Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Our Little Oratory

Remember how I asked you for your input on how/where to create an oratory (prayer space in our home)?

Well, it's (mostly) put together, so I thought I'd share a few pictures.

We have this great little area behind the family room loveseat.  It's a focal point when you enter the space, and it's an area we pass by several times a day.  I chose this as the spot for our little oratory.

First, I found this fantastic teal accent cabinet from Target on sale.

Look at all of the fun colors it comes in!  I like the teal even better in person.  I am so proud of myself for picking out a color that I love instead of something safe or neutral.  

Then, I found a large paneled mirror from Home Goods that reminds me of a chapel window.  Philip helped me to hang it above the cabinet.  The room's high ceilings and the mirror make the space seem larger.

Finally, I added the finishing touches and filled the cabinets.  Here's the (nearly) finished product:

We will continue adding to the space as time goes on.  

In the left cabinet, I have the Bibles, books of saints, the Catechism, the family prayer binder, prayer journals, and other devotional materials.  

In the right cabinet, I have the kids' Bibles and other religious books, holy cards, and holy water.  I used to have all of our rosaries here, but they became what you could call a "near occasion of sin" for Mr. Harry.  He thinks all things with strings are numchucks and doesn't understand the whole "we don't throw sacramentals around" rule, so the rosaries got relocated. 

I'm still deciding what I want to put on the middle shelves.  The trouble is always those little hands and little mouths that love to throw and eat everything...  Let me know if you have a great idea for a home with young children.

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to put on top of the cabinet.  I decided on items that would expose the children to various vocations--the priesthood, religious life, and married life.  Additionally, we needed a little pretty, so I put in some fresh flowers.  Gotta love a $7.98 bouquet from Sam's!

This is a special memento from my high school days at Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart.  The statue captures St. Rose Philippine Duchesne (my confirmation name!) stroking the hair of a young girl.  St. Rose Philippine Duchesne founded the Society of the Sacred Heart in America.  Her order served the Native American communities where they traveled while establishing schools.  The Native Americans called her the "woman who is always praying."  I love this tender scene between St. Rose Philippine Duchesne and the little child.  What's more beautiful than a woman happily serving the Lord by serving others? 

This image of St. John Paul II, "Totus Tuus," was done by local artist Terrence St. Hilaire.  He specializes in Catholic and patriotic fine art.  Isn't that sketch beautiful? St. John Paul II is a personal hero of mine (and the guy behind the name of this blog).  I love his model of suffering well and deep devotion to the Blessed Mother, illustrated by the Rosary in his right hand.    

Finally, I included a black and white picture of us on our wedding day alongside our unity candle.  I had this print already, but I want to get one of us from the moment of consecration during our nuptial Mass.  It's probably more fitting for a little oratory than us smooching!  We want the kids to know that marriage, just like the priesthood and religious life, is a vocation that we are called to with the aim of bringing us, our spouse, and all of our children to sanctification.  It's not just a default thing you do when you're not a priest or religious!    

I love our little oratory!  It's been a great focal point for our home, and it brings me joy every time I look at it.  The kids love having all of their Bibles and religious books set apart, and they regularly sit in the little nook area to pore over the pages of Bible stories or lives of saints.  Being able to access our prayer and devotional materials all in one convenient, prominent spot helps to make prayer the center and focus of our home.  

Do you have a little oratory in your home?  What kinds of things have you included?  How do you use the space?  

Monday, July 28, 2014

*THIS* is a weekend

During residency, I asked the Dowager Countess' question all the time:

Real weekends with Philip off from Friday evening until Monday morning were few and far between--and that was after a full week's work at the hospital.  

Now, as we begin our new normal, we're re-learning this concept called a weekend.  While the Dowager Countess didn't know what they were because she didn't work, we're learning what they are because Philip is finally getting regular, dependable, time off from work.

