Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why We Choose a Midwife

(Or Why I Loved My Doctor But Love My Midwife More)

Everyone's circumstances and needs are different so in no way do I think that everyone needs to make the same decisions that I do.  But I thought I'd share some of my reasons why after having a doctor for our first two births, we chose a midwife for the birth of our last two babes.  I've found that many women still don't know that a midwife is a real and valid option for them.  Many still don't even know what a midwife actually does!  So I present you with some of the reasons our family loves our midwife:

She is a medical expert.  People hear the word midwife and have all sorts of misconceptions and prejudgements.  They don't necessarily think of someone who has gone to school and been trained for years in the practice of birth and woman care.  A midwife knows what to do in an emergency and often knows more than one way to do it.  Often, she knows the optimum circumstances to get a baby born with the least amount of intervention and very often she knows things that doctors don't.  Midwives often work in hospitals or they have their own practice.  While every profession has a range of personality and skills, the midwives I have met and used are well educated and professional.

Appointments with my midwife last at least an hour.  That is time spent with her, not her staff, her waiting room (she doesn't have one...there is no waiting), or some other midwife in the practice.  I'm there to see her and that is who I see.  There is time and freedom to ask questions, to chat about things totally unrelated to pregnancy and birth, to develop a friendship.

She's a woman.  Oh, I know, sexist!  Strap on your controversy hat.

Men and women are different.  There I said it.

I had a male doctor attend the birth of my first two children.  He was wonderful and very supportive of natural birth and even attended home births.  Awesome.  I remember telling myself during exams that it shouldn't matter that this was a man doing it...he's a professional and this is a health matter.  It's not weird that there is a man all up in my business.  It's  a medical exam and that's the end of it.  Any feelings of being uncomfortable were my own issues.

It has only been in the last few years (and after having a woman provide care) that I've begun to think that it is incredibly weird to have men routinely attend births and perform well woman checkups.  It's also a very modern development in relation to the rest of history.  I now believe with all my heart that birth is not just something biological.  When a woman is giving birth it is one of the most intimate moments in her life.  It's emotional and spiritual and physical and social.  Writing that now it seems obvious.  It's not just some business transaction.  For that crazy intimate moment, I've learned I much prefer to be under the care of another woman.  A woman who gets it.  Besides, birth or not, we are body AND soul united...we can't just disconnect from the fact that there is another man, not my husband, in places that it's weird for another man to be.

With my last two babies I had two different female midwives.  There is a difference.  While my male doctor was awesome, my midwives were compassionate and open and understanding and empathetic in a way that no male could ever be.  You're not going to find a male doctor who truly KNOWS what it feels like to have a wrong-sized speculum placed in you or that understands why I may not want to be a chatty Cathy when there are fingers in places I would much rather there not be.  A man is not going to GET what labor feels like.  Ever.  A man can not know the absolute physical NEED for a woman to hold her baby right away.
A man will never ever ever understand what it is to be mother.

I could never go back to having a male unless (of course) it was in some emergency situation.  And that's okay because compared to all of the world's history THAT is what is normal.

I once had a conversation with someone about this and she had the exact opposite take.  When she had a female OB come in during a birth to check her, she hated it and felt like it was SO WEIRD that a woman would be looking in those places because it was such an intimate thing.  But a man who was not her husband was okay.  Strangest conversation ever.

(Again, this is just my experience and opinion, they don't have to be yours.)

All that said, that doesn't mean I don't want a man to attend the birth.  I want my husband to be that man.  And my midwives have always been incredibly respectful of that relationship and the tremendous capacity for bonding that birth holds.  I've seen doctors push husbands out of the way when it's time for the baby to emerge.  My midwives were completely okay (and encouraged) Brian being right there to catch and give the baby to me (obviously as long as things were proceeding normally).  My doctor did do that as well, but that is sadly not the norm.  Brian was a part of the process and our midwife worked with us before the birth to discuss how involved we wanted him to be.

She knows what normal birth looks like.
Would you believe that most OB medical students and doctors HAVE NEVER SEEN AN INTERVENTION FREE BIRTH?  It's true.  That's like a GI doctor never having seen someone eat a normal meal or an orthopedist who has never seen a healthy person run.  If I'm hoping for a normal natural birth, I want someone there who knows what that looks like.  There are very few doctors that have seen a woman birth a baby from start to finish without the aid of professionals or medical help, the way she's done for centuries.  Doctors by nature are there to treat anomalies and that's a good thing. But many doctors are trained to see birth itself as an anomaly and an emergency, and the only training they know is to jump in to "treat" the birth, even when it is going just fine on its own.

Midwives believe differently.  In the midwifery model of care birth is normal unless proven otherwise.  She knows what's abnormal but just as important, she knows what's normal.

She welcomed my other children at appointments and didn't mind that they asked questions, wandered around her office, and didn't make everything efficient.  Every appointment David would want to be right next to me while we were listening for the heartbeat and she would pull the chair on over and help him climb up.  John Paul would help hold the Doppler.  She knows all their names and would chat with them about their latest interests and ask what was new with them at every appointment.

The use of a midwife dramatically lowers your chance of a Cesarean (9.9% vs. 32%!) and LOWERS intrapartum and neonatal mortality rates.  (Read herehere, and here.)

