Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Are You a "Santa Family?"

We’re a “Santa” family. I understand the reasons behind some families choice to keep Santa out of their Christmas celebrations, but for us, it’s important to include him.

There is beauty in the “magic” of Santa. In the innocence in the heart of a child that can believe a man can make it around the world in just one night, solely to bless the lives of children everywhere. The story is appreciated and loved because of its wonder, sans the syndical and bitter questioning that sneaks its way into our hearts with age.

We use the Santa story to teach our children about the unconditional love that can be found in a gift that is given out of love, not earned like a sticker on a responsibility chart. Once a year, for just a few years, they will wake with the type of anticipation that only lives within a child. They’ll know that awaiting them under the Christmas tree decorated with holy cards will be humble presents, right next to the manger that’s present all through Advent. The gifts won’t be there because they have earned them or they deserve them, just because they are loved - similar to the baby Jesus who will be placed in the manger that sits under that Christmas tree.

Accepting unconditional love and unearned reward may be difficult later in their lives depending on their temperament. The “Santa years” are great practice for them to accept that they are loved just because. They are loved by us, by each other and ultimately, by Christ. They did nothing to earn this love, can do nothing to lose the love and need only accept it – like a gift on Christmas morning.

There is no “naughty” or “nice” list and Santa works in his workshop year-round making toys for boys and girls because St. Nicholas inspired him to be loving and kind to children out of the goodness of his heart.

There is no danger of our children learning one day about Santa and drawing a parallel to Christ -  thus dismissing the resurrection as a fable, myth or moral story. We talk about Santa from December 7th to December 25th every year. We talk about the baby Jesus everyday.

My biggest concern that comes along with being a “Santa family” is not a spiritual one. We’ve got three daughters in this home. Teaching them to sit on an old man’s lap, tell him their secret desires and then take candy from him doesn't really coincide with what we generally teach our daughters about strange, odd looking older men! Then, on Christmas Eve, we’ll celebrate Jesus’ birthday and while we are sleeping he’ll sneak into our home and we’ll leave him a snack? It is rather amusing when you think about the details.

Seems my girls feel the same way, judging from the Santa pictures we’ve taken the past few years.

A blessed feast of St. Nicholas! May his goodness and generosity inspire our Advent and Christmas season in whatever way is best for our families.

Gold chocolate coins, an ornament to celebrate the year in the life of our family and a new book of stories of the Saints have appeared on our fireplace! 3 little gals are going to be so blessed by St. Nicholas' visit in the morning.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Take Cover! Christmas Bells are Ringin’

The only people who think about Christmas in October are St. Nicholas, people who work in retail and sprinkle Halloween in one aisle and Christmas in the next and, of course, moms.

Although fall is by far my favorite season, a tiny bit of my autumn joy has been stolen since I got married and had kids. My fall to-do list has multiplied since becoming a mom. “Check out new fall TV line-ups” has now been replaced with less “fun” chores.

These tasks are dreaded all year by most moms I know. They include:

The “whose family are we going to for what holiday so everyone we’re related to can be happy and we can be miserable” traditional seasonal fight with your husband:

To be fair, we’ve got the cutest daughters in the world. Unfortunately, they are the only grandchildren in both mine and my husband’s family. So, we’re in high demand. And, of course, by ‘we’ I clearly mean the children. It’s very common for my husband and I to stay up all night packing everything we own so we can crisscross the state through a snow storm in the middle of the night with screaming children. We do this only to arrive at our destination and have our children snatched from our hands and swooned over while we collapse onto the couch without so much as a hello. Once we’re acknowledged it is with a well-meaning “You look awful. You really need to take better care of yourselves. You should get more rest.”

All this is done, of course, so that we can spend the night (if five hours counts as a night), wake up to share a meal with said family and then pack it all up, stuff it back into the mini-van and head out to a dinner hosted by the other side of the family—four hours away.

I have a friend who, in negotiations with her husband, traded every single major holiday of the year just so that Christmas could be spent in her hometown and she and her husband would never have to have this fight again. She should take that poker face to Vegas. I would’ve folded.

In order to please everyone and ensure you’ll still be married by Christmas, negotiations really need to start in the fall. Recently, our discussions on the matter took an interesting turn as we found we were each advocating for the other’s family to ‘get us.”


If there is ever a test of faith, it’s preparing for Christ’s birth in your heart while trying to find a parking spot at the mall. This is done to the soundtrack of car horns honking and people swearing at each other. Once in the mall, you can’t make a purchase without giving out your e-mail, phone number and zip code to the sales person, so you can be harassed and reminded of this experience all year long with ill-timed phone calls.

And there’s always those super uplifting human interest stories about humanity at its finest on TV. The one where people are willing to stampede each other for a $40 toy. Let’s not forget our favorite holiday dance: stretching that family budget to include buying gifts for people because they bought one for you/your kid last year and you were mortified they were not on your list and you were empty-handed.

The Christmas Card Picture:

Please tell me I’m not the only mother who turns into an insane beast of a woman when it comes time to take the photo for the family Christmas card. If I had to pick the worst four hours of my year, it would be taking the Christmas card picture. And, yes, it does take four hours. It is also the hardest workout I do all year, and for what? To capture the fact that my kids refuse to smile for a picture, someone is shoving their finger up their nose, the baby is crying and my make-up is dripping down my face with beads of sweat?

Between takes I scream, “Everyone shut their mouths, stop crying and smile or I’m canceling Christmas!” All of this just so we look like a big happy family in the photo card that has “Christmas blessings” scrolled across it. Last year, I attempted running this marathon while pregnant, and the whole thing actually put me into contractions. We’d already received cards form more successful friends who got their cards out the first week of December. Card after card made me wonder if all of our friends’ children had become catalog models or the face of dental offices.

If you look closely at our card from last year you can see me digging my fingernails into my husband’s leg because we were going on photo shoot hour three, and I was realizing that our photo wasn’t going to have the same fate as every other family we’d ever met. I was going off the edge. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a nervous breakdown over a photo card.

Enjoy the Season

This year I’m putting this on my list. Amid all of the stresses the holiday season brings to motherhood, our Church gifts us with the season of Advent. When everything around us defines Christmas by slapping a manufacturer’s label and price tag on it, our liturgical year builds in time for us to prepare our hearts for the real gift of Christmas, Jesus. We’re asked to quite our hearts and our mouths and prayerfully reflect on what this gift means to us.

We’ve decided that this year, no one is going to “get us” for Christmas Eve. You don’t have to travel to meet Baby Jesus. We’ll celebrate in our home and invite others to join us here. They can drive.

We’re not above bribes. We’ll use the kids to lure our families to our side of the state. We won’t tell them they’ll be sleeping on pink and purple twin sized beds in little girl rooms. They’ll also have to get up in the middle of the night to go out in the cold and create reindeer tracks in the snow to enhance the Christmas morning experience for our daughters.

Our daughters will receive three gifts from us. Because if it’s good enough for the baby Jesus, it’s good enough for us.

As for the Christmas card, maybe if I attempt to do a funny ‘out takes” type card we’ll finally get that Norman Rockwell family Christmas photo. It is baby Jesus’ birthday. If our Blessed Mother can ride a camel across her country while nine months pregnant, I think I can pack my kids into a mini-van and drive across the state to see family over the holiday season. I believe in Christmas miracles.

