World Marriage/Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day! And also, World Marriage Day in the Church.

Here are my favorite marriage posts from the last couple years on the blog!

St. Joseph’s Day: A Love Story (3 part post on how we met!)

To Wait or Not to Wait…How Kids Change Marriage

5 Favorite Marriage Books

Reflections on warmer times: The Honeymoon

Why We Need Date Night

The Suffering and Beauty in Love

Go check out more marriage posts at Catholic Mommy Blogs!

 

Advertisements

Love That Grows: How Kids Change Marriage

A Love that Grows

Like most almost-married women, I was hyper-focused on my wedding in the months and weeks leading up to the Big Day. The dress, the details of our nuptial Mass, the centerpieces, the photo shoot, all of it. And of course, more importantly, I was all about the man I was head-over-heels for and with whom I absolutely could not wait to begin life.  I had also read the best Catholic literature to prepare myself for the vocation, so in an intellectual way, I knew– married life is about merging two totally different individuals and learning to live as one, and then eventually giving of yourselves to the children you bring forth together. Bam. We were going to do this!

But, oh boy, were the ideas and the reality two very different things! We got pregnant right away, and so fairly quickly, we have seen all these truths play out in our marriage. The cranky babies, the (many) sleepless nights, the multiple little tasks that take up the days and weekends. It became our new reality. I would look at our beautiful wedding photos and think, “Wow, look at us! So unaware of how much life was about to change!”

Sometimes it seems like a bitter pill to swallow. What happened to the spontaneity of our dating and engaged days? The times when we could just decide in the morning to make a day trip, returning late at night? When we could just sleep in on the weekends to make up for all the late nights and busy days at work? Now, if we stay up too late, we sure pay for it the next day, and sleeping in is never an option with a baby and a toddler around. We have to plan our outings and adventures around nap and meal times, or risk the Over-tired and Hungry Toddler Monsters (and don’t even talk to me about road trips!). I look at our married friends without kids and am tempted to think they have it easier. I almost want to tell our engaged friends to have fun while they can, because marriage and kids change your lives so radically.

IMG_0155

Those may be true statements, but they aren’t the whole picture. Despite the hard work and the bone-tiredness that comes with parenting, I would argue that more is gained than is lost. Yes, my husband and I had fun in the time before kids, but the good times didn’t just stop when the babies came around. Every day, if we decide to see it, we have proof of our love running around the house. They’re funny and adorable and utterly unique. Because they’re human, they can also be exasperating and flummoxing and try our very souls. They have stretched us physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. They have made us laugh together, countless times, and caught us totally unawares with the beauty of their innocence.

For Want of Wonder

I know I loved my husband before we were married, and more so after we said our vows. But after pregnancies, childbirths, and then the day-to-day craziness of raising children together, I can definitely say I love him even more. He takes the kids on weekend mornings so I can catch a few more minutes of sleep. He works long hours, picks up extra jobs, so I can stay home and we can live in comfort. He gets down on the floor to play with our girls, reads book after book, and wants to know all the details of what they did during the day when he’s at work. I could go on and on. Our marriage has changed since children, and it will continue to do so, but I’m beginning to realize what a privilege it is to make your husband a father. These many sacrifices inherent in the early years of raising babies are paving the road of our marriage together. By making me a mother, he’s helping make me a much better person, as all my multitude of selfishness is being chipped at, day by day (and night by night).

IMG_2641

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 9.42.49 AM

I could never have imagined on our wedding day and the days that followed what our life together would become. But I do know that saying a whole-hearted, reckless, come-what-may “yes” to having children has been integral to the growth of our love. We have learned to trust each other more, and to lean on each other, hard, when times get rough. We have learned to ask for help and to accept the help lovingly offered. We have learned, and are still learning, to find more ways to die to ourselves so that our other half might have it just a little easier. And we’ve come to realize, in a way we never could have before kids, how precious and refreshing time alone together is. So maybe instead of feeling a twinge of envy at our childless and engaged friends I can tell them with total honesty not to be afraid of having kids; if you let it, it could be the best thing that happens to your marriage.

