Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Just a Mom

I recently quit my job.

And when I say I quit my job what I mean is that I stopped teaching piano lessons out of my home.

I've been teaching piano lessons for ten years. I was a piano major in college and started teaching a few students during my junior year. The first thing I did when Alex and I bought our house (10 days before our wedding) was get a piano so that I could start teaching from home, and I've been doing it ever since. I've always been proud of myself for actually using my less-than-practical degree. And I was especially proud of myself when I kept my studio going after I started having kids.  It was a creative outlet that I've really enjoyed and that has helped my life feel a little more balanced.

Until now.

I've been balancing my work-from-home job and being a mother for four years, and well, I'm losing my balance. No, I've lost my balance, and I'm spiraling out of control.

Coordinating babysitters, arranging who would pick up and drop off  Johnny at school, strategizing meals that I could make ahead of time and eat quickly between students, keeping our main living areas company-ready for half of the week, screwing up naps and bedtime because of lessons - all these things were making me crazy. All that combined with the regular chaos and sleep deprivation of life with small children, a husband in grad-school, and a child with medical needs that are far from being resolved, had me feeling like I was drowning and couldn't come up for air. To top it all off doing a very extroverted type of work - teaching kids - left my introverted self feeling completely drained at the end of the day, making me annoyed with my family and unpleasant to be around.

I want my family to come first - I want to give my very best for them. But instead of giving my best I found myself being half-present, always looking to the next thing, and treating my family like they just another item on my long to do list.

One night in January I was crying to Alex about how I couldn't go on like this. Something needed to change. He couldn't quit school, we couldn't get rid of our kids (not that we'd ever want to - that was a joke), we couldn't change our oldest child's medical needs. So that left teaching piano. That was something we could change.

As soon as Alex suggested I stop teaching I felt a wave a relief. But I also felt some stubborn pride. I had worked so hard to build my studio over the last decade. I liked being able to contribute to our finances in some way. I liked having something to do that was separate from parenting. I liked that I wasn't just a mom.


But being a mom is the best thing I've ever done! Having my children and caring for them has been my greatest accomplishment - more than my degree, or any of the jobs I have had, or any travel I had done, or talents I have developed. Even if I end up doing amazing things later in my life, I feel certain that nothing will top this experience of having partnered with God in the miracle of creation. And if quitting my job can help me be a better mom, and better enjoy these long days and short years with my kids, then that's what I should do.

So I quit my job. Not all at once. I finished out the semester, gave my students time to find a new teacher, and held one last recital. And now I'm done.

Now I'm just a mom. There are still demands, but the demands are not pulling me in different directions. My days are still busy, but there is less going on, the pages on my calendar have become very blank. I don't need to shower and put on my make up first thing in the morning anymore, although I usually still do, because I like feeling put together. I don't need to plan or coordinate and strategize to get my family through the day. We can move at our own pace.

And you know what? If feels really good.

Monday, May 1, 2017

what I'm learning from my hearing impaired child.


As I was getting dinner ready the other night I could hear Johnny and Trixie playing in the next room. All of a sudden Johnny raised his voice and shouted, "No Trixie! My train. Time out. One.....two.....three...."

Most parents get pretty used to hearing their children imitate their style of discipline. Some so much so that it may become an annoyance. But to hear Johnny sentence his little sister to a time out actually brought tears of joy to my eyes. 

Because he was talking, all on his own. 

These days our house is filled with the sound of Johnny's voice. But it hasn't always been like this. 

Johnny was born with a hearing loss. He was just four days old when we received this diagnosis. It came on the heels of a whole slew of other diagnoses, a NICU stay, and major surgery for Johnny. So when the audiologist told us that he had a mild to moderate, bilateral (both ears) hearing loss, it seemed like small potatoes.



Johnny was fitted with hearing aids when he was 8 weeks old and we thought we had dealt with his hearing loss. But by the time he was 20 months old his speech was severely delayed and it was clear that his hearing loss was something we would be dealing with for a long time.

We started taking him to weekly speech therapy at our local children's hospital. The therapy sessions were helping, but not as much as we would have liked. Then when he suffered major setbacks with retained fluid in his inner ear, had PE tubes put in, and had his hearing loss re-diagnosed as moderate to severe, we knew we needed to take more proactive measures. We enrolled Johnny in an oral school for deaf and hard of hearing children. The transition was hard, for all of us. (Picture me looking at photos of Johnny on my cell phone and crying while he was at school) But it was definitely the right decision. He has been receiving very intensive speech therapy 4 days a week for almost a year, and for the first time ever we are really hearing him use his voice all on his own initiative. 

I've been the parent of a hearing impaired child for almost 4 years, and the learning curve has been steep. Of course Johnny is worth any struggle, but this experience has been made even more valuable by the lessons I've learned along the way. I know they are making me a better mother, and I think they apply to parenting across the board and are worth sharing here. 

