Thursday, October 30, 2014

Three on Earth, One in Heaven


Michael and I suffered a miscarriage this month. We named our baby Kolbe Joseph. We both think he was a boy. 

I was mysteriously sick for two or three weeks (with pregnancy symptoms, we realized later) before we actually found out we were pregnant. It gives me comfort to know now that I endured some happy suffering for our little one. :) 

Just a few days after seeing that powerful little cross on the pregnancy test, we were devastated to find out that we were losing the baby. 

I have pondered many things in my heart these past few weeks. First, I have a renewed thankfulness for my three children. Three little souls to chase after, and read to, and be delighted by many times a day. Three little noses to wipe and three soft little foreheads to bless with a kiss and a prayer when I put them to bed. Three little souls that God has entrusted Michael and me to take care of here on Earth. And now one special little soul to pray for all of us from Heaven.

I have also been pondering lately on what it means to be “pro-life.” A few days after finding out we had miscarried our baby, I had to stop by the Women’s New Life Center, which is located directly across the parking lot from the local abortion facility. 40 Days for Life is going on right now, and I happened to drive up on one of the busiest mornings of the week for the abortion facility. There were a couple of dozen people praying in front of the center, which had a full parking lot. I happened to have about 40 minutes of time I needed to waste before an appointment, so I unpacked my girls and we joined a group of students from LSU’s Students for Life.

I have taken my children to pray in front of abortion clinics before, but this morning was very different for me. As I prayed for each precious woman, couple and baby who walked in those doors, I thought about how much I had wanted my baby. I thought about how much my friends and family struggling with infertility want a baby. I thought about how many people I know wait months and years to adopt a child. My grief for the unborn and their parents, my sadness for our culture of selfishness and death, and my passion in prayer were more real and felt than before.

I also thought about the thousand different things that must come together for conception to even occur, and the thousand different things that must come together to sustain and bring a pregnancy to term. “Babies are a miracle” seems like such a cliché thing to say…but if each of us understand how much has to happen to conceive, grow and then deliver a healthy human being, I think we would all have more positive, life-affirming attitudes toward conception and pregnancy.

Finally, I thought about the dignity of each human life, from conception to natural death. Dignity is not something that we can be arbitrary about. We cannot award dignity only to those souls whose bodies happen to have developed correctly or to a certain stage. We cannot award dignity, sympathy and protection only to those souls who are wanted. Who was it that said, “It seems to me that the only people who are for abortion have been born"?

I am grateful for the family and friends whose ongoing love and support have given such dignity to us and to the tiny life we lost. Your kind words have been a blessing to me, and your prayers have been absolutely felt. It was also a comfort to me to enter our baby’s name into the Book of Life at the Church of the Holy Innocents in New York. This church’s beautiful ministry, free and open to all through their website, is to families of children who died before or at birth. A candle is kept burning constantly in the children's memory, and on the first Monday of every month, a mass is said in honor of the children and for the comfort of their families.

I am thankful for this little one whose short life has drawn me closer to my Father and to my husband, and has given me a greater depth of love for the unborn. Baby Kolbe Joseph, pray for us! 

Friday, October 3, 2014

30 Ideas for Passing on the Faith to Little Ones

So, you are a mother (or father) of little ones. Really little--under five years old. If you're wading through The Little Years with me right now, you are probably interested in learning how to pass on faith to your children. Did you know that research has found that most people's moral foundations are in place by age nine? Or that a person's spiritual beliefs are generally set by around 13? Yep, we have big work to do with our little ones! As parents, we are the most important teachers our children will ever have. Our job requires creativity, perseverance, conviction, and lots of prayer (not to mention coffee). 


If you don't know where to start, or even if you have a few good ideas already, this post is for you! Here are 30 ideas for passing on the faith to your little ones and cultivating a home with Christ at its heart. 
"In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica. It is in the bosom of the family that parents are "by word and example... the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children…."
                                                              Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1656

1. Pray as a family, every day - Yes, it will be like nailing jello to the wall sometimes. Maybe a lot of times. Have you been to my house?! But press on with me. Repetition and consistency go far. Don't become discouraged (even though little children's apathy and immaturity can often be discouraging!), but trust that God is multiplying and honoring your efforts. Make a big deal with children over small improvements--and let yourself "count" those small improvements in your own heart. Remember that God honors and multiplies every baby step we take towards Him. Also, we've found that lighting a candle and lowering the lights can really get the kids' attention. There is still the obligatory occasional fighting over who gets to blow out the candle or sit in Mommy's lap, but that's to be expected.:) 


During prayer, we like to go around and say what we are most thankful for that day. I love to hear the sweet things that sometimes come out of my children's mouths (when they aren't saying something like, "Jesus!" or "Mommy and Daddy and brother and Mommy and Daddy!" We also sometimes go around and ask Jesus for help with a virtue that we need to work on. I will help the children "remember" something that they need to work on, as well as sharing my own, and we thank Jesus together for giving us the grace to do better tomorrow. 

2. Say a blessing before every meal. And teach those babies the Sign of the Cross. We actually physically hold our babies' little hands together during prayer, smiling and encouraging them with our eyes while we pray, and we help them to the sign of the cross. Eventually, each of the kids have been thrilled to get lots of praise for starting to do it all on their own. Doing the Sign of the Cross and praying with everyone else makes them feel like part of the family in a new and special way for them.

3. Eat at least one meal per day as a family - Spending time together over a meal cannot be underestimated in maintaining unity as a family. 

4. Start by singing - Even the smallest infant loves to be sung to. Sing simply hymns to your baby while nursing or before bed. "Immaculate Mary," "Amazing Grace," or "On Eagles Wings" are favorites of mine. :) We usually sing a song during Family Prayer at night. 

5. Celebrate liturgical seasons - Find one or two small ways (read: "don't be too ambitious!") to celebrate major liturgical seasons. For example, sing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" during Family Prayer or before meals during the season of Advent. Blogs like Catholic Icing have tons of awesome crafts, activities and ideas for celebrating every feast day, season, saint and Bible story you can think of. 

