Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Gabriel: Two Years

+JMJ+

On this day two years ago our precious Gabriel Alexander was born! These past couple years have absolutely flown by, yet it feels like Gabriel has been a part of our lives forever. I can barely remember not being a mother but I wouldn't have it any other way - because raising our child(ren) has blessed us in countless ways.

When I think back to one year ago it's mind-boggling how much our little man has grown. Just last night at dinner he formulated his first seven word sentence when he handed me one of his pretzels and instructed, "now you eat one pretzel next, Mama." 

Truly I could go on and on about how much he has changed since this day last year. After all, our boy was just beginning to walk when he turned one and now he is running, jumping, climbing, and he has even accidentally done a flip on his own (not a somersault - a flip[!]). He's talking up a storm, creating his own playful games (that often mirror things or involve characters from his beloved Blue's Clues), and has the absolute best facial expressions I've ever seen a toddler make as he sings(!) the prayer we conclude our family prayer sessions with each night.

But enough talk. Just see for yourself how much he's grown!


Happy happy birthday, Gabriel. We love you more than you can imagine!

"I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen."
-A.A. Milne

Friday, July 24, 2015

What I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married (A Series at Waltzing In Beauty)

+JMJ+

Hi, friends! Do you all know Christina from Waltzing In Beauty? Awhile back she thoughtfully contacted me about contributing to her "What I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married" series. Well, today you can find me on her blog sharing a piece from my archives all about how/why my husband and I decided to create a joint Facebook account and ditch our individual ones back when we were engaged. You know the one. Or if you don't, head on over to Waltzing in Beauty for a quick read!

Make sure you check out the rest of the series, too, to hear more from other brides about some wisdom they've gleaned along the way. And while you're there, make sure to congratulate Christina on her recent nuptials!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

5 Reasons Why I Find Being a Working Mother (surprisingly) Works for Us

In case you missed the memo, Peter Matthias was born on June 2nd - which means I'm currently spending my days resting and cuddling a newborn as much as I can while getting acquainted with the juggling act that is being a mother to two children under the age of two. Thankfully, some wonderful ladies have agreed to share some of their writings with all of you while I take a mini blogging hiatus during this time of transition. Today it is with great pleasure that I welcome a long-time blogging friend and fellow frequent-mover, Kelley from Over the Threshold!

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Hi, everyone! I'm so excited to be invited to share with you today, especially since I have been blogging too little in the last year to even consider myself a "blogger"!

Just over 8 months ago, I gave birth to my son. I think for the most part when I was younger I had envisioned being home with him full-time. But we all know how those visions can change once you are an adult and can see what real life actually calls for. I think when I was first pregnant I initially insisted I was going back to work just to prove a point to myself, others, and at work (I was afraid my hours were decreasing because of my pregnancy.) However, I've found that it was a really good decision for us.

1. I needed an outside influence.
At first I wasn't sure when I would go back to work. But the opportunity to move into a new position once I returned pushed me to return a little sooner. It forced me to come up with a timeline. I also was having a difficult time with a baby who didn't sleep much at all (still doesn't) and was very clingy and gassy. One day seemed to roll right into the next and it was hard to define the start and end and to find a way to start returning to normal life. I was so tired! Now you might think that was a good indication I shouldn't be working, but I'm the sort of person who can make things happen if I'm forced to do so. I work Monday-Wednesday-Friday so every other day I have to take a shower and get going. It helps me to prioritize and make the most of the days I have off and it helped me to get back out into the real world. (It's particularly easy to hunker down in the northeast in the winter months.)

2. We don't have family nearby.
Again, this might seem like a reason to stay home. But when you don't have family, you have very limited options for babysitting. Which means that you probably spend a lot more time alone with your baby and get far fewer breaks. As crazy as it sounds, work was and still is a break for me sometimes. Despite the fact that I go to work and again, take care of babies, it means I get a chance to wear real clothes that look nice and maybe aren't great for nursing. I can wear dangly earrings and necklaces and make-up and not slip into a scary world of henleys and unwashed hair and sweatpants. Again, I need that outside influence. But it also gives my son and I 10 hours or so to take a break from each other. And rather than just having a grandmother watch him, I also get paid for my break.

