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Visiting Family in Central California

9 Dec

So here I am, writing from my broken laptop in California, watching reruns of Chopped and trying to love on all the cats like there’s no tomorrow. It feels just like every day I spent in my second trimester of pregnancy waiting for Jonathan to get out of boot camp. Not kidding. I spent the whole time trying to tune out the TV and gather my thoughts, and failing miserably, and as a result  just churning out rambling blog posts and run on sentences and trying to remember why I’m staring at a text box and… anyway. Allow me to share my visit to California thus far via Instagram! Cuz it’s really not gonna happen any other way. (And forgive me for the rambling. We’re watching Kid Snippets on YouTube now.)

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Tessa and I spent the morning yesterday lazing around the apartment with Jonathan, not getting packed till the very last minute. We barely made it to the airport in time, because what kind of adventure starts with timeliness and promptness and all that boringness? Not baby Tessa’s first adventure, that’s for sure!

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Tessa was completely enthralled by all of the people in the airport. If I suspected before that she is a freakishly, abnormally awesomely chill baby, I know it for a FACT after yesterdays travels. With 8+ hours of travels, Tessa did not cry ONCE! She flirted with everyone, got a trillion compliments on her pixie hat, and had every passenger on the planes going on and on about how cute and calm and wonderful she was. She was giggling and chattering and watching the world when she was awake (which gave me great company when I’d finished reading through the two books I’d brought) and she was sleeping snugly and soundly in her ring sling when she was conked out. It was the easiest thing on the planet! Tessa kept watching the passing clouds out the window, completely entranced. She gets so focused and calm when she’s encountering something new. She’s already such a smart baby. Have I mentioned how much I just love her!?!?

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My flight was about 40 minutes behind schedule. Which meant I left my dear friends (whom I’d never before met in person, haha) waiting at In and Out Burger for awhile. I first “met” Josh and Kristen when I was looking for breast milk donations for baby Tessa awhile back. Kristen provided Tessa’s early colostrum heavy milk and has become one of my favorite people. We like to tease each other about how we’re mutual blog / Facebook / Instagram stalkers. I am so blessed to know this lovely couple and Tessa is blessed not just with amazing nutrition, but with an amazing Auntie and Uncle in Southern California! I was so dang excited to meet these guys!! We spent so much time visiting we didn’t hit the road for Hanford till.. what? 8ish? I think?? (I stole some of these Instagram images off of Kristen’s page.. cuz I’m baaaad like that.)

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So when we finally hit the road, my mom was all like, “Waaah wah waaah, I have to pee!” So we started to pull over at the nearest exit (Lyons Ave in Valencia) and then we realized, hey! Dennis from Billy Hill and the Hillbillies at Disneyland usually plays with his bluegrass band The Grateful Dudes on Saturday nights at a pizzeria right off of Lyons, let’s see if they’re still playing! And lo and behold they were! We stuck around for an hour or so to listen to the band and catch up on old times, then when we hit the road for the Central Valley it was well past 10pm. See? Timeliness = BORING.

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After much coffee and soda and other unhealthy caffeine laden beverages, we finally made it home past 1am. Lots of visiting and settling in ensued and finally, around 3:30am, we headed to bed. Look at Tessa, all snug as a bug in her borrowed bassinet!

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This morning we headed to Marshalls so I could buy the Christmas gifts for family that I didn’t have room to pack in my bags. Jessica had fun trying out the ring sling with Tessa. Check out their matching penguin hats:

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My brother Jeremy and his lovely wife Angie visited from the coast to meet baby Tessa for the first time. Tessa LOVED them. It just kind of dawned on me today… she’s going to have an auntie and uncle that are going to spoil her rotten.

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We headed over to Grandma Ree and Steve’s house in Lemoore for a kind of impromptu family reunion. Look, here’s my brother, me and my sister as babies!

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Grandma Ree and Steve meeting baby Tessa for the first time!

