The 10 Virtues of Mary: Angelic Sweetness

While I did manage to talk Jim into running a 10k once, short of manipulation I have few ideas as how to convince my spouse to do all that Joseph did for Mary. This is no insult to my better half. He attributes much of his vocation to marriage as being in the hands of Our Lady, so clearly he is willing to take on a mission of dramatic proportions. I’m just thankful there is always plenty of room availability in the maternity ward.

Ever since sweet, sweet Olivia asked me to reflect about Mary’s virtue of Angelic Sweetness, I’ve been thinking about how seemingly easily Mary, the most non manipulative woman to ever exist, can convince so many men and woman to do just about anything.

While I’m no scholar, to me, Mary’s Angelic Sweetness is what makes her so incredibly irresistible.

And don’t we all want to feel just a little bit more irresistible?

So let’s look at Salve Regina. 😉

Mary, in possession of the virtue of Angelic Sweetness, radiates joy and peace to those she encounters. Through this ability to communicate God’s requests to the hearts of men, God’s will, even with its inherent duty of the cross, is an invitation impossible to refuse.

At first thought of Angelic Sweetness, I concentrated on the etherial, youthful side of angel and the delicious part of sweet. This is the side of Mary that undoubtedly giggles every time my kids throw her a birthday party, put a party hat on her statue’s head, or accidentally smear carrot cake on its feet. Or when my CCD kids insisted that they draw the image of the Blessed Mother of God wearing high heel stilletos and sequins, or in a Pittsburgh Penguins Jersey with ice skates. Like the angels, she is light, not in substance, but because she understands what is important and lets go of the rest, including a 7 year olds understanding of heavenly fashion. She accepts us where we are and makes us comfortable, yet gently reminds us to be better.

I think it is this light and sweet side of Mary that draws us in to desire the will of God, maybe even when we least expect it. Like a chocolate cake at the end of a 7 course meal; we might not even know we can fit anymore until we set our eyes on its savory goodness. And while I’m hesitant to write a sentence comparing a soul’s encounter with the Blessed Mother to the marvel of pairing chocolate cake and elastic pants, I’m doing it.

Yet, Angelic Sweetness is also virtue of fiercely powerful feminine strength, of which Mary is the epitome. The angels, etherial in their beauty, light and swift in their form and approach, are also fierce protectors of God’s eternal plan. God’s will is so important, so precious, so delicate, that the angels waged war against one of their own who threatened to ruin it.

Mary may not be waging war like her angel friend Gabriel did. But, as a new mom with a little guy, I can say with confidence, I’m willing to bet her fierceness might display itself if someone goes after what her baby wants.

Sadly, I think if we polled women and asked “name a fiercely feminine figure,” responses would probably indicate Beyonce or angels of the Victoria kind. I think this might be because “irresistible” tends to be understood in terms of big boobs, tiny waists, and Kim Kardashian’s slippery bum. Our culture does seem to understand that there is something better. But, “better,” is usually in the prospect of experiencing a more gratifying sexual escapade, or being the one in possession of the body that can grant it. No offense to Queen B, but, I think the Queen of Heaven would like the word Fierce back. Because no matter how hot, sexy, talented, funny, rich, or charming that we are, the only thing that will really gratify us to the point of fulfillment is the will of God in our lives.

So often, I think of Mary as a stoic figure, always walking toward receiving the bloody remains of her son’s body at the foot of the cross. That image is surely not one to ever be forgotten, yet it ought not overshadow the depth and savory sweetness of her joy, the power of her strength, the irresistible nature of her beauty that is neither deceptive in its charm or fleeting in its presence. Mary’s sweetness is a feminine experience of the world without guilt. She is completely free to draw us in, make us stay, and protect our mission with every power granted to her.

Mary’s freedom allows her to be completely unshackled by societal pressure, stigma, worry. Her body, so incredible, saved the universe without ever walking a runway with silly wings attached to it. Her joy and confidence in God is so contagious in its essence, so convincing by its peace, that hopping on a donkey in the middle of the night using the stars as the only GPS seems like a great idea!  Feminists of the world! You’ve found your girl!

So, in these next few weeks, as Advent approaches, my prayer is that I may desire to be as irresistible, as fierce, as beautiful, as generous, as close to God as Mary, so much so that her “fiat,” becomes my own.

Now go and do some better reading:

This post is part of a series on the Ten Virtues of Mary, hosted by Olivia of To the Heights and running every Tuesday until the middle of December. So if you need some help in the virtue department, here’s a great place to start 😉


October 7 – An Introduction to the Ten Virtues of Mary – Olivia of To the Heights

October 14 – Lively Faith – Molly of Molly Makes Do

October 21 – Blind Obedience – Kendra of Catholic All Year

October 28 – Constant Mental Prayer – Jenna of Call Her Happy

November 4 – Heroic Patience – Kelly of This Ain’t the Lyceum

November 11 – Profound Humility – Carolyn of Svellerella

November 18 – Angelic Sweetness – Regina of Good One God

November 25 – Divine Wisdom – Britt of The Fisk Files

December 2 – Universal Mortification – Abbey of Surviving Our Blessings

December 9 – Divine Purity – Gina of Someday Saints

December 16 – Ardent Charity – Christy of Fountains of Home

December 17 – Massive GIVEAWAY at To the Heights – Just in time for Christmas

What No One Told Me About Having my 4th Baby

Three weeks ago, my husband, three children, and I welcomed a sweet, gentle, wiggly little baby boy into the world. He weighed in at 7lbs and we named him, John Christopher, after my father in law, one of the most wise men I’ve ever known. One of these long, exhausting days I’ll get around to writing his birth story. But for now, I’m back peddling into blog catching up.


Motherhood threw shock my way within the first moments of my being one. Our first baby boy was incredibly loud (even to the ears of an Italian) so much so that he was kicked out of the nursery because he woke up the other babies after the terror of his first bath, had the latching skill of a piranha, and slept in 5-7 minute cycles before demanding to be fed again. There I sat in perhaps the smallest hospital room (closet) ever designed in a quarantined floor because swine flu swept the nation in the very same way that Ebola might. I was alone and completely clueless with my very young, new husband. My hospital bag packed full of text books, pre-pregnancy jeans, and, my high heel booties, was of absolutely no hope. My plan to study for the graduate school finals I suffered through 5 days post baby while dressed in pants that button and stilted shoes quickly vanished from my delirious mind as all of my thoughts turned to, “how will I ever sit down again?” While everyone told me their congratulations, well wishes, and sent adorable plush stuffed animals, I was somehow left in the dark when it came to bleeding nipples, stitches, mesh underpants, and normal baby behavior. The three of us, still, somehow survived, and we did so happier than ever.

While I’m fully accustomed to the joys of mesh underpants this fourth time around, motherhood, so it seems, is and always will be, full of surprises. Here are some of its most recent unexpected joys:

3am occurs 24 hours in a row, or so it feels: I know it, you know it, all other moms know it. Children have no idea and still expect to be fed. If someone could only inform my infant that sleeping all day and partying all night is only acceptable in college, all will be well.