2016-05-08_131033620_07B91_iOS

Babymooning Like Pros

We snuck away last weekend for a little 24 hour babymoon. If you can, you should really always try to do a little getaway without kids, before the next is born. It’s so refreshing to get ready in the morning without worrying about diapers and strapping little shoes. It’s also nice to drive around (or even get lost) without risking the wrath of car-seat-bound toddlers. We’re now pros at babymooning. The first time was a 2-day whirlwind NYC trip, from which we returned to no kids, so the whole idea is laughable, now. The second time was a countryside wine/B&B escape, pretty much the epitome of relaxation.

For this auspicious third baby, we chose to explore Baltimore, which is only about an hour away, and filled with numerous free places and activities. We were planning to come home late and spend the night at home, but then my sister-in-law’s very generous parents gave us a free hotel night on their points. Soooo nice. And in case you ever find yourself in Charm City, here’s what we did in roughly 24 hours:

  • We intended to spend about 2 hours in the Walters Art Museum, which has one of the biggest Ancient artifacts exhibit in the country, BUT it was closed just for that day for a gala set-up. Of course. We were pretty bummed, but I guess it gave us more time to see other things slowly. So we visited the first Cathedral in America, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is filled with early Catholic American historical significance. And it was beautifully remodeled on its 200th anniversary a few years ago.

2015-10-17_153928612_120AE_iOS 2015-10-17_153937807_C7366_iOS

  • Explored the downtown area of Baltimore, where the annual half/full marathon was going on, the very one I ran five years ago. I was definitely glad to be on the other side of the sidewalk, especially since just walking for long periods made my round ligaments ache like craaaaazy. We did walk about 8 miles over the course of the day to my credit, which is about 7 miles more than my daily quota.
  • Got lunch at Lexington Market, which was interesting, crowded, and infernally hot. Tom kept grabbing my arm, because he was afraid I was going to get mugged or something. Once we got out and stopped sweating, we ate gyros (made by Koreans), and watched the runners go by. The people of Baltimore sure know how to encourage a runner (I loved having them cheer us on when I ran, and pretty much was equally entertained watching them this time around). Then we got some really delicious and expensive lattes at Dooby’s, where I rested my ligaments for a while, and we steeped in the hipster ambience.

2015-10-17_173258198_F9B60_iOS

  • Tried to park near Edgar Allan Poe’s grave site, but it was a zoo. Ended up driving around the same three blocks, three times, over 45 minutes. We’re really good at directions. We both laughed at how much that would’ve bothered us while we were dating/engaged, but how now it was no biggie at all, since there were no screaming banshees sweet girls in the car.
  • Finally drove down to Little Italy, where we got pretty amazing “chip n dip” cannoli at the famed Vaccaro’s pastry cafe. It’s basically a container of broken cannoli shells and a big scoop of cannoli filling to dip them into. Perfect afternoon snack, worth the long wait in line.
locations.LittleItaly

Image via vacarrospastry.com

  • Lazed around the hotel room and rested the ole ligaments some more.
  • Walked around the beautiful Inner Harbor and historic Fell’s Point before our dinner at Mezze Cafe, where we ordered far too many tapas plates. I wish we had come to Fell’s Point earlier in the day (before sunset) so we could’ve had more time to explore. The cobblestone streets and historic town homes were gorgeous.

2015-10-17_213622912_C1E1A_iOS 2015-10-17_213507485_58F14_iOS

And then collapsed early in the huge bed to watch some Harry Potter and read from our current read-aloud. We finished up our babymoon the next morning with perfectly light and chewy Belgian waffles at Miss Shirley’s and Mass in Little Italy. Then sped off to pick up our little munchkins from my parents’, where we found that they hadn’t missed us for one second and would rather stay with Nana and Papa, thank you very much.

And that’s that– an amazing 24 hours of good food, uninterrupted conversation, and more exercise than I’ll get the rest of the pregnancy (kidding! Maybe…)

Currently, Vol. 5

Recovering: from a lovely mini beach vacation earlier this week, and the three days before that in which everyone but me was sick with nasty summer head colds. The beach did seem to be a great antidote though (those Brits were onto something when they “went to the shore for their health”).

