Opening a Gift

“Every good and perfect gift is from above.”  James 1:17

I thank God every day for Craig, Henry, and Joseph.  I always tell God how they are gifts to me given from Him.

The other day, I was talking with Joseph, and he started smiling.  He has the biggest and sweetest smile.  It is so contagious.  As I was with him, I had this vision in my mind of me receiving a present.  His smile, his joy, his peace, the time with him in that moment were God allowing me to open a little bit more of the gift that Joseph is to me.

Each day as I spend time with Craig, Henry, and Joseph, God allows me to open a little bit more of the gift that they are to me.  Whether it is the time spent with them, how they challenge me to grow, watching them grow, seeing them delight in something, learning something about their heart or their mind, serving them, etc., each day God gives me a gift through them.  I am filled with so much gratitude to God for choosing me to be Craig’s wife and Henry and Joseph’s mom.



St. Mary of the Angels

A few years ago, Michelle and I went to visit Maeg and Kelby in Chicago.  While we were there, we did a mini pilgrimage and visited a few of the Catholic churches in Chicago.  One of the churches we went to was called St. Mary of the Angels.  It is one of the most beautiful churches I have been to in the United States.  The beauty in the church is breathtaking and lifts your heart to heaven.  The beauty raises you to a deeper reverence for Christ within the church.  I also loved the church because it has a relic of St. Josemaria Escriva in it — a saint who I have a devotion to.  Opus Dei does a lot at this church, as well.


The summer after Craig and I got married while I was pregnant with Henry, we were in Chicago.  Craig had not been to the church before.  I told him we had to go visit this church, but unfortunately, when we tried to, we couldn’t go in because a funeral was taking place.  When we stopped in Chicago on the way to Jeff and Marianne’s wedding in Michigan, Craig and I decided to try stopping at the church.  We thought it would be particularly special for us to bring Joseph there, as well, since St. Josemaria is one of his namesakes.




St. Josemaria Escriva, please pray for our family.

Pumpkin Patch

We went to the Pumpkin Patch a couple weeks ago.  We went to Skinny Bones in between Omaha and Blair.  We met Jennifer and Emma there.   We had a lot of fun.


Henry and Emma enjoying their ride into the pumpkin patch.  They shared a cheesy from Amigos on their way.  It doesn’t get much better than a wagon ride and a cheesy — it’s the little things. 🙂


The slide was pretty fast.  Henry, being a gentleman, went down the slide first.  Henry’s trip down the slide made Emma decide she didn’t want to go down.


They really did like this tractor ride.  They went on it about 3 or 4 times.


Emma, Henry, and I in the petting zoo.


We enjoyed the petting zoo!  It had a donkey, geese, goats, chicks, chickens, turkeys… you name it!  It was neat!  Henry and Emma both pet the goats.  They liked seeing the animals.


Cousins making memories together.


Joseph had fun, too.  He got his own pumpkin.


Henry with one of the pumpkins he picked out.


Henry really liked the pumpkins and kept saying “puppi” for pumpkins.


Henry and Emma filling the wagon with pumpkins to bring home.


It was a fun day at the pumpkin patch!


Craig and I talk a lot about ‘ordinariness’.  Most of our days are pretty similar in structure — Henry, Joseph, and I will either play at home or go do something (e.g., go to the zoo, library, walk, park, etc.).  Henry takes his nap.  Then we all play some more.  We have dinner and family time.  It is in these moments that God is calling me to holiness.  How do I react to the moments that happen in the ordinary?  How do I respond and view these moments?  Do I respond with virtue and love?  Do I invite Jesus into these moments?  Am I intentionally spending time with those God has placed in front of me?  Am I being Christ to others in front of me?  Am I putting others before myself?

I have heard and read a few people talk lately about Mary in her ordinariness.  Mary rocked Jesus to sleep.  Mary folded Jesus’ clothes.  Mary cooked dinner for Joseph and Jesus.  I am called to live these moments with excellence with Christ and for Christ.  I hope Craig, Henry, and Joseph come to know Christ through how I treat them and respond to them.  I hope they always strive for excellence and find purpose in each little moment of the day.  I hope they choose Christ in each moment.  Each moment, each word spoken, each interaction, each pause in the day, each emotion, each activity is a moment to grow in holiness.


Henry checking out where him and Craig are hoping to build a fort someday.


We had lots of butterflies on our plants.


One of Joseph’s first smiles.


Making angel pancakes for the feast of the Archangels.


Hey there, Henry.


Craig and Joseph having fun.


Painting a wooden pumpkin.


I love these little boys and feel so so blessed to be their Mama.


Joseph’s sweet, sweet smile.


Spending time with Mr. Joseph.


