Friday, April 30, 2010

True Freedom

While I was making dinner this evening, my curious toddler began hovering near the heated oven.  I grabbed him immediately, made eye contact and firmly told him "No." This resulted in a flood of tears and resistance, most commonly known to parents as a dreaded tantrum.  I often feel frustrated because it seems as though I am constantly saying "No" these days.  My little guy recently began walking, and with this new freedom he is more and more able to explore his boundaries.  It is challenging to explain to a one-year-old why he cannot touch a hot oven; even if I could, it is likely that he would not understand.  He is not yet rational enough to know that my preventing him from touching the oven is a loving boundary, to protect him from hurting himself. 

Religion is often seen by critics as a set of old-fashioned rules; Thou shall not ____.  Especially during our youth, culture teaches us that it is OK to experiment with our new freedom and do whatever we please.  What authority does religion have over me?  Just like toddlers, what we often fail to remember is that our loving Father established the Church, and He knows what is best for us, even if we do not fully understand.  I did not say "No" to my son to make him miserable, but because I love him deeply and care for his well-being.  Similarly, not having sex outside of marriage is not a "rule" that God made simply to make life more difficult for us.  Rather, chastity and purity are wonderful virtues that protect our hearts and free us from painful heartbreak and attachment to broken relationships. 

In John 8:31-32, "Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, 'If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.'"  But what is this the freedom that Jesus is referring to?  Jesus is saying that in knowing Him, the Christ himself, we will be free.  His truth will liberate us from the illusions of this world and the slavery of sin.  Just as a child who finally trusts that touching a burning oven will cause pain, we will know that the Church and her teachings are a beautiful blessing from our Father; meant to guide us, protect us and provide meaning to our lives.  We are deeply loved, and as Christians, we can find nothing but joy and liberation in this.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wear it Proudly

Right click on the image above to save it to your desktop. From there you can email it to your friends or upload it to your personal blog, profile photo, facebook page, myspace!

2 days to go

I don't know about the rest of you but I am already planning on wearing my favorite jeans tomorrow as a farewell. God provides because normally I am not allowed to wear jeans at school but apparently my guardian angle worked some magic and we have a jeans day tomorrow. So pull out those really cute jeans one more time girls because come May 1st it is skirt/dress city for all of us. I can't wait!!! And if you are participating in "the dare" change your facebook profile picture to the logo for the dare (look to your left) and write something about it on your page. Maybe you will inspire someone else to take THE DARE!

One of those days...

Ever have one of those days, or maybe even weeks/months when it just wasn't a great day. There was no real reason, maybe a silly choice or a mean comment and WHAM it just stinks today! Well I had one yesterday and in the midst of my mini-break down I realized - this isn't very Christian of me. We're supposed to hope-filled. People are supposed to ask us for the cause of our joy, but instead I just wanted to vent to my husband about how I had spent the past two days doing nothing but working on resumes for jobs that a million people are applying for, only to just figure out that the application I drove across town to deliver had the wrong phone number on my resume - are you kidding me!!! And keep in mind I'm trying to conserve gas cause it's almost payday and now I have to go back again.... at the point when I was about to start getting irritated at God because I was trying to save money and get a job and I did something stupid so I should get irritated with someone other than myself right - I realized WAIT A SECOND!!!! You live an amazing life. You have a wonderful husband, his job provides for all your needs, you even have a little money in savings, so what if the gas light is on? Don't drive for the next day! You get paid in 2 days.

I realized that the Lord blesses me every day I'm alive. There is always a reason to praise him (even in the storms) and I can't lose my joy or my hope. If He wants me to stay home tomorrow to save gas, well then I should feel lucky to get to stay home. We are truly a blessed people and we must always do our best to show it! (But really God, couldn't you have pointed out the wrong phone number on the resume ???)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Saintly Beauty

"Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul."
-St. Augustine

The Ordinary

I just sat at my computer thinking that I have nothing to blog about. I ran through my day and my life and came up with nothing profound to talk about. Then I realized that nothingness is precisely what I should blog about. When was the last time you stopped to thank God for the ordinary things in your life? How about doing that right now? Very simple post today but sometimes simple and ordinary is really nice in our chaotic and complex world. Praise God for the occasional case of boredom.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Getting Ready....

