Monday, January 31, 2011

Catholic school open house bonanza, and nesting abounds...

Well. :) This was a very interesting weekend, and as always, I shall provide all the details. :)

I did in fact do a spell of nesting on Saturday. I went though the changing table/dresser combo that currently still lives in Hank's room. I had cleaned it out before, so it wasn't too bad. This means I now have to locate the bag in our storage marked "newborn" but I'll deal with that another week. I got all of Hank's stuff fit nicely into his larger dresser unit, and the changing table piece ready for the move to the nursery whenever the nursery actually exists. I consider this a success.

Sunday I was a bit nervous, since I had to teach Children's Liturgy of the Word. Last time it had gone well, so I was hopeful. Alas, this time was another one of those weeks. I had a larger group that included several young children circa age 3, and it was impossible to keep them still and quiet, thus distracting the entire group. I did the best I could, and it certainly didn't go terribly, but it wasn't a stellar installment either.

After Mass, we stopped for a brief lunch break, and then it was time for Catholic school open house #1. I was nervous, because I know that I'm certainly biased in favor of sending Hank to Catholic school in the fall, and that Mike is biased in favor of keeping him in public school since we live in a great district and pay the taxes to show for it. I was praying, so I was resigned to whatever outcome might come our way. We packed into the car and drove 2 minutes to contender #1, St. A's.

Immediately upon arrival, we were greeted warmly. People lined the hallway, saying "Welcome to St. A's!" It could have been creepy, but it wasn't. :) It was just such a pleasant change from our public school orientation last May. Right away, we were directed to the principal, who has a reputation as being "not a warm and fuzzy." I was worried that this would bother me, but honestly, it didn't. She was just fine. Certainly not the warmest person I've ever met, but not unkind or objectionable. She greeted us nicely and even spoke to Hank for a minute. After that, we were given a gift bag with some informational sheets and directed to a parent volunteer to give us a tour of the school.

There commenced the most thorough tour I've ever been on. :) We were there for nearly 2 hours! We visited every classroom, grades pre-k through 8, including all of the "specials": art, music, gym, computers, and the library. Every single teacher was kind and genuine. I was getting warm and fuzzies all over the place. The first grade teacher in particular was raved about amongst the others, and I noticed that she was wearing a small brown scapular around her neck. Every classroom had a crucifix on the wall and a saint statute in one corner. Statements of Christian values were posted in each room.

Instead of state testing and wellness policies, this school emphasizes traditional Catholic values and service, strong academics, particularly math, and the sense of family that they like to pervade their school, with an encouragement of children having fun at school in additon to learning. They have a monthly school Mass (it would be nice if it were more frequent, but I can live with this) in addition to Masses celebrating holy days and other feasts, full sacramental preparation for first reconciliation and eucharist, altar server training, service requirements for all students, daily prayer, and adorable little extras, like the first grade Christmas pageant.

The children all wear school uniforms, of which I highly approve, and the school has a strong code of conduct without being "over the top," which is how I perceived the public school. The tuition is extremely reasonable, and since we attend at a parish without a Catholic school, we qualify for their parishoner rate. We can afford it.

After we left, Hank announced, "I love this school, Mommy. I want to go here!" I did my best to stay quiet until Mike spoke first. He said, "let's talk when we get home," which I knew was a good sign. :)

Following a trip to the grocery store, Mike and I sat down. He said that going in he wasn't prepared to make a change, because he thinks our public elementary school is a good one, which it is. But that he was very impressed by St. A's, and thinks that it might be a better fit. He's leaning toward trying it for first grade. I was estactic.

The decision isn't final yet. I think we should let it simmer for a few weeks. There is still another open house that I'd like to go to. St. B's, which is Thursday evening. Mike can't attend that one with us due to a class commitment, but Hank and I will scope it out. I think it's always good to compare.

But in the end, I'm hoping to have Hank registered for Catholic school, most likely St. A's, by the end of February, to begin in the fall. With the 3 of us having as positive an impression as we did, my thought at this juncture is that this is a winner.

Last night, I couldn't sleep, my mind was such awhirl by the unexpected developments of the day. Even though the tuition is affordable for us, we still have after care costs to consider (school starts nice and early, 7:45 am, but ends at 2 pm), plus the new baby. If Mike is home, these costs won't exist, but eventually we'd like him to find a job in his new field, obviously. I will go back to work, so we'll have daycare costs, which for an infant, are *significant*. Catholic schools also come with fundraising obligations, and I'm worried about those too. But once again, I shouldn't "borrow worry." One thing at a time. Hank and I will attend this other open house on Thursday, we'll let a week or so of thinking time go by, and we'll make a decision. And then we'll go from there.

But overall, I'm feeling much, much better about schooling issues. And despite all the uncertainty with Mike's future employment, I know we're in good hands. Everything is going to be ok.

Friday, January 28, 2011

New maternity pants and weekend plans

Yesterday, I did in fact stop by another Goodwill. And for a mere $12, I bought 3 pairs of perfect fitting maternity pants. *beams* A pair of khaki cords, and 2 pairs of black work pants. I couldn't be more thrilled.

Speaking of clothing, working on a university campus, I see all sorts of interesting fashion choices. Today, in fact, I spotted a student wearing boots so furry that for a few seconds I seriously thought she had a Lhasa Apso weaving between her ankles. Yesterday, though, was a new first. Walking back from a trip to the cash machine, I came up behind a female student wearing a skirt so short that you could see at least an inch of the control top to her pantyhose. This is not merely immodest, my friends, this is a definite fashion faux pas.

Anyway, I have dance tonight, which I hope I don't fall asleep for. My class runs from 7 pm until at least 8:30, sometimes 9, and it's getting increasingly hard for me to stay alert for that entire spell. Tonight is the beginning of a new session, and I should be fine for this 8 weeks. After that, I'll have to evaluate. I'll be over 30 weeks, and I don't know that I can commit to an 8 week session at that point. Perhaps I'll try to go week to week.

For the rest of the weekend, I plan to nest. Maybe get started on the storage, and clean out the baby's changing table/dresser. I have to teach at Children's Liturgy of the Word on Sunday, followed by the open house for Catholic School A. I'll fill you in on all the details Monday morning. :)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Good finds at the Goodwill...

Now that my bump is growing steadily, I've transitioned to some maternity clothes mixed in with regular clothes that still fit me. And as every pregnant woman has experienced, my maternity wardrobe is considerably smaller than my regular winter fare. I have some things from when I was pregnant with Hank, although much of that is summer clothes that aren't practical right now. I have some loaners, but many of them don't fit. Maternity clothes are tough to gauge and fit. Just because all women get bigger bellies during pregnancy does not mean that any maternity item will fit every one of them. And everyone has different comfort zones with how they want to display their body when pregnant. I know that many women prefer to shroud their bellies more than I do. Me, I love my belly. :) Maybe it's the belly dancing, but I find pregnant bellies truly beautiful. I want to show it off, so I prefer bump highlighting clothing. Long, fitted sweaters and blouses are my favorites, with simple classic pants or long skirts. My current closet selection is limited, and the problem is I don't want to spend a lot of money of clothes that I'm only going to wear for 4 more months.

So, I've been scrounging for bargains to enhance my maternity wardrobe a bit. I hit the jackpot at a Target clearance sale 2 weeks ago. I scored 2 sweaters and 2 dresses for about $24. Well, yesterday I had an idea that worked out even better.

Thrift store, baby! On my way home from work, I stopped off at one of our local Goodwill's. What a gem! I couldn't find the maternity clothes at first, so I shopped the skirt section. Now *this* was a refreshing change from my fruitless search for longer skirts in regular stores. :) Long skirts prevailed over their mini sisters by a total of at least 2 to 1. I didn't pause too long over anything that had a fitted waistline or zipper for obvious reasons (or anything dated and frumpy; these abound at thrift stores). I browsed quickly just for stretchy waists, and found 2 items in my size: a t-length black skirt, and an ankle length brown wool. I was absolutely thrilled.

