Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's Christmas Novena time again!

First of all, I realize that I never said thank you for the kind comments and tweets and emails in response to my recent post about trying for another baby.  I started blogging as a way to deal with the overwhelming emotions I'd had concerning our fertility issues, and it continues to mean so much to me to know that there are people out there--some we've met, some we haven't--who are rooting for us and praying for us.

And speaking of prayer, I wrote last year about the Christmas novena that Arwen prayed before Camilla was conceived, and that we prayed before Nate was conceived.  Between us we're three for three with this novena leading to pregnancy, and even though my more recent pregnancy ended badly, I remain more convinced than ever of the efficacy of this incredibly powerful prayer.

I'm re-posting below what I wrote last year as we prepare to begin praying again.  The novena starts today, the feast of Saint Andrew!  If you're so inclined and want to pray along with us, I'd be ever so grateful if you'd add our intention to your own.  I don't think it's any secret what we're praying for.  And a special thanks to all of you who have already promised your prayers.  Please know that you remain always in mine.

* * * * *

Two years ago, Arwen told me about a novena she'd prayed three years earlier. She had been trying to get pregnant for two years at that point (ironic, isn't it, that she'll have FOUR children next summer?), and she was turning to this special, powerful prayer.

I knew, of course, that she got pregnant with Camilla less than two months after the novena was done, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have any doubts that it would "work" for us. I mean, I know that God answers every prayer, but I also know that the answer isn't always the one we'd hoped for. We'd been waiting over three years for a baby by then, and I had only one fallopian tube, and I was ten years older than she'd been when the novena worked for her, and . . . let's just say I was hopeful, but hesitant.

But pray we did. As did the rest of Arwen's family, and less than a month after Christmas we found out I was expecting Nate.

Needless to say, then, I'm a big believer in this novena. We'll be praying it again this year, starting on the feast of Saint Andrew. The prayer is recited fifteen times per day from November 30th through Christmas. It's a lovely prayer and very easy to memorize.

If you'd like to join in, make sure you choose a good intention. This is one powerful prayer!
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
in which the Son of God was born of the Most pure Virgin Mary
at midnight in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.
In that hour, vouchsafe, o my God!
to hear my prayer and grant my desires,
through the merits of our Savior Jesus Christ
and of His Blessed Mother.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Nearly every time I fire up my laptop these days, Nate clamors into my lap, demanding "Picture! Picture!"  (Actually, it sounds more like "Peecha!  Peecha!")  He wants me to open the Photo Booth application and take pictures of the two of us--or let him take pictures of himself.

Adorable, right?  Except that in every single picture, he wants to open his mouth as wide as it will go. 


I'm sure it's just a phase, right? 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The First Sunday of Advent

Inspired by Emily and Elizabeth, David and I came up with a long list of activities with which to fill our Advent calendar.  They range from very simple (set up Nate's Nativity sets, get out Christmas books, take canned goods to the food pantry) to potentially messy (decorate gingerbread houses, make pine cone and peanut butter ornaments for the birds) to big and event-y (Scottish walk parade in Old Town, ZooLights at the National Zoo, go see the National Christmas tree).

And then we neglected to complete an activity for the first day of Advent.

Now, to be fair, I haven't actually set up the Advent calendar yet.  As any liturgical Christian knows, the length of Advent varies from year to year, depending on when Christmas falls.  This year, Advent is as long as it ever is (28 days), because Christmas is on a Sunday.  When Christmas is on a Monday, Advent is a mere 22 days long, because the Fourth Sunday of Advent is actually Christmas Eve.  (I think it's a bummer when this happens, frankly.)  Regardless of the actual length of Advent, though, every Advent calendar I've ever seen, including mine, starts on December first. 

Clearly my out-of-the-gate Advent stumble is the fault of my calendar, and not any failing on my part.  Ahem.

But we did manage to get the Advent wreath set up and blessed, and we lit the first candle tonight during dinner.  I'd like to find a short, simple prayer to use when lighting the candles, because I'd like to do it every night while we eat and the prayers from the book I have (Prayers for the Domestic Church) are way too long for nightly use when your two year old is waiting for his food.

I also think I've settled into a Christmas-decorating plan that I'm really comfortable with.  In 2008, in a well-intentioned but incompletely thought-out plan to observe Advent during Advent and celebrate Christmas during the actual Christmas season, we waited until the Fourth Sunday of Advent to procure a Christmas tree.  And then we discovered that very few places are still selling trees that late and very nearly ended up tree-less.  Even the Catholic school in Old Town was out of trees by the time we got around to buying one.  It was a bad day, that one.

In 2009 we decorated on the earlier side.  I think we put up the tree on the second weekend of Advent.  Nate was two months old, and so we needed to take advantage of the one weekend my mom was in town to get everything done.  Score one for necessity dictating the schedule.

Last year, though, I hit upon what I think is the right balance for us.  I pulled out the non-tree decorations during the second weekend of Advent.  They got the house feeling festive, but we still had the tree to look forward to.  We got the tree, then, on the third weekend, which also happens to be the weekend of Gaudete Sunday--a nice time for a little rejoicing.  I liked this for a few reasons.  First, it was far enough into Advent that I didn't feel like we were completely getting ahead of ourselves.  Second, it broke up the decorating so that it wasn't a big, all-day job.  And third, it made the tree decorating into a fun, stand-alone event, one made all the more enjoyable because the rest of the house was already bedecked with trimmings. 

So we're going with that plan again this year.  At some point in the future, I may consider breaking it down even more: maybe buying and lighting the tree on the Third Sunday, but saving the ornaments until the Fourth.  Or maybe I'll just ask Arwen what her family always did, and then shamelessly copy them, as per usual.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Not until Thanksgiving 2030, my friend

We made it through Thanksgiving unscathed, even though Nate decided that Wednesday afternoon--which was slated for potato-mashing and pumpkin spice bread-baking and corn muffin-making and table-setting--would be the perfect day to refuse to take a nap.  Ultimately, everything was delicious, and we managed to get it all served on time and get it almost all cleaned up well before bedtime, which is a huge win in my book.

I thought I'd been very clever in moving the little wooden play table and chairs into the dining room, so that Nate and our goddaughter, Fiona, could sit with us sans high chairs.  Fiona is only six months older than Nate, and they get along pretty well, so it seemed like it would work.  It did work, sort of, for Fiona, who is (1) slightly older, (2) a girl, and (3) used to being cooperative around other kids in her preschool.  I know she at least ate some turkey.  Nate had a fabulous time, apparently sustained by air and pure adrenaline, because he refused to eat a bite.  He even turned his nose up at the might-as-well-have-been-pie-filling sweet potato casserole with praline topping.  What kid turns down a side dish that is essentially comprised of sugar and butter?  Mine, I suppose.

The highlight of the day, though, occurred as we all sat down to dinner.  Fiona was settled at the little table with her plate, and David was bringing Nate's dinner from the kitchen into the dining room.  He was also carrying his own beer glass, and he set both the plate and the glass on the kids' table so he could settle Nate into his chair.  Fiona sized up the situation in an instant and, deeming it woefully inequitable, began wailing, "I want a beer like Nate!  I want a beer like Nate!" as her parents rushed over to explain that my two-year-old wouldn't be washing his turkey down with a microbrew.  She was so upset about it, and it felt kind of mean to be laughing at her distress.  But seriously, how could we not laugh at our pint-sized goddaughter demanding her fair share of the booze?

All in good time, Fiona.  All in good time.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

T-minus three hours until my next shot

Elizabeth called me out this week on not posting in over a month.  I knew it had been a pathetically long time, and I had decided this week to bite the bullet and start posting about what's been going on, but I haven't really known how to go about doing it.

After I miscarried in the spring, my doctor told me that, given my age and history of infertility, I should come back in for fertility treatment if I wasn't pregnant again within 2-3 months.  Considering how long it had taken to get pregnant with Nate, it seemed like a laughably short time frame in which to find myself pregnant, and it was.  So by the end of the summer we were looking into starting fertility treatments.