My husband said to me once when I was going through a difficult time, "God doesn't give you anything you can't handle." At the time I didn't think this was true, but have come to understand that it really is. When I had my first baby, Tony, I felt I wasn't ready for motherhood and that I didn't prepare enough during my pregnancy, but I soon found out that I really didn't need to. I learned how to be a mother in my own way and with help from the Blessed Mother. I gave my baby whatever he needed, he always came first. A friend of mine had her baby boy a month before Tony and she came to visit when Tony was one month old. When she left I was dumbfounded by her knowledge of what her son needed at any given time; whether he needed to be changed or burped or fed she knew her son so well and I felt that I didn't know Tony very well! I thought that maybe she was just guessing, but then a month later I found myself knowing what Tony needed all the time. It was amazing. My husband would ask what Tony needed when he was crying and I knew based on the time of day it was or his schedule and I even amazed my husband sometimes by my knowledge of our sons' needs.

When I had my second son, John Paul, I felt completely different, mentally, than with Tony. I actually felt ready, like being a mother and wife was really what God planned for me. I remember in the hospital after John Paul was born feeling so....normal. It was like he had always been with me. Once we brought him home the feeling changed a little while trying to adapt to having two babies and not one. Now, more than a year later, everything the two boys do is new and exciting and our life is crazy sometimes but I wouldn't want it any other way.

We have a third baby coming in August and I have to admit I am a little nervous about having three. It is hard going to the grocery store with a one year old in the cart seat and a 2 1/2 year old in the cart throwing everything out of the cart but where does the third baby go? Is my double stroller going to turn into a 3 baby stroller like I have heard happens (one in each of the seats and a third in the basket underneath)? Mass is a whole other issue. Right now my husband and I go in shifts and only go as a family when there is a special occasion, but those special occasions will be tough when we are outnumbered especially if the church doesn't have a cry room. These are only a few challenges that lie ahead but I feel that with humility, lots of patience, prayer and God's grace I will be able to pull through. After all God does't give you anything you can't handle....right?

As far as getting ready for the dress dare goes I am excited that I can wear non-maternity skirts. Pregnant ladies out there in need of skirts I highly recommend the Old Navy roll over jersey skirts. They have maternity ones also, but the regular ones fit fine with a belly and are really comfy to wear. God Bless everyone and have a good week.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Happy Belated Earth Day

So having a newborn is really throwing me off. I didn't even know it was Earth Day until we were watching our favorite NBC shows and realized that the peacock logo was green. Anywho, for my belated salute to the earth, I'd like to present you with "A Case for Cloth and other reusable things."

First of all, going green and all that stuff is not a lot of extra work or money. The hardest part is the initial investment and getting used to doing things slightly differently.

Idea 1: Reusable shopping bags. I don't know about you but I really hate having 30,000 grocery bags under m
y sink. There's only so many we can reuse as lunch bags, etc. Many grocery stores have recycling bins for them now, so don't forget to bring them. Anyways, using a reusable bag will save lots of bags from the trash. So don't be like me and forget yours at home! (Minimal investment of $1-2 per bag and some stores will give you a 5 cent discount every time you use their brand of reusable bags)

Idea 2: Cloth napkins. We switched over almost exactly a year ago and it just hasn't been a big deal. I just bought some napkins at Walmart to start with, and I've expanded my collection whenever I see something on sale. We haven't bought paper napkins in a whole year and we have noticed that our trash bin gets full a lot slower when we aren't using 5-6 napkins per person a day.

Idea 3: Cloth diapers. The hardest part about this is the initial investment (and not getting addicted to all the cute diapers out there). The absorbent stuff in diapers contains all kinds of chemicals and no one really knows if they ever decompose. Also, poop should go in the toilet, not in the landfill! (Did you know that it is a federal crime to poop in a landfill? Random factoid.) Once you pick a system you like and get used to the washing routine it's really just not a big deal. I'm actually double diapering with cloth with a toddler and newborn and while I've had to wash every 1.5 days instead of 2-3 days, I barely notice it because there's been a general increase in laundry.

Idea 4: Cloth pads. Never thought I'd make the switch, and again, the initial investment was difficult for my husband to swallow (not what he would choose to spend money on), but it has been great not having to buy and throw away more things and they are so comfy. I highly recommend Just look through the site for info and testimonials. (Oh and washing them is not a big deal. Just throw them into some kind of container with cold water to soak, change the water daily, then throw them in the washer and dryer).

Idea 5: Reusable sandwich bags. I'm buying a few of these from to try it out. I love the idea of not having a to buy baggies all the time (especially if we send the girls to school!) and it would help keep our trash can a little less full.

Well I hope these ideas help and maybe inspire y'all to try something green!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Confessions of a Jean-aholic Part 1

Dear Defining Beauty,

If you ask me which article of clothing I cannot live without, I will not hesitate to answer: my pair of jeans. I am one of those crazy people who pays a fortune for designer denim, because it is oh-so worth it. I wear them out until there are holes in my knees and the hems are completely fringed. And sometimes I wear them anyways, despite rips and tears. I can fancy them up with a cute blouse and some jewelery, or dress them down with a pair of flip-flops. It sounds cliche, but when I wear my jeans, I feel confident, comfortable, and I feel like me.

