Catching Up

Well hello there! Long time no blog and for that I apologize. Or at least wonder where the last two months have gone because I know I wrote more recently than that…right? Oops, wrong.

I should write a bunch of detailed posts about what we’ve been up to lately but I’m still getting my gears grinding so a haphazard update with a few pics will have to do. Here goes nothing!

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We had my grandmother’s memorial in Dallas and it was beautiful. I was surprisingly not as emotional as I’d expected, partly because I had my hands full with the kids I’m sure. But also I think because I had such closure with getting to say goodbye to her, had no regrets about the time we had together along with visiting her many times while her health was starting to decline, and of course knowing that she’s with Jesus now. All eight of her kids were able to be there so it made for quite a fun family reunion afterwards. Grandma Bonnie, I miss you dearly but know that I’ll see you again soon enough.

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On a more upbeat and unexpected note, Jason and I got to attend the Coldplay concert when they came to DFW. Long story short…I called and won a little Coldplay prize pack on the radio and was then entered into the drawing for the grand prize tickets plus a meet & greet with the band. I stopped by the station office to get my guaranteed prize but while I was there, found out that I was the grand prize winner for the show the next night! Mind blown. They proceeded to whisk me (and baby Catherine) away to their studio upstairs to record my “live” reaction and a little promo spot. Thankfully I was able to get help from family to watch the girls while Jason and I enjoyed a last minute date night and boy was it one for the books! We arrived at AT&T Stadium and got a full tour of the facilities by the band manager, were able to go on stage, ate a delicious dinner with the tour crew (including Chris Martin, whaaaat!?), had a quick meet & greet with the whole band, then enjoyed a truly amazing performance. Is this real life??? What an amazing night it was. I’m glad I made that one impromptu phone call while at a red light on the way to Hobby Lobby!

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Speaking of hobbies…there’s one thing (besides married life and the kiddos) that’s consumed my life as of late. Cookies y’all. My life is overflowing with cookies. I could post a bazillion photos of the projects I’ve done lately but will give you one quick photo collage instead. (Lots of photos can be found on my cookie FB page if you’re curious!) Business is definitely booming which has made life crazy but amazing. It’s been a balancing act and learning experience for sure, figuring out how to prioritize with my other obligations and responsibilities but I’m loving it. Minus the late nights, but that’s what coffee is for right? And I have a baby anyways, so what’s a little extra sleep deprivation a few nights a week? PS: I’m thankful for moms and word of mouth, because kids birthday parties have apparently become my market lately!

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Jason and I were able to attend the Encounter Young Adult Conference down near Houston a few weeks ago. Clare stayed with family while Catherine tagged along with us and it was a truly beautiful and enriching weekend full of great speakers and break out sessions plus lots of time for fellowship and the ever important Sacraments too. I saw lots of familiar young adult faces and even got to finally meet an online friend in person. (hi Andrea!) All in all, it was a much needed getaway to recharge my spiritual batteries. Props to Steubenville and Adore Ministries for hosting this great event!

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Something that Jason and I have felt called to pursue and finally took the plunge to start is a weekly “family dinner”. We knew about it from friends in Houston who established the concept a while back in their area where basically you give an open invitation to folks (usually it’s a young adult/family scene) to come over one night a week for dinner. The host family provides the main dish and everyone that comes brings a side or dessert. Come if you can, no need to RSVP, and bring the whole family plus other friends you think would like to attend. We really wanted to build community and friendships in our area including our actual neighbors in the neighborhood. So if you’re ever in Fort Worth on a Friday night and want to join, just let me know! (PS: that photo isn’t at our house, but at a family dinner in Houston we attended recently! Maybe someday our backyard will be that awesome. 😉 )

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Lastly, today is our 8th wedding anniversary! My how time flies. I could’ve swore it was just last month that I was 21 and saying “I do”. Jason has a surprise dinner out planned for tonight while my MIL watches the girls, so I’m super pumped for that. Love you Jason – here’s to many many many more!

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Other things we’ve been up to but I don’t want to make this a novel include: Jason’s 31st Birthday, lots of play dates and story time at the library, painting our guest bathroom and updating our front and back garden beds, and us girls going to the Luke’s Diner promo event for the upcoming Gilmore Girls episodes. Life has surely been busy but beautiful!

