Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Countdown

Look how big he is. I can't even.

There's something special about the week before Christmas and these last few days of Advent. This year my schedule is so light this week and it's wonderful-- even P doesn't have any evening or weekend work events. Remind me to do this next year. It's so much more peaceful than a last minute rushing week before Christmas!

I took both kids to church yesterday for our Day of Grace so that I could make it to confession before Christmas. This was my first time taking both into the confessional but they behaved really well and since neither one can talk I think my secrets are safe, hee hee. J/K. Our new associate pastor is from India and is so loving and kind. He told me that in confession we give Jesus a Christmas gift He desires-- we give Him our sins, so that He can forgive and forget them and we can let them go ourselves. What a lovely and profound thought. I love the sacraments, and all the mercy and grace God showers upon us through them.

Today G and I made sugar cookie cutouts for the first time. Full disclosure: she was in a toddler mood and cried when I said let's make cookies. Oh my. Once she got started she loved it though, and it was such fun to begin one of my past favorite traditions as a kid, now without my own child. Maybe if I'm feeling brave after naptime, we'll even frost and sprinkle them together.

As for the practical prep for Christmas, I'm mostly there-- or at least have a game plan for it all, ha! I have everyone's Christmas Eve Mass outfits picked out, and the gifts that will be given on Christmas are wrapped. My inlaws' Christmas is not until the weekend after Christmas so I'm giving myself some leeway with those! My Christmas menus are planned (simple yet festive!) and I just need to pick up a few last minute ingredients. I mailed most of the Christmas cards today since our family photos arrived late. So all in all, the things left to do aren't stressing me out and I'm relishing these last few days beforehand.

My Advent has been unexpectedly full of spiritual growth. It started off pretty rough (see my most recent post on but I'm so grateful for the ways God guided me to greater hope, peace, joy, and love by practicing greater simplicity, surrender, and gratitude. My least favorite thing about being a stay-at-home mom is how easy it is to get caught up in your own little bubble and the daily "hardships" of it instead of having a larger worldview that comes from constant interaction with others on different paths that you meet in the workplace (especially for me as a nurse). It just takes a more concentrated effort to stay above pettiness, selfishness, pity and all that. That being said, I've definitely been praying for some people close to my heart this year and I'd love if you'd send a quick prayer heavenward for them...

-a friend struggling with infertiliy
-a friend from church whose toddler was diagnosed with leukemia
-a single friend struggling with depression

These sweet women show me strength, grace, and beauty in the way they are carrying these crosses but I know they'd appreciate some prayers for extra hope and peace in this season.

Thanks for sticking around for this old-fashioned, nonspecific blog post. Though my blog sometimes feels ready to retire, I'm grateful you stick around to connect with me. If you have your own prayer requests, drop them below in a comment and I'd be honored to pray for you.

In these last few days of Advent, may the Root of Jesse's Stem give you hope that He is growing you to blossom even when the pruning hurts. (I love the O Antiphons...)

In His peace,

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Currently // December

Linking with Anne as we all discuss what we're currently...

gifting // Homemade lotion bars made with shea butter, coconut oil, and beeswax! I poured it into my silicone heart-shaped cupcake pan so they were so easy to pop out when dry and they look adorable. I also have crocheted lots of earwarmers of different styles, including this adorable crown pattern for kids. I have no idea how I found the time to do these things when I look at the pile of homemade gifts, but it's very satisfying to my creative heart.

baking // treats to enjoy during the Christmas season instead of Advent. I've been trying to find ways to "live liturgically" when it comes to the actual Church liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas instead of just doing all the Christmas stuff during Advent. (And I just can't wait with the decor so that's out, haha.) This has been a perfect thing for me-- baking things and freezing it. I love stocking the freezer and knowing we'll have all sorts of goodies to celebrate the true Christmas season and make it special and long-lasting.

singing // O Come O Come Emmanuel each night around our Advent wreath with the first candle lit. It's so precious to hear our little girl try to sing with us, and there's nothing that says Advent to me more than candlelit prayer. Love it.

mailing // Just bills today, haha! I'm still waiting on our family pictures to come in mail to slip in our cards this year. Normally I create cards on Shutterfly with our family picture but somehow we've collected several boxes of beautiful Christmas cards so I decided just to tuck in a 4x6 of our newest family picture. I kind of like the old-fashioned feel of that anyway.

I'm normally not a big fan of the "Pinterest kissing poses" haha, but this one
turned out kinda cute.

decorating // hopefully some sugar cookies soon. But otherwise, all decor is up and sparkling! That's one thing I can't save until Christmas! But for me, all the decorations give such a sense of peace, beauty, and anticipation that they seem like Advent decorations. Wink, wink.

This is the only picture I have uploaded but you get the idea...minus the black antenna my husband hung on the
tree to get the football game to come in!!! 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Grieving Together: A Wonderful New Resource on Miscarriage

There's something about the fall that makes me turn inward and reflect. Perhaps it's the falling leaves, the closing of the year, that makes us think more of eternity and the closing of this life, this world, someday. Perhaps it's the closing of the Church year, the feast days like All Saints and All Souls, that make us think of our loved ones on the other side.

Regardless, this can be a painful time of year for those who have lost a loved one, even if it's been years since the loss. While a lifetime of memories with someone still doesn't feel like enough after they're gone...there's a unique suffering of the loss of someone who didn't get to live any "years" at all-- the loss of child in miscarriage or stillbirth. Even now as I keep up with a busy toddler and crawling infant, my heart still achingly remembers my first little one that I held for such a short time. Once you have a child in heaven, it changes your family on earth forever.

Laura Kelly Fanucci is one of my favorite writers on this topic, although I'm sure she never wished to be an experienced writer of it. She and her husband have experienced infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss of their twin daughters. She writes beautiful, powerful reflections on her blog and I loved her book Everyday Sacrament on the daily graces and struggles of motherhood. When I heard she and her husband Franco were co-authoring a new book on miscarriage for couples, I knew it would be an incredible resource.

Grieving Together: A Couple's Journey Through Miscarriage fills such a great need in parishes and families when it comes to miscarriage. Men and women, and even just different personalities in general, grieve and heal so differently. It's a gift to have a 'manual' of sorts for a couple to journey through their grieving together yet individually. They can read the stories of others who have gone before them, seeing that they're not alone and affirming their grief in a society that cares so little for the unborn and too often ignores the reality of miscarriage.

Because they've been through it, this book is so thorough and contains so many gems that grieving parents will find helpful such as dealing with well-meaning but hurtful comments, the Church's teaching on miscarriage and babies' souls, saints and prayers for miscarriage, ways to remember and honor your child. There are even Appendices with many practical resources, websites, books, and Catholic rites.

Through reading this book, it has not only been helpful for me as a parent of a miscarried child, but it has also inspired me to discuss with my parish about beginning a Miscarriage Ministry, even if it be as small as a care package for families who have miscarried with a handwritten note of condolence and this book. Because my husband is the director for pro-life ministry in our diocese, I'm also going to discuss with him how we can incorporate this book into our diocesan ministry for miscarriage.

If you yourself have experienced a loss or if you know a couple who has (and believe me, you do), the book is available starting today! You can get it from Our Sunday Visitor (free shipping), Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.

