December 18, 2014

New Chapters

Since having a baby, I have, admittedly, not spent as much time with God, reading the bible or even praying as I did before.  It has been weighing on me in many regards.  Today, Zoey decided to happily hang out in her crib and happily fall asleep for her nap, giving me a little extra time than I normally have.  I immediately grabbed my laptop and found myself clicking into my Gmail, about to venture into 30 or 60 minutes of reading blogs or brainstorming my next room design.  And I stopped.  Ann!  Come on!  Do your devotional.  Pray.

And I did. (As a side, the devotional I read is IF: Equip)

For the first time in weeks.

And what I took from it was hope.  Hope from a story of Joseph in the book of Genesis.  A story not totally different from ours.  We struggle and suffer and take on roles we, perhaps, aren’t content with.  We battle seasons of our life that we want to be out of so badly.  We reap the fruits of our labor.  We experience abundant blessings and joy.

I would say the biggest different, however, between me and Joseph is that Joseph (from what I understand), didn’t waver a whole lot in his roles and during his seasons.  Meaning, during the pain, while in jail, while suffering, he stayed faithful to God and trusted the story would be bigger and would fulfill God’s purpose.  I can’t say I always trust in that way when I am suffering.

And it got me thinking about something that has been hard for me, how I’ve handled and where it led me to.

And what came to mind is living in Miami.  We have been in Miami for almost 8 months and roughly 7 of those 8 I haven’t totally enjoyed (that was my nice way of saying I don’t love living in Miami).  I have spent many of late nights in tears from being homesick.  Fearing I wouldn’t find the community in Miami that I had in Chicago.  Being sad Zoey wouldn’t be surrounded by the love she would have in Chicago.  I wasn’t seeing – or I couldn’t see -  the bigger story.  I wasn’t trusting the story that God had for me. Instead, I had my own story and it didn’t have a happy ending.  Or beginning.  Or middle.

And here’s where the hope comes in, the page turns and new chapters are starting.

We’ve had all kinds of visitors in the last couple of months.  Family and friends.  Meals around our dinner table.  Conversations al fresco in our backyard.  Moments I love.  With people I love.

And then in the last couple of weeks, I have met a couple of new mom friends in my neighborhood.  Barbara and Mary and Kimberly.  One day I will share the story of how Barbara and I met…it’s pretty remarkable!  Great women.  Women I hope and believe will be great friends.

And the weather.  Waking up every single day with the sun shining and the average temperature of 70.  Being able to walk outside with Zoey.  It does something to your soul!  Something that I am really loving.

And Christmas carolers coming to our house and singing.

And precious, intimate moments with Zoey.

And time with Rick.

It’s my story.  A story that has been hard and lonely and frustrating.  Until today.  Because like Joseph, the story doesn’t stop at hard or lonely.  It keeps going.  It continues until the chapters on joy and happy and fun and special begin.  And right now, I am starting to read those chapters and I don’t want to put this book down.

And while that’s great and brings hope and gives me new eyes to read the story with, the biggest lesson and reminder I need every single day is to trust God and remain faithful to His plan, his story He’s creating for me, no matter if it’s the chapter on pain or a chapter on hope.




December 15, 2014

Dignity. Privilege. And a Newborn Baby.

Whew.  Nobody ever tells you how hard being a new, first-time mom is, do they?  Oh wait, yes they do ALL OVER EVERYWHERE.  This is no joke people.  And for any mom reading this, I could stop right here, hit publish and probably get a text or a FB message that says “great job on having time to write a one paragraph blog post today!” Because as I type, my precious, almost 5-week old Zoey is being trained to sleep in her crib which means she hates her crib, hates naps and I become delirious, irritable, and pretty much unpleasant around 3pm, if not sooner.  So to squeeze in some writing, at the sacrifice of a nap or a shower, basically means I’ve had the most productive day ever.  Or, well, at least in the last 5 weeks.

