Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ten Things My Son Will Never Do

Times change. Technology advances. Events that were common in my childhood will be an interesting note in my son's history books. I've compiled a list of experiences that Peter will (probably) never have.

Use a card catalog for research. I was always fascinated by the card catalog as a child. Whose job was it to cross-reference everything? Search engines are infinitely more efficient, but the sense of wonder is lost.

Follow a AAA triptik. I have my doubts that even regular maps will be a part of Peter's life as he gets older, but I'm pretty sure GPS devices have made paper triptiks nearly obsolete.

People use these? I thought they were posters...

Meet someone at the gate at the airport. I loved coming up the tunnel and seeing someone waiting to greet us. I remember the excitement mounting as we waited for Grandpa to appear behind the other passengers. Somehow the walk through the terminal and back out security deflates the thrill.

Shoot a picture with a Kodachrome film. Growing up in Rochester, NY, Fuji was a bad word. Everyone had Kodak film, some of which was used on manual wind cameras. (Kodak stopped producing Kodachrome in 2009.)

Call from a pay phone. I know these still exist, but they are getting fewer and farther between as cell phones become increasingly popular. I suspect Peter will not understand why every woman used to carry a quarter in her purse.

And these? Forget about it.

Flip the cord on a lawnmower. When I was a kid, part of learning to mow the lawn was remembering to flip the cord out of the way every time you turned to start a new row. I wonder if extension cord companies saw a drop in sales when battery lawn mowers hit the market.

Watch a VHS tape. These will be for Peter was laser discs are for me. What's a laser disc? Exactly.

My husband's laser disc collection

Read the evening edition of the paper. It's hard to believe, but until 1997 Rochester had two editions of the daily paper. The Democrat&Chronicle came in the morning and the Times-Union in the evening. Poor Times-Union.
Fun facts: The D&C was a merger of "Daily Democrat" and "Chronicle" in 1879. The Times-Union was a merger of "Evening Times" and "Union and Advertiser" in 1918. The D&C and Times-Union merged in 1992.

Tune a radio dial. No no, not the digital tuner in the car. I mean the radio where you had to slowly turn the knob until you hit the right frequency. "Don't move that dial" was more important when you couldn't be sure of finding the station again if you did!

Take his temperature with a glass thermometer. Glass was easier to clean than the plastic/rubber thermometers popular now, but it was also easier to break. And filled with mercury. And COLD!

Monday, August 29, 2011

One Car Family

We sold the car! It's liberating, bringing more spontaneity, convenience, and independence. I'm sure situations will arise where it would have been nice to have a second car, but for now I see clear advantages.

More Spontaneity
As I contemplate my first day home without a car, there are no feelings that I should be doing one thing or another. I will be doing laundry and yesterday's dishes and enjoying my son. Perhaps we will go for a walk. Maybe I will weed the garden. But I will definitely be home. I do not need to plan around Peter's nap schedule or remember when businesses open or close for lunch.

Minimalism gives the gift of time!

More Convenience
Hypothetically, we have a two-car garage, but as our realtor said, "Not two Cadillacs." We had both cars in the garage until I was heavily pregnant, at which point it was impossible to squeeze through the partially opened car door. Having only one car means it will always be in the garage, so no one has to brush off snow in the winter or run through the rain. It frees up driveway space for visiting company and removes an obstacle when backing out of the garage.

More Independence
We didn't get quite the price we were asking, but we did get enough to pay off the last of our student loans. When we make our next loan payment in September, we will be debt-free except for our mortgage. This frees up about $200/month in our budget, which is wonderful. We will be using it to move on to step three in the Dave Ramsey program, creating an emergency fund that would cover all expenses if we had no income for four to six months. (Step one was saving a $1000 emergency fund and step two was paying off all debt except the mortgage.) The peace of mind brought by increased financial independence is a wonderful thing.

If you have two cars, would you ever consider making the switch?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Entering the Sabbath

Today was Saturday. I made breakfast for my Dad, went to the mall, put Peter down for a nap, spent time with my husband, and went through a flurry of preparations to drive to Pennsylvania for a wedding. The wedding was beautiful (congratulations Sam and Mara!). We left the reception a bit early because Peter was tired and talked about serious matters most of the way home. A good, satisfying day, but a long day for one who recharges in the moments of silence and solitude.

Peter woke as we pulled in the driveway and began sobbing as my husband took him out of the car, wanting nothing more than to be comfortable and asleep again. I took him up to bed and sat nursing him back to sleep. In the silence. In the peaceful communion of me and my sweet, holy child. In the sacred moment.

Come, Holy Spirit.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Labor Phases: Latent, Sleep, Transitional, Hell

Welcome to the First Carnival of Birth Reflections

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Birth Reflections hosted by Patti at Jazzy Mama and Zoie at TouchstoneZ. Participants are writing posts that reflect on how birth has transformed them into who they are today. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

**Parts of this are fairly gross. Read at your own risk.**

I was confident, relaxed, and well-informed when my labor began. I had taken Lamaze classes with my husband and we had read a book detailing the Bradley method. We had talked about how I would handle the pain and made multiple copies of our birth plan (in the hospital with no medication and as few interventions as medically advisable). I dismissed the horror stories I heard as being anomalies and focused on how well-prepared I was for my first time giving birth.

