Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Happy Easter and a Look at Our Holy Week Project

Happy Easter, y'all!!! So happy to be Catholic so we can keep on celebrating Easter for several weeks, not just one day. It's Easter all the way till Pentecost! So we are still partying over here in the Rhoades Casa. But before I get ahead of myself, I wanted to give you all a peek back at how we prepared for Easter. 

We fasted from television during Holy Week, which freed up a lot of time to read from the Bible with our girls and truly share the important elements of salvation history with them - the events that led to the glorious Paschal Mystery. 

One of the best parts of Holy Week for us was having a toddler-friendly Seder Meal! It was actually Avila's second birthday on Holy Thursday, so we treated her to lamb meatballs, hummus and pita bread - some of her favorite foods in the world! I am *kicking* myself for forgetting to take pictures of our Passover spread because it was really awesome. We explained to the girls (and our dinner guests) some of the simpler aspects of what happens during a Jewish Passover meal, and more specifically what happened during the Last Supper. I used this post from Little Bit of Paradise as my reference for our toddler-friendly Seder. 

Along with looking through salvation history, we also took a walk through the week that led to the very first Easter. Using this awesome Holy Week calendar as our guide, we were able to share the events with our girls in a simple and engaging way. I got the idea from The Domestic Notebook and we sort of made it our own and had a lot of fun with it! Here's what our finished calendar ended up looking like:

I decided to laminate the basic framework of the calendar itself so that it can be reused each year, and we can focus on different aspects of Holy Week as the girls grow in understanding. :)

Hope you had a wonderful, fruitful Lent and Holy Week and are now basking in Easter Joy like us!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cosette Marie

Two pink lines. 

When it's something you're hoping for, there's no better sight in all the world. For me, it means there is a new life deep within me and from the moment I see those two pink lines, I begin to love that child with all my might. We found out on February 11th that I was expecting another baby and I was instantly overjoyed. I've always wanted an October baby and this little one was due to arrive smack in the middle of that, my favorite month of the year. We began to dream of our life with this new addition in the mix. A boy this time? Or a third little girl to love? We didn't care which. 

Gemma had been asking me for months and months up to that point if God had given us a new baby yet. She all but begged for a new sibling. She's a bit obsessed with babies... might be a daughter-of-a-doula thing. :) I got my positive pregnancy test first thing in the morning and it took all my self control to wait till evening time to share my good news with her. I wanted to tell the whole family at once, during our daily family dinner. When the news finally burst forth from my lips, the smiles and joy that erupted from my family turned our home into a mini-hulabaloo for just a moment. 
A precious moment in time that I will hold in my heart forever.  

The first pictures taken with little baby inside me -- before even I knew that she was there!
Me with three sweet children. 
We spent the next few days sharing the happy news with other close friends and family members. As I've written about before, I have come to the conclusion that waiting to tell loved ones that they, too, have a new family member on the way, seems an unusual practice to me, so we spared no time to spread the news around. "But, what if something happens...?" they say. What they mean is "If the baby dies too soon, then there will be that many more people to disappoint with sad news."
Well, something did happen. It happened to us, once again. And I wasn't sad that I had "too many people" to tell about my miscarriage. I was grateful to be surrounded by the love and prayers of the people in this world that mean the most to me. I felt grateful that those very people had as much time as they did to experience the hope and joy that comes along with new life. 

There was a wave of overwhelming grief. There is still grief. 

There was pain. Physical pain that pales in comparison to the deep, visceral emotional and spiritual pain that boils rapidly within every moment. 

There was fear. There was guilt. There was anger. 

There was jealousy. 

There was doubt. What could I have done to stop this? Did I cause this? What did I do wrong? I asked myself "Why?" more times than I can count. Why me? Why again? Why this baby? Why now? Why can't I have my baby but all the other pregnant women around me can have theirs? Why do we have to say goodbye to another baby? Why can't I just run away from the pain? Why is grieving so bitter? Why is healing so slow? 

But answers are scarce when questions are ambiguous and devoid of direction.
The prayers of others are what sustained me during a time when personal prayer was filled with silence and wailing. Support came in the form of warm meals made by local friends, flowers, cards and gifts sent from loved ones too far to bring their love over in the form of a warm embrace and tears of compassion. We weren't alone in our time of need, but no matter how much support a woman has during her miscarriage, she will still never experience an event more isolating in all her life. 

No one accompanies her to the restroom as she experiences with her body the loss of her child. No one accompanies her there while she sees with her eyes the parts of her that were meant to stay inside for several more months to sustain the life of her baby. No one feels her abdomen contract beneath a breaking heart. No one. Not even her husband, try as he might to ease her burden. It's a yoke that can only be borne by the mother herself. It changes her as surely as birth changes a mother. 
This is a birth of a different kind. It's a birth of lost dreams and broken hope, of distrust in one's own body, a birth of painful deprivation - deprivation of the one thing we want most in the world - our baby. We birth death and heartache. And we do it alone. 

In the end, there is no real end. The physical event of the miscarriage does come to a close. But the emotional event never really does. We clung to each other as a family. I held my daughter as her small, beautiful heart broke. See, Gemma was just a toddler when we had our first miscarriage, like how Avila is now. With toddlers, there's isn't much understanding beyond "Mommy sick. Mommy needs rest." But with a highly emotionally-mature and very intelligent preschooler, it's different. There is understanding. There are questions. And there is grief. 

But children offer respite within the sadness. They needed me to be there for them and carry on with meeting their many needs. They let me rest and heal, but keeping up with them meant keeping myself from wallowing too deep into a depression on the couch. Their gorgeous faces and silly antics caused me to smile and laugh far sooner than I might have imagined. They felt quite strongly that the baby was a girl, and I had no reason to disagree with such innocence and intuition. 

An unfocused picture Gemma took of me that day I found out our baby was gone. The haziness and eschew angle brilliantly represents how I was feeling in that exact moment.
So I spent a few days pondering on what we could call our little baby, now that she was in heaven looking out for us, and playing with her brother, Benji. She was with us for such a short period of time, and never grew to be bigger than a blueberry. Sweet little thing. 
So we decided on Cosette Marie.
Cosette means "little one" and it's a name I've long loved (Les Mis fanatic over here!) and we blessed her with Marie as her middle name, knowing that she was safely cuddled into Our Lady's arms. It's a name that's been in both sides of our family too, so it just felt right. 

It's been a month since we had to say goodbye to "Baby Coco" as the girls call her and I'm finally in a place where the thought of her more readily brings a smile rather than a tear. I am comforted by the knowledge that she's in Heaven with her brother and our other departed loved ones. She's there with all my favorite saints! She stands before the Throne of God bearing our resemblance, so when she intercedes for her family below, our Heavenly Father sees the very image of those she is interceding for. A beautiful, warm thought for me to rest upon. 

My heart, my womb, my arms... they still long for her. But we move forward with the knowledge that she's a little saint now and there can be no better place for her than that perfect Home where we all truly belong. What we have here on earth are our few, precious memories of her short and wonderful life with us. 

Fancy-shmancy test tells me I'm preggo and 1-2 weeks since ovulation.
A week later, test tells me we're moving along right on schedule! :)

My diet-tracker. I made sure I was getting just what me and baby needed to have a healthy pregnancy!

Our prayer board. We prayed for our little one every day.
A project cut short too soon. Each week the girls helped me put up the next picture of the food our baby was roughly the size of. They loved doing it, and we were all sad the day I had to take this down from the wall.
Playing in the snow with all three of my girls. Filled with joy and gratitude.

Cosette Marie, pray for us!
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