Friday, February 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes for 7 Posts in 7 Days

~1~

I am on a mission, and my mission is to eliminate the use of the phrase "good baby" from our collective conversation. I know what people mean when they say that a baby is a "good baby": They mean the baby is an easy baby, or mellow or laid-back or calm. "You know what I mean," people have said to me when I correct them. But why, then, don't we just say the thing that we actually mean? Because when we describe as "good" the baby who eats and sleeps easily, who fusses rarely, then what does that imply about the baby who is more challenging? Nate had reflux. He was difficult to get to sleep, often refused to stay asleep, and cried through most evenings early on. He was a challenge. That doesn't mean he wasn't a "good baby." All babies are good. But when we ask a sleep-deprived new mother whether her baby is "good," and he or she isn't laid-back and easy--the things that we really mean when we ask that question--then what is that poor mom supposed to say?

Maybe it's the lawyer in me, rising from hibernation to demand precision in our language, but let's just say what we mean here, mkay?

~2~

While I'm ranting here, can my fellow Catholics answer a question for me? Why, at so many parishes, do people positively bolt for the doors as soon as the recessional hymn starts? In all my years growing up as a Protestant, I never saw anything like it, and almost no one does it at our parish here. When I visit the parish closest to my parents' house outside Atlanta, though, people can't get out fast enough. In fact, I once had a man motion for me to move out of his way when I was at the end of the row, pointing to his watch as though that were an explanation for why he couldn't spend an extra 60-90 seconds in Christ's presence. Same thing happened at a different suburban Atlanta parish a couple of Sundays ago during our visit.

Is this a thing in other parts of the country? I know that my diocese in general and my parish in particular are on the conservative/orthodox/reverent/whatever-you-want-to-call-it side, but can anyone explain this to me as a cultural phenomenon? 

~3~

When I was in college at UGA, five of my friends lived in the Episcopal Center on campus during our sophomore year. The center was (and still is, to the best of my knowledge), comprised of two buildings, an old, ramshackle house and a much newer chapel. (You can see an old picture of the center here, if you're curious. Incidentally, the brochure in that link notes that the then-chaplain, Father Marsh, was installed at the center in 1965. He was still the chaplain when I started college in 1994! He did retire from the center while I was in college, but I think that's a pretty impressive tenure for dealing with obnoxious college kids.)

Long before the school year was over, my friends learned that they wouldn't be able to finish out the year living in the house. The upstairs wasn't up to code, largely (I think) because there wasn't any sort of secondary fire escape or staircase in case of an emergency. Needless to say, they were incredibly disappointed and inconvenienced at trying to find student housing in a college town in the middle of the school year.

The thing I remember, though, was the sign that they posted at the top of the stairs after hearing the news: "We Gave Up Hope For Lent." 

Kind of irreverent, sure, but aren't we all feeling that way a little bit as the Winter That Will Never End slides into the Lenten season next week? I feel completely unjustified in my complaints, given what my friends in places like Michigan, Minnesota, and Massachusetts are dealing with (unintentional alliteration, FTW!), but this has NOT been a typical winter, right? 

Here in the DC area, we tend to get little pockets of downright pleasant weather sprinkled through January and February, so that I genuinely don't mind the cold days. I feel like one day I look up and the flowers are blooming and I'm all, "Oh, I guess it's spring already." (Those of you in cold climates where spring comes in May can feel free to chuck tomatoes in my direction.) This winter, though, has just been consistently cold. 

There are buds on the Japanese magnolia in my backyard, and it's past 6pm and still light-ish outside, so I know that spring really will get here at some point. Can't happen soon enough.

~4~

Speaking of things that can't happen soon enough, David gets home tomorrow. And the angels will sing hallelujah. As will I.

~5~

I getting increasingly desperate to find dinners that my child will actually eat, because we've reached the point where his already-limited palate is shrinking even more. There are times when I have to get him to eat something, on the three mornings a week he attends preschool and before Mass on Sundays, lest we all deal with the wrath of a "hangry" child. For dinner I've tried doing the whole "this is what we're having; take it or leave it" thing, and he'll simply leave it and fill up on food earlier in the day the next day. 

