Monday, March 2, 2015

On Lent

Now that the Church is ankle deep in the season of Lent, there is a peace that has settled over me that I didn't expect.  It's been no mystery that I struggle through the hormonal, emotional, and spiritual elements of pregnancy - and I have finally given myself the grace to accept that these are just as crippling as some physical sufferings can be that I have, mercifully, been spared.  Something about knowing that this is a cross, knowing that I've been given the opportunity to lay down my life for my child, and uniting that to Jesus on the minuscule level that I can gives a peace that no amount of rest or therapy or outside help could possibly give.

I think this is why Lent has been somewhat of a respite to me.

We are supposed to be walking with Christ, we are to be His friends who complete His suffering.  This makes sense to me and is helping me bear the load of the very end of pregnancy.  Last year I had a very spiritually fruitful Lenten season, and I was the Catholic mama I've always wanted to be - plenty of thought-provoking activities and a true focus in what was a really good way for my family.  This year as Lent approached, I couldn't think of something to "give up."  My mind has been really cloudy and just maintaining my routine of daily prayer has been, at times, extremely challenging.  Charlie suggested to me that maybe I've been walking through Lent already, and that maybe I just need to offer what I have left of this pregnancy (about a week and a half until my due date at this point - but those of you who remember Joe knows that that doesn't mean anything!), the suffering of childbirth, and the perils of postpartum fun.  He was right of course, and so what's been given up more than anything is a mindset of negativity.  I still get hit with bouts of sadness or feelings of overwhelming lack of hope, but I am fighting vigilantly against these things because I know how the story ends.  Easter.

So this year for Lent, I'm trying to remain prayerful.  I'm trying to go to Holy Mass as much as I can.  I'm making an effort to take advantage of Friday abstinence and Stations of the Cross.  I'm trying to stay faithful to my daily prayer routines, adding in additional prayers for a safe, normal, and quick delivery - on time.  (Will you pray for me?  I'm begging God to bring this child safely and not so very, very late.  I'm going to begin a novena to St. Gerard on Thursday, the nine days leading up to my due date, for this very intention.  And I'm going to get some chiropractic work, maybe a nice massage, and a pedicure.)

In the meantime, my friends and loved ones have been witnessing to me, showing me God's love, through their words and actions.  The love and care I have received has blown me away, and been such a consolation...lovely and thoughtful gifts, surprise visits with warm hugs and homemade treats, invitations to visit which keep my mind off things, offers to pick up my children for various events, uplifting text messages at just the right time, dinner invites and adult conversation when my husband has been traveling...and prayers, so many prayers.  I'm humbled.

Hopefully this baby will come soon, I can't wait to be back on the upswing!
Necessary fasting: my midwife made me quit coffee for the rest of the pregnancy.  Yes, it's as horrible as it sounds.  I don't sleep at all as it is, add 5 kids and homeschool....this lady is t.i.r.e.d.  Trying to offer it up though....all for the glory of God.  ;-)  PS - Starbucks tea is lovely.  But not as lovely as Pikes Place coffee with cream.  ahem.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"When shall I arise?"

" I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me.  When 
I lie down I say, "When shall I arise?"  But the night is long..." Job 7:3-4

A formidable foe continues to push its way into my world.  Pregnancy makes me vulnerable in ways that bewilder and leave me in a daze.  A day will come, probably in the Spring, when I can come here and share all that has happened, because as I increasingly discover from honest conversations with other women, I am not alone in this.  Guilt leaves us silent, which traps us further and further into the depths of the inescapable sorrow.

For now, I find great solace in the pages of good books (have you seen my Instagram account?  it's pretty much just books lately...), in the arms of my long-suffering and grace-filled husband, in the safety of the hidden covers of my bed, and at the heart of my beloved parish.

Hope comes in glimmers, reminding me that there is an end.  In a matter of weeks, when the cherished beauty of the Texas Bluebonnets rise up out of the earth, my little daughter will arrive as well, and with that, the fog will lift.  (At least that's what experience tells me.  Rationally I remember this - irrationally, it will all never end...)

A few photos of the last few weeks:
At the zoo

Owl demonstration at the zoo

School work at the park

Spring is coming...

Playing at the library, one of our favorite places

Lunch with friends at church after Mass

Gabrielle and her sweet friend in matching veils at Choral Evensong

Chancery dedication at our parish - what an amazing day

Celebrating at the reception after the Chancery Dedication

Menfolk, their sons, and an assortment of priests celebrating, we shut the place down...this was long after they took down all the beautiful decor and food and drinks!

