Life and Death. Lent and Easter.

Alex's dad died on November 10th of last year.

On November 11th I took a pregnancy test.

It was positive.

Walking into our bedroom while it was still dark, flicking on the lamp, and showing Alex that positive pregnancy test - the day after his dad died - was a little less than God parting the clouds and bending down to look us straight in the eyes and say, "yes there is death, but it's not the end. I also bring life."

We were not "trying" for this baby. Not like with the other two, where we tried for months in one case and years in the other. But we are open to life, and that means you accept it when it comes, whether it's a good time or not. By worldly standards this was not a great time to be having another baby. We already have two young kids who still have all the needs of young kids, plus the unique needs of a kid with hearing loss and other chronic health problems. Alex was still in school, about to graduate with the student dept he had amassed over the last couple of years, and as of that time no job lined up to pay it off.

But in one very important way it was the perfect time for a new baby.

I believe it is no coincidence that while we were grieving the first big family loss that either of us had experienced, we got our first surprise baby. It was as though I were hearing it for the first time - God alone is the author of life and death. Sometimes we're able to trick ourselves into thinking we're in control, but really, none of this is up to us. And when it seems like we are surrounded by death, He gives signs of life, a small foretaste of the Everlasting Life that He offers us.

It's now four months later. We are in the middle of Lent. I normally love the season of Lent, but not this year. I've had enough of sorrows. It's cold, it's dark, my body is in varying but constant levels of pain from carrying this child. Extreme exhaustion, the unrelenting demands of parenting and work, and a winter that never seems to end leave me feeling a little bit dead inside. I look out my window and see the decay of last year's garden poking out from under the snow in my backyard. I long for signs of life.

Then I feel the kick against my ribs. I see a patch of grass where the snow is slowly receding. I look at my calendar and see that Easter is only two weeks away.

Signs of life. Reminders that He is as faithful as the changing of seasons.

Spring after winter. Easter after Lent. Life after death.

Winter Offerings

Hygge. Pretty sure I'm pronouncing it wrong but doing it right. The snow it falling thickly outside. I'm wrapped up in a wool sweater and cozy blanket, sipping some hot tea, and when I'm done on the computer I will be turning to my book and knitting basket.

I admire people who get outside for real winter activities, you know, ice skating, sledding, broom ball, but this is about as active as my winter gets. It's cozy, my feet stay dry, why mess with something that works? 

I have a few winter offerings for you my gentle readers. The first two are for everyone, and the second two are just for local ladies I'm afraid. 

First, a playlist to aid and inspire the spirit of Hygge. During the roughest weeks of my morning sickness I was so out of it I wasn't even listening to music. A couple of weeks ago I started putting some playlists on again while I was hanging out with the kids or working in the kitchen. I was so pleasantly surprised by how having good music on in the background lifted the mood! Just because it's dark and dreary outside doesn't mean it has to be inside!

Second, did you know that Lent starts in less than 5 weeks? I know, it doesn't seem possible. We literally just took our Christmas tree down. But it's coming up, and I have found that when I plan ahead for my liturgical seasons, even a little bit, I enjoy them so much more. For Advent this was as simple as knowing where my Advent wreath and candles were before the first Sunday of Advent, and having my BIS Advent journal in my possession and ready to go. For lent I plan to have a couple charitable organizations picked out to practice some alms giving, and of course, I will have my Blessed is She Lenten She Who Believed Journal to be my daily companion.

I am thrilled that Laura Kelly Fanucci is back writing the Lenten journal. During this Lent we will be looking at different women in scripture and what they can teach us about prayer. I am excited to learn some new things, especially about some of the lesser known characters. Be sure to get yours early before they sell out! Or, grab the whole 2018 Lent Bundle

There are all sorts of other new products available in the Blessed is She Shop, I'm not going to mention them all, but I will mention The Catholic Journaling Bible. It's been a long time coming and has been wildly popular. I have one and it is beautiful. I know it is something I will use for the rest of my life. For everything else just go take a look. And if you kindly use any of the links in this post I will get a small kick back as an affiliate. Thanks! 

Also, have you heard that there is going to be a Blessed is Retreat in the Twin Cities? Are you jumping up and down with excitement? The Wild Retreat is coming to St. Paul on August 11. Tickets are on sale now! I have never been to a Blessed is She retreat, so I am really looking forward to finally experiencing one for myself. 