Latent Labor
Overall, I had a fantastic birth experience. On July 18, only five days before my due date, I woke up around 1am with my first contraction. I knew first labors are generally long, so I tried to go back to sleep, remembering the advice to rest and get enough to eat. HA. The contractions were 20 mins, 7, 13, 5, and 4 minutes apart... then stayed around 5 minutes apart for a couple hours. My water broke at 3am and we drove to the hospital around 4am after a couple bouts of vomiting. I had to stay in triage for some unknown amount of time, vomited again, and just breathed through the contractions. I also got my first dose of antibiotics, since I was strep B positive.

Active Labor (Sleep)
When they moved me into the LDPR room (I love that I didn't have to go anywhere once I got there!), I fell asleep. In fact, I fell asleep between almost every contraction with the exception of about 1/2 hour in the shower and during the transition phase. I had intermittent external fetal monitoring because there was meconium in the amniotic fluid. The nurse wanted continuous monitoring, but my OB over-ruled her; he said the heart-rate was fine and I could use the shower. Hooray!

Transitional Labor
The contractions hurt, but weren't unbearable. Oh, also, Peter was posterior during the initial stages of labor and thankfully flipped over while I was in the shower. I was a bit concerned that I wouldn't be able to make it through the transition stage, but once I got to that point it wasn't as bad as I had heard. The only pain management I used was slow, even breathing; my husband talked me through it and reminded me to slow down if I was speeding up. I was also timing the duration by counting in my head, mostly to remind myself that no contraction actually went on forever. :-)

Delivery (Hell)
Enter the pushing stage, which was about 40 minutes. It was hell. All of the sudden what had been increasingly painful contractions turned into something else completely: spasms within each contraction, making me push against my will.

me: Jeremy, call the nurse, the pushing is started.
nurse: Oh, are you feeling like you want to push?
me: No. I do NOT want to push, but I'm having no choice.

They did an internal exam, found I was ready to go (much to their surprise!), and gave me the other dose of antibiotics. I had read and heard that pushing is such a wonderful breakthrough, because you are in control and can actively do something to help labor and the excitement of having the baby almost there.


Oh, I was actively pushing (as I felt the need with each contraction, they weren't trying to tell me when), but it was by far the absolute worst pain of my life. I was not excited. "Helping the labor progress" is like deciding to do sit-ups when you have menstrual cramps but 100x worse. For me, it was not an empowering, happy time. I felt that my body had gone berserk. I was scared because it was so totally unexpected.

I remember some relief when I felt his head come through (10:05am), then they said, "Keep pushing, you need to get the shoulders out" and I thought, "You've got the head there, can't you just pull it the rest of the way?!" Anyway, he made it out OK and they told us he was a boy. (They wanted my husband to announce it, but held Peter at such an odd angle that we couldn't see!)


My primary emotion when I was done was giddy relief. I was done. I had a healthy baby to hold and could sleep as much as I wanted. It was great. Only later did I feel duped about the pushing phase, angry that people had misled me. I still get annoyed when I read anything positive about pushing.

My Conclusions
1. Contractions hurt but are not unbearable without medication, even during the transition phase. Use the down time to get more sleep!
2. When the pushing phase starts is completely out of your control, and although you can determine when to push as each contraction builds, it will be hell until that child is finally out.
3. Birth is gross. Starting with water breaking, to vomiting, to pooping while pushing, to the rush of fluids that follows the baby out, to the bleeding and torn perineum, to the blood clots in Peter's hair and the blood he spit up all night long his first night... it is disgusting. And of course discharge continues 4 to 6 weeks.
4. I never want a home birth. I want to know someone can be there immediately if anything goes wrong with the baby. I don't want my blood and all the other nasty fluids in my house.

I realize these are not the typical conclusions of a natural parenting mama, but I never promised to be typical!

Carnival of Birth Reflections

Visit Jazzy Mama and TouchstoneZ to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Birth Reflections!


Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Writing Me: Where I'm From

circa 1975

I am from electric street lights flickering on at dusk, from Tupperware-stocked kitchens and chiming ice cream trucks touring the neighborhood to announce summer's arrival.

I am from the littlest of three bedrooms, the dripping clothes left in heaps in the family room, soaked in rain or snow or straight from the pool, the smell of tar from a hot roof, and the lullaby of Mom singing, dishes being washed in a ceramic sink, and the rush of traffic on the highway.

I am from the oaks and maples that line the street, meeting overhead in a vaulted ceiling, the backyards of berry bushes and vegetable gardens, and the grass that always grows in sidewalk cracks but never where the city allegedly seeded it.

I am from summer road trips to the Midwest and smiling blue eyes, from Aunt Jeanette's cabin in South Dakota and Brophys and Dagelens, two families who attended the same reunions because they were joined by my grandparents' marriage.

I am from the observations that made us aware of social injustice and regular trips to the public library.

From "you have your mother's smile" and "such beautiful red hair."