Now Thanksgiving, that’s another story. We’re still trying to work that one out……

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Baptism by Fire

**This post first apeared on Catholicmom.com last week. Elena's baptism was the most beautiful sacrament I've even seen. I'll share part II later this week.***

Part I

In making the preparations for our third daughter’s baptism my husband and I were challenged on our beliefs about the sacrament and necessity for infant baptism.

Our baby’s baptism brought with it the culmination of several manageable, but timely, stresses in our lives. Since Easter we’ve had a baby, moved to another city, joined a new parish and my husband wrote and defended his graduate thesis, received his master’s degree and started a new job. Also in that time we did some genetic testing on our newest family member and learned she shares the same genetic condition as her daddy.

Although thriving, it is necessary for our little “Laney Bug” to have some testing this week at the Children’s Hospital involving putting her under. For us, this meant she must be baptized before her testing and the clock began ticking on getting a baptism on the books.

We were met with some opposition and questions about why she had to receive the sacrament before her tests.

At first, I was extremely bothered. In fact we were outright angry someone dare question our wishes for our child. We are the parents of this beautiful child and thus all spiritual intentions for her are our responsibility, which we accept with joy.

Ironically, that’s a big part of baptizing an infant – renewing our own baptismal promises and committing to our community, and our Lord, that we will do our very best for our child to carry the light of Christ in her heart and be a faithful member of the body of Christ. It’s why I cry like a baby whenever I witness a baptism.

I expressed these views and was asked to just admit that this was an “emotional issue” for my husband and I, not a sacramental issue. In the end, it boiled down to me being asked this question:

“Do you, in your heart of hearts, really believe that your beautiful, innocent baby girl would not be welcomed into God’s kingdom if she were not yet baptized upon her death?”

I skirted past the question and we gave our reasoning for our intentions. We shared Church teachings and decided to disregard the opinions of others and set up the baptism. However, just because something is right doesn’t make it easy.

We struggled with the disappointment in how our third daughter would not have the same baptism experience as our first two. There was no party. In fact, there was no family. We were given an 8am mass baptism a week in advance and both of our families live over 3 hours away. We decided not to invite anyone or throw together a party. The whole thing had already been too stressful.

Amid this disappointment it was difficult to look forward to our daughter’s baptism this week. That question I had been asked was haunting me. It had struck a chord deep in my heart.

The truth is, I don’t really know what I believe would happen to my daughter were she to die before she were baptized. I know what my Church teaches me, but I also know I am a mother and my love for my daughters goes to ends of the earth. Doesn’t God’s fatherly love for us goes even further?

One may be baptized by blood, water or even intent is some cases. And, as long as someone is baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, they’ve been claimed for Christ.

I however, feel as if I’ve just been baptized by fire. I’ve been baptized into a renewal of my own faith and baptismal vows. My mama bear instinct kicked in. In protecting my young I was forced to question my Father. Would He protect me as a mother and offer me comfort by welcoming my child?

Through much prayer and discussion with my husband I came to this:

I don’t know what would happen to my daughter should she die before she was baptized. Just as I don’t know what happens to anyone who does not live their earthly life as a member of the body of Christ.

But, I DO KNOW what WILL happen to her if she is baptized into the faith. Our daughter will be re-claimed for Christ and welcomed into Christ’s kingdom.

Because, even when she’s not with me, I need to know where she is. I am a mother.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Daybook – Thursday September 22, 2011

Outside My Window ... The leaves on the trees are starting to change colors and fall is knocking on the door. There is something about fall in Wisconsin that warms my heart. Sometimes I think God gives us this brief, but beautiful, season right before the long winters just so we won’t all pack up and leave. Fall and the Packers – that’s what we’ve got here in the north.
I am listening to...
Tessa and Anna are playing dolls and Laney is under the sound board batting at buttons and playing music. I can’t believe my big girls are old enough to fight over dolls (sigh) and the baby is already playing. This home is full of noise, and it is good.

 To Live the Liturgy…
We’ve finally got the details of Laney’s baptism figured out. It’s been a long road. We had to cancel the original baptism date due to the fact that we had scheduled it at the parish I was going to be working. When we decided I would not accept the position we also decided not to join that parish as it is far from our home. We joined a new parish and then got in contact with their pastoral associate and asked to have Elena baptized before her medical testing on Oct. 4th. She will have to be put under for her echo and we do not want to do that without her being baptized. It turned out to be more of an issue than we thought .

Apparently believing in the sacrament of baptism is an “emotional issue.” There is no such thing as original sin, Adam and Eve are a myth created by early Church Fathers and we couldn’t possibly believe that a sacrament can completely wash away all sins. Joseph and I struggled through this conversation in a baptism prep class last night. This class was given by a nun who is the pastoral associate at a parish - a CATHOLIC parish. We were not angry, just really sad. She was gracious to us. She offered us a private session because we could not make the scheduled class. She also allowed us to share our complete disagreement with her and she even bit her lip and didn’t say anything when we mentioned the Magisterium believes otherwise and she is representing the Catholic Church. She did however mention that she hadn’t heard the word Magisterium in 30 years. She really was a very nice women who is very misinformed and calling her misinformation Catholicism. But alas, the baby will be baptized before she is put under so we genuinely thanked this nun for her extra effort.

To be Fit and Happy….
I’ve cut out (ok, really cut down) on my drug of choice: coke. It is really, really hard. I don’t like coffee and I NEED that caffeine.
I am thankful for...
Space and order. Two things I have avoided my whole life, but much needed over here these days. I'm also grateful things have settled down a bit class wise for Joseph and he is working a more manageable amount of hours. It’s nice to have daddy home a tad more often.
We are teaching the girls…
Tessa has grasped the “letters together create words” concept and now wants to be able to read books. It is awesome to see her fall in love with books. Anna is working on a few colors yet and on above/below/next to/under/over.
From the kitchen ...
We were gifted with garden and freezer surplus from a few people and have been busy putting other people’s abundance to good use. We’ve been baking and cooking and spending many more of our daily hours in the kitchen. This makes me so happy. I’m also working on being creative in order to allow for less waste.
I am creating ...
Lists, lists and more lists. There is much to do and I’m working on not letting it consume me with anxiety.
I am working on...
The hubby and I are working on our holiday season plans. Our big girls both have November birthdays and then there is Thanksgiving and Christmas. We live 3 hours from both of our families and our families live across the state and 4 hours from each other. Plus, my parents are divorced. There is a lot of places to fit into a short amount of time and a lot of unrealistic expectations. We don’t want to spend the season pleasing others and not serving our immediate family. Last year there was major drama from some folks who don’t know what that situation is like with little kids – so we’re trying to be proactive this year so we can define them and be upfront about what our family will be doing. It’s really hard for families of origin to come to terms with now being extended family and extended family now being extra-extended family now that we have our own immediate family. We think that in order to cut down on some driving and fit everyone in we would like to host something here in our home. We have the space for the first time and I would love to host a holiday! How do you handle the holidays with extended family?
I am reading….
A ton of NFP info. Wow. I feel like I am in grad school again.
Towards a real education ...
This evening I will leave for my first NFP (natural family planning) teacher certification course. It will be 5 days of intense study. I almost didn’t share this as I am really nervous. I know there is a test and I’m a “test anxiety” type of person. But, I’ve read so much about our bodies and how our cycles work. I also like to offer advice to friends looking to conceive or trying to figure out fertility issues. Joseph really felt called to have me go and be certified, so here I go!
Bringing beauty to my home ...
Curtains and finally being hung thanks to a 30% off coupon code from Kohl’s and a 50% off hardware sale at Shopko. Things are finally coming together in our new place and it really feels like home. I love to decorate and we still have some blank spaces due to my lack of time and decision making abilities. We are close though.
I am hoping and praying….
For the stress level of my husband. He’s got a lot in his mind.
On my mind…
How fast life seems to be going. It’s sad to watch Tessa and Anna turn from toddlers into “kids,” but it is also really wonderful. I was cuddling with Tessa last week because she wasn’t feeling well and we had this conversation:
Mama: "I’m sorry you don’t feel good, Sugar Plum."
Tessa: "That’s ok, mama. It’s not your fault, you don’t have to say sorry.”
Ahhh, when did my baby become so smart?

