Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Five Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage

In case you missed the memo, Peter Matthias was born on June 2nd - which means I'm currently spending my days resting and cuddling a newborn as much as  I can while getting acquainted with the juggling act that is being a mother to two children under the age of two. Thankfully, some wonderful ladies have agreed to share some of their writings with all of you while I take a mini blogging hiatus during this time of transition. Today it is with great pleasure that I welcome a dear blogging kindred spirit, Tess of Little House in Chicago!

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My husband and I give presentations to engaged couples through the One in Christ program. Our goal is to help them build strong marriages that will last through whatever life throws at them.

When Stephanie asked me to guest post, I decided to share some of the advice we give engaged couples, in hopes that it can help your marriage too! I would also LOVE to hear your best marriage tips so please feel free to share them in the comments.

1. Remember the two biggest causes of fights

During our presentations, my husband asks the couples, "Can anyone guess what two things cause the most fights in marriages?"

Hands shoot into the air and people start guessing: "Money?" "In-laws?" "Sex?"

"Those are all good guesses and definitely can cause fights," he tells them. "But actually, on a day-to-day level, we've found that what causes most of our fights is being hungry or tired."

That always gets a lot of laughs, but once you start paying attention, you'll be amazed how true it is! For us at least, I'd guess 90% of our fights start because one of us is grumpy from being hungry or tired.

Once you start noticing that and taking it into account, you can avoid fights a lot more easily. We knew one couple who shared a commute to work, and actually made a pact that if one of them was overly grumpy from being hungry or tired, they wouldn't talk until they got home and ate dinner! We also tell couples that it's ok to ignore the traditional advice to "Never go to bed angry," since sometimes the problem is just that you're tired, and the fight will be easily resolved once you get a good night's sleep.

2. Learn your spouse's love language


You've heard of the five love languages, right? They include words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, giving of gifts, and acts of service. There is a quiz you can take to figure out your love language, but I think most people know themselves well enough to figure out off the bat which one applies to them.

I would encourage you to branch out of just those five categories and figure out what things unique to your spouse make him or her feel loved. For example, my husband is naturally much more tidy and organized than I am. He used to always tell me that he felt stressed when the house was a mess, but it didn't really hit home for me until one day he said, "I think a clean house is my love language." That made a big impact on me, and ever since then, I've made much more of an effort to clean up my messes.

3. Consider regular "state of the union" talks


I got this idea from a book about parenting, but it's great advice for anyone who's married! Consider scheduling meetings every month or every few months to sit down together and talk through any issues or concerns about your marriage, plus set some goals for yourselves, both personally and as a couple. We jokingly call these our "state of the union" conversations (can you tell we used to live in Washington, DC?).

The couple who wrote that book, Richard and Linda Eyre, recommend doing a five-facet review, discussing how you each are doing from a physical, spiritual, social, intellectual, and emotional perspective. We aren't always that organized about it; the goal is really just to set aside a sort of "safe space" to share with each other anything that's on your minds and hearts.

4. Seek out frequent opportunities to pray, worship, and grow in grace together


Sometimes marriage can be really hard, and can take more effort than you are able to give. That's when it's time to stop relying on your own efforts and give it over to God. God can give you the grace to heal divisions between you and your spouse. With God's help, your marriage can be a reflection of and witness to the love between Christ and the Church.

On top of that, studies show the greatest predictor of marital success is that the couple goes to church together every week—so if you want your marriage to last, make it a goal to worship and pray together as much as you can!

5. Build a community of like-minded couples and families

One of the best things you can do for your marriage is to be friends with other couples who have strong, happy marriages. You can be good examples to each other, but more than that, you can just have fun together and enjoy how great it is to be married! My husband and I have enjoyed taking road trips and vacations with other couples. We find it to be a great way to strengthen our own relationship and build friendships with couples who inspire us to be better people.

These other couples don't have to be your age, either —my husband and I love to get advice from an older couple we know who have been married for thirty years (!!) and are still so in love with each other. They tell us, "We want you to have what we have, and be as happy as we are after thirty years together." Their example inspires us every day. Nothing can compare to being part of a community of people who share your commitment to making their marriages better and stronger as the years pass.

