Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Floor Beds and Night Weaning

As Peter slowly approaches his first birthday (mid July), my husband and I have been discussing what changes will be made for bedtime. Peter has almost out-grown his travel pack-n-play, so he certainly needs a new place to sleep. At this point, we are planning on a floor bed, since his room is completely baby-proofed. I am looking forward to this because I can lay down with him to get him to sleep, then just ease myself away instead of trying to transfer him into his bed without waking him. I am a little concerned, though, that if I'm not there to keep him on the bed until he falls asleep, he will never sleep.

You think I'm over-reacting. Of course he will fall asleep. Eventually he will get tired and just lay down and sleep. You're wrong.

Tonight, after our regular routine (dinner, bath, story, prayers), I took Peter up to get him to sleep, a bit before 7:00. He nursed, I sang a lullaby or five, we cuddled, I prayed the Rosary with him. I tried holding him, laying him next to me on the bed, laying him in his crib. Around 8:00, I gave him to my husband. It is now almost 8:30 and Peter is still awake. Still rubbing his eyes, still fussing occasionally, but still very much awake.

So that is one concern.
What I wish Peter was doing now
(minus the hot water bottle, since it is almost 80 in our house)

The other topic of conversation is night weaning. Originally, I thought that was a good plan. He is only waking about three times a night at this point, so it shouldn't be too difficult to get him to sleep through. After all, he will be down the hall, making it difficult (impossible) for me to respond without waking completely.

That's where the night-weaning train derailed. We have agreed that our parenting choices will not be based simply on our convenience. If it's not best for Peter, it's not an option. As much as I look forward to the occasional night of continuous sleep, I'm not going to force him to night-wean just for my convenience. If he wants comfort and a quick snack in the middle of the night, it's his. He will eventually outgrow it on his own. I will not make him act like a "big kid" earlier than he needs to.

Besides, as long as he is nursing around the clock, he might continue to suppress my fertility. And that is definitely a win-win situation!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Children's Guide to Irish Culture

I was so excited to read Mamapoekie's post at Authentic Parenting that presented a Children's Guide to African Culture. This is exactly what I have been looking to find for Peter! In exchange, I will share some of my ideas for teaching a child about Irish culture. Admittedly, I am no expert. I only spent five months there, primarily on the West coast. Although I can't promise that the snippets below are indicative of mainstream culture, I can assure you that they are part of the culture I experienced while studying there.

While U2 and Snow Patrol certainly qualify as Irish bands, Ireland can also boast of a sizable "trad music" scene, which generally features instruments such as harp, fiddle, tin whistle, concertina, guitar, and the bodhrán, a traditional frame drum. Some modern bands that play trad music include Planxty, The Outside Track, and Danú. For creating your own music, the easiest path by far is learning to sing the ballads and folk songs that carry the heart of the Irish people. Most of these are sung in English and often have a chorus that even young children can learn. Slightly older children can learn to play a tin whistle, which can be bought for about $10. They are a bit shrill, but with practice, even a child of seven or eight can be quite proficient.
Tin Whistle - Irish Trad Music
Image by Ivan Walsh via Flickr

For a real taste of Ireland, consider serving an Irish breakfast. Breakfast is the largest meal of the day for some families, especially on weekends, and can include multiple courses. One usually starts with juice and/or fresh fruit, followed by yogurt, then porridge, and only then the cooked meal. Breakfast is generally accompanied by home-made brown bread (at least at my roommate's home!) with fruit preserves and strong tea (often sweetened with milk).
What you'll need:
fruit juice
fresh fruit (often apples, which are a local commercial crop)
yogurt (Look for unusual flavors, as the variety in Ireland is inspiring. My favorite was rhubarb!)
oatmeal, cooked in milk with brown sugar, honey, or cream to sweeten it
fried eggs
fried bacon (ask your butcher about rashers if you want to be authentic or just pick fatty bacon)
fried blood sausage (known more appetizingly as 'black pudding')
medium sized tomatoes, halved and fried in butter
tea (with cream or whole milk)
fruit preserves
Irish brown bread
  • 4 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • scant 2 cups buttermilk
Mix dry ingredients and stir in enough buttermilk to make a soft dough. Knead lightly on a floured surface until smooth. Shape the dough into a circular loaf about 1.5" thick and mark a deep cross in the top with a floured knife. Bake for 45 mins at 400.
Irish Breakfast
Image by scottm32768 via Flickr
If you want to take an easier route, have what my roommates ate: toast topped with canned brown beans! Apparently that's pretty common, too.