This last week was Philip's first week at the new practice, so it was also our first new normal weekend.  (Philip will average one weekend call a month in practice, so more often than not, we can count on some regular weekends together.) 

What did we do with our first normal weekend?  Well...

Friday afternoon, I took the kids in for well-checks with another pediatrician in Philip's group.  

Philip was between patients, so he was able to entertain Harry while Jane and Walt had their doctor's appointment.  Then, we picked up some dinner.  Hooray for a night off from cooking!  After dinner, we had some family movie time.  Gotta love Veggie Tales on Netflix!  Then, Philip and I watched a documentary on Netflix called Life 2.0.  It.  Was.  Crazy.  And extremely depressing.  But very entertaining.  The documentary follows different people and records how their real lives are impacted by their playing the online game Second Life.

We had a leisurely start to our Saturday at home.  At one point, all 5 of us plus Monty were cuddled up on the front living room couch with blankies.  During Harry's morning snooze, Jane and Walt joined me for Level 2 of the 30-Day Shred while Philip laughed at us.  After some lunch, we headed to the nearby library to get some new books and cruising music for the car.  I'm glad to have something other than the Frozen soundtrack in the rotation!  Then, we headed to Hobby Town for Walt to pick out another engine as a reward for completing another potty training sticker map.  Yay!  He picked out a really creepy talking Diesel 10, and he adores him.  We made a quick little pit stop at the nearby produce stand before heading home for naps.  The stars aligned perfectly, and everyone took a glorious 2-hour nap.  While Jane and Walt played outside and Harry banged pots in the kitchen, Philip and I prepared a delicious summer dinner. 

Grilled salmon with a summery salsa, squash, watermelon, and a little rice.  Yum yum!

I cleaned up the dinner dishes while Philip took the kids out front to do some sidewalk chalk and play on their ride-on toys in the driveway.  In the middle of doing dishes, Philip popped in to tell me that the couple who lives two doors up had stopped over.  I came outside in my apron (covered in dishwater!  oh well!) to chat it up while the kids played.  The neighbors had brought candy for the kids and a bottle of chardonnay with cups for the adults.  Gotta love those kinds of neighbors!  Eventually, it was time to come inside to give the kids baths and begin the bedtime process.  After getting the kids down, Philip and I got out our new game, Forbidden Island.   

Neither of us are what would would call big gamers, but we had SO MUCH FUN playing a silly new board game together!  The object of the game is to work together as a team to collect the 4 treasures of the island and escape before it sinks.  I am pleased to share that although things were very dicey at a few points, Philip and I successfully escaped Forbidden Island!  Yay!

Then, we watched a silly episode of Flipping Out without falling asleep (it's the little things) and called it a night.

We had another leisurely start to the day on Sunday before heading to 11:00 a.m. Mass.  I even got to spend half an hour reading Momnipotent with a cup of coffee.  Glorious!  

Can I tell you how awesome it is to live so close to the parish?!  We've been trying to sit in the front pew by the choir as much as possible.  I love sitting in the front because it keeps the kids more engaged, but it's very, very humbling on their less than perfect behavior days.  Harry thinks wrestling away from Mom and Dad is a new Olympic sport, and he takes the challenge very seriously.  He created a new event called the Binkie Launch.  Jane and Walt think it's great because they bolt out of the pew to retrieve the tossed binkie.  I'd use one of those binkie attachment clips, but Harry's superbaby strength is no match for it.  He'd end up launching the clip and everything.  God bless every mom and dad who have ever knowingly told us, "You're doing great and have a beautiful family.  I remember those days!"    

After Mass, we had some leftover delicious salmon (drooling just thinking about it...) and played with the kiddos until naptime.  While the kids napped, Philip and I got ready for his family to come over to celebrate his dad's birthday.  

Philip has become a grilling pro.  We had his now-famous BBQ chicken, corn on the cob, watermelon slices and rolls.  Mimi brought some chocolate cupcakes and ice cream.  "Papa" got a candle in his, and Jane and Walt gladly helped him blow it out.  