Around the house ...
The big girls are working on “lady charts.” Each column has an area of life they need to work on in becoming little ladies. We have prayer, control of self and temper, being loving and so on. There are certain rows full of stinkers and other rows that are still empty. When the charts are full, the gals get to pick something fun to do. Tessa has chosen going to the movies with daddy AND eating popcorn and Anna has chosen riding a horse. I’m not entirely sure a stable is going to let an almost 3-year-old ride a horse and I’m a little worried certain rows in her chart (like controlling her temper and staying by mama and daddy in public) will be filled before the snow files. That being said, it is really nice to have then clearing their dishes from the table after meals and bringing things to mama when asked because they want to earn stickers.
One of my favorite things ...
My family in the fall. We have some great family traditions to celebrate our favorite season. On the list for next week is apple picking and then some baking and following that is a visit to the pumpkin farm.
For the rest of the week....
Joseph will be home with the girls and I will be at NFP teacher certification. There is still much to do around here and we both still have work to be done. They will be long, stressful days. Joseph really felt like this was something I should do, so we will find a way. Still, a family date needs to be set for the next week.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Won’t You Be My Neighbor

I grew up on Mr. Rogers. His button-up cardigans, house shoes and use of puppets teaching the best of humanity in their imaginary world was a staple in my afternoon.

Mr. Rodger’s loving singing voice and being raised in a small town went hand-in-hand in teaching me how wonderful a local community can be.

In the five years since my husband and I said “yes” to the Lord and began this family we’ve been apartment dwellers. We don’t like to maintain (or pay for) more than we need and the lifestyle suited us just fine – until the babies came.

Having children is an apartment these days makes you public enemy number one. Children are to be seen and not heard, or so our culture promotes.

We’ve had upstairs neighbors who play NASCAR races on repeat in surround sound, neighbors who push their cats in strollers onto our patio, neighbors who walk in circles around the stop-light at 3am and neighbors with obsessively loud extra-curricular activities, shall we shay.

Our first two babies were “lulled” to sleep by unintelligible heavy metal music that my husband and I swore was a playlist created by the devil himself.

It wasn’t until an upstairs neighbor lost his mind and went on a stomping, screaming, swearing rampage and threatened the life of our colicky baby that enough was enough.

“Neighbor” became a swear word in our home.

The apartment living with babies experience made me want to pack up my family, make a pit stop at a mega bulk foods store and disappear into the country. We could live in a cave where we could parent as we wish without neighborly interference. I’d never have to speak to a “friendly” neighbor again. Too bad that if this family had to “live off the land” such as this lifestyle calls for, we’d parish. I have a black thumb, after all.

This spring we had our third daughter in as many years. At the time we were living in a two bedroom, 800 square foot condo type apartment. We brought our buddle of joy home, took one look around and decided it was time for this family to upgrade.

Not being ready or having the time to purchase a home made us leery of what we could find to accommodate our always growing family (in number and decibel level).

We landed in a beautiful, two story duplex. The home is on the end of a quiet cul-de-sac and the proximity to the highway is perfect for my husband’s commute. With only 1 shared wall and a garage between us, we thought we’d be safe from neighbor issues. We packed the moving truck and prayed for good neighbors.

The Lord provided, tenfold. We now call a beautiful Greek Orthodox family neighbor.

They are gracious to our girls, who often wander into their yard and may or may not swipe things off their patio.

Last week I caught the mother outside to share with her that one of our daughters had come down with the chicken pox. With three boys in their home I thought they should know.

A few days later I found her teenage boy mowing our neglected lawn. Sadly, I was confused by the kind, neighborly gesture.

I went over to speak with his mother, who was on her patio.

“What’s he doing,” I asked.

Teenage boy help,” she said in broken English.

“Well thank you so much,” I responded. “I’ll have my husband stop over and pay him when he gets home from work.”

No,” she said. “To help good for a teenage boy.”

I was awe-struck. What an amazing mother, to instill service and generosity into her sons and teach them to share of themselves because it is good, not because they expect something in return.

The next afternoon found me in the kitchen with my girls. With the baby in the Bumbo and the toddlers’ dirty feet crossed-legged on my counter we baked cookies for our new neighbors and talked about the importance of gratitude.

We walked over to our neighbor’s shoeless and as is, with mama in sweat pants wearing a baby and a 2-year-old dressed solely in a diaper.

A 3-year-old little girl with curls in her face handed the young boy and his mother a batch of cookies that may have been made with licked fingers.

You didn’t have to do that,” they said.

“Yes we did,” I said. “Recognizing generosity and being appreciative is good for little girls.”

She smiled, thanked me and said we were welcome in her home any time.

This beautiful new neighbor was a witness of mothering with faith. Although she speaks two languages, her witness came without words. Instead, I identified their family as faithful by the crucifixes hidden under their collars and the way they define “neighbor” in their family’s actions.

A neighbor is not simply someone living in close proximity. It’s someone who walks not only next to us, but with us. And hopefully, we’ll help each other on our journeys to the same final destination.

Share with Me: Are you blessed with neighbors? How are you a neighbor in this world?

Monday, August 29, 2011

No Extraordinary Anniversary

This past weekend marked our fifth wedding anniversary.

Five years ago we married, and then canceled our honeymoon to Rome. Instead, our “honeymoon” was spent in the hospital. My husband had his first heart surgery a week into our marriage.

I wasn’t too fazed by the canceled honeymoon. There were bigger issues at hand, clearly. Plus, we’re dreamers. It’s how the Holy Spirit drew us together to begin with.

So, as young love goes, naive promises were made as we held hands in an ICU and glanced into our future to get through our rough present.

On our fifth anniversary there’d be a vacation, a ring upgrade, a new dress. Maybe even a little one to shuffle off to grandma and grandpa’s house before heading off to somewhere luxurious.

And here we are. Five years, a job loss, four moves, another heart surgery, three kids, a miscarriage, a graduate degree, a broken leg and two broken mini-vans later.

You may be surprised, but I’m not writing this from an island resort.

I woke up this morning to find two toddlers had crawled into our bed, and my husband had crawled out. He had stayed up late working, gotten up in the middle of the night with the baby, and was zonked out on the couch.

That’s romance, friends.

