Tuesday, December 9

I am an innkeeper

I'm done Christmas gift shopping, and some are even wrapped and safely hidden from peeking eyes.  My mind has turned from find "the perfect gift" for everyone to other items on my to-do list!  It's a great relief to be done early- I hope to do this every year!

I know the relief is probably temporary, because soon it will be about the food, cleaning, and rushing to-and-fro.  God has called me to be a responsible steward of my time, and so I plan.  I make my lists of groceries and rooms to clean and books to read, but I know to leave room for God's plans.  My heart is full of joy, anticipating the upcoming events and celebrations of hosting friends and family and having a bustling, full house.
"Christmas is a time to be Christ to one another. It is permission in a largely secular society to witness to the wonders of the Lord. In reality, the only thing perfect about Christmas is the Christ Child who longs to find shelter in our hearts.
I am not Martha Stewart. I am an innkeeper. I am preparing a place in my home and in my soul for the Savior of the World. I need to be so grounded in prayer that Christ’s peace overflows from me to those in my home. Let the visitors come. Let them come whenever they want and stay as long as they want. I will make the house warm and the food filling, but above all, I will make certain that the Holy Infant is here. He will be the reason for our celebration."  -Elizabeth Foss (please, go read her entire blog.  All of it.)
I am an innkeeper.  Since I read this phrase over a week ago, I can't get it out of my mind.  I relate so because we always host family members here during this time of year, and I spend so much time preparing for them.  I welcome everyone with open arms and hopefully a smile on my face.  But as diligently as I prepare my home, have I prepared my heart for the birth of Christ?

We give gifts and host celebrations and prepare our homes not only because we love our family and friends, but because we love God.   I hope that in our lovingly-prepared home, home-cooked meals, delicately-wrapped gifts, and even in the unavoidable chaos of excited children, others can see that we seek only to magnify His holy name!  For it is in Him, and only in Him that I find my peace- not in being "done" with gifts a little earlier this year.


I hope that everyone who enters our home this Advent and Christmas season is able to see Him here!

Wednesday, December 3

My View


My view.  Every day, everywhere I go.  The top of that beautiful hairy little head, hair with a reddish tint and the slightest hint of body that suggests to me there may one day be curl.  My fingers are crossed.  She follows me from room to room, that is, if I'm not carrying her already.  You see, she wants to be with me.  Always.  And I am so blessed to have her here with me, safe and healthy and developing as a little almost-11-month old should.  But I'm remembering those days of getting very little housework and cooking done because of baby.  Four kids in, I'm okay with that.  (That's what I keep telling myself...I'm okay with that.)

But some days, positive thinking doesn't make it any easier.  When her cute little arms (they look like soft miniature adult arms) go up in the air over her head and she gives me that little pouty face that she just knows I can't resist... Well, the house can get picked up later.  The other kids will eat dinner... Eventually.  For now, my baby needs me.


Saturday, November 15

Renaissance Festival


The local Renaissance Festival hosts "school days" during the week during which they tame down the bawdy acts and make the whole thing a little more kid-friendly.  We heard it was a fun family activity, so Ryan took a day off and we all went together!

One rainy, cold day while we were dating, Ryan and I went together.  I don't remember why we decided to go, but it was our first time and we were poor college students, so I remember not having a lot of fun!  Upon walking in, a man with an accent called out to Ryan (who was wearing a visor), "Did you pay full price for that half cap?!"  Ryan still says that anytime I put on a visor.  That's my biggest memory from that day, probably 11 or 12 years ago!

I think it's fun that over a decade later, we went back with four children and a little money in our pocket this time.  I think we made up for not spending any before!  The first thing we all did when we walked in was all got our faces painted!


After that we walked around a bit while we made a plan.  We knew we had to see the joust, and we wanted to hit up a few booths for demonstrations.  The first thing we saw was a blacksmith.  The kids were pretty interested in watching him make a tool for turning steaks on a grill.


Almost right after that was the joust.  We wanted to get there early enough to get a seat in the front. 
Jack chose to have a dolphin painted on his face!

Luke kept asking if they were really hurting each other.  As you can imagine, this was his favorite part of the day!
Luke was enamored with all of the knights he kept seeing.  Statues, men dressed as knights, swords and chainmaille in the shops.  He kept asking if everything was real.  We stopped to take lots of pictures.

