Saturday, December 10, 2016

Advent Musings

For the first time in what feels like months, I find myself sitting in a quiet house with only the cooing of little Dominic to keep me distracted. His belly is full and he has (finally) decided to sit in his bouncy seat for more than a few seconds. Normally, he prefers I wear him in a baby carrier but now that he is three months old, I am trying to coax him towards a little more independence. He is unsure about being emancipated from the Moby wrap at the moment, and his dark brown eyes are tugging at my heart as he whittles away at my willpower and anxiously waits for me to release him from his shackles.

The rest of the family is off to find a Christmas tree.  Having learned from experience that tree lots do not always provide trees up until Christmas Eve, we’ve tried to be proactive this year and get one while there are still a few trees on the lot to choose from. If we are so lucky, we’ll stash the tree in the garage in a pail of water until just a day or two before Christmas, so as not to interrupt Advent more than necessary.

Yesterday was our coldest day of the season thus far, but today began even colder. My morning run was brutal, at least by southeast Kentucky standards, and I labored to breathe twenty-degree air. Still, I’ll take that over the wildfire smoke that dominated the morning air here during the previous two months. Raking up the leaves around our cedar-siding home took on a sense of urgency this year, and as we watched the images of wildfires being fought by our Tennessee neighbors, we knew that we could be next. But then the rains came just after Thanksgiving, as they always do, and in just a few days, the long fire season that started before summer even ended was over. The air cleared and the leaves fell. Despite what the calendar may have said, autumn was over.

And now we sit next to the woodstove, counting down the days ‘til Christmas. St. Nicholas made his arrival here this week, and left two little boys new shoes and too much chocolate. After-supper prayers before the Advent wreath are becoming our new ritual and by the time Christmas is here, will finally be a habit, only to be put away again until next year.  Perhaps next year, the boys will take as much pleasure out of listening to the prayers they now do blowing out the candles, but I doubt it.

Dominic, of course, is our joy this season. Every moment with him makes our hearts fill with gratitude.  “Waiting for a baby” is the Advent theme that we lived every day for years. Now, to no longer be waiting for another baby, feels like a foreign state-of-mind. On many days, my life feels like it should belong to somebody else.  A mother of three children? Unfathomable ten years ago. And yet, here I am. Being their mother is my greatest testament to what it means to wait. The possible that came from the impossible.

 Yesterday, we heard through the grapevine that a couple we know who has been childless and waiting to adopt for many, many years was unexpectedly placed with a baby through adoption. We met this couple nearly three years ago, and at that time, they’d already been waiting to adopt for well over a year. This past summer, they were matched with a newborn but the birthmother chose to parent and their hearts were again shattered. Now, this year, their Advent is truly about an Arrival. Their lives from this point forward will look nothing like their past. Had they given up on the wait, they would have missed the Arrival.

And I suppose that is the real point of Advent. The Advent season is about waiting and preparing, yes, but more than that, it’s about having faith in the Arrival. That regardless of what shape or form or end our waiting takes, it does always, eventually, inevitably, come to an end. And when it does, regardless of whether our dream has come true or not, we can at least count on the arrival of something new. A new beginning.  An Advent to the rest of our life. And if we have trusted in God’s providence and timing, it very well could be a life worth waiting for, even if it is not the one we thought we'd ever have.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Meet My Mateo (In Honor of St. Matthew's Day)

Today is the Feast of St. Matthew, which is a feast day that, until now, I paid little attention to. But today, I have a beautiful reason to remember and celebrate the intercession of this great saint. Because today, my family has our own little Matthew. Dominic Matthew.

Or should I say, Dominic Mateo, to be precise.

His name reflects the two cultures that he is a part of, and two great saints that he will hopefully call upon as he travels through life.

He's three weeks old and the answer to every prayer I said during the past five years that we waited for God to answer.

His arrival to our arms feels like nothing short of another miracle. His birthstory is filled with pain, hope, suffering, and love, and God is at work in every detail. Someday, I will find the time to write it and share it here with you, but not now. Now, we simply are marveling in God's mercy upon our family and giving thanks to St. Matthew on this wonderful feast day that will no longer be overlooked by one very grateful and humbled mother.

This photo was taken after Dominic Mateo's first holy mass,
which was also the day of
the canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta.
I love this image of our family surrounded
by the holy family and this great saint.
We are never alone when we call upon the saints!

