Saturday, January 31, 2009

To Give or Not to Give - Privacy that Is

So, I have a 4 and a 1 year old, and a small dilemma regarding the big sister's "need" for privacy. I am sure this is an issue we will revisit on this blog with greater seriousness in ten years, however, I am currently wondering about the validity of a child requesting privacy.
You know what I mean, she is hard at 4-yr.-0ld-work in her room -- creating a My Little Pony corral or something -- and in saunters her, newly walking, destructive one-year-old brother. She wails, "Mommmmy, can you get him out? I need privacy." How she knows about the concept I have no idea, but that is beside my point right now. What I wrestle with is whether this is a legitimate request, or rather, whether this will ever be a legitimate request. I lean toward "no." Isn't privacy just an excuse for people to do immoral things? Perhaps it is innocent enough when she simply wants to create a project uninterrupted, but what kind of a premise am I establishing? Why can't a person do whatever he/she needs to do in the light of day? I spent many a frustrating hour in college arguing against the "inherent right to privacy" supposedly found in the Constitution that abortion-advocates like to enlist as their legislative balast. If I don't believe in the "right to privacy" outside my home, what does that mean here? Then I started thinking, Do I need "Mommy time" and isn't that really a form of privacy? Or just sanity? Is that selfish?
Perhaps this rambled, but your thoughts on kiddie privacy and the ways in which you do or do not allow it in your homes would be much appreciated.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Because of a Baby

Last night I was preparing dinner and juggling the "crazies" of the evening hour--whiny children, a play doh extravaganza on the dinner table, food prep in full effect, a famished dog needing to be fed and watered. It was shaping up to be like many of the 5pm's of days past.

But then in the middle of it all, amidst the chaos and confusion, we all heard the same thing and stopped.

It was a baby giggle coming from the Exersaucer wiggling in the middle of the kitchen. I must have done something humorous (comedian that I am! ha! :) to elicit the sweet, melodic laughs from our 6-month, J; and out they came in chorus.

Our 4-year-old M stopped his whining and began to laugh. T, 2, reverted from eating blue play-doh to partake in the moment. Soon we realized an easy peek-a-boo game was all it took to continue the baby's happiness. And we all found ourselves grinning, appreciating, enjoying... and extremely happy. At 5 o'clock.

Hours later as the last plate found its way to the dishwasher and I dried the final pan to put away in the cupboard, I smiled. The evening had been one of the most enjoyable I can remember. At 5pm it had all the makings of disaster to come, and yet it wasn't... and didn't... and couldn't...

All because of a baby.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Yet another reason to avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup


Yup, it actually has mercury in it! Check out this Washington Post Article. A special thanks to Ellie and her new alternative cooking blog for the tip.

Back in the Saddle

This is Dh's last week of paternity leave, and I have decided to ease the transition by pretending, during the day, that he is not actually here. This has meant two days of "real" school work while he does errands or other work around the house in the mornings.

I am doing this trial run because Tex wrote that she needs to be aware of her "ups and downs." and set herself up for success. I followed her advice and reflected on why I was so afraid of DH going back to work, and what I could do about it. Last February we totally fell apart when he went back to work, kids got sick and by Valentine's Day baby and I were in the hospital and the grandmother reinforcements had to be called in on an emergency basis.

So far, easing into the reality has been helpful, I have learned that I need to go to bed earlier in order to get up on time, since so far we have not been ready for him to leave until about 8:30, we need to gradually move that up to 7:45. This morning I am at least awake and out of bed before 7, which is a good start. I find this hard when the baby is up during the night, this morning he woke at six for a feeding so I just stayed awake, but if he wakes at 5 it is impossible not to go back to sleep, and then too hard to get up when the alarm rings. Hopefully his sleep patterns will settle in over the next few weeks.

I must admit, however, that I am a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work it takes to keep our household functioning these days, so I am going to have to do a few more things to set myself up for success (or at least survival!). First, ask for help and set up a regular time for my mother in law to come over and give me a hand with kids and laundry, second, stock the freezer with casseroles (my mom helped me do this before the baby was born and we ate them all month, which was a wonderful help), third, learn to let go of certain things -- the kitchen counter will not always get cleared before school starts in the morning, but school must start nevertheless, fourth, do not commit to outside activities that will exhaust me, especially because I can't nurse discreetly and chase a toddler through a lobby at the same time, fifth, do not get distracted by the internet! I am hopeful that we will get it sorted out, but I know that it depends, in large part on my personal discipline. This may mean that you are hearing less from me, I just checked on the blog for the first time in two days and realized that I had missed several posts and comments, but for now I need to focus on first things.

Please pray for my family as we make this transition, our baby moon is coming to an end.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dust Jackets

Could someone please explain to me why books have dust jackets? Are they, as the name implies, to keep dust off of the books? Or to make books look pretty?

