Sunday, May 31, 2015

Hopefully the last bump shot...and other thoughts

We made it to May 31, and this baby still is not ready to be born. With the due date only 2 days away, I might actually make it to the due date this time. I have not done that since G was 8 days late six years ago!

It looks like I am all set to share my birthday month with this newest little Spencer (but definitely not birthday, since we are over three weeks from my birthday). I suppose we have a few hours left for this baby to come in May, but that would be a quick labor for me... My shortest is 12 hours.

Will this be my last Sunday in this dress?
I asked M to take a photo of me before I changed into "play" clothes for our Sunday morning romp in the park. It is nice to have the whole morning for the family after 7:30 am Mass.

And then I couldn't resist a few pictures of the kids before they changed as well.

Finally, in case you missed them, I wrote for both ChurchPOP and Blessed is She this weekend.

5 Tips for Praying at Mass While Taking Care of a Toddler

For Trinity Sunday: Participating in the Life of the Trinity

The toddlers at Mass post reminds me of L on Easter two years ago...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

P.D. Eastman on Feeding Your Baby

I want to share this article from the blog Like Mother, Like Daughter about newborn feeding. It is really good, especially for new and nervous moms. But if you want a summary of it, I have a few lines from the children book author P.D. Eastman for you. (If you prefer a less practical work of his see the existential piece, Go, Dog! Go.)

The basic premise of the book Flap Your Wings is that a boy accidentally put an alligator egg in Mr. and Mrs. Bird's empty nest. They decide to hatch it because it is in their nest. When it hatches, they decide to raise it.
Then after the baby alligator's hunger seems insatiable:
"What kind of bird eats so much?" said Mrs. Bird.
"It doesn't matter," said Mr. Bird. 
"He's still hungry and we have to feed him."
Weeks went by. 
Junior never stopped eating. 
And he never stopped growing.
And that is what it is like to feed a newborn. It never stops, and you just do it.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: May 23, Garden Edition

1. Now at the end of May, gardening can really begin. I have spent months planning in my head, several mornings at a plant nursery, attempted to grow things inside from seed, and successfully grew things outside from seed. And since the garden is a big part of my summer experience, you, my friends who read my blog, get to see and hear all about it.

2. This week M planted my annuals for me. I have never attempted flowers beyond bulb perennials, but this year I am giving it a go. We are at that awkward tulip stage where the flowers are gone, the stems look headless and silly, and the garden is just waiting for some annuals to flower all summer. 
My neighbor, who has been flower gardening for years and years, told me that I can tie up the tulips with twine or daffodil leaves until they are brown. This way our other flowers can start to grow and get some sun. I did that today while tailor sitting and leaning over my massive pregnant belly (Dr. Bradley of Husband Coached Childbirth insists on tailor sitting). The flowers we planted along the house are: marigolds, lobelia, alyssum, and browalia. My mom used to plant alyssum, and the smell of them reminds me of being a little girl at the local produce stand picking out flowers. 

3. Along the shady side of our driveway, we put in some hostas (which are perennials) and impatiens in from of my daffodils that are refusing to bloom. My neighbor promises me that they take a couple of years to establish themselves, and they do look heartier than last year, so hopefully we will get some flowers eventually. We also have a nice variety of green weeds and helicopter seeds from the maples next door.

4. The seeds I directly sowed back in early-April have really taken off. We had about four nights in April that we covered the seedlings to protect them from frost, but otherwise the weather has been warm enough for them to flourish.

The peas are much bigger than last year, with big leaves, and are shooting up like crazy. No flowers yet. The lettuce looks close to being ready for us to harvest some exterior leaves. The carrots came up. The cabbage and the chard are doing well. And we stuck a cucumber plant in the back corner of the garden that I got from the nursery. Again there are a lot of small weeds that I am too pregnant to bend over and pull up.

5. I had one vegetable impulse buy last week, and that was leeks.
The leeks look like grass. The plant in front is green cabbage.
They will go really well with the potatoes a friend gave us to plant.
I love leek and potato soup, especially in the Fall.

6. I purchased ten tomato plants this year and basil. They are a little small, so hard to see. We still plan to transfer the only from seed plants that have survived inside this Spring, our peppers, when they are a little bit bigger to the front row of this garden box.
Notice the massive oregano plant from last year. What can I make with lots of oregano?
I am excited for pesto and pasta salad this summer. Yum!