Some additional freebies (!) you might be interested in are:

-A free e-book from Our Sunday visitor with excerpts from the Fanuccis How to Support Parents Who Have Lost a Child

-A free webinar with the Fanuccis that tells more about the book, their story, and how we can all support grieving parents.

I'm so grateful that in the past several years there's been more discussion on miscarriage and more resources for those grieving and for those who wish to comfort them. Many more women are sharing their experiences, several organizations are offering support and memory gifts., and now this wonderful book is giving parents a friend and mentor relationship with Franco and Laura as they walk (and sometimes wade) through the grief together. I truly believe this book will be a blessing to so many people. Please share it with your friends and family and parishes!

Friday, November 9, 2018

What's Saving My Life Right Now (SQT)

It's Seven Quick Takes time. We've had a rough month or two but rather than dwell on that I'm going to share seven things I'm thankful for lately! (Kind of like mixing the "what's saving my life" and the "seven quick takes" link-ups together. ;)

1. Jesus, of COURSE, is saving my life right now. ;) But honestly, hard times push us to prayer and there's a lot of grace in that. In particular, I'm loving this devotional/Scripture study from Take Up and Read:

2. Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice tea. This has been my favorite for almost ten years but I rarely treat myself to it because it's not exactly in the SAHM/ministry-wife budget. But I split a bulk pack of it with my sister and it was heavenly. (Was. Yes, it's gone already, ha.)

3. Online shopping. This is embarrassing. But it's so great! It is so not fun to take two littles in and out of stores when it's cold, rainy, and one of them hates his carseat. I am doing my best to keep the spending down and mostly on 'necessary' items (see SAHM budget quip above) but I have possibly splurged on a new planner and a couple snazzy Catholic kids Christmas gifts recently. Um, and online groceries and grocery pick-up, can we talk about how amazing that is?? Actually, let's not...I'm feeling lazy realizing all that I shop for online.

4. Real food. I like junk food as much as the next person but I really run better on home-cooked food. I've tried to simplify our meals during my husband's busy month in October but mama is so much happier with hearty casseroles than frozen chicken nuggets...and of course with homemade cookies and muffins. So I'm finding the time to make it all and it's been worth prioritizing.

5. Redecorating our home...mostly in my mind but sometimes in real life! With a few gift cards we had been blessed with, I got these pictures from Hobby Lobby and a coat hook board (is that what you call it? ha!). I've been wanting to do something to the big wall in our laundry room that by the garage door. I love that the coat hooks are reachable for little hands, and the Scripture verse on the pictures can remind them that God has a plan for them within our home and as they come and go.

6. Crocheting and crafts. Can you tell I'm stuck indoors a lot lately? All this cooking and decorating and crafting...usually done with a baby sleeping on me, of course. But I'm working on an infinity scarf, an earwarmer, a market bag, and stamped drink coasters-- hopefully for Christmas gifts.

7. K-Love radio. I know some people think Christian radio is cheesy, but I am so grateful for it! The other day I was telling Mother Mary I desperately needed some help and I immediately thought of Christian radio...I think it was her whispering, knowing how much it would encourage and uplift me. I decided to listen to it at least an hour every day for a week and challenged my sister to do the same. I am LOVING all the encouragement and fellowship and the Christ-centered lyrics staying in my head all day.

Happy weekend! Joining up with Kelly and the other Quick Takers!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

That Time I Gave Birth Six Months Ago {Little Man's Birth Story}

I've been wanting to write our little guy's birth story for awhile now partly just for posterity but I think you all know it's been a rocky six months with his reflux and sleep deprivation and learning to manage two kids (although honestly, so many joys too...this mom life is so hard but so wonderful). So without fanfare or flourish, here comes a word dump!!

Though I'm incredibly grateful for my son and would do it all over again, this pregnancy wasn't super fun. I felt worse than I had with G, maybe had a couple weeks in the second trimester where I felt "normal" the whole time, plus was keeping up with a toddler. I had been in the hospital in January with premature contractions. I had gotten the stomach flu twice in the 30 weeks time frame. So I was ready for this boy to come early!

I woke up just after 38 weeks one morning with horrible period-like cramps. I called the hospital and talked with a nurse for a bit. I also had a low-grade fever, some chills and hot flashes. They thought it was more likely a bug than labor and suggested I drink some ice water and take a hot shower (this was really early in the morning). I dragged myself out of bed and followed the instructions, laid back down in bed, and then realized I had to throw up. It was awful! I called them again a few hours later to update and they again just said I probably had a bug. I didn't throw up anymore but continued to have just a touch of fever off and on and the cramps throughout the day.

My mother-in-law was coming that day and bringing our homeless friend (who was not yet homeless but living with a friend for a bit) to visit for a couple days to help him create a resume and look for jobs. We had discussed the visit and figured I most likely wouldn't have the baby for another week or two and the timing would be fine (our daughter didn't know him and I didn't feel comfortable if P and I went to the hospital leaving him with my MIL and daughter overnight...). Ha. ha. ha. Best laid plans.

The next morning after they arrived I had a big contraction in the 7am hour that woke me up-- same type and hour as I had with my daughter on her birth day! I got up and continued to have the irregular but painful cramping with an occasional contraction. I really had no idea what was going on because of the random symptoms the previous couple days, the fever, the cramps and chills. But I just felt unsettled and nervous. I went to the bathroom that morning and had a very obvious bloody show. Hallelujah! I wasn't crazy. Something was going on and it wasn't just a bug. I was sure of it...yet still having doubts at the same time. We talked it over, called a nurse, and decided to go to the hospital even though I wasn't having any regular contractions.

I finished packing my hospital bag, got ready, prepared some instructions and such for my MIL in case they kept me, and we found some young adult friends for J to stay with so that little G wouldn't be scared with a new person as well as no mommy or daddy around (again, if they kept me at the hospital).

It was all a little weird because I was only 38 weeks and not having any obvious labor contractions, but I just felt like something was wrong and I'd feel better getting checked out. We arrived at the hospital within about 10 minutes-- our local hospital since our OB had moved there from the city a half hour away (where we had little G). It's a lovely, friendly rural hospital. We had needed NICU with G so I was a little concerned about the smaller hospital but they were AMAZING. I cannot believe the difference and how much I loved the small hospital. Each OB nurse only has one patient if she's in labor-- she's available for you anytime, no other patients to check on.

Anyway, we went in and I felt a little sheepish and wondered if I'd get sent home. I filled out the paperwork and up we went to the floor. They put me in a triage-type room to check me and do all the preliminary stuff. We were all calm, everyone was slow and chill because I think we all thought it was possibly not labor-- or very early at the least. But they still treated me well and listened a little more closely when I described my previous short labor. They checked me and I was barely dilated...pretty much the same as at the doctor's office. But they hooked me up and saw the crampy-like, irregular "contractions" and said it looked like my uterus was irritable. My blood pressure was also high and the baby's heart rate was high. They turned the lights off and had me rest for awhile while they monitored me.

Looking back, I think I was having some anxiety over leaving little G overnight for the first time, the stress of feeling awful the past few days, and wondering if/when the baby was coming. However, I strongly believe my body was telling me something and that a lot of the restlessness and anxiety was due to the fact that not only was I in labor, but something wasn't right with it. (More on that later).

