Friday, April 29, 2011

"Will I get married someday, Mommy?"

"Well, if you want to, Honey, when you get much older. If you find someone that you want to marry, and feel that God is calling you to marry her."

"But who will I marry?"

"Well, I don't know, Sweetheart. It would be a long time from now, when you're an adult."

"And when you get married, you have a wedding?"

"Yes, in church."

"And will you have cake there?"

"Yes, people usually have wedding cakes."

"Did you and Daddy have one?"


"What kind was it?"


"OOhhhhh. I want chocolate."

"Yes, chocolate is your favorite, isn't it?"

" With lots of frosting. I like wedding cake, Mommy."

"I can imagine, Sweetheart."

"Can we have some soon?"

"We can make a regular cake, how does that sound?"

"But after the wedding...what would I talk to her about?" *furrowed brows*

Because after all, he's only marrying her for the *cake*. This came up this morning too, when I was watching BBC America's coverage of the royal wedding. Henry was shocked that they didn't break the wedding cake out right there in Westminster Abbey.

*thinks about cake*

Now I want wedding cake.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Everybody is nesting these days

This morning, as I readied for work, I heard a bunch of commotion out of one of our bedroom windows. I'd been hearing a lot of cooing out there, but I didn't think too much of it. Some pigeons passing by, most likely.

Eventually, I noticed that the level of fluttering coming from that area could not possibly be from a fly by. I can't see fully out that window because there is a privacy panel on it, since the houses are so close together where we live. But there is a little space near the edge that I can peek through. So I peeked.

A mourning dove peeked back.

Mike had forgotten to lower the screen when he took our a/c units out last year, and two doves had taken up residence in the window, beginning a nest. I felt bad, but we had to shoo them out. We don't want to live *quite* that close to nature. Plus, the a/c unit will have to go back in there.

In terms of our nest, Mike is painting the nursery this weekend, and we have a very cute Berber carpet going in there next Tuesday. After that, we'll get the furniture all moved, and I can finally move the baby's "stuff" out of the closet and start arranging it in the room. I also have to wash all the little clothes. Perhaps next weekend. But I'm getting a bit freaked out - I only have a few weeks to go!

And it definitely feels it, physically. Overall, I still feel pretty darn good. But I'm nearly 37 weeks now, so the inevitable comes into play. My ankles and fingers swell very easily now, and sciatica is my constant companion. So is the bathroom, but that's a whole 'nother story.

The baby is a really good size now, and I'm feeling tons of pressure. My body is getting ready whether I'm ready or not!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Has anybody tried this? I just read the book, and thought I'd post my quick thoughts here.

So, the important disclaimer is that I did not attend any classes. And this does sound like a method in which the creator intends for you to receive in-person training. That being said, I read the book all the way through with interest, and I did take a few things away from it. Overall though, I don't feel like I "know" the method well enough to actually use it during my upcoming birth.

I'll start from the beginning. This is definitely a "crunchy" book, but it doesn't bang you over the head with it. I always appreciate that. The introductory section is a fascinating look back into childbirth of the 60's and 70's. The woman who created this method discussed her 4 birth experiences. She opted not to receive pain medication each time (which was really unheard of back then) and if you can believe this, for the first two, she labored unmedicated all the way through to the baby crowning, and then hospital staff would whisk her to a delivery room, strap down her arms and legs, force an ether mask onto her face, and then once she was unconscious, deliver her baby forcibly with forceps. Because that's just what they did back then. There was no concept of a woman pushing her baby out on her own. My own mom told me that about her birth with my older sister in 1970. "Oh, we'll take it from here, Honey." And then she woke up hours after the birth. I mean, I was flabbergasted. An unconscious vaginal birth? I had a hard time imagining this.

As if to add to the horror, the author also detailed how the baby was kept in the infant nursery at all times except for designated feeding times, and at those times, the fathers were not allowed to be in the room. So, a new mother would not see her baby until the day after she delivered, and then for 4-5 days (used to be the customary stay for a vaginal delivery) would be with her baby only a few times per day. The other times she had to see her baby only through the nursery windows. New fathers had no contact with their baby aside from the nursery window glimpses until mother and baby were released from the hospital. I mean, seriously?

I guess I'm a child of twenty first century childbirth, and so this boggles my mind. Although there is no technique presented per se in this information, it strengthened my fortitude to be grateful for the birthing choices we now have and to assert mine in the way that I desire when the big day arrives.

The author ultimately was able to birth her second two children on her own without the dreaded ether, and even have her husband present for the births, after finding a sympathetic doctor. But alas, both were still whisked to the newborn nursery and all that entailed.

At any rate, after the introductory information, the book addresses the main techniques of Hypnobirthing, which are breathing exercises, relaxation, and visual imagery/meditation. As I mentioned, I found it hard to understand all of the techniques just from reading the book. There is a CD included, and I plan to check that out. But overall, it kind of reinforced what I wanted to do anyway: breathing techniques, position changes, music for relaxation, and a mental focal point. I'm sure I'm missing the very essence of Hypnobirthing, which puts these all together in some unique fashion, but it's the best I can do with just the book.

Anybody else have insight on this particular method of natural childbirth?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Catholic Librarian Children update, and the Easter Vigil 2011

Well. :) Lots of updates today. It'll be a long post, so settle in with some tea. I'll start with this morning, and work my way backward, ending with details from Easter weekend, which was very special.

First, I thought I'd post about my morning. It's always interesting when you have small children. :) Hank slept in today, because he was so tired from a hardcore weekend of playing with his cousins, so I took the opportunity to sneak in the bathroom ahead of him and ready for my 36 week ob/gyn appointment. When he woke, all sleepy eyed at 7, I went in to greet him immediately and zero in on an adorable face kissing session. Don't you just love it when they're freshly woken? It's the cutest time of the day. So I proceed in and kiss his head.

Hark! What is that I smell? All experienced parents become attuned to certain smells, and this is one of them: OLD POO. It's quite distinctive.

"Honey, did you go poo in your underwear last night?"

"NO!" *look of shocked indignation at the question*

"Are you sure?"


*Catholic Librarian crosses her fingers and hopes the smell is coming from a prior poo encounter's leftover wipes fermenting in the garbage can after our long weekend away*


"Yes, Honey?"

