Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Too “Busy” For Joy? Not In Our Home!

How many times have we heard, “We’re too busy” in response to a question involving something “fun?” I’ve heard it often form others, and on occasion, as it escapes my own lips. It saddens me how “busy” we are has almost become a mark of social distinction. When did it become fashionable to be so overbooked, stressed out and sleep deprived?

Do our children really need to be shuffled here and there, to activity after activity until they don’t even know how to enjoy down time? What does this way of life do to the development of their little souls? I don’t have children old enough to be involved in activities and sports - yet. I hear so much about this way of life from other mom’s, I can’t help but wonder how I will deal with it when my time comes.

My husband and I worry that too many choices can be oppressing. If one is so busy doing a million different things, how can they really discern and develop the gifts God has given them? As parents, would it be horrible of us to allow our children to try many different things, and then pull them out of the things they aren’t gifted in? This is by no means a criticism of mothers who try to do it all. We all do the very best we can, and that means different things for different families.

Unfortunately, this over booked way of life is tempting to those living the vocation of motherhood. Of course there is always something to be cleaned, made, fixed, organized or packed. It’s the nature of running a living household blessed with little souls. It’s not uncommon to hear women singing the praises of another mother and using phrasing like, “she never sits down, she’s always doing something!” “I WISH I could get as much done as her!” What concerns me is not the state of the bathrooms in the homes of these woman, (as I am sure they are immaculate and ready for unexpected company) but the spiritual lives of the women who are raising our future Church. Time for contemplation and the ability to do so is a skill that improves over time. Time, that one little word defines so much of our lives.

Why are we creating all this busyness? Isn’t the point of working, cleaning, making meals in the kitchen and doing the laundry all in order to have our needs met so we can be able to……..to what? I want to fill in that blank with JOY! We are so busy doing all of these things in life so that we can get them done and enjoy….life! Our blessings and lessons can be found in the work, and the play that NEEDS to follow.

I’ve been praying to find the joy in the things that stress me out. Since I am a firm believer in full disclosure for the sake of relating, here goes:

This week I have a full plate of things to do for work. Although I actually really enjoy my job, there is one aspect of it that makes me uncomfortable. After I write articles on people, I have to give them a title to go on the cover of the newsletter. Generally, these titles need to be really friendly and inviting. Since I’m a bit of a sarcastic person, I call it “campy,” or “hokey.” I’m just not in tune with “happy, happy” things. I have no gage for knowing if something is good or lame, because I think everything is lame.

For this reason, my husband has a love/hate relationship with watching TV commercials with me. ‘DUMB,” “LAME,” and, “PaaaaLEASE!” are words often shouted off the couch - where I sit in my creatively elitist perch. So, in order for me to allow myself to write these types of things on paper without cringing, I enlist the help of my husband each month. Unfortunately, he thinks everything is lame too, so it has become a really fun game for us. This is where JOY entered our incredibly busy weekend. Yes, we would both have rather been sleeping at 1am last night as I was still working. But, instead of me complaining because I have so much to do, or my husband whining about having to take care of the baby so I could get my work done, we played “name that article,” and laughed. God, how we laughed! After going waaaaay too far into cornyville and giggling about what people would think, we chose:

“Does Your Lawn Need a Check Up? Matt’s On Call!”

For an article about a college kid who does landscaping in order to pay for his dream of going to medical school. Get it? I know, we think we're super clever. I actually still think it’s lame, but my husband assured me it’s, “the right amount of lame.” It was a blessing to share this time together. Looking back, we would have missed it if I would not have been working. And, we found the joy in the situation while our living room looked like this:

I know, it’s bad, you can judge if you want, but we’ve got joy in our hearts over here!

Because I knew my husband would be dog tired today from our late night last night, and because I am slightly too tired to chase around my 18 month old, I decided to pack it up and bring joy to daddy’s office this morning. I put the girls in the van, hit the drive through for a dollar large pop to help my hubby get through the day, and surprised Joseph at work! He was thrilled to see us- and thankful for the gift of caffeine! Another joyful moment derived from what we could have decided was a stressful situation.

I pray for the ability to turn all of my stress over to God, leaving more room for Joy to move on in! I pray for joy in your lives as well.

Daddy, at work, with his baby girls. Who won't leave the house a mess in order to surprise their hubby and put this look on his face!

