Thursday, December 17, 2015

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real December


We had a Jesse Tea with some of our new friends for Advent. 


I pulled my Nana booties to wear around the house. My Nana has passed but these hand made treasures bring me back to when I was a girl and my sisters and I were always excited to have our booties. They make good "kitchen ice skates."


Funny, but more sweet. This is my six year old pretending to be a mommy. Just like I love those booties, I think something about wearing your mom's shoes just helps us to pretend better.


Thank you for stopping by! Please click here to see more joy!

Sunday, December 6, 2015


My dear friend Angela made this beautiful table runner for decor at her son's wedding rehearsal this past June...well...not just THIS one...she made a bunch! I love this Northern Light fabric so much. When Angela initially showed me her idea to make these I just remember wishing I could have one. She is so good to me, because she gave me one as a gift. I love it for Advent! 

Also...I could not find a pink candle ANYWHERE. My eldest saved us by wrapping the white candle I found in pink ribbon. Advent save high fives all around! 

Our Lady of Guadalupe's Feast Day is approaching!

I set this puzzle out on a card table on Thanksgiving day since I hosted family this year here. I loved watching people sit at different times during the day to work on it. It was a dollar from a thrift store! And it is still out and not finished on a card table in my family room, but it is neat sometimes to just walk by and see if you get a piece in. I have only found two very water logged puzzle pieces in the sink, it will be tough to get those guys to fit.

Bye bye fall decor! 

Ornaments from a Jesse Tree exchange. I could not go to the actual trade evening but my new friend Karen gathered these for me and even bought me a festive box to put them in! Thank you Karen!


I have resisted putting up my tree, we usually wait until the pink candle.

It is extra hard this year.

I may cave.

Blessings on the feast of St Nicholas.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

My Sheep

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. 
Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."  

Jane Howard

This gift was given to me by my sister in Christ, Jennifer, made by the loving hands of her father. I am so excited to build a home atrium here in Virginia and I am feeling very blessed I have friends who support me in this endeavor. Thank you thank you thank you. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Bishop on the Screen

I just do not turn on our tv very often. In fact, we usually are cable free save for this time of year. One MUST watch the end of season October baseball and well, nothing like a college football game around here to make us want to eat and be together.

I am so thankful though that we (mama plus homeschooled children), during our very full days of being us, were able to watch so much of the pope's recent visit.

I was wrestling with the whole "Why didn't we go see him!?!?!" We were only  __ hours away! Why didn't we plan for this?!?! How did this particular day of the week in this epic visit arrive so soon?!?! And then the very reasonable excuses flowed... we have five children with two of those being littles who wont understand crowds and waiting. An even better excuse of mine, ha you're going to love this..."Pope Francis wants me to be HERE and encounter people HERE in this home."

My tendency to be very human in this instant gratification culture was also now under the yoke of the I can't miss this I  must be part of everything that goes on culture. I say this with social media, newsertainment and our society's overall inability to experience true leisure in mind.

Oh I was grappling with the guilt of not being PHYSICALLY present in Washington D.C. ...but then I heard a very sweet message.

I love how the Holy Spirit orchestrates the hours of these lives of ours, as we follow the promptings. The Holy Spirit somehow allowed me to tune into Bishop Robert Barron's opening remarks for the World Meeting of Families.

He was wonderful. He spoke of rules. He spoke of golf. He showed us his golf swing and golf rules.

He spoke of truth.

It was energizing to listen to him speak. And he spoke about freedom and I was so at peace as I sat in my living room full of boxes still unpacked from our move...he spoke of the freedom that Church teaching gives us. Teachings that bring true happiness. I felt so grateful for knowing and living the freedom that comes with being in a marriage that is open to life. A marriage that has been blessed with five treasures.

I have been blogging about my own personal journey with NFP on here for almost four years. It took me about the first seven years of my marriage to truly understand life giving love (the Holy Spirit works slow my friends!).

As a first class (senior) cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, I understood that rules were in place for many reasons and really the rules of life there didn't truly feel like freedom. Like...say...not being allowed to wear civilian clothes anytime you wanted. I remember groaning in my ugly uniform for class formals wishing I could hide in a corner when the gorgeous local college girls in their beautiful gowns would come waltzing into the ballroom.

