Friday pray along

Each gumdrop is in its place...
All the presents have been wrapped...

All the Advent doors have been opened...

The Christ Child has completed the Nativity...

Oh yes, the big day is here. For us, Christmas Eve holds almost more magic than Christmas Day. We get together with friends, open presents, eat the same soup I've had every year since I can remember and we go to my favorite mass of the year. There is just something about Christmas Eve mass that feels more peaceful, more joyful, more holy. (Perhaps that explains why everyone who just couldn't make it all year round somehow manages to get to this one amazing service.)

Of course, no mass is holier than another, but taking a moment (or 90 minutes) to pause, reflect upon and celebrate the arrival of Our Lord Incarnate is certainly something special. I love it. I know it is so trite to say it, but sometimes the truth is just that... There is no better gift in the universe than the birth of the world's Savior.

So today, tonight, I will sing my prayer:

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth

What are you praying for this Christmas Eve? 

Here's how it works: Leave a prayer request in the comments on Friday's posts. It can be anything--something you are thankful for, a friend you are worried about, a desire from your heart... Anything. By leaving a comment you are also committing to pray for others who comment as well. We'll start fresh each week. That's it. You can even be anonymous if you wish.

Christmas card outtakes

Funny how my favorite time of year brought along with it my least favorite task: taking the annual Christmas card photo. All year long Addie smiles at the camera, poses and says, "CHEESE!" any time I ask. But for some reason when it's time to take the important picture, the one that goes out to practically everyone we know, she refuses to cooperate. Add a four-month-old (yes, I said four (HUGE sigh)) into the mix and you've got a total recipe for disaster... Well, depending on your perspective.

At first, Curt and I were getting super frustrated because all of our efforts to create the serene, adorable, isn't our family just perfect and cute? picture was SO not happening. I took a few, then he looked at them and said, "Why don't you let me try?" Then I looked at those and said, "Why don't you let me try again?" This went on for a while until we both realized that it didn't matter who was behind the lens: if the picture ain't there, it just ain't there.

Later on that evening we sat at the computer and viewed all 113 shots. Not a one fit the bill for the most perfect Christmas card. But as we looked, we couldn't stop laughing. Our kids may not have created a super picturesque photograph, but they were pretty darn hilarious. As it turned out, the card itself contained the best of the three outtakes, as all 113 pictures fit that category. Here are a few that didn't make the cut:

Ahhh... Merry Christmas!

Friday pray along

Deep breath in... and slowly breathe out. That has been my mantra ever since I went into heavy labor with Lena. Any time I feel my blood pressure rise, my anxiety grow or my jaw clench in frustration--just breathe.

Thankfully, the past few days have found me using that strategy less and less. Not because I've abandoned my greatest coping skill, but because I have been taking the time to take care of myself. I let the dishwasher sit unloaded with dirty dishes on the counter for an extra day. I walked past the vacuum cleaner over and over, wearing socks so my bare feet didn't have to notice that the floor had lost its squeaky clean feel days ago. I threw a frozen pizza in the oven rather than make dinner on a hectic evening.

Instead I took a few extra minutes to lie down on the couch, I read several blogs that I've missed so much in the last couple weeks, I played with my girls in front of the fireplace at dinner hour, I took long hot showers and ate lunch in front of the television. And you know what? No one died. No one developed a horrible sickness. No one starved. No one gasped in horror when they walked into the living room. Huh. How 'bout that.

In fact, I've actually been feeling a lot better. Oh the headaches are still there and quite annoying at that. But I no longer feel like I'm drowning in chaos or pain. (We also began to move forward with finding the cause of this headache business that has gone on for nearly a month. Answers are starting to come together and it looks like the solution will be relatively easy to deal with.)

All in all, this letting go stuff is finally beginning to sink in and my list of things that have to get done is growing smaller. For a gal like me who had always been a bit on the OCD side, that is a big deal. Whether stress is the root cause of all the drama in the past month, reducing the load can never be a bad thing. Because knowing what it really means to enjoy the time at home with your kids and actually living that life can often be two very different things.

