Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Happy Easter and a Look at Our Holy Week Project

Happy Easter, y'all!!! So happy to be Catholic so we can keep on celebrating Easter for several weeks, not just one day. It's Easter all the way till Pentecost! So we are still partying over here in the Rhoades Casa. But before I get ahead of myself, I wanted to give you all a peek back at how we prepared for Easter. 

We fasted from television during Holy Week, which freed up a lot of time to read from the Bible with our girls and truly share the important elements of salvation history with them - the events that led to the glorious Paschal Mystery. 

One of the best parts of Holy Week for us was having a toddler-friendly Seder Meal! It was actually Avila's second birthday on Holy Thursday, so we treated her to lamb meatballs, hummus and pita bread - some of her favorite foods in the world! I am *kicking* myself for forgetting to take pictures of our Passover spread because it was really awesome. We explained to the girls (and our dinner guests) some of the simpler aspects of what happens during a Jewish Passover meal, and more specifically what happened during the Last Supper. I used this post from Little Bit of Paradise as my reference for our toddler-friendly Seder. 

Along with looking through salvation history, we also took a walk through the week that led to the very first Easter. Using this awesome Holy Week calendar as our guide, we were able to share the events with our girls in a simple and engaging way. I got the idea from The Domestic Notebook and we sort of made it our own and had a lot of fun with it! Here's what our finished calendar ended up looking like:

I decided to laminate the basic framework of the calendar itself so that it can be reused each year, and we can focus on different aspects of Holy Week as the girls grow in understanding. :)

Hope you had a wonderful, fruitful Lent and Holy Week and are now basking in Easter Joy like us!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cosette Marie

Two pink lines. 

When it's something you're hoping for, there's no better sight in all the world. For me, it means there is a new life deep within me and from the moment I see those two pink lines, I begin to love that child with all my might. We found out on February 11th that I was expecting another baby and I was instantly overjoyed. I've always wanted an October baby and this little one was due to arrive smack in the middle of that, my favorite month of the year. We began to dream of our life with this new addition in the mix. A boy this time? Or a third little girl to love? We didn't care which. 

Gemma had been asking me for months and months up to that point if God had given us a new baby yet. She all but begged for a new sibling. She's a bit obsessed with babies... might be a daughter-of-a-doula thing. :) I got my positive pregnancy test first thing in the morning and it took all my self control to wait till evening time to share my good news with her. I wanted to tell the whole family at once, during our daily family dinner. When the news finally burst forth from my lips, the smiles and joy that erupted from my family turned our home into a mini-hulabaloo for just a moment. 
A precious moment in time that I will hold in my heart forever.  

The first pictures taken with little baby inside me -- before even I knew that she was there!
Me with three sweet children. 
We spent the next few days sharing the happy news with other close friends and family members. As I've written about before, I have come to the conclusion that waiting to tell loved ones that they, too, have a new family member on the way, seems an unusual practice to me, so we spared no time to spread the news around. "But, what if something happens...?" they say. What they mean is "If the baby dies too soon, then there will be that many more people to disappoint with sad news."
Well, something did happen. It happened to us, once again. And I wasn't sad that I had "too many people" to tell about my miscarriage. I was grateful to be surrounded by the love and prayers of the people in this world that mean the most to me. I felt grateful that those very people had as much time as they did to experience the hope and joy that comes along with new life. 

There was a wave of overwhelming grief. There is still grief. 

There was pain. Physical pain that pales in comparison to the deep, visceral emotional and spiritual pain that boils rapidly within every moment. 

There was fear. There was guilt. There was anger. 

There was jealousy. 

There was doubt. What could I have done to stop this? Did I cause this? What did I do wrong? I asked myself "Why?" more times than I can count. Why me? Why again? Why this baby? Why now? Why can't I have my baby but all the other pregnant women around me can have theirs? Why do we have to say goodbye to another baby? Why can't I just run away from the pain? Why is grieving so bitter? Why is healing so slow? 

But answers are scarce when questions are ambiguous and devoid of direction.
The prayers of others are what sustained me during a time when personal prayer was filled with silence and wailing. Support came in the form of warm meals made by local friends, flowers, cards and gifts sent from loved ones too far to bring their love over in the form of a warm embrace and tears of compassion. We weren't alone in our time of need, but no matter how much support a woman has during her miscarriage, she will still never experience an event more isolating in all her life. 

