Saturday, December 25, 2010

Once, twice, three times a lady?

Last week I had my big 20 week ultrasound. I am happy to report everything is looking great with baby "String"! Baby is measuring a bit small, but no one seemed too concerned, so I decided to try not to be either.

The night before the ultrasound I wrote the following feelings on finding out the gender of the baby, something we have never done. This post appeared as a guest post on Mom vs. the Boys - a great blog about a mommy to all sons. Now that it has been posted over there, I thought I would share it here.

Many of you who are friends with me on facebook already know what we learned about the sex of the baby - but for those of you who don't know, I will post that tomorrow!

Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady?
I wasn’t a little girl who always had a baby doll, dreamed of her wedding day or had a mile long list of future baby names.

I was raised with brothers, “the rose between two thorns” my grandmother called me. Although I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of life I knew this much: if I was going to be a mommy, I’d have a house full of boys.

Never being a “girly girl” myself, I didn’t image ballet class, hair bows and emotional breakdowns over receiving the wrong color sippy cup.

My motherhood dreams had a different sort of theme. Frogs in the freezer and monster truck rallies sounded like good old fashioned family fun to me!

The man who became my husband had a similar dream. He briefly considered the priesthood, but knew it wasn’t right for his life because he wanted to be a father of a different sort. Just as mine did, his images of parenthood involved little boys….holding baseball bats.

While pregnant with our eldest child we both just “knew” a daughter was on her way and decided to wait for the birthday to find out. After all, “there are only so many real surprises in your adult life” as people say. But, after 28 hours of labor we didn’t care what came out of me, as long as it came out. When our daughter was born my husband almost passed out – he thought I had given birth to a still born son. In his defense the placement of an umbilical cord can be confusing at first glance, and his wife may have forgotten to mention to him that newborns don’t come out pink and snuggly. Therefore, the announcement of a healthy baby girl wasn’t as climactic as TV dramas about child birth had convinced me it would be.

Twelve months later we found ourselves checking back into labor and delivery. We had stuck by our decision that gender is to be learned when baby makes their appearance, but we knew it was a boy. Except, it wasn’t a boy. She was a girl. And in a matter of twelve months we had become a family of girls.

Funny thing about pink things, they tend to multiply – and migrate. What started as a closet in the nursery full of miniature pink clothing turned into a room of pink and glitter. A year later our living room is covered in the feathers that have fallen off a play boa and our cupboards are stacked with pink and flowered plastic dishes.

Last week at dinner my baseball loving husband found himself raising his voice to two little girls.
“That is a fork, NOT a magic wand! We use it for eating, not waving! The next girl to use their fork as a magic wand will have their baby taken away!”

I tried to hold in my laughter. But, the next morning when he went to put his shoes on he pulled out a balled up knot of costume jewelry. The look on his face had me in stitches for hours. Things are too fun over here. Clearly God knew better about what we needed than we did. I wouldn’t give these moments back for anything.

As the pink took over, the thoughts of rowdy little boys faded. In fact, the thought of those rowdy boys jumping on my furniture and running up my grocery bill has become a bit frightening. We love our little bubble of estrogen!

We’ve got thing figured out over here, being a family of daughters. Just as my two beauty queens have helped me find my own inner girly girl, we’ve decided to add to our family once again. And here I sit. 20 weeks pregnant on the eve of the big 20 week scan. The element of surprise has been lost on us and in the morning we will be asking about the gender.

The gender of the third baby has become a bit of an obsession. I’ve been counting down the days and may have even purchased the IntelliGender test. I knew I should have left well enough alone and was acting like a fool when I set off the alarm in the store and had to take the walk of shame, showing what is was I had purchased and that yes indeed, I had paid for it. There I was, red faced and holding a blue and pink box splattered with question marks and promises that it could tell me what color rompers to buy. I couldn’t wait the recommended 10 minutes to read the results. When the test read GIRL I didn’t know if I was excited or disappointed. I felt the same as I had an hour and an embarrassing trip to the drug store earlier. And I was $25 bucks poorer.

Everyone knows a pregnant woman holds the right to change her mind. My problem is that I don’t know what I want. I go back and forth daily. Do I want to hear “it’s a boy!” and fulfill my dream of mothering a sticky, dirt covered goof ball? Or, do I want things to stay the same and be the family of girls, which I have so grown to love? Am I ready to let go of that dream of long ago and replace it with the pink colored reality that has turned into a dream? Will I have more than 3 children, or is this the final say on the gender(s) we will parent?

All I know is that I feel like a child on Christmas Eve. Waiting with so much anticipation that no matter what the morning brings, it may also bring a bit of disappointment because the excitement will be over. Then again, with my luck, we’ll have a modest baby who doesn’t want to share.

But if I was a betting women, I’d go all in on baby gal number 3!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Two Years of Anna Clare

A few weeks ago my second daughter turned 2. I’ve been thinking a lot about a letter I wrote her the first week of her life. I wrote about how much I loved her, and how I was so excited to see what being her mom was going to mean for my life. I also observed that I didn’t feel as though I knew anything about her, except that I loved her. To be honest, two years later I still feel that same way many days!

Her daddy was convinced she would be a he. After much waiting and worry, she came fast and before we knew it, we had two daughters. Her arrival sent us into such a whirlwind we had a difficult time choosing her name. She just didn’t “look” like any of the names we had picked out.

She has been difficult to read from the time she started moving within me and she has been difficult to get to know. She didn’t arrive with the goal of making herself know as her sister did. She has her own world, and has a tough time inviting others in – or caring much at all about joining the rest of the world. For this I loved her instantly, and this has been the challenge of being her mother.

She’s smart. Not in the way that she will recite facts we have made her memorize as is generally easy to do with a two year old. She has no interest in sharing her knowledge to please us; or anyone else for that matter. She seeks knowledge. It’s the very air she breathes. She wants to know how things work and will destruct anything to make that happen. Things are for a purpose – and it is ingrained in her to figure out what that is and how it works. She doesn’t care much for the aesthetic appeal of things. She wants to take it apart and put it back together, its color means nothing to her.

At age 2 she is already skilled at any and all things wires and cords

Anna is as sweet and loving as a little girl can be. She needs no affirmation and takes no direction. An empty corner and a project to figure out does more for her little mind than an audience. We had no idea she knew all of her numbers and letters until I overheard her whispering under her breathe while I taught her sister. I never taught her, she taught herself, and that is how she likes it.

There is never any middle ground with her. She is all or nothing. She lives constantly on one end of the emotional spectrum and refuses being taught to move away from that way of life. This is my biggest concern for her, and one of my proudest moments as a mother. I don’t worry about the trouble she will get into as a follower. Her own impulses are way too strong to follow anyone else’s.

Who says a little girl must laugh and smile at her birthday party? Why do that when you can read a book alone!!

This makes her a difficult child to parent. She cannot be forced to eat or sleep. Still, at age 2, she is up 3 times a night. Sleep training continues to fail her. She has not yet learned to comfort herself, nor does she seek comfort from her parents. She needs to cry and scream for hours and must get out what she needs to get out. She’s uncontrollable in a brilliant way. We have no idea what to expect from her in life, and although it is a very tiresome way to live and we have grown weary since her birth, it has also been one of the greatest joys of my life. Her daddy and I joke about how every grey hair and worry line can be directly linked to her birth, but that she will be the child to make a discovery or cure a disease and fund our retirement.

She is loving and goofy, the most serious and the silliest. She has an amazing ability of communicating with large animals that is foreign to every other member of her family; yet communicating with people seems to be a struggle for her. Fearless and powerful, if there is one thing I know about her, it is that she will always amaze me.

She makes me a better person. She teaches me daily that God has a plan and that sometimes it’s hard, but still perfect. She gives wonderful hugs and her smile has the power to bring joy to me like no other.
I can’t wait for her to be a big sister this year. I just know she’ll be awesome at it – and she’ll do it in a completely original and surprising way!

