All You Need is Love

Today marks ten years that my then boyfriend, and now husband, said the words "I Love You" to me for the first time.

We have always been sappy about celebrating little (or big) anniversaries within our relationship and this one is no different. We call it "Love Day" Because without it, perhaps neither of us would have learned what it truly means to love faithfully, fruitfully, unconditionally, and without reservation. 

Now, don't get me wrong. At the tender young age of 17, we certainly didn't view those three words in the same way we do today. But, thanks be to God, it was the starting point for us in our journey of sacrificial love for the Lord in our relationship and for one another. Ten years later, I sometimes chuckle at our young selves and how naive we seemed, yet, by God's grace, we were bound that day for the rest of our lives and I think we both knew it deep within...

***

It was a humid and sticky Friday evening in late October. Matt had asked me if I wanted to go on a mini date with him and, of course, I obliged. I say mini date because we were both scheduled to take the ACT test the next morning and had to be home by 9:30pm (how fun right?). I arrived at Matt's house to see that there was a table set up for dinner for two in his dining room, and after letting me believe for a seconds that it was for us, he informed me it was for his parents. We ventured out for a walk to the nearby park instead. It was nearing sunset and although it was rather hot outside, it was nice to be outside and spend some much needed time together amidst our busy high school schedules.

As we made our way around the trail inside the park, I noticed our friend Jason's SUV in one of the parking lots and excitedly told Matt that I thought Jason was there and we should go say hi. Matt, however, took this as his cue for pulling out a blindfold and making me wear it for the duration of our adventure. Not realizing until that moment that this was indeed going to be an adventure, I began to get excited about any upcoming events. After all, Matt was (and is) known to wittingly pull things off that I could never pull off in a million years so I knew then, that he had something up his sleeve. 

As we continued walking with me still blindfolded, I felt us starting to go uphill and stop at the top. At this point it was twilight (my favorite time of day! probably because of these events) and Matt asked if I was ready. At that moment, I was seriously thinking that someone was going to come dump a bucket of water on my head or something ridiculous, but I said yes and he proceeded to take the blindfold from my eyes. Immediately I noticed the light of the moon shining on the grass at the bottom of the field, and then I saw them. In the valley below the hill, were twinkling tea candles that spelled out the words "I love you" and my heart just soared. I was taken aback and speechless so I didn't really respond until probably 15 minutes later (poor Matt!) but it was quite the special moment for us. We spent the rest of the evening on the hill talking, laughing, and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. On that day, our relationship was elevated to a whole new level and the doors were opened for us to begin learning what sacrificial love was all about. 

Its been quite the journey and I still feel like it has just begun! Matt and I's relationship, and now marriage, has stretched me in ways I didn't know I could stretch and thanks to his excellent example of selflessness and gentleness, I have learned what it means to choose to love the other, to choose to love his soul and not just the things on the surface. Its not just about the fuzzy and warm feelings inside - although those are nice - but rather, about making the conscious decision to love one another daily, for the rest of our lives, regardless of what twists and turns life may take. In fact, real love is found in the depths of the most challenging moments: in the tough conversations, in the fog of sleep deprivation due to a newborn, in the days where one of us is so sick that the other must pick up all of the slack. When we choose to put the other's needs ahead of our own regardless of how much it hurts, that is where the heart is stretched to capacity and God gives the grace to enable love to multiply.

What a wonderful gift that Matt gave to me on that evening of October 22. It is most definitely a moment I will never forget =)

I was especially elated when I found out that October 22 would be designated as the feast of Saint John Paul II, whose writings on Theology of the Body were the foundation that God used to build Matt and I's relationship so early on. Saint John Paul the Great, Pray for us!!

"It's not enough to Love, people have to feel that they are loved." -Saint John Bosco

 

 

+JMJ+

Shout out to Elise and Molly of BlairBennet's photography who made our wedding come to life in such a special way =)

Autumn Playtime

With the weather being so beautiful and crisp, we couldn't resist going to the park for a little afternoon playtime. On my way out the door, I grabbed my camera in case I found an opportunity to take some much needed updated pictures of Kolbe while he ran around the playground. It was such a gorgeous afternoon and Matt and Kolbe had a blast while I was that mom snapping pictures of them =)

Here's a little glimpse of our adventures:

I love having these pictures to look back on one day and see my two guys having fun and being goofballs. 

 

+JMJ+

Baby AL Update {34 weeks}

Just popping in to give a little baby update. I realized its been four weeks since the last one and its about time I get back to it before I run out of updates to make!

