Friday, June 16, 2017

SQT: Self-care, books, and date nights

Hello all! I realized I haven't posted much for life updates in a while (with the exception of our summer kickoff) so I'm linking up with Kelly this week to share a few quick takes of what's been going on around here:

1. I just had my last serving team meeting for the year in our local MOPS chapter. I have loved being a part of this group and connecting in my community, but as I mentioned before, I'm needing to take a step back in a few places to catch up on life. I'm hoping to join in a serving role again down the line, but I'll just be an attendee for a while.

2. Along the same lines of taking a step back, I've reluctantly decided not to continue to breastfeed Clive. Something had to give, and after making the switch I feel so much peace that it was the right call for our family (and our functionality and sanity) in this season. Consequently, this is the first time my body hasn't been supporting another human being through pregnancy and/or nursing in about 4 years, so my hormones are everywhere. Gah!

3. You know what I have had time to do though? Read! Finally! (well, when I'm not binge watching TV shows... more on that soon). Right now I'm chipping away at New Testament Bible Basics for Catholics (still), Getting Past Perfect (this was basically written for me with my littler perfectionist heart), Wild Montana Skies, and Anne of Avonlea (the audiobook). If you're wondering how I'm reading all of these without getting confused, I'm not.

4. I'm also making self-care a priority... I wasn't great about it before kids, but especially now I need to make sure it happens. I've been working out, taking naps, and working on some exciting blog projects (you'll see soon!). If you're wondering how I'm balancing it all and still managing self-care guilt-free, I'm not.

5. Joel and I managed to sneak out of the house to watch Wonder Woman, which made my week and then some. I'm not going to go on about how much I loved it (at least not in this post), but I will say that when I grow up I want to be Wonder Woman. Just kidding. But seriously.

6. Speaking of dates, we're trying to get in 1-2 date nights in a week, just to make sure we're staying on track as a husband and wife unit and it has been so much fun. Last week, Joel found this sweet game that's like an at home Escape The Room (and by "like" I mean it actually is). We had a blast solving the puzzle and I can't wait to try another one. 100% worth it! It was a great communication/team-building game too... for our team of two. But still a team!

7. Clive is old enough now that he's not content to hang out on the floor or in a swing and watch the activity around him. He wants to be up and more involved, which means I'm getting significantly less done around the house. However, we finally got ourselves a Baby K'Tan and Clive loves it. He's so happy to be a part of whatever is going on or watch me do chores. Joel even takes him around in it too. It's da bomb.

I hope y'all have a wonderful weekend! What are you up to?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Clive Anthony: 4 Months

Dear Clive,

My sweet, sweet baby boy. You get cuter every day. I know every parent says that about their children, and I'm biased because I'm your mother, but I really do mean it. You're a good-looking kid with the most contagious smile I have ever seen. You always seem to be smiling and you LOVE when anyone is making eye contact with you. You're turning into quite the socialite. I'm glad, too... when you get older, I don't ever have to worry about running out of things to say.

You hair has been thinning for a while, but it was getting harder to disguise, so Daddy and I gave you your very first haircut. I wasn't sure what you'd think of the whole experience, but you didn't seem to mind it at all. You look a little less like a baby grown man (in a good way) when you have short hair, but you're still a fine gentleman to us.

You're hitting all of your marks developmentally and I can't believe how strong you are already. You feel like you're all muscle! Maybe you and I can work out together before too long.

You are VERY ticklish. It's not hard to find a new spot to get you giggling. 

You still seem to favor me over everyone else so far... which is awesome. Your sisters are great entertainment for you; your eyes follow them all over the room. They love to love on you, giving you all the toys and pillows and blankets you could ever hope for. They're a little overwhelming for you sometimes, but just remember that they're just showing you in their own way how much they care.

You're fascinated by books, which is pretty typical for a Rauch kid at this point. You follow along with the pictures when we read to you, with your eyes open wide as you take it all in. I want so badly to know what you're thinking about all the time, but I know that at the rate you chatter away, it won't be long before you can tell me yourself. 

