Friday, December 28, 2012

Seven Quicktakes-Dec. 28

Merry Christmas!

Seven Takes On My Christmas This Year:

1. Apparently I contracted "walking pneumonia" during our family's bought with the stomach flu. After going to the doctor, I took a Z-pack of antibiotics which lasted through Christmas. I started feeling a lot better by the time we got to Christmas, but the cough is still lingering so much so that I have pulled some muscles in my core from all the coughing. This has been a lot of fun I tell you. At least I am hanging out in St. Louis with very few responsibilities and not managing the home and children while M works all day.

2. If you want to know how to extend a 8.5 hours drive to 11 hours, let me tell you. First, make sure you need air in your cars tires and fill them as you are leaving town. Stop a two gas stations with unavailable air pumps before finding one which will pump your tires. Second, bring a three year old who is still feeling off from the stomach flu along and make sure she vomits four times along the way. If you are lucky like us it will be in a disposable coffee cup (that you bought full of coffee at the second gas station you stopped at for air) instead of all over the back seat. Third, make sure you bring a newborn who likes to nurse on both sides at a leisurely pace, ensuring that all of your stops take at least 30 minutes. Fourth, have the same newborn have an explosive outfit-soiling back poop just as you are about to get back on the road. Fifth, stop for dinner.

3. My parents bought a two bedroom ranch when I was one year old. My two older sisters and I shared the second bedroom until my brother was three (he shared with my parents) when we moved to a basement bedroom that my dad made wonderfully nice for us girls. We always talked about adding on to the house to make more space, and I believe my parents once had an intention of moving to a larger house. They never did. So this Christmas, we decided it would be fun to have 8 adults and 6 little girls share three bedrooms (plus a semi-finished second basement room) and one bathroom for three days and two nights. It was fun. We all made it to 9 am Christmas Mass EARLY, had a delicious brunch, and managed to open all our presents by 2pm so that the kids could get a little bit of napping.

4. I think we must be a strange family that does not open presents until late in the morning. My dad has always played music for Mass on Christmas morning, so we always had to wait for him to finish clean-up and come home before we opened our presents. As a kid it made Christmas morning take forever as we watched and waited for him to come back home. I am glad we always waited until we had time, because the time we had for presents ended up being nice and leisurely. This was again the case this Christmas.

5. Christmas this year really felt like Christmas to me. Maybe it was because we were in my childhood home with all the siblings together, plus our children and spouses. Another thing that made it nice was that I had seen everyone but my sister and her family just a few weeks earlier because of F's birth and baptism. It is nice how seeing people more often makes you feel more in touch and closer to them even if you don't live in the same town as them.

6. While we have been here we have had the traditional: Amighetti's special sandwiches, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, Cecil Whittaker's Pizza, and toasted ravioli. Yum!

7. We still get to have Christmas in Michigan with the in-laws. Hopefully by next week I will be healthy and without any pulled muscles. I am supposed to do Jillian Michael's 30-Day Shred during M's J-term break to encourage my extra baby weight to go away...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Call to be Outcasts: A Reflection on Les Misérables

I have not seen the new movie that came out on Christmas, and will probably not get a chance until it is on video or at the $2 theater in Minneapolis (when maybe I will be willing to leave the baby with a sitter). I have seen the musical performed live and have read the unabridged novel; this reflection is based more on the novel but does not depart from the plot of the musical.

While I can't boast of fluency in French, I have read that "les misérables" translates into something like "the outcasts” or “the wretched ones” or “the miserables.” I want to focus on the “outcast” translation. If you look at each of the main characters, they are all outside of society: Jean Valjean the exconvict, Fantine the former mistress of a wealthy student who was left with an illicit child, Cosette the orphan child being raised by the exconvict, the Thenardier family who spend their whole lives stealing from people, Javert who is a police officer standing outside society to keep order, and Marius the orphan and republican student.

The character I am going to examine is Jean Valjean. He spent 19 years in jail regretting his small crime, and is filled with rage and hate. He encounters society's terror of exconvicts when he is on parole when he is unable to find food or shelter; however, even after his conversion caused by the bishop’s kindness, he lives in fear of his former self. No matter how many good deeds he does and how virtuous he becomes, he is always aware of who he is, Jean Valjean the exconvict. It doesn't matter that all he did was break a window and steal a loaf of bread when he was starving: he is an exconvict. As soon as people learn of his past, they fear him and think that there is no possible way that he can be good. Yet, when they do not know his identity as the exconvict, they recognize his saintly deeds and virtuous character.

There are several turning points in the story where Valjean struggles with choosing the morally right thing. If he follows his conscience, he will have to expose his past (and what he believes to be his true self) and be condemned by those who respect him; however, because of the influence of the bishop, he has been transformed and cannot disregard his conscience. It is not until the end of Valjean’s life that there is a person who is aware of both his criminal history and all the good he has done. This person recognizes that he is a saint.

Jean Valjean represents the life of a saint. He has a conversion, turns from his old life, never does a wrong thing again and is constantly running from his former sins. He seeks the life of virtue and union with God, but is always aware of his sinful nature. He constantly condemns himself when he is already good. He continues to find his weaknesses and overcome them until he has completely abandoned himself to the point of physical death. I think this is how we are called to overcome our sins, to become more and more selfless so that we completely lose ourselves in God. We need to be horrified at our ability to sin and our past sins. Fortunately, God is much more forgiving than society, and we must run to him. Valjean’s one flaw is his inability to accept forgiveness from God for his past sins, but in this he displays what it is to live a penitential life.

If we truly live the call to sainthood, we will be cast out of society like Jean Valjean. To seek be holy in a modern society is to be set apart a life of virtue and penance does not make sense without God. If we are truly seeking to be holy, we will be outcasts. This experience of being cast out of society is becoming more and more real for Catholic Christians in modern America. Being “set apart” is never easy, but with the grace of God it can and will be done. God will provide what we need to be sustained through the community of believers. Valjean says that love is what leads to human flourishing; without love the human soul dies, the human dies. So we must live the lives of saints with those whom we love and not fear the call to be outcasts.

Originally posted on Truth and Charity.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Still Sick

The stomach bug the girls had last Thursday night hit me on Sunday night, and I am still nauseated from time to time. The last time I got sick was Monday night. I have been easing back into foods still, and I really wish I had a scale to measure how much baby weight I am losing because of this (the one upside of this illness).

G randomly threw up again this morning just as I was about to take the older girls to the store since they have been cooped up since Sunday Mass in the house with a sick mom and a wonderful dad taking care of us all. I am waiting from a call from the doctor to see if what is going on with us is at all normal. Also, I have a really annoying phlegmy cough that only my albuterol inhaler seems to help. Anyway, not trying to complain, just explaining why I have not been blogging at all.

Prayers for health would be much appreciated especially since we are supposed to spend the next two weeks seeing relatives...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Seven Quicktakes-Dec. 14

1. Today is trying to recover from the stomach flu day. Hopefully it will just be G and L who are victims. I am not sure about the baby, but she sure did spit up more than usual yesterday. The older girls had an overnight illness with a hiatus from 1-7am so we could all get a little sleep. Now we are at nap/quiet time after a small lunch of toast and applesauce. We will see how the rest of the day goes. 

