Friday, April 29, 2016

20 Favorite Picture Books for Boys

I'm guest posting over at Polka-Dotty Place today for Whitney's Mom-Vice Series.  This series is about all things little boys to celebrate the arrival of baby Fletcher!

I thought the perfect way to welcome Fletcher would be to share with him our all-time favorite books!

Below I have posted affiliate links, which means that I may make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase after clicking on any of those links. Please see the disclosure page for more info! 

Here are the first 5 of our top 20 favorite picture books for boys (and girls too!):

Boats: Speeding! Sailing! Cruising! by Patricia Hubbell
This is one of our family's all time favorite books (and authors).  The illustrations and rhymes are so fun and unique!  You should definitely check out the rest of her transportation books too - they are fabulous!

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
The classic story of Mike and his steam shovel Mary Anne.  They are being put out of work by the new modern shovels.  How will this old pair find a way to keep working and stay together?  (We love this one so much that our 3 year old son's birthday was all about this book!) 

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
The classic story of how a shy bull who likes to sniff flowers ends up in a bull fight.  Our kids' #1 fave book.

The Three Little Gators by Helen Ketteman
A fun and silly twist on the story of The Three Little Pigs.  This one is a fave and always gets us giggling!

Alphabeasties by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss
Animals made out of lots of little letters.  Letters made into images.  This is such a fun learning tool for teaching your child the alphabet!

To see our next 15 faves, please head on over to Polka-Dotty Place to read the rest of my post!

What are your favorite children's books, especially for boys?  Please share!  I'm looking forward to adding more great titles to our library list!
Thanks, Whitney, for letting take part in your awesome series!
And welcome, little Fletcher!

I'm linking up with these awesome parties!

Sweet Little Tidbits {Volume 1}

Once a week (or maybe twice a month?), I'm going to share the sweet little tidbits of life: what we're up to, things that encourage me and are thought provoking, favorites, new finds, recipes, or reads, and whatever fun randomness that I think will be inspiring!

1.  This past weekend, we celebrated L's 1st Birthday!  We had perfect weather and a great time celebrating our little L with our families. 

I absolutely looooove making all the decorations for the kids' parties, and this one turned out so cute!  I'll be sharing more details of his Charlotte's Web party in a future post!

2.  And speaking of books, today I'm sharing our top 20 favorite picture books for boys with Whitney at Polka-Dotty Place as a part of her Mom-Vice series.  We are always reading, and these are the best of the best!  What books would you add to our list?

Do Small Things with Great Love

3.  I'm really excited about something I've been working on lately - my new Etsy shop - Sweet Little Ones Shop!

I've always loved creating beautiful things and being crafty, so I'm excited to go on this new adventure where I can combine my love of art with my faith.  Right now, I'm offering printables (mostly of Bible verses), and I hope to add invitations, Scripture cards, and more very soon! 

Sweet Little Ones Shop is only just getting started, and I can't wait to create more!  What's your favorite from the shop?

My new favorite brownie/cookie!

4.  My new anti-inflammatory diet is going much better now!  Those first two weeks were rough, but I've slowly been adding one new food every or every other day.  My best find this week: Alexis's Fudgy Brownie Cookies!  They are dairy- and gluten-free and perfectly hit the spot for this girl who has been dying for chocolate!  Now, if only I could have some milk to sip on with it...

5.  After I posted this week about our unexplained peace with our infertility following my recent surgery, I saw that this just so happens to be Infertility Awareness Week.  God has perfect timing with His gentle nudges to share our journeys and hearts.  Thank you for your prayers, support, and encouragement for us!  It means the world to us.

What sweet little moments, thoughts, and tidbits have filled your week?

