Thursday, July 13, 2017

Cincinnati Part 2

So uprooting the family for a month wasn't all fun and games, there was definitely a learning curve and I felt it a lot that first week. We had to learn how to deal without a yard and how deal with less space and less things.  We had to learn the best way to get around the neighborhood.  We had to learn what was the best place for us to go to as family just to get energy out as my three bigger kids have a lot of it. And we had to get used to just a more urban living style than we were used to in Cleveland.

Surprisingly, we didn't actually eat out more than a few times there in an actual restaurant.  But honestly, our family isn't in an eating out in a restaurant state.  We have a baby that barely lets you sit down and a toddler who doesn't really eat full meals and bigger kids that get restless if there isn't somewhere to run immediately after eating.  So we did eat out I think 4 times, and one of those was to Jimmy Johns. We did however, do a decent amount of take out, much more than we would normally because we usually like to keep the budget in tact on a normal month, but we wanted to experience the food the city had to offer, so we did.  I'd like to say I had a particular favorite, but I think we are dessert people so Holtman's Donuts on Vine, and Graeter's Ice Cream, Green Man Twist and Brezel were our favorites for sure. Maybe its just that its easier to do a treat from a shop and eat it in the park for us that these were our destinations of choice.

Being where we were a grocery store like we were used to wasn't in the neighborhood.  There was a small Kroger however, and an open market.  The open market was great for fresh produce and we used it often for that, and fresh baked bread. I think my one regret was not using the open market more for things like meat and cheeses. I have a routine to shop on Mondays and the market was closed on that particular day each week. A lot of things were closed Mondays in Cincy, it was interesting learning that for sure. I probably could have broken my routine, but for some larger buys we checked out Jungle Jim's or went across the river to Newport, KY to where a newer shopping area, containing all the standard box like stores, was.

Something that we looked for right away being the practicing Catholics that we were, was a church to worship in for Sundays. We ended up trying four different churches, there were at least 5 within walking distance of 20 minutes or less, so about 1 mile or less radius of where we were. The first Sunday we ended up at St. Francis Seraph, which was church attached to a friary. It was the closest church to us so we figured why not. Ben enjoyed it the most because there was little boy the exact same age as him and he is a people person to the max. I was sad there wasn't any kneelers in the pews anymore, though the church besides that was beautiful architecturally. The next week we ended up at the cathedral St. Peter in Chains, it was a Saturday mass so it was low key and not very chatty parishioners, but again a beautiful building. The third week we ended up at Old St. Mary's which was by far our favorite church, and we realized that we had attended here a year ago on our passing through.  This time, however, we attended a mass in German.  I thought of my dear friend who just moved to Germany the whole time and how we really are a universal church being Catholic. I highly recommend this parish if you are ever in Cincinnati for a Sunday and need a place to go to mass. The last church we checked out we actually drove to, because it came recommended in its beauty by a friend.  But honestly, I don't think we saw an ugly church the whole time. There was so much richness in the architecture of the churches there, architecture nerd me was pleased to say the least. The last church was called Mother of God Catholic church and it was in Covington, KY. It was covered with art on the inside and was gorgeous, we even had a Stellamaris sighting in it. The only thing I wished we were able to do was go to the earlier mass because somehow we ended up with a contemporary mass, which when Catholics do contemporary means its 1980's all the way with he music. It really didn't fit the grandness of the place and I kept thinking about the great organ not be touched while the guitars in the front took its place.

So I'll leave it at that. Tomorrow is our tenth anniversary, so I'll want to post on that for sure. Peace.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Cincinnati part 1

Here goes!
We decided to live in Cincinnati for a month. Keith had recently taken a fully remote job and well, we were planning on the adventure even before that happened. Keith has never lived outside Cuyahoga county in his 34 years of life, and I've lived in at least four different states and in multiple locations inside some of those states. We wanted a bit of adventure, but also more of an experience of something else, but my safe playing husband wasn't ready to pack up on a whim and move us all permanently just yet.

So we settled on a one month stay on the edge of the Over the Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati. Basically I searched for AirBNBs that could house a family of six in a walkable area. This was that. What I didn't know was the history of the area or really what it would be like. I tend to be a jumper in those things, my husband the opposite.

We had a three bedroom first floor apartment in an older row house. It probably was built mid 1800's. I'm a sucker for old houses so I loved it instantly, the uneven floors, the block door stops, the beauty of the street appeal of the brick. They modernized a good deal of the inside, which is fine, but the old charming bits are what I liked. Here's a tour of it all.

So we learned being on the edge of Over the Rhine, that this neighborhood is very divided between rich and poor and has a history of racial riots as well.. And where we were was the edge of the renaissance of the neighborhood at large. Many of the original housing structures were being preserved and renovated to be reused Amongst the renovations, they were creating government subsidized housing right next to much more pricey houses, though you really couldn't tell the difference, at least from the street view. It seemed like the people in the area weren't trying to completely gentrify everything but just make things more livable again. Within the area, there were many things that were made for all no matter what status in life one was. 

