Parenting and Hospitality // A Letter to Conrad

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Dear Conrad,
Over the past six months you have brought me so much joy. I have spent hours feeding you, snuggling you, changing your diapers and rocking you to sleep in the wee hours of the morning. Even in my most tired moments I am so thankful for your life and all of the things that I am privileged to do for you. You are already changing and growing up so much. You are sitting up on your own, crawling and even starting to stand up. You are becoming more independent every day. It is so fun and exciting to see you master new skills; but it is hard to let you go to experience life a little bit on your own. 
Your Papi and I read a paper recently by Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest, about parenting and hospitality. He writes, 
“It may sound strange to speak of the relationship between parents and children in terms of hospitality. But it belongs to the center of the Christian message that children are not properties to own and rule over, but gifts to cherish and care for. Our children are our most important guests, who enter into our home, ask for careful attention, stay for a while and then leave to follow their own way.”
Conrad, I am so blessed by your precious little life. Already you have given us so much joy and I am so proud to be your mother. There is so much more that I want to do with you and for you. There are places that I want to take you, things that I want to experience with you and accomplishments that I want to see you achieve. I am learning to hold on to you loosely and to trust God with your life. He loves you even more than your Papi and I can; and desires to have a relationship with you. 
“The temptation is, and always remains, to cling to our children, to use them for our own unfulfilled needs and to hold on to them, suggesting in many direct and indirect ways that they owe us so much. It indeed is hard to see our children leave after many years of much love and much work to bring them to maturity, but when we keep reminding ourselves that they are just guests who have their own destination, which we do not know or dictate, we might be more able to let them go in peace and with our blessing. A good host is not only able to receive his guests with honor and offer them all the care they need but also to let them go when their time to leave has come.” 
Conrad, I can’t wait to see where your ‘destination’ lies. I daydream about the things you might grow up to do and things you will be interested in; but I hope that we will be good hosts and will teach you to follow Christ and to go to him when you make any plans and decisions. I will stand by you in your struggles and your accomplishments. I hope that you love Christ and that you follow him first and foremost. I pray that we will have many more years of laughter, hugs, kisses and adventures with you. You are our most important guest!

I love you, sweet Conrad!
Mom

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Sabbath Adventures // Castles, Donuts and Ocean Views

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Manny is so close to finishing his first year of seminary. Soon, all the papers will be submitted and he will have a few months free from assignments! It’s really crazy to think that one year is almost finished and that we only have two left here at the seminary. We have absolutely loved living here with so many incredible people. We are excited to see where God leads us after he graduates. Lately we have been thinking about how fun it would be to live and study somewhere in the UK. Right now, we are soaking up every little bit of the north shore we can. There are so many beautiful places around here and we have 2 more years to explore!
Sundays are especially peaceful for our family. We set them aside as our Sabbath day. We go to church, visit with friends, have family time and relax. It’s a much needed time of rest at the end of a long week. We started doing this about a year and a half ago after reading this book; and it has been incredible. This weekend we visited a park and a castle. We were also craving maple frosted old fashion donuts (not at all specific, right?) So we hunted down a place that had something similar; hoping it would satisfy the craving. When I went into the bakery, the donut shelves were empty and they were completely sold out of donuts. I tried to not look totally defeated and got some coffee to go. Definitely going to get there early next time!Processed with VSCOProcessed with VSCO

Room Sharing With Baby // What Is It Really Like?

