September 18, 2018

Baby Names: Elena the Brave

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We are those weird “Team Green” people that don’t find out the baby’s gender ahead of time.  I admit, I was a little tempted to find out this time around.  But I enjoy not knowing.  That way when people ask me “Do you know what you’re having?” I can respond, “A baby!”

Sometimes it annoys people… and I love it.

When it’s time to go to the hospital we usually plan to  go in with our top 2 girl and top 2 boy names, and then narrow it down after we meet our new baby human.  With all 3 kids I’ve had a “gut feeling” of what we were having  (I’m 3/3!), and I tend to focus more on that list than the other.  This time around my gut said girl, and Elena was pretty much the only name on that list from the very beginning.

August 18th (her due date) is the Feast of St. Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. Elena is a form of Helena, and it was one of the names on our list from the last pregnancy.  We pronounce it “Eh-lay-na” (Spanish pronunciation), but I’m sure she’ll experience all kinds of mispronunciations.  (Sorry kid.)

The tricky part for us was figuring out her middle name.  For the longest time we settled on Elena Kateri, since St. Kateri has been one of our family’s patron saints.  But as we got closer to the due date it just didn’t feel right.  I still love the name Kateri, and who knows… maybe another Baby Johnston will end up with it.  Kateri just didn’t seem to fit quite right with this baby, so about 2 weeks before the due date we started playing around with other options.

Since her due date was close to a Marian Feast Day, the next option was Elena Marie in honor of the Blessed Mother.  However, after a while that didn’t feel right either.  Don’t get me wrong, Marie is lovely.  It’s my Mom’s middle name…but Marie just felt a little “Catholic generic”? 😊 I’m sure I’ve offended a few people, but I guess what I mean is that Marie just felt like too easy of an option.

By the time we got to the hospital and I was being induced, we still didn’t have a middle name.  August 20th is the feast day of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.  I suggested the name Claire and for a moment I thought we’d found a winner.  Then we kept saying it out loud…

Hmm.. Elena Claire… E. Claire… éclaire… dessert…. Nah. 😉

We had already decided that the middle name for a boy could be “Bernard”, so I suggested the feminine version BernadetteThis way she can claim both St. Bernard and St. Bernadette/Our Lady of Lourdes patronage!  Once she was born it took about 3 hours for us to make it officially official.

We’re also those weird people that come up with hashtags for our kids. #AlexandriaTheGreat came naturally, as did #SimonTheZealous, since he’s named after Simon the Zealot.  Elena’s moniker was a little more difficult… At first, I thought #ElenaTheIncredible… but that made my husband wince.  When we thought a little more about the meaning of her middle name and whom she was named after, #ElenaTheBrave just made sense.  Bernadette means “brave as a bear”, and both St. Helena and St. Bernard demonstrated what I would call bold and brave lives.

So far our kids have all lived up to their nicknames (especially that Zealous Toddler!).  Considering Elena basically came out of the womb on her own, I’d say she’s already off to a good start!

September 10, 2018

Elena Bernadette: The Birth Story

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If I could sum up Elena’s birth story into a meme it would be this one: 

This is a story that all comes down to a nap, tacos, and bad cell phone signals.  

Before we dive in, let me give you a little background: 

  1. My due date was 8/18/18 but I was really hoping for an Assumption baby.   We found out we were pregnant on December 8th (Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception) so I hoping that the baby would arrive on August 15th (Solemnity of the Assumption).  A Marian feast day baby!  Plus, this was my third child…surely this would be the one to come early… right?  (Spoiler Alert:  Nope) 
  2. I knew I was going to be induced on August 20th at the beginning of August.  Truth is, my kids get really comfortable in utero.  Maybe genetics are to blame, but I need Pitocin to get things moving.  I was induced with Simon at 41 weeks, and even though my water broke on its own with Alexandria I still needed a boost of Pitocin.  All that to say, as much as I didn’t want to be induced, I’m glad we scheduled it.  It helped me to cling to the fact that I would not be pregnant forever. 
  3. This was our first Texas Baby, and I was very nervous about labor and delivery.  In Kansas we had an amazing Family Physician who delivered both of our kids, and a great Family Birth Center with a phenomenal team of nurses.  Now that we’re in a larger city, I knew the experience was going to be very different.  On the one hand, I was excited to deliver at a Catholic hospital for the first time.  On the other hand, I felt like I was stepping into a lot of unknowns: new hospital, new procedures, and a doctor that I didn’t know as well.   It felt like going into this for the very first time.  

