Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Simple Morning Stroll


Whenever I take a blogging hiatus (intentional or not) I always find it so difficult to jump back in. Within the past few weeks we have attended a wedding in Ohio/visited my in-laws, celebrated our two year wedding anniversary, celebrated my husband's birthday, taken a day trip to Baltimore, and I spent an entire week watching Gabriel on my own (thankfully with much support from some amazing friends!) while Michael had to travel to Colorado for a week for his job. Honestly that's a lot to get caught up on! But, if there's one thing I've learned about myself and blogging breaks it's that it's always easiest for me to start small.

I'm leaving all the re-caps for another day. Today I'm just going to focus

This week has been a mess of nap strikes, with Gabriel skipping a morning nap one day, his afternoon nap the next, and that brings us to today. After more than one refusal to sleep when he was exhausted this morning, Gabriel has finally just gone down for a nap at around 11am. Before that, though, he made it pretty clear he wasn't going to relax and simply wanted to play and play and play and play some more. I was quickly running out of ideas to keep our little explorer occupied, so I pulled out the big guns and told Gabriel to get his socks and shoes on (clearly something he doesn't do on his own yet at 14 months old, but he understands it nonetheless) and he began squealing as he ran towards the front door.

What can I say? The child loves to leave the apartment.

Somewhat-related photo from one of last week's park visits

Initially I thought we'd walk down to the small playground in our apartment complex, but I felt a few sprinkles of rain so I decided it would be better to stay near our building in case we had to run back inside. After all, the landscaping in front of our building includes a bunch of rocks, so what more do you need to captivate a child, really?

Something I've noticed about Gabriel in recent weeks that I find to be quite endearing, is that he likes to follow sidewalks. Instead of wanting to run into the middle of the parking lot and check out cars or go roll around in the grass (although he does that sometimes, too), he will almost certainly choose to follow a sidewalk when given the chance. He loves to see where the path leads us and explore the change in scenery as he makes his way further down the cement, so that's precisely what we did.

It wasn't fancy and we didn't make a lot of pit stops to check out the trees or flowers like we normally do. Instead, we just walked. And as we took our little morning stroll, Gabriel happily reached out his hand towards mine. So there we went, hand in hand, as my boy joyfully explored our neighborhood via the sidewalk.

This all sounds simple, but if you recall much about the sidewalks in our neighborhood, you'll know it wasn't without a few tricks of the mom trade that I managed to keep our adventurer excited and curious while walking over a few of the same sidewalks again and again (children really can be so easy to please!).

As we made our rounds I couldn't help but think about how grateful I am for this time in our lives. Gabriel is at an age when he often runs off to explore and play independently, but he is still often eager to hold my hand and experience the world with me right by his side. It's a heartwarming, fun age and I know that as he grows we'll have plenty of fun in other ways, but for now, I just want to relish these memories of a simple walk, hand in hand with my smiling son. 

Plus, as soon as we got back inside Gabriel FINALLY calmed down enough to rest. I guess our journey provided him sufficient exercise and new scenery to wear him out enough to (at last) take a nap without a fight. Sweet memories, excitement for my boy, all ending in a blessed, much-needed nap. Win, win, win.

"For the 99 percent of the time we've been on Earth, we were hunter and gatherers, our lives dependent on knowing the fine, small details of our world. Deep inside, we still have a longing to be reconnected with the nature that shaped our imagination, our language, our song and dance, our sense of the divine."
-Janine M. Benyus

Monday, September 29, 2014

Two Years


Two years. Did you know that a LOT can happen in only 2 year's time? Michael and I are living proof that this statement is true. In fact, it seems to be a running theme within our lives ever since God first brought us to one another's attention back in the spring of 2011.

On this date two years ago (Happy Michaelmas! Ss. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, pray for us+), Michael and I professed our marriage vows before God, a wonderful Dominican priest, and about 170 of our closest family members and friends.