13010664_10209448810755900_9171338976818820074_nWhen Manny and I moved to Massachusetts, we moved from a studio apartment. Manny and I enjoyed living in a small space and didn’t have much furniture; so we chose a one-bedroom apartment to move into. We humored the idea of moving into another studio; thinking the baby would fit in nicely…goodness I’m so glad we didn’t choose that! 
Right now our one-bedroom apartment suits us perfectly. I think as soon as Conrad starts crawling (and he is threatening to very soon!) and walking, we will definitely be ready for a bigger space. For now, we all share the room. It certainly has it’s challenges; but it works for us!
For the most part we like having Conrad in our room. We attempted co-sleeping; but our bed is small and Conrad just keeps growing and growing…and growing. He slept in a Moses basket next to our bed for the first 3.5 months before transitioning into a crib across the room. Here are some of our favorite (and not so favorite) things about sharing a room with him!
Favorites:
1. Especially in the first few months when baby is waking several times in the night, it’s much much easier to have them sleeping right next to you. Manny woke up for every night time feeding, changed Conrad’s diaper and then handed him to me to feed. It was much more restful for me to not have to get out of bed or leave the room 3+ times a night. 
2. You can monitor your baby from the comfort of your own bed. In the first few weeks we were constantly checking to make sure Conrad was comfortable and breathing well at night. It was nice to be able to just look over the edge of the bed to check on him! Now he is older and (mostly) sleeping through the night. If I wake up during the night it’s nice to be able to hear him breathing over in the corner!
3. In our case, Conrad sleeps really well with us in the room. He sleeps EVEN better when he is in bed with us; but we reserve that for daytime naps. 
4. We can respond quickly when Conrad needs us and can soothe him before he gets worked up when he wakes up scared in the middle of the night. 
Not so Favorites:
1. We have to be very very stealthy when going in/out of the room at night. Conrad is a very light sleeper and sometimes wakes with the littlest noises! 
2. Babies are noisy sleepers; and in our case Conrad is no exception. He sucks his thumb, snores, snorts, grunts, squawks and occasionally babbles in the night…all in his sleep. As you can probably imagine, we wake with some of these noises; so some of our nights aren’t super restful even if he sleeps really well. 
It can be quite exhausting trying to figure out what is best for your child, you, your marriage, your sanity…A few months after Conrad was born, we started really researching and reading different parenting books; hoping to glean some wisdom and advice from the experts. Different things work for different families and this is what works for ours. The biggest thing we have learned through all our reading, research and conversations with other parents, is that our baby isn’t going to be exactly like any one else’s baby. In the meantime we enjoy the comfort of having our baby in our room, napping with him during the day and some separation at night. He is growing up so fast and we’re going to enjoy this for as long as we can!
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Tuck and Bundle // Wear Your Baby

Processed with VSCOManny and I received this beautiful wrap from Tuck and Bundle, a new baby wrap company headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. (Fun fact: I was actually born in Texas but have never been back since. Maybe one day!) We love to support small companies and products made in the USA; and are excited that they asked us to review their wrap!Processed with VSCOThe wrap came beautifully packaged; and I was excited to try it out with Conrad right away! Our little bug loves love loves being worn. We learned this the first day we brought him home from the hospital. He was so fussy and I pulled out our wrap and he fell right to sleep. Now Manny and I wear him at some point every day. He loves being close to us and the wrap provides that comfort for him; while also freeing up our hands. He loves to snuggle up in the wrap while we cook, clean, go on walks and even while we are just hanging out at home or visiting friends.
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Conrad has just started getting nervous around people he doesn’t recognize. I’ve notice that when we are wearing him he is much more calm around people he doesn’t know. Being close to us gives him so much comfort and security! Processed with VSCOOur Tuck and Bundle wrap is very comfortable to wear. Sometimes he gets so comfortable he will even fall asleep; but alas those moments are fewer and further between now that he is older! 
The fabric of the wrap is lightweight; which means our little boy doesn’t get too hot and sweaty in it. It’s great to wear inside around the house and outside in spring and summer temperatures. I’m looking forward to a walk on the beach with our new Tuck and Bundle wrap very soon! Processed with VSCOConrad is over 13 pounds now. He has nearly doubled his birth weight! It’s really crazy to look back at pictures and see how much he has changed in just a few short months. (Manny and I may or may not have a little couch party once a week when we look at ‘old’ pictures of him while he is in the other room sleeping…) My back gets so sore from carrying him all the time; but when he is in the wrap I barely notice the weight!
Tuck and Bundle wraps are not available for purchase yet. Visit their website, Instagram or Facebook page for updates! You can sign up for their newsletter on the website to receive updates. They have some beautiful wraps coming very soon for purchase!
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Conrad’s First Easter // Car Troubles, Coconut Cream Pie and Easter Egg Hunts