I scoured my way through the whole store without spotting a maternity sign or anything resembling a pregnant woman with swollen ankles as an icon. So, I stopped a high school kid with a Goodwill vest on to ask his assistance. He directed me "over by the evening wear." OOkkk. The evening wear revealed...evening wear, so I was stymied for a minute or so. Finally, I spotted a maternity tag, although the section wasn't labeled.

I suppose that's because it was so tiny. But hey, I'm not fussy. Unfortunately, the section was not all maternity, mixed in with some other odd choices. But I looked through every item carefully, and picked out a pair of jeans and a pair of pin-striped khaki pants that I can wear to work. I'm betting there are many other maternity clothes in their collection, just unwittingly interspersed amongst the regular clothes. Alas, I didn't have time for such a treasure hunt.

The total for the 2 stretchy skirts and 2 pants? $9! Loving it! I'm going to stop off at Goodwill #2 on my way tonight. Super excited. :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New 54 Day Rosary Novena, and Catholic school next year?

Yesterday, I finished up my very first 54 day rosary novena. It was for an intention very dear to my heart. Today in my Conversations with God meditation, the reading mentions the parable of the sower, and how we should plant seeds, but it is only God that can make that seed grow. We must practice patience and humility over time, because one never knows what that seed is doing at any given point, but we can trust that God is always there working and we should leave it up to Him. It was just so fitting, and really put me at peace this morning.

Today, I'm beginning a brand new novena. My intention this time is two-fold: I'm praying for Mike to find a good job in his new field, in this area (we have no intentions on moving; our family is here, I have a good job here, and we love the area) after he graduates in May, and for discernment regarding where Hank should attend school in the fall. Just as a brief rehash, Hank is currently attending the very reputable public elementary school in our neighborhood as a kindergartener.

My concerns are kind of wide-ranging. He's receiving an excellent education, no doubt about that, and I truly don't feel like he's experiencing any sort of negative influence. Overall, I just feel like I'd like him to have a Catholic education if we're able to afford it. I like the idea of our faith being integrated into his daily studies. As well, my worry isn't the elementary school, but the middle school, even though that's 6 years off. I haven't necessarily heard anything terrible about our public middle school, but I remember my public middle school, and boy do I wish I didn't. That's a tough age, and I would feel much more comfortable with him in a Catholic school with the same kids he's been going with for the previous 5 years. And I'd rather make the switch now, while he's little, rather than in sixth grade when he already is attached to a group of friends.

Interesting, I went to public school K-12, in a city school district even. My elementary school was great, but middle school and high school were rough. In middle school, I was so miserable, that my parents offered to send me to our parish's Catholic school, but by that point I was in seventh grade and quite shy, and I was afraid to move to a totally new place where I knew nobody.

Hank also is on the shy side, and I just think the best time to make a change, if we make one, is next year. And excitingly, Catholic Schools Week begins this Sunday in this area, and with it, a host of open houses. There are 3 Catholic schools in our district. I'd like to stick within our district, since they do provide the extra services, such as speech and fine motor skills (both of which Hank is receiving at his public school) in the Catholic schools as well, and I do have a high opinion of our district.

Out of the three, I have my eye on two of them. Both serve children in grades PreK-8. School A is the closest one to our house. When I mentioned Catholic school to Mike, he said that if we did decide to do that, this is the one he'd prefer since it's so close. Hank's current elementary school is even closer, and it's just so convenient, so location is a consideration. We know quite a few people that send their kids to this school. All have good things to say about it. I have heard a few comments about the principal being a bit "cold" and unapproachable, which could potentially bother me, but we'll see. The school seems to have a solid Catholic identity, holds monthly school Masses and trains all the children to be altar servers. Their open house is this Sunday afternoon.

School B is slightly farther from our house, but by "slightly" I mean that it's still well within 5 miles. It's really no big deal, it's just not right down the street. It has an outstanding academic reputation and has even been awarded a distinction by our state. I don't know anyone that sends their kids there, so no personal anecdotes like with School A. However, their web site just has a very serene feeling to it. I can't totally explain, but I have a really good feeling about this school based on my reading of their curriculum and faith activities. It just seems prayerful to me. Their open house is next Thursday evening.

We're going to go to both of them and see what we think. I decided not to pursue the third school. I think if we're going to make the leap, we have two other good choices, so need to complicate the decision further. We'll see how it goes, and I'll report in fully. :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A new chaplet in my arsenal...

I just added a new chaplet to my bevy of rosaries and chaplets, and thought I'd share.

Cam over at Full of Grace Creations on etsy made me a chaplet dedicated to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the only Native American ever beatified, at my request. I detailed Blessed Kateri's importance to my family's faith life about a month ago, and read up on her chaplet.

It's a set of 24 beads, one devoted to each year of her life. Each set of 8 has different significance. On the 8 brown beads you recite 8 Our Fathers; on the 8 red beads you recite Hail Mary's; and on the 8 crystal beads you recite Glory Be's. The colors represent earth, blood/love, and water, respectively. It's officially called a "Kateri Indian Rosary" although I don't totally love that name. :)

Here's my chaplet:

So pretty. :) I plan to ask Blessed Kateri's intercession on any number of intentions.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Weekend dancing and baby growth

Our weekend was so busy that I didn't get much nesting done, but that's ok. I still have plenty of time. I'm still plotting away in my little mind, and I know things will come together as spring approaches.

But speaking of spring...whoa baby, is it cold here today. We're used to winter weather, but it's fairly uncommon for temperatures to dip below 0 in this region. There were some school closings and delays this morning due to the dangerous wind chill and buses failing to start. The dead of winter is here in full force. Next week will bring February, and while still plenty wintry, I see that as a bit of a turning point. February is infinitely closer to May than January. :)

At any rate, I didn't get any work done on the baby's room, but he or she is growing steadily. Despite the physical discomforts, I enjoy this second half of pregnancy more than the first. You can feel the baby moving and growing, and with the birth so much closer, the sense of anticipation is just rife with excitement.

I'm officially at that stage of pregnancy where sleeping positions become an issue. Your back is no longer comfortable, and your stomach is getting dicey. You're stuck with your sides, and thus shifting in the night resembles a beached sea creature grasping for the comforts of water. Spending too much time on one side results in a sore hip, so I swith frequently, and doing a full 180 is not conducive to my husband getting much sleep, but it can't be helped. Last time, I procured a gigantic body pillow that Mike called my "boyfriend" to try and ease the aches. We have a double bed only, and this thing took up the space of a full person. I'm foregoing the body pillow this time, hence the flipping.

Besides a little sciatica, I feel great. Finally, I am noticing a slight difference in my dancing. My center of gravity is off, and so turning with anything resembling grace is growing challenging. My little muscle ache is mostly better, but still comes back to bite me occasionally, and 3/4 shimmies "on the up" seem to be a particular problem. I've designed a faker shimmy move that will have to do for the time being. :) Otherwise, I really do feel good. And despite a weight gain of (a very normal) 12 pounds, I feel confident that my body looks feminine and beautiful. I've been better about psychologically balancing my body image this time as compared to last. Probably out of necessity, since I'll be squeezing into my costume again in about 3 weeks to appear in public. With a bare belly. Fit Pregnancy magazine has helped me to see that pregnant bodies are lush and lovely.

And here's a little TMI for those of us who are not particularly lushly endowed under normal circumstances: it's not just your belly that grows during pregnancy. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror undressed over the weekend and nearly fainted. Are those mine?! I look like I could appear in an adult film. I'm enjoying it, while it lasts. :)

New headcoverings...

I hadn't bought any new headcoverings in awhile, and since I'm wearing mine more, I felt justified in adding to my collection. Especially since Melissa of Happy Homestead on etsy is going on maternity leave for a time, I thought now was my opportunity to pounce.

I'm a big fan of headbands. They keep my hair off my face, and they're very easy to throw on in the mornings and wear just about anywhere. I'm not a "full time coverer," but I have to say that I enjoy wearing my coverings both in and out of Sunday Mass. It does seem to remind me to try to "pray without ceasing" when I'm wearing them. They just make me feel soothed.