There will be blood: I sat across from Jim at our very dirty, mostly falling apart, hand me down kitchen table. With James reaping the benefits of having successfully tackled both of his sister’s in the race to tend to baby John Christopher’s desire for a pacifier, Rita drowned her sorrows in a third helping of steak. Josie continued in trying to distract her big brother from his post through song and clumsy dance. With everyone occupied, we raised our first post baby glass of wine and toasted to a Friday night home and together. Just as the delicious fermented grape touched my lips, Josie’s dance routine grew increasingly spirited catching Rita’s concentrated love of meat off guard. Three spins and the most clumsy plea ballet has ever known later, Rita’s chair was accidentally shoved out from underneath her feet. In that moment, Rita learned that heads, unfortunately, do not brace falls very well. After Jim and I discussed “I think it looks fine? Maybe not?”, we took our great parenting to the expertise of group text. Consensus confirmed stitches. To med express Daddy and sweet Rita went as I waited anxiously by the phone. Jim’s calm demeanor was first challenged when Rita did what every woman wants to do at the doctor’s office and threw a complete screaming and crying fit when asked to stand on the scale. The dr went on to diagnose that she needed staples. Every single postpartum  hormone began to be released in hysterical tears. My favorite detail, however, is the med express doctor’s immediate recognition of our last name based on the frequent visits from our next door neighbors. “Give Maria and Dan and all their boys my best,” he said as they left. Lesson learned: more kids, more med-express.

– It will be humiliating in unexpected ways: Like when I thought servicing the furnace would take 10 minutes and cost 10 dollars, it might take 4 long hours and cost much more. Enter: unprepared HVAC technician into a house with 8 children all 4 and under (the neighbors came to visit). After one hour and a leggo fight, he returned from the basement to say, “something is broken.” With the sweet sound of “Mom!! Wipe my bum!!” in the background, 45 minutes after that he asks, “is it possible something is stuck in the vents?” “Yes.” I confirm. Two hours and a sawed off pipe later, as JCDII demonstrated his impressive skill of nursing and yet simultaneously vomiting all over me, and Josie ran around in only underpants, he had found the problem. “Sorry that took so long, Ma’am,” he began nervously. “But it looks like the furnace exhaust had been stuffed with a considerable amount of rocks, chalk…and it looks like… a pair of dirty underpants.” Upon sight of my visible embarrassment, my sister comforted me with, “At least it’s not poop filled diapers in your gutters.” Lesson learned: it could always be worse, and it usually is next door.

– Questions are Asked: The last time I gave birth my oldest kid was two and mostly uncommunicative. This time 3 of them speak and they speak well. Questions include: “Mommy’s Diaper?” “Why can’t we jump on your belly?” “Why does your belly look like that?” “Why is that milk yellow?” “Why does that pumper sound like that?” “If the baby is out, why is your belly still big?” “Mommy, are you pregnant again yet?” “When will you be pregnant again?” “Can we help you get pregnant?” “Next time can you have two babies?”

– Generosity will astound: The meals, the gifts, THE PRAYERS! Unbelievable.

Joy will permeate: In perhaps the greatest grace filled moment of my life, I held sweet baby John Christopher and heard the rest of the clan’s pitter patter down the hospital hallway. My heart was beating in pure excitement that I could barely contain myself from jumping out of the hospital bed to greet them. EVERYONE TOLD ME THAT I WOULD BE TIRED. EVERYONE TOLD ME MY HANDS WOULD BE FULL. NO ONE TOLD ME I WOULD CRY IN COMPLETE JOY UPON INTRODUCING MY NEW BABY TO MY BIGGER BABIES. So they spilled chocolate cake all over the floor, wiped their faces on my sheets, broke the buttons that make the bed adjust, and nearly jumped on me so many times that my husband thought I might hemorrhage all within a twenty minute visit? THERE IS NO GREATER GIFT THAN THAT OF A SIBLING, EVEN IF THE YOUNGEST IS DISAPPOINTED THAT HE ISN’T A DOG.

– Somehow it’s easier Maybe it’s because the last time I had a baby no one could yet walk down the steps or maybe it’s because three were still in diapers, or maybe it’s because JCD’s siblings are totally obsessed with him? But, I swear its easier to have a fourth kid around! Don’t get me wrong, my hands? They are at their fullest. But, to have a new little newborn life! What a grace, what a life, what a love.


This blog is coming back. Stay tuned.

A Late Monday Momily

Last night a friend of mine posted this on Facebook, “Anyone else’s kids impossible to take to church right now? Need some encouragement” Little did he know that hours earlier Josie and Rita had performed their greatest balance beam routine of their Sunday morning Mass gymnastics careers, as James repeatedly asked just exactly how Lazarus came back to life 25 decimals louder than the priest’s microphone, leaving me tired of taking them at all.

Few things in parenthood leave me feeling more defeated than my children’s poor Mass behavior. With three kids 4 and under, I realize solemn prayer and recognition of the pews and kneelers serving a purpose other than that of balance beams and things on which to tap dance is a rather tall order. Nonetheless, I want to believe it possible for them to do slightly more communicating with God than gymnastics.

The truth is we’ve tried everything from cry room to front pew, middle aisle to easy exit. We’ve packed fish and banned food the following week because purposely creating orange cracker crumbs is much too entertaining to a two year old. I’ve packed a Mass bag. I’ve forgotten to pack the Mass bag. We have attended daily Mass as practice. We’ve hired a babysitter and kept them at home. I’ve taken the older two individually for Mass dates. Punishments have been threatened and ice cream promised. I’ve turned away both laughing and nearly crying when hair is pulled or faces are scratched, or the word “poopy,” is said at moments of silence. Crayons have been allowed and then permanently banned and tend to stain pew wood slightly more than a baby wipe can fix. We’ve praised the good and ignored the bad. We’ve re-read our child psychology books, and put in a call to Pavlov’s dog. No answer. I’ve allowed the bad to ruin my own experience of Christ, and yet, I’ve been given the grace of deep union with God even while a baby pulls my hair and tries to open my closed and praying eyelids. I try frequently to remind myself that my kids are 4,2, and 1, remembering  that the concept of mommy and daddy praying while they sit quietly seems to carry about the same contextual weight as bathroom privacy or cellphone etiquette. As anyone who has once tried to maintain a conversation with me via cellphone, these realities of raising little ones can be frustrating. Most weeks Jim and I leave Mass and feel relieved that “it’s over!” And that, my friends, is the poorest of parenting techniques.

This week’s Gospel, however, reminds me of something very important. “He wept.” It’s the shortest sentence in the Gospel, and to me, the most amazing. I know I should maybe be more amazed with Jesus’ ability to raise Lazarus from the dead, but, the full humanity of a God weeping at the sight of His friend’s sorrows gets me pretty good. While I fully realize relating a weeping Christ to my qualms with poor Mass behavior is more than a mile away from a giant hurdle, as Rita began throwing each and every Missal out of the pew on purpose, those words struck me and eased my very real motherhood frustration. Jesus gets it. He is deeply human and fully understanding of every crushed gold-fish, fought over animal cracker, and tip toe balance beam performance. He hears my prayers and theirs in the fullness of their simplicity and/or complete silliness. And it is for that reason and that reason mostly that I will continue taking them to Mass, most weeks at least, despite their lack of readiness or ability to sit quietly or participate. He hears them as much as he hears me, and communicates with them just as much, if not more.

