11 December, 2012

4 Years Going on 40

My little man is 4. I'm about a week late on this post, but that's what happens when you're facing the kinds of mountains I have been. Late or not, he is 4 and I've been a mama for almost 5 years. Whew...

John Ross, your joy is contagious. Your zest for life and curiosity is my life's breath some days. I love watching you figure things out and play pretend with your sister. I cherish the moments when we curl up in bed without Daddy or Clara for snuggle time and a good movie. I am inspired by your work ethic and your desire to be helpful. You are polite and loving. I am so grateful for your sensitive feelings and their constant reminder that life is not about me.

May the world be forever a wonderful, beautiful puzzle. May the growth you love so much as a child inspire you to the end of your days. May your dream to "get little again" keep you young and hopeful. May God bless you, my sweet, loving, spirited, little boy.

Mama loves you always.

30 October, 2012

Sick and Tired...

Just a quick post for you lovely people who check this regularly for updates or happen to bounce here from an email. I know I am utterly behind on updates and posts, but quite frankly, I'm sick.

When I was pregnant with John Ross I was terribly nauseous. With Clara, not so much. This time, I keep food down and can manage the nausea, but I am terribly averted to food and am struggling with extreme exhaustion and body aches. It's almost like I have the flu, but I know it is just our little "Spud" getting big and healthy.

It makes being a good mama and wife terribly hard and puts blogging on the farthest back burner.

And yes, I've tried everything. Exercise, laying-low, Gatorade, ginger-ale, tart foods, citrus, spicy foods, fast foods, high fat foods, water, tea, toast...none of it is helping long term.

Anybody have experience with extreme detoxing during the first trimester? I don't mean intentional detox, but a body going out of its way to flush chemicals and imbalances? I sure feel like that is what my body is trying to do, but I don't know how to clear it once and for all.

17 October, 2012

The Pill v. NFP: Are They Really Different?

Our beautiful niece Elizabeth! A beautiful example of YES!
Congratulations!! You are a wonderful mama and I'm sure you're very excited for another addition. This baby is very lucky to be born to such a sweet, caring family.

On another note, you say "we are so grateful that we have never imposed barriers to the life-giving gift we've been given. Imagine if God had given us this gift of fertility and we had chosen to use a contraceptive drug that acts to prevent the implantation of a conceived child?"

In using NFP, you take actions to avoid pregnancy. By taking a pill, you're preventing pregnancy. I'd be interested in a post on why avoidance is better than prevention. In reality, the both require the same intent and same result. Is the process actually so important?

I'm not being antagonistic...I really think it would be interesting to read your viewpoint!

I know that I've posted on this before, but it was also before I had children. There is a big credibility difference between someone who has children versus someone who has no children on this topic. The comment and question above is from a really dear friend of mine. I don't typically like to respond to comments, but her question is valid and I know it is one to foster dialogue not arguement. I wasn't sure I wanted to take the time to write a whole post, but after writing a direct email back to her, I realized it was a good post too!

If in fact birth control pills are as effective as they are and I were on them, there is a 99% chance that this baby, our baby, who we now lovingly refer to as "Spud", wouldn't be arriving in 9 months. Some pills prevent ovulation and that would have almost guaranteed no pregnancy. Some pills and devices allow conception, but make the uterine lining inhospitable to implantation, thus causing the body to flush the conceived embryo with the menstrual cycle. Condoms and diaphrams avoid pregnancy by imposing an artificial latex or rubber barrier. This baby was actually conceived (because I chart and I know) well out of my normal fertile window. I was all but positive, by way of my multiple symptom markers, that we were a full week post-ovulation. Suffice it to say, God wanted this baby to be conceived and because we don't use artificial barriers, the baby was able to be conceived. 

The process of avoiding or for that matter, achieving pregnancy, in our hearts matters a great deal because it is the difference between trusting God and believing that we, as flawed and limited humans, are in control. It's actually a pretty holistic approach for us. It impacts not only how we plan our family, but how we eat, how we interact, who we spend time with, and how we give. We were blessed to have been given these 4 infinitives in the first few years of our marriage and they have become a guiding philosophy for our family in so many aspects:
Accept God's Gifts Gratefuly
Nurture God's Gifts Responsibly
Share God's Gifts Justly and Charitably
Return God's Gifts Abundantly.