That oxytocin thing.  When a woman is in labor and gives birth naturally her body is flooded with oxytocin.  One of the primary functions of this hormone is to emotionally bond a woman to whoever she is with.  It's released during orgasm, labor and birth, and during breastfeeding.  This flood of oxytocin is one of the reasons that some women don't like the practices of their doctor but have a hard time 'breaking up' with him or her.  Maybe you'll think I'm a weirdo but I think as a married woman I feel more okay with being bonded with my female midwife who knows me, remembers me and who I consider a friend rather than a male doctor who has to check his file in order to remember my name.   I know.  Weirdo.

I feel completely comfortable calling her by her first name.  It makes me feel like we are making decisions together and that we are on the same footing.  Oh, she definitely knows more than I do by far and she is the expert in the room, but I feel like she values the role of mother more so than if I had to use a title of respect (implying authority) before her name.

We knew that she would be the one attending the birth.  Not another partner in the practice or whoever was on call from the group.  It would be her.  It's sad that women interview doctors and find someone they are comfortable with even discussing birth plans at length only to then have no control over who shows up at the birth.  Sometimes someone they have never even met.  It doesn't make sense.  When you're working with a doctor it should be that doctor that attends the birth but unfortunately, that isn't the case.  By hiring our midwife we knew that it would be HER at the birth.
(Midwives do have a back up but that is reserved for emergency circumstances.)

She can also provide care outside of pregnancy and birth.  So if I need to see someone for other women's issues, I can go to her.  This also applies to someone who uses an obstetrician for their can still go to a midwife for other care.

I don't need a birth plan.  I'm an advocate for birth plans in many cases.  But when your care provider knows you well and their standard of care is based on a natural mindset, then there's not usually a need to type up and print out a birth plan.  We talk through our desires and plans and then she remembers.  It's pretty sweet.

She helped me diagnose a B12 deficiency that had gone undiagnosed with every other pregnancy.  I told her some of my complaints all of which I had been told were "just pregnancy."  She opened up a few books during our appointment and figured out that it could likely be a B12 deficiency.  I began taking high doses of B12 and my pregnant life was changed (no dizziness, lightheadedness, crazy breathlessness?  yes please.).

Continuity of care.  A midwife is fully qualified in newborn care.  This means that my midwife performed the first few checks of our babies to make sure everything was normal.  Not only does it just make things easier but it means that the person providing the care is intimately acquainted with the circumstances of his or her birth.  Which is actually really important.  (Note:  This isn't usually an option in most hospitals because of their (silly) protocols segregating maternity and newborn care.)

Home visits.  After the baby is born.  Because have you ever tried bringing three little children and a newborn to a doctor's appointment??

She's just plain kind and treats me with dignity and love.  I've had experiences in doctor's offices of being talked down to and laughed at.  I've had to wait over an hour for an appointment whereupon I was seen for ten minutes by a doctor who never once looked me in the eye.  She is extremely gentle with exams and always lets you know what she is doing.  Being around kind people always beats out the alternative.  Especially at such an important and special time in a woman's life.  

I fully realize that there are wonderful doctors and there are not so wonderful midwives.  There are midwives in name only who basically work as a doctor's assistant.   And there may be doctors who do some or all of these things I've discussed.  That is awesome.  But it's fair to say that in many areas, those doctors are few and far between (if they exist at all) and that midwives as a whole offer this kind of care much more routinely.  (Again, this is just my experience.)  I believe that every woman should have the information available to make the choice with which they are most comfortable.  And every woman should know the options available and if one of them is an awesome midwife, then she has a right to know that.  If you haven't been happy with the care from your current provider, perhaps you may want to consider a midwife.

May we all choose the provider that will treat both us and our precious little ones with the care and dignity we deserve.

For other moms out there:
If you used a midwife, what did you appreciate most?
 What led you to choose the provider you did?
 Do you have any regrets over the provider you chose?  Feel free to share!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Presuming Charity in the Grocery Store

The great Mrs. Fulwiler wrote a very neat piece discussing her recent experience using a chapel veil at Mass.  I've never worn a veil (who knows, maybe someday) but a sentence popped out at me from her reflections:

"It was at that moment that I realized that this exercise in head covering brought with it an important, and surprisingly difficult, opportunity for spiritual growth: to presume other people’s charity."

Sometimes we are SO ready to be offended and judged, aren't we?  We go to the grocery store with our x number of kids and we are just waiting for the inevitable "are they all yours?" or the ever popular "you've got your hands full!"  (The comments I get are usually directed at my all male crew.  "Poor thing!"  "Didn't get your girl, eh?"  "You must be a saint!")  And we answer either charitably or snarkily and walk away muttering to ourselves and planning the perfect online rant about how people are just so ruuude.

But wait.
 What if, rather than presuming that all these people are nefarious culture of death minions who want to tie us down and forcibly sterilize us, we instead decide to presume upon their charity?  What if we assume they are merely surprised (dare I say even happy?) to see that many children?  What if we silence the inner skeptic and act like maybe that person is just attempting to make conversation?  What if they are simply making an observation because, like it or not dear mother of three, four, five, or more children, your hands ARE full!  And the Scriptures say repeatedly that that is a very very good thing!  (Maybe that person believes that, too!)