I am my child's number one advocate. We are fortunate in that we live in an area where there are multiple organizations for deaf and hard of hearing people, and parents of deaf and hard of hearing children. We have an amazing children's hospital system with a wonderful team of ENTs and Audiologists. And our public school system has a very aggressive and supportive early intervention program.

But even with all these resources and experts available, my husband and I are still our son's biggest advocates. We are the ones who are with him everyday. We can see what's working for him and what's not. And since he can't speak (much) for himself yet, we speak for him and help make his needs known.

In Minnesota we have something called Minnesota Nice. It's where you smile and be polite and try to avoid making anyone feel uncomfortable. I'm learning that I need to step outside of my Minnesota Nice comfort zone from time to time to get the results my child needs, whether it's being more assertive with the scheduler at the doctor's office to get him seen sooner, or switching speech therapists even though it might be awkward.


Education Matters. If I had a dollar for every time I was at the park with Johnny and some other kid pointed at his ears and said "what are those?" I could buy myself a pair of Frye boots.

I used to get annoyed by people asking about Johnny's hearings aids, and by answering the same questions over and over again. I didn't want anyone to single him out by drawing attention to his hearing aids. I wanted to people to treat him like every other kid.

But I am learning now that people won't be able treat him like every other kid until they understand his hearing loss, and so I am happy to educate them.

Those are hearing aids. He wears them to help him hear better, just like I wear glasses to help me see better. He was born with a hearing loss. It probably won't ever get better, it might even get worse. But he hears pretty normally with his hearing aids on. No, they don't hurt him. Yes, he takes them off when he sleeps. Yes, he can still do all the things you can do.

But the education doesn't stop with telling people why he wears hearing aids. I also need to educate people on how they can help Johnny reach his maximum hearing potential.

Crowded rooms, noisy car rides, being outside on a windy day, these are all settings that can make it difficult for Johnny to hear. But there are things you can do to help make up for that difficulty. Make sure he can see your face when you're talking to him. Tap him on the shoulder before you start speaking so he knows who's speaking to him. We have chosen not to use sign language in our house. With the craziness of Alex's school schedule, and having a baby in the house it was not a good fit for our family. But there are a few signs that we know and use, and we do plenty of gesturing when speaking to Johnny. Something as simple as pointing to the thing or person we're talking about can help him out a lot.

Understanding comes before expressing. Because Johnny's speech is pretty limited it's easy to fall into the habit of only using words that I know he knows. But if I only did this then Johnny would never learn any new words. I have to remind myself that he is capable of learning language, and that he has to hear a word anywhere from 1 to 100 times before he will start to use it.

Parents are their children's primary educators, even if the child goes to school outside of the home. That means it's up to me to keep challenging Johnny, introducing him to new things, and giving him the opportunity to improve. I do want to make sure that he can understand what's being said to him, but it's not my job to make things easy for him. It's my job to help him grow.

Intellect is shown in many different ways. I think this is something every parent knows to be true, until their child shows a lack somewhere. Then all the doubt floods in and the comparing starts.

Because Johnny's speech was so delayed for so long, it also delayed a lot of other learning milestones. He wasn't naming animals or imitating their sounds. He didn't know colors, or how to count. He couldn't identify any extended family by their names. I never would have said out loud that I thought he wasn't intelligent, but I think deep down inside I was afraid he wouldn't be successful in life.

Around the time Johnny's speech was at it's very worst we started seeing a new speech therapist who knew how to draw Johnny out. In that first 50 minute appointment with her Johnny said more words than he had said in all his previous appointments combined. "He's doing really well!" she kept saying to me. I just stared in stunned silence.

At the end of the appointment she told me not to measure his intellect based on how much he's able to say. Verbal skills are probably the easiest way to measure a child's intelligence, but they're definitely not the only way. When I started to look for his intelligence in other area's I began to see it everywhere; in his ability to do puzzles, and build with blocks, his fine motor skills in holding a pencil or using a scissors. I started letting him help me with chores around the house. I was amazed to see him folding pieces of laundry and putting shoes away where they belong. I let him help me unload the dishwasher and he sorted all the silverware correctly and knew in which drawer or cupboard all the dishes belong.


Evaluate how you define success. Johnny's speech is doing so much better than it was a year ago. He's counting, identifying shapes, colors, animals, letters of the alphabet, and he's able to communicate his thoughts and desires. He still has a lot of work to do to catch up with his hearing peers, but we are hopeful that his hearing loss won't limit him as he grows up.

I do still worry sometimes about the future, and that Johnny won't be "successful" in life. When I find myself thinking those kinds of thoughts I need to ask myself what my definition of success is. Is success getting into a great college, getting a high paying job, and being esteemed by many? If so, then he might not be successful. Come to think of it, Trixie, or any other kids we may have, might not be successful either.