I am from Mass on Sunday and family Rosary on the drive home from Grandpa's house, my Mary statue, cracked from too many falls, and Bible stories, fasting in Lent and feasting at Christmas, real answers to my theological questions and a deep abiding faith in God's endless love for me.

I'm from Rochester General Hospital, the wild beauty of the Burren, the blended culture of Alsace-Lorraine, angel food cake with frozen strawberries on birthdays and grilled cheese from Dad.

From the comedy of errors when our extended family stayed at the B&B managed by stingy Morris, the Nestle boycott that Dr. Jack Brophy (aka Grandpa) single-handedly revealed to be woefully misled, resulting in a change of diocesan policy, and the atom bomb tested in New Mexico, witnessed by a young man who at that time hadn't yet married my Grandma.

I am from a Formica shelf full of scrapbooks with pictures, newspaper clippings, and memories from the last hundred years, carefully archived by my mother. From my Grandma's cedar hope chest, passed among female relatives and currently treasured by me. From songs passed down from one generation to the next, even now being planted with care in the heart of my son. From framed pictures on the piano, including Grandpa as a gowned toddler among his sisters, still managing to look tough, my brother at the hospital after he broke his leg, and both of my Grandmas full of youth and beauty. From old letters and Christmas cards, saved for reminiscing and becoming increasingly precious as more of the authors find their way Home.

Where I'm From is a Community Writing Project inspired by this prompt. I discovered this project via Hyacynth at Undercover Mother.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Mistake and Milestones

My husband and I went to Borders recently to survey their close-out sales. As you may imagine, everything is being moved around as inventory continues to shrink. This makes it difficult to find some items and also leads to rather humorous shelving mistakes

Poor Curious George
Exciting news of the day: We sold the Cobalt! We are officially a one-car family now and will be paying off the remainder of our student loans in September. Also car related, Peter has outgrown his infant car seat and had his first ride in the convertible car seat today. My little baby is getting bigger...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Boston Outtakes

Having a snack with Papa at Uncle Keith's house

Peter and I drove out to Boston with my parents to visit my brother and sister-in-law for the weekend. (My husband, sadly, had to stay here and work.) True to form, Peter traveled well and adjusted quickly to a new house and almost no routine. Here are a few highlights of the trip.

Dining at The Publick House, which is best known for a wide assortment of beers. I don't really like can't stand beer, even beer that isn't supposed to taste like beer. Luckily for me, The Publick House also features famous macaroni and cheese with your choice of add-ins. I had tomato in mine and it was delicious. I think I may add some tomato to my serving next time my husband bakes mac-n-cheese for us.

Peter getting ever-closer to intelligible speech. If you know what he's trying to say, you can tell when he says "doggy" now! He also said "nanana" in the car on the way home while eating a banana.

Visiting the site of the battle of Bunker Hill and climbing the monument. The monument has 294 stairs, so I wouldn't say climbing it was enjoyable, but the view was worth it. Fun Fact: The battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed Hill, where the monument stands.

Peter, um, exploring. I put him down for a nap. When he first woke, I wasn't sure I heard him, so I let him be for a few minutes, then went to see if he was awake or making noise in his sleep. He was definitely awake. And had removed his poopy diaper. And urinated on the mattress he and I were sharing. And was quite happy. It's a good thing his aunt and uncle are accommodating people.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip. Time with family is always special and visiting a fun place like Boston makes it even more fun!

The Guys

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Writing Flashback

I used to write more poetically on a regular basis. I haven't done that in years. I recently was re-reading my SubJournal (remember when those were popular?) and found some pieces that are representative of my writing style when I am simply capturing a memory for myself. Enjoy!

The Piano Tuner came to our house before I left for school. His real name is Carl, but that seems too ordinary for a magician. He is the Piano Tuner. You wouldn't take him for a musician at first. There is no dreaminess or creative aura around his large frame. He is a big man, and if you chose a profession based on appearance, your first bet might be mechanic. Like the rest of him, his hands are big and strong. But here is where the magic begins. They are strong as if each muscle has been toned to the perfect size and strength for its job. There is nothing to excess as you watch him tune each chord so carefully, knowing that one note off pitch can ruin a symphony. And when the Piano Tuner has completed his work, he begins the game. Those hands that seem so large and out of place among the fragile chords now leap up and down the keyboard, first running in a furious game of scale slides then shifting moods to dance music. The Piano Tuner can play anything and the piano seems more like an extension of himself than a separate instrument to be pushed and pulled into making the correct sounds. And then the Piano Tuner packs up his equipment, puts the piano back together, and goes into my livingroom to have a cup of coffee with my Dad. And suddenly, the Piano Tuner is gone, and only Carl remains... a man like many others, with strong political views, who once worked for General Motors with my Dad. And try as I might, I cannot see the Piano Tuner any more. But I know he was there and when I play my music again, I can tell that the Piano Tuner was at my house, because there is still just a trace of magic.