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The Heavy and Light of World Youth Day

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I’ve been home from our World Youth Day pilgrimage for about 2 weeks now and am (mostly) caught up on sleep and back to our regular routine. I’ve also had some time to ponder my WYD experience plus the highs and lows of this pilgrimage of life.

Before leaving overseas, I listened to Switchfoot’s new album on repeat and a line of one song hit me hard. In “Heavy and Light”, Jon Foreman sings, “On my pilgrimage, I’m traveling light with the heavy heart. On my pilgrimage, I’m traveling light and heavy.”

That lyric was stuck in my head during our entire pilgrimage and I’ve realized it reflects my experience with both World Youth Days I’ve attended. Let me explain…

I went to WYD in Rio de Janeiro back in 2013. At that point, Jason and I had been struggling with infertility for about 5 years. I’d just had surgery a month prior to the trip which did a major endometriosis clean up and I had no idea what the future held in terms of being able to have children. I was holding on to hope but deep down, tried not to get those hopes too high since I’d already been disappointed over and over again. During that pilgrimage, I insist that mama Mary was stalking me (another story for another day) and by the end of our journey, I’d found incredible peace in God’s plan and will for my life, whatever that might be and according to His perfect timing. It was a huge turning point for me and I felt like most of that heavy weight on my shoulders had been lifted. Then sure enough, we were able to conceive our sweet Clare right when we returned home and went on to have no problem getting pregnant with Catherine. I’d gone to Rio with a heavy and uncertain heart but God made it light and revealed his beautiful plan with our long awaited children.

Fast forward to 2016 and our recent WYD pilgrimage to Krakow. I went into our travels with a heavy heart once again. My grandmother (the only living grandparent on my side of the family) was seemingly in her last days when we departed. Thankfully we were able to visit her before leaving and say what we thought could be our last goodbyes. Traveling overseas, knowing that your family, especially your mother, is going through such a difficult time, is tough. I honestly had a feeling that she would pass away while we were gone and sure enough, while at the airport in Rome heading to our next leg of the trip in Prague, I got the dreaded news.

Talk about a heavy heart. I shed some tears right away and got hugs and comfort from my husband, but I had my hands so full with the girls that it was hard to fully enter into the fresh grief and mourning. I only told a few people in our group and just wanted to keep the sorrow private and not make it into a huge ordeal.

While I hated being away from my family, being on pilgrimage was a pretty great second best place to be and truly helped lighten my heart. I was able to pray at countless holy sites and plus, it being the Year of Mercy and visiting the city that promulgated so much of Christ’s divine mercy was ideal for the tough situation. So while my World Youth Day experiences have certainly been fun and exciting, they’ve also been met with a heavy heart along the way. Thankfully, we have a Lord who promises to ease our burdens, carry our yoke, and turn our heavy hearts light on this pilgrimage that we call life.

Dear Lord, I’m Turning Into My Mother…

Photo from pixabay.com Wording added by Vita Dulcis

Let’s start with a little story about iced tea. I drink it unsweetened, which is how I was raised by my northern parents. Growing up, I never realized that there was any other way. Such a naive little Texan I was. Then one day, I was playing at my friend’s house next door and her mom offered me a glass of iced tea. I took a big gulp, assuming it was made like my mom’s, and had to politely swallow it while internally thinking, “What in the world was that?! That’s not iced tea!” My first introduction to sweet tea. No offense to my fellow southerners, but I just can’t do it.

My mom has always kept a big pitcher of iced tea in the fridge and enjoys at least one glass a day. It’s her go-to drink plus a little caffeine fix and always makes me think of her. I love to order iced tea when I go out and usually have a glass when visiting home, but until recently, I never made it myself for whatever reason. But now, as of a few weeks ago, I consistently keep a pitcher in the fridge.

Dear Lord, I’m turning into my mother.

You hear women fret the fact that they start to resemble their mom as they grow older, especially when they get married and have kids. Many ladies view and say it as a negative. For me, it’s mainly been drinking iced tea, catching myself saying things like she does, and mothering like I often remember her doing.

Dear Lord, I’m turning into my mother.

