Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Success and modern motherhood

I wrote the bulk of this post back in the winter, but I was never really ready to publish it - it sort of flew off my fingertips at the time, and I wanted to let it simmer, to make sure that I meant what it said, that I wasn't being rash or coming across as judgmental.

Today I feel ready: I've had one of those rare but lovely mornings where I've felt really, really good about how things are going.  I had the kitchen cleaned up and the floors cleaned by 10 AM.  I got through a long back-log of ironing and returned phone calls to the bank and vacuum repair shop while Anna played with her dollhouse.  We shared giggles and toddler conversations and had a picnic lunch outside (her idea) that ended up with both of us (and my 38-week pregnant belly) (definitely her idea) up in the tree house.

In between pondering whether the slide or the ladder was less risky for a woman in my state to get down from said tree house (I thought slide-induced labor would be a better story but eventually decided on the ladder), I had one of those "life is good" moments, and one that convinced me that I really believed what I had fired off into this draft so many months ago.

It wasn't just my blessings - sweet toddler, kicking babe inside, healthy and delicious lunch, gorgeous blue sky day in a beautiful back yard - that made me so happy.  I'm convinced that feeling as though I'm fulfilling my vocation and keeping up with my responsibilities made me recognize what a good life this is.  From self-discipline comes a paradoxical joy that we don't anticipate - having completed our work, struggled through chores, we find ourselves satisfied, happy, peaceful at having done what we should; not only does the subsiding of the inner turmoil at guilt or frustration at ourselves contribute to a happier home, but the completion of the work allows the smooth workings of a place where people can meet both their physical and emotional needs.

Someone asked me last night, "So, doesn't your husband want you to work?" implying that there could be no other reason for a college-educated woman to stay at home with young children.  It took me by surprise, and I don't know if I've been asked that point-blank before.  I gave some semblance of an answer about not wanting to work myself, but in retrospect, I realized that that's not entirely true.  There are days when I would love to get dressed up in a nice outfit and go to work - solve problems, think critically, discuss things with other professionals, make a spreadsheet or two (maybe that's just me).  But ultimately, I feel that what I do here is innately more valuable than anything I could do elsewhere - not just the mom part, but the whole homemaking bundle.  And it's not only worth doing, it's worth doing well.

The problem is, our society has started to sell us lies - lies that it's not worth doing in the first place - and that if we should even try, it's impossible, anyway.  Consider for a moment the quintessential 1950's housewife in her skirt and pearls, pictured competent and happy - a far cry from the frazzled mom in yoga pants we have accepted as our modern "standard."

I have complained, analyzed, and otherwise written about the practical and sometimes emotional challenges of being a stay-at-home-mom.  The reality is, it's a challenging job, but with God's grace, I don't think it's an impossible job.  One my most constant frustrations is my own sense of not meeting my expectations - sometimes because of my own inabilities to set expectations - but more often because I'm not living to my full potential.   There are days when Anna (or the effects of my pregnancy) are absolutely the reason that nothing gets done, but there are plenty others when they're an easy scapegoat for the things that fall prey to laziness or inattention or "just checking my email."

Whether by nature or nurture (or probably both), I've always been a high-achiever, and struggled from time to time in school and at work with people telling me I should just be content with "good enough" when I knew I was capable of better.  More often than not, however, in academia and workplace, our collective worldview supported my quest for success (maybe not my quest for perfection, but at least for success).  As a stay-at-home-mom, however, I feel as though the general perception is that no one can do it, so it's more popular to get a (figurative) pat on the head and a "now now, taking care of a toddler is difficult" attitude than a "let's think of some strategies to help you get this job done" type of approach.

It's confusing and - frankly, a little belittling - for women who have spent years being praised for doing well, awarded for hard work and success, challenged by teachers, bosses, and peers to constantly strive for improvement to suddenly be in an environment where mediocrity is more or less expected, and striving for, or even worse, achieving success is taboo.

I'm sure this attitude has grown partially from reality.  It's impossible to have everything under control at all times with small children who are prone to skip naps, get sick, and generally act as human tornadoes.  There will always be hard days.  There will always be days where it is physically impossible to keep up with the diaper changes and keep budding-godzilla off the kitchen table and simultaneously cook anything besides a frozen pizza.