The really crappy thing about having real difficulty getting pregnant is that it ends up being so damn exhausting.  Everyone jokes about how much fun it is to try to have a baby.  Throw caution to the wind!  Have a few drinks!  Take a romantic trip!  And for people who get pregnant within a few months, I'm sure it's a great time.  Part of the reason I had been so thrilled to see those two pink lines in March was that we hadn't been affirmatively"trying."  I mean, we have never undertaken any measures to prevent pregnancy, so other than when I was pregnant and postpartum we were always, in a sense, trying to get pregnant.  But I wasn't expecting it to happen, which made it all the more thrilling when it did.

If that pregnancy had stuck, it's likely we never would have worried about "trying" ever again.  I could be wrong; maybe we'd always want just one more.  But we both know how stressful it is, and how difficult it has proven for us, and so I really think we would have counted our blessings, prayed for another baby, and just let nature take its course.

It didn't stick, though, and instead it just threw into sharp relief just how much we wanted another one.  It's weird, too, because in some ways I feel both more and less desperate about it.  On the one hand, we have an amazing, adorable, enchanting child.  We're parents, and that's something that's true whether we have one kid or a dozen. 

On the other hand, though, I feel like it's important to have another baby for Nate.  I don't want him to have to grow up as an only child.  Obviously we'll do the best we can to make his childhood and his entire life as full of love and joy as possible, even if he never has a brother or sister.  But I believe that siblings are the greatest gifts parents can give their children, and I just don't want him to be alone if we can help it. 

So here we are, stuck with the stress of truly trying once again, and in August we found ourselves sitting in a consultation with the fertility doctor we'd seen five years ago, as if we'd stepped back in time.  Instead of being in my fortieth week of pregnancy right now, where I wish like anything I were on this November evening, I'm instead blogging from the other side of updated hormone panels, a dozen or so blood draws and ultrasounds, pre-bedtime hormone injections in my stomach, and, as of a few days ago, two failed medicated cycles.  Last night I started the injections for cycle number three.

I don't want this space to turn back into an infertility blog.  I did the infertility blog thing when we were trying the first time, when I desperately needed that online community of women who were all dealing with the same thing.  At the time, trying to have a baby was very nearly my sole focus.  This time around, there's a rambunctious two year old who gets top billing in the attention department, which really does make all the difference in the world.  It means walking into the fertility clinic for monitoring already experiencing the joy of motherhood, instead of just wishing for it.  It doesn't mean, though, that I'm not sad or that I'm not stressed or that I don't need to be able to write about what's going on.

That's where I've been, and why I've been quiet.  I just don't feel like being quiet about it any more.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Year gone by

Last year on his birthday, I remember thinking Nate was so big, capable of so much, and looking back now at photos from his first birthday, I see that he was still a baby. Not any more. This walking, talking, iPad-wielding, headstrong little person is definitely a kid. A delightful, hilarious, whip-smart little kid.

I can't wait to see what the next year brings. Happy birthday, little man.

Music by Mindy Gledhill. The two photos from the Christmas tree lot were taken by Arwen and Miriel's talented brother, Brandon Thomas.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Accent Vlog

A bunch of the ladies from The Blathering (less than three weeks away!!) have been posting Vlogs (video blogs) showing off our regional accents, or lack thereof. I actually recorded this last Friday, but neglected to post it all weekend. Better late than never! And at least there's a cute, albeit demanding, toddler, to distract from my inane ramblings.

Accent Vlog from Lauren Petron on Vimeo.

Watching this again, it's clear that: (1) Wow, I'm opinionated, and (2) I'm opinionated about things that don't matter in the slightest.

So what do you think? Accent or not? If you'd like to participate, you can find the words and questions here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Reining him in

Okay, I'm just going to go ahead and say it: I'm beginning to think that those oft-maligned kid leashes aren't such a bad idea.

I've been wondering about this for a while, actually. I've heard them described with disdain for years, and I'll admit I had a negative visceral reaction when I saw a child in one at the library a while back. In her column this month, the editor of Real Simple magazine pokes fun at the harnesses, reasoning that "not all ideas that can be easily explained are good ones; leashes for children come to mind.") As the mother of an almost-two-year-old boy who loves to run away from me at every opportunity, though, I now beg to differ.

Picture me running a quick errand with my toddler. I take him out of his car seat and head into, say, the pharmacy. I just need to pick up a prescription, so I don't want to pull out the stroller and strap him in--particularly because he generally hates being confined in the stroller. (And because the aisles of our old CVS are so narrow the stroller might not actually fit.) Instead, I either hold him or, preferably, hold his hand and walk with him through the drugstore to the pharmacy counter, where I must then dig one-handed in the diaper bag for my wallet, awkwardly wrestle my HSA debit card from its place in the credit-card lineup one-handed, and sign my name twice (once on the receipt, once on the prescription pick-up sheet) without letting go of Nate's hand to hold down the paper. If, at any point, I have to use my left hand, Nate takes off, oblivious to my pleas that he stay beside me.

In other words, I'm beginning to see the value in somehow tethering him to me.

I haven't done it, of course, because I'm the kind of person who cares far too much what other people think of me, and I don't know that I could deal with the stares that my leashed child would elicit. (Even if he were wearing one of those cutesy "I'm a cuddly animal backpack with a long handle" contraptions that fool no one.)

I'm wondering, though, how it is that the kid leash became so universally mocked. The obvious answer, of course, is that we use leashes for dogs, and so harnessing a child seems akin to treating him like an animal. And maybe that's right. But hear me out: No one thinks twice about seeing a toddler in a stroller. I mean, aside from some hard-core Montessori folks who would want a child restrained only when required by law or for obvious safety (e.g., in a car seat), or some hard-core babywearing types, like Maggie Gyllenhaal's character in Away We Go, people don't have a problem with pushing a small child around strapped into a seat. And neither do I. We have and use a stroller, whenever it makes sense and Nate will tolerate it.

But a child in one of those kid harnesses actually has more freedom to move and explore than a child in a stroller. He can stoop down to touch the grass. He can pick up sticks and leaves and acorns. He can turn around to look at anything he pleases, without his view blocked by a stroller seat. Honestly, there's a part of me that thinks Nate might prefer the toddler leash.

I'm hoping and praying this period of impressive mobility (seriously, people constantly comment on how fast he is) coupled with a tendency to wander, is short-lived. Nate is so good at following most instructions--throwing things in the trash, putting away toys, cleaning up spilled food--but his curiosity just gets the best of him when I need him to stay stationary in public. I'll probably just stick to putting him in the Ergo carrier when the stroller is impractical and I know I'll need both hands. But my hat's off to you, kid-leash inventor. Maybe it's not such a bad idea, after all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The loss season

For the longest time, I didn't think all that much about miscarrying. I mean, I thought about it all the time at first, obviously, but before too long it sort of faded into the background. Such are the benefits of already having a child to take care of; Nate takes up most of my energy, anyway, so there wasn't a lot of time to dwell on what we'd lost. (I shudder to think of the state I'd have been in if I'd lost my first baby, after waiting so long for him.)

Fall, though, as much as I love it, always seems to bring me a hearty dose of melancholy, and this year it's got an extra helping of wistfulness in tow. All of a sudden my friends who got found out they were expecting this spring, right around the time I did, are hugely pregnant and approaching their due dates. I still associate September due dates with my expectation that Nate would be born around September 22nd. October dates, too, make me think back to Nate's birth, since he stubbornly hung out in my womb long enough to flip the calendar page. It's November that's giving me pause.

