Friday, April 8, 2016

{SQT} The One About All the Loose Ends: Mom, Kids, Homes, Love & Money

Shhh...don't get too excited. I'm just popping in with a really quick Seven Quick Takes update. The blog is still for the most part on vacation . . . unlike me. I am definitely NOT on vacation. If someone would like to send me on vacation, I am accepting offers.

Now...where did we leave off?


On her 78th birthday...
Ahhh, yes. Mom is still in a memory care facility and will likely be there for the rest of her days unless that miraculous recovery comes her way. She has developed an affinity for Bill Clinton, who takes her to shows off-Broadway in New York and to dinner in Boston. While the NYC and Boston events are likely remnants of reality in her past, I assure you Bill Clinton is not. I've finally taught G to smile and nod instead of looking at me with the "what the heck is she talking about" look. Ok, if I'm being honest, she does both. I'm just fine with that. Jude just likes to run around. Everywhere. Always. Oblivious. Though her mind is only loosely connected to reality, mom is in great spirits most of the time - maybe she is on to something!


I did finally get my day in court to finalize all the legal rigmarole surrounding taking care of mom and her business. Now comes all the official work of documenting her care and her estate. Thank goodness we didn't live at Downton - can you IMAGINE that inventory? Then again, I could just have Carson do it. All this needs to be done by the end of May. No biggie, right? Speaking of May...


Did I mention we sold our house? And bought a new one? St. Joseph was ALL OVER this puppy. I actually finished the novena on his feast day - I finished a novena on time, y'all - and with so many of you praying for and with us, I think he was kind of tired of hearing from me. We had an offer come in on the vigil of his feast day in March and then signed the papers on his feast day. We found our house the next day, and it was not one we chose to look at, but a "filler" that our realtor had thrown in the mix to look at between showings on other houses. Close date is looking to be around...yup, May 1, yet another homage to St. Joe. While he has this all wrapped up neat and tidy (or will have Mary help him with the trimmings), guess when we are likely moving? Mid-May. Mid-May, y'all. Guess what else is in mid-May?


Jojo is coming on May 19th, less than a week after we move into our new home. Easy peasy, right? There have been some wonky tests (all me, none him), but further testing/evaluating tells us it is nothing to worry about. Why are you laughing? I don't have time to worry! This kid is huge - as of my follow-up ultrasound at around 32 weeks, he was estimated to weight around 4.5 pounds. I deliver at 39 weeks. Chunky little smoosh-face this one. Also...I think he is going to look an awful lot like his brother. Just a guess. The kids are beyond excited to meet him, and to move. Now it's just getting all the packing done, which does NOT excite them as much (especially when their toys start disappearing).


Long story short, I am hoping that since many of our loose ends will be tying up in May, come June we will begin to be able to breathe a little easier and enjoy getting to know our new little man and settling into our new home. I may have to be reminded to let myself recover from a c-section before digging in to redecorating (which has all been done in my head already, so what's the fuss?). Seriously - all new wall colors are picked out, and new fixtures/furniture options are pinned/saved. Mama is ready. Jojo can help. You can check out the madness on my Pinterest New Home board. Madness.


That was a lot about me/us. Moving on....... If you haven't seen this on ye olde social media, now you will. Some of us kicked off a fundraiser for Mary Lenaburg and her family after an ancient $8000 hospital bill for Courtney came back at them during Holy Week. We started the #WeGiveABuck fundraiser hoping to erase that bill through a whole lot of love and small-medium donations. Y'all are rockstars - as of now we have kicked over 75% of that bill to the curb. 75%!! If you haven't had a chance to donate, please do consider it. The campaign is running through the end of April. Even $1 helps! (If you aren't familiar with Mary's story, do visit her blog. Besides getting to know her and her beloved Courtney who passed away over a year ago, you'll get to know what a faith-filled, grieving, loving, open mama's heart looks like.)


Last but not least, look for more #WeGiveABuck campaigns from The Pitter Patter Diaries and friends through the year. In talking with Mary when we were initially getting the launch of the campaign together, she acknowledged that their family had received so many blessings from their local and extended online community. She was quick to acknowledge, as we all know if we are on social media, that there were many - MANY - other families in need of love, support, and a few bucks. I already have one family in mind in my local community for May, but would love to form a small team who would help administer these campaigns (and help select the recipients). If you are interested, shoot me an email or leave me a comment. It's a shame that so many feel like they are drowning in a world that doesn't care and systems that do not show an ounce of compassion. One thing I think we are really gifted at as an online community is lifting one another up, and yes, proving that though it may seems like no one cares, we sure do. #WeGiveABuck - pun intended. Clutch those pearls if you must.

