Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Things to look forward to in the New Year...

Today is my last day in the office for the week (so much cheering) so I'll be blogging again next Monday or Tuesday. I rarely blog at home, for whatever reason. Our Internet connection is a tad slower there, and I just never take the time away to do it. But at work, I need a break sometimes. :)

My mother-in-law is coming for a visit beginning tomorrow, so I'll be off on a four day weekend. I absolutely cannot wait. My adorable Henry has been home with Mike these past 2 days, and I'm hating that I'm not with them.

I was thinking about the blogging I'll be doing in 2011, and I thought I'd make a quick list for reference. This next year will see blogging on:

(1) the latter part of my pregnancy, childbirth preparation, a very detailed labor and delivery story (bet you can't wait :) ), and life with a newborn. Transition from one child to two.

(2) dealing with postpartum depression and the struggles of new motherhood, especially for mothers that work outside of the home.

(3) Pregnant and newly postpartum belly dancing and fitness. :)

(4) a very special Lent and Easter vigil this year (details to follow...)

(5) schooling choices. I anticipate going to at least one Catholic school open house in January, and will report in with full details. In late January, I'm going to start a 54 day rosary novena for guidance on where to send Hank to school next year.

(6) Mike finishing school and going on the job market, while I try for tenure.

It's going to be a big year. So much of it is up in the air, which normally would disconcert me greatly. I like things to be in place, with me controlling them, and worrying about them as needed, the whole time. Right now, I can't do that. So much is out of my control. Hank's school situation depends mightily on Mike's job situation, and we definitely don't have full control over that. I certainly don't have full control over labor and delivery, and how well my new baby will sleep (the source of much anxiety approximately 5 years ago...). But shockingly, I'm not too worked up about any of this. I think I realize that things are up in the air, and there's nothing I can do about it, so I'm trusting God to guide me. I feel peaceful about things, and that's a good feeling.

Shortly after the new year, I'll post about the baby sleep and childbirth books I'm reading from the library now, with reviews. I'm looking forward. :) I hope that everyone has a blessed and wonderful new year. You'll hear from me again next week!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Random Saint name generator

I found the link to this on another blog as I caught up on my Google Reader this morning. The Saint's Name Generator will select a saint for you, and provide you with a description of his/her life and causes. I used it to select a saint for my blog for the upcoming year. You say a prayer as the generator works, and then click to find your new patron.

St. Mary of Egypt originally worked as a prostitute for many years, until one day she tried to enter a church and found that she physically couldn't open the doors. She underwent a dramatic conversion and asked Our Lady for her guidance. She heard a voice tell her to cross the Jordan River, and from that point forward she lived as a hermit in the desert until her death 50 years later. She is the patron of penitent women and sexual temptation.

My new silk veil...

One of my Christmas gifts was to choose a silk veil for myself, and it arrived on Christmas Eve. Naturally, I had to share. :)

I chose this one:
The vendor is a seller named Silkdancer at etsy. She was having a December sale, so I really got a great price. This veil is absolutely beautiful. The main color is hot pink, and the edges taper to an orange, and then a bright yellow. This design is called Hot Pink Lemonade. The quality of the silk is very high, so if anybody is in the market for a silk veil, definitely check out Silkdancer's selections.

I love dancing with a silk veil, and I'm actually crafting a new solo using mine. Silk has transformed my trepidation to all veils into an eager learning fest, and I'm enjoying it very much. Veils very much intimidate me. You see them a lot in American style cabaret belly dancing. They're a popular prop. In America, it's acceptable to use them for a whole dance, or part of a dance, after which you flick it off and dance without it for the remainder of your song. In either of these cases, I did not like using them. I felt like I was wrestling with the veil to make it obey and not focusing as much on my dancing. Silk has changed that. The way it floats and trails around you is breathtaking and much more effortless than chiffon. I will say, using a veil gives your upper arms a serious workout. It's not that they're heavy, but keeping it up so that you don't trip on it and afloat the way you wants works those muscles nicely.

I've been experimenting with different things in my choreography because using a veil means that you want to highlight its movements in way that also complements your dancing. You can't just tack it on to what you would usually do without using a veil. I may treat myself to a veil moves DVD with an amazon gift card, and I'm very excited.

Being pregnant has actually stimulated my belly dancing, and I've been enjoying it tremendously. I think it's because you're so much more aware of your body when you're pregnant. I love the second trimester - I'm definitely in that happy, comfortable zone. I imagine that once I get into the third trimester, I may have to slow down a bit, but for the time being, my veil, iPod and I have been in residence in the kitchen most nights, swirling away.

Happy Christmas memories

I'm back. :) Not too happy to be back at work, but happy to be able to blog today. I've been off almost a full week, and it's always hard to work the kinks out when you have gotten used to being "off routine." So, the highlights.

On the 23rd, I stayed home and wrapped presents. It was WONDERFUL. Mike is home on winter break as well, so spent a beautiful day together, and I felt so excited to see little Hank's excitement on Christmas morning. To me, this is one of the most wonderful times of year to be a parent. This is when the category 10 temper tantrums in the middle of Target all even out in a in a karma guided explosion of sweet memories. Good stuff.

The 24th is our larger family celebration. We gather with my mom's family and pretty much eat and visit for hours. We also always attend the Christmas Vigil. We arrived about 20 minutes early for the 4 pm Mass this year and easily got seats, but even this large church (our parish doesn't have a 4 o'clock vigil, so we usually attend somewhere else on Christmas) couldn't accommodate everyone that came. Lots of standing people in the back. We were crunched into a shared pew, but we did ok. Hank was an excellent boy. He's been so good at Mass lately I can hardly believe it. Just for saying that, I'm sure I will be smited this coming Sunday with a consecration-timed meltdown of Biblical proportions, but it's true. I had a wonderful time.

I have to say though, I usually enjoy attending Mass on any random Sunday more than on Christmas Eve. It sounds awful, but 'tis the truth. Like this past Sunday, the feast of the Holy Family, one of my favorite of the year. It was peaceful and special. On Christmas Eve, I feel crowded and claustrophobic. It's too bad that so many people that feel inspired to attend church on Christmas are not subsequently inspired to attend the rest of the year. But Christmas and Easter really brings the crowds out of the woodwork.

At any rate, after Mass, we headed to the family gathering. Hank is at a fun age now where he plays independently. So we arrive, and off he scampers with his cousins, not to be glimpsed for an hour at a time. Every time I did catch sight of him, his cheeks, from the running around and the warmth of the wood stove, were pinker and pinker and PINKER. He looked like a freshly plucked apple by the end of the night. It was so cute.

Christmas Day we do our own family gift opening first thing in the morning, then we gather at my parents to exchange with them and my sisters and their families. We cram into our parents living room, drink mimosas, and open gifts for what seems like hours now that our family has grown so much. This year, we had dinner at my house afterwards. Mike made an awesome ham, and my mom brought her family-famous lasagna.

The day after Christmas, I always go out to lunch with my mom and my visiting sisters. The men gathered at my house to drink beer, eat pizza and watch football. Hank played with his new toys and is in total bliss that he doesn't have school all week.

Yesterday, I just stayed home, ran errands, and puttered around the house with Mike and Hank. It was wonderful. I so hated to leave them today. :( I'm trying to conserve my vacation days for when the baby comes. I am taking off more time at the end of this week for when my mother-in-law comes to visit, so I have a nice long weekend to look forward to. It's all giving me a hopeful and good feeling about my upcoming maternity leave. When I had Hank, I suffered from postpartum depression (I'll post about that extensively before the baby comes) and my time at home was not good. I was crying, upset, and out of sorts the whole time. Going back to work was actually good for me, since it helped me to feel like me again. This time, I think it'll be different, and I couldn't be happier about that. I'll have Hank with me too, once school lets out in June. I'm very excited. I miss my boys so much today.

Over the holidays, to me, the special memories are the little things. Humorous baking disasters, sitting around talking, something cute that one of the kids does. This time, one of those things was the Game of Life. Mike wanted a copy, it was a favorite of his growing up, so I picked one for him as a gift. Sunday night after Hank went to bed, we embarked. I had never played before.

"Ok, you have to decide whether to go to college or pick a career straight off."

"Oh, I guess I'll go to college."

"That's fine, but you accrue debt to do so, just like real life."

"Typical. Oh, and interest too, lovely. I'm a veteranarian! I like that. The buildings are all cute. Hey look, a church! Oh, I like this game."

"That's where you get married."

"Married! Oh yay, you and I can get married!"

"Well no, we can't marry each other, but our pawns do get married. I think everyone has to."

"Oh, well, I guess that will have to do. Hey, what are those little blue and pink pieces?"



"I knew you would like those."

I ended up adopting twins, which caused much squealing and happiness. I also won. :)

At any rate, I'll be blogging today and tomorrow, before a short New Years break. I hope everyone is having a good vacation week.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Baby CL's Papparazzi...

