Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Etiquette

I am planning to send my boys out trick-or-treating tonight, but not without requirement.  They are to be polite and courteous to the people they meet, especially to those nice enough to give them treats.

I was at a Halloween event recently where out of 50 kids, I received less than a handful of "thank-you's".   Each time a child approached me for their candy handout, I would patiently wait to see if he/she would "wow" me with manners.  Most times I remained woefully disappointed.  I found myself looking up at the mothers with a quizzical stare, "Don't you realize your child is supposed to show gratitude?"  

So tonight as my children (Spiderman and Superman) parade around the neighborhood, you'd better believe their vigilant mother will be listening for the coveted "thank-you's".  My young lads are going to learn a Halloween lesson that will hopefully stay put for years to come--politeness is of utmost importance (and it might earn you more candy!)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Preschooler's "Quiet Time" as Training for Contemplation

Three-and-a-half year old Bella isn't napping anymore--she's in that stage where she could fall asleep at nap time, but if she does she's awake until 11pm.

I knew we'd be one of those families where non-napping preschoolers still have an hour of quiet time. The reasons, or so I thought: (1) My sanity--I need that time to catch my breath, exercise, and pray for a few minutes (2) The child's sanity--no 3 year old can blast through a day full-throttle and still be cheerful at dinner time.

However, lately I've started to realize that there's more to quiet time than saving sanity. Bella is learning to entertain herself with her own creativity and imagination. No noise, no stimulation, no frills, just a few books or basic toys. Even more importantly and so lovely, she is learning to sit still in the quiet and be alone with her thoughts. I have watched her improve in this ability day by day. Her first quiet times were real struggles, and if she was quiet, it was only out of obedience. Lately, she has an easier time settling in peacefully for the full hour. This quiet is so difficult to cultivate in children these days, with all the activity and distraction, but I see it as true training for the ability to contemplate and pray. Her Mass behavior has improved significantly lately, too.

I didn't really expect that quiet time would have a training purpose, but I've been so pleased to see its effects. She's inspiring me to discipline myself to be quiet and still and contemplate better. If a chatterbox 3 year old can do it, I have no excuse!


It is finished. The curse is over. We are champions!

Anyone want to join us for a parade down Broad street? Tomorrow will be a big day. Lots of Philly fun at the parade and then trick or treating in the afternoon. We will be tired for sure. But when you haven't seen your team win a championship in 25 years, you just have to celebrate this one in style.

Stop the ride, I want to get off!

Tuesday morning, my OB noticed that my blood pressure was elevated. Rather than the logical assumption that driving 5 kids to the appointment in the October SNOW might be stressing me out, he was concerned that I was one of the less that 10% of women with re-occuring pre-eclampsia. Since I am only 34 weeks, this was a scary notion, and I was told to return the next day for another check up. In the 24 hours in between, I had time to contemplate the effect on my family if I had to go on total bedrest for 3 weeks. My conclusion? The effects would be totally positive.

Now, I don't mean to make light of grave illness, and I was thankful when my blood pressure had completely returned to its normal levels the next morning, but I am doing some thinking about what my feelings about bedrest say about my life at the moment.

We can all laugh about how fun it would be to spend a few days in bed, but I really had a plan:

1. Move all the school books and some great read alouds into my room, along with trains, blocks and dolls.
2. Hire a cleaning lady for 3 days a week to do laundry and keep up the house (or, just let the house go, budget depending).
3. Make a list of slow cooker meals that my husband could start before he left for work each morning.
4. Send K to the knitting store to stock me up, and make hats and mittens for the kids in my downtime.
5. Hire the neighbor's teenager to be a sitter when the kids go out to play with other neighborhood kids each afternoon, and spend that time cuddling the baby.
6. Cancel everything else.

Really, what could be better? This is very much the way we homeschooled last year (except for being in bed), in that we had no friends and I didn't clean the house, I just spent all of my time reading to my kids in the backyard and we ate mostly cheese, crackers and apple slices. This week, we have had appointments every single day, and for what seems like 2 months now we have been off our schedule and overtired because of something...move, summer, baseball, race training, holidays, pregnancy, playdates, grandparent sleepovers, is time for me to put my foot down, but how?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Two Unrelated Questions

1) Am I the first nursing mother to indefinitely delay the introduction of solids because I like the effect that exclusive nursing has on my figure? Angelina is 6 months old and shows some interest in our food. She has proven that she can swallow cereal and mashed foods but doesn't seem hungry as long as I nurse her often enough. I'm finally comfortably back into clothes that have been stored since our wedding. As I see it, this is a win situation for everyone.

2) Will Barack Obama's audacity (pun intended) in purchasing the first half hour of tonight's World Series air time for a 30-minute political commercial help him or hurt him? Word on the street is when Phillies Phans turn on their TVs to see their team make a run at the Series once every 15 years, it's baseball they want to see. Not you-know-who.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Cute Idea for Halloween

The Pumpkin Prayer
This prayer illustrates that in order for us to live like the saints did, we need to let God change us so that His light can shine through us.

Preparation for the Pumpkin Prayer
Carve a pumpkin and keep the pieces intact. Cut eyes, ears, mouth, nose and cut a circle around the stem. Remove the seeds and pumpkin pulp, put it in a plastic bag and return it to the inside of the pumpkin. Put the eyes, ears, nose and mouth back in the cut-out holes and replace the lid. Have a candle and long-stemmed lighter ready. Gather your family around the pumpkin and pray this prayer.

