Seven Quick Takes – Big Family Craziness, Running Late, Confessing, and a Book Design Sneak Peek

seven-quick-takes-friday-2Well, I’m a day late with this, but, as you’ll read below, I’m a repeat offender as far as tardiness goes. Regardless, thanks for dropping by, and please read on for a little update on the Engelman family.

— 1 —

I am learning just how crazy life can be with five children. Last Saturday, for example, we had to drop off Ray and Bear for soccer pictures at 8:15, get Dude to football at 8:30, take Bonita to basketball IMG_9816.JPGevaluations at 9, have Boo at soccer pictures by 9:30, pickup Bonita from evals at 10:15, and pickup Dude at 10:30. Of course,  Little Man had to be fed in the midst of the mayhem, which I wound up doing while sitting on the ground beneath a tree amid a chaotic mass of people while waiting for soccer pictures. CRAZINESS!

But, who can complain about the hectic lifestyle of big families when they’re still this cute, even at eleven?

 

— 2 —

If you know me, you know how truly remarkable it is that we were on time to all of those engagements. I struggle with punctuality, to say the least.

Last Sunday, I went to Reconciliation. One of the items that I confessed was a somewhat habitual tardiness to Mass. In fact, we’re generally late any Sunday that the Dude isn’t serving or I’m not lectoring. Unfortunately, I was forced to run to confession by myself, leaving the rest of the family at home because they weren’t ready yet. So, after confession, I raced home to grab the family before returning to the church for Mass. Late.

— 3 —

On the topic of Reconciliation… on Sunday, after addressing a few items and offering some advice, Monsignor asked me, “OK, is that all you have to confess?” To which I dumbly responded, “Yep, that’s it!”

Duhar!

Actually, my response should have been, “Well, no, Monsignor. Those are just the big things. If you really want to hear all that I have to confess, we’ll both be late to Mass!”

Really, though – and with all due respect to Monsignor –  isn’t that an unfair question? Can many of us ever confess all we have to confess? As soon as I uproot one sin, I discover another. I’ll never be done with that process, and I doubt I’ll ever fully recognize all that I have to confess, let alone remember to tell them to the priest in the confessional!

— 4 —

empty tableWhen I came home from taking the kids to school this morning, the dog had much to confess. Upon seeing the look on his face and his tail between his legs, I knew instantly.

Needless to say, the children did not finish their pancakes, but Keyser was happy to make it appear as though they had.

— 5 —

A quick publishing update: I received the “Author Final Review” version of my IMG_9830.JPGbook, A Single Bead, on Thursday. This is the paginated, proofread “proof,” which basically shows exactly how the text will appear on each page. Here’s a little sneak peek of the first page. I love the font they chose for the chapter headings, and the way they positioned it at the top right of the page, rather than centered above the text.

Now, I am anxiously awaiting the cover design, and praying for Sister Mary Joseph, the cover designer, and the rest of the team who will be selecting it. It’s a little nerve-racking, to have something so crucial in the hands of others, but Pauline Books & Media has done a great job so far – from the editing suggestions to that lovely chapter heading font – so I have faith that the cover will be equally as well done!

— 6 —

As we get closer to publication, I am turning my attention toward efforts to promote the book. A big part of that will be public speaking engagements, most likely to church groups.

Apparently, this makes me very weird, but I absolutely adore speaking in public. That said, I’ve been stressing out over possible topics. Then – silly me – I realized that I needed to pray about it. So I did. And now topics, quotes, and quips seem to be coming out of the woodwork.

I’ll be creating a separate “speaking” page on my website soon. In the meantime, if you know of any group that is looking for someone to speak about the Rosary, Biblical words of life for women or teens, mothering with Mary, or any such topic, please keep me in mind! I need to get some official engagements under my belt, for groups ranging from two to two bazillion, and I’m “free” for a limited time! :)

— 7 —

A friend recently recommended Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love. It’s the story of a young girl sold into prostitution, who is rescued from that life by a God-fearing man. She then struggles with her own self-worth and ability to love and accept forgiveness. I highly recommend it, along with Rivers’ Mark of the Lion Series which gives beautiful insight into the life of early Christians, with self-sacrificing romance woven in.

(The links above are affiliate links. If you click on them, you’ll be linked to Amazon. Then, if you add any item to your cart and purchase it, I’ll receive a tiny commission. This little “job” doesn’t pay, so I really appreciate it!)

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Closer to Christ – A Birthing Story

For most families, it was a Sunday night like any other. They ate their dinners, laid out clothes for the day to come, and tucked the children into bed.

For the Engelman family, it was the night when the much-awaited fifth baby would finally come.

