Thursday, June 30, 2011

ERGObaby Carrier Giveaway!

Genevieve at Uniquely Normal Mom has a great review of the ERGObaby carriers AND is doing a giveaway!

(C'mon, you didn't think I was doing a giveaway, did you? I mean, I value my readers, but I'm afraid most companies don't want to invest in a market this small.)

I am torn about entering the giveaway by writing a post about it. On the one hand, I get five entries for this. However, if more than five of you decide to go enter yourselves, I think I'd be cancelling out my own entries. The complexities of life.

Anyway, I would love to win this. Peter is getting to the point where it's uncomfortable to wear him in the Snuggli for more than 15 minutes or so. The Moby Wrap is still comfortable, but I'm not crazy about wearing him on my back with it and he is less comfortable to wear on my front now that he is a whopping 17 pounds! (Yes, almost a year old and roughly 17 pounds. Love my tiny baby!)

I do have a pretty awesome Chicco SmartSupport backpack carrier that I got from my aunt when Peter was born. It is fantastic to use for walks, going to the public market, camping, the mall... any time where its primary function is transportation. However, if I want to wear him because he is in a cuddly mood and will NOT tolerate being put down, the framed carrier doesn't work so well.

He does like to sleep in it, though, so that's a plus!

I'm fairly certain I won't win the giveaway, but anything is possible! Now, go check it out yourself. But do me a favor and don't enter. ;-)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Snaps

I can use a spoon!

Splashing in 1 inch of water

I love cameras! Can I have it? Please Mommy?

I have ninja skills.
But I'm a peaceful baby at heart.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sun Tea Risks, Myths, and Advice

I promised my mom I would look into the risks and benefits of sun tea. When I searched for information on the possible presence of bacteria in sun tea, I found a Snopes article that has done all my work for me. Or had it? The article asserts that the Center for Disease Control has found harmful bacteria (Alcaligenes viscolactis) in sun tea. If you go to the CDC website and search for that bacteria, though, you get no results. "Sun tea" brings one result, a manual for interviewers who are tracking people's food consumption. There is nothing about bacteria in the manual. An article from Colorado State University Extension (published in Winter/Spring 1999) supports these claims, based on a 1996 study... The data are getting less compelling.

Conclusion: Don't drink sun tea if it has been out for more than 24 hours or has gross stuff floating in it. Otherwise, enjoy!
This is not sun tea.
But it is my hot chocolate with a dancing girl on it.

Next I set out to discover if sun tea has the same health benefits as traditionally brewed tea. WebMD details the multiple health benefits of drinking tea and concludes with a recipe for sun tea, which suggests it is just as good (although they caution that it is diluted). There was one article saying that sun tea does not get hot enough to release polyphenols, but it didn't cite any sources.

Conclusion: Sun tea is probably just as good as regular tea, but you have to drink more of it.

Got it? Lots of tea, no gross stuff, and you're all set for this summer. :-)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Best Salad of my Life

We have our first little green tomatoes and first pea pod visible! The pepper plants are flowering, the lettuce continues to thrive, the onions are maintaining the status quo and the cucumbers... well, they're not dead.

Pictures courtesy of my neighbor

Unfortunately, the weeds are still thriving, too. Thankfully, they are mostly clover, which is extremely easy to uproot as long as I keep the soil moist. I got about a quarter of the garden weeded this morning, while Peter cheered me on from the other side of the fence.

Still fighting a minor diaper rash
We have had a lot of success with our romaine lettuce. In fact, I used it in the salad I made for my Godfather's birthday! I topped it with mulberries from our neighbors' tree and feta cheese. The combination of the strong almost-bitter lettuce flavor, faint sweetness of the berries, and salty cheese was absolutely amazing. I feel very accomplished. I didn't even need to add dressing!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Equality, not Homogeneity

To finish this series, a guest post by my husband!

When I was in early elementary school, I had to write an essay about a person I knew who I admired as an assignment. I picked Sam, who was dating my grandmother at the time. I wrote about how much fun I had when we went out to visit them, about the things we did together (we'd play ping pong and pool), about his awesome Sicilian cooking, about watching him play tennis, etc. I showed it to my Mom, who told me that I should change it, because I hadn't mentioned that Sam was permanently wheelchair-bound. She explained to me that it's OK to point out people's differences if you're doing it in a positive manner.

