end of september quick takes

Well, it’s fall now and if I seem obsessed with seasons it’s because summer in South Bend is HOT, fall is crisp and gorgeous but FLEETING, and winter is grey and freezing and ETERNAL. And I don’t do well with change. But before September is gone I wanted to reflect on how back to school went and other random thoughts/things.

1)  Evangeline starts her fifth week of school this week and it’s going really well. She’s made friends, likes her teachers, and loves the playground and snack time (of course). I spend the five minute drive home peppering her with questions about the “works” she did, but she rarely is able to tell me much about those. Understandable. She was exhausted after school for the first week or so but has adjusted and now she’s her normal three year old self the rest of the day. I try to make sure she gets a car nap once or twice a week because she needs it every so often, but girlfriend will not nap in her bed anymore.

2) Evange in school means mornings look different for me now. If she’s not up, I get her up by 7:20 and get her dressed and do her hair so we’re eating breakfast by 7:30 and she has plenty of time to eat before hopping in the car at 8, to get to school before 8:15. We have not been late yet! Woot! Zelie is along for the ride but by the time we get back she’s nearly ready for her morning nap. (She’s been waking up at 5am… blerg.) But I’m so glad she still takes two naps, because I get to finish my tea with a book on the deck and it has been glorious. I usually have time to shower, too, and get some things done around the house. I sometimes feel like I should do more with that time, but I got a part time job that will start soon, so I’m just enjoying the freedom for now.

3) Which leads me to books! I finished Crazy Rich Asians (I dropped my library copy in the bathtub – oops), read six or so essays from Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners (highly enjoyable), and now I find myself working through three non-fiction books, which never happens. Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset (really enjoying as spiritual reading), The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart (reminding me I want to go further with gardening next summer, and also maybe be open to backyard chickens again), and No- Drama Discipline (which I’m reading v v slowly but is good). Oh and I’m on Harry Potter #5 audiobook for those car naps.

4) Fall! We went apple picking, the weather was perfect, I was so happy.

5) We’ve lived in our house for six months now and I feel pretty settled here. I found this bench at a rummage sale and decided to give it a chance and I’m pleased with the results. My favorite part of the house is the backyard, though, so I want to get more use out of the fire pit and just soak it all up before it’s covered in snow (gahhhh). I had the chance to host a group of mom friends for a prayer and playdate time twice this month and both mornings were warm so we were outside. I really enjoy being able to practice hospitality and get more use out of all this space. Different note – we’re renting out the house for a few football weekends and that made us decide to buy a TV. I am equal parts horrified that we own one, proud of myself for navigating Best Buy and setting up Chrome Cast, and guilty that our house feels too luxurious now. But it has been nice for college football viewing. (And Evange got some Silly Songs With Larry when she succumbed to the miserable cold we’ve all been fighting this week).

6) Speaking of the house, life with a housemate has been swell. He’s super busy so he’s not around often, but when he’s home he is great with the girls and they love him. And if he’s around for dinner and Chris is still at class, he does the dishes while I put the girls to bed and it is the best thing ever. Highly recommend.

7) I’ll end with a little pat on my back because this month marked one year of cloth diapering, and I’m still going strong. Well, actually, several of the hand-me-down diapers with velcro fastens need the velcro replaced, which has made me use more disposables in between washings, but once I get that sorted it’ll be smooth sailing. I even took them traveling – to NJ for Christmas and to RI this summer – because we drove and would be in a house with washer/dryer so why not? I’m still finding satisfaction in the re-usable-ness of them and I don’t mind the work involved, so we’ll see how long it goes.

Anyway, Happy Monday! Any good fiction recs? I’ll take em!

 

first born out of my womb (a birth story three years late)

First born out of my womb, love of my life. That’s something my mom would say to me growing up, or at least how I remember it. Kinda weird but also great, like my mom (love you!). Chris and I are both oldest children and, let’s be real, there’s just something special about that first baby. Evangeline Marit made us parents for the first time. And, as I’m realizing, everything new about parenting, we’ll hit first with her. At least the basic developmental things in these early years. So, as we celebrated her third birthday last week and I reminisce about these last three years, I thought I’d finally typity type out a birth story. If that’s your kind of thing, read on.