We get lots of comments on how you seldom cry, which is pretty accurate. You only really get upset when you want to be held, when you're hungry, or when you're tired and trying to fall asleep but we just won't leave you alone... and that's pretty much it. You love to be held and cuddled and be a part of the action. I'm doing my best to make sure you're included, but things are a little bananas around here most of the time, so I'm sorry if you have to entertain yourself for a while. Just let me know when you're lonely, and remember that I'm doing my best.

Clive Anthony, you're my best boy. I love you with my whole heart and I am so proud to be your mom. Every time you smile at me, I feel like my heart is going to burst. As I say all the time, God knew my heart needed you. You are the best surprise we've ever received. I love you.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Summer '17 kickoff!

Summer is [unofficially} upon us!! Yes, I know that technically the first day of summer isn't until later in June, but we're kicking off the season with our annual family camp out. The five of us technically didn't camp in the sleeping outdoors sense of the word, but we spent a good chunk of the weekend enjoying the outdoor festivities.

The girls were unbelievably stoked to pet a dog. And that's when I realized they hardly ever see them because we don't have any pets. Easy entertainment. This could have made their day in itself.

This is the sixth (I think?) year the family has been getting together for a camping weekend. The first two years I stayed in a tent with the whole gang, but after we got rained out year two (also being the only ones that year NOT in a camper), and then having littles since, the Rauches stayed inside the house. This year we were blessed with beautiful weather pretty much the whole weekend, so we spent almost all of our time outside. 

A few of my extended family members own horses, so they bring them out to the camp site to offer rides to the kiddos. Celine is usually afraid of, well, most things, so when she asked for a ride I was pretty taken aback. We started slow and worked out away in... petting his neck, petting his nose, and given she was still interested, we got her onto the saddle.

Aaaaaaand that's as far as we got. This is way more than she was willing to do last year though, so here's to 2018! I'm still so proud she made it that far. She might be held back sometimes by her nerves, but she is becoming braver and braver every day.

Monica seemed ready to give it a shot, with her fearlessness causing me a little worry... I didn't totally trust her to sit still. She pet the horse, and we set her on the saddle long enough to snap this sweet picture:

...but as soon as she realized I was holding her stuffed animals for her, she was ready to be done. I wouldn't be surprised if she's ready for a ride next year too.

Clive was mostly held the whole weekend and he was loving playing the role of baby hot potato. He was pretty quiet most of the time and seemed to just be taking everything in,, but every time I put him down to change him he started chatting away, as if to tell me everything he saw. I can't get enough of our little dude.

That wasn't the end of the milestones for our big girl... Celine got her very own bicycle. We only took her around on the grass for now, but she absolutely loves that thing. And I'm all googley-eyed over her on it, especially with the basket. I want one in my size. She's hell bent on pedaling backwards, but we'll get there.

And of course, if big sister gets a turn, little sister must too. Oddly enough, Monica also kept her feet pushing back on the brakes. Maybe it's a Rauch kid thing? I'll look into it. In the meantime, I need to find bikes/trikes/trailers for the rest of us.

The weekend wrapped up with A Lazy Stroll, a fundraiser to find a cure for ALS. My uncle was diagnosed a few years ago, so this cause has a very particular importance to my family. 
To hear his story, watch this.

The walk was around the same time as naps and the girls were pretty tapped out from the weekend, so this is the only picture I managed to take.
All in all we had a wonderful weekend and we're ready to make the most of our summer. We've got a whole lot of fun to come, so thanks for following along!

What are your plans for the summer? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How we met: part 3

If you're jumping in now, you can read part 1 and part 2 by clicking the links. If you want to skip ahead to the end, read on. For the short version, read this. ;)

FALL 2012

That September was one of the longest months of my life.

Joel and I had a blast chatting as much as we could on and off throughout the day. We'd break for driving home and dinner, then jump on the phone and talk for another few hours. I was completely smitten. I wanted to know anything and everything about this dear friend who was rapidly making himself a permanent placeholder in my heart.