"Can I have privacy to get dressed?"

This is also another one of those parenting red herrings. I'm sure some children, especially girls, develop the desire for privacy at 5, but not my son, who streaks around the house buck naked at every given opportunity. I shut his door and tap my foot outside for approximately 5 seconds, when, in a totally expected development, I hear:

"Um, Mommy? Can you come in?"

When I open the door, the smell of old poo is no longer subtle; it smacks me right in the face. And old poo is the *worst* kind of poo to clean up, because, well (cover your eyes, those with sensitive dispositions) it's all dried and stuck to everything. In a *crevice*. Not pleasant. This is one of those times that you really know that parenting is a two person job.

*call downstairs* "Honey? Do you want underwear duty or butt duty?"

Because both need to be rinsed out and scrubbed down. The life of a parent: glamour, all glamour.

So after that adventure-filled start to the morning, I dropped Hank at his before school program and head to the doctor. Starting this week, I'll be there weekly. And they'll be seeing an awful lot of me, if you know what I mean. *sigh*

So, I had the Group B Strep screen today, and hopefully that will come back negative next week. Otherwise, I'll need antibiotics during labor, and I'd like to avoid that. Baby CL is officially in the vertex position (head down, doing a good job of following directions) and growing right on target. Next week, I'll be officially full term, and we'll see if my body has made any progress toward labor. It's all very exciting.

I'm feeling totally great, albeit like a woman very "full with child". I've gained 24 pounds, which is fabulous, but you know. I feel a bit like a beached whale. I've gotten very used to it, and the end is so close, I'm handling it psychologically much better than I did when I was carrying Hank, when it felt like I may be the first woman to officially be pregnant FOREVER. But it will still be very, VERY nice to be the only one in my body coming up here pretty soon. That will be a very good day.

Ok, so. Flashing back to this weekend. Saturday was crazy, but so very worth it. We arrived at my sister's house at 1, and by 3:10 I was on a train on my way to New York City to attend the Easter Vigil. I met up with my friend Mary, and we spent some time visiting prior to Mass. By time we headed to the church, I was feeling great emotionally, but not so great physically. I still had a cold and was hacking unattractively, plus I hadn't eaten a proper dinner. I had eaten, don't get me wrong, it's just that my body is used to eating a full dinner at 5:30 pm every night. Mike and I are a tad freakish that way. As Mass begun, I was feeling a bit light headed with an upset stomach and a cough, not a good combination.

However, I hung in there, and it was worth it. I love how the Easter Vigil starts, with the service of light and the lighting of the candles in the darkened church, and then the lights come on, signaling the official beginning of Easter.

As the Liturgy of the Word proceeded, I started to feel a tad better, although the hacking remained. Finally, it was time for the Liturgy of the Sacraments of Initiation, and, really, all I can say is that it was so, so special. My friend Mary and one other woman were the only 2 catechumens (the rest, a significant number, were all candidates to be confirmed) and so we proceeded up to the altar first. The priest went through the baptismal promises and the affirmation of the Catholic faith with each, and then baptized both. As one of her sponsors, I was so delighted to be able to right up there with her as this was all taking place.

After that, the rest of the congregation affirmed our baptismal vows, and then the confirmations took place. We went back to the pew to await the Liturgy of the Eucharist. And so, for the first time in our 14 year friendship, Mary and I received the Eucharist together under both species. It was truly magnificent, and the atmosphere in the church was almost magical.

I've only attended 1 other Easter Vigil, and when you know someone receiving the sacraments on that occasion, it's simply not to be missed. What an awesome opportunity provided by God. I'll never forget it.

I took it easy on Easter Sunday, another bright and beautiful day. And with the birth of Baby CL approaching, I feel joyful all the time. Life is truly very good.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Big day tomorrow

Easter weekend 2011 is finally here, and this year is special. We're packing up tonight, and leaving early tomorrow morning for my sister's house. Tomorrow evening, I will attend the Easter Vigil where my very good friend will be baptized, confirmed, and receive the Eucharist for the first time. I am one of her sponsors, and I couldn't possibly be prouder or more excited. It'll be a long day with all the driving, but it'll be worth it.

Easter Sunday will bring morning Mass, and then a total day of relaxation and visiting with family. It's going to be a wonderful holiday this year. Hank is SO excited about the trip and seeing his cousins. He's got his Thomas the Tank Engine suitcase out and all ready to be packed tonight. I do so love traveling by car these days. You can come and go at whatever time you want, eat what you want, stop when you want, pack as much as you want, all without someone pawing through your bag and frisking you. Good stuff.

In other news, I've actually slept better the past few nights, and although we're still all a bit pathetic and weak with our colds, we're on the upsurge.

Baby CL is getting so big that whenever he or she moves around, it kind of hurts. :) If s/he decide to cross their feet or something, my belly takes on a lopsided, freakish look. He or she will be full term in just over a week. A WEEK. That is *insane*. I can't believe how quickly this pregnancy has flown by.

I was just marveling at my metamorphosis on's message boards. In the first trimester, everyone was talking about their early symptoms, fretting about miscarriage, and obsessing over early ultrasounds. In the second trimester, the big news was buying maternity clothes and the big 20 week ultrasound complete with gender reveal. The third trimester, started off innocently enough with gestational diabetes screens and baby showers, but quickly morphed into the "I'm so massive and uncomfortable" zone. I think we've about peaked through the Group B Strep issue, and have moved insidiously enough onto mucus plugs, worries about personal body functions during labor, and episiotomies. Anybody who isn't certain what a few of those words mean will be *very* grateful that I'm not going to define them for you now. Trust me on this one.

At any rate, both Baby CL and I are hanging in there just fine. I wish you all a *very* blessed Easter. I won't be blogging on Monday due to travel, but will report in on Tuesday with a full report.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A blessed Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday dawns chilly here, as it has been all week. Lent is supposed to be chilly though, so I don't mind too much. :) My In Conversation with God from yesterday, Wednesday of Holy Week, was an excellent narrative on Jesus carrying the cross to Calvary.