St. Matthew, pray for us!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Whatever That May Be

It was not long after our youngest son was born that we knew we wanted to try to have another child, which for us, meant trying to adopt again. Suffering through another miscarriage one year later only made us that more certain. I suppose some would say that we should have been satisfied with what we had, and simply quit trying to add more children to our family. After all, we were in our early forties and had already spent ten years trying to have children. After so many years of trying and failing, finding ourselves with two sons in the span of seven months felt a lot like winning the lottery. Hoping for just "one more" not only seemed completely unlikely, but almost greedy.

Still, the desire to add another child to our family sat heavy on my heart. No matter how I tried to rationalize it away (we're too old, it costs too much, so many other couples are waiting, our children already have a sibling, we already have more than we can barely handle, etc. etc.), the desire would not go away. All I can say is that there was a pulling that kept tugging at my heart, and as much as I tried to bury it, ignore it, rationalize, or pray it away, it always came back. So, each year for the past four years, we completed our adoption home study and waited. I waited for either the child to come or the tugging to go away.

This year of waiting, however, has felt much different than the previous three. Last December, when we submitted our home study update again, I knew this year would be the last. Not because I was certain we would be chosen to adopt this year, but because the tugging was gradually beginning to diminish. Although in my heart of hearts, I still wanted to parent another child, after three years of waiting to be chosen for an adoption situation (and another miscarriage), the knowledge that it may not happen had really begun to sink in. The number of times we'd been rejected by birthmothers was something we lost track of somewhere around ten or twelve. Rejection was beginning to feel like a normal part of our life now, and we came to expect it each time we presented our family profile to a birthmother looking to choose a family. Although every "she chose another family" message still left a sting, I'd cried my last tears over it at least a year ago. I had no tears left.

In addition, our sons were growing up and we were beginning to enjoy this new chapter of our family life. All the baby stuff has been packed away for a couple of years now, and in its place are overalls, ball caps, hiking boots, and baseball gloves. Our oldest turns six next week, and his brother is not far behind. Looking ahead, I saw my time with my children being measured not by feeding intervals and diaper changes but instead, by teaching them things like how to fish, ride a bike, swim in the deep-end, and read books that don't have pictures.

In truth, submitting our paperwork in January and agreeing with my husband that this would be our final update, our final year of trying, was liberating. Peace began to settle in my heart where the empty place of wanting another child had been. Just knowing that we didn't have to keep riding the rollercoaster of expectation followed by disappointment was consoling. It's been a fifteen year ride and finally, finally, I am ready to get off.

So when June rolled around, and I knew we only had six more months left of waiting to be chosen for an adoption, two thoughts crossed my mind. The first thought was that if, by some miracle, we did get chosen for an adoption this year, then our child is already in this world now. Somewhere. The other thought was that, if for some reason, we did not get chosen, then the agony of the waiting game was already half over now, and the pain would not last much longer. Needless to say, it was the latter thought that seemed much more realistic.

This is not to say that we have given up. Far from that. Every night still, we gather our boys for nightly prayer and every night, we pray, "Please help us and all couples struggling to have children and waiting to adopt." It is not only our prayer, it has become our mantra. We continued to use social media to try to spread the word of our desire to adopt, although in this past year, our facebook page saw very little traffic. We would bring it up in conversation with our family and our friends, and a handful of them are encouraging, but in most cases, we simply get no comment. I'm sure that to most, our desire to adopt again after so much time has passed appears as our own little fantasy world.

And such was the response two weeks ago, when we began telling others that yes, it is true, we really are going to adopt again. We are matched with a birthmother and if all goes as planned, we will be holding the child that we have been waiting for before the summer ends. At this point, we have no good reason not to be optimistic. And nobody is more surprised than we are.

So, while this wonderful news has been met with judgment by some and denial by others, I can see only mercy. Mercy shown upon me and my family by our loving God who has walked this adoption and infertility journey with us, and who has placed these things on my heart, and who I know will lead us to His desired end, whatever that may be.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Thunder for the Frogs: Finding God's Love in the Midst of the Storm

It was a bumpy day in much of the midwest yesterday, especially in my neck of the woods. Thankfully, we escaped unharmed. Prayers go out to all those affected by the tornadoes and severe weather.  In light of these recent events, I thought I'd share this post that I recently wrote for Peanut Butter & Grace.  