By my calculations, the baby we lost would have been due on Thanksgiving day. When I initially calculated it, the timing seemed perfect--a day to thank God for all He's given us, and in particular this latest little blessing. When I miscarried in early April, I didn't think about the fall. I just needed to get through the pain of the now at that point, and some ever-hopeful and obviously naive part of myself thought it was entirely possible that I'd be pregnant again by my due date. (To be honest, that part of me is still hopping around inside, fingers crossed and eyes shining. My jaded side wants to kick her and have a margarita. Or three.)

It's officially fall, though, and as the magazines and catalogs and cooking blogs gear up with an onslaught of lovely autumnal decor and harvest-time food, my thoughts keep turning to what we should have been expecting this season.

I worry that it will color the rest of the year, which isn't fair to Nate, to David, or to myself. It isn't fair to my brother-in-law and his lovely wife, who are expecting their first, long-awaited child next month. (And honestly, my excitement over their baby is actually helping right now. Between shower-throwing and advice-giving and equipment-lending, it's like I still have a baby project, sans heartburn, backaches, and the immediate promise of sleep deprivation.) I'm praying the cure to my funk will come, at least in part, from planning plenty of activities to celebrate what really is my favorite season. There's an arts festival to attend, an anniversary and a birthday to celebrate (our sixth; Nate's second), a Halloween costume to plan, a girls' weekend to relish, a farm to visit, and probably a dozen other fall-centric activities I'm dying to drag Nate to this year. There'll soon be a tiny niece to snuggle and coo over. We'll be fine. But still.

My mother asked us to come down to Georgia for Thanksgiving, but I can't deal with the idea of spending my due date in the same place where we discovered my miscarriage. Not at all. Better to have my own Thanksgiving feast to focus on, at home, where I can make sure I'll be too busy with table setting and turkey roasting and potato mashing, hopefully, to dwell too much.

And, I promise, I'll still look around my table and smile with gratitude, even if there are tears in my eyes.

{Image credit: via Diana on Pinterest.}

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Let's talk about my birthday! And my hair! Because those things TOTALLY go together.

Today is my birthday. Yesterday I was feeling slightly angsty about the whole "another year older" thing, because these years, they are really piling up now, but today I've been refreshingly nonchalant about it. Perhaps it's because, as per usual on one's birthday, I woke up feeling exactly the same as I felt yesterday, and not suddenly all arthritic and possessed with a need to eat dinner at half past lunchtime. (Although, ironically, our dinner reservation tonight is at a positively geriatric FIVE PM. So maybe the joke's on me.)

I'm feeling particularly spunky because yesterday I had all of my hair cut EVEN SHORTER, of you can believe it, and can we discuss how happy my short hair makes me? I mean, on its best days I used to love my longer hair. If it wasn't raining, or windy, or humid--which is to say, practically never--and I worked hard at blow-drying it with a round brush, it looked pretty cute. I'd made peace with the fact that it won't lie straight or turn under at all, and so I did this sort of flippy-out thing and for quite a few years I kept it mostly the same out of deference to a growth pattern that baffles even the most unflappable stylist. But it took forever, and if there was even a whiff of moisture in the air I'd step outside and see my hard work demolished in a span of mere minutes. Y'all, I kept a combination round-brush-hair-dryer thingie in my desk at work, so that I could RE-flip the ends at the office on bad-weather days. It was a lot of effort, is what I'm saying.

And while I don't think my short hair is the most adorable or stylish thing ever (on ME, that is, because I see other women all the time who have short cuts that are positively darling), here's the thing: With my old haircut, the significant effort far outweighed the typically mediocre results. Now, I put in very little effort, and the results are consistently JUST FINE. And they're fine regardless of the relative humidity level, which is HUGE.

So, anyway. Short hair= win. And now even shorter hair=bigger win.

In other WIN news, David bought me two very lovely and delightful birthday presents:

This sweater that I really wanted from Garnet Hill.

And this dress from Boden that I am wearing AS I TYPE THESE VERY WORDS.

We are a "send me specific gift ideas" sort of family, which I dislike in some ways, but it does make it easy to get precisely what you want, so I'd send David links to both of these items. He called me from work the other day to tell me that the dress was backordered for, like, eight weeks, which made me COMPLETELY UNREASONABLY upset, as I'd had visions of this dress with a chunky necklace and boots and I needed to make my fall SAHM fashion dreams come true.

(Sidebar: Don't you hate it when you KNOW that you are having a completely unjustified emotional reaction to something very minor, and you STILL can't stop feeling the way you're feeling? This happens to me all the time, and it just adds insult to injury. I feel like if the intellectual side of my brain totally GETS that I'm being crazy, it should be able to whip the emotional side into shape. But no.)

But! David gave me a box to open this morning and it contained both the sweater AND the dress! And he keeps telling me that there are MORE presents to come, which makes me practically giddy. (I'm SPOILED SPOILED SPOILED and I totally know it, but gifts are totally one of my love languages and David loves to buy things for me, so this just really works for our relationship.)

Anyway, to sum everything up. Hair=short. Husband=generous. Birthdays=awesome. You=really glad this post is over.

Photo sources: and

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Preschool Dazed

My son is not even two years old yet, and I'm fretting about school.

Perhaps it's indicative of my Type A personality, or perhaps it's just that we live where we live. (At the playground last summer, when Nate wasn't even one, I had other mothers asking me whether I was sending him to preschool that fall.) Regardless, it's taking up a fair bit of my mental energy right now, because I'm worried about, you know, getting it right. In preschool.

The first question, of course, is whether to send him at all next fall. Three is a pretty common age at which to start preschool, and Nate will, indeed, be three next fall. But the state age cutoff for starting kindergarten is five by September 30th, and so many of the preschools have a three-by-the-30th policy, and Nate's birthday is October 6th. Less than a week later. And so we're faced with the question of whether we'd rather he be pretty much the youngest kid in his class, or the oldest.

I'd initially hoped we could just postpone thinking about this issue until closer to age 5, when he has some preschool under his belt and we can see where he is intellectually, emotionally, and socially. I'd sort of figured that we could, if necessary or advisable, give him three years of preschool.

The more I think about it, though, the more it seems like we have to give this some serious thought right now. First, if we send him to a traditional preschool program, what is he going to think when all his classmates are going to kindergarten the following fall, and he's going to stay out for another year of preschool? Second, we're considering sending him to Montessori school, where the kids spend three years in the same Primary classroom, with the third year being the kindergarten year. If we go the Montessori route and start him next fall, we're pretty much making the decision now that he'll be the youngest kid in his class.

There is sort of another option, I guess, which is to put him in a twos or 2.5s program, although those programs are very popular around here and hard to get into.

If we do decide to send him next fall, assuming he can do a threes program, the next question is whether to send him to a play-based or a Montessori school. The Montessori schools, in addition to being crazy expensive, all seem to meet five days a week. Five days a week just seems like a lot to me, and there's not an option to attend for fewer days. At the same time, I love the Montessori philosophy and think he could really thrive in that environment (and, actually, that almost any child would thrive in that environment). We can figure out the money; if we decide it's the right fit for him, we'll just make it a priority. I just don't know whether either of us will be ready to be apart for hours every day.

(That's the other thing that's so frustrating. I'm thinking about these things an entire year ahead of time. But the preschool fair is next month, and applications are due in January and February, and the Montessori schools take applications on a rolling basis--i.e., now. And at $100 a pop just to apply, I feel like I don't want to send a bunch of applications willy-nilly in case we decide to go that route.)

The third issue is whether we want to send him to our parish preschool. The parish just opened a preschool this fall, and I'd initially assumed we would just send him there. There's a Montessori-based religious education program involved (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd), but the bulk of the program is not Montessori. I feel like, unless we decide to send him to a true Montessori school, we should support the parish school, and I've always loved the idea of having more areas of our life be tied into our faith community. They are using the September 30th birthday cutoff, but I'm pretty sure that if their threes program isn't full next fall, they'd be glad to take Nate.