I still remember this specific conversation nearly two decades later because I was absolutely confounded by this; I'd always been taught not to mention people's differences, and certainly not if they were handicaps.

This is the culture in which we live, and I believe it's this kind of thinking that has negatively impacted gender relations in many of the ways my wife has been writing about this week. The truth is, men and women are different in many significant ways. I'm not talking about stereotypes here - there has been plenty of credible scientific research on the ways in which brain function differs between the sexes. The feminist movement has certainly raised awareness of many issues that needed to be addressed, and many others that remain embarrassingly unsolved. However, it also seems that there's been a rise in the idea that all people are equally suited to all tasks. Aside from the general ludicriosity of that suggestion (I could never be an NFL quarterback any more than Tom Brady could ever do my job), this also minimizes the differences we should be celebrating.

Tom Brady
"Just thinking about writing error codes for a living makes me sad."

I've heard lamenting among various ethnic groups about the loss of traditions in favor of the homogenized American culture. A fair point, to be sure. I also see this happening in terms of gender roles, but I don't hear the same wistful concern there. This may in part be due to the association of these roles with the oppression of women, but all cultures (including American) have their dark spots that people would prefer to overlook. Why can't we do the same with gender roles?

For the first 6 months of our son's life, I telecommuted full-time. Since then, I've worked at home 3 days a week, so I'm around most of the time. Since I had a flexible schedule, we took turns taking care of Peter (and I did most non-nursing tasks for the first few weeks). When he is upset, he almost always wants to go to my wife if we're both around. When he wants to play, he almost always wants to go to me if we're both around. I know this is anecdotal, but the point remains that this isn't some kind of learned cultural behavior. It's not even necessarily about nursing (sometimes she'll take him and do the exact same thing I was doing and he'll calm down). There must be something to that.

Peter is still mad that I haven't gotten him Halo: Reach yet.
(He had this headset on exactly long enough to take the picture.
No developing brains were harmed in the production of this image.)
During the rise of the Creative Commons license and other open source-type legal matters, there was some confusion in the general public as to what "free" software meant. In order to differentiate between the cost of the programs and the restrictions on their use, one software developer began describing them as "free as in free speech, not as in free beer". I submit that we, as a culture, should look on gender equality the same way. Equal as in equal rights, not equal as in identical. That way, we can all work toward our strengths as men and women, helping us better achieve our potential as people.

Jeremy is married to CatholicMommy. They have had a child for exactly the same amount of time, though she has written more about the experience than he has. He is good at math but bad at spacial reasoning, unless it's Tetris. He has a blog too, but is not sure you'll want to read it, unless you like gaming and politics to go with your natural parenting reading.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Christian Gender Gap

During this past week, we've been praying for the fruits of the Spirit to be manifest in our son.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
The fruits of the Spirit are a call to holiness, evidence of a life lived for God. These fruits are exhibited differently in each of us,  for we are indeed many parts of one Body, but life in the Spirit will produce fruit in all who believe.

If you've been reading my blog this week, you may be thinking, "Don't tell me you're going to make this a gender issue, too!" Yes. Yes, I am. :-)

If you look around your church, I am almost certain that you will see more women than men. For one reason or another, Christian churches, especially the Catholic Church, are failing to keep men involved. How did faith become a gender issue? I don't know what caused the problem, but I do know part of the solution: prayer. If societal or darker forces are at work to pull my son away from Christ, intercessory prayer is one of my primary responsibilities as a parent. This is why my husband and I committed to the 21 Days of Prayer for our son, which hopefully will be a springboard into regular prayer habits.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Boys will be boys!

My husband has learned he can't tease me about making him do something or getting rid of his stuff. I know that he is teasing (because I don't actually do those types of things), but I jump to the defensive because I do NOT want to contribute to the stereotype that guys get married because they need someone to take care of them. He is not a big kid who needs me to cook for him and schedule his appointments. (He does both of those chores in our home, anyway.) Boys may be boys, but men should not be boys.

