Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Baby #3 is a...

+JMJ+





GIRL!!!




The volcano was the perfect way to surprise the boys with the news! I can hardly think of anything that would be more exciting to them than an explosion of colorful lava unless it somehow managed to additionally incorporate trains, construction trucks, and dinosaurs all in one.... 

Gabriel (who poured the vinegar in) had been confidently informing me that our baby is a girl since the day we first told them about the pregnancy weeks ago. As soon as the pink lava splashed out he happily exclaimed, "Pink! So it means it is a girl! So I was right!" 

Little kids, I tell ya. Sometimes they just know.

To be honest, we would have been excited about the baby's gender regardless and I frequently told everyone I had no preference...but now I can admit that I was secretly hoping for a daughter this time around. :)

Believe it or not, we unintentionally dressed in blue & pink the day we did the gender reveal!

God is so good. And this little girl is already fiercely loved. Please, please keep her in your prayers as she continues to grow.

"For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him."
1 Samuel 1:27

Thursday, May 25, 2017

How Peter Got His Name

+JMJ+

Considering we've reached that point in pregnancy #3 when my husband and I finally allow ourselves to start thinking seriously about names (we wait until we discover the gender - so stay tuned for that announcement!), it should come as no surprise that baby names are now constantly on my mind.

Many, many moons ago I wrote about how we chose Gabriel's name and figured it's high time I did the same for our second son, Peter!

As soon as we found out that Peter was a boy we revisited the old baby name list we had first drafted back when I was pregnant with his big brother. That provided a jumping off point with ideas, although naturally our feelings towards some names on the list had drastically changed. Peter was on that list, but only as a good middle name.

Pretty soon we had settled on a first and middle name that both Michael and I liked a lot; it had a great nickname and the first and middle names were nods to great Saints as well as people in each of our families. This was a no-brainer - or so we thought!

We tend to keep our baby names private until the baby is born, which gives us ample time to sit with the names, think, and (of course) pray. Michael and I agreed that we thought we had the name pinned down but would continue feeling it out and praying about it.

Within a month or so I began having serious doubts about the initial name we had chosen. It was a fantastic name (which is why we have never told it to anyone in case we decide to use it for a different child), but I began to doubt that it was THAT child's name. I didn't initially mention my doubts to Michael, but after a couple months I felt strongly enough about it to express my hesitations out loud. To my relief, Michael said he shared the exact same sentiments! The longer we sat with that first name, the more convinced we became that it was the wrong name for our second son.

We were on the same page. But what name WAS the right one??

We quickly realized that Peter had shifted to the top of our list, not as a middle name but as the first. I had never thought I would use Peter as a first name, but suddenly my husband and I found ourselves loving it, which just goes to show that the Holy Spirit is constantly doing work around us.

We settled on Peter, but were at a complete loss for a middle name. If we couldn't find the right middle name it would be back to the drawing board...so again we prayed. And waited. And prayed. And for a long time we still only had "Peter."

Then, on Easter Sunday 2015 we had a long talk in the car on our way home from Rhode Island about potential middle names. We brainstormed at least 15 names and I finally began to feel hopeful that we could, in fact, use Peter as a first name like we felt called to. Out of nowhere we suddenly had multiple options which we narrowed down to only a couple.

We left that conversation feeling that "Matthias" had the strongest potential and agreed to pray about it.

For the first time since we agreed on Peter I was completely at peace about his name. I was convinced that he was Peter Matthias and within a few weeks my husband and I agreed that it was THE name.


I should mention that when we choose names we carefully consider origins and meanings. Our oldest (Gabriel Alexander) has names that mean "Strength of God/God is my strength" and "Defender of men." Not only do we consider how the names themselves flow together, but we consider how well the meanings go hand in hand as well.

Peter means "rock" and Matthias means "Gift from God/Gift of the Lord," which we felt was perfect.

Additionally, we wanted to choose a name that felt like a good fit with Gabriel's so that our children have nice sounding "sibling names." I like when all the kids' names sound like a list that flows, rather than having all different sounding styles thrown together. Gabriel and Peter absolutely feel like "brother names" to us, which further solidified our choice. Both our boys have at least one Hebrew name, which was not at all something we necessarily tried to do, but perhaps made us feel that much more confident that the names seemed to fit nicely.

I wanted to give my husband time to think and pray about "Peter Matthias," but in my mind the name was pretty well settled that Easter Sunday back in 2015. From that day I never had doubts.