This past Lent, I did a Crown of Thorns with the kids, in which we all got to take a thorn out of Jesus' Crown of Thorns whenever we made a small sacrifice for him. The older kids (2 and 4 at the time) really got into it at points (although I had to make a concentrated effort to keep the sacrifices going for everyone all during Lent). For Christmas, I'd like to do a Jesse Tree (but maybe not this year...still may be too ambitious if I'm being honest.:)

6. Invite children to pray with you all through the day -  I try to pray a midday Angelus, and a 
3 o'clock hour Chaplet of Divine Mercy (or just the closing prayer). I often say the Angelus with the kids as I put them down for naps after lunch. If they wake up in time, I invite them to join me on the couch for a quick Chaplet or prayer if they wake up from their naps during the 3 o'clock hour. Seeing mommy pray and inviting them in, even just to cuddle with me for a couple of minutes, is teaching them something important. 

7. Take a field trip to church - Take a field trip to your church before or after mass or on a special day. Spend time in front of the tabernacle, statues, and special parts of the church. Teach them the names of things, and by your example show them how to be prayerful and respectful. When you go to mass on Sunday, ask each child, "where is the tabernacle?" or "where is the crucifix?" or "Wh
ere is Jesus who loves us very much?" If you attend mass on a feast day where they use incense, 
The sights, sounds and smells of our churches are meant to engage us in every way in contemplating our faith. During May, the month of Mary, start a family (or friend group) tradition of doing a "pilgrimage" to a favorite Marian place, church or statue. Pray a decade of the Rosary, bring flowers, sing a song, and enjoy a picnic afterwards.

8. Find Catholic coloring pages and books - Again, there are tons of places online with great (free!) printables. You can also check out the great selection of coloring books on the life of Jesus at Holy Heroes. In fact, to celebrate a special feast day or liturgical season, try just quickly printing out a coloring page you find online and talking about the picture for a minute before letting the kids have at it with markers or crayons. 

9. Make a family prayer space in your home - Set up a little table with prayer candle, Bible, some special books, religious statues and rosaries.

10. Cultivate thankful hearts - I remind my kids all the time that "a thankful heart is a happy heart" (thank you, Madame Blueberry). 


11. Watch religious/Christian movies - Start a collection of wholesome Christian DVDs. Try Veggie Tales, Brother Francis, and a host of other movies made about Bible stories or the lives of the saints.

12. Listen to Christian children's CDs - We love the "Hide 'em in Your Heart" CD, but there are tons of great CDs out there. The Catholic family-owned Holy Heroes company is my favorite. They have beautifully-produced audio CDs on the lives of the saints, the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, and more. They also sell a large selection of books, toys, games and other items. 


13. Ask for religious-themed music, DVDs, toys and games for birthday and Christmas presents from family members - I know my kids' grandparents love to have a little direction sometimes! (I've sent everyone the Holy Heroes link a few times now for Christmas in particular)

14. Teach your children how to apologize well - I feel like I make my two older children apologize for something all day long some days! A quick (and insincere) "Sorry!" is not an acceptable good apology in our home. My kids know that the only "correct" apology is, "I was wrong to ______. Will you please forgive me?" And they have to do it respectfully, with eye contact, and no wiggling. So many people go through their entire lives never saying a real, sincere, I-take-responsibility apology. It's a life skill and it's a soul-building skill.

15. Teach your children how to be obedient and respectful - Learning obedience and respect for parents' authority points to obedience to God. In the South, we accept only "yes ma'am" and "yes, sir" etc. When we call a child, that child must respond with, "Ma'am?"--never a "what?!" Also, we never let the children get away with speaking disrespectfully to us or to one another. We do a lot of "re-do's"!

16. Don't hold a grudge - When discipling your children, move past discipline moments quickly--"forgive and forget." Don't hold grudges or stay in a bad mood, even if you feel like you discipline somebody every five minutes all morning long. Wipe the slate clean--just like God does with us. Moving past discipline moments quickly will model for little ones how to move on quickly from those situations as well, especially when they are the ones that have been wronged.

17. Don't use the words "good" and "bad" to refer to your child - Make sure that you emphasize that a child made a bad choice--don't refer to the child herself as 'being bad.' Praise children when they make a good choice by telling them so. I have already seen in my oldest child that when he feels like he is "a bad boy," he kind of "gives up" in a sense, and succombs to making even more bad choices. So many adults follow that behavior too: when they feel they have disappointed someone or failed at something, they feel there is no turning back, and they dive headlong into more poor choices. Speak often to your children about good and bad choices. Remind them that good choices make things go well for them and for everyone else, as well as making Jesus very happy. 


18. Pray in the car - Little kids move constantly, so when they are all strapped in and you have them reliably in one place for a period of time...why, use that time well, honeybun! My oldest is in school, and on the way to school every morning, we pray a Morning Offering together and ask for Jesus to help us with something we need help with that day, whether it is "being nice to my sister" (usually Gabe) or "patience and gentleness with the kids" (usually me). If you are heading to an activity or sports practice, pray over the activity or over the child about to perform the activity. Before a road trip, stop and pray as a family for the safety and peace of the trip. 


19. Say a Morning Offering - We say a Morning Offering either before the kids get out of bed (they sleep in the same room) or on the way to school in the van. We use a children's morning offering that has hand motions (always a plus with little ones!). It goes like this: 
"Good morning, dear Jesus
This day is for you, 
We ask that you bless 
All we think, say, and do." 
(On "think," point to your head with both index fingers. On "say," point to your mouth. On "do," hold out your hands like you are offering a gift.)

Since we started praying a Morning Offering together, I've added another prayer that we say right after it:
"Sacred Heart of Jesus,
I offer you my thoughts, words, joys and sufferings today,
Jesus, I trust in you!
Please be my comfort,
And the King of my heart."

20. Celebrate children's saint name feast days (if they have one) - Again, don't get too ambitious! First, put your family's special days on your calendar (with reminders, if possible). Then, simply plan for a special dessert or meal that day. You could also simply print out a little coloring page to do as an activity that day, during which you talk about the life of the saint and what they teach us about living as a Christian. You could also go all Super Together Mom and buy them a small religious gift.