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THEN! My Aunt Peggy stopped by and Tessa got to meet her Great Aunt. It’s funny to me that Tessa was an angel on the flight -didn’t fuss or cry ONCE – but once we got to visit with family she decided to go all teething infant on me and drool on everyone. She got a tiny bit of a fever today, and kept trying to bite everything (but mostly her overalls). But still, Tessa was being a super cutie, and loving on everyone with her perpetually alternating “oh!” and “wtf?!” faces.

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After the family get together, we all headed back to my old apartment (now my dads super secret lair) and spent some more time loving on Tessa. My mum sniped this shot of all three of us “kids” with the first grandbaby. I can’t wait till Tessa has some cousins to play with!

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Anyway, I’m going to head to bed now. SO. VERY. TIRED. It’s only been a day and a half and we’ve already had some fun little adventures. Sorry for the rambling nature of this post. I’m tired, I’m distracted, and I’m… I can’t even remember what I was going to say. Yeah, that’s my cue for bed time. Goodnight, ya’ll!

The Freeman Family in the Month of November

2 Dec

The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest. – William Blake

Above is the Freeman family in the month of November! I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. Or what really went on this month. I seriously just asked Jonathan the help me with this post, and he was like, “What happened this month? I don’t remember.” Yeah. Me too. Well. That’s… interesting. It’s been a whirlwind!

Let’s see now, every day Tessa grows more and more expressive. She giggles over silly things, like us making pigeon cooing noises at her, or having her diaper changed, or being dipped into the bathtub. Suddenly we have a BABY. How?!?!??!?!?! Time is moving too quickly! Pretty soon there will be “Tessa is crawling” then “Tessa is walking” then “Tessa is getting married” posts. Oh God. Time. Moving too quickly. *hyperventilates*

This month, the theme was “thankfulness” – for obvious reasons, what with Turkey Day and all. Ever since I became a mother, I’ve noticed that my focus has shifted from tangible, materialistic aspects of God working in my life and has focused on the hidden things that really matter. It’s as if scales have fallen from my eyes, and allowed me to see a world of mercies that I never fathomed before.

I see the world in a whole new way. It’s amazing and joyful and I feel like clicking my heels and singing “I Love the Whole World” with each new task and chore and adventure.

Jonathan is starting his final leg of A School, which is the beginning of the end of our time here in Pensacola. We still don’t know where or when we’ll be stationed outside of Pensacola, but it’s inching ever closer. We’re still taking things a day at a time and it’s surprisingly a lot less stress inducing than I thought it would be. It’s actually rather fun!

We’re putting it all in God’s hands, and we’re wholeheartedly saying, “Your will be done”. I can’t wait to see how life unfolds for us. It’s going to be an adventure, that’s for sure! I’m so excited for Tessa’s first Christmas and I’m eager to greet the New Year. Happy December everyone!^_^

Thanksgiving 2013 – Counting My Blessings

28 Nov

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I’m going to take an opposite approach to Thanksgiving this year. Instead of focusing on what I DO HAVE I’m going to focus on what I DON’T HAVE.

Calm down. I’m not talking about in a materialistic way.

To properly approach Thanksgiving Day, I think we need to always keep in mind what the actual living conditions of the Pilgrims were. They had landed in the middle of a New England winter in a strange new land, intent on serving the One True God. For their faith and their freedom they faced harsh circumstances in an epic way. We don’t need to describe in gory detail the privation they endured because the statistics tell it all:

By the time spring came, only 47 of the original 102 colonists were alive. And of those alive, only seven were strong enough to function and had to take care of the rest.

With these heartbreaking, intense hardships, they still chose to praise God for his provision and were truly thankful that they had harvested enough food so that they would not become extinct in their second winter in the New World. They were thankful simply to eat and be able to live in a world with nothing but cold, work, and nights without light. In the words of Edward Winslow, one of the survivors who wrote an account of their experience the first year,

“And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

In light of those circumstances, they still looked to their Creator and said, “Thank you, God. You are good.” Looking at the God-centered gratitude offered up by these brave souls, I feel humbled and blessed. Beyond blessed. Jeez, I don’t even know if there’s a word to describe blessed beyond blessed. Uber blessed?