But what are the things I really want for my children? I want them to know and love God, and to know that they are loved by Him. Then I want them to know that they are loved by Alex and me. And I want them to use the skills God has given them, and to have close and meaningful relationships to help carry them through the challenges of life.

If this is my measure of success then Johnny is well on his way.

Friday, April 28, 2017

7 quick takes vol. 34

linking up with Kelly for some quick takes. 

//1//

Alex and I share a holy hour Monday evenings. This week was my turn to go, and I hit the holy hour jackpot. The holy hour jackpot is when our organist is practicing during our hour. It's the best. Not only do I get to spend some quality time with Jesus, but I get a beautiful soundtrack to go along with it.

Thanks Rory!

//2//

I finally tried the craze that is LulaRoe. People go banana's for this stuff, and I've been curious for a while about why that is. So when the opportunity to get some at a discount came my way I thought, sure! Why not?

When I was asking around about sizing people said everything was pretty forgiving. So I got my Lula and tried it on and, People. Now I understand.

Pretty forgiving was an understatement. How about very forgiving? How about grace upon grace forgiving? How about perfect-for-moms-who-don't-have-time-to-work-out forgiving? How about elbow length sleeves to cover up less-than-toned arms? How about busy patterns to disguise postpartum lumpiness? How about something other than a wrapped v-neck dress for nursing? Yes please!

I was so thrilled with my loot that I busted out my selfie stick and got myself in front of my mostly white shower curtain so that I could show you all what I got.

No. 1: Nicole Dress. If it's warm enough, I'll wear this to Mass this weekend. Super flattering. Super easy to nurse in.


No. 2: The famed LulaRoe leggings. I've worn a lot of leggings over the last few years, and these are probably the most comfortable. Definitely the cutest pattern.


No. 3: Cassie Skirt. It's your standard stretchy pencil skirt, but with a totally unique pattern. Love it.


No. 4. Julie Dress. Love this silhouette. It is stretchy enough to nurse in, but I feel like I shouldn't pull it down too often or I might ruin the neckline.


I especially liked this photo ^ ^ ^ ^ because you can see a bit of my toilet in the bottom right corner. We try to keep things classy around here.

And in this one it looks like I'm gunna bust a move. Still trying to perfect my selfie stick technique. So, I hope that cheers you up if you're feeling down today.


//3//

I've been hitting a lot of jackpots lately. This morning I hit the perfect-car-ride jackpot. I took the kids on a little drive to pick up my aforementioned LulaRoe items. I had discovered an ancient Caribou gift card in my wallet the night before so we swung by the drive through for a cold press. It was a beautiful sunny day. Our car ride coincided perfectly with Kerri Miller's Friday Round Table. AND she was doing a book discussion ABOUT books that have been made into movies! It. Was. Perfect.

//4//

One of the silver linings of living in a place where it is winter 6 months out of the year is that when spring finally comes and you're finally able to bring your spring shoes down from the attic, they feel like brand new shoes! I was able to bust these beauties out this past week.


Hello old friends.

Then it snowed yesterday. Go figure. Hoping to be able to wear them for the weekend!

//5//


Have you heard of Ultimate Bundles? I've been hearing about them for a while and FINALLY decided to check out The Ultimate Home Making Bundle.

This year’s edition of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle includes 50 ebooks, 21 eCourses, 14 printables, 2 videos, 2 audios, 2 summits, and 1 membership site.

It's a crazy-ton amount of stuff. But the thing that's really crazy about these bundles is the discount. You get all these incredible resources at 97% off! That's almost $2000 worth of products....for less than $30.

Yup. LESS THAN $30!


Here are some of the topics included in this bundle:


  • Cook up wholesome recipes for your family
  • Build stronger relationships with your kids (even your teens)
  • Discover speedy cleaning routines for the toughest messes
  • Rekindle the romance in your marriage
  • Put self-care back into your life
  • Finally enjoy homemaking.
  • Capture better photos of your family


  • I'm really looking forward to learning about that last one mentioned.