The darkness, some gentle massage from my wonderful hubby, and some deep breathing brought my numbers all back down after awhile. The nurse came in a said she'd called my OB to get some orders and to put a bug in her ear that I might be in labor. My OB is pretty much the most amazing woman in the world (If you're Catholic, she's a modern-day St. Gianna type woman...strong, compassionate, faithful...). Because we followed her to her new practice, she flagged my chart to let the nurses know she'd come in special to deliver my baby rather than having an on-call partner do it. I knew she had a few out of town nights scheduled and I thought this was one of them, but it turns out she simply had an "in-town" event that evening so she was happy to deliver if I was in labor. She told the nurse she doubted I was in labor but to monitor me for a few hours.

Well, the baby must have heard that because a kick or two later, I felt a gush of fluid. Yessir, despite a lack of regular contractions my water had broken! P said this was the funniest moment of the whole time because I sat up, pumped my fist, and said, "YES!! My water just broke!!" I was so, so happy because I knew they'd have to admit me now and I just didn't want to go home with the uneasiness I felt about everything.

The nurse came in after we pushed the call button and confirmed it. Unfortunately it was also meconium-stained. What is it with my EARLY babies that have meconium?? It does not make sense to my nurse mind...although early babies can have it if there's fetal distress so there's that comforting thought. ;) They quickly moved me to my room and got everything prepared. The contractions were still coming but not anything to write home about. After a couple hours my OB checked me and I wasn't progressing much. I also had a fever (I thought it was just hot in the room!) and they were concerned my uterus might be infected with my history of symptoms the past couple days (the cramps, fever, chills) as well as the meconium. They started pumping me full of antibiotics to protect me and the baby and I think they gave me something for the fever. My OB also said she was going to start me on Pitocin because if it truly was a uterine infection, the uterus might be working poorly (thus the cramping rather than strong of contractions) and we needed to get the baby out sooner rather than later due to possible infection.

I was a little nervous at this point because I really didn't care to experience Pitocin induction ON TOP OF my own oxytocin already being produced but I have to say it didn't feel that much different than with my first labor. And it did get things moving! It still took me about five hours to dilate from 1-6. (I know, that's still pretty short, but for me it felt long!) When a couple hours went by and I had only progressed one or two centimeters I asked for Nubain. It did not work as well as I remembered. I thought it helped with the pain, but it only relaxes you between contractions and these suckers were coming one on top of the other sometimes. (Turns out that's because my baby was a posterior, sunnyside up baby!)

Despite all the craziness and scary events of the fever, cramping, meconium, possible was a beautiful and grace-filled labor. I had printed out Scripture cards from Better Than Eden to pray through birth (these were a game-changer and so favorite verse was Tobit 7:18 "Be brave, my child; the Lord of heaven and earth grant you joy in place of this sorrow of yours. Be brave, my daughter." Seriously, still makes me cry...) We also had a list of prayer intentions. We were so much more intentional with prayer this time than we had been with little G. I think we were a little more prepared for what to expect and we could focus on praying through everything. It was just really awesome and beautiful and even peaceful at times. We did not have a doula this time and though we dearly loved her with our first, there was something so sweet about just me and my husband praying together and 'laboring' together. He's an incredible partner for birth and so selfless. He was by my side the whole time, often initiating prayer (like a spiritual communion at one point! What a neat idea!). He also did a lot of physical assistance, holding me or hip/back counter-pressure techniques. I'm so proud of him and grateful for him. The nurses commented on how great he was. We both agreed that this birth was very spiritual for us and I'm so grateful for that.

After a couple more hours, I had only progressed about one more centimeter and I felt discouraged by that. I was at a 5 or 6 and I knew it would be my last chance for Nubain. Since I thought I had a ways to go, I asked for another dose. Little did I know we were about to repeat the same scenario as baby G (about six hours to dilate halfway, then about 30 minutes to dilate the rest of it! haha!). My doctor came in and chatted and said she was going to head over to the pro-life banquet a couple blocks away for dinner since I was only halfway. I was so thankful she was doing all this on a day off for me that I said to go and have fun! I'd see her later on!

A new nurse came on her shift and took over for my previous one. She gave me the Nubain and watched my contractions. She noticed all the double contractions and recognized that this baby was probably posterior (she was definitely a veteran OB nurse with tons of experience). She asked me to change positions from sitting on the bed with dangling legs to kneeling on the bed bending over the elevated head of it just a bit. It was a bit awkward and REALLY PAINFUL. She must have known it would be because she asked if I would do it for just twenty minutes. It seriously felt like the baby was moving downward every contraction. I don't think I had that kind of pain with my first labor. The shocking thing was that when I said I wasn't sure I could do it any longer, she checked me and quickly had me lay down flat. I was at a 10!

In about a half hour, I had gone from 6-10! Woohoo! Except that my doctor was at the banquet! The nurse called for backup and all of a sudden more help was coming in. They were paging my doctor and even paging the on-call doctor in case my doctor couldn't make it in time. I had torn second-degree with my first, so they wanted it to be a slow and gentle pushing. They had me put my legs together and not push at all while we waited for the doctor. I must have been a little woozy from the Nubain or the pain because I felt a little confused about everything. I had been a little concerned about *ahem* going to the bathroom on the table and now really felt like I had to go (it turns out that's because the baby was posterior and so near my back area, lol). I kept telling them I had to go #2 and they just kept telling me not to push, haha. It must be so funny to be an OB nurse sometimes. My husband said he could see the baby's head when they looked. I wanted to push so badly and I'm still not quite sure why they wouldn't just catch the baby themselves (maybe liability without the doctor? Danger from meconium?) but one nurse looked me in the eye and coached me by saying, "Remember you don't want to tear this time (I had said that was my goal). DO NOT PUSH. Blow the candles out. Pretend to blow out birthday candles." So I just kept blowing.

Finally, the on-call doctor rushed in and looked frantic. She started getting filled in by one of the nurses and pulled on some gloves. P and I both wanted our OB instead but I wasn't thinking about it too much in that moment. However, God be praised, my OB walked into the room not even a minute after the other doctor. She smiled lovingly and said, "let's have that baby now." She has both a calm and commanding presence (for both my crazy births!!) and she got everyone calmed down and in place.

They rolled me over and said time to push. After being told so many times not to push, I said, "Are you sure?!" They said yes and I gave one wild woman push and accompanying "oooooohhh" with it and out he came. Peter said it was so incredible. This is going to sound funny, but he said it was like I was dying in that moment yet life was coming out of me. The miracle of birth. Of suffering and redemption. Of giving your whole self for another.

I remember my doctor holding our baby and smiling. You can just tell she loves babies and birth and sees God in it all. She lovingly handed me our son and asked his name. I held him and my husband cut his cord and named him. It was over and he was here in our arms. Our son. Our gift. Another miracle sent from heaven.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Cozy, Snowy Cuddles: A Children's Book Review

What I Loved: It's a nice size, nice length of story, has rhymes on each page. The touch and feel element is fabulous-- my kids love textures, especially "fuzzy animals" like these. I like the themes of winter, animals, and cozy snuggles.

