Monday, January 26, 2015

Let it Snow!

+JMJ+

When I think about our past two moves - the time of year and location - I am blown away by how good God has been to us. Moving from Florida to Pennsylvania in January of last year had every bit of potential to be miserable; everyone up north was deep in the throes of the "polar vortex"...yet the week we moved in, unpacked, and got settled happened to be the ONE week in January when there didn't seem to be any snowfall or typical wintry weather in/around Philadelphia.

Just recently we moved even further north when, in late December, we said goodbye to Pennsylvania and hello to our new home in the Boston area. I don't know about you, but when I think of the northeast coast in late December I call to mind images of blustery wind, bitter cold, and a whole lot of snowfall. Yet when we moved there wasn't any snow on the ground. Nor did it get any colder than about 30 degrees (Fahrenheit) that entire first week.

In fact, I've actually been a bit surprised at how very little snowfall we've experienced throughout our first month here. This past weekend seemed to be the first substantial amount in awhile, so we tried to avoid the roads and stay close to home as much as possible. Fortunately, we live right in the heart of the part of town with all the best shopping, including the shopping mall. This meant we managed to get out of the house/keep from going stir crazy without having to go far because we drove across the street (literally) and spent some quality family time doing some serious mall-walking - plus a tiny bit of shopping for next month's trip for my sister-in-law's destination wedding.

Sunday was sunny and noticeably warmer, so I realized it was finally the perfect time to try on Gabriel's size 18-month snow pants (they were a gift from his newborn days that we've been patiently waiting for him to grow into for over a year now). Gabriel has seen plenty of snow at this point, but there's never been enough on the ground (with decent temperatures) since he's been old enough to experience playing in the snow. Yesterday that changed!

We bundled up, grabbed some buckets to play with, and headed outside to give Gabriel his first close-up, hands-on encounter with snow.


I didn't know how he would react, but the boy loved it! 

At first he was frustrated by his mittens, but once we showed him that he could simply bring both hands together to scoop the snow off the ground he began smiling and exploring. We showed him that he could put snow in the buckets (and dump it out), could toss it in the air, and my husband introduced him to snowballs (complete with demonstrating how to throw them!). Pretty soon he was giggling as he repeatedly accepted snowballs from Michael and smashed them on the sidewalk. The entire ordeal probably lasted less than ten minutes, but Gabriel had so much fun.

Now we're gearing up for nearly two feet of snow in the next couple of days - so we'll be hunkering down, staying inside, and most definitely avoiding driving anywhere. Michael was already informed that the office will be closed tomorrow and Wednesday, which means he gets to stay with us and work from home! While everyone else seems to be dreading the impending snowfall, I'm genuinely looking forward to it. After all, we've got a warm roof over our heads, plenty of food in the pantry and fridge, I know my husband will be safely at home with us, and thanks to our apartment's parking garage we won't even have to deal with digging our cars out when the storm subsides! As long as our entire apartment building doesn't lose power, I'm not worried about how we'll fare. Call me crazy, but I'm kind of looking forward to our first epic Boston snowstorm.

Although I'm confident that we'll be fine, my heart goes out to those seeking shelter or that lack proper heat within their homes. While I'm oddly looking forward to being snowed in with my little family, there are others out there dreading the same storm for very good reasons. So please don't worry about us, but instead offer up some prayers for all those in less fortunate circumstances that are bracing themselves for a tough week.

"Saint Medard, patron saint for protection against bad storms, we ask you to intercede for us during the storms of our lives as well as the storms in nature. 
Protect our families and our homes. We pray for assistance for the victims of snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, especially for the upcoming snowstorm that is headed our way tonight. 
Loving God, send in more helpers, and multiply resources and supplies for the aid of those in need. You calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee; deliver us from the storms that are raging around us now. 
Saint Medard, pray for us. Amen."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Christmas and a Baby

+JMJ+

Now that my older sister and I are both married with families of our own, it's not always easy to get my entire immediate family together for holidays. However, my siblings, parents, and Michael and I all made plans several months ago to gather in Boston for Christmas this year. I know that those plans sound a bit random when you think about the fact that I'm a Hoosier (and both my parents still live in Indiana), but my sis and her family live in Cambridge and were expecting their third child on - wait for it - December 27th! As if Christmas weren't enough of a reason to get together and celebrate with family, a "Christmas baby" would be making his big debut (which ensured zero chance of my sis and her husband traveling anywhere else)...so naturally we all traveled to see them.

