Answer Me This – Summer!

Linking up with Kendra at Catholic All Year for a little Answer Me This!

summertime

1. Any big plans for the summer?

Well, last weekend we bought a house. We had to make sure last weekend was our closing date, because we’re going to be out of town every weekend from now until August 8th. We’re headed to some weddings, some weekends at our cottage, and I’m headed to Edel! The weekend of August 8th we’re going to spend getting the house ready for the Blessed is She Midwest party we’re hosting the following weekend. So…I think this is going to be a pretty busy summer!

They sent us the most adorable movers!

2. What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?

I always thought there was someone buried underneath our bathtub, so I showered for many, many years on my tiptoes. Somehow I thought it was less weird to only have my toes touching the bathtub (which was touching the dead body?).

3. What is your favorite amusement park ride? (can be a specific one at a specific park or just a type of ride)

I looooove rollercoasters. I was a little scared to read other people’s answers and see that a lot of women aren’t able to do roller coasters after having morning sickness during their pregnancies – I definitely am more prone to motion sickness now but I hadn’t considered how it would impact my dare devilry.

4. What’s on your summer reading list?

So, so much. I’m currently reading In This House of Brede (and loving it!) but I want to finish A Mother’s Rule of Life and some Flannery O’Conner. I’m also waiting for my library to provide the 7th Flavia de Luce book, The Girl on the Train, and the first J.K. Rowling mystery, The Cuckoo’s Calling. I read a book or two a week so these should get me through July. You can follow what I’m reading on my Goodreads page if you’re interested (especially if you’re interested in Catholic literature and thriller/mysteries.)

5. Have you ever fallen asleep in public?

Yes. Definitely in college lectures, on airplanes, etc.

6. What is your favorite smell?

My mom always wore cotton scents so in college I loved to sit in the laundry room when I was homesick – the smell of all the laundry reminded me of her. When I was pregnant, my cousin suggested I buy a new bottle of body wash and lotion to wear. She had done this and that smell always brought her back to the days when her little one was a newborn. I bought some cotton scent so now in addition to making me think of my mom, it reminds me of when Kateri was super tiny.

My cotton-scented Mom holding Kateri as a newborn. That's a lot of cotton, folks.

My cotton-scented Mom holding Kateri as a newborn. That’s a lot of cotton, folks.

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How Tara Got Her Groove Back

Last weekend my husband and I left the little one overnight for the first time (!) to attend our 5 year (!!!) college reunion. We were both lucky enough to attend this place:

Oh how my heart loves thee, Notre Dame.

We were about an hour away when I first thought, “Oh my goodness – we are about to be around some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, and my only accomplishment in the last year has been keeping a child alive.” I started to hear that ugly little voice in the back of my head, telling me that I was inferior to my classmates who are experiencing success in their professional lives.

Here’s the thing – the last 1.5 years has been rough. I don’t think I completely understood the change that would happen when I stopped living my life for me and started living it for someone else. I had started to learn to do that in our first year of marriage, but parenthood is different. I haven’t weathered the identity shift from Tara to Tara, mother of Kateri, as well as I’d have liked, and I’m still not in a place where I feel like I completely recognize myself. This weekend, however, put me back on the right path in a couple of ways.

First of all, all of my classmates were genuinely interested to hear what I was doing. Just as I was interested in the details of what they’ve been up to (Federal Clerkships! Dual M.D. and M.P.H’s! World Travel!), they wanted to know what life was like as a mom. They wanted to see pictures and talk about Kateri’s latest accomplishments. They wanted to know how I was – not just what I was doing. The authentic love of old friends just can’t be beat.

Second, we were able to attend our class mass, which was celebrated by President John Jenkins. His homily was beautiful, and hit me right in the gut. He talked about how the last 5 years have brought joys and challenges to all of us. He talked about redemptive suffering, and a God who knows our pain and sorrow. He talked about how good it was that we could come home, and be refilled with the beauty of Christian community. He reminded us to reflect on the last 5 years and thank God for our blessings.