Thus, I procured 2 new stretchy lace headbands, and I adore them both. These are so pretty, and fit any head size. I feel completely comfortable wearing these to work or out shopping. One is sage green:

and the other is mulberry:

I have to say, the mulberry is the most frivolous of the three (dark purple? it just struck my fancy for deep, rich colors, so I treated myself) but it's my favorite. :) It's just SO pretty. And I've found that I do have a number of things that coordinate with it.

I also picked up a new convertible covering in a fabric called "Spring Daisies":

This can be worn as above, or converted to a headband. I like the colors, very springy. I have several others in this style, and I wear them all often. I wear them fuller around the house, and then cinch them into a headband for outside wear.

I'll fess up and admit that I've been a tad naughty and have been perusing Garlands of Grace for new arrivals as well. Sigh. If only a money tree grew in our backyard... They should have their new spring line out soon, and I may not be able to resist. :) But I have a rule; I have to wait at least a month since a prior purchase. :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Looking forward to the weekend

Doesn't it always seem that 4 day work weeks feel *longer* than the usual 5 days? It's odd, but true. Very wintry here right now, and I'm looking forward to a cozy weekend.

I have a few new headcoverings arriving today in the mail. :) I will show them off next week. I've been wearing mine a lot more lately, even around the house. I actually wore one to work the other day. I have a lot of headbands, so they're pretty low key. They're just so pretty, and are very practical - they keep my hair off my face!

I'm certain I'll do some more nesting this weekend. Our storage area *really* needs a lot of attention, but I'm not quite ready to tackle that yet. Well, the house isn't quite ready for me to tackle that yet, I should say. Once I get in there, I'm going to want to start pulling out baby clothes and equipment, and we just don't have room just yet until other factors fall into place. SO much tornadoing to come.

I think what I can do is clear out the small dresser/changing table that currently lives in Hank's room and start getting it ready to be exclusively Baby CL's. Hank has a larger dresser in his room that will fit all of his stuff just fine, so I'll make that conversion either this weekend or next. That way, when I do reach the baby clothes, I can start folding the gender neutral stuff and putting it in the baby's dresser, since it will be all emptied out.

We'll also be busy with other things this weekend, so I don't know how much of this I'll get done. Hank is invited to a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese (oh, the sacrifices we make for our kids happiness...) and Mike has a few things going on, so I'll be doing some Hank duty myself. We're all going to Mass together for the vigil on Saturday night, which will be very nice. All 3 of us will go about every month or two. Mike prefers the vigil over Sunday morning, so whenever he wants to go, I accommodate. :)

I have belly dance tonight. Yep, still dancing. :) In fact, we have a performance coming up in February, and guess who'll be there with a 6 and a half months pregnant bare belly? I'll post a picture. :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A little baby to pray for...

I'm a huge message board reader, and one of the secular boards that I frequent these days is I mostly linger on the May 2011 board, since it consists of women all in the same stage of pregnancy that I am, although I also visit the 2nd Trimester board, Baby Names, Natural Birth, and Pregnant Over 35. I mostly lurk, but I do enjoy my time over there. I usually read posts while I'm eating lunch.

A few weeks ago, it came to my attention that one of the women on the May 2011 board had received a devastating diagnosis for her unborn baby. Her 20 week ultrasound indicated Down Syndrome, which was later confirmed via amniocentesis, and unfortunately his case is a severe one. He has a serious heart defect such that he may not even live to birth. His mother started a blog that I now follow: Prayers for Mason. This is a Christian family that I know would appreciate the extra prayers.

Given my age, early in my pregnancy I dwelled for a time on what it would be like to carry a baby that you knew that severe health problems. I would do what this mother is also choosing: to carry my baby to term or as long as he shall live, and just deal with things as they arise. But my goodness. What an emotional roller coaster, to put it mildly. Dealing with how sick your baby is, but also the fact that they live in you for the time being, but may not make it once outside the womb. Just heartbreaking. It makes any pregnancy woes I experience trivial by comparison, and I vow never to complain about them again. I will offer them up for this family, and urge you to do the same.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Baby CL's world: January edition

So, news in the life of Baby CL... I had my 22 week ob/gyn appointment this past Monday, and the 20 week mark begins the measurement of "fundal height," meaning they measure your belly. Mine is pretty nonexistent when I lay down, so that was that.

Everything else looks textbook, and the baby has a nice steady heartbeat of 140 beats per minute. Hank got to hear it, which he made his "I'm excited, but trying not to look excited" face for. I asked about my groin (ugh!) muscle pain, and she believes that it is just round ligament pain, and will subside with time. In fact, it has already subsided, and hasn't bothered me at all this week, which is a real blessing.

I go back in 4 weeks, and this will be my glucose screening for gestational diabetes, after which I'll begin appointments every 2 weeks. I mean, seriously. This pregnancy is flying by.

My belly is very much in that "cute" phase. Too bad that doesn't last until the end of pregnancy... I have pulled out the maternity clothes finally. I'm still wearing my regular pants with a Bella Band (the maternity pants are still a bit too big), but the tops are a welcome addition since they tend to be longer and more belly flattering.

I noticed an interesting thing when bargain shopping at Target on Monday. Apparently designers think that pregnant women prefer modest clothing because all the blouses, skirts and dresses are longer. That's fine, no objection there, but why don't they make more non-pregnant clothing like this? I was hoping to find some stretchy sweaters and long skirts/dresses, and once again, slim pickings. But buried in the 75% off rack?

*angels sing*

I found 2 adorable sweaters (Liz Lange Maternity) with cowl necklines and a flattering waist that stretches to the hips marked down to $6.24. I scooped both. I also found 2 dresses that although not ankle length, extend well past the knee. I was surprised to see that both were also Liz Lange Maternity. I would have rather bought regular ones so that I could wear them after pregnancy too, but for $7 I wasn't complaining. I got the dresses in black and gray. I also grabbed a long gray sweater/cardigan that I can wear over my more summery maternity tops from my pregnancy with Hank. It was a very good bargain.

Skirts though were very hard to come by, as always. Unless you wear skirts that go to mid-thigh level, which frustrates me to no end. I'll keep looking. Sometimes Old Navy has long skirts. They don't have any right now, but maybe when the spring clothes come out.

Anyway, Baby CL has been very cutely attired the past couple of days. I feel him/her moving around in there regularly, and I can't wait to meet them in just 4 and a half months!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nesting gone wild

I knew it was only a matter of time before this started, and the time has come. I now look pregnant, and thus the incessant need to nest is underway. Let the games begin!

It started, as it always does, with cleaning/organizing. We need to clear out what is now the upstairs office so that it can become the nursery. This is not a large room, but we have a solid number of items in there. Mike's desk, our computer, our printer/scanner/copier, my yarn collection, and some dressy dresses that I don't wear that often but consume the entirety of the small closet.

The furniture is going to have to be moved to the downstairs guest room, also doubling as Henry's play room. This is a nice sized room, comparable to the other main bedrooms, but obviously I don't want the children and us on different levels. At least not yet. So this room has multi-purposes and is a nice addition to our first floor. My in-laws stay in there when they visit, and Hank plays in there. We also put guests coats in there when we host a dinner.

The problem is, it's already full. We have a futon in there, a nightstand, 3 bookcases (Mike and I are both bookworms), and Hank's toys. We're going to have to consolidate the bookcases to make space, and I'm not certain how we will do this, and it's making me twitchy. I also have some books up in our bedroom. *bites nails* I weeded the collection this weekend, and donated to our parish's rummage sale, but we still have a LOT of books. I'm contemplating buying some larger bookcases (so that we'll have less of them) and trying to fit them all in our bedroom, but I don't know if this will work. *sweats*

In the mean time, I thought I'd work on some things that I can do now. I wanted to get my yarn collection safely into some big storage bins so that I could move it more easily and no yarn-eating insects could wreck havoc with it, and I wanted to clean out the closet in the future nursery to make space for baby clothes.

