Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The semester begins, and my allergies go into overdrive...

*delicate sneeze* This time of year is always hard on my nose, but this year has been particularly bad. This past spring/summer combo. has been the second hottest on record for this area in 140 years. As you all know about me now, this makes the Catholic Librarian super unhappy. I don't like hot weather. And this week, we've had a resurgence. The highs are predicted into the 90's for today and tomorrow (highly unusual for this area; it rarely gets above 90 degrees here, even in mid-July) and the humidity has reared its ugly head again. Along with it, so has my sneeze reflex. Yucky. As soon as the weather cools, my allergies usually abate. And the first week of school is usually so crisp and fresh and happy. It feels a lot different this year. But I suppose, variety is the spice of life.

The library has been crazy busy, with people stopping me to ask questions even on trips to the restroom. It'll abate, which is what I tell myself each time I struggle to find a parking spot in the mornings. The first week is always the most challenging.

My knitting has been blossoming, despite the heat, and I'm nearly done with Hank's reconstructed hat. I've already tried it on his head, and it fits perfectly, so my size modifications to the pattern appear to have worked. The yarn that I'm using is so, so nice. KnitPicks Wool of the Andes, in Coal and Semolina. It's incredibly soft and warm. I'm loving it. And at $1.99 - $2.19 per ball, it's a steal! As soon as I can justify it, I'd like to buy more to make a hat and scarf for myself and maybe some gifts. I love holiday knitting :)

Later in the week, we have to have a school clothes shopping trip for Hank *sniffle* plus other school-readying tasks. I'm feeling sad, but as prepared as I can be.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Is that more yarn?

If you have to ask, the answer is probably yes. I have a bit of a yarn addiction. Just like I have a book addiction (and a headcovering addiction, but we'll just pretend that one isn't here right now). I solved my book addiction by getting a public library card. Now, I rarely buy books. If I have an Amazon gift card, I will absolutely buy books that I can't find at the library. Or maybe once to twice a year, I'll place a small Amazon order. With specialty Catholic titles, like Catholic fiction or conversion stories from small presses, the library will likely not buy them. So I will. And happily so.

But with yarn, this is a problem, because I can't borrow or rent it. And my addictions mean that, no matter how many I already have, I just crave acquiring more. I like selection in the things that I enjoy. Always have. I remember the first time that I realized that my "to be read" queue of books exceeded half a shelf. Now, I have an endless list of titles always on hand that I want to read, some on my own bookshelves others at the library. With yarn, well...

At first, my yarn "stash" could all fit in a duffel bag that I kept in our guest room. Then, it grew a bit, so I added a black crate as a carrier as well. I told myself that most of this growth happened because I'd use yarn for projects and inevitably have a bit left over, plus then I'd have of course purchase yarn for new projects too, so this normal accumulation was all that was happening. Nothin' to see here, folks, move along. Maybe you'd need those leftovers for something along the road, so I kept them

Now, my yarn stash includes the duffel bag, the crate, and another quilted rolling bag. Ok, and some afghan yarn in the closet. I just am always so afraid of running out. Apocalypse? Nuclear attack? No problem, I have yarn on hand. I won't be bored. I also have plenty of books to keep us busy. And we'll all have our heads very modestly and cutely covered.

I just can't fathom finishing a project, and then saying "Oh gee, guess it's time to pick a new project and buy supplies!" Can't do it, sorry, no way. I like a selection awaiting me. What do I feel like? An afghan to beat the fall chill? A new hat? Some socks for my sisters? More than likely, I'll already have a few other projects ongoing, but I do try to keep those down to less than five. Before I can start something new, I have to finish up one of the ongoing ones. That, I do reign myself in on. But the plethora of future projects to choose from? I can't help it, I add to that all the time. Maybe I'm not in the mood for a hat, I'd rather make a shawl. Or perhaps a sweater. Happily, I have supplies for all of these things right in our spare room. And so the Catholic Librarian is happy. Very, very happy.

Whenever Mike finishes the book he's reading, sighs, and says that he has to make a trip to the library in the morning (BECAUSE HE HAS NO QUEUE OF BOOKS) I give him a look of horror. I mean, seriously. This is freakish. Who's with me?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Getting my baby ready for kindergarten...

MY BABY. My B.A.B.Y. I'm not quite sure how this happened. It seems he went from a squalling, fussy infant to a kindergartener overnight. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Mostly, I feel worried. I'm a worrier by nature, so humor me. I worry about everything. In fact, I turn worrying into a calorie-burning aerobic activity. It's going to be a big change, and already I'm feeling the effects of not having complete control over the situation. So far, our excellently-rated public elementary school has informed us of the following:

(1) Entering kindergarteners need to bring with them to school a flotilla of supplies so vast it would make your very eyes goggle. You can order a kit, which I did, because it's so convenient, but yet the kit does not include everything. What does it not include? This is also what I'd like to know. They don't tell you. You have to rather guess. Backpack? That's an easy one. But art smock? A quandry. 3 white tee shirts? Most likely not. What about baby wipes? Beach towel?!