I just don't know what to do with the dust jackets. If I leave them on, they get torn and I feel badly, but now I have a stash of dust jackets and I have no idea what to do with them. Should I keep them? I am very clutter-phobic, so the thought of a big pile of paper that I will never use gives me chills. I know we have some librarians who comment regularly. Clearly, this is not the most substantial question asked on this blog, but thoughts?

Monday, January 26, 2009


"Fireproof is an excellent film that makes marriage commitment real and attainable with Christ's grace." ~ Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville

If anyone has trouble viewing the video above, here is a link to the website where you can view the movie trailer.

Fireproof comes out today on DVD, and looks like a thought-provoking movie!  If any of our readers have seen this movie, please comment and let us know your thoughts!

Beyond Peanut Butter

I was surprised to learn of other food product recalls from stores around the country!
Be informed and aware...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Booster Blur

My eyes are starting to fall out from staring at booster seat explanations and statistics and reviews online... I hope you don't mind if I take a shortcut and ask for your advice.

Here's our situation: baby Angelina is about ready for a convertible carseat. We already have two Evenflo Titan Vs which we love, but I can't fathom getting a third, and I'm not sure if we even have room for a third in the backseat of our car (a Toyota Camry). So I'm hoping we can move Bella (turning 4 in May) into a booster. However, she's small-average for her age, weighing only about 33 lbs. From what I'm seeing, some 5-point harness boosters can accommodate kids her size and then grow with them as they get larger and ready to use the car's seatbelt.

Here are the features of my ideal booster:
(1) very narrow: this is key since we're working with the backseat of a Camry with two convertible carseats already in there
(2) 5-point harness but can eventually become a booster for use with the seatbelt
(3) performs very well on safety tests, good reputation for safety
(4) not expensive

Any suggestions, dear miracle workers?

And then my thoughts wander... just how many infant seats and convertible seats and booster seats do most large families with kids close in age own these days? My dad was one of six, and I'm pretty sure they all piled into the far-back of a station wagon with no seatbelts while the babies lay on the floor of the car with pacifiers and rattles. What's a twenty-first century family to do?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

current occupation: Mom

I thought our readers might be interested in this article by my grandfather's cousin, who is still an active journalist at 82 years of age. Interestingly, two New York City moms were mentioned for Clinton's New York Senate seat, Caroline Kennedy, and a current congressional Rep, Caroline Maloney (a Princeton parent). Neither of them got it. Sometimes I wonder if I will re-enter the workforce one day, and how I will answer for the large "employment" gap on my resume, certainly our time is not spent being idle.

'Mom' on a resume should command respect

Friday, January 23, 2009

Love Him!

I will go to YouTube and listen to a romantic song that reminds me of our courtship and the days when I ached to be married to him... I will spend 10 minutes with my kids today looking at pictures of hilarious past adventures with him... I will be sure to remember lipstick, fragrance, and a cute outfit when he arrives home tonight... and then I will let my kids see me drop everything and hug the love of my life extra-long when he walks in the door. And another long hug and kiss or two after dinner.

Boy did I LOVE seeing my parents be sincerely in love. Please God don't let me forgot to show my children--often--how madly I am in love with my husband.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On This Day

Today marks the 36th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision by the Supreme Court, and this article by Robert George is a brilliant reflection on what is at stake in the present battle for the lives of the unborn. Here is a short excerpt:

"Of course, it is not given to us to know just how much we will, in the end, be able to achieve. Despite the triumph of the pro-abortion party in the recent elections, there is no good reason to believe that our efforts in the domain of law and policy are futile or doomed to fail. Yet we have no guarantee of success. As the great Fr. Richard John Neuhaus so often said: for us, there is only the trying. The rest is God's business, not ours. Yet we are given to know that in trying, we fulfill God's commands, and build up His kingdom."

As I watched President Obama take the oath of office on Tuesday, I was touched to the point of tears. Yes, I was touched by the historicity of the moment: President Obama is of a race that just 40 years ago was treated very poorly in our country, and I do believe that his election brings great hope to those who still feel the effects of racial prejudice today. But I believe that my tears were also for President Obama, who heretofore has demonstrated a terribly misguided position on the issue of abortion. I pray for President Obama, and as I pray I find myself trying to figure out how this man can believe what he believes. How can this man, who shows such great love for his family, such grace in recent days when he could have poked fun at Chief Justice Roberts, such a desire to protect the weakest in our society, how can this same man afford no rights to the unborn? It seems that he truly believes his stance to be the most just one, and it seems that he is ready to fight for increased "reproductive rights" for women because he believes that it is the right thing to do. 