That being said, you can probably guess how much I am looking forward to the Dress Dare. Can I really hang up my beloved jeans for an entire month? Why put myself through the torture? Insert my childish response here: "Because someone dared me to..."

God made men and women equal in dignity. We each have different strengths and gifts, and we complement each other in a profound way that bears the image of our creator. I have never felt called to wear skirts and dresses for the same reason that many admirable Christian women have witnessed to me. Nevertheless, I love being a woman and am proud of my femininity. I am always striving for ways to better understand my mission as a woman, and to draw closer to the Father by using the gifts that He has given me.

During what history labels as the feminist movement, women unfortunately felt that they needed to reject all aspects of femininity in order to compete with men and prove themselves to be "better". In the context of how women have been treated in some past civilizations, it is understandable why these "feminists" felt anger towards men. In fact, these conflicts can be traced back to the fall of man. Scripture says that after eating the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden, God said to Eve: Your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master (Gn 3: 16). In other words, as a result of original sin, it is a natural temptation for men to desire domination over women, and for women to be submissive to them in a disordered way.

The efforts to fight this disharmony between sexes continues to have a great impact on our society today. In completely rejecting femininity, virtues such as humility, service, patience, selflessness, charity, maternity, kindness ect., are often looked down upon in our secular world. They are seen as signs of "weakness". Nevertheless, these are all virtues that Mary, the most holy of all creatures, demonstrated in her life on earth. She is the model of all women, and the one who defines feminine beauty in every aspect.

I strongly believe that true feminism does not mean rejecting our womanhood and becoming like men. Feminism is being aware of the great dignity of my mission as a woman, wife, mother, daughter, friend, teacher and person. Femininity is important, and a beautiful blessing that we should be proud of. Does this mean that wearing a skirt will really bring me closer to God? Will the dress dare help to make me more perfectly feminine, in a way that I can fulfill my personal vocation? I don't know the answer to these questions yet, but it seems worthwhile to explore. If anything, I am looking forward to spending the month of May reflecting and meditating over femininity and Mary. Will you join me in this experience and discussion about femininity?

a Jean-aholic

P.S. Please pray for me, since I am bound to have some SERIOUS denim withdrawals up ahead of me.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The 31-Day Dress Dare Guidelines

Only 1 more week until the Dress Dare begins!

The challenge is to wear dresses and skirts for the entire month of May. Leggings and stockings are allowed. Pants are acceptable when exercising or sleeping. Our goal is to discover, inspire and encourage femininity, so dare to be different and don't worry too much about fashion.

Over the 31-days, Defining Beauty bloggers will be reflecting on our Dress Dare experiences. Please feel free to comment on your progress or write your own blogs about how the challenge is affecting your daily life and focus on femininity.

And remember to stay centered on the mission and keep it modest!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Nighttime Humility

I spent the early part of this week celebrating my little one's first birthday. I love him to pieces, but this year has been very difficult. It is easy for me to point everything that has gone "wrong" to one problem: my son's inability to sleep.

Before I became a parent, I was fully prepared to trade sleeping in for 6AM Saturday morning cartoons. I knew that my newborn would wake up at night to feed. I understood that there would be teething bouts all the way through toddlerhood, where my husband and I would have to console our aching baby for a few nights in a row. What I did not expect was that one year later, I would still be awoken every hour. I did not expect that I would spend half of my day trying to sooth my baby to sleep for naps and throughout the night.

It is a good thing that I did not know, because sometimes I wonder if I would have had the courage to get on board. I have spent many hours complaining, crying and praying, "Dear Lord, why won't my baby sleep?" There have been many days when I even felt that this situation was bringing me to the point of depression. How could I possibly go on physically, mentally, spiritually with this never ending fast from sleep?

Well, it is a year later and I am still here. No, he is not sleeping much better yet, but I've accepted this fact (on most days). More importantly, I have learned that my son's sleeplessness and my body's sleep deprivation are not the problem. The problem all along has been my lack of humility.

Humility in its truest sense, is the recognition of our relationship to God. To be humble we must always remember who He is, and who we are. God made us to love, worship and serve Him. We do not become saints by doing what we want, or what we think God's will should be, but by doing His will for us in the everyday circumstances He sends us. Every minute of our day is from God, and it is up to us to offer it back to him prayerfully and dutifully. In my case, staying joyful despite getting fewer zzz's is a pleasing act of humility to God.

