Tuesday, May 3, 2011

a potential little series

Folks, I must admit I struggle with this blogging thing.  Sometimes I love it; sometimes I hate it; sometimes I'm completely indifferent about the whole ordeal.  I'm inspired by the sheer honesty and beautiful insights of many of the blogs I read, but I must say that I've yet to figure out how much is too much in terms of divulging things that are personal...and I mean much more personal than random insights or photos of beautiful Steed babies.

Any of you share in that struggle?

I've mentioned before on here that perfectionism is an area that needs a great deal of "tending to" in my life.  A great deal (that's an intense understatement).  It interferes with nearly every facet, and it's time that I, along with the good Lord, address the situation.  I'm contemplating starting a little series of posts about this topic, primarily as a way to sort out my thoughts/struggles/revelations regarding all things perfect (oh wait, that's only possible in Heaven...I'm still living on earth, where nothing is perfect...shoot).  Well, if I stand even the most minute chance of making it through those pearly gates, I'd better get working on growing in virtue through this struggle.

I've made too many promises in the past about blogging X number of times per week or posting photos more frequently or things of that nature.  Well, I simply don't have a lot of blogging time right now.  Our lives are insane (I say that not for your pity or empathy, but simply to remind myself of the reality of the situation) as a doctoral studies-part time work-stay at home mom-two tiny children-very little income-very busy calendar-type of family.  And so, I'll post when I can.  I wish that blogging could be a bigger priority, and I often desire it to be so, but I'm just not there now.  I welcome your insights, your encouragement, your prayers (oh do I ever welcome those!) as I attempt to sift through this ordeal with perfection that, right now, is bringing about more vice than virtue.

Stay tuned!

Friday, April 29, 2011

i dare you...

not to fall in love with this little muffin. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

a death He freely accepted

I've been Catholic for the entirety of my 26 years of life - and yet, Mother Church is so rich to the point that I will never be able to fully comprehend nor appreciate the vast beauty and truth that lies within Her.

Drake and I were at daily mass last week, and, in preparation for the Triduum, I tried to pay more careful attention (as much attention as I could muster with two small children). I found myself completely in awe of one small part of the Eucharistic prayer.  Never before had this struck me in such a profound way -- "Before He was given up to death, a death He freely accepted, He took bread and gave You thanks." 

I was honestly so taken aback that I focused on this phrase alone for the duration of mass and for days thereafter.  I don't claim to be a theologian by any means, nor do I ever do an adequate job of describing just how deeply and beautifully the Lord speaks to me and touches my inmost being.  But one especially obvious blessing for me during the latter half of the Lenten liturgical season was inspiration drawn from the agony in the garden in combination with this part of Eucharistic Prayer II.

Death can be such an intimidating event - most of us are frightened, intimidated, downright terrified at the thought of losing our own lives.  But the Lord implores us to lay down our lives for the sake of others and gave us the most poignant example of death to self.  He has conquered death!  Alleluia!

But, how willing was He to do this?

It honestly gives me a great deal of comfort that Jesus wasn't jumping up and down in a tizzy to undergo all that Calvary would have in store for Him.  I'm gladdened by the fact that He didn't give his Father a wink and a big thumbs up when God asked Him to endure the greatest physical pain known to humankind.  And I'm happy, perhaps in a selfish way, that Christ actually did plead with God to "let this cup pass from Me."  I can't help but think about the infinite number of times that I beg and plead with God to take away circumstances in my life that I know are sure to bring suffering.  It's a bit embarrassing how often I desire to do away with anything that's going to bring me discomfort (physical, mental, emotional, you name it).  I'm a big wimp.  But I'm a wimp who loves the Lord.  That's gotta count for something, right?

I'm inspired by the fact that Jesus did not allow his human desires to take precedence over what the Father asked of Him.  It almost seems to me as if Jesus wanted to be absolutely sure that God was truly asking Him to suffer and DIE for the sins committed by the human race.  It's not called the agony in the garden for nothing.  Jesus was truly distraught over the idea, but ultimately desired to do the will of His Father.  That took precedence over everything, and, in our "my-own-comfort-first" society today, suffering is seen as negative and something that should be eradicated, done away with, and all together avoided whenever possible.  Saying, "yes" to something that would likely bring about some type of suffering (or lots of types of suffering) is counter-cultural at best.

