my family: January 2016

IMG_6505

I love re-reading the little Philomena updates I used to sporadically write. I realized the last one I did was well over a year ago. It makes me tear up now, because so much has changed in her life in this time.

And the changes are the type that are beautiful, but so difficult when you are in them. I am not just talking about Mena here. I have been refined and stretched more in the past year-and-a-half than I ever thought possible. Last night in prayer I kept getting the image of this huge, jagged boulder. It was being slowly, painfully chipped away. So slowly. So painfully. And yet, in the end was this small, sleek stone that you couldn’t help but marvel in its smoothness.

I don’t think I need to spell out that analogy for you, now do I?

[I intended this post just to be a general update on the past few months, but now I’m getting all deep, huh?]

When I wrote this back in July, I felt so empty as a mother. I was at the point in which every moment of every day reminded me of my insufficiency. I didn’t think it possible for me to handle even one.more.thing.

Our Lord has a way of taking this kind of emptiness, fear, and vulnerability and doing something unimaginable.

In this case, it came in the form of newborn baby N.

IMG_2063 bw

The first week of October we received this unexpected gift, the full biological sister of J. We don’t know what is going to happen in their futures, but we know their presents are inter-twined with ours for a reason, so we are clinging to our foster children with a fierce love.

That said, suddenly becoming a family of five was very overwhelming for quite awhile. It wasn’t until about December that we started to feel the fog lift a little. And there is no way we could have survived those first couple months without all the extraordinary help from our friends and family. Sometimes I feel a little guilty about how good we have it.

Blessings without number; mercies without end.

***

Philomena turned four on Christmas. Goodness gracious. [Are four-year-olds still considered toddlers? Or are they called “preschoolers,” even if they don’t attend preschool? I feel like I should know these things!] Four is looking eerily similar to three, in terms of challenges. And yet, she has these fleeting moments of maturity that give us a glimpse of hope. For example, just now Ryan came into the office to ask me if I asked Mena to sweep the pine needles from the (still up!! we’re working on it!!) Christmas tree, because that is what she was currently doing.

I hadn’t.

And there’s the fact that she takes her picture “chore chart” very seriously. If she remembers she didn’t make her bed, she immediately runs upstairs to remedy the situation. Also, now she sometimes lets J walk in front of her when we’re going up the stairs. That might not seem like much to you, but she is obsessed with being the one in front, so it’s momentous here in our casa.

IMG_6495

In general, she is still very head-in-the-clouds and imaginative. She usually has some dress-up outfit on at any given time, and she can easily play by herself for hours. I do a *little* bit of not-really-but-kinda schoolwork with her, which she absolutely adores. I have no doubt it has very little to do with learning the sounds of letters and is much more attributed to having one-on-one time with her usually preoccupied Mommy. We also read “chapter books” with her now before bedtime (one chapter a night), and I think it is the favorite part of the day for all of us.

IMG_6497

Philomena was really “into” Advent and Christmas this year. I don’t think my heart could have swelled more than with her off-key rendition of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” every night around the Advent wreath.

***

is 20 months now, and there are almost no words to describe his wildness. He has this astute radar that tunes into exactly what he shouldn’t be touching or doing, and he goes after such goals with an enviable fervor. I am constantly finding him on top of the dining room table or running off with my phone or trying on Philomena’s most-favorite princess shoes.

He gets frustrated very easily and throws countless (extremely short-lived) tantrums throughout the day. His speech development is a bit delayed (in that, he doesn’t really talk at all, but he has quite a few baby signs), so we think that is the main reason for said tantrums. At least, that is what we hope.

IMG_5341

HOWEVER…he has one of the kindest hearts I have ever encountered. Seriously. He is obsessed, so obsessed with N. From the first moment he laid eyes on her, he has been giving her kisses and cuddles. Granted, this affection pretty much always goes too far, and she ends up screaming at the top of her lungs, as I sprint across the room. But it’s the sentiment, yes? Also, if any kid anywhere (even strangers at Target) starts to cry, he gets this very concerned look on his face and goes over and gives the child these very heartfelt strokes.