21. Sneak Scripture into everyday life - Find ways to sneak Scripture into the everyday. If you have a child who often gives up easily on tasks, encourage her with "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" (The "I think I can! I think I can! mantra of the Little Engine that Could is helpful too, by the way) Or when something good happens, make a habit of exclaiming "All good things come from our Father above!" You get the idea. :)

22. Introduce them to redemptive suffering - When a child isn't feeling well, do a little spontaneous prayer to ask Jesus and "Momma Mary" to help him feel better soon. Ask him who he would like to offer up his "sick feelings" for. What a beautiful, simple way to introduce the idea of redemptive suffering to little ones.

23. Say a prayer together when you pass an ambulance - When you pass an ambulance in the car, stop the conversation and say a quick prayer for the sick or injured. Ours is: "Hail Mary full of grace, to the suffering please make haste!"

24. Donate food to the poor every time you go to the grocery store - There is a donation bin right by the exit at our local grocery store. When I remember to, I try to pick up one extra item that the kids can donate on the way out. If possible, I try to let them pick the item themselves.

25. Start teaching your children the Rosary - There are some great ideas out there for teaching little ones about the Rosary. The Rosary is also such a great way to introduce the life of Jesus, since in each mystery of the Rosary we are meant to meditate on an event in our Lord's life. I have heard, for example, of making little books with pictures of each mystery for children to look at during a family rosary.

26. Take your children to adoration -
Adoration is not only for silent, personal prayer for adults, although it is of course be charitable to mindful of the distraction the kids may be to other adorers. It can be a lot less daunting to take noisy little ones to adoration when you know you won't be the only one with children there! Remember that Jesus said, 'Let the little children come unto me." If there's a children's adoration program near you, try it out one day. Or ask your church if you can start one.:)

27. Kiss the cross - Have children kiss a small cross before going to bed and upon waking up in the morning. Hang it low somewhere in their room. 


28. Decorate your home with Christian art, statues, and Scripture - Don't worry so much that your house is "going to feel like a church." Decorate in such a way that the people who matter most--you and your family--will be uplifted and inspired by the beauty and presence of thoughtfully chosen and placed religious decor.

29. Bless your children - Before anyone in your family leaves the house for the day, bless them with a short prayer and a cross drawn on their forehead with your thumb. Some families may prefer to also (or instead) bless each child before they go to bed. Either way, blessing your children is a beautiful, intimate tradition that they will keep with them--and treasure--well into adulthood.

30. Grow in your faith--and in your marriage - We cannot give away what we do not have. Continuously seek to deepen your faith, both your relationship with Christ and your love and understanding of your Catholic faith. Both are necessary in order to form your children fully in their own faith. If you are married, what is also necessary to form your children spiritually is a mother and father who love one another. Speak well of one another. Show affection. Be playful and silly. Be unified in discipline, firm, fair, and humble in leadership.  


There are so many other little habits, traditions and ideas that can help to bring God into our homes and our children's hearts. But remember that we don't have to do everything--especially not at first. And "at first" means right now for most of you reading this, including me. I will say again that if your oldest is under five, and especially if you have multiple children under five, it’s likely that you don’t have the bandwidth or maturity level in the kids to “do” more right now! Despite the fact that I wrote this nice epic blog post with all these lovely ways to pass on my faith to my kids, I don't do all of these things every day or all the time. We have to trust that God will guide each of our families to where He wants us to be (which is not always where we think we need to be!). Remember that where God guides, He provides. 

Start by doing something little, praying a lot, and knowing that all the small things you are doing really do add up. 

“Do not grow weary of doing good, for at the appointed time you will reap a harvest.” –Gal 6:9

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A family update as we near our one-year move anniversary

As we approach the one-year anniversary of moving back to my hometown of Baton Rouge, I thought it would be a good time to write a family update. If you have followed my blog for a while, you probably know that we spent a wonderful, busy 5 1/2 years in Houston. In that time, Michael and I had three children, worked five different jobs between us, and started a business. We also developed an incredibly close community of friends that we still miss very much.

The biggest "update" I'll share is that this one-year move anniversary is also the one-year anniversary of living with my parents. I know, I know. Your eyes are widening in disbelief as so many others have when I mention our living situation. It's okay.:) I am happy to speak volumes to my parents' goodness, though, to anyone who wants to listen. They have been so amazing. Their unfailing support, respect, and faith in Michael and I all this time have touched both of us deeply.

Believe it or not, we all still like each other after all this time! Call it a miracle if you want...certainly I personally point it all to God's grace! But I think you could also say that there are four adults in this home who have stepped up to the plate in mutual respect, support, unselfishness, and thankfulness. Not to mention the four of us have all learned pretty well by now not to sweat the small stuff.:)

The first seven months or so of living here, financial stress prevented us from being able to buy or even rent a home for our family. And yes, that was an incredibly stressful, hard pill to swallow! We were literally putting offers on houses when we first moved to Baton Rouge, but nothing worked out for various reasons (and praise God for that!). We were originally only supposed to stay with my parents for a couple of months. As things played out, though, we have obviously ended up staying with them for much, much longer. Somehow, God and four good-willed hearts have made it work--not perfectly, but very and kind-of-miraculously well.

Over the past few months, we discerned (to our great surprise!) a direction toward buying property and building a home, with the understanding that we would continue living with my parents until the house was built. Buying a small amount of property to raise our family on has always been a dream of Michael's, and more recently, mine as well, as I have seen my children get a little older and find such joy in the outdoors. Lo and behold...we found a lovely piece of property (2.038 acres!) five minutes away from Michael's new job (which he loves, praise God!). The property is also adjacent to a lovely little neighborhood (I went to high school with our closest neighbor too--how crazy is that?). I love that I will have sidewalks to go walking, and neighbors close by for community and safety's sake. All I can say is that God made the path straight for us to buy this property. Even up to walking in the door at the closing office, we prayed fervently that He would shut this door firmly if it wasn't in The Plan.


Speaking of The Plan...right now our plan from here on is to hopefully build our home within the next two years. Sooner than later would be wonderful, of course! The Lord will have to make a hundred more paths straight for us before we walk over the threshold of our future new home, but we (and my parents) are okay with that. Where God guides, He provides...in His timing and wisdom. We are expecting to work hard, save a lot, and buckle down for the long haul. I'll keep you updated when anything exciting happens. :)

Oh, how the timing of the Lord has been incredible this past year! There are so many other stories and pieces of information about the past year that I can't include on this post. The past year has been so difficult but so in God's control on many levels for both Michael and me. Suffice to say, God has been doing mighty work in my life and also in my marriage. Every time I pray, He reminds me to trust, trust, trust.