There’s defiantly not a vacation anywhere in our near future and I’m fairly certain my wedding ring is chipped. We’ll have to put that on the list of things to look into.

The real life version of our ocean-view five year anniversary was an afternoon in the backyard. The kids were in swimsuits and daddy was playing with the settings on the hose sprayer. Our daughters shrieked in delight and scurried back and forth between daddy and the fence. Chubby toddler toes on wet grass is close to perfection - until it’s time to come in the house.
I watched this weekend from the lawn chair as I fed the baby. I certainly wasn’t wearing a new dress. The shorts and tank top I had on were on their third day of wear, and covered in baby-spit up.

Thoughts of vacations were pushed from my mind as I returned to reality and added “make sure rug is out before letting the girls back inside” to my mental “to –do” list. I returned to my daydream and began fanaticizing about purchasing a washer and dryer. We’ll have to put that on the list of things to look into.

Anniversary gifts haven’t been exchanged yet – mostly because the checkbook hasn’t been balanced for the month and we don’t like to make extra purchases until we’ve got the month figured out. We’ll have to add the banking and budget to the list of things to do before Monday.

Once the little ones were hosed off, we headed in-doors to make heart cupcakes. Fingers were dipped, an egg shell was dug out of the garbage and licked and pink sprinkles tumbled across my newly-cleaned kitchen floors. The big girls decorated cupcakes and sang “happy birthday” to mama and daddy’s marriage.

The weekend was nothing extraordinary.

There are big decisions being made over here this weekend. There are career opportunities to be weighed, new schedules to be sorted out.

At first, the dreamer in me was slightly disappointed. But then I followed the dripping sound coming from the bathroom to find three pint sized ruffled swimsuits hanging from the showerhead to dry.

I recalled my dream of married life and motherhood is much older than my dream of a fancy five year anniversary trip.

I adjusted the bathmat to catch the wet droplets of a simple, joy-filled afternoon and returned to the sun-kissed cheeks of my “Irish twins” who were sitting cross-legged on my kitchen counter.

They both wore frosting-covered grins because to them, playing in the backyard with mama and daddy and eating cupcakes in the same day is living in a fantasy.

We canceled the babysitter we had lined up for an anniversary dinner out. We got news of a fire we’ll have to put out and my husband has too much work to do. An evening out this particular weekend would have led to no sleep for him and too much stress on the both of us this week. It was hard to do, and not ideal. There is far too much “working” around here. Something we’ll have to look into in the next five years.

I dreamt of going on a cruise for our ten-year as my husband and I spent the evening talking about a big problem that we’ll have to face this week.

I remind myself the only cruise I’d be going on in the near future is bound to have Mickey Mouse captioning the ship.

I guess we’ll bring that dream back to reality during the romantic budget meeting we’ll have tonight.

Everyone is peacefully sleeping now as I reflect on the anniversary weekend. My husband will get up early to work and the baby will wake to take her medicine soon. I’ll have to add refilling her prescriptions to the list of things to look into this week.

For the first time today the only sound in my home is the ticking of the clock. It reminds me although I’m slightly disappointed that time, finances and a full plate didn’t allow for the anniversary celebration I had planned, I’ll never wish these hard days away. In fact, I desperately grasp every stress-filled minute for fear they’re too quickly slipping away.

Maybe by our ten year anniversary we’ll be vacationing. Just because we didn’t get there in these five years doesn’t mean we won’t in the next. We’re dreamers after all.

Happy five-year anniversary, Joseph.

You are (in jest) “the love and demise of my life.” You truly do sanctify me.

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." --Robert Brault

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Go to the Water

My view as I write this...

There are different things in this world that magnify God’s voice. Places where if one’s just still enough they may just catch a breath of the Lord’s whisper in the beauty of a piece of His creation.

I go to the water.

The water serves as the megaphone God uses to speak to my heart. The wind is different by the water. Its smell, its taste, the way it can gently bombard me yet be strong enough to wash away self-doubt.

Peace washes over me as each wave crashes to the shore. The ripple effect of the water takes root within me and my hopes and beliefs are reenergized, growing bigger and wider as they spread.

When that emptiness that lives within us all gets too wide and too dark and I become too aware of my separateness from God, I go to the water.

The water has power over me, the only thing in nature able to free me from myself.

If you haven’t found the place, season of the year, flower or smell that does this for you, I encourage you to make it a spiritual priority.

There is much beauty in this world, let it inspire the beauty flowing deep within our souls. For God has created it all. He created the emptiness and only He can fill it.

God’s created places for us to meet. I go to the water.

The Shallows Resort - Door County, WI

Share with Me: Where in nature do you go to meet God?

Monday, July 25, 2011

I took a weekend vacation and never went back to work

After two years of hard work and 6 months of extreme family sacrifice, my husband recently defended his graduate thesis and received his master’s degree. The very first thing we did (even before the poor sleep deprived man took a nap) was book a mini family vacation for the following weekend.

Over the past few months “family time,” has gradually slipped further and further down the priority list. It was the season of our life and we feel confident the sacrifices we made will pay dividends for our family, but something had to be done.

Have you ever started a deep cleaning project and stopped to take a break only to find yourself mortified by the mess you’d made? Things tend to get worse before they get better.

We put all other pressing things we had let slide over the past month on hold and picked our family up off the floor.

We visited Wisconsin Dells, staying away from most of the tourist attractions and focusing on quality, low-key, family time. We took a horse-drawn ride into Lost Canyon, boarded a “choo-choo” train in North freedom, WI, and had a morning under the big-top at Circus World in Baraboo.

As with any family vacation with small children, there were casualties. Anna was kicked by a horse, there were 4 scrapped knees, mama and the baby got too much sun, the brakes on the van died and Tessa’s ear found the not-so-friendly end of an iron stool on the train.

Amidst the excitement and wonderful family time, the cloud of stress and indecision that had been hovering over us lifted and feelings on recent big changes in our life became more clear.

I recently accepted a position at a parish to work 25 hours a week coordinating Faith Formation. The parish is wonderful and the people working in Faith Formation are wonderful. At first instinct 25 hours per week sounded like a bit much for me. I work from home 10 hours a week, freelance write, and you know- mother 3 kids 3 and under. I was offered flexibility and I do have this master’s degree in theology collecting dust on my shelf so, I signed on the dotted line.

But something funny happened while we were on vacation, taking time to enjoy each other and not letting the stresses of everyday life live in the forefronts of our minds. Somewhere between the picnic lunches, relaxing in the hot-tub and spending family time together, for the first time in recent months prayer found a way to pierce through a barrier it couldn’t break through at home:

Joseph decided this is not what he wants for his family.

I’ve been blessed with a loyal and true man. In the almost five years we’ve been married we’ve had many decisions to make. Some of them were placed upon us and out of our control (medical emergencies), and some of them we brought on ourselves through the mistakes we’ve made. And, we’ve made a lot of mistakes.

It has taken my husband a while to figure out what he wants to do “when he grows up.” It’s been hard, having him figure this out as we had 3 kids in 3 years and while he also had 2 heart surgeries in that time. He’s worked really hard to finish his master’s degree and put himself in a position to advance his career.

The only thing he has been sure of in the five years we’ve been married is that he feels called to help me fulfill my call to write. He doesn’t want me to add something to my plate that does not promote that calling, and does not want me going back to work – taking time away from my callings of motherhood and writing.

