Christmas Letter 2016

Dear Friends and Family,

When I sit down to draft up the annual Christmas letter, I find that it’s an excellent exercise in memory and gratitude. In the midst of a demanding work schedule for Josh and full time mommying at home, it’s easy to both forget and appreciate all the things that happen in the day to day. As you know, we moved to Ohio a year ago and it seems like we’ve had many little (and big!) firsts. I guess that’s how it goes with children because everything is brand new to them and, through them, it feels new to us as well.

John-Paul…I can’t even remember all his firsts! It seems like they happen every day! He took his first steps in our first home that we bought. He started talking – although many people probably need Josh or I to play translator if you plan on communicating with him. He tried ice cream and donuts and loved them. He played in the splash park, and though hesitant at first, found some bravery and did not want to leave. We had the first of many mommy-son Panera dates. He played in the snow for the first time. He became a big brother. He learned that egg nog is his JAM. He went to his first (again, of many) time outs. First Easter egg hunt (which he was not interested in. at. all.). Enjoyed lunch at Poppy’s favorite old hot dog place, Coney Island, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Spent a long weekend without mommy, while I traveled to Oregon (by myself! No kids! For the first time in 2 years!).

We welcomed our daughter, Abigail Esther, in October and she has brought so much newfound joy to our family. She is an extremely easy going baby so far and as I’ve remarked on Facebook and Instagram, JP DOTES on her all day long (I’ve probably said “gentle kisses!!” about 4,592 times in two months). She hasn’t had many milestone “firsts” in two months, but she does sleep through the night most nights and smiles all the time. She, obviously, had her first bath. She received her first Sacrament – Baptism! She loves when we talk to her and make faces. Unless conditions are perfect, she does not like riding in her carseat.

Josh started working as an instructor for the first time. The job has proved quite demanding and takes a considerable amount of time outside of the M-F 8-5 time frame. It’s been hard. But Josh is grateful for the chance to really dive into learning the details of HVAC. Since he has to teach it, that means he gets the chance to really learn it well. We know this will pay off in the long run, but that doesn’t make the long hours feel any shorter right now. Josh also had the opportunity to go to a controls conference in Wisconsin which was both fun and professionally edifying. Can I brag, too, a little? Josh has spent the last couple months getting minimal sleep trying to balance both work and family life. The late nights, early mornings and weekend hours are never easy on him and he misses us. We miss him! And Lord knows I’ve done my fair share of complaining and shed a few tears. But I’m proud that he is a person who owns both his professional and familial responsibilities…out of love and duty. I just wish, for his sake, he could catch some more sleep!

For me, I had many mom firsts….like cleaning pee out of the dryer after one of JP’s diaperless excursions. And taking care of a toddler while having extreme morning sickness. And somehow managing to get him back to the van when he had a meltdown during our town’s 4th of July 5K. But also the most heart melting of firsts – when JP, unprompted, declared “Love Mama!” and when started saying “Jesus!” and “Mama Mi!” (Mama Mary). I gave birth completely naturally for the first time. I found that my parenting questions are less about how to physically care for my child – sleeping, eating, health, etc  – and turning into “How do I teach my child that having a tender heart is good?…that he doesn’t have to harden his heart to “make it” in this world? How do I teach him that it’s good to let it go when others wrong you but that it’s also ok to stand up for yourself? How do I let them be kids and do their crazy thing, but also teach them discipline and rules?” We’re all learning and growing.

Our lives are made up of many ordinary moments, daily rhythms that we hardly even notice or remember…often we’re waiting for and looking to the next big thing. But with reflection I see how sacred all of the little firsts and daily moments are. We receive extraordinary grace in these daily moments because of Emmanuel – God is With Us! Our days may be simple and humble…ours are pretty routine. But when we put them in the light of a simple and humble manger each year, we see how important family and new life are. Thanks be to God for this year of firsts! See you in 2017.

With love and prayers,

The Dills

Some of my 2016 little favorite moments

Abigail’s Baptism

It’s with great joy and hope that we bring Abigail into the faith and family through the Sacrament of Baptism! Her godparents, Katie and Kevin Gearns, could not be with us but they celebrated and prayed for Abby from the great state of MN. She is so blessed to have their faith as a witness and their petitions to Heaven on her behalf.

With JP we had a private ceremony after Mass with the Deacon at Our Lady of Victory. I LOVED the private Baptism because of the extended Scripture readings and the ability to take the whole thing slow and soak it up. This time we had Abby’s Baptism during Mass and, while I prefer the private ceremony, sharing this special moment with our new parish family was quite special. At Saint Francis, they elevate the beauty of this Sacrament and don’t simply go through the motions. Father takes his time to pray over and bless the babies at the beginning of Mass. As we went back to the Baptismal font in the back of the church, Father invited everyone to gather around instead of staying in their pews. As we processed out, we all sang the Litany of the Saints, asking them to pray for these babies from Heaven. Again, Father Tom took his time and made sure that we all understood and appreciated the meaning of this momentous occasion and the symbols that accompany Baptism. I loved this. As cradle Catholics, sometimes we miss these simple things because we think we know it already. And even if we know the faith well, it is an awesome opportunity to more deeply internalize the beauty and richness of our faith at each Baptism we witness.

For more information on why Catholics baptize infants, click here.

oh and lest it be forgotten, JP, you received a big, fat F for Mass behavior that day. Holy frijoles. The pictures may fool the world but your crazy toddler screaming DURING the baptisms (and basically every sacred moment) shall be burned into the memory of all present. This is family life. Your sister will pay you back one day, of this I am sure.