The thunder cracked and boomed overhead, making the walls shake and the pictures rattle. My sons jumped, eyes wide, and ran to the window. The rain was coming down hard, in heavy sheets, and the lightning lit up the trees that were otherwise hidden in the dark night. Wind pushed hard against our house and in the distance, we could hear the sirens. We grabbed flashlights and our blankets and headed for the basement, where we would listen and wait and pray until the worst was over and calm returned. When it became quiet again, we would peer out the windows, trying to assess the damage in the murky moonlight. But we wouldn’t fully know until morning just how much recovery work would lie ahead. Would we only have a few twigs and branches to pick up? Or would we find our fence crushed beneath fallen trees, or our driveway blocked and impassable? {Read more...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

7 Quick Takes - Earth Day Edition

A big thank you to Kelly at her blog for hosting this (belated) edition of Quick Takes!

I loved being a child of the '70s. It was just an awesome decade to grow up in. I wore sundresses and bell-bottoms and had long hair. In elementary school, we learned all about energy conservation and had long recesses. Neighborhood kids played outside (a lot) while our mothers were inside, trying to figure out how to make things like soybean patties and homemade granola. At Christmas time, very few neighbors hung lights on their homes, and when they did, we were amazed at how much electricity they were wasting. We took short showers and waited in long lines at the gas station. We grew up with Woodsy Owl, who told us to "Give a hoot. Don't pollute," and the crying Indian commercial. Being concerned about the environment didn't make you a liberal or a democrat or a hippie or a tree hugger. It made you an ordinary citizen.

So, I suppose it's only natural that I think Earth Day is a good thing. A product of the '70s (April 22, 1970, to be exact), Earth Day was intended to be a celebration of the one thing we all have in common...namely, this planet we all share... and a call-to-arms to take care of it. If it goes down the tubes, we all go down with it, kinda like the Titanic. Unfortunately, people like me now must bear the many labels that go with being concerned about our natural environment. Caring for the environment, like so many other issues, has become highly politicized and polarized. It makes me long for the 1970s again, when at least we could all agree on something.

Anyhow, I wanted to share a few of the things my family is doing this week in honor of Earth Day. I hope maybe it inspires others to consider getting in on the act as well.  Just be forewarned. Someone might call you a hippie. Or a granola-cruncher. It's okay. You're in pretty good company.

1. Go Outside
I know. Sounds like a no-brainer. But seriously, I wonder how many people, especially school kids, will spend this entire week indoors?  Walking to and from the car doesn't count! So, if you do nothing else this week, just take a little extra time to go outside. Find a park, playground, or just your backyard, and spend some time in it. Go for a hike or maybe just sit in the sun. It's all good! We went for a hike yesterday to an old fire lookout tower in a park near our home. My son got to learn about history and conquer his fear of heights plus fill his lungs with some fresh air.  Win win!

2. Look at the Moon
This year, Earth Day coincides with the full moon.  My boys and their dad just love to sit outside and stargaze. They look for airplanes and satellites and shooting stars and when the moon is full, they love to look through binoculars at it. Odds are, this Friday night, weather-permitting, we'll be checking out the full moon again. And if you live in an area where the light pollution is bad, check out some of the parks nearby.  Several parks have stargazing programs for the public. Or perhaps you could visit a planetarium, or take a drive out to the countryside and find a place to stargaze. It's always humbling to look up and remember just how small we really are.

3. Feed the Hummingbirds
The ruby-throated hummingbirds showed back up here this past week and we were so excited! It always feels like the return of a long-missed friend when the summer birds return, especially the hummingbirds. We rushed to get our feeder up so that they will set up housekeeping in our backyard.  My son was so excited that he hurriedly designed and built his own hummingbird feeder and then hung it on his bicycle. He was so proud of his handiwork! Those hummingbirds will have to be pretty quick to catch that feeder!

4. Plant something
We are planting potatoes this week, but you can plant anything for Earth Day. Weather still too cold to plant in the garden? How about picking or buying a few fresh flowers for the home?  Or perhaps taking a field trip to a local plant nursery and buying herbs for the kitchen? Just one flower or green thing can go a long ways towards lifting the spirit.

