Monday, June 21, 2010

Building Cathedrals Has Moved!!!!!!

Dear Readers,

Building Cathedrals has moved! That's right, as of today, our new site is--

www.buildingcathedrals.com

Thank you for your loyal readership. When we started this blog 2.5 years ago, we had no idea how much our blog audience would grow, and how much we would love the fellowship of our little online community. In response to our growth, we decided we needed a website with more capabilities and a better layout. We posted about this almost 2 years ago, and the husband of one of our readers volunteered to set up our new site. Jonathan did an amazing job, and we are forever grateful for his generosity of time and his joyful spirit! B-Mama worked with Jonathan to design the new site, and it looks fabulous. B-Mama had this hard task as her one last "to do" before the arrival of her new baby. Check!!

Thank you B-Mama and thank you Jonathan for all your hard work!

Please visit us at our amazing new location, let us know what you think, and please subscribe!

Friday, June 18, 2010

books for the iPad

Wow, I don't know what to make of this yet. It never occurred to me that digital readers would change books and reading in this way. The animating seems interesting, exciting and in some cases very artistic, but at the same time, what does it do to our attention span (or the kids') if even our books make noise and have moving pictures? I would say these fall into the category of "high end screen time" rather than reading -- better than watching junk, but not really reading either? Perhaps like watching learn to read shows on PBS? Also, the "read to you" function is really just a leap pad -- though this illustrates another way that the iPad is great for a mom who only has to carry one thing with her.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Swagger Wagon

B-Mama and I both love our minivans. Maybe because we've never been car people? Maybe because I lack perspective? After all, my nicest set of wheels prior to owning our minivan was a 92' Honda Accord (I drove this from 1999-2007). And that Honda was a huge upgrade from the 92' Ford Taurus Station Wagon I used to drive. Below is a picture of that beautiful car. Mr. Red actually drove this baby to work for about a year. I think his boss wanted him to park it in the lot next door (notice the missing bumper?!?)


So when we bought our used 2005 Honda Odyssey in 2008, I felt like I was driving a BMW. I love my minivan and I am very aware that someday I may have to drive something even bigger, so for right now, I'm feeling pretty cool in my car.

And then a fellow mom friend sent me this hilarious video. As a shout out to all those playground mamas lamenting the jump from SUV to minivan, this video is for you. Have you seen this? Hilarious.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Signs of Summer

Signs of summer in my garden.


I'm hoping we will get our first squash this week.


Eggplant

Cantaloupe, which I'm growing for the 1st time.

Gianna's bug catcher. She used her money at a local market to buy this bug catcher. She and Charlie spend 1/2 hour before bed each night catching fireflies.


Can you tell that someone got a new camera?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Six Years a Christian...

Yesterday marked the six-year anniversary of our first-born's Baptism, an anniversary that (I am ashamed to admit!) would have come and gone without recognition had it not been for this boy's wonderful godparents, B-Mama and GG! Thanks for keeping us on our toes, friends, and for being such great godparents to our son!

I love the idea of celebrating Baptismal "birthdays" with great fanfare. I think that it sets a great example for our children of having our priorities straight - after all, the day of their Baptism was the day that they entered into the family of the Church and became new creations in Christ. Unfortunately, I have failed miserably in celebrating these occasions over the years, but am comforted in knowing that my children's godparents are always remembering them in their prayers and keeping up with the important anniversaries!

How do you celebrate baptismal anniversaries? Cake? Gifts? A special family tradition? And if you have a special system for remembering such occasions, please do share - my family will greatly appreciate any help you can offer me!

God bless all of you on this Monday morning. Let's make it a great week together!

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Mom In the Little Things

Being a mom to three (almost four) means giving up lofty goals and settling for smaller ones, ones that give care and bring small joys to my family. They might include picking up that dustball that has sat in the corner of the hallway all week. They might mean taking extra care when wiping the hands and face of my sweet toddler. It could even possibly mean investing the time and last ounce of energy into a game of football with our oldest.

Small things that bring great joy.

So today, here's my small feat that is enough to bring a smile to my face and a spring to my mama step. It is trite and rather unimportant, but to me and my family it means I've taken the time to care in a small way.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you: CLEAN CARSEATS!!

Hosed, laundered, wiped, and scrubbed. (I know, I know, I'm nesting!!)
They will be clean for T minus one second. But enjoy that second, I will. Our van is feeling fresher already.

Because being a mom means investing in my family and doing the little things that wind up making a big difference, at least in our little world.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Burnout Fears


My husband and I met and married young and are open to life, therefore, we will most likely end up with a big family. This intimidates me. I did not come from a big family and really have had very little exposure to the inner workings of a family with any more than three children. Consequently, I am always in search of role models. Of course Maryalice is my number one (shout-out, hollar) - but we live several thousand miles apart.

I have to search out local mothers of large families to see their approach, size it up, take pieces of it and implement them in our home. Recently I had a troubling conversation with a 36-year-old mother of eight at one of our local playgrounds. She is an Army wife like me and her husband is currently deployed to Iraq on a 12-month tour. Her eldest two children are 18 and 14 year old girls. She has homesechooled all seven children (#8 is in utero) and everyone appears well-adjusted and well put together. As we watched our children play together, I took the opportunity to shamelessly pick her brain on all topics from lunch-preparation, to curriculum design to cloth diapering. I guess my questions inferred that her two eldest daughters helped a lot around the home because the mom felt the need to clarify that a)She did most/all of the food preparation and b) she rarely asked her older children to babysit the younger ones, but took them along with her instead. She went on to explain that she knew too many adults who had grown up as children in large families and were now "burnt out" from all that had been asked of them as children. They were reluctant to have many children themselves because of how much had been asked of them growing up. By shouldering more of the chores herself, this mom believes she is protecting her children from burning out.

Immediately this struck me as odd. I ask a lot of my eldest (5.5 yr.old girl), and she doesn't seem resentful, but rather, empowered. I have always figured that as long as they don't see me reading _Cosmo_ and painting my nails (I do that when they are sleeping, yea right) - they understand that we are all in this together and that we will have more time for fun together if we do the hard stuff together. They are already well familiar with my sing-songy "work before play" mantra. Yet, there seems to be a kernel of truth in the playground mother's fear. I cannot think of many people who have emerged from large families with the desire to be a parent in one themselves, especially girls. I want to hear from you - how do we find the balance of raising helpful, responsible children without turning them into nannies or cooks? Are any of you the products of large families -- what did your parents do to make growing up a great experience, even with siblings sandwiching you in every direction?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

B-Mama's Baby's Birthday?

That's right, our very own B-Mama bear is about to give birth to bear cub #4! We can't wait to meet her sweet gal, due around June 20th. B-Mama has had one baby very early due to pre-eclampsia, and her other two babies arrived right on time (one or two days past the due date). So when do you ladies think B-Mama's baby will arrive? Make sure to add a time on for tie-breakers!