Of course, the biggest problem with all of this is that it forces me to consider the fact that my precious tiny baby is continuing to get bigger and bigger and all too soon will be in school, all day, away from me, and will one day leave me altogether. This, my friends, is wholly unacceptable. And unavoidable. With my boy at age not-even-quite-two, I'm not ready to think about it yet.

Maybe I can just scrap the whole "going to school" idea and homeschool him until college.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The first goodbye

Nate is twenty-one months old today, and as of about a week ago, he's officially weaned. If you'd told me just after he was born that he would nurse until he was over twenty months old, the thing I'd find most surprising was that my body finally managed to do something right. With over three years of trying to conceive behind me; with a body that refused to go into labor even two weeks past Nate's due date; with a Caesarean section instead of the natural birth we'd prepared for; with milk that refused to come in until day five, Nate dropping over a pound before we'd left the hospital, and the lactation consultant stopping by to give me the dreaded talk on supplementing . . . with all of that, there was a time when I doubted my body would do any of the things I'd so hoped for with respect to having children.

We were discharged from the hospital on the Friday evening after Nate's birth, with a pediatrician's appointment already scheduled for the next morning to check his weight. The first night at home was awful, mind-numbingly awful, as I cried in pain and David tried to thread a cruelly pointy feeding syringe between my cracked nipples and Nate's hungry mouth. Nate threw up blood in his bassinet, and we had a moment of panic as we debated whether to call the doctor. (Turns out that blood in spit-up is nothing to worry about with a newly-breastfeeding baby. It's, you know, mom's blood from her shredded-to-bits boobs. In a formula-fed baby, the books told us, blood in the spit-up is a call-the-doctor-immediately situation.)

And then, miraculously, my flailing body started to do something right. At the doctor's office the next morning, they weighed Nate before and after I nursed him. His five-ounce weight gain in the span of 25 minutes confirmed what I'd already gathered from looking in the mirror that morning: My milk had come in. Supplementing was suspended (praise God and pass the Lansinoh), and we were off to the races.

For the first several months, nursing Nate was the hardest thing I'd ever done. I couldn't get more than a couple hours of sleep at a time, and I couldn't ever get any time to myself. I quickly figured out that the hand pump I'd chosen was not going to cut it, and I upgraded to an electric one. That pump saved my sanity after a few months, when I finally got the timing down and David could take a night feeding for me. I think next time (please, God, send us a next time), I'll start pumping early and often for the sake of my mental health.

Once the pain stopped, though, and--much later--once Nate stared sleeping, nursing him got, well, easy. And so we kept at it. I was determined, I needed, to make it to that magical one-year mark. And when a year came and went, even when certain family members wondered aloud how long I was going to "keep doing that," we just kept at it some more.

I think I'd have weaned him earlier if I'd been more confident that we'd ever have another child. Given my track record, though, I was reluctant to let go of this part of Nate's babyhood. And so we made it this far, farther than I ever thought we would. For a few days I kept offering just one more feeding, one more time, until I just didn't any more. Now he's stopped asking. It's over, this part of mothering my baby, who in so many ways isn't a baby anymore.

I know it's not the hardest goodbye I'll say to my firstborn, but it's the first one, and that's hard enough for now.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A note sent too late

Source: via Margie on Pinterest

I just received an email letting me know that a professor at my law school, Anne Dupre, died early this morning. She had been battling cancer for many months, and I'd found out about it from another instructor back in January.

My sister and I had made the drive to Athens during one of my visits home, and I was excited to stop by the law school when classes were in session. We poked our heads into the courtroom where the moot court and mock trial teams practice, and my old moot court coach was working with one of her current teams. After we caught up for a bit, I told her that I wanted to make sure to stop by to see Professor Dupre; did she know whether she was around today?

Haven't you heard?, my coach asked, knowing that Professor Dupre had been my favorite, and she went on to tell me what she knew about the diagnosis, the surgery that revealed the massive extent of the cancer, the aggressive chemo. I determined that I should write her a note, and I stopped by her secretary's office to get the address.

* * * * *

Professor Dupre had been my contracts professor during my first year, where she regularly scared our newbie-law-student pants off. She was always meticulously prepared, and she expected us to be equal to her careful Socratic questioning. Her class, though exceedingly difficult, quickly became my favorite, and I wasn't alone in appreciating her care for and her challenge to her students. She knew what we were capable of, and she demanded--and obtained--excellence.

The summer after my first year, she hired me as her research assistant and began pushing me to apply to serve as a federal law clerk after graduation. Although we were confident that my grades would land me a spot somewhere, we weren't sure whether I'd end up at the trial court or the more prestigious appellate court level. But I applied for both, with Professor Dupre as a reference, and when a federal appellate court judge in Florida expressed interest, Professor Dupre made it her mission to get me hired. This judge had never once hired a University of Georgia graduate, but my dear professor spent more than an hour on the phone with her, convincing her that I was worth taking a risk on. (It didn't hurt that Professor Dupre knew personally the quality of a Georgia grad; she herself had graduated first in her class from UGA's law school, had clerked for the court on which this judge sat, and had gone on to clerk for the U.S. Supreme Court.)

Professor Dupre could be exceedingly persuasive, and I got the job, a job that would change my life forever. Nearly any clerk will tell you that her clerkship was the best job she ever had, but mine was especially significant; the man who would become my husband was one of my fellow clerks. There's a toddler sitting next to me who quite literally would not exist but for Professor Dupre's persistence on my behalf.

Professor Dupre wasn't just a scholar who happened to teach classes, although she was certainly a first-rate legal scholar. She was a passionate educator who always put her students first. Her undergraduate background was in education, and she had a passion for issues involving education and the law and children and the law. Her education law seminar was, by far, my most interesting law school class.

Professor Dupre left her mark on hundreds, if not thousands, of students, and I count myself fortunate to be among them. It seems fitting that she died on the feast of Saint Thomas More, the patron saint of lawyers, because she inspired in her students the same determination to stand for what is right, regardless of the cost.

* * * * *

I never did send that note. Professor Dupre's address sat in my purse for months as a reminder that I should put pen to paper, but I could never bring myself to draft a letter that felt like it would say, Sorry you're dying, but I wanted to let you know how you changed my life.

And so today I'm feeling like a monumental jerk. I should have put my own discomfort aside and let this tremendously influential woman know the extent of her influence on me. And it's too little, too late, but nevertheless:

Professor Dupre, you were an incredible teacher and an inspiring woman. You made me believe in myself, because you believed in me. My life is forever changed because you took a chance on me, and I will always be grateful.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon her. May she rest in peace.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I don't really have bad taste. I just don't know what to do.

It's hard to believe it, but we've lived in our "new" house for a year this month. This time last year, we were up to our ears in boxes and wondering how Nate would handle the transition. This year, we can hardly remember what it felt like to live in the old place. This house is just home.

Home, though, with two wholly-undecorated and nearly empty rooms. And while it's nice to have so much space in this house that we're not packed to the gills, one of the rooms in question is, unfortunately, the front entryway.* That's right, the first thing everyone sees upon entering our house is an embarrassing assortment of three unrelated furniture pieces that don't even look like they belong in the entryway.

Glass-and-iron console table from David's bachelor days. Round side table from my grandparents' house. Black pull-down desk from my parents. This shot is taken from the doorway.

The bones of the entryway are gorgeous. It has big windows and plantation shutters and lovely wainscoting. I love the light fixture. I love the floor. So that's all really good.

The previous owners had a bench at that back wall, which might be a good idea for us.

The previous owners have a very traditional decorating style, and they had a bench, an antique standing desk, and a big dresser-as-console-table in the entry, plus one other piece I can't remember. It's a big enough space that it really does need several items, but they all have to make sense just being up against the walls, so as not to block the pathway.

They also had very distinctive red Asian-themed toile wallpaper above the wainscoting. I love it, but concede that it doesn't coordinate with our style at all. David hates it with the firey passion of a thousand suns.

Taken from the opening that leads to the dining room. We MUST get a rug in here, because it is currently an echo chamber. Oh, how I hate the mod glass table and red lamp in this space.