I am still just at the beginning of this road and have so much to learn and overcome. But the last few days have brought me one step closer to becoming the mom I want to be, and that is worth all the headaches in the world. (Amazing what God uses to teach us His great lessons, isn't it?)

And now, lets get to praying...

Here's how it works: Leave a prayer request in the comments on Friday's posts. It can be anything--something you are thankful for, a friend you are worried about, a desire from your heart... Anything. By leaving a comment you are also committing to pray for others who comment as well. We'll start fresh each week. That's it. You can even be anonymous if you wish.

My prayer this week is that we, and all families, can spend less time worrying about the little things and more time focusing on the humility, awe and joy that was the very essence of Christ's arrival on this earth.

What prayer are you holding this last week before Christmas?

slowing down

Man, Friday was a rough day. When I look back at that post, just three days ago, it hurts my heart. It was the climax of a difficult week, with me in tears for most of the afternoon. That evening, I went out to pick up some pizza and called my mom on the way, desperate for some advice and validation. She listened and consoled the way all the best moms do. She told me she remembered feeling the same way I did and that it does get easier. Amazing how a 15 minute phone conversation can soothe the soul and calm the nerves. Thanks, Mom. And thanks to everyone who offered words of support and encouragement, and prayers. They were much needed and deeply felt.

We decided to do our best over the weekend to shake the previous five days off our backs. Saturday Curt and I strategized to divide and conquer, so I took Addie to our favorite place down the road to find our Christmas tree. She loved weaving in and out of the tall evergreens and I loved drinking in that gorgeous smell.

Finally we found "the one" and hauled it home to make its way into our living room. Welcome to our family, dear tree. O tannenbaum, o tannenbaum...

Now that our house is decorated for Christmas, there is a warmth and a calm that has taken over like magic, as it does each year. The drama and craziness of life with an infant and a two-year-old is still very real, but it's smoother around the edges with garlands, nutcrackers and nativities surrounding us.

As we move closer toward the most wonderful time of the year, that has also become the busiest, I must pause for a moment and evaluate how I spend my days. Until this wretched headache issue is resolved, and in order to survive and avoid meltdowns like the one I had on Friday, I am going to have to let a few things go. Just typing that now gives me a little anxiety, as I try to keep things around us just so. But it's the just so things that are slowly eating away at my sanity and tearing me down, one messy floor, dirty load of laundry, unwritten blog and unbathed child at a time.

Yes, unfortunately this space has added to my stress level as of late, being that I feel guilty when I don't have or take the time to write. So please bear with me as I feel my way through the next couple of weeks. I'll still be around and most definitely I'll be here for the Friday pray alongs, I just won't make it every day. My hope is that the time I can spend with you here, however limited, will find me a more refreshed and optimistic mama.

And now a rousing babe is calling me from her swing, so I'm off to steal some snuggles. See you soon...

Friday Pray along

Here I am on Friday with a hungry tummy as I hold my breath, praying that my girls sleep long enough for me to write something that is somewhat coherent. The past two days, that has certainly not been the case. For those who visit this space frequently you know that I rarely miss a day, and certainly not two days in a row, without announcing it first. I suppose that's why, on days when I'm unable to post, I start getting calls from family in the evening, checking on me... "I noticed you didn't post today. Is everything alright?" 

The answer to that question is yes, sort of. Everything is fine--no one is ill or injured. But these last few weeks have certainly been difficult for me. Perhaps it's because I've had a headache since November 22nd, or maybe it's that Addie's nap time has suddenly become half as long as it once was, or it could be that having two young kids at home has finally started to catch up to me. Whatever it is, I am so tired.

I really despise spending time writing rants or using this space to vent about how hard being a stay-at-home-mom sometimes is. All I will say is that these past few weeks, it has been really hard for me. On a deep level I still love it, but the days that I stay in "lounge wear" are growing in number and the pockets of "me time" I try and find throughout the day so I can feel rejuvenated are quickly decreasing.

Yesterday, the girls and I were out and we dropped by Curt's work to bring him lunch. When he got in the car and looked at me, he said something like, "Oh, honey. It's going to be OK." I didn't even have to say a word. I am just so tired, and it shows.

