Monday, January 16


I hear piano keys pressed firmly and assuredly.  He plays "Old MacDonald" and hits every note just perfectly.  "Mom, did you hear that?"  I yell out, "Yes!  It sounded perfect!" I reference my printed recipe, not really measuring out ingredients but instead using the recipe as more of a suggestion.  A couple of cloves of garlic squeezed through my press... Unscrew the top of the oregano jar and just dump some in... Sure that looks about enough...

Down on the floor in the kitchen, she's playing with three babies, a rocking chair, a book, a purse, and a bouncy ball. She is the Mommy and those are all her Babies.  The ball is her baby too.  She's talking to everything, lost in her make-believe.

He darts into the kitchen, sliding on his socks with holes in the heels, bats his compass over his shoulder, and turns the corner just barely making it without hitting the granite.  Out of breath, he throws his arms around my waist and says, "Mom I love you," quickly under his breath, looking down.  It's as if his whole body is moving too quickly, and he's just trying to keep up with himself.  Then he asks if he can paint.  I really don't want to get out art supplies before dinner, because if he paints they'll all want to paint, and if they all paint then there will be watercolor cakes, baby food jars filled with water, and torn sheets of half-used, not-cheap watercolor paper on the table right when I'm ready to serve our dinner.  Sigh. I say yes though because I'm trying to say "yes" with a cheerful heart when I don't want to.  And I realize after I say yes that I am actually cheerful about it.

As I send him to the pantry to gather supplies, I debate the merits of "fake it till you make it" and "obedience before understanding."  It's nice to be validated, to actually see the fruits of my attempts to bring joy to our household when so often it feels like everyone is just fussing at each other.  It's nice when things work out.

I don't get far in my thoughts because the biggest of the small ones is asking if she can help me.  I take a small sip from my glass (since it's Friday, it's my favorite bourbon) and ask her to put a cup of rice in the rice cooker.  "Brown rice or white rice?"  I tell her white and she skips off into the pantry to collect the machine, singing the same verse of the same song over and over and over again.  But her voice is developing nicely.  "Maybe singing the same verse over and over again is like reading the same board book to a toddler over and over again," I think, as I take another sip.

The brass-colored handle jiggles and gets stuck.  It hasn't been working well since Christmas, but he grips it a little harder from the outside and pushes his way into the house.  "Daddy's home!" They all stop and drop everything they're doing and run to him.  Paint on the table, rice on the floor.  His arms and legs full of excited babies, he makes his way over to the stovetop and kisses me hello.  He raises his eyebrows happily when he notices the bourbon on my breath and checks the pot for signs of dinner.  "It's Friday!"  And the weekend begins.

Sunday, January 15

Mid- January

Well, we are back into the swing of life around here.  We had an unplanned "soft start" to school last week but it was definitely for the best for everyone!  I wasn't entirely organized with my spring semester planning and we had a couple of kinks thrown into the plan (of course).  A giant storm a week or so ago killed my printer!  At first it wouldn't even come on, but after some encouragement, it turned on.  But it won't print wirelessly now, only if I plug it in.  So... not messed up enough to warrant a new purchase but just messed up to be incredibly annoying!  At least my new computer is lightweight and has holds enough battery power for me to haul it upstairs EVERY TIME I need to print something.  I know, poor me!

Once I finally got the printer to work, something else spazzed out, but I can't even remember what it was now.  I find many of my days are like that- if it's not one thing, it's something else.  I get really frustrated if I can't make it work out, but I've learned that in the moment I have to stop and recognize that I'm losing my temper at the lifeless printer (or whatever it is at that moment), and recognize that the feelings will pass.  It took  only10 years of preaching it to my kids for me to sort of pick up on it; maybe now I can actually begin embody the virtue of temperance!

We've spent our days reading along on our 31-Day Challenge, practicing piano (because Luke and Jack are playing now), doing our usual school work, enjoying the freezing cold weather one day and the spring-like weather the next (because Texas), and adoring baby Theo.  He's 3 months old now, smiling at everyone, trying to roll over, and cooing up a storm. He is adorable.