Ask, Seek, Knock

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit
to those who ask him?”
Luke 11:9-13
I was moved with gratitude and faith when I read the Gospel reading yesterday.  I had always wanted to stay home when I had kids.  It seemed like it wasn’t a possibility when we had Henry, and it didn’t seem like it was going to be possible when we had Joseph, either.  This has been a prayer, though, for as long as I can remember.  And God has opened the door for this to happen.
God has invited us out of the boat of our comfort of me working.  I never would have said it was comfortable while I was working, but now that I had to say no to working, I have realized what a comfort it was to us.  We are taking a leap of faith – with Him – and I am going to stay home with Henry and Joseph.  I still have to work.  I am not working full time, though, and I will be able to be home with Henry and Joseph more.  We stopped daycare, as well.  We are praying and trusting God will provide the work our family needs.
God has answered our prayer.  It is not in a way I would have thought, but He remained faithful to His words spoken in this reading.  And for this, I am so grateful.  He is faithful.  He is trustworthy.  He is compassionate.  He is merciful.
Another part of the reading that stood out to me was that God will give the Holy Spirit to me if I ask Him.  God has been inviting me into a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit lately so I know He is deepening that invitation by telling me these words.
Lord, I boldly ask you to fill me with the Holy Spirit.  Open my heart, mind, and soul to the Holy Spirit.  Fill me with the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Help me to decrease so you may increase.  Banish all fear out of me.  May the Holy Spirit be alive in me to bring others to You.  Show me the charisms of the Holy Spirit you have given to me.  Develop them in me and use them.  Come, Holy Spirit.  May the Holy Spirit be alive in our family.  Holy Spirit, work through Craig and me to bring Henry and Joseph to our Father and to form Henry and Joseph.

Encountering Christ

Growing up my faith was always important to me.  I knew faith was important.  I knew it by the way my parents lived out their faith.  I knew it by the fact that they sent me to Catholic school and that I had religion class everyday.  I knew it by the way my parents had my family live out our faith.  What I didn’t realize was that my faith wasn’t just a way to live, a set of rules to follow, or guidelines to go by.  My faith is meant for me to encounter Christ and to live in a personal and loving relationship with him.

I was so reminded of this this weekend at my brother, Jeff’s, wedding to Marianne.  Jeff and Marianne have met Jesus Christ and have let Him transform their hearts.  It is evident by their joy, their genuine presence to others, their priority for prayer in their day, and their love for each other and others.  When Marianne started walking down the aisle, Jeff’s face lit up with the biggest smile.  It wasn’t just a smile.  It wasn’t just happiness.  It was joy — Christ’s joy.  It still brings tears to my eyes seeing how joy filled he was.

I feel like my first encounter with the person of Jesus when I truly opened my heart to receive Him was during adoration.  I was in adoration at the Newman Center in college.  I was praying, and I knew so deeply in my heart He wanted a relationship with me.  It was there, in the silence, in His presence, He knocked on the door of my heart, and I finally opened my heart to Him.

Henry and Joseph,

I pray with my whole heart, mind, and soul that you may encounter Christ.  I pray that you may encounter Him, His love for you, His mercy for you, His compassion for you, His kindness, gentleness, and patience for you.  Your Catholic faith is meant to help you to encounter Him.  May you encounter Him in the silence of your prayer and of your day.  May you encounter Him in the sacraments, through His Blessed Mother Mary, through the saints and angels, in the Mass, in adoration, in the Bible.  May you encounter Him through your Dad and me, your family, your friends, your teachers, priests and religious, strangers.  May you encounter Him and let Him in.  Let Him in to your heart and spend time with Him, talk to Him, listen to Him, receive from Him, do things for Him.  Let Him in.  Nothing will ever be the same.

I love you with my whole heart,




Henry loves his little brother, Joseph.  He loves saying ‘Doe!’ (for Joseph), pointing at him, and moving his hand at him to come with him.  It is so sweet to watch him love on his little brother.  It is so pure and genuine.  Here are some ways he has been loving his brother:

One of the first days Joseph was home, he was crying.  Henry walked over to Joseph’s toys and brought one over to Joseph to help him to calm down.  It was so thoughtful and melted mine and Craig’s hearts.

He likes to explore and try out Joseph’s pacifier.

He likes lying on Joseph’s play activity mat when Joseph is on it, too.


He wants Joseph to come outside and play with him.

He wants to watch me change Joseph’s diaper and feed him.

When Henry holds Joseph, he will give him kisses on his head, tummy, or feet.  It’s almost as if he gets so overwhelmed with love he wants to hug him all over.


When Henry is upstairs playing in the closet, he always wants Joseph to come in with him.

Joseph loves his big brother, too.  It is already a very special relationship between them.  We love you boys so so much and love watching you together.

