Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lately, I've been thinking about success.  What is it?  How do I know if I have it?  What does it mean to me?  Let me warn you, I don't have an answer, so I apologize to those who came over here today looking for some insightful wisdom.  You won't find it from me.  But what I do know is that hard work, in every aspect of your life, is important and reaps rewards.  Marriage is hard work - but the benefits of working at it are beyond words.  I'm sure hard work doesn't even begin to describe raising kids, but I'm pretty sure most mama's would say its the best job in the world.  And what about your career?  I have been thinking about mine more than ever and I think it all boils down to a few things.  No matter what you are doing, work hard.  Make it your best work, even if you hate your job.  You never know what opportunity this experience is preparing you for.  And have fun.  Somehow.  Someway.  Find a way to enjoy life while at work.  Whether it's your stash of Thin Mints in your office drawer, or taking 10 minutes a day to laugh with a co-worker.  And then I found this handy little list on Pinterest and I kinda liked it.  So I thought I'd share it.  And may I ask, what does success look like to you?


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Preggy Update: 18 Weeks

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dear Baby,

Oh how I love you so!  I can’t believe you are 18 weeks already.  Almost halfway done cookin huh?  Stay put please and keep growing big and strong.  On my snazzy phone I get all these pictures of what you “look like” right now and it blows my mind.  You’re the size of a sweet potato?!? Holy moly that seems so big, but so small too.  I can’t wait to meet you.  Hold you.  Kiss those lips.  Snuggle forever.  You got a new cousin last week.  Griffin Russell Lopatka – You and he will be so close in age.  He will help you and show you things.  You have three other cousins that can help you and play with you and teach you too.  Warning: you only have boy cousins.  So, if you’re a boy I think we may start a football team, whatcha think?  And if you’re a girl – well let’s just say I feel bad for your future husband.  Between your daddy, granddaddies, uncles and cousins, your future man will have lots of tests to pass.  And I kinda like it! 
I talk to you a lot now.  You talk back, I’m sure of it.  Dad always asks me what you’re saying, and I can generally decipher what you want – usually it’s ice cream but lately it’s more Girl Scout Cookies – you really love Thin Mints.  Hey, I like your style. 
We pray for you every day.  All the time.  When I think about the things I want you to know and to learn the greatest one is love.  I pray you feel loved the moment you come into this world.  I pray you never doubt my love for you, even if I’m angry or make a mistake.  I pray you learn to love.  And that you love freely and unconditionally.  Your daddy is an amazing example of love.  He shows me love and grace every day.  I’m thankful you have him as an example.  And I feel so overwhelmed because I know you are loved already by so many.  You have an amazing family.  Your grandparents – all four of em – they will spoil you rotten I’m sure – but mostly they will show you love.  You’ve got a lot of aunts and uncles too.  Three aunts and three uncles that are “technically” in the family, and then a whole slew of aunts and uncles who don’t share our name.  Daddy and I have been so blessed by amazing friendships over the years and I can’t wait for you to come to know our friends as your friends and your aunts or uncles because they love you too.
Your mom’s a big pile of mush these days, so I apologize for the sappiness of this letter.  I promise to write some cool – not so mushy – letters later don’t worry.  I’ve got a whole journal already for ya.  Don’t worry; there are some cool, hip letters in there.  But today, all I want you to know is that you are loved.  So loved.

love, mama

PS - You get a name next week when we find out if you're a boy or a girl! 

PPS - I love you!

My One Word Update

Thursday, February 21, 2013

furnished photography

So it’s February 21.  A month and a half in to 2013.  Crazy how fast that went right?  I was reflecting the other day about My One Word and my goal setting for this year, and started to get frustrated with myself.  “Ugh, if I had just done this already,” or “Goodness gracious I wish I hadn’t done this.”  Then I stopped.  Just stopped.  Took a deep breath, ran to my husband and curled up in a ball in his lap.  Because it hit me.  Setting these goals and choosing my one word is not something that holds me back.  It is not something that chains me down and it is certainly not something that beats me up when I make slow progress.  There is freedom in picking one word to focus on all year and there is freedom in setting goals.  These goals represent something to me – some represent happiness, some love, some organization and some a better heart.  All things that I yearn for and all things of which I am working for every day. 
The cliché’ saying, “It’s not the destination, but the journey” ran through my mind and it rings so true.  We aren’t ever finished, are we?  These goals and this word is something I choose every day.  Every day I work towards them – some days harder than others but still – I work towards them.  So sweet friends, if you are frustrated with your New Year’s Resolutions already, or frustrated with yourself even – don’t be!  Let it go.  Pick up today and continue going where you wanted to go this year.  Continue to make things happen in your life! 
And if you’re out there wondering what I chose this year for My One Word – I chose surrender.  I am choosing to surrender to God every little piece of my life and my heart (something that is very tough for a control freak like me).  And if you’re confused as to what My One Word even is, or want to read more about my goal/setting and word choosing start here and here.