Because he's growing fine, though, there's a part of me that wants to just . . . not worry about it. Some kids are picky. He'll at least partially grow out of it, even if he's never the world's most adventurous eater. (*I'm* not the world's most adventurous eater, so I can hardly blame him.) It feels like more of an issue for me right now, maybe, because he's the only kid I have. If I had several kids and one was picky, it wouldn't make me feel like I was failing somehow as a mother; I'd just chalk it up to that kid being picky. And I really do believe that so many things, like how your kids eat and sleep, are in large measure just part of who they are. I need to keep that in mind, even as I continue to wish he'd eat the dinners I make. But seriously, it's annoying to cook and have him turn his nose up at it.

~6~

Did I mention on Twitter that I finished the Harry Potter books? I am YEARS late to the party, but I finally get what all the fuss was about! I absolutely adored them, as one would expect. David has never seen all of the movies, so we're watching them together, and it's so much fun. I already can't wait for Nate to read them (years down the road, of course), and I have a feeling I'll re-read them with him and likely before that, too. And I'm not a person who re-reads books, so that's really high praise from me.

Understatement of the decade here, but that JK Rowling is a darn fine storyteller.

~7~

Thank you for the kind comments and tweets wishing me a speedy recovery from this annoying bug. I was feeling somewhat better today. Still stuffy and coughing, but less of that awful run-down feeling. The saddest thing just happened, though. Poor Nate--who is definitely as emotionally tapped-out as I am this week--desperately wanted me to stay with him while he fell asleep. I usually have no problem with this, as he tends to fall asleep fairly quickly. Tonight, though, my coughing kept startling him back awake, to the point that there was little chance he'd fall asleep with me in the room. After giving it an hour, I decided I had to leave him alone so that he could get to sleep undisturbed, which of course left him in tears. It breaks my heart when my kid, who is missing his Papa so much right now (David nearly always puts him to bed), just wants my simple presence, and I have to take it away from him. 

Please continue to pray that this cold or virus or whatever it is is gone soon. Gah.

Both 7 Posts in 7 Days and Seven Quick Takes are hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sick. And Tired.

I am struggling today, friends.

David left town on Sunday evening and won't be back until Saturday at noon. He was also gone for three days last week (yes, in the middle of our trip to see my family in Georgia), two the week before, and has been gone for various 2-3 day stretches basically all year so far.

The trip to Georgia wore me down. The drives there and back, the dealing with Nate in places that aren't home (even with wonderful family members on hand and willing to help out), the sleeping badly in beds that are not my own: they all left me exhausted. The day after we got back I could feel a cold or something coming on, but I had to plow forward because Nate's preschool was hosting a little mini-concert and potluck lunch, and as a class mom I was responsible for helping with setup and cleanup.

And then David left. I got sicker. It doesn't feel like flu (from what I remember of the times I've had the flu), but it's a nasty bug nonetheless. We've reached the point now where my abdominal muscles ache from coughing, and my nose is bleeding a little bit from blowing it so much.

That whole television detox I discussed on Monday. Oh, hahahahahahaha. As Arwen told me yesterday, "Maybe this isn't the best week to cut out TV, Lauren." Truer words were never spoken. (It still has to be done. Just not this week.)

Then there was a screwup at my doctor's office yesterday, and instead of leaving with some information I've been eager to receive, I have to make another appointment and impose on someone to watch Nate again and continue to fret about something that's probably nothing but might be something (insert standard "not pregnant" disclaimer here; don't get excited). I ended up in tears in the parking lot not because the mixup is so egregious, but just because I'm sick and lonely and tired and unable to be the mother I want to be when all of this is going on. Then I cried a couple more times today, for good measure.

Oh, and there's the minor fact that I frequently forget to feed myself when David's not around. In the five minutes we got to talk this morning before he became unreachable for 8 hours, David finally told me to just order food, for heaven's sake, and it honestly hadn't occurred to me. Or maybe when it did, I felt like I should be able to take better care of myself without copping out and throwing money at the problem. Like it's a weakness on my part or something.