Happy 2nd Birthday Anna Clare!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mama as Memory Maker

I had big plans for Tessa’s 3rd birthday earlier this month. I did that crazy mom thing. You all know what I’m talking about. When you get this idea in your head that a certain day or memory MUST be perfect and if it’s not your children will never remember a happy childhood? The pressure and motivation to avoid motherly guilt for eternity turns you into a crazy memory making animal ready to eat her own young if they don’t pose for that picture, smile and have a wonderful day? A day that will forever be branded into their memories next to where they remember you as mom of the year. Someone tell me it’s not just me. Anyone? A show of hands in solidarity – please….

Because my eldest daughter has inherited her photographic memory from her father, in the days leading up to her 3rd birthday I became obsessed with the notion that she may be able to remember her 3rd birthday all the days of her life. I decided allowing her to decorate her own cake, compete with making all the color and flavor choices would be the perfect gift for a girl who is 3 going on 30. What better present than to encourage her greatest gift – being the boss!

I hyped up the activity for the entire week leading up to the big birthday. She settled on yellow cake in cupcake form, chocolate frosting and that there MUST be purple glitter covering every cupcake. Mom of the year was within my grasp and I began patting myself on the back before the cupcakes were even mixed.

Unfortunately, my back had other plans. Little gal number 2 did some climbing onto the bathroom counter and my pregnant self decided it was wise to climb up after her to retrieve her thus saving her from any harm. It was the natural response – being mother of the year and all. Baby girl and I came tumbling down, throwing out my back and landing on my swelled tummy.

I was in a bad way and unable to move. I crawled to our brand new couch and there I stayed for the duration of the day. Once the pain subsided a bit I began to cry hysterically that the cupcakes hadn’t been made and I had ruined Tessa’s 3rd birthday. My ever supportive husband offered to make the cupcakes himself but I would have none of it. I had promised the birthday girl. Instead of trying to rationalize with a clearly distraught pregnant woman, my husband gathered every material necessary for cupcake baking and delivered them to the coffee table sitting in front of the new couch we had delivered that morning.

It took a while for Tessa, my rule follower, to warm to the idea of baking in the living room. Once she realized it was indeed allowed (just this once!) she felt as special as any three year old girl could.

It was a very happy birthday and as soon as dinner was served (on the couch) and the candles were blown out – this mama headed off to the ER. Sure enough, my discomfort was no laughing matter. I was having contractions! An ultrasound tech was called in to do a check on the baby and I was given some good meds to settle me down and make me more comfortable. Because the ultrasound tech wanted to double check everything was going well with the baby, she decided while we were observing baby we could try to find out the sex. I was elated!

Baby was doing well, but overly modest! So, no news on that front. It was a bit of a tease as we have never found out the sex of a baby before birth and are excited that this go around we’re going to try it out. Thankfully, I was too relieved and feeling too blessed to be all that disappointed.

The day definitely did not go as expected, but turned out to be such a blessed day for our growing family. I was reminded that I have the exact man God knew I needed as my husband, I watched 2 little gals blow out candles and get messy with frosting and I even got a sneak peak at our newest little blessing.

My husband’s ability to embrace the reality of the day and make the most of a bad situation created a better memory than the one I had scripted in my over obsessed head.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Three Years

Excuse the absence. We have been traveling the better part of this month. Joseph was away for a work conference so the gals and I headed off to my hometown for some time with family. Immediately following my dad had surgery and Joseph and I were away with him while the gals stayed with grandma.
I’ve many blog posts ready to post about our time away, but instead of advertising to the world that our home was sitting vacant - I decided to wait until we returned to share the adventures of being away from home with little ones for a prolonged period of time!

The day before our adventure began we celebrated Tessa’s 3rd birthday. What a blessing these three years have been. Many mothers who came before me have stated that once you become a mother, you forget what it was like to not be a mother. This is one of life’s greatest truths, and one I pray for every women to experience.

I distinctly remember the moment this little firecracker changed my life for the better. I often replay that moment in my mind like an old time movie too moving for sound. I had a feeling she would be a she, mostly because I was scared to death of raising a daughter. She has been God’s greatest teacher for me right from the beginning.

 Our first look at parenthood.

She was the baby that wasn’t supposed to be. There she sat, tucked away under my heart when a doctor who didn’t know anything about Joseph’s health told us she or any others may not be a possibility. Imagine how a little pink line surprised us a week later. Some weeks later an ultrasound showed there was no baby and another doctor told us the pregnancy was not viable. Masses were said, prayers were heard and a week following an ultrasound showed a nine week old baby thriving. I was surprised. Now that I know the little girl God has gifted us with I know I shouldn’t have been surprised at all. The week following my husband and I speed off the highway and down the overpass. Our van totaled and my face on the unlucky end of an airbag – but our little Tessa, asleep in her mama. The world and what is “supposed to be” has never held power over her. It never will. She’s too happy, too spirited, and too sassy to follow any type of conventional thought – or wisdom for that matter.

 On her first birthday - a few weeks before she became a big sister.

The Lord has great plans for this little girl. She’s an “old soul.” Already more intuitive and observant than her parents, she became a big sister at 12 months and was ready to run our home by age 2. She is striking in looks and in personality. Recently in love with any sort of princess she recently had her first viewing of Snow White in which her response was simple and true: “She is a princess. She is pretty because she looks like Tessa.” Tessa is filled with joy and the tenacity to challenge anyone who tries to define it for her or steal it from her. Her heart yearns for knowledge and to nurture. She prides herself on being “a lady” and announcing her beauty without arrogance and with joy – never forgetting to notice and acknowledge the beauty in others.

 On her second birthday

This year, God willing, she will become a big sister once again. She already talks of changing diapers and giving bottles. “I want to talk about babies” she often says to me, curls bouncing. God knew what he was doing when he paired her with her younger sister. They are opposites but have the greatest love for one another. When they reach out for each other to hold the other’s hand I see in her the greatest gift. She loves because that is what she was born to do. It is my life’s work to protect that in her. To never let her give that up, never let it be taken from her. It’s the tallest of orders. The call of every mother and it’s worth every minute of it.

Look who's 3!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Spring Baby

We’re having a spring baby! Both of our daughters were born in November and last Christmas we experienced a miscarriage – so we’re really excited to welcome a spring baby into our family. We recognize and enjoy the connection to the season of new, blooming life.

I haven’t yet written much about the loss of our baby last Christmas. It is something I hope to do in the future as the story is just beyond beautiful.

I love the Christmas season dearly and count down the months every year. Last year was a difficult year with Joseph’s surgery and to celebrate making it through a hard year; we booked a trip to Las Vegas for my birthday, which is Christmas week. While on vacation I had a miscarriage. We were devastated, and my birthday and Christmas were a blur. I just wanted to get through.

Before I go into all the pregnancy talk, I want to address a beautiful community of women I have gotten to know through the wonderful blogging world. After the holiday season last year, I came across a group of Christian bloggers who struggle with the cross of infertility and/or loss. They are inspiring. They support and pray for each other. Some of these women are still not holding babies after many years of marriage and many losses. I truly believe God gives the cross of infertility to the strongest women among us, because I have never met such inspiring women. Although I do not share their cross, I have so enjoyed getting to know them and have been offering up all my pregnancy discomforts for them. If reading about another new pregnancy is hurtful to any of you, please feel free to stop reading now, and know I continue to pray for when you too will hold a baby in your arms.

I found this pregnancy question sheet on a few blogs and thought it was cute!

How did you find out about the baby to be?
It was awesome! I found out on our anniversary and surprised Joseph by writing the news in his card! We are due Mother’s Day Weekend which is also the anniversary of the day we got engaged!

How far along are you?
Today was my 12 week appointment! I did have an ultrasound at 8 weeks to confirm and see a heartbeat. At that point we told our families (and I may have slipped to a few friends). We have never waited until the second trimester to tell before and man, it has been sooo hard!

How are you feeling?
Umm. Not the best. But, I think I am turning the corner and I’m thankful for the symptoms as they reassure me that baby is still in there.