Don't get me wrong, a condom can break and medication interactions can nullify the effects of many birth control pills, so if God wants you to conceive all kinds of things can happen. However, this way we are not putting up additional barriers to the gifts and life God wants to give us. We don't live in a position/country/economic status where there is any reason to reject God's gift of life. It might make us have to live a bit leaner, with a bit less sleep, and we might not be able to travel as much or purchase the newest gadgets, but really, how can any of that compare to the gift of a child? Accepting a child is one of the most sacrificial, but sanctifying things I've done in my life, and God has provided every step of the way.

I often wonder, philosopher that I am, what if God offered to conceive a child with us who had the potential to cure cancer, but a condom or pill prevented it? (Please know that I propose this in all humility with any of the greatness falling on God and certainly do not presume myself a worthy mother of a child with these gifts.) What kinds of people and gifts are being lost to this world because people with the means aren't willing say YES? No judgement, just curiousity. There are a whole lot of philosophical and theological concepts in there about who you believe God to be and God's role in our world and how far God's power can reach into the free-will of humans lives, but it is a question worth considering for us.

***Sidenote: Humans conceived and not brought to full potential and dignity is also why frozen embryos used in other forms of technologically assisted fertility and embryonic stem cell research raise a concern for us. Human beings in suspended animation until another human decides it's time to see if they can be brought to life is utilitarian at best.

We are constantly discerning where to go with our family. We don't consider ourselves called to be a "big Catholic family" and we are not Quiverfull followers, like the famously large family the Duggars.  In fact, the weekend before we found out we were pregnant, my niece Elizabeth was with us and didn't really sleep through the night and I was pretty affirmed in our discernment of 2 due to some other health issues I've been facing. On the other hand, having Elizabeth with us and seeing the kids with her, Kevin made a complete 180 and thought it might be a good idea to discern a third. 3 days later, God gave us the answer. And it was an answer that had already been in the works for weeks. Strange how that works. And yet, when this baby arrives, we must once again begin our regular discernment of our family size and our call to be co-creators. Moreover, we believe that we have a call to co-create with God and be fertile through God in places beyond our womb, but that does not allow us to close our womb to life. Every month we must enter into conversation and prayer about the gift of life God may be offering us and if God is calling us to say YES.

My relationship with the Blessed Mother has been forever changed by my own experience of saying YES. This world would not be what it is today if it were not for her YES. I can't help but share a favorite reflection on Mary's YES. I have somewhere in my files a wonderful poem written about Mary's Fait (the Latin word for YES) and when I find it I will post it too.

NFP allows us to hold nothing back in our sexual intimacy and allows us to intentionally strengthen our relationship through other forms of intimacy when we are trying to avoid conception. There is a little bit of crunchy mama in there too because I hated what contraceptives did to my body and mind when I was on them through college for abnormal cycles.
Honestly, it is a marital decision. So long as a couple is not using an abortifacient form of birth control or Plan B that allows conception but not implantation (even if the science is still "inconclusive"), I can respect whatever family planning decisions they make. I don't believe in relativity, that something that works for me may not work for other people, I just know that respect is key to dialogue as long as a conceived life is not in jeopardy. It's just really important to me to be a witness for the choices and gifts of our own life and to give our perspective and beliefs a voice.

10 October, 2012

Hello World!

We have an open womb. What does that mean? Well, it means that though we regularly discern our family life and our family size, our womb is always open to the possibility of conception. We don't use artificial contraception in the form of a pill, a device or a condom. We know, despite our best efforts in charting, that if God wants us to co-create another life, our womb is open and hospitable. We also know that besides our spiritual and moral beliefs we face societal, familial, financial, and physical challenges that we must weigh heavily in our decisions about family planning.

Amidst all of our beliefs and considerations, we place our trust in God at the center. We allow our womb to remain open and either acheive or avoid pregnancy naturally by way of a process called fertility awareness. As Catholics, many know this as various forms of Natural Family Planning or NFP.

