Holiday Traditions...

The Christmas season has crept up on me this year, and I am not surprised in the least.  Being distracted with a little baby is enough to keep all the holiday preparations at bay for a long while.  However, Jake and I have our own family traditions that we've been looking forward to, and one of them is making sure that we get a 'Christmas morning' with just us, even if it's not on the 25th.  This year it will be on Saturday.  We're looking forward to Adrian's first time under the tree, listening to and reflecting on the coming of our Lord (and the miracle of His birth has a whole new meaning for us now!), opening some gifts, and eating cinnamon rolls and a delicious turkey dinner.  Generally we like to go to the movies on Christmas day, but it will be difficult to take Adrian, so instead we will be at our church for a time of Christmas carols and delicious baked holiday treats. 

I think Adrian has already got the festive spirit down pretty well...
Four weeks and 6 days old
From my family to yours, have a wonderful and hope-filled holiday.  



Being Crafty...

Since becoming a mother, I have been more determined than ever to not let the things that I previously enjoyed doing go to the wayside.  I've slowly been trying to reintroduce certain things into my daily routine.

Most recently I took up crocheting again.  Jake and I enjoy watching a lot of movies, so if he is holding Adrian, that's the perfect time for me to do a little project.  This week I completed a hat for the first time ever, and it doesn't look terrible.

Ever since I learned how to crochet when I was about ten years old, I've had a on-again off-again relationship.  I'll get inspired to do something one minute, and then completely drop the project for a solid year or two before starting again.  I hope this is one skill that I can improve in over time.

Here is what I'm hoping to make next:

Photo Source: http://www.hopefulhoney.com/2013/11/baby-pom-pom-hat-crochet-pattern.html
We'll see how it goes!

What do you enjoy crafting?



The Un-Book Club...

I have tried to form a book club a couple of times, but each time the members couldn't seem to pick a book, or agree on a time to meet.  Recently a friend invited me to go to the library's 'Un-book Club', which was scheduled to meet at a local pub for this month's meeting.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was not surprised that my friend and I were the youngest ones there.  About ten people showed up, and it was a relaxing and quiet atmosphere in the back lounge of the restaurant  The theme for this month was cooking, so it was interesting to see everyone's take on the topic.  Recipe books were brought in for review, fiction books that included recipes were distributed, and critiques on un-related books were also given.  My friend and I were in awe of all these older people with such a passion for reading, and how one woman even had a Book Lover's Diary. We also did some clandestine matchmaking with the token male and one of the ladies.  It really is the perfect place to meet someone!

I've always wanted to be a part of a book club that talked about one specific book, so I'm not sure if this club is the right fit for me.  However, it was great to get some book recommendations and, need I mention, to get out of the house sans bebe.  The next meeting is in January, so I will give it another go.

One of the books I would like to check out next is And The Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini.  I've read the other two by him, and found them very thought-provoking and intense.  Does anyone have anymore book recommendations?



Adrian's Birth Story: Part Three...

For some reason, bottle-feeding was never an option in my mind, and yet we felt completely frustrated whenever he needed to use the feeding tube.  The second Wednesday after Adrian's birth, the doctors once again said that the moment he starts feeding exclusively orally, that included bottle-feeding, he could go home.  All of a sudden that triggered something for Jake and I.  If he starts to use a bottle whenever he doesn't breast-feed well, we could go home!

All of a sudden the doubts started flooding in, and I was so confused on what to do.  I kept getting mixed advice from hospital staff.  Some people were against the bottle, saying it can lead to nipple confusion, and other people said a baby will suck whatever it's given.  Whatever the case, as long as our baby had to use a feeding tube he had to stay put.

I started feeling selfish, though, and knew that I wanted to bottle-feed him just to get out of there.  That was a rough day, and since Jake wasn't there, I felt like I was needing to make all these decisions by myself.  I know it doesn't sound like a big deal, but it felt like it at the time.  I was also dealing with judgment from hospital staff, knowing that some of them weren't approving of what choices we were making.  I started praying that Adrian would just breast-feed exclusively so we wouldn't have to use bottles at all.

We knew that the staff needed to see Adrian eating exclusively orally for 24-48 hours before they'd let him go, so we started keeping track of how many breast or bottle-fed feedings he would have in a row, and we were getting encouraged.