chico o chica?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Are we having a......

mini nisey?

or a.....

mini matthew?

What do YOU think I'm having?  Vote and let me know :)  Our house is divided - I'm on team baby boy and Matt is on team baby girl.... We will find out in 2 weeks!

Do you think I am having a boy or a girl? free polls 

Preggy Update: 17 Weeks

Monday, February 18, 2013

And now I bring you a preggy update! 14-17 Weeks

How Far Along: 17 weeks today!

Size of Baby: Baby is the size of an onion. He/She is about 5.6 inches long and weighs 5.9 ounces. 

Maternity Clothes: No maternity clothes yet, but my clothes are definitely feeling tighter and my bump is slowing growing!  I’ve been eyeing these jeans and pretty much everything on this site.  They know how to dress a bump that’s for sure!   

Stretch Marks: None yet.  Hoping to keep it that way although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous.  I have been applying Coconut Oil religiously morning and night so we’ll see how it goes!

Sleep: Like a baby.  No need for a snazzy body pillow yet but they sure do look cozy.

Best Moment of the Week/Past Month:  Oh there have been so many!  But last Monday hearing my little one’s healthy heart beat at 16 weeks top them all.  Although getting my first maternity in the mail was pretty cool too :)

Movement:  None that I know of!  “They” (you know, all the experts out there) say I could start feeling movement any day now but some women don’t feel movement until 22 weeks!  Oh the waiting game again.  Although I’m not really sure what I should be looking for either.  So come on baby kick mama hard!

Cravings: Tomatoes.  Weird I know.  I’ve been roasting tomatoes like crazy lately.  And I didn’t even really like tomatoes before I was pregnant.  I also love milk.  But I’ve always loved milk so not sure there’s much change in that.  Lately, I’ve just been making it chocolate.

Gender: We don’t know yet!  We find out March 6 at 8am sharp and I cannot wait!  Come back tomorrow to vote on whether you think it’s a boy or a girl!

Belly Button In or Out: Still in!

Wedding Ring on or Off: On.

Anything Making You Queasy or Sick: No thank goodness!  Weeks 6-10 were ROUGH with a nauseated feeling at all times.  Feeling blessed by no nausea.

What I Miss: Red Red Wine.  We joined a wine club when we went to Napa Valley a few years ago and we just got a fresh shipment.  So I’m stocking up for August!

What I am Looking Forward to: Everything!  But definitely our March 6 appointment.  I cannot wait to see if our sweet babe is a Mini Matt or a Mini Denise.

Labor Signs: Nope thank goodness.  Too early for that!  

Nursery: Haven’t started.  We do have a crib, a changing table and a glider though thanks to my sissy for having 2 little ones before me.  Everything is sitting in our garage.  We are hoping to get that put together and repainted before the gender reveal.

Emotions:  I cry.  A lot.  I listen to someone calling in to the radio in the morning talking about how their child’s birthday today or how they little one just learned to say her first word… I lose it.  I’ve also been journaling and writing letters to our little one.  I get choked up when I do that too.  All normal… I’m told.

Don't forget to come back tomorrow to vote on whether we have a bambinO or bambinA cookin in my belly!    

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valentine's day must-haves

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day lovelies!  I love this day so much - getting all mushy with the hubs and eating lots of sweets.  It's the best.  I don't know what my Valentine's Day will look like next year but I know that it will be extra sweet.  I know that I'll probably be exhausted.  And I know that I'll have two loves of my life instead of one.  So until next year I will leave you with my must-have's for this day of love.  These are things that Matt and I do every year and things that I must have or do.  Enjoy!

valentine's day must-haves

valentine's day must-haves by deniselopatka featuring embellished sandals
sources found on Polyvore

1.  Kisses from my love.  And cuddles.  Lots of em.  Need I say more?

2.  Hot chocolate.  I don’t know what it is about hot chocolate but I love sipping it during a romantic night in with my hubby.  And over the weekend I bought this adorable cookie cutter so we tonight we will have some sugar cookies resting upon our hot chocolate mugs. Yummm.