Perhaps we can make it a practice to presume that the person making the comment is a lovely person just trying to make conversation or admire your children or even getting ready to offer a hand.  It may or may not be true but at the very least we will know that our hearts are pure.  Perhaps instead of a snarky reply we can simply answer with a pure non-cynical response and even dare to engage in a friendly conversation.   Perhaps we can make it a habit to mutter a prayer for that person rather than a rant.  Perhaps our children will then learn that people are good and that not everyone is out to get us.  Perhaps we can even soften a few hearts.
And when someone observes how full are our hands, perhaps we can smile sincerely and thank God that they are.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

WIWS - Family Style

 First with the boring stuff:

Pretending it's spring I pulled out my light pink collared shirt (Express but from a thrift store long ago), a cream v-neck sweater (Petite Sophisticate (is that store still around?) but a Christmas gift from like seven years ago), and every homeschool mom's sidekick, my trusted denim skirt (Gap but a hand me down from a friend).  This skirt has a crazy (slightly embarrassing) slit in both sides thing going on.  But it fits and it matches with things.  Same Land's End tights and grandma boots as last time...and pretty much every day this winter.  I should've curled my hair under.  

On to much cuter things:

"Should I do my Gosling face?"

The boys actually LOVE getting dressed up for Mass each week.  We've never done otherwise and they're still at the phase where they want to look like Papa and get excited to match each other.  (The first person who implies to them otherwise will feel my Mama wrath come down upon them.)

Outfit made complete by the thumb-sucking deterrent glove.  No MJ references, please and thank you :)

I used to like to have them "blend" (because I'm a nutcase) but lately as long as they don't clash and are dressed nicely, I'm happy.  Besides, David keeps insisting on wearing this outfit every weak because green is his favorite color.  (I am officially unable to get a good picture of this offspring.)  

Every Sunday I mean to get a picture of them in their adorable coats and hats what with all the calm and peaceful goings on of a Sunday morning getting four small children to Mass...  The bigger three coats were my stepfather's when he was little.  Aren't they great?  Michael and David totally look like Paddington Bear when they're shuffling into church.  Luke's is a wool Children's Place coat I scored for fifty cents at a garage sale.  The ill-fitting hats and mittens I knit last year for Christmas.

I'm super grateful that the boys have never even thought to fight dressing up for church.  I think it's important, especially for them, to have their "Sunday best" and know that Mass is a privilege and a very very special thing.  And I think it does in some small way help them to be on their best behavior.  Sort of like when my high school calculus teacher told us that she wanted us to dress up for an important exam the next day because studies had shown that students who dressed up for tests did better.  How we dress affects our attitude and disposition.

Because when my boys dress up, they are always, always on their 

most well-mannered...


completely obedient...

and very best behavior.

Happy Sunday!  
Click on over to the ladies at Fine Linen and Purple for the rest of the What I Wore Sunday posts!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mary Gets a Makeover

A few years ago a friend passed along a statue of Mary as they were paring things down before they moved out of state.  (Thank you, Becky!)  It wasn't in the best of shape and every time I saw her (slightly creepy) eyes staring at us in the playroom I would make a mental note to fix it up someday.  Just the other day I finally took the few minutes to give Mary a little bit of a makeover.  

I know you are just shocked that I painted it white. ;)  Nothing fancy but it's an improvement and I love the simplicity of a white statue.  Or white anything really.  If you don't have the skills to make a statue into a beautiful work of art, then I say go white.  It's hard to mess it up.   

I'll have to find the right place to put it where it can be a little visual reminder of grace.   Not something to be worshipped but something to help forgetful people like me remember that there is more, so much more than this life and that God uses real people to work out His amazing plans.  I am especially excited that her eyes have less of the creep factor.  Because Mary isn't creepy.  She's pretty awesome.  You know what would be a neat idea?  When you see those chipped and sad looking statues at thrift stores and estate sales and whatnot, buy them and give them new life with a little coat of paint.  Then give them away so that others can have that reminder of God's grace in their home.

Hope you're having a lovely Saturday!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Seven Quick Takes - Letters, Loveliness, Links, and More

Anyone have tips on getting a babe to teethe faster?  Luke's teeth come in SO slowly (like it's been over a month where I can see his molars swollen right there under his gum) and it's agonizing.  Couple that with a nasty nasty cold (possibly Strep?) and we're back in newborn land waking every hour or two at night.  Actually worse, since he was such a dream baby as a newborn.  Some herb, vitamin, drug, something?  Bonus points if it will safely knock him out for a few hours :)  Throw me your tips.  Chewing on cold carrots just isn't cutting it.  Literally.


I know, right?!  And I didn't even make him write that!  It was just what he decided to write for cursive practice.  Someone's playing hard for Favorite Child of the Week.*

*Note to my dear children possibly reading this in the future:  not a real thing, promise.

Which is part of the reason he got to go on a date with me tonight.  We meandered through Tractor Supply for a little bit and then we somehow ended up at a hunting and gun store nearby where I got to browse things like "Coon Cream" and paint balls and pocket knives all while being stared at by extraordinarily large wildlife heads hanging on the wall.  He loved it.  Then we went to the coffee shop, got some hot chocolate and played Scrabble.  It was lovely.
Speaking of lovely, my friend Theresa started a blog a few months ago called Ordinary Lovely (isn't that a wonderful name?) and I really think you should check it out, especially if you're of the Catholic homeschool mom leaning.  She's a natural.  If there is a blogging natural.  And she knows about all sorts of things.  Like opera.  And how to make snow ice cream.  And how to take beautiful pictures without seeming like she's trying.  Hop on over.