Adirondack Sunrise

I woke up early, when no one else had dared to leave a sleeping bag to face the morning chill. There was nothing to do after I had my bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Reduced Sugar! and so I made my way down to the lake, hoping to catch some sunshine. The sun was in short supply on the shore where I sat, curled up on a stump and trying to keep as much body heat as possible. But all across the lake, the mist rose slowly, swirling in lazy curls just above the surface. I sat and watched, with my feet getting colder and the bottoms of my pajamas hanging wet against my legs. Occasionally a car passed on the road, or the birds spoke briefly, but for the most part it was just quiet and cold. Quiet, cold, and beautiful. I sat on the stump of log on that sandy beach and fell in love all over again. Some things are too beautiful to be mere coincidence. Sand. Water. Wood. Mist. Silence. Solitude. Love.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Versatile Blogger Award

Many thanks to Tmuffin, who bestowed on me the Versatile Blogger Award! She and I connected via the most recent Carnival of Natural Parenting. When I first read the title of the award, I thought it meant that I was a versatile blogger, but on further reflection I think it means the award is versatile. It is simply recognition of a good blog. I like it.

Here’s how the award works. After accepting the Versatile Blogger Award, the blogger must:
I. Thank the person who gave the award and link back to them in your post.
II. Share 7 things about yourself.
III. Pass this award along to 15 recently discovered blogs.

So, seven things about me...
1. I spent five months studying in Ireland, which included my 21st birthday and some serious discernment about a possible religious vocation.
2. I have two older brothers who were my childhood heroes and pretty much are my adult heroes, too.
3. I love cinnamon graham crackers and milk.
4. I've never finished an alcoholic drink in one sitting.
5. Rainy days either inspire or depress me, no in between.
6. I read very quickly and am a horrible speller. I also correct others' grammar in my head.
7. I was rather ambivalent about babies (although I've always loved kids) until I met my son.

My fifteen "winners" in alphabetical order are
A Gift Universe
Becoming Crunchy
Betty Beguiles
Blessed Adventures
Changed for Good
Dulce de leche
Gentle Mom in Training
God and Gum Nuts
Intrepid Murmurings
Jazzy Mama
Let's Take the Metro
Mademoiselle Michael
Many Miracles
Permission to Live
The Life Abundant

(Confession: These are not all recently discovered. I haven't discovered 15 new blogs recently.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Live simply, live green

Today's tips are for helping the environment while out and about.

1. Don't use straws. Really, do you need a straw and a plastic lid to sit at a table and drink? I suspect you do quite well without them at home! If you'll be taking your drink with you, consider keeping an empty water bottle in the car and pouring your drink in there instead of adding more plastic to our landfills.

Caught using a straw!

2. Park far away. Usually the parking lot is between the street and the store. If you park near the street, you are driving a little bit less. As an added bonus, you get more exercise!

3. Decline gas receipts. This one is a little risky, I suppose. If you want to keep it for your records to compare to your credit card bill, go for it. But if you just take it, read it, and toss it, why bother?

4. Avoid ordering "to go". First, this means avoiding the drive-through, which saves gas. Eat at the restaurant, or at least order that way. Orders prepped "to go" have extra packaging that you may not need (and WAY more condiments than any sane person uses). This is a case by case decision, though. Don't try to balance 10 hamburgers on your way back to the car!

5. No plastic bags. I know, this one has been publicized to death. But you still find plastic bags creeping into your home, right? Ideas:
                 * Keep reusable cloth bags in your car so you have them when you need them.
                 * If you forget, refuse plastic bags for small items you can easily carry with you.
                 * If you absolutely need a plastic bag, use it for the rest of your purchases that day.

6. Bring recyclables home. I admit that it feels rather odd taking your "trash" with you out of a fast food place, but it's for the planet! Don't you love your planet? :-)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Co-Sleeping for Nap Time

I took these with my cell phone, trying to hold it far enough away to get the picture without moving so much that I woke up Peter. None of them came out great, so I used Paint.Net to edit them. What do you think? (And yes, I use a stuffed turtle as a pillow when I'm on his bed.)

Arm over my shoulder

such a little hand

Just making sure you're still there, Mommy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Sacrament of Marriage

Today is our third wedding anniversary. Our friend Fr. Brian, at that time a deacon, gave the homily at our wedding. My husband's grandmother commented to my mother-in-law, "What a nice talk! It was as if he was their friend, talking right to them!" My mother-in-law replied, "He is their friend. He was talking right to them."

Photo credit: Eric Brophy, photobloke.smugmug.com

What a great joy it is to be here to witness this wedding. I’ve always enjoyed weddings, especially weddings of my friends. In fact, I often think that the main reason I am studying to become a priest is so that I can marry every girl I know.

Actually, Jeremy and Liana, as I am sure you know, our Catholic theology teaches us that the ministers of the sacrament that we are all here to celebrate today are you. Often times you will hear priests and deacons say things like I married this couple, but this is not the case. The priest or deacon only serves as an official witness on behalf of the Church. It is you who administer the sacrament to each other. It is you Liana, who will administer the sacrament to Jeremy as you declare your love for and fidelity to him. And it is you Jeremy who will administer the sacrament to Liana, as you declare your love for her, and your fidelity to her. It is in declaring your mutual love and fidelity for each other that you make God’s love and fidelity known to each other. And this is why you are the ones who administer the sacrament to each other. So the Church teaches that it is you who are the ministers of the sacrament. It is not Fr. Bradler or I who marry you, but you who marry each other. And be thankful for this, because, I am quite certain that neither one of you wants to take Fr. Bradler or me home with you.

