Thursday, November 21, 2013

Beneift of a blended family

So as Juls and I sat at the table having a quite lunch, she started asking about a picture of the Pope we have on the fridge. That lead to talking about priests, talking about Heaven, Angels, Mary and baby Jesus.

She asked, after hearing that Jesus came out of Mary's belly, who was Jesus' Daddy.

"Well, Jesus' father is God the Father in Heaven. He put Jesus into Mary's belly with the help of the Holy Spirit!"
"But, you know how I am Samantha's step-mom?"
"Well, Jesus had a Step-Dad named Joseph who was married to Mary and helped raise Jesus."
Thinking it over..."Cool! What raise mean?"(we discussed)

Then, she asked, "Was Jesus baptized?"
"Yes, actually he was..." And then we talked about how he was not baptized til he was older but he was presented at the Temple.

Having a blended family has it's struggles, but Juliana understood immediately the fact that Joseph could be Jesus' "dad" without actually being his Father. She knows that Samantha is not my daughter because we see her mom weekly but she knows that I love Samantha and that I help Mark raise Samantha when she's here.

Also, having this conversation with Juliana really shows me how fast she is growing. She can be a handful sometimes but that energy, that curiosity, that love that pours out from her is going to make her something extra special as she grows. I just hope her love and curiosity of God and the Church grows with her!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Five Faves - a song, an app, a recipe and pics

Linking up with Miss Hallie again this week!

Overcomer - the song and video by Mandisa!

It is uplifting, inspiring and the video seriously brought tears to my eyes. Plus, every time I hear it on the radio, we turn it up and have a dance party! Even at 7:50 this morning when I was getting the girls dressed and I hadn't had coffee yet!

It's that good!

Juls also love's her Good Morning song, which she adorably refers to as the "get up, get up" song!

The Fertility Friend App
For all us NFP users, knowing your cycle and body is ever so important whether you are abstaining or trying to conceive. I used when Mark and I first got married b/c I found it to be easier than a piece of paper that I was BOUND to loose! It was nice to know my chart and all my info was in one place that my (then 6 year old) step daughter couldn't just happen upon! ;)
I have since found the app and love it! You can keep track of all your signs, symptoms, temps, additional notes and more!
Best of all, it's free!!
There is a VIP membership that you can pay for, but I haven't ever needed any of their services!
Me: What'd you do at school today?
Juls: We painted a turkey
Me: Cool! A Turkey! Why did you paint a turkey?
Juls: ::shrugs:: Cause my teacher said so...
Well, she is only 3 but on the upside, she followed directions! Hooray!
I am super excited about Thanksgiving next week!!! :) Especially to make this Sweet Potato Casserole recipe! YUM!!
Cousins, matching!

Miriam is 4 months older to the day than sweet Savannah in the back! They live in RI but we got to spend the weekend with them when we visited Maryland this past weekend!
These two plus their 3 month old cousin Oliver are going to be TROUBLE in a few years!
I can't wait! :)
Sisterly love

 I am really not sure which one loves the other more.
Happy Thanksgiving from the 'burgh!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Five, friends and saving money!