Moments, that may have felt like an eternity of stern staring and wrangling, I was given a glimpse of hope in what often feels like the strenuous task of family Mass. Josie began singing the Holy, Holy with almost all the wrong words.  “Holy, oh holy Jesus! The holy spirit is in the sky with the birds.” Her rendition is probably closer to the Norman Greenbaum song than any part of the liturgy, but that’s not the point. She then whispered “are the angels here now?” I smiled and breathed a small piece of heaven and was sure of the prescience of every angel in all eternity surrounding the altar of the feast of all feasts. Even though it feels like a tireless task of no results, she has been paying attention. And when Rita soon after offered an elderly woman, sitting alone, the sign of peace, the contagious joy filled up three pews of people and hopefully allowed them to forget about all the times she threw missiles and hymnals too close to their heads.

This week and all weeks I hope to remember that it’s not about me or even the other people in the pews. Taking my kids to Mass is a chance, frustrating as it is, to offer my kids an opportunity to hear and experience the voice of God in their own lives. Sure, the homily probably sounds just like Charlie Brown’s teacher. And the readings never have any pictures with which to follow along. But God is much more powerful than all of these things and I refuse to limit his power by keeping it in the tomb of my desire to control. So next week, God willing, we will fly by the seat of our amateur parenting pants, break dozens of parenting rules, hoping for the best but expecting the worst and annoying dozens of Church goers in the process. And in all of it, each of my babies will spend time in the presence of God, gaining access to his secrets and mysteries, his adventures and stories in ways I’m much too faithless to understand.

Happy Lent.

When Toaster Strudel was the voice of God

The inanimate image of a soft flaky crust, strawberry filling, and sweet sugary icing took on a life of its own and lured my desire more fervently each and every time I allowed myself to walk by. As I gazed at it for the third time, I found myself stuck in that Giant Eagle aisle for several minutes just staring at it. It wasn’t that I had never had a craving for Toaster Strudel before. It’s just that the last time it happened I was a Sophomore in college and Diet Mountain Dew was the way I helped it or my Strawberry PopTart digest during finals week. That particular Wednesday morning, my nutritionally conscience identity was being thwarted by a strange craving for a food I haven’t eaten in years, and I wanted it soooo bad. I resisted based on the fact that a PopTart would indeed be a nutritional upgrade. Next, I found myself smiling uncontrollably in the aisle that sells a particular type of test. I splurged for the kind that has words instead of pink lines.

I waited until Rita went down for her nap. As the James and Josie practiced dunking each other in the bathtub, the suspicious craving for the Toaster Studel was confirmed on a silent stick that spoke loud and clear.

For the second time on the afternoon of January 22nd, the day we March for Life and stand for innocence, I was once again entrusted with a tiny little heart beat, a new and unique set of fingerprints, a particular mission in which I get to participate, teach, witness.

The feeling of surprise was surpassed by the type of joy that only comes as a gift from God, the kind that makes my stomach shake, puts shiver in my limbs and a quiver in my voice.

I let the kids play until the fingers were way past soggy and I jumped up and down for a solid twenty minutes while tears continued to come and confirm once again: definitely pregnant, and also pretty crazy with a considerable amount of uncontrollable emotion with which to grace my husband and children for the next several months.

I had been on this exact winter’s day two years prior and I had so not been ready to hear this news. I said “yes,” then, but it hurt, in a way that a really big sacrifice hurts. Through that experience I think maybe I began to scrape at the surface of what it really means to love, and to receive love from a God who has plans and ideas that I don’t always understand, or appreciate due to a hot summer and too many unwanted pounds slowing me down and hurting my feet. Its also the kind of pain from which true beauty and joy is born, the kind that pierces the heart and makes me long for God.

And this time, while my life and circumstances are probably even crazier, more chaotic, less socially acceptable than they were last time, I have all those feelings of excitement and longing and wanting every single part of this tiny little one at all moments, even the ones when my head is in the toilet or when I the think about all of the waddling. The gratitude I have for God’s generosity in bringing that moment of difficulty full circle is immense and I really hope I can let it edify me.

So on this special day on which the Church remembers Gabriel whispering the will of God to a young girl named Mary, I remember the time Toaster Strudel whispered God’s message to me. And I really wish I had some in my pantry.

Happy Feast Day!

Life Sunday

Three kids with coughs that could easily cause vomiting at any moment seemed like plenty a reason to separate for morning Mass. Beyond the excitement of an opportunity to wear a non-mucous resistant shirt for the first time in a week, for even just an hour, the powerhouse of a Homily made this Sunday even better. My pastor is capable of something of communicating a spirituality rooted so deeply in Mercy, yet firmly based in Justice, too that his love for God is simply contagious. He’s approachable, yet honest, flexible yet orthodox, and his message today left me in tears.

Several years ago he sat with a young woman preparing to baptize her baby. With the question of “Father’s name and religion” left blank, she felt compelled to explain that she had been raped. Forever impacted by this girl’s generosity and love for her baby, despite the circumstances with which he was conceived, Fr. Thom, tells the same story almost every year after the March for Life, not to politicize, but to share a story about a woman he simply cannot forget.

As I listened, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the infinite power of saying “yes,” especially when its hard. A woman I do not know personally, impacted me to deepen the “yes’s” that are difficult in my life, because she showed courage in hers, took the road less traveled, out of love for a baby, and for that I will always be grateful.

And for the last day of this week that I am reminded to meditate on the importance of valuing life, I’m reposting why I care so deeply about this issue, and why I’ll always pray that more women have the courage to silently impact infinite numbers of people by choosing life.


Pitter-patter is not at all political. It’s unaware of congress, and the president, too. And it might be better off, for I’d hate it to think its just a bunch of cells, lumped together haphazard.

I remember exactly the day and the moment of each of my three when Pitter-patter began to reveal its life’s special purpose.

It was the last Sunday in May, the first time James danced. I sat near a pond off the road called Love Hollow. Grass twirled in my hand as his dad’s arm drew back with his rod, attached to the string, swaying peacefully behind him and then into the water. I sighed in surprise and sat there a while, pressing my hand on his body and mine. The kick, like him, strong and intense like a hammer, seldom stopped moving all those months in my belly.

Sweet baby Josie, danced awfully early. I folded that shirt then dropped it at once, and put back my hand to where it belonged, right onto my belly and close to her jumping joyfully feet. She’s never stopped tapping since 8 weeks gestation, reminding me then, just like she does now, to quit all that laundry, put a smile on my face, and enjoy the freedom of life.

