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Life Update: Pregnancy (35 weeks) + baby boy got out of the NICU!

I’m 35 weeks pregnant this week — and we got to bring our precious baby boy that we’re fostering home from the NICU on Wednesday!!

All three kids have anxiously been waiting for two weeks to get to meet this very loved baby boy! They have willingly stayed home 24/7 to protect our home from germs, done the bulk of the laundry, cooking, and cleaning while I was taking care of this little guy at the NICU, and have talked incessantly about the day we would get to bring him to our house!

It brought tears to my eyes to see my husband and kids loving on this tiny boy whom I have fallen so in love with the past two and a half weeks. (See a video here.)

Welcome to our home, Champ. We already love you more than you can imagine. Our heart and hope is for you to have reunification with your mama, but we promise to love you, care for you, and advocate for you as long as we get to be your foster family.

(Note: We debated over what “internet name” to give this sweet guy and finally all decided on Champ. Because though he is little, he is so strong. And I kept finding myself reporting to people that he did this or that “like a champ”. I realized it was the perfect moniker for him online! Also, thank you for your understanding that there’s a lot we can’t share when it comes to photos and details. While everything in my mama heart wants to show the world how cute and amazing he is and how proud I am of how much progress he is making, protecting his privacy and story is much more important to us.)

Highlights:

It’s pretty surreal and special to get the opportunity to love on a tiny little newborn during the last few weeks of my pregnancy. Since I’m the only one who is trained to feed him right now (and he eats every 3 hours) and he’s still adjusting to being in a different bed/place after weeks in the NICU, my sleep has been a little on the short side this week.

However, God has been so faithful to carry me through — through the 24-hour stay with him at the hospital so the nurses could observe my care of him and make sure I was ready to bring him home, through a few relatively sleepless nights, and through so many meetings/appointments with various medical professionals about his long term medical needs.

I’m learning so much and feel like I add new words and terms to my vocabulary every day! Also, this whole having babies with older kids is just about the best.thing.ever!!! Jesse and the kids have done SO much this week and the transition has honestly felt so smooth and easy, thanks to them!

Notable:

I feel like my belly popped yet again this week and I outgrew more clothes! Baby has been SO active and seems very healthy.

I’m also having much more intense contractions — which is very common for me in the last month. I get to start weekly ultrasounds next week and I’m excited to get to see our little babe on the screen again! We’re also hoping maybe just maybe baby will cooperate and we’ll be able confirm the gender with the DNA test.

We have almost everything ready except we need to buy another car seat, finalize a few things for the birth, and pack the hospital bags. I also am hoping to get Champ all adjusted to sleeping in his bed in our room and need to get Jesse and Kathrynne trained on making bottles and feeding/caring for him. (We’re supposed to have a nurse come stay at our house to care for him during my birth, but I still want to have some backup!) I don’t expect to go early, so I should have time!

The 3 Books I Finished Last Week (+ the 1 classic movie we watched)

Welcome to my weekly book update post where I share what books I read this past week + my honest thoughts and star ratings of them.

A Word on My Star Ratings

The star ratings I give the books I read are based on a 5-star rating system. I rarely will ever give a book a 1-star rating (maybe never?), because my philosophy is that if a book is only worthy of one star, I’m more than likely going to quit reading it. 🙂 In the same vein, you’ll also notice that I’ll rarely give a 5-star rating as I reserve those for only my very, very favorite books.

Want to see all of the books I’ve read so far this year? Check out my Good Reads page.

The Fourth Trimester

I was really excited to read this book as I thought it would be great for me to prep for birth and postpartum recovery — especially since I’ve struggled with postpartum depression/anxiety after all three of my pregnancies. (I think a lot of my struggles were related to not taking time to properly rest and heal after my births.)

Going into reading it, I knew the book wasn’t written from a Christian perspective and had a lot of influence from other religions in it. I was prepared for this. Unfortunately, I had a hard time getting past a lot of those sections. So much of the advice just felt so self-serving and humanistic…  and some of the advice to ask for so much help and set such strong boundaries after the birth kind of felt like it was encouraging you to come across as a jerk. (Just being honest here!!)

That said, my big takeaways are that rest, good nourishment, and limited movement for the few weeks after birth are really important. Those are my hopes for this postpartum period for my upcoming birth and what I’ve spent the last few months prepping to make happen! This book definitely encouraged me to prioritize that.

Does anyone have suggestions of a good book for postpartum that encourages these things that might be a better fit for me (or something for me to recommend to others)?