How blessed I am with a husband who feels even more strongly about my callings than I do.

I will not be going back to working outside the home after all. I’ll be sticking with my work from home job and freelancing. Since we made this decision we have received several affirmations so we are going to trust in my husband’s plan for our family, and in God, that this plan is the best one for us.

My weekend vacation led to my not going back to work.

Vacations are important (even the Pope agrees). They give us a chance to step out of our everyday responsibilities. They give us the opportunity to see our life through a different lens. This time, for us, that lens was a bit clearer and we were able to identify the mismanagement of our priority list.

There are many ways to take a vacation or “time-out” in life. Sometimes they lead to bigger and better things than souvenirs and pictures for the scrapbook. Have you taken one recently?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Seven Quick Takes – The Return


I didn’t fall off the face of the planet, although I feel like it some days. Our life took a 180 degree turn in a short time and we were just trying to stay afloat. My husband finished and defended his thesis after many, many, all nighters (as in, 3 weeks of less than 3 hours sleep a night) for all of us. I was so happy when he defended and was awarded his degree that I couldn’t stop crying. It was a long and very hard chapter for us in so many ways. I am thankful we made sacrifices for the future of our family – but oh so happy it is over. If we had to go back, I don’t know if we would do it again. Think twice about graduate school and 3 kids under 3. It’s hard. Really, really difficult.

If all that wasn’t enough – we moved the same week he was finishing the thesis. Yes, we’ve moved! We said goodbye to apartment living (thank God) and are now in a lovely duplex with about twice the living space we had before. Several friends commented on how they didn’t know how I did it while we were living in our apartment and to be honest, it kind of bothered me. I didn’t know it wasn’t “good enough” until people started telling me it wasn’t good enough. However, now that we are in a space that actually works for our family, I am so happy I didn’t know what I was missing. I really don’t think I could have done it if I had known what I was missing. Life is much more manageable here for us all.

Moving/thesis month


My husband turned 30! We have now both moved into our thirties and both events were - uneventful. My birthday feel while I was still pregnant with Elena and we were offered free babysitting by my family so we could go out. I was too tired and not feeling well and opted to go to bed at 8pm instead. Boy, did that make me feel old! Joseph’s birthday feel during the same week as the thesis and the big move. Our big girls were in my hometown with my mom so we could work/pack and he was on his 3rd all nighter in a row. There was no celebration. The next week when the big gals returned Tessa was adamant we “make” him a “surprise” party when he got home from work. It was the first time she really had her own idea about something we should do and brought it to me to ask for permission. She was so excited. We made a cake and the gals screamed SURPRISE when daddy came home and then grabbed his hands and lead him to his cake. The joy these girls got from making something for their daddy was birthday present enough for us both. Our thirties will be great!

Daddy's "party" otherwise known as dinner


Baby Laney is doing well. She has had a few medical concerns come up. Sometimes she has trouble breathing. We’ve seen her specialist/cardiologist and he sent us onto an ENT. I was very impressed that he researched Loeys-Ditez before our appointment and really trust him. It is such a blessing when you find a doctor you can trust. We are now working on a project where we are trying to videotape her when she starts to have one of her episodes so we can e-mail it to the ENT. He also gave us some tips on how to help her when she is struggling by holding her in different positions. I’m confident it is just a small bump in the road and all will be fine.

feeding Elena before an apt. at the Children's Hospital


I’m in the middle of another struggle in my never-ending discernment of working outside of the home. Why this issue haunts me I do not know. I’ll have more once I share first with those it impacts the most. I am reminded more and more through this struggle that I am so blessed by my work at home job. I love that job so much. It does stress me out here and there, but the pros FAR out-weigh the cons and I am so thankful for the job and the families/friends that have provided our family with the opportunity. I’ve been doing it for over two and a half year, which is the longest I have ever stayed at a job. That really says something.


I can’t believe I am saying this, but I am really starting to think about home-schooling. WHAT? I have always said I love the idea of home-school but could never, ever do it. I also said that I wouldn’t shut the door, even though I knew God would not knock on that door. Well, you know that saying, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Sigh. I’ve been reading home-schooling books since I was pregnant with my first child with the understanding that just because I wasn’t going to be home-schooling that didn’t mean I wouldn’t be schooling my children at home. Parents are the first teachers of their children, no matter where they attend school. We’ve been doing research about schools and I just can’t find anything I like that doesn’t cost a ton of money. And, even the schools that cost a lot of money, then I feel like why pay money for something I can do myself? Lord, help me. And Lord help our families, whom I am sure will have some not-so-wonderful opinions. If I hear one more line about socialization I may scream. No decision has been made, not even close. I think we are down to Catholic school or home-schooling - or maybe even both, or different options for each child. Just something we are thinking about and thought I would put on my blog so I don’t have to tell people face-to-face. I’m chicken like that.
Such a happy girl


That’s enough life changes for now, don’t you think? We’re finding a new normal that we really like over here. Part of that will be more committed and reserved blog time for me as well. I can’t wait. I’ve missed you all.

If you're thinking about having a baby - look at this picture. How can you not love looking at this every day?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

And life keeps rolling

The old expression, “no need to reinvent the wheel” never made sense to me. It’s taken me all my thirty years to learn one of the oldest expressions in the book is basically preaching one very big life lesson: life is hard enough, don’t create more work for yourself than needed.

Unfortunately, my wonderful hubby and I have never been so good at this. We tend to go about things the hard way. Straight lines are too easy for us. We make several wrong turns and pit stops between points A and B. In our defense, life has thrown us in the ditch more times than most others our age, but I’m not one for excuses.

To be honest, we’ve had a hard year and once again we find ourselves at a crossroads. The fork in the road and commitment and choices that must go with each path has been our place of biggest mistake in the past. But not this time. We’ve learned this fear, anxiety and un-comfort with the coming changes is our call to prayer. This time, we’ve answered the call. Our decision process has been much longer and more prudent. Big changes are coming, but we know they are the right ones.  We’ve prayed diligently and have been rewarded by affirmations at every turn. Affirmation that we’ve discerned correctly has been our biggest blessing.

Loose strings will be tied this week and hopefully, the I’s will be dotted, T’s will be crossed, and the Rutchiks will roll onto the next phase in life.

So excuse the dust, rubber cones and confusion, the Rutchiks are under construction these days.

For today, I share with you the first step in our new life – the new “Rutchik family van.” I’m so excited to have a van again and Joseph is equally pleased. One of his favorite daddy moments is driving his sleeping family of ladies late at night in the dark. We’ve spent a lot of time together in the van these past 2 weeks as we prepare for our next step in life. It’s been fruitful time for our family’s present and future.

3 carseats in the back of a car was not working out. We couldn't get our bags from the market to fit in the trunk and nobody was happy.
Our "new to us" van.