3. I worry about money.
We could make being a one-income family work, but anyone who knows the area of the country where we live (NYC suburbs) knows that this is a very high-cost of living area. I tend to be someone who worries excessively about money. By making money myself I know that I can relax a little (whether it makes that much of a financial difference or not). Plus, with my new position my health insurance for myself and my son is loads better than when we were on my husband's. And if I do eventually leave my job to stay home full-time, we are that much more ahead financially.

4. I'm an extrovert.
I need that time with others to get energy! Being an extrovert doesn't mean you aren't shy and it doesn't mean you're always the life of the party. It means that you get your energy from being around others. I think all of the time I spend cooped up all winter with a new baby was sapping some of my energy. No, it didn't help that I wasn't getting much sleep either, but I need that chance to socialize with my coworkers and build up some energy outside of my home.

5. It strengthens my skills.
My paid job is similar to my unpaid one--I'm a pediatric nurse. One way or another, I'm taking care of babies every day. Nursing is definitely one of those jobs where keeping up skills is very important. If I do eventually leave nursing altogether for a period of time it will definitely be difficult to go back and be current. My schedule allows me to continue to keep my skills up. It also enhances my skills with my own baby!

Obviously working part-time is different than full-time and having a job I really like that affords me to be with my son most days of the week is key to this situation. But I would definitely encourage others to see the benefits of working outside of the home. They were a grand surprise to me!


Kelley is a vocational wife and mum, professional pediatric nurse, Creighton Model FertilityCare Practitioner, amateur chef/traveler/photographer/writer, and lover of all things *green* (color and environmental!). She and her husband have been married for almost 6 years and currently live in New Jersey with their 8 month-old son and dog. Their blog has been chronicling their married life from day one—from Georgia to Germany to Jersey (though Kelley's taken a "maternity leave" of sorts most recently). You can find book and movie reviews, recipes, and a hodge-podge of other faith-based thoughts at Over the Threshold and follow her at all the usual social media hangouts.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Motherhood & Prayer: Ora et Labora

In case you missed the memo, Peter Matthias was born on June 2nd - which means I'm currently spending my days resting and cuddling a newborn as much as  I can while getting acquainted with the juggling act that is being a mother to two children under the age of two. Thankfully, some wonderful ladies have agreed to share some of their writings with all of you while I take a mini blogging hiatus during this time of transition. Today it is with great pleasure that I welcome a special sister in Christ from Sacred Sharings For The Soul!

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By: C.C.

The Rule of St. Benedict focuses largely on the disciplined practice of work and prayer. St. Benedict proposed that work and prayer not only complement one another but can be so closely fused to create a harmonious balance in the spiritual life. It takes great discipline to unite the outward workings of our physical lives with the silent contemplative practice of prayer.

Through witnessing the observance of this rule I have come to see how “ora et labora” is something that can also aid in living the vocation of motherhood. This understanding can ease much of the tension that may arise in trying to maintain a balanced prayer life as a mother.

I once read that a monastery is a “school of charity”. It is a place where one must die to self daily, sacrificing ceaselessly in order to persevere. Motherhood demands the same. It is through humble recognition of this selfless vocation that one can begin to surrender to the ‘labora’ of motherhood with great peace and cultivate the fruits of God’s abundant grace. There is the obvious difficulty that arises when faced with the reality of one’s own limitations. From sleep deprivation, feeding, and the essential emotional outpouring of self; a mother can feel defeated.

Many women (myself included) have battled with the practice of consistent prayer while being busy tending to their children. I took this matter into prayer (ironically) in order to gain some much needed clarity. I recognized that ‘consistent prayer’ stems from a committed and unwavering devotion to God. In each state of life one is given the graces they need to persevere and to accomplish what is demanded of them. The prayer language of a mother is spoken through the act of service to her children. A mother's prayer life is defined by daily cultivating a child's life in cooperation with God. It is a balance of “ora et labora”; it is truly work rooted in prayer itself. If this is not so then there will be a perpetual tension and exhausting search for peace.

