Are You Done?

Ever since giving birth to Gideon and Aidan, everyone assumes that I’m done having children. You wouldn’t believe the strange things that people say to the parents of twins.

“Hey, at least you got it all done in one swoop!” (Um… tell that to my saggy belly skin or my poor hips!)

“I’m so sorry… Better you than me though!”

“So did you get your tubes tied or did your husband get snipped?”

“You are done now, right?

I know people don’t mean to be rude, but those comments hurt my heart…

How can people say they feel sorry for me? I have two beautiful, healthy baby boys! I get to spend all day breathing in the smell of their tiny heads and losing myself in their gummy smiles.

These boys are an answer to my prayers. When I went into preterm labor, we were discussing the possibility of them dying… There is nothing to be sorry about, but there is plenty to praise God for!

And when people start to inquire about whether I am done or not, I don’t know what to say. To be honest, I think I’ll always want more children. I’ll never want to give up the empowerment that comes from growing a human in my womb. I will always want to witness the miracle of another tiny human coming into the world. I will never want to give up the newborn snuggles and fuzzy haired toddlers running around the house.

So yes, I do want more. I don’t know if God will see fit to give us more, but a big part of me hopes that He does.

When I allow myself to think about the fact that someday I will rock one of my children for the last time, my heart shatters. How could I ever be done with that?

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When God Made You

I recently purchased a children’s book titled, “When God Made You” by Jane G. Meyer. The book showcases children from around the world, and poetically describes what God was thinking as He created them. The illustrations are stunning and the message of the book is uplifting. It will make a perfect addition to my girls’ Pascha baskets.17797297_771529353011470_2120100665_o

Inspired by the story, I decided to write up little descriptions that define what God was thinking as He made my girls. My attempts aren’t quite as eloquent as the original author, but I think they fit my girls perfectly.

When God made Renee, He plucked a dandelion from the earth, sprinkled glitter on top of it, gently wrapped it in a bright colored package, and refined it in fire. He blindfolded the beautiful little soul He had just created and with a laugh He revealed His surprise and said, Renee, PLAY.

When God made Nora, He mixed giggles, smiles, and snuggles in a large sandbox. He added a few sprinkles of spunk and a pinch of a apple seeds. He poured the blend into a heart shaped mold and said, Nora, LOVE.

 

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“I’m Booored…”

As a Stay at Home Mom, I find it hard to balance the amount of time I spend engaging with my children and the time I spend doing adult things. I don’t know why, but I feel responsible for keeping my children entertained and ensuring that they don’t get bored. Some nights I end the day wondering if I neglected my children.


Did I spend too much time cleaning, cooking, and reading?

Should I have added more structured activities and sensory play into the schedule?

Are my kids going to look back on their childhood fondly?

 

Do you ever wonder if our parents and grandparents felt this way? I don’t think they did… As a child I don’t remember any structured activities. I remember playing outside in the dirt and making secret clubhouses in the woods behind our house. My neighbor friend and I used to imagine our own secret worlds. The smell of fresh cut grass and rain on warm asphalt takes me back to those days.

 

When I reflect on my own childhood, I begin to wonder if I am actually doing my children a disservice. Using flashcards, educational television, and sensory activities can rob children of learning how to manage their own time… Structured play can squash creativity. I could go on and on.

 

I am going to make a commitment to myself. I am going to start limiting TV, electronics, and structured educational activities. Instead, I am going to encourage my children to play outside and explore the world. Why not let them perform a musical or make their own paper dolls? They don’t need a bowl of rice to dig through when they have a flowerbed of earthworms to uncover.

 
Above all else, I am going to give up that nagging feeling that I am not doing enough for my kids. I cook them three homemade meals a day, I wash their clothes, and I clean the house. I spend about an hour reading bedtime stories and tucking them in at night. I’m doing just fine and I bet you are too.

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For the Love of the Lord

 

Spencer and I just returned from a relaxing weekend at the Hermitage of the Holy Cross. After spending a few days immersed in deep conversations and heavenly worship, I am having a hard time getting back into my regular routine.

While at the monastery, I confessed giving into my depression and slacking off with my household duties. Now here I sit faced with a choice. I can strive towards a life of repentance and dive right into my chores without complaining, or I can veg out on the couch and waste away my time on social media sites. To some this might seem like a trivial matter, but I know that my decision could very well put me one step closer to heaven or hell.

There is a list of chores sitting on my kitchen counter. Today the list calls for dusting, washing the bed sheets, and vacuuming. In reality, I could put off these chores until my husband is home and can help. Things would certainly get done faster… Or I could offer up my work to my family and the Lord as an act of love.

As I dust the shelves I quietly pray, “I do this for the love of the Lord.” As I vacuum up pretzels I repeat, “For the love of the Lord and my children.” As I spread crisp sheets on the bed my whole being chants, “For the love of the Lord and my marriage.”

These are such small acts. I don’t expect anyone to notice that I have dusted the living room and bedrooms. Even if they do notice, I doubt they would care very much. But in my heart I know that the Savior sees my hard work and I pray that He is pleased with me.

Today I choose to take one step closer to heaven.
“For the love of the Lord.”

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This Phase of Love

Proverbs 5:18b-19 “Rejoice together with the wife of your youth. Let your loving deer and graceful colt keep company with you, and let her alone go before you and be with you at all times; for in living with her love, you will be great.”

We walked into Target hand in hand, having just finished a hearty meal of filet and shrimp at our local Japanese steakhouse. The warmth of the store slowly brought my ice cold face back to life. I dislodged a single basket from the string of carts and rested my pregnant belly against it.

“What all do we need?” asked my husband.

“Hmmm… Toilet paper, trash bags, and a few odds and ends for lunch tomorrow.”

