Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Year We Weren't Going to Homeschool

The other day my Judah was adamant about going to REAL school.
He said, and I quote, "YOU stay home and be homeschooled, MOM!"

We weren't going to homeschool this year.

My plan was just to continue with our normal routine - nothing organized. Just life as we
live it - unorganized, spontaneous, raw - doing all the "pre-school" things without calling it "pre-k".
A wild and romantic approach to learning disguised in the every day activities.

But every perfect stranger we have run into in the past two weeks has eagerly asked my children,
"SO DID YOU START SCHOOL?!?!?!" My kids would just look at them with blank stares and respond
with something off subject and random like, "Hi, my name is Isaiah. I'm four."

My husband and I, being second generation homeschooling parents, both have just felt that
"there is time". MORE than enough time to get everything, all the grades, all the homework, done.
So why rush, especially with our boys, into starting anything organized? We believe that the homeschool
classroom is NOT to mirror the mainstream classroom (in regards to time frame and structure),
but to be a space that can grow, bend, create, fail, move forward, fall back, cry,
celebrate with our children - at their own pace.

I didn't think it was time, but my children said otherwise.

They decided to set the pace. And they decided to do it THIS year.

So we have begun. Sooner than I imagined we would. It's a lot of "play" with purpose -
sorting, stacking, talking about colors, shapes, and the ABCs. A good friend was so generous to lend
us lots of fun, Montessori-like classroom learning tools that we are devouring. With our brains. We are
reading a lot, listening to audio books in the car, memorizing Scripture, tearing through those Kumon
early-learning workbooks, watching really educational things on Netflix...

like Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Ha.

We are still finding our rhythm, our groove. But I'm convinced that running to Starbucks is a good
intro to Social Studies for the mind of an (almost) 3 and 4 year old. So we're going with it.

Here are a few resources that
I am loving this year... SO FAR!


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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I'm Not Another "Mommy Hair Cut"

I can barely remember it anymore - as my life is now a haze of breastfeeding, potty training,
cutting food into animal shapes, and rescuing my children from imaginary "funny faces" (for real) -
but I know there was a time before "momma" - a time where I existed as

just me.

I love being a mother. I've said it before, and I'll sing it for you again (you must imagine
my karaoke voice): THIS is the best decision, adventure of MY LIFE, and every day that I wake up
to their sweet, begging-for-breakfast faces, I thank the good Lord that He chose me for them.
And them for me. "Folgers in your cup" has got nothing on that!

A couple weekends ago I went to visit my mom for her birthday. Just me. I left Nathan and the kids
at home to fair on leftovers and attend Mass on their own. One minute my husband's telling me,

"I don't know how single dudes with kids do it! I can't get anything done!"
and the next: "The kids were PERFECT in church!"

Yea I don't know, but at point he moaned: "Come home!"
I think it was just to make me feel wanted. Not sure. Where was I?!

While visiting my mom, my dad asked me, "So do you feel free?" I knew immediately what he
meant. "Free" because I didn't have the kids - the spouse - the responsibility. Of course, yes, but
I feel free all the time. And THANKFUL that I know to take full advantage of every opportunity to be
fully alive in other areas of my life that bring me so much joy! Thankful for a husband who encourages
me to spread my wings and fly in all the different directions, pursuing my latest passions and interests.

It all points HOME for me.

For as long as I can remember, I've had this slight, nothing major, aversion to such terms as
"mommy hair cut", "Moms' Night Out", "mom van", "mommy guilt" etc. Oh I'm guilty
of trying to use them - nonchalantly and all - like the cool kids. Everyone uses terms like that and it
seems so natural. And don't worry, if you've invited me to a "Moms' Night Out" or told me about your
latest "mommy hair cut", I hold no judgment or ill-feeling towards you. I'm just saying.

But before all of this - I was just Brittany.

And I still am.

Of course I am a mom. Forever. But I am also a woman, wife, sister, daughter, friend, gardener,
blogger, adventure seeker, coffee drinker, mentor, ministry leader, listener, educator, Instagram addict!

So I get my hair cut to reflect my inner rockstar, I drive a minivan because I love all the features,
I go out with the girls (who happen to mostly be moms), I never feel guilty about indulging in the
moment, and I wear yoga pants because I want to... not because it is the uniform of moms everywhere.

I believe with my whole heart that in BEING all of this
- being what makes me Brittany -
truly makes me a better mom in the end.

I guess I have just been living the decision to not let one path define all of me.
Mainly because I want to fully live it ALL - all the time. We have one life, right?
No time for back burners.

