Review for "Edenbrooke: A Proper Romance" by Julianne Donaldson (Kindle Edition)

Up until this point, my favorite romantic hero has been Fitzwilliam Darcy (picturing Matthew Macfadyen, of course. You Colin Firth lovers can HAVE him as far as I'm concerned!). And then I was referred to a funny little spoof video by the Pretty Darn Funny comedy troupe called, "Jane Austen is My Homegirl". (If you haven't seen this video, and you are a Jane Austen or "Downton Abbey" fan, you need to quit reading this review, head on over to Youtube, and watch it here: http://youtu.be/-b_xiWmFWgY) One of the ladies in the video specifically mentions reading "Edenbrooke". It sounded so absolutely dreamy that I simply had to read it for myself.

I won't give you a detailed synopsis, as I'm sure others have already done so. But if you enjoy Regency novels with plenty of chemistry between the characters WITHOUT all the sexual content (totally unnecessary), this proper romance may just be for you.

Going back to my earlier statement regarding Mr. Darcy... Despite his  pride and (at times) snobbish attitudes, he is passionately in love with Elizabeth just as she is. He wouldn't change a thing about her. Honestly, that is what I love about Philip. He loves Marianne *because* she speaks her mind, is unafraid to be silly (aka her propensity for twirling, which usually gets her into some physical calamity), and is comfortable enough to be herself around him. She's unlike all the rest of the society ladies--including her twin sister--who would do anything to ensnare him for his fortune and/or his title.

And the chemistry between them! Oh. My. The two best scenes involve love letters--his to her (although she hasn't the foggiest notion he's in earnest), and then hers to him. They rarely even so much as touch each other, and their kiss is left until the very end of the book. Yet despite that, it is more than evident that there is a spark between them. In my opinion, it takes a whole lot more talent to demonstrate passion and chemistry between characters WITHOUT using sexual content than it does to write a steamy love scene.

I will definitely read anything else this author writes.

(Okay, so have you watched the video yet? If not, what are you waiting for????)


Baby Watch Survival Kit

As a mom of four, I unashamedly love to give unsolicited advice (this gets me into trouble at times). It's a rite of passage among moms, really. But after our recent hospital experience, I've come to realize that I have even more knowledge I'd like to pass along.

Everyone is aware of the bags that most moms- and dads-to-be bring to the hospital for the arrival of their babies. (Some people choose to wait until the last minute to pack these bags, but as my personal experience shows, you can't really know when exactly that baby is coming. Even when you have scheduled c-sections.) What many people do not know, however, is that it is essential for those who will be hanging out in the maternity waiting room to have some level of preparedness as well. And so, I've put together a little list of things you might find handy when the time comes. It goes without saying that, like the hospital bag for mom and dad, you should not wait until the last minute to assemble most of this stuff.

I call it: The Baby Watch Survival Kit.

You will need to place the following in your kit:

  • Non-perishable snacks (vending machines eat your money. Which is why I paid $1.25 for a small bag of M&Ms). This should ALWAYS include chocolate. Nothing soothes the savage beast like chocolate.
  • Bottled water. If you are lucky enough to have a hospital that provides free beverages for family members, yay for you. But this is not always the case.
  • A light-weight blanket. I can't prove it, but I have the sneaking suspicion the nursing staff cranks up the air-conditioning in the waiting room to discourage families from completely camping out.
  • A travel pillow. When The Call comes in the wee hours of the morning, or labor progresses into the night, you will be tired. And a backpack filled with snacks, magazines, an iPad, an overstuffed wallet (well, due to the vending machine's earlier snack, it wasn't as overstuffed as it could've been) and rolls of breath mints does not a pillow make.
  • Reading material. And plenty of it.
  • A camera with extra batteries. To record for posterity (or Facebook) the waiting room hijinks. And---oh yeah, the baby's birth.
  • Headphones. Because someone will invariably drag out the "River Sounds" deluxe MP3 set and that only makes you want to pee (this may or may not have been me. I admit to nothing).
  • Card games like Uno, Skip-bo, Phase 10, etc. If you really want to get to know the obscure relatives you never see, bring out Apples to Apples----but only if your laboring family member is the only laboring Mama on the maternity floor and is stationed at the polar opposite corner of the hospital from you, OR if the waiting room is soundproof. Which, c'mon. Really, they should be.
I hope these little suggestions are helpful the next time you're on Baby Watch.


Meet my precious new nephew, Benjamin Roshan. He arrived via c-section in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, July 11, 2012. Measuring 19 3/4 inches long, he literally weighed his birth date (7 lbs, 11 ounces)! In 37 years of life, I have never heard of this happening.

Already, he's wrapped us around his little finger, as is clearly obvious by the look of utter rapture on my face as I gaze at him.

He's sporting his dad's dark hair and chin, but he resembles my sister. Especially across the eyes. My mom held him against her shoulder at one point, looking out, and as our eyes met, it was like looking at a baby picture of my sister's.

Throughout the long day yesterday, my brave sister endured many, many, many, many long hours of labor only to have a c-section. She is one tough Mama!

