Posts tagged pregnancy
Dear New Mom of Two

Hey friends!

I'm sharing some advice, a practice I generally try to steer away from, over on Bunny & Dolly today. PJ is the new momma to Asa (and the proud momma of Levi, too)! Big congratulations to her and her gorgeous family.

I'm going against my general rule of thumb to offer my own 3 cents because the transition from mom of one to mom of two was a doozie for me. All the comforts of motherhood that I'd become accustomed to (AKA: focusing, relaxing during naps and bedtime, consistency) were tossed around during that first year, and I wish my wiser self would have come dancing in a bit more often.

So, if you know a mom preganant with her second or a new mom of two, send her over here. And if you've been through it and wanna laugh at/with me, I'm cool with that, too!

It's always such a privilege to spend time on someone else's blog so please click on over and get to know what Bunny & Dolly is all about!

xoxo, MJ

A Holiday Baby Shower

In my first pregnancy, with our oldest daughter, I was showered with showers. Generous friends, coworkers and relatives hosted a handful of celebrations and provided everything that we could need for Sweet Baby K (as she was known to them since we had not found out the sex of the baby during ultrasounds).

Due at the end of December, I decided that late fall was the best time to cut off extensive travel. One of the last trips I took was to Pittsburgh to celebrate a shower hosted by my mom and sister. These ladies invited family, young and old, men and women, immediate and distant to come for an afternoon of laughs and congratulatory gestures.

Unbeknownst to me, my mother and sister had contacted all of the guests prior to the celebration to ask them to send wishes for Sweet Baby K. My mom then turned those wishes into ornaments and presented my husband and me with a truly heartfelt Christmas tree.

I'm sharing more about our very special holiday gift of at Unexpectant, a great blog published by my friend, Meagan, for pregnant, new, and long-time moms. I'm delighted to be over there - come check it out!

Have a lovely weekend, friends! Off to some Christmas parties and one very special date!!

xoxo, MJ

Hope in the waiting

My dear friend, Beth, and I were chatting a few days ago, catching up on one another's life. She, ever the encourager, said that she looked forward to Advent here on Pars Caeli, interested to see what I have going on. Advent, this time of preparation leading up to Christmas, is such a special time of joy and family celebration. And after a little pleading, Beth shared with me a special something she tries to do during the Advent season.

She sends a note to all of her pregnant friends.

I remember being one of those pregnant friends receiving her note.

And I remember it changing my perspective on pregnancy.

When I was pregnant with my oldest, 9 Advents ago, I was more than ready to give birth long before my Dec. 30th due date came around. I am not known for my patience nor my ability to put off what I long for today. I'd had a healthy pregnancy, but as a first-time mom, I desired the end of the story - the end of labor, the happy and healthy baby, the recovering body.

Pregnancy tested these limits beyond my expectations.

And yet, experiencing late pregnancy (I didn't deliver until Jan. 9) during the Advent season was such a blessing. I saw the journey of Mary in a whole new way. I pondered how she felt, discriminated as a pregnant woman in her state, managing the travel by animal to a distant land, setting out to experience the unknown, with the faith in What grew within her own womb.

Advent is a time of waiting, counting down the weeks until the delivery of Christ... and Christmas. And we have an opportunity to see it as a time of hope and joy and peace for all of the gifts we have been given and the ones we are yet to uncover. Or we can wish the time away with events, tasks, to do's, and all around busyness to get us up to the day.

Whether it be in my professional life, my family life, or my prayer life, I too often want to skip to the end of the book. I want to get to the conclusion of this "stage" or this season of life.

And, well, Advent, and good people like Beth with their helpful messages, remind us that the journey or time in-between is what prepares us to be the mothers, the people that we want to be.

The time of Advent is our pregnancy, and we have much new life to celebrate.

Either way, Christmas/Christ is coming. May God allow us to have the patience to embrace the waiting and the preparation.

And maybe we could each send a special message to a pregnant friend...

xoxo, MJ


Living vicariously: Italy

Happy Monday, friends! How was your weekend?? Mine has been filled with work, and this week is looking like more of the same. No stress here, though, I've got rockstars filling in and taking us on a little vacation from the norm.