My guess, June 22nd at 11:30am! Go B-Mama Go!!!

Summer Strategies

Since snow days are rare in Texas, we don't have the winter cabin fever like some of our friends further North. But when summer hits, it can be brutal. We are instituting some new routines and incentives around here to help us order our summer days.

We try to go to our neighborhood pool early (8am) to beat some of the intense sun, but by the time everyone is splashed out we still have several hours until lunch. In an effort to minimize friction between our sensory child and the others, we are using a rotation system where each boy either plays, works with me in the learning room or gets to watch a movie for 30 minutes.

I remembered seeing this summer ticket system at Shower of Roses. Our boys have loved it thus far, especially counting the tickets and redeeming them.




We usually spend the afternoon spraying the hose and splashing in the baby pools in our (shaded!) backyard. My kids now ask for sunscreen before they go outside. Any other tips for beating the heat?

When all else fails to cool you off...there is ice cream!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Doula Me

To piggyback on Red's previous post, doulas seem to be an awesome way to achieve natural labor within a hospital setting. As a labor advocate, the doula will step in to represent your birth wishes amidst the intensity of natural labor, allowing both wife and husband to remain focused on the birth. The doula's knowledge and expertise can also provide additional options for labor positions and alternatives to medication.

I have just found a FREE doula-in-training who is going to be present for our birth! Can you sense my enthusiasm?! We met with her last night and I believe she is going to be the perfect compliment to my husband and I in the delivery room. What an absolute blessing to find her with less than two weeks until my due date... God was listening as my husband and I pondered our options Saturday night before bed. He was expressing some apprehension about being my labor coach with so little experience and only a few chapters of Husband Coached Childbirth (Bradley) under his belt. I stood my ground, knowing labor is primarily my job, but also filling with worry as my #1 labor guy fell to fear.

"Do you think we should look for a doula?" he said. (I had wondered this same question aloud a month before, but we overlooked it at the time.) "I don't know, honey," I replied, "They are expensive and you convinced me that if I did it last time, I can do it again." "Yeah, but Jay at the office says sometimes you can find them for free or reduced cost due to them being in training" he said. "Yeah, but where in the world are we going to find a free doula who would be willing to take us on so late in the game?!" I questioned...

God answered! The very next day at a baby shower as I shared with a friend my desire to have a natural birth, she recommended her friend who was a doula-in-training and doing her first three labors for FREE. How great is that?! We will be birth #3. My natural labor has just become a little more achievable! I'm totally stoked.

So here's where you all come in. What should I tell my doula? What specific instructions were you glad you gave to your doula or midwife before your natural delivery? What words did you appreciate hearing? Should I have the doula come over to our house before we head to the hospital? I am swimming in thoughts and would love your insight!! Thanks!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Birth Centers

As some of our readers know, I have had my last two babies in a free-standing birth center. I just received their local newsletter in the mail, and, as always, I was extremely impressed with the great work they are doing for women and babies in our community. While I have a pretty negative relationship with labor and delivery, overall, I love the birth center experience, and I think the choice to birth in a birth center, as opposed to a hospital, it a great decision for many couples. It isn't for everyone--most particularly those that are high risk!--but for many women it is a great option.

My birth center offers several birthing suits, complete with queen size beds, jacuzzi tubs, natural lighting, relaxing music, and kitchen areas. Nurse midwives attend to all births at the center, and if an emergency arises, you are just a few steps away from the local hospital. Last year, the midwives at the birth center delivered 504 babies. Only 8% of those babies were delivered via a c-section (compared to the almost 40% rate at most hospitals!).* Their episiotomy rate was a mere 5%, AND what I find the most impressive statistic, they had a 99% rate of initiating breastfeeding, and a 90% rate of continued breastfeeding at 6 weeks. Talk about baby centered care!

In general, birth centers are strong promoters of the health of women and babies, and they give many families a safe and wonderful option for a natural delivery in a home like setting with emergency medical care just steps away. If you desire to deliver naturally, I think it is really important to feel comfortable and relaxed at your delivery location. For some women this means a home birth, for others a hospital setting, and for me, it means a combination of the two at our local birth center.

I first sought out the birth center after two less than stellar hospital births. Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful for the healthy delivery of my first two children, but my desire to birth my babies naturally, without unnecessary interventions, was very difficult for me in a hospital setting. For starters, I just couldn't relax in the hospital. We lost our first baby at birth back in November 2002, and as soon as I walk into a hospital labor and delivery room, with all those machines and beeps and monitors, I am immediately brought back to my labor with Therese. My stress level increases and I just desperately want to go home. Stress increases pain, and I know I will ask for pain meds as soon as labor really starts to intensify.

Second, hospitals are set up to deal with medical situations--mainly emergencies and illnesses. In an uncomplicated birth, the process is natural. Mentally I find all the "math" of the hospital draining. The constant monitoring, measuring, timing, and statistics are stressful and prolong my labor. Sure it's my fault that I let all the numbers get to me, but I'm very vulnerable when in labor! I don't like to be put on a timetable and told that I'm taking too long!

In addition, I am a wimp. Plain and simple, if pain medication is available, I will ask for it! If I want to go naturally, I need to move myself away from the temptation of easily available pain medication. The birth center is great because when I ask for pain meds, and believe me I do so frequently at the end of each of my labors, they simply tell me that it is unavailable and will necessitate a transfer. This line usually buys enough time to get me through the most difficult part of labor. I really admire all you natural birthing hospital women--please tell me, and B-Mama who is about to go this route, how you do it?!? A doula? A fantastic husband? Delaying your arrival at the hospital until the last minute?

But I digress...my basic point here is that most birth centers are great places, so do check out your local options!


*I realize that hospitals will have higher c-section rates because of the self selection factor in repeat c-sections. The birth center, however, does take repeat clients attempting a v-bac, and so their numbers are higher in this area as well. My overall point is that the natural techniques of the birth center are much more likely to end in a vaginal delivery.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Celebrity Weddings



Fresh off the press... a moonlit bench in Prospect Garden at Princeton, one lovely lady and one magnanimous gentleman, a family diamond from him, a sweet and certain "yes" from her, and they're headed to the altar.

Here's to you, lovebirds, with all our love and many blessings. The best is yet to come.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dream On


Joseph and Samuel of the Old Testament, St. Joseph, and other heroes of our faith received crucial, divine messages through dreams.

So far nothing of that magnitude for this dreamer.

However, everyday dreams can have an enormous positive or negative impact on my emotional life.

In a recent dream of mine, my husband and I (along with all of you dear college friends) had just reached the end of junior year at Princeton and were saying goodbye for the summer. Of course none of us were married yet, but we were getting on toward that stage, and our Lord was confirming my vocation to my husband in my own heart. But my husband, respecting proper boundaries of courtship, never assumed we would get married or spoke of it as a certainty before we were engaged. The memorable part of the dream was my extreme anguish at having to say goodbye to him for the three long summer months--such a familiar feeling when I was back in that goodbye moment--and also profound longing for the certainty that one day we would be married and sharing life together. Goodbye wouldn't ache nearly so much if I could just know that one day he would be my husband.

