Catholics Do What?, Contraception, Culture of Death, Marriage, NFP, Pro Life, Sex, vasectomies

Risky love and the culture of loneliness

October 6, 2015

This morning was…well, let me back up. We quit preschool yesterday (and that’s a whole other post) and then went on to enjoy a fairly idyllic, sun-dappled pumpkin patch sort of day, so we all know what comes after that.

This morning, after very unwisely staying in bed with the baby while the dropouts watched an hour of SuperWhy, we proceeded to test the acoustics of every living area in the house and then the garage and then reheat the same cup of coffee three times. Which is not the same thing as drinking three cups of coffee, unfortunately.

So we went to the library.

There’s something magical about watching your kids interact with educational, unbroken toys in a somewhat civilized manner and knowing that you, the taxpayer, earned it. And that you won’t be the one cleaning up, because for some reason the public scrutiny makes them more helpful.

I’d settled into the feral children’s corner with my massive stroller after a fruitless search for an outlet to plug in ye olde laptop, whose lifeblood had been siphoned by SuperWhy. Alas, this was to be a non-working trip. (Why no outlets in children’s section, librarians?)

It turned out to be fortuitous, because no sooner had I settled in to nurse Luke then I met a unicorn. Another mom sidled up to me, baby strapped to her chest, and watched as her daughter and Evie exchanged fake fruit and Duplos and magnet tiles. She smiled and asked how old Luke was, and after I told her she asked what number he was.

“He’s my fourth,” I smiled, bracing for the gasp/smile/blink that almost always follows, but instead she smiled and pointed to her little passenger and said “same here!”

See? A unicorn.

(And I know plenty of other families with more than a couple kids, it’s just that I’m either related to them or they go to our parish or are in some way affiliated with the Catholic or Mormon church. So to meet someone totally organically, in a public place? Totally magical.)

We talked for a half an hour, easily, covering everything from naughty toddlers to nursing to not losing weight while nursing (lies, lies I tell you) to homeschooling to letting your dog eat all the crap off the floor under the highchairs to being really, really happy to have all these kids, because it’s totally worth it. They’re totally worth it.

It was pretty great. And I was seriously refreshed to just meet someone and be able to connect with them as a fellow mom and not have to answer a litany of questions about planning and birth control and life goals and sex.

Until right before we parted ways.

Casually, oh-so-casually, almost as a preprogrammed afterthought, she turned and asked me as she was preparing to leave,

“So, are you done?”

Oh, here we go.

“Well, I don’t know. We’re open, so it’s hard to put a definitive cap on family size.”

She smiled, “yeah, I know what you mean. That’s what I say too! But I told my husband, you need to make that appointment or we’re going to have 5 kids. So it’s on him now. I can only control myself, after all.”

Her friend nodded her head in understanding, “we only have two and I have been telling him the same thing! Gotta make that call and get in for your vasectomy, babe. Tick tock.”

They looked back at me expectantly, waiting for me to chime in.

Here’s the thing. I’m pretty good on paper when it comes to articulating what I believe and why, but actual interactions in real life? Those can be tougher. I don’t want to scare someone off, and I’m well aware of the need to “earn the right to be heard” before jumping in deep with someone about delicate topics, however readily they raise them.

But I’m also never not going to be shocked when a perfect stranger starts talking about her husband’s vas deferens. It’s just so weird. No matter how many times it happens, it always, always catches me off guard.

I guess I’m old fashioned like that?

I cleared my throat and volunteered this feeble tidbit, “well, it’s kind of cool that your husband isn’t eager to have it done, most women I hear from say that their husbands are the ones applying the pressure to stop having kids, and they’re usually sad about it.”

She tilted her head to the side thoughtfully and began to nod. “Yeah, I know he would love any kid we had, no matter how many.”

The conversation wound down as she and her friend collected their stuff and started to move toward the exit.

“I’m sure I’ll see you here all the time,” she threw back over her shoulder.

I smiled and told her I hoped so. But we didn’t close the deal. No numbers were exchanged, no phones whipped out to collect names or emails.

My hands were full of baby so I’m telling myself that was the reason, but I couldn’t help but feel a little sad as they walked away. And a little lonely. Not because I don’t have my own village – I do, and it’s thriving – but because I felt acutely the empty weirdness of our culture, the piercing normality of discussing one’s sex life and reproductive choices with strangers. And that the default answer to “are you done?” is, “yes, of course, and here’s when I’m scheduling the surgery to disable that part of my body that will make certain of it.”

How did we get here? And what should I have done differently in my interaction with her, I’m asking myself still, hours later.

She was happy. She had a good marriage, a beautiful family, and a husband who was willing to build that with her. And she still wanted to pursue sterilization. Because it’s what one is “supposed to” do in our coldly civilized world. And because she has been lied to and convinced that it’s best for her marriage, for her future. Too risky to live otherwise.

But wait, I wanted to ask, don’t you want to see what might happen if you continue living this story out the way you have been? And aren’t you nervous that there may be unintentional side effects to severing sex from procreation so permanently? Do you think it will be good for your sex life as a couple? Do you worry that there might be a reason humans weren’t designed for all-you-can-eat-buffet-style sex?

But of course, I didn’t say any of those things. And I wonder if anyone ever will say them in a way she might be willing to hear, might be able to hear.

Because we’ve been told so many times that our marriages can be good in spite of our fertility, that life can be comfortable and happy and manageable even though there are a couple kids hanging around…

But only rarely do we hear, if we hear it at all, that the thing we’re all supposed to be the most afraid of might be a good thing, after all.

That our fertility might actually be a significant reason why our lives are as beautiful and as joy-filled as they are. Messes and bodily destruction aside.

That it’s a gift.

That some couples – more than you might realize – would do almost anything, and often times do, in pursuit of the very thing you’re trying to protect yourselves against.

That’s what I wanted to say, but I lacked the time and the finesse and the relationship to do so.

But I hope somebody does say it to her one day. Before it’s too late.

And I long for an increasing recognition of this reality that our world seems increasingly blind to: that fertility is a gift, that our children are not the obstacle to our happiness and marital harmony, but more often the cause of it, or at least a significant occasion for grace and joy; and that life isn’t merely a series of contingencies and risks to be managed and shut down.

And that it’s okay for the plan to be “there is no plan.” At least not the kind of plan the world expects you to make.

risky love

design + style, Family Life, guest post

Loving your imperfect home {guest post}

October 5, 2015

Maybe you’re already reading Deme over at House for Five (six now, actually!) and so maybe it’s old news to you that she is the most phenomenal DIY queen, and that her ability to whip up beautiful rooms using thrifted or already-in-your-home-but-not-in-the-right-space pieces is sort of mind blowing. 

And if you’re not? Well then it’s your lucky day. She’s here to tell a tale of contentment, of gratitude, and of loving the house you’re currently living in, not because it’s perfect, but because it’s home.


(Not pictured: sweet baby O, the newest addition.)

As someone who blogs about DIY and putting a personal stamp on our family’s newish-to-us house, I could talk about homes all day.  Paint colors, furniture layouts, avoiding window cleaning…it’s just part of my genetic makeup. I can’t not think about that stuff.