Rita Therese was 9 weeks along. I laid on the chair and its soft navy back, its cushion absorbing my day’s exhaustion. What a surprise, those feet came to be, reminding of joy, and sacrifice, too. Her kicks the first, that led me to tears, for her soft gentle rhythms weren’t the first event unexpected. Rita, my child, is not a mistake, but a gift sent from heaven, unforeseen yet received.

Pitter-patter cannot vote, or chose at all, which seems not fair, to me, its mother. It cannot march or stand outside the courts with a sign or a hanger. It only pushes and twists and rolls. It taps quite strong before it naps. Hiccups come at the same time each day. Its legs stretch up to my ribs, and like to dance at bedtime. I cannot will it, nor make it stop, just choose whether to enjoy it and exactly how much.

Life is simple; it begins and it grows, so long as its let, and loved just for being.



and voting closes tomorrow! vote here

March well my friends.

Today marks the second anniversary of my discovery of the life of Rita Therese. To honor her and the millions of babies for whom we march, pray, think and sacrifice, I’m sharing a very personal story I wrote about how I learned to really be pro-life. I always thought I was, marching, politicizing, and probably judging too. Yet, it wasn’t until I didn’t want to be pregnant, not forever, but for the moment, that I really got it. It was in accepting the difficulty that I found myself and really started to enjoy all of this.

The story is extremely long and extremely dramatic so readers beware. Its also about labor, so boys beware. Its probably also still a rough draft and not at all funny and I’m embarrassed to even have thought or written most of these things, and with all of the running metaphors, I really should be faster. But, since I can’t be in DC to march for the babies, I’m going out on the most risky creative writing limb I’ve ever gone, and trying to be honest about what it feels like to have my own while continuing to pray that others can except the joy every baby, no matter how inconvenient, brings. To me being a mother is like running an endless marathon that makes me laugh and cry harder than I could have ever imagined, and I am eternally grateful to have been given this opportunity.

A Great Race 

The runners sweat drips steadily and peacefully offering the dark hard road its gentle rolling moisture. Just outside my fifth floor window, the pattern of pounding hardens and slows at the wet hill; its incline stifling the swift, continuous stride of their rhythmic feet, the muggy air sticking to its steepness, the cadence of each step slowing towards its unrelenting landing, their socks soaking the rain are soggy. Each step is one closer towards the finish of this Great Race. They are a sea of muddled effort, a community of isolation in tandem and competitive contest in parallel motion. They stare at the road beneath them. Its monotony is inflexible. The cheers of the sidelines are unable to change its interminable blackness. Their clothes are light and revealing the form of their bodies, made of spandex and rayon, their color black with neon flashes. Their reasons for running are confused and frustrated by the incline of the hill, its gradient muddying their purpose, precipice rising with each cold step.

I lay on my side. My eyes brew with envy towards the foggy glass barrier. They continue to pass by, impacting me much more than their knees. I would like to capture the air beneath each foot just before it strikes, that single moment of human flight. I imagine flying by with speed and long legs, toned and tight, without veins, cramps, or extra pounds. My body light and free, my midline strong and balanced, as I soak the sideline cheering, determined and fast, smiling and well trained. My stomach is calm, and unlike the year before, I do not vomit over the highway’s side, in a disgusting display of too eager too early, unable to endure the swishing and churning of nervous acids threatening to expel. My joints, rejuvenated, do not pound. They glide and absorb the landing. They rebound with bouncing speed, each step faster than the last.

“Maybe next year,” I whisper hopefully as I shift my stare below to my feet, swollen and veiny, tired and cramped. The floor beneath them is parquet, small pieces of dull wood composing a puzzle frustrated with no beginning or end. It is just like the one in the living room at home, but hopefully, cleaner. The walls, covered in maroon colored, fruit patterned wallpaper circa 1986, the year of my birth, or some other year of unfortunate fashion, suffocate. I wonder what this room designer is like, the one who decided the color of dry blood for walls looked upon for courage and strength. The one who put that window there with the perfect view of cycled flight fast and free. I think maybe that I hate her.

A few thousand steps before this hill each racer stood behind the start line attempting to balance anxiety and self -assurance, apprehension and preparedness. For me, the moments before a race are always the same. The physical hunger is subsided by nerves unsettled by the fear of the shotgun, as I wonder if my feet will do what they ought when the sound is heard.  My speech is hurried, quivering, and shaking, and it exposes my crazy. My shoes, recently purchased, are brightly colored cushions on which I rely to absorb the looseness of my joints. I step up as close as I can to the line. I’m almost bouncing; excitement intensifying all the way to my fingertips painted red and vibrant, sleek and loud, and I cannot seem to shake it out. I inhale, unable to catch the air all the way. The height of the breath remains out of reach, stifled by the pounding of my heart. The gun is a pop, the signal to go. My shoes do not absorb the first strike, or the tenth. It is a sloppy stride with too much distance between each step, heels landing flat, and hips bearing down. The height of each breath is still dangling above me, as I wonder if I will complete even one mile. Then, the first burst of moisture is felt on the small of my back, at the point of sciatic pressure and lumbar curve. It gently rolls, spreading to my neck and forehead, each bead a wet release of encouraging stamina. With its break, I find my stride. I begin to fly for millions of singular moments between each pounding rebound.

This pregnancy, too, began with a line. A faint shade of pink, a delicate color for a statement so strong. Its paleness marks the start of my 40-week gestational marathon.  At its sight, buckling knees, sinking hips, shoulders surrendering into the concaves of my chest, flatten my immovable feet further. My breaths exhale to the pit of my stomach, yet they fail to move me at all. The lump in my throat sits large. No matter how tightly I close my eyes, or how much the burrow of my brow reveals my worries; the sight of its positivity remains the same. Hours earlier, the public display of gagging at the site of raw chicken had already indicated pregnancy. The midnight sweats catapulting my head from my pillow and into the toilet further signaling my suspicion. I raise my eyes, watery and beginning to swell. The sight before me was a pale reflection of fear and doubt, disbelief and question. My mind fills with waging battles between midnight bouts of vomiting into porcelain, with early morning toddler wrangling with swollen eyes and creaking joints. Images of three lap children on one airplane with strict aviation laws and other passengers, trips to the grocery store with two hands, three babies, a shopping cart, and produce displays within a toddler’s arms reach, pushing strollers the same size as small European vehicles, crawling under tables to pick up Cheerios, continue to thwart my motivation to move, to blink, to breath. All I want to do is run. To feel the pavement below each strike, to soak its impact fast and hard, to shed my fears through dripping sweat, my feet the vehicle of freedom and distance, my will its driver. Yet, as I strain to lift my heel from the floor, my muscles are tense and inflexible. I am stuck.

I had seen that line before, and I had been ready. There was no regret, no apprehension the two times before. The knowing awareness of her tiny beating heart, pulsing with each of mine, mount the blame already welling, further halting my feet and their steps. Unable to meditate on the life within me, or grapple with any of my practical impediments as the parental unit of three children two and under, a spiral of self-pity commences.  The guilt is heavy and thick and so is the fear.  I look at my arms, and regret their lack of tone. My waist still thin, having never worn that dress. My skin, beginning to age prematurely for its number of years already looks tired. My free time to be traded for naps of tired desperation. At 25, I feel old.

