Friday, February 27, 2009

Great Sites List

Wow, I just came across this, so for all of you Starfall lovers, here are some new friends. We have given up TV for Lent, and this just might make it do-able, plus, as a long time "Math Shop" lover, I know that computer games really can help with math facts.

Because I am about the oldest one here, I can also laugh at the fact that the programming game on Math playground uses a little turtle for the cursor, a 3D 21st century turtle, but still a nice homage to the old days of learning lotus programming in kindergarten, funny they thought back then that we would all need to know how to program computers some day, that knowledge is stored away with all the wordperfect keystrokes my dad made me memorize in my pre-mouse middle school days.

Okay, I have officially revealed way to much about how much of a geek I am.

Lenten Resource

Don't forget that you can download The Passion for Children and listen to it for free, and if you like it, try some of the other Glory Stories, we love them!

Is this my child?

My 3.5 year old son has inherited my terrible seasonal allergies, confirmed by testing. He has a runny nose, sore throat, red eyes and has been sneezing for the last two weeks. We finally stated him on zyrtec for kids two days ago.

Since then he has been a little crazy. He has been disobeying, throwing temper tantrums, hitting and scratching me. To be fair, I prefer natural remedies in general. I feed the kids local raw honey once they turn one and keep them outside to expose them to allergens to help build up their immunity, etc. I'm not sure if I'm unfairly blaming the medication for a rough period with a three year old. I plan to take him off it tomorrow and see if his behavior changes, but he is miserable (as I am) because of allergies to pollens, grasses, trees and weeds. A google search revealed some moms that said the medication affected their kids' behavior.

Has anyone else experience behavior changes due to medication? How do you know? Is it just trial and error until you find the right medication?

New Lenten Traditions

Kat's beautiful Lenten reminder and 4ddintx's resourceful comment on Monday were enough to get me off my duff to try something new to make this a more meaningful and memorable Lent for my children.  Thus, our Jesus Tree was born.  

A trip to the craft store; some felt, scissors, and glue; and a little time and attention to detail was all it took to erect our Jesus Tree and this week's ornaments.  After two days, I'm not entirely sure how much my 4 and 2yo are "learning" from the experience, but I can say that we are all enjoying ourselves so far.  It is good for a mother's soul to know her boys are at least hearing about Christ's life, associating the stories with themes and images, and getting a creative/kinesthetic outlet to boot.  And the best part about our Jesus Tree--it can bloom again next year and the year after, making this one of our family's first Lenten traditions. Alleluia!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

not gross

I need consumer recommendations. What are the best watercolors and crayons and pastels for a 4.5 year-old?

I am sick of the cheap stuff. We have one of those combo kits from a big-box art supply store that probably cost $19.95 and it is simply not worth it. I was up coloring with her last night and I immediately wanted to quit, no wonder she often does too. I think she is old enough and focused enough to have good supplies now, but the offerings are daunting, please tell me what brands you have in your home that you love. I want vibrant colors and durability, PLEASE! and thank you

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


when the priest told me to be grateful for my children he did not know that a few hours later I would be cleaning poop out of the bathtub.

Lent 101

A helpful link.

h/t Amy

The Biggest Loser -- Lent Edition

Blessed Lent to you all. Guest post here, from Mr. Mary Alice.

The topic is losing weight and getting healthier in the six weeks before Easter and beyond. I know there are some of you out there who are struggling to get started on a path to better health. I'm here to tell you that you're not alone. I've lost over 60 pounds in the last year. I want to share some things that worked for me, and I hope you'll get started and get healthy with me!

1. Look in the mirror and decide it's time. I'll spare you the details, but basically I saw a doctor and got scared straight. I realized I was eating myself to death. I made a decision -- a PROMISE to myself -- that I'd make a real, disciplined effort to fix my health.

If it would help you, I'd suggest you see your doctor, too, just to get a baseline sense of where your body is (blood tests, blood pressure, resting heart rate, etc.). Plus, before you start the sort of exercise I suggest below, it's not a bad idea to see a physician. BUT DON'T USE NOT SEEING THE DOCTOR AS AN EXCUSE NOT TO START.

2. Change what you eat, but do NOT go on a diet. This sounds strange, I know, but it has been a critical part of what I have done to not think of myself as "on a diet." Instead, I thought of myself as "living my entire life a different way," and what I was eating was just a part of that lifestyle change.

3. Don't eat food that is bad for you. Especially in the first six months of "living your entire life a different way", you've just got to stop eating bad stuff. Doughnuts = bad. Doritos = bad. Virtually anything that comes out of a can = bad (exception: tuna). Any drink that has more than 0 calories -- bad (exception: skim milk). I know many of these things taste good, but the taste is simply not worth the speed bumps these foods are putting on your road to better health. I promise, once you're running 10-15 miles a week, you can eat ice cream and drink beer again, but for the first six months or so, do yourself a favor and don't work against your goals.

***FOOD TIP*** Buy bananas in bulk and stuff your face with them. Have a banana with breakfast and lunch every day for a month. They give you tons of energy, they feel like dessert because they're so sweet, and they fill you up so you won't be hungry between meals. Basically, every time you open your mouth to eat something, you have to ask yourself, "Is this going to help me get healthy or is this going to get in my way?"

4. Exercise: the journey starts with one step. Ten months ago, I hated to exercise. Well, I can't really say that I hated to exercise because I never exercised, but I just knew I'd hate it. I started very easily, going out at lunchtime and walking in midtown Manhattan, 15 minutes in one direction and then 15 minutes back. By the time I got back to my office, I was out of breath. Then, I started walking to and from Penn Station every day. After about 4 weeks of this, I joined a gym.

5. The Gym: become a regular. Oh, man, my first day at the gym was a disaster. I didn't have a lock, so stuffed my suit in my gym bag and carried around with me. I could barely figure out how to work the treadmill. It was like I had a bulls eye on my back. My workout for the day was a weak 20-minute walk on the treadmill. I was winded, but I barely felt like I deserved the shower I took. But I survived, and I went back the second day, and so on.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "I don't have time for the gym." Sorry, I can't buy this one. I spend 3 hours and 20 minutes commuting on a train to NYC each day, I work at an extraordinarily demanding law firm, and I still take an hour 3-4 times most weeks to get to the gym. Find your sneakers and MAKE EXERCISE A PART OF YOUR ROUTINE.

