Wednesday, November 11

Wrapping It Up and Packing It Away

Tonight as I went to rock my baby to sleep, I knew it would take awhile since she'd had a late afternoon nap.  Tonight I really craved her closeness, wanting to feel her sweet hands rubbing up and down my arm.  She settled down quickly and I began a rosary, choosing to pray the joyful mysteries because I forgot that today was Wednesday.  As I began to pray my mind wandered, as it usually does.  But once I came to The Visitation, my mind zeroed in on it, and I noticed something I'd never noticed before.

"Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
"Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled."

And Mary said:
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever."

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home."     Luke 1:39-56

Mary went to visit Elizabeth when Elizabeth was about 6 months pregnant, and Mary stayed for about 3 months... Probably until John was born... Mary was probably Elizabeth's doula!

Okay I know I'm reaching here, and I apologize if I'm being heretical.  Usually when I read this passage I'm mediating more about the Magnificat, one of my favorite prayers, and I don't pay heed to the last verse.

I probably noticed this tonight because I've decided to end the doula phase in my life, and I'm mourning a little bit.  The on-call life has taken its toll on me, and I think that right now, at this stage at least, I need to be fully present for my family.  I will miss being a support for families and sharing my knowledge.  I will miss being present as a mother labors to give birth.  And I will miss witnessing the miracle and honoring the intimate moments of two parents meeting their child for the very first time.

I won't miss the dread of a mid-night phone call, or the canceling of my plans at the last minute.  And most importantly, I won't miss having to keep my phone ringer "on" and having it in my pocket or by my side 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

So after next week, when I complete my very last post-partum visit, I will shut my ringer off and hopefully learn to *not* carry my phone around with me everywhere.  No longer will it need to be tethered at my side, tempting me into distractions (or near occasions of sin!).  It will become an old tool that, while occasionally useful, will be mostly confined to my desk.

I've already packed away my leftover materials, stationary, handouts, and business cards.  I need to close down my website and Facebook page. I want to print out the beautiful testimonials that my clients left for me on, and put them in my notebook with other birth announcements and thank you notes.  It makes me sad that I already know of two women who wanted me by their side next year but I've had to say no.

Being a doula has defined almost 5 years of my life.  It's brought some of my highest highs and lowest lows.  The absolute best part is knowing that I've helped moms achieve their goals of birthing a baby on their own terms, with knowledge and the acceptance of the events going on around them.

For now, I'm stepping away from all birth work, and focusing on my work at home.  There's so much to be done, and I want to do better at it!

Despite the feelings of loss, I'm still at peace knowing I'm doing the right thing for our family.  This has been a great consolation to me, as many times in life I feel unsure if I'm making the right decision.  And I'd like to think that maybe I'm not done forever...maybe I will be able to do this again one day, if it's in God's plan.

Friday, November 6

On Blue Jeans and Roller Coasters

A few weeks (months?) ago, I posted this on instagram, it it caused quite a stir amongst my friends and followers:


"I'm down on my body right now- weaning the baby has led to some extra weight around my middle, making me have to pull out bigger sizes out of the closet. I ordered 7 new pairs of jeans last week, hoping to find at least one pair that would fit, and none do. I despise everything on my side of the closet as it reminds me of the constant struggle to feel and look "like myself." Because really, I accept the fact that my body is forever changed- I even usually embrace it. But not feeling normal really hurts, and some days it's just really difficult to look in the mirror."

So many women commented that they feel the same way, or have experienced these emotions in the past.  They truly do, yet hardly anyone says it out loud.  They battle these emotions in their heads, riding the roller coaster that brings them high when they're having a "good day" in their jeans, but frequently sitting at the bottom of the ramp, feeling overweight, pimply, bloated, disproportioned, sad, and miserable.  And these aren't women who are trying to acheieve the look of a photoshopped magazine cover, or even women who are trying to hide the fact that their uterus has carried life.  These are holy women, who embrace motherhood whole-heartedly, who just want to look in the mirror and recognize the person they feel like on the inside.

And that's the heart of my struggle.

I don't spend hours fretting over the image in the mirror.  I don't have time for that.  I feel super lucky when I can pull a somewhat-flattering outfit together out of a closet of ill-fitting and unflattering clothing.  *sigh* Why do I have that clothing still?  Because hormones.  Because babies.  Because breastfeeding.  Because postpartum.  It's all happened before and I can't say it will never happen again!