But I get that not everyone finds the same thrills in slapping color on their walls and hacking up duvet covers to make curtains panels.  Your home might even drive you crazy. Or you may love it. Either way, if you have a home, you happen to have one of the most incredible gifts and a powerful tool.

Growing up my mom worked as a bookkeeper for an interior designer.  She would often bring home his discontinued books of wallpaper samples and catalogs.  I would pour over them, dreaming up ways to use them and how they would look in different rooms in the house.  I watched my parents slowly turn our childhood home into a place that suited our family….painting, carpeting, building……I loved watching it happen, and especially loved when they let my brother and I jump in on the design choices.  

Looking back I didn’t realize just how much they passed on the budget conscious DIY bug that would eventually take over my own home.  

I distinctly remember my dad’s football players coming over to tear up concrete in exchange for pizza and a good workout when it was time to break ground for our big family room addition. And a family friend doing days of electrical work. 

That addition was years in the making.

Prior to that, the only place to gather was our very small kitchen and equally “cozy” living room.  My dad would pack his athletes in like sardines to watch game film on weekends, and then host Bible studies during the week.  They dreamed of a bigger space to invite friends, family, and young people to gather.  And eventually they built that dream into reality.

The huge open family room welcomed youth groups for game nights and sports teams for celebrating. It hosted wedding showers and surprise anniversary parties. It was the hot spot for many a Superbowl, where we cleared out the furniture and had friends come bearing food and lawn chairs to accommodate everyone.  It’s where we gathered after holiday meals and where our family regrouped after long days of work and school.  It’s where we sat soaking up the words of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien as my dad read aloud to us as kids. 

My favorite memory is the fireplace hearth that became a sort of podium*. If someone was having a bad day, they stood on the hearth and vented their stresses. If someone had something important to say, they announced it standing on the hearth. It sounds weird now that I’ve typed it, but it really was the best. So many times we ended in hysterical laughter, even after tears.

All those things happened in that great big dream-turned-reality room.  But here’s the thing – they were happening before that large gathering space ever existed.  My parents’ doors were open when their living space was just teeny-tiny.  The invitation for people to gather in our home was always extended, even before all that extra square footage.  They didn’t wait.  The extra space simply allowed them to expand their hospitality.

You may not live in your dream home, but if you have a home you are way ahead of a huge chunk of the world by way of shelter, running water, and electricity. And if you have a home, you also have an instrument, a tool to extend peace, charity, and hospitality….first to your family and then to your community.

We can wait until we live someplace with a little more space, or until we finish up such and such project, or until we have a table, or whatever. We can wait to love our homes and invite others in,  but what if it’s years before those things happen…what if they don’t happen at all?  How much time will we have wasted?  How much will we have missed?

In our last house we took on a pretty large DIY effort in attempts to turn our dated kitchen into less of a brown cave. We took it from this….
….to this:

But it took almost a year for Procrastinator Pants here to get it done.  Which means for the majority of that time it looked like this:  

The half-painted, junk exposed, ultra-glamorous in between (and this is “cleaned up”):

Ugly? Yes. But still functional.  So, there was no reason we couldn’t have people over, save for my ego.

We hosted play dates, a women’s Bible study, holiday dinners, coaches meetings, and out of town guests while our kitchen was in this mid-reno state. Part of me wanted to just wait until the job was done, but looking back, we would have missed so much.

So, what if we invited people into our homes regardless of their size or the dishes in the sink?  What kind of home do you feel comfortable visiting?  I know that I’m much more at ease in a home where I feel welcome to plop down on the couch.  And that has less to do with coordinated throw pillows and more to do with evidence that a home is actually lived in. Our home’s seeming imperfections really can be an invitation for our guests to be themselves. Size and decor don’t have much to do with creating a beautiful, inviting home (though they can help), but open doors to imperfect, loved in spaces absolutely do.  

The way we view our homes can affect how willing we are to share them and how well our family thrives in them. If you’re feeling dissatisfied with your home for whatever reason…..maybe your growing family is making those walls feel a little too tight, or you’re still saving up for furniture, or maybe you’re overwhelmed by maintaining all the space…..there are a few things you can do to help shift your perspective. Over the years, these are a few things that have helped me come back to loving my home, and being willing to share it, just as it is.

The Gratitude List  

I’m embarrassed to admit how often I need to do this. A couple years ago we were unexpectedly relocated from New Mexico to Ohio for my husband’s work. We gained some additional living space and four real seasons #glorious. I remember moving into our home and being overwhelmed by God’s goodness and all the possibility swirling around this place. It was a DIY lover’s dream – plenty of opportunity to make the place our own, but totally livable as is. A few months later I caught myself looking around wishing I could change this, and tweak that, and if only _____ were different. Geesh!

If you catch yourself thinking about what needs to change before your home is “right” just grab a notebook and start writing out gratitude. Write down all that you’re thankful for in your home, and in your life. Keep going until contentment returns.

Get Rid Of Crap  

If you’re having an internal throw down with the need machine and are feeling that if you just had a few more things then it would all be better, do the very opposite and start purging. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but just do it.  

It’s sort of like standing in front of a closet full of “nothing to wear”. When we’ve packed a closet full of cute bargains that don’t really fit and we don’t really love, we have trouble seeing the things we do love and look great on us. We can be convinced that having more things gives us more options, when in reality they stifle creativity and muddy the water. Likewise when our homes are full of nice things that we don’t truly need, use, or love, it makes it harder to see and enjoy the things we do. I promise that you and your home will feel so much lighter if you grab a bag and start tossing.  

Clean Something  

I would never presume that you need to clean your house.  I would probably smack anyone who suggested that I need to clean mine, even if it were true.   What I will say is that I cleaned our bedroom the other day (which admittedly involved relocating a few piles into another room to deal with later).  And all of a sudden I could breath.  The rest of the house was a flipping train wreck, but I found myself wandering into my cleaned up corner throughout the day to just take a deep breath.  Because there was actually space to breath and think in there.  When my house is out of sorts, my brain usually is too. Which totally reinforces getting rid of the crap and clutter.

Organize It  

 Can we have an honest moment about messy houses?  There is so much pressure to have the ideal picture perfect life (fashion, relationships, home, body, kids, etc), but there’s also those glorious “keeping it real” photos to remind us that notion is unattainable. So, we can bounce back and forth between “Ugh! Nothing is working here, I need a new house.” and “Whew. She just posted a picture of her mountain of laundry taking over her couch. Thank goodness I’m not the only one. I’m letting it all go, baby! And while I’m at it, screw shaving my legs!” Too much? Well, you get the point.  

I think it’s important to remember that God is a god of order.  While there will be times, and even extended seasons, when the piles are taking over and hot mess doesn’t even begin to describe the destruction, we were not created to thrive in chaos. At some point, it is good for everyone that we restore some order to our homes. It’s good stewardship and good for the soul. We’re not talking pristine, friends, just restored.