I went into labor three days before my due date, on a Tuesday night. I was lying in bed when I felt some cramping start and I was like, OMG IS THIS IT?? It died away and came back and so I was like, THIS IS HAPPENING! THESE ARE CONTRACTIONS, THIS IS LABOR! I made Chris get out the contraction timing app we had found and start timing me and had all this adrenaline going. We were both so excited. Labor is exciting! I was also so curious what contractions would actually feel like, because talking to moms and reading about labor, it seemed like no one could describe the pain very well. I had in my head that labor would be like running a marathon. It would be hard, I’d need endurance, and perseverance, but I could trust my body, it was made to do this, and I could do this. I would be smart about it, I would breathe my way through the pain, it would be awesome. So, it’s Tuesday night, contractions start and I am SO PUMPED.

LOL.

Those contractions (which I know now were very early pre-labor contractions) kept me up most of the night and were still far apart and I could talk through them (which I felt great about, because I had nothing to compare them to). Wednesday morning Chris didn’t go to work and we tried to figure out what do to. We went to daily Mass, came home and I managed to nap a bit, and then we got fro-yo and went for a walk on West Cliff. Oh Santa Cruz, I miss you.

Wednesday night – after 24 hours of this early labor business – I tried going to sleep because I was exhausted. But there was still so much excitement and adrenaline, so not much sleep. By 10 or 11pm the contractions seemed to be getting a bit more intense, so we called my mom and she drove over from San Jose. We called the birth center to ask when to come in and to see if they had room for me. They said to wait until contractions were closer together, but that we could come later. My mom arrived and relieved Chris, who had been putting pressure on my back during contractions, so he could nap. Then, around 5am, we headed to the birth center. And I was still so pumped. Like, I appeared calm, and I was focusing on breathing, but I was just so excited that it was actually happening. And that I was handling it well, so far.

We checked in and I was only at 3 cm. I was a bit disappointed, but I shook it off. We got into my room, and it was super nice. I ate breakfast, walked around, sat on a yoga ball, took a shower, and walked some more. At this point, I hadn’t really slept for two nights, but I was still riding the adrenaline high. The contractions got more intense throughout the morning but I had my head in the game. I was breathing through the contractions and kept thinking, My body knows what to do. I kept imagining that the more painful the contractions got, the more effective they were, and surely this was going somewhere.

The midwife checked my progress around 11am and I was at 5 cm. Okay! And then, around 1pm, 7cm! Woot! Things were getting more intense, and this was slower than I’d liked, but there was progress! And then … still 7cm. An hour later they broke my water to try to speed things up, and checked again an hour after that, and said, “Oh, looks like it’s 6cm.”

WHAT! I’M GOING BACKWARD?? That’s when I realized, This is nothing like a marathon. I have no idea how long this race is. There are no mile markers, there is no way to tell when the end will be. And with that, I was crushed. I was so discouraged that Chris got really worried. Without telling me, he sent texts to family and friends asking them to pray for me. I think it was probably around this point, I remember asking, Can they just cut the baby out of me? I’d really be okay with that. 

The midwife suggested getting in the tub to try to help me relax and get some rest. Chris got in with me to keep putting pressure on my back, and I tried to lean on him and sleep a bit in between contractions. After the tub time, I rallied a bit and decided to ask for some intervention. They gave me fentanyl, which takes the edge off the contractions, but only lasts for an hour. Once I got the IV in, I had to stay in bed, which was super uncomfortable. I have memories of lying on my back, staring out the window at the sun setting, and crushing Chris or my mom’s hands every contraction while making the weirdest, terrible moaning sounds. Part of me was amused at how weird I sounded, part of me felt bad for Chris and my mom having to sit there and listen to it for so long, and part of me just wanted to black out and wake up with a baby outside of my body.

