Friday, February 29, 2008
**This picture is not meant to promote dolphin consumption
Why We Are Not Losing the Battle
I was recently at a party where my picture was taken, I was an Ivy League educated, under 30 mother of 5 and I was sitting next to an Ivy League educated, under 30, fully habited religious sister! By the grace of God, we had both found our vocations, and I think it is a pretty hopeful picture!
Thursday, February 28, 2008
It’s time to fess up…
Last week, Mary Alice challenged all of us to an honest food log of 5 days of our children’s/family’s meals. What a great test this was for me. To see my kids' meals in written form was incredibly illuminating, insighting some pleasure and some shame. The beauty of such an endeavor, though, is for all of us to be REAL and life-supporting to one another! I can’t wait to read your thoughts.
Here’s our list from last Tuesday through Friday (I only made it four days).
Note: quantity is undefined due to one/or both children eating all, some, or none of the food offered. Here, at least, is what was placed on the table (or given for snack). Nothing more or less.
Breakfast: Life cereal, whole milk, ½ juice/ ½ water
Snack: goldfish crackers
Lunch: peas (from frozen), turkey and cheese quesadillas (white flour kind—they haven’t taken to the whole wheat version), strawberries, banana
Snack: lollipop potty reward
Dinner: mixed veggies (from frozen), McCain’s Smiles (trans-fat free! J), cheeseburgers on wheat buns, plenty of ketchup (why do they love this stuff so?), cut up apple; (GG and I also had a salad)
B: Life and Multigrain Cheerios, whole milk, orange juice/water
S: goldfish, Nutri-Grain cereal bar, part of Panera bagel
L: carrots (cut up into “coins”), chicken nuggets (from freezer), green grapes
S: wheat thins, apple; lollipop potty rewards
D: corn (from frozen), Orange Chicken (made from scratch), brown rice, Yoplait kids yogurt; (salad for GG and me)
B: same as Wednesday (we’re rather boring for breakfast; this is all I can muster)
S: goldfish (I’m realizing we’re rather boring for snack too!)
L: McDonald’s chicken nuggets, French fries, orange slices, mozzarella sticks
(I’ll comment more about this meal later)
S: lollipop potty rewards
D: steamed broccoli and cauliflower (reheated), scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese, Lundberg Risotto (“eco-farmed”, box) (GG and I had open-faced chicken salad sandwiches with cheese—I didn’t even try to pawn this off on our boys.)
B: same but add an apple!
S: animal crackers/ juice and water
L: carrot coins, whole wheat English muffin pizzas (made with spag. sauce), mozz. sticks, apple
S: lollipop potty rewards
D: peas (from frozen), whole wheat spaghetti with jar sauce, Yoplait kids yogurt
Regarding the McDonald’s lunch on Thursday, I definitely have misgivings. I've seen "Supersize Me"; I know McDonalds isn’t the healthiest fare on the planet; I know they slither into children’s subconsciouses with happy characters and golden arches. Yet I still find myself defying those facts and saying, “So what, they’re just kids!” Am I really creating tiny fast-food junkies?
A Mickey-D’s (or similar fast-food) trip is a special occasion for our family and one that happens rarely (though, wouldn't you know it, occurring during my meal logging!). We also tend to tap into the red and yellow frenzy whenever we’re traveling. What do you think? How does one approach McDonalds and children? "All systems go", "All things in moderation", or “Not with a 10-foot pole"??
Hope this posting finds you and your families well-fed and blessed today.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I smiled and said, "yes."
With a slightly disapproving edge to her voice she stated, "I guess that's the in thing now."
Taken aback, I immediately responded, "excuse me?"
She clarified, "it's the in thing to have 3."
I wanted to say, oh, "I thought you were talking about my shoes." But I just stood there, awkwardly silent.
The "in thing!?!" are you kidding me? Yeah, I have three young children because I think it looks cool. It is even cooler when one of them is crying in your arms, another is about to put his hands in the toilet at a dirty gym, and a third is hugging your legs. I have had this strange desire to be popular since high school and now I have finally succeeded. Who would have thought that having 3 kids was so darn cool.
