Wednesday, December 30, 2015

*The* Word for 2016

I think it was a few years back I started hearing about peoples' "words" for the new year. Some folks would unveil their word on Facebook using that quiz-style thing that takes in your name and Magically! spits out your word for the new year. Others would be a little more thoughtful (one can only guess) and just share their word without the graphics and the invitation to "Find Your Own Word for 2016!"

Then (as now) the thought of a guiding word intrigued me. What would it be like to have a word that guided my thoughts and decisions for a whole year? Where would I be in 365 days? What would be different?

It seemed like a *very important thing to do* and so I didn't want to leave this word to chance. I wanted to think. Pray. Meditate. Spend due diligence in figuring this word out. And so, of course, I forgot to do it and thus a couple years have gone by without me participating.

But not this year! This year will be different because after seeing this picture on Instagram:

Simplicity. That's my word for 2016. Yours? #dishesatthelodge #pitcherfromchildhood #wholeparentinglodge

A photo posted by Nell 💙 (@whole_parenting) on

I decided I needed to find my word.

It actually didn't take very long, even thought I didn't really know how to go about it. It was after reading this article on making resolutions using the word as a theme, and another article (that I can't find right now. Drat) that was about making resolutions based on how you want to *feel* in the next year (rather than specific *things* you want to accomplish), that I sat down and came up with a few words. And from that list, only one really jumped out at me: LEARN.
There's quite a few things I would like to learn - about blogging, tutoring, parenting, etc... - but there's also the attitude that I want to take in this next year. Is there something ahead of me that I don't know how to do? Well, rather than ignore or avoid it, squarely look at it and decide to LEARN. I feel this encompasses both actual goals I have and the "softer" attitude/mindset that I want to adopt.  As a former pastor once said, "Do you want to be the same person next year that you are today?" It's only living things that grow and change - therefore, I want to live... and learn! (No dead quitty fishes here.)

So what's your word for 2016?

Friday, December 25, 2015

The 7 Best Gifts I Gave Myself in 2015

This afternoon, I was reading Christie's latest post on Liturgical Living. It's a beautiful little vignette of their last days of Advent - but it was this last line at the end that got me thinking:
And for those who are interested, my Christmas Eve dinner menu:
Chinese takeout
That must have been a lovely gift to herself! (We all know what Christmas eve can be like, even without the dinner prep. Amirite?) So that made me start to think - what were the best gifts that I gave myself this year? Gifts that refueled me, or freed me, or just otherwise were a true grace received so that I could give grace to others? In the spirit of 7QT, I offer you these - with the wish that you receive some of these yourself next year!

A Professional Housecleaning. I've never had this done before - and truth be told, it wasn't a full housecleaning (we couldn't afford that!) - but that didn't seem to faze the cleaners. They just walked in and got right to work. Two hours later, I returned to a home that smelled of PineSol... and to this mama who hadn't been able to mop the floors since the little dude was born, it was the most lovely thing!

Ah... that *all* nap times were this peaceful...
Nap time. One might say "Why didn't you mop when the children were sleeping?" Well, I have a couple answers to this: #1 - Little dude. #2 - the Spitfire. Neither of my children will sleep through me running the vacuum or bumping things around with a mop in the kitchen. In a house less than 1000 sq ft, I don't exactly blame them. So once the children were down, if I was tired, I took a nap. Or, if I had too many things to do and needed the nap time to get them done, then I at least gave myself a 20-minute meditation break using this app. I was often surprised at how rejuvenated I felt after these 20 minutes!


Books. Since making a commitment to own less "stuff" I've been doing my best to make the library my first stop book shop. And I've actually found some great titles there that I wouldn't have found otherwise. Of course, ebooks don't take up any space on my bookshelf! And this year I splurged on a few. There's a couple I have yet to read (my reading goals and accomplishment thereof was similar to Haley's and Kelly's). But the thought that I have these lovely reads waiting for me in 2016 makes them the gift that keeps on giving.


Hot cocoa. This was my go-to after the littles were down for the night (or at least the next 2-3 hours). Sometimes a little adult mix-in was added (my favorites: Frangelico or peppermint schnapps) and sometimes it was just taken as is. But the warm cup and the cuddle on the couch were always the comfort that I needed after a long day of work.