And then I woke up. Thank you, Lord! There he is sleeping next to me, more handsome than ever. Here's our small apartment where we share our one life. There are our three children sleeping in the living room. Two of them look mostly like me, one favors him. My dream came true times a thousand. For a few minutes right then, the emotional anguish of goodbye that was still so fresh in my mind gave way to incredible gratitude for my ordinary life. It went way beyond contentment; it was exhilaration. And it lasted for two days. And I can even return to it in my imagination right now when I need a gratitude boost.

Then there are the dreams that can upset my emotional balance for a day or two. Dreams where feelings resurface from the times when I was younger and gave my heart away imprudently. Dreams that foster my fear of loss or fear of failure. Mischievous dreams that whisper suggestions toward vanity and pride. Then I wake up agitated, in a confused haze, starting my day coping with emotions that would have been better if left unacknowledged.

Because of the dreams that may come and the emotions those dreams foster, sleep is a time of great emotional vulnerability. And, for better or worse, the thriving of our family depends heavily on my emotional well-being. And we're the best off when I'm not only reasonably content but positively grateful and joyful. Now... how can I assure more of those sweet dreams about my husband and children and other blissful realities?

Well, first and foremost, by humming the right songs as I drift off to sleep? Because no discussion about romance and dreams would be complete without quoting the refrain of country/soft rock ballad "Chances Are", sung by the great troubadour Bob Seger (yes Red, the sappiness factor is skyrocketing : ))

Chances are I'll see you somewhere in my dreams tonight.
You'll be smiling like the night we met.
Chances are I'll hold you, and I'll offer all I have.
You're the only one I can't forget.
Baby, you're the best I've ever met.


On we go...

Do you all pray specifically for good, pure and holy dreams in your night prayers? Does the Church have short prayers for dreams that you could share here? Or do you read something particular before bedtime to end the day on a lovely note? Particular patrons of dreams? I want to do a much better job entrusting my dreams to our Lord and other holy men and women in heaven, and of preparing my heart and mind for peaceful sleep. Sweet dreams, all!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Can't Be Outdone By B-Mama...

Special Ed graduation...the hats were too cute!! And, yes, I cried, too, B-Mama!! These boys are just too sweet!


Yummy Granola Bars

Ladies, I've had a few requests for the Granola Bars recipe, so I'll post it again. I posted a similar recipe a few months ago, but this one is modified from the original to be dairy-free:

3 cups of kamut cereal
1 cup of rolled oats
1/2 cup of roasted almonds, chopped
1/2 cup of dried fruit, chopped
1/2 c. of peanut butter
1/2 c. of honey
1 tsp. of vanilla
*Ghirardelli chocolate chips to taste (optional)

In a bowl, mix together the kamut, oats, almonds, and dried fruit.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan heat peanut butter, honey, and vanilla, just short of boiling.
Pour peanut butter mixture over dry ingredients and stir to coat. Add in chocolate chips if desired). Pour into a greased 9x9" pan.
Press down as firmly as you can with wax paper.
I like to put the bars in the freezer for about 2 hours, and then store in the refrigerator. This makes them firmer and easier to cut into neat squares.
Enjoy!

*If you don't need to be dairy-free, you could use any type of chocolate chips.

Monday, May 31, 2010

For This Momentary Light Affliction...

“For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” 2 Corinthians 4: 17

Anyone who has been to our house over the past couple of months can attest to the fact that life is a little bit nutty around here right now J We love life with three kids at home, and the big kids have been very sweet with their new baby sister, but we are definitely still working out the logistical details of our days! Mealtimes, bedtimes, and out-the-door times seem to be especially challenging for us, and there have been plenty of meltdowns, time-outs, and lost privileges between the two big kids.

I am not surprised that the addition of another child to our family has rocked the boat a little bit – this is how it’s supposed to be, right?! What I am surprised by is how easily I can become unhinged when the details of daily life seem to be conspiring against me. There’s nothing like a sink full of dirty dishes, a toddler who has just (purposely) spilled her bowl of cereal for the umpteenth time, or an inconsolable baby to make me feel desperate and alone. It is so easy to get lost in the crazy little details – the un-swept floors, the whining, the sorry condition of the kids’ bathroom – and to lose sight of the big picture. It is also very easy to start feeling sorry for myself and to notice all of the difficult parts of my day, when there are also plenty of good things that I have overlooked.

Thankfully, the following verse was brought to my attention a couple of weeks ago, and I can honestly say that it has saved me several times in moments of near insanity:

“For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” 2 Cor 4: 17

When I take a step back to really think about what I am getting upset about, I realize that most of it is truly a momentary light affliction, and not something worth sacrificing my peace (or my family’s peace!) for. Yes, there are plenty of slightly traumatizing parts of being a mother. For example, a few weeks ago I took the big kids to Mass alone (Ed had been a lector the night before). Everything started out fine, but then my toddler started to scream about something and I took her to the cry room, leaving Christopher in the pew. When we came out for our second attempt in the church, the toddler started to scream again, only this time she was kicking and flailing as well. I made the “walk of shame” back to the cry room once more, flailing child in hand (the poor lady who had to get up every time we left the pew!), where my toddler proceeded to behave very, very badly. Once again, we made our way back to the pew – I couldn’t leave Christopher by himself for all of Mass! – and once again, my child began to have a fit. By the end of Mass, I had tears in my eyes and I was shaking all over. I can honestly say that being able to repeat the words “this momentary light affliction” saved me in that moment.

Each of us has our own list of slightly traumatizing mommy moments, and we live through them every day. Our families will never be perfect, nor will our days be free from conflict, but when we take a step back, most of our hardships truly are momentary and light. The house is a mess, but it will eventually be clean again. The kids whine all the time, but there will come a day when the kids won’t want to talk to us at all and we’ll wish that they were little again. Bedtime is chaotic and exhausting, but the kids will eventually fall asleep! The point is this: Many parts of our day can be hard to bear, but we must keep our focus on the reason that we do all of these things in the first place. We have taken on the vocation of beings wives and mothers, and we are working through daily life out of love for our families. We are raising our children to be responsible, kind, generous men and women of faith, and everything that we do day-to-day must work towards this goal. If we lose sight of this, then it is easy to get lost in the web of our daily lives.

God bless all of you as we near the end of this month of May, the month when we honor Our Blessed Mother, our perfect example of patience and humility. Mary, Mother of Hope, pray for us!