    Plus, it comes with over $290 worth of bonus offers from companies you’ll love (this is one of my favorite parts).
    • $15 store credit from Cultivate What Matters (international shipping available)
    • Free 1 month subscription from Kiwi Crate, $20 value ($15 off $50 shop purchase for existing customers, shipping available to U.S. & Canada)
    • Free 1 month MightyFix shipment from Mighty Nest, $17 value ($15 store credit toward next add-on order for existing MightyFix subscribers, international shipping available)
    • One project box from Detox Project Box, $25 value (shipping available to U.S. & Canada)
    • Free 1 month subscription from Bookroo, $18 value (box of past favorites for existing customers, international shipping available)
    • $15 store credit from Orglamix (international shipping available)
    • $15 store credit from Strawesome (international shipping available)
    • Digital download of the 2017 Hope Ink Calendar, $20+ value -or- $15 credit + 3 art prints from Hope Ink, $99 value (international shipping available)
    • Homeowner Lifetime Membership from HomeBinder, $120 value (digital)
    • Free 1 year annual membership from MollyGreen.com, $29 value (digital)
    Here's how it all works:
    1. Visit their website, take a quick look at all the goodness that comes in this package, then click the “Get my copy now!” button to go through their simple and secure 3-step checkout process.
    2. You’ll receive an email with a login to their online access portal, where you’ll begin downloading your eBooks, signing up for your eCourses, and redeeming your free bonus offers.
    3. Use their Getting Started Guide to pick the topic you want to tackle first and start your stress-less homemaking journey!
    This bundle is only available through May 1st, so if you want it, you need to get on it fast. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, click HERE to check it out.  


    //6//

    We've got a new show! Detectorists! Jacqui recommended this one to me a few months ago, and as always it takes me a while to get on the bandwagon for things, so we just started it last weekend.


    When I heard the title and that it was British I thought it was going to be about female British detectives in the late 19th century.

    And boy was I wrong.

    It's about a couple dudes who use metal detectors and is set in the present day. But it is so so good. It has everything I want in a show, beautiful scenery, dry humor, sweet moments, great characters who draw you in and, despite their very odd looks, become so lovable. I have literally been smiling the entire time we're watching.

    //7//

    I'll leave you with a something else to read. My friend Susanna wrote this piece drawing parallels between Jane Austen and Natural Family Planning. Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors and NFP is one of my favorite things to talk about! It's a great read, and really affirmed for me why I believe so strongly in NFP. Thanks Susanna!

    Have a great weekend everyone! 

    //

    ultimate homemaking bundle links are affiliate. that means if you follow the link and make a purchase I get a percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. thanks for supporting this blog! 

    Thursday, April 27, 2017

    oh this life


    My clothes were clean when I put them on this morning. Now they have streaks of  Trixie's snot all over them. On the shoulder, the hip, the knee. I wish I could say that it was food.

    Nope.

    It's snot.

    Child snot.

    Once she realized rubbing her nose on me yielded a result it became a game. Clearly she was winning.

    I could go and change my clothes, but I don't think I will.

    It's been one of those weeks. The kind where all the toys end up in the bathroom. I get out of the shower and step on Buzz Light year. I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and kick a Matchbox car across the floor. At the end of the day I put all the toys back in their respective places, only to have them end up there again the next day. How does this happen?

    I reached for my make up remover the other night because I thought I wasn't getting all of my mascara off. Nope. Just dark circles. Both kids have been sick and waking up more than usual during the night, and I'm tired. When I wake up in the morning I feel like I could have easily slept for six more hours.

    It snowed this morning. Wonderful. I put the winter jackets and boots away 2 weeks ago.

    Johnny has not been napping this week. He does alright at school, but turns into a pumpkin come dinner time. Literally everything makes him cry. He wants ketchup with his quesadillas, he wants an extra gummy vitamin, he doesn't want to sit in that chair, he wants to sit in this chair, he wants to watch Toy Story, he doesn't want to sit on the potty chair. And every time he starts crying Trixie starts crying because she is very sensitive to her brother's feelings. So we've been having lovely dinners, shouting to each other about our days over the din of crying children.

    Oh this life. If I have any readers who don't have kids they're probably thinking, "why on earth would I ever want that? It sounds like a whole lot of yelling and counting the minutes until bedtime and then picking other peoples' boogers off your clothes."

    But thankfully there's more to it than what I complain about.


    Like when bedtime does finally come. Trixie falls asleep nursing with her warm little hand up the sleeve of my sweater. As I carry her across the room to her crib I look down and there in my arms is an entire human being, who depends on me for everything. Please God, don't let me fail her. 

    Then I go to Johnny's room. He's already in bed but not yet asleep. I crawl under his covers and share his pillow with him. He pushes a couple trains across the surface of the mattress and lets me plant kisses on his forehead. I look into his eyes and I see the grace of God.

    Parenting is hard, but there is so much grace to be found in it as well. Grace in loving my children more than I love myself. Grace in this tiny glimpse into the heart of God and seeing how great His love for His own children must be. Grace in knowing that even though I may fail today, I will have the chance to be a better mother tomorrow.

    Oh this life. Full of weird, snot-covered graces, breaking my heart, melting away my selfishness, filling me with a desire to be better. Please God, let me be better, for them. 

    Sunday, April 23, 2017

    7 quick takes vol: 33

    linking up with kelly for some very quick quick takes. 

