportunity) head over to www.ordinaryjoymama.wordpress.com. I’ve set this blog up to work in conjunction with my Instagram account and keep reviews, etc. separate from my more personal updates here. :)

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{Mommy Journal} Our Current Top Five Picture Books

Both our moms taught us to LOVE books, so Andrew and I were determined to make them a big part of our children’s lives. :) We are so thrilled that our little Monkey absolutely adores being read to. I thought I would share some of our current favorites that may be a little more obscure. It’s hard to narrow it down, but here are our current Top Five. These are affiliate links to Amazon. :)

All the Places to Love by Patricia McLachlan

Brought to you by the author of Sarah, Plain and Tall! This was a favorite of mine growing up, and it just so happens that the little boy’s name is Eli, so now it is even more dear to me! The paintings in this book are truly stunning and the nostalgic tone with which it is written might bring a tear to your eye. It does to mine, but I’m not even two months postpartum. ;) Caleb is completely enraptured by the pictures!

 

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

This author has several cute books, and this is Andrew’s and Caleb’s favorite. The fun plot and quirky illustrations make it a hit, especially for boys!

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

This title is just plain cute and heart-warming. Caleb loves to point out silly things in the peculiar illustrations, and I enjoy reading it in exactly the way that the narrator did when we had it on tape growing up. ;)

Lentil by Robert McCloskey

Robert McCloskey is one of my all-time favorite authors, so be sure to check out his many other picture and chapter books! His black-and-white drawings are full of sweet details and great facial expressions. Lentil is Caleb’s favorite of our McCloskey collection: the story of a little boy who can’t pucker his lips to whistle, but can play a harmonica…and how that skill saves the day!

 

Paddington by Michael Bond

I love this picture book version of one of my favorite chapter book characters, and Caleb requests it often. The pictures are darling and it is well-written, so it’s fun for a grownup to read. Sometimes I practice my poor British accent for added interest. ;)

Next on my list to purchase is Nine for California...yet another favorite from my childhood! What’s the current favorite picture book in your home?

Hell0, 2017!

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links. :) 

I have a love/hate relationship with midnight, New Year’s Eve. I appreciate the opportunity to turn a new leaf, but I am very nostalgic, so I always cry as we bid farewell to another year. One year, Andrew and I took a getaway over New Year’s with two couples. While the other five were drinking sparkling cider and watching fireworks from the balcony, I was sitting inside with tears streaming down my face. It’s become a big joke…my friend Brittney always texts me to ask how my annual cry was. ;)

This year, I missed the countdown. My hubby was in bed and I was in the dark living room feeding my baby. I felt contented and peaceful as I looked at the clock and realized it was midnight, 2017. I didn’t cry.

I’ve come a long way in the past year. When I reflect on where I was at as of January 1, 2016, I am thrilled to see tangible ways that God changed and grew me. If I had to pick one word to describe my 2016 “journey” it would have to be “trust”. I continued down the path of learning to give my mommy anxiety to God and let Him care for my little ones. I gave our future job/ministry plans to God as we waited for Him to open doors. I let go of stressing about when God would give us another baby. Over and over, God met our needs and gave us answers, sometimes to questions we hadn’t even thought to ask. He showed me repeatedly that trusting Him is always best, and He is always faithful. I am so grateful for the work He did in me, through pain and through joy, and I look forward to 2017 with great anticipation for what He will accomplish!

In some ways, with the excitement of a new baby and Andrew’s completion of seminary, the New Year caught me off guard. So I’m behind on goals and plans. But here are a few scattered ones I’ve been mulling over for awhile. These are mostly practical/tangible. There are also many other ways I am asking God to grow me in godliness and Christlikeness this year.

I am purposing NOT to push through the days and “just try to make it” to crib time or bed time or Daddy getting home. All the frustrations and accidents and challenges that happen on our way to those times of respite are what these little years are made of. How can I wish them away?? I want to be very present and to enjoy my children even when it is hard to see past the spilled juice and the meltdowns and the blowouts. These sweet little souls will only be little for so long and I will choose to embrace this season, each part of it!

I hope to grow in my prayer life, to sieze many small opportunities to commune with God throughout my day. I have grown in being faithful to actually pray for people when I say I will, and I desire to be even more consistent in this and remember to check in with those I am lifting up.