August 20thThe BIG DAY 

We were scheduled to check in at the hospital at 5:00am Monday morning, which meant that we were up a little bit before 4am to get ready to go.  I didn’t sleep at all on Sunday night (combination of nerves and bad heartburn), so I knew this was going to be a very long day.  Before we left I got an expedited version of a blessing before childbirth from my Deacon Dad, and we were on our way.   


We  checked into the hospital and were set up in our labor and delivery suite by 5:30am.  Michael put the Divine Mercy image underneath the cross in the room,which I planned to use as my focal point when it was time to push, I had my tattoos from Just Love Prints on each of my arms (Be not afraid and Totus Tuus), and I even spritzed some Holy Water around my bed because why not? 😊  I had my rosary, Bluetooth speaker and my phone beside me.  Let the games begin!   

6:45am Start Pitocin 

I was officially hooked up to Pitocin at 6:45am and I was still at 3cm and only about 70% effaced (as I had been for about 3 weeks).  This was really disappointing to hear, and I tried to mentally prepare myself for the real possibility that this day might end with C-section.  The goal for each of my deliveries has always been healthy baby and healthy Mama, so I knew that if a C-section was what it would take to accomplish those things then that’s what needed to happen.  But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit scared. 

One of the things I started praying about in the third trimester was for any doctors or nurses who would be taking care of us at the hospital.  Since I was feeling anxious about delivering in a new place, I figured the least I could do was pray that we’d have the right people on our team when it was time to deliver.  God did not disappoint… I could not have asked for a better labor and delivery nurse!

After introducing herself and getting more information from me, our nurse gave us the rundown of what to expect for the rest of the day:  They’d continue increasing my Pitocin, my doctor would be making rounds within the next couple of hours to check me and break my water.  I could also get my epidural whenever I wanted, but I might want to consider getting it soon before the anesthesiologist had several other patients ahead of me.   Once my water was broken things would likely go fast because this was my third baby.   

I specifically remember that she kept saying that things were going to go fast because every time she said the word “fast I thought “Yeah right.”  My hope at that point was to have a baby before dinner time, but my nurse was convinced that things were going to go much faster than that.

My contractions started picking up after about the first hour or so.  One of the more entertaining moments was when ADT Security called me because one of my coworkers had accidentally set off the office alarm and I had to give them the verbal password to turn off the alarm in the middle of a contraction.  No biggie… just over here having a baby folks.  😉

9:30am The Epidural 

By 9:00am the contractions hurt, but they weren’t unbearable.  I bounced on the birth ball for a while, thinking about whether or not it was too soon to get an epidural and discussing it with the nurse.  The anesthesiologist arrived around 9:20am, and after talking it through with him and my nurse for a few more minutes I decided to go ahead and get it done. 

One thing I wasn’t prepared for was that Michael would be asked to leave the room during the procedure.  Usually Michael stands in front of me and holds my shoulders while the epidural is being placed.  There’s about 20-30 seconds of stinging and burning that I dread, so when the doctor told Michael he had to leave, I got a little scared.   

Thankfully, between my calming music playing in the background and my amazing nurse, I got through it without any issues.  The doctor commented on how much he liked my playlist, my nurse talked me through each step of the procedure, and just as we were finishing up my OBGYN arrived to break my water.   

9:45am  Water Breaks

My doctor came in to check me and I was only at 4cm at this point.  She broke my water and by the time she left the room I was the most comfortable I had been in months.  My back pain disappeared, the bed was suddenly super comfortable, and I fell asleep. 

I fell asleep and I didn’t wake up again until 11:00AM.  

