Tuesday, July 30

Jackson is THREE

June 24, 2013

My sweet Jack Jack,
I don't even have the words for you.  You have always been and still are my sweet, sweet boy.  You melt me and get your way with me, it's definitely not fair!  You are talking non-stop now, and the conversations you and I have are always so fun and silly.  Just this morning you were picking out your clothes to wear and you were being so silly, giggling and laughing as I sat on your little toddler bed.  You have millions of questions for me but one of the silliest things about you is that you copy what everyone else says, and sometimes I don't even think you realize you're doing it until I look at you and give you a silly look, and you melt into laughter.  You LOVE Jesus and your favorite books is a children's version of Stations of the Cross- you call it "My Jesus Book" and you are always so concerned that they killed Jesus, but then turn the pages and say, "He comes back!"  You play mass and altar server and I can't help but wonder what God has in store for your precious little soul.  I hope you're always able to hear Him in your life, and always have the will and the strength to follow the path he has for you- THE perfect path for YOU.  My sweet guy, my baby.  I will cuddle you for as long as you let me, cover you in tickles and kisses and prayers and love.


I have always tried to respect your will and your autonomy, from the first day of your life.  It's difficult for you to visit the doctor or dentist, or even try swim lessons, but you and I always get through those days with me feeling like you've had your say in the matter, even though you're still a little guy.  You're stinking smart though, and you know it.  Some people- even me sometimes- might label you a "mama's boy" but I think you just know what you want- and you typically want me!  You want to be comfortable in your surroundings before you try something new.  You want to know I'm nearby and that you're safe.  I don't mind that you're a mama's boy- because you're definitely a daddy's boy too!  You play silly games with Daddy, Luke, and Beth, and you love playing with your family members and a few friends whom you see on a regular basis.  You'll always be safe with us, baby; we will always take care of you.

birthday present- a big boy bike

I love you, Mr. Silly Boy, Uncle Meyer, Cinnamon Cocoa, and all those other silly nicknames you give yourself.  Until you're done playing and you say, "No, I'm big boy, I'm three.  I'm Jackson Paul."  Yes, you are big boy, and we love you!

Wednesday, July 17

What are my gifts?

Last night Ryan and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary (forgot to take a photo- doh!) by going out to a nice dinner, doing a bit of window shopping (I bought two cute latte mugs on clearance, so I guess it was real shopping!), and attended a talk given by a family friend.  He's a very knowledgeable, very dynamic man, with a passion for speaking and a love of the Lord.  After speaking about St. Ignatius of Antioch, a bishop who was martyred for the faith, he issued a challenge that's been on my mind today.  What gift has the Lord given you- and how do you use it in an effort to evangelize the world?  Are we ashamed of our belief in the Lord?  Because he loves us all- every single one of us.  Why are we not out there shouting it from the rooftops?

Well, we're not all meant to shout from the rooftops.  He pointed out that we all have unique gifts, then he went on (and I'm very thankful for this part) to talk a little about different, unique gifts people have.  Obviously some people are gifted speakers- maybe those are the ones meant to shout from the rooftops!  But some of us are writers.  Some of us are organized.  Some of us are dedicated friends.  Some of us live our lives, unabashedly in love with the Lord, and it shows. 

And then there's me.  There's this stay-at-home mom, who feels so unworthy.  Yes, I can be scrupulous- that's always been a part of me.  I am hard on myself, but I also know what the Lord has made me capable of, so I see it as a challange.  I think- had he put me in a different place at a different time, my life could be soooooooo very different.  I could have made a life-changing mistake, or I could have stayed single and lived my life for the Lord in a very different way.  I could have become a nun, or a consecrated lay woman.  I can see myself being a public speaker, boldly proclaiming the gospel!  I am not super-extroverted anymore, but I used to be!  I can also write- well, I don't think I'm incredibly witty or clever, but I can hammer out a few good thoughts every now and then.  But blogging isn't going to become my profession, and while I've kicked around the idea of writing a book on theology of the body and self-care for young kids, I don't think it's in my future anytime soon.

The one gift I am certain I have is faith.  I have never doubted God's love for me, and I have never doubted his presence.  I know, more than I've ever known anything in my life, that he's truly present in the Eucharist and that he gave his life so that I could go to heaven.  I've had some difficult times in life- not awful, but not easy either- and it's never been a problem for me to turn to the Lord and give it to him. 

But, here I am.  A wife and mom.  Daughter and daughter-in-law.  Sister, keeper of my home, teacher, doula, and friend.  I can't go tour the country and talk at seminars and give life-changing talks.  I can hardly even find time to write a blog post.

And I find myself unworthy all.the.time.  I mess up so bad sometimes.  How can I preach God's love  to others when I can't even love and serve my family with a smile in my heart?

I've read about us stay-at-home mom types.  We're supposed to evangelize the world by raising our family, children who love the Lord, and by setting a good example to others.  Sounds sort of easy, but it is SO difficult sometimes. 