Peter is about to turn 2 years old and my husband and I have commented to one another on more than one occasion that he is SUCH a "Peter." Nothing else would suit him properly, especially that first name we initially picked out.

In case you couldn't tell, I love the process of choosing baby names and feel like it is such a powerful way to prayerfully bond and better discover who each child is before we even meet them face to face. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of baby names to go consider.... ;)

"The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names."
-Anonymous

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Vacation that Made Up Our Minds (Or how we ended up in North Carolina)

+JMJ+

Back in July 2016 my husband's contract with his then-client in the Boston area had finally come to a close, and instead of instantly securing a contract with a new client (as my husband had been doing for the past few years as we followed his work from Michigan to Florida to Pennsylvania to Massachusetts) we decided it was time to take a break. We had been married less than 4 years and already lived in 4 different states and were blessed with two babies along the way. 

In short, we were getting burnt out. Our initial plan had been to have my husband continue his consulting career until Gabriel (our oldest son) reached school-age, but after starting completely over (and over and over and over) the thought of doing one more project then settling down left us feeling rather blah. I was yearning for stability, community, and unchanging close friendships we knew we could count on. So, my husband, Michael, agreed to take a break, enjoy a vacation, and we would go from there.

You can imagine that during all those years of moving around we were constantly discerning God's will in regards to our next steps and where we should go, but we were also continually discussing and evaluating what we would look for in a place we could set down more permanent roots. This had been an increasingly frequent topic of discussion as his contract came to a close and we were feeling pretty strongly about a couple of options, but there remained one more part of the country that had plentiful job opportunities for Michael that we had not been and could, for several reasons, consider as a feasible spot to settle down. Perhaps you can guess, but that place was North Carolina.

Knowing how we already felt about the other top contenders on our list, we decided it was important to use our vacation time to scope out some firsthand knowledge and thoughts about North Carolina. The bonus was that we could also easily spend vacation time in Charleston, South Carolina - a city that I had been longing to revisit as an adult and introduce my husband to. 

Thus, a vacation to the Carolinas was born!

Our first stop was North Carolina, where we spent time in Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh. In Durham we enjoyed some good food and visiting the most iconic site on Duke's campus: the Duke chapel.



Next, we dedicated an entire day to exploring Chapel Hill, which reminded me in many ways of my own college town...except without all the gorgeous Indiana limestone and much, much hotter. Still, it gave Michael and me both a sense of the familiar despite having never previously been to Chapel Hill.

In the morning we were blessed to meet up with one of my mom's cousins (who works for UNC) and her children. It was the first time I had seen her since my older sister's wedding in 2009 and the first time meeting each other's kids, who are similar ages and played quite nicely together. Then, we were off to explore the UNC campus!





We found fun souvenirs for the kids, enjoyed a great lunch, and definitely left with a better understanding of what life in Chapel Hill could be like.

The following day we dedicated to downtown Raleigh, which was largely spent at Marbles Kids Museum. The boys had a blast at the kids museum in Philadelphia when we were there a couple months prior, so we knew Marbles would be a big hit. Boy, were they in for a treat!

We quickly concluded that while Philly's kids museum was pretty awesome, Marbles was in a league of its own. Especially considering that admission was only $5(!), which was music to our Midwestern-grown ears. These were unquestionably our kinds of prices!


If you have young children and find yourselves in Raleigh, go to Marbles. You won't be disappointed.

In Raleigh we had the great fortune of meeting up with one of my husband's cousins, who the boys (especially Gabriel, who was almost 3 at the time) adore. More bonus points for Raleigh!

Truth be told, we quickly found ourselves enchanted by the way this place of 440,000 people managed to feel like the friendliest, most comfortable, small town. It's about half the size of Indianapolis, but reminded me of Indy in a lot of positive ways - which made this Hoosier feel right at home. Honestly, we were surprised to discover just how much Raleigh stole our hearts that day. 

Pretty soon, though, it was time to head further South to the Palmetto State!


Upon our immediate arrival we were able to get dinner at Fleet Landing, where we enjoyed ocean views and the company of a dear friend from my volunteer program when I spent a year in Chicago. She is originally from South Carolina and it was such a gift to be reunited in person (I hadn't seen her since our wedding). 

The next day we were more than ready to beach it up!

Thus began the laid-back, oceanfront portion of our trip. The boys were in heaven with all the sunshine, warm ocean water, and plentiful sand for digging. That first day we spent at the beach was honestly some of the most fun I have ever had playing in the ocean, due in part to how gleefully our boys soaked it all in. It's hard NOT to have a blast when you get to witness your children delight in something so simple and pleasant, after all.