But do we have to accept that because there are those days that there can't also be good days - or even that we can't make the best of those days (you know, make a bonus salad to accompany the pizza instead of waving a white flag and throwing a self pity-party while scrolling through Facebook)?

Maybe there's a sense that because there will always be someone somewhere struggling with a hard day, or a hard month, that it's somehow offensive to them to succeed.  Or because our societal standards have changed in terms of home-cooked meals that it will be a slap in the face to make one because someone else was too busy with a sick baby to do so.  Or maybe because so many have (by choice or necessity or because they never cared about it in the first place) lowered their standards for the status of their home cleanliness and organization because of other priorities, be they career, family, or some other obligation, it's unacceptable for anyone to have a clean or orderly home.  Goodness knows there's enough people getting riled up on the Internet over those moms who demonstrate any sort of success - especially in the birthday party arena - on Pinterest.

Even on days when it doesn't feel like it, I think most stay-at-home-moms will acknowledge their own feeling that they're doing the most important job in the world.  And I, for one, am ready to buck the system in terms of expectations.  I'm not going to feel ashamed for wanting - and (probably, only very occasionally actually) reaching - a point where laundry is reasonably under control, kids are happy, the house clean, dinner is made, etc; I'm not going to feel guilty for wanting to be a really good mom (and wife and homemaker).  Nobody blinked an eye when I said (verbally or non-verbally) "I want to be a really good consultant."  And we'd all find it  ridiculous if people with important and stressful careers like emergency room surgeons shrugged their shoulders and gave up over the sheer difficulty of the task.

I'm definitely not debating whether or not this is hard, this mom gig.  And I'm not proposing that it's feasible in all seasons of life, for all the moms, for all the time (welcome to newborn reality in T-minus 2 weeks, Emily).  But hard and impossible are not the same thing, and sometimes the hardest things are the ones most worth fighting to achieve, and the ones with the sweetest rewards.

Monday, September 15, 2014

We are all His

This post is a little heavier than my recent room-update, pregnancy-symptom chit-chat, but I feel compelled to share a little reflection of my thoughts today, as perhaps there's someone else who may need the same reminders as I.

You may remember that I wrote about my Grandpa back in April, and asked for prayers as he and my Grammy transitioned from life at home to an assisted living facility.  I guess I didn't tell the whole story back then, or share that the root reason for his health problems is cancer - a cancer he's fought longer and harder than anyone thought possible, but one that is now taking its toll.  When I talked to my mom this afternoon, I learned that he's experienced a pretty significant decline this week.  Thankfully, he's not in pain, but he's slowly slipping away, and we're all preparing ourselves that he might not have much time.

It's hard to see our loved ones sick, hard to see them beyond the abilities of modern medicine, hard to face the reality that none of us are guaranteed even one more minute on this Earth.

It hit me hard today to hear the news, in part because I've been blessed by a life where I've never lost someone close to me.  All four of my grandparents are still living.  I had a good relationship with one of my great-grandmothers (we would mail snippets of fabric from our recent sewing projects to share with one another) who died when I was in 8th grade, but even she was more removed than a grandparent who I saw at least once a week for most of my life.

It also hit me hard because of the timing of the circle of life.  His life is coming to a close as we prepare to welcome baby Julia.

And the whole thing, as I said, makes you think of your own mortality.  I am thankful for a healthy pregnancy and good doctors and facilities that make childbirth fairly safe these days, but I still can't help but be reminded that giving birth is among the more dangerous things I'll do this year.

It's hard to think of living without loved ones - those whose deaths we anticipate, and those whose loses are completely unexpected.  It's also hard to think of the lives of our loved ones if something were to happen to us.  I sometimes wonder if my sweet girl would know just how much I loved her if something were to happen to me.  Or I ponder how either Justin or I would make it alone, having built a life so mutually dependent on the other.

All of these thoughts were swirling through my head this evening, and an image came to mind - an image that brought me great comfort throughout my childhood.

My mom had a statue of a little child leaning into the palm of God's hand.  Whenever one of us was struggling with something in particular (like my long challenge with some serious anxiety as a child), she would bring it into our room and put it on our dresser to remind us that we weren't alone, that God was always holding us.