We have so much to be grateful and thankful for. I am healthy. I am able to function normally and engage with my healthy and beautiful girls. My family is together. We love one another. That's all that matters in this world, and I can easily be brought to tears when I stop and think of all the blessings in our lives.

I struggle with thinking that I should spend more time focusing on others because if I give more, then maybe I'll have more love and less anxiety in my heart. And then I think that I need to take the time to focus on my own needs so that I have a full heart that is able to give.   

So here I am at pray along Friday, tummy growling, eyelids drooping, now with a gorgeous baby in my lap, and I am having a hard time asking what to pray for... time to rest? a cure for my headaches? more gratitude in my heart? I'm not sure. Today I will simply ask that you pray for me and all mothers who struggle with finding balance... I think that might be all of us!

One thing I'm not too tired for is prayer. I actually seem to be doing a lot of that lately. So don't hold back--throw a piece of your heart into the pot. We'll hold it close and lift it up...

Here's how it works: Leave a prayer request in the comments on Friday's posts. It can be anything--something you are thankful for, a friend you are worried about, a desire from your heart... Anything. By leaving a comment you are also committing to pray for others who comment as well. We'll start fresh each week. That's it. You can even be anonymous if you wish.

fair trade?

I can't believe I forgot to announce the biggest thing to happen to this family since... well, Lena's birth! Addie is now 100% fully potty trained. Yes, that's right--number one AND number two (most of the time). Over Thanksgiving travels at Papaw's house, she said she had to go potty and wanted Papaw to take her. Then as she sat on the potty she said, "I gotta poop." And then she did. No coercing or bribery, it just happened.

She then got a piece of gum as a reward and since then I have yet to clean out a pair of panties. I cannot tell you how much this has changed my life. I mean, this is big.

It's really funny how sometimes she wants privacy for this new business and sometimes she doesn't. She'll tell Daddy to go away when she's really getting down to it, but when I go and check on her she tells me to, "come on in." And then there's the occasion where she wants me there, but doesn't want me to look at her, and then I'm treated with this:

What a strategically placed shower curtain! Hilarious!

I just wish her peeing was currently as consistent. For instance, today we were laying in her bed reading stories before nap time. I hadn't put her pull-up on yet and she decided our book was way too interesting to take a break, so she peed right then and there. Mommy was not very happy. As I stripped her sheets she kept saying, "Sozzy, Mommy." Hmmm... Cute, but still gross.

I cleaned her up along with her bed, put on a pull-up and we went back to reading. Then, just as it was time to turn out the lights and go to sleep she said, "I gotta poop." Really? Or was this just a ploy to get out of a nap? Either way, it's best to try. It was a good thing I believed her because poop she did. Now why couldn't those two things have just happened simultaneously a few minutes earlier? I swear I'll never understand the logic of a two-year-old.

Now I'm left to ponder the conundrum: is it easier to wash out poopy undies or do a whole load of pee wash? I guess Addie doesn't have to do either so to her it doesn't matter. As far as I know no one goes off to college almost potty trained so eventually she'll realize that all things excrement are better left in the porcelain bowl. Until then, I'm living the saying, life's a trade-off. Pee sheets, here I come. 

The wonder of a blanket tent

This morning I had my annual exam where I got to go and put my feet in the stirrups and such. The silver lining was having a few moments in a car all by myself and seeing my beloved midwife again. Seriously. Love her. When I came home, Addie ran up to me and said, "Look, Mommy! Daddy make a house! Wanna come in?"

I love that she thought I could actually fit in there with her. Daddy was pretty much beaming with pride over his fantastic construction job and the furnishings inside. Just what does an Addie house need?

A car with a mommy, baby and stroller, a CD player equipped with Taylor Swift's latest, a flashlight and an Aquadoodle pad. Of course. Well done, Daddy.

This warmed my heart and reminded me of the fun blanket tents my sisters and I used to make as kids. Under the bunk bed or with the slide on the swing set outside, something about those little troves was absolutely magical. A tiny little space that felt secret and private. A place to put just a few special things--only the essentials--a childhood list of what you'd take to a desert island.