No one accompanies her to the restroom as she experiences with her body the loss of her child. No one accompanies her there while she sees with her eyes the parts of her that were meant to stay inside for several more months to sustain the life of her baby. No one feels her abdomen contract beneath a breaking heart. No one. Not even her husband, try as he might to ease her burden. It's a yoke that can only be borne by the mother herself. It changes her as surely as birth changes a mother. 
This is a birth of a different kind. It's a birth of lost dreams and broken hope, of distrust in one's own body, a birth of painful deprivation - deprivation of the one thing we want most in the world - our baby. We birth death and heartache. And we do it alone. 

In the end, there is no real end. The physical event of the miscarriage does come to a close. But the emotional event never really does. We clung to each other as a family. I held my daughter as her small, beautiful heart broke. See, Gemma was just a toddler when we had our first miscarriage, like how Avila is now. With toddlers, there's isn't much understanding beyond "Mommy sick. Mommy needs rest." But with a highly emotionally-mature and very intelligent preschooler, it's different. There is understanding. There are questions. And there is grief. 

But children offer respite within the sadness. They needed me to be there for them and carry on with meeting their many needs. They let me rest and heal, but keeping up with them meant keeping myself from wallowing too deep into a depression on the couch. Their gorgeous faces and silly antics caused me to smile and laugh far sooner than I might have imagined. They felt quite strongly that the baby was a girl, and I had no reason to disagree with such innocence and intuition. 

An unfocused picture Gemma took of me that day I found out our baby was gone. The haziness and eschew angle brilliantly represents how I was feeling in that exact moment.
So I spent a few days pondering on what we could call our little baby, now that she was in heaven looking out for us, and playing with her brother, Benji. She was with us for such a short period of time, and never grew to be bigger than a blueberry. Sweet little thing. 
So we decided on Cosette Marie.
Cosette means "little one" and it's a name I've long loved (Les Mis fanatic over here!) and we blessed her with Marie as her middle name, knowing that she was safely cuddled into Our Lady's arms. It's a name that's been in both sides of our family too, so it just felt right. 

It's been a month since we had to say goodbye to "Baby Coco" as the girls call her and I'm finally in a place where the thought of her more readily brings a smile rather than a tear. I am comforted by the knowledge that she's in Heaven with her brother and our other departed loved ones. She's there with all my favorite saints! She stands before the Throne of God bearing our resemblance, so when she intercedes for her family below, our Heavenly Father sees the very image of those she is interceding for. A beautiful, warm thought for me to rest upon. 

My heart, my womb, my arms... they still long for her. But we move forward with the knowledge that she's a little saint now and there can be no better place for her than that perfect Home where we all truly belong. What we have here on earth are our few, precious memories of her short and wonderful life with us. 

Fancy-shmancy test tells me I'm preggo and 1-2 weeks since ovulation.
A week later, test tells me we're moving along right on schedule! :)

My diet-tracker. I made sure I was getting just what me and baby needed to have a healthy pregnancy!

Our prayer board. We prayed for our little one every day.
A project cut short too soon. Each week the girls helped me put up the next picture of the food our baby was roughly the size of. They loved doing it, and we were all sad the day I had to take this down from the wall.
Playing in the snow with all three of my girls. Filled with joy and gratitude.

Cosette Marie, pray for us!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Shhh… I'm Pregnant! It's a Secret! (But should it be?)