Haven't linked up to Five Faves in a long time but, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am trying to think good thoughts!
Heart to hearts with my Husband.
It had been way to long since we sat down and really shared our souls with each other. The nitty gritty. The not so pretty. The demons that plague us.
But, as we sat in the late hours of the evening, openly sharing our hearts, weight lifted off our shoulders and tears of JOY filled my eyes.
The lies that we believe. The doubt that creeps in. The separation that could occur between my husband and I with out the Holy Spirit and our Guardian angels fighting our spiritual battles with us. The peace when it's all out on the table.
Laughter amongst the littles
Juls (3) and Miriam (1) are really beginning to "play" together! It's such a joy to watch them mimic each other, giggle together, chase each other around and inevitably, hurt one another.
The bumps and bruises are a small price to pay for the memories they are creating.
 Miriam can now say "Duwi" (Juli) and if you ask where Juli is, she squeals "Duwi! Duwi! Duwi!
I am so, so pleased that they have each other!
Saving Money!
I mean, who doesn't love saving some dough!
It's cold in Pittsburgh. It snowed yesterday and this morning. Yes, it's only November 13th and the white stuff is already falling...which means, a heavy coat and boots are necessary items!
I have had the same Winter dress coat for 5+ years and it just wasn't doing it for me anymore (vain I know bc technically it's in perfect condition which is why I will donate it!) so I was on the look out for a new dress coat.
I found a lovely camel color coat, very flattering to my figure and on sale at Target! As I had it on, I thought, let me check the Cartwheel App on my phone and see if I can get extra % off...
And I could!
20% more off the already reduced price!
I save $22 on my new coat, which I will have for 5+ years!
Check out the App! You can save on all kinds of items from Milk to toothpaste, throw pillows to Christmas d├ęcor! Every-thang! Even Diapers!
(apparently, you do have to have Facebook to sign up, FYI)
Best Friends
Last weekend I was able to run out to Marshalls by myself (thank you gift cards for my bday!) and try on some dresses. With Mark's Holiday parties right around the corner, I really wanted to have my outfits lined up. Last year I had a newborn and my body was well, not my own and I was panicked the day of the party trying to figure out what to wear!  I fall to pieces in stressful situations and not having an outfit that I feel comfortable and confident in, is stressful to me!
He is pretty high up in his company and I want to look my best when we attend parties with VPs, CEOs and his managing peers. B/c lets face it, I'm typing this post in oversized sweatpants with dirty, greasy hair. Not my best look!
Since I was shopping alone, I had my phone ready to take a pic of my outfits in question and send a text to my friends and sisters.
Don't act like you've never done it.
Well, I texted a pic to my BFF Jen and she texted back that she had bought the same dress a month ago!
I knew it looked familiar! She had sent me a pic from the dressing room asking for my opinion! :)
Jen in her dress!
Me in mine!

Family, specifically siblings
This weekend, I' taking the littles down to MD! My sweet nephew (bro's first babe) is getting baptized and we wouldn't miss such a blessed occasion! My sister from RI and her daughter (8 months old) will be in town too! My sister from MS won't be able to make it but I am sure there will be lots of FaceTiming! It's rare for all of us to get together but MAN, do I cherish the moments we have when we can gather. It's super exciting that Juls, Miriam and their 2 cousins are all so close in age! And it's so amazing to see my siblings (older) grow into their roles as Mom and Dad. It's not often that I, the youngest sibling, gets to experience something before they do but I was a Mom before either of them were a parent. It's kinda cool to watch your older brother and sister grow up! :)
Thanks Hallie! :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

First Birthday Shinanigans

New born week old - Vandyke Photography

One Year Old!! - Vandyke Photography

I can not believe that my sweet Miriam is One year old!

The saying that the days are long but the years are short is very true.
Some days I just didn't think I'd make it through and swore up and down, left and right that she is my last baby forever! Then, the first smile, the first giggle, the first word. The soft, quite snuggles in the early mornings while trying to not wake the others. The first time on all fours, first time crawling, pulling up and then, first steps! Those are the moments that keep me going. They recharge my battery, that and wine or ice cream after they're in bed! :)

Okay, so let's get down to the Par-tahy!

I wanted to do something fun to celebrate this beautiful little girl God gifted to us a year ago. The first thing that came to my head was Rainbows! They are fun, colorful and easily executed!

 To Pinterest I went!

I created a First Birthday board and wasted spent way too many hours on that website!

Rainbow decorations can be a tad creepy (unicorns, creepy clowns, etc) or can support issues that I as a Catholic woman, am well, not a supporter of...if you catch my drift!

So, after searching many stores and websites, Walmart, of all places, came up with some great options! I wanted to make some of the decorations but I wasn't set on a color scheme until I found
^ these plates at Walmart!

I loved how they gave the rainbow effect without actually being a rainbow. Also, they are chevron, seriously, who doesn't love chevron!

I also found the streamers, pennant banner, cupcake liners and candle at Walmart! All of those items cost me $15! Oh there are also yellow napkins not pictured! I don't like to spend a fortune on dinnerware items because they just get tossed at the end of the party!

I used the streamer to make a rainbow back drop for behind the high chair

I needed cardstock for a #1 banner and Happy Birthday banner I had in mind but nothing spoke to me at Walmart. Thankfully, Joann's came through with having the EXACT same color scheme in a cardstock package (pictured above)! Cardstock was 30% off and I think came in less than $10. I wasn't worried about that price because I know I will use it another time.

I found a #1 outline online and printed it on cardstock. I cut it out and Mark hung it for me.
not the best lighting for a picture, but you get the idea!

I also printed out Happy Birthday on the cardstock, cut it out and put it against white circle cardstock

Got the ribbon from the $1 bin at Micheal's! It's all glittery and such! So pleased with how this turned out!