Our womb is open and God has decided to fill it. Completely in God's own way, well beyond my fertile period (my temperature had dropped, my cervical mucus was dry, and we were a good 8 days past my ovulation day of the past 12 months), we conceived our third child. We are so very blessed and so very humbled that we would again be entrusted with the life and upbringing of another of God's children. We are due at the end of May.

Some of you just did the math in your head and figured out that I am only about 8 weeks along. Some of you are asking yourselves, "Why is she telling the world at 8 weeks? What if something happens?"

If something happens, we will greive and we will share that grief and invite others to grieve with us as we have grieved others. However, our faith and our life is about sharing the joys and the sorrows of this journey. I'm pregnant! And I'm not going to let the fear of darkness and death keep me from celebrating and inviting others to celebrate. There is a new life inside of me and if I were a little less woozy (and could physically do one) I'd do cartwheels!

Trusting God with our gift of fertility is not always an easy road. Most dedicated NFP couples, fertile and infertile, will tell you the same thing. It requires trust and communication with both God and spouse. That being said, after finding out just how blessedly fertile we are (3 babies in 5 years), we are so grateful that we have never imposed barriers to the life-giving gift we've been given. Imagine if God had given us this gift of fertility and we had chosen to use a contraceptive drug that acts to prevent the implantation of a conceived child? Many of the contraceptives work this way and even if the science is still out, would you want to even take the risk a new life being flushed from your womb? We don't.

Every sexual act is a gift. It is a gift between spouses. It is a gift from God. It is a gift that is meant to be life-giving to the husband, the wife and our God. Our marriage vows, shared by most Christian marriages, are between three spirits, not just two. Our sexuality, our fertility, is a gift in which life is to be given and received.

Blessed John Paul II, Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, and Saint Gerard Majella, Pray for Us.

29 August, 2012

The Enormity of One Drive

It's 8:48a and i've already been humbled.

If I haven't mentioned yet, I am an intensely introverted person. I know this is shocking to anyone who has heard me speak or teach, but I stick pretty close to the vest in social situations. My social anxieties also make marital social events difficult because my husband has a stamp a his forehead that says, "Talk to me, I want to know."

Last night after a really long day and a last minute change of plans we joined a group of Kevin's old friends and their kids for a gathering. I was doing okay after the park. Lots of space, lots of attention on the kids, I could remain fairly annonymous. Then my worst nightmare, the park closed at sunset and the gathering moved to my sister-in-law's home.

4 little boys and 2 little girls. Adults drinking - which I have NO problem with (in fact a beer may have curbed my anxiety a bit), but I choose not to drink on nights before I work because even small amounts of alcohol and I don't function pleasantly in the morning. Mosquitos biting. No air-conditioning. It took all of 20 minutes for my blood pressure to rise and my breath to quicken. As the noise level grew, I bit my lip harder to keep from bolting out the front door to catch my breath. I didn't want to lose it or heaven forbid, cry. I sat quietly in the recliner refereeing my children and watching the "germils" take turns running on their wheel. I know that I was being anti-social, but it was better than having a complete emotional breakdown.

Eventually the night ended and we packed two sweaty little kids in the car for a fairly quiet ride home. I was exhausted. Completely. I didn't even want to talk to my husband and it wasn't because I was angry.

The pall still hangs over me this morning. I had to prepare a pot of soup for a staff lunch and in the hubub of the evening had not gotten to the grocery store for the last minute ingredients. I shot out the door when the sitter arrived to stop at the "neighborhood market" on my way to work in a neighborhood that quite frankly, puts me on guard.

It took me 10 minutes to wade past all the crap aisles to find beans and then I had to weave into a hidden corner of the store to find fresh produce. I settled for collard greens because this is not the kind of place that you're apt to find kale. May I add, this place is a nutritional nightmare for the people in this neighborhood.

I got back in my car and continued down to the next intersection where a middle-aged man was sitting on a decrepit concrete barrier drinking a beer - at 8 in the morning. Yet one more block down I see a twenty-something woman, about 8 months pregnant, waiting for the bus - smoking.