One night I completely slept through Adrian's 3 AM feeding, waking up to a 6AM wake-up call from the nurse.  I scrambled to remember what happened at 3AM, and when I asked the nurse, she said that he didn't wake up and she didn't call me because she wanted us both to rest, so she just fed him through the feeding tube.  I was kind of frustrated--grateful she let me sleep, but frustrated that she didn't call me because my breasts were sore since I hadn't pumped at 3AM.  Not to mention, she hadn't even given him the benefit of the doubt, and had fed him with the tube, which meant we had to start at square one again. 

At his noon feeding, I lost it because the nurse told me she tube-fed him at 10AM because he was fussy and she didn't want to bother me--he was AWAKE and she didn't call me!! I was super frustrated because it seemed like every time we took a step forward there were two steps back.  Also, that's the reason I was there, to feed my son, and it was never her call to assume she was bothering me.  So I lost it,and started crying even more because Adrian wouldn't wake up for his noon feeding (probably because she'd fed him at 10AM!)  The doctor came over and talked with me, saying he would stand by me no matter what option we chose (regarding bottle, breast, or feeding tube).  THEN he offhandedly mentioned that we could get transferred to the Cambridge hospital, and I thought, that was even an option?! Why weren't we informed earlier?! Jake had been driving back and forth from Hamilton all week when we could have been much closer to home.  I jumped at that opportunity and he said he'd see what he could do.

The next morning I was frustrated with the night nurse, AGAIN, because she did something without my permission.  That got old real quick, and I realized that I was going to have to be more firm with my nurses.  Adrian wasn't waking up so we thought we might need the feeding tube, but the poor little guy woke up from the insertion and eventually breast-fed.  I felt like such a failure because he kept crying before nursing.  It was so difficult, and I didn't have the stamina to fight with my baby, especially since all those leads connected to monitors gave us no mobility.

At his 9AM feeding he fought and fought, and we were both getting stressed out so finally I gave him a bottle and we were both much happier.  Everyone kept telling me to do what makes us feel better, and I just couldn't fight with my baby anymore.  It was taking a toll on our relationship.  I wanted Adrian to trust me, and if that meant foregoing breast-feeding for us to be happy and less stressed (for now, while in hospital at least), then so be it.  I wanted to breast-feed but I also wanted to be sane.  I knew that the Lord would work it all out in the end.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, we still reeling from a rough Saturday.  We discovered that, if he drank what he needed, then he was on a 3 1/2 hour schedule.  The problem was that he got unsettled during the day.  He hadn't been able to calm down much.  I thought if the nurses called me, I may just have to sit by his crib with a book and just hold him.  He seemed like he just wanted some mama love.  The new nurse wanted to top him up with the feeding tube, but I suggested the bottle instead.  He had had three feedings in a row without the tube, and he was waking up from hunger, which was a good sign. 

That night we got word that a space had opened up at Cambridge Memorial, but at that point he had been doing really well.  We were worried that transferring him might mess up his feeding schedule and that he'd revert to the feeding tube again.  The nurse told us that the situation in Cambridge was even better, that he would be in our room with us.  We jumped on that opportunity, and so around 7pm on Sunday evening my little Adrian was packed up in a portable incubator and transferred to CMH. 

We drove as quickly as we could to meet up with him.  As we entered the hospital, our doubts started mounting.  It felt as empty as a tomb, and we got lost trying to find the paediatric ward.  However, Adrian was crying to eat by the time we got there, and I was so encouraged because he just kept eating and eating as the nurse informed us about hospital protocol and such.  We were so grateful, since he wasn't hooked up to any monitors, and he was right beside us in the bassinette, in our own private room.  That was the first time in two weeks that we had him all to ourselves, but it felt so good to have the independence.  It was also difficult because we didn't really know how to soothe him that well.  The nurses always did that so much better.  He didn't wake up for his 1AM feeding, and I was nervous that the nurse was going to suggest a feeding tube, but she was encouraging, and told me to wait until the next time to try again. 

Things were far more relaxed there than they were in Hamilton, and I was starting to wonder what the big fuss had been about after all.  Why was it that he needed to be hooked up to monitors and be on a strict three hour feeding schedule at one hospital and not another?  I wasn't complaining, but just wary. 

His weight went up on Thanksgiving Monday, and we were pleased and praised God (since he hadn't needed a feeding tube since midnight on Saturday night!).  We were prepared to spend Thanksgiving in the hospital, even though we had been praying for about a week to be discharged so we could see family. 

Around 11:30, the doctor came around, and after lots of questions, examination of Adrian, and a few final checks, he told us he didn't see why Adrian needed to stay, but that we could go home.  We were just floored, and all of a sudden I got nervous, like maybe they didn't know what they were doing, and that they shouldn't be sending us home already.  I mean, we JUST left Hamilton the night before!

