Friday, December 30, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 40)

--- 1 ---

What a blessed Christmas we had with my family this year!  This Christmas was less about presents than ever and more about spending time together with the new little addition to our family!  And of course, it was about Christ.  I really enjoyed attending Mass on Christmas day – it took the emphasis off presents, especially since we didn’t open them until afterward.  I definitely think this is a tradition we are going to keep, especially when we have children old enough to be excited by gifts.

--- 2 ---

One of my favorite family moments on Christmas was taking pictures in front of the Christmas tree.  My dad got a really nice SLR camera last year and was able to set it up on a tripod with the autotimer so that all of us – my grandparents, parents, brother, husband, baby and I - could be in the picture.  I don’t remember the last time we’ve all been in a picture together, at least one person is always left out to take the picture.  With my grandparents advanced age and declining health, these pictures and memories are especially important.

--- 3 ---

One of my love languages is gifts, but I love giving much more than receiving.  This year, I feel like I found the perfect gifts for each family member and it was so rewarding to see that they each were genuinely excited to receive them.  I don’t know about you, but I really dislike giving “filler” gifts when I can’t think of something personalized for each person.  I was a little bummed that with the baby I wasn’t able to spend the time to make homemade gifts, but sometimes the perfect gift just can’t be homemade (for example, the flexible tripod we bought for my dad).  Next year, I am going to attempt some homemade gifts though.

--- 4 ---

I was able to see my best friend three days this week before she flew back to Atlanta!  She was so excited to meet my baby girl and we got to spend a lot of time just chatting and catching up.  We are very different in some very obvious ways (I’m a devout Catholic, she’s agnostic, I’m married with a child and she is very unattached, she’s in grad school and very career driven while I’m a stay-at-home-mom), but we are very similar in other ways and never run out of things to talk about.  We were acquaintances in high school and didn’t become best friends until we went on a school-led trip to Europe right after we graduated from high school.  She went to school out of state at the end of that summer and we’ve never lived near each other since.  In fact, the past few months have marked the first time we’ve lived in the same time zone since we’ve become best friends.  While we are able to maintain our friendship with phone calls and emails, nothing can replace seeing her in person and getting a hug from my dearest friend! 

--- 5 ---

We went to dinner last night with my brother-in-law and his fiancée.  They just adored their little niece and soon-to-be goddaughter (she’ll be baptized this Sunday!).  I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but my soon-to-be sister-in-law asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding!  I’ve never been a bridesmaid before and I am so very thrilled to be a part of their wedding.  My husband and I are so happy to have a sister and she is such a blessing to our family, a very thoughtful and kind woman of God!

--- 6 ---

Did you see the post about the Baby on a Budget Series I’m planning?  I am looking for guest bloggers to write posts about how they are raising/have raised babies/children on limited means.  If you are interested in writing something, email me at  I want this series to be helpful to couples who are contemplating having children despite not being as financially stable as our society suggests is necessary for starting a family and for those couples who are currently expecting a baby or have a young child and are looking for some ways to be more thrifty.  If you have any suggestions of topics you’d like to read about, let me know by commenting or emailing me!
--- 7 ---

I haven’t written anything in my On Marrying Young Series in a while, but I do plan on continuing it.  I have some more ideas for posts, including incorporating it with the Baby on a Budget Series by writing about the decision to start a family (or not) when you marry young.  Again, I’d also love some more perspectives on the topic (especially some by people who haven’t married young – I’d like to present both sides of the issue!), so if you are interested in writing a guest post, email me.  I think the best posts in the series so far were by guest bloggers who gave their personal experience. 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Baby on a Budget Series Introduction

Our baby girl is only three weeks old and she has already been an immense blessing to my husband and I and to our marriage.  Yet there was a very real possibility that she would have never been born because we entered our marriage deadset against having children until my husband graduated (which won't happen until this upcoming May).  You can read more about our change of heart here

The main reason we felt that we needed to wait to have children was because of the financial "burden" of children.  Once we realized that we were called to be parents now rather than later, we becan to see that would could in fact support a baby on my husband's measly grad student stipend.  Is it easy? No.  But it certainly is worth it. 

I believe that part of being open to life is accepting children even in "non-ideal" situations.  In our modern society, being financially stable, owning your own home, having a well-paying career, etc. are generally considered necessities before a couple would seek pregnancy.  Yet couples (including us) welcome children without having all (or any) of these and are still able to raise their children in loving households with the true necessities (food, clothing, shelter, love). 

So in order to support other married couples in being open to life, I'm going to be writing a series of posts on having a baby in a small budget.  I will give some of the tips and tricks that my husband and I use to support our family of three on his small stipend.  Of course, every couple must decide for themselves if starting (or further expanding) their family is financially feasible, but I do want to provide support, ideas, and my own personal experience to help them make their decisions.  It would have made the decision-making process easier for us if we knew of others that were able to do it, were able to ask questions, and seek advice. 

