The Difference of a Year

January 2015Family 2015-3

December 2015Family 2015-2

I’ll reiterate what I wrote in our Christmas card, that it’s hard to describe 2015 in words.

Pictures do a much better job:Card CoverPage 1Page 2page 3

Thank you for being here. For reading this. For observing and loving and being community.

Merry (6th day of) Christmas, and a Very Blessed 2016!

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Silent Night…

silent night

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He was Bold…

And he didn’t stutter.

In the face of crisis, of hatred and of rhetoric. In the face of suffering and pain, He told us exactly what to do:

Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Don’t turn a blind eye. Because that is me. I am they. They are Me.

And people are responding to that declaration. There are people ministering to refugees in a very physical, real way. They are the healthy hands and feet of Christ, ministering to the suffering hands and feet of Christ.

“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping…” said Mr. Rogers’ own mother. And there’s nothing quite like childhood nostalgia to stir a deeper, better part of ourselves.

I’ve found some helpers, and I want to share them with you.

Please read this by Glennon at Momastery. See the update here. Her visceral, truth-telling, truth-seeking style should move you in unexpected ways. Her charity, The Compassion Collective, is bringing hope and love in the way of baby carriers for tired arms, flood lights to save drowning children in the night, and strollers to keep children’s feet from rotting.

Or look here, to Medical Teams International, consider assembling a refugee kit (or 5), especially if you live close to me. There’s a drop-off site in Tigard, OR. A team is in Syria dropping off donations as we speak so that babies can be diapered, hair can be washed, and hands can be sanitized.

This is the time we celebrate the birth of our Savior, our Redeemer, to a small Middle Eastern family. A small family who, shortly after the birth of a son, became refugees themselves… fleeing for their lives at the urging of a dream-angel.

How many refugees today imagine freedom from terror and violence in their dreams? How many feared for their lives, so fled for the lives of their families? Meet the refugees in these photos, from the photographer at Humans of New York. Scroll down to meet 12 refugee families who have been approved to resettle in the United States.

They were all fearful; they are all fleeing. They are women and children and men and grandfathers. They are Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus. They are people with names. Human beings. Each a body and a soul, deserving of all the dignity, respect and love due anyone with a spark of Jesus incarnate. Any of us.

Once you meet them, you can never not meet them. You can never not know their stories. My prayer, in this season of the greatest story ever told, is that their stories cause us to declare without stuttering, even in the face of hatred and rhetoric, I see you, I love you and I’m going to help you.

Lord, Let us be bold as You were bold. Amen

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Our Saint’s Day

On November 1st, All Saints Day, we held a memorial for Lucas Emeth.

It was a beautiful, moving, healing time. We were so blessed to be surrounded by the love of our friends and family. I know many of you prayed for us that day, and some of you wished to be there in person. Thank you.

Here are some photos of that time (taken by our dear friend Samantha).

Lucas MemorialI prepared an Altar, of sorts, containing special items that reminded us of Lucas, and photos taken during the time he was with us.

Lucas Memorial-5Lucas Memorial-6We opened in Prayer (Dan Graves lead our service),

Lucas Memorial-10Amanda read from scripture (Lamentations 3:17-18, 21-24)

Lucas Memorial-3Karissa was cantor for the responsorial psalm: The Lord hears the cry of the poor

Lucas Memorial-7Lucas Memorial-8Lucas Memorial-9After some intercessions, Andy, the girls and I packed up the items on the Altar, placed the jar in a couple bags and then wrapped it up with the Altar cloth.

Lucas Memorial-11Lucas Memorial-12Lucas Memorial-13Andy and I buried the Memorial Box and then planted a rose above it (thank you Nikki, who also brought all the Marigolds).

Lucas Memorial-2After some time in silence around the Memorial, we re-joined everyone inside for our closing song: You are Mine

Lucas Memorial-14And then we served lunch, and were surrounded by love and laughter. Just as we desired.