That's all from these parts for a little while. Who knows, if the packing all gets done and I catch up with my never-ending to-do list . . . erm, listS plural (mom, home, shop, life) . . . maybe I will be back before June! If not, stay in touch over on the Instagram and the Facebook. They've turned into my usual haunts while I keep swimming through these deep waters. Especially since they're easier to manage one handed when life looks a lot like this:

From earlier this morning. Now it is a boy without his pants
sprawled across my lap asleep because he is "done napping."

OH - and a very happy Easter to one and all! Now go check out what all the other peeps (non-gross marshmallowy ones) are up to over at Kelly's (and read up on some awesome parenting advice!)...


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Friday, February 5, 2016

{SQT}: Getting My Head Above Water

I would love to say I am getting back to dipping my toes in the water of writing, but let's be honest. These days I feel a little more like I am barely keeping my head above water so let's not even talk about my toes. Although...they do look pretty since I finally got a pedicure after a billion months. No more Indian girl toes here (you can ask if you want...). Why not start there?


From "let's not go barefoot" to "warm & fozzie OPI"
Does OPI make anyone else want to break out into a little OPP? Yeah, you know me...
I got my first pedicure and haircut in months last week. Self care is more about zoning out these days than actually receiving care, but it was nice to feel a little fresher after trimming up the 'do and painting up the toes. Sure, the toes are covered in socks and boots, and the hair is most likely in a ponytail, but it's the principle, right?


Last we met, I was filling you in on Medicare battles and mom's recovery and all that jazz. Thankfully, we did win our appeal reconsideration thanks to the help of a friend who is an attorney specializing in such things, so the last week of mom's stay at the sub-acute rehab center was covered with our standard copay (which is a pretty penny anyway). However, given the stress and agitation over the ability for her insurance to simply decide she is done with rehab and resuming the fight, we decided to move her into a private pay memory-care assisted living center for the moment while they had a spot open for her. It is surreal. In three months, she has gone from living completely independently to living in her own little fantasy where loads of people from the past are coming to see her everyday. I know there is always room for a miracle, but it seems like I just have to adjust to this being our new normal.


Jojo is growing fine. He and I spend lots of quality time together avoiding being smothered by his affectionate siblings. They love talking to him, kissing my belly, and hugging my belly with python strength. I, on the other hand, have only gained 3 pounds this whole pregnancy. I am starting my third trimester. While everyone assures me there is nothing to worry about, and my belly is definitely growing as the school principal pointed out last night (but I'm cute, so we're ok), it still sounds very strange to hear that after having gained MUCH more the last two pregnancies. Also, if I somehow end up not losing weight at the end of all of this, I am definitely going to start picketing the new math which will have conspired against me. 


Our house is up for sale. We had put a contingent offer on another house, but that fell through. At the end of the day, we are thankful for that as more reflection led us to question whether it was right for our family. Keeping a house "show ready" with a cat, two littles, and a third protruding from my belly is no joke. I'm not gonna lie. I have not kept up this week, so with a showing tomorrow we have a little tidying and cleaning to do. Also no lie - this is the cleanest this house has ever been and we are now ready for company . . . except that I'm kind of exhausted.


During this radio silence on the blog, I have been tremendously blessed to be part of a new pop-up shop on Instagram called Zelie & Co. Truth be told, I'm not sure how I got lumped in with these lovely crafters and artists, but I know God's hand was all over it. They have helped breathe life into my spirit at a time when I am sorely tempted to give up the struggle of creating anything - words, art - anything. Did I mention I am exhausted? We are holding our first charity auction next Tuesday (yup, get out yo fat wallets for Fat Tuesday and get to givin'!) where the artisans are teamed up with bloggers to raise money for Catholic organizations. My lovely partner, Mary of Passionate Perseverance, and I are raising money for Mary's Mantle - the Catholic maternity home where I work in metro Detroit. If you are on Instagram, follow us and stop on by!


I was all set to put the Etsy shop on vacation (because exhausted, remember?), but then that charity auction came around so instead, I've launched a new line of prints and jewelry. Why not? The shop may still take a wee vacay, but it won't be for a little while now. 


Lent. Y'all. It is NEXT WEEK! Usually, I am all planned out with what I am giving up and what I am reading, and all that jazz. This year? Whoa. It's NEXT WEEK! Ash Wednesday is the Hubs' birthday, too. That is a lot to think about! So, hit me up with your Lenten goals!! What's a gal to do who is barely keeping her head above water? My first thought is a phone fast during certain parts of the day to be more present to what I am called to do. You know, St. Gianna's whole "make holy the present moment," bit. I would love to say I am going to read, but with my mind grasping big thoughts like a sieve holds water, I think that will be a bit much this year. My goal is to be more constant with taking time to sit in silence, maybe with some music, and reflect on my devotional I started in January with not much constancy. The kids . . . well, we will have to wing it a little bit I think. I may resurrect the paper chain from years past with ways for them to Fast, Pray, & Give . . . and learn a little about the saints. OR . . . maybe reality will set in and my biggest goal will be to lose my ish a lot less on a normal day. Maybe. 