I was considering taking up my doula work again.  I thought God was calling me to it through a series of random occurrences, but I never felt completely at peace once I made the decision to accept a repeat client in March.  I would like to "work" again in some capacity though, and I am praying for clarity about that.  God has placed in me a great desire to serve, and it benefits me and my family so much when I can take the opportunity to serve outside of our home. Ironically, it helps me find balance within our home.  In the mean time, I've accepted some volunteer work at our parish and am hoping that I can serve God and others through my talents in that way.  I also would love the opportunity to mentor young moms somehow, but I'm not quite sure how that would play out. 

I am just really happy right now.

Saturday, January 14

Happy Birthday to Caeli!

Happy birthday, my sweet girl!

Today you woke up a little grumpy, but when I told you "happy birthday!" your eyes lit up and you said, "Yes, it's MY birfday."

We had some school lessons where you played with your babies (today you played with Beth's American Girl doll, which you have pretty much claimed as your own).  You sat at your desk with her in your lap, colored, talked to her and yourself, and then changed her clothes.  I think you also put her down for a nap because you closed your door very gently and tiptoed away and told me, "Be quiet, my baby's sleeping."

After lunch we picked some carrots from the garden and you were so excited to eat one!

I also tried to pose you by the window for some photos but Mommy is rusty with the old camera, and you weren't really in a mood to smile.  But you were in a mood to talk- you're pretty much always in a mood to talk!

I spent some time pondering how much you are starting to look like Beth when she was your age.  You favor her in looks and in your love for books and dance, but you favor dolls and you definitely have some extra spunk in your step.  No doubt from trying to keep up with three big siblings who play with you like you're as old as they are!

That evening you got to Facetime with all of your grandparents, cousins, and Uncle Josh and Aunt Ramona.  You loved being able to hold the phone all by yourself, because these days, it's all about you doing everything all by yourself.

For days, you were so excited about choosing your own dessert for your birthday dinner, and you had the heavy influence of older siblings!  You finally decided on brownies and ice cream, though you don't care for the brownies as much as you do for the ice cream.  Knowing that, I gave you a tiny bit of brownies and an extra scoop of ice cream in your bowl!

We sang to you, and you sang along.  Because you love to sing, and you REALLY love when we are all focused on you at the same time.

Mommy and Daddy gave you a sticker pad (which you loved!), some new clothes, and on Saturday you'll receive your big gift- a balance bike!  We weren't able to give you that on the weekdays because the sun sets so early, and we wanted to be able to work with you during the day so you'd have the chance to try it out.  MawMaw and PawPaw gifted you a sweet little mass sweater and skirt, and your great-grandmother sent you $10 in the mail.

You went to bed with Daddy because he wanted to spend some special time with you.  I think you had a perfect little day for a new little three-year-old!  You are always so expressive and cheerful that you're able to turn any day into a party day!  We love you, baby girl.

Sunday, January 1


2017 is here, Happy New Year!

Yesterday morning, Ryan an I had the opportunity to go out to breakfast together and have a "family meeting."  You probably know that he and I are planners- to a fault sometimes- but it makes us both feel better to have discussions and put ideas to good old fashioned paper.  A friend send me the idea of making a planning "web," so we tried that out.  (On a side note, one of my favorite places to get coffee and breakfast in a unique space is shutting their doors, and we just happened to go in on their last day open.  I was so sad to hear that but so happy we got to have one more breakfast date there!)

We had categories that included "travel," "home improvement," "self care," "education," and several more.  From there we placed our ideas, upcoming events, to-do projects, and needs.

This year I've decided I'm really going to focus on figuring some things out about myself.  Child birth always makes me reflective, and this time has been no exception.  Also I turn 35 this year and I feel like with Beth just turning 10, I'm approaching a new time in my life.  Parenting has definitely evolved as the kids have gotten older, but I'm also learning and understanding more now about my needs and how to survive the next 18+ years of having children at home!

Ryan and some friends are really into the personality testing, specifically the four temperaments and the Myers Briggs personality testing.  I'm never the kind of person that likes to be fit into a box or category.  Heck, even as a Catholic who believes and practices everything the church professes, I feel like I'm not what people expect me to be.  But I'll admit there's been something relieving about reading about my "type" or "temperament" and just feeling at home with the general blanket statements, and it's helped me to understand more about how I interact with the world (and therefore how I can do a better job at it!).  Not only that but it's helped me to understand Ryan better, and therefore to respect certain dispositions about him.