Suddenly I had a eureka! moment. If I cleaned out our bedroom closet, maybe I could fit the yarn in there. But to do that, I'd also need to clean out the guest room closet, so that it could fit some electronic equipment we're saving but not currently using that was sitting in our closet. Makes perfect sense, right?

Away I go, tackling the guest room closet. Mike came in to find me waist deep in belly dance hip scarves, body lotion, shower gel and candles. I had this big basket in there filled with all sorts of surprises, none of which I've touched in years. Some of the lotion had even started to turn...colors.

Pretty soon, I had a garbage bag filled with (no nicer way to say this) crap, and Mike was eagerly hauling it out. I am blessed to have a very helpful and tidy husband. When I de-clutter, he rejoices and jumps in to help me.

As I moved to the mysterious top shelf that seemed to contain a mix of unused exercise DVD's, board games and inexplicably, a stethoscope, my pregnant nose kicked in.

"What's that smell, Honey?"

"Eggnog. I'm trying to burn through all these candles."

So, in our eggnog-scented house, Mike now moved that electronic equipment from our closet down to the emptied guest room closet shelf. It looks much tidier. Next, I moved on to our closet. Mike's clothes are hung up neat as pins. My side: not so much. I lugged up the maternity clothes, and set to work. I have a rule for closet cleaning: if I haven't worn it since last time I cleaned out the closet, into the donation bag it goes. Closet now clean and floor clean.

Hence, I fetched my yarn collection. Oh dear. This was shameful. I filled *2 GIANT BINS* with yarn, plus I had other kits and works-in-progress that I didn't put in there. I am banned from buying yarn until the baby goes to high school. But I was thrilled to move it out of the future nursery. I snapped the lids on, dragged them to the closet, and found...

That they don't fit. S*!@ I had to put them in Hank's closet. Oh well. At least everything is clean now.

Another thing that I do when I'm nesting is cook/bake. In early labor with Hank, I made pasta sauce from scratch. I also rearranged our kitchen cupboards, went to Mass, and received the sacraments of reconciliation and of the sick. It was a busy day.

This weekend, I decided to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch. The problem with this plan is that I really don't bake. You see, I'm a terrible baker. I mean, just awful. It seems to require more precision than cooking, and so often, my textures just don't come out right. But I figure, how do you get good at it unless you keep trying? Plus, being bad at something has never stopped me before! I plowed ahead.

I dragged Hank to the store to acquire real butter, chocolate chips and white flour, and dove in while Mike watched the NFL playoffs. First, I laid the butter out, just like Betty Crocker suggests. One must have perfectly softened butter, correct? Otherwise, she says it will affect the outcome of the cookies, and I've made enough bad cookies in my life to take her seriously. Too hard? Bad. Too soft? Also bad. I took a stick out and left it for an hour while we ate our pizza and watched football.

As halftime dawned, I darkened the kitchen door. My butter was pristine! You could gently leave a fingerprint in it but otherwise not squeeze it at all. Perfect. I grab my recipe. Right. I need a cup of butter, which is 2 STICKS. Blast! I had one perfect stick and one too cold stick. I murmured a bad word and carefully placed the second stick in the microwave. I sweated over the number panel. 10 seconds? 15? I watched it carefully as it spun, and took it out right away. It was too soft, so I said another bad word. But I used it anyway because I was tired of poring over butter.

In it went into the mixer, along with many of the other fixins.' Hank hit the start button, and away it spun. We didn't encounter any trouble until the recipe said to "stir in" the remaining ingredients. Well, I put them in the mixer and mixed them in there. Needless to say, I don't think I was supposed to do that, and this is why baking is a near occasion of sin for me. Any little mishap, and it seems that the texture reaches disastrous proportions. My cookie dough now looked like it had spent a week in the Sahara with nary a drop of refreshment. It was all dry and crumbly. Although the recipe didn't tell me to do this (making me very nervous) I mixed in some water and at least then it *looked* normal. I was already feeling discouraged, but Mike's team seemed to have shown signs of life based on my painful sacrifice in the kitchen, so perhaps I was performing some sort of public good.

Next I had to spoon the cookies onto the cookie sheet, and this is another bone of contention for me. The recipe ways to "drop the dough by the teaspoonful onto the greased cookie sheet." Sounds so easy, no? BUT. Do they have to be round? How far apart should the little balls be? Mine always seem to run together and turn into cookie blobs.

By this point I was losing my patience, so I scooped them on there by the tablespoonful with abandon. Naturally, they did turn into cookie blobs. Actually, "misshapen mounds" may be a more accurate description. And I also worried that I let them get too brown. Oh well. By that point, I didn't really care.

I will say, once they cooled (and I created separations between them with my spatula and pried them off the sheet), they didn't look quite so frightening, and they taste quite good. We've been whipping through them at dessert time. But seriously. What am I doing wrong? Does anybody have any baking tips for me? I really want to get better at it, and this is part of my learning process. :)

So, that was my nesting weekend. Next stop: cleaning out the storage. That'll be a doozy, since it inherited many of the items that used to live in the closets. Also, paint and rug color selection. This is big, people!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Study Bible review

Recently, with a Christmas gift care, I picked up a copy of the brand new Ignatius Catholic Study Bible - New Testament. I own a few Bibles, and I do have a favorite, but I don't own a study bible. I've always wanted to participate in a formal Bible Study, and our parish holds them regularly, but my schedule simply doesn't allow it right now.

So, when I saw this, I got excited. This bible is edited by Dr. Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch. I've read many of Dr. Hahn's books, and his conversion story, Rome Sweet Home was instrumental in my own reversion back to the faith as a young adult. This study bible includes the entire New Testament with extensive footnotes, maps, a concordance, easy-to-read introductions to each book, and topical essays. Have you ever seen all of those slim paperbound study guides to each book in the New Testament in your local Catholic store? I have, and these are all of them, bound up into one volume. The Old Testament is only just beginning :) so no accompanying volume on that yet. But it's in progress.

I've started making this my evening devotional, and it's really wonderful. It's much more "approachable" than, say, the New American Bible footnotes, which oftentimes feel a bit scholarly for me. :) I find these very readable, and they use a series of icons to let you know what type of issue a comment pertains to

I have the leatherbound version, and the cover is quite nice and durable. It comes with 2 gold ribbons for page marking, which is a favorite feature of mine. Check it out if you're interested in a home study Bible Study. :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Pregnancy brings out all the indignities and words you'd never usually say in polite conversation, doesn't it? I'm in the mid-second trimester, and this is when the more serious discomforts traditionally begin. With Hank, I had severe sciatica, and thought maybe I'd escaped it this time...

Not to be. Sciatica is quite literally a pain in the ass. It's the baby putting pressure on a nerve that runs directly through your left butt cheek. I notice it most when I get up from sitting or laying for a length of time. Right now, it's not bad, but as I creep toward the third trimester, I know what awaits me. But alas. It disappears immediately with delivery, so somehow, I'll make it.

The new thing is even less pleasant. I mean, is there anything good about the word "groin"? It's a very awkward-sounding word, if you ask me, which you didn't. It makes me visibly cringe to even read that word. But somehow, I've managed to strain a muscle there. *shudders." Great, crotch pain. Just what you figured you'd be reading about today.

I noticed it a few days ago when I set off for my daily walk. I walk every day for exercise, my handy iPod Max in tow, and in the winter, I walk indoors. The buildings here are conveniently connected by a serious of indoor walkways. It's not exactly scenic, but it's practical. Well, about 10 minutes into my walk, the right side of my groin *shudders AGAIN* starts to feel like it's on fire. And the problem became that even slowing down or stopping for a minute didn't abate it, and then I was a long way from my office. Sitting down and resting for about 10 minutes following the walk seemed to be the only remedy.