*Note: Many women (and some men, too!) struggle with post-partum depression, and this is very different from what I have talked about in this post. These mothers have tried everything that they know how to do to change their perspective, but it has not worked. Sometimes, medicine is necessary to restore the balance of chemicals in the brain and hormones in the body, along with counseling. Post-partum depression is a VERY serious condition, and the best thing that you can do for yourself, your baby, and your family is to seek medical attention immediately. There is no shame in seeking medical help - it is the responsible thing to do.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dad-ism

A recent dinner-time conversation:

Christopher: Mommy, what age do you have to be when you can have a girlfriend?

Me: Well, C, every family has different rules. Mommy had to be 16 years old before she could have a boyfriend, but...

Christopher: Well, Mommy, I think that you should be 21.

Me: How come, C?

Christopher: Because then you're closer to the age when you can get married!

Wow, this little guy has been listening closely to what his daddy says! Good thinking, C :)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Boy Phenomenon

We've gotten one through preschool... :)

Why is it that every time I sit down to write my post today, I'm smothered by the world's greatest hugs and kisses and little boy sentiments to send a mama to the moon and back with love?

"Mommy, do you know I love you so much?!" is echoing in my ears.

I'm sorry, but this is just too good to ignore. Coherent thoughts will have to be put on hold for another day. Have a wonderful holiday weekend everybody!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spoken like a True Sanguine

Any of you who share my fascination with the four temperaments will appreciate this.

Me (hyperventilating at the sight of the pieces of five 60 piece jigsaw puzzles mixed up and strewn about the floor of our tiny living room): "I'm not interested in who did this, but I need everyone get to work cleaning it up immediately."

Bella (age 5, whose blood runs sanguine): "OK Mom, of course, but I prefer when the room is messed exactly like this because all the colors on the floor make me cheerful."

Lord help me to shepherd each one of my little varied personalities.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Overheard in the Car

Boy 1: "I'm thinking of a number between ten thousand and 6 million."
Mom thinks, "Wow, this is going to take awhile."
Boy 2: "One hundred!"
Boy 1: "You're right!"

Boy 2: "I'm thinking of a letter between A and B."
Boy 1 (slightly puzzled): "A and a half?"

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Emily Dickinson Tuesday

A Man may make a Remark (952)

A Man may make a Remark—
In itself—a quiet thing
That may furnish the Fuse unto a Spark
In dormant nature—lain—

Let us deport—with skill—
Let us discourse—with care—
Powder exists in Charcoal—
Before it exists in Fire.

Milk Allergy Update: It's Yellow, Folks!

Ladies, I want to thank all of you for your words of advice regarding a possible milk allergy/sensitivity in my 3 month-old daughter, Caroline. After reading your experiences and doing some research of my own, I decided to go dairy-free about 10 days ago. I'm happy to report that Caroline's diapers have gone from being green poop at every changing, to now being mostly wet, and sometimes yellow poop - no more green diapers! It took about 5 days for this to happen, but to me it is incredible that just by cutting dairy out of my diet, there could be such a dramatic change!

Here's the brief summary of what I've done: I'm not eating any straight dairy - milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, etc. I'm also being careful with items that contain milk ingredients, such as pancake mixes and many snack foods. This is a pretty big change for me, and I've started taking probiotics because I have noticed that my stomach has been upset since cutting out dairy - has anyone else had a similar experience? I have supplemented my diet with Almond Milk, some yummy homemade granola bars, lots of hummus (instead of cheese), and some surprisingly tasty Tofutti mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches :) Oh, and I cannot forget to thank Karen, who told me that I could eat Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips - they have been a saving grace!

As for Caroline, she is still quite fussy at certain times throughout the day, but it is impossible to know whether this is related to some dairy that is left in my system or whether it's just normal baby fussiness. Time will tell, I suppose, but I am thrilled with the diaper results!

Thank you again for all of your thoughtful comments, and God bless you all on this Monday morning!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Celiac Disease

Just over two weeks ago I started having some terrible stomach pains. Since my life on this blog is a bit of an open book, I will confess that I have had mild digestive problems for the past 10 years of my life. These issues escalated over Mother's Day weekend, and I found myself spending my Mother's Day and most of that following week in the hospital. I was discharged with some pain-killers, some medication to coat and ease my stomach, and no clear diagnosis. My stomach has felt pretty awful ever since.

And then on Thursday I received a call from my doctor that will forever change my life. The biopsy of my small intestine tested positive for Celiac Disease. I was shocked, and immediately sad because I knew what that meant. Goodbye to wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Goodbye to the comfort foods of holidays and special occasions. Goodbye to most, if not all, of my favorite recipes. I mourned, I cried, I called all my girlfriends to complain, and then I called a friend who has Celiac Disease. She assured me that my life is not over, I will find a new normal, I will stop dreaming about gluten, and in a few weeks I will start to feel a lot better.

And so today is Day 4 of my new gluten-free life. I will admit that five minutes does not pass without me thinking of food and what I cannot eat. I'm trying not to think about how my new diet is permanent. I'm taking it one day at a time, but I am dreaming about wheat based foods, including some of my favorites--pizza, pancakes, pasta and doughnuts. From what I read, gluten does that. It is like a drug, stimulating a part of the brain that craves for more. I eat and I feel full but my brain wants something more. I was told that in two weeks my brain will start to forget about gluten, the cravings will stop, and maybe the dreams will stop too.

I have spent most of the weekend researching gluten-free diets and food choices. I went to Whole Foods on Saturday night and spent $200 on gluten free baking flours and ingredients. I had to bake something, and I wanted it to be delicious. Baking something would be a small victory, a first step towards a new normal life.

At one point during my trip I wandered away from my cart in search of quinoa, and when I re-approached my cart I was shocked at what was inside. The contents looked nothing like what I normally purchase. Tapioca flour? Teff flour? Xanthum gum? Are these seriously real ingredients? I felt strange and sad. I tried really hard not to think about the permanent nature of my new diet. I distracted myself by adding sushi to my cart, and placing it in a very conspicuous location, and I continued shopping.

This morning I awoke and made gluten-free pancakes. They were good--not quite as good as my wheat based pancakes, but good enough. I smothered them with maple syrup and ate them until I felt full. And as I cleaned up the breakfast dishes I realized that I'm going to be ok. The pancakes were definitely good enough. I'll find other foods like the pancakes that are good enough. My life is going to feel normal again, and maybe sooner than I had originally thought.

You see, I already feel better. I'm not 100% percent, FAR from it, but I'm better in ways that I never thought were related to my stomach issues. Allow me to explain--

As we got ready for Mass this morning I realized that I forgot to make my coffee, again. I just didn't need it this morning, and I didn't need it on Saturday or Friday. I then realized I didn't have a headache on any of those days. Headaches normally motivate me to make coffee. I have not gone 3 days without a headache in at least a year. Maybe that's a coincidence, but probably not. My doctor told me that regular headaches are a symptom of Celiac Disease and I can't tell you how excited I am that mine seem to be gone!