And he’s weirdly helpful when he wants to be. He likes to bring me N’s diaper and take his plate to the counter. And after he hits or bites Philomena, he gives her gentle pats of affection to make up for the offense.

IMG_6433

In all seriousness, J has gotten very attached to us. He is indubitably a Mama’s boy. He actually cuddles with me before and after naps (this never happened when he first came to us), and when he is upset (which is often), only my hug can satisfy him. Many of his tantrums result because he can’t sit on my lap or I can’t hold him in that moment. And when I do pick him up, he burrows his head into my shoulder and holds onto me with an unnatural strength. This has earned him the nickname from Ryan of “koala.”

***

is three months of chub and happy. She is nice and plump, with those thigh rolls that make my motherly hormones go crazy. She is starting to vocalize so much, and she can baby-smile on command like the best of them. She actually is an amazing night sleeper, but basically doesn’t nap for more than 20 minutes at a time. C’est la vie. You can’t have it all.

IMG_6491

***

As for me and Ryan, we just kind of hang out all day. I am always on top of the housework and never stress eat or stay up too late. We read dozens of books about which we have stimulating conversation.

Not.

Like I said, life is difficult. But the good kind of difficult. Ryan is taking on three (!!!) classes this semester, along with working full time. I predict he will be just as calm and cool as he usually is about all of it. And that is said without even a twinge of sarcasm. The man is as close to a saint as anyone I know. Or maybe a robot, because he essentially never sleeps.

Since I have so much free time, I decided to take on a few work projects. Like writing another entire textbook. And teaching a master’s course in the Fall. I can assure you I will approach all of this neither calmly nor coolly.

But, the Lord is making me into a smooth stone. So there’s that.

[I just realized that this blog read like a Christmas letter. Unintentional, I assure you. Happy Holidays?]

 

instagram dump {day 2 of blogging challenge}

I am at the second day of a hopefully [hopefully] seven-day writing streak for the blogging challenge.

And for day dos, what is even more lame than posting a meal plan?

Oh, how about I just dump all the pictures on my cellphone here. Sound good?

What follows are the pictures I’ve put on instagram the past month or so…yes, I realize I already show you them in that nice little widget to the right.

So really, this post is entirely useless. So be it.

However, I did provide some mediocre captions. I’m a martyr, I know.

Our "office" is another name for our "laundry room." Therefore, when I spend *just one minute* switching out loads, Philomena always manages to pull down at least two shelves of books onto the floor. Her favs are Ryan's not-geeky-at-all graphic novels. This time, she went and found him and convinced the doting father to "read" her one.  He is wearing a Flash tshirt. Not planned, but perfect.

Our “office” is another name for our “laundry room.” Therefore, when I spend *just one minute* switching out loads, Philomena always manages to pull down at least two shelves of books onto the floor. Her favs are Ryan’s not-geeky-at-all graphic novels. This time, she went and found him and convinced the doting father to “read” her one.
He is wearing a Flash tshirt. Not planned, but perfect.

On this particular afternoon, she *insisted* on wearing her tutu. She proceeded to look at herself in every reflective surface in the house. This was in the midst of her dancing in front of the oven.

On this particular afternoon, she *insisted* on wearing her tutu. She proceeded to look at herself in every reflective surface in the house. This was in the midst of her dancing in front of the oven.

Beets. No filter. Most beautiful vegetable in all the land.

Beets. No filter. Most beautiful vegetable in all the land.

Philomena has gotten quite "motherly" lately. She rocks her baby dolls, gives them little pats, swaddles them. And, of course, she insists on diapering them.  She hates getting HER diaper change, but like her mother, she is full of double standards and contradictions.

Philomena has gotten quite “motherly” lately. She rocks her baby dolls, gives them little pats, swaddles them. And, of course, she insists on diapering them.
She hates getting HER diaper change, but like her mother, she is full of double standards and contradictions.

This is her preferred spot in the house. Again, like her mother, Mena has a propensity for staring off into space for long periods of time. She has found a way to do it in which it looks like our watchdog.