Every few months I need a reminder like this post in my homeschooling journey.  You know, that we're not just doing school at home.  It's so so much more than that.  I encourage you to check it out.  

A few weeks ago some of our pullets began laying.  Since we went with the mixed breed lot we weren't  sure what type each chicken was, though we had our guesses.  It's so fun when they begin laying.  Michael took a look at the basket of new eggs and exclaimed, "there's even WHITE ones!!!"

Another link to a beautiful site.  About a year or so ago a friend posted a link on Facebook to Adeye's site, No Greater Joy Mom.  At the time they were asking for prayers for a fourteen year old orphan in Pleven who weighed only FOURTEEN pounds.  (Yes, fourteen.)  I was hooked and followed their story since.  Since then Adeye and her husband Anthony decided to adopt that sweet little girl themselves and named her Hasya.  At the same time they adopted a little boy named Kael.  That brought their family to seven adopted special needs children and two biological children.  All this to say that Hasya is home now and has been facing tremendous health issues as they have set on the path toward redeeming and healing their little girl.  PLEASE pray for Hasya.  And please go check out her site and be as inspired as I was by the grace present.  They are a beautiful family and their witness has certainly opened my eyes to the plight of the orphan.  

Have a beautiful day and see Jen for more 7QT!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Favorite Homeschool Item(s)

Math comes easy to me.  Language Arts I feel I can sort of handle.  Catechesis is my specialty.  And science pretty much takes care of itself.  (Hyperbole much?) 

But then there's history.

History.  Oh, how I loathe history.  Well, I suppose I enjoy learning about history and love the stories and I have a good understanding of the broad overview of things.  But specifics elude me.  My mind is like a sieve when it comes to the details.  I can learn about something and within days it's forgotten.  And I hate that.  And it makes me hate teaching it.

So this, as of late, is the homeschool item for which I am most grateful:

(Not the boy...the playroom CD player in the background.  Ignore the weird TV/karaoke like feature which we can't quite figure out.  It was from the thrift store.) 

The boys will sit in here playing Legos for HOURS and listen to their Story of the World CDs.  I wouldn't doubt they know way more than I do about ancient history.  Because no matter how many times I hear the stories, if you ask me the difference between a Phoenecian and an Assyrian or who Akhemenetop is I can't tell you.  In fact, I don't think Akhemenetop is a real thing.  But they could tell you.  I'm trying to make full use of the porous gray matter in their skulls just begging to be filled with knowledge both actively and passively.  Sometimes they listen to their poetry CDs.  Or their piano CDs.  Or their Bible CDs.  Heck, I'm tempted to just make their whole curriculum next year audio based and get as much as I possibly can in CD form.  Having their hands busy with the Legos has been the perfect way to engage little boys who are completely normal and not that capable of sitting still for any length of time.  I haven't even tapped into the potential of the MP3 player's use in homeschool but I'm sure it will happen in the future.  

Can I add another?  Please?  I have to add my other favorite homeschool item here as well.  These:

Not the desks, we barely use those (but they look cute!).  See those ginormous built in shelves?  My husband built them because he rocks that way.  We designed them for this room and they have been critical in me feeling like I can house the number of books we own.  Why do we own so many books?  Because we don't go to the library.  (GASP!)  Because even the thought of the library with four little children gives me hives.  But it's hard to be a great homeschool mom when you fear the library, right?  You MUST go to the library, they say.  So every year I have grand visions of weekly library trips with a gaggle of little ducklings trailing obediently behind me as we prevue the vast shelves of literary goodness, selecting ONLY the most edifying, of course.  And every year I fail.  Because a trip to the library (at least around here...maybe others are different) involves vast amounts of sweat and chasing toddlers and missing big kids and glares from pallid middle agers and a whole lot of "no, we can't read it HERE, we're getting them to take home, but no you can't get THAT one because it's garbage and please for the love of Pete do NOT throw that book again and run and get your brother before he rubs his nose on the pallid man over there and no we can't have a snack and WHY are the books so crappy at this library and shoot HOW are we supposed to get that pile of 76 books to the car without having to leave a small child either in the car or in the library and risk more glares and a potential call to CPS??"  I'm sure your experience is much different.  Perhaps someday we'll live near the perfect library that welcomes little children, doesn't have wacked out hours, and actually has books I want my children to read.  For now, we don't.

I decided that the only way to succeed at being a homeschooling family while fearing the library would be to just create our own.  Almost all of the books we buy are used from school closings and library sales that I stocked up on years ago.  Now many are bought off of Ebay or received as gifts.  I don't want the boys to have to wait until their homebody mother has stored up the wherewithal to dare a library trip for them to have something quality to read.  (Yes, we do go sometimes if I have a bottle of wine at home.)  I'm very picky about what books come in and bonus, I don't have to worry about my children learning things they shouldn't from the book covers showcased on top of the shelves of the children's section (oh my goodness, some of those books!).  We have a science shelf, a history shelf, religion shelf, several literature shelves, a toddler shelf and shelves for all the daily lesson materials.  The upper shelves hold all the adult books, many of which we've held on to since college to make us look all learned.  Someday we'll read them again.  Or John Paul will.  They pretty much stay organized because of my yet to be diagnosed neurotic tendencies.  There is always something new to read, we've barely tapped into them.  Of course, our favorites get read and reread many times.  John Paul has learned so so many things from these books and is constantly surprising us with some of the things he knows that we've never taught him.  