Lord, open my mind so I can learn new things about you and the world you created. (Remove the top of the pumpkin)
Remove the things in my life that don't please you. Forgive the wrong things I do and help me to forgive others. (Pull out the bag of seeds.)
Open my eyes to see the beauty you've made in the world around me. (Remove the eyes.)
Open my ears when I hear your word, so I may learn how you want me to live. (Remove the ears.)
I'm sorry for the times I've turned up my nose at people who are different from me, but who are your children, too. (Remove the nose.)
Let everything I say please you. (Remove the mouth.)
Lord, help me show your light to others through the things I do. (Place a candle inside and light it.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

How Building Cathedrals Saved my Life

A tad drastic? Maybe, but my intention in this post is to explain and then give thanks for a revelation I have experienced over the past 18 months of my life.

It was May 2007 - my, reluctant, four-year active duty Army service was completed and Husband and I had decided that someone needed to be the rock at home. No more two parents at work for insane hours. No more two parents fearing deployments to hostile lands, one is more than enough.

Leaving the work-a-day world to stay home with my children was Earth-shattering at first, and not in all good ways. I was floundering. I did not know how to do this. I was raised as a Navy brat - both of my parents served as naval officers until after I left home for college. I am amazed by my mother's success as a female naval officer who broke so many barriers for subsequent generations. However, her homemaking life was ad hoc at best. It was the best she could manage on evenings and weekends. Some things were out-sourced, we had the occasional cleaning lady and always a gardening crew, but for the most part she probably just slept very little and spent a lot of money on takeout. My most poignant memories are of family trips and vacations, but the day-to-day stuff was run by a series of nannies. So that was my background and there I was at home with (almost) two children. At our new duty station I was invited to a Protestant Bible Study- it was entitled "Creative Companion" and we read a book by the same title that rocked my world.

The book itself wasn't that profound, but what was profound for me was that being a wife and mother, a homemaker and an educator and a catechizer is a serious -- the most serious -- profession there is. The way we approach our jobs as homemakers is 100% mental. In my first months at home I was allowing myself to fall prey to the societal bogus that being a stay-at-home mother was wasting my talents and was all about spit-up and laundry. It is so so much deeper than that. My world has been exploding for the past year thanks to the ladies on this blog and those who have gone before us and written about the work that goes on in a home. I have learned that it is one thing to "keep a home afloat" and another to be continually reading and refining your routines based on what you read and who you meet.

It is inherent in our very created nature to lead our families toward a holier, better existence. If we don't, no one will find the time. Edith Stein writes that we are called to, "serve man, children and all creatures in a reverential loving manner in order to foster their natural formation for the glory of God and thereby further their natural happiness." (and I wouldn't even know that if I wasn't a virtual member of Mary Alice and Right Said Red's monthly Catholic mothers' exchange group!)

God has had such a hand in my life by showing me the way to deliberate living. Not being lost in the laundry and the dishes, but learning to do both better and with a better mindset. Frankly, it is sad that I couldn't realize all this on my own - you know, that one can improve the way she supports her husband and family through "professional" reading? I mean, clearly when we work outside the home we are encouraged to do professional reading. Lawyers read law journals, stock brokers read The Wall Street Journal, as a military officer I read books about the Middle East and military history. Why would I have assumed that that all stopped when I became a stay-at-home-mother? Au contrair! I have embarked on a bold experiment here - to professionalize my role as the homemaker in this household. I read books about how to cook baby food, how laundry is a path to holiness, how to keep a home journal to keep things flowing in a more orderly way. I don't know, it all sounds pretty scholarly to me. And I pray that my family will reap the benefits. I don't think I have learned enough yet, I think I have a long way to go. Furthermore, I sometimes wonder if my lack of a childhood home which I seek to imitate sets me back even further. Nonetheless, I am pleased to embark on this journey of deliberate living and I can't believe that my "to-read" book list is longer now than it was when I was an intellectually curious sophomore at Princeton.

At bat for me: A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul.

On deck: Building the Christian Family You Never Had: A Practical Guide For Pioneer Parents

A Campaign Issue We Can All Agree On

Today I have received several emails reminding me that there are nine days left until the presidential election -- and, though they are a bit lost in the shuffle this year, we will also be voting for our Congress and local leadership.

Will you please join in a minute of prayer for our country every night at 9 pm, beginning tonight and continuing through election day? Whoever becomes our next president is going to need our prayers, as he will face issues we cannot yet imagine, as well as the complicated ones we already know about.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Somewhere in the archives, TexasMommy wrote about the upsides of the third trimester of pregnancy. I am at 33 weeks now, so I want to share my thoughts on the subject. Be prepared, they will get whinier as the weeks progress:

1) I am now so visibly pregnant that many strangers comment. I am really glad to be pregnant and excited to meet my baby, so I am finding that it is actually fun to talk to strangers about when he is due, etc. However, when they ask if this is my first, I am tempted to just say yes so we can move on without the hysterics of how young I look to have five other children. This usually leads to them asking how old I am. Do I have to tell? Old enough to have wrinkles means you shouldn't really ask my age, right? Also, visibly pregnant = seats on buses, doors held, general kindness from strangers, which I am cherishing.

2) 4 year old John, who is not a cuddler generally, has taken to hugging and kissing the baby (and therefore me).

3) Nesting. You should see my closet, it is clean and beautiful. This will not help the baby in any way, but I have learned to channel my nesting energy into other productive areas, since I don't really have to set up a nursery. Although sometime after Halloween I am going to wash and organize all the tiny nightgowns, and that will be super fun.