Play musical furniture and shop your home  

My husband’s personal favorite (not at all, but that’s why there’s beer). Sometimes all it takes to give your house a pick-me-up is to switch things around a bit. Try shifting the furniture layout or move things to different rooms in the house. If you feel like your home is working against you when it comes to function, this is a great way to make a change in how the household runs. Our homes should work hard for us, and if something is not working or making you crazy, don’t be afraid to change it.

Start small

If you’re now in the fetal position after reading these, please don’t be overwhelmed.  Our homes come together over time and constantly need to adjust through new seasons of life.  They will never be perfect. So, start with one small spot.  Clean out the junk drawer or your purse, grab some flowers or branches from the yard and pop them in a vase by the sink, sit with your coffee by your favorite window (ignore the LEGO landmines), maybe even read that gratitude list.

It doesn’t take big efforts to come back to loving your home.  And when we see our homes as the gift they are, we can open their doors to bless our communities.  Sometimes that looks a family room full of lawn chairs and football jerseys, and sometimes it’s more intimate like tea with a friend.  Hospitality isn’t one size or one personality type.  That’s the beauty of God’s kingdom – there’s room for Him to move in any sized home and any heart that’s willing to open it’s doors.

(*Stepping off the hearth.)


Catholic Spirituality, Evangelization, Family Life, Marriage, motherhood

Doing small things with great love {when you’d rather be doing large things with maximum efficiency}

October 1, 2015

Motherhood has been for me, if nothing else, a school in frequently painful self denial. We’re not talking martyrdom here, just the run of the mill sacrifices a decent human being makes for those they love and, eventually, with practice, for those they don’t even particularly like.

But I’m a crappy self-giver.

At least when it’s not my idea to begin with, I am. I can be super unselfish when I feel like it, but those feelings are so clutch. If I’m feeling generous and well-rested and prepared to give, I can leave it all on the field.  But factor in midnight wake ups and repeatedly-delayed departures to Costco and getting cut off in traffic and urinary-based accidents all over the carpet? Not so much.

Enter motherhood. Enter the vocation of continual self-giving that is so utterly ridiculous in the eyes of the world and in my own eyes that only a non-human intelligence could have dreamed it up. Because oh my gosh kids, they

And often they follow you to the bathroom.

What I’m getting at here is that their needs are constantly one-upping mine and Dave’s. And your kids are doing the same thing to you, aren’t they? And if you’re a priest, your parishioners are doing it, calling you at midnight and asking for all kinds of ridiculous things. And if you’re a nurse, it’s your patients. And if you’re the guy at the coffee shop, it’s your pushy entitled customers.

We’ve all got ample opportunity in a day to be profoundly loving in small, mundane, painfully inefficient ways. Case in point? I’ve been sitting here for 30 minutes and I’ve written 4 paragraphs, having been interrupted 37 times by varying levels of ridiculous intrusions on my plans, my schedule.

I would be so much more selfish without these children. Outside of this vocation. And I say this with the full knowledge that I’m still hella selfish.

I was thinking about that this morning while I was picking up legos and cleaning up breakfast dishes and wishing I could execute on some of the lofty, productive plans I have for my day, for the month, and realizing all the same that there was no way, in this tumultuous season of life with a (very, very accommodating) newborn and 3 preschoolers, that I was going to be able to do most of it. And I was mad.

These kids so often present themselves as little intrusions, interruptions and alterations to my plans, to my rhythym of life. I’ve only just begun to realize in a heart way what I know to be true in a head way, that oft-Pinned maxim that my children are not an interruption to the most important work, they are the most important work.

But God help me, I’m still very much a product of this culture that has trained me to believe otherwise. Trained me well.

Combine our collective tendency toward calculating individualism and self-fulfillment with good old fashioned concupiscence and you have a perfect recipe for reluctant parenthood, particularly the maternal variety.

And so even for those women who have chosen, so it would appear, child-rearing over loftier professional aspirations, it can still be so tempting – it is so tempting – to go about the business of being mom with a grumbling, frustrated heart whose desires are constantly being thwarted.

I want to write a book. I want to plan that event. I want to get those bathrooms clean. I want to start and grow a life-changing ministry that will bring people to Christ and change the world. I want to prep and execute a perfectly paleo meal plan for the week, stripping away the obscene amounts of baby weight still hanging around like an unwelcome houseguest.

But I have to change another diaper.

I have to break up another toddler death match over broken Lego airplanes and a certain episode of Paw Patrol that was cut short by sibling aggression. I have to cook dinner that nobody is going to eat without complaining (and by cook I mean defrost something and put it on top of rice, because my freezer is still stocked with generosity that looks like casseroles). I have to nurse this fat baby and read this story instead of taking a shower or getting to the gym, at least for today.

(And sometimes it’s not just them. Lots of the time, in fact, it’s my novice failure to make good use of natural pockets of time when I could be putting on mascara or praying a rosary or doing push ups and instead I’m watching Netflix or clicking mindlessly through links about cats who lip-synch Taylor Swift songs. So don’t canonize me yet.)

I guess my takeaway is this: I’m not going to become holy on my own. And He knows it. If I didn’t have all these little needs who share my last name pulling at my selfish heart all day long, I’m sure there would be other opportunities for growth in virtue. Like a mouth-breathing nun who can’t say the responses in unison with the rest of the community. Or a superior who misunderstands my natural personality for pride and thinks poorly of me. Or, you know, tuberculosis.

I love St. Therese for a million reasons, but not least of all for her largeness of heart and grandiosity of vision which God took and reshaped and refashioned and handed it back to her in such a ridiculous package that you almost want to laugh, because otherwise you might cry.

I want to be a missionary and take the Gospel to the ends of the earth and join the ranks of the likes of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Oh, okay, here’s a vocation to a cloistered order of nuns who will mostly misunderstand and underestimate you. You’ll never travel outside its walls again, and you’ll die young after spending most of your time sweeping floors and washing altar cloths.

Oh, cool Lord. Sounds really great.

Except it was. Because she participated in His plans and set her own aside, she’s now she’s the patroness of missionaries. One of only four female Doctors of the Church. And one of the most beloved and well-known saints of all time.

Because Therese said yes a million times to a million little things, God gave her the world. But on His terms.

And it worked out pretty well for her.

St. Therese, you said you’d spend your heaven doing good on earth. Do some good on my behalf. Help my small heart to accommodate itself to the immensity of love present in the little things He is asking of me today.

“Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.”

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

st therese

About Me, Catholic Spirituality, Evangelization, Family Life, motherhood, Parenting, Pope Francis

Pope bait: a Philadelphia story

September 27, 2015

When we did the math on the World Meeting of Families and Luke’s due date, it didn’t seem likely that I’d be joining Dave for the event. All throughout his pregnancy I thought to myself, “if he comes 2 weeks early, maybe I’ll feel good enough to go. 8 weeks is a decent amount of time to recover before traveling.”

Well, as these things go, early he was not. Not by much, anyhow. But the recovery and reentry period into our new normal has been so good that about 2 weeks ago we looked at each other, Luke and I, and we said hey, let’s book that flight. It’ll be great.