After a morning at the beach we headed back to our rental for the boys' naps, at which point the kids slept and I read outside on the patio...which is basically vacation bliss in my book (no pun intended).


After naps it was time for more Charleston fun when we met up with my family (I have an aunt, uncle, and cousin in Charleston) at the infamous Angel Oak tree.


The boys had so much fun being little boys as they ran around the gigantic tree, climbing what they could, or poking it with sticks. Then, it was time for some (more) seafood (one of my husband's requirements for any good beach trip).


I'm tellin' ya, the food we ate throughout the entire vacation had my foodie husband over the moon, which didn't hurt the Carolinas' prospects as a potential place for us to live. ;)

One of MY personal favorite meals took place the following day when we explored downtown historic Charleston. We spent the morning doing a boat tour that cruised us past many of the important, historical locations; afterwards we perused the Charleston City Market. Then, we sat down for a delicious lunch where my husband was introduced to the Southern deliciousness known as chicken and waffles (pictured below) and I had some sort of fried green tomato sandwich (and sweet tea, of course). The fact that *I* remember the food from our trip so well is really saying something about how good it was....


In the Holy City we made sure to enjoy the Battery and White Point Gardens, Rainbow Row, and basically every other landmark we could possibly walk by before needing to cool off with some fountain splashing (for the kids) and some gelato (for all of us).


It looks like I edited this somehow, but I didn't; it was just that hot and humid!



The rest of our trip basically consisted of a lot more beach, more good food, and a bit more family time with my aunt, uncle, and cousin, before we headed north once again.


On our way back we actually stopped by (one of) the place(s) in North Carolina that would later offer Michael a job, because they were practically begging him to stop in and meet (what can I say? My man is pretty much a rockstar at what he does). We took that opportunity to also see more of Durham, since we hadn't spent too much time there on our way down.

FYI, Cracker Barrel tastes SO much better in the South

Before long we were stopping overnight in New Jersey to see another one of my aunts and uncles, and then we were back in Boston with a lot of thinking and praying to do.

The continued time off work also gave my husband the opportunity to finally recognize and feel things that I had been pointing out to him about our lives in Boston for quite some time - things that made us feel more strongly than ever that we would be better off putting down roots in either the Midwest or the South. No disrespect at all to our friends back in New England, but we just aren't New Englanders - which became painfully obvious to us the longer we lived there.

Considering we moved to North Carolina 6 months ago, you know how this story ends and I already wrote a little bit about the prayers and circumstances that convinced us we were following the right path in doing so. Our vacation helped us realize that we could have everything we considered desirable about the other top places of consideration combined (plus warmer weather AND easy access to beaches and mountains!). This place had all the potential we could ask for in regards to jobs, community, arts & culture, Catholic churches, schools, parks, various amenities, and the list goes on and on.

Thank Goodness we took the vacation that we did, because otherwise we may have never discovered a place which we could so easily call our home. More and more I see the intricate ways in which God is continually blessing us here, which I have nothing but gratitude for. It took 4 years of moving around the country, but we are finally home. I can only hope that all of you feel equal amounts of peace wherever the Lord has placed you.


"The breaks you take from work pay you back manifold when you return because you come back with a fresher mind and newer thinking. Some of your best ideas come when you're on vacation."
-Gautam Singhania

Friday, May 19, 2017

3 Generations & a Mother's Day Away

+JMJ+

Since I was away at Franciscan University for my sister's commencement (shout out to my husband for taking care of the kids all weekend!), I had a rare Mother's Day. I was able to shower, get ready, attend Mass, and eat food without first taking care of or planning around the needs of others. Speaking honestly, it was a pretty weird experience for this mama of two boys ages 3 and under.

However, it was also a lovely opportunity to spend more time with my sister, my mom, and my grandmother before flying home that afternoon.

Our morning began with Mass at the campus chapel; since it was my first time visiting Franciscan I was grateful to be able to go to church there and experience a bit of what my sister does on a regular basis. Then, we headed to a restaurant to enjoy a Mother's Day brunch.

The food was good, but the company itself made it a pleasant, one-of-a-kind Mother's Day experience for me. After all, how many of you that are married with young children typically get to spend the day with your mother and grandmother who all live in separate, far-off states (without taking care of your kids to boot)??