How much weight have you gained?
I’ve lost 15 lbs. I know, yikes. I got in a bit of trouble at the doctor today. BUT, I sleep so darn much and just can’t bring myself to eat. Even water makes me sick. I have to say, I am not too worried. I have plenty of weight. Not that I want to be feeling this icky, but I think it is a blessing, I really can’t gain too much and losing so much in the beginning sure does help!

Food Cravings?
No craving, but I have an aversion to some of my favorite foods and it makes me sad. I could LIVE off popcorn normally, but now the thought of it – ick!

Ummm, I’m 50/50. With both my girls I really thought it was a girl. This time I am 50/50. I don’t really care at all. But, this time we are going to find out! We have never done that and I am so excited! We are due the week Joseph is set to graduate which means he has a master’s thesis to write while this baby grows. So, this time we want to know. I’m so excited to know that I’ve even looked at that gender prediction kit at Walgreens. I confessed to Joseph and he was semi on board until I told him it is about $30. Then he said no. Can’t make any promises if I am out shopping by myself though! Not sure if we will share the sex of the baby or not.

Oh yes! Being pregnant after a loss is really stressful and I am trying not to allow that worry to take me over. I asked for my progesterone to be tested right away and it was low. I had to beg my doctor to put me on the progesterone pill (she does not believe in progesterone therapy and I can’t find a doctor around here who does). She also does not believe in monitoring the progesterone so she put me on it for the first trimester and won’t order a blood draw. It stresses me out, but I have done all I can do. Please don’t leave me any scary comments.
Going from 2 to 3 children also really scares me. But, in a good way.

Joseph and I always take a picture together upon learning of another new soul in our family. Please excuse his half dressed attire. He didn't know what he was coming home to :)

We have had a boy’s name picked out since before we were married – so we are still sitting on that. Girl names are hard when you are on number 3! I don’t know if we will tell until the birth, but so far these are the names we like:
Monica (her feast day is our wedding day and the day we found out about this baby)
Rebeca (if we call her Becca it would fit with our other 2 girls, Tessa and Anna)
Elizabeth (my middle name and my mom’s name - with one of the following nicknames: Ellie, Ella, Lizzy)

We’re so excited. I’m still really worried about baby, who Tessa is adamant we name String. So, any prayers or positive thoughts you could send our way would be much appreciated. I haven’t let myself get excited yet, but now that our news is out I am starting to feel like we are having a baby! It is a wonderful feeling, but I’ve been trying to protect myself and prepare for the worst. I just can’t keep doing that. So, prayers, please!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On Motherhood

Recently my attention has been drawn (in some pleasant and not so pleasant ways) to the differences between myself and the women I call my “peers.”

I’ve been drawn to reflect on my lifestyle due in most part to the extreme reactions I’ve received from friends recently. A few have e-mailed with questions of how I do so much in addition to being a mama. Some seeking advice and some sending notes of thanksgiving – filled with hope that they too may soon be busy mamas. I’ve also disappointed a few friends who seem dissatisfied with how much of myself (and my time) I can commit to them.

One of my favorite Catholic blogger mamas, Elizabeth Foss has a beautiful post about the type of women/wife/mother she is appearing on her blog this evening. Although we are indeed quite different (she’s a seasoned mama with 9 children), I see myself in the sentiment she’s expressing.

Our family calendar speaks volumes to who I am as a women and a mama. I refuse to overbook or fill up our days. More than 3 obligations in one week (even social ones) might as well be a prison sentence to me. I’m an introvert, and so is my husband. We parent as introverts. We’re not signed up for Gymboree, playdates and storytimes at the library. Of course social and educational activities are important and we do make room for them, but I am very selective. When we do something social, it usually takes us an entire day to recuperate – so I build that time into our lives.

We are very close with a family of extraverts and this summer we spent the 4th of July with them. The kids played outside, we took them to the park, grilled out, did some sparklers in the driveway and then drove to see the town’s fireworks later that evening. It was a full day of fun followed by a sleepover. The next day I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. My energy was gone and my kids wanted nothing more than to watch a DVD. My friend came out of her room with her 3 children dressed in another patriotic outfit and they started packing up to go to the parade. A parade! It was 9:00am! Thankfully my friend knows how I operate and I didn’t need to think of an excuse not to go. They headed out and my family stayed in their home, napping and relaxing. Sometimes I wish we could go go go and I know we miss out on some wonderful things, but it doesn’t make us happy. My friend needs those types of things (and so do her children) to keep their family running smoothly and to keep everyone happy. For us, we aren’t loving to one another when we are living that way, so for us I know I am doing what is best.

We recharge alone and at home. For myself, and for my family, I protect this recharging time like a mama bear. I don’t feel an obligation to return phone calls and e-mails in a timely manner nor do I commit myself to weekly conversations with friends. This is not, in any way, a reflection of how I feel about those friends; I just simply love my family more. I know if I did answer every e-mail and return every phone message that our family would suffer, and I am not willing to do that. I know myself very well, faults and all.

I also approach motherhood a bit differently. Although I do love to cuddle with my girls, I can’t stand having someone “on” me all day long. Attachment parenting is beautiful, but God did not make me that type of mother. I don’t long for a tiny baby that needs their every need attended too and if there is a child in my bed, I’m not sleeping. That period of motherhood is a large sacrifice for me. I’m loving in other ways. My gifts are intuition and council. These gifts are better used with older children. For example, every single thing I do in the kitchen is narrated and then shown to Tessa. She is then given the opportunity to do it herself. So, every dinner and every batch of cookies takes twice as long as it does in another home. She doesn’t just get to “stir” to playcat her. She cracks the egg herself and dumps it in the bowl. If there are shells, she is then taught how to dig them out. This is how we operate every day in the kitchen. Everything takes twice as long and creates twice the mess, but at 2 and a half she could recite to me, step by step, how to make many of our standard meals and – chocolate chip cookies. This time is precious to me and I give up other things in order to have it.

She also comes to me with things she would like to talk about. She knows she is not going to get a water downed answer. We have very real conversations and I commit a lot of time to these real conversations. We are strong and consistent in our discipline and following a consequence, there is a loving conversation because I want to understand why a wrong choice was made and help them to understand why their choice was wrong. So, a simple fight between 2 little girls can turn into an hour long event in our home, but in the end everyone not only understands each other, but everyone feels loved. I do not answer my phone during these times.

I am also a work at home mama. I actually really love my job. I don’t care for the amount of work I have. But, I have to say, even if we were extremely independently wealthy I still think I would continue this job (with slashed hours, of course). Not only do I put in hours with my job, I am also a freelance writer. This past year has been a good one for me writing wise and we now count on a few hundred dollars of our monthly income from my freelancing. This is a personal choice that was very hard for me to make. It does cut into my family time and it certainly has affected how much time I have for friends and social activities. However, after much personal prayer by me and my husband, we feel I am called to pursue this dream. It is not one I talk about often, but one I must begin acknowledging as it is affecting my life and the amount of time I can give outside of my family.

To those who wonder how I do all that I do, there are sacrifices. Chances are I am not nearly as social as you are and my house is probably not as clean as yours! We are creative spirits over here and sometimes projects and ideas pick us up and carry us away leaving our laundry pile high and our fridge empty. But, that is who we are, and I will not apologize for it because I love it. One week we’ll learn to sew, the next we’ll be painting. Some nights I’ll stay up all night long because inspiration has struck and if that means the girls stay in diapers the whole next day because mama is resting on the couch – then so be it!

The best we can do for our children, in my opinion, is to embrace who God made us to be and show them it’s ok to do the same. I laugh because in my life I have always been very close with people who would call themselves “type A.” I think there is something about the structured and OCD type personality that must be amused or intrigued by a person like myself. I have had wonderful relationships with many “type As” in my life. However, they seem to really love me for a time and then in the end, I wind up driving them crazy!