Yesterday, I went for my "big" 18 week ultrasound. Baby CL was very mellow in there, and seemed a bit put out that we interrupted his/her morning nap. :) He or she was snoozing on their belly, and wasn't too happy about having to roll over for the ultrasound technician. But, we finally secured cooperation. He or she has an *extremely* adorable face:

Very cute overall profile:

And little feet. :)

No, we did not find out the gender, although the perinatologist wanted to know (apparently, females fare better than males in preterm labor, so they like to have the information just in case) which I wasn't altogether thrilled about, since it is now on my chart. But they put a specific warning on there that the patient does not want to know the gender; I hope that they don't slip up. :)

I will grant, when she was looking at the bladder, I saw a partial money shot. One would think this would mean that I know whether the baby is a boy or girl, right? Wrong. I Googled pictures when I got back online, and honestly, the subleties are a bit lost on me. :) It's not at all like adult genatalia. For one thing, I only saw things from kind of a "below" shot, focusing on the legs, not a frontal full-on. There is something there for both genders that protrudes a bit, the scrotum for boys and the labia for girls. So, unless you have a trained eye, or an angle that specifically shows a penis, I think it's hard for the average person to tell. Plus, the absence of a penis does not necessarily mean the baby is a girl. It just might not be developed enough to be visible yet, or you may not have the correct angle.

I will say this: I saw no penis. HOWEVER! This means nothing. :) So, we're back to pretty much the 50/50 thing.

So, that's that. :) I don't anticipate another ultrasound for the duration of the pregnancy, so we'll know the baby's gender in mid to late May.

This time, we also got to meet with the perinatologist, and I liked her quite a bit. She was real peppy, with a fun southern accent. She gave us the full run-down on the procedures that I've undergone so far, which I found quite fascinating.

Nuchal fold scan: The odds of a woman my age (35 at conception, 36 at delivery) having a baby with Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) are about 1:164. Based on my nuchal fold scan, my odds for Trisomy 21 dropped to 1:1,600. My odds for having a baby with Trisomy 18 are 1:8,000. This test detects these most common chromosomal abnormalities 95% of the time.

Second trimester ultrasound/anatomy scan: In all of the cases she has seen in 30 years of practice, anytime a woman had a baby with Down Syndrome, she has seen "markers" on this ultrasound. An enlarged heart, other cranial or facial clues. In my case, they saw nothing.

Of course, she had the disclaimer that she cannot tell us with 100% certainty based on these two procedures that our baby doesn't have a chromosomal abnormality. However, in her opinion, our baby looks healthy and thriving, and she would not recommend an amniocentesis. I didn't want one anyway, but it was good to hear her say that. I also loved that she put "advanced maternal age" in little air quotes. That made me want to hug her. :)

As we were finishing up, she mentioned that she does not do high intensity monitoring in late pregnancy for women under age 40, and she considers me "just any other healthy pregnant woman."Did I mention how much I like her?

As we were leaving, she said "maybe I'll see you again..." and I thought she meant for another ultrasound should something unexpected arise, but she finished "if you come back for number three. People often tell me, 'oh no, we're stopping at 2!' but I tell them, 'I don't care what you do, you never know!'" I just really, really like her. :)

I'm kind of expecting the "are you interested in having your tubes tied?" question to come up when I get closer to delivery, from my regular ob/gyn office. They already think I'm eccentric enough by my lack of artificial birth control, so I'm sure my emphatic "NO" will not surprise them. Despite not being an NFP-only practice, they're very accepting of my Catholic ways. :)

I won't be posting until next week, as I'm taking off from work tomorrow through Tuesday December 28th for my family Christmas celebrations. I'll post when I return! And, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Me and my belly dancing baby, 4 and a half months...

(Photos by Armand de Kemp)

So, there you have it. :) I really love Middle Eastern dance. This pregnancy, I feel really good about my body, and I credit this dance form. I mean, under normal circumstances I like my body. It's not Victoria's Secret Catalog material, but it's what God gave me, and I appreciate it. When I'm pregnant, I tend to feel very self-conscious. This time, that's been better.

I actually watched a dancer on YouTube the other day dance in a costume very similar to mine (meaning, belly baring) at 7 and a half months. She looked gorgeous. There is nothing more feminine than the pregnant form.

Anyway, the hafla went very well. We had a couple of things pop up, namely the Case of the Missing Veil, and the Great Nosebleed Crisis, but all were handled deftly and swiftly.

I had a performance group number, and then a wait until my solo. It was kind of comical in that we all *volunteered* to do solos, and then the time comes, and the lineup looks like a group waiting for their turn at the guillotine. It's nerve wracking, to be sure, but it truly is the only way to improve. I see performing very much like public speaking; nobody loves doing it, but the only way to excel is to do it again and again and again.

So, the time for my solo came, and as I glided out with what I hoped approximated grace, arms held at hip level, thumbs tucked in, fingers arranged just so, I realized that Claire had accidentally forgotten about me, so it's a good thing I just barreled on out. My music started, and once again I hated myself in that moment for deciding to torture myself in this manner, but all went well. I could tell that I was a little stiff, that can't be helped, but overall it was good. And short! Just the way I like it. Keep 'em wantin' more.

After that, I immediately had 2 group numbers, so it was quite the little marathon, but all went well. As usual, I was so glad that I did it. And I'm already planning my next solo. :) I loved dancing with the silk veil so much, that I asked Mike for one for my upcoming birthday, and he agreed. I'm in the color selection process right now, and super excited. I plan to dance up through delivery, so lots of dancing to come. :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Precious Baby CL, my belly dancing partner

I have a long post on my hafla planned, but I don't yet have the pictures uploaded, so I'll wait until tomorrow for the full run down. :) But I was at the doctor today, and I thought I'd post on that. Baby CL is thriving with a great heart rate, and I feel him/her moving around pretty frequently now. It's just such a wonderful thing.

Despite my "advanced age" my pregnancy so far has been textbook. We have our big ultrasound tomorrow, so I'll try to scan some of those pictures as well. After that, I have a regular ob. appointment in January, and then one in February scheduled with the glucose tolerance screening. After that, I begin appointments every 2 weeks. I can hardly believe it! So far, this pregnancy has flown by, and for that, in many ways, I'm grateful. :)

So, full belly dance post tomorrow, but I'll say this: Baby CL looked awesome in my costume. :) For 4 and a half months, I didn't feel portly at all. I felt great, and I felt confident. I can tell that my dancing soothes him or her, because they never make a peep when I'm dancing. When I stop, I suddenly feel all this movement. It's adorable.

Speaking of clothes, I'm still in regular clothes, and the level of my thrilledness (is that a word?) with this is overwhelming. For this miraculous feat, I can partially thank my Bella Band. Have you heard of these things? They're a stretchy tube that you can wear around your waist, and it'll smooth away any bulkiness, i.e. your unbuttoned pants. It looks like a cute tee shirt or cami that you're wearing underneath your top. There are still many pants I can just wear on their own, but for some of my tighter pants and jeans, this thing has saved my bacon.

With Hank, I barely used this Bella Band. I just happily moved right on to maternity clothes. Not this time, no sir. I'm actually contemplating purchasing *another* Bella Band. Besides being handy right now, I'm thinking it will be good for post partum use. Because, as I'm sure you could already ascertain, once the baby is out of my belly, nary a maternity clothe will come near my body. I absolutely *refuse* to wear maternity clothes when I'm not pregnant, even right after Hank was born. Now, I will grant, even Barbie couldn't fit into her regular clothes right after delivering a baby. It takes a full 6 weeks to even begin looking at your old clothes again. In preparation for delivery, even your *bones* move to provide more space in your pelvis. So, it goes without saying that you won't be able to get your old pants buttoned up. However, this is where the Bella Band may prove very useful. :) I'm willing to give it a shot. Plus, I just need another one for when my current band is in the wash. I have a white one right now. Maybe brown this time? Could be cute...

Yoga pants are also a girl's best friend following delivery. I'll be wearing these a lot, they're what I packed to come home from the hospital with Hank. At least this time, I know what to expect. That always helps.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A hip droppy weekend

Tomorrow is my next big belly dance show, and oddly, I haven't been that nervous. I'm sure I will be tomorrow, but so far, I've been ok.

I'm dancing a lot more this time, and I haven't yet decided if I'm happy about this or not. I enjoy having moved up to the performance group, which does more dances. On the other hand, I enjoyed only doing one number and then getting to watch everybody else. :)

This time, I'm doing a short solo to Very Short Belly Dance Drum Solo, by Raquy and the Cavemen. I do like the choreography that I came up with, and at only a minute and sixteen seconds, I barely have time to get nervous, before BAM! My final flourish. :)

I'm also doing 3 group numbers, one of which involves a silk veil. I've never danced with a silk veil before, and I found out that using a silk veil is infinitely different than using a chiffon one. Silk is SUPER floaty, and you really have to keep track of it so that it doesn't wander off on its own. The one good thing about this is that if it gets stuck somewhere you don't want it to (in your lipstick, on your hair, or somewhere in your beading) it will come off immediately the next time you breathe or move. Chiffon tends to want to stay put until you physically remove it, which can create an awkward moment.