So the shelves are a must for me.  And this has become one of my favorite rooms in our home.  I'm still trying to find the perfect cozy chairs and cushions for the window seats to make the room complete. The shelves help me provide for the education I want for my children by keeping all those wonderful books organized and taken care of and keeping my sanity (somewhat) in tune.  Without them and with the books I would be a wreck and it would be a disorganized nightmare.  Without them and without the books I'd actually have to leave my house and go to the (gulp) library.

 Linking on over with the Dweejanator to tell of the homeschool item we cannot live without.  Or without which we cannot live.  Fancy homeschool language.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Split Pea Soup (that my kids will actually eat)

My kids get excited when I tell them we're having split pea soup for dinner.  Weirdo kids.  I wouldn't say this soup is to die for but if my kids will happily eat something that is cheap, healthy and made in the crockpot, I consider it a win.  It's an especially great meal for a cold Lenten Friday.  And if you think split pea soup is gross then, hey, it's especially appropriate.  That's what I tell my husband.

Split Pea Soup


1 16 oz. package of split peas (or 2-3 cups)
1 diced yellow onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 diced potato (I normally leave the skins on.)
8 cups water or veggie/chicken stock
3 tbsp. vegetable soup base (if you're just using water.  I prefer Better Than Bouillon)
1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
pepper to taste

1 extra cup carrots
2 extra potatoes

Throw everything but the optional ingredients in the crockpot and cook on low 5-6 hours or on high 4-5 hours.  Puree with an immersion blender.  If it's thicker than you'd like, add a little more water.

Throw some crackers on it and serve it up.  Maybe your weirdo kids will eat it, too.

This time around after pureeing I diced up the extra cup of carrots and two potatoes and threw those in. Keep the crockpot going another few hours to soften them.  This is nice if you like a bit more texture in your soup because it's certainly not the most appetizing looking of foods when just pureed.  Also good for babies at the I-insist-on-eating-things-on-my-own-but-soup-doesn't-work-that-well stage.  I'll fish them out so the Luke-babe will be able to eat them on his own.

It doesn't matter.  Split pea soup in any form is just not pretty.  

But vegan, crockpot, gluten free, freezer friendly and cheap?  Yes, please.  I'd estimate it costs about $4 at the most to make a meal that will feed this family of six TWICE and that's WITH the fancy organic stuff.  I'll sacrifice the aesthetics, thank you.

Linking up with Beth Anne's Best.  Click on over for some more meatless meal ideas for Lent!

Monday, February 18, 2013

This Month in Boys - February 2013

John Paul
-has rediscovered his Lego love.
-for the first time has determined there is something he wants to be when he grows up...a pilot.
-spent the better part of three days this week pencil sketching.
-can hear a song at church, bring it home in his head, spend a few minutes at the piano and have the tune memorized.
-still snuggles in close to me when I read to him before bed.
-knows more than I do about ancient history and physics.
-chooses chocolate ice cream and cheeseburgers as his favorite foods.

(Working hard on a replica of DaVinci's ornithocopter)

-is discovering he knows how certain things are supposed to be and especially exhibits this with his younger brothers (read:  he's gotten bossy).
-has been wearing his special thumb glove every day and night and doing amazingly.  I only wish I had  done this earlier.  (Perhaps those first two are that his mouth is free a bit more he's enjoying the power it can wield. :)
-shovels snow like nobody's business.
-still sticks his tongue in the side of his cheek whenever he's self-conscious.
-chooses chocolate peanut butter ice cream as his favorite food.

-is at the very beginning of sounding out letters.
-everyday chooses "puzzles" from my list of things he can do when he asks "what's my school?" and every day acts surprised and excited and then runs off to get a puzzle.
-has decided he would like to buy chocolate for Mama and new socks for Michael for their birthdays.
-cannot for the life of him sleep past 6:45.
-chooses pizza as his favorite food.

-still hasn't popped those molars yet.  It's been over a month now of them being right there bulging under his gum.  Poor boy.
-is very intentional about what he wants and has learned to yell to get it.
-now spends only about half his time sucking things he shouldn't and puts that energy into throwing things he shouldn't.
-is learning to crawl off of things like beds and couches unscathed but is absolutely terrifying at the top of the stairs.  No falls so far, thank God.
-eats so much more than his brothers did at this age and is willing to try so most new foods (yay!).
-but to Mama's joy, still chooses her milk as his favorite.

(Fancy black and white photos to distract you from the fact that certain ragamuffins are long overdue for haircuts.)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Seven Quick Takes - In Which I Store My Berry Garland

Oh my goodness, I can't believe I'm not even kidding.

Am I allowed to turn my seven quick takes into a tutorial on how to store Christmas decorations?  Will I be thrown out of the 7QT brigade?  Will this tutorial make everyone hit the "pin it" button and turn me into one of those bloggers living their fifteen minutes of fame on Pinterest boards all over the world?  Does Jen even read this?  Answer to all:  probably no.  