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Joys of Family Life

The Joys of Family Life

This week in book club, the focus of the week was joy. How we fulfill the vocation of wife and mother by creating, encouraging and accepting joy into our homes sounds simple enough. But, first I’ll load the dishwasher, change the baby, pay the bills, and get dinner going. Before this mama knows it, bedtime routine begins and joy gets pushed off until tomorrow.

I’ve always been, for the most part, a very joyous person. “Bubbly” was the word teachers used to describe me in parent-teacher conferences when I was young. Although I’m sure this was a nice way of telling my parents I may talk too much, I’ve always taken it as a compliment. I fell blessed to be able to find the joy in difficult and stressful situations. Being able to see the value of suffering has been a true blessing in my life. This clearly does not make me some contemplative, spiritual guru—no, not by any means. Just as any other spiritual gift given, I often fall short on my use of it. My husband and I have even discussed our fear that we only know how to develop ourselves spiritually, as individuals and as a couple, in times of crisis. And, in our short marriage we have had our fair share of times of crisis. Thankfully, we have grown tremendously as man and wife- and as Catholics- during these times. We’ve grown so accustomed to this way of life, we’ve almost become too comfortable with the cross we carry.

A family can’t live in emergency mode forever. People dealing with illness who insist on keeping their everyday lives in tack always amaze me. I’ve often heard about people who don’t want to die in a hospital, they want to go home and be present in their everyday lives, even as they die. As hospice sets up camp in the home, people still go to school, go to work, laugh, play games and watch TV.

I’m searching for that everyday joy. We finally feel as though we have a grasp on some sort of “normal” for our family. Our prayer is that we can learn how to accept it, and find joy and spiritual renewal in the everyday happenings of our home. We truly want to make this our domestic Church. Maybe, it will begin with joy!

It sounds so dramatic to me, to have to work on joy. Earlier this week, as I discussed joy with the wonderfully faith-filled women in book club, it was quoted that if you do not teach your children to find joy with you in your home, they will go out into the world looking for it elsewhere. This thought sent shivers down my spine. People do horribly damaging things to themselves and others- all in the efforts of filling the hole in their lives they don’t recognize as longing for God. This is not what I want for my children. I don’t want them to yearn for joy, I want them to live in the Lord! I want simple, everyday, joys to be enough for them because they know they will find the ultimate joy when they return home to us in this life, and home to God in the end.

Our hearts long for peace. Ultimately, we find that in God’s Kingdom after our earthy lives are finished. But, until then, we yearn to be close to Him. This is why we love, we dream, we work. There is joy in the everyday tasks of living. The mere possibility of knowing and understanding, just for a moment, what its all about. These moments are found in the smiling faces of our children, squeaky clean, or muddy messes, that is where the joy lies. Just to get through the tasks of everyday life I struggle with, I often need to remember our holy family. There have been times when cleaning the kitchen seemed so dooming I couldn’t even get myself to do it after telling myself, “I’m doing this for my husband, I’m doing this for my kids.” Nope, on a few occasions, I’ve cleaned the kitchen only because Mary did it for the baby Jesus and so I can do it for him too!

I pray I will become better at weaving the little joys into our lives. I vow to play in the grass (sans shoes, my favorite way!) even when the house is a mess. I want to be able to see myself through the eyes of my children and not be ashamed. I want them to remember mama’s smiles, not a twisted face of worry and stress. Tessa inadvertently showed me this face, through her eyes, this week after she got a hold of my camera and took a picture as I was yelling, “no, no, no!” It is certainly not what I had expected. But, in an effort to find the joy in it, I will share it here:

Attractive aren't I? Yeah, that's what I thought! With this lovely face I announce to you that starting today, it is Joy Week here at Falling Upward! I encourage you to reflect upon and pray for joy in the everyday lives of you and your family. I also invite you to post your own blog or share some of them here at FALLING UPWARD. Make sure to link back here to Joy Week, as joy is something to be shared--or so some Christmas songs will tell us......

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Simple Woman's Day Book May 18th, 2009

The Simple Woman’s Daybook May 18th 2009

Outside My Window ...
It looks like summer, but it is still cold. It is such a tease to think I can open my door and get summer and then be hit with COLD air. Ugg. But, I do see a daddy and his little ones (ok, so they are my friends and one of the little ones is my adorable godson) playing football in the yard.

I am listening to...
Tessa trying to sit in the bumbo with Anna. Giggles now, tears soon.

To Live the Liturgy…
St. Anne has been close to my heart lately. I think it is because I’m feeling as if I am falling a bit short in every mommy and wife duty I have.