So, that said, I am focusing on what I DON’T have this Thanksgiving.

I don’t have want in my life.

I don’t have hunger.

I don’t have sickness.

I don’t have death or loss.

I don’t have fear.

But when I do, (not if, but when) the ultimate blessing comes in know that it won’t change a thing. GOD IS STILL SOVEREIGN. God is still good. Whatever my lot, it is well with my soul. And that’s where the true “thanks giving” comes in. It reminds me of the quote I posted above:

Some people are so poor, all they have is money.

I am rich and I am blessed and it has nothing to do with my car, or my home, or my cosplays, or my book collection, or the plants on my patio (though those ARE things to gives thanks for). When I think of my many blessings, I think of my handsome husband – my hearts brother, my best friend, my hunka hunka lovin’ man. I think of my precious baby girl – my baby world, my little koala cuddles, my pretty princess. MY FAMILY. Dear God, how did I ever get to be so blessed?! It boggles my brain. But with all these blessings, what is even more amazing?

The realization that the heart of my happiness is the intangible blessings that come from knowing and loving the Creator of every good thing.

I may have more next year. I may have less. But through it all, I know God is good. And that is more than enough for me. Happy Thanksgiving everyone,  and God Bless!

10 Geeky Songs to Sing Your Baby To Sleep To

25 Nov

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I know I’ve been spamming my blog with “4 Things To…” and “Top 10 Ways…” and “30 Things I’d Like To..” lists, BUT!

1) I’ve got an unhealthy attachment to lists.

2) Lists help me gather my thoughts.

3) Lists remind me to stop talking. If I didn’t limit myself with “Top 10’s” I just wouldn’t stop typing. Ever.

And see what I there? I even listed my reasons for making lists. I’ve got a real problem, I know.

Anyway, when I was in the hospital with Tessa – just hours after having her – I held this newborn baby creature in my hands, watched her slowly blinking off to sleep and thought, “Quick! Sing her a lullabye! Be all maternal and junk!” And I kid you not, the first thing to pop into my head and pop out of my mouth was, “Link.. he come to town.. come to save the Princess Zelda!”

Now, I’ve since expanded to, ya know, normal songs. Things like, “Oh You Beautiful Doll” and “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” and other sweet songs slightly more in line with conventional parenting bedtime ballads. But I got to thinking. There are SO MANY songs out there that would transition perfectly for the living-with-parents nerd that has become a nerd-turned-parent cooing into a baby bassinet.

Besides. You gotta raise that child right. A baby without nerd cred is just, well, just another kid. That will probably grow up to like sports. *shudder* I kid, I kid!

But anyway, here’s my list of 10 Geeky Songs to Sings Your Baby To Sleep To. Let me know which geeky lullabies you would recommend. ^_^

1. Biblo Baggins by Leonard Nemoy

2. Legend of Zelda by System of a Down

3. Star Wars Song by Chatting Kids Space Camp

4. Momiji Song from Fruits Basket

5. Everybody to the Limit by Strong Bad

6. The Ultimate Showdown by Lemon Demon

7. Ballad of the Noob by Stone Falcon Productions

8. His Cheeseburger from Veggie Tales

9. The Galaxy Song from Monty Python

10. Guten Tag Hop Clop from The Producers

10 Things I Learned in 10 Weeks of Motherhood

22 Nov

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My beautiful baby Tessa turned 10 weeks old on Tuesday! I really, truly, have no idea how time has passed so quickly. How did time creep by so slowly when she was in my tummy and I was anxiously awaiting her… and now 10 weeks have passed in the blink of an eye? You need proof that time is relative? Get a baby in your arms and watch seconds melt into weeks.