So, today I pray for a complete change of heart in President Obama, and I believe in the power of prayer. At Mass this morning, I again found myself moved to the point of tears as I walked forward to receive the Eucharist. The weight of the moment did not escape me: here I was, with my daughter in my arms and my son at my side, participating in the heavenly banquet with all of the angels and saints, including all of those innocent souls who never had a chance at life. Today, around the world, millions of Catholics will celebrate Mass, participate in Marches for Life, and pray for an end to a culture that supports abortion. There is great power in all of these acts, and I am again reminded of the words of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus: "For us, there is only the trying. The rest is God's business, not ours. Yet we are given to know that in trying, we fulfill God's commands and build up his kingdom."

36 years

We are the children of Roe v. Wade. One in every four members of our generation did not escape the womb, which has become the most dangerous place on earth for a human person.

We will not forget. We cannot forget, because we've seen the ultrasound images, heard the heartbeats, and witnessed firsthand the brokenheartedness and disillusionment that abortion has caused. We will not rest until America becomes a safe place for babies and for pregnant mothers again.

Youth For Life, in all its stages and in all its forms!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The 44th Inauguration

You watched it. You read about it. Thoughts?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Feast After the Famine

38 days.

We were without internet for 38 days. Additionally, the outage was wholly unanticipated, so I wasn't even able to plan for the vacuum. We are talking a total descent into chaos. I learned, in early December that I am a bonafide internet addict. What Starbucks is to B-Mama, my DSL modem is to me. Oh, except that I drink too much Starbucks as well. Being without my portal to the outside world meant several things. It meant family members missing Christmas gifts, it meant driving to the airport too early to pick someone up because I couldn't check. It meant bank overdrafts, it meant unanswered trivia standoffs between Husband and I. It meant having to actually open my cookbooks again. It meat 973 unread Yahoo messages. But, most tragically, it meant missing my friends!... My B.C. buddies and my Catholic Mom Mentors in the blogosphere. I was so nervous that I would miss the pregnancy announcement here, or miss seeing photos of B-Mama turning 30 or Bella's first day of school. I am still aching to read the MaryAlice solution to Mount Washmore too. I can't believe C fell in a creek! So much to miss out on. Up here, alone with my family on the third floor of a German apartment building ;)

So, I did miss you guys, I am thrilled to be back. My household notebook has a back page entitled "potential BC post ideas" with five bullets on it. So, I won't be too queit. I have been missing my sounding board of rad Catholic moms for too long. I have a 1-year birthday to hold, restaurant etiquette questions, polemic thoughts on subsidized daycare, ideas about the blessings of living with little children, you name it, let's get busy!!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Reader Comments

I would like to thank all of our readers for their wonderful contributions to this blog. Your comments are most welcomed and very appreciated. Unlike many other blogs, the comments here are a source of shared wisdom and support for all you wonderful, faith-filled mothers. If you do not regularly read the comments, please do! Not only the builders, but many of our readers give great insight into how we can all be better mothers and better people. Many of your thoughts are a real encouragement to me, motivating me to keep writing and posting, even when life is busy and full of other challenges.

Last week, Kat wrote about some difficulties she was having during Mass and one of our readers gave some fantastic advice on how to handle that person who disapproves of your child's behavior during Mass. Julia A, wrote:

This is straying a little from the point, but my life as a mom during mass became infinitely easier when I realized that the best response to a disapproving matron who was shooting daggers at me (and my child) with her eyes was a feeble smile and the line, "Would you pray for us right now?"

Pure Genius!

This morning, friends of our family were struggling with their 3 year old's behavior during Mass. Their little girl was having a particularly bad day, and the couple sitting in front of our friends gave them more than a few eye rolls and sighs. I watched, amazed at how obviously this couple was expressing their disapproval, and feeling horribly for my friend! I then called to mind Julia's wonderful advice.

While her particular line was not appropriate for me to say--luckily, today it was not my child who was misbehaving--her advice was perfect for my friend. After Mass I approached my friend and shared Julia's wonderful words of wisdom. Sincerely encouraged, my friend felt armed and ready for the next time she receives that awful disapproving stare.

While I know the debates here can be heated at times, more often than not, the comments are simply filled with wonderful gems of wisdom. It is moments like today when I am greatly humbled by the advice and encouragement of all the other builders and readers. So thank you everyone, and please keep reading and commenting.

There's always next year...

In spite of my husband's best play off beard efforts, the Eagles did not deliver the NFC championship. It was an interesting experiment, being married to someone with facial hair, and I am glad that he will be shaving tonight, though I would have liked to see the all-Pennsy Super Bowl. This season I have embraced my family's devotion to the birds and come to appreciate the governor's post game comments, but I must confess that I will be glad to have Sunday afternoons back.
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Unspoken Longing

I've been deeply moved lately by the number of times I've heard young wives--both secular and Christian--speak along these lines: "My husband and I are going to wait another 3 or so years before having a baby, until I've finished X and had a chance to do a little Y. And my husband doesn't want a baby until we're in our 30s anyway, although he'll be a wonderful dad someday. But if we got pregnant of course we'd be happy and we'd go with it. Actually, I'd probably go through the motions and cry for a day when I found out and when we were telling everyone, and then I'd flip out and be so thrilled, and we'd just re-plan our lives around a new little bundle of joy. Then it would basically be an 'accident' that we got pregnant so nobody could scoff at me."