For example, I'm pretty melancholic.  I'm introverted, and I am slow to react to external stimuli, because it takes me awhile to process information.  This means I'm not so great in the heat of a moment, don't always take a gift or compliment well, and maybe seem like I'm "too good" to talk to someone when really I'm a little shy and fumble over my words as I'm trying to understand that person.  I'm no good at small talk, I prefer to dive into deep conversations with those who I trust.  These have been important realizations to me because I've considered myself sort of awkward when I meet new people sometimes, or why I can never think of the right words to say when given a gift.  It was important for Ryan to understand this about me to because when he gave me a beautiful necklace for Mother's Day, I just sort of smiled and said thanks.  I was absolutely stunned, but it took awhile to sink in!  Knowing this is who I am- who God made me to be- is so freeing, because it took away the thought that I was somehow ungrateful.

I am also an ISFJ- "The Nurturer."  I have a strong sense of responsibility,  am the first to jump in to help, see the best in people and situations, and value aesthetic function of my home!  Well, there's so much more than that, but reading about this personality type has helped me to understand my reaction to conflict, and why I have a deep need for peace and non-conflict.  My whole world can get thrown off because of conflict, so when my beliefs or deep-seated feelings are not compatible with the beliefs of others, I tend to shy away.  I think this is part of the reason I had to leave social media for awhile.  But I'm not sure that's the "right" way to handle certain situations, so I'm trying to learn how to engage in meaningful discussion (not argument!) instead.  As in all things, it's a learning process though, and it doesn't always go well.

Throughout the year, I hope to help identify some of these characteristics in my children, so that I can be a more effective teacher to them and help them pursue the talents that God has gifted to them.  It's definitely been beneficial to talk to Ryan about these things, and I can only see how it would be a good thing to work on with the children, too.

I've spoken with several people recently about the current buzzword "authenticity."  I've always liked that word, but I think now people are talking about it more because on social media, you can make yourself out to be whomever you want.  And for some people, that's backfiring.  Long ago I stopped reading blogs and following Instagram accounts that seemed too perfect.  I know in my head that no one is perfect, but I am the kind of person that needs to see some of the mess, to know I'm not alone in my messy life. The perfectionism I was seeing online made me a little jealous, because it was something I desired but couldn't have!  It wasn't a good thing for my heart or my soul!  I've always tried to keep this blog real, but positive- a true reflection of who I strive to be.

In 2017, I hope to explore what this means for me.  I hope to cut back on the things that pull me down, make my heart unsettled, and turn my focus away from the Lord.  I hope to better understand how God made me and by using my gifts to nurture my family and the community around me.  I want to make some new friends, explore a new part of the country, and get better about making meal plans and sticking to them!  I think it's all going to be harder than it sounds!

Wednesday, December 28

Beth is 10!

Woah Darling, you're 10.  Ten years young.  Yesterday you declared, "I'm a decade old now!" and I couldn't help but think that you're not old, you're still so young!  You want so badly to be "old" and grown up.  You talk about getting a car (you hope Jenny will give you hers!) and what you will do/be when you grow up (an illustrator or a housekeeper!).  You want so badly to be given more privileges and to do more adult tasks.

I know you're going to make a GREAT adult one day, but there's no need to rush this growing up thing.  I try to tell you that being a kid is fabulous because you can try out new things whenever you want, but it's hard for you to sometimes find the joy in that- and that kills me because you are pretty much awesome at anything you put your mind to!   

For your birthday breakfast, I made you homemade cinnamon rolls- but you had to eat and run because Jenny took you on a special horseback riding expedition!  I always think your birthday is so special since it's right after Christmas and you always have family here to help you celebrate!  For dinner, Daddy smoked brisket and we had beans, creamed corn, and your favorite pickles.  We had a Texas sheet cake and Blue Bell ice cream- you went to the store with PawPaw to pick out the flavors you wanted (Homeade Vanilla and Mint Chocolate Chip).   Daddy and I gave you a new sewing basket, a "Big Sis" charm for your bracelet and some heart earrings.  You also received books, more earrings, and a special wallet. 

Daddy and I love you so, so very much.  So do your brothers and sister (even if they don't always show it!), your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.  You are SO very loved, sweet girl.