My sis and her husband managed to snag apartment sublets in their complex for all of us (because they happen to live in campus family housing - and since classes aren't in session most people leave over Christmas break). I know that the idea of hosting everyone that far along in the pregnancy probably seemed more than a bit overwhelming for my sister, but she put those "nesting" instincts to good use and acquired ALL the food and planned the meal menus for the entire break before people began arriving (yes, she is a rock star)

Amazingly enough, Michael's project in Pennsylvania came to a close and he accepted a new position just down the road from Cambridge about two weeks before Christmas. Less than ten days later (5 days before Christmas, to be exact) we found ourselves moving to Massachusetts, which meant not only would we be around for Christmas and our nephew's birth, but we had our own place to stay and could alleviate at least a tiny bit of the pressure of hosting everybody by helping out in a greater capacity than we could have if we had only been in town for the originally planned 4 or 5 days.

Plus, my sister no longer had to worry about scheduling our nephew's baptism for the coming weeks because Michael and I are his Godparents and...we live here now (how convenient)! No matter what date they chose it was basically a guarantee we'd be around. :)

Long story short, the last days leading up to Christmas were spent unpacking and setting up our new home, spending time with family, and eagerly looking forward to our nephew's impending arrival.

On Christmas Eve my family gathered for dinner at my sister's place in Cambridge before setting out for a vigil mass at St. Paul's in Harvard Square. By the grace of God we somehow found ourselves in a section of pews that positioned us right next to their infamous boys' choir during the beginning and closing processionals when they paused to sing alongside us. The mass was long (and beautiful!), but all the kids (Gabriel and his cousins) did really well and my sister managed to hide the fact that - apparently - she was starting to have contractions.

I bet you know where this is going....

Late that Christmas Eve night, just as I was climbing into bed, my mom (who was staying with my sis to help watch the children whenever Christina went into labor) texted me. Christina was going to the hospital!

We had no idea if she would get sent away or admitted, but I turned up the volume on my phone and anxiously tried to get some sleep.

Remember how difficult it was to fall asleep on Christmas Eve as a child? Well, once you're all grown up the potential birth of a baby gives you that same kind of joyful anticipation and excited sense of wonder about what's to happen throughout the night/what could be waiting for you in the morning!

I could barely sleep and kept having dreams about my nephew being born. Then, as we were getting ready to head over for the Christmas morning gift exchange with my family, I got a text from my brother-in-law: baby Isaac had arrived!

And just like that, the "Christmas baby" lived up to the nickname.

Meeting baby Isaac on Christmas day!
Seriously. What's better than the image of your husband holding
a newborn baby?

Prior to my nephew's birth, I had this preconceived notion that delivering a baby on Christmas Day would be kind of miserable (and I'm sure my sister has many thoughts to share about the entire experience), but I can tell you now that Christmas 2014 will go down in my family's history as one of the happiest Christmases - all because of Isaac's birth.

I cannot think of a more tangible way to experience the end of Advent's time of preparation and anticipation or the joyful start of the long-awaited Christmas season than with the birth of a child. After all, what more appropriate or precious Christmas gift could God possibly bless us with than that of meeting a long-awaited newborn baby? Any sadness my nieces may have felt about not having their mommy there to open presents with them on Christmas morning is most definitely long forgotten - but the birth of their baby brother and getting to meet him for the first time is something they will never forget.

I hope all of you had equally happy Christmases filled with joyful memories made with your own loved ones!


"God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If he gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it."
-Pope Francis

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

This is Sheenazing!