But Jesus freely accepted His death - freely accepted it!

And so, I'm called (and you, too, but that's beside the point) to take up my own crosses.  I'm asked to trust in the Lord so completely that I would do anything to show my love for Him.  I'm asked to accept the pain and suffering that I encounter in this life.  Why?  Because the Lord knows my heart and desires that I draw closer to Him with each passing moment.  And He knows that the crosses chosen specifically for me are the ones that will lead directly to greater sanctification of myself and consequently my family and those with whom I interact.  Seems that I can learn a thing or two (or two thousand) from the Lord's example of faithfulness to His Father's will.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Now that sweet Maria is on a good schedule in terms of napping, Thomas and I find ourselves with the perfect opportunity to spend time one-on-one in the morning for an hour or so during her morning nap.  We've made some care packages for friends and family recently, a few of which have featured a favorite snack around here -- homemade granola bars!  We've experimented with lots of mix-ins like walnuts, dried cranberries, raisins, peanuts, and chocolate chips.  We have yet to find a combination that we don't like!

You need to hear Thomas say "spatula" in person -- it's almost as cute as this picture.

Featured ingredients

Thomas' little collection of ingredients he sampled between bouts of mixing

Pure deliciousness

Hey lady, enough is enough with that camera!

Sleeping angel

Since both Drake and I have decided to forgo chocolate for Lent this year, granola bars have tended toward the fruit and nut variety.  Celebrating the Resurrection is sure to bring chocolate back into the snack rotation!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

need a good laugh?

I came across this tonight thanks to my dear friend, A. 

If you are a mom, have ever been around a mom, would like to know what you're getting yourself into once you become a mom, then read this.  Please.  You can thank me later.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

moments captured on the prairie path

Living only feet away from a tree-covered, naturally-lit, bustling prairie path is lovely.  It's one of the many blessings about living where we do.  It's especially nice now that the warm weather is contemplating a full return, so the kids and I have been outside on numerous occasions.

Here are some photos - I'm no photographer by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm fully confident that you'll get the general idea of what's going on.

When did the little 5 pound baby grow up to be such a big boy?


*Sigh* Maybe he'll actually look at the camera on his wedding or ordination day.  One can only hope.

Well, hey there, pretty lady!

Thomas was quite pleased that this stick looked like a "T." I, for one, didn't have the heart to tell him that I thought it looked more like the symbol for pi.
Sticks, leaves, dirt, bugs, AND rocks?  Bliss!

Here's to many more warm-(ish) days to come!

As a side note, I'll be soon posting some reflections on my recent media fast.  I was just anxious to get up a few quick photos of these beautiful Steed children.  I can't help it - I'm in awe of them.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

ok, friends

I'm taking a long break from blogging.  And rather than just delete my blog all together, I'll explain myself.

I've decided that I need to get a lot of things in my life together, and, for me, that means I need to do some "tearing down" and work my way back up.  I need to be very intentional about the ways I spend my time, ensuring that it is spent in service to my vocation.  While I recognize that things like blogging, reading other blogs, being connected through social networks like Facebook, etc can, in a sense, be a way that moms in particular can more fully live out their vocation, I also know that these things have recently been having adverse effects on me personally.

When I choose to log in to my Facebook account, I'm bombarded by a world of status updates, relationship changes, newly uploaded photos, and I'm instantly sucked in.  Even though I haven't done much to foster true relationships with "friends," I am suddenly "in the know" (to some small extent) about their lives.  Once in a while I'll take time to comment or message or (much less frequently) pray for the person about whom I'm reading.  But let's face it, most of the time it turns me into a busy body and leaves me with a false sense of closeness with others. 

When I choose to read other blogs I can't help but feel inadequate about my own blogging (or lack thereof).  Right now, it doesn't even matter what the topic might be on someone's particular blog.  The fact that they were able to find time to blog in the first place makes me feel like I don't have my act together enough to dedicate time to writing, posting photos of the kids, reading and reflecting on various topics. 