Now, I can't judge the God-given lives of these people. I don't know their circumstances, but is this what our society has come to as a collective whole. And, while I will not down play my own anxiety issues or my experience, I sure have a new perspective from which to look at it from.

It made me go back and read my own recent post at Catholic Mothers Online. Even if I can't turn the frown upside down, what am I going to do today to make my life less about me and more about bettering the world around me?

16 August, 2012

The Man and the Airplane

A few weeks back John Ross had his first dentist appointment. In preparation for his little boy anxiety (couldn't he have just gotten my eyes???), I scheduled the appointment first thing in the morning. I stuffed granola bars down their throats on the way to the office since an 8:00 appointment didn't allow much time for their leisurely breakfasts.

Ultimately, the appointment went well. They looked at his teeth and even cleaned them ("Mama, I don't like that sandy stuff..."). He didn't even gag once! (That trait could be attributed to me, but I'm going to pin it on his daddy). So, I decided to make up their morning nutritional balance with a special treat: McDonalds!

I rail against the fast-food mentality of our culture, but there is just nothing like a McSchmuffin for a special treat. However, anyone who has been to a typical McDonalds in the morning knows the scene: business people, moms and college students in the drive-thru, the senior and shift-work crowd in the dining room.

So, I march in there with my two under 3, order a breakfast platter with milk and a McSchmuffin and procede to herd them into a booth. After a few squabbles over the shared milk, we settled into a nice meal. We often talk about where our food comes from and this morning was no different. They were for the most part well-behaved little friends.

As I began to tidy our trash and older gentleman walked up to the table. He begins with the phrase any mom dreads, "I have something for you if your mama says it's okay."

What??? Admittedly, my mama-radar raised to level orange. "We're in a public place," I think to myself, "he can't really do anything."

The older man goes on to pull a little Packer's airplane toy out of his pocket and hands it to John Ross. It pulls back and rolls foward and at some point had light and sound capabilities that long ago lost their battery power.

He then turns to me and says in a gruff voice, "I'm single and I eat out a lot. There is nothing harder to tolerate than a bunch of little kids screaming and yelling and running around. So, when I am out and about I pick up little toys and things to give to kids I seeing behaving in restaurants."

Then he walks away. I proceded to explain to John Ross that he had gotten the toy because he had been so polite and quiet and that man was able to eat his breakfast pleasantly.

I'm not sure how I felt about the older gentleman's fairly crumudgeon intentions because his intolerance is a bit unfriendly to families, but it was a wonderful enforcement of the public behavior lessons we've been working on. Some things seem to be so much more effective coming from a stranger.

Moreover, I can't tell you how affirmed I was as a parent. What a blessing it was for someone of that generation to compliment the result of my parenting efforts instead of criticize. That man did more than he'll probably ever realize and for that I am grateful God sent him to us.

06 August, 2012

The Way My Mother Made Me

I was blessed to have a wonderfully deep conversation about mothers with some dear women recently. The sun warmed our bodies, the food nourished our stomachs, and a cool August breeze signaled to all of us a time of change in our lives.

Over delightfully cold glasses of lemonade we shared about work, ministry and motherhood. As the last few bites were taken the conversation turned to the topic of our mothers.

While I hold very dear the insights, fears, joys, and questions that were raised during this unique conversation and would never betray the trust of my two dearest friends, I will say this and I think it runs true for all women: we are each the way our mothers made us. We live with and learn from their choices, their manners, and yes, even their thighs. We carry their absence and presence with us. We hear their voices, their lessons, and their theologies within just about every moment. Sometimes the lessons are found in their failings or our missing wants and desires, and sometimes they are in the questions that remain unanswered. Nevertheless, they make us who we are.

I'm not going to make that something more than it is. Birth mothers, foster mothers, Godmothers, grandmothers, Virgin Mothers, let it find you where you are and let it speak to you.