Gabrielle's funny Valentine collection box

Our homeschool group's annual St. Valentine's party

Enjoying treats at the party

Friday, January 9, 2015

New Year, New Seven Quick Takes

Apparently, we're supposed to all be back to the regular schedule, but I'm finding it very difficult this year.  We've had a soft start back to school, really only focusing on Math and the other essentials.  I'm hoping that tomorrow I can muster up enough energy to face our school room to revamp in there; I may even go out and purchase some new supplies to spruce things up.  Between my third-trimester-tiredness and the fact that Summertime seems so very far off, I'm feeling uninspired.  The Christmas stuff isn't down either, and it's driving me crazy.  (I don't know how people leave stuff up starting in November...the visual clutter is more than I can handle.)  So what am I doing instead of teaching children, obsessively organizing my house for the new year (I'm not too worried on this...I know nesting is coming in hot), or running necessary errands?  I'm sitting here with a delicious cup of coffee, listening to my little ones enjoy a phonics video on a dreary January day, and writing up Seven Quick Takes...

When I was growing up, my parents always had their favorite music we listened to.  I can remember them recording their vinyl records on to TAPES (hahahaha) - The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, etc. so that we could listen to them in the car on road trips.  And then we all like to remember that one road trip to Oklahoma when my Dad was on an Andrea Bocelli kick, and we listened to "Time to Say Goodbye" about 14 million times on repeat.  
Ha ha ha.  Oh we laugh.  Oh Dad, you're so funny.
Except I've turned out to be JUST like him in this regard and I had to giggle yesterday when Colette came in the kitchen to ask me why "that song" is on again...
Here's a gratuitous and unrelated picture of my cute Shih Tzu, Clive, hanging out with me in bed while I indulge a sudden pregnancy craving attack for toast with Kerrygold butter.  My usual nighttime cravings are apples or cereal, so I think Charlie was just pleased that I wasn't crunching in his ear!
Last summer, one of my girl friends wore a stunning pair of earrings that I just loved to a formal event put on by the apostolate my husband works for.  As long as I can remember, I've been a large earrings sort of girl, even in high school when I wore giant hoop earrings probably every single day (with a bun.  every day).   I asked her about them and then socked away the information for a pertinent time, that time being my birthday last weekend!

After a trip to the Kendra Scott Color Bar (I had no idea this was such a Texas thing, like James Avery, until later!), I was thrilled to add these beauties to my collection.  Charlie also gifted me with a stunning new Bulova watch (I am an everyday watch wearer, but Sundays drive me crazy because I don't want to wear my HRM watch to Mass so I never know what time it is...).  I don't feel very pretty during pregnancy, so some new little baubles have been a really special treat.
(And, if my husband needs some tips for the anniversaries...or mother's day...or Tuesday....I really love these as well!)

Speaking of birthday gifts, Charlie not only found me a fabulous watch, but also presented me with Father Jacques Philippe's newest book, Thirsting for Prayer .
My reading choices the other day while waiting on my girls in ballet class...
I have loved everything I've read from Fr. Philippe and am so excited about this book!  I have a feeling it's just what I need right now.  His books are small, but do not be deceived, they are powerful!
Funny enough, Father is going to be speaking at a parish about 3 hours North of us at the very beginning of March.  I'm due March 15, but I'm trying to convince Charlie it's safe for me to go!  It's safe, right?!  My deliveries are super fast, but majorly late, so...we'll see if I can talk him into it!  haha

I'm officially 31 weeks pregnant today, and I have to say, even though we're in the less-than-ten-weeks-to-go realm, I still feel like March is such a long way off.  It's helping me to remember that Lent begins in less than 5 weeks, so if I can keep myself sane until then, it shouldn't be long after.  I love the Lenten season, but I'm already thinking about making Easter plans and Easter baskets for the kids and Baptism plans for Adelaide now, because I know I won't be able to do it once she arrives!

I feel good, I'm still working out about 3-4 times a week (weights and walk/running), not indulging too much in my cravings, and have gained about 15 pounds less than usual at this point.  All my tests are coming back in tip-top shape, and it's helped me to realize that all the hard work I did to loose weight before this pregnancy is positively influencing my health and my baby.
I thought this quote perfectly pertinent to pregnancy...