So when Justin and I were engaged, following a rule of the Church like not using birth control did not feel like freedom. I had seriously made up my mind on my own with my entire theology background (which was non existent) that the Church was so old fashioned. I was affirmed in this decision by a priest working as a chaplain at the academy.

I spent the first years of my married life fighting this rule. I did do some heavy reading and I was truly convinced the rule was TRUTH but oh my does one give up a control addiction? I held the round colorful pill case in my hands. It was my addiction. My addiction to having things in my timing and in my way. It was only after falling a few times did I see that there is a freedom in doing things the right way.
I can only humbly gesture to the Eucharist, my friends, as Cure.

There is a book that my children love and that is well worn here in our home. Baby bear wants to learn to climb a tree and Mama bear would like to show him the correct way to do the task. Baby bear is so excited that he runs from his Mother, not pausing to hear her wisdom. Yes, he falls from the tree and it hurts. Then Mama bear says, "Let me show you how!" And baby learns and it is FUN. The correct way to climb a tree gets us high and allows us to see the way the birds do.

This repeats a few times, with fishing and then with playing with other cubs, eventually the cub learns to wait and listen to Mama. The cub learns from multiple mess ups and then the gentle teachings of his Mama of the right way. The cub understands her wisdom and knows that the right way to do something is actually MORE FUN than the "just wing it" way.

Marriage without contraception is MORE FUN. Marriage with a mutual respect for man as full man and woman as full woman is MORE FUN.

I had such guilt in my sin when I was knowingly using contraception and refused to embrace wisdom. I still come before the Eucharist a great sinner but I find that much of my guilt has been replaced with a great confidence in my Savior.

I have found great comfort in the image of Mother Church as nurturer and comforter. What once felt like a drudgery of keeping Sundays because that is what upright citizens do has now become the Day that orders all other days.

The table is set for me. His Word nourishes me. Mother Church appeals to all my senses...I hear her as she links my arm close in hers...almost as if going through an early morning stroll...oh I know, I love candles too! Let's have lots of them today!

This is your favorite song! I know! For you dear one!

I thought today of the whole Mass you could hear these specific words that you say all the time but they will mean more to you today Stephanie! I love you!

I know you have been out in the Narthex Stephanie with your littles but I have the Bread of Life here at this table, come and be satisfied my precious one. This will fill you until we meet again.

I have been given the grace to see our Church not as a strict Mother with her overbearing rules but as a Mother of infinite wisdom. I pray this GRACE for all of us! Let us be like the little ones and see GIFTS. I pray for us to have the humility to have a listening heart, to believe in the collective memory of the Church and to have faith that He will make all things each one of us!

Please join me in praying for Bishop Barron and all of our bishops! God Bless!

****Also....think about things like getting your is going to sneek up on you! Comment if you have your turkey already!****

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real November


Virginia has decided she will not be outdone by Alaska in beautiful!


Trick or Treating on Duke of Gloucester street in Colonial Williamsburg!

Blurry but that is the headless horseman!


Halloween is a great outlet for my husband's creativity.

 This costume has been in the family ten years now, also made by Justin. 


Yes, he dressed as a shark during trick or treating duty. 

Thank you for stopping by! Click here for more Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

My November Dance

I am sighing with you dear friends. Yes, this year's Halloween nearly wiped me out and I am learning, along with you I'm sure, how to keep those sacred days of All Saints' and All Souls'.

I love that the Church year wraps up this month. A month of gratitude and then a lovely Thanksgiving holiday to send us into Advent.

Yes, we are seasonal people.

Order has been on my mind. Particularly order in my home as we try to settle in from the BIG WORK of moving. I ache still for Juneau but its sweet really. I feel like that ache lets me know it was all real, those six years of love and friendship and mountain air.

I also keep taking baby steps here. Williamsburg has been gentle.


And yet if I were in Juneau or Williamsburg or wherever the Coast Guard sends us, I understand that yes there is the outside environment...but really I can keep the same inside environment. One box hauled out and one picture all means something to the well being of my dear people. Yes there is a different kitchen and different layout but the same things and same wonderful people.

