Saturday, November 21, 2015

Giving Thanks

The past few weeks I have been feeling "in the thick of it" motherhood wise. It's beautiful, messy, wonderful, tiring, and rewarding. So many times throughout my day I just pause and soak in the moments. I'm in awe of the beauty of life. I'm thankful. These are good reminders when I know that so much of the world is in terrible suffering. I can't help but be weighted down by the intensity of trial and persecution for millions around the world. My sufferings are so very tiny and minute in comparison, but I must not forget that any suffering we can unite with Christs' and offer for the needs of others is a good thing and God can use it abundantly. Prayer is indeed a powerful weapon and God can do mighty things even with the smallest of faith. Lord, may your strength, grace, and courage be with those suffering everywhere in the world, whether it be great or small suffering, and may they remain steadfast in you. Amen.

While certainly my days leave me exhausted before even the afternoon hour lately, I feel oh so thankful for the gifts God has so generously lavished on me. While my heart is heavy for the sake of others, I don't want to forget to thank God and see His goodness all around me.

"From the rising of the sun to it's setting, let the name of the Lord be praised!"
-Psalm 113:3-

Jason is selfless in the mornings and wakes up with the kids most days while Vianney and I get to wake up slowly and a little later than everyone else. Once Vianney wakes up and gives me some of the biggest, sweetest, melt-your-heart smiles, she will then promptly turn herself to the door hoping to see one of her sisters coming in to greet her in the morning. She loves seeing them, playing with them, and watching them! They provide a CONSTANT stream of entertainment and interaction. It's so fun to watch!

Her gorgeous smile which accompanies a happy squeal.
Being silly.

Vianney is our earliest crawler. She began around 4.5 months and now, at almost 6 months, is scooting around like a pro. She isn't crawling on all fours very well yet, but tries everyday. She can sit up on her own now, too. She is also an early teether, popping her first two bottom teeth at 3.5 months. I expect more to come in anytime now if she continues like her sisters. I can tell she's almost ready for solid foods as she licks her lips and mimicks chewing while watching us eat during meal times. She does NOT like being left alone at all. If I just walk into the other room for a few moments she is usually well aware and begins crying until I come back. Usually I can only get away with leaving the room if the other girls are in the room with her. She loves company and interacting with others and has since she was an infant. When she cries, she makes a perfect "rolling r" sound with her tongue. It is hilarious and adorable. I need to get it on video soon.

Teá and Vivi playing together.
Playing that they were at sea.
I love it when babes find their toes.
Amaryn is beginning to potty train. I know I need to just drop everything and focus on training her while she's showing signs of interest but I haven't done it yet. With Thanksgiving next week I am going to wait at least until after that, and possibly until after Christmas. I just need to mentally prepare myself for doing extra loads of laundry and of course prepare to keep the carpet cleaner nice and close. Hopefully it won't be too painful of a transition since she has gone quite a bit on the potty already and seems to want to use the toilet more than her diaper. Jason and I are also really enjoying Amaryn's newfound use of language. She communicates in almost full sentences now! The past 6 months her vocabulary and language development have just skyrocketed and it's so fun to watch and always nice to be able to communicate easier with her. She says the sweetest things in the sweetest little, innocent voice. She is very good at thanking me without be prompted. "Tank you, momma."

Amaryn swinging at the park.
Trying out the big girl swing. It was all fun until I accidentally pushed her off. Oops, sorry Amaryn!
Somehow (ahem, I know how) Vivi always ends up in a box or basket.
More fun at the park.

She's such a sweetie!
Teá continues to be her joyful, overall helpful self. It's hard to believe she will be 5 so soon. About a month ago she lost her two bottom teeth and her permentant teeth are already coming in. It was quite exciting for her. We took the opportunity to learn about St. Apollonia, the patron saint of teeth, and she received some special treats in an envelope we made with a St. Apollonia picture drawn on it. My favorite time of the day with her is while the others are napping in the afternoon and we get to have one on one time together. Usually we work on her schoolwork, sometimes we will play a game like Memory or Chutes and Ladders. Lately, we've gotten in the habit once again of reading chapter books. It's always amazed me that Teá likes to sit still and listen to books with very few to no pictures accompanying it. She loves it and so do I. Right now we are reading "The Adventures of Red Rowdy" by Sandra Grant. The homeschooling curricula we use offers this book for free online. I also enjoy her help as we get dinner ready during nap times. She is the most enthusiastic helper for dinner and as she gets older I look forward to entrusting her with harder tasks for dinner prep simply because I know she will enjoy it so.

 Pretend sleeping.

Lost two teeth!

Occasionally, Amaryn will also help out in the kitchen with meal prep or dishes. Kids enjoy helping and I can't stress enough the importance of letting them. Yes, it means things won't be cut evenly, there will be more of a mess to clean up, dishes won't be perfectly organized in the dishwasher, etc. BUT eventually they will get better at it and become more independent plus it makes great memories. Just pray for patience!