2. The baby had her first five hour stretch on Wednesday night. However, it was from 9:30pm-2:30am; I was only in bed for three and a half of those hours. Too bad, but it was followed by a three hour stretch. Yay!

3. In honor of The Hobbit coming out today, I will share this: Hitler and the Hobbit.

4. I thought L was taking the new baby really well, that was until she started hitting us all this week. I think maybe she needs more attention and is seeking it by being crabby and violent. Oh children, there is enough love for you all. Balancing time for all three children is a little difficult. We have been taking G on little one on one parent dates about once a month, maybe it is time for L to have her own as well. Plus, I need to remember how to parent a two year old. She is also asking to potty train, and I think we are not quite ready. Our plan is to start on that after Christmas.

5. How many people can say that they are still using diapers on their second and third children that were given to them for a baby shower for their first child? We can! The best thing about cloth diapers is that they are lasting us for four years and three children. The only thing we are needing to replace is the larger size cover for F once she gets to the size L is currently in, unless I can revamp them for a second time and fix the snaps I put in (to replace velcro) that did not quite take. Diaper fixing projects take two hands and I do not often have two hands for projects.

6. We are going to put up our tree with its lights this weekend. Gaudete Sunday! Ornaments will be hung at a later date. I would normally wait until the fourth Sunday, but we will be doing that at my parents home and I want to come home to a treed home after our travels.

7. I am praying for all those effected by the shooting at CT elementary school. The killing of children is one of the worst evils in the world (born and unborn).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Feast of St. Lucy!

Our St. Lucy rolls. Yum!

Head over to Truth and Charity to read my thoughts on St. Lucy's Day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Secular Advent Music

When I think of Advent music the first song that comes into my head is O Come, o come, Emmanuel. There are other hymns that are suitable as well, like Come Thou Long Expected Jesus  and Wake, Awake, but these are not what you here on the radio. So, here I am going to give a few ideas for songs to listen to in the more secular line of Advent music:

1. Santa Claus is Coming to Town- Watch out, don't cry, or else guys. That is the message of this song. :)

2. I'll Be Home for Christmas- This is also an anticipatory song for Advent. It dreams of Christmas and all being together, which are very good values, especially wanting to be with loved ones.

A White Advent.
3. I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas- This is definitely for Advent, as once Christmas comes, you can't really dream of a white Christmas coming.

4. Silver Bells- "Soon it will be Christmas Day." It is all about shopping, because that is where you hear the silver bells.

Anymore good "secular" Advent songs?

While the secular ones are fun, they do not compare to the depths of the coming of our Savior:
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
What does Santa coming with presents have to compare with Jesus coming to bring us eternal life? Snow is a cool gift from God, and very beautiful, but it is not God Himself. Being together on Christmas with gifts for each other is nice, but it does not compare to being together in Heaven. I am struggling to find the value in the seemingly shallow secular celebrations of Christmas, but maybe I should see them as a precursor to the joy that will be eternal life together in Heaven.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Seven Quicktakes-Dec. 7

1.  I caught a nasty head cold over the weekend and it makes me feel like I am a week post-partum instead of four. It is kind of annoying, but is forcing me to take it easy when I might normally try to get lots of things done. The baby also caught the cold, poor girl, and has been fussier because of it; it is her second cold since birth. We should have a Spring or Summer baby next, because this is not nice to a newborn. I am sure we will find a few more colds over our Christmas travels.

2. Here is what we did for St. Nicholas Day:
Just chocolate. The presents we save to celebrate the birth of Christ. You know. 
St. Nick also made it into the center of our Advent wreath, until someone decides to eat him.

3. This meme made me really happy:

4. Tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when Our Lady was conceived without original sin. Dom Gueranger in his The Liturgical Year on the topic:

"The intention of the Church, in this feast, is not only to celebrate the anniversary of the happy moment in which began, in the womb of the pious Anne, the life of the ever-glorious Virgin Mary; but also to honour the sublime privilege, by which Mary was preserved from the original stain, which, by a sovereign and universal decree, is contracted by all the children of Adam the very moment they are conceived in their mother's womb. The faith of the Catholic Church on the subject of the Conception of Mary is this: that at the very instant when God united the soul of Mary, which He had created, to the body which it was to animate, this ever-blessed soul did not only contract the stain, which at that same instant defiles  every human soul, but was filled with an immeasurable grace which rendered her, from that moment, the mirror of the sanctity of God Himself, as far as this is possible to a creature." (p. 377-378, Vol. 1)
5. My second contribution to Truth and Charity was posted yesterday. Please support that great blog!

6. After going to story hour at the library today, I realize my almost four year old needs to learn classroom etiquette. They all thought it was cute, but she probably should not yell out in the middle of stories and wait for her turn in line. Oh the misfortunes of staying at home with mom... ;)

7. We have barely made a dent in our (20ish) freezer meals thanks to visitors after the baby and meals from friends. While I love to cook it is nice to not have to while the baby's schedule is so unpredictable. I am really wanting her to be old enough to be on a regular sleep schedule, but I need to remember patience and appreciate the newborn qualities she has.

Head over to Jen for more quicktakes.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Losing Control: Trusting God and Those He Gives Us

When our newest addition was born four weeks ago, my parents came to help with the kids and house for a week, followed by my mother-in-law for another week. They took over many of my normal tasks so I could take care of the baby. And since they left, my husband, Mark, has been doing more than his fair share of the housework. The fact is that there is a lot more to do with a newborn around and for me, it is a lot harder to do my normal daily tasks. It has been difficult to let go of the way that I do things and just be thankful that others are serving me. I know it is a little over the top, but sometimes I just cannot be around when someone else is vacuuming for me; what if they use a different outlet than I do? (And seriously, I know I am not the only wife and mother who worries about these things.) Sometimes my anxiety causes me to wonder if it would be better for me to simply do the task myself than trust someone else to do it even though I truly need the help.
So what is going on? Why is it so hard to accept the aid and love of others? I have realized that as I have trouble trusting others to take care of things for me, I also have difficulty trusting God to care for me. I have found that when I am trusting God, I am happier, more peaceful, and more likely to trust as well. Further when I trust others to care for me, I have more trust in God.

In the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42), Mary spends her time listening to Jesus teach while her sister Martha is preparing food and laboring to serve Jesus and her guests. As a mother, my life is spent being Martha to my children and husband and anyone who comes to my home. Because of this it is hard for me to remember there are times that I am called to be like Mary and to be ministered to by Jesus, be it from others or in a few moments during the day I have to pray. Having three children, one of them a newborn, is teaching me again that I must lose control of things that are less important and to trust God and others. I know that being a parent is continually leading me to surrender my need to control details of life and of my children’s lives. I am learning the things that are important to take care of with precision and the things that do not need as much attention. While the cleaning is important, how it is done is not. While raising children to be independent is important, having to tuck them in multiple times at night is good and teaches them that they are loved. In losing this control, I am learning to be like Mary, to accept from God the love He is giving me, and to not be “anxious and troubled about many things.”

We are all called to learn to be like Mary, no matter what our vocation. Mary is traditionally as seen as representing the contemplative life and Martha the active life, but we are all called to be contemplative to whatever extent our duties in life allow us to be. This is how we learn a true love of God, in trusting Him and learning how to be loved. This is why it is so essential to give control to God, even when life is full of uncertainties. Saints are the people who face the trials of life knowing that God loves them and trusting and loving God through it all, and it is in the little matters of trust that we learn to trust in the great matters.