Remember, while you administer the sacrament to each other, your marriage is not only a sacrament for you. It is a sacrament for the whole world as well. It is a way in which you visibly reflect the love that God has for each one of us. The way in which you Jeremy love and treat your wife, Liana, is not only to honor her, but it is to witness to the world the way in which God loves his people. And the way you Liana, love and treat your husband Jeremy, is not meant to be a Disney-inspired fairy tale, but a reflection of the way in which God loves all people.

In my conversations with both of you as you prepared for this day, I have come to know that you take this responsibility to manifest God’s love to the world very seriously. The second reading today accurately states that you cannot know love apart from God. I know that you read scripture together and that you pray together, so that you may grow in your knowledge of God and thereby grow in your love as a couple. And our hope for you is that you will not only come not only to knowledge of love, but to a lived expression of love. Because that is how you will manifest God to the world. Since God is love, your lived expression of that love is indeed a manifestation of God’s presence in our world.

In receiving the sacrament of marriage, your life will now become a public vocation. In this sacrament the Church calls you to be salt for the earth, an earth, that unfortunately has lost a lot of its flavor. In calling you to be salt for the earth, the Church hopes that you will help bring back some of that flavor by making your life together a public witness to the fact that God is present in our world. That our God loves the people in this world, and that our God is concerned about the needs of his people.

In receiving the sacrament of marriage, the Church calls you to be a light for our world, a world that often sits in darkness. The Church calls you to help enlighten the world by your example of love. The church calls you and asks you to declare your love for each other, not only through your declaration today, but every day of your married life. We need you to love each other in such a way that when people look to you, they will see God’s love for his people. We need you to be a witness that love is something greater than romance. That love is not about receiving, but about giving. We, The Church, therefore call you to give yourself totally and selflessly to each other, so that your light might shine forth as a reminder of the way in which Christ totally and selflessly gave himself to all of us.

Answer the call. Answer the call to love each other. Answer the call to live your married life in such a way that you are salt for the earth. Answer the call in such a way that your marriage becomes a bright light that everyone can point to. And live you married life in such a way that you make the love of Christ known to all who know you.

Happy Anniversary!
Photo credit: Eric Brophy, photobloke.smugmug.com

Monday, August 15, 2011

Marriage: Too young, too fast, too soon?

A parish priest recently told us that his parents had been married 52 years when his mother died after a long illness. Less than a year after her death, his father was getting re-married. The priest said his brothers were appalled. "How can he do this? Doesn't he honor Mom's memory?" The priest pointed out two things to his brothers. First, their parents had been best friends and talked about everything together. It was possible that their mom had given her blessing to any future relationships. Secondly, their father wouldn't be eager to get remarried if his first marriage hadn't been wonderful. His enthusiasm about marriage was a wonderful testament to the relationship he had enjoyed with his first wife.

Everyone is an expert when it comes to what makes a successful relationship. Maybe we should think twice.

Peter, my husband and I attended a beautiful wedding this weekend. The couple was married in their college chapel, where the groom's father officiated. There were a few unusual things about the wedding celebration. The reception was in the barn of the groom's parents. The bride and groom arrived in a large tractor.

And the bride is nineteen. Jennifer is one of my former campers and my host sister, since I stayed with her family for two summers while working at camp. As I've talked about this wedding, many people have expressed surprise and mild disapproval that someone "so young" is getting married. Why?

Young people can vote and enter the military at 18, so clearly society has decided they are responsible enough to make civic choices and life-and-death decisions. I see no reason why a mature 19 year-old wouldn't be capable of choosing her spouse. The couple has been dating for years, both sets of parents approve of the match, and they will be moving to the groom's parents' farm, ensuring financial stability as they begin a new life together. Even when I share these details, though, many people think it is irresponsible, although they can give no reasons why.

She's got her dancing face on. :-)
Another common critique of couples getting married is that they haven't known each other long enough. Everyone has a cut-off point before which it is unwise to get married. For some it's six months, a year, two years... as if once you reach a certain point, only then will you know if you're in love. My parents were 24 and 25 when they met in early August 1975. They started dating a week later, were engaged in mid-September, and married January 3, 1976. My mom said it would have been sooner, but my Grandma didn't want to plan a wedding before the holidays. :-) My parents are still happily married 35 years later, despite only knowing each other for five months before their wedding.

Finally, there's the "rebound" argument. Again, there is an arbitrary length of time after ending a significant relationship that one must wait before possibly being serious about a new person. To begin dating "too soon" means one is emotionally vulnerable and too likely to turn to any port in a storm rather than being discerning about a potential spouse. There may be some validity to this argument, but it is impossible to put a timeline on grieving.

As with so many things, when we judge a relationship, we judge it according to how we would feel/react in that situation. I wasn't ready to get married at 19. I wasn't ready to marry Jeremy after five months. I know what worked for me, in my situation. There is a time and place for offering counsel, but make sure you are doing it because of a specific concern, not because the couple hasn't followed an arbitrary timeline.

