Saturday, December 15, 2012

Do you know what happened on the Feast of St. Nicholas?

Well, first of all, St. Nicholas came to our home in the night. He left candy canes and golden coins in our shoes. It was so exciting! Every year that goes by I get more and more excited to celebrate the Church's feast days with my kids because they are understanding better and better the meaning of them and they are loving the awesome traditions that the feasts carry on. This was an exciting day.

The second awesome thing that happened on the Feast of St. Nicholas is that my brother got engaged! It's true. I know. Bo Zimmerman is getting married. It is incredible and such a grace to see him get to this point of maturity in his life and mostly I am just so grateful that he has chosen this path... a path to create a home, take care of someone for a lifetime and bring the possibility of having children into his life... the greatest gift God gives two people who are married next to one another.

I was so excited that he brought me with him to help him pick out a ring. We went to the same place where Patrick bought mine. It was something I will never forget. For as long as I can remember I have prayed for my brother's vocation... and here we are. To top it off, he is marrying one of my friends from high school. On the competition cheerleading squad I was her fly and she was my base. What this means is I was thrown in the air and she was the one to hold me up AND catch me. I'd say he made a pretty good choice. My butt never hit the ground... hers always did first... and it would with the goal of saving mine. So if she's as good of a wife as she was a base, I think we are set. She will always have his back.

So, to get to the good part... how did he ask her? Well, Erin works at a Catholic school, so on the feast of St. Nicholas my brother showed up. He had arranged with the principal to put the ring box in her shoe. When the time came he told me that she came out of her room, found her shoe, took the box out... and my brother, who was hiding across the hall, tapped her on the shoulder. When she turned around, he got on his knee and opened the box! She cried. And said yes!

Congratulations to Bo and Erin! We pray for you every night by name. We love you and can't wait to see what God has planned for your marriage and your future family.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I am so grateful

I am realizing how rare it is to stay married. I am also realizing how hard it is for people to stay married.     The secular world dishes a great deal of poisons into our marriages and it doesn't make it easy. We have birth control, which leaves pleasure with no mutual consequences. We have birth control that allows infidelity. We have selfishness and counselors who tell those seeking help to do what they want, what feels best and to leave all else by the waste side. We have the television, which offers lifestyles... all and any lifestyle other than a wholesome one. We have people who hold grudges because they were never taught to forgive. And we have people who just plain give up and say they fell out of love.

Love, my friends, is not a feeling, but a choice.

I know that our time will come. Patrick and I will struggle. We will want to give up. We already have struggled in many ways, but have yet to have to put up a real fight. But, we are preparing for it. We have talked. We have prayed. When things get tough we agreed long ago that no matter what, even if only one of us thinks we need help, we will seek it. We have prepared by agreeing to spend one week each year together alone with no kids to replenish what has run dry and to talk and enjoy one another without feeding someone, holding someone or correcting someone much smaller than us! We have agreed to forgive, which is something we struggle with, but always do... and then place it behind us without holding is against the other. We have agreed to sit and constantly prioritize what we spend our time on. TV is the toughest thing to avoid at the end of the day when we just want to chill... but, this doesn't help us to look each other in the eyes and check in. That is hard. We have agreed to eat dinner together as a family as often as possible. We have agreed to get to Confession often... and always when we need to. We have agreed to never miss Mass... ever. All of these decisions have come from the great wisdom of those who have come before us... our parents, our good friends, and the couples we have seen make it... so, we have taken them seriously. This will not be an easy fight. If they did these things, we will learn from them and do them too.

My mom reminded me this visit to Atlanta that I will be disappointed often because I hold such high standards for myself... and I always expect the same of others. The problem is I don't expect the same of others, but I am sad to find that I many times want so much more for others than they want for themselves. This call to live the Christian life and to live a Christian marriage and to build a Catholic home is the call we all have been given. And as short as we will show up, we have got to try... He will make up for the difference.

I have been sad lately to be around so many marriages that have fallen apart. I have been sad to see broken homes and anxious, lost children who are a result of it. I am sad to feel out of control of helping it. I am sad. But, in the midst of it, I see where God reminds me of how much I have. It is a grace to hear Him. It is a grace to know and love what it means to fight the good fight. As imperfect as I am, I love that I have the freedom to love... love till the end... love till it hurts... love even if you don't love me back... love even when I don't feel like it. That's what children and marriage teach. And as hard as it is, it is a grace.