This Thing. I may have mentioned that our house is small... yes? I did? Did I mention also how the little dude is still sleeping in our office because he can't be moved in with his sister due to his waking every 3-4 hours at night? Oh, well. Yeah... I had figured that by the time he was 5 or 6 months old he would be able to be moved in with his sister; but here he is, nearly a year old and still calling our office his bedroom.  Which, really, is for the best. But it does get a little frustrating for this aspiring blogger when she can't use the office computer because it's... well... in the office and the baby is sleeping. But with this lovely wireless keyboard, I can use our tablet and the Blogger app, and get to work! I can't emphasize how important it has been to me this year to use my mind muscles in non-mom ways. It's keeping me real and keeping me sane. (And keeping me really sane. Ha!) :)


Kid free time. This also has helped keep me sane. Whether it was with the hubby or not, anytime that I gave myself to be free of the littles was soooo welcome. And savored. I kinda don't think I gave myself enough of it this year. So, add this one to my list of resolutions for 2016.

Winner winner, taco dinner.
This Guy. For all I have written above about how tired, brain dead, or just scattered I have been because of being a mom to two littles - it still does not compare to the absolute JOY I have found in helping bring this little dude Earth-side this year. Whether it's the quiet moments, or the laugh-filled "wrestling", or watching him play with his sister... it is has been an incredibly grace filled year with him in it. Love. Love. Love.

What were some of your best gifts to yourself this year? Thanks to Kelly for offering this Link Up on Christmas day (of all days)!

Merry Christmas to you! And may you know the best gift of all - Jesus Christ - positively and personally.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Little Dude's Birth Story

The dude abides
I'm sitting at my mother's computer. The little dude went to sleep an hour ago and the husband just finished reading stories to the Spitfire. I can hear my niece watching Cars on our tablet and the dishwasher whirring in the background. My teacup is empty and I finished reading another blogger's latest post about her birth story, when I realize: my little dude is almost 11 months old and I've not written down his birth story yet! (Not surprising, as I also forgot to take his 9 month and 10 month old pictures with those cute little stickers I bought off of Etsy...)

Clearly, I'm not winning any blogging mom awards over here tonight. ;)

So, 11 months down the line, what do I remember? Let's see...

Little John was due February 6th - a date that I was happy for him to have as his birthday... a date that I was fully expecting him to have as his birthday. So much so, that at his baby shower - the weekend before he was born - I was still half-joking/half-fretting about how much I still needed to do to prepare for his arrival. (Like wash his clothes, make his bed, put his clothes somewhere, pack the bag for the birth center, buy personal supplies for myself, etc...) I was fully aware that second children often come earlier and faster than firstborns - but since our first was born exactly 2 weeks past her due date - I figured him coming "earlier" just meant that he would be on-time. Ho ho. Hee hee. I was counting on this a little too much.

So two days before he was born, when I started to have the mucous-y signs that labor was coming, I completely panicked. I called one of my friends in tears and sobbed about how I didn't even have diapers for the baby and could she take care of little girl while I went to Target and do a load of laundry? She graciously agreed and I threw the Spitfire in the back of the car and drove straight to my friend's house pronto. I dropped her off and then spent a mad half-hour (or so) buying all the disposable products that I could buy: nursing pads, newborn diapers, um... other pads *ahem*, Q-tips, kleenex... I joked later that I had something for pretty much any hole that I could possibly leak out of.

And if that's not TMI for you - then you *must* be a birth story junkie. (Welcome!! It gets worse better!)

Thankfully, the contractions I felt that day remained in the realm of Braxton-Hicks and never progressed. I was able to get little dude's clothes washed, folded and put away (if a Rubbermaid tub in our bedroom counts as "put away") and our bag got packed. God and little dude mercifully were giving me a big fat kick in the pants to get things ready, I guess. Because the next day, things started to change.

The morning started off normal but I was feeling like things could change as the day went on, so I put my husband and sister on stand-by - telling them to go to work, but to keep their phones close. That they did and the wee girl and I got on with our day too. After breakfast, I decided to take her to the park - a normal activity - but as we walked there I started to feel some pressure. We were only at the park for 15 minutes or so when I called it quits and loaded her back into the stroller to bring her home. Once there, I called the hubs and asked if he could come home early, and blessedly, he said he could. Contractions were about 7-10 minutes apart, and all I could think was, "Great. This is exactly like the little girl's labor." I gave my doula a call as well and she said she would come and visit after dinner. She and I went for a walk in the evening and the contractions stayed constant - and we both agreed that this labor was shaping up to be a lot like my first one. This was not exactly what I wanted to hear - as my labor with her was almost 2 days long - but if that's what it was going to be, then at least I knew what I could do that night: have a glass of wine and a long shower! And now this is where my memory fails me... I don't think I did either. But at 3 in the morning I did email the high school students that I was tutoring, to cancel my sessions with them and send their monthly bill! I felt proud of myself to tie up those loose ends. :)