Originally posted on Truth and Charity.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Baptised at Last: Cradle Catholics

On Saturday the baby was baptised! Alleluia! She also came down with baby acne. I guess 3-4 weeks is about right for that to show up. We had a wonderful crowd of family and friends at the baptism (a great uncle and aunt with their three kids, three of four grandparents, the aunt and uncle godparents, a cousin plus a number of friends), and it was just a fraction of our Catholic family and friends that were present. M and I are both cradle Catholics and so are our parents. In fact our parents were also raised by cradle Catholics, and so on. The line of cradle Catholics goes back to at least my great grandparents on my side and probably further.

I am so blessed that my faith has been passed down to me from the Apostles through the Church and also from my parents and their parents. For all of high school, my grandmother in St. Louis was in my family's parish. I would see her every Sunday in the front row and then would catch up with her after Mass. It was such a blessing to share this part of life with her. I have always known my mother's parents, who live near Cleveland, to go to daily Mass. What great examples of holy lives they have given me. I see their marriage and how well they raised their seven children as an example to me of how to be holy, loving parents and spouses. As Catholics, we look to the lives of the Saints to learn how to love God and be saintly; and I feel so blessed to look to the lives of my people in my family to learn about being holy and Catholic.

It is so easy for cradle Catholics to take their faith and religion for granted; we need to realize that while our faith has been given to us by our parents, it is our responsibility to live the faith. We need to seek to have active prayer lives, go to Mass, have frequent Confessions; without these things, especially with the continued secularization and modernization of society, our faith will quickly fall by the wayside. M and I have discussed how many of the converts to Catholicism we know really know the faith and really care to live it well. Is there something about being raised Catholic that makes it harder for us? We could blame bad catechesis as children, but we are adults, so we need to take responsibility as adults. There are so many resources for learning about the Catholic faith, for example the catechism. Or one could look at New Advent for great resources about the Church.

And as a parent raising three little Catholics, I know the importance of teaching the faith to my children from a young age. I need to be an example of what I teach them in my behavior and in my life of prayer. I am so blessed to be continuing the line of cradle Catholics, and pray that my little ones grow up to bring more converts to the Church.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Seven Quicktakes Friday-Nov. 30

1. Tomorrow we will no longer have a heathen baby dripping in her original sin. Hooray! Because of this event we are having many family members coming to town and I am throwing our first "real" Baptism party where I planned it in advance. The past two babies I was taken by surprise that we are supposed to have a cake and food for people afterwards. It does not help that G was baptised on the octave of her birth and I was still in shock of what it is like to have a newborn and be post-partum.

2. Three weeks is again my point of feeling like a normal person after having a baby. And by normal person, I suppose I have put myself in the category of normal for a nursing mother of a baby.

3. St. Paul is starting to feel like "home." You know that feeling you get when a place is familiar and comforting as you drive through it knowing where you are going? Moving is such a long transition. I expect that we will really know if it feels like home when we come back from our Christmas travels.


4. M is complaining about my quicktakes being too short these days; these will be again. I wrote the first three on Friday and am finishing them Sunday, but backdating them to Friday because I discovered how to schedule posts this week.

5. I labeled all my posts this week and then added the gadget of a label cloud. My blog is all grown up now. Maybe some of the posts I wrote years ago before I shared it with people publicly might actually be read. :) And you really should check out why Beatrix Potter is awesome if you haven't yet. My children's book reviews are my favorite...

6. I am about to do this workout video. And I know you are saying, workout video at 3 weeks post-partum? I am just going to say it is the best thing one can do for a post-partum body. It stretches everything and helps one's core get back into being normal. Plus you do the whole thing laying on the floor...

7. We have ordered all of the Christmas gifts now and I just have to finish making the ones the girls are making for everyone... (I know, they did some fun artwork for them and I am laboring to make their artwork a gift...)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Things!

Shortly after having the baby I was invited to contribute to the blog Truth and Charity. After three weeks I have decided to join! The blog is run by a group of lay, Catholic writers who are unwaveringly faithful to the Magisterium. The mission of the blog is to illustrate what it is to live as a faithful Catholic in American society - the intersection of faith and life.

I am really excited to be joining the other awesome Catholic bloggers on the site! I will be posting there every Thursday, and will continue my writing here at Living with Lady Philosophy.

Why Beatrix Potter is Awesome (Good Picture Books Series)

One of the weirdest but most wonderful authors of children's stories was Beatrix Potter. We have been slowly collecting the entire 23 book set with every chance to give birthday or Christmas presents, and reading all the stories as we find them at the library. The most recent book we read is "The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes." This apparently was her book written for her American audience, featuring the gray squirrel, the chipmunk, and the black bear, though the scenery is still taken from her native English countryside. It also features birds whose natural songs are: "Whose-bin-diggin-up-my-nuts" and "A-little-bit-o-bread-and-no-cheese." It makes me wonder what the birds around St. Paul are really saying.
Photo of Potter's Hill Top Farm by Chris Brown

All of Potter's books are full of insights about animals, nature, and relationships, which she expresses in the personified animals of her stories. Accompanying her witty texts are beautiful watercolors. (I would love to share some here, but according to Wikipedia the images are not in the public domain in the UK or Europe and I don't want to violate any copyright laws since I don't really know anything about them.)

A great feature of her stories is that she often includes rhymes in the dialogue, which expand on the nursery rhymes that I have already been reading to my children. She even has two books of her own rhymes "Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes" and "Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes."

She gives great life lessons in her stories: We learn in "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" the negative affects of gluttony and disobeying parents. In "The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck" to not talk to predatory-like strangers even if they have sandy whiskers and that once again foxes are always bad. Another great tale is that of Ginger and Pickles in which we learn that giving credit, while it sells a lot of goods, does not always bode well for paying one's own bills. The tale about a tail, "The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin" teaches us to not pester our benefactors. From capitalism to parents to strangers, Potter presented helpful advice on living in the world.

The point is that Potter wrote some pretty great stories that kids and parents find entertaining and wonderful with every reading of the story. This I think is the essential element of good children's stories. I will say it again and again; if it is going to be great for the child it has to be great for the parent. And that is why Beatrix Potter is awesome. Go and read her to your kid now. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Jesse Tree

Our Jesse Tree
On that day, A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.-Isaiah 11:1

Every year growing up I looked forward to Advent. My parents worked to make it special, and looking back I imagine it was to combat the pre-Christmas consumer season. Every First Sunday of Advent before dinner my father would read the blessing of the Advent wreath and the tall brand-new tapers of purple and rose. Then my eldest sister lit the first purple candle (we took turns each day) and we sang together"O Come, o come Emmanuel."

After dinner when the dishes were cleared and washed, my mother would sit with the four of us children by our home Jesse Tree and read the first reading from Scripture. The Jesse Tree is a devotion is done by lay people in their homes during Advent.

The devotion includes having a small tree in one's home, such as a small evergreen or a small branch of a tree from one's yard, reading a specific reading from Scripture each day, and then hanging a corresponding ornament on the tree. By the end of Advent the whole tree is full of ornaments. In our home, my mother eventually made a tree out of felt and all the ornaments were also made of felt. (We used this devotional book which gave a guideline of readings and came with paper ornaments which we used before my mother made our own.)