What a beautiful sentiment and interior longing expressed. But sad as well. Women's liberation and cultural expectations that we inherited from our mothers' generation have done us a disservice in this regard. We're young and in love and newly married, and we feel a strong drive to begin the high adventure (as the "G" family wonderfully put it in their Christmas letter) of parenthood in our youth, with our beloved young spouse, while we're energetic and passionately in love. But it's been so impressed upon us as women that we're selling ourselves short to become mothers right away. So without really understanding, we follow the abstract cultural norm of "waiting a while"... but with the deep down feeling that it would be the happiest "accident" of a lifetime if a baby should come along.

Thank God for the Catholic Church, for its steadfast teaching on openness to children. What a comfort to know that God's will is for my husband and me to happily, eagerly follow that deep longing for children, and to be so encouraged in this by the Church. We're called to abandon ourselves to His plan for our family, so that the norm is openness to children from Day One of our marriage, and the exceptions are the times of spacing between babies. That's true freedom! The planning isn't on our shoulders, because what a burden it must be to carry the responsibility of planning your family the "wait a few years" way. We don't have to make excuses for our natural longing for a child or speak of it as an "accident" to protect ourselves. Instead, our Church assures us that parenthood is our primary path to sanctity, so that we can imagine the saints and angels rejoicing with each new annuciation in our family.

Friday, January 16, 2009

To Pump You Up

Anyone who lived through the glorious 80's is sure to remember Saturday Night Live's Hanz and Franz, offering to "pump... YOU up".    Dana Carvey and Dennis Nealey were an Austrian pair of body builders who often poked fun of others for lacking shape and fitness.  Pretty hysterical.

Nine years into this 21st century with the SNL spoof long gone and America continuing to drift into shapelessness, who are we to look to for physical fitness motivation?  Who can inspire and pump up the next generation of fitness gurus?  

Is it The Biggest Loser and its fitness fanatics, Jillian and Bob?  No.
Is it celebrities Christie Brinkley and Chuck Norris for the Total Gym?  Definitely not.

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you B-MAMA, here to PUMP YOU UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
Can you tell I'm running high on endorphins?? :)  My treadmill blast this morning was just the ticket to getting me on here and pumping up the Building Cathedrals audience!  Woohoo!!  

On tap for today is my iPod playlist.  Turn on some music and get pumping!!!  I just downloaded a bunch of new songs (thanks to an iTunes Christmas gift card!) and felt a whole new surge of motivation...  Come with me!  My first recommendation is One Step At A Time by Jordin Sparks.  Some may mock this selection as a bit cheesy (common for my taste), but I find it to be incredibly positive and motivating, especially at mile 8 with 2 to go!  Another goodie is Shut Up and Let Me Go by the British band, The Ting Tings.  It has a great beat to carry you through mid-workout and leave you feeling strong.   And you better believe this guy is on my playlist--nothing like a good 80's tune for the warm-up or cool down.

So there are a few of my recent faves to get you through a chilly afternoon and get you movin'!!
Go ahead and pass along your favorite workout tunes in the comments section!  What songs get you motivated?
And just remember the rule about good, old inertia--that which is at rest will remain at rest, UNTIL YOU DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!  Fight sedentary inertia and PUMP UP, Building Cathedrals!!  This is Coach B-mama signing off and heading to go ice my quads!!  

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Upon Reflection

It was Socrates who said, "An unexamined life is not worth living." Kat's last post illustrates this beautifully.

A few months ago I began to notice a change in a friend....a good change. I mentioned it to my husband, and he agreed. Our friend shared with my husband over the holidays that a few months ago he started journaling daily, at the advice of a priest. This time of daily reflection coincided with a remarkable change in his demeanor.

Sometimes when we moms are in the trenches, overwhelmed by diapers, dishes and discipline, it is hard to stop and take time to reflect. I know many people like to take stock at the dawn of the New Year, to set goals or make resolutions. And some people go on a yearly retreat. This is good, but there is so much value to reflecting daily. If we just trudge through each day, we miss the meaning, joy and value of our daily lives.

We need to pause daily, even hourly, to reflect. If you take a moment to say the Angelus at noon, this is a great time to ask yourself one question about your morning. For me, I usually ask myself if I have been a model of cheerfulness to my children. A nightly examination of conscience is another great habit. This way we can set goals or resolutions daily, not just once a year.

Taking time every day can also help us see cause and effect relationships. I had a very rough day last week after my parents left town. It was my husband who made to observation that the day after my parents leave seems to be very hard for me. I had not noticed that link, though it makes perfect sense as the boys are out of their routine and I no longer have help around. Now that I am aware of this, I can try to have a very structured day planned the next time my parents leave to get us all back into our routine.