With that in mind, I’m just here to drop a few pictures (half of which were taken by my much more on-top-of-it sister-in-law/her dad…

IMG_0746

Someone super excited to start the road trip…

IMG_0748 IMG_0750

beach2015 11863326_10100226848690413_7301492613511710626_n 11889538_10100226848530733_2740302919723113973_n

…and some great links that I’ve been saving to share. Some of these things are probably old at this point, but still worth sharing I think!

4 Reasons Midwives Are a Superb Women’s Healthcare Solution

This is an excellent and informative article by our friend Joy. I can firmly attest to the truth of all the facts she mentions here, and I think it’s worth a read even if you love your epidural (which is totally fine, btw) and/or think midwives are illiterate backcountry women asking you to go boil some water (they’re not). Particularly in light of the recent Planned Parenthood scandals and discussion about women’s healthcare. The only thing I’d add here, is that if you are someone who really needs or wants the hospital setting/drugs, you can still use a midwife! Many midwives only practice in hospital in conjunction with an OB system, so that is a very common option for anyone not ready to go 100% natty.

Our Marriage is Stronger Because My Husband Isn’t My Best Friend

Another article by a friend, Julie (we have a lot of talented writer friends!). This one sparked a lot of interesting controversy amongst the comments, but I totally understand where she is coming from. Tom and I had only known each other for a short while before starting to date, and then got engaged less than 6 months later, so I would never say we were some kind of life-long besties or anything. Many people missed her main point though (probably because of the click-baity title) that while a spouse can be a best friend, he or she is actually much more than merely that.

To the Gentleman in the Target Parking Lot

I already shared this on Facebook, but it’s just so good. It’s hard to imagine fielding such vitriol but apparently lots of adults have little self-control. Anyway, if you see a mom of multiple little ones trying to navigate any place in the public sphere, just a) offer to help or b) smile and say something positive (and no, “You’ve got your hands full!” does NOT count).

Hope you’re week is full of joy and cheese!

IMG_1832

Pulse Check (we are alive!)

Wow, it’s been a long blog silence this time around. Thank goodness I finally got a minute to do my book review for the Kalpakgians’ book, which gave me a little kick in the pants to get back on here. It’s not that there hasn’t been anything about which to write, it’s just that my brain has melted into an incoherent puddle of mush every night, and every afternoon that the girls are simultaneously napping, leaving only enough energy to lie on the couch and scroll through Facebook feeds filled with all the depressing news. If only my housework were less neglected than the blog, but alas…

Anyway, some of the reasons for this recent lethargy are starting to lift, like the fact that Lena now sleeps through the night. Her definition of night, however, is of the non-conformist variety (7:30 PM- 5:15/20 AM. No one else here has the desire to get up any earlier than say, 7). She’s the hangriest person I think I have ever met…her new nickname is Low-Blood-Sugar Lena. I mean seriously, she wakes up screaming, and won’t stop till she has downed a small bowl of blueberries, two sausage patties, and either a bowl of yogurt or oatmeal. And that’s just First Breakfast for our little hobbit.

Here I had to bring her booster chair into the kitchen with me and feed her part of the dinner while I finished the rest. She's reaching for more, of course.

Here I had to bring her booster chair into the kitchen with me and feed her part of the dinner while I finished the rest. She’s reaching for more, of course.

Eating bean burritos is serious business.

Eating bean burritos is serious business.

IMG_1819

At dinner, she often out-eats even Tom and I (and always Lucy). The girl is crazy. But you know what, at least she’s sleeping all night. Only took a few screaming episodes (and honestly, she would scream even if we were holding/rocking/nursing her, so it was just the way she needed to learn to fall asleep. In case any attachment parenting police stumble upon this blog and felt a little queasy reading that sentence). And the upside to her early as heck rising? She now takes her morning nap and a good afternoon one too. Cue angels singing.

IMG_1814

Oh, right, we have another kid too. I better include a picture of her!

Oh, right, we have another kid too. I better include a picture of her!