Being a mommy is everything I’d dreamt it would be, and more. The only thing lacking from my visions of mommyhood?

I don’t feel like crap. I feel great.

Hearing the horror stories and warnings in pregnancy and mothering books had got me all prepped for sleepless nights and a dirty house and stress and loss of freedom and no more home cooked meals and no more showers and so on and so on.

Yes, I’ve been tired. Yes, I did get a few weeks of the baby blues (which I mostly took out on my husband… sorry honey!) And yes, I’ve gotten a little overwhelmed with mounting chores and housework, I’d be lying if I said we didn’t cave and order a pizza now and then and I do now shower like I’m in some kind of speed bathing competition in case the baby wakes. But it’s not “bad” or “hard”. At least not hard in the conventional sense.

As I reread the warnings and cautions found in basic “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” type books, I think I’m starting to see a couple of areas where some new mommies sometimes go “wrong”, in my opinion. As my husband likes to say, “Opinions are like a$$holes, everyone’s got one and they all stink.” So if you think I’m way off track, you might be right, who knows? I’m just speaking from my own experience. I know I’m a new mother, and I’m very new to all of this, but my 10 weeks with Tessa have made me realize what works best for me as a mom.

Maybe I have an amazing, easygoing, textbook perfect baby. Or maybe I’m on to something. Maybe it’s a little bit of both? (Probably.) But regardless, I’d like to share with any other mommies out there the ten things I’ve learned that has helped me in my first ten weeks as a mommy:

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This article needed an imagery break. So I present to you: The many faces of baby Tessa!

1. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers.

This is probably going to piss some people off when I say this, but I firmly believe that the widespread insistence that having children means you automatically inherit a messy house and a lack of home cooked meals is just an excuse for laziness. Now I understand that once a child (or two, or three, or four) are walking and getting into everything and being tiny little maniacs, order and cleanliness get hard. And I think “clean” clutter and mayhem in an environment can be HEALTHY and in some cases NECESSARY for a child. I plan on having my home being a delightful jumble of homeschool projects splattered all over the place.

But I think too many people propagate the myth that having children means there must therefore be a departure from domestic duties. In other words, too many women nowadays are using their children as an excuse for their slovenliness, in my opinion. And to excuse their messy house and chronic fast food meals, they ferociously stand by the ideal that children are to blame and “it will happen to you too”.

Maybe I’m just blessed to know a lot of awesome moms who can raise happy healthy kids AND cook and clean too (and teach their children to join in the housework!) or maybe I’m just stubborn, but I refused to believe this from the start. Entering motherhood with the attitude that I can be a mommy and maintain a house as part of my daily duties has helped enable me to do so. So when the going gets tough, I don’t just cop out. And I’ve spent every day since Tessa’s birth sticking by my duties as a stay at home housewife with an “I can do this” attitude.

Yeah, it’s somewhat harder to accomplish housework and social obligations and recreational time with a baby, and I’m sure it’ll be much harder when she’s toddling around and eventually running all over the place. To get chores done or run errands or even meet with friends I have to plan my day now, and work around her naps or carry her in the ring sling while I work and play. But maintaining the house and living my life while still giving Tessa my all as a mother is do-able. And if it’s ever not, this brings me to the second thing I’ve learned…

2. Take all the help you can get.

When I came home from the hospital, my in-laws were visiting from Washington State. When the dog needed walking, or a prescription for that sweet, sweet miracle of Tylenol-3 needed picking up or if mommy needed a nap, the in-laws would walk the dog, pick up the prescription or watch Tessa. My husband made a point (and still does) of taking care of as many dirty diapers and bottle feedings as he can when he’s home, to give me a break.