(2) You must bring your child's supplies to their classroom on a specified Wednesday afternoon from 2-3 pm. One whole hour in the middle of the afternoon. There's flexibility and convenience for ya.

(3) You cannot drop your child off to school in your car. Not possible. They must either (a) walk, (b) take the bus (and the district will bus everybody, even if you live 2 houses from the school, I give them credit for this), or (c) be released into the care of a specified daycare/after school child care program.

(4) The district participates in a staggering number of "staff development days" that result in early dismissal, sometimes at 11:30 am, other times at 1 pm. They distinguish between these as "half days" and "early dismissal days," and for the life of me, I cannot remember which one is which.

(5) The district has an attendance policy, which is detailed in precise and legal language.

(6) There is apparently a way to order lunch for your child online. No directions were included as to how to accomplish this.

(7) Lots of happy language about how excited they are that school is starting, and to call them with any questions or concerns. Every time I try to call the school nurse to inquire as to Henry's vaccination records, nobody answers.

So, I'm thinking this is going to be something that I'm simply going to have to get used to. This is the way school is now. When I started kindergarten, your mom checked a box to indicate whether she'd like you to attend the morning or the afternoon session, and then dropped you off. There was no screening, no voluminous paperwork, no state standards out the wazoo. Things are different now. And I hope I don't hate them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Headcovering of the week...

Well, you knew I couldn't go too long without adding to my headcovering collection, so I'll just fess up now. Everyone knows of my fondness for Garlands of Grace, so I figured I'd spotlight another headcovering source that I've come to love.

There is a vendor on etsy, called Happy Homestead, that I've bought a few headcoverings from, with two new additions this week. The woman who runs the store, Melissa, is very sweet, and does excellent work. This is one of my new coverings:

It's a convertible covering, can work as either a kerchief or a headband, and I LOVE IT. The style is SO cute, and so comfortable. I also purchased a stretchy lace headband from her, in Cappuccino, that is so super soft and pretty you can hardly believe it. I also bought a gauzy spring print convertible covering back in April, and it is another of my absolute favorites in my collection. She has another one just like it for sale now.

The prices are more than reasonable, with $1.99 shipping. Her items are already made and in stock, so you receive your order within days. I highly recommend this shop. She also makes longer veil coverings, bobby pins, and coverings for younger girls.

A quick caveat to say that she does include Christian (of the non-Catholic variety) tracks in her orders. If this makes you uncomfortable, you can simply ask her not to include them. She's super nice and responsive to all messages. Definitely check her out :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Male bonding

Ahhh, autumn is in the air. The campus is suddenly coming alive with students and faculty, and that palpable feeling of excitement permeates my office. And the weather! Oh sweet weather. I love where I live. The instant mid-August hits, the weather undergoes a subtle shift. Suddenly, a breeze is perpetually in the air, and the evenings cool down. Love, love, love.

This summer at my house has meant lots of father/son bonding time, as once Mike's summer classes wrapped up, he was home with Henry 3 days per week. So, when I arrive home from work each day, I'm finding lots of "daddy and me" bonding exercises ongoing. Drinking of Slurpees, walks down by the water to see the ducks, Tinker Toy assembling. And yesterday, a gigantic black spider stuck to my kitchen ceiling.

*father and son both staring straight up*

"This thing is TOTALLY AWESOME."

Apparently, the plastic spider prize Hank received at Vacation Bible School had sticking and suckage properties that were previously undiscovered. They were thrilled.

This all has had the effect of a change in Hank's "allegiance," if you will, with regard to comfort and play time. Daddy is now clearly the "fun guy," the one Hank turns to when he wants to play or cuddle. The other night, Mike had an outing with a friend planned, and Hank wandered in from watching his car back out of the driveway. Eyes were liquid, lip was quivering.


I froze. I mean, all these years, of course Hank has loved Mike, but *I* was always the go-to gal. MOMMY. I did all the nursing, nurturing, soothing (AND night waking, just for the record) for all these *4 long years.* As my mother would say, what am I, chopped liver?

I immediately summoned Hank over to my arms where he promptly burst into tears, asking when Daddy would be home. This did nothing to soothe my Mommy Anxiety. I cuddled him lots, read him a book and administered lots of kisses, and he settled down. We had a nice night together, albeit mixed in with several other inquiries as to Daddy's return home. I told myself that this was all very age and gender-appropriate, and made total sense given how much time they'd spent together this summer. But I couldn't help it; I was crushed. Did he still want Mommy?