If I had a tough day, I can ask myself if I got enough sleep the night before. Sometimes this may be out of my control (the baby woke up 6 times) or maybe it's because I stayed up too late on the computer. Or maybe I have been slacking in my time of prayer. Taking time to think and pray will help our days to be more full of joy and meaning. These interior struggles to be more Christ-like will not only bear fruit for ourselves, but for those around us as well.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lord, Have Mercy!

Over the past couple of days I have had two experiences that have caused me to reflect on human imperfection, God's abundant grace, and the absolute necessity of a strong support network for all of us as parents! Let me share my stories and then my reflections:

On Sunday morning, our family attended a new parish because we had an event to go to in the area, and we were also interested in seeing what this particular church community was like. We arrived a few minutes late but were ushered (by an usher) to the almost front row of the church. A couple of minutes after sitting down, Maria started her usual wriggling in an attempt to get out of my lap and onto the ground, and then started her usual wandering from the pew. She never goes more than a couple of feet away before turning back, so I usually let her roam as long as I don't think it will be a distraction to others. And then it happened: With a huge grin on her face, Maria started toddling towards the woman in the pew behind us, who had elevated her foot onto a chair in front of her and looked like she was probably in her early 60's. Instead of the usual smile that Maria usually elicits from other people, especially older folks, this woman said, "Uh-uh, don't even think about it, you go back now you hear." At first I thought she was joking, until I saw her face and realized that she was completely serious. Flustered, I picked up Maria to put her back in my lap, only to tap the chair on which the woman's foot was resting and elicit yet another comment, this time directed at me: "Come on now, that hurt. Ooooh, ouch." Feeling terribly ashamed and realizing that this wasn't going to work, I picked Maria up and went further back in the church to an area where some families were gathered. Again, Maria wriggled out of my arms and proceeded to give a big grin to a little girl and her mother. No luck this time either - the mother looked annoyed, and the little girl said, "Mommy, make her go away!" This was the last straw - I picked up my little girl and headed to the back of the church, where we stayed for the rest of Mass. All of the families gathered at the back were much friendlier, and it was fine, but an uncomfortable feeling stayed with me for the rest of the day. For the first time in my life, I had felt that we were unwelcome inside a church, and it was awful! Apparently my husband had a similar experience - he stayed in the pew with our son, and the woman reprimanded him several times during the remainder of the Mass. Not only that, but she ignored him when he tried to give her the sign of peace.  

My second experience happened Monday morning at daily Mass. After communion, I went back to the cry room with Maria and saw my friend, who looked like she was about to cry. I asked her if she was alright, and she told me that she dropped the host - she receives the Eucharist on her tongue because she is holding her son, and it dropped this time. The Eucharistic minister picked up the host and placed it back on her tongue, and I'm sure that he followed the proper procedures from there, but my friend was very flustered and upset. She kept saying, "I shouldn't have come today, I should've just stayed home, this is terrible" and was obviously feeling quite guilty. I did my best to reassure her, but clearly there was nothing that I could say at that moment that would make her feel better. 

So, what did I learn from the woman in the pew behind us on Sunday and my experience with my friend at daily Mass? Simply put, we are all imperfect and in need of God's grace! 

The woman whom we met at Sunday Mass must be very unhappy. Perhaps something awful has happened in her life, perhaps she is in a great deal of pain because of an illness or injury, but whatever the case, she is currently unable to act charitably and her attitude has a negative effect on those around her. I pray that, by the grace of God, she will open her heart and allow God to transform and heal her soul.

My friend at daily Mass was distressed and frustrated with herself for something that she ultimately had no control over. Of course she didn't mean to drop the host, of course God wanted her at Mass, of course she shouldn't have stayed home. My friend is particularly sensitive about bringing her son to mass to begin with - she feels that her son is a distraction to others and that people look at her as if she shouldn't be bringing a young child with her to mass. I personally have never felt this way, but regardless, I know how she feels! As mothers, we face countless stressful situations throughout the day, but there is something about encountering these situations in public places that just makes them unbearable! The toddler throws a fit in the grocery store, the 4 year-old won't stop acting like a dinosaur during music class at CCD, or in my friend's case, the little boy won't stop wriggling in his mother's arms when it is time to receive the Eucharist. At times like these, we need God's grace to wash over us and bring peace to our hearts, and we need good friends to remind us that we are doing a good job, that kids will be kids, and that we should go drink a cup of tea and take a few minutes to recharge the batteries!

Saints Anne and Joachim, parents of Our Blessed Mother, pray for us!

Monday, January 12, 2009

El Crockpot

I have a 4 lb beef rump roast in the refrigerator that will begin its day on Wednesday in my crockpot. But how to cook it...? There are plenty of crockpot recipes out there that get the job done--you know, you throw in aromatic, fresh ingredients in the morning, flip the knob, and by dinner time you have a soft heap of something with an unremarkable flavor and a borderline-repulsive consistency. Like bad leftovers.