4) Leg cramps and heartburn. Okay, here is my positive spin on leg cramps...right now I am a little bit scared of labor, but over the course of the next seven weeks my leg cramps will becoming increasingly painful and more frequent, to the point where I would happily endure natural childbirth just to get this whole pregnancy over with. I am dead serious about this, I think it is a healthy part of the whole cycle, I will be begging for labor come December, and that is a good thing. Also, I am supposed to help the leg cramps by having a glass of milk before bed. It doesn't work at all, but it does give me a good excuse to eat a cookie.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Back To Sleep Query

Dear Building Cathedrals,

My 4-mos-old son, Sean, is suffering from a flat head due to all the time spent on his back. I know pediatricians have just started recommending back sleeping in the last few years and we all slept on our fronts and had nice round heads to show for it. All the mothers in my life who had front-sleeping babies can't stand Sean's head! And this is a C-Section head!

Do your babies have flat heads like this too? Am I to take solace knowing that there will be at least one generation of flat-headed babies and Sean will have classmates with similar head shape? Does it get round again at some point? Or is Sean in a football-head league of his own? Help!

-Erin, North Carolina

Dear Erin,
First things first, kudos to you as a first-time mommy for enduring the criticism of those around you!!  There is nothing like first-time-motherhood and feeling like you have to measure up to others' expectations.  I applaud your sincere questioning in the midst of scrutiny!!  Just know that 1) you are not alone and 2) there are ways to help Sean's head.

I write in response to your query with a bit of personal experience.  M, my first, also had a very soft skull as do most young children (except for Red's kids who have iron skulls--really, they have beautifully-shaped heads that stay round regardless of time spent on their backs! Amazing!)   We noticed within the first few months that M's head was becoming pretty flat.  He loved to sleep on his back, looking straight up.  He enjoyed time on his "play gym", which also meant more time and pressure on his little head.  Basically any activity we did (except tummy time) required M to be on his back.  Alas, I had to take action!!  Since then I've become rather OCD in my approach to the problem, but the result has been nicer, rounder heads for my boys! 

Here are some tips for giving Sean's little head "a break":
--Try placing a rolled blanket behind his head when he sits in a car seat or bouncy chair just enough to prevent his head from touching the back of the contraption.  I find time spent in these types of chairs really flattens the head a good bit.  Any relief you can give will help.
--Use a sleep positioner like this one to prop Sean on his back/side while sleeping.  I usually angle the baby just a small bit toward his left or right side and switch sides for each nap.  The wedges on the side have Velcro to help prop the baby and prevent him from rolling over.  I usually will stop using this after my babies start to roll more.
--Shift his head while he's sleeping.  Once he's in deep enough sleep, you could try turning his head to the left or right to take some pressure off of the back.  Funny enough, though, babies can also develop a flat spot on the left or right side as well.  One of my nephews had this and it really stressed out my poor sister!
--As soon as Sean has more trunk stability, get him off the floor and in something like an Exersaucer.  M's head did gain more roundness as he aged, especially because he loved his daily time in his "office" (as we affectionately called the Exersaucer!)  You will find that with each passing month, things will naturally improve because Sean is generally more upright.

And if all else fails, doctors can prescribe a special head-shaping helmet for children with extreme shape problems.  My nephew almost ended up with one of these, but thankfully nature took its course and corrected the problem in due time.  

Take care, Erin, and best of luck with these suggestions!
And as you well know, you have a beautiful, healthy little boy and that is most important! :)

Shoes, Cake, and other Unimportant Thoughts for a Friday Morning...

On this Friday morning, here are the things that I am thinking about, in no particular order:

1) I can't wait to see Texas Mommy and her boys this weekend for Baby J's baptism! Yay, Baby J! Hmmm, I'd better make sure that we all have appropriate attire that fits the kids (and me!)...

2) How am I going to keep 4 kids, ages 12 months through 4 1/2 years, happy on the playground this morning? (Another mom and I are "trading kids" during parent-teacher conferences at C's school.) Will I be able to nurse Maria while watching the other kiddos, or is this totally over-ambitious?

3) Where can I find shoes that will actually stay on little Maria's pudgy feet? Shoes that won't come easily off when she tugs at them, but that aren't too difficult to wrestle onto a squirmy wormy 1 year-old? 

4) What kind of cake should I make for her one-year birthday next week? Or should it be a pie?

5) How can it be that Maria is already turning 1? Has a year really already gone by?

And that's about it, folks :) I need a cup of coffee before you'll get any deeper thoughts out of me :)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tone, Trash Talk and Thanksgiving Turkey: Part Quattro

I have come to realize in the last week what my two most formidable opponents will be in this 8K race:

Not the 8K distance or the time. I'm running 8Ks outside and doing 45 minute cardio workouts with no problem.

Not Red and B-mama. I will handily beat them without question.

Not the city smog or car fumes that I will be inhaling while I run. I have strong lungs--never been a smoker, always been an athlete.

The two major opponents will be the early morning and the cold weather. To remind everyone, the race is on November 23 in Philadelphia, start time is 7:15am. Start time. Meaning I'll have to get up at like 5:45am to get to the race site, warm up, and make it to the starting line in time. If I want to do my hair, makeup, and shave my legs to look cute in the running skirt like Red's planning to do, maybe even 5:30am. Having grown up in the sunny deep South and lived my life as a non-morning-person to the extreme, I'm mildly concerned. I will now focus on getting in at least one very early morning run this coming week, especially since the mornings are getting colder around here. Simulating race conditions will be very important for training for this race, since the conditions will be... not mild... to say the least.