After the in-laws left, my parents came to visit, and the baby watching and chore helping happened all over again. As a result, I was one of the most well-rested, bright-eyed new mommies you’ve probably ever seen. I’d have had a spring in my step right out of the hospital if it weren’t for that damn perineal tear. Whenever people were amazed I was “so awake” or “out and about so early”, I thought I was just one tough cookie. A champ if you will.

Then the in-laws and parents went home and Jonathan’s paternity leave went away and he went back to work, and I realized, HOLY CRAP caring for an infant solo is no walk in the park! While I CAN take care of Tessa alone, it is far better for myself and by extension far better for her if I take all the help I can get.

So I’ve made a point of swallowing my pride (like a little kid trying to assert her independence, I still have a tendency to shout, “I can do all by self!” and try to take the reins on… well… everything) and now I ask for help when I need it. While I am lucky to have family and a husband that can and want to be involved in carrying the blessed and beautiful burden of raising a baby girl, I am convinced that if ever I can’t turn to them for help, I will – for my sake and for my daughters – find a network of people who can.

Most churches have mommy’s night out daycare nights. There are tons of friendly mom groups out and about in the community – from Crunchy Moms to Military Moms to Christian Moms – that are an amazing resource for babysitting co-ops, housework swapping or simply available as a shoulder to cry on. Not to mention lots of babysitters aren’t opposed to an extra few bucks for doing housework.

Just don’t be afraid to ask for a hand. I would not think being a mommy was such a walk in the park if I’d had to go through the baby blues alone.

3. Know what kind of a mother you want to be.

Know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Any business, corporation, heck even student clubs in elementary school campuses have a mission statement. It you know what kind of a mother you want to be, and what you expect to accomplish by your children, it will steer you in the right direction when the waters get choppy. I am convinced that clarity of vision and focus will get you through the darkest of hours.

I wrote a Mission Statement on Motherhood last Mothers Day, when Tessa was still just a wiggle in my belly. Jonathan and I were in Washington State visiting his parents before he left for Navy Boot Camp, and we were staying at a cabin in the gorgeous Olympic Peninsula. Surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of God’s creation (and the location of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, haha) I spent a weekend just pondering what being a mother meant to me. And then I put it down in writing.

By charting out my course beforehand, I don’t feel so overwhelmed now. I don’t suffer the nagging doubt that I’ve heard so many fellow moms confess to: Doubt in their ability to be a good mom. Fears that their children won’t love them. Fears that they’ll “mess up” their upbringing or won’t be good enough.

When I look at my “Motherhood Mission Statement” I know that as long as I stay true to those principals, as long as I give my all in those areas and commit to staying true to my ideals, I will be the best mother that I can be. Even when I’ve fumbled in areas, I have no regrets over the past 10 weeks because I have kept my eye on my goals as a mother and have given Tessa my 110%.

I am convinced that more moms wouldn’t feel so lost or confused or doubtful if they simply determined beforehand what kind of mother they will daily strive to be.

4. Know that you are an imperfect person.

While we strive for perfection as mothers, the simple fact is, there are no perfect people on this planet. (Well, there was this one guy, once…)

Having a Motherhood Mission Statement is vital, but we must also realize that there is no such thing as a Supermom. We can’t do it all. And sometimes, even when we have the help of friends and family, it’s still not enough to feel “on top of it all”. And that’s okay. You are not perfect.

That doesn’t mean that you are valueless. You are loved by God. You are unique and you are indispensable to your child. But knowing that you aren’t perfect and that you can never be perfect gives you the freedom to try your best and accept grace when your best doesn’t seem to be enough.

The thing is, you WILL fall down as a parent. You WILL drop the ball and make some mistakes. But you just need to get back up and keep trying. Because your baby is worth it and your all is all that she needs.