But do you know where we were 2 years before that? In September 2010 Michael and I didn't even know of one another's existence. After we met and began dating, we fell in love, got engaged, and became man and wife within a mere 14 months.

In the 2 years since our wedding day (September 29, 2012) we have begun to learn what it is to be married, experienced the joys and crosses of pregnancy, delivering a baby boy into this world, and have embarked on a lifelong journey as parents together. We have lived in 3 different states in 3 distinct regions within the United States...which means we have learned and grown together through packing boxes, organizing our belongings and our mailing addresses, traveling 1000+ miles with all our earthly possessions in tow (once when I was 38 weeks pregnant, once with a 5-month-old son), and setting up 3 different homes.

We have visited loved ones, hosted them in our home(s), and have found ourselves in new communities in which we didn't know a soul - more than once. We have developed new hobbies, passions, and enjoyed countless movies/shows, outdoor adventures, and meals with one another. We have begun establishing a family culture taken from our shared and individual experiences within our own respective families and added our own unique twists. We have also been steadily compiling a list of tried and true recipes for our growing, little family.

We have experienced our fair share of harsh words, apologies, and forgiveness, but more than anything we have experienced love in ways incomprehensible to us only two years ago. 

We have experienced so much LIFE in our two years together as husband and wife and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us in the many, many, many more years to come!

Happy Anniversary, Michael! I'm so sorry that I accidentally elbowed you in the eye the other night, but two years later I'm still so excited and grateful to wake up to your face beside mine each day. ;)

You can read all about our first year together right here.

"Wherever you go, there shall be my journey. Wherever you live, there shall be my home. Your people shall be my kin and my companion and your God I shall call as my own." 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall


Fall is finally here!

If you've been reading for awhile, you already know that this time last year we were living in South Florida - which for this Midwestern girl felt a little bit like the Twilight Zone any time we tried to partake in "seasonal" festivities. There was something about drinking apple cider in 85 degree heat that just didn't seem to compute with me....

The year before that, Michael and I were brand-new to this marriage thing (our anniversary is less than a week away!), so I was eager to move to Michigan in early October to finally be with my love. Autumn in Michigan sounds like a Midwestern dream come true, right? Wrong. Maybe that year was a fluke, but as soon as I arrived it got C-O-L-D and suddenly a 6-month-long winter was upon us. I will never forget that time we visited an apple orchard in Ann Arbor; it was bitterly cold, windy, and practically no one was there. We were so frozen we grabbed some hot apple cider and high-tailed it out of there as fast as we could.

As you can probably tell, the last two autumns have been somewhat unusual and just a tad bit disappointing considering my FAVORITE season of them all is fall. Now that we're in Pennsylvania you had better believe I am going to be living it up this year...which finally brings me to what I really wanted to write about: this past weekend's adventures, which I like to refer to as "Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall."

The weather was gorgeous on Saturday and considering it was the final weekend of summer, we were dying to get outdoors and soak it in. We decided to check out a popular garden that everyone around here raves about. Honestly, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into!

Michael and I have visited our fair share of arboretums, parks, and botanical gardens together so we thought we had an idea of what Longwood Gardens must be like. In some respects, we were right; however, we underestimated the sheer size of this 40+ acre place. We arrived thinking that we could see almost everything in the 3 remaining hours before it closed. Boy, were we wrong. At one point, Michael announced that it felt like we were at a "theme park for gardens." Later on, he proclaimed that it was just as big as the Toledo Zoo...and I must say that I felt both his theme park and zoo comparisons were on par.

I adored this Italian Water Garden

If you ever find yourselves in the western suburbs of Philadelphia with some free time, you should definitely check out Longwood Gardens. Unless you hate flowers, fountains, meadows, trees, tropical plants, greenhouses, tree houses (!), topiaries, and historic buildings - then you shouldn't waste your time. Because they have all of this and more.