When Mike got back, after Hank went to bed, I pounced. Perversely, his response that Hank did in fact get teary sometimes when I left the house (to go to dance class, for instance) made me feel better. My precious little guy! They're always changing, and we need to change with them. But it's never easy, not ever, in parenting.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Adventures in hiking, and mishaps in knitting

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I went hiking with Mike yesterday. It was a really nice day, and I'm so glad that I seized the opportunity to take a day off from work and re-charge my batteries. Hank was in school, so it was just the two of us, it was like a date! Hank has been home with Mike for most of the summer, but he specifically requested that he still be allowed to go to school sometimes to see his friends, so he's been going just 2 days per week. Yesterday was one of those days, so we grabbed the option of an inexpensive outing for the two of us.

The weather was gorgeous, and it was really fun, along with being a good workout. I'm now within 3.5 lbs. of my weight loss goal. *beams* It'll probably take 6 months to lose that piddly 3 lbs, but never mind about that now. Our only glitch was that we chose a hiking trail that was listed as "most difficult." Never being one to shy away from a challenge, no matter how stupidly, I thought this was the way to go. I wanted to walk at least 4 miles, so I was game.

Well. I quickly figured out that "most difficult" means "lots of inclines." I like what inclines do for my legs, but I don't necessarily like the way they feel. I don't like feeling like I may fall. Mike kept turning around to keep track of me to find me clinging to exposed tree roots and branches in an effort to anchor myself. But I hung in there, gamely stepping ahead. Until, that is, we figured out that those little guide icons leading the way along the trail? Right, we hadn't seen one of those in awhile. Despite our diligence, we had lost the trail. I'm avoiding writing it, but what this really means is that we were LOST. We tried to find the trail a few times, but eventually figured it was safer to turn back, since we knew the way we had come. Sure enough, we got back on the trail quickly that way, but somewhere, and we couldn't figure out where, we kept going astray. They didn't have enough of those icons, in my opinion. But the important thing was that we got back without becoming hopelessly mired in the woods and eventually eaten by wolves. And, we still got in 4 miles of hiking, so bonus.

Afterward, we went out to lunch. By ourselves. Everyone with small children knows what a treat it is to be able to eat and actually TALK TO EACH OTHER, without any interruptions or thrown food. Bliss.

So, then we got home, and I picked up my knitting. Sigh. Yet another of those humbling moments wherein one realizes that they're not quite as experienced as they thought. I made this same hat for Mike, and it's a ribbed pattern, so real stretchy. I figured I'd make Hank one in the same size. I knew it would be a bit big this winter, but this way he could grow into it and have it for several years, and the ribbing would make it still palatable for this year.

Well. I used the exact same size needles (a size smaller than recommended, because I have a loose gauge) and the exact same size yarn, worsted weight. The only difference was that Mike's yarn was a cotton/acrylic blend, and this yarn was 100% acrylic.

Somehow, disaster. I know the yarn was cheap (Red Heart Super Saver from my stash) but hey, I don't eschew cheap yarn. I have many an afghan crocheted out of Red Heart, and those things are warm and durable enough to to sustain a nuclear attack. I figured it would be just fine for a child's winter hat, since it can be machine washed and dried. Alas. The thing is huge. HUGE, as in, Mike tried it on and it looked like a helmet. On Hank, it swallows his whole head.

I was very discouraged, until I took a quick measurement and figured that I can make Hank another hat. I'll cast on 20 less stitches and it should be ok. Plus, I'm going to make it in real wool. I've been a bit more into natural fibers lately. KnitPicks makes this possible for me, since their yarn is SO reasonably priced. I mean, seriously. 100% wool for $2 a skein? It's awesome! If you knit, you simply must check them out, if you have not already. This is the yarn I ordered for Hank, Wool of the Andes, in worsted weight. I also picked up a set of their beautiful Harmony double pointed needles in the size I need, since the hat won't stretch around my circular needles anymore, given its smaller size. I love DPN's. I know some knitters hate them, but they've revolutionized my knitting. I adore them. You can knit small things, like socks or baby hats, on these small straight needles. In fact, I have a brand new pair of socks started, for my mom, and I'm beaming with pride. Please God, do not let them turn out gargantuan.

Anybody out there need a freakishly large hat?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fall shape-up, and New England Knits...

I mentioned yesterday that I've been cooking a lot more again (the summers always take some of the sizzle out of my dinner preparation; we need a grill badly, but haven't wanted to spend the money). Relatedly, I've renewed my efforts to drop the last 7 lbs. I've held on to since I delivered Hank. Well, I lost most of them, but somehow, very insidiously, they crept back on. And actually, it's been going very well. I'm now within 3.75 lbs of my goal. That's big.

Women, you're all with me here. You can lose 50 lbs., or what have you, but the last 10 are absolutely excruciating. They're very, very hard to lose. What I've been doing is taking a brisk walk every day, running once on the weekend, eating healthier, and reducing my portion sizes. Nothing too dramatic, but a huge lift to my health overall. And I do still eat things that I enjoy (Oreo cookies, I'm lookin' at you) I just eat one instead of five. And if I want a small glass of wine later, I skip the cookie. Things like that.