While waiting for word of his imminent birth, or after receiving news from the doctor, I was just reminded again and again of my firstborn's birth over 12 years ago. Maybe it's because I was waiting for her firstborn to arrive in the world that I was reminded of mine. The long hours waiting for her. The news of her fetal distress and necessary c-section. Sheer joy when she arrived tempered by sheer exhaustion. I had developed pre-ecclampsia about a month before my due date, and so not only was I administered pitosin to induce labor, I was also administered magnesium sulfate to keep my blood pressure from skyrocketing. It also made me very sleepy. Shortly after her birth, she began displaying signs of further distress. Late that night, she was flown via helicopter to a children's hospital in Iowa City. We learned the next day that she'd been born with a heart defect called Transposition of the Greater Vessels. She endured corrective open heart surgery when she was 12 days old. Twelve. Days. It was exactly five weeks to the day before she was able to come home from the hospital. There are many more stories I could tell you about that time, but this entry is not really about Tayler.

It's about Ben and his Mama.

One of the first times my sister ever saw me holding my newborn daughter, she turned to our mom and said in great wonder and amazement, "She's a mommy!"

Walking in this morning and watching my sister care for her newborn son as best as she can given the c-section, I had a similar epiphany.

After waiting for so long for God to bless her with a baby of her own, today that blessing became a reality. That wonderful little bundle named Benjamin has made her a mommy.

And we are all smitten.


A Precious Gift

My only sister is having her first baby very soon. Maybe even as early as next week. For some, this would be a joyous occasion. But for her, it's miraculous. After two miscarriages, we all feared she would never have the babies she'd dreamed of having.

But God knew better.

As a missionary, you give up many things. Seeing family. Missing birthdays, holidays, special events. You also gain the riches of ministry and the blessings of new friends. For me, last summer especially, the one thing I knew I had to give up was the chance of being here to greet any children she'd have. I welcomed each of my husband's two nephews when they were born, and my sister was there to welcome each of my four babies as well. But to miss the opportunity to be the Auntie for her children? A huge sacrifice, indeed.

But God knew better.

Late last year, during the holidays, my sister shared with a few of us that she was pregnant. How mom and I cried tears of joy! The first thought that ran through my head was that I would actually be able to be here to see and hold my niece or nephew. What a precious gift! God's timing... Impeccable. Perfect.

Before even receiving the news from our mission organization last month that we'd been cleared for language school, we'd made plans and booked flights for me to spend several weeks in Iowa. Just so that I could be here for the birth of my newest nephew (yes, it's a boy!). Originally, we'd planned for me to remain for the entire month, with Troy and the kids driving up for an extended visit after Benjamin's birth. And then the news came. We talked about the implications of me being away for several weeks during the most critical packing time. And while I know he would prefer to have me there, assisting in the process, my sweet husband sacrificially allowed me to come. Knowing that the full responsibility for packing the rest of the house and all of the details at home would fall solely on his shoulders. Granted, he is a much better packer than I am (my packing exploits are legendary within our family circles. Four words best describe them: "trash", "bags", "last" and "minute"). So here I am, in a place devoid of disarray. While my husband is surrounded by packing boxes and a decade of detritus. A huge sacrifice, indeed.

I anticipate long, leisurely conversations with my family members (my mom and my sister in particular) over these next days. And I eagerly look forward to that phone call that lets us know it's time to head to the hospital. That first glimpse of "our" new little one. The first time I snuggle sweet little Ben in my arms. When I'm on the field and away from him for two years, I'll always have these memories to think back on.

All because my husband gave me this most precious gift. I'm not sure he'll ever know what this means to me. But it's not something I'll forget for as long as I live.

Thank You, God, for giving me such a caring, tender, selfless man. For blessing our family with Benjamin. And for the perfect timing that enabled all of this to be possible.

All precious gifts, indeed.

Another Great Lesson

(From our ministry blog, dated July 3, 2012)
From the last couple posts, it's evident that we are stressing out (just a bit) about the paperwork and all the many other details that need to be completed before we leave. There have been some restless nights and stomach upsets as a result. 
But why? Isn't our God big enough to take care of all these details? If He's big enough to give us this opportunity--completely apart from anything we accomplished on our own--then surely He's big enough to handle the details. Right? Well, we sure weren't acting like He was. 
Until today. 
Just before lunch time, a special delivery was made to our door by the post office. Six mailers. And inside these six mailers were.....six PASSPORTS. Passports??? After only EIGHT DAYS!? I took one look at those passports and immediately burst into tears. The kids kept eying me strangely, trying to ascertain why in the world Mama was crying (again). What they didn't understand, and what I couldn't at that moment articulate, was this: It was another lesson from God. Another gentle rebuke. "Oh you of little faith. Why did you doubt Me?" 
You'd think after a similar moment only weeks ago, I would've learned my lesson. But apparently not. I've never heard of anyone getting passports back after only eight days (when mailed in). Even when expedited. And especially not for a family of six! And yet here they were today. It was like God was saying to me, "Quit stressing out about this! I've got this covered, My daughter!" 
This is a lesson I need to keep remembering when I'm tempted to stress and obsess.