This devotion of the Jesse Tree stuck with me as an adult and my first year of college I read the readings on my own until I went home for Christmas break. My first Christmas married, shortly before the birth of our first child, my husband and I hand drew our own Jesse Tree ornaments on paper and did the readings together. I am now working on a counted cross-stitch version of our ornaments.

 We use a 20 inch artificial evergreen tree to hang the ornaments. Our little girls love to hear the stories every year, and as they get older I am eager for them to learn more fully the story of Salvation history each Advent.

A home Jesse Tree can be as simple as a branch from a tree hung with the ornaments cut out from the devotional book, and there are many ideas online found with a quick search. The idea is to prepare oneself for Christmas and observe the season of Advent by reading Scripture passages that point to the coming of Christ. Some sets of readings start with Creation and move through important events of the Old Testament while others focus solely on the New Testament.

The name of the Jesse Tree comes from the fact that Jesus' genealogy is traced to the line of Jesse, the father of David. This is why I prefer to use readings from Scripture that start with the Old Testament.

The readings we use for each day start show the ancient line of Jesus beginning with Adam and Even in the story of Creation in Genesis, and then the necessity for Christ's birth because of the Fall; then going through Scripture we read about others in the line Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and then the prophets who told about the coming of Christ. The last week focuses on the New Testament readings leading to the birth of Jesus.

In reading about those who prefigure Christ, the prophecies about his coming, and finally the events immediately before His birth, we prepare ourselves throughout all of Advent. As we observe the liturgical season with the Church it helps keep the focus of what Christmas is really about: God becoming man, as He promised again and again throughout Scripture, so that we can again be united with Him.

Originally posted on Truth and Charity.

Two Year Old Sweetie

My middle child turns two today. It is funny that I still think of her as my baby in my head from time to time and slip up and call the baby by her name, but I suppose it is the adjustment of having another little baby girl around.

My sweet little L has been an amazing big sister so far. I think she has taken the adjustment of a new baby better than all of us. I have often described her as having "extreme" emotional responses, and it seems her response to the baby has been a sweet love. She often asks, "Hold baby?" And as I assist her in holding the baby she sits so still and stares at F's face. She does everything she can to help with the baby, which usually ends up being handing me a dropped blanket, burp cloth, or hat. Whenever F is awake and happy, L delights in her eyes and facial features: "Eyes open! Nose! Ears!" If the baby happens to move in a random way as to touch L, she gets super excited. Whenever F is awake and fussy, L goes to her and pats her belly or rocks the carseat saying, "SHHHHHH!!!" in a comforting way.

Even before the baby was born L was super into playing with baby dolls, but now she is more-so and her baby doll is always named after her baby sister. Of course G decides her baby has the same name and then we all have a baby with the same name.

Other favorite activities include cooking elaborate meals with the toy dishes and anything that fits inside them, following G around, and playing with the Little People doll house. The people in the house, "Go potty! Take bath! Go to sleep! SKYPE!" (Yes, my two year old daughter uses Skype as a verb. But it is perfect because the computer in the house has a person's face on it and that is all L does on the computer...)

We also have the "do-it self" phase going on, but I now know that two years old is easy breezy compared to three. ;) And soon we will discover what four is like!

One of the best things about having multiple kids is that with the second, third, etc. I have been appreciating more the age the child is at instead of waiting anxiously for the next development.

So, Happy Birthday to my little, sweet L! Maybe you can stay two a bit longer than you stayed one? It all goes by too quickly!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Seven Quick Takes-Thanksgiving Weekend

1. Thanksgiving was delicious! We have relatives that live only two hours away since we moved to St. Paul, which is something we are going to really have to get used to since we have become accustomed to living hours and hours away from relations. However, these relatives live close enough to visit for an afternoon or day, or holiday, and they are awesome enough for us to want to do so. :) M's uncle, aunt, and their three boys brought us a huge dinner yesterday (cooked and cleaned and had abundant leftovers for both families) plus pie. All we did was make sure the house was clean enough to satisfy my tastes. :) It was a lot of fun and the older boys had fun entertaining G and L while playing on the iPads that were available.

2. I have a lot to be thankful for this year: a new baby, a new city, M getting a job the first time on the market, a good place to live for the first year, a new van, our new parish, a good delivery of the baby, new friends, supportive parents and in-laws, growing and happy children and so much more!

3. L turns two next week!

4. The family photo and birth announcements came in the mail today which means it is time to start the Christmas cards. If you want awesome cards check out these sold by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priests. I love these cards because they are so focused on Christmas being about Jesus' birth and they send you a list for you to fill out with all the names of those you send cards to and send back. They then include these people and their intentions in their annual Christmas novena.

5. Advent is coming! But for now we get to celebrate the Kingship of Christ! :)

6. So, while we can eat Turkey today, we still have to do some other penance.  What were those bishops thinking anway back in the 60s...

7. One last thing to be thankful for: F nursing almost every hour yesterday so that my Thanksgiving food consumption was appropriate to what the baby needed anyway. :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Three to One

I have already said it on Facebook. Today is my first day with my three beautiful girls without any other adults at home.

I woke up at 6:50 to nurse the baby and heard G trying to get out of her room already. M was getting ready for work. Once the baby was sufficiently fed and "back to sleep" in the co-sleeper (which I borrowed from my sister and works way better than the bassinet level of the pack n play), I roused myself from my bed and got as dressed as a post-partum mom wants to be in the extremely comfortable but stylish pants that I got from a friend in Buffalo. I then took care of my toliet while approving of M's tie and he left for work. G had been finally convinced to stay in her room a bit longer and I spent a few minutes on the internet while the three kids were safely still in their beds.

I never make coffee before the kids are up and dressed and about to eat breakfast because otherwise I will only get to drink cold coffee. If I ever do, my plans to drink it are always thwarted by children who no longer can wait to be gotten up.

So, G came out of the room again at 7:40ish and I decided to let her get up. I dressed the girls and decided to take on teaching G how to take off her own shirt this morning. While I was trying to convince her to do so the kitchen was too quiet. I discovered L standing at the counter (on one of the wooden kid chairs) with a box of Grapenuts dumped in front of her and eating dry cereal out of a spoon I had left out after dishing the girl's cereal out and letting it soak in water so they can actually chew it. What I managed to forget was photographing the scenario. It was a pretty silly scene. I managed to not get angry and told her to chew and swallow the food and went back to convincing G to take her shirt off.

Once we were all dressed and the hair was combed and styled I served breakfast and my coffee and we were done by 9! WOOO!!!!

I realize this was only possible because the baby decided to sleep three more hours after her 6:50 nursing session.

So, to make the day more interesting we went to a playdate at a friend's house. The kids had fun; I had fun. We had a yummy lunch and brought home with us what will be a delicious dinner. And now the kids are napping/quiet. The baby has been asleep since 11:30 AM and I woke her briefly to feed her about 15 minutes ago. Now she needs a diaper change. M is coming home in an hour and I plan to take a short walk since it is in the 60s today. I thought Minnesota was supposed to be cold by now... (yeah I know the high is 28 on Friday and I am so glad I do not care to do any Black Friday shopping... the things I would want to buy are never discounted anyway... I mean is there a sale on the new English-Latin Denzinger? Apparently there is... hmmm)

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Birth Story (I can't be held responsible for details you did not want to know. This is your warning.)