But it was still a tad embarrassing that we'd still never seen each other's faces outside of pictures posted online.

Within a week of becoming official, we scheduled our first Skype call. It was all I could think about all day. I did my hair, kept my makeup minimal, and wore a loose pink pinstripe button up. About an hour before Joel was scheduled to call, my nerves began to get the best of me. What are we doing? What am I doing? What if he is nothing like I picture? What if his voice doesn't match his face? What if he doesn't like me anymore? I started sweating, and up went the curled hair. I needed to relax. I poured myself a glass of White Zinfandel in my favorite glass (and oversized stem wine glass that I still have in the cupboard) and tried to act casual.

Here's the thing though: when I'm nervous, I mess with whatever is in my hands, in this case, the wine glass. The giant wine glass, That I overfilled. And all of a sudden there was only a sip left. And we're about a minute and a half out from the call. And I'm all loosey goosey. And blushing... from the wine and the nerves. Great idea, Justine.

I answered the call and we talked for a good 3 1/2 ish minutes without a hitch.

I looked away from the screen for a few seconds and heard a sudden noise come from the other end and all of a sudden, Joel was gone. I heard movement, I could still see his apartment, but no Joel. Then his head popped up from behind the desk. The folding chair he was using spontaneously fell to pieces. He only had a desktop computer and no back up chairs in his little studio apartment. So, this is it, I thought. That was fun while it lasted. But Joel, just as excited about this opportunity as me, made the chivalrous sacrifice and offered to kneel in front of his computer long enough for us to finish the conversation. I couldn't believe he would offer to do that for me, instead of just easily ending the call and using the phone.

We talked for four more hours before I remembered he was KNEELING. He made no complaint, was still fully invested in our talk, told stories, asked questions, and was the same incredible man I was falling for over the phone. And then I saw him shift his weight a little and subtly rub his knee. I had totally forgotten and he finally agreed to switch to the phone because OF COURSE we weren't done talking yet. We talked for another hour or so before finally calling it a night.

Skype calls became our new regular. We had them on constantly, sometimes even when we were working on other things. I vividly remember drinking champagne after a work success of mine and Joel wanted some too... so he stretched the camera as far as it could reach (to the floor) and left me to hang out with his "free range" rabbit while he went down the block on a champagne run.

It wasn't long before he bought his ticket to visit me.

We still had a couple of weeks to wait, so I spent my free time planning our itinerary and freaking out. It was a risk, inviting this man to come for the weekend, especially if it didn't go well. But how could it not go well? I still couldn't shake the feeling that he had a big role to play in my life, whether it be for this season or for the long term.

I'll never forget the night we first exchanged "I love you"'s, but I'll save just that little bit for just the two of us.

I'm not sure at what point exactly we knew, but it was definitely before Joel arrived. We hadn't talked at length about the long term, but I had an unmistakable peace in my prayer and in my heart that this was the man I was made to spend the rest of my life with. I was almost  too good to be true... but not quite. ;)

On September 21st, I packed up my mix tape (well CD, but it was a thing) and some Kung Pao beef for Joel's dinner and drove an hour to the airport to meet Joel, officially, in person, for the very first time.

I was going to wait in the parking lot, but I was too excited and looked for him at the outside pickup. He called me, and I saw a tall dark blonde man with a suitcase on the phone near me. I was about to go up to him when Joel said he was walking and looking for me... so clearly not that guy. I panicked. How do I greet him? Do I hug him? Reach out for a handshake? A handshake? Why would I do that? To be funny maybe? Not funny. Don't do that. What if he's far away? Do I run to him? Walk? Wait for him to come to me? I'd better play it safe. Thinking on my feet, I played the super cool move of staying on the phone with him to lead him to me, at the same time ducking behind a pillar at the end of the pickup line to wait for him.

Just before I could hear his voice in person, I stepped out from behind the pillar and there he was, only a few yards away, walking towards me. Joel dropped his bags, enveloped me in a hug, and all I could think was, This is the first time I am hugging the man who will be my husband.