We had a great evening enjoying the beautiful weather while the kids ran around in the sprinklers and played with the water table.  

Mimi, Papa, and Maddy brought over their Scottie, Muffy.  Muffy had a ball playing with the kids.  Monty mostly just stayed under my feet.

After Mimi, Papa, Maddy, and Maffy headed home and we had the kids in bed, Philip and I spent some time reading together in the family room.  Have I mentioned how much I love not having a television on the main floor?  It's been such a great decision for our family.  I'm glad I married a reader and a lifelong learner because Philip always has something new to chat about.  It's adorable how excited he gets about whatever he's reading.  

And that was it.  We didn't do anything huge or earth-shattering, but it was perfect.  It was exactly what  a weekend should be.  It was a time of rest, relaxation, and refreshment all together as a family.  I love the new normal!   

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why Philip Does the Charting

Didja hear?  It's National NFP Awareness Week!  

If the world of NFP is foreign to you, be sure and check out what the Church has to say about NFP.  Mama Church knows what's best for us, and the Church definitely knows what the gift of our fertility and sexuality is all about.    

I wrote a post two years ago for NFP Awareness Week.  In that post, I talked about what NFP is all about, mentioned the benefits, and shared some resources.

Today, I want to zero in on how Philip's role in NFP (specifically with charting) has been a tremendous blessing for our marriage.  Back in the fall of 2007 when we were going through marriage preparation, we started taking classes at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Looking back, it is UNREAL to me how darn lucky we were to be starting our marriage with Pope Paul VI Institute in our backyard.  Nebraskans, most of us have no idea how lucky we are!)  

What's the Pope Paul VI Institute anyway?
The Pope Paul VI Institute, founded in 1985 by Thomas W. Hilgers, MD, is internationally recognized for its outstanding achievements in the field of natural fertility regulation and reproductive medicine — 30 years of scientific research and educational program development; allied health professional education programs for couples and professionals; professional, caring, and morally acceptable patient services. The Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction is building a culture of life in women's health care through its major developments — Creighton Model FertilityCare System and NaProTechnology.      
Amazing stuff, huh?  Philip and I got to take NFP classes on site at Pope Paul VI with our own fertility care practitioner.  We met one-on-one with our fertility care practitioner during our engagement and shortly after marriage to learn the ins and outs of the Creighton Model of NFP.  I learned how to make accurate observations, and Philip learned how to become an accurate charter.  

The gist of the Creighton Model is this:

  • A woman's natural cycle has periods of fertility and infertility
  • Regular observations of the woman's cervical mucus indicate whether the woman is fertile or infertile
  • These observations help couples discern whether or not engaging in the marital act would help them in their goal to achieve or avoid a pregnancy
  • In addition to identifying periods of fertility and infertility, charting (writing the most fertile observation of the day) over a period time can help to identify other gynecological health issues
Six months before our wedding, Philip started charting those observations.  (We weren't together until our wedding night, but I wanted to know how to make accurate observations, and Philip wanted to understand the charting.  That way, we would know what my cycles looked like, seek any help if we needed it, and could better reach our discerned goal to achieve or avoid a pregnancy.  

We weren't living together before we got married, so we had to be very deliberate in making sure we charted at the end of each day.  Before we hung up to say goodnight or Philip would head back to his apartment, he'd ask me, "What was your most fertile sign today?"  I'd fill him in, and he'd put the info down on the chart.  Then, we would talk about whether that day was likely a day of fertility or infertility to better understand what it all meant.  

Philip was such a champ with the charting, and he had no qualms talking about cervical mucus.  Gotta love a guy who can ask you straight-faced, "Sticky, tacky, or stretchy?"  If you can talk about cervical mucus during your engagement, you can talk about anything!  Our fertility care practitioner insisted that my job was to make the observations every time I used the restroom, and Philip's job was to chart at the end of each day.  I'm so glad she did, too, because it turns out having Philip chart makes a big difference in our success with NFP.  