Kicking off an awesome week is my pal, Tara!! She's sharing all the loveliness that is ITALY here with us. She is soaking up "la bella vita" with her three adorables (look that scarf-donning cutie!) and super hubs...and doing it all with amazing style. Watch this...Here's Tara.

Photo by: Erika Saari Williams, Oscar Elnes Photography

A little over three years ago, my husband and I had the lucky opportunity move to Italy. We’ve had the time of our lives here, but we return to the US in one short month. We’ll bring many new things home with us, the most special of which is our family. Just the two of us made the flight over, but five of us will fly home; our fun twin sons are nearly three years old and our sweet daughter is eight months. We’ll also bring lots of other things—Italian home furnishings, new recipes, and many, many bottles of wine. The best things we’ll bring with us, though, are intangibles. We’ve truly been inspired by the way our Italian neighbors live, and I’d like to share three lessons that they’ve taught me in the hopes that—even without living here—they may inspire you, too.

Lesson One: People and relationships are the center of life. 

Family and friends take precedence over other obligations in my corner of Italy. I’ve observed this primary value play out in so many different ways during our time here; at the mom and pop store a couple of doors down from us (and in most of the other stores), they close the store for a day if there’s a family event going on without worrying about losing business. All around town, shopkeepers know their customers because they talk to us (more than small talk, too). And the people waiting in line while we chat? They don’t huff, they don’t puff, they don’t shift from foot to foot, impatient to pay and anxious to get out. They just wait, and sometimes they join in the conversation. When I’m walking down the street, I’m constantly stopped by people who want to coo over my children and ask me all about them. My three kids under the age of three aren’t a “handful.” They’re a blessing. We all walk away smiling. It’s a way of life here…people connect. Families and friends share meals together, lingering over the food and wine and water, and they talk. Again, even strangers who are dining in a restaurant with us will smile and share small pieces of conversation. It’s absolutely lovely.

In today’s world, there’s so much to do, and we all have various responsibilities. But we have really benefited from the pace of life here, which I think comes from the value that Italians place on people. I know that we won’t be able to replicate the exact same atmosphere everywhere we live, but I do know that we will try to remember the good that comes from putting people—not money, not things, not other obligations—first. I’ll take with me a readiness to say no to superfluous responsibilities that don’t help me honor my family, my friends, and even the strangers I meet along the way in life.

Lesson two: Look good, feel good.

We moved here when I was very pregnant with twins. I was big. My feet were swollen. What did I see when I walked out onto the street? Women (and men!) who were put together, top to bottom. No one was wearing flip flops. No one was wearing yoga pants. I was intimidated. Really, NO ONE was wearing yoga pants or flip flops. Ever. And I noticed quickly that if I did wear them, people gave me a sideways glance.
Photo by: Erika Saari Williams, Oscar Elnes Photography

The Italians who walk around my city center just seem to have this innate sense of style, and they are lovely to behold. And here I was hugely pregnant, and then a new mom of twins. You could say that initially I felt a bit resentful that in order to go out and about I had to get dressed, do my hair, and put on make-up or risk having people give me the sideways glance. But I quickly realized that the days I did get myself together, I felt much better about myself. And so I did it more often—almost every day. When I spent 15-20 minutes putting myself together physically, I felt more together mentally and emotionally. I found the time to make myself look nice during the most harried and sleep-deprived time of my life, the time when I was most susceptible to not showering and wearing stretchy pants every single day. Now I’m so thankful to the folks who would have given me a sideways glance, because it taught me that taking some time for myself could completely shape the rest of my day (and my week, month, life!). Fake it ‘til you make it, perhaps?

When I get dressed, I feel like I have it together. When I feel like I have it together, I’m more likely to do the things that actually put my life on a positive trajectory. I’m more likely to actually get my life together! It’s crazy, but if I have a cute outfit on, my hair looks presentable, and lipstick has touched my lips on that day, I’ll want to feel even better, so I’ll exercise the next morning. I’ll prioritize eating well, and I’ll keep exercising. Then I’ll have more patience with my children, I’ll get more done if I have any ongoing projects for work, and so on. Of course, not every day goes by smoothly just because I’m wearing make-up, but I’m far more likely to get into a funky mood when I’m wearing yoga pants and dirty hair. The funky mood benefits no one—not me, not my kids, not my husband. When I look good, chances are I’ll feel good, and so too will the people around me.