So here's what we need to do: We need to rip out the wallpaper and paint the top half of the walls. We need to find some sort of rug that will work in a long-ish, heavily-trafficked space. And we need to figure out what sort of furniture to put in there.

That opening to the right of the front door is a French door that also goes into the dining room. I think this entryway used to be a porch, and that was the door that led into the house.

Any suggestions? I'm kind of at a loss.

*We lovingly refer to the other empty room as "the red room," for two reasons. First (and most obviously), it's painted red. But second, we don't really know how to classify it. It used to be the dining room, before the previous owners added an addition to the back of the house. After the addition, they started using what had once been the living room as their formal dining room, and they turned the much smaller former dining room into a little sitting room, with a loveseat and a couple of chairs. For now, it's Miriel's yoga studio.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Seven Quick Takes

- 1 -

Last week, I had a crisis of fashion and decided that I hated almost all of my casual summer clothes. I have lots of things I like for church or a dinner out in the summer--white pants with bright tops are my go-to for date nights, and I have plenty of lightweight dresses and skirts for church. I'm the opposite in winter; I have tons of casual jeans-and-a-sweater-and-boots options, but I'm at a loss when it comes to dressing up.

Hallie at Betty Beguiles recently began offering personal shopping services, and so I decided to go for it. I told her that I was interested in cute, SAHM-friendly everyday outfits that would work in our DC heat and humidity. And boy, did she deliver. She put together seven complete looks for me, along with links to purchase each item. And the outfits are adorable. You can see a few of them here. I'm going to be doing some major internet shopping this weekend.

- 2 -

I received an invitation to attend a casual dinner for a few alumni from my university, as well as some current students who are interning in DC for the summer. The honors program coordinator who is organizing the dinner made a point of saying she thought the students would be particularly interested in my work with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I felt obliged to tell her that, although I'd be delighted to attend, I was no longer working on the Hill, and that I'd been "just" a stay-at-home mom for a couple of years now. And after I hit Send I was honestly afraid that she'd respond with a "thanks, but no thanks," and rescind the invitation. Thankfully, she didn't, but it was one of the first times I've felt like I might be a disappointment because I've chosen to forgo an interesting and desirable career for motherhood. I know the only people's opinions that really matter here are (1) mine, (2) David's, and (3) Nate's, but it's still hard sometimes in a city like this to be off the career track.

- 3 -

For the first time in--well, ever--I completely cleaned out my Google reader. David convinced me to download feedly onto my iPad, which somehow makes it easier for me to flip through posts quickly. Between that and the Google Reader "Next" button that Manda just talked about, I think I may finally stay on top of my feeds!

- 4 -

Our pool might be able to re-open in a couple of weeks! It looks like the county is very supportive of allowing them to open with temporary measures--like a trailer for the men's locker room--in place. Summer is saved!

- 5 -

We might have just lucked into a beach vacation for later in the summer. Some good friends of ours--our goddaughter's parents--mentioned that they are renting a house in the Outer Banks for a week in August. When I asked who they were going with, they said, "No one. Unless you want to come." We've been talking about taking Nate to the beach at least for a weekend this summer, and it would be wonderful to vacation with these friends. We need to look at the dates and discuss whether we think Nate could do a long-ish car trip, but I think we're going to go for it!

- 6 -

Speaking of trips, I've told David that, if I'm not pregnant again by vacation time next year, I want my consolation prize to be a trip to the Napa Valley. And I want to stay here. Obviously, I desperately hope we end up with a baby instead of a wine-tasting vacation, but it's sort of nice to have something to look forward to in case Plan A doesn't work out, right?

- 7 -

I need a new TV series to watch on Netflix instant. I've gone through Veronica Mars, Friday Night Lights, Damages, and Downton Abbey. Any suggestions?

More quick takes at Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Summer plans, up in flames. (Literally.)

Taking Nate to the pool regularly was probably the single activity I was most looking forward to this summer. I mentioned in my last post that we'd bought a membership to a local pool, and that this was the only pool I found that was open during the week throughout June (instead of a weekends-only schedule until the public schools let out), and the only pool that opened early enough to take Nate before his afternoon nap.

David and I took Nate for the first time last Saturday, and it was wonderful. We hit the baby pool around 10:15 or so, then got in the main pool from the time it opened at 11:00 until the mandatory kids' rest time at 11:45, when we headed home for lunch. Nate loved it, we loved it, and I left patting myself on the back for finding the perfect solution for us.

And then, on Monday morning, I opened my inbox to find a message titled, "LHP closed until further notice." There was a fire in the building that houses the locker rooms, lifeguard room, and snack bar, and it took out half of the building and the electrical system for the entire property. Thankfully, it occurred in the middle of the night, and no one was hurt. You can see photos of the damage on the pool's facebook page.

And that's it. They don't know how long it will take to rebuild, or replace the electrical system, or get the pool up and running. It will likely be closed for the entire summer. And, y'all, I know this is such a freakin' first-world problem to have; woe is me, I can't take my toddler swimming whenever I'd like. But it's already in the mid-90s and humid this week, which severely limits our outdoor activity options. I lasted about 20 or 25 minutes at the playground yesterday morning, at 9:30 a.m. And all Nate wants is to go outside. He loves it.

I'm just really, really disappointed. Maybe it's stupid, but there it is.

I bought a twelve-dollar baby pool yesterday. It's not the same. It's not the same at all.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Catching Up

First of all, thank you all so very, very much for your kind comments, emails, notes, and prayers on our behalf. We're doing fine, and I can't believe it's only been a month since I realized I was miscarrying. David was out of town on business for basically three out of the last four weeks, which meant that I pretty much had to put my head down and power through.

Nate's been particularly affected by his absence. When he was gone for most of two weeks in a row, Nate was inconsolable by the end of the second week, touchy and sensitive in a way that's not like him at all. He'd wake up crying from his naps and be moody all afternoon, and in my frustration it only occurred to me on the day he was getting home that he was probably missing David. Mom fail.

We have a security system in our house that makes a noise whenever one of the outside doors is opened. Nate has figured out that the noise means David and Miriel are home, and he now, when he hears it, he runs over to the door at the top of the basement stairs to wait for them to come up. One day this week he dashed over excitedly, saying "Papa, Papa, Papa," and my heart broke a little bit, knowing that David wouldn't be opening the door. And poor Miriel; he usually adores her, but that day he only wanted to push past her and scramble down the stairs, not believing us as we told him that Papa wasn't down there. It was a sad moment.

In the meantime, though, there's been a lot going on. Nate started taking "swim lessons," which I'm sure aren't helping him learn how to swim at all, but he loves getting in the pool with me at the rec center and moving around in the water, clutching the rubber ducky that the instructor hands out to each of the kids. In fact, he likes it so much (and I like his subsequent three-hour naps so much) that we bought a membership to a local pool for the summer. I'm a little annoyed that we can't just go to the much closer and much cheaper city pool near our house, but the city pool (1) doesn't open at all on weekdays until the end of June, after school lets out, and (2) even then, doesn't open until noon each day, which precludes any chance at a long-nap-inducing-pre-nap swim.

Someone sold us their membership, which is terrific. Apparently it's standard practice for families to sell memberships to other families, which is odd because there's a long waiting list for memberships. I can't figure out why anyone would sign up for the waiting list instead of just buying from someone directly, although I guess a lot of folks don't know about this practice. I'm on a couple of neighborhood listservs, and I'd seen this happening all last summer and all this spring. So when we decided to buy, I just posted an email to the listserv saying that I was looking for a membership, and someone contacted me wanting to sell her family's. Easy.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that something far less exciting and far more annoying happened this week: Our air conditioner died. Our house is a 1941 Cape Cod, but it has a huge, three-level addition on the back, so it has one unit for the older part of the house and one for the addition. The unit that cooled the older part of the house was from 1991, and, frankly, I'm shocked it lasted as long as it did. It was going to cost well over $1000 to try to fix it, and at twenty years old, it just seemed to make more sense to replace it. But I spent several days this week sweating and trying to vain to rid my furniture of the thick layer of pollen that had settled on everything through the wide-open windows. Of course, of course, it has been cool ever since the new unit was installed, but I'm still grateful that this happened in April instead of August.