I've tried to remember throughout my parenting that Anna belongs to God, and that we are watching her and caring for her, but ultimately not nearly as much as he is watching, caring, and protecting her.  It's a good reminder at every stage of parenting - from the moment of conception until our children are old and gray themselves.  As much as we love them, God loves them more.  They will always be in the palm of His hand.  And us, too, in our frazzled, worried states, are held there just the same.

All of our loved ones, each and every one of us.  We might be frightened by the unbearable losses that we experience or anticipate, but our loved ones are held - in their life and in their death - just as we are.  God will not let us go, will not let them go.  We may feel alone, confused by His timing, unsure of His love, but He is there.  We are all His.

Fontanini 4" Girl Palm Of My Hand Figure

This is not the exact same statue that we had growing up, but it is the one that is currently on it's way to our house to sit on my nightstand, in hopes that I never forget that my girls (or I!) are so secure in the palm of God's hands. (source)

I'll be ready if she likes crafting...

So, assuming Julia's into crafting (she's my daughter, of course she will be!) then I'm ready for her to arrive.  Granted, not a single stitch of her clothing or Anna's clothing (or any of their bedding/towels/accessories/etc) is in a drawer - BUT my little haven of a sewing room/office is all set up (including these new fabric-covered cans to hold my art supplies).

It's not misplaced priorities, I swear ;)

I did manage to get a decent amount of organizing done on Friday (at least all of our clean laundry is put away, which comes with the dual benefit of not having to move multiple full laundry baskets to get to my closet and of no longer waking up to "Hey Em, do I have any gray socks?" at least for a few days).

Yesterday, I had one of "those" days that come with the 9-month of pregnancy - I think the most productive thing I did all day was take a shower, although my sweet husband did remind me several times that I was growing a human, which I suppose is rather productive.  It seems like Julia dropped further down in my belly, which means even more pressure on already very stressed ligaments/bones/veins/etc.  All of the pain / non-productivity of the day really fed the fire of the mind game that comes at the end of pregnancy....will labor start in 3 hours?  3 days?  3 weeks?  It literally could be any time from now to sometime in October, and that starts to get to you after a while, I think, especially if you're a planner!  Should I rush around and freeze some more meals?  Or can that wait until next week?  Will she be healthy?  How will the labor go?  Will we have to scramble when Justin's at work, or will it conveniently be after my mom has arrived to help?  So many questions when you're lying on the couch unable to even roll over for the pain.

Justin got up this morning and took Anna to 8 AM Mass so that I could sleep in, and going to Mass alone at 11 gave me the much needed push of the refresh button in terms of attitude and a sense of fortitude (not self-given, for sure!) to make it through both these last few weeks (days?  weeks?) of pregnancy and the crazy postpartum days.  Thankfully the pain is more manageable this afternoon, too, so I've been able to move about more freely.

We got a lot of things checked off the prepare-for-baby checklist, most importantly essentials like finding, cleaning, and installing the car seat.  We were additionally inspired to get things ready already when we heard the news this morning that some friends from Ithaca (due only 5 days before me) welcomed their son this morning (congratulations, Drew and Maria!)  Justin brought up the remainder of the baby storage bins, so at least everything we need is in Anna's room, even if it's not 100% organized yet.  I found my duffel bag to pack for the hospital and at least started thinking about what needs to go in it - getting sidetracked by a sewing project to add some length to the tunic I plan to wear home from the hospital (I put a ridiculous amount of analysis into determining the optimal coming-home outfit after my flounder as a 1st time mom wearing a still-too-tight and not-easy-to-nurse-in dress).  Again, priorities ;)

And, as I sewing/craft/office space is now completely organized and functional.  While this probably doesn't seem as exciting to anyone else, it really is helpful for me to have a space that allows me to easily do the things I need and love to do (pay bills and sew things, respectively).  After setting things up here, I realized how scattered my things were at home in Ithaca.  If I wanted to make and mail someone a gift, for example, I would go to Anna's closet (trying not to wake her up) for sewing supplies, back to our room to sew, back to her closet for markers or cards/stationery, downstairs to the den for the envelopes and postage meter, into the kitchen for my address book, and the living room for stamps.  It made sense to store each of the things where they were, but it resulted in a wild goose chase to get things done.  Oh, and I didn't have a set place to store or use my computer, let alone office supplies.  Now everything is in one room and I'm already noticing how efficient I can be, and therefore how much more of the things I enjoy (mailing cards/letters, sewing things, doing little projects with Anna) can be completed.  (At least theoretically!)