Lesson Three: Simplicity is best, especially when it comes to food.

My Italian neighbors embrace simplicity in life, to great effect. Their clothes are simple (if exquisitely made) but beautiful. Their vacations are simple—spend time in nature, whether it’s in the mountains or at the sea, eat well, and relax. Coffee is simple—small, strong, sometimes with milk. No decaf-soy-nonfat frappuccinos for them. Their food is simple but oh-so-delicious. Simplicity is where joy is found.

I love all of these mini-lessons, but I can say with certainty that my life and my family’s life have been changed forever by the Italian culture of food. Even before we moved here, I tried to eat well and make food from scratch using whole foods, but life here has added much to my knowledge base of how to shop for, prepare, and eat really delicious, simple food.

In my weekly visits to our fresh market (almost every Italian town has one—once or twice a week, sometimes more, merchants set up tents to sell fresh fruit and veggies, cheeses, and fish, and often lots of other things), I became friends with the owner whose fruit and veggie stand I frequented. I would go to the market with an idea of what I wanted, and she would tell me if a certain fruit or veg was good or not that week, and often she’d suggest another fruit or vegetable (usually vegetable ) that I ought to try. And then she’d tell me how to cook it and what to serve with it. As I go through the list of new produce I’ve tried in my head, I feel pretty confident saying that 90% of the new veggies.

I’ve tried have been cooked (using a couple of different methods, for differing periods of time) with olive oil, salt, and pepper. And they’ve all been delicious. From the fishmonger? I’ve bought a whole octopus, boiled it in water with celery and carrots, then made a salad out of it with potatoes, olive oil, and salt. Unexpectedly delectable. I’ve learned to make a pasticcio (what we think of as lasagna, although there are about 50 different variations up here and honestly don’t resemble American lasagnas) from fresh noodles, a cream sauce (quickly made from butter, flour, and milk), and a sautéed vegetable like spinach, mushrooms, or radicchio. Mouthwatering.

The two great commonalities of these examples? 1) They are simple—seriously. These meals don’t take a ton of time to prepare, and they’re usually right around five ingredients (plus salt and pepper). Further, they don’t require advanced cooking skills. The more often I began to cook this way, the faster and easier it becomes. Win! 2) The ingredients are in season. I know cooking in season is becoming much more popular in the US (thank goodness!), but I’ve really learned to eat seasonally here because it’s all that is available. Markets certainly don’t carry foods that aren’t right in season (I can’t even get strawberries right now—they’re only available mid-late spring, then they’re gone!), and most supermarkets don’t either. Some out-of-season foods are available frozen or canned, of course, but it’s typically not the way Italians eat, and for good reason. Foods in season taste best! My meal repertoire and our palates have grown significantly because we focus on eating what’s available.

And speaking of in season…I’ve learned how to leverage what is in season to make cooking simple food delicious (and still varied) year round. Tomatoes aren’t in season all year round, even in Italy. But in August, five kilos (that’s over 11 pounds!) of San Marzanos (to me, one of the most delicious types of tomato) costs five Euro ($7-8). The bounty is just amazing, and it inspired me to start learning how to put away foods. When you have really delicious summer produce that you’ve canned yourself (and you know what’s in it—or not—from no salt to a piece of basil to no BPA in your canning materials), it makes it far easier to make an incredibly simple, flavorful dish in the winter, even when you’re tired of squash and potatoes.

Ahhh….Italian food. I’m going to miss it. But I’ve learned that by eating in season (and by canning some foods that are so abundant and delicious in season so I can also use them out of season), it’s really quite easy to cook nourishing, wholesome foods for my family. Using simple recipes that feature few high-quality ingredients, Italians find beauty in their food. They’ve inspired me to do
the same, wherever we live.

I’m looking forward to living these lessons as we move back the USA and in the coming years, and I’ve been lucky to learn them in bella Italia. But I’m sure many of you already knew what became clear to me here. Tell me—what are your tips for making these lessons a reality in your daily lives?

What do you think, friends? Is this not the fabulous life?? XO, MJ (and Tara)