Tuesday, December 14, 2010

we made it!

Drake has (very) successfully completed his first semester of graduate school.  

Let a glorious 3 1/2 weeks off begin!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

a little look at life

Tonight I leaned down to kiss the sweet, soft, cushy cheek that I found a few inches below my chin as I walked around donning the Moby baby wrap that has become a daily necessity.  Today was a rush-around, get-things-done-in-every-spare-moment kind of day...not ideal for celebrating the Sabbath.  But for those few seconds, I stood still, and it seemed that time did, too.  I took those moments to thank the Lord and our Lady for the gift of our children - the gift of which I am so undeserving and yet find myself with the immense privilege of having on a daily basis.  In the midst of the leaky diapers, the toddler tantrums, the sleepless nights, children are gifts.  They are not burdens in any sense of the word.  And one of the greatest (if not the greatest) gifts of all is that they are my path to sanctity.  I praise God for that - for the holiness that can be achieved if I merely forget my own plans, my own desires, my own way of thinking and trade it in for the plans of the Giver of gifts.      

Thomas is pure joy to be around -- and perhaps that's not the case 100% of the time, but then again, it's certainly not the case for me either.  The love he shows his sister makes me want to be more kind, more giving, more compassionate.  He loves to learn, whether it's colors, shapes, ABC's, numbers, the taste of an unfamiliar food, a new prayer, or a new way to make Mom and Dad smile.  He loves life, and I love it more because of him.

Maria, aside from being gorgeous, incredibly kissable, and a great, ahem, daytime sleeper, reminds me of enjoying the little things in life.  Whether that's food, clean clothes, or a good cuddle, Maria is pretty easy to please (unless, like the rest of us, she's overtired). She doesn't need the most modern stroller or latest play mat.  She appreciates what is given to her - and while a 7 week old can't differentiate too much, she certainly knows Mommy and Daddy, has learned to trust them, and relies on them for her every need.  Hmmm...maybe I could stand to learn a thing or two from her about trust.  Sounds like the makings of another blog post. 

And Drake?  Well, he's my soulmate, my confidant, and my earthly stronghold.  He challenges me to be a better person, a more faithful Catholic, a more selfless spouse, and a more adventurous soul :).  Sharing in the parenting of our children is one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given.

Praise to the most holy Trinity for so many gifts - all of which I am undeserving and yet have been freely given.  And as we await the birth of our Lord on Christmas morn, I pray for the grace to live a life worthy of the coming of the Christ child.  Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

i'm digging this.

He's been playing on our iTunes for several weeks now.  Amazing lyrics, vocals, guitar.  Love it. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

so thankful

The other night I walked into the house after some very chilly and admittedly stressful errands with the kids.  Lines were long, aisles were crowded, parking spots sparse, and I somehow made it back out to our van with an item in my car that I hadn't paid for, causing another trip back in.  But somehow I forgot about all of that when I walked inside to find:

sitting on the kitchen table with the screen open to my gmail account and some of my favorite music playing.  My first thought?  "What the HECK?"  I stood there staring until Drake came back inside with the kids.  He informed me that my dad had called while I was out and wanted to know if Drake thought we could benefit from having a second laptop.  The short answer is "absolutely."  Since Drake gave it the thumbs up, my dad went ahead with his intended purchase and brought over this new (well, refurbished, but new to us!) computer in the hopes that I could have a little more computer access, have music, etc when Drake is using the computer (which is almost all the time given his vocation right now).  With a husband in a doctoral program who also is creating a website as part of his duties as the webmaster for the state music therapy executive board, there is little time for my computer use.  And honestly I had just learned to live with that and would try to sneak on when time allowed.

But I've been living the high life these last few days and figured my first blog post on the new laptop should be directed right to my parents - thank you, thank you, thank you!  I so very much appreciate your thoughtfulness, your immense generosity, and your desire to serve me and our family and ease a little bit of the stress around here.  Heck, now I might even update our blog more than once a month!  Thank you again! 

Monday, November 15, 2010

First Haircut!

Sweet Thomas was born with almost no hair...and then he lost the little bit that he did have...and then he grew the most gorgeous red curls I've ever seen on a boy.  Needless to say, it was worth the wait.  But then it started to get pretty shaggy and, dare I say, a little too much like a mullet.  The Steeds don't do mullets.  So I caved in and called the woman who has cut my hair since grade school - she did my hair for my first communion and our wedding and everything in between.  And she was genius in redirecting Thomas so that she could actually do a little bit of trimming.  I think I can objectively say that he looks adorable!

Before: we told him he would get to sit in a big special chair and wear a cape.  Bonus: it was covered in doggies!

Yeah.  Pretty shaggy.
Heyyyyyyyyy, watch it, lady!

Combing Daddy's hair!  Perfect distraction!

Just a few more snips...

Sucker!  Sweet! ;)


 Many thanks to Daddy who took these great photos and to Julie who cut Thomas' hair in 5 minutes!  We'll see if Mommy can handle trimming in time for the holidays!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Welcome, Maria Thérèse!

We welcomed our newest family member right on her due date - October 19, 2010.  She weighed in at 7 lbs 7oz and 20 inches long and was born at 1:48am.  Here's a little run-down of the labor and delivery:

I spent that previous evening on a shopping high at Jewel :).  Thanks to a good friend, I found a way to get a ridiculous amount of food for prices that you wouldn't believe if I told you!  So after my second trip to Jewel that evening, I decided to head to bed as my dear husband was still up working on homework.

Well, my time in bed was short-lived (lasted, oh, 20 minutes).  I got up because I was having gas pains (read: contractions).  Thanks to the progesterone injections I had been taking during the pregnancy, gas pains were quite common, and I assumed this night would not be different from the rest.  But then they persisted.  They wouldn't go away.  And I began feeling some intense pressure.  The. Baby. Was. Coming.