Hurling is one of Ireland's traditional sports and somewhat similar to lacrosse, but its following pales in comparison to the popularity of Gaelic football, which contains some aspects of both rugby and American soccer. Each county has its own team and the rivalry is fierce! Encourage your children to learn the rules of the game, pick a team, and follow them through the season. Be sure to make flags or jerseys using the colors of the county you choose!
Gaelic football - photo by Matt Doyle
Image by Matt Doyle at dgaproductions via Flickr
Interesting note: Girls generally do not play 'sport' once they are out of childhood. Young women certainly will cheer their local team, but are rarely seen participating in athletics, even just a 'pick-up' game. While I was there, female university students would take walks to get exercise and watch the boys play, but never participate.

The Church
One of the texts from my Irish history course stated that to be Irish was to love the sport, the party and the church, and no one would ask which sport (Gaelic football), party (Fianna Fáil), or church (Roman Catholic). Times have changed, but the Catholic Church is still central to Irish culture. Take your children to a local Catholic church, preferably an older, traditional building, and show them the stained glass windows, the Stations of the Cross, and the statues. These visuals were very important for introducing Christianity to an illiterate population.
Image by Terabbs via Flickr
While many Irish young people today do not believe what the Church teaches, they are still very culturally Catholic, celebrating St. Brigid's Day, Pancake Day, Easter, Christmas, and St. Stephen's Day with their families. Research these feasts and join in the fun! Of course, you can always celebrate St. Patrick's Day, but be warned that the Irish think we're a bit batty for our green beer and shamrock necklaces. :-)

Literature and Folklore
Explore beautiful poetry by W.B. Yeats or the classic literature of Oscar Wilde. (James Joyce and Jonathan Swift were also talented Irish authors, but their works are more appropriate for teens than children.) Wilde actually wrote a collection of stories for children, The Happy Prince and Other Stories, which was published in 1888. Some of Yeats poems suitable for children include The Lake Isle of InnisfreeThe Hosting of the Sidhe, At Galway Races, and The Cat and the Moon. I love the imagery of The Hosting of the Sidhe, but I think your children will enjoy it more if you have already exposed them to the Fair Folk through Irish folklore. You also may need to do a bit of research on Irish pronunciation in order to read it! (And yes, the language is called Irish by the people who live there. The culture is Gaelic.)
Old Books
Image by gripspix via Flickr

An Ancient People
The first settlers of Ireland arrived about 9,000 years ago. If you want to teach history, here is a great culture to study! Be sure to include the High Kings of Tara for children who want tales of warriors and epic battles, pictures of the Book of Kells for the child who loves art, learning, and the written word, and tales of the Celtic druids to learn about our connection to nature.
Portrait of Christ
Image by nfejohn via Flickr
I hope this gives you a good primer for introducing your children to a culture that is often represented by leprechauns and drunken songs. Cheers!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

He who sings, prays twice (St. Augustine)

What else do the simple folk do
to pluck up the heart and get through? ...

Once, upon the road, I came upon a lad
Singing in a voice three times his size
When I asked him why, he told me he was sad
And singing always made his spirits rise
And that's what simple folk do.
I surmise.

They sing?

I surmise.
What Do the Simple Folk Do? from Camelot

It's been the kind of day where I need to keep a song on my lips. The weather has been beautiful, my husband was home all day and spent a lot of time with Peter, my brother and sister-in-law are visiting (and pulled out some awful weeds for us!), and we all had a good evening at my parents' house. And yet, there is a nagging sense of sadness. I know part of it is continuing to deal with my Grandpa's death. I don't know what else is contributing, though.

A song for the evening:
Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
whose voice is contentment, whose Presence is balm,
be there at our sleeping and give us we pray
Your peace in our hearts Lord at the end of the day.