Which is, of course, ridiculous. I am, quite literally, weakened at the moment, and there's no shame in getting help in the form of food. I wish that we had a regular sitter so that I could take a few hours to rest undisturbed, but at the same time I know that I have it comparably easy having one kid who will watch TV and play LEGO pretty well by himself. I shamelessly turned on Netflix this afternoon and holed up in my bed with the iPad. Sleep was out of the question, but at least it was (mostly) quiet.

And the egg drop soup that was just delivered to my door may be the best thing I've ever tasted.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Big Purse Dump

So, Kendra over at Catholic All Year is hosting a Big Purse Dump, which just seems like too much fun to pass up. I mean, I'm not the kind of person who peeks into other people's medicine cabinets, but I am the kind of person who loves looking at online photos of houses for sale and going to open houses in my neighborhood. Sometimes it's just fun to see what's on the inside of things you usually only see the outsides of, right?

The purse: a gigantic, bright orange Kate Spade two-handled tote, purchased for 40% off at the outlet. I get more compliments on this purse than any other I've ever had, which is strange because it's definitely not the most beautiful purse I own. I think it's definitely because the color is so attention-grabbing. This is the purse that has taught me that two handles make my life SO MUCH EASIER, because I can easily dig around in it while it's still on my shoulder. I've tried to go back and use other purses since buying this one, and it's just so much more annoying. Plus, this one holds anything I need.

The inside is this black and white stripe that I adore, and it's better than a big black hole where I'd just lose everything. It's got an outside and an inside zippered pocket and two phone pockets. (For two phones? A work and personal phone? Who knows.)


 And here's everything that's in my purse. Some of it is pretty standard: Wallet, gloves (during the winter only), keys, sunglasses (in the white case), gum, Kleenex, hand lotion and hand sanitizer. Not pictured: feminine hygiene products. (Just keepin' it real, folks. But not in photos.)


The red sunglasses are Nate's. He calls them his "super spy glasses." After he broke two adorable pairs of sunglasses that I bought for him--faux RayBans and tiny Avaiators--he found these on a neighborhood playground last year. I posted to my neighborhood email listserv a description of the glasses and the location where we'd found them, secretly hoping that no one would speak up to claim them because he had absolutely and completely fallen in love with them. No one did, and of course the ones he found for free--the ones that I actually find kind of hideous--are still going strong almost a year later. Kids, man.

For those who aren't Catholic, the silver ring-like thing on top of my wallet is a finger Rosary. For all of my aspirational Rosary-praying.


I always seem to have random LEGO minifigures or parts of minifigures in my purse, from the times Nate insists on bringing them out of the house. The pink and gray book is just a blank notebook that I got at Target and use to jot down meal plans or grocery lists, or that I give to Nate with a pen at restaurants. The index card is my Costco shopping list from earlier this week. It went directly into the recycling bin after this photo.


Mini racecar. Mini IronMan. Mini Washington Capitals goalie. Clearly I am the mother of a little boy.


This ziploc baggie weirdly contains cutouts of craft foam in the shapes of "nets," "goal lights," "pucks," and several different colored squares to represent two hockey teams, the referees, and the Zamboni. Nate used to use them all the time to play hockey on the table in restaurants, although lately, he hasn't been as interested. I leave them in my purse because they essentially weigh nothing and take up no space in the bag. I'm willing to bet that I am the only woman in America to have this particular thing in her pocketbook.


Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, which I'm currently reading for my Catholic book club. Shortly after this photo I accidentally left it in my doctor's office. It's a hike to drive out there, so I'm pretty annoyed at myself.


The outside pocket of my purse has four sticker books, two little books that Nate got in McDonald's Happy Meals (which, ironically, both extol the virtues of healthy eating), and a Mass picture book.