Some potential topics I'm planning to address:

What do babies really need?
Baby gifts -  how to ask for what you really need
Buying second hand
Cloth diapers (and wipes)
Buying baby items with money/gift cards earned online
Using coupons

I know there are many other men and women out there that decided to have children and are raising them on a small budget, so if you have any advice or would like to share your personal experience, I'd love to have you write a guest post.  Email me at

Please check out the other posts (including some great guest posts) in my Baby on a Budget series

Monday, December 19, 2011

My Two Week Old

From the moment she was born, I've had some serious anxiety about my baby girl growing up. I loved her in that very first moment after birth, when my husband placed her on my tummy. She was small and delicate and so very, very beautiful. Today she is two weeks old and already, she is so big! I can't believe how quickly babies grow. Now I understand why so many people told me while I was pregnant to enjoy every minute with my baby. That's exactly what I intend to do.

Lucia is such a sweet baby. She loves to be hugged and cuddled. She also loves to be swaddled. My favorite moments with her are our quiet times, especially when I'm breastfeeding her. She gets this sweet little smile right after she's done nursing, as she drifts off into a milk-induced coma. I also enjoy dancing with her - today we danced around the living room to Christmas music and she stared up at me with her mouth wide open.

So far, she hasn't liked her swing or bouncer, and while she'll sleep for a while in her Rock 'n' Play, she'd much prefer to sleep on the couch, in mama's arms, or on daddy's chest. She sleeps in our bed with us at night.

Lulu loves staring out the window, or better yet, going on walks. Although we've gone on several outings in the last week, I don't think she's noticed because she's fallen asleep as soon as we've put her in the car seat and has barely woken while we've been out. We've gone to Mass three times since she was born and she's slept through it entirely each time (which I'm a little surprised about since she was kicking and dancing in my belly all Mass long when I was pregnant).

I don't want my baby to grow up, but since she must, I can't wait to see what she'll do next. And I'm taking tons of pictures and video so I can always look back and remember my sweet baby newborn.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 38)

I can’t believe it’s Friday again already!  I haven’t had much time online this week between caring for my baby girl and spending time with my mom before she leaves on Sunday.  I’ve had a million blog posts in my head but they never made it onto the blog, so for this week’s quick takes, I’m going to do short summaries of the posts I would have written had I had the chance:

--- 1 ---

Last Sunday was Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent.  Until this year, I never really understood what that meant, other than that the priest wears pink, but between this great post by Kaylene at Letters from Momma and a great homily by the priest, I feel like I finally have a solid understanding of what sets this Sunday apart.  I hope you had a beautiful, joyful Gaudete Sunday.

--- 2 ---

Breastfeeding is going really well.  Other than having some difficulty latching on the right side the first two days or so, Lucia hasn’t had any problems.  I was prepared for difficulties and for their to be a painful period of engorgement, but no such issues so far.  From what I’ve heard from many mothers, it’s not typical for breastfeeding to go so smoothly and I am very thankful it has been so wonderful for us.  Breastfeeding has been such a special mother-daughter bonding time.

--- 3 ---

Monday was the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Having learned so much about Our Lady over the years in my many Spanish and history classes (I was a double major in Spanish and history with an emphasis in Latin American History), I have a particular love of this apparition of our Blessed Mother.  (By the way, don't you just love learning about Catholic history in a secular class?  I love being reminded of how crucial the Church was in the history of the western world.)

--- 4 ---

We started using cloth diapers Tuesday and we’ve really liked them so far.  We are using almost all prefolds with covers, but we do have a few fitteds and one pocket diaper.  We were waiting until Lucia’s cord fell off to start and I was a little afraid that we would get too comfortable with disposables in the meantime, but I’ve found cloth diapers to be just as easy.  Of course, my mom is still here to do laundry for me and once she leaves on Sunday I may have a more difficult time keeping up with cloth diaper laundry.  We are also using cloth wipes (Lucia loves them, especially since we have a wipe warmer!).

--- 5 ---

Tuesday was St. Lucy’s feast day (it was a big week for Catholics!).  Obviously, Lucia is too young for us to celebrate her namesake’s feast day but it was still a very special day for us.  I’ve been thinking of ways to celebrate with her when she is old enough to understand.  Do you celebrate a feast day with your child?  What does that celebration look like in your household?

--- 6 ---

We had Rebecca of Red Fern Photography come take newborn pictures of Lucia on Sunday.  They came out beautifully (which is no surprise - if you remember, she took beautiful maternity pictures of me and my husband)!  Here is a sneak peak:

--- 7 ---

The weather here is beautiful.  We took Lucia for a walk today and I was only wearing a light sweater which I had to take off after we got started.  60s in December?  I certainly am not complaining, but it definitely does not feel like Christmas is around the corner.  We are going to Colorado to spend the holidays with our families and the cold weather is going to be a rude awakening.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, December 9, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 37) - Newborn Edition

My husband and I were blessed with our first child, a beautiful baby girl named Lucia Rose, this past Monday.  Here are a few things I’ve learned in my four days of motherhood so far:

--- 1 ---

1.       To trust (and love) my body.  I am capable of growing a healthy baby for nine (er, ten…) months in my womb, giving childbirth naturally, and providing her sole nourishment for the first several months of her life.  God knew what he was doing when He created woman! 