Finally, around 8:30 or 9pm, I got an epidural. Sitting still on the edge of the bed for the needle shot was hellish, but at this point I didn’t care, because relief was finally coming. It had been 48 hours at this point. Once the epidural took effect, I was able to relax. The plan was for me to sleep a bit, but things started moving quickly. Soon, I was being told to push, and right after that, we met Evangeline!

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We didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl, so that was a sweet surprise. We’d come with two boys names and three girls names, and right away I knew she was Evangeline Marit. With the epidural, I didn’t feel the pushing or her coming out, so I didn’t have as strong of a feeling of relief/giddiness as I did with Zelie, but man, when they held her up and said she was a girl and put her on my chest, it was amazing. And they left her there for over an hour, just letting us do skin to skin. And Chris pulled off his shirt so he could get some skin to skin time too. So cute.

It was a crazy long labor, and not what I expected, but I’m glad it was what it was. I wanted to have a natural birth, but I was open to whatever came up and open to interventions if needed, and it was definitely needed. There’s so much weird guilt, in some circles, about epidurals, so I’m glad I’ve had the experience of using one so I can say, You do what you have to do to have a good birth experience. Every woman is different, every baby is different, every birth is different. It wasn’t anything like running a marathon, it had some crazy emotional ups and downs, and we got this baby girl at the end. Now we’ll see if I get around to sharing Zelie’s birth story before she turns 3.

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our four year anniversary retreat

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Chris has been wanting to do a marriage retreat since we were engaged, and we finally did one this year. In the break between summer classes and the semester starting, we have two weeks to spend with Chris’s parents at their beach house in Rhode Island. Our anniversary falls in this break, so last year we spent the day buying a car in NJ (lol) and went out to sushi. This year we booked ourselves a private retreat on Ender’s Island in Mystic, CT and took two nights away from the girls. We wanted some structured time to reflect on our marriage and pray together, and initially looked into seeing if any Marriage Encounter retreats would work location and date-wise. But the closest one was in Baltimore, so Chris’s dad suggested this little island, and we decided it’d be fun to plan our own time. I’m so glad it worked out this way.

Ender’s Island is a tiny island off the coast of Connecticut that was owned by Thomas and Alys Enders, and sold to the Society of St. Edmund in 1954. It now functions as a retreat space, with a sacred art institute and a small recovery program. We didn’t really know anything about the island before we arrived, but quickly discovered it was a little piece of heaven. I felt God’s love for us in so many details of the place. We had unknowingly booked “the Bishop’s suite,” which was two tiled rooms with views of the ocean and the island gardens from every window.

I was so glad we came in August, when the dahlias and roses were in full bloom. 🙂

Something I hadn’t thought about beforehand was how luxurious it would feel to be served all our meals, and not have to feed babies while we ate. And the food was so good. We ate with men in the recovery program and the priests who were there on retreat. It felt like a special gift to eat with those men, and reminded me of our summer at CityTeam in Oakland … where it all began. There was a group of Korean Catholics on retreat on the island, too, though they ate in the larger dining hall. I loved seeing two Korean grandmas holding hands to support each other as they walked down to the water’s edge.

To honor Chris’s love for structure, we spent time creating a schedule, which was much more enjoyable than I expected. We took a date night in South Bend to get started, and finished it up on the car drive from NJ to RI. During our engagement, we had done an Engaged Encounter retreat, and really liked the format of writing letters to each other about different topics and then talking. So we incorporated letter writing, and used our Engaged Encounter journals for some ideas of topics to discuss. I wanted to do morning runs, Chris wanted to do morning prayer and go to Mass, and we gave ourselves a big chunk of free time. There were some things that changed once we got there – we decided to attend a meditation in the chapel on Wednesday evening and learned that they do morning prayer right before Mass, and forgot the old letters we’d written while dating and engaged that we were going to read back through. Oh well.

The chapel had a huge relic – the arm of St. Edmund. A bit weird, but cool.