5. Backyard Camping
We went camping this weekend. In the backyard. About 20 yards from our house. It was wonderful. I love "real" camping but I hate hate hate getting all the "stuff" ready to go camping. So, I get around the latter by advocating for backyard camping. Pitching the tent in the backyard saves me lots and lots and lots of time and effort and the kids still love it. They still get to sleep in a tent and eat s'mores and I still get to use an indoor restroom and take a shower and keep my sanity. I highly recommend it.

6. Reduce/Reuse/Recycle
I know, this one is pretty obvious too. But perhaps you are like me and didn't quite get around to giving some stuff away to charity for Lent. Why not do it for Earth Day? Every piece of clothing or item that gets reused by someone else reduces manufacturing and consumption by just a teeny little bit. We'll be cleaning out our winter closet this week, so it's a great time to consider reducing, reusing or recycling a lot of what we've got.

7. Eat Some Dandelions
Okay, so this one will definitely get you labeled a hippie.  But seriously, don't knock it 'til you try it. I have always known that dandelions are edible (and very nutritious) but didn't realize just how yummy they can be until I tried this recipe. We loved them so much, we've picked every dandelion we can find on our property and made three batches! It makes a great little appetizer and is fun for the kids. You might actually be able to get them to eat something healthy this way.

So how are you planning to celebrate Earth Day?  I'd love to hear your ideas or stories. As a friend of mine once said, "There's a little bit of hippie in all of us." I like to believe he was right.

Happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 8, 2016

My Birthday Bouquet

It’s April!  And Easter! And Spring!  Alleluia!

I love this time of year, not as much as I love autumn, but springtime is definitely a close second.  Perhaps if I didn’t suffer from an annual spring allergy each year, which always leaves me feeling miserable for about a week, or until it rains, whichever comes first, I’d love springtime more than autumn.  But for now, autumn takes the prize.

Of course, it doesn’t exactly feel like spring here yet.  I begrudgingly built another fire in the wood stove this morning, and most of the garden is still under plastic, and the spring warblers are only beginning to make an appearance.  We’ll have snow flurries this weekend, they say, and then another warm-up.  Most likely, if the forecast holds true, we’ll lose our apple crop, peach crop, pear crop and perhaps the acorn and hickory crop in the next forty-eight hours.  If not, it’ll have been a close call.  If so, it was bound to happen, considering the fact that we enjoyed a bumper crop last year.  As with all things, not every year brings every blessing, yet somehow, we still end up with enough.

I’m a spring baby, with a birthday that usually coincides with the sneezing and sniffles of my springtime allergy, and this year did not disappoint.  Right on schedule, I said goodbye to another year lived, and welcomed the next one with a handkerchief and some antihistamines. So, I suppose my husband thought I’d lost my mind when he asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and my response was “to go see wildflowers.”  I figured if I was going to be miserable, I might as well be miserable doing something I love, and it takes more than a runny nose to keep me inside when I know the dead leaves on the forest floor are giving way to a carpet of color. 

So we hit the trails and wandered through the woodlands of the Cumberland Plateau and Kentucky River Palisades in search of the birthday bouquet that God had prepared just for me.

Of course, it’s not just for me. I simply say that because I believe that every small beauty or good thing that comes to me is given to me by a God who loves me.  But certainly not only me. 

The natural world and all its beauty is for all of us, yet God makes it so grand that each of us can find the opportunity to see one particular wildflower or watch one particular sunset and believe it was made just for us.

Because God is like that.

He can create a universe and still manage to give each of us our own star to look upon.  He can create a forest and give us each our own wildflower to admire. 

I guess that’s why I love the natural world so much.  Because it’s easy for me to feel privileged and blessed when I look upon a wildflower and know that I am the only one who sees it at that moment and perhaps, ever will see it. 

That particular flower, at that particular moment, feels like it was made just for me, and perhaps, for the bumblebees.

In a world that craves self-acclamation and validation, it is comforting to know that such self-worth can be found in a wildflower.

After all, it’s hard not to feel like part of the elite when we are the only apparent witness to so much natural beauty.

And yet, the tragedy is that nearly every natural beauty on our earth has no appreciative witness, other than perhaps the angels and God himself.

But I suspect that for God, that is more than enough. 