Truth is, the world needs us all! God has designed and made each one of us beautifully to reflect Him in different ways. We have so much we can learn from one another. God knows that. I have proof. I’m almost sure my first born is a “Type A” herself. She reminds us to put things away in the fridge and turn off lights when we leave a room.

When she was asked to help pick up today she responded, “Ok, mama! Who’s coming over?” No one, for the record!

She keeps us in check and we remind her that mistakes are ok and sometimes it’s fun to get messy.

What kind of women/mother are you? Are your days structured or is yesterday’s oatmeal still on your kitchen table?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

One of THOSE days!

It’s been one of those days over here! You know the kind, nothing HUGE goes wrong, but every little thing adds up to the point where for a brief moment you think frustration just may take your life?!

I’m currently in the middle of too many projects and therefore not getting a darn thing done! Productivity needs to be a perfect storm for me. Having too much on my plate sends me into a panic mode that makes me lazy, tired and well, unproductive. Yet, not having anything to do does the same to me. I need the perfect amount of things on my plate to force me to be productive yet not overwhelm me. Don’t worry, I am aware of how high maintenance I am – as is my husband.

Funny thing though – life does not cater to me! Crazy I know! It seems every mama I know is chasing “balance” like it is something we’ll find in the back of our unorganized closet or at the bottom of the laundry pile.

I do know I have been craving more time to be a mom. Of course, I’m a mom every second of my life and forever more. But, my dreams outside of my family seem to be fading into the background – for now. I still have dreams, but lately I’ve been wishing I could just focus all of my attention on my family my home and my children. Projects, cooking and the education of my gals are at the top of that list.

I’ve been praying at lot lately about really appreciating the moment I am in and not wanting or planning for the future. My children have gone through a TON of changes this summer and as we transition into fall, I can’t help think about the fact that they are getting older and I will never have a 2 and 1 year old again. I want to hang onto this moment. My TO DO list seems to haunt me all day and all night and I don’t enjoy any moment of the day because I feel I can’t until the TO DO list is done. I think a bit more structure and some prayer about what actually needs to be on that TO DO list is in order!

Today was a hard day for me. I was so stressed out about the TO DO list that not one thing got done – other than stressing. Other things came up that needed attention and although things were accomplished, they weren’t the things I wanted accomplished for the day. I did take a moment in the car this evening to appreciate the fact that we got to the bank and took care of depositing a few checks I had been collecting. But, as I was enjoying the feeling of accomplishment, I got a bloody nose! The only thing in the WHOLE car I could find to help stop the bleeding while we were driving down the highway: a diaper! So, there I was, an overwhelmed mom holding a diaper to her bleeding face! But, all things have a silver lining: my hubby decided tonight we should go out to eat! God sure knew what I needed in a husband. Joseph loves to take things off my plate and place them on his own. Even though his plate is often fuller than mine!

What about you? Are you living in the moment? What do you do to move on after one of THOSE days? Ever used a diaper to stop a bloody nose?

A happy thought from my week: Tessa caught wind that some little ones were going to school this week. So she got herself "ready" to go herself. Anna loved it!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Book Review: The Thorn by Beverly Lewis

The Thorn is the first book in the Rose Trilogy by Beverly Lewis.

Beverly Lewis knows the Amish, and she knows how to write a trilogy! After reading Seasons of Grace and The Courtship of Nellie Fisher, I was impressed but slightly worried I would soon bore of of these three-book series with the same backdrop.

I was mistaken. Lewis contiunes to find new and interesting ways to lure the reader back into the Amish day-to-day of Lancaster County and continues to find new and interesting secrets and questions of faith for her charachers to struggle with.

Rose, her sister, and her bad-girl friend are three wonderful examples of Lewis' ability to create different characters and weave them into the same community, trilogy after trilogy. Similarity to her other works is enough for the reader to find comfort in what they are picking up to read , yet the characters' problems, secrets and faith journeys are fresh yet relatable. Most of all, they keep you turning the pages.

There is a maybe courtship, a Bishop's son, a marriage in question, a few decent twists and, as always with Lewis, a good clifhanger that will make you ask, "When is book 2 in the Rose Trilogy coming out?"

I find Beverly Lewis a breath of fresh air from the boring, predictable and lackluster options in women's fiction these days. Instead of spewing propaganda on how to fool a man into loving you, how to steal a man or how to have a baby without a man like sooo many books in women's fiction right now, Lewis writes of universal themes amidst a backdrop of a way of life so seemingly different from our own.

The Thorn continues to ask questions of life, love, family, and faith that all Lewis' books center on in a new and exciting way.

***Thanks to Bethany House for providing me an advance copy of this book for review!***

Friday, July 30, 2010

TRUST - God has a plan for your marriage

"Trust me," little girls whisper as they extend tiny pinkie fingers in exchange for big secrets under blankets at slumber parties.

"Trust me, it will only hurt for a little bit," pleads a mama trying to comfort a fearful child as she cleans a scrapped knee.

"Trust me, I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you," a young man declares with shaking hands as he places a ring on the finger of his blushing bride-to-be.

With the divorce rate creeping closer to 50% it is imperative all who are married, or hope to one day be married, spend time contemplating what is needed to build and sustain a successful marriage.

Marriage is a road sign to heaven. Each spouse wants only what is good for their partner. They sacrifice and work to lift their partner up in ways that are affirming and good for the person they love. Sometimes one spouse is down and in need of some extra TLC from the other. When one is weak the other is strong - because they must be. They take the extra weight off of their partner and put it onto their own shoulders. They pick up the cross. They do so because they love, and because they trust that when the time comes, the weight will be lifted from their shoulders by the one who loves them in return.

Just as Christ emptied Himself fully, giving His life for the Church, married people are called to do the same for each other. In order to let ourselves be loved we must let our spouse fully know us and we must commit to fully knowing our spouse.

How often do you trust someone with your life who doesn't know you?

As annoyed as I get with the well meaning women in the church pew or the grocery line who make a living dispensing unsolicited advice, I tend to take their comments with a grain of salt. Now - if my best friend or husband calls me out on something it tends to sting a bit harder. Why? Because they know me and I trust they have my best interest at heart.

Who knows you better than the one who made you or the one who vowed to love you forever?

So what happens when we are not willing to give ourselves fully? What happens when we take the focus of our love off of how we can serve God by loving and serving the person we vowed our life to and we shift that focus inward, toward self-service?

Marriages fall apart. Society prides itself on free sex and instant gratification. We live on credit and are told we can define everything for ourselves. We drown in a pool of choices and we call it freedom.

This does not work. I can confidently say it does not work for anyone, but unfortunately, that is currently not very PC of me, but I'll say it anyway. It does not work. I can't wrap my mind around our modern culture's view of "feminism."

Stealing my spiritual gift by pumping my body full of chemicals or "allowing" me to make a "choice" I wasn't created to have to face is not "freeing."

A woman's spiritual gift is motherhood. No, we will not all physically give birth and feed a baby at our breast. But we were born as a women for a reason. God has a beautiful plan for us. Some will spend nights snuggling little ones, some will serve in a nurturing role in the world in another glorious way. These are our gift and one is not higher than another. To change the physical chemistry of a women's body with hormones to suppress this gift by convincing the body it is pregnant so that it won't become pregnant doesn't sound too empowering to me. To create barriers such as condoms and other artificial birth control devices and plant them in the middle of the marital act is not self-giving! It robs a women of her spiritual gifts. It robs a marriage of it's very essence - self-giving love. It is disrespectful to to ourselves and the person we claim to love fully. It is disrespectful to Christ who did not place a barrier between Himself and His love for us.

A self-giving relationship is difficult, humbling and fruitful. It's that last word where couples often stumble. Fruitful. No, this does not mean your last name must be Dugger or you aren't fully giving your life over to your spouse or to God. For some a self-giving marriage rooted in prayer has led to the discernment of a call to a large family. This is wonderful - but by no means does it define a better or holier marriage than the family who struggles with infertility or the couple who has prayerfully discerned one or two children.