#ThankYouEpidural #BestNapEver

I woke up feeling super relaxed.  I was mostly numb from the waist down, though I could still move my legs a little bit.  When the nurse came back in to check on me, she reminded me that I needed to let her know if I felt the urge to poop or push.  I knew exactly what she was talking about because even with my previous epidurals I remembered what that felt like.   

Around 11:15, I told Michael that he should go to the cafeteria and get something to eat.  “Who knows how long this is going to take, and you need to keep your energy,” I told him.  He hesitated at first, but went ahead and went downstairs to get lunch.   

Shortly after Michael left the room, I started to feel nauseated, so as a precaution the nurse got a barf bag ready for me and some nausea medication.  “While I’m here, I’m going to go ahead and check you and see how things are progressing,” she said.    

I was at 10cm.   

In an hour and a half I had gone from 4cm to 10cm and I’d slept through the whole thing.   

“You should call your husband and tell him to come back right now, and I’m going to go call your doctor!  ”  

I tried calling Michael’s phone and it wouldn’t go through.  I was eventually able to get this text message to him: 

About a minute later he came back into the room with some tacos and coke.  The nurse came back into room to set up the room for delivery and to let me know that the doctor was on her way. 

At 11:41am I sent a text to my mom and another friend to let them know I was going to start pushing soon and asked for prayers.  While we were waiting, the smell of Michael’s tacos hit me hard, and the nausea got worse.   

“Michael, could you step into the hallway for a second and eat that?  I think I’m going to throw up.” 

Michael’s such an amazing husband, that he stepped out with his lunch.  At the time I thought he was just on the other side of the door… what I didn’t realize was that he had walked all the way to the lobby and was now on the other side of security.   

Over the next couple of minutes my nurse continued to get everything set up, and when she came and moved the sheets out of the way, she said very calmly:   

“Deanna, your baby is coming out NOW.”   

“Umm what?!” 

“Your baby’s head is out.  Tell your husband to get back here NOW.” 

I picked up my phone and started calling Michael, but the cell signal was bad so I texted him this: 

As I was texting Michael I heard the nurse tell someone to call my doctor and tell her to get here NOW because the baby was coming.  She must have also called for a team to help because all of a sudden there were 5 or 6 other nurses in my room. 

I had my phone in my hand trying to call Michael again and as it was ringing the nurse said “Deanna on this next contraction I need you to push.” 

I set the phone down beside me (without hanging up) and I remember taking a breath to push, and then feeling the baby just slide right out! All of a sudden this beautiful crying baby was placed on my chest with a head full of black hair.   

Y’all everything happened so fast that I think it took my brain an extra minute to take it all in.  In about a 60 second window I went from texting and trying to call my husband to holding my newborn baby girl in my arms.   

About 20 seconds after Elena was out, Michael walked into the room… “Sooo… what happened?” 

Thankfully, even though he missed Elena’s speedy entrance into the world, he still got to cut the cord.   Apparently, when he left the room Michael went all the way to the lobby on the other side of security.  So when the team of nurses came rushing into my room, there wasn’t anyone at the desk to open the door for him!  But it all worked out in the end.   


One of the things I will always remember about Elena’s birth is how much laughter was in the room when she was born.  It was just a comical situation and it seems like everything escalated quickly in about a 2 minute window… there I am just laying in bed and apparently my baby was just coming out on her own, unbeknownst to me.  When she was out I laughed because I couldn’t believe what was happening, Michael laughed when he got into the room and there was a baby there, and the nurses laughed right along with us.   

When I was trying to call Michael and set down my phone, it went to his voicemail.  So we have this 3 minute voicemail recording that starts with Michael walking into the room saying “What happened?” and the nurses responding “surprise!”

The laughter seems fitting.  The moment Michael and I found out we were pregnant, we laughed.  We laughed and we hugged and we laughed some more.  God is just so good.  

The name Elena means “bright, shining light”.  I’d say that from the moment we knew she existed, Elena brought a bright light of joy into our family.  

One of the things that made Elena’s birth day extra special was that we got a surprise visit from our Bishop that afternoon!  We even got our first “Family of 5” blessing from him while he was there. 