Its crazy that all of my one on one time with this cutie pie is coming to and end. I know AL will bring so much joy and entertainment to our family but its bittersweet to think that it won't be just us anymore.

Its crazy to already be 34 weeks and getting near the end of this pregnancy. While it seemed to be going really slow at the beginning, the second half has really picked up and now it is flying by since we are staying busy with fall-like events such as parish fairs, Halloween bashes, and pumpkin picking adventures. I don't have many pictures but here's an instagram repost of AL at 34 weeks:

How I'm Feeling: I'm officially out of the blissful time of pregnancy and into the era of uncomfortable. If my body and I were two separate entities, it would look at me like "what the heck are you doing to me?"

Its definitely harder to keep up with Kolbe and all of his antics and sometimes I feel bad that I can't run around with him like I used to. I know this means we are nearing the end though! We are so blessed to be carrying a new life and so I'm definitely trying to be mindful of not complaining about all of my aches and pains when I find myself wanting to do so.

What I'm eating: I had a day last week where I felt like I was in the first trimester all over again because I was having food aversions, but thankfully that was short lived. I'm eating pretty much like normal with an emphasis on protein and probably more bread than I should be eating. The thing is that I'm hungry all the time and bread or carbs seem to be the only thing that actually hold me over for more than 30 minutes. Im also on a baking kick, which also happened in the last weeks of my pregnancy with Kolbe. I'm planning on making homemade bagels this week and freezing some for when AL is born as well as homemade real fruit pop-tarts for quick breakfasts, and banana bread =)

My intestines have been rebelling lately, I think because AL is sitting on them and putting tons of pressure so I've decided to avoid any type of chocolate and most sweets for the rest of the pregnancy because it seems to be making it worse. I also considered giving up coffee to see if it helped, however, we all know that is foolish talk ;-)

Me and Coffee go together like peanut butter and jelly....

And yes that's a pic from before I was pregnant obviously AL didn't suddenly go missing =)

Exercise: My beloved boot camp class has been my one constant through this pregnancy and somehow I am still going strong. Even though sometimes I feel like I'm falling apart, for some reason I managed to power through that class again today and hope to go each Monday until I really can't anymore. Other than that I've just kept it simple with light elliptical, walks, and weights a few times a week just to maintain some sort of fitness. I've loved being able to exercise this far into the pregnancy and I think it really helped with my labor and delivery with Kolbe so hopefully it has the same effect this time around. The Boot Camp instructor keeps joking with me that AL is going to fly out haha.

Tidbits about AL: According to Babycenter, she is the size of a Cantaloupe this week. She seems way bigger to me than that actually! She weighs around 4-5 pounds now and she is just growing and growing from now until she is born. She is sitting so incredibly low that I have to constantly pull my maternity shirts down and I have officially run out of t-shirts that cover me entirely. I'm going to power through and hope for the best because its way too late in the game to go buy more maternity clothes.  She is still a major mover, although she has slowed it down quite a bit probably because she's running out of space in there.

Thoughts: I've been feeling the anxiety about labor and delivery creep in as the big event gets closer, particularly because now I know what to expect this time around and I kind of just want to bypass that part and hold that sweet girl. But, just like anything that is worthwhile and beautiful, I know that there needs to be a period of suffering before the resurrection. We also went to a Bradley Natural Birth mini refresher session, which helped me to get into the labor mindset again. I still feel way less prepared than I did with Kolbe and I'm just hoping that I can remember all of the tips and tricks during labor and delivery that I know are ingrained somewhere in my memory. I think part of my anxiety stems from how fast Kolbe's L&D were and my goals for AL is to simply make it to the hospital and have my doctor make it too. So hopefully it will be another quick one but not too quick! I would love it if you could say a prayer for that intention of mine =)

Shout out to my amazing husband and the almost completion of our chicken coop! It looks like our 4 little chicks and AL will be arriving pretty close together....crazy right? We'll manage I guess...

Have a lovely Monday!

 

+JMJ+

 

 

Family Beach Trip 2014 + Tips for Beach Time with Littles

The Thursday after Labor Day, we packed up our car and hit the road for the Sunshine state. We are huge beach lovers and have been making beach trips every year for as long as I can remember. I was especially excited about going this year because it seemed that Kolbe was at that perfect age to have a ton of fun and be a little more independent and my expectations were surprisingly met! (That doesn't happen often in the lives of moms of littles!)

We pulled into our condo in Pensacola Beach right about 3pm and the above photo is what greeted us! The weather ended up looking like this the entire time, thank God.