By the way, how do you like this graphic? Now that's some cold weather running!

One down, Three to Go!

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Comments Are Open

I have changed the format of our comments to a pop-up window because for some reason blogger was not allowing comments on our blog. If you want to continue discussion on the election, please feel free, the comments are now working. Sorry for the inconvenience...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Nutty Day

Some of our loyal readers may have picked up on the fact that we have a loose schedule of rotating blog posts among the builders. Well, today is my day, and I have spent most of it in a 10'x6' doctors office with a 3 year old and a baby, so my brain is pretty fried at this point. This is not the post I had planned to write, but I will be happy if I can put together full sentences.

Today we had Dash's "peanut challenge". He had a reaction the first time he ate peanut butter, and tested very positive to a peanut allergy. His last skin test was shockingly negative, so the next step was to have him ingest peanut protein in increasing amounts in a controlled setting while his vital signs were constantly monitored to see if he is in the 15% of kids that do outgrow their peanut allergies. The great news is that he passed! He had absolutely no reaction to the peanut flour.

Here are some reflections on the day:

1. They tell you to bring something that your child will eat to a food challenge to mix with the allergic food. I made one of Dash's favorite desserts, homemade chocolate custard (or pots de creme). As soon as the door closed I realized I might regret bringing something made with both sugar and caffeine as we would be confined to our room for the next 5 hours.

2. However, caffeine for mom is definitely a plus in this situation.

3. It is possible to hold a crying 3 year old while feeding a baby simultaneously.

4. Someone needs to invent blood pressure cuffs for toddlers that work on the first try.

5. I never thought I would even consider a request to color on the baby. Request was denied, but I did consider the ideas merits (namely, distraction for a stir crazy 3 year old) for a moment.

6. Foam stickers shaped like bugs are worth their weight in gold.

7. Ample time to reflect on why my household of 3 small men was sent an American Girl catalog.

8. I have more patience than I thought I did.

9. Upon returning home and (momentarily) having three children sleeping simultaneously, I feel I deserve to eat something made from sugar and caffeine.

It's the World Series

and when your from Philadelphia, that's a big deal.

We are ready to go.

Will you be watching tonight?

Go Phils!

New Comment Policy

First, I want to thank everyone who has been participating in the comments to Kat's post below.

For the future, we are asking that no "anonymous" comments be placed on our blog. The Internet can be an anonymous place, and we respect your right to, and desire for, anonymity. However, it is really tough to follow and respond to a conversation when we do not know who is posting what, following up on what, etc. So, please give yourself a moniker of some sort.

I also think that using names, even fake or silly ones, helps us all to realize that even over the Internet we are speaking to other people, real people with prayerful and considered opinions. For some reason, it is often harder to remember that "anonymous" has feelings, too.


Monday, October 20, 2008

What's at Stake

"Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States. He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate. Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress.

Yet there are Catholics and Evangelicals - even self-identified pro-life Catholics and Evangelicals - who aggressively promote Obama's candidacy and even declare him the preferred candidate from the pro-life point of view.

What is going on here?"

So begins a recent article by Professor Robert George which seeks to lay out in plain terms Senator Obama's stance on a whole host of life-related issues. And lest there are pro-life, pro-Obama Catholics and Evangelicals who are reading this post and cringing at George's blunt language, here is a link that shows what Senator Obama says in his own words, and here is a link to a Reproductive Health site in which Obama's campaign staff answer questions about his reproductive health rights policy.

The purpose of this post is not to attack Senator Obama or to tell anyone how they should vote on November 4th. That is a matter of personal conscience. Rather, the purpose of this post is to set the facts straight on what Senator Obama believes when it comes to life issues; it has been as much a personal search for real answers to my own questions as it has been a post to inform our readers. I have done my best to post links so that you can see where I have found my information, and have tried to leave any personal opinions out of the discussion. 

All of us must vote with fully formed consciences on election day, and in addition to prayer, this involves making sure that we understand as fully as possible the stance of the candidates on important issues. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago reminds us that some issues are more fundamental than others; namely, in order for a society to be just, it must protect by law the most innocent of its members, especially those who are incapable of defending themselves. One cannot attempt to advance the common good when this basic first principle is not met. Yet there are some pro-life Catholics who are willing to overlook Senator Obama's strongly pro-abortion stance, and they use the following line of reasoning:

It is unlikely that Roe vs. Wade will be overturned by the Supreme Court, therefore:
A pro-life president wouldn't be able to affect real change on the abortion issue anyway, therefore:
It is okay to vote for a pro-abortion president, because he can't do anything to make things worse than they already are, and there are other social justice issues that he will stand up for.

Here are my observations:

According to a recent Newsweek Op-Ed article by George Weigel, the legal argument surrounding Roe vs. Wade is not over. The Supreme Court has shown a willingness to uphold laws that regulate abortion clinics or ban certain forms of abortion, and a vote for Obama would essentially be a vote to undo all of the hard work that has been done over the past 35 years since Roe vs. Wade.