What I Didn't Love: It's not as good of quality as some board books. I like when the covers of board books are the "bubble" type-- they just seem sturdier. This one feels like it could possibly get bent, yet it's definitely thicker than basic cardboard. Although I love the rhymes on each page, I would have liked an actual story. This is simply four-line rhymes on each page describing the animals cuddling. Definitely still a sweet idea, but my daughter is starting to like the idea of stories.

Overall, not my favorite board book, but it's a sweet gift idea (and good price!) for the holidays. Little ones would definitely like the lovely illustrations and the touch and feel furry animals.

4 out of 5.

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for my complimentary copy in exchange for this honest and original review.]

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Currently // October

It's been so long, I can't believe how the days fly by...yet the days are "not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string." -Anne of Avonlea 

It's a perfect season to quote Anne, no? I have her famous October quote on my chalkboard this year. Here's what we're currently up to these days...some of our pearls slipping off a string.

wearing // the baby. haha. a lot! He still takes the majority of his naps in the Lillebaby carrier but here and there will surprise me with a longish stretch in the crib. Other than him, I want to be wearing cute sweaters and leggings as soon as our crazy weather cools down. We're still pushing 80's this week.

collecting // a handful of fall recipes to make. Little G loves to make muffins with me these days-- we made some delish chocolate chip pumpkin ones, and a few days ago I made to-die-for Snickerdoodle Pumpkin Bread. This weekend I hope to make Butternut Squash and Spinach Sausage Penne for dinner.

making // more time for prayer. It's an ongoing process but it's encouraging to feel closer to the Lord and to find time to seek Him even with the littles around. I'm also trying to be more intentional praying for the 40 Days for Life campaign going on right now and was able to organize a pray-from-home network of other moms who can't commit to go to the actual abortion clinic to pray on a weekly basis.

taking // life slowly. My schedule has slowed down so much the past month and I'm finding that I love being home with the kids and having a mostly free schedule. It's so much easier to roll with the craziness of an infant and a toddler when we don't have lots of deadlines. It also frees me to be more creative at home, more on top of the laundry (but never completely! ha!), host a play date, or take fun trips like to a park or the library.

planning // Christmas presents. I know, I know, I am definitely getting excited about the holidays's such a great time from here to the rest of the year. I love fall, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas. And I'm getting the crocheting bug again and started on a market bag. I also plan to try my hand at rubber stamping some drink coasters. We shall see.

That's it here! What are your current pearls slipping off a string?

Linking up with another famous Anne for the Currently link-up! ;)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

God Bless Our Bedtime Prayers: A Book Review

I just love this author and series of books. Beautiful illustrations, sweet rhymes, good quality board books that are just the right length for young attention spans. This particular book is about the animals at bedtime as well as different prayers to help kids learn all the things you can talk to God about. It's a lovely way to introduce bedtime prayer to children as a way to talk with God about your day, your struggles, or your desires rather than having bedtime prayer be just a mindless habit. You can never start too young to introduce your children to the God who loved them into being. Books like these are a great way to do that. 5 out of 5.

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for my complimentary review copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Friday, August 17, 2018

7 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

I recently read 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke and it was fascinating. Like, the best book I've ever read on technology/smartphones. I'm usually pretty into articles that discuss the neurological and psychological effects of technology...I think it's because I grew up during the unveiling of the internet and didn't have a cell phone until college. So I remember the Dark Ages, haha, and have memories with which to compare the status quo. And while there are definitely perks to social media and the internet, I'm not convinced we're actually in a better place. 12 Ways focused more on the spiritual side of things than the psycho/neuro stuff, and that actually was more compelling for me to make changes. No it's wasn't that it's a sin to have a smartphone but rather he talked about ways our phone might be holding us back from prayer as well as becoming the people we're meant to be. Here are a few ways our smartphones are changing us (a la the book. GET IT, by the way. ;) But be prepared for it to change your life if you read it slowly and intentionally.)

1. We have a constant temptation for distraction. Yes, even without media we'll be tempted to distraction from the important or mundane things (that's human nature as well as spiritual warfare) but never before have we had such flashy, ever-changing, cutting-edge distractions literally at our fingertips.

2. We are conditioned to skim articles, books, and other written sources by our phones which teach us to scroll quickly due to information overload. We also develop a decreased attention span because of this. Anyone notice their ability to focus in prayer or spiritual reading decrease with an increased use of smartphones or internet, or is that just me?

3. We become desensitized to real and lasting pleasures or beauty. For example, we see pictures of vacations (Grand Canyon, etc.) or nature or cute kids through our feeds and get so used to the mediated thing that the real things holds less pleasure for us. We also become addicted to the quick flashy updates and don't have that deeper appreciation for real beauty around us.

4. Technology can feed superficial relationships. Our online friendship habits (clicking 'like', a quick comment here or there) become our real-life relational habits. We keep it quick, superficial, and avoid long or difficult encounters. Even our emotions are altered by our online habits-- instead of sitting with a grieving person and learning how to grieve, cry, or be silent with them, we can simply click a "cry face" and move on with our scrolling. We are bombarded by multiple emotional events in a simple scrolling session (ones inciting joy, sorrow, anger) but we don't pause long enough to truly feel these feelings. It's not normal and it's changing us and our ability to empathize.

5. Our phones create isolation as well as false community. The marketers for technology sell more items when they make them smaller and for the individual. No longer do we enjoy music via a theater orchestra or even a radio, now we have individual iPods. No longer do we watch live musicals (well, sometimes) or go to movie theaters as much, we can simply watch on our phones or iPads. We are encouraged to isolate ourselves. When we're in public, we isolate from real-life people by using our phones. When we're in private, we fear isolation and loneliness so we go to our online 'communities' and 'groups.'

6. Because our phones and the internet can connect us to people all over the world, we're less likely to focus on building local community or allowing ourselves to be rubbed by people who are slightly different than us and could help us grow. We simply seek like-minded people online instead of doing the work of building relationship (and evangelizing) with those who truly live near us.

7. We become addicted to novelty. We would rather mindlessly scroll through our social media feeds than take time for reflection. It's easier to sort through fun things in the here and now than allow ourselves to sit with the past or ponder the future. We're afraid of them and don't allow the time to focus on see where God might be inviting repentance and growth, change and freedom, redemption and mission.

Not all of us are affected by every single one of these points, but our world in general is definitely affected by all of them. I see our phones changing our social abilities, our spiritual abilities, our intelligence. I see it changing my own. This book was a powerful read for me, so much so that I decided to delete social media apps on my phone and do a "40 Day Smartphone Fast." I'm already seeing fruit from it after only a week, and my ability to live more fully is enhanced. I'd love to hear your own thoughts on how you manage technology and smartphones in your own life. I'll never completely eliminate it (hello, blogging!) but I'm more convicted than ever to put it in its rightful place, to use it for God's glory, and not allow it to become an idol.