God made each of us with so many different, unique talents and interests...
Yes, we are "mom", but who else are we?!

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

When Your Spouse Changes

Nathan grabbed a pad of paper and asked me to follow him.
Like an annoying 8 year old I kept asking, "Yea, but what's the paper for?"

"You'll see," he said with a grin.

I think part of the beauty of the human experience is change. From the simple to the complex, we are
not confined to those scrunchy socks we wore in the 90's or the insecure, out-spoken, wild, *insert
adjective* image of ourselves that we are convinced is true. Time, experience, influences have their
way with us, and year after year we morph again and again, in butterfly-like glory.
Stagnancy seems near impossible. We change.

He slowly ripped out two pieces of paper and handed one to me.

"We are both going to write down 5 ways that we have seen each other
CHANGE since we got married,"
he told me.

My eyes grew wide and I laughed at him; suddenly uncomfortable that I was about to be examined
so closely - fearful that he would see the changes that I don't even want to look at myself.
But I knew it was a good idea, kind of wishing I had come up with it myself, and began to write.

We were both so quiet, so serious - smiling to ourselves occasionally - nodding our heads.

The words we penned were ones of glory, achievement, growth. Written applause laced with
gratitude - we've grown, we've changed - and we were celebrating each other.

I think the pessimist in me was afraid my husband was going to write down, "My wife's stomach now
resembles more of a road map - more stretch marks than ever!"
But, no. Ha! The conversation went
well beyond the "5 ways" - leading us both to examine and share what we saw about ourselves too.

It was raw, honest, funny, endearing...
made me love my spouse all the more.

Honestly, even though I think change is beautiful, I'm not a big fan of the idea in general. I prefer
routine, boring, the predictable ebb and flow of day to day life with the people I love. Perhaps that is
why I was uncomfortable at first with the idea of writing it all down. Fearful that it would make me
anxious or sad that time has had its way with us.

I know that the years will hold changes that we love and changes that weigh heavy on our hearts,
but today... today is good. And in writing down the "5 ways" we found much joy - relishing in the
words of encouragement and affirmation we had for each other.

Change is inevitable. I hope we (and you!) find much to celebrate throughout the years!

Go grab a pad of paper?

The Lily Field doesn't end here... praise the Lord!!!
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Drama drama drama. I don't care who says what - boys are just as dramatic, if not worse,
than girls. I mean seriously, the other day Isaiah skinned his knee ever-so-slightly at the splash pad
and absolutely refused to be consoled or coaxed into playing in the water. FOR AN HOUR.
I texted my husband to tell him about my cheerful afternoon with our 4 year old,

and he responds with: "poor kid."

Poor kid?! Poor momma. This kind of drama could drive a parent to drink.
And I'm not talking about sparkling grape juice from a sippy cup either.

Judah, our almost 3 year old, goes back and forth between using a tiny, baby voice and a
man voice. And when I say "man voice" - think post puberty. It's deep and usually accompanied
with a bloated chest and hands on the hips. I'd love to know his source of inspiration.

Not too long ago he was giving Nathan the fake cry with a heavy side of the "boo boo" lip.
Nathan just shook his head and gave him the "boo boo" lip right back...

Judah: "Is that what we do when people are SAD!?!"
Judah: "NO!!! It's NOT!"

I love these moments in our history of being parents. Nathan and I just looked at each other
knowing that we were both trying our hardest not to burst into hysterical laughter at the
antics of this child. Solidarity, folks. Parenthood is where it's at.

Me: "Guys, don't put the play-doh in your mouth. It has wheat in it."
Judah: "Whaaaaa?! You mean it's not gluten-free?!"

Isaiah: "Mom, we're just drinking the paint water."
Me: "WHAT?! NO! That's disgusting."
Judah: "But we liiiiiiike it!"

Nathan: "What's up my peeps!?"
Judah: "I am NOT a pee pee."
Nathan: "No, I said PEEPS."
Judah: "Oh. I'm still not a pee."
Nathan: "Buddy. Peeps - like PEOPLE!"
Judah: "Well, I am a boy."

Judah, holding up a puzzle piece, quizzing Isaiah...
"What's this one, buddy?"
Isaiah: "Um. A coxapuss?"
Me: "We need to practice saying OCTOPUS. Right now.

Isaiah: "When you die, will mom be a mermaid?"
Nathan: "No. No, she will be a widow."
Isaiah: "Ooooooh that's right. Not a mermaid?"

