Friday, May 30, 2008

Putting Down Roots

With the recent purchase of our new home, GG and I have taken to our green thumb past...

I was a landscaper the summer before entering Princeton, flower planting, weeding, trimming, etc. for hours and hours in the hot sun. It was nothing less than slave labor, but I loved the feeling of having my hands in the dirt and wiping my face without a care of how smudgy it would look at the end of the day. GG was a Maine woodsman, attending over 10 summers of boys' camp at Camp Wynona in the beauty of nature and rustic living. He and his brother reminisce so fondly of their camp experiences--learning archery, forestry, sailing, and other unique "woodsy" skills. He so hopes we will oneday be able to send our boys off to camp... We'll see if this mama can let them go!
But I digress...
Our new yard is brimming with beauty, an absolute picture of landscaping wonder. The previous owners invested a bundle last year redoing the backyard and planned to live here indefinitely, only to change their minds and sell their house a year later. BONUS for us! We are already enjoying frolics among the rhodedendrons, azaleas, and dogwoods, to name a few.

But then we get to maintenance.
How in the world do we keep such a beautiful space thriving?
Our newest tip is to water less frequently, but for longer periods (upwards of 8 hours is the ideal! We (nor our water bill) CANNOT do this extreme!) in the early summer weeks. The idea is to provide ample water for the plantings and grass to encourage them to put down deep roots into the soil. This will allow them to thrive even in times of lesser moisture. Later at the end of summer/early fall, the watering should change to shorter, more frequent waterings after the roots have deeply established to make for a more hearty green space.
Whether or not we will approach yard maintenance in such a fashion, this green thumb talk has gotten me thinking. Just as the lawn and landscape take root, so God has blessed our family with the opportunity to renew itself in a new area. Here we are in a new city with a new church and the chance to make new friends. Yet as the busyness of unpacking and life establishment encroaches, God is calling us to put down deep roots, to water our soils in an attempt to establish ourselves in a Godly life, pleasing to Him. No doubt this will take ample hours of prayer, meditation, time in the Word... time that currently is "hard" to come by; time that we will have to make happen for deep roots to establish.

Last night I finally placed my Magnificat on my bedside table and realized that I have only two days remaining in the May issue. How sad that I have missed the last two weeks of Godly devotion and prayer direction due to our life craziness. Yet how hopeful it was to find it's June companion, brimming with a sense of renewal just beside it.

Today is a day to embrace.
Today is a day to put down deep roots.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Goal is the Path

About 10 days ago I went on my first retreat since just after college 5 years ago. It was my first retreat since marriage and having kids. One of the best parts of these silent retreats is extended time for spiritual direction with a priest. After I had talked for a bit about my struggles, he asked me if I had seen the movie, The Incredibles.

"You see," he told me, "I think you have this idea in your head of what a young, Catholic mother should be...a perfect supermom."

"You are like Mrs. Incredible. While you may occasionally called upon to do very heroic things, life is mostly like the scene where she and Mr. Incredible sit around the dinner table eating leftovers while the kids are fighting and making a mess. This is everyday, ordinary life."

I wasn't sure if I should laugh or cry at the invocation of The Incredibles (so I did third trimester hormones!!) since I have been blogging about our Incredible family for 2 years.

He reminded me that the goal, holiness, is the path. The path is to try out of love for God. Sometimes we will succeed, sometimes we will stumble. But where true charity and sacrifice come in is when we decide to try. When we offer a smile to our husbands when they walk in the door even when we are exhausted, when we do not become angry over the milk spilled twice in the same meal.

"What does it matter that we stumble on the way, if we find in the pain of our fall the energy to pick ourselves up and go on with renewed vigour? Don't forget that the saint is not the person who never falls, but rather the one who never fails to get up again, humbly and with a holy stubbornness." wrote St. Josemaria.

One week after the retreat I loaded the kids up and headed to the airport to fly home to visit my family. Things were going pretty smoothly until security. Since Dash usually freaks out when he has to take off his shoes at security, I didn't even have him wear shoes into the airport, leaving them in the bottom of the stroller (and thinking myself pretty clever).

However, this particular day, Dash did NOT want the stroller to go through the x-ray machine, which he let me and the rest of the airport know in no uncertain terms. So I had to pick up the kicking, bawling and screaming 37 pound Dash in one arm, the 25 pound Jack-Jack in the other and balance the wriggling, screaming mass over my 7 month pregnant belly and walk through the metal detector.

The TSA lady looked at me acutely and told me (also in no uncertain terms) that I could NOT touch the sides of the machine. In the moment I blurted out, "Are you kidding me?" to her. Not my finest moment.

But I regrouped, took a deep breath and began again. We might not make it through, but I was going to try. A very tiny thing, to be sure, but this is what is asked of us, especially mothers. To try in the little things of daily life.

And miracle of miracles, the 4 of us (me and the 3 boys) made it through at the same time without a stray, squirming leg hitting the sides thus avoiding a 4-way security wand fiasco.

So each day, each moment we have the opportunity to begin again. To not be afraid of falling, but to be determined to get up again. And we are given superhuman powers through the graces in the Sacraments that we may all try to be the superheros of ordinary life....saints.

Some answers to your CCL questions

Great comments on my recent CCL post!

Just to answer a few questions:

1. The new book and materials were released in February/March of 2008. All new CCL courses are now using the new materials. They are still working on the training programs for the "specialized" courses in return of fertility after childbirth and pre-menopause. The student guide book is complete, but the teacher training in these areas is still a little rough. It will be complete in the coming months. The doctor in question was probably referring to the teacher training materials.

2. There is very little difference between Creighton, Billings, and CCL in the actual "rules" of NFP. All 3 methods are 99% effective. CCL teaches the sympto-thermal method of NFP, using all 3 signs (temp, cervix, and mucus). Billings and Creighton focus on mucus only. I personally use a mucus/cervix only method of NFP (CCL gives mucus only rules in their materials, with very clear pictures of more fertile/less fertile mucus), but I teach all 3 signs in my courses, as certain signs work better for certain women. Some women have really regular temp patterns and that enables them to better interpret a confusing mucus pattern (and vice versa). Creighton and Billings are mucus only, but the "rules" are essentially the same (especially after CCL's updates to their materials). You can take a CCL course, and then do a mucus only method of NFP. CCL's charts and materials are standardized, and they have many doctors that develop their materials and are trained on CCL charts. That being said, ANY doctor worth anything should be able to read ANY NFP chart. It's the same thing, just different symbols.