A couple notes:

See? See all those people? See all the love? It was there, and it was felt. What a beautiful celebration for even the smallest among them!

The music was, by far, the most moving part of the ceremony for me. I had even considered cantoring the Psalm myself, but I’m so glad I didn’t. As everyone joined in the first response, I was overwhelmed by a sense of one-ness and togetherness. There’s something about a group of people singing together heart-felt prayer that gave (and still gives) me goosebumps.

Those songs, often sung in Mass, will forever remind me of Lucas. And for that I am grateful.

I very much liked the physical-ness of burying something. I know we didn’t bury him, but it is a beautiful thing to see a physical space that reminds me of him out my kitchen window. That, coupled with the life-giving symbolism of planting something in the same space…it’s just very meaningful to me.

Plus the kids love to play in that space.

IMG_0499“I love it when you’re over there kiddos. It feels like Lucas is playing with you.”-Me
“He is Mama! He’s climbing the tree with me!”- Mo

We asked people to bring toys, to help celebrate Lucas’ Life, to celebrate the Joy he brought into the world. And we were overwhelmed by the response. Friends and family, near and far, mailed toys, donated toys, and brought toys. Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

We are still searching for just the right place to donate them, but we know they will bring joy.

It was supposed to rain cats and dogs that day. And the day before it poured. Like set records in Portland kind of pouring.

My favorite.


But instead, the sun shined. It shined and shined and shined. And I very much consider that a gift from my Son.

He knows me so well.

Emeth. That’s his middle name. It’s the Hebrew word for truth, but its meaning is closer to fidelitas than veritas. It speaks to the faithfulness of God, which is a truth that will set you free. It is a heart truth; not a head truth.

That seems to be a theme with our Lucas.

St. Lucas, pray for us. Especially for us.

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“There is redemption in this,” she said. “You may not see it now, but He always uses the big, hard things to do the big, good things. I promise.”

And I nodded.

In my grief-stricken numbness, I nodded. Because nodding is what you do during a sermon. Agreeing is what you do when someone is preaching Truth. Some part of the numbness recognized the Truth and nodded my head up and down.

But I didn’t feel it.

I didn’t feel the Truth.

I didn’t feel anything.

We lost a baby.

Except, did we? That makes it sound like we misplaced a child. That through negligence on our part, my part, our child is lost.

I miscarried a baby.

Except, did I? Did I, through some misstep fail to carry our 4th child correctly? My arms and body know how to carry babies. I do it every day…

We miscarried a baby.

How, exactly, was Andy a part of this happening? Does including him make it less horrible?

The baby died.

That, at least is Truth. But the words are pointed and hard. They have edges. They can’t possibly explain the softness of my body, the waves of emotions, the sweeping sorrow.

My words don’t work.

Because they can’t.

Because there are no words. There is no right or easy or polite way to explain.

But it’s still Truth.

We told the girls that they have a Baby Brother in Heaven. That he is a Saint. A perfect intercessor. And if they need extra prayers, ask him. He’s sitting right by Jesus. Or maybe he’s spending time wrapped in Mary’s mantle. Either way, he’s just rejoicing and partying and ready to pray for us.

To sanctify us.

I have never more clearly understood the Catholic desire for relics. We are beings of flesh and blood, beings of our senses. We use those senses, especially touch, to process and to understand and to believe and to mourn. A letter. A blanket. A lock of hair.

What happens when there is no thing to mourn. No thing to keep. No one to touch and stroke and whisper, goodbye my Littlest Love.

Nothing to bury.

I wept.

I need a thing! I sobbed. Any thing. Something that touched my baby. Something that touched my saint. I need a relic to cling to until eternity. 

I don’t have a someone, I cried. I don’t even have a something.

You, He said.

You are the thing.

You are the one.

You are the relic.

You are the only thing this Saint touched. You are the only one this Saint touched.

You are sanctified.

And redemption reached for my sorrow.

But I railed against it. Pulling my sorrow back. Wrapping it around myself. No! I don’t want this. I don’t want to see the good in this moment. My hardest moment. I want to be sad and angry.