We also happened to visit when there was a flower show going on
Did you know there are actually a LOT of varieties of water lilies? I seriously had no idea.

In three hours we managed to see many of the largest gardens and displays, but we didn't stay too long in any area. If you wanted to, you could spend all day exploring the gardens and enjoying nature without seeing everything this place had to offer. Now I can understand why people might consider becoming members there - because it wouldn't be that difficult to go 3 or 4 times a year. We've also been told that the Christmas lights in winter are breathtaking (but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves - let's get back to the final weekend of summer and the beginning of fall!).

Clearly we didn't do a lot of research before arriving at the gardens, but I think that created a wonderful atmosphere of surprise. For example, we had no idea that within the conservatory there is a Children's Garden! Everything about it was enchanting - from the child-size fountains to the several tunnels and small doors. It made me think of fairies, enchanted woods, and all kinds of fantastic things a child's imagination should be fed with. Gabriel was a bit young for most of it, but he definitely enjoyed all the little fountains.

This boy LOVES water wherever he can find it. Future swimmer, perhaps?

You'd think that sums up our weekend pretty well, but Sunday was an equally gorgeous day filled with the subtle chill and breath of autumn...which means we couldn't resist visiting a nearby apple orchard!

We got there a bit late in the day (this tends to be a common theme lately thanks to one very important little person's nap schedule), so the apple picking had already ended. However, we were still able to visit the goats, the playground, and the farm market and bakery.

As soon as I saw this I thought to myself, "NOW fall has arrived!"

We stocked up on what was probably way too many apple-themed sweets for our own good, but we had no idea when we would find ourselves at an orchard again and I think the disappointment of the last 2 autumns subconsciously caused us to want to devour ALL the fall things in sight while we could. Besides, we got to introduce Gabriel to some yummy apple cider donuts, which he loved:

In addition to our apple goods, we sprung for a tiny pumpkin. We intend to get larger pumpkins later in the month, but there's something about little, baby-sized pumpkins that never fails to tug at my you can only imagine the ridiculous ways in which this mother's heart now MELTS at the sight of little pumpkins...because...babies...and baby-sized pumpkins...!!! SO MUCH BABY CUTENESS. See? I told you - ridiculous.

Only adding to my giddiness over our little pumpkin was what happened when we brought it home. Gabriel was holding onto it and I asked him if he could "show Mommy his pumpkin." In response, he proudly held the pumpkin out for me to see...which only caused my heart to melt in a million new ways as I swallowed the hard truth that perhaps my baby is better described as a toddler these days after all....

This weekend was definitely one for the memory bank with its gorgeous weather, breathtaking gardens, the sights and smells of a promising autumn, baby-sized pumpkins, my growing baby, and quality time with my little family. It doesn't get much better than this. After this weekend's adventures I am so ready to say goodbye to summer and hello to fall!

“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.” 
-Jim Bishop

Friday, September 19, 2014

How a Nightmare Helped Set Me Straight


Do you ever come up with an idea to blog about then experience something that causes you to completely change what you were going to say? Hi, that's me today.

It all began when Gabriel, who currently tends to sleep from 8 or 8:30pm until somewhere between 5-7am (at which point I typically nurse him & he goes back to sleep for a brief time...though that's ending soon - more on that later!) woke up last night at around 9:30pm. The boy had only been in bed for about an hour before he woke up crying. At 13.5 months old, he is definitely sleep-trained and fully capable of soothing himself, so we endured 10 painful minutes before he quieted down and fell back asleep. His crying session at 9:30pm made me a little worried that he wasn't going to have a good night...and boy, was that the case.

