Sunday, October 25, 2015

Monica Jane: One Month

Dear baby Monica,

Oh, how time flies when you are snuggling! I know this is cliche, but I can't believe you've already been in our lives for one whole month. It's already getting hard to remember what it was like before you were here! We cannot get enough of your beautiful blue eyes, your fluffy brown hair, and your tight kung fu death grip on our fingers.

You love to be snuggled, which of course is no burden for me. I relish the time your soft little baby head is up against my cheek. I know that you won't snuggle with me like this forever, or even fit into my arms so perfectly like you do, so I'm soaking this all up while I can.

You love a good warm soak in the tub, just like Daddy. You also love to sleep and eat, much like me. Every day you are becoming more awake and alert, with your big eyes taking everything in. You are a pretty light sleeper... sometimes. We sometimes have to battle you to get you to sleep at night, yet other times your big sister will push on your blankets, grab your feet, and (once in a while when I'm not looking for 0.48538 seconds) shake your Rock N' Play... and you snooze right through it! Let's start working on that after the sun goes down, ok?

Kisses for sister
Be patient with Celine, too... she adores you
You're having a little trouble with your tummy, which is easily evidenced by our laundry (that has increased 500%ish) and your baby prescription bottle in the fridge. We are hoping and praying for all of our sakes that it is just a phase and you will get some relief soon.

We keep hearing little coos and squeaks from you, but I haven't quite figured out what you mean by them yet. You've even giggled once in your sleep, but I've only managed to catch some sleep smiles on my camera. I can't wait to see your beautiful smile for real!

Monica mouse, Daddy and I love you oh so very much. We can't wait to know you better as you get bigger. I'm sorry for our lack of understanding sometimes. Please be patient with us as we figure things out together. Every one of your tiny tears breaks our hearts and we hope our kisses will help to heal each one. I love you, I love you, I love you!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Man of Steel: The Most Pro-life Non-pro-life Movie I Have Ever Seen.

WARNING: This post contains spoilers. If you haven't seen Man of Steel yet, go watch it and then come back and read this. And then watch it again.

Another disclaimer: I have never read the comic books; my judgement is based solely off of this movie, with no prior knowledge of comic book plots, characters, movie adaptations, etc.

Commonly known fact about me: I love movies and TV. I love great writing, character development, plot twists, and especially when mainstream entertainment teaches us something important in a way that is sneaky.

But I mean sneaky in a good way... Many Christian and pro-life or "positive" movies, while they are made with the best intentions, sometimes are not made very well. The writing and acting are poor and the message is so in-your-face, it comes off pretty preachy. Don't get me wrong, some of them are very enjoyable and probably touch a lot of hearts, but I consider myself a tough critic. I stand by my theory that a positive message doesn't have to be in-your-face to make a difference or make a story great.

...or make a character great. Like the Man of Steel portrayal of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman.

So here's some main points that are relevant to my love for this movie...

The movie begins on Krypton as a sort of civil war is beginning to break. The planet is unstable and about to explode, yet the General (played by Michael Shannon) is ready to begin a "new Krypton" with only certain bloodlines surviving. The planet had adapted to the "Genesis chamber" model of reproduction, growing babies on an underwater plant-like structure and genetically modifying the DNA of the babies to predestine their specific task/role in life (General Zod = protect the people of Krypton). However, Kal-El's father, Jor-El (the illustrious Russell Crowe), believed that people should be free, able to choose their own path, and follow their dreams. Heck yes, daddy Superman. Long story short, this disagreement led to his death, just after baby Kal was shipped off to earth for his survival. Fast forward into the future.

Jor-El, doing the right thing.
Because Kal-El (now Clark, played by Henry Cavill) was not actually human, his extraordinary abilities began to grow and develop as he did... X-ray vision, laser beam eyes, super strength, flying, etc. He was afraid of the changes, but his parents (take note here) taught him to use self-control, to master his impulses, and focus on the matter at hand. Emphasis on the self-control here... very "just because you can, doesn't mean you should." His parents taught him to stand up for what is good and right and true, which Clark worked hard to do, even when it meant getting up and leaving wherever he was to start over somewhere else.