While we unpacked everything, our friends Steve and Beth and their cute kids (and Kolbe's bffs) arrived for a weekend of fun in the sun. Our sweet friend Katie also joined us later that night. We had a blast the rest of that day splashing around in the cool water of the ocean and spending some time in the pool before turning in for the evening. The pool was literally twenty steps away from the door of our condo, which was awesome. 

Went spent all day Friday lounging under our tents and watching the kids play in the sand. I could watch them play forever and not get bored. I love seeing Kolbe discover new things and learn from his surroundings. Like I mentioned earlier, Kolbe was a little more independent in the sand and actually went in the water this year to "jump in the waves." I could tell he really loved being there. Matt and I were actually able to relax in our beach chairs too for a while, which was a huge plus! 

We got into a good groove each day of morning beach time, going inside for lunch and naps, afternoon beach and pool time, and then dinner + relax at night in the condo. On Friday night, Katie offered to babysit the sleeping kids while Steve, Beth, Matt and I went to dinner (thanks Katie, you're the greatest!) We went to one of Matt and I's favorites called Hemingway's Island Grille and it definitely didn't disappoint this time around!

Our two friends John and Sarah joined us on Saturday, which was a treat! Apparently we were having way too much fun in the sand to remember to take any pictures with them. The toddlers (Kolbe and Joseph) had a blast building sand castles and knocking them down, and getting buried in the sand by their dads. They also loved shoveling sand everywhere they could. Those two have been friends since before they were born, are only one day apart and the have so much fun together. 

Sunday included going to mass, and some more beach time before Steve, Beth and the kids headed home. Later that afternoon, John and Sarah went back home as well (Katie left on Saturday) so it was just our little family left to enjoy the afternoon beach sun. Kolbe always takes the longest naps ever while we are on trips to the beach and since he woke up so late in the day, we had the rare opportunity of staying out to enjoy a beach sunset picnic dinner! Matt and I are usually pretty on-the-go travelers, as in, we like to take advantage of the time we have somewhere and fit in everything we possibly can. On the beach this usually meant going out there pretty early and staying out till sunset. Since having Kolbe, it has become apparent to both of us that we can no longer do things like that (which we definitely don't mind now since Kolbe is our priority), so staying out until sunset was a treat. By late afternoon on Sunday, it was just me, Matt, and Kolbe, each sitting in our own little beach chairs enjoying the waves, the beautiful sky, and our food. It was one of those moments where I just sat back and drank in the beauty of this life that God has blessed me with. 


It was a very successful and relaxing trip indeed! We can't wait to go back next year. 

And since traveling with little ones is no joke, here are some useful (to us) tips for hitting the beach with toddlers and babies:

  • Bring a tent or two- The two tents we had were lifesavers. We have brought umbrellas in the past, but a pair of tailgating tents was definitely the way to go. We all had plenty of shade and they were not hard to put up/take down and we just left them out there all weekend with our beach toys and chairs neatly stacked at the end of the day.
  • A baby pool is the best $10 you'll spend- As you can tell from some of the photos, we had a blow up baby pool for the kids. Best investment ever and thanks to Steve & Beth for bringing it! It was such a good little hangout for them, especially Gianna, who is 10 months. 
  • Don't push the littles to go in the ocean if they don't want to. Even though it could seem like a huge bummer that your kid doesn't want to get in the water, I feel like making them go in anyway will only backfire and make them more scared of it in the future. We experienced this with Kolbe last year at the beach when he was afraid to go in and we didn't push the issue. Lo and behold he loved it this year!
  • Take advantage of closets/bathrooms for the little ones to sleep in. I know it sounds kind of crazy but since condos are pretty standard size/shape we have to get creative with where all the little kids sleep so that they won't disturb each other's sleep. Large closets and bathrooms are your best friend in this case!
  • Be flexible and laid back- We are usually pretty strict with Kolbe's nap and nighttime sleep schedule at home, but since we were on vacation, he was allowed to stay up a little later some of the nights to play and we were ok with that. Sometimes my choleric temperament makes my control freak side take over, so on this trip I made an extra effort to just go with the flow and not make a big deal out of things that went wrong or doing things out of the ordinary and it was nice to just sit back and enjoy the ride. 
  • Bring plenty of beach toys to go around for the littles so that they aren't always chasing after a toy the other one has.
  • On the other hand, pack light so that you aren't stuck carrying a ton of stuff back and forth in addition to being in charge of a sandy, squirmy toddler.
  • Baby powder works wonders to get all the sand off the skin of little kids (and adults too!)
  • Bring snacks...lots and lots of snacks!

See you next year Florida! I'm so glad we are only a short drive away from such a fun-filled vacation =)