It is important to find the sacredness in the simplicity of service to one’s family. St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:34) provides some clarity in helping to understand the challenge that many women may experience in their spiritual lives as they become wives and mothers.

St. Paul speaks about the dividedness of tending to God when married. I have interpreted this scripture by recognizing it in a way that does not discredit the vocation of married life and motherhood, but rather imbues it with deeper meaning and sanctity when paralleled with the life of an unmarried man and virgin. Though one is ‘divided’ in their attentiveness to the Lord while busy with serving family, perhaps it can be suggested that by viewing one’s family as divinely given and recognizing the living out of service to them as service and sacrifice for love of God, a mother maintains an undivided devotion to God.

Life as a married woman and mother does not reduce devotedness to God but does present challenges if the woman desires for the same routines and practices of prayer that she was once accustomed to. Motherhood invites a woman to allow her prayer life to evolve by accepting a new way of prayer. It is not by clinging to a prayer routine alone that allows our spiritual life to flourish, it is by clinging to God alone and welcoming the moments of prayer in the day to day “labora” of life.

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C.C. records her spiritual reflections based on prayers, quotations from the Saints, and her life as a Catholic woman, newlywed, and now mother at her blog, Sacred Sharings For The Soul. If you enjoy real-life stories that tell of God's mysterious yet powerful ways of making His presence known to us, make sure you check out her sweet baby girl's birth story and show her some love.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Five Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage

In case you missed the memo, Peter Matthias was born on June 2nd - which means I'm currently spending my days resting and cuddling a newborn as much as  I can while getting acquainted with the juggling act that is being a mother to two children under the age of two. Thankfully, some wonderful ladies have agreed to share some of their writings with all of you while I take a mini blogging hiatus during this time of transition. Today it is with great pleasure that I welcome a dear blogging kindred spirit, Tess of Little House in Chicago!

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My husband and I give presentations to engaged couples through the One in Christ program. Our goal is to help them build strong marriages that will last through whatever life throws at them.

When Stephanie asked me to guest post, I decided to share some of the advice we give engaged couples, in hopes that it can help your marriage too! I would also LOVE to hear your best marriage tips so please feel free to share them in the comments.

1. Remember the two biggest causes of fights

During our presentations, my husband asks the couples, "Can anyone guess what two things cause the most fights in marriages?"

Hands shoot into the air and people start guessing: "Money?" "In-laws?" "Sex?"

"Those are all good guesses and definitely can cause fights," he tells them. "But actually, on a day-to-day level, we've found that what causes most of our fights is being hungry or tired."

That always gets a lot of laughs, but once you start paying attention, you'll be amazed how true it is! For us at least, I'd guess 90% of our fights start because one of us is grumpy from being hungry or tired.

Once you start noticing that and taking it into account, you can avoid fights a lot more easily. We knew one couple who shared a commute to work, and actually made a pact that if one of them was overly grumpy from being hungry or tired, they wouldn't talk until they got home and ate dinner! We also tell couples that it's ok to ignore the traditional advice to "Never go to bed angry," since sometimes the problem is just that you're tired, and the fight will be easily resolved once you get a good night's sleep.

2. Learn your spouse's love language


You've heard of the five love languages, right? They include words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, giving of gifts, and acts of service. There is a quiz you can take to figure out your love language, but I think most people know themselves well enough to figure out off the bat which one applies to them.

I would encourage you to branch out of just those five categories and figure out what things unique to your spouse make him or her feel loved. For example, my husband is naturally much more tidy and organized than I am. He used to always tell me that he felt stressed when the house was a mess, but it didn't really hit home for me until one day he said, "I think a clean house is my love language." That made a big impact on me, and ever since then, I've made much more of an effort to clean up my messes.