6. Exercise: set attainable goals. Let's face it, you're out of shape. You're a long way from running 45 minutes on a treadmill, so get it out of your head. First, make it your goal to get to the gym. Second, walk for 30 minutes for a couple times a week for 2 weeks before you try anything more strenuous. Third, try the elliptical and get your heart rate to about 130-140 for 30 minutes. Do this for 4 weeks. You'll find over those 4 weeks that you have to work harder and harder to get your heart rate to 140 -- this means that your body's cardiovascular system is getting more efficient. Just last week, it took me to resistance level 15 (and a fast speed) on the elliptical to get to a heart rate of 140; it used to be that level 1 at only a moderate speed would get me to 145 and sweating bullets.

7. Use training programs. It's amazing how motivated you can be when you have a set plan. Here are a few that worked for me:

(a) the hundred pushups program (an amazing program that will get you from 0 to 100 consecutive pushups in just 6 weeks);

(b) the two hundred situps program (the cousin of the hundred pushups program, this will get you from 0 to 200 consecutive pushups in just 6 weeks);

(c) this couch-to-5K program will get you started in running; and

(d) this half-marathon program got me in great shape to run the Philly Half-Marathon last November.

8. Weigh yourself often. If you're eating better, drinking lots of water and working out for 30 minutes 3-4 times a week, you should be losing about 2 pounds a week. Make sure that you are. The reason why I say you should weigh yourself often is that any given weight reading is subject to variability for water retention and things you've eaten. I find that if I eat salty things, my weight is unusually high for a day or two (water retention, I think) because of it.

Weigh yourself naked, as soon as you get out of bed in the morning, then again as soon as you get out of the shower. Do this every day, and use the same scale. Write the numbers down or commit them to memory. In any event, your weight should be basically going down at a pace of about 2-3 pounds a week.

9. Tell your spouse and loved ones what you're doing. It helps immeasurably to have other people supporting you. Once your spouse knows that you're trying to eat better, you'll be amazed at the salads that show up for dinner. Goodbye, Mac-and-Cheese. Hello, grilled chicken and string beans! If you have kids, ask your friends and family to babysit for an hour so you can take walk or a run.

10. Keep your clothes tailored. Your clothes are going to get big on you in a matter of weeks. Wait until they really look ridiculously baggy (2 months or so) but then get them tailored or buy new clothes. You want your clothes to be snug and/or fit you well, so that you're not psychologically thinking "I can eat this doughnut, because my pants are so loose on me." I went from a size 42+ waist to a size 34. This morning, I put on a "slim fit" dress shirt for the first time ever!

Corollary to this rule -- keep one whole outfit of big clothes and try it on from time to time to see the progress you've made and to scare yourself from getting that big again. (I have a size 48R suit that really scares the crap out of me when I put it on now. "Was I really this big? Why didn't anyone tell me?" Answer: they did.)

Good luck! Again, a Blessed Lent, and here's to a slimmer you in the upcoming Easter Season!


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sacrament of the Sand

Dash (3 yrs.) with large bowl of sand poised inches over Jack-Jack's head, "Jack-Jack, I'm going to baptize you now!"

Because dumping sand on your brother must be ok if you try to make it a sacrament...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Preparing for Lent

Yesterday morning, the priest at our church gave a thoughtful homily on preparing for Lent, which will begin in a couple of days on Ash Wednesday and continue through Holy Thursday. There are many years when I feel like Christmas has just ended when the Lenten season begins, but this year Easter falls so late that I actually feel somewhat prepared for Lent to begin! Nonetheless, I appreciated that our priest spoke to us about preparing for Lent, which he compared to preparing for the beginning of a race. Just as runners want to make sure that they arrive at a road race on time and with the proper mentality, so too should we as Christians arrive on Ash Wednesday ready to begin our journey through the Lenten season. Rather than muddling through the first couple of days (or weeks!) of Lent, our priest was challenging us to get off to a good start so that we could make the most of this season. 

I was also gladdened to hear our priest speak of the joy that comes with the simplicity that characterizes the Lenten season. Lent is a time to be introspective, to examine our consciences, to shed bad habits or wrongly ordered attachments, and to get back to the basics of what we believe and who we are as Catholics. It is a time to take advantage of the sacrament of Reconciliation more regularly than we might otherwise do, and a time to invite our friends and family members to do the same. The fruits of all of this are a deep and abiding sense of peace and joy, for we know that these things are right and good. We also know that we can only come to Easter glory through the Way of the Cross - as our priest often says, "Christianity without the Cross is not Christianity at all, it is something else, an imitation." 

Perhaps it would be helpful for us to share ideas about how we will help our children prepare for this Lenten season. What will you be doing with your kids during Lent? Which activities have been fruitful for your kids at different age levels? Last year my son was almost 4 years old, and we made this Crown of Thorns, which was great at first but then fizzled out after a couple of weeks. Let's share some new ideas for Lent 2009!

"What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson? Joltin' Joe has left and gone away."

The Oscars last night were good. My husband and I liked "Slumdog Millionaire" and its supercool "Jai Ho" song and dance, and "Benjamin Button". We were happy to see those movies run away with so many awards.

However, the pro-gay marriage frenzy accompanying "Milk" hit me hard. These Hollywood figures have become our culture's heroes--we salivate over their personal lives, we take their political commentaries seriously, we include them in distinguished national events, we imitate their fashion and manners. As I sorted my sweet little boy's clothes in preparation for laundry day today, the screenwriter of "Milk" Lance Black gave his acceptance speech:

Oh my God. This was, um, this was not an easy film to make... When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life. It gave me the hope one day I could live my life openly as who I am and then maybe even I could even fall in love and one day get married.

I wanna thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he'd want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally, across this great nation of ours. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you, God, for giving us Harvey Milk.

And later from Sean Penn, who played gay politician Harvey Milk in the movie:

I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that way of support. We've got to have equal rights for everyone.

Where have all the real boyhood heroes gone--the cultural icons who were also decent, manly role models for boys? Joltin' Joe DiMaggio and Hank Aaron, John Wayne, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. They may not have been impeccable in their personal lives but they stood for traditional values and inspired young boys to do the same. Hard work and self-discipline. Masculinity. Courage and strength. Chivalry.
We immerse ourselves in saints and knights and athletes of old around here, but I do on occasion grieve the loss of good masculinity in popular culture, for the sake of my little boy and other boys. Last night was one of those occasions.