When we lack humility, we often feel resentful, depressed, frustrated and angry with situations. Our responsibilities become burdensome and our daily crosses become very heavy. Sacrifice seems meaningless, and love lacks in our lives. If we remember however, who God is to us and that each moment IS His will for us, we feel that we can find joy and meaning in our suffering. Even if for the rest of my life I never sleep longer than an hour, I will be at peace because I will be surrendering to God's will.

Another beautiful thing I've noticed specifically about sleep is that it is one of our basic needs. God created our bodies to NEED rest. Similarly to discomfort felt from fasting, my exhaustion can serve as a humbling reminder in itself for me of how much I depend on God, because He made me this way. By "fasting" from sleep, I take attention away from myself and draw my rest and replenishment from a different source: God.

Humility reminds us that God is in charge. We might not understand His will, but it is by following Christ's example and surrendering everything to the Father that will lead us to heaven. Now, please remind me to reread this post daily-- because forgetfulness is a side effect of sleep deprivation and of humanity.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Giving Back

The other night, American Idol did their annual, "Idol Gives Back" episode, in which they covered the stories of numerous people and families in need of aid. There were impoverished families in America, whose children were suffering academically, in addition to tough living conditions. There were people dying of malaria & AIDS in Africa. The story that hit me the hardest was one of these African women, who was 24 and pregnant with her first child. She contracted malaria and unfortunately, got to the hospital too late. Her husband was left to bury his beloved wife, and unborn 1st child. There are stories like this all over the world, and even here in America there are tragedies that happen each day.

Watching this prompted me to be a bit saddened at first, because while the stories were compelling, the show was promoting and begging for donations for organizations that provide or fund contraception and abortions where they are supposedly helping. While I couldn't give financially to those organizations, I pondered what I could do.

First and foremost, thank the Lord. Thank Him daily, hourly, by the minute for the immense blessings in our lives. Recently, I've had a lot of prayers answered differently than I hoped. Nothing major, just little things in daily life that have been inconveniences more than anything. They've been opportunities for self-sacrifice and detachment. I've found that when I am uniform with these things, and accept the challenges as they come, I am more grateful for the little blessings, like a mailbox outside of a store I need to go in, saving me one more stop on my route of errands. We have so much to be grateful for. So what can we do to help those suffering more than us around the world? An attitude of gratitude goes along way. This can greatly impact everyone we encounter, and beyond that, giving to those good Catholic charities, or even just directly to the Missionaries of Charity, or other solid orders, where you know your funds are going to help those who are the hands and feet of our Lord. Lastly, of course, the Eucharist, is the height of thanksgiving.

Also, something I'm going to try to do on a daily basis, is write in my prayer journal, 3 things I'm grateful for each day. Such a small thing, but it's a great reminder to be thankful. I've also heard of Catholic families that have a tradition of everyone in the household sharing one thing they are grateful for from their day while at the family meal. Even if you aren't able to have a family dinner each night, hopefully you have at least one family meal each day, even if it's just you and your spouse, to start this tradition. I'm hoping to start it in our home, and what good, positive conversation might it bring to our family meals!

My Grocery Deals. Com

I just heard about a wonderful website to help all of us save money on food while still feeling like we're "treating" ourselves! If you're anything like me I have my staple must-haves on my grocery list: bread, milk, cheese, tortillas, salad, turkey meat... etc. and everything else I buy, I try to get on sale or buy the store brand. Sometimes I feel like my shopping gets pretty bland - boy would I love to throw a filet mignon in that basket, but I'd also like to pay my electic bill! I've recently noticed the "special" meat section. This is the area where they put the food that will expire if not used of frozen by a certain date - there are quite a lot of cheap treats in there and I throw them in the freezer when I get home! That's how sometimes we get steak or last night we had a wonderful marinated whole chicken normally at least $10 on sale for $4. Enough chicken to last my husband and I for two meals - chicken, stuffing and vegis last night and chicken tacos tonight for $4!!!

So onto the promised website: allows you to enter your zip code and find grocery deals at a lot of the local grocery stores. The website even categorizes the food, so you can compare all the "pork roasts" on sale... then if that's not great enough it lets you make your own grocery list where it tells the location and price of your item! I just found the website so I'm looking forward to using it next week.

Also, I just heard you should try to shop around for store deals as much as you can, if time allows, and it shouldn't waste too much gas but the savings should really add up!

Hug Your Father Day

I'd like to propose a holiday and I selfishly choose April 22nd for it to be celebrated (as founder of this holiday, I guess I have that right). Today is the fifth anniversary of my father's death and the eighth anniversary of his father's death. I'd like to call April 22nd from now on "Hug Your Father Day".

