Friday, August 28, 2015

on the road again.

Note: a draft of this post has been sitting untouched on the Mac for about 10 days. Guess I've been busy adjusting or something...

Well folks, we Steeds have done it again.

We've moved to a new home for a new chapter in the story of our family. We're here in northern OH (so far north that crossing the border into Michigan can happen in a matter of minutes), and dear Drake will begin 2 years of post-doctorate training at the University of Toledo Medical Center (UTMC for short).

We found a cute house that we're hopeful will fit our family's needs well, particularly our need for Drake to walk/bike to work as we're a one-car family. This house happens to be only a handful of blocks away from the hospital, in a great neighborhood, and also on a much busier street than we once had. But really, it's a very cute house that we're renting, and we do hope you'll come visit!

And if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times...moving is for crazy people. Truly, it must only be the clinically insane who take on moving, particularly moving with several small ones underfoot. So that's why we did it in the summer of 2014, again in the summer of 2015, and plan to do it yet again in the fall of 2017. Oh, and we had 3 moves prior to those, but I won't bore you with the dates and details.

I need to go take a nap now.

Honestly though, we had tremendous help on both ends. In Dayton I had friends offering left and right to help in all sorts of ways -- play dates at their homes for my kids, watching my kids at the park, a dear friend calling to say she had packed us a big box of snacks for the road, another taking many of my shifts at VBS so that I could sneak home and pack. On the night we packed the truck we had 17 people at our house ready and willing to haul boxes, watch the little ones, clean, and do anything we needed.

I had this little lady in tow, of course...

And do you have ANY idea how nearly impossible it was to focus on packing boxes when a baby THIS CUTE was beckoning ever so adorably from her car seat? It really was just unfair that I would be expected to put our every possession in a box when all I really had any interest in doing was smooching this gorgeous face.


All of our belongings (children included) did make it to our new home, so apparently some amount of packing was accomplished, no matter how begrudgingly.

We then had great help on this end of the move as well and are now slowly but surely putting our home into working order. I think everyone even has a pair of clean underwear awaiting them in their respective drawer tomorrow! Things must really be coming along.

It's great, too, to have Drake home for a few weeks before he starts at UTMC. It's giving us a chance to divide and conquer, to exhale a bit from a whirlwind of a year, and to start establishing old and new routines. I guess that's a blessing about moving -- the feeling of a clean slate.

But I tell ya, it's hard to leave. Starting over stinks.

We were finally reaching the point in Dayton that we felt part of things...we had established a good rhythm, we knew many families, we had friends we could call for play dates and family get-togethers. There's a comfort in what's familiar, amiright? And honestly, the Catholic homeschooling community there is second to none. What an unbelievable (and large!) group of families. It was amazing. Our year there was action packed, and we had the constant support of that group.

And I'm really missing it. In some ways it feels confusing that we were only part of something so ideal for our family for one year. One year...only to be transplanted yet again. I know, I know, we knew ahead of time that our stay would be short...but I don't think we expected it to be so fantastic. And that's the way it works with me and our Lord sometimes -- things happening much differently than I anticipated.

I'm hopeful about our time here, but I'd be lying if I said I'm feeling great about it. Admittedly I don't feel great about it. I'm trying to open myself to the possibilities here, to what the Lord has in mind for Steeds in Toledo. I'm grieving what we left, missing friends, somewhat unmotivated to tackle the remaining boxes. I'm tired of being new, humbled by needing a GPS even just to get to the gas station, exasperated by the parish-hopping we're still doing. And don't even ask what our homeschool year will look like because, well, just don't. We'll get there eventually. September 8 to be exact.

I don't want to paint a bleak picture here -- it hasn't been all bad, and we've met a number of families in our 2 short weeks here. We've had play dates, family adoration, made unexpected connections, and are getting what we hope will be a solid school year together for the kids. We've taken some day trips that included hiking along a peninsula on Lake Erie, took a canal boat ride pulled by mules, saw Canada across the Detroit River, and plan to see a baseball game this weekend. We are incredibly blessed.

And for the record, taking a family selfie with wiggly children is no small task.

So pray for me, would you? And visit!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Mister.

You know who I love the most? This guy:

Drake and I recently celebrated 7 years of wedded bliss. And truly, when I look back on our married life to date, I am filled with gratitude for the great gift of sharing life with him. We have known the grad school life for the majority of our marriage as he is about to complete the fifth (and final...can you believe it?) year of his doctorate, so it's odd to us to think that this is actually not how most families start out. But as I've mentioned before, we're not big on conforming to standards and things so we figured, heck, why not take on a full-time doctorate, have 4 kids, move several times, homeschool, and everything in between?