There is a peculiar resentment of my fertility even though I know how precious it is, how delicate, how fleeting. While I am aware of the tiny humanity clinging to my nourishment, relying on the walls of my body and making I do not yet appreciate her, know her, want her. The guilt for harboring such thoughts debilitates my breaths into unrelentingly confusing gasps and sobs. My two children fight and squawk in the kitchen over blueberries and juice boxes, as my husband knocks on the door at the sound of my sobbing. With nine grueling months ahead of me, my breaths continue flickering unsteadily, barely able to support my stance at all. I rest my hand on my womb and search for life, but I can’t yet feel it. The end is millions of miles from that bathroom mirror, and I am desperately seeking a path to escape, to run away as fast as I can, to avoid the reflection staring back at me.

I do not run. “God knows,” I repeat to myself, gently coaching moment after moment, day after day, even though I don’t believe it.  But, growing a baby is a commitment of mind just as it is one of the body, and I refuse to give up. It is a marathon of life, a resurrection of sacrifice, and this is my turn to give what I’ve got.

Its precipice is my looking out this window as laboring my third child intensifies, still wishing I could run away.

The sheets on the bed that detains me are itchy, confining, and hot. I place my hand on its scratchy covering. I stretch each finger long and wide; their violent texture an inconsolable foundation for finger’s working so hard. I beg the pressure to escape my fingers red painted tips, too flashy a color for birthing a baby. As the height of the pressure declines and releases, I stand so as to shake the labor out from my feet, to release it with kicks and flailing limbs thrusting their way towards nowhere.

The gown is draping, revealing and hot. It does not move with my body. It stifles. It hangs. It sticks. It’s too big, too ugly, too borrowed, and not made for a woman so small or with so many opinions.

The bathroom a few feet away, might as well be ten kilometers from the squishy ball on which I sit, leaking and swaying. It is made for stretching and sit-ups. It is used to ease each mounting pressure with movement, to break the monotony of the bed’s stillness. As if rocking will make it end sooner or squish could absorb the pain.

I breathe in between. My husband is in my face breathing with me. His face is gentle. He is confident of the strength inside me, of my ability to pace, and make it to the end. He can see the womanhood I possess, and all of its feminine power. Yet, as it tightens again, I am weak, and unfeminine, with nothing left to push, and nothing left to give. I feel incapable of handling what is to come naturally for a woman, but probably not one with such small, childlike hips. I dream of running the fastest 10 kilometers of my life in the face of someone who believes in me. Then, the strength for one more contraction comes out through the gasp of my breath.

The haze will not release the sun. It is stuck, just like me at too few centimeters. I am not close, and if I hear the number 6 again, I think I’ll rip out the needle and throw it at the bearer of “only four more to go!” The cheer is meant to be one of encouragement, but with what seems like an eternity of painful distance between one and ten, my screams become grunts of anger.

“Concentrate, you are doing great. It’s just a few miles more” he tries to encourage using words I like, metaphors I understand. My gaze continues in envy, toward that window. “Stop looking at them,” he says catching my focus. He hopes the race ends soon because the envy is distracting, and he is tired, too. The runners now are stragglers, their landings hard and painful, their clothes soaked, their bodies heavy. The good ones have crossed the finish. They eat bananas, compare their times, regret their performance on the hill outside the window through which I blink and stare.

Each contraction, like a hill; the intensity in its rising, lactic acid burning, focus on the breath, my muscles are ripping apart. Each one is growing stronger, a mounting pressure emerging steadily every two minutes. It is as if at first it asks its permission. It hopes for acceptance as its intensity grows. It exists nonetheless, and continues to climb in disobedience.

The sounds of hearts beating muffled and quiet continue to determine the course and pace of my labor. Our beats, united in both stress and calm, as her fast pulse is in sync with mine. She is squeezed, yet endures, moving down. It is difficult, though, to think of her, or anyone else, in moments that feel like such insurmountable personal weakness. I bear the consequence of another with parched breath, dry and stale. The faces of those surrounding me are all in mine, as I demand they push both my spirit and already bruised back. Yet, no amount of muscle or sweat could absorb my body that feels much too small to bring forth the life of my own, let alone someone else’s.

The sound down the hall is of a woman’s final push. It is a desperate scream and a call to God. The newborn cry follows. It is perfect and pure. It could be heard as motivation, of a finish line close, just a few more breaths. Yet, my concentration to bear down and breathe is baffled and thwarted. My envy is fueled by a finish line crossed by someone other than me. I request help with the pain. My sister interrupts, “Just one more. Pretend it’s a mile.” I do one more. She’s a runner, too.

They pray around me, with beads of peace and rhythm, so long as I don’t find it annoying. The repetition reminds me to breath, to experience my body. I listen to its strength, one step at a time, one cycle into the next, one bead after the other.

“It’s time,” the doctor says, and my eyes well with tears. “Are you excited?” I ask, with the finish line in sight, and they are crying, too.

The lights are bright, and reveal too much of a lady. The stirrups offer cold support, but their presence seems more appropriate on a horse for someone strong enough to use them. The mirror should be thrown and cracked and broken. The silver table, ready to greet her, with a test and to find her weight, seems too cold, far away, and rather judgmental.

My stomach tightens. I close my eyes. My breaths astonish my body’s dependent weakness, its bending and bruising. They hold my limbs, hanging and disconnected. I push. I pray. I cry.

The moment is the same each time for each race, not the circumstance but the feeling. The cadence slows, my muscles cramp, my heart beats fast, and my breaths can no longer keep up with its rhythm as airways tighten and restrict. I am pushed to the point of puking, or my shoulder bleeds from a messy fall, my knees smash into pavement, and I cannot remember how I stood up or why. To quit is impossible, but continuing seems so, too. The temptation is to be still, but that’s when the pain sets, swelling to the point of bursting. That’s where the will is made, the pain ignored even though I’m screaming, the movements persist not automatically, but to the tempo and tune of “almost there, cycle again, breath once more, exhale now, land and absorb, bring flight to it now, strike again, another step closer, inhale, repeat.” Then it’s over. The ending is immediate and abrupt. The path of the course, the rhythm of my treads, their circles and landings in duplicated recurrence are erased by the pavement behind me. The tempo of my body is made still, as my mind begins to race with adrenaline, sigh in elation, bounce in jubilation. Life is clear, and I am capable. My memory is oblivious to its trauma, my mouth grins a gloating smile, soreness is hung by happiness, and a sweaty release goes unnoticed. I did it. I finished, and the road behind me no longer matters.

The Ring of Fire is the name for this moment in labor. New life at the threshold of birth pushes to escape. Its breath is not yet present, but its power is full and robust, demanding to be noticed as it paralyzes and humiliates, authorizes and inspires. Then, it is a slide and a slither, a sobering instant streamlining unfathomable pain with a blink and a cry. The physical relief is not at first noticed. Rather, it is a surge of joy just as powerful as the pain, overwhelming just the same, grateful gasps resounding and repeating.