Most exciting of all, my sister-in-law has finally gone public with her pregnancy! I am so, so thrilled that Nate is going to have a little cousin, especially one who lives right here in the same town. I'm gearing up to throw Maureen the most fantastic baby shower ever late this summer, so tell me, what was your favorite thing about your shower, or about a shower you've attended? Anything I should make sure I avoid (other than that disgusting melted-chocolate-bar-in-the-diaper game, which, just, gross)?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hello and Goodbye

We found out that I was pregnant on a Friday. It had been the most beautiful day of the year to date, and we'd celebrated by taking Nate to dinner at an outdoor cafe. I'd had a glass of wine, and was feeling sufficiently satisfied about it that I'd resolved to have another after I put Nate to bed.

As I rocked him in the fading light, though, I realized that it was theoretically possible that I could be pregnant. I say theoretically, because when you've been married for five-and-a-half years without ever doing anything to avoid pregnancy--have, in fact, actively pursued it for most of those years--and have only once seen two lines on a pregnancy test . . . well, you start to doubt that sex actually causes babies.

But I had two home pregnancy tests left from a three-pack I'd bought in a fit of wishful thinking last fall, and in the grand tradition of Better Safe than Sorry, I took one before indulging in glass number two. And I squinted in confusion at the second test window as a faint pink line appeared. I carried the test downstairs and presented it to an equally flabbergasted David, and we proceeded to examine the white plastic stick under every bright light in the house.

The digital test I took the next morning in the Target bathroom, too impatient to even leave the store, was far more definitive. Pregnant, it declared boldly. And somehow I began to feel equally bold. Ha!, I thought. Maybe all of those people were right, the ones who tell stories of women they know who try for years to get pregnant the first time, and then end up with two under two, or four under five, and hey, maybe we really would be able to have a big family after all.

I started looking at double strollers. We took measurements in our smallest bedroom to see whether we should use it as the nursery and retain our upstairs guest room. We laughingly lamented the difficulties of life with multiple children: How in the world will I grocery shop with two, honey? The cart only has one seat! Or, whispered during Mass while wrestling with an exceedingly active eighteen month old, How will we ever handle it when the next one gets here?

And it was all laughingly, of course, because this is exactly what we'd prayed for. To think that the Christmas novena had borne fruit in such short order, and not once, but twice.

And it did. I don't want to diminish that.

* * * * *
". . . the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21 RSV
* * * * *
When I started spotting a tiny bit last Wednesday, so lightly that I wondered whether it was in my imagination, I tried not to think anything of it. Common, I told myself, Completely normal. I called my doctor's office, only because we were flying to Georgia the next morning for my sister's wedding.

"The doctor says she can refer you for a sonogram this afternoon if you're really concerned," the nurse relayed, her emphasis clearly trying to nudge me away from accepting the offer. I told her I was afraid, at not even six weeks by my calculations, that we might not see a heartbeat on ultrasound because it was simply too early. Think of all the worrying that would cause, I said, and then everything would probably turn out to be perfectly fine. No, better to wait for the appointment I'd already had scheduled for today. The nurse actually sounded relieved, it seemed, at my thinking, and I congratulated myself for being so sensible.

But when the spotting started again Friday afternoon, I knew--I knew--that I would miscarry. I'd known I was pregnant for two weeks by then, but I hadn't started to have any of the symptoms that I'd had with Nate. No ravenous hunger, followed by frustrating food aversions. No nausea. No overwhelming fatigue. No breast tenderness. And even though I'd tried to tell myself it was just too early, I think somehow I'd known all along.

That didn't make it any easier, though, when the spotting turned to bleeding in the middle of my sister's rehearsal dinner. It didn't stop the sobs from wracking my body or the tears from staining David's shirt later that night or the next morning when the cramping began. It didn't assuage my guilt when I made my husband tell my parents that they'd lost a grandchild, on a day when their only thought should have been happiness at gaining a son. It didn't make it a simple thing to stand in front of the wedding guests atop a lakeside dock on a glorious spring day, beside the beautiful bride in flowing white, and read Saint Paul's words about love: how it always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. It didn't make me feel less ashamed to leave my own sister's wedding reception when I knew that the cramping wouldn't let me make polite conversation through dinner.

There'd been too much blood--far, far too much blood--for me to hold out hope that I was wrong as we drove the many miles out for my appointment today, and as the kind doctor examined me, she told us what we already knew. This never-ending bleeding, yes, this is what an early miscarriage looks like. Early enough that it should resolve itself with no need for outside help, so there's that, at least.

* * * * *
I can say it certain now: All is grace.
I see through the woods of the world: God is always good and I am always loved.
God is always good and I am always loved.
Everything is eucharisteo.
eucharisteo is how Jesus, at the Last Supper, showed us how to transfigure all things--take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness. I have glimpsed it: This, the hard eucharisteo. The hard discipline to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty. The hard discipline to give thanks for all things at all times because He is all good. The hard discipline to number the griefs as grace because as the surgeon would cut open my son's finger to heal him, so God chooses to cut into my ungrateful heart to make me whole.
All is grace only because all can transfigure.

Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, pages 100-01

* * * * *
A good friend sent me a message in reply to my news: "I know it can't feel like it today, but God is still in control and loves you very much." She was right, and she was wrong. God is in control, and He does love me, but, strangely, today isn't a day in which my heart doubts it. I know there are those who rail at God when tragedies strike, and were worse fortune to befall me, I can't swear that I wouldn't be among them. It is grace, all grace, that instead today I feel strangely lifted up, keenly aware that He has me in the palm of His hand. I feel swept along in some current headed I know not where, but I trust that I'll arrive safely wherever it is that He intends to take me.

We went to Mass last night at a different parish, having taken an early flight home and having missed the morning services. I've always found this other parish sort of ugly. It's spare, modern, with glaring white walls and pews set at odd angles surrounding the altar. But what it does have is a massive, larger-than-life crucifix set high, Christ's suffering so big and bold that one can't ignore it. All through Mass and sitting for many minutes afterward I lifted my eyes to look upon our Lord's agony and felt, somehow, grateful to share His suffering in some small, so small way.

"Things will get more . . . intense . . . until the baby's remains pass," the on-call doctor told me this weekend. The baby. I am grateful to have doctors who share my view that life, no matter how fleeting, is a precious gift. A baby came into my life and left too soon, and still I'm feeling such a peace through the sadness. Is that this tiny person's gift to me? I can't say for sure. For now, though, I will try to look for the gift in the sorrow.

It's not the Lenten journey I anticipated. But I know, I know, the joy of Easter will still come.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Entering the Desert

Lent is starting so very, very late this year. It feels strange that it's March already, and we're still in Ordinary Time. Less than a week to go, though, until Ash Wednesday, and so Lenten observances are on my mind.

I read Kate Wicker's terrific "Resources for Lent" post yesterday, which has me inspired. My Lenten sacrifices were paltry in 2009 and 2010; to be honest, I can't even remember what I did. I was in my first and early second trimester in 2009 and still dealing with a young and stubbornly sleepless baby in 2010, and taking on anything significant seemed like more than I could handle. And perhaps it really was, especially last year, but as a result, my experience of the Triduum and of Easter Sunday was less intense than it has been in the past. The Church in her wisdom knows that we need the time in the desert first, and I'm determined to embrace it this year.