I honestly don't love using either one. Using any kind of prop in belly dancing makes me feel as if the quality of my dancing goes down. I'm just not that skilled at using any of them enough such that my movements don't suffer. And to be frank, this applies to more people than just me. You will see many belly dancers skilled at playing the zils (finger cymbals), and I long to be one of them someday. But dancers that dance while balancing a sword, cane, or giant candle display on their heads? This is much tougher to master. You can't just be good, or even really good at doing this. You have to be SUPERLATIVE. Otherwise, you just look like you're making small dance moves while simultaneously trying to balance lit candles on your head. It's a tough balance.

At any rate, even a simple veil makes me feel a bit like I'm doing a duet with Hank. The other member of my team may at any moment do something unexpected, totally uncontrolled by me, and meltdown. It makes me twitch.

But I'm stuck with the veil, so I've been practicing with a borrowed one. I'd like to acquire a silk veil of my own, but not in the budget right now. Maybe next year.

When practicing my solo, I've been trying to repeat the smiling mantra in my head. It's so tough to smile when you're performing and nervous, because, well, you feel dumb. But the thing is this: How do you want people to feel while watching you dance? You want them to enjoy watching you. When you're done? You hope that they remember your routine because they enjoyed it so much.

Will you always be the best dancer out there? Most likely not. But that doesn't really matter. If you're performing, you're obviously pretty good, and that's good enough. The audience wants to see a dance in which the person does a good job, and LOOKS LIKE THEY'RE HAVING FUN. If you look like you're having a great time, smiling away, the audience relaxes and enjoys you. If you look like you may pee your pants at any second, they will feel nervous for you. And this inhibits their ability to enjoy your performance. I of the definite pee face have been working REALLY hard at this, because it is in fact an acquired skill. I doubt that there are many (if any) people out there that are "natural" performers. Everyone gets better with experience and practice.

So, we'll see what happens. I've been monitoring my belly carefully, since it will out there right in the open when I have my costume on. It has gotten a tad bigger, but overall I'm still pretty small. Maybe I just have a giant torso or something, because everyone told me I carried Hank small too. I don't feel small toward the end, but I'll worry about that later. For now, the baby will be shimmying right along with me. I think dancing puts him or her to sleep, because they're always real quiet in there when I dance. :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My family's faith story

I've been meaning to post on this for some time. I absolutely love reading about others' faith stories, and how they came to hold their faith. I'm a big fan of "conversion stories." I own a solid handful of books of such stories, and I reread them often. I have blogged about how I came back to the adult practice of my faith when I attended law school, but I never really went into how I originally inherited my faith. So I thought I'd share. :)

My mom is of Italian descent (she's only in the second or third generation born in America, depending on the side of the family) and her immediate and extended family were all Catholic. This area, in fact, is full of the descendants of Italian and Polish immigrants. And we have many beautiful, old churches to show for it.

On my dad's side, my grandmother was of German descent. My grandfather's family is of indigenous descent, specifically, Six Nations Mohawk. Growing up, my dad was raised nominally Protestant. He was baptized in a Lutheran church, but the family never regularly attended. Through the years, he recalls belonging to a slew of different churches, Church of the Nazarene, Methodist, etc., usually based on baseball team membership. :)

When I was growing up, my dad did not attend Mass with us. Now, here is the thing. My mom received all her sacraments, and my parents were married in the Church. However, even though we were dutifully signed up for CCD (religious education classes) each year, and were receiving our sacraments of initiation, my mom, sisters and I rarely attended Mass ourselves. We were the penultimate Christmas and Easter Catholics. Consequently, I disliked CCD, and could not see the relevance it had to anything in my life. I always believed in God, but CCD seemed far removed from the way I thought about God.

I am grateful though that my mom's early attempts to raise us in the faith did instill in me a strong sense of God. I never doubted Him, and that He was there, I just wished that I didn't have to sit through those boring classes every week. They were on Tuesday afternoons, too. Sundays were no different than any other day to me, and we didn't practice any Catholic traditions in our home. I didn't really understand that being Catholic was any different from being any other kind of Christian. I didn't even know what a Protestant was. The Catholic faith didn't seem profound or meaningful in any way to me. I figured all belief in God was similar, and that it didn't matter.

As a very little girl, maybe 3 or 4, I remember being in bed one night, and I had a "vision" (or something) of Jesus coming to comfort me. I don't remember why, but I was upset or worried about something, and He sat on the corner of my bed and stroked my hair and told me it would be ok. Was it a dream? Maybe. But it is a memory that is extremely vivid, and I've always wondered. In any case, it gave me comfort and solidified my belief that God was real.

Anyway, where was I? CCD = Disaster, right. This continued until nearly my confirmation in early high school. Then, something changed. One of my aunts joined a prayer group devoted to our Blessed Mother and invited us to come. For whatever reason, this struck my mom's fancy, and we went. From that point forward, the fellowship, the prayers, and the support system moved my mom back to her Catholic faith. We started going to Mass every Sunday and praying the rosary. Even I enjoyed the prayer group. The ladies were fun! And my cousins were often there too.

Interestingly, by this point, my mom's immediate family had all left the Catholic Church. They all remain devoted Christians (mostly Assemblies of God), but none remained Catholic. The temptation for us to fall away was right there, very strong, but I'm so, so grateful that we remained.

With our renewed Mass and prayer group attendance, my dad started to see how important this had become to us. One day, something extremely fortuitous happened: while reading the newspaper, he saw an article about a brand new parish. One completely unique in our state, in that it is housed on a Native American reservation. He showed the article to my mom, and they agreed to go to Mass there.

This church is so adorable and quaint. Very intimate, and decorated in indigenous art, it is a beacon of the faith amongst people who may not have otherwise set foot in a Catholic Church. Based on my impression and experience, this is a very sensitive issue amongst indigenous people, and understandably so. The past is rife with heavy handed (and worse) tactics to mold Native Americans into what the larger society would rather have them do (including their religious beliefs), and as you can imagine, this type of persuasion is not very effective. Generally speaking, Native people have a strong sense of God, but Christianity of any kind is not usually their chosen path.

So this parish is just a wonder, and especially meaningful in an area with such a large (relatively speaking) contingent of Native Americans. My dad is a very quiet guy, a man of few words. I get my introverted personality from him. :) He didn't say much, but he wanted to keep going, and this spoke volumes. So we did.

In the mean time, his parents found out about this parish, and they started attending too. A year or two later, my dad confided that he'd like to take classes to become a Catholic. So, after nearly 25 years of marriage, my dad entered the Church at the Easter Vigil. :) His confirmation saint is Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, known as the Lily of the Mohawks. I've been to her shrine, which is within driving distance of where I live. She was a young Mohawk woman living in the late seventeenth century who took a lot of heat from family and friends for becoming a devoted Catholic. She had a particular devotion to the Mass, and the Eucharist. Her mother died of smallpox, which she also contracted, and it disfigured her face. When she died at age 24, her face was miraculously healed and serene. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in the 1980's, and is revered at the little Native American parish that my dad converted at.

My grandparents converted as well. When they each passed away, both received a full Mass of Christian Burial.

So there you have it. I love my heritage, and my faith. I inherited that as well, but I made it my own as an adult, and I wouldn't change it for the world.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Another beautiful giveaway at A Woman's Place...

This week, Cam is giving away an adorable pearl Holy Communion Chaplet. I'm entering, and you should too. :) This is a short chaplet that you can use to prepare to receive the Eucharist. You can read all about how to pray it by clicking on the link, as well as how to enter. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Daily devotionals

I've been thinking that I'll let a few of my other magazine subscriptions lapse this year, and I'm in the market for a few new ones. We love periodicals in my house. Mike is a daily newspaper and Sports Illustrated guy. I subscribe to Self, Fit Pregnancy, Christianity Today, and a few crochet magazines. Fit Pregnancy I obviously won't renew after my year is up, since I will have had the baby, and I haven't really been using my crochet magazines. I do enjoy looking through them, but I get the majority of my patterns from books or online.

I'd like to try a daily Catholic devotional. In the past, I subscribed to the well regarded Magnificat. I did love it, but it's pricey, and I didn't feel that I was using it to it's fullest potential. I have a Sunday missal, so I don't need the weekend Mass readings, and I also own a full set of the Liturgy of the Hours. So, if I want to do Morning and Evening prayer, I can just use those.

From some quick research, I've spotted two potential candidates:

Living With Christ and The Word Among Us. Has anyone had a subscription to either of these two, or another that I haven't listed? If so, I would very much value your input.

As well, if you subscribe to a regular old Catholic magazine, and want to plug it, please do. I'm open to those suggestions too. I'm not really interested in deep theological treatises, I'm looking for more practical, easy to read, styles. Latin Mass Magazine is too heavy for me, and even The New Oxford Review. Do you have others to recommend?

Catholic baby names

I'm starting to feel the baby move a little bit more, and I'm loving it. He or she is getting so big! My belly is still pretty small, which as you know, is fine with me. :) But this pregnancy is very much mirroring my weight gain with Hank. I was hoping for less, but alas. :) I shouldn't complain though. I'm very much of low average weight for my height. So, that means a 25-35 pound weight gain. I gained 30 total with Hank, and ugh, I hated it at the end. I was just so uncomfortable. I know that it was right in the middle of normal, but that doesn't make it easily bearable. I will say that it all came right off (save for 2 pounds) within a week of delivery. So it's not like there was a lot of excess there. It's just a fact of pregnancy. So far, with this one, I've gained about 5-6 pounds. Pretty much exactly what it was like with Hank at this stage. I'm still in my regular clothes, which I'm happy about.