"We are sad, living the Passion of Our Lord Jesus. See how lovingly He embraces the cross. Learn from him. Jesus carries the Cross for you; you carry it for him...But don't drag the Cross...Carry it squarely on your shoulder, because your Cross, if you carry it like that, will not just be any cross...It will be the Holy Cross..."

We've been very busy, getting ready for our trip this weekend, and we're all sick. Henry is nearly better, but Mike has a miserable cold right now. I feel bad for him, especially since school is winding down for him now and he has lots to get done. My cold is milder than his, but it's making me even more rundown that I would normally be at 35 and a half weeks pregnant, which isn't a good thing. But we're hanging in there.

Every night I have a list of chores to accomplish. Yesterday, I stopped off on my way home at Best Buy to fetch a car adapter for Hank's VTech VReader and portable DVD player, both indispensable items for a long car ride. I also blocked some gifts I knitted for Easter, and those are drying happily right now. Hank loves to help me block. I had lots of little items, so he manned the bathtub and soaked, rinsed and squeezed everything, while I arranged them properly in the next room and laid them out and shaped them carefully. Tonight, I'd like to wrap the gifts, and maybe clean the kitchen floor. It's tough, because I have the energy of a slug in the evenings these days. I'm SO, SO tired. But I love these tasks, because I'm excited about our trip. It's all good.

Tomorrow will be for packing, and there is lots I need to remember. I love Easter morning. Since Hank's birthday is in November (so close to Christmas that we really don't get him much except throwing a party) I always include a gift or two from the Easter bunny. He also has an insatiable sweet tooth, so the chocolate is always met with tremendous excitement. He's such a good little helper.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Limping through Holy Week

It's official.

My belly button is an outie.

It's been begging me for weeks to please leave it alone, but really, what could I do? I'm told that my belly is "small" (relatively speaking, of course; I apparently have a freakishly long torso) for the stage that I'm at in my pregnancy, but still, my belly button lost the war. It's all right. I'll become an innie again after delivery, although it may not speak to me for a time. It'll get over it. The baby needs room.

And Mommy needs sleep. I had almost forgotten about this nefarious little part of late pregnancy. Right now, I could put my head down on my desk and be asleep in 1.2 seconds. But at 2 am when I wake up to use the restroom? Right, can't get back to sleep. I don't know if it's hormones or what, but it is hard to get sleep when you're this pregnant. I feel like a bit of a zombie today. Preparation for the newborn stage, I suppose.

Aside from the physical exhaustion, I feel great. I'm doing my Holy Week devotional reading, and I'm focusing on my novena to Blessed Kateri. I'm very much looking forward to the Triduum and Easter. It's a beautiful time of year, and there is so much to celebrate. I'll be attending Mass on both the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday this year, and I'm looking so forward to both liturgies. I'd love to make it to Mass on Holy Thursday, but not sure if that will happen given Mike's class schedule. We'll see. But in any event, I feel blessed to be in Holy Week 2011.

Yet another sign of spring...

Mike: "What are you looking at out there?"

Me: "There's a bunny out there, see? She's tucked over by the fence, real still. I saw her before, when I was pulling out of the garage to go to Mass. I think maybe she's nesting!"

*excitement ensues*

Later that same day...

Mike: "Are you looking out there again? Why are you stalking that bunny?"

Me: "We're kindred spirits."

I mean, it's so obvious, right?

Monday, April 18, 2011

A blessed Palm Sunday

Holy week has started off very chilly and snowy here in Western New York, kind of appropriate, I suppose. :) As always, yesterday's Mass was lovely and Hank enjoyed playing with his palm. The reading of the passion always gets me every year - how the congregation plays the part of those calling for the death of Jesus. It's humbling to remember that all of us can so easily slip into modern day ways of denying Him, just like Peter. My In Conversation with God reading for today focused on this as well.

I'm currently praying a novena to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (with my beautiful new Kateri chaplet :) )for conversion intentions, and it will end on Good Friday. I'm keeping to my devotional readings, and trying to remain contemplative this holy week. I also have a ton to do to prepare for the 6 hour car journey this weekend to visit my sister, brother-in-law and nephews, and to attend the baptism and confirmation of my good friend in New York City. It's going to be a big week.

And let's not even get into my impending baby-induced panic and general tornadoing around the house in preparation for his/her arrival. That's a whole post in and of itself.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Looking forward to Holy Week

Palm Sunday to Easter is one of my favorite weeks of the liturgical year. I just love the different liturgies, and the physical reminders all week long of the passion of our Lord.

As ever, I'm very contemplative this year as we approach the end of Lent. I finished my main spiritual reading for the season already, and I'd love to start more. However, I'm getting kind of close to "my time,"if you will, and so I've delved into the Hypnobirthing book that just came for me from Amazon Marketplace. I'm quite intrigued, I'll be reviewing that one on here, fyi. But anyway, my reading time is limited, so I'm in a quandry. After I finish Hypnobirthing, even if Lent is over, I think I'm just going to pick up another hardcore spiritual title. It'll do me good in the weeks leading up to my delivery.

This weekend, we're slated to begin painting the nursery. As well, we're taking Hank on an Easter egg hunt and to see the bunny. And of course, Palm Sunday Mass on Sunday morning. It'll be a busy one.

Baby CL has been busy as well. I'm feeling some cervical pressure (not painful, and aren't you glad I'm telling you all this personal information about my innards?) and TONS of Braxton Hicks contractions, as well as menstrual-like cramping. Again, none of this is painful nor causing bleeding of any kind, which of course would immediately warrant a call to my doctor. But wow is this different from my first pregnancy. I suppose I got occasional Braxton Hicks then, but absolutely nothing was going on until the day before I delivered. It's nice to know that things are progressing in the way that they should, but I definitely want Baby CL to stay *in* for at least another two and a half weeks, preferably another month. He or she needs that extra baking time!

In the mean time, I'm preparing as best I can both physically and spiritually. One day at a time.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lenten Reading...

This Lent, I embarked on He Leadeth Me, by Fr. Walter Ciszek. Several years back, I read his first book, With God in Russia, which I loved. And I heard that his second book was just as powerful.