So we did. Thanks to a novena we prayed to St. Joseph who really opened my heart to the possibility.

And now, here we, a happy mama to 4 gorgeous babies and Drake, a doctor of psychology and husband/father extraordinaire.

Now don't be fooled. It hasn't been a cakewalk. And it still isn't. In fact, it's often taken an intentional act of the will to say 'yes' to our Lord and to one another while every emotion inside us is screaming, 'Nooooooo!' And sometimes the little ones around us are actually physically screaming which makes it all the more infuriating sanctifying.

I remember Drake telling me during an especially difficult time in the program that students pursuing this are most likely to drop out during the first or fourth year as those are just uniquely arduous. We were both really feeling the burn of the program during that fourth year, and when I heard that students have been known to drop out even after being over halfway done, I believed it. I also thought it meant that Drake would need to spend even more time away. But you know, I married a good one, and it was during that year that he suggested a weekly date night out for us.

This was big.

In fact, I'd say it was a turning point in our marriage, and I never expected it to come in the midst of academic craziness when the stakes were so high and internship right around the corner. Doing this required a few things:

1. Babysitting from a very willing and wonderful grandma who lived 10 minutes away.

2. Creativity to do this on the cheap.

3. Clearing our schedules.

That third little item was the kicker and is what has made all the difference: simply taking time for one another and for nothing else. Having this weekly date night is something we build our schedules around, rather than the other way around...only taking time to spend together when time and energy fall into our laps. We prioritize one another, and we're all the better for it. It's what we promised in front of our family, our friends, and our God 7 short years ago.

And really, doing it this way makes so much more sense, doesn't it? Since when did to-do's (which are never-ending for our family) become more important than people? And what were we even doing on that altar but promising to devote our lives to helping get the other to Heaven? That's something that simply cannot happen without great effort and intention. And our weekly dates are part of that. Since we've moved away from grandparents and we have yet to find a money tree to support us in grad school, our dates are often quite simple and in the quiet of our own home rather than out somewhere. But there's beauty in the simplicity, and it helps us appreciate the times out the time we stumbled upon a rodeo. Yep. You read that right. A real-live rodeo, complete with bulls, cowboys, and stench. But that's a bit beside the point.

I'm gonna let you in on a little secret...


We often take more than one night a week for one another.

I know. Crazy, but true. In true Steed fashion.

These frequent date nights often mean that dishes don't get washed that night and are waiting in the morning. Sometimes it means that the floor is unswept when we head to bed or that the laundry-folding must wait until later in the week. On occasion the bills wait until the next day or the garbage gets taken out the following morning rather than the night before. But it is always worth it. Always.

Drake, my love, here's to many more 'adult drinks' on the front porch, singing in the living room, bowls of popcorn, discussions of philosophy, and episodes of LOST.

I love you!

Monday, August 3, 2015


I'm going to share with you 4 of my favorite things: little Steeds. I'm crazy about them.

Thomas Michael

'She is THE CUTEST baby in the world!' -TS, age 6
You heard it here first, folks.

Hold on, is that muscle tone there?

Shares his mama's sweet tooth...

I'm not sure when Thomas went from being a little kid to being a boy, but I sure do wish he had warned me about the transformation beforehand. All of our kids have grown a lot this year in all sorts of ways, but it's been especially striking in Thomas. He continues to amaze us with his creativity, sense of humor, love of reading and being read to, and ability to build friendships with children of all ages. He has made incredible progress academically as well as in the pool and took a mere hour to learn how to ride a bike. He's now gone on several long bike rides with Daddy, loves throwing rocks in the river, and can quote most any book he's heard. Oh, and he prepares lunch for his siblings and mama on occasion. Bonus!

Maria Thérèse

Elated to have a sister!

An early morning selfie


Maria continues to astound us with both her maternal ways and ahem, vibrant personality. She really has been a firecracker since the very beginning and quite often doesn't even realize how loudly she's speaking! But this pretty lady has become such a devoted sister and friend even at the young age of 4 years old. Her fine motor skills have improved tremendously this year, and she now loves to color and paint. She actually initiated learning to read, so we got a head start on that this year. She, too, is quite the little fish in the water and also loves to sing, dance, read, climb trees, play dollies, and take charge in the play room. 

Dominic Ambrose

Yep, that about sums it up.

Road trip!

He's all boy, this one.