We put our plan into action: called some friends who offered to take Thomas (we literally drive by their house on the way to the hospital), called the on-call OB to tell her we were coming, called Drake's mom who would coordinate caring for Thomas, and called my parents to let them know we were on our way to the hospital.

As we found ourselves about 5 minutes from the hospital, I was starting to think this little lady was going to be born in the car.  Honestly.  The contractions were so close together, so intense, and I needed the baby OUT.  As Drake pulled up to the ER, someone came out with a wheelchair for me.  "How far along are you?" "40 weeks." "Do you feel like you need to push?" "Y.E.S."

I was brought into an ER room where there were what felt like at least half a dozen people plus Drake and I in a room made to comfortably fit two people.  They're all obviously in a panic as they could see the head was very far down, and I was complete plus three!  After moaning many times "I neeeeeeeed to push!" they saw that even though I was in some intense pain, I was able, by the grace of God, to control it.  They got me up to a delivery room asap.  

And within about 10 minutes of our arrival into the room, Maria Thérèse was born.  I gave three solid pushes for a total of five minutes.  We had arrived at the hospital at 1:25am, and she was born at 1:48am.  These Steed children sure do know how to get down to business!  I was in labor with Thomas for about an hour with a 30 minute delivery.  The OB suggested that Drake be ready to deliver Baby #3 when the time comes :).

Holding her in my arms right after delivery was surreal - that wasn't our experience with Thomas because he was whisked away to the NICU right after he was born.  It was several hours before we saw him.  So spending those very first minutes of life outside the womb with Maria was a beautiful relief. 

Moments after her birth


Proud Daddy

Loving. Baby. Hairbows.

Lots of Daddy lovin'

Little angel.

Thank you for all of your prayers. well-wishes, and support on our behalf.  The transition to two is proving to be a beautiful and exhausting adventure. We're so blessed, and God is so good!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Family Fun in the Fall

Despite the fact that it certainly didn't feel like  fall day with 80 degree temperatures, we still enjoyed some family time together.  And heck, we've got pictures (finally!) to prove it!

A ridiculously gigantic inflatable pumpkin


We went on a hay ride - unfortunately there wasn't enough off-roading to induce labor as I had hoped.

Still can't resist those cheeks!

Thomas continuing his trend of not looking at the camera for any photos whatsoever.


Strange lighting, but the tunnel sure was fun!

Fall is a favorite time around here -- we're all (well, Lauren in particular) looking forward to consistently cooler weather, pumpkin patches, warm beverages, crunching leaves, and everything in between!

Sunday Brunch

We love Sunday brunch. It has been a tradition since we have been married to celebrate our Lord's day by splurging a little bit, waiting a little longer to eat (usually after mass and cooking), and feasting. We have gone through stages: the frittata stage, omelet stage, gallo pinto stage, baked French toast stage, muffins, yogurt , and fruit stage...no matter what, we enjoy experimenting and sharing a meal together and with friends and family when possible.

Anyone who has kept up with our story knows that we are in a different kind of stage. We moved, I started school and part-time work, and we are preparing for our second child. Life is blessed, but our morale waxes and wanes. Lately, especially, it has waned. The day-in and day-out grind of work, serving Thomas and each other has led to a multi-layered exhaustion. Yesterday, it seemed like both of us woke up after an epic battle. We limped out of bed, making it barely to the couch. We dragged ourselves through the morning, fulfilling obligations of studying and serving our family. We had the joie de vivre of a paper clip (one of those regular metal kinds) and were ready to break. Pondering how we are going to make it through these next two months (until Christmas break), we decided that we needed to celebrate life more often. Our lives are so routined and packed with to-dos, and rightfully so. Nonetheless, we have felt entrapped by the mundane yet tenacious daily schedule, which has been gradually gnawing at our will to persist, much less to celebrate.

But celebrate we will. We brought back brunch today, and we celebrated: health, opportunity, love, family and friends. We are going to celebrate something at least once a week--some ideas we had were saints we particularly admire, church feast days, or something random. Food appears to be one obvious way to celebrate, but we are going to try other things too, like maybe practicing a special devotion on that day. Of course, adding celebration to our life does not undermine the gravity of keeping up with what we need to do to survive this stage in life. It does however remind us that we are children of God, heirs of life eternal, and we are invited to find joy in the Resurrection. Already today, the mood is lighter in our house (also due to opening up all the windows in our kitchen, S.T.). We have a lot to do today, but, with the enthusiasm with which Thomas says "truck," we will celebrate.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

38 Weeks

By the grace of God, I've been pregnant for 38 weeks.  And now I would really. like. this. baby. out.

There's something (read: several things) about the very end of a pregnancy that puts a lot of strain on a mom.  Maybe it's the multiple trips to the bathroom and having few comfortable sleeping positions to choose from that result in consecutive poor nights of sleep.  Perhaps it's simply the physical strain/discomfort of being this pregnant.  Maybe it's the anticipation/worry of how the labor and delivery will go and clinging to hope that the baby will be healthy.  Maybe it's the humility that accompanies wearing maternity clothes yet again as I stare longingly at my pre-pregnancy clothes.  Plus, pregnancy is just even more draining when there's a young toddler to chase, teach, love, discipline, etc.  And ultimately, we simply want to meet this baby outside of the womb and get the anticipation over with!  Whatever it is, we're praying for a safe and joyful delivery along with a healthy baby, God willing.  We've even got a boy name picked out juuuust in case the ultrasound missed something.

Our bags are packed, a list of phone calls (in order of necessity) is on the fridge, car seat is installed in the van, camera is charged, nursing cover is finished...and now we wait.