If you follow this blog at all you may remember my complaint about pre-labor for most of a week starting on Monday, Oct. 30. Well this continued in the same fashion through the birthday on Wednesday, November 7. The only change in the pattern was that on Monday the contractions were slightly stronger and by Tuesday they were of the same intensity that I had the day before L was born. They were 10-30 minutes apart for most of the day and stopped when I went to bed around 11pm. To be honest, I expected to be woken up in labor the next morning. It just seemed like it would happen. Here is the play-by-play:

4:30 AM- I woke up to the strongest contraction yet and thought, "This could be it!" I decided to try to get some sleep after getting up to use the bathroom. I managed to doze and noticed another contraction come about 20 minutes later. This was not quite what happened with L's birth. With her I woke up with them consistently every ten minutes. I dozed and had strange dreams about election results and being in labor while the stronger-than-I-had-been-having-in-nine-days-of-pre-labor contractions were 20-30 minutes apart until M's alarm went off around 6.

6:00 AM- I told M what had been happening. We decided that I should get up and take a shower and see if things intensified or seemed like my typical pre-labor days.

7:00 AM- The contractions had been just as strong and were happening every five minutes at this point. M decided to cancel his classes for the day so that I could have some help with the kids.

7:30 AM- They were still five-ish minutes apart. I could still walk through them and talk through them. I decided to call my parents and tell them to get ready to come to town. They had a nine hour drive ahead of them and I figured the sooner they left the better it would be for the kids.

8:30 AM-Things were still going as they had before with fairly regular strong contractions, but I could still walk and talk. I decided to do some of my weekly house chores that had not yet been done. I got ready to mop the floors. When the mopping was finished and I was still having the contractions we decided to look into getting the kids set up with the friends who were planning on watching them while I was in labor. M got together things for them and started making phone calls. We also started timing the contractions.

9:30 AM-The timing of the contractions was not going well. For some reason timing contractions with precision stresses me out, and stress makes my labors slow down and even putter out. I started getting really anxious that this was not labor and that M had canceled class for no reason and that my parents were going to come and stay for a week and there would be no baby. I just felt a lot of (probably unreasonable) pressure to know I was in labor and stay in labor. Further I was anxious about the kids' childcare since we had not yet been able to line up someone who could watch them all day.

10:00 AM- The kids things were packed, my suitcase was mostly packed. The contractions were more like 10 minutes apart and not very strong anymore. M got a hold of one of our friends who had offered to watch the kids and being a stay-at-home home schooling mom she was able to have them over all day until dinner time. Another family was going to have the girls for dinner and then if I was still in labor the mother would put the girls to bed at our house and wait the arrival of my parents. As soon as things lined up I had a massive contraction. My stress about the kids had been making it harder for me to relax and allow labor to happen.

10:30 AM- M took the girls to our friends house and of course I started to miss them. My parents called to tell me that they were leaving St. Louis. I started feeling anxious again since my contractions were now 10-20 minutes apart and still not as strong as they had been. I had the occasional super strong one, but still nothing super regular.

11:30 AM- M and I took a walk (maybe .5 miles?) and I started having stronger, more regular contractions on the walk. When we got back home and I sat down, they still were not super regular. I started worrying if it was labor at all still. I did some reading and sitting around and trying not to focus on if it was labor.

1:00 PM- We were hungry for lunch and my contractions were picking up again, so M went out and got us some Jimmy John's subs. I had a roast beef sandwhich. It was delicious and took me until 2:00 PM to eat. During that time we ordered L's birthday presents and the Christmas presents for the kids online.

2:00 PM-More active contractions were setting in, and I decided to take a bath and see how things went. The bath was nice, but not nice enough to mask the pain of stronger, regular contractions. They seemed about 5 minutes apart and sometimes only 3 minutes apart.

3:30 PM- With the contractions 3-5 minutes apart and intensifying, I decided to call the "maternity care center" at St. Joseph's hospital and see if they thought I should come in. My reason for getting to the hospital sooner was so that I could have a round of antibiotics to take care of my positive beta-strep results. I also wanted to be settled in the hospital before transition. I had arrived during transition with L and things were rushed, crazy and not exactly relaxing at all. The nurse thought it would be good to come in given that it was my third delivery.

4:00 PM- We were in the car heading for the hospital. I sent out texts to family to let them know, and called the grandparents to give more details. M said that he could tell by my voice when I was having contractions, so things were definitely progressing.

4:10 PM- We parked and went in the main hospital entrance and then were given directions for a pretty long trek to the maternity care center. I guess they want to make it hard for random people to walk in on that part of the hospital (and run off with the babies?). I had to stop a couple of times because of contractions.

4:20 PM- We made it to the maternity care and were brought to a room. I gave them the sample they needed and threw on the hospital gown to make monitoring easier. Then we started talking with our nurse Julie. She was in her first year at maternity care and had a more experienced nurse, Maggie, helping her and giving advice. The nurses were both super friendly and we chatted about my other two births and how things went then and how things were progressing with this labor. She hooked me up to the monitor to check on contractions and the baby's heartrate, and then put the IV line in my arm (yuck!).

4:45 PM- While we were waiting for the monitoring we got on facebook to ask for prayers for the labor. The contractions which had slowed down slightly when we got to the room were picking up again.

5:00 PM- After successful monitoring the nurses decided to check the dilation and station of the baby. They measured me at 4 cm. I do not remember the station. Things were continuing to progress like normal labor. I decided to put my own shirt back on since it seemed like it would be a few hours before I was ready to deliver.

5:15 PM- They got the antibiotics started.

5:45 PM- It was time to monitor the baby again, which we did in the rocking chair in the room. Julie suggested we order dinner before the cafeteria closed in case labor went long.

6:00-7:00 PM- They were having trouble getting clear readings and had me move to the bed to get better access to my abdomen.

Sometime in here they decided the baby's heartrate was dropping too low during contractions and they had me use and oxygen mask. This also happened with G's delivery. My strong long contractions are strong and long I guess.

Dinner came sometime before 7:00 PM and I had a few sips of milk and then lost my appetite.

I was taken off oxygen when they were able to see what was going on with the baby better.

7:00 PM-They checked me again, and I was measuring at 6-7cm with an intact bulging bag of waters. Maggie mentioned that as soon as my water broke I would probably at 10 cm and ready to push. They called Dr. K to come to the hospital. The baby warmer was brought into the room.

I was in the midst of the most intense transition of all three of my totally natural births (besides the antibiotics). Every contraction was long and crazy intense. I had thoughts about never wanting to do this again and mentioned to M that I was not sure if I could manage the pushing after the transition. The pressure of the baby descending plus the bag of waters was always present. I just laid on my side and let those contractions do their thing. Which is all one can do with labor.

7:25 PM- Dr. K arrived in the room and checked on things. Transition was still in high gear. I think I asked her about the Bible study at our parish between contractions. I was supposed to be there that night.

7:35 PM- My water broke. Gush went the bag. SLAM went the head. I informed the room as it happened. I had a couple more contractions before the urge to push was imminent.