And you know what? It was great. Luke’s a great flyer, I had the kindest seat mates, and there was a beer festival in the terminal just before security. I mean, come on. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Or maybe it does.

Maybe, after a morning of inspiring talks (Rick Warren, Cardinal O’Malley, Simcha Fisher), an encounter with the first class relics of Bl. (soon to be saints!) Zelie and Louis Martin, an evening of dinner and drinks with great friends, and a minimal amount of sleep, you awaken the next morning to the opportunity to join an old friend and a new friend with generous hearts and brave, barricade-guarding elbows and 2 extra tickets to a papal event.

And then maybe you spend the next 7 hours camped out on the concrete alongside your strong and uncomplaining husband in the hot autumn sun, a sweating and sometimes bodily-fluid-emitting newborn (still a newborn if 12 pounds? pls advise) strapped to your chest and you wait in joyful and occasionally bored and jostled hope for a glimpse of him.

Of Peter. Of Christ’s Vicar on Earth, a tangible witness to God’s fatherly love.

If you’ve ever been remotely close to the pope – to any pope – you’ve felt it. You know what I’m talking about; it’s the grace of office. It’s the undeniable transformative action of the Holy Spirit on a humble, ordinary human being, a sinner like all the rest of us and “a son of the Church,” by his own admission.

And it’s awesome.

It’s a soul-level gut punch of love and joy and unbelievable conviction of the love God has for us.

And if you’re a mom, and this happens? Well, it’s less of a gut punch and more of a head on collision:


That’s my baby.

And that’s a blurry, imperfect picture of a priceless moment because I was crying and shaking and couldn’t fumble my phone up to take the shot, so my slightly-less-emotional friend caught this one. And I thank God that I couldn’t muster ye olde iPhone into firing position, because you know what? He looked right at me.

And while I locked eyes with Papa Francesco and yelled to him in broken Italian and English and snotty mom-tears my love and gratitude, I felt quite clearly that he was looking at me, too. That we were two people in a crowd of tens of thousands, but for a second we encountered one another.

I don’t mean that he was as excited to see me as I was to see him (though if you’re reading Papa? big fan.) but that for the moment he took to look into the eyes of the hysterical mother of the balding baby he’d just kissed, he allowed himself to be fully present. To me. And then to Dave. And then to every other countless other persons among the millions and millions in the crowds all week.

It was such a gift.

And while the ultimate souvenir of a papal smooch and photo op has now been bestowed upon our little family not once but twice, by two different popes on two different continents, the real treasure remains for me that moment of encounter.

I actually feel a deeper sense of appreciation for his pastoral approach now. I think I “get” Francis a little more than I did 30 hours ago.

(And, happily, I’ve gotten a few more pictures, too. So it’s a double edged sword, this technology of ours, because while I was free to soak up that moment of encounter, it was the generous efforts of fellow pilgrims in the crowd surrounding us who sacrificed something of their own encounters to capture the moment. And I’m so glad they did.)

Thank you, Papa Francesco. For coming to our country, for speaking your heart, and for kissing my baby. Check the roster at the NAC for Luke Uebbing in about 22 years. I have a feeling this encounter will leave its mark on him, too.




Catholics Do What?, Contraception, Evangelization, Family Life, guest post, Marriage, motherhood, NFP

What are your plans? {guest post}

September 22, 2015

I am so humbled and delighted to have Susan of Sole Searching Mama here today. I started reading her blog way back in the day, and I remember vividly the thrill of hope that I could still be a runner (ha! we’ll see about that…) and a mom. Even a mom to more than a couple of kids. Now, her blog is about so much more than running, but I’m just telling you what hooked me. 

Susan is a fellow FUS alum, married to Steve and raising 6 of the most handsome blonde boys you’ll ever see. I can’t imagine what she probably spends at Costco, but I bet she will never, ever have to shovel her own driveway. She’s beautiful and she’s honest and smart, and I’m so grateful she’s here.


Of the many lessons motherhood has taught me over the past fifteen years, perhaps the most meaningful one is to be fully present to and embrace the little moments of each day.  Whoever said it’s the little moments that make a big life spoke truth.

I pray it’s a truth I can abide by, because every day I feel challenged to stay tuned in to the beauty of the life around me, especially when there are so many seemingly important distractions vying for my attention.

I was reminded of this “be fully present” truth in quite a profound way last summer. While standing at the kitchen table, upon which I was constructing freshly laundered towers of underwear and t-shirts, my task was happily interrupted when our three oldest sons burst through the front door, joyfully announcing their homecoming after being away for a week at their grandparents’ farm.

In a split second, the house erupted with testosterone filled chatter.  Smiling, I made my way with arms wide open toward the sweet chaos. In that moment, the Holy Spirit took hold of my heart and fixed it firmly upon the reunion of the oldest boys with the younger ones.  The intensity of their joy was indescribable.

Before I knew it, I was reaching out for my camera and managed to snap a few fuzzy pics (nothing works right when you’re crying), hoping to capture the purity of the affection between the brothers as they delighted in being in one another’s presence once again.

I’ve looked at these photos dozens of times since that day, with the hope of understanding, with greater clarity, exactly what it was about the reunion between our sons that gripped me so strongly.

Seeing them embrace was a transcendental moment, for sure. It was a glimpse of the eternal, and it made me feel as though nothing else in the world mattered but their love – a love whose origins are rooted in the love that my husband and I share, a love that is fruitful only because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

In my contemplation of the photos, the word “testimony” kept coming to mind.  I wasn’t sure why, but I let it simmer inside of me for a few weeks, during which I asked the Lord over and over again, why of the thousands of photos I’ve taken of our children is this the one that has marked my memory for life?

And, I think, perhaps that this is why…

Because, there is a testimony in those photos.

We live in a time where, now more than ever, people hunger and thirst for a testimony of love.  I’m not speaking of romantic love here, but the love that emanates from self-gift; the real, strangely indescribable, yet beautiful love that flows forth from surrender, from struggle, from the abandonment of one’s life plans for the unplanned life – the kind of love that seeks an eternal home, and awaits the ultimate homecoming.

As a mother, I’ve experienced such a love of surrender in countless tangible and profound ways, and I would like to share one testimony of that love with you…

We are a nation of planners.  It’s written in our DNA. As soon as we can talk, we are being asked questions that involve the making of plans.

What do you want to do today? Where would you like to go? What do you want to be when you grow up?

And those simple questions evolve into more complex ones, ones that look to the future, hoping that future is as bright and promising as the detailed list of goals and adventures we’ve carefully written for ourselves.

We plan which schools our children should attend, which activities to devote our time to, which career path to take, which person to date, which house will make all of our Pinterest dreams come true.

We plan for the life that will bring us the most comfort, satisfaction, happiness and fulfillment, a plan that avoids pain, and embraces comfort, shirks suffering and follows the path of least resistance.

Why do we do this? Because we’re human.

And, in our humanity, it’s easy to believe that we know what is best for us.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that planning is a bad thing, or that trying to avoid a life full of disasters and disappointments is, either.  On the contrary, planning and preparing are two very good and necessary things.

But sometimes it’s a greater good and a necessary thing to let go of the script, and allow Someone else to help write your story.