I also really wanted to try making colorful tissue paper tassels because I have seen them on Pinterest but hadn't found a good tutorial until I stumbled upon this one. I also found this other one helpful too. Both lay out the process with written instructions and pictures for each step.
Found my tissue paper at Dollar Tree, 25 sheets for $1!
I tried making one myself earlier in the week and after a failed first attempt, I made one that looked just like the picture! Cutting the strips thin is very important. If the strips are too thick, it looks all jacked up!

I enlisted the help of my sister who flew in from MD for the party and my step-daughter who loves to do crafts and this is how it turned out!

I love it! I would probably add more of each color if I do it again but...It really did add some extra pizazz to the living room!

 Now onto the edible portion of the party!

I saw this pin way back in the day that raved about how easy it was to make swirled icing for a cupcake. Essentially you paint a piping bag with food gel and the butter cream comes out swirled with the painted colors. Of course it looks easy and truth be told, it wasn't hard but it wasn't a walk in the park either!

I made the chocolate cake and cupcakes the day before with THE MOST AMAZING chocolate cake recipe in existence!
I found it about 2 years ago and have not baked another chocolate cake recipe!
Try it. You will agree. I bet ya!
 (this recipe is for a 3 layer cake so it make ALOT of cupcakes! Darn, just might have leftovers! :)

And then I made a vanilla cake and cupcakes with a recipe from the The Cake Mix Doctor cookbook recommended by a trusted friend. I have had a hard time getting fluffy, moist vanilla cake from scratch. So, this recipe used a white cake mix (Duncan Hines Classic White) and "doctored" it to make it taste more, "from scratch". Well, the result was delectable and there was not a vanilla cupcake left by the end of the party!

I used Wilton Food Gel Colors to paint my bag and placed my 2D tip on my bag and realized I didn't have the coupler part to secure the tip, so most of the gel seeped down next to the tip instead of going into the tip. The effect is cool and I will try it again but you can only use the bag once so, disposable is the way to go! This was the outcome of the cupcakes


For the cake I stacked a vanilla on top of chocolate, buttercreamed it and decorated it with M&M minis in a classic Rainbow. Miriam LOVED the M&Ms, her first experience with those delicious candies!


And last but not least, my #1 made up of pictures of the Birthday Princess. I could have made 2 more. I am picture obsessed!

Laid it out on the floor first to make sure it was going to work!

Final product on the wall!
The party was a blast! We were all wiped by the end of the day and with Daylights saving time ending that night, we were all thrown off on Sunday! But, nothing a little cake and coffee for breakfast can't fix...

Even let Juls join in on the deliciousness...

Happy Birthday Miriam Ruth! Can't wait to see what 1 year old fun you bring to this family! :)

One Year old



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Once Upon a Time...Celebrating Juliana Sophia

Once Upon a Time...

A man and woman fell in love. They got married and heard God asking them to be open right away to having babies. They had been married 3 months when the most amazing thing occurred...a positive pregnancy test! Instant love poured out of their hearts to this little person growing inside, but then, something didn't feel right. The Momma knew something was wrong. She took another test. Negative. The baby was gone. The hurt. The loss. The helplessness.

The man and woman were scared to try again. Scared that this was going to be a pattern in their lives but they prayed and trusted the Lord. 3 months passed and still nothing.

Then, one snowy evening the man had to rescue the woman at her stranded car at the bottom of their neighborhood. A blizzard was on it's way and the little Toyota Corolla was NOT making it up a classic Pittsburgh hill. So down he came with safety goggles to protect their eyes against the harsh wind, boots for her since dress shoes and tights wouldn't do for their 1/2 mile trek home and an extra coat.

The next day they spent hours digging themselves out of the house. 24" of snow had fallen over night and the world was blanketed in white. The woman noticed that all this digging was making her extremely tired. More tired than she ought to be considering she was in good shape and had rested 9 long hours the night before. She laid down for a nap. She didn't know this at the time, but it would be the first of many mid-day naps she would take over the next 8 months!

After shoveling, walking, digging and more shoveling, they were able to rest that Saturday evening. The woman just couldn't shake that tired feeling and was off to bed early that evening.

Since they had cleared out the cars and all the roads were plowed as well, they made it to 10:30 Mass on Sunday morning and ran into his aunt and uncle who invited them to brunch. They ran to the store to pick up a few items and the woman suggested they pick up a pregnancy test, as she was a day or two late and just "had a feeling"

"What if it's negative?" asked the man
"What if it's not? " the woman said
"Are you going to be all sad and let it ruin your evening (they were having folks over for the Superbowl)?"
"No"...(in her head, yes!!) she said
"Okay, fine, get it..."