I didn't know it then, but having Philip chart let me "off the hook" from playing the role of sex broker in our relationship.  Every month, we would prayerfully discern whether or not we thought God was calling us to avoid or achieve a pregnancy.  Keeping that goal in mind, we would have our charting conversation at the end of each day.  If our goal was to avoid and it was a day of fertility, sex was off the table without me having to say so.  

We have our monthly goal of achieving or avoiding in mind every time we have our nightly charting conversation.  The conversation always goes like this:
Philip: What was your most fertile sign of the day?
Me: Fill in the blank with my most fertile sign. 
Philip: (Writing down the observation on the chart and pointing out any irregularities/concerns with my cycle.)
Philip knows whether my observation indicates a window of fertility or infertility.  Just sharing my observation lets him know whether or not being together that night would match up with our goal to achieve or avoid a pregnancy.  If I were the one charting, I can see how I could become the sex broker. Philip wouldn't be looking at the chart every night, so he'd probably lose a sense of where I am in my cycle.  Instead of focusing on my fertility, the question would likely become, "So, can we be together tonight?"  I'd be put in a position to say "yes" or "no" dependent on where I was in my cycle.  Having to give the green or red light would have attached strings or guilt.  I can see how that kind of relationship with NFP would likely lead to resentment of my fertility.  With Philip charting, he's in the know, and he sees the chart with me every night.  He knows when I'm PMS-ing, when I'm menstruating, when I'm ovulating, and everything in between.  With that information, he knows how to be as supportive as possible and what kinds of support will be best received.  Together, Philip and I have uncovered information that we probably would not have without the gift of the Creighton Model in our marriage.  We've learned that I struggle with PMS, I've had low progesterone, and my surging estrogen levels during ovulation make me break out like a teenager.  Having these observations in a chart helped my OBGYN to intervene with progesterone supplements during pregnancy to prevent miscarriage, taught me to apply benzoyl peroxide big time before ovulation, and help Philip to *try* to be more patient and loving when I'm PMS-ing.  

Having regular windows of abstinence when we are trying to space our children is a sacrifice at times, but it blesses us so much.  It makes the times that we are together so much more meaningful, and it forces us to connect on different levels.  When you're going through the Creighton Model classes, you learn about "SPICE"--the different ways we can connect with each other:

represents Spiritual sharing, expressed through praying together or meditation.
represents the Physical, expressed through closeness such as just being close to one another without genital contact.
represents the Intellectual, expressed through sharing a project, a book or new learning.
represents the Communicative/Creative and is expressed through an increase in written or verbal communication or other shared activities.
represents the Emotional and can be expressed through sharing feelings, desires and humor.
Our marriage is hardly perfect, but NFP helps us to regularly connect across the S-P-I-C-E spectrum.  We pray together, we are able to be physically close without it having to result in sex, we are constantly learning new things together or trying new activities, we regularly exchange written messages or try to give words of affirmation, and we connect emotionally by regularly checking in with each other.  With Philip charting, he's in a better position to offer the different kinds of connections when I most need them.  Likewise, I'm better able to connect with Philip across the spectrum, especially when we cannot be together.      

That's our story, but I also want to share some great things I've read to celebrate National NFP Awareness Week:

As always, please feel free to ask me any questions or share your comments!  I talk about cervical mucus everyday, so I can talk about anything.  :) 

Not-so-little "Harry-Barry Boo"

Harry has had an EXPLOSION of development this month.  He's far from being the "potted plant" variety of baby that stays where you leave him.  He is on the go!  He cruises most everywhere he wants to be.  He has abandoned his crazy swimmer crawl for a nearly normal one.  He says "dada" and "bye-bye."  His favorite thing to do is eat, and he has mastered signing for "MORE!" very urgently when the food runs out.  He's learned he needs to be a busy guy if he's going to keep up with his big siblings.  He doesn't want to be left behind those two!