--- 2 ---

1.       To listen to my body.  If it's capable of doing so much, it probably knows what I should be doing much better than I do.  When I’m hungry, I need to eat.  When I’m thirsty, I need to drink.  When I’m tired (and the baby’s sleeping), I need to sleep.  There is someone else depending on me now so I need to take care of myself. 

--- 3 ---

1.       That newborns are tiny.  I know, this should be obvious, but when I was washing and putting baby clothes away while I was pregnant, the clothes seemed like they would be too small.  When the midwife weighed her and said she was eight pounds, I couldn’t believe it; I thought an eight pound newborn would be much bigger, but she looked so small in my arms.  And she is absolutely swimming in some of her newborn clothes.  Take a look at how tiny Lucia is in her swing:

--- 4 ---

1.       That there are things much, much better than sleep.  Like staring at the little face of my sleeping daughter.  I know I should nap when she’s sleeping (see number 2) but I hate to miss anything, even watching her sleep.

--- 5 ---

1.       That even when you are a mommy yourself, you still need your mommy to take care of you.  My mom flew in Wednesday night and has been helping with the baby, especially at night so David and I can get some sleep.  It’s been wonderful.

--- 6 ---

1.       That half the joy of having a baby is seeing other people share in your joy.  I love watching the look on my mom’s face as she holds her baby granddaughter.  And hearing my dad get choked up every night when he is Skyping with her. 

--- 7 ---

1.       That people can be so generous and caring.  We’ve received countless warm wishes for our daughter since her birth, including many from casual acquaintances I wouldn’t have expected to hear from.  We got a box from my brother-in-law’s fiancée overflowing with pretty pink baby girl clothes for her niece.  Each person in my husband’s lab group is bringing us a meal one night this week (including several bachelors and the couple that had their baby last week!).  And I can’t forget to mention all the kind thoughts and prayers left by people here on my blog – thank you!  We are truly blessed to have so many people care about our little girl.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's a Girl!

We were blessed with the birth of our daughter, Lucia Rose, on Monday, December 5 at 2:53 pm.  She weighs 8 lbs. and is 19.75 inches long.  We think she's beautiful!  Thank you for all your prayers throughout my pregnancy and for my delivery.  David, Lucia, and I have been home since Monday evening and are adjusting to our new wonderful life as a family of three.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Book Review: The Church and New Media by Brandon Vogt

I heard more buzz about The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet before its release than any other book in recent memory.  Perhaps this was because the author and contributors to the book, which is essentially about the Catholic Church harnessing the power of social media, put their own advice into action to spread the word about this phenomenal book through the very social media they discuss within its pages.  I worried about starting the book with such high expectations, but after having read only the first chapter, I already felt that I had learned enough to make the book worthwhile even if the rest fell flat (which it didn’t!).

The Church and New Media can be summarized by three words: hope, inspiration, and advice.  Through the voices of the author, Brandon Vogt, and eleven diverse contributors, readers are introduced to the various ways that social media can, and has, been used to positively spread the message of the Catholic Church.  Each of these contributors has a unique story, some are priests, others laypersons, many are converts while others are lifelong Catholics.  They use different “new media” outlets: websites, blogs, podcasts, and Twitter to name just a few.  And yet the message of each is the same: that social media has the potential to renew the life of the Catholic Church.

The book is divided into four sections, each discussing a different aspect of the Church that could be enhanced by the use of social media: evangelization, faith formation, local parish engagement, and social justice activism.  Within each section, there are several chapters written by experts on the topic who not only gave uplifting accounts of how they have successfully used new media to promote the faith, but also very specific advice for others to do the same.  Just as the topics are varied, so is the advice; some is written for dioceses, parishes, and organizations while other guidance is directed toward bloggers and other individuals.  As a Catholic blogger, I took particular interest in the chapters that focused on blogging and gained substantial insight and ideas about improving my blog and Catholic presence online.  Yet I found the entire book to be fascinating and enjoyed the chapters about improving parish and diocese communication just as much as I enjoyed those that pertained to me specifically.  As I read those chapters, I thought about the social media currently utilized at my current and past parishes and how parish life might be altered in the future if just a few of the suggestions were implemented.  This in turn motivated me to consider ways that I personally can aid in the introduction of these technologies at the local level.

I believe that the best books are not those that merely entertain or even that prompt you to think, but those that cause you to act.  This certainly is one of those books.  For that reason, I view it as a must read not only for Catholic bloggers, church staff, and clergy, but for all Catholics.  After all, if the Church is communicating with us through social media, we should be knowledgeable able the resources available to us so that we can be on the receiving end of the Church’s messages.  If you haven’t read it already, I strongly urge you to pick up a copy.  Not only will you gain a greater understanding of how new media can be used as an instrument of God, you will also be financially supporting the spread of technology as 100% of the royalties from The Church and New Media go toward the establishment of school computer labs in the Archdiocese of Mombasa, Kenya.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Church and New Media. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Patiently Awaiting

“For you O Lord, my soul in stillness waits,
Truly my hope is in you”

On this, the second Sunday of Advent, my thoughts have turned to patience.  And not just because I am a week past my due date and attempting to be patient as I await the birth of my first child.  No, I’m thinking about the patience in which we are called to wait for the return of Christ.  He calls us to wait patiently, but not to wait idly. 