But we packed up our stuff and left the hospital feeling so overwhelmed.  We drove straight to Jake's extended family Thanksgiving gathering, without telling a soul, and praised the Lord for such a wonderful Thanksgiving miracle. 

I was in a complete state of disbelief, and was so nervous about doing this on our own.  I mean, for two weeks we were surrounded by nurses and hospital staff giving timely and well-directed advice and help.  But we were so thankful to God for the precious little life we could FINALLY bring home.


Vegan Chocolate Pudding Cake...

Gassy babies aren't fun.  That's why some pediatricians recommend that breast-feeding mothers take a sabbatical from dairy products.  It hasn't been easy for Jake and I to figure out meals without dairy, and it's always the products you don't expect that sneak in those modified milk ingredients.  However, I'm happy to go without dairy if it means a happier baby.

The worst for me has been finding desserts that don't have dairy in them. 

>ice cream?
>that sour cream apple pie tart from the neighbour?

Thankfully, one of my friends sent me a link for this vegan chocolate pudding cake.  It's pretty darn amazing, and you wouldn't even know it was made without dairy!  I must admit, it's nice to be back in the kitchen again :)

Not the best picture, but trust me, your taste buds
 will love you!


Adrian's Birth Story: Part Two...

On Wednesday, the day after he was born, this pediatric resident came to take a look at Adrian.  By the time she left, I was bawling.  She had seemed very unsure of how to hold a baby and looked like she was hurting him as she was examining him.  She later came back with some other people and they also had a look at him.  Then on Thursday they came back to tell us that there were some things they were concerned about, and they wanted to take him to the NICU Level 2 Nursery for further monitoring.  I guess during his check that morning he had choked so badly that they had to suction him.  So they took him away and I bawled.  I had no idea what this meant or what was happening.  Finally we got to go over and see him.  (I am convinced that those walks back and forth from the NICU were what sped up my recovery, even though that first week my abdomen was in pure agony!)  And, you can guess, I bawled once again when we got there because he was stripped down to his diaper in an incubator with all these leads hooked up to him.  The doctor told us there were concerns with lack of weight gain, some respiratory issues, feeding issues, and possible genetic abnormalities.  I was in so much shock, and I just wanted Adrian to know that I loved him no matter what.  Jake was so strong, and asked questions with such a level head.  I was grateful that he was there!  It was hard to leave Adrian in the nursery, but we went back a couple of hours later for a feeding.  I met with the lactation consultant, who was such an encouragement to me.

Thus began the strict 3-hour feeding cycle, and it felt so endless.  I had many highs and lows, and Adrian had some good feeds and bad ones.  On Friday I was discharged from the standard ward, and the doctors visited with us again, saying that he exceeded their expectations with breast-feeding and that he was gaining weight.  His respiratory system was starting to look better, too.  The we saw the geneticist who said that the results for genetics would be back in about 1-2 months.  The doctors said that the only thing keeping him in the hospital was his feedings, and as soon as he could feed exclusively orally he could go home. [At that point he had been using a feeding tube for some of his feedings because he wasn't waking up to eat.]  Because I was breast-feeding, the hospital was able to put us up in a bunk room, which was pure solitude after staying in the ward.  It was a blessing to have the amenities of the hospital's Ronald McDonald room, and I will never undervalue that organization again since we benefited so gratefully from it.  After spending the entire weekend with crazy ups and downs, needing to use the feeding tube on many occasions and observing him a little more closely, I noticed that he looked tired and exhausted.  The LC suggested alternating between the feeding tube and breast-feeding, to see if giving him a break in between makes him more receptive to breast-feeding.

Honestly, I had never felt as discouraged as I did the first few breast-feeding sessions that second week.  He was so hungry, but did not want to breast-feed.  He would rear back his head and cry like I was torturing him.  That's when the LC suggested that he was just weary.  So we waited for the doctors to get in touch and to explain what could be going on.  It was frustrating, but I was happy that Mom was able to stay with me for a few days since Jake had to go back to work.

The whole experience was overwhelming, and possibly the toughest thing I've had to face in life.   But we were so looked after by God, and couldn't dismiss the blessing it was to have a son!  We were so absolutely in love with him, and that's what made us push through the tough moments of each day.  I would do anything for Adrian.  It was hard, though, because I felt so trapped in the hospital.  I was just praying that God would grant me patience as I waited on Him to do His good will in His time.  I just wanted Adrian to be healthy, and I needed to stop placing undue expectations on him for how quickly I thought he should be improving.  I felt rejection from Adrian when he didn't want to breastfeed, and then the frustration ensued as a nurse and I would fight with him to get him to eat.  We were both exhausted.