Day after day, the same stuff.  Messes, laundry, meals, dirty dishes.  The desire to be creative and create something beautiful and fluff my home, but the exhaustion that comes with being mentally and emotionally present 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Some days are easier than others, and some are awful.  I know that's true for all moms, but I don't play the comparison game anymore either.  What goes on in other women's homes- whether it's a perfect day of school and chores while they sew and blog and exercise daily- is not of concern to me.  What concerns me is what I heard about last night- What are my gifts, and how am I using them for the Lord?

Today, I'm not really certain, but the speaker last night suggested we go sit in adoration and ask the Lord to tell us.  I'm going to try to do that very soon, but for today I'm left pondering in my heart what God really really wants from me.  Please pray for my discernment?

Saturday, July 6

Planning Our School Year

I'm in the beginning stages of planning for our next homeschooling year.  I have a lot of learn from last year... I think the biggest lesson for me is that we can do whatever we want.  Within reason, of course, but seriously.  They're still little.  I have worked Beth hard and I've let her be a kid, and she is happiest when she's busy being a little girl.  I am figuring out subjects and books and lesson plans and all that stuff, just like last year, but just like last year I am going to let them play.  If it's a nice morning, they're going to get to play outside until their hearts are content.  I will feed them a diet of rich, beautiful, meaningful lessons, but in small pieces and after they have been allowed to play. 

Luke will not be starting kindergarten officially this year, since he will be 5 in October.  I will plan out things for him to do if he's willing and ready, but once again I am not going to make him do anything official for school.

A big success last year was doing lessons that didn't look like lessons.  For awhile we were really good about doing a virtue study at the table during afternoon snack- I'd read from a book and we'd talk about it.  Easy and simple, so important to their formation, but since it was casual and "unofficial" it was received well by everyone.  So I will try to do more of this.

I want to be better about planning field trips that are related to the topics we're studying.  I've always been drawn to unit studies but I am not going to plan traditional unit studies, just try to stick with the liturgical calendar and topics in our books.

Right now I have a million ideas swirling around in my head... My first step to planning is just sort of sitting and pondering, haha.  It looks like I'm not doing anything but I really am. ;-)  I've also been cruising some of my favorite blogs (Real Learning, Wildflowers and Marbles, Sanctus Simplicitus, and a few others) for inspiration and ideas that might work for us better this year.  Just today I sat down with a calendar and planned out our year- we will be doing 6 weeks on and 1 week off for both semesters, with a 4-week break mostly after Christmas for us to adjust to being a family of 6. :-)  We have a co-op every Thursday, we should be taking a 2-week break to travel to North Carolina, and I've planned two spring breaks in early March and late April, closing out our school year on June 6, 2014.  We'll see if that actually happens!

Beth will be involved in her girl's club again, art lessons, piano lessons, and soccer.  Luke will be doing soccer and I'm debating putting him back in gymnastics again with Jack (shhh this is a secret- don't mention it to him!).  We all have co-op together on Thursdays (Luke will be in preschool and Jack will either be with Luke or in the nursery for part of the time), and Fridays will be reserved for park days, field trips, and nature walks.  We also have a once-a-month nature day on first Tuesdays.

This year I am adding in something new- plans for me.  I really missed my women's weekly bible study I attended the year before Beth started kindergarten, so I want to make sure I have something positive in there for me to add to my formation and adult time.  I also want to schedule in time for sewing and handicrafts, exercise (prenatal yoga, most likely), and more baking.  And of course, getting ready for baby to arrive!

We will be mostly following Mater Amabilis again this year, year 1B.  Of course I'll be changing around some things, because that's just me. ;-P  I will be forming some of our schedule around the co-op, like probably history (Early American again), and the co-op will be providing us with a few subjects (like art and geography) that I won't really have to do at home.  And mass once a week!  I am really looking forward to it!

So that's all I have right now.  I feel like it's a good start, given that it's early July.  I definitely have lots more to do, but that will come with time.

Friday, July 5

Beth's Big Hair Cut

Before- she looks terrified!
After a few super-hot days, Beth decided it was time to cut her hair!  We talked about donating it, so she agreed to cut it to her shoulders with my claim that it would be much much cooler for the summertime!  It was important to me that SHE was the one to make the decision, and once she did we scheduled the appointment with my hair stylist, and she got it cut!  She took off about 10 inches!

After- "Mommy it's all gone!"
Time for her first real hairstyling appointment!

She LOVES her haircut.  It's so cute and she agrees that it's cooler, and she was surprised at how much less time it takes to dry!  We still haven't sent her ponytail off to donate yet but we'll try to get that done soon.  I love her summertime style!


Anxiously waiting for the reveal...
At the beginning of the summer, we finally bought... A ride on lawn mower!  It's been a long time coming, and this year we decided to splurge on a brand-new mower.  You should have seen Luke's face when we just told him we were going to buy a tractor, the anticipation nearly killed him!  Our neighbor helped us pick it up with a trailer, and the kids (including the neighbor's daughter, who is Jack's age) all waited anxiously as the men were going to pick it up.