7:40ish PM- Pushing contractions were at hand. I was planning on easing into them so as to avoid a tear this time. I turned from my side to inclined on my back and breathed through the first pushing contractions. The seconds between the pushing contractions were blissfully relaxing compared to the intensity of transition.

The baby's head was starting to crown even with the lack of pushing, so I decided to push a little with the next contraction. With that push the head came halfway out. M described this to me. They urged me to continue to push to get the head out the rest of the way and then the shoulders. It felt like one long continuous pushing contraction until the whole body was out.

7:49 PM-Dr. K announced that we had a daughter and she was placed on my stomach. When the cord stopped pulsing it was clamped and then cut. F stayed on my belly and I was propped up a bit to try nursing her. She was not really interested so I just held her while we waiting for the placenta to come out.

The placenta seemed to be taking longer than Dr. K thought it should, so she did a little uterine massaging. We decided to have M hold F so I could focus on pushing out the placenta. It came out all in one piece. This might be TMI, but I had a very small tear which only needed a few stitches. It is a huge difference in recovering than even my small one with L, not to mention the 4th degree with G. Anyway...

They noticed some heavy bleeding. One of the things they do at St. Joseph's in St. Paul is weigh the pads to see the exact amount of blood the mother is losing after delivery. 500 ml is considered to be a hemorrhage. I bled 1.5 L in two hours after delivery. So, they were fairly concerned.  Pitocen and some other pill which caused cramping were administered. The bleeding slowed to normal eventually. My favorite story about the bleeding was when I called my brother to talk to him about his goddaughter and mentioned the bleeding, asking for prayers. He asked me to let him know when the bleeding stops. So, in a couple of weeks he will be getting a random text message. To resolve the bleeding issue, they found my hemoglobin levels to be way above that of an average pregnant woman at 13.8 a few hours after delivery. They were holding strong at 12.5 the next morning. Apparently I bleed a lot after delivery and my body can handle it. Because of the bleeding I was not allowed to get off the bed until 5 hours after delivery. I managed just fine without any faintness.

While I was waiting to get up, Julie was clearing some equipment out of the room. She invited M to touch the placenta. He, being the way he is, was totally willing and they did a thorough examination of the placenta and the chorion and amnion. I think that is the most intimate experience he wants to have with that organ, but if you ask him he will tell you how much fun he had checking it out. Julie decided that he was cool enough to be her friend. Before she went off duty she told us how she had found the birth beautiful. She was a great nurse to have for birthing. :)

1:00 AM- After being allowed to get out of bed the night nurse came in and gave F her first bath, weighed and measured her. At some point we got to go to sleep.

I loved that at this hospital we got to hold our baby for 5 hours after delivery before they even bothered to record a birth weight. She did not leave our room until she was 24 hours old to go for a hearing screening, heart screening, and blood draw. M went with her to do that. While I can't really stand being in a hospital for very long, this was by far the best hospital experience. The nurses were totally cool with our natural birth plan and very supportive of everything being as we wished. Dr. K was also awesome. We were able to check out 25 hours after her birth and get home after the other kids were in bed. I was really glad I was able to say good morning to them at home right after they woke up the next morning.

We feel so blessed by the arrival of our third daughter and once I lose the memories of the-most-intense-transition-ever I could consider having another birth at that hospital.

However, M says that he would be willing to deliver the next baby at home now that he has witnessed three deliveries...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Seven Quicktakes: Newborn Edition

1. Every newborn "honeymoon" has gotten better than the last. Maybe it is because I know what to expect. I suspect it is because my parents and mother-in-law have continued to come and help with household chores and taking care of the other children after every birth, each of them taking a week. I have help until next Tuesday morning, and then M has Thanksgiving break. This means I get to sleep until 9am with the baby (if this is what she does) everyday for 2.5 weeks!

2. I am feeling pretty good for having given birth (completely naturally I must add) nine days ago. I actually feel kind of awake this morning. :)

3. The baby caught the cold her sisters brought home from somewhere. If you never have used nasal saline drops to help clean out a baby's nose, you totally should. They work wonders!

Since all I have been doing is sleeping, nursing, sitting while others do the work, and being with the baby I will leave the rest of the quicktakes to cute details one forgets about newborns:

4.  The newborn smell. It is like no other. You have to smell it to know it.

5. The nursing callous on the upper lip and how it peels off every couple of days.

6. The silly half awake expressions of rolling eyes, sideways grins, random quick breathing, puckering of lips, etc.

7. The snuggling sleeping cuddly times when you know you should go take a nap, shower, use the bathroom, eat something but just can't pry yourself away.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Quicktakes--11/9

1. I made two delicious recipes this week while awaiting the birth of Baby #3. The first was steak pie, which was yummy and steaky. I am now allowed to cook savory pies for dinner whenever I want. :) I also made French Onion Soup from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It was delicious as usual.

2. The baby came on Wednesday at 7:49pm.

3. It is a GIRL! Now we have three beautiful girls.

4. 2 hours and 49 minutes from 4 cm to birth is pretty intense. (Labor started around 4:40am but was not regular until 1pm)

5. 49 minutes from 6-7 cm to birth is crazy intense.

6. 6 minutes of pushing is less painful than 43 minutes of transition.

7. I will post a more detailed birth story soon for those who want to know. We came home 25 hours after delivery and my bed is way better than that hospital bed. I am feeling better at this point than I did after the other two as long as I have my 600 mg of Ibuprofen. Nursing is going great.

Friday, November 2, 2012

On Mom Friendships and Mom Blogs

I like to read blogs. I started reading a blog by a mom with two young children about a year ago, and recently realized that her blog was about a three yer old and a six year old. I was relating to her because she had a nursing child and a non-nursing child; suddenly her kids were older and her life did not seem so similar to mine. And then she started sharing from other parent blogs on her blog and the secular view of children and parenting started to really bother me. There is something really, truly negative in a lot of the secular/non-Christian parenting blogs that I can't quiet pinpoint and describe. It is also present in the parenting magazines, which I peruse in doctors' waiting rooms. I found that when I read these things, I am more selfish mother, annoyed at my children, and wishing things were different. Which is not what I am called to as a mother or a wife.

On a side note: I know a lot of my feelings about being a mother lately are coming from being very pregnant, living in a new city where I have not had enough time to develop solid friendships (though I have hopes for many great friends since I have met so many wonderful women so far!), and missing the great friends I have in Buffalo.

However, as I have been reading mom blogs of home schooling (or normal schooling) Catholic moms who have more children than I have, I have found a sort of support system, that will not replace the real life one I am developing here in St. Paul, but will encourage me to press on in my call to motherhood and wife hood.

I realize that my days of cultural normalcy are limited, and that I have been enjoying them perhaps a bit too much, when someone asks G if she is going to be going to pre-school and she tells them very openly that she is home schooled. I know once baby number four starts to make an appearance (be it God's will that our family continues to grow) in a couple of years, I may not get as many friendly comments from strangers. Even now, three is not as normal as two. Also, my kids are "really close together." Ha! I am looking forward to the days that G and L are the teenage older sisters with the baby brother or sister on their lap and I take care of the baby for feeding and changing (like a family we met this past weekend at M's cousin's Confirmation party). I am finding I love talking to the moms of 8+ who have been where I am and are fully aware that since I am 26 and having my third child will be where they are in about 10 years or so. To them my life makes sense and they know what it is like, but they are realistic, seasoned mothers who know that it is all for good and really love their children. They inspire me and have great advice to give. And a young mother needs that support from older mothers. A young mother also needs support from other like-minded young mothers.