At that point we were asking the Lord for some improvement so that we could go home on Thanksgiving.  Adrian started to improve later on that week, but I still needed to remember to trust God in His timing. Some of the passages that comforted me were Psalm 139:13-16:
For you formed my inward parts;    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]Wonderful are your works;    my soul knows it very well.15 My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them,    the days that were formed for me,    when as yet there was none of them.
and Psalm 104: 27-30 reminded me that it is the LORD who is in control of everything, not me:
These all look to you,    to give them their food in due season.
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
    when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed;    when you take away their breath, they die    and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit,[a] they are created,    and you renew the face of the ground.

Jake was so amazing through it all.  I never knew I could function off so little sleep, and my body was hurting from the section, but Jake was there, steady and supportive.  Whenever I voiced my doubts and fears, he said, "Ashleigh, you are a wonderful mother but a terrible God!"

Although it wasn't ideal, we experienced some of Adrian's firsts in the hospital, including the first time we tried to give him a bath.  We had both watched nurses give him baths previously, so we thought we could do it.  The nurse left us to it, but as soon as his little body started sliding around in the tub we both freaked, and called the nurse back over in panicky voices.  We laughed about it later, but felt like major parent fails at the time!
to be continued....

Love, Ashleigh


Adrian's Birth Story: Part One...

Oh, Adrian Norman Alexander--where do I begin to describe such a precious gift as him?

Born October 1, 2013 at 5:17 am, weighing 7 lbs 5 oz, his little mewling cry tore through my heart- I was in love forever.  The night before (Monday) I was coming off Day 3 of PG gel (something they use to try to stimulate labour when you're overdue), and hadn't felt much of a contraction for a couple of hours.  The pain was wearing off.  Jake and I were watching a movie when I felt like I peed my pants.  They when I went to the bathroom, I noticed a pinkish colour in the toilet.  I looked at Jake and said, "Well, that's different."  I also had two very painful contractions, also very different from what I'd experienced with the gel insertions.  We called the hospital and they said to come on in, that it sounded like my water was breaking.  We loaded up the car (for the final time!) and then all the way to Hamilton I had contractions.

When we got there, they told me I was 2-3 cm dilated (FINALLY!) so they admitted me and set me up in a labour room.  I laboured from 8pm to about 5am.  About 2 hours into the labour, they decided to put me on a small dose of oxytocin.  As I look back on it, my contractions were probably quite painful due to that.  I could barely stand them.  Mom and Dad got there around 1AM-Dad wasn't supposed to come, but Mom's ride fell through at the last minute.  Dad said 'hi' then went down to the car to get some shut-eye. Jake tried to rest while Mom sat through each contraction with me.  Her presence was much appreciated.  She rubbed my back as I tried to labour on the ball.  The nurse asked me why I wasn't going to take any pain meds, and I said 'No reason, just wanted to try without.'  But honestly, they're actually brutal.  Maybe without the oxytocin it's better, but honestly, I thought I would die.  That's when they told me they were worried about the lack of fetal movement and there was talk of a c-section.  To say I was relieved is an understatement.  I was in so much pain that a c-section sounded wonderful at that point.  So they did some cranial stimulation (tickling the top of the baby's head to elicit movement, and yes, it was painful for me!) then they waited for a while (because they really didn't want to go through with the c-section).  After about 3 tries, nothing changed.  So off went the oxytocin ,and my contractions spaced out even further again-- baby sure didn't want to come out!

We waited for them to set up for the surgery, and Jake had to scrub up (looking mighty fine, if I do say so myself!)
Jake in his scrubs, just before the c-section
Then they took me away to be prepped.  The surgical team was fantastic, and at 4:30am everyone was high-spirited and full of joviality.  They froze me then stretched me out and put up the sheet and got to work.  It was the strangest sensation, not feeling pain but feeling tugging as they worked baby out of me.  They brought Jake in a little later, but he told me after that he had seen all my guts splayed open as they brought him into the room.  We waited and finally they pulled Adrian out, and I heard such sad, sad cries, the saddest I had ever heard, and my heart broke and I started crying too.  They told Jake to have a look over the sheet (again, they're lucky he wasn't a fainter!) and find out the gender.  It was a boy!