Grateful for the beautiful women who blessed me so deeply today with their great honesty and trust, I treated my daughter to her very first tea and biscuits before bed tonight. I relished every blessed motherly moment. As we laughed and giggled and talked about all the good things God makes for us, I prayed somewhere in the hidden realms of my soul that someday the smell of chamomille and lavender will find my Clara remembering her own mommy-dearest, worts and all.

30 July, 2012

My Mixer Metaphor for My Marriage

About 8 months ago, I was just going about my business making a cake for John Ross' birthday. I was using my KitchenAid mixer to whip up a batch of marshmallow fondant to lay over the cake. Anyone who has worked with fondant before knows that it is a pretty heavy load. I finished my frosting, finished my cake and went on celebrating a sweet little 3-year-old boy.

The celebration ended 2 days later when I went to make a batch of merigues (the lightest possible work load for a stand mixer) and the motor would run, but the paddle would hit the meringue and stop.


It stopped.

I got the mixer 7 years ago. KitchenAid as a brand has built its reputation on longevity. Their mixers are meant to last a lifetime. A common wedding gift, one would imagine that it should at least last the length of an average marriage, which in one 2011 study was 8.7 years.

Needless to say, I was annoyed. When I get annoyed, world watch out. I tend to be a bit OCD when irritated. The soupy meringues got pitched and daughter of a mechanical engineer that I am, I delved straight into my mixer.

Yes, I did. I Googled and found out that perhaps my mixer needed cleaning. So with a screwdriver, toothbrush, and popsicle stick, I opened up and cleaned out my entire mixer. It was gross since I didn't know that I was supposed to clean it every few years. With a fresh coat of grease, I put everything back together, plugged it in and turned it on. Same problem. Argh.

I took the whole mixer to my dad at Christmas. If the daughter of a mechanical engineer couldn't figure out a simple motor, her dad probably could, right? Well, after a toothpick and some epoxy fixes, the thing still didn't work. We couldn't get the RPMs right. We decided to replace the phase controller, but that required ordering the piece. So, I took my mixer home, ordered the $7 piece and replaced it. Beautiful, right? Wrong.

At this point, you are all saying, just buy a new mixer. Nope, not this OCD spendthrift. I'm not buying another $200 appliance.

More research. Perhaps it was the electrical wires. Another $30 piece ordered and replaced and finally the RPMs were correct. I seperate some eggs and go to work on my long awaited Resurrection cookies (also a meringue-type cookie). I add the 1/4 cup of sugar from the recipe and not 30 seconds later, the paddle stops and the motor keeps running.

Mental picture time: 8:30 at night, I'm sitting at the kitchen table which is covered with a Valentine's Day table cloth, head in my hands, sobbing and cursing at my mixer. Kevin walks in for the night and suggests we just buy a new one. I snap and him and told him that it is just a stupid machine. Just a motor and some gears. I'm not buying a new one. Period.

Instead, I fiddle and futz with the machine for another 3 hours. I open, close, clean, examine and though I am ashamed to admit it, cried and cursed some more.

Then it happened. I realized that there was a piece missing from a very hidden hole that kept the main shaft from slipping when tension was applied. I remembered that the afternoon that I first disassembled the mixer, a small pin had fallen out the moment I had opened it and I couldn't find it's home. I assumed it was a stabilizer for the casing and had placed it in a random hole in the casing. I pulled it out and fitted it to the hidden hole. I tidied up the gear box, re-attached the casing, and wiped down the counter. With a deep breath and not much hope, I plugged in the mixer, held my hand to the paddle and turn the well-worn handle to "stir".

It worked and actually pinched my finger to the side of the bowl. Forget the finger! It worked!

6 months...6 months of trial and challenge. But I fixed it.

I like to believe that this very long process was an allegory for our marriage. Marriages, like mixers, are supposed to last a lifetime. At the core is a sacrament, a motor. It is the divine energy that sustains the marriage. There are gears, spouses, that convert the energy into work that creates beautiful products, children and good works for the world. Sometimes gears are going to slip, sometimes the spark is going to go out, sometimes the pace is going to be too fast or too slow, and sometimes you're just going to get stuck. God's energy keeps going, but the human parts just don't work. It's not a reason to give up or to buy a new mixer. It's a reason to seek expert help and put some elbow grease into it.