Do you know one of the things I miss the most from my regular, non-maternity wardrobe?  Pretty pajamas.
I have a lovely collection of feminine pajamas that I feel comfortable wearing around my children (all with pants, because I hate for my legs to touch) but still make me feel like a lady, not a college student.  (Kind of like my diaper bag dilemma, which was solved by the way by two different wonderful, generous gifts that I'm looking forward to using, I much prefer beautiful to cute.)
Of course, none of these fit me right now, and I miss them!  I've been looking for pretty maternity pajamas, maybe even some that would also function as nursing pajamas.  No luck though.  (Most of them seem to be short gowns, which I simply can not tolerate.)  Does anyone have any tips??

I just want to say that, barring the clothes we're currently wearing, all the laundry in my house is clean right now (even sheets & towels).
I just want to breathe this in, because it never happens.

This morning I woke up really early to see Charlie and Gabrielle off on their hunting trip in the Texas Hill Country.
Packing last night.  She just now texted me from Charlie's phone to share pictures of her lunch and how excited she is!
I was still so tired after I fed the kids breakfast and had a cup of coffee, so I snuggled with Joe for a while and he told me stories.  Truly, it is amazing how different it is to have a boy-child after all these little girls.  All of his stories had to do with a knight or someone similar saving people from bad guys (or scary animals like lions and bears).  My favorite one was when he told me all about Mary, baby Jesus, and an angel being saved by a knight from a "big, cary lion!"  His valiant male heart just melts me.
He cracks me up!  I love that big smile full of crazy teeth!
Please visit Kelly for more Quick Takes!!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Waves and Wind Still Know His Name

I don't usually have a long time to invest in reading an individual blog post, so I'm under no illusions that someone reading along here might skip over this video.  But may I exhort you to consider at least setting it aside and listening to this song, think it over, sometime?

My birthday was on 1/4...I'd like to just intersperse some pictures from that evening in this post...even though they're not relevant.  It was a WONDERFUL day starting with Mass and then my sweet friends threw me an impromptu birthday party - coming over to make me migas, and brought along mimosas, birthday cake, and decorations!  It was so special.  A day I will long hold in my heart.
Charlie sent me the link to this YouTube video yesterday, telling me that it reminded him of me.  I'm wasn't really sure about why, especially since I've been battling an anxiousness I can't seem to put my finger on for the last week and a half or so, but when I pressed him, and considered his answer later in prayer (he knows me better than anyone, after all), I realized that God has gifted me with a peace that I never used to have.

Worry has been long ingrained on my heart.  "What if's" used to rule my world.  But God has worked a wonder: He has erased doubt, and written in gilded letters across my soul "It is well."

That doesn't mean my life or my mind is always in compliance with what I know is written on my soul.  In fact, just in the last two days, two different everyday life issues have kind of fallen apart on us...closing doors we were eager to walk through, or making us wonder what to do next...  But I was pondering "bad news," and St. Paul came to mind:

"...for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want." Philippians 4:11-12 
Over the years, a lot has happened.  Plenty and hunger.  Abundance and want.  But until probably 3 or 4 years ago, it never occurred to me to ask God to quell the restlessness in my soul.  Until I read this book on retreat (I knowwwww....I mention it on the blog all the time!), I didn't understand what to do.  I didn't understand, truly, what Paul said after the above commentary: "I can do all things in him who strengthens me."

It's hard to remember on a rational level, especially while pregnant.  I'm moody and grumpy and one little thing going wrong can send me into a tailspin of sadness or frustration, or hibernation where I just refuse to meet the outside world.  Even as I feel I'm drowning in the waters of my hormones, my brokenness, and my lack of virtue there is a steadiness.  Everything moves and trembles above this anchor of knowledge, but it can't move enough to dislodge truth.

The truth is that I am, and you are, created by and loved by a good God.  The truth is that we are His and that gives us eternal value in His eyes.  Worth.

In her post What I Wish Every College Woman Knew... (which is not just for college women, by the way, it's for all women - including younger women - M&C read this!), Leah Darrow states,
 "We cannot understand or know ourselves, the fallen creatures, without first knowing and understanding God, the perfect uncreated Being. True womanhood takes on the task of knowing thyself which presupposes knowledge of God. It comes down to knowing your worth." {emphasis mine}
One time, I asked God if He really loved me.  His answer was a clear and resounding yes.  I know my worth.  I know I can trust my Father.  I know He gave me an intellect and gives my husband and I the grace, through our sacramental marriage, to push through this pilgrimage of life and it's struggles, practical and spiritual, together with Him.  And this mountain that's in front of me, will be thrown into the midst of the sea...

So even on bad days, and on sad days, and on hormonal or fearful or worrisome or tragic days, and especially happy, peaceful, joyful days, I'm going to choose to to tell myself, let go my soul, and trust in Him, the waves and wind still know His name.  

"Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:68-69

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Christmas Thoughts on Epiphany

What a lovely, lovely Christmas it was for our family this year.  We had a slow, meaningful Advent, followed by a festive and joy-filled Christmas, and tonight on the feast of Epiphany, we'll mark our door with blessed chalk once again, 20 + C + M + B + 15 (to represent the name of the wise men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, as well as Christus mansionem benedicat, "May Christ bless this house.") and watch The Star of Bethlehem.

As it is almost time to run children to ballet, we're back to the usual grind here, I'm going just post up some pictures from Christmas and call it good.  (Soon I have some photos and reflections on my birthday the other well as a whole slew of things I'd love to think out loud about on the blog...)

All my sweethearts before Midnight Mass (and the dogs)

Our beautiful parish church after Midnight Mass.  It was an amazing night, what a joy!

I set out stockings in our master bedroom so that the children can come in and open them on the bed.  This prevents Mom & Dad from having to get up, and gives the coffee a chance to brew!  The girls were so sweet this year, they made each other wait to venture in until 8am after such a late night!  (I went to bed at 3a!)

PopRocks are a stocking tradition, and I found this peppermint variety at a local toy store.  They were hilarious as usual, but even funnier when one of the dogs accidentally got a few!  

Joe's favorite stocking stuffer, and gift overall, was his Yoda Lightsaber.  Many battles were embarked upon.

We like to try and open gifts slowly through the day, taking breaks to enjoy new treasures, one another, and a nice meal.  Here we're taking a break and Gabrielle was doing Mad Libs with Charlie.  

Before Christmas, Gabrielle bathed the McFluffers and dressed them in their finest holiday sweaters.  Too funny.

We had a lovely brunch with coffee, hot cocoa, mimosas, spiral ham, quiches, quick breads, nuts, fruits, veggies, Christmas cookies, and more.  It was lovely to see the brand new white candles burning in the Advent wreath.

The girls' big gift from Mom & Dad this year was tickets to see the Houston Ballet perform The Nutcracker.  None of them had been to a professional ballet before, and they (mostly - I ended up regretting not just getting Serafina a toy) were *SO* excited!

A group gift of Calvin & Hobbes.  Total win.  

During one of our gift opening breaks, we busted open the British Christmas Crackers which contain a joke, a piece of trivia, and charades.  This is so much fun, and here, Joe is acting out a charade while Felicity laughs.  

Later in the afternoon, after this pregnant mama took a nap and kids had time to enjoy some of their new gifts, we headed over to my inlaw's house to meet up with Charlie's sister and her family, and his parents.  The kids got to play outside with their new giant Jenga set!

Felicity and Nana dancing....we had way too much fun and there was so much grace present!

The day after Christmas, the girls and I went downtown to watch The Nutcracker.

Here are my lovelies after the show with the Sugar Plumb Fairy!

Two days after Christmas, Charlie and I gifted ourselves with a little weekend away together.  We stayed at a wonderful resort hotel, ate delicious food, went shopping, and he spoiled me with a spa treatment.  

Once we got home from our adventure sans children, Charlie was able to join some friends at the Texas vs. Arkansas Texas Bowl game.  

One of the amazingly generous gifts we received this Christmas was a membership to the Houston Children's Museum from dear friends.  

Charlie and I decided to try it out with the kids while he had some time off of work, we had a great time with our children, but it was SO crowded!  I'll be glad when I can take the kids one of these days while everyone else is in school.  haha  It was so neat!  After our museum adventure, we were able to meet up with friends for an early dinner and impromptu family game night.  

Inspired by Jessica at Shower of Roses, I gifted the girls with our first family jigsaw puzzle.  It took us a few days to work it out, but I was really surprised by how fun it was to sit with a cup of coffee, my husband, and my children and enjoy the process!

Some of our friends hosted a wonderful New Year's Eve party that was a total blast.  Obviously, Felicity had fun.

It was a great way to ring in the new year!  That said, I did wear heels and stand all night - on January 2nd, I had to spend like 45 minutes massaging the swollen pregnant lady ankles.  No more swelling since then, I'm happy to report.  (Which is a small miracle at 30.5 weeks, if you knew me at all during my earlier pregnancies!)

My beloved and me on New Year's Eve.  

 We have taken full advantage of the Christmas season, it was such a true feast!  Tomorrow all the trimmings come down (except the Christmas cards, because I love seeing the smiling faces of people I love, so I think I'll leave those until the end of Christmastide, February 2), and I'll probably actually begin to actually think about the new year ahead...

Happy Epiphany, friends!