I want to emphasize again that I think all 3 teaching organizations are really great and they are all working together to make NFP more practical for couples.

3. Finally, if you are interested in taking an NFP course you can either contact your local diocese and ask about courses OR you can contact one of the following organizations directly to learn about courses/teachers in your area:

The Couple to Couple League
Creighton Model Fertility Care
The Billings Ovulation Method

4. The new manual does offer advice on charting with breastfeeding, no matter what feeding method you choose. If this is your situation, I would HIGHLY recommend the supplemental NFP course on return of fertility after childbirth.

5. Finally, if you are looking for an NFP physician, check out the One More Soul Directory for NFP only physicians and if you can't find a local Obgyn from that directory, try a midwife, they are usually much more knowledgeable about NFP.

God Bless all you women and thanks for all the comments and support!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What's going on at CCL?

The Couple to Couple League (CCL) is the largest provider of Natural Family Planning (NFP) services in the US, and it has recently gone through an extreme makeover. Making a break with the Kippleys (author of: Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood, The Art of Natural Family Planning), CCL is now promoting a more high tech, streamlined, and scientific approach to NFP. They have also adopted an altered approach to breastfeeding and child spacing and for that I give them two thumbs up! The new materials are really great, and the new student guide is a must have, with simpler rules, great computer graphics, and even a new software program (Cycle-Pro) to help chart your cycles.

Overall, I think the changes at CCL are GREAT, but I think the changes related to breastfeeding are SUPER GREAT! And here is why:

Two years ago my husband and I signed up to become NFP instructors for our diocese. We were required to receive training through CCL (this is typical of most diocesan offices), and we filled out the forms to enroll in the CCL teaching training program. This was prior to the new CCL materials and, in our application form, we were required to explain why we didn’t ecologically breastfeed our children. It was at this point that I realized just how intertwined CCL and the promoters of Attachment Parenting/ecological breastfeeding had become. If you want to know more of my thoughts on this, see a recent post of mine on this topic.

Now, I exclusively breastfeed my children, but I do not sleep with my babies, nor do I avoid pacifiers, etc. Under the old CCL regime, as NFP instructors, we would be expected to not only teach NFP, but to promote a particular style of parenting and child spacing: ecological breastfeeding/AP. At the time, we couldn’t sign the form saying we had personally practiced this type of parenting, nor would I sign anything agreeing to parent this way in the future. I explained my reasons fully in an attached essay, and we were granted an “exemption” so to speak, and because CCL was soon changing this part of the materials, we were permitted to move forward with the teacher training.

I saw the old regime’s ecological breastfeeding advocacy as problematic for the following reasons:

1. For many couples, fertility returns far sooner than couples would like, even while using ecological breastfeeding. When this happens, they are left distrusting many of the other things they learned in NFP classes.
2. Physicians, lactation consultants, and mainstream medical journals have not adopted the term “ecological breastfeeding.” This creates a disconnect between CCL and the medical community. Again, this leaves couples feeling misled about what they have learned in their NFP courses.
3. Ecological breastfeeding is REALLY difficult, and in many cases it isn’t possible to practice this method of breastfeeding—particularly in the very common situation where mom has to work part time.
4. Ecological breastfeeding is more of a parenting style/philosophy and CCL should focus on teaching NFP and promoting breastfeeding, and avoid entering into the parenting philosophy debates.

Thankfully, CCL agreed with many of these common objections, and as a result has altered their approach to NFP instruction and breastfeeding advocacy. With the new method, CCL continues to promote breastfeeding and its effect on fertility, with terms such as formula feeding, mixed feeding, exclusive breastfeeding, and continued breastfeeding. These terms are generally accepted in the medical community and explained fully in the new materials.

More importantly, CCL has moved away from prescribing breastfeeding in order to delay the return of fertility, and they will no longer refer to breastfeeding as a “form of NFP.” Rather, CCL promotes breastfeeding as part of responsible parenthood, a method of feeding that is unquestionably best for babies, and usually always best for mothers and families. While wholeheartedly promoting that “breast is best,” CCL no longer claims that a particular kind of breastfeeding is best for a particular family, and they no longer imply that an early return of fertility is the result of a mother not breastfeeding correctly. Alleluia!

Finally, CCL now provides clear and ACCURATE guidance on the return of fertility after childbirth, no matter what feeding method a family chooses.

As for how these changes came about, I don’t know the details, but I know that a lawsuit with the Kippley’s settled in 2007. For those unfamiliar with the Kippleys, they helped to found CCL, and are the authors of the original “The Art of Natural Family Planning.” Referred to as the NFP bible, the book was overwhelming in size and very intimidating for couples to flip through 400+ pages of material. The new method is significantly streamlined, and high tech, with a manual ½ the size of the old book. I think these changes will be a great help in promoting NFP and breastfeeding to a new generation of couples.

Disclaimer: While I am a CCL instructor, the previous statements and opinions are my own and I am not writing on behalf of CCL.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Tricks of the Trade

Help! My child won't eat! 