That be it from these parts for now! I'd love you to keep us in your prayers as we are still facing some huge decisions and transitions in the next few months. 

Now go see what Kelly Knows over at This Ain't The Lyceum, and what the rest of the world has been up to while I'm deep in the ocean...

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

When Life Demands a Cave

It's a new year, and somehow the propensity to write has returned. Given the gaping lapse of posts in November and December, it's clear that my writing mojo has been missing in action. While life has handed me an abundance upon which to reflect (some leading me deeper into the mystery of the heart of Christ, some making me want to lay down in defeat), the words just wouldn't come when I sat down to write. Grand feelings and emotion. Zero capacity to express them in coherent, non-Neanderthal language. "Unga dunga" just didn't seem to cut it for a post.

For those who don't follow me on Facebook or Instagram, let me catch you up. I'm sorry if what is to follow is more of a narrative of events and less reflective. I'm still truly working through all that has happened in the last month or so. Last we left off I was battling a wicked first trimester with little Jojo. Yes, Jojo! We found out early through blood tests I had done that we are indeed having another baby boy...and he wasn't shy about showing himself at the most recent ultrasound. Meet baby Jojo:

(No. I won't share the other snapshot. That's for his baby book later.)
So there I was, sicker than I've been with either of my other two and utterly exhausted upon any activity. That was enough to keep me away from writing, sadly. Unfortunately, that was not all life would throw at me. 

The night before Thanksgiving, we got a call from my mom's neighbor that she hadn't been  able to reach her all day and that she wasn't answering her door though the television was on. Long story short, we arrived to find my mom on the bathroom floor (the Hubs went in first while I stayed by the car with the kids). She was responsive but not entirely coherent. After we called an ambulance and insisted she go to the ER, we found out she had a massive hemorrhagic stroke, and without surgery, would die within a day. 

Eventually consenting to the surgery (that's right - she refused twice first), we spent  much of that night in the surgical waiting room. Much of our Thanksgiving and the two weeks to follow would be spent in ICU waiting for her to regain full consciousness. 

That was a very long two weeks, friends. There were moments where I didn't think she would make it. There were moments where I wondered if we made the right decision to keep pestering her to have the surgery (we did). I am so blessed to work for an organization that let me take whatever time I needed to be with her. I am forever grateful that my job was never on the line. I know not everyone has that certainty.

She finally made it out of ICU and into inpatient rehab, but she was definitely in bad shape. They didn't keep her long since there was no plan of her returning to her home. I was so overwhelmed with the fast pace at which I was needing to learn what our options were and the gravity of the decisions I was going to be making. 

Christmas Day looked a little different this year.
The kids aren't quite sure what to make of it all.

Mom never wanted to be in a facility in her old age. Independent or dead. That was her plan. Of course, we all know how our plans work out. Since her discharge from the hospital, she's been in sub-acute rehab and receiving intense therapy. She is improving, albeit slowly.  Her mind, though, seems somewhat gone, which is not surprising given the severity of her stroke. Having a tennis ball size clot form in your brain after a bleed is bound to have an impact. Mom now lives in a world where people from her past visit her (like my dad and her dad, both of whom have been gone for quite some time). I'm not sure if we call it dementia as no one has actually diagnosed her as such. I don't know if it is permanent, but it's the one constant that doesn't seem to improve since she woke up. 

We are now diving head first into getting our house ready to put on the market so we can move somewhere that opens up the possibility of mom coming to live with us if she is able. With a new baby on the way and the possibility of having mom living with us, I can't dwell too long on how different my life may look in the next six months or it becomes entirely overwhelming. 

The one thing that people keep reminding me is to take one day at a time. That's a challenge for a rabid planner like me who'd be entirely comfortable with giving God my life plan and having Him rubber stamp it. Yet it seems everywhere I look there is a reminder that He will carry me...carry us. He gives us grace that is sufficient for the day - no more, no less. In this year of mercy, He shows me over and over how tender and new His mercy is - not just every morning, but in every moment and each minute detail. Nothing is too small, and nothing is too big. Just when I begin to despair and sink into the darkness of the situation, He brings me hope and light. 

I don't know how all this will turn out. While mom is improving, I don't know if it will be enough for her to be able to live with us safely. I pray that's the case, and that God would have mercy on her too. I do know that the road isn't going to get easier anytime soon. There are legal issues to contend with to be able to provide her with the best care, and there is just the reality that my energy only lasts so long. I am an only child and can only do so much. I have to rely on the expertise and kindness of others to help us through, to be there for her when I cannot (and let go of the guilt of not being able to be there at all times). I have to let go of the guilt coming from her emotions of boredom and loneliness. I have to remember my vocation in all this and give myself to my own family, two of whom are too young to fully grasp why mommy leaves so much. 