The next morning, I was mentally preparing myself for a long day because if it was going to go down anything like the first time, then I was still going to have nearly 20 more hours of labor ahead of me. But my doula had a different plan: she made the observation that the last time we had tried all sorts of things to make labor progress and it didn't really seem to do much. She even thought that it may have irritated things and interfered with my body's processes. So this time around she recommended that I rest as much as possible. We both thought that resting may not work so well with a toddler running around, so I asked my husband if he could stay home from work again and he agreed. I then plonked myself down on the couch and let the contractions continue to wash over me as they had all night long. But somewhere around 10 or 11 I noticed they were coming faster and that, to cope, I was using my heel to dig out the cushion of the sofa. I texted the change to my doula. And then I began to fixate on my daughter's nap time: once she goes down for a nap, I'll get to work I kept thinking. My doula said she would come over then too.

Before she arrived though, I needed to move myself to the back room. I didn't feel I could hold it together in the front room anymore and I wanted to seclude myself. I started making some "working noises" and felt like the only place where I could work and feel comfortable was practically hiding behind the bed. Writing these things down now, I see that I really should have put it together that things were *not* going the way they did the first time around, but my mind was just totally stuck on the thought that they were.

When my doula arrived, I was starting to lose the ability to stay on top of my contractions. I'd have a few that I could work through, and then one would come that would just knock me off my "pedestal" (if you will). She suggested I move to the bathroom and it took a lot of mental energy to get myself there. I was now making a lot of "working noises" and if my daughter wasn't already awake, then I'm sure I woke her up from her nap. Either way, once she was up, I knew I couldn't stay. I just couldn't work with her in the house. I had to get away. So I asked my husband to get my sister to come and watch the wee girl, so we could head to the birth center.

Unbeknownst to us, my doula was beginning to think that we wouldn't make it to the birth center, but she wisely let us keep on our path...

My sister was at Costco when she received the call from my husband. And in his typical, uber-considerate fashion, he told her to just come as soon as she was done... but thankfully she heard something in my doula's voice in the background that made her drop all her shopping and high-tail it to our house. Thank goodness for womanly intuition!

I was now working completely on holding it together, so we could get to the birth center. Somehow in the midst of contractions that were totally rocking me, I managed to give a kiss to my daughter and go get in the car. The whole way there I was praying that I would be far enough along to be admitted, because I was still thinking things were going like "last time". Hee hee. Ho ho. When we got to the birth center and the midwife checked me I was 9 cm. Fully dilated.  We all cheered! And then I doubled-over with another contraction.

One might think that at this point, things should have gone pretty quickly. And I guess they did... but it was still another 3 hours before John was born. In that time everyone was so wonderful and doing their best to make me comfortable, but I was not to be comforted. I was hot - they turned on a fan - I snapped at them to turn it off. I needed to hang on my husband, I needed him to absolutely not touch me. I needed to stand. I needed to sit. I needed to be on all fours. I needed to lie down. And then... in one fell swoop, as I was lying on my side, the whopper of all contractions smashed into me and I vomited and contracted with such force that my water broke... and shot all the way across the room, hitting the wall opposite the bed. This may be a sick wish, but I really do wish we could have videotaped the birth, just so I could have seen what that looked like! My midwife was totally awesome and just commented, "The water is clear - just what we want to see." What. A. Boss.

After that I tried using the birthing stool - which was Great. I FINALLY felt like I was doing something good! But the midwife didn't want me to give birth there, so with great reluctance and many tears, I moved to the bed. But true to her word, not ten minutes later, John was born into the world at 7:37 pm with much shouts and rejoicing!

Holding him, all I could say was, "I love you John. Mommy loves you!" over and over again. And I did! (And I do) The aftermath of his birth was much quieter than his sister's - which was a nice counterpoint to the excitement just prior to his arrival. We were the only couple in the center that night, so there was no rushing about, or nurses coming in and out of our room. They just quietly cleaned me up while I held my little boy. At 7 lbs 8 oz, he was actually smaller than his sister - which surprised me, given the pain I felt on his exit! But in an odd twist, even though the pain I felt was considerably more intense than what I felt with his sister, I didn't tear nearly as much. Also, because he came quicker than his sister, I was able to order dinner! Veggie korma with rice and naan... so much yum. I ate. I napped. And sometime after midnight we were discharged and sent home. Our little girl went to bed an only child, and woke up a big sister!