+JMJ+

Do you all know who Bonnie is? Have you heard of her annual "Sheenazing Awards" for Catholic bloggers? If not, you should certainly check it out. Here is Bonnie's personal explanation of the infamous awards that she started out of the goodness of her heart:
The Sheenazing Blogger Awards get their name from Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, who was amazing at using the newest forms of media to communicate the beauty of the Catholic Church and his love of Christ to the world. They are a fun way to celebrate the excellence of the Catholic blogosphere and honor Venerable Sheen.
Ever since I've been part of the Catholic blogosphere I've looked to the Sheenazing Awards to help me find good, orthodox, Catholic blogs to read. I have so much fun looking at the lists of nominees to see which of the blogs I follow have (rightly so) made it onto the ballot each year and I'm always happy to discover some new good reads as well. Of course, the world of Catholic blogging is vast and it's impossible to keep up with everyone and all the wonderful things they're writing, but the Sheenazing Awards are such a great jumping off point if you'd like to get started and/or dive deeper into the current Catholic blogosphere.

In case you hadn't guessed, it's that time of year again! Nominations took place recently and yesterday Bonnie published the official list of 2015 nominees/voting ballot.

Here's the kicker: due to the holidays and our recent move I've been more than a little out of touch with most of the blogging world as of late. I almost failed to realize the Sheenazing Awards were upon us, until I began seeing some of my blog friends post the exciting news that they had been nominated (congrats to all of you!). Their updates piqued my curiosity and I headed over to Bonnie's to read the full list and prepare to vote. As I continued reading, something caught my eye and I had to back up for a minute. I nearly missed it, but you guys...

I WAS NOMINATED for "Best Under-Appreciated Blog"!


I stared at my phone for a few seconds, not comprehending what was going on. As reality sank in, I began to doubt the legitimacy of the nomination process (sorry, Bonnie, for doubting you!). I thought that perhaps my mother somehow did this; a nomination from my mom - that would surely explain it. Then I read the full, detailed requirements for making it onto the final ballot. Apparently enough people actually submitted me for me to make it onto the ballot.

To some of the nominees this entire thing may not come as a surprise - but as someone who made it onto the list for the first time ever (alongside SO many other wonderful bloggers I greatly admire!) I can assure you that this feels truly amazing. Or Sheenazing, rather. ;)

Honestly, just making it on the ballot has made me feel beyond humbled, grateful, and excited. It's enough to make me feel loved and affirmed for several days, no doubt - and if you get a spare moment and decide to cast a vote my way for the "Best Under-Appreciated Blog" category, I'll surely be left speechless. After all, there are some fantastic ladies on that list that most certainly deserve to be there. Thank you, thank you, thank you to any and all of you that thought of me when submitting your nominations. And thank you, Bonnie, for creating and hosting the Sheenazing Awards!

"I tell my kids and I tell proteges, always have humility when you create and grace when you succeed, because it's not about you. You are a terminal for a higher power. As soon as you accept that, you can do it forever."
-Quincy Jones

Monday, January 19, 2015

Goodbye to Philadelphia (Hello Boston!)

+JMJ+

Exactly one month ago we were tying up all the loose ends of our lives in Philadelphia. As soon as Michael got off work that afternoon, he picked up our Budget truck and within a few hours the movers had all of our boxes and furniture loaded up and ready to go. If you've been following our journey for a little while, you already know that our move from Philly to Boston  is our third move since we began our married lives a little over 2 years ago. In less than 2.5 years we've now lived in 4 completely different states in multiple regions of the country. And yet, as we prepared to say goodbye to Philadelphia we were blessed - for the first time in the past couple years - to have a real community to say goodbye to. 

Sure, Ann Arbor was our first home together and we still love and miss that parish - the one where Michael received all his Sacraments of Initiation when he officially became Catholic during our engagement. Before the move, we made sure to say goodbye to his RCIA instructors and a good friend we had met at church. Michael also had some close college friends in/around the area and we were only 45 minutes from Michael's sister - but despite our efforts to attend various Catholic young adult groups we struggled to find new friendships and become more fully integrated in the community. Ann Arbor often left us feeling alone - because as newlyweds that did not yet have a child we found ourselves constantly in an odd sort of "in between" all the single young professionals and young families surrounding us. When we left Michigan we knew we'd miss several aspects of Ann Arbor (if you ever go you need to eat at Asian Legend - and about a million other places), but we were more than ready for a fresh start somewhere else.