I shall not be deterred.
So the other day being Ash Wednesday and all I decided it was time to take down the berry garlands I hang along the windows during Christmas through most of winter.  I wasn't sure if I would put them up this year since I went a bit sparser with the decorations over the holiday and had a slight clutter-phobia going on but my husband asked (ASKED) if we could.  That is a man confident in his masculinity, I tell you what.

Anyway, EVERY YEAR when I take these garlands out they are a tangled mess and the berries get all caught up in each other.  That may or may not cause me to get all frustrated and then the detangling causes dozens of painted styrofoam berries to drop off and toddlers then try to eat the made-in-china-probably-have-lead-in-them berries off the floor and then I try not to use bad words while general bedlam commences.  

Yesterday I realized I could stop all this with a bed sheet.  I got out a twin size bed sheet that just so happens to look exactly like a hospital bed sheet.  I have no idea where it came from but I promise you we don't generally steal from hospitals.  Generally.  It may have been planted, I don't know.  A sheet works great but you could totally use a big piece of fabric, a shower curtain, even a cut up garbage bag if you wanted.  If you only have a couple to store, you could even use an old towel.

Lay out the sheet and place your first garland near the edge.  Roll it up so all the berries are covered then tuck in the next garland and repeat.  That's it.  So simple I wish I had thought of it years ago.  I was able to fit all twelve of our garlands on one sheet.

I tied it up to keep it from unrolling and the garlands are ready to store for next year, all tangle-free.  It also resembles a burial shroud for a dead pet python.  Brian saw it waiting to get put up in the loft and thought it was part of my Lenten decor.  Like some weird take on the Passion?  I don't know.  I do often decorate with weird objects, I'll give him that much.

Take that, bedlam.

Go see Jen now for others who are oh so much more creative, informational, and/or entertaining in their quick taking.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Pantry Foraged Valentine Treat

So, you know that feeling when you realize that you totally forgot to get any special treats to put on the kids' plates at dinner the way your mom always remembered to do and she had three more children than you do and how the heck did she do that and why am I failing at so many things?  No?  Oh.  Well then.  File this tidbit away for next time you may need a quick and easy way to fancy up a dessert.  But if you did in fact, happen to realize that you forgot said act of love, then be not afeared.  My good friend shall save your day.  My friend has come through many a holiday for me, food hacking my way into my children's hearts.

Meet chocolate chips.  In raw form, this gift from God has gotten me through many an exhausted day, motivated potty training toddlers and nursed me through child meltdowns.  When melted, they become capable of miracles.  Melt these dear ones in the microwave.  Don't burn them.  In order to avoid burning them you usually have to heat in small increments, stirring them in between until they liquify.  I usually do twenty seconds in, stir, twenty more and repeat until melted.  I did about quarter cup...a little goes a long way.

Put that deliciousness in a pastry bag with a number 3 or 4 piping tip on it.  You could also microwave the chips right in a plastic Ziploc bag and squish them around to stir them then cut the TINIEST hole in the corner from which to pipe.  However, plastic in the microwave is not a good I won't recommend it and I won't mention that I've definitely done this when feeling especially lazy or busy.

Set up some wax paper and write something super creative.  Like...their names.  Or hearts.  Whatever.  Creativity isn't my strong suit.

Put the paper in the freezer to harden.  (Use a baking sheet or something solid underneath to keep it firm.)  This only takes a few minutes but I keep the designs in there until I'm ready to use it to protect them from my klutziness, curious little boy fingers, and my mouth.

Be ultra careful when peeling them off the paper so they don't break.  Put them directly on their plate or use it to garnish another dessert to make it look all fancy.  Me from a few months ago was super smart when I had my mini Advent breakdown trip to Trader Joe's and bought a can of coconut milk and a carton of this whipping cream (shelf-stable whipping cream?  Who knew?).  They've been sitting in the cupboard waiting for an opportunity such as this.

Worst food staging pic, evah.

I blended up five bananas, half a cup of the coconut milk, half a cup cocoa powder, and a tablespoon of peanut butter (inspired by this recipe but with less cocoa) and froze it.  I tasted it and it doesn't take like real ice cream.  Not even a little bit.  Don't make this.  People who have been eating vegan a long time and forgotten what delicious food tastes like might be fooled.  (Kidding, vegan friends.  I love you and cheese very very much.)  It's not bad but it's not ice cream.  But the boys will like it anyway since they're used to me making healthy versions of good things.  Brian will pretend.  I whipped up that cream as a topping and now my little valentines tonight will be treated to this:

Personalized Valentine Sundaes

Not bad for pantry foraging.

Happy St. Valentine and Cyril and Methodius' Day!  Hope it's a good one.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

On Papa Ben and Other Things

I feel like I should say something profound in light of Papa Benedict's news yesterday.  

I don't have much.  I was a bit surprised by it but not devastatingly shocked like so many seem to be.  It's been hinted at before and being pope was never something he desired but rather accepted as God's will.  I know enough about him to know that he is a man of profound intellect and has a deep prayer life.  I trust that he is doing exactly what he believes the Holy Spirit wants at this time.  He accepted the election with grace and has worked tirelessly and faithfully in the position to which he was called.  He has fathered us with gentleness and I am grateful for the guidance and teaching he offered.  I almost feel like he is moving into a position of great grandfather or something and that's kind of a neat thing.  