Does Your Life Look Like This?

"...We had gotten into a horrible rut of rolling out of bed and into our day, facing the day's tasks unkempt and unenthusiastic. I was constantly having to will the boys to get dressed--who wouldn't want to stay in his jammies all day? It wasn't uncommon for me to have to take clothes to the car because someone wasn't yet dressed before we headed out on an errand. When I would finally have them dressed, clothes would often be strewn all over the house (and car!), beckoning my extra energy to round them up in order to get laundry done. What a mess!! Something had to change..."

If you can empathize, feel free to join me over at my Gasperini-Ville for a look at some new practices we're implementing. After some initial success, I just had to share the wealth. God bless!
The Pope has appointed a new Archbishop for my home town, please keep Bishop Dolan in your prayers as he prepares for this difficult and very important ministry. I think that our church and political leaders become even more important in difficult times when we find ourselves open to, and desperate for, inspiration.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Contraception and Non-Christians

A reader writes: how do you argue against contraception from a secular point of view?

The Pro-Contraception Argument:

The procreative and unitive aspects of the marital act are separable, that is, that the procreative aspect can be nullified without in any way vitiating the conjugal act or making it less a unique expression of marital love and union.

Brief Response:

If one deliberately destroys the power of the conjugal act to give life, one necessarily destroys its power to signify love: the love and union proper to marriage.


(I will draw first from "Marriage: A Path to Sanctity" by Javier Abad & Eugenio Fenoy; next from "Covenanted Happiness" by Cormac Burke; and finally from "Contraception and Chastity" by G.E.M. Anscombe)

Why has nature made man and woman so different yet so complimentary, with different anatomical structures, different physiology and psychology? Why is there a strong attraction between the sexes? Nature herself has linked sexuality with a purpose and tells us plainly that man was made male and female to bring into this world new beings of the same species. The sexual act is naturally ordained toward the begetting of species—if it were otherwise, why should there be two sexes? The sexual drive facilitates and ensures the preservation of the species. Similarly, the special pleasure attached to eating gives us an extra incentive to nourish ourselves—to satisfy the irresistible appetite and therefore fulfill the need to keep ourselves alive. To arouse and satisfy the sexual drive without regard for the natural responsibility it entails breaks the link between sexual activity and procreation and thus constitutes an abuse of human sexuality. It’s like bullimia, eating for the pleasure then throwing up to avoid the consequences. Engaging in the act and violating the act.

Why does the sexual act signify love and unite the spouses in a way that no other act does, such as a handshake? What is it that makes it not simply a physical experience but a love experience?
Is it the special pleasure attaching to it? Is the unitive meaning of the conjugal act contained in the sensation, however, intense, that it can produce? If intercourse unites two people simply because it gives special pleasure, then it would seem that one or other of the spouses could at times find a more meaningful union outside marriage than within it. It would follow too that sex without pleasure becomes meaningless, and that sex with pleasure, even homosexual sex, becomes meaningful. No, the meaning of the marriage act does not consist in pleasure. Why should the marital act be more significant than any other expression of affection between the spouses? Why should it be a more intense expression of love and union? Surely because of what happens in that marital encounter, which is not simply a touch, not a mere sensation, however intense, but a communication, an offer and acceptance, an exchange of something that uniquely represents the gift of oneself and the union of the two selves.

The greatest expression of a person’s desire to give himself is to give the seed of himself. Giving one’s seed is much more significant, and in a sense more real, than giving one’s heart. “I am yours, I give you my heart, here, take it” is mere poetry, to which no physical gesture can give full expression. But “I am yours, I give you my seed, here take it” is not poetry, it is love. It is conjugal love embodied in a unique and privileged physical action whereby intimacy is expressed—“I give you what I give no one else”—and union is achieved. Take what I have to give. This will be a new me. United to you, to what you have to give—to your seed—this will be a new you-and-me, fruit of our mutual knowledge and love.” In human terms this is the closest one can get to giving one’s self conjugally and to accepting the conjugal self-gift of another, and so achieving spousal union.

Therefore, what makes marital intercourse expression a unique relationship and union is not the sharing of a sensation but the sharing of a power: of an extraordinary life-related, creative, physical, sexual power. In a truly conjugal relationship, each spouse says to the other: “I accept you as somebody like no one else in my life. You will be unique to me and I to you. You and you alone will be my husband; you alone will be my wife. And the proof of your uniqueness to me is the fact that with you—and you alone—am I prepared to share this life-oriented power.”

In this consists the singular character of intercourse. Other physical expressions of affection do not go beyond the level of a mere gesture; they remain a symbol of the union desired. But the conjugal act is not a mere symbol. In marital intercourse, something real has been exchanged, with a full gift and acceptance of conjugal masculinity and femininity. And there remains, as witness to their conjugal relationship and the intimacy of their conjugal union, the husband’s seed in the wife’s body.

Now if one deliberately nullifies the life-orientation of the conjugal act, one destroys its essential power to signify union. Contraception in fact turns the marital act into self-deception or into a lie: “I love you so much that with you, and with you alone, I am ready to share this most unique power…” But what unique power? In contraceptive sex, no unique power is being shared, except a power to produce pleasure. But then the uniqueness of the marital act is reduced to pleasure. Its significance is gone. Contraceptive intercourse is an exercise in meaninglessness. It could perhaps be compared to going through the actions of singing without letting any sound of music pass one’s lips… Going through the motions of a love-song; but there is no song.

Nothing can undermine a marrage so much as the refusal to know and accept one's spouse fully or to let oneself be known fully by him or her. In true marital intercourse, each spouse renounces protective self-possession, so as possess fully and to be fully possessed by the other. This fullness of true sexual gift and possession is achieved only in marital intercourse open to life. Sexual love is a love of the whole male or female person, body and spirit. In contraception, the body says, "I love you totally", whereas the spirit says "I love you reservedly."