    //1//

    We had a really beautiful Easter. Alex and I were able to sing with our church's choir for the Triduum. Those three days are the most beautiful liturgies and I was so grateful to be able to go - without my kids - much less sing  with the choir. I look forward to taking the little nippers to the Triduum when they are older, but for now it works well for them to be at home, with the babysitter, sleeping in their beds. 


    But they sure did look cute in their Easter outfits the next morning! I was telling Alex that it is so much easier to love our kids when they look really cute. 

    Of course I was joking.

    Mostly.


    Also, why did none of the four adults helping to capture a family photo notice that Alex had his sweatshirt on?!?!  

    //2//

    I had a lot of fun with Easter baskets this year, now that our kids are old enough to understand what to do with them. We did Easter baskets and an egg hunt for them, and had a good laugh "hiding" eggs around the house. Even with the obvious spots we still had to point a few out. 


    I used Haley's book recommendations for some of their Easter basket gifts. They also each got a Sarah's Silk, something I have been eyeing for a while. Trixie got some baby dolls. These were her first dolls and she was really excited about them. 


    //3//

    Alex just finished his ER rotation. Schedule wise it was actually pretty good! I'm really thankful because ER could have been any time of the day or night.

    Up until this rotation Alex has only been in clinical settings so the dress code has been business attire. ER was the first rotation he's had where he wore scrubs every day. I did not realize how much his work clothes contribute to our laundry until I was no longer washing them. It was great! But now he'll be back to business attire on Monday. Just about every shirt he owns needs to be ironed so that's what I'll be doing Sunday night.

    And in case your wondering, Alex is very capable about ironing his own clothes, but I get a little type A about the way things are ironed and would just prefer to do it myself.

    //4//

    Johnny is having problems with fluid retention in his ears again. He can't hear out of his left ear at all (even with hearing aids) and it seems like his right ear might be starting to get bad again. We've got surgery for new ear tubes scheduled for May 11, so we're really hoping it doesn't get much worse between now and then.


    In the mean time, if it sounds like I'm shouting all the time I'm really just speaking very loudly for the benefit of my hearing impaired child.

    //5//

    Good news! Good news! Good news! The 2017-2018 Blessed is She Liturgical Planner is available for pre-sale NOW!!! Y'all know how much I love my BIS planner, even though I had been a staunch Moleskine user before that. I'm so excited about this next, so much space for notes and planning, such a beautiful cover. And, it helps support a beautiful ministry. Get yours before it's too late! (They will ship in June.)



    Also, have you seen the beautiful wall hangings that are in the Blessed is She Shop?


    //6//

    This weekend I had my first piano lesson in almost 5 years. I was a piano major in college, and after graduation I took lessons until I became pregnant with Johnny, so I've had lots of lessons in the past. I've also been teaching piano for the past 10 years, so I'm very used to being in lessons as the teacher. But being the student again was terrifying!! I can tell the challenge is going to be really good for me, and I'm excited to learn some new music. 

    //7//

    If I may circle back to Easter for a moment. I had found this darling dress on Amazon that I got for Trixie to wear. But when I tried it on her I couldn't get it over her head. This is not the first time this has happened, poor girl. Her head size is off the charts. Thankfully there are free returns. But I realized that Amazon has TONS of cute kids clothes! Like this little number. If you start browsing, don't say I didn't warn you.

    //

    disclaimer: amazon and blessed is she links are affiliate. when you follow the link and make a purchase I get a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. thanks for supporting this blog! 

    Thursday, April 13, 2017

    Miscarriage and My Holy Week Journey

    I wrote this piece for the Blessed is She blog, where it was featured earlier this week. 
    I wanted to share it with you here as well, on this Holy Thursday, as we begin to walk with Jesus 
    on His road to Calvary. I know that we all carry burdens, and that Holy Week can often make 
    them feel more intense than usual. I pray that whatever cross you are carrying, you will look 
    to see that Jesus is carrying it with you. And come Sunday morning, I pray you will all 
    experience the joy of the life - REAL LIFE - that He brings. 

    _________________________________________________________________________


    It was Holy Week 2012. I was grieving a child I would never get to hold, and whose face I would never get to see.  Holy Week 2011 I had been pregnant. I carried a secret that only my husband and I knew about. That Holy Week we smiled at each other excitedly throughout the services of the Triduum. Easter Sunday we told family and friends that we were expecting.

    And then, only few weeks later, we lost that baby.

    The year that ensued was one filled with a lot of doctors appointments, a lot of negative pregnancy tests, and a lot of tears. By the time Holy Week 2012 rolled around we still had no baby in our arms, and the bitterness of infertility was starting to set in.

    It seemed like everyone around us was announcing pregnancies and bringing home babies from the hospital. There was baby shower after baby shower. Everyone was happy and excited, and it was killing me.

    Lent came to me as a relief that year. I didn’t feel like being happy, and Lent was something that I didn’t have to force a smile for. I could just be sad.