7. M aggressively trimmed back the lilac bush bordering our yard this morning, to ensure that our tomatoes get sun. But in the process he uncovered a nest of baby robins.

We are glad that Mama Robin has not given up on her babies even though the nest is a bit more exposed.

And finally, I am linking up with Kelly at This Ain't The Lyceum!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Any Baby Guesses?

UPDATE 6/6/15:
Thanks for the guesses!

Baby is a BOY. Born 40 weeks, 2 days, weighing 10lbs, 3oz.

We are coming down to the end of this pregnancy, and really only God knows when this baby is going to come out and meet the world. But that does not have to stop the fun of the guessing... if that is your thing.

The photos are approximately 38-39 weeks of each of my full term pregnancies.

Girl #1 (G) was born at 41 weeks, 1 day, and weighed 8 lbs 5 oz

Girl #2 (L) was born at 38 weeks, 3 days, and weighed 7 lbs 8 oz

Girl #3 (F) was born at 39 weeks, 6 days (1 day early), and weighed 7lbs 15 oz

Here I am at 38 weeks with the current one. I have gained the most weight this pregnancy, and am too big for all of the shirts previously pictured. I am fairly certain I am carrying lower than the other pregnancies, and that seems visible from the photos. Otherwise, pregnancy symptoms have been about the same as always, with maybe slightly less heartburn.

Fun facts:
  • My mom's parents had 3 girls and then a boy (then girl, boy, girl)
  • My parents had 3 girls and then a boy.
  • My sister had 3 girls and then a boy.
  • My dad's parents had girl, boy, boy, girl, girl, girl, boy.
  • My in-laws had boy, girl, girl.
  • Our close friends who are due a few days after us have boy, boy, boy, and a boy in utero.
So, any guesses? It is okay if you don't have any; it is just fun to compare while waiting to meet baby.

The surprise at the end is the most exciting/enjoyable part of labor, I promise. :)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

When My Motherhood Came Under Spiritual Attack

It is time to do a follow up on my thoughts from a few weeks ago, How I am Really Feeling About Having Another Baby.

I don't know about yours, but my social media feeds have been filled with lovely posts about motherhood and mothering and mothers for the past week.

These were the ones that struck me most:

Marion Fernandez-Cueto wrote (reprinted from 2009), "When Satan Tells you 'You're Too Good For' Motherhood"

Haley Stewart wrote, "Have you ever felt like being a mother has ruined you?"

Jenny Uebbing wrote,"The Best Mother's Day Gift Ever (And it is probably not what you're thinking"

Photo by my father.
I had my first child, G,  9 months after getting married, and a little over 10 months after college graduation (granted it was my Master's graduation). I was 22 years old when she was born, and while we had made some friends in our new city when she was born, I did not really know them very well.

Being home alone with a baby, I spent a lot of time online. I looked on as my college and high school friends posted about jobs, Friday and Saturday evenings out, and I felt like I was the only one posting about having a baby. Of course, they all supported and loved me and my husband as the first parents in our group of friends, but I still felt isolated.

Like Marion Fernandez-Cueto wrote, I daydreamed about what my life could have been, had I not had a child so soon. If I had not gotten married, I probably would have continued in graduate school. Instead I was working part-time as an administrative assistant for a parish Religious Education program while my husband made a graduate student fellowship wage while studying for his PhD. Money was tight, and we were frugal.

When my first was born, I was so self-centered and immature that I have been spending years getting over the selfishness of my childhood. Like Haley Stewart wrote, motherhood broke me, and now that we are about to have our fourth, it still is breaking me.

But it will also be my salvation, if I live my vocation as I should.

Last week, in a fit of pregnancy hormones, I completely lost it. My husband, at my request, had set up the co-sleeper bassinet for this next baby to sleep in, and it haunted me the whole day until that night when I lost it.

I sobbed and whined, and my husband, who always is right when I am being selfish, could not reason it out of me. I was irrationally afraid of life with a newborn again. I was irrationally not wanting to give the gift of physical care to the child I have been carrying for 8 months. I was so afraid.

Then it hit me, the irrationality was a spiritual attack. I was being attacked by the evil one in my very motherhood, in my very vocation.