This is all also related to a visit to my cardiologist a few weeks back. I have a mitral valve prolapse, so I get an echocardiocram (sp?) once a year and a followup visit. Everything looks good, but because I have heart disease on both sides of my family, she wants me to lower my cholesterol a bit. So, I'm trying. This is not easy for your cheese-loving Catholic Librarian, but I'm really trying. Even simply adding moderate exercise into your routine can lower your cholesterol. So, we'll see. But I've lost over 6 lbs since the start of the year, and I'm pleased. I can always tell the difference in my thighs when I'm doing better with my fitness. They're much happier. I'll keep you posted as I finally approach my goal.

In knitting news, I'm nearly done with Hank's hat. I'm working on the crown decreases now, and should finish it tonight. I'll take a picture. Next, I'm going to work on a sweater from a new pattern book I picked up called New England Knits.

I want to make the sweater that is on the cover, and I'm quite excited about it. That's one of the things I'll be working on next, along with all of the socks for Christmas gifts. Very excited.

I won't be around to blog tomorrow, as I'm taking a day off so that Mike and I can go hiking together. I will provide a full report promptly on Friday :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fall is in the air...

I'm making Chicken Pot Pie tonight, I'm contemplating the sweaters I will knit, and Garlands of Grace just announced its fall collection. Fall is, happily, in the air.

Speaking of headcoverings, I haven't written about them in awhile, but I'm still very much wearing them, and enjoying them. I'm feeling the urge to order a few more, but I tell you, I really should restrain myself, because I totally have enough. I have headbands in gray and black/white, convertible coverings (can be either headband or short kerchief) in black/white, brown lace, khaki with white lace trim, and sheer spring pinks/greens, and a longer veil in autumn brown/pink. I have to say, my 2 favorites are the brown lace and the sheer pink convertible. I wear them even around the house, I love them so much. But sigh... the autumn chiffon? *wants* *resists* For now, anyway :)

Now that I've been wearing headcoverings to Mass for about 6 months, I have to say that I never even consider entering church without one. I'm just so used to it, my head feels "naked" if I don't. I really like it. It's a reminder to me to focus on why I'm really there, and not let my mind wander.

Lots of other things going on this fall. I need to start preparing for the October fall hafla for belly dance. I'm deciding now if I'll create a new solo number, or if I'll use the one I created this summer for a second time. We're ordering our new costumes this week. *beams* We chose green as the color (my favorite!) but could choose any style each of us wished. I'm getting a traditional bra and skirt set. I'll take a picture of it when it comes in. It's super pretty, and I'm certain that I'll love it, which is good since I won't be able to afford another costume for several years after this :)

As well, Hank will be starting kindergarten in about 4 weeks, sigh. My precious baby. It'll be a big adjustment for all of us. Lots of other stuff going on, too. Stay tuned...


Friday, August 13, 2010

Weekend plans, and fall food

The fall semester begins in 2 weeks, and as is usually the case this time of year, I panic. I definitely don't feel ready for the crush that is the first 2 weeks of school. Thankfully, I did get my article finished and submitted this summer. My tenure dossier preparation process is only a little over a year away, and that publication is very much needed for that. That was the main thing, so I'm grateful that I was able to meet that goal. However, my to-do list burgeons over with other projects. What can one do, right? I do what I can at work, and leave it when I go home.

I've been eschewing the humid weather and have started using my oven again. I can't take the summer moratorium on cooking any longer, and I'm happily back on a healthy eating plan. The current issue of Woman's Day, September 2010, has some awesome recipes in it. I espied it last weekend while waiting at the hair salon, and went out to buy a copy I liked the recipes so much. We had fish tacos this week (that went somewhat disastrously with my Henry eating plan - he hated the corn tortillas and vomited after consuming a bite of avocado. The joys of parenthood) as well as an awesome Taco Beef Casserole.

Tonight, I'm making an old standby, chicken with stuffing. You pop some chicken breasts into a 9x13 pan, mix a can of cream of mushroom (or cream of chicken, etc., you preference) with some skim milk and add it to the bottom of the pan. Make stuffing of your choice (I've been getting the ultra easy Stove Top made with whole wheat) and set around the chicken. Bake at 350 for one hour, or until breasts are done. Add slice of cheese of your choice to the top of breasts and melt at the end. It's a good one.

This weekend should be quiet, with just some house stuff going on. I've been really into my fall knitting. My bear is nearly done, he just needs a face. But his body is assembled, and he's very happy about this development. I'm working on Hank's requested black and yellow hat, and I may start some socks and a sweater. Catholic Librarian is a happy knitter these days.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Adventures in Eating

Deltaflute posted a great comment yesterday regarding my vegetable post, and I thought it important enough to warrant it's own post :)

So, couple of things. I talked about how toddlers and older young children have this list of "preferred" foods that they shun every other nutrition-bearing item for. Deltaflute had the excellent suggestion that we try to make some of these foods ourselves and "health them up" a bit, for instance homemade macaroni and cheese. This is a fantastic idea! We could use multigrain pasta, bake it, maybe sneak some veggies in. The only issue I foresee here is that our little ones do tend to ferret such subversive vegetable attempts out like blood hounds.