Here is Senator Obama's record:
  • He believes that abortion is a fundamental right essential for women's equality, meaning that government must guarantee access to abortion in law and by financial assistance.
  • He has said that his first act as president would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which would eliminate all federal and state regulation of abortion, allowing abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. Parental notification for minors would be gone. FOCA would also eliminate state laws that allow a "conscience clause" for pro-life doctors who do not want to perform abortions.
  • He supports federal funding for abortion and opposes the Hyde Amendment, which restricts the use of taxpayer money for abortion. In the words of his campaign, Obama "believes that the federal government should not use its dollars to intrude on a poor woman's decision whether to carry to term or to terminate her pregnancy..."
  • He opposes continued funding for crisis pregnancy centers and abstinence-based education
  • He condemned the ban on partial-birth abortions because it did not include an exception for the "health" of the mother. However, the evidence indicates that there is no obstetrical situation in which a partial birth abortion is the only way to protect the health of the mother.
  • As IL state senator, Obama opposed the 2003 "Infant Born Alive Protection Act," which would require immediate medical attention for infants born alive after a failed abortion procedure, even though it contained language identical to the federal act that was unanimously passed by Congress. According to the Annenberg Political Fact Check, "earlier versions of the bill, in 2001 and 2002, had met with opposition from abortion-rights groups, which contended that they would be used to challenge Roe v. Wade. Because the bills accorded human rights to pre-viable fetuses (that is, fetuses that could not live outside the womb) as long as they showed some vital signs outside the mother, abortion-rights groups saw them as the thin edge of a wedge that could be used to pry apart legal rights to abortion." 
Many people believe that Senator Obama is likely to win the presidential election in November, and Senator McCain even recently poked fun at himself at the Alfred E. Smith Catholic dinner in New York. However, Obama's popular vote hovers at just below 48%, putting him practically neck-to-neck with McCain. Why the discrepancy? In a recent article, Father Raymond J. DeSouza asks, "Given the number of factors in his (Obama's) favor, and his explicit desire to make room for Catholic voters, religious voters and pro-life voters in his campaign, the substance of his abortion policy is extreme and counter-productive...So why does he adopt it?" He answers: "Voters can only conclude that Mr. Obama believes in his policy sincerely." 

In summary: By gathering evidence from Senator Obama's record, his own words, and the words of his campaign staff, it seems that he is proud to be strongly pro-abortion. He believes that reproductive health rights are fundamental rights that should be funded by the government without restriction, and the evidence suggests that several things would change if he becomes president. I only outlined a few of them here. First, all of the restrictions on abortion would be lifted, allowing abortions through all nine months of pregnancy. Federal funding for crisis pregnancy centers and abstinence-based education would be discontinued. The partial birth abortion ban and other similar limits to abortion would likely be overturned. The list goes on and on. 

Some people would point to Obama's social policies, such as healthcare for all, and say that these will actually reduce the number of abortions by reducing social pressures on downtrodden women. However, countries with socialized medicine (such as Sweden) have abortion rates identical to those in the United States, and only 23% of abortions in the US are reportedly performed for financial reasons (see here). And Obama would discontinue funding for crisis pregnancy centers, which seek to materially and emotionally assist women who want to consider the option of carrying their babies to term. The facts don't add up in Senator Obama's favor.

So, this is what I have discovered in my research.  Please feel free to comment, but please remember to keep your comments civil and for the sake of productive and lively debate. 

Mary, Mother of Humility, pray for us!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Finer Things

I am so glad that I am married to a man who is in touch with his sensitive side. While some men are merely sports obsessed, he has been spending his train rides composing poetry. You can read it here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Easy as Pie

So, if we are doing all this training, we have to fuel up somehow. Red and I took our children apple picking on Tuesday, and I came home with a huge sack of wonderful apples. Here is my quick and easy version of pie -- this one is for speed, not looks, and the kids have been having it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!


2 Sticks cold butter

2.5 cups flour

.25 cups sugar

.25 cups cold water as needed

Cut the butter into chunks, then mix butter, flour and sugar in food processor, pulsing. When butter is in pea size bits, give one or two more quick pulses and let it all come together. Best not to over mix. If your mixture is not forming a ball, drizzle in a bit of cold water. Press dough into a round, wrap in plastic and stick in the fridge.

Martha Stewart, and I, suggest making lots of dough all at once. You can keep it in the fridge for a few days or roll it out into crusts and freeze them flat in a stack. Because this dough is all butter and no shortening it is not going to be as elastic, so it will not come out perfectly in the pan, but I would rather have a crust with a few cracks than eat hydrogenated oil.

While the crust is chilling, preheat oven to 375 and make filling:

6 large apples ( I used a mix of granny smiths and empires), peeled and sliced
.25 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

mix this all up in a bowl and set aside.

Now, grab your crust and roll it out into a bottom pie crust. Don't sweat the imperfections, this is supposed to rustic. Place the crust in the bottom of a pyrex pie dish. Scoop apple mixture into the middle, you may not use all of it depending on the size of your crust. Fold up the sides of hte crust to make a pouch around the apple filling. Bake for 45 minutes. If you have extra apples, they can keep in the fridge for another pie tomorrow or a yummy addition to vanilla ice cream.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tone, Trash Talk and Thanksgiving Turkey: Part 3

The elliptical is getting particularly old this week--I usually do the manual program because I enjoy reading on the elliptical, but the Princeton Alumni Weekly same-old articles on climate change and objectively-ugly new campus architecture just aren't doing it for me this week. I think I need to implement B-mama's suggestion of varying my elliptical workouts more.

Lack of recovery from a SUPER FUN family wedding this weekend plus extra legal work this week have left me wiped out. I missed my weekly run outside, even with all this great weather.