And when I think of God in that context, it really does not seem all that surprising that the most beautiful things he gives to us are things that we would never even notice if we didn’t make the effort to see them.

Birthdays can be like that; when time feels like an enemy, a birthday can hardly be seen as a blessing. My birthday has often felt like that. Waiting to be a mother to children who never come has often made my birthdays feel like a mile marker along an empty trail barren of wildflowers.  I saw no beauty in being another year older.

But the truth is, God does not leave anything barren. Even the most empty, desolate-appearing desert has life just below its surface, waiting for the rain or for the coolness of night to fall before it can make its appearance. 

And as I celebrate another year, I realize more than before that even when my life looks the most empty, the most barren, God is planting wildflowers along my trail.

And they will bloom... 

...when the season is right.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

7 Quick Takes - Leap Year Edition

Linking up with Kelly over at her blog for another Quick Takes.  Thank you, Kelly!

Considering I haven't done a Quick Takes since November (yikes!), it seemed like perhaps this would be a good time. Blogging has taken a backseat lately for a few reasons, mostly thanks to homeschooling, plus the final farewell our boys made to naps. Simultaneous napping was the only thing that saved my sanity (and this blog) for the past few years, and I am really missing it. However, considering we had a good five-year run, I know that I was luckier than most mothers searching for a mid-day sanity break. John still naps occasionally, but Joah is over it for good. Not surprising, considering he started to resist at around age three, but we powered through that and got another good year and a half in before I decided it was time to throw in the towel. Ah, nap time...may you RIP.

Before moving on to what's happened around here this past month, I'll back up to January, which can best be summed up with these photos:

For hire. Cheap.

Things were really looking up around here, as far as the weather was concerned, until January rolled around. We'd been on record for having one of the mildest winters yet, and I was even harvesting broccoli and greens at the end of December. The daffodils were four inches tall, and the buds on the maple trees were starting to swell. It was delightful but also, a bit disconcerting. Thankfully, nature always seems to find a counterbalance before things get too carried away, and sure enough, by the end of January, we were under 14 inches of snow with temperatures around zero. The snow was so deep, the boys couldn't walk in it, so we were forced to stay indoors most of the time, which really made the cabin fever set in. But, I am happy to report that we are survivors of yet another Snowmageddon, and the daffodils and maple trees have been put back in their rightful place and will now be blooming in a few weeks, right on schedule.

February has been a whirlwind month for celebrating feasts and liturgical days around here. In one week, we had two birthdays, St.Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday. My head started spinning as I tried to prepare for all three. But before all that, we celebrated Candlemass. I kept that one pretty simple by just putting all the candles in the house on a mantle with a few flowers and lighting them after sunset. It was actually very pretty, but I did have a hard time convincing the boys that no, we are not expecting the power to go out, and no, we are not under a tornado warning. So, something might have gotten a little lost in translation this year regarding the significance of Candlemass.

Anyhow, coming back to birthdays...Joah had a great one. We had a houseful of family and he was all smiles. His request this year was for a peanut butter cake with a blue car on it. So, I did my best to accommodate. Unfortunately, my baking powder was less accommodating, so the cake was actually more like a cookie, but Joah loved it none-the-less.  I'm sure it is obvious that I just winged the design; cake decorating is not my charism, but if anyone out there is looking for a cake design to promote strip mining, mountain top removal, or overall environmental destruction, feel free to pin this one.

Speaking of things environmental, like last year, we spent another weekend holed up in our house, looking out the window at Snowmageddon, and counting birds at our busy feeder as we participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

I even made some bird cookies to commemorate the event.  Can anyone guess what bird this is?  It's okay if you can't; my husband couldn't either (reference my cake decorating skills above).

Anyhow, I really tried to promote this citizen survey project this year by sharing the information with all my social media friends. Last year, we had three people from our county participate. This year, my goal was to get that number up to five. When I last checked the county results, we had one participant. Me. Needless to say, environmental activism is not my strong suit. But if any of you reading this did participate, let me just say that the birds and I thank you. We need more people like you. Lots more.