In general, men are no longer expected to be mature, responsible adults who provide for and protect their families. Outside of their professional lives, men are supposed to be interested in beer and sports, feel indifferent about their wives except as sex partners, and be clueless about their kids. (At Working to Beat Hell, Fr. Brian provides a thorough look at the role of fathers in our society now and how this affects our relationship with God.)

Consider the following situation: A woman has been invited out to lunch with her friends. Her husband had planned to watch 'the game' with his friends. If she takes their children with her, she is either being really nice or doesn't trust him alone with the kids. If he takes the children, clearly he is 'whipped'.

While women mock and criticize men, most also want men to be chivalrous. How are men supposed to do this if they are constantly undermined by the women they hope to please? If men never have the opportunity to lead, to show respect, and to take responsibility, they will not develop into responsible, respectful, family leaders. (See more on The Flip-Side of Chivalry at God's Spies.) A man cannot be a loving husband, caring father, and simultaneously spend all of his time in a sports bar.

My dear husband, who is also a pretty awesome dad!

So, boys will be boys. Can we make this an expectation instead of an excuse? Rather than smiling indulgently at boys who destroy their things, talk back, pick fights, 'check out' girls, and run wild, maybe we can ask for more. We can teach our sons how to value themselves, express their thoughts clearly, defend those who need it, treat women with respect, and submit to lawful authority. Some day these boys will be adults. I pray that we parents will have equipped them to be men.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sex, Love, and Marriage

The one arena in which gender differences are encouraged is romance. Whether courtship or dating, men and women are not looking for a no-nonsense business partner when they enter a relationship. If society looks down on traditional feminine values (graciousness, maturity, competence, modesty), what qualities have taken their place?

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in this case I'll skip the image to keep this family-friendly. The sad truth is that many women choose to display their bodies, as if breasts and a trim figure are what being a woman is all about. College break photos show young women, in scarcely more clothing than is legally required, in provocative poses. High school proms feature dresses cut to accentuate cleavage. Eight-year-old girls wear tight pants with words printed across their butts.

For all of our talk about the inside being more important than the outside, it's what's outside that is valued. This is why sex appeal sells everything from food to cars to music and more. Society applauds women who bare all to show they are comfortable with their bodies and proud to be female. Those girls in string bikinis on college break? I knew some of them. They also drank to excess, had multiple sexual partners, and failed to get adequate sleep or nutrition. They were tearing themselves apart and never really happy.

Physical attraction is important in a marriage, no doubt about it. But if a woman is only valued as a potential sexual partner, her relationships are not likely to be very fulfilling. She will not be encouraged to live as a whole person. Marriage is the gift of oneself to the other; one who sees his or her partner as an object for sexual pleasure is incapable of giving or receiving that gift.

Fun Fact: My dress was a clearance prom dress for $84!
Photo credit: Eric Brophy,

I'm not advocating for the nebulous "good old days". I don't think there has been a time when women had equal freedom with men and were encouraged to embrace femininity. (Except, you know, the Garden of Eden.) I am advocating for thoughtful consideration of gender roles in our society. Can we make a culture where men and women live out complementary lives with mutual respect? The balance may be a difficult one to find, but I believe it is worth the effort.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Women in Skirts

When I finished my school psychology internship, I found myself competing for a job opening against only one other applicant: the male intern from my district. I knew him fairly well (we'd had the same mentor), so when I interviewed, I played up the strengths I had that he didn't: I love young children, I've done elementary school counseling, I am spontaneous and creative. He got the job, but I wasn't disappointed. If they wanted him for the job (a very responsible, organized, data-driven, compassionate man), I wouldn't have done well anyway. Sometimes a skirt just isn't the right fit and that is OK.

I wear a long skirt a few days a week and would probably wear them more often if I owned more casual ones. Long skirts are comfortable, flattering, and generally practical (except for bike riding). They are feminine and often quite pretty, even those designed for casual wear. So why do most women reserve skirts for formal occasions?

Quicksilver to Gold suggests that women avoid skirts because they want to conform to a gender neutral society. I think that is true in many cases. I know I avoided skirts in high school (and beyond) because I felt stupid in them. I didn't want to walk, sit, and look girly. I was proud of being an athlete and a good student. I did not want to be considered feminine, which I equated with weakness and playing dumb to attract attention. The message I heard from society, whether intended or not, was that to excel physically or intellectually I must abandon femininity.