Finally, for those who are local to the Twin Cities, I will be teaching a knitting class on February 24th through a very cool project that my friend Cara is spearheading. It's called The Dorothy Exchange, and it's a women's skillshare. This is the third class that she has organized. The first two were great successes and I'm so excited to be able to be involved in this one and pass on my love for knitting. For details on where and how to register you can check out Cara's post on the class. Spaces are limited, so register soon if you'd like a spot! I hope to see you there!

2017 in 12 Photos

J A N U A R Y 

Looking back through the blog it seems that we were sick a lot in January, and that I was doing hygge before it was an Instagram sensation. I'm so proud of myself. Also, I can't believe Trixie was ever that small. She still stands on that stool between the sinks, only now her head towers way above that shelf and she can easily reach all of the faucets. 

F E B R U A R Y 

February is when winter seems most endless and we begin to drive each other crazy. Being cooped up with babies all winter is rough. I wrote this very sweet post reminding myself how great it can be with those babies.  P.s. I made those, the babies, and the sweaters. 


Johnny had spring break. I think it snowed every day that week. So we made our way to the conservatory to pretend that it was spring. I also helped put on the CWBN Midwest Conference. It was a lot of work, and a lot of fun. 


I finished a sweater that I had been working on all winter, Alex and I finally figured out a prayer routine that works for us, Lent, Easter, and the daily grind of motherhood.


Johnny turned four,  He finished his first full year at his school for deaf and hard of hearing kids. We were thrilled with the progress he made in his speech during that year. And I closed my piano studio after teaching for ten years.


We did a big rearranging of rooms in our house, since I was no longer using one of our main level rooms as a teaching studio. We spent as much time outside as possible, and, not surprisingly, I did some more reflecting on motherhood. 


Lots of family time and outside time. This summer marked the 10 year anniversary of when Alex and I started dating. I marked the occasion by writing about how we met

A U G U S T 

We took our annual trip to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe with friends. I turned 31 and did a lot of gardening. The only blogging I managed was this giant photo update. 


I made a lot of hats, Alex started his final rotation of PA school, and Johnny started school again, this year going five full days a week. The beginning of a new school year is so chaotic and exhausting, so I was doing some thinking about self-care. 

O C T O B E R 

Trixie turned two! I am realizing now, much to my shame, that I never did a birthday post for her! Nevertheless, she had a wonderful birthday, she got a baby doll who has come with her everywhere everyday since then. Trixie continues to be a our sweet and joyful girl. 


November was hard and joyful month in our home. Alex's dad passed away after battling cancer. There was much sadness and grief, but we also had a lot of special time with Alex's family. We also found out I was pregnant with baby no. 3! I'm so grateful for God's timing with this baby. 


Alex graduated from PA school, passed his boards, accepted a job, and then got the break we have been dreaming about for the last 2.5 years. The timing of this break couldn't have been better, as I was struck down with morning sickness. Alex has been doing everything around the house and for the kids, and taking extra good care of me. My morning sickness started to ease up a few days before Christmas, allowing me to enjoy this beautiful season even more. 

Happy New Year to you all! And thanks to Bobbi for hosting my favorite link up! 

Songs for Chilly Days // A Playlist

I think this has been an exceptional year for fall foliage. When I look out my kitchen window I see several tall trees towering over the houses on the block behind us. Over the last couple of weeks I have the great pleasure of watching them go from green, to yellow, to orange. It makes washing dishes and prepping dinners a lot happier than those tasks might otherwise be. Any reminder that the world is a beautiful place is a good thing.

The trees that line our street couldn't be any prettier than if someone had painted them. They really do look like someone planted them with their fall colors in mind. A red tree, next to a yellow tree, then orange and green, and the pattern repeats itself for blocks. It's been a beautiful autumn and we have been out in it as much as possible.

But not today. Today I can see the snow out my window, not just falling down, but blowing sideways, and I can hear the gusts shake the house and rattle the windows. The tea kettle is on the stove, and I'm feeling more than content to stay inside. Today is a day for hot tea, wool socks, and cozy blankets. And, of course, songs to fit the mood.

I hope you enjoy this cozy playlist, and I hope you are staying snug and warm.

How We Met Pt. 2: Misnomers

If you haven't read part one, you may want to get caught up. 

At the start of each shift at the bakery I would head to the back of the store to stow my purse and don an apron. I'd scan the schedule to see who else I was working with that day, and inevitably my eyes would float to the top of the list where Alex's name was, hoping we might be scheduled at the same time.

It took only a few shifts working together to make me realize that I liked Alex. After that it was only a matter of getting to know him well enough to decide if I actually wanted to date him. I knew he was kind and funny and easy to talk to. I knew we had many shared interests, music, movies, travel. I knew he liked to cook and eat interesting foods. And I also knew that he was a Catholic.