One week from today, I have my "big" ultrasound. We're very excited. I will provide the caveat, however, that we do not find out the sex of our babies prior to birth. :) So, it'll be a surprise! It'll be nice to see the baby and how they're developing, regardless.

The upcoming ultrasound got me to thinking about baby names. We've discussed this already, and we're happily of one mind on the types of names that we both like. I only use saint/biblical names, and Mike prefers more traditional names, so these turn out to be one and the same. We're pretty certain about what we'll be using, with some small wiggle room remaining on middle names and a boy first name (we have it narrowed down to a top three).

For girls, I like:

Mary (and variants)

For boys, I like:

Peter (my grandfather's name)
Edward (this is Mike's favorite, but not in my top two)

I enjoy this topic. What are your favorite Catholic names?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Weekend cooking and other obsessive activities

This weekend, I did a lot of cooking. On Saturday, I made a pot of Cheddar Broccoli soup, which turned out awesome. Mike and I loved it. Hank couldn't get past the broccoli (sigh) but for the two of us, it was great. Yesterday, we went over some friends' house for dinner (Halftime Chili, wonderful for a winter day), but after we returned home, I was hard at work in the kitchen, making sauce and meatballs that we could feast on today.

Mike wanders in, and I'm frantically kneading ground beef and other assorted meatball fixins'.

Mike: "Oh wow. You're nesting, aren't you?"

Yes, I totally am. Not that I plan on saving any of this food for when the baby comes in, you know, MAY. But when I nest, I just really want to do things around the house and home. I also weeded Hank's toy collection in preparation for Christmas.

Someday soon I need to tackle our small storage area. All of the baby stuff and clothes are in the *back*, so this will be a major late winter/early spring nesting project. This time though, I have to admit, our attitude toward the new addition is a lot more practical and cavalier.

Adorable baby bedding? Zilch. All you need is about 3-4 solidly constructed crib sheets. Since, you know, the baby will spit up on them, pee on them, and have poo explosions (coined term: "poosplosions") on them pretty frequently. They get washed a lot.

Nursery? Don't need one. :) The baby will be sleeping with us for a couple of months. We'll need a changing table, and I would like the crib set up for naps. But we're using that room for an office right now, and don't plan to paint it and get it organized until late spring.

Dainty baby clothes? We'll use whatever is left over from Hank, even if the baby is a girl. She can wear blue!

Multitude of baby equipment? Using a weeded down version of what we have left from Hank. Pack n' play? Only for sleep when traveling. Will the baby actually play in there? HA! That would be no. We tried putting Hank in there once and he acted like we had just put him in a cell and thrown away the key. My mom claims that we used to play in our play pens "for hours" but I think she's suffering from yet another instance of the diagnosed syndrome "Grandmother Brain." I am doubting that this actually happened the way she's remembering it. :)

Swing? This is a necessity, and the only piece of baby equipment I'll consent to set up in our downstairs living space. Once the baby outgrows the swing, I'll swap it out for the Exersaucer, because that thing is also a life saver. I was dubious when I first had Hank, but I was wrong. You want to take a shower and the baby is awake with no other hands to hold baby? Swing/Exersaucer. For 10-15 minute increments, these things saved my bacon.

Bouncy seat? Nah. High chair, yes we have one. I do love it, despite it's sheer ugliness. Even for small babies, if you need your hands freed up in the kitchen, ours reclines, and baby can lounge in there while you cook. It's nice, because you can wheel it around with you if need be.

I am going to try a sling this time, and we do need a new diaper pail. We also need a new stroller, since ours from Hank is completely worn out. Definitely got our moneys worth out of that guy.

I really feel like I don't need to prepare that much. But this is now. April will be another story.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Crazy dancing Friday

Thank goodness it's Friday, we all need the break. It's been a busy week at work, Hank had a long week at school, and Mike fell this morning on the way down to the shower in the dark and may have broken something. :( He thinks it's only his toe, but his foot is swollen and he's limping badly. We just really need the weekend around here.

Since I mentioned Hank at school, I thought I'd provide an update on that front. For a refresher, Hank is enrolled at our local public elementary school in kindergarten, and although the school has a wonderful reputation, I've been feeling uneasy about it. I'm just not certain if it's the right fit. There's a lot more pressure on kids these days (even in kindergarten!) to be achieving "state standards," and I haven't been certain what to think of his teacher. I was more worried back in September and October. Since November, I will say that Hank has seemed to settle in better. He comes home talking excitedly about some things he's doing at school, and seems to enjoy the schedule of extra activities that they do. For instance, art on Monday, gym on Tuesday, music on Wednesday, that sort of thing. In November, we also have a very nice parent/teacher conference, and I felt better overall.

That's still the case, but underneath it all, I'm still not 100% certain. Every time I get more comfortable there, something small happens that makes me uneasy again. I just don't know. I also don't feel a part of the school at all. There are volunteer opportunities, to be certain, but most are during the day when I work. I'm still very much looking forward to seeing the Catholic schools in January, when I hear there are open houses for Catholic Schools Month. After I finish my current 54 day rosary novena, I'm going to start one for this school issue. Next year, I want to feel 100% certain about where we're sending Hank, whether it be a Catholic school or the public school. I don't like this unease that I continue to experience about the whole situation.

So, that's that. :) Hank seems to be happy and doing fine, so I want to give the public school the full year to get a fair feeling of how things go.

In other news, I'm happy to report that my energy has officially returned. I'm still tired at the end of the day, don't get me wrong, but I don't have that numbing all-encompassing exhaustion tinged with perpetual nausea that I had going on for about 10 full weeks. This is a huge relief, and it's had a swell impact on my dancing, which I've been missing in my nausea-induced stupor. Claire did in fact encourage me to pursue a solo, and instead of doing my old one, I found a perfect piece of music appropriately titled "Very Short Belly Dance Drum Solo" that is 1 minute and 16 seconds long. I choreographed it in 4 days, and I'm thrilled to have a "fresh" number to unveil.

I do my best belly dance choreography in our kitchen, where I'm been shimmying the evenings away every night this week. Mike usually wanders in, with an amused expression, as I whirl about. I'm just glad that I feel better. Plus, at least I know that I'll look ok in my costume. I was worried about that. With only a week to go, my belly won't grow too much in that time. I'm happy to have gotten the hafla in within this non-bump window. After the holidays, I'm sure I'll be pouting about having to pull the maternity clothes out. But I'll get over it; it's only temporary. :)

I've actually seen belly dancers perform at much more advanced stages of pregnancy, and I have to say, they look beautiful. We may have a performance in February. I'll have to see how I feel. :) And if my costume can be finagled to fit...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Giveaway for a Chaplet of the Immaculate Conception...

Tag teaming onto yesterday's beautiful feast of the Immaculate Conception, I thought I'd mention a giveaway over at one of my favorite blogs, A Woman's Place. The giveaway is for a gorgeous Chaplet of the Immaculate Conception. It's a lovely chaplet in blue freshwater pearl stones. Directions for praying the chaplet can be found over there as well. I love chaplets; I also love learning about devotions like these and how they originated. I was so taken with this particular chaplet that I ordered a used copy of the book, Treasure of Chaplets, that Cam mentions over at the giveaway. Go check it out and enter!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Feast of the Immaculate Conception

It's a lovely winter day here, and as ever, I was looking forward to going to Mass. I usually end up going to Mass here on campus, at the Newman Center, and this year that worked out extremely well.

Our parish always has Mass for the holy days, of course, but I rarely attend there aside from Sundays. Why? Simply put, the Mass times. A 5 pm Mass isn't good for me, since I like to be home preparing dinner then. After working during the day, I like to maximize my time at home with Mike and Hank. The 8 am Mass gets me to work too late, and if there is a 7 pm, I'm pooped. If all else failed, I could do the 7 pm, so it's nice to have that option. But being pregnant, I'm pretty tired by then. I'm wanting to be jammied with book in hand at that point of the evening.

So, I end up at the Newman Center. Until this fall, the Newman Center here rented space right on the main part of the campus. It was nice, because I could simply walk there for daily Mass whenever I wanted. Now, they have a brand new facility, but it's fairly far off the main center of buildings. This means that one has to drive there, and on this campus, that's a problem. Why? Because of the parking. Parking is at a premium on this campus, even with a faculty/staff parking tag. Especially in the winter, when the lines become obscured by snow, there is even *less* parking to go around.

It's a worry, and it's why I don't go to daily Mass anymore. I miss it terribly. But on holy days, I just suck it up. I relinquish my prime "got it by 8:30 am" parking spot and say a quick prayer to St. Anthony to help me find a spot when I return. So, that's what I did today.