My usual look in high school
(for the record, Molly was the sweetest dog of all time)

What I find particularly sad about teenage me, looking back, is that I went to a Catholic high school. Even if culture was pressuring me to choose between my femininity and my abilities, my school should have explicitly taught otherwise. Ms. Zynda was one teacher who did. She was pursuing her doctorate of theology and wore skirts. She followed our athletic teams and taught our class about chivalry. She gave and demanded respect. She did not mock, curse, or use bodily humor. She challenged us to think more deeply about our faith. She was a lady and a scholar. But she was just one woman. I'm afraid her example did not inspire me as much at the time as it has in retrospect.

Wearing a skirt does not make one a lady, nor does being a lady require a skirt. However, as skirts are a visible sign of femininity, I find their denigration in our society to be worrisome. Women and men are different. Generally speaking, they have different strengths and weaknesses, different aptitudes. If women think they need to decry anything feminine, they handicap themselves. Feminism, which gave women the freedom to wear pants, was supposed to promote women and bring them to their rightful place, equal with men. Sadly, it seems to have backfired.

The skirt is a symbol. Yes, I am feminine. I have been created by God as female, with all the blessings and challenges that entails. I am strong enough to birth a child. I am gentle enough to soothe an infant. I am silly enough to bring laughter to those around me. I am intelligent enough to study Scripture. I am motivated enough to change the world. I am emotional enough to sympathize with pain. I am also wearing a skirt.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen

This post is the first in a series (of indeterminate length) looking at gender roles through the lenses of Christianity and society. This topic has been on my mind a lot recently without any clear conclusions. I will be using this series to sort out my own thoughts while hopefully providing some insights for you to ponder as well.

My husband and I recently received an email from church with a link to Into The Wild Weekend. This program is coming to a location near us in the fall, so our pastoral associate shared the information with my husband. If you imagine a Catholic manly man, this program is for him. It includes "Fishing, Spearing, Food & Wild Game Preparation, Altar Building, Outdoor Church Building & Preparation." Seriously. The weekend also includes daily Mass, Rosary walks, and ample opportunities for hiking and using the archery range.


At first glance, I thought this was funny. As I think about it more, though, I find my initial reaction to be rather sad. Why shouldn't men have an opportunity for male fellowship, doing activities that interest and challenge them? If women gain a sense of community and accomplishment through feminine activities (potluck suppers, knitting clubs), why is it silly to give men a similar opportunity?

Little House on the Prairie The Musical

This will be the theme of the series: God created us male and female, distinct genders with different strengths, so that we may complement each other. Our culture, however, pushes for homogeneity. Women who wear long skirts, raise children, and work as a homemaker are old-fashioned. Men who hunt to eat (rather than for sport), do manual labor, and feel protective of their families are laughable stereotypes. Gender roles are seen as oppressive, relics of the time before feminism. At the same time, language becomes more coarse, dress codes become lax, and sex appeal is used to sell everything. Are these related? I think so. Join me this week (and maybe longer) as I explore these topics.

Images via Flickr

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Photo and Drawing Summary of Our Day

Today was a beautiful day, sunny with a high around 80F. This morning, my Dad came over and had French toast with us (the only interesting breakfast I make) and played with Peter until morning nap time.
Sunshine! In upstate New York!

When Peter woke, we went over to church for their annual "New to You Sale" and picked up some inexpensive presents, some original edition Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, and two watermelon pocket diapers by Starbunz. The diapers (w/o inserts) were .50 each. Seriously.
They're even adjustable.

We bought lunch at church to support the youth group and Peter successfully drank from a regular water bottle for the first time!
Only a few drops spilled. I was very impressed.

We visited my brother and his family, taking Peter for a swim in their pool. He loved it and was upset when we took him out, even though he was starting to shiver by that point.
Sad boy with cold, purple lips.

He fell asleep on the way home. My husband and I had some quality time together while Peter slept, then tackled our list of chores for the day.