Sorry but not sorry for such a serious post! Normal content and kid pics to resume soon, haha. Happy weekend, all, and stay off your phones! ;)

Joining Kelly and the gang for Quick Takes!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Safe in His Arms

I cried at the county fair tonight. And then laughed at my silly tears. Hormones, I said as I shrugged to my husband and shifted the sleeping infant in a carrier on my chest. We were watching the Terror of Vikings ride-- that huge long boat that goes back and forth like a giant glider swing. When I was a kid, it was called the Banana Boat. Terror of Vikings sounds much cooler and more fitting. But I digress. On the very tip of the boat, the part that goes the highest, sat a young boy and his dad. The boy's face held a mix of fear and excitement as the swing went higher and higher. The dad's arm was draped around the boy and held his son tighter each giant swing back and forth, a gentle smile on his face as he enjoyed the ride with his son. The boy began to relax and laugh with delight despite (or because of?) the height and speed of the ride.

And that's when the tears came. There was something so incredibly beautiful about seeing the peace and security that come from a loving, protective father. It was a small moment that spoke of a larger truth. In a world of absent or dysfunctional fatherhood, seeing this sweet cameo of true fatherly love and protection, seeing the confidence and joy it brought to the son, made my heart swell with how good and right the picture was.

It was also a glimpse of the great love our Heavenly Father has for us. This all-powerful Father who allows us on the ups and downs of life because He's right there beside us. He holds us tightly and wants us to trust Him and His protection. Only through leaning on Him can we truly begin to relax and see the view.

His arm is around you and holds you safely. Open your eyes, throw up your hands, and enjoy the ride.

Monday, August 6, 2018

More Summer Book Reviews

This lovely little journal caught my eye one day when I'd been noticing I was in a negative slump. You know, the one where you've slowly gotten out of the habit of being grateful for the everyday blessings and you start to see only the annoyances and irritations and monotony of everyday life. (Oh, I'm the only one that does that?) Even though we know being grateful each day brings joy, it helps so much to have a tangible reminder to do so! This journal is a daily devotional with a Bible verse, meditation, and a unique question for journaling to get you started in counting your blessings each day. It's a beautiful hardcover with a ribbon bookmark. The pages have color illustrations and each place for journaling is just a few lines (nothing too intimidating!). Some of the devotions were beautiful and thought-provoking but some were a little generic or superficial. I don't think this journal would necessary deepen your relationship with the Lord in big ways but I do think the daily habit of writing down blessings and pondering the verses and meditation is helpful in cultivating a joyful spirit-- and this journal is a creative, guided way to do so instead of just writing them down in a blank notebook. 4 out of 5 stars.

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for my complimentary copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Oh, the Clarksons have done it again with their thought-provoking Lifegiving series. This time it was The Lifegiving Parent. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about all three books (Lifegiving Home, Lifegiving Table, Lifegiving Parent). Sometimes I feel like their views are idealistic and unattainable, yet I have to say there's a lot I love about their books! I think it's okay to read books that we can be inspired by without fully emulating all they contain. I really appreciate the Clarksons' emphasis on raising children to know deep love within their family and deep love in the Lord. They focus on excellence in every area of life, with that excellence giving glory to God. Lifegiving Parent was very in-depth and I'd have to read it every so often to pick up new things, or perhaps even read a particular chapter here and there. It was less practical than the other two books and more philosophical. Overall, I think it's a great read to ponder the magnitude of the gift as well as responsibility we have in raising children-- shaping minds, hearts, souls for eternity by the ways we spend our days. (But if it's one of those motherhood days where you are going crazy and need to plop your kids in front of Daniel Tiger with some microwaved chicken nuggets, shelf this sucker and pick it up a different day. We all have those days, even the Clarksons. ha.) 4.5 out of 5.

[Thank you to Tyndale Blog Network for my complimentary copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Saturday, August 4, 2018

7 Quick Takes

1. It's been a long week but things went better than expected. My husband flew to Arizona to the USCCB pro-life directors conference (he was even one of the speakers for a panel there-- good job, babe! ;) ) and I was home with the kiddos. My MIL stayed overnight with me the first night, I traveled to stay with my parents the next couple nights, and then did the solo parenting thing the last night back at home. Our kids are tough at bedtime and wanted me the whole time (and at the same time *so many tears*) but both my mom and MIL were so helpful with other stuff like meals and the dog and keeping me sane.

Me, two kids, and the dog. We got this. (Thanks to mom and nana ;) )

2. On a related note, I'm pretty sure we're going through the 4 month sleep regression here. Send help. Send coffee. Send chocolate. Um, and maybe send a maid service? hahahaha. Kind of. But this too shall pass and I'm a little more chill about it than I was with G because I'm less concerned that it's something I'm doing wrong and more aware that it's a normal development stage and we'll make it through. (A special thanks to cosleeping, babywearing, dairy free chocolate, and covered coffee mugs to keep it warm.)

Morning snuggles make me forget nighttime troubles!

3. It's climbing temps again this weekend and we'll be hitting in the 90's by Sunday. Time to fill up G's new (hand-me-down) pool from the cousins. And it's big enough for me to sit in as well if I can convince the baby to nap on daddy for awhile. Anyone have a swimsuit they want to recommend? I'm looking for a cute print, modest yet attractive (dump the frump), relatively inexpensive new swimsuit and thus far I'm returning the five I got from Amazon. #notpickyoranything

4. G's second birthday was last week and it was the best. The best. I'd like to call it The Old-Fashioned Non-Pinterest Birthday Party. I'm not against Pinterest but sometimes you just need a good ol' birthday celebration without consulting them, you know? For her first bday, I had the whole ice cream theme with food and decor and games and it was great. But this year I reveled in a simple, homemade 9x13 frosted cake with candles, a family trip to the zoo (our last time for the under 2 discount haha!), and some grandparents and cousins singing happy birthday on our back patio. It was so sweet. We all chatted outside on a gorgeous evening while the kids played in the backyard.

Tuckered out at the zoo

Check out the size of this pool! I'm as excited as she is
although I don't think I'll fit on the slide ;)

5. On a less happy note (#understatement), there's the McCarrick scandal going on right now within the Catholic Church. It's so deeply disturbing to unearth such corruption. Yet I really appreciated this letter from Ralph Martin of Renewal Ministries. It's long but comprehensive, and he makes some great points about the amount of corruption we allow when we gloss over the Gospel and the hard teachings of Christ. That it's okay to be upset with this and acknowledge there is corruption within the Church and still acknowledge that this same Church will withstand the gates of hell in the end. Pray, pray, pray. And maybe take some time to read it for some helpful thoughts.

6. I'm still loving my Kindle and reading lots of books this summer. I'm currently in the middle of 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (can't remember the author right now), and I just finished Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. The latter was a painful read as it's based on a true story (a woman who stole children from poor families and sold them as 'orphans' to the rich from the 1920's to 1950). I haven't decided if I'd recommend it or not but it was a powerful read that's staying with me. Kinda like The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I think I need some light fiction for awhile.

7. I'm so excited to be a new contributing writer for! I'll be writing once a month for them. Check out their website for tons of resources for living your vocation to the fullest. I love their book lists and went there last year to look for ideas for my book club.

Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy the other quick takes at Kelly's!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

I Like Big Trucks {A Book Review}

Little G is currently into anything that moves. She loves trains, fire engines, and trucks. It's cute to see my little girly-girl princess also get so excited when she hears the trains go through our town or sees a big truck working on the new houses in our neighborhood. I thought this book would be a fun one for her, and likely baby J will enjoy it when he gets older too. The book is a sweet little story with lots of fun trucks to look at-- and feel! Touch and feel books are a lot of fun for her at this age. My favorite part of the book is the last page, after the trucks have done their jobs for the day, because it says "Goodnight and God bless." Just a sweet reminder of why even non-religious stories can bring the Lord into everyday life when they're from a Christian publisher. I appreciate that. The only negative to the book was that it seems a little more cheaply-made than some we've had from this publisher. The pages a slightly thinner than a normal board book so I'm hoping they don't bend. The touch and feels could be a bit more raised as well. Other than that, it's a cute addition to our shelf.

4 out of 5 stars.

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for my review copy! This contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Quick Takes // Vacations, Babies, and Life Lessons

1. Our homeless house guest is no longer homeless! He will be moving into an apartment this weekend. There is just so much I could say but I might instead write a post about some things I've learned in the last six weeks...when J came into our home, I was a woman recently diagnosed with postpartum depression with a transitioning toddler and a non-sleeping reflux newborn. We were probably crazy for doing what we did, but maybe sometimes God calls us to the crazy, you know?  And there's always grace in the crazy. God provided in many incredibly tangible ways. We also had some powerful and beautiful moments with J when it came to sharing our faith in Jesus and His plans for us. But to keep it real, there were also many moments when I realized I am definitely not Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side. ;)

2. We are having a very hot summer, but are enjoying it nonetheless. G still takes a decent nap in the afternoon, so I tend to avoid the hottest time anyway. Our mornings and evenings are pretty pleasant and I've loved seeing G explore and play outdoors. Her favorite things right now are chalk, bike rides, and playing basketball with daddy. We also enjoyed this fun moon sand recipe.

3. Y'all know my love for garage sales. There are three neighborhoods around here that have such great, family-friendly garage sales each year and I always mark my calendar like it's a holiday. It makes it easy for me to clothe our babes and find toys/gifts to put away for birthdays or Christmas. My hubby laughs at me for making it such a big event and says he never sees me happier than when I'm going garage-saling, haha! I do love a good deal and it's so fun to see the random finds! This year I found adorable trick-or-treat costumes for the kids (see pics below), lots of clothes for our little boy, a Bumbo seat that I've been wanting, and some cute wall, and more, haha!

4. So real life. I started this on Friday during naptime and am now finishing up on Sunday after the kids are sleeping (one of them on me right now, of course...).

5. We had a great time this weekend with my family's second annual "river vacation." My parents live on a river and my siblings and their families all came and spent the night. It was our first time taking the little man on an overnight trip and for the most part, both kids did really well but I had a few unseemly moments of letting the stress get to me. (why do I always feel the need to confess on this blog to you all??) Despite my weak moments, we so enjoyed the rest of the trip, especially a boat ride with sweet G (she looooved 'driving' with Grandpa) and the public splash pad near their house. G cracked me up by carrying around a plastic watering can the whole time, barely wanting to get wet, and with a very intense look on her face as she filled and emptied the can over and over and over.

6. My husband and I had been talking about doing a small mini family vacation this month (we're pretty satisfied with just the fun of a night or two in a hotel and something nearby touristy...or maybe that's just because about all we can afford! ha!) but JP is not a fan of his carseat lately. As in screams and screams anytime we put him in the car and only occasionally calms down if we have the AC on the can't-hear-myself-think-its-so-loud-level and put his window down we're rethinking the timing of a trip until he's a little older and (hopefully!!) outgrows this anti-carseat phase. Hubby (a history major) wants to go to Gettysburg and I (just general history buff) am totally up for it if said little man gets better with car trips. Until then, it might just be a staycation around here...

7. Here comes the photo dump. Hope you had a fabulous weekend, friends! Get your coffee ready for tomorrow...we can do this, Monday!

Thankfully my parents are only an hour away...

He just wants to eat the monkey up...I just want to eat him up.

The Pinterest play sand. 

My little zoo. Love these two so much. Motherhood is so hard some days,
but these babies just have my whole heart.

Perfect way to end the day. Water can be so peaceful.

And there's me, hanging out in the bow. This weekend of sun and swimsuits
made me realize how much baby weight is hanging on me for dear life!!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Everything Is Already Okay

A newborn, a toddler, and a homeless man. Never in a million years did I think I'd be living with all three under one roof. Yet here we are.

When my husband originally asked me if we could shelter this man with no family and no money, who had lost a job and would soon have to move out of his current apartment...I said no. I was overwhelmed with a reflux baby, sleep deprivation, and a moody toddler. I could barely find time and energy to take care of our little crew, surely God wasn't calling us to do this and add one more? (I know, I know. So selfish of me when we are so blessed, but I'm keeping it real, y'all.)

But then a couple days later in prayer I knew He was. And so we invited him (or Him? -Matthew 25:40) into our home.

About once a week I start to get panicky about finances and time and energy and how long can we keep doing this. In the middle of last week, I had one of those days. I was on the way to the grocery and just feeling weary and overwhelmed. Not quite discouraged, but just on the brink. I asked God for some sort of sign. He's already given us several affirmations (like the time a family sent us a random gift card in the mail, not even knowing about our guest, that just happened to be the amount I had spent extra on groceries that week) but I felt like I needed a hug from God...a sign that He was with me, He cared, and He would work things out for all of us.

He sent me that sign in the meat section of Aldi's. A lovely middle-aged black woman saw me looking at the chicken prices while my sleeping baby was strapped to my chest in a carrier. She oohed over him and asked a few questions, then when we were going our separate ways she pointedly and emphatically said, "GOD BLESS you honey, and GOD BLESS your baby." Immediately my mind went back to my prayer and I had tears in my eyes as this woman blessed us. I wanted to share it with her but was afraid I'd break down in the grocery and how silly that would look over a simple "God bless you."

Instead I silently prayed for her as I continued through the grocery, encouraged by God reaching out to me through her. After bagging my groceries and heading out to my car, I noticed her getting into her van. She saw me walking through the parking lot and drove over, got out of her car, and started loading my groceries into my trunk. "That way you can get the baby into the car sooner and out of this hot weather," she said.

I knew there was no excuse to not share my story with her now, so I quickly mentioned how I'd prayed for God to reach out to me today and how much it meant that she had been a believer and blessed us in the grocery. Before I could even finish, she wrapped her arms around me and the baby in a big hug and started praying over us. It was so beautiful. The best part was when she prayed:

"Lord, we know that you are at work and going to make everything okay...we know that because of You, everything is already okay."

And then she was gone. And my day was changed.

What an incredible encounter. It was such a powerful reminder that when we ask God to show up, He does. When we ask Him for a hug, sometimes He gives us a real one.

And when we know Him and trust Him in this life, everything is already okay.

(I would love your prayers for our friend...God has found him a job and now we are looking for inexpensive apartment.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Summer Bucket List 2018

Since it's only a couple days until summer officially begins, I decided I need to finalize our Summer Bucket List! My husband and I have been discussing things to put on it and I realized we both have different ideas when it comes to the goal of a bucket list! My Type A personality wants to put all realistic yet creative things with the goal being to cross the majority-- if not all-- of the items off. His spontaneous, dreamer personality wants to put all sorts of fun and crazy ideas on a bucket list even if we only get the chance to do a few. What do you like to put on a bucket list?