I pray for marriages. I pray for perseverance in my own.

I am grateful my parents and Patrick's parents have stuck it out all of these years. By doing this, they have taught us so much. I am grateful that I have seen so many marriages fight through alcoholism, depression, family deaths, disease, cancer, young pregnancies, and the list goes on. That is where hope can be found when all seems lost. Thank you to those of you who are faithful and fight the good fight. I am so grateful for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Trick or Treat... the Eve of All Saints

It was the eve of All Saints Day... and we talked about praying for those of our family and friends who have died. This is something we do every night... so on this night, we got to explain how although we were going trick or treating, the Church was celebrating a feast... so, we ate candy to celebrate the SAINTS! We explained how it was totally awesome that there were people who had lived such great lives of love that they now got to be with Jesus all the time.

Our little men dressed up as a puppy dog, Spiderman... and Gabriel was a Power Ranger by day and Superman by night! He got to dress up at school that day and then changed his mind about his costume when he arrived home. (Thanks to both grandmothers we have quite a few super hero costumes around here!)

Patrick also got pretty excited about trick or treating and stole some hats! Thank goodness that beard is gone now!

We left around 6pm and went through the whole neighborhood in about 2 hours! Adam slept most of the time, Gabriel ran, and Anthony was the slowest guy in the pack. He walked soooo slow. I generally stayed back with him to make sure he said thank you and didn't fall into too many bushes. After a while I took his mask off hoping to speed up the process, but it only helped a little. My greatest memory of the night was when we arrived home to dump out the candy. Oh my! To prevent an overload of sugar, we have agreed for our kids to trade in their candy for other prizes. This is something we will continue to do... little boys are crazy enough!

Monday, November 12, 2012


I tend to go into panic mode when I find out I am pregnant. I am not pregnant. But, for Anthony and Adam I have felt a bit scared. Not because I do not trust in God's plan or because I don't think I can handle it. It's because I am afraid I will not have enough time for each one. I learned from having Anthony that Gabriel quickly learned to become a big helper. And I have learned once again from having Adam, that both the older boys have a new sense of generosity in them. Point being: I think giving your kids siblings has a built in teacher of generosity. So, no need to panic. If they learn generosity, I think many other virtues will follow. And that's the goal, right?!

Today as I was talking about how I needed to clean up the kitchen, but was holding the baby, Gabriel offered to help. He said, "Mom, I will hold the baby for you while you clean up the dishes." Then he proceeded to set up a barricade of pillows around the couch to protect the baby. The pictures below show you the time he spent "babysitting" Adam so I could get some work done. I realized that he gets this from his dad. Patrick is always trying to give me a free moment to get something done I would've done hours ago if it weren't for holding a baby!

Another example from today. We were driving Gabriel to preschool and Adam was crying. Without any prompting of mine both the boys starting singing VERY loudly "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." In a matter of minutes the baby calmed and fell right asleep. Gabriel looked at Anthony and said, "We did it!" "Yeaa," Anthony yelled, "He's asleep!" They are such great helpers.

Both of them bring me diapers. Both of them throw diapers in the trash for me. They are always handing my washcloths while I am preparing the bath. They put their shoes away. Gabriel often picks out Anthony's clothes when he goes to find some for himself. And I notice them even wiping eachother's faces after a messy snack. It's quite amazing to me to watch. When my hands get tied up in Adam, they always seem to find a hand for the other.

Mother Teresa did say to do ordinary things with great love... I hope their siblings are the school they learn this in.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

How do I know if I am a good mom?

First, I have decided to start blogging more. I hope this dream comes true. I want to write more and I want to capture more of our life on here... so, my goal is once a week or more. I have been inspired to share some stories...

I am so grateful for a group of ladies I get together with in a group called the Mommies' Club. We meet every other week and read the gospel for the upcoming Sunday and then we have a book we discuss. Right now we are reading Style, Sex and Substance (stories written by Catholic women bloggers) and it is AMAZING!! We also spend quite a bit of time telling silly stories about our kids (and doing impressions of them), talking about the terrible mistakes and shortcomings we have had in our vocation, and best of all, we support each other and encourage one another not to be too hard on ourselves when it comes to the all too thankless job of mothering.