Pretty soon it was time to head to the airport, but before saying goodbye we made sure to commemorate the occasion with plentiful photographic evidence.

My little sis and me with our mom

With our grandmother

Three generations of moms!

What transpired next was the craziest of circumstances, which my grandmother immediately proclaimed "is a God thing!" You see, my mom, grandma, and I traveled to the airport together since we all rode in my mom's rental car. Their flights were later than mine, and even though my grandma had the same airline as me we said our goodbyes when I checked my bag - because at 89 years young she deserves to be wheeled to her destination.

So, after I got through security I texted my mom my terminal and gate number (D78). She immediately responded with "D79." I stared at her text, confused for a moment before I realized what was going on. Despite having a completely different airline and being in a large airport we had gates right across from one another! 

My mom and I quickly met up and as we approached my gate together who do you think we saw??? None other than my grandmother, who was patiently sitting in an airport wheelchair at MY gate - because her flight was the one AFTER mine that departed from the same place.

Truly, I had never experienced anything quite like this. 



So, I enjoyed the remainder of my time at the airport unexpectedly hanging out with my family.

Even with all the travel it was a nice way to spend the day. I got to celebrate 3 generations of motherhood within my family and I couldn't help but appreciate having a little breather from my darling boys and just focus on the child that was with me.


The following day would mark 18 weeks of pregnancy. The whole weekend I was feeling filled with hopeful anticipation about who this little baby is (A 3rd boy? A first girl?) because the big anatomy scan ultrasound was coming up and I felt so eager and excited by the prospect of soon discovering something so wonderful!

Then, returning home to greetings of warm, little boy hugs and kisses was the perfect way to end the day.


I know that I am so blessed to have these sweet children. At times it is chaotic, messy, and downright exhausting...but I honestly wouldn't trade all that for the world. The gift of motherhood and this crazy life are so complicated, but even when it's bitter it remains assuredly sweet. 

To those of you who experienced sorrow on this Mother's Day, you were held especially in my prayers. And to all of you fulfilling motherly roles, God bless you. The world needs your gifts and love more than you can imagine.

"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family."
-Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My First Time at Franciscan

+JMJ+

This past weekend I flew to Pittsburgh and was looking forward to the long-awaited trip for several reasons:

  1. I was finally going to see the place where my younger sister (Peter's godmother) has been studying and working for the past four years, 
  2. it was only the third time I had EVER been away from my children overnight, 
  3. I would see one of my sisters, my parents, and my grandmother, and 
  4. my little sister was officially graduating with her Masters Degree!!!

Technically my sis completed all her degree requirements awhile ago, but she couldn't walk in commencement last year due to studying abroad and having to delay her comprehensive exams until August. She has steadily been working since, but I'm sure she is happy to officially receive her diploma - and I know was happy to witness it!

On Friday night I had the pleasure of staying at the house my sister currently rents, which allowed me to be with her on Saturday morning, help her get ready for the big day, and share some quality time before things got busy.

Once all of the present family was ready and gathered at my sister's house on Saturday, we went out for a pre-commencement brunch. I think it goes without saying, but being reunited with family for a joyous occasion is always a gift.

With my little sis, the most recent Master of Theology in the family


Before long it was time for the main event!


I can hardly begin to describe how utterly different this ceremony was from all the other university graduations I have attended, largely because my older sister went to a school of about 12,000 students and my little sis and I obtained our degrees from a certain Big 10 school with the measly number of 48,000 students.... Needless to say, when I graduated from college there was no earthly way for each student to walk across the stage and have their name read aloud. 

The commencement ceremony at Franciscan University of Steubenville was everything I always imagined the campus environment and community itself to be: small, dignified, brimming with Hope, and permeating Truth.


Not to mention, the printed list of candidates for graduation provided a bountiful supply of solid, Catholic names - just in case we need some fresh inspiration during this pregnancy! ;)

After graduation we spent the afternoon watching my sister rejoice and take photos with her friends, visiting the campus gift shop (where we got SO many awesome souvenirs), and taking family photos as we toured my sister's favorite spots on campus.



I had heard my sister describe many of these places over the years and even seen some of her own photos of them, but it was truly a gift to set eyes on them for myself knowing how much these places mean to her. 




Soon it was time for a congratulatory dinner, giving gifts, and firming up plans for the rest of the weekend before we would all be heading our separate ways. That night while my sister was off with friends (visiting another friend in the hospital, who unfortunately missed commencement for medical reasons) I was blessed to reunite with a dear Hoosier friend from my campus ministry involvement back in college! I had not seen my friend, Liz (who now works at Franciscan), for 4 years - so being able to catch up and share more about each of our journeys in person was such a delight.