Friday, May 27, 2011

An Irish day

In honor of the misty, cool weather we had today, I'll share one of my favorite stories from my time spent in Galway.
Ruins along the River Corrib

I lived in a flat along the River Corrib, which had a lovely path alongside it. I'm not an avid runner, but I do enjoy it now and again, so I used to run a mile or two along the path when I was tired of being cooped up inside. This particular day, it began to rain lightly just as I finished tying on my sneakers. The weather in Galway cycles rapidly between sun and rain, so I decided to just go out anyway, figuring I would dry out as I kept moving.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What's Your Sign?

On my way back from an errand at church today, I saw a neighbor in the same place he had been 30 minutes earlier: sitting in his motorized wheelchair, looking ready to cross the street but not moving. I've never spoken with this fellow (he lives a few streets away), but I've seen him puttering around in his chair. I was a little concerned, so I stopped the car and called out to him.
"Is everything OK?"
"Everything is wonderful! I'm sitting here, enjoying a beautiful day! Thank you for stopping, though. Thank you for asking!"
"You're welcome! Enjoy the weather."
"I will! It is a wonderful day!"

What a gift! And if that didn't make you smile, this will. Attached to the front of his wheelchair was this sign:

Labels can be useful in some situations, but they certainly can never capture the essence of a human being!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Values I Want for My Son

The right way to parent is the one that will help your child function well within your family. I don't want to wait for agreement from Peter before I pick him up, because I don't want a child who asks permission for everything. That would drive me batty. So I just pick him up for a hug, then put him down when he squirms a bit. :-) I parent to produce a peaceful home, where we can all coexist happily, and to raise a little boy who will hopefully share my values. Here are some of my hopes for Peter (and any children in our future!).

to be Catholic. To love God with his whole heart, to seek to understand Scripture, and to embrace the richness of our Catholic Tradition. To answer God's call in his life and live out his vocation with love. To be a wise steward of his gifts and the world around him. To work for social justice as a means to peace.
This is a tall order! We try to model this in daily life and will teach much of it explicitly as he gets older. I bring him to my volunteer activities and will include him in our "green living" efforts as he grows.
My husband

to be active. To find a way to stay healthy, whether this be through organized sports, individual exercise, or just having fun outside.
We are going to require him to learn how to swim, but that's a safety issue. Aside from that, we just want to expose him to a variety of sports. Right now, we go camping (in tents!) and take walks around the neighborhood. Even saw a frog yesterday!
Enjoying an early thaw

to appreciate the arts. To have a creative outlet and a basic understanding of visual and performing arts. Hopefully vocal or instrumental music will catch his interest, since music is important to my husband and me.
My husband plays guitar, bass, and drums. I sing (all the time). We play lots of cds from different genres. Peter is quite adept at banging on our piano. :-) Not sure yet what we'll do to spark an interest in theater or visual arts, aside from providing props and art supplies.
My husband playing guitar in college.

to love reading. "The more that you read, the more that you'll know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go!" Dr. Seuss So many opportunities open to one who loves to read.
We read to him every day, read on our own during our leisure time, and provide Peter with a bookshelf at his level that he can access whenever he wants. 
Not quite reading yet

to value diversity. We interact with so many people throughout our lives, with different cultures, classes, and ideologies. I want him to be comfortable around those with whom he has little in common. Basically, I want him to be like my Aunt Marty. She can mingle effortlessly with the social elite, but also host a party where no one feels inferior -- the door is open and the beer is cold. :-) (I aspire to be the kind of hostess she is.)
Not sure how to best do this. We're teaching him German and ASL, so that he might learn something of those cultures, but I don't think that's enough. Any suggestions?
Our friend Nicolai, from Germany. He has helped a lot as I learn German!

Really, my hopes for Peter as he grows are quite similar to the prayer I repeated so often throughout my pregnancy: "Lord, may this baby be holy, happy, and healthy."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How to Travel with Cloth Diapers

When Peter was three weeks old, we drove 3000 miles in five days. Being new parents who had been told it is impractical and gross to travel with cloth diapers, we bought a pack of disposables. By the end of the first day, we vowed we would never again travel with a baby without cloth diapers! Peter was leaking left, right, and center.* We bought a smaller size and a "better" brand. Still leaked. The number of disposable wipes needed to clean one tiny bottom was rather astounding. And in our travels with cloth, nothing has compared to the STINK of wet disposables.