I realized once again at the last Three to Get Married retreat that the world does not see the vocation and profession as full time mother as something worthwhile or something that women could ever consider themselves successful doing in the eyes of the world. I personally think women can be successful in many professions... and I include motherhood as one of those.

Because, yes, we are professionals. We have an alarm clock that goes off early, deadlines to meet, people to lead, money to budgeted, dinners to plan, clothes to organize, a house to be cleaned, and the list goes on. But, as every professional asks, how do I know I am successful? How do I know I am good at this job?

Well, first, since the good Lord hired me... I check in with Him. He's the boss. I am not sure whether the interview mentioned having three boys, but I did sign on the dotted line, so... I check in with Him every day in prayer. I offer the day to Him and then at the end of the day, I ask Him how I've done. In the silence He can tell me where I lacked in patience, where I didn't think of the other first, where I didn't pay enough attention, or where I got lazy. He reminds me to prioritize my sleep, my health, and most of all, my sacramental life. They are with me more than anyone else... my life of virtue will directly affect them... there is no way around it. I have to do my best and when I don't, I need to acknowledge it. I apologize to my kids often. In prayer, He also allows me to see the areas where I am doing well and that is always helpful too.

Secondly, I make sure not to hold myself to the standard the world has of mothers and to not compare myself to the other moms who I think are better, but to allow them to encourage me instead. I am not going to look like a swimsuit model after having three babies. I have to decide to be happy in this body. My husband helps me with this anytime I point to my belly, which has a little extra love on it, and  complain about it. His response is always the same... he tells me to take a moment and go look in the eyes of our children. And it's so true... they were so worth it. I also have to remember that the Pottery Barn homes are made for magazines, not my home. If it's kinda messy or really messy, it's OK. It doesn't make me worth less... it just means I am blessed enough to have a place that is lived in! I also have to remember that I am not the Super Nanny. She shows up, tries to fix things and then leaves. I am here all the time. I am here when things fall apart again and again... and that is OK. Everything is a work in progress. Progress is key here. Always look for the progress. Thank you, Jenny, for always reminding me that.

Third, like any other job, I believe that one of the main elements of being successful or "good" at what I do in my profession is the amount of time I put in. How often am I really "with" my kids? Am I checking out, looking at e-mail, making lists, getting ready for the next event of the day. Of course, sometimes these things are necessary, but I have to remember that it is key for our children to have us not only present, but to be really there with them... whether it be speaking with them, playing with them, dancing with them, praying with them, reading to them, surprising them with something fun, cooking, baking, being a super hero, or hiding the discomfort while getting dirty with them. More than anything else, they just want us with them, so be there as often as you can.

Fourth, we need to train them well. To love the Lord. To live kindness. To forgive. To share. To give to others who have less. I love that I still remember the things my mom taught me when I was so little. Even just the little things, like how to greet someone on the phone. This is where laziness can set in for us. Children need consistent efforts. They will test to make sure you follow through every time, so you have to. And they will learn from it. And so will you.

Lastly, I have learned that the most important thing to being the World's Greatest Mom is to love the World's Greatest Dad, their dad! More than anything else, they must see that Patrick and I are getting along and if we aren't, that we are working on it. They need to see us hold hands, hug, speak kindly to one another and about one another, and to do things to make the other happy. When arrived home last night, all the boys were cleaning up the toys. Gabriel came running to me and said, "Mom, Dad said we are doing this to put a smile on your happy face!" You could tell, that he thought that was great. This will teach them how to love one another. And one day how to love their vocation.

More than anything, I want young moms to know that they are good moms. I want them to know that they don't have to live up to the very high expectations that they have set for themselves, but to just love simply and place their profession in the hands of the Loving Father, who when they meet Him in prayer will guide them to be the best through His amazing grace. He will use us tiny instruments to make His beautiful music, so those souls entrusted to us will learn to love Him.

Tonight I pray for all mommies. I pray that God will guide us to be better. I pray that He will give us the grace we need to get through these tough days with small children, knowing that this is His will for us (otherwise, he wouldn't have given them to us!) and that our days with our little ones aren't here forever, so we will try to find the extraordinary awesomeness is our very ordinary days.