It's not quite Pinterest-worthy, especially since it's just a temporary space and I didn't do anything permanent to the walls (the dolphins came with the territory, and I don't want to put any nail holes up anywhere) but it really is an exciting and relaxing (and did I mention FUNCTIONAL!) space for me!

You can catch a glimpse of the finished tunic dress on the door - it is literally the only item of clothing that I have worn at both 0 months and 9 months pregnant, so it's clearly the optimal choice for immediately postpartum!  (Plus it's comfortable!  Plus it's easy for nursing!)

(Hopefully) I'll have some pictures to share (soon!) of the other upstairs rooms.  We're getting there :)  And if nothing else, Julia and I will just do a lot of sewing... ;)

P.S. Yes, I do have 3 sewing machines (two regular and a serger).  I use them all for different things (and can do so much easier now that the other two don't have to balance on the ledge of the footboard on our bed while in use!)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Game changers

Apparently I'm on a blogging kick recently...but no promises once the baby comes!!  :)

A few random thoughts from this evening:

I FINALLY got my hair cut (by a professional, although Anna did offer "Anna cut it." as I was on my way out the door).  I realized that the last time I remembered to have it cut was November...partly because it was a busy year and I guess I just didn't think about it, and partly because I was on my Downton Abbey kick and imagined that I would grow it out and have all of these beautiful up-dos.  But really, I just grew it out and had lots of half-hearted messy buns.

But no longer!

(Yes, huge belly is still there, just not pictured.  If you need a visual on the bump or the messy "before" hair, check out the last post).

So it's amazing how much better I feel to have a legitimate hair-do (and one I'll actually keep up with since it can now be blown dry in under 5 minutes).  Somebody remind me in 2 months to just go get it cut!  Every time I've gone through a let's-try-long-hair phase, I end up hating all of the pictures of that period in retrospect.  

Now I just need to find someone to paint the toenails I can no longer reach, and I'll be all pampered and pretty and ready to welcome Miss Julia.

The not pampered and pretty.  I didn't get nearly as much done this week as I hoped, BUT I'm cutting myself slack because I managed to catch a cold.  I joked/complained to my doctor at my appointment today that I was more of a wimp with an unmedicated cold than my unmedicated childbirth, and then she told me that I was actually allowed to take nasal decongestant spray.  !!!!  Between that and the haircut I feel like a totally new woman.  Maybe even one who's ready to conquer all the clean-up tomorrow.  Somehow, my love of folding laundry does not translate to a love of putting laundry away...we've got at least 4 basket of clean, folded laundry that needs to go into drawers.  And a whole bin of baby clothes, which have now at least made it from the basement to the first floor!  And every article of clothing Anna owns is strewn around her room because a) I haven't decided where I'm storing it yet and b) she has taken that as her cue to repeatedly change outfits all day long (with large stretches of toddler nudity for good measure).  Maybe by the end of the weekend I can give you some actual "after" photos of the space we're living, instead of just silly hair-cut afters :)

Let's see, other game changers...when I was looking through my photo files this evening, I realized what a difference it has made to have a good camera.  The pictures are so much better quality, and I end up having more because I feel that it's worth the time to take it out and take some shots since they turn out decently.  Here's a few recent favorites (enjoy, Mom!)  I also just ordered a "nifty fifty" lens, which has gotten rave reviews for taking newborn photos and pictures of kids in general.  Stay tuned.

Enough rambling for one day.  Goodnight!

Oh, except for those of you who aren't on Facebook didn't see this gem that I found while reviewing my August pictures:

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Big, Bigger, Biggest: Beds, Bumps, and Progress

Can anyone think of a synonym for "progress" that starts with B?  It would have made this post title that much more catchy.....

(Esoteric side note - Kathy, do you remember how long it took us to come up with "Rooms and Routes" for the cards in my wedding invitations to match "Reception" and "RSVP?")

Anyway, this weekend saw a lot of BIG things happening.  Primarily, we can thank Justin's mom and her excellent Anna care - Justin and I forgot how much we can accomplish when not simultaneously chasing a toddler!