Wow, talk about materializing our children. In an age where one boy and one girl have become an accessory for many parents, I didn't know if I should laugh or cry at this woman's statement. I wish she were only talking about my new shoes.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Quite a few of us tend toward midwifery and natural birth before obstetrics, natural remedies before medications, observe and wait before rushing to the doctor for sure treatment… and it seems to me that a disproportionately large number of Catholic moms are the same way. Bean had ibuprofen, acetaminophen and an antibiotic for the first time ever this weekend, and this is certainly not the first time he’s been sick. I’ll admit I can be an obnoxiously inquisitive patient or mom when I do find myself or my children under medical care. I’m not proud of being a thorn in the side of the noble doctors and nurses who help keep my family healthy.
So… why? Is it because of a leaning away from things artificial—such as artificial birth control and baby formula (not to compare them morally)—that we lean away from technological solutions and trust our bodies? Is it because we’re subtly influenced by some complicated mind-body unity philosophy that has Catholic origins? Is it because of a more recent cultural trend to get back to nature/back to the earth among religious parents, evidenced also by attachment parenting and the like? Is it because we’re micromanaging, hands-on, stay-home, potentially-homeschooling moms (versus moms who have help from day cares/nannies), so we expect to know exactly what treatments our kids are getting and why? Or is it not Catholic at all, just a swelling trend among a certain segment of moms?
May God bless all the doctors and nurses out there. Maybe our next batch of cookies will be for the emergency room personnel, Saturday pm shift.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
At this stage in the game, we don't do anything of the sort. I generally meal plan the same day or, possibly, the night before. I have the flexibility to pull something out of the freezer in the morning and if I realize I am lacking an ingredient, run to the grocery store with my 1 and 2 year old. This may happen 3 days a week. Totally doable now, but as schedules fill up these fun and educational grocery outings (we talk about what we see, etc.) will be more of a struggle.
I bring this up in the spirit of Lent. I have been thinking of ways to simplify our lives to leave more time for just being. And, since unpacking the Last Box this afternoon, I am returning from a bit of survival mode to maintenance mode. I do, however, foresee more times of slight chaos, be it from moving or new babes, or sick kids, etc.
As stay-at-home mom beginning to homeschool my kids I find less time than I'd like for planning and thinking. About 18 months ago I started to feel very overwhelmed and inadequate, perhaps not too differently from the feelings articulated by this reader of Elizabeth Foss' Real Learning blog. I didn't know where to begin. So many cirriculums, educational philosophies, resources (ahem, my first baby was 1 at the time). I wanted to read everything. The impossibility of this project never crossed my mind. Until I became overwhelmed. So I started to think of what I really wanted our family life to be. Peaceful, uncomplicated and, most importantly, centered around the Liturgical Year. No need to figure out math manipulatives or a high school curriculum just yet. Just focus on the seasons of the Church.
To that end, I made a plan.
Year One: Read, gather ideas, pray.
Year Two: Begin compiling ideas and sketching out an annual calendar, pray. Pay attention to Feast Days special to our domestic church.
Hopefully, the fruit of this labor in the form of monthly and daily sketches will serve to simplify our lives in the years to come, especially during those busy baby times. I don't want this kind of planning to give me the illusion that I am in control. That is the last thing this control freak needs. Rather, I hope that it allows us to relish in the seasons of the church year by having some ideas and plans sketched out and in one location.
All this to say that, while we don't need a weekly meal plan now, it may be a good way to simplify things around here and establish a routine for the more hectic times. Does anyone plan weekly, monthly?
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
In this month's Domino magazine there was a woman who tried to eat locally for a month and wrote about the fact that it was hard and expensive but also delcious and satisfying. In O! Magazine, there was a woman who tried to "do everything right" for a month -- exercise, eat right, floss, wear sunscreen. She also found it hard and time consuming, but did find some new habits that were easy to maintain.
I have recently been eliminating all simple carbs for health reasons and it has been an intense experience, but I have learned alot, too, and now that I am working carbs back in I will continue to eat Fage plain yogurt for lunch and a grapefruit instead of orange juice in the morning, among other small changes.