“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.

Do I spread the message of the Lord?  Am I preparing myself and others for his return?  What does this look like in the modern world?  Unlike John the Baptist, I am not called to preach in the wilderness.  But I am called to live my life in accordance with my faith, to be a living example of the message of Christ.  I am called to raise my child in a Christian household.  I am called to pray for my husband and to help him to be more faithful.  And perhaps this blog is also a way I can share the faith (later this week, I’m sharing my review of The Church and New Media, a book that can help all of us understand how we can be like John the Baptist, sharing the message of Christ through social media).
AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by onnola
Kaylene of Letters from Momma recently wrote a post about her Advent goals.  Although I’m a week late on this, I would like take inspiration from her post and make my own goals, not just for Advent, but rather New Year’s resolutions of sorts.  Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical year, and I want to make goals for spiritual growth in the upcoming year. 

In January, I chose a “word of the year” to concentrate on.  I chose the word obedience.  I feel that by focusing on just this one virtue, I was able to lay down a bit of my pride and become a little more obedient to God’s will.  Of course, this is still an area that I will continue to work on, that I will continue to need to work on, but I look forward to adding a new virtue to enhance.  So this year, I will be working on patience.  I am notoriously impatient (just ask my husband) and I feel like this is particularly harmful to my prayer life.  Sometimes, you just need to sit and listen, to be patient and let God answer your prayers in his time, in his way.  That approach has never really gone too well for me…

I don’t want to overwhelm myself with goals for this year, I know myself well and if I make too many goals, I won’t accomplish any of them.  This upcoming year, the goals will make themselves.  I will have to learn to be a mother and to balance that with being a wife.  So my second goal is simple: to go easy on myself.  I tend to be a perfectionist, at least in certain areas of my life, and I want to learn to let go, to enjoy life, and when I make mistakes, to forgive myself.

I hope your Advent has been blessed so far and that you continue to grow in faith as you prepare for the arrival of Christ!

Friday, December 2, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 36)

--- 1 ---

No baby yet!  I am currently five days “overdue” and trying to be very patient as we wait to meet our little one.  At least as I write this on Thursday evening, there are no signs of labor starting.   

--- 2 ---

When we moved here, several others from my husband’s lab group moved here as well, including another couple who was expecting.  The wife was due the day before me (Saturday) and she went into labor on her due date!  The baby wasn’t born until Monday morning after a long labor and David and I were able to go visit the new baby Tuesday night.  It was so bittersweet holding their little boy!  He was so adorable and made me even more anxious to meet our own baby, especially when watching my husband hold him.  I can’t wait to see my husband tenderly hold his own child!

--- 3 ---

David and I went to a penance service at our church on Monday.  I had been wanting to go to confession before I went into labor just in case, and it’s been too long anyway.  It was really nice to see the church filled with people who were wanting to go to confession and many priests there to hear them.  I’ve heard a lot of sad statistics about how few Catholics take advantage of the sacrament; I wonder if penance services were offered more often, would more people go to confession?  Perhaps the communal aspect would help assuage some of the fears that people have about going?

--- 4 ---

I bought the baby’s Christmas present yesterday!  I really wasn’t going to get the baby anything (Does that sound bad? He/she doesn’t need anything and there are so many people that are just waiting to spoil him/her.) but there was a really great deal on this children’s nativity set and I just couldn’t pass it up.  I love the idea of a nativity scene that kids can actually play with even if my little one won’t be able to play with it until next year.

--- 5 ---

I am two more presents closer to finishing my Christmas shopping.  I am particularly excited about the crucifix we bought for my brother-in-law and his fiancée (it was my husband’s idea!).  I’m not done buying all the gifts like I had wanted to be before the baby is born (perhaps that’s why he/she isn’t here yet?) but in reality, I still haven’t completed even half of my before baby goals, but I’m surprisingly okay with that.  I’m sure everything that needs to get done will get done, and if things don’t get completed, maybe they weren’t that important to begin with. 

--- 6 ---

My husband finally finished the fellowship application he’s been working on for months!  He’s been working so hard on it and if you ask me, I think he’s very deserving of it (although I might be a little partial).  He’s just waiting for one last support letter from a professor he would work with if he received the fellowship.  He’s been asking her for it for weeks and has yet to receive it and we’re both starting to get really nervous.  It’s due on Monday and he really needs to upload it, especially since we may have to head off to the birth center at any time if I go into labor.  I find it very frustrating when people in a professional setting fail to complete their obligations in a timely manner.  If she wasn’t able to do it within the time constraints, she should have told him so! 