To Jennifer and Joshua, married 8.13.11: May God bless you always and in all ways.

Blessings to Keith and Jennifer, my brother and sister-in-law, married 8.15.09. Happy anniversary! We love you!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Multiculturalism at Home

I love learning about other cultures. If I had loads of time and money, I would travel all around the world seeing awesome sights, eating foods I've never tasted, and learning new languages. Unfortunately, I am not independently wealthy. How is a mom to indulge her wanderlust while living a conventional suburban life?

Find interesting music. My brother bought me Celtic Tides by Putumayo, introducing me to their music from around the world. Our family now owns African Party and World Reggae by the same publisher. I have a borrowed most of our library's international CDs at one time or another, broadening my horizons and getting a new soundtrack for our dance parties.

Explore the grocery store. My mom is probably smirking as she reads this, but I do explore new foods on occasion. Our most recent impulse buy was Icelandic yogurt. I didn't really like it, but I'm glad I tried it. We routinely have pasta and quesadillas, too, but I like to do something different now and again. There are many "ethnic foods" available at our grocery store.

Check out local festivals. Our city has celebrations of German, Irish, Filipino, Puerto Rican, Polish, and Ukranian cultures. There are probably more that I haven't found yet. This is an easy way to step into another culture for a bit and much less expensive than flying!

Maintain cross-cultural friendships. I have friends in Germany, Canada, Ireland, and Bangladesh. It's a wonderful gift to be able to discuss world events with someone who sees life from a perspective outside the United States. Some day I may even be able to go visit! I also have friends who are active in the deaf community and Hispanic community locally. These are unique cultures, too, and often over-looked.

Me, my husband, and our friend Nicolai

How do you bring the world to your doorstep?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Do I Drive Enough?

I struggle to budget well. It's not that we ever spend money we don't have. We have a detailed financial budget and stick to it faithfully. My problem is everything else.

Decisions, decisions.

Should I drive Peter to the mall? Yes, it's only 3.2 miles away and offers him a chance to exercise and socialize with other children at the playground. No, it's an unnecessary trip, wasting money while polluting the air. Peter's young enough that he doesn't need to socialize yet.

Should I buy organic baby clothes? Yes, they're probably better for Peter and definitely better for the planet. By buying these, I support good businesses. No, they are expensive. I can get clothes for a fraction of the cost at thrift stores, which is recycling at its best.

Should I drive Peter to daily Mass? Yes, the spiritual benefits are priceless and it's only 2 to 8 miles away, depending on the church. No, it's another unnecessary trip and will interfere with Peter's sleep schedule.

Should I buy books to help me learn German? Yes, I am much more diligent when books are lying around, they will be a long-term investment, and I can easily share them with Peter. No, many books are available from the library, I'm trying to reduce the amount of stuff in our house, and there are many excellent online resources.

Should I drive to the natural food store? Yes, it's only 2 miles away, their avocados are cheap, and I would be supporting organic food production. No, another unnecessary trip, so the gas I waste might offset the money saved on avocados and the positive environmental impact.

My answers are once or twice a week, no, at least once a week, no, and no. But I'm not confident that any of those are correct. We are on a bus line, but taking the bus takes more time (again affecting the sleep schedule) and money. Advice?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Anam Cara: Soul Friend

One recognizes a soul friend by the hospitality she or he offers in accepting one's deepest thoughts and aspirations. ... The soul friend honors the secrets of the heart and gently nudges one's dreams into being. It is in soul friendship that one discovers the presence of Christ. - Holy Companions (I love this book!!)
Anam cara is an Irish term that translates to "soul friend." I learned the term in college, which is also where I met my soul friend. Her name is Anne. We were roommates for four months and have been soul friends now for about six years, even though she got married and moved to California right out of college. One's anam cara is too precious to lose because of distance or life events!

A soul friendship is distinct from being "best friends" and certainly different from a marriage relationship, although it has qualities of both. It is a deep, abiding friendship that doesn't require shared hobbies or frequent visits to thrive. It blossoms through regular communication, though. As Anne said recently, "going this long without contacting one's soul friend is a good way to find oneself feeling somewhat...off-kilter."

Soul friends share the ease and confidence of best friends combined with trust and complete honesty. It truly is a relationship of the soul more than the heart or mind. My anam cara can listen to me talk for an hour and speak the wisdom I need to hear all summed up in one sentence. On the rare and wonderful occasions we meet face to face, we find that despite distance and life circumstances, we are often struggling with similar faith issues. There is solidarity, consolation, and guidance in a soul friendship.

I have wondered recently in what conditions we might recognize our soul friends. I suspect we need time, faith-sharing, and silence. We need time to simply learn about the other, when to ask questions and when to wait, how to best offer support, and how one's past shapes the future. We need faith-sharing to recognize a kindred soul who shares a longing for Christ and walks a path similar to ours. We need silence to be comfortable with each other and recognize that God speaks into the silences of our hearts.