My friend K has been listening to our conversations so far, and she asks: what are people really eating? K proposes that we keep track of what we eat/serve our kids for 5 days and then post it, and I do think we could all get some good ideas from one another. This is a call for honesty, so I will begin by saying that yesterday my children had Chex for dinner.
Are you game? No recipes needed, just a simple list, to be posted next week?
Monday, February 18, 2008
Huge Beef recall stems from California plant
The beef industry regularly mistreats cattle and serves meat tainted with e-coli and other diseases. The entire system is set up with a drive for higher productivity, and higher profits, at the expense of safe food, safe working environments for workers, and animal rights. This beef recall is really telling and I find three things particularly disturbing about this article.
1st--this meat was served to school children, where the government has a policy to buy the cheapest--and often times unsafe--meat for our children. Low bid contracts, without concern for food safety--is a real problem of school lunch programs. As a mother I find this appalling.
2nd--regular workers and plant managers were fired as a result of the recall. Laying the blame on low level employees for abusing cattle and selling beef from sick cattle to our nations schoolchildren is really disturbing. At most of these slaughterhouses, policies as to how to handle sick cattle come down from the top, and I highly doubt some immigrant and likely illiterate workers made the decision to shuffle sick cattle along and sell the stuff. I'm also skeptical that such a decision was made by a plant manager--unless intense pressure for higher profits was put on him from the top of the company.
Finally, the most disturbing fact of the article--
"Officials estimate that about 37 million pounds of the recalled beef went to school programs, but they believe most of the meat probably has already been eaten."
Great. And that is the problem with a system that uses recalls--rather than proper prior safety inspection of plants--to regulate the beef industry.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Like many of you, I am a 24/7, on-call, do-it-all mama! And day by day, my family and I are trying to make it in this crazy world and do so with grace, love, and reverence for our Church. Not an easy feat, by any means, and one that takes great patience and forbearance for any mother!
Thankfully, we've been recently taken by a few Catholic media items that have helped in a small way to smooth over the rough patches in our day and bring us to our knees more often. Couldn't we all use a little more of that? The first has been cycling on our CD player already this morning. My two cherubs love Rose Marie Rudolph's Tiny Hands Precious Feet: A Catholic Baby's First Lullabies. Thanks to Aunt Kat and Uncle ET, our T-baby's godparents, this CD made its way into our home and has been a blessing to us since. In it, Rose Marie and her 6 sons and 6 nieces and nephews sing into the hearts of their listeners with songs, prayers, and poems. It is a beautiful compilation, including Catholic favorites like "Sing of Mary", "Panis Angelicus", and "Adoro Te Devote" along with other classics like "Braham's Lullaby" and "Pachelbel's Cannon in D". It is a heartwarming work and one that my boys love hearing over and over (and over, etc.!) again. Having it play as the soundtrack to our day-to-day has been quite a blessing for our growing family.
As we journey this road together, what products do you love? What has encouraged your family toward a more Christ-filled day-to-day? Please share your insight--we are always looking to expand our inventory here in Gasperini-Ville!
Monday, February 11, 2008
Nutrition for busy, picky toddlers is a continuing struggle for me. They eat nothing green… in fact, they eat vegetables and chicken rarely if ever. Their diet is pretty simple: lots of dairy, lots of fruit, whole grain bread and cereals, some lean red meat, and OH SO MUCH natural PB and J. We don’t snack or drink much juice or else meals are ruined. This is very kid-typical and nothing to balk at, but I would like to add some variety.
So I’m asking for suggestions. If your children are good eaters, really good for you. Pat yourself on the back and go puree some pumpkin and avocado for tomorrow’s breakfast shakes. If they’re not, please help me. What are your tricks for smuggling in wholesome, varied foods or preparing them so that toddlers and young kids may entertain the idea of eating them? Especially veggies, meat, legumes, eggs. Here are some parameters:
(1) Nastiness factor: I’m not looking at using my extra-sour-curdled-unsweetened homemade organic yogurt as a vessel for smuggling in chopped spinach and broccoli (ahem, Texas Mommy/Mrs. Incredible). This needs to be palatable for non-superkids, not just Dash Incredible who would rather eat flaxseeds than M&Ms.