Winter is crockpot season, but mine has only found its way to the countertop once for chili. Wednesday will be its second performance.

Does anyone have an excellent crockpot recipe, particularly for cooking meat, that gives the meat some zesty and exciting flavor? Any other remarkable crockpot recipe suggestions would be SO appreciated too! I'd love to use this mother's helper more often, but so far in my experience, the product ain't much to write home about.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Trouble in Gasperiniville...

When these are under your tree:

And this hangs on your tree:

And this is how you celebrate your birthday:

Trouble is brewing...

When Builders Convene

You can bet there are plenty of young ones!! We had a grand time visiting with Red and her three kiddos last week.  There were 6 children total.  And the whole time I kept thinking, "I can't believe Mary Alice has this many ALL the time!"  Lots of love to my beloved Red and to all the other procreating Builders.  At this juncture, not one of us is pregnant for the first time in 7+ years.  Ladies, let's get on it!  

Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord

Almighty, eternal God, when the Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan, you revealed him as your own beloved Son. Keep us, your children born of water and the Spirit, faithful to our calling. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

On this very special feast day, let our hearts long for nothing but to hear Our Lord say to us, You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter, with you I am well pleased. Let us remember the great humility of John the Baptist, who says in today's Gospel reading, One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1). Let us also take note of Jesus' great humility as he stepped into the River Jordan, bowed his head, and asked his dear friend John the Baptism to baptize him. On this feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, we are given a great clue as to how God would have us live: as humble servants, seeking to glorify our Maker in all that we do. 

Mary, Mother of God and perfect Model of Humility, pray for us! Lord, have mercy on us!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Happy First Day of School Bella! Happy Birthday B-mama!

Bella started this morning at a local church preschool ("playschool" is more like it), three mornings a week, and wow was it a smashing success. We've waited... and waited... and waited... and she and our family are SO ready. She loved every second, and we'll just continue taking school decisions one semester at a time!

Bean and I had a long-overdue morning milkshake date at the train restaurant, and then we rode escalators for 30 minutes at Bed Bath and Beyond.

A fantastic morning all around! Hope yours is going well.
Another builder turns 30 today. We now have three senior citizens on our builder roll. HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, B-MAMA!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rest in Peace, Dear Father Neuhaus

Richard John Neuhaus, 1936-2009

Father John Neuhaus died this morning. What a remarkable life he lived in the service of Our Lord, authetic religious freedom, and the "weakest and least". His leadership in the Evangelicals and Catholics Together ecumenical effort has changed the face of Christian unity in the United States.

From First Things Editor Joseph Bottum:

"Our great, good friend is gone.

"Fr. Richard John Neuhaus slipped away today, January 8, shortly before 10 o’clock, at the age of seventy-two. He never recovered from the weakness that sent him to the hospital the day after Christmas, caused by a series of side effects from the cancer he was suffering. He lost consciousness Tuesday evening after a collapse in his heart rate, and soon after, in the company of friends, he died.

"My tears are not for him—for he knew, all his life, that his Redeemer lives, and he has now been gathered by the Lord in whom he trusted.

"I weep, rather for all the rest of us. As a priest, as a writer, as a public leader in so many struggles, and as a friend, no one can take his place. The fabric of life has been torn by his death, and it will not be repaired, for those of us who knew him, until that time when everything is mended and all our tears are wiped away.

"Funeral arrangements are still being planned; information about the funeral will be made public shortly. Please accept our thanks for all your prayers and good wishes."

Heart in My Throat

Have you ever had one of those parental moments when your heart jumps to your throat because one of your children may be in danger? I've had a couple, like the time when Maria decided to hide silently under the desk in C's room and I couldn't find her for a few minutes, or the time when C was a toddler and climbed on top of his dresser/changing table and it tipped over. Those were scary moments, but I think that what happened yesterday was perhaps the most dramatic yet. Here's what happened:

We had gone to the neighborhood playground with a couple of other families, both of whom have kids that are just slightly older than C. Usually, C will spend the entire time hanging from the monkey bars or climbing on the jungle gym, but yesterday he spent most of his time following "the big kids" around. After a few minutes, one of the 6 year-old girls suggested that the kids go for a nature walk on the trail just behind the playground. She had gone on this trail just last week when her cousins were visiting, and her mother seemed confident that her daughter knew the way and that the trail was harmless. From the beginning I felt nervous about letting C go, especially because I wasn't going to be able to see him from the playground, but I told myself to relax and let him have this adventure with his friends. I was able to hear the kids laughing and talking, which made me feel better about the situation. However, after about 10 or 15 minutes I started to worry; while some of the other kids had come back for a drink of water or a snack, C hadn't checked back in with me. 