In a nutshell. Fr. Ciszek was an American Jesuit priest who worked in a mission in Poland, and ultimately in the former Soviet Union during World War II. While in the Soviet Union, he was arrested and charged with being a spy and enemy of the state, and sentenced to 16 years of hard labor in Siberia. With God in Russia was a lengthy description of his time in the labor camp and how he survived. He Leadeth Me is more what I would call "spiritual reading;" it is divided into themes, although it does follow a loose chronology, and focuses solely on how he maintained his spiritual life through such a trying event.

Fr. Ciszek spends a lot of time on how he gradually came to abandon himself totally into God's hands and plan, and how he realized that in the past, when he *thought* he was doing God's will, he was actually still holding back. I was fascinated by his details of how he saw his work as his prayer and offering to God, and how he managed to still surreptitiously say daily Mass. Towards the end, he focuses on the time he spent after his sentence was fulfilled but before he could leave the country. He describes the faith of the Russian people, despite the constant state indoctrination into atheism, as so endearing and strong. Even though there was "freedom of religion" at this time, no prostylizing was permitted, even to the extent of parents bringing their own children to church! So, people would seek out Fr. Ciszek secretly, asking to have their children baptized, marriages blessed, and seasonal traditions carried out. This made him even more worthy of suspicion by the government, naturally. I just loved his descriptions of saying Mass in someone's house, blessing Easter food and hearing confessions for 12 hours at a time in a tent, and generally carrying out his priestly vocation in the conditions dealt to him. It was exciting and heartwarming.

It took me awhile to get through this book, although it's not very look, about 200 pages. I used it as a sort of lectio divina, underlining passages that I wanted to go back to, and only reading a small amount each night so that I could dwell on it. It was really very good, and I highly recommend it to add to your queue of spiritual reading.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Baby CL's World: April edition

I can't tell you how excited I was when I logged in Monday morning and saw that little baby in my ticker head down. :) Everybody is getting ready to come out! I'm very thrilled.

One of the things that I gave up for Lent (yes, seriously) is complaining about pregnancy discomforts. It was really getting me down. And as a consequence, I've been feeling a lot more positive about everything. So, I'll be factual about everything, but with a positive spin.

I will admit, 34 weeks is about the point where things up the ante a bit. 36 weeks will be the real tester, but I can feel things beginning now. That's what I expected, and here's the positive angle: I have less than 6 weeks to go until my due date! I mean, that's nothing. It's going to fly by.

I did look at some pictures of me from last year recently, and I felt myself start to long to look like that again. So, I stopped looking. :) I loved my body. It wasn't a perfect body, and it had already been through one full-term pregnancy, but I truly loved it and I really hope that I look like that again. Having gone through this once already, I feel confident that I will, or very close to it. Pregnancy does not mean that you're doomed to look frumpy for the rest of your life. If you work at it in the time after you deliver, you'll be thrilled with the way you look again. It may take some time, but it can happen.

On a very positive note, I can honestly say that I'm not nearly as uncomfortable this time as I was at this same point in my pregnancy with Henry. This is not to say, mind you, that I'm *comfortable*. That would be so positive as to be positively misleading. :) But I'm much less uncomfortable, and for that I'm grateful. The baby is so much lower this time. I've been able to breathe normally and digest food like a champ for the past month. You know, the little things.

My sciatica is rearing its ugly head a bit in the evenings, but I don't feel like a 90 year old like I did last time. Oh my goodness, some mornings I could barely get out of bed it was so bad. This time, it's cake.

I've been inspecting my belly religiously and applying cocoa butter every night. Will this ward off stretch marks? Probably not, but I like to try anyway. :) I only got a few, real low, from Henry, and am hoping for the same this time. Since I'm a belly dancer, I'd love to not have them right in front of my belly, so here's hoping. I will say though, even if you get them, stretch marks fade. They look all red and angry at first, but pretty soon they become thin silver lines. It's not so bad.

Ok, so this post is supposed to be about the baby, and I've managed to make it all about me. Because it's all about ME all the time, right? :) He or she is getting very big. When they move around, it actually hurts sometimes. :) They are head down. I can feel hiccups coming from down there, and feet in my ribs, so all is well.

I was at the doctor yesterday, and Baby CL's heartbeat sounds perfect and their growth is right on target. I go back in 2 weeks, and this will officially start the "less pleasant" ob. visit rotation. My practice screens all patients for Group B Strep at that visit, and then the "checking" begins. You know what I mean. Ugh.

But in the home stretch, I'm feeling genuinely good. I'm excited and happy, and can't wait to meet Baby CL. I'm about to begin the Hypnobirthing book that I bought used on Amazon, so I will review that as soon as I'm done. I'm not totally sold on it, but hey; I'll try anything.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

5th Sunday of Lent

This past weekend, I noticed that all of the statues crucifixes in my parish were covered with purple cloths. I believe that this is because we have passed the halfway point of Lent, and for the final stretch these are covered as a physical reminder that we are still enmeshed in our Lenten duties of fasting, abstinence, prayer and almsgiving, and are preparing for Easter. I've heard of controversies on Catholic message boards about holy water fonts being drained in some parishes during Lent, has anybody heard of this? My parish doesn't do this, just the purple cloths, which I feel pretty sure is traditional. It's true, I'm a Catholic nerd, and thus very interested in all these little intricacies. :) How does your parish look different during Lent?

This past Sunday I also was responsible for conducting Children's Liturgy of the Word. I was nervous for some reason, because the readings dealt with God raising us from the dead, and the story of Lazarus. Wrangling the group of children is difficult enough, and throwing death in there just seemed like a recipe for disaster. Happily, my husband made a very helpful comment when I mentioned my anxieties to him: "It's about resurrection and arising from death, isn't that a happy topic?" Well, he's right. And that made me feel better.

I was feeling good until Father called any interested younguns' up, and an enormous swarm of small children descended on the altar. Much larger than the usual crowd. All things considered, it went well. I had prepared myself, both with prayer and with class materials, and they actually sat still pretty good for about 10 minutes or so. Once you get close to minute 15, everything gets more challenging. We had several small patrons who lost shoes amongst their circlemates, and a gaggle of boys in the back who were determined to ignore my multiple requests for their silence. It was tough, but I made it. I have a break until Divine Mercy Sunday, which will be particularly meaningful this year given the beatification of John Paul II.