I don't experience this when simply walking as I go about my daily business, or even taking the stairs, which I do multiple times each day. But when I do my exercise walking, I seem to unconsciously hit the "POWER!" button in my brain, and my pace is substantially quicker. Even consciously trying to get myself to slow down had little effect. I guess it's all the bad (but fun, admit it!) 80's and 90's music I have on my workout playlist. MC Hammer anybody?

Today, I decided to take a different tack, knowing that I simply needed to take it easy. Instead of gearing up with Max, I grabbed my coat and boots. I went outside, and it was wonderful. I didn't walk for as long, true, and without music accompaniment I seemed better able to control my pace. Plus, the snow acted as a natural pace setter. It was cold and snowy, but walking outside in the winter is so, so peaceful. Barely anyone else is out there, and it's quiet and serene. Plus, I could just loop around my cluster of buildings, so if I felt uncomfortable, I didn't have far to go to get back to my office. It worked out well. No pain.

I go to the doctor for my regular monthly appointment on Monday, so I'll ask her about it then. I'm hoping this won't put a damper on my belly dancing, but obviously, I have no control over it. I'll just have to deal with whatever happens. In the end, it's very worth it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Headcovering alert...

I was perusing one of my favorite headcovering shops the other day, Happy Homestead on etsy, and saw that the owner, Melissa, had posted a message. She's due to give birth shortly, and will be putting her store on vacation mode for quite awhile starting at the beginning of February. So, if you are in the market for a cute new covering, head over quick! I'm plotting to make a few new additions, and I'm having a hard time choosing!

What I like about her coverings is that they are in the cute style that I like (convertible kerchief/headbands, though she also does make longer veils), they're well made, and she ships them out lickety split. You'll have your new coverings in days. I've got my eye on several.

I like this style:
and this one:

and she'll make them in a multitude of colors. Decisions! I do like the deep purple, but also a dark green. Maybe cinnamon? That might look nice with my hair...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Energy levels high, sleep levels low...

I'm feeling really great these days, and looking a bit more pregnant. I've gained 9.5 pounds, which is perfectly normal, and I'm thrilled with. I've been walking and dancing, staying very active, which I know has the added benefit of keeping my spirits up. Right now, it's the dead of winter here; January is a LONG month :) even for those of us who like winter. I'm blessed to have a friend around the block that I walk with twice a week in the evenings, and the fellowship is so good that we barely notice the cold! And the exercise, walking on the fallen snow, is awesome.

Despite the fact that I haven't gained much weight, I've been noticing a few twinges of sciatica here and there, and I can't lie on one hip too long at night before it gets sore. Lots of baby growth taking place right now. Suddenly, within the past week or so, the baby's movements are so much more noticeable. Mike can easily feel them from the outside. It's that wonderful movement from flutters to body parts elbowing you as the baby rolls over.

My belly is still on the smaller side, just like with Hank, but it's certainly growing all the same. There are a few pairs of pants that I can still wear without the Bella Band, and others that I can zip but not button, so I pop the Bella Band over them. There are though, a few in a smaller size that I can't even zip anymore. So, I'm going to have to make some wardrobe changes soon. Next week, I'm going to go to Walmart and pick up one of those nice plastic storage bins, and gradually take pieces out of my closet that don't work anymore, and add maternity clothes in. This way, I can keep my regular clothes stored neatly until after I deliver, since closet space is pretty lacking in our house.

This pregnancy, to the extent that I've bought any clothing (pretty minimal) I've been buying stretchy regular clothes, rather than maternity. I find that it's a lot cheaper this way, plus, I won't feel too bad about still wearing that stuff after I deliver. I have a distinct aversion to maternity wear once the baby is out of utero. I of course have some maternity clothes from when I was pregnant with Hank. However, my belly time with him was summer/early fall. This time, it's hard winter/early spring. I didn't have a single maternity sweater. Thankfully, my cousin lent me some of her maternity clothes, and I'm going to supplement simply with stretchy stuff. I do have some Boucle sweaters from Victoria's Secret that I think will stretch pretty well. Yesterday at Target, while picking up a humidifier for Hank, I also bought 2 workout tops for dance. I just got them one size up in the regular activewear. They were half the price of the maternity camis and tank tops.

So, that's all fun stuff. I'm not cursing maternity clothes quite as much now. The time is approaching, and I've accepted it. I'm just so excited for the baby to be getting bigger. That means they'll be here sooner. :)

The discomfort side of things is my sleep abilities. I wonder if God has this planned out so that we become used to being up in the middle of the night? I remember being heavily pregnant with Hank, and people saying to me, "get your sleep now, because when the baby comes you won't get any!" I still maintain that this is an obnoxious thing to say to a pregnant woman, and I have never repeated it to a single soul. Can you *store* sleep? NO. So, this comment is meaningless. I do remember thinking to myself, "I am *8 months pregnant.* I can barely sleep. How much worse could it be with a newborn?"

Well. :) Remember, I don't hold things back in this blog. Unless you're in a very lucky minority of the population (and I pray that you are, I don't wish misery on others simply because we struggled so much) the answer is that it's SO MUCH WORSE. But there's really no way to discover this until you have your very own, brand new squalling bundle fresh from the hospital, so there's no point in obsessing about it now. I will offer just this, which is something I wish someone had in fact told me before we had our first child: get a book on baby sleep and read about it before you deliver. I mean, I had no idea. Babies sleep, right? A lot, right? I mean, what's there to learn about?

*UNLADYLIKE SNORT* How uninformed I was. This time, I have 2 books in my queue at the library: Dr. Sears' No Cry Sleep Solution and The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight. Both are geared toward non-cry-it-out solutions to achieving decent infant sleep. I'm definitely not into "sleep schedules" for newborns, or anything like that. I just want little ways to help baby sleep better so that down the road, they have good sleep habits and everyone gets more rest. It's your choice, of course, as to what kind of sleep information you're interested in, but I would say don't wing it. Naturally, you can take or leave this advice, but for me, I wish I'd known 5 years ago what I know today. It would have possibly saved me a worsening battle with postpartum depression. Sleep deprivation has tentacle-like powers that I never envisioned in my worst nightmares.

So anyway, we still can't hear the baby making any noise, so what's my sleep problem right now? Simply that I'm pregnant, I suppose. If I awaken in the night, as I often do, to pee, to switch sides because my hip hurts, because I have a charlie horse that feels like it may devour the entire lower half of my leg, I simply can't get back to sleep. I don't know why, but it was like this with Hank too. But, I persevere. Now that the holidays are over, and I passed the 20 week mark, the birth feels closer. And I CAN'T WAIT!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Young adult Catholic fiction...

I know I've posted about these books before, the John Paul 2 High series, published by Sophia Institute Press. But I recently read Book 2, Trespasses Against Us, and they're just so good I thought I'd give them another mention. :)

Contemporary Catholic fiction is fairly hard to come by(at least as compared to general Christian fiction, which has a vibrantly large representation), and these books are a breath of fresh air. They are indeed written for a young adult audience, but nowadays, the young adult market is very hot, and it's not all young adults reading those books. This is an interesting genre, even if you're much older than 16. Sophia Institute Press has 2 imprints for Catholic fiction: Imagio, and Chisel and Cross. You can look at selections from both here.

But back to this series in particular. Book 1 is called Catholic, Reluctantly, and in this we are introduced to a small group of students attending a start-up conservative Catholic high school called John Paul 2 High. I like the diversity of characters that we meet: Celia, the principal's daughter, is the oldest in a big family and takes her faith very seriously. She tries hard to live a good Catholic life, and is sometimes labeled as "too perfect" by her siblings and others. Liz is the daughter of a teacher, but has a rebellious streak. Her sneaking around to meet up with a guy from the nearby public high school is putting her in some moral predicaments. Allie is the new girl, a transfer from the public school after a shooting took place there. She's technically Catholic, though her family has never practiced actively, and feels like an outside amongst the other Catholic students and their "weird" prayer practices. George is the strong male character, trying to live out a Catholic life while dealing with the temptations all teenage boys encounter. Brian is formerly homeschooled, for the first time attending a traditional school, and finds the adjustment difficult at times. J.P is the school prankster, and James, another new student, is so far to the ultra-traditionalist extreme (with a bit of a dark personality), that he gets under the skin of even the most pious of his classmates.

