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Book Reviews

I’ve actually been reading a lot lately. Which is surprising given my To-Do list and constant whining to Jason about “NOT HAVING ENOUGH TIME EVER IN THE UNIVERSE.” Somewhere in between all of that whining, I’ve found time to read or listen to audiobooks. I’ve really gotten on a kick lately of listening to audiobooks or podcasts on my morning commute. It seems calming, more academic than the 800th replay of a Katy Perry song on the radio, and I’m convinced is hardwiring Audrey’s brain to love reading as well.

Here’s a few thoughts on what I’ve read lately:

1. Book Thief

book thiefI started reading this book the first few weeks I was home after having Audrey. I’m not sure why I would subject myself to  reading a book narrated by death, where children die, as my first postpartum jaunt into literacy, but I did. It took me a while to get through, but once I got going, I couldn’t stop. It was a beautiful book. Sad, but in a good way. However, I could not make it through the movie. Too sad, too imagery-laden with sickness and death. Maybe one day when I’m not crazy, I will go rewatch it. But I really recommend this one.

2. Notes From A Blue Bike

notes from a blue bike

This one I listened to audiobook, and liked/hated it. It’s about one family’s quest to live intentionally and as you want to live, rather than conforming to the American dream, if that doesn’t fit for you. But, here’s my beef with any book like this. I always feel like they come off as condescending if you DO live in the status quo. I’m all for living intentionally, creating opportunities and living healthy, focused-driven lives, but for those of us who don’t live in foreign countries, or near organic farmers markets, or work from home and have the time to homeschool, or do all those things these books tell us to do, we’re cast off as living a dull existence. The book had some redeeming qualities in that it was a good reminder that YOU make the choices for your family, and YOU decide how you want your kids to be raised, but I was left feeling a bit unsatisfied with it.

3. Bringing Up Bebe

bringing up bebe

This was another audio book, and aside from the grating French the author would espouse every now and then, I really liked this one. Mostly because it was a “wake up a smell the roses” kind of writing, where the author examined French parenting vs. American parenting and how cuckoo American mothers have become about raising the perfect child. A lot of her suggestions may not be practical here, like the no snacks, free healthcare (available in France) and free daycare (also available in France), but it had some good suggestions and pointers about raising children who learn to be patient, eat only when they are hungry and not buying into all the craziness we as mothers are often surrounded with.

4. Where’d You Go Bernadette


I LOVED this book! It’s about one mother’s attempt to make sense of her world while living with a bit of a crazy personality. It’s sometimes written through the point of view of e-mails between the characters and it shares the story of her daughter and husband and their experience with planning a trip to Antarctica. It was fascinating to learn about Antarctica, but the writing was easy and breezy and just a really fun read. When it ended, I found myself flipping to the next few pages, sad the book was over and wanting just one more chapter!

I need some more Summer reading recommendations! Up next is my book club book Wifey by Judy Blume, my next Phillippa Gregory book and I’ve been recommended to read anything by Elin Hilderbrand. Any other suggestions??


The War Inside

I have always been very hard on myself. Always pushing to be perfect and the best.

This is evidenced by the “races” I used to have in 1st grade with another boy on tests and homework to see who could finish faster and get an A.

Also evidenced in the manic way I would amass stickers on my 4th grade behavior chart marking how “good” I was that day, usually feeling absolutely devastated if I did not fill my 5×5 grid of empty boxes, each box somehow symbolizing a square inch of self worth.

Seen also in the student council, class president, club president, sorority officer, alumnae officer positions I take on, run for or volunteer for to somehow stay involved, stay connected, stay on top of things to be in the know, to be with those who know and just to know.

Or shown in how I will speed clean my house the second I hear someone is coming over so they will see a spotless house, complete with a fresh scent of faked cleanliness, and think I keep it that way all the time. Yeah right. Right now, my kitchen has two empty pizza boxes, a can of Pringles and expired chocolate milk in the fridge, a pile of Audrey’s spit up caked on the floor and the couch smells like Sadie pooped INSIDE this couch, not on it, IN IT).

It’s always been there. I just know this about myself. And thank you Jesus that you brought Jason into my life who every day reminds me to JUST RELAX.

But never in my life did I foresee the levels this personality would push me to once having a baby. Every single decision, outfit choice, thought, action, etc. is amplified by my insatiable need to be perfect.

The latest “war” is breastfeeding and formula. I have breastfed Audrey until now (5 months) but have slowly been unable to make enough bottles to send with her the next day, depleting my freezer supply and teetering on the edge of needing to supplement for some time now.

Well, a week or so ago was the tipping point. I didn’t have enough to send the next day (unless I pumped during the night and again the next morning and used my last 3 oz from the freezer), and she hasn’t been sleeping, so I devised a plan to give her a bottle with half breast milk and half formula to introduce it, hope it helped her sleep and to throw this monkey off my back. The evil, demon monkey of mommy guilt telling me I’m ruining the “pureness” of this child by giving her something foreign. How dumb is that? My baby is still perfect after a bottle of formula, she took it like a champ, never knew the difference (still didn’t sleep), but is no worse for the wear and you would think I laced her bottle with arsenic because of the amount of thought I put into this decision.

