Me and the bestie, unrestricted.
I chatted with my very best college girlfriend today. We swapped stories of our current woes: My her attempts at adhering to a new anti-inflammatory diet, and my attempts to sleep, ever again.

Best friend is trying to cut out all gluten and all dairy. With all my various attempts to eliminate various food groups from my diet in the last 10 years, I'm a sympathetic ear. Swap out rice for wheat. Sub almond milk for creamer. Try that gross veggie cheese stuff.

She says it takes the joy out of eating. I agree. It's hard, it's a lot of effort, and when it comes down to it, you don't eat pizza, pasta carbonara or maple bars. And when all you're doing is avoiding the ingredients of pizza, pasta carbonara and maple bars, you seem to think about them frequently. No--all the time.

I then gave her my account from last night at this house: a harrowing tale of two young brothers that tried, for the first time, to share a room.

Bedtime at 8 p.m.: All seems fine. First cry from the baby at 9 p.m.: Daddy soothes and successfully woos baby back to sleep. Second cry around 10:30 p.m.: Mommy gets skeptical that this is going to work out. Second cry turns into an hour of marathon crying: Mommy gives up, hooks baby up with a dose of Tylenol, nurses baby, then sits in the hallway outside of the room, hope fading that this will be the night of three consecutive hours of sleep for her...

By midnight, I had had enough. I yanked Baby A from his crib and plunked him down (both the yanking and the plunking were gentle, of course) in a pack-n-play in the guest room. Mercifully, Toddler J remained a silent observer to this drama and stayed more or less asleep. But the remaining hours of the night brought more nursing, more soothing and little sleep for the probably-teething baby and me.

"We're the same, you know," she said. "I'm doing a restricted diet. You're doing restricted sleep. Both take the joy out of things."

That made me laugh so hard. It's so true! After the boys go to bed, I look forward to the bright, shining window of time that begins at 8:30 p.m. and ends when my shoulders relax in bed as I'm on the cusp of sleep. At that point, someone usually cries, and I'm bolt upright and down the hall.

I try and remind myself, though, that as with all things, this too will pass. Small children won't wake me up forever. And in another year's time, Joseph will be in some sort of preschool, and I won't have to haul a double stroller in and out of the grocery store each day. And heck, I'll probably be able to go more places than just the grocery store each day.

And then I'll cry, because I'll remember when my boys were little. And how hard I worked. And how it was so worth it.

The fact that Sean's illness remains such a mystery means that the size of our family is even more in the hands of God than if he was just a normal, healthy husband. Will we have to restrict how many more children we can have? Probably. Will I get to be that bold Catholic mother, with five or six little ones in tow, proudly showing that we embraced the gift of children? Maybe, maybe not.

Everyone is restricted by something. It's Lent. For now, it seems appropriate.


Lost in time.

What a surreal day.

On April 2, 2005, I sat in my dorm room and cried, watching coverage from St. Peter's Square. Pope John Paul II had just died.

The preceding Lent and Easter had been filled not only with the news of Pope John Paul II's impending death, but also the unfolding drama of Terri Schiavo's death by dehydration. It had been an intense month, watching the suffering (one elderly and, while sad, natural; one terribly, terribly unnatural, vile and criminal) of two beautiful souls.

Today, a text message at 6 a.m. brought news not that Pope Benedict had died or would presumably be passing soon, but that he had resigned the papacy. I've spent this day like many of my friends, I think: sporadically reading snippets and clumps of words here and there as to the reasons, the rationale, the reality of this news.

I haven't reacted with tears (yet, at least), but I do have a deep sense of missing my opportunity to know Pope Benedict the way I felt I knew John Paul II. I've heard the analogy, made from a standpoint of admiration of both men, that JPII was the rockstar pope, and Benedict, the teacher. We all feel like we "know" rockstars, whether through photos, soundbites or just cults of personality. But to know a teacher, you have to be a student in their classroom.

John Paul II gave me from my birth until age 21 to know him as pope. Benedict gave me just the last eight years, nearly three of which I've spent as a mother with little time to hear myself think, let alone delve into Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth. But still. Eight years is nearly a decade. And here I am, on February 11, knowing little more about the writings of Pope Benedict than I do of any other modern apologist.

And I know that's just an excuse. After all, folks say that it's Benedict's writings that are arguably more accessible than John Paul II's. I know other moms with roughly my same child count/workload who are able to work in much more reading time into their days. I wish I could say that for Lent this year, I'm ordering the study guides and just plowing through the Infancy Narratives. But three other unread (and very good) books stare at me daily from my kitchen counter already. Something tells me that should I start ordering books today, that pile will just grow taller. And more dusty.

This all leads me to my youngest, my sweet baby Ambrose. Approaching 10 months old in a few weeks, I've committed the second-child sin: I've been much more lax in documenting Amby's baby development than Joseph's. All of those little steps: the second-month smiles, the fourth-month rolling over, the six-month first foods... I captured most with a photo, but few with written words in his baby book. Granted, it's hard to write anything when two little humans under age three are up and at 'em. But I could have, if I really wanted to. And I've let a lot slip by.

After a few weeks of pondering just what I'd undertake for Lent, I believe I have my answer. Every day, I will document one story, one fact, one snippet of life for one of my boys in their baby books.

And I will finish one of those three unread books. I will work toward these goals knowing that once my unread-book pile becomes a books-I-read-and-loved pile, I'll be ready to order Jesus of Nazareth. It's time to stop losing things in time.

Also: Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Sean made a week-long solo pilgrimage to Lourdes in 2011, seeking healing for his vast array of pains and undiagnosed, chronic, worsening illnesses. In God's infinite wisdom, He didn't grant Sean a miracle while there. But Our Lady in the grotto remains our life, our sweetness and our hope. And we'll pray for her to accompany Pope Benedict through the remainder of his journey on earth.