In this shop, the man demonstrated how sharp his sword was- he said it could cut a person in half! (I don't think the kids picked up on that delightful tidbit.)  Yet it was very light-weight- he let Luke "hold" it!
They started begging to play games so we found some bows and arrows to shoot.  The kids had practiced with the bows and arrows that PawPaw had made for them over the summer, so they looked like professionals in my opinion.



The second show we saw was a man who showcased his skills with a whip, then because that wasn't impressive enough he also lit it on fire!  We didn't get an up-front seat for this act... Which, halfway into the show, I realized I was completely okay with that!

At this point we stopped to have lunch.  We had packed a lunch and left it in the car, so Ryan went to grab it while the rest of us slowly meandered to a table.  Everyone was getting pretty tired but we hadn't accomplished nearly everything yet!  But after lunch it started to rain!  Luckily we had our umbrella and stood in a covered area for about 15 minutes until it passed.  While it got everything muddy, I think a lot of people left at this time because the place seemed to clear out after the rain.  We found some more games for the kids, shopped around for cheap souvenirs, then left for home around 3:00.











Everyone really enjoyed themselves!  I am sure we'll go back next year.  Ryan really wants to dress up, too, so if you see any Robin Hood men's costumes on sale, let me know! 

Friday, November 14

7 Quick Takes... Thoughts about Thinking

---1---
Being a friend is complicated.  Sometimes I get stuck in situations with certain people where I just fumble on my words.  I gush about myself or endure awkward silences when I'm secretly desperately trying to think of a new conversation topic.  It's always the same people too- they must think I'm an idiot!  I get myself worked up and then the words just don't come, or I wind up saying something totally dumb, or blabbing on about myself when I sincerely want to hear about them.  I hate that feeling!

---2---
I don't know why I let things bother me so much.  Like today I was on a country road and came up behind an older man in a truck going 50 mph in a 70.  He slowed down- I thought he was going to turn right- so I slowed down behind him.  He started waving for me to go around him but there was oncoming traffic and I didn't feel comfortable doing it since I would have had to cross over into the other lane.  He got really mad at me!  He had his window down, yelling Lord only knows what at me, waving his hands frantically.  I'm only happy he didn't make a specific one-fingered gesture but he was clearly ticked off at me and I can only imagine what he was thinking.  I was so confused!  He was doing something nice for me, but then got mad at me?  I let this incident eat at me off and on all afternoon.  I prayed for him after it happened but why did I dwell on it?

---3---
I guess I'm a thinker.  I do think about things for a long time, and I have to read as much information as I can before I make a decision.  I replay moments in my head over and over again, hoping I'll do better next time.  We've been thinking about something big over the past couple of months and it's taken some time for pieces to fall into place, but I've needed to gather all the facts.  This is difficult because sometimes you just can't gather everything; sometimes the facts don't exist.  Sometimes you have to pray and just trust God, and trust yourself to make the right decision even when some of the puzzle pieces are still missing.  But as I tell my clients- we make educated decisions with the information we have in this moment so we have no "what ifs" later.  We made part of our decision and although it's not originally what we'd wanted, we did gather as much information as we could and put the rest in God's hands. 

---4---
The good news about making a big decision is we've experienced a bit of relief knowing that it's officially Not An Option anymore.  Crossed it off the list.  That's always nice, don't you think?

---5---
Well, I guess we've made two decisions recently!  We also made a decision to say "yes" to a new church home.  We have become members of a parish that is right for our family. There are so many aspects of the parish and the liturgy that I just love.  We can truly say "yes" to God in so many new ways here.


It reminds me of the way we educate our children.  We don't buy literature that has been abridged or brought down to their level; we give them something of beauty and something to strive to understand, something for which to reach. Our faith life should be no different!   Here, we are all reaching, yet we are all nourished.

---6---
I'd have to say that I have a decent understanding of my role as mother, wife, and daughter of the King.  But it's hard for me to reach deeper sometimes because... I am a mother and wife! I've read the books- I know it's about prioritizing and coming outside of myself and self-donative love... And I have a missionary spirit. I am constantly being reminded that the best (and seemingly only) thing I should do right now is to love and raise my children.  I do agree!  Whole-heartedly!  Still, sometimes I struggle with the feeling that I should be doing more for God's kingdom.