    But it turns out the Lord wasn’t  going to just let me wallow, like I had hoped. He is in the business of bringing redemption out of suffering. My Holy week journey would include the road to Calvary, but it would also include the joy of the Empty Tomb.

    Survey that wonderful cross.


    Stations of the Cross is something most Catholics pray only during Lent, but I think it would do  us a lot of good to pray the Stations many times throughout the year. After all, crosses are not just for Lent. We all deal with them, all the time. They’re heavy, ugly, and painful. But they can also bring us closer to Jesus, if we let them.

    No one enjoys suffering, but when I think about my life, it’s been during those times of carrying a heavy cross that I have felt closest to God. That’s because “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted.” (Psalm 34:18)

    When life is awesome, we often forget our need for God. But when life rocks us with grief, when suffering has depleted us of our own strength, we are forced to rely on Him, and He gives us the grace we need. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Co 12:9)  

    When I felt like I couldn’t face another smiling pregnant woman, or endure another person asking me “don’t you want kids?”, when the pain of wanting a baby was so overwhelming, when grief had zapped all of my strength, Jesus was there, pumping grace into my soul. I had to rely on Him because there really wasn’t anything else I could do.

    That Holy Week, as Jesus carried His cross to Calvary, I walked with Him, carrying my own cross of infertility. The pain didn’t go away, but there was comfort, knowing Jesus was beside me.

    Don’t forget about Mary.

    Being a convert, I’ve been a little slow to pick up on Marian devotions. She was one of the things about Catholicism I was most wary of as I went through my catechesis. I believed she was Theotokos, God-bearer, and that she was full of grace, but I had never felt drawn to her for spiritual support, until that Holy Week.

    “Jesus Meets His Afflicted Mother.” It’s the fourth station in the Stations of the Cross. After praying it every Friday during Lent it finally hit me, Mary was a grieving mother, just like me. Her child died, just like mine. How she must have suffered, how she must have longed to hold her Son again, just like I longed to hold my baby.

    Mary gets me. And what’s more, she is in heaven, praying for me.  

    The Litany of the Saints gets real.

    Remember when I said that Holy Week is a journey from darkness to light, from grief to joy? Well, it had been a pretty dark year, I had done a lot of grieving, and I was ready for some joy.

    And God delivered in a completely unexpected way.

    We were about two hours into the Easter Vigil, an amazingly beautiful, and amazingly long liturgy, when it was time to sing the Litany of the Saints, and I was starting to get a little sleepy. I half heard each name as it was chanted, and I in turn chanted the response, “pray for us.” And then we got to St. Anastasia, and I began to weep.

    I never named the baby that we lost. My miscarriage was quick, messy, and confusing. I never even saw that baby. There was no way for me to know if it was a boy or a girl. But as I heard the name Anastasia I knew that that was what we should name that baby. And I knew that that soul which I had carried for a such short time was in heaven with all the Saints, before the throne of God, praying for me.

    My infertility wasn’t cured that day, and I wasn’t magically given a baby to hold in my arms, but I was reminded that God had used my husband and me to create a new soul. There was joy in the knowledge that I was a mother, and that my baby was in heaven. There is life after death, that’s the promise of Easter.

    The journey of Holy Week.

    That Holy Week I found so much grace in my cross of infertility. Grace forcing me to rely on Jesus in a way I never had before. Grace opening my eyes to elements of my faith I had not seen before. Grace bringing joy out of suffering.

    Darkness to light.

    Grief to joy.

    Death to life.

    This is the journey of Holy Week.  

    Monday, April 10, 2017

    Why We Started Waking Up Before Our Kids

    6:00 am Monday morning the alarm goes off. Alex hits snooze. 9 minutes later the alarm goes off again. This time he slowly rolls out of bed and into some sweatpants. I reluctantly follow, shivering in the dark until I locate my bathrobe. By the time I've made it to the family room Alex is already there with the lamp on, holding two cups of coffee. He passes one to me and we sit down to do something we have been wanting to do since we got married 7 years ago.

    We're starting our day in prayer.

    I have always known that starting the day in prayer is something I should do. Reading the Word of God and offering your day to Him, first thing in the morning, sets the tone for the rest of the day. Every day of my childhood I witnessed my parents praying together in the morning, and I've seen the fruit of that prayer in their marriage and in our family. This is something I've always wanted to incorporate into my marriage, but we've never been able to make it happen. Until now.

    So why now? What's changed in the seven years since our wedding day that we're finally doing this thing that we've always talked about doing?

    Well, there have been two big changes. Their names are Johnny and Trixie. We love them and they make our lives so rich and full. But they also make it really hard to have a prayer life.

