Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kitchen Improvement!

Our original kitchen. Carpeted. Ew.

Mom and I pulled up the carpet to reveal this lovely floor.
Why bother putting tile when you can cover it with a fridge?

Our new laminate floor! Hooray!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Peter Says

A long, meandering story ending with, "And it's not polite to bite flamingos. That's why they are in cages, so people won't bite them."

He doesn't say "th" in words. Often it changes to "y" (Look at yat!), but sometimes he just drops it completely. This is always how I hear him when he says the Hail Mary: "And blessed is the fruit of iWomb, Jesus." Next Apple product, just wait.

Sitting next to Jeremy, who is using the laptop: "Daddy, can you show me some funny pictures of kitties?" He knows what the Internet is for. (Prompted by this collection of pictures, which appeals to cat-lovers and typohphiles)

When Jeremy gets home from work: "Daddy!! I missed your phone!"

I don't say much yet. I just look cute.

Friday, February 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 30): Winter Storm Nemo

Want to see how much snow we got?

Shocking, I know.

A friend from church suggested Anne will choose Nemo as her Confirmation name, since she was baptized that weekend. I said that is a boy's name; she can pick Nemesia. My mom pointed out, "That's a pretty forgettable name. Annemesia?" :-)

Peter went sledding for the second time this winter. This time he actually had fun. See, the first time he went, snow stuck to his gloves, which was not OK. Being the enterprising mommy that I am, I used bread bags and rubber bands to prevent such a horrible thing happening again.

And a quick video of our successful sledding adventure!

He also made his first snow angel!

All in all, we had a great time.

Other than the fact that my brother, Anne's Godfather, got stuck in Boston and was unable to attend her Baptism. But as multiple people pointed out to me, he only missed one day. He'll be her Godfather for the rest of his life!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Christian Novels Worth Reading

Confession: I enjoy fluffy romances, the books so generic that libraries don't even shelve them with other fiction novels. I like knowing from the beginning that He and She will fall in love and live happily ever after. (In related news, I also read all the spoilers I can find before watching a new movie.) What I don't like are books that provide me with explicit descriptions of every act of love.

Predicting which romances will be explicit can be difficult, so at the library I stick to Harlequin Heartwarmers or Love Inspired. The former are usually pretty good (again, keeping in mind the genre), but the latter often lack... plot. I think what sells many of the Love Inspired titles is simply that they are Christian. There are some gems out there, but many of the books leave me, well, uninspired.

What do you think? Could I be on the cover of an Inspirational Romance? :-)
Photo credit: Eric Brophy,

The other problem I have with many titles in the Love Inspired series (and much of Christian fiction in general) is that the Christian content seems contrived. It's as if the author wrote a decent short story, then went back and filled it in with prayers for guidance and true love, the obligatory church picnic, and a couple sermons. The narrative is stilted and the Christian references are sometimes jarring.

I have discovered a few Christian novels I truly enjoy. First, any book by  Kristen Heitzmann, who writes suspense/romance novels with Christian messages are woven into an actual story. I have read five or six of her novels and enjoyed every one. I like The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen, which I picked up as a free ebook from Barnes&Noble during a sale. I haven't read any of her other novels yet, but I plan on it! I recently read Fallen Angels by Patricia Hickman. This is historical fiction (set in the Great Depression), so a departure from romance, but it was so well-written that I intend to seek out more of her work as well. Finally, a few weeks ago I reread Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, a novel I enjoyed as a child and hadn't read since. I was pleasantly surprised to find strong Christian messages in this novel, too.

What Christian novels can you recommend? I would love to expand my library!

Friday, February 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 29): Catholic Perspective on Masturbation

I recently read a post from a respected friend of mine, Amy, with whom I occasionally completely disagree. This post sets forth her reasons for believing that masturbation is neither unnatural nor sinful. I thought about simply writing a comment, but I wanted to go into a bit of detail and share my thoughts with my readers, not just hers. :-)

For the record, I agree with her position that there is nothing in the Bible explicitly forbidding masturbation. However, there is nothing forbidding abortion, either, which was also happening. Lack of explicit instruction requires discernment and interpretation. (I assume Amy would agree with this, I'm just setting that as groundwork.)

Here is where we diverge. I am Catholic, Amy is not. As a Catholic, I believe that the Church has 2000 years of accumulated wisdom, including some of the most brilliant theologians to live. I believe that the Church is a teaching authority guided by the Holy Spirit. The Church has discerned that God's plan for the physical expression of human sexuality is to be within the covenant of marriage and be procreative. If you're looking for Biblical support (not explicit instructions, but support), see Genesis 2 and Matthew 19.

One part of Amy's post argues that our sexual drive needs to be satisfied just as surely as hunger and thirst. I disagree. She writes, "Eating, drinking, sleeping, and personal hobbies are all solo activities, too—they serve no purpose other than nurturing our own bodies." The physical expression of sexuality does have a higher purpose, though - through it, we are allowed to become co-creators with the eternal God, helping to create a person with an eternal soul. That's not really comparable to a peanut butter sandwich.