And my allergies seem to have disappeared. A few months ago, I resorted to taking a daily allergy medication because my sneezing and wheezing were just that bad. But my seasonal allergies are now gone, and the change has happened almost overnight. Some of my joint pain is gone too. I had pain in my neck and back almost every day prior to my diagnosis. And it's gone. Maybe this is a placebo effect, but I'm loving it!

My gut is going to take a bit longer to heal, likely several months, but I trust it will heal in time. I'm praying the fatigue goes away too, and my doctor said it probably will.

And so tonight, for the first time, I'm ending my day thanking God that the sacrifices of the past few days have yielded such obvious fruit. The way I feel is motivating me to keep going, and I'm really curious to see what other minor health issues might disappear. For the first time in a long while I feel full of hope about my health. Celiac Disease in a gluten-loving world stinks, but tonight I am starting to see the silver lining, and I'm loving it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Farewell to a Faithful Stroller

Well my friends, this is the first goodbye to a beloved stroller in the life of our young family. The narrow sidewalks and high curbs of France finally snapped the frame beyond repair. Goodbye, fair stroller.
(With a grin and a double wink : ))



ODE TO OUR STROLLER (sung to the tune of "Danny Boy")

Peg Perego, your days with us were numbered.
Four years you've been our car, our guard, our friend.
The European cobblestone plus 75 pounds of children--
Your final triumph was your tragic end.

We'll ne'er forget your lightweight sturdy chic-ness;
Italian leather, red upholstery.
But most of all, the many happy memories:
Three kids, 6 homes, 5 countries--joy of family.

Forced to move on, in dire straits without you;
An odd French pram now tries to take your place.
Overweight, bulky, impractical and frumpy.
None other e'er will match your style and grace.

It just ain't right to send you to the village dump;
Your faithful frame, strewn down along the hill.
Your spirit soars, lives off beyond the rainbow,
In all my dreams and in my heart you're with us still.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Child's Garden of Verses

My Bed is a Boat

My bed is like a little boat;
Nurse helps me in when I embark;
She girds me in my sailor's coat
And starts me in the dark.

At night I go on board and say
Good-night to all my friends on shore;
I shut my eyes and sail away
And see and hear no more.

And sometimes things to bed I take,
As prudent sailors have to do;
Perhaps a slice of wedding-cake,
Perhaps a toy or two.

All night across the dark we steer;
But when the day returns at last,
Safe in my room beside the pier,
I find my vessel fast.


Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pesticides and ADHD...We're buying organic:


Below is a post from our friend and classmate (visit her at her blog). She is, truly, a "builder" in spirit, I hope that you find all of her advice as helpful as I did! (Hi, Red here, reposting this because the links were not working earlier).


I buy a lot of organic produce for my family. The latest issue of Pediatrics just gave me another reason to justify the extra effort and $ it takes me to buy organic produce.

A study just published in the journal found that children age 8-15 with higher levels of organophosphate metabolites in their urine were significantly more likely to be diagnosed as having ADHD. You can read the study as published in Pediatrics here. What are organophosphates? They are neurotoxic chemicals used as pesticides on many fruits and vegetables sold in the US (also in some residential pesticides). As stated in the intro of the study, the major exposure to pesticides for infants and children is diet, and children are considered to be at greatest risk to these chemicals because their developing brain is more susceptible to neurotoxins and the dose of pesticides per body weight is likely to be larger.

Does this study conclusively say that pesticide exposure causes ADHD? No. More specific studies are needed to establish whether this association is causal and not just an association. However, the findings do suggest that organophosphate exposure, at levels common among kids in the US, may contribute to ADHD prevalence.

So what can we do about this? DON'T STOP FEEDING KIDS FRUITS and VEGGIES! Organic produce is grown without the use of pesticides and is available in many of the grocery stores we buy from anyway. Plus, the more we as consumers DEMAND organic produce, the more grocery stores will carry fruits and veggies grown this way! Also, as summer approaches, farmer's markets are a great place to buy produce because many of local farmers do not use pesticides (just ask!).

Do you have to start buying ALL organic? Probably not. Some fruits and veggies are (on average) more contaminated than others. You can learn more at Foodnews.org, the website of the Environmental Working Group or just click here for their handy shopper's guide (I carry it with me to the grocery store so I know what to splurge on and what to buy regular):


What are the drawbacks of organic produce?
1. It may cost more
2. There may be less of a selection of out-of-season produce at various times during the year
3. You may have to hunt for the good organic produce suppliers in your area.

I have decided these are small prices to pay for healthier food, and I have also found that by doing a little investigating, I can find the organic produce products I need at very good prices at a few trusty stores in the city. Big producers of baby food are also providing organic pureed foods now that are generally available at big stores, or I would make my own purees for my kids with organic apples, peaches, pears that I bought from the store.

We can make a difference. Remember, we vote 3 times everyday with the food we buy and eat.

Press on Builders and buy organic produce!

(Not so) Great Expectations

10 days ago I went on a retreat. I hadn't been for 2 years, since I was pregnant with Incredibaby, so I was very much looking forward to it. As probably the most intensely introverted of the builder bunch, I was looking forward to the silence and solitude more than anything. 9 peaceful hours of quiet in the car by myself, my own little peaceful room and 3 days of silence and meditation. This was what I expected, what I had determined I needed.

Despite hemming and hawing and insisting that I would have to leave late after my husband got home from work, I became part of a carpool to the retreat. 9 hours of time alone wiped out. Then I got a call the day we were leaving letting me know that they were overbooked and I would need to share a room. Sleeping in peaceful solitude was crossed off the list. The silent retreat ended up being not-so-silent.

I realized that I had a choice to make. I could let the missed expectations get the better of me and create frustration and stress or I could make the best of it and lovingly and willingly accept these missed expectations and make the most out of the retreat. Which stated me thinking (retreats are good for that) of how much of my stress and anxiety is created by my setting up expectations only to have them shattered.

There are the big things...I expected to get a clean bill of health and instead found myself in a biopsy surgery a few days later.

There are the little things...I expected to accomplish some task or errand or to get through one hour with total chaos or a meltdown.

There are the insignificant things...I expected the chicken to be thawed or the wash to be dry.

The series of prayer books In Conversation with God mentions accepting the "inconsistencies of everyday life" often. The changes in plans, the delays, frustrations...

It is not giving in or not caring or "whatever happens, happens"; it is about offering what does happen to God, giving the hiccups of daily life, big and small, infinite value in uniting them to the cross. It is being aware that I am a daughter of God, a reflection of Him and that everything I do can be filled with love. It is about abandonment to the only thing that can give meaning to my life, letting go of my own expectations and trusting in my Heavenly Father.

And it turns out that, despite my missed expectations, the retreat was wonderful, the car ride chatter was meaningful, sharing a room was no problem, and the lack of silence yielded fruit in some unexpected rich conversations.

"Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them...But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil." Matthew 6:27-34



Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pseudo-Poetry Month continues

Ladies, this is another personal favorite. It deals with the theme of "loneliness" and how it may seem sad on the surface, but if you scratch a little deeper it can often be empowering. I hope you enjoy it.