Okay I'm not actually pregnant, but I just read a very thought-provoking piece. Take a moment to read it, if you will. Author, Abigail Rasminsky, details several ideas I have wrestled with concerning when to announce a new pregnancy. 
I found this paragraph to be gut-wrenchingly true:
"I wonder whose anxiety we’re trying to protect in concealing these first few difficult months. Is this supposed to be for my sake? Are we trying to protect me from the embarrassment of admitting that I can’t go 45 minutes without eating and am gaining weight at a rapid clip? That I spend most of the day crying and moaning on the couch, Alicia Florrick my fictional companion? That I’m afraid of losing the pregnancy but can’t fathom that this debilitating state of being has anything to do with an actual baby? Are we really trying to save me from having to share the news if I have a miscarriage? Or are we trying to protect our culture from admitting that not all pregnancies are beautiful and easy and make it to term, and that the loss can be absolutely devastating?" (emphasis mine) 

I think in our culture, addicted to "sharing" anything and everything on various social media platforms, it is a curious thing that the joyful news of a new life is often shrouded in mystery and kept secret for so long. It seems most people find this information to be deeply personal, so therefore only shared in confidence with close family and friends, in person or via the ever-rare-in-our-day phone call. I fully empathize with this position. I think the pomp and circumstance of Facebook (and other social media) pregnancy announcements is a bit overdone nowadays (this coming from someone who herself did a fun, silly pregnancy announcement for Avila, so I get it). 

Except your pregnancy. That's different. 

Something that this essay and "hide the pregnancy" culture has had me realize is this: what people share on social media is often very selective. The VAST majority of us do not share deep and personal things on Facebook. We intrinsically know that the platform is a bit frivolous. So when we think we're "keeping up" with our friends and family on Facebook simply because we've viewed and "liked" their recent stream of posts, keep in mind that what they are sharing is likely a very tailored, censored, and simplistic highlight ream of the events in their life that they deem emotionally safe enough to openly share on a public forum. 

Of course, this is a generalization. Some people have very limited friend lists, so they feel more comfortable sharing deep and personal things on Facebook regularly. But I'd say most of us have a huge collection of Facebook friends that are mainly comprised of acquaintances, and as warm as we may feel about them, we tend to understand that not every person we're "friends" with on Facebook is equally worthy of knowing each personal thing we have to share. 

But our IRL (in real life) friends are different, aren't they?? I feel that we should be free to share our happy news with those people we regularly interact with! The effort it takes to hide a pregnancy from your community seems unnecessary, quite frankly. We shouldn't be ashamed or afraid. Neither of these emotions are from God.  1 John 14:18 says "There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear." 

I would encourage expectant mommies to allow the love they have for their newest child, and the love from our Heavenly Father that they are both being covered with to give them the courage they need to openly share their pregnancy with their community. Let your friends and family share in your joy, and in the life of this new person! Of course, it's a personal choice, but these are my thoughts on the matter. 

What do you think? When do you share the news of a new pregnancy? Do you have different rules for who you tell in person, versus on social media?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

We Homeschool a Little Bit

Gemma turned 4 this summer, so as September inched closer, it seemed we had a decision to make about how to approach preschool this year. Our options: send her to the public school pre-K4 program, send her to the Catholic school pre-K4 program, or keep her home and provide a homeschool program for her to get her ready for Kindergarten. 

My big 4 year-old, ready to take on the world!

Well, the public school she would have to go to is academically subpar. And yes, I realize it's only pre-K but if my child is going to be spending 20 hours a week somewhere besides home, I'd like it to be somewhere that feels warm, safe, and academically dynamic. Well, this place doesn't fit that bill. End of story. 
Then I peeked at the tuition rates for Catholic school. And almost spewed coffee all over my screen. Really?!?! No way can I justify spending that much money on my preschooler!! And yes, I realize I could have applied for financial aid and all that glorious stuff, but the reality is, even with aid, it seemed a frivolous use of our money. For preschool. Oh, and as a side note, I also took a peek at the tuition rates for the Montessori school down the street from us (seriously, we could walk there). Yeaaaaaaaaaaaa. Even more $$ than Catholic school. So no. Not happening.

Thus, we come down to the final option. And you know what? I was secretly looking at her other schooling options with a mentality of "Convince me you're better than homeschooling" because the reality is, I wanted to homeschool her! I just figured, hey maybe there is something to this structured, brick-and-mortar school thing since so many families follow that track. I should give it a chance. And I will continue to give it a chance as our kids grow and our family's needs change.

At least for now, for as long as we're in the school zone we're in (AKA as long as we're in this house), public schooling will not be an option. I may take another look at the Catholic school option once our debts are paid down more. But with multiple children (we have two now, and hoping for more), how is it feasible financially? I know financial aid is offered, but there's no way every family who sends their kids there is receiving aid. And those who are, few are receiving a full ride. So trying to imagine a world where we could afford to send multiple kids to Catholic school seems like a far and away dream. 