My mother-in-law came to stay with the kids and we said tearful goodbyes. The children aren’t used to having me gone more than a few hours, so the thought of my absence for several days was a bit daunting for them.

As for me, well, I’d had strange premonitions that something might go wrong during labor. While I managed to walk out the door all smiles and reassurance, I spent most of the ride to the hospital in tears.

Arriving at the hospital, we were quickly shown to my room. Over the course of the next twenty or so hours, they tried every means possible –other than Pitocin, which I wanted to avoid—to get that baby to come.

It’s all a bit of a blur, but at some point Monday afternoon, labor finally kicked in. I labored naturally for a long time, and, by late Monday night, was even to the point of pushing. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, the doctor recommended an epidural, in hopes that it would help me relax and allow the baby to turn around, who seemed to be “sunny side up” and wasn’t applying enough pressure for full dilation.

I may be a natural girl, but an epidural has its time and place and, for me, that was it. Pushing when you’re not fully dilated involves unmentionable interventions that are extremely painful, to say the least.

The epidural took effect, allowing us to rest for a bit. Unfortunately, even with the Pitocin that they had also administered, I still wasn’t completely dilated. But, baby was also now twelve days overdue, and we knew him or her to be swimming in meconium (aka: poop). So, it was back to pushing, under the same circumstance as before, only this time there was no pain—thank you, God.

Everything was moving along, and seemed to be going somewhat normally, when the doctor told me to push, and I did. Suddenly, the room – and the doctor and nurse – were covered in red.

My doctor had been wearing a really beautiful cream jacket. I imagine that got thrown in the biohazard bin.

Doc and nurse stayed remarkably cool, but Ray and I were well aware that this was not normal. They left to get cleaned up, while Ray and I waited and worried, wondering what on earth was going on. After what seemed to be an eternity, they returned and the doctor explained what she believed had happened. She gave us two choices – try pushing a little bit more to see what happened, or go in for a C-section. Trouble was, there could be internal bleeding, and the pushing would exacerbate that situation.

I know the doctor wanted to be respectful of my desire for as natural a birth as possible, but when it comes down to life and death, I’ll choose life – and having my abdomen cut open – every time.

Ray and I were both scared. We’d seen the amount of blood loss, which I was told later was probably about two liters. We knew that internal bleeding to that degree could be dangerous. I gave instructions for him to text two prayerful women – my friend Karin, whom I knew would be in adoration at that time, and my sister Suzanne – and ask for their prayers.

Oddly, my sister told me later that she had been unable to sleep and woke up early that morning, deciding to spend some time in prayer. Normally, her phone would still have been turned off and she wouldn’t have seen that text until after the baby had been born.

I had spent much of the last thirty six hours in prayer myself, offering up my pains for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, purity and peace in the world, and the health of a little girl suffering from a heart defect. I had prayed the Rosary, meditating on Christ’s Passion and death, uniting my suffering with His. I had been to the sacrament of Reconciliation ten days before, and managed to keep my soul relatively clean in the interim. If I was going to go, I figured this was as good a time as any. Nonetheless, I worried for my children, who would be left motherless, and for Ray, who would be left to care for five children by himself, when, let’s face it, he had made it abundantly clear that we were done at four.

As they wheeled me into the OR, I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and found immense comfort in it.

They moved me to the operating table, strapping my arms out as though they were spread on a cross. Ray sat at my head on my right, while the anesthesiologist sat at my left. Before I knew it, I felt some tugs and pulls, and then heard the staff talking amongstEvan newborn themselves, “Oh, he has so much hair!”

I looked at Ray, feeling more than a little disappointed that this was how we found out.

“It’s a boy?” I asked.

From my other side, the anesthesiologist said, “Oh, you didn’t know? Well, go ahead, Dad, take a look!”

Bad idea. I should have stopped him, but, well, my arms were strapped down. Ray stood up and looked over the sheet. And saw me and my internals in all their glory.

I think that might have eclipsed his first vision of his new baby boy.

At this point, I began to shiver uncontrollably. The anesthesiologist thought I was just wigging out, but I have a theory (having talked to other women who experienced the same thing) that it was the result of the Pitocin, which no longer had any uterine muscles to act upon and was therefore acting upon all of my other muscles. The anesthesiologist tried to reassure me and get me calmed down, but I could not stop the violent shaking. Unbeknownst to me, he administered a sedative. I began to feel sleepy, and, not knowing what was happening, kept thinking to myself,

Don’t go into the light. Don’t go into the light.

Fortunately, there was no need to worry.

It was a harrowing experience, so much so that my doctor asked me at my follow-up visit whether I was experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Recovery was difficult, involving two blood transfusions and way more pain and discomfort than I had planned on.