Gabriel proceeded to wake up crying screaming at least 3 more times last night between the hours of 3 and 5am. I mostly tried to let him fall back asleep on his own, but all 3 times he cried long enough that I knew I needed to go check on him. I honestly have NO IDEA what was going on because he didn't have a stinky diaper, he didn't seem cold (and I placed his blanket over him each time I went in), and he didn't seem to be crying because of something like teething pain. In my (limited) experience, teething pain is recognizable by him chomping on his hand, biting his crib, and not calming down at all even if I were to pick him up (which I don't do unless he really does seem in pain or sick). Each time I soothed him for less than a minute before leaving. Naturally, he screamed louder and harder each time I walked out, but he eventually calmed down and fell back asleep.

Basically every time he fell back asleep I could not fall asleep for the longest time - so it felt like I had been sleeping for barely 5 minutes before he would wake up less than an hour after his last crying session. I'm someone who typically needs to think about things in order to fall asleep (as opposed to my husband, who needs to completely clear his mind first), so it was only natural that at one point I began thinking about some blog I wanted to write about "fear" (bear with me).

The gist of the would-be post was something about how, as a mother (and wife, young woman, etc.), I choose not to live in fear. This might sound silly, but lately I've noticed how many people (especially mothers!) I know just seem so incredibly anxious about everything under the sun. Personally, I like to think I worry a healthy amount (and there are definitely circumstances that require hyper-vigilance), but the kind of endless paranoia that threatens to take over so many mothers' time with their kids just isn't for me. Mind you, I'm not saying that I'm never anxious - but the type of worrying I'm talking about usually goes hand in hand with helicopter parenting...which is something I do not ever want to do. Let me just clarify really quickly that I know much of how cautious you are with your child has to do with your child's stage of development - because one month ago I still had to follow Gabriel around telling him "not food" when he tried to eat mulch. What I'm talking about are the parents that can't even let a 4-year old gently fall down and scrape their knee [the horror!] without freaking the freak out and babying them.

As I tried to sort through how I wanted to say all of this in a blog post, I eventually fell asleep. At last...I was going to get some peaceful sleep (spoiler alert: I was WRONG).

Instead of being awoken by my baby one more time, I began having one of those half-awake, half-asleep dreams that seem eerily realistic. You know, the kind that feel like you're awake when you're really not. Well, I suppose my subconscious wanted to serve me up a whopping bite of humble pie about this whole "fear" topic, because what happened next was downright TERRIFYING.

I dreamed that I heard footsteps approaching after they visited my baby's room - and it even appeared as if I could see a person's shadow creeping through our living room en route to our bedroom. In reality, our bedroom door was closed and there's no way I could have seen such a thing even if it had existed - but sleeping Stephanie didn't know this. Next, I saw the shadow of a man standing in our door frame, slowly entering our room and - seriously, this is terrifying - then raising their arm...which had a gun.

I was paralyzed with fear and I tried so hard to talk, but because I was half-asleep I only felt myself struggle to make a soft grunting sound. Then, I thought I saw the person walking around the edge of the bed towards my husband's side - where the person just stood, staring. At this moment my brain decided to horrify me even further with the notion that while this "person" had a gun in one hand, in their other arm was our baby...!!! I finally snapped out of this nightmare and said out loud, "is someone there?!"

No answer, but I still thought I saw this scary person's shadow. Then,  I quickly tapped on Michael's back frantically telling him to "wake up!" My poor husband. Bless his heart. He was startled awake and I told him I thought I saw someone walk into our room. Without hesitation, he jumped out of bed and flipped the switch of our bathroom light on, revealing that (thankfully) this was all in my head.

He climbed back into bed pointing out to me that our front door is locked (with a deadbolt and a chain-lock, no less), which meant this wouldn't have been possible. I told him he was right and apologized profusely as I tried to calm down.

Adding to the misery of all this was the fact that I had a pounding headache and my body - because of the fright - was completely burning up. I threw the blanket off, cooled off, then headed to the medicine cabinet for some Tylenol. I could see in the mirror that my hand was steady, which took me by surprise, because on the inside I felt like I was shaking...everywhere. It was the weirdest sensation.