Since that trip, Peter has been to various areas in New York, to Boston, and made two trips to Iowa. We've driven every trip and used cloth diapers. So how does it work? Here's my strategy:

Monday, May 23, 2011


1750 miles in five days. Grandpa's funeral. My husband wasn't with us (as the funeral for his grandfather was also this past weekend). During my stretch of driving today, we traveled ten miles in two hours.

I am exhausted.

Tomorrow I'll be more verbose. And tell you how awesome it is to travel with cloth diapers!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Too many compliments

We took Peter for a well-child visit recently. At his six month check-up, his weight was 5%ile, height was 9%ile, and head circumference was 66%ile. At this check-up, the spread has gotten worse: 2%ile weight, 15%ile height, and 86%ile head circumference! The only thing I can figure is that too many compliments are making his head swell. :-)

On the topic of check-ups, I want to say that our pediatrician is awesome. She was willing to wait 20 minutes once to give him a shot so I could be there to nurse him as soon as it was done. She has not once pressured us to feed him solids, to supplement nursing, or to use commercial baby food or fortified cereals. The office has a lactation consultant on staff. Their website includes "Raising Baby Green" on their recommended book list. Even though these last set of growth statistics were highly unusual, our doctor, once checking for any developmental delays, encouraged us to continue raising Peter as we see fit. I wish all parents could find doctors who empowered them as ours has.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Church Behavior

As I've mentioned before, Peter is a very good-natured baby. He rarely misbehaves when we're in public, saving his crying jags for when he is over-tired and Mommy is trying to get him to sleep. He usually is content throughout Mass, squeaking now and then and being a bit squirmy, but certainly appropriate behavior for his age.

Here's my concern: When is that behavior no longer appropriate for his age?

At this time, I don't try to make him pay attention to anything other than the elevation of the host and cup during the Eucharist. If he wants to stand up in the pew and play with the people behind us (who dote on him), he can do that. I try to keep him quiet and contained, but not much else.

Is there an age when people will expect him to focus more? Is there an age when I should expect him to focus more? Or is this one of those things that varies from one child to another?

Photos of Irish churches, for your viewing pleasure. I took these in 2005, while studying at NUI Galway for a semester.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

Galway Cathedral
(formally named The Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St. Nicholas)

Christ's Church, Dublin

St. Paul's Cathedral, Limerick

Old St. Peter's Church, Inis Mór
(very old)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vegetable Garden: First Plants, First Mud

Peas and new rock path

Red bell peppers

Tomato plants. We'll see how they do without full sun.

Marigolds, the new gate, and our friendly plastic owl.

Onions in back, romaine lettuce closer

Peter's first time playing in dirt

"Drinking" water to get the mud out of his mouth. Sigh.

Somebody needs a bath tonight!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Pencil in an iPad World

I guess I am more atypical than I thought.

A former co-worker came over last week, bringing her 16 month-old son for a play-date with Peter. We had a good time and the boys seemed happy as well. She was surprised to learn that we use cloth diapers, but let it go with just a comment that she could not imagine doing that.

When we were having lunch, she noticed my husband putting his orange peels in a big mug next to our sink. "What do you do with the orange peels?" "Oh, we take them down to the compost pile at the end of the day." She looked at me like I must be kidding, then managed not to let her jaw drop when she saw I was serious. As she was cleaning up her son's lunch, she asked diffidently, "Do you have a garbage can?"

I told my husband later that I took pity on her and just pointed it out, rather than respond, "Yeah, but just leave the yogurt cup in the sink. I'll wash it out and take it with me on our next trip to Boston. See, there's this company that recycles #5 containers and they have collection bins in supermarkets near where my brother lives out there." For the record, I retrieved the container after she left.

She didn't even see the clothesline.

(The fence is not usually there...)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Natural Family Planning for non-Christians

Five reasons to use Natural Family Planning, even if you're not Christian!

1. It's natural (as the name suggests). No hormones, no undesired side effects, no sticking who-knows-what into yourself. Nothing to throw away. No possibility of allergens. Green living at its best!