Little Adrian
I was so sad when they had to take him over to get weighed/measured/suctioned.  I just wanted to hold him and stop those sad little cries.  The doctor asked me if my tears were happy, and I said 'yes', but mostly they were just full of angst.

Finally, they brought him over all bundled up and placed him on my chest, as I was still being stitched up.  His face was so red, and the first thing I remember thinking is how chubby his cheeks were and I just wanted to breathe him in.  Jake and I fell instantly in love.

With our newest addition to the family :)
After they finished stitching me up, they gave him to me to hold as they wheeled me over to the recovery room.  It felt like he was my little doll, and that he was the best present I had ever received.

Me and my baby
After checking some more vitals, the nurse placed him on me so that he could nurse, which was the craziest experience ever.  It was nice to be able to hold him skin to skin.

Mom and Dad came in and we were all so happy.  Finally, it was time to head over to the ward.  We were to share a room with four other women.  Mom and Dad came back when visiting hours began.


Grandma :)

Before that, Jake had a chance to watch them give Adrian his first bath.  They brought him back and we were just completely enamoured.  For two wonderful days we slept, fed, cuddled, and changed Adrian.

So much love...

To be continued...



Our Little One...

Just a teaser of a whopping birth story blog to come: Our son, Adrian Norman Alexander, was born on October 1 at 5:17am, and we couldn't be happier! He is one cutie, and we've fallen in love with him. One of our nurses said that he's got us wrapped around his little finger, and I couldn't agree more. Excited to share all about him soon! Love, Ashleigh


God's Mysterious Connections...

I don't listen to Christian radio, so I always love it when we learn a new song in church.  However:

Me: Have you heard that new Hillsong one?
Friend (usually my sister): Oh ya, it's been around for months.  


The first time we sang Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise), I fell in love with everything about the song.  I don't know if it's just me, but more often than not the music from Hillsong transports me to that worshipful place before God unlike any other.  We sang it again this past Sunday, so it's been in my head and heart.  Our pastor has been preaching through Romans, and Romans 6 must have been on my mind, too, since all of a sudden I noticed a connection between Romans 6:3-4 and that song:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ~Romans 6:3-4

The song's chorus:
I will rise, I will rise,
As Christ was raised to life,
Now in Him, Now in Him,
I live 
I'm so grateful for those spiritual connections that God creates, when the light bulb finally goes on in my head, and I understand.  I am grateful for the reminder of the life I have in Him today, and how His sacrifice restored hope for all of humanity.



Still Waiting...

It's nothing new, or so I've heard, for a first time pregnancy to go past the due date.  We're now +2 into overtime, and that baby hasn't made a peep.  However, thanks to many many prayers, I am feeling quite relaxed and extremely happy to be on a mini-vacation, if you will.  I didn't have to wake up for a 5AM class this morning, and I didn't have to rush my afternoon errands to start one at 5PM, either.

This is what I did instead:

One massive zucchini (yes, that is cut in half!!)
My food processor really helped to speed along
the grating process.

It yielded 25 1/2 cups of grated stuff, perfect for baking!

Here we have a gluten free zucchini brownie, a zucchini loaf,
and 2 dozen zucchini raisin walnut muffins

It's been really hard to resist digging into this smorgasbord, especially when all I want to do is eat, eat, eat!  If baby decides to wait another day, I've still got about 16 cups of grated zucchini to fill up my time, and my belly.



My Last Week...

This week is bittersweet for me.  I have been teaching phone English lessons since mid-March, and since I work from home, I've been able to work right up until the baby's due date (which is this Saturday, by the way!)
My plan is to take six weeks off from work, and then to return to my evening shift (since I work split shifts) so that Jake can take care of the baby during those three hours.  However, I'm saddened that I may not have the same students I had before.  My students will be given to other teachers, and the only way they might come back to me is if they request for me.  
So you see, I'm happy to have been approved for this time off to spend with our baby, but I'm frustrated that I will have to build up my student base all over again.  It's been especially difficult to say goodbye to them, since this week is the Korean thanksgiving, and many have been unable to make their lessons due to visiting relatives and traveling.

This morning I groggily rolled my way out of bed (looking, I imagine, almost identical to a beached whale) at 4:40am for my lesson at 5 and thought naively, "Ah, only two more days of getting up at stupid-o-clock."

And yet.

I really have no idea what life with our newborn will be like.  I grew up with younger siblings, but only remember my youngest brother's baby years the best.  Even then, I wasn't his mother (although I still felt and do have a special protective and nurturing bond for him), so I wasn't fully aware of the behind-the-scenes that my parents experienced.  