The moment of glory!  Luke was in heaven!

He said, "This is the best birthday present ever!" 

Beth was excited too, but a little less impressed.

Of course we had to take it out for a spin!
The new mower cuts down Ryan's mowing time by more than half, though he still has to use the push mower for some tight areas around the fence and gardens.  Not only does it cut his time in half, but if he lets the grass grow too long, it's not a frustrating mess to get it cut with the push mower.  And of course, now he can sit and mow instead of push- big difference!

Luke's still a hard worker outside, after all these years he still "helps" Daddy as much as possible when Ryan is outside doing yardwork.  He operates the blower all by himself now, sweeps, and uses his own push mower to "get the spots that Daddy missed."  And his weed wacker has seen years of use, so it's a bit broken, but Ryan tied some of his real string on it and now Luke thinks it's the best thing ever!
Such a hard worker.

Riding with Daddy

Swimming Babies

My summertime babies started swim lesson on Jack's 3rd birthday.  They were scheduled only for 8 lessons over a period of two weeks, and Beth and Luke both did a tremendous job of learning new things and improving drastically!  I was so impressed with Luke, who I think just did fabulous with trying new things (even when he said he was scared) and dramatically improving.  Beth picked up pretty quickly with remembering what she learned last year and also made some great improvements.  
Waiting for her turn
His class went last- he didn't want to wait!

Mr. Jack wanted NOTHING to do with his swim lessons, teacher, or other kids in his class.  He cried so hard the first day (despite being SO excited!) that I tried to pull him out of the lessons, but I was denied a refund.   So... It was one of those tough parenting decisions.  I could not force him to swim through his tears, and I certainly was not going to leave him there to deal with it on his own.  It wasn't a class where I could get in the water though, either.  In the end I decided that I would participate with him as much as possible- which meant I sat with him through the out-of-pool instruction, sat next to him by the pool (with my feet in the water touching him the first couple of days), and verbally encouraging him when it was his turn to try something new.  He went from screaming the first day to passively being idle at best.  When it was his turn to kick, he'd just sit in his teacher's arms and float, closing his eyes.  It was better than screaming, but certainly not participation!  I'm okay with that though.  In the end, through this experience (and all others), my main goal is to teach him that Mommy will support him and be there for him, and allow him an option in the decision-making process.  I thought he'd WANT to do swim lessons, which is why I signed him up.  I certainly didn't expect him to become a pro in eight lessons, but I hope the lesson of learning that Mommy supports him hopefully outweighed the fear from the first day.

Before his lesson began, he was so excited!!!

Tuesday, July 2


For anyone who hasn't heard the news yet: I'm expecting!

I conceived only about a couple of weeks after my March loss, giving this baby an expected due date of December 28, 2013.  Yes, that is one day after Beth's 7th birthday!  Given my history of going "late" with my pregnancies, I have a feeling this baby might be a 2014 baby after all.  I am currently 14 weeks pregnant, have seen this baby once at an ultrasound visit at around 8 weeks, and just yesterday I heard the heartbeat on an external doppler monitor.  It was in the 160s- happy happy happy baby.  All I could think of was, "Thank you Jesus for the gift of this life."

We have told all friends and family, everyone has known for quite awhile now.  As I start to show, everyone else is finding out too.  I have no problem telling the world; my blog readers know I am an open book!  We have received mostly excited, joy-filled congratulations, but a few comments have been full of misunderstanding from people who don't know us all that well.  I am not a person who gets offended easily so it doesn't bother me, but I was pondering that until we- as a society- learn to accept that a baby is a gift and a unique, individual being from the moment of conception, there will always be "those" sorts of comments when a mother announces a pregnancy.

10 weeks
 I grieve for anyone who thinks that children are a burden.  Yes, they can be difficult to handle sometimes, but I don't think that's their fault.  They are establishing identity and autonomy...growing up. It's in my human weakness that I fail to understand how to best care for them during these difficult times, because I myself am not perfect.  They are not me, despite our similarities, and when I treat them as a miniature adult instead of a learning child, I am the one with the problem.  I don't want to give of myself enough for them; I am the one failing to sacrifice for them. But they are not the burden.

In the eyes of the Lord, who breathed LIFE into each of us at the moment of our conception, we are individual and unique and HIS.  We are not parasites living off of our mother's bodies.  We are not small blobs of tissue. Even if our mother's didn't plan for us, we are wanted by Him, still created for a purpose and with meaning!

13 weeks
 So even though this baby was planned and very much wanted, please rethink calling me a baby-making machine or telling me I'm just "popping them out."  Granted, most of these people don't know my history, but these attitudes are that of a culture that does not respect life.  It's hurtful and rude to someone who loves life and experienced pregnancy loss.  I am following God's plan for my life by taking part in his creative power and creating souls for Him.  I hope I am able to pass on to my children the gift that they are to me and to Him, even if other people don't see the value and worth in each of our lives.
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