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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Walking with Him


Tuesday was one of those days where I felt like I had it all together.

I woke up early, worked out (with a little helper crawling underneath me while I attempted push-ups and adorably imitating my squats), and took a shower. Boom. Mom achievement unlocked.

I made a healthy breakfast for my boy and me, got us both dressed and bundled in innumerable layers against the Chicago January cold, and drove to drop him off with his babysitter (who also happens to be my sister. Hurray!). I even stopped on the way to drop off a UPS package. So far, so good.

While my sister watched the little man, I focused with laser-like intensity on work. I crossed six things off my to-do list. I got positive feedback on a project.

I drove home, put the little man down for a nap, and tidied the house while quickly eating lunch. The members of our church's moms' group trickled in for the monthly Rosary play date. I served tea and hot chocolate and homemade cookies, and felt cozily domestic.

The ladies left and I made dinner, again with a little helper by my side. We drove to the airport to pick up Daddy, who had been out of town on a work trip. He came home to a clean house and delicious meal. After family dinner, I put the baby to bed and finished my evening with some quick yoga and painting my nails.

Finally I sat in my favorite chair to rest for a little while. The night before I had begged God, "Please give me the grace to get everything done that I need to do tomorrow." Now as I surveyed the day that had passed, I thanked Him for answering my prayer. The day had unfolded perfectly according to plan. "Thank you for helping me get through everything I needed to do today. Thank you for walking with me today, Lord."

The next morning, however, could not have been more opposite.

We woke up late so I skipped the work-out and shower. A hasty breakfast of buttered toast would have to do.

Again I dropped off my son, but today the emails were less uplifting. An important email hadn't been sent. I was running behind on a project that was taking 5 times longer than it should have. My to-do list was growing longer and longer. I felt frustrated and stressed, but finally had to stop working and go home for naptime.

Once he was sleeping, I made a pot of tea and settled down to work. Now, I thought, I would finally get the peace and quiet to salvage the rest of my day—until I was interrupted by the sound of coughing from the bedroom.

I went in to find my poor baby throwing up all over the bed. I held him and tried to wipe him up, but he threw up again and again, and finally I just let the sheets catch it all. Alright, forget about working. The baby went in the bath, and once he was clean and wearing fresh pajamas, it was time to strip the bed and wash the sheets.

But the fun was far from over. He threw up again and again. We went through numerous outfits and towels laid on the bed. Finally I started to just catch it in my hands rather than go through another outfit. I had to laugh at how classically "mom" that was to do.

I remembered that we needed to eat dinner that night and began throwing together a soup composed of "odds and ends from the depths of the fridge" while holding a sad clingy little boy. I texted my husband, "Be prepared to come home to a disaster." He mercifully came home soon after and held the poor sick baby amid the mess while I attempted to finish cooking and cleaning up the kitchen. The soup began to clump weirdly and stuck to the pot. Would it even be edible? In the midst of all this, I got an email about a work task I'd forgotten to do. Shoot. My husband came over to check on the soup, and when he commented on its weird texture, I was so frustrated I yelled incoherently at him. Shoot again.

Finally the soup came together somewhat edibly. We sat down and ate dinner together, then I finally put the baby to bed. Now it was time to make my shopping list for the next day's planned grocery trip and wrap up a bunch of loose ends for work. Right before bedtime, the baby threw up again, and we switched out the towel on the bed for the umpteenth time.

As I lay in bed that night, tired and defeated, I tried to turn my thoughts toward prayer. The day had unfolded nothing like I planned. But still, in the midst of the chaos and the mayhem, I knew that He had walked with me. Again I found myself saying, "Thank you for helping me get through everything I needed to do today. Thank you for walking with me today, Lord—for never leaving my side."

We all have those days. The great ones and the ghastly ones. Sometimes they come side by side. But hopefully at the end of either one, we can say, "Thank you, Lord, for walking with me today." That's all I ever want to say, at the end of every day—as long as I do, I know deep down that all is well.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas in New Jersey

We had such a wonderful visit with our family in New Jersey the week before Christmas—although it went by much too fast!

We got to meet our friends Patrick and Jessica's darling new baby boy and enjoy some catching up with Serena and Anthony who are due next month with their first.