Resting firmly in the knowledge of that fact makes my “failures” seem like learning curves and not an assault on my qualifications for motherhood. God gave me this child for a reason, and as long as I keep trying and keep moving forward (to quote that amazing Disney motto in Meet the Robinsons) I will do right by her when I give her back to God. So when I am too busy to water the plants or take the trash out, or so tired I change the litter box but put the lid on wrong so that the cats end up pooping all over the floor (sigh), it’s not a huge issue. I’ll plan better next time and I’ll do this next little thing I’ve learned…

5. Laugh at everything.

Laughter really is good medicine. When you’ve got a tiny little human on your hands, nothing is in your control anymore. Things are gonna get pooped on, peed on, spit up on.

So just laugh! Here are some benefits of laughter that I totally didn’t just steal from this website:

Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

So laugh! But even better than laughter…

6. Give everything to God.

Pray about every little thing. The good, the bad, the funky. I started praying for Tessa when she still in the womb (and before she was even conceived, truth be told) and I blogged earlier about Praying Through Your Pregnancy. While it’s important to cover your child in prayer, the benefits for you are impossible to exaggerate.

Can you think of any greater honor than to have an audience with the One who rules over ALL creation? We have been invited to talk with the one who put the stars in place. We are invited to seek counsel from the One who is truth and wisdom. We are invited to sit down with the One who knows all things.

And prayer makes a difference! Circumstances change when people pray. Diseases are sometimes healed, strength is imparted, guidance is given, hearts are softened, needs are met. I know that when I pray for others it helps them. But I also know that when I pray, I am changed. Into a better person, a better wife and a better mother to my little Tessa.

7. Don’t stop doing what makes you happy.

This was a BIG point that Jonathan and I heard a lot when we found out we were expecting. “You won’t be able to cosplay anymore once you have children.” “Eat up now while you can, you won’t be cooking anymore gourmet meals with a baby.” “Your poor cats, you won’t have time to play with them once Tessa is born.”

I will admit, I actually feared that these statements would be true. Like some inexplicable and irreversible virus in a zombie apocalypse flick, I feared that the infection of becoming a mother would render me hobby-less and passion-less for my personal pursuits, completely outside of my will. It was the thought of losing myself that scared me the most.

Because while my baby girl is my little baby world, I am not my child. If I find my identity in her and her alone, I am not living my life the way God intended. While my priorities have undoubtedly changed, I still think it is important – if not vital – to pursue you personal interests. From personal observation, the healthiest and most emotionally adjusted mothers I know take time to pursue interests, foster friendships, and make time for the things in their lives that bring them joy – both with and without their kids. So Jonathan and I are both making a point of taking time for the things we liked to do as a couple before we became three.

Again, it’s harder to, say, try out that new recipe in my New Orleans cookbook with a baby in tow, but it’s not impossible. It brings me joy, therefore I will make time for it and plan for it, even if it means hours of prep time between naps and feedings.

Just don’t lose yourself. Keep growing and cultivating who you are.

8. Don’t neglect your marriage.

Your baby needs two loving, devoted, madly and passionately in love parents. So flirt like a sexually frustrated pubescent teenager and indulge in some cheese-ball level romantics with your honey.

Find time for intimacy, in any and every way. After Tessa made her grand debut via vaginal birth, I couldn’t have The Sex for about 6 weeks post-partum, so Jonathan and I made a point of giving each other massages, making our own aromatherapy massage oil concoctions. (I don’t know what was sexier, playing mad scientist with tiny vials of smell pretties with my husband, or massages by the fireplace.)

While we aren’t alone anymore, we’re making a point of becoming closer than ever. We take our baby into the tub with us and have long talks about our hopes and dreams for her future. We watch Muppets Tonight reruns while hugging her between us. Just gazing down at a sleeping Tessa is one of the most romantic things we’ve ever done.

Keep the romance going. Your husband will be the one still by your side when your little baby is off making babies of her own someday.

9. Don’t neglect your friends.

In the same vein of people warning that we “won’t have time to pursue hobbies anymore”, we didn’t want to be the couple that neglected our friends once we had kids. We’re lucky because a combination of Jonathan working constantly and us being a country away from our friends and family has made it easy to neglect our friends out of necessity and not out of baby induced negligence. Haha!