Another significant event this past month that deserves a round of thank yous to all my dedicated readers is my blogiversary! Two years and counting. It really has flown by. I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote my first blog post (which, when I read it now, sounded oh so lame). Hopefully, time has improved my blogging skills, and for those of you who visit me here, thank you. I am very humbled that anyone takes the time to read even a little about my ordinary life in the backwoods. And a special shout out to Our Lady of Lourdes, whose feast day is my blogiversary, which I only realized in hindsight after starting this blog. Now, I know who all the credit goes to! Anything good that comes out of this blog is thanks to her. Hopefully, she will help me find a way to keep blogging now that nap time is a thing of the past.

And speaking of Our Lady, now that it is Lent, one of my goals is to say the rosary every day. Most days, I get it done in the wee hours of the morning, after my husband goes to work but before my boys get out of bed. But when that doesn't work, I have discovered that saying the rosary makes a pretty good cadence when walking. If I take a step on every third or fourth syllable, I can get a short, brisk workout in. The cadence works pretty well during the Our Father and Hail Mary's, although the creed is a little trickier, so I say that part during my warm up, and the Hail Holy Queen is a good one for the cool down. I'm guessing I'm not the first one to discover this, but thought it might be worth sharing in case other folks are like me and struggle with walking and chewing gum at the same time, if ya know what I mean.

The elusive wood frog.
And in honor of our bonus day that we get this coming week, here's a little leap day trivia.  Did you know that if we didn't have leap years, in 100 years, we would lose 24 days on our calendar? It's all because it takes the earth just a little more than 365 days to circumnavigate the sun, so every four years, we have to add a day just to compensate. So basically, leap day gives us the chance to get caught up with the rest of our galaxy, which is somewhat reassuring in a strange way.   Plus, who couldn't use an extra day every so often? A nice little gift, thanks to our solar system. I personally think it should be a paid day off for everyone!  Maybe one of our presidential candidates could adopt that as part of their platform??  In the meantime, I guess you could say that it's a good reminder that we are all part of something much greater than ourselves, and it is best to stay in sync.

Have a great weekend but don't forget to check out Kelly's blog for everyone else's Quick Takes.  Thank you, Kelly!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Two Birthdays

We're celebrating two birthdays here this week. The first birthday is for our newly minted five-year old, who joins in age his slightly tarnished five-year old brother. Two five-year olds, but not twins, so for the next six and a half months, I will get to answer the litany of questions again that usually goes something like this:

"Are these your boys?"
"How old are they?"
"They're both five."
"Are they twins?"
"How far apart are they?"
"Six and a half months."
[predictable pause as they do the math]
"How'd that happen?"
"We adopted."
[another pause as they look the boys over]
"Wow, they look just like twins."
"I know."
"So, are they both adopted or just one?"
"Just one."
"Which one?"

And so on.

In another year or two, they will be able to answer for themselves. I can only imagine the twist they will put on their story when I let them offer their own explanation. I suspect they will leave people feeling even more befuddled than they were before they asked. My two not-twins boys will likely find enormous humor in that, given the fact that one of them is already a pretty accomplished wise guy and the other has a propensity for practical jokes.

The other birthday we are remembering this week is for our Karol Elizabeth, whom I gave birth to in miscarriage four years ago this week. To this day, I still believe she was my only daughter. I can't say I have any proof of that, but from the moment we learned of her existence in my belly, her father and I just felt certain of the gender. When we learned that I was pregnant with her, just a few months after my postpartum fertility had returned, we felt validated in our assumption that I had been healed of infertility. Finding out ten weeks later that she was already gone left us to struggle once again with all the feelings we'd tried to bury in the year before. When it comes to life and death, we learned all over again that it is best to never make assumptions.

And five years ago this week, I stood just outside the door of a hospital nursery, peering through the glass and craning my neck to see the little newborn baby who might become mine. I was not allowed inside, and had to ask permission to hold him. I could not claim him as mine, at least not yet, and was not allowed to be with him unsupervised. I was so close to being his mother, but yet, he was not really mine. Holding him, rocking him, snuggling him, I waited to see if someone was going to tell me I had to give him back. I sat in a plastic chair where the nurses could see me holding him, and for those first forty-eight hours, I tried not to make assumptions.

Two birthdays this week for two precious lives, one of which I eventually got to keep, and one of which, I had to give back. I used to try to understand why, but it really is of no use. There is no rationalization that satisfies the emptiness that comes from losing a child, and there is no justification for why I now have two five-year olds who make my heart overflow. It is nothing more than my particular journey, my story, and maybe, if I dare say what I hated hearing for so many years, part of God's plan. But then again, by saying that, I may be making assumptions.