We will all be okay in the end. I know this. I trust Him in this. While last year was my year of empty with God, this year may well be the year of surrender and trust. I cannot do this. He can. This certainty carries me through the waves of grief, exhaustion, and despair when the darkness pulls me under. 

I cannot, You can. It's all Yours, Lord. It is all Yours. She belongs to You, we all belong to You. Have mercy on us. Give us strength for the day and allow us to rest in You. All is Yours. The good, the bad, and the ugly. All. Lead the way and let us follow it instead of running in frenzied circles. You alone see all as it should be. Make it so. 

I hope the holiday season in your own families was far less eventful, and that the new year brings with it much joy and hope for what is to come. I'm back for now, though I make few promises about the regularity or content of my writing until some of these uncertainties are settled. Thank you for keeping me company through all of this despite my absence.

With love and blessings from our family to yours,

Monday, January 4, 2016

Why We Love Downton Abbey

The final season of Downton has hit the airwaves here in the US, and judging by my Facebook newsfeed, we are enamored (albeit a little melancholy that this will be its final run). Sure enough, the premiere of Season 6 did not disappoint, though the hour flew by much too quickly leaving me wanting more. I suppose that is the hallmark of a good show, though, right?

As I sat in bed wide awake at 4:30 am after snuggles with the schoolgirl who was up way too early, I hopped on Facebook to see more reactions to Downton from the western time zones. It seems Downton has our hearts. Why?  

As I lay here on the edge of consciousness it occurred to me how different Downton really is. In a world of Kardashians and "reality" TV, quick laughs, and cheap thrills, the pomp and circumstance of the Granthams draws us in to its beauty and grandeur. It reminds us of a time, however flawed by its social inequities, when honor and dignity were not forgotten. It draws us in to the goodness that exists even in the murkiness of scandal and injustice. It woos us with a reminder of what entertainment there is in witty dialogue, and befriends us much like our favorite novels come to life. I can't be the only one who waits in anticipation for the next great quip by the Dowager, right?

Downton doesn't solve the problems of our times. It doesn't even hide the problems of theirs, really. We love it because it points us to greater truths about ourselves - the darkness and redemption of the human heart, the struggle and joys of learning to love and live well, the hope of overcoming our greatest foibles, our thirst for justice and equality among us. I mean who doesn't want a season where Anna and Bates can finally live in peace? 

Certainly, in many ways, Downton provides us an escape from the current times. Yet, the beauty of the show is that it doesn't simply ignore serious issues. We have seen the characters we love (and love to hate) deal with issues of class, religion, sexuality, gender roles, grief and loss. Through all of this, it seems that there have never been very clear cut answers, but as they muddle through trying to learn from it all, the characters for the most part have never evaded the responsibility of their decisions or glossed over the gravity of serious circumstances. Yet, in the end, life seems to go on, just as it does for us. 

I suppose all that is left now is to enjoy the remaining episodes and wait to complete our own home collection of Downton Abbey so it can live on whenever we are in need of a fix. Grab your tea and scones and let me know if you will be joining us!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

3 Ways to Share the Wealth (and the Love!) This Advent

It's Giving Tuesday, so I thought I would pop in with a quick list of a few of my favorite organizations with which to share the wealth (and the love!).


Yes, I know. It seems a little self-serving since I work for the organization. However, let me tell you that the work this organization does and the service it provides is sorely lacking in our area. We house up to four homeless, pregnant mamas for up to a year while attempting to help them heal, know & grow closer to Christ, eliminate barriers to self-sufficiency, and learn to be Godly mothers. Four women. Four. Combine that with a couple other organizations who are engaged in similar work, and my guess is that there are a total of less than 20 beds/rooms for women who find themselves in such a situation. To give some perspective, one winter recently we received over 200 calls for placement. There is a great need that goes unmet. These are the least of these; these women are the face of Christ. Please consider adding Mary's Mantle to your Advent/Christmas giving, and to your prayers as well.

As far as organizations go, this one is always near the top of my list. To know that there is an organization out there dedicated to conducting research and providing medical care for children free of charge to families does this mama's heart good. You can always give a donation in someone's name outright, but if you feel the need to have a little somethin' somethin' to give in addition, check out the St. Jude's gift shop. I won't lie - I kind of have my eye on the Polka Dot Mug though the last thing I need is another mug. I do love their dog and lady bug lunch bags for the kids, though! Plus, 100% of the profits go to the organization. 