Eventually Michael and I both fell back asleep before his alarm went off only a couple hours later.

What a night.

I'm not even sure I got a full 4 hours of sleep with everything that happened.

Long story short, I knew as soon as I had that all-too-realistic nightmare that I couldn't possibly sit down and write about how I do so well to not live in fear. I mean, it just seemed laughable when I had just felt FAR more afraid than the entire year I lived in a gang-ridden neighborhood in Chicago. After all, there are things in this world that are unquestionably frightening, so any claim that I'm somehow a mother who parents without living in the shadow of fear makes me sound a bit too bold for reality. When you're a mother, there will be plenty of situations that can (and dare I say should) scare you. My unfortunate nightmare reminded me of this.

The key, I believe, is to differentiate when it's appropriate to be afraid and when we're simply being irrational about things entirely beyond our control. As Christians, we know that God has plans for us and He tells us not to worry. As mothers, we know that there are times when we need to be by our baby's side as they explore this great big world and learn to get their footing (both literally and figuratively), and hopefully we all learn that there are also times we need to stand back and let them experience a few things without swooping in to immediately scoop them up in our arms. As a mother to a baby on the brink of toddler-hood (who, by many standards, already IS a toddler) I am constantly evaluating where I am on the 'hovering' scale and whether or not I need to be there. I think that is the real message I was initially wanting to convey back when I was thinking about writing about not being fearful.

Let's just hope that next time I need some help clarifying my words that I am not startled into finding better phrasing because of a twisted nightmare....

And please, if you get a spare moment, say some prayers that our baby (and we all) sleep soundly tonight. :)

"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Matthew 6:34

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My friend, Sister Elizabeth Ann


I love snail mail. Don't get me wrong - we receive all of our bills and paperwork electronically and I definitely don't enjoy receiving excessive amounts of coupons for stores I'll never shop at or free magazines that I do not and never will subscribe to. What I do enjoy is what Michael and I refer to as "real" mail - the kind that's sent from an actual person we know. The kind that someone takes the time to hand-write, type, or draw just for you. Call me cheesy, sentimental, traditional, or whatever else - but that kind of mail just seems extra special to me in this world that's been infiltrated by computers, cell phones, and social media everywhere we turn.

Last week I went to check the mail, expecting nothing but the "fake" kind of mail that promptly finds its way into our trash can.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the mailbox and saw a package - when I hadn't ordered anything and wasn't expecting something from any family or friends. I had no idea what it could be until I saw the printed return address - Sacred Heart Novitiate in Nashville, Tennessee.

Last month on August 15th my friend, Liz, became a postulant with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. Liz, who is now known as Sister Elizabeth Ann, sent me such a thoughtful, random package that I am just bursting at the seams to tell someone about (besides my husband, obviously)!

At a Matt Maher concert with the future Sister Elizabeth Ann over FOUR years ago! So much has happened with discovering each of our vocations since then....

Sister Elizabeth Ann is basically the kind of friend every girl dreams of having. She is thoughtful, kind, and goes entirely out of her way to maintain friendships and ensure that her friends feel loved. She sees God and His love in the beauty of everyday life - whether that takes the form of a nice nail polish color, good coffee, a hand-written note of encouragement, or the carefully penned calligraphy on an envelope...and she does her part to help others see that Beauty, too.

A little background: we first met during my junior year (her freshman year) in college via campus ministry. I'm not positive, but I think our paths first crossed on the Kairos retreat I was leading that she attended. The next year I was one of the retreat's Co-Rectors and she was on the retreat team. After that our paths were constantly crossing through our involvement in the church and she was even at that Frassati Society conference I went to right before Michael and I became an official item. We had/have a friendship rooted entirely in the Lord and our shared faith, so we naturally began to ask for prayers from one another whenever we had specific intentions.