IMG_8565But at the end of it all, I don’t regret a single decision, or one solitary moment. Not only do I have a beautiful child of God to show for it, full of dimply-sweet-lovin’. In going through a long labor, the pain of pushing naturally, and the frightening experience of unexplained blood loss and an emergency C-section, I actually grew closer to Christ. Through God’s grace, I was able to do just what Christ tells us to do in the Gospels. Having entered into the experience prayerfully, and remaining prayerful throughout, I was able to pick up my cross, and carry it. I had moments of weakness, fear, and doubt, but ultimately, I give thanks.

What might have been a terribly “traumatic” experience was actually an opportunity to offer up my pain and fear, to unite my suffering with Christ’s, and to grow in my faith and love of the Lord.

Silence Does Not Equal Love

My friend Rosie D. responded to my recent post, How I Can Support Traditional Marriage and Not be a Hater, with this comment:

Great blog post. But one question enters into my mind. How many times did your mom have ‘the talk’ with you? Did she remind you over and over again that you were living in sin? Or did she let you know how she felt, then went on loving you, silent about her objections? I don’t know the answers to these questions. What I see is most of those who don’t believe in marriage equality have to let others know over and over again how wrong they are, instead of accepting the other person. That is truly loving them in my mind. Accepting that they have different beliefs than you do, and loving them anyway. And who knows, as your mom found with you, they may just see the light!

Of course, being the long-winded person that I am, I couldn’t write my response succinctly enough to fit in a comment box, so I decided to turn it into another blog post.

Thus, while I do not want this blog to fall into a single-issue black hole, here is my response:

First, Rosie, thank you for your comment. It is very thoughtful and well-worded, and I see the very good intentions behind it.

In answer to your question, my mom just talked with me the one time. But, while I might have started avoiding her if she brought it up too frequently, I would not have faulted her for further discussing her reasons at a later date, or sharing informative materials with me… though I might not have read them! While I don’t think we need to constantly berate our friends and relatives with the truths of our faith, neither should we remain silent.

Indeed, in a world where we struggle constantly against a culture that seeks to normalize the LGBT lifestyle and generate acceptance for it, it becomes increasingly important that we Christians speak out.  Most television shows these days have at least one gay couple. The mainstream media covers and celebrates gay pride parades and NFL football players kissing their boyfriends and proposing to them at St. Peters IMG_9601.JPGBasilica. Rainbows, once a Jewish and Christian symbol, have been high-jacked by the LGBT cause, superimposed over profile pics and used to illuminate the White House. Even the equal sign is no longer free from socio-political attachments! Few mainstream cultural outlets are covering stories like pastors being brutally beaten during gay pride festivals, churches in the UK being sued for refusing to perform gay weddings, or near naked little boys dancing provocatively at gay pride events (I refuse to share the link to that particular video, as it is seared on my mind and I would not wish that upon anyone. Google it if you must).

Thus, we traditionalists post our opinions, and supporting articles, facts, and videos such as the one below in hopes that we can, in some small way, have our own influence on a culture that’s been taken over by the liberal, feel-good, anything goes left.

A good friend once told me that, if Jesus were alive today, she thinks you’d be as likely to find him in a gay bar as in a church. After all, as he himself said, “It is not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick.” (Matt 9:12) I think that’s very true. But I don’t think you’d have found Jesus there, turning water into wine for a “wedding” celebration. Instead, I think you’d find him befriending the patrons, leading them by gentle example closer to his Father. I think he might have a parable or two to share. I think he would teach and he would pray and he would love, with the intent of nurturing them into a place where their greatest desire was to know, love, and serve God.

Okay, you’re not going to find me in a gay bar. But, I would love to have coffee with one of my gay friends or cousins today. They know my values, so they know where I stand. I’m not going to bring it up. But, if they wanted to have a conversation about that, I would prayerfully enter in.

For now, I’ll just borrow Lisa Mladinich’s words in response to her nephew when he asked what she wanted for gay people:

“I want them to be drawn by their hearts to a profound love for God, so that they are willing to do anything or sacrifice anything to be close to him and in right relationship with him. If that happens, they will be truly happy.” (source: #GayMarriage, Love, and Lessons from Canada, on www.patheos.com)

 

Pope Benedict XVI’s message for Lent in 2012 speaks volumes on this subject:

In his message, the Pope then calls on people not to “remain silent in the face of evil,” even though there is a mentality that dominates society today, that reduces life to mere earthly dimensions and therefore “accepts any moral choice in the name of individual freedom.”