Joseph’s Name


Joseph Miles — 1 week old

Craig and I spent a lot of time praying and thinking of a name for Joseph.  We discussed lots of names and went back and forth between 3-4 names before deciding on Joseph.  We had a feeling we wouldn’t decide up until right around when he was born depending on what day he was born.

In April, Fran gifted us with a name consultation with Kate at  We were so excited to receive this and to hear what she had to say.  I gave her a list of names of our current children, names we had been considering, names we wouldn’t use for whatever reason, and names of saints we possibly wanted to honor in a name.

Here is Kate’s response:

“I was most struck by the last part of your email, where you listed the saints you love: Mary, St. Josemaria Escriva, St. Joseph, and St. John Paul II. Specifically, my mind started clicking over St. Josemaria and how to work with that. Josemaria is a combination of Jose and Maria, which of course are Joseph and Mary in Spanish—and you have Joseph and Mary on the list of saints you love! So my first—and heartiest—suggestion would be for you to name your little guy Joseph (you had Joseph in the list of names you like anyway!), which covers St. Joseph and could cover St. Josemaria as well, but especially if you make the middle name something to do with Mary. Possibilities include:

  • Joseph Mario or Joseph Mariano—neither Mario nor Mariano are etymologically related to Mary, but they’ve both been used for a long time as a male form of Mary.
  • Joseph Miles—I don’t know if you’ve come across any of the many many many (!) times I’ve tried to push Miles on expectant parents, but I love so much that it’s got traditional usage in Ireland as an anglicization of the old Irish name Maolmhuire, which means, literally, “servant of the Virgin Mary.”
  • Joseph Mercer—one of my name books (Oxford Dictionary of First Names by Hanks, Hardcastle, and Hodges) says that Mercer (a last name derived from the Old French for “trader”—mercier) “may sometimes also have been chosen as a kind of male equivalent of mercy,” which would be really cool because it could be a nod to Our Lady of Mercy—in keeping with trying to come up with a combo that mirrors Josemaria—and it can also be a nod to the Divine Mercy pope, JP2, which would work in all your favorite saints!
  • Joseph Marion—you could totally channel John Wayne—who was born Marion Robert Morrison—by using Marion as a middle name!
  • Joseph Maria—this would be the most explicit way to honor St. Josemaria in English. Mary/Marie/Maria as a middle name for boys used to be a traditional practice, especially in Europe, but I’ve seen hardcore Catholic parents do so recently too. I’ve love for that tradition to come back!
  • Joseph Marriot(t) or Joseph Murray—both Marriot(t) and Murray have ties to Our Lady: Marriot(t) is an English surname derived from an old diminutive of Mary (Mary-ot), and Murray comes from the Irish Mac Giolla Mhuire (son of the servant of Mary), which is anglicized as Kilmurray, Kilmary, Kilmurry, and MacElmurry. Murray is the “Mary” part and has become a surname in its own right.

Those are my ideas for how you can incorporate your favorite saints into your son’s name, and Joseph was actually listed as a style match for Henry in the Baby Name Wizard book (which, as you may know, I almost always use in my consultations as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity), so I think it’s a really great option for you.

As for the other names on your list, I love them all—your list looks very similar to my own in case I’m ever blessed with more boys!

You have a really great list and great ideas, and I think the Joseph M. option is amazing and perfect, but of course I can always come up with more! 😀 Based on my research in the BNW using the names on your list and Henry’s name, what would you think of:

(1) Edmund/Edmond or Edward

Edward’s actually a style match for Henry, Joseph, William, and George; Edmund for Benedict; and Edmond for Conrad—all great, saintly names! St. Edmund Campion’s awesome, as is St. Edward the Confessor. They all remind me a bit of Benedict, because I’ve seen Ned as a nickname for Benedict, and Ned is also a traditional nickname for the Ed- names. I know a little Eddie too, which is really cute, and Ted is also a traditional nickname for Edward.

(2) Theodore

Speaking of Ted (and Ned and Ed), Theodore—which can be nicked Ted—was another good match for your style. It has that sort of Brit feel that I get from Henry, and Ted(dy)’s super cute; Theo’s another great option. Theodore also has the awesome meaning “gift of God.”

(3) Thomas

Thomas was a style match for Joseph, Stephen, Peter, William, Michael, and James! While Tommy’s a cute nickname, most of the little Thomases I know go by the full Thomas (including my oldest). Lots of good patrons to choose from too! St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Thomas More are two favorites of my family.

(4) Charles

Charles is another traditional, gentlemanly name like the ones on your list, with an added bit of sparkle: It’s the English version of John Paul II’s birth name (Karol). I’ve known many little ones named Charles in honor of JP2 (including my youngest!), so this could be a way you nod to him without using John Paul itself (since John Paul wasn’t on your list, I assume you don’t care for it). As a slight tangent, I find Benedict on your list to be somewhat difficult to pair a middle name with, because there are so many initials that are potentially problematic, but BC is a fine pairing, so I really love the combo Benedict Charles. Two awesome popes in one!