This is her preferred spot in the house. Again, like her mother, Mena has a propensity for staring off into space for long periods of time. She has found a way to do it in which it looks like our watchdog.

Ryan and I bought this outfit for her whilst she was still in-utero. We didn't even know we were having a girl, but my pregnancy-hormone-crazed self just INSISTED we buy it (full price even!!). I was so psyched that she finally fits in it. She was excited too. Obviously.

Ryan and I bought this outfit for her whilst she was still in-utero. We didn’t even know we were having a girl, but my pregnancy-hormone-crazed self just INSISTED we buy it (full price even!!). I was so psyched that she finally fits in it.
She was excited too. Obviously.

Drinking and cooking are two of my favorite things in the world. This time is was a cab and potstickers. This combo will definitely be a component of heaven. RIght, God? Right?

Drinking and cooking are two of my favorite things in the world. This time was a cab and potstickers. This combo will definitely be a component of heaven. Right, God? Right?

It is CSA season again, which means creative uses for random vegetables. Since my oven STILL is not fixed, I have to use extra creativity. This time is was in the form of a stovetop frittata. One of my better on-the-fly creations as of late.

It is CSA season again, which means creative uses for random vegetables. Since my oven STILL is not fixed, I have to use extra creativity. This time is was in the form of a stovetop swiss chard frittata. One of my better on-the-fly creations as of late.

Debate me if you will, but the best donuts in Wichita are undoubtedly found at The Flying Donuts. They are so fluffy and fresh! Mmmmm.... I might marry a maple frosted one, if they're still around when Ryan meets his Maker.

Debate me if you will, but the best donuts in Wichita are undoubtedly found at Flying Donuts. They are so fluffy and fresh! Mmmmm…. I might marry a maple frosted one, if they’re still around when Ryan meets his Maker.

My family had their every-other-year garage sale. My mother made me go through EVERY SINGLE box of mine in her basement. I don't want to tell you how many of those exist. Being the sentimental fool that I am, I cried through a lot of them, but thankfully my sister helped me with my detachment issues, and I purged A LOT of stuff. Freeing. So freeing.

My family had their every-other-year garage sale. My mother made me go through EVERY SINGLE box of mine in her basement. It’s embarrassing how many of those existed. The sentimental fool that I am, I cried through a lot of them, but thankfully my sister helped me with my detachment issues, and I purged A LOT of stuff. Freeing. So freeing.

My nieces and nephew are quite the entrepreneurs. I think they made $2.50.

My nieces and nephew are quite the entrepreneurs. I think they made $2.50.

Looking outside before a walk on a near-perfect Saturday morning. Sigh.

Looking outside before a walk on a near-perfect Saturday morning. Sigh.

I asked Ryan to add tortilla chips to my shopping list. He knows me too well. Way too well.

I asked Ryan to add tortilla chips to my shopping list.
He knows me too well. Way too well.

One delightful Sunday it rained quite a bit. And then the clouds parted, and we enjoyed dining al fresco on our new-to-us table.  See that beer? It is Shiner's Ruby Redbird seasonal ale. AND IT IS MAGNIFICENT. Try it.

One delightful Sunday it rained quite a bit. And then the clouds parted, and we enjoyed dining al fresco on our new-to-us table.
See that beer? It is Shiner’s Ruby Redbird seasonal ale. AND IT IS MAGNIFICENT. Try it.

My latest of Craigslist spoils is this wooden children's table. It was well-worth the months and months of trolling the site.  Philomena likes to color, but she REALLY likes to have us draw things FOR her. In all seriousness, I think I've drawn 2,348 monkeys in the past week alone.

My latest of Craigslist spoils is this wooden children’s table. It was well-worth the months and months of trolling the site.
Philomena likes to color, but she REALLY likes to have us draw things FOR her. In all seriousness, I think I’ve drawn 2,348 monkeys in the past week alone.

I have found that our little girl's naps are infinitely better when she gets outside to play. Thus, I make it happen, no matter what. This particular day, I dragged her to a terrible park in the blazing heat. However, she just toddled around the cigarette butts and burning play equipment like a pro.