"Song"

Adrienne Rich


You're wondering if I'm lonely:
OK then, yes, I'm lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.

You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely

If I'm lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawn's first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep

If I'm lonely
it's with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it's neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Something I actually like in the NYT

I don't link to the NYT very often, that's MaryAlice's job, but I'll make an exception for Ross Douthat. I thought this was an interesting piece regarding the economic and political state of affairs. Enjoy.

The activities manager deserves a raise...

but I think we'd better fire the spelling teacher!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Awakening

Many thanks to our readers' responses to my query for natural labor book recommendations. You all are fantastic!

I have greatly enjoyed your suggestions. Husband Coached Childbirth by Robert Bradley was soon to be found on my nightstand thanks to our speedy local public library system. I have been digesting it at lengths during daily elliptical jaunts and am almost completely through. The real question is: how have I made it to birth #4 without reading this book??? Red brought this up the other day on the phone and we shared a good laugh about it.

I think the true answer to this question is I've been scared stiff of labor and delivery! Who isn't afraid of pain?!? I had little information and therefore felt extremely unequipped to deal with the challenge. There are likely so many women in this boat. Thanks to Dr. Bradley, I now want to educate them and empower them to make different decisions about their bodies and birth!!!!

My first labor occurred completely by surprise at 36 weeks because of an extreme spike in my blood pressure. Medical induction and various interventions galore followed. My husband and I were like pawns in a chess game. We had no prior knowledge and as a result, had no opinions about how we wanted the process to proceed. To some extent, we were probably better off not knowing much seeing as the health of the baby and myself were in danger. Thankfully, the outcome was a good one--we had a healthy baby and a healthy viewpoint of the epidural. I think my husband called it the "marriage saver," which it was for us in the middle of an induction!

Birth #2 was no picnic. I went into labor on my own, but opted for early pain meds and them breaking my water, which only sent things downhill. The cord was around my son's neck and I was in a race against the clock to see if I could dilate fast enough before they decided to do a C-section. I did. Out he came with the help of a vacuum extraction. It was possibly one of the worst experiences my husband and I have shared as parents. Was my baby alive? Breathing? My husband broke down into tears after everything settled. The stress had been so overwhelming. We were just grateful to have a healthy baby in the end, but growing ever-leary of the mighty epidural.

Then baby #3 came too fast by the time they found me a bed in the hospital. I had taken a baby aspirin that morning (at the rec of my midwife back in the midwest) which bought me enough time to ride out the last hour without drugs. It was frantic. I felt helpless. But I had a natural labor. The wonderful aftermath showed me I never wanted to go back. It was an incredible experience. And now I knew I could conquer it.

Onto baby #4. Pelvic rocking has begun to fill my days. I have been squatting more and finding more comfortable positions for deep relaxation. My C-shaped "Snoogle" will be on my packing list for the hospital. Conversations of Dr. Bradley fill our evening hours. My hubby is getting on board. He, too, knows I can do it. I'm readying for battle.

I'm grateful to know it is a battle worth fighting.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ascension Thursday

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God,
that we who believe
Thine only-begotten Son our Redeemer,
to have ascended this day into heaven,
may ourselves dwell in spirit amid heavenly things.
Roman Missal, 6th-8th Century

*Note: In the United States, we will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension on Sunday, May 16th. I just couldn't resist posting this beautiful depiction of Our Lord's Ascension, and the appropriate prayer.



Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Milk Allergy?

Once again, I'm seeking the expert advise of all of you wonderful moms and dads out there. I'm wondering if any of you have discovered a milk sensitivity/allergy in your infant. If so, what were the symptoms in your infant, and how long did it take (after cutting milk proteins out of your diet) before you noticed an improvement?

Just to give a brief description of our situation: Baby Caroline (11 weeks old) has had green poop (so sorry, I know that's gross), and also a good bit of gas accompanied by discomfort, and one of the possible causes is a sensitivity to milk proteins. It could also be a whole host of other issues - a virus in her system, teething, or stress, to name a few - but this has been going on for quite a while. I hate to cut all milk products out of my diet, but if that's what I need to do to then of course I'll do it!

Thanks!

Tuesday of (Maybe) Poetry Month


Here is a favorite from my Latin American Studies days:

"I Was My Own Route"

I wanted to be like men wanted me to be:
an attempt at life;
a game of hide and seek with my being.
But I was made of nows,
and my feet level on the promissory earth
would not accept walking backwards
and went forward, forward,
mocking the ashes to reach the kiss
of new paths.
At each advancing step on my route forward
my back was ripped by the desperate flapping wings
of the old guard.
But the branch was unpinned forever,
and at each new whiplash my look
separated more and more and more from the distant
familiar horizons;
and my face took the expansion that came from within,
the defined expression that hinted at a feeling
of intimate liberation;
a feeling that surged
from the balance between my life
and the truth of the kiss of the new paths.
Already my course now set in the present,
I felt myself a blossom of all the soils of the earth,
of the soils without history,
of the soils without a future,
of the soil always soil without edges
of all the men and all the epochs.
And I was all in me as was life in me ...
I wanted to be like men wanted me to be:
an attempt at life;
a game of hide and seek with my being.
But I was made of nows;
when the heralds announced me
at the regal parade of the old guard,
the desire to follow men warped in me,
and the homage was left waiting for me.

Julia de Burgos (1914-1953)
puertoriqueña

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Just for Fun...


...Texas Mommy and I thought we'd gather our six children (ages 6 and under), put them in a small chapel, and see if they could sit patiently and quietly through a baptismal liturgy for TEN babies. We'll let you use your imaginations for the outcome :)
Seriously, Tex and Mr. Tex, thanks for the huge effort that you made in being at Caroline Rose's Baptism - it meant the world to us and we know that it wasn't easy!

*Note: Our children are the baby, the little girl, and the boy farthest to the right (sitting next to Mr. Tex). Tex and Mr. Tex's children are the other three adorable boys!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thursday Kid Poetry

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout
Would not take the garbage out!
She'd scour the pots and scrape the pans,
Candy the yams and spice the hams,
And though her daddy would scream and shout,
She simply would not take the garbage out.
And so it piled up to the ceilings:
Coffee grounds, potato peelings,
Brown bananas, rotten peas,
Chunks of sour cottage cheese.
It filled the can, it covered the floor,
It cracked the window and blocked the door
With bacon rinds and chicken bones,
Drippy ends of ice cream cones,
Prune pits, peach pits, orange peel,
Gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal,
Pizza crusts and withered greens,
Soggy beans and tangerines,
Crusts of black burned buttered toast,
Gristly bits of beefy roasts. . .
The garbage rolled on down the hall,
It raised the roof, it broke the wall. . .
Greasy napkins, cookie crumbs,
Globs of gooey bubble gum,
Cellophane from green baloney,
Rubbery blubbery macaroni,
Peanut butter, caked and dry,
Curdled milk and crusts of pie,
Moldy melons, dried-up mustard,
Eggshells mixed with lemon custard,
Cold french fried and rancid meat,
Yellow lumps of Cream of Wheat.
At last the garbage reached so high
That it finally touched the sky.
And all the neighbors moved away,
And none of her friends would come to play.
And finally Sarah Cynthia Stout said,
"OK, I'll take the garbage out!"
But then, of course, it was too late. . .
The garbage reached across the state,
From New York to the Golden Gate.
And there, in the garbage she did hate,
Poor Sarah met an awful fate,
That I cannot now relate
Because the hour is much too late.
But children, remember Sarah Stout
And always take the garbage out!


first commenter w/ the author of this one wins.... Builder respect and admiration

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May is National Poetry Month

Friends, I am a poetry-lover. To me, reading a poem feels like eating a small, but decadent piece of chocolate torte. The words make me feel alive and human and pricked at the soul.

