Thursday, April 23

20 Things About Me

I posted this on Instagram a couple of weeks ago and decided I wanted to share it here for the sake of preservation. :-)  I did edit to clarify and add a little bit.

20 things about me... 

1. I don't have many pictures of just me on my phone, because I'm very self-conscious about myself and selfies are extremely unflattering on me. The picture of me on my blog is beautiful to me and represents me better than a photo of me probably does because frankly, if I could "be" any person who has ever been painted, it would be her. This picture spoke to me the first time I ever saw it. 

2. I could eat Tex-Mex every day for the rest of my life and die a happy woman. Because, fajitas and margaritas.

3. My love language is quality time. If we haven't spent quality time together lately, I'm probably feeling like we aren't friends. (If we live more than an hour apart, there's an exception.  Bonus points if you pursue spending time with me!)

4. When I'm with my sister, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins- even though we are all in different places doing different things- I feel like I'm with my "tribe." 

5. I make really good gumbo. 

6. The first time I ever really felt good at saying I was good at something was a couple of years ago when I became confident that I am a really good doula. 

7. I've dealt with postpartum depression and anxiety and I'm not embarrassed to admit it. 

8. My dream as a child was to get married to a tall dark-headed man and have babies. Pretty much living my fairy tale! 

 9. Trader Joes chocolates are my favorite desserts! 

10. I hate it when someone talks about my body. I'm not too big or too thin. All I want is to be healthy and strong. 11. It's a dream of mine to take voice lessons and sing this one beautiful song that's not even in English- it's from an opera but I don't even know what it's called, lol. 

12. All I want, more than anything, is for my extended family members to come to know the healing that is found only in Jesus, and that those who have been hurt can find peace. 

13. I lived a double life in high school and was a genuinely good kid, but wouldn't relive those years for a million dollars. 

14. I hate it when I don't serve a good meal to my family. I hate it when it's stuff that's just all thrown together. Ugh. 

15. I want to be a farm girl but if you know me in the slightest you probably already know that! 

16. I'm a behind the scenes kind of person. I like to help, so if I offer something to you, know it's completely genuine and never just to be polite.

17. I'm fiercely loyal. But I don't hold grudges.  Grudge-holding has been very hurtful to me in the past so I'm very sensitive to it and pray with all my might to forgive those who have hurt me and move on with life!

18. I hate confrontation and get my feelings hurt easily if it's something personal. 

19. I hate shopping for myself.

20. Becoming a member of the ordinariate of the chair of St. Peter- a branch of the Roman rite of the Catholic Church- has been the best thing to happen in my spiritual life since really learning to own my faith as a 16- year-old.

Monday, April 20

Waiting for Spring

This winter seemed very long.  The days were so very short and every year my body seems to crave the sunshine more and more.  I was sluggish and lazy, I just wasn't able to get myself motivated to work when my house was so dark.  The windows in our house face East and West (we have none facing North or South!) so we usually have amazing sunlight streaming into the kitchen and living room in the mornings, and the hot evening sun heats up our playroom in the evenings.  In the winter, it's overcast and dreary.  And my soul just feels uninspired.

It rained a lot too, at least it seemed that way.  Maybe because it's those rainy days when you crave the sun the most, and they just seem to slap you in the face with cold rain... and those are the nasty days you remember.  Everyone is cooped up inside the house, anxious to get out.  Everyone's a little sad and I know, just know, it's because these children were meant to be outside.

We did have some unusually warm days, and they were extra-glorious because the beauty is just so beautiful after being surrounded by the ugly.  We always took the chance to go to the park or just even play outside all day long, calling a "good weather day" off from school because when you homeschool, you get to do that!

As February ended and we had a break in the rain, I knew I had to get my plants in the ground while I had the chance.  We grabbed jackets and drove to the nursery to pick up some plants and seeds, and even though it was misty outside my heart was joyous to walk through that beautiful nursery surrounded by the lush greens and spring color that my yard lacked.  We picked some tomatoes, peppers, basil, lavender, and some seed packets of  carrots, lettuces, radishes, and summer flowers, and came home.

 We had lots of weeds to pull because those suckers start growing before anything else will, and I wanted to reposition a garden bed.  We tossed grubworms in a bucket, let earthworms wriggle in our hands before returning them to the soil, and pulled weeds to make space for our our flowers.  We even found a tiny hibernating snake! We kicked over and stomped crawfish chimneys, because we really hate those things and they make the yard look ten times worse than any weed ever could.