Due to many circumstances my husband and I know we are not called to an extra large family. But we have been blessed because we have grown together as we've prayed and educated ourselves in the practice of NFP (Natural Family Planning). We don't pop pills or allow barriers into our marriage because we "know" what is best for us. We continually pray. We have practiced time periods of abstinence. We have grown stronger and learned more about each other through the practice of NFP and the times we were called to abstain.

"If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans" is a popular saying for a reason. Just because we will not have 10 children does not mean we will not be called as parents in other ways. We do not shut ourselves off to this. We continue to pray, discern and invite God into our marriage.

This week is National NFP Week. This year's theme is: TRUST God has a plan for your marriage. In our home it is very fitting to celebrate NFP this week for a few reasons. This week in our liturgy we celebrate Saints Joachim and Anne, parents of Mary mother of our Lord. I'm so glad they chose to give themselves fully in their marriage. In doing so, they were blessed in becoming the grandparents of Jesus! Our youngest daughter, Anna, was named in honor of their example of faith.

This week also marks the due date of our 3rd child, Emanuel Elizabeth who we lost to miscarriage over Christmas. I am confident in sharing that without the marital lessons we have learned through our practice of NFP (greater communication, vulnerability, and solidarity to name just a few) we wouldn't have been able to come out on the other side of a difficult and trying time. We were blessed with what we learned about our faith, our marriage and responsible parenthood during the short time I carried that child in my womb. We were able to turn the grief of that child into an opportunity to see the blessings in our loss. The blessing of a new soul in heaven due in part to us giving ourselves fully in our marriage and the blessing of grief has created a stronger marriage. I am a better wife and mother today because I am the mother of a child I will not hold in this lifetime.

TRUST - God has a plan for your marriage!

He really, truly does. I love my husband more than I could have ever dreamed. We are best friends. We have one of those relationships - the kind that makes people sick. That being said, I could not do this marriage thing without faith. I trust we are joined together by God and that He gifted us with each other to help navigate our way through life to heaven. I don't know how other people do it without God and with the addition of man made barriers preventing them from being completely self-giving.

The truth is - people aren't doing it. The divorce rate is astronomical and prenuptial agreements are a normalcy. People are entering into marriage with a fail safe and a heart open to the possibility of failure. With those things on the table marriage will not survive.

If you're never looked into NFP I encourage you to do so. Do a little research and I promise you will be AMAZED at how much you will learn about your body, your fertility and the wonderment of God! That alone is worth a look.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Basic info on NFP

Couple to Couple League

Humanae Vitae (On Human Life)

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Sixty Dollar Panda

I have a new best friend! After much thought, Joseph and I have decided to name the newest member of our family Sixty the Panda.

The story of how Sixty the Panda came into the Rutchik namesake is a good one. Before I tell it, I thought I would share a few of our most recent family photos.

This is Anna loving Sixty.
This is what Tessa looks like when we talk to her about how she needs to share Sixty with her sister.

Sixty loves story and prayer time before bed.

Sixty loved watching the fireworks as a family this past 4th of July.
Here is the story of how Sixty the Panda became a Rutchik:
Not so recently Joseph's family came to town to spend a Saturday with us. We shoved the mess into our bedroom, cleaned the common areas are prepared for a fun day with family. We took the girls out to eat. After we were done Joseph and his mom would bring the girls home and put them down for their afternoon nap while my SIL and I snuck out to catch an afternoon movie.

To be honest, I had been looking forward to seeing this movie with my SIL for weeks and as we snuck away from the girls and dodged out the door of the restaurant, I had one of those "I'm free!" moments every mama longs for when alone time has been sparse for a bit too long.

The movie was great and SIL bonding was had. But, like most mamas, once I felt that "free" feeling for a half hour - I really missed my kids. I opened the door to my home expecting big hugs from my gals. Instead I was greeted with a little story.

It seems Tessa threw a mega size fit on the way home from the restaurant (why we EVER tell ourselves it will be ok, just this once, to take her somewhere during nap time I will never know). Joseph was holding her hand when she decided to collapse and refuse to walk into our front door. She went down fast. Tessa was on the ground, but her little hand and little arm was still with Daddy. Joseph heard a pop. Tessa was in a lot of pain and so Joseph and his mom decided a trip to the ER was in order.

We literally live next door to the emergency room so off Daddy and Tessa went. Joseph reports that by the time her name was called all the attention of the folks in the waiting room had sucked the pain right out of her arm. She was giving high fives.

She is fine. It seems her little elbow popped out, was popped back in and all was well. Joseph was sent home with some papers with some medical lingo that translates into "take it easy" and a bill for our deductible: $60. Tessa was sent home with high fives and a stuffed Panda. Our Sixty dollar Panda!

Just like most homes with the pidder padder of tiny feet, we have tons of stuffed animals. Most of them collect dust on the shelves and take up my closet space. Sixty the Panda is different. Tessa clutches that Panda like it's her trophy. The second she puts him down he is scooped up by Anna who loves him so hard I worry his little head may just pop off. "Baby!!!" she screams.

Neither of our girls have ever taken to an item as their "comfort" item. There are no blankies or binkies in this house. Oh we tried! Oh did we try. We've tried every trick in the book to get Anna to attach to something in hopes she would learn to use it to comfort herself in the night when she wakes and scream 27 times between the hours of 8pm and 6am. She never had an interest in anything. The closest we came was items of Daddy's "used" clothing. I'm fairly confident there is a sweater he will not get back. I guess they are never too young to start going for your clothes!

But now we have the Sixty dollar Panda! It seems both our daughters have claimed it as their comfort item! This has led to interesting lessons on sharing and some crazy conversations between my husband and I. Who ever though we would be giving thanks for paying $60 for a stuffed animal!? If anyone wants some stuffed animals, I would consider offering to pay $60 for them to be removed from my home! But, this Panda is magic. We're talking Buzz Lightyear and Woody magic over here.

So, the question at hand - how long before we can take one of the girls back into the ER to get another one of these things? I mean, we are by no means wishing ANY ill will on our girls. Believe me, we've had enough of that over here. Most of Joseph's medical care (sniffles, cuts ..) is done in the ER because even when something little happens he needs immediate attention. I'd even be willing to fake a little something and go in, but I don't think they give Pandas to parents. We also don't want to take anyone in too soon, least we get a call from social services wondering why our kids are in the ER so much. I'd end up on some news program as one of those moms who makes their kids sick for attention. Really all I want is another Panda. We need it, we really do. I'll pay the $60!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Thou Shall Not......

Recently, on a long family drive, Joseph and I pulled off the highway to grab a sandwich. Not wanting to wake the gals who were happily in the middle of a much needed nap, Joseph parked in a Subway parking lot and sent me in for our sandwiches.

I stood in line waiting for my sandwich among the construction and farm workers of the small town. As I looked out the window of the sandwich shop to the town's only stop light, I noticed a women dressed all in black getting out of her black, fancy car.

"She's clearly a traveler as well," I thought to myself.

She stepped up to order her sandwich and pushed her sunglasses from her eyes to the top of her head, tucking her hair behind her ears. The silver on the side of her glasses caught the sunlight. As I was admiring her glasses, I realized the silver on the side was a label: Dolce and Gabbana.

"That figures," I thought to myself. I always see something I love and then find out it's a designer, top of the line, top dollar item. When I first started driving I kept seeing certain cars on the road I would fall in love with. Upon doing some research, I learned the 2 cars I was coveting were BMWs and Saabs.

And there is the magic word: covet.

"Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's goods," reads the 10th Commandment.

Coveting was exactly what I was doing. Fancy and lovely as this women was in her Dolce and Gabbana shades, and as much as I would love to be wearing a pair myself, I recalled how blessed I was. Waiting in the car for me were two sleeping angels and their daddy, a better husband then I ever dreamt of. I thought of how blessed we were to now be able to pull off the road and purchase sandwiches and sodas, something that was not possible in the beginning of our marriage.