Me, my anam cara, and our husbands

Anne and I have plans to meet again over Labor Day weekend. It will be good to laugh and talk and grow in faith together. Do you have an anam cara?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Toronto and Plaid Pants

A brief trip down memory lane... Rochester, for a very brief time, had a fast ferry that crossed Lake Ontario and docked at Toronto. This was not a well-planned idea. Many dumb mistakes were made, not the least of which being that no one seemed to realize that, although we Rochesterians love to visit Toronto, no one over there was particularly excited about visiting us. After losing a lot of money, the city finally sold the ferry.

My dad suspected the ferry was not going to last long, so he and I took a trip one weekend to have the experience before it disappeared. Here are just a few photos of that trip.

Here we go!

Windy on the deck!

Near the dock in Toronto

I am sure you noticed my very stylish, well-fitting, spring-colored capris. I loved those pants. My husband, however, politely asked while we were dating that I never wear them around him again. J So sadly, they were donated before the wedding. I can only hope someone is taking excellent care of them.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Creating Joy

Welcome to the August Carnival of Natural Parenting: Creating With Kids
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they make messes and masterpieces with children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Despite the growing "no kids" movement that has been receiving so much press, most people in my experience think little kids are cute. Happy children make other people smile. Family, friends, and often complete strangers are drawn to my son, wanting to coax a smile out of him. I've decided to encourage this. Here are a few ways Peter and I create joy.

* I ask him to wave to people. He loves this game. As I carry him around, he will spontaneously wave to almost anything that moves. When people smile and wave back, he often kicks his feet and waves with both hands. As you can imagine, this level of happiness is contagious.

* We stop to talk. Our world is in a hurry. There are many people who want nothing more than human interaction, but we are all so busy. Whenever possible, I stop walking when people approach to talk to Peter. They ask his name, how old he is, and compliment him on his blue eyes and having teeth. (I assume he'll eventually outgrow the teeth compliments...) Older people often share some information about their children or grandchildren. It doesn't take long, just a few minutes to brighten someone's day.

* We visit a nursing home. The Sisters of Mercy have a motherhouse near us, where retired nuns and priests can receive assisted living or nursing home care. Peter and I accompany my mom to Mass there once or twice a month. It's a win-win; we get to attend Mass and the residents get to see Peter.

* I take him with me. As a general rule, Peter goes where I go. Volunteering, grocery shopping, to the mall, to the library, he's there. He learns how to behave in different places and how to interact with a variety of people. When I take him shopping with me to the thrift store where my mom volunteers, his presence speaks volumes. The clients are often urban poor; Peter's presence declares that I think this is a safe place to bring him. Little things mean a lot.

* I hold him. I believe that Peter is confident meeting new people because he is never forced to do so. If he doesn't want someone new to hold him, it doesn't happen. If he wants to hide his face for a minute before engaging, that's OK. If he crawls back at high speed to nurse for 30 seconds before exploring more of the playground, he can do it. He is confident reaching out because he knows he always has a safe place to which he can return.

As we create joy for those around us, we are filled ourselves. Isn't it wonderful how that works?

(Speaking of sharing, stop by yesterday's post for your chance to win a gift card from Tiny Tush!)

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Family Draw Time Art ShowKate Wicker shares art (and inspiration!) from her family's cherished tradition of family draw time.
  • The Rules of Creativity: Learning to Create with the "Non-Creative" — Zoe at Give an Earthly shares how she learned to accept her "non-creative" child and claims that anyone, child or adult, can be creative given the right handling and environment.
  • Creating With Kids: 4 Ways That Work For Us — See how Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings nurtures creativity with her kids through craft projects, outdoor creative play, celebrating the creative process, and setting up "little spaces of beauty."
  • Creating memories, not things — Mrs. Green from Little Green Blog reflects on life with a ten year old and how 'creating together' has evolved from 'things' to memories.
  • The Gift of Creation — It may be hot, but Kellie at Our Mindful Life is already thinking about winter.
  • Hidden Talents — Sylvia at MaMammalia describes how providing the opportunity for creativity sometimes means learning to look for hidden talents in unusual places.
  • Creating Joy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she and her one year-old son create joy for their community.
  • How to do Crafts with Kids — Gaby from Tmuffin guest posts at Natural Parents Network and describes how to keep things simple when doing crafts with kids for magical (easy-to-clean, and tantrum-free) results.
  • Sugar & Spice & Baking on the Kitchen Floor — Carrie at Love Notes Mama enjoys making a mess in the kitchen with her daughter.
  • Young Scientist Makes Purple Potion — Hannah at Wild Parenting loves being a lab assistant for the young scientist in her life.
  • Making a butterfly house — Lauren at Hobo Mama demonstrates the proper way to build a wooden butterfly house with a preschooler.
  • Nurturing Creativity — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares the enjoyment she feels in nurturing the creativity of her children.
  • Home School Music - Sparking A New Generation Of Musicians — Based on her musical background, Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she creates with and teaches music to her children.
  • Creating (im)perfectly TogetherMudpiemama shares some of the highlights of a summer spent building everything from ships to hoops but most of a lesson on letting go of perfection.
  • Family Soccer Kick Around — When her children wanted to play soccer, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children helped organize something that would work for her family.
  • Creating Memories Together on Skype — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how you can create memories online with adult children or anyone who lives in another city or country.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Tiny Tush Review and Giveaway - CLOSED

THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED. Congratulations to Samantha! Not only did she win the gift card, but she also gave birth on the day she won! Thanks to everyone who entered.