Tom is also now finally, finally on vacation, as of the last week of July. It’s been so spoiling to have an extra adult in the house all the time, because I can take NAPS, and he’s getting tons of house projects done that he never has time for during the school year. We’re scheduling the re-painting of our dining room and our master BR at long last, and we finally, finally got NEW CURTAINS for both rooms. Do you remember the paint colors and the “custom” curtains, both hideous and heinous? Here:

IMG_1818

This is my only “before” picture, which is actually a “during”…see Tom’s elbow right there……….^ He was hanging our new curtains. Anyway. Those who-knows-what-color curtains, with a papyrus-y texture are finally gone. Their counter parts in our bedroom will be shortly, and I will post the official after pictures here after we’ve got the new paint. But here are the colors we chose, just to give you a little taste:

Not our dining room…but the same paint– Wythe Blue by Benjamin Moore.

And one more. We kind of love it and can’t wait to have it up.

The bedroom will be Pale Smoke by Benjamin Moore. (Our room will have a lot more color than this one and so things won’t look quite so washed-out)

So, a great improvement, no?
We also celebrated our 3rd anniversary with a really nice afternoon and evening out. We ended it by stopping by for a quick visit to the church where we got married, and it turned out they had Mass starting in 5 minutes, so that was a serendipitous moment.
_DSC5605 _DSC5617
How beautiful is this church?!! We do miss being parishioners so.
Hopefully, I will be back soon with more of our recent pictures, news, stories, links to share, etc. Now I need to go make more coffee (by the by, we got an Aeropress after some intense debate on Facebook re: the best method for brewing single-cup coffee. I’m reallllllly loving the Aeropress, and it also means we’re steaming our milk every time. We’re so fancy).
Ciao!

5 Favorite Marriage Books

It’s wedding season, and I thought I’d share some of my favorite books about marriage and love. We (or I) read most of these either before or during dating/engagement, but all of them would be just as excellent for an already married couple. In fact, I think it would be awesome to re-read some of them in the future.

Five Favorite Marriage Books

It’s no secret that both Tom and I are pretty huge nerds. The nerdiness takes different forms for both of us but one of our shared nerd passions is reading, and specifically reading aloud with each other. We actually started doing this basically right after we started dating. We spent a good chunk of time in the car, driving to and from dates, mini road trips, or just the normal (and LONG, thank you D.C. traffic) commute of Tom driving me home at night. So we made sure we always had a book going so we could put the travel time to good use.

Want to know the first book we read out loud?

-1-

It was a really light-hearted little thing called Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla. Womp, womp. I believe I was the one who suggested it, and somehow managed not to come on as a) desperate “MRS”-degree-seeker or b) over-achiever. I had already read a good chunk of it in a college course, and Tom had wanted to read it for awhile, so I guess we managed to ignore its obvious implications (I mean, we’d been dating all of 3 weeks or something when we cracked it open…) and plunged into the fascinating mind of the amazing saint who wrote it.

This book is not for the faint of reading heart, but it’s also still pretty accessible for the average reader without a doctorate in theology (and MUCH shorter than TOTB). There are some pretty ground-breaking revelations in there about what exactly it means to be in a healthy marriage relationship, and Wojtyla doesn’t mince words. He covers, among other things:  the meaning of the word “love” and its different forms, sexual shame/shamelessness, chastity– in and out of marriage, NFP/periodic abstinence, causes of female frigidity, annnnd the importance of mutual male/female climax. It is worth the read, whether you’re preparing for marriage, or just trying to find something helpful to read in light of our current marriage crisis.

-2- 

Three to Get Married, by Fulton J. Sheen

This book is a more a poetical version of Wojytla’s work, covering many of the same topics on Catholic marital teaching. Sheen has an eloquent way of describing the love between a man and a woman and children as the natural and beautiful fruit of that union. (Another great book to read if you’re disheartened by the war on traditional marriage!). We would often re-read certain paragraphs, because they were just that well-written and meaningful.

-3-

The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis

 

This is not a “marriage” book per se, but I think an absolute must-read if you are a human being trying to be in relationship with another human being. Tom and I both read this before we ever met but really enjoyed talking about our favorite passages from it. Lewis make sense of the complex meanings of the different types of love we all experience throughout life. There is so much food for thought here, especially in regards to the commitment to life-long that is marriage and the Ultimate Love all of our earthly loves mirror.