(5) Oliver

My last idea for you is Oliver, a match for Henry, Simon, and Peter. I love Oliver! St. Oliver Plunkett is a great patron, and it can also be a nod to Our Lady of Olives (I love Marian names for boys!). Henry and Oliver are a darling set of brothers!”

Super fun!  This gave us lots to think about in regards to Joseph’s name.  When I sent the consultation to Craig, he immediately responded, “Joseph Miles”.  That was the name that stood out to me, too.  We still didn’t decide, though, until the night before our baby was born.

When we found out I was going to be induced on the Assumption of Mary, it helped us to decide on the name Joseph Miles.  We felt we were honoring Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Josemaria Escriva.  We feel as though they are all great patrons for our son and great role models for him to learn from, to intercede for him, and to be like.  We like the meaning of the names Joseph and Miles.  Joseph is also a family name.

Husband, Father, Provider


I am so grateful for my husband.

It is truly inspiring to watch Craig.  I try my very best to always notice all he does for me and our boys.  I know I fail at times, but I try so I can always show him my gratitude for all he does for our family and for others.

It is moments like these transitions in our lives and our family’s life that I see God’s grace showering through him.  He is a natural.  He is a servant leader.  And he allows God to work through him as husband, father, and provider.

My heart is filled with so much awe and wonder at him during this current transition to being a family of four.  During labor, he stayed at my side and kept asking me what I needed or how he could help me.  During our hospital stay, he naturally, selflessly, and lovingly cared for our new baby.  He is a proud father and loves to share his children with others.

From the moment we have arrived home from the hospital, he hasn’t stopped.  I keep thinking maybe after he finishes this task he will take a break, but he doesn’t.  He is anticipating the needs of our family when I can’t do very much right now and is fulfilling them.  He has cleaned our house, done laundry, made meals, made sure I am resting and healing, gotten me water, changed diapers, kept our prayer routine, took Henry, nieces, and nephews to the park, taken care of a sick child, gone to the grocery store, worked on inputting data from surveys for St. Joseph’s, worked on stuff for teaching, and more.  I don’t know how he does it all.  It is evident God has made him to be a husband, father, and provider.  And I know he takes those roles very seriously.  And I can see God working through him to love me and our boys.

Lord, I am so grateful and humbled that you called me to be Craig’s wife and that you called him to be the father of my children.

Joseph Miles Pytleski

We are so glad he is here!

After 6 days past my due date, Dr. Wurtz scheduled for me to have an induction when I went to see him on Monday.  We scheduled it for Tuesday morning at 6:30.  Craig and I brought Henry to Nana and Papa’s Monday evening after mass and had a low key evening at home that night.

Tuesday morning we headed in to St. Elizabeth’s.  We got there a little before 6:30.  We couldn’t check in right away because there were a few other deliveries that came up.  Around 7:15 the nurse came and brought us to one of the rooms.  We were in a great corner room with a nice view.  Craig prayed for a nice view on the way to the hospital, and his prayer was answered.  Since they were so busy that morning, they weren’t able to start my induction until around 9:40.  I was only about 2 cm dilated at this point.  Dr. Wurtz said he would come back around lunch time to break my water since I wasn’t dilated very much.  He wanted my contractions to get started and hopefully get me dilated more.  My contractions quickly became more regular and started to pick up in intensity.  Around 11:40 the nurse, Julie, checked me.  I was about 4 cm dilated.  Julie called for me to get an epidural at that time.  Shortly after my epidural close to 12:30, Dr. Wurtz broke my water.  Dr. Wurtz said he had nothing going on that night, and the clinic closed at 3 so it wouldn’t be a problem for him to get back to the hospital.  Craig asked Julie what time she guessed I’d have the baby based on how I was progressing.  She guessed around 5:30.  Craig and I were able to rest a little bit figuring we’d have some time before I’d have to start pushing.  Around 2:40, Julie came back in to check me.  She said I was fully dilated.  She said she’d go call Dr. Wurtz to come in.  She quickly got everything ready.  I couldn’t believe how fast I dilated.  I don’t think she could either.  Dr. Wurtz and a team of nurses quickly arrived in the room, and I was ready to begin pushing.  I pushed for about 30 minutes.  And then Joseph was born.

Joseph was born at 3:24, during the hour of Divine Mercy on the feast of the Assumption.  He weighed 7 lb 12.4 oz. and was 20 3/4 in. long.  He has a head full of brown hair and dark blue eyes.

Immediately they placed him on me.  I was so so grateful for how smoothly everything went and for a healthy little baby.  Craig’s parents and my Mom were able to come in to the delivery room following Joseph’s birth to meet him.  We  are so in love and grateful for the gift of Joseph to us.