I felt a sense of righting the home when I cleared away our Halloween decorations yesterday to let the home relax a bit before Advent and then Christmas. I am laughing though because I have to point out to my people my ritualistic "undoing of decorations."

How interesting that the other day as I was tidying up the kitchen and removing the decorations when a gathering of the neighborhood children that had been on the trampoline made their way into my home! I checked my mouth and raised my eyebrows (remember, raised eyebrows shows delight, shows interest!).

Of course my REAL initial instinct was to say "Hey everyone! Please stay outside!" in a tone that was a nice to see you but not really you all are trampoline sweaty and I am doing my November dance in here right now.

I'm not sure but my thoughts went to...act like this is perfectly normal and raise your eyebrows and count your words. My eldest and I grabbed a pitcher of water for all of their friends and I cracked open a large box of Cheeze Its. They had their snack and went outside with minimal interruption from me, but I was a presence and I was in the background and NOBODY CARED THAT I WAS ORDERING THE HOME A CERTAIN WAY.

I was reading last night this beautiful reflection from Everyday Encounters With God that Bert Ghezzi wrote,

"When mothers and fathers take delight in their children,
 we can easily imagine our Father taking delight in us."

He goes on to write,

"Mom delighted in nourishing our bodies - and in doing so, she nourished our spirits as well. No one could escape out house without eating. There was always pasta, pizza, fried chicken, chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and walnuts, pineapple-filled bars, and butterscotch brownies. She presided over her bountiful table with cheerful warmth. My longtime friends still remember her lilting laughter, the sign of her joyful care and affection."

I gobbled this up, underlining it and now, retyping it HERE. These words do not point me to becoming a better cook, which I really do want to be! I just love the delight.

Cheerful warmth.

Joyful care.


We do not have to be baking from scratch, we could simply be opening a Cheeze It box, it is in the way we do it.

This was a small victory for me and it was a victory that was really in the presence of other children as well as mine.

I mean, I DO care that my children's friends feel welcomed, but I want MY CHILDREN to feel welcomed. I know they feel loved when our home is festive and well kept and comfy. I devour blogs, particularly Like Mother Like Daughter, studying the best way to execute home environment. However, it must be with joy.

Want to try keeping your eyebrows raised with me today? To our littles? To our spouse? How can we communicate our delight in them?

Thank you for stopping by! Happy Novemberings.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real October


My girls made these wreaths during a recent visit to their great aunt's farm, I love them so much.

I love lights, even orange ones, I do!


She was delighted to find the abandoned cereal bowl of her three year old brother.

Her siblings are on the other side playing mailman...she LOVES it!

Two spaghetti bakes for Michaelmas = good friends for dinner in Williamsburg.

 Feeling extremely blessed.

Click here for more PHFR on Like Mother Like Daughter.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Fall "ish" Post

My poor summer heat loving husband does NOT LIKE that I do this...

before September 21st. He wants summer to stretch on and on and yet I defy him with pumpkin pancakes.

We have so many beautiful trees here.

This neighborhood is an older neighborhood and so the trees are so large and mature and like it or not, my husband did have to take leaves out of the skiff before we used it last Friday.

I was telling my neighbor a few weeks ago while I was bringing back pots and pans (or something that I borrowed) how much I love fall and am so excited for the reds, oranges and yellows and spices and breezes and leaf piles and....

She has three boys and her youngest son was standing there listening. At the pool that afternoon my neighbor said it was so funny because her son pointed out to her after I left their home, "I know Miss Stephanie loves fall, but mom, everyone loves fall."

Ha! This cracks me up. OF COURSE everyone loves fall! I think especially here after the hot muggy August days. I kind of do walk around like I'm the Queen of Autumn but at the same time I also secretly imagine that I am a Duchess ALL THE TIME. I also have friends who are upstairs people as well. 

The Queen of Autumn needs to find a plaid shawl to wrap around her so she can sit and watch  leaves fall and drink her coffee and snuggle with her baby.

