Thursday, March 19

St. Joseph, pray for us!

Today is the feast day of St. Joseph, foster father of our Lord and a saint we regularly reach out to in our family.  I feel that although I don't know him as well as I know Our Lady, I was reminded in this morning's reflection of his obedience to God.

"When given instructions, Joseph unquestioningly and humbly believed and obeyed. Limited by his scope of knowledge of what was to come and regardless of the outcome, Joseph chose to obey." (from today's devotion at Blessed is She)

I woke up this morning and read this reflection before I invited the kids to come downstairs for the day. I'd already had a rough morning; Caeli woke me up violently screaming in my face for a reason unbeknownst to me, so we got off to a rough start.  (Truthfully, she's just started this new scream of hers in the past week since we've night weaned.  I'd like to think it's unrelated but part of me wonders...)

After I read the reflection, I vowed to obey today without questioning God, as a sacrifice to offer up for dear friends who are in need of prayer right now (one just diagnosed with stomach cancer, would you please pray for her and her family?).  I had also wanted to create a dinner feast for my husband, on this day, in honor of the patron of holy fathers and in honor of the wonderful father Ryan is to our children.

My intentions were good but unfortunately things didn't get better for me.  Crazy hormones left me feeling like the worst mother in the world and I felt crippled. I was not going to be productive woman I had planned to be.  Some mornings I just need to turn on an audiobook and retire to my bedroom to be as alone as possible, and this was one of those days.

But Ryan had scheduled a visit to the local parish so the three of us could receive the sacrament of penance, and we met him up there.  It took everything I had to make that happen.  After absolution and a lengthy (well-deserved) penance, the boys handed me some flowers and Ryan smiled, took me aside, and told me I had the afternoon off and handed me the keys to his truck.  He piled the kids in the car and took off, and just like that I was alone until 7 pm.  Six whole hours.

On the verge of tears I drove off and devised my plan for the day. Lunch, errand running, and some quiet time.  It all worked out perfectly and I came home to a clean house, happy kids in their pajamas, and a yummy dinner ready for me.

This guy.  On the day I wanted to honor him.  There just aren't words.

Tuesday, March 17

Flying Babies!

Beth asked me to take a picture of her while she jumped out of the swing, and this is what happened!

Wednesday, March 4

My Humanity

I've been listening to a lot of podcasts lately.  Ryan and I both recently got iPhone 6s and it's made listening to podcasts really easy because the app is already installed.  (I guess I could have figured this out on my old iPhone, a 4s, but it wasn't really something I thought to do!)  We both found a few that we like and it's been nice listening to them while I'm working in the kitchen or in the car.

I'm listening to Quiddity, The Read Aloud Revival, and Catholic Stuff You Should Know mostly, though I have Fountains of Carrots, Audio Sancto, Fr. John Riccardo, and a couple of other random homeschooling ones waiting for me.  All of these are actually for me only, the kids would be bored with them and sometimes they talk about not-so-kid-friendly topics or use a couple of words I'd rather not hear in our home. ;-)  I've yet to find any that are FOR kids- any suggestions?

Last night Ryan and I were talking about what we've been hearing and learning, and I said a few things that he thought I should blog about.  So here it goes.

I've always struggled with community, for as long as I can remember.  As an elementary student, middle school student, and especially as a high school student, I was jealous of girls who had best friends.  I attended 4 different elementary schools, and by the time I reached the fourth one in fifth grade all of the kids knew each other already and had already formed their group of friends.  I still remember struggling to find my place as we all grew into middle school students.  I did have a few good friends but... It's hard to be a group of 3 best friends- someone always gets left out and it was always me.

Moving into high school I thought would be a fresh start.  But I became a person who had a lot of friends in many different groups of people, because I was that kind of person.  Even as involved as I was in band, I never really found my close-knit group of friends because they had already been established as a group before we even entered high school.  I always felt left out. 

In college I was still sort of the same way, dipping my toes into the waters of many different ponds, but I was able to become close to two of my three roommates because we actually lived together.  They're still women to, to this day, I would be sure they'd be there for me in a heartbeat if I needed them.  I don't stay as close to them as I'd like to be but I still love them dearly!

