Friday, February 26, 2016

7 Hopes that I Had for Family Life While in College

In my research for writing the second installment of the story of my relationship with M, I have been reading my old prayer journals. First of all, why was everything so dramatic in college? Second, of all it has been fascinating seeing who I was then and seeing how I have changed, and how I still need to improve.
One of the things I came across was how I imagined family life would be. M and I had a lot of serious discussion during our time in Austria, and this was a topic that came up as we wondered if and when we should date again. It is kind of fun to see how I hoped life would be. Here are a few of the hopes that came true.

1. "Husband in charge of kids so that she can work on her book or read a novel"
Now I have not written a book, but I am doing a lot more writing than I once did in my married life. I do feel that writing has been a kind of fulfillment for me these last few years that I had forgotten about when we first had children. Usually it happens not while M is watching the kids, but during our daily quiet times or after the kids are in bed. And I am finding plenty of time for reading novels and other things.

2. "Group of women to spend time with"Developing friendships always takes time, but it is worth the effort. Everytime I get together with lady friends or have a good conversation online, I am reminded of how important it is for women to support and have each other in their lives. It is especially helpful with family life to have the support of other women.

3. "Family meal time is sacred"
When the professor works at home, we sometimes have all three meals together. In fact, he would forget to eat lunch sometimes if it were not for the family eating lunch with him (#philosopherproblems). Family mealtime has become crucial to our spiritual life and cultural life as well, since it is at these times we pray together, read Scripture together, or at lunch read fairy tales together.

4. "I do not want stacks"-This means "no clutter."
We are not always the best at this, especially on select spots on the counter, the dining room table which doubles as the pre-K craft table, but we have become pretty good at having a spot for everything, and eliminating the offending stacks fairly often. We also purge the house a couple of times a year of things we do not need.
5."Children should be everywhere"--but God is in charge
I had a strong desire for a large family in college, but also realized that when it comes to having children, we only have so much control. Bringing new people into the world/adding to the perfection of the universe is not something to be taken lightly. And I am so thankful I have been blessed with these four amazing human beings. Sometimes I look at them all together and it blows my mind that I bore them all in my womb, gave birth to them, and tended to their basic needs day in and day out. How did I get to four children already?

6. Home cooked meals
I love home cooked meals, and I love cooking home cooked meals. But I also love the ease of ordering out when I need to, or just would like a break. Food is yummy!
7. Close tight-knit family
This is something I had growing up in my own home. So far the kids are all really close, and I figure if we do what we can to promote a close family, it will probably happen.

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum on Seven Quick Takes Friday!

Monday, February 22, 2016

In which I get to go to the ER again

I have considered myself exempt from commenting on the things that have been blowing up the part of the internet I happen to peruse lately. Like the Pope (again) for example. I pray for the pope, a lot. And I pray for the Church, and I just plug along in my domestic church and local Catholic community. Some days it is just enough to do that. Some days we just have to be a part of the Church no matter what everyone else says about us. And some days we are just trying to get by at home.

You see last week I had a big fall.

Down these.
Not like this.
My fall was a little quicker, and less enjoyable, and I am not nearly as cute as F at age one. Though it began on the same step. And my PSA about the whole thing is to not have a stack of thin, slippery books books on the first step down. It is a bad idea. It leaves room for all sorts of accidents to happen, including ones that end in a trip to the ER.

But as in all bad things that happen to me, I have tried to look on the bright side.

Here is what did happen. I was holding a heavy bag of groceries close to my body, and was taking them downstairs to store for later. I stepped onto the stack of books (of which I had no idea of it being there) and my foot slipped forward out from under me. My elbow flailed out to stop the fall, was scrapped and bruised, and was useless. I held onto the groceries for dear life, apparently, and counted each time my head hit the steps, one, two, three, four, five, following the thump of my tailbone.

When I finally made it to the bottom I lay on my side in a sobbing mess. Everything hurt. But I thank God that M was home. What would the children have done had this happened without him home? He came running down, and I never went unconscious. I stayed in place and iced my head until I stopped feeling shocked by the whole incident.

Once I was on my feet, I took into account any symptoms of a concussion, and sure enough, I was having dizziness and nausea. I carefully went back upstairs. As my symptoms did not improve, we decided to go to the ER just to be on the safe side. We found some friends available to watch the kids, dropped them off and head over with the baby to the same hospital he was born in.

After checking in, we sat in the same waiting room seats we had used before. T was happy to tag along, and I was happy that my symptoms were not getting worse. At the ER they Xrayed my bruised bones and CT scanned my head. After 45 minutes of waiting for results, we were given the OK to go home. Just bruises, nothing broken. Our wonderful friends fed us and the children dinner and I have been trying to take it easy since then.

L had a concussion a few years ago, and her symptoms persisted for about 10 days, so it does not surprise me that I am still feeling a bit off. I am still sore everywhere I hit the steps. But I have lots of people to offer my sufferings for in prayer, and it is Lent after all.