I will seek to grow in having a “helper mindset” toward Andrew. To be flexible and adaptable, eager to free him up for ministry to others. I was dependedent on him so much last year when I was in the throes of pregnancy sickness, and I am excited to use my good health and energy this year to better serve and help him fulfill his callings. I want to be a gracious and humble wife, with low expectations.

I desire to train our children with their salvation and love for the gospel in mind. To correct for the purpose of showing them their need for Christ and His perfect fulfillment of that need, rather than for the purpose of making my life easier, making me look good, etc. I want to train them unselfishly with true, biblical love, and to be consistent and not lazy in my correction.

I will take consistent preventative measures to build up our immune systems as best we can, while knowing that God alone oversees our health. I did some research over the past few months and with Andrew’s permission, picked a few realistic things to create our new daily supplements “regimen”. They are a good probiotic (I’ll be rotating which one we take every few weeks), vitamin C, and cod liver/fish oil. I also just bought elderberries to make elderberry syrup, and we have almost entirely cut refined sugar from Caleb’s diet. I am still taking my prenatal vitamins, magnesium, and a large dose of Vitamin D daily, per my midwife. I hope these efforts help us achieve a healthier year, but I know that God is in charge of whether or not we get sick.

I hope to read six books. I hope I read more, but I figured I’d start with a super realistic goal and go from there. ;)

These are a few of my random goals for 2017, what’s left of it now that we’re in February. :) What are you working toward?

{Mommy Journal} The Difference 15 Minutes Can Make

imageWell, here we are almost into February, and I’m still working on my list of 2017 goals. The New Year took me kind of by surprise, with a new baby and all. So far it’s been a stretching and fulfilling one and I am so eager to keep growing over the next twelve months.

I thought I would at least share one specific goal I came up with a few weeks ago, in case it resonates with other mamas. I am purposing to, whenever possible, leave the house 15-20 minutes before I actually need to. We live in an apartment, a flight of stairs and two doors from our parking garage, which makes getting two kiddos and their paraphernalia to the car a bit of an ordeal. Leaving really early will allow for my mom brain to go back inside for things I have forgotten, and give me time to address correction with Caleb if needed, without arriving late.

But more importantly, I want to stop rushing Caleb. When I leave with only minutes to spare, we have to hurry. Caleb likes to stop and pick up leaves on his walk down the steps. He spots bugs and wants to discuss them. He gets distracted by the construction across the street. He is two and he will only be two for 10 more months. I want to leave time for him to be a child, and for me to enjoy that. Our trips will be much more pleasant and peaceful if we can take our time walking down to the garage.

I’ve been implementing this simple goal, and already it has led to much happier treks to the car. I can interact patiently with my little man over his observations and discoveries. We make small memories and Caleb learns new things. It is a very simple and realistic decision that is already bearing sweet fruit.

I hope that one day when I look back on our LA apartment life, I will remember getting out the door with my little ones with a fond smile and a full heart.

{Mommy Journal} Eli’s Birth Story

Elijah’s birth story was so different from Caleb’s! You can read Caleb’s birth story here

There may not have been anything particularly out of the ordinary about Elijah’s birth, but every single birth is miraculous and points to the incredible design of our Creator. I am so thankful for the birth story that God wrote for us yesterday. So…if you’re a weirdo like me and love a good ol’ birth story, enjoy. ;) If you’re squeamish….read at your own risk. ;)

On Wednesday, December 14, after a restless night of sleep full of Braxton Hicks and numerous dreams about my water breaking, I woke up at 5:40 AM to a painful contraction. It hurt in my abdomen and wrapped around to my back…I immediately knew this was different. I timed a few before waking Andrew at 6:15 to tell him I was pretty sure labor was starting. We were so glad he had been able to take his last seminary final a day early, just in case!

As we hurried around the house gathering our things, the contractions ramped up quickly in intensity and intervals. By the time we were in the car around 7:00 and dropping Caleb off with our friends, the contractions were coming every five minutes, lasting about 50 seconds, and were pretty painful but totally bearable.

We met my wonderful midwife Rachel at the Ventura Birth Center (an hour drive from home) and were ecstatic to learn that I was 3-4cm dilated! Since I was still in early labor, she left to allow us to settle in and labor alone until we wanted her support.