Then I grew up and got married.  All of my friends who were guys suddenly wouldn't be my friends anymore- and I guess rightly so.  But they were some of my closest friends in college and I was up a creek without any good girlfriends.  I still remember finding out about a gathering of some girlfriends who excluded me because I was "that old married woman" now and they thought I wouldn't want to see them. I had Ryan- and really in my heart I knew that he's all I needed.

Having Beth opened up new avenues of making friends.  I then became a "young married with a kid" and that grew quickly into "kids."  I got involved at church and made friends with some new-in-town neighbors.   It was good for awhile until the neighbors moved, we moved, and I fell into a slump of postpartum depression that crippled me and basically brought my introvertedness out in full force.

Over the years as I've grown and changed, tried to find friends in a culture that I don't belong in, I've been challenged. I bring baggage of not feeling like I belong, and I've hidden the part of me that I thought were unacceptable. 

But one podcast was talking about humility.  How we have to expose our faults without gloating about them.  I feel like it's a tricky fine line because I want to expose and explore my life, my past, my feelings... But I don't want to glorify my faults to the point of making others think I only talk about me.  I've really struggled with that too, feeling too self-centered, so that's always something I think about.

But the other part talked about community, and how to have a successful community, members must be vulnerable with each other.  I like that word, because it conveys honesty.  Members- friends- must be honest and true with each other, be willing to admit our faults, because to hide them would be to lie in a way.  I think of it like when I whip my house into shape super-fast before someone arrives because I don't want them to think I'm a failure of a housewife for not having a clean toilet.  It's partly because I want them to sit on a clean toilet (haha), but also partly because it's embarrassing to admit I can't do it all.

So we have to be honest and vulnerable...But we have to be humble and make sure we're not making it all about ourselves.  This is the part that gets tricky for me.  I am currently working on being honest and vulnerable, and trying to cultivate community for the sake of my children.  But I think due to my past and problems cultivating true community, I have an unflattering quality of wanting to be pursued, otherwise feeling left out.  This is probably why so many dating relationships failed to work out, and why Ryan won my heart!  But now it's not just about me.  It's about our children.  And due to our dietary restrictions, I feel like we get left out more frequently that I'm comfortable with.  It breaks my heart to the point of tears thinking that my sweet girl may have to travel the same lonely road as me because of her diet.  It's so absurd that FOOD of all things, what usually brings people together, would bring us apart from people.  But it's happened before and I'm sure it will happen again.

I guess I'm ranting now but my heart's on fire and it kind of hurts.  Ryan pointed out that of all the people in the world, the five that need me most are here within 20 feet of me at all times.  And they pursue me around the clock. ;-)  Still, there's that desire that I can't seem to quench.  I told Ryan that in the past, I've thought this was a cross given to me to carry all the days of my life.  Or that maybe it's that God-shaped hole that I've been trying to fill with people instead of Him. 

As we prepared for bed last night, I wanted to read a quick meditation from Blessed is She, and it nearly made me cry.  It pretty much edified the entire conversation Ryan and I had that evening. 

"I try to be real, I try to be honest, but in a world where we can easily project on to people a life that is perfect, dreamy and put together, portraying the real mess of life isn’t easy and has to be intentional . . . it’s humbling. It is important that in this world full of human beings, we do not lose what truly makes us beautiful . . . our humanity."

I know I am imperfect and in need of His mercy and grace.  But all of these years, I don't think I've been allowing the same grace to others in my life.  Yes, I always try to assume the best- that the person who cut me off really has somewhere important to be, or that we didn't get invited somewhere for a good reason.  But I think I've expected everyone else to have it together and of course truly, none of us really do.   I've expected them to know what I want, but how could they if I've never articulated it? 

So here's my beautiful mess of a life, my brokenness, my insecurities.  Because it hurts to grow; muscles have to break before they become stronger.  I'm emotionally sore and I'm fine with that, because it means I'm growing.

Tuesday, February 17

Valentine's Week

Well, I've been out for a week or two.  Caeli and Jack seemed to have gotten over their illnesses but this mama is still tired.  Jack was down for about 4 days with a throw-up/nausea bug, and it took Caeli a good 8 or 9 days to start acting totally like herself again.  But as of a few days ago, her snotty nose is back with a vengeance!  She's mostly acting like herself, but with a cough and runny nose.  Which means she doesn't sleep very well... Which means mama is sleepy!

