My First Peg Doll Swap

Yesterday, the mom’s group at my church pulled off a very successful Saints Peg Doll Swap! It’s been months in the making, lots of organizing, painting, and crafting with a total of 15 moms participating. Using the ideas and simple instructions from Catholic Icing, most of us met together at a home to chat and exchange peg dolls. I had a blast getting to meet new moms, helping to organize it, and catching up with friends! I really hope to do another one soon. 

Depending upon how many events we have coming up in the Mom’s Ministry at church, perhaps around Christmas. I am hoping that if we organize another one, I can spend a bit more prep time coming up with things like coloring sheets of those particular saints for the kids at the swap meet and having some quotes and prayers to send home with the moms. Maybe a little swag bag of sorts! Being a few weeks out from labor, I feel like I did about as much as I could for the meet this time without completely neglecting my other duties and family. As it was, finishing up RCIA, joining the leadership team in the Mother’s Ministry, and organizing the swap was a bit ambitious. Within one week, I attended two leadership meetings (one was for my specific committee and one was for all of the committees together), attended the end of the year RCIA celebration, and helped to host the swap. I practically took daniel to work daily and got really good at keeping the toddler awake in the car. It’s going to be a wonderful year though, and I’m really excited to be helping the church in this way!

Every mom picked up 15 unpainted dolls, chose the Saint they wanted to paint, and assembly-line style painted them. We spent two months with them (although I think most of us painted them last minute. I know of several of us who were varnishing the dolls at ten pm the night before the exchange). When we came together, we had 15 saints to swap to be able to take home a collection.

The cast of Saints!

I painted Saint Paul the Apostle. They were finished two days before the swap when daniel took Eliot to the splash park so that I could work in peace without the theme song to Daniel Tiger stuck in my head. 

I hardly had time to snap photos after the swap before the toddler happily claimed the set and he has been lining them up sweetly in different places around the house. I love the one of Mary so much (how beautifully detailed she is) and it has already proven quite useful as a visual aid! We talk about Jesus and Mary a lot, and we have crucifixes in practically every room, so Eliot really gets it when we say our goodnight Jesus and Mary prayer, at least about Jesus. But ever since we gave him the Mary peg, he has actually been saying “Mary” and seems to have a better grasp on the Mother of Jesus thing. 

If you were on the fence about peg doll swaps, don’t be! It was a blast and everyone should do it if they enjoy crafting!

Snapshots of life in May, 2017

Eliot giving baby sister some love. And being possessive over her.

I got treated to a pedicure for the first time in about seven years!

He thinks making faces is a really fun game these days.

He also got to have his first ice cream cone on his own at a birthday party! He loved it.

He loves playing in water. He doesn’t like sitting in it as much so a water table is right up his alley. I never even knew those things existed!

This is pretty much what motherhood is like right now. Lots of cleaning up and organizing and remembering that it’s the small things we do out of love that make up this job.

Texas heat, five weeks out from labor, chasing an exuberant toddler, and busy schedules! Such a full life.

A Chapter in the Life (Ch. 26)

Good Reading

When I’m hurting, draw me closer – Better Than Eden

Why I pulled my daughters out of ballet – Carrots for Michaelmas – this is so good. Daniel and I feel so strongly about this sort of thing! I do want to put my daughter in ballet one day, but I only want to see her given a classic, timeless, healthy education of the ART.

Life Lately

Pregnancy, rants induced by my neighbor’s dog ownership (hello barking dog at 2 am) and other situations, gardening, cooking, mother’s ministry, transverse baby kicks, park days, trying to keep up with a toddler while in the 3rd trimester, trying to sing lullabies without a voice, baking bread, endless toddler sleep regressions, adorable cuddles with said toddler etc…

I’ve been trying to find the energy and time to work on my own projects after chores and daily routine get done, but I am not having an easy time of it. I don’t know if it is the combination of more messes to clean from an older kid and more guidance at a more advanced age or that feeling you get where you just don’t want to bend over in the third trimester to pick things up (which is as necessary as breathing in motherhood) but it’s just not happening. Oh well. 

Wildflowers like these are all over our area and Eliot loves to talk about them!