We weeded and mulched the garden, which is doing well except for the cucumber plants. It appears that at most two out of five will live. Also, I got a few loads of laundry done and hung them to dry. Clean laundry smells so good!
Poor cucumber plants.

The three of us ate mulberries from our neighbors' tree and more of our own lettuce with dinner, feeling very healthy. :-) Dinner was salmon and rice. Weirdly, some of the grains were overcooked while others were still crunchy. Any ideas?
A rather confused me.

We put Peter to bed (bath, stories, prayer, nursing), then I gave my husband a haircut. If he didn't care about my opinion, he would shave his head and have a goatee. I like him to have at least a little hair and be clean-shaven. For Father's Day, though, I said he could have his goatee. :-)
His preferred look, from college days

Friday, June 17, 2011

Asking for a Saint

We have been praying Warrior Prayers for our son for ten days now. Well, nine. We missed a day last weekend, so we prayed those Scripture passages the next day. I asked my husband last night if he thought we were praying for the impossible, or at least the improbable. A son who lives out the virtues of obedience, submission to authority, integrity, purity, humility, wisdom, servitude, and honor? And we're not even to the halfway point of our prayers! Aren't we basically praying that God will make Peter a saint?

"Well, saints have to come from somewhere."

The feelings of unworthiness rush in. I am not a good enough mom to raise a saint. Despite hazy good intentions, I don't get to Mass every day. My prayer life is weak. I fall asleep when I say my Rosary. I am prideful, get angry, and avoid responsibility. How can I possibly aspire to be like St. Monica, St. Elizabeth, or St. Bridget of Sweden?
Peter dressed as his namesake, the first pope, for All Saints Day

But of course I'm not good enough. That's why we're praying, after all. We pray for Peter because we know we cannot be good enough parents to create in him a clean heart. We do the best we can in our brokenness and then intercede for him, asking God to fill in the places we mess up.

And while I'm at it, I ask God to renew a right spirit within me.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why I Read Blogs

I am "following" about 50 blogs through Blogger, get a few delivered to my inbox daily, and read updates on Facebook from a handful more. I probably spend an hour each day reading posts that catch my interest, maybe more. Why? I've never met these people and probably never will. The blogs I read generally fall into three categories.

These blogs are usually written by a team of authors and regularly feature fact-driven articles. These are the sites that first got me interested in reading blogs. They may share data about allowing babies to "cry it out", tips to avoid common breastfeeding problems, what's happening in the Irish trad music scene, or examples of crafts to do at home. Reading these blogs is like subscribing to a magazine, but free!

Some of the blogs I read are just funny. They are full of the humor to be found in daily life, if we are just able to laugh at ourselves. These blogs have their share of serious topics, but generally leave me with a smile on my face.
Come again?
This category is the most difficult to manage. There are SO MANY good blogs out there about moms (and dads) choosing to raise their families with values similar to mine. I want to read all of them, but beyond a certain point, it becomes confusing and fails to provide community. (Wait, is that the one about Gus or Burkley?) At this point, there are about ten blogs I read on a regular basis. I connect with these authors and they frequently leave comments for me. I know my husband and I are somewhat counter-cultural in our parenting decisions, so reading these blogs is a support system, a reminder that not everyone thinks we're crazy! (Aside from the two linked above, this group includes Sheila, Dulce, Patti, Amanda, Amyables, Lisa, Megan, and recently Dweej!)

Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quick Thoughts and Photographs

1) We donated a pair of captain's chairs to our church's annual "New to You Sale." The family room looks more spacious and has fewer horizontal surfaces to lure clutter. Hooray!

2) My husband and I each had a salad tonight. Very strange for us, but it was lettuce we grew in our own garden! The garden is progressing well, everything is still alive and appears untouched by local critters.

3) Peter is standing alone more and more frequently. He seems quite surprised whenever he finds himself doing it and sits down abruptly. It's pretty funny.

4) God is generous when we are faithful. The pro-life ministry at our church continues to receive just enough donations to make it through another week. (We give away new car seats and pack-n-plays to expectant mothers in need.) Let me know if you want to make a donation or, if you're local, volunteer.

5) Peter and I will be meeting up with a little girl and her mommy (whom we met at story time) tomorrow morning. We're making friends!