2. It's empowering. As you learn to track your own fertility signs, you learn the rhythms of your body. You understand what is happening with your hormones and how it affects you physically and mentally. You are not the victim of some unfathomable cycle, but the witness to how awesomely your body works!

3. It's effective. When used correctly, the Sympto Thermal Method has been found to be over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. (I will throw in here that, as a Catholic, I believe pregnancy should only be avoided in grave situations, but that is ultimately between you and God.)

4. It's healthy. As you learn the rhythms of your body, you become more able to spot abnormalities. You know what should be happening and can give accurate data to your health care provider when something seems wrong.

5. It's free. Once you spring for a digital thermometer (ours was $7, I think), there is nothing else to buy! No prescriptions, no condoms, and no special NFP materials needed. There are charts you can print for free or you can use an online charting tool. Some websites will say to buy a special Basal Body Temp (BBT) thermometer, but as long as you have a digital one that gives tenths of a degree (e.g. 98.6), you're fine.

The Other Vocations

I wrote an article about vocations to singleness and religious life and how those are perceived in American culture today. It bothers me that Christians, especially female Christians, are raised to think that everyone should get married and raise mini Christians. This mindset is less prevalent among Catholics, since the Church encourages youth to consider their vocation, but it still exists. Read more here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I love the Public Market

We went to the public market today, which we haven't done since the fall. When we are away for so long, I forget how awesome it is! I love to be in the midst of so many people and see the mix of cultures, ages, languages, foods... it is wonderful. (I'm introverted, not isolationist. I like to be around people, I just don't want to have to socialize!) We got some good gardening advice from the vendors who sold us the plants and Peter garnered lots of smiles from his perch in the backpack carrier I was wearing.

Ladies Buying Vegetables
Image by Prato9x via Flickr

We bought a number of seedlings for our garden: Jetstar tomatoes, red onions, climbing green beans, red bell peppers, romaine lettuce, and a few flats of marigolds. I am so excited to actually get them in the ground! The high for the next two days is forecast to be in the 50s, though, with a LOT of rain, so I might nurture them inside for a bit before we plant them. We also bought some muenster cheese and fresh haddock, just because they are delicious.

We saw a lot of families with small children at the Market. I don't know how I'll handle it once Peter outgrows his carrier. I would love for him to experience the diversity of the Market and meet the people who grow his food, but it is very crowded. Have you ever left a stadium at the end of the game, when the crowd dictates where you will go? It's that crowded. If you see something interesting on the other side of the aisle, you almost need a traffic signal to get over there! I imagine it would be very stressful to keep track of a little one who wanted to see and touch everything. There were parents with strollers and wagons, but they were even more at the mercy of the crowd than I was. Certainly something to consider as Peter gets bigger.

On an unrelated but exciting note: Peter signed "fan" and "more" today! Hooray! First signs!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Looking for Friends

Peter had his first library Story Time yesterday. I was very disappointed. It was scheduled to run from 10:30 to 11:00 and was to include a few short books and a number of songs and nursery rhymes. It lasted about 12 minutes, which was actually a relief. The lady leading the group cannot carry a tune in a bucket and has no sense of rhythm. I wonder if she had ever heard these nursery rhymes before.

I enrolled Peter in this group last week and have been looking forward to it since then. I wanted to give him an opportunity to interact with other kids and hoped to meet some other moms who don't work during the day. As we left the library, I was reminded of my first day of classes at college. I had expected social interaction, but instead everyone filed in, sat through the class, and filed out again. No one was unfriendly or exclusionary, but I didn't even learn the names of any other parents.

Part of the problem is that, as previously mentioned, I am exceedingly introverted by nature. I have no idea how to start a friendship based on our kids. There was another little boy at Story Time who is not even two months older than Peter (I heard his mom tell someone else his age). I think they would enjoy each other's company. But I feel so uncomfortable introducing myself and it would be rather odd to say, "Hi, can our kids play together some time?"