Bedtime stories read by only the best.
The evenings are often filled with either Jason or I reading books to the girls or Jason rough-housing with them on the floor. Once they go to bed, Jason and I are grateful for some quiet and rest. We usually fill each other in on the day's happenings, watch some news, and lately we've both been so exhausted we will just watch a movie together (hello, Hallmark Christmas movies!). Even in our fatigue, it is so nice to sit in Jason's presence and enjoy the quiet together.

I know from first hand experience how easy it is to get caught up in the disasters happening all over the world, and indeed we should allow ourselves to feel. There is good in recognizing the need to pray and look towards Heaven and contemplate life and death and our hope found in Jesus. We shouldn't, however, get so caught up in these happenings that we feel paralyzing fear or that we forget to recognize God's abundant blessings. Whether you find His blessings in the face of your children, in the smile of a stranger, in the beauty of the sunset, or simply in His peace and love, it is only right and just to give Him thanks and praise Him.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Help on our Journey

I looked longingly out the window at the road. It seemed to call my name. How long had it been since my running shoes had met the black surface and taken me wherever my heart longed? I missed the rhythmic pounding of my steps as I jogged down a winding, scenic road; I missed being lost in my thoughts and lost in an endless prayer for those that came to my mind; I missed listening to the music playing through my headphones, connecting me to a plethora of runs listening to the same songs in years past. 

I just missed running. 

It always seemed to help release the tensions of the day, focusing my mind back on The Lord and on what really matters. Yet here I was, yearning for the road in my mind, though my body had other concerns. Another wave of nausea swept over me, and thoughts of running quickly sunk to the bottom of the sea. I placed my hands on my belly. The sacrifices of motherhood were apparent long before I could hold that sweet baby in my arms. Running would have to wait.

During those months of waiting, I decided to focus my mind on accomplishing a goal, a reward of sorts for the lost time of running. Once this season had passed, I would run a half marathon. I signed myself up for the race six months after my due date. It would be Fall, and the thought of running through the beautiful New England landscape helped me persevere through the months of longing.

Fast forward a few months and I found that training with a newborn and a postpartum body were more difficult than originally imagined, but one thought back to those dreary months of sickness and not being able to get out and run quickly dismissed the moments of temporary pain and fatigue. I trained as best I could and while I wasn't truly ready come race day, I was determined to at least try.

On the day of the half marathon, I was giddy with excitement and anticipation. My legs were eager to start running and my mind was already in the zone. I just had to wait for the horn to blow. As I stood among the crowds of fellow runners, I was thankful I wasn't running this race alone. Everyone around me was so nice and, without thinking much about it, we all encouraged one another to do our best, walk if we had to, and just enjoy the run. The horn finally blew and off we went.

There were two groups of people surrounding me that day: Those running alongside me, and those on the side cheering us along the thirteen mile stretch. Both groups of people were so instrumental in helping me accomplish that goal. I especially remember the group of people on the sidelines and how encouraging they were. They would shout and cheer us on, tell us how well we were doing, hold signs with motivating words on them, play live, upbeat music, and so on. It was an unexpected, completely welcomed perk of my run that day.

I also distinctly remember the parallels of running that race and the race we run as Christians, our lifelong journey here on earth, with hopes of Heaven at the finish line. Thus far on my Christian journey, the only group of people I recognized were those running the race with me. Fellow Christians that were running the same race, with the same goal. We would pray for each other and encourage one another; it was great! Not until I became a Catholic, however, did I realize the other group of people: the saints in Heaven. They've run the race, completed it faithfully and with joy. They left us great testimonies of wisdom, perseverance, and hope to help us in our daily walk and continue to lend their aid through their prayers.  
How wonderful that we can find so much encouragement, strength, and wisdom from the saints! Many times since becoming Catholic, I've been inspired by the lives and words of these people who courageously fought the good fight. Their love for Jesus and His Church is evident and it shaped their lives and sometimes even brought about their deaths. Regardless of the circumstances, they rejoiced! We have much to learn from them and it can inspire us to run our race with similar zeal. Just as I was able to look to the sidelines during the half-marathon and gain encouragement and focus in completing the task at hand, so too we can look upward at those in Heaven cheering us on and praying for us. 

"Death, but not sin!"
-St. Dominic Savio-

"O eternal Trinity, You are a deep sea in which the more I seek the more I find, and the more I find, the more I seek to know You."
-St. Catherine of Siena- 

"As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live."
-St. John Paul II-

"Do not forget that holiness consists not in extraordinary actions, but in performing your duties to God, yourself, and others well."
-St. Maximilian Kolbe- 

Similarly, I have learned a lot since those days I looked longingly out the window yearning to run. During those times where we aren't able to fill our longings, we can look to the saints and realize that life is about SO MUCH MORE than fulfilling our own interests. Carrying babies and being a mom has left my running shoes quite lonely these past five years, but it's a wonderful and even small sacrifice.  
"Yes, all is well when we seek only the will of Jesus!"
-St. Therese-

"Teach us to give and not count the cost."
-St. Ignatius-

"Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you. Amen.”
-St. Thomas Aquinas-

"Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself."
"You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God."
-St. John Vianney- 

All the Saints in Heaven, pray for us!