Feeling silly for being "that mom" who is overprotective, I decided to follow my intuition and go looking for C. I handed Maria off to one of the other moms and started up the path. That's when one of the kids came running up and said, "C is stuck in the water and he's calling for help!" I of course ran ahead as quickly as I could, and finally saw a soaking wet, covered in mud from head to foot C walking towards me! He was crying and looked so pitiful, and all at once I felt a huge wave of relief and a terrible feeling of guilt come over me. C was safe, but I hadn't been there when he needed me! Praise God, some older kids just happened to be on the trail as well, and they pulled C from the muddy creek that he had fallen into. Apparently he slipped on the trail and slid all the way down a hill into the creek, and then got stuck in the mud and couldn't climb out. Of all of the things that could have happened, we are very blessed that C walked away with no injuries - his Guardian Angel was watching over him indeed! And those kids who helped C were incredibly wonderful - they were very worried about him, and told him stories of when they were little and had had similar accidents on the nature trail :) C was a little bit embarrassed and very upset about being all wet and dirty, but he felt much better after a warm bath and a talk with daddy about his "big adventure"! As for me, I think that we'll stay away from this particular nature trail for a little while unless an adult is along for the adventure!

Last night, as I reflected on what had happened, I realized that situations like these are only going to continue as my children get older. Sometimes, it will be very clear to me that there is a safety issue involved and therefore I will be confident in saying that a certain activity is not appropriate at this time. Yesterday, for instance, I should not have let C go on the nature walk without going along myself. However, there will be other times when it will be appropriate for me to let my children participate in certain activities - being on the football team, for instance, or going away to camp, or getting a driver's license :) I may worry at first, but I know that it will still be important for me to allow my children to take controlled risks. 

I know that you mothers who have older kids have faced these types of situations a million times before. Do you have any nuggets of wisdom to share with us mothers of younger children?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pray for Fr. Neuhaus

NRO reports that Fr. Richard John Neuhaus is very ill:
His friends and family are keeping vigil and he was administered last rites shortly after midnight. Fr. George Rutler, who gave him the Catholic Sacrament, says that “he is not expected to live long” and suggests “that it is appropriate that prayers be offered for a holy death.”

Fr. Neuhaus has come close to this moment before and been back. If it’s his time: Go in peace. He's a man who has loved and served His Lord. When he leaves this world, his vast intellectual and spiritual body of work will have a long life here.

For those unfamiliar, Fr. Neuhaus is the editor and founder of First Things magazine, and a very important proponent of religious values in the public square. I received word of his health from a friend today and I know he would appreciate your prayers.

Tackling Mount Washmore

A long time ago, a reader asked about our system for dealing with clothing. Ours is an elaborate one, and will take several posts to fully explain, but I wanted to begin with something that we are focusing on at home right now: the laundry system.

One difficult thing about laundry, like other housework, is that it never feels "done" -- you can get all of your clothes put away, but unless you are naked while you do it there will be clothes in the hamper again before you go to sleep! I find this very frustrating, and I cannot be thinking about needing to do laundry all the time, so I have limited laundry to 3 nights a week. On the other nights I know that I am "off duty" for laundry, and I don't give it another thought.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights after dinner my children have chores. (Tuesday and Thursday afternoons we are out of the house, so this works well for us). While some empty the trash cans and diaper pails around the house, others bring all of the laundry from the various hampers (one in each bedroom) to the laundry room. Ideally, they use a laundry basket for the gathering so that the hampers stay in their places.

Once the children are in bed, I sort the laundry into three piles, whites for bleach, lights and darks. When we are in survival mode I often don't sort, but right now we have several new, bright red articles of clothing, so it is well worth the effort. With all of our laundry, I usually have enough for one white load, and three or four color loads. I use ALL Free and Clear on everything, so I do not need to wash baby clothes separately. Diapers do get their own load, though, usually last! Our washer and dryer are pretty fast, so I just start doing a load at a time while I clean the kitchen and do the rest of my evening routine. I pull out a few things to hang to dry but most of it goes in the drier. I try to be as non-anal as possible while still doing the job properly, it is all about getting it done! Once the kitchen is all cleaned, I put on the TV (reruns of John and Kate plus 8 are a favorite for this) and get folding. As I fold, I sort by owner so that I end up with 8 piles of laundry as well as a pile of kitchen linens (we use cloth napkins, dish towels and rags, so there is a fair amount of kitchen laundry).

In theory, the sorted clothes get put away by each family member first thing the next morning, but this is where our system was breaking down a bit -- if it doesn't get put away immediately, I find a crawling baby quickly knocking over piles of clean laundry, which is just depressing. This week, we have tried to fix this by purchasing eight small, handled laundry baskets. They stay stacked in the laundry room until it is time to fold, and now we fold and sort into a basket, so we wind up with eight baskets of clothes instead of piles. For the little kids, at the end we sort the laundry by dresser drawer so that they can put it away easily. Before breakfast on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday we empty the baskets and return them to the laundry room. If the morning is going to be very busy, we can at least get the basket to the right room and out of the living area, with a plan to put away the laundry at quiet time or before bed.