6) My cell phone and laptop are finally talking to each other. It took some tricky negotiation, but I can finally access all the photos I've been taking! The quality is not great, but here are some of the winners from the past few months:

12 days old

Next baby model

Yay! Story time!

Good morning, Mommy!

It's possible that I did that to his hair on purpose.

Usually llama stays home, but he's allowed out on long car trips.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Questions about Manners and Etiquette

Manners are such a tricky topic. They vary so widely among families, classes, and cultures. What is commonplace in one setting is horribly rude in another. To complicate matters further, manners are often arbitrary. Why, for example, is holding up one's thumb congratulatory, but the middle finger is insulting? Why are some words considered unfit for polite company, despite originally having innocuous meanings? Why are dishes passed counterclockwise in a family setting?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Indoor Playground

Peter and I went shopping today with my mom. Our local mall recently installed a mini playground in place of one of their fountains, which Peter thoroughly enjoyed. He also made a couple friends!

Future pilot

Hello, friend!

Meeting a very large beaver

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Church, Gambling, and Children

Yesterday was Peter's first church festival. He played the Duck Pond game, choosing his duck all by himself, and won a mini beach ball! (In this game, you pick up a duck, read the number on the bottom, and win a prize from that number bucket. It's very challenging.)

Tonight, however, was for the adults. My friend Becky and I went to the festival together, leaving Peter with my husband for some male bonding. Becky and I spent a total of $2.50 among the Duck Pond, Plinko, and the Lollypop Tree (guaranteed wins at all three!). I'm the proud owner of 2 pieces of candy, a pencil, a kaleidoscope the size of a toilet paper tube, and a cow stamp. We had a blast.

I think Peter had fun too. He's not sure.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Warrior Prayers for Our Son

Undercover Mother caught my attention with her post about praying for our sons. I read it on Wednesday, giving me just enough time to join a group (at Granola Mom for God) and engage in 21 Days of Prayer for Sons. I bought Brooke McGlothlin's e-book, Warrior Prayers, with my husband's PayPal account. When he learned what I would be doing, he offered to join me in daily prayer, asking God to guide our son to be the man he should be.

Our technique is not quite what is suggested. Rather than praying the provided Scripture throughout the day (since we are not together all day), we are praying spontaneously for Peter during the day and then praying through the Scriptures together in the evening. The topics for the first couple of days were obedience and submission to authority.
Peter on his Baptism Day

Thursday, June 9, 2011

First Haircut and Kitchen Toys

sweaty little boy

baby curls
I'm finger-spelling the alphabet in that one to keep him from turning around to look at the camera. Since he was tiny, he has found finger-spelling to be fascinating. It's one of my strategies to keep him quiet for short periods of time, too (like during the consecration at Mass).

there go the curls!
OK, that picture was actually taken after, not during. But I cut his hair in our basement and my husband was busy restraining Peter so he wouldn't grab the scissors or jerk his head at the wrong time. So no pictures from during the actual procedure. :-)

yes, he does have a minor black eye
he face-planted onto my knee yesterday

a nice shot of his kitchen toys
and also the haircut
The toys, if you're wondering, are mostly cardboard boxes. He also has two cardboard egg cartons, a tin can with no sharp edges (that we're filling with interesting lids), a few empty plastic containers, a juice bottle with kidney beans and corn kernels (nice visual contrast!), and a McDonald's chocolate milk jug with corn kernels that is just the right size for him to hold and shake.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Minimalism: Selling the Car

I like the idea of owning fewer things and having more money.

My husband and I have talked about selling one of our two cars for at least a year. Today, we cleaned it up, took a picture, and finally posted it on Craigslist. If we can get a bit more than 90% of the current Blue Book value for our car, we will have paid off the last of our student loans! I'm super excited to be debt-free aside from our mortgage. The savings in insurance will also help us pay off the mortgage more quickly.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Teaching Sign Language to a Hearing Child

I won't claim that we are at the "language explosion" point yet (a term that sounds somewhat disturbing to me, actually), but Peter is definitely learning signs more quickly! His vocabulary at this point is hi/bye, more, fan, light, eat/food, book, and nurse. I will admit that it is difficult to distinguish among some of these, but if we guess wrong he usually repeats it more emphatically. :-)

Demonstrating the sign for eat/food

I am using ASL (American Sign Language) paired with both spoken English and German. I think this helps him make connections between the languages ("Oh, essen and food both have that sign!"), but this is personal opinion, not research. I am definitely more fluent and confident using ASL than German. The biggest challenge is placing myself where my hands are free and he can see me when I use it. If he can't see me (e.g. sitting on my lap), sometimes I'll use his hand to make the motion.