Please pray with us and for this sweet baby!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

a little pregnancy update

37 week today = longest pregnancy to date!  Praise the Lord!

And according to the OB late last week, things are looking healthy for both mom and baby.  Friday was the last day of the progesterone injections, a fact that neither Drake nor I are mourning.  I'm only dilated to 1cm and not effaced at all, so it's likely that we've still got some time until her arrival.  She's head down (and likely to stay that way), and the OB estimates that she's in the high 5's for weight right now, giving her an expected birth weight of 7+ pounds - we'll take it!

And now my tasks (among many others) include: finding that darn camera charger which we still haven't unearthed since our move, finalizing some things with our diapers, getting the admitting paperwork to the hospital ahead of time so that it's one less thing to do when we're there, cleaning out the van (not necessarily a priority, but it's something I'd like to have done before she arrives), and making myself a nursing cover.  Whew.  

Thursday, September 23, 2010

this is on in our car 95% of the time or more

Relevant Radio

Drake and I are in love with this Catholic talk radio station - it's so solid and never came in very well when we lived in Urbana.  But now, we listen to it almost all the time!

The station is excellent for numerous reasons, but one thing we really like is that they're not afraid to "go there."  They face the controversial issues head on, arming themselves with the Magisterium, papal authority, and Scripture.  Some of our favorite programs include the Drew Mariani Show, Go Ask your Father, and The Inner Life.  I get genuinely excited about car rides now because of this radio station, especially on those days that life as a Catholic in this world seems more daunting than exciting.

AM 950 - check it out for yourself!  You can even listen online or on your fancy iPhone!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

counting our blessings

I had a great confession last night with the priest at our new parish, and I was reminded of something critical: the need to keep our blessings at the forefront of my mind.  I personally have to make a very intentional effort to remind myself of how blessed I am in the midst of heavy crosses.  So I'm listing a few for my own sake.
  • Drake and I have a ridiculously strong marriage - I'd be completely lost without him.  Being married to the person with whom I converse most easily and honestly, the person who understands me to my core, and the one who desires the holiness of our family above all else is a complete gift from God.
  • We've been blessed with two beautiful children - Thomas fills our lives with joy, and we cannot contain the excitement we feel over meeting our daughter in a few short weeks.
  • We have a nice place to live, a solid parish, and live near other family support.
  • We have food on the table, clothes on our back (and in our closet!), and have been blessed by the generosity of family and friends.
  • We have access to medical care and have been abundantly blessed by the competence and kindness of our new OB office in particular.
  • We got a great deal on a van and live near the train station, both of which allow our family to get to the places we need to be.
  • Drake feels a great deal of peace about his academic program; we both feel tremendous peace about taking this next step for our family.
Father Tom also gave me an effective visual last night in the confessional.  He talked to me about the story of Peter's attempt to walk on water to go meet his Lord.  Peter was thrilled to see Jesus and began to make his way to Him...but then he got lost in his own mind and convinced himself that it didn't make sense for him (Peter) to be walking on water...that's when he began to drown.  When Peter fixed his gaze, his attention, his complete focus on Jesus, that was when walking on water was possible.

Receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation last night reaffirmed my conviction that God desires to sanctify our family through the joys and crosses of this new journey, one big transition that is filled with smaller transitions.  Holy Family, pray for us!

PS. I apologize for the recent lag time in my blogging, though I'm confident that you've found other ways to spend your time :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

frozen meal suggestions?

In the next couple weeks, Drake and I are hoping to cook up several meals that freeze well that we can have ready to go for when the baby arrives.  It's going to be a really chaotic (beautiful, but chaotic) time, and I don't want to have to do much for meal prep those first few weeks as we're adjusting. 

Any recipes/meals you might recommend that freeze and reheat well?

Friday, August 20, 2010

so. many. blessings.

We've recently moved.  It was a ton of work both packing and unpacking (which is still something we're working on since we've been here a whopping 7 days), all the cleaning, organizing, etc.  But we were so thankful to have so much help from family and friends -- many thanks to each of you!

This new place feels so much more like our home already than our apartments in Urbana ever did the last two years.  And the more we get organized and settled in, the more I love it!

We had our first appointment with our new OB yesterday - I was apprehensive at first because I really liked my OB in Urbana.  But I must admit that I think I like this OB even more.  And here's why:
  • He walked in with a small St. Peter pin on his white coat...clearly Catholic.
  • The nurse informed me before he came in that he and his wife are expecting their 11th child any day now.  Pro-life perhaps? :)
  • His approach and personality are a perfect fit for Drake and I -- he's extremely down to earth and very intelligent.  He's not worried about this pregnancy at all and even disagrees with the diagnoses I was previously given (with compelling evidence to back it up) as a result of the complications I encountered in my first pregnancy.
  • He assured me that the likelihood of my being able to carry the baby to at least week 35/36 is extremely high.
We've been able to go to daily mass everyday this week as a family - man oh man am I ever getting spoiled having my dear husband home all day everyday.  We registered at this parish yesterday and got the ball rolling with Baptism preparations for our little lady.

We've already had several dinners and fun time together with family and friends even in just the one week that we've been here.  It's so nice to have moved closer to many familiar faces.  We were able to celebrate Drake's birthday with family as well as his mom's birthday, welcome my brother home from Africa, have a couple meals and a morning at a local splash pad with some dear friends, and we have plans nearly everyday next week as well.

It's hard to not look too far ahead, but right now we're really soaking in the family time together!

Monday, August 2, 2010

It's been a while since I've posted...and despite my best intentions, I'm doubtful that I'll have much time to post in the next couple of weeks.  I absolutely plan to follow up on my most recent posts about teachings of the Catholic Church (one in particular) once we get our Internet up and running in our new place.