…thank you.

Because turning into my mother means so many wonderful things. Sure, we’ve had our challenges and disagreements over the years like any normal mother and daughter duo. But…

My mom has been a wife for 33 years. She has been an example of fidelity in a culture that calls it quits when relationships aren’t easy or fun. And as a wife of 7 years so far, I’ve quickly learned that marriage isn’t always easy and fun, so I am extremely thankful for a mother who doesn’t give up on her husband or family when the going gets tough.

My mom raised three kids. Pretty awesome ones, if I say so myself. She gave all of us so much of her time and attention over the years. Diaper changes, making countless meals, cleaning up after us with no gripes, doing all the day in and day out tasks that motherhood involves and usually with little appreciation. As a mother myself, I get how hard that is now and wish I could come close to saying thank you enough.

My mom is a daughter and sister. She’s always been quick to lend a helping hand to my grandparents over the years. She continues to visit and help take care of so much for my grandmother when I know she’s exhausted after a long day at work. She’s not only a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, but is also a totally fun person to be around with a great sense of humor and playful personality. She opens up her heart and her home and would give her right arm to those who needed it.

My mom is a breast cancer survivor. A few years ago, she got an unexpected, serious, and rare diagnosis then proceeded to handle it with strength, perseverance, and hope. Sitting with her during a chemo session and visiting her after surgery seemed to be harder on me than her. She has kept her positivity and genuine faith in God’s plan during the whole journey and has since been cancer free and in good health.

On top of all that, my mom has taught me many things over the years. She’s a great baker which I insist is where I get my cookie decorating skills. She instilled the importance of making church a priority in life. She hasn’t lived a showy life and has taught me how to shop a good sale, be frugal, and clip coupons. Because of her, I understand the awesomeness of secondhand stores and learned how to find treasures. She’s shown me how to be grateful for your blessings, be a generous giver, and use your time, talents, and treasures for the good of God and others.

So dear Lord, if I am turning into my mother, I thank you for it. I’ve sure been given a good one.

Happy Mother’s Day mom – I love you and appreciate all that you’ve done and continue to do for me and our whole family.

 

(Photo from pixabay.com, Wording added by Vita Dulcis)

Monday Morsels #24

Hey everyone! Hope that you’re all doing well this spring – life has continued to be busy on our end but I certainly can’t complain! Here’s some of what we’ve been up to lately:

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Photo cred – Diocese of Fort Worth

We were blessed to be able to attend the ordination to the diaconate for two amazing men, Stephen and John, both of whom we got to know at our former parish where they served at different times. Ordinations are awesome in general, but when you know the people, it’s extremely powerful and beautiful. Congratulations to them on this huge step towards their vocation to the priesthood. Our diocese is blessed to have you both!

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Photo cred – Jeanette Houle

That same weekend we went to the final meet and greet for the upcoming World Youth Day pilgrimage. It’s hard to believe that we leave in less than 100 days! I’m beyond excited to travel with this group and still hoping that traveling overseas with a toddler and baby isn’t too nuts!

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We got some tickets to a recent Texas Rangers game and had an amazing time. It was Clare’s first game and she even got a cute commemorative certificate. She was fascinated by all the people, chants, music, and of course the food. Especially the nacho cheese!

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There have been a lot of celebrations in our lives lately! Several of our friends have kiddos turning two so we’ve had a blast celebrating these little ones. Also, Jason’s grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary and we had a nice family dinner out. What a huge accomplishment that is and a beautiful example to our family and others!

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In cookie news, I’ve kept busy lately with Birthday cookies for several kids along with a “family tree” set for the 60th anniversary party. I’ve decided to take off the whole month of May with baby Catherine’s arrival soon. It’s definitely been hard turning away business but I know it’s for the best and would be way overwhelming otherwise. But what a blessing to be my own boss and have that option! I’m looking ahead at June with graduations and Father’s Day (and my 30th Birthday, whoop!!) but will honestly just play it all by ear once I see what I’m able to handle.