Indeed, he warns, for those who believe, “admonishing sinners” is part of the work of “spiritual mercy” and Christians must not, “for human respect or for convenience,”  adapt to “common thought” and stop “warning their brothers against the ways of thinking and acting that contradict the truth and do not follow the path of good.” (source: Vatican Insider, bold in original)

Silence does not equal love. Love equals love. We give that love through our example, through our generosity, through our prayers, and through sharing truths we know.

How I Can Support Traditional Marriage and Not be a Hater

Anyone who follows this blog in any way, shape, or form would probably correctly assume that I am opposed to gay marriage.

More precisely, I believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Why? Because marriage is an institution created by God to serve a very specific role within his creation – to procreate, and then to provide a stable, loving environment for those little beings who were procreated.

As our pastor pointed out recently, it’s pretty obvious how’s it’s supposed to work. Just look at the anatomy. A man and a woman fit together in a way that no two women or two men can. Man and woman were made for one another.noahs-ark1

When God told Noah to load the ark two by two, would the whole plan have worked if he loaded two male elephants and two female horses? I think not.

Okay. We’ve established where I stand on the subject. And now many of you have made a few judgements about me.

I’m a hater. A bigot. A close-minded, ignorant, bullying jerk.

I can handle that.

And I’ll still love you.

Go ahead. Unfriend me on Facebook. Erase my contact info from your phone if you feel you must.

After you read the rest of what I’ve got to say.

Because here’s the news flash: it is possible to disagree with someone’s actions and still love them.

Case in point:

Most of you know that I wasn’t always the Bible-loving Catholic woman that I strive to be today. In fact, in my earlier years, I “lived in sin” with my boyfriend. Of course, at the time, I joked about that whole living in sin thing. Sin wasn’t something I really took seriously. Cohabitation seemed practical and convenient, not to mention that it was what everyone else was doing, and I was in love and we planned to get married.

But I digress. What I’d actually like to examine here is my parent’s response to my lifestyle choice.

Guess what?

My parents did not approve.

I knew this without them saying a word. But, because she loved me, my mom had a very, very difficult conversation with me. One in which she had to use that three letter “s” word no mom born before the sixties wants to have to use with her daughter.

I’ll give you a hint. It ends with an “x” and has an “e” in the middle.

This had to be an incredibly difficult topic for my mom to broach. But she did it anyways. Why? Because she loved me. And, in her love for me, she did not want to stand back and let me enter into a sinful situation without doing everything she could to prevent me from making a mistake. A mistake that she knew would drive me further from God.

Did you catch that one sentence?

Because she loved me…

Imagine that.

In today’s world, people seem to think that, if we love someone, and they do something we believe to be sinful, we should keep our mouths shut.

No. Scratch that. Keeping our mouths shut is not enough.

We must actually change our value system and accept that the actions of the other are perfectly fine.

Otherwise, we’re haters, bigots, and close-minded jerks.

Thank God I got married to that live-in boyfriend. Otherwise, I’d have to feel offended by my parents, who would not have changed their views and thus, by today’s standards, must surely hate me.  I’d have to call them haters and  bigots and close-minded throwbacks.

But wait. They never did hate me. They stuck to their value structure and shared it with me.

Out of love.

Imagine that.

Let the trash talk begin. Feel free to comment below.

(Be warned that all comments are moderated. While I will attempt to respond to all respectful comments, I reserve the right to edit any inappropriate content. I also reserve the right to take a really long time to respond because it’s hard to focus with five kids running around the house. But I’ll do my best.)

Family Update

I’ve said this repeatedly over the past year, but I really do think that I am finally in a place where I can start blogging regularly again. To kick things off, I thought I’d do a “quick and easy” update on the kids… which ended up taking four days and several hours to write. Here’s hoping that I can shake the writing rust off and pump these things out a little more quickly in the future!

zach June 2015

Dude is loving life on this side of town, since it means frequent access to his beloved cousins and best friends. He had a good year at school, though he’s not a big studier and thus tends to perform worse then I know him to be capable of on his report card. Nothing terrible – I just know that he could be a straight A student if he applied himself and he isn’t because he doesn’t.

He’s playing All Star baseball for the first time and doing very well. His specialty is base stealing. He’s gutsy and fast, and his games are a lot of fun to watch… though the other kids might disagree.

Next week, he’ll attend his first overnight camp. Historically, he’s been our “fearful” kid, who continued to come sleep in our bedroom for way too many years, so his wanting to do this camp is monumental. I’m excited for him but a bit nervous as well. He’ll be with all of his football buddies, though, so I’m confident that he’ll power through and stick it out.

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Soon to be a fourth-grader, Bonita is our socialite. She has settled into the new school incredibly well and has made tons of friends. In fact, there have been times when she’s had four playdate invitations in one day!