I'm trying not to complain, but instead to put words to the feelings that I think many women struggle with. I don't know if it's low self-esteem, vanity, pride, or some other sin that causes us to feel this way, but when it all boils down I hope that we can all come to terms with the fact that none of this matters to the One who loved us to death.  He wants us to care for ourselves, to take care of our temples, but I'm not sure that he cares what size jeans I'm wearing this week.  I think He'd be frustrated with me because I don't see myself the way He sees me- as His creation, the way He intended me to be.  Just like when Ryan thinks I'm crazy for being frustrated with my body because he loves me just the way I am.  He shows admiration and respect what my body has accomplished; he has such respect for me.

I don't think the roller coaster ride will end for me anytime soon, but I hope that over time I will develop more of a sense of respect for my ever-changing body.  I know that for me, my frustration about my body image usually indicates that my emotions aren't quite stable (surprise suprise), so instead my energy should be focused on my interior- keeping my mind healthy, stabilizing my hormones, and allowing myself adequate rest and exercise time.  Seems reasonable and logical typing it out, but why is it so difficult to live it?

Thursday, November 5

We met Matt Maher!

Ryan and I went to a concert a couple of weeks ago and, thanks to a friend, we got to go backstage and meet Matt Maher! He's one of our favorite singers and Ryan was over the moon to shake his hand!  If you want to hear my favorite song of his, you can find it here

Renaissance Festival 2015 Pictures

Monday, November 2

All Souls Day

Every year on All Souls Day we head out to the cemetery in which my grandfather is buried. He passed away in 2011 and is buried nearby, and this is one of the few experiences our children have had with death. Every year that we go out there they seem to remember the visit from previous years and they plan to do a little more... This year the boys wanted to bring rags and towels to wipe off the grave marker, Beth brought some clippings from our garden, and they all knew they wanted to go walk through the babies' graves nearby to find siblings of some of their friends. 

My grandfather chose his plot because he wanted to be near the babies who had been buried there. He was wildly pro-life and every year I'm reminded of how his passion marked him even past his death. 

I can't help myself, but I always tear up as we walk through the markers of the children. Babies who were born still, 10 days old, 3 years old... The agony and sorrow of their parents is beyond comprehension to me.

Every year is a new opportunity for us to talk a little about life and death. To get over the "creepy" factor of bones being under the ground to the purpose of life- that our eternal souls live in heaven for ever. We are not bodies with a soul- we are souls with a temporary body.

I'm thankful that they're on their way to understanding that this life isn't all there is. Anytime I feel concerned that they're not learning enough in school, or getting enough "life experiences," I remind myself that there's more than what we see. And that the goal isn't Harvard- it's heaven. 

Eternal rest grant unto them, oh Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them.  May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.

Sunday, November 1

Happy All Saint's Day!

"Saints are just sinners who kept trying."
Today's homily brought tears to my eyes several times as he preached about the importance of our heavenly friends and intercessors. They walk with us, they worship with us during mass. They've lived the same lives we are living, and they've succeeded in joining Christ in heaven! The kids were invited to wear their Saint costumes- and he suggested that maybe one day a child would be dressed as them for All Saint's Day! 

St. Gianna, St. Luke, St. John Bosco, and St. Bernadette 

Some of our books and all of our Saint peg dolls. I hope to leave all of this up for a couple of weeks at least, so we can focus on reading these books.

Today the children could come to mass dressed in their saint costumes! This is only half of the children who dressed up.

Tuesday, October 13

Our Pilgrimage, Parts One and Two (Gulf Shores and DC)

We had our itinerary ready, more or less, for our two-week adventure away from home.  I had a list of prayer intentions from friends, and we had planned and packed and planned some more for a successful trip with our little ones.  We've taken long road trips before, but never anything this extreme, so I pulled some new ideas from Pinterest, packed up our meals in brown paper bags, purchased a few new fun items, and readied our audiobooks.  I may do a separate post on another day about some of our most successful "tools" for traveling with four children because I feel like a bit of a professional now!

The first leg of our trip took us to Gulf Shores, Alabama, where we stayed for two nights with our dear friends and their children.  10 kids and 4 adults in a three-bedroom condo- and yet I felt like we could have fit another person or two pretty easily!  I think this might have been Caeli's first time to really experience the ocean.  We all enjoyed lots of sand and sun, empty beaches, fishing, and late-night conversations.

I have so many photos, so I'll keep the words to a minimum!  I want to share what I am thankful for during this part of the trip!
For silly, happy babies in the backseat- as long as Mommy or Daddy sat nearby.  For the 8th seat in the back that allowed me to be there for her, and the miraculous appearance of a Fresh Market after a missed turn in Alabama.

State-line rest stops that give us the chance to run, beat trees with sticks, and look at new things.