The last, and possibly most important thing, was that I stayed out dancing at the Backer until 3:00 AM.  

In my tennis shoes and mom shorts.

My friends reminded me that the fun-loving, dance crazy, up-for-nearly-anything Tara of my college days was still hiding under that slightly-softer-than-before mama belly. She’s been tempered (thank goodness!) but she still knows how to dance the night away and sing loud enough to completely lose her voice.  Sometimes she can be found at the Backer at 3:00 AM and sometimes she can be found scrambling eggs at 6:00 AM for a little one. I’m so glad I figured out where she was hiding.

Sliding Into Summer

I’m going to link up with Ana and steal her format and content idea. Here’s a quick overview of what summer is looking like for us!

Sliding into summer

Wearing// These jean shorts (because I think they run big so the size makes me feel good and they work for my new post-Kateri body shape. Also, never ever buy from Gap unless it’s 40% off or you’re doing it wrong), my Saltwater sandals (because has Grace ever led anyone wrong?), and a t-shirt. All day, errday.

Eating// sandwiches. For every meal for the next few days because our whole kitchen is packed. (More on that in a minute.)

Our kitchen is completely packed except for one straggler.

Our kitchen is completely packed except for one straggler.

Drinking// LaCroix – tasty, hydrating and free of sweeteners/calories? Done and done.

Doing// a lot of playing at the park. The 3-5 PM witching hour is so much more bearable out of the house.

Sometimes we switch it up and take unflattering, super sweaty selfless at the zoo.

Sometimes we switch it up and take unflattering, super sweaty selfless at the zoo.

Preparing for// our big move! We close on our home on Friday (!!) and there is still much to be done (like packing, switching cable providers, forwarding our mail…and convincing my husband to go out and get us ice cream instead of doing all of the above.)

Reading// In This House of Brede, A Mother’s Rule of Life, and some Flannery O’Connor – all recommendations gleaned from various ladies in the Catholic blogosphere.

Listening// to the Song Exploder podcast. It is ah-mazing. They work with composers/song writers/singers to discuss how a song came into being and its meaning.  Check out the episode on the Downton Abbey theme song, or The Long Winter’s The Commander Thinks Aloud.

Watching// Once Upon a Time. It’s been so good and has some great underlying messages.

Creating// this blog. I sat down and pumped out a few posts tonight and putting some thoughts down has already brought a little peace to my crazy.

Growing// nothing. I literally do not own anything green whose survival depends on me. I guess I’m still guiding Kateri’s growth, but that feels like a stretch. Oh well – black thumb of death over here. Maybe next summer we can work on that. (Sidenote: my mom just called to say she thinks she has pink eye, so it’s possible that I’m growing something nasty in my eyes right now. Is that too much information? Too bad.)

Going// going, going. This weekend is our only weekend together in our new home until August 8th. We just can’t say no to so many awesome opportunities to be with family and friends! Buying a house with a  huge yard was totally a great idea…

At least she lets us relax a little (HAH!)

At least she lets us relax a little (HAH!)

Loving// Kateri’s latest explosion of words/sounds. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of hearing her answer, “What does the Lion say?” Parenthood just keeps getting better and better, and I love it.

Lessons in Finding and Bringing Joy

Lessons in Finding and Bringing Joy

I am completely overwhelmed by the gift I’ve been given in my daughter. I watch the way that she brings joy to others and my heart soars watching this gift of hers while my stomach simultaneously drops as I realize the great responsibility I’ve been given in her formation. Maybe I should say, the great responsibility I’ve been given in not messing up the gifts Kateri knows how to use. Do you know the feeling?

My grandfather is in hospice care at a skilled nursing facility and we are blessed to have the ability to visit him every Wednesday. The nursing home often seems overrun by melancholy. It is heartbreaking to see so many people so profoundly sad. There are too many people who rarely or never get visitors, too many people whose only human interaction is with an overburdened, overworked nurse trying to make it through his or her shift.