During my volunteer year with the Dominicans, she was one of few people that I stayed in constant communication with and frequently told me she was praying for me. She and my younger sister are the same age and I'm so thankful that the two of them ended up becoming extremely close friends their senior year. Not only has Sister Elizabeth Ann been a huge blessing in my life, but she has also been a beautiful friend to my sister!

Sr. Elizabeth Ann reunited with one of our other campus ministry friends on my wedding day

During my volunteer year after college I began receiving semi-regular snail mail from her. She always made a point to include extra thoughtful gestures with her notes; whether it was a prayer card or sticker of a Saint she knew I loved or something else entirely, she always took time to really personalize any kind of correspondence we shared. Once Michael and I became engaged she began gifting me all sorts of prayer cards she found about the wedding at Cana, marriage, etc. It wasn't a difficult choice to ask her to do one of the readings at our wedding. Then, after I got married, Sister Elizabeth Ann continued to support and encourage me in my vocation in ways unlike any of my other single friends did (and in more tangible ways than many of my married friends did!). She constantly emailed me links to articles I might appreciate, mailed me prayer cards about married life, shared pins with me on Pinterest, and even sent me a copy of a Catholic Mothers' Manual when I was pregnant.

Long story short, this young woman's friendship is such a treasure. She is constantly thinking of others and doing whatever she can to help them live their vocation to the fullest.

At this point it should come as no surprise to you that last week I found myself opening an unexpected package, wondering what thoughtful gem(s) Sister Elizabeth Ann had thought to send me this time. I began pulling out an assortment of books, holy cards, and a few little treasures that seemed to be from Korea. I looked and looked, but there was no note of explanation. Then, as I sifted through the gifts one by one I saw the magnets we had given her as a wedding Save the Date and later as a wedding favor. At that point I knew without a doubt the reason for her gift: now that Sister Elizabeth Ann is in the convent she is passing her belongings on to her friends and family that will appreciate them. 

Gifts from Sr. Elizabeth Ann's package

This considerate, unexpected gift nearly brought me to tears as I reflected on how many times Sr. Elizabeth Ann has sent me little notes and packages in the mail in recent years.

I'm so insanely happy for my dear friend who seems to have found the path Christ is calling her to. Selfishly, I'm also grateful that I am still able to communicate with her via snail mail during this formative, prayerful time of her ongoing discernment. In many ways I feel as if I could never execute a grand enough gesture to thank her for her selfless friendship and countless and continued prayers...but at the very least I can pray for her and ask all of you to join me. Please hold Sr. Elizabeth Ann, all the other postulants in her class, and all those discerning a vocation to religious life in your prayers.

My friend is just one of several women seeking to dedicate their lives to serving Christ and the Church in this way - but I know that the Church will be incredibly blessed by the joyful, humble, unique ways I know she will live out her beautiful vocation. If you want to learn more about her as a person, her discernment process, or any of the awesome European and African adventures she's been on (including all the times she saw the Pope!) you can check out her blog, Just a Small Town Girl.

+Ss. Dominic and Cecilia, pray for us.+

"Friendship consists in forgetting what one gives and remembering what one receives." 
-Alexander Dumas

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Bit of What I Do Every Day


At some point after Michael gets home from work, he ends up asking me what Gabriel and I did that day. Back when Gabriel was a newborn I was often guilty of getting unnecessarily defensive when asked; too often I responded as if secular society were passive-aggressively trying to insinuate that, as a SAHM, I don't "do anything" all day long - rather than answering an innocent question from my loving husband who genuinely was curious what I might have done that day.

In all honesty, it was hard not to get defensive when asked what I did all day long back then because, when you try and break down what mothering actually consists of, it's sometimes hard to come up with a more specific list beyond keeping a little human being clean, fed, nurtured, and alive. During the newborn phase, Gabriel ate every single hour. Whenever he wasn't eating, getting his diaper changed, or being cooed at by yours truly, he was my arms (the only place he would sleep back then during the daytime). I tried really hard to shower every single day, but I'll let you draw your own conclusions about how often I accomplished that goal before Michael returned from work for the evening.