(For the record, this one will probably include more the small-scale, realistic stuff I'd like to do with the kids...and then we'll create a bigger, more outlandish family one, haha!)

Summer Bucket List 2018

1. Schedule a family photo session
2. Go on a hike
3. Decorate the house with some fun summer photos
4. Go to the zoo
5. Pack a picnic
6. Swim in a pool
7. Visit a local festival
8. Make fruit-infused water (strawberry-mint-cucumber is amazing!)
9. Run with our jogger stroller
10. Take a mini vacation
11. Visit family around the state
12. Enjoy the farmer's market
13. Go to a baseball game
14. Make popsicles
15. Sit around a backyard campfire
16. Pick berries
17. Explore the library / Go to storytime
18. Meet up with old friends for a girls night out
19. Run through a sprinkler
20. Grill peaches and pineapple

Saturday, June 16, 2018

God's Blessing Day by Day: A Book Review

I've always really enjoyed daily devotionals. Maybe it's type-A of me, but I like a structured daily plan for spiritual nourishment and inspiration. I definitely like other forms of prayer, but daily devotionals help keep us accountable and consistent in our walk with God, and they encourage us to set aside time each day to spend with God.

I'd like to instill this practice into my children, and I know it will change and evolve over the years. So far we have been trying to get into the habit of offering our day to God (Morning Offering), asking our guardian angels to watch over us (Angel of God prayer), and then praying for a couple specific requests for the day (daddy's job, play date friends, etc). Eventually I'd like to add a song, more prayers, saint of the day, and a children's devotional or Bible reading...maybe even all kept in a "Morning Prayer Basket."

God's Blessing Day by Day would be a great addition to that basket as the kids get older. It's a devotional for all the days of the year, but not marked by date so you can start it any time of the year. It has cute illustrations, a Bible verse to ponder, a reflection, a short prayer, and a summary phrase to remember throughout the day. I would say this devotional would be best for maybe ages 5-10, although since we don't have kids those ages yet I may be way off. The content is beyond toddlers for understanding, yet possibly too childish for kids over 10. I like the simple lessons of each devotional-- things like helping others, remembering God's love, being a good friend, singing for the Lord, and God taking care of us. It's definitely pretty basic when it comes to faith topics, but that can be good for children. I'd prefer it were a Catholic devotional because it definitely would be great to have additional content on the grace from the sacraments, our friends the saints, and our Mother Mary, but this could still be a good supplement in addition to other things like a Saint of the Day book, etc.

4 out of 5 stars.

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for my complimentary copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Friday, June 8, 2018

Seven Quick Takes // Summertime

1. I never know how quick these quick takes will be because it's usually during naptime. Oh yes, my friends, both kids are currently sleeping right now. Their naptimes have been overlapping this week and it's nice to get an hour (sometimes two!) to myself...although today I let my little love nap on me awhile after nursing. You can't get those moments back, you know?

2. I'm not sure if I'll write more on this or not, but I'm emerging with a deep, beautiful breath of fresh air after being treated for postpartum depression. (I went the natural progesterone route thanks to the amazing Naprotechnology.) It's been a hard and humbling postpartum, yet the reality is there have been good and beautiful days, too, even during the hard. Not every day was dark or depressing, but I am so grateful for my loving and compassionate doctors helping me get to a better place. My OB even prayed over me during an appointment and reminded me that the devil often tells us negative lies about our motherhood to discourage us. Best. Doctor. Ever. She's a saint.

3. I thought I loved our son and was bonding even in the midst of the struggles, but man, lately the mama love has been kicking into overdrive and I'm just so in love with this little guy. I think there's an even stronger bond having gone through our struggles together-- him with his reflux and me with the PPD. He's cooing and smiling these days and I just melt. Our sweet big sister is loving him too. She often shares stuffed animals and toys with him and likes to lay on the ground beside him. ;)

4. We currently have a young man living with us who is going through a rough time without a job or a home. I was at first opposed to the idea when my husband presented it and even said no (um, hello, we have a toddler and a newborn and I can barely keep it together!), but during prayer time a few days later I strongly felt called to tell him I changed my mind. It's been amazing to feel the grace and affirmation from God...we are definitely confident we are supposed to be doing this and we pray (and ask your prayers!!) that we can help him find a job, a home, and a deeper relationship with the Lord.

5. Does anyone feel in denial that we're a week into June already??? Slow down, summer!! I've been starting to make a bucket list for the summer. What are you desires or plans for these months?

6. My sister-in-law had a reflux baby a few years ago and has been a great rock for me with understanding the difficulties of the diagnosis and treatment. She and her husband sent us a Roku and subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. If you know me and P, we have been living under a rock with just a handful of antenna channels so this is a pretty drastic change for us!! Thankfully we're too busy with the kiddos to fully binge-watch, but we've definitely enjoyed The Crown and Fuller House so far. Okay, just me for enjoying Fuller House, ha!! Hit me with you favorite Netflix shows or movies!!

7. How about summer reading recommendations? I'm currently into three stellar books right now: Only Love Today, by Rachel Macy Stafford (my new mantra, seriously-- we all need to live life this way); What's It Like to Be Married to Me?, by Linda Dillow (great marriage book so far-- even just the title makes you think!); and My Daughter's Legacy, by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould (fiction by my fave author Mindy).

7.5...because I forgot to mention GARAGE SALES! You guys, I'm getting so many great deals!! Adorable Melissa and Doug toys, a video baby monitor, cute linen lined storage of my favorite (geeky?) summer pasttimes...

And some photo dumping just because.

Linking up with Kelly! Happy weekend, friends!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Light little updates

I've written some heavier posts lately, so it's time for just some lighter news bits (but unfortunately there's no Quick Takes linkup this week!).

1. Our little love is getting baptized this Sunday. We're so excited to welcome him into God's family and the Church. We're also hoping some of the grace will help him sleep better. ;)

2. I'm currently dairy-free in an attempt to improve our babe's reflux (have tried EVERYTHING) and the diet is not as bad as I remembered from G. Have you ever had sloppy joes over sweet potatoes? Pretty tasty. And this stuff makes morning coffee delish.

3. I do however greatly miss milk and cheese. And we're also literally missing some cheese around here...I made macaroni for lunch today for Miss G and in an attempt to distract her from her hangry-ness I gave her the cheese packet while I was cooking the pasta. I have no idea where she took it and could not find it anywhere in the house when it was time to mix the pasta with it...

4. We had a tiny bit of spring weather here but seem to have mainly skipped from winter to summer...although I suppose it is Memorial Day weekend already and that's the beginning of summer around here. Temperatures are in the high 80's and 90's this week. I'm not complaining. It makes the mornings and evenings perfect and we are chillin' in the house during the high heat for afternoon naptime anyway.

5. We have ants in our kitchen and they are not the cute "Picnic Panic" kind (anyone remember that game??). We get them every year. Same spots. And they drive me nuts every time. What are your favorite remedies? My neighbor said to try diatomaceous earth. Pretty sure I misspelled it yet again...Google usually corrects me when I look it up to order. We'll see how it goes.