It wasn’t long before the contractions died down. I was discouraged, but glad not to be in the hospital, where I likely would have been started on pitocin at this point. We went on a walk to the mall a half mile away and Andrew got his hair cut! I never had “early labor” with Caleb, so the notion that I could be laboring at the mall while my husband got a haircut was hysterically funny to me. Throughout the afternoon, I enjoyed a sweet time with Andrew as we rested, ate, worked through sporadic contractions, and waited for labor to pick back up. Around 3:30, it did.

The contractions were really painful, but I felt in control as I rocked and moaned through each one. Andrew provided counter pressure on my back or let me sway with him while I contracted. He encouraged me constantly. I was beyond grateful not to be experiencing back labor this time! What a difference!

Between 4:30 and 5:00, things became really intense and a lot more painful as I hit transition. I got super emotional and began crying between contractions, and I lost that sense of control and had a hard time dealing with the pain mentally. Rachel and her assistant, Sue, both showed up within about five minutes of my water breaking (gushing!) with a contraction around 5:30. Now the contractions became seemingly unbearable. I felt trapped in the pain. I got in a warm tub and labored there on my hands and knees. I was now 7cm dilated.

I remember thinking, If I were in the hospital, I’m pretty sure I would be begging for an epidural right now. I kept telling Andrew I couldn’t do it and telling him how bad it hurt as I swayed back and forth in the water. He kept telling me I could do it and that I was doing amazing. Rachel and Sue kept encouraging me as well. The contractions were super close together and sometimes I couldn’t tell where one stopped and the next began. The heaviness  and piercing pressure of my baby on my pelvis was tremendous. As the urge to push came on, I started to do so. For some of the contractions, there was less pain when I pushed through them. On others I just writhed and couldn’t push. Rachel checked me…I had one centimeter to go. She used a technique on the next push to help my cervix fully dilate. It felt excruciating but was so worth it!

I wanted to crawl out of my skin with each contraction, as I’m sure everyone does at this point in labor. ;) I yelled or groaned through most of them. The thought of a baby coming was no longer comforting because in my mind I truly didn’t believe I would ever be able to push him out. With some pushes, I felt the beginning of the ring of fire burning. I knew I could be close, but I kept remembering how I’d pushed for almost four hours with Caleb, and my heart sank. Andrew prayed aloud for me as I cried.

Then Rachel said she could see hair! I got out of the tub and sat on a birthing stool. They continued checking Eli’s heartbeat between contractions. Suddenly Sue said something like, “The baby’s in a place he doesn’t like now. On the next contraction, you HAVE to push him all the way out. Don’t worry about tearing, just push with everything you have and make sure he comes out!”

With Caleb, I had followed Rachel’s (my doula that birth) wise instructions and slowed down at the end when I felt the ring of fire, allowing his head to stretch me and thus, evading a bad tear. But now, I trusted Rachel and Sue’s expertise and did the opposite, giving every last ounce of energy to pushing my baby out. The ring of fire passed very quickly as I felt Eli’s head slip out. One more hard push and his shoulders followed, and there he was in my arms. My slippery, squirming, crying baby was against my chest and he was absolutely perfect.

An indescribable wave of relief and love swept over me as I clung to our baby with Andrew right beside me, taking in his precious, pudgy face. He was perfection. Rolls and hair and pudgy cheeks and big, dark, beautiful eyes that stared right into ours. It was 6:59 PM when he entered the world.

The midwives explained that Eli’s hear rate had dropped and then spiked, indicating he may be in distress. When he came out, his cord was over one shoulder. It had likely been briefly pinched in the birth canal, causing the change in heart rate. I got a second degree tear and needed ten stitches, but I was so thankful that my midwives erred on the side of protecting Eli, and thankful the tear wasn’t worse!

Following birth, I got to take Eli to bed with me and just snuggle as long as I wanted to. I experienced violent, uncontrollable shaking for over an hour, and the subsequent stitching process was uncomfortable, but cuddling our new baby overshadowed everything unpleasant.

When I finally turned my sweet Elijah Steven over to Sue for his measurements, we were shocked to learn he was nine pounds, 20.5 inches long, and had an enormous 15 inch head. He was well over a pound bigger than Caleb!