It was this last fact that gave me pause. Unfortunately, in my Evangelical upbringing, Catholics were given a bad rep. "They only pray to Mary, and they don't read the Bible. They don't even know who Jesus is, they just follow a bunch of rules."And as far as I could tell, that was more or less true.

But I wasn't so judgmental as to think that no Catholics could be "actual" Christians too. Alex seemed like a decent guy. He didn't swear or use vulgar language, he was respectful to all our customers and coworkers. I thought there was a good chance he was "for real", but I had to find out. And believing that sometimes it's best to be direct, I asked him point blank.

Me: So you're Catholic right?

Alex: Yeah.

Me: So, what do you think about Jesus?

Alex, after thinking for a moment: Well, He's God, and....I love Him?

I was satisfied. If he asked me, I would go out with him. And I told my sister as much. She worked at the bakery too, and got scheduled with Alex more than I did. "If Alex ever asks you if you think he should ask me out, say yes." Because being a 20 year old who'd never dated, I thought that's how things went.

But that wasn't how it went. We spent half the summer flirting with each other a couple times a week at the bakery before we managed to hang out with a group of coworkers outside of work. On the second of these group hangs, Alex and I were walking to our cars together at the end of the night, and he turned to me and said:

"Amy, would you like to go on a date with me?"

No, that was not a typo.Yes, he called me Amy, which is the name of my little sister, who also worked at the bakery with us. In Alex's defense, I was called Amy by my mother nearly everyday since she was born, and I'm still called Amy by many of my relatives at family gatherings. We're sisters, we look a lot a like, and our names both start with A. It's bound to happen. But it was pretty awkward that he called me Amy in that particular moment. I think I handled it well. I said:

"Yes, but you just called me Amy."

He assured me that he was intending to ask me out and not my sister. And I assured him that it really was not a big deal. We fixed a day and time, and I drove home, probably without seeing any of the road.

Beginnings and Second Beginnings.

Wow. Time does not stand still. Ever.

We are constantly moving and changing, for better or for worse, whether we like it or not, whether we are aware of it or not.

It's something I've been seeing around me a lot these day. In my kids. They are changing every day. They are getting bigger, trying new things, pushing boundaries, surprising me by putting away the Play-Doh without being asked, eating lentils and saying "It's yummy!", and asking me, "Mama, how old are you?"

I see it in Alex. He graduates from PA school in less than two months! It seems like it was last week that he was starting school and trying to navigate class schedules and balancing study time with family time, and now he's applying for jobs. He's been a student the entire time we have been parents, and in just a short while, Lord willing, he will be working as a health care provider.

I see a lot of change in me. And most of it is recent. If you follow me on Instagram you are certainly aware that a couple of weeks ago I got to go on a retreat with my fellow Blessed is She writers. #BISTeamRetreat. I had been looking forward to it for months as a much needed break from my darling children whom I love, but whom I am around all the time. And while being an off duty mom for a couple of days was heavenly, there was so much more that happened. More than I could have possibly imagined.

To put it in one sentence, I got to sit at the feet of Jesus and just *be* with Him in a way I have not done in years. I've never been far from the Lord, but the cares and chaos of parenthood have made it difficult to have quality time with Him. It's like the difference between taking gulps of your drip coffee from a travel mug while flying around doing a million chores and errands, and sitting down with expertly crafted latte in a beautiful mug and just drinking it, and doing nothing else.

I got to just sit, and breath in, and drink deep.

I have gotten way off course from what I originally intended to sit down and write about. The point is, my heart has been renewed and I am so thankful.

The reason I was thinking about newness in the first place is that I wanted to tell you about some new things!

The first is that the 2017 Advent Journal from Blessed is She is available starting today! This year's journal, In The Beginning, is written by Laura Kelly Fanucci, who is one of my very favorite writers, and such a lovely and inspiring woman, and it is designed again by Erica Tighe, who has such a beautiful heart and it is really evident in everything that she makes.

I've already had a chance to look through my copy and not only is it beautiful to behold, but the content is stunning. In the Beginning will be looking at the beginnings of each of the four Gospels. Because, beginnings matter. As Laura puts it,
"The beauty of beginnings is how they invite us to behold with fresh eyes. This is why newborns are a wonder. Why gardeners love spring. Why fans cheer at kickoff. Why falling in love makes your heart flutter. Why you can't sleep the night before a new job. Why the start of each school year sparkles with promise...Anything could happen. "
I am really excited to incorporate this journal into my prayer life this advent. The Advent journals have been wildly popular in the past and they always sell out. So if you want to get one, you better get on it. And if you want to use my affiliate link to shop, I would be so appreciative.