And I will end with this. Today I kept hearing my second child yell to me, "MILE AHHH ME, MILE AHH ME!!" What in the world was he saying?? What buddy? I walked to the living room to find him with my very expensive camera around his neck and in front of his little face. Oh, yes, I see now. He was telling me, "SMILE AT ME!" So today I found joy in the fact that I am one of those moms who loves taking pictures of her kids. And loves it even more when they smile at me.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why I am pro-life

I have always been pro-life, but my experience as a mother who lost a baby and a mother who has three babies has changed my perspective... 

It was June 27th. My brother's 22nd birthday. Patrick was out of town at a month long conference. I was teaching a dance camp in Atlanta to make some extra money for the 5th grade teacher and grad student salary we had. I had been spotting for about a week, but as the doctor said, many women did... as long as there was no cramping try not to worry too much, but call if things changed. On June 26th things changed. Through the night and into the morning of June 27th I bled a lot. It was terribly painful. And the next morning I went to the doctor where I passed out from the pain, was rushed to the hospital and about an hour later was wheeled into an ultrasound room where they "couldn't tell me much" until the doctor read the report. Really? Just confirm it for me, please. Through my teary eyes, I begged that tech to just tell me if she saw a heartbeat. She shook her head no. "I see a fetal pole, but no heartbeat." I wasn't sure what she meant by the politically correct term of "fetal pole." I wasn't sure what she was seeing, but I knew at that moment that my baby was gone. Patrick flew down to be with me. We were crushed. Our families were crushed. I even saw my dad cry that day. It will be quite a journey to heal from a loss like this... I have written about this before, but today, I write about it from the perspective of a pro-life advocate.

Before we conceived, we had tried for 2 months. On the third month, we decided to pray a novena. Sure enough we found ourselves expecting the child we wanted so badly. As a woman, I can not explain the joy when you realize you have A HUMAN PERSON growing inside your body! This is a priveledge, an honor, a true miracle. Another beating heart inside my body? How could this be? Truly amazing! So, like other mothers, I tried to eat well, avoided the terrible stuff, stayed away from the toxins, and moved slowly. Haha. I wasn't sure why, but knowing another person was growing in there made me feel somewhat delicate. I didn't want to break him or her. I was super careful with myself.

My friend Melissa made the baby a rosary. My mom had already bought clothes; an array of options for a boy or girl baby. People had sent cards, e-mails and many hugs of congratulations. A new person had been created.

What I realized about this short time that I housed this child was this... even though it was only 7 weeks, I had already dreamt up all I could about this child. Who would they look like? The color of their eyes. Curly hair? Straight? Chubby or skinny? Would they have to wear glasses like me? Would they have flat feet like me? Would they have Patrick's awesome eyelashes? And then to think of their person. Their personality. Their passion. Their vocation. Their future. Their chance to love. The potential for this little person growing in me was more exciting than anything I had experienced. Like I said before it was terribly painful to lose that person who to some would've been an "unwanted pregnancy," "an accident," "a surprise," or even "just a cluster of cells." I was confused even more about abortion after this experience. It was not my choice for my child to die and the pain was unbearable... so I felt so much pain for those women who had made that choice. A lifetime of heart ache, no matter what the reason. A lifetime to wonder about the person who could've been...

A nurse I knew well in college told me, "Sure, anyone can be pro-choice... it is your choice to engage in sexual intercourse. Then once the life is there you must be pro-life. We must be responsible for our choices and accept the consequences." I have seen many women have children at such a young age... they are the most beautiful of women... they made the choice to accept the challenge and rise above it and have done an amazing job.

You ask about rape... not a choice. Agreed. But, let's be honest and ethical. It is not right to commit an evil to fix an evil.

I have watched countless friends try so hard to conceive. I have watched them struggle to adopt. I have experienced this pain with them. And then the joy of adopting. The joy of holding a squishy baby. The joy of watching them grow. The world wants those babies. We certainly did.

A few months after our miscarriage, we conceived for the second time. I was so nervous. I bled for the first twelve weeks. They did countless blood tests at least twice a week, put me on supplements of progesterone, and did ultrasounds on almost a weekly basis.