If this experience has taught me one thing, I believe that whenever Kevin and I hit the metaphorical "7-year-stick" we're going to be just fine. I'd like to believe it is because we are loving children of God who understand that marriage is sanctifying and always requires effort, in good times and in bad. However, I know better. The truth is, we are both too stubborn and too cheap to start over again.

25 July, 2012

A Contented Return

Well readers, it's been awhile. Pictures are below for those of you used to being greeted by a photo...:)

I am not dead, depressed, or otherwise wasted away in depths of despair. Actually, I've been wallowing in a time of re-prioritization and discernment. I've been enjoying some major changes made to our life this past spring.

Last summer I made a career move from the pastoral area of stewardship to the pastoral area of faith formation. While I love planning and teaching, I did not much enjoy the drama and grind of that type of position. Students are tired, parents are unkind and demanding, and quite frankly nights and weekends were doing permanent damage to my children. "Bye mama, daddy's staying home so you go to a meeting," on nights when I didn't have one scheduled was way too tough. We spent late nights and weekends recovering from our weeks and my husband, supportive and loving as he was, was being worn down by all the time we spent apart and caring for children alone.

After lots of tears and struggles, bouts with depression, and parish politics, we decided that I needed to watch for a new position. Lo and behold, the perfect position popped up quite out of the blue. 3 days a week I work as a communications secretary for another local parish. Plenty of time for family, diocesan work and writing without the drama of nights, weekends, or parents.

The transformation has been incredible and affirming. My children are better behaved, my patience a bit thicker, and my marriage has never been better. My house stays cleaner, I feel no guilt about stopping mid-task to read books to my snuggly little Sappa, and even my waistline seems to have halted its outward march. Last night, for the first time in a long time I joined a friend for a drink downtown after 7pm! Whoo-hoo!

I've found myself not only more attentive to the needs and persons of my friends and family, but more responsive and more generous. I've been able to put a more positive spin on life in general and helped my family to do the same.

I work a few less hours, took a paycut, and now pay my nanny more, but I wouldn't change any of it to protect what I've rediscovered. I truly feel the balance is back in my vocations. I know not everyone is able to make this kind of change, but I am blessed that my husband and I were able to trust my gut (although reluctantly at times) and see this new phase of our life through.

It's not easy to make the right choice. There are moments when I wonder about my potential, my career, my achievement. There are moments when I think, "Really? 16 years of schooling for this?" and then I remember that no corporate or pastoral achievement can be compared to the responsibility of caring for the souls entrusted to our parental care. No planning meeting compares to a meaningful discussion about heaven with a 3-year-old. Both important, but in this season of my life, God has called me to join him on the lakeshore next to a curious little boy and a dead fish.

The day will come when they won't need me as much. The day will come when God will call me to serve his church in a deeper capacity again. By that time, I will have gained the wisdom of parenthood and the understanding and compassion of married life. I will be that much more equipped to serve God's people on their journeys. I'm not losing anything by stepping back for a few years. I am gaining those foundational years with my little ones and my husband. I have been gifted by God with time to shore up our foundation and build a house on rock with Him.

Build a house of God's love around your children and they will become shelters of God's love for the world.

Here are just a few photos from our very blessed summer so far.

The Men in My Life: Dad, Grandpa, Hubby

Me and the Hubby Relaxing at the Lake

My Little Fish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Man of Our Dreams out for Pizza
Fourth of July Fun

Riding on the Wagon behind the Tractor

Sassy Sissy and Sappa-Lou

It was the dream of his life to play with his trucks in the sand.

Pizza Man right after he checked out the dead fish.

Love this photo with Auntie Sissy!

Auntie Ana hates little kids eating habits, but who can resist that face???

Here she's got a co-captain, but my daughter doned her own life jacket and struck out in her own little boat with mama swimming behind! Highlight anyone???