The drive over to the new Newman Center is very pretty in all seasons. Today, everything glimmered with fluffy snow and looked very fresh. The new building is set in a beautiful spot, tucked away near the edge of campus. It backs up to a small forest, and feels very secluded and peaceful. The facility itself is quite nice. It's very modern, but all very tasteful, and certainly practical for its main use as a spot for the Catholic students to gather and have fellowship. The room where Mass is held is large, and does feel like a "room" if you know what I mean. :) Modern. No pews, plush chairs to sit in, no stained glass. But like I said, it fits with the Newman Center's mission. And the room is smashing. It has tons of windows that look out to the trees in the back and feels airy and calm.

Despite the room's size, any non-Sunday Mass over there garners a smaller crowd than you'd get at your parish. So, it feels very intimate. I just smiled throughout Mass. It felt so nice to be a part of this small Catholic community here at a public university. I'm so glad that I went there today.

Father mentioned that not only is today a Marian feast day, but it is the feast for our country, since our patron is Mary under this title. I had never looked at it that way before. It brought back a happy memory for me of when I visited the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC a few years ago while attending an American Library Association conference. December 8th always brings a smile to my face, and this year was no exception.

Anyway, when I returned to campus, guess what? Parking spot! And in my preferred lot too. St. Anthony comes through again. :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The joy of winter weather

We're experiencing our first major snowfall of the year here, and like always, it bring a whole host of things out of the woodwork. I live in an area affected by storm systems moving off the Great Lakes, and lake effect snowfall is always big talk around here. In many ways, I don't like the attention it gets, because I think it gives people a negative impression of this region, one that I believe is undeserved. We get snow here, yes. But NOT, by quite a bit, the most snowfall in the country, or even in the state. This is not known by all. :)

I think the reason for the attention is that occasionally, this pesky lake effect issue causes a storm so magnificent in its proportions that the Weather Channel camps out on location for a week and CNN puts it on the national news. Thus, people get the impression that this is par for the course around here, but it isn't. Another factor is that we do live near an area known as "ski country." They, in fact, record much more snow, but it gets lumped in with the nearest metro area, when in fact, we don't see half of their snow.

Anyway, I do love winter. I know it can be cumbersome, but it's beautiful, and I love having four seasons. Many people complain about having to scrape off their cars in the morning, but really? There is an easy solution to this problem: A garage. Most houses have garages around here, but often, people do not use them for their cars. I'm not judging :) I'm just saying. If you kept your car in the garage overnight, you'd only have to brush it off when coming from someplace during the day where your car sat for some length while snow accumulated. This happens to me at work, since we have open parking lots here, not a parking garage. But we have a garage at home, and we squeeze both cars into that puppy. Thus, very little scraping. Life is good.

The first big snowfall is always accompanied by calamity, and this is an interesting phenomenon. If you've grown up around here, you are very used to snow. And if you're driving, you've been used to snow for at least 16 years. However, the first big snowfall always causes everyone to temporarily lose their mind and believe that they've never seen this mysterious white stuff before. "What? What is this?! And why is it so slippery?!"

Yesterday morning was a perfect example. I saw the snow. I mentally prepared myself. I do get nervous about driving in it, even after all these years, but like everyone, I've become adept at the coping mechanisms to deal with it. Drive slower. Pump your brakes when trying to come to a stop. Step on gas slowly when trying to accelerate from a complete stop. That's really all there is to it. It's still slippery, and despite your caution you can still be involved in an accident, but if you take these precautions you make yourself and all the cars around you safer.

Right? Well. Anyway, I saw the snow, and gave myself a few extra minutes in the morning. Hank and I left the house at 8 am, like usual, to get him to his before school program at our daycare. It's about a mile from our house. We took it slow, no problem. Hank was dropped off and I was back in the car by 8: 10 or so. Then I set off for work. This is *maybe* 10 miles from my house. It usually takes me 10-15 minutes to get there, depending on traffic lights.

60 minutes later, I'm still in my car, fuming. For unexplainable reasons, this happens every year. Every year! Traffic grinds to a halt. Everyone is paralyzed with fear in their car. We're all bumper to bumper, and I just can't understand why. The roads weren't bad. There was some slush on them. It was actively snowing, and sticking, but it wasn't deadly by any stretch of the imagination. I think people just forget how to drive in the snow from year to year. It takes a day for everyone to get re-acclimated. I finally got to work around 9:30, all stompy. I mean, the snow did accumulate, I will grant. It's all just a bit odd to me.

By February, we could all drive from home to work on a straight sheet of ice while blizzardy snow pummels our windshields and no one blinks an eye. But that first snowglobe effect? Chaos.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Me and my belly dancing baby...

I haven't posted about belly dancing in awhile, and with a hafla approaching, I knew I was due. :) Despite my pregnancy, I plan to dance until I deliver, unless my doctor says otherwise, of course. So far, all indications are for an uneventful pregnancy, so I'm good to go. I'll have to take off 6 weeks following delivery, and I have to admit, I'm dreading that a bit. I'll miss it terribly! But I'll have my hands full with a newborn, and I'll be back before I know it. I may even be able to do some of my belly dance videos while the baby naps during the day, something that never happens with only 1 tv in the house, and a husband and son to share it with!

At any rate, at 4 months pregnant, I still have my dancing mojo going on pretty strong. The early nausea and exhaustion killed my evening practicing that I used to do after Hank went to bed, but I can still move just the way I did before. I do have a small baby bump, but it isn't that noticeable to others yet. I'm still firmly in regular clothes, and I've gained about 4-5 lbs. So far, I still feel my usual dancing self.

Our performance group is doing 2 numbers for the hafla, and we're also doing a drum number (my favorite kind) with the mixed level class. I had deferred doing a solo, since I simply didn't have the energy for the evening practice and choreography that would entail. Even though it simply wasn't possible, I'm feeling sad about it now with the performance approaching. I loved challenging myself with a solo at the grand opening party.

Last night I started contemplating re-using the solo I choreographed this summer for the grand opening. I only performed it once, and the audience at the hafla will likely be a good deal different. I think I may email Claire today to see what she thinks. She'll probably encourage me to do it. Right now this seems like a good idea, but I guarantee that in a week and a half, right before the show, I'll be sorry. Seems to be like I'll do it anyway. This is my usual cycle of torturing myself.

I practiced it last night to see if I remembered it. I mostly remembered it, and luckily had notes to refresh my memory on the rest. It's a good number, and it's my signature type of song, drum. To be on the safe side, I also tried on my costume. I'm very pleased to say that it still fits. (Thank God, or I would have had to dance in a mumu. I already gave the group my word that I'll perform with them, and with only 6 of us, each body counts).

I inspected my bare belly carefully, since my costume does not cover it. Here's the honest analysis. It doesn't look half bad. :) And for 16 weeks pregnant, I'll take it. I'll be just shy of 18 weeks at the hafla. I actually love my belly, especially after having a baby. You become one with your belly during pregnancy. :) It's a cute belly, really it is. I did get a few stretch marks from Hank, but they all fall (TMI alert) below my bikini line. Unfortunately, with pregnancy, comes...I'll just say it. Hair. You get lots of hair when pregnant, and not necessarily in places that you'd like to have hair. This includes the belly. I do shave it, but I feel weird doing so. Aren't you so glad I shared that? Just wait until later in pregnancy. I'll tell you about that later.

Anyway, I'm so grateful for my dancing. It's a wonderful physical, social, and creative outlet for me. With my second trimester (somewhat) energy boost (meaning I can stay up til 9 now, instead of 8), I think that I can use the next 2 weeks to practice and get myself in solo fighting shape. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, December 3, 2010

54 Day Rosary Novena, Day 1, and an Advent book review...

I try to pray part (optimally, all) of a rosary each weekday as I commute to and from work. I'm still concentrating on my driving, I promise :) but that's where I feel most content praying a rosary. I have a strong devotion to our Blessed Mother, and every since I came to an adult reversion to my faith, I've prayed it fairly regularly.

I also love rosary beads. In fact, I have a bit of a problem. :) It doesn't matter how many I already own, I could always buy another rosary. They're just so, so pretty, and I attach significance to how I acquired each. I always remember if this pair was a gift, and from whom, or where I was when I bought that other one. They physically bring me happy memories.

Right now, I'm using a special Christmas-themed rosary that my mom bought for me several years back. It's lovely, with green beads (white for the Our Fathers), and an absolutely gorgeous centerpiece and crucifix, both adorned with Christmas green and red. I change it up frequently, because, well. I have so many. :)

I have rosaries in each of my coat pockets. Next to our bed. In my car. In my purse. In the end table in the living room. I even have a few stashed in the kitchen. You never know where you'll need to break out a rosary, right?

I have a few intentions that I've been praying for for some time, and for the first time, I decided to go all out and do an official 54 day rosary novena. It's a series of 6 novenas. For 3 of the novenas (27 days) you pray for your petition. For the following 27 days, you pray in thanksgiving for God's will for your petition. This will be good for me in that in will force me to be more disciplined about fully finishing my rosary each weekday, and adding a rosary on each weekend day.

Today, the Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, was day 1. I finish on January 25th, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. I'll let you know how it goes.