--- 7 ---

I won a box of Godiva chocolates in a giveaway earlier this week!  It is supposed to arrive in the mail today.  So if my baby doesn’t arrive today, at least I have another delivery to look forward to!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Guest Post at NFP and Me: NFP For Achieving a Pregnancy

Katie of NFP and Me graciously offered me the opportunity to write a guest post about my experiences using Natural Family Planning for her series on the differences between NFP and contraception.  After much thought, I decided to write about using NFP to conceive, an aspect of NFP that I feel if often overlooked, yet is something that clearly sets it apart from contraception.  Here's a sneak peak:

Usually when I hear about Natural Family Planning, the focus is on preventing pregnancy.  I think this is, in part, due to the fact that Natural Family Planning proponents want to prove that it is an alternative just as effective as contraception.  Although it is certainly true that NFP is very effective at preventing pregnancy, this emphasis saddens me because I believe that by simply comparing the preventative abilities of NFP with contraception, we lose the essence of what it truly is.  It is not simply a method for preventing pregnancy, but rather a comprehensive system in which knowledge of the female body is utilized to plan a family – both to prevent (or postpone) pregnancy and to achieve pregnancy.  Unlike contraception, NFP has a beautiful, life-giving component which should not be overlooked...continue reading at NFP and Me

Please go on over and read the post and while you're at it check out some of the great posts Katie's written!

If you are visiting my blog for the first time from her site, welcome!  I hope you'll stay a while and read a little about my life in a new state, as a relatively new wife (as of July 2010), and mother-to be (I'm currently two days past my due date, so it won't be long now!).

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Beautiful Mass

Mass yesterday was beautiful.  I’m not sure if it was due to the beginning of Advent or to the new translation of the Roman Missal, although I suspect it was a little of both. 

My husband and I arrived at Sacred Heart Cathedral fifteen minutes early like we always do and it was already so crowded that we took some of the last available seats.  Even though it is the cathedral for the Diocese of Raleigh, Sacred Heart is very small, seating perhaps 250 people and there are usually people standing in the back; however, the pews aren’t usually filled until just before Mass begins and there were considerably more people standing yesterday, filling not just the entrance, but overflowing along the side walls of the cathedral. It was amazing to have the cathedral filled to the brim. 

I’m not sure why so many were there.  Perhaps those that have been away from the Church or who only attend sporadically were inspired by the beginning of the liturgical year and the Advent season to attend more regularly.  My husband thought that the extensive media coverage on the introduction of the revised Missal may have piqued the curiosity of many lapsed Catholics who decided to check out the changes for themselves.  Either way, I will be spending much time this week praying that they will be returning next Sunday.  Looking around at all the people reminded me of the message that was in every Catholic newspaper in our old diocese: “When you’re not at Mass, we miss you.”  So true, their absence will be felt and the cathedral will seem empty if they aren’t there next week.

The introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal went very well at our parish.  In fact, since everyone was following along with the new responses as written in the bulletin, there was even more participation than during an ordinary Mass.  The responses were louder and more clear than usual - perhaps because many Catholics usually mumble the responses because they aren’t sure of the real words, a problem that is solved when they can read along.  Of course, there were several times when the old words could be heard mixed in with the new (especially “And also with you”), but everyone seemed so good natured about it, lightly chuckling and trying harder the next time. 

New Saint Joseph Sunday Missal and HymnalThe new Missal struck me personally as very powerful and beautiful.  My husband and I went to a Catholic store Saturday in search of an engagement present for my brother-in-law and his fiancée and while there picked up a Sunday Missal for the new liturgical year.  We did so for the readings (we previously printed them out each Sunday to bring with us to Mass), but an unintended advantage was that we had the entire Order of the Mass at our  disposal (including the ten Eucharistic Prayer options).  I was able to follow along not only with the responses of the congregation, but also the parts of the priest which have changed considerably as well.  If you are feeling like you’ll have a hard time learning the new responses, imagine how difficult it is for our priests!  Since I was able to read along closely throughout the entire Mass, I could fully absorb the beauty of the new words, especially new Eucharistic prayer.  I encourage everyone to go out and buy their own Sunday Missal so you can follow along.  I also find it helpful to read and contemplate the readings before Mass and to follow along with them during Mass (especially since sometimes I can’t hear the lectors well).  You can buy the New Saint Joseph Sunday Missal and Hymnal online for $4.95. 

Another reason Mass was so lovely was that the Bishop was presiding.  We’ve been attending Mass at the cathedral since our second week here in Raleigh and this is the first time we have seen the Bishop.  I feel blessed to live in the city at the seat of the diocese, as we also did when we lived in Indiana.  It is incredibly moving to have the privilege of attending a Mass said by your shepherd, the Bishop, something that many Catholics throughout the world never have the opportunity to do. 

The Bishop gave a beautiful homily linking the introduction of the new Missal to the beginning of Advent using the concept of change.  Personally, I feel the new Missal has enhanced my preparation for Advent.  In the past, Advent seemed to sneak up on me, leaving me without an opportunity to prepare.  Yet this year, because of all the preparations for the new Missal, I have been keenly aware of when Advent would begin and have been able to make due preparations. 

How was your first Sunday of Advent?  How was your first experience with the new Missal? 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent: Preparing for a Child

Attribution Some rights reserved by Per Ola Wiberg
Happy New Year to all my Catholic readers!  Today is the first day of Advent, the beginning of the new liturgical year.  We begin a season of preparation, preparing our hearts and our homes for the birth of a child.  The child we wait for is no ordinary child, but He came into the world much in the usual way.  He was cradled in the womb of his mother and just as we prepare for his arrival each year, so too must his mother have prepared for his birth over two thousand years ago.   My husband and I have spent the past nine months preparing to bring a baby in our lives.  As Advent begins, my thoughts turn to how Mary must have prepared for the birth of her son through the nine months of her pregnancy and what we can learn from the Holy Mother’s example.