Verdict: 2 stars

The Lazy Genius Way

I have heard of Kendra Adachi’s podcast (The Lazy Genius) but, truth be told, I’m not a listener. I think I may have have heard one episode way back when or maybe have heard her on another podcast, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge of her.

Despite that, I really loved this book! It’s well-written, funny, practical, and realistic. Kendra has the perfect balance of truth, humor, and grace sprinkled throughout it. She also makes you feel like you can actually get your home and life in better order (notice I didn’t say “perfect order” just “better order”? I think Kendra would approve of that language!)

I love her approach to be a genius about those things that truly matter to you and your family and to be lazy about those things that don’t matter to you and your family. I also found her light-hearted footnotes throughout the book to be a fun addition.

While I’ve read a LOT of time management, home management, and life management books, I still found so much fresh perspective and inspiration in Kendra’s book. And now I’m thinking I need to check out her podcast!

Verdict: 4 stars

The Gospel Comes With a House Key

Okay, I was a little scared to write this review, because it seems everyone I know absolutely adored this book. And, while I really loved parts of it, there were other parts of it that I just couldn’t stand behind wholeheartedly.

Let’s start with what I loved: I loved the author’s desire to encourage what she calls, “Radically Ordinary Hospitality”. It is a lost art in our usually-busy worlds and I think it is one of the biggest building blocks to genuine community and Christlike love.

I also loved that the book shone a light on foster care and the need for Christian families to prayerfully consider being involved in this ministry in some way. (You all know how passionate I am about foster care!)

That said, what bothered me in the book was that she presented hospitality almost as a one-size-fits-all sort of thing. That it’s only in the context of your church and neighborhood and that it pretty much always involves opening up your home for a meal.

While opening up your home is fantastic and serving food is great, I think hospitality can also be inviting a friend to the park or to coffee or to join you in a walk or reaching out to the lonely-looking person sitting on the sidelines at your child’s baseball game or inviting your co-worker to lunch… and a thousand other things.

For me, I believe hospitality is going to take on many different forms — because we all have different giftings and different spheres and circles we run in. I wish she would have talked much more about this.

The second thing I didn’t like in the book was that she was super honest about situations they’ve been through with other people — the good, the bad, the ugly. And in many cases, she shared a lot of details about conversations that I felt were private and not ones to be shared in a published book that anyone in the world might read.

I feel like there’s good chance some of the things she shared openly and in detail about very personal hurts and situations could very well damage relationships in her life — even some of those that might be ones she’s seeking to practical “radically ordinary hospitality” to.

(Maybe she got every single person’s permission to share what she shared and maybe each person was 100% okay with it… even then, I think many of the examples and conversations could have been omitted and the book would have still been as powerful. For me, it would have been even more powerful.)

And now I’m going to go duck from all of the rotten tomatoes I’m going to get thrown at me! 😉

Verdict: 3 stars

Classic Movie We Watched Last Week

The kids decided — all on their own — that they want to start watching one old classic movie per week together as a family in 2020. They are helping me choose the list of movies and I’ll be reporting here what we watch each week and their thoughts on it.

I plan to do a big classic movie round-up post at the end of the year with their verdict on the best and favorites of the ones we watched. (Thank you for all the great suggestions for must-watch classic movies!)

Last week, we watched Mr. Bean’s Holiday — a movie Jesse and I had watched together a long time ago together and thought the kids might enjoy. They did enjoy parts of it, but they found it a little on the slow side and thought it drug on — especially toward the end.

(Note: I don’t think this actually qualifies as a “classic movie” since it came out in 2007, but oh well, we’re going to say it is since it was the movie we watched last week!)

What did you read this past week? Any books you think I really need to add to my long to-read list??

Brigette’s $88 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6

Aldi

Thankfully, our store was pretty well-stocked the day we went shopping. There were no fresh meats, and there were limits on most items – but I got all the essentials on my list.