I realize that I have to overcome my discomfort in order to give Peter social opportunities. As much as my husband and I love him, we are not peers. When we got home, I looked for some playgroups on MeetUp, but the only ones accepting members emphasized how they want to build a close community of parents and foster lasting friendships. That's not actually what I want. I just want someone who might meet me at the park so our kids learn how to play with each other. Maybe I'll start my own -- "Moms who love their kids but don't want new friends." What do you think? :-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Grandpa

My Grandpa died this evening after a long, full life. I will miss him. In fact, I already do.
Tomorrow, in honor of the man who always had them for me in his car, 
I may just go buy some lemon drops.

Showing me the view from the rotating restaurant,
 most likely pointing out interesting landforms and architecture.

Posing with me and Marie at a look-out point in Arizona.
I am looking quite stylish with my orthodontic headgear.

May Angels lead you into Paradise;
May the Martyrs receive you at your coming
and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Just a moment

A hug when it was most needed.
A thought from a literature lesson.
A confession of fear from a role model.
A promise of perfect days to come.

You never know when your life will intersect with another's in just the right way to create a life-long memory out of a moment.

A hug.
My Grandpa died, suddenly and violently, when I was two months into middle school. You remember middle school, when rumor mills were a way of life and no friendship was guaranteed to last a week? Grandpa's death hit the local headlines, so when I came to school I got looks that ranged from concerned to morbidly curious. It felt like the hallway got silent and everyone stared, although I know that wasn't true. Then Megan appeared. Megan, who had been my best friend in elementary school, but who was drifting away as she became popular and I, um, didn't. She gave me a hug that simultaneously reassured me that we were still friends and fended off the rumor vultures. A hug when it was most needed.

A thought.
Mr. Haugh had a dry sense of humor and sarcasm that could be used to induce just the right amount of humility (but never humiliation) in the high school students he taught. He'd been around the block and seen it all. When he spoke, I listened. Something he said as we analyzed a short story stood out to me as important, so I jotted it in my notebook. I've long since forgotten the title of the story and many other things from class, but this remains. "The path of the hero, whether in life or in literature, is not to be perfect, but to be perfectly you." A thought from a literature lesson.

A confession.
I loved high school and had no desire to graduate, to leave home, or become more independent. A few weeks before Freshman Orientation, I called my "adopted big brother" who was two years ahead of me in school, ostensibly to get information about college life. He asked how I felt and it came pouring out. My fears and belief that everyone else was excited, my conviction that something was wrong with me. He suggested that, like me, others were scared but not saying anything about it. I was not convinced. "You weren't scared." "Yes, I was. I was terrified." Somehow, that made everything easier to bear. If even Chris had been scared, then surely it was alright. Life would go on and I would survive. A confession from a role model.

A promise.
Dr. Cylke was not my assigned advisor. In fact, he wasn't even in my department. But he was the best advisor I had, in everything from editing papers to social justice to sleep habits (don't pull an all-nighter when the due date is flexible). Conversations during office hours encompassed all aspects of life. On a visit like any other, he asked how my weekend had gone. I detailed the fun I'd had and concluded with, "It was great. Not perfect, but no day is perfect." "You haven't had a perfect day?" "No..." "Just wait. They happen. Some day you will get to the end of it and realize that it has been absolutely perfect." He was right. A promise of perfect days to come.
One of my brothers, enjoying a perfect day.

Many thanks to these four and so many others who have touched my life at just the right time. I pray that I may go and do likewise.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Don't Let the Pigeon Buy Another Book

I was given a choice of Mother's Day presents: a box of Smidgens or any Mo Willems book. Last year, the baby apparently expressed wishes in utero to buy me Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog. I love the Pigeon books and now own three of them. I think Mo Willems is hilarious. I also love dark chocolate and Gertrude Hawk makes some of the best I've experienced. (Yes, it is an experience, not merely a taste.) How to decide?! And actually, my husband was willing to get me both if I was willing to approve a bigger gift expenditure than usual. :-)

After much debate, I chose the chocolate. If we want to keep our book collection under control, I can't buy every book I  want. Surely three Pigeon books is enough for any household. Right? Right. And I'm saving shelf space for Sun in Glory, which I'm getting on my next trip to the book store. Shh.