The first big thing - Anna got a big girl bed!  We were planning to keep her in the crib for a while longer (using the pack & play bassinet for Julia at first) but then she started attempting to c-l-i-m-b out, and I was afraid of her falling.  Our hosts have a toddler bed, and we started talking up how exciting it would be to use that when we moved upstairs.  Then, Gigi (Justin's mom!) found an amazing deal on a toddler bed at a yard sale, and besides the great price, it also matches our crib for future sister room-sharing coordination, so we were pretty excited about that find!  Anna spent a lot of today saying "Gigi brought present!  Big dirl bed!  Anna big dirl bed!  Happy birfday Anna!"

I made her crib sheets (using this tutorial as a starting point and also putting elastic at the bottom of the flat sheet, as per my wise friend Deanne's recommendations).  I will note that Anna picked the fabric entirely on her own.  She was in the stroller at Jo-Anns and when I pulled up to the clearance fabric section she pointed at this one and said "Anna!  blankets!  Anna!"  I had told her we were going to buy sheets on that outing, but I had the pre-made department store type in mind.  I was pretty impressed at her shopping - she not only found fabric that matched her existing quilt perfectly, it was on sale for $4 a yard, and she was smart enough to tell me that homemade would be better :)  In true last-minute fashion, I was still adding the elastic while Justin gave her a bath, and she was already getting her pajamas on when I selected the scrap of fabric for the pillow case (anything for a photo shoot, you know!) and quickly sewed that together in time for her to run in and see the bed all made up.

She was more than a little bit excited.

She's now soundly asleep in her bed.  There were moments during the falling asleep process that made me consider starting Julia in a toddler bed so we never have to do the crib to bed transition (kidding!!) but overall it went pretty well.  Her whole nighttime routine has been pretty inconsistent with the move, so now that we're getting settled upstairs, I'm hopeful that it will be a relatively smooth transition.

On to other big things: let's talk about the belly.  I haven't posted a bump shot in a long time, and finally remembered to get Justin to take one tonight.

I mostly wanted to have a side-by-side comparison because I'm convinced I'm much smaller this time around, but it's hard to tell comparing a picture to me looking in the mirror.

The picture above (from tonight) is 36 weeks, 4 days.  Here's one from the last go-round, at 35 weeks, 0 days:

Maybe it's not visually obvious, but I do feel like the bump is smaller.  Objectively, it is at least a little smaller, as Anna always measured two or three weeks ahead at my appointments, and Julia has been right on.  According to the scale, I'm about the same weight, but I know from the way that certain items fit (or didn't fit in Anna's case) that I'm definitely smaller.  Maybe I have more muscle this time?  Or my brain got bigger?  ;)  Also - I still have my rings on!  I'm super excited about this fact, and hoping that I can keep the swelling down enough to leave them on until the end.  With Anna, I switched to a cheapo Target ring (you know, because of the potential scandal of having a big belly and no ring, haha) which fit my ring finger snugly during my last 6 ish weeks with her and later fit on my thumb after pregnancy.  I COMPLETELY forgot to type it in my last post, but the air conditioning here has been one of the most amazing perks for which I am most grateful, and probably why I'm not the blimp I was at this stage with Anna.

Anyone want to take some guesses on weight and date for the birth?  For comparison sake, Anna was due August 30, born September 3 and weighed 9 lbs 13 oz.  I'm due this time on October 1.  I'm obviously thinking (hoping?) Julia will be smaller - so much so that I went and bought some newborn-sized outfits yesterday.  (Anna came home from the hospital in one that was size 3 months; since we knew in advance she was going to be a big girl, we only had 1 newborn outfit that fit her for about 2 days).  Oh, and people have commented that I'm still carrying pretty high up - don't be fooled.  Without my (life-saving, incredible) belly band on, the belly sags much lower!  Feel free to enter your guesses for weight and date in the comments and enter to win the grand prize of bragging rights if you're the closest :)

Final big news around here:  progress!  I feel like I can now see the light at the end of the home set-up tunnel, and the thought of potentially early labor no longer makes me panic.  I feel like by the end of this week, I can be to the point where my main to-do item can be spending time with Anna and waiting for the big day :)

Things took a while because this happened:

I told you I was a crazy nesting lady.

