Monday, February 22, 2016

To Lena on her 2nd Birthday

Dear Lena,

You turned two officially today.  And sometimes it is like you were already two and other times I'm in denial and you are still my baby.  For one, you talk in complex sentences and recall events and state your opinion so matter of factly.  You are definitely one verbal little girl, which is something new for me to experience as a mom. But in other things, well you still aren't the best of sleepers. You wake up 1-2 times a night and well, usually it works okay, but sometimes you are just angry when you wake up and take a while to be consoled.

You are definitely a girl after two boys.  You do not hesitate to get in the mud or goo or chalk.  Instead you are right there with them.  However, you approach things differently than your brothers do.  I remember the day where I noticed that you actually played inside the playhouse and methodically carried out fake kitchen bits, while your brothers, well they conquer that house and test its limits by jumping through windows and climbing on its roof.

You take a while to warm up to people, unless you are in a super friendly mood.  Usually when you do warm up you charm whomever you are with.  You love a good game of hide and seek, and you are very obvious but deliberate about being found. You love to be read to and can sit for about 10 different books at once.  You also enjoy some TV too, you enjoy Dinosaur Train and Clifford and Blue's Clues.

You crack me up with your antics, and you especially make me have to hold in the laughter when you pray for "Woofford." (Clifford) every day. You've figured out your colors and since then have declared purple as your favorite one.  Amongst dinosaurs you really like t-rexs, and you seem to often think you are one.  Though if you brother decides to be one, you are easily terrified.

I am so thankful for you, just because you challenge me to be a better mama in your own special way.  You've helped me to be more adaptable, and to be softer to others in a good way.  I feel like I no longer always have the right way to do something but realize there is alway so much more to learn and that each kid is different even if some things are similar or recognizable from before.

I enjoy how you actually play with the baby toys in a way that your siblings never did.  They always wanted to create things, but you see to want to understand how something works.  You also have a nurturing side and I love that about you, though your brothers are sensitive souls your nurturing bits are different and uniquely yours.

So Helena, I'm sad in some ways to see your babyhood be over as you are big two year old now, but I'm also excited for the possibilities that come with you growing older.  I think you are going to be full of fire and keep me on my toes, but I also don't think you will give up your mama snuggles just yet.

Thanks for being you Lena girl, I'm glad that God chose me as your mama.  It's been a privilege to be it for sure.

Your Mama

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Book Review: Divine Mercy for Moms

Over the Christmas season, I had the opportunity to read the book Divine Mercy for Moms, Sharing the Lessons of St. Faustina by Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet.

With this year being the Year of Mercy as declared by Pope Francis, so many things seem to be divinely popping up as opportunities to practice and learn mercy. This book was one of those occurrences.  As I read this book, I felt like a wealth of information was bestowed upon me in a good way. 

As a convert, when I read books like this, I am reminded at the vastness of the Catholic faith and how much there is to learn in every single aspect of it.  It never gets old.  I had never encountered the story of St. Faustina before, and divine mercy in itself was a new concept to me other than it being something I caught in passing or glossed over.  This book did a great job recalling the life of the Saint and really taking the wisdom she shared from her life and applying it our lives today.  The authors were able to take it even one step further and take aspects from their own lives and reflect on the divine mercy in them based on St. Faustina's wisdom. 

When I was reading this book, there was a social media squabble on children at mass, and how they did or did not have a right to be there.  Spoiler alert: They do. Divine Mercy for Moms gave a great example for this case, and actually for any circumstance that we are feeling that someone else is causing us to not draw closer to God, but is a distraction.  St. Faustina as a sister would pray in the chapel with the other sisters and was positioned close to another nun that happened to make a lot of noise while she prayed.  St. Faustina thought about saying something to the other sister, but she realized by doing so she would make her conscience of something that would just cause hurt with no resolution.  Instead, St. Faustina learned to pray through the distraction, and because of it grew in grace abundantly. I loved this so much for many reasons, one being that as a mom, its so easy to get bogged down in blaming the kids and mess of life for a poor spiritual life when really we just need a change in perspective, and two it helps us to realize that we need to see others whether they be our children or just a particularly challenging person as people that are children of God and to pray for them to be aware of God's mercy just the same. 

This book presented the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and along with them gave amazing practical examples for which to carry them out.  My favorite one was to pray a chaplet of divine Mercy while making dinner for my family.  My spiritual advisor was pointing out to me the other day just how much of motherhood is doing these acts of mercy, but a lot of times we just are not aware of doing them.  Divine Mercy for Moms gave really practical ways to see this and to try to be aware of God's presence in our everyday.  The authors even went above and beyond and gave outreach examples of the works of mercy, such as handing out water bottles on a hot day to "give drink to the thirsty".  

Divine Mercy for Moms is a book that I feel like is multi-faceted, as it can be a reference book for prayers, and living out mercy, or to be a spiritual refresher or awakener in the mercy department.  It's set up to either do as a personal study but could also be a really great book for a group discussion.  All I know is that I definitely have to read this book again because as I said earlier there is just so much to it that its hard to soak it all up in one reading.  

The authors have set up a website for their book Divine Mercy for Moms. com and I recommend it as its full of great resources that were mentioned in the book but also serves as point to connect with other moms.  You can get some great ideas on how to really live out the works of mercy either from other moms or from the resource links that were mentioned in the book.  Either way its a win-win.