G.E.M. Anscombe on the natural difference between contraceptive intercourse and the use of infertile times to avoid conception:

The reason why people are confused about intention, and why they sometimes think there is no difference between contraceptive intercourse and the use of infertile times to avoid conception, is this: They don't notice the difference between "intention" when it means the intentionalness of the thing you're doing - that you're doing this on purpose - and when it means a further or accompanying intention with which you do the thing. For example, I make a table: that's an intentional action because I am doing just that on purpose. I have the further intention of, say, earning my living, doing my job by making the table. Contraceptive intercourse and intercourse using infertile times may be alike in respect of further intention, and these further intentions may be good, justified, excellent.

But contraceptive intercourse is faulted, not on account of this further intention, but because of the kind of intentional action you are doing. The action is not left by you as the kind of act by which life is transmitted, but is purposely rendered infertile, and so changed to another sort of act altogether.

In considering an action, we need always to judge several things about ourselves. First: is the sort of act we contemplate doing something that it's all right to do? Second: are our further or surrounding intentions all right? Third: is the spirit in which we do it all right? Contraceptive intercourse fails on the first count; and to intend such an act is not to intend a marriage act at all, whether or no we're married. An act of ordinary intercourse in marriage at an infertile time, though, is a perfectly ordinary act of married intercourse, and it will be bad, if it is bad, only on the second or third counts.

It may help you to see that the intentional act itself counts, as well as the further or accompanying intentions, if you think of an obvious example like forging a cheque to steal from somebody in order to get funds for a good purpose. The intentional action, presenting a cheque we've forged, is on the face of it a dishonest action, not to be vindicated by the good further intention.

Finally, Janet Smith's entire lecture "Contraception: Why Not?" is a great source for understandable explanations and common-sense illustrations on this topic.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Running on Empty

We have been chatting about the hardships of February, and I wanted to share that one of the things that is really getting me through is sneaking out for a run whenever I can. This afternoon I was just totally exhausted and working out seemed like the last thing that would help (shockingly, I was so tired that I was even longing for a cigarette) but going for a run in the clear, cold sunshine really changed me attitude and gave me the second wind that I needed.

The amazing thing about running, for a mom in particular, is that you can do it as soon as you get out your door, so exercising for half and hour takes exactly half an hour, no drive to the gym needed. This means that you can run as soon as your husband walks in the door, first thing in the morning, or anytime you can grad a teenager to watch your brood for a little while.

At this time of year, getting outside a little bit is crucial to my mental health, I used to ski a few days a week, but that hobby is both costly and impractical for me right now!

If you are not ready to run, start out by walking, and you will get there. I have hated to run for my entire life, I just thought of it as something I did to train for other sports. I walked throughout my pregnancy and just after the baby was born, and then I transitioned to running just a mile. I added a little bit at a time and I am now running 3 miles at a time. I am running them very, very slowly -- JM ran her 8K faster than I can run 5k! But I am doing it, about three days a week, and it is really, really impacting my mental (and physical) health.

I had a breakthrough about running when I was whining to my husband the other night -- I don't want to relieve stress by eating or by spending money, so what can I do? Running is a healthy, productive and practical way to raise my endorphins, and once I get out the door and get going I am so glad that I did.

So, ladies, perhaps it is time to pick a spring time race and start training?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On the Cloth Diapering Front

A friend recently wrote with the following query:

How in the world do you handle cloth diapering with older toddlers (and their disgusting output)?  I was grossly unprepared for what I'm handling and was ready to quit altogether last week.  We currently have some flushable cloth diaper liners on order and I'm wondering how you address the cleaning, smell, etc.?  Help!

No doubt, the bigger your diapered child gets, the more disgusting his #2 diapers!  Thankfully, the cloth community has come up with some solutions that are helpful and also relatively economical.  One should definitely check out these options before abandoning all!  

The first is a diaper liner I found on eBay, created by a stay-at-home mom with microfleece and a pair of scissors.  I caught on after buying my first batch and went ahead and created my own.  For about $2, I made ~20 liners that go easily on the diaper directly against the baby's skin, allow for the use of creams/rash ointments, clean up easily in the toilet (so that you don't have to slosh around the whole diaper), and wash with the rest of your diaper load.  You can see the liner is contoured like the diaper for great coverage!  They are a must in our cloth diapering world.  Other liners like these rice paper ones flush right down and biodegrade.  They are probably pretty similar to the ones she already purchased.

Another great cloth diapering invention is the diaper spray wand, which attaches to toilet plumbing and makes clean-up quick and easy.  We do not own one of these, but are looking to add it soon to give me a little more power when cleaning the diapers.  Our new toilets just don't have the jet power of our old one!

Most cloth diaper sites sell diaper perfumes for helping to naturally control smell.  I've never used any of these, but have had some luck doing a wash solely with baking soda to help neutralize the smell.  

Finally, for storage in-between washings, I use one of these simple trash cans.  It has a flip top and generally keeps odors at bay.  I've even had diapers sit in it for more than a few days (gasp!) without noticing a smell.  You can find it at a local Target or Wal-Mart.  

All in all, cloth diapering should be a relatively enjoyable (we're talking diapers here) venture for your family--your baby is clean and dry, snuggled in soft cotton; your family is saving money (eventually) on the cost of regular diapers; and you are drastically reducing your paper waste, among many other perks!  If you have to take a break, don't sweat it!  We just resumed our cloth diapering after a 6-mos hiatus due to a supersoaker newborn and laundry backlog.  Thankfully, we're back on the bandwagon and enjoying it again.  Blessings to all of our clothy readers out there...

**If you're new to our cloth diapering discussion, check out our previous posts on the matter.  Welcome!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Delicious and Nutritious!

Oat, Fruit, and Nut Bars

1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter (I used natural)
2 T. maple syrup (I would suggest real maple syrup)
1 T. canola oil
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 t. cinnamon
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. oats
2 c. crisp brown rice cereal (I used puffed wheat)
1/4 c. toasted wheat germ (I didn't use this)
1/2 c. chopped nuts (I used almonds)
1/2 c. chopped dried apricots
1/2 t. salt

1) Combine honey, peanut butter, maple syrup, oil, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat just until bubbling, about 3-5 minutes, and remove from heat.
2) Stir in the vanilla
3) Combine oats, cereal, wheat germ, chopped nuts, chopped apricots, and salt in another bowl.
4) Pour peanut butter mixture over oat mixture and combine well with a spatula, making sure that all dry ingredients are coated.
5) Spray a 9 x 13" dish with nonstick cooking spray, and spread the mixture into the dish
6) Use wax paper to press the mixture down firmly
7) Cool, and then cut as desired

The estimated cost for making this entire recipe is $2.50 - $3.00, depending on what type of nuts you use. Not bad, considering these are natural and very delicious!