---7---
Ahhhhh... God's kingdom.  Cuddling with this sweet, cuddly, ball of love.  The kingdom of God truly belongs to such as these, and I'm convinced she was given to me as a gift to help me heal from a lot of past hurts.  But have I mentioned she'd 10 months old?  It's starting to get a little complicated during the days!  She wants me so much, and the others want me so much too.  Then there's school work and chores and cooking to be done... Imagine my surprise when I went looking for this post for the first time since Caeli was born.  Gosh I knew exactly what I'd be thinking right now!  Time to take my own advice!

Sunday, November 9

Caeli is 10 months old

 She is so very close to walking!  She gets herself into a squat, then pushes straight up into a standing position and "surfs" for a minute before lowering herself back down.  I think it's only a matter of days before she gains the confidence to take those first steps!
She loves to climb stairs and the kid-sized rocking chair, and she loves to hold one of our baby dolls.  She also loves to chase a ball and to play with a blanket!  And everyone still says she looks like Luke.  What do you think?
 She has three teeth and two more breaking through the surface right now.  So far her upper right tooth has yet to make an appearance!

No she's not sleeping through the night, but I'm totally okay with that.  I haven't let that sort of stuff worry me this time!.  I enjoy sleeping with her so very much, my heart still melts when I look into her huge eyes, and I just really don't want this one to grow up!!!

Saturday, November 8

Q&A with... Me!

My sweet friend Andrea tagged me!  I'm not sure what a Leibster Award is my friends, but apparently I've been asked to answer some fun questions so I'm doing it!



1. What are you reading now?  And what is your favorite book of all time?
At any given time, I have about six books on my nightstand- more or less. :-)  Right now I'm actively reading Searching for and Maintaining Peace (by Father Jacques Philippe), The Discernment of Spirits (by Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV), and Beyond the Birds and the Bees (by Gregory Popcak).  I think I might need to read something light next!  
My night stand last fall.  Oops, I'm still reading Beyond the Birds and the Bees... But for real this time!
I can't say I have a favorite book of all time.  I don't really have a favorite anything- color, song, animal... Those questions always stumped me!  In recent years, the book that's had the biggest impact on me was A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot, because that book sort of molded the way I live my life by helping me create a routine that allows time for everything that we need and want. 

2.  What CD or album would define your high school years?
Ugh, high school.  I listened to a lot of things but had only a few CDs; Goo Goo Dolls, Michelle Branch, and Vertical Horizon were probably my favorites!  But I have to say that every time I hear Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin, or Symphony No. 5 by Shostakovitch, I'm transported back to some of my happiest days in band, where I was a part of something bigger than me.  I still get lost in those two pieces of music.

3. Which do you enjoy more: cooking or baking?
I enjoy both!  I still don't feel like I totally understand gluten-free baking, and usually baking makes a bigger mess, so I'll say I enjoy cooking more.  I definitely feel more at ease with cooking because I'm an excellent multi-tasker: I move swiftly, time perfectly, and can arrange and present a yummy plate of food.  It's like a dance.  Most days that's not what happens because, you know, life!  We love to entertain and host events so that's when I have the opportunity to really enjoy cooking, baking, and entertaining.  I love sharing meals with family and friends, that's one reason I love December so much!

From Christmas a couple of years ago.  I love it.
4. What is a personal goal you have over the course of the next year?  Next 5?  Next 10?
I have to say this is the hardest question for me to answer, because "personal" is difficult for me.  I haven't really thought about goals that I have for myself- family goals, yes, but personally?  I guess I should think more about this!  I would love to run another race to lose this last bit of baby weight and get to a point where I feel strong and happy about my health again.  I want to do something musical (see question 8).  Recently I've considered becoming a certified lactation consultant.  I'm always seeking to be a joy-filled, peaceful woman of God, but how do you measure that?  Other than that I don't really know.  What are some of your personal goals?


5. How do you preserve your precious family memories?  (Scrapbooks, photo albums, the blog, etc?)
So far, this blog is the bulk of our preservation.  I do keep my photos backed up, and I used to be good about making photo books based on the text and photos from my blog.  That was back when I had time to search the internet for free coupon codes!  These books are very well-loved by my children, I blogged about the books a couple of years ago.  I should really create some more books so Caeli will be included!