2 pks Broccoli Crowns – $3.06

1 carton Baby Artisan Lettuce – $2.39

2 cans Green Beans – $0.76

1 pkg Baby Bella Mushrooms – $0.89

1 pkg Button Mushrooms – $0.89

2 cartons Strawberries – $1.98

1 bag Green Grapes ($0.59/lb!) – $1.09

1 bag Red Grapes ($0.59/lb) – $1.19

1 bag Baby Carrots – $0.89

1 bunch Bananas ($0.15/lb!) -$0.42

1 3-lb bag Jazz Apples – $3.49

1 bag Mini Sweet Peppers – $2.39

1 Cauliflower – $2.19

1 bag Mini Cucumbers – $2.09

1 carton Blackberries – $0.99

2 cans Diced Tomatoes – $0.72

2 cans Tomato Sauce – $0.38

1 pkg frozen Mixed Vegetables – $0.57

1 3-lb bag frozen Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts – $5.59

1 3-lb pkg 73/27 Ground Beef – $7.19

1 16-oz pkg Deli Meat – $2.85

2 cans Chicken Breast – $1.99

1 pkg Beef Hot Dogs – $2.39

1 pkg Kielbasa – $2.35

1 pk Deli Sliced Cheese – $1.33

1 2-lb bag Shredded Mozzarella Cheese – $5.19

1 pkg String Cheese – $1.99

2 cans Pinto Beans – $0.98

1 can Baking Powder – $0.99

1 jar Bread and Butter Pickles – $1.38

1 pkg Taco Seasoning Mix – $0.29

1 can Baking Cocoa – $1.79

1 gallon 2% Milk – $0.97

1/2 gallon Unsweetened Almond Milk – $1.59

1/2 gallon Orange Juice – $1.59

1 can Whipped Dairy Topping – $2.65

1 32-oz carton Plain Greek Yogurt – $3.45

5 individual cartons Flavored Greek Yogurts – $2.94

2 dozen Eggs – $1.96

1 large box Corn Flakes – $1.09

1 large box Crispy Oats – $1.15

1 large box Crunchy Granola Raisin Bran – $2.19

1 box Clubhouse Crackers – $1.69

1 box Cheese Crackers – $1.49

1 bag Gluten-Free Pretels – $1.85

1 loaf Sandwich Bread  – $0.67

1 bag Mini Marshmallows – $0.89

Weekly Grocery Total: $88.85

Weekly Menu Plan

Breakfasts

Everyone is responsible for making/cleaning up their own breakfasts. Choices include:

Fruit, Cereal, Smoothies, Oatmeal, Toast, Fried/Boiled/Scrambled Eggs, Yogurt, Veggie Omelets, French Breakfast Puffs

Lunches

Deli Meat/Cheese Sandwiches, Apples, Cucumbers x 2

Crackers and Peanut Butter, String Cheese, Strawberries, Carrots x 2

Leftovers x 3

Dinners

Chili, Cornbread

Leftover Chili/Shredded Cheese over Baked Potatoes, Broccoli

Italian Chicken, Tossed Salad, Green Beans, Biscuits

Hot Dogs on the Grill, Broccoli, Baked Potato Wedges

Chicken Gravy Over Rice, Mixed Vegetables, Easy Italian Breadsticks

Homemade Cheese Pizza, Tossed Salad

Venison Roast in the Crockpot, Grapes, Roasted Cauliflower, Creamy Milk Rice

Listening to Audiobooks with Kids 101

Are you interested in listening to audiobooks with your kids as a family? This is a must-read post on all things audiobooks for kids!

Psst! Be sure to check out how I listen to audiobooks for free. And don’t forget that you can get a FREE Audible trial with a bonus audiobook right now, plus Audible is offering free Audible books for kids!

Audiobooks for kids

Guest post from Kelsey of Orchard Reads:

I don’t think many of us would have expected just a few weeks ago that our kids would become homeschoolers indefinitely, but here we are!

Like many parents, you are probably scrambling trying to keep up with school work and entertain your kids and maintain some type of order and balance in this new season. You are probably also overwhelmed with offers for free educational programs, and it’s tricky to know what’s really going to be beneficial to your kids.

If I had one recommendation of a learning activity to add into your daily routine, it would be listening to audiobooks together.

Our family has found that listening to audiobooks has bonded us, educated us, and redeemed many hours my kids might have spent being “bored.”

Kid Listening to Audiobook

Sources for Audiobooks

There are tons of places to find great audiobooks for kids, but here are my three favorites:

Your Local Library

Each library system is different, but our library has an account with an app called Libby. If you download the app on your phone and put in your library card information, you have thousands of audio books at your fingertips that you can listen to wherever you are. One important note: These books sometimes have significant waiting lists. Most books I put on hold have between a 2-10 week wait, but sometimes you can get lucky and find them available immediately.

Once the libraries open up again, they also have a great selection of hard copy CD audio books. If you still have access to a CD player (we listen to these in our van), there are thousands of options to choose from!

Audible

When you sign up for an account with Audible, you’ll automatically get one month free that gives you access to one audiobook and two Audible originals. It does cost $14.95 after the first month, but there’s no requirement to continue.

Audible has TONS of incredible audio books for kids and teens, and if you can swing the monthly fee, it’s definitely the most thorough and readily available collection of audio books you can find anywhere.

HOT Deal: Right now they’re offering a bonus audiobook when you sign up for a free Audible trial — meaning you’ll get TWO free audiobooks plus two Audible originals!!