I have not given much thought to this before, Mary’s pregnancy.  The Bible does not give much detail the time between the annunciation and the birth of Christ at Bethlehem.  Despite her trust in the Lord, she must have felt some uncertainty early in her pregnancy before Joseph took her into his home as his wife.  We know that Mary spent some time with her kinswoman Elizabeth during her pregnancy and I imagine that this time spent together was joyful, as the two women shared in the wonder of becoming a mother for the first time and feeling life form within them.  

The selflessness of Mary to assist her pregnant cousin while she herself was pregnant is a reflection I have turned to time and time again during my own pregnancy.  Although pregnancy is certainly an exceptional time in a woman’s life and she has additional needs, including needing more rest and more help with certain daily tasks, it is not a time to become self-indulgent.  Much of the pregnancy articles and advice I’ve read this past year seemed to encourage women to focus solely on themselves, to demand that their partners, family, and friends cater to their needs and whims during pregnancy, and to treat themselves to the finest luxuries and comforts.  The Blessed Mother reminds us that this is misguided, that perhaps one of the best ways to prepare for a child is to care for others.  So too can we prepare for the Christ Child this Advent by giving aid to those around us.  

This does not mean that we should neglect our own well-being, nor does it mean that we should take on responsibilities that put too much burden upon our shoulders (something I think that happens often during the holiday season).  But Advent reminds us to look outside ourselves.  When we prepare for the birth of a child, we do not want to be caught unaware without the proper necessities to welcome the child into our home: diapers, blankets, clothing, a place to sleep.  So too should be our preparation during Advent as we ready ourselves not only for the birth of Christ, but also for his return.  What do we want Him to see when He returns?  How should we be conducting our lives in light of our Christian faith?

While secular society starts the holiday season with Black Friday, thus highlighting the materialistic emphasis that Christmas has acquired in recent years, we as Catholics acknowledge Advent, a time of great reflection and spiritual preparation, as the beginning of our yearly journey toward Christmas.  May your Advent be filled with light as you prepare your hearts and homes for the coming of Christ!

Friday, November 25, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 35)

1.  I am very grateful that my husband and I had someplace to go this year for Thanksgiving.  His graduate advisor invited us to her home and her parents made a delicious meal.  Another professor and one of my husband’s lab mates who were unable to go home for the holiday were there as well.  Although I would have made a simplified Thanksgiving dinner for David and me had we not been invited, I think that much of the spirit of the holiday would have been lost.  Thanksgiving is not just about the food or even about gratitude; gathering together and sharing good company is an essential part as well.  While we weren’t with family, we were with kind people and had several hours of wonderful conversation. 
2.  Last Saturday, we went to the Raleigh Christmas Parade.  Usually I’m adverse to Christmas activities before Thanksgiving, but I had heard such good things about the parade and didn’t want to miss out.  And I certainly was not disappointed!  It was definitely the largest, longest, and most impressive parade I’ve ever attended.  There were even a few balloons in the spirit of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (I heard from all the Raleigh natives sitting around us that it was the first year for these balloons, so they truly were a treat for all who attended).  Here are a few pictures of some of my favorite parts of the parade:

3.  The last several weeks, I have been very touched by all the kind gestures and comments by strangers.  There’s something about a large pregnant belly that makes people go out of their way to help you!  For example, at the parade, I was sitting on the curb on a blanket and several people around us offered to stand (for several hours!) so that I could sit in their chairs.  I’ve never experienced so much consideration from complete strangers! 

4.  Speaking of a large pregnant belly, here is a picture David took of me last Sunday at 39 weeks:

5.  I’ve heard a lot of negative comments this year about Black Friday and materialism.  While I agree that some people go overboard (have you read about the shootings that have occurred today?) and that stores shouldn’t make their employees work ridiculous hours late at night or early in the morning, I do think that when you take the right attitude toward Black Friday, it’s not such a bad thing.  The best Christmas present I ever received was a Kitchen Aid stand mixer that my parents could only afford because it was an amazing Black Friday deal.  It’s such an amazingly useful gift and I’ll have that baby forever!

6.  I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how I want to approach Christmas with my children.  Growing up, my brother and I always received a ridiculous amount of presents, especially from my grandparents.  Of course, my grandparents gave this gifts out of love, but there were two negative consequences that came from it: 1) Christmas became all about the gifts, and 2) we had bedrooms overflowing with toys that we never played with.  To address the first issue, I really hope to spend a lot of time with my kids celebrating Advent to prepare them for Christmas, and to institute Christ-centered Christmas activities.  Even though I won’t need to worry about this for a few years until the baby is old enough to really participate, I’ve already begun to collect some ideas of how to do this since Advent was not something that was ever even discussed outside of Mass when I was growing up.  Does your family have any great Advent or Christmas traditions that help them keep the focus of Christmas on Christ? 