Daniel and I celebrated our “ENGAGEMENT anniversary” in April and it was best to be at the place of our engagement on the day mark! Lots of opportunity for lovely reflections. Plus, the church is just beautiful.

This kid and his Gryffindor hat…never mind that it’s 80 degrees out. He insists!

I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing the beauty of a peacefully sleeping child.

Humanity has gone to the dogs

You can pretend all that you want that a dog or a cat is a child or a human, but basically biology tells us a different story. 
This is the sentiment that I have been feeling for years. This is a huge part of the death in our culture. Speaking emotionally, for a moment, this makes me angrier than many things do, because it affects so many facets of our society. It’s not pro-life by any means, it’s sickening, and it’s vain. Better people than I have written on the subject, and better people have made better arguments. But I just want to get out some of my own feelings on the subject… as a person who has been silent for years about this, apparently, huge debate. Consider this my disclaimer that I need to vent it out. 

We, as a culture, are racing at breakneck speed toward giving animals voices, rights in the courtroom, and even their own legal representation. To do such means that we actually consider that these animals HAVE a voice. I’m all for animal rights where cruelty is concerned. But personifying an animal, which is a still considered property, as something we need to consider the feelings of, as though it were a human child isn’t right. Giving animals the same rights as human beings in a world where human beings can’t even decide to give other human beings rights (consider the unborn child), is sick. How can a culture so easily dismiss the value and dignity of human life and idolize and elevate the life of a cat or dog?

Our world is full of people who become “fur baby” advocates but never once advocate for the life of an unborn child! And before it is said that both can be done, I must say that I disagree. I think a huge reason that we have such rampant disregard for human life and unborn babies is because we’ve blurred the lines so much about humanity due to this rising “fur baby” culture. 

Whenever I scroll a clothing website and come across t-shirts that say something like, “I like dogs better than people,” or “blessed fur baby mom,” I feel simultaneously disgusted and full of rage. These sentiments on the rise aren’t fake. People actually act and feel this way! 

The more advanced we become in the world…the more machines can do, the more we get away from nature, the less we know about humanity. We aren’t machines. Neither are we dogs. We don’t have cows in our backyard (most of us anyway) that we use for milk. We don’t slaughter a pig when we are hungry and want bacon. We don’t know the place of animals anymore and the average joe doesn’t have to collaborate with an animal, personally, to receive the bounty that most of us partake in. We can run to the store to pick up milk, meat, and eggs, never thinking of the origin of the product. We don’t have to respect animal life in the care-giving way that we were instructed to do at the very beginning. We don’t know that a dog is an animal we are meant to care for and collaborate with, we instead have put it on this pedestal we then worship. Don’t even get me started on cats… the practice of the ancient Egyptians has become much too real in our culture in this very day and age. 

Because of this break from nature (we don’t experience these animals, other than house pets, on the daily) we have become this body of people who don’t even know the different between man and animal. 

We are also full of empty nesters, divorcees, and control freaks in this culture who have no trust in God to care for their needs. The empty nester is so afraid of loneliness and living for a brief moment in the quiet of their spirit that they take matters into their own hands and fill their parenting hole with a “fur baby.” The divorcee hurts for a bond which was supposed to be shared in marriage and they, too, take matters into their own hands, forming a bond so idolatrous and unhealthy that it changes the nature of pet companionship. 

“Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth. Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity!” – Ecclesiastes 1:2

We choke our heart with weeds and vines of distraction and chaos from the real problems. We were told not to harden our hearts, but we do through this infatuation of fur babies. We don’t know the widows and orphans. We don’t see the unborn child. We don’t give dignity to the homeless and poor. We, instead, prize the stray dog, spend time out of day catching it and caring for it, advocating for it. We give it rights. We let it sleep in our home when we would never do so with a poor man on the street. We patiently wait while it is rehoused “in a loving home,” and we ignore the real needs of our world. 