My motherhood and wifehood is not about being blissful and comfortable day to day, it is about giving myself as a gift to others, so that one day I can have the ultimate human end of eternal happiness with my Creator and Savior. And it is hard. It will never stop being hard, but it is the gift I am called to give.

Our earthly vocation will not always make us happy now, but if we persevere in it, we will be happy forever. It is the same in any vocation, to priesthood, religious life, consecrated single life, and marriage; we will not always be happy.

I then asked my husband to pray for me, for protection from this spiritual attack, for grace to overcome my fears. And he did, as he always does. He lay his hands on me, and we prayed. Peace came over me as we prayed, but the aftermath of the raw emotions took awhile to wear off.

I prayed about it through Sunday Mass the next morning, and as I went through my checklist of things to get ready for the baby the following week.

I realized that I had been looking at this coming baby selfishly. I was anticipating everything from my lonely fears. I had forgotten that I am not alone in my vocation to motherhood. My motherhood is tied irreversibly to my husband's fatherhood, and, oh, what a wonderful husband and father he is. We are here to help each other in our vocations. 

And now, I am naturally a little nervous about all the things I worried about before, especially the impending labor, but I know that grace will help me love through it all.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Our Favorite Books of Nursery Rhymes, Myths, and Fairy Tales {SQT}

In case you missed it, I recently published an essay at Crisis Magazine on The Importance of Myths and Fairy Tales for Christian Children.

To compliment the essay, I am sharing seven of our favorite books/authors for pre-school and kindergarten aged children.

1. Nursery Rhymes, Illustrated by Douglas Gorsline. There are some beautiful collections of nursery rhymes, even at big book stores (if you can find one). We found this edition at our local library when we lived in Buffalo, NY. It is out of print, but the copies are really cheap, and if you are unsure about the conservative nature of this book just read the one review on Amazon by an Amy S.:

"This book on nursery rhymes contains some obscure ones (e.g.Elsie Marley, Little Miss Tucket, Cock Robin) along with the perennial favorites to wow fellow students at preschool. Alcoholism, bashing in of craniums, thievery, corporal punishment, birdicide, and giant, nosy insects are all here, just as they were in the last century, if not centuries ago. (I mean the rhymes, not the cited incidents.) Old-fashioned illustrations of all British classes at their best and worst adds charm and spirit to these rhymes. Not for the faint of heart."

This is the kind of book to prep your nursery aged children for the Greek myths.

2. Andrew Lang's Fairy Books:  
The Blue Fairy Book
The Red Fairy Book
The Green Fairy Book
The Yellow Fairy Book
The Pink Fairy Book
The Grey Fairy Book
The Violet Fairy Book
The Crimson Fairy Book
The Brown Fairy Book
The Orange Fairy Book
The Olive Fairy Book
The Lilac Fairy Book

These are collected tales from around the world. J.R.R. Tolkien criticizes them in being called "fairy" tales, since many of them do not in fact have magic or fairies. But they are a great exposure to folk tales around the world, and you know they are good because they were published from 1889-1910.

3. D'aulaires' Book of Greek Myths: This volume of the myths is edited just right for small children. It begins with the origins of the Greek gods, tells the myths about each one, and then goes into the myths about mortals. D'aulaire also did a book of Norse Myths (and many other interesting looking books) which we have yet to check out.

4. Bullfinch's Mythology: This collection of Greek, Roman, Arthurian Mythology and the Legends of Charlemagne and  we have not yet read to our children, but my husband spent hours reading it as a child. Bullfinch tells the story and then tells the allusions in British literature to each of the myths. The books are more appropriate for ages 10 and up. We have yet to find an version of the Roman myths that we really like for younger children.

5. Children's Book of Virtues edited by William J. Bennett is a collection of fully illustrated classic tales teaching children about virtue. He also has longer works with fewer illustrations but more great tales, The Book of Virtues and The Moral Compass.

6. Howard Pyle's works and illustrations: We especially like The Wonder Clock, a collection of silly and clever moral tales. And we are currently reading his King Arthur stories (in which are toned down very well for young ears): Story of King Arthur and His Knights, Story of the Champions of the Round table, Story of Sir Lancelot and his Champions, Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur. Pyle compiled and wrote many other volumes of stories that we have yet to read. 

