Friday, September 27, 2013

"Gentle Passages" Book Review {A Celebration of WOMANHOOD}

Gentle Passages by Robin Jones Gunn is a must read book for any mother of little girls. You will literally bawl your eyes out as you read the first story about the Fine China Plate, which helps a little girl understand the importance of staying pure. Later, this little girl (now a woman) wrote Robin a letter and in it she stated, "As I look back now, I realize that something happened that day. A thought began. As deeper understanding grew, it established a mind-set, which turned into a lifestyle. Tonight I seek to invest in three young girls and to give to them the secret you gave me that summer day. ... One day I know God will use them for His highest purposes, which are, as you taught me, being clean and ready so He can use us to serve others." You'll have to read the book yourself to find out the SECRET of the china plate and I promise that it's worth it.

This book is incredible in more ways than I can count (and it's less than 50 pages long!). As I turned each page a new idea formed on how to make the entry into womanhood a beautiful experience with my daughter rather than an embarrassing one. I have so many ideas, spurred on by this book. Some are taken directly from this book (like the fine china plate) and other light-bulb moments were my own as Robin encouraged mom's to make learning about womanhood a joyful experience. In fact, it should be an experience we CELEBRATE because we are WOMEN who God specifically designed to be part of an amazing miracle.

I have a ton of favorite little stories throughout the book (like the story about wildflowers and dreaming of future husbands... oh man, did I choke up), but I won't share them with you, you need to read them (with a box of Kleenex’s – seriously) however, I do have a favorite poem called, What a Mother Thinks¸ that I will most definitely share…

I love you so much.
There is no way
I can possibly put into words
how proud I am of you.
You're absolutely beautiful.
Sometimes when our eyes meet,
It’s like gazing into a reflection pool.
I see in you glimmers of my past.
Do you see in me hints of your future?
You are everything I ever prayed for.
There’s nothing about you I’d change.
I love you more than you’ll ever know,
More than you will ever ask.
There’s nothing I wouldn’t give for you,
Nothing I wouldn’t do for you.
You are my daughter,
And I will always love you
With a love so immense
so eternal
I could never find a way to squeeze it into words.

Besides beautiful stories of how other moms discussed the entry into womanhood Robin offers “Celebration Suggestions” to help get any reluctant mom excited about this topic. I truly believe that Robin’s point was to make this experience one worth celebrating rather than dreading it or being disgusted by it. If you have a daughter, you need to get this book and refer to it often as she grows up into a beautiful woman.

P.S. When I say womanhood, I mean the "hush-hush" topics all moms are afraid to discuss with their blushing 12 year old daughter; using words like: sex, period, penis, vagina, breasts, (aaaaand you get the picture).  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday's Top Ten [Things I Want My Daughter to Know]

1. You are loved more than you'll ever understand. Yes, mom and dad love you no matter what, but human love is unreliable. God's love, however, is unchanging, steadfast, unconditional and immoveable. That love, no matter what you do, will never, ever, ever go away.

2. Never stop learning. There will always be someone that knows more than you do. Don't be afraid to explore, ask questions, and seek instruction (even when you're 80).

3. Mistakes happen. Own up, deal with your consequence (with your head up), learn from it, ask for forgiveness, and move on. If God forgot your sin, why should you dwell on it?

4. Work hard. Nothing in this life is handed to you. You must work for your grades, money, food, your education... everything.

5. Watch your mouth. Out of your mouth speaks your heart. Individuals with dirty mouths are uneducated fools who can think of nothing else to say.  Gossipers, racist-dirty-joke-laughers, cussers, whisperers, bulliers, know-it-alls, liars, and self-exalters deserve zero respect. They need compassion, sympathy and pity; not respect.

6. Your body is sacred. Women are specially designed to grow and nurture life. It's an honor to be a woman, because God specially designed us to be part of an amazing miracle. Your husband should also honor and cherish and love that about you. You have something extremely wonderful, and breathtakingly beautiful that you should be excited to share with your husband. Your body belongs to him and his body belongs to you. If there's ever a time that someone wants to take that honor away, FIGHT FOR IT. Let the men in your life protect you (ahem, daddy, brothers, uncles), because they love you! You should be embarrassed and ashamed to share it with anyone besides your husband. Sharing your body with... no, giving your body to your husband is NOT embarrassing, shameful, or disgusting - it's beautiful, romantic, and what God wants... no, expects, you to do.