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In miscellaneous news, we’ve had some fun play dates, an old friend over for dinner, and my ladies book club finished “All The Light We Cannot See” and loved it! I’ve been having my weekly birth center appointments and all looks good on the baby front. My due date is now anywhere from May 5th to the 11th so we’ll see what little miss Catherine has in mind! I’ve been nesting like crazy, wanting to clean and organize ALL the things, plus trying to soak up all the snuggles and one on one time with Clare that I can get before life changes.

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We’ve also finally transitioned Clare to her “big girl room” upstairs which is going ok – some nights are better than others! We did cosleeping when she was a baby and then since the master bedroom is downstairs and the others are all the way upstairs, she’s slept on a bed in our room after that. With Catherine soon taking that spot in our room, we decided to move Clare up there before baby comes so she doesn’t feel replaced or kicked out. It’s hard to believe our big girl will be 2 this week but it’s super exciting and we’re thrilled to see her be in big sister mode soon. So stay tuned, because the next update will likely have baby photos galore!

Resting in Christ this Lent

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The other day, I was pushing Clare around the house in her stroller, trying to calm her ever busy body for afternoon nap time. I could tell that she was getting close to sleep when she looked up at me through the mesh window in the stroller canopy. Her big brown eyes seemed tired and I looked down at her and said, “I love you sweetheart, get some peaceful rest”. She gave a sweet smile and while still looking up at me, immediately closed her eyes, slipping into sleep.

I found myself thinking what a glorious moment I’d just witnessed. Not only because I had a long list of things to try and accomplish while she napped, but because of the complete peace, love, and comfort she displayed. Hearing a calm voice, seeing a genuine loving smile, and feeling the joy that she bring – that’s the same type of peace and comfort that God brings to each of us. And that’s what I’m seeking this Lent.

Life has been blessed but busy as always between everyday mom/wife duties, cookie orders, planning an event, and obligations to family and friends. And oh yeah, this little corner of the blogosphere too. So this Lent, along with some other little things I’ve given up and taken on, I’m allowing myself to take a blogging break.

I know, you’ll miss those 4 posts a week that I consistently crank out. (sarcasm)

But even when I’m not writing, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking that I should be writing, letting myself feel guilty for not giving it the attention I’d ideally like to. So on this second day of Lent, I say bye bye till Easter. I’ll still use social media sparingly along the way, so might run into you there. But I’m off to soak in some much needed rest in Christ during these 40 days. Know that I’ll keep yall in my prayers and I hope you and your families have a holy and fruitful season of Lent! God bless+

March (for Life) Madness

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Now I love traveling, but don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to be home after a trip. Last week, a group of youth from our diocese (led by my husband) headed up to DC for the annual March for Life. Clare and I were also able to join and this marked my 10th year in a row to participate in this yearly celebration of life and peaceful demonstration in our nation’s capital. Of course we’d been watching the weather forecast and knew that an epic blizzard was headed that way. So needless to say, plan B’s were in the works in case we were snowed in. And oh did the snow come!

Fun fact: Jason and I were in the DC area for both Snowmageddon in 2010 and now Snowzilla in 2016 – the only record snowfalls there since we’ve been alive. How about those odds? 😉

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We headed over to the pre-March festivities on Friday, the anniversary of Roe v Wade. It was such a bizarre feeling. The weather was cold of course, but it didn’t seem like a massive blizzard was heading our way. After hearing some dynamic speakers, the March officially started and everyone was ready to get moving. Typically it’s more of a shuffle than a swift march due to the number of people packed into the streets but this year, we were moving right along.

The snow started falling towards the end of the route and was absolutely beautiful. By the end, Clare was crying, was totally over it, plus needed a nap/snack. Our group hustled back to the Metro and headed back to the hotel to hunker down for the impending snowfall. And it snowed.

And snowed.

And snowed some more.

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Thankfully we had warm shelter and plenty of food and weren’t stuck on a bus like others. (though hey, they made the most of it!) Our original flight was cancelled, the Metro we depended on was closed, and we hoped to make it out on Monday. (which, praise God, we did!)

So us pilgrims made the most of it. We had a day retreat that Jason masterfully put together on Saturday in a small conference room that the hotel let us use. There were great talks, mass, and a holy hour along with times for fun and fellowship. Although, I must admit, I missed most of it. But I quickly learned…

…toddler cabin fever is tough.