Elena is 3 weeks old today, which is really hard to believe.  While this change from 2 to 3 kids has been challenging, the funny thing is that it only seems right that Elena is here.  She was always supposed to be part of our family.  While yes, our house is a lot louder now than it was before, and Michael and I are learning how to play “zone defense” now that we’re outnumbered, we wouldn’t have it any other way!  

The Big Three


October 1, 2017

Our Newest Chapter

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Boy, has it been an interesting last 6 months. 

If we’re friends on Facebook or you follow my Instagram (aka where I spam you with adorable pictures of my children and the occasional selfie), you’re already up to speed on the latest and greatest changes for our family.  But if this is the first you’re hearing of anything new, well… let’s just say 2017 is nothing like what I thought it would be! 


Talk about an unexpected plot twist!  This time last year I was 35 weeks pregnant with Simon, and believe me when I say a job change and a major move was NOT on my radar at all.  

The short version of the story is that I was contacted right before Lent began to see if I was open to even entertaining the idea of taking a new position in the Diocese of Tyler.  For weeks, I thought “There’s NO WAY God’s calling us to move… We just bought a house!”  But over and over again in prayer the Lord kept saying “You don’t think I can handle a house?  Of all the things?  It’s just a house.” 

Good point Lord.  So I put together my Curriculum Vitae and emailed it at the beginning of Holy Week, the beginning of May I interviewed, the end of May I accepted, and on June 30th we moved to Tyler, TX.  I started my job as the Director of Family Life in the Diocese of Tyler on July 10th. 

And our house?  We got an offer after it had been on the market 1 month and we closed on it last week.

God is good. God is faithful. 


Since the move happened so fast we decided to rent for this first year, catch our breath and figure out where exactly we want to live in Tyler.

About a week before we left Dodge City we found this house which is the closest thing to country living that I’ve ever experienced. 

Our house is on half an acre, and it backs up to our landlord’s property which contains lots of cows, a few horses, two goats, some chickens… and apparently our house came equipped with country mice too.  

We have a beautiful front porch and back deck, and the kids love seeing the animals, especially the cows that gather at the front gate every morning. 

It’s a little bit of a drive, but we knew that would be a change moving to a larger city.  Gone are the days of living 5 minutes from everything, and shopping at the 1 Walmart in town.  Last weekend we realized that there were more businesses on the road we were driving on than there were in all of Dodge City.  Hello Chick-fil-a.  Hello Target.  Hello Budget.  


One of the main reasons that we considered this move so seriously is Family. In Dodge City, we were about 15-16 hours from my family and 10-12 hours away from Michael’s family. Now, we’re 6 hours from my family and 45 minutes from Michael’s family.  Minutes!      I think the kids have spent more time with their grandparents the past 2 ½ months than they have their entire lives!  It’s been amazing!

This move has given me a deep appreciation for our families.  The day we moved here we had so many family members over at the house helping to unpack.  During the 3 weeks that I was here by myself with the kids while Michael finished things in Dodge, I had an incredible amount of support from my parents and from my in-laws.  I really couldn’t have made it through those first few weeks without family!  And they continue to support us. 

And I gotta say, one of my favorite moments of this year, hands down, is the phone call we made to Michael’s parents to tell them that we were moving back to Texas.  I think we got a bigger squeal of joy out of them than the first time we told them we were pregnant!  😊 


Guess who started walking at 9 months and has 5-6 teeth? Simon’s development over the past several months has been shocking. Alexandria didn’t start crawling until maybe 9-10 months, and she was walking at 13 months.  Simon figured out how to crawl, standup, and took he first steps within a couple of months it seems.  SLOW DOWN KID.

One thing that I’m realizing more and more with each daily adventure is how different our kids are… and how different boys and girls are.  While both of our kids have a great deal of spunk, there’s a fearlessness and determination with Simon that can sometimes be a little alarming.  Climb onto the couch and then dive off?  Sure. And Alexandria… goodness that girl is 2 ½ going on 20.  She can be sassy, but she’s a smart kid.  Now if we can just get this potty training thing down…


My husband is amazing y’all.  