I am sad.

I am angry.

I am lost.

For most of my life I have jumped between atheism and Catholicism. I’m an all-in kind of gal. Either all of It is true, or none of It is true. Moods, experiences, depression, and elation have all flung me from one belief to the other.

And when I’m all-out, it is a soul-damning, God I reject you and all that you say you are, kind of out.

I was standing on the edge of a permanent All-Out.

The tears filled my pillow as we waited to know if Baby was really gone, and I started to think about why I was sad. Because that’s what my brain does. It thinks. Thinks too much. And there were lots of reasons: I’ll never hear him laugh or cry or speak. I won’t see him play with his siblings, I won’t put a bandaid on his knee, or pinch his cheeks. He won’t go to school or get married or travel this big beautiful world. I mourned the loss of that potential. My mind was mourning the loss of another mind.

My mourning mind.

Then I found myself worrying about him. About my baby. I held my womb and whispered, I hope you know how loved you are. I love you. Your mommy loves you. Your daddy loves you. Your sisters and your brother love you.

I hope you aren’t afraid.

Please, please, please know that you are not alone.

I knew the truth. My baby couldn’t hear me, couldn’t feel pain, couldn’t experience fear. My baby was the size of a sesame seed. Those desperate, visceral whispers in the dark made no sense.

But then, I knew. 

I knew the Truth.

Those words? That was my soul, speaking to another soul.

My mourning soul.

I have a soul.

My baby has a soul.

And I stepped back from the All-Out edge.


You are saved, whispered my 30 year old soul.

You are saved, rejoiced his 5 week old soul.

Because now that I know, I can never not know.

Now that I believe, I can never not believe.

Redemption came.

And I wept.

“and [He] said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.” -Luke 9:48

Pray for us, Lucas Emeth Labrie Elder. My tiny, missionary Saint.

P.S. I’m still sad. We’re all still very sad. But we know Luke’s legacy is one of Joy.

We told so many people that he existed, and every single face lit up like a candle with the news. There were squeals and smiles and dance parties and texts and emojis and hugs and so many belly kisses.

He sparked that joy. And that is how he will be remembered:

As the joy-bringer.

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Starting School for the First Time…

is busy.

And stressful.

And tiring.

And hard.

And sad…

I didn’t quite anticipate how much I would miss Monica during the day. How much I would think about her minute to minute. Is she sad? Did she fall down today? Does she have friends? Is she answering questions? Does her teacher know how funny she is? How special she is? Really, truly know?

I knew I would be sad. I knew it would be different. I knew her absence would become a new normal for us.

But, I’m just not there yet.

A lot of good, loving people have tried to comfort me: “It’s ok! It’ll get easier with time. I’m sure she’s doing great. Just think of how much you can enjoy being with your other kids!” And I know all those things are true.

But right now, it’s like I’m in the middle of a sickness, or cold or something. I don’t think anyone with the flu has ever been comforted in the moment by being reminded, “Don’t worry! I know you feel bad now, but it’ll get better someday!”

I’m still in the commiserating stage. The, Wow, yeah…that sucks. Or, hmmm, I’m sorry that hurts so bad right now, want some chocolate? stage (by the way, the answer to that last question is yes. Always yes).

And part of me doesn’t want to feel better, ya know? Like somehow I will love her less if I stop missing her so much.

Don’t worry. I know that’s not true. I know it.

I just don’t feel it

…for now.

Because I know I will feel better. I know the good and the beautiful and the wonderful will quickly catch up to all these dark, tired feelings. Mo is reading! She talks kindly about her classmates! She says “the whole shebang” because her art teacher does! She beams and brims when I pick her up, and just fills my heart and my home in the evening. And I hug her, and love her, and tell her I’m so proud of her…

And those moments, the hours we do have to play and talk and love, I soak them up. Because I know that for most of the day tomorrow, she’ll be beaming and brimming for someone who is not me… in a place that is not my home.