The room and its window no longer matter. The walls, the floor, the lights, and their faces are a background blur.

Her name is Rita.

I am her mother.

Her cries cleanse us both. What was once fear is purified by her gentleness, what was once saturated by guilt is transformed by her innocence. This baby I never thought I wanted, lying naked in my arms. Her innocence is exposed, my desire for her insatiable.

The first look between a husband and wife after giving birth surely must exist in eternity. The recollection of yelling, cursing, and nearly strangling him moments earlier is erased and forgotten. His smile is one of proud fulfillment, tears revealing his thanksgiving at the sight of his second baby girl. Memories of the gentle acceptance spoken by his first knock on the door in the moment of my discovery of pregnancy echo. His strong arms are protective, surrounding my frail figure, a tender reminder to breath slow; their embrace coaching my anxiety to absorb into the kind beat of his heart.

Awe is what I feel as she is given to me. My shaking arms hold her, as she is placed directly on my chest. Her tiny breaths are in sync with mine. These first moments of life hold humanity’s most important truths. It is where innocence stems, newness is revealed, and purpose is born, all in the form of a baby. She is a miracle made flesh. A person, there all along, when I looked in that mirror and had all those questions, faced all those doubts, but I didn’t believe it. She was there all along, in me, all along. And with her in sight, the race so hard, so long, so painful, is forgotten and left behind.

A gaze is created through the reflection of myself in her, so small and new. It is an eternal stare, one of incarnate union that no one but I, her mother, can claim or recognize. There is finally a visual depiction of the language silently communicated by our bodies since the moment of her conception, a significance and purpose that I did not understand until her 7 pound body, made from and kept by the flesh of my own, lays there blinking and cooing at her brand new world. The victory is her presence, her body my reward.

364 days later I ran the Great Race again in a personal record. Five fast miles in, with the barrier to my left, and my window up five floors to my right, there is a hesitation in my stride. I begin to slow out of a curious desire to stop and stay awhile, to let that spot impact my knees just a little longer than my pace and its energy want. As I look up at my window from the other side, it was gratitude in place of envy, freedom in the place of guilt, desire in the place of regret. The road race’s finish line is a ways ahead of this spot that marked my effort, my desire to flee, my decision to accept, the courage to sacrifice in the Great Race of motherhood. I pause for a moment, praying and cheering for those women in their beds, with their itchy gowns and ugly walls, in their panting and breathing, their swelling and their cramping. “You can do it,” I cheer and I hope they can feel my motivation because each and every one of them is doing great, and so am I. With a wave and a smile I ran to the finish having already experienced the victory long before my clock time indicates.

“Did you win, Mom?” my oldest, age 3, blurts out in enthusiasm as I return home to our home, quite comfortable in its mess. He stands sturdily with his favorite racecar in his right hand. His hairs stick like wires, long eyelashes blinking quickly and inquisitively. He is barefoot and strong, clumsy and curious. My husband stands tall cooking breakfast with a smile, offering water, supporting me still. My daughter, age two, bounces happily towards me, her blond curls, voluminous and buoyant, spunkily rebounding with each of her steps. There is chocolate on her face and she only wears a diaper. She swiftly wraps her arms around my leg, her happiness exuberant as she repeats her sounding joy, “Yay, Mommy!” Baby Rita, just one day from her first birthday, sits content and glad, still in her pajamas, her tiny palms clapping while cooing and laughing. She would jump to me if she could, her smile containing the most cheerful peace, her chub the perfect amount for a happy baby.

“Absolutely,” I reply.

Linking with Kendra because, to me, my baby’s life is a miracle 🙂

I believe in Santa Claus!

When I was younger, childless, and even dumber than I am now, I told my brother-in-law, Dan, that my children would know the truth about Santa Claus. The presentation of my position was most certainly communicated in a similar way to how any childless younger singleton presents an uneducated stance on how to raise children: Judgy McJudgy and sufficiently anti-North Pole. It was a warranted berating, and I’m willing to bet he’s super entertained by the Elf on the Shelf that the Spirit of St. Nicholas brought with him last night. But, if even a single post has been read on this blog, it’s clear that I could use all of the parenting tricks I can get. And Josie already climbed up two chairs to reach him and play with him, so toy it is.

Though, at the time of my original no fake Santa stance, I failed to recognize the insane amount of FUN inherent in a child’s experience of Christmas miracle magic, my concerns still echo my Santa Claus perspective today. Sure, I’ve threatened “if you continue to throw a tantrum because you aren’t permitted to cook your own scrambled eggs for a second more, Santa Claus won’t come here,” to my two-year old more times than I can count, and I am privy to biting each and every cookie baked (and partially burned) for Santa each and every Christmas eve, which might have more to do with my love of sugar than anything else. So maybe take this entire post with a few grains of sugar, and for your taste buds sake, I hope they are in the form of a freshly baked and not burned chocolate chip cookie.

Here’s my beef: there just seems to be so much great REAL stuff that we frost over, yet we fly right on over to a traveling elves, magic, and things that 8 year olds begin to realize don’t make any real sense. And before I’m forever labeled as a giant fun sucker, much like I was during the conversation with Dan, my fear is this: Teaching our children about faith is delicate, and as a newish parent, hands down my biggest fear is that my children will doubt how much God loves him as a result of my lack of it, poor teaching, bad example etc, etc, etc.

If I spend my time creating a belief in Santa, only to have it naturally questioned and burst by a sense of reason that I hope my children develop, what else will they begin to question and doubt?

What’s more is that there is no real reason, in my mind, to even go down this particular candy cane lane.

Fact: St. Nicholas: a very real person who lived in Asia Minor in the 300’s, was a wealthy man with compassion for the poor. When his friends and neighbors were on the brink of being sold into slavery and prostitution, in an effort to remain anonymous, he snuck down chimneys in the middle of the night and put gold in their shoes. He prayed for them and asked Catholics to help them. Eventually, he became a bishop and dressed with a hat and often wore red velvet because its cold. He donated his wealth to the poor. Sleigh rides were regular forms of transportation. If I continue telling the story the facts will begin to turn into “sounds nice but probably not historically accurate,” so go ahead and Wikipedia. But here’s one more thing I know: A thousand  and several hundred years of consumerism later, the idea of Santa Claus is often removed from the life of faith and placed into the aisles of stores 2-3 hours after Halloween trick or treating ends having very little to do with Jesus at all. And as a parent to three cute babies, let me be the first to say, ignore my baby, offend me forever. So if I were God, I’d be really annoyed at all of the Son of God dissing.