Today, I encourage you to give your dad a hug. If you can't hug your dad today, then tell him you love him. In my family, saying "I love you" is always foreign and awkward (we're not "lovey-dovey" with each other), but I'd give anything for the chance to do it now.

My dad died of stage four pancreatic cancer. He was not a likely candidate for it and died shortly after his fiftieth birthday. He was a quiet, intelligent man whose hobbies included reading, gardening, sports and running.

If you have a garden, tend to it today in memory of him. And eat well, because you want to live years beyond age fifty.

If you're reading a good book right now, enjoy it and put it down after the end of the chapter so that you can spend time with your family.

If you like to run for exercise, maintain your discipline and get screened for cancer yearly. Your health is well worth it.

And if you like sports, watch some hockey today in memory of him, enjoy the fun moments in life with loved ones and try not to take life too seriously all the time.

It's probably human nature for us to not fully appreciate what we have until it's gone, but nonetheless, give your dad a hug for me, because I'd love to have that opportunity.

Be blessed.

Great Dessert

I recently discovered a great healthy summer dessert. Take gogurt yogurt (the yogurt in the little otter pop like tubes) and put them in the freezer. It satisfies the sweet tooth and cools you off on a hot night. If you have kids and don't want to give them sugar at night this is a great option. My 2 year old niece loves them. The strawberry is my personal favorite.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dress Dare Challenge

I don't know if everyone knows me but I am Jennifer Cooke or "Cookie". I haven't written a post on this blog yet so writing one every week will definitely be challenging.

I think the dress dare will be hard for me. I wear pants/capris everyday and only dresses and skirts on Sundays for Mass or special occasions. Last summer I wanted to try wearing skirts a lot but that didn't really last long. I think that skirts/dresses definitely make me act and feel more feminine than a pair of jeans. I sit differently, maybe do a twirl here and there to make my boys laugh, and I always get comments from my husband.

Anyway, it will be interesting and I will keep up with the posting to let you all know how it's going.

Not to be a downer...

but so far all the girls I've told about the Dress Dare just give me tons of reasons why skirts are *not* more feminine than pants and that it's all social contrivance.

Jesus and William Wallace both wore skirts, etc.

I told them that even if they didn't think they were more feminine intrinsically, it could be something they could do just to remind them to act more feminine, like a rubber band around your wrist or a string around your finger.

Anyone else running into this kind of reaction?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dockers "Man-ifesto" - Wear the Pants!

Docker's new ad has come just in time for our May Dress Challenge! Their new ad for men says "Wear the Pants." It's an entire campaign that is trying to call men on to reclaim their manhood! WOW! Below is an excerpt from a news article (with the link attached) that includes the Dockers "Man-ifesto." I included the news articles commentary statement because I thought it was a great way to put things. THANK YOU DOCKERS for your efforts! I'll try to buy my husband a pair (when they go on sale)!

A reader sent in this full-page New York Times ad from Dockers’ new campaign, “Wear The Pants.” Apparently, the clothing company is attempting to re-cast khakis as a “call of manhood,” man’s three-ply cotton twill answer to the androgynous evils of our “genderless society.” That’s right: Khakis.

Here’s the full text of what Dockers is calling its “Man-ifesto

Once upon a time, men wore the pants, and wore them well. Women rarely had to open doors and little old ladies never crossed the street alone. Men took charge because that’s what they did. But somewhere along the way, the world decided it no longer needed men. Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny. But today, there are questions our genderless society has no answers for. The world sits idly by as cities crumble, children misbehave and those little old ladies remain on one side of the street. For the first time since bad guys, we need heroes. We need grown-ups. We need men to put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar and untie the world from the tracks of complacency. It’s time to get your hands diry. It’s time to answer the call of manhood. It’s time to WEAR THE PANTS.

Spread the Word

Dare to be Feminine...

Dare to be a Witness...

Dare to define Beauty...

Dare to be Beautiful...

The Dress Dare is coming! Tell your friends!


In an effort to get to know each other better I have a quick quiz question (and I'll try to have one at least once a week):

What are your favorite and least favorite chores? I LOVE to do the laundry. Good thing too since now I'm cloth diapering two babies and I get to do at least one load a day! My least favorite chore is cleaning the kitchen, especially doing the dishes.

Feel free to chime in!

Sunday, April 18, 2010


As graduation comes closer, God is working on my life. He is constantly helping guide me to become a better person, to be the person he wants me to be... 
Through my life journey, I hope to inspire those who need it, those who don't know they need it, and those who have had to overcome obstacles. Even though my story is unique, just like everyone else's, hopefully many people will be able to connect to the story and hopefully it will help them in their time of need!