She did manage to have a few good days in between colds though.  This was on the Monday before Valentine's Day, after a little get-together with other homeschooling families for a quick Valentine exchange.  The weather was an unusual 80 degrees and the afternoon was gorgeous.  I had to take my babies to the park.

The next day was also nice, a little cool in the morning but Beth had science class at the museum so I took the boys and Caeli to the zoo.  Caeli got a little too close to a chimpanzee for her comfort, and the boys had a great time running around with their two friends.

Thursday we had another Valentine exchange at co-op, then PawPaw stopped by for a quick visit!  He was in Texas for business and chose to spend the night with us before flying home.  When we got home from co-op, the kids dragged him outside and they played games with him for a couple of hours.  

Friday we had Pickwick and Blue Knights.  Beth was the last girl left sewing a red heart to give away as a gift.

and the boys had a lesson on St. Valentine at the park.

And that night the kids had their first soccer practice!

Saturday morning, Jack's game was at 8 am.  Caeli had a rough night the night before so I stayed home with her, but they all came home bearing good news of Jack scoring a goal, and they also brought Uncle Dan and Cousin Evan!  We were able to visit for a couple of hours before going out to Beth's noon game and Luke's 2 pm game.

After soccer was over we came home to get ready for our annual family dinner at P.F. Changs.  This was our 9th year to take our children their for a family date, as usual we all dressed up!  It was busier than normal this year, probably because it was on a Saturday, but we got in for dinner around 5 pm.  They stuck us in a huge corner booth, which is perfect for us!

The day didn't end there!  Around 6:30 we headed over to our family dance with some friends, and yet another Valentine exchange.   We arrived a little late and had to leave early- we were all exhausted!  Unfortunately we didn't get to stay late enough to dance, and the kids were disappointed, but Ryan and I could hardly keep our eyes open after such a long day!

It was an unusually beautiful weather week, which helped keep my February Blues away, but it was busy.  I've concluded that Valentine's Day, with the exception of PF Changs, is soooo overrated.  I'm happy to not cut another heart for a year!  And all the candy and sweets!  It's just too much for me!  But the kids enjoy it... sigh... the things I do for them. ;-)

Monday, February 2

Sick Babies and a Long Weekend

(Deep breath.  Another sip of wine.)

My poor Caeli got a snotty nose last Wednesday, the day I drove in to the city to visit our parish's home school co-op and meet with our priest.  I had lunch with a friend and she pointed out Caeli's nose- one of those "things" that drive me nuts is a snotty-nosed baby- and of course Caeli's was so gross!  She got worse on Thursday, and so I brought her in to our family doctor on Friday.  A swab confirmed RSV and a peek in her ears confirmed a double ear infection.  No wonder she had seemed so lethargic and miserable.  Her fever hadn't been too high but it was enough to make her seem so very sick. 

Dozing in and out of sleep.
 We treated her ears with ibuprofen to lessen the swelling and of course that lowered her fever as well, but her nose and cough continued to progress.  She and I stayed home from a birthday party on Saturday (the weather was a little too cool for a sick baby) while Ryan and the kids got to go have some fun!

Sunday was a big day for our parish- the consecration of the new chancery!  The day started early with Sunday school (we were late!), high mass with two Cardinals in attendance (super cool), then lunch and playtime on church grounds for the afternoon.  All week long the weather had been predicted to be rainy but it stayed dry!  At 4 pm we attended Evensong (evening prayer in the Anglican use that is sung) and processed to the new building to witness the blessing and attend a reception.  I can't even describe the great procession, led by Cardinal Levada and attended by over 30 priests, our church's beautiful choir, Knights of Columbus, and all of the laity.  It was spiritually stirring to witness Evensong,evening prayer similar to Vespers.  (I am learning so much about these traditions held sacred by Catholics before the schism of the Church of England, but reverently preserved through all of these years until being welcomed home by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.  It's very humbling to this cradle Catholic who thought she knew it all!)