On top of this all, I just want to say how great M has been in all of this. He has been helping a lot with the kids, coming home earlier than he planned from work (I love the flexible academic schedule). And he was so so anxious for me and my well being when it all happened. There is nothing to make you love your spouse more like the thought of losing each other.

And we have another reason to be thankful for the great basement flood of 2013. For if that had not happened, there is a possibility that I may have fallen down noncarpeted stairs, which would have been much, much worse.

In your charity, please pray for my complete recovery. I hope to have my next relationship post soon since I have finished my research of reading all my old prayer journals up to the end of our semester in Austria. SO stay tuned!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Story of Our Relationship, Part One: Chipping that Chalice

Freshman year of college at Franciscan University was an intense experience of prayer/emotion/friendship/studying. Besides the fact that I met my husband there, I know that I would not be the same person I am today, had I not gone there.

My Catholic faith was central to my life as long as I can remember, and my confirmation in 7th grade was a major time of growth for me, but it was not until the summer before college that I really decided that I wanted to stop the roller coaster spirituality I had been living and chose to continue going deeper always. I had spent all of high school going on retreats and committing myself to a life of prayer, and slowly giving up on my good prayer habits for whatever was there to distract me (boys, baseball, movies, dances, etc.).

I knew I was missing something by not staying focused on being holy, and was wishy-washy about where I wanted to go to college, what I wanted to do with my life, until I got my financial aid package in the mail and realized I could go to FUS without too much debt. Okay, so I am still paying that debt, but it was so worth it.

It was worth it to go to Steubenville because my first semester of college I really let myself be loved by God and really started to love Him. I spent so much time praying and being prayed over, and crying in Marian Hall chapel in my pjs and crying in my closest friends' rooms. I was being broken and healed and converted over to God.

And by the end of the first semester my friendship with M was starting to be one of the most important friendships of my life.

We met around the second week of school through my cousin-in-law. She was the niece of my aunt's husband. Got it? And my cousin-in-law and M knew each other from high school. In fact they had several friends from Ann Arbor, MI who were all at FUS and who all befriended me immediately. It was through these friends that I learned to pray better, and in praying with them that I really experienced the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit the first time. And it was in this setting of friends, M and I grew close.

There was always a sort of chemistry between us (still is). It took him longer than me to admit it, but I began to wonder late first semester if M and I were getting too close.

I was extremely worried because HE was in the pre-theologate program, a PRE-THE (soft "th", hard "e"). This meant that he was supposed to be seriously discerning the priesthood; he was practically a seminarian.

So, I spent a lot of my prayer time trying to overcome my attraction to him. I prayed for his discernment and tried to let go. M on the other hand did not realize until early February that his feelings for me were any different from any other crush he had had, because pre-the or not, he was still a young man with lots of feelings.

Looking back I see how unavoidable our falling in love was. We just got along so well, we loved spending time together. The time we spent together was wonderful. He loved me for my whole person and I felt the same about him.

But things were getting too intense, I liked him too much for things to continue at the level of close friendship we had developed. He needed space to discern, and he needed to be clear with me what he was thinking in his actions.

Then on Valentine's day of all days, I confided in a few good friends, including a wonderful couple who let me interrupt their date night in a common room to get advice. They advised me to talk to him and tell him that he was confusing me.

I called him up, and asked to go for a walk because “we needed to talk.” My plan was to tell him that I was attracted to him and to ask him to give me some space, so that I could get over him and he could go on discerning the priesthood.

We met up on a rainy courtyard clad in rain jackets (what a mild February that must have been!). I dove right into my problem. “I am attracted to you,” I confessed to him. “Um, well, I am attracted to you,” he replied, and then we paused. I was a bit shocked and relieved, all of this flirting had actually meant something to him.

But what were we supposed to do? Well, I decided to tell him the entirety of my past crushes and involvements with boys; I am not really sure why. I think I wanted to let him know that I really needed him to be straight forward with me. By the end of our discussion we decided that we needed to put serious limits on our interaction since we had become way to close to be “just friends.”

That worked for one emotionally painful week, in which we eyed each other mournfully and wrote bad poetry, and then I guess he had had enough. He met with his formation director, told all, and then left the program. He was free to date. The next day he asked me out.

It was amazing for about a week, and then we became moody and at times strained. We really did like each other. We really were attracted to each other. We really did feel a love for each other that neither of us had really felt for anyone else. But perhaps we were not quite ready for the full commitment of dating.
Spring formal.
By the end of Spring semester and into the Summer, it seemed that M wanted more space and time for discernment.

He came to see me for a day during my summer visit to my grandparents in Cleveland (a mere 2 hours from his house), and the visit was bittersweet. We both knew things were coming to an end. We both intensely cared for each other. We went out for ice cream and went to the pier to watch the sun set over Lake Erie. When he left to go home, I knew things were going to be over soon.

The next week, when I was at home, he finally "officially" ended it. I was heartbroken, but I took it to prayer. I took it all to prayer.