Two weeks after Steve and I got married, I was pulling weeds out of the landscaping that edged the house that we were renting, when suddenly I felt dizzy, almost nauseous.

It’s just the crazy Kansas heat I told myself.  No biggie.  

Actually, it kind of was a biggie. A super-sized biggie.

Let’s just say that that same evening I greeted my hard working farmer husband with a hot plate of roast beef and mashed potatoes served with a side of pregnancy test – the plus sign kind.

Well that was not my plan!  Actually, getting married fresh out of college really wasn’t part of my life plan either, but this, this was like the Lord went from using a pick-axe to a wrecking ball on my carefully orchestrated ideals .  Hasta la vista, project “Susan’s life!”

I may not have known what in the world the Lord was doing with me back then, but I did know that as He was slowly loosening my grip on all of the mission work/teaching career/travel the world plans that I had made for myself, He was planting in my heart a desire for something different.

What I found in that fresh desire, by way of providential circumstances and opportunities, was a great sense of freedom to open my eyes to the possibilities of a new path.  A freedom to let go of everything I thought I wanted, and the courage to hold on tightly to everything He wanted for me.

As a lover of the philosophies of John Paul II, I had deeply and earnestly embraced his words, Be not afraid, and Man cannot fully find himself except through sincere gift of himself.  But now those words were taking on new meaning, and living them in the form of motherhood was quite different than writing them down in my tidy little book of favorite quotes.

Don’t get me wrong, despite the state of shock I was in over being pregnant, I was also terribly excited. Steve and I both approached the altar fully and completely open to life, and even shared a great hope of having a large family one day. I just thought we might do something crazy before having babies, like actually go on our honeymoon (yeah, there’s a reason why farmers don’t get married in the summer!)

I look back, with great fondness, upon those early days of marriage and motherhood, especially the ones where we were living from pay-check to pay-check, with two boys under the age of two, in an apartment complex full of exactly zero couples our age who also had children.

We were definitely the odd-balls on the block. The other twenty-somethings all had jobs and dogs, and looked at us as if we were some unfortunate Catholic couple who was drowning in the NFP Kool-Aid.

But, you all know that things are rarely what they seem. 

I’m telling you, we had nothing, and yet we had everything.

There were no cell phones, or new cars, no casual dinners out, no gym memberships, no Saturday morning lattes sipped while shopping, no travel plans.  Instead, there were a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, garage sales, bike rides, and great anticipation of daddy coming home from work because, without texting, life is full of surprises!

But, best of all, there were babies.  And, despite the fact that we were in the red nearly every single month for two years, those babies NEVER ONCE made me feel like I was missing out on something better.  I didn’t know it then, but I see very clearly now, that they were the very best gift I could ever have received.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and rely not upon your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5

Why am I telling you all this?  Because I have a hunch that maybe there’s a few of you out there who aren’t quite sure if a baby or another baby is really going to fit into your plan of life.

I also have a hunch, ladies, that maybe you just need to hear someone say, I believe in you. You can do this. Don’t worry about what others expect of you, what they might think of you or say about you if you welcome another child into this world.

I’ve been there, too – afraid, unsure, lonely, misunderstood.  I’ve heard the criticisms and condescension, and I’m here to tell you that every little tiny ounce of fear, every unkind word was worth enduring for these little ones!

If you are afraid of welcoming a child or another child into the world, for fear of it being too difficult, please hear me when I say that babies are not the difficult thing.

It is the letting go of the plans we have for ourselves and the things that we think will make us happy, trusting firmly that the Father’s grace is sufficient for us – that is the difficult thing.

If we go back to Catechism 101, we learn that our goal as Christians is to know God, love God, and serve God so that we may be happy with him in this life and in the next.  It doesn’t say anything about serving ourselves.  To serve God is not always the easy path to take, but it is the one that will truly bring about an authentic happiness which is joy.

I put my self-serving plans before the Lord, and most of them did not match up with His plans for me.  In His will I have found great joy. Thank God. Literally.

But the truly beautiful fruit of trust is knowing that, within the wreckage of our plans, the rubble-remains of who we were and what we thought we wanted, we come to the very place where Lord does His best work.  He wants to, and he CAN, build the most beautiful life for us, if we let Him.

We have welcomed six sons through financial strain, illness, career changes, multiple moves, losses of friendships and loved ones, as well as countless adversities that I’m sure cannot even begin to compare with the sufferings so many others have endured.

And, yet, I’ll say it again: there wasn’t ever one moment when we felt that the burdens of life, the tears, and the anxiety would be lessened if only we had fewer children.  In fact the opposite is true.

Children are a beacon of light in the darkness, an anchor of joy in the storm, a pure witness to all that is true and good and beautiful in this world – the very reminder we need believe that those things still exist, giving us reason to hope in God’s plans for us all.

I witness this reality day after day as our children are the greatest comfort to my husband who is fighting through a very tough battle with Lyme disease.  He has told me over and over what a gift our boys are, and what a great consolation they are to him.

At any point in time, I believe I could have tried to salvage what was left of MY life plans.  Have a little pride and save yourself, honey. Satan temps us, just as he tempted our Lord.  And, I’d be lying if I told you that I never once pondered a temporary means of escape from the crosses life has asked me to carry or thought about what my life would be like if I had chosen to turn away from God’s plans for my life.

We’re all free to choose how we want to live our lives, and God will never take that freedom from us, because He loves us.  But there is a greater freedom in choosing Him, in wanting to follow Him, and I suppose that’s the catch.

When I look at those photos of my sons, I don’t want to escape. I don’t want a different life, a different story. I want to honor this testimony, to live most fully in and present to the little moments, and let God continue to do the planning – come what may.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.

Plans for welfare and not for harm, to give you a future full of hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

Family Life, guest post, Marriage, Parenting

The fatherhood of Batman {guest post}

September 21, 2015

I’m pumped about today’s guest post, even if it did take me until almost Tuesday EST to get it posted. Because parenthood. And night terrors. And growth spurts.

Meet my bffh, Chris. He’s my best friend’s husband, though technically he and I been friends slightly longer. Harkening back to Steubenville and the glory days of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, Chris is a class act. Case in point? He once took care of at least 4 tipsy bridesmaids at my bachelorette party because he was the last adult standing. And he has been known to pack a mean hookah. He and Elizabeth are expecting baby number 4 this fall and they hail from the rolling hills of central Virginia. So please join me in welcoming Mama Needs Coffee’s first official daddy blogger.


It wasn’t long after being introduced to Batman that my son began talking about Batman’s Daddy. From what I gather, he’s basically bigger, older, and has more authority than Batman. Such as, “No one can touch that, except Batman’s Daddy.”

Is this merely a cute imagination at work perhaps a peek at something more profound? This small child grasps an important metaphysical reality: a son is like his father.

Isn’t that obvious? Yes, but what if the clear ways a son looks and acts like his father are meant to teach us about the hidden meaning of fatherhood? My son’s imagination helped me realize that Batman can teach us about fatherhood if we unpack his justice, symbolism, and adventure.