Southern Florida is forever the first home our son lived in, considering he was born about a week after the move. Florida holds all our memories of his newborn days and the beautiful sunshine and warm walks made our lives there feel like an extended (and very welcome) vacation - but it was just that. The project was only 6 months long and landed us in a retirement community, so we had little to no opportunities for building long-term friendships. Instead, we chose to utilize that time to focus on our family of three and just enjoy the time we had there together. When we headed north to Pennsylvania you'd better believe that, socially, we were dying to go someplace we could meet some people our age.

As soon as we arrived in Philadelphia and people heard that we moved from Southern Florida in the middle of January (during the winter of the "polar vortex," no less) we got more than a few incredulous looks and/or comments. However, just like all of our moves, we had prayed and trusted that God was leading us where He wanted us next. Michael and I had a very good feeling about all our lives could become throughout our time there, and I'm so happy to say that Philly met - and often exceeded - our expectations in every aspect.

Socially, we were surrounded by young adults. We encountered friends close in age, values/priorities, interests, and morals. Spiritually, we found ourselves in a diocese rich with opportunities for community and growth and we found a parish that, for the first time since Michigan, was tugging at our hearts. Within a few months I had somehow been offered a leadership position with the local Catholic young adult group we were part of, and those friendships and connections gave me the insight and extra motivation I needed to step up and create a Catholic Moms Group for the same area. Pretty soon Michael had friends, I had friends, we had friends - and through the moms group I finally befriended some great moms  - and their sons and daughters became Gabriel's first real playmates (outside of family holiday visits with his cousins). I no longer felt isolated as a stay-at-home mom and I had even found ways to get involved and use some of my skills in ministry to give back and even add things to the local community - two things that helped me feel far more fully like myself than I could ever say about our time elsewhere.

Pennsylvania was so unlike our time in Michigan or Florida. As we prepared to move away, we knew that this time we needed the opportunity to say some real goodbyes (or "see you later"s)...so we hosted an actual Goodbye Party!

After all our things were loaded onto the truck, several of our friends came over to eat pizza and share our final evening in town with us. Much like my birthday, I was taken completely by surprise when some of these friends came bearing goodbye gifts. How incredibly thoughtful and sweet of them! More importantly, though, we were able to spend one last night reminiscing and laughing with some truly great people. We only lived near Philly for just less than a year, but what a blessed year it was! 2014 was so good to us and I cannot thank God enough for all that He gifted us with in Pennsylvania.

One of our friends made us 2 mixed CDs (one for each driver) for our move!

Which brings us to the here and now.

Tomorrow will be exactly one month since we made the move and I'm happy to report that we are settling in quite nicely. Our apartment is amazing (with a remarkably good location), we've already found our new parish home, and through the grace of God I've already begun making mom friends! Not to mention, Michael's job is living up to everything he/we hoped it would be.

The blatantly obvious icing on this entire Boston cream cake (see what I did there?) is that - for the first time in our married lives - we live near family! I've secretly (or not so secretly, if you're my husband) hoped that every single one of our moves would bring us to the Boston area so we could be near my sister, brother-in-law, and their children. Sure enough, God brought us here in His good time. Now we're able to do things like an impromptu Sunday night family dinner (which totally happened last night when my sis and her family were nearby after attending a baptism party), go on dates before vetting all our new friends as possible babysitters (because, hi, we have family who can watch Gabriel!), have sister and cousin play dates while our husbands are at work, and countless more.

Philadelphia blessed us beyond belief, but our new home in the Boston area is undoubtedly gonna be good.


“For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."
-T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Like Brother, Like...Brother!