I'm linking up with these parties,
especially with Anne and Jenna for their Currently link up: 
1. Celebrating L's 1st Birthday, 2. Reading boy's books,
3. Going on a new adventure with my new Sweet Little Ones Shop
4. (I wish I was) Sipping on milk, and 5. Pondering the perfect timing of God! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I Should Have Been Devastated: Unexplained Peace with Our Infertility

I'm not the "bare my soul" type of blogger, so I wasn't sure whether I should even share this or not.  I couldn't quite put my finger on what I wanted to say or exactly what I thought about what happened.  And I certainly didn't want to come off as bragging because trust me, I'm not.  But after following Laura Kelly Fanucci's story and reading her latest update,* I felt a gentle nudge to share what happened to me a few weeks ago with my surgery:

We've struggled with infertility for all of our almost 9 years of marriage.  I've had one diagnosis after another and surgery after surgery for my stage 4 endometriosis.  We've had many tear-filled discussions about having kids - bio and adopted.  We went through the roller coaster of discerning if God was calling us to adopt and then eventually adopting our 3 beautiful children.  And for all of it - even the "bad" stuff - we are so grateful.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: infertility is a blessing and a cross.  And some days it feels more like one than the other.  It wouldn't matter if my kids were all adopted, all bio, or a mixture of both - my infertility still stings:

J asks me all the time, "Mommy, I want a sister!  Can I pleeeeeease have a sister?!"

How I wish I could "give" my children the gift of many siblings!**  My husband has 6, and I have 5 siblings.  What a joy it is to be in a big family!  We wanted the same for our family.  But my body can't or won't.  My body is broken...barren.  This is our cross.

But after my surgery a few weeks ago, I received a very unexpected consolation in the midst of our suffering. 

My endometriosis is very severe and involves other organs, in particular my large intestine.  I needed to have surgery because of the extreme pain it was causing me in this area (my third surgery since 2009).  Going into the surgery, we knew there would be a chance I may lose a small part of my large intestine.  We knew that, and we were prepared for it.

However, my pain "in general" was nonexistent compared to right before my last surgery in 2013, so I thought (or more like really, really hoped) that my endometriosis had only returned just a little bit and only on the large intestine.  But the doctor warned us this might not be the case so to be prepared.  And depending on what they found when they opened me up, I may have anywhere from a 2 to 6 week recovery.

So surgery day arrives.  I'm only a little nervous.  I'm mostly missing the kids.  Then, God sets me at ease with this first little consolation:

In our prayers, we had asked for the intercession of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.  When we get into the surgery prep area, I'm introduced to my nurse - Teresa.  I literally lost it right there when they said her name.  I'm crying my eyes out and all the nurses think I'm scared of doctors and needles.  But I was overwhelmed by the peace I felt.  I literally felt God was there and everything was going to be just fine.  It just welled up and burst out of me.

So I'm wheeled back for my surgery feeling completely free of fear.

Then, I'm waking up.  In and out of it again and again.  Slowly regaining full consciousness.  And then Jim tells me the weird news and the bad news:

First, there was no endo on my intestine.  None.  And let me tell you, that pain I felt the months before - it was real and in exactly the same place as before my other surgery in 2013.  It was literally the entire reason I had this surgery.  So the doctor says it was referred pain, or it's actually inside my intestine.  So we'll have to see what the next few months bring.  If I continue having the pain, it'll be another medical procedure and/or surgery.

Second, the endo was very severe again.  One of the worst cases my doctor has ever seen.  (Don't you just love hearing that?!)  It was everywhere again.  I just didn't have the pain this time. 

And because of the severity of my endo, I had to lose my right ovary.  The endo had completely encased and consumed it.  My ovary had to go.  We had no idea this was even a possibility, so we were not prepared for this news.  And to add to it, there was some endo on my left ovary that my doctor couldn't remove.  So he told us that our chances of ever becoming pregnant were very slim.

When Jim told me all of this news, I was shocked.  But that was it.  I didn't cry.  I didn't feel self-pity.  I wasn't upset or angry.  I was just ok with it all.  I felt at peace.

I should've been devastated.
The pain might not be gone.
I might have to have another surgery and definitely lose part of my intestine.
And the worst part - my right ovary is gone and my left ovary is diseased.
We will most likely never have a large family.

But I felt at peace.  I still do.  When I think about what all has been lost during this surgery, I can't even make myself upset about it. 

And it doesn't make sense.  I've been down this road before.  More than once.  I've received bad news - really bad news - at doctor's appointments and after surgeries, pre- and post-kids.  And every single time, I have been so upset, sobbed, and grieved my barrenness (for days, weeks, and even months).

I keep asking myself: Why not this time?  Why have I been given this peace?

The answer I keep coming up with is: I don't know.

I definitely don't deserve this gift of peace, but I am so incredibly grateful for it.