And speaking of, our major move is this weekend!  My dear husband has recruited plenty of help in loading up the truck on Friday night with 90% of our belongings, and we hope to be on the road bright and early Saturday morning to meet more help whom we've recruited and who have so graciously agreed to help us.  It's a bit of a tease, though, because we need to come back for another week so that Drake can finish up his last week of work.  And I wasn't interested in being apart for a week, so I'm coming back too.  We'll be "roughing it" in our apartment by sleeping on an air mattress (Thomas in the pack n' play), having only a couple of dishes, our microwave, a few books and toys for Thomas, just enough clothes for the week, etc.  And then we're at our new place for good, and many new adventures begin!

Please send up a quick prayer for our family -- God has truly blessed our journey so far, and we're relying completely on His divine providence through it all.  Thanks!    

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

some apologetics assistance needed...

I have quite a love/hate relationship with Facebook - I've gone on several "FB fasts," canceled my account on numerous occasions, etc.  I think it can serve a good purpose when used prudently and not as a means to "be in the know" about people with whom one never communicates with aside from exchanging Facebook status changes on the homepage.  But, I digress. 

Within the last week, there have been two bold claims made by two individuals, both of whom I would consider a friend (more than simply a "Facebook friend").  These claims were essentially the same, stating that the Roman Catholic Church needs to get with the times and start ordaining women.

Obviously this isn't the first time that people have expressed this view.  But as a committed Roman Catholic who loves and embraces the Magesterium, this is clearly a sentiment that I do not uphold.  Not even a little bit.  Nope.  Not at all.

And there are so many reasons, but a lesson in apologetics is not the reason for my post.  I do, however, need advice as to how to best serve people who make these claims on Facebook.  I feel like I have a few options:
  1. Do/say nothing.  Pray for them, but take no more action than that.
  2. Send them a link to some solid apologetics in text or podcast format, thus potentially starting (or continuing?) an open-forum debate on their profile page.
  3. Send them a FB message or email (something sent only to the person making the claim) about why their view is flawed.  The intention here is not to be seen as better or holier than them but rather to plant a seed rooted in the fullness of the Truth.
When it comes down to it, I want to DO something.  I'm so sick of Church bashing, particularly among people who claim to be Catholic.  But on things like Facebook, I don't know how far I should go in terms of apologetics.  I want to be charitable without sugar-coating anything.  It's easy to paint a picture of our Lord as a peacemaker - someone who simply wanted everyone to get along, love each other, etc.  But Jesus was so much more than that, desiring nothing but our sanctity and bringing us closer to the Truth.  So how the heck do I convey that on Facebook?

Thoughts?  Suggestions?  Please give me some ideas! 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

small successes, vol 2


1.  This week I've napped more days than not - and while for many, this would not be seen as a "success," it was certainly a big step for me!  I'm very slowly but surely learning that my own resting really is a way to serve our family, particularly when I'm pregnant.  And taking even just 30 minutes to sleep during Thomas' nap is refreshing and gives me so much more energy to finish up the day.
2.  I find that when I'm pregnant, I become intensely introverted...more like hyper-aware of my body.  And while I need to pay attention to how I'm feeling, I often take this to an extreme and end up causing myself much undue anxiety.  This is a big reason why I do not read pregnancy books or articles that talk about how a woman "should" be feeling or what she "should" be experiencing at a certain point in her pregnancy.  In order to help alleviate some of that anxiety, I've decided to replace those negative, anxiety-ridden thoughts with one simple phrase: "God alone is my sufficiency."  I believe it's from Corinthians, and I read it in one of my Divine Intimacy meditations this week.  Simply stated, it's been working wonders in even just a couple of days.  The mind is so very powerful, so I'm trying to channel it Heavenward rather than inward.  It's humbling just how much concentration and purposeful thinking it takes for me - but I'm getting there.

3.  Transitioning Thomas from two naps to one long afternoon nap continues to work out wonderfully.  He sleeps from about 1:00 until 3:30 or 4:00 (with the occasional 2:30 wake-up some days).  This makes our play dates, errands, library programs, etc. so much easier to schedule since our mornings can now be dedicated fully to them instead of trying to sandwich activities in between two naps, especially if travel is involved.  I'm also so glad that he's on this schedule before his sister arrives so that it's already set in place as we transition to life with two under two.  

Monday, July 12, 2010

a little thomas vocab update

I'm finding the toddler stage with Thomas to be both incredibly challenging and insanely adorable all wrapped into one sweet, limit-testing, endlessly active, into-everything package.  Sometimes my limits are tested to a near breaking point, and 5 seconds later I'm convinced God has never created a more adorable child.  But all the while I'm in awe of him - I can't seem to help it.

Lately Thomas' vocabulary has been exploding - seems that there's at least one new word or sound he's able to say with each passing day.  Here's a running list:
  • Truck (if you've spent more than 2 minutes with Thomas in the last month, I'm fairly confident you've been told this word two dozen times at minimum).
  • Jesus
  • Priest
  • Cracker
  • Door
  • Tree
  • Kiss 
  • Daddy (ahem...)
  • Cheese
  • Keys
  • Please
  • Thank you
  • Fish
  • Doggie
  • Juice (he's never actually had juice yet, but it's what we call Pedialyte thanks to several recent stomach viruses he's had)
  • Ball
  • Animal sounds - moo, hiss, bzzzz, roar, and, if we're lucky, buzzing his lips with his arm in the air for an elephant
Sorry that I don't have some recent photos to include in this post - we've been so busy lately, and I haven't taken time with the camera.  I'll get a picture post up here soon!