In other Advent-related news, I've started a re-read of a book that I treasure each year. Maybe some of you are familiar with Jan Karon's Mitford series, and I really adore these books. They feature a charming Episcopalian priest, and his life in small town North Carolina. They are such wholesome and sweet reads. One of the books in the series is set around Advent and culminates in Christmas. It's Sheperds's Abiding:

I LOVE this book. I'm almost done with it, and I'm sad to see it end. I may go back and re-read the series again. In this installment, Fr. Tim is moved by a vintage Nativity set, and spontaneously decides to restore it as a surprise Christmas gift for his wife. He spends late autumn and Advent painstakingly working on each piece, and through the process comes to terms with some deeply held emotional issues from his childhood, as well as comes to the aid of some other hurting members of the Mitford community. This may be my favorite book in the series, along with the original installment of At Home in Mitford. If you are a fan of 'sweet' fiction, you'll love these.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Will you be follower #30? And Henry's take on the new baby...

I love that I have followers on this blog. :) It means a lot to me, and it helps motivate me to keep my content up-to-date and fresh. I enjoy writing, so that's part of the reason why I keep this blog, and I also want a personal ministry of some kind, and I figure this fits that bill too. Sort of. But really, what keeps me going is that I know people are reading it! It's a wonderful feeling. And over the course of the past two and a half years, I've watched my following numbers slowly grow. I'm very proud of them. :)

So, if you read this blog, and haven't yet signed up as a follower, please consider doing so. I love knowing who is reading. It helps me to find new blogs to read too!

Anyway, on a totally different subject, Hank has been slowly starting to ask me questions about the new baby. Luckily, the inevitable: "But how does the baby get in your belly?" question was satisfied with the simple answer of "God puts the baby there." He didn't seem to really need more information than that, for which I was immensely grateful. Many followups have come about how the baby actually gets OUT. Those have been a little dicey, but gone pretty well. He seems very concerned that this process is going to hurt me, which of course it will, but I find his concern very precious.

But the other night I got a glimpse into what is really on his little mind. As I was tucking him into bed, he settled in for the usual question and answer period. Right before a story is read, Hank always asks, "Can we talk about the things we did today?" It's become a routine. On this night, I sat down, and awaited the usual question. Instead, he asked:

"Can we talk about the baby?"

I was surprised by this change of topic, but pleased. It's not really all that interesting to talk about the things I do every day. :)

"Sure Honey. What do you want to know?"

"Ok. What happens when...the baby TOUCHES MY TOYS?!"

I could tell that this was a really pressing issue for him.

"Don't worry, Honey. We'll deal with that when it happens."

"But what will you do?"

"Well, I can come get the baby and bring him in another room."

"But what will you do to him?"

"Nothing, Sweetheart. Babies don't understand that they can't touch certain things, or that they shouldn't put small things in their mouth. I'll watch the baby and make sure he doesn't get into your toys."

"But what will you do?"

Clearly, this was on his mind. :) The whole time, he had that cute, scrunched-up eyebrow thing going on. I can't wait for him to feel more a part of things, like when the baby gets bigger and he can feel him/her move. I'm starting to slowly feel movement, but only late at night, and I know anyone with their hand on the outside of my belly wouldn't be able to feel it. Soon, soon. I may take him with me to one of my ob appointments too, so that he can hear the heartbeat. I can't wait.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Let it snow!

Our first official snowfall in this region was recorded on Black Friday, but I'm happy to report that today marks the first significant snowfall, and it's lovely. :) I love the beginning of winter, it feels very cozy and festive.

And I've definitely been in the Christmas spirit. Being on a limited budget, I've been squirreling gifts away since mid-October. We have a solid savings account, but our strategy is that that money truly is for emergencies and rainy days. We live on what comes in my paycheck every 2 weeks, and what Mike makes teaching philosophy as an adjunct instructor (meaning, 1 or 2 classes per semester) at a nearby Catholic college. We've had a lot of unexpected one time expenses this semester. Car repairs, an engineering licensing exam for Mike, increased text book costs, that sort of thing. So it's been even tougher than usual to acquire Christmas gifts.

But certainly not impossible, and my goal this year is to get everyone small things that I know they'll really treasure and enjoy. Quality over quantity. :) I thought I'd give a mention to my favorite places to shop for quality gifts.

My first priority was getting some new toys for Hank from Santa, and for those, I did go the uninteresting route of Toys R Us and Target. I actually found great deals at both of these places prior to Black Friday. Although I have been to Toys R Us on Black Friday in the past, I wouldn't dare go near Target. I happened by our local store on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and even then, I wouldn't make eye contact with it, for fear of getting sucked into its evil vortex of 2 hour lines. But generally, in their ads, you'll find some good prices and coupons.

I like to get people books, and so good old Amazon, with its wish lists, is a favorite of mine. It's definitely my old faithful.

Most excitingly, I am a huge etsy fan. If you've never shopped there, you simply must poke around. It's a place to sell homemade and vintage items, and you can find the most interesting things on there. I have several sellers that I frequent, and I've mentioned most before, but it bears repeating at this holiday season. :)

For the lady that likes headcoverings in your life, I have 2 favorites. One is Garlands of Grace, and the other is Happy Homestead. Melissa at Happy Homestead, in particular, is very fast in shipping things out, if time is a concern.

For Catholic rosaries and jewelry, you must visit my friend Cam at Full of Grace Creations. I've already bought a few gifts from her this week, and I may send Mike there to look for an anniversary present in January. :) Her items are beautiful and thoughtfully made. My favorites are the necklaces.

Another wonderful rosary supplier is Carm at Unbreakable Rosaries. She makes wire-wrapped rosaries and guarantees their construction for life. Each is unique and gorgeous, and would make fabulous gifts for the praying Catholic in your life. I think that in particular, these are great for confirmation gifts.

I've also bought Catholic goods, mostly books or other liturgical seasonal items, through the Catholic Company. I've always been happy with what I've bought there.

So, happy shopping! And stay warm. Seems like a good night for a nice cup of hot chocolate...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Life in the second trimester...

I just love Baby CL updates. :) Since I've passed over into the coveted second trimester, I thought I'd post a progress report.

Life is pretty good in the second trimester. I had heard from some women that they felt that they got bigger a LOT faster with their second baby. I haven't found that to be the case. Granted, I think I'm a little bit bigger than I was at this stage with Hank, but not by a lot. I'd guestimate that I'm measuring right now (at 15 weeks) what I did with Hank at about 16-17 weeks. That's not too bad.

Happily, I'm still fitting easily into my regular clothes. This is aided by the fact that I lost some weight prior to conceiving. With Hank, I couldn't wait to start wearing my cute new maternity clothes. This time, I know better. :) By approximately 32 weeks, I will loathe the very sight of those previously cute maternity clothes, because I will be SO SICK of them. No matter how many you acquire, it's still not going to be as vast as your regular wardrobe. You will wear the same ones again and again, and you will eventually hate them. With the fire of a thousand suns. So, I'm in no hurry to pull them up from the basement. My goal is to make it to 20 weeks before donning them. That may be delusional. I'll let you know how that comes out. :)

I'm at that stage where I don't have a traditional bump yet, but I look just a tad like a stuffed sausage in my pants. It's not the most flattering of stages. :) But I'll hold out as long as I can. I have one of those Bella Bands, which you can use to smooth over your unbuttoned pants. Glamorous, huh? My pants are still buttoned, so I've got even more time in my regular clothes. The pair I have on now still has plenty of room, but the ones I had on yesterday were cutting off my circulation by dinnertime. My belly has taken a definite turn in the outward direction.

Aside from that, there's the wonderful stuff, and there's the icky stuff that nobody tells you about. I'll start with the good stuff. A few times, lying in bed at night, I've felt the baby move. This is the MOST wonderful thing about pregnancy. I've awaited this with much anticipation and joy.

Ok, so the yucky stuff. Put your TMI hat on. I don't hold back in this blog, and this is one of those times. In the second trimester, you tend to be past the nausea. But something that doesn't go away? I'll just say it outright: gas. For the love of all that is holy, my God, the GAS. As if I didn't already feel unladylike enough given the sausage pants problem, mentioned above.

Unfortunately, this little beauty lasts from the moment of conception, up til delivery. At first, you just feel like you have more indigestion than usual. Then you realize the awful truth: sometimes, maybe when you first wake up in the morning, or have been sitting for awhile, you will feel like your stomach may explode from the sheer volume of pressure. Since you don't really want to take care of this indelicate issue in front of other people, you will have to make your way to the restroom. And this oftentimes means limping over there while the excruciation factor in your innards escalates by the nanosecond. Good golly, it is painful.

And then. Nobody else will tell you this, so I will. Sometimes you'll be talking, you know, out in PUBLIC. And with no forewarning whatsoever, WHAMO! You'll burp. It's *mortifying*.

*shudders* I'm just saying. It's better to at least be prepared, so that when this happens to you, you'll know that it's not just you. There's solace in numbers, no?

That's pretty much my physical life these days. Another thing that doesn't go away, at least for me: exhaustion. I'm pooped every night by 8 pm. I was hoping to do another belly dance solo at our upcoming hafla, but I simply don't have the energy to choreograph in the evenings. I am going to be performing the group numbers, but I know them all well, so I don't really need to do a lot of evening practice. A solo, hand-created choreography is a different story. And I just don't have the needed energy right now. Something to look forward to after the baby comes. Here's praying that I still fit into my costume in 3 weeks. :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving weekend recap, and we wait in joyful hope...