With the onset of teething a few weeks ago, 7 month-old Maria has decided that she is NOT interested in eating anything except for mommy's milk :) Now clearly, the little munchkin is not starving, but she is constantly HUNGRY and I'm having a hard time figuring out what to feed her! She has never been terribly interested in pureed baby foods, but now I can't even push the spoon into her mouth - when she sees the spoon coming, she clamps her mouth shut! I think that she may be like our eldest, C, who only ever ate food that he could pick up and put into his mouth himself :) 

So, I'm asking all of you mommies out there for some suggestions on nutritious finger-foods that I can feed my strong-willed baby! She still has quite a strong "gag" reflex, so even cheerios have a hard time getting into her tummy, but I'm sure that there must be some foods out there that I could try. She loves sucking on huge hunks of apple/carrot, but that's mostly for teething purposes since she's not really swallowing anything. Help! I'm starting to feel the effects of waking up a couple of times at night to feed my hungry child :)

Second question: How do you ladies tackle the weekly grocery shopping? Before Maria was born I would take C with me, but it has been pretty challenging to do a big grocery trip with BOTH kiddos in tow. I have occasionally put Maria in the Ergo carrier so that C can ride in the cart, but this is awkward and I'm usually exhausted by the end. Do you wait until the weekends when dad can help out? Do you use Peapod or another grocery delivery service? Do you make lots of smaller trips so that they are more manageable with the children along? I'd love to hear everyone's input!

Happy Memorial Day

"Heavenly Father, today we remember those who courageously gave their lives for the cause of freedom. In union with people of goodwill of every nation, may we all work for peace and justice, and thus, seek to end violence and conflict anywhere around the globe. We pray through Christ our Lord. Amen" ~Cardinal Maida~

Friday, May 23, 2008

Keeping Up Appearances

Okay, so I am coming to the real but somewhat sad conclusion that it is much easier for me to love my children (as in the small, day to day patience kind of love, not the more abstract God is love kind of love) when they look cute.

They are not well dressed all the time, by any stretch. A lot of it comes down to energy, those sorts of clothes are high maintenance. Also, I am not just talking about fancy clothes, a cute, stain free white polo shirt and jeans would be adorable, too. But so few of our clothes are stain free, and in the land of hand me downs I am now putting the Lion into stained, pilled clothes and sometimes don't even fit, or are pink.

Is this odd? I am finding MaryB's whine fits much easier to manage appropriately now that she has a cute haircut. Also, clean babies in nice (expensive) pajamas get cuddly bedtime stories from me, I have a harder time loving them with snotty noses in clothes from BoxMart.

This is your chance either to criticize me or to confess that you feel the same way, I am praying daily for my shaved-headed godson and his mother!

Also, any tips for keeping them looking nice on the cheap?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Infant Sleep Positions

Has anyone figured out the true scoop on infant sleep positions? Of course tummy sleeping is out because of the SIDS risk, although it's crazy that our parents were told to sleep babies on their tummies. Is cosleeping safer or more dangerous than putting a baby to sleep alone? Different parenting philosophies differ here on what seems to be a factual question. And is side sleeping really more dangerous than back sleeping?

With all three of my newborns, I've felt like back sleeping was torture for the baby... they continually wake themselves with that falling/grabbing reflex and sleep hopelessly lightly. So I often side sleep them with sleep positioners. But then I freak out and resolve never to do it again when they manage to roll to their tummies from their sides accidentally. Angelina, my 3 week old, has done this already just by kicking her legs.

We also cosleep some in the beginning if it helps everyone get more sleep.

Is this totally unorthodox? Do you back sleep your babies and not think twice about it? If so, how do you keep them comfortable on their backs?

One of those days

The Crime Scene:

The Culprits:

The Verdict:

One shaved head. One bad haircut made presentable with lots of barrettes and headbands. One mama who keeps reminding herself that it's only hair. It will grow back.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Matters of Life and Death

After Red's recent post regarding her ongoing grieving for her daughter, Therese, one commenter asked the following question:

Was there anything that you read or anything that anyone did for you that was particularly helpful during your immediate time of grief?

I have not experienced the loss of a baby of my own, so I hope that those who have will not find me presumptuous in responding to this question, but I wanted to share some thoughts.

My family is very upfront about illness and death. Perhaps this is because my mother's relatives ran a funeral home, or more likely because of my parents' faith, they felt that children should be allowed to deal with this reality of life head-on. Both of my grandmothers were from large families, and I recall a span of time when about once a year we would all pile into the car to head to a wake for a great aunt or uncle. These sad occasions were slightly softened for me by the fact that I might not know the person well, but I think they were formative in that I saw adults and children in my family grieving, I became familiar with the etiquette, traditions and rites of the Catholic wake and funeral (or I should say, the Irish kind, since even in America different cultures have different traditions in this area). The most important lesson I learned, however, was that it does matter to people that you show up, and even if you don't know what to say, your small acts of kindness make a difference.

I point this out because I know that often we don't do or say anything for fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. There are very few wrong things to say, the saddest thing to do is just ignore the person or cut them off socially because you cannot deal with what is happening. This sounds crazy, but it happens all the time when people are terminally ill.

As I grew older, I lived these things first hand. My grandfather died after a long illness, and then both of my brothers suffered, and, thankfully recovered from, life threatening illnesses during college. Last May, my aunt died in my parents' home after a painful year of suffering with cancer.

From those experiences, I draw the same lesson, it matters that you show up. My family was acutely aware of the small kindnesses offered during these difficult times -- dropping off a funny DVD for distraction, having bagels delivered to the house one morning, cards and masses offered, more distant friends who made the effort to attend the funeral. I will say this, we are a very, very private family, and for us it was helpful that most of the things that people offered were "non-invasive." When my brother was in the hospital, I put one helpful friend in charge of communicating all the information to the others, we were providing care around the clock and at that time I just did not have the time or energy to talk to people. With that said, every time I checked my voicemail my burden was somewhat lightened by short, caring messages my friends had left. For people who are, essentially, living at a hospital, a care package of toiletries can help, my poor cousin went about a week without deoderant because he was running from school to the hospital and never had time to get to the drug store. If someone mentions a small problem, offer an immediate, simple solution. I will never forget the friend who dug through her son's closet for a white shirt for my little boy to wear to the funeral.

This month is the first anniversary of the death of my aunt, and my perspective from this year, and also from watching my grandmother recover from the loss of her husband, is that there is often a flurry of support right at the center of the crisis, but things can get quiet and lonely as time passes. My mother has been touched by my aunt's friends who have called her every few months and invited her to lunch. My grandmother was relieved when she was welcomed back into the social circle from which she had been long absent while she cared for her husband. This month in particular there were masses offered for my Aunt, and it was so nice to know that she had not been forgotten.