Today was another exciting step that God has guided me to. I had an article go Live on ! Please check it out!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

We Are Loved

I was sitting at the piano the other day when my niece crawled up onto my lap to play. As she sat there playing the piano, laughing, and looking back at me for approval I started to tear up. I sat there thinking about how much I love her. There is nothing that she can do to make me love her more and there is nothing she can do to make me love her less. I don't love her because of anything she gives me. I simply love her. If she threw the biggest temper tantrum in the world I would still love her. I never get tired of playing with her. I always want her to sit on my lap and am always a little sad when she says "I'll do it myself." I would drop anything just to give her a hug and an Eskimo kiss. I know that I will always do whatever I can to make sure she has whatever is best for her. All this love and I am only her aunt. I can't begin to imagine the love that a parent has for their child. It is tough for me to imagine loving someone more than I love my niece. I then realized that there is someone with a greater love, a love that is perfect and a love that is in fact focused on me. The unconditional love that I feel for my niece is the same as the love that God feels for me, only God's love is bigger and more perfect. There is nothing I can do to make God love me more and there is nothing I can do to make God love me less. He doesn't love me because of anything I give him. He simply loves me. Even when I throw the biggest temper tantrums in the world He loves me. He never gets tired of me and He gets a little sad every time I try to tell him I will do things myself. He would drop anything to be with me and He ALWAYS does what is best for me. I think it is hard sometimes as adults for us to remember that to God we will always be his little boy or little girl who he can't help but love and cherish. If you are a mother, aunt, or godmother, next time that special child crawls up on your lap and you realize how much you love them remember that God loves YOU in that exact same way but infinitely more. All we have to do is allow ourselves to be vulnerable and accepting of that love the way my niece always is. The way she runs to me with her arms open yelling "auntie" is just the way I can run into God's arms yelling "Papa" and rest assure that he will sweep me up in his arms and give me every ounce of his love.
Check this out:

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Reflection From Mother Teresa

"I do not understand why some people are saying that women and men are exactly the same, and are denying the beautiful differences between men and women. All God's gifts are good, but they are not all the same. As I often say to people who tell me that they would like to serve the poor as I do, "What I can do, you cannot. What you can do, I cannot. But together we can do something beautiful for God." It is just this way with the differences between women and men.

God has created each one of us, every human being, for greater things-- to love and to be loved. But why did God make some of us men and others women? Because a woman's love is one image of the love of God, and a man's love is another image of God's love. Both are created to love, but each in a different way. Woman and man complete each other, and together show forth God's love more fully than either can do it alone.

That special power of loving that belongs to a woman is seen most clearly when she becomes a mother. Motherhood is the gift of God to women. How grateful we must be to God for this wonderful gift that brings such joy to the whole world, women and men alike! Yet we can destroy this gift of motherhood, especially by the evil of abortion, but also be thinking that other things like jobs or positions are more important than loving, than giving oneself to others. No job, no plans, no possessions, no idea of "freedom" can take the place of love. So anything that destroys God's gift of motherhood destroys His most precious gift to women-- the ability to love as a woman."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Being Sick....

No one enjoys being sick, at least I don't think? But I've had "that bug" a lot recently and it's started me wondering if perhaps I'm not taking care of myself right. While sitting at the doctor today, waiting to be told "oh everyone has it, try this antibiotic." I saw a health show they had on their television. Now as God would have it, this is the second time I've seen this show (been there a little too often over the last few months), but this time I really started listening. Here's a few key things they mentioned and if there are any other women who aren't taking the best care of themselves, perhaps we can learn together.

1. Drink lots of water - half your body weight in ounces - at least 64oz - if you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated.

2. Sleep at least 8-9 hours a night (not possible for most moms, but at least it's a goal someday)

3. Exercise regularly, but don't overdo it while trying to make up for lost time. (walk the dog, or the kids, or your spouse or just yourself on a lunch break)

4. Eat more raw vegis and fruits (summer has all kinds of yummy fruits)

5. Consider a multivitamin (I've heard women can benefit from prenatal vitamins even if you're not pregnant)

So here's what I've decided....

1. I drink a lot of water, but I'm going to start carrying a water bottle so I make sure I'm drinking enough.

2. I'll continue to try convincing my husband to take advantage of our sleep before we have kids (although my dog has been waking up every morning at 3:30 or 5:30 - come on Lord, really??).

3. I'll set a goal of at least a 20 minute walk everyday... it's a start right?

4. We've been eating fresh fruit every night for dessert - one orange, a banana and some strawberries is more than enough for 2 people. I'm also trying to have at least one fresh veggie and or a salad with dinner.

