Sunday, December 20

Our Christmas Card, 2015 Edition

Hello! If you're here by way of our Christmas card, welcome!

Years have gone by and I keep meaning to type up a family newsletter to include in our Christmas cards, but for various reasons it hasn't happened and I haven't made it a priority.  Then I realized I could include it here for anyone who would like a quick update on our family. :)

2015 has mostly come and gone in a fury!  Our family took a major trip in September- a drive to the northeast to see family and Pope Francis, a few smaller weekend trips, Ryan and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary with a vow renewal and reception, Beth had a two-day stay in the hospital thanks to an infected cut, and we almost sold our house (twice).  And we have three school-aged students now, which has been quite a change for me!  We had a few major events, but for the most part we're continuing to all grow and change, each of us in our own time. 


Ryan turned 35 this year, without fanfare!  He celebrated 9 years with his company this year, a family-friendly 8-5 job at a local company that continues to treat him respectfully and generously.  He used all of his vacation days this calendar year- which was a first!  Ryan has enjoyed a few good books this year, reading alongside Beth in her school work and of course, reading Little House books (again) to a couple of boys who are very interested in being Farmer Boys.  Ryan used his talent and time to build shields for the boy's club that we belong to, and took me on a fantastic trip to Antigua to celebrate our 10-year anniversary! He continues to support and guide me and our family as our spiritual head, and our relationship continues to grow and flourish as we live our busy and beloved lives!


I have had a year in which I've cut back on events and commitments and tried to be more intentional and reflective.  In some ways I was busier, taking advantage of Ryan's vacation days to travel and making a monthtly commitment to a day dedicated to spiritual practices, but I've also cut a lot out of my schedule.  The biggest change was this year I took only 4 doula clients (the previous year I had 14), and I've decided to end my career, at least for now, as a doula.  We switched to a new co-op, which entails more driving for Caeli and me, but has been a huge blessing to me as it's a drop-off program and I'm no longer responsible for teaching a class of kindergarteners!  The kids also love it, which in turn makes me a happier mama too!  I've read more this year than last, started attending some seriously awesome classes at the gym and ran a 3-mile race, and while I haven't been crafting as much as I'd like, I did manage to sew a few skirts for Caeli in May.  I discerned that I should drop out of social media completely (Instagram and Facebook), so you can check here periodically for updates, or give me a good old-fashioned call. :)



Beth will turn 9 in a week, is in third grade, and I have to admit that I am really looking forward to this next "phase" of girlhood.  She is leaving early childhood behind and becoming a young woman who is a delight and a pleasure to be around.  She devours books as soon as she can get her hands on them, reading late into the night and checking out books from the library as much as I'll allow her! On our Christmas card, the photo of her with her hands in the air is my favorite picture of her celebrating coming home from the hospital after a brief but dramatic stay!  She's learned to rollerblade this year, started piano lessons, and some days she completely takes over the kitchen from me and will bake until her heart is content.  Her sense of humor is maturing and while she occasionally rolls her eyes, she's still such a joy to my heart.


Luke turned 7 in October and is currently missing 3 teeth.  He's very proud of that fact!  He is in first grade, learning to read, and is preparing to make his First Holy Communion in the Spring.  We call him our worker man, because he has a deep innate desire to be constantly moving and using his body for God's glory!  He and Jack have dug holes in the backyard and filled them back up again, created "secret hiding places," taken apart broken appliances, and asked questions about pretty much everything.  He has a natural talent for math and building, and can get lost for hours in a pile of Legos.  He can also be super sweet and cuddly with me, planting slobbery kisses and giving tender hugs.  I accept because I don't know how long they will last!

Jackson is five-and-a-half, as he will proudly announce, and started kindergarten this year.  He is also learning how to read, loves doing his math workbook, and spends a lot of time playing dress up.  He's gone through phases of being a knights or priests, and right now he likes to dress up as a shepherd.  He loves to draw, play outside, and basically do anything that Luke does! We had a big baseball-themed fifth birthday for him in the summertime, which he loved despite the fact that he sometimes can be very shy.  He doesn't particularly love going to Sunday School or co-op, but he always has a good time with his friends in the classes!

Caeli Rose will be 2 in a few weeks!  She continues to be a huge blessing a joy to me.  We all always marvel at how cute she is, and Beth takes delight in knowing that Caeli acts and plays the same way that she did.  She is starting to speak clearly now, loves identifying animals and body parts, and she's definitely the most expressive child we've ever had!  She speaks not only with words but with her hands and head- well, her whole body!  She dances and sings, reminds us to pray before we eat, and just loves playing baby and tea party.  She loves Beth and her brothers, running to give them a hug or kiss when they wake up in the morning.  She's not quite sleeping through the night consistently yet, though it has happened a handful of times and we have hope that it will happen soon!

Please feel free to explore my blog, click around and read away.  What's here is written for you; it's not too personal for me to share.  I opted to not publish a few things that maybe were on the verge of being too much information, but what I've shared here is because I think these things are worthy of being discussed.  I renamed my blog in January and have used that as a platform to sort of dissect my feelings and struggles this year.  My true hope is that, as my children grow and venture out into this world, they see this blog as a memory book of their adventures and lives.  That is truly why this little blog is here!