The last time my grandpa was strong enough to hold Kateri was over a year ago.

The last time my grandpa was strong enough to hold Kateri was over a year ago.

When these residents see a little girl smiling and tottering towards them, babbling incoherently, the change in the room is palpable. She smiles and interacts with everyone – whether you are trapped in your own body as a result of a stroke, bound to a wheelchair by old wounds, or your mind is a puzzle you can’t quite piece together due to dementia. She places no qualifications on her friendship, she simply wants to look you in the eye and acknowledge that you are there. You are human, you have worth, and she is interested in you.

Oh how often I’ve looked away, failing to recognize the humanity in someone. Sometimes I look away because it’s awkward – someone’s asking for money and I don’t have any to give. Sometimes I look away because I’ve planned too much in one day and giving a smile might ruin my schedule. Most times I look away because I’m uncomfortable. I don’t know what to say to someone I’ve categorized as “other.”

One of the most beautiful relationships I’ve ever witnessed is between Kateri and her friend D. I don’t know much about D because he is non-verbal and I’ve only met one family member once. I do know that he’s in his 90’s and is confined to a wheelchair, his body contorted by some disease. He isn’t able to speak, but he is able to wave, smile, and give a thumbs up. The joy on his face when Kateri comes to hang out with him is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s also like nothing D’s family has ever seen – the one time we ran into his cousin she was astonished at his joy. She had never seen him smile like he smiled at Kateri.

Kateri and D on a little lunch date.

Kateri and D on a little lunch date.

Kateri reminds me that bringing joy doesn’t take much. Sometimes it takes nothing more than a smile and a high five, an offer of a goldfish cracker and an incoherent babble. Bringing joy might just mean looking in someone’s the eyes and saying hello. Bringing joy might just mean showing up. Yesterday, Kateri had D smiling for joy just because she sat at his table and ate her peanut butter and jelly. 

Kateri is just happy to be around people – people of any age, race, or ability. It is as if she knows that each of these people are made in the image of our wonderful God. She is a constant reminder that finding joy is as easy as opening our eyes to the beauty of the world around us and bringing joy can be as easy as acknowledging the presence of those around us.

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This post is a link-up with Blessed is She on the topic of Finding Joy. Check out the other awesome reflections and make sure to explore the rest of their website to discover a beautiful community of Catholic women.

Pro-Life and Clinically Depressed: My Story

prolifeandclinicallydepressed

My husband and I are pro-life in all of the “traditional” ways. We pray for an end to abortion, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. We oppose the death penalty. We  believe the Church’s teachings when it comes to being open to (new) life and despite our struggle with infertility, follow Her guidance on assisted reproductive technology.

More and more, however, I am realizing that a call to be “pro-life” means much more than these things.

My family has an extraordinary history of clinical depression. I can only think of 2 members out of about 25 who haven’t been treated for a depressive disorder. My depression has manifested in various ways, in everything from an eating disorder to postpartum depression to anxiety.

To live with depression you must choose life. This is not to say that a person chooses to be depressed, or simply making a choice will snap you out of a depressive episode. That isn’t the case at all. Depression is an illness with very real and very dangerous symptoms that needs to be treated professionally.

There have been times when it has been all I can do to get out of bed and move to the couch. There have been weeks when I couldn’t even bear to talk to my husband. There have been months that went by in a haze – months that I don’t remember at all.

Unfortunately, many of my earlier moments with my daughter are hazy due to the fog of postpartum depression.

Unfortunately, many of my earlier moments with my daughter are hazy due to the fog of postpartum depression. Luckily, we took lots of pictures.

It is during these times that my husband must choose life. He chooses life on my behalf by getting me the help I need, by being patient, and by shouldering the burden of work in our family. He chooses me in my sickness because he knows that this life we are building together – this sometimes horribly painful, broken life – is worth living. He knows that during the times when I can’t see it myself, he must see it for me.