We'll get there.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Weekend hip drops and catechism lessons

I have dance class tonight, and it'll be nice to just focus on class content rather than an upcoming performance. I do love performing, but now that I'm so pregnant, it's also nice to have a break from that for a time. Based on my Facebook nosing around, it looks like we may be forced to improvise tonight, which as you know, makes me very nervous. :) My solution? I'm practicing improv. Yes, I'm that crazy. Granted, I'm not *choreographing* my improv. Since I genuinely want to improve as a dancer and performer, I do want to become more comfortable with improv. So, trying to control things too much would be totally pointless.

Yes, you should *perform* only what you're good at and comfortable with, but class/practice is for experimenting with new things and going outside your comfort zone. Sigh. Looks like I'm in for that tonight. I've been formulating a few informal combinations that I could use anywhere and putting music on randomly at home and forcing myself to dance. We'll see how it goes.

In other news , I'm on for Children's Liturgy of the Word again this weekend. I forgot to report in on my last foray there 2 weekends ago. It actually went fine. I prayed beforehand, and although the group was large and challenging, I think it went good. There's always just 1 or 2 younger children there (3-4 years old) that make it tough. There is one little boy that really gives me a run for my money, but what can I do? I just keep re-directing him, and I make sure to encourage him when he answers a question or makes a comment, to entice him to follow along more frequently. I just hate interrupting myself quite so frequently simply to get everyone to stay seated. I'm not trying to teach them the Summa or anything, we're just talking basic behavior stuff.

This Sunday is the Third Scrutiny, so my time with the kids will be a tad longer this week, like last time. I'll pray extra hard beforehand. :) Then I'm off duty until Divine Mercy Sunday, which will be my last contribution until the fall. I can't believe it!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Au Natural

Thinking about a topic for today's blog post, I honed in on the fact that I had a meeting scheduled yesterday afternoon with my NFP instructor. Nothing like getting really personal, right? I tend to do that in this blog, albeit as discreetly as I can. I've never actually gone into this topic with any depth on my blog, so I thought today was a good opportunity.

For those that may not be familiar with it (librarians are all about acronyms) NFP stands for 'Natural Family Planning.' I'm not going to go into why the Church promotes NFP to the exclusion of any form of artificial contraception (that's a whole dissertation right there). I will simply acknowledge the fact that this teaching is one that is often a turnoff to many non-Catholics and Catholics alike, and challenge you to read more for yourself on the reasoning behind it.

I assure you, the reasoning is not "old men in Rome having old fashioned ideas that they want to wield on the rest of the world." Nor is it "the Church just wants people to create more Catholics so they don't let anybody do anything to prevent births." This is a beautiful teaching with a wealth of theology, tradition and practicality behind it. Check it out. I mean it. :)

What I wanted to do was plug NFP a bit. What do we often hear about any form of natural birth control?

"I know someone who used this and she has 8 children!"

"Do you know what they call people who use NFP? Parents."

"That's so archaic. It doesn't work, and it's not in a woman's best interest to not be in control of her own body."

"I have irregular cycles, so this would never work for me."

"Don't women ovulate more than once a month? How can this work then?"

Ok, so let's address these, shall we? Refraining from using artificial contraception does NOT mean that you will have an uncontrollable number of children or that you will not be able to space your childrens' births as you deem prudent. Often, couples drawn to NFP *want* to have a large family, and thus use the method to achieve pregnancy. Or, they may say that they use NFP, because they do sometimes, but the rest of the time they choose not to do anything to track their cycles because they'd rather just let nature take its course. This, of course, is a totally acceptable choice, and does not mean that NFP has "failed" them.

The criticism most dear to my heart :) is the one about how "ineffective" NFP is. The instant someone says this, I have to doubt that they've ever done any research on it. Modern NFP is highly effective for both avoiding and achieving pregnancy. This is not "the rhythm method" that simply counted days on a calendar, assuming that every woman's cycle was just like anothers. This is a customized set of observations of a woman's individual body and signs of fertility that she may chart to let her know when she is fertile. It is empowering information and allows a woman to have *more* control over her own body. It is even ideal for those with irregular cycles. Yes, you may not get your period every 28-32 days, and NFP will allow you to see exactly when you are at peak fertility and predict when your next period will come, even if that is well beyond an average monthly cycle.

And no, women generally do not ovulate more than once per month. Some women will release two eggs (hence fraternal twins) but in close succession to each other. For the sake of argument, to the extent that some odd anomaly occurs and a woman did release eggs at two separate times, her signs of fertility would indicate this and she could abstain from intercourse if she needed to avoid pregnancy. A woman is not going to ovulate without her body providing the signs of fertility. Men are fertile every day. Women are not. She is fertile only for a short time leading up to and following ovulation, and an egg is only present for 12-24 hours. Her body is not hospitable to the survival of sperm aside from this short time each month. This amount of time is different for each woman, depending on the quality and quantity of the signs her body produces. To achieve pregnancy, you would obviously use the days of fertility, and to avoid pregnancy, you would abstain from intercourse.

Some people are turned off by the "lack of spontaneity" in NFP since if you need to avoid pregnancy, you will have a stretch of time (approximately) each month that you will abstain. This time is often 1.5 to 2 weeks (all estimation, of course, it very much varies). However, there is something to be said about building up a little happy energy as you await a later time. :) Really, it's not bad. I'm used to it, of course, but I enjoy this little romantic cycle each month. I will grant that some have much more difficulty with this aspect of NFP than I do. But it's worthwhile, it really is. Give it a shot. :)

Ok, so, those are the basics. Let's say you want to learn more. There are several different methods of NFP, and I'll mention the main ones here. The most popular is the Sympto-Thermal Method as promoted by the Couple to Couple League International. This method uses basal body temperature combined with a series of observations to define fertility. I'm going to say it, cover your ears: cervical mucus. EWWW! I know. :) But it's *essential* to understanding your times of natural fertility and infertility. I believe that with this method, you can also note your cervical position, but I am not certain. This is not the method I use. It is however the one I hear of most people using. It's most prevalent in terms of available teachers, and you can even learn it in an online course if you choose. And people tend to like the objective measure of their temperature, this gives them reassurance.

