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, 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

Monday, November 2

All Souls Day

Every year on All Souls Day we head out to the cemetery in which my grandfather is buried. He passed away in 2011 and is buried nearby, and this is one of the few experiences our children have had with death. Every year that we go out there they seem to remember the visit from previous years and they plan to do a little more... This year the boys wanted to bring rags and towels to wipe off the grave marker, Beth brought some clippings from our garden, and they all knew they wanted to go walk through the babies' graves nearby to find siblings of some of their friends. 

My grandfather chose his plot because he wanted to be near the babies who had been buried there. He was wildly pro-life and every year I'm reminded of how his passion marked him even past his death. 

I can't help myself, but I always tear up as we walk through the markers of the children. Babies who were born still, 10 days old, 3 years old... The agony and sorrow of their parents is beyond comprehension to me.

Every year is a new opportunity for us to talk a little about life and death. To get over the "creepy" factor of bones being under the ground to the purpose of life- that our eternal souls live in heaven for ever. We are not bodies with a soul- we are souls with a temporary body.

I'm thankful that they're on their way to understanding that this life isn't all there is. Anytime I feel concerned that they're not learning enough in school, or getting enough "life experiences," I remind myself that there's more than what we see. And that the goal isn't Harvard- it's heaven. 

Eternal rest grant unto them, oh Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them.  May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.

Sunday, November 1

Happy All Saint's Day!

"Saints are just sinners who kept trying."
Today's homily brought tears to my eyes several times as he preached about the importance of our heavenly friends and intercessors. They walk with us, they worship with us during mass. They've lived the same lives we are living, and they've succeeded in joining Christ in heaven! The kids were invited to wear their Saint costumes- and he suggested that maybe one day a child would be dressed as them for All Saint's Day! 

St. Gianna, St. Luke, St. John Bosco, and St. Bernadette 

Some of our books and all of our Saint peg dolls. I hope to leave all of this up for a couple of weeks at least, so we can focus on reading these books.

Today the children could come to mass dressed in their saint costumes! This is only half of the children who dressed up.
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