For me, there has been very little consolation found in assumptions, rationalizations, and weak explanations with regards to why things so often turn out the way they do. The energy required in trying to understand is more than I care to offer. Instead, I will take that energy and buy some flowers for Karol's grave. I will make a cake and wrap gifts for a special birthday boy. I will use that energy to celebrate two birthdays for two of my children who just happen to live on opposite sides of heaven. Two birthdays that remind me that life is one great paradox, and that it is usually best to just let the mystery be.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Concluding Christmas

Well, congratulations!  You did it.  We did it.  Good, bad, or ugly, we made it through another year.  And like birthdays, each year completed is really always a huge blessing, even if we have the scars and bruises to show for it.  And yes, there were a few of those in 2015, and I expect 2016 will be no different.  I make no resolutions and have very few goals other than to hopefully come out the other end at least as well as I started.  Hopefully better, but we will see.

I spent much of Advent feeling very uninspired to write, so the blog was quiet.  Writing is like that sometimes.  Life is like that sometimes.  During those times, I simply slog along doing the tasks at hand, of which there are never any shortages.  A week with the husband gone on a business trip, combined with a virulent case of pink eye that spread through the family like wildfire, leaving my husband nearly sightless for 24 hours, got our Advent off to a rough start.  But, Advent had its bright moments as well.  I said prayers for my Advent prayer buddy (Marie at Joy BeyondThe Cross) and my other Advent prayer buddy prayed for me in her own beautiful way (Thank you, Donna!).  We ate chocolate on St. Nicholas Day, went out for Mexican food on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and hung up lights on the Feast of St. Lucy. We were invited to our first posada and pushed across the language-barrier with smiles and warm hugs. I made a new friend and together, we started a Mom’s playgroup for our community, something I never ever saw myself doing ten years ago.  My interest in essential oils evolved into more of an obsession; I picked broccoli out of our garden (thank you, mild winter) and I learned to make kombucha.

And as of yesterday, for the first time ever, my family completed our very first 12 Days of Christmas celebrations.  It was wonderful, and fun, and a lot of work. But totally worth it, especially for the kids, although I enjoyed it too, and am already looking forward to doing it again next year.  I had planned to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas last year but then life got in the way and those plans fell through.  But this year, we had no place to go, and no plans, and it was so nice to enjoy these days of Christmas by starting some new family traditions. I kept it simple, and wrote up a list of what we would do each of the 12 days, and hung it on the refrigerator.  John loved waking up in the morning and running to the kitchen first thing to see what was on the list for that particular Christmas day, and each night, before he went to sleep, he would ask me “Which day of Christmas will it be tomorrow?”  Last night, we concluded our last day with a little “Twelfth Night” party complete with a King cake and my (super easy, cheater) version of wassail. 

All in all, it was a wonderful year and a wonderful Christmas.  Much as our boys didn’t get all they wanted for Christmas, but enjoyed it nonetheless, I didn’t get everything I wanted in 2015, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  Now, that year is gone and Christmas is near an end.  In a few more days, we will have nothing left to celebrate other than hope, which is all we ever really had in the first place.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Epiphany and everything in between! Thank you for hanging with me in the past year.

And now, for the photo dump...

Christmas Parade (will Olaf ever go away?)

St. Nicholas Day bounty
(yes, there might be some old Halloween candy in there)

Our first posada
Dressed up for Christmas eve Mass
(my quest to bring back knickerbockers!)
All he wanted for Christmas was a yellow car.
Enjoying Jesus' birthday cake.
A family hike
(for Feast of the Holy Family)

Spring weather for Christmas.

Every kid should stand under a waterfall at least once in their life.
(Day 2 of Christmas)
Making pretzels
(Day 10 of Christmas)
Pretzels for Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus
(Day 10 of Christmas)

The pretzels didn't last long!
Finding one of the three kings and the gold coins.
(Twelfth Night)

John's reaction when told he would have to share his gold (chocolate) coins.
(Twelfth Night)
King cake
(Twelfth Night)

Grandma leads the procession to take the three kings to baby Jesus.
(Twelfth Night)

Christus mansionem benedicat.
Christ bless this house.