Judah: "Is it taco night?"
Me: "No, it's gyro night - we're having lamb."
Judah: "Like, Mary had a wittle wamb?"
Me: "Yea."
Judah: "Like, I'm Jesus' wittle wamb?"
Me: "Oh boy."
Hashtag: how vegetarians are made.

Here's a little conversation I had with my 3 year old niece...
Zoey: "Aunt Birdy, is there poop in your belly?"
Brittany: "No, that would be a baby."

Me: "Guys, we're leaving. I need to swing by Starbucks and get some mint tea."
Isaiah: "And I want a decaf."
Isaiah: "But I love decaf, mom!"

Judah: "When I grow up and become a monkey..."
Judah: "Yea, I'm going to be a monkey."

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

5 Year Anniversary

For our 5th anniversary we were able to steal away - just the two of us!
Uninterrupted conversation, the freedom to be spontaneous, eye contact, holding hands,
sleeping in, great food, beating my husband at chess for the first time, dreaming, sharing,
living life side by side - all such an incredible gift. We feel so very blessed to have these
5 years. Our hearts are full. Thank you, Jesus.

We stayed at the most enchanting bed & breakfast in the city - a small taste of Italy in Chicago!
I cannot say enough good things about Villa D' Citta. The old world charm, the luxurious details,
the 5 star service. Cathy, the hostess, not only greeted us by name, but went out the night
we arrived to buy gluten-free Belgian waffle mix so that I could have the full experience as well!
I don't remember the last time I had a Belgian waffle. I could have kissed her.

If you are coming to the city or looking for a romantic escape - Villa D' Citta.
And I was NOT paid to say that. Just sayin'.

Mambo Italiano by Dean Martin on Grooveshark

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Things You Didn't Say When We Were Dating

This past weekend, while on a romantic golf cart ride with our children and my
grandparents (ok, so it wasn't that romantic), I turned around and asked my husband
if he would have been attracted to me if I looked like THIS all the time:

He shot back with the classic, man answer: "You always look like this!"
Me: "No, I usually have SOME make-up on and actually take a shower AND do my hair!!!"
Nathan: "You just look like you... natural. I've always been attracted to natural-looking girls."
Me: "Girlsssssss?!"
Nathan: "Yea. Girlsssssss!"
Me: "I don't want to hear about this!"
PROOF that love is blind.

Nathan: "You used to use a tiny voice. It was so cute and meek."
Brittany: "What are you talking about!?"
Nathan: "Like when I would call you on the phone!"
Brittany: "Oh. Exactly. When's the last time you just called to "chat" with me on the phone?!"

Brittany: "You better always do romantic things with me."
Nathan: "Are you threatening me?"

He used to be able to blink and I would be impressed...
Nathan: "When I was in grade school, I ate a corn dog off the cafeteria floor."
Brittany: "Really?"
Nathan: "And then one time I was at Steak n' Shake and a bunch of kids paid me to
drink all the hot pepper juice."
Brittany: "Are you trying to impress me? Because it's not working."
Nathan: "When I was in grade school, I ate my MILK CARTON."
Brittany: "NO?!" #officiallyimpressed

Nathan: **winks at me**
Brittany: defensively, "WHAT?!"
Nathan: "Every time I wink at you, you think something is up."

Brittany: "Leave me alone."
Nathan: "Are you perturbed with me?"
Brittany: "No."
Nathan: "I'm sensing some perturbation."
Brittany: "Is that even a word?!
Nathan: **Proceeds to read the DICTIONARY definition aloud**
Brittany: "You're perturbing me now."

Brittany: "You didn't try my soup!"
Nathan: "It's ok."
Brittany: "Yea, but you didn't try it!"
Nathan: "It's ok."
Brittany: "What is that supposed to mean!?"
Nathan: "No harm done?"

Please tell me that we aren't the only ones?!

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Family Night

The kids are an irreplaceable part of our story. Their beautiful, little lines weave
excitement, variety, surprise, and challenge into our lives; leaving their mark, their legacy
all over the memory of our hearts. I'm glad they are part of our cast of characters.

They are our every day; the harmony to our melody. A song that we are singing pretty much
from the moment they come romping into our bedroom in the morning, begging for breakfast because
they are STARVING, to the moment they fall asleep at night. Parents, relate? A rhythm of potty breaks,
cutting up food, wiping away tears, saving the day. Our lives given to meet their needs, desires.
A crucifixion type love.

And I am honored, humbled to be chosen, to be given, this adventure of parenthood.