There's a bit of a thriller plot that run through both books, which continues into the third and as yet unpublished installment. But just the peek into the everyday lives of Catholic teenagers makes these books compelling for me. As you know, I like personal stories, books that demonstrate, rather than explain, our faith. They are very well written and engaging. Book 3 is about Allie's encounter with a non-Catholic summer camp and the precarious position her budding faith is put into as a result. It's done and in post-production, so should be released later this year. I buy these books the instant they appear on Amazon, and this will be no exception. These are great reads for you to enjoy and pass on to teenagers that you know.

Friday, January 7, 2011

An ode to my husband...

6 years ago tomorrow, Mike and I were married (there I am above, getting ready to meet Mike at the church :) ). It's hard to believe it's been that long. Granted, I hope that we live to be married 50 plus more years, but for a girl that barely dated before meeting Mike, 6 years seems like a long time!

It's really hard to fully describe how much Mike and my marriage mean to me. I love being married; I thrive in commitment. I never enjoyed the "dating scene." It was only when I released control over *trying* to meet someone that I did meet Mike, through mutual friends. And I was a month shy of turning 30 years old when I did finally marry. I'm not saying 30 is old! Far from it. It's just that many of my friends married much younger, and I did feel a bit left out. It was a hard, but grace-filled, time in my 20's as I struggled to figure out what God wanted for my life.

These years since I've been married have been the happiest of my life. I love my role as wife and mother, and each day I wake up happy, grateful to have this life. This husband, this son, this new life in my womb, this home, this future that we're building together. And yet, I realize that the best years of my life are probably even still yet to come, which enkindles an even greater sense of awe. I'm still looking forward to meeting this baby, and possibly more, should that be God's will, to seeing our children grow, to trips together and eventually retirement. To many, many dinners spent talking over wine, and unexpected surprises and joys.

It's all so very wonderful, and I know that I love my husband more today than I did that day 6 years ago. Each day, that love continues to grow. It's amazing to me when I think back to when we were dating - it was a special time, but marriage is so much better!

I think that because I always wanted to marry, I thought marriage would come "naturally" to me. It did not, and I don't think it does to anybody. Everything felt very natural when we married, that's not what I mean. It's just that marriage has taught me so much.

At the base of everything, Mike and I are friends. THAT is what will keep a marriage together for a half a century or more. Passion and your role as lovers are important, and it's certainly essential to nourish those physical desires as the years go by, but that won't get you through the tough times, although it can be a welcome distraction :). Through illness and aging, loss of loved ones, misadventures of our children, financial difficulties. It's the emotional bond that gets you through those things.

And your emotional bond is nurtured via the ins and outs of daily life. Cooking and cleaning, raising children, making financial decisions, making career decisions, encouraging each other in your interests. Investing time to spend together, even when a million other things call for your attention. All of this happens most fruitfully AFTER marriage for the most part, and I think some of that is lost in modern society. As a Catholic, I of course believe in the importance of the sacrament of matrimony in solidifying your bond and putting you on the right spiritual path. My role as Mike's wife is to help him get to heaven.

I think that what I have learned the most from my role as wife is that I can't control, via my own emotional needs or actions, what Mike does. I'd like him to come to Mass with us more often, but I cannot make him go, and applying pressure on him will only make it seem like a chore and make him want to go less. Everyone has to come to their own resolutions to things, based on a mutual discussion, certainly, but in the end of their own will and volition. With regard to spiritual matters, everyone has their own path, and needs to come to their own "spark" wherein they communicate with God. A person cannot force that on another person. All you can do is pray and try your best to show God's light through your own life. And like all people, I'm certain that I fail to show that light pretty frequently.

On other matters, I've learned that while you may think going into marriage that it will change the other person in ways you'd like to see, the one who will come out changed is yourself. I've found things that I could do to make being someones partner a little easier, and over the years, I've changed my routines accordingly. The other person does not need to change in order for you to be happy; you should learn and grow, try to compromise, and realize that your expectations may have to mature.

Patience is a crucial virtue. The value of *waiting*. Feel emotional about something? Give it a half hour. You're bound to feel less edgy then and better able to discuss it, as well as listen to the other person more productively. This lesson took me well over 5 years to even recognize, let alone make any headway. :)

After these 6 years, I'm so grateful for everything that I've learned, and for everything that we've been through together. We got married already fairly settled into adult life and had to figure out how to coexist with each other. We had a beautiful son 10 months after our wedding and thus immediately had to figure out how to be parents together. We struggled through the early years of parenting and how to do a good job at it. We worked together when Mike was unhappy with his career, and navigated through a few disappointing positions. We mourned when a job we both thought was ideal did not work for him as we had planned. We took a significant leap of faith and decided for Mike to quit his job and go back to school full-time to pursue civil engineering. We worked hard to create a budget to live on one income while supporting 3 people. We bought a home together. We created another life together. And this year, we're facing adding another member to our family all while completely uncertain when and where Mike will work after he finishes his degree in May, where Hank will attend school in the fall, and whether or not I will achieve tenure (and thus get to keep my job!).

None of it is easy, but it's all so very worthwhile. And I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else other than my husband. Now I'm crying. I swear, it's the pregnancy hormones! Those toilet paper commercials with the little puppy make me cry too.

I thought I'd close with the nuptial blessing that the priest recited at the end of our wedding Mass. I still look back on that day so fondly, and continue to learn from this prayer:

"My dear friends, let us turn to the Lord and pray that he will bless with his grace this woman, now married in Christ to this man, and that he will unite in love the couple he has joined in this holy bond.

Father, by your power you have made everything out of nothing. In the beginning you created the universe and made mankind in your own likeness.You gave man the constant help of woman so that man and woman should no longer be two, but one flesh, and you teach us that what you have united may never be divided.

Father, you have made the union of man and wife so holy a mystery that it symbolizes the marriage of Christ and his Church.

Father, by your plan man and woman are united, and married life has been established as the one blessing that was not forfeited by original sin or washed away in the flood. Look with love upon this woman, your daughter, now joined to her husband in marriage. She asks your blessing. Give her the grace of love and peace. May she always follow the example of the holy women whose praises are sung in the scriptures.

May her husband put his trust in her and recognize that she is his equal and the heir with him to the life of grace. May he always honor her and love her as Christ loves his bride, the Church.

Father, keep them always true to your commandments.
Keep them faithful in marriage and let them be living examples of Christian life.

Give them the strength which comes from the gospel so that they may be witnesses of Christ to others. Bless them with children and help them to be good parents. May they live to see their children’s children. And, after a happy old age, grant them fullness of life with the saints in the kingdom of heaven. We ask this through Christ our Lord."


Thursday, January 6, 2011

What's that squished like a pancake? Oh right, my bladder. And Eucharistic Adoration with children...

I'm really at this wonderful point in my pregnancy. I feel great, and even though sporting a small pregnant bump, am not big and unwieldy yet. The only things that ail me these days are common pregnancy woes related to my poor internal organs. Recently, I saw a drawing of the insides of a pregnant woman. As you can imagine, her intestines are squeezed up like an empty, rolled up tube of toothpaste, and her bladder is flat as a board. The digestion issues persist, which I can live with, although it's not pleasant.

But my poor angelic bladder. Minding its own business, and yet week by week, increased pressure cause it to slowly lose its dignity. Nary a single teaspoon of urine in there yet the weight of uterus and baby contents cause it to spew out distress signals that CL must rush to the bathroom RIGHT AWAY! This happens at least two dozen times in a single 24 hour period. And worst of all: it's lost its will to be strong. Sneeze? Right, my poor beleaguered little bladder gives up the ghost. There's...leakage. Nothing feels like you're aging before your time like incontinence. Lovely. Please bladder, hang in there. I beseech you to bounce back to your former iron will after the baby comes. It's just four and a half months away. We believe in you.