OK, so, here comes General Zod, back from banishment, to destroy Clark and turn earth into New Krypton, killing all the humans in the process. Bad stuff. So Clark (now Superman), turns himself in to the government to work as a team to save his adoptive home. He allows himself to be handcuffed, even though he can easily dominate everyone there, but to make his new allies feel safe. He meets them where they are, on their ground (without freaking them the flip out with all of his super skills) so they can build a trusting relationship. Now they're partners.

So much anger, Zod. Calm down, man.
General Zod comes, guns blazing, and is ready to kill everyone. Superman battles it out with him in a pretty even match. During the fight, General Zod declares, "There's only one way this ends, Kal: either you die, or I do." Still, Superman does everything he can to subdue him, stop terrorizing the humans, and move on. However, Zod doesn't have this option...

"We could have built a new Krypton in this squalor, but you chose the humans over us. I exist only to protect Krypton. That is the sole purpose for which I was born. And every action I take, no matter how violent or how cruel, is for the greater good of my people. And now... I have no people. My soul, that is what you have taken from me!"

And then they fight some more. They crash into a museum-esque building, Superman holding Zod in a headlock. In the emotional climactic scene, Zod yells, "If you love these people so much, you can mourn for them!" and starts to shoot lasers at people. Superman pleads for him to stop, but when Zod refuses, Superman reluctantly kills him.

One of the most important parts of the movie to me is right here: Superman is devastated. Here is a guy who is clearly the villian, who wanted to protect a dead people at all costs, including taking the lives of billions of innocents. And yet, as we see in Superman's cry of anguish, he is still torn apart at the fact that he had to kill.

And here's why I love this movie so dang much:

1. Superman is a good man. He has worked hard his whole life to protect the innocent and the weak, to do the right thing even when it is hard, to control his passions/emotions/instincts, and to preserve freedom and life. He's an ideal hero, and his likable personality and ridiculously square jaw are just the icing on the cake.

Seriously, though, look at his chin. He looks like a cartoon. In a good way.
2. Krypton fell for a reason. They turned to artificial population control, stripping freedoms/hopes/dreams from their citizens, and attempted genocide. And look where they ended up. The couple of survivors had no identity outside of their given task, they blindly followed society's crazy rules to a fault, and were willing to take countless innocent lives to reach an unreachable (and immoral) ideal. Does this make anyone else think of Nazi Germany??

3. I love the theme of protection here, but there is an important element missing to General Zod. What are you protecting? Is it good? And then we have Jor-El telling his son:
"The people of Earth are different from us, it's true, but ultimately I believe that is a good thing. They won't necessarily make the same mistakes we did, but if you guide them, Kal, if you give them hope, that's what this symbol means. The symbol of the House of El means hope. Embodied within that hope is the fundamental belief the potential of every person to be a force for good. That's what you can bring them."
4. Life is sacred. Jor-El stood up to his own leaders when he saw the planet was being destroyed and all of their lives were at risk. He stood up to General Zod when he proposed "cleansing the people" by choosing which bloodlines survived. The villains killed recklessly and without thought, but Superman, even to the very end, fought not to have to take a life. And when he had to, he was distraught. Even though Zod was a disturbed character (to say the least), it still tore Superman apart to have to kill him. There's something to that!!

5. Good leadership is good. Especially with all of the drama and tension with our government right now, with politics becoming polarized and confusing and what have you, I've been hearing a lot of animosity towards powerful leaders. True, we should not blindly follow anyone who steps up to a podium, but there is nothing wrong about following an intrinsically good leader (Jesus much??). I am not equating Superman to Jesus, but he acts as a supernatural leader who defends the defenseless, preserves life, and stands up for freedom and truth. Not a bad choice for Metropolis. I mean, come on...
"You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders." -Jor-El
Join you in the sun, being in the light of Christ... just something to think about.

