Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Leaving My Parents and Clinging to My Spouse

Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

Just the beginning of our walk through life together
Photo credit: 808 Studio
He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? (Matthew 19:4-5)

The one thing I have been hands down struggling with the most these past two (three?) weeks is the absence of my husband. He is in PA, working odd and long shift hours; I am home in the Midwest with Grace.

Cleaving to one's spouse means forming a new family - and it was possibly the hardest and best thing that happened in our first year of marriage. Our first six months had me still living in my parents' house during the week and Will continuing his bachelor ways. Then we moved South and we only had each other. That was the best part of New Orleans: us, together, facing the world.

The world isn't so bad, either: buying groceries for the week. Making sure we paid our bills on time. Fixing coffee in the morning. Fixing dinner at night. Bed time routine with Grace. Sharing funny cartoons or news articles. Picking each other's brains. Eating together for meals. Playing and reading with Grace. PT with Grace. Walks with Grace! Netflix marathons. Reading days. Night time prayers. Popsicles as treats and therapy.

The best part about the past year was the amount of "us" time - and now that we're entering into a limited time together three years, I still feel so optimistic about us, and making time for each other, and making life better because we do things together. I used to be so timid at the idea of "leaving" my family - my plentiful number of relations for one, single person. And that one person took me on too, for better and worse.

And that's why I miss us. I just hung up the phone with him, as he gets off his shift almost two hours later. He's going to study, then bed; he has Grand Rounds in the morning, then works 11 p.m. till morning time. I get another round of Grace-wakes-up-all-night-and-day, and maybe I'll read more of my Agatha Christie too. It would be so nice to be reading in our own bed while he studies, with Grace across the hall, instead of me needing to tiptoe back into the guest room.

I'm ready to go home to PA. I love my family - both sides! - and seeing them and spending time with them has been so special. But I am officially cleaved. I miss my much better half. It's such a strange notion to me, that I could ever adore someone like I do Will. I mean, it's almost irrational. Love is. Some parts, it makes sense: we work together well, we want the same things, we have similar temperments, we complement each other. Other parts are a mystery: we have few common interests, he's much funnier than I am, I'm more talkative about everything, and our pursuits are different.

And still, we fit. We choose to fit. We want to fit.

That's possibly the thing I've realized most these past few weeks (two more to go!): the transition from getting married because, logically, we love each other/ we respect each other/ we enjoy each other's company/ we want the same things to we are married and for this healthy relationship to continue so happily, we must continue to appreciate and need the other person.

I think it's so nice to be needed. Will and I are in it for the long haul, and we're in it for the short haul too. The freeing realization that I do not have to hide my emotions for fear of teasing or rejection: that I'm always accepted by him. That I can openly miss him and not feel like I am being silly: that missing a part of myself is perfectly natural.

Let the countdown continue - Michigan vacation starts this weekend (and for the next week!), and then home again, home again, jiggity-jig.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Lately... {in pictures}

We've been busy with the start of residency!

Grace and I are home in the Midwest! Will came back briefly too. 

Attended Grace's first wedding of the season - my beautiful high school friend Maria to handsome Jason. 

Then, we experienced Grace's first fishing trip!

She wasn't this happy for most of the trip. But it was really great being with our Baldwin family!

I'm spending a lot of time with Grace, and less time with my computer.  She's not sleeping well away from home, and I'm really enjoying mom and baby time. The time is so fleeting!

Happy weekend!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

10 Things To Do Before Having Kids

I stumbled on one of these gems of a list the other day - you know, the TEN ZILLION THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU HAVE KIDS - and decided to make my own. My first boss out of college lamented to me and another co-worker one day how he and his wife were not able to do fun activities any more since the birth of their three kids. I didn't get it: my parents always had so much fun with us!

That's a pretty modern implication: after X life event, your life - as you know it - is over. Fun is dead.

Here are practical things to do before having kids so that life continues to feel fun and not dead-like.

10. Start a savings account.

Okay, boring. But having a bebe is much better when you're serious about money. They do cost money, but not too much, if you budget well. {Special circumstances withstanding.} Be diligent about putting aside 10-15 percent every month. While you're at it, write a budget too. Based on your income and current assets, this may change over six month periods, and learn how to handle money! This is possibly the single most important skill to have as a single person, married person, and parent person. Expenses pop up! Be prepared {and don't overthink it}.

9. Choose patience.

Patience is hard. Showing your child patience over anger is possibly the most sincere form of love. Showing patience to your spouse is equally rewarding. Behaviors build off each other! Start with the person who cuts you off in traffic!