Every time we saw the room that we're using as our master bedroom, our hosts would apologize profusely for the paint, and I would laugh and reassure them that it was the same color I picked for our old bedroom.  They said that they didn't mind the color (although it was a bit darker than they would have liked) but that the paint itself hadn't been done well by the previous owners.  I didn't really notice until we moved some of the furniture and then I realized that I agreed - the paint must have been the world's cheapest paint possible because everywhere someone had ever looked at it, it had a smudge (not really, but every where someone touched it wouldn't be an exaggeration).  So, off I went to Lowe's and set off on painting that room (a slightly lighter shade of the existing color), the two closets, and the attached bath.  And then, since I was on a roll, I also painted Anna's room - I went with the same color it already was, just a fresh coat to cover all of the natural consequences of walls that house 2 boys!  I finished painting yesterday, and also finished almost of the items on my ridiculous cleaning to-do list (let's blame nesting again....obviously a newborn is going to care if I've dusted each individual slat on all the blinds, right??)  So, yes, big progress!  I'll post some pictures of our rooms soon, once I do a day or two more worth of work to finally put Anna's clothes in drawers, remove some empty cardboard boxes, etc.

So, that's all, folks.  What's big in your lives this weekend?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

With gratitude

So after all the ice buckets, it seems like the next big thing on Facebook is to challenge friends to do a little "count your blessings" exercise, listing 3 things for which you're thankful everyday for 5 days.  When I was challenged, I felt a little awkward about posting it on Facebook, but it somehow feels different to do it here (you all knew this site was going to be very Emily-centric when you clicked on over, but you didn't necessarily bargain for that in your newsfeed).  I'm going to morph the rules a bit and write a gratitude post of 15 things, rather than 5 different Facebook updates.

Incidentally, I was having a rough morning when I decided that I should do this.  It was one of those days when I seemed to wake up with less energy than I went to sleep with, and I couldn't help but look down at my ticking time-bomb of a belly and wonder how in the world I'd ever get things settled before the baby makes her arrival.  (Side note, I was further progressed at my 36 week check-up yesterday than I was at 39 weeks with Anna.  This probably doesn't mean anything besides this isn't my first baby....but the knowledge that I'm already beginning to move towards delivery isn't exactly comforting when absolutely nothing is ready!)

Anyway, I thought about the challenge, and started to wonder if I would participate by listing my blessings.  This was before I decided to do a blog post, so it was mostly a thought experiment since I felt awkward about the whole Facebook thing.  I thought of a thing or two, and suddenly I had a flood of ideas.  And with the ideas, true gratitude and a brand-new wave of energy and enthusiasm.  It was such a cliche moment, but I started to realize that all of the things that were stressing me out were minor side effects to major blessings - blessings that many people would love to have.

We can all check the news and give a sort of superficial "oh, I'm so thankful for my nice life" but until you actually make yourself stop and think - but for the grace of God, there am I - it's hard to acknowledge that we COULD be the ones stranded on a mountain and being persecuted, or the ones dying of incurable diseases, or the ones struggling to decide between payments life-saving drugs or food for the family.

There are obviously so many more blessings in my life than could fit in a 15-point list.  Some of the things (ice cream, Emily, really?) are not nearly as important as others that I left out (not being persecuted, for one), but this isn't an exhaustive list, nor is the order particularly relevant.  But one thing's for sure - it's all things I'm very glad I have, and the big - and little - joys in life that, when I remember to keep them in perspective, really turn a bad day around.


That I have thus far been able to conceive, carry, and deliver healthy babies.  I know that the minor discomforts of pregnancy are nothing compared to the crosses of infertility and miscarriage, crosses that so many people have to carry.


As I strive to create a comfortable and loving home, I recognize all the more what an incredible blessing it was to grow up in a home that was exactly that.  Unlike so many of our peers, my siblings and I never had to wonder if my parents loved each other or us.  And my parents are still amazing and will do things like drive 5 hours each way to spend the entire weekend running a carpet cleaner and carrying things up 2 flights of stairs.


This incredible man deserves a bullet point all of his own, but I also couldn't help but reflect on the amazing blessing of marriage in general.  Justin and I will often note how thankful we are - both that we don't have to go to the trouble of searching for someone, but also to have the security of each other's love and the knowledge that, come what may, we will be have someone by our side to weather those storms.  After discovering Marie Miller's song "6'2" in quick take posts last week, I can't stop listening to it.  It touches me with a haunting remembrance of the time of longing and of uncertainty, of wondering if my wonderful prince charming would ever come along.  (Spoiler alert, he did).