One of the observances Kate mentions comes via Rachel Balducci--she discusses writing personal, handwritten notes to family and friends throughout Lent. This is such a beautiful idea, and one that I plan to adopt. I'll admit that I hope it might have the added benefit of resulting in some return notes, too. Often when I collect our mail, I'll notice a small, hand-addressed card or letter, only to have my initial rush of excitement crushed as I see that it's for Miriel, who is the queen of the letter. She keeps telling me you have to send good mail to get good mail; well, we'll see! (Would you like to get a note from me? E-mail your address, or DM me on Twitter.)

We've also been discussing foregoing takeout food throughout Lent. We are fortunate in that we don't have a strict food budget, but it makes it all to easy for me to turn to takeout on the frequent evenings when I'd rather not cook. Nate has been getting a little better about letting me cook dinner, as long as I bribe him with an episode of Sesame Street or Blue's Clues, but that seems a small price to pay for getting a home-cooked meal on the table. I'm not planning on being strict about what I prepare--sandwiches are fine if I don't feel up to cooking--but I'd like to transform takeout from a crutch into a special treat. (I'm not planning on giving up going out to restaurants, which is something David and I enjoy doing for date night or that we occasionally do as a family.)

Our yard is currently littered with twigs and small branches, thanks to some particularly windy days lately, and I'm planning on bringing some of them inside and arranging them in some way on our kitchen table as a visual reminder of the season.

In addition to making time for reciting morning and evening prayer, I'd like to undertake some sort of spiritual reading. For as many books as we own, and for a religion major who at one time planned on attending seminary (this was pre-conversion, obviously), I do embarrassingly little spiritual reading. As in, none to speak of. I've never even read Mere Christianity. Or Orthodoxy. I just ordered One Thousand Gifts, which has a promotional trailer so lovely that I couldn't resist buying the book (seriously, I dare you to watch it and not end up teary-eyed--it's SO worth the five minutes of your life). I feel like I need something more traditional, though. Any recommendations?

I'm also trying to figure out how best to support the spring 40 Days for Life campaign. Nate and I went to pray in front of the local abortion clinics a couple of times during the fall campaign, but it's a pretty difficult thing to do with a toddler. (It was difficult enough in the fall before Nate could walk.) The clinics are in the same office park along a very busy street, and there's no way to take Nate without holding him for the entire time. He is a notorious stroller-hater, and he's all about exploring right now--something he can't do with cars whizzing by. Maybe I can see if one of the other women in my parish moms' group wants to participate and switch off babysitting. Otherwise, it might just be frequently reciting the Sorrowful Mysteries at home.

That's all I have for now. I'd like to do some other, non-serious things, like making homemade pretzels and hot cross buns. I'd like to re-watch The Passion of the Christ, which I haven't been able to face again since I first saw it in the theater, during Holy Week. I'd like to spend less of Nate's naptime online and watching TV, and more of it reading, praying, cooking, or taking care of the house.

What are your plans for a fruitful Lent?

Monday, February 14, 2011

This post is almost as long as the trip was

We survived The Mouse. And lo, it was exhausting, and also wonderful, and there is just SO much to say about it. My worst fears came to fruition (namely, Nate sleeping poorly, fighting the stroller, and melting down at restaurants), and somehow we still had a wonderful time. Such is the power of Magic, I suppose.

I've been putting off writing about it because I feel like there's almost too much to say. I know how much I appreciated being able to read other bloggers' accounts of their Disney trips with toddlers (hi, A'Dell and Maggie!), so I feel I owe it to The Internet to add to the collective knowledge. 

1. Where We Stayed

We decided to ante up for a one-bedroom villa at the Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort. I'm really, really glad we went with the BLT. It's technically a Disney Vacation Club property, but, unless it's all booked up with DVC members, you can book a villa there just like you'd book any room at a Disney resort. 

We were so happy to have the two separate rooms when Nate was napping and when he went to bed, although we did end up napping a fair amount ourselves in the afternoons. (More about that below.) We made breakfast in the room every day that we didn't have a character breakfast scheduled, and I actually did a load of laundry in the in-room washer and dryer. 

I only had two complaints about the resort. First, one of the advertised amenities at the BLT is a rooftop deck overlooking the Magic Kingdom, from which guests can view the nightly fireworks. We tried in vain to find our way up to the deck only to be told later that it is only available to DVC members. That was a little disappointing, but not really a big deal; you can still watch the fireworks from a big balcony on the side of the original Contemporary Resort (complete with the music piped in from the Magic Kingdom).

The bigger problem was that the room lacked wi-fi internet access. I'd planned to spend Nate's naptime streaming shows on Netflix and Hulu, and was sorely disappointed when we had no wireless signal in the condo. I don't even mind paying for wi-fi; just make it available. The front desk folks told us that wireless is only available in the public areas of the Contemporary Resort--and even then, only for a daily fee. (Although I don't mind paying for wi-fi in my room, I decidedly do mind paying for service I can only access in the lobby.) Surprisingly, I just looked at the "Amenities and Services" page on the BLT's website, and it lists Wi-Fi under "Room Amenities"--call me crazy, but I think that implies that wi-fi is available in the room.

Clearly, I was pretty bitter about my inability to web surf on vacation. The only upside was that it kind of forced me to nap while Nate napped, which I probably needed.

2. Getting Around

Our resort was on the monorail line, which made getting to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot a breeze. Bus service was available to the Animal Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studios, but the buses always took a lot longer to arrive than did the monorail (understandably). Getting to Epcot takes a little longer because you have to change monorails; the Magic Kingdom didn't require a switch.

The monorails and buses were never crowded for us; we could almost always sit down, and we never had to fold up our stroller on the monorail. I imagine that during peak season, though, the transportation gets pretty claustrophobic. It would also be really annoying to miss a bus or monorail because it was full.

The thing to remember is that, even staying on property--even staying on a monorail-line resort--getting around takes a while. The monorail goes in a big loop, and if you only have to ride one stop headed to the park, you'll have to pass every other stop on your way back to your resort. Still, it was far, far easier not to have to deal with renting and parking a car . . .

. . . Except that I really hated the transportation to and from the airport. This was probably just an issue with our particular resort, though. We were riding the "Disney Magical Express," a free bus service that Disney runs between the Orlando airport and its various resorts. Each bus services several resorts, so our bus dropped off and picked up at the Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Wildnerness Lodge resorts. When we arrived, we were the last resort to be dropped off. No big deal, I thought--I wanted to see the other resorts, and I figured it just meant that we'd be the last picked up on the way back to the airport. 

I was wrong. The Contemporary was the last to be dropped off and the first to be picked up for the trip back to the airport, and that extra half hour or so was significant when dealing with a squirmy toddler--and when our pick-up time back to the airport was before 8:00 a.m. It wasn't a huge deal, but it was just something I found a little annoying. The whole process was just slow: Waiting for the bus at the airport, loading a bunch of families--and their carry-on luggage/strollers, driving around to the various resorts, and then unloading the carry-ons and strollers that were stowed under the bus at each resort. I'm not sure how much round-trip cab fare is, and it's probably enough that it was worthwhile for us to take resort transportation. Nevertheless--there's nothing magical about the Magical Express. 

3. The Parks

We've arrived at the portion of this post where I sing the praises of the off-season. Oh, February, how I love you! I think that the longest line we waited in was for the Dumbo ride at the Magic Kingdom--probably about 20 minutes or so for that notoriously slow-loader. We zoomed onto many rides with no wait at all.

The thing that surprised me the most was seeing Nate react to the Disney characters. I expected him to be either uninterested or maybe a little scared. Instead, they turned out to be his favorite part of the experience. 

We even did a couple of character breakfasts (which I'll discuss below), and he could hardly contain himself waiting for each character to arrive at our table. Perhaps the breakfasts are a little better suited to children old enough to understand the concept of waiting their turn.