"Mommy, what's *this*?" *accusatory stare as a minute piece of bell pepper is detected*

But I do love this idea. This would also work for french fries.

Overall, in regards to getting children to eat things that they'd prefer not to eat, the question is: how do we accomplish this? Deltaflute mentioned that she didn't want to force her son to eat anything, although at times it may seem like alternative solutions are wanting :) I completely relate to this. I think we're all familiar with the old-school tactic of:

"You're not leaving this dinner table until you eat what's on your plate."

I've even seen this enforced the *next day,* that after the child wakes up, they have to eat what's on that plate if they want to ever move on to something else. I know that in parenting, so many things are sensitive, because there are many, many strong opinions. I don't judge anybody, unless I see outright abuse. We all have to do what we feel is best for our kids, and this is rarely easy. In my opinion though, I don't agree with this strategy. I believe in giving even young children small choices.

I'll be reasonable. "Would you like 2 green beans, or 3? Would you like a carrot instead?" Let the child feel like they have some control in choosing their food. "You don't want any vegetables? Ok, but this is what is for dinner. If you don't eat the vegetables, no chicken nuggets, and no dessert." The next opportunity to eat something different comes at the following designated meal time. I've read that children will not starve themselves. Eventually, they will eat. If I feel that the child is really hungry, I'll offer something else that I know they like, but that is nutritious, like nuts, maybe a slice of whole grain bread with some fruit, etc.

So far this has worked for us. Sometimes Henry will choose to forgo dessert because he so dislikes what is being offered at dinner. And I'm reasonable about that too. I know that he hates broccoli. I'm not going to make him eat it, so long as he gets vegetable nutrients from a source that he finds more palatable. Everybody is entitled to dislike a few things. You're just not entitled to dislike everything.

So, this is my philosophy. Anybody else want to share strategies for getting our little ones to eat healthy food? Comment away.

Oh, a parting anecdote. This is Hank's take on feeding babies:

"Mommy? If God gives us a baby, can I help feed the baby? I can put the food in my hand, and the baby can eat it right out of there, just like the goat at the petting zoo."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Adventures with a 4 year old: Vegetables? Temper Tantrums? Oh joy

I thought I'd devote a whole post to what's new with Henry :) My precious boy. He's getting so, so big. Very tall, very curious, very bright. He's a good, good boy, to be sure. He's going to be starting kindergarten in a month, and Mommy is feeling decidedly weepy about this. I saw a commercial for a car manufacturer the other day that I thought was ingenious, and relates to this very issue. A man is talking to this little girl, maybe 5 years old, who is sitting in the drivers seat of a car. He's telling her to be careful, not to talk on her cell phone while driving, to be home at a decent hour, etc. She keeps saying, "Yes, Daddy." Finally, when he looks into the car a final time, we see a grown young woman of 18 years. It was her the whole time, it's just that her father still sees her as his little girl. And I feel that even now with Hank. I look at him, and I still see the newborn cradled in my arms, nursing. It just doesn't seem time yet for him to be so big.

With him growing like a weed lately, my latest mission is Eating Control. The thing is, let's be honest. What do our toddlers and preschoolers eat? I mean, REALLY eat? As in the things that they consistently like and will actually chow down on. These are NOT the things that we would prefer them to eat, mind you. I present to you, the Young Child Food Pyramind:

Goldfish Crackers
Macaroni and Cheese
Chicken Nuggets (can be dinosaur shaped)
Gummy "fruit" Snacks
Possibly Fruit RollUps for a particularly daring entrant
Chef Boyardee Spaghetti'Os
French Fries
Ice Cream
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Cheese Sticks

With the exception of the last 2, I think we'll all agree that everything else on this list has a nutritional value of ZERO. And I know that innumerable parents will sympathize with me when I admit that too often I fall into the desperate trap of allowing my child to eat these foods. As we all know, there is nothing wrong with any of them in moderation. We just don't want this to be the main part of their diet. And if our little rascals had their way, they'd eat nothing else.

I'm starting to battle back. Especially in the summer, without central a/c and not wanting to heat up the kitchen with use of the oven, we default to "ad hoc" dinners. You know. Chicken or tuna salad, random sandwiches, cheese and fruit, that sort of thing. And if Henry doesn't like what we're having, which is the majority of the time, sigh, he'll want "somefing else." I will say that he loves fresh fruit. However, the child can pack chicken nuggets away like there's no tomorrow. And I'm now determined to put a stop to it.

I have no objection to 1 or 2 chicken nuggets, *so long as* he also has a bit of what we're eating. And I've learned an important lesson. You must WITHHOLD the desired item UNTIL the healthy food has already been consumed. Otherwise, the nuggets will disappear and quickly be followed by: "I'm fuuulll."