The new van has space for our new and improved family. Who wouldn't want to ride with this little gal?
First trip through the car wash.
Anna likes the new van, but not the carwash!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Daybook – Memorial Day Weekend Edition

An update:
Adjustment to 3 little ladies has been wonderful. Elena is a great baby and we have been so blessed by expanding our family and its only been a month since her birth.
Bringing Elena home from the hospital.
It has been insane having a baby while Joseph starts a new job teaching and finishes his graduate thesis at the same time. It has been great, but really hard on me. I’ve been calling myself a “thesis widow.” Joseph works on his thesis every minute of the day when he isn’t teaching or commuting. We haven’t even really had a conversation in weeks. It’s hard, but I know it is needed to move our family forward, so the sacrifice will be worth it. He handed in his final draft on Friday and now we pray his committee says it is ready to defend. We’re really worried about that as he has had some issues with his committee and they have had issues among themselves about what they want from him. It’s really stressful. Things are changing and we are moving into a time of transition. We have hope it will all be worth it.
Anna wanted to "help" daddy revise his thesis
I really missed blogging and can’t stay away anymore! No matter how crazy life has been. I have to share my new little Laney Bug!


Outside My Window ...
There are people moving into the condo across the way from us. Tessa’s been perching herself in the window to watch. She yells, “look mama! People, I see people!”

It’s really embarrassing, I’m afraid they’ll think she is held hostage or something. We really need to get these kids out more.

I am listening to...
Little baby coos. Laney is a wonderful baby, but she hyperventilates, snores and makes odd breathing noises far too often. I’ve never been one of those hovering moms that has a panic attack with every baby breathing sound. I do have to say I’ve never had a baby like this and it’s on my list for her first visit to the pediatrician.

To Live the Liturgy…
Tessa’s in love with Mary and talks often about how she is her best friend. It’s really cute. I need to capitalize on the interest and get some good scripture stories/activities going this week.

To be Fit and Happy….
I’m so happy to not be pregnant anymore! I put my real pants on last week and it felt great. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much milk again this go around (why don’t you work, body?!). I was able to pump and supplement up until this week when even the attempts to pump are bordering on the verge of not being worth it anymore. Still trying, but I think things are drying up. I’m back to my pre-pregnancy weight and losing about 2lbs a week, but I worry once I stop pumping I’ll start to gain. We’ll see.

Rocking the "mom of three" thing
I am thankful for:
Excellent medical care for Joseph and Elena

Family and friends who have been wonderful these past few weeks

My husband who is killing himself over his thesis in the hopes that it will bring good things for our family

The change of seasons (if it ever happens here in WI)

A new stage in life on the horizon

Little girls

From the kitchen ...
Anything anyone’s heart desires! I embarked on a massive shopping excursion today and the results were more than fruitful! The local circulars were amazing for the holiday weekend and I went to work putting those sales to good use.

I put a few hours of prep work in - matching items on sale to my stack of coupons from the last few Sunday papers and hit the store on double coupon day. The results were amazing. At Pick N Save my total bill came to $267. After my store card and manufacturer’s coupons I paid $145 and left the store with coupons for a free gallon of milk and 18 count carton of eggs on my next visit. I saved so much the computer didn’t like it and a manager had to be called to over ride my transaction. I have to admit, I was slightly embarrassed at first, but then I got really excited and super proud of myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a coupon expert and am far from extreme couponing. The ads and sales were just really great this week due to the holiday weekend.

Hopefully the rest of the weekend will bring a cookout and some cooking/baking with the girls.

I am creating ...
Lists and lists of things I want to do, many of them writing projects. I’m also hoping to get the sewing machine out if we’re home tomorrow. We’re in need of some new placemats and I have tons of fabric waiting to be used.

I am working on……….
Creating more structure in our lives now that we are settled into a new “normal” with the addition of baby Elena and Joseph’s completion of school (almost, maybe).

I am reading….
Mother’s Manual – a beautiful book of prayer a friend of mine sent at the start of my pregnancy.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – I actually finished this book last week, but I took notes in the hopes of writing a review/reflection on the book. I really enjoyed it.

Towards a real education ...
Both of our older girls are enjoying working on sounding out words and announcing what letter they start with. Tessa walks around the house and chatters away about everything she sees and what letter it starts with. As always with our genius Anna, you never know she is interested or has mastered an educational milestone until she starts muttering the correct answers under her breath from the corner of the room. They’re both doing well with identifying the correct starting letter. The biggest stumbling blocks are K’s and C’s and Q’s. I’m hoping to do a few more focused exercises in phonics in the very near future. I’m not exactly sure how to teach phonics, so any ideas for some over-eager 2 and 3 year-olds would be appreciated!

Bringing beauty to my home ...
Bleck. I’m trying to stop complaining about our home. I want our girls to always love “home” no matter how I feel about the physical place itself. We were hoping to move very soon. However, in the past we have made rash and poor decisions about moving, so we are trying to really discern and be overly prudent about what we do. Since nothing is locked up for long term employment for Joseph and we’ve had some new developments in our life, we think it best to hold off and pray on things more. So, I need to make a very conscience effort to keep this place as clean as possible. When a space is too small clutter and messiness only makes things worse.

I am hoping and praying….
For Elena. Her genetic tests came back and she did test positive for Loey-Dietz. Joseph’s doctor and PA were amazing and got her in right away for an echo and for us to talk with them. I’ll write a post about this all later this week, but many of you noticed my absence on the blogs and have e-mailed asking, so I thought I’d give an update!

On my mind……………
So many things on my mind these days. The winds of change are blowing. I know things are good, and the changes coming are good ones for our family. Change is hard for me though, so I’m trying to keep myself in a good place.
snuggles with daddy
A big purchase is also on our minds. We’ve had a dead van for almost a year now. Last week we had it towed away to a shop to be looked at and fixed. The mechanic called this week to say it would cost more than he had originally thought. Since we were already on the fence about putting so much money into that van, we are now looking at selling it to a salvage yard and buying something else. We have our eye on one and should know more before the weekend is over. It’s far from new, but it would be new to us. Having a 2nd vehicle again would be so awesome! We have some research to do to make sure we get the best deal on disposing of our old van and on buying a “new" one. We’ve vowed to never finance a vehicle again and to only buy something outright. So, lots of work to put into the process, but I’m really excited and hope the week brings new wheels!

One of my favorite things ...
Time with my husband! Since his thesis is either done or getting revisions right now, he’s done/on a break. Just to sit in front of the TV and have a conversation this weekend has been amazing. We’ve really missed him around here.

Baby coos. Elena coos. None of my babies have ever cooed or made as many cute little baby noises as she does. It is so precious. I’m sucking up every last minute of snuggles and newborn smell. She’s already growing and changing so fast. She is now 9.5 lbs and 22.5 inches. In 4 weeks she gained 2lbs and grew 2”.

Watching the older 2 becomes big sisters has been an even greater joy than I dreamed. They are both so loving and protective of her. A sibling really is the very best gift you can give your child.

Our first picture as a family of five

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Welcome, Baby!

Elena Jane Monica Rutchik
7lbs 7oz

She's got a full head of black curly hair. She is doing great - having a small issue with getting her temp up, but other than that mama and baby and well.

My "best" labor yet! Thanks for all the prayers!

Baby Time!!!

It's baby day! Well, I hope she comes before midnight :)

Thought I would update and share a "before" pic while I am still smiling.

I'm starting to get a bit uncomfy - so I'm off to the awesome tub in this L&D suite!