5. I have vitamins, I just need to start remembering to take them! I'm going to try sticking them in a pretty box on the kitchen table so I'll remember! And I'll have my husband do the same, maybe we'll start a routine!

How am I going to do all this??? I'm going to start a calender chart where every day I check off that I've completed my daily commitment. At least it's something to hold me accountable and I'm going to ask my husband to help me stay committed.

At this point, the idea of not being sick every 2 months is motivation enough!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What I've Learned

It is difficult to believe that my son is almost 1 year old. I feel quite accomplished. Victorious. Ok, amazed. It has been the most challenging and humbling year, yet also the most blessed and rewarding. Nobody could have prepared me for the difficulties I would encounter, the many (many) tears I would cry or the sleep I would yearn for. But then again, nobody could have prepared me for the intense love, joy and wholeness that motherhood would bring me.

I have learned so much in just 12-months. Just to name a few...

Simplify. The simpler, the better.

Things said at 3AM need not, and should not count against you.

Parenting is not like college- The baby books do not have all (or any) of the answers.

Parenting is 24/7. I heard this several times before he was born, but you really have to experience it for yourself to understand.

Sleep is overrated (yet so wonderful). You can get by on very little.

Grandmothers are blessings.

Your marriage is the priority, and it must be nurtured every day.

Parent on your knees. Pray, pray and pray some more.

It is OK to order take-out, just to avoid doing the dishes.

There is no sound more beautiful than the sweet belly-filled giggles of your little one.

Being able to pee with the bathroom door closed is a luxury.

Sleep is a luxury.

Don't judge other parents, or criticize parenting philosophies. You will end up trying them out at some point.

A baby's smile makes everything better, even during an apocalypse.

It takes a village to raise a child. Don't be afraid to ask for help. (I'm still working on this one.)

Girlfriends are important. Especially girlfriends with babies.

Being able to nurse a baby to sleep is a superpower.

Don't take yourself too seriously. Learn to let things go.

Babies smell really good. REALLY good.

Being "stay-at-home" doesn't mean you have more free time than 9-5ers. Moms feel proud if they can squeeze a shower into their day.

A glass of wine can help.

Your baby is his/her own person. You can love, guide, teach, nurture, protect-- but you cannot control him/her.

Parenthood is God's greatest blessing. Nothing else compares.

We made it! It can't get any crazier than the first year, can it?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

31-Day Dress Dare

As you might know, the month of May is Mary's month. In an attempt to honor the model of all beauty, we at Defining Beauty would like to present all of our readers with a challenge. We like to call this event The 31 day Dress Dare. Basically we are challenging everyone (us included) to wear skirts and dresses only (no pants) for the entire month of May. I believe fully that wearing dresses and skirts helps women look, feel, and act more feminine. When I wear a skirt or dress I act differently, move differently, feel different, and really think men treat me different. I act, move and am treated more like a lady. We live in a culture where femininity is constantly being challenged. It is time we take back femininity and show the world what it really is: being a reflection of the Blessed Mother. If you want to experience the joy of being a lady and spend the month of May honoring Mary in an extra way, join us for the 31 day Dress Dare. Details on the "rules" are coming.

And then there were two...

So I'm not sure how He does it, but God provides. The past 2 weeks we have been really sleep deprived (little g doesn't want to be set down at night, and she likes to sleep on her side in our bed and has the tendency to bury herself in her blankets) and very tantrum filled (big G loves to throw herself on the floor and cry when things don't go her way) but we are somehow coping. I truly still don't understand how to have two kids in the house! Today is our first full day without any help and we somehow have to get the girls to the doctor, maybe go to our homeschool preschool group, and remember to feed everyone and change their diapers. Please keep us in your prayers!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

I love Costco

Ok - so my family already thinks I'm kinda nuts because we do our weekly grocery shopping at Costco - which means we buy vats of olive oil and 18 eggs a week for a family of 3 and soon to be 4. (Due in October - yay!)

However - when I went there today, I saw that they were selling bathing suits. Suits that actually looked cute, and then when I walked up to the stand, I realized that "Mod Bod" bathing suits stood for "Modest Body(?)" bathing suits.

I almost couldn't believe it. I started looking through them and a lady came up to me to ask if I needed any help. I told her what a great idea and that I couldn't believe Costco was selling blatantly modest suits. The sales lady said that they were the only suits they were selling, and that she'd only had one lady say that she didn't like them "I wear string." The lady and I agreed that most people don't really have the body to wear string, and even if they do, we don't really want to see them in it. After all, string bikinis don't exactly scream "when looking at me, please see an intelligent women of high morals and greatness of soul."

The sales lady also said that everyone else who stopped had said that they liked both the suits and the idea and were glad that Costco was carrying them. Good for you Everett Washington shoppers!