Quick tip: I sprayed the measuring cup with nonstick cooking spray before measuring the peanut butter and honey, and they slid right out of the cup instead of sticking!

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think. And if you have another variation, please share with all of us so that we can try yours :)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Prayer Request

I meant to get this up earlier, but we were having Internet trouble.

Over the past few weeks, the builders have been emailing some special needs among ourselves and offering our housework for one another. This week, I wanted to extend a prayer request to all of our readers.

K is a young woman like us with a young family, but she has heart complications and as a result her current pregnancy is high risk for mom and baby. Can you please all pray for her? I am going to be offering my heart-healthy but not fun interval training for her this month, and I am going to try to remember that in some ways I am lucky to have the baby weight to work off.

Happy Saint Valentine's Day

On this Valentines Day, I would like to confess that this is the first year (of my modest 27) that I have actually known what is the historical significance behind the holiday. Thanks to this Catholic homeschooling resource, my eager 4-year-old and I read the true story of Saint Valentine. He was a Christian priest and physician who lived in Rome 200 years after the death of Christ. He treated the ill of the city's slums -- accepting whatever payment they could offer - whether it be a loaf of bread or a new pair of sandals. Valentine had to pray for his patients only in the darkness of night due to the ongoing Roman persecution of the Christians.

One day a Roman jailer brought his blind daughter to Valentine for treatment. Saint Valentine treated the young girl's eyes faithfully with salve for months and months, to no avail. Nonetheless, the girl and Valentine became friends. She would accompany Saint Valentine into the fields around Rome; while he gathered his curative herbs she would pick boquets of crocus flowers for her father.

Tragically, Saint Valentine was rounded up in a Roman purge of the Christians and thrown in jail. The jailer whom he had befriended rushed to his cell, but explained that the emperor had ordered the roundup and that there was nothing he could do. However, he did provide Valentine a piece of papyrus and pen - with which the priest was able to write "from your Valentine". The jailer took the letter home to his daughter. When he opened it to read her the note, a yellow crocus flower fell to the ground and as the father read his daughter the message contained therein she was able to see the yellow hue of the flower for the first time in her life. Valentine was executed for his faith shortly thereafter.

So, on this Valentines Day. I would like to 1) thank the other Builders for encouraging me to give home education a try and 2) suggest that we be continually inspired by the power of all love - not just romantic love- as demonstrated by the namesake of the day.

A Healthy Love of Self

On this St. Valentine's Day, the counselor side of me would like to remind all of us that we cannot fully love others until we first have a "rightly ordered love of self." In an effort to promote a healthy and integral love of self, I would like to propose a definition of "Normal Eating" that I have found helpful over the years. Many people are unhappy with their physical selves and thus have an unhealthy relationship with food. Hopefully this short definition will serve as food for thought...You may be surprised by what you read :)

Definition of "Normal" Eating

  • Normal eating is being able to eat when you are hungry and continue eating until you are satisfied.
  • It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it -- not just stop eating because you think you should.
  • Normal eating is being able to use some moderate constraint on your food selection to get the right food, but not being so restrictive that you miss out on pleasurable foods.
  • Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good.
  • Normal eating is three meals a day, or it can be choosing to munch along the way.
  • It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful when they are fresh.
  • Normal eating is overeating at times: feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. It is also under-eating at times and wishing you had more.
  • Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.
  • Normal eating takes some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.
  • In short, normal eating is: Flexible and varied, in response to your emotions, your schedule, your hunger and your proximity to food.
Source: Adapted from How to Get Your Kid to Eat...But not too much (pp 69-70) by Ellyn Satter.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Shining Knight

It began as a casual Athletes In Action midterm prayer meeting where I happened to sit myself next to the cute guy from "Rocky" (Rockefeller residential college). It all started with his earnest prayer for a friend's salvation. Not only was he handsome, athletic, friendly... but he also had a heart for Christ.

You could say he caught my attention.

We finished our freshman year at Princeton, talking occaisionally and seeing one another at AIA. I ended a relationship with another fella, who happened to be paling in comparison to this knight in shining armor (heretofore named "Kish") Before we knew it, we were back again at Old Nassau for our sophomore year.

By this time, my infatuation with Kish had grown and I found it rather cathartic to tell most people (pretty much everyone) about my love interest. Even today I find it very funny that Kish remained rather oblivious to the B-mama buzz going on around him! I frequented his Rocky dining hall often; I studied in the same libraries; I offered to get ice for my cross country teammates so that I could "drop in" on the training room... just to have the chance to "run into" him and exchange a brief hello. Looking back, I was admittedly pathetic.

Gradually, though, my efforts appeared to be producing results. Kish and I would speak at greater length when we talked. He would seek me out at AIA to share a quick anecdote. I even thought he was rather flirty one time during a "chance" meeting in the training room. Things were moving in the right direction. But then, as soon as it had started, my building enthusiasm came crashing one weekend when Kish didn't show to a party arranged by our teams. He didn't even show up. I remember feeling crushed.

And that's when I handed Kish over to God and asked Him to have control. I could not spend another minute on something so frivolous and hurtful. The next two weeks were morose but much less stressful. I was slowly letting go and letting God, as some say.

And guess who showed up on my doorstep two weeks later to ask me to our sophomore formal?
Guess who stole my heart with his honesty, integrity, devotion, purity, godliness, and utter brilliance?
I bet you can guess who is the most wonderful husband to me and father to our precious boys.

My Kish; I've loved him from the very start.
Thanks be to God.

Happy Valentine's Day to all the hopeless romantics out there--my story shows nothing is hopeless! :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hopeful Valentine?

C: "Mommy, today at school I said that I wanted to date with Hannah and Rebecca"

Me: "Christopher, where did you hear about going on dates?!"

C: "From you and daddy!" 

Me: "Oh, right, because daddy and mommy go on dates...Well, you need to be a little bit older to go on dates, Christopher. But you can have playdates."