Originally our trip was to be a Sunday to Sunday thing, a full four weeks, or approximately a month. However, it got moved up a bit due to the job change and Keith needing to meet his co workers on retreat. They agreed to meet up in Cincinnati, so it just moved up departure by 4 days. Which all in all was fine. The only thing was I was completely on my own for those first three days. So it was the four kids and me, ages 7 through 2mos getting to know the city on our own. There was a sharp learning curve but we did it somehow, by the grace of God most likely. I packed the baby in the carrier and the middles in the stroller and Ben walked or scootered along.
Here are a few photos from those first few days, all from Smale Park on the riverfront.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Thoughts from Stellamaris's baptism

On Sunday, Stellamaris was baptized into the Catholic Church. It felt good to have this little one be so celebrated in entering the church and being freed of original sin. But something else struck me with this baptism. The people present at it, all of them were with us through the heartache of the loss of our last year with Noel around this same time of year. They showed up, they showed up in ways I didn't know we needed, they brought meals and ice cream,  offered child care and cards, sat with us in dark moments and offered hugs and just patiently loved in so many ways.

And then on Sunday, they showed up again, this time in joy for a new baby that came as a surprise out of the heartache and they cerebrated with us. And it was good to have them there.

As I sat out on our patio at the party after the baptism, the same tree and bush were flowering that flowered in the grief of last year, the ones I clipped to make bouquets to put on Noel's grave last year. It had me remembering but at the same time there was joy there, as much as I didn't want to have Noel die in the womb, I wouldn't have had a Stellamaris, or the growth of this past year. I don't understand why it had to happen this way but I am thankful for the grace to be able to embrace it.

So little Stellamaris, we welcome you to the church and once again we are so glad you are here.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The birth of Stellamaris

I wrote a post about her birth a while back but somehow Blogger didn't save it or my computer messed up. I wrote and then napped, so I could have magically deleted it as well. But nonetheless here is another go at writing her story.

Most of you know that Stellamaris was a rainbow baby, and that came with a lot of anxiety during her entire pregnancy about everything being okay. It still manifests itself sometimes in little ways here or there, but for the most part the fact that she is a live baby in my hands is amazing thing and I am trying my hardest not to take that for granted because I understand how much more at this stage in my live how everything is not a guarantee.

I am thankful for her and her sweetness, and just the moments where all her siblings are crowded around her wanting to hold her or interact with her or help with her. It keeps me going in the tired moments.  But back to her actual birth story.

The day before Stella was born, I was having mild contractions, nothing to write home about and I had been having some days and evenings with this for a while, so I didn't think much about it all. I took the kids to their homeschool class at the library all the while having contractions, but again, I could completely function with these, and I figured if it did get bad, I'd call my husband and he would come get us.

But then I took a nap, and by the end of the nap everything stopped. But this was later in the afternoon and I was at the point that I needed to have dinner done and I had nothing for dinner. So I packed the kids in the car to get some groceries. I was hungry for specific things that take out wasn't going to cure.  I should have thought twice about this, because it was awful.  My two older children were crazy in the store and especially the oldest.  It culminated with my oldest thinking that rolling a watermelon at full speed down the bagging isle of Aldi a good idea, which resulted in a broken watermelon, me in tears and grocery store employees taking pity on me saying I could get another and the security guard telling me it would be okay.  I was a hot mess along with my kids. Me on another day would have never attempted this, so I blame hunger and end of pregnancy craziness. I felt like at the moment that this fourth child was a very bad idea because well I couldn't even handle my seven year old.

I texted some close friends and they said to be gentle to myself and the kids and I ate dinner and Ben had consequences for his behavior. We all went to bed with no expectation for the following day to happen.

I woke up a bit after 4am with contractions, looking back it seems that the indicator for me to be in this is it labor is to wake up with contractions. It was enough that I could no longer sleep. So I did what I do in labor, I binge watch TV.  This time I watched Girl Meets World and hung out on the birthing ball downstairs. The house's pint sized inhabitants were still all sleeping soundly, so I thought it might be good to keep it that way.

I called the midwife at 6am to tell her what was happening, and then decided to take a shower, I was having a decent amount of back labor and showers have helped me in the past greatly with that. Post shower though I decided to call the midwife again because while it felt good to be upright in the shower, I quickly went to hands and knees which meant I was closer to transition. The midwife got here at little after 7:30am and she told me while that position felt better it was counterproductive because baby girl was on the opposite side from what she needed to be.