At any rate, I do feel wonderful right now, and am really enjoying this pregnancy. Most of all, I can't wait to meet the baby. My current big boy (but always my baby), Henry, has been super adorable lately. He's been looking at the ultrasound photos a lot, which we keep taped on the refrigerator, and telling me that he's going to help me a lot when the baby comes. His prediction is a baby boy on May 22nd, so we'll see if he's right. :) At least, this is what he wants to happen...

Mike begins teaching again one evening a week coming up in a few weeks, and on that evening, I've been toying with going to adoration as part of my spiritual preparation for birth. Naturally, I would bring Henry with me. So, my question to you is: have any of you taken your young child with you to Eucharistic Adoration? I wouldn't expect to stay an hour, naturally, with a 5 year old in tow. But 15 minutes I think sounds like a reasonable goal. Or, at least it does now. Anybody have any experience with this?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Catholic devotional for your consideration...

I've been talking about birthing babies a lot lately, so I thought I'd lighten things up with some spiritual warfare. :) I mentioned in a recent post that I'm trying to prepare spiritually for the big changes coming up in my life as well, and one way I'm doing that is by trying to have more structure to my daily prayer life. I have almost always prayed a rosary each work day in the car, but I'd gotten a bit complacent overall. I was still praying the rosary, but not meditating nearly enough, and not spending any other time in serious mental prayer aside from short daily spontaneous prayers.

Recently, I picked back up a set of devotional books that I've had for years but haven't used in a long time: In Conversation with God, by Francis Fernandez. This is a 7 book set:

Vol. 1 - Advent and Christmas Season
Vol. 2 - Lent, Holy Week and Easter
Vol. 3 - Ordinary Time, Weeks 1-13
Vol. 4 - Ordinary Time, Weeks 14-23
Vol. 5 - Ordinary Time, Weeks 24-34
Vol. 6 - Special Feasts, January-June
Vol. 7 - Special Feasts, July-December

I have 6 of the 7 books, I'm just missing volume 7. I accumulated them one at a time, since it's easier on the budget that way. They're available used from Amazon, but new directly from the publisher, Scepter Press.

Once you find which day we're on in the Church calendar, grab the appropriate volume, find your place, and you'll discover a 5-6 page meditation on the day's Mass readings. What I like the most about these is that the meditations are very down to earth and practical. For instance, yesterday I read about Jesus' life as a carpenter, and what daily work (often boring and repetitive) can mean for our growth as Christians. Practicing charity, offering up small tasks, doing our work well in order to sanctify it properly. Sometimes meditations are too "heavy" for me, but these, though long, are perfect every single time.

The books are fairly compact, and easily toteable in your work bag or purse. Each comes with a vinyl cover, slip jacket, and ribbon place marker. I've been getting a lot out of them.

Armed with an Amazon gift card from Christmas (so dangerous...) I picked up a copy of Abide in my Word 2011, a book of the daily Mass readings for the year. I actually prefer these yearly publications over permanent missals, since it's easier to find your place in them. Plus, I bang mine up pretty good, and these (like the St. Joseph Sunday Missal, which I buy yearly) are inexpensive and then you can recycle and replace them with a shining brand new copy at the end of the year. At any rate, I figured having the Mass readings during the week would really enhance my meditations from In Conversation with God.

I also picked up a new study Bible (actually, it's just a New Testament) from Ignatius Press, which I'll review that when I receive and dig in. :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Some childbirth book reviews...

I know, right? Childbirth. Not exactly a light topic. But I thought I'd write about the books I read as I prepare for my baby's upcoming birth in May.

I read two over the holidays, and both bear discussion. One of those warning again: lots of body parts going to be tossed around in this post that I normally wouldn't use in everyday conversation. You'll see why when I get to the second of the two books.

I'll write about my previous birth experience in a separate post, but in a nutshell, with Henry I had a vaginal birth in a hospital with epidural anesthesia. It wasn't a bad birth experience, but there are some things that ideally, I'd like to go differently this time. The main thing I'd like different is in regards to Pitocin augmentation (Pitocin is a synthetic hormone that can be used to stimulate strong labor contractions; it is used in labor inductions and augmentation). I don't want it unless absolutely necessary. And I don't consider "Oh Honey, we just don't want you to be here all day!" to be absolutely necessary. Pitocin creates contractions that are immediately stronger than what your body would produce on its own, with no gradual buildup. It makes labor much more painful much more quickly, with little to no natural adjustment period.

I think it's important to state up front that I see nothing wrong, morally or otherwise, with pain relief medication in labor. I don't regret using it, and if I feel the need at the time, I'll use it again. I firmly believe that this is a woman's prerogative and a benefit of modern medicine (who is the patron saint of anesthesiologists? God bless that person).

That being said, last time I did want to labor without it, and for a number of different reasons that I'll discuss in that other post I mentioned, I ultimately chose to receive the epidural. This time, once again I'd like to try for an unmedicated birth, although I will again be delivering in a hospital environment. I really don't like the phrase "natural birth" because it makes it seem like giving birth with pain medication or via cesarean section are "unnatural" and that is simply not the case.

So, this time I'd like to do my homework and actually prepare myself with some knowledge and techniques that may assist me through birth without pain medication. I just want to feel less fear about childbirth, and find some ways I can manage my hospital birth actively on my own. Last time, I did not put much time into preparation at all. I was afraid, and thinking/reading about it made me more afraid, so I just figured I'd wing it.

I'm not planning to take a course (Bradley Method, Hynobirthing, that sort of thing) because I'm not sold on any one of those methods enough to pay a substantial fee and spend a number of weeks in class. Not that I think they don't work. I'm certain they do for many women, I'm just not sure that any one of those methods is right for me. I'd just like some guidance on simple things I can do in labor to help myself. I'm a reader, so books seem the logical choice to me. And in the end, if I want an epidural, I'm going to get one. I don't feel strongly enough about unmedicated labor to deny myself this if I truly feel it is warranted.

Plus, my doctor told me during my labor with Hank that second (and plus) babies come out faster than the first. If she was lying, someone is going to PAY.

Ok, so, on that note... On my first foray to the library, I was looking for Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, and happened upon a real gem: The Big Book of Birth, by Erica Lyon.

This is a practical book that describes every stage of labor, common interventions and cesarean birth, and simple pain coping techniques. I was VERY impressed. I can be a little turned off by real "crunchy" natural birth books that are very biased against hospital birth and obstetricians. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I see nothing wrong with midwife assisted homebirth for those that choose it, but that's not my choice. And I don't want to feel hopeless about my choice, that inevitably I'll end up tied to my hospital bed, unable to move around, or with an unplanned cesarean section.

This book was just very uplifting and perky, and gave you the facts. For me, it helps *tremendously* to see a chart with the different stages of labor, what they entail, and how long each lasts. Last time? Didn't know this stuff. Early labor (your cervix dilates from zero to four centimeters) will last anywhere from a few to eighteen hours, but is not very painful. Active labor (your cervix dilates from four to seven centimeters) will last anywhere from four to eight hours, on average, and while more painful, is usually manageable on your own.

Transition is where things get dicey. I remember this stage well, and I had HAD the epidural. Let's just say it wore off at the end. And with the Pitocin? I remember wanting to crawl up the walls of my hospital room. All I could manage was to writhe in agony on my side (still couldn't walk, despite the waning epidural) and grip the rails on my hospital bed. NOT a happy camper. What the author tells us in this book is that transition (your cervix dilates from seven to ten centimeters), while the most painful, is the shortest of all the labor phases. It will last anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours. I can't tell you what a relief it was for me to read that. Very comforting to have some solid facts in front of me.