When I think about fatherhood I ask myself, “What am I trying to accomplish?” Fathers naturally pass along a reflection of their physical image. But fatherhood requires more than contributing to the genetic makeup. By nature, fathers also possess the right and responsibility to shape their children’s minds, hearts, and souls. And this right and responsibility hinge on authority.

Batman and fathers both posses power. We often complain about those who have positions of power over us – a judge, president, or a boss. It’s not their authority that really bothers us, but the degree which they embody justice. This is why we love Batman – we crave justice and we see him giving to bad guys that which they deserve. My son learned that much from the scene on his Batman underwear: He has power and uses it justly (as opposed to the bad guys who use their power unjustly). My son came to understand Batman as having approximately the same powers as angels, so I sometimes refer to him St. Batman the Archangel. (In our house, Batman fights the devil).

The authority of a father is necessary to lead his children into truth, to guide and protect, and ultimately to love them. I’m now grateful for my father and his authority over me when I was young. Today, I desire my children’s obedience, not just so they don’t embarrass me by fighting and yelling through Harris Teeter (though that would be nice for everyone), but because if they don’t respect my voice, I cannot speak truth into their lives and I cannot deliver the hardest kind of love.

Fatherly love should embody our Heavenly Father’s method: “The Lord disciplines him whom he loves and chastises every child he receives” (Hebrews 9:12). We reject discipline today because we don’t think it’s loving and so try to reduce God (and good fathers) to “nice.” The whole point of fatherly authority is not to lord it over children but to lead them to truth. I can misuse my authority or become my kid’s hero, depending on how justly I treat him.

Powerful Signs

My son has never seen any Batman movie. Yet, his love for this superhero is profound. Why? Perhaps because his disguise is baller or because he saw other kids wearing Batman shirts. Maybe more than anything, all of us deeply resonate with symbols because they convey meaning and sometimes even deliver power.

Batman’s sign in the sky is more than just a symbol, it actually brings about his saving power. Human fathers are signs of our Heavenly Father, but they also have the chance to bring about the saving power of the Father. We love Batman because somehow he’s never far from his sign, just as God is never far from a father.

Fatherhood itself is a sign

Human fathers are meant to teach us about our divine Father: they reflect His truth, love, justice, and many other aspects. Now, am I so perfect, that I am merely trying to shape my kids into a reflection of my excellence?

This question reminds me of a man who was afraid to teach some boys about God the Father because he didn’t want them to attribute their own negative experiences of fatherhood to God. That’s an understandable reaction, since we often learn from what we know. However, he soon realized, “We all need to know that God is our Father, especially these boys.” By learning who God is, we can learn what fatherhood should look like.

But is this knowledge enough to guide men today through their inadequacies and failures? As they remember their own fathers’ shortcomings and find themselves afraid of their ability to love their children, they can be reassured of two truths:

God remains the perfect model of Fatherhood, no matter how many disappointing images of fatherhood we find on earth, even when that broken image is in the mirror.

God desires to help fathers fulfill their vocation to their families.

From all eternity, God has chosen each father to raise his particular children. This means loving them in word and action while ever becoming himself a better image of God’s fatherhood, even though that man be himself a sinner. And perhaps the most necessary virtue that produces great fathers is humility.

A humble man kneels before God seeking forgiveness, admits his faults to his family, and doesn’t have all the answers. That father’s humility shines a beacon of palpable love on God’s perfect fatherhood.

Though I am far from perfection, my ultimate goal as a father is to love my kids. I want them to hear, see, and feel it.

In twenty years if someone asks, “Did your father love you?” I want them to quickly respond with conviction, “Absolutely. I have no doubt about it.” The problem is, I don’t always love them more than I love myself and I don’t always feel that love. So this goal is important for me because it is a fresh challenge every day.

Because a father’s work, like Batman’s, is never done.

Catholic Spirituality, Catholics Do What?, Evangelization, Family Life

To counter the culture: Pope Francis, the World Meeting of Families, and the Synod

September 19, 2015

The Pope is winging his way to Cuba as I type. After a quick visit with the long-suffering Catholics under Castro’s island rule, he’ll be making his way to American soil: New York to speak before the UN, Washington DC for a joint session of Congress (and a fete with a truly farcical guest list assembled by our embarrassment of a POTUS at the White House), and then finally to Philly where he’ll wrap up the week-long World Meeting of Families by greeting a million or so pilgrims in the city of brotherly love.

Then it’s back to Rome for the long-anticipated Synod on Marriage and the Family, an historic meeting of bishops and lay experts from around the globe on the pressing needs and issues the Church is facing in the modern world.

Is there any question what those needs might be? In a global culture that is increasingly embracing wildly deviant interpretations of “family” and “marriage” and jettisoning the basic blueprints for the foundation of a stable society, the men in black (and the women who sit – historically – among the advisory panels and councils) have much to discuss.

But is it too little too late?

Certainly there are many who seem to think so.

Conservative hand-wringing over Pope Francis the “liberal” (nicely played, CNN, your version of the Pope is the only one many Catholics seem to recognize); progressive jubilation over “change at last!” in a laughable misunderstanding of ancient and authentic Catholic social teaching, and the list goes on and on.

But you know what?

The media doesn’t write the story of salvation history.

And be this a dark time in the history of Christianity, or the dawn of a powerful New Evangelization, the talking heads and sound bites circulating on social media do not have the last word on what Christ and His Church have to say to humanity.

Look around at our culture. Look at the families you know, at your own family, at those who are living out the divine plan for marriage and children in a culture that spits in their faces and laughs. And ask yourself this: where do you see joy?

There is joy in living authentically the plan God has for our lives.

There is joy – even amidst financial and physical and spiritual and emotional hardship – in taking up one’s Cross.

And there is joy, such joy, when those crosses come swaddled in (expensive!) diapers.

When the cross takes the shape of fidelity to a suffering spouse or care for an aging parent.

When the cross demands self denial.

Doesn’t it always?

So even though our culture might be telling us loudly and repeatedly and frantically that there is nothing to be found in a life lived for others, that real happiness lies in consuming and getting what’s ours and pursuing self fulfillment at all costs…the culture is wrong.

And we are called to live in this world and be creators and architects of culture, without letting the world shape us.

It’s a high calling, and honestly, it’s seems almost impossible when there’s wifi available everywhere and Netflix is always streaming and happiness is just a Starbucks away.

I will be the first to admit there is nothing I like more than seeking my own self interests first and foremost. Especially circa 6 am.

But there’s no real joy there. (And I’m not talking here about necessary self care and recreation, but about the escapism-style of entertainment and consumption that we’re all so frantically encouraged to pursue by the media, but advertisers and merchants, by social media and the un-winnable game of comparison and keeping up. It’s bullshit. And we all know it, but we’re all still tempted to play along.)

I think that’s what this moment is about, for American Catholics and Catholics the world over. It’s a powerful opportunity to look to our Holy Father who has come to us, a pilgrim who hardly speaks our language and who has lived and served in a culture vastly different from our own, and who has a message of joy, of mercy, and of simple solidarity.