In honor of national poetry month, please allow me to share four of my favorite adult poems on the Tuesdays of May and four great ones for kids on the Thursdays of May.

"Hope"

It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs
from the eyes to the tail of a dog
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.

It is the serum that makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Small Bedtime Victories


Bedtime can be unnerving for parents, especially when there are uncooperative children and/or fussy babies added to the mix. Here are a couple of small changes to our bedtime routine that have made a huge difference, especially with our two-and-a-half year old:

1) Bath-time: Maria loves her bath and was having a very hard time getting out when it was time to dry off - crying and flailing of limbs were commonplace, and I was getting desperate. Not only is this annoying, but it is extremely dangerous to have a slippery toddler throwing a tantrum in the bathtub. I decided to use a kitchen timer to mark the end of bath-time, and for the past few days we have had no trouble leaving the bath. Wow! Perhaps the novelty will wear off in a few days, but I hope not! Somehow, having the timer "tell" Maria that bath-time is over (as opposed to mommy) has made a huge difference.

2) Brushing teeth: Our toddler was also hesitant to let me help her with brushing teeth, so I decided to try something silly as a distraction. I tell her that the "sugar monsters" are trying to eat her teeth, or the "chocolate soldiers" are setting up camp in her mouth, etc., and then we try to brush them away. Again, since we've started this she is happy to let me brush!

3) Bedtime: Maria was always asking for "one more story," as all children do, and was getting very upset when it was time to climb into bed. Now, before I read the last story, I have her repeat the words "This is Maria's last story, no more stories after this one," and usually it seems to do the trick. Not always, but usually.

Hope these small tricks can help some of you out there! And if you have any pointers to share with us, please do so in the comments - we can all use all the help we can get when it comes to sending the little ones off to dreamland :)

God bless!

Speaking of Recalls

B-Mama just posted about a crib recall, and in the comments section MaryAlice mentioned the recent Tylenol recall. I didn't think much of it at the time, until this weekend when my daughter was feeling sick in conjunction with a bloody nose. While I suspected the nose bleed was related to her allergies, I called the pediatricians office just to make sure. They referred me to the triage unit at the local hospital (typical protocol for weekend hours) and I chatted with a nurse. She didn't think the nose bleed was a big deal, and suggested I give Gianna some Tylenol. She then asked me to make sure my Tylenol bottle was not on the "recall list." I got the bottle, read her the number, and sure enough ours was one of the recalled bottles. This conversation followed:

Me: finish reading the bottle number to nurse...
Nurse: "Umm, ok, did you open the bottle?"
Me: "Yes."
Nurse: "How much of it did your children consume?"
Me: "about 2/3 of the bottle." (it was a 4oz bottle so this was not a small amount!)
Nurse: "Oh, ok...(long pause)... well, what child had the Tylenol."
Me: "I don't know, probably all of them. We have had the bottle for a couple of months. I think my two year old has had most of it, he has had some ear infections, and maybe my 4 year old has had some too."
Nurse: "Have you noticed any funny behavior from your two boys.
Me: "Everyday," and I begin to laugh.
Nurse: does not laugh. "Well, I suggest after we get off the phone you call poison control. When is the last time they had the Tylenol?"
Me: Now mildly concerned, "I have no idea, it hasn't been in the past week."
Nurse: "Ok, well, you need to call poison control, and you also need to call this product information number. We are advising all parents of children who have consumed the contaminated Tylenol to call this hotline. Do you have the number for poison control?"
Me: a little more concerned, "yes, of course, I'm the mother of 2 young boys. Can I ask you to give me a little more information about how this product was contaminated, I mean, what is the possible risk to my children?"
Nurse: "You will need to call the number for more information, but I believe some of the bottles contained higher than normal doses of the active ingredient. In addition, there are unknown products in the bottle.

Great. I thank the nurse for the information, forgettting completely about sick daughter and nosebleed, and I call the hotline number. And, after waiting on hold for about 15 minutes--don't you just love corporations-- I give the rep the info about the bottle, and this conversation ensues.

Customer Service Rep: "Thank you for your address, I apologize for the inconvenience, we will be sending you a refund voucher."
Me: "Umm, I don't really care that much about the $7, but I'm a little concerned about the possible effect on my children of consuming this bottle of Tylenol. Can you answer a few of my questions regarding the possible risks or side effects?"
Customer Service Rep: "No, I'm sorry ma'am. You will have to call back on Monday to get that information. You will need to speak with a product representative."
Me: "Um, ok, well can I leave my number so a product representative can call me back tomorrow?"
Customer Service Rep: "No m'am, I'm sorry, but we can't make outgoing calls here. We just receive calls, we are a reception center only."
Me: "So you are telling me that my kids consumed some potentially harmful Tylenol, with unknown products, and you have no further details, and to find out more I have to call you back, and wait on hold again?"
Customer Service Rep: "That's right ma'am. I'm very sorry for the inconvenience."
Me: "Ok, well I find it pretty upsetting that in this particular case, when you have sold a defective product posing potential harm to children, that you do not have a system set up to return the calls of concerned parents. I find it hard to believe that with all the technology available to us, you don't have the ability to make outgoing calls."
Customer Service Rep: "I'm sorry for the inconvenience."
Me: realizing slowly that I'm wasting my time and breath talking to this guy about the poor customer service system, "I know this isn't your fault, but tell your manager that the system you guys have stinks." I then do my own research, call poison control, and confirm my suspicion that my kids will be fine.

Now, I have a tendency to lose my patience and my temper in these sorts of conversations with customer service representatives. I have been known to yell, cry, and name call. I'm sure I've given more than one priest a good chuckle in confession as I describe my embarrassing behavior. I loath the administrative dealings of large corporate customer service departments. I find it amazing that they can't make an outgoing call, they cannot transfer you to a supervisor without at least an hour wait, and that you always hear a voice telling you about the abnormally high call volume and the longer than normal wait time. The general feeling of helplessness that comes from the entire experience is unsettling. When I'm postpartum, overtired, or pregnant the after effects of these experiences are really frightening.