I recognize that I'm putting a great deal of pressure on myself to be perfect in most (if not every) aspect of my life.  I could write a book (probably a whole series) about my struggles with perfectionism, so instead I'll simply ask you to pray for me in this specific regard.

I simply need to disconnect for a while - I need to spend more time in prayer, in self reflection, in taking time to truly listen to the Lord.  I'll still check my email at least once a day, and I'll have my phone around, too.  But I'm taking a much-needed media fast of sorts for an undetermined amount of time, and I'm praying that it might bear fruit in my own life and consequently in the life of my family and those around me.  I'll pray for you and for your intentions, friends!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

aw man, i was trying to be better about this...

I must admit, I don't know how you mommas do it who are able to find time to do a blog post several times a week if not every day.  I'm not there yet.  But I hope to get there one day.  Evenings are much smoother around the stable (my nickname for our home - stable for Steeds...ah well, I thought it was clever) regarding bedtime for a certain little baby.  And that has had tremendous trickle down effect for the rest of the family, particularly for me.  Not only am I just plain getting more sleep at night, but I can also set aside time for things that I need/want to get done in the evenings.  It's pretty lovely, though I tend to grossly overestimate the amount of energy that I'll have by the time 8:00 or 9:00 rolls around.

And so, this scatterbrained post is simply to say that I hope to be posting more frequently (in the evenings) and (gasp!) will be posting photos.

Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

you know what? i'm tired.

Maria's been up every two hours (on the dot) the past four nights.  What happened to that span of two or three weeks of one nighttime wake-up?  I'm longing for those days.  Getting hour-and-a-half increments of sleep consistently is taking a bit of a toll.  I know this is normal for infants and all that, but I must say that I'm sick of hearing about babies who are sleeping through the night at this age.  Right now Maria is sleeping in our bedroom, but both Drake and I are ready for her to be elsewhere -- buuuut, where will she go?  I know the obvious answer is that she would go in Thomas' room, but that brings on a whole new situation to adjust to.  Is it better to have just me on little sleep or start dealing with a potentially sleep deprived toddler as well?  That's somewhat rhetorical, though I'd welcome any experiences/insight/advice any of you have with adjusting your kids to room sharing, particularly adjusting a nursing infant to a toddler's room.  Maria is about 4 months old, and Thomas will be two this week -- thoughts?

I think all moms are sleep deprived to some extent.  And it really affects my mood - one or even two nights of shoddy sleep I can seem to manage just fine, but three or more nights really is tough.  The kids don't always nap at the same time, and, when they do, Maria will sometimes only nap in the Moby.  And then when I wake up to loads of laundry waiting to be folded and put away, dirty dishes in the sink, toys strewn about the floor, well, it takes a great act of the will not to sink into instant discouragement that sets the tone for my day.

So this is what I'm going to do with my tiredness today.  I'm going to offer it for a few specific intentions that friends have expressed -- several newly pregnant families, K who is getting married this week, D as she takes her nursing boards, and L as she awaits ankle surgery next month.  I'll keep each of you and your intentions close to me today.  I'm one tired momma, so I'm fully confident that you'll all get many prayers on your behalf!

And in the meantime...room sharing insights?

Monday, January 31, 2011


I read such an encouraging article today as I sat down to eat some lunch.  With a toddler napping and the little lady curled up in the Moby, I was searching for some encouragement in the midst of a busy, busy morning.

This morning went a little something like this: I started things off by sleeping right through my alarm.  That's seldom a good thing.  And, as fate would have it, everyone (myself included) woke up at the exact same time.  My dear husband hurried to jump in the shower and get out the door for the sometimes-dreaded Monday routine (out the door before 7am and not back home until 9pm).  Sweet Thomas awoke demanding milk, a diaper change ("change your diaper!"), and trucks (whodathunkit?).  Little Maria needed mommy milk and a diaper change as well, not to mention the cuddles she so freely gives and receives.  And all this, mind you, was happening in a two minute span.  I took about half a second to take a breath and then began to meet these needs.  When I walked into the kitchen, my glance was met by an overflow of dishes, pots, and pans that I was simply too tired and busy to do last night.  I then saw the mountain of shoes by the door, the crusted cheese on the table, and the toys scattered around the floor.  I realized I needed to wait to do my workout because I was behind on laundry (unless I wanted to work out in a skirt and wool sweater).  I felt so "behind," and I had been awake for a whopping five minutes.