+JMJ+

By now you all know that our sweet Gabriel is going to be a big brother when Baby K #2 arrives around June 4, 2015. Today I'm 20 weeks pregnant (halfway already!) and last night we had the big ultrasound. We got to see the baby's profile, heart, spine, feet, hands, etc...and we did indeed get to learn whether Gabriel's going to have a little brother or sister. I'll spare you the suspense:


It's a boy! It's also worth noting that our baby looks completely healthy and weighs approximately 13 ounces already (wow!).

My sister gave me the idea to compare Gabriel's 20-week photos with Baby #2 when she asked if they look alike...and call me crazy, but I think those babies really look like brothers (hence the title). Do you see it? Or are my husband and I the only ones?

It's amazing how one baby can seem to tip the balance - because prior to last night I would have said that our family (on my side) was and always has been dominated by girls. I have two sisters (even my husband has one sister), one of which has two of her own daughters. On Christmas day my older sister gave birth to their first boy - so with Gabriel, his new baby cousin, and now this little boy coming soon it seems that the boys are starting to take over!

Honestly, we would have been excited either way. I'm just pumped that we found out because now we are finally going to think and pray about names (one of the most fun parts of pregnancy, I think!). We've already got a few good ideas brewing, but - just like we chose to do with Gabriel - those will most likely remain a secret until Baby Boy makes his arrival and we get to see him in person. :)

Thank you to all of you that have been praying for our growing family! We feel incredibly blessed and beyond excited for what's to come in this budding household of men.


"The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him."
1 John 2:10

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

27.

+JMJ+

Well, the joke's on me. I thought I could jump back into blogging last week when I wrote my piece about being alive and well here near Boston...and then I got hit with a wicked sore throat that turned into a nasty cough, which landed me with all the glorious congestion and typical zombie-like symptoms of a head cold. So really I haven't been very well after all - until today, that is (thank the Lord!).

For those of you that have no idea what it's like to have a cold when you're pregnant, count your blessings. And if you've been sick while pregnant with your first child - meaning you don't actually have to care for another human being throughout your sickness - count those blessings, too. I know it can always be worse and that far more people have it tougher than me, but I think I deserve a little credit for hanging in there, making sure my son's diapers were regularly changed, and for the fact that he was well-fed and cared for with the help of only one or two more (okay, maybe three...just one time) episodes of Blue's Clues than normal. AND I managed to get through our godson's baptism without hacking up a lung or sneezing my sinuses out (if that were possible, of course). All in all, I think I came out of it pretty well.

With that being said, I feel like I have a lot to catch up on. So before we get too far into 2015, I'm going to jump back in time and recap some highlights from the end of 2014. First topic at hand? My birthday!

Do you remember how my husband was scheduled to go back to Colorado for two weeks of work in December? Well, not only did he accept his next position with the Boston job that week while he was away (which sent me into packing and moving mode when he wasn't even in the same state!), but it also meant that he would be gone on my birthday. :(

Fortunately, he was able to come home on the weekend (which was an immense help with getting moving supplies and setting me up for overall packing success) so that Sunday (the day before my actual birthday) we celebrated by going to brunch with our friend, B, at our favorite local breakfast place.

Since Michael was in Colorado on my real birthday, I made plans for about 10 of our friends to come over after dinner so my pregnancy hormones wouldn't end up making me feel totally lame and lonely (because I know how that would have gone down and I'm sure it would have ended with some tears). And you know what? Despite the fact that my husband was out of state, I was pregnant and watching Gabriel by myself, and I was busy packing and organizing all of our moving logistics, I had a seriously happy birthday! Why? Well, firstly because of God's grace (duh). Secondly because we were blessed with some truly amazing friends during our time in Philly.

I had told my friends everything would be low-key (because, hi, we were getting ready to move) and that I simply wanted their company, but of course they went above and beyond. I anticipated that perhaps they might bring a dessert to share, but I never could guessed that one friend would bring freshly-baked brownies, another would bring an entire cheese and cracker spread, and yet another would show up with a home-baked pie and ice cream from one of the most delicious homemade ice cream shops I've ever been to...! Not only that, but some of these people gave me additional presents. Like gift cards, Catholic mom books, and adorable clothes for baby #2. I sincerely didn't expect anything of the sort and had no idea it was coming. These friends were just SO good to me and we had a blast sitting around talking after Gabriel went to bed.