Gross is the heart of this people. They will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them. Matthew 13:15

We have no trust in God’s goodness and mercy and kindness, so we ignore his offers and buy a puppy. Speaking as someone who desperately wants a snuggly pet right now, I feel qualified to say that shoving a puppy in that problem isn’t going to fix it or satisfy you. This is why we are waiting and discerning the right time to add some chaos to the mix of our family in the form of a pet, and not allowing my “need to nurture” or lack of patience (for this baby to get here) to dictate our moves. Sure, I’m impatient. Sure, there is an ache that wants to snuggle something cute and helpless and good. But that’s a right kind of ache. And I trust that it is what I need to feel right now, and not squash it out with a puppy. Maybe it will make those sleepless nights with a newborn easier to endure. Maybe I need to feel these little pangs so that I appreciate my own blessings more and stop searching for pleasure. This life isn’t about pleasure and what feels good. That’s vanity and meaningless. 

I think I’ve probably ranted it out enough for one night, but let me just end by saying, pets aren’t people. Animals aren’t humans. A reading of genesis might help us understand their roles and our roles better. And please, just hear this: a dog (or cat) is not a baby. If you want to take on a cause and do something good, join the pro life movement, work in service of protecting human life, and throw some freaking cat food out on the ground for the stray cats if you must. Stop buying doggie strollers and gourmet dog food served in crystal bowls and start feeding the hungry and caring for the poor.

Dear Daughter

My dear little daughter,You are not out in this crazy world yet, but you are known here in our family. We talk about you and to you daily, and we experience your mark on this world daily. Your father speaks in his deep bear voice every morning and you dance for him in what I can only imagine as excitement. I sing songs and laugh and you jump in a joyful way. But the most enthusiastic companion for you is your sensitive, happy, adoring brother who dotes on you multiple times every single day. You make his world a bright, cheerful place. 
It was for him that you first gave us all a taste of your feisty, joyful life within my womb. I spent hours, one hopeless evening, attempting to put your brother to bed through songs, bottles, rocking, cuddling, and silent begging. My tummy growled because you demanded extra calories and the hours it was taking to lay him down for sleep didn’t please either of us. I faced the ceiling with your brother sprawled across my growing belly in the dark and suddenly, you jabbed with all your might. I sucked in breath because it tickled and your brother raised his head, sleepily. He grinned and stretched the fingers of his right hand as far as they would expand and began stroking my belly. His gentle strokes tickled me terribly, and for a brief minute, you both were ganging up on me. You jabbed again, and your brother couldn’t contain laughter. From that moment, you two had a beautiful relationship of fun, silliness, and companionship. 

After that first time of feeling your life grow, I knew how much you were needed in this family. Your kicks remind me daily that our tiny world is changed for the better and the joy you bring even now brings us so much goodness into our lives. 

Everyday, I rock your brother to sleep for nap, and your growth has made it impossible to be alone with him in that chair. But he insists upon rocking, shoves a hand in my shirt and lovingly says, “bebe” or “luv da Bebe” or some kind of variation. He includes you even now and you bring him comfort. He giggles at your kicks, and sometimes, he shares his beloved “Softy Kitty” with you with a simple explanation, “itsa Softy!” You enjoy the lullabies that I sing for him just as much as he does and you wiggle excitedly. You two have an undeniable bond of siblings that no one could miss upon observation. I have no concern that you will fit into this family, because just as he did with the rocking chair, your big brother will make you fit and guide you along. 

You are the next little piece to our life and love’s puzzle, and you will never lack in belonging. Our family needs you, and needs exactly who you are even now. When your brother comes in and asks for you, you bring him comfort and he smiles and snuggles. When your father feels exhausted and hopeless, you bring joy and tenderness and so much hope as he waits to feel you move under my skin. When I sometimes feel lost, your little body lights my path back to the love of our family and the love packed into this vocation. Your whole existence is a mark of God’s love for me through all of his many gifts to me. 

I hope we can deserve you. I hope we can give you all that you have already given us. I hope you will always know how perfectly joyful you have made us and how glad we are to be your family. We can’t wait for you to get here, little one. 

A Chapter in the Life (ch. 25)

Good Reads

Smartphone Detox – Mama Needs Coffee – I really enjoyed reading this post. I’ve considered going off the smartphone grid for some time, but have never taken the plunge. I’ve gotten rid of apps, cut down social media, and tried not to use it a lot, but I do identify with her desire to go back to a flip phone. Ultimately, right now, I don’t feel ready to go for it, but who knows! I really love the reflections in this post though, and how she realized how unimportant (in the grand scheme of things) she was when she made her smartphone dumb. It was such a healthy outlook!