So I hope that you are able to use this book as a way to learn and begin to carry out mercy in your life.  You may be already be merciful in your daily walk and not even know it. But this is a a five star book in helping you to recognize God's mercy and we really all could use more of that. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


I think yesterday I voiced that I don't like Ash Wednesday, and honestly its for all the wrong reasons. But I think me saying that made me be honest with myself and realize that I am uncomfortable on this day. I struggle so much with this feeling that maybe its a lead up to some of the things I am needing to work through in this Lent in order to grow closer to Jesus.  It's funny one of the objections I got from protestants about becoming Catholic was that most Catholics they knew didn't take their faith seriously and they thought I would be stunted in my growth as a Christian.  But if there is one thing I have learned while being Catholic is that if you actually look into and follow what the church teaches it feels impossible not to grow.  There is always something to learn, and some way to grow and that is  I think because there is such a liturgical ebb and flow of things that it allows for creativity of the individual growth within.

So when I look at why I don't like Ash Wednesday, a lot of it stems from me being afraid.  Ash Wednesday is a day where we say to God that in spite of all the pains and sufferings of this life want to grow closer to Jesus.  It says that we actually want to make that step. And thats an uncomfortable place to be sometimes, because it makes us look at all our bits that we know are hindering our relationship with God.  At least it should be. I mean I used to be the kid that gave up donuts because well I honestly don't like donuts, and so it was easy to do.

But this year, I'm not giving up social media, something I normally felt like I should do.  But I think, I finally have found a place for it, so its not going away for me.  And I'm not calling out the people that did or didn't.  Either way its between you and God and I am just going to try my best to give you mercy either way.  But this year, I am realizing where I struggle most is in being okay with being me. Which in turn makes perfect sense why I struggle with Ash Wednesday so much.  Because, Ash Wednesday forces me to be blatantly Catholic and turn myself to Jesus.  And being in fear of being me is definitely an obstacle to growing closer to Jesus.

So this year, this year I am giving up saying "I'm Sorry" incessantly.  I apologize for who I am and the choices I make because I am in fear of someone disagreeing or disliking me.  It's silly when you look at it from the outside, but its a habit I've conditioned myself with and I am owning up to it.

In my praying, I'm working on really understanding forgiveness, because I think I first need to be better at letting go of my own mistakes and then also there are some key players that I need to keep working on forgiving as well. And I'm also going try and figure out more of my strengths and be more comfortable in my own two shoes.

And in my giving, I think I am just going to try and be as generous as I can be with charities, but also be more gracious in general. If I do slip up with the "I'm sorry" bit, then each time I do a charity will get a dollar. I'm expecting many slip ups because, well, I've been partaking in this habit for years!

So, its a heavy Lent, but I'm up for the challenge.  Even if I don't accomplish all these things in 40 days, I know I will at least make a little bit of progress in them.

How are you growing closer to Jesus this Lenten season?

Sick with croup?  Inventing tape ashes. :)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Fight for Air Climb

I understand all too well what it means to not be able to breathe. I used to go to a concert and have to leave because I'd start hacking and wheezing too much from inhaling some second-hand smoke from fellow music enthusiasts around me.  People might say I'm paranoid about smoke, but I know that if you are smoking I need to step away for my health otherwise its just not okay for me and my lungs.  My one grandfather smoked and if he was smoking or just finished smoking, my mom wouldn't let me near the inside of his house because she knew my lungs wouldn't be able to handle it. I spent many days outside in their yard or on their front porch just hanging out, pre-wifi days. You see I am allergic to smoke and let's just say that campfires are a mess for me too.

When I moved to Cleveland, something else happened.  Whether it was the adjustment to living in a big city, or just me not handling the industry, I started to have lung issues every time I exercised.  This led to an exercised induced asthma diagnosis, and while over time my lungs have adjusted a bit, it still can be a little rough in the unexpected.

In the past 2 years, I've had a different experience with lung issues.  It seems that my second son has those same sensitive lungs.  His has allergy induced lung issues in a different way, thus different things set him off.  But its scary when i know he's struggling to breathe well due to an environmental factor that's out of his control. To sit with him struggling and just pray and know its not in your control to make him get better, its a very humbling feeling.

So I signed up for the Fight For Air Climb in Cleveland for March 5, 2016.  This event benefits the ALA, and honestly I didn't originally have a good reason except for the challenge to do this event.  I figured at the very least I would be donating to a helpful charity.  But then I thought about it and realized in my very own way I do have a story behind it and maybe that's why I'm doing it.  It might not be the traditional lung disease that may influence the average participant, but I've come to realize that functioning healthy lungs are a very good thing. God knew more than I did at the time when I signed up.

And maybe it will be a challenge, but I'm up for it.  It may be crazy considering the exercise induced asthma, but I'm training for the 804 stair climb and I'm up to 286 stairs so far with almost a month to go. So, if you have a little extra cash burning in your pocket, or you like to get a tax break from making donations or you are just a really good person and want to help others out with your donation to the ALA, visit my personal goal page here.  It's just a goal of $100 and I think we can do this together. Thanks everyone!