And it really is love that it all comes down to. Loving God. Loving myself as God sees and knows me. Loving my husband. Loving my children. Loving my other family and friends. May God help me to always love, and to trust Him in all things. Then I know I will be truly happy and have a happy family.

Seven Quick Takes--All Souls Day

1. I am going to Mass alone today (meaning without already born children to take care of)! I looked this up so I remember to pray for the poor souls today:

Indulgence for the Souls in Purgatory (from Enchiridion of Indulgences given by the 1968 Decree of the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary):

67. Visit to a Church or Oratory on All Souls Day (Visitatio ecclesiae vel oratorii in Commemoratione omnium fidelium defunctorum)

A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who on the day dedicated to the Commemoration of all the faithful departed, piously visit a church, a public oratory or -- for those entitled to use it -- a semipublic oratory.
The above indulgence can be acquired either on the day designated above or, with the consent of the Ordinary, on the preceding or following Sunday or the feast of All Saints.
The above indulgence is contained in the Apostolic Constitution The Doctrine of Indulgences, Norm 15, with account being taken of proposals made to the Sacred Penitentiary in the meantime.
In visiting the church or oratory, it is required, according to Norm 16 of the same Apostolic Constitution, that "one Our Father and the Creed be recited." [ed. note : see Norm25 of the Enchiridion].

2. This day reminds me of my desire to have Masses said for my relatives who have passed away. I am not sure if anyone in my family has been doing this. We can never know if a soul is in Heaven, unless of course the person is canonized.

3. One thing I need to offer up this week for the Souls in Purgatory is my fifth day straight of regular, for hours on end braxton-hicks/pre-labor contractions. Some of them feel like they could be active labor contractions, but those go away and I am left wondering when I am going to actually be in labor. I have only had one night in which they have not stopped and have kept me awake, making the next day exhausting. I went to the doctor on Wednesday to see if I was progressing at all, and there was not much progress. So, we are waiting for what feels like real labor, which for me is when I want people to just leave me alone and be quiet. The kids are a pretty good gauge of the fact that I have not actually been in labor. My mom reminded me today (I guess she told me this before) that she had every day like these for three weeks leading up to my birthday, and I was two weeks late! I think my mom is holier than I realized. I suppose it is only just that my third child do the same thing. She also had the same experience with my brother, her fourth child. This means that this is no indication of gender.

4. M told me on Wednesday as we were driving to the doctor that he thought it was weird that I could feel so vividly my uterus but had no control over it. I pointed out to him other organs that work on their own, but he insisted that the laboring uterus was truly weird. Then of course we considered how it would be if we were not sinful beings and had not fallen. Perhaps I would then have perfect knowledge of when it was time for the baby to come, kick the uterus into high, painless gear and have an easy, breezy delivery of a healthy baby. This not being the case, I get to sit around and wait eating chocolate, drinking fizzy water, and sneaking sips of M's beer wishing I were drinking beer or wine or something stronger than water.

5. I know that I am going to miss the two hours of quiet time I get every afternoon while L naps and G tries really hard to not come out of her quiet time. I do not think I am going to be able to pull off two hours everyday with three kids.

6. A couple of weeks ago I used my skills at Word and made a monthly/weekly/daily cleaning list with charts for me to fill in the date when I accomplish my tasks. It has been really helpful so far in keeping me on track cleaning-wise. All of the things were on a mental list, but a physical list is so much better. I am almost done with my chores for this week, and I still have all of tomorrow!! I am also hoping that it makes it easy for our post-baby out-of-town helpers to know what I like to have done cleaning wise. I have found I am much more sane after a baby is born if the house cleaning is kept up on.

7. Lastly, behold the cordless hand vacuum:

Yes, it lives on my kitchen counter. I use it many times a day. It makes me happy to vacuum with ease high chairs, rugs, dust piles from sweeping, crumbs left on the table, furniture, car seats, etc. It is my latest toy which I justified buying by cashing in some credit card rewards. (Is is sad that I use my credit cards so that I can get cash rewards to spend guilt-free? I also will point out that I never carry a balance on the cards.) In case you are interested in acquiring your own, this is the one I purchased.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Quicktakes for Friday, October 26

1. 38 weeks and still pregnant.

2. My nesting energy is completely gone today. Is this a sign of labor? ;)

3. I was thinking about revamping a paper I wrote in grad school about liturgy, but I think that much better thought and research will be found here. This is written by one of my dear college friends, who received her masters in liturgy and has all the right views about liturgy so please read what she has to say and follow her posts. I am eager to read them myself!

4. I finally used my birthday gift card to Barnes and Nobles today (I received it in June). I wanted some good pre/post baby reading now that most of the baby prep is done. I chose Catherine of Sienna by Sigrid Undset, My Life in France by Julia Child, and A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. I am excited for Undset because her novel Kristen Lavrensdatter was amazing, Catholic, and inspired me in my motherhood. I think the book about Julia Child should be fairly light compared to other books I have been reading lately. I have been using recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking on occasion and Julia Child seems like a fairly interesting person. And Dickens is an author I always enjoy and for some reason I have never read A Tale of Two Cities. I think I will blame my educators...

5. Fall is turning into Winterish weather here in Minnesota. I am prepared to sit inside and nurse my baby until after our Christmas travels, and then I will have to brave going out places in the long winter or go insane with my three, three and under. :)

6. We had a fun incident with the car battery dying this Monday. That is of our new (used) van. Fortunately, AAA's roadside assistance includes in the garage assistance. It was simply a matter of lights being left on inside the car. So it is all take care of now.

7. Sunday was our parish Fall Festival and we won a few prizes, G won a couple of toys and candy, M won a bottle of wine, and we all won $20 of meat at a local butcher. We also ate the world famous Booya, which is a turkey and other meats stew with vegetables, rice, and potatoes. It was actually good. I was concerned my fickle pregnant stomach would not handle it, but it did.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Young Married Woman's Thoughts on Vocational Discernment

It is Autumn again. This time of year always reminds me of the semester I spent in Austria. The campus is in a small little town in the smaller mountains of Austria. It was a beautiful fall with great friends and a retreat from the real world as we knew it. Though I suppose all of college is like that, especially at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

That fall semester in Austria was crucial to my relationship with M. I have been thinking about what it was like that semester not knowing what was going to happen with him. We had met the year before within the first weeks of college, and for me there was a pretty early attraction. There was also the complication of him planning on being a priest. The idea of marriage for him had never really entered his mind, and everyone expected him to be a priest. People still asked his mother a couple of years after our marriage if he was a priest yet, having not heard the other developments of marriage and children in his life.