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Easter was certainly eventful for our little family!
We woke up early on Sunday morning with a little surprise. After a tough night with a baby in need of lots of snuggles, we discovered his first tooth! We can’t believe how fast our little boy is growing and are eager to see what he looks like with a toothy grin.
Before 9am we made a few dishes for our family dinner, fed Conrad, showered, got all dressed and packed up our car to drive to Lexington for church. You become very efficient with your time after becoming a parent! Manny and I were both feeling pretty groggy from so many middle of the night wake ups; so we stopped for some tea and coffee before the church service. We share a room with Conrad; so when he wakes up…we all wake up (more on that later in a different post!). Anyway, after getting our drinks we got back into the car and the key wouldn’t go into the ignition. Womp womp womp…Manny went into fix-it mode hyperdrive and spent the next hour and half taking the ignition apart. He went into several different shops on the street where we were parked to ask for wire cutters, screw drivers, box cutters…and he got it working again! 
We were sad to miss our church service; but so thankful that our car was working! Conrad woke up as soon as Manny fixed the car; and we wanted to play with him for a little while before driving to our next destination. Back to the little coffee shop we went! After finishing our (then cold) coffee and tea, we took a walk to a green nearby which happened to be battle green from the revolutionary war. We got a little history lesson, then packed ourselves back into the car. Next stop: New Hampshire!
We enjoyed a lovely dinner with my parents and my brother’s family. My dad hid easter eggs for my nephew to find and we enjoyed some DELICIOUS coconut cream pie that my mom made. She took down a list of everything that I can’t eat because of Conrad’s sensitive tummy and scoured the internet to find something sweet for me. Oh my word…it was amazing! I made sure to pack up a bunch of it to bring home; but accidentally left it in New Hampshire! Fortunately we have the recipe and I’ll be making it very very soon!
Hope everyone enjoyed their Easter as much as we did!
Coconut Cream Pie with Coconut Meringue
1 pre-baked pie crust of your choice
Filling:
5 egg yolks
2 1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flaked coconut
Meringue:
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup cold water
5 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup flaked coconut
Bake pie crust
Heat oven to 325
Filling:
Beat egg yolks in a medium sized mixing bowl and gradually stir in coconut milk until blended. Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan; then gradually stir in the egg yolk mixture. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil (this will take about 10-15 minutes). Remove from heat as soon as it begins to boil and stir in vanilla and coconut. 
Meringue:
Dissolve cornstarch in cold water and microwave for about 30 seconds. Stir and return to the microwave until the mixture boils (about 15-30 seconds depending on how powerful your microwave is!) Remove from the microwave and cover. Beat egg whites and vinegar in mixer with a whisk attachment until foamy. Continue beating and add sugar (1 tbsp at a time). Continue beating until white, glossy peaks form. Continue beating and add the cornstarch paste (1-2 tbsp) at a time. Finally, add the vanilla!
Pour the hot filling into the piecrust and quickly spread the meringue over the filling. Start at the edge and seal the crust all the way around. Sprinkle the coconut over the top and bake until lightly browned (16-18 minutes). Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour, then refrigerate for 3-4 hours before serving. Enjoy!