7. Complete Beatrix Potter: I linked the box set of the individual little white books because for little kids and little hands I really like having the little books. We did not buy the box set all at once, but have been giving them individually for every birthday and Christmas since our eldest's first Christmas. We will have the complete set by this Christmas (which will be our eldest's seventh). You may wonder why I am ranking these newer books with the older, more traditional tales of Western culture. First of all, they are absolutely brilliant. Second of all, Potter draws from the English speaking tradition in her stories, referencing nursery rhymes and riddles that English speaking children should know, and if they do not yet, will learn through her tales. She is a great example of how nursery rhymes are an essential foundation for a complete literary education.

P.S. I would love to hear of any other great books of nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and myths, especially ones with beautiful illustrations!

I am linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum with these seven quick takes!

Life in the New Covenant--BIS Devotion

I had the privilege of writing the devotion on today's daily Mass readings at Blessed is She. I even dug into my theology degree for this one!

When I was in graduate school studying theology, one of my favorite topics was how Church doctrine developed. In the reading from Acts for today, we see an early example of development of doctrine in the conclusion of a council in Jerusalem of the Apostles and first bishops.

They are considering whether Gentiles should be required to fulfill all of the Jewish laws, such as the circumcision of males and other external practices. The Church leaders, directed by the Holy Spirit, realize that certain of the Jewish laws have moral grounds, such as the idolatry of eating animals sacrificed to false gods or unchastity, while other laws pertain to practices symbolic of the Old Covenant before the coming of Christ. The Church was able to step back and see what was really required to be a follower of Christ and began to develop from the traditions of Judaism with freedom from the old law.

Find the Scripture readings and the rest at Blessed is She!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, May 1

1. I have really been off the blogging train these days, except for random updates about traveling. But I have some quick takes today, and I did have a devotion on Blessed is She last Friday (which I failed to share online because last Friday was packed with things to do). I also have been working on the next Vatican Film List article for ChurchPOP, so that should be coming soon. I hope no one has missed me too much, or maybe you have missed my blogging a lot. If I get my nesting done by 37 weeks pregnant and don't have the baby until the due date, you might hear a lot from me on the blog...

2. Speaking of nesting, can you say freezer meals?

I got 15 in the freezer last week, and have four in the fridge ready to freeze. Last week was my chicken week, and this next week will be beef. They are all stacked in the front of the freezer to stay flat, but I have plenty of room to rearrange and move them to the back.

3. Other nesting feats include: purchasing camisoles to do this with, ordering new diaper paraphernalia and other baby items that need to be replaced, getting drawers at Ikea to free up the changing table baskets for baby clothes (a potty trained two year old does not really need a changing table anymore), final seasonal and size up sorting for the children's clothes, washing winter coats and gloves, and realizing that this bump of mine would be so much nicer with the baby on the outside.

The crabapple is budding.
4. It really is Spring in Minnesota. I am banking on having had the last frost as my sugar snap pea plants are already two inches tall and would not tolerate a frost very well. We covered the outside seedlings a few nights last week, but this week has been low 40s with the highs near 70. I am really enjoying gardening again this year, though I wish that I could do weeding without bending over. In other garden news, I repotted my 3-4 inch tall tomato plants and I am not sure they all survived the transfer.
I have been accused of growing an indoor garden. And yes, we grew butterflies as well.
Some seem to be reviving their leaves, but they looked so much better before I repotted them.

5. I am always surprised when plants grow the way they are supposed to. I had no experience with gardening before we bought this house two years ago, so all of it is so new. I have plans for growing flowers this year, and my tulips that I planted last Autumn came up beautifully.
I did the weeding this week as well, and I plan to put in some annuals and mulch in the next couple of weeks when the tulips are finished blooming. Flowers make a yard so cheery.

6. In case you were wondering, low 50s and cloudy is the perfect weather in which to go barefoot. 
Also, to paint yourselves in mud, but I took no pictures of that. These girls are turning into real Minnesotans I think.

7. So, that is about it for me this week. I have been extremely practical, but in case you are worried that I am doing too much, be assured that I have been taking some time to stare blankly at what the internet has to offer and am reading another Dostoyevsky novel, The Idiot. I am finding it easier to read than Crime and Punishment or The Brothers Karamazov, but M promises me that it will get heavier.

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum.

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