She is also our star student. Take a kid who’s extremely smart to begin with, and add in a near-hero-worship of her teachers and a strong desire to please, and you’ve got a girl who consistently brings home report cards worth taping on the fridge. Dude likes to make fun of her because she got straight A’s all year, except one B in… gym.

Theater’s more her thing, but she did play kickball in the spring and looks forward to playing again in the fall. Quite frankly, she surprised me with her athleticism. If only there were scholarships available for kickball!

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Bear will be entering second grade in the fall and I’d have to say he’s our kid that has yet to find his “niche.” He’s not into sports, or at least not the sports the rest of the family enjoys. He says he wants to do soccer, so we’ll try that out in the fall. And this summer he is going to attend a golf camp… if I ever get him registered. He continues to love trains and marble tracks, so maybe he has a future in engineering.

Bear has always been a great kid. He might occasionally make a mistake, but he’s generally the first to own up to it, earning a great deal of trust from Ray and I. Unfortunately, he has really put this trust to the test in the first half of summer. He must be going through a phase, but he’s made one choice after another that have left him grounded for three of these last six weeks. I’m sure we’ll laugh about it someday, but for the moment, I am finding it nothing but disheartening and exhausting. Underneath the bad choices, though, he’s still sweet, wonderful Bear, and we love him no matter what. (And we’ve had a few good days in a row where I haven’t had to do so much as put him in time out! Maybe we’re on the upswing!!)

Mary June 2015

Having just turned five, Boo’s so tiny, she still looks like she’s three. She can actually be a pretty decent eater, but that really only happens when we’re eating pizza, steak, or McDonald’s. Hence, her diminutive size.

She’s incredibly loving. When she’s tired, she comes to me and says, “Mommy, I want to cuddle witchoo.” She often pipes in randomly with, “Because I love evewybody in da whole world!” sometimes adding, “Even God, and Jesus, and da Bess-ed Muddah!”

She definitely loves to be around children her own age, and constantly begs for playdates. When the answer is “no,” she says, “But I haven’t had a pway date in a year!” even though she just had one that morning.

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Little Man turned four months old yesterday. He is all smiles and happiness, and generally the most amazing baby imaginable. Though nothing has broken through yet, he is teething up a storm and putting out enough slobber to water the house plants. We think he’ll be rolling over soon, but his general contentment may slow him down a bit since the only time he starts to roll over is when he’s upset – and he just isn’t upset very often!

The older kids are a tremendous help, making the transition to five remarkably easy – though there still isn’t enough time in the day. With so much love coming from so many people, this little guy’s got a good life.

But, then, don’t we all?

 

Announcing Baby!

Well, the little guy is over two months old now, so I figure it’s high time I get back on the blogging wagon and announce his birth. It may not be with quite this much fanfare…

But, regardless of the fanfare or total lack thereof, let it be known to all who read this that we are pretty thrilled with Little Man. He was born on March 3 at 6:07 am. This was notably twelve days after his due date, and 36 hours after they began my induction. But that’s a story for another time. He was 21 ¾ inches long, and weighed in at 7 lbs, 13 oz – making him our biggest baby.

Evan newborn

Look at those dimples!

 

As the kids like to say, Little Man had been swimming in his own poop (AKA meconium) for quite some time. But, the doctors and nurses sucked out his lungs and cleaned him up and he doesn’t even stink! J He’s blessed with lots of light brown hair and early observations lead us to believe his eyes will stay blue. Which means that, out of five children, I will have shared my green eyes (I confess to having a “thing” for green eyes) with exactly none of my children. And that makes me want to try for another. But then again… maybe not.

He also has a killer personality. He’s been smiling at us for weeks, and he giggled for

the first time two and a half weeks ago, though I confess that I have not been able to Evan and kidsduplicate it since. He’s a cooing machine, helped along by his *slightly* adoring fans (read, “siblings”), who have been told by Mommy that responding to his sounds with similar sounds will help him learn to talk. If Little Man coos when all the kids are home, he often hears three or four people cooing right back at him.

I confess to being a little spoiled after the delivery. Ray took two weeks of paternity leave – one of which I spent in the hospital, but the second during which he handled all the running and heavy lifting. Then, it was back to work for one VERY LONG week before we left for spring break. Yes, we went on spring break with a two week old baby. And it was the best thing I’ve ever done.But, I’ll have to write more on that later.