So far, this is going better than I thought it would. There was a bit of righteous indignation when I declared that he had to eat vegetables, but he has been complying, for the most part. I try to give him a reasonable portion, so that when the situation breaks down into the inevitable negotiation phase, I can simply declare that I didn't give him that much; if he wants the nugget, he has to eat everything else on his plate.

I'll say it plainly. My son is an Anti-Vegite. Otherwise known as a founding member of the League of Children Against Vegetable Eating, CAVE. Waving a stem of broccoli in his face makes him faint with terror. He *hates* vegetables. Mysteriously, he will eat them at school. Except broccoli, the horror. But everything else he eats there. But at home? The vegetable boycott comes out in full force. CAVE members unite.

We've been working on this for about a week, and it's getting gradually more successful. Last night, I foisted grilled chicken with carrots and corn onto his plate. Although they had been "contaminated" by sharing a skillet with broccoli, he agreed to try them.

"I don't yike the chicken. I ate a carrot, can I have somefing else now?"

Under much duress, he ate all but 2 carrots and a niblet of corn. We're getting there, sigh. But the child needs more vegetables. He's good about fruit, and I've even gotten him to branch out in that regard as well, adding berries to his repertoire. Tonight we're having a ground beef taco casserole, and I'm going to steam some green beans from our garden. He WILL eat a green bean, if I have anything to say about it. He claims to "wike beef," so clearly he's a carnivore like us. I only cook with lean ground beef or turkey. We'll see how it goes.

This morning, when I rushed into his room to kiss his snuggly face, we were presented with a 4 year old activity that comes up less frequently than it used to, but when it does, is mighty in its power: The 4 Year Old Temper Tantrum. This, my friends, is a force to behold. Whereas 2 year olds have, what? *daily* temper tantrums, 4 year olds have navigated away from the frequency, but the force is virulent. NOT a pretty sight. As I snuggled Hank this morning, he declared:

"Why was my sleep so short?" *scowl*

Given that he had slept for 12 hours, I knew this wasn't a good sign.

"Hank, Honey, why don't you go pee for the morning?"


Oh boy. I knew, just *knew* even based on that one statement, that this was going to be one of *those* mornings.

I coaxed him again, and he denied the need to pee about, oh, 20 more times. I left him in the bathroom, looking surly, and went to get dressed. I could hear him peeing. I called out directions for him to get dressed, but when I came out of our bedroom, Hank was standing in front of his room wearing nothing but a pajama top and a frown.

"Honey, why don't you go get dressed?"


This as well, went on for a number of denials. Then, true disaster struck.

"Is that the coffee maker? Did Daddy turn on the coffee maker without me?!"

"Well, yes, Hank, because you weren't listening and and are taking so long to get ready."


Oh dear. The sobbing continued throughout the dressing process, leading to a full fledged meltdown on the stairs as he kicked and flailed. When that happens, you just have to sort of stand back and let the power be unleashed. Not much can be done there until the settling down proces shows signs of life.

And eventually, it did. Much sniffling and nose blowing commenced. There were some more tears when Tom & Jerry was denied, but he had lost steam by that point. I got him to school in better spirits, to find another invitation to a Chuck E Cheese party waiting for us in his cubby.

Never a dull moment in the life of a parent, I tell you. And crazily enough, we keep wanting to do it again and again. God really has a sense of humor :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

The seasons are a changin', and the wonders of a backyard garden...

Ahhh, it's August. I'm certain that everybody has one month of the year that they would classify as their least favorite. Mine is July. I do like the 4th of July holiday, for sure, but otherwise, the weather during this month is not my favorite. August, too, can be muggy and humid around here. But still, it's different. The temperatures tend to not peak as high, and the nights start to cool down considerably. Fall is in the air, and this my friends, I love.

One perk of summer, to be sure, is fresh fruit and produce. And our tiny garden has been producing its little heart out this year. Our rabbit fence has kept our bunny friends, cute faces and all, and their nibbling ways, far away from our vegetables. The only thing that hasn't thrived is the broccoli. The plants are huge leafy wonders to behold, but...no broccoli. We're baffled. But fresh lettuce, green beans, grape tomatoes and green bell peppers aplenty have graced our dinners. It's making me very happy.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The art of professional writing...

**Friendly warning: Only read on if mild swear words amuse but do not offend** :)

I've always loved to write. Hence this blog. Creative writing in particular. This was one of my favorite school-related tasks as early as elementary school.

As an attorney, I still loved to turn my messy brainstorms into coherent arguments. Granted, the content wasn't all that exciting, but still, that was my main talent as an attorney. Forming an oral argument? Only at gunpoint. But I was a good brief writer.