To be Fit and Happy….
Ok, so if I say it (or type it) out loud, it means I have to do it right? I THINK I am going to try and give up Coke. But, before I do, I would like to justify my addiction to you, if you will humor me for a moment. I do not like coffee. I need the caffeine. Before I became a mama, I had a healthy relationship with pop (or what some of you non-Wisconsin ladies would call soda.) When I became pregnant, I switched from diet to regular pop. I don’t know why, it is what I craved. Unfortunately, the craving has not left me and I am now seriously addicted. So, I am going to try. But, please don’t hold me accountable or anything responsible and helpful, I may bite your head off. Just a disclaimer.

I am thankful for ...
Being home with my family and back into our everyday “normal” routine after 12 days, yes, I said 12 days, away from home. Praise the Lord!

From the kitchen ...
I think it is going to be “clean the refrigerator out week. Just a thought. But, then I would have to wipe it down…hmmmm…I may reconsider!

I am wearing ...
Black yoga pants—my uniform for life!

I am creating ...
My life in written form; for my sanity, my dreams, and my children to enjoy someday!
On my iPod…
Kelly Clarkson!
Towards a real education ...
Books, books, books around here. Not only am I trying to read as much as Tessa wants me too, (because I love books and because I would feel like a bad mommy if I said no to a book) But I am also trying to allow myself more personal reading time.

Bringing beauty to my home ...
Open windows and growing plants put a little spring in everyone’s step around here.

I am reading …
Revolutionary Road

I am hoping and praying….
For God’s will in our lives—and a very special intention for our family. Please don’t ask, because then I have to think of a polite way to tell you we’re not telling!

Around the house ...
It’s a mess and I don’t care that much! I know this is something I should have learned by now—but there are just going to be toys about all the time, I am just now accepting that.
One of my favorite things ...
The smell of my family. It sounds nuts, but I swear I can smell a bit of my husband when I hold my little ones close and take in a big whiff of cuddle time. Ohhh, I love smells; well, pleasant ones anyways.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
I have a lot of work to do this week, and a lot of walks to take with my ladies.
Picture Thought……

Tessa and I greeting all the things that are growing. What a lovely image right? Yeah, it was a flower, she tried to eat it!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mommy Time!

Remember that person you were, years ago? Before the Catholic knight in shinning armor, and before your union was blessed by the little miracles with tiny feet and full diapers? I hope you remember, because I had briefly forgotten. That person was young, hopeful, slightly misguided, and full of dreams too numerous to fill the many years she prayed would come.
This weekend, I have been reminded that although that young college girl made some mistakes and had no idea what to base her life on—she was always a special piece of God’s love! That’s right, it’s college gal pal reunion weekend! No husbands, no children, just old friends and new fun times!

We came with high hopes. Catching the train into Chicago and spending the day at Navy Pier, followed by some shopping on Michigan Avenue, was the name of the pipe dream. After an hour of going the wrong way, singing and laughing, we arrived at the train station just in time to watch the train roll on by us. We laughed like school girls and, although our post baby bellies may have jiggled a bit more than they did when we shared our laughs in dorm rooms, it felt oh so good!
We decided the truth of the matter was that we all just needed some time together and a little break from the everyday tasks of taking care of those we love—so we could remember why we love them so very much. This took about 10 minutes for me. I think God made mommies this way to help remind us to see His face, along with ours, in the eyes and messy faces of our little ones.

We split our time between the mall and the hotel hot-tub. I ever bought a few things for myself! My two VERY generous friends got sick of watching be struggle with spending money on myself to get a pedicure and decided to treat to me. Oh how thankful I am for great friends who remind me I need a little pampering now and then, and then letting me keep my mommy neurosis—and get my toes done as well!

Our toes! I had a hard time letting someone pamper me--but I thought if I spent some of my pampering time praying for the person doing the pampering--then it was ok!

I’m truly thankful I’m not the young gal I was in college. I’m also thankful to be blessed with these woman who still enjoy me, even though I’ve changed so much. I still enjoy them as well. We don’t believe in the same things, live our lives the same way, or always understand the decisions made by each individual, but we were given to each other long ago—when we really needed one another, and in a way, we still need each other today. We challenge each other, laugh together and never judge one another when a zipper doesn’t zip—we just head off to grab the next size up, handing it over without actually saying the number out loud. What more can you really ask for in a friendship? As we wind down tonight, one hand on the wine cooler and the other on the laptop, I feel so blessed to have shared this time with these beautiful woman, and so blessed to be able to wake up in the morning and return to my amazing family, and go to Mass together as a family. God bless the evening Mass!!