Family on beachFrom about week two until week five, we had a bit of a rough patch. Little Man slept well at night (he pulled a few seven hour stints after just a few weeks) but getting him there was next to impossible. He spent the evening, from about six to eleven thirty or midnight, fussing and acting generally uncomfortable. A perceptive friend suggested that he might be allergic to dairy. When I eliminated it from my diet, the fussy nights ended and he’s been quite lovely (for the most part, at least!) since.

Evan in carseat about 2 mos

This Little Man, with his coos and his smiles and his blue-not-green eyes, has already brought so much joy to our home. Though his impending arrival initially came as a bit of a shock, heralded with fear and trepidation, his presence in our lives proves that…

God doesn’t make mistakes

and

Every child is a blessing.

Little Man at Nine Weeks

Little Man at Nine Weeks

 

It’s On… The Gargoyle Code Lenten Book Club

In my post a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the possibility of doing a virtual Lenten book study of the book, The Gargoyle Code, by Fr. Dwight Longenecker. Having received numerous interested responses, I’m excited to say that… It’s on!

gargoyle codeI have read a good portion of the book and love it. If you’ve read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, this is very much in the same vein, but modernized to speak to the temptations that we experience in today’s world. The book is designed to be read during Lent, beginning on Shrove Tuesday, and consists of one letter between “a Master Tempter and his diabolical trainee” each day – very do-able, even for the busiest of moms.

I’ve created a Facebook group where we can share daily thoughts, insights, and “Aha!” moments. The group is closed, not to exclude anyone, but to give us all a sense of security and comfort that what we share will be kept among the group. I know many people give up Facebook during Lent, but it was simply the best avenue I could identify for the “club,” so I hope that those who are giving FB up will consider creating a new Facebook user ID that will enable them to participate! I also hope to post weekly reflections to the blog, and welcome anyone who would like to guest post, especially since baby will definitely be coming along sometime in the next two weeks!

If you’re interested, please comment here, or send me a Facebook message. I’ve never managed a Facebook group before, and it does appear as though we have to be “friends” in order for me to invite you to the group. But I’m guessing that anyone who wants to participate in the group is someone I’d be happy to call “friend!” :)

It’s available for Kindle or in paperback. I know I’m cutting this a bit short, but Amazon’s so fast these days, I had it the day after I placed my order. Regardless, if you don’t get your book in time you can always catch up. It really is an easy read!

Here’s the link to the Kindle version:

And to the good ol’ paperback version:

I’m looking forward to reading the book and interacting with lots of wonderful Christians throughout Lent!

(The links above are affiliate links. Thanks for your support!)

Seven Quick Takes – Busy Business, Fake Cheek Bones, and Paternity Leave Penance

seven-quick-takes-friday-2So, let me start by acknowledging that I’ve gotten spectacularly awful about posting regularly. Tonight I’m totally cheating by doing a seven quick takes post, which I confess is the quickest and easiest to write. But it just feels good to be writing, so here goes…

— 1 —

There’s good news behind my lack of personal writing. My little freelance writing business is doing quite well and keeping me very busy. So busy, that I find myself with ideas for blog posts but no time to write them. The reality of the matter is that the stuff that pays has to take priority.

Although I miss my personal blogging and writing activity – and hope to get back on track soon – I do really enjoy the writing I’m doing for my clients. I write blog posts, newsletters, and marketing materials for various individuals and businesses, with topics ranging from health and wellness, to insurance, to mundane governmental mandates (I confess to not enjoying those so much), to the oil industry, entrepreneurship, and more. In many cases, I get to pick the topics – an added bonus!

— 2 —

I’m thrilled to share that, just this week, I’ve brought another writer onto my little “team” – another Catholic mom who loves to write and is very talented. She’ll help relieve some of the stress of deadlines when the baby comes, as well as beef up what I’m able to do for my blog clients. I’m pretty excited to see my little business growing, and to be able to work with another writer-mama at the same time.

— 3 —

Ah, baby. Or, as the kids say it, “Babe-E”. See the difference? Not just a baby, an Engelman baby, hence that “E” emphasis.

There seems to be some doubt as to whether we know the gender and just aren’t telling anyone, so I’ll lay it out. We don’t know the gender. Really. We’re not just saying that. That’s why I have a pile of boy clothes and a pile of girl clothes under the changing table. It’s also the reason why I have two names lists on my iPhone note pad – one for boys, one for girls. This is not some elaborate scheme to be “in the know” while everyone else is “in the dark.” I’ve never understood that. Plus, I hate to lie so much that it’s turned me into a person who is just downright incapable of lying. This is inconvenient at times, I’ll admit, but it does save time in the confessional.

Babe-E will be here in about four weeks, and I’ll do my best to get the word out as to the gender… just as soon as I know.