I was surprised by the number of people who responded to Red's post that they had lost a child as well. I am glad that Red shared her intimate feelings because it shows others that this is a safe place to talk about this loss. My grandmother had four stillborn children, and she was known to say that the love of a good man could get you through anything. This is true, but for her this loss became a personal secret, it was something that we never spoke about. It was not until I had children of my own that I understood that this also meant that she carried these four babies for nine months, and because of the health situation she knew, or at least suspected, that the baby would not survive. My grandmother also had a wonderful mother and a supportive family, but I am glad that women in our generation can also turn to friends, talk about their loss and joy in these babies, and, most of all, not be afraid to remember them.

I am also proud of Kat and Red as they have allowed their other children to know about and share in the life and death of their sisters. This is often painful, but it is truly the right thing to do. It may have been easier for my parents to get a sitter than to bring us along to funerals, taking the time to get us dressed up and to explain what was a happening, but over time, it will help these children be more compassionate when others are suffering loss.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Beating Heart

For those of you who do not read Amy Welborn's blog regularly, she had a wonderful reflection yesterday about parenthood. Since many of us here have young children--and have yet to reach the stage where our children are independent, I though we would all really appreciate Amy's thoughts and wisdom. Enjoy.

Reason # 1,000,529 to have kids


Monday, May 19, 2008

Kindergarten in Heaven

We are planning to homeschool Gianna (age 4) and lately I have been spending a lot of time researching curricula. During my research, I have had a strong desire to purchase a kindergarten curriculum for Gianna. The only problem—Gianna is a little too young for kindergarten. She will be 4.5 come September, and while mature for her age, she will definitely struggle with some of the material because she is too young.

Despite this fact, and regardless of my otherwise relaxed attitude towards homeschooling, I have had a strong desire to plunge forward and buy a kindergarten curriculum. Is this because I want my daughter to succeed academically? It is because I am a pushy parent, already putting pressure on my 4 year old to attain academic greatness? Is it because I think my child is mature for her age? Or intelligent for her age? Is it because I’m excited to be a “real” homeschooler?

No. I just want to have a little girl in kindergarten. But why?

This desire has been so strong that I spent last night lying awake thinking about why I want her to be in kindergarten. The label was somehow important to me. I look back with nostalgia at my own kindergarten experience. It was a real milestone in my life, and a time of great joy, learning, and independence. Was this the reason?

No. It was deeper than that. And then it hit me.


Our baby Therese would be starting kindergarten this fall. Therese is my first baby, who was stillborn due to a fatal birth defect called anencephaly. If Therese were here, I would be ordering a kindergarten curricula for her.

“If she were here…”
“What if…”
“If only…”

These are the words of grief that ruled my life after Therese died. Grief has a funny way of rolling in when we least expect it. And last night it was back and I missed my daughter terribly. I thought of the dreaded day we heard the news that Therese wouldn’t be here with us for long. I distinctly remember crying until my entire body hurt and my eyes could barely see. I thought of all the great moments in life that would never be for Therese and me. And at the time, one of those moments was the first day of kindergarten.

Last night, as I laid silently in bed holding back the tears, with an aching chest and a large lump in my throat, I just closed my eyes and prayed. And God answered. I pictured my daughter, with long curly brown hair, running through a heavenly kindergarten playground, straight into the arms of Jesus. I had peace that my job was already done. Therese was there, in heaven. And the next thing I knew it was morning.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Well, the good hearted Texas Mommy has encouraged us to look on the bright side of the third trimester, but other than the joy of finding out about a baby on the way, I can't come up with any good things about the first trimester of pregnancy. For any of you out there who might be just getting started on baby cooking, and especially for your spouses, Suzanne Temple sums it up.

Story book for Children

Here is a link for a new children's story, Ingrid Longlash, by John Farrell. John is a reader of our blog and sent me this link. Enjoy!

Friday, May 16, 2008

When Boys Have To Share

As our family readies to embark on a HUGE move across country, we are also gearing up for a few other family changes. One of the biggest and most wonderful blessings will be the addition of our third child this August. I can't tell you how excited we are to welcome "sweet baby J" so soon...

In an attempt to avoid future child adjustment issues, we've decided to move our two boys, M and T (3 years 4mos and 22mos, respectively) into a room together as soon as we move into our new house. We chose to make the switch now while they are already transitioning, rather than after the baby comes. No need to add more to our lives in August. I think the logic here is sound (though if others have alternative suggestions, I'm open to hearing them).

T will remain in a crib (as long as we can keep him in it without climbing!), while M will be in a twin bed. Their room is rather rectangular in shape, but will be pretty spacious. The door is in the lower left corner of the room, the closet is on the upper left, and two windows are spaced equally on the right. I've attempted to "draw" the room layout here--enjoy my attempt at computer graphics! :)

Knowing that we have a lot of seasoned parent readers out there, I am asking (begging) for your tried-and-true wisdom when it comes to child room sharing. Just having a leg up on what we should expect/anticipate/avoid will do wonders for our family's adjustment! I have already started offering this intention during prayer times--I'm really nervous, especially as I get further along in the pregnancy and sleep becomes oh-so-precious!

Here are a few of my questions:

1) what advice do you have for transitioning children into room sharing?
2) how should we arrange the boys' beds?
3) should naps and nighttime sleep look differently?
4) what sort of incentive/disciplinary measures have you taken to ensure proper sleep behavior?
5) how can we maximize our (parental) sleep?

I'll take whatever advice you have to share. Thanks a million!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pregnancy Comforts

As I enter my third trimester, I realize how easy it is to talk about the discomforts of late pregnancy. Pinched nerves, round ligament pain and feeling like a waddling penguin certainly make the list of T3 woes.

As about half of the contributors to this blog are pregnant at any given time (the other half having newborns), I thought it might be fun to compare ideas about those things that comfort us during pregnancy, that lift our spirits, and make us feel great even if we look like whales. are a few of my picks:

Tea: Specifically Earth Mama, Angel Baby Third Trimester Tea
Either Elizabeth Foss or Kim at Starry Sky Ranch mentioned a very long time ago that they order their own herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs to make their own blends. This sounds like a much more economical route, but I have yet to get around to it.