8. Work on your prayer life and relationship with Christ.

There are few things that will bring you to your knees faster than having a child. Will and I began praying as a couple when we were engaged, and now we pray with each other and with Grace each night. I also pray on my own each day, for special intentions and strength to persevere.

Life with the hope of Christ gives me strength when times are tough, and gives me such a view of God's beauty. Prayer is a conversation with Christ - sometimes our talks are short; other times earnest; and, my favorite, is leisurely. The best way to pass on our faith to Grace and future littles is to show them my faith, explain our faith, and experience it with them. We must get to know Christ before we can debate him.

7. Work on how to disagree actively and calmly.

Not everyone is born with a calm disposition, but everyone is capable of having a reasonable disagreement - even if it means taking a break or going on a walk. Say "I'm sorry" and mean it. Value the feelings of the other person just as much as your own. This is especially important for children to witness - and to have their feelings validated too.

6. Know thyself.

The best way to parent is to become a parent unique to you. I'm not going to use cloth diapers just because other moms do. I'm not going to make my own baby food (I tried, sigh), and I'm going to indulge Grace by sleeping with her during nap time (currently the only way I can get her to sleep with all the traveling). Know what is good for your baby, and know what is good for you. Be the best parent version of you! (Not the mom you want to be!)

5. Explore new skills.

What I love about babies is how much they absorb from the environment around them, and how they are constantly learning. How encouraging to me! I am continuing to hone my culinary skills, but I am also loving learning more interior design theory, tennis, fishing, and yoga. I've thought about gardening, but let's not get too crazy here.

4. Buy a sense of humor

If you don't have one, that is. There are so many things with kids that can make you want to cry. But why cry when you can laugh? Life is fun, and so are kids. We can be a little less serious about annoyances and more serious about laughing at them.

3. Keep up a good relationship with your family and friends, and know boundaries.

A friend of mine recently told me I am a great "mom advocate" for Grace, and I was really touched by that. I'm a naturally timid person, and my husband has been my number one advocate. He helps me deal with personal frustrations and I help him keep in touch with loved ones. But most importantly, we have learned to prioritize our family above all. We've had to miss family get-togethers (sniff), and we've missed friends' weddings, but we did what was right for us, and that has helped me truly center in on doing what is right for Grace as well - not to make other people happy.

2. Read!

You must read to your child. Okay, now that we've agreed on that, you must keep reading too. It doesn't have to be deep: it needs to be what you like. I love murder mysteries, British lit, and Southern lit, with rhyming poetry thrown in there. (T.S. Eliot too!) I love the Little House on the Praire series (re-reading now), the Anne of Green Gables series, anything by Flannery O'Connor and Pope Benedict XVI, and essays.

Reading expands your mind. Reading keeps life interesting. Reading keeps your soul reaching upwards in the hidden worlds of good stories. Reading renews a sense of wonder found in childhood and often lost by the cement truck of reality.

1. Love yourself, be happy.

This is possibly the most important thing a person can do in life. We all struggle and we all hope to be better, and those can be turned for the good. The inecurities we face are not who we are: we are children of God; his beloved. We were made this way for a purpose - it is up for us to create fruit in our own gardens. Sometimes, that is being content in our single days. For me, I am still wrapping my head around my motherhood. I love Grace, and I love my work. But I don't love when I feel like I am not giving 110 percent to both.

But it's just not possible, for me, at this point. And I'm accepting that! This is my season of life, and I choose to be happy about it. I love myself because I am not my work.

One may not always feel happy, but we can always choose to be happy. This is the secret of life, in my book, and I hope to pass this on to my children.


The most important thing to do before having kids is to be open to them. Be open to the adventure life is with them. Be open to the hardships, and be open to the laughs. Life can be as boring as your imagine it, or it can brim with possibility. It really is up to you.

Monday, June 30, 2014

John Cleese on Creativity

How many folk singers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?


A really brilliant listen on life as art, and vice versa.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sacred Heart, Change My Heart

Today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The feast was requested in reparation for the ingratitude for the sacrifice that Christ made for us. This feast day also means we can eat meat today (Canon 1251), which is another reason to rejoice.

I have a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The image of Jesus and his Sacred Heart was on my fridge during my childhood. In college, the Sacred Heart helped me discern marriage as my vocation in life. After college, I prayed to the Sacred Heart to let me lose my want of marriage and for me to bear fruit during my single period. By Christmas, I did. I was completely happy and content as a single person. As blessings befall, I met my to-be husband Will a week or so later.

I prayed a Sacred Heart novena before Will and I started dating: for Will to show initiative, and for me to be content in whatever happened in the course of our relationship. In those months leading up to our engagement, it was the first relationship I felt free to love and be loved; I also felt comfortable enough that, even though we loved each other, if it did not work out, I could have broken up with him with a knowing heart. We talked about it, even, as we talked towards marriage. It was Christ alone who put such peace in my heart.

The modern devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was led by Sr. Marguerite Marie Alacoque, a French nun and mystic who lived from 1647 to 1690. She had visions of Christ and increased devotion to the Sacred Heart. If people keep this devotion, our Lord told Sr. Marguerite Marie, he promises 12 things:

1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2. I will give peace in their families.
3. I will console them in all their troubles.
4. I will be their refuge in life and especially in death.
5. I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection.
9. I will bless those places wherein the image of my Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.
10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
11. Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart.
12. In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that my all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.
“And He [Christ] showed me that it was His great desire of being loved by men and of withdrawing them from the path of ruin that made Him form the design of manifesting His Heart to men, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which it contains, in order that those who desire to render Him and procure Him all the honour and love possible, might themselves be abundantly enriched with those divine treasures of which His heart is the source.”
— from Revelations of Our Lord to St. Mary Margaret Alacoque
Pope Leo XIII consecrated the world to the Sacred Heart in 1899. The Sacred Heart novena starts, “O my Jesus, you have said: “Truly I say to you, ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.” Behold I knock, I seek and ask for the grace of [mention the purpose of your prayer]”

Then, your intention(s), followed by an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, and ends, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you. Amen.”

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is my go-to prayer for all of the ups and down in our marriage, and I feel so grateful for the ability to stay close to his heart when I feel the winds push hard against my life.

Thank you, Jesus! Your Sacred Heart continues to change my heart.

Originally posted at Ignitum Today

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Parenting Philosophical Society (and GHB at 9 months!)

Everyone is a Parenting Philosopher. You're doing what? Oh! Here's how I did it! According to this book/ article/ medical journal... You need to vaccinate/ I can't believe you're vaccinating. Cry it out? Yes way/ no way!

"Should she be chewing on that??"
I did not read any baby books while pregnant. It helped me not get anxious over unknowns and I learned to enjoy being pregnant (yes, even with all the nausea). I did read Bringing Up Bebe, which confirmed to me that letting kids play on their own is a good thing and for less helicopter parenting and more zone defense. But I knew that as a sister of five siblings and, later, a nanny. I like experience over theory; I like possibility over expectation. I was as ready for my sweet bebe as I was going to be, when the time came.

When did I really feel like a mother?

I ponder this question often. GHB turns 9 months today!!!!, and I am so crazy in love with this kid, Jay-Z and Beyonce are going to be jelly. She gets up in the morning and cries out till someone picks her up (thanks Will!), and when she sees me, she glows. There is nothing like the unconditional love glow of your baby every single time she sees you.

I knew I was a mother when, at 6 am of September 26 (Grace was born at 1:30, they took her away at 3 a.m., left me in a well-lit room until 5:30 am), the nurses brought her into me for a feeding just as I was drifting off to sleep.

My baby!! Sleeping while I'm awake. Typical.
REALLY, CHILD? I thought. MAMA SO SLEEPY. Then I touched her. She was my daughter? She responded to my touch. I brought her against me and fed her. When she was done, I put her back in her bassinet and when I tried to adjust my bed (for future notice, I like to sleep horizontal), she woke up. So I cradled her in my arms until the nurse came back to retrieve her to the hospital nursery so I could theoretically get more sleep. She snuggled against me and I just could not stop staring at that beautiful little bebe: my baby.

That's when I first felt like a mother: sacrificing my happiness for hers.

I feel like a mother because I care for Grace. I feed her, I dress her, I play with her, I read her books, and I take her almost everywhere I roam. Fortunately for me, she is a solid traveler. Unfortunately for me, she requires her own caravan and servants. Aha-kidding. I am her caravan.

I feel like a mother because I take responsibility for Grace. Guess who takes her to her doctor's appointments? Me. Guess who makes sure she gets Vitamin D? Me. Guess who does physical therapy with her? Me. Guess who gets up in the middle of the night when she's crying loudly or teething? Me again!

Beyonce moves during therapy
This morning, we attended breakfast with Will before his intern orientation lectures began. A fellow EM resident rushed over and gushed over Grace, before swooping her away to two other residents who, in turn spent the next 20 minutes passing her around, until she knocked over someone's cup of coffee. Oops.That child is mine. (May I get you more coffee??) I was very proud of her for allowing the women to hold her, and not getting her T-Rex look that usually comes with her stranger anxiety.

I feel like motherhood is looked at very conceptually: Am I ready? Or not? Sometimes, it is a clear answer. Othertimes, there is the invariable waffling because parenthood seems so inevitable, yet daunting.

I drove Will up the wall (I'm sure) the first few months of Grace's life, asking him how he felt about Grace. He loved her, fine, but how did he feel. Elation? Joy? Excitement?!

Happy? Okay, I can accept "happy"...

I'm happy too. I'm happy to be married to Will, I'm happy to be Grace's mom, and I'm happy with myself. At least, I am trying reallyreallyreally hard to be happy with myself.

I passed positive graffiti in the car today: "Love Yourself."

Yes, res publica! Love yourself! Note to self: not everyone feels as deeply as I do. And I feel deeply for Grace. I'm tardy on her month sticker pictures, I forget to write down her milestones, but I'm experiencing every day with her, and she teaches me so much. She shows me determination and she shows me sass.

So why have I been guilt-tripping myself on all the writing I don't do?

"No One Sleeps While I'm Awake" -- The Sounds (bedtime theme song)

I suppose, we humans like to show what we're capable of. We like to show what we can do. I know I do. And I am sharing this struggle with non-outside world productivity because I'm discovering that what I'm really doing these days is teaching Grace about love. Grace knows we love her, and she loves us - she loves us so much that she took a nap with me in bed this morning instead of in her crib. (Did I mention she has a total softy for a mother?)

And when I'm given advice, I know it usually comes from a place of love and a love of sharing one's knowledge to help better the world. Parenthood is not for the faint of heart. There will be crying and poopy diapers and weird rashes and the need/want to shower. There will be a baby in first place, always, who needs her mother to cares about herself too; loves herself too.

It is not enough to love your children. You must love yourself. This means learning to make mistakes and not taking everything personally. Different parenting techniques are not a reflection on you as a "bad" parent. If you're even trying to contribute to your child's happiness, you are already a "good" parent. We all have different roads we walk - why do we all want our children and problems to look the same, and be so easy to master.

I am not saying being sleep deprived has made me a better person. Lord knows I need my sleep. But the Good Lord also invented coffee (and sugar! and milk!), and naps for babies, so I am not totally without resources. And I am worthy. I am a daughter of the Lord and I do not struggle in vain.

Mamas, you are not doing this journey alone either! Find the joy in every day, and as my husband told me one morning after a very crabby night: Today is a new day! Make the most of it, and be happy.

Morning y'all!
Do you love yourself? You're the first teacher of self-love. Because we can show our children how to be happy. We can teach them what joy is, even when the skies grow dark. We teach them that in Christ, everything is possible -- even if that everything is one, small task of love. To-do lists don't matter when we look at eternity.

As St. Catherine of Siena said: "Start being brave about everything. Drive out darkness and spread light. Don’t look at your weaknesses. Realize instead that in Christ crucified you can do everything."

GHB, I wish you many months of happiness as you continue to approach your one year birthday. I am so proud of you! I love your smile, your laugh, your silliness, and the way you love your mom and dad. You are so patient with us. You are so strong during PT sessions. You are so good natured and snuggly. You are interested in the world, and an interesting little human. 

Will does the best voices for Frog and Toad
At 9 months, she:
  • Sits independently
  • Transitions around her toys
  • Rolls
  • Eats solids (mum-mums and blended fruits with oatmeal are her favorites!)
  • Recognizes voices and faces
  • Says "Ahhhhhhhh" and "mommomommomom" (especially when she wants me!)
  • Expresses displeasure and happiness
  • Laughs
  • Pays attention and responds to stories and songs
  • Picks up objects using hands, fingers, toes and sometimes her mouth (very resouceful!)
I hear her talking outloud as I type this...
Grace Harriet, you're growing up so fast! I hear you waking up! Mama is coming. You are loved.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

My View (vol. 16)

Hello from Walloon Lake! On vacation with my family, as of 4 p.m. today. 

We've gone to Michigan almost every year since I was little, and there is something so wonderful about a lake at sunset. 

Hope your July is magical thus far!