7. Surround yourself with like-minded people. You become like who you spend the most time with. If you hang around gossips, racist, dirty-minded, cussing, whispering, bulling, lying, haughty, know-it-alls - you'll become that as well.

8. You are beautiful. Dress yourself with strength, intelligence, and dignity. That is what's beautiful. People will forget the color of your lipstick and someday your boobs will drag and your face will wrinkle, but people will remember what you say and do, and count that as beautiful.

9.  Be kind and show compassion. Remember you are a sinner in need of God's grace. If you forget the gospel message and forget that you need it, you are much more likely to become selfish, heartless, haughty, and judgmental. Forgive, forget, give, and love, just as Christ does for you - daily. 

10. Live your life to glorify God. It's not about you. When you die what will you do with the crown given to you? You'll lay it at Jesus' feet. Remember this is HIS world with HIS rules and no matter what you do you WILL have to answer to HIM.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Birthday Party for Two Special One Year Olds!

Addi and Brielle have a unique story. One of my friends, who I've known for six years now (we taught together and we go to the same church) was due six days after me. However, she went six days early and had Addi on my due date and I went six days late and had Brielle on her due date. What a story to share, huh? (I joke that I was mad at Erin that day.) That story will forever bond our families together. We only found it natural to share a birthday party, especially since we have the same friends.

It ended up being a lot of fun. It was pretty low-key and I think the two birthday girls had a blast. (They were both wore out afterwards so I'll take that as a good sign.)
Birthday Girls!
We blew up balloons because those are always a success at any party.
Addi's favorite food is cheese and Brielle's favorite food is crackers of any sort (ca-ca-ca) so we had to have cheese and crackers on the menu!
Erin made this DIVINE apple, pecan cheese cake (pictured bottom right)... I need to get the recipe! Yum!
Brielle's nursery is decked out in Minnie Mouse, so I couldn't resist making these adorable cupcakes. Brielle and Addi seemed to love them...

Look at that chipmunk!

Paper and all...

Addi dug right in...

Trying to share with mommy! I had chocolate cake ALL over my phone! Haha.
They played for a while before we opened presents (we were waiting for the guys to join us during half time of the Nebraska game.)
Brielle didn't seem to understand or care that much about digging in and seeing what was inside. Once it was out, however, she loved it.

Kyle and I noticed that wherever we go she makes a beeline for anything with wheels and goes around the room pushing it. That's immediately what she did when she opened her pink convertible!
By the end of the afternoon both girls had had enough....
"It's my party and I'll cry if I want to! Cry if I want to! Cry if I want to!"
All in all, Erin and I were glad we decided to plan a party together. The girls had fun and ate a lot of cupcakes, cheese and crackers. Aaaaand the boys were happy because Nebraska won. ;)

Both of us can't believe how fast this year has gone and I'm sure that next year at this time we'll be saying the same thing. These two girls are an amazing blessing. I love them both.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Happy Birthday Briella Bean!

On the eve of her birthday she decided to walk for the first time. She's attempted taking steps in the past and accomplished 2 or 3 at a time, but this time she realized that falling down meant getting back and doing it all over again, and again, and again. She was so proud of herself and would clap along as daddy and I cheered her on. I was absolutely thrilled that daddy was home to witness it as well.

We are still laughing at how it all came about, because I did get it on video, but she's as naked as a jaybird. She has a diaper rash and I've been letting her "air out" and run around. She LOVES this. FREEDOM! So last night when her diaper and clothes came off she decided to walk. I guess her clothes were getting in her way.

Birthday morning we blew up balloons and put them in her crib. She was so excited! (She LOVES balloons.) I want birthday traditions in our household to be super special, because it is a super special day to celebrate. So today we started her birthday off with balloons, a banana muffin (with whip cream on top) and strawberries on the side. She feasted on TWO muffins! 

It was a special morning, but I can't even begin to describe how incredibly special this last year has been for us. God has blessed us in more ways than I can possibly count. Day's like Brielle's birthday are excellent reminders to praise God for all that he has given us. I will spend the day thanking Him for the year I've had with her and praying for the years to come.

What a journey it's been...
12 Weeks
32 Weeks
1 Day
1 Month
2 Months
3 Months
4 Months
5 Months
6 Months
7 Months

8 Months
9 Months
10 Months
11 Months
Birthday Morning!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday's Top Ten [What I Love about being a Mom!]