Books: Right now I'm reading Pride and Prejudice. I'm sure before long I'll have Little Women on my nightstand, too.

Baths: I only take about 3 a year (not counting labor/birth). Lavender oil, a scented candle and both Tea and a Book are musts!

Frozen Meals: After a long day of chasing around two toddlers, I am sooo happy to that I have doubled up making meals and that my mom has brought some and I have a stash in the freezer.

Pillows: Lots of pillows, little pillows, big pillows, body pillows. If Mr. Incredible isn't complaining about lack of space then there aren't enough pillows.

Mortification: Offering up the discomforts for other moms, especially those who have miscarried or are going through difficult times helps

Gel Mat: One of the most unique, but also most appreciated gifts I have ever received. Standing at the sink doing dishes when pregnant is much nicer on a squashy gel mat.

Chocolate: My parents in St. Louis have received several panicked phone calls when I’m pregnant and realize I have just eaten the last piece of Bissinger’s dark chocolate.

Any other thoughts on treats for mom during late pregnancy?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In the Land of Consumption

It is springtime, but instead of the sweet smell of grass and the twitter of birds my senses are being assaulted -- by landscapers! We live on a block with small yards, perhaps 200 square feet or less, and yet every day a huge truck with a trailer of equipment pulls up in front of one of my neighbors' homes. Out of the truck pour 4 or more men with various gas-powered equipment, including ride on mowers, trimmers, blowers, and clippers, and for the next two hours the yards are manicured. The noise is deafening -- when this is going on in the yards directly adjacent to mine it wakes the baby from his nap and sometimes even shakes my house. Still worse, the smell of gas makes me mildly nauseous. On special days the flower beds are also treated to new mulch or fertilizer, and that smell lingers for a few days. There are special pesticide treatments, and men come around to open up the automatic sprinkler systems that will water these patches of grass all summer.

This is my first time ever living in the suburbs, and I guess I was wrong to look forward to a quiet, country spring. I had no idea what was involved in keeping up appearances, but particularly in this economy and with what we are learning about the impact on our environment, I have to say, I find myself disgusted.

I grew up in the city with a small backyard. Most of it was flagstone patio, but the surrounding beds were maintained by my parents. Each spring, I remember enjoying a special time with my mom when my dad came home with flats of pansies and we could dig with kitchen spoons to plant then in our window boxes.

Next year, I will own a home far from the city, with a yard substantially larger than any on the suburban block where we live right now. Perhaps we will have a high school boy come once a week to mow the lawn, to free up my husband's limited free time for family activities, but other than that I hope that we will maintain our property ourselves. Frankly, we are going to have to, which leads to my next question -- how are people paying for this?

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Mother's Prayer

Before my senior year in college, I had the wonderful opportunity to go on a 4-week fellowship/retreat to Mariazell, Austria, with many other amazing young Catholics. Every morning we prayed morning prayer together in a beautiful, simple chapel, and this prayer has stuck with me. I may not say it every morning, but when I remember to, my day is the better for it. I'd like to share it with you today:

God my Father, Lord of heaven and earth, Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. I adore You and love You with all my heart. I thank you for counting me worthy to stand in your presence and serve you.

I offer you on this day my prayer, my work and effort, my suffering and joy. I ask that I can do all of this out of love for you and according to your will.

Grant me perseverance in living my Christian vocation, patience in suffering, courage in proclaiming my faith, wisdom in my life journey, and charity in my dealings with others.

Free me from all sin and from all evil. May your grace always remain with me and with all those who are dear to me.


This prayer strikes me as particularly appropriate on the day after Mother's Day, because as mothers, each day will require something different of us. One day we need the grace to persevere in ardent prayer for a particular intention of our family - perhaps one child has been very anxious recently and you can't figure out why, or your husband is very busy at work and it has been difficult for you and the kids. The next day may require much patience, as all of the children are sick and as a result you are stuck inside, wiping runny noses and calming fussy babies. The next may require courage to speak out against an evil that you observe, wisdom to make an important decision for your family, or charity towards a spouse that comes home grumpy after a long day or a preschooler that has several accidents in the course of a couple of hours. In all of these circumstances, may we ask for the grace to respond in a manner befitting our vocation as mothers!

On a final note, I have recently become aware of a number of mothers who are in great need of prayer, either for themselves or for their children. How blessed I am to have two healthy children in my care, one child safely in heaven, and to be healthy myself, and how ungrateful I am when I feel sorry for myself because something didn't go my way! To all those mothers whose hearts were heavy on Mother's Day, I pray that you will find peace and comfort knowing that you are favored in the eyes of our Lord. Truly, over the course of his public ministry Jesus made it quite clear to us that his "favorites" were the sick, the needy, the sorrowing...May they be our "favorites" too, that we may be true disciples of Christ!

Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted and Mother of Sorrows, pray for us!

Almost perfect

Yesterday I awoke at 9am!!! to a beautiful breakfast feast: bismark donuts from my favorite bakery, omelets prepared by Mr. Red, and champagne! It is a rare treat for this mama to eat a meal prepared by someone else. Mr. Red did a fantastic, and almost perfect job.


Apparently, Mr. Red left a paper towel too close to one of the burners while preparing the omelet. Later that day, just when Mr. Red started feeling good about his Mother's Day performance, my 4 year old daughter questioned him, "Dada, why, when you cook, stuff gets on fire?"

I then realized that I was additionally blessed this mothers day...I slept through the kitchen fire.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day to our Blessed Mother

To celebrate, watch this video from Spain.

And pray the rosary.

Happy Mother's Day!

The Dirt on bumGenius

As a follow-up to our Cloth Diaperdom discussion, I begged my friend to give us the inside scoop on her experience with the bumGenius brand of cloth diapers... and she delivered. Thank you, Jenica, for passing along your wisdom. Blessings to all on this Mother's Day!