And, we got to go sailing! We saw little boats sail past the island and thought, let’s see if we can find a place to go this afternoon. So I happily abandoned my nap plans and we went to the Mystic Seaport Museum. It was an anniversary splurge, because we had to buy tickets to the museum to get to the sailboats, but we ended up seeing some of the ships because they made us wait an hour for the gusts to die down a bit.

Chris was grumpy about that. I thought going on the whaling boat from 1841 was neat. But sailing was definitely a highlight! It was a time of working as a team and enjoying being friends and really embracing our whiteness. Lol.

I wanted to include our schedule in case it might help anyone get started on planning their own private retreat! Individual or for a couple, it’s so worth the time and money. I usually love silent retreats by myself – this was special in that it was prayerful and also fun quality time with Chris.

Happy four years, Chris!

Wednesday

2:00-3:30 Check in, Settle into retreat space

3:30-4:00 Silent Prayer in Chapel

4:00-5:00 Session 1 – Reading Letters

5:00-5:30 Rosary

5:30-6:15 Dinner

6:15-7:15 Session 2 – Marriage Timeline

7:15-8:15 Session 3 – Sex/ NFP/ Intimacy

8:15-9:30 Free Time

9:30-9:45 Night Prayer

9:45 Bedtime

Thursday

6:45-7:00 Wake up, get ready

7:00-7:45 Run

7:45-8:15 Breakfast

8:15-8:30 Shower

8:30-9:00 Morning Prayer

9:00 – 9:45 Mass

9:45-10:00 Silent Prayer

10:00-11:00 Session 4– Conflict/ Communication

11:00-12:00 Session 5 – Relationships with Others

12:00-1:00 Lunch

1:00-3:00 Free Time

3:00-4:00 Session 6 – Finances

4:00-5:00 Session 7 – Budget

5:00-5:30 Rosary

5:30-6:15 Dinner

6:15-7:15 Session 8 – Designing Our Marriage

7:15-8:15 Session 9 – Vision Statement

8:15-9:30 Free Time

9:30-9:45 Night Prayer

9:45 Bedtime

Friday

6:45-7:00 Wake up, get ready

7:00-7:45 Run

7:45-8:15 Breakfast

8:15-8:30 Shower

8:30-9:00 Morning Prayer

9:00 – 9:45 Mass

9:45-10:00 Silent Prayer

10:00-11:00 Pack, Checkout

11:00-12:00 Session 10 – Goal Setting

12:00-1:00 Lunch

1:00 Depart

Why this millennial convert is grateful for Humanae Vitae

We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. We want a religion that is right where we are wrong. – G.K. Chesterton

As a way of response to the bemoaning in some circles of the Church’s “irrelevancy,” re the 50th anniversary of “Humanae vitae,” (the papal encyclical that reiterated the Church’s stance on contraception,) I’d like to share the story of how the Church wooed this millennial home. 

Unity, contraception, and authority – the super sexy buzzwords that shaped my journey from the evangelical world to the Catholic Church. I became Catholic at a Friday afternoon Mass less than a week after my first baby was baptized into the Church. A couple days before, I had a surge of doubt – How did I get to this point? Am I making the right decision? But when I sat down and thought about my spiritual course of the last few years, I felt overwhelming peace. Having been raised in the nondenominational, evangelical Christian world, I had learned to look to Jesus. To make decisions with the question in mind, Will this lead me closer to God? Will this require me to trust Him more? I was reassured, only Jesus could have led to me this place of trust, where I was ready to submit to the authority of His Church and cross the Tiber.

As a college student in the Bay Area, discovering the Church as a two thousand year old institution that has the audacity to hold to crazy truths that Protestant denominations have abandoned was shocking and challenging and, strangely, very compelling. I probably asked Chris, the one Catholic in our university evangelical student group (now my husband), a million times – You actually believe this? Oh yeah, and there was that. I also happened to find Chris very compelling. Contemplative and competitive, deep and fun, he really seemed to love Jesus … and yet, he was Catholic. Why do you have to go to Mass every Sunday? Why do you pray to Mary? If you eat Jesus, aren’t you a cannibal? I was a bit sassy, but, not so secretly, very intrigued.