C: "Yeah, okay. Mommy, can I date with Lauren?"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I love you when you empty the dishwasher, and, what is more, when you don't.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Theology of Bugs

While watching Charlotte's Web--

Charlie (age 3) says in a sad whiny voice, "Charlotte died."

Gianna (almost 5) -- "That's ok Charlie, when bugs die, they don't go to heaven. They are just dead."

Charlie -- "Yeah."

Monday, February 9, 2009

So they say that there are five "love languages"...

When I sat down to read Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages a couple of months ago, I must admit that I was skeptical. Coming from a background in psychology (a field which I believe often mis- or over-uses categories and labels), 
I wasn't so sure about the idea that each of us speaks a "primary love language" and that once we figure out this love language (and that of our spouse) we will find ourselves in a healthier, happier marriage relationship. After reading this book, I can honestly say that I believe Dr. Chapman is onto something, and I would recommend it to any couple that would like to deepen their understanding of themselves and their spouse. Here is a brief overview of what The Five Love Languages is all about...

First, you should know that Gary Chapman is a world-renowned author, speaker, and counselor with over 30 years worth of experience working with married couples. He says that time and time again, he would be sitting in the room with a married couple and the wife would say, "After all these years of marriage, my husband never does anything to show me that he cares about me" and the husband would respond with, "I don't get it, I do all of these things to show my wife that I care about her!" Dr. Chapman soon came to the realization that more often than not, these spouses were having trouble not because they didn't care about each other, but because they did not speak the same primary love language. Just as we cannot understand what someone is saying if we do not speak their language - I would not understand a word of Polish, for example - we cannot understand what our spouse truly needs if we do not speak his primary love language. We may be very sincere in our efforts to love our spouse, but if we do not speak his love language then he will not feel loved. The goal is for couples to discover each others' primary love language, learn how to speak it, and work towards healthy communication within their marriage. 

Dr. Chapman says that there are five fundamental ways that we can express and receive love, and that while we may see characteristics of each of these categories in ourselves and/or our spouse, we will probably each fall into one primary category:

1) Words of affirmation
2) Quality time
3) Receiving gifts
4) Acts of service
5) Physical touch

1) Words of affirmation: People who fall into this category benefit immensely from verbal compliments as well as encouragement. The compliments can be as simple as "You look really nice in that new shirt" or "You're really good at making people feel at ease in social situations," but they should be sincere and thoughtful. Providing encouragement will be especially important in situations where your spouse needs to make a tough decision.

2) Quality time: Someone in this category really benefits from knowing that her husband is focusing all of his energy on her. Shared experiences are really important, and can range from watching a movie together to training for a marathon together. 

3) Receiving gifts: People in this category treasure gifts as an expression of someone's love for them. It may be very difficult for a thrifty wife to get used to the idea that her husband really feels loved when she gives him gifts, but she can realize that in giving gifts she is making an investment in the health of the marriage relationship. The gift doesn't always need to be expensive, even little gifts can mean a lot!

4) Acts of service: These individuals feel very loved when their spouse does acts of service for them, and it is important to discern what acts are most appreciated. For example, if your wife lets you know that she really hates vacuuming the house and that it would mean a lot to her if you would take on that weekly chore for her, you can do all the lawn-mowing that you want and she is not going to feel the love! She may appreciate your hard work on an intellectual level, but emotionally she will not feel that you're understanding her needs. Or wives, you can cook all of the gourmet meals that you want, but if your husband would just as well eat pasta 7 night a week and would rather come home to a neatly-ordered shoe rack, then you may be spinning your wheels! 

5) Physical touch: This category is not just limited to sexual intercourse, so it is important to figure out which types of physical touch - frequent hugs, a back massage, holding hands - communicates love and security to your spouse. 

I have been purposely brief because I believe that Dr. Chapman's book is worth reading in its entirety :) In this week leading up to St. Valentine's Day, let's make the commitment to working towards better understanding ourselves and our spouses so that we may better serve each other and practically live out the vows that we made to each other on our wedding day!

Abraham Lincoln Unit Study

In addition to our school curriculum, we usually have a themed read aloud unit going in our house, following the cycle of the year, so while we are officially learning about the Ancient World in history, in February we also learn about the presidents.

Today we celebrate Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday. For homeschoolers, or those wishing to supplement their children's education, I thought I would share some of the resources that my family is using to get to know the 16th president. Please be aware that books address slavery, which has led to some interesting and difficult discussions about our nations blemished history. I have tried to tie this in to current events by talking about the civil rights movement and the significance of Obama's election in the context of race in America. We will be working on this for the entire month, don't be intimidated!

Read Aloud:
Abe Lincoln, The Boy who Loved Books
Abraham Lincoln by Ingri D'Aulaire (nb: uses the word "negro" to describe the slave auctions)

Learn to Read:
Abe Lincoln's Hat
DK Readers: Abraham Lincoln

Chapter Books:
The Childhood of Famous Americans: Abraham Lincoln
Landmark Books: Meet Abraham Lincoln

For the History Buff:
The Day Lincoln Died

Listen to:
Copland's Lincoln Portrait

The Gettysburg Address

Look at Pictures:
Picture History

For anyone in the New York area, The Little Orchestra Society has James Earl Jones coming to narrate a special concert, Four Scores and More, in celebration of the Lincoln bicentennial. My lucky children will be there.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

College Sweetheart

My husband and I met in the fall semester of our freshman year at Princeton during the first meeting of our small-group lab of Civil Engineering 102. CIV102 was the “gut” science class that many all-out humanities types used to fill our science field requirement. If you’d told me I had just entered the same room as my husband for the first time, I would’ve been THRILLED… this particular class had more than its fair share of handsome, good men.

Later that day, he stumbled into our residential college library to find me barefooted, feet propped up on the desk, hitting the books hard (week one of freshman year, nose to the grindstone and all…). I had come from the deep South. We study barefooted. He walked up and introduced himself. That was the beginning of the end of my life as a single woman.

His sense of humor won me over right away—not sense of humor as in cracking jokes like a standup comedian, but sense of humor as in his outlook on the world and on others. His adventurous spirit; his ability to take light things lightly and treat grave things seriously; and a very charming twinkle in his eye. He also had an unmistakable deep interior life, and a rare, genuine respect for women as women in the whole sense—our spirituality, physicality, emotional life, capacities for good. From the day I met him, he was a real man, who by his leadership and strength showed me how to become a better woman. That was quite attractive.