I'm not mourning and I  don't feel devastated by this news.  Maybe I will.  I cried a bit when reading some of the articles and posts but not in grief.  It was more in awe of the profundity of the this moment.  It was in respect for the beauty of this great and humble man, sort of like crying at a beautiful song or a wedding.  I'm excited for what the Lord has in store for the Church.  It probably doesn't need to be said but please remember to pray and offer some of your Lenten fasts for the Church and the discernment of the cardinals in conclave.  What an opportunity we have in the Church to pray and fast in solidarity!  May Blessed John Paul II pray for us.

Thank you, Papa.

In the meantime, I think we may take this historic opportunity to do a little bit of a study on Pope Benedict, the cardinals, and the election process.  Click on over to Elizabeth's to see some of the beginning plans that I'm sure will be a great resource for our home learning in the next month.  She is on top of things over there!  Thank you, Elizabeth!

Today we are finishing up some valentines and will be having our traditional shrove Tuesday meal of pancakes and bacon.  Nothing says indulgence more than bacon.  I've never gotten too into the Mardi Gras thing but pancakes for dinner is a fun way to mark the transition into Lent.  Especially since we're going through on the whole gluten-free thing (gulp).  Have any of you tried this idea?  Supposedly you can make pancakes with just bananas and eggs?  If it works, I will definitely need to file that handy tidbit away.  There's a whole lot of recipes out there for pancakes that don't take wheat flour...who knew?  

What else?  Last night I got to share Luke's birth story at a birth class run by my friend.  It's always so fun to get to hang in a room with the sole purpose being to talk about birth and answer questions.  The couples there were great!  And I picked up a new doula client over the weekend so that was some more birthy excitement in my world.  

If I suck down some more coffee (poor poor Luke is the slowest teether ever and has been working on two molars for weeks which means we've got an up every two hour thing going at night), I may have the energy to take down the last of our berry garlands and wreaths and put up some of our Lent things...but perhaps that would be better suited to tomorrow.  We still need to figure out when we will get to Mass tomorrow to open our Lent.  Oh, and burying the alleluia...gotta do that, too!  (Yay for stream of consciousness posts that help you remember to actually do the things that you posted on before!)  

A blessed Fat Tuesday to you!

courtesy Catholic Memes
This one amused me way too much.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

7 Quick Takes - Grateful

For big kids who take their father's morning directives seriously and take their teething baby brother to the playroom for several hours and keep him happy so mom can get a break.

For three year olds saying with all the excitement due a visit from the queen of England "You GUYS!  Come LOOK!  The oven light is on!!!!" 

For the same three year old who calls his brothers "brothers."  As in, "brothers, will you play with me?"  Or "I'm going to go call the brothers for lunch."  I forget how cute he can be.

For a five year old who is doing wonderfully with his new thumb-sucking deterrent glove.  He wasn't agreeable to it at first but with the promise of a treat at the end of the day if he kept it on all day, he went gangbusters on it.  He even wore it during the night to earn a treat in the morning.  THANK YOU, Aunt Jill!

For days that look like this:

and nowhere that I have to go.  The boys think it looks like Narnia outside.

For husbands who do this:

and let their three year old help.  And three year olds who are overjoyed with manual labor and "special Papa time."

And for this:

Hard wood under ugly linoleum!!!  Squee!!!

Visit the Jen for more Takes!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

{pretty, happy, funny, real} - Randomly Randomness Ediiton

It's been a while since I {phfr}ed with the group!


My knitted heart garland that only gets about a week or two to adorn our faux mantle.

Brian and the boys picked out this plant for me for Christmas.  I've been wanting to have more plants in the house to help clean the air and just make things feel fresher.  The problem is that I kill any sort of ivy and the hardier, more popular houseplants always look too tropical to me.  He found this one and I really like it, though I have no idea what it is.  It's sort of a succulent but viney and (so far) hard to kill.  


Candlemas cupcakes.
These took all of ten minutes to make since me from several months ago thought to freeze the cupcakes leftover from making a birthday cake to pull out for such an occasion as this.  They were a hit.


David has been puzzle crazy lately.  Every morning he asks what he has to do for his "lessons" and every morning I give him a few choices and he waits until I say "or puzzles" and then always chooses puzzles.  This morning he was working on this dinosaur puzzle and decided that each dinosaur was someone he knew.

At least I get to walk upright.  

My sweet baby has inherited my wispy hair (poor thing) and it's beginning to mullet itself.  Once in a great while it looks like it has a curl or two and I love it.  But the other million times or so

it just looks like this and it's getting a little urchinesque.

Do I dare trim it?


Last week I had it in my head that I HAD to make something for the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas.  I don't know why.  I grabbed pie dough (another freezer find) and a buffalo cookie cutter (you have one of those, right?).  Then I used other cookie cutters to hold open some square pieces of dough while they baked.  We ended up with some sad looking "ox" pie crust cookie things and some deflated Summa Theologicas.  Not my finest culinary catechetical endeavor.  I didn't get a picture but we threw some chocolate frosting and an almond slice horn on those oxen.  They were still a hit, I got to use up that dough in the freezer that's been bugging me, and the boys learned a little about St. Thomas.  So I'll call it a win.