Today, the feast of St. Nicholas, is one of my favorite days to teach my kids about the real, and rich faith of our Church. I’m sure I’m doing it mostly wrong, and the 7 marshmallows consumed for breakfast this morning caused a giant behavioral crash beginning at 820 am and ending never. Hopefully, though my new to the number 4-year-old gets that good Old Kris Kringle is very much indeed a real man who loved God and helped the poor with his time and talent. And since communion with the saints is just a prayer away, his presence is alive and jolly as ever. And by his example we can be made better and more generous! Judging by James’ Christmas shopping experience this am, shopping for others is a struggle and his present for Josie is a golf ball that says #1 dad so I’ve got a lot of work to do and family members to help him identify.

I’m still working through why he comes back at Christmas, but so far I’ve gone with “because he loves Jesus so much he wants everyone to have a super fun party on his birthday” and birthday parties are my kids favorite, so its working.

I have yet to get a question about the north pole and his workshop but I think heaven should suffice as its location and its maintained by the saints, and headed by St. Nicholas for this particular Advent season.  And since my scatterbrain left the coolest life-size batman in the back of the car that was discovered in this morning’s pile in, it’s already pretty clear Mom helps with the presents. But believe me you, the Holy Spirit is very much involved in 99% of my incredible Marshall’s clearance finds so Christmas miracles are a plenty.

Its interesting and sad to me that as a parent I have to work so hard to come up with ways to help my kids understand how Jesus fits into Christmas, yet the world around them makes it quite confusing. Prayers for you for prayers for me.

I hope you all got a delicious treat in your boots. Happy Weekend, and Happy Feast Day!

Motherhood: removing the simple to make us simple or maybe just crazy.

On Wednesday, I forgot to wear deodorant because I wore the shirt in which I slept for most of the morning.

On Thursday it took me almost 3 hours to brush my teeth.

On Friday, Jim said, “how was your day?” to which I responded “I EMPTIED THE DISHWASHER ON MY FIRST TRY!” to which he responded, “that’s great!!”

On Saturday, I washed, folded, and put away one load of laundry by 3 pm and wondered if maybe I swallowed some type of rare insect the night before and had thus been granted superpowers.

On Sunday, we made it to 9:00 am Mass with 35 seconds to spare before the celebration commenced and I declared myself for sainthood, and Pope Francis seems so nice I’m sure he would agree.

Motherhood presents a myriad of paradoxes like “how do I love this tiny human so much whom is the reason why I no longer sleep?” One of which I’ve been pondering today is how in the world I feel like I do at least 4 billion things everyday only to realize many things that take approximately .5 seconds to complete never actually get accomplished? And when/if one of these seemingly simple tasks does get completed I feel like superwoman even though the reality is more like: all of the silverware is put away and the floor looks more like wood and less like spaghetti sauce combined with smeared scrambled eggs?

And while all of these read just like complaints sound, they are more a personal epiphany about motherhood and what it does, gives, takes away, requires.

Before children I think I thought about the privilege of brushing my teeth negative 100 times, and absolutely no one stuck their head in the toilet or emptied the garbage, accidentally turned on the shower with their clothes on, spilled my eye makeup, painted the walls with nail polish, or helped themselves to more toothpaste than they did their breakfast. Emptying the dishwasher crossed my mind once every 3rd or 4th day when it took me 45-60 seconds to take the dishes out and put them away never once fearing any crawling/newly walking children would get accidentally stabbed or shatter glass over their heads by mistake. Making it to the gym warranted a high-five and not an olympic medal and/or diamond. A trip to the grocery store involved 20 free minutes and a lot fewer almost run-ins with cars in the parking lot, and unneeded stops at the deli counter for a free slice or three of cheese.

Since children, I bribe them to exit the furnace room when the kind young man is attempting to fix it by saying “if you take your head out of the furnace we can plug-in the spinning Frosty the Snowman” that makes me feel as if I live in a mental institution without any of the drug perks. When I ask the man if he has children he says, “no I don’t” to which I respond, “oh so this might not make sense,” to which he responds “no it does not,” to which I say “please James, remove your head from the furnace and Josie, stop stepping in the mouse traps, and Rita please don’t eat that stinkbug, and please everyone let’s go upstairs before he runs away and quits working for us!” Anyone else’s kids like to follow worker’s around?

And while to some, this life sounds terrible, like one of this blog’s anonymous commenters who thinks “me and my life sound miserable,” its really pretty awesome to go to bed each night and remember to thank God that no one put my cell phone in the toilet while I washed my hair, because I’m leaning towards “not that many people share that with the Big Man.” So here’s to you, Motherhood. Thank you for teaching me gratitude for even the tiniest of opportunities, and may you never let me forget to keep mints in my car just in case all of my toothbrushes are flushed down the toilet again.

And for your viewing pleasure:

The Promised Land.

The Ten Commandments according to 7 year olds:


“When God says, “don’t steal,” is he referring to my brother’s parachute toys?”

“So we aren’t even supposed to steal when the other person isn’t looking?”

“Can we take it and say someone else did it?”

“To covet is like being jealous. Jealous is when all your friends have a buzz cut and you don’t because your mom doesn’t like buzz cuts.”

“No that’s not what jealousy is. Jealousy is when someone has cooler toys than you. It has nothing to do with haircuts.”

“Putting God first means to never eat a hot dog before I pray.”

“So instead of saying “oh my God,” we should say, “I love God?” I don’t get it.”

“If we shouldn’t say “Oh my God, my mom is in BIG trouble.”

“I don’t understand this assignment so I just drew a bunch of random rainbows. My favorite is the one with the leprechaun.”

“Honoring our parents means we should always smile at them, and sometimes hug them.”

“Not killing means we should never ever pick up a gun.”

“The Sabbath? Does that mean we have to take baths on Sundays? Because I like showers.”

“I lost my diary key, and there is nothing else I can think about. I’m worshipping a false God, aren’t I?”

“I’m 8, so ten is way too many rules.”


Please keep in your prayers:

“There is this place where we go to on vacation, I believe its called North Carolina, and my grandmother comes with us. She has a dog named Wiggles. And this is the prayer part: there is a turtle hospital with a lot of turtles. This one turtle only has one eye because it got hit by a boomerang. And it runs into walls. Or crawls. What is it called when turtles bang into things? I hope that turtle finds a home and doesn’t die in the hospital. But actually it’s not allowed to ever leave the hospital.”

“I would like to pray for myself. I’m going to get a cold soon.”

“My hermit crab got better. In gramitude.”


And a little theology for your Tuesday:

A conversation between James, and his best friend and cousin Bailey:

“James, God can never die. Not ever.”

“God can die!”

“No! God cannot die and he doesn’t even have a lightsaber.”

“Yes he can, he died on the Cross!”

“But that didn’t really kill him.”

“Well, it killed him a little bit.”


A nighttime prayer by Josie:

“Let’s sing Patty Cake to Jesus.”


James’ take on the 5th commandment:

“Can I have this candy?”

“No, not before dinner.”

“Oh. But, God says I can. So, could you open it for me?”


Happy Tuesday.


Five Favorites: Marriage


Jim and I have once again been asked to present our “marriage advice” to a group of lovey dovey dating and engaged couples. While popular demand may be one reason to be asked back, it’s more like ‘we have lots of siblings/close family members’ that are priests and looking for willing speakers and nothing says “baby of eight siblings” like “yes I’ll give a talk.”