I know this list will change as Brielle grows up and more kids come into the picture, but I saw this idea on Pinterest (of course, where else do you get ideas?!) and figured that by writing them down, I won't forget. When those tough days come, I don't want to forget how much I love her. When she hits that "I don't need mommy anymore" age, I don't want to forget how I feel about being a mommy at this moment. When she starts becoming more independent and having that desire to move out and be on her own, I don't want to forget what I love about being a mommy. So even though I've only been a mommy for almost a year now, I think this is something I should keep adding on to as the years of being a mommy continue, grow, develop and change.

What I love about being a mommy...

1. Watching her face light up as she discovers something new and exciting.

2. Getting her to giggle (especially to the point where her chubby little belly jiggles).

3. Her huge smile every single time I praise her by clapping and singing, "Yay, Brielle!"

4. Playing. Being a mom means you have an excuse to get out your old toys and be a kid again. I can't wait for Lego's and doll houses and crafting. Right now I'm loving building towers and giggling along with her after she destroys them, or throw toys in and out of a basket (who knew that'd be fun?!) or pushing her up and down the driveway as she sits on a toy train.

5. When she's tired, or sick, or cranky mommy is the only person she wants. Mommy's will forever have this ability to make things all better - even when you're 30.

6. Kisses and Aw, Aw, Aw's. When daddy comes home he gives me a kiss. Brielle then wants to give us kisses too, it melts my heart. When she loves something she hugs it and says, "aw, aw, aw" as she gently pats it. I get those too and my heart is reduced to a puddle on the floor.

7. Reading to her. She just sits on my lap, pointing at things she likes, giggling, talking, bouncing as I read each page. I love those moments.

8. Bath time. It's always after supper (when she's an absolute mess) and she can hardly contain her excitement after I grab her towel, walk to the bath, get the bath water running... she loves playing in the water and I love that she loves it.

9. "Daddy's HOME!" Those words alone send her in a tizzy. When daddy walks through the door her excitement is contagious. I'm happy, the dogs are excited - the home atmosphere is that much better and life is complete for my little Briella Bean. Everyone's where they need to be. It is more than evident how much she loves her daddy.
10. I'm learning to love the little things, over and over again. She points at everything, wanting to know what it is, to touch it, or put it in her mouth. For example it doesn't matter how many times she sees the Minnie Mouse wreath her great grandma made her, when she wakes up it's the first thing she points at and laughs as she touches Minnie's nose. I love that wreath because she loves it.  I love the flowers, and leaves, and trees, because she points and giggles and the wonder in her eyes makes me appreciate them all over again.

Being a mommy is joyful, and scary, and beautiful, and difficult all at once. There's not a better job out there. I never knew that I'd love being a mommy. God knows best because when I doubted whether or not I wanted to be a mommy, he gave me an incredible blessing that shows me daily the true meaning of unconditional love.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Stevi's Little Cupcake {Baby Shower}

I feel honored that I was able to throw a shower for a former student. She was part of my first 8th grade class and is now all grown up and entering the world of motherhood. She chose a cupcake theme for her little Oaklie's nursery and I followed suit in preparing for her shower. Her color scheme was inspired by an adorable cupcake blanket made by her grandma: teal, pink and brown. I couldn't believe how many ideas revolve around a cupcake party. I hope Stevi enjoyed her cupcake party.

I used Punchbowl to send out virtual invites (which were ADORABLE).
Punchbowl invites.

Homemade "snail mail" invites. I owe Terri (Stevi's grandma) and Stevi a big thank you for helping me put these together!
Approximately 30 people showed up, which was good considering we had over 100 cupcakes on our overflowing cupcake and ice cream bar. (Terri amazed me by making 94 cupcakes before 10 am on Saturday morning! I was impressed. It took me all night to make 30 more... .

Before food...

After food.

All the goodies to top off your cupcake.

There were pink lemonade cupcakes, confetti cupcakes, strawberry, vanilla, and strawberry too!

Psssst.... I'll tell you a little secret... the cupcake stands were just wrapped boxes and vases topped with plates. But. THEY. WERE. SWEET.

The cupcake kabobs made of sugar wafers, marshmallows, rice krispies, and mini cupcakes.
There were even bright pink gift bags and I encouraged ladies to take home as many as they so desired! I didn't have many left over, thank goodness.

The decor was perfect because I didn't do a lot of it. :) I struggled with the caulk that was supposed to serve as fake frosting on these cute mason jar cupcakes, so I had to call a friend. Mine turned into one of those "failed Pinterest ideas".