I must admit that I am not being particularly scientific or consistent about his language exposure. However, I am using the rule of maintaining a balance of high-use and high-interest signs. While I occasionally throw in signs that are neither (bird), I generally try to use a mix of signs that are used many times throughout the day (eat) or are words he wants to use (fan). This seems to be working well for us.

Since I want Peter to become somewhat proficient in ASL and use it in the future, I am also trying to use more than my hands to communicate. Body language, particularly eye contact and facial expression, is very important in ASL. Clear enunciation (without exaggerated lip movement) is helpful to people who can lip-read, as is keeping hands away from your mouth and not talking with your mouth full! I hope Peter will learn to truly communicate with those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, rather than "only" knowing how to sign.

A couple good websites: -- video clips for basically any sign you need! -- some typos, but a good primer on deaf communication.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Live simply, live green

More ideas for saving time and/or money:

* Change what your light switches do. Thanks to Peter, our bedroom light switch is now hooked up to a night-light rather than a floor lamp. I thought this would drive me crazy, but instead it has made me realize how often I flip the light on when I don't actually need it. Having the night-light gives enough light for me to be able to walk into the room and turn on the floor lamp if necessary.

* Make sun tea instead of boiling water for tea. I realize this saves a minimal amount of energy, but every little bit helps!

* Use your windows well. We have central air conditioning, but rarely use it. Instead, we open the windows overnight and close them in the morning, trapping the cool night air inside.

* Keep your freezer full. A full freezer is more efficient than an empty freezer. We rarely have enough food to fill the freezer, but have filled up some milk jugs and lemon juice bottles with water to occupy the empty space.

* Reuse your drinking glass. I hand-wash all our dishes, so I notice how many dishes get used during a day. I am amazed at the number of glasses used in homes that have dishwashers! New beverage? New glass. Our family reuses one glass per person throughout the day (sometimes even a couple days in a row). This saves time for me and would save energy for those with dishwashers, as they wouldn't fill up as quickly.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Just Wait Until...

I wrote this when Peter was almost two months old and posted it on Facebook. I'm reposting it because 1) I think you'll enjoy it and 2) I don't have much time today. :-)

Peter at 2 months with one of our friends
I love that they have the same expression :-)

For a culture that supposedly values children, we have an exceedingly negative outlook on their lives. I have already started hearing “just wait” statements. These are from experienced parents (usually), who presumably want me to be prepared for the drudgery ahead. I am not sure why they feel the need to warn me.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


My husband was in the office today, so he didn't get to see much of Peter until after dinner. Following some good advice, though, we've pushed Peter's bedtime a bit later, so they still had time to play between dinner and bath time. I love watching them together, especially as Peter gets older and actually wants to play. With a demonstration from his Daddy, Peter stacked two blocks today! He learns so much, so quickly. He is learning from the best.

In addition to a full-time job, my husband changes about 1/2 of the poopy diapers, does most of the yard work, snow-blows our driveway, does basic car maintenance, attends most of Peter's doctor appointments, vacuums the house, and cleans up as necessary.
"Things, like a walk in the park..."

I suppose you could say that those things are just part of being a good father and husband, but there's more. He does things for me that he thinks are silly, just because it makes me happy. He squishes spiders and ants for me (they crunch. super gross.). He puts the napkin back in the napkin ring after dinner. He calls to make appointments for me (have I mentioned that I hate talking on the phone to strangers?). He mixes the lemonade with a wooden spoon. He rinses out my cup before filling it with water (I don't like my water to look cloudy, even if it tastes the same).
On our honeymoon in Arizona

And tonight? Peter (whose middle initial is X) left me a message made from his alphabet magnets:

I think he had some help. :-)