Making Icons with Kids – Carrots for Michaelmas – I don’t think I’ve linked to this but I loved this when I read it! I really need to figure out how to save all those links I love so that I can remember to share them. 

Sorting out which Differences Matter – Whole Parenting Family – An older post but still a good read! Man, I’m so behind. 

Life Right Now

We ventured to IKEA today for the first time and had a blast being a lame, old, boring family strolling up and down the rows. It was a lovely experience! Eliot was so well behaved (it could have been the dumdum I gave him from my purse, but you do what you have to do). Eliot is also preparing hardcore for the arrival of little missy in July! He dressed his babydoll, put her in the car seat and carried her out to the car this morning, and is emphatic about the loss of baby’s hat every time it happens to fall off. He very carefully hands me the hat with a “hhhhaaaa!” And gently pats the baby upon receiving a newly dressed babydoll. His newest idea is that the baby in mama’s tummy needs to be wiped too, so he brings a wet wipe and tenderly wipes the area around my belly button, with a cute little “awww wight” (alright) when he’s finished. I am so looking forward to life with two littles!

Baby is doing well according to my checkups and everything is excessively average! She had her head crammed into my hip when I had my last sono so we couldn’t get very many views of her face. But she’s ten times more agreeable in my womb than Eliot ever was and her kicks are such sweet little things as opposed to the manly jabs that Eliot was determined to accomplish! I really enjoy noting the differences between each child. Everybody is different!

Last night, I got to go to my first real girls night out sans the toddler! What made it real? There were more ladies than I could count, and there was wine, and it went into the late (11:00—haha, I’m so lame) hour of the night! It was justified in the group of moms at church because we stuffed over 2000 Easter eggs for the parish Easter egg hunt. So we all, a little tearfully, a little joyfully, left our babies in the hands of our capable hubbies, drove across town, stuffed our faces with pizza and Girl Scout cookies and those of us who could, indulged in wine. The rest of us commiserated about missing cocktails and sleep ideas for newborn phases. I had a blast! Plans were made, friendships developed, and I’m so excited to be a part of such a lovely group of ladies who exude grace and dignity and charity! I finally feel in the place where I can see God’s hand working and inviting me to be a part of it. 

Yesterday morning, Eliot and I went to our book play group and then I stopped by the craft store to pick up paint for my saint peg dolls. Teach me your ways, oh wise peg doll swappers! We totally laughed about how difficult the faces were to paint last night when one mom showed her handiwork and said, “Saint john Bosco isn’t supposed to have creepy eyebrows!” 

Eliot and I are turning into quite the social butterflies as next week we have two play dates scheduled! Our big one was a huge success. We had somewhere around 8 moms and 13 kiddos under four with lots of pancakes and love to go around. This part of motherhood is one of my favorite parts. The community!

We finished our book study last month for “Divine Mercy for Moms” and it’s really been making me think how great it would be to get more involved as a family in the corporal works of mercy. Do you have family ideas? I also finished reading Everyday Sacrament and swiftly passed it off to daniel for some light parenting reflections at work during down time. It truly was lovely. 

This is my messy arrangement of squares from the Queen Anne Crochet-a-long that I did with Jen in March and it has made a great size for a lap blanket! I’m working on sewing them together now. 

We are in desperate need of garden soil as these little basil plants just keep on growing! It’s true what they say…you really can’t screw up basil from seed. 

I got to celebrate Easter Vigil with my candidate in RCIA and it was truly awe inspiring to be at the Vigil again. I also got to eat a lot of cake afterwards so there’s that. #pregnant But it truly was beautiful and I’m so proud of the 62 people from St. Rita’s who received sacraments!! It was a privilege to be a part of the program. 

I guess that’s all for now. Life is good!

Reflections on the Sorrowful Mysteries and Marriage

Alternatively titled, “The Sorrowful Road of Marriage.”