Why?  Because having a baby means my role is to be present with Zoey, to raise her well, be challenged by her and work my butt off all day long in the name of Zoey Ai.  It means sacrifice to the nth degree.  (Is nth really a word?) It means ooohing and aahhing for approximately 4.5 hours a day.  It means cheering Zoey on while she poops because that means her gassy fussing will come to an end…for at least 30 minutes or so.  It means smiling at the small things and laughing at the even smaller things.  It means having a child attached to me, literally, every 2-3 hours.  It means nursing in front of people I never thought I would (in my own home, that is…no, I won’t be the lady who whips out the boob at the mall). And attaching an awkward device to myself a couple times a day to pump and store milk.  And I don’t shower.  Or sleep.  Or put makeup on.  Some days I don’t brush my teeth…until 11am.  And the whole eating processed food breakfast, lunch and dinner because it’s fast and easy.  Ugh.  Don’t even get me started on that.

And it got me thinking about dignity.  I never thought about dignity prior to this season of my life.  I am frankly not even sure I fully knew the definition of dignity until I was, seemingly, losing it.  It’s like that Cinderella song from the late 80′s,  “you don’t know what you got til it’s gone.”  Yeah, I felt my dignity was slipping away, one no-showered-day at a time.

And it started to bother me for a half of a second.  And then God jumped in and shook me.  Well, not really, He doesn’t really do that but you know what I mean.  I was very clearly reminded that I was just given the greatest gift in the world.  That the joy I have with this little girl far outweighs, um, anything.  ANYTHING.

LBP 039 Zoey Newborn 11 2014

And as I sat on my couch, looking out the window into our lush green backyard as the sun was just starting to make her appearance for the day, the word privilege came over me.  Privilege.

This season is not a season of lost dignity, but rather, a season of gained privilege.  Like massive privilege.

Because having a child attached to me means I feed her.  I nourish her and she grows and develops.  I am pretty sure this is the most privileged responsibility we can have as women.

Because nursing her in front of people I never thought I would means that those people love me, love Zoey and aren’t those crazy people who get uncomfortable around a woman who is feeding her baby (sorry if you are one of those).

Because pumping gives me a bit of a break.  The ability to have a date night with Rick.  The ability to enjoy a glass of wine.  To have Ann time on occasion.  And the best part is it gives Rick the privilege to also feed Zoey which I happen to think is a great bonding time for a father and child.

Because not brushing my teeth until 11am likely means I used those extra minutes earlier in the morning to finish a cup of coffee.  So worth it.

Because not showering and putting on makeup everyday…well, that just comes with the new mom territory in the beginning.  And I can always shower at night when Rick is home.  And makeup?  For what?  The walk I take around my neighborhood or the quick trip to the grocery store?  Um, yeah right.  Makeup is now reserved for things like date night :)

I could go on and on but I think my point is made.  And gosh, I am so happy God shook me and turned my thought process upside down.  This isn’t about my dignity.  Or what I look like.  Or what I eat (or don’t eat).

This is about the privilege He has given me, has given us.

This season isn’t about me.  It’s about Zoey.  It’s about raising a beautiful, healthy little girl.  That’s the priority, next to my marriage.  To feed her, love her, snuggle her, empower her, enable her.  To enjoy each and every second with her because in a blink of an eye, these moments will be memories.  And if that means missing a shower or eating a Lean Cuisine for the 4th day in a row or ooooohhhing and aaaahhhhhinnggg at seemingly small milestones, so be it.

November 27, 2014


This year, Rick and I are spending Thanksgiving with my parents and our newest addition to our family, Zoey.  Very low key, a down and dirty Thanksgiving with green bean casserole, football, comfy clothes and snuggles from Zoey.

And speaking of Zoey, she joined us during a season of the year that is so fitting, the season of Thanksgiving.  Perhaps this Thanksgiving I am the most thankful I have been.  Thankful to God.  That He has blessed us with this child and forever changed our lives, in the most incredible way possible.  Of course, I am beyond thankful for so many other things in my life – my sweet husband, family, friends, incredibly loyal Hous & Host readers, my health, sunshine, a comfortable bed at night, chocolate, coffee, wine, HGTV (what?  I am!) and 74 other things.

But this year, it’s clear to me where my grateful heart needs to point to.