Justin often jokes that I'm solar-powered, and I am definitely very affected by the presence (or lack thereof) of sunlight.  I'm thankful for the glorious windows in this house, including a 2-story wall of windows in the living room, and this beautiful patch of sun where Anna and I get to eat lunch and watch our birdie friends dine outside.

(bonus picture - Justin would sometimes take me to the growth chamber in his lab at Cornell, which was basically a big, wonderful box of sunlight intended primarily for growing plants but also very effective for wife mood improvement on grumpy winter days)


This is one of my favorite pictures, ever.

Sometimes I just stop and reflect on how many amazing people who have come into our lives over the years.  We have some incredible family and friends, spanning childhood, high school, college, career, Ithaca, etc.  I've had the moments where I stop and think - "wow, these people really want to spend time with ME?!"  


Sheen love story

It's hard to fathom the blessing that Jesus Christ is present - body, blood, soul, and divinity - to us in the Eucharist.  And, what a comfort to know that in every Catholic Church in the world, a little red candle burns, reminding us that there He waits in the Tabernacle.  Our new parish is right at the end of the road into our neighborhood, and so I pass it every time I drive anywhere, and I find just driving by Him to be a blessing.

(Photo from my incredible friend (see #5) Meg's site - go here to read her awesome reflections on the Eucharist, all of which have helped me to grow in my understanding and appreciation of this gift!)


Yesterday, both Anna and I had check-ups at the "dod-dors off-ice" and it reminded me how thankful I am that we have access to quality healthcare, and that we have been able to find pediatricians and OB-GYNs both here and in Ithaca that we really like.


It's been a joy to see Justin embark on a job that he loves and one where he absolutely excels.  (He'll tell you he's still just figuring out how this whole professor thing works, but I can tell that this is truly his vocation and that his gifts are perfectly aligned in this position.)  

Side note - he does not regularly drink champagne in the classroom, but this picture (from his PhD defense) is the only relevant picture I have.  Second side note / secondary benefit - I do not complain about how handsome he looks everyday all dressed up for work :)



My thoughts exactly, Anna.


(Of the thousands of hours I've logged, apparently this is the only photographic proof of me having ever used a computer)
It can be a distraction and a temptation to waste time, but more often than not I'm grateful for the Internet and all it does to keep me connected to family and friends - and even new friends.  Skype lessens the blow of Anna being hours away from her grandparents, and seeing even quick status updates from friends across the country makes it feel like they're not thousands of miles away.


Pictured here: my new Eucharistic devotion medal (#6) that I ordered from Etsy (#11) with the gift card that the lovely ladies  (#5) from our mom's group in Ithaca gave me as a going away present.

The ability to buy everything we need (and most of the things we want).  After a grocery trip, I'm amazed by the bounty of opening the refrigerator.  And with pregnancy + toddler + economically depressed town, I've become (more) dependent on online shopping - thank you, Amazon...and sorry, Mr. Postman.


It is so amazing to watch Anna learn and develop.  In the last month, her verbal abilities have just exploded, and having a window into her little brain has been so much fun.  She was SO excited about her second birthday this week, and it was fun to be able to celebrate with her and know that she understood what was happening (I still hear her wishing herself "Happy Birfday, Anna!" from her crib as she falls asleep at night).  Hearing her count to ten for the first time was an incredible moment.  I'm thankful both for her development, and for having a front-row seat to watch it all.


We might not have everything set-up yet, but we've already reaped a lot of benefits from the house where we're staying for this year (like this beautiful view from the front porch).  I feel like I'm living in the lap of luxury with a garage, a garbage disposal, and a master bathroom.  We might be spoiled after this year!


I have to admit that I'm easily annoyed (at least internally) by people who are (by choice rather than health) extremely picky eaters.  I'm thankful that - first of all - none of us have any food allergies, but also that Justin (and, for the most part, Anna) is an adventurous eater who honestly enjoys everything, including fish, vegetables, beans, meat, salad, etc.  It makes certainly makes cooking healthy meals a lot easier (and more fun).