That's the best advice I've got for making your marriage stronger. But I've only been married for two years, so I know there is a LOT more I have to learn! What's the best marriage advice you've ever heard?

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Tess is a Catholic, wife, mother, and part-time work-from-home editor living on the South Side of Chicago. She (not so) secretly would like to be Ma Ingalls someday and writes at her personal blog, Little House in Chicago, about her family's life as they strive to do things the "Little House Way" in their one-bedroom urban homestead. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Girl Power

In case you missed the memo, Peter Matthias was born on June 2nd - which means I'm currently spending my days resting and cuddling a newborn as much as  I can while getting acquainted with the juggling act that is being a mother to two children under the age of two. Thankfully, some wonderful ladies have agreed to share some of their writings with all of you while I take a mini blogging hiatus during this time of transition. Today it is with great pleasure that I welcome Emily of Raising Barnes

After you read what she's written here, you should seriously take a little virtual trip over to Raising Barnes. Not only is she a fellow Hoosier (so you know she's bound to be pretty great), but she has excellent taste in television shows and movies, writes beautiful reflections on motherhood and/or her Catholic faith, and is such a kind-hearted woman that she deservedly got nominated for "Miss Congeniality" in this year's Sheenazing Awards. If you enjoy what I write you'll undoubtedly like her, too. Welcome, Emily!

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I am so honored that Stephanie asked me to write a little something to help fill her space while she enjoys some much deserved “maternity leave.”  I hope you enjoy!

I have been thinking a lot about women lately. I’m not sure why this particular topic has been on my mind and heart lately.  Perhaps it’s the second child that I’m currently gestating.  Or that Mother’s Day wasn’t really all that long ago.  Or the fact that my best friend is expecting her first baby any day now.  Or that Stephanie (my gracious hostess) is already cuddling her second son.  Or that I have had several opportunities to spend some quality time with some amazing women that I feel lucky to know.  Regardless of the reasons, I have been spending quite a bit of time thinking about women, both women that I know and women in general.  Our roles, our lives, our responsibilities.  Really, just what being a woman in the 21st century is all about.  And, let me tell you, sometimes all of that thinking can get overwhelming. 

Luckily (or more likely, divinely), much of my spiritual reading lately has been reflecting on these thoughts that I’ve been mulling over.  I figure that I can’t be the only one who thinks about these types of things.  And if I am, please don’t tell me.  I don’t want to know if I’m a loner with my thoughts.  So, I wanted to share some of the spiritual books that have been helping me with my thought processing.

My Sisters the Saints


It seems fitting that I start with this book, since sweet Stephanie actually gave it to me!  I had mentioned quite a while ago that this book was on my wish list and she happened to have 2 copies.  And I am so thankful that she was willing to share it with me.  I’m still in the midst of it, but this memoir is really speaking to my heart.  On the surface, the author and I have very little in common; our life experiences are vastly different.  Yet, I am coming to find that this is one of the beauties of being a woman: we may be different, but we can still help each other and relate to each other.  Even if you happen to be doing it from heaven. :)

Those Who Saw Her: Apparitions of Mary


When I converted to Catholicism, I of course understood and appreciated Mary, but there was so much I didn’t know.  Then I met Our Lady of Lourdes, and I began to understand that there is a lot more to Mary than I ever realized.  I know that apparitions are not necessarily a “required” part of our Catholic faith, but they have become a very real thing to me.  I have loved learning about the times that Mary has chosen to visit us here on Earth, as well as learning more about the people she has chosen to appear to.  I know not all the visionaries are women, but I have found that there are many lessons to be learned from every apparition.  Especially when it comes to how we should be living our earthly lives. 

The Imitation of Mary


I just started this book recently, but I still wanted to include it.  The book may be small and the chapters short, but it definitely packs a punch.  The title really says it all.  The friend who loaned it to me told me it has made such a difference in her life; I’m hoping to get the same result. 