— 4 —

As for me, I’m feeling every bit of my forty years. By evening, I’m hobbling around on pain-ridden feet, favoring my left hip because my right frequently seems to go slightly out of joint. It’s a lovely sight. Oh, and I’ve gained enough weight that I’m having to use makeup to add cheekbones. Beautiful.

— 5 —

Makeup tip! You know those crazy fan-shaped makeup brushes that you never know how to use? Welllll… use that brush to add a line of bronzer just below your cheek bones. They’re there, even if you can’t see them. :) Blend with your powder brush and – voila! – you’ve got visible (if fake) cheek bones!

— 6 —

On a more practical note, we received the most awesome news today! Ray’s company has increased their paternity leave from one week to six. Six. Seriously. SIX WEEKS!!!! With the previous four babies, he didn’t have any paternity leaveHe took a vacation day or two to get through the delivery, and then it was right back to work. I’m still slightly speechless at the idea of having him home for six weeks.

And maybe a little afraid that I might be ready to kill him by the end.

Interestingly, the baby’s due on the second day of Lent. Which means Ray could be home for all of Lent. I love my husband, but the thought has occurred: This could be a whole new form of Lenten penance…

— 7 —

With the baby’s Lenten due date, I’m having to reconcile myself to the idea of not participating in a Lenten Bible or book study group this year. I’ve thought about doing a study via this blog, or via a Facebook group. Something that folks could participate in on their own schedules, as time allows. No baby sitters, or, for that matter, showering, doing your hair, or adding fake cheekbones to impress your fellow book study participants.

One possible book for discussion is The Gargoyle Code, by Dwight Longenecker. Similar to C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, the book is a compilation of the letters between a master tempter and his student, showing the many pitfalls we humans succumb to, with the added benefit of being specifically designed for Lent, with one letter for each day from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Sunday.

Anyone out there interested? Leave a comment on this post, comment on Facebook, or send an email to stephanie at afewbeadsshort dot com. I’d love to connect with other women and share in a faith journey this Lenten season, even while being somewhat home-bound due to the new baby.

Oh, and I’m open to other book suggestions, too! (And “Thank you!” to Dana for turning me onto The Gargoyle Code!) Just let me know if you know of another book that would be good!

(The links above are affiliate links… thanks for your support!) :)

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

The Year of Change: 2014

Wow. Looking back at 2014 is, quite frankly, mind boggling. It was a year filled with changes and events that I never would have foreseen.

By the end of January, Ray and I could only look forward and pray that the rest of 2014 wouldn’t bring more of the same. I wrecked my car on New Year’s Day, we were snowed in for a third of the month, and we lost Ray’s dearest friend.

first day of school

First day of school

Fortunately, the worst of it was over. We didn’t know it, but we had lots to look forward to. Heading into the new year, Ray and I were considering a move. However, we thought we’d be moving a few miles. No big deal. By February, however, I was beginning to feel that the move needed to be a bigger one, and within a few weeks we had made the decision to move across town, change parishes, and enroll the children in a different school. By November, we were moved into our new home. Talk about change!

In preparation for the move, I purged like crazy. I finally accepted the idea that our IMG_8188.JPGfamily was complete, and I would not be having any more children. I gave away the bassinet, the pack-n-play, the stroller… not knowing that, even as I was giving stuff away, a child was growing within me. God certainly does have a sense of humor, and a way of reminding you just who’s in control!

Learning that our family would soon be expanding led me to one certain knowledge… I could not ask Ray to shoulder the financial burden of a family of seven alone. But what does a pregnant mother of four do to earn money? I was stumped, but my sister had the answer, and I started a freelance writing business. My sister’s husband’s business was my first client, and my client base has grown, thanks largely to their networking and support. I have found myself writing on topics ranging from health and wellness, to insurance, industrial painting, entrepreneurship and the oil business. I feel incredibly blessed to have found a way to make money doing what I love to do.

To top that off, against all odds, my first novel was actually picked up by the very publisher who, in a roundabout way, sparked the idea for the book in the first place. The editing process has been a bit slow – I’m still waiting to receive the editing requests from the publisher – yet, I’m hopeful that we’re still on target for a January, 2016 release date.

My “One Word” for 2014 was Surrender. Looking back, it is easy for me to see how that word served me throughout the year. I stopped trying to have control over everything, OneWord2014SURRENDERand let God take the reigns of my life, instead. It could have been scary at times, (okay, it was scary at times) but as I learned surrender, I also learned trust. As I look back at 2014, I can see how God’s hand guided us through changes and difficult decisions. I can see unanswered prayers that, had they been answered, might have ended disastrously, and I can see how God blessed us in completely unexpected ways.