The kids woke up around this time but Keith shooed them downstairs and they actually complied. The only thing was that my MIL was running late to pick them up so they didn't get picked up until about 8:30.  For me, if my kids are present I tend to struggle to give full focus to the birthing process even if they aren't needing me.  Before they left they made sure we had our "It's a Girl" balloon we had gotten at the school baby shower, but afterwards I knew I could fully focus again.

So back to the birthing ball I went and before long I was fully dilated and ready to push.  There was an issue though because she was on the wrong side and so to push her out she needed to turn and she was sitting higher instead of actually descending like my other babies did.  I had to work ridiculously hard to fight against what I wanted to do to what baby needed me to do to get her out and it was seriously the hardest time I had every in the pushing phase post first baby. I remember after a push feeling like I was getting somewhere but then feeling her head go back up and I screamed "That is not okay." But somehow I got through it and 15 minutes later she was on my chest and healthy and alive. I think honestly I was stunned that all this had resulted in a live baby because last time it didn't.

It actually took me a few days to process everything and to realize how much I was holding my breath through her whole pregnancy. I think I questioned everything that probably I normally wouldn't have thought twice about.  But Stellamaris has been an amazing light to us after the darkness, and while she is a baby and does baby things, somehow I think I am more amazed this time around because it feels like a gift, something that I wasn't expecting but am so happy to have here and to hold her each day.

So, here she is:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A name

I believe back in December I was first talking about names for this new baby girl of ours. 2016 was a year of many losses for us, two of them being grandmothers that were dear to us. One was named Florence Elizabeth and the other Mary Ann. And oddly my last remaining grandparent, my maternal grandmother is Mary Elizabeth. For a while we thought that two middle names would be the way to go. We wanted to honor those loved ladies in this new life but also wanted to give her something that was her own. 

I started calling baby girl Kat as in Kateri, but for some reason the double K was bugging me, I had a double K in my name and always it feels tongue twister like. And then Keith stumbled upon the name Stella Maris. A Latin title for Mary, which means star of the sea. It seemed too fitting to not use it. It honors get great grandmother and yet is flared with her own bit of self and gives light to a devotion to the blessed mother, someone who through this year of loss has given me hope and light. 

We played around with what order it should all be and if it should be a double first name or be put together as one. Over all nothing else seemed to fit as well as this name. 

And so we have a Stellamaris Elizabeth. A beautiful baby girl that I'm so happy to have in my arms and be able to get to know day by day. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My thoughts on the book Different by Sally and Nathan Clarkson

I had been seeing the book "Different" pop up in my Amazon things you should buy and in a few blog feeds, and it seemed like something I needed to read.  For me I had been struggling most recently with my oldest son's tendencies toward ADD/ADHD. I wanted to get him tested, but I never did because its a new year and well, I have to ration out the money in the HSA and so its not something in our budget at the moment.  So, I thought reading this would at least give me perspective, but then I started actually reading.

When I dove into the book, I led me back to where I was told I was difficult and different when I was growing up.  As an adult, pretty much every therapist or person I have come in contact with tells me that I am super quirky and well, different. I felt like I could identify with both authors of the book at various times. The mom, Sally, while she loved her mom, always felt off as a kid. And I think that was definitely something that I dealt with, my brain just seems to work differently than my siblings did.  I think that probably was hard for my parents to deal with and I caused a lot of strife, but I don't think I could have changed me in that way to fit in if I had tried with all my might, at least not with some major issues.

One of the main points that I took away from reading this was how even though she was human and failed a lot, Sally tried to truly love her difficult child unconditionally, and to strive to be positive about who Nathan, her son, was as God made him. I think for myself I can so easily see the flaws in myself and in my children, but it takes effort, at least for me, to see them and myself as a beautiful child of God. I mean I know it, but I sure as heck don't act like it at times.  I think I mentioned on twitter that there was one day where I just decided that I was going to tell my kids affirming things that day and not focus on the things that needed correcting.  It was a good day. And while we definitely need to be refined as humans and to keep growing, we also need to know how much we are loved. And maybe this is easier for you to do than me, but I think I just needed this reminder.

Another item that stuck with me was in seeing these children as gifts from God, that they really are their own people that will make their own mistakes and have their own free will.  I think its so hard as a parent to not be embarrassed by your own kids behavioral habits. Sometimes it makes me not want to leave the house. I mean the last time we got haircuts, one of my kids almost punched the hair stylists in the jaw because it was too intense of an experience for him. Of course that was embarrassing.  And its not that kids should be without guiding and disciplining when necessary, its just that they are their own people.  Ultimately, you cannot control them.