I don't know how long this peace will last.  I can't say that I won't grieve the children I'll never have in the future.  I can't say I won't shed any more tears over my infertility.  I can't say it won't be painfully bittersweet to hear another pregnancy announcement or see another bump update.

But I do know in my heart, that for reasons unknown, God gave me this one reprieve, this one consolation, this sweet taste of peace in the storm.

And this peace has helped me to truly see the bigger picture of our infertility journey:

There is beauty in the miracles and in the suffering of the Cross.  Because God is there in both.

Our infertility journey has caused us great emotional pain and spiritual suffering since we cannot have our desired family size due to my broken and barren body.  But through this anguish and brokenness, we have been given us so much peace and joy because we have strengthened our marriage and relationship with God, and of course, we now have our beautiful children through the blessing of adoption! 

That is why I'll (always try very hard to be) grateful for all of it, the good and the bad, the joy and the painBecause the beauty of our Redemption came through the spilling of His Blood. 

"I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9

God isn't just in the joy and the peace.  He is on the Cross too.  It's His story, my story, and yours.  Praise be to God.

P.S.  Thanks again for all of your prayers for me!  I specifically asked you to pray for peace for me, and it was most definitely answered.  Please continue your prayers for us and know that you are in ours!

*Please read Laura's story, especially her update.  They lost pre-term twin girls recently, and there story and witness is incredible.  She can say it much better than I ever could.

**I know God is the true Giver of life and that a woman cannot "give" children to her husband or family.  I only used the word "give" because that is how it truly feels in your heart when you're suffering from infertility.  Oh, the half-truths that run through your mind when you're suffering.

Are you looking for Tuesday Talk?  You can link up here.

I'm linking up with these parties this week.

My Surgery "Miracle", Mom-vice, Scriptures, and Fab Features (Tuesday Talk #69)

I'm back!  

Well, I haven't really been gone...I'm just feeling back to 100% since my surgery.  So I should be back to blogging more frequently now!

And I'll be starting with sharing my 20 favorite picture books for boys for Whitney's Mom-Vice series this Friday!  So come back later this week to see my faves and to share yours here or at Polka-Dotty Place!

Beth of Our Pretty Little Girls and her family been having some difficulties lately with their daughter's vision problems.  So Beth shared her and some other lady blogger's favorite Bible verses that help you get through the tough times.  Even if you're not going through anything right now, it's an excellent list to read through to help you cling to hope and to remind you of God's love for you!

And speaking of difficulties and Scripture, today I shared what happened a few weeks ago with my surgery.  We got quite a bit of bad news regarding my infertility.  This has happened before, and typically, I would be devastated.  But this time I was given an unexpected and beautiful gift that I'm still clinging to today.  And it has truly opened my eyes.  You can read the whole story here.

Thanks again for all of your prayers for me!

Blessings on you all,

Welcome to Tuesday Talk #69!
Let's connect!
Beth at Our Pretty Little Girls | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram 
Michelle at Grammie Time | Pinterest | Instagram 
Check out the Tuesday Talk guidelines here,
and check out everyone's features on Pinterest here!

10 on Tuesday {About Me} by Jessica at Life. Love. Reality.

Blueberry Lemon Cake by Monica at A Beautiful Mess
Baked Veggie Tacos by Kristina at Ms. Modify
You guys share so many great posts every week!  It is so hard to choose only a few to feature.  So throughout the week, I will also be sharing more of your best posts on my Facebook page too.  I'd love for you to follow along!

One thing before you link up - if you want the opportunity to be featured, please make sure there is a link back to at least one of the hosts in your post, sidebar, or party page.  (You can grab the button below!)  Your lovely blog is being presented on our 13 blogs - we would love it if you would return the favor and link back to us!  Thank you!!!

Sweet Little Ones - Tuesday Talk Link Up and Party

You guys share so many great posts every week!  It is so hard to choose only a few to feature.  So throughout the week, I will also be sharing more of your best posts on my Facebook page too.  I'd love for you to follow along!

One thing before you link up - if you want the opportunity to be featured, please make sure there is a link back to at least one of the hosts in your post, sidebar, or party page.  (You can grab the button below!)  Your lovely blog is being presented on our 13 blogs - we would love it if you would return the favor and link back to us!  Thank you!!!

Sweet Little Ones - Tuesday Talk Link Up and Party

I'm linking up with these awesome parties!

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