During the good times – the healthy times – I must choose life. I must choose to be open and vulnerable with my husband and family. I must choose to let them know the things that I need them to do in the bad times. I must choose to take medication, to do really, really hard work with therapists to learn my triggers and the signs that an episode may be on the horizon. I must choose life  in the good times so that I can survive the bad.

I do truly mean survive. Depression is an illness that kills, and it kills often. The pain of depression results in the loss of far too many beautiful people. This burden of choosing life in the midst of depression is hard work. It’s hard work for me, and its especially hard work for my loved ones. When I am depressed, it is easy to say that things would be better if I wasn’t suffering, if a depressive episode wasn’t always looming in the future, if I didn’t choose life. It would be easy to say this, but it wouldn’t be true.

I choose life because I believe that every life even those filled with incredible suffering, has value. I rest in the promise of the Lord that suffering can be sanctifying and that He is with us through it all. This is the life God has given me, and I will choose to live it to the fullest.

Bonnat Crucifixion

As Christ did during his suffering, I will choose to endure and focus on the Lord.


Your life has value. If you struggle with depression, please get help.

This post is part of a link-up with Blessed is She. Hop over to read other beautiful reflections on the theme of “life”.

Slacker’s Guide to a May Crowning (in 7 Quick Takes & with 7 Benefits)

Slackersguidemaycrowning

It’s May! May means beautiful weather, a long weekend, Mother’s Day, and a chance to honor our other mother – Mary. One way to honor Mary this month is through a May crowning. There are many variations on this tradition, and I’d like to share what we managed to do this year and how we incorporated a bunch of things that Pinterest tells me I should be doing. Since it took me 7 steps, I’ll be linking up with Kelly for 7QTs!

1. We walked to the park. This scored me some solid exercise time, especially if you discount the fact that we walked as slow as possible (because we walked prior to my morning coffee) and stopped at numerous garage sales to shop.

2.IMG_4734

We picked flowers. Kateri was a bit confused by my instructions and decided she would like to make her Marian crown out of sticks. Oh well – she’ll have to answer for that in heaven. I selected some nice purple weeds. Mary’s going to be thrilled. On the plus side, we did clear the park of some unwanted growths. You could definitely count this as weeding if you did it in your own yard!

3. I made a “crown” of packing tape. Word on the street is that sensory activities are important for little ones. Usually we achieve this by letting Kateri dig up “treasures” (garbage) from her “sensory table” (sand at the park). Today, however, we went above and beyond as she felt the sticky tape. We’re pretty much Montessori experts over here, folks.

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I helped Kateri stick the “beautiful flowers” she helped gather onto the tape. Arts & Crafts: done. The creativity is flowing.

5. We talked about Mama Mary and her importance to our faith. This one is actually legit catechesis, although I’ll admit that between Kateri sticking the tape in her mouth and ripping the flowers to shreds our catechesis amounted to “We love Mary because she said yes to God’s plan. She’s the Mama of Jesus!”

6.

The earlier you start 'em, the more therapy they'll need

The earlier you start ’em, the more therapy they’ll need

We prayed a Hail Mary & sang Notre Dame Our Mother, the alma mater of Notre Dame. This is just the latest in many steps of brainwashing our daughter into extreme fanaticism. Luckily it’s perfectly healthy to let your kids know that they’re only successful if they attend school where their parents did 😉 This also counts as music time, because, you know, singing. I’m coming for you, Kindermusik…

7.

IMG_4747

We crowned Mary. Kateri practiced her fine motor skills by trying (and failing) to crown Mary. We finally wrangled it on to her head, and she’s now looking quite lovely on our mantle.

And that, my friends, is how a slacker does a May Marian crowning. It costs $0, and helps you check exercise, arts & crafts, sensory play, catechesis, music time, fine motor skills practice and college prep off of your daily to-do list.

How did YOUR May crowning go? Did you find a way to make things even easier?

7QTs | Infertility Awareness Week

This week is Infertility Awareness week, so here are 7 quick takes on the subject of infertility.