I went to a Spanish Mass with Chris in Oakland throughout the summer of 2011 and when I studied abroad in Spain that fall, I found myself going to Mass with a new friend in the program. She was Catholic, and I continued to ask questions. I couldn’t receive the Eucharist, and had some awkward bumbles asking the priest for a bendición when I stepped forward in the communion line, but I went back week after week. The Mass was the same everywhere! If it was true, Jesus was physically present in millions of churches all around the world. Chris, back in California, was hearing the same scripture readings. A unified, global Church! The ritual and form was such, I could participate in a different language. I learned that Catholics fasted the hour before receiving the Eucharist; they didn’t bring their bagels into the pews. Church as a sacred space? Didn’t the Church know it was supposed to appeal to my generation with amplified music and hipster coffee in the foyer?

When I returned to Stanford, I still wasn’t sure about Catholicism, but I was pretty sure about Chris.

“I think we should date,” I said.

Let me think about it,” he said.

And when he got back to me, he said, “I want to date you, but there’s two things you should know. I’m fine with marrying a Protestant, but I want to raise my kids Catholic, and I want to follow Church teaching on contraception.”

WHAT THE WHAT. There’s Church teaching on contraception?

I was shocked to learn that yes, in fact, the Church holds to the traditional Christian view that contraception is a moral issue and it is wrong.

And in fact, Protestants believed and taught this until 1930, when the Anglican Church announced contraception to be acceptable in certain circumstances and other denominations followed suit in the decades after. I had no idea. This rocked my world because every single Christian in my life until this point, once married, had no problem with using contraception. In fact, it seemed to be encouraged. Babies are blessings, but they are planned blessings. Faced with this news, I set about learning more because a) I wanted to date Chris and b) I didn’t want to be a Duggar.

I learned that the Church teaches that sex is inherently unitive, pleasurable, and procreative. I learned that for millennia, Christians have believed that the sexual act is, by nature, tied to co-creating life with God. And further, that couples don’t have the right to actively mess with that (sacred) reality. What about couples who are infertile? What about women past menopause? Neither of those cases involve the couple actively interfering with the sexual act to render it sterile – there’s nothing immoral about infertility. (Though it’s true that the Church has a long way to go in its pastoral care for couples struggling with this).

I learned that the Church teaches that couples can track their fertility to avoid or achieve a pregnancy. There are many methods of fertility tracking, but they are lumped together in the Catholic world under the title, Natural Family Planning

When a couple is highly motivated and uses NFP effectively, it has a 98 percent success rate in avoiding a pregnancy. Well, isn’t that just Catholic birth control, then? Nope. A couple using NFP to avoid a pregnancy doesn’t do anything to alter the sexual act. They abstain from sex when the woman is fertile, following her body’s natural rhythms. It’s an ongoing conversation between themselves and God, month by month, but in general, there’s an attitude, an orientation, that is open to life as each sexual act is open to the possibility of life.

I found all this very new and alarming. And fascinating. People actually do this?? Do they all have a ton of kids because NFP doesn’t work or because they just want to? The vast majority of families I knew growing up had two kids and then were “done.” I was also intrigued because I knew basically nothing about my fertility.

I met with a married woman I knew who had recently converted to Catholicism to ask her about NFP. How does it actually work? She explained briefly how she tracked her fertility, and then told me that her husband actually wrote down her observations each day. He was intimately familiar with her cycle and could see, with her, if she was stressed or sick, from the signs her body was giving her. My take away from this was – I have no idea what cervical mucus even i! It can tell you that you’re sick?? But I was drawn to several points from what she shared. Her husband cared about her fertility. The man could discuss cervical mucus! He had a vested interest in it. And this led me think about, for the first time ever, I don’t want to be the one responsible for if I get pregnant or not. If I get married, I want my spouse to share that with me equally. And a second thought, I don’t want to ever feel used by my spouse, or use him. If we could take only the pleasurable aspect of sex and not the other reality of possibly creating life, by rejecting part of my body, namely, my fertility – well, that didn’t seem as right to me anymore. I wanted to be all in, with him, holding nothing back. It started to make more sense that for something as intimate and powerful as sex, there would be a lot of self-sacrifice involved for the sake of the other.