My baby girl is so snuggly in the morning and I love how she stretches on me and nestles her head on me. It is truly heaven. We really have nothing better to do.

In a busy "go go go" world, have we forgotten the value of a long sit with a baby? As the fall sports gear up and clubs and lessons start, I resist so much the pull from this home.

I watch the huge grey squirrels scurrying all around these large oak trees and I know they have a spot where they keep what they have gathered.

 I have always loved the Beatrix Potter books because you could SEE what the small quaint dwellings of the woodland creatures looked like. Miss Tittlemouse and her well swept floor, Peter Rabbit's mother with her herbs hanging from the ceiling.

The squirrel nests (and my girls have knack for finding them) are out of reach and a wonder to me.
What do they do in their nest?

What do you do in your nest?

There is an intimacy in a home and a way a home feels and works that is very special to the family in it. Who may come in? Who reigns in the home? I find that if I have reverence for the sacred space of my friend's homes that they show the same for mine. I also find that as I respect the homes of others that I protect my sacred space as well.

Let me give you an example.

I am blessed to be in a circle of friends who are always having babies. We watch and support one another through seasons. We light our candles on our kitchen sink windows or tables when we find out the other is heading to the hospital or has called the midwife to her home. We wait in joyful anticipation.

Our phones light up with a buzz from the text: "Baby girl is here! Mom is doing well!"

 "Anthony is here! Mom and baby are resting!"

There is relief and praise and then we find out when mommy is at home or who will cover the first meal...and then...the privilege of bringing the meal is also the very great privilege of entering the sacred space of the family.

The home is warm. The baby is swaddled. Mommy is sitting. Big brother is playing with trains. Daddy takes the meal and places it on the counter. We wash hands. We get to hold Heaven. We chat. We share our joy. We are aware of our intrusion, as welcomed as it may be, that there is a balance in the lingering...because this is family time. This space is sacred. We take a load of laundry (oh how glorious this was when Ellen and Angela did that for me). We put our shoes on. We take one more glimpse at this Home.

We go back to our home.

And having been in another family's sacred space, we have a deeper appreciation for our own home. Our people. Our space. Even our mess.

Bless the mess.

Your children crowd around you and want to know about the new baby. Shouts of:

 Did you get a picture of your time in that home?

Can we see!?!? Can we see?!?!

When can we see the baby?!?

In a Facebook/Instagram world we all participate very differently in the lives of other people than we used to. Privacy and intimacy aren't even on the radar for some. We like to share our joy...and that is fine, but I have found that sometimes when I share...I lose some of that sacredness. Finding a balance in what we share, at least for me, has been a great meditation.

Even with this blog, I have had some major struggles with the pictures and the intimate story I have shared about my NFP journey on the web. A few weeks ago, I scrolled back to a post I had of my husband and son napping together in the morning...and I found looking at that picture and moment, that I was going to keep it to myself. So I removed it.

With this home, I want it to be welcoming and comfortable for all but I have a few introverts in my family...who like quiet, who like a small immediate family crowd. I have to remember this is their space, where they do their inner works and where they keep their acorns.

It is sweet to have a bit of mystery surrounding your home, a nest high up in a big oak that one can wonder about.
Maybe that's one of the reasons I love the grey sky of fall and the cooler mornings, because the natural world is a mystery to me as she gets ready to pull in for winter.


Thank you for reading. I love how you are in your own dwellings with your families. It makes me so happy that we can sanctify the world together in this way, through our homes.


Oh my goodness!

How much fun did you have watching Pope Francis' arrival today?!?! His smile gives me energy!

Blessings xxoo

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Hello From Virginia

I am so happy to be writing. The move really did not feel over until we received our shipment of household goods last week. We had packed out of our Juneau home July 1st, so this move did feel long. I have some thoughts on the move that I want to share. I have so much I want to share.

This summer has Catechesis of the Good Shepherd language...a BIG work. A pouring of life work where I literally poured the lentils of my life from an Alaska cup to a Virginia cup. When some lentils missed the cup along the way, I didn't always patiently recover it, but by the grace of we are.