Glee-filled baby smiles of her first real romp in the water!


Perfect weather.
 Sugar sand and water as clear as the sky.

My sweet little family, posing impatiently because of all the play that's left to be had.

Friends that hold a special place in our hearts, friends whom we deeply cherish.

The gift of a true, deep friendship that allows us to ponder in our hearts the meaning of this life.  The value of our children and the importance of family, the sharing of a community that not only introduces new experiences, but creates memories that will last forever.
 So many people, watching out for each other.  Wading in the still water, waiting for a bite.  


 And success again! 

 Someone is thankful for her pacifier and a bit of quiet time in the sand.

I'm thankful to have been standing next to him in a quick moment of terror, thankful that a quick pinch is all he felt.  That the sting ray left me alone so I could aide him.
The ray that stung Luke?  We'll never know.

(Not dead!)


Sweet children whose friendships know no age boundaries.  True friendships that I pray will last a lifetime.

Beach time naps for sleepy girls.

 The summoning of gulls.

 This man, my life, my husband.  Another chance to stick our toes in the sand together.

My sweet baby, almost 21 months.  Her tanned, beautiful skin.  Exhausted by sun, sand, and water. 

The chance to make up new games, make new memories.

A beautiful sunset that you just wouldn't believe, and children's silhouettes even more beautiful.

  The chance to take the intentions of family, friends, and followers to Jesus and beg 
Him for answers to your prayers.

The next leg of our trip took us to a tiny town in North Carolina, where my mother played an excellent hostess and put all fourteen of us up for a few short hours.  Ryan and I dread the interstate between Mobile and Montgomery, but coming up to Atlanta always feels like a bit of a landmark on the drive.  We shared children amongst the vehicles; we took two of theirs and they took two of ours.  It made the drive so simple when they each had a new face to look at.  Luke and Fina made silly faces at each other for at least an hour! 

After a day filled with traveling, we managed to stay up late chatting, wake up relatively early, and hit the road again.  This time, we split up- they went a little northwest and we went a little northeast.  Our destination was the northwest tip of Delaware, and the drive was beautiful.  

We arrived to happy cousins a little after dinnertime, drank wine and gobbled up dinner, found legos to play with, and eventually went to bed.

The next morning was Wednesday.  Back in the car again, but this time just Ryan and me!  Our two-hour trip took felt like nothing as we drove into Washington DC to attend holy mass with our Holy Father, Pope Francis.  That day, he canonized Saint Junipero Serra, founder of many of the missions in California.  We met our friends, drove into town together, and hopped on a charted bus that took us to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  (Ryan and I had been here once before, when Beth and Luke were little in 2009.) We had tickets to a standing-room area, which was a blessing in disguise!  We didn't realize Pope Francis would drive on the street in his pope-mobile, so once we realized what was happening I encouraged Ryan to run to see him while I held our standing-room area.  He was able to be caught up in the moment of all the people, got some great pictures, then ran back to me to hold our spot! The mass was completely in Spanish, though I was able to mostly see the screens to see the translation of his homily.


Our view during mass wasn't fantastic, but I did enjoy being by the full orchestra and the several choirs that were there.  We were also standing right behind one of the cameras that filmed mass, and that was very distracting yet intriguing for me to watch!  Before mass started, we talked to the man who moved the camera arm around, and he told us a little about how they filmed.  It reminded me of when I went to Rome in 1998 and we found a Swiss Guard who would chat with us about some of the behind-the-scenes stuff.  I also noticed the security around the top of the dome. I love it!



Toward the end of mass, would you believe we ran into someone we knew?  Of the 25,000 people there, I turned around and was face-to-face with a friend's sister and her husband.  This world is small!

After mass was over, we took our bus back to the hotel.  We had been offered the chance to purchase tickets to a bishop's reception after mass, which included over 200 bishops and cardinals who were ready to unwind after a busy day!  I had snuck off to the bathroom and when I came out, I walked into a hallway flooded with bishops and cardinals.  I was a little overwhelmed and starstruck so I just stood there for a minute and soaked it all in.

I walked back to find our group and I realized I recognized a bishop- it was Bishop Mike Sis, my beloved pastor from St. Mary's in College Station!  I skipped up to him and gave him a big hug, which I realized later might have been completely inappropriate!  We sat by him during the reception and had the chance to chat and catch up a bit, and it was such an honor and pleasure to speak with him.

That night, we stayed up late (again) then crashed on a blow-up mattress on the floor of our generous hosts. We left by 9 the next morning to drive back to Delaware- and I'll post more photos of that portion of the trip soon!  
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