My first attempt...
It was terrible. Thinking it was just because of my inexperience with a caulking gun, I scraped it off and tried again...
At this point I was hysterically laughing. I'm not sure if it was because it was so funny, or because I was losing it.
I tried smoothing it out and adding sparkles, sparkles fix everything, right? Wrong!
I was told it looks like a santa hat.
I had to call a friend. Her's turned out adorable. THANK YOU LORI!

They were filled with personalized "It's a Girl!" M&M's. They were a perfect center piece and excellent favors to take home.

The banner hanging on the fireplace says, "Sprinkled with Love" and although it's hard to read and see on the picture, the doiles made it so cute.

The guest table was adorned with the cupcake liner flowers, a "Daddy's Cupcake" onsie, and the cupcake frames I made her to take home for her nursery.

The guest book was simply writing addresses on an envelope. That way Stevi wasn't playing a guessing game with who brought her what. There were many women from our church that blessed Stevi with gifts even though they didn't know her. I have an amazing church family! I hope Stevi felt welcome in it!

The frames I made her.

On the left is a vase full of cupcake liners and the guests were encouraged to guess the number for the prize. Ironically, the mommy-to-be guessed the number EXACTLY.
The cupcake banner that didn't turn out how I had planned. I was super bummed because I originally wanted to hang this from the food table, however, when we pulled the yarn through the poof balls, they began falling apart. So we displayed them seperately. I went ahead and gave them to Stevi, but it was the one piece I was most excited about giving her and super bummed about the outcome. Oh well. There are more important things than decor, like our church family and devotions.
Enough about the fufu decor and food. Although it's what gave the first impression of a shower, it's not what made it successful. First of all, I mentioned before how amazing my church family is, but I have to brag on these people for a bit. Immediately after church everyone gets together and sets up tables, chairs, table cloths, table runners, &etc. What should take me an hour or so, literally takes me 20 minutes or less. During the shower, the women forgo filling their plate to help serve punch, fill ice cream bowls, and make sure the frosting stayed full. After the shower, women were wiping tables, putting tables and chairs away, doing the dishes, and packing the boxes for me. I have yet to wash a dish I DIRTIED. Every time I throw a shower I'm amazed at this group of people and their willingness to serve others, which is exactly what Christianity is all about. Not only that, but the women who never knew Stevi before Sunday filled gift bags with items from her registry out of the kindness of their hearts. They didn't have to, but they gave joyfully knowing that Stevi would walk away prepared for the arrival of her baby.

I feel extremely blessed. I hope Stevi felt that way too.

I also hope the women who attended walked away feeling refreshed after an amazing afternoon playing games, gorging on cupcakes, ooooo-ing and awwwwww-ing over all the cute baby clothes, and hearing a beautiful children's story called, "I Couldn't Love You More" by Jason Ingram. (I always read a children's story. I'm a reading teacher, duh!) It tied right into the devotions where I talked about how the love Stevi feels for her little cupcake is only a fraction of the unconditional, steadfast, unwavering love God has for His children. Even though (like our own children) we screw up on a daily basis, that love never changes. The gospel message is similar to your child being convicted of a crime and the judge looks at you (mom) and says you can take the sentence on behalf of your child. Most mom's wouldn't hesitate because we would give our life for our child. Jesus did that on the cross! We deserve that death and He took it for us! Parents have a glimpse into that kind of love once they have a child of their own and Stevi is beginning to understand that. Stevi has loved that child even before she knew she was expecting! I hope the gospel message came alive for those mommies in that room, who can relate to that kind of love.

Even though we're all liars, gossips, judgmental little cupcakes (Romans 3:23), and deserve an eternity in hell (Romans 6:23), God died for us even though He KNEW WE WERE SINNERS (Romans 5:5), so although we are imperfect humans we are made holy and blameless through Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross. That was our deserved death and He took it on our behalf and can now be in the infinitely holy presence of God. How? "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9 That's it.

That is one sweet love story.

And so is the one of Stevi and her little cupcake, Oaklie.
Her sister made her a cute little blanket and painted a cupcake piggy bank for her, both were abolutely adorable. Her little sisters gift was the one earning the most ooooo's and awwwww's especially because it included this adorable poem Mikey included...

I couldn't have done it without the help of Terri, Lori, Kelleigh, the Deb's, Jessica, and the many men and women who stayed after church to help set up. THANK you!