We use the All-In-One version of Bum Genius, without inserts or covers. I think they are made up of cotton, fleece and polyester with velcro tabs. They come in 4 sizes: XS, which is for use before the belly button cord falls off; S, our daughter was in those for about 3 months; M, where we are now and (I think) go up to 22 lbs; and L, up to 30 lbs.

We have loved them right from the start. They are so easy to use and wash. When they are dirty, they roll up just like a disposable. We have had no stains or lingering smells. Our system has been to have a open basket in her room for dirty diapers. The outer part of the diaper must contain smells very well because her room has never had a bad odor (it is also hard to tell if she has a dirty diaper when they are on her, usually can't do the smell test, have to look). So, we take off the dirty roll it up with the wipes, poop and all (the velcro tabs stick to each other) and toss it into the basket. We are usually washing every other day. We take the basket to the laundry room and dump the wipes into a small garbage bag. Now that she has started solids we are also dumping some of the now solid poo. We wash in warm then do a hot rinse and a cold rinse. We dry with 2 dry towels to speed up drying time. They seem to take a long time to dry which is the biggest con.

When she was in the Small size we had some leakage around the legs and around the top in front. I think our daughter just had a larger bladder compared to the size those diapers were designed to hold because once we put her in the Medium size, which are larger and hold more, we have had almost no leaks. We also may have been using too much detergent and had a little bit of build-up when using the Small size. We have had a couple (literally maybe 3 or 4 in the last 3 months) of leaks around the front top when she has been sleeping on her belly.

I swear she gets less diaper rash because of the cloth diapers. The first time she had a rash was when we were slack about washing and had her in disposables all day. Her little tush gets red from lack of air flow when she is in disposable, but not in cotton. And I love all the money we save!! It is a challenge sometimes to stay motivated to continue cotton when I feel like "I just washed them" and now they are all dirty again! But, it's all worth it to do our part for the environment, to keep some cash in our pockets and of course to do the best for my baby's bottom! :) I think about all the women who had babies before disposable diapers and if they could do it with only cloth, then I can too!!!!

Also, if anyone has any insight into the new bumGenius 3.0 (one size fits all), please inform us!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Your husband at your side?

So what is a Dad's role during labor and delivery? Is Dad an active coach? A quiet bystander? An anxious disaster and distraction? The perfect support person? Or just another family member in the waiting room?!?

When Mr. Red and I were attending law school and expecting our 2nd baby, we took a course in husband coached childbirth (the Bradley Method). One particular woman attended the course--alone. Her husband wasn't "comfortable" attending the births of their children. It was her second child, and first attempt at natural birth. She was planning a homebirth with a doula and midwife. No husband. How crazy I thought (not the homebirth but hubby's absence). Sure childbirth is a messy thing, but so is war. And so is changing diapers. It seems the same rationale could be used to excuse men from all sorts of "messy tasks." Come on, man-up, I thought.

At the time, I thought this particular couple's approach was the result of an overzealous theology related to the "proper" roles of men and women. But maybe I was wrong? Just this week Danielle Bean linked to two very interesting articles discussing the presence or absence of men in the delivery room.

The first article seems to suggest that men should be more "prepared" for the intensity of childbirth experiences. It claims that most childbirth courses are very fact oriented and very focused on women. I think this is an excellent point, and it would do men well to be more prepared for the intensity.

The second article, written by an OB who has delivered thousands of babies, suggests that men don't really belong in the delivery room. He argues that childbirth is best left to a woman, her doula, and an experienced midwife. He also argues that the high rate of C-sections and interventions during childbirth are partially the result of an anxious husband causing his wife tension during labor and delivery. According to this doc, if a man leaves his wife alone, she will usually deliver faster, and with less complications.

While I agree that anxiety plays a major role in L & D complications, I think to blame the husband is bordering on absurd. In my own humble opinion, the high rate of interventions during L & D is the result of our overly-litigious society, AND an overly-medicalized approach to L & D. Viewing birth as a procedure rather than a natural process is the problem. Now I'm not saying there isn't a role for medical intervention. A good OB is a God-send in a medical emergency. My point is only that there should be an underlying assumption that birth is Natural and good. Most of the time, a laboring woman should be left alone to deliver her baby w/o all the medical hype--and she will do a great job! Most women seem to experience A LOT more anxiety as a result of hospital policies and procedures. Things such as difficult nurses, mandatory IV's, a lack of fluids and food, being forced to lie flat on your back in bed, being continuously strapped to a monitor, or a room-full of medical personnel cause the anxiety, not the presence of the husband.

Now, that being said, I think men should do a lot more to prepare themselves to take on a supportive role during labor. Obviously each couple has to make their own decisions about how they would like to birth their children, and the role of each dad will be different. But that being said, I think it is really unfair to suggest that having dad present usually results in more anxiety for the mom.

In my own personal experience, my best and only natural birth was with Augustine (my 4th baby). It was the only birth where my husband was the most important person in the room. His support was imperative for me to succeed in birthing my baby quickly and naturally. I wanted him by my side, I needed to look to him for strength.

On the contrary, I spent a good part of my labor with Charlie (my 3rd baby) alone (I'll spare the details of how this happened). My labor with Charlie had more interventions and was, in my opinion, my worst birthing experience. I was keenly aware of Mr. Red's absence and felt very alone.

Obviously, each woman needs to decide what birthing environment will best help her to relax. I can't emphasize enough the importance of relaxation to a positive birth experience. But to suggest that men don't belong in the delivery room, or to blame them for overzealous doctors and hospitals is not only unfair, it is borderline absurd.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this...

Mom's Salary

My husband emails me stories like this one on the compensation that a mother deserves ($117,000/year) just to get me riled up.

I'm not sure which is more ridiculous...that someone is trying to quantify the value motherhood or that they think a mom only works 94 hours a week!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cloth Diaperdom

In the spirit of the recent Earth Day and some folks' desire to grow evermore "green", I wanted to pass along some personal cloth diapering insights... I wrote these to a friend who was considering the switch awhile back. The description below provides the Gasperini-Ville approach to cloth. Feel free to add your ideas in the comments! Also, I'd love to hear from users of other brands of cloth so as to have full representation across the board. Do yours leak? Are they user-friendly? Are they comfy for the kiddos?