Audible also just announced that they’re offering FREE Audible books for kids while schools are closed! While it doesn’t have as many titles available, there are still lots of great books to listen to for free, no strings attached!

Librivox

This is an interesting site that offers thousands of free audio books that are read by volunteers from all over the world. They may not have a specific title you are looking for, but it’s worth perusing the catalog to find out.

Book with Headphones

Incorporating Audiobooks Into Your Daily Routine

Listening to audiobooks in the car is one of our favorite things to do, but now that we’re all mostly homebound, we have to transition to listening at home.

Here are some of my best tips for incorporating audiobooks into your daily routine with kids:

Let Your Kids Keep Their Hands Busy

Whether you let them play with blocks, legos, a train set, a drawing pad, play-doh, puzzles, or another toy, keeping little hands and bodies busy while listening to an audiobook always works best for our family. There is often squirming, arguing, and interrupting — but it’s still worth it!

Turn On Audiobooks When Your Kids Ask for TV

There is NO judgment on my part for letting your kids watch TV (ours are watching a movie as I write!), but we all know that sometimes we really do need to limit the screen time. Listening to audiobooks is actually incredibly similar to watching TV, but it requires kids to use their own mind and imagination rather than having the images displayed before their eyes.

Put On Audiobooks for Afternoon Rest Time

If you have kids who are too old for naps but still need a little bit of down time in the afternoon, audiobooks are the perfect way to give them some quiet time while also keeping them occupied. There are tons of audiobooks that are 30-60 minutes long, and I have found that these are perfect for rest times.

Work Through a Series Together as a Family

While it’s fun to listen to stand-alone audiobooks, it’s also fun to find a series that everyone enjoys and work through it together slowly. Not only does it give you lots of hours of listening, but it also creates sweet family memories since you will have invested so much collective time together.

Audiobook Titles for Kids

Best Audiobooks for Kids By Age Group

Are you interested in audiobooks for your kids, but you have no idea where to start? Here is a list of our favorite 10 audiobooks for each age group!

We have listened to every one of these audiobooks and can personally vouch for the fact that they are meaningful, entertaining, and worth your time. They are also all available on Audible, so if you start the free Audible trial you can listen to at least two for free:

Ages 1-3

Amelia Bedelia Collection (Peggy Parrish)
The Complete Adventures of Curious George (H.A. Rey)
Henry and Mudge Series (Cynthia Rylant)
Green Eggs and Ham and Other Servings of Dr. Seuss (Dr. Seuss)
Berenstain Bear’s Stories (Jan Berenstain)
Frog and Toad Series (Arnold Lobel)
Little Bear Series (Else Holmelund Minarik)
Pete the Cat Series (Eric Litwin)
Pinkalicious Series (Victoria Kann)
Fly Guy Series (Tedd Arnold)

Ages 4-5

The Courage of Sarah Noble (Alice Dalgliesh)
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain (Alice Dalgliesh)
26 Fairmount Avenue Series (Tomie DePaola)
Phoebe the Spy (Judith Griffin)
Mercy Watson (Kate DiCamillo)
My Father’s Dragon Series (Ruth Stiles Gannett)
James Herriot’s Treasury (James Herriot)
Barkus Series (Patricia MacLachlan)
Anna Hibiscus Series (Atinuke)
The Lighthouse Family Series (Cynthia Rylant)

Ages 6-8

Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
The Mouse and the Motorcycle (Beverly Cleary)
Riding Freedom (Pam Munoz Ryan)
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh (Robert C. O’Brien)
The One and Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate)
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street (Karina Yan Glaser)
The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Brian Selznick)
The Trumpet of the Swan (E.B. White)
Understood Betsy (Dorothy Canfield Fisher)
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Konigsburg)

Ages 9+

Esparanza Rising (Pam Munoz Ryan)
Number the Stars (Lois Lowry)
The Giver (Lois Lowry)
Where the Red Fern Grows (Wilson Rawls)
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Mildred Taylor)
Julie of the Wolves (Jean Craighead George)
Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson)
Tuck Everlasting (Natalie Babbitt)
The Twenty-One Balloons (William Pene du Bois)
Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell)

Our Favorite Series

Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Ramona (Beverly Cleary)
Henry Huggins (Bevlery Cleary)
Little Britches (Ralph Moody)
The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)
The Magic Tree House (Mary Pope Osborne)
The Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warren)
The Penderwicks (Jeanne Birdsall)
Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)
The Great Brain (John D. Fitzgerald)

I hope that as you hunker down in your home these next few weeks, audiobooks will become a big part of your family’s new routine!

