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.
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.
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.
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?
I was surprised to learn of other food product recalls from stores around the country!
Be informed and aware...
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.
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.
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!
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!!!
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?"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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!
Richard John Neuhaus, 1936-2009
"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."
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:
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.”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.
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.
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!
Labels: works for me
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!
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.
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!
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!