It's mind over matter this week. We're just over a month away from 8KDay. Nasty doubts are starting to creep in. Can I really win the entire race city-wide and run away with the $1000 prize money and the glory? : )

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Living Out New Urbanism

Since moving last May, my family has been amidst the "New Urbanism" surrounding us in our new community.  We have drugstores, supermarkets, and our local library within minutes of our home.  A walk through the neighborhood delivers us to doctors' offices, churches, and preschools galore.  But is the idea of New Urbanism all its cracked up to be?

One of the primary tenants of New Urbanism is "walkability" (living within 10 minutes of necessities), which we lived out fully today.  Big Blue, our beloved 10+-year-old minivan, headed to the shop for the second time in two weeks.  What was a mother to do about her children's 10:30am doctor's appointment??  We put New Urbanism to the test.  

At 10am two boys hopped in the double stroller and mom strapped herself with infant in Bjorn and off we went, hoofing it 20 minutes to the doctor's office.  We crossed the street to the adjacent neighborhood, hung a second left turn, and there we were amidst corporate bliss.  Our walk finished with a stroll around the corporate lake with two child-cheering fountains and beautiful landscaping.  We arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule, better than had we raced over in the car (a 3-minute trip on average).  I was encouraged by the exercise, the boys were happy due to the fresh air, and the baby was sleeping because of all the Bjorn jostling.  Excellent--a point for New Urbanism.

Last week I went on a jog with the youngest two, stopping at the local CVS to pick up photos and at the Food Lion to fetch the remainder of our week's groceries.  All in a day's run.  Excellent--a point for New Urbanism.

Two nights ago the local Team In Training held an informational meeting at the library down the street.  I had the time wrong.  The meeting was really at 6:30pm, not at 7 like I thought.  No problem--my husband arrived home early and I raced there in 2 minutes to be *right on time* to the meeting.  Little gas wasted; a lot of stress avoided.  Excellent--a point for New Urbanism.

So far, 3 points New Urbanism, 0 points suburbs.  
I'm becoming more and more of a fan with each passing day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pumpkin Picking 101

You can pick it, if you can carry it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

From First Things, on the contradictions of contemporary feminism

"One need look no further than the woman swallowing her artificial contraception pills with organic green tea."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Survival Mode

When push comes to shove, cut corners!  Here's a glimpse into my world of making life a little easier lately...

1) I have not been separating the laundry.  It's amazing how much more smoothly and quickly laundry shenanigans go when one is not so particular!  And guess what?  The clothes are still just as clean!

2) I have not created beautiful, from scratch birth announcements for Baby J.  Let's be honest, very few people have time for such embellishment!  (I did this for my first and my second never got announcements at all, poor thing.  Oh well, add it to the mommy guilt. :)  We went online and in a matter of seconds, voila, birth announcements!

3) I wrote no personal messages on #2's announcements.  If you were feeling sad about not getting a personal greeting, you were not alone.  If you didn't receive an announcement at all, well, I'm very sorry.  (P.S. Many were just mailed!)

4) I have not been doing dishes.  Period.  All pots, pans, cutting boards, plates, etc. go directly from table to dishwasher.  No messing around.   

5)  I have not been changing our bed linens very frequently.  Hey, a little grime makes them softer, right?!  At least its our own personal grime! ;)  I'm patting myself on the back that we have linens at all.  Be grateful kids!

6)  And somewhat tragically, but in other ways very good, I have not been concerning myself with my appearance.  If my hair gets washed, great.  If make-up finds its way onto my face (via the front seat of the van), even better.  But I have not been concerned with the dark circles under my eyes or my tousled locks.  There just isn't time.

So if you've been feeling swamped and unable to tend to details, maybe my little list will make you feel a little more normal.  I think the more REAL and honest we are about our survival status, the closer we'll be toward stepping back into more of a normal existence.  Now, though, the real question is: how long does (can!) survival mode last? 
God bless you on this Friday!  TGIF!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tone, Trash Talk, and Thanksgiving Turkey: Part II

As we look ahead to our 8k on November 23rd, I have to admit to feeling a bit uncertain about this whole race scenario, competitors included.  Is JM really serious when she talks about this being a true competition?  Does she kill it on the elliptical each day, dreaming of running the rest of us into the ground?  And how far is Red really running?  Yes, she's talked about completing "only 3 miles", but how fast is she clicking off those miles?  She's definitely known for speed.  Can I hang with these girls?

That last question gets to the heart of the matter--the uncertainty I have about myself and my current running abilities.  The baby is only 2 months old and my body is a wacky ball of hormones, belly fat, and leftover saddlebags with stretchmarks ;).  How in the world can I now call upon it to run?  And to possibly run competitively and fast?

These thoughts have circled through my brain over the past week a few too many times...  They are definitely to blame for the defeatist path I find myself on now and again.  It's almost as if there's a large wall in front of my postpartum self, standing in the way of smooth strides, effortless breathing, euphoric feelings, and general shape.  If you've ever really gotten into running, you would say life beyond "the wall" is truly amazing.  Heading out on a run transforms from a daily "to do" to a "if I don't do this I'll go insane" kind of thing.  You become hooked and addicted to the feel good of a jog.  Joints don't hurt, muscles don't ache because one's body is primed and ready.

I long for this again.  And I know it will come.  It always comes back eventually.  One step at a time.  Just as in everything else (except for maybe faith), you have to pay your dues before reaping the goodness.

I conquered the elliptical today.  5 minute warm-up, 5 "on", 5 "off", 5 on, 5 off, 5 on, 10 cool down.  Our oldest cheered from the sidelines--"Mommy, you're going really fast."
That's my boy.  That's my boy...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

For Your Amusement

For those who are unfamiliar, this is the famous Freedom Speech from Braveheart. Charlie is 2.5 ...