Friday, July 9, 2010

worlds apart

This might be my all-time favorite Jars of Clay song.  It's a long one (11 minutes), but I'd really recommend listening to it if you've never heard it before.  It really resonates with me recently.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

small successes, vol 1


In true melancholic fashion, I've deliberated for months about doing this weekly post.  I don't want to come across as showy or better than anyone else.  And once you read these, I'm sure you'll be able to think up at least a dozen successes that you've had these week that far outweigh mine!  But the main reason I'm doing this is for myself...a personal reminder that my vocation matters, that it makes a difference, and that it's what God is calling me to do.  I'm not looking for any applause here - it's simply a little boost for myself and myself alone, a reason to glorify God.

Now I'm done explaining myself.  I promise.

1.  We've been doing a lot of hosting lately, and by the grace of God, I've managed to make every meal with minimal shopping.  I hate needing to run out the grocery store to "pick up a few things" for every meal - it gets way too expensive, and I simply don't have time for that!  So I've really made efforts to use what we have.  The other night I was able to have a dinner of spinach/strawberry/walnut salad (with homemade dressing), baked chicken, and alfredo pasta on the table before my husband arrived home.  Oh, and we had homemade blueberry-strawberry cobbler for dessert.  Delish.

2.  I've felt pretty on top of the small details of our move recently.  Yesterday, Drake and I made the arrangements to have our utility services canceled here on our move-out date and started up at our new place in August.  It was only a matter of phone calls, but they were time consuming.  Feels good to have that taken care of.  We have appointments set up with my new OB office as well as a new pediatrician for Thomas and #2.  I've also compiled a list of things we're trying to find on Craig's List and have taken time to do some researching and emailing.  I'm crossing my fingers for one item in particular - one of the kid-friendly storage sets I'd like to have.

3.  Despite a sick child, sick husband, and frequent nightly trips to the bathroom, I've managed to stick with my morning plan of waking up early to shower and read Divine Intimacy before anyone else wakes up.  Even though I'd really love the extra zzz's, I know that it's hard for me to wake up and just need to be "on."  Now, I'm ready to crash by about 7:30pm most nights because of it, but it's really made a difference in how I feel throughout the day.  It helps me handle the toddler tantrums, pregnancy challenges, and daily stressors with more ease than I would otherwise.  And sometimes Thomas sleeps in a little more than usual, leaving me time to blog!  Bonus!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

in need of organizing tips

With a big move quickly approaching, I find myself eagerly awaiting a full basement...aka, way more storage than we've ever had thus far in our marriage.  Specifically, though, I'm wondering...

How do you organize your child's clothes?  We all know that babies outgrow their clothes much faster than we ever thought possible...so how do you keep from being overwhelmed by it all?  Labeled bins?  Vacuum sealed bags? 

I'd really love any insights on the best ways to do this. 

Hey, thanks!

Friday, June 25, 2010

dear drake

My dearest Drake,

Happy anniversary, love!  It's ridiculous to me all that you put up with when it comes to being married to me.  Between the quirks, pregnancy mood swings, slight OCD tendencies, and everything in between, I am so keenly aware of your love for me each and every day, a love that is strong yet gentle, selfless, self-sacrificing, and inspiring on every level imaginable.  When I think back to this day

as we approached the holy altar together, my eyes well up with tears of great, great joy.  Minutes later, we would be wed, committing ourselves completely to one another, clinging to our Lord and to each other in the days ahead.  What a supreme honor to be your bride.  We had a little bit of fun, too, eh?

And now we find ourselves two years later - two ridiculously busy, life-changing, beautiful years later. An eventful Costa Rica honeymoon, conceiving our first child that same week, one semester of Masters classes for me, weeks of bed rest with a move interspersed, the birth of our beautiful Thomas Michael, determining how to make our firm decision for you to be the bread-winner and me to stay home with our children work with one income, grad school discernment/applications/interviews, staring joyfully at a positive pregnancy test weeks before our firstborn's first birthday, a doctoral school decision, and all the decision-making that has filled the last few months.

But you know, I wouldn't trade this for anything that the world has to offer...because I've been able to experience it all with you by my side.

With you, the world seems a little more forgiving, life makes a little more sense, and holiness seems more within our reach.  You brighten my days, comfort my nights, and leave me always in awe of the man that you are.  Your presence, your touch, your kiss are constant reminders of the love God has for me...and one way I know He loves me is through your gentle and constant embrace.

I love you, Drake - truly, fully, and forever.

We're signing our lease for the duplex tomorrow.  I have some paperwork, one check for the down payment, one check for the first month of rent, and our drivers licenses all ready to go. 

And. I. Am. Pumped.  Great (and hugely residential) neighborhood, a shaded front yard, driveway, garage, full basement, washer and dryer, lots of storage, bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, living room, mailbox.  Bonus?  Great landlords who are ever so kind, prompt in responding to emails/phone calls, and who themselves are excited about us moving in.

God is so good. So very, very good.

And on an unrelated note, He led me to a pro-life OB office who accepts our insurance and who had room in their schedule for me starting in mid-August.  I only continue to see His hand in every aspect of our lives - amen, amen, amen! 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

simple reminders

There's a lot of stress around our home lately - in addition to the day to day tasks, there's our ever mobile toddler who can now get into just about anything, is showing signs of tantrum-throwing, and is always busy.  Always.  Then there's all the logistical things to work out for our move - transferring to new doctors, finalizing moving plans, organizing our stuff and all the lovely people who have offered to help with that said stuff, determining what will go where, what we can do without, etc.  I've hardly touched my sewing projects these last couple weeks and find myself wiped out when I do find myself with a bit of free time. 

Oh, and this pregnancy.  To put it nicely, this has been one hot, swollen, pregnant summer for me.  Admittedly, I'm not dealing too well with all the raging hormones, weekly injections, and daily worry that accompany me and my ever-growing belly.  There's a huge part of me that wishes we could finish up the pregnancy with our current OB and an even bigger part of me that's nervous/anxious to transfer to a new OB whom I have never met.  I'm so thankful to be pregnant - but it has its crosses.  Maybe you know what I mean.