Fast forward a year. Now that my baby is 13.5 months old we actually do a LOT of things while my husband is at work (beyond diaper changes, nursing sessions, and me watching Law & Order SVU on silent with closed captions as Gabriel sleeps for 20 minutes before his next feeding - whew, those early days were a blur). Thankfully, I've caught up on sleep, my hormones have leveled out a bit, and I no longer respond to his innocent query of what I did each day with a defensive, snarky response about doing everything under the sun for, you know, a HUMAN BEING all day long (I'm sure Michael is just as thankful as I am - if not more so...). Still, I am often at a loss when racking my brain to formulate a coherent response to Michael's question each day.

What did we do all day - and how on earth can I possibly paint a portrait that accurately depicts it all?

More often than not, my reply is something along the lines of, "Well, Gabriel woke up at ____ then he ate, we played, we ate lunch, he napped, we played, he ate...and that's about it," followed up by a brief list of whatever chores or errands I managed to check off my to-do list as well.

I'm sure this answer sounds incredibly boring to all my friends that do not have babies because...well, just go back and re-read it. Surely that reply is filled with all the enthusiasm needed to convince them to hop on the parenthood train ASAP...right? Riiight.

On the other hand, I'm sure you other stay-at-home mothers out there can relate. How often do people ask us what we "do all day" - which causes us to feel like we need to list off tangible we scramble to figure out what to say when those same things just seem boring out of context. This is because motherhood - and what we do all day long for our children - cannot be explained in a New York minute. In fact, most of it can never properly be conveyed in words no matter how hard we try.

Earlier today I was playing on the floor with Gabriel. I layed down on my back and he climbed onto my stomach, where he often likes to sit and giggle. I proceeded to play a tickling game with him which elicited squeals of laughter (from my boy...and maybe a bit from me). As soon as he flashed the biggest possible grin amidst fits of giggles, he suddenly threw himself down onto my chest and began sucking his thumb. For the next few minutes we just layed there taking turns giggling as he happily relaxed into my embrace, all the while sucking his thumb. I continued giggling every so often in the hopes of keeping him entertained - wanting him to just stay there in my arms for one more second as I continued holding him and stroking his hair. These are the moments and the things I "do" each day that are virtually impossible to explain to others. There are no photographs of these moments...nor can they possibly be recreated or posed. They don't really rank on most lists of "what I accomplished" each day...but these are the moments that sum up the heart of being a mom (whether you stay at home or are part of the workforce).

As far as answering my husband goes, he understands pretty well that when I say all we did was "eat, play, eat, play, etc." that the full story is far more extensive. He can read between the lines that, in between the tasks and chores, my day was probably filled with moments just like the one described above (on good days - and significantly more tears on the not-quite-as-good days). After all, he is my husband and an involved father so he knows

But when people without children ask what I do each day, I have no idea what to say. I do my best to string some thoughts together, but it's unquestionably a vocation that is hard for people to wrap their heads around unless they've also lived it. How else can they possibly understand that the hours I spend alone with my baby can simultaneously feel never-ending and manage to pass by in the blink of an eye? How could they begin to know the details of the endless work or the details of the indescribable rewards? 

I can only hope that my inadequate responses help others to see that loving and raising a child is undoubtedly a full-time gig - that can and will make you cherish life, the most fleeting of moments, and even the seemingly 'boring' experiences (because any parent will tell you that things like eating lunch, doing laundry, or watching your child play are ANYTHING but boring when they're home with you). It will cause you to embrace sacrifices for the good of another in ways you couldn't have possibly dreamed before experiencing parenthood firsthand.

There may be too many undocumented moments to count,
but don't be fooled - we sometimes pose for pics, too.

“A mother's body remembers her babies-the folds of soft flesh, the softly furred scalp against her nose. Each child has it's own entreaties to body and soul.”