But we're blessed because this area is ripe with some amazing homeschooling families, co-ops, and resources. It's a education choice that is growing in popularity and it's easy to see why. In a more personal model of education, curricula can be tailor-made to each child. The child is taught by their parents and perhaps a few other homeschooling parents on occasion (in the case of a co-op) so the student to teacher ratio is the best you can get. The child has the opportunity to be experiencing life as it's lived every day by the average citizen - shopping, errands, bank visits, post office trips, etc. The opportunities for field trips are endless and don't need to be scheduled way in advance. Family vacations can happen anytime. Extended vacations can even happen, and you can bring school on the road with you. Statistics have shown that homeschool students move at a faster pace academically that their traditionally-schooled peers, and they fare better academically in college as well. They can often earn a vast sum of college credit during their high school years, allowing them to earn a full Bachelor's degree at a University in as little as two years. 

Here's a sneak peek at our homeschool room. :)

 Now, I could go on because the benefits of homeschooling are really remarkable. But! Let's not get ahead of ourselves. This year, I have a 4 year old and an 18-month old at home. I'm "homeschooling" pre-k to Gemma, and bringing Avila along for as much of the ride as she can handle. Basically, we're reading a lot of books, doing arts and crafts, playing, cooking together, playing, practicing writing letters (at Gemma's fervent request!), we run errands in the world, go to Library story time classes, playdates, Mass, Adoration, then we play some more, dance around, read another pile of books, take care of household chores, then at the end of the day, we all play some more. 

Sweet Avila! She's happy Gemma's homeschooling too because then she  has big sister home all day to play with!

I'm not exactly busting out hardcore curricula over here just yet. We're taking this one year at a time. Each year, we'll reassess the academic options available to us, along with the individual needs of our children and make a decision about who goes to school where. Most likely, they'll largely be homeschooled, but I'm open. I'm looking forward to checking out the homeschool co-op and enrichment programs in our area a little more in depth. 

We're having fun. Education should be fun. It's an adventure! I can't wait to watch all the magic and knowledge my kiddos will discover. :)

9/2/14 Gemma's first day of Pre-K4!!

Check back at my next post where I'll give a full photo show of how we turned our cruddy, disorganized playroom into a functional, multi-purpose playroom/schoolroom! 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Stress Paralyzed

Here's a little peek at my internal monologue as I wade through life:

Gosh, it's so freaking hard to be a mom. I want to be a good mom. I want my kids to trust me and depend upon me. I want to know their souls deeply. I want to protect them and nurture them. …
I have the best kids ever. I can't imagine how hard it would be if I had to work outside the home and be away from them. Oh but… man, what if I could be away from them sometimes?? Have a nice break from the screeching and shirt-tugging. Happy sigh…
Aw, but then I might miss that perfect moment of a spontaneous kiss shared between them. Or the times when Gemma drops everything she's doing just to make Avi laugh for ten minutes straight. Or the moment Avi walks out of the bedroom dressed head-to-toe in Gem's clothes because that's what little sisters do. Yep, I love staying home with them.

But sometimes, I wonder if I'm doing enough. I do have a shiny, very expensive degree from a fancy, private university. It's actually not shiny. It's quite literally collecting dust atop our bookcase in the office. My lovely degree… in Spanish. Yeaaa….. well, I did teach Spanish for one year, that's gotta count for something, right? And I've tutored on and off for the better part of the past 10 years, so that counts too, right? Ugh. I'm a failure.

And then just throw in all my other passions as well. I'm obsessed with birth. Obsessed. I love it. I really actually love talking about contractions and placenta and oxytocin and just all of it. I am loving being a doula. I should work on my doula business a bit more. I'm not a very good advertiser. Maybe I can drop some business cards off at some …places… like I dunno. A chiropractic office? Yea, cuz they'd just let me do that. ??? I'm seriously not good at business-y type stuff. 

Case in point - Radiantly You. I love that company. So pumped to be an IWG with them. But I feel like I never have enough time to devote to RY stuff. Am I just a failure at everything? 