"Caritas is the helping hand of the Church – reaching out to the poor, vulnerable and excluded, regardless of race or religion, to build a world based on justice and fraternal love." Though you won't see it broadcast on their homepage, so as not to take away from the multitude of needs across the globe, the Syrian humanitarian crisis is the largest emergency for Caritas. Even Pope Francis has mentioned the work they have been doing to care for the displaced within Syria as a means of building trust and peace. You can support their work throughout the world and learn more about their initiatives on their website

Giving Tuesday specifically focuses on monetary support, but there are always ways to support your favorite organizations beyond the dollars and cents. Coming slowly to the blog as the Year of Mercy begins, I will be highlighting different ways in which you and your families can begin to make the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy part of the fabric of your family life.

Until then, get out there and love 'em like Jesus!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On the Disappearance of Joy & the Weight of Guilt

This usually full of opinions, loudmouth on screen has been unusually quiet as of late. It's been almost a month since my last post in fact. My apologies. While it is not unusual for the blog to go silent occasionally, this time around it has not been due to my terrible abilities to keep a journal going that dates as far back as the sixth grade. Dear Diary and I did not have a steady relationship, but we have overcome our differences. 

For those who have been following along on Facebook or Instagram, I have had a very rough first trimester. Beyond the physical toll of nausea and fatigue, this pregnancy has led me into a battle with some deeper emotional and spiritual demons. I haven't been able to pray - really pray - and while I'm not sure we could classify it as clinical depression, there have definitely been some very dark emotions clouding my senses. 

It is sadly not the tortured artist kind of battling of demons. There is nothing creative that has come out of those moments. I am so thankful for the prayers of those who have been holding me up through this time. There is no doubt that that God has been working through them to lift me up and out for air - whether a card or a text sent at just the right time, an encouraging word about my writing or art, or just a hello from an old friend. 

The only thing I can liken these last few weeks to is what it must have felt like to be tortured by dementors (of Harry Potter fame). It is as though any joy, any ability to feel, has been sucked out of me. While I am keenly aware of postpartum depression and its destructive forces, I've never experienced the effects on the antepartum side of things. I say the following with this caveat - we are happy to be having another child, even if we weren't quite expecting it. And yet...I cannot rejoice. It simply hasn't been in me. Instead, the voice of the enemy keeps screaming in the darkest places.

I am fairly certain that I am failing at all things motherhood and wifely. 
The house is a disaster.
I rarely cook homemade meals anymore.
I'm barely functional during the day and pretty much out of commission after dinner.
There is no desire for writing or creating - it seems pointless.
I have no desire to hold a conversation with most people. 
In fact, I'd rather just hole up somewhere and crawl under a blanket and thank you to leave me alone.
In the darkest moments, I am fairly certain that I am a waste of space.

As I spiral downward into these dark places, I am so thankful that over the last several years I have internalized the voice of the One who tells me the Truth about who I am. While the joy doesn't return, there is the knowledge that the above are all lies. All of it. Well, most of it. The house is a disaster and I rarely cook. I am barely functional. Ok, I know that last part about being a waste of space - I know that isn't true. In fact, I have a feeling this child will be another very important piece of my salvation story. Darkness doesn't fight when it's not threatened, right?

And still, when I remember that all of those feelings are lies, the guilt creeps in.
Guilt for not rejoicing over this new little life with all my heart when there are so many whose hearts continue to break under the weight of loss and infertility. 
Guilt for having thought we were done having children and being okay with that - good Catholics don't do that, right? 
Guilt for closing myself off to others so I can lick my own wounds (not literally, of course). 
Guilt over not being present enough when I am at home.
Guilt over not giving completely of myself when I am at work.
Guilt over having to work, but also over wanting to be home more.
Guilt for dreaming about future endeavors that aren't centered around my children.
Guilt for all the extra things the husband has had to do because I'm not functioning.
So much the weight of guilt.

The darkness of disappearing joy. The crushing weight of guilt. This is not the picture painted when you hear about motherhood and pregnancy. These are supposed to be months of joyous anticipation. What happens when those expectations don't materialize? More guilt. More darkness. More self-imposed isolation. Then there is the pressure of the public face. When people know you, and you are a live-out-loud Catholic, there is no room for doubt and darkness. Being open to life must be all joy all the time. It is exhausting.

I finally researched antepartum depression because I know what I am feeling isn't the same as my last two pregnancies, no matter how much the Hubs thinks it is. While the fatigue and nausea are a constant, the emotional turmoil is very different. In reading different articles and trying to assess whether this is just hormonal or something more serious, I realized that part of what I needed to do was to stop putting on a public face. Yes, I am a live-out-loud Catholic. Yes, I will happily accept the little lives God grants me. But. . . yes, there are struggles along the road to that acceptance.

I realized that I never admitted to myself that I really thought we were done having children. I've talked about my mixed emotions at finding out about our newest little one, but there was a great release when I finally today admitted that there was a large part of me that did not want to be pregnant again. Yet, I cannot wait to meet this little bundle of love. 

I've realized that I need to be more open about what I am feeling with my husband, my friends, and my doctor. So far, no one seems to think this is anything more than hormonal, and that is a little frustrating. I want to be sure we are watching for something deeper since this feels so much different. 