One of the faces I'm missing this weekend! Anna Clare 5 months (this was taken the day I left)

Celebrate the woman in your life today! The ones we share our faith with, the ones we laugh with and the ones who help us grow into better woman! I'll be sure to say a special prayer of thanksgiving, asking the ultimate mother to join with me, at Mass this week! God bless you all, and thank YOU for being in my life!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Thank You DADDY on this Mother's Day!

A thank you to my husband,

I owe you a big “thank you,” husband of mine! These past five days have been so stressful, wonderful and busy, busy, busy! Being away from home is always difficult. It becomes even more difficult when it includes two baby girls and an indefinable period of time. When we are away, you are just as your patron St. Joseph. You look over your universal Church, our little family, by making the best decisions you are able to, all while staying obedient to the principals we have built this family on, and our Lord. You do it all without complaining. When your eyes had melted into mere slits this afternoon, exhaustion closing in on them with the pressure of a vice-press, you didn’t say a word. When I sent you to bed for a much deserved nap, you wanted reassurance I would be ok taking care of the girls.

You treat my family as if they have been yours your whole life, putting their best interest ahead of your own. When we visit, you take over the care of the girls so that I may play and spend time with those I don’t see often enough. You do all these things without being asked.

I am so thankful to you on this mother’s day. You have allowed me to full-fill my spiritual call to motherhood! Thank you, I love you and I will so miss you while we are apart this week! Oh, and make sure to work on that “honey do” list, please!

This is my AMAZING hubby who went to work (without being asked) while my dad is sick. Tessa had so much fun watching, and even turned the chair over so she could "mooowwww" just like Daddy!

Happy and blessed Mother’s day (a tad late) to all those who answer the spiritual call to nurturing in this world. You are an instrument of our Lord, and I pray you have an amazing man in your life who has made it possible. I sure do.

A big thanks to all of you who have been praying for us as we have spent our time at Mayo this week. A few more appointments this week (daddy has to leave us and go back to work) and then we will be home!
Please pray my plants are still alive! Oh how hard we worked on getting them to grow! If they are alive, say a extra little prayer my amazing hubby remembers to KEEP them alive while he is home and we are away.....

Monday, May 4, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook May 4th, 2009

The Simple Woman’s Daybook May 4, 2009

Outside My Window ...
There are new friends for Tessa. She likes to stand at the sliding glass door and wave at all the people who walk by. Isn’t it lovely the simplicity of a child? She thinks everyone she sees is a friend.

I am listening to...
. Tessa is currently pitching a true fit to her daddy. She is pleading for a “cooooookeeeee.” We are desperately trying not to laugh because in her deep desire to eat cookies, she has learned to say the word please. She is so emphatic about the whole thing, she is trying to mask her flaying about fit into dancing in order to seem pleasant, as she knows fits get her nothing. Poor gal. I think daddy may give in soon. She is working her big blue eyes and combining her baby sign for please with the actual word, as if it had double meaning. Too funny.

To Live the Liturgy…
So, last night we were flipping channels and came across some creepy show about exorcism. We would have changed it immediately as my personal spirituality leans toward the mystical and therefore the demonic side of things has always scared me half to death. However, in this show there was a “priest.” We were trying to figure out if this man was a real priest, or if he was calling himself a Catholic priest and in our efforts, ended up watching the whole show and this family and their daughter who was possessed. Once bedtime came, I was unable to sleep. Due to my redecorating project, the crucifix that hangs above our bed was still sitting on my night table. Joseph has been so tired lately, I didn’t want to tell him about my irrational fear and inability to sleep. But, being the wonderful loving man that he is, he noticed me pick the cross up off my end table and hold it in my hand. He then reminded me that Satan hates Mary with such a passion, he fears her. His greatest sin was pride, and Mary’s ability to say “yes” to God and live His will intimidates Satan so greatly that he hates her. He suggested we pray a Hail Mary and rest assured as we have invited her into our bedroom and she will stand watch, as long as we ask her. Wheeew. I have the most amazing husband!

To be Fit and Happy….
I have had wonderful time for prayer and writing this week. This always makes mama happy. I need that alone time to miss my little ones.

I am thankful for ...
Our jobs again this week. Joseph will be taking the rest of the week off and only have to use 2 vacation days as he is allowed to put in some working hours at home. I work from home, so these things make it possible for us to go to Tomah this week to go with my dad to Mayo for an appointment. We are so blessed with our livelihood, and in a time so many are struggling with this, I really feel thankful.