Ultimately, though, my favorite present is the happy little boy who calls me Mama (or Dada or Nana...)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Vegetable Garden: Digging It

You probably thought this garden was never going to make it past the Planning stage. Surprise! We now have about 280 square feet of fenced dirt that is relatively plant- and stone-free. I realize we have a long way to go before eating tomatoes, but it is a good start. Many thanks to my parents and in-laws for helping prepare the area and keeping Peter entertained while we worked! Check out this post for a picture of the mess of stone and ground cover that used to be this patch of land.

Enjoy the day of rest!

Friday, May 6, 2011

How to change the world, one campus at a time

Written for the "Rally to Restore Unity" being hosted by Rachel Held Evans.

I was raised in the Catholic Church by my Catholic mother and Protestant father. I attended Catholic and Presbyterian youth groups throughout high school. My best friend is Presbyterian. Although I had often needed to explain my beliefs to my Protestant friends, I had never been judged or rejected for them. Then I went to college. I was a member of two Christian groups, one Catholic and one that purportedly welcomed Christians from all denominations. The animosity between the groups was alarming.

I met Catholics who couldn't (or wouldn't) believe that they could learn anything from Protestants. The Catholics seemed to turn up their noses, deeming that anything outside of the Church was unimportant at best and actively harmful to one's faith at worst.

The Protestants I met fell largely into three camps: 1) You're Catholic? HEATHEN. Outcast. 2) You're Catholic? I will establish a 'relationship' with you in order to convert you to the true faith. 3) Hi! Let's be friends! Oh -- you're Catholic? That's weird, you seem normal to me. Maybe I had misconceptions about Catholicism, can you clarify those for me?

Sadly, the third group was the extreme minority. They were mostly other freshmen, looking for friends. I have stories and more stories about being judged and shunned by the first group and fewer, but in some ways sadder, stories from the second group about friendships that dried up when I remained Catholic despite their best efforts. It was heartbreaking.

But things got better. LOTS better.
Senior year: 2 Catholics, 4 Protestants, all friends.
(and we all went to events from both groups!)
The Catholic group got a new campus minister, one determined that all should be welcome, whether they come as a skeptic, one seeking answers, or a fervent believer. He turned the place upside down. It was amazing. (Not that the former leader had been prejudiced or exclusive, but outreach simply hadn't been her top priority. She was great in other areas, though!) As non-Catholics became more common at our activities, the Catholics loosened up and realized they could learn a great deal about themselves and Scripture by talking with someone who had a different background.

As for the nondenominational group? It was sort of a grassroots movement. The classmates I met as freshmen started taking over leadership roles as we got older. They led Bible studies, worship music, and prayer groups. And when Catholic-bashing started, they would say, "Liana is Catholic, and she's not like that." Or they would listen to the concerns and later ask me to explain so they could share the information.

By my senior year, Catholic-bashing was usually a sign of an ignorant freshman. I attribute this change to my friends. They were willing to question what they had been taught about Catholics. They wanted accurate information. When we disagreed, they could say, "I still don't think that's right, but at least I understand why you do." They cared about our friendship.

It's not about persuading everyone to believe as you do, nor is it about hiding or changing what you believe to blend in or make others comfortable. Christian unity is looking for answers instead of being complacent in ignorance. It's caring more about the person than where she goes to church. It is being a member of the Body of Christ.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Our Marriage Prayer

I recently found this document again when looking through old files. It is a copy of the prayer my husband and I said at our wedding. I wrote the part in italics, my husband wrote the plain text, and we collaborated on the part in bold. We read our parts aloud, concluding in unison. When we got to the part in unison, my twin three-year-old cousins jumped to their feet and began the Pledge of Allegiance -- that's what people say when they speak in unison, right? :-)

My husband and my twin cousins (flower girl and ring bearer).
Photo credit: Eric Brophy, photobloke.smugmug.com
Today I am one step closer to being whom you want me to be. Today I give myself to my husband and receive him in return, answering the call you have given me. Thank you for leading me through my life this far, giving me wisdom and understanding to hear you and a loving family and community to support me when I fall. I ask that you continue to increase in me the faith you put there from the beginning, that which you have been strengthening throughout my life.

Thank you for the many, incredible blessings I've had in my life - for my family and for my friends. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to gather in front of so many of them today to profess my love for and pledge my life to Liana. Please continue to bless me and help me to continually seek to be closer to you.