Today I found myself in another restaurant at the lunch hour. As I sat waiting for my friend I decided to dig into my purse for a pen and some paper. I pushed my $10 sunglasses to the top of my head, unbuttoned my giant "mom purse" and began searching for a pen. I pulled out diapers, a half eaten granola bar and receipts from a recent family vacation. Just as I was thinking, "I've got to clean this purse out," I pulled out a pair of sunglasses.

Seeing as I only own one pair of sunglasses, my curiosity was peaked. I've always thought of my mom purse as a Mary Poppins bag of sorts, but this was the first time the thing had created an item.

I turned the glasses over in my hands, hoping to trigger the memory of where they came from. As I touched their smooth surface I noticed a silver label: Dolce and Gabbana!

My jaw dropped! I looked around the restaurant half expecting an answer to be written on the walls or for someone to jump out and tell me I was an unknowing participant in some Christian version of a PUNKED or CANDID CAMERA type show.

I hadn't told anyone about my encounter with the fancy lady in the sandwich shop. I don't even think I've ever mentioned to anyone how I love this brand of sunglasses. I recalled a fancy store we had stopped into on vacation and almost started hyperventilating at the thought that I may have somehow, unwillingly, stolen these glasses. Did the girls pick these up and put them in my purse?

Grasping for some explanation, I called my mother. We had visited her last week, maybe she had some knowledge of these glasses.

Sure enough, my mother is missing a pair of sunglasses. My eldest daughter (2 1/2), who loves sunglasses, must have stolen them from grandma's bathroom and put them in my purse.

My mom thought this was hilarious. I on the other hand, was not so pleased. Although I am happy to have an answer, how do you reprimand a 2 1/2 year old for something she did 4 days ago? Did she pick up the glasses thinking they were mommy's? Did she knowingly steal them from her grandmother?

Since we just can't know for sure, we'll take this opportunity to teach her, and remind ourselves, of the 7th Commandment: Thou shall not steal.

We'll also spend some time on how breaking the 10th Commandment: Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's goods can lead to the temptation of stealing!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Organize the home - organize the mind!

I heard once (from a completely reliable source such as the television, Internet or women's magazine) that the state of your external living environment is a reflection of the state of your internal environment.

Complete generalization in a magazine headline used to convince the average women waiting in the check out line that her life is a mess and the purchase of this magazine and the contents it holds will change her life before it completely falls apart: YES!

A grain of truth at the center of this theory: YES!

I have many idiosyncrasies, as we all do. I do however; have one that is quite unusual. I love to shop for/buy organizing materials. The office supply and storage aisles are my favorite nooks and crannies of any local retail store. Now, as a wife and mama of two under age three, this gift could be used as an asset to my vocation and my family.

Unfortunately, what makes this idiosyncrasy unusual is that I am the least organized person I know. Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but most of these "splurge" purchases sit in shopping bags in the corner of my living room until I "clean" and then they sit in the corners of my bedroom. In other words, I'm all talk (shop) and no action (organization)!

Maybe I'm lazy. Maybe I'm too busy, stressed out, tired or full of excuses. Maybe I'm such a perfectionist about things I care about; I can't bring myself to organize until I know it will be done perfectly. Don't worry about me, I'm working on that - and will be until the day I die. I'll more than likely have to work that one out with Jesus.

Regardless, trying to make a small place a home/office with two little girls, 86 dolls, 5 billion books, 98 1/2 pairs of shoes and many other countless unrecognizable toys is enough to drive any women crazy - and to organization! Well, all those things and a trip to IKEA on a much needed "girls weekend" away with her college girlfriends.

So, for the sake of documentation, and the intention of promoting some of my favorite products for you to look for on the clearance racks of retail stores, please enjoy the following pictures of the gals' room!

if you've got children, you MUST have a handy and cute storage area for baby dolls, animals and all things "stuffed" that tend to multiply in your home the second you bring baby home!

This frog is from IKEA and was $9!
my advice: put the ones that sing or cause fights in the top pockets!

These toy bins have saved our home from being completely taken over by our children and those who like to buy for them! May I add, I think we have purchased a total of 2 toys since the day we became parents! We don't bring things in, we only take things out. The bins have been a great system for teaching the girls to clean up after themselves (everything must go in a bin before we ------ (fill in the blank with something little girl friendly). Also, Joseph and I have a rule that if there are too many toys to fit in the bins - then there are too many toys and we purge!

We waited for this system to go on clearance at Shopko for $26.

The flower stickers are wall appliques. They have them at Dollar Tree! These all came together in one sheet for: you guessed it - $1!

We placed a coat hook on the wall right by the door to the gals' bedroom. This hook can be easily accessed from our main hallway. Now book bags and sweatshirts can be hung up and their contents can be kept out of the bathtub and sweatshirts don't have to be washed 5 times a week because they were found in the corner of the kitchen floor with macaroni on them!

I found this wall hook hanging at Hobby Lobby or $3

We have a low book shelve that the girls can reach. This way we are able to keep the same rules as we do with the bins! I don't care how the books go on this shelf (they'll just be all over the floor again in the morning) but they MUST go on the shelf!

Cost: FREE from the garage of my MIL via the college apartment of my SIL!

This is my favorite organizational tool of all time! As a mama of little girls, we do a lot of crafting over here! And, our crafting involves glitter and sequins. As hard as you try to contain these things, know it is impossible. I once noticed glitter in Joseph's hair from a project we did earlier that week - while he was at work!
These items need to be easy to access as to encourage me to get them out and use them with my littles - yet out of reach to prevent marker on my sofa. These pouches, hanging right inside their bedroom, are perfect!

This was found at IKEA on sale for $3. I loved it so much I bought one for a friend who is a homeschooling mama!

Friday, May 7, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday 5/7/2010

1. I'm sad I haven't been too active on my blog. I don't want to blame it on time. As a general rule I think "no time" is a sorry excuse in life. We have time for what we make time for. God gave us 24 hours in a day for a reason, so if we aren't getting done what we need to get done, it is most likely a problem with our priorities.

That being said, my stress level has been high these days. I've been doing a lot of freelance writing gigs (for which I am very excited and grateful) that added with my job load and the kids has become a lot of "work" for a stay at home mom. The truth is, I am far from a SAHM and we're praying and discerning how we feel about that and what we want to do about it. If I'm going to be working so much, then maybe I need to be out there working and making a good salary. Something to pray about!

2. Last week I attended my first writing conference! It was amazing. I learned some very valuable lessons and feel I grew as a writer. I also noticed I was alone most of the weekend. Most writers had come with a buddy. So, I didn't find a critique partner or another at home non-fiction writer. But, that's ok, the weekend was still a huge success.

3. I decided to put my blog address on my business card. This led me to reflect on the purpose of my blog. I started the blog to document my time with my family and share ideas/advice/encouragement with other mamas. Since I began the blog over a year ago, I have grown in my freelancing and now wonder if I should pick a focus for the blog. It has become a mix and match of life as a faith filled mama writer. I'm still thinking about what to do. Advice is welcome.

4. I went to the doctor! If you know me, you know it's a big deal. I hate going to the doctor. I haven't been feeling well and finally decided I really needed to figure out why. I had some blood tests and did find a few reasons why I may not be feeling well. So, I'm now working on getting all my levels where they need to be. I'm starting to feel better already! Yeah!

5. Joseph and I are enjoying our evenings once again! Even though Anna still wakes about 3 times a night at 17 months, we have a great bed-time routine and come 7:30 every night, the gals are asleep and we have a few hours to ourselves to work, relax or actually have a conversation! Since our gals were so close together, we never had this time in between children, so it is welcomed after 2 and a half years. It 's a wonderful and much needed break.

6. I'm sooooooo ready to buy a home. After next week, Joseph will have one class and his thesis to complete before graduating with his masters! This means he could start working full time again! Please pray we can find something soon and know where we are going to stay. I want things to fall into place so badly because I am OVER renting. I'm ready for a house. It still may be a few years, but I'm starting to really really want it. I like to decorate and paint.