(Back story about that photo - it was from the first time I made dinner (granted, it was just frozen chicken fillets and steamed broccoli with some reheated potato casserole that someone had generously brought to us) after Anna was born, and I absolutely felt on top of the world).


My creative hobbies - from sewing to home renovation - bring me a lot of enjoyment, have saved us money on things like curtains and decor (savings probably negated by my extensive stash of unfinished projects), and have resulted in a lot of neat finished products for ourselves and for gifts.  I'm grateful that my mom passed along the interest and the know-how of working with my hands.

Bonus gratitude: my awesome mother-in-law is currently visiting, so Anna will have grandma time tomorrow morning while exhausted mama and daddy sleep in and I don't have to feel guilty about how long this post took me to write and how late I (accidentally) just stayed up!


I guess part of this thing is that I'm also supposed to nominate some people to count their blessings.  It honestly was a really worthwhile use of my time and gave me a much needed "attitude adjustment."  So - I encourage everyone to take some time and do it.  Any one else want to write a post?  My blog-friends in similarly crazy stages in life (when - I know - it's easier to lose track of this big picture)?  Mandy?  Ellen?  Rosie?  Rachel?

P.S. Thanks, Maria, for the challenge :)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

For the hard days...

I'm still chugging away here, trying to get things set-up, adjusting to Justin being gone for nearly 12 hours a day (plus working from home in the evenings).  I've had some other hard days, some other really good days, and I'm really looking forward to having my parents here to help us this weekend.

I wanted to share a few book quotes (part of my new "On My Bookshelf" tab).  I came to a certain point where I realized that I spend a lot of time reading books about management and sociology for my Bucknell degree, but no one was requiring me to read anything before embarking on this journey as a wife, mother, and homemaker.  I've since sought to read a lot on those subjects, wanting to absorb as much information as I can to help myself on the quest to be the best I can be.  I've come across a lot of great insights, and I want to share them and create a sort of catalog of resources in case anyone else is interested....(or just so I can remember the name of a book when I want to check it out again ;) )

If you're a frequent reader in the Catholic mom-blog sphere, you know that Jennifer and Hallie hosted the wildly successful Edel Gathering (conference for Catholic moms) last month.  I listened to the talks (available here) and read a lot of the recaps, which mentioned the idea of "building cathedrals" that was central to Jennifer's talk.  I was intrigued, and looked for the book that tells the story at our local library:

"The Invisible Woman: When Only God Sees"  by Nicole Johnson

This is a short, quick read, but it contains a lot of wisdom and great reminders.  It is told as a story of a mother who feels invisible and unappreciated by her family.  A friend gifts her with a book about the building of the great cathedrals of Europe, structures that spanned the lifespan of multiple workers who never saw their project to completion.  And so, by comparison, the job of a mother:

"It was almost as if I heard God say [...] 'No act of kindness, no peanut butter sandwich made, no shoe selection is too small for me to notice and smile over. I see your tears of disappointment when you feel overlooked or when things don't go the way you want them to.  But you are building a great cathedral and you cannot possibly see right now what it will ultimately become.  It will not be finished in your lifetime, and you will never be able to live there, but if you build it well, I will.'" (p 50)

I write a lot about the trappings of home - the physical environment that I hope to create, but ultimately all of this is because I'm trying to great something far greater for our family.  I want them, first and foremost, to know love.  To feel comfortable and secure despite this crazy world.  To experience peace, joy, and laughter.

In college, my favorite quote was: "The secret to success is being like a duck - calm and serene on top, but paddling furiously on top."  I suppose that applies a bit to life nowadays, too.  I want to create a home where the calm and serene are visible, and the necessary work that creates it falls behind the scenes.  I write a lot here about the paddling - intended as encouragement for myself and my mom friends - but ultimately it's not the higher purpose.

Johnson's book sums it up well: "Next Thanksgiving I don't want my son to tell his friends, 'My mom gets up at four in the morning and bakes pies and hand-bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.'  I don't want his attention to be called to the things that I do. [...]  I just want him to want to bring his friends home often, and maybe to say something like, 'You're gonna love it at my house.  It's a great place to be.'" (p 86).

If you're a mom out there (feeling appreciated or not), check out the book for a quick shot in the arm.  You know we all need it on those hard days.

And P.S., Mom, you got it.  All our friends know that your house is a great place to be.