(2) Ease factor: “Toasties” take 4 minutes start to finish, and there’s almost no cleanup. Cooking is a means to an end around here, not a hobby.
A related question: how far do you go in catering to your kids’ tastes to get them to eat, especially at family dinner time? I think Red is more of the school where, if they don’t eat it for dinner, nothing else is offered, and then they see it again for breakfast. Her kids are great eaters. Maybe I need to get tougher. We offer them what we’re eating, but if (when) they don’t go for it, I usually offer other healthy, limited options like cheese, yogurt, cereal and fruit to supplement. Do you think supplementing with other options encourages them to remain picky because they know something else will be offered? I sure don’t like putting my tenth percentile kids to bed on an empty stomach!
Saturday, February 9, 2008
"You've got to see this!"
We moved about 2 weeks ago and are loving our new home and all that came with it, including an enormous corn field in our back yard that has yet to be develped. In addition to providing a spectacle of tractors and other farm equipment that makes young boys' eyes grow wide, the field doubles as a perfect landing pad for hot air balloons.
While I had been snoozing, the boys and Mr. Incredible has already seen one hot air balloon land in the field a mile away. Now one was headed for our field! I grabbed a camera and we ran outside, all 4 of us in pajamas, Dash in puffy Thomas the Train slippers. What a sight!
Fortunately for the moment, we have no neighbors.
Dash and I started across the field while Mr. Incredible lagged behind with our newly minted biped tripping over the recent sprouts of foliage. Dash and I raced towards the balloon, which was deceptively far away. Soon, this pregnant, pajama clad mom was carrying a 40-pound toddler racing toward the balloon we didn't want to get away. Fortunately, "we made it to the biggest balloon ever!" Dash was even allowed to touch it and handed the ballooners the straps to pack up their balloon.
5 years ago, I never anticipated living in Texas. I never suspected I would be married and thankful for several children. I knew exactly one person when I moved here, Mr. Incredible, my fiance at the time. Most, if not all, of the builders of this blog probably would not have predicted their whereabouts nor their family status just a few years ago.
When I moved here I was very lonely and needed true friends with whom I could talk about hopes, joys, doubts, struggles. I desparately missed my college friends. Thankfully, there was a slew of weddings, baptisms, etc. over the next few years that meant semi-annual gatherings.
But in between we had the miracle of the internet. Hundreds, probably thousands of emails, individually and as a group ensured that support, encouragment, and, occasionally, a good kick-in-the-pants, was never far away. We have joked about picking a location and all moving there to raise our families together. However, this is not what God has called us to do.
We are to bloom precisely where we are planted at this moment. As we begin this Lent, the builders of this blog are planted all across the country in a variety of situations, some welcoming new babies, others battling nausea. We have so many moments to take advantage of our unique situations. We can turn them into joy for our families or we can roll over and go back to sleep. As we live our lives, regardless of our current sitution, I pray we can just get out of bed and go chase a hot air balloon.
And, as Mr. Incredible and Jack-Jack, after realizing just how far Dash and I had trekked in our pursuit of the ballooon, pulled up beside us in our car to spare us the 10 minute walk home, we can always be assured that the assistance and encouragement of both our Heavenly Father and our friends is there to pick us up just when we need it.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
All around the net, moms are sharing similar sentiments about Lent. Here are a few to check out:
Eileen's family made the crown of thorns Kat mentioned.
Also, Dawn has a really beautiful Lenten Craft planned for her family, perhaps something to file away for next year, when I hope to be back in maintenance mode (although around here we call it the plateau). Of course, with the best of intentions I told the children that next Christmas, when I was not pregnant, I would take them around the city to see the decorations, and Merry piped up "what makes you think you won't be pregnant next Christmas?" I guess she's been paying attention.
And, on the subject of our title, I share this quote I found on Danielle Bean's website:
A mother is the most important person on earth. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any Cathedral -- a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's body. -- Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty
Melin agrees, I'm sure, and writes about the contentment that she feels in her role as mother. Her pictures always take my breath away, I wish she could follow me around and photograph my life!