7. The summer is booking up! Wow! I can't believe how many things are already on the calendar for the summer. I'm really excited to be social and get the gals (and their parents) out of the house and into the world.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Day at the Theatre

My father thinks I MUST be rich and famous since my name is in a book and all. He keeps asking me when I'm going to be on Book TV and reminding me that when that day comes, I need to ask them to "send a car" to pick me up. I haven't asked him who "them" is and why on earth they would send me a car.

The fact that he gets so excited about such things is why he is such an amazing dad. I keep telling my husband I need to sell a few more essays before I'll be convinced the one about my dad wasn't just a fluke. He is such an interesting character and it surly didn't take much skill to write a worthy essay about this more than worthy man.

Still, I decided to do something "fun" and more importantly, out of our normal budget with the money I earned from the essay about my father.

As my writing has slowly (but surly) taken off over the past year I have taken to using the profits for family fun time. The rewards of this are many fold. Firstly, not having to budget in family entertainment to our normal monthly budget leaves more room for other things and, I don't have to feel badly when using this "writing fund" money for FUN!

So what does the sale of a 1000 - 2000 word essay buy a family of 4? Here's the answer in picture form:

2 plain (pink) T-shirts on sale for 50 percent off at Hobby Lobby.
2 child size shirts (from the gals' closet)

1 package of iron on transfer paper for our printer. (Dora images were found FREE online)
1 package of fabric markers (purchased with Hobby Lobby's weekly 40 percent off one item coupon)

4 Dress Circle Tickets to Nickelodeon's Story Time Live! show.
(Dress Circle Tickets were purchased due to the young age of my children, I thought they needed to be close for the 90 min. show to hold their attention.)

1 $6 drink with a straw that could be taken into the theatre (this was a MUST as the knowledge of having something that could bribe the girls to hold off a melt down was needed for this mama!)

2 adults meals
1 child meal
1 milk shake from Fuddrucker's
The chance to take our girls to their first live show was worth a million dollars! Joseph and I are both huge lovers of the arts and especially, the theatre. It was amazing to watch them run about the lobby, exploring this grand place full of so much creative energy!
Anna Clare screamed with joy and threw her hands in the air every time a character she recognized began to sing.
Tessa was out of her seat and dancing and singing along with the entire show. And, although the place with packed with little girls, we received many comments from the ushers on how happy Tessa was to be singing and dancing.

Not only did I get to witness my girls falling in love with something so dear to my heart, I got to watch the joy their daddy had in his face as he watched them watch the show. He did it all with a huge grin of pride, love and joy and he did it all in a PINK shirt with a silly Monkey on the front and Dora and scribbled pictures from his gals on the back. The best part, I didn't even have to ask him to wear pink. He said if everyone else in the family was doing it - he would have it no other way.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Updates on Life, Love and Writing!

Although it was not my intention to give up blogging for the Lenten season, the act of drawing inward for reflection and prayer pushed my blog to the back burner.

The Spirit of discernment is back in full swing in the Rutchik home and really, what's new?! We love the transition we've made to a smaller town and slower pace of life. It is now time to discern some bigger life issues such as careers, family size and schooling for the girls, just to name a few! It's a good place to be, but boy are we tired!

Although I was absent on the blog, there are still a few things I need to document from this season in our lives. Since my first vocation is to wife and mama, and this blog helps me document this vocation, I apologize to my regular readers if I fill up your news feeds with family updates and adventures this week.

My first update: I recently received my contributor's copy of A Cup of Comfort for Fathers. My story, Even as He Gives his Daughter's Hand, can be found on page 251.

The arrival of this book was much anticipated in the Rutchik homes as it is the first (of what I hope to be many) time I have been published in book form.

I was sitting in a T-shirt, on the phone with my friend, Krissy, when Mr. UPS rang the doorbell. I shouted for my husband to answer the door as I bolted into the bedroom.

"Shoot! Get the door, babe! you have to get it, I'm not wearing any pants!" I yelled.

I'm humbling myself enough to share that yes, sometimes I sit on my sofa in my nightshirt while talking on the phone in the mornings. I feel the need to share because I have often given a not- so-nice look to those who tell me I am so lucky to work from home, writing all day while wearing my pajamas. Clearly, this is not an option as sometimes the outside world comes right up to your front door.

Note to self/stay at home moms/work at home moms/writers: ALWAYS WEAR PANTS!

Lucky for me, my husband was home to answer the door and on the other line of my phone conversation was my best friend. She enjoyed the fact that I wasn't wearing pants and didn't judge me for screaming that fact into the phone in the middle of a conversation!


This is a test. I know that sounds lame - but it really is!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Mother's Birth

This is a birth announcement – of sorts.

Here in lies no measurement of weight or inches. There is no baby name to share, no blue booties or pink bows. Instead, I have a birth story. It is my own and it’s still in progress. I’m becoming a mother this week!

This birth story begins with a mother’s confession: I have not been well. Uncertainty and worry have set up permanent camp in my mind with real fear of spreading to my heart. Everyone knows a disease that spreads is almost always deadly. I have been paralyzed with worry and self-pity. The events of our recent past (ok, our whole 3 year marriage) have started catching up with me. There is one event in particular that haunts me and mocks me with its reality so much so I have started to consider the possibility of Post Traumatic Stress.

With the girls’ blood samples sent off to the lab and another challenge all but imminent – I started to, well, lose it. I’d go to bed and wake up 2 hours later just to worry the rest of the night away with worry for the girls, for Joseph, and for how I would handle the next thing. I’d ask myself how I could possibly deal with any more, and then wonder why I wasn’t stronger, holier.

I finally let myself hear the voices of all our friends, family and acquaintances, “I don’t know how you do it, I can’t image living your life, I just can’t image.”

You can’t image because you’re not supposed to. I can’t image and it’s my life. When we image how we would react or make it through a certain challenging situation, we cast ourselves as the staring player. We forget that we are fallen. But, we are separate from God! Therefore we cannot image or attempt to predict the role He plays in the events of our lives. He gives us the grace only at the moment when we need it. He’s perfect like that – and we are to trust in His perfectness.

To be honest, the “I can’t image” comments really bug me. I know it's just people showing their love and concern and I hold nothing against anyone who has ever muttered these words to me. But, it makes me feel a lot of pressure to be strong. Nothing puts pressure on a person to keep it together more than praise over how well you are keeping it together. For me, the pressure makes me withdraw a bit from my friends because the only way to really share myself is to share how I struggle, and I can’t do that when I am “keeping it together.”

For this reason I am widely and inappropriately honest about myself and my life on this blog. That is out of character for me. I’m actually not a sharer at all. But, here I am, emotionally naked for my friends, family and strangers to read! It’s my lifeline and I’ve decided not to apologize for it or for any of the “God talk” it brings. I don’t usually do a lot of “God talking”.

When health problems are always lurking in the shadows of your family life, the devil lives in the “what if’s” and worry parts of your heart. There are real things we must prepare for and these things have dictated every major decision we have made. However, responsibility and preparation can easily take an ugly turn into unneeded anxiety.

When this happens, my friend Krissy tends to remind me that, “These are problems for future Holly.”

I then remind us both that, “Future Holly sure has a lot of issues. It’s a really good thing I’m not her!”

When I do become future Holly, I trust I’ll have the grace to be her. God will fill the voids in me and seal the cracks in the foundation of my trust and faith. So, no, I can’t image some of the past events of my own life. There must not be a need for me to, as I currently don’t have the graces to do so. This is the blessing of our life!

As we approached this Lenten season, I prayed about what I should give up and what I should add to my spiritual life. This year it was a difficult prayer for the first time. I eventually came to realize why. I have been sanctified by a rare blessing. I don’t have to suffer the pressures of defining and discerning what our sacrifices should be or what cross it is we are bearing. We have clearly been told what our limitations and struggles are. Many wander for years, painfully trying to discern and define what it is God is calling them to. What a gift our family has been given! We are to turn to Him for comfort and the strength to take up our cross, and praise Him for reveling Himself to us in such a definitive way! So, this Lent I am not making any additional sacrifices. Instead, I am working on carrying the crosses I already have in a better way, with poise and in thanksgiving.