Stay tuned for Part Two. :)

Friday, February 12, 2016

7 Quick Takes: Sick Days and Snowmen

I have been trying to come up with something interesting to say on the blog, and nothing really seems that interesting about life lately. Here we are, two days into Lent, the beginning-middle of of the longest February we have had in years, and the kids are sick. I figured that I might as well do some quick takes even if they are not that interesting.

1. Baby T, or Mr. Tumnus as he is sometimes called, has been doing one of those sleep regression things again. We got a little reprieve after our three week tour of the Midwestern USA and then six teeth decided to come in right when he got the worst cold topped off with an ear infection. The poor baby. When the baby is sick, though, daily life does not change much. He just is a bit sadder and my left shoulder becomes his favorite tissue. But he also sleeps worse at night.

2. When the baby does not sleep well, Mom does not sleep well. It makes sense, but I find myself getting into a sleep deprived funk, where I obsess over every minute of sleep I did not get and every minute that I did get. I make calculations in my head every morning, and declare it will be a good day if my sleep added up to 6 hours total or I got at least one three hour stretch of sleep. I also down my new favorite natural wellness things, like apple cider vinegar and elderberry syrup, hoping that I will somehow not get sick even though I am covered in baby snot. So far, not sick, but ask me tomorrow how I am... 
"Mom, is this T's FIRST Ash Wednesday?" L in the middle of Mass. #ashtag

3. I took the kids to Ash Wednesday Mass, sick baby (had no idea it was more than a cold then) and all, and G's second piano lesson, courtesy of the lovely Mrs. Coyne. At any rate, it was the first time I took all four kids to Mass without another adult to help. We sat in back and did pretty well.

4. Yesterday, after a bad's night sleep with T, I decided to bless the children with Lourdes water and call the doctor. Only later did I realize it was the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. (The Lourdes water we have, M and I both brought back from Lourdes 10 years ago after our semester abroad.) T and I went into the doctor and got the ear infection diagnosed and now he is on antibiotics (and probiotics). The 24 hour mark is coming up when antibiotics are supposed to be working, and if it weren't for teething I would have great hopes for tonight and getting better sleep.

5. At any rate, G and F both came down with fevers yesterday afternoon. As M had a talk to go to that evening, the girls got into pjs early, and we sat down to watch some Anne of Green Gables and eat popcorn. I love that they are old enough for me to share that movie with them; it has been my go to sick movie since I was a little girl.

6. Today the sick girls slept in while the sick baby was up at 6am, and rather than doing our normal Chronicles of Narnia radio plays for sick days, I searched my library audiobook app and found The Secret Garden. G has been following along when she has the energy, or just listening when she does not. F has mostly just slept. So, it has been a relaxing day despite sick children.  Hopefully, these girls will get over the cold faster than their brother, since they are better at taking it easy than a planking baby who can't fall asleep without help.

All Spencer snowmen will be blogged about.
7. On a non-sick note, before the deep cold we have had this week set in, we spent last Sunday in the warm (30s) yard, building our snowman and rolling giant snowballs into a mini sledding hill for the girls. I think M and I had more fun than the girls playing in the snow. One of these days I will wake up and discover that I love winter, but I am not that Minnesotan yet. I will say that one of the things I love about home schooling is not having to leave the house in the winter if I don't want to...
Testing the hill.
Linking up with Kelly @ This Ain't the Lyceum. Click on over for more quick takes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Candlemas Day, Pancakes, and Baby Picture

Candlemas day is one of my favorites, especially this year. I am really glad I live in a part of the world (Northern Hemisphere) where Christmas and Lent happen in the winter. Winter would be really strange without the special seasons of the liturgical year to carry us through it.
Our Lady of Lourdes found the infant Jesus.   
The main way we mark Candlemas is to enjoy our last day of Christmas things, like the few decorations we still have up (the tree came down on Sunday) and all of our favorite Christmas songs.
I love our cute little red crabapples.
Mother nature decided to celebrate in Minnesota this year with a blizzard, which makes me feel all Laura Ingalls Wilder-y. I mean I can't experience a snowfall in the Northern Midwest without thinking about all the winters I read about in her books. So, it even looks like Christmas outside.

We did the traditional food thing with pancakes, and I decided that from now on chocolate chips in pancakes is a part of the Catholic St. Paul, Minnesota tradition. So, if you live here, make chocolate chip pancakes. We could make it a nationwide thing even. Everyone make chocolate chip pancakes for Candlemas next year. It will be awesome.
The girls and I spent lunch eating pancakes and singing "Go Tell it on the Mountain" as loud as we could. It was fun. I am not normally like that at lunch lest you think that I am some sort of cool mom. Candlemas just made me a little giddy.

And to top it all off, this guy turns eight months in two days. How did we get 2/3 to one year already?!?!?!?!?!
And Lent starts next week. If you are interested, here is the link to my Lenten Wreath and Stational churches.
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