 Yes, I DID get extremely frustrated at times, angry. I distinctly remembered a moment in early August when I was laying on an air mattress in the room over the garage. This whole being sprawled out on the mattress to any passer by might have looked like relaxing but I was truly throwing a fit, a pity party. Fortunately, this room has skylights so I could see the evening sky was just birthing her stars.

I was feeling so much. I think the word is grieving. I was grieving loss. I was truly homesick for my Juneau family and place. I was lying there, fuming at how helpless I was in this move that had HAPPENED to I had mentioned in this labor. It was in this wrestling with my work and looking at the sky that God simply spoke to me,

"This is My Will. Why are you fighting My Will?"

I have tried very hard in the areas of my life to align myself with what I believe is God's will for marriage, as a mother, as the educator of my children. I can say "It has been God's will to have these five children."

I can say also, "It is God's will that my children be educated in our home."

And yet until that evening on that somewhat deflated air mattress I couldn't quite grasp that THE MOVE was His will.

Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts was passed along to me a few years ago, I believe by Janet. Gratitude is the song of that book. So as we waited and waited and waited and waited and waited...

for our things to arrive, I grew impatient.

It was harder to be grateful. My imagination was running out. I couldn't think clearly with knowing that our things would get here but not knowing WHEN (right...I told you it is very much like labor). Every day my husband would come home from work and there would be no update as to when our things would get here and as the weekend approached and we went to bed on our air mattresses yet again, it was hard to smooth out the crinkles in my brow....the stressed brow know...of a woman with worries.

Well, good thing God hand picks our soul mates and as my friend Jennifer points out, what a blessing marriage is a sacrament chalk full of graces because one night... my husband grew impatient with me.

The whole move was different for him. He is from Virginia. I am Navy brat who grew up along the east coast but six years in Juneau was the longest I had lived anywhere.

When people ask Justin where he is from it is...the Northern Neck or Upper Peninsula of Virginia. Though he was just as deeply ingrained in our Juneau community as I was, he is excited our children get to experience his Virginia.

And so one evening, when this Virginian grew impatient with my whining about our stuff, his scolding went something along the lines of...

"Stephanie I can't even listen to you right now. I went to work this morning and all over the news there were pictures of a toddler's body floating onto a beach. We have it so good. We have it so good and I am not going to complain. Our stuff will get here."

There was a bunch of other exchanges and I left the conversation initially feeling rather hurt. I felt my husband was being insensitive to my plight. I felt like I was told to eat my broccoli because of starving children around the world.

And yet his little lecture (which was in a bit of a raised tone because honestly that was the only way to get through to me), gave imagination again and the means to be grateful.

You see, I am sitting with my furniture now. Just as Justin said, it DID all get here. I have my beautiful children and my husband. I have my Church and I have already been blessed with a few kindred spirit mamas from this parish. I have nice neighbors and a beautiful setting. I can't wait to show all of this to you.

And there are refugees who aren't going to be getting there things. There are families who have said goodbye, grieving loss and separation. The simple small things we have...count them, be grateful and bless them. I don't want to be told to look at the suffering around me. Maybe I am so selfish that I would rather just not admit there IS suffering! I unpack my boxes I keep the Syrian mothers, all refugees, close to me. I know we do not take our things to heaven, but certain things DO make a home (even if they have rips and purple marker stains and holes, they make YOUR home).

I wonder...what was the Lord trying to teach me in this move? Was it GRATITUDE? My friend Mary Clare, who just moved here from Denver, gave me a new is something along the lines of...He loves me so much.

I love you Stephanie! I love you, I love you, I LOVE YOU! I was so happy to get close to you in Alaska. That Alaska Atrium is a special spot for us right? Well, I know you have been throwing a fit and you aren't trusting this Virginia Atrium very much, but I have so many new works for you here and I am excited for us, because you think we are close now...but we can be even closer. Isn't that so special? You and me! I love you!

He loves each of us so much.

You are special to Him.

Ok! The family is waking up. My coffee is calling.

I will be back so soon...because fall is in the air here and I am totally going to NERD out in all my FALL GLORY and you will not want to miss my AUTUMN NERD musings! seriously