Unfortunately, the positive teaching on our sexuality has been reduced to a list of "thou shalt nots". Thou shalt not have sex outside of marriage, have a same-sex partner, use contraceptives, use certain fertility treatments, or masturbate. Yes, those are wrong and a distortion of God's plan for us, but they're not an arbitrary list of restrictions. They all come from the understanding that sexuality is a procreative covenant act.

If one does not believe that the physical expression of our sexuality is meant to be procreative, then I can see the argument that forbidding masturbation doesn't make sense. But for me, masturbation is not a stand-alone issue. Masturbation is wrong for the same reason contraceptives are wrong. Both take a covenant act, meant to honor God and open us to the possibility of collaborating with Him in the creation of a new human, and turn it to our own ends. It profanes what is sacred. That's why I think it's wrong.

A final note: I completely agree with Amy that as a culture, particularly as a Christian culture, we focus far too much on guilt and shame for sexual sins. Our sexuality should be taught primarily as a positive gift. Sin should never be condoned, but sexual sin is not the only way we fail God. Those who have committed it can receive God's mercy and a new start just as surely as those who lie or cheat on taxes or gossip or commit any number of other offenses. Christ died for all, not just those with socially acceptable sins.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Anne's Baptism

Fr. Jerry was at my mom's parish when she was young,
so a familiar face for her and her siblings.

Neither Godparent was able to attend,
so two of her grandparents stood in as proxies.

Photo credit: David Beyerlein Photography

Photo credit: David Beyerlein Photography

Monday, February 11, 2013

Making My Kids Cry

One of the worst feelings comes from hearing my child cry and not helping. (For this reason alone, I can't imagine cry-it-out sleep training.) Over the past month, I've found myself in this situation repeatedly. It doesn't get any easier, for any of us.

Peter loves his sister. He likes to bring her things, help us take care of her, and rock her when she is sad. He also loves his mommy and misses being an only child. When he is tired, he gets distraught if he wants to be on my lap and Anne is nursing. (He doesn't want to nurse; I've offered multiple times.) He's been on the verge of tears a few times and, once, just pointed at her and started sobbing.

I offer for him to sit next to me, or sit on my knees, but he doesn't want that. He wants his mommy back.

Nothing like a baby on my lap to make
that the most desirable place to be.

I have committed to not altering his nap or bedtime routine. He gets prayers and two lullabies, uninterrupted, with me lying beside him in his bed. (Ironically, he usually doesn't cuddle during this time.) When my husband is home, I don't feel bad about Anne being downstairs, even if she is crying. But when I'm home with just the two kids, I hate hearing her cry.

Of course, it's "only" for 5-10 minutes, and I make sure she is well fed and in a clean diaper before I lay her down, but sometimes she is just so miserable. Once, I tried bringing her into Peter's room with me so I could keep a hand on her while lying with him... That just made them both upset.

Moms of more than one little one, do you have words of wisdom to make this a happier home? Even if not, prayers are greatly appreciated, too, especially for the kiddos.

Friday, February 8, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 28): Math for Preschoolers

Along with a Catholic preschool curriculum, I've started intentionally doing math with Peter. I have one topic planned per day on a six day rotation. Of course, we don't always do one per day. Sometimes we miss a day or two, other days we do a variety of math activities. Having a schedule helps me ensure I'm touching on a variety of concepts, though. Here are the topics:

Counting. This seems pretty obvious. We count pictures, blocks, train cars, feet, people on the couch... anything. He has surprised me a few times recently by referencing how many of something he has on his plate, without counting them aloud first.

Sorting. I bought a bag of pony beads for a couple bucks. Combined with an egg carton, this is the recipe for at least an hour of fun. (We also have buttons, but I haven't introduced those yet to be sorted.) We sort by color, or try to put the same number in each opening. He also has been learning about most and least - dump all the beads and see which pile is biggest and smallest!

Dice. Peter loves dice, primarily because they are fun to bounce across the table. I've tapped into that interest to do a little more math. How many dice do we have? Now how many are left? How many spots are up? Is that number bigger or smaller than this number? Lots of math to do there!

Telling time. He has a big wooden clock (by Melissa&Doug) with movable minute and hour hands. He's beginning to get the idea that the hour hand tells the first number. Mostly he just enjoys moving the hands and asking, "And NOW what time is it?!"

Measuring. He has his own 3 foot measuring tape and loves to measure books, furniture, and people. So far, he doesn't really grasp the idea that it always needs to start with zero, but I'm sure we'll get there. (His tape actually has a zero on it, which I think is great.) We also have done measuring as part of baking, talking about fractions.

Stopwatch. This is a great one for while I am nursing the baby or he just has a lot of extra energy. I time him doing all sorts of stunts, then we look at the stopwatch and see how many seconds it was. He learns to identify numbers and how to compare amounts of time.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Diapering Advice

A dear friend of mine has recently discovered she is pregnant. Hooray! Many prayers for her and her little one. She is planning to use cloth diapers and asked during a phone call if I had any advice. Ha! I could talk about diapers for hours, I think. I told her I would email her. Since I haven't gotten around to that yet, I decided to do a blog post instead. Two birds with one stone.