Despite whatever sleepless nights that may come, I can honestly say I am excited for this next phase in our lives.  Everything is new, scary, and exciting all rolled into one.  For now, all I want to do is to hold our precious baby in my arms and to finally look at his/her face, to touch those arms and legs that have been just out of reach but oh-so-present all these months, and to drink in the sweet smell that is a newborn's skin.  


39 weeks and 2 days


What I've Been Up to Lately, When Not Blogging...

In the Kitchen
A must try.  Jake loved these so much the first time I made them that he requested to have them once a week. Surprisingly, I have been doing just that.  If you know me, this is a very rare event.  I must really enjoy them, too (either that or they're a super easy meal option-try it yourself to find out!)

If you don't have access to a Korean store (or friend) to obtain the traditional Korean staple known as kimchi, more's the pity.  This fried rice dish took me only 15 minutes to prepare (which is saying a lot for someone who tends to stretch a 20 minute prep time into 40 minutes), and paired with a salad or some sort of meat dish it would make for a completely satisfying meal.  (It's probably a major faux pas in Korean cuisine, but I used brown rice and it still tasted amazing!)

What mine looked like

Since purchasing a pressure cooker in Brazil, I have sworn that it is my best kitchen tool.  I love how much I can save by buying dried beans, which is why I included the refried beans recipe for this tasty Mexican dish.  Not only fun to make, enfrijoladas also make an appeal as international 'comfort food', much like Kraft Dinner is to some people here (*cough cough* Jake *cough cough*)

The perfect medley of sweet and spicy, this recipe could be your gateway to cold noodle salad if you've never been a fan before.  Delicious freshly made, even better five days later.  Try it, and you won't be disappointed.

Dessert Honourary Mention: Oatmeal Raisin Cashew Cookies
Maybe you saw me go on about this one on Facebook already.  Well I don't care.  I LOVED this recipe.  Super easy to whip up, the only thing that takes a bit of time is assembling them on the cookie sheet (since the batter is quite sticky and hard to work with).  SO. WORTH. IT. Trust me, you need to make these today.  If you are worried about the price of those fatty little cashews, a friend had success substituting them with mixed nuts, so NO EXCUSES.  These will blow your mind.

On my Night table 
Currently Reading:
Indigo: In Search of the Colour That Seduced the World, Catherine E. McKinley
The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty
Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster

I have been having the hardest time getting through these books.  They are all amazing, but I have been too distracted to sit down and just read.

Night Road, Kristin Hannah
If you want a good cry and a time to rage about the unfairness and tragedy of life, this is the book for you.  I always enjoy Hannah's writing.  She goes into so much detail that you can almost imagine yourself experiencing the joys and sorrows with the characters.  A great read about the coming-of-age and overcoming stigmas about ourselves, this book had much to offer in way of revenge masquerading as justice, redemption, and learning how to forgive.

First Time Mom: Getting Off On the Right Foot From Birth to Grade One, Kevin Leman
I know what you're thinking- isn't that a broad age gap to span? Well, it is and it isn't.  No, the baby hasn't even arrived yet, but it's always good to start thinking about the future.  Often situations creep up on us in ways that leave us flabbergasted and unable to react appropriately.  I feel a little more prepared for what is to come from having read this book.

The Cuckoo's Calling, Robert Galbraith
I'm sure most of you know by now that this is J.K. Rowling's latest, penned under her not-so-secret pseudonym. I enjoyed this mystery novel.  Even though it was slow and somewhat repetitive at times, Galbraith delved into the deep character development that is so true to Rowling's nature and story-telling characteristics.
  **Caveat Emptor: There is A LOT of swearing in this book

Through my headphones
Your Great Name, Natalie Grant
Brave, Sara Bareilles
Tidal Wave, Sub Focus
Jiya Re, from the Bollywood movie Jab Hak Tai Jaan

Favourite Online Articles
Diana Nyad's historic swim- I was so impressed with this woman's tenacity and will to overcome any obstacle.  She is a definite role model for perseverance in my books!
How to Make Popcorn in the Microwave- I once bought an air popper from Value Village, and it broke on the second use.  Since then I have been lamenting over a severe lack of popcorn, and I don't always have time to make it on the stove.  I stumbled across a couple of articles for making loose popcorn kernels in the microwave. First I tried the brown paper bag method(which worked but ended up burning a little-also, mega waste of brown paper bags!) as well as using a glass casserole dish with a fitted lid (which availed only 15-20 popped kernels.) After about 5 failed attempts, I then discovered this article, and my life has significantly 'popped'.  It turns out that all I needed was a little bit of ventilation for success and delicious, perfectly popped, homemade microwave popcorn.