Please pray for health for mama and baby. I've got all your prayer intentions with me as well.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Updates and Prayer Buddy Reveal

First things First – Prayer Buddy Reveal
I’ve had the honor of praying for Christina this Lent! Christina takes amazing photos! I had such fun going back in her archives and seeing her gift come to life on her blog.
I won’t share her prayer intentions, but we had many in common this Lenten season and I felt so close to her knowing I could pray for these intentions as they weigh on someone else’s heart.
God Bless you, Christina! You have been close to my heart this Lent.

Update on Baby/the Amnio
Thanks so much for all of your prayers and messages. Still no baby! Here is the short version:

My BP has been CRAZY town and baby girl also seemed to not be so happy in her little home inside of mama. The specialist thought it may be best to go ahead and take her out. Hence, an amnio to check for lung development. No such luck. The amnio itself is more of a mind game than anything. It’s gross and they prepare you as if you are having surgery. That really messed with my mind. I made the mistake of looking at the giant needle before it went in. That was not smart. It did hurt, but it wasn’t too bad. The rest of the day was also filled with cramping and contractions. But, all worth it for the little lady.

The first week her lungs we no where near ready, so all of my care was switched to the specialist’s office over an hour away and I have had 3 appointments per week. Sigh. It’s been a juggling act with one car, Joseph’s school, thesis and interviews, the kids and all my appointments. But, it can only go on for so long.

We repeated the amnio last Thursday and although the lungs were STILL not developed, the number had doubled. My blood pressure had also gone down some and baby seems more pleased hanging out in mama. This time I was smart and just closed my eyes as soon as they brought the trey of stuff in and started sterilizing my belly. This helped with the fear a lot. But, this time the needle went in and I didn’t feel it come out. It stayed in. I started wondering what was happening.

“Why isn’t there fluid coming out?” the doctor asked the ultrasound tech (they do an ultrasound while doing an amnio so the doctor knows where the pockets of fluid are)

And then it happened. My baby started freaking out and I felt that needle jiggling all around inside of me. I FLIPPED out. In theory I knew they could see what was happening on the ultrasound, but my eyes were closed and I thought maybe they had stabbed my baby and I wanted them to know she was flipping out.

“Don’t worry, everything is fine clam down and don’t move” they told me.

Then the doctor started giving direction to the ultrasound tech who was a trainee. This is what I heard:

“The baby has grabbed the needle. Keep the view right there and don’t move it. We just have to wait for her to let it go. Come on baby, stop playing with it. Nobody move.”

My baby GRABBED the needle and was PLAYING WITH IT. Everyone had a good laugh when it was over. Only something odd like this would happen to me. I find it funny now, but I was not laughing then. It was creepy and it hurt and boy was I sore afterward. Now it’s just a good story. I think I have a little sassy gal on my hands already.

So, I’m still pregnant. I’m driving an hour to see the specialist, getting blood taken and turning in all my urine like it’s homework twice a week. I'm also seeing my regular doctor (who of course leaves on a 2 week vacation this Thursday) once a week here in my town. I am 38 and a half weeks and I guess all lungs are ready at 39 weeks, so we’ll see if maybe we have a baby this week.
All these false alarms have been great for one thing: we have finally decided on a name. It took forever and we have changed our minds about a million times, but we are confident this one is the keeper.

School/Job/Health Situations
It was truly Lent over here and I don’t want to speak too soon, but it is starting to feel like Easter now! My husband Joseph has turned in his graduate thesis and already locked down a teaching job for the summer at the UW school here in town. He is “thisclose” to locking down more teaching gigs at a college about an hour away and news on that should come this week. He will be teaching a mock class to their board of deans on Tuesday. Prayers for that, please. There are also a few other irons in the fire for the fall and I am starting to breath a little easier that there are jobs, GOOD jobs, out there for English instructors and that this was a sacrifice worth the time, stress and money for our family. We would still need to figure out insurance and if we would move somewhere more central like the Fox Valley, but thoe are stresses we have decided to save until baby is here, school is done and Joseph passes his health appointments (God willing!).

We are really praying this baby is born and we are out of the hospital by May 3rd which is when we have our appointments at Children’s hospital to genetically test the baby for Loeys-Dietz Syndrome and Joseph will have his big batch of check ups and tests. The weeks leading up to these appointments always turn me into an insomniac and a worried ball of nerves and stress as we have really been blindsided with bad news too often. We have really been praying for the worry to leave us so we may see the blessings in the next few weeks as Joseph finishes school and we welcome a baby. These are blessings for our family and we are trying so hard not to let fear and worry overshadow these things we prayed and worked so hard for.

Whew! That was a huge update! Thanks for sticking with me. Easter is here indeed. We had a lovely Holy Week and Easter Sunday and I hope to share some of it this week. Although, I REALLY hope I will be in the hospital holding a baby. This mama is done!

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Little Help From My Friends

Hey there prayer buddy and AWESOME blogging mama friends! Could you please say an extra prayer for me tonight? I have to have an amnio in the morning and I have to tell you - YIKES! I’m a bit scared.

I guess God was really using Tessa to teach me a lesson on fear this week for a reason. No need for big concern, I’m just a Scaredy Cat. You see, I did what no person in their right mind should do before a medical procedure; I googled. U-Tube had an assortment of lovely amnio videos for my viewing pleasure and now I’m pretty sure I won’t be sleeping tonight!

My husband almost passed out once because he thought it would be a good idea to watch them put the epidural in during one of my labors. That was not a good choice on his part. He said it was one of the freakiest things he has ever seen. He’s in for a treat in the morning. I can’t decide if I should warn him via making him watch what I watched, or if ignorance really is bliss.

Thanks for your prayers – in the end it is worth every snuggle and baby coo in the world!

If you happen to be my in real life friend/family or FB friend, please don’t mention this on my FB wall. I’m not in the mood to answer lots of questions about my pregnancy to some people I sat next too in 8th grade science or met once at a party.

Also, this baby is coming sometime in the next week or two. I would love to offer up some of my labor for your intentions, so comment or send me an e-mail if you have a prayer request!

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Theological Crisis in the Bathroom

Last night was crazy here in Central Wisconsin! Out of no where the temperature went up to over 80 degrees and brought with it a lot of severe storms. Joseph took “his girls” out for ice cream and all 3 of us were wearing sun dresses that no longer fit! Mine a bit too taught around the middle due to the large belly and Tessa and Anna’s dresses from last year have become far too short! It was too hot for this mama to care, so out for ice cream we went.

We knew severe storms were called for, so we needed to get out and pick up some batteries for the flashlight. We made it home just in time for the tornado sirens to go off. We don’t have a basement, so we collected our newly working flashlight, the computer, some candles and the girls’ blankies and had a family party in the bathroom!

I was surprised to learn that Tessa was really afraid of all the thunder and lightening. The lightening really seemed to get her. Before we made our way into the bathroom I assured her there was no need to be scared, but that if she hears that siren she always needs to find mommy, daddy or a grown up to go with – just like when the smoke detector goes off. She could not be settled (and neither could her curly hair I may add, her mop top could seriously be used by the national weather service!).

Once in the bathroom so continued to tell everyone to relax. It became very apparent to mommy and daddy that she kept repeating this because she was really having a hard time. I reminded her that sometimes when we are scared we can always ask Jesus, Mary or God to please help us not to be scared anymore. She listened, was quite for a few minutes and then the questions I thought I wouldn’t get as a parent for another 10 years started pouring out of my 3 year old.

