Monday, June 21, 2010

Building Cathedrals Has Moved!!!!!!

Dear Readers,

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

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.


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 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.

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