I never wanted that weekend to end. We toured my work, sipped pumpkin spice lattes and strolled around my neighborhood, built a blanket fort, watched HGTV, ate at my favorite Mexican restaurant. On his last day with me, we stopped at the mall (90's style) and took photo booth pictures. That was the first of what would unintentionally become one of our date traditions. 

Before Joel made it back home I bought my ticket to go out and visit him... and the rest is history.

So there you have it: the long story of how we met on Twitter. We're almost 5 years together, 3 kids later, and I could not be happier. I'm so thankful you made it through reading this far... if you're interested in hearing more of our love story, let me know!

And to Joel:

Falling in love with you has been the greatest adventure of my life and it continues to be every day. Thank you for everything. I love you.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How we met: part 2

In case you missed part 1 of how Joel and I met, you can catch up right here. For spoilers in the cliff notes version, read here. ;)


As the months passed, I started to feel more homesick and restless about where I was (figuratively and literally). As much as I tried to connect in my physical community, it became more and more of a struggle. With summer beginning, the school year was ending, and the local university Newman Center was cleared out and the last of my close friends had finally graduated and moved on and out. I was giving less presentations to youth groups and instead working more behind the scenes, which was hard on my little extrovert heart.

I ended up spending more time watching TV, Skyping my family, and browsing social media on my computer. And with that came more conversations with Joel. We added each other on Google Plus, Facebook, and Skype, joking that we were reaching higher levels of a "social media friendship." Tweets graduated to Facebook chat. The more we went back and forth, the easier it was to talk to him. It was hard to find something we didn't have in common. I started to catch myself leaving my computer open so I'd be able to see if he was online and wanted to chat, just in case I'd miss it. It wasn't a romantic interest, he was just slowly becoming a dear friend. He made me laugh (a lot) and I looked forward to hearing about his day. Our conversations came with ease and never seemed to end.

However, I was still trying to make it work in the relationship I was already a part of. We had different ways of communicating, and I remember thinking that it shouldn't be that hard. Although it took a couple of months to finally call it, I think there was a part of me that knew it wasn't supposed to be. We officially parted ways. In a very roundabout way, I think it was because of Joel. I told one of my girlfriends, "Even if nothing ever happened with my Twitter friend, or if we never even met in person, I feel like he just has some role to play in my life. Maybe it's just to show me how easy communication can be. I'd want to end up with someone I shared that with."

The August visit to Colorado was to see my college roommate and household sister... and also to visit the Denver Broncos training camp. Joel was heading back to Ohio for a wedding one of the same days I was flying, so even though we had never met, I kept an eye out for him at the airport just in case fate would let us meet. It didn't end up that way, but I still looked. And it turned out, he was looking for me too.

Can you find Joel in the stands? Me neither. He was in Ohio. I did see someone who I thought looked like him though... well, form what I could tell from his Twitter picture.

After a visit back home, it really hit me how much we had been talking. We were Facebook chatting for hours every night. My family was still really concerned that we hadn't met in person, and I don't blame them. I've heard plenty of stories (ok so mostly on the news) about people getting tricked or catfished or whatever the kids are calling it nowadays. I called Jackie, because as the only person we knew in common (and who knew and cared about both of us), I trusted her input. Once I reassured my family with her approval, they were a little more at ease.

This is Jackie. This picture was taken much later in the story. 

As Joel & my friendship slowly progressed and feelings began to develop, it began to seem unnatural not to talk one degree of separation closer. I felt like we had almost hit a wall where our friendship couldn't progress any more without stepping up our method of communication. Joel had asked for my mailing address to send me a friendly letter, but I found myself feeling almost frustrated that i had to take the time to type everything out and we were missing important elements like voice inflection and tone. Because it was still pretty friendly, I finally put myself out there in a way that I thought wouldn't be TOO forward, but still conversational...

I was clearly very smooth about it. And I was at no point thinking about ice cream.