I have found that our little girl’s naps are infinitely better when she gets outside to play. Thus, I make it happen every morning, no matter what. This particular day, I dragged her to a terrible park in the blistering heat. However, she just toddled around the cigarette butts and blazing play equipment like a pro.

Caprese skewers. Enough said.

Caprese skewers.
Enough said.

Bourbon and mint lemonade.  Recipe forthcoming. You will love.

Bourbon and mint lemonade.
Recipe forthcoming. You will love.

Again, I insist she plays outside in the morning...even if it's raining. She didn't seem to mind.

Again, I am the outside-play-in-the-morning enforcer…even if it’s raining.
She didn’t seem to mind.

weekend wrap-up: otherwise known as the four days we ate way too much food

So, I’ve been working on an extremely long, overly ramble-y post, filled with details important to no one. I’m going to attempt to edit it down to the highlights [using my ever-cheating method of bullet points] before I am interrupted by a baby crawling to the power cord to chew on it … or to a little piece of paper to chew on it … or to her dirty diaper to chew on it. Mena is very creative in her endeavors.

– Ryan’s birthday “weekend” [aka four days of shameless borderline-gluttony] began on Thursday when we celebrated with my family and his parents. I made this lasagna that Erika recommended. It was seriously delicious. The only step I’d add is to drain the meat/veggie mixture before adding the wine, water, and tomato paste. My sister suggested I do this, but I ignored her and insisted the grease would evaporate away with the water. It didn’t. Unless you like sopping up grease with garlic bread [um, okay, admittedly that was pretty awesome], don’t be prideful like me and listen to your wiser older sister.

The star of the meal, however, happened at the end. Ryan requested my father make his famous “Irish coffee.” This treat is usually reserved for St. Patrick’s Day, but well, my parents love Ryan and are happy he became my husband over some of the hoodlums I dated in my 20s [“hoodlum” in this case is defined as anyone not living in Kansas], so they happily obliged. My family is pretty big on rituals and tradition, and this is no exception. My parents have these special glasses that are only used for this process. [In fact, the first anniversary gift my mom gave my dad when they were young and poor was two of these glasses. They have added onto the collection over the years.] First, my dad swipes the rim with a lime and sugar. Then, he pours in a shot-ish of Irish whiskey. After that, he heats the glass over a flame and actually lights the whiskey on fire. It’s pretty awesome. The picture below doesn’t do it justice. Then, my mom asks “regular or decaf?” and pours in the coffee. She tops it with homemade whipped cream and crème de menthe and hands it to you with a cloth napkin, lest you hurt your hand on the heat.

My sister and I both remember our first “real” Irish coffee after we turned 21. As kids, we were only allowed a mug of decaf coffee with the whipped cream and crème de menthe. And so, the first true Irish coffee experience was a rite of passage, undoubtedly. And Ryan definitely felt “officially” part of the family when he had his first one. Sometimes I wonder what “rituals” Ryan and I will pass onto our kids. [I hope they involve alcohol and flames.] We both firmly embrace the worldview of the sacramentality of life, in that the physical, tangible realities here on earth can image and point to higher, ethereal truths. And rituals, even the most mundane, are all part of this vision of life.

ANYWAY…

– Why have I not been making zucchini fries for all of my life? Do it. Recipe inspiration here.

– Ryan and I tried to get into “Once Upon a Time,” but I think it should be re-named “Once Upon a Boring.” Blah. Does anyone out there watch this series? Does it get better after the first two episodes?

– We also checked out “White Collar” (available on Netflix streaming). Not bad. Although, I am embarrassed to like a USA Network original series. Maybe I shouldn’t have included this bullet point.

– Picture taken on the morning of Ryan’s day-of-30. As you can tell, they both look thrilled with my “smile for the phone!”

– This immodestly naked picture was taken after a total-body diaper blow-out. Like, the number 2 variety was from toes-to-head. We had to deal with this situation in the Target parking lot. Joy. [Say what you will about cloth diapers, but we’ve never had a blow-out with them. She happened to be wearing a disposable with this particular incident.]