It was the strangest thing, but as I learned more about NFP, I found more and more that it seemed empowering of women. I met with a nurse and NFP instructor in San Jose and she taught me more about my body than I had ever learned in health class. My body is amazing! Women are amazing! Why aren’t we all taught how to track our fertility? This coincided with an obsession I had with midwifery, and there’s a lot of rhetoric in the birth world about how strong and goddess-like women are, so I was riding a feminist high. This feels like true feminism! Why is the pill given as a solution for any female problem? Why are we told to medicate our fertility away?

Learning more of the why’s and how’s of NFP led me to start considering the authority of the Church. “No contraception” felt like a super personal, crazy demand that the Church somehow had the boldness to impose on me and my sex life… but as a Protestant, I had come to profess Jesus as Lord. And that meant He had authority over my life. This was a foundational part of youth group, college ministry, church on Sunday, you name it. Give your life to Jesus. “Your life” included how you thought about your studies, future career, justice, money, friendships, and sex. I am so grateful for this formation. It molded my heart, from a young age, with an inclination towards radical trust in the Divine Will. But I never once heard anyone talk about Jesus having authority over family planning. Trust God with the number of kids I’m going to have? That’s going a little far, wouldn’t you say?

And yet, why? It began to feel inconsistent. I looked at the spiritual mentors in my life – people living out their love for God in their decisions about money, their work for justice, their sharing of the gospel with word and deed– it seemed nothing in their lives was outside of God’s control. Except, it seemed, accepting children. Save sex until marriage, and then, go crazy? I assumed so, but didn’t really know; it wasn’t talked about. The vibe I gleaned from excitement about engagement and weddings (though, granted, this wasn’t huge in the Bay Area,) was once you’re married, all that chastity and self-control stuff is finally a thing of the past! And this felt odd to me. It started to make much more sense that I was practicing self-control and practicing chastity for when I would need to use those virtues in the rest of my life. If using NFP cultivated self-control in the relationship between a married couple, wouldn’t that be good, not just for the individual, but also the marriage?

There were these flashes, then, when the Catholic Church didn’t seem quite so crazy. Or, if crazy, at least consistently crazy, and very confident of its authority to proclaim truth, which was interesting. I kept getting glimpses of how this counter-cultural lifestyle would require me to trust God more than I ever had to before. If the Church seems more consistent on the sex thing, what else might it be right about? Rather than pushing me away, it drew me in.

I kept reading and asking questions, praying and seeking God’s will. I felt my heart open and continue to soften until I felt I could agree to raise my kids Catholic and do this NFP thing. So, still Protestant, I married Chris in a Catholic church. I went to Mass on Sundays and let the Holy Spirit speak to me, often through the gift of tears . And in perfect timing, it led me to that Friday afternoon Mass at the end of October, my husband holding our two month old daughter who had been baptized six days earlier. I felt the chrism oil dripping down my forehead and knew, when the priest said, “Be sealed with the Holy Spirit,” I could say, “Amen,” because it was Jesus who had brought me home to His Church.

 

 

savoring summer (still)

I’ve already given myself a pep talk once this summer about savoring the weeks of looooong hot, humid days, hanging out with the girls with nothing on our schedule. But it would seem I need another reminder. I have so many ideas of how I could use some child-free time! But when I’m longing for a couple hours spent writing at a coffee shop, I’m missing the good that’s right in front of me. So, I’m trying to be present. I’m trying to be grateful.

Today, I’m grateful that the friend who will be living with us soon brought some boxes over this morning and stayed to play with Evangeline for a while. And Zelie took a 4 hour nap (!!!) and I had some unexpected time to tackle a project that’s been on my mind for a couple weeks.

Gallery wall, baby.