7.  As for the overcrowding of unused toys, there is only so much I can do about that.  Even just the thought of all that clutter makes me uneasy.  Fortunately, my mom has already told me that she doesn’t want to go overboard like my grandparents did and plans to get less, more useful gifts for the baby.  She also said that she will try to keep my grandparents under check and will give concrete ideas of Christmas presents to family that asks.  That means I have to already have a Christmas list for the baby this year before he/she is even born!  We have very few books for the baby, so I thought that would be a good, useful thing to ask for, as well as some very basic, classic (especially wooden) toys (even though the baby won’t be ready for toys for a while).  Do you have any other ideas for gifts for a baby’s first Christmas?  Here are a couple of my top choices:

Baby Teething Toys: Baby Handmade Sophie The Giraffe TeetherBaby Toys: Baby Colorful Car ToyToddler Toys: Toddler Colorful Star StackerKids Toys: Colorful Shape Sorter Wheel Toy

Kids' Books: Goodnight Moon Board Book by Margaret Wise BrownKids Books: Little Blue and LIttle Yellow by Leo LionniKids' Books: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Saint Cecilia: Virgin and Model Wife?

St Cecilia (Poussin) -24x30

Today is the Feast of Saint Cecilia.  Several years ago, I chose her as my confirmation Saint, although I am loathe to admit that I chose her somewhat arbitrarily.  My grandmother’s name is Cecilia, and for that reason, she inherited from her parents a beautiful painting that hung in her bedroom of the Saint at a piano, surrounded by angels.  I haven’t seen the painting in years, but I assume that it probably is not as beautiful as I remember.  The beauty came not from the skill of the artist, but from the holiness and serenity that emanated from the painting.  When I chose my confirmation Saint, I did so in part because I knew that it would please my grandmother and in part because I was running out of time to choose and Saint Cecilia was one of the only female Saints I knew by name, but I also like to think that I did so with the image of that painting somewhere in the mind.

Until recently, I did not know much about the life and martyrdom of Saint Cecilia, and perhaps if I had done more research into the Saints before I had chosen one, I would have picked someone else.  As a sophomore in high school, I probably wouldn’t have related well with a third-century virgin martyr.  Yet, as I look at her life from my current situation, she gives me much inspiration and courage as I look to deepen my relationship with Christ.  While she was canonized as a virgin martyr, Saint Cecilia was in fact married.  When they married, her husband Valerian was a pagan, but through the prayers and persuasion of his wife, he and his brother were both baptized and dedicated their lives to aiding other Christians, specifically by burying the bodies of Christian martyrs, before they became martyrs themselves.  What a model of Christian wifehood!  Although I was called not to maintain my virginity but instead to motherhood within my marriage, I too am called to pray for my husband and to take a strong role in maintaining the holiness of my family and my home.  Is there anything a man cannot do with a strong, faithful woman at his side? 

While my own husband is a devout Catholic and perhaps does more to guide me spiritually than I do him, I call upon Saint Cecilia often to pray for those women (and men) whose spouses are not Christian or who do not practice their faith.  I myself come from a mixed-faith family.  My mother was raised Catholic by her Catholic mother and Jewish father (my grandfather finally converted last December after a lifetime of loving the Church from the outside!), and my brother and I were raised Catholic by her and my unpracticing Baptist father.  I know that there are often difficulties that come from a mixed-faith marriage and I pray often for my parents in this respect.  If you have a spouse who does not share your faith or if you know someone in that situation, take strength from Saint Cecilia’s example and pray:

Beloved Jesus, Saint Cecilia’s parents wed her to a pagan nobleman.  Eager to convert her new husband, she told him about the angel that always escorted her.  He wanted to see the angel too, so he asked for his soul to be purified by baptism.  The next time Saint Cecilia prayed, her husband saw the angel place a crown on both of their heads.  I ask her and my guardian angel to pray for the unconverted spouses in my family and circles of friends, and for the spouses who believe in You but are slow in spiritual growth.  Lord, in Your perfect timing, help them to open up to Your friendship and purification.  Saint Cecilia, pray for us.  Amen.

Guest Post at The Catholic Couponer: Preparing for the New Roman Missal

I'm very excited to announce that today Beth Anne of The Catholic Couponer is featuring a guest post I wrote about preparing for the new Roman Missal that will be implemented starting this Sunday, the first day of Advent and the liturgical year:

Catholics are notorious for resisting change.  Greater society looks at this aversion to change as proof that the Catholic Church is outdated, rigid, and obsolete, especially since she refuses to modify her stance on issues such as birth control, abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and female clergy.   But for many Catholics, it is this steadfast stance that attracts us most to the Church.  While many other religions and Christian denominations seem to constantly change their beliefs and morality with the surrounding culture, the Church has remained dedicated to the original teachings of Christ which, although they should be studied in order to be applied to modern circumstances, should never waver from His original intention.  There is great beauty in being part of an unwavering tradition, as well as confidence that we are adhering to God’s will...continue reading at The Catholic Couponer

She's started a series of posts to educate and prepare readers for the new Missal and I'm proud to be a part of it.  Please stop over there and take a look!