As an academic librarian on the tenure track, I'm expected to publish in the professional literature. This is daunting, and puts many librarians off pursuing an academic position. And I will grant, I was a bit intimidated at first, before I tried to publish anything. But I've grown into it. Because after all, I love to write. And writing about librarianship, while not always scintillating, is still pretty interesting to me. Because I love what I do.

I've been writing an article all summer. I've edited and re-edited. Had Mike read it ("what's with all these commas?" Apparently I'm a comma lover) and a respected colleague read it. I've re-edited again. And again. I've checked my endnotes and bibliography, anally conformed to the requested Chicago Humanities Notes Style. Which leads me on a tangent... All evil-doers should be tied to a chair in an empty room with nothing but the Chicago Manual of Style, and forced to figure out how to cite an electronic correspondence from an anonymous author that was included in an exhibit of unknown duration. How about a conference proceeding from fifty years ago that is now part of a digital archive? These need to be included as both a note and an entry in the bibliography. They'll break down and beg for mercy.

Anyway, I digress. I've done all of this. And finally! I think I can stick a fork in it, because baby, it's done. I'm going to submit it to the journal that I selected first thing Monday morning. Please God, let them want to publish it.

So, this got me to thinking about the fine art of professional writing. Let's be frank. Professional writing involves a certain amount of, shall we say, bullshit. I'm sorry, but it does. Now, I will grant, nothing disturbs me more than reading professional literature and having the following reaction:

"*blank* What? Wait? Did I miss something? I just read that whole page, but...Let me read it again. *brain processes all cease* Wait? WHAT? Did that even say anything? I don't think so. It can't just be me, right? I don't think that even SAID anything!"

This my friends is what I call high-level bullshit. It inevitably starts something like "Our vision for the twenty first century workplace is a place where all feel welcome and wanted, and can foresee..." or some such flowery nothingness. I refuse to stoop to this level.

I like to think that I have honed my lower-level bullshit skills, and this talent is needed to be a successful writer. I'm all about simplicity in my writing, but one must learn how to properly incorporate the professional buzz words that will capture the attention of ones intended audience.

For instance, at the same time as my article, I've been working on my required annual report. This requires us all to channel the bullshit king:

"Students progressed with the material as we hoped they would."

Yeah. Can't say that. This can be magically transformed to:

"Students did achieve the measured learning outcomes and proficiences as set forth in the project goals."

How about:

"Students could enroll in the course anytime they wanted, making it a heck of a lot less work for us."

The *angels sing* version is:

"Since this course is not affiliated with the university's credit-bearing course registration system, students must self-enroll, empowering them to initiate completion of this requirement at their convenience."

I know, right? What can I say? It's a gift.


Thursday, August 5, 2010


My very first pair of mittens! *beams with pride* These are for Mike, and I'm *thrilled* with how they turned out. They weren't hard to make at all, and they are made on regular ole' straight knitting needles. I had a pattern that called for you to rib for a few inches, then just stockinette stitch to the thumb gusset, which, after learning how to do a few new increases (with a bit of swearing, I admit it, but not a lot!) wasn't bad at all. You place a bunch of stitches on stitch holders to work on the thumb, seam it up, and then keep going in stockinette stitch. A bit of shaping at the top, seam up the sides, and voila! These are made in Debbie Stoller's Alpaca Love yarn, in cobblestone. I'm hoping that the alpaca/wool blend will provide extra warmth for Mike this winter, and I feel very, very wifely.

I'm also working away on my amigurumi bear, and he's coming right along. He now has all of his body parts, which he's very excited about, although they are as not not sewed together. All in good time. Last night I started to crochet his sweater, and it's super adorable. Unfortunately I have about 20 ends to weave into this tiny little garment, which isn't so fun. I loathe weaving in ends. I'll work on those tonight, and hopefully start on the sleeves. Then it's on to bear part assembly!

My other project is a new hat for Henry. He's outgrown the hat that he's worn for the past 2 winters. He's requested a black hat with a yellow stripe, and he wants me to work in a Batman logo. Given that knitting Batman is well beyond my talents, I'm getting a decal to simply sew on to the finished hat. I just cast that on a few days ago. I have a great pattern for a ribbed hat, so it'll grow right along with Henry for a few years. It's the same pattern that I used for Mike's hat. Hopefully, this attempt will involve less angst than last time.

In a terribly exciting knitting development, yesterday I placed my first order to KnitPicks. Anybody with me? Isn't this a fabulous place? Natural fiber yarns for extremely reasonable prices, and with a $50 order, free shipping! My knitting friends and I combined our orders and secured free shipping. I bought some sock yarn, and am officially starting the Christmas knitting season. Trust me, I'm not thinking about presents that I will actually *buy* for Christmas (except for Hank; I have a real weakness for choosing gifts for him) but for knitting/crocheting, you gotta start early. A lot of my loved ones will be receiving hand knit socks for Christmas this year. Send me your sizes and color preferences :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Daily Bible reading revisited...