I am coming to realize that I also have to let go of the guilt and just muddle through this time as best as I can. No, I won't get it all right. Yes, I'm going to drop the ball on more than a few things most likely. I'll have to rely on the grace and forgiveness of friends and family. My hope is that we will all survive despite the failures. 

Finally, but most importantly, I have to keep my eye on Christ. One of my favorite things about Catholicism is that we have a whole army of warriors to help me through this, and a treasury of prayers that I can turn to when the prayer of my heart doesn't want to flow. The Sacraments feed my spirit when I feel distant from anything else. I am not alone in this battle, even when I forget to, or cannot, pray. I know I have a community lifting me up to the One who will pray through me and for me. 

Please don't think I write this post for sympathy or pity. Partially, it is an apology for not having kept up with the writing, and for dropping the ball if I had promised you a post on something. Partially, it is an invitation to a conversation about dropping the facade of perfection and being open about our struggles to live out our faith, even in moments that are supposed to be easy and happy. It is so hard as a faithful Catholic to admit the failures of our hearts and spirits as we do the work of accepting the will of God in our lives. 

Know that you are not alone. Know that you are loved. Know that there is no shame in admitting the struggle. The battle is real, and we cannot fight it alone. When my joy disappears, when my guilt begins to crush me, it is you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, whose prayers and love bring light back into my life. There is no shame, only love. 

Until next time, let's lift one another up out of darkness and into the light of Christ's love.


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Monday, October 12, 2015

The Diary of Captain Obvious: Why This Pregnancy Is Different

The husband and I did the math last night as I was slowly walking up the stairs. There will be almost four years between Jude and the Sweet Pea. Four years since I have gone down this path. Four years since I have nursed, done night feedings, recovered from the wounds of pregnancy. Four years.

Truth be told, because it has been so long between pregnancies, we kind of thought we were done. Let me explain. We were never done being open to another child or children. We just thought that perhaps God’s plan for our family had seen its fruition. That was a long time of being open with no babies to show for it. Call it secondary infertility. Call it exhaustion. Call it what you will. We were neither happy nor sad about it. While we talked about wanting a large family before being married, we were more committed to whatever size family God was leading us to have. Plus, having two children not quite two years apart brings a new appreciation of what it might realistically mean to have a large family. Either way, we have always remained open to the will of God in the situation.

When we were first married, the first baby was like another milestone we raced to cross, especially since we married a little later in life. Both grandmas were slightly disappointed there was no honeymoon baby, but I didn’t want to talk cycles with them at the time. Truthfully I was still learning all that myself! Then after our first came along, I distinctly remember a night sitting on her nursery floor rocking her back to sleep when I heard very clearly the whisper of God tell me I would have a son. So when the second pregnancy came along right after she turned one, I already knew he would be a boy. Sure enough, he is three now.

Since then God has been kind of quiet. No more middle of the night whispers. No aching in my heart for someone else to complete our family. Every now and then, there would be a sense that we should have another girl. Along with that sense came also the thought of adoption - from China to be exact. That door never quite opened though. God’s voice of recent had not been a clear whisper.

Now here we are expecting our third, and while neither of us heard the booming voice of God, neither of us were surprised. We both had a sense upon seeing that pregnancy test that this was the plan all along. We would begin to dream about never having to buy diapers again, and God would laugh and offer us a chance to try cloth one more time.

Things are different this time around. (Captain Obvious, am I!) I am forty, and while that isn’t knocking on death’s door, my body is definitely different. I don’t remember being so constantly exhausted with the first two pregnancies. (The husband might have a different memory, of course.) I didn’t have any trepidation overall about childbirth. After experiencing complications with my last delivery, now I am anxious about whether there will be a repeat performance. While with my first I had a dream she was actually a cat in a buggy stroller, this time my dreams more vividly reveal my fears of miscarriage because as my support network has grown, so has the number of women I know who have suffered the loss of a child. Enter in also a little guilt knowing the growing number of women who are heartbroken that God has not answered their aching desire for more children.

That’s the thing, though. Light and shadow play together, always. The beautiful part of this pregnancy that was missing for my last two is the large number of women who make up my village. Some of them I know in person, and many of them are a name on a screen. That makes little difference in the connections and friendships that have been formed with my sisters in Christ, my sisters in motherhood. There are now more women I can turn to without fear of judgment whenever I have these crazy dreams which may or may not involve birthing a baby at 27 weeks that looked slightly like a cross between Simcha’s youngest and a manatee with two bottom teeth. (This is NO reflection on your children, Simcha – I promise!)