... and no, we have not let him watch the movie.

Playdates with Twins

Dear friends, I have a "playdate etiquette" question for you :)

C, who is 4 1/2, would like to have a playdate with his friend H (in his Pre-K class) on Friday afternoon. H has a twin sister, also in C's class, and I am wondering if I should also invite her over to play. I think that C would prefer to just have H over without his sister, but I'm sure that they would be fine if she came along. 

So, my question is two-fold: 1) Parents of twins, particularly twins who are boy-girl, do you usually prefer to have both of your children invited on a playdate, particularly when they are so young? And 2) How have other parents dealt with this issue when inviting children over to their house to play?

Thanks for any advice you can give me!


Has anyone seen the new campaign for High Fructose Corn Syrup? I have seen it on TV (Food Network, I think) and in magazines like Bon Appetit and Cooking Light.

What is the most fascinating is that it doesn't deny that refined sweeteners contribute to obesity and have little nutritional value. The punch line is basically that corn syrup is equally bad for you as refined sugar, so have at it. (I'm not sure this is true, I still think HFCS is has undergone much more processing than refined sugar. Michael Pollan discussed this issue in his book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," which we discussed here awhile ago.)

Are we, as consumers, that susceptible to marketing that this type of campaign(corn syrup is just as unhealthy as sugar!) can possibly be effective?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Suitable Job for a Little Lady

Bean, intently watching out the window as a tree crew hacks down a tree near our house bit by bit: "Mom. I want to do it too."

Me: "OK Bean, you can help Daddy when it's time to cut down some tree branches or cut back some bushes. That'll be a great job for you men."

Bella: "Mom, I'll go out and help Daddy and Bean do their dirty work too, OK?"

Me (surprised to hear my forever girly girl volunteering for this task): "OK Bella, that'll be good too."

Bella: "Yeah mom, so... you can get me a pink chainsaw and a cute pink tree worker outfit for my next birthday, right?"

That's more like it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Question

In mid-August, the children and I (sans ET, he had to work) went to the North Carolina shore to celebrate my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary with all of my extended family members. All of us - grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. - stayed in the same house, so there was much opportunity for conversation and fellowship. On the first evening of the vacation, one of my uncles sat me down at the dining room table for a little chat. Innocently, he asked me when I was planning on going back to work. 

"Well, probably not for a little while...I mean, I'd like to get our family settled into our new home before I make any plans to work again," I said, taken a bit off guard, but determined to give a better answer to his next question.

He persisted, "So, you think that you will go back to work in a little while? Maybe next year?"

"Well, actually, I'm pretty sure that I will be staying home with the children, at least until they've started school. I would prefer not to put them in childcare at such a young age, and it's a full-time job just taking care of our family! We were so busy when I was in graduate school, finishing up classes and doing an internship, with C in daycare, and I've really enjoyed the past couple years of being home with the kids. Since I haven't really worked in the field yet, there aren't many opportunities for part-time work, although there are plenty of volunteer opportunities that I'm thinking about. So until the children are school-age, I'll pretty much stay home with them." 

Okay, that was a better answer. Now my uncle would understand my priorities and that would be the end of that. Or not...

"Are you planning on having more children?" he asked, with a knowing look on his face.

"Well, yes, that's our hope at least. We always say, one child at a time!" I said in my most cheerful voice. 

"How many more children?" he asked.

"Well, like I said, we're taking it one at a time, but we're open to God's plan for our family." 

With a look of dismay on his face, "So that's it, you're going to be a stay-at-home mom."

"Um, yes, I guess that's right. Look, Uncle Tom (not his real name), I believe that I use my education every day when I am with my kids, talking to them, teaching them things..."

He continued, now with a pitying look on his face, "It's such a shame, Kat, you're so bright. You worked so hard. You went to Princeton, and now you're just going to stay at home." 

He might as well have added, "What a waste," but mercifully he left it at that. I responded with an, "Mmm-hmm, yes, that's what I'm going to do," smiled, and excused myself from the table, not being able to think of anything better to say in the moment. I didn't feel like having to defend my priorities to my uncle when I had just been shamed by him - after all, my whole extended family was close by and had probably heard most of the conversation, and his conclusion was quite clear: I was wasting my education and my talents by deciding not to work outside of the home.

I would imagine that many of us who stay at home have faced similar reactions from family members and friends, and I'm sure that sometimes we are happier with the answers that we give than others. Sometimes we probably walk away from these conversations and start asking ourselves our own set of questions, perhaps going something like this:

"Okay, so why I am staying home again? Am I wasting my degree? I mean, not everyone has the opportunity to go to college and grad school and get a great education...Oh my goodness, maybe he's right, maybe I should be working. I mean, maybe I actually have a social responsibility to be working! But then who would take care of the children? No, hold on, that's the whole reason that I'm not working, I want to stay home and take care of my family! That's my priority right now!"

Everyone's internal monologue is going to be different, and everyone's family is going to have different circumstances and needs. My reason in writing this post is not to garner pity or boast about some saintly path that I have chosen. Far from it: My reason in sharing this story is to offer all of you readers a little window into the thoughts that often fill my mind, with the hope that you will be encouraged if you also have similar thoughts. When it comes down to it, we all struggle to do what is best for our families, not always knowing if we are making the right choices but praying like crazy all along the way. I'm pretty sure that as long as we cling to Our Lord and to our spouses, we'll make it just fine.