Some other family updates...

Gabriel is excelling in Pre-K at our church's elementary school. He has struggled a little with behavior at school (read: We make a BIG deal out of a smiley-face on his daily behavior chart) but nothing too out of the ordinary for an active little boy in school for the first time. He is almost writing his name, he has a passion for painting and crafting now, and he can spell a handful of words and name all the letters in a word you show him. All of this in about two months of school from a kid who couldn't even sing the ABC's correctly on Day 1! I love that he is learning so much at school. Faith, on the other hand, is learning rapidly as well. She is definitely going to be starting Pre-K next fall ahead of the game. I imagine that I will be doing a lot of the same work with both of them next year...Because as of now, we are actually discerning homeschooling the kids next year (Kindergarten for Gabe and Pre-K for Faith). There are a lot of resources and good community here in Baton Rouge for homeschoolers (I actually have several close friends who homeschool here too), so I feel like God has been trying to affirm me that all will be well for next year if we do end up going that route.

I have LOVED having "only" Faith and Gianna during the week these days. Two little girls who generally get along--and one who naps half the morning still--has been such a breather for me. The summer was extremely hard for me with all three kids, all the time. I feel like school has brought with it both rest and help with establishing a more consistent routine for my family. Also, Michael and I realized early on in the school year (to our surprise!) that 6:30pm is the Magic Bedtime for our kids. All three of them seem to need that much sleep to be their best selves--especially Gabriel with his all-day school day now. Having all the kids solidly in bed by 6:30 has been so nice! I have more time with Michael, or time to blog, read, or go to bed at 8:00 pm if I want to. It has been a real gift for me.

This fall, I have enrolled the older children in a small Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class at a church downtown. The Missionaries of Charity run the program, which is held in their convent. I have loved seeing Faith and Gabriel grow in sweet little ways in their faith over the several weeks we have been going. I have also really enjoyed spending time in the sisters' chapel with Gianna, and also getting to know the few other moms I have befriended whose children attend as well. Parents are not allowed in the atrium during the sessions, so we all wait outside in the hallway and visit, or we spend time in the chapel. It's a very small program--maybe 10 children--so you get to know everyone quickly. I am so thankful for the opportunity to put my children in a Good Shepherd class!

I am also still doing my radio show, Faith and Good Counsel. I co-host about once per month. I love the opportunity to share my faith and interview incredible guests on topics including marriage, spirituality, family life and parenthood. I am currently waiting on construction to finish at a new podcast studio near my house, where I will be producing a weekly Humble Handmaid podcast that will probably start up by the beginning of next year. God has kept me on the path toward this new project, despite all my doubts and distractions! I'll keep everyone updated for when my podcast goes live.

Michael and I are coming near to the end of the first few formation months of Domestic Church. I can't explain what a help, a comfort, and a unifier Domestic Church has been for us since we first went on the couples retreat last December. We are thrilled to be having a retreat for Baton Rouge-area couples set for the end of November (although any couple is welcome to go). I am helping to coordinate the retreat, and it has been a joy for me to be able to share this gift with couples here in Baton Rouge. For Michael and I, Domestic Church is simple and practical: as Catholic couples, everything you "do" with Domestic Church is what we should be and want to be doing already. We have gotten so much from Domestic Church's gentle accountability, the support of other like-minded married couples, and this movement's focus on cultivating a strong marriage united in prayer.

I am currently doing a Bible study on the Psalms with the women's group at our church. I am learning so much about how to pray! One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 34. Just as the Psalms are meant to, Psalm 34 puts into words what I cannot put into words myself. The first few verses, in particular, are the inspiration for why I would share this pretty personal update of my family for my readers at all. I only hope that knowing a little more about what God has done in my life will points others to God's goodness, mercy, and saving power!

Psalm 34:1-18

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him,
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good!
Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!
O fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no want!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, O sons, listen to me,
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
What man is there who desires life,
and covets many days, that he may enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears,
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The school of holiness


Lately, I have been praying often for a strong marriage and family. I want so much for my children! I want so much to be a wonderful wife and mother! I have had real comfort in knowing, though, that I am in the best of positions for becoming the woman and mother God made me to be for my family: because the family itself is a school of holiness. 

If we can forgive, share, and serve outside the home, that's great. But if we can do it inside our homes--that is where it counts maybe even more. Because it's harder. I don't know about you, but it is so much easier for me to "be a good person" when I'm not at home. It's easy for me to be a cheerful servant, a thoughtful friend, or a forgiving coworker when I don't know all of someone's flaws, or fold their underwear, or remember how they always do that exact same annoying thing, or discipline them all day long...or have to potty train them. 

Often over the past few years, I have read that meditating on the Holy Family--Jesus, Mary and Joseph--can be an amazing way to help us seek day-to-day virtue in family life. It's the idea that the more like Mary a mother is, and the more like St. Joseph a father is, the more like Jesus their children will be. 

Some of you out there may be thinking at this point, "but we shouldn't be looking to Mary and Joseph as an example--we should only be looking to Jesus!" Well, of course we should be looking at Jesus! :) We should be studying His life and devouring His word and spending time with Him constantly in prayer. 

But in family life in particular, we learn about God. The structure of the family points us to God because it is an image of the Holy Trinity. And when we look to the gift of the one family in all of history that imaged the Holy Trinity perfectly, we can learn a few things about how to live in ours. We should always look to the life of Jesus, but what Scripture says about the lives of the Holy Family is important for us as well. Fathers can learn much from St. Joseph's quiet strength, service and leadership. Mothers--but really all of us!--can learn much from Mary's total trust and surrender to God's will in every moment of her life--from the annunciation to the crucifixion. 