Everyday during nap time, I try to spend some quiet time in prayer. Ever since the turn of the new year, I’ve been trying to put my energy and focus into my family where service and prayer are concerned, which has, oddly enough, been way easier said than done. It’s like the whole world turned against us when I made that decision, and whether it’s general business, major obligations, work snafus (can I type that on a blog?) or family disasters, time has evaporated and the job of both prayer AND vocational service seems almost impossible. Is it the devil? Maybe. Is it life? Certainly. But even when everything feels like a big failure (like right now), I’m still trying to keep prayer at the center of it all. It seems to be the only thing that actually helps maintain peace in this chaotic life.

I prefer to pray a rosary during naptime, because it’s manageable right now, allows me to spend some time prior to praying it to think about the needs of our life, and then allows me to let my mind raise up on the mysteries for meditation. I even bought a little seventy-five cent rosary ring at the store the other day so that I can sneak-use it while rocking the toddler! Today is Tuesday. The day we typically pray the Sorrowful mysteries (does that change during the Easter season? Catholic convert here, I’m not sure!) and it’s a major coincidence that Tuesdays happen to be the day in our family that seems the least holy… Little time, always a crisis, tons of “snapping” and zero patience. It’s like our family’s Monday or something… In any case, Tuesday will roll around, and I always find myself in that rocking chair with a way too big toddler in my arms, asking for patience in my marriage, holiness to increase within our family, and forgiveness to abound. I’m not even kidding. EVERY Tuesday… Maybe I should make it a theme: Tuesdays, the day of Marital Prayer. Well, as I was praying through the Sorrowful mysteries today, I realized that those mysteries, which are essentially the road to the cross, are exactly what marriage should look like in a Christian union.

1. The Agony in the Garden

The most memorable moment from this mystery has always been “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42) Most of marriage is hard work. And when you get married, you may know that you will need to endure hardship within it, but you may not understand it truly, until you are right before it. When I stand before a problem in my marital union, typically a battle of wills, and a feeling of despair, I don’t want to deal with it. I want to be anywhere but there. Even if I’m in another room, knowing I need to “fix it,” I want to escape. Even if it’s not my fault. Even if it’s not just for me to fix it, it’s still my responsibility. It’s still what I’ve been asked to do. Just as it was not fair for Jesus to be asked to drink the cup that he drank, my marriage will not always be fair, and that’s what I’ve been asked to partake in. A lack of fairness. A cup of sacrifice. Standing before the mirror and looking into eyes that show hurt, feeling alone, feeling like the sacrifice is too much to give, that’s my moment of agony on this road. That’s my spouse’s moment of agony on this road. That is our time in the garden when we beg that God take the task away from us. It is also the moment of clarity, and the time of acceptance. It is the moment when we join our sufferings to Christ and allow His grace to flow through our very limbs, willing us to march our body to the task at hand, and be the great sacrifice. It is the moment we say, “Thy will be done.”

2. The Scourging at the pillar

He was falsely accused. He was abused. He was insulted through the preference of Barabbas. He was beaten. “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) He endured a mortification of his senses. This was the beginning of His great sacrifice, and it hurt. Enduring the painful suffering for the purification of our souls. Being blameless… Nothing I could endure in my marriage could come close to that. But we are invited to meditate on this mystery, and join our own tiny mortification of the flesh to His. The part of this mystery that stands out to me in parallel would honestly be how ridiculous it was that Barabbas was chosen to be freed instead of Him. What were they thinking? What were WE thinking? “Let’s just free this horrible robber even though we know he should not be freed. We’ve all agreed on how rotten this person is, and how deserving he is to be in jail, and any other day of the week, we’d celebrate that the justice of his imprisonment has been accomplished! But today, we prefer him to this innocent, blameless, righteous man. We want Jesus to know how much we hate Him and how much we wish He were the dead one.” Isn’t that how marriage goes sometimes? Our rational brain disintegrates sometimes and we become animals who crave blood. We want to hurt the other one. We want them to know that our worst enemy is more trustworthy than our best friend. We want pain in the place of justice. We know just how to get it too–we may not drag our spouse before Pilot, but we know all the little tricks and triggers that inflict excruciating pain upon our spouse. We know the weak points, and we know the places where we can mortify our spouse. We become the judge and executioner within our marriage instead of choosing to extend mercy and freedom. This is the moment where we have the opportunity to take the punishment, the moment we have to extend kindness. This is the moment we are given to practice mercy, forgiveness, and understanding, and to stop beating our spouse into the emotional ground. We are given this moment to stop choosing anything else, and to choose our spouse over and over again—to practice our vows. “I do take you in sickness and health, in good times and bad, forever and ever. I will not cast you aside.”