Together we slowly made our way through the store and mentally checked off our shopping list. We laughed at the large group of men buying last minute Valentine’s Day cards, and indulged ourselves on a discount chocolate heart.

This is what Valentine’s Day looks like in this phase of life.

We have been married for six beautiful years. In that time, we have explored Brazil, Mexico, the Bahamas, and various different states. We graduated college, pursued careers, and purchased a home. With God’s help, we created 4 new souls. We now know each other both inside and out.

The life we live is nothing like I imagined it would be when we first started dating. We still live in the exact same town that we swore we hated as teenagers. We no longer stay up late playing video games or making out on the couch. Instead, we collapse into bed next to each other each night and watch a few shows on Netflix before giving into exhaustion.

These days, love looks like Spencer washing the dishes when my pregnant nose is too sensitive. Love does chores around the house even when she’s exhausted. Love offers to run to the store to get that missing ingredient that his wife needs for dinner. Love does the taxes even when she hates math.

Our marriage has settled into comfortable stability. We visit grandparents on Wednesday, have date night on Thursday, and do family breakfast on Saturday. I brush the kid’s teeth at night while my husband finds pacifiers, blankets, and fills sippies.
I relish the patchy beard on my lover’s face, and I love snuggling with his soft body. I don’t need butterflies of excitement, sneaky kisses, and a bed of roses. I just need my best friend by my side, sharing this wonderfully, mundane life with me.

Five Minute Friday: Weak

 

Our bedtime routine begins with family devotions and prayer. After snuggling on the couch and listening to Daddy read from the Bible, we all crowd into the icon corner and offer up a few prayers to the Lord. Nora, my youngest daughter, loves to pray to her guardian angel. Her sweet voice squeaks out the following words:

O Angel you are truly mine, given to me by God Divine, to always be at my side and teach me what is right. I am little you are tall. I am weak, you make me strong. Never go away from me. From all danger keep me free. Amen”

Every night I do my best to sincerely say these prayers with my children. Sometimes, that is a struggle. It is easy to be thankful for the guardian angel that God has blessed me with. It isn’t as easy to apply the next part of the prayer though.

“I am little you are tall. I am weak, you make me strong.”

Perhaps this part of the prayer is difficult because I don’t like to think of myself as being being insignificant and powerless. After all, I have given birth to two children. I have conquered high school and college. I have endured kidney stones and surgeries. I have told loved ones goodbye and defeated addiction. Surely, I am not weak.

But then I am reminded of that recent temptation I gave into when no one else was looking. I could have distracted myself, but I chose not to. I am not as strong as I would like to imagine… Regardless of how much I lie to myself, I am still desperately dependent on God.

 
Psalm 21:20 “But You, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.”

 

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10 Orthodox Mom Fails

My family and I joined the Orthodox Church during our parish’s Pascha vigil in 2015. I will never forget that blessed night. My husband and I watched with pride as each of our daughters were baptized. Tears streamed down my cheeks as our parish chanted “SEALED” while Fr. Alban chrismated us. Then with a mixture of excitement and a healthy dose of fear we partook of the Eucharist. For the first time in my spiritual life, I truly felt at home.

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Incorporating Orthodox customs and traditions into our family has been a lot of fun, but also challenging. Neither my husband nor I were raised Orthodox, so this is all new to us. We do our best to immerse our children in the Orthodox culture, but sometimes we fall a bit short. Here is a list of a few of my Orthodox Mom fails:

  • For us the 12 days of Christmas typically last about 4 days before we burn out. Every year I make elaborate plans to stretch out the festivities, but we have yet to follow through with them.
  • My youngest daughter insists on being a nun when she grows up, the only problem is that she wants to be a Mommy nun. She hasn’t realized that nuns do not have biological children.
  • My oldest daughter is very analytical. Lately, after bedtime prayers she will ask us why she can’t see God, her guardian angel, or the Saints. Apparently I haven’t done a very good job in explaining the spiritual realm.
  • I haven’t even begun trying to teach my kids how to name the books of the Bible. The Orthodox Bible contains 77 book whereas the Protestant Bible has only 66. That catchy song I grew up with as a Baptist child just doesn’t work anymore.
  • My youngest daughter once found it appropriate to loudly fart during Communion. To add insult to injury she then announced it to the entire congregation. I wanted to crawl underneath the non-existent pews and die.
  • After spending all night at the Nativity vigil trying to prevent my children from catching their hair on fire, I ended up burning a large section of my youngest daughter’s hair. She reeked for days.
  • My oldest daughter once spilled the entire bowl of Holy Water all over the floor. I scrambled trying to wipe it up with my shirt before anyone noticed.
  • While visiting a monastery I went forward to venerate the icon in the middle of the room. I didn’t realize there was glass in front of it and I ended up face planting loudly into it. I hope the monks just shrugged it off as me being extremely pious.
  • Let’s just say that elastic banded skirts and prostrations don’t mix well together and leave it at that…
  • My children rarely make it to Liturgy with shoes on. We are always in such a rush to get out the door that something has to give… Typically it is the shoes.

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Since our conversion, I have done my best to raise pious Orthodox children. I fantasize about elaborate Pascha celebrations and nightly family prayers complete with incense and candlelight. I dream about homeschooling them with the perfect Orthodox curriculum. I’ve toyed with the idea of naming a baby Seraphim. Reality doesn’t look anything like this.

My family has had a lot of Orthodox growing pains, but I don’t sweat the small stuff. Every time I watch my children light a candle at church my heart melts a little. I smile as they proudly waddle up to partake of the Eucharist. My soul sings as I watch them venerate the icons in our prayer corner. At the end of the day, I know that the faith is sinking deeply into their souls. May the Lord help us as we continue our journey.