It makes me want to create a new, modern blanket tent of my own. I would fill it with pillows, this month's Real Simple magazine, the sweater I still haven't finished knitting for Lena, a hot cup of cider and Andrea Bocelli's Christmas album.

What would your blanket tent need?

Pray along Friday and a winner!

Ah, the suspense is over. I used the True Random Number Service to determine that #17 is the winner. So Katharine Hahn, congratulations! We will connect via email to determine which style you'd like and I'll get it to you well before Christmas. Thank you everyone for participating. Remember, if you REALLY want one, they are super easy to make--just check out Vanessa's great tutorial.

Now onto some prayers. This week has totally kicked my butt. A serious lack of sleep combined with sick babes, a headache that has lingered on for nearly two weeks and all the drama we had to deal with managed to weaken my heart and turn my brain into a pile of mush. (Did I tell you we had to buy a new car battery as well? I mean, really!)

I spent more time than I'd like to admit growling out of frustration, crying from fatigue and cursing at the major network fall schedules' lack of new shows, thus leaving our DVR empty for late night TV watching. I also wondered where in the heck God was and why He didn't seem to be helping me out of the craziness.

Around the time I started this pray along, I decided I needed to revisit Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest. I've turned to this book many times in my life to revive inspiration in my soul and lead me toward what is true, right and important. It never fails to make me think and send me to my knees in prayer.

But even though I read the words, sometimes it takes a bit (or a lot) more for them to really sink in. For example, this excerpt from Sunday didn't have quite enough impact, it seems. Apparently I needed to live out the message in order to get it:

The greatest spiritual blessing we receive is when we come to the knowledge that we are destitute. Until we get there, our Lord is powerless. He can do nothing for us as long as we think we are sufficient in and of ourselves. We must enter into His kingdom through the door of destitution. As long as we are "rich," particularly in the area of pride or independence, God can do nothing for us.

Ouch. I guess while I was running around all week like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to do everything alone, begging for God to help me, I didn't really mean it. What I was actually saying was, God I need to you help me so I can figure this out on my own. Instead of what I should have done, which was to say, God I can't do this alone. I surrender my troubles to You. The end.

To really do that and mean it is tough stuff and I struggle with it all the time. I like to fancy myself superwoman, reject help and get to the finish line alone no matter what it takes. Because sometimes, when I'm home by myself with the girls, I feel like there's no other option and that's the mentality I use to survive the hard parts. This week has certainly proven otherwise and shown me that I need to come from a new frame of reference. Surrender, hope and trust.

Please pray for me, that I may live my life truly entrusting my sorrows, troubles and worries to the hands of the Lord. That I may put my confidence in Him alone and that when times get rough, I can let it all go and rest in Him.

What struggles have you worked to overcome this week? Let us pray for you.

Here's how it works: Leave a prayer request in the comments on Friday's posts. It can be anything--something you are thankful for, a friend you are worried about, a desire from your heart... Anything. By leaving a comment you are also committing to pray for others who comment as well. We'll start fresh each week. That's it. You can even be anonymous if you wish.


What I wore yesterday... and the day before

If you read what my week has been like in yesterday's post, then this photo will probably not shock you. No, this is not a homeless person who broke into my bathroom and borrowed my camera... This is me on day two of the madness that was the end of November.

A few things come to mind when I look at this:
1. Those slippers are as comfortable as they look.
2. My husband never ever has to worry about me having an affair with a repair man.
3. Addie doesn't know how lucky she is to have a completely congested nose so that she can escape the scent of a two-day-old mommy... which incidentally smells like coffee, chocolate and a whole lot of Clinical Strength Secret.

Just in case you're crazy enough to wonder, those are Old Navy slippers, drawstring pants and a nursing tank from Target, a J. Crew sweater that's about 9 years old, and a really old bandanna on my head. Sexy, huh?

I suppose the only thing missing was one of these:

Oh, you didn't think I'd miss an opportunity to remind you of your chance to win, did you?
Really, don't forget to enter! Friday is the last day...

...and if you want to see what other folks have been wearing these days, head over to The Pleated Poppy to have a look!