And I will miss her.

IMG_6150There are other hard things about starting a school for the very first time, but I’ll just leave it at that for now. And, of course, add some happy and ridiculously cute photographs. Cause heavy is heavy is heavy. And life is actually, truly so good.2015-10-18_005806191_25A86_iOS 2015-10-08_135237770_884FE_iOS IMG_6076 2015-10-20_233429100_51454_iOS DSC_7433 2015-10-20_182553010_A4E24_iOS DSC_8252 2015-10-06_183327033_9CB6C_iOS

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Fall Family Sessions

How beautiful are these people? KerberFamily-8 Seriously?

Once in a while, friends will ask me to take some family photos. And I jump at the chance, because I get to document moments like these:Nguyen CollageAnd these:KerberFamily

KerberFamily-3That pregnant belly above is now a precious baby girl, born today! Happy birthday Little One! You are blessed with such an amazing family!

Speaking of families I love:KerberFamily-2-2Amanda and her crew are so, ridiculously photogenic! Kerber collageKerberFamily-5KerberFamily-7Anyone else in the area need some fall family shots? I am loving this beautiful fall sunshine. Not to mention the super cute subjects… KerberFamily-10 KerberFamily-11

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The Real Truth About Blogging and Vacations

2015-09-06_201446073_D1D18_iOSHere’s the funny thing about blogging:

You only see what I want you to see. And for the most part, those are good things. Sometimes they’re hard things, but usually what I reveal, and what I want to remember is the good and the beautiful.

But the danger in that is preserving a false memory, and a false perception of who we are. I’m often intimidated by other Mommy Bloggers who seemingly have their world in completely organized, beautiful control.

That is not my life.

That is far from my truth.

And just in case your life is messy chaos too, just in case you also take a million bad photos for every good one, and you’re looking for a glimpse of reality, let me explain how our Newport Vacation actually went (lest the pretty photos deceive you):

Reality Upon arrival, we decided a short (0.5 mile) hike into the beach would be a great idea. Afterwards we could hike out, check-in at our hotel and go to 5:30 Vigil Mass. Great theory.Reality-2 Reality: kids didn’t nap, barely ate lunch, stopped to look at every.single.thing along the trail resulting in a 45 minute hike to the beach, at which point everyone melted down due to lack of said nap and food.

2015-09-05_220517850_DC2E9_iOSSo, we had screaming, hungry kids, covered in sand (at least one absolutely afraid of the water), and Mass time was quickly approaching. Oh, and the car was a hike away. So, I (stupidly) hiked back through the now distinctly creepy woods ALONE to go get the van while Andy built sandcastles and calmed melt-downs.

Reality-3 Reality-4I wasn’t mugged. Andy got the kids to the road. They all screamed as we loaded them into the van. I shot nervous glances to onlookers that I hoped conveyed, “Don’t worry, these are actually my children, and I do know what I’m doing.”

We got to the hotel and quickly realized we were booked in the wrong room.

Suite? Yes!

Suite with a door so that we could technically have 2 rooms? No.

But it did have a giant jacuzzi tub in the middle, which might as well be labeled: Certain DROWNING Device to any Mother of a toddler.

2015-09-06_154844287_F9BF6_iOSThe room was changed, we peeled off sandy clothes, rinsed down sandy babies and booked it to Mass…

Where we were the ONLY family there, read: the only noisy people there. We didn’t get angry looks, and an older gentleman even stopped by afterwards to chat. I couldn’t really hear what he was saying over my screaming 17 month old, but I think it was something about our family being beautiful. Then I picked up a million crayons and cheerios off the floor before we finally headed to dinner.

Every time we went out to eat, my kids were those kids. The ones other patrons stare at with condescension and judging eyes. Yes, the kids were over tired. Yes, the kids were extra hungry. Yes, there were valid reasons for them to be screaming, and running around, and extra whiny. But it was still embarrassing. Andy and I chose to laugh, because if we had added to the crying, I think the check would have come even more quickly than it already did.