A trip to NJ wouldn't be complete without seeing Aunt Sharon and her family. She is the best for sharing stories about family history, and for Christmas she so thoughtfully put together a package for each of the Barber kids with a letter describing their great-grandma and a coordinating gift. Her son Josh picked out the best Christmas gift for Frankie (toy trucks—a toddler boy's dream) and to this day, if you ask Frankie who gave him his trucks, he will exclaim "Dosh!" Their dog Trixie also made quite an impression and Frankie is still talking about how he saw Trixie "eating! chicken!" that he dropped/threw on the floor.

I loved getting to meet more of Frank's extended family. They are such a kind and warm group of people, although I joked to Frank that I felt like I'd walked onto the set of Silver Linings Playbook. All the football talk about the Eagles! All the Jersey food (pork roll, anyone?) and Jersey accents! It was great.

There aren't words to describe how utterly spoiled we were by our lovely Barber family. They kept Frankie constantly entertained with everything from toy trains to building a gingerbread house—and eating lots of Grammy's goodies! They also babysat for us several times, and Frank and I got to enjoy the new Star Wars movie and Christmas Eve Mass baby-free. We spent Christmas morning with them before flying home that afternoon to spend the evening with my family.

Christmas morning was different than what I'm used to in that the Barbers all take turns opening their presents, opening one and then the next person opens one, around the circle until (possibly hours later) everyone is done. I'm not sure how feasible that would be with a lot of kids, but as much as possible, I want to do that every year! I loved it. How does your family handle opening gifts on Christmas morning?

My brother-in-law Ethan took a bunch of cute pictures of Frankie and I wanted to share them with you all. On a related note, Ethan is graduating college this spring and wants to work in graphic/visual design. Frank and I not-so-secretly want him to move out to Chicago. I figured I'd throw this out there—do any of you guys have a job lead for him? Thanks. :)





Oh hey :)

So Frankie is a skinny little dude and has an ongoing problem with his pants being too big for him. To remedy this, Frank bought him a pair of toddler suspenders that he uses kind of a lot (and is very proud of). We never thought about how sweet he looks in them until he was getting ready for Church on Sunday and wearing his tiny suspenders... while brushing his teeth with his banana toothbrush (another favorite activity)... and my sister-in-law snapped these photos:


He's a dapper little man. (But not a Dapper Dan man. Name the movie?)

And finally, here's Christmas morning with his beloved Auntie Jenna ("Nenna") and Uncle Ethan ("Eating"). Yes, he genuinely believes his uncle's name is "Eating." I won't tell you what his nicknames for my siblings are, but they're even worse! :p



Merry Christmas, friends. Happy sixth day of Christmas, and may you have a lovely new year!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

I might have a problem.

Recently one of my friends told me she was pregnant with her first. In my ever helpful way (ha. "helpful."), I asked a million questions, talked her through all possible options for birth classes/prenatal yoga/best hospitals/doulas/etc., and then when I got home I pulled out all my books on pregnancy and childbirth to lend her.

This is what I came up with:


For the record, I'm only actually lending her the top four, because those four are my favorites.

But still, isn't that an absurd amount of books on this topic for one person to own?!

So then I made this meme and sent it to her. I just had to.



Although maybe this is more accurate:


I don't know, guys. I wonder if I missed my calling to be a midwife or postpartum doula or something. Is it normal to be so obsessed with this topic? (Frank would say, "No and can we please talk about something else?" Ha.)

Oh and this is not an announcement... I just feel like that's a necessary disclaimer for Catholic mom bloggers. :)

Monday, November 23, 2015

You don't need a lot of money and stuff to have kids.


Recently I was having a conversation with an engaged friend who feels worried and anxious about when to have kids.

She and her husband-to-be both have stable, successful careers, but the financial aspect of parenting really scares her. She had been quoted some outrageous numbers about how expensive it is to have a child, and had heard horror stories about how hard those early years with a baby can be. Some news article was claiming that the first year of a baby's life costs parents $10,000—insane and totally untrue!

All that doom and gloom was making her question whether it would be prudent to be open to having kids right off the bat.

While everyone has a different situation and there are certainly many excellent reasons to postpone a pregnancy, I hastened to reassure her that the financial aspect (for her situation!) was not one of them.

As I like to say time and time again, you don't need a lot of money and stuff to have kids.