6. What do you do when you legitimately need a mama break?
Hmm this could be a long answer... I didn't realize I had characteristics of an introvert until a year or two ago.  The truth is, in a group of close friends I can be very loud and outgoing, but when it's just me and the kids I definitely crave my alone time.  I used to get touched-out pretty easily when they were younger, but now that they're older it's the constant NOISE that usually drives me to my closet to seek a moment of silent peace!  We utilize a daily rest time, where the kids are expected to be quiet upstairs for an hour and a half, so I can be alone to either get some work done or rest.  (This doesn't work out so well with a baby who doesn't necessarily nap when they rest, but it's better than nothing.)  
This is me, literally hiding in the closet with my feet up.

I've also recently come to understand that I have to use my time in a manner that leaves me feeling recharged, and so I'm trying to figure out what that is for me.  I know that it's NOT social media.  It's not walking around Target aimlessly alone and without intent.  I don't really watch TV so I don't waste time with that during the day.  I'd love to say that reading recharges me but usually I wind up dozing off!  But I hate to nap during the day because chances are high that one of the kids will wake me up, and I turn into Super Grumpy Woman when I am awoken from a mid-day, five-minute nap.  So it's better to not even try!  
Staying active at my gym helps me keep my peace, as does my doula work.  I also crave date nights with my darling husband for a chance to re-connect after a busy month or two (we don't get out enough!).  I desperately want to attend another silent retreat- it's been 6 years since I've been on one- and my spirit really needs to be recharged like that again.  Girl's night outs definitely don't happen enough either.  But, I'd say the absolute fail-proof way to recharge for me is to meet the Lord in Adoration at a local church.

7. What is your favorite way to spend quality time with your children?
Cuddling in bed or on the couch, one-on-one.  I don't do it often enough because I am usually so tired in the evenings, but I find that's where some of our best conversations take place.  I just let them lead the conversation and talk until they're talked out.  Sometimes they ask questions but usually they just talk and talk and talk... It usually gets pretty silly too!

8. What is a skill you don't have that you'd love to learn?
I'd love to learn to play the piano or take voice lessons.  I've considered doing both over the past three years and when we finally enroll the kids in music lessons, I hope to join them.

9. What's your favorite side dish to go with Turkey on Thanksgiving?
My mom's sweet potato casserole!  There's nothing healthy about that dish but it's so good!

10. Christmas cards: yea or nay?
We send out cards every year and we love to receive them!  The kids love checking the mail during December!  Last year though, I didn't send out Christmas cards because I was waiting for the baby to be born so we could do a Christmas Card/ birth announcement combo.  I noticed we didn't get as many cards last year- I'm guessing we were on a lot of people's "B" lists, and since I didn't mail them a card, they didn't mail us a card!

Saturday, October 25

The Exhibit that Brought Me Back


When I was in high school, 16 years old, my parents did something crazy.  They let me go to Rome.  With a wild group of girlfriends.  Practically alone.


Okay not practically alone, but looking back I do think they were sort of crazy to let me go like that.  I was escorted by a consecrated lay member of Regnum Christi, and I was with a group of girlfriends- yes, we were wild!  What seemed like a non-stop whirlwind behind-the-scenes adventure lasted only a few nights, but at 16 years old I was pretty sure I could do it all!


I remember the boxed lunches, sleeping on the floor of a school room, feeling like the bus driver could have cared a little more for his driving skills, singing and chanting JOHN PAUL TWO, WE LOVE YOU and squeezing our way into St. Peter's Square to wind up being only inches away from him as he drove by in his pope mobile!  Pentecost '98, mass and confirmations at St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Trevi Fountain, gelato, so many basilicas, wearing skirts the entire trip, and the COLD showers!  Talking to the Swiss guards, the bright green grass at a seminary we visited, relics and incorruptible bodies, and the Pieta at St. Peter's.


I remember popping into a convenient store for some Tylenol and just thinking- so this is what it would be like to live in Rome.


That was 16 years ago but I remember the sights and feelings and the emotions like it was yesterday.


I'm so happy my parents put me on that plane.  So grateful they trusted an amazing woman, a woman who changed my life, to take care of me for a few days, halfway across the world.
 

Pope Saint John Paul II will always have a special place in my heart!  John Paul the Great, Pray for Us!