For awhile now, we have been setting aside one night each week to exclusively pursue our children.
It's like "date night", but for them. A time separate from the ordinary routine of cuddles,
stories, crafts, trips to the park, or a bath full of bubbles (that in general end up all over my
floor and walls.) Gives me wrinkles. That and play-doh. It's a time to turn off the cell phones,
and set aside all the "work" that just keeps on coming anyway. Restful for all.

Some weeks we get really creative and seem to really cater to "making all their dreams come true" -
like this week! Who knew a $4 car wash could be SO entertaining, fulfilling for a 2 and 4 year old?!

But sometimes we keep it simple - like a movie night with popcorn in a living room tent!

We are always looking for fun, new adventure ideas!
What are some things you enjoy doing with your little ones?
Tell me all the things!!!

I Want Crazy - Tribute to Hunter Hayes (Instrumental Version) by Music Junkie on Grooveshark

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

If you woke up this morning...

I heard a homily one time that lead the congregation to its feet; a standing ovation that left
a forever impression on my heart. It seemed to be answering the always-looming question that most
Christians are asking every day, on repeat, year after year: "What do you want me to do, God?"

I've had my fair share of upset plans throughout my life. The "for sure" kind of plans, that in my mind
were obvious "God would love this" kind of choices. I have run full-throttle in one direction only to
face-plant into a door, a road block, a "return to go - do not collect $200" card.

"But I thought this was YOUR will!"

I was 18 years old when I was sent home, 4 months early, from a missionary program I had volunteered
with. Reader's Digest version of the story: I had a series of unexplainable health issues that made me a
liability to the organization. While on an eight day silent retreat, I was handed one of those pink message
slips with flight information straight back to Chicago. I never got to return to Florida, where I was
stationed, to even say goodbye or pack up my own things. UPS boxes arrived for days - delivering a way
of life that I wasn't ready to give up or surrender. A "for sure - God would love this" plan gone awry.

And my grandma prayed that I would see the purpose in the chaos; that an answer would be given.

Years have taught me that it's not about failing; failing to hear God or failing in my capabilities.
Sometimes it is just simply about being re-routed, refined. When I talk to young adults, peers, now
about vocations, dating, marriage, life choices, the big decisions that shape the rest of our lives,
I encourage them to stay in motion... keep moving in the direction you feel called. Green lights
red lights; take them as they come, but stay in motion.

Stagnant ponds are harder to stir up, direct. But an active river? God can do big things.
And that is so clearly the answer to my grandma's prayer - the lesson my heart needed to learn.

The homily, that priest, urging people to not wait for "signs" - roses from heaven, a rainbow in the sky,
rain in the desert. Sometimes those beautiful, blatant gifts are given, but when they don't come...

If the sun rose, if you woke up this morning - it's a sign.
A sign that you still have time. That your work is not done.

So do something.

The grace of the big picture is often not ours,
but the gift of the moment is always a present to be unwrapped and enjoyed.

I'm not saying to throw all caution to the wind when it comes to discernment. And I don't think
that priest was either. But I think the enemy can do big things too, just like God, but in the opposite
direction - with hearts that become too afraid to move for fear of "not doing God's will" -
a well-intentioned situation with grace-filled motives, in the name of Jesus kind of thing.

Not long after I came home from my missionary year-cut-short, I started working for a
Franciscan T.O.R. priest. For years I had been programmed to believe that
without discernment and permission from someone higher in authority.

I cried in my office the day that Franciscan priest looked at me and told me that HE TRUSTED
, and that I had free reign to use those gifts in the ministry.

You are graced. You are gifted. You are capable.
And God is expecting big things. Big things, people!

I returned the lie, exchanging it for truth.

"If the sun rose, if you woke up this morning - it's a sign.
A sign that you still have time. That your work is not done.

So do something.


Want more? Sounds good to me...
A great resource for discernment can be found here.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

30 Weeks of Bump + Why I Wear BLANQI

Not too long ago I was at Whole Foods when the cashier asked:

"What, do you have like 3-4 weeks left?"
Me: "I'm sorry. Not this time."
Cashier: "No... do you have 3-4 weeks left? You're pregnant, right?"
Me: "Ooooooh yea. I thought you wanted me to donate money to Unicef."

Three to four weeks left? Unicef? *crickets*

Try 10. 10 weeks. It's ok, lady, I'm just going to go home now and drown myself in a
carton of ice cream, and pretend you said I look just like Heidi Klum while pregnant.

I quit telling people that I am due on October 7th. I couldn't handle the shock on their faces.
I mean in the middle of the summer, October feels forever away. I get it. But 10 weeks?!
Pumpkin spice lattes are closer than you think, my friends! Get. Excited.