3.  Girly dress, ruffles preferred.  I always wear a dress on Valentine’s Day.  Always.  And yes we always stay in.  But a dress is a must.  And the girlier and frillier and pinker – the better. 

4.  Sweet treat.  I mean duh.  I have a huge sweet tooth and so does my hubby, so Valentine’s Day is wonderful at our house.  He brings home some sweet treats, I whip some up and viola!  A dessert bar that could feed a small village – all for us.

5.  Chick flick.  We always watch a movie on Valentine’s Day.  And I always get to pick.  Before we got married I would pick The Notebook, without fail.  The past 3 years as a married couple on Valentine’s Day I’ve picked our wedding video.  Not sure where I’ll go this year.  Maybe I’ll get crazy and pick Sweet Home Alabama?  You neva know… I’m crazy like that.

6.  Something pretty to wear under that girly dress.  I prefer these and these.  But pretty undies are a must, and not just on Valentine’s Day.  I’m a believer in a woman feeling more confident and more beautiful when she’s got on some pretty panties.  So this is really a must-have all year around if you ask me, but especially on the day of love.

7.  Sexy Heels.  Aside from wearing a dress every year I also wear heels every year.  Yup.  Around my kitchen and during dinner (I usually kick them off for the movie).  I don’t wear heels often in my little beach town, but oh how I love them.  So tonight you will find me in my tallest, sexiest, most beautiful heels… at home.

8.  Curled hair.  Not really sure why this is a must-have for me on Valentine’s Day but it always has been.  Probably because I feel prettiest when my hair is curled, but whatever the reason, I always curl my hair on this day.  To work, to the gym and date night.  My hair will be big and it will be curled.

Do you have any Valentine’s Day must-have’s or traditions with your sweetie?  Do share!

Katie from Hope Engaged

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Today concludes my guest posts for awhile sweet friends but I cannot tell you how excited I am to share the sweet Katie with you.  Katie is one of my first blog friends.  We have emailed back and forth and FINALLY have our long awaited Skype date on the calendar.  Her heart is pure and real and her posts leave you encouraged and challenged.  I hope you enjoy her post today and then head over to her blog, Hope Engaged and stay awhile... trust me you'll never want to leave.


Hello dear readers! Denise has been absolutely so sweet and kind in letting me guest post and get to know many of you wonderful ladies!

When Denise first asked me to write on "love" I prayed and reflected on what that meant to me.  Being married the last year and a half to my best friend and lover, I have learned so much more about loving others,
but equally about how sweetly Abba loves me.

pure, true, graceful, and stunning love is this....
shared with ever astounding words in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8...


and I am struck raw with this truth...

love is so fully alive and filled and brimming over
when we crawl out of our "selves"
and into a live of service for the "other".

to posses virtues of patience or kindness or faithfulness requires a self-control
that denies our most eminent and immediate self desires
for the sake of a greater LOVE.

quite frankly,
we are better together than apart
it causes us to sharpen one another in a way that makes us
most radiant like Christ,

who served,
and stooped,
and washed,
and GAVE
HE gave it all.

for us.

Kevin has made me a better person.
in his kindness and patience,
he has allowed me the space and freedom to become a
more stunning soul.

with open arms he allows me to cry,
and make mistakes {lots},
but he always,
affirms the woman I am
by serving me with an abandon that I don't deserve.
He leaves his pride at the door because of LOVE.
and it's through his servanthood,
that I grow.

such as Abba, only more so.
He refines us through love.
He gives himself to us with reckless abandon
and asks us to give our ourselves to others.

and so I think,
love is in the giving of ourselves.
it's the hard road at times,
but it is the divine road.

the cross,
the ultimate gift,
was sacrifice.
that yielded an eternal love and freedom the world has ever known nor will know again.

so this Valentines day,
and really, every day,
I want to be more conscious about giving of myself.

