Monday, December 18, 2017

Where Oh Where Did Advent Go?

I know time flies around the holiday season, but with Advent only being three weeks long, this time seemed faster than ever!  I had made a couple Advent resolutions this year and wanted to check in with how it's going.  You probably don't care about my Adventlutions at all, and I don't blame you one bit!  But for this tired old mom's memory sake, here we go:

1) Pray the St. Andrew Novena

This started on November 30 and runs through Christmas Eve.  It's a prayer you say 15 times a day and so far, so good??  I totally missed yesterday's mark, but I think I've made every other day.  I think it's been so helpful to have the prayer as a screen saver on my phone and hanging on my wall at work.  I went to Confession last week and the priest was awesome and basically told me that if I can just make time to pray more everyday, all of my other struggles will become smaller.  You can't {fill in the sin} if you're too busy praying, right?  I know it's true and this 15 times a day prayer is a good start!

St. Andrew Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Comparing Down (for a Pick Me Up)

It's easy to forget to count your blessings sometimes, especially in times of hardship and stress.  The holidays are known to provide these in abundance.  The grinch had wormed his way into my heart this last week or two and I found myself worrying about buying Christmas gifts and making preparations, packing to go visit family, cooking special treats for school and work.  It's all just too much!  Life is crazy enough without adding all these things to my to-do list.  I'm sure you moms, in particular, can understand.

Each of my kids has an "Advent Family" assigned to their classroom at school, this is a family in need that each classroom buys gifts for.  It's a beautiful thing, to think of others in need at this time of year especially, but as I purchased gift cards for these families, I found myself wondering if we will ever qualify to be an Advent Family.  How close we must be to the requirements, I think, with seven kids and two small salaries from working at a Catholic school.  We don't spend our money on anything crazy, no vacations, no nice cars, no big house even though we could fill it.  We juuuuuust barely get by, between our mortgage, medical insurance, grocery bills, car payment, school tuition, daycare and all the other daily needs required for this family of nine.  We aren't saving for our kid's college - we aren't saving much for retirement - we haven't even been saving for Christmas presents!  How on earth am I supposed to make it all happen?  

Last week, I was driving Andrew to a basketball game and, having come straight from church, he hadn't eaten yet.  I stopped to get him a quick bite at McDonald's and he wanted a breakfast sandwich.  They were 2 for $5 so I bought two, knowing that someone in the house would eat the other one when I returned home.  But do you know what happened on my way home?  I saw a homeless man begging in the street (sadly there are far too many of them around) and I put down my window to ask him if he wanted a sandwich.  He said "Yes, I'm starving" and I handed him my extra sandwich.  Now I don't share this story to brag (in fact, I purposefully haven't shared it thinking it would earn me bonus points for doing a good deed unnoticed!) but I share it now because here I was, thinking about  how little we have, when I could easily give this man a sandwich from my excess.   From my excess.

It's disheartening sometimes to look around and compare yourself, your family, your life, to those who have more than you.  You can feel unhappy and wonder why life is so unfair.  But what if you only compared what you have to those who have less than you?  Suddenly, all the gifts and blessings in your life come into full view and you can see with clarity how much you have to be thankful for.  My husband will often remind me to "compare down" when I can get dramatically hopeless about our financial state.  He will remind me that among our friends and family we may feel that we have the least, but among most families throughout the world, we are rich beyond belief.  And almost all of our riches aren't even the kind you can buy at a store, they are better than anything, they are priceless.  This attitude of gratitude can sometimes be hard to feel, but try comparing down when you're tempted to compare up, and hopefully one day we won't be tempted to compare at all, but instead be happily content with all the goodness in our lives.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Christmas Letter from The Martins

I only have received about ten Christmas cards this year.  I know it's only December 14, but opening Christmas photo cards and reading Christmas letters is my favorite.  I love seeing photos of how kids have grown, reading about a family's adventures through the year, and connecting with friends from long ago.  I'm not on Facebook, so Christmas cards are sometimes the only way I stay connected to old friends.  We have sent out our photo cards but I was wishing that I would have included a letter and then I remembered that I have a blog!  So what follows is our Christmas letter, electronically :)

Dear Friends and Family Near and Far,

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  2017 has been a busy, full year at the Martin House with no notable big events, just lots of flurry of daily activities.  With six boys and one sporty girl, you can bet on any given day of the week that somebody is playing a sport somewhere!  But let's break it down individually...

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Fading Birthmark

When Alexander was born, he had a huge red birthmark all over his face:
Fresh from the oven

Jaundiced Newborn
I was used to seeing stork bites on my other babies, but they were tiny on the eyelid or back of the neck.  I was worried about his marks, and asked around for what we could do about it.  My midwife said it occurred because of the position his face was in as he grew in utero.  The consensus was to just wait it out.  My sister, a dermatologist, said that we could try a laser option but suggested to wait until he was a year since it was a minor surgery.  And so we waited...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Me, NFP and Technology

I've written about our journey with NFP (Natural Family Planning) before, so please don't hate me for bringing it up again, but much like a woman's cycle, the topic comes up monthly in our house and there are always new things we are learning. 

It seems to me that the first year after a baby has been rough in terms of knowing thyself for NFP.  Recovering, breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, and weight loss/gain, they all wreak havoc on a woman's hormones and make a cycle unpredictable at best.  Even though I give up on breastfeeding around 5 months (or should I say, breastfeeding gives up on me) things still don't get back to normal until my baby is around 13-14 months old.  These months in the first year of a baby's life can be scary if you're trying to avoid pregnancy in the short-term, and I am always interested in any new fertility advances made since my last go-round at using NFP to avoid pregnancy.

We currently use the Marquette Method, which seems to be the best for us after having tried them all.  It's a simple method that uses an ovulation monitor to detect the LH surge that happens when a woman ovulates.  The monitor gives you a reading each day (after using a test stick) that lets you know if you are experiencing Low Fertility, High Fertility, or Peak Fertility:

I've been using the same monitor since 2011, and it's been pretty straight forward for us.  There is a more updated monitor here.  The test sticks can add up, but we feel the cost of them is cheaper than having to buy baby diapers, so...yeah!  

Disclaimer: We have conceived two babies while using the Marquette Method, so I won't say it's fool proof, but those babies were conceived when the monitor read Low Fertility later into the cycle (like Day 12) when I should have been abstaining anyway, but decided to chance it because the monitor hadn't read High yet.  

Soooooo now we start abstaining at Day 6 and wait it out until all signs point to go (and then usually wait some more!)  "All signs" meaning the monitor reads Peak, then wait 3 more days until the monitor reads Low and all other fertility signs are gone.  I know, TMI, but I need people to share like this with me, and we're all adults here, right?  

{Kids - get off the mom blogs!}

In addition to the Marquette Method, we also have two new tech savvy tricks up our NFP sleeves.  They are:

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Super Quick Takes on the 1st Friday in December

Linking up LATE on the First Sunday of Advent with Kelly and Friends!  TGIF!

Calling all bloggers who love to read!  I am starting a Blogger Book Recommendation page up there at the top of this site, and if you would like to send me a list of your favorite (and clean/wholesome/PG rated) books, I will happily add your list there and link back to your website.  Email me your list at collmart at gmail dot com.

My beautiful girl turned 10 on Friday...

She had swimming lessons (she says she's a good swimmer because she was born underwater.  True story!) and then it was pizza, sundaes and presents.  'Twas a great evening, her "Best birthday yet!".