Well, I'm back. :) And I had a *wonderful* holiday, and a fabulous vacation. It was so, so nice to be away from work and with family.

So. A recap. I did lots of cooking and baking with my mother-in-law, and I didn't cause anything to explode. This is good. Mike handled the turkey, as he does every year, and it turned out very well. It's amazing what a little olive oil and rubbed sage will do. I always handle the broccoli casserole, a family favorite. We also made fresh stuffing, green beans amandine, and mashed potatoes with gravy. My mother-in-law showed me how to make pie crust, and I may be brave and bold and attempt an apple pie for Christmas. I say this with much trepidation, because I am a terrible baker. I mean, TERRIBLE. I'm a decent cook, but baking eludes me. I think that ideal baking consistency requires much more precision than cooking, and most of the time I'm just not that exact. And a liquidy cream cheese ball just never did any good for anybody.

This weekend we made a pie plus cutout cookies. My mother-in-law bought me a stand-up electric mixer as an early Christmas present, and already it has proved indispensable. She praised me as being a very good dough roller outer, so maybe there's hope for me yet.

Friday, we went shopping. Yes, shopping. I know, I know, it was Black Friday. But as you know, I do enjoy a Black Friday tradition. I refuse to get up at 4 am to do anything except nurse a baby. However, I'll get up at a normal time on Black Friday, battle plan in hand, and wait in a few long lines to get a handful of non-electronics items. People get stampeded for electronics items, and well, I'm just not willing to do that. This year, I thought maybe I'd get Hank a board game or two real cheap, and I had a kitchen goods item in mind for my mom. My mom had also asked me to pick up a Perfect Pillow for her (marked down from $80 to $19. 97) so I was set to go. My mother-in-law generously wanted to get me some warm nightgowns, since I'd mentioned that my usual flannel pant and top sets were getting a bit uncomfortable now that Baby CL is growing bigger. So off we went, bound for Bon Ton at 9 am.

My local Bon Ton is divided into 2 separate stores, the regular department store and a home store. We started out in the regular store, which is a good thing, otherwise we may have lost our nerve. My MIL got a nice purse for herself, I got Chutes & Ladders for Hank for $4.97, and we found a great selection of long nightgowns. I found some really cute ones. They're a bit matronly, no doubt about it, but SO COMFORTABLE. I'm totally in love with them. I got 2 long-sleeved cotton ones that extend to my ankles, and 3 micro-fleece that are a bit shorter (they go to about my upper calves), but so cozy and warm you can hardly stand it. And the funny thing is, Mike thinks they are the most attractive sleepwear that I now own. Everytime I don one of the floor length cotten numbers, I get happy raised eyebrows, which I find amusing since these things are the complete opposite of Sexy Sadie. Think: Grandma Moses. Anyway, all were 50% off, so we were thrilled. We waited in a line that took about 10-15 minutes to sail through. Life was good.

Off we happily went to deposit the packages in my trunk (Stalking of Us to Our Car, Incident #1) and headed into the home store. Quickly, I grabbed the Perfect Pillow and found the item I wanted for my mom. Marked down from $100 to $39.98, I'll have you know. See? Now you want to go shopping on Black Friday too. We attempt to find the check-out line, and this is the first time we get alarmed. I thought I saw the end of the line, but realized it went all the way to the back of the store. We get to the back of the store, and realized that it snaked off to the right. We go off to the far right corner, and see that it snaked back toward the front. It was ugly. We got in line and hoped for the best. Inevitably, as we waited, bored out of our skulls, we noticed other things that caught our eye that the line crawled past. Oh look, Christmas tablecloths. Oh, a cute snowman decoration for $2.97 (grabbed one of those. He was cute and a door buster, so can you blame me?) I also managed to nab a Pyrex 9x12 pan with accompanying snowflake carrying basket all for $9.97. By time we got up to the cash register, an hour and fifteen minutes had elapsed. That's probably the longest line I've ever stood in.

We limped out to the car (Stalking of Us to Our Car, Incident #2), and then walked over to the nearby grocery store for a few weekend baking supplies. Finally, the person stalking us to our car was actually able to get our spot (Incident #3), and we hustled on to the mall.

The mall is a scary, scary place on Black Friday, my friends. The one we were traveling to is the largest in our area, and quite popular year round. We were going because my mom and my aunt wanted to meet us for lunch there. I knew it would be bad, but I had a plan: Sears. Usually, there is always parking at Sears. I felt confident in my Plan A.

About 30 seconds after our arrival on the grounds, I knew that Plan A was a big, fat failure. There was not a spot to be had anywhere. I drove around stubbornly for about 5 full minutes, figuring that eventually, we would happen upon a small empty spot. I have a Honda Civic, he squeezes nicely. Nothing.

Finally, I got desperate. I started watching people. Are they just arriving or leaving?! Oh LOOK! Someone is pulling out up ahead... Crap. Another car is already waiting. It's very difficult for me to lower myself to following people to their cars, but at this point I realized that I had no choice. Stalking began in earnest, when suddenly:

MIL: "I think those people are loading up their car."


MIL: "Yes, they're closing their trunk."

CL: *zooms!*

Within 3 seconds, I had backed up, pulled into the row, and had my blinker on. The universal sign for: "Look elsewhere, Buddy. I've got dibs on this one."

Finally, we pulled in. We had a long walk to the restaurant area, but I felt vindicated and happy. Although my feet were sore.

And that was my Black Friday. For the rest of the weekend, we baked, relaxed, got and decorated our tree, and ran a few other small errands. It was really, really nice.

Of course, we all know that one of my favorite liturgical seasons began on Sunday: The first Sunday of Advent. I have a Magnificat Advent Companion this year, which I've already put to good use. My brand new Advent wreath is out, with fresh candles, and all feels right with the world. I love Advent. It truly is a time of hope.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pre-Thanksgiving preparations, and accompanying 'poo event'

When you're the parent of a young child, the word 'poo' comes up in your everyday conversations with alarming frequency. You also realize that you also have lots of stored information about color, consistency, ease of cleaning, and the always key: regularity of deposit.

I thought that once Hank was potty trained, our potty life would be golden. I'm here to tell you (in case you were wondering, and even if you're not) that this simply isn't the case. Unfortunate though that may be.

It seems that many children, boys especially, like to hold on to their poo as if they had the crown jewels up there. They have it, and they don't want to give it up, no sir. Sneaking stool softener into their morning juice, adding pineapple to every meal, all of this makes their work all the more difficult, it's true, but still, they will not give up the ghost. I'm not certain if it's that they don't like the sensation? Perhaps that's part of it. And holding it does nothing to make it more comfortable, to be sure. Mostly, I think it's that they simply don't want to stop what they're doing (playing with a bat cave) to go sit on the toilet for a few minutes. Unfortunately, this means that about 5-7 days will go by, and then Mommy makes him sit on the toilet, and *then* he's stuck there for about 20 full minutes while much discomfort ensues which will almost certainly end with a plumbing crisis. Oftentimes, tears are involved. Every time, complaining and whining will be involved. It's very unpleasant for all parties.

So, this morning, we had one of those. And with my in-laws arriving from Florida this afternoon, I really didn't want this poo thing hanging over our heads. My mother-in-law tends to fret about the poo thing much more than I do, and even though I blog about poo, I really don't want to be discussing it over Thanksgiving dinner. So thankfully, even though it caused Hank to nearly miss his bus, we had poo production. Much rejoicing and celebration followed. The glamorous joys of parenthood. We deserve a medal for it, each and every one of us.

With company coming, as you can imagine, I've been tornadoing (I've officially coined that word) around the house like mad. This weekend, I:

(1) Cleaned out the refrigerator. Anybody with me that this is one of the grossest chores ever? "Something going bad" smell makes me gag much more than kid poo.

(2) Swept and cleaned the kitchen floor.

(3) Gave the stove and counter tops a much needed scrubbing.

(4) Swept the side entracenway, which seems to accumulate dirt faster than any other spot in the house.

(5) Did several loads of laundry.

(6) Scrubbed the downstairs bathroom and shower.

(7) Cleaned the guest room.

(8) Touched up paint on a few places in the trim, and on the kitchen ceiling.

All told, especially #8? Pretty neurotic, I'm certain you'll agree. I can't help it. It makes me feel better.

I haven't even been grocery shopping yet. Going to tackle that tomorrow morning, and I'm certain that it will be a near occasion of sin. But I'll do my best. The rest of the day will be taken up cooking and baking. And I am very much looking forward to it. :)

I won't be online much until next Monday, so no blog posts until then. But rest assured that I'll report in every detail then. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

What's new in Baby CL's world?

Baby CL is officially doing quite well. I was to see my obstetrician this morning. All of my tests (including the nuchal fold scan) came back completely normal. This is a relief, and now I won't have to worry about much resistance when I decline the amniocentesis. When the doppler was applied, BABY CL cooperated easily and we heard his/her heartbeat right away. This baby definitely seems very 'chill.' As opposed to Hank, whom we had to chase around my womb several times with the doppler. Every time we glimpse this baby, he or she is hanging out in a very relaxed-like manner. Maybe this one will sleep through the night prior to the end of one very long year. A girl can hope.