They went and enjoyed a lovely brunch but all she could think about was getting home and peeing on the stick!

Finally, they got home and he said, "You ready to pee on the stick?"


Into the bathroom she went.
Hail Mary, Full of Grace... She needed the Blessed Mother on her side. Holding her during these delicate moments.

Out she came and three minutes felt like an eternity!

"Shall I go check?" he asked?
Nodding...nervous and scared beyond words. Feeling so hopeful but not wanting to be disappointed, she let him check.

"Well...longest pause possible...IT'S POSITIVE!!!!!!! +++++++++++++

The tears of joy. The embrace of parents, brought together by God, blessed with a baby, a new life, a new vocation.

They feared this child's life would slip through their fingers like their first, so for weeks they kept this great gift to themselves. And to each other and to their baby, they whispered "be sticky..."
Stick to Mommy. Become one with her and let her take care of you. They called her this until week 20 when they discovered they had a beautiful baby girl on the way.

From then on, she was Juliana Sophia.

Happy Birthday sweet girl. We've loved you from Day 1 and prayed for you since before your existence.

Friday, October 18, 2013

7 Quick Takes

Yet another Friday and another week flying by!

You know one thing I wish I could go back in time to tell my younger, non married, childless self...enjoy shopping alone! The browsing, the limitless hours that could be spent trying clothes on and wandering from store to store.
It's just such a rare occurance these days that when I do get out, I soak up every minute of it!
Old Navy was having a huge sale last weekend and I had some returns to make in the mall, so Mark kindly offered to take the kids for a bit and let me go alone!
I really needed some sweaters for Fall and Winter and I found some that are adorable! I'm a sucker for stripes, polka dots and apparently elbow patches!
I took this picture in the dressing room and showed it to Mark when I got home...
LOVE it!
He told me I look like a high school student. Considering I will be 29 in a week, I'll take it!
While at the Mall I returned a few items that my sister had sent the girls b/c they were the wrong sizes. There is a reason I buy their clothes at consignment stores...I love kids' clothes! They are so cute that I had to use MAJOR self control while in Sears
for Juls...gonna be her 3rd bday photo outfit

And the skirt for Miriam...It's adorable!
The two girls are growing so quick and there are days when I just want to stop time and live with these little forever! But, time marches on and Juliana will be 3 on the 22nd and Miriam will be 1 on November 2nd.
And Mark thought since they are growing so fast, Juls should be allowed to drive Miriam in the powerwheels the other day

This is totally safe. And legal. And...such a DAD thing to encourage!
This weekend we will be celebrating Juliana's birthday!! She will have a shared party with her cousin who is turning 8 but her birthday is the 24th and her mom happens to be Juls' God-mother...follow that? :)
Well, Miss J loves her some Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and asked for Minnie Birthday.
So I got on my thinking cap and Man, isn't it so tempting to just go to town on birthday decorations?
Between Etsy, Pinterest, Instagram and Google there are a million + ideas out there!
The main theme is Pink with white polka dots but I did make a Minnie Birthday banner and am going to make a Minnie cake (just the outline of her head, it will be pink with white polka dots)
Here's the banner as it was being made

It was so fun to make!
I downloaded the font offline and Mark uploaded it into Word for me. I printed Happy Birthday on Cardstock and colored in the letters with a metallic Sharpie Paint Marker.
I am beyond pleased with how it turned out! :)
How do you stay organized with kids and all the different activities that are going on in the week?
I use my phone to keep track ofeverything, but particularly Samantha's activities bc we have a shared Google Doc that both families can add to but since Mark doesn't have an Iphone, he can't see it all the time. So on a random trip to Target, I spotted this magnetic, dry erase calendar for $1.97 and it's be a fantastic addtion to our kitchen!
Each of us gets a row and I edit it every Sunday evening. This has helped Mark to know whats going on during the week and gives Samantha a visual of her week too.
And it's chevron...LOVE!
Mark is taking his PE exam next Friday (My Birthday!!!) and I am praying that he does well. He spent all last Saturday taking a practice exam and he did well on it but the real deal is in a week. I have so much faith in his abbility to pass as he is wickedly smart but any extra prayers that you can say would be great!
And speaking of Birthdays, my mom and sister will be flying in the weekend of Miriam's 1st Birthday to help us celebrate! We haven't been able to get down to MD as much as I would like, so it's a great blessing that they have the freedom and means to travell up here! It's hard to be away from family especially since the girls are ever changing but it just makes the visits that much sweeter when they occur!
Happy Friday y'all! Hop on over to Jen's and check out her wittiness and all the others linking up!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