The End of 2016

Merry Christmas!
If you're visiting here from our Christmas letter, I invite you to look around at a few previous posts from this past year to catch up on our family!  I didn't write here much this year, and missed a few special occasions I fear, but what I write here serves the purpose of keeping our family's memories in one place.  And I don't mind sharing!

We started 2016 as a family of six and ended it as a family of seven!  In case you missed the news, we welcomed Theo to our family on October 7.  Yes, he was 13 days late, just like his big sister, but I don't hold it against him because he's just so stinking cute!  It has been such a pleasure to welcome him to our family, and the resemblance between him and his siblings has been phenomenal.  He definitely fits in!  He was diagnosed with a VSD only 4 days after birth, but we received good news in early December that his heart appears to be healing on it's own- no doubt due to the faithful prayers of our family and friends.  Thank you for praying for him, would you please continue to pray that it fully heals and won't require surgery?

Ryan has supported me through yet another long pregnancy, been my loyal companion, and is my greatest love.  We celebrated 11 years of marriage in July and he is celebrating 10 years at his workplace this year. He recently had an experience that has lead us to be even more thankful for employment at a company that values its employees.  Ryan spent a lot of time woodworking this year, starting with headboards for the boys, spending a couple of months on a chicken coop, and wrapping it up with some Christmas gifts!  He coached Luke's soccer team again in the spring semester, but we took the fall off so that we could have some free time before Theo was born.  Ryan also founded an LLC with a friend and they are busting into the real estate business in their "free time."  It's been very rewarding for him to work on these side projects- you know Ryan is the kind of guy who likes to stay busy!

I spent the greater part of 2016 gestating another human being. ;-)  We wrapped up our school year in June and I had a delightful summer hosting my sister at our house.  I loved having her in our home as it gave us a chance to reconnect and share life together.  Her presence helped bring me out of a funk I had experienced in my early pregnancy when I just didn't quite feel like myself.  We kept busy all summer, started school a little early in August with the hopes of getting some good work in before Baby came.  Those last few weeks of pregnancy were emotionally and mentally very difficult, but the payoff came when we had a wonderful, peaceful, and QUICK home birth, and discovered we had another son! The whole experience was an answer to my prayers.  I feel like I never had a huge burst of "nesting" energy during his pregnancy, so I have a lot of home projects I hope to find time for next year!

Our family took one big trip to Panama City Beach in Florida for a last-minute Memorial Day weekend getaway, and it was so very beautiful.  While traveling in the car all day isn't my most favorite thing in the world, getting away with just my little family always offers us a chance to reconnect and experience new things together.  This trip was no exception!  We stayed in a nice condominium within walking distance from the beach.  We ate easy meals together, built sand castles, fished and caught crabs, and took a late night walk in the dark on the beach. Those times together are always so joyful because everyone is always so happy to be doing something new!  They are great memories for all of us.

Bethany Grace just turned 10 years old!  She is halfway through her 4th grade year at our home school, and is still an incredible artist.  She's been taking piano lessons all year long and has a natural affinity for music! She loves to sit down at the piano and figure out how to play hymns that we're studying or music that she's learning in choir at co-op, which makes the fine arts side of me so very happy.  She also enjoys creative writing and LOTS of reading!  She has been such an incredible help since Theo has been born; she is a proud big sister to her younger siblings!  After much preparation at home, our Bishop allowed Bethany to be confirmed in May.  This was a big day for her as a young woman!   She loves hanging out with her friends, baking, reading, going to the library, and teasing and taunting her brothers in a sisterly way!  I can see that she has a bit of entrepreneur in her as she's always considering how she can sell her art or coming up with ideas to stock up an Etsy shop!

Luke Michael turned 8 in October and has continued to grow and mature in ways that greatly impress me.  His mind is very logical and goal-oriented; this is a wonderful talent that we are learning how to utilize and mold into gifts for God.  Luke received his First Holy Communion in April and soon after trained to be an altar boy.  In August, Luke started attending 2nd grade at a hybrid school, in which he attends classes on Mondays and Thursdays and we complete his lessons on the other days he is home.  As a high-energy extrovert, he is thriving!  He loves his friends and his teacher, and he loves being able to attend mass more often than any of us.  He still loves Legos and the thrill of figuring out how things work.