At 5 weeks, which is 3 weeks after conception, she turned the screen around in the ultrasound room and I saw the tiniest heartbeat... it was in a small little ball (our growing baby) and I cried. A life. At that moment, I again went through the person he would be. His eyes. His personality. His laugh. At six weeks I could make out a head and body on the screen. At 8 weeks I could see hands and feet coming out from the body like little webs. At ten weeks, I bled again through the night with this 2nd pregnancy. We prayed all night and thought for sure we had lost our second baby. I arrived in the ultrasound room once again. She turned the screen to me... arms and legs kicking around!! NO WAY! A uterine hemorrhage. And my baby was still there. After 12 weeks of hormones, ultrasounds, and blood work, I stopped bleeding. It was a long pregnancy. A sick one too. But, miraculously, he hung in there!

On May 10th, Mother's Day in 2009, Gabriel was born. A little peanut. 5 lbs. 13 oz. When I looked into his eyes, I flashed back to that tiniest ball on the screen, beating so strongly, fighting, and wanting to live. Wanting to experience love.

I am always so confused to read about the drunk driver who is accused of a double homicide when the car accident kills a pregnant woman... but in the same state abortion is legal? I am so confused. Why is that so? Why haven't we fought to teach people about the consequences of their choices? Why haven't we fought harder to teach the world about the integrity of every human being, no matter where they live? Why is it OK for a mother to choose? A mother, by the very word, brings about a feeling of safety. She keeps us safe. She doesn't decide she doesn't want us. She doesn't decide it's best for her. She always decides what's best for us. It is our choice to promote a culture of life. Let's do it.

The best way to promote a culture of life is to teach your children and those around you how valuable they are and how to treat others with respect. And how to love.

This issue is about love. And love always forgets self for the other no matter what the cost.

Monday, September 3, 2012

It just keeps getting sweeter...

 Some sweet pictures the day of Adam's Baptism!

 The moment when everything changes. A child of Jesus Christ! The life of grace is a flowin'!

 The Zimmerman peeps.
 The Bentley peeps.
 Our two favorite priests ever. It was super cool to have Fr. Baker baptize Gabriel, Fr. Edward (Patrick's brother), baptize Anthony and Adam, and then have both of them there for Adam Joseph's special day. We LOVE our priests!!
 Adam on a normal day, napping. Yea, it's pretty loud around here... so, while he sleeps, he generally shakes his head at his brothers and leaves his hand on his head!
 This is the new me... above. Less round in the belly, more full in the hands... and heart!
 My little man smiling in the car... super rare. He usually screams.
 These are classic morning pictures. Everyone wants to cuddle in bed with mom. Adam, usually naked from peeing or puking on his clothes. Gabriel, usually naked because he already took his pj's off and is ready to get dressed for the day... and has been wearing his underwear backwards lately (as you can see) so he can see what super hero is on them. Then Anthony, who needs to get outside within minutes of waking up or is a grumpy pants. He cries about everything till you get him moving... here, he wants the camera and got mad at me for taking off his shirt to dress him!

 The baby has no clue. Gabriel, yup, picking his nose an asking for a tissue. Anthony... still mad. It's generally pure chaos, which is super hard for me who really likes the quiet... hence, while I am up at 4am writing this blog... love the quiet.

 Bath time. He LOVES the bath. And gets pretty upset when I take him out. He is so sweet.
 Daddy hanging with Adam.

 Some great shots of the little man and his awesome baby blues! Love that smile!
You would think that it would just keep getting harder. And it does. But, it also just keeps getting sweeter. Adam Joseph is one sweet little man. He has a very mild temperament, smiles a lot, and sleeps great (at night). He loves music and smiles most often at Gabriel. He is still working on figuring out if Anthony loves him or hates him... and I think Anthony is trying to figure that out too... one moment he is kissing him, the next he is squeezing his legs or arms as hard as he can or trying to aim right at his head with a favorite toy. Yeah, a new interesting life... combating the love of Anthony for Adam. It is funny how when another soul enters your life, you really can never imagine what your life was like without him. Adam, our third little peanut, has made our life full of little boys!! 

Many days I feel as if I am drowning. In the feeding of three kids, the mess, the laundry, the being awake in the middle of the night and then early mornings, the changing his clothes and then changing mine because of puke, the diapers... ohh, the diapers, the groceries, the cooking, the quality time, the reading, the schedules, sleep strikes... and the list goes on. The good Lord knows how to sanctify me. He is doing well at it. I thank Him for his grace. But, I couldn't love this vocation any more. 
It is a sweet sweet life.

Thank you, Jesus, for three beautiful little boys and one amazing dude for a husband.