I’ve tried to analyze the changes, with various degrees of success. The bottom line is this: Even though we miss our friends and neighbors from our old community, our children are, for whatever reason, happier at their new school. Our family is, for whatever reason, more peaceful at our new house. A year that started with tragedy ends with new beginnings.

Looking into 2015, my experiences in 2014 leave me with one certainty: Only God knows what the next year will bring. Two scripture verses have been my mantra throughout this past year, and they have served me well: “Not my will, Lord, but yours,” (Luke 22:42) and “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Prov 3:5). Whatever 2015 may bring, I pray that God will provide the grace to continue to live according to these verses, not just in the big decisions and changes, but in the ordinary moments of every day.

I’ll end with a few pictures highlighting other events of 2014:

Bonita celebrated her First Communion…

20140613-083440-30880036.jpgBear busted his head open while riding bikes at Nana’s house, but look at what a trooper that kid is!

busted headDude and his teammates achieved not one, but TWO championships – one in baseball, the other in football. Here he is sporting his baseball trophy.

ChampionBoo started preschool. You can see how sad she was to leave Momma…

Mary Lise first day of preschoolThe dog nearly died. Not once, not twice, but THREE times. First, it was something he ate, the second… well, I’m not really sure. The third appears to have been pneumonia, from which he is still recuperating. Here he is on the day of our move into the new house, hoping to drive me home after a stop at the grocery.

Keyser drivingWe celebrated a wonderful Christmas…

kids Christmas 2014And the very next day, Ray and I celebrated my fortieth birthday with a romantic evening out…

ray and steph on stephs fortieth

How would you summarize your 2014? What are your hopes for 2015? I’d love to hear about it… just leave a note in the comments section, below!

Thanks for being a part of our 2014. I pray that you will have a wonderful 2015! Happy New Year!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Part II: Eww

I left my previous post with the final thought that we had one week to pack up our 3700 square foot house and move it into an 1800 square foot house. An interesting enterprise, to be sure, made all the more difficult by the fact that our new home was absolutely disgusting. There were cobwebs hanging from the ceilings, between the blinds, and in between the panes of the windows. There was even an empty bird’s nest inside one of the windows! The blinds had years’ worth of build up on them. Dust bunnies littered the floors. Bathroom drawers sported stray hairs and long-forgotten fingernail clippings. The place literally smelled like something had died and been left to rot.

I stood in the middle of my new home, fighting the urge to flee, or at least to vomit, and thought, What have we done?

You see, when we took our little tour, the electricity was turned off, so we weren’t able to see the dirt and grime that had built up. And the smell wasn’t there. I swear. The smell. was. not. there.

Regardless,we just assumed that any cleaning that needed to be done would be taken care of before we moved in. That’s what landlords do, right?

Apparently, not.

So, here I stood in my new home, afraid to touch anything, not sure where to start, fearing that anything we moved into the house would be contaminated by God-only-knew-what.

Ultimately, I cried, “uncle,” and called the landlord. I explained the level of awfulness and asked that they have someone come clean. Which they did. Which made the house clean enough that I could at least stand to set foot in it.  But it was still really gross.

I thank God frequently for my wonderful mother-in-law, but this was a time in my life when she came through like never before (well, except maybe when she hopped on a plane and moved into my house for a month, so that she could take care of my kids, my husband, and my home while I was in the hospital on bedrest.) She and my father-in-law drove all the way from southern Alabama to help with the move – unasked – and, when she saw the filth in the house, she got to work. While I wiped down shelves and cleaned out drawers, she mopped and re-mopped the floors, drying them by hand to get up still more dirt. As I put down shelf liners and slowly began to unpack boxes, she packed up the old house or watched four-year-old Boo, or both. After working all day on one of my homes or the other, she made dinner for our family and had it ready and waiting at just the right time.

That woman is amazing.

Between removing the bird’s nest and using copious amounts of Pine Sol, plus burning Scentsy warmers for hours on end, the smell finally dissipated. The rest is a work in progress. Last weekend, I cleaned the kitchen window and had to repeat the process three times before the cloth came back clean. Removing the built-up grime on those blinds took a solid hour of scrubbing. Soon, I’ll tackle the windows and blinds in the family room. With any luck, by the time the baby arrives in February, I’ll feel like any dirt that exists in the house is, at least, our family’s dirt.

Regardless, in those first five days, we turned the grossest-house-ever into the-house-whose-floors-I-still-don’t-want-the-kids-rolling-around-on-but-at-least-I-don’t-feel-like-we-have-to-wear-our-shoes-in-the-house.

And that was one hell of an accomplishment.

But did I mention the yard?

The backyard. I'm in love.

The backyard. I’m in love.