By the Spring semester of our freshmen year, our mutual attraction was pretty clear. We were in the same group of friends which spent a lot of time together, eating meals, having prayer meetings, watching movies, and even doing homework. When things finally got to the point of needing to be discussed, it was all clear to everyone that there was something going on between us. The only catch was that he was in the pre-theologate program, which was for men discerning the priesthood. Coincidentally things came to a head on the Feast of St. Valentine. We discussed our mutual attraction and decided to put some space between us in our relationship, which meant that within our group of friends we tried to not talk to each other and pray about our friendship. He was the one who had to decide the most. I was not dating other men and was feeling ready to have a discerning relationship with M as long as he was ready himself. He, on the other hand, would have to make the major decision of leaving his priestly formation program to discern if we were meant to be together. He ended up leaving the program a week later and then we started dating the next day, both at the young age of 18.

Looking back I can see how we rushed into the relationship, but it seemed the right thing to do at the time. When the summer break came, however, M was not so sure anymore if our relationship was the right thing for him. He felt the need to really make a decision about his call to the priesthood, or at least be at peace with not pursuing the priesthood so that we could pursue a possible future together. When he broke up with me that summer, I decided to pray again about being a religious sister.

I had thought about it on and off for all of high school and throughout my first year of college until I began dating M. Being the bride of Christ is an attractive vocation for a young woman seeking to live a holy life, but it never seemed quite right for me. Further, there was not one order in particular that I wanted to look into, which is essential for becoming a sister. There were some really great sisters that I know in high school, and it was to one of them that I talked about the vocation to religious life. I remember the conversation I had with her, while my heart was aching for M, about what being a sister entailed. As we spoke I realized in my heart that I could not let go of hope that M would decide to date me again. It was not some great revelation from God that I should not be a sister, it was the person of M, whom I cared for and felt drawn to that made me realize that I could not pursue the vocation of religious life.

Then we both went to Austria. We had three day weekends for traveling, and being in the same group of friends, we often were in the same traveling group. The campus was so small and the classes so limited that we had most of our classes together. M and I could not avoid each other very easily, and honestly we did not want to. He spent most of the semester trying to decide if he should date me again or not. When you expect to become a priest and everyone else you know has been expecting it for years, it is hard to decide otherwise. He prayed a lot; I prayed a lot. I spent the whole semester trying to give him the space he needed in such tight quarters as that small Austrian campus. His parents came to visit during that semester and he opened up to them about his discernment. He now describes his discernment that semester as realizing that vocation is more specific than one call or another, but it is to a specific person or in the case of religious life to a particular diocese or order. He could not know that he was called to be married until the person he was to marry was before him, discerning with him.

In the fall semester in Austria there was a Thanksgiving "Ball" where everyone dressed up in traditional Austrian clothes and learned the traditional dances. M asked me to go with him, and for the first time it felt like we had chosen something right for our relationship. He had come to the point of being ready to pursue our relationship further. He felt a freedom he had not felt before to discern our future together, and he realized deep down inside that if we did date again that we were going to get married. The ball was a lot of fun, though nothing became official that evening. We were still "just friends." Two days later he asked me to take a walk with him after noon Mass and on that walk he asked me to date him again.

A year later we decided to get married, and 18 months after our engagement began we were married 10 days before my 22nd birthday.

I know that this story may not seem relevant to those discerning vocation who are older and not in college anymore, but I think what M and I discovered about our own vocations can be helpful for those thinking about their own. Whatever God has in store for you, He will be specific about it eventually. We are not called to broad sweeping ideas or vocations, we are called to do specific things. We are called to relationships with specific people, to specific groups of people, in specific places. And that is what we should discern when we discern our vocation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Three Year Old Theology: Food in Heaven

At dinner the other night G announced: "I wish we could eat macaroni and cheese for dinner every night until we get to Heaven!" (We were not even eating macaroni and cheese. It was leftover night which may have inspired the thought).

M asked her, "What will we eat for dinner in Heaven?"

She responded, "Bread. Jesus' body."

Monday, October 22, 2012

When there is no more room in the freezer...

can some peaches.

One of the best things I have learned from my husband and his mother is how to can fruit. Home canned apple sauce and peaches are two of my favorite ways to eat fruit. I am eager to try other fruits in the future. (We missed strawberry jam this year because of traveling, though my mother-in-law gave us a whole bunch of hers!) Home canned (jarred) fruits are so much better than store bought! I need to thank Trader Joe's for stocking peaches one last time this year. Next year I hope to can some Minnesota peaches.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Quicktakes, Saturday Oct. 13 Naptime Edition

1. Today we went to IKEA for the first time:

2. It was a pretty interesting place. We got some drawers for baby clothes that fit perfectly under the changing table, which will soon have shelves stocked with two sizes of cloth diapers and drawers full of tiny newborn size clothes.

3. They also have some pretty sweet bunk beds. We are planning on one for the girls once they are older. What is a safe age for a kid on the top bunk? This one is about 5 feet off the ground and has a railing. It seems fairly safe. The lower bunk is not that much higher than a toddler bed. I would be cool with it for L's first non-crib if I thought G would be okay on top. We shall see...

4. The St. Louis Cardinals are at it again. Bernie Miklasz is still my favorite St. Louis sports writer. 

5. We are pondering the possibility of a Tigers vs. Cardinals World Series in this house. I am not sure if I could handle it this year. Probably I would go into labor during game 7 and not get to do any of my Bradley relaxing during contractions because I would be caught up in wanting to follow the game. And then my husband from MI and I would be on opposing sides.

6. G has already decided that she wants the Tigers to beat the Cardinals if this happens. I asked her, "If the Cardinals and the Tigers play against each other, who would you want to win?" Immediatley M intervened, "If the Tigers, GRRRRRR!!! and the Cardinals play each other, who would you want to win." Her response was "TIGERS!!! GRRRRR!!!!" Then they went on to discuss how tigers can eat cardinals. I admit, tigers are cooler animals than cardinals from the perspective of a three year old.

7. Well, the kids are up from nap. Time to cook dinner...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Blue Hubbard "Pumpkin" Pie

 As promised here are the results of my blue hubbard experiment. Blue hubbard makes pie that tastes exactly like pumpkin pie. It is pretty delicious. I followed the directions given here. I know nothing about the blog I just linked except that they have a great pie recipe.

The rinsed blue hubbard awaits its cleaving.

The knife has entered its side! It took a good 10 minutes to wedge this big guy open. This is my large chopping knife.

The inside looks like a squash to me!

Artsy shot.

Pulpy, seedy insides.

Further chopping. This photo was take by G.

One half of the hubbard ready to roast for 45 minutes (right), while the other half awaits its fate (left).


After both halves were roasted and cooled. I spooned/scraped out as much of the insides as would come out and then pureed in my blender about 1/3 cup at a time. I ended up with 6 lbs of puree. Each pie takes 15 oz. of puree. That means I can make 6 pies out of this monster, or 12 loaves of "pumpkin" bread, or some of each... TIP: If you are going to try this at home, a food processor would handle the hubbard flesh much more easily than the blender. When I made the pie, I re-pureed the squash with the eggs for the pie. It came out super smooth.

My two homemade pie crusts awaiting filling. I use the recipe in the Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary Edition.

The small mortar and pestle from the set of three given to me by my sweet husband for my birthday. This was the first time I got to use it.

Once I needed whole cloves and ground cloves, so I just bought whole and decided to grind my own cloves. Here are cloves awaiting grinding.


The pies ready to bake.

Delicious pie and a three year olds' hair.

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