This baby will be prayed for in a way that the other two did not ever experience (but reap now, of course). These mamas I know will pray me through every fear, will lavish my family with God’s immense and abundant love. I know, because they lavish ME with that love. I have an army of faithful mamas at my side who all choose to parent differently, who have birthed their babies at home and via c-sections like me, who have known grief and felt great joy, who are breastfeeding champions and who mix a mean bottle of formula, who stay at home and who work out of the home, all of whom love their vocation and are struggling through just like me, desperately trying to find joy in the ordinary to make our families’ lives extraordinary.

While the shadow side of this community includes knowing more of the tragedies that continue to pierce a mother’s heart, there is the overwhelming comfort of having beside me women who have walked the road before me and continue to walk it with me. These women offer their joy, their wisdom, their patience, their encouragement, their laughter, and their tough love when it is needed. I have been able to share my crazy to the tune of, “What? You too?,” in ways that befuddle my husband, because he only knows crazy through my eyes. (Sorry dear, there is a whole cadre of crazy out there – you might want to find their husbands and grab a beer.) I have more confidence that I can do this, over the hill or not. 

There is something beautiful that happens when women drop their facades and defenses. We become sisters. The mommy wars fade out to the understanding that each mom faces her own battle, because there’s nothing the devil wants more than for us to fail in our vocation. I know that it is his voice that continues to feed my fears in an effort to place distance between my heart and the joy of a new child. I know it is his voice that continues to whisper to me all my failings as a wife and mother to keep me from embracing my vocation with confidence. Sadly for that dastardly devil, I have more voices around me now that continue to remind me of the One Voice that matters. The One who tells me that I am never alone, that He will be with me until the end of the age, that He has come to give me life in abundance, that with Him all things are possible, the One who reminds me that His mercy is new every morning – every. single. morning.

So while it is sobering to realize we haven't done this in almost four years, I am also looking forward to this pregnancy in a new way - with an even larger family of sisters to share in my joys and sorrows, come what may. Because these women have shared with me their ups, downs, and in betweens, I know now that there is no shame, no judgement in reaching out for help, for making the best decisions I know how to make for the good of my family. The struggle is real, but many hands and hearts make light the burden . . . and keep me focused on the joy that each life brings.

Until next time, let's keep our hearts open and love the world like Jesus!

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Friday, October 9, 2015

SQT: The One With Link-Tober, Maternal Insanity, Toddler Discoveries, and Young Theologians

I'm working through a little "all-day" sickness to pop in for a little Seven Quick Takes since it is Link-Tober after all, and I have some swag in one of the giveaway packages over at Kelly's place.

Our little sweet pea is now about the size of a blueberry. Too bad either of those make me want to gag right now. Whoever coined the term morning sickness was out of his mind. Let's go with "all-day" sickness. Also, someone please bring me one of those noodle packets with herb sauce or something. Sadly by the time it gets here, it, too, may make me retch. Lo siento and all that jazz.

I know you are all dying to know all the pregnancy crazy from these parts, right? I'm telling you - I have lost my mind. I am thankful to know I'm not alone in this, but I am pretty sure I've gone crazy. First rambling middle of the night thought: so...I'm 40... the chances of twins increases with age... what if I AM having twins, but one is ectopic and one is uterine?!? how will they save my babies?
Take two: Hmmm... I feel like I'm a little bigger this time around and pretty tender... sure, I know with each pregnancy that is a possibility... but I'm 40 and the chance of multiples increases ... what if I'm having all.the.babies and will be the next octomom?!? 

So there it is. Pregnancy at 40 in my head leads to insanity. Moving on...

The kids are excited to have a baby sibling, who they are certain is a girl. She shall be named Bubblegum. Or Elsa. If by chance they are wrong and it is a boy, Jude is fairly certain his name shall be Mickey. He already is referring to the baby as such. Jude also believes he has a baby bird in his belly. 

In non-gestating news, Amazon Handmade went live this week and I have a little shop there. It's got limited items for now as I am figuring it all out (still). But, I've spiffed up my logo . . . ok, let's be honest, the shop now has a completely new logo. You can find me on Amazon Handmade, Etsy, and if you are local, at the Guardian Angels Mom2Mom sale next Saturday (October 17). It will be my first vendor table! 

By the way, if you head over to Link-Tober at Kelly's, you can find my giveaway item as well as an Etsy discount code for the month of October!

Things I have wanted to write about, but just haven't had the energy to clickity clack on out over here: the aftermath of Pope Francis, if the world were more like Cheers, why I don't want to be an ostrich, more on motherhood and pregnancy, some thoughts on St. Paul, and more reflections. You can wait with baited breath. Ok, fine. Regular breath will do just swimmingly.

My sweet Gia got her first school award this week. She was named an Angel of the Month. This bright little girl, who lives in her head a tremendous amount of the time, was not entirely thrilled with the honor. At dinner, I asked why she was a little upset. Poor girl was having an existential crisis. "Mama, angels aren't HUMAN! If I'm an angel of the month, am I not human anymore?" Sigh. Perhaps a future theologian in the making. How many of her could fit on a pinhead do you think? 