Now I have this new passion for crafting, because ya know, I have TONS of extra time to just sit around making home decor items. But the other night, I stayed up till 1am making the most gorgeous wreath. At least I think it's gorgeous. We'll see if anyone else does? Crafty goodness for sale comin' y'all's way in no time. Just gotta finish up a couple more items so I can actually have something to show for my new "business" not just like "Hey world, gotta wreath for sale. Yep. Just one. But she's a real beaut. Any takers?? No… oh okay, that's cool. Oh! You?? Yes, sold to the lovely lady in yellow!! Check me out a successful little businesswoman, just sold my first piece. Can't wait to sell more… oh wait, there are no more. Crap!" Mhm. That's me - jane of all trades, master of none. Master of the "I started an awesome project that I'll never finish." Cuz I'm awesome at stuff. Except not.

I like to think I'm doing okay at this whole Mommy thing. 

When I'm doing especially good at the mommy thing is when my business stuff really flops out hardcore. How does one do it all? Really and truly. 

Then I remember the answer: the key is all in the schedule, they say. Get yourself a calendar, a planner, they say! Write everything down, map it all out, have a plan! Life will be so much easier, they say. 

Schedules are my achilles heal. Planners are my kryptonite. 

The minute I bust one out, draw up a business plan, map it all out, create a family schedule, etc, I can pretty much guarantee the household will fall into shambles within 2 weeks' time. Because I also have this amazingly helpful quirk called perfectionism. That was sarcasm ncase ya didn't catch that. The problem with being a perfectionist with a planner is that these two gorgeous little creatures whom inhabit my home and accompany me ever.y.where. don't really care that I have blocked out 11:15am-11:30am for wreath-making. Nope. They'll still spill an entire box of beads, or poop their diaper, or smear peanut butter everywhere or need helping finding their other Elsa sock regardless of what have on the schedule. So I do my best to be flexible and try to get back on track but then I start to get sweaty palms because I realize there's no way I'm gonna get to everything on my list for that day which means I won't be able to cross it off which means I failed which means I'm not perfect which means mommy anxiety and of course it's always dinnertime. Right?? 
How is it ALWAYS dinnertime?? Like, sometimes I just need one second to cry or breath or change my playdoh covered pants, but I can't because I have to make dinner right now. And then Rocky finally arrives home in time for me to launch the children at him and retreat to the kitchen where he'll find me in the fetal position staring at not-yet-defrosted chicken as I rock back and forth trying to figure out how to somehow make this edible for my family in the next half hour because ya know, Rachel Ray make 30 minute meals, and dammit, so should I. And just like that, I'm stress-paralyzed. 
Yes, it's a thing.

It's about this time that I realize I'm overloading myself. I need to scale back. I need to lower my standards because otherwise I'm literally going to go crazy. And my girls don't want a crazy mom. I mean… a little crazy, that's okay. But not psycho crazy. That's no good. Y'all know what I'm talking about. So my solution? Meh, who needs a planner?? Life was way less stressful when we just naturally allowed the days to flow. Don't get me wrong, we have a routine. Everyone needs a routine. Kids… they need a routine. But a routine is different than a schedule. At least in the mind of a perfectionist, it's different. So as we settle back into our natural routine, that's when I realize so many of the things I strive to accomplish just don't always fit into our routine. Small humans are all consuming. They're designed that way. 

I sit down to write a card and like moth to a flame, my toddler comes over and literally starts 
scream-begging (scregging?) to have the pen in my hand. I try to give her a crayon as an alternative. That totally works. 

Just kidding. It actually just pissed her off. Now she's scream-crying (scryming?) in her rage at me for being so condescending as to offer her a crayon when the gloriousness of the ballpoint pen is so clearly available. So my only solution is to remove the temptation. So I put the card and the pen away, far up, out of reach. Out of sight, out of mind. I'll finish it later I guess. (I'll find it a week later and go, Crap!! I never finished that!) For now, I have to go hold Avi, nurse her, play with her for at least ten minutes to calm her back down. There's goes 15 minutes of my life spent on writing my return address on an envelope. Nice.