There are so many things about this labor to praise God for. That I was allowed to let my body “do its thing” and not get rushed. That I could labor in water. That I was supported tremendously, emotionally and physically, by my encouraging, steady, rock-of-a-husband. That I was in excellent hands with the intuition and genuine care of my fabulous midwife team. That I was able to relax and enjoy my prize following labor, and take him to the comfort of our home just four hours later. That God watched over Eli’s heart and oxygen levels and kept him totally safe. That God provided me with the strength to push Eli out when I needed to. That I had no back labor or pitocin, only had about two hours of active labor, and only pushed for 19 minutes! So spoiled!

Every single birth story is amazing. Every single baby is a gift. I am so grateful to have been blessed with the opportunity to witness God’s wondrous miracle of birth again, with all its agony. The prize was worth every bit of the pain and I am SO excited to get to know our sweet little boy in the days and years ahead. “Every good and perfect gift comes down from above.” Thank You, Father.

The Best Two-Player Games

91sn9inwqbl-_sl1500_This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. :) 

Andrew and I are crazy about games. It’s probably our favorite thing to do when we have a free evening and Caleb is down for the night. Over the years we have collected a number of tried-and-true games that are really fun and successful with just two players. Usually this means they are games that are designed for two players. We find that most 2-4 or 2-6 player games technically work with two, but aren’t all that fun. That is not the case for these games! I am listing them in order of my favorites, which would differ slightly from Andrew’s order. :)

Jaipur

This game reminds me a little bit of Dominion, another game I love, but one that isn’t so fun with two people. Jaipur is played in three rounds that take approximately 10 minutes each to complete. Every turn presents multiple strategy options, and my favorite thing about this buying and selling game is that you really can’t tell until the end of each round who will come out on top! I’d say it took us about 25-30 minutes to master the rules the first time. We’ve played it on the ferry, in coffee shops, and at home…it’s always a winner.

Patchwork

Patchwork is so different from your mainstream board and card games. It’s fast and easy to learn (a huge plus for me because I hate rule books), and with a variety of options each turn, the strategy element is definitely there, with just a bit of chance. I enjoy the fun element of piecing together your “quilt” in a strategic way.

Lost Cities

Speaking of easy rules, Lost Cities is incredibly fast to learn but it’s surprisingly fun to play–over and over again. It is designed to be played in three rounds, and the scores from the three are added up at the end. This card game falls into the category of chance more than strategy, so it’s surprising that I love it so much, but we find ourselves returning to it over and over. It requires little brain power, so it’s great on lazy nights when you just want to chill.

Empire Builder

Okay, I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE this game. Andrew has only played it once with me, so I’m not sure how much we’ll break it out together, but I play it with my brothers whenever I am back home. It takes a good hour to learn and 1-2 hours to play with 2-3 people, but it is seriously the best! You have to think ahead and plan out your turns, work efficiently and frugally, and pace your spending carefully. Definitely a fun one for Christmas break or a late game night with board game geeks…but not for your casual board gamer. :)

Pandemic

Designed for 2-4 players, Pandemic is fun with more but still really great with just two. It’s cooperative, so if you’re looking for an option that doesn’t make you butt heads, this is a good one. ;) I love the unique aspect of playing together against the game to eradicate diseases across the globe. It does take a little while to learn the rules at first, as it’s more complicated than the first three games I listed, but it’s worth the time you put in at the beginning!

Gobblet

A lot more fun than Checkers but less brain-intensive than Chess, this is a fun, old-fashioned-feeling game for two. We learned it on our one-year anniversary getaway and I still enjoy it whenever we pull it out, which is probably only a few times a year now. The rules are insanely simple, so it’s good for the people in your life who don’t like to read rule books.

Set Cubed

If you’ve played the card game version of Set, this is similar, but turn-based…none of that frantic, crazy yelling and grabbing for sets. I.e. it’s relaxing. It can be played by up to four people but is truly just as fun with two, an unusual characteristic that sets it apart.

Monopoly Deal

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of this game anymore, I burned myself out on it…but because Andrew still loves it so much, I had to include it. If you love Monopoly but don’t have the patience for hours of play time, this is a fun alternative that requires no setup and can be played in minutes. It’s just a pack of cards, so it’s easy to travel with, too!

I’d love to hear from you! I’m always on the hunt for good two-player games. Please share your favorites in the comments!