Life is full right now... So much so that it's taken me a solid week to get this blog posted. It's better late than never, though, right?
What I'm Reading:
I read 8 fiction books during the last two months. My favorites included:
Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner - A novel about WWII, specifically the Blitz in London. It was fascinating and after a bit of a slow start, I couldn't put it down.
After You by Jojo Moyes - the continuing story of Lou. I read countless reviews saying this book wasn't as good as Me Before You but I liked it a lot... Maybe not quite as much as Me Before You but pretty darn close.
The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin. I picked this up on a whim from the library because the cover was pretty (no joke). Once I got home with it, I realized I'd read Anna McPartlin years ago and loved her books. This one is about a hospice patient, Rabbit, as she and her family (including a young daughter) journey towards her death. I alternated between laughing so hard I was crying and actually sobbing throughout most of this book. My husband came in at multiple times to check on me, unsure what was going on. At one point I heard him explaining to baby girl, "She's only book sad." And indeed, I was... But this time book sad felt very real. I'm still grieving the end of this book.
I started an awful lot of non-fiction books during October and November but only finished two: Why God Calls us to Dangerous Places by Kate McCord and One Thousand Wells: How an Audacious Goal Taught Me to Love the World Instead of Save It (Full review coming later this week.)
Things I Love:
Hope's hats. I mean, really. Could she be any cuter?
Fall fun at the apple orchard. We took Hope apple picking. Upon arriving at the orchard, the thought of actually going apple picking with an infant proved daunting. We just couldn't figure out how to juggle her AND the apples. So we bought the apples we wanted from the orchard store, snacked on delicious apple cider donuts, and then went through the corn maze, carefully following Doug's rule: Always go right.
Fall walks at the arboretum: We continue to love our local arboretum. We hike there most weekends, hoping against hope that we're passing on a deep love of nature to baby Hope.
Grandparents: I'm so grateful my parents live close enough to watch Hope for us on a weekly basis!
Fleece: As the weather has grown cold, we've enjoyed dressing Hope in cold-weather clothes.
Combined events with confirmation: We learned several years ago that if we want to retain teens post-confirmation, we have to start connecting them with our high schoolers early. To that end, this fall, we took our confirmands and high school teens to laser quest. They had a blast and walked away with the start of some relationships with each other.
Attending youth ministry conferences: After reading my book, The Jesus Gap, one of the organizer's of the Rooted Conference graciously invited me to attend. It's always good to hear new-to-me speakers and continue to grow as a youth worker - even while conferencing with a baby!
Dressing Hope up for Halloween: Hope was a strawberry (the most adorable one ever!) for her first Halloween. For her first Halloween, we participated in our church's Trick or Trunk. That proved to be a good decision since it poured all day on Halloween.
Interviewing the Saints of our Congregation: One of the best ways our congregation connects our teens to it's older members is that on occasion, we send our teens out in small groups to visit our congregation's saints in their homes. There, they interview them about their lives, families, and faith.
Carving Pumpkins: We carved a simple jack-o-lantern with Hope, who enjoyed the different pumpkin textures... Except when the pumpkin guts touched her feet.
Delivering a Welcome Pack: Amidst ongoing publicity about the worsening Syrian refugee crisis, we were reminded of the countless refugees that don't make the news when we delivered a Welcome Pack to a refugee family from Burma.
Cultivating awareness about homelessness: We slept outside the first weekend in November in order to raise money & awareness to fight homelessness in DuPage County. During Sleep Out Saturday, we also served at Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago and had some fantastic conversations about the causes and impact of homelessness.
Feeding Hope solids: As hard as breastfeeding was initially, I was shocked when I was actually SAD when it came time to start feeding Hope solids. Nevertheless, since baby girl won't take a bottle, we decided to forge ahead with rice cereal, sweet potatoes, squash, green beans, peas, and eggs. She's doing well, although we're never quite sure how much she's ingesting. Most of it seems to end up on her, us, or the highchair.
Brookfield Zoo: We invested in a membership at Brookfield Zoo in October and it's been FANTASTIC. Hope absolutely adores the dolphin show and the parakeet aviary... Let's be honest. Her momma does too.
Unexpected early snows: It snowed the weekend before Thanksgiving. We had so much fun bundling up our little snow bunny and pulling her around on the sled in the park across the street. (She only face-planted once.)
Thanksgiving: Hope's first Thanksgiving was very low-key and relaxing. For that, we're incredibly thankful. We're also so grateful for how involved both sets of grandparents are in Hope's life and how willing Doug's parents are to make the drive north to see her.
Connecting with college kids: The day after Thanksgiving, we hosted a brunch for our youth ministry's college kids. It was so fun to connect with them (and see them connect with each other.) It's hard to believe that the kids who were high school freshmen when I first began working at my congregation are now college seniors!
Celebrating Mom's birthday: We celebrated mom's birthday with turkey soup, cake, and by enlisting her to help us decorate our Christmas tree.
Illuminations at the Arboretum: We love our local arboretum anyway, but we especially loved going to their Christmas light festival with friends. It was a festive, interactive, magical night. Our favorite display: The section featuring music from The Nutcracker and the accompanying lights.