I know, I know…. It’s cheesy… but it’s TRUE! I need to write a whole separate post about this, but the chaos of this move and even making the decision to submit my Curriculum Vitae was not something I could have done without Michael. 

Moving was hard.   But I have really appreciated Michael’s patience and support.  We’re a team, and this entire process has given me a deeper awareness of the grace that comes from the Sacrament of Marriage, and gratitude that I’m married to my best friend. 


It feel like this is the most significant “out of the boat moment” I’ve ever experienced…bigger than when I moved to Mexico, or when I moved to San Antonio or Dodge City…probably because this was a discernment that we made as a family.  

I won’t lie, this has been challenging.  As much as I love this new adventure, I miss the comforts of where we were.  It was safe!  We had good jobs, friends, community…we were comfortable.  But that’s what getting out of the boat is about! 

Peter knew Jesus was calling him, and he went for it.  But that didn’t mean the sea was immediately calmed.  Undoubtedly, it was scary out there!  But Jesus was with Peter, and he was right there when Peter started to sink. 

And that’s where we’re at right now… We know this where we are supposed to be, but those waves can be intimidating.  God is in this with us, and if we do sink?  He’s right there. 

April 13, 2017

New Life

Original photo by Francesco Gallarotti via Unplash

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It came out of no where.  

A little piece of green poking through the dead leaves and grass, trying to reach the surface.  It was the end of February, but there, on that bleak Kansas day was a little sign of new life.  

Weeks later, that little green stem burst upwards out of the Earth, and in what seemed like an overnight project there were daffodil blooms strung throughout our front and backyard.  

Let me back up and say, I am not the gardening type.  

And when I say I’m not the gardening type I mean I have never really enjoyed working outside.  

My parents can tell you many a story of how I whined and whimpered on yard work weekends, and I know there were more than a few plants that met their death when I was left home alone and tasked with watering.  

I’m not exactly what you’d call “outdoors-y”.  

But when we were house hunting in fall of 2015, one of the things that drew me to this house were the front and back yards.  I’m certain that the retired couple who lived here before us spent most of their time outside.  Flowers everywhere.  We moved in at the end of the year, and I told myself that come spring/summer I would be ready to become master gardener extraordinaire.  

Well, spring came… and flowers started growing… and I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing.  I was also pregnant, and the thought of being outside in the heat, bent over, pulling up weeds and laying down mulch just wasn’t high on the priority list.  

My husband did a great job of taking care of our lawn, but when it came to the flower beds… we just sort of left everything alone.  So the flowers came… and I watched as daffodils, tulips, and irises came and went.  We discovered we have two peony bushes in the front yard, which were beautiful until the tornado/hail storm in late May… and stuff just kept growing.  And growing… and before we knew it there was a jungle of flowers and weeds lining our back fence.  

By the end of the summer I was 8 months pregnant and any energy that I might have had for cleaning up the yard was long gone.  

Now spring has sprung again, but this time we (and by “we” I mostly mean my incredible husband) are trying to be more intentional with the yard.  Michael cleared out a lot of the dead leaves and weeds, he put down mulch in the flower beds, planted grass seeds in our patchy yard, and eventually we’ll (yes we’ll) finish some much needed clean up.  

I think what I’m most surprised by is how excited I am to see things starting to grow again… and how much easier it is to differentiate between flowers and weeds before things get out of control.  When there’s no purposeful intention to care for the yard, stuff just grows.  Sure, there were some beautiful flowers that bloomed, but there were also a lot of weeds… some of which choked out the plants that were supposed to be there.  

The more time I spend in the yard, the more I see gardening as analogous to the spiritual life, especially as we approach Easter.  

During the Lenten season we strive to weed out the bad things in our lives.  Those 6 weeks are a time of not only removing things that hurt us, but it is also a time of trying to cultivate the good.  