It's this time of year that I always feel like Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden, pulling back the overgrown to find a bit of beauty in a bit of earth.  Find something pretty fills me with hope; joy is coming.

It's always so appropriate to me that it's this time of year, when I crave green and beauty the most, that we enter into Lent.  Jesus was in a desert but I feel stuck in my own desert of sorts, searching for something to give me hope.  And then finally Easter comes, the joy of the resurrection, and all of the sudden the earth rejoices and bursts into bloom!  Everything wakes from their winterly sleep; the azaleas and lillies burst into bloom, buds linger on my rose bushes, orange and lime citrus flowers that smell of heaven, and tiny lettuces, all seem to shout with joy to the risen Christ!

 That's what I feel like I miss the most during a dreary winter.  Hope. Tiny blossoms, life buzzing around me.  I miss my hummingbirds.  I know that the spring will eventually come, but these long nights that drag one and on beat me up.  I love the way Lent is always timed with the end of winter in Texas. 

 So we worked the earth a bit, pressed some seeds into the ground, and I moaned that my back hurt from leaning over so much.  I gave my gloves to the kids because I didn't mind dirt under my fingernails.  It was worth it, just to be outside and feel the hope that I was creating something that would hide during Lent and bloom and blossom as the Spring came. 

My helpers were happy to be outside again, and anxious to see what would happen.  They're always eager to please and very hard workers, I think they are going to be excellent homesteaders one day!

Now that it's April and I can look out the window and see the green grass, small green blackberries growing larger each day, my Samuel's rose bush in full bloom and my Mother's Day yellow rose bush about to bloom, and a garden bed full of green tops of vegetables, my soul rejoices because I know that it is through Him that we will reap what we've sown.  It really feels to me like these plants are growing for Him, their Creator, and that it's my job to rid the beds of the weeds and make sure they're tenderly watered and cared for. Day by day, we watch them grow... Then one day soon, we will enjoy a feast, a beautiful salad of mixed greens and veggies, with a lemon basil chicken homegrown by us.  And I pray that in the same manner, we raise our children: eliminating the weeds that pull the life out of them, provide tender care and shelter from the unpredictable world, so that one day we can all enjoy the Heavenly feast together with our Lord, to whom we've been growing and reaching for our whole lives.

(All but one of these photos were taken by Beth!)

Sunday, April 19

The Great Chicken Experiment

I want to be a homesteader.  I want to grow my own food, get my hands dirty in the soil, and be as independent as God created me to be.  So when friend offered us free broiler chickens to raise and butcher, it was pretty easy to say yes!  As we prepared mentally for about a month beforehand, I googled how to care for them, potential issues, and lined up a butcher for the birds.  We borrowed a friend's dog run and Ryan built a little protective coop out of scrap wood from our garage.  We did have to buy a few supplies (heat lamp and bulb, feeders and watererers, pine shavings, and food) but for the most part we tried to make do with what we had.

We went to pick them up on a Wednesday, brought them home in a cardboard box and settled in to the garage.

That weekend, Ryan built the coop and we set up their outdoor living space.  The rain had settled down and they were clearly needing more space!


We started with 25 birds, gave 10 to a friend, and somehow lost one bird without a trace on their first day outside.  We didn't have a tarp on the cage so I imagine a hawk came and picked up dinner.  Finley was intrigued, but he was definitely not the culprit.

As they grew (and boy did they grow fast!) we opened the cage and gave them more space to roam around.  We never did let them free range over our entire yard as we technically aren't allowed to have chickens in our neighborhood and didn't want to get in trouble!  But we moved their cage around every couple of days to give them fresh grass to peck through.  We threw them bugs and vegetables and garden clippings, and tried to give them happy days.

These chickens are a breed that have been bred specifically to grow fast and big.  These are the kind you buy at the grocery store, expect those have been injected to mellow out the flavor and make them plumper looking.  And of course, you don't know where they came from, how they were fed and treated, and how they ultimately came to fulfill their destiny.  I felt much better about our process than from what I've seen from large breeders.  I read on one blog that she said it was her job to make sure they had only one bad day in their entire lives, and I really tried to treat our birds that way.  I had also read not to make them into "pets" so I didn't name them, but I did talk to them and treat them sweetly.  

I am a major animal lover at heart, but I also believe that God gave us dominion over the animals to use them as He created them to be used, but respectfully. I enjoyed raising them.  It was only a few short weeks, feeding and watering them twice a day, talking to them while I was gardening and watching the kids enjoy them.  It was a pleasant experience.