My warmest and most vivid memories from the early days of Princeton are of side-splitting laughter in groups with him; of clowning around with clean and mischievous fun; of heated Catholic-Protestant debates with him in the stairwells of our residential college; and of pursuit and breakups and mini-heartbreaks as we tried to discern where we were heading.

By the second semester of our junior year, we were dating more seriously and exclusively. We were engaged soon after graduation and married the next summer.

Our Lord was overwhelmingly generous to me in choosing him for me. I’m out of my league—his character, integrity, and fidelity are what I aspire to. Thanks be to God. From Day One, my association with him kept me on a path toward good. Who knows what kind of a stray cat I might otherwise have been. I was a kid when I met him, and we have grown up together, entered adulthood, parenthood, real life side by side. Our marriage is indissoluble, until death do us part, and we have three beautiful incarnations of our love, with names, to prove it.

Thank you, God.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Army Love

"Be All You Can Be" never really motivated me. I was not a born-to-be-a-soldier type. In fact, I wasn't even overly patriotic when I chose to participate in Army ROTC at Princeton back in 1999. I just needed a way to pay for such an expensive degree and didn't feel right leaving it solely up to my parents.

So there I was, in fatigues, on one of the more liberal campuses in the country. They had even moved our little headquarters way down the hill and out of the way so that no one would really know there was a military presence on campus. I started as one of six scholarship cadets in our year group, but by the end of my third year there were only three of us left. I had tried to quit at least 5 times. I had weaseled a semester abroad in Chile, "to cope with my burnout." The deal was that I had to go to Airborne School and jump out of planes when I got back. Whatever it took, I hung in there by the skin of my teeth. My tuition was being paid and I had some wonderful Army officers as mentors. Nonetheless, I was dreading the 32-day summer evaluation camp held at Fort Lewis, WA the summer before my senior year. There was no way out of this obligation and one's performance there was pivotal in deciding your future. How well I did at this Armytastic adventure would determine into which branch of the Army I was placed (Chemical Corp versus Military Intelligence Corp) as well as where my first duty station would be (Korea versus Colorado Springs). I was freaked.

This camp centered around everything at which I was bad. There was marching, there was shooting, there were heinous obstacle courses - awful. We lived in a two-story bunk house with 45 other college seniors from across the country. One of these 45 was tall, dark and handsome, but who was I kidding, I had only cammo and chopped off hair as my fashionware for the next month. There were 6 women, 4 of whom were joining the Army Nurse Corp and whose performance at the camp was, therefore, unimportant. I snuck through the first three weeks. I am a good runner and I tried to help my fellow cadets and this got me through. Oh, and I was becoming closer and closer to the aformentioned tall, dark and handsome (TDH). We would joke by a flashlight, laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, share care packages.

But the last ten days were the worst. It was a "field problem". This meant ten days out in the forest carrying a rifle and a huge rucksack and pretending you were an infantry squad member trying to fight fake enemies -- all while a young army officer or non-commissioned officer followed you around with a clipboard making notes on your performance. Not fun. By the end of the days I was drained, physically and emotionally. Yet, we had to put up tents to sleep in. These things are WWII-era pieces of canvas and tent pegs, and horrible. One night I shared the work of building a tent with one of the other female cadets. It was a lot easier to build a suitable tent with more fabric and ropes and the sky was already pouring rain when we started construction. We got something together as the darkness blanketed everything and proceeded to get underneath it for rest. Then, along came the haughty young second lieutenant with something to say - as usual. He informed my battle buddy and me that "wink, wink, you aren't supposed to be allowed to build your tent like this. But I am going to let it go, wink wink." Well, my buddy was exhausted and grouchy and was quite ok with this special favor from the young evaluator... not me. I didn't want any special favors, and didn't feel right having taken an easier path than any of our fellow tired cadets. So I started to put my boots back on. She looked at me like I was nuts, shrugged it off, rolled over and went to sleep.

I was just lacing up my second boot - soaked - when my TDH came by to do the nightly headcount before he went to sleep (he was in the current position of team leader, or some other unevaluated minor leadership role). His eyebrows went up as he inquired what I was doing. I explained the situation and that I planned to go out and build my own shelter half in the rain. I will never, ever, forget the look in his eyes when I had finished speaking. It was a mix of wonder and quiet respect for just a second, then it shifted to ideas of the best knots, and a swivling head to find a suitable tree to help us. Well, TDH is an Eagle Scout and just a general stud all around, so the tent that he built in the dark, in the rain, with half the gear, was about 50x better than my initial partner tent. Everyone else was already asleep as "we"/he built this. No one ever knew what had gone on that night except us.

From there, the rest is history. My initial observations that this TDH in Army fatigues was a man of amazing strength and character as well as being a man who possessed the fabulous sense of humor that would prove essential in our line of work as post-9/11 Army officers proved to be true. True beyond my wildest observations. We dated for six months, were engaged for five more and had the most joy-filled wedding I could have imagined on September 6, 2003.

Happy Valentines Week, I love you, Babe.

Love Stories for Valentines Week

Over the next seven days, as we approach Valentines Day next Saturday, I would like to invite our readers to post the story of how they met and fell in love with their husbands.
In the bedlam of diapers and teething I think it is easy to forget the intense love that started it all. This week should provide us a great chance to collectively remember and enjoy one another's stories. I promise, I will go first. Give me one hour.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Kindred Spirits

As Juris Mater and I chatted on the phone yesterday on the relative merits (or lack thereof) of February, (me speaking in a husky man voice interrupted by sporadic coughing fits, which is indicative of my February so far), she had no way of knowing that my children were wearing these hand-me-down shirts, just as I had no idea she was going to post on her dear Thing 1 and Thing 2. The shirts were passed on to us by a friend who thought they would be perfect for our three boys. Should I take that as a compliment??? I think I may have to send the shirts to Bella and Bean...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

February with Thing One and Thing Two

Yesterday our cabin fever, my winter blues, and misbehaving children necessitated my taking a brief retreat with baby Angelina into the bedroom to get a few minutes of space and quiet from Bella and Bean. Bella and Bean knew they were on thin ice. Angelina nursed as we enjoyed the peacefulness... and I may or may not have been daydreaming about a vacation to the warm, fresh beaches of Mexico alone with my husband. (Thanks for planting these seeds, Red and Mr. Red.) : )

The solitude was broken as Bella and Bean softly crept in holding hands, one with a fishing net tucked into a belt loop and the other wearing a red bowtie, both with mischievous smiles. Bean was the spokesman:
"Would you like to shake hands with Thing One and Thing Two?"

