Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Last Quiet Hour of 2013.

I’m sitting here in the last quiet hour of 2013.  I feel the need to sum up our year but I begin to try to to write or compose my thoughts and the year just seems so…vast before me.  How do I possibly put into words the year that changed my life? 

And I mean truly changed.my.life.

Last January 1st saw me miserable with shingles on my face, my eye swelled shut from the pressure, super pregnant and just sooo over it all.  It’s funny what you THINK is the worst…the absolute pits…and then you are really FACED with the absolute worst and you just want to mock yourself for thinking you had it bad.   I look back at myself and I feel so much pity and also longing for that innocence I had and I didn’t even realize it.  I was only 21 days away from my world being flipped upside down.

One thing this year has taught me…the difference between what is really a big deal and what is not.  I joke like anyone else about “first-world problems” but for real?  Your child with their chest sliced open? That’s a big deal.  Walking past parents in sealed rooms with protective gowns covering their clothing, while their child’s door plaque in the PICU reads “Neurosurgery?” That’s a big deal.  Holding your daughter with cords attached to her chest that monitor her every breath when suddenly the baby across the hall in the NICU starts alarming and the nurses go running? 

Big deal. 

Most of the rest?  Not so much.

Before this year I had never spent more than a night in the hospital {not counting my c-sections}.  God has now opened my eyes to a whole “sub-culture” – a whole life group of people that I never knew existed.  I am now constantly aware that at any given time there are mommies and daddies in NICUs and PICUs, praying, praying, praying and crying their eyes out for their babies.  When the rest of the world is having Christmas morning.  When the rest of the world is out at the park on a beautiful spring day.  When the rest of the world is waking up in a warm house on a regular old Saturday with sleepy kiddos and bedhead and hot coffee.  They are there and they are lonely and they are sad and they are wishing they were on the outside, not the inside. 

Sometimes I let myself slip…just dip a little…into that dangerous pool of self-pity.  I get a little angry with God that my beautiful, precious daughter has a permanent scar in a very girl-sensitive area.  That there will come a time when she will get more and more tired due to her pulmonary valve getting weaker…and I’ll have to watch that and there’ll be nothing I can do.  And that when she gets close to middle-school age, I’ll have to deal with the ticking time-bomb of another surgery.  That my beautiful daughter will be forced to deal with surgery again when all she should really be dealing with are friends and homework and what boy she has a crush on. 

But most days, the majority of days, I just live in awe.  Awe of what God did for us and how lucky I have it.  I told a friend the other day that realizing you’re really lucky…that you have it really, really good…is a great place to be. 

And believe me, I know.  I think all the time about everything that could have been and how much worse it could have been.  I’m in a support group on Facebook for parents of kids with Tet and believe me, I read nearly everyday about some sweet baby going back to the hospital after surgery because it didn’t work.  Or whose scar got infected.  Or who is having seizures and “Tet spells” {aka not breathing because there’s not enough oxygen in their precious little broken heart.} 

There’s not a day that goes by {and many days, not an hour –literally} that I’m not silently lifting up a prayer to God to tell Him how grateful I am for His gift of my daughter’s life.   I feel like I have walked through fire and come out on the other side a more compassionate friend and momma.  God has given me the amazing gift of being able to truly understand others’ pain in a way that I never would have been able to before.  Those NICU mommas?  I get them now.  Mommas in hospital rooms, praying over their babies?   Yup, I’ve been there.  I’ve lived it and I know it.  When people share Facebook requests for a sick baby, I pray immediately and I know specific things to pray for for that family that I never in a million years would have thought about before.  Isn’t that awe-inspiring?! I am so grateful. 

All because of Olivia.

Oh, Olivia…my little miracle baby that was never supposed to be because I was “supposed” to be adopting my next child, not getting pregnant again.

You know, in my perfect plan. ;)


And of course I can’t forget about my precious Luke.  He continues to make us laugh every day with his funny little sayings.  Today he watched Toy Story 3 and about 5 hours later asked me, “Mommy, is Ken a toy or an accessory?”  Which is just hilarious if you’ve ever seen the movie.  He is extremely spiritually sensitive and every.single.night starts his prayers with “Dear Lord, Thank you for Jesus…” even though that is not how Chris or I ever start our prayers.  If I forget to pray for a meal I serve him, he always says, “Mommy, you didn’t forget to pray!!!”  He is constantly – like multiple times every day – running up to me and giving me a kiss or a hug.  Sometimes taking my head in his hands to do it. 