Dominic is very two and very boy. The combination often results in an exciting mix of energy, dirt (or sand, as the case may be), and mischief. He takes after his brother, and most boys for that matter, in his affinity for al things with wheels and engines. He loves the rock wall at the park, Legos in the play room (especially when the older ones are busy with something else), and books on the couch. He's become a bit choosy about his wardrobe selection, but we Steeds pick our battles. 

Cecilia Elizabeth

Well, hello there!

It really is impossible not to smooch her.

Still a bit unsure about girly headbands.

Cecilia is about as sweet as newborns come. Every morning greets her with vying sibling lips as they all duke it out over who gets to kiss her first, hold her first, unwrap her swaddle, and pick out her clothes. She's been nursing like a champ from the get-go, has started smiling, and will even tolerate tummy time for short periods at a time. We absolutely felt the love in our home multiply when she was born. I honestly can hardly remember life before her arrival, and it's not because of sleep deprivation. In fact, she's been our best newborn sleeper so far. But now that I've made that public, I'd better cue up the coffee maker as I may have just jinxed the whole thing.

I think it's clear why little Steeds are right up there on my favorites list. I'll be posting on their Daddy soon, too, and why putting our marriage first has been the best thing for us and for our small herd. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Is That Okay by You?

I've done a lot of people-pleasing in my day. You know, the usual stuff. Doing things so that others will take notice, not doing things for fear of what others might think. Watering down what needs to be said more firmly. I've actually been at this for about 30 years, so I've become quite the expert in the areas of pride, vanity, and self-admiration.

Sad, but true.

I go back and forth about blogging all the gosh darn time, and when it comes down to it I've found 2 things to be true about publicly posting anything: I always enjoy writing, and I always worry about what others are thinking of me after reading a post. Always. Without exception. I let you make me paranoid, dear reader. Sometimes that 'publish' button has a lot of power over me.

But what exactly is the purpose of blogging? For some, blogging pays the bills. For others, blogging is a way to connect with others. Blogging can be a way to keep an electronic version of family updates, accessible to friends near and far. And for some, blogging is simply a place to write -- nothing more, nothing less, take it or leave it.

The latter is what I aspire to. I'm not looking to earn money from it, nice as that might be. If connection happens by happy circumstance as a result of something I post, then that's bonus, and I do hope you'll fill the combox with whatever comes to mind. I'm not using this blog solely to post family updates, though those will be scattered throughout.  Maybe you think I should set my sights higher, but alas, I'm trying to let this blog serve me, not I serve the blog. And if you're unhappy, dear reader, I think it will take you a full .01 seconds to move on to another blog. Sorrynotsorry.

I worry that my writing doesn't measure up to the Jens, Bonnies, and Jennys of the blogosphere (read: it doesn't). Mom blogs are all. over. the web, and I worry that people won't want to have a real-life conversation with me because 'they've already read that in my blog.' That has actually been said to me before while sharing a meal with a friend. I worry that people won't check in with me anymore because of a similar reason...that I've said anything I might have to share in my blog already so we'll just carry on as usual. I worry that I'm not tech-savvy enough, though technology has never thrilled me in the slightest.

Here's the rub: this is a blog. It gives a glimpse into something that's been on my mind, something I need to process, or something I want to share. It's a place for me to write. It's not the entirety of who I am, and I hope that I can write in this space while still having very genuine, in person/phone friendships with you, whether you're near or far. I hope we can share our differences, here or in person. I hope we can have logical conversation in a spirit of openness and understanding. You might read things here that you agree with wholeheartedly, and you might question the truth of other things that I post. That's okay by me, and maybe it's agreeable to you, too.

And now that we've established some common ground, I feel a bit more free to post here. Click on over if you so choose! Heck, you might just be privy to some recent photos of little Steeds in an upcoming between bouts of packing, of course!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Just Keeping You on Your Toes...

Oh, hello, you didn't expect me to pop up on your Google reader or Facebook newsfeed. But, here I am.

I mean, come on, it was only a 9 month writing break.

And I'm over it. I know, that was quick.

This hardly seems like the ideal time to start writing again. But we Steeds don't tend to wait for those dreamy 'ideal times.' We usually just sorta go for it. Holy Spirit style.

In the next 2 weeks we will be packing, doing VBS for a week, packing, saying goodbye to local friends (but hey, we're Catholic, it's more like 'see you later!'), packing, renting a moving truck, packing that, cleaning, moving our family of 6 to our new home 2.5 hours away (let's call it closer to 3.5 with slow moving truck speeds and a sweet nursing baby in tow), unpacking the truck, assembling the beds, and collapsing into them. Well, I guess it would behoove us to unpack the other stuff, too, but it all just seems so secondary to those glorious beds.