I think the last thing is that it feels like we do live in a world where we want to know and be what is normal, this is where I identified with Nathan and his struggle. In wanting to be normal so much, we can miss out in who God really made us to be. While there are definitely times when medicine is useful to psychologically help us function in society, maybe there's a little too much emphasis on being happy all the time. Maybe we just need to feel things and process things and that be okay. Its a weird world to live in where our bodies aren't being used in the same way they were 100 years ago and so perhaps our minds are troubled a bit more, but maybe some of these responses are there to make us be us. Maybe they are there to show us how to love, especially in the difficult times with the difficult ones. I am not by any means saying that medicine isn't helpful to those that need it, I'm just thinking through my own life, processing with help, though slow, seemed to help me in my differentness. So maybe that's just for me, because a lot of times I do not feel that I fit in, but maybe that's what I need and that's okay.

Shannon Evans posted something on St. Valentine's Day about how there is a sense of loneliness that we have that comes from the lack of being understood. Reading "Different" reminded me that while we can do better at trying to understand one another and to love deeply, at the end of the day there is still going to be a hole. A hole that only God can fill and really only fully when we get to heaven where we will be completely understood by all there. So perhaps, that is what I realized through reading this, that it is good to love, that it is good to be understanding, to be patient, to be kind, to be affirming and to strive to do these thing well.  All of this is good.  But there isn't a formula that is going to get rid of suffering along the way, because as painful as it is suffering redeems us through Jesus.  It can point us to love more, to open our broken hearts to grow bigger and point us to Heaven.

Do I often wish that I had had someone growing up like Sally who wanted to understand me more? Yes, definitely.  Would I be me though if I had this? No. And so I'm thankful for the hard and for the fact that my parents tried their best with what they knew to do. I'm thankful for not fitting in and being outside the box. And perhaps my kids will feel this unconditional love of God a little more than I did.  I pray they do, I pray that I can be that example to them even in my failure by humility. I do want them to know they are loved and by God's grace I will try to love them best as I can.

Friday, January 27, 2017

How I Became Catholic Part 7 of 7

I am struggling to wrap this up because I'm sure I've forgotten something that was important or that it will be misunderstood if I don't say it just right.  But I think knowing that I am going to try and let grace be present here and just go with it. It's been 10 years after all, and while some things are clearer now, others are not. A lot of my conversion story continues post the actual moment of becoming Catholic, as I think this is true for most people in their faith walks. God doesn't give up on you after you are claimed but keeps the refining process going if you'll let him. But this story isn't about that, though maybe I should write another series on the next ten years post conversion some other time. :)

So, let's back to the story. Just a few short weeks before Easter vigil, one of the other catechumens and I met with a woman who had recently gone through the conversion process. Because both of us were struggling with a lot of outside pressures against us and also were wondering about all the things we just didn't quite get yet. It was almost a reassurance thing, and it was really needed because to see someone that already did what you are about to do and survived and is thriving on top of that a few years down the road, it gives you hope. Especially when you realize how big this is what you are doing. Part of me wonders, if I would have waited another year, and came into full communion after I had gotten married,  if I would have had all the strife going into it. But maybe for me it needed to be so uncomfortable from the outside that I knew I had to do it from the inside.  That even though it wasn't easy to go against my family or origin's wishes, the tug to do it wasn't going to go away and maybe it would have just gotten that much worse if I did wait another year.

Easter vigil came. It was a day full of snow and it was terrible weather, but despite that people that were important to me came out to support me in this process. It was so very great to have my roommates there and some friends from graduate school and K and his family as well.  I was so thankful for their presence and support.  They were troopers in the weather. I loved that it was snowing, not because it made it difficult to get there but snow is my favorite thing. It washes away the yuck of the world and paints it new again. It just felt like a symbol of a new beginning with the fire in the barrel light on a snowy night. It was a special night and while Easter vigil is long, every bit meant something and it was good to finally feel at home in my faith at the end of the night.  The rest could wait.

And that's one thing I think about often, despite how hard it was to get there with a lot of searching, I finally feel at home in Catholicism and this feeling hasn't gone away.  There are so many instances where I'm in mass and I just smile for the love that is there that is present in Jesus that is present in his sacrifice and in those around me despite coming from so many different backgrounds and at so many different stages in life.  There is a oneness, which I didn't feel before and there are so many other things that just keep me growing more and more in my walk with Jesus.  I recall one thing said in RCIA that was emphasized in our learning about the faith. It was simply that everything that Catholicism holds is there as something to bring you closer to Jesus. Every bit of the mass, every bit of the sacraments, every bit of prayer and devotion should draw you to Jesus. Not every devotion within Catholicism is for every Catholic or for every time in your life,  but they exist as means to lead to to Jesus. For in the end our goal is to be in communion with Christ, something for which every Christian strives. The vastness is there in Catholicism but it only accounts for the fact that each person needs something just a little bit different to reach the finish line. I am no where near the finish line yet, but God continues to meet me everyday where I am at and particularly now as a Catholic.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 6 here.