Putting myself out there like that was terrifying. I imagined myself as a turtle throwing a love note out of it's shell and then quickly retreating back inside while waiting to be rejected. I was preparing myself to hear that this was strictly Platonic, or that I totally had the wrong idea, or that he was married or something horrible and heartbreaking. Waiting for his response felt like for-flipping-ever. I could see the little bubble showing that he typed something, then deleted it, typed something, then deleted it. 

But it turns out, he had thought about it. A lot.

On August 25th, at 12:06 AM, Joel called me.

We talked for 4 1/2 hours that night. My face hurt from smiling and my stomach hurt from laughing. We talked again the next night for 6 hours, despite the two hour time difference. And it still seemed like we'd never have nothing to talk about.


Within a few days we were officially dating. And I had never been happier... well, at that point. 

More joy in part 3!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

How we met: part 1

I love love love reading other bloggers' stores about how they met their spouse. I'm a romantic through and through: I love LOVE! True, authentic, self-sacrificing, painful, beautiful, real love sets my  soul on fire. Around the time I started Justine In Pearls, I posted the "abridged" version of our story that we co-wrote for our wedding website. However, I want to lock down all the details of our story while everything is relatively fresh in my head so we'll have it to look back on years to come.

So without further ado, this is how we met...

The Prequel: Fall 2010

It was Thanksgiving. I was taking a break from writing some papers for one of my last college classes to share a recent blog post on my Twitter. I had just recently started blogging and had no idea what I was into yet, but I was having fun settling in to my little place on the internet. I hardly had any readers, and the ones that I did have were pretty much just my family members. I had recently gotten out of a relationship and I was starting to get a little frustrated with God. I remember asking to meet my future spouse that year, and hoping that when I did, I would recognize him. Or something. Then I used to end up just wondering if we had already met, so I'd go through most of the single guys I knew and rule them out one by one... you know, like in the old chick flicks where she likes the popular guy who ends up being not right for her and then she ends up with the one who was her best friend all along... actually, that's not too far off from what happened. But we'll get to that!

Anyways, one of my household sisters (household = a sort of Catholic sorority I joined in college) gave me a shout out on Twitter for whatever particular post I had written at the time. Her cousin happened to find it, actually read it, and sent me a direct message on Twitter. The message is gone now, but it was something along the lines of "Hey, I'm Jackie's cousin and I just wanted to say I read your blog and I think it's really good. Keep up the good work!" Then he started following my feed.

Me: A fan!! Someone I had never met before read my blog and liked it. I must be dreaming. Who is this pioneer of fandom? Hmm... joelarbear87. Joelar Bear. His name is probably Joel. Or some weird variation of it? I'm assuming it's pronounced like "polar?" He's kinda cute, but the picture is super tiny. *clicks link* Dayton, OH. I go to school in Ohio! How far is that from me? Oh, too far. We'd never meet. I'm going to follow him back. And I should tell Jackie.

I texted her and she thought it was funny and said he's cool. That's about it. I made sure whenever I wrote another post, I linked it in my Twitter account, just in case he was still paying attention. A few weeks later I got the impression from his feed that he had a girlfriend, so I dropped it.


Part 1: Spring 2012

I ended up being in college for longer than I anticipated. I had graduated a couple months before and I was ready to pursue my passions and start a career: traveling around the country and teaching about healthy relationships, maybe writing a book in between stops. I was a hopeless romantic (still, but in my defense I had been since I was 5, so I didn't really expect that to change) and somehow managed to graduate late and still without the "ring by spring." I wanted to someday end up living in Denver or Colorado springs. I had visited friends there a few times and it was the only place I had ever visited that made me think "yeah, I could definitely see myself living here." However, I had trouble setting up a living situation and finding a job, so I had to put that dream on the back burner. Another opportunity presented itself in Pennsylvania, so I followed the job there.