If I agonize this much over every decision as a mother, Lord help me. What’s healthiest for Audrey right now is sleep. She needs more and I need to do what I can to get her there, which I believe is feeding more during the day. What is also healthiest for this family is sleep and a rejuvenated Mama. I’m learning this all a give and take. If I take from here, something has to give over there. And I’ll tell you, the day after this happened and I didn’t have to fret over getting up before the chickens to pump, I was OVER IT.

But why do we beat ourselves up so much? If it’s not formula, it will be pre-packaged baby food, and then preschool, and then giving them fast food, and then private vs. public school, and then, and then, and then.

What I want MOST in the world is that Audrey is healthy, happy and learns to love Jesus. That’s it. I want time with my husband. I want more babies. And I want my sanity. And I’ve got to learn to LET IT GO. My sage (aka sister) gave me the best verse for this:

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever thingsare of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

OR in crazy, sleep deprived Mama terms: GET OFF FACEBOOK AND THE INTERNET AND STOP READING WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING OR DOING AND JUST DO YOU. Do you. Do me. Do Stephanie. Be a Roussell (and an Ortego) and go with your gut. Do what I feel is right, focus on what is good in my life, what I feel is healthy for our family as a whole and move on. The decision I made a few nights ago will not define Audrey’s life, nor mine. It will be a blip on the radar of life, and every decision I will make with heart and faith, but remind myself that not every decision that winds me away from what “I thought should happen” is not failure, it’s life.

Can you tell I needed a pep talk? 🙂 And I’m always happy to talk to myself!

In other news, here is Audrey’s new look of trepidation during “rice cereal” time. I mean, she’s gotta be the cutest baby you ever did see, right??audrey rice cereal

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My new form of absolute torture is finding songs about children and listening them on repeat.

And this one, like I can’t even. Can’t. Do. It. Must. Stop.

So beautiful and so gut wrenching right now as I struggle each night to leave Audrey in her room, willing her to sleep, but secretly wishing she stays awake so I can be with her a few minutes longer.

Oh please Jesus, I pray that those “armies of angels” surround Audrey every moment that I’m not with her.

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One Word

There has been a trend through the blogosphere lately that suggests you pick one word to describe your upcoming year. Each New Years, bloggers will choose the word that describes how they want to be in the new year, how they want to be known or other aspirations they want to strive for. Popular words have been: brave, courageous, active, etc.

And as I looked back at probably the most significant year of my life, and then looked ahead to 2014, I knew this would be a perfect exercise for me.

2013 was killer. I mean, hands down, one of the craziest, most wonderful, most emotional and hardest years of my life. Let’s recap, shall we?

And now, it’s 2014 and I look back with exhaustion, pride, a full heart. I know everyone has busy years. I’m not abnormal in that claim. But, looking toward a new year, Jason and I couldn’t help but agree that this year, we want less. We want slow. We want roots. We’ve moved, floated, lived the nomadic way for a while, but now with roots and our Audrey, it’s time to stay for a while.

So, my word for 2014 is: STILL.

And not just being still in the physical sense, although that’s a big part of it. But also:

  • being still and knowing of God’s absolute presence in our life (Psalms 46:10; Exodus 14:14)
  • being still in the moments I try to do too much
  • being still and letting go of the fear and anxiety in my new mama heart and head
  • being physically still in Baton Rouge, in our home, in our jobs, in our church
  • being still by embracing quiet mornings, slow weekends and long holidays

I probably jinxed myself by making this my 2014 word. This usually sparks a completely opposite reaction (see: pregnancy fall in August after just the day before saying “let’s not do anything baby this weekend, let’s just relax” yeah right). But I want to be deliberate in this word this year. Be still and watch Audrey blossom and grow. Be still and love Jason more each day. Be still and enjoy this beautiful life.

I hope you can find a word to relate with this year as well! I’d love to hear what they are, if you do. Happy 2014 friends, let’s make it a great one.

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Personal Approach

baby onesieWe’re having a baby! If you needed a reason for the sporadic posting, I hope this is a good enough one 🙂 Between finishing my thesis, buying a house, Jason getting a new branch, packing, prepping for graduation, I’ve managed to somehow fit in a first trimester.

It’s true what they say that pregnancy brings out every single possible emotion. And we are happily (well most of the time happily!) feeling them all. I pray everyday for our little family and look forward to all the new changes in our life. And this video sums this season up for us beautifully.

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Getting Heavy

heavyYou may have seen this image floating around my Pinterest and Facebook page recently. I have no idea the original source, or I would link you to it, but this image hit me square in the face this past week. And I wanted to share encouragement to those of you who may feel as I have felt lately.

Things get heavy. School gets heavy. Jobs get heavy. Church gets heavy. Friends get heavy. Things. Get. Heavy. And the more we pile one, the more we busy ourselves and the more we fret, the more it weighs us down.

I’ve felt heavy lately with a lot on my mind, and I wasn’t being brave enough to let some things go. But I’m learning that it is OK to let things go, let them be and let them marinate for a while, instead of forcing, pushing or pulling our way to the next big thing.

I’m still learning and trying, but I’m listening as hard as I can for God’s leading. And I feel there is freedom and lightness when you scale back and just be for a while. So if you’re feeling heavy, a) you’re not alone and, b) let it go.