All in all... good job, Hollywood. You managed to pull of an action/drama with big name actors, crazy special effects, intense action scenes, talented writing, and profoundly Christian themes. I'm betting that last one wasn't intended, but I'm running with it anyways.

Yes, I know that they're also making "Batman vs. Superman" and judging by the trailer, Superman is the bad guy (tears!!) but we'll see how it turns out then.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

For the days making the bed is a big deal

Let's get one thing straight: you can't always do it all. As much as you might want to, you can't. Just because life is hard, as we need to deal.

And delegate. And let some things go. And suck some other things up and just do it.

But not everything. And not by ourselves.

Sometimes, all that matters is, you're working on it. And that's ok.

I have listed above that I am an "underachieving perfectionist." It's a term I've coined myself (copyright pending) that basically means I can't do things to the incredibly high standard I have set for myself, so with the mindset that I'll inevitably be disappointed, I don't even start said task. Combined with ADD, this is pretty detrimental. Good news? Some of you out there are underachieving perfectionists too. And we can do this.

It's super awesome to have days where we get on a roll, knock off a billion things from the to-do list, and top it all off with a 5 course dinner, a shower, and some productive and educational quality time with the littles. For you 30 Rock fans out there, this is called "Reaganing."

But most days aren't like this. So let's make a game plan:

1. Cut down the to-do list (also known as "Lower your standards") - Didn't get enough sleep? Out of coffee? You get handicaps for that. Put some things off until tomorrow... otherwise you might not have anything left to do tomorrow. Rome wasn't built in a day. You're welcome.

2. Break down what's left into easier tasks - Clean bedroom → Make the bed, fold laundry, vacuum, dust, put jewelry away, empty the trash, etc.

3. Do at least one of those tasks - Look! I made the bed today. Cross that off the list. Making progress!

4. Give yourself a pat on the back - Great job, self. That took initiative. Remember that when you go to your next job interview. "I take initiative." Good job getting something done today.

BONUS: Do more things on the list. Then take a break. 

This is not by any means something to live by every day. This is for the Mondays, the feels-like-Mondays, the coming-home-from-vacation-and-everything-is-crazy days, and the like. You can tackle the big stuff those other days. For now, put your feet up, sip some coffee or tea, and check back in after an hour or two (or 5 minutes, which is sometimes all the break we can afford). You've got this!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Recent goings on around here...

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for Link-toberfest! I can't believe this is only my 4th 7QT posts to actually get published... I need to get on that!

Things have been a little different here since the arrival of our sweet Monica, and we are slowly but surely working into what we're calling our "new normal." Here's a few little tidbits and updates from our neck of the woods...

1. Celine adores her baby sister. We catch her crawling up the Rock n' Play to napping Monica, where she watches her and squeals with delight, and then starts putting toys in there with her. I'm not quite sure yet if she's trying to share (a skill we've been practicing) or it's just another fun spot to take things in/out of (her current favorite game). Jury's still out.

2. Monica is a master of breastfeeding... ish. She knows just what to do, as long as she can stay awake long enough to eat. She snacks, refuses to burp in her sleep, we lay her down, she immediately wakes up hungry (or at least within 45 minutes), eats again, and spits up all over me. It's especially fun at night. Let's nip this game in the bud, huh little kid?

3. We recently welcomed Monica into the church (YAY!!!) during a visit from Grandma and Grandpa Rauch. Joel's dad is a deacon (and he also baptized Celine), so it was only right that during their visit to help us transition, we wash the original sin off of her. She tolerated it pretty well, given she was asleep and acted like the chrism was a very nice massage. I love her.