Thanks and happy diapering!

Overall, I would say cloth diapering is WORTH the initial investment and the diapers are just as good as disposables. We have gotten into a good routine with the diapers and now it barely feels like we are doing anything different. After starting two years ago in April, it has definitely been a great choice for us.

First of all, it is totally normal to feel overwhelmed and over-informationalized about these crazy cloth diapers. There is tons of info out there on the WWW and yet, I found very little of it to be really informative. I also hated that cloth diaper discussion pages were laden with acronyms and fancy terms! I never had any idea WHAT I was reading! Better to ask friends with tried-and-true experience!

Secondly, leaking is a possibility, especially if you don't have the right kind of diaper and insert for your little one. Cloth definitely requires a greater frequency of changes since you don't have the chemical polymers for absorption. We have found success with Fuzzi Bunz, a very popular brand of cloth diapers. I've found the cotton next to the skin makes the babies feel pretty dry. They are expensive, but in the end save you $$ if you use them long enough and for more than one child. We had friends who were ditching the cloth thing (she couldn't handle the smells and excessive laundry, but is now thinking of going back!) and we bought their used stash of smalls, med. and large fuzzi bunz along with their Hemparoo inserts. Joey Bunz Hemparoos are awesome organic hemp cotton inserts that are 7 layers thick and great for absorbing LOTs of pee. The FB are pocket diapers, so I usually place one of the Hemparoos in it and away we go. I also like them because the inserts are relatively thin. FB will come with their own inserts that can be used as doublers, but don't hold nearly as much liquid and are thicker. The diaper will definitely leak if you only use the inserts provided by FuzziBunz. Once the kiddo starts walking, the thinner the insert, the better. Even two Hemparoos is pretty thin when all is said and done.

I use the FB/Hemparoo combos during the day and a disposable at nighttime. We used to go 24/7 with cloth, but would drive the kids and us crazy, stuffing 3 hemparoos into the nighttime diaper and making them look like little Sumo wrestlers. It wasn't worth my sanity! Now, I just buy a box of disposables and use them for our diaper bag, trips, and nighttimes.

As for storage of the Bunz between washings, I found a Rubbermaid flip top garbage can that seals well and holds in the wonderful cloth aroma! I have it right by the changing table and toss both the FB and the Hemparoo together into the bin (after separating them). Then, when it comes time for washing, I just dump the whole bin into the machine, run a cold rinse cycle and then a High Power Wash cycle with Tide Free on Hot. This seems to be enough to remove everything and the smells. We finish with a Warm dryer cycle and extra towel, which dramatically reduces drying time. I used to air dry my FB covers, but found that the dryer did little harm to them.

We also use disposable wipes and I have a separate garbage can for those. I just change it regularly and we usually keep the smell way down. GG is pretty particular and hasn't minded it at all.

As for how many diapers you should initially buy--I would start with 10 as you can usually get through 2 days with such a supply, though you could always add a few if you needed more. You'll go through more diapers with a little one, so you might want to start out with 12 or so. All in all, though, I think cloth diapering babies 6mos and younger is a no-brainer and the BEST way to go. Everything is completely organic and requires LITTLE work. You can just dump in the hamper and go! When he starts on solids, you'll have to do a little toilet dumping, but overall, I make my washing machine do the heavy-duty work!!

Check out eBay if you want to find some used FB diapers. I actually bought a bunch of my Hemparoos from there--I'm going to wash the inserts anyway, so I didn't mind getting them if they'd already been used. The Hemparoo inventor sometimes lists ones with defects (like a missed stitch) and they are a wonderful bidding item. I have a few of those and they were sig. cheaper. Hemparoos run around $4/ea.

There you have it--probably more information than you ever wanted, but enjoy!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Pope on the Vocation of Motherhood... Whether He Knew It Or Not

A Guest Post by AWOL Mommy (Princeton grad, former military intelligence officer and mom of a 3 year old girl and a 3 month old boy) very much in tune with the theme of this blog, Building Cathedrals, and this month, May, dedicated to Mary.

I just finished reading Peter Seewald's 1996 interview with (then) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and I was struck by the applicability of his words to our vocation as mothers. Specifically, the Pope describes the "theology of littleness" as "a basic category of Christianity."

Littleness seems to work itself into my daily life in many ways: my companions are little, their sandwiches and socks must be correspondingly little, but, more abstractly, I often feel that the tasks I must accomplish are so little. I confuse "little" with unimportant -- which Cardinal Ratzinger does not allow. Mopping floors and folding underwear feel like little tasks - little and insignificant, however, the Pope's words in Salt of the Earth reminded me that they are not. Rather, the love which forms the backbone of my decision to be a dedicated mother who must accomplish these tasks empowers me and my family.

Daddy makes the money. Daddy flies the airplanes. Daddy has the stories... aren't these facts proof of his greater power in our family's life?

The Pope says 'au contrair' ... quite the opposite, in fact: "... the tenor of our faith is that God's distinctive greatness revealed precisely in powerlessness. That, in the long run, the strength of history is precisely in those who love, which is to say, in a strength that, properly speaking, cannot be measured according to categories of power."

love! We love our families so powerfully that we forego countless selfish pleasures in order to accomplish all the little needs of our little people. The Pope says that we - mothers, mothers in the home, form a part of the "strength of history" - now I don't know about you, but that sure sounds great to me -- pass the basket of unmatched socks please!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Prenatal Diagnosis - A Follow-Up

I posted this in the "comments" section of Red's last posting, but thought I would make it into a posting of its own...

Elizabeth, you touch on a great point; prenatal diagnosis comes with its own set of blessings and curses. We, like Red, had a daughter with anencephaly, which is a neural tube defect that prevents the brain from developing as it should. Anencephaly is an untreatable and fatal condition, so we knew that our daughter would die either at birth or shortly after birth. We found out about Lucy's condition at our 20 week ultrasound, and for us there was never a question of whether or not we would carry her for as long as we could. In our case, knowing about Lucy's condition before her birth was a blessing because we were able to spend the rest of the pregnancy bonding with her and preparing for her birth. We wanted to be able to take advantage of every moment that we had with Lucy after her birth, so we planned all of the details in advance, and were also blessed to have many family members and wonderful friends be with us to meet our daughter. Had we not known of her condition, we would not have been able to do this.