Nate was able to ride on a fair number of the attractions. Here were some of our hits and misses:

Magic Kingdom

Nate loved It’s a Small World, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, and Buzz Lightyear—anything that was really colorful and had a lot to look at. He was content on Dumbo, the Astro Orbiter, Aladdin’s Magic Carpets, the People Mover, the Pirates of the Caribbean, Mickey’s Philharmagic, and the Haunted Mansion. He got incredibly fussy during the Hall of Presidents (a bummer, because I really wanted to see the whole thing) and the Country Bear Jamboree, but he was having a really hard time the morning we saw those.

David and I were able to ride things like Space Mountain and the Big Thunder Mountain railroad by “switching off,” something Disney allows for parents of small children. We’d approach the cast member at the entrance to the line and tell him we needed to switch off. He’d give us a ticket that was basically a fast pass for the second parent to use to ride after the first parent was done. Then one of us would wait outside with Nate while the other rode. The only exception was Space Mountain, where we went through the line together until almost the very end, and Nate and I were sent to the exit platform to wait for David to finish the ride. Once he was done, I was allowed to back track up to the loading platform to ride myself.

Except for Space Mountain, it seemed like if both parents had obtained Fast Passes, there was no need to get a “switch off” pass. The pass for switching off just puts the second parent into the Fast Pass line, anyway; you don’t get to skip ahead any farther than the other Fast Pass folks.


Epcot is kind of a bust with a toddler, I thought, which is a huge bummer, because it’s such a gorgeous park. I really wish David and I could have had some time to ourselves to explore the World Showcase section.

We rode Spaceship Earth, The Land, the Three Caballeros, and the Nemo ride with Nate. All were fine, but he didn’t seem really excited about any of them. He actually got a little antsy during The Land, which is a little long and goes through a bunch of greenhouses toward the end—not so interesting for a toddler. Nate had also just ridden it with David while I was riding Soarin’, so he was seeing it for a second time.

I feel like we really didn’t get to enjoy Epcot enough. Soarin’ was the only non-Nate-friendly attraction that David and I saw, even though there are others that look interesting. But there wasn’t enough at Epcot for Nate to draw us back for a second day, and with Nate’s afternoon nap it wasn’t possible to fit in as much as we would have liked. I’m really looking forward to seeing Epcot again when Nate is elementary school-aged, when we can enjoy all of the attractions together.

Animal Kingdom

Nate absolutely loved the Animal Kingdom. For some reason, it was the only park in which he was content to ride around in his stroller. He loved seeing all of the animals, both on the Safari ride and just around the park. Animal Kingdom also had what were hands-down my favorite attractions of the trip: The Festival of the Lion King show and Finding Nemo—The Musical.
Nate was particularly entranced during the Nemo show, which was, in my opinion, completely stunning.

We also saw It's a Bug's Life, which had one moment that scared Nate. It was sort of cute, but I don't think it would be worth waiting a long time to see. David and I rode Expedition Everest, which made me ever-so-slightly queasy. (There's a part where it goes backwards, which was the issue for me.) We took Nate on the TriceraTop Spin, which was essentially just like Dumbo. Nate liked it fine.

On our last day, we decided to check out "Camp Minnie Mickey," which is just a big area with a bunch of pavilions for kids to meet the characters. Had we not discovered how much Nate adored the characters, we never would have done this--and if I'd had to wait in lines, I would NOT have wanted to do this. Instead, though, there were never more than a couple of people ahead of us to see any character, if that, and Nate was able to visit Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Chip and Dale, three rabbits and a bear (who ARE some of these characters?), all in quick succession. He was in heaven.

Aaaaaaaand . . . at this point I have rambled on for nearly 2000 words about my vacation. I still have to discuss restaurants, including the infamous 'Ohana stormout. But Nate is up from his nap, and I just need to post this already. I promise, I'll discuss Disney dining. (Expensive! Widely variable in quality!)

I'll also post a video I took of our room, in case you're interested. OR EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT.

Oh, for heaven's sake, I'm just hitting publish now.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Magic awaits

Holy cats! I've really let myself go when it comes to the blogging, it seems.

We've been slogging though winter, and praise God that January is over. I think Nate is getting a touch of cabin fever, as he's uninterested in any of his toys and mostly interested in (1) clinging to my legs, and (2) giving the dog his food. Good times. I can't complain too much, though, considering that Maureen's not going to be thawed out until July.

Ah, but we leave for vacation on Sunday! We've made all of our meal "reservations" (in scare quotes because apparently Disney restaurant reservations are really more like call-ahead seating--but totally necessary if you want to go to any of the sit-down restaurants). Our room is actually a one-bedroom condo with a full kitchen, and we've arranged for grocery delivery so that we can eat breakfast most days in the room. We've bought ponchos for the inevitable rain. We bought a stroller lock after reading that apparently some people do get their strollers stolen at Disney.

David almost didn't believe me when I told him that every time I've had to call the resort, they've concluded the call by telling me to "Have a magical day!" I have to stop myself from replying "You, too!" in the same way that I've finally trained myself not to "you too" the airline counter agents who wish me a pleasant flight. I told David to get ready to hear that a lot next week, and he rolled his eyes and wondered aloud whether he'd get tired of it. I think not; the thing about enjoying Disney, in my mind, is that you have to just give yourself over to the experience, and I think that won't be a problem for either of us as we watch Nate take it all in.

So my excitement is abundant, but my fears are also numerous. At this point, they include (1) whether/how well Nate will sleep in the hotel room; (2) eating out so much, considering that any restaurant meal with a toddler can turn into a scarf-your-food-and-get-the-check-before-total-meltdown experience; and (3) the amount of time Nate will be logging in the stroller, given that he pretty much hates riding in the stroller.

But here's the thing: Underneath it all, I really believe Nate is going to love it. I think he'll be mesmerized by the spectacle of it all. I think he'll love being outside so much after being cooped up in the house for much of the last two months. I think he'll enjoy a lot of the rides. I know I will enjoy just being somewhere different for a while. For the love of all that's holy, I need a change of scenery.

T-minus four days. Here we come.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tiny Dancer

A while back, we noticed that Nate would sometimes start an almost involuntary-seeming wiggle when he heard certain songs. It's cutest when he undertakes the full-body version, but he'll still get his shoulders going when the music plays. We, of course, thought this was hilarious and did our best to encourage his funny little dance. Suddenly, within the last few days, he's learned how to "dance" upon request.

(A smile usually accompanies the dancing, but he seems to turn all serious when he sees himself on the computer screen.)

Tiny Dancer from Lauren Petron on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Vote for Nate!

Obviously you all know that I think Nate is a shockingly adorable kid. Well, apparently, our photographer does, too. The wonderful Crystal Hardin of lily-b photography took our family photos back in November, and we were thrilled with the results. You can see all of our favorite shots here, if you'd like.

Crystal has decided to run a little contest on her website, and, unbeknownst to me, selected a photo of Nate as one of the entries. The prize is a lovely photo frame with a print of the entered photo. The real prize, though, is the joy of sweet, sweet victory.

Now, I think y'all know that I would never have entered Nate in any sort of contest on my own. I hate to lose, and the prospect of some misguided people selecting some other child as cuter than my little guy (other than YOUR children, of course, who clearly equal Nate in the looks department)--well, the thought of it makes me sad. And yet here we find ourselves entered in this contest, and so it's up to YOU, dear readers, to see to it that this contest doesn't make me cry.

So would you please take a minute and go vote for Nate's photo? You can vote once a day, every day, until next Sunday, January 9th, at midnight. The website will ask for your e-mail address, so that Crystal can make sure folks are only voting once per day, but she will not share or publish your address.

You may vote every day at Crystal's site. Nate's photo is NUMBER FOUR. I really wish she had selected the color version of this photo, because Nate's blue eyes are just to die for, but again, I didn't make the selection. In case you need a reminder about how cute this kid really is, here's the color version.

Please go and vote for my little guy, because the parents of the baby girl in photo one were apparently recruiting votes last night before I even knew about this contest, and she's currently in the lead. Let's win this thing! I want the pretty, pretty photo frame . . . but I want bragging rights even more.