I was worried that the end of this task would be difficult for me, and I was right.  I raised them, but I didn't want anything to do with their demise.  This breed won't live much longer than six weeks before they develop health issues that would ultimately kill them, so once they started looking a little...large, I was ready to butcher them before any of them had the chance to die first.  They were 4 weeks and 6 days old, I would have waited another few days but it was Easter weekend and we couldn't do it then.  I  wound up hiring a friend's high-school son to come over with a friend to butcher the chickens for us in our backyard, but Ryan decided he wanted to watch.  And some of his friends wanted to watch too... So ultimately he taught Ryan and friends how to do it, and they all worked together for a few hours (they took photos but I refuse to look at them, let alone post them here!).

I left the house with the kids.  I really couldn't handle it.  I got home a little too early and heard some of it and it really shook me up that night.  A few weeks later I'm still a little uncomfortable with everything, but not because I think it was a bad decision but just because I think I have a tender heart.  I know these birds are healthier, cheaper, and happier than anything I'd buy at the grocery store, so yes I would do it again.  We've had some grilled and baked and guess what?  It tastes just like chicken!

Learning How to Sleep

I've been spending some early morning time with this sweet girl.  She's been waking up around 6 am, more or less, since we've started transitioning her to sleeping in her crib all night.  It's been a mostly peaceful process, but that's easier for me to say since it's actually Ryan who is doing most of the hard work.
That's a cute girl, and the early morning sun rising through the windows behind her.  I know exactly the time of the sunrise these days.
A few weeks ago we discussed/discerned/decided that it was time for Caeli to night wean, with the hopes that she'd start sleeping longer stretches.  Waking every two or three hours to latch and nurse back to sleep wasn't horrible, but not entirely restful for any of us anymore.  The three of us just weren't getting good sleep like we used to, and I think we just all needed our space.  So at night when she woke to nurse, I told her "No nursies right now" and patted her as she laid next to me.  The first few nights she yelled and protested, but by the third night I was able to pat her back down pretty easily.

We continued on that way for a week or two and then moved her to her crib.  (She's been going down in her crib for months now, but at night we'd bring her to bed with us when she woke up.  The best of both worlds for me- I get to have my bedroom at night and still got to cuddle with my baby all night!)  It wasn't any different for us to put her down at night, but she was used to coming to bed with us around 11 or 12 and she didn't like that we were staying in her room, trying to walk or rock her back to sleep.  This took a week or so until she realized that we weren't bringing her back down.  This became mostly Ryan's job, as anytime she was with me at night she wouldn't fall back asleep.  Well, we switched off throughout the night, taking turns going to her, but I feel like he really did the bulk of the night shifts.

On the morning I took this photo, she woke up at 5 am and promptly went back to sleep after nursing.  Luckily she's waking up closer to 6:00 these days. 
A week or so later she didn't protest not going downstairs anymore, and became rather easy for us to get back down for the most part.  And this is where we are right now, after a month.  She wakes around 12, and then 2, 4, and finally 6- but she's usually very easy to pat back down to sleep in her crib.   Most nights Ryan heads upstairs when she wakes up and sleeps on a mattress in her room for the rest of the night, just for the sake of convenience.  Which makes me sad but he sad he's totally fine with it for now because it means he's able to get her back down quickly and easily so he just passes out!  When she wakes up at 6, he brings her to me and then goes back to bed for another hour or so while she and I go cuddle on the couch, nurse, and read books and make coffee.

She's out of our bed and in her crib, but we can't figure out how to get her to actually sleep all night, for longer stretches, and I can't really remember how we helped the other kids.  Leaving in her room all night to cry is obviously not an option, and we're not picking her up so she's not cuddling back to sleep.  I just noticed today FOUR (4!) new teeth- possible five- so I'm sincerely hoping that this huge breakthrough will bring her some peace and comfort and allow her to sleep longer stretches!

We had to bring her back to bed with us for a couple of nights when we had some family members over for Easter, and it didn't go very well for any of us.  She woke up screaming and would kick and get mad if I tried to calm her- eventually she'd roll over away from me and go back to sleep on her own.  It wasn't the same peace-filled bed-sharing moments we'd shared earlier, and it made me sad to realize those days were over.  I loved bed-sharing with Caeli more than I did with any other the other kids.  It just worked really well for the three of us and her sleep was just SO much better from day one than with the other three.  She stayed in our bed longer than the other ones and I'm actually very thankful for that because I feel that it was a good thing for our relationship, good that it worked out and that once it stopped working, we were able to recognize it and make a change.  We'd love to get her to sleep all night of course, but those days will come.  That I know for sure.
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