I truly hope many of you will stop by and say hello:) My husband and I just found out we are moving to Nepal April 1st to work in an aftercare home with women that have been rescued out of sex-trafficking! I'd love for you to join the journey with us!!

with hope,

Kate from A Peony for Your Thoughts

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Today, Kate is over here blogging about her 1 year anniversary (and her adorable idea to stick with tradition for the gift)!  SO excited to have her and I hope you will hop on over to her adorable blog and say hello when you're finished here :)


photo credit
Hello Gratefully Inspired Readers!  I’m Kate and I blog over at A Peony for Your Thoughts.  I was thrilled when Denise asked me to take over her blog for the day.  I love reading her blog and I couldn’t be happier for her as she just recently announced that she’s pregnant! I can’t wait to follow along with her journey, as I’m sure it will fuel my baby fever ;)   I’m a newlywed coming up on our 1st anniversary in March.  Can I still say I’m a newlywed after a year? Yes?  I thought so too.

I’m here to talk about two of my favorite things, my husband and shopping.  In keeping with tradition Tim and I have decided to do a “paper” gift since that’s the designated gift for year one.  You can find gifts by year here.  We bought our first home just before our wedding and we are still severely lacking in artwork, ahem...or anything on our walls.  So, we’ve decided to get each other a print that we think the other person would like.  I thought I’d share a few that I liked for Tim, and a few that I like for me!
I love this Hafiz quote, in fact it was part of our wedding ceremony so would really be my first choice as a present.  But I can’t find it in a print that I like.  I guess I could design and print one myself?  I found it on a plaque on etsy, but that doesn’t count as paper, and I’m not a fan of the font. (I’m picky)

photo credit
I could go the cool route, like this neat typography print of Pennsylvania (where we live!)
This ampersand on the brick wall looks cool, the perfect mixture of cool art (for guys) and lovey dovey symbolism with the ampersand.
This print is cute, and not too sappy, right?
This one would just be a joke, since we have a bloodhound.   I don’t think we’d really hang something like this in our house.  Sorry, Henry ;)
Now, on to art prints that I would like the hubby to get me.  Maybe I’ll even send this post his way, for “proofreading” purposes of course. ;) 
As a self-professed coffee addict, I’ve been eyeing this one for a while.
I love this coco chanel print for our bathroom. 

photo credit
I really like this Steve Jobs quote, and would love to have it hanging in our house.
I like this feather print, it’s simple but I love the ombre effect.
Are you married?  Do you and your partner follow the specific gift by year tradition?  I’m sure we may slack off on it after a few years, but for year one I think we’ll give it a go.   I’d love to hear how you celebrate!

Marquis from Simply Clarke

Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy Monday sweet friends!  In honor of the day of love coming up this week, I have a very special friend to introduce y'all to.  Friends meet the beautiful - inside and out - Marquis!  Her blog is adorable and I hope you will check it out and below she has left us with some great ideas for date ideas on Valentine's Day!  Enjoy xox

Hello Gratefully Inspired Followers!

My name is Marquis Clarke and you can normally find me at Simply Clarke. I love being a wife to my wonderful husband Kevin Clarke and I love God with all my heart. I have a passion for Children's Ministry and College Ministry. The bible is my inspiration and I believe that life is breathtakingly beautiful. 

10 Valentine’s Date Ideas

(1) Avoid crowded restaurants; pick up your favorite dinner to go and dine under the stars, at a park, or by candlelight on a blanket in the living room. 

(2) Take out your wedding video/pictures and watch how the conversation and memories come back.

 (3) Game Night: take out your favorite board games and let the competition begin. Better yet, make it a championship. Play your 3 favorite games and see who is the ultimate champion. {make sweet valentines treats to eat while playing} 

 (4) Begin the fun when you first wake up. Leave notes in places for him to find around the house (milk, bathroom, shower, next to car keys). Give him hints about the night and write little things you love about him. Continue this throughout the day in the form of texts. This will keep you both anticipating ALL DAY! 

 (5) Go to a playground. Have a Frisbee or football packed in the car and just play together. 

 (6) The classic: Dinner and a Movie – order pizza, rent a redbox and enjoy a nice evening snuggled up at home. 

 (7) Wii or Xbox game night -same idea as the game night above except “virtually”. 
 (8) Go to a go-cart / put-put golf place and have a blast! 

 (9) Enjoy going out? Go to dinner and a movie; or better yet, see two movies (your choice and his).

 (10) Dessert. Dessert. Dessert. Go to three different restaurants and only order dessert. After all, its Valentines day.

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