The second new thing I wanted to share with you is not really a new thing. It's an old thing that I have spruced up a bit. And it's my Etsy shop! Middle West Knitting Co.

Oh, you have an Etsy shop? Says almost everyone I talk to about this.  In the past I have not done a good job of getting the word out about my shop, and so it languished, and last winter I shut it down completely. But I love to knit, I am not happy unless I have a project on my needles. And since my own children can only wear so many hats, I thought now was a good time to re-open the shop.

My plan is to keep the shop open leading up to Christmas, and then take a break for a while, and maybe open it up again with some springtime offerings. So, if you're into shopping local/handmade/small business for Christmas gifts, I'd love it if you'd stop by. I also love collaborating with people for custom orders, so if you've got something in mind you'd like to have made for yourself or someone you love, get it touch with me!

Thanks for sticking it out with me here. I hope your autumn is going beautifully.

What a Pig and Taylor Swift are Teaching Me About Self-Care

Have you seen the movie Sing? It's actually pretty cute. It's about a koala (all the characters in the movie are animals) who owns a failing theater. In a last ditch effort to save it, he puts on a singing competition. My kids are really into it, and since my husband and I enjoy it too it's been our go-to for family movie night.

Having seen this movie a few times now, I can't help relating a little bit to one of the characters. Her name is Rosita, and she is a stay-at-home piggy-mama of 25. That's right. 25. She does an awesome job juggling the many responsibilities of caring for her family, and she loves to sing. So when she happens upon a flier for the singing competition, she goes to audition, is selected, and finds a way to make it work, even while caring for her large family.

Now, maybe I've seen this movie a few too many times and am reading into things more than I should, but I think Rosita's experience in the singing competition teaches a lot of great lessons about the importance of self-care that her fellow stay-at-home mamas would to do well to learn from. 

Self-care is important. Being a mom amazing! But it's also hard, monotonous, and sometimes isolating. I do the same set of tasks day after day, often with a child in my arms or on my lap. It's meaningful work, but let's be honest, it also gets a little boring. If I don't get a little time to myself to pursue some sort of creative outlet, I start to go a little crazy.

I like to think Rosita feels the same way. She loves being a mom, but she is swamped with all the work that caring for a large family entails. She's probably feeling a little burned out. Rosita also loves to sing. Music helps her get through the day when the kids are crazy and the laundry is piling up. When she finds out about the singing competition she sees it as an opportunity to get out for some much needed Rosita-time, do something she loves, and maybe even win some cash for her family.

Don't feel guilty about doing something that is just for you. It's ok to want to take a break from child rearing. In fact, it's good for you to get out by yourself once in a while for some self-care.   

Sometimes you need to think outside the box to make it happen. One of the biggest obstacles for moms in pursuing some self-care or a hobby is that it's really hard to get away from the kids.  Rosita knows what that's like. Her husband isn't able to help with childcare because of the demands of his job. And she can't get a babysitter to commit because, hello, 25 children. So she gets creative. 

Now let me be clear, I'm not advocating for rigging up a system of gears and pulleys, powered by an electric toy train set to do your chores and take care of your children for you while you leave the house. Not a good idea!!

That being said, don't give up on making time for yourself just because the obvious solutions aren't available to you. If your baby is difficult in the evening, try getting out during the day. If you don't have family near by, or a reliable babysitter, ask a girlfriend with similarly aged children if she'd like to trade some babysitting once or twice a month. Or, if what you really need is just 30 minutes to read a book without being interrupted, get your kids a snack, set them up with an age appropriate movie, and don't feel guilty about it. It won't ruin them, I promise. 

No one else goes days on end without a little break from their jobs, and neither should you.

Don't give up if it doesn't seem to be working right away.  One day after a particularly frustrating rehearsal Rosita is ready to give up. "It's never going to happen," she sighs, "I should just be getting groceries." 

This has definitely happened to me before. I had carved out some time on a Saturday morning when my husband was home to go do some writing at a coffee shop. It had been so long since I had done something like that I wasn't even sure where I should go. I tried one cafe near our house, it was completely packed. So I went to the coffee shop down the street from there, and their WiFi wasn't working. By the time I got to a Starbucks and figured out how to get on their WiFi I had 10 minutes left to write before I needed to go home to put the baby down for her nap. It felt like a complete waste of time and I felt foolish for even attempting to do something on my own. When I got home I told my husband through hot tears that I would have been better off just staying home and cleaning the house.  