But then there are some daily reminders that keep me going.  My husband tells me (and shows me) numerous times a day that he loves me.  His reminders about my beauty help keep me going sometimes, swollen ankles and all.  Sweet Thomas and that curly red hair that frames one gorgeous set of eyes - I couldn't have chosen a more beautiful combination myself.  And our little girl who really seems to be having a heck of a time in the womb (we're all hoping her one person party will last at minimum until the end of September, preferably into October).  And lately, in the midst of all that's going on in our family, all our planning, all our things to do, I'm reminded to seize the opportunities for sanctity...to pour my love out onto my family, to forget myself, to give and be open to receiving love.

I think St. Therese talked about only enduring the present suffering and not thinking too far ahead because only the Lord can handle more than the present moment.  Here's to today!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

sprinkler park!

We took a little family outing to a sprinkler park nearby - not only was it fun to play in the water and sand, but it was so cute to watch Thomas interact with the other kids.  Whenever we go to library programs, play places, play dates, etc., I'm always astounded at how social he is!  He gets out of his stroller, sticks close to me for a minute or two, and then just goes up to kids armed with a huge smile and lots of waving.  It's adorable, and I'm not sure where he gets his outgoing nature...it surely isn't from his introverted momma!

Thomas and Daddy checking out a water-squirting seal

Woah there!

Some sand time...hopefully he wasn't taking notes from the sand-throwers out there

Kindly declining the photo-op

Water break!

Playing in his own personal pool (aka a large mud-bottomed puddle)

The mark of a good day: curly wet hair, dirty hands, and a smile!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

the missionary life

I think it started in high school that I had the aspirations to become a missionary - someone who traveled internationally, eating with the poor, spreading the Gospel, being the face of God for orphans, widows, old, and young alike.  I thought this was a way that I could impact many people and bring them closer to Christ...and, as an added bonus, it would glorify me a little bit as well.  Nice!

Those sentiments didn't change too much in college - in fact, I felt more compelled to pursue the missionary life.  I remember quite clearly nearly sprinting to the chapel one random weekday afternoon as I couldn't focus on my homework or internship tasks.  I just wanted to goGo somewhere, do something that I deemed more relevant than my research paper, leave the tasks at hand to serve.  I, like the woman in this fantastic article  I distinctly recall begging God to reveal my vocation to me, asking Him to send me somewhere...or at the very least give me peace about my current situation.

And it was because of that pleading that I realized the opportunities to serve are a part of every moment, no matter the vocation.  Fast forward a few years to the present. 

I'm a young wife of two years and mother of two.  I'm not a world traveler.  I don't have an advanced degree.  Heck, I don't very often use my undergraduate degree.  I don't work outside the home.  I have no paycheck to my name. 

Drake and I were asked somewhat recently if we regretted starting our family right away, foregoing life as missionaries, and being, in some ways, forced to dedicate ourselves to our family.  Without a moment of hesitation, I replied, "We are missionaries." (I'll admit that I surprised myself a bit).  "I'm a stay at home mom.  I don't get time off.  I'm on call 24/7.  I live the spiritual and corporal works of mercy through serving my family, through pouring my love onto them."  I think everyone was taken aback a bit, but I knew I was just stating the facts. 

The life that God has chosen for Drake and I is a beautiful one.  It's hidden, humbling, difficult, and often misunderstood.  I go to bed more exhausted than I ever have before.  Family life, though beautiful and rewarding in many ways, is where the Lord has asked me to serve.  Right here in Illinois, within our home, through the daily joys and challenges.  It's sanctifying in ways I never thought possible.  And though family life might not be the vocation that people immediately associate with "changing the world," I know it to be true that family is the single most important institution in the world.  It's about saving souls, fostering a community of love, and striving for holiness day in and day out.  If that's not going to change the world, I'm not sure what will.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

a (delightful) day trip

We (and by "we" I mean my family, of course) had quite the successful day-trip up to the suburbs today, making it safely there and back.

First stop was JoAnn Fabrics where I stocked up on fabrics for nursing covers that I hope to sell via a little online business.  I'm trying to use time now to make some baby items (nursing covers, burp cloths, and hoodie towels specifically...hopefully in coordinating colors so people can mix and match them).  I'm hoping to open the shop a month or two after Baby #2 arrives.  Oh, and with several coupons and my mom's employee discount, I saved nearly $75 on fabric.  It. Was. Wonderful.

Oh, and speaking of Baby #2, we're not divulging the name this time.  I found it a bit stressful last time hearing name opinions from so many when we were on the fence about our firstborn's name, so you'll just have to wait until the Fall.  Sorry.

After amazing JoAnn savings, we had another delightful stop - Portillo's.  If you're from the northern suburbs, I need say no more about the gloriousness that is Portillo's dining.  And if you've never had it, please add it to your bucket list.  You'll be so happy that you did.

Our third stop was a duplex in Lombard that we'd been eying on Craig's List.  And, my friends, we think this is quite possibly "the" new place, for the next few years or so, that is.  A garage, yard, full basement, washer/dryer, driveway all give it a very home-like feel.  It's a two-bedroom in our price range, and the landlords could not have been any nicer.  They're even okay with us not moving in until August.  We're sending in our application on Monday as we continue to pray that God would make it clear to us if this is not the place for us.  It's the first place we've looked at that both Drake and I could picture ourselves living in...and it's actually less than 10 minutes from some dear friends, including the only other young Catholic mom I know in the suburbs.  Plus, it's a less than 30 minute drive from the grandparents and close to several other family members.  So we are very hopeful about this place!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

maybe one day

With our upcoming huge life changes, we've been in the process of looking for a new place to live.  We've got our price range, amenity needs, and general area nailed down.  But we've still got to find a place - we're trying to keep weekends open as much as possible to allow for all the travel back and forth, enabling us to see the places in person.  We've utilized Craig's List, suggestions from family and friends, and a host of apartment/rental companies.