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Throughout the whole trip, Clare and I joined in with the group activities as we were able, around nap times and earlier than teenager bed times. Which is fine, such is the mom life, especially when your hubby is in charge of the group and dealing with crazy curveballs. But after being cooped up in close quarters, Clare started going stir crazy. During one of Jason’s talks, she would. not. sit. still. and wove in and out of the youth the entire time, wanting to play and get their attention. Then during mass, she played the same game.

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It was ok at first, but then got to be beyond distracting and I got annoyed. She refused to stay with me at the back of the room and no toys or snacks would convince her. On top of that, she was tired and started throwing a fit complete with pulling my hair and slapping me in the face. I had enough. With tears welling up in my eyes, I darted out and headed to our hotel room.

And I cried. Like, seriously bawled. The pregnancy hormones played a big part I’m sure, but this mom just felt fed up and frustrated. My mind and emotions were running with thoughts of “Why did I bother coming this year when I can’t even fully participate?” and “What am I thinking, traveling to World Youth Day this summer with a toddler AND baby??” to name a few.

Thankfully Clare settled down and took a great nap while I calmed myself and got some much needed quiet time to just think, pray, and chill. And I quickly realized that I did need to be there. I was growing as a mom and a person, learning how to navigate life more independently without always having help available. I was gaining experience and knowledge of what works when traveling with littles, which will seriously help this summer at WYD. I was acting as an example of the culture of life by being there with my toddler and obvious baby bump, even though it was exhausting and difficult at times. I was being an example of marriage, family, and motherhood to the youth in our group. I was showing how motherhood is worth it, despite the challenges, which is what women in crisis pregnancy situations need to hear and see.

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God surely wanted me to be there and once I got over my own stir crazy feelings, hormonal emotions, and insecurities, I’m beyond blessed to have been stuck in that blizzard and experience this year’s beautiful March for Life madness.

…were any of you at the March for Life this year? What was your experience?
…do any of you moms have crazy toddler travel stories and similar challenges?
…any advice for traveling overseas with a toddler and baby this summer?

Photo cred: Myself (photo 3, 4, 5), Jason Spoolstra (photo 1 & 2), and Randell Labio (photo 6)

The Yearly Summit

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Happy 2016! Hard to believe it’s already a new year but ready or not, here we are.

Now, I’m not one to make massive resolutions but definitely have some things in the faith, health, and personal realm that I want to improve upon this year and onward. I did want to share one thing that my husband and I have done for the last few years that’s been very helpful. We picked up the idea from our Uncle and Aunt up in Virginia while we lived with them for a short time. Basically, at the beginning of each year, we sit down and have a meeting. Sounds thrilling, I know. It’s much more fun if you give it a cool name. Ours has been dubbed the “Spoolstra Summit”.

See? More awesome already.

We try to do it on New Year’s Day but that varies a bit if needed. Jason and I will usually get some donuts that morning and then we’ll sit at the kitchen table to begin. Or hey, you can even make it a date and go out to a local coffee shop or restaurant. Going in, we will each have some ideas prepared and if we’re really on top of things, even have detailed notes ready to go. Simply put, we discuss our goals for the new year and reflect a little on the year that has passed. You can talk about your financial, business, spiritual, and physical goals or honestly, whatever your heart desires. We also look at where we currently are financially and then discuss our budget for the upcoming year. Each family is different so definitely tweak it for your own situation and life!

While all the goals might not be met or could even change as you go along throughout the year, it’s incredibly helpful to just sit down together, share your aspirations, and get on the same page moving forward into the new year. If you and your spouse love this annual meet up, you could even make it a monthly thing to better communicate and track your progress along the way. Plus, it’s awesome to look back at your notes from the years before and see how far you’ve come. I remember a few years ago our list included things like saving for a house (currently homeowners), moving forward with fertility testing/treatments (now have a toddler and one on the way), and expanding my baking skills (now have a cookie decorating business).

So hey, even if this isn’t something that ends up working for you year after year, I encourage you to at least give it a try once. What harm can come from discussing your goals and future with your spouse?

I hope and pray that all of you have a wonderful 2016 and that your families and goals are blessed along the way. Let’s see how far we’ve come when 2017 rolls around!

Photo cred: pexels.com