Anyone else get that sometimes? The not so subtle, I’m sure you don’t want dessert, so here’s your check. Feel free to leave whenever you like (aka now).

2015-09-06_035846848_DF38A_iOSSaturday night, the fire alarm went off in our hotel at 1am. There’s no better way to figure out what’s important to you than a potential life-threatening emergency.

Kids? Check.

Ok then, we’re out of here.

I left behind my purse, my clothes, even the fancy, full-frame, Nikon DSLR Andy rented for me to play with while vacationing. I barely remembered to put pants on. But, I had my baby in my arms and my 5 year old by the hand. My husband carried Lulu, and we fled down three flights of stairs as quickly as we could (he had the presence of mind to grab his keys and wallet… my always-prepared, Eagle Scout, Handy Andy comes through for his family again!).

My confused and tired children were so brave. Mo had one moment of tearful panic at the top of the stairs as she desperately tried to both cover her ears against the blaring alarm and sleepily navigate the steps. But one calm, collected, “It’s ok baby, trust me. We need to go as quickly as we can” from her Mama and we were on the move again.

Someone burnt popcorn in the lobby microwave.

Reality-7The next day, my well-rested kiddos and their well-rested parents (ha ha ha) headed to the Newport Aquarium for a day filled of wonder and amusement. Also, a day full of “Mo suddenly has laryngitis”, sea otter poop (see above), Reality-5 all the grumpy melt downs, and the constant battle between parents wanting to both see cool things and show their kids cool things.

It sounds like this:2015-09-06_200052423_31632_iOS

“Lulu, if you wait for just another 2 minutes, the zoo trainers will come out to feed the sea lions.”
“I want to see sharks!”
“I know baby, but I would really like to see the sea lions, can we wait here for a couple minutes?”
“The sharks are that way!”
“We’ll see the sharks later, Love. I promise. The sea lions are soooo neat! I bet they will do tricks!”
“Love, we’re here to see what Mommy wants to see too. So, you can either speak to me with respect or go to time out.”
Tears welling, “I just want to see the sharks, Mama…”

Gah! So much negotiation! About EVERYTHING. What to see, where to eat, what to eat, how to walk, what to buy, where to go and when to go… We try to let them make decisions. It’s a hard balance though, between us respecting their freedom and them respecting our authority…

Reality-9Rogue Brewery for dinner was mostly a success, barring the usual screaming from Dominic. And the drunk adults telling Mo to toss her frisbee into the river after dinner… Come on people. Really? (She didn’t. Smart girl)

Reality-10Lulu refused to wear a sweater on the pier where we went to watch the people crabbing (Crabbers?). Then she wore my sweater when she realized she was cold. Then demanded that the sweater be taken off when she realized she didn’t know what she wanted (aka was deliriously over tired).

Bath/bed time came with its usual amount of fussing and yelling and screaming. Although this time with the added pressure of knowing our neighbors could hear everything.

We’re never staying in another hotel again (that’s probably a lie).

Andy and I laid down on the bed, deciding to hold still for a couple minutes to make sure the kids were asleep before we started a movie or board game, or something uniquely grown-up-y. We were on vacation too, right?

We woke up 3 hours later in our clothes with the lights still on… Party animals right there!

Reality-6Lulu’s eye had started to water a bit at the aquarium, and we thought it was left over from the sandiness of Saturday.


Pink eye.

That became super clear when both she and Mo had crusted-shut eyeballs Monday morning.

2015-09-07_145816325_FA06E_iOSSo, breakfast in the room, everything the girls had touched into a specific suitcase labeled “CONTAMINATED with the WORST THING EVER!” and the kids stared at the TV, watching PBS till their eyes watered. Pink eye. Everywhere.

But at least they weren’t touching anything.

I happened to have an eye drop prescription in the car from the last time they caught this scourge. I made a, perhaps not completely medically sound, decision and started them on the ancient antibiotic drops right away.