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After I won the ABC print from Be A Heart’s Instagram giveaway (I can’t believe it, either!) I kept thinking about how I could use it for some inspo for the shared girls room I needed to create. Figuring out how to layout the room, cut down on toys, and find something that could hold clothes (since the closet would become Zelie’s baby cave and I don’t have a small dresser) took some creative energy, which I enjoyed. But when I have an idea, I want it done yesterday. So my temptation is to be v frustrated when I can’t seem to get going or finish a project day after day because, you know, toddlers and babies. This open window of time today – I think I had nearly 3 hours?? – was such a gift. I just went for it. No levelers, no pencils, I eyeballed it and hammered nails into the walls for the first time since we moved in. I’m pretty happy with it!

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The Mary and Jesus etching was a gift from Chris’s brother, Teddy. (Shoutout to Ted’s art skillz!) The plant hanger and the faux taxidermy unicorn are from Target. I know those cacti are doomed, but a girl can dream. And faux taxidermy I just find so adorable and hilarious, it was an impulse buy and NO REGERTS. The photo is me and Chris with Evangeline’s godparents at their wedding reception (Evangeline in my belly), the cross is from a Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, CA, and the embroidery was a gift for Zelie’s baptism made by my amazingly talented friend, Magdalena. 🙂

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This is over Evangeline’s (new big girl) bed. A shout out to some Etsy shops! The St. Catherine of Siena quote is a Rose Harrington print, a gift for Evangeline’s first baptism anniversary from her godmother, Megan. The adorable St. Teresa of Calcutta doll photobombing down there, also from Aunt Megan! (I love every single saint doll in this shop). And then a Jerusalem cross, also from Aunt Megan – wow! Go, Megan! (And Michael! Sorry, Michael!) – and an icon of the Nativity of Christ, a gift from my good friend Sarah after my confirmation, and a wooden angel that Maya and I had in our room when we were little.

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snapped a pic before I went to work on the walls. the pictures hanging are on the nails that were left by the previous owners.

As far as the shared room is going … it’s not, really. Haha! They were together for a week, and it had its ups and downs. Bedtime was generally great. Zelie went down and didn’t wake up when we brought Evangeline in. But then Zelie started sleeping terribly from 2:30-5am for a few nights and that was not fun for anyone. Shared afternoon nap time, after two bad days of Zelie not being able to nap, got separated, with Zelie in a pack n play in the guest room. And then, when Chris and I went out for a date night and started planning the little retreat we’re taking over our anniversary, I realized it’s not fair to leave an unweaned baby with Grandma and Grandpa for two nights. So that took priority, and that means Zelie’s in the guest room until she can sleep through the night.

ANYWAY. All that to say, I’m hoping fall will bring me a new rhythm with some time to myself each week. And I am feeling how the extremity of the seasons here preps me for the next one, but I jump the gun a bit. So, working on that. I can look ahead and tell that the end of August will feel super busy, and by then I’ll probably wish I was back in this mellow July.

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Goodbye, University Village

We only lived there for 8 months, but University Village was a remarkable place. It closed today after 56 years of housing married students with families at Notre Dame. 56 years containing so much life in such a small place. So many babies born, so many countries represented, so many friendships forged in the common ground of that unique season of life, doing grad school while raising kids.

Truly, finding an international village in South Bend, Indiana was a wonder and a joy. At the final mass in the community center, I found myself tearing up, seeing the children who had been born there, the ones who couldn’t remember any other home, and the parents who had been through so much with the community at their side.

I think we might have been debriefing a meeting with Housing or Affleck-Graves

I’m glad we made noise and asked the University to move forward on building a replacement, and I’m glad it appears to be in the works. But it is sad to lose a physical place that holds memories for so many, and to see the community scatter in the intermediary time.

We have the privilege to be able to buy a house here, and we did. I’m coming to love it. But even if I had known this house was waiting for us, I would choose to live in the Village again first, hands down. Being friends with our neighbors, Evangeline being able to run up the stairs to see if Nora and Jules or Carter wanted to play (Building D!), or take them some of the muffins we had just baked, or ask to borrow some ginger, it made Indiana feel like home. I felt known in an unfamiliar place.

all the play dates

The fire alarms in the middle of the night, the poorly insulated 500 sq foot apartment, it was all part of the deal. We could have neighbors over for game nights because we lived close enough for baby monitors to reach. Chris and I could go out and leave the monitor with the upstairs neighbors. I literally only survived, even thrived, in my first real winter, because every morning I knew I could go up and visit Rose without putting on layers and layers of clothes or having to drive (I didn’t drive at all the whole month of December). We were spoiled.