As I begin this journey of marriage, I ask your guidance and blessings for me. I pray for humility to acknowledge my own faults, to admit that I am wrong, and to let go of my stubbornness. When my pride takes over and I am convinced I know it all, I pray for at least enough self-control not to say it out loud.

I ask that you help me to have the grace to recognize my shortcomings and the strength to try and change them. That I won't rationalize away my problems and deny the ways you're calling me to follow you more closely.

I pray that my relationship with you is reflected in my relationship with [my husband]. I want to be his soul mate, to grow in love with him, to experience and live out the kindness and gentleness you give us.  Help me to be a source of inspiration to him, comfort when he is struggling, strength when he is failing, co-celebrant in the joys of life.

Please help me to show Liana even a fraction of the love that you've given to me. Help me to be what she needs and what she wants for the rest of our lives together. I pray that every embrace may be as magical as our first and that just seeing her always fills me with as much joy as it does today. Please help me to love her more perfectly as my wife and my best friend each day.

If you bless us with children, we pray that our love can model for them the goodness of God. We ask that we can raise them to have personal knowledge of you and to love you above all else.

Give us courage as we face our new life together. Help us to grow in knowledge of you and of each other. When tough times happen, send us good counsel from those who love us, from each other, and from our own hearts. Fill our home with peace and love that we may always be an example to others of your love for us. Finally, we ask that we may grow old together, developing an ever deeper love for each other and for you. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Help Wanted: Neurotic Mommy seeks Perspective

I was reading a few parenting books last night. Bad decision. Now I feel like a neglectful mommy. Apparently, Peter should be learning to shake his head no and follow simple directions, like pointing to his tummy or his feet. He's not.

I have no reason to think he is delayed, but he can't do these things. Why? Because we don't do them. We rarely gesture aside from the few ASL signs we use with him (book, more, nurse, eat, done, dance, want, ball). I haven't been teaching him body parts. I feel silly being concerned about this; he is not even ten months old!

But, like most mommies, I want only the best for him. As a stay-at-home mom, I feel like I should have oodles of time to devote to teaching him through music and books and play. All my insecurities now focus on my mothering abilities.

This morning, he played independently for about 20 minutes with a set of stacking cups he hadn't seen until today. And I wondered, is it because they were new? Should I be rotating his toys (all of which fit in 2 cubic feet, minus stuffed animals and the exersaucer)? Is he learning enough from his play time?

Educationally starved boy, with most of his toy collection emptied onto the floor.
He can say Mama, Dada, and occasionally Papa (my dad) with meaning, and I think he used "Hi" intentionally at church last week. No German or ASL yet.

How do you keep from becoming a neurotic mommy?! (And any recommendations for good parenting books?)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dancing with the Barnacle

Peter has been sick for about a week now. Nothing serious, just a cold that leaves him with a runny nose and a need to be less than three inches from Mommy at all times.
Yep, that's about how close we've been.

In addition to his desire to be a barnacle, he also wants to be entertained. It is not enough to sit and read a story or rock in the rocking chair. He wants action. So we have been listening to Disney music and dancing all around the house. Since we leave our picture window curtains wide open, I wonder what my neighbors think if they see us twirling around, Peter either in his Moby wrap or just being held. Hopefully we make them smile.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The death of Osama bin Laden

My husband told me last night, "They killed bin Laden. I just got a text message about it." Today, I have read Facebook messages filled with national pride and general good cheer. Personally, I feel a little sick.

I agree that Osama bin Laden has perpetrated and been responsible for much evil in the world. I understand that it is unwise and irresponsible to allow him to continue leading al-Qaida. I hope that the world is a safer place today than it was yesterday. Ultimately, I leave his soul in the hands of God for reckoning.

But I cannot celebrate this. How do you celebrate that the world has come to such a state that the only way to improve society is to kill? How do you celebrate the death of a human being? Is it better for one to die than for the people to perish? Yes, objectively, but I would not wish on anyone the horror of making the decision to kill.

I understand feelings of relief. I understand that people who lost loved ones to acts of terror and war might find closure in this. I do not condemn or judge those who celebrate, but I cannot sympathize.

"God bless us, every one."