Beautiful children from 3 families, 11 in a row.  They are such good children, we are so blessed to call them friends!

All Jack really wanted was to meet a priest with a "bishops hat."  Unfortunately we didn't get to introduce him to one of the two Cardinals in attendance.  Maybe next time!

This was only a tiny part of the procession- the Knights of Columbus and part of the choir.  My photos do not do it justice.
Part of the outdoor shrine to Our Lady of Walsingham, with the beautiful new Chancery in the background.

The reception included appetizers and desserts, wine and coffee, and of course our children running around playing in the courtyard, having the times of their lives.  They love this place, and most likely at this point because they get to spend mornings and afternoons with their friends.  But I think it's a little more than that too.  I have no doubt that this is the right place for our family!

We shut the place down as usual (they had to turn the lights out on us!) and we came home late and went straight to bed.  12 hours at church just wore them out!

Maybe we wore Jack out too much, as today he woke up at 6 am needing to throw up.  And he's been sick all day, not even able to keep down a few sips of water.  But since it's not respiratory, it's not what Caeli has been sick with.  Yesterday and today she has clearly been on the mend, off the ibuprofen and pretty close to acting like her happy little self.  But poor Jack spent the day on the couch, in-and-out of consciousness.  Ryan and I both felt a little off today too but I'm hoping and praying that tomorrow everyone will wake up healthy.  I'm exhausted from having a sick, clingy, nursing-around-the-clock baby, and I'm ready for a little bit of normal life!

Monday, January 26

Why Restless?

After feeling like my blog needed a change, I've spent a few weeks pondering and debating.  I was leaning toward some titles that dealt with motherhood because that's what seemed appropriate. I mostly write about being a mother, it's pretty much all I do all day!  The struggle of choosing joy and charity when I just want to yell, the struggle of doing my work with a grateful heart, dealing with jealousy of others who send their kids off to school when I just want to take a day off... Yes, motherhood is pretty much my life!

Being a wife is important too.  I think it's really even more important than my vocation as a mom.  I am sacramentally bound to my Love, and the state of our family reflects the state of our marriage.  I choose him again and again every day.

But above all, I realized, I am creature created by God.  As I flipped through my prayer journals from the years and years behind me (I found some the other day dated back to high school!) I realized that I have always been seeking to know Him more fully.  There is a real struggle to find my peace in the Lord instead of in other people, for it is in Him and only in Him that I will find my true meaning.  Sometimes I get caught up in life- which is pretty easy when there are four little souls who demand my attention all day long- and I search for happiness elsewhere.

I've always felt that God is calling me to something more, something greater.  It could be argued that my Catholic formation within a lay movement of the church as brought out this zealousness and fire from me (but quite a bit of scrupulosity too).  Over and over again I read and am told that my calling in life right now is first and foremost to be a mom.  I agree mostly; God has given me my children (these specific children) and I'm responsible for their souls, health, education, and well-being while they're under my care.  But I don't think that means I have to forget who I am as a woman- as God's child.

He wants me to seek Him too.  He's calling me and every day I need to say yes.  Right now He calls me in the form of a mother, as one who gives completely and totally of herself for the care of her children.  (Sometimes I think I missed a calling to be a cloistered nun!)  As I come out of the phase of early childhood and I can see everything in my life a little more clearly without the influence of hormones, I realize that I'm tired of reading books about motherhood, scheduling my day effectively, and just general "how to" books.  I miss being spiritually nourished. 

It's not that time for me right now though.  I can't leave my family for a week-long silent retreat, or even attend daily mass with them on a regular basis.  I have to find Him right here in my home, amongst the noise and the giggles.  He is in the giggles.

I chose "Restless" as the title for my blog because it reminds me of the God-shaped hole in my heart that I constantly try to fill with people and things- things of this world.  But our souls were not made for this world, they were made for God.  God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world... And be with Him forever in heaven.  I love that the simple things I'm teaching my children have such a profound effect on me.

I find peace in knowing that I'm following His will for me at this stage in my life, but I know I will always be restless for Him.

Sunday, January 25

Christmas photos are up

I finally added all of our Christmas pictures!  I posted them yesterday but I added them to December- here's the link or you could scroll down a bit to find them!
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