I will confess that I do not have a regular time for washing sheets and towels, which means that this does not get done as often as it should. I cannot decide whether it would be best to pile this on to one of the wash days or to do it on one of my "off" days. Making up 7 beds feels like a huge chore to me.

Sometimes, like after a trip or during illness, laundry piles up and gets out of control, at which point I don't mind devoting a day to getting back on top of things. If I am folding during the day, I have taught the children to fold napkins and dish towels -- helping with this saves me work and also keeps them busy while I fold the clothes!

So, this is what works for us, we don't own enough clothing to do laundry only once a week, and if we did the task would be too big for me. Doing laundry three days also means that if I miss one day for some reason I am not too far behind, but unless things are really out of control I try to force myself to wait until the next laundry day, I do think that it is important to have rest days set into any system. The kids help at the beginning and the end of the laundry job, and this makes a huge dent in what I have to do, especially when I am pregnant and tired, it is great not to have to carry laundry up and down stairs.

We put away our decorations this morning, and it is nice to be in an uncluttered home thinking about the routines that make our life hum along, using the extra time with Dad (our organizer) to improve the routines, and getting ready to embrace the comforting rhythms of ordinary time!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

On Christmas Decor

I've been quasi packing my Christmas gear and wondering how folks out there handle the transition of seasons from Christmas to ordinary time?  As of right now, we are planning to keep up the tree and door wreath until the official end of Christmas this Sunday.  Down went our candles in the windows yesterday.  Down goes the lit garland around our door today.  If you were to look down our street, you'd have a hard time believing Christmas was just over a week ago!  

What do you do?  Do your decorations stay up post Epiphany Sunday?

Monday, January 5, 2009

What I've been doing

Multiple times I have had to explain that I am taking this wallpaper down because it is ugly. Gianna (age 4.5) just cannot understand how anything with flowers and the color pink can possibly be ugly.

Stripping wallpaper is one of the most awful, time consuming home-improvement tasks. In light of this fact, I believe it is sinful to wallpaper your home. Someday, someone is going to have to take it down. It will be a terrible experience for that person. If, in full knowledge of this fact, you insist on wallpapering your home, you should go to confession.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a wonderful time with family and friends over the holidays. I haven't been online much these past few weeks because, like MaryAlice, we have been experiencing "Saturday Everyday" for the past few weeks. No school schedule, no gymnastics, no morning routine, none of our staples that keep us grounded. We have had some wonderful family time, but I am ready to get our life back in order. It all begins today, the first work/school day of 2009.

As an unrelated, but interesting aside, I saw this piece today at CNN--Baby Born in Midair. I guess giving birth several thousand feet above the Atlantic makes a homebirth look like an unexceptional experience. I do not recommend flying when you are 8.5 months pregnant!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Saturday Everyday

While the Catholic Mom blogosphere is filled with posts about the wonderful twelve days of Christmas, and how Christmas isn't over, and how we can keep celebrating, I am all partied out!

We are so blessed that my husband's job gives him time off ("Paternity Leave") when he has a baby, so he will be home with us for a few weeks. We are also blessed that our new baby has an easy temper and that I have recovered well, so we are more or less up and running, or at least we could be. The thing is, as much as we love having Dad around, as much as we want and need his help right now, it is very hard to get a normal routine going when he is here, so we are living one saturday after another. I know that most families are off of their routines because of the holidays, but I have to remember that I threw up my hands and stopped trying sometime back in early December, so my kids have been unstructured for almost a month now. Some of that time has been really, really fun, but it is time for us to get out of our bathrobes and get going, and we all feel it. The problem is, how can we do this? Do we try to incorporate Dad into the routine, or just pretend that he is not really here? Do I farm out the children to him a few at a time and focus on the others? I would love some advice from anyone who has had the experience of having husbands home for a few weeks. My husband is super helpful, and I have learned that if I ask (nicely) he will happily do whatever the family needs him to do, but I think that both he and I get frustrated by the lack of routine and clear expectations. On a day to day basis the rest of the year, we live happily in our very traditional roles -- he works, takes out the trash, gets the car repaired, changes lightbulbs, I stay home, clothe and feed the family, keep the house in order. Right now, I am slightly checked out, in part because I am interrupted to nurse the baby or fall asleep, but my household tasks are not getting done. I start the laundry but don't finish it, at four o'clock we both look at each other and wonder what to do about dinner. The kids are begging to start school again, so I let them take out some workbooks and get going, but even that needs to be done in a more focused and orderly way moving forward. So, please help us make a plan to get out of fairy land and back to our real life, as great as the sugar plums have been, we are all feeling a little bit of a holiday hangover!
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