Linking up with LMLD...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Intentional Lent

Hey!  Ash Wednesday is exactly one week from today!  I thought maybe I'd be all organized-like and we could talk a little bit about ideas for observing Lent as a family.  It's early this year so if you're like me it's throwing you off BUT since it's February (and February is so hard to like, right?) it gives us something to think about and do.  I thought I'd write a little roundup here of some of our Lenten plans and maybe you could share some of yours in the comments?  Perhaps that'll give us all the push we need to get things situated before Lent begins so we're not starting off feeling like we're already behind.  Because that's no fun and that leads to feeling like we've failed two or three days in when it's barely even started.

I want to put right here that the most important thing we can do to live Lent is to live it within the liturgical life of the Church.  While extra activities and personal devotions and ideas are awesome and all, the Church has been doing this for centuries and has some pretty good ideas of her own.  Attending Mass (especially on the holy days), praying the Divine Office, plain old unfancy almsgiving...sometimes the best and simplest way to have a fruitful Lent is to get back to the roots.  But at the same time, living in the spirit of these seasons is also vital to making Christ's message authentic in our own lives.  For me, that means that the liturgical year, time redeemed, permeates everything.  It's not just an outward observance but an inward movement of the heart.  And so our lives change during Lent.  It becomes a time of repentance and waiting that infuses even the little moments of every day.  I'm going to try not to do too many new things this year and go with what has worked in the past.  I sometimes get too many ideas and want to implement all of them but that runs the risk of making me a bit frantic and undercutting much of the point of the season.  So doing it simple but well is the way we're going to try to roll this year.

The Church has always put an emphasis on three things during Lent:  Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. These are meant to be extras that we can do beyond the requirements in order to help us have our hearts in the right place.  

I like that.  It really helps me to focus our Lenten observances in a practical way.  Many of us need that lest the idea of letting the season of Lent permeate your life becomes an overwhelming prospect, something that paralyzes rather than frees.  I encourage you to think about a way in which each one of these ideas can become a reality in your family during this Lenten season.  It may be something you've done every year (when you find something that works, go with it!) or it may be something new to you this year.

So here's some of our plans for the family this year:


Every Friday during Lent we pray the Stations of the Cross as a family rather than our normal devotions.  I used to have a Station at each stair  (we happened to have 14) and we would pray them as we went up to put the littles to bed.  But our family is getting bigger now both in number and width so that tends to cause a bit of an issue with pushing and silliness and little boys falling all over each other.  We'll still do the Stations but perhaps we'll move the location :)

A few years ago I printed out these beautiful Stations of the Cross cards and laminated them.  They've been a huge help for all of us to learn and pray the Stations.


The Crown of Thorns - I don't know remember where I got this idea years ago but I know it was a lovely internet find.  Using a grapevine wreath we stick in brown painted toothpicks to emulate the crown of thorns.  (Some people use salt dough but I prefer the wreath.)  For every intentional sacrifice we do for love of Jesus, we take out a thorn and place it in the glass in the center.  This year, the crown (which hopefully won't have any thorns left) will be replaced by some sort of homemade coffee cake pastry sugary thank-God-it's-Easter crown type thing for Easter morning.  I haven't planned the specifics yet.

Each older child will also be encouraged to give up something personal during Lent.  Treats are given up as a family.


In the past we've had the Bean Jar where each child puts in a bean for every extra act of love that they do during Lent.  The beans are transformed on Easter morning and become jelly beans.  I've done a group jar some years and individual jars others.  This year I think we will change things around just a bit.  Our   "Gifts for the King" was a huge success during Advent and the boys have actually asked if they could earn money for the poor again.  So rather than beans, they will be earning money from Brian and me to put in their poor bags.  At the end of Lent we will use that money to pick something out of the Food for the Poor or Compassion catalogs that they can give and their good works will become gifts to the poor.  We'll still have to work jelly beans into there somehow, I think.  (FYI:  Trader Joe's carries dye free jelly beans.)


Burying the Alleluia - Sarah posts on it here.  We won't actually bury ours as it's frigid cold out in these parts.  But we'll make a big crazy scene next Tuesday and get all our alleluias out before Lent.  Then we'll wrap up our wooden "Alleluia" letters and they are hidden away.  "Repent" becomes the theme for Lent.  On Easter morning the boys get to go on an "Alleluia hunt" and find the letters along with their eggs and baskets.

I try to simplify the decor around the house during Lent.  Dry sticks, burlap, and a bit of purple cloth  do their part to remind us of the season.

During Holy Week we will complete our Passion Cross, attend the Triduum Liturgies, celebrate our Passover meal, and (try to) keep the house a bit more solemn, especially on Good Friday.  When we were young, my mom made sure that Good Friday was kept a solemn day.  Between noon and 3, especially, there was no noise allowed.  We were allowed to read but only books pertinent to the day.  I've carried that into our home as well.

So, there's the general outline for our family Lent.  Each of us will likely be doing a few more things on a personal level, too.  I'm still hoping to find the right book to read and will probably limit my internet time a bit.

How do you observe Lent as a family and with your children?  What's worked for you?  Are you planning anything new this year?  Share with us!

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