Favourite Teaching Aids
Controversial Statements- I always enjoy these kind of agree/disagree lessons with my students, and they seem to be challenged by the discussions

Have you ever...?- Some of these questions are random, but they help us to talk about things we might not have otherwise, such as 'eating frogs' legs'.  Surprisingly, more people have tried them than you think!

The Game of 'What?'- I use the scenarios in this game to generate creativity in thinking 'outside-of-the-box'

Readings in my Bible

Again, the distraction problem is real.  Yesterday I stopped reading so that I could look up something baby-related online.  It would seem that my priorities are out of alignment.

Movies Worth Mentioning
Jab Hak Tai Jaan- a great and fun Bollywood film (find it on Netflix).  Be prepared for 3 hours of cheesy songs and romance, as is the custom with much of Bollywood.  I wouldn't have it any other way!
Wolverine- because Hugh Jackman.  That is all.
Elysium- I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this newest one from Matt Damon.  A new take on the old theme of separation of the classes, it kept me on my toes the entire time.  I also loved the surprise ending in this futuristic action flick.

Walks and movies with Jake- we even went to the drive-in, which was a first for me!
At the drive-in
Firming up baby names
Getting the nursery prepared
Coffee dates with friends
TV Shows: Once Upon a Time, Castle, Pretty Little Liars, North & South (BBC)


It's The Free Things...

This is one roadside-yes, roadside- find that was worth blogging about.  As many of you know, there are many aspects of becoming a first time parent that can be tedious, time-consuming, and even stressful.  For me, one of those things has been finding the little pieces of furniture needed for the nursery.  I am not really one for decorating, but I have been looking for a change-table/dresser that matches the rest of the furniture in the room (namely, the bookshelf, crib, and desk).  Even if I don't do much decorating, at least the colours will look uniform.  I have looked on Kijiji numerous times, but haven't found much. 

Jake and I were out for a walk tonight, and for some reason I chose a different route.  We take this route maybe once every two or three weeks, so I know it was God-ordained from the start.  We had walked barely 5 minutes when I spotted the dresser on the side of the road.  It's garbage day tomorrow, and people put out all sorts of treasures.  I couldn't believe it.  The dresser was the perfect height, the perfect colour, and even has some beautifully designed drawers!

I felt like crying a little bit.  I'm sure these people could have sold it on Kijiji for a good $60.  God knows what our hearts desire, and this was surely above and beyond what my heart had been desiring.  I'm so thankful to him for his blessing in even these free things, the small things.      
 I can't wait to fill it with baby clothes and diapers.



Post Wedding Weekend...

 This weekend we had a chance to go to our friend Mike's wedding.  We drove with Jake's brother Josh to the Port Elgin area, which is about a 1 1/2 to 2 hours drive away.  I'm so happy we could be there to celebrate with Mike and Hannah on their special day.  Needless to say, we were exhausted after a delicious turkey meal, an energetic dance, and a squishy car ride home.  Since Jake and I had met up with Josh at their parents' house, we decided to crash there last night.  We enjoyed a luxuriously relaxing Sunday morning with Jake's fam, happy to take it easy after the busy weekend.  Here are some of the pictures taken at the bride's parent's gorgeous country home.  Enjoy!

Jake and Josh

Us with the groom, Mike.  Congrats!


Spiritual Disciplines: Study

I've noticed that my readership has taken a downward spiral since starting these posts about the spiritual disciplines. I can't change that, but I'm grateful for those of you who stick with me even in the tedious moments when I need to flesh out my thoughts and dialogues on the Christian walk.

The chapter on study in Celebration of Discipline was highly practical, especially the list of some classic Christian literature that should accompany our regular reading of Scripture. I confess, some of those books haven't even made it on my to-read list. I'm more of a fiction girl myself, but I pride myself on reading a wide variety of literature. I should probably give them another chance. Here are today's points from the chapter:

Jesus made it unmistakably clear that the knowledge of the truth will set us free ~John 8:32

Freedom is an amazing aspect of our lives in Christ. Let's be encouraged by His words!

WHAT we study determines the kind of habits that are formed.

We know that the things we read about and study circulate in our minds. If I consistently read about the unrest in Egypt, that's going to be heavy on my heart. In the same vein, we need to focus our study about God so that we can form habits that are life-changing.

We [often] give a critical analysis of a book before we understand what it says.