Can you tell I haven't been sleeping well lately? Anyway...

Oh, and my husband will officially be a Doctor of Psychology in these next two weeks as he wraps up internship. It will look something like this: Drake Steed, Psy.D.

That's a post in and of itself, so I'll leave that for now.

And that move? It happens to fall on my dear husband's 30th birthday. Because nothing says, 'Happy 30th, honey!' like a big ol' U-Haul in the driveway. But, let's face it. We're all gonna need some booze by the time the evening of the 15th rolls around. And being that it's the Feast of the Assumption, I'm confident Our Lady will have our backs that day in particular.

But a small part of why I'm trying to get back to writing is because a) it's what I feel like doing, GOSH! (Napoleon Dynamite, anyone?), b) I need more mental and emotional outlets in my life, and c) I kinda like it.

I've been reflecting a lot lately on this past year. I think anticipating a new start somewhat naturally conjures up those feelings, and I've been giving a lot of thought to what I've done well (very few things) and what I've done poorly (too many to count). This past year, I did a decent job, by the grace of God, at getting things on the calendar for our kids. Drake and I did a decent job of having our weekly date night in. We had a fairly successful first homeschool year, despite my incessant worrying about it and fumbling around trying to figure it out. Drake is completing his degree (with 2 more training years on the horizon, but that's grad school for you...the gift that keeps. on. giving.). The Lord blessed us with another family member in the midst of all this and gave us more opportunity to grow in radical trust as we experienced another cancer scare (all is well, praise be to God). We still managed to see family during their visits here and our visits there. We had a fair amount of play dates, homeschool activities, field trips, swim lessons, soccer nights, and family road trips on the docket.

But you know what was missing this year? My own taking time to nourish my soul. I'll admit, I let myself get lost in the ever-changing shuffle. This sassy piece really hit me between the eyes this morning.

So that's a goal I have as dear Drake and I try to navigate this large Catholic family deal that we've come to love. We don't love it because it's easy. Or comfortable. Or efficient. Or any of the other things the world teaches us to value. We love it because it's helping us grow in the ways that matter: virtue, self-sacrifice, and holiness, to name a few.

Thanks for sticking with me, dear reader! No promises as to when I'll post again...juuuust to keep you guessing :)

Friday, October 10, 2014

That Time I Just Sorta Left.

Tonight I left the house as soon as Drake walked in.

I had had it.

You know, a day full of screaming, tantrums, flat out refusing, littles being suddenly oblivious to the fact that Mommy is in charge. We even had a pediatrician appointment in there, and only the good Lord knows how we squeezed in some reading practice and handwriting.

It. An even less glamorous than usual day at the Stable.

So here I am at Panera. I ordered a bread bowl, an apple, and water, and I prayed with all my might that no one would see me here in the corner trying yet again to figure out how to gracefully consume a bread bowl. If you've got any pointers on that front, let me know. It's not pretty.


And as to the aforementioned walk-out, I did have dinner on the table for everyone, a dinner that I felt would be agreeable to all Steeds, big and little alike. AndthenIpackedupmystuffandgrabbedmycoatandnearlyrantothecar. Real quick-like. After goodbyes, hugs, and kisses, of course.

I think this might be a first-time event for me. Drake and I had it on the schedule that I would take some time out of the house for myself tonight anyway. But we hadn't really hashed out the mad dash that I decided to make within 5 seconds of his arrival home. He's a good man, that Drake. He calmly picked up our screaming 3 year old, finished pouring milk, and gently told the kids that Mommy had some things to take care of.

Number 1 on the list? Regaining a little sense of sanity.

As far as my vocation goes, I tend to lose a little of myself within it. I love it with all my heart, even in the midst of the sleep deprivation, meal circuses, and overall balancing act that is being a wife and mom. Those things are the makings of sanctity, what I desire most in this life. And as a service to my kids, sometimes I need to step away from it all and take a deep breath or twenty.

As I was chowing down on my bread bowl, I saw a mom of 3 smallish children sitting in a corner booth. And she just kind of sat there, staring at her kids running around. You know, I really felt for her. I know that feeling of paralysis when you feel like you just couldn't possibly handle the crazy for one second longer and just have to check out in some way.