-Barbara Kingsolver

Friday, September 12, 2014

7QT (Vol. 30)


--- 1 ---

Well, I finally did it. After much consideration (and talking my husband's ear off - bless his heart), I went ahead and created a Facebook page for the blog. Honestly I never did until now because I didn't see much of a point (and was worried it might make me waste more time on FB). I don't use Twitter and I don't link other social media to my blog - and for a long time I viewed having a blog FB page as something that people do when they're actively trying to grow their audience. Sure, some people use it as a marketing tool, but lately I've also come to realize that one huge benefit to a blog page on FB is that it creates a forum to interact with readers in ways I never would on the blog!

Sometimes I have quick questions (not blog post worthy) that I would love to get some feedback on, but don't have a way of asking a group of people in the same stage of life (or close to it) or that have similar experiences. Michael and I keep our personal posts on FB to a minimum and even if we didn't, we don't have a ton of friends where we're at right now in regards to marriage and babies.

Recently it dawned on me that people who read my blog are the perfect candidates for such interactions! If this ends up increasing my readership that's fine, but I'm more interested in getting to know people who read my blog so we can all discuss topics of interest and share tips, tricks, advice, or give support when needed. If that sounds like something you're interested in, then please head over to Facebook and like the new Bluebird Songs page! :)

--- 2 ---
Um, this boy seems to have mastered the 4 years old. Check it out.

--- 3 ---
Pope Francis' got jokes. Seriously. Even if you have the best in-laws in the world, I think he can still make you chuckle with his jokes about family life (click on the link for a brief video). Thanks for the laugh, Papa Francesco!

--- 4 ---
I've mentioned a few times that I completed a year of full-time volunteer service (with the Dominicans!) after college, but I don't think I've written much on here about what I did that year. Well, I worked as the Volunteer Coordinator for a domestic violence non-profit agency that serves the west side of Chicago and many suburbs. Domestic violence isn't a topic that many people are well-educated about (I wasn't until I went through the mandated 40-hour training for the state of Illinois!), so I'm thankful whenever real, educational information about this topic gets circulated in mainstream media. I've seen a lot of terrible, hurtful, ignorant things said about the Ray Rice situation, but thankfully that's not all  that's making its way around the interwebs. My friend (who also worked at the DV agency with me) shared this with me earlier this week so I'm sharing it with you all.

People are right to be upset about DV, but too often their anger gets misdirected at the victim as they blame them for staying in an abusive relationship. The Twitter campaign #WhyIStayed helps shed some light onto common reasons people often stay in abusive relationships. It's easy from the outside to approach it as a black and white issue (i.e. if he hits you, you leave immediately), but this aspect of DV is definitely not black & white. If you ever catch yourself starting to blame the victim or wondering why on earth he/she hasn't left such a toxic, abusive situation as soon as you think they should have, please read this (and share it with others!). I promise it's worth your time.

--- 5 ---
On a much lighter note, here are a bunch of Christian memes. Enjoy!

--- 6 ---
Talk to me about Baltimore and NYC, please. When we first moved near Philly we decided that we'd try and take advantage of our location on the East Coast and take some weekend trips to nearby cities. We've already been to D.C. and Boston, but we're hoping to do a day trip to Baltimore and a weekend in New York within the next couples of months. I've been to NYC briefly a couple of times but Michael never has - and he's been to Baltimore once but I haven't. What do you think we should see/do?!

--- 7 ---
It's almost 9am and my baby is still asleep. He usually wakes up around 6 or 7 at which point I nurse him and lay him back down and he goes back to sleep. He awoke at 5:45 this morning, which would usually mean he would be up again by 7:30ish, so...I have no idea how or why he is this tired but I'm going to wrap up these 7 quick takes and take full advantage of this precious alone time!


Happy Friday, everybody! Make sure you head over to Conversion Diary and check out the rest of all the Quick Takes fun!