Rose, aka Wonder Woman.

After a couple months of living in our new house, I’ve gotten used to it’s size. But at first I’d find myself standing somewhere thinking, I’m in just one room of this whole house. There’s a whole room for just this bathroom. And now it feels more normal but I still miss the small space we had. I could see or hear the girls wherever they were, messes were quickly picked up because otherwise there was no room to walk, and after tidying the living room and vacuuming from one plug, that was as clean as it got.

I have to be more disciplined now about not acquiring stuff just because it’s free or really cheap and I know we have room for it. It was nice to just not have room. That said, I am grateful for our house and I feel the need to be generous and hospitable with all the space we have now. We’re trying to get in a groove of hosting people for dinner or s’mores after the girls are asleep, and I’m making a point of moving the girls in together once our friend starts living with us so that there will still be a guest room ready for #peachtreeguests. (Wish me luck with that). 🏡❤️

Visitation Villanelle

I came across a villanelle a few weeks ago and it made me want to try my hand at one again. It’s a fun form, like a puzzle, definitely structured but not too strict. So a few days after the feast of the Visitation, I started working on this. I looked back at it today and was surprised how much I liked it. Enough to share it, I guess. I started it during an adoration hour at the local convent and looked it over again there today. It struck me in a new way how cool it is to be made to create, to bring beauty into the world, alongside the Creator.

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Romare Bearden, The Visitation (1941)

The Visitation is the name given to the visit Mary pays her cousin Elizabeth just after she has said, “Let it be unto me according to your word,” and is newly pregnant with God Incarnate. Elizabeth is an older woman, but also miraculously pregnant, with St. John the Baptist. It’s a visit of powerhouse saints/Jesus/Mother of God/the Holy Spirit all there present together in two bodies as these women greet each other with joy. John leaps in Elizabeth’s belly and she is filled with the Holy Spirit when she hears Mary’s greeting. She shouts, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” She seems to help make real for Mary all that has just happened, and is happening inside her body. And Mary then breaks into song, praising God. Like she’s been given permission to feel all the feels about this now.

The Visitation (hand version)
James B. Janknegt, The Visitation (2008)

This is probably my favorite encounter in Scripture. It’s a little like that quote, “Behind every great woman is another great woman replying to her frantic texts in the middle of the night.” That’s what the Visitation is for me. An image of two great women, doing amazing things, helping each other in that moment of WTF is happening – can I really do this? Mary needed someone to have her back as she set about doing the impossible, and that someone was Elizabeth. To me, the story seems told from Elizabeth’s perspective, so that’s how the poem came out, too. I don’t normally share my poems at all – this feels very vulnerable! – but it also feels like it was meant to be shared. Maybe it’ll encourage you to do that creative thing you feel like you don’t have permission to do.

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Mariotto Albertinelli

 

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Janet McKenzie, Visitation 

Visitation Villanelle

 

She came to me, the mother of my Lord,

and grinned with amazement at the sight.

All creation with me seemed to roar.

 

Grey haired, belly swollen like a gourd,

I stood to kiss her in the morning light.

She came to me, the mother of my Lord.

 

Her voice, as she crossed the threshold of my door,

rang through my womb –  from a great height,

all creation with me seemed to roar.

 

The baby leapt – tethered only by the cord.

The joy coursing through us! I shouted outright.

She came to me, the mother of my Lord.

 

Already she faced her share of the sword

She who believed all God said would be, might –

All creation with me seemed to roar.

 

Blessed one! With your yes you moved us toward

the home we long for, and all things made right.

She came to me, the mother of my Lord.

All creation with me seemed to roar.

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The Visitation icon