The method that I use is the Creighton Model Fertility Care System. This method relies solely on observations of cervical mucus. I LOVE it. I know that some people worry about relying only on one sign of fertility, but let me tell you, it WORKS. It does require a lot of training, and this one you cannot do online. You need to work with an instructor one-on-one, and this may or may not be available in your area. In my diocese, this is the main method taught, so that's how I found it. It's related to the Billings Ovulation Method, for those that may have heard of that. Because you need to spend so much time with an instructor, there is more up front cost with Creighton. However, they do use a sliding pay scale, and it's dependent upon your income. No one will be turned away from learning this method if they cannot pay the cost of the sessions. This will be TMI but I'll give you my personal plug: I've used this method to both avoid and achieve pregnancy for over 6 years, and nothing unexpected has ever happened. It's AWESOME. I'm so comfortable with the method now, that I barely see my wonderful instructor. She just sends me a new chart and cute coordinating stickers every 6 months. Total cost: $10-20 per year.

Another method gaining a lot of momentum lately is the Marquette Model. This method uses an ovulation prediction monitor as well as other observations, and the word on the street (which street, you ask? The ones I travel daily. Odd but true. :) This is what happens when you listen to Catholic podcasts every day) is that people absolutely love it. Like I said, many people prefer having an external tool on which to rely.

To find an NFP instructor near you, check out the USCCB's list for instructors in all major cities. It does not always indicate which method they teach, so you'll have to call and find out. Most are probably Sympto-Thermal. Wherever you see "FertilityCare" that will be Creighton.

At any rate, if you're interested (and this isn't just for Catholics; there are plenty of non-Catholics that use and love NFP as well) don't let the common scare tactics get you down. All methods of birth control have a failure rate, including artificial ones. With NFP, it's usually user error. Nothing but abstinence will prevent pregnancy 100% of the time. But NFP holds its own.

Relatedly, based on my pregnancy evaluation with my instructor yesterday, she thinks Baby CL will be arriving May 21st, plus or minus 3 days. So, that's from May 18th-24th. I originally thought the 24th. I definitely think it will be within this date range. Soon, we'll see!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spring is in the air...

Well, it's snowing here today, but let's ignore that small fact just for a moment. The other day, a small house sparrow flew by me with grass stuck in its little beak, and there is a pair of Canada geese honking at anyone that walks past their intended nest site nestled in a landscaping display right in the middle of campus. As well, American robins have made their way north again for the year, and their cheery red breasts make me tell them "you are so darn cute!!" every time I see one hopping through my yard.

Spring is here. All the animals are making nests, just like me. :) I kind of like that this birth is lining up with Mother Nature this time. It's a very sweet time to share with animals we may not relate to very often. Pretty soon, the females will all be sitting on their nests, awaiting the big day. Although not quite exactly the same, I have the same instincts coursing through my veins right now. The house is being prepared, and my body is preparing itself, as I wait in joyful hope. I'm getting lots and lots of Braxton Hicks contractions, and I can feel the pressure of the baby's head really low. In less than 4 weeks Baby CL will be full term.

I'm SO ready. But on the other, I'm SO NOT ready. Know what I mean?

Monday, April 4, 2011

The pregnant belly dancer dances on, part 2...

So, there I am on my big night. :) (Photo credit to Pati Vito). Saturday was a workshop and an informal hafla. The workshop was *wonderful*. A dancer from Canada taught it, and she divided everything up into 3 separate classes depending upon skill level/experience. I was slated for the performance level group, and so she focused on performing skills.

Performing is something that although I know I've gotten better at it, I still need a lot of improvement. :) I do feel more confident now; not CONFIDENT, mind you, but *more* confident. I still have a long way to go.

She gave us some simple, but powerful tips. For instance, you should only perform what you feel that you do best. Performance is not the place to try out that quadruple axle that you've only landed successfully in practice twice, kwim?

Also, keep it simple. She showed us how to do a simple hip bump move with a succession of different arms and orienting positions. Combine that with a few other moves (my instructor calls this a "sandwich" which I love :) ) and then change up the arms each time and the direction you are facing, and voila! You have probably a minute or more of choreography, and to the audience, it all looks completely different and fun.

She also talked about strong arms, hands, feet, and shoulder/rib cage placement in performance, and for sure this is SO important. You need to have a "performance presence." If you don't take command of the dancing space, the audience will lose interest. You can't simply walk out onto the stage like you would walk into your local grocery store to grab a bell pepper for dinner that night.

"Walking is very hard, isn't it?"

That made me laugh, and it's so true. If someone is watching you walk, well, it's a lot tougher! And you want to walk confidently and with an in-charge attitude. So, we practiced that for awhile. Yes, we practiced walking.

My favorite though were her comments on facial expression in performance. Oh man. It is SO hard to smile when you are performing, because you feel self-conscious. I mean, let's face it. Why are we all so terrified of being up in front of a group of people? We're afraid of looking stupid, right? And so we're concentrating so hard on not looking stupid that we look like we're concentrating so hard on looking stupid. And that's not enjoyable to watch. :) If you look like you're having a great time dancing, the audience will relax and enjoy your performance. And when you're doing a solo, you can't "mess up." No one will know if you don't follow your exact choreography. And in fact, most if not all professional belly dancers never choreograph their solo work. They are familiar with their music, yes, but they improvise everything. As long as you keep moving, everyone is happy. And so my favorite of her comments was:

"Remember ladies, open your mouth when you smile as you're dancing. You'll notice that all Egyptian belly dancers always have their mouths open (I never realized this before, but she's right). Open mouth and jaw is an open pelvis."

Who's with me? CHILDBIRTH. This must be why they tell us to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth in childbirth relaxation class. I'm totally going to think of this when in labor. :)

I've gotten a LOT better with smiling and trying to look pleasant when performing, and Saturday I did pretty decent. I'm actually pretty pleased with the picture above.

But as you can see, I still need work on this. :) I actually just saw a video of us from Friday night. It was cute and all, but my thumbs weren't tucked in and aside from maybe 3-4 smiles, I wasn't smiling. When I'm home with the baby, I plan to work on my improvisation and performance skills. This is assuming that the baby naps, which may be a lofty goal. But if they nap, I'm going to work on improv. for 15 minutes every day, and I'm going to smile the whole time. Practice makes perfect.