A few months ago, I wrote about trying to re-form my habit of daily Bible reading. Someone suggested a one year Bible, which I granted was a good idea, but I thought that I would slack off with that too.

Well. Last week, while I was teaching at Vacation Bible School, I was re-inspired to give daily Bible devotions another go. I needed the spiritual fortitude, believe me :) My sister had also mentioned recently that she had picked up a daily Catholic Bible, in the Good News translation, and that she'd been using it and enjoying it.

I perused my book shelves (how I long for my own personal library to keep my beloved books in) and pulled off the daily Bible that I'd bought when Hank was a baby. This particular copy is entitled My Daily Catholic Bible. This is the Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition, and the translation is quite beautiful. For each day, there is an Old Testament selection, and a shorter one from the New Testament. I gave it a whirl.

One week in, and so far it's working :) I've been reading it before I go to sleep, and I'm definitely enjoying it. I'm hoping that I'll persist. I've tried it out before, as evidenced by the highlighting I keep coming across, but I don't think I kept it up past a few months or so. We'll see how I do this time. But I do recommend this particular version. It's nicely done.

Right now, I'm mired in Proverbs and the Gospel of John. Good stuff.

Our Catholic children, part whatever...

Because I've lost count :) But I blog frequently about raising our little soldiers for Christ in the Catholic Church, taking them to Mass, and all of the things that we do at home to instill the faith. It's important stuff. Our holy calling. *puffs out chest* There's my precious guy at left last week at VBS, with his little frog name tag :) We had a rain forest theme for VBS this year. Anyway...

My friend Cam over at A Woman's Place... (as I caught up on all of last weeks action in Google Reader; I had over 150 new posts!) wrote about how stressful it is to take both a toddler and an infant to Mass and manage them both. To top it all off, there is this potential for mean people to give you the evil eye for your noisy kid and make you cry. I mean really, the child is 1, or 2, or 3 years old; they have a reason for their behavior. Mean people do not. They're just obnoxious. I thought I would lend my support by revisiting this important topic...

What this all boils down to is the things we do to try our best at our vocation as Catholic parents. This is no easy feat. And there's no guarantee of success. I'm thinking of a great line from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, that Mike and I just re-watched last week (and that I blogged about last year here):

Gimley: "Little chance of success? Near certainty of defeat? What are we waitin' for?!"

It's not easy, no sir. Now that he's approaching 5, and he's noticing that Daddy doesn't go to Mass with us every week, Hank has started lobbying to "stay home with Daddy" on Sundays. I see it as a challenge of the vocation, and I press on.

A few weeks ago, Hank was sick, so I left him home with Mike and went to Mass by myself. I thought it would be great. I mean, seriously. I could do the following:

(1) HEAR. You know, things. Like the readings and the homily. So impossible with a chatty 4 year old in tow.

(2) Relax. AAAHHHHHH. I'm so tense when Hank is with me. It's just like belly dancing with a veil. I don't like to dance with a veil. I dance because I love to dance, and I want others to enjoy my dancing. If I have a veil with me as a prop, it distracts me. I think the quality of my dancing goes down because I'm worried about what my "partner" is going to go. And *at any moment* that veil could, of its own accord, go bad. REAL BAD. It's just like having small children, I tell you. You think you have them trained, and then WHAMO! They humiliate you in public. So I'm always a tad "on guard" at Mass for this very reason.

(3) Remain in the sanctuary for the entirety of Mass. Oh, the bliss. I can stand when the congregation stands, without a surly 4 year old on my lap demanding that I read to him. No fear of extraction of any small melting down bodies. No trips to the potty.

(4) Pray. This comes from the ability to hear myself think, and to relax, see items (1) and (2), supra.

I thought this would be great, right? Well. I got there, in all my relaxed sereneness, and I found that...I missed Hank. Something was definitely missing from my Mass experience. I am the mother of a young Catholic child, and I wanted him there with me, no matter how miserable he makes me on a weekly basis. No matter how much attention he calls to this desperate introvert, I wanted him there with me. Clearly, parenthood has turned us all into sadomasochists.

We gotta stick it out. Somehow. This makes us all stronger witnesses for life. At least this is what I tell myself as I pray that somehow, miraculously, the floor will swallow me up.

My experience at VBS last week was also a good reminder in this regard. As my own son ruined my whole day last Monday and embarrassed me in front of dozens of people, I thought to myself of "The Incident." That would be the worst day in my Catholic parenting career, right there. And from that experience, I learned to think more before I reacted. Child is melting down in Mass= I want to burst into tears and sprint from the room. Instead of giving in to my baser instincts, I need to remain calm. Yes, I will still be somewhat humiliated, but at least I won't inadvertently make the situation that much worse. Last Monday, I longed to call Mike to come and fetch Hank to send him home in disgrace. But I resisted, because I knew that would make the Henry scene that much worse. In the end, it was the right decision, but in the meantime: it sucked. Bad.

We'll get through this trial. Catholic parents: Unite.