And, as I sit here typing, the floor still has toys all over it.  The kitchen is still messy.  The laundry is nowhere near complete, and the shoes are still overtaking the doorway.  But, I know for myself that I've been working hard all morning.  I've nourished a baby several times over. I've changed at least five diapers.  I've got dinner in the crockpot.  I've made a number of necessary phone calls.  I've read books, played trucks, and completed puzzles with my almost-two year-old.  I've sung songs, kissed cheeks and bruises, done goofy dances, and even squeezed in a workout (and shower!).  Not too shabby for a morning, even if I don't have much to "show" for it.

It's so easy (for me at least) to only be judge my work in terms of product.  What an American I am - basing my worth on my utility!  Somehow it's all too often not enough that I know for myself how hard I was working.  Gosh darn it, I want other people to know it, too!  Silly, pervasive, relentless pride.  And then, that pride coupled with vanity, makes for a discouraged mother who overlooks her blessings completely and puts more stock in the way things look.

But what am I "looking" for exactly?  Do I really want a perfectly clean-everything in its place-spotless-tidied place to live?  Well, sometimes, yes.  But that is simply not a reality right now, and I would venture to guess that it's not a reality in any home housing children.

Check out some inspiration here.  The article says everything I wanted to say...only better.  And now I'm off to cuddle an infant.  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

help! my children are growing too quickly!

Several things happened tonight that made both of my children seem exponentially older.

Thomas ran up to me and said, "Wind up the chick please, Mommy!"  Just like that.  A full sentence (this is most definitely not his first sentence, but we've been working on asking for things politely and using more description than just the simple "please, Mommy") complete with nouns, a verb, and the bonus "please!"

Maria rolled over several times by herself from back to belly -- and seeing her sit in the Bumbo seat just makes her seem so much bigger and more mature :). 

My children are so beautiful -- and I am so blessed!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

support this ministry. please!

Yesterday I had the greatest experience at a used furniture store that I've ever had.  And yes, I say that definitively.  Hands down, this shopping trip and the events that happened afterward were a total God-send.

To give you a little back story, I was desperately desiring a large rug for our kitchen.  You see, the entrance to our home is on the side of the house off the driveway rather than the front.  And I've found my stress levels increasing whenever we would enter our home because we would track water, dirt, salt, tiny sticks, gravel, and anything else that had worked its way into the crevices of the bottoms of our shoes.  Without a rug, this all pooled on the floor, causing wet socks, a falling toddler, a longer to-do list, and a frustrated mommy.  See how desperately we needed a rug?

I was on a mission yesterday.  I was going to find the perfect cheap rug.  And boy did I!

Some friends of ours had purchased a really nice used piece of furniture for their home at this store.  So I called them up, hoping to give this place our business as well.

With my adorable daughter and bestie Steph Thomas in tow, we walked into the low-lit, bustling world of used furniture.  I cut to the chase and asked where I could find rugs.  Steph and I found a handful of possibilities, but all of them had drawbacks (too small, awkward size, too many flowers...).  We almost left, heading toward the exit doors, but then decided to do another quick lap around. 

Lo and behold, we found the rug.  We both knew it without needing to say a word.  The problem?  No tag.  And we had just been told seconds earlier that any rug without a tag was not for sale.  But this was THE rug.  I had to ask -- at worst, they would say no; at best, we would walk out with a sure-to-be-stress-reducing rug!

"Excuse me, mam, there's a rug over there that doesn't have a tag.  But it is the perfect rug for my home.  Is there any chance you're willing to sell it?"  The kind saleswoman came over to take a look.  "You know, I don't see why not.  Let me go check."  She came back after a bit of consulting with her coworkers.  "We're willing to part with it for 115 dollars."  The look on my face must have been very telling of my concern as she quickly added, "I'm just kidding.  We'll give it to you for $15."  My face lit up - sold!