Vegan and Gluten Free Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetMotherhood requires a lot of sacrifices. I knew this going into it; but didn’t realize the extent of what it really meant until I met my son. I knew there would be the sacrifice of sleep, date nights and even a few social engagements after the baby came…but there is even more than that! 
Sometimes I feel like an olympic athlete when I clean our house, make dinner, shower, etc…Everything must be done in lightening speed because the baby will soon wake up, lose interest in his toy, or will roll over and need help getting back on his back…you know. It’s fun! I don’t shower as much as I used to, almost all of my meals are rushed and my house is a total mess (I used to be very neat and tidy, I promise!) Despite all of the difficulties though, my son wakes up in the morning eager to snuggle, he plays with our faces when we talk to him, he “talks” back to us, he smiles…oh his smiles (and laughs!). It’s all worth it, believe me!
One of the things I didn’t expect to have to sacrifice though was food. Conrad has several (lots of!) food sensitivities and allergies. Honestly it’s easier to tell you what I can eat than to list everything I can’t. Before we figured out all of his sensitivities and allergies he was totally miserable. Breastfeeding was a constant struggle and there were moments that I considered giving up. Thankfully we have a friend who has been through the same situation. She came alongside me to help navigate my diet to figure out what has been bothering him. Since I cut out all of the offending foods, our little boy has been so much happier, healthier and is growing faster than ever! (Yay!) I miss a lot of my favorite foods, but am so thankful that I am still able to breastfeed my son.
Since I cut out so many things from my diet, my sweet tooth has been stronger than ever. I started to crave chocolate covered peanut butter balls a few days ago and decided to make some. MAN! The amount of sugar in those things! One recipe called for a pound (POUND!) of powdered sugar. WHAT? So I started digging and found a recipe on the Oh She Glows recipe blog (check out her site if you need some ideas for vegan and gluten free foods!) I adapted the recipe to better suit my taste and they were SO good! You won’t be sorry if you try them!
Oh, and they can be made in under 15 minutes; so we really really like this recipe! My little guy was kept occupied with his construction truck for the whole process (I may have felt like a super mom because of this…)Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetWe have a slight obsession with trader joes (as seen in our ingredients above.) I feel like I should work for them because I am constantly telling people to try things they are eyeing (because, yeah I’ve tried almost all of it.) Also, we LOVE this new maple syrup I picked up from our local farm stand! (Also the farm my husbands works at). Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetThis is me trying to be creative and have the chocolate chips and walnut pieces just oh so naturally spilled out on the table…but I have a baby who only has so much patience so this is what you get. (Yep that’s my leg in the corner. Oops!) (Also, I don’t totally understand why everyone spills their ingredients…but I can do it too!) 
Vegan and Gluten Free Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls
Yield: 15-20 balls
Prep time: 15 minutes
Freeze Time: 15-20 minutes
Ingredients:
1 cup natural peanut butter (only natural peanut butter will work for this recipe!)
4 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons coconut flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life chocolate chips but I have seen another brand at Target that works just as well!)
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
Method:
  1. Add the peanut butter and maple syrup to a mixing bowl and mix vigorously for up to 1 minute (the mixture will become thicker the longer you stir it)
  2. Stir in the coconut flour. (Use more or less flour depending on how sticky the texture is. You don’t want it to be too sticky; but also not too dry and crumbly!)Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset
  3. Stir in sea salt and walnuts
  4. Shape into balls
  5. In a small pot over low heat, melt chocolate chips and coconut oil. Allow half of the chips to melt, remove from heat and stir until all the chips have melted.Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset
  6. Cover a tray with parchment paper
  7. Dip the peanut butter balls into the melted chocolate and place onto the prepared tray
  8. Place the tray in the freezer for 5 minutes 
  9. Drizzle any remaining chocolate over the peanut butter balls (add an extra sprinkle of sea salt if desired) and return to freezer for 10 more minutes
  10. Enjoy!
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Let’s Go Surfin’ Now // A Summer Bucket List

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Two weeks ago we got a little taste of summer; and boy did it taste good! I spent nearly all day outside with Conrad, only coming in for naps and lunch. I laid a blanket on the grass and my barefoot boy, dressed only in shorts and a t-shirt, stared up at the treetops and the blue sky. I watched as he stared in wonder as planes passed by and thought to myself, “Wow! Summer is going to be great!” Now we are in our second day of spring and I’m watching out the window at the snow coming down and feeling a little glum about it…but I know that nicer weather is just around the corner! We may be getting a little ahead of ourselves, but Manny and I started to make a summer bucket list anyway. We like to do this every summer; but this summer we are especially excited to have little Conrad in tow to enjoy most of the activities with us! 
Here are some of the things we have added to our list. What are some of your favorite summer activities with/without a baby? 
1. BEACH!
2. Visit the wolf hollow in Ipswich
3. Day trip to Portland, Maine 
4. Day trip to Boston
5. Tour the farm where Manny works 
6. Babyless (!!) date at least once per month
7. Take a nature walk at least once a week
8. Have dinner outside at least once a week (and invite neighbors to join us!)
9. Try one new recipe each week (introduce Conrad to new foods as well!)
10. Take one mountain hike with Conrad
11. Visit the farmer’s market or farm stand each week
12. Attend an outdoor music event at the Crane Estate in Ipswich
13. Take a short vacation to Rhode Island to visit friends, family, Narragansett Beach and Brickley’s Ice Cream! 
14. Take our first family bike ride (pending us getting some bikes!)
15. Maine vacation with Bankston family
16. End of summer trip to the Adirondacks 

 

Also, this song is definitely getting me in the mood!