It amazes me that this was only my first time visiting a city and school in which my sister has lived so much life these past 4 years. To finally be with her, celebrate with her, pray with her, and laugh with her in the dear place that has been her home all this time is an experience I absolutely cherish. 


I love you, seester! You have a brilliant mind and a beautiful soul. I'm so proud to be your sister (and grateful you are mine!). I cannot wait to see how the Lord continues working in your life.

"A good school provides a rounded education for the whole person. And a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all its students to become saints."
-Pope Benedict XVI

Friday, May 12, 2017

Father's Day 2016

+JMJ+

As I continue to resurrect this blog that laid more or less dormant for so long there will be a quite a few recaps from events that transpired long ago. I could just skip over everything I failed to write about in a timely fashion, but then you would miss adorable photos of my kids and their shenanigans and nobody wants that!

Last year for Father's Day my husband, Michael, wanted to celebrate with a fun family outing. Truth be told, there weren't many things in New England that we felt were priced so that we really got our money's worth (Midwestern problems, I know - but it's hard to adjust to northeastern cost of living as people that grew up doing similar things for a fraction of the cost!). However, there was one place we had been that we felt was truly worth what we paid in terms of what the kids got out of it - and that was Thomas Land.


To be accurate, the place we went to was a theme park called Edaville, located not too far from Cape Cod; the previous autumn they had opened an entire new area within their park called "Thomas Land," where all the rides are geared towards little Thomas & Friends lovers. We had a blast going there when Gabriel was a little over 2 (and Peter was maybe 3 months), so we decided to go again.

The first time we went, baby Peter literally napped through the entire visit because we only stayed through the morning and lunch (and we still felt good about the price and what we got out of it, which is saying something). This time, however, Gabriel was old enough to stay through his afternoon nap time (he later fell asleep as soon as we began the drive home) and Peter could actually go on some rides!

Here he is riding the "Diesel Derby"

Plus, there were a couple rides that were not yet open the first time we visited the park so this time we got to experience it all. What a joy that Peter could actually join us on a few rides at only one year old! It is a great amusement park for young kids, I'm tellin' ya.

Riding "Winston's Skyline Express"

We usually spend the majority of our time in the actual "Thomas Land" portion of the park, but during lunch we have never failed to also visit the real locomotive they have on display.


This time around Gabriel (who was 2 years, 10 months) even requested to go on a couple of the generic (read: not Thomas & Friends) rides in the main area of the park, like this airplane:


After lunch was a good time to briefly head indoors to the air conditioning for the restrooms, changing table, nursing room, and, of course the upstairs level that houses small rides specifically geared towards young children. We were pretty much the only ones inside, so Gabriel requested to ride these little tracked cars over and over and over and over and over while Peter took a little snooze in the stroller.


Once Peter woke up it was time for our final ride of the afternoon - THE Thomas train (pictured above). It's a real train ride (led by the official Thomas the tank engine, of course) that takes you around all of Edaville.

Riding the train

The boys always have a blast on the Thomas train because A) it's Thomas, B) it's a train, and C) it gives a nice view of all the rides. As a mother I adore the Thomas train because it means I get to sit down for at least 15 minutes.

Being the cutest brothers

The entire day was a great way to celebrate the excellent father my husband is while having a lot of family fun. It's kind of crazy to think that this was Michael's third Father's Day (4th if you count when I was pregnant with Gabriel), because it feels like just yesterday I was beginning to catch real glimpses of what he would be like as a daddy or celebrating the gift of his fatherhood when Gabriel was just a baby. I do not know where the time went, but I do know that I sat on that Thomas train ride marveling at our 2 precious children and how much they adore Michael.


I'm so blessed to have this man as the father of our children. Just look at that image of him holding our baby! I captured it amidst fits of giggles as Peter delighted in being held by his father and smothered him with baby kiss after baby kiss.

Michael, you are such a dedicated dad who is already teaching the boys so much through your words and actions. Thank you for loving all of us so well and setting such a strong, positive example for our kids in countless ways. We love you and would be so lost with you, your love, and everything else you bless us with daily.

And a happy (belated and/or early) Father's Day to all of you with fatherly roles out there! You help shape and guide us (for better or worse); the work you do is so important, so thank you!

"A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms, even when his hands are empty."
-Anonymous