In this statement, Richard Foster is just encouraging us to read a book with the simultaneous actions of a.) understanding what the author is saying b.)interpreting what the author means and c.) evaluating if the author is right or wrong. I have often been found guilty of judging a book 'by it's cover', if you will. The discipline of study requires us to go a little bit deeper into the text to glean extra meaning.

To read successfully, we need the extrinsic aids of experience, other books, and live discussions.

Just as we cannot do life solo, Foster intimates that we cannot read a book without supplementing to enrich the experience.

God desires various "tarrying" places for all of us where he can teach us in special ways.

Using the example of Paul's vision of clean and unclean things in the book of Acts, Foster suggests that God may not have been able to speak to him had he not been delayed there. It's important that we deliberately tarry, or open up space in our busy lives so that the Lord can grow us.

The key to the Discipline of study is not reading many books, but experiencing what we do read.

When my sister and I were growing up, we always kept a list of the books we read. Melissa was very detailed in her notes, even going so far as to write down the pages for each book. We became very competitive, but it was never a surprise that she read way more than me. Her secret? Drown out the distractions and lose yourself in the story. I was so focused on the goal to read more and more that I forgot to experience the story in all its fullness. Perhaps if I focused less on the task and more on the meaning I would gain more from my study.

One of the principal objects of our study should be ourselves.

We don't just study to gain insight into spiritual matters, but also to gain insight into personal matters. When we study ourselves, what makes us tick, why we see things the way we do, we should be changed people.



Spiritual Disciplines: Fasting

Since it is recommended that expectant mothers abstain from fasting, I haven't fasted in a while. My past experiences with fasting have always been met with mixed feelings. I understand the spiritual act very well, but it doesn't always feel spiritual in the moment. The other difficult thing is trying to avoid constant thoughts about food.

Fasting has many purposes, such as effectiveness in intercessory prayer, guidance in decisions, increased concentration, deliverance for those in bondage, physical well-being, revelations, and more. Here are a couple that I want to dig into a little deeper:

Fasting must forever center on God.

Becoming closer to God must be the reason we fast in the first place. If God is not the central focus of our fasting period, then it is all for naught.

Fasting reveals the things that control us.

This one was particularly telling for me. I often let things control me- my emotions, other people's expectations, and even my pride. It would be interesting to see my response to fasting were I to do it again some time soon. Some people see their anger rise quickly when they fast, which allows them to ask God to deal with it in that moment.

Fasting helps us keep our balance in life.

Creating the space for balance is so important. I get so distracted with the trivialities of life, and fasting is a good way for me to focus on those things that matter.

In his book, Foster talked about various types of fasts. Firstly, there is a partial fast. He recommends going from lunch to lunch, so you only skip two meals and drink only water and juice. Secondly, there is a 24-hour fast, which involves fasting for a full 24 hours (skipping three meals) and drinking only water. He suggests that the fasting muscle, like so many of the disciplines, needs to be built up and trained. Once you have become used to the 24-hour fast, he advises to move up to a 36-hour fast, and then gives practical advice for how to do a 3-7 day fast, and then up to 21 and even 40 days.

Let's look at some of the statements that stood out to me in this chapter:

Biblical fasting always centers on spiritual purposes.

This is crucial to remember, since health and fitness media most often focus on fasting for weight loss purposes. Fasting as a spiritual discipline is not the time to try to lose those final 5 pounds you can't seem to shake.

It is clear...that Christ both upheld the Discipline of fasting and anticipated that his followers would do it.

Whatever your thoughts are about fasting, Foster points out that Christ never actually commands His followers to fast. However, He does say, " 'When you fast...do this' ". He expected that his disciples would do and do it regularly. We can also see, from various examples in the Bible, that there are definite spiritual benefits to fasting.

Perhaps in our affluent society fasting involves a far larger sacrifice than the giving of money.

This one hits pretty close to home, doesn't it? For some of us, giving money can be pretty easy. In my case, $39 automatically comes out of our account every month for our sponsor child, but I don't consciously think about it. Some months that money could come in handy somewhere else, yet the sacrifice is a drop in the bucket. Fasting, however, is something we can barely stand to imagine, and thoughts like, oh-my-gosh-how-can-I-go-without-food-for-a-day?!! circle 'round and 'round in our heads. We are constantly bombarded with health magazines, fast food ads, and surrounded by so much food and drink that it almost becomes physically impossible to fast in our society. We have so much, and yet we are often unwilling to give it up for even a day to become closer to God.