7QT Infertility Awareness

1. When my husband and I were engaged, people would constantly ask us about kids. Our standard response was, “We’d love a two-deep football team, but we’re open to however many children God gives us.” It never occurred to me that this saying could mean that God would choose to give us FEWER children than we desired. We started Natural Family Planning during our engagement, and after a few months and a referral to a NaPro doctor, we learned that my hormone levels meant that conceiving naturally could be nearly impossible. We were told, however, that typically this type of fertility issue could be treated with hormone injections.

2.The grief that followed that visit was intense – I put on a happy face, but there was something fundamental that shifted in me that day. I think I learned a little bit more about who was in control, and about how following the teachings of the Catholic Church could challenge us in ways we wouldn’t dream. Accepting the dignity inherent in sex between a husband and wife, and recognizing that children are people – not things – meant that we were not going to be able to pursue most “secular” routes of fertility treatments. If we couldn’t heal my body and conceive in a way adherent to our belief system, we may not have biological children.

3. The cost to learn this, and the cost to fix it did not come without expense. Natural Family Planning isn’t covered by our insurance, so our learning fees came out of pocket. This was at least $500. Our NaPro physician is also not covered by our insurance (to be fair, he doesn’t take insurance since he uses the money from NFP visits to help pay for his clinic to assist the uninsured.) These visits have cost us at least another $500. Additionally, the medication that balances my hormone levels, ridding me of PMS symptoms, assisting me with my depression, and increasing my energy levels, is ALSO not covered by insurance. This runs $100/month. It is SO frustrating to watch people fight so hard to get women access to birth control (which break something that’s working perfectly well) and then to have an insurance company deny a medication which is actually FIXING an issue. We are lucky enough that our finances or location in relation to a NaPro doctor haven’t been a hindrance to getting the medical care that I need, however others aren’t so lucky.

3. So now, every month that I’m not pregnant, I receive 4 delightful shots. Pro tip: if you’d like to get closer to your spouse and your sister, have your sister teach your spouse how to give you a shot in the butt. Other pro tip: If you’re teaching someone how to give an intramuscular shot and you say “stick it with about as much force as you would use to throw a dart” make sure that you witness how hard your learner throws a dart. As it turns out, my husband throws his darts with the intensity of a major league pitcher.

5. We were blessed to conceive Kateri about 6 months into our marriage and 2 months into the delightful hormone injections. With blood draws every two weeks and progesterone supplementation, we were able to carry Kateri to full term.

6. While we were blessed with a beautiful little girl, I feel as if I know .01% of the pain that infertile couples suffer. We don’t know if we’ll be able to conceive again, and we do know that if we do it will likely be as a result of many shots and blood tests. In bearing this cross, however, we have become much more sensitive to others who may continue to bear the cross of infertility. We have watched friends lose children to miscarriage, and who struggle for years before finally being able to bear a child. Our experience allows us to know just a tiny sliver of the pain that they go through.

7. We have also learned the most important lesson: each child is a human being, endowed with infinite worth and value. A child is not a commodity I can demand. Anytime I catch myself frustrated with my subfertility, dreaming of many little feet running around our home, I am reminded that we have already been given a gift of infinite worth. We can pray fervently for more gifts (if it be His will), but we cannot force them to be given. So during this week of Infertility Awareness, please know that if you are struggling or have struggled with infertility, I am praying for you. Praying for peace, acceptance, and that God’s will be done.

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Check out that infinitely valuable human soul. She’s pretty cute, eh?

One of the beautiful gifts of the Catholic blogosphere is the frank discussion about and support of those suffering from infertility. For more fantastic insight on fertility and infertility, check out out Molly’s blog and her guest article over at Jenny’s. Kendra’s article was something I wish someone had told me when I was younger, and Annie has a great reflection on what comes after infertility. Melody has rounded up a variety of folks experiences, and Michele’s experience & reflection very much echoes my own.