So far, we've got nothing.

We're checking out another place on Saturday - I'm hopeful but trying not to get my heart set on it.  Seems that lately we're running into Craig's List scammers, companies changing their prices and going back on their word (making it more expensive, of course), or just general too little bang for our buck.

Did I mention I'm trying to remain hopeful?

I'm really going to miss central Illinois - and part of why is the drastic price differences/cost of living.  But, God is calling us to do this.  We're confident about that.  And I'm learning that when God calls you to something, He'll get you through it...but that doesn't mean the process will be easy or even all that enjoyable.  I'm also confident that all this will contribute greatly to the sanctification of our family.

God willing, we'll live in a house one day - a house that we own, maintain, and about which we make decisions.  But that day's not today.

And so, Drake and I continue to pray about our future residence, entrusting it to the hands of our Lady.  Holy Family, pray for us!

Friday, June 4, 2010

so cold but oh so tasty!

Thomas had his first try at ice cream a few weeks ago - I don't think he's decided quite yet if he likes it or not.  The taste is delectable, but the freezing cold on those baby teeth is a little strange.  Here's a little photo documentary:

Looking forward to a (hopefully) nice cool summer!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

a little lady

That's right - Steed baby #2 is a girl.  And unfortunately I don't have the ultrasound pictures on a CD to upload onto the computer, so you'll just have to wait until mid-October (or thereabouts) to see this sweet angel.  But thanks be to God, she's healthy, and so am I.  So we're hoping and praying that healthy trend continues for mom and baby.  We've reached the halfway point already - she'll be here before we know it!  But let's hope she stays in the oven a little bit longer than her brother did :).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

a glorious weekend

As I mentioned in the previous post, Drake and I had been looking forward to this past weekend for quite some time.  And I'm so thankful that it met, and in many ways exceeded, our hopes for time spent together doing things we don't normally have a chance to do. And this was in large part in thanks to our babysitters - so a sincere thanks again to Stephanie and my parents for taking such good care of our sweet first born.

Friday: After an "exciting" morning of an unexpected 5:15am Thomas wake-up, scrambling to get everything ready, dropping off Thomas at Auntie Steph's, and catching the train a full 10 seconds before its departure (whew!), we found ourselves heading to Chicago.  Here's the classic "let's take a picture of ourselves even though we've been up since 5am" photo:

The day was really packed, but we took everything in stride (literally - lots of walking!).  Overall, we experienced the trifecta of public transportation options in the city (train, bus, el), ate delicious food, checked out a few apartments, stumbled upon a Catholic bookstore complete with an adoration chapel (which also happens to be right across the street from Argosy), took a quick trip to Wrigleyville after a Cubs loss (this was, perhaps, only foreshadowing our second unexpected trip there), and thanked God for a wonderfully promising meeting Drake had with a very well-connected man who just might be able to secure him part-time employment.  Praise God!  

Saturday: Thankfully the day was a bit less busy.  We spent time with some family friends, got Thomas ready for his first overnight with his grandparents, and got ourselves ready for a wedding of some dear friends from undergrad.  After the wedding, we spent time with the Aderholds.  It was so great to be with old friends and spend time with my adorable god-daughter.  We headed to the reception several hours later, and we were forced to lift our jaws from the ground after seeing the dessert table!  Rows and rows of hand-crafted deliciousness, complete with a swan made from white chocolate-covered strawberries, and a chocolate fountain taller than Drake.  It was unbelievable.  The food was excellent, toasts were great, dance floor was packed, and Jon and Maggie are (finally!) married.  Great way to end the day.  Oh, and sorry...no photos.  I made up for it tomorrow, I promise!

Sunday: We had planned on sleeping in, going to a late mass, taking it easy, maybe doing some driving around to find apartments/houses for rent.  But most of that changed when Eileen's house-sitter, Jim, offered us free tickets to the Cubs game that afternoon.  FREE?!  We had a full 20 minutes to decide and try to re-arrange our schedule as well as figure out things with Thomas.  But thanks to my mom's willingness to have him a few extra hours, we were able to get ourselves to Wrigley.  It. Was. Amazing.  We are huge Cubs fans!  We navigated our way to the city (didn't have time to catch a train), paid for parking and food, and sat in the upper deck in $63 dollar seats for which we paid $0.

Welcome to Wrigley!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

it's been a while

Sorry for the lag in my posting.  I seem to have all these ideas for blog topics but can't seem to find the time to delve into any of them, and if I don't have time, then lately I don't have the energy.  Not valid excuses, I know, but true nonetheless.

Tonight we're all heading up to the suburbs until Sunday evening.  It's shaping up to be a busy yet hopefully enjoyable weekend.  Thomas will experience his first overnight at my parents' house, and Drake and I will experience sleeping in for the first time in over a year.  We've got a day planned in Chicago and some nice meals out that we're looking forward to.  We'll also be looking at a few apartments, spending time with some friends, and celebrating the marriage of two good friends from college.
I plan on being intentional about taking pictures this weekend, so check back for those early next week!  Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Friday, May 21, 2010

a (temporary) farewell

This weekend our family is headed up to the suburbs to spend some time with my brother, Adam, who's headed to Kenya for 10 weeks as part of a student trip.  He'll be doing organic farming in an HIV/AIDS community among many other things (of which I cannot remember!).  My parents, despite their apprehensions, are supportive - and that inspires me.  He'll be back in mid-August, though he's hoping to spend some time on Skype and maybe even keep a blog...yeah! 