As for me, I'm officially in the second trimester, and glad to be free of a lot of my (much stronger than last time) first trimester symptoms. I have gained about 1.5-2 pounds, which I know is totally normal, but I can tell that I've officially begun to gain pregnancy weight. I don't care how temporary it is, it's still a struggle for me. But I try my best. It's pretty difficult to watch what I eat, considering how I'm HUNGRY ALL THE TIME. I mean, I actually fantasize about food. It's quite disturbing, actually.

Saturday, Mike and I went out on a date night, which we haven't done in far too long. Money has been tight with Christmas approaching, so we've let this slip. But every married couple needs this quality time, so we made it a priority. I was craving Thai food, so we went to a very nice Thai/Vietnamese restaurant. Holy smokes. The food was so good I'm still fantasizing about it to this very minute. I had a flat noodle dish, with vegetables and sea scallops, in a sweet soy sauce. I ate every bite. I could have halved my portion and saved the rest for leftovers, but I mean, really? There are some things in life that are meant to be simply enjoyed. I also liked the fact that Mike and I could split a big pot of hot green tea, and therefore I didn't miss having a glass of wine as much. It was fab. We walked to a local coffee shop afterward and had hot chocolate. I forced Mike to split a biscotti with me. :) A wonderful evening.

At any rate, I digress. Baby is doing well, and I couldn't ask for more. I'm keeping up with my exercise and hoping that my weight gain stays under 30 pounds. I gained exactly 30 lbs. last time, and even 5 less pounds may make me a lot less uncomfortable. We'll see. The time that will tell will be after 20 weeks on that one.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Some pre-weekend good news

I rushed into work this morning, since I had 3 classes to teach, beginning at 9 am, and hurriedly checked my email. As I quickly deleted spam and unsolicited publisher messages, I very nearly missed a gem: my article was accepted for publication. :) I was so thrilled, I didn't even mind that I had to go and stand and talk in front of people for 3 full hours. I have to make some minor revisions, and force my image files into compliance (which I'm sure will not be a pleasant task) but it will appear in print in early 2011.

Thrilled, thrilled, thrilled. This means that my chances of achieving tenure next year are better, and well, that's REALLY good considering that if didn't, I'd have to leave my job. 0 incomes = bad. So, thank God for small blessings. :)

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christmas traditions and the Jewish roots of our faith

Yesterday, I attended a meeting here at work that ended up being incredibly interesting. I'm on a committee concerning the global civilizations course required of all students here, and the guest speakers yesterday addressed incorporating Jewish culture and history into that course. They always serve us pizza and soda at these shindigs as well, so all things considered, I had a fabulous lunch hour.

I'm a religion person. Have been since my reversion back to the faith in my early 20's. It's been, let's see...12 years now. *feels old* Anyway, I digress. I just love learning about religious beliefs and practices. Certainly, my passion is primarily for my own Catholic faith. But I also read a good amount of non-Catholic Christian literature, and secondarily, I read a bit about the Jewish faith.
I find a lot fascinating in Jewish religious practice because of it's obvious foundation and influence on Catholic worship. One of my favorite memoirs is Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner:

Lauren is a Jewish convert to Anglicanism, and I enjoyed her writing very much, as well as learning about her journey through her Jewish roots to ultimate Christian faith. She wasn't technically Jewish by blood, since her mother was not Jewish. So she formally converted to Judaism as a young adult, and the process was fascinating. I definitely recommend this book. It's a wonderful read.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the talk, and it inspired me into a subsequent Amazon search and addition to my wish list. This caught my eye (Why is There a Menorah on the Altar: Jewish Roots of Christian Worship):

Good stuff. Relatedly, I'm reading a book now that I grabbed from the public library last weekend on a search for some Christmas movies.

The author has included a whole boatload of Christmas traditions, and for each includes a short chapter on how that tradition got started. So far, I've read about Advent, angels, and Christmas carols. The Advent chapter was wonderful, noting that the word comes from the Latin for "a coming," and includes a discussion of Advent wreaths, candles and calendars. This is so seriously up my alley.

Apparently, Christmas used to be a bit of a bawdy, over-indulging kind of season, and consequently many churches did not celebrate it. Advent was a way of trying to make the season holier. Really, really interesting. A good seasonal read.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Helping our children to be saints

The other day, I was listening to one of the Catholic podcasts that I keep up with, and in discussing parenting, one of the hosts mentioned our ultimate goal as parents: to do our very best in raising our children to achieve heaven. For them to be a saint.

They were discussing that in so many instances, it's easy for us as parents to become absorbed in our tasks, and feel that every child-led interruption is a nuisance. You know.

"Mommy, can I ask you a question?"

"Yes, Honey."

"Why does the moon follow the car?"

"It doesn't really follow the car Sweetie, it just looks like it does. Why don't you ask Daddy about it?"

"Mommy? Can I ask you a question?"

"YES, Honey."

"What are you doing?"

"Mixing some things for dinner, Honey."



"Can I help you? I like to eat some of the grated cheese"

The first interruption or so you can handle, but at about interruption #17, you start to lose your patience. It happens to the best of us.

So, on this podcast, the host noted that she tried to stop what she was doing and ask herself, "is my attitude/reaction/behavior helping my child to get to heaven?" I thought about that for a long time, and this was a very humbling analysis for yours truly. :) SO often, especially after work when I'm TIRED and have a bunch of things to do (put work items away, change clothes, start dinner, pick up scattered toys...) I shoo Hank away when he's trying to get my attention. Lately, I've been trying to stop myself before responding to him.

Is what I'm doing at that moment really all that important? Almost every single time, NO.

Would me neglecting his needs right now help my son to be a saint? NO.

It's a good exercise, and humbling in every instance. I'm going to ask myself this question a lot more from now on.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Holiday shopping, oh joy

Yesterday was a bit of an overcast, chilly day here, and my mom called to see if I'd like to do a bit of holiday shopping. I'm always game for such an activity, so I quickly agreed. Hank and Mike were secured watching Sunday afternoon football, and off we went, Target and Toys R Us bound.

Well. We arrive in Target's parking lot to see that perhaps they are giving away free bars of gold, if the chaos therein was any indication. We managed to find a parking spot only in the very back, and struggled through the wind and rain all the way to the front door, past many dour looking souls trying to find a spot closer to the doors. Whereupon, before we even tick a single item off our list, my mom announces that she's hungry. This turned out to be a very fortuitous decision, given that what occurred thereafter required us to have a full artillery of strength. We split a personal sized pizza and some lemonade at the cafe, and set off.

We were having a difficult time finding many of the items that we were looking for, and that did not get any better as we approached the toy department. I was looking for 2 Fisher Price items: the Trio Batcave, and the Imaginext castle/fortress. Both were on sale at excellent prices. Unfortunately, both seemed to have been taken with the swarm of locusts that had very obviously gnarled its way through the toy department prior to our arrival. We struck out with every single toy that we originally had our eye on. I had a gift card to use, and really wanted to apply it toward a Christmas purchase, so I ended up getting Hank a V Tech VReader, which is an adorable new eBook reader for kids. It was marked down $5, so I snagged a blue one. But we left Target feeling a bit deflated.

Our arrival at Toys R Us miraculously showed a much calmer parking lot, much to our surprise. There, also armed with a gift card, I picked up both of the toys I wanted for Hank (a remote-control Buzz Lightyear marked down $20, and some books marked down $5 for his new VReader). We spent a lot of time analyzing gifts for my nephews, and by time we were done, I was falling down exhausted. This was before we glimpsed the checkout lines.

There were about 5 open, which is much better than usual, but yet every one was completely stopped up. Each person currently being waited on had some sort of complicated coupon or otherwise involved inquiry about the price of something they were purchasing. 20 minutes later, we were finally able to check out and head to my mom's car, barely able to walk.

And this was a pre-Thanksgiving Sunday. Last year, we lost our minds and went to Toys R Us on Black Friday, and let me tell you, I learned a thing or two. Here is my list of rules for Black Friday shopping:

(1) Always bring a partner in crime. You will need them to:

(a) Guard the cart with your purses as you dart into an aisle completely clogged with desperate shoppers and their carts, which inevitably will be right in front of the item you want to look at. Or vice versa. And,

(b) Gossip with as you wait 30-60 minutes in the checkout line.

(2) Have coffee beforehand. Or perhaps whiskey.

(3) You may arrive to find that there are no carts. WAIT FOR ONE. Yes, you will feel like a stalker, but trust me, you NEED one. Do not try to navigate the madness with just your bare hands. You will be sorry.

(4) Mentally prepare yourself for the fact that people will be in your way every single moment until you arrive safely back in your house. You will also be in theirs. Once you accept this, you'll feel a lot calmer.

(5) Don't have your heart set on a single, specific item. That is reserved only for those crazy people that line up outside the store at 9 pm on Thanksgiving night. Unless you want to be stampeded by them, you're not gettin' that TV. Resolve this within yourself now. You'll still get some great deals on other gifts, and that will have to be good enough.

There you have it. Only 10 more days until Black Friday 2010. :)