Katrina has a post I love that is pretty much the last word on this subject. To second what she said—as long as you have a way to feed the baby, you have some baby clothing and diapers, and some sort of carrier/wrap to wear the baby, you are pretty much set. I could tell you about the baby products we have and almost never use (stroller, crib, bouncer seat, bottles, pacifiers...) but honestly, you would hear the same thing from most parents you talk to. Babies don't need much, especially if they are getting most of their nutrition from breastmilk.

My family lives in a really, really small apartment. I don't know the exact square footage (and I'm bad at visualizing these things in numbers anyway) but let's just say it's so small that everyone who visits us comments on it. And I'm more than okay with that, because my hope is that our guests think, "Wow, if they can have a baby in this space, I can definitely have a baby where I live." In fact more than one newlywed friend has said this to me, and I'm just like "YES. My work here is done." :)

I have a friend from church who is expecting her third child and lives in a studio apartment. She and her husband are both Irish, and she told me once, "My husband likes to say, 'If our ancestors could have ten children in a tenement flat, then we can definitely have three in a studio!'" So much of the "stuff" and "space" that people think they need for their babies nowadays is so unnecessary.

She also told me that occasionally they get negative comments from people who don't approve of how many kids they're having, and so quickly. She told me she likes to respond, "It's great to be young and in love." I love that response because it just sums up what really matters: having a loving, happy marriage and family.

This is the way I think about it: the secular world tells us that happiness and riches come from having things, from accumulating possessions and experiences that would look cool on Instagram. But the Bible tells us that the greatest wealth is children. And at the end of our lives, what else but our loving relationships with our families will really matter?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Apple cake October and a rather artsy November

This post is dedicated to Aunt Sharon, because she said she keeps checking my blog for an update! Also to Jenna. Love you two!

I read this great post yesterday called "I miss blogs" and it got me all nostalgic for when I used to blog more often. I was all "Grainy photos and stream of consciousness ramblings? YES. That's me. I got this!" So here we go.

We went apple picking in October. It was a gorgeous and fun day with our friends.





But then we had all these apples. So I did what no normal person would, and decided to try out every recipe for apple cake I could possibly find.

That would be FIVE apple cakes I made in the month of October, using four different recipes. I made Jewish apple cake, French apple cake, Irish apple cake, and German apple cake. Frank and I taste-tested them all to decide which recipe was best. They all had subtle differences between them, such as that the French one contained rum and that the Jewish one had a crumb topping. The clear winner was the German one, though, because it included cream cheese frosting. It was the only one I made twice. Did I take a single picture of any of them? No! That's how you know I'll never be a real blogger. ;) But don't worry, I will share the recipe for the winning German apple cake. You are welcome!

Halloween came and we went trick-or-treating in my sister's neighborhood. Oh yes! She moved back to Chicago and bought a house, and our boys are the best of friends as we hoped they would be. It's a blessing beyond description to have them back in the area.

We dressed the boys as a lion and giraffe and filled their little red wagon with stuffed animals. Our little lion got really into character and ran around the house roaring all day!


In November, I discovered that the Art Institute—where we've been members since we got married, but hadn't visited in a while since I assumed it wouldn't be baby-friendly—is actually a fantastic place to take toddlers. Thanks to this fantastic Mini Masters board book series Frank bought him for Christmas last year, our boy was fascinated with the Degas and Monet exhibits. I'm sure it helped that we read the books on the train on our way in. On top of that, the museum has a newly installed education center that is a dream come true for toddlers—art books, puzzles, blocks, animals, the works! And you can rent a complimentary stroller! We plan to visit many more times this winter.



It's just been a good fall for museums in general. We've also taken the boys to the gorgeous Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, where they got to walk through the butterfly exhibit and pet a turtle (while Lillian and I hilariously translated the museum biologist's very detailed and scientific description of turtles into toddler-speak... "Turrr-tle. Belly. GENTLE.")...


... and to the Chicago Children's Museum, where they loved roaming through a toddler-sized grocery store, log cabin, and CTA bus!


And we occasionally dressed them matching, just to confuse people as everyone asks "Are they twins?":



What can I say? Our boys love this city of ours. And we do too.


Oh! And my in-laws came to visit (woohoo!) and I turned 26, but that was all the way back in September.

We did an evening boat cruise on the Chicago river...



And Grammy gave Frankie his first haircut! He looks so much older now.


Well that's all for now. Thanks for reading!