Their eyeballs didn’t turn more red or swell shut, so I considered it a success.

Reality-12We had already bought a weekend pass to Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, and though the kids are too short to go on the tour, the natural area there is called “outstanding” (for realz, as in the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area). So, we decided to at least drive up to the light house and let the kids run around in nature (not touching anything) before we headed home.

I read at the visitors center “Yellow jacket danger especially high this year,” but the writing was old and a little smudged so I assumed it didn’t apply. I mean, we were on vacation. It couldn’t possibly apply to us. Right?


When we exited the van Monday morning to see the lighthouse, the yellow jackets immediately descended. Several swarmed each kid, even flying between Dom and Andy, who was holding him. Things that sting are not Andy’s favorite, so I valiantly defended our family, smacking the little buggers left and right with my hat and being calm and collected, “RUN GIRLS! RUN FOR THE LIGHTHOUSE!”.

I can only imagine what that looked like from a distance.

“Why didn’t you just leave Caitlin?”

Good question, hypothetical reader.


Reality-13We were on vacation! Dang it! And we WERE going to see the lighthouse. And we WERE going to have a good time! Pink eye and yellow jackets be darned!

I was definitely thinking different words…

2015-09-07_172322392_80968_iOSThey didn’t follow us. And we did have a good time. And I did get to play with the fancy camera. Although there were a lot of bad photos.

Learning curve.

Reality-11And then we left.

2015-09-07_175720704_EF014_iOSAnd we drove, and we breathed, and I called in another antibiotic prescription to be waiting when we got home, and we tried to do anything besides rub our pyschosomatical-ly itching eyes.

We got home, burned everything, and moved away.2015-09-07_160727545_83388_iOS

Just kidding.

Kind of. We used bleach instead of fire, an by “we” I mean Andy. Because he is awesome like that.

And we didn’t move away.

Because we’re staying home. Forever.

Reality-8The End.

Seriously though, I didn’t write this to complain (although I’ll take sympathy if you’ve got it to give). And I know it could have been much worse (e.g. barf, the hotel burning down, ER visit, actually getting stung by a yellow jacket). This is just an effort to give you a real glimpse into our lives. A not-so-picture-perfect view.

The previous post, showing us having fun, is true. All those smiling moments actually happened. And, disease aside, I truly enjoyed vacationing with my family. I bet we even do more in the future.

But this post is truth too, written for you and written for me.

10 years from now, sleep deprivation will have erased all the hard memories (I hope) and I’ll be looking back through posts with great pictures of my adorable babies and I’ll wonder why I ever thought life with toddlers was difficult.

Exhibit A: The Newport Family Vacation of 2015

Just keepin it real, Future Caitlin.

Keeping it all real.

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Wordless (Newport Vacation) Weekend

Newport Newport-2 Newport-3 Newport-4 Newport-5 Newport-6 Newport-7 Newport-8 Newport-9 Newport-10 Newport-11 Newport-12 Newport-13 Newport-14

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Recently, there have been many, many babies born to our friends and family.

I’ve had the privilege of photographing some of those precious little ones, and it has been an absolute joy!

In order to keep you from suffering acute shock due to adorableness, I’ll split my favorites into a couple posts.

Baby Henry (Bonus Eleanor and David)Bestof-3-3 Bestof-5 Bestof-2-3

Baby Thomas Bestof-4 Bestof-2-2 Bestof-3-2

Baby Stella (Bonus Maya)Bestof-3 Bestof-2 Bestof

I try to take photos within the first 9 days, and it is truly an honor to be invited into that sacred, brand-new time.

I’m trying to distract myself from the fact that tomorrow is Mo’s second day of kindergartenBestof-6 Bestof-7

And Lulu’s first day of preschoolBestof-8 Bestof-9

Looking at other people’s babies is helping a little. Although it’s making me think maybe it’s time to have another one…?

I alternate crying over my current children, with ovary-leaping due to the potential for more…

I’m one serious mess…

Send chocolate.

Or a milkshake.

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