God's blessings to you and your family in 2016!  May we all grow to know and accept His peace and will in our hearts and lives. 


Friday, December 11

Quiet Time at the Library

Peaceful and quiet, we rest at the library during the afternoon while toddlers nap and other big kids are still at school. We own this place, resting in silence save for the rustle of turning pages. The smell of old books and dust reminds brings me an inner peace but watching my children search for beloved authors brings me immense joy. They're whisked away, far away from me, lost in the olden days of Tomie dePaola or the silly antics of Cuirous George, yet their little bodies are right next to me.  Here we find rest.


Tuesday, December 1

The Past Month- In Photos

We went to see Grandma and Grandpa's new (temporary) digs!  All 800 square feet of it!  It's been wonderful having them live only 15 minutes away!

We squeezed some fat toes into shoes from my own childhood..

This is a teeny tiny portion of the hundreds of people who attended the funeral of an amazing and loving homeschooling friend.  The entire church was packed and I saw people at the reception afterward that I didn't even know knew her.  She was a blessing to me in many ways.  She let me know it was okay to not do everything perfectly, even though she seemed to always have it together!  She was real to me, and I value and appreciate that so much.  Please pray for the repose of her soul, and for the husband and five children who miss her dearly.

Playtime at the church playground before co-op started.

My early-morning companion and her companions.

Beth wanted to make a "special snack" during an afternoon visit from Grandma and Grandpa.  She made a list of items she'd need, drew out a sketch of how she'd set it up, and then did it.  Where on earth did she learn how to do that?!

A Martinmas procession with friends at the park.  In the dark!

Beth wanted me to snap a photo of her leaving the church after mass one day at co-op. 


Lost another tooth!  That third one will be out before Christmas!

Tea before bed. 

Black Friday shopping with Mommy!

I took them to see a local dance school's production of The Nutcracker.  Have I mentioned how much my kids love The Nutcracker?  They were the Rat King, Marie, and The Nutcracker for Halloween!  We listen to the music and watch a DVD of it year-round!

Beth and her friend Madeline, who was in the performance.  I can't believe these girls have been friends for 5 years now!

Monday, November 30

Luke is SEVEN!

 We hope you had a happy day, Buddy!  The weather was wet so you had to miss your club, but we invited some of those boys over to our house and you got to play with your friends for a couple of hours!  Beth and her girl friends made some cupcakes for you, and it seemed like you had a really fun time!

Later in the afternoon, Grandma and Grandpa came over.  You tossed the football around in the backyard with Daddy and you opened your presents outside on the patio.  This year was LEGO year!  You got several new sets and accessories- and you were so excited!






Daddy and I love you so very much.  Beth, Jack, and Caeli love you too!  I hope these photos remind you of how happy you were on this day, and how very much you are loved by your family.  I expect this year will be full of more lost teeth, lots of growing (you're going to be tall like your Daddy one day!), running and playing, and of course Legos!

Saturday, November 21

A Visit from Uncle Michael


Uncle Michael came to visit us from his home halfway across the United States, and we felt lucky that he chose to spend his vacation days here in Texas.  On the first full day he was here, we happened to have museum class, so he accompanied Jack, Caeli, and me to the zoo while Beth and Luke went to class.  These once-a-month days are always fun for me because I get to spend the morning with just two kids, and one of them acts like a different kid without his big brother around!  It's a special time we get to spend together!  We wandered around the zoo for a bit, went back to the museum for lunch, then he left to see friends while I took the kids on their private tour of the paleontology hall with a docent!





The next day we made a big Thanksgiving dinner to share with him, since it was a few days before and we all agreed that it'd be better to have an early feast with family!  To complete the experience, Michael played some Christmas carols on our piano (inspiring Beth in the process to keep up her lessons!) and they all watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas while I finished things up in the kitchen.  I made a giant turkey breast instead of a full turkey, with stuffing, green beans, and homemade cranberry sauce.


We had to part ways early the next morning since it was co-op day for us and he was off to visit other family elsewhere in the state.  We all greatly enjoyed his visit!  I get to see him sooner than everyone else on my mommy-only adventure coming up in December...More on that later! ;-)

Monday, November 16

An Aggie Game!

Ryan insisted on taking the big kids to an Aggie game this season, and as soon as we finally found a free weekend on the calendar he bought tickets!  This was our first time to see the new and improved Kyle Field, and of course we were blown away.  We arrived just in time to see the band and corps march in!  The boys were excited to see real swords!



We just happened to run into some friends, and we stuck together during the march in.


I think Ryan was anxious to get inside, so we finally found our seats and watched the players run in- some, as seniors, for the last time.  The kids were in awe of everything from the height of our seats (yeah, pretty high!) to the jumbotrons.



It was chilly but not too cold, and it drizzled a teeny tiny bit but thankfully no real rain!  The kids are already begging to go back next season!

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 doulamatch.net, 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










 
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