– As expected, Ryan chose the grossest of gross, yet amazingest of amazing Chinese food for his actual-birthday dinner. We made it classy by downing this extraordinary wine. It was *so good* (thank you, in-laws!). We channeled our inner 14-year-olds and viewed The Hunger Games. In fact, it was released on Ryan’s actual day, so he stayed up until midnight the night before to ensure a Redbox reservation for said movie. I absolutely loved it, but my husband did not think it lived up to the highly nuanced literary genius of Suzanne Collins.

– On Sunday, Ryan’s parents had us over to celebrate. More delicious food. Lots of overly-hoppy beers. I made these strawberry lemonade bars for the second time. New favorite go-to summer dessert. (Thank you, Elizabeth, for the recipe!) Ready to go over to Grammie Kamie’s and Grandpa Gary’s:

– Sunday night, Ryan and I spent some quality time out on our “stoop.” We reminisced and got all deep about our lives, while he enjoyed a nice cigar. Our idyllic moment was only interrupted by our neighbor’s tearing apart a couch. Yup. There have been these three sofas sitting in their driveway for weeks now. We couldn’t figure out why, until last week when their teen-age-ish sons began loudly destroying them one-by-one. Of course, they choose to do this late at night, near the window where our baby sleeps. My smarty-pants husband said it reminds him of Graham Greene’s short story, “The Destructors.” Oh, did I mention in a week we close on our house far, far away from these neighbors? Evidence of destruction (the morning after):

– With all this food and literary talk I forgot to mention that Philomena actually clapped (instead of just hitting her stomach in glee) for the first time Thursday night and pretty much hasn’t stopped yet. Although she’s been army crawling for quite some time now, and she likes to go up on her hands and tip-toes, she actually did the “official” crawling thing for the first time on Friday. Very exciting stuff.

– I returned to once-a-week teaching. Ryan now has Mondays off of work, so he gets some quality alone time with our Little Lady, which is delightful for both of them, I’m sure. Some of you told me that you thought this recent ramble-y post meant that I wasn’t teaching on Mondays anymore. I apologize for the confusion. Yes, I am still working for part of a day, once a week. However, since it accounts for such a small percentage of my week, and actually I usually go home between classes, I still perceive myself as “at home” pretty much full-time…for better or for worse. I am really blessed that my former employer allows this unique set-up. Teaching and catechesis is such an integral part of who I am.

So, apparently I’m a crappy editor. I’m sorry for this verbose mess. Philomena is chewing on my purse at this moment, which I’ll take as a sign to stop typing.

30

I thought I’d interrupt my non-blogging streak to wish my equally non-blogging husband a happy entrance into the third decade. His cougar wife is happy to have him the same age as herself for the next 26 days.

I was quite sappy about his amazingness on Father’s Day, and all those things are still true. For his gift, I am going to take a break from my usual “Ma-ma, ma-ma. ma-ma” brainwashing of our daughter and switch it up to “Da-da” a couple times. I am so generous and thoughtful.

I really wanted to get some cute pictures of Philomena sporting a Ryan-appropriate outfit for her Daddy. During his shower this morning, I hastily dressed her, but she was in a “mood,” and the lighting was terrible. I even bribed her with the forbidden lens cap, but alas this is the best I could get.

Happy Birthday, Daddy. We love you.

[Yeah, I probably should figure out how to crop photos, eh?]

my husband is an old man

To wrap up my Father’s Day “series” [kind of] I thought I’d overshare more about my hubby.

Technically, Ryan is 11 months my junior [I am cougar; hear me roar]. But, actually, he’s pretty much a geriatric.

Allow me to prove this to you.

Top Ten Reasons My Husband is an Old Man

1. He wears hats. A lot of hats. Never baseball caps. Old man hats. The evidence abounds:

2. He drinks whiskey straight up. From a special glass that’s made for whiskey. Although he likes scotch and bourbon, he prefers “rye whiskey” as his regular drink of choice.