May God bless all of us and our families today! Our Lady, Mother of Mercy, pray for us!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Inverse Pyramid of Living

My husband and I have been growing and forming our family within the insane crucible of active duty military service for five years now. Despite my frustrations of never being able to grow a garden or paint bedrooms due to the frequent moves, our unconventional path continues to teach me valuable lessons.

Most recently, we moved to Germany for a three year overseas tour. The constraints in our current living situation provide me with ample opportunities to demonstrate patience, organization and optimism (two out of three are big struggles for me). As we settle into our smallest home ever-- a two bdrm apartment on the second floor of a multi-family unit -- and begin the two month wait for our household goods to arrive, as I memorize the limited bus schedule since our car will not arrive for two weeks still, I often reflect on how drastic God has to be in my life for me to “get it.”

Really, for a young, college-educated North American couple, we are living the inverse pyramid lifestyle: downsizing, living on less (exchange rate –eek!), seeing what we are made of, and relying on the fabric of our family rather than the fabric of our clothes. As my peers settle into lovely homes with sweeping green lawns, I am learning how to carry groceries on my back, an umbrella stroller under one arm and an 8-month-old on one hip to make it up to our second floor home. Surprisingly, I feel no jealousy. Rather, I feel that this drastic exercise in stream-lined living is just what I needed.

As a neophyte stay-at-home mom these small Army quarters prevent me from getting overwhelmed. Only so much will fit in the kitchen cupboards and it doesn’t take that long to vacuum 700 square feet of carpet. As soon as the baby is less of a night-waker he will shift into Big Sister’s room and neither child will know the meaning of the phrase “my room.”

So, all in all, I would like to thank Uncle Sam for squeezing us into this place for the next three years. And I would like to preemptively and presumptuously thank the Lord for reminding me daily of all the blessings inherent in such a modest living arrangement.

Tell me a story of your down-sizing and its fruits, would you?

Friday, October 3, 2008

It's the Playoffs

So, this is just to confess that my kids stayed up until 9 o'clock at night, eating tacos, in their pajamas, in front of the TV. The thing is, though, you are only 7 once, and when your team hits a grand slam it is just not the same to watch it on the highlights reel.

Go Phillies!
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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tone, Trash Talk and Thanksgiving Turkey: Part I

On November 23, in the Year of our Lord 2008, all the Builders within a 300 mile radius will converge on Red’s beloved city of Philadelphia… Red, B-mama and me to run the Philadelphia Marathon’s 8K race, and MaryAlice to sport a sassy late-pregnancy workout get-up and lipstick, pose for pictures, and cheer on her half-marathoning husband.

Yes. We’re paying a $45 registration fee to run 8 kilometers at 7:15am on a cold November morning around a mediocre city:
(1) To tone our child-laden bodies.
(2) To engage in the type of competitive trash talk that we all enjoyed at one time during athletic careers but have long suppressed in order to be good models for our children. Red and B-mama both were star college athletes. I had some high school glory days and am generally competitive.
(3) To head into the Thanksgiving holiday—which often marks the beginning of the end of healthy habits for the winter—with a solid fitness regimen in place.

This is a competition. This is not a girlfriends’ trot where we jog three-abreast and dish about fertility cycles and parenting philosophies. There will be a winner.

Red currently is running 6 days per week, with three of these runs taking place in the morning before her kids wake up (has she gone mad?), to work up to 8 kilometers a few weeks out from the race. Red was one of those who “only ran to stay in shape for team sports”. See above paragraph: this ain’t no team sport.

B-mama is back up and at 'em after baby J’s birth two months ago, with an eye toward returning to her usual 5+ workouts per week. She’s the college-level distance runner among us. She’s the rabbit, we’re the greyhounds.

I am opting for the 6 times per week elliptical training program while I nurse some minor back problems, although I run 4-5 miles outside occasionally. Core strengthening and speed will be my goals. Red also tells me there's prize money for coming in first place city-wide. What's wrong with dreaming big?

We will be documenting our progress for the next seven weeks, on Thursday of each week, in a segment entitled Tone, Trash Talk and Thanksgiving Turkey.

We invite one and all to join us in Philadelphia or to show solidarity by setting some pre-winter fitness goals.
Good luck.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Anyone know of a good source for Maternity formal wear? I have a black tie wedding to go to and I will be about 8 months pregnant.


What is Really Going On, and does it matter?

I have been trying to follow the financial news, but I have been rather confused by the impact of it all outside of the banking sphere (which is relevant, in some ways, to my day to day life, as my husband works in New York and has banks as his clients).

I wish that the media would do more to educate us. I don't think that the campaigns should be suspended, but I sort of wish that the 24 hour news coverage of the campaigns would be. I also wish that TV news was not so entertainment and ratings driven, so that they could focus on actual issues affecting our nation.

This morning my husband sent me this essay, from the New York Times, which I found very helpful.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

October 1st is her feast day, and as a stay-at-home mother of little children I have developed a real connection and admiration for this humble woman. She lived her life as a Carmelite nun working at the most menial of tasks. She worked in the laundry and the dining hall -- accomplishing the same tasks for her fellow sisters as we do for our young families. However, I often feel that the similarities end there. She saw this monotony as an opportunity for prayer and greater communion with Christ and the saints. She wrote, "I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul." Amazing.

So, Saint Therese, pray for us, mothers, that we may possess the spiritual calm and profound humility with which you lived every day and died.