Over and over and over again the Lord has reminded me how good He has been to us - especially with the community we found in Pennsylvania. How fortunate that I could celebrate with them shortly before we moved away!

Sadly, I didn't think to take a single photo the entire evening, so instead I thought it would be fun to include these pictures from a handful of recent birthdays. Are you ready for this?

What a fun day! My entire immediate family came to my college town so we could
go wine tasting together. My big sis stayed that night to celebrate with my friends
and me. Betcha never would have guessed that this was taken BEFORE
we headed out to the bars. 100% sober and ridiculous.
Out with friends in my college town.
A laid-back evening with my little sis (my 5th year, her junior year).
Celebrating in Chicago (during my year of volunteer service) with my man.
Oops! No photos from this year either because I was in the
first trimester with Gabriel and fighting a cold.
But these are the roses Michael gave me. :)
That time we lived in Florida. Warmest birthday EVER for this December baby.

Can we talk about how Michael has been a part of my life for my last four birthdays already? And how we've been married for the last three?! Time flies when you're having fun. What a shame that I didn't get a photo from my 27th! It was loads of fun all the same, but I'll just have to get a photo with TWO babies on my 28th to make up for it. ;)


"There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents, and only one for birthday presents, you know."
-Lewis Carroll

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Alive and Well (with so much to tell!)

+JMJ+

Guess what! I'm alive. Blessed Advent, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and a joyful Epiphany to all! Believe me, I know I'm a bit behind; today is literally the first day in weeks that I've powered up my laptop and - imagine my surprise when - the wallpaper image that greeted me was a beautiful Advent wreath. Oops.

Even though I've posted here and there on the Facebook page, it's been pretty quiet silent on the blog the past 3 weeks - ever since I made the announcement that we'd be moving up to the Boston area. Fast forward a few weeks and here I am, stopping in for a brief recap on what I consider to be the first day of my "real life" in our new home. Sure, we've been here awhile (we've actually been unpacked for several days), but with the busyness of the holiday season and all my family being in town, today is the first day during which my husband is at work and I'm flying solo with Gabriel (who probably misses his Aunt Jennie who was staying with us the past few days).

This morning I also had my first appointment with my new doctor's office (where I get to have a midwife - something I wanted in Pennsylvania but couldn't get within a 40-minute radius!). Thankfully I have a very positive first impression of the entire staff and am so looking forward to our 20-week ultrasound which is now less than a week away!  I know doctor's visits sound mundane, but there's something about it that has really helped me feel like, as of today, I'm diving head first into real life here in our new home. The Advent and Christmas seasons brought us so many blessings, but between our 330-mile move (by far the shortest and therefore easiest move of our married lives!) and all the driving back and forth between our new place and visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Cambridge while my parents, grandmother, and younger sister were in town for Christmas and the birth of our new nephew (more on that later) our family has been left feeling like we're in a constant state of flux. Michael has been at his new job since Monday, but yesterday my younger sister headed back to grad school, so today seems like my first day after a long, beautiful - but somewhat hazy and chaotic - holiday break.

It feels so good to be back.

Plus, I can hardly wait to share with you all the wonderful events of the past few weeks! Be on the lookout for upcoming recaps about my birthday, saying goodbye to Pennsylvania/the move further north, Christmas, my nephew's birth, some reflections on 2014, and more.

I hope all your Christmases and holidays have been filled with an abundance of love and joy and that your new year is off to a splendid start. Considering we now live near some family for the first time in our married lives, we seem to have found a great parish community, and we're basically obsessed with/spoiled by our new apartment and its proximity to all sorts of practical things (i.e. the mall, Target, the grocery store, our church, an impressive Catholic store, my new midwife and the hospital where I'll deliver, the interstate, etc.), I think it's fair to say that I've got some well-founded high hopes for 2015. Thanks for joining me on the journey. :)

“Some journeys take you farther from where you come from, but closer to where you belong.”
-Ron Franscell