Jackson Paul is still my silly, sweet, thoughtful boy that is now officially the "middle child." He can be incredibly wild and crazy or painfully shy and soft-spoken!  He turned 6 in June and had a really fun day picking blueberries and swimming with his uncles at the pool.  Jack is in 1st grade and he loves school.  He is always eager and happy to start his work and always has a wonderful attitude about getting his work done.  He (and Luke) both love being read aloud to, and Jack has also made some wonderful strides toward learning how to read on his own.  He is also a budding artist and is begging to start music lessons of some sort.  Right now he is preparing for his First Holy Communion next spring.  I just love his enthusiasm for everything he wants to do.

At almost 3, Caeli Rose is spirited, silly, imaginative, and soooo cute!  She can easily get lost in play for an hour, loves books, and follows Luke and Jack around like she's just as big as they are. She is still so expressive, telling stories and talking with her hands and hips, and she owns the room.  Her speech has exploded in the past two months, and she loves doing her "work math" alongside the older kids when they are doing their school work.  She loves Finley but always fusses at the cats and chases them away!  She puts her whole spirit into anything she does, I have no doubt she will move mountains one day.

Theodore Augustine Joseph (yes, that's three names!) will be three months young soon.  He is smiling and cooing at everyone and is so close to laughing!  I think he will be rolling over soon, as Caeli did at three months old, because he has some strong abs for an infant!  He sleeps well at night, usually waking up once or twice to nurse and then falling contentedly back to sleep.  His current loves are: his big siblings and anyone who will talk sweetly to him, diaper changes and laying on his changing pad in the bathroom, baths, and nursing.  He currently hates getting out of the bath, and roads that have lots of stop lights (I agree with him on this one).

Wednesday, December 7

A Visit From St. Nicholas

Jolly Saint Nick visited again this year, bringing the usual oranges, chocolate coins, and books about the saints for the children.  This year he also left some hollowed chocolate St. Nick candies and candy canes, which were well-loved!  Everyone also received a little felt fox Christmas ornament.

After breakfast, Grandma and Grandpa picked them up for a special outing to see a full-length production of The Nutcracker.  Beth has been before with Grandma and Grandpa, and last year I took them to see an amazing production by one of the local dance studios.  This was Luke and Jack's first time to see the professional production, and peek in to the orchestra pit and enjoy a few other "extras" since it was specifically a school day.  They came home raving about how wonderful it was and how much they loved having such a special day with Grandma and Grandpa!

Friday, November 18

Theo's First Month

The first few weeks of Theo's life are a blur to me, but I'm left with the overall feeling of thankfulness.  Thankful that he actually decided to come out on his own, thankful that my labor and delivery was amazing and practically perfect, and thankful that he was overall healthy.  I didn't write down the details at the time but here's what I remember.

Late Monday night/early Tuesday morning when he was 3/4 days old, I noticed he was breathing very quickly.  It concerned me enough to call our family practice doctor on Tuesday morning so he could have his newborn checkup.  Ryan and I brought him in and the doctor immediately listened to his heart and heard a loud murmur, saying there was a very obvious "swishing" sound instead of the clear lub-dub rhythm that a heart should make.  He was reassuring that we'd find an answer soon and immediately placed an order for an echo-cardiogram to find out the cause.  The appointment was scheduled at the hospital the next day, but that's all we knew.  Ryan and I went home very anxious and worried.  My thoughts went to the darkest place, of course, because I had no education and no idea what any of this could mean- but I didn't want to spend time on Google either so we just spent that evening in prayer and concern.

The appointment the next day went well.  The man who performed the scan was very kind but he couldn't diagnose anything, so he said he'd rush off the results to a cardiologist who could perform the diagnosis.

I think that afternoon we got a call from our family practice doctor who said Theo was diagnosed with a VSD- ventricular septal defect.  He had a medium-sized hole in the wall separating the ventricles of his heart, and this caused the murmur as the un-oxygenated blood was pushed into the other side with the oxygen-rich blood, and was then carried to the rest of his body.  His only symptom was heavy breathing due to the fact that his body needed more oxygen to make up for this- we were so happy that otherwise he was fine (his lips/limbs weren't blue, he was nursing fine, and he had already gained weight!).  All of this meant we had to see a pediatric cardiologist ASAP- on Friday.