First Day(s) of Preschool

Miss Juliana has started Preschool! Mark and I went to the Orientation on Monday morning and it seems like it's going to be the perfect place for her! She had a hard time at first because there were ALOT of people in the room. All the little kids, the high school students that help the kids, and at least one parent for every child.
I am certain we were violating some fire code!

Anywho, she had a lovely time and awoke yesterday morning requesting that she go to school but I had to explain to her that school wasn't open, only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays! So, when she went to bed last night with the knowledge of school in the morning, she was thrilled!

She picked out her outfit! It's a jungle out there, baby!

Styling Girl!

Proud to use her backpack for school!

She was a tad nervous of going in without Mommy and Daddy but we assured her that the 3 lovely young ladies that she played with on Monday would be there with her, she was more at ease.
Mark took her up to the school this morning. He said that when he tried to get her to talk to the kids her age, she clung to his leg but at the first sight of Ali, the high school girl that meets her at the door, she let go of his hand, grabbed hers and off she went!
No tears. No looking back. No wave. Just off to school she went!

Okay, let me just say, doing anything with one kid is so much easier than with 2!!

Since Juli's school is close to home, about a minute car ride, if that, I decided to head to the gym with Miss Miriam! I always have grand plans of getting there with the two of them but it just never happens! But with one, it seems like a piece of cake.
Child care opens at 8:45am and we were there at 8:50. This was her first time at the gym but she just toddled on in and started exploring the toys, paying no mind to me sneaking out the door!
I was able to work out for an hour before we left, swung by Aldi for a few things and made it to the school in plenty of time for Miriam to have a bottle and a cat nap!

This is all before 10:15am people! #winning!

We walked down to meet the little preschooler at the door, (I did NOT want to be late picking her up on the first would I have felt terrible!) and right at 10:30 she came walking out with her student helper, art project of leaves glued to paper in hand!
Art project 1 of 1 Billion to be completed before 12th Grade Graduation

She was so proud, so grown looking that I just couldn't help but beam myself!

A new chapter in our lives has begun! So excited for this journey! :)

Friday, October 4, 2013

7 QTs - Phone Photo Dump edition

I take so many pictures in a week its ridiculous! I have over 500 pictures on my phone and about 40+ videos. The camera is the main reason I got the Iphone 5 with 32G of storage. I don't play games and certainly don't let the kiddos play games. But pictures, I got lots of pics! 


 October is a CRAZY month in this family! It's packed full of birthdays including Juliana's and mine! Juliana beginning preschool on MONDAY, Samantha has a busier schedule then some Hollywood celebrities and Mark will be taking the Professional Engineering exam on the 25th. Plus getting Halloween costumes in order and planning Miriam's 1st Birthday party which will be in less than a MONTH!! 
I'm tired just thinking about it!

isnt this how your 11 month old plays on the slide?

sweet. as. pie

front teefies are finally making an apperance!

giving her cup some love

And, she has started to walk! Like for real, in public, outside, all around the house, anytime she gets a chance, she is walking! 
I am so proud of her and it's such a blessing to be home with her and witness her growing and changing every single day. 
Can't wait to share about her 1st bday party. If you follow me on Pinterest you might have a clue! 


Last week Mark was sick! and Juls was feeling particularly loving and sat still long enough to give Daddy some "get well soon" snuggles. 
She loves her Dada oh so much... which is why she was trying to fix my fridge with a chainsaw
 Yes she has a toy chainsaw. Apparently, it tickles if you put your hand on it. Pray she never gets her hands on a real chainsaw. She'd get the tickle of a life time! 


 They love this. I love the photo it creates! And I am the crazy trusting wife/momma taking the picture. 
He's only dropped a kid once... ;)

Lovely Fall Days in the 'burgh! 
shadow picture!

sister love. for like a minute.

rays of sunshine!
So. Full. Of. Life! 
Nerd Alert. Cutest. Nerd. EVER!

fluffy skirt. reindeer dog. NEON!

One must twirl in a fluffy skirt!

Happy Friday! Check out Jen and the Gang!