30 May, 2012

From the Wise Man in My Life

"The only way to truly help people or change the world is to do what you can and do it well. You will never fully comprend how many people’s lives you will touch, but don’t do it because you want to save the world, and don’t do it because you want everyone to see it, just do it because it helps the people around you (our kids, our families, our church and our neighbors) and hopefully it will grow. We are the seeds, God is the soil and grace is the rain. When you do it you probably won’t even know that you are doing it."

Isn't he amazing?

16 May, 2012

Working Smart in the Kitchen

Great new concept! The Indians have it right! Naan bread that you make like pancakes and can use all week!

I made this last weekend to go with some fabulous lamb stew (added Door County dried cherries, yum!) and I've used the leftovers all week. So versatile.

I made a tzaziki sauce (but I use all yogurt, no mayo and no sour cream and I add a bit of dill - be sure to drain the cucs!) so we could eat it as an appetizer to another meal. I made naan pizzas with tomato paste, turkey pepperoni and shredded cheese. I toasted it in the toaster and made breakfast out of it. Great for dipping in eggs. Awesome snack to just hand the kids! (and the mama...)

Chewy, protein and whole grain rich, flat yummy-ness. Do not deny yourself.

1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
combine in small bowl until dissolved

1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)
1 beaten egg
1 tbsp oil
2 tsp salt
mix in seperate bowl and stire in yeast mixture

5+ cups of bread flour (up to half whole wheat if you like)

Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl and turn to grease both sides. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 1 hour. Separate dough into golf ball sized balls and roll to 1/16 inch thickness. Preheat frypan (or pancake griddle!). Add 1/2 tsp to each area you will be frying on and allow to melt. Place on flattened round on each buttered area and cook on each side until lightly browned and puffy (3-4 minutes per side, this is why I love the griddle!). Wrap in towel to keep warm while cooking remaining bread. Store in ziplock in the fridge for 5-7 days. Warm in oven or toaster, or do like my kids and eat it cold!

04 May, 2012

Holy Week 2012

Yikes...this was a post I started during Holy Week! Please pardon the date discrepancies!

It's here. Another Holy Week. Finally.

I have truly been anticipating this week. It is the first week in months that I don't have any evening commitments. It is the first week in months when I don't have another project or committment coming up. My freelance work is complete or in limbo for the time being and life at the parish turns solely to liturgical celebrations putting my catechetical and evangelical brain at rest.

Some of you may recall my Lenten efforts - declutter physically in order to declutter/destress/focus mentally. Essentially, make more room in my head for God.

Here are my results - in photos! Though there are no photos, I did also tackle our pantry and a lot of our freezer. By this time, they're almost full up again!

02 May, 2012

2 Years and Counting!

My baby turned two last Wednesday. Yes, that is how busy our life has been that I haven't gotten her birthday post done until now.

She's two. Two years ago I was sitting at home trying to nurse an angry little elf of a baby girl. Her appetite and temper have not subsided since, but they are part of what makes her Clara. I wouldn't change her for anything.

My two favorite features on my daughter are:
Her cheesy grin

Her elbow dimples. She just has the most beautiful full little figure I've ever seen.

My two favorite personality traits of my daughter are:
Her impishness - She is the spitting image of everything I've ever heard about her namesake, my great-grandmother Clara. She is bright, thoughtful, silly, and completely in control.

Her passion - I see so much of me in her highs and lows. I know that in her passion and insistence is a greatness that God will harness in amazing ways. I just pray that God gives me the tools I need to be her guide.

My two favorite phrases of my daughter are:
"I'm talking to my GRANDDAUGHTER!"

"Poke-A-mott", translated coconut

Two hopes I have for Clara this year:
I hope she learns to handle frustration and disappointment without shrieking.

I hope we can have our first mommy-daughter date.

30 April, 2012

10 Things I Didn't Know When I Got Married

1. Differing expectations are at the heart of almost every conflict (and success!)
2. NFP is HARD. That said, it is one of the most worthwhile aspects of our marriage.
3. Men need space...physical and mental...
4. Parents don't get sick days.
5. I'm undisciplined and insecure. God is so good for giving me a patient and encouraging husband.
6. You can communicate too much, but we'd prefer it that way to not enough.
7. Diaper bribes only work when you don't share a bank account.
8. Dual jobs/incomes are great...until you have to balance them with family life. Praise God for a husband who understands the importance of balancing our family life with my career ambitions.
9. My husband has a mental stamina that rivals a robot. He has held strong through many a joyful, sleepless, confused, and tearful night.
10. Life makes love look hard, but with God, the last six years have been the most abundantly blessed of my life.