We headed to the check-out table where sweet Maria was pouring on the charm.  Between the constant smiles of my newborn and my excitement about this rug, I unknowingly left my wallet at the store.  Stephanie and I ran two more errands, all the while traveling without my license, debit card, credit card, insurance cards, and gift cards.

A few hours after we had arrived home, we were sitting at the dinner table with Drake sharing in light conversation.  A knock at the door came as a surprise as we weren't expecting anyone.  Drake turned on the outside light and opened the door.  "Excuse me, is this 233?" asked an unassuming woman.  "Yes...," Drake answered hesitantly.  "Can I ask you to verify the last name?" she asked.  Seconds after he did, she handed him a red wallet. "Oh good, I think your wife left this at our store today," she said as she peered into our kitchen.  I recognized her right away, though I couldn't seem to find the words in that unexpected moment to express my gratitude.  Drake thanked her verbally and with a heartfelt smile, and she headed back to her car.

I have written all this to beg you to support Jubliee Furniture.  The people at this store went above and beyond in seemingly every way possible.  Not only did they sell me a rug that they hadn't intended on parting with, but they then HAND DELIVERED my wallet (and consequently a number of my most important personal belongings) right to my door.  I am still in some shock over the whole ordeal and intend to recommend this business to everyone I know.  If you live in the Chicago suburbs or know people who do or happen to be visiting up this way, I am pleading with you to check out this store and spread the word.  The people are obviously incredible people of God, and they have some high-quality furniture that just might fit your fancy (and your budget!). 

Thank you again, Jubilee.  I will undoubtedly be back.  May the Lord bless you and your ministry!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

bragging rights

Over the course of the last several months, my husband had the daunting task of completely revamping a website for the music therapy executive board.  Dear Drake has a music therapy and psychology background -- not exactly fields that lend themselves to web design.  Nevertheless, he assembled and oversaw a committee and spent countless late-night hours working teaching himself how to put a website together.  This in the midst of a doctoral program, part-time freelance music therapy work at a residential treatment facility, and dedication to our family.  My oh my. 

So here's the link -- music therapist or not, I think you'll agree that this website is impressive!

Monday, January 10, 2011

good eats

St. Nicholas brought me a Crock Pot Trio for Christmas.  It. Is. Awesome.  Last night featured delicious pulled pork wraps and vegetarian chili.  And ooooh baby, it was good!  So, here are the recipes:

Pulled Pork Wraps
2 1-lb pork tenderloins
Salt and pepper
1 cup barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's)
1/2 cup apricot spreadable fruit or low-sugar apricot jam
3/4 cup chopped onion (I omitted this -- onions don't jive with the Steeds)
1 cup strips assorted-color sweet peppers
12 whole-wheat tortillas
Assorted toppings (shredded cheddar cheese, salsa, guacamole, and/or light sour cream)

1. Season pork with salt and pepper.  Place pork in a 4-quart slow cooker.  In a bowl, mix barbecue sauce, spreadable fruit, and onion; pour over pork.  Add peppers.  Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 4 hours or on high-heat setting for 2 hours.  The pork should be at least 160 degrees.
2. Remove pork and cut up; shred with fork.  Stir back into mixture in cooker.  Serve in flour tortillas with the assorted toppings.  Makes 12 wraps.

Vegetarian Chili
Throw a big bunch of beans (we used a combination of black, chili, and kidney beans) into the crock pot along with some uncooked vegetables of your choice (may I suggest peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots).  Mix in packet of chili seasoning and/or your own spices.  Cook on low for several hours.  Can you tell we didn't use a formal recipe for this one?

Enjoy!  I've got paella going in the trio right now, so we'll see how that goes...it'll be tough to top last night's fare!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I absolutely loved this article.  I heard it on NPR when it aired and was thrilled to find it in written form. 