This year saw a new classroom for him as he moved to the 4-year-old room, and most importantly the beginning of food therapy.  That deserves a whole post of its own but the progress has been astounding.  I am so proud of him.  He still struggles with multiple issues, and life with him is not always easy, but he really is so precious to me and dear to my heart.  I love him sooooo very much!

This year we said goodbye to two cars that flat-out died on us {Chris informed me that three more cars in a calendar year and we’d have to register as a dealer in the state of CT! ha!}, and I finally got a station wagon which I LOVE.  A very special “angel” gave Chris’s parents a new car, which led them to give us their old car – for free, mind you - the very same week our car died.  I mean really…is God awesome or what?!

Also exciting was that Chris started his new job as a salesman this fall and we are so excited for the opportunity to live a liiiiiitle less tightly and have a tiny bit more breathing space. 

I am looking forward to 2014 with so much happy anticipation.  Chris and I love our babies…and love holding other people’s babies…but we are NOT “baby people” and we are both so thrilled that the baby stage is ending for us in just a few short weeks!  I’ll be honest…a lot of 2013 felt like trudging for us, emotionally and physically {Olivia just started sleeping through the night about a month ago}.  I am so ready to start anew and afresh, done with the burdens of such a hard year. 

In fact, Chris already went to bed but I informed him that I couldn’t come to bed before midnight because I had a physical need to say goodbye to this year. 

I want to shake it off and give it a good kick in the bum. :)

I wish you all many blessings….and a beautiful 2014.  And if this new year brings you hard lessons – lessons that make you cry and mourn and question everything you ever knew about your life – may you come out on the other side stronger, and grateful for what the hard things have taught you. 

Being grateful makes all the difference.  Trust me…I know. 

Happy 2014!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Favorite Things {2013}

Hey everybody!  It’s party time again – hooray! Every year Melissa from 320 Sycamore hosts it {she’s one of my favorite bloggers – even Chris knows who she is now! haha!} and I always walk away with a great new gift idea or something to buy for myself. ;) I’ve joined since 2009 {back when I was a baby blogger…with my first baby!} and I’ve joined every year since.  And, good to know: I still love all the things I did then.  So feel free to browse back in time if you want a little more gift-giving inspiration! {2009201020112012}

My personal philosophy is that everything on this type of list should be affordable and something you can easily go out and buy.  You all know I’m a thriftaholic anyway, so you know I’m not listing anything crazy expensive!  This year all my finds are under $15, with the exception of the boots and the dvd set {and even those are both under $40}.

I can’t wait to sit down later with a cup of coffee and browse through everyone's list….but without further ado…here’s what I’m loving this year!



Wooden Push Pins in the Dollar Section at Target

wooden pushpins 015

Wooden thumbtacks? For $1? It’s amazing what a subtle yet classy difference this makes on a bulletin board – I’m in love!  I have two packs so far.  They’re hard to find, and you have to dig a little, but oh so fun. :)


Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

Yes, I KNOW everyone is already reading this book, but in case you aren’t you should seriously start!  I will say it’s definitely geared more toward women and issues we struggle with more {anxiety, fear about the future, etc.} but I always feel so peaceful after I read the day’s passage and the coordinating Scripture!  Especially if you have little ones at home – this book is a great way to get some simple Scripture into your head you can think about each day. 




One Line A Day: A Five-Year Memory Book

Lindsay got me this last year for Christmas {thank you, Pinterest Wishlist board!} and I absolutely love it.  Each page has enough space for a sentence or two…for 5 years.  (So December 19th has space for memories for 2013-2017.}  I love to jot down family memories or funny things the kids do.  Perfect for busy moms who want to remember little moments! 



Chobani Yogurt Flips {Peachy Pistachio and Dark Chocolate}


I don’t know what it is about this combo but I LOVE IT.  Oh.my.gosh. is it good!  God bless the person who decided to mix these three random ingredients together but it totally, utterly works.  I don’t buy it all the time {not organic – bummer!}, but it’s a delicious treat for me.  And for the record, I have tried buying regular Chobani peach and adding my own chocolate chips but it is waaaay too sweet.  This peach is just tart enough that you need the chocolate chips.  I have clearly done way too much research into this.  Eat it.  Fall in love with it. The end. :)



Method Glass and Surface Cleaner in Mint

This year I switched a lot of our household products over to cleaner options {see my SUPER easy 5-minute laundry detergent recipe here}.  Method isn’t perfect but I LOOOOOVE the smell of this stuff!  It doesn’t give me an instant headache like Windex does, and unfortunately as much as I’ve tried to go green and use vinegar to clean my windows {even with citrus added} I want to gag.  This mint scent is delish! 




Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap {Almond Scent}

Hand soap is something else I’ve “cleaned up” this year.  This scent smells just like the almond cookies my Italian great-grandmother used to make at her house!  Mmmmmm! {Tip: Fill an empty foaming soap pump 1/3 full of castile soap, then 2/3 full of water. This bottle is pricy but it will last you forever this way!}





“Kaylor” Slouchy Boot {in Brown} from Target


Women's Mossimo Supply Co. Kaylor Slouchy Boot - Assorted Colors


You guys, I am way too klutzy to own any kind of footwear made from real leather.  Ever.  I scrape my toes, trip over our brick front step, drop things, spill coffee, you name it.  These boots are super comfy, super cute and super affordable at $39.99!  Also, {I am a dork, but…} I like how they’re a little more loose than other styles and allow for that little gap between your leg and the boot itself.  I just like that look. :) I own the brown and I’m hopefully getting the black from Santa for Christmas!  ;)

{P.S. I went up a half size to allow for my thick winter socks.}



Everything Hummus by Tribe

I love everything bagels.  I love hummus.  I ADORE THIS FLAVOR!  And apparently I’m not the only one…it’s no longer limited – it’s here forever!  Whooo hooo!  {Bonus: it’s a New England company! Yay!}




Savory Thins from Trader Joe’s {to dip in the Everything Hummus}


thrift store finds 009

I blogged about these before…but it’s a match made in snacking heaven. 



Essie Russian Roulette

This is my new favorite holiday color.  It’s that perfect, candy-apple red.  I just got it a few weeks ago and I absolutely love it.  Yes, Essie colors are pricier than some others, but the quality is absolutely so much better!  They really do last for days longer than my other brands.





Parenthood {Season 4 shown here}



I literally cry and laugh every.single.time I watch this show.  Chris loves it too but hates watching it with me most of the time because he “doesn’t want to get sad.”  Haha!  The most realistic depiction of family life I’ve ever seen on a television series.  Why all the actors haven’t won Emmys yet is beyond me!  {Psssst you can watch the first 4 seasons on Netflix and season 5 is on NBC for free right now!}


Okay, that’s my list for this year!  Of course my REAL favorite things are these 3 beautiful people I get to spend my life with! 



If you’re participating please let me know in the comments so I can stop by and visit you, too.  Have a wonderful day!

Psssst…..come back tomorrow for a quick 24 hour giveaway for something you won’t want to live without! ;)


Disclosure: Contains Amazon Affiliate Links.  All opinions are obviously my own!



favorite things 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Our Home at Christmas {2013}

In typical Jessica fashion, I have taken all nearly all of these photos on a cloudy day {aka 10 minutes ago} and I have absolutely no desire to edit any of them.  They were all taken on my new phone {whoo hoo!} and I just walked around my house and started snapping. 

Can I confess something to you?  I really don’t like decorating for Christmas.  Chris says it’s because I have “post-partum Thanksgiving depression.”  haha!  It just really doesn’t excite me.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and once that weekend is over, I kinda get the blahs.  Having Luke and Livi definitely help keep my spirits up though as I try to make the holiday as magical as possible for them. 

Does anyone else feel this way?  I read so many blogs where people go ALL OUT on their house at Christmas and I just can’t even compete with that.  I love the music, and the baking, and the Christmas movies, and all that…but I just don’t have that magical fairy dust for my house like some people do. 

And I guess that just has to be okay.  :)

Pretty much everything you see was made by me, thrifted, or found at Target:


IMG_0150     IMG_0151





Did not notice the tipped sheep AT ALL until I uploaded these!  Whoops! Haha!




It’s impossible to take good photos of this bright window – but our stockings are woven cable-knit ones from Target.  I bought four of them two years ago and I am so, so blessed to be using that fourth one this year!  God is so good!











This bear was mine when I was a little girl!  My mom just found it in their basement and gave it to me a few weeks ago!  I was so excited to see it again.


















Print made by my amazing sister at Creative Type Designs {I love it!}









Yes, that is plywood behind our tree.  We had to hide it in the playroom/tool room this year because of our crazy wild animal living with us Olivia.  And no it doesn’t have a topper hence why I didn’t take a picture of it.  But it is soooo beautiful at night. 