Philip and I took turns watching the kids play in the mall play area while the other did returns.  During Philip's turn watching the kids, 11-month-old Harry totally dominated this play structure!  Don't believe me?  Watch this!

The kid has superhuman strength!

He goes down slides with the big sibs 

He cruises to get to his coveted toilet paper

He adores ride-on toys 

He goes cruising with Jane and Walt in Philip's childhood car

He gets right in the mix for their crazy ideas like "3 'babies' in a basket"

He attempts most of the structures at the playground.  Spotters are always ready!

He's opening cupboards and getting into mischief (and dog treats).  Time to *really* babyproof things around here!  

He stands alongside the "big kids" at the water table.  I love how Harry and Walt have the EXACT SAME expression and their hands are doing the same thing in this picture.  You think they're related?

He's learned to handle water fights like a champ because he's (sniffle) no longer a wee little baby.

Harry turns 1 next month, and I'm thinking he'll be walking by or shortly after his birthday.  Where did this first year go?  Love you, "Harry-Barry Boo!"  You bring our family so much joy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Challenge of the week: observe

A Catholic women's Bible study I'm participating in is between studies.  Before we move on to the next study, I was asked to select an article for the group to read and discuss.  The article we're reading and discussing next week is, "Observe" by Sheri Wohlfert from

Photo from CatholicMom
In the article, Sheri writes about the power of observation and the blessings that being a deliberate observer of God's Creation can bring to our lives.
"Who knows…if we become better observers we might have a front row seat to the wonder and awe of the Father and a much clearer understanding of the things he’s asking us to be a part of.  It sounds too simple doesn’t it?  Who would ever imagine great knowledge and understanding could come from just sitting still and watching the people and things around us carefully and without judgment."
Inspired by Sheri's column, I've asked the group to do some daily "homework" before our next meeting:

  • Carve out 10 minutes each day
  • Spend 5 minutes *just* observing the people around us (especially our family members)
  • Spend 5 minutes *just* observing the rest of God's Creation
  • Write down the lessons learned and blessings this time brings
I'm looking forward to this exercise in deliberately taking in the world around me.  It's already bearing great fruit, and I'm anxious to hear how it blessed the other women in my study.  Will you take on the challenge with us?  Are you ready to just OBSERVE?  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Adventures in Potty Training With Walt (Part 2)

Since the last time I wrote about Adventures in Potty Training With Walt, I am proud to report that he is officially potty trained--just in time for preschool!  Yay!

Waiting until Walt was ready and life settled down this summer was definitely the right decision.  It's fantastic to be in a place with parenthood where we don't compare our kids to other kids' timelines.  We're learning to take the cues from our kids and help push them along when they're ready.  Waiting until he was 3 was the right decision for Walt, and he has totally dominated this potty training stuff.

For the first two weeks, the strategy was visiting the potty every 30 minutes.  For every successful visit, he got to pick out a "potty present."  (Like I wrote in Part 1, I got the idea for "potty presents" from Philip's mom.  It's just a bunch of small, inexpensive items in a bin that Walt gets to choose after going on the potty.)  Bribery ended up being a great motivator for Walt.  In fact, he was doing so well with the potty presents, that we ended up flying through them.  

Instead of making a run to the store for more potty presents, I decided to create a sticker map.  We had used a sticker map for Jane when she potty trained, too.  

Jane's sticker map
Jane, "paying" for her coveted Hello Kitty lunchbox with her completed sticker map
When we started using the sticker map with Walt, he got to put 1 or 2 stickers on the map when he successfully used the potty.  (I'll let you figure out what earns 1 sticker and what earns 2!)  Every time he reached a marked square, he got to pick out a potty present.  When he reached the end of the map, he got to go to Hobby Town to pick out a new engine for his train table.