3. The Crowning of Thorns

“And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.” (John 19:2-3) The mockery. The insult. The injury. How many times have I allowed the sarcasm out of my mouth. How many times have I mocked my spouse with my tone. How many times have I belittled, disrespected, and cut down my spouse with my words? I’ve been a viper at times. I’ve been toxic. I’ve been poisonous. Oh, the mockery. I’ve placed my own painful, disgusting, thorny, and brutal crown of words upon my husband’s head and forced him to wear it. This part of the road is the easiest for me to identify within MY marriage. Even as I try to escape this acknowledgement, I force him to wear it, by making a mockery of his pain. This realization affords us the opportunity to grow in humility, just as Christ endured humiliation so that we might gain mercy. Maybe this is the hardest one for me because I’m so prideful. Maybe this is the hardest one because I NEVER want to admit my faults, and I absolutely don’t want to take a heaping tablespoon of humility down the throat. Isn’t that why we hurt people with our words? Why we won’t say we are sorry? Because we have too much pride, and we throw our own sin upon another with our mockery. We are given many moments in our marriage to grow in humility, none more recognizable than the moment when we want to be sarcastic, disrespectful, and prideful. The thing about humility is…we don’t always want it. We know it’s a good thing, but it’s a difficult thing. And we don’t like difficult things. In this difficult moment, this is where our sanctification can start. We can experience the humility that Jesus experienced when his brow bled from the thorns we forced him to wear. In this moment, we can let go of our pride and be vulnerable instead, and we can stop inflicting pain. We can offer love instead. TRUE, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. This is the moment of our great, sacrificial, life giving love. 

  4. The Carrying of the Cross

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24) That’s the thing, isn’t it. No one promised us an easy marriage. And when we get married, sometimes our marriage can be our cross, because it is this difficult task that we’ve been called to, to love another with the kind of sacrificial love that Jesus has for us. Not that every moment is a battle. Not that every part of marriage is hard. But there’s a reason that completely non-spiritual people will even say, “marriage makes you grow up.” That’s a ridiculous way to say that marriage is not designed to just make us feel good and fill us up with happiness. We do get to experience those emotions within a marriage, but it isn’t the point or the end all. Marriage is designed to bring us to sanctification. It is designed to make us holy. To purify us of our greed, selfishness, and pride. Marriage is a way that Jesus gives us to “come after him,” and become one of his disciples! What a higher calling than just “I love that guy because he makes me happy.” Specifically, marriage can be a way that we can grow in patience, because sometimes, we endure trials within our marriage! Jesus also had to bear the trial of carrying the burden of the cross with patience. What a heavy cross it must have been, and he had to persevere in patience to get to the place of His death. He had to be patient to be able to sacrifice himself. So much of that resonates with me about marriage. Sometimes we have to be patient in the midst of an argument of injustice just to be able to put our own will aside, or our own needs aside.

5. The Crucifixion

So much could be said about this mystery and marriage. It’s just so fitting that marriage should look like the cross. Not even an empty cross, but a crucifix. We’ve seen how we need to accept our role and calling. We’ve seen how we need to extend forgiveness and choose our spouse. We’ve seen how we need to unconditionally love our spouse, and quit hurting them. We’ve seen how we need to be patient and commit to our marriage. And now, in this great passion, we see how we need to sacrifice. We need to sacrifice our wills, our needs, our desires, and our lives. The whole road leads to this. The whole of marriage comes down to sacrificial love. As a little realization on the side, it seems really fitting to me how many couples keep a crucifix over their bed, as a constant reminder that marriage is supposed to be just like that.

I’m so grateful to my husband that I can do this big, great, difficult, task with him, and that he bears with me with grace, mercy, and love, learning right alongside me.