Thanks for visiting and bearing with me.  ;) I will be back on Thursday for possibly my favorite party of the year – My Favorite Things!


Linked to The Nester’s 2013 Tour of Homes.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thanksgiving and Birthday Highlights

Okay, so this two-kids thing is killing my blogging! lol  I just can’t keep up!  I easily have about 10 or more posts swirling in my head but there is just not enough hours in the day. 

Today Luke is at school and Olivia is miraculously napping {I swear, those two things never line up for me!} so here goes a quick post.  I’m also not editing these photos in the slightest, except for the ones which I already edited on Instagram.    Here we go! :)


Thanksgiving Weekend Highlights:


- Not gonna lie, my personal highlight was going from having a Tracfone with no real texting capabilities to an iPhone 5c.  LIFE-CHANGING.  Amazing Black Friday deal and I signed up with friends under their family plan so this really was a no-brainer for us.  The time was right!  I’m in love!


- We spent Thanksgiving with my mom and dad, my brother and sister-in-law and brand new baby nephew, and my sister and brother-in-law in from Ohio.  My brother-in-law Jordan hadn’t even met Livi yet!  It was so wonderful to spend time with my immediate family!!


IMG_0425     IMG_0423

- My precious little turkey and her first Thanksgiving! Oooooh I love her!  She ate puffs and then a combo of turkey, carrots, mashed potatoes and plain pumpkin in the baby grinder.  She loved it!



IMG_0436     IMG_0440
{Best I could get of my active boy!}

- I made turkey shirts for the kids. I’ve made a few applique shirts here and there and I have to say it really gets addicting!  It was fun to see them both wearing what I made for them!


Black Friday

- Went to Goodwill 50% off day and found some great deals including Pampered Chef glass storage {3-pieces with lids} for 99 cents, Pampered Chef mini cookie cutters for 99 cents, and Melissa and Doug maracas for Livi for Christmas for $1.50.  Also some Christmas books I’d been wanting for the kids and some sweet little outfits for Miss Liv come spring! Here are two of them:



- Afterwards we went to breakfast at our favorite local diner! Looove breakfast out!


- That afternoon we went to Starbucks for some BOGO Peppermint Mochas and then got our Christmas tree and we invited my sister to come with us since it’s the farm we always went to as kids!  It was sunny but freeeezing cold and I didn’t really plan well for a cute family photo.  We all look a little ragamuffin-ish but oh well…we documented it!





- Hit up a local kids’ consignment store sale and found some great deals for the kids and then went to a surprise 80th Birthday party for my grandfather that night.  Fun to spend time with family and dress my kids up for the holiday!

{We took this photo at the end of the party and the kids were so tired.  What was I thinking?! Oh well.}

- This was the first day I had my phone….so fun!


My 29th Birthday

- I turned 29 last week {as I said on FB, the first of MANY times…;) } and I really had a wonderful day!  Chris went out the night before and got me a Venti Salted Caramel Mocha to start my morning off with since we don’t have a Starbucks right around the corner. 



- I headed out by myself to a moving sale some people from church were having {that NEVER happens on my birthday! It was so fun} and found some cute Christmas and house things.  On the way home I stopped at the grocery store and picked up some chocolate cupcakes and Italian rainbow cookies.  Mmmmm.  :) Chris usually makes me a cake but he was too busy with work last week, which is totally fine!  The cupcakes were delish!

IMG_0072     IMG_0085



- Later in the afternoon my parents came over so we could head out to an early showing of Catching Fire!  You guys it was SOOOOOOOOOOO good and intense!  I’ve read the books and Chris hasn’t, and we both loved it equally.  So good.  {Also, I haven’t been to the movies in ages…$11 for a movie ticket?!!!}



- Afterward we headed for dinner at one of my favorite local restaurants for MEXICAN!  {A quirky thing about me is that I hate going to dinner before a movie because I hate feeling rushed.  So the rare times we do both, we always see an early movie so we can spend as long as we want at dinner! I am much more relaxed that way.}  They have unlimited chips and salsa and the best margaritas!  I only drink a few times a year {if that} and I was so excited for my strawberry margarita!  It did not disappoint me. :)

- I also had this plate of deliciousness…don’t worry I saved half for lunch the next day!



It was a great couple of weeks!  I’ll be back soon to join in the Nester’s Christmas Home Tour and the My Favorite Things party!