This particular blog post was written in about 5 different chunks of time spread out over 2 weeks' time. This exact moment as I try to finish it, I'm lying on the floor on my stomach with both girls on my back pulling my hair begging to play horsey. I'm not making that up. 

I dunno. Maybe I'm an anomaly though. Maybe there really are moms out there who are awesome. They blog twice a week. They run a successful home business. They're healthy physically and emotionally. They are bff's with Jesus. Their marriages are stable and beautiful. Their kids are smart, well-dressed, behaved. Do these women exist? Are you one of them? If so, please tell me your secret. 

But if the answer is "Scheduling! Planning!" then I might cry. :)
Okay but for real, I am asking for advice. How do you juggle everything without becoming stress-paralyzed? Or is that just a part of the job that I'll have to learn to live with?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Radiantly You Hair Detox

So in case you haven't heard me talk about it yet, there's this amazing company I was recently introduced to called Radiantly You. They make all natural and organic personal care and cleaning products. Many of their items are things that I have in the past made from scratch myself. I'm a huge fan of simplicity. Every product they make has only a handful of natural, simple, nourishing ingredients. These are pretty much the types of items you use on a regular basis - toothpaste, deodorant, laundry detergent, etc. The products are not only completely toxin free but many of them actually have a DE-toxifying effect. That's what this post is about!

Most commercial hair care products, even your shampoo and conditioner, which are supposed to cleanse your hair, are laden with harmful chemicals. After a lifetime of using these products, our hair and scalp have built up layers of toxic gunk. Despite what the shampoo commercials illustrate, I can assure you, they are not making your hair healthier! The shampoo strips hair of its natural oils, and then because it dries your hair and scalp out, you have to use a conditioner which just lumps a bunch of chemical-oil compounds onto it to soften it up. 

So, I was pretty excited when my friend Angie messaged me one day asking if I'd be interested in trying the "hair detox" with the Radiantly You bar. Of course, I said yes!! I had been hearing some of my friends talk about it, and was pretty curious to try it out. I had heard of other "no poo" (i.e., no shampoo) methods before, such as simply washing with Baking Soda and Vinegar, but that never sounded very appealing to me. The day my Tea Tree Shampoo Bar arrived, I literally squealed with joy. Seriously, ask my husband. 
My beloved shampoo bar!

So I took some notes about my observations during the detox experience. Here goes:

Today is day 1 of my hair detox! Thoughts after my first and only wash - 1. I LOVED how well the soap lathered! This was one of the reasons I never wanted to do the baking soda and apple cider vinegar "no poo" method - because I seriously enjoy the foaming/lathery feeling during a shower. 2. I have the tea tree bar and it smells awesome not too overpowering, just enough to make it very refreshing and pleasant. 3. My hair felt SUPER squeaky after I rinsed it out… like you could rub your fingers on it and literally make the squeaking noise. 4. I brushed it after and let it air dry - and it feels really, really soft! 5. I know today is only day one so things may get a little weirder with my hair over the next few days as the detox continues. :)

Day 7 of my detox. The past few days my hair felt a little bit waxy when it was wet. While dry, it was feeling just big and frizzy. Still loving the smell and lather of it. And I love that I'm detoxifying my hair and moving into a natural way to care for my hair!

Day 14 - My hair detox is done!! This past week, I decided to add a rinse of apple cider vinegar after washing with the bar. I had heard some other ladies suggest this step, saying that it really softens the hair. I wasn't excited about the smell, but I cannot even believe HOW soft it made my hair feel!! To combat the ACV smell, I would spray it after my shower with a homemade fragrance of mine - water with a few drops of lemon and lavender essential oil. Smells amazing!!!
No additional products, no styling. This is exactly how my hair looks, air-dried, post-detox!!

So now I'll be resuming my normal hair washing cycle, which is just to wash every other day. And I just received my Mango Coconut Conditioning Shampoo Bar in the mail as well so I cannot wait to try it out. Most of the ladies I know who are post-detox say that they switch between bars every other wash. I'm pretty excited to have the conditioning bar now because it smells waaaayyyy better than ACV! :)
I feel like my pictures don't really do the transformation justice. The most dramatic way I can tell the difference is how it feels. My hair feels so, incredibly smooth, soft, and healthy. I've never felt it this healthy before. I can't stop running my hands through it, just because it feels so great. I don't have to do any styling or add any extra product to it to make it look better. 