Because when God does something big,  something you never thought possible, the praise goes to Him because all is possible through Him.  I am reminded to praise the creator of all things, the creator of our precious Zoey Ai.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows James 1:17

LBP 100 Zoey Newborn 11 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to you, my dear friends!

Photo Credit:  Lilibean Photography

November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Hostess Gift Ideas

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is just one week away!  This year, ours will be very low key, unlike last year when I hosted my very first Thanksgiving (see the tablescape here!).  My parents are coming to Miami to meet their new grand baby and lucky for Rick and me, my mom is going to take the lead on the Thanksgiving dinner.  Just for the record, she makes the best stuffing known to mankind.  #justsayin

Okay, for all of you who have been invited to someone’s home for this delicious holiday, don’t forget your  hostess gift!  I would say that hosting Thanksgiving is like the Taj Mahal of dinner parties.  And because I hosted last year I know that it’s no small feat from a financial perspective either!  To help you out, I curated a list of some simple Thanksgiving hostess gift ideas from price points starting at $10.  Now, get shopping (all sources/links are listed below)!  You only have one week left!

Thanksgiving Hostess Gifts


1.  Williams Sonoma Pumpkin Waffle Pancake Mix // 2.  West Elm Metallic Glassware // 3.  Fresh Flowers (a $10 bunch from your local grocer is totally acceptable!) // 4.  Pottery Barn Monogram Napkins // 5.  West Elm Pillow Cover // 6. Harry & David Pumpkin Pecan Coffee // 7.  Glassybaby “Pumpkin” Candle Holder (10% of proceeds will be donated to food banks to feed the hungry!)

November 18, 2014

Zoey Ai Ueno

Well, you may have noticed I have been a bit MIA lately.  You know, just having a baby and what not.  Yes, after a long journey, I am over-the-top humbled to introduce Zoey Ai Ueno into this world!  I will share a bit more on her birth story in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, a few people have asked me about her name so here’s the story.

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Rick has loved the name Zoey for quite some time.  He knew that if he had a baby girl, that was her name (meanwhile I had no idea of this).  Coincidentally, about 5 or so months ago, when I was going through my list of favorite names, Zoey was on there.  (Elle, Eloise, Vivienne, Julia, Giuliana and Noelle were a few of the other contenders of which Rick declined all in about 24 seconds).  And in a very casual conversation, we agreed to name this little girl Zoey, mainly because we just loved the name.

After our decision was made and we started calling her by name regularly, I looked up the meaning of her name.  Life.  Zoey means life.  I cried when I saw that.  Even right this moment typing, it amazes me.  After four miscarriages, this little one was part of God’s plan to live and see the world and to remind so many that prayers are heard.  That prayers are answered.  She is nothing short of an answered prayer. For years (literally), friends, family, my bible study groups, various friends at our church and actually, some people we barely know have been praying for us, for this child.  A child that is filled with life, that has brought us a new meaning to our own lives.  Zoey.  Ahhh, my heart just aches and explodes for this little one, this little life.

As for her middle name, that decision was much harder.  While I brought ideas to the table, Rick really wanted to give her a Japanese middle name.  I agreed.  One day, should she marry (and hopefully she does!), Ueno {likely} goes away and it was important to Rick, to us, that we incorporate his culture into her name so it stays with her forever.  After Rick and I brainstormed and landed nowhere, he called his Auntie Lillian (who also has been praying for us for years).  This auntie of Ricks is a SPECIAL, special woman.  She is a God-fearing, kind-hearted, caring, loving woman.  Probably the most generous woman I know.  I think she cried more tears about our successful pregnancy than I did!  We love her like a mother.

And in that phone conversation, she and Rick came up with Ai, which means love in Japanese.  It was perfect.  It is perfect.  This little girl has been loved even before God created her.  She has brought the meaning of love to an entirely new level for Rick and me.  Words cannot describe it, really.  But for all you moms out there, you likely understand.  She also has made Rick and I fall in love, again, in a way that is whole and sweet and coveted.  Ai. Love.  It just made sense.  It makes sense.

Zoey Ai Ueno.

Life, love.  An answered prayer.  A GIANT blessing.  A gift from God that Rick and I are humbled and honored to be given the responsibility to raise her and love her well.

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