But we have made a point to socialize with our little tot in tow. We attend community events from art walks, to book signings to anime conventions. We meet up with new friend at movie releases and church events.

No man is an island, and no family should be either. Get in the habit of fostering active friendships and maintaining relationships with loved ones. I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s good for you emotionally and what’s good for you, makes you a better mother. (Plus, you’ve got a really frikkin’ cute baby to show off!)

10. Take time for yourself.

Last but not least, take time for yourself. When the baby is sleeping, give yourself a foot soak. Read a book. Watch some anime. Write a blog post. Go on a hike. Take a nap. But don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Your baby needs a healthy mommy. So make sure you meet your own needs. When you are well-rested you can enjoy every minute with your baby that much more!

WELL! Those are the ten things I’ve learned these past ten weeks. I think these points really are the “secret formula” to healthy and happy parenting. I’m sure I’m overlooking some other vital points. So help me out. What have YOU learned as mother? Let me know, I’d love to share trade secrets! ^_^

Sarah Palin Book Tour in Pensacola, Florida

19 Nov

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Guess who has two thumbs and got Sarah Palin’s autograph… IN PERSON?!?! Yeeeeah, that’s right. THIS GIRL!

The gorgeous Governor of Alaska was in Pensacola, Florida yesterday on her book tour for her newest work, “Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas”. I finished reading it just in time for the autograph signing event. I don’t think you guys understand the importance of that. One of my biggest, biggest and I mean BIGGEST pet peeves is getting into the Christmas spirit before Thanksgiving. DON’T YOU ENCROACH ON MY FALL TIME SANTA.

So reading a book that is just chock full of warm and fuzzies for the holidays shows just how much I adore Sarah Palin.

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My husband had duty on the base and it looked like he wasn’t going to be able to make it.. buuuut! He asked for permission to ditch out long enough to get the book signed, and against all odds the big wigs on the base said okay! So I picked him up from work at the very last minute, we ran to Books a Million, and we joined the 1000+ people crowding the building to meet the lovely lady herself (along with her family – Todd, Piper and Bristol).

I’m told she signed 894 books last night! And we’re but one itty bitty stop on her massive tour. Poor lady better have a hot bath and a masseuse on hand, amiright?!

So. There we were, a young mother, a young man in military uniform and a tiny newborn baby in a tiny little sailor suit, mingling among a crowd of what I’m willing to bet were 99.9% Christian conservatives. Jonathan was stopped and thanked for his service countless times. And the reaction to a Navy man with a tiny baby in his arms? PRICELESS. It was like a constant surround sound track of oooohhhs and ahhhhhs and “how old?” and “whats her name?” and “she’s so precious!”

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They made us leave our phones and cameras outside of the autograph area, but Palin had her own photography crew there taking pictures. When Jonathan approached the table with tiny Tessa in tow, we just KNEW we’d be seeing that image again soon. And lo and behold, the very next morning, what do we find on Sarah Palin’s personal Facebook page:

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Awwww yeah. That’s my sexy family. I am such a proud mommy and wife. I wasn’t in the picture because they were pushing us along single file and after my book was signed, they ushered me away. I turned around to see Jonathan chatting it up with Palin. I tried to walk back to the table but the Books a Million gal stopped me like I was some crazed wacko trying to go back to lick the pretty lady. (In her defense, the thought had crossed my mind. I’VE GOT SUCH A CRUSH ON HER!)

Anyhoo, I’ll follow up with a book review soon enough. MERRY CHRISTMAS YA’LL!!

Hiking Along the Gulf Islands National Seashore

17 Nov

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When Jonathan and I had just met, the one event that launched us from “just friends” to “future mother / father of my baby” was a three day, 22 mile backpacking trip along the High Sierra Trail in the Sequoia National Forest in California. We went into those woods all prettied up, looking our best, full of energy and secretly crushing on one another, and came out rugged, dirty, exhausted and madly in love.