We've been in love ever since.

Monday, December 14, 2015

All the Pretty Lights - St Lucy's day - December 13

Happy (belated) Santa Lucia day!
I was introduced to Sankta Lucia (Swedish for Saint Lucy) when I went to college. Our college is descended from Swedish Lutheran missionaries to the United States, so some Swedish customs still have a strong hold on the denomination.  Celebrating St Lucy's day is one of them - and while I was there, I absolutely loved the whole spectacle. Each year the choir would participate in the Santa Lucia festival with the girls dressed in white gowns (with tinsel - the red sash and wreath is only for Santa Lucia) and the men processing in holding stars from a pole. The whole concert would be done by candlelight and most years there was snow outside the chapel where it was held, so it was all very lovely.
Don't get your tinsel in a tangle (1998)
So because of these prior experiences, Santa Lucia's feast day was one that I really wanted to celebrate this year. However, I was feeling quite bummed that I wasn't going to able to make it work (at least not in traditional Scandinavian fashion) since the hubby was going to be out of town for the whole first half of December. (Translation: I wouldn't have his help corralling the littles while I went nuts trying to find a white nightgown with a red sash and candlelit wreath to wear on my head, while baking Lucia buns and making coffee that no one in my house will eat or drink).  But in yet another serendipitous coincidence, I unwittingly scheduled our annual "Cookies, Cocoa and Christmas lights" party on St Lucy's feast day. And once I realized that I had done that I had a mini-revelation: our annual party is celebrated quite similarly to the Scandinavian one! We have our baked goods... our hot drinks... and then we enjoy beautiful Christmas lights in the dark of night.  We just happen to have our party at night instead of in the morning. Nevertheless, I think the Swedish Lucy would still approve. At least, I hope so, because this is how we'll celebrate her day from now on. (But maybe I'll still have a Lucia bun and coffee for myself... because that's what *I* like to do!) God Jul, everyone!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What I Would Share on FB if I was on FB

Happy 2nd Week of Advent!

To... whoever you are who may be reading this. :)

I signed off of Facebook this Advent in the hopes of spiritually preparing myself for Christmas, but unfortunately, and all too predictably, I'm only finding out how much I *loved* to surf the Facebooks in my down moments. Today has been particularly hard, hence why I'm writing this blog post. ;)

So what have I been doing/reading since I'm not on FB? Well, let me play a little show and tell...


Expecting During Advent: The Tender and Terrifying Truth

This post by Laura is lovely. It closes with some words by Madeleine L'Engle that I found particularly challenging: "Yet Love still takes the risk of birth." Such a good meditation on the darker side of Advent.


I Don't Care How You Advent

Bonnie's post was the first I saw that touched on the theme of "You Don't Have To Do It All" and I liked how she said it. But apparently it didn't sink in because I still needed to read


Baby Steps to Living Liturgically

Kelly's post. It was almost like she stepped into my head:
"Okay, you’re married, have a young family and after stumbling across some Catholic mommy blogs you want to celebrate the liturgical year like Kool and the Gang. You’ve bought some Tomie dePaola books, downloaded coloring pages, and attempted a new recipe but thus far your efforts only lead to tears of frustration and feelings of being the worst Catholic in the world..."
So where we differ here is that I haven't bought any Tomie dePaola books. I've bought this one though.  And this one. And this one. But not any of Tomie's... yet. So the paragraph above doesn't describe me at all. Except that it does. So that's why I read it two times over and encourage you to do the same.


Finally: The Story of Jake the Dog

This lady cracks me up. NFP dog!! HA!!


How a Conservative-Led Australia Ended Mass Killings

One of these links is not like the others... Seriously, though. We gotta do something about this.


If I Believe in Water But Will Not Drink...

I think what I liked about this one was that I was 1) surprised by who wrote it (it just didn't sound like her at all) and 2) I was challenged (again) to make use of the sacraments. Confession: I need to go to Confession. I don't know how to make it work with my two littles, but if I can wrangle them to Mass by myself then I can (and should) find a way.



Well, I have to get my social media fix somehow! (sigh.) ;)

Thanks to Kelly for hosting SQT yet again and letting me tag my little blog along too...