Another reason that it is so helpful to meditate on St. Joseph and Mary as parents is that parents are the most important teachers their children will ever have.  To be the best parents we can be, we must strive to be the holy men and women God created each of us to be. Often that means that our own dreams and expectations for our lives have to change or fall to the wayside. Joseph and Mary are perfect examples of being exactly and just what God created them to be, which was a far cry from what either of them expected God to ask of them! Sounds like marriage and parenthood, doesn't it? :) 

When my children leave my home and head off on their own adventures one day, I pray that they will have learned to serve. I pray that they will know they will always find themselves most profoundly when they give themselves away. I pray that they will love goodness, and strive for virtue in everything. I pray that they will have deeply converted hearts for Christ. I pray that their minds will educated and well-versed in their faith. I pray that they will be people of action and courage. I pray that they will be a blessing to others. 

Don't get me wrong, I definitely pray as well that my children will all get full-ride scholarships to the college of their choice, but my greatest gift to them will not be second-to-none schools and a fully-funded college education. I hope that my greatest gift to them will be that I was fully and consistently the woman God created me to be for them and for their father. 

What use is a brilliant political career if a person has not learned to be a servant? What kind of spouse will a person be if she doesn't already know how to choose to love even when it hurts? 

On another level, will your child's future college roommates be horrified because he can't clean up after himself, do his own dishes, or share his Xbox? 

I've got lots of work to do before that moment when I boohoo-cry as my oldest child walks down the aisle at his high school graduation, but I've got a little time, the hope and promise of grace, and some pretty awesome Heavenly role models to help me along the way.

And now for some snapshots of my own holy family! 
I LOVE hoodie bath towels on my babies. 

Playing well together at last! My girls, my girls, my beautiful girls!

My brother, Ryan, and his fiancee Mitzi, with the kiddos

Mom (aka "Lulu") playing iPad with all three kids. Adorable. 

Gianna being adorably sleepy tonight. She just lay down in the middle of the kitchen floor next to Emma. Then she just stared at me with this sad expression for about 15 minutes. About 45 minutes later, she threw up. A lot. And don't I feel like the WORST mother because she threw up a what turned out to be a horrifying amount of DOG FOOD.;/ I have a few ideas of how she could have come to ingest it all...there was a major spill in the kitchen yesterday (a three-year-old with initiative, yes I do know of that child of which you speak)...and Gianna did play out on the patio while I was in and out a few times checking on the gumbo (did the dog not eat all of her food?? And I thought that stuff on Gianna's hands was dirt??!!) Suffice to say dog food access at our house will be nill from this point on. My poor baby! 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New! Updated topic buttons...happy reading!

Out of the blue last week, my husband told me that I wasn't blogging enough, and that he would be kicking me out of the house one evening per week from then on so that I could go out and write.



I know. I know....he's totally wonderful, right?:) And quite in a predicament there it seems...

Tonight was my first "night out" to blog in a long time...and lo and behold I had a nice table in the back of my favorite coffee shop, a strawberry-almond Italian soda, and writer's block.

However, I did find that I had a healthy dose of blogger's guilt when it hit me that I haven't updated my blog's topic pages in more than two years! So, check it out ladies (and the handful of gents who read this blog)...for your reading pleasure are about 90% of my Humble Handmaid posts since 2009 (the substantial ones at least). I've put links to them under the Marriage, Interior Life and Motherhood buttons at the top of the blog.

How neat is it that I have been blogging now for five years?

While going through my old posts this evening, I have felt such joy in remembering again God's works and mercies in my heart and in my life over these past five years. So many of my posts are truly little windows into my spiritual journey as a wife and mother. They are a treasure for me, as well as a gift to my family. But they are also a gift to my readers.

I have been so humbled, surprised, and honored to have many of you contact me over the years with prayer requests or stories of how you have been encouraged by a post you read here. It is always a great gift when the Lord allows us to glimpse a way that we have helped another. He accomplishes so much more in us and through us than we will ever know or understand.

God bless each of you abundantly! Happy reading:)


Friday, September 12, 2014

5 Tips for Walking with God in the Little Years

Hi sweet readers! I published this piece on CatholicMom.com this past Wednesday, and just realized that I ought to share it on Humble Handmaid as well. Let me know what you think! And if you have any tips to add to mine--please share with us in a comment. The Lord knows I for one can use all the help I can get...:) God bless you! -Erin

* * * 
After the evening I've had, I can't believe that I am actually writing a post on “thriving in the Little Years.” I am the mother of a four-year-old, a three-year-old, and a 16-month-old, and today was more about surviving than thriving. We finally got the kids in bed a few minutes ago. The past four hours of my life involved LOTS of fussing (from the kids) and yelling (regrettably, at the kids) and at least one almost-fight (in front of the kids).

Tonight reminded me that some days (or weeks or months) are a little more about survival than others. Anybody with the goal of thriving in every moment of every day as a mother of little ones is setting herself up for disillusionment. Take it from me. Because we are all sinners, it's just not a totally sound spiritual or practical goal in this beautiful, but often-exhausting season of the Little Years.

What is a sound goal for a Little Years mother? I’m no expert, but my thought now is that the goal is, very simply, to walk our journey with God: with humility, with all our ways acknowledging Him, and with the help of the sacraments and a deep personal prayer life.

Even with my helpfully amended goals in motherhood, some days you’re still going to find me in Survival Mode—not that I think that’s always a bad thing. Our vocations are meant to make us lean heavily on the Lord. And in my most honest moments in prayer, I thank Him from the bottom of my heart for bringing me closer to Him through the challenges of marriage and motherhood he has permitted for me so far.

One of my favorite books for mothers living in the Little Years is Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic. At the time she wrote the book, Rachel was mother to five children under five years old.

Rachel writes that, "the opportunities for growth abound [in motherhood]--but you have to be willing. You have to open your heart to the tumble. As you deal with your children, deal with yourself always and first. This is what it looks like, and feels like, to walk as a mother with God."

Walking with God is what is keeping me afloat. It is how I’ve survived, and have sometimes thrived. From one mother of little ones to another, here are a few things that have helped me walk with God in these Little Years.

- 1 -
The Treasure of Titus 2 Friendships

Titus 2:4-5 instructs "older women" to teach younger women how to "love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, [and] to be kind..." Unfortunately, our culture just doesn't naturally draw women together for the kind of "Titus 2” female friendships that were such an important part of older cultures. How wonderful and helpful those relationships can be, though!