I think the ideal in motherhood is to sprinkle in bits of self-care and personal time on a regular basis rather than doing something only when panic-mode hits. I so seldom do this, but I so often reach that point and then try, try again to be consistent about balance.

It's hard. But it's necessary. Totally necessary. I used to think it was selfish to ever go anywhere without at least one of my kids...selfish to even consider it, much less actually follow through with it. But a mentor mom encouraged me to see how much I was actually serving my family by taking time to do something enriching (aka, don't spend the personal time scrolling through email or FB for the umpteenth time), something that will revive my soul (which might look different from how you would spend your time) and have a fresh smile on my face and genuine hugs for my husband and children upon my return home.

Sometimes I go to adoration, especially if mass didn't happen earlier in the day. Sometimes I buy a $2 coffee and write. Sometimes I go to a park with a good book. Sometimes I hit the gym or go on a brisk walk.

What do you do to take care of you?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Musings on Motherhood

I'm a tired mama.

Doesn't that go without saying? Moms are some of the hardest workers I know, and I'm not saying that so you'll fill the combox with compliments. Whether up all night with little ones, pregnancy, nursing duties, bringing kids here, there, and everywhere, schooling at home, volunteering at school, cooking, cleaning, planning, sorting, making appointments, budgeting, running errands, and being emotionally available 24/7, motherhood is no joke.

This could be me on any given day. 

I never drank coffee in my previous 28 years of existence. It just didn't appeal to me, and I didn't get the hype. But then my husband entered his 4th year of full-time graduate school, and, well, it became a necessity. Given the up-and-down nature of breakfast at the Stable (read: I am up and down so much that some might argue it counts as my cardio for the day), I don't believe I have ever finished a hot cup of coffee. But I still choke down those last several cold sips because a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

The fatigue is a hard battle for me, especially as someone who struggles with perfection. Today I put some Kipper the Dog episodes on for the kids (have you ever watched this adorable British show? Thomas is convinced that the character Arnold's name is actually Ahnold. I love it.), and as they watched I had these good intentions to do some planning for next week. My first mistake? Sitting on the couch. My second mistake quickly followed as I put the footrest up. It was only a matter of time before I was the gracious receiver of pats on my cheek to the tune of, 'Mommy! Mommy! Moooommmmy!' Needless to say, my well-intentioned planning was replaced by the shortest of naps and a quick trip to the bathroom to wash the drool off my face. True story. And classy to boot.

I think I'm also in good company when I say that there's a lot of pressure to be a super-mom of sorts. What is it that makes a 'good mom?' Your definition may differ from mine, but I'd love to hear your thoughts in the combox.

A good mom knows when to allow sleep to take priority over a swept floor or clean window sill.

A good mom feeds her family the best she can, even if that doesn't mean whole wheat, homemade, no sugar added 100% of the time.

A good mom knows when she needs a break and communicates this to her husband, preferably before the stress reaches a breaking point.

A good mom knows when to choose store-bought Halloween costumes over homemade based on the current mothering 'season.'

A good mom puts her husband first (blog post on this soon to follow).

A good mom puts her personal priorities into action for the good of herself and her family. For me, these are prayer, sleep, daily shower, daily Mass if possible, and exercise.

A good mom knows when her kids just need to get outside, even if it means leaving a stack of dirty dishes in the sink, unfolded laundry on the bed, and toothpaste all over the bathroom.

A good mom has a pulse on her family's needs for rest, leisure, and timelessness at home...and schedules accordingly.

A good mom takes time to pull her children close to her, hug them at every opportunity, and also leave the house when her spouse is home to recharge when needed.

So what's a mom to do when the demands are never-ending, sleep is elusive, and the kids pining for every ounce of energy? This is a particularly universally busy time for moms -- I would argue that now through New Years, the stakes are even higher than usual. Here at the Stable, we've got feast day celebrations, birthdays (parties!), Halloween (costumes!), All Saints Day (costumes!), a saint doll exchange (painting 30 peg dolls as Saint John Paul II...what have I gotten myself into?!), Thanksgiving (traveling!), Advent (planning!), Christmas (planning!), New Years...and I guess some amount of grocery shopping, errand-running, homeschooling, house-cleaning, child-raising, and some of those aforementioned personal priorities will happen between now and then, too.


My goal, especially in these next several months, is to be realistic with myself about what I can handle. My goal is to be smart with my time, whether it needs to be used painting peg dolls or hitting the sack early. My goal is to give my best effort, give any resulting glory to God, and embrace what the moment has to offer.

Keep me accountable, will you?