3. Consider regular "state of the union" talks


I got this idea from a book about parenting, but it's great advice for anyone who's married! Consider scheduling meetings every month or every few months to sit down together and talk through any issues or concerns about your marriage, plus set some goals for yourselves, both personally and as a couple. We jokingly call these our "state of the union" conversations (can you tell we used to live in Washington, DC?).

The couple who wrote that book, Richard and Linda Eyre, recommend doing a five-facet review, discussing how you each are doing from a physical, spiritual, social, intellectual, and emotional perspective. We aren't always that organized about it; the goal is really just to set aside a sort of "safe space" to share with each other anything that's on your minds and hearts.

4. Seek out frequent opportunities to pray, worship, and grow in grace together


Sometimes marriage can be really hard, and can take more effort than you are able to give. That's when it's time to stop relying on your own efforts and give it over to God. God can give you the grace to heal divisions between you and your spouse. With God's help, your marriage can be a reflection of and witness to the love between Christ and the Church.

On top of that, studies show the greatest predictor of marital success is that the couple goes to church together every week—so if you want your marriage to last, make it a goal to worship and pray together as much as you can!

5. Build a community of like-minded couples and families

One of the best things you can do for your marriage is to be friends with other couples who have strong, happy marriages. You can be good examples to each other, but more than that, you can just have fun together and enjoy how great it is to be married! My husband and I have enjoyed taking road trips and vacations with other couples. We find it to be a great way to strengthen our own relationship and build friendships with couples who inspire us to be better people.

These other couples don't have to be your age, either —my husband and I love to get advice from an older couple we know who have been married for thirty years (!!) and are still so in love with each other. They tell us, "We want you to have what we have, and be as happy as we are after thirty years together." Their example inspires us every day. Nothing can compare to being part of a community of people who share your commitment to making their marriages better and stronger as the years pass.

That's the best advice I've got for making your marriage stronger. But I've only been married for two years, so I know there is a LOT more I have to learn! What's the best marriage advice you've ever heard?

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Tess is a Catholic, wife, mother, and part-time work-from-home editor living on the South Side of Chicago. She (not so) secretly would like to be Ma Ingalls someday and writes at her personal blog, Little House in Chicago, about her family's life as they strive to do things the "Little House Way" in their one-bedroom urban homestead. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Girl Power

In case you missed the memo, Peter Matthias was born on June 2nd - which means I'm currently spending my days resting and cuddling a newborn as much as  I can while getting acquainted with the juggling act that is being a mother to two children under the age of two. Thankfully, some wonderful ladies have agreed to share some of their writings with all of you while I take a mini blogging hiatus during this time of transition. Today it is with great pleasure that I welcome Emily of Raising Barnes

After you read what she's written here, you should seriously take a little virtual trip over to Raising Barnes. Not only is she a fellow Hoosier (so you know she's bound to be pretty great), but she has excellent taste in television shows and movies, writes beautiful reflections on motherhood and/or her Catholic faith, and is such a kind-hearted woman that she deservedly got nominated for "Miss Congeniality" in this year's Sheenazing Awards. If you enjoy what I write you'll undoubtedly like her, too. Welcome, Emily!

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I am so honored that Stephanie asked me to write a little something to help fill her space while she enjoys some much deserved “maternity leave.”  I hope you enjoy!

I have been thinking a lot about women lately. I’m not sure why this particular topic has been on my mind and heart lately.  Perhaps it’s the second child that I’m currently gestating.  Or that Mother’s Day wasn’t really all that long ago.  Or the fact that my best friend is expecting her first baby any day now.  Or that Stephanie (my gracious hostess) is already cuddling her second son.  Or that I have had several opportunities to spend some quality time with some amazing women that I feel lucky to know.  Regardless of the reasons, I have been spending quite a bit of time thinking about women, both women that I know and women in general.  Our roles, our lives, our responsibilities.  Really, just what being a woman in the 21st century is all about.  And, let me tell you, sometimes all of that thinking can get overwhelming. 