From the kitchen ...
Nothing this week! Since we will be gone most of the week, we are eating up what is in the random Tupperware in the fridge and not really making much else, as we don’t want it to go to waste. Ohhh, but I did make cookies, as I previously have mentioned!
I am wearing ....
Ok, ommm, I am wearing my maternity Capri jeans. No, I am not currently pregnant, but we are trying not to spend money and seeing as they are the jeans I bought when I was first pregnant with my first baby, they are the :I’m only going to gain the amount of weight the baby ends up being” jeans, and therefore, not really all that big. A long t-shirt covers things just fine!

I am creating ...
For the first part of this week, I was writing like crazy. I was so inspired and couldn’t wait ot tell my husband that I would stay up with the baby because I wanted to write, write, write. But, I lost so much sleep that now I have writers block and just want to sleep at night. On my iPod
I have been listening to Pandora radio online. It is amazing! My station is called “Taylor Swift” radio, but then I added in some other artists. I think this is such an amazing thing! It always plays a song I love. The girls and I have been doing a lot of dancing in the kitchen this week!
Towards a real education ...
Honestly, we have been doing nothing but reading “bookaaaas” over here. Tessa has developed her favorite book and knows it by heart. She tries reading it to Anna when I am out of the room. It really is sweet. She has two favorites. The first is a book with Sesame Street characters taking a bath. Sometimes she wanders around the house, saying to herself, “Bubbles, cookies” as those must be her favorite things. Her other favorite is a book about Mary. This is the book she reads to Anna. I think she doe this because I must have my “teaching, explaining” voice on when I read it to her, because she “reads” it to Anna in a sort of condescending way…hmmmm.

Bringing beauty to my home ...
Joseph and I finally hung those pictures last night! It looks really nice and I love the feeling of a newly decorated space. It makes me feel like a mama bird who is adding sticks to the nest.
I am reading ...
Still reading me. Revisions, revisions…..

I am hoping and praying….
I am going with my dad to Mayo Clinic again this week. I am praying something is finally figured out, his spirits are low.

Around the house ...
We are working on more craft projects. Craft projects are my “thing” that make me feel like a good mommy. Tessa and I are also having so much fun checking on the plants we planted last week. She intensely watches me mist they a few times a day and when Anna naps, we count the sprouts peaking through. She has even counted to three a few times, and actually touched..1..2…3…sprouts as she did so. It was amazing.
One of my favorite things ...
This morning may have been one of the few mornings in my life I have woken up with a smile on my face. I am the definition of a night owl. Mornings and I have never been friends. Joseph, the amazing husband, has a routine down in the morning where he gets up, gets Tessa her oatmeal and then gets ready for work as she plays by herself. His goodbye kiss before leaving is usually what wakes me for the day. Today, he left, and I heard Tessa playing and Anna just waking up. I decided to just lay for a few minutes until Anna forced me to get up. I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I remember was waking up and looking at the clock, it had been over a half hour since Joseph left and Anna woke up. I lifted my head and tried to hear what was going on out in the living room, and I heard…nothing. It was silent! I jumped to my feet and flew out to our living room. What I found was my 17 month old baby girl, FEEDING ANNA HER BOTTLE! Joseph had made me a bottle as he knew Anna was waking. He set it on the counter for me and left. Tessa must have heard the baby crying, gone to the counter, taken the bottle down and then put it in Anna’s month. Tessa was standing there, holding the bottle and laughing as Anna ate away. The entire bottle was almost gone, this had been going on for some time! Tessa just looked up at me and said, “Hiiiiii!” I tried to pick up the baby and take the bottle, but Tessa said, “Nooooooo!”
How sweet is this? I could not believe this. Not only did I not know she had the fine motor skills to do this, but she had the intuition and heart to figure out what Anna needed and get it for her! Every time I think about it, I want to cry.
Just so you know, I don’t let my kids run wild. We have a small home and my bedroom door is always open and Tessa comes and get me in the morning. Anna usually sleeps until well after we get up.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
We are heading to my hometown where Joseph will stay with the girls and work, and I will head with my dad and grandma to Mayo. We are not sure what our plans for mothers day are yet.
Picture Thought……

My two gals. I never thought I would see so much love between them this early. Tessa was made to be a big sister and Anna a little sister. It is amazing to me. I have been feeling like I know there is a third daughter coming. This feeling is so strong I have almost been missing her when I watch them interact. No, I am not preggo! I'm just saying, I "feel" her. Call me crazy.