Sadly, the vast majority of parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of anencephaly decide to terminate (98%), and they never get the chance to hold their baby in their arms or say "good-bye" like we did. We feel immensely blessed for all of the time that we had with Lucy - even though she was stillborn, it was important for us to hold her, kiss her, bathe and dress her, and then, when the time came, to hand her over and say our farewells. Nothing about the experience was easy, but it was natural and good, and our family wouldn't be the same without Lucy as a part of it.

One of the problems with prenatal diagnosis lies largely with the advice given by nurses and doctors when the news is "bad". The doctor on call the day of our 20-week ultrasound strongly advised us to "see her friend" at another hospital who could "take care of everything for us." Even after we told her that we would be carrying our baby to term, no questions asked, she continued to hammer home the point that our baby could not live outside of the womb, that there was no chance of survival...In her mind, there was no point in continuing the pregnancy because the outcome would certainly be death. The picture that she painted was grim, and some of the information that she gave us was inaccurate. Luckily, we already knew a lot of the facts about anencephaly, but many parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis do not know the facts already and have to rely on what the doctors tell them. Unfortunately, many parents are talked into terminating their pregnancies in a haze of confusion and extreme sorrow, and the effects have been devastating for many families and for society as a whole.

Please understand that I am not trying to say that all doctors are uncompassionate and misleading - we encountered many wonderful nurses and doctors along the way, and for them we are truly thankful. But the sense that I've gotten is that the medical profession in general has taken the opinion that parents "deserve" a healthy baby, and that a child has a right to be born healthy; thus, if there is a prenatal diagnosis to the contrary, it is in everyone's best interest (the parents' and the child's) to terminate the pregnancy. This, of course, is also a pervasive attitude in our society...Sad, but I fear that it's true. Our journey with Lucy would have been much harder had we not had the love and support of so many wonderful friends and family members; it saddens me to know that many people do not experience the same level of encouragement and support, and I pray for them every night.

One last point, and then I'll stop :) I fear that our society no longer knows how to deal properly with suffering. We do not know how to be with others in their suffering, and when suffering comes our way, we feel that we are all alone in our plight. We are so uncomfortable with vulnerability and weakness that we push it away at all costs. This is not a healthy state of affairs for individuals, families, or society in general...

Saint Mary, Mother of Mercy, pray for us!

"I see perfection"

I heard about this touching story over the weekend. Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin gave birth to her 5th child, a son, Trig Paxon Van Palin, who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome during Palin's pregnancy.

"I'm looking at him right now, and I see perfection," Palin said. "Yeah, he has an extra chromosome. I keep thinking, in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?"


But unfortunately, most parents do not share her sentiments, and sadly most will not choose life for their child. Over 90% of Down Syndrome children are diagnosed prenatally and then aborted, over 90%! Is this because parents think they have the "right" to a healthy child? Or is it because they are afraid to really love?

As a mother who has personally faced a very devastating prenatal diagnosis, I know the fear that comes when a doctor tells you the "bad news." The fear is literally overwhelming. It takes every ounce of energy just to breath, and the thought of giving more, of really loving, can seem impossible.

But with grace all things are possible.

I applaud the Palin's in their courage to not only love their baby boy, but in their courage to open themselves up to the public, and give our very broken and messed up world a beautiful example of God's love. It comes at a time when we really need it. I only wish more of our public figures could do the same.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Congratulations Juris Mater!

SHE has arrived! A big Congratulations to Juris Mater and her family on the arrival of their newest baby GIRL!!!! Mother and baby are doing well. Here are baby's "stats":

9 lbs. 5 oz.
21 1/2 inches long
May 1st at 5:29pm

And a big Congratulations to Kat, who correctly predicted the baby would be born on May 1st--much earlier than anyone expected, including Juris Mater. Kat's intuition was so strong that she even called me at 5:30 asking if Juris Mater had delivered the baby. Go Kat!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Unexpected Blessings

I never expected this week to be so fruitful.

I have to admit entering it with a pretty pessimistic attitude--never the best thing for supporting one's better half in the midst of stress! Yet I love how God shows us within our worries and downtrodden spirits that there is HOPE springing forth, eternal. He is good like that, you know?

It has actually turned into a fabulous week. The kids and I have flourished together (more than usual) and I've been able to take a little of the good kind of mommy pride away from the past few days. I have been able to see my children through the eyes of the Lord--as compassionate and dynamic works-in-progress, who delight in the day and relish opportunities to hang with their mama. What a wonderful gift this week has been.

Thank you, Lord, for blessing me even when I thought it was impossible.

Even when my beloved was wading through his last semester of law school finals.
Even when, like many of my friends, I have been on-call 24/7 without any help.
Even when I have faced my mommy guilt and mommy pride head-on.
Even when my blessed children have had less-than-loveable moments in the day-to-day.
Even when I had to administer pink eye antibiotics (enough said.)

You have shown me goodness.
You have shown me smiles.
You have shown me obedience.
You have shown me love.

Thank you.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

St. Joseph the Worker

Today's feast of St. Joseph is suppressed in honor of Ascension Thursday, but I did want to take a moment to honor St. Joseph and to thank my husband who, along with the other builders guys, works hard every day to make it possible for us to live our vocations as wives and mothers.

Lately, I have been getting an amazing amount of support from my husband in all sorts of ways, at the end of a long day at work he comes home and helps out with whatever household chores are left undone. He begins his day by serving breakfast to the family. He is making better food choices and taking care of himself so that he can do what he is able to be here to support us for many years to come.

My grandmother often reminds me that there is a heavy burden on the young fathers of large families, they have many mouths to feed and they have worries that they often do not share at home. Today, and everyday, I entrust my spouse to St. Joseph, who was chosen by God to be the foster father of Our Lord Jesus and the daily companion to Our Blessed Mother.