The black-and-white bird pouch in the overview picture is my makeup pouch, which keeps all my toiletries nicely contained. It's also a Kate Spade outlet 40% off purchase. (As is my yellow wallet, incidentally. I may have gone a bit overboard that day.)


Antibacterial wipes, hand lotion, blotting papers, concealer, powder, a tiny hair clip, two lip balms, lip liner, and seven(!!!) lipsticks and lip glosses. Immediately after taking this photo I chucked four of the lipsticks/glosses up into my bathroom. Seven is simply unreasonable. Also, heavy. 

So that's it: a peek into the Big Orange Bag. You can eyeball dozens of other purses' contents over at Catholic All Year. Go ahead and take a peek. I won't tell anyone.



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lenten Traditions


So, Ash Wednesday is finally arriving next week (so late!), and it has me considering what to do, both myself and for my family, for Lent this year.

I feel like we had an incredibly fruitful Advent in 2013. No, seriously, way better than any I've ever had, I think. I credit two things that really worked for us. First, we committed to getting--and actually got--all of the Christmas shopping done prior to the start of Advent. I cannot emphasize how huge this was for me, because we have a lot of people to buy for, with no real way to scale things down by drawing names or anything. Obviously this won't be an issue for Lent, because we don't go huge on Nate's Easter basket, and he's the only person we need to buy anything for.

Second, we finally tried a Jesse Tree. Lots of families make their own Jesse Tree ornaments, but I have negative craftiness skills and a kid who really couldn't care less about making things. So I bought one of tabletop ornament display trees (this one, in case you're curious), and got a gorgeous set of painted wooden ornaments from Jesse Tree Treasures on Etsy.



Simply lighting the Advent wreath had never been a successful tradition for us. I wanted to light it during dinner, but between David getting home late or Nate needing to eat earlier than David and me or going out to eat, more often than not we weren't able to make it happen consistently.

With the Jesse Tree, we had a short, consistent routine for each night of Advent. Shortly before getting Nate ready for bed, we'd light the Advent wreath, sing a verse of O Come O Come Emmanuel, read the Bible story that accompanied that day's ornament (from one of Nate's children's Bibles*, if possible, but occasionally from my Bible for the less popular stories). Then Nate would hang the ornament on the tree and blow out the candle. It was quick, easy, consistent, and really kept us focused on how all of history led up to the Incarnation.

(* Nate has a couple of Bibles that we really like.  My favorite is the Jesus Storybook Bible, which has a beautiful way of explaining all of the stories to make them relatable to children and refers forward to Christ in every Old Testament story. Be warned, however, that it is a Protestant Bible and contains theological flaws in its description of the institution of the Eucharist. We also have My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories, which is beautifully illustrated and I think will become our go-to as Nate gets older. Its text is actually pulled straight from the Bible, and just has introductions for each story, and accompanying prayers, questions, and pictures. Because it's straight-up Biblical text, though, it can be a little bit over Nate's head right now.)

I'd love to do something similar for Lent, and I just saw that the same shop from which we bought the Jesse Tree ornaments is offering a lovely set of "Jesus Tree" ornaments. (And I recognize that these ornaments and the Jesse Tree ornaments are kind of pricey. I figured they were something we would have for many years to come, and so were worth investing in.)



I've also seen this beautiful wooden Way of Light wreath, although I really like that the ornaments come built-in with instructions telling us which Bible passages to read as a family. When it comes to devotions with my particular four year old, it needs to be pretty straightforward.

I'd love to do some sort of emphasis on almsgiving for Nate, as well, and I know some families who collect change with their kids for Catholic Relief Service's Operation Rice Bowl. He doesn't yet get an allowance or anything, but maybe we could go through his toys together and decide on some to donate. I also think something like a Forty Bags in Forty Days (donating forty bags of items during Lent) would be good for all of us and for my house. Maybe I could get inspired to clear out some of the baby stuff I've been holding onto for so long.