All jokes aside, five years ago I married a man who is gift from God that I could never deserve. Though cliche, I love him more today than that dreary April day in 2007 when we vowed our lives to God and each other. My best friend, my confident, my lover, my muse, my protector, and many days, my brain. He is the man who challenges me to be better than I am and who encourages me to continue becoming God's creation.

I love you.

19 April, 2012

Extra! Extra! Cohabitation at Beginning of Rougher Road

Though I've heard plenty a skeptic say the Catholic Church is behind the times, once again, society and science catch up with the Catholic Church! Check out this opinion piece in the New York Times.

NYT: The Downside of Cohabitating Before Marriage

16 April, 2012

Mussels, Fries, Apple Trees and...

...a small dose of discernment.

Suprise #1: On Saturday afternoon, my husband arrived home from a morning of errands with a pound of fresh, black mussels! For those of you who are wondering why a pound of bottom feeding shellfish raises such joy in my heart must understand that I am a European woman in an American life. I love all things European and one of my favorite dishes from my travels is mussels and fries or "moules frites" as they are known in French. There is a snazzy little tavern in Libertyville, IL that serves them up as a dish known as "Belgian Delight" and while we were hoping to enjoy them over the Easter holiday, the big family gathering did not allow for much adventuring. So instead, a week later, my hubby brought the mussels to me with a recipe! Not only did he provide the ingredients, but an opportunity for me to cook them!

I was so excited that I didn't even get photos, but we shared two beautiful bowls of wine and cream steamed mussels, a bowl of homemade shoestring fries and sides of garlic-mustard aoili. Pair that with a beautiful Belgian Ale from Titletown Brewing Company and a fabulous table in the sun on our very own deck and I was one happy lady!

Surprise #2: My anniversary presents arrived this weekend! Our 5-year anniversary is on the 27th of this month. We've had to postpone any travel plans due to a crazy schedule, but my hubby still managed an fabulous surprise. Out of his SUV of tricks he pulled two apple trees!!! Now, any of you who know my backyard may be asking, "Why do you need apple trees? You already have two!" Yes...I do, but these aren't just apple trees. These are Haralson apple trees. They are a hearty (zones 3-7, meaning they can handle up to -40 degree temps) heritage variety trees that bear the most beautiful russet red apples with a super tart flavor and firm flesh. They are directly out of my childhood and I beg for them every year! As early as next year, I will have my own! Hmmm...what to make with my first harvest???? Thank goodness I have a whole year to decide.

Surprise #3: This was a great weekend.

Yes, it is as simple as that. It's been a rough few months. Not so much the busyness of the calendar, but the stress and pressure and unknowns of life during such a busy time. I've spent many a week "just getting through" and many a night in tears or comatose because "this just isn't the way it is supposed to be!"

This weekend was the first in months where I got to catch up on chores, play outside with my kids, and spend time really talking with my husband. It had us prioritizing and reflecting on some current developments in our life. Fortunately, this weekend there was enough time to take the reflection to prayer and realize that no matter how little time we have, prayer must come first.

I'm glad that I've been taught about discernment - taught ways of calling on and recognizing God's promptings. While I still too often use discernment as an excuse for change when I'm feeling unsettled, it is a comfort zone for me. A step-by-step process for moving beyond myself and listening/watching for God. How often I am rewarded for my prayer and patience with signs and affirmations of my journey. It's like the green line in the Fidelity Financial commercials, but instead of a green line, mine is a gravel path. Instead of an arrow, the fire of the Spirit beckons me forward. Instead of security for self, there is trust in my Lord.

01 April, 2012

Girlfriends in God: More Precious than Jewels!

A quick photo post from yesterday's amazing event! You ladies are beautiful and holy jewels in God's crown! I can't wait to see you all again soon!