I love hiking. And backbacking. And camping. So so so much. So does my handsome husband. It’s one of our many “things” we share, made even more special by our earliest memories forged together – trudging mile after excruciating mile over rocks, rivers and meadows, savoring campfire coffee while laying out under breathtaking starry night skies, talking about God and grace and cosplay and fantasy novels and everything in between. Sparks flew as we chopped firewood, dried out socks, purified alpine spring waters to fill our canteens, tended to blisters and hoisted 80 pound packs in the towering trees so the bears couldn’t reach them. We fell in love with our hiking boots on.

So now that baby Tessa is here with us, and I’m finally feeling up to being active again, I’ve decided to hike on one new hiking trail (or two) every week. I am a sucker for National Parks, and since we’re an easy 30 minute drive from the Gulf Islands National Shoreline, I’m making it a fun challenge to hike as much of the 80 miles of Florida District trails as I can while we’re stationed here in Pensacola.

I so want my little girl growing up feeling at ease and a fondness for nature and the outdoors. I don’t want her to be a stranger to the beauty of God’s creation, from the macro to the micro. And I figure, she’s never too young to start, eh? Wrapped up snug and warm on my chest with our ring sling, my baby girl has seen more of the world than most two month olds! It’s a habit I don’t want to break.

I started this little challenge just four weeks ago, and have had the joy of hiking with my tiny baby girl on the Trench Trail, the Woodland Nature Trail, the Brackenridge Trail and the Fishing Trail. That’s 5.9 miles down! Can I get a w00t w00t?!

These trails are far different from the giant redwood, majestic sequoia, waterfall lined, mountain vista views I’m used to. While part of me longs for the crisp alpine air of the John Muir meadows, I must say I am quickly growing fond of these new sights and smells on my outdoor treks.

The air is humid and salty, with the sound of ocean waves mingling with the sounds of tropic insects and palms fronds swaying in the gentle breezes. Exotic seashell fragments and stark white sands line the trails underfoot. Spanish moss and tropic vines hang from oak and hickory trees overhead, and every once in a while you can catch glimpses of brightly colored lizards and vibrant green tree frogs in the foliage. Everything is so tropic here (it is a stones throw from the Caribbean, after all) that I often find myself exclaiming asinine geeky things like, “That tree with the mushrooms on it looks like something out of Ferngully!” or “The moon over the waters looks like Pirates of the Caribbean!” or, most often, “OMG, this looks just like Jurassic Park. I keep expecting a dilophosaurus to jump out and spit at me!”

This park is chock full of history and mystery – more than 80 percent of the park is submerged lands teeming with marine life. It’s America’s largest National Seashore and one of the oldest “discovered” portions of America.

Europeans first visited the northern Gulf of Mexico in the early 1500s. Spain, in 1559, established a settlement in Florida on Pensacola Bay, but the place was abandoned soon afterward. Spaniards revived the settlement in 1698, surrendered it to the French in 1719, regained it by treaty in 1722, ceded it to the English in 1763, and repossessed it by force in 1781. The park is cluttered with historic forts, buildings, relics, and historic points of interest. I mean, how could it not be?!

The Gulf Islands are vibrant and fascinating in a very energetic way… far from the serenity and absorbing nature of the Sequoias. They’re two different beasts, and each appeals to my sense of adventure. (Though in my heart of hearts, I am a mountain girl through and through.)

I’m excited for the many more miles to hike before the Navy whisks us away to who-knows-where. And I’ll keep posting our adventures here on my blog. But in the meantime, here are some snapshots of the trails we’ve trekked thus far:

The Woodland Nature Trail by Fort Barrancas:

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The Trench Trail by Fort Barrancas:

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The Brackenridge Trail by Naval Live Oaks:

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The Fishing Trail by Naval Live Oaks:

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