-4- 

A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Van Auken

Please tell me you have already read this book! It is so, so, so, so good. Definitely on my Top Ten Books of All Time. Imagine my delight when I met Tom and he was as big a fan of this book as I was! This book is about everything having to do with love: friendship, loyalty, unity, marriage, adventure, and ultimately, loss and sorrow. It’s the love story of Sheldon and his wife, Davey, who dies very young. It’s also, more importantly, a love story between the author and God, specifically about how the loss of his wife ultimately draws him into a relationship with the Lord. Warning: you will cry.

-5-

The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman

I know you’ve taken the love language test, and probably talked the subject to death in college with your friends, but this book is popular for good reason! It identifies the common ways people give and receive love, and at its core is about understanding the way your spouse communicates. Lots of practical advice and quizzes in here (and who doesn’t love a good psycho-analyzing quiz?!).

I’m sure I have read many other book on love, marriage, communication, and so forth, but those are the five that stand out for me as the most impacting, and ones I would come back to again and again.

What are your favorite books on marriage??

(Linking up with 5 Favorites at Efficient Momma). 

Playground Busybodies and Openness to Life

Playground Busybodies and Openness to Life

I never would have imagined that casual playground conversations with total strangers, neighbors I’ve known for 5 minutes, could quickly turn to personal, and may I say, intimate, topics. There we are one second, discussing teething woes and sleep habits, and the next I’m asked to divulge the innermost workings of my sex life. In a casual way, though, because apparently that’s not taboo. This particular case was a stay-at-home dad, who of course was in shock when I told him that my two girls are 15 months apart in age.

“Wow! So, you just got at it right away, huh?!”

(…Yes, sir. We… did). “Um, yeah…! They’re a lot of fun!”

“You figured  you’d just get all the hard stuff over with at once?”

(I’m envisioning that many more years of fertility will mean many more years of this “hard stuff”). “I guess so…?”

At this point, I figured he was done with the inquisition of my very personal family planning history and possible future, but nay.

“So, two girls? And Dad’s ok with that??”

(Well, you know, I really tried to make it a boy, but, wouldn’t ya know? Didn’t work!) “Yeah, he loves them! We definitely want some boys, but for now we’re just good at girls, it seems!”

And then, thankfully, my oldest decided it was time to head home for lunch.

IMG_0738

Flash-back to 11 month old Lucy on one of her first playground excursions

I shouldn’t really be surprised by this variation on a theme that plays out in multiple conversations I have with other parents, all total strangers. No one ever has any qualms jumping right to these intimate questions, about family size, when we’ll be “done”, why we had children so close, so soon, and now apparently, even our children’s gender, as if that’s something we can control, too. But in a culture where children are seen by most people as an accessory, the next “thing” you do as a responsible, debt-free, home-owning, dog-owning, two-income couple, why shouldn’t we talk about them as things? When couples can turn off the woman’s fertility at will, and then assume they have the power to turn it back on, why shouldn’t we talk openly about when, how, and why we want to space our possible children? With total strangers.

Never was I intending to open fire on his lifestyle choices: why does your wife work instead of you? Was your career not lucrative enough? Are you wife? No. Because that is his life, and I literally have no say or stake in it, nor do I want to pry into his personal business. I don’t have that right. It never fails to amaze me that people have so utterly lost the art of polite conversation, and have no problem letting themselves into the privacy of your marriage unasked.

I know that living in an upper-middle class, mostly white neighborhood, I will continue to have this conversation on repeat. Except it will probably get weirder as I have more and more children. What’s “cute” or “fringe” right now to people will probably look downright ridiculous a few kids later. It’s a small price to pay to witness to the inherent goodness of life, but it is a price. It requires getting over what people think, smiling and gritting your teeth at the approximately 1,000th rendition of, “You’ve got your hands full!”, and calmly and happily admitting that YES, you will have more, NO, you’re not done, YES, it’s a lot of work, and definitely, YES, better you than they. If people are going to ask ridiculous, intrusive questions, they are going to get the truth. But they are going to get it with a smile, because I want them to know that I chose this willingly, and believe it or not, I like it. And then I will kindly point them to this article, so they know that my 2 small fry are a drop in the bucket compared to this awesome family, who are also, against all odds, enjoying life too.

Life is crazy and we love it!

Life is crazy and we love it!