Listen to Your Blessed Mother


This is another book that I am just beginning.  Its focus is the few words that Mary actually speaks in the Scriptures.  It is true that Mary does not speak much, but the things she does say should cause us to pause and listen.  It has been nice to really reflect on those words and what Mary meant when she said them.  I’m really looking forward to digging into this book further.  Something tells me that the Blessed Mother has a lot to teach me about words.  Or, the lack of them…

Our Catholic faith is full of so many beautiful teachings about femininity.  Added to that are the countless amazing women of faith who have set such beautiful examples for us to try and follow and imitate.  For me, these women, especially Mary, were very intimidating at first; they are saints, after all.  But, now that I’ve really taken some time to read, pray and get to know all these women better, I’m not as intimidated as I used to be.  I look at them as older, experienced friends who are there when I need some help or advice about a situation.  I hope you can feel that way too. 

Who are some of your favorite saintly women?  What about some of your favorite spiritual reads?  I’m always looking for new friends and books!      


Emily is a wife and stay-at-home mom living the Midwestern dream with her little family.  She is a lover of chocolate, coffee and comfy sweaters.  You can find out more about her and read her ramblings over at Raising Barnes.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Introducing Peter Matthias!

+JMJ+

With great joy I'd like to introduce to you the newest member of our family: Peter Matthias!


Interestingly enough, I wrote on Monday night about how having to wait for our boy's arrival was probably God's way of blessing us with some extra time to enjoy making memories and prepare ourselves for this new chapter in our lives. That night, before Michael and I fell asleep we prayed together a somewhat lengthy prayer with all of our petitions and thanksgivings; as soon as we finished I immediately thought to myself, "I'm actually grateful that Peter hasn't been born yet, because I had really wanted to be able to pray like that with Michael before he comes. Maybe this is what God was giving us time to do." 

I fell asleep with the notion that after that special prayer time together we were truly 100% ready and in the right mindset to meet our son. I woke up at 4:30am to contractions that were already 2.5 minutes apart and the rest is history!

Peter was born on Tuesday, June 2nd at 9:25am after an astoundingly fast labor that began and ended within a total of 5 hours(!). He weighed in at 7 lbs. 12 oz. and is 21 inches long. 






Thank you thank you thank you for all your support and prayers and welcome to the family, Peter! We already love you so.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Final Countdown

+JMJ+

It's officially June! Other than obsessively maintaining order within our apartment and keeping it slightly cleaner than normal, all the nesting is complete (though if we're being honest, the necessary stuff has been done for awhile and everything beyond that has just been icing on the cake - which this neat freak is more than okay with).

Still, at this point we're ready for this baby to make his debut any time it pleases him....

The baby isn't even due until Thursday, but considering Gabriel was born at 39 weeks 2 days and I'm currently 39 weeks 4 days it just feels like I should be holding this boy in my arms by now. I'm doing my best to be patient and not wish these final days away...because I figure that God's timing is perfect. If our son hasn't made his debut yet there must be a reason why - so I'm going to focus on all the additional chores it allows me to do, the extra time it gives me to pray and prepare my heart for this new adventure, and all the sweet memories this period of waiting is giving me with my family.

When I think back on the past couple of weeks, we've really been blessed to make some happy memories. Considering this is where I find solace in having to wait for the birth of this child, I figured I'd compile some of my favorite photos from our final days as a family of three. And because I don't have the energy or desire to spend hours editing exposures, I'm going to take the easy route and post them as they first appeared on my private Instagram account. Enjoy!


38(.5) weeks!


Our friend Ben came to visit on Memorial Day Weekend
& he captured this photo before a delicious Sunday brunch.


With my boy(s)!


Snapshot from a happy afternoon snack with this little man. <3


39 weeks 1 day and all dressed up for a dinner date with the husband.
For the record, it was the best date we've been on in MONTHS - possibly even since Gabriel's birth. What a gift it was.


Michael and I wonder how much Gabriel comprehends and/or senses about his baby brother's impending arrival - because these past few days he has wanted to stay extra close to his mama's side. I just love him so.


Perhaps our final photo as a family of three???

This picture captures the best stuff life is made of. This past Saturday my sister and her family joined us as we soaked in the sun and splashed in the pool. Then the men grilled us a fabulous lunch that we ate outside. Not pictured is the photographer, aka my mom (who is in town for the baby's birth since my sister is flying to California).


Just a snapshot from yesterday morning. 39 weeks 3 days!


And today: still pregnant. 

"A mother's happiness is like a beacon, lighting up the future but reflected also on the past in the guise of fond memories."
-Honore de Balzac