When history writes the story of Pope Francis’ pontificate, I think it will look a little different from the prevailing media narrative of the moment.

He won’t be remembered as the Pope of Rolling Stone, as the global warming guy who asks jovially “who am I to judge?” (conveniently leaving off the first 2 lines of that quote, always.)

I think when the years have passed and the dust has settled, his real message will become increasingly clear. And it’s an old message:

There is Good News. It’s a Person. His name is Jesus. He came for every one of us, and He has a place at the table for each of us. Open your hearts – “open wide, in the words of another Holy Father, the doors to Christ.”

So hey, let’s pray for the World Meeting of Families. For the Pope’s time in Cuba and the US. And for the Synod in Rome next month.

I’ll be heading to Philadelphia next week and I’ll be blogging about it all, so stay tuned. And over the next several days I have some great guest contributors lined up to share their own joyful, painful, honest stories of marriage and family life. (And uh, speaking of family life, if you could pray for good behavior for grandma and also for a smooth, wine-filled flight with a sleeping newborn, that’d be great. Wink.)

Stay tuned.

wmof mnc logo


Can we talk about the sex we’re not having? {guest post}

September 16, 2015

Today’s guest contributor is another house favorite. Or favourite, as it were. Christy Isinger resides in the wilds of Canada with her husband Paul and 5 kids, who live, if I am not mistaken, adjacent to an actual working cattle ranch. It’s all very Pioneer Woman, minus the film crew and the syndicated tv show. (Though she does co-host a wonderful podcast with fellow blogger Haley Stewart)

Christy is a well-read, well-styled mama with great taste in alcohol, books, and BBC television. I think you’ll love her.

A short time ago it was the delightful and festive NFP Awareness Week. Which is a great time to share the good news about women’s health being something that is good not only for creating babies, or postponing babies, but for marriages.

But I want to talk about something we don’t want to talk about, especially when it comes to talking about NFP, and that’s talking about the sex we’re not having as married Catholics.

This is a topic that I know firsthand as I’ve spent my entire marriage charting, studying all the methods of NFP out there, diving into the science, pursuing all the tests my body can take, getting to know NFP doctors and teachers, oh, and having five kids in six years.

I’m one of those lucky 2-3% of women who can’t use NFP effectively even though she knows what’s she’s doing, follows the rules, consults teachers, and charts every day of her life. My youngest child is 2 years old and I’m not currently pregnant. In other words — I’m trying to impress upon you that I know what I’m talking about in the “not having sex a lot in marriage” department.

But where’s the conversation when it comes to Catholic marriage that at times, it makes sex an impossibility?

We simply don’t want to discuss or even admit that such time periods exist in marriage, because we’re so busy trying to sell our sex-on-demand culture that “NFP isn’t too terrible because it only takes sex away for 5 days a month!”

We’re so busy trying to sell NFP to newlyweds that we’ve forgotten about the rest of Catholics who have been married for a while, and yet still encounter tough times when it comes to intimacy, be it due to child spacing concerns, physical and mental health issues, relationship issues, and many other challenges that can arise in domestic life.

I think it happens to a lot more marriages than we care to admit or care to discover.

I think there are many reasons couples choose or find themselves forced into times where sex is an impossibility. Obviously this has the potential to create major pressure on a marriage, whether because of natural family planning choices and necessity or perhaps due to deep underlying marital strains and problems.

The fact is, chronic abstinence can quickly become a painful burden and cross for both spouses, and easy and quick answers usually aren’t forthcoming.

The time frames may be different from couple to couple, anywhere from weeks to months, though some couples may experience years where sexual intimacy isn’t a good choice for them. But what’s a constant is that this is a real difficulty and frustration that many of us feel that we are the only ones experiencing.

If we feel like we’re the only ones experiencing such hardships and crosses, it becomes so much easier to fall into bitterness and despair. To fall into sins of contraception, masturbation, pornography, or into resentfulness of our spouses, dishonesty, and betrayal.

If we think we’re alone and that our crosses are impossible to carry, we’re doomed to failure.

How many couples have given up on NFP because they felt their cross impossible to bear?

How many people thought their marriage doomed to failure unless they were having regular sex?

These are deep, personal crosses that affect almost every aspect of one’s life and marriage, yet we don’t discuss them at all.

If we only knew that other couples had gone through the same problems and made it to the other side, perhaps we’d have a bit more hope.

If we had priests we could talk to who would lend us practical and knowledgeable support, perhaps we’d feel a bit less invisible.

What if we better understood that chastity is a virtue we’re supposed to attain all our lives, and that sometimes it calls us to what St. John Paul II called “continence” in our marriage for periods – sometimes long ones – of time?

These are mature questions and issues for mature Catholics. These are questions without simple, trite, easy solutions that do not make pretty memes or brochures in the back of the church.

These are issues marriages face all the time, and yet we are left to assume that if we struggle with them we are alone, are NFP failures, and that our crosses are simply too much to bear and that we should give up, contracept, or split up.

I’m not proposing any easy answers here. I’m just wanting to acknowledge that these crosses do exist in many Catholic marriages,  good marriages, between faithful, obedient spouses striving to live the high calling of married life. They are also marriages that are enduring much, are suffering much, and are loving much.

We do not understand the crosses that we are given in this life, and yet Christ said “Take up your cross and follow me”.

We have to acknowledge our crosses, not to give them up in bitterness, pain and anger, but to begin offering them and living them with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of the world.

christy nfp post

About Me, birth story, breastfeeding, PPD, pregnancy

Why we chiro

September 10, 2015

All four kids are asleep and it’s still 30 minutes till my 8:45 bedtime so…why not blog about it?
I wanted to take a minute to shout out to a very special doctor in my life, and throw a little praise his way for how much his services have impacted our health this past year.

Last September when we were just starting to really worry about Genevieve and her chart-eschewing growth rates and gross motor apathy, a friend recommended that we see everyone’s favorite chiropractor (at least in Denver), Dr. Mario Chavez at Vita Nova Spinal Care, a NUCCA practitioner. I was tempted to file it away with all the other advice we’d been given as “to investigate at a later date,” but something nudged me to make an appointment.

Dave and I have been under regular chiropractic care for years, I as a former high-volume athlete and car accident aficionado and him as a guy who just inherited bad joints, but our former chiropractor was of the “whack ’em and crack ’em” school. I always felt great while he was working on me, but I was also always a little bit afraid he was going to break my neck. Also, my back usually started hurting again about 20 minutes into the drive home, so…not the best use of copay.

Our experience with Vita Nova has been utterly different from any other chiropractic care we’ve ever received. Which is part of what makes me want to write about it.

I’ve definitely had conversations with medical doctors and physical therapists and watched their eyes glaze over or roll ever so slightly at the mention of the c-word, so I know there’s some debate over the legitimacy or efficacy of the discipline, but we’ve seen such encouraging results in our entire family that I wanted to document them here in the event it might be helpful to someone else. And I’m a really big fan of both/and: we use both western medicine and alternative care, because if it works, it works! (And sometimes it takes both antibiotics and essential oils to kick an ear infection, you know?)