So I have a poll for you kind and generous readers that are married or soon to be. When did you know you were in love? And how do you keep the fire burning?

My favorite of answers to the first question comes from my good friend Kristi. Asked by a young girl confused about where her relationship was going, Kristi, engaged and convinced, said the following: “It’s just that I’ve always hated vomit. Like HATE. It makes me puke. One time Patrick was puking and needed my help and I was able to help him. That’s when I knew I was in love.” (This answer was given about 8 years ago and she has 3 boys and has been happily married for 6 years, so he had her at throw up.)

Her answer has always stuck with me because 1) its disgusting 2) its pretty hilarious 3) there is actually some truth underneath all the bile: love gets us to do crazy things, things that we thought we were very much incapable, and if it had been just feelings or infatuation? Poor Patrick may have been alone in his gross sickness.

So in preparation for our presentation, I’m writing my five favorite ways that we keep our marriage in love as a brainstorming exercise/desperate plea to poll my 7 readers. And since we have almost zero marriage professional credentials and even less expertise it would be fine to ignore it all, except #5, that one is true. And also #4, I’m positive that one’s awesome too. And maybe one day I’ll share the details of the moment I knew that I really loved Jim. It involves a cassock and a few billion tears.

Feedback would be most appreciative, especially for the sake of the poor souls signed up to hear us talk!

My five favorite practical Marriage tips that work for us:

1.) Keep a hobby, Grant a Hobby, Find a Hobby

For us, this one is paramount. We both have hobbies that the other does not enjoy, or in my case, is incapable in participating due to the likelihood of enduring serious injury and/or debilitating embarrassment.

I run and swim, he plays hockey and soccer. I shop, he gardens. I watch Project Runway, he would rather eat sand.

My non-point, ramble is this: maintaining personal hobbies is important, and granting spouses time to do them is vital. Marriage, kids, jobs etc can be overwhelming, and maintaining the sense of self that I was before I giddy upped down the aisle and popped out these babies is essential to my sanity, and his. Not all of our hobbies are enjoyed each week, but, I make sure he plays some type of sport alone, and if I forget to, he kindly asks permission and I grant it and vice versa. While certain moments in our marriage have put some of these things on a burner far far in the back, knowing that he is the first one who will say, “why don’t you go out to dinner with a friend or for a run, or something,” and maybe its because I’m driving him crazy, but its so nice. And since, for the most part, our alone time is spent playing sports (a generous term in my case since I only possess skills to do exercise alone and no one would ever want me on any type of team) there are physical and mental benefits, including serotonin, time to think, burn off steam, and in his case, a chance to see his friends.

And finally for this point, choose a hobby together. Ideally, we would ski, but since that’s a hard one with kids that are still on a bunny trail and harder not living on a mountain and best at most quickly draining a bank account, we now do CrossFit. It’s new to both of us and it’s a fun date on which we both agree. Before we discovered a new hobby on which we agreed, we took turns planning hobby dates for each other. Sometimes it is a matter of taking turns to pick restaurants based on each other’s tastes, or generously driving 70 minutes to attend a boxing match for 4 hours (it was actually really cool), or going to a concert of a band not particularly liked. And since quality time is my love language, I’m allll about this point.

2.) Find something to laugh about

It was two nights before we were married. The older and wiser siblings on his side each gave us one piece of advice before we hitched it. “In serious times, find something to laugh about. See the humor God has for you to enjoy,” his oldest sister said. I’ve never forgotten it, and in the times we’ve missed a flight, encountered mess and frustration, ran 2-3 hours behind schedule, and I just about what to scream…Ok I usually scream, but it IS VERY HELPFUL to try and laugh once the yelling is over. God is funny, and takes himself lightly, and spouses should too!

3) Never say never, always avoid always

Instead of being just another Regina ramble, this one is actually based in the science of Relationship Enhancement Therapy and I love it because it is so true for us. Never and Always are absolute terms and they are hardly ever (never!) true. They isolate, shutdown, and hurt. And since they are just two words, removing them from normal vocabularly, or at the very least, becoming increasingly aware of when they are used and how they could hurt or distort the real meaning of things is not ultra difficult.

For instance; “You NEVER take out the trash! You Never spend time with me! You never do this, that, and the other…”

Actually, he probably took out the trash yesterday its just that my two year old stuffed it with who knows what all day, and we went on a date two days ago, and I’m just feeling frustrated and making very unfair statements that I don’t actually mean.

A better version: “the trash is full, could you help me?” “I’d like to spend more time with you.” And maybe the halo angel speak won’t come out right away, but, the man deserves some credit for completing a chore last week or even last month.

Always statements: “You always choose hockey over me!” (wink, wink)

Better version: “I’d like to spend more time with you.” (this is usually the root)

And jim’s: “You are always on your phone!” translation “this is a really bad time to be on the phone, please call back your sister who is 10 feet away from you after dinner.”

“You never put the laundry away!” and while its mostly true, sometimes a sock actually makes it to a drawer and I’m positive it was hard to get it there so skip the absolutes.

One day I’ll elaborate on the skills of Relationship Enhancement Empathy because it is the best and does wonders in the learning how to express actually feelings category.

4). NFP

While this one may be a bit of a hot button, I’d like the internet to know I approach it with no judgment, just a personal experience that makes me oh so very happy.

And I’ll skip reasons #1-100 why I think it’s the best because this post is a novel and just give this tid bit. Yahoonews and Cosmo-trash publish approximately 10 billion (massive exaggeration) articles each year of ways to keep your sex life interesting after ‘all those years’ with just one person. “Doesn’t it get boring?” they ask. No! it doesn’t, and NFP is, in my opinion, the main reason why. The time of abstaining, if child spacing is desired, is a great opportunity. Sure, it sucks at moments, but there is something very incredible about learning to slow down and just enjoy holding hands or a kiss. It becomes a constant rediscovery of each other. A new, and exciting, constant rediscovery, and I just love it.

5.) Prayer

Just try saying a Hail Mary and continuing to yell. Its almost impossible. Fall in love with God, fall deeper in love with the one he asked you to marry. Laugh with God, laugh harder with your spouse. Its almost like magic.

This marriage prep series at which we are presenting is part of a movement to remind couples that marriage is hard and is a lifetime long, so its best to be ready. I would like to add, however, that with 5 ½ years and three children to show for our 8 year relationship, hard is never the first word I would use to describe our commitment. It’s not even the 10th word I would use. Fun is #1, and I have so much of it that I might say it three times in a row, even in moments when he asks if he can finish watching “Are you Smarter than a 5th grader” when I’m absolutely positive we should have started driving to the hospital to deliver a baby two hours before.

And as a bonus objective truth of a happy marriage: NEVER, EVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, EVER, USE THE WORD FAT.

Happy Wednesday, Happy Marriage. Send me some of your favorite marriage tips and moments you knew you were in love! Pretty please!

now go see Hallie