I also liked her suggestions for pain management on your own. Importantly, move around. Change positions. Stay upright as much as you can (squat, sit on a birth ball or stool, rock from side to side on your feet, lean on your husband, take a shower, as warm water will immediately dull some of the pain), but if you need a rest, even switching sides, or moving to your hands and knees on the bed can make a difference in helping labor progress. She gave some simple suggestions for handling intense contractions: they should only last about a minute or so, and will include a buildup, peak, and slow down. Pick a visualization to help you through. A boat going up a wave of water and then coming back down, water washing over you, or whatever you like. The contraction should only last a minute, even in transition, and then you should get a break. The breaks will get shorter in duration, but even in transition they should be long enough to catch your breath and gear up for the next one. Pitocin denied me that, which is why I hate it so much. :) Practice relaxation breathing, which is simply breathing deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth.

She also explained pushing and delivery in a way that took the scary mystery out of it for me. Ever wonder how that big baby head comes out of such a small seeming place? Picture pulling a tee shirt over your head. There's plenty of room at first, but then the collar at the top, small and flat, seems to present an obstacle. But once your head gets to that point, and you exert gentle pressure at the opening, it stretches for your head to gradually come through. That's how a baby is born, and that mental picture really helped me.

I really liked this book. In fact, I'm considering purchasing my own copy so that I have it for reference closer to my due date.

The next book that I read was the well known Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin. Ina May Gaskin is an extremely well-respected midwife who practices in Tennessee. She has a place called "The Farm" where thousands of women have delivered their babies, and boasts a cesarean section rate of less than two percent. The book contains a good number of birth stories, all from women who ultimately experienced unmedicated birth, explanations of the birth process and common interventions, and some tips on positioning to help in labor.

This is definitely a "crunchier" book, but it does not present a negative attitude toward obstetricians and hospital birth, which I appreciated. But it's definitely a book that is more, hum, how to say... well, sexual. The author feels strongly that birth is a normal, natural process that we shouldn't be ashamed of (I completely agree), and that while it takes a sexual act to get the baby inside, sexual acts can also aid in getting the baby out. Well...

In many ways, I appreciated her candor. There are some photos in the book that include women who are undressed. This isn't shocking to me, and it shouldn't be to anyone. Our bodies are a beautiful thing, and if a woman wants to be uninhibited by clothes in labor, good for her. I on the other hand, am extremely modest. I prefer to be clothed at all times, unless in the privacy of my own bedroom. But I am very grateful that she took the "ick! scary!" factor out of vaginal birth for me. There is nothing gross about a baby crowning out of a woman's vagina, it is the most natural thing in the world. And seeing the pictures really brought that home to me.

That being said, while I can understand that nipple stimulation can aid in labor progression, I don't plan to ask my husband to implement it in the middle of my birthing room. Or for us to start kissing... you get the picture. That may be appealing to some people, and if that's you, you will love this book. :)

She also had some great pencil drawings of historical birth positions which I found helpful. Many American women give birth in what is called the "supine position," meaning lying on her back with her legs pushed back. This may be convenient for the doctor, but is actually the least efficacious position to give birth in. Gravity is our friend here. Squatting, standing, even sitting up would all make pushing easier for the woman. I think many hospitals have squatting bars now, and while hospitals often reel you in with the fetal monitor and an IV pole, you can still stand up by your bed, sit on a birthing ball, rock back and forth, all by your bedside. I plan to ask about it at my hospital refresher class. As well as about intermittant monitoring to permit short walks and trips to the shower. We'll see. But rest assured, I'll fill you all in. :)

So, that's my long childbirth tome for the day. More to come!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Halfway there!

Today, I am officially 20 weeks, and I couldn't be more thrilled. I'm halfway there! It's gone fast. I know that the most discomfort is still yet to come, but I'm feeling very optimistic that I'm going to make it ok.

So far, I've gained between 9 and 10 lbs., and am on track to gain exactly what I did when I was carrying Hank, 29 lbs. I'd like it to be less, but we'll see. The doctor is very happy with my weight gain, and tells me to gain between 25 and 35 lbs, so I'm perfectly average, which I know is a good thing. I'm also carrying this baby exactly like I did with Hank, meaning I carry throughout my obviously freakishly long torso, since it takes me a very long time to look very pregnant. I don't mind this at all. :) I will say though, that suddenly, Saturday morning, I woke up and looked down, and whoop! There's a baby belly. I swear it happened overnight. But I do look a bit pregnant now. I'm still not wearing maternity clothes, which I'm seeing as some sort of moral victory, because I'm, you know, crazy.

I have been wearing my Bella Bands non-stop for the past couple weeks. I had a white one leftover from my pregnancy with Hank, and at Allison's suggestion, went to Target and found their Be Bands. They're a good deal, $16.99, and they come in 3 colors: white, black and natural. I wanted natural, and they didn't have a small, so I got black, and I do love it. It coordinates with a lot of stuff. My goal is to hold off until 22 weeks and then re-evaluate. I may need to break out the maternity clothes at that point. But I'll take every week that I can.

I feel a ton of movement now, and I can tell that the baby is growing steadily at this point. I feel it throughout the day, and it *feels* different than it did before. Much more activity, much more intense. The baby even quickened during the consecration yesterday at Mass. :) I'm loving that.

This pregnancy, I plan to prepare for childbirth and the newborn time much more than last time, which is to say, prepare at all, because I just had no idea what I was in for with Hank. Last time, I attended the hospital's childbirth preparation class, and took a breastfeeding class, and called it a day. This time, much, much different already. I've been checking out books from the library like a crazy lady, and I'll start reviewing them tomorrow. I'll also provide a detailed account of my labor and delivery with Hank, and how I'd like it to be different this time. Prepare yourself for lots of body parts and fluids descriptions. Certainly, I won't be graphic, but it'll be an adult discussion. :)

I'm also preparing spiritually more intensely this time. I can talk about that more at length too, in a future post.

Anyway, back to prenatal stuff. I have my next ob/gyn appointment in 2 weeks, and I'm taking Hank with me so he can heard the baby's heartbeat. No more planned visits to the perinatologist, which although I adored her, I'm happy about. I feel great right now. Nausea faded at 14 weeks, and so far, I've had no sciatica, which debilitated me with Hank. It could still rear it's ugly head, but I'll take it for now. Aside from a growing belly, I feel like my old self, and my energy levels are high. I've been walking daily, and doing my hand weights and dancing weekly.

Baby is just going to be growing quite a bit now, and I'm going to be preparing. Brace yourselves now for my overpreparedness. :)

A very happy new year...

Well, I'm back again, and by the looks of my December timesheet, which I just completed, I won't be taking any vacation time between now and when the baby is born. :) I have plenty of sick time, but you can only use that for 6 weeks following delivery, and I want to take 14 weeks off. So, lots of blogging from me to look forward to. :)

I had a wonderful weekend with Hank, Mike and my mother-in-law. We had a quiet New Year's celebration at home, and made some good food. Yesterday, the feast of the Epiphany, is one of my favorites. I have a book on patron saint names (that we use to choose baby names) and my name, Tiffany, is listed in there as being derived from the feast of the Epiphany. A stretch, but I like it. Alas, there is no official St. Tiffany.

Yesterday, I was also responsible for the Children's Liturgy of the Word. I was dreading it a bit, since my last foray 2 weeks ago on the 4th Sunday of Advent didn't go as I'd hoped. It wasn't a disaster or anything, but a large group of children came forward, and once we got settled in the back, it quickly became apparent that getting this group to sit still and pay attention would be like trying to get a herd of feral cats to learn the National Anthem. It was a frustrating 20 minutes.

Yesterday, I made sure to pray beforehand, and just felt a gentle urging to relax and enjoy the children. So I did. And it went great. A much smaller group, granted, but I couldn't have asked for a better experience. These are still 4-7 year olds, so their attention does wane, but for the most part, they stayed with me.

I had to love it when we got home, and started putting away our Christmas decorations (at Mike's urging; he'd take them down December 26th if he could, but I insist on waiting until New Years Day, or if possible, the Epiphany; Mike is just very efficient and likes to take care of things as early as possible :)), and Hank announced, "Daddy, it's still Christmas Season, you know." Ah HA! So he WAS paying attention. Makes it all worthwhile.