Now, I'm not sure if they are selling them just in this one store (the headquarters are near by, so they do a lot of product testing around here) but it makes me happy that such a huge chain store is promoting modesty, and seeing that there's a market for it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Heavenly Feasting

Why is chocolate especially delicious during this time of year? Perhaps it is a result of lenten fasting, or maybe it is the grocery store's abundant supply of Easter treats that makes it so irresistible. Either way, I know that I am not the only one grabbing a serving (or three) of this rich, sweet, creamy, dark, melt-in-your-mouth gift from above.

I have no doubt that chocolate is a small taste of Heaven. It contributes to our well-being by lowering blood pressure, providing anti-oxidants and even helping to balance our hormones. It stimulates endorphins, contains serotonin, provides us with good fats, and tastes oh-so-good.

Dark, milk, white, nut-filled, truffled, caramel-filled, bittersweet, or creamy... Oh Chocolate, why are you so good to me?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

It's Coming...

Ladies, prepare your wardrobe for...

The 31-Day Dress Dare 2010

More information to come!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

High School "Romance"?

The other day, High School Musical 3 was on television and Mina and I watched a little bit of it. I figured she'd like the singing and dancing, plus, I've been thoroughly entertained by these movies. While watching it, I realized, my high school story sort of paralleled the main character, Gabriella. I moved to CA from across the country my sophomore year, fell in with the theater crowd, and started dating a guy seriously that same year, and we happened to be paired up several times as a couple on stage. We continued to date into college, just as the picture was painted of Troy and Gabriella going off to colleges only half an hour from one another, living happily ever after. Only, after high school, our relationship ended in a messy breakup with broken hearts and many broken friendships as well because friends naturally take sides. I'm not sure what the folks at Disney have planned for Troy & Gabriella's future, but one thing I do know, is that it's likely unrealistic.

Part of the reason I got into a serious relationship so young, was because, I, like many young girls grew up with the notion of Prince Charming sweeping me off my feet and living happily ever after. My parents happen to be one of the few success stories of high school sweethearts who get married and stay married. They are rare. The truth is, at 15, I had no business getting into a relationship like this. Neither one of us was prepared to get married, which is the purpose of dating, and so not only did this put us in the near occasion of sin for things like chastity, but it prevented us from seeking out our true vocations and properly preparing for them, which, as it turns out, happened to be to marry other people. I so badly wanted to live what I saw in films and television. I grew up watching Zac and Kelly religiously, hoping for their happy ending. As I got older, I wanted my own. The only problem is, my happy ending wasn't so properly ordered, and it was based on superficial ideas of fireworks, butterflies, and emotions. I was so focused on this ideal that I'd built up in my head that I developed an extreme disordered attachment. I put our relationship above those with my friends, family, and ultimately, God, because I was no longer open to His will for anything other than the future I'd planned.

I know I'm not the only woman who's had this experience, and this is why I'm writing this blog. The pain we experienced in our breakup could have been avoided, and our hearts could have been more whole for our spouses, if I had simply not allowed these fantasies to fill my head. Had I been focused on just loving the Lord at a time when I could have been discerning religious life and growing in virtue and knowledge of Christ, knowing I was not in any way ready for marriage, I could have probably been a much holier teen and grown virtues I could be tapping into more as a wife and mother today.

Praise the Lord, he can draw straight with crooked lines, for this guy in high school brought me back to mass, and surrounded me with the right group of people in youth ministry. He even introduced me to my future husband, and for that, I am forever grateful to him. I would have never known the beauty of the Catholic faith without him in my life.

So God can work through anything, but let's not forget that he never wills our vice or sin. He wants us to be saints, and is what's portrayed in so many of these "High School Musical," "chick flicks," leading us to love Christ more, or is it pushing us more in the ways of the world? What messages are we sending our children, and ourselves? I'm not saying be puritanical about this. I think there are lots of virtues that are presented in films like Beauty & the Beast, where Belle learns to love the soul, not the exterior, and the princesses are kind and generous people, but we should always make sure that we talk with our children about the influences in front of them. Teach them to question, what actions are good and properly ordered, and what actions lead us away from God the Father, who makes us all princesses when he claims us as his daughters.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Real Face of Jesus

This is an amazing video to watch as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord this week. This guy has made an inspiring discovery, allowing us to get a glimpse of what Jesus actually looked like and I must say, he was handsome! It was jaw-dropping to me.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Living Holy Week with Mary

For a beautiful Holy Week reflection, listen to this podcast:

It's got some beautiful thoughts, my favorite is that when Mary looked at Christ suffering, she saw the price of her Immaculate Conception.