Fuzzibunz One Size Elite (MSRP $19.95)
We bought 20 of these a few months ago on clearance, to replace some diapers that I damaged using diaper cream (more on that below). They are pocket diapers, advertised to fit 5 to 45 lbs. I would cautiously recommend them.

Dry very quickly! I can hang them in the basement and they are completely dry in about 10 hours.
Compact. They are much less bulky than other one size diapers.
Adjustable. Adjustable elastic means the size only has to be set with each size, rather than after each wash.
Small. I'm skeptical about this diaper comfortably fitting a bigger toddler. Peter is about 25lbs and nearly at the largest settings. See this review for a comparison of One Size to Perfect Size diapers.
Narrow. While it's great for reducing bulkiness, these diapers are hard to stuff.
Adjustment is difficult. Not a big deal if only one child is in diapers at a time, but if you'll be going back and forth between sizes, buttoning the elastic each time is a pain.

Tiny Tush Elite 1.1 (MSRP 19.95, volume discounts)
These are the diapers I used with Peter for the first 2+ years. They are great! Excellent customer service and made in the USA, too. They are, like all PUL diapers, easily damaged by most diaper creams. After using Desitin with them a few times, they became water repellent. I tried everything to clean them and was able to make them merely water resistant, but they never returned to their former glory. Word to the wise.

Tiny Tush Elite One-Size Fitted Pocket Diapers combine technology, design, and good old fashion comfort!

Easy to use. Easy to stuff, easy to adjust. As with Fuzzibunz, we chose snap closures, which seem to be immune to little boys trying to escape from their diapers. :-)
Fits toddlers. Peter was nowhere near to outgrowing his diapers when we stopped using them.
Adjustments after every wash. I unsnapped the sizing snaps across the front for each wash to get them clean, which means they need to be re-snapped once they're clean. Pretty minor drawback.
Not great for newborns. They don't really fit the littlest babies snugly. Some leaks around the legs and definitely bulky on really tiny tushes. :-)

Econobum ($9.95 on Amazon, volume discounts)
As the name implies, these are the cheap way to diaper. The prefolds are good quality; the covers seem like they might not last through multiple children. Still, for the price you pay, it's a good investment in my mind.

Econobum: Single Pack

Price! That's the main advantage to these ones.
Easy to clean. Unlike the microfiber/fleece/PUL diapers, these ones don't need gentle care. The prefolds can be laundered in regular soap and dried on high heat. I usually hang the covers, since they dry quickly.
Harder to use. Not by much, though. Just fold the diaper in thirds, lay it in the cover, and snap it up.
Comically bulky on newborns. These do work for newborns, no leaks, but hilariously large on them. (For newborns, I use a newspaper fold for boys and bikini twist for girls, with a Snappi.)
Less durable? We don't use these as often as our pocket diapers, so I don't really know how well they would hold up to daily use. We're happy with their performance so far, though.

For Newborns
Our favorite combination for newborns is a newborn-sized prefold with  Bummis newborn cover. I would recommend 5-8 covers and at least one Snappi closure. This combination has given us a snug fit for both our little ones at their tiniest without a big price tag.

We use regular washcloths as wipes; 24 was adequate when we only had one in diapers. We have a diaper pail with a washable wetbag as the liner. We also have a Bummis wetbag in the diaper bag. We were using a diaper sprayer, which broke... currently we're using Bummis flushable liners in Peter's diapers. (Anne is 100% breastfed, so her poop comes out in the wash with no problem.)

Friday, February 1, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 27): Can we build a church community?

When my husband and I joined our parish four years ago, we knew no one. Since that time, we've joined six different committees/ministries, attended Mass there every Sunday we're in town, and participated in quite a few parish events. It didn't take long to become part of the community, to create our village.

It did involve investment of time. It involved a fair amount of effort and a willingness to adjust our schedules to accommodate church commitments. It wasn't easy, but to us it was worth it. We value participating in a faith community, so we have made it a priority to join one.

I have heard a number of churches lament the lack of community among their parishioners. They host events designed to build community and create Bible study groups that will draw people together. The belief seems to be that if opportunities for community are made available, then people will come together in mutual friendship and support.

I think these efforts, while made with good intentions, address a minor problem. There may be some people who desire community and don't know where to start, but I don't think that's the main issue. I think the problem for churches is that people prefer to build community with coworkers, teammates, and others with common interests. People see church as a place to worship, not a place to build friendships. And we cannot build someone else's community if he doesn't want to be a part of it.

Moving into the realm of speculation, I wonder if this is because of an increasingly segmented society. It is easy to surround oneself with people of a similar age, political outlook, stage of life, hobbies, etc. Social media certainly facilitates this type of community.

If parishioners are moving away from a church community, does this also make it harder to maintain a relationship with God? If we cannot pray with and for each other, as individuals rather than as the generic "Church", does this make it more difficult to experience the God who designed us to live in community? I don't know.

Finally, if it is indeed a problem that the congregation does not want community, how do we address that? How do we create a desire? I would love to hear your thoughts on this one.