This morning I woke up with a black kitty on my feet, and my husband singing a birthday solo, before breakfast and presents in bed. There are thick sheets of ice, masquerading as snow, spread across the ground, and the temperature is a whopping eleven degrees. That's not a normal birthday occurrence for me and, frankly, not what I would choose weather-wise, but we'll ignore it. After work, we're getting dolled up (snow is a good excuse to wear fur) for a night out.

Earlier this week we ate cupcakes filled with strawberry bits and played an intense game of dominos with my family. They got me a fitbit to help me track my steps and keep up with this weight loss thing. Last night, to the tune of homemade strawberry cake and vegetarian lasagna, we had a Nowak family night that centered on me, and the presents were on point. I lost a game of Catan: Cities and Knights, but I had three secret victory points (on top of the eight points on the board), and having secrets makes life full of small smiles. If you don't play games with your friends or family, I think you're missing out on some of the best smiles you can collect. If you need recommendations, I've got some. Spoons is a recently rediscovered classic that I enjoy even when I lose.

I had hoped (and by hoped, I mean expected) that I would be pregnant this birthday. I would have been. I should be almost eight months pregnant, and I'm not. That makes today less sweet than it otherwise would be. I've heard people talk about how hard it would be for us to be pregnant again. Terrifying, sure, but the best possible thing we can imagine. If you're brave enough to ask in faith, ask God for us.

In case you missed the transformation in the pictures above, my husband shaved his beard yesterday. Some ladies are all about bearded men, and I'm a fan of it in looks and principal, but if it's someone I get to make-out with, the beard is like the raisins in trail mix: just an obstacle on the way to the good stuff. So, yay for smooth kisses! That's a birthday gift in itself!

I've finished my first quarter century. It rushed by, packed full of moments. I'm thankful to God for the people I've shared the moments with.


191 pounds

One of my favorite parts of weight loss this year has been getting up over an hour and a half earlier than I used to wake up. At 6:25 we begin our three mile walk, and before 7:30 (today it was 7:07), I'm home and throwing an egg in the cast iron pan.

Obviously, I also sort of hate that part of losing weight. The walking, biting wind, blistered feet, and rainy mornings are rough, but they pale in comparison to the loss of sleep. If we aren't crawling into bed by 10:30, my grouch-o-meter starts to rise.

But if I had to force the early rising into either "pro" or "con" category, I'd stick with pro. It's nice to be dressed, awake, have exercised, read my Proverb, and eaten breakfast before a time when my alarm would have just been beginning to sing.

So, eight pounds this month. Not setting a world record there, but I'm happy. We're still eating well. No desserts or junk food at home. No seconds. More fruit for sure. No cereal. More water. I'm also mall-walking every Thursday night. It's a good start to something good.

Print from Katie's Pencil Box


our finished bathroom

This room took less work than our kitchen, but let's be honest; it makes me just as happy! Originally there was wood paneling in this room too, so after we re-drywalled, we gave it a couple coats of our favorite color: white. White is so under-rated. Even in a house with two black animals, you couldn't convince me that white isn't the best choice.

We left the white speckled tiles that were already there. Even though they're not perfect, they're serving their purpose perfectly. We did re-tile the trim. It used to be a sea-foam green, and while there are worse colors, the black and white is the timeless look we were hoping for.

We've made it modern with a trashcan from Fab, a shower curtain from Target, a light fixture from Lowes, and a mirror and shelf from IKEA. The art is a watercolor I painted to add a dose of color in a mostly white room.

If you're going to have a house with only one (basically tiny) bathroom, make sure you give it all the attention and love you can!


our finished kitchen

First, can we take a moment to look at the before pictures? Wood paneling. Dark cabinets that half cover the window. A drop ceiling. Linoleum floors. These pictures were taken when we closed on our house. Now, a little over a year later, we've finished the slow, beautiful process of updating!!

We drywalled, painted, tiled the main wall, laid bamboo flooring, removed the drop ceiling, raised and painted cabinets etc. etc. etc. I'll just re-add the ones that show the kitchen before/after at the same angles. It's been a rewarding process.

What's your favorite part? Mine is just how much bigger everything looks when it's painted white. Delish.


199 pounds

After I delivered Christian, I weighed 199 pounds.

I'd rather weigh 299 pounds and have a son, than weigh 118 without one, but that wasn't a decision I was given. So here I am. Overweight and childless, a hard combination. This isn't a pity post. I don't have to tell you how much I weigh, but I want to.