    Before we had kids, if we didn't pray together first thing in the morning it was ok, because we could pray together while we ate breakfast, or we could sit on the porch together after work for some prayer time, or we could pray before bed because we knew we would be getting 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

    Now, Alex is in the middle of rotations and puts in pretty long days. I teach piano lessons up to and sometimes after dinner. Meals are a whirlwind of trying to get small people to stay in their chairs and eat their food, while scarfing our own food down as fast as possible so that we can pick up this, wipe off that, and carry those up to the bathtub to begin the marathon that is our bedtime routine. By the time both of our children are asleep we barely have the energy to talk to each other, let alone pray or read scripture together.

    We realized that we were going the entire day without tending to our marriage and tending to our spiritual lives. We want our marriage to be rooted in Christ, but aside from Sunday Mass we weren't doing a whole lot to make that happen. And since getting out on a date is really hard right now, we were barely even getting time to check in with each other. So now we get up before our kids. That is our time to talk to each other without being interrupted, to discuss the day ahead, we read the scripture readings for the day, and then pray for each other and our children, and commit our day to the Lord.

    Photo credit goes to our talented friends Kristen and Jameson

    It's not easy getting up this early, but it's also not impossible. Three months ago it would have been nearly impossible, all because of my favorite topic: baby sleep.

    Oh, baby sleep. The thing that can make or break a day. The thing that can leave you feeling like a real person, or like an empty shell of a sub-human species. Depending on how much sleep you're getting at night, you may be able to rise before your offspring to catch some quiet time. But if your kids' sleep patterns are like ours, you need every minute of sleep you can get to be able to carry out your duties at home or at work.

    Our first child was a terrible sleeper and didn't sleep through the night until he was almost two and I was pregnant with our second. By then the discomfort of pregnancy was setting in, keeping me up with hip pain or sending me to the bathroom every few hours. Then Trixie was born and I was back to nursing a baby all night long. As much as I would have liked having a little quiet time before my kids got up, I knew that in order to be a good mother, I needed every minute of sleep I could get. Prayer time happened in snippets while the kids ate breakfast, or if they happened to nap at the same time. It wasn't ideal, but that was the season I was in.

    Now our second is one and a half and sleeping through the night. For the first time in almost four years Alex and I are getting a full night of sleep. Getting up early to pray no longer seems like an impossible feat.

    There is one other thing that has helped us get up early. It was a decision to shelf our Chemex  (used to make the fancy pour-over coffee that I love) and go back to our regular electric coffee maker.

    I love my Chemex. And I think it is worth the 30 minutes it takes to make a snobbish cup of coffee. But I am not a morning person. If I'm going to get up at 6:00 am, I need a cup of coffee at 6:00 am. My husband loves me a lot, but getting up at 5:30 am to make me some coffee with the Chemex is not something he's willing to do. So we brought the old coffee maker up from the basement and programmed it for 6:00 am.

    Now at night we load the dishwasher, pack lunches, and get the coffee ready. And when the alarm goes off the next morning I know that that liquid gold is waiting for me, and I can drag my sorry self out of bed. It sounds silly, but it's what I need! If there's a simple thing, albeit a silly thing, that can help you better your prayer habits, then why not go for it?

    It's been two months since we started this routine. Now that I know what it feels like to have that space for prayer in the morning, I can't imagine ever going back. I look forward to the time with just my husband. I know that praying together is strengthening our marriage and making us better spouses and parents. I know that, even though it always hurts to get out of bed, there is grace to be found at that early hour. I always feel better equipped to carry out my duties for the day, when we start the day in prayer.


    Tuesday, April 4, 2017

    sweaters, mice, and ladybugs


    Trixie walked in to the kitchen yesterday morning carrying a ladybug that she had crushed in her fingers. It took me a moment to realize what it was. Then I had to repress my gagging while I gingerly gathered it into a paper towel and held it at arms length (even though it was dead) while I walked to the trashcan. 

    I don't do well with the creepy-crawlies. 

    I also don't do well with little furry critters, which is what I found behind the refrigerator later that morning. This one, although squarely caught in the mouse trap, was still alive.  Trixie and I retreated to another part of the house. My approach to the mousetraps in our house is to not approach them. 

    But this was either a defective mousetrap or the Superman of mice (Mighty Mouse?), because after a few hours he (she?) was still going strong behind the refrigerator. I knew we couldn't stay out of the kitchen all day. I also knew that Alex wouldn't be home until dinnertime. So I did the adult thing and asked my dad to come over to, ahem, dispatch of him (her?). 

    One of the many benefits of living very near my dad's place of work. Thanks Dad! 

    So, spring is here! And it's bringing out all of God's creatures, great, small, and very small alike. 

    We are even getting out a bit. Sidewalk chalk, trips to the park. It's still pretty brown and ugly outside, so we headed over to our local conservatory to enjoy some greenery and blooms.

    I also finished the sweater that I have been working on since October. I usually knit pretty haphazardly, my motto being "close enough." But this was special yarn, (Malabrigo) and I wanted it to turn out great. I was very careful as I worked, trying the sweater on many times throughout the process. And it paid off! I love it, it fits great, and I'm going to wear it as much as I can before it gets too warm. 

    The pattern is Caramel by Isabell Kraemer. 










    Wednesday, March 29, 2017

    CWBN Recap and Decompression Session

    Have you heard me talk about the blogging conference I've been planning with my friends Jacqui and Susanna?

    Probably, because we've been planning it since last summer. And it's the only thing I've blogged about in the last two months.

    Well, it finally happened! And it was AMAZING!

    Jacqui said in her recap post that she couldn't think of one thing that went wrong. Well, I can only think of two: 1. I forgot to wear earrings. And 2. We forgot to put out the orange juice with breakfast.

    But other than that. It really did go off without a hitch.

    Hey Jacqui!

    My day started at 5:15 am when Trixie woke up to nurse. I had set my alarm for 6:00 but decided to just stay up to have plenty of time to get ready and out the door. But I was still running terribly behind, went to the wrong place to pick up a donation, and, as already mentioned, forgot to put out the OJ.

    Hey Dirty Mirror!

    Through the generosity of my in-laws we were able to hold the conference at their beautiful historic St. Paul home. It was the perfect setting for all 40 of us women to hang out and talk about blogging. I cannot thank them enough for opening up their home to us.




    We had three friends helping us out in the kitchen throughout the day. They were amazing and are the only reason I got to actually enjoy the conference myself. If you're reading, you know who you are and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

     Most of our menu was hand selected from the very best that Costco has to offer. Our lunch was provided courtesy of my dad's business. And our dinner was catered by local restaurant Gardens of Solanica. Super tasty Greek food. Do yourself a favor and get over there for your next girls night/date night/whatever night.


     We had three sessions, some workshop time, and a Q & A panel.

    First, Nell talked about blogging basics - what to think about when starting a blog, how to find your niche, utilizing social media, and working with sponsors and other types of revenue sources. It was incredibly informative. The thing that has stayed with me from her talk was the importance of being authentic. Everyone wants to be seen and heard and build their readership and it's easy to think you need to do all the gimmicks and gizmos and be like all the other successful bloggers out there to do that. But really, all you need to do is be yourself and write about what you're passionate about. Authenticity is attractive.


    I have found this to be true. When Jacqui and I went to the first Midwest Bloggers Conference in South Bend two years ago my goal was to grow my readership. For a short while I thought I had to get sponsors and post ads and be a "professional blogger" to make that happen. I tried to go that route and really hated how forced it felt. I realized I'd rather write what's on my heart than write something I don't really care about, even if no one reads it and I and never make a dime off this blog. It's been two years of working with that philosophy. And, even though I would still consider mine a small blog, my readership has grown a lot, slowly, and steadily, and authentically.



    Next we heard from Laura. Her talk was about developing writing technique, how to edit yourself, how to "try on" another writer's style, read to write more, journal to write more, how to be vulnerable, but still guard your heart. If you read Laura's blog you know that she very openly shares her heart, and it's beautiful. So I was surprised when she said that only about 10 percent of what she writes ends up on her blog. The rest of it no one will ever see, it's between her and God.

    Before I started blogging I used to journal. A lot. I have boxes in our attic filled with my old journals. Since I started blogging I haven't felt the need to journal nearly as much. But maybe I should. Maybe if I wrote more I would find I have more to say.




    Finally we heard from Haley, who shared her journey from brand new hobby-blogger, to using her blog to help support her family. The main point that I took away was that you don't need permission to be a blogger. You don't need to be invited. If you have a blog, then you're a blogger. It's not a super fancy secret club.

    It was so good to hear Haley say that, because sometimes the blogging world does feel like a super fancy secret club. Blogs can get pretty narcissistic pretty quickly.  Sometimes it feels like a competition to see who has the most fabulous life. It's good to remember that we're all just regular people and we're all just looking for meaningful community. And as Haley put it, it's hard to feel like a big deal when your kid has just thrown up on you.

    Wise words.


    One of my very favorite parts of the day was giving away all the amazing prizes that were contributed for this event. A Lily Jade bag, a Nena & Co bag, and some Kiki Koyote jewelry, were just some of the goodies.



    And we all got some great stuff in our swag bags too! Thank you to Hatch Prints, Brass & Mint Co, Mata Traders, Pink Salt Riot, and Magnificat for being part of our day. (See our full list of sponsors here)



     Love my necklace. And I cleaned my mirror!

    And of course seeing my Instagram feed materialize before me was truly amazing. What a world we live in that we get to have such fun! Thank you to everyone who came. It was such a special day.








    For more conference recaps head over to Jacqui's

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