Younger mothers need to pray for and seek out these kinds of big sister-type friendships with older moms--don't be shy! (As a lifelong introvert myself, I get to say that.) Also, one thing that I have learned in my five years as a mother is that you become a Titus 2 woman much more quickly than you might think. Make sure that you keep your eyes and your heart open for “younger” or “older” mothers around you. We all need encouragement. We all need holy women to admire. We all need friends.

I looked up to several amazing mom friends of mine when I started having children, and their beautiful, holy mothering made an enormous impact on me. Those friendships, which began with them being a sort of "big sister" to me, have evolved into deep, mutual friendships that I treasure. Whether I get to sneak away for coffee and good conversation with her, or I simply notice something like the respect and gentle affection a friend has for her husband, a Titus 2 friend is always a teacher to me.

If you don't have any Titus 2 mom friends, look around again. Maybe you have an amazing sister-in-law, or your own mother, or some holy women in your church’s MOPS group. Don't be afraid to pursue friendships, ask questions, and even ask for prayer. Your humility and courage can actually lift up those women by making them realize that they aren't doing quite as badly as they think they are. Sometimes Titus 2 moms need a little encouragement too. :)


- 2 - 
If you feel like you've lost yourself…that can be a good thing.

If you are feeling lost in these Little Years-it doesn't necessarily mean that you're doing it all wrong. First off, mothering one, two or several little ones is an objectively, incredibly hard job, maybe especially in this day and age (fellow blogger Jennifer Fulwiler has an excellent piece on this topic). 

Secondly, we hear over and over that in every vocation, we are meant to find ourselves by first losing ourselves. St. Pope John Paul II wrote profoundly that "man...cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself" (Gaudium et Spes 24). In the end, our vocation is not about us. Just because we mommas have walked down the aisle and subsequently given a big, brave, labor-ious Yes! to motherhood, doesn't mean everything is going to magically make sense in our lives for ever after. 

So, I've come to understand that it is a natural thing to wrestle with a loss of self in these early years, especially in the vocation of marriage, "where two become one" (and sometimes many). Part of what I think is so hard for moms in the midst of young marriage and parenthood in the Little Years is that we are forced to give so much of ourselves, very quickly and very completely. It's difficult to take a step back for enough time to wrap our heads and hearts around how to transform all that giving into a "sincere gift of self." Maybe, I think, that part is a lifelong learning process.

Even just a few years into this vocation, my identity is so much more rooted in God than it ever was before. It has to be. I can no longer secretly define myself by my job, for example, or my major, or my bright future with my fiance, or my ministry work. 

I am a daughter of the King, and I work in the mission field he has planted me in. My heart's desire is to love, to know intimately, and to serve God here in line with his will for my life. I work toward my heart's desire by doing the work of my particular vocation: striving for a good and holy marriage, disciplining my children wisely and patiently, cooking dinner and cleaning bathrooms and running to Walgreens for more Infant Tylenol at 2am. 


God introduced me a few years ago to the writings of St. Josemaria Escriva, who spoke and wrote often about finding holiness in the ordinary work of your everyday life. St. Josemaria explains that "Heaven and earth seem to merge, my children, on the horizon. But where they really meet is in your hearts, when you sanctify your everyday lives." Every young mother wading through marriage and early parenthood needs to hear that holiness is possible--yes, even for her!--when she sanctifies the ordinary, unglamorous work of her day.

On that note, Colossians 3:23 has also been a help to me: "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for God and not for men." Because sometimes those babies aren't the most grateful little souls in the world, you know. :)

- 3 -
Deal with yourself, always and first

In Loving the Little Years, Rachel Jankovic is spot-on with reminding us to deal with ourselves "always and first" as mothers. It goes back to the familiar verse in Matthew 7 where he says to "first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

What an important passage for me to keep in mind as a mother of little ones. My own sins are so often deeper than the multitude of childish "speck" sins that I constantly point out and work to correct in my children.

How many times have I contributed to the escalation of a tense situation with the kids by my own poor attitudes and selfishness? Am I being snippy with the kids because my husband accidentally took the leftovers I was looking forward to eating today? Did I rush the kids through the bedtime routine just so that I could watch the season premiere of my favorite show? Am I overreacting to the toothpaste in the dog's water bowl because I just finished cleaning the kitchen and gosh-darn-it I can't take one more mess today!?

It takes practiced self-awareness to stop and discern your proposed words or actions before responding to a situation. I have found myself slowly learning to "hold my horses" before responding to tense situations at home with just my first-instinct emotions for a guide. Often, if I find myself overwhelmingly angry, frustrated or bitter, there is something I need to deal with in my own heart before pointing out issues that my husband or children have in theirs.

 - 4 - 
Get up on time. 
Getting up before my family wakes up in the morning is so, so helpful. Saint after saint after much-more-experienced-mom-than-me get up at least an hour before the rest of the house. First, they pray. After they pray, they do a few practical things around the house to get ready for the day. Simple. Hard. But so fruitful.

Getting up “on time,” as I try to call it, is always a struggle for me, but it is one battle that I think I am finally starting to win more consistently. I am in a season of my life that leaves me few excuses for not getting up on time in the morning (read: my children all sleep through the night…please don’t hate me:). The fruits of me getting up earlier than the children are so apparent to both me and to my husband. There is less morning chaos. I am less stressed. I am able to feed my soul with Scripture and prayer before having to feed others.

I love St. Josemaria’s take on “the heroic minute,” in his book The Way. “Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a fixed time, without yielding a single minute to laziness…here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body. If, with God’s help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day.” (191). 

Getting up earlier than the rest of the house is not always possible. New babies or sick children obviously throw a kink in the plan, as would the blessing of one of those children whose God-given internal clock says every day, “4:59 a.m.! Time to wake up!”  In general though, waking up before the rest of the house is a good goal to look forward to whenever it becomes physically or logistically possible for you.


- 5 -
Take care of yourself.

Jesus asks us to love him with all of our 'heart, body, soul and mind.” A tall order. And one that many of us mothers of all ages may need to reflect on more seriously. The fact is, there are moms out there who suffer deeply with undiagnosed depression, anxiety, and a host of other medical problems that mean they physically cannot offer their whole, best selves to their families. 