I trust this was the perfect Lenten journey for me because God has granted me the grace to live this time in thanksgiving. This time, His grace came in the form of 2 very precious ladies - and I am their renewed mommy.

This Thursday a string of unforeseeable events created an unheard of situation. My Joseph and I were out to lunch on a date! As we sat, sans children, the call came. Joseph’s specialist was calling with the girls’ genetic test results. There, behind the voice of an awfully serious Dr. were these words,

“Both tests came back negative. Both Teresa and Anna are negative for the Loeys Dietz gene.”

The method of delivery didn’t seem to match the words that were being delivered. In turn, I had nothing to say. I think I eventually and very calmly told the Dr. I thought I was going to cry. He then went into explaining some more tests Joseph needs to set up and I passed the phone across the table to my husband like it was a hot potato.

Then I cried. I cried and carried on like a baby in the middle of Applebee’s in the middle of the afternoon. I cried with no regard for a public place. I cried like only a mother cries in a delivery room. And then I cried some more.

I shot a goofy and authentic smile at my husband and we hugged. I called my parents and my best friend and cried with happy news. I didn’t say “It’s a girl” or “It’s a boy,” I chocked out, “It’s two healthy girls.” And then I cried some more.

To be clear, a diagnosis or state of health never changes or defines our love for a person. We were blessed with an example of the truth of equal worth of all souls through the gift of our third child, Emanuel Elizabeth. Joseph (and now his sister as well) are exactly who they are because of what God has given them. He has chosen to give them Loeys Dietz. Joseph is who is his in part because of this difference and after much prayer; I can confidently say I would not change it. I love him fully- in sickness and in health. I do not want to change him, I want to love him and let him lead me. He needed this to do so.

That being said, it is hard, and something only God can chose. It was our prayer this was not the call of our children. The unknowing prevented us from thinking about the long term for our girls.

On Thursday, I dreamed with my husband about the future of our children for the first time, ever. On our way home, we stopped for an errand and ended up buying gifts for our ladies. In the past few days the rain cloud over my motherhood has lifted and I am seeing my babies for the first time. I’m counting the fingers and the toes and loving every pudgy little one for what it is and not what is might mean.

Joseph says now that the black smoke has been lifted; he is seeing the beauty of each and every feature of our children for the first time and truly seeing the wonder of that person, and not questioning if this or that is a sign of Loeys Dietz. Instead, Tessa’s eyes are beautiful just because Tessa is Tessa and Anna’s likeness to her father is because she is Anna and her mystery is what makes Anna Anna. The features of my daughters are defined by how they reflect the beauty of the gift they are to us and not the fear of a genetic disorder. Without the looking glass of this fear, my children have almost been re-born.

I have 3 children. 1 in heaven and 2 healthy gals here with us.

I now have 4 birth stories.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Daybook - Week of March 1, 2010

Daybook – Week of March, 1 2010

Outside My Window ...
Spring is teasing me and I love it. There was so much sunshine today and it was glorious. I tend to entertain dreams every February of a move to a state that doesn’t have winter 6 months of the year, but I know I’ll be here forever. I’m a Wisconsin gal, snow and all.

I am listening to...
Anna fussing in the crib and the middle-aged-never been married- children scare me- I can’t understand why your baby cries so much so I yell at her through the floor- guy upstairs is making noise. I don’t mind so much, but it is midnight and I hope he knows if he wakes her up, he pays as much as we do…..


To Live the Liturgy…
We all missed mass this weekend due to what we are calling the “death flu.” It was by far the worse flu we have ever had and we all had it at the same time. Needless to say, our bodies and souls are hungry for the parish mission this week and I think by tomorrow we will be well enough to go. I’m hoping to get to a healing mass or at least have Joseph prayed for. It always give me comfort.

To be Fit and Happy….
I’m not feeling to fit or too happy this week and I know it is because the flu knocked us out, the house is now a mess and I haven’t worked out in a week. I’m hoping to get back to the gym and in the pool in the morning. I'm also thinking about signing up for water aerobics.

I am thankful for ...
The end of the flu! I can’t believe it was so bad and now I must tackle the very unpleasant laundry pile it left behind.

From the kitchen ...
Our SAMS CLUB membership ran out and we decided not to renew so we stocked up on lots of goodies for the freezer. Tonight we defrosted a few pounds of lean ground turkey. We made turkey burgers and browned the rest of it up for a supper time skillet for tomorrow’s dinner. It feels so nice to have a fridge full of meals and to not be stressed about what to make for the next few nights.

**For our turkey burgers we got these new “buns” called “sandwich thins”. Not only are they 100 percent whole wheat and only 100 calories, but they are delicious and I had to pass along the great find! **

I am wearing ...
Sweats. I haven’t gotten ‘dressed” in 3 days and am really looking forward to leaving the house tomorrow and wearing real clothes!

I am creating ...
I’m pretty bummed out in the creative front today. There were a few calls out I had been working on submissions for and done some great research and writing on, but I wasn’t able to submit this weekend as planned due to how sick we all were. To say I’m bummed is an understatement. But, such is life. I did sell another essay and just sent my hubby out to mail the publishing agreement this evening! I’m also working on a very interesting story about a truly inspirational man. So, there is some good news to report on the creative front.

Towards a real education ...
I’m feeling a shift in stages for all four of us over here and have been doing some reading and research on the next step in our educational needs. For Tessa this will involve letters and a move into longer and more complex books. The rest of us I’m still working on.

Bringing beauty to my home ...
I’m not going to lie, it’s bad news bears over here. This place is a mess. I’m not talking about things needing to be tidied up a bit, I’m talking about an overhaul. But, it can’t stay this way for two long, Joseph’s family is coming in about 10 days and it’s a good thing, I need the motivation.

I am reading ...
I just finished Susan Wigg’s Just Breathe. It was ok enough, a perfect chic lit entertainment book. I like to have a ‘beach book” and an educational, spiritual or more challenging book going at the same time. I’m ready for 2 new ones so suggestions are welcome!

I am hoping and praying….
Well, here it is – the reason I have neglected this blog for 2 weeks. Last week we took the gals to Children’s Hospital (where I’m sure we caught this flu) for genetic tests. Joseph had genetic tests a few weeks back and it was discovered that he does not have Marfans as we previously thought. Rather, he has
Loeys Dietz syndrome. We were (and still are) very disappointed. It’s similar in that they are both connective tissue disorders, but Loeys Dietz seems to be more aggressive and over all, not so great. The good news is that we have a diagnosis and can now test the girls and know once and for all what we are dealing with and how to monitor and treat it. However, actually knowing if one or both of our children have it changes things for us (and for them) in a big way. We should find out within the next week.

I’m also praying for some close family friends who are ready and waiting to welcome their fourth child any moment now. They’ve been planning on “any moment now” for about 3 weeks, so I’m really praying the waiting is over as I type this! This weekend, before the flu hit, we were treated to a fish fry evening by these friends. It was so fun to see them one last time before they welcome their baby!


Around the house ...
I’m thinking of some fun ways to spruce up my writing place and hoping to blog about it – stay tuned!

One of my favorite things ...
The gals seem to have created their own language. Ok, I know that can’t really be possible, but they are able to communicate with each other in a way Joseph and I cannot understand. Anna speaks in gibberish with the same inflection and using the same syllables and Tessa answers her. It’s very cute to see their love for each other develop. It’s also been making me sad for the absence of our third child, Emanuel Elizabeth.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
We’ll play catch up for a few days. The main goal of the week is to restore order around here! ***

Picture Thoughts
Although it’s been a stressful week, we were blessed by good friends this week! On our way home from the genetic testing this week we were able to stop by our closest family friend/God family’s home. My friend Krissy had prepared a tea party for the little ones complete with rice crispy treats in the shape of scones! The adults were also able to have some snacks and share some time together.