3. He shaves with this stuff (see below). Do you know what those items are? Nope, neither do I. However, they definitely scream “barber shop scene in a black-and-white movie.” [Related- he also makes his own cologne. That’s not necessarily old-man-ish, but I was reminded of this interesting tidbit when I was getting the shave things for this picture from the medicine cabinet.]

4. He wears *a lot* of argyle socks. From our wedding day:

5. He always carries a handkerchief. Often he carries two, so he has a spare to lend to people who never have tissues on hand [me].

6. He smokes a pipe. Like, the kind with the tobacco that smells amazing and reminds you of your grandfather.

7. He likes cardigans. [This photo also features his fondness for tie tacks.]

8. He wears those sunglasses that go *over* your regular glasses. Similar ones here. [When we were dating I used to tease him a lot about his sunglasses. During this period, we went to a family reunion, and one of my uncles- who is in his 70s, mind you- was wearing the *exact same* pair of sunglasses! I thought this was amazing and used it as fuel for my badgering of him. This did not deter Ryan in the least bit; in fact, I think it actually encouraged him to embrace the old man glasses even more.]

9. He likes bow-ties.

10. He loves actual records and uses his record player on a fairly regular basis.

[Lest you think I am a total jerk, I believe Ryan is actually proud of his octogenarian spirit. Despite my teasing, I like it too.]

a belated father’s day

Yes, I know yesterday the internet was inundated with praises of fathers- our own, our husbands, our wonderful priests. However, we were traveling, traveling, traveling yesterday, so I didn’t get a chance to post. Indeed, both Ryan and my dad truly lived their fatherhood callings via 12 hours in the car with whiney little people [and wives/daughters].

Even though it’s late [quite fitting for my procrastinating self], I wanted to say “I love you” to the man who formed me into the woman I am today, whose patience and wisdom is the voice most resounding in my conscience, who is the best story teller you will ever meet, who worked soooooo many difficult, long hours to provide for us, who displays unwavering strength in faith and conviction, and who has taken on the role of “Papa” with grace and laughter. When I grow up, I want to be just like you, Dad.

As a mother for 6 months now, I have witnessed beauty beyond my imagination. Without question, one of the greatest of these beauties has been seeing my husband become a father. Almost every day I am rendered speechless by Ryan’s never-ever-ever ending patience with Mena and me. He not only tolerates my crazy, but truly loves me through it and helps me be a better woman and mother.  He has these special ways of holding her, of communicating with her that are so unique, so “Daddy,” that it makes my heart race with affection. And she loves him dearly too. In fact, I can’t even feed Philomena with Ryan in the room, because she’ll ignore me and her food source just to gaze and giggle at him. It brings tears to my eyes [the good kind] to think about their relationship developing over the years. I have no doubt that- like me- she might have difficulty finding a husband, because of the high standards set before her.

This is the point in which, if I was truly honoring  Ryan, I should undercut all this sugary-sweetness with a wry, sarcastic comment. However, this is my blog, not his, and I can be as sappy as you want. So there.

providence in duct tape and carpenter jeans

It is my full intention to chronicle my husband’s and my “story” on this blog sometime for posterity. Whenever anyone asks how we met, I always begin with something like, “well, Ryan and I were kind-of, barely acquaintances in high school, but really the only thing I remember about him was that he had a duct-tape blazer. Then, we re-met about 9 years later….”

And so, it was to my complete surprise when a mutual friend mentioned she had a picture of us together from high school. Not just any picture, but one of us hugging. This was confounding to me, because I have never ever been a big “hugger,” and I certainly have no recollection whatsoever of bestowing one upon that tall-and-skinny guy adorned in duct tape.

But, apparently I did:

Weird, eh? This is just more evidence of the string of God’s providence woven within our lives. And further proof that we might not always see His plan in the present, but boy, oh boy He has one. “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you … plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 [Yup, a future of hope. And marriage. And a baby.]

[On a sidenote of vanity- um, check out my outfit. Those jeans. That purse. The hair. Ryan is cringing for good reason.]

The husband also reacted to said picture via blog-ness.