Addressing deeper, undiagnosed problems in our mental and physical health is not something that I've seen a lot of Christian women writing about. If we are writing about mental and physical health, it usually seems to involve "taking care of ourselves" by making sure we have "me time," or more prayer time, or enough sleep, or appropriate fitness and weight-loss goals. Those things are important and are challenging for many of us. However, some very real and more-common-than-you-think health issues can't be completely solved with those kinds of fixes.

Turning to the Divine Healer in prayer is absolutely vital in dealing with health struggles, but sometimes prayer alone will not heal us. I want to encourage you, if you feel physically or mentally unable to be reasonably what you wish to be for your family, to give some honest thought to the idea that there might something you need to deal with emotionally or medically.

Sometimes, what we think is normal or “just part of this season of life” is not normal at all. It takes honesty, prayer, and often the counsel of some solid, wise friends to figure out if it is time to rule out anything medical or counseling-related that could be going on. On the mental health side of things, there is nothing wrong or weak about seeking out solid Christian counseling, or medical treatments or medications that help your body and your mind be where they need to be to let you be what you need to be.

As Jesus showed us on the way to Calvary, sometimes surrendering to a cross involves having the courage to get help in carrying it.

* * *
Wishing each of you the joy of the Lord and grace for the moment!

Friday, August 22, 2014

It's braver to have a good day

I had a good day today. I actually woke up on time this morning and got some morning prayer in. I got Gabriel to school on time. I made it to the gym. I played outside with the girls, and read them a book about princesses. I microwaved chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese for lunch, and threw some salad and ranch dressing on the plates to make me feel better. The girls took long naps this afternoon, and I got most of my chores done for the day. I (gasp!!!) wrote this blog post. My aunt and uncle stopped by with my grandmother and I made them brownies and coffee and we visited.

It's been a nice day.

I've been thinking lately about how infrequently I tell my husband if I've had a good day. It's almost like I am scared to do that sometimes. And I've talked to plenty of friends who admit to the same thing! I think I can safely start to unpack this little mystery with a couple of good guesses.

First, I just don't have a lot of wonderful, smooth days with the children right now. I don't have to remind any fellow MMSC (Mothers of Multiple Small Children, and yes, I made up my own acronym) out there that there always seem to be at least a few ugly moments with little ones during the day, no matter how early I get early, or how great my prayer time goes, or how organized and on top of life I am. There are some entire weeks that I discipline one or more of the children every five minutes while they are awake. You know those days. Days filled with normal, small-children problems like whining, grumpiness, refereeing a silly toy dispute that got physical, and teething babies wailing constantly when they're not on your hip, and supposedly potty-trained youngsters who suddenly begin pooping in their pants again. Don't get me started on how sometimes you call your husband at 4:30pm with a crying baby in the background (you could have walked out of the room, buuuuttt...) and you start to go on and on about how you forgot to buy one of the main ingredients for dinner when you went to the grocery store this morning (the kids were SO CRAZY by the way!!) and why don't we just order pizza tonight?!

It's just how it is right now, ya'll.:)
- 2 -
Secondly, I think I have this nagging, oh-so-common-but-deeply-felt suspicion that I am misunderstood, and that the world and even my husband don't really understand how hard this Stay-at-home Mother of Small Children Stuff is. Some icky, deep part of me whispers to my heart that if I tell Michael that I had a good day, then he would think my job was easy or (gasp!) fun. (Can anyone else smell Pride Issues from The Depths of You Know Where?!)

But seriously, when would I be satisfied that my husband-or anyone else for that matter-gets it? If he shouted out my praises from the rooftop? Wrote an op ed to the newspaper about how mothers are under-appreciated in our society? Or came home from work one day and immediately pushed me out the door to go to Eucharistic Adoration, dinner at La Madeleine, and a homemade gift card for One Full Weekend of Sleeping In?

Hmmm...that last one just might work.  (cough*, cough*)


The truth is, sometimes it is an act of humility and bravery to admit to ourselves or others that we have had a good day.

And the truth is, MMSC have some nice days every once in a while. We even sometimes have a little fun. In any case, if we have our heads on straight even just a little, the irresistible adorableness of our small ones makes us at least smile many times a day.

Another point that has been on my heart lately: On the marriage end, who out there can't wait to come home to somebody who never has a good day? Not me. Not my husband.

So, I have been working on being more positive when I'm talking to Michael about the children or just about my day. I think that we have to be brave, and hopeful, and humble, and make a generous, good-hearted effort to be positive about our motherhood where it's merited. Maybe then, when I actually have a Very Bad Day (or week or month), perhaps Michael will have a more accurate radar of when I really need him to be my hero. I think lately he has known I needed some extra lovin' actually. I want to include a praise report for my good husband. He has been so sweet to me these past few weeks. Flowers, chocolate, general helpfulness, cheerful service, patience with the kids...he's been amazing. :)

I don't know if all of it stems from me being kind of a wreck last month with our wild children and life in general, making him realize a real need to step in and pamper his Fragile Wife....or if my Brilliant Idea about being "more positive" (which I really have been trying to do) has worked some marital magic. In either case, I have been very grateful for him lately. His goodness has had the effect of giving me even more courage at the end of the day to admit to him when the day has been rough or kinda-maybe-a-little-bit nice.

Peace be with you! And may each of us open our hearts to learn one day how to find joy in "this, [the] day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad!" -Psalm 118:24

Oh, and I thought I should include some evidence that I do truly have good days once in a while. As long as I'm being brave and admitting to it and all...:)
 
My sister-in-law and brother-in-law visited from Cleveland last week. We only get to see them once or twice a year right now. It was such a huge joy to see their two little girls playing with our kids. Faith and her cousin Lucy really hit it off, and it was beautiful to see their sweet little friendship blossoming for the first time.
 
We had beignets at Morning Call in City Park in New Orleans, then played on the play sets next door. It was a fun morning! 
 
On a recent trip to Houston, my cousin Liz and I got to go out for dinner and cocktails. This drink was so good (and strong) that I can't remember for the life of me what it was...
 
Some of the Messy Stuff had to make it in here, right? :) 


 
Miss Sassy Stuff with her big girl ponytail! 
 
Gabe started Pre-K last week...I couldn't find his first day of school picture, but will post when I can!