You want to know what I get REALLY excited about each time I'm pregnant? BLANQI.

Lately I am feeling so "out of my skin" as this tiny person who has taken up residence under my (sore)
rib cage continues on the accelerated growth plan. 30 pounds in 30 weeks, people. And you want to
know what they say? "Oh, you are ALL baby!"- Ok, babies do not come out weighing 30lbs.
It's all right though. I know you mean well. Ha!

I own two Blanqi maternity under-bust belly support tanks. I just don't do "pregnant" without one. Makes me feel all smooth and supported. It's like a party for my body!!! I mean very seriously, wearing my Blanqi reminds me that I am still ME - that I can still look and feel great even if things are getting larger than life around here! Can't say enough good things.
Tell all the pregnant, post-partum mommas!

We are so excited to meet this baby! My boys are dead set on naming this one: Bella Button. Boy or girl.
Doesn't matter. And I'm definitely feeling a little unprepared this time around. There's not a newborn
diaper in the house, the crib is still in pieces, and if this baby REALLY is a girl... she has no clothes.
For real. But it's ok, I'm sure we will kick into "baby mode" soon.

I keep looking at Judah, my baby soon to be 3 years old, and feel myself wanting to hold on just a little
while longer. I have diligently been calling him "my baby" - to which he reminds me that he is a "big kid"
and that I have a "baby" in my tummy. It's a good thing, but still. Growing pains for this momma's heart.

I honestly think my children want this baby to just "pop out" as soon as possible so I can lift them
up onto the monkey bars and all that like normal. Isaiah likes to say: "When you get tiny again..."

I told him the other day that I felt like a whale. He thought for a moment and said,
"Mmm... no. You're a dolphin!" THAT makes me feel soooo much better! We laughed pretty hard.

I love it all. This season of life has been so very blessed!!!
Thankful that everything looks good and that we are on track for healthy...

and PSLs!!! 10 more weeks.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Hearts We Hold

Of course my brain has always known that God loves me; "the Bible tells me so", right?
The brain and the heart - sometimes, always, never seeming to line up. But motherhood -
I feel like motherhood has given me a deeper glimpse at the kind of love God has for me...

for us.

I can slowly feel the truth trickle down and permeate my heart. The beautiful words, often times
seeming so Christianly cliché, "God loves you", suddenly mean something more as I have someone,
these small children that have been gifted to me, to heighten the reality of the LOVE that we all
so desperately crave, that is being so generously given.

How often do I look at my own children, evaluating their talents, needs, fears, personalities?
I see exuberant joy in one, mind-blowing kindness in another... sensitivity, curiosity, a leader,
an adventurer, caution, questions, tenderness. Each morning bringing new, exciting, and sometimes
exhausting gifts or challenges as they grow. But I see. I make note.

How can I highlight, expose, strengthen what naturally comes to them? I find myself planning a
spontaneous picnic in the park for my lover of surprises or picking up a bag of chocolates for
the one with the blueberry eyes - wide and hungry for all the sweetness life has to offer.

And if I, as a mother, as a flawed and broken human being, try so hard to see, find, gift my children
with good things (sometimes failing, sometimes winning) - how MUCH GREATER is the work
of God
? Welling up out of LOVE - because it's that fierce, "I'll give my life for you",
kind of love we feel as mothers, no? That our God feels for us?

A few weeks ago, I watched my youngest excitedly ride a horse for the first time. No fear.
His wild, little heart felt right at home on top of such power. I could see the fire-delight
in the eyes of my son; reigning, taming that animal strength with natural ease and joy.

I was anxious and perplexed. Not about my baby being on a horse that could crush his
entire body in one, swift motion, but because my oldest was cautiously watching.

The skeptic one - the child that I want to push towards growth, towards adventure, towards
tasting all the experiences that life has to offer... but stop because his heart, this heart I
am blessed to hold, is so often not ready. Marching to the beat of his own drum. I must remember.

My desire for him, my love for him, for this heart that I hold,
wanted to see him ride the horse. But I waited. No pushing. Just offering.

"I'm here, buddy."

And then he held up his arms - an invitation to lift him up onto "Blondie."

A huge smile trumped the tears that quickly gathered in my eyes.
Oh how I want good things, out of radical love, for my children!
Oh how HE wants good things for me... for us.

And I feel in that moment an ocean's worth of love, blowing across the fields, straight
from heaven, whispering, "Do you know?" You love your child, your children, with every
fiber of your being, every beat of your heart, but do you know how much stronger,
deeper, real MY love is for YOU?

I am beginning to understand. Motherhood is teaching me well.

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