6. Two teen girls from our Catholic community came this morning to help out with the kids for a couple hours. I was really anxious about it and don't know why, but I'm thinking it has something to do with my introvert/perfectionist/controlling tendencies because I was hesitant to invite them into my less-than-perfect, out of control, postpartum mess. But it was such a joy to have them here. Miss G had some meltdowns but eventually warmed up to them a little more and I enjoyed just having their friendly selves around as they got to know the kids and I got to know them. Without family nearby, I'm realizing I really need to get more comfortable with accepting help from 'church family.'

7. I've been reading a little less than I was a few weeks ago but I've recently finished All the Light We Cannot See as well as The Nightingale. Both fiction books were excellent and thought-provoking. A little on the melancholy side and tough to read at times (set in WWII and didn't shy away from some of the horrors) but I loved them for the most part. I also read One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler and have been getting together with my moms' group to discuss it. Her writing is so fun and funny, yet I've also wrestled with my thoughts over it and how it can apply to my own life when it comes to blending your other dreams and callings with the ultimate calling of motherhood. It's a perfect one for a moms group to discuss because you can bounce ideas off each other.

Happy holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Loved for Who We Are

Teacher's pet. Straight-A student. Valedictorian. Commencement speaker. I was all of them and more growing up...from wowing my kindergarten teacher with handwritten stories to shaking hands with the dean of nursing at my college as she offered me a future job. I'm grateful for these opportunities and accomplishments, but there's a dark side to them.

I grew up addicted to achievement. I craved success, perfectionism, and the resulting praise. I unknowingly became a believer in performance-based acceptance.

When I became a young adult post college, life wasn't quite so simple. You could work hard, research and study incessantly, do all the right things...but success didn't always happen. Life got messy. In a span of a year, I had a broken engagement, a diagnosis that could cause infertility, and had moved out on my own as a result of (what felt like) my parents selling my childhood home out from under me.

I was broken. I didn't understand how all of this could have happened to me when I was doing everything right. That season of life was one of the most painful and one of the most growth...but isn't that the way life goes? I learned so much about the false but deep roots of performance-based acceptance. Feeling broken was the best thing that ever happened to me because all of a sudden I really needed God. And needed grace. I was letting go of the perfect and finding peace. I was seeing my imperfections, my messiness, my lack of control, and my inability to orchestrate life. But I was also experiencing deep mercy, joyful freedom, and powerful unconditional love.

I learned that God loved me for who I was, not what I did.

Fast forward a few years or ten. I fall in love again. I get married. We buy a house. All good gifts from above. I'm grateful. We're surrounded by a large faithful community. Life is good. God is good.

But then we have a miscarriage. More diagnoses and treatment. We go on to have two more beautiful (and living) children. Life happens. The house breaks down. Sometimes the marriage breaks down. Daily life is hard and mundane. Motherhood is hard and taxes me physically, emotionally, mentally. Is life still good? Is God still good? Does God still love me when I'm selfish and whiny and ungrateful for my blessings? Yes, yes He does. You learned this years ago, remember?

But maybe the bigger question is do I still love God?

In the hard moments, I wonder why He doesn't fix things that are broken, heal things that are wounded, give things that are desired, take away things that are unwanted. I don't want to love Him until He does.

And then I realize I only learned part of the lesson ten years before.

In the deep parts of my soul, I realize that perhaps I've learned that God loves me for who I am and not what I do...but that I haven't learned to love Him for who He is instead of what He does (or does not).

If my relationship with Him is merely about the things I want fixed, healed, given, and taken...then my relationship with Him is performance-based acceptance. The very thing I tried so hard to get away from.

He is always good. He is always giver. He is always grace. He deserves every part of my heart and every ounce of my love and more-- simply for who He is. Goodness itself. Love itself. When I focus on who He is, there is no need to focus on what He does or does not. He is enough. His love is enough. And then life is enough once again.

Life is beautiful again.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Something Bigger

I can't do this anymore.

I have thought this thought a thousand times in the past month. When I'm crawling out of bed to nurse a crying babe who just ate less than an hour ago but the burning acid in his throat makes him want comfort food yet again. When I'm sleeping in a chair in the wee hours of the morning because my reflux baby just can't breathe lying down from all the congestion that's accumulated overnight. When I'm starving from breastfeeding hunger and all of a sudden the toddler wants food stat, the dryer is ringing off with good clothes that can't wrinkle, and the newborn wakes up screaming when you thought he'd sleep at least another half hour. 

These are such small crosses. So why do they feel so heavy? 

Because I haven't slept more than two hours straight in weeks...and I'm lucky if I catch two sets of two hours per night. Sleep deprivation will show you the worst of you. It will take you to mental and emotional depths of despair (you know it, Anne Shirley) that you hadn't known you could reach. Some days you'll feel like a robot, utterly disconnected from everyone you love, even that sweet and precious new baby. 

It's hard, guys. It's so hard. I wrestle with the fact that this suffering is so small compared to others. I recently read this book and I can't begin to think of the suffering of those living through WWII, especially in the concentration camps. We don't have chronic or terminal diseases. We've had church family and friends (even blogger friends) shower us with prayers and love and support and meals (someone even paid for an appointment for our son and made me cry with gratitude). For goodness sake, our cross is in the form of a beautiful, beloved child when so many of our friends are suffering from infertility. 

But this is me. Stripped of all pride that I'm doing this motherhood thing well and right. I'm simply surviving and hoping for resolution. Hoping for guidance and healing and grace...for my little man's pain-- and for the ugly parts of me that have surfaced in the struggle. 

Yet there's the smallest part of me that desperately wants to whisper tentatively that maybe...just maybe...sometimes I am doing this motherhood thing right and well. That the stress arguments with my husband, the resentment that the baby is crying yet again, and the bitterness toward God for not helping us in my timing versus His...that those things happen less often than the smiles and strength (and even a few laughs) between my husband and I as we share the load and remind each other we'll get through this. The times that I snuggle and sing and play with my daughter and my son and feel their soft skin and hold them close and memorize their faces and know that this is true gift. The hundred times I've gently rocked my son close and spoken softly to him telling him that I'm here, I'm here for him in his pain. 

In another book I'm reading, Fr. Mike Schmitz speaks of the importance of remembering in our suffering that we are part of something bigger. Even in the most isolated crosses, we are a part of a larger plan and those crosses can have meaning and purpose. Nothing is wasted. We must have hope in this. Not a false optimism but a deep, abiding hope that God is with us in the hardest moment and He is bringing us through it. That He is using it for greater good. Not in our way or our time, but His. And He is good. 

So I hold on to that. In the hard moments that I cannot think straight from fatigue and the days feel like a blur of caring for these tiny humans and figuring out how to help one of them feel better, I will remember that we are part of something bigger. My children will grow up to (hopefully) contribute to this world and be with all of us and the Lord in the next. Our little home is a launching pad for a mission we cannot see during these days. Only God knows. But He is with us and He is at work. We may not see Him center stage during our sufferings, but we can trust He is behind the scenes.