Looking for the right engine
Making his way to the register with his sticker map and engine
Walt, "paying" for his new engine Luke with his completed sticker map
Walt's on his second sticker map.  

Walt's 2nd sticker map
We promised him another trip to Hobby Town to pick out an engine when he gets to the end.  

In the last few days, Walt has started to tell us when he needs to use the potty instead of waiting for us to ask.  He is in big boy undies all day, and he wears pull-ups to nap/bedtime.  He's almost always dry when he wakes up.  He hasn't had an accident in four days despite an eventful weekend with a roadtrip to Omaha thrown into the mix.  He starts preschool in a few weeks.  I am excited for him to go, and I'll be anxious to see how he continues to do with potty training away from home.  

I'm so proud of my big boy!  Way to go, Walt!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Outdoor String Lights for the Deck

Before our housewarming party, we decided we wanted to have outdoor globe string lights--a la Parenthood.  I had visions of our family sitting al fresco, just like this scene from Parenthood:

I found this blog tutorial, and Philip said it looked like a fun way to add some ambience to our deck.  The blog tutorial was very helpful and made the project a breeze!

Picture from BrightJuly
I bought these globe string lights at Target.

Photo from
Philip headed to the hardware store to get the rest of the gear.   

Ladies, what's cuter than a guy who can take on the hardware store with two tikes?
I'll let you read the blog tutorial from BrightJuly for their step-by-step instructions.  A few pointers we learned along the way:

  • Have the hardware store slice the PVC pipe at a 45 degree angle so that it's easier to place them in the ground
  • Use a long drill bit to make the holes in the ground straighter
  • Test each string of lights before hanging them
  • Make sure two people are hanging the lights.  The globe bulbs are fragile!
  • Make sure your outlet can handle wattage of your lights.  We ended up using 4 of the Target globe lights to circle the deck, and we split them on two different outlets so that we didn't overload the circuit.  
The lights aren't as cute with flash photography.  Here we are, enjoying the deck while the kids catch lightning bugs (do you call them lightning bugs or fireflies?) with Papa and Maddy
Philip snapped this pic of the deck while I cleaned up after our housewarming party
Voila!  Just like Parenthood, right?!  Who's coming over for a drink on the deck?  

Friday, July 18, 2014

4th of July Photo Recap

We've been enjoying our vacation time so much that I haven't had a chance to blog in awhile.  I thought I'd pop in with a photo recap of our first Fourth of July in Lincoln.  What a fun day it was! 

After a leisurely start to the day, we met up with a bunch of other families at the neighborhood park for a parade and picnic.  

Their first time on a merry-go-round
Totally loving it
All lined up for the parade
Circling the park with push-toys, trikes, bikes, and strollers
Pushing Harry on the baby swings
Learning that swings go back AND forth! 
Very excited about his 4th of July dinner
A special ice cream cone treat
Boys loving their ice cream
Really getting into it
First sparkler experience!
I took this right at the moment their sparklers ran out.  Sad, sad pouty faces!
This picture perfectly sums up Jane & Walt's polar opposite reactions to fireworks.  Jane was terrified, and Walt couldn't get enough of 'em! 
Jane decided the fireworks were better once she had Daddy's soundproof  earmuffs on
Walt opted for some eye protection
The kid couldn't get enough of riding his patriotic school bus
Watching the neighbors light off the daytime stuff 
Brothers going for a ride
Awwww, I love Walt's face in this pic!  A father's love is irreplaceable.
After playing in the driveway and watching the neighbors light off the daytime stuff, it was the kids' bedtime.  They were beat from their big day, and they didn't care about the nighttime fireworks.  Philip and I couldn't believe it, but they went straight to sleep because they were so exhausted.  We brought the baby monitor out to the driveway, poured some wine, and watched the neighbors' fireworks with Monty.  It was the perfect end to a perfect day!  

Even neurotic Monty loved the fireworks.  He sat happily on my lap without any shaking or whimpering, and he loved his glow necklaces.