Although these woman have a vocational calling that differs greatly from my own, I am in complete awe of them.  The surrender, utmost love and devotion they have for our Lord inspires me and challenges me to open myself more fully to Him.

Happy reading!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

That is FEAR leaving the body!

Oh Jillian Michaels.  You don't scare me.

Well, maybe you do...just a little.

I recently started the 30 Day Shred.  Whew.  Jillian really does rule the workout world.  I used to think workout videos were pretty cheesy and never thought they would be nearly as effective as an hour and a half at the gym.  Well, any sort of gym membership is not feasible right now, due to both financial and time constraints.  Okay, I thought...I'll just do circuits of my own in the family room as the day allows.  Five minutes here, 3 minutes there.  I'll be ripped in no time!  Ha!  That lasted about 2 days, and I was getting nowhere fast with exercise.  I was completely unmotivated and all too easily allowed other things to fill the time instead.  Within the last two weeks, I've finally started doing a more serious workout - JM is about as serious as it gets!  Now, don't be fooled.  I might refer to her as "JM" in a blog post, but in reality I would probably call her "Ms. Michaels" in a squeaky high-pitched scared voice if I were to meet her in person.  But I digress...

Exercise has always been an effective multi-purpose outlet for me.  I feel good about myself whether or not I'm losing weight; I have a heck of a lot more energy throughout the day even if I had to wake up early to squeeze in the workout; it's more motivation to find time for a shower :) ; I can deal with stress; I sleep better at night...the list goes on.  But as a mother, exercising certainly hasn't been priority for me...I've chosen errand-running, household chores, sleeping (sometimes), appointment-making, cleaning, and almost everything else above a workout.  And it's taken a toll.  So now I'm back at it - I've done "The Shred" for the last week and a half, and it's been great!  The exercises are intense, but even already I can feel myself getting stronger and feeling better.  I'm finally at the point that I don't dread the workout but instead see it as time for myself that benefits me and has a major trickle down effect to my family.  The goal is to stick with it for 30 days and maybe even work my way up to the Intermediate level...can't imagine with JM has in store there.

Sometimes I stare into my closet longingly at my pre-pregnancy jeans.  I wish that I could just wake up one morning and slide right in.  But alas, I'm fairly confident that that's not a reality for most mothers.  And if it's a reality for you, then kudos to you!  We nursing mothers who not only feel famished no matter how much we eat but who also need to consume extra calories (hundreds in fact) to feed our little nurslings should probably focus more on being healthy when it comes to working out versus weight loss.  I need to take some of my own advice in that regard.  Sometimes I see moms who are about a size three and feel tremendous jealousy toward them and shame toward myself.  Shame?  Seriously?  Yes, sadly.  That's how vain I am.  So I'm trying to make very conscious efforts (it's almost embarrassing how purposeful these efforts need to be for me to actually follow through with them) to focus on health...and health alone.  Not on the number on the tag of my jeans, not on the letter indicating the size of my sweater, but on caring for my physical body in order to bring glory to God.

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own." 1 Corinthians 6:19

Bring it on, Jillian!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

a new look

It's a new year.  And while I, maybe like you, have good intentions to do things like stick to my workout routine, eat better, and make prayer top priority, I'm committing myself this year to living balance....balance in all things.

I've always struggled with the direction of this blog - who is my audience?  Who really reads this thing anyway?  Why do people read it?  Why do I blog in the first place?

I've decided to use this blog for myself - I'm going to start to be more honest.  Honest about Catholic family life, honest about life as a stay at home mom, honest about struggles, honest about joys, honest about my relationship with God, and honest about life in general.

Maybe, just maybe, this will give you permission to do the same in your own life.  I'm not nearly as together as you might think, and I'm starting to realize that that's okay.  And so, as I've said many times before, I'm going to try to make blogging a priority for myself.  I hope to blog about all sorts of topics, some or none of which may be of interest to you.

And hey, do me a favor...would you mind becoming a follower if you have read this blog even once?  I appreciate knowing who is reading.  I'd also love to read any comments - feel free to leave them here or shoot me an email...I promise to reply to you, and more importantly, I promise to pray for you.

May 2011 be a year of growth in all things!