 
Those kids. 
I didn't see this one coming. Personality-wise I mean. Sugary sweet one moment and drama queen the next. She's beautiful even when she's angry though.


 
I caught this precious moment a few weeks ago. Poor Gianna was so tired. My brother just moved "home" from Mississippi for a new job here in Baton Rouge, and the day he got home and held Gianna to say hello, she just melted on his shoulder. It was so sweet. My siblings are the best aunts and uncle I could ever ask for. 

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I snapped a selfie on the way to my ten-year high school reunion...which was kind of an surprisingly fun and nice evening. :)

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Michael and I celebrated our sixth anniversary August 8th. We went out to a jazz dinner cruise out of the French Quarter in NOLA. We actually bought the cheesy lifeboat preserver picture they made us take before we climbed on board. It was only $10. And the food on the cruise was delicious, anyway.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mountaintops and valleys, crosses and consolations

 
Today I am thinking about mountaintops and valleys, crosses and consolations. 

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, in which Peter, John and James have the very first "mountaintop experience" of any Christian. Jesus takes the three disciples up to the top of Mount Tabor to pray, and he is transfigured in divine glory in front of them. 

I think that most of us Christians know a little about mountaintop experiences.

Looking back, I have had many mountaintop experiences in my own life that, together, provide a firm foundation for my hope in Christ even when crosses in my life can weigh heavily upon me. 

Beautiful moments in prayer as a child. Strong friendships and my active, supportive Catholic community in college. Profound experiences on retreats and youth ministry events. The summer I met my husband at camp. Mission trips. My wedding day. The births of my three children. And so many other small moments of joy, consolation, and unity with God along the way.

I read an excerpt today from a homily by Pope St. Leo the Great that for the first time made me think about the Transfiguration in light of my own life:
"The great reason for this transfiguration was the remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed. With no less forethought he was also providing a firm foundation for the hope of holy Church. The whole body of Christ was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his gift. The members of that body were to look forward to a share in that glory which first blazed out in Christ their head."
Don't let a few fancy vocabulary words (i.e. "the scandal of the cross") get in the way of the powerful message. 

Christ gave these three disciples the gift of a real-life mountaintop experience that imprinted itself so mightily on their hearts that the "scandal of the cross"--the upcoming Passion and Crucifixion--would not be able to "disturb" their faith in the Resurrection. 

That is what the mountaintop experiences in our lives are meant to do for us. They cement our faith and help us to carry on with hope and trust during hard times. They are a blessing in the moment, and a consolation as a memory. We have to find our own "firm foundation" of peace in knowing where all of this--and hopefully all of us--are headed: "a share in that glory which first blazed out in Christ [our] head." 

May God bless each of you with grace for the moment and a firm faith in His goodness and mercy! 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Happily Ever After Moments

Just as we can't expect to totally relax on a family vacation with little ones, we can't expect our entire motherhood experience to be Happily Ever After. We all know here that sometimes--and by sometimes I mean often for many of us--we would rather be a thousand other places than dealing with what we deal with some moments of the day. (Bathtime, anyone? Waking up at the crack of dawn to cries of "pee pee! PEE PEE!")

Just like we have to look for those vacation moments, we have to look for those Happily Ever After Moments in our days.

I try to cultivate an attitude in myself that helps me look for those Happily Ever After Moments. The surprising thing that helped me to start really being intentional about that was my Facebook feed. I know so many wonderful mothers who post about funny or sweet things their kids do. I have a handful of friends who have probably the funniest kids on the planet, and I love reading about the hilarious things they do and say. Reading those posts always reminds me to enjoy the Happily Ever After moments with my kids. It's funny how social media makes the genuine joy of these mom friends so contagious to me in a good way. God uses many things to draw us to him. :)

We've had some good summer backyard baby pool fun this week. We had popsicles on the back porch today while we watched the afternoon thunderstorm roll in. We talked about how God is kind of like the wind, "because you can't see Him but you can kind of feel Him." Faith picked flowers from the pots and gave everybody a flower for our hair (even her brother). 

They sleep in the same bed now, and they literally go to sleep giggling and wake up giggling every day. When they woke up early from naptime today, I popped some popcorn and we snuggled and read books on their bed while a thunderstorm finished rolling through. 

We spent the morning with my cousin and her little ones, and Faith put on that princess dress and proceeded to put on that So Stinkin' Cuteness that almost-three-year-old girls are so good at. "I'm going to school, mom. See ya later crocodile. I gonna vacuum first though." 

Why is it that I love to just look at my babies while they sleep? A mixture of how beautiful and kissable and perfect they are...and certainly some momentary relief I think...

Michael and I actually got to have a mini vacation earlier this summer. Some friends invited us to their camp on Lake Ponchartrain for the weekend, and we spent a couple of days with some of our best friends (and without our kids) hanging out on the lake. It was a wonderful, wonderful weekend. I even got in the (chilly) water and did some tubing. Yay for a Vacation Moment and a Happily Ever After Moment! We even got to go to a lovely mass by ourselves on Sunday morning--bonus points?! 

So...we took the kids to Magic Kingdom for the day. It was an awesome day. Really and truly. The kids were great. Michael was a superb trip leader. Every one of us had fun. Even little Gianna was clapping and laughing with delight in the Ariel ride. 

This baby makes me smile so many times a day. She certainly gets fussy a lot lately, especially in the evenings (it's like my right hip is the only thing that makes her happy sometimes!), but she is so darn delightful most of the time that I forgive her very quickly.

One of my favorite recent pics of the Franklets. It captures one of those moments when the three of them are just enjoying each other. It is in these moments that I catch a glimpse of a special part of my gift to them as a mother--each other. 


Peace to you and yours this week! Here is a little Scripture to ponder this week as you keep your eyes out for a few Happily Ever After Moments of your own. This verse always reminds me that my children are my love and service to God, and they are really not my own. Also, I always laugh at myself when I read this verse because I think of all of those times that my kids aren't acting super-loveable, and I don't feel like being Nurturing and Sweet and Infinitely Patient with them because they are being incredibly ungrateful, annoying, disrespectful, etc. When it comes down to it, I just try to remember to do what I do for Christ, who gives all and takes nothing. 

"Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others." -Colossians 3:23