The boy is now up from his nap, so we'll call this the Almost Seven Quick Takes. Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

An example from earlier in the week of things
it takes the toddler less than 10 seconds to do.
Independent bathroom use vs. unrolled toilet paper.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum! Win free stuff during Link-Tober!

PS - Kelly, if my tagging was done consistently (and let's face it, that may not be the case) it looks like this is Quick Takes Lucky No. 69!

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Little Announcement From a Pumpkin Patch

If you haven't already seen it on Facebook or Instagram, we will be adding another little set of hands and feet to pitter patter they way around these parts. 

Baby is due late May, so I am in the thick of the first trimester. Between a baby who is killing me softly during my prime writing hours, and suffering from Pope Francis withdrawal (or as Kate put it, PopePartumDepression), I am trying to get into a new rhythm of writing and creating. 

There is more to come. I promise. It may just come more slowly.

Until then, keep lovin' 'em like Jesus, friends!

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Talking about Pink On This Feast of Michaelmas (Michael-what?)

"I began to be afraid you would never come back again. People did say you meant to quit the place entirely at Michaelmas; but, however, I hope it is not true. A great many changes have happened in the neighbourhood, since you went away. Miss Lucas is married and settled. And one of my own daughters. I suppose you have heard of it; indeed, you must have seen it in the papers. It was in The Times and The Courier, I know; though it was not put in as it ought to be. It was only said, 'Lately, George Wickham, Esq. to Miss Lydia Bennet,' without there being a syllable said of her father, or the place where she lived, or anything. It was my brother Gardiner's drawing up too, and I wonder how he came to make such an awkward business of it. Did you see it?"

Bingley replied that he did, and made his congratulations. Elizabeth dared not lift up her eyes. How Mr. Darcy looked, therefore, she could not tell.
Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice 
How could I pass up starting a post with an excerpt from Pride & Prejudice? While so many of my friends are floored that this is not my number one favorite book of all time, it is definitely a staple of my reading (and re-reading) library! Additionally, it is perhaps the first time I was ever introduced to the feast of Michaelmas. 

Michael-what, you ask? Quite literally, the Mass of St. Michael. Or in the current calendar of the Church (liturgical calendar) the feast of the Archangels (Michael, Raphael, & Gabriel). We call on St. Michael in particular for protection against evil.

For more on what Michaelmas is, and how you can celebrate it in your home, visit Haley over at Carrots For Michaelmas (I mean it's right in her blog title, right?). 

What I find particularly interesting about this year's Michaelmas is that it falls squarely after the visit of Pope Francis in the United States, and on a day that Planned Parenthood has chosen to declare a "pink out day" in support of its organization. I don't normally write about the more controversial topics here, but I can't help but notice a rather ironic choice of dates. On the feast of St. Michael, who defends us against the devil, Planned Parenthood has chosen to hail their battle cry. 

If you have been under a rock or uninterested over the last several months, Planned Parenthood has been embroiled in controversy after a series of videos exposed some rather stomach turning practices by the clinics. Even if you believe that Planned Parenthood provides essential services, these video are hard to ignore. Yet, for many, that is exactly what they have been doing. Justifying. Calling into question the method of obtaining the video (which I'm not a fan of, admittedly). Dodging the real, essential issue. Are these babies actually babies? Should ANYONE be treated so callously or seen as a profit margin? What if they were puppies - would we be more outraged? Why not root out the evil so the good work can remain untainted?

I have to admit I did not fully watch the video. I cannot. My stomach and soul cannot handle it. I am not burying my head in the sand, however. They do exist, and the practices they expose if even half is true . . . the practices are evil. We must start to call a spade a spade, or what kind of world are we leaving for our children? 

On this Feast of Michaelmas, while much of the world will "pink out," I am thinking back to the words and actions of Pope Francis. While it is tempting to go into combat with Planned Parenthood, I wonder if instead our response shouldn't be to love more - to love better. In the end, this isn't just about abortion. It is about the value of life itself. No one is a commodity. No one is disposable, part or whole. No one.

So this Michaelmas, I invite St. Michael to do the dirty work, and I'm going to stick with the love. I say we stand for the dignity of ALL life - from conception until natural death - by our words, but more importantly, by our actions. Take a meal to the hungry. Help a young, pregnant woman find strength. Stop talking about others as though THEY are our enemy, regardless of their actions. 

Here is an image if you want to "Pink Up" in love. Let's show the world what we are FOR, instead of always barking about what we stand against. Love one another . . . all anothers. If this post angers you, are you open to a discussion? Please, don't just walk away - let's chat. Let us look at each other in love and get to the heart of our disagreement. Maybe we won't change each other's minds, but at least we can say we listened to each other, right? 

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