Luckily (or more likely, divinely), much of my spiritual reading lately has been reflecting on these thoughts that I’ve been mulling over.  I figure that I can’t be the only one who thinks about these types of things.  And if I am, please don’t tell me.  I don’t want to know if I’m a loner with my thoughts.  So, I wanted to share some of the spiritual books that have been helping me with my thought processing.

My Sisters the Saints


It seems fitting that I start with this book, since sweet Stephanie actually gave it to me!  I had mentioned quite a while ago that this book was on my wish list and she happened to have 2 copies.  And I am so thankful that she was willing to share it with me.  I’m still in the midst of it, but this memoir is really speaking to my heart.  On the surface, the author and I have very little in common; our life experiences are vastly different.  Yet, I am coming to find that this is one of the beauties of being a woman: we may be different, but we can still help each other and relate to each other.  Even if you happen to be doing it from heaven. :)

Those Who Saw Her: Apparitions of Mary


When I converted to Catholicism, I of course understood and appreciated Mary, but there was so much I didn’t know.  Then I met Our Lady of Lourdes, and I began to understand that there is a lot more to Mary than I ever realized.  I know that apparitions are not necessarily a “required” part of our Catholic faith, but they have become a very real thing to me.  I have loved learning about the times that Mary has chosen to visit us here on Earth, as well as learning more about the people she has chosen to appear to.  I know not all the visionaries are women, but I have found that there are many lessons to be learned from every apparition.  Especially when it comes to how we should be living our earthly lives. 

The Imitation of Mary


I just started this book recently, but I still wanted to include it.  The book may be small and the chapters short, but it definitely packs a punch.  The title really says it all.  The friend who loaned it to me told me it has made such a difference in her life; I’m hoping to get the same result. 

Listen to Your Blessed Mother


This is another book that I am just beginning.  Its focus is the few words that Mary actually speaks in the Scriptures.  It is true that Mary does not speak much, but the things she does say should cause us to pause and listen.  It has been nice to really reflect on those words and what Mary meant when she said them.  I’m really looking forward to digging into this book further.  Something tells me that the Blessed Mother has a lot to teach me about words.  Or, the lack of them…

Our Catholic faith is full of so many beautiful teachings about femininity.  Added to that are the countless amazing women of faith who have set such beautiful examples for us to try and follow and imitate.  For me, these women, especially Mary, were very intimidating at first; they are saints, after all.  But, now that I’ve really taken some time to read, pray and get to know all these women better, I’m not as intimidated as I used to be.  I look at them as older, experienced friends who are there when I need some help or advice about a situation.  I hope you can feel that way too. 

Who are some of your favorite saintly women?  What about some of your favorite spiritual reads?  I’m always looking for new friends and books!      


Emily is a wife and stay-at-home mom living the Midwestern dream with her little family.  She is a lover of chocolate, coffee and comfy sweaters.  You can find out more about her and read her ramblings over at Raising Barnes.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Introducing Peter Matthias!

+JMJ+

With great joy I'd like to introduce to you the newest member of our family: Peter Matthias!


Interestingly enough, I wrote on Monday night about how having to wait for our boy's arrival was probably God's way of blessing us with some extra time to enjoy making memories and prepare ourselves for this new chapter in our lives. That night, before Michael and I fell asleep we prayed together a somewhat lengthy prayer with all of our petitions and thanksgivings; as soon as we finished I immediately thought to myself, "I'm actually grateful that Peter hasn't been born yet, because I had really wanted to be able to pray like that with Michael before he comes. Maybe this is what God was giving us time to do." 

I fell asleep with the notion that after that special prayer time together we were truly 100% ready and in the right mindset to meet our son. I woke up at 4:30am to contractions that were already 2.5 minutes apart and the rest is history!

Peter was born on Tuesday, June 2nd at 9:25am after an astoundingly fast labor that began and ended within a total of 5 hours(!). He weighed in at 7 lbs. 12 oz. and is 21 inches long. 






Thank you thank you thank you for all your support and prayers and welcome to the family, Peter! We already love you so.