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Saturday, February 2, 2008
The silent church is a real stress elevator for a mother of multiple young children. Sometimes I go to confession with a friend and we take turns watching each other’s children outside the church. Once a kind elderly lady offered to hold my place in line while I took my children outside. On this day, there were no such offers.
As the minutes passed my son got progressively more squirmy and loud. He did not want to be held any longer. With aching arms I finally put him down and asked him to stay close to mama. He tested the waters a bit and wandered about in the pews, he eventually traveled a little too far way for my comfort zone—about 20 feet. In a loud whisper I said, “Charlie, come back here.” He gave me a huge smile and ran back into my open arms.
Instantly a woman I had never seen before, standing two people behind me in line, snarled at me in a raspy voice, “He shouldn’t be running in the church!” Shocked, I looked at her with a blank stare. She repeated her protests about my son’s behavior. Defensively, I said, “I put him down because he was getting very loud with me holding him and I didn’t want to be disruptive. She said, “If you can’t control your children, they don’t belong in here.” Again, shocked, I said, “I’m just trying to be a good Catholic, come to confession, and raise my children in the church.” She may have rolled her eyes at this, although I can’t be sure.
I was fuming mad. Humiliated in front of a whole line of confession seekers, I slumped back against the wall and held my son as he protested. Over and over in my head I just kept thinking, how dare she yell at me. I’m trying to do something good here—and look at the thanks I am getting. I thought, “does she have any idea how hard it is to take young children to confession.” Not to mention, the irony of yelling at someone while in line for confession is simply amazing.
Pridefully, I wanted to scream, “I’m a good Catholic, I know the priests, I lead a Mother’s Rosary group, I help with Pre-Cana, and you are a hypocritical old witch who drives good families away from the Catholic Church.” I said none of these things. I remained silent and I waited in line as it was soon my turn for confession. Once inside the confessional I was confronted with a visiting priest who was less than patient with my whining son. I apologized again and again for Charlie’s whining, but rather than make me feel better about this situation, by saying something like, “it’s just great that you are putting up with all this to come and receive the graces of this beautiful sacrament,” the priest actually asked if I had considered getting a babysitter to come to confession!
Defeated, I left the church furious and almost in tears. I instantly called Juris Mater, who may have been angrier than I was about the scene I had just endured.
I had temporarily forgotten about this tragic incident until this past Sunday when I saw THE woman again. She was sitting 2 rows in front of our family. I whispered to my husband—“that’s the lady who yelled at me while in line for confession.” I may have been imagining it, but she seemed to give me a dirty look on the way back from receiving communion. I was trying to think charitably, and so I really thought that I might have imagined this.
Well, after Mass, Charlie (now age 2) drifted out of the pew and started wandering toward the back of the church. My husband called for him, and Charlie turned around and jogged about 15 feet back towards my husband. Instantly, the woman snarled at Charlie, “No running in the church!” Shocked, my husband just stared at the woman. She then added, “Children need to learn manners, you need to teach them!” My husband, still shocked and unable to speak, just stared at her as though she was insane. The woman then began to exit the church, saying again as she walked past my husband and son, “You need to teach them manners!”
Really. Thanks for enlightening us.
Now, it seems that this woman was just waiting for our family to do SOMETHING so that she could censure us. And after she spoke in such a nasty tone to my husband and my son—I was convinced that she HAD given me a dirty look while in line for communion! Simply amazing. And I would like to add that our children had been very well behaved during the Mass and Charlie’s short jog after Mass was nothing that we felt merited any discipline and I am someone who is very particular about my children’s behavior during Mass.
I assume we will see this woman again. I also assume that she will find something wrong with our behavior and let us know about it immediately, loudly, and in the company of numerous bystanders. Any suggestions on how we should handle this? While part of me just wants to ignore her, taking the criticism as an opportunity to humble myself before a totally nasty woman, I fear that she may be making comments like this to other young families and maybe discouraging them from coming to Mass? It took me at least 4 months to return to confession after my experience—and I am someone who isn’t normally deterred by what other people think of me. Your thoughts?