The thing is, spiritual growth doesn’t just happen.  Sure, we can sit back, do the bare minimum (i.e. get to Mass once a week), and while that’s an important part, there has to be more intentional work that’s done on our souls if we really want to grow in virtue.  Daily prayer, frequenting the sacraments, acts of service, those are the kind of things that take us from “Well at least I’m not spiritually dead!” to really allowing God to work in and through us to create something beautiful.  

As Easter approaches, let’s take some time to think about what are the signs of New Life that God is revealing in us?  The bad habits we tried to let go of during Lent… what virtues are growing there instead? How are we going to continue to nurture our spiritual lives into the Easter season and beyond?  

Seeing new growth is exciting.  Whether it’s flowers, or seeing signs of spiritual maturity, those little buds of something new can inspire us to take the next step on the journey.  

What signs of New Life are you seeing as Lent comes to an end?

March 8, 2017

Lent: Not About The Perfect Start

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Lent is a season that pushes us  out of our comfort zones and asks us to dig deep and feel the burn of denying ourselves so that we can follow Christ better.  

That being said, it is also my least favorite season…probably because I need it so much.

I think it was about my sophomore year of college when Lent finally “clicked” with me.  It wasn’t just about giving up cable TV or chocolate for 6 weeks… it was a journey into deeper intimacy with the Lord.  And as I came to understand it as a journey, I also realized how important it was to prepare for that walk in the desert.  

I’d prepare by spending some extra time in prayer, usually in the adoration chapel, journaling my Lenten commitments so that I had a clear goal in mind. And the preparations weren’t limited to prayer; I would also try to get my living space as clean as possible before the Lenten journey began.  Sometimes I would rearrange the furniture in my bedroom, or just give it an early spring cleaning.  This was a way for me to enter into Lent with a breath of fresh air, a renewed mindset, and the visual difference in my environment helped me to focus on the fact that I was entering into a whole new season.  

Oh the glorious Lenten preparations of my life as a single woman in my early twenties!  

Fast forward about ten years.  

Married, two kids 2 and under, working full-time, and my husband and my daughter catch the flu (or something) a few days before Ash Wednesday.  

I made plans early in the week to clean our bedroom, the living room, the kitchen….  I was going to journal, perhaps even write my first blog post for the year to kick off the season with a bang!  Maybe I’d get some extra time in the prayer space my husband created for me for my birthday.  Such plans!!!

Tuesday night I found myself in a living room of unfolded laundry, mountains of tissues, a fussy toddler, and after kids were asleep I had to run up to the Church to get some things set up for the Ash Wednesday Masses the next morning.  Though I did manage to get to the sacrament of reconciliation that evening, by the end of the day I mostly felt disappointed.  

I wasn’t ready.  How on earth could I possibly have a good Lent if my house is dirty, my family is sick, and I haven’t spent time in prolonged silent prayer?  And to top it off I could feel the cold coming after me too!  I went to bed frustrated and thought, If I can’t start Lent perfectly, according to my plan then what’s the point?!

Oh wait… 

In those final moments of the day, I realized that perhaps I’d been focusing too much on starting Lent perfectly.   I had been trying so hard to replicate the “perfect preparations” of my early 20s that I had forgotten to ask God to help me in the here and now.  I’m not who I was at 19, 20, or 21 years old.  My relationship with God and my spiritual life have changed a lot even since getting married 3 years ago!  Why would I expect to start this journey in the same way I had almost a decade before?  

I had forgotten that God doesn’t ask us to enter into Lent with a clean slate and then maintain perfection until Easter Sunday.  No, instead He invites us to take up our cross, wherever we are, and follow Him.  He invites us to turn towards Him with our mess, our pain, our weakness so that through the Lenten journey He c
an make us new.  

Do I have an idea of the praying, fasting and almsgiving that God is calling me to offer this Lenten season?  Yes.  Am I perfectly prepared for what’s ahead these next 6 weeks?  Nope.  And that’s OK.  

Lord, meet us in our mess this Lent.
 Meet us in the chaos, the confusion, the messy house.  
Meet us in the snot covered noses of our children,
and the never ending lists of things to do.
Draw us close to you, even though we are imperfect.  
Lord, you make all things new.  Make us new this Lenten season.