TESSA: “Mama, why ask Jesus and Mary and God to make me not scared of the lightening when they could just make the storm stop?”

MAMA: “Well, God is so big that we can’t always understand Him, but even when we don’t understand we know one thing for sure; He loves us more than anything, so we can ALWAYS ask Him to help us,”

TESSA: “Yeah, but if he loves me he’ll take the storm away so I don’t have to be scared anymore?”

MAMA: “Well, no,” I said. God doesn’t always do what we ask of Him, He loves us so much and knows better than we do what is the best thing for us. He is even smarter than mommy and daddy.”

TESSA: “But why does he want me to be scared? That’s not very nice of Him, that’s not loving.”

While Tessa sat on a bathroom stool asking all the questions of faith and life, Joseph and I made eyes of desperation and shock at each other through the bathroom mirror. I was literally saved by the bell when the siren stopped and I excused myself to go into the living room and check the TV to see if the storm had passed.

The all clear was given and our family theology session in the bathroom ended. Later, during night time prayer Tessa thanked Jesus for keeping us safe during the storm. As I was mentally patting myself on the back for my awesome parenting she interrupted my prideful moment:

TESSA: “See mama, God will take the storm away when I ask him to. So I don’t have to be scared. Because He DOES love me.”

MAMA: “Umm, well, that’s not really…ummmm..not every time…. He didn’t…ummmm. Goodnight! I love you!”

Apparently I was chocking on all my pride!

So God won’t ALWAYS clear Tessa’s path of storms. I know I’ll have to teach her about redemptive suffering someday.

But really, cut me a break, I’ve got a 3 year old theologian on my hands here and I was sitting crossed legged on a cold title bathroom floor, nine months pregnant in a tornado warning. I can only do so much.

Clearly I need to start asking for God to guide me in my parenting of my very intuitive and inquisitive daughter!

I never do this because I always feel gross around this time. But now I wish I had done it with Tessa and Anna - so here I am!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Working Mother

I’m a working mother. In my opinion, the words “mother” and “worker” are synonyms.

I don’t claim to understand the inner workings or mystery that is God. I believe the vastness of His love is too much for our mortal, fallen minds to grasp.

I am sure our worth is not found in a paycheck and that every life holds the same amount of value. That amount does not begin with a dollar sign.

This is not the mind set of our culture. Questions such as “what do you do?” and “what are you?” are quick to form on the lips of strangers and long lost friends. The answers sought are often job titles, and expected as definitions of a person instead of how a paycheck is earned.

When a mother is asked what she “does” there is often a qualifier placed in front of her answer, either by herself or the person she’s speaking to. “Oh, I’m JUST a mom,” or, “so you JUST stay home?”

Don’t cut yourself short, moms! There’s no “just” about this gig! Let’s all get together on one thing; in the language of motherhood, “just” should indeed be treated as a four letter word. Let’s not say it about ourselves or let others use it in reference to our vocation.

There are many calls to the same vocation. This is especially true of motherhood. Some are called to be the family breadwinner; some are called to be home fulltime, some half time. There are mothers who are called to bring new life into the world yearly during their season of fertility in the form of a new baby while others carry the cross of infertility. Some mothers are called to mother children of the world who have no mother.

As mother, the one thing we all have in common is that we are all called to live our lives breathing life into the world, be that into little souls trusted in our care or in the many other ways God calls that breath from us into the world. It is fruitful. It is good, and it is different in each mother.

I am currently called to be a work at home mother. Working from home is stressful, but worth it for our family. I started working from home for a family centered company when our second daughter was two months old. The opportunity was a God send for me.

Joseph and I had just had two daughters in one year and realized we needed an additional source of income. Over these two years my commitment has varied. My role and time commitment has nicely settled into about 15 hours a week.

My freelancing career has grown greatly over these past two years. On average, I am working on freelance assignments about10 hours a week, putting my total weekly working hours at about 25.

The addition of these freelance hours has helped me become a better worker and a better mother. When I found myself too overwhelmed with these commitments I took a step back and really discerned how I work.

I used to “work” all throughout the day. Making a phone call here and there, checking my e-mail every hour and answering e-mails as they came in. At the end of the day I had really only “worked” maybe an hour and a half. Yet, I felt like I was working all day every day and that the TV was babysitting my children.

My husband and I decided this was not working for our family and after much discernment, we decided that although I am still called to be a work at home mother, how I went about it needed to change. With my freelancing growing we decided it was time to make room in our lives for me to have some solid and defined working time.

For the past few months we have set aside larger blocks of time for me to work. Instead of always feeling like my mind was on work while my kids fit between those stresses, we’ve shifted our focus. I work less days but for longer periods of time. This has created less time stressing about work and more time actually working. It’s been a wonderful change for me mentally and it’s been great for my projects and my motherhood. I’ve been able to take on more freelance work and feel the publications I work on for my job have become better as a result.

The last trimester of this pregnancy has been one of great discernment for this work at home mother. I have a masters degree and the student loans that often accompany such a degree. In the past month many have asked me when I am going to “use” my degree.

My favorite question is, “when are you going to stop wasting your degree and go back to work?”

The question boils my blood. I do work. I am a mother, and a working mother at that. Just because I don’t leave my house everyday does not mean I’m not working, that I’m wasting my education or that I am financially lazy.

A few doors were recently opened to me and there was the possibility of me going back to work, full or part time, outside of the home.

During the daytime hours I was able to talk myself into this. I thought of all the debt we could pay off, vacations we could take and stress that would be taken off our plate.

But, the night. The night was another story.

For a few days I was unable to sleep and didn’t know why. Then I started having panic attacks. As perfect as the plan sounded, I am not called to it. I am called to be doing what I’m doing. I am home with my kids AND I work. The way our family pieces that all together is unconventional, but it works for us.

I feel so blessed to be home with my girls, doing a job I really like, working with people who share the same values as we do and building my writing career right along side my family. We are willing to sacrifice to live in the way we feel called. Just as mothers who work full time outside of the home are willing to sacrifice things to fill the role they are called to as a mother. Same vocation: different and equal call.

Like many other things in life, motherhood seldom goes exactly as expected. I learned this lesson in my first days as a mother when I was unable to breastfeed. I was heartbroken. I had convinced myself that to be a good mother one MUST breastfeed. God did not create that opportunity for me. Instead, His plan was much greater. His plan was Irish twins for us. This heartbreak turned into the blessing we call Anna Clare.

As I write this, I am very pregnant. My mother has come for a few days to help take care of the girls and clean my house so I may rest and get ahead on my projects and job to prepare for the birth of our third daughter. On this very day we are both answering the call to motherhood. My mother on her hands and knees scrubbing floors for her daughter and I in a chair, resting so that the daughter in my womb may grow strong and ready to enter the world. Very different kinds of work, but work none the less.

Truth is, there is as many definitions of a good mother as there are mothers. We need not compare our situations and gifts to one another. Motherhood is not a competition. There need not be winners and losers. As mothers we love children, and therefore want all mothers to be winners.

We’re all working mothers. We are exactly the mothers our children need and we fulfill this call in many different ways.

Motherhood, in all its many forms is a high call and a lot of WORK. No ifs, ands, buts or “justs” about it!