Related:

Kelsey is a pastor’s wife, mother of four, book lover, piano teacher, worship leader, and home economist. She writes about her family’s favorite books at orchardreads.com.

BIG Updates From Our House (we tell you all about it on the podcast)

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Well, like I’ve alluded to other places online, the past two weeks have been packed full of so many different, unexpected things. Some good, some hard, some just plain different than what we expected.

It feels almost as if we’ve lived through an entire month in just a week’s time. In this week’s podcast episode, we sit down and talk about some of the BIG updates/changes/unexpected things that happened at our house recently, including:

  • getting a long-term placement from foster care for a preemie who was still in the NICU (he got out of the hospital today!!!!)
  • the kids being out of school and everything being cancelled — and how we are letting them plan their routine for the day and how that is working for us
  • Kathrynne’s trip to Suriname where she ended up getting stuck there because the country closed their borders due to COVID-19 (she only ended up having to stay two extra days — and she shares more about that experience on the podcast)

If you have some extra time and want a more newsy behind-the-scenes peek into what’s going on at our house right now, don’t miss this episode.

In This Episode: 

[01:25] There have been some major life changes happening lately and we’re going to discuss a few of them in-depth on the podcast today.

[03:21] The kids are planning their own routines during this time and it is saving both my life and Jesse’s life. Hear why we are having our kids be in charge of this and how we went about having them set this up.

[09:11] I’m reading Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel and I share some of my favorite quotes.

[12:45] Jesse is reading Fearless by Eric Blehm.

[18:36] Our sweet foster baby should be released from the hospital soon and we are so excited.

[21:24] Kathrynne joins us to chat about her adventures in Suriname. She shares why she went on this trip, what they did on the trip, and her biggest highlight of the trip.

[27:41] Hear all about how the trip ended very differently than any of us could have imagined and Kathrynne felt when they were told that the trip could be extended for 30 days or more. 

Links and Resources:

How to Listen to The Crystal Paine Show

The podcast is available on iTunesAndroidStitcher, and Spotify. You can listen online through the direct player here. OR, a much easier way to listen is by subscribing to the podcast through a free podcast app on your phone. (Find instructions for how to subscribe to a podcast here.)

Ready to dive in and listen? Hit the player above or search for “The Crystal Paine Show” on your favorite podcast app.

Can You Freeze Milk in the Carton? (Yes, It’s Easy!!)

Ever wondered if you can freeze milk in the carton? I’ve been doing it for years, and these are my top tips!

{Freezing foods ahead of time is such an easy way to save money on groceries! Check out this list of 10 things you probably didn’t know you could freeze, plus don’t miss this list of 10 foods you should never freeze.}

how to freeze milk in a carton

Any tips on freezing milk in a paper carton? We buy organic milk in a half gallon paper carton. Can I freeze it in that carton or not? I’ve never done it before. Thanks! –Leisha

Can you freeze milk in the carton?

I freeze milk all the time. And honestly? I’ve never had a problem freezing it in a cardboard container. It will expand some when it freezes, so you might want to drink or use a half cup or so before freezing. But otherwise, just stick the milk in the freezer in the paper carton! It’s that simple.

freezing Horizon Organic milk in a carton

How do you thaw it out?

When you’re ready to your frozen milk, you can thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Or, you can stick the carton in a sink full of cold water for 15 or 20 minutes.

I’m often able to find organic milk on clearance that’s close to the expiration date. We use what we can until the expiration date and then I freeze the rest. By buying it on clearance, we’re able to buy higher quality milk without spending a fortune to do so.

Can you drink frozen and thawed milk?

I don’t recommended using frozen and thawed milk for drinking. The consistency changes some and it just isn’t very appealing for drinking–at least our family doesn’t think so. 🙂

However, milk that has been frozen and then thawed works beautifully in pancakes, waffles, french toast, or other baked goods!

Chocolate Chip Pancake Batter

If you typically bake big batches of these items, you can just freeze the milk in the paper or plastic carton, thaw, and use. However, if you only make smaller batches, you’ll want to go ahead and divvy the milk up in one-cup or two-cup portions before freezing so that you can just pull out the exact amount of milk you need. You could use ziptop freezer bags or airtight plastic containers with lids.

Want to stretch your milk even further? Replace a fourth or a half of the milk called for in your pancake, waffle, or baked good recipe with water. You probably won’t even notice a difference!

Do you freeze milk? If so, what’s your favorite way to use it?

Cut your grocery bill!

Want to cut your grocery budget? Go here and sign up (it’s free!) I’ll send you my 10 Easy Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill By $50.