I've been meditating on this a lot lately, because last week I had a battle with Verizon over our internet connection. The internet had been down for 5 days and I spent over 8 hours on the phone trying to get the connection fixed. It was frustrating, and my efforts were pretty much futile. While each conversation didn't end in tears, each day I allowed the feeling of helplessness to consume me, even if only for a brief time, and I lost my interior peace. I then read this passage:

The exercise of freedom as a choice among options, plainly is important. However, to avoid making painful mistakes we also need to understand that there is another way of exercise freedom: less immediately exciting, poorer, humbler, but much more common, and one immensely fruitful, both humanly and spiritually. It is consenting to what we did not originally choose...The highest and most fruitful form of human freedom is found in accepting, even more than in dominating. We show the greatness of our freedom when we transform reality, but still more when we accept it trustingly as it is given to us day after day...in order to become truly free, we are often called to accept what we did not want, and even what we would not have wanted at any price. There is a paradoxical law of human life here: one cannot be truly free unless one accepts not always being free!

To achieve true interior freedom we must train ourselves to accept, peacefully and willingly, plenty of things that seem to contradict our freedom. This means consenting to our personal limitations, our weaknesses, our powerlessness, this or that situation that life imposes on us, and so on.

Quoted from Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe

In the life of this simple mother, it means accepting the difficult reality of customer service departments at large corporations. I am not "helpless" in a spiritual sense. I can "do something" about the situation. I can accept it as God's will in my life. I'm naturally an active and aggressive person, so the image of actually choosing acceptance, rather than passively dealing with the trials given to me, frees my soul and leaves me ready for the next challenge. To have interior freedom and peace, I don't need to be passive. I have a choice to make with regards to every trial.

And so today I'm praying for the grace to choose acceptance of small trials.

On a practical note, I got more information from my own web searches on the recall. If you want a complete list of recalled products, check out this site. I'm sure my kids will be fine. They have consumed unknown products before and I'm sure they will do so again in the future.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Mom on a Mission

It was 12am last night and I was a mom on a mission.

My hubby and I had just finished watching a movie and (of course) I had to swing by the computer to check my email one last time before heading to bed...

That's when I learned about the latest crib recall. Be sure to check it out if you haven't already! Something looked vaguely familiar. It was the simple lines, the curving arches, the "metal frame" causing potential harm...

IT WAS OUR HAND-ME-DOWN CRIB THAT MY VERY SWEET TODDLER BABY WAS SLEEPING IN RIGHT UPSTAIRS!!!! AHHH!!!

Watch out. With precious cub in danger, mama bear was on a mission. I snuck into the older boys' room and snatched a pair of their "night vision" goggles. Then I headed down the hall to our Baby J's room and snuck inside, going immediately to all 4's (mind you, 32 weeks pregnant!), goggles on, crouching down to see the crib label on the underside of the bed. lol. It appeared to be *identical* to the one I saw online. I had to double check.

Out I went into the hallway, hollering to my hubby that, indeed, our crib was one of the recalled ones and could pose a strangulation hazard to our dear Baby J.

I could almost see a smile creep onto his face. You see, he's a papa bear and I'm a mama bear. And mama bears take news of crib recalls a LOT more dramatically than papa bears (or at least they do in our household!)

In no time, I was back from the computer, with printed sheet in hand to verify the crib label. It was an identical match. I don't know if I felt more satisfied at my sleuthing or more crestfallen at our new situation. How was I going to let my precious cub spend one more minute in that crib? Should we let him sleep to morning? Should we set up the pack 'n play and move him mid-sleep? Should we set up some elaborate support structure to make it all right before going to bed ourselves? My mama brain was toiling...

When papa bear brought up a theme from the movie and began pontificating as to its meaning and symbolism. Heelllloooo Papa Bear!!!!!??? Did he not realize that one of our children was in grave danger (in my hyperbolic mama bear mind!)?????

And then it hit me how different we are as mama and papa bears. His job is not to worry. I've got that part under control to the nth degree. His job is to soothe my crazy mama bear emotions. His job is not to stress, but to assuage my stress. His job is to change the subject and get my mind off my fears.

I redirected our conversation back to our baby bear in danger. "Should I go set up the pack 'n play?" was the first thought out of his mouth. Good Papa Bear. He was humoring me. Eventually as we watched the little cherub sleep, Papa Bear convinced me to let our cub rest and tackle the problem in the morning. Okay, okay--with a few extra prayers sent heavenward!!

Praise God for my Papa Bear! That's how our marriage works. We give and take. We push and pull. We're mamas and papas and we're put on earth to help bring up our little baby bears and point them toward heaven the best way we know how.

And in the morning, we might just find out that our crib is not one of the models recalled. lol. Alleluia, alleluia! Lesson learned...

Train Tracks

Friends, I am looking for your recommendations on the best websites from which to purchase lots of this:






We are overseas, so I do not have the luxury of going to a store, so websites only if you please. My 2yr.-old trainhead (and the rest of us) thank you.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book Rec

I think we can all agree a higher standard of ethics would be beneficial in the world of business. Our Princeton comrade, Max Anderson, has answered this call as his book hits the shelves today:

"...provides a strong case for why the MBA Oath is necessary and examples of how it can be practically applied. Using case studies of real world business dilemmas, Max Anderson and Peter Escher explain why a Hippocratic Oath for business is not only a good idea…it is good business."

And it's been getting great reviews--check it out!
Way to go, Max!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Abandonment

My husband and I play a little game with the boys when we hit a red light: "Mommy, Mommy," they beg, "make the light change! Remember to ask it nicely!"

And then we begin a short or long request for the light to change to green using lots of big words and fancy language by keeping our eye on the lights the other direction waiting for them to change yellow to make our final triumphant request for green. The boys squeal with glee that we have once again made the light change at our command. Rocket science it is not, but it does give the illusion to a 3 year old of power over the lights.

I recently came across this passage in The Faith Explained by Leo Trese (an excellent book, by the way, highly recommended reading!) on the workings of grace in our souls:
And then on judgement day we shall get our first square look at ourselves. We shall see the full picture of the workings of grace in our life. We shall see how little we ourselves had to do with our heroic decisions and our supposedly noble deeds. Almost, we can imagine God smiling at us in loving amusement as he sees our chagrin; as he hears us exclaim in confusion, "Why God! It was you all the time!"

He later writes, "It becomes our responsibility, then, to do our best in removing obstacles to the operation of grace; to do our best to facilitate the effects of grace."

All too often I fall into the trap of hidden pride, thinking that more effort will yield the results that I want. I want to buy into the illusion that things are in my control, rather than abandon myself to the will of our Lord, which only puts up a barrier to the grace I so desperately need. Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. Perhaps a prayer from a holy man will help me today:

Charles de Foucauld's Prayer of Abandonment:

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures -
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.