I've read quite a few cloth diapering articles, most of which recommend building your "stash" slowly. Take time to experiment with a variety of styles until you find what works best for your child and budget. I'm sure this is good advice, but I couldn't wait to get started. Before my son was born, I bought a full set Tiny Tush Elite pocket diapers on the recommendation of a friend of mine. She bought two as a baby shower gift; I was so impressed that we bought 22 more! Why?

1. They come with two microfiber inserts (large and small) and are adjustable to fit children 7 through 35 pounds. In other words, these same diapers that fit Peter at one month will still fit him until he is toilet trained! 

2. The pocket includes a flap at the back that prevents the insert from sliding out during use. Also, the pocket is sewn in such a way that it prevents poop from getting caught in the flap -- definitely a plus!

3. Tiny Tush products are made in the U.S.A.

4. These diapers come in a variety of bright colors and are sold with snaps. They are also available with aplix closures, but we prefer snaps. Snaps reportedly are less adjustable, but we haven't had any problems.

A rainbow of diapers!

5. THEY DON'T LEAK! Peter is a heavy wetter, but these diapers are up to the challenge. They fit snugly around his legs without leaving red marks. Have you ever been warned about explosive poop that will go all the way up the baby's back? Not with these! I can't tell you how many diapers I've changed where the mess goes exactly up to the top of the diaper, but no farther. Thank you, Tiny Tush!

6. I haven't needed this for myself, but my friend glows with reports of excellent customer service. Both she and her sister have spoken personally with the owner for help and diaper advice in general. Tiny Tush staff have been prompt, courteous, and very responsive.

7. Pocket diapers are easy to change. Peter is extremely squirmy during diaper changes, but we don't have problems with these. Once they are stuffed, they are simple to use and may even convince disposable diaper users to switch!

8. Quantity discounts and discounted 'seconds' make great diapers even more affordable!

Now that you know how wonderful Tiny Tush is, you have a chance to win a $10 gift card to TinyTush.com! There are eight ways to enter! (Contest open to residents of Canada and U.S.A. only. Must be 18 or older to enter.) Leave a separate comment for each entry, including your email address. Contest ends Sunday, 8/14 at 11:59 EDT. Winner will be announced Monday morning.

  • MANDATORY ENTRY: Visit TinyTush.com and tell me another product (aside from Elite pockets) that you would love to try and why.
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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Changing Identity

I got my first professional hairstyle since age twelve today. Every time I see myself in the mirror, I do a double-take. I think I look like a new person!


After (I still have my son, don't worry!)
A changed identity reminded me of my early experience of marriage. Getting married was a HUGE adjustment, especially for me. In the span of four months, I finished graduate school classes, had two summer jobs, got married, moved from an apartment with a friend into a house with my husband, transitioned to a new parish, and began an internship. A week or two after returning from our honeymoon, I remember sitting on the bedroom floor and crying. My poor parents happened to call during this and tried their best to console me over the phone. "What's wrong?" "Nothing. But everything has changed. I don't even know who I am anymore!"

All of the sudden, every aspect of my life affected more than just me. If I hit snooze in the morning, it would wake up my husband, too. Dinner plans had to be discussed rather than just decided spur-of-the-moment. Marriage was a positive change, but it was a big one. It took me about a month to get my feet under me and feel like this was my life. And no one had told me. Oh sure, people would joke about relationship struggles and what a big step marriage was, but it wasn't a big deal. To be fair, I don't think anyone (myself included) gave much thought to how completely my life would be changing in such a short time.

When Peter was born, it was rather anti-climactic. He mostly slept, was highly portable, and his needs were simple and easily met. As he's grown, our lives have changed, but they have changed gradually and easily. I haven't felt my identity being challenged, even though becoming a mother is arguably a bigger change than getting married.

What significant changes have affected your life?

Friday, August 5, 2011


I am reading... I Can Sign! Playtime (Baby Signs). This should tell you three things: Peter is getting better at expressing his preferences; we are still going strong using ASL with him; and I have not read anything of substance in the past month. J
I Can Sign! Playtime (Baby Signs)

I am praying for... my new Sunday school class! I recently found out that I will be teaching third grade again in the fall (yay!) and have been tweaking my lesson plans from last year. I am excited to have a new group of kids and am praying for them and their families. As a teacher, I can only do so much. Families make all the difference.

My favorite seasonal food is... blueberries with vanilla yogurt. I could eat this multiple times each day, but I usually limit myself to once a day. Peter loves this, too, but he is limited to only 10 blueberries per day in an effort to not stain all of his diapers.

I am planning... my first blog giveaway! I will be writing the post over the weekend, reviewing a product I enjoy and offering a prize from that company. Check back here at 9AM EDT for your chance to win!

I was recently surprised by... positive feedback from some of my former campers. They read about my pain upon hearing about Francis and wrote to tell me I had made a difference in their lives. I had assumed these kids had come to camp already being strong Christians and was surprised to hear that my faith had made a difference in their lives. You never know how God is using you.