If you are visiting my blog for the first time from her site, welcome!  I hope you'll stick around and read a little about my life as a relatively new wife (as of July 2010) and mother-to be (any day now!). 

Friday, November 18, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 34)

--- 1 ---

I know I can’t pick the day I go into labor, but I can’t help thinking how special it would be if the baby is born on November, 22 - St. Cecilia’s Feast Day.  I chose St. Cecilia as my confirmation Saint years ago, in part because my grandmother’s name is Cecilia and she inherited a gorgeous painting of the Saint that hung in her bedroom.  I always felt drawn to the beauty of the painting and the holiness it depicted.

--- 2 ---

The baby’s due date, November 27, would also be an amazing day to be born because it is the first day of Advent!  Obviously, it wouldn’t be the first day of Advent every year, but it would make a nice story to tell him/her that she arrive on the first day of Advent and I would think about it every year as Advent began.  My mom always loves to tell me (and I love to hear) about how the day she brought me home from the hospital was the first day of spring.

--- 3 ---

Obviously, the baby will come when he/she wants to, and I’m beginning to think that it’s going to be soon.  The past few days I’ve been overwhelmingly tired and achy, perhaps it’s my body telling me to rest up for labor?  Either that or maybe I’m getting the flu…

--- 4 ---

I have almost all the Christmas presents for my family, but have none for my husband’s family (other than for the kids – they are so easy and fun to shop for).  I don’t know my in-laws well enough to pick really personal gifts for them and my husband has absolutely no ideas.  I had really wanted to have all my Christmas shopping done before the baby got here, but I just can’t think of anything to get for them.  Any ideas of nice, inexpensive gifts for the in-laws?

--- 5 ---

I have been worrying for a while about what to do for Thanksgiving.  I didn’t want to go without making some kind of dinner if the baby isn’t here yet.  If the baby did come early, we probably would be so absorbed with our new little one that we wouldn’t really notice missing out on dinner.  But without knowing if we would have the baby yet, I wasn’t sure if I should be buying the necessary Thanksgiving meal foods or starting to prepare them early.  Well, it turns out I didn’t need to worry after all.  My husband’s advisor invited the grad students that would be staying in town (which turns out to be just my husband and one other guy) to her house for dinner!  And an extra bonus… my husband is excited he’ll finally be able to meet her husband after four years – none of the current grad students have ever met him and were beginning to think he was imaginary.

--- 6 ---

Wednesday, it was 80 degrees here in Raleigh.  Yesterday, the high was 50.  This highly variable weather isn’t new to me because Colorado is even worse (it was all over the news a few weeks ago that it went from 80 degrees one day to 30 degrees and a blizzard the next day), but I never can get used to it.

--- 7 ---

I don’t have my bag packed yet for the birth center, any advice about what I should bring?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Are You Afraid?

Afraid of what?


I wish I had a dollar for each time I was asked this question during the past few months.  Actually, I wish I was never asked this question, because it betrays an underlying cultural fear of childbirth.  This is not a fear that I share in; it is not how I view my impending childbirth.  If I have any reservations about childbirth, it is simply because I have never experienced it before and the unknown is usually a bit scary. 

Why are women afraid of childbirth?  I think it is because they are afraid of the excruciating pain they are told that they will experience.  Or perhaps of the many complications they believe are commonplace and unavoidable.  At the heart of this fear is misinformation and lack of education.  Many pregnant women spend months preparing a nursery, they read many books about pregnancy and caring for a newborn, but they often leave the details about the labor and delivery to their doctors.  Many don’t take any childbirth classes or if they do, they are the classes offered by the hospital which usually do not explain the natural processes and progression of childbirth, rather the hospital policies and medical interventions available.  No wonder they are afraid, I’m sure I would be terrified of childbirth if I had no idea what to expect and if I was laying the whole matter in the hands of a doctor, a stranger that I perhaps met only a few times. 

Of course, this is just my opinion, based on my own experience observing the actions and attitudes of those around me.  Perhaps I am wrong, in fact, I hope I am wrong. 

Don’t get me wrong, while I believe that childbirth is a natural process, I do acknowledge that it certainly will be difficult and painful.  I know that there are situations in which medical interventions are necessary for the health of the mother and child, and if I end up in one of those situations, I certainly will do whatever needs to be done.  But I am going into childbirth well-educated about the female body and its incredible abilities to birth a child.  After all, it has been nourishing and sustaining my child for the past nine months, why should I doubt that it is also capable of birthing him/her? 

But I do not only go into childbirth unafraid because I am knowledgeable; perhaps the main reason I’m not afraid is because of my strong faith in God.  I trust in the Lord to protect me and my child.  And if I were to die in childbirth, as unlikely as that may be, I am unafraid of death. 

Now if you asked me if I am afraid of being a parent, that’s a completely different story.  I am much more afraid of the hours, days, weeks, years that follow childbirth.  I am humbled and a bit terrified when I think of the awesome responsibilities of parenthood, of raising a child to love God and to be a compassionate, responsible citizen.   But one step at a time…I’m first going to focus on getting my little one out into the world (any time now!).