They squeezed us in on Thursday.  He had an EKG test and was examined by the cardiologist, who was also very kind.  At this point, Ryan and I realized that Theo was not in a life-threatening situation, but we had to mentally prepare for the fact that Theo might need surgery on his heart before too long.  Theo was placed on Lasix, a daily medication that helps clear the extra fluid from his heart, thereby making it not need to work as hard.  This brought his breathing back to normal.  The medication will not heal his heart, but it will "buy us time," to allow his heart some extra time to heal itself and also allow Theo to grow bigger and stronger in case surgery is needed if it doesn't heal.

On Friday, a lump on my foot had gotten bigger and so swollen that I could barely walk.  Fearing a blood clot, since it was on my "bad" leg, the doctor called us in for an exam.  They couldn't diagnose anything so they sent us to the minor ER for an ultrasound.  On Theo's one-week birthday, he spent it sleeping on my chest in the waiting room while I felt like a dummy for having such a stupid problem.  Of course, nothing was wrong, and by the next day I was pretty much completely fine!

The next day was Saturday, and we had his newborn photos taken at our house.  Ryan took the big kids to the baptism of our dear friend's son (Theo's future buddy), but I stayed home and took a 3-hour nap in bed with Theo.  He and I needed some cuddle time together!

Sunday I noticed a rash on Theo, but we thought it was probably one of those weird skin newborn rashes that babies get.  It looked funny to me though- white heads that came up in clusters on his arms, then his legs.  At first I thought it might have been a reaction to the blood pressure cuffs that had been on his arms, as that's where the rash first started.  But then it moved to his legs, so I (hesitantly) called the doctor.  He said they don't want to take any chances on Theo, as the appearance of a bacterial infection could be too hard on his heart, so he said I need to bring him in.  So we went.  They took a culture of his rash and said they'll call us when the results were in.

That weekend was relaxing.  We didn't have anything going on, etc.  But I did notice the tip of his toe was red.  Then there was pus underneath the nail.  I thought it was ingrown so I left it alone.  Of course it didn't get any better, so I hoped to text my doctor a photo of it but, of course, they insisted that we come in on Monday.  At this point I was on the verge of losing it. I had a hard time keeping track of the number of doctor visits we'd had in his less-than-three short weeks, and emotionally I was so drained.  I couldn't believe we had to go in yet again.

While we were there they received the results from the culture of the pimply rash.  STAPH.  My newborn baby, born safely at home, had staph.  I lost it.  I cried in the doctor's office room, holding my precious newborn and wrapped in the arms of my husband.  I just couldn't hold it together anymore.  The doctor was very compassionate and concerned with my emotional health, but reassured me that we couldn't take chances, and that Theo needed oral and topical antibiotics.  The idea of giving my newborn oral antibiotics made me feel sick to my stomach, but I also didn't want to mess with staph.  I got home and started googling natural alternatives to treat staph and got overwhelmed again.  I finally submitted to, what I feel like was God giving me permission to just let someone else take care of us.  I question everything, all the time, but there was a relief when I just gave in and said "yes" to the antibiotics.  It sounds funny but in a way, it was a very spiritual experience to recognize that God had placed these doctors in our lives to take care of us, and that I just needed to let go of trying to be in control.  I couldn't control this.

We gave him the antibiotics, twice a day- and boy, he didn't like it!  But, his staph infection cleared up, and his toes slowly got better.  Several days later my mom flew in, family came to town, and we got ready to baptize sweet Theo.  I can't even express how relieved I was so have some live-in backup help, cheerful smiles from family, and of course our dear friends who had offered months before to host the party.  It was God's plan, because there was no way I could have handled a baptism party at our house!  Sometime in that first month was also Luke's birthday, a dentist appointment (in which I took all children by myself for dental cleanings!), and Halloween. 

As time has passed, things have seemed more "normal," or at least it's our new normal.  We're adjusting to three big kids, a toddler, and a baby who seems like one of our regular babies now.  He sleeps, nurses, looks around, and then sleeps some more.  He never cries- except in the car!  Just this past week I feel like he's made his first real eye contact with me, giving me some giant, gummy smiles (instead of those sweet but accidental smiles).  I think I'm still recovering from everything, emotionally and mentally.  In retrospect, it's a blur.  I can see that it was chaotic and kind of rough, but the time, we coped and went through the motions.  I am incredibly thankful that this part is behind us and for the beautiful pictures and moments I've intentionally burned into my memory from his birth and first month.

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