Adam, we love you, and we're so proud of the work that you do to give of your time and talents to a world in desperate need of them.  We wish you safe travels, fond memories, and ease in your transition to a somewhat foreign way of life.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

and we have a walker!

So jolly


Yippee! (Pretty sure he's much more impressed by his walking than by the knock-knock jokes)

Thomas soon started taking laps around the apartment - several laps, in fact!  That will make for a better video, so we'll get that up soon.  Stay tuned!

recent peace

We live in a university town, and with that comes, of course, bi-annual graduation ceremonies.  This past weekend, several of my MSW classmates walked across the stage to receive a diploma for years of intensive academic work.  This pursuit was something I began and then ended after one semester as God blessed us with a pregnancy.  A few of my classmates had posted photos on Facebook, and I saw another at Mass yesterday.  It got me thinking about how drastically different my life is in relation to theirs.

And then I realized something.  I wouldn't trade what I have for any sort of diploma and "job" in the workforce.  I was overwhelmed with the peace I felt about that.  I looked at Thomas thumbing through a Missalette and felt small movements from the baby in my womb; I knew that, for me, an MSW and job search would not be fulfilling.  I simply know it's not my calling right now, and God has made that so abundantly clear to me.  I could not be more thankful for this peace...a peace that has existed for quite some time but that I never gave much thought. 

This peace has enabled me to support my husband 100% in the journey toward his doctoral degree; it's allowed for my full attention to our children and doing exactly what they need (anything from reading to Thomas to resting for the baby's sake); I can, without hesitation, be excited for my colleagues, harboring no resentment whatsoever; and, I can honestly tell people that I have no current desire to complete the degree when they ask, thus affirming my vocation even more.

Congratulations, graduates!  And thank you, sweet Lord, for your gift of peace! 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

an honest look at to-do's

I had a really important conversation with my husband tonight in the midst of much inner turmoil and confusion, and this blog post is a result of my final thoughts on the matter.  Long story short, life is throwing many challenges at me, causing a a great deal of distress.  And the (unhealthy) way that I deal with it all is to internalize it, take on more tasks, and take less time to relax and rejuvenate.  Sound like a recipe for disaster?  Why, it is!

There's a lot of guilt that goes along with wife/motherhood territory.  For me that entails guilt about tasks not being completed, guilt that I'm not spending enough time with my husband, guilt that I'm not spending enough time with Thomas...and some of the most difficult guilt for me is taking time for myself.  In that area, I'm a slow learner.  It's easy for me to say that I need to take some time, and it's even easier for me to advise others who are struggling in that regard.  But taking time for myself?  Ha!  That only means that the dirty dishes will still be piled high, we'll be running low on diapers due to my neglect, and our bedroom will remain the sea of paperwork and random-things-that-there's-no-room-for-in-the-apartment that it has been for months.  How in the world can I justify taking time for myself when there's all that (and so much more) to attend to?

Here's the justification. (Note: this is written for myself, not as some sort of lecture or homily on the matter to any of my blog readers).

This week I've been having emotional breakdowns; and while I realize that some of this is hormonally-driven due to my current pregnancy, I also know that all emotions are magnified due to the stress of upcoming life changes in our family.  And after some tactful honesty from my husband, I realized that it's easy for me to see the to-do list as an end rather than a means to an end.  As a mom, I have to be five steps ahead all the time - but I struggle to be able to also live in the present moment and relish in it because I'm so busy doing.  When I'm washing dishes, I'm thinking about finishing up that nursing cover; when I'm stuffing diapers, I'm thinking about getting a head start on dinner; you get the picture (and I'm guessing some of you moms are nodding your heads in agreement...at least I hope I'm not the only one who feels this way, oh, say, constantly?).

So that leads me to my point.  Because I have not yet developed the ability to bi-locate, I have not grown extra appendages enabling me to do more things at once, and I feel pushed into the ground even already with one toddler and one in the oven, I have to make an active change.  And for me that starts with giving myself permission to rest - encouraging myself to take some rejuvenation time (despite how many things are or are not crossed off on the list) and reminding myself that my whole family will benefit.  But they'll benefit in a much more important way than they will from having the carpets vacuumed or the toys in some semblance of order.  They'll see a relaxed mom who is able to be present to them, give of herself to them in a real way, and who desires to be with them more than she desires a spotless home or perfectly cooked dinner.  This is true "doing."  Doing what it takes to get my family and, God willing, myself to Heaven - and when it's my turn to leave this earthly life, I'm hopeful that our Lord is not taking into account any dirty dishes I may have left behind or the stove that hasn't been cleaned in months.  I'm not a betting woman, but that's a gamble I'm willing to take.         

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

homemade cleaners

I'm looking into making some household cleaners - we have so much baking soda, vinegar, etc. lying around that we only use in small amounts, and I can't help but think that there have to be other uses for them.  Have you ever made any cleaners?  Any recipe/concoction work particularly well?  I'll take whatever ideas you've got - bath tub, kitchen, floors...

Thanks in advance! 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

a favorite activity

If you've been over to our apartment during the day in the last few months, I'm sure you've witnessed Thomas' obsession with looking out of our big windows.  With most kids, the TV really "sucks" them in...but not with Thomas.  Oh no, he'd much prefer to look out the window, watch the cars (and preferably trucks!) roll by, and squeal with excitement over the whole ordeal.

Why yes, my sweet red hair is shimmering!  Thanks for noticing!  

I hear one coming!

Kinda busy here, Mom.


Now he's working on saying the words, "car," "truck," and "bus."  But sometimes he's so mesmerized by them that he can't help but shriek and bounce around.  And I must say, it's quite a sight to behold!