So, are you ready to take the challenge?? Are you ready to detox your hair-care??
Do it!!
And let me know when you do - I'd love to hear your experience. 
My next post is actually going to give some guidance, details, and tips to doing the detox, so if you're interested in this, or are already doing it, check back for that post. Lots of helpful hints!

*Full disclosure: during my detox process, and as a result of trying a handful of other products as well, I fell in love with this company and became an IWG with Radiantly You. That said, I truly would never recommend a product that I did not 100% love and feel was beneficial to others.

Rhoades Fam Highlight Reel

Okay I know there are a few of you out there who have specifically requested an update!
I do apologize that my blog has kind of gone to the wayside over the past year basically. With the addition of sweet Avila to our lives, I've been left wondering how ANY mom with two or more children finds the time to blog! So if you are that kind of mom - major props to you.
So without further ado, here's the highlight reel of our lives since Avi's entrance into the world.

In case you missed it, here is the birth story of Avila Grace. And here's Rocky's version. It's worth your time if you need a good laugh. She was born at home on April 2, 2013. She's my lil sugar snap.

The highlight of May was Avi's Baptism. Her godparents came down from Steubenville, OH to share this glorious occasion with us and participate in this beautiful Sacrament.

June had two wonderful events. Our dear, dear friends were united in marriage and we were blessed to join their wedding party and stand beside them as they said their vows. Gemma was the flower girl as well so it was a family affair.

The very next day, we closed on our first home. Homeowner's Club, baby. I still don't feel grown up enough to own a house.

July flew by as we got settled into our home and worked on all sorts of little improvement projects.
Hmm… don't have a lot of pics from July but here's a super cute one of chubbabubba Avi that month:

August's highlight was celebrating Gemma's third (yes, third!! already?!) birthday! Sweet girl! We had a fairy tale themed party for her, complete with a giant cardboard box castle. (There was a plus side to having all those moving boxes!) I also began my training course to become a certified labor/birth doula! More about this later.

September came with Rocky kicking off the school year of his youth ministry program. It was a busy month, but we had one weekend free to go down to North Carolina and get some apple-pickin' in. We got lots of other pick-you-own produce as well! I used all those tomatoes and peppers to make a gargantuan amount of homemade enchilada sauce. We're down to just one more 2-cup portion in our freezer!

The highlight of October was a visit from my FIL, Steve. He had a fantastic time meeting Avila for the first time, fixing up a gajillion things on our house, and visiting historic Jamestown with us. He was also here for our parish Chili Cook-off and was able to enjoy plenty of the winning chili - MINE!! Then we celebrated All Saints Day/Halloween!

Picture taken by Gemma! :)
Me after eating the spiciest thing I've ever tasted in my life - crushed Trinidad Peppers.
Me winning my prize!!!
The girls dressed up as Our lady of Lourdes and St. Gemma Galgani for All Saints Day.

We hosted our annual misfits Thanksgiving in our home, with everyone who didn't go to their hometowns to share the holiday with family. It was a small gathering this year, but we had the greatest time ever and the greatest food ever. The best part of a small gathering for Thanksgiving is - lots of leftovers!! Yum.
First bite of turkey!
Of course the highlight of December was Christmas!! This was Avila's first Christmas and our first Christmas spent in our very own home! The girls got lots of neat gifts, and are still enjoying them. They're working hard on learning to play well together. It'll be a long road there, I think.

January started off in the greatest way possible - I attended my very first birth as a doula, which happened to be the first baby to some of our very best friends here. He was born at 3:45am on New Year's Day, an adorable 9lb bundle of love!

Now we're in the final days of January, and I have something really fun to share with everyone! I just completed a hair detox. Yes, a hair detox. What the heck are you talking about, you ask? Well, I'll tell you all about it in my next post. Which I promise… will be VERY soon. As in like, later today. Or tomorrow. :D Here's a little preview of the beautiful shampoo bar that transformed my hair:

Radiantly You - Tea Tree Shampoo Bar

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