So, the workshop was great. It was 2 hours, which was exactly how long I can go these days. I went home, ate dinner and put my feet up. 3 hours later, it was time to head back for the hafla. And thankfully, the hafla was uneventful. All of our numbers went well, including the cane, although Sweaty Palm Syndrome came back with a vengeance. And I got lots of nice compliments about being the Pregnant Belly Dancer. One of the visiting dancers commented to me that she loves seeing pregnant belly dancers, as it's just such a natural fit with the dance, and I loved that. I also met several very nice dancers from other areas of the state, and we're all connected now on Facebook. :) Love it.

I have lots of fun dance plans for my post partum self. I'm very much looking forward to it, but in the mean time, I'm so grateful for what belly dance has done for this very pregnant dancer. It's given me an appreciation for my pregnant body, and somehow, when I'm doing it I still feel graceful and beautiful even at 22 pounds over my regular weight. :) That's pretty priceless, if you ask me.

The pregnant belly dancer dances on, part 1...

This was my big belly dance weekend, and I have lots of fun impressions to post. Not sure how many of my readers are dancers or otherwise are interested in dance, so I hope this is of interest to at least some of you!

Friday night I gathered at the dance studio with my classmates to practice for a public performance: an international student night at a local college. In a very nice development, our group has gained some interest based on past performances, and this was actually a paying gig. Sweet. We're not billed as professionals (our instructor is); we are students. However when we represent the studio she passes her fee off to us. We all pay to attend class, of course, but we also each pay for our own costuming, which in belly dance is substantial. This is why we don't get new costumes very frequently. :) So, she wants to help us out a bit to make it more affordable for us, which I very much appreciate.

At any rate, I brought my blue gown, and we ran through our numbers several times before we left for the college. For this particular performance, the organizers asked us to dance a 30 minute set. That's actually a *really long time* to be dancing. Our instructor had 2 solo pieces planned, and to fill the rest of the time, we were doing 3 full group numbers. As well, she asked me and 2 of my classmates to do a little trio we had been practicing, so I was in 4 numbers. That's a lot of dancing for a woman who is 8 months pregnant. :)

There are many things that I forget everyday; MANY. It's a wonder that I leave the house fully dressed most days. But when it comes to dance choreography, I tend to have a pretty good memory. However, Friday night I was struggling. 4 different choreographies right in a row + pregnancy hormones seemed to prove a challenging combination. I found myself forgetting steps that I've had memorized for months. It made me worry a bit, but what could I do but trust my base instincts to kick in at the heat of the moment?

Also nerve wracking is the fact that our latest group choreography uses a prop: a belly dance cane. I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. This is not only an object over which I exert incomplete control, but as opposed to a veil, it can also actually inflict injury and/or take somebody's eye out. Thinking about our concluding fast twirling sequence was making my hands sweat, and as you can imagine, Sweaty Hands + Cane = Potential Disaster Resulting in Trip to Emergency Room or Call to Glass Repair Person.

By the time we piled into our cars to head to the event, I was actively trying to implement relaxation techniques to cool my palms. Not a good sign. Our arrival (and illegal parking jobs due to lack of spaces) heralded a new anxiety: our audience was, well, college students. And with the exception of one teenage member, every single member of our performance group is old enough to be their mothers. Including me. And I'm the second youngest member. :)

This made me even more nervous. They all seemed extremely young, confident, and potentially rowdy. I'm 36, 8 months pregnant, and stuffed into a belly dance costume. With sweaty palms and a potentially deadly weapon.

By the time we went on, I was beyond anxious. The cane number was first, which I suppose was good. It's like a band-aid, peel it off fast. It went just fine, although my twirling at the end was affected by the sweat factor. When I feel the cane slipping I can't help it; I grip it. Which impedes my twirling, but at least no one was hurt. Our instructor went out for her solo, and we waited patiently. By the time we got to our final 2 group numbers, I was sensing that not everyone in our audience was as enthralled by belly dance as I am. We certainly had our enthusiasts; a guy videotaping us on his phone in the corner, (good, or creepy? inquiring minds want to know)and some interested viewers in the seats near the front. But at the fringes, a good number of people had moved on. We were the last performers, so that certainly played a part, but it was only 9:30. At first, I thought that they were tired, but really, let's not be naive. 9:30 is late for me, but not for college students. They were obviously ready to move on to the *real party* which wouldn't begin yet for a solid hour or two, and would entail them drinking too much beer and waking up with a headache.

That actually made me less nervous. They may be young and able to consume unhealthy amounts of alcohol, but I'm doing what I love and not ashamed to do it heavily pregnant. And I don't look half bad doing it either! So there.

When we were done, I was relieved. We had one very enthusiastic fan there, a young man of Middle Eastern descent who is friends with our drumming group and has been to our haflas. He was thrilled that we were there and helped us set up our music. I could hear him trying to make converts of his non-belly dance loving friends in the background. It made me smile.

When I got home, there was no doubt about it, I was "all done in." Exhausted. I happily went to sleep and prepared for Day 2.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mothers working outside the home...

My last post got me to thinking about this. I won't dwell on it, but since this does not come up all that often in more traditional Catholic circles, I think it bears mentioning since there may be others out there like me. :) I am a Catholic mother who works full-time outside the home.

I would call myself a very devout Catholic, and very orthodox in terms of following Church teaching. Therefore, I know many stay-at-home-moms (heretofore SAHM). The Church does not teach that mothers are obliged to refrain from working outside the home when they have young children, I think that's an important caveat. But all parents are certainly called to sacrifice for their families, and to be the primary educators of their children, so you do see a lot of women who choose to enact this in their lives by being a SAHM.

As we all should, I very much admire women who choose this route. If you are a SAHM, you still work, you just don't get paid for it. And it's a HARD JOB. I didn't really fully realize that until my maternity leave with Hank. I was used to working outside the home, and to be honest, I thrive there. I love being a librarian, and it's fulfilling to me. So suddenly, I don't have my happy job everyday, and I'm home with a baby feeling overwhelmed, underprepared and unappreciated. It was tough. I never realized how difficult it is to not have adult interaction for a large part of your day, how emotionally taxing it is to be taking care of someone else all day who can't talk to you and tell you what they need when they cry.