Lucky for me I have an understanding husband who said "no" and made me try it again the next weekend. And you know what? The second time around went so much better. 

Maybe you tried leaving your kids with a babysitter and it was a disaster, or maybe you tried going to a book club or exercise class and you hated it and felt like it was a waste if time. That's OK! Sometimes things don't go well. But don't let that stop you from trying again.

You do real work and you deserve real self-care. My favorite part of the movie Sing, the part that makes me cry every time, is at the end during the show, when Rosita gets her groove back. Her performance starts with her in a kitchen, wearing her mom uniform, and heaving a laundry basket full of clothes. She starts singing Shake If Off. That's right, the Taylor Swift song that we've all heard a thousand times. 

"I stay out too late, got nothing in my brain, That's what people say."

It's Taylor Swift, and it's ridiculous, but hearing those words come out the mouth of a stay-at-home mom completely changed the meaning of that song for me.

How many times have I heard other stay-at-home moms say that they feel like people think they stay home because they can't do anything else. That's it's not a "real job". How many times have I felt embarrassed when people ask me what I do and I all I have to say is that I stay home with my kids. Will they think I'm uneducated? Or that I don't have other experiences or interests besides that of playing with Play-doh and making macaroni and cheese? It's a good reminder that there is always more to a person than what meets the eye, and it's never fair to make assumptions. 

Then there is a dramatic set change, and Rosita bursts out of the refrigerator (you just have to see it) wearing a super fly costume, which, by the way, her child bearing hips look great in.

"I'm lightning on my feet, I never miss a beat, and that's what they don't see." 

Rosita may look like a quiet, boring, stay-at-home mom. But she is an amazing woman! She keeps herself, her husband, and their 25 children alive, doing all their cooking and cleaning and grocery shopping. She manages everyone's schedules and gets everyone to where they need to be. She is creative, hardworking and determined. The kindness and compassion that she has cultivated as a mother extends beyond her family members to the people she has met in the singing competition, and probably a lot of other people too. AND she can sing and dance!

Moms. Don't ever let anyone tell you that what you're doing isn't important. Every job requires talent and intellect and the job of raising children is no exception. What you're doing is important. What you're doing matters. Even if no one else sees it, and no one else knows exactly what you're doing through. 

Taking care of yourself benefits all your other relationships. It may sound obvious. But people like to be around people who are happy. When I am touched out, burned out, and tired out, I am not at my mothering best, and I'm probably not very pleasant to be around. But even just taking an hour to shut the door to our bedroom and do some knitting while listening to a podcast can do wonders for my mental well-being, enabling me to come back to my mothering duties with joy.

Being able spread her wings and shine a little bit made Rosita really happy, and it made her husband and children see a different side of her. It made them happy and exited to see her doing something she loves.

Now, a note on Rosita's husband, Norman. Norman is a pretty extreme example of a husband taking his wife for granted. (i.e. he doesn't even notice when his wife is gone and toy train has made breakfast and put the children to bed.) I think most husbands are a little more woke than Norman. But even the greatest husband isn't a mind reader. He may not be able to tell when you're in need of a break. It's ok to tell your husband you're feeling burned out, and that you need some time to do something on your own. I bet he will be more than happy to help you find a way to make it happen.  

Epilogue. I would like to think that after being in the singing competition Rosita went home refreshed and ready to care for her family again. I'd also like to think that she made it a priority to have some regular time for herself. Maybe she joined a choir, or started taking voice lessons. Whatever the activity may be, I'm sure she's learned the transformative power of a little self-care. And of course, she and Norbert now have a much healthier marriage, with good communication and plenty of date nights.

End of Summer Playlist

The transition from summer to fall is, I think, my very favorite time of year. I'm not really ready for cold weather yet. I'm going to savor every minute of warm sunshine that we have left and be outside as much as possible. But, I'm also kind of loving how cold it gets overnight, and how cool it is in the mornings. That little nip in the air makes my coffee taste better, and it makes me feel more productive, like it's time to get stuff done. Which is good, because we are back to school now and need to adhere to more of a schedule.  

Here is a playlist I made a few weeks ago. It's got some songs I've loved for a while and some songs that I've only recently discovered. They all make me feel a little bittersweet and nostalgic which is why I think they're appropriate for this time of year. I hope you can enjoy them while driving kids around, or baking pies, or sitting outside and drinking in these last beautiful days of summer. Cheers!