For myself, I'm wondering whether this Lent might finally be the time I can make the Rosary a habit. I know that not every devotion needs to speak to every Catholic, and I love other devotions like Morning or Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, but honestly I feel like a "bad" Catholic for never being able to make the Rosary a regular part of my prayer life. I have an excellent audio Rosary app on my phone that I like because it includes nice descriptions of each of the Mysteries and makes it easy for me to keep them in mind as I pray each decade. That might help me get started. Miriel also introduced me to the idea of a "Rosary walk" when she was living here, and I really like that way of praying the Rosary; when I'm just sitting in a room I tend to get distracted.

In particular, though, I'm interested in what we can do as a family. Nate is old enough now that he can really start to understand the liturgical seasons, and I would love for him to be able to look back on something that we always did for Lent while he was growing up.

Do you have any family Lent traditions?


Monday, February 24, 2014

Reset

Every once in a while, I feel like Nate needs a reset. It's almost always my fault, or my fault combined with less-than-ideal circumstances, but it always happens when I've been letting the television take over our lives.

Recently David has been traveling a lot for work. I'd say that at least two weeks out of every four, he's spending a few days per week on the road. Right now, we're in the middle of a four-week stretch where he's gone at least two and up to six days each week.

There are a lot of ways in which this simply isn't a big deal for me. Nate is, after all, only one kid, and he's long out of diapers and isn't particularly needy in the night. But the downside of his being only one kid is that he has no built-in playmates, and so when I need to get a few things done and he won't readily play by himself, it's all too easy to turn on Netflix or hand him an iPad.

Last week we were in Georgia visiting my family, including my sister's darling new baby, and between the 10-hour drives each way and my family's tendency to leave the television on all day, it was pretty much non-stop screen time for a week. By the end of the drive home, poor Nate was in full-on meltdown mode, and I knew that this would have to be a screen detox week.

The weird thing is, it's somehow generally easier to cut the screens for him altogether than it is to limit them to only an hour or so each day. Am I the only one whose kid works like this? I already try to wait as late in the day as possible to pull out the electronic entertainment, because once it's turned on it's a battle to turn it off. I know plenty of moms who can do a mid-day 30-minute TV break to make lunch or do a chore or even--heavens!--just have a few minutes to themselves. It works perfectly well for them. I don't know whether my kid is just more headstrong or somehow reacts more strongly to this sort of stimulation, but dang does it change his behavior. And not for the better.

Right now he's happily sitting at the kitchen table, playing with his approximately one gazillion LEGO minifigures and listening to the Nate the Great books on CD. I discovered during a previous TV detox that he loves listening to books on CD, and will happily listen to certain chapter books over and over while he plays. In addition to Nate the Great, which we were borrowing from the library so frequently that I finally suggested that the grandparents get them for him for Christmas, he is also a huge fan of the Magic Tree House series. (Any other series recommendations? He seems to like to hear stories with the same characters over and over.)

There's a part of me that for years has wanted to get rid of our TV altogether. I know it will never happen, though for a number of reasons, but primarily that my husband is a big sports fan who would be terribly unhappy to lack access to football and hockey. I also watch a fairly large number of TV shows. (It's always weird to see how many I really watch, because now that television series don't always adhere to the older September-May season scheduling, it's never that many shows at once. But I watch Downton Abbey, The Good Wife, How I Met Your Mother, Parenthood, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Episodes, Homeland, Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, The Americans, and Call the Midwife, and I'm committed to see Grey's Anatomy through to the bitter end even though I'm behind by several episodes.) On the rare occasions when I turn on the TV just to have something on, it's almost always something from HGTV or Food Network.

I don't actually think that TV is bad, but I do have a tendency to use it as a crutch with my kid, which I know becomes bad for my particular family when it's on too much. I know it'll creep back into his days before too long, but it really is strange to me how much easier it is to give him a consistent "no" for a while than it is to cut back on how much he watches.

Am I the only one who has to detox her kid from television sometimes? Do you do a full-on stoppage like we do, or are you able to simply cut back? How do you know when it's time for a break?

* * * * *
I'm participating in 7 Posts in 7 Days, hosted by Jen of Conversion Diary