They don't look at the camera too well but they still make pictures way better <3
4. My little brother was also in town for probably his last visit before he moves to Cali to be near his new fiancée. We were so glad to steal him long enough to make him Monica's godfather and spend some time playing Exploding Kittens before he takes off. We will miss him. Lots.

5. I'm trying to branch out a little bit with my taste in music. I listen almost exclusively to Needtobreathe, Ben Rector, and Maroon 5, especially after my computer crashed and wiped my 8 days of nonstop playing music. It left me with some, but very little. Oh, and I also have a few Top 40 songs that are my favorites periodically. Recently, it's "Bright" by Echosmith. I bought their album "Talking Dreams" and so far, it's not so bad. Maybe I should try new music more often.

6. I'm finally getting some more things on the walls and it definitely makes this house feel like a home. I'm starting to feel more rooted here, and it helps to have our own personal (and Pinterest inspired!) pieces on the wall. None of the rooms are quite done yet, but here's a preview of the girls' room:

We're going for French street inspired.. did we succeed so far?
7. It's finally fall and I could not be more excited. Our local grocery store just got a Starbucks and I'm all like "Just in time for pumpkin spice lattes!!" I'm not WAY gung ho about them, but they sure taste like fall should. Best season of the year. Sweet Lord, thank you for the autumn leaves. They're my fave, but you already know that.

BONUS! 8. I'm a little behind on my #12in12bookchallenge, but I'm giving myself a handicap for having a baby. Speaking of my challenge though, I'm thisclose to finishing Story of a Soul and both of the girls are sleeping... so I'd better get on that. Here are a few little moments to tide you over until the next family update...

Night before leaving the hospital
Daddy and his two girls
First bath at home... super chill the whole time :)
Love this picture, love this girl <3
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Love is in the Details

I originally scheduled this post to go up next week, but in the spirit of St. Thérèse, to celebrate the feast of my beloved patron, I'm sharing it today. :)

There's a lot of talk about the 5 Love Languages. Joel and I usually aren't huge fans of personality tests, given we are both pretty borderline on most things and have never really gotten accurate results (except the animal test... I liked that one!). We decided to give this one a shot anyways, and it's helped us quite a bit (surprisingly to us) in our marriage.

Quality time for the win

We were able to identify our primary and secondary love languages, which are totally different from one another's. I am quality time and words of affirmation (closely followed by everything else) and his are mainly acts of service and physical touch. I realized I had no clue that I wasn't loving him the best that I could, meaning how he best experiences love. We sat down and made lists (more for me than for him) of examples of HOW we could show love to each other in a was that would be best received by the other.

So happy. This is probably just after we took the love languages test. Lol.
I'll spare you the extensive list, but we figured out one important thing: love is in the details. We don't need big, over-the-top expressions of our undying love for each other. Now, as fun as a flash mob serenade or carriage ride through the park would be, we're thinking more along the lines of how actions speak louder than words. We can say we love each other until we're blue in the face, but if we don't follow through and act on that (including using words of affirmation and "I love you" reminders), there's not much to support the claim.

It's not always easy, but it counts the most when you have to push past "the burn" of the "I really don't like you right now, but hopefully this will help smooth things over" kind of moments. Without it, how would ANY relationship survive?

Mainly I'm writing this post as a reminder to myself. If Joel needs me to do the dishes without being prompted (pretty much the bane of my existence), then I'd better own up to the vow I made to love and honor him by rolling up my sleeves and scrubbing some plates. (Note: given he's the five-star husband and massive dreamboat that he is, he normally washes the dishes because he knows how much I hate them. But if he hates it just as much as me, it should be my turn too sometimes).

Dishes are the go-to example in our house, but the biggest point I'm trying to make here is that the best way to show love is through the little choices and sacrifices we make every day for our beloved, even if they go unnoticed. A little goes a long way, and the more it gets practiced, the easier it becomes.

I'll take an empty sink or a random sweet text over a grand romantic gesture any day. Although they don't hurt as happy bonuses :)