I did it once, back in 2012, and it helped to have y'all following along for accountability. 128 is what I weigh when I'm skinny, so that'll be the goal. That's 71 pounds to lose this year. I didn't gain it all from pregnancy, but I'd like to lose as much as I can before God gives us another baby. On Wednesday I have my first doctor's appointment since our son's heart stopped beating. Hopefully they'll clear me to exercise then. I've been walking and eating well this month. Better than I have in my entire life, in fact. I'm looking forward to the February weigh in.

Here's a recipe for my favorite green smoothie:

Unsweetened Almond Milk: 1 Cup
Kale: 4 Stalks
Mango: 1
Apple: 1
Banana: 1
Lemon Juice: 2 Capfuls

I normally chop up the kale before I put it in the blender. Compost (trash) the mango skin and pit, the apple core, and the banana peel, just so we're clear. It makes a good breakfast, but try your hardest not to drink the Almond Milk without the other ingredients. It might look like creamy goodness, but it takes like paint.

I hope your 2015 is healthy! If you wanna join me in weight loss, let me know! We ladies especially could use some more camaraderie!


let me not be ashamed

Psalm 25 says, "Oh my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed..."

Even in Christian's death, I trust in Him.

Even in this overwhelming peace that God has given us, several times, I have been too ashamed to say outloud, "He's my God. I trust Him." I do trust Him, but I am too often ashamed. Even to raise my hand in the midst of my church family and say that God has been good to us, I am ashamed. Worried, even, that someone will see my faith in God and think that I don't love Christian like they love their children. I love him with a love that makes me ache, but I can still trust God with him. God is trustworthy.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. So we trust God to give us other babies to raise. Babies we get to take home from the hospital and watch grow. Babies other mommies don't want. However it works out that God gives us a family, we can trust in Him. I need to say these things out loud so you hear them. I have witnessed the grace that God gives.

In the car between my obgyn appointment, where they couldn't find his heartbeat, and the hospital, after I cried on the phone with my husband and told him to meet me three months early in labor and delivery, after I got off the phone with my dad who prayed with me, I turned on the radio so I wouldn't have to sit in silence and sob.

These words filled my car, "You are the everlasting God. Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord." The lyrics ended but the music continued and then, a little boy's voice came onto the radio. A little boy said, "The Lord is the everlasting God. The creator of all the Earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youth will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion, but those that trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint."

I've never needed strength like I did in that car that morning, and God reminded me that He is strength. He is everlasting. He created Christian. He understands. He gives new strength. All of that in the Bible passage the little, blonde boy quoted (Isaiah 40:28-31). What, Amanda? You couldn't tell he was blonde just by listening to him quote the Bible on the radio. Yes. Yes, I could. God did that for me. Gave me the exact words from His Word that I needed to hear from the mouth of a little, blonde boy. I looked him up. He is blonde, just like my Christian. I already knew he was.

God is good. I trust in Him.


blessed be the name of the Lord

Most of these pictures were taken on January 2nd, 2015, the day they told me his heart had stopped beating. When I look at how full my belly looks, I have trouble swallowing and my eyes burn. He was already in heaven when I took these pictures. I was gearing up for a "twenty-five week" post that I assumed I'd be writing after my doctor's visit. I thought I'd tell you how big he was getting, and in the end I did. 12 inches big. 1 pound, 4 ounces big. I left my camera on my bed to remind myself to write the post that afternoon. I spent that night in a hospital bed with a fever and contractions.

I ended up writing the post to tell you the next day, January 3rd, 2015; The day he was born, or died, though we received neither a birth nor death certificate. I wrote the post on the two-hour drive out of town, in the foggy rain, the windshield matching my own blurry vision. I still have words I need to say about him, though I can't find a way to frame them into thoughts. My handsome son. I wish I could tell you he was kind, athletic, hard-working, creative, fun, curious, and smart. He would have been. All I can tell you is that he was beautiful. Such a handsome face.

Please, don't ever think that you could bring him up and accidentally remind me of him. I'm thinking of him, already.

Please, don't pretend that he didn't exist. That I didn't carry him. That we don't love him. Don't pretend that he wasn't a person. A baby. My son.

I know it's hard when someone goes through something that you've never gone through, and you don't know what they need, so I'm telling you. I need you to pray for us and tell us that you're praying. I need you to hug me, and not say anything if you don't know what you should say. I need you to talk about him. Tell us what you know he would have been. Loved. He would have been loved.

Job lost much more than we have, and yet he spoke words that ring in my mind as absolute truth, "... The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord."