Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cry Baby Cry

I am writing this as Grace sobs upstairs in her crib. She slept mostly well for nine months there, and after a month of being out of her crib, she is crying herself to sleep. Last night was so hard: blood-curdling screams. My MIL saved my sanity by helping take shifts with her, and I felt bad that Will woke up since he had an early morning.

She is sobbing louder.

There is nothing more heart-wrenching than your daughter crying, and all I want to do is hold her... but I am letting my husband and MIL take these shifts to help acclimate Grace to the fact that she cannot be comforted by her mother (or fed, for that matter) all the time. Vacation was a real treat for Grace, and reality holds no such charm.

Today was tough: crying, wanting to be held (or else), play time sometimes, books (boring) (unless I get to eat/rip them), PT (more crying), eating (acceptable), and finally, we walked around the neighborhood until Will got off his shift. She liked that as long as I kept pushing the stroller.

Ham Bone Baldwin
She also liked when Will came home.

It is hard to admit when you are not the best for your daughter at bedtime. That she loves me too much, that we are too close - which results in poor sleep for me and not for thee - and that growing up means learning, in the most loving way, how to self-soothe.

I just spent the past month self-soothing. I missed Will. I loved being home with my family, with my in-laws, on vacation in gorgeous Michigan - but I need Will. We are married. We are partners. Before vacation, he took care of Grace every morning and fixed me coffee. {Mornings are reeeeeally hard...} I made sure we had food in the house, kept things in a state of relative order and tidiness, and took care of the details. But mostly, we enjoyed each other's company. Life is so full together.

This past month, I cried too. Not as hard or as long as Grace, but for the same feelings of loneliness when you know warmth.

It is knowing that kind of love that we must meditate on the love God has for us - the way he holds though we may not feel it; the way he loves us so completely; the way he lets us learn to grow closer to him through suffering; the comfort he gives through the pain.

We are never alone. Will was a phone call/ text away (poor reception aside), I always had Grace nearby, and I was surrounded by family. Grace had her father and her grandmother to love her while she sobbed. And even tears can be prayers, if we center ourselves on love.

My baby is quiet now. My MIL came downstairs to say that she is sleeping, and so we continue to sleep train in an effort to return to a well-rested state. We are home again; we can rest from our travels. Will and I are together again; we rest in anticipation. And though there is much to wonder and pray over, in God I rest.

Grace's innocent tears of love and need are a good reminder to me to more readily go to God in my time of need and distress, and to take my tears to him. He holds us all in his love; he listens to us always, in our tears and in our joy.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Love is Patient, Love is Kind

My baby woke me up at 11, 2, 4 and6:30 am. The bug bites keep me uncomfortable. I miss my husband - we've been apart for almost one month. I am surrounded by my family, the people who I love the best and who know all my buttons. They fix me breakfast and take care of Grace so I can nap. Their love is patient, their love is kind.

But they get annoyed with me and I get annoyed with them. They sometimes forget what "baby nap time/ QUIET TIME" means. I can be royally crabby without five consecutive hours of sleep. It takes a lot of self-awareness to say,They are not deserving of my frustrations. They deserve my patience, my kindness, my love - especially when I do not feel it, I must act thus.

Today's first reading is 2 Corinthians 4:7-15; it begins:

Brothers and sisters: We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

We must remember that we are always in the presence of Jesus - we have life in him! And so we must love, and be loving, for: "Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God." We must live so that grace overflows - we must love so that people know Jesus and his Sacred Heart - know his Passion.

This may read "easier said than acted upon" and that is always true. The responsorial today, from Psalm 126, repeats, "Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing." Life is hard, and life has suffering. And life is worth living for the joy we can experience. 

The possibilities of overcoming and the want of sharing and giving love to others, and not just seeking to receive others' love. We must rejoice in the challenge, and rejoice in the strength that Christ gives us through his love. He does not leave us unarmed for the hardships - but we must be willing to pick up our yoke and follow him.

It is our patience through our endeavors, and our knowledge that this world is not the final frontier. It is not wrong to seek success - especially if our vocation can bring others to Christ in the process.

Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew (20:20-28) today, "Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

We wear many hats in this life - mine include wife, mother, daughter, sister, editor and teacher. All of these roles I am proud to have, and all of these roles challenge me far beyond my own abilities. It is in my specific vocation that I serve the ones I love, and serve those who need my love. I practice patience and kindness so as to further the Kingdom, and I love because Jesus loves, and shows me how to love beyond my desire - love when I am tired, frustrated, lonely and peeved. Compassion must always prevail.

Love is patient, love is kind, and love is God. May we all love each other better today.

{My post today at Ignitum Today}

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.