While these two loves are the absolute lights of my life, precious children with docile hearts and sweet spirits, Dr. Seuss's Thing One and Thing Two are pretty accurate characterizations of them these days. Destroying the house for fun, terrorizing the baby, fighting with each other like little pit bulls. We even killed our two pet goldfish last weekend when they were mysteriously overfed. Now all we're missing is the Cat and the Hat himself.

What is it with February? I remember from past years MaryAlice and Red mentioning what a trying month it can be for mothers at home with young children, and I continue to find that they are correct.

A few things I know are: it's been many months now since long hours of outside afternoon playtime were a part of our routine; the shortened hours of sunlight often make me blue, less patient, and less motivated; there are no big holidays or feast days on the horizon to occupy some of our attention and generate excitement (Valentine's Day only goes so far); illness in our family or in the families we get together with often leads to cancelled plans.

Thank God we have the promise of spring! Five days of February down, only 23 to go!!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Way to help...

Danielle Bean has set up an account to help Amy and her family during this difficult time. If you feel so inclined, please visit Danielle's website and make a donation. In addition, an update from Amy's website as to how you can help:

Many thanks for all of the prayers and notes. It is overwhelming. Many have asked what they can do of a material or concrete nature. All I can say is to simply buy his books. Not from me, because I am in no position to fill orders, but from anywhere else. He long ago promised God that he would give all the royalties of The How To Book of the Mass to the children’s college funds, which he did faithfully. It is in good shape because of that. Buy them, read them, and give them away to others. Spread the Word. That is what he was all about.

Here is a link where you can purchase Michael Dubruiel's book.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Amy Welborn's Husband Michael dies

I am sick to my stomach after visiting Amy's blog and reading about the very sudden death of her husband. Please pray for their family during this very difficult time.


Here is something to read if you can wrestle your kid away from Starlight, thanks AWOL, we have been using it all morning. Does anyone have a website recommendation for free math drills? I'm a big nerd, but I used to love Math Shop when I was a kid, and PT could use some multiplication practice.

Tuesday Mommy-Assist

Mondays are Mondays. It is your first day back in the trenches with Daddy back at work - you expect this, you get through it. For me, Tuesday is often more of a slump. So, to you, I pass on this website. It is, dare I say it?... better than PBS Kids. You will love it, it is reading-prep, reading, all of it. Great for a 3-5 year old while you struggle to cut veggies for dinner at 1630.

Be well.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Burnt Cake

It was a busy weekend. On Friday night’s agenda was a dinner party for my husband’s co-workers. This dinner party required me to prepare a very nice sit- down meal, including dessert, for nine people, many of whom I had met only once. Further, my husband would not be around to help. The dinner went really well, and we were left with a kitchen full of dirty dishes when the last guest departed at 11:30pm. We tackled the kitchen immediately, and fell asleep around 1:30am. The next morning we awoke to prepare our home for our son Charlie’s 3rd birthday party.

(You may reasonably wonder why these two events were on back-to-back days. Well, the previous weekend the Eagles unexpectedly beat the defending Super Bowl champs, earning them a trip to the NFC Championship game on Sunday. This necessitated a last-minute move of Charlie’s party from Saturday to Sunday. Anyhow, back to the story.)

Excuses aside, throwing two parties less than 24 hours apart was a lofty goal. I immediately got to work on Saturday morning. Sleep-deprived and juiced-up on coffee, I was planning to make Charlie’s birthday cake, cupcakes , and butter cream icing. Thinking I could save some time, I tried to make all three simultaneously. I doubled the cake recipe, pouring one half into a spring foam pan, and the other half into cupcakes. I popped both into the oven and set two timers. I then cleaned my mixer and got to work on my butter cream icing.

Twenty minutes into my icing prep, I smelled something burning. I immediately checked my cake. I had placed the cake on the top rack and the cupcakes on the bottom (they didn’t fit side by side). BIG mistake. The top of my cake was burned and the bottom of my cupcakes burned. I could salvage the cake by scrapping off the burned part on top and using extra icing, but the cupcakes were unsalvageable.

Once I smelled the cake burning, I rushed through my icing recipe to get the cake out of the oven. In doing so, I poured the melted sugar mixture too quickly into my meringue mixture and cooked the eggs! Thousands of little lumps dominated the icing. Six sticks of butter, seven eggs, and an entire package of sugar were completely unusable. I had to ditch the entire bowl of icing and begin again. I checked the fridge for more butter and came up 4 sticks short. An immediate trip to the store was necessary.

Two hours and about $20 worth of ingredients later, I had remade my cupcakes and icing. Guests would be arriving soon and the house was a mess, Charlie’s gift wasn’t wrapped, I hadn’t prepared any of the other food, I hadn’t taken a shower, and the kids were still in their pajamas! In an effort to save myself a half-hour of time, I had ruined everything, and cost us hours of precious time and some money.

The events of this Saturday morning were a microcosm of my life. In an effort to accomplish too many things, I wind up doing all of the tasks poorly and causing stress for everyone else.
When I was a college student, committing to many different activities was an expected part of responsible service to our Church. I bounced from one activity to the next, sometimes with little regard for my own needs for sleep and food.

But now I am a wife and a mother of multiple young children, and committing to outside activities must be a prayerful and serious decision because those commitments affect so many other people. As a social person, it is a constant challenge for me to learn to say No. As our family grows and my children get older, my responsibilities continue to increase. While I think it is important that young mothers serve outside their home in some capacity, those areas of service should be prayerfully discerned and limited. I am by no means advocating that we all become hermits. I do think, however, that I need to put first things first. My husband and family are often asked to make sacrifices because I’ve spread myself thin taking on too many commitments. Our time is limited and very valuable, and the use of our time should be the subject of much prayer and discernment.

Otherwise, you might be eating burnt cake.