While incredibly worthwhile, taking care of young children all day is draining in a way I never knew until I tried it myself. This has led me to the conclusion, to be honest, that no job outside the home is as difficult as being a SAHM. Neurosurgeon? Not as hard. I mean it.

There are all sorts of reasons why some women choose not to be a SAHM, me being one of them. Financial reasons are certainly high on the list, if not the top entry. And I always just hope that no one judges me poorly for this. It does not mean that I don't love my children or that I don't sacrifice for them. It's so, so hard to be away from them during the day. That in and of itself is a sacrifice. It does help me at home to be emotionally fulfilled in my job as a librarian, I won't lie about that. However, the main reason I work is because I have (somewhat astronomical) student loans from law school and we need my income. As well, my husband has gone back to school full-time to pursue a field more meaningful to him, which I support 100%, so my income has been imperative the past 3 years.

The thing is, no matter what you choose to do on this issue, there will always be some people that judge you negatively for it. Work outside the home?

"Oh, you have a new baby, how cute. Do you work? Oh, you do. I see. Where does the baby go during the day? Oh. Daycare." *pronounced silence that the recipient can't help but feel conveys disapproval and a heavy, 'you must be an uncaring and bad mother' vibe.

The kick in the stomach comment for this work outside the home mother?

"I don't know why women who work full-time even have children. I mean, someone else is raising them."

OUCH. Anyone is free to disagree with my opinion in this post, but please, never, EVER tell me that someone else is raising my children. I actually find that downright offensive. I work hard to get home as early as I can and spend quality time with my son in the time that I do have with him. Part of the reason I pursued my current position is because I am a state employee with excellent benefits, including tons of paid holidays and vacation/sick time. I never work more than 40 hours per week. My husband and I work together to raise him with the values that we want to instill; no daycare can ever do that for you.

That's the most serious and emotionally-charged paragraph you'll ever read on this blog. Back to the lighter side of the Catholic Librarian...

But are you a SAHM? Right, then your conversation goes as follows:

"Oh, you have a new baby, how cute. Do you work? You don't? Well, what do you do all day? I see. Did you go to college? Ah ha. Oh look, there's a new tray of stuffed mushrooms in that corner of the room, would you excuse me?" *in this instance, the recipient can't help but feel a vibe of, 'you're wasting your life, not to mention your degree, and you must not be capable of having an interesting adult conversation any longer.'* There may also be a comment about the number of children that you have thrown in there for good measure.

It can often feel like you can't win. If you work, you're a neglectful, selfish mother, and if you don't, you're unintelligent, uninteresting, and quite possibly anti-feminist. Do men have it this tough? It seems like women bear the brunt on this one. :)

I think that every husband and wife has to discern privately, in prayer, what will meet the needs of their family on this issue. Contrary to popular belief (I've lost count of how many times I've heard the comment, "I don't know how anybody stays at home anymore; children are so expensive!") it *is* possible to live on one income. We're actually doing it right now. :) And to be frank, it's quite nearly free to add additional children to your family if one parent can stay at home. Even though I have 2 children (for now, at least), I always come to the defense of those that have larger families. That is their choice, and a beautiful thing for those that God calls to it. If you breastfeed and cloth diaper, adding another child is cake. Two working parents will have a tougher time because of the cost of childcare, it's just a fact. So, I always take the Zero Population Growth people head on.

On the other side, families that choose to have both parents work should not be judged as being materialistic and selfish, pursing another salary so that they can have a larger house and dualing SUV's. That's not the case in most instances. It's between them and God.

And for those that do work outside the home, childcare decisions are equally difficult. Sometimes family members can watch the baby, and other times they cannot. Daycare is not the devil. I was never in daycare, so I fretted about it just like everyone else. But we found one filled with kind caregivers that we trust. They are out there. I do tend to be hurt by offhand, "Oh, I'd never put my child in daycare!" comments, but I try to let it go. I know that I'm doing what is best for my family, and oftentimes people are saying things based on a third hand impression, and have never really been inside a single daycare.

In the end, we're all trying to act out our vocation as wives and mothers as best we can. I know that's what I'm trying to do. I'm wondering if I'm going to get comments on this post. :)

One last dance hurrah before delivery

This weekend I have 2 belly dance public performances plus a workshop. This sounds really crazy given my state in pregnancy and the fact that I'm still sick and now *coughing*. However, I'm very much into being as active as possible during pregnancy, I just wish the sick thing would go away.

I'm not nearly as anxious about these performances as I was about the one back in February, because for these I'm wearing the one-piece gown that I own. My belly is adorable, but I was a bit self-conscious about it being so on display a few months back. Plus, I've grown into a very happy comfort level with being the token "pregnant belly dancer" for the time being, and I'm thriving in the role. :) Belly dance makes me feel wonderful, and I'm happy that I've been able to keep up the movements pretty well. I defy anybody to laugh at my belly right now. :)

So, it'll be pretty busy tonight and tomorrow. Thankfully, I slept a lot better last night. Not perfect, but better. It's going to be hard for me to be up past my 9 pm bedtime for 2 nights in a row, but I'm optimistic that adrenaline will carry me through.

After this, the only dancing I'll do until 6 weeks postpartum is in my informal weekly classes. I don't want to commit to any performance until after that because I can't guarantee how I'll feel. I'd love to attend class up until I deliver, so we'll see how that goes.

Other than that, we're making lots of plans for nursery development right now. It's still too chilly here to paint, plus we're booked up with dancing this weekend and an in-law visit next weekend. That one last April weekend prior to Easter we plan for the paint transformation. After Easter, we'll aim for carpet installation and the big furniture move. That will be crazy close to my due date, but it should be fine. Plus, the baby isn't going to be sleeping in there anyway for awhile, so it's no biggie.

We also are making summer/early fall plans, and we have to let our daycare know some information that we simply don't have right now. It's making me a tad anxious, but I keep telling myself that I shouldn't worry and that everything will work out. It all depends on Mike's job situation, and we don't even know when we'll know something, know what I mean? :)

I keep praying that everything will work out fine.