It was thrilling to venture off on my own and start my career as a chastity speaker, but I was 6 hours from the closest family member, which was a big change for me. I was starting to panic a little, especially after trying unsuccessfully to make friends with people in my neighborhood close to my age. I frequently visited my friends who were still in school, only about an hour and a half from where I had moved. I ached to feel connected and part of a community. I started to go back through my list of good guy friends and look for the love of my life... because, well, maybe I had overlooked him or something (like in the movies... he was probably there all along!). I ended up in a relationship with a nice guy, but it wasn't a good fit. I kept trying to make it work, but I just had this feeling that it just wasn't supposed to be.

But, I stuck it out anyways, because I was scared. Scared that maybe this is just what relationships were like, that they needed a lot of work to mesh, and that it's ok that you have less and less in common, or you disagree on a lot of things, etc. Scared that maybe this was my last chance to find someone because I had so much trouble meeting anyone in my area, let alone anyone dateable.

I kept a giant framed poster of Pikes Peak in my kitchen. I used it to remind me of where I wanted to go, to remind me of the awesome beauty I found in the Colorado landscape, and to remind me that life was bigger than my little lonely apartment. I remember sitting on my kitchen counter, drinking coffee, looking at that poster, and posting this:

My username and picture have changed since then, but this is THE tweet.

And then I remember jumping off the counter to tackle my pile of work, when I received a response from JoelarBear87. I had completely forgotten that we were still following each other. He had recently moved to Denver himself, and was curious if I was still around.

This is more like what he would have seen of me. He has since deleted his twitter, so his info is gone.
Me: Who is this? OMG IT'S MY FAN! I forgot about him! He lives in CO? Figures. I want to go to there. I should probably respond.

We tweeted back and forth on occasion, but we were only friends on Twitter. Looking back, I used Twitter more that spring and summer than I had ever used it before or ever would since. Our interaction was predominantly quoting movies, but it was becoming more and more frequent. I started to refer to him as "my Twitter friend." And that's all it was... for the spring at least.

Part 2 coming soon!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What we're listening to (and it's not music)...

That's right. When music is out and we still want some background (or foreground?) noise, we're taking it to the podcasts.

Apparently this is what all the kids are doing nowadays. And by kids, I don't mean actual children. I mean the cool, hip people. Because podcasts are the thing, and I want to be down with the latest trend, yo. Hashtag on fleek and everything (I know I'm using that wrong).

But it makes sense, I mean, who doesn't love just hanging out with friends and talking about subjects you're interested in? Or listening to a storyteller share an edge-of-your seat epic? Or meticulously taking notes during a theology or philosophy class lecture? Ok, that last one may be a smaller percentage of us. But we're out there! And we will not be forgotten! Students who love intellectual lectures UNITE!! I'm getting off track...

Over the past couple of months and years, I've slowly worked up a list of our favorite podcasts. I've got a couple go-to's in different categories, depending on my mood or what I'm working on.

Some of these overlap quite a bit with topics, Fr. Barron touching on movies and TV, Christy and Haley talk quite a bit about matters of faith and family life, Jennifer talks to Dave Ramsey, etc.

On womanhood: 

On faith:

On bookishness:

On home decor:

On marriage & family:
Marriage More Podcast
Messy Parenting

On life, business, and interviews with a myriad of guests:
Hallie Weekly
The Jennifer Fulfiller Show
The Chalene Show
Build Your Tribe

Podcasts (and audiobooks for that matter) are just so easy. I'm learning so much and I don't even have to stop doing the dishes (like it was that hard for me to quit doing the dishes anyways, but still). When it's only the kiddos and me around for most of the day, it's nice to feel like I'm still in on some adult conversation. Best part: if anyone starts screaming or crying or what have you, I can just pause, rewind, or come back to it later. Winning!

I know there are other hugely popular podcasts out there, like Serial (haven't listened to it) and S-Town (not what I expected but sparked some interesting conversation), but the ones I've linked to are the ones that by far get the most air time in our house. Topping the charts are probably Fountains of CarrotsMessy Parenting, and Young House Love Has a Podcast. I just wanted to give ou the whole list (full disclosure and all) so you have a little bit of variety to choose from.

Are you a fellow podcast subscriber? What are you listening to?