The two most dramatic stories in our family’s chiro experience are probably mine and Evie’s, so I’ll go with those.

Evie started seeing Dr. Chavez every week or two last September, and within the first two months we started to see tangible results. She’d been in physical therapy concurrent with chiropractic care, but most of her PT sessions involved lots of stiffened, panicked screaming and resistance to any sort of movement she wasn’t familiar with. This included hands and knees, kneeling, tummy time, rolling from front to back and back to front, and last but not least, standing/bearing weight on her legs.

After her first few chiropractic adjustments we started to see her visibly relax. Her little legs had been drawn up tightly most of the time, but gradually she started to relax them. Her hip joints, so tight that we’d had X-rays done (per the recommendation of the orthopedics team at Children’s Hospital) to rule out hip dysplasia, started to rotate more freely and she achieved almost a full range of motion. And then, best of all, about 5 months into her treatment, she finally started to crawl and to bear weight on her legs.

She was 17 months before she dropped her butt-scoot entirely, and 18 months before she walked, but she did it.

And now she runs.

And she’s very, very hard to catch.

I’m not saying she never would have gotten here otherwise, but it sure helped things along.

Once I started seeing Evie make progress under chiropractic care I was confidant that I wanted to sign up for the whole family plan, so we crunched the numbers and decided to make the investment by paying up front for a year of care at a substantial discount. I promptly got pregnant a month or so into our plan, and I believe that chiropractic was one of the best things I could have done for my 32-year old multiparous body.

Throughout Luke’s pregnancy I gained ridiculous amounts of weight (as always) and managed to keep a fairly impressive level of activity up (per usual), but I did not experience the usual back problems that generally come with trimesters 2 and 3.

I slept better, I kept up my workouts until the very day I went into labor, and I didn’t experience the excruciating low-back pain that had accompanied all my previous pregnancies.

Most impressive, though, has been the postpartum period. I was absolutely exhausted from a demanding and unpredictable labor and a somewhat traumatic delivery, and to top it off I was experiencing some of the worst-case-scneario side effects from the (two!) epidural(s) that you read about on Baby Center at 4 am and shudder while swearing silently.

When I would lie down or rise too quickly from sitting, an electric zap would run the length of my spinal cord, beginning at the area of the epidural catheter insertion and zinging its way up to the base of my skull. It felt like someone was shocking the inside of my spine with a cattle prod, and the reverb was traveling up to my brain.

I googled it (of course I did) and as I read other women’s stories, I concluded that I was, of course, doomed to suffer these aftereffects well into my 50’s because I was stupid enough to put narcotics into my spinal fluid (again), and that my number had finally been called. I’m not dramatic. At all.

About a week and a half after Luke was born I had my first adjustment (and he had his second, much-needed after his shoulder dystocia tussle en route to the outside world) and guess what? I felt one final mighty zing during the appointment and then…nothing.

I have had zero pain or side effects from those stupid misplaced meds since.

Also worth mentioning, though I can’t prove the connection with hard data:

  • I’ve never had as much milk or had as much success breastfeeding. And Luke is the first baby to “get it” so soon after birth. Within 8 days or so we were chugging along like old pros.
  • He sleeps beautifully with minimal fussing or gas.
  • He is super alert and has the head control of a grown man.
  • His Apgars were off the hook despite having a distressing birth with some minor oxygen deprivation
  • I don’t have postpartum depression (this one’s a stretch because yes I’m also doing progesterone shots and yes, both sets of grandparents are semi local now and yes, I have wonderful sisters and friends around me to help carry the load. But I’m sure that there’s a tiny correlation all the same.)

In short? My body is healing properly because it’s properly aligned and able to do its thing. And I feel good. Tired, yes. Overwhelmed? Frequently. But hopeful, too, because I can observe the healing and the progress that’s being made.

If you’re local to Colorado I highly recommend you make an appointment with Dr. Chavez and see about getting your own “justment,” as Joey calls them, because life is short, and a healthy body can do a lot of good in this world.


budgeting, Catholic Spirituality, design + style, guest post

Still Beautiful {guest post}

September 8, 2015

Handing the reins over today to the beautiful DIY queen Sheena of Bean in Love, another FUS friend and the mama to 3 lovely little people who are almost always impeccably dressed thanks to mom’s designer’s eye and handiness. (Seriously, check out her IG). Thanks for filling in, Sheena!


Hey all!  When Jenny and I were typing/chatting about what I could throw down over here she mentioned maybe writing about how I handle three toddlers (we two 3 year olds and one 1.5 year old) and I gave a hearty laugh-out-loud because, while we are all surviving and it might look like I know how to get things done with three littles underfoot, most days I look like a chicken about to be dinner and in need of a drink.  I have zero words of wisdom and truly I think it’s luck that we’re all still sane some days.  Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration but what I’m really saying is that there are lots more seasoned moms (like Jenny!) who are much more qualified to be giving advice on raising little humans.  I can say though that I really love what I do and I wouldn’t have it any other way…except if I was rich maybe I’d hire a mothers’ helper or six.

So anyway, I blog over at Bean in Love about stuff I do and make on a really tight budget.

Sometimes I use free things like leaves from our front yard as decor.  And sometimes I use weeds.  Yep.  Sometimes.  Like the time when I needed something “living” to fill a vase near the kitchen sink and I needed it quick before the kids woke up and all my cleaning efforts for the sake of a quality photograph were destroyed.

The weeds:


I expected them to survive the night after the picture was taken and no longer but they survived for over a week.  And, and, they mysteriously folded their leaves in at night which was equal parts mystifying, creepy, and uber cool.





After watching their impressive show for a couple of nights, I went to the all-knowing Google to figure out what exactly these creatures were and found out that they are so called “Chamberbitter”.

Not that you care in the least what they’re called but I just thought I’d share in case you want to go hunt for some Chamberbitter in your own backyard.  Though they be but weeds, they are pretty and they’ve got a lot of life in them post-pull.

Kinda like us humans, right?  We are but lowly weeds going through life hoping to someday spread our sprigs wide in the paradisiacal garden we know to be heaven.

We’re all different – some are tall, some are short, some produce flowers, some don’t.  Some weeds live short lives; others live long lives.  They’re hated among gardeners and farmers because they can quickly usurp gardens and fields.  They carry with them a stigma because of that reason that they are not wanted, not good enough, not beautiful, not productive, not worthy.  They’re not even given the time of day; not gazed upon lovingly, just uprooted and tossed in the burn pile.  That’s how we feel we’re treated by the world sometimes, isn’t it?  That we’re not good enough.  Not good enough to even be given a chance but just tossed aside in favor of something supposedly better and more beautiful.

But we are beautiful, each and every one of us.  Regardless of what the world tells us about our qualities and about who we are, we are incredible.  As it turns out, this Chamberbitter weed I found in our backyard is actually used medicinally in South America to treat kidney stones.  Crazy, huh?  Use those God-given talents my friends and keep soaking up the light and grace of the Son and one day God will pluck us from this earth and He’ll put us in our own special vase where our beauty will be on display for all to see.  And no one will ever know that we were once lowly weeds.