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'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!