Saturday, January 30, 2010

bambini beverage of choice

Have I ever mentioned how much drinkable yogurt we go through around here?  A lot.  Both lads have long liked the kind made by YoBaby, both the banana and the peach flavors.  As their consumption increased, the thought occurred to me to try replicating the recipe both as a cost-saving measure and as a way of controlling the ingredients a little more closely.  There is sugar -- organic though it may be -- in the recipe.  All things in moderation -- my Grannie has long said, and at the rate we were going, moderation was going out the window.  Thus, I started tinkering and have hit upon a few concoctions that seem to pass muster.  I daresay it is my younger lad's beverage of choice.  Here's the recipe in its present incarnation (with links in that post back to previous versions).

Now the young lass likes drinkable yogurt.  She received her own Foogo insulated sippy cup for Christmas, but her contentment with it was short-lived.  She had her sights set on her brother's insulated straw cup (also by Foogo).  Anytime he left it anywhere (as he is inclined to do), she would nab it and try to sip out of it.  Pretty soon she had mastered the whole straw sipping thing, so now she uses the elder lad's similar straw cup (as he does not care for the "homebrew").

With all of yogurt's health benefits and given the volume my younger lad consumes, he must have the healthiest gut flora on the block.  It's a practical protein delivery system, and good nutrition for my bambini on the move...

Friday, January 29, 2010

a favorite book series: Holly Hobbie's "Toot & Puddle"

My mother in law once loaned us a collection of pig books from her elementary school classroom to peruse with our lads.  Among the favorites was Toot and Puddle by Holly Hobbie.  This porcine duo lives in Woodcock Pocket.  Toot has an appetite for adventure and likes to travel far and near.  In Wish You Were Here, he finds himself in Borneo suffering from violet virus after being stung by a bee.  He writes home to Puddle, the happy homebody, who with some help finds a holistic remedy in the form of some special tea.  Though he would much rather stay at home, Puddle goes out searching for Toot -- all the way to the Top of the World

There are several other titles in the series, some that Holly Hobbie wrote and some that others have written since then.   I think it's been turned into a TV series as well, and is somehow affiliated with National Geographic.

Another fun one by Holly Hobbie is Fanny, in which a spunky, resourceful young lady decides to make her own doll to play with, even if it doesn't look exactly like the "it" dolls of the moment that her friends have.

Ms. Hobbie's charming illustrations and lovable characters make for fun reading all 'round.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

praying for a miracle

My friend's condition has gone from fragile to precarious.  I pray God's will be done, and for profound peace, strength, and comfort to abide with those who love her.

ladybug's picnic

A few years ago, we ran across this vintage Sesame Street clip on YouTube called "The Ladybug's Picnic."  My lads loved it because of the firetruck at the end.  The title came to mind in planning our lass's family birthday party this past weekend.  We were all a-flutter, with birds and butterflies and ladybugs, including some little cakes that we all collaborated on.  My sister made some too.  Here's the story.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

with friends like these

When my elder lad was my only lad, I signed us up for a baby sign language class.  The teacher was a young mom with a daughter a few months younger than my lad.  We became friends, and through her I met another vibrant and deeply committed mother whose daughter shares my elder lad's birthday.  We three and a couple of other mamas they knew with children the ages of ours formed a preschool co-op group for our young children and met regularly for a couple of years.

The friendships I have forged with these mamas are of immeasurable value to me.  They are what I like to call "like-minded mamas," ones who I respect and admire for many reasons -- chief among them being the respect, love, and devotion they give to their children (and model to their children to expect in return as their children are able to give such), and the obvious joy they derive from mothering.  Even though I don't see these ladies nearly enough anymore (we no longer participate in the co-op since they meet on one of the days my lad is in preschool), I think of each of them often and continue to draw inspiration from them. 

Tonight as I sat decorating little cakes for my lass's family birthday party tomorrow, I received a call from my sign language teacher friend mama.  It was past the hour for calling just to visit (though I always welcome her calls), so I knew immediately that something had to be wrong.  It was.  It is.  The mother whose girl shares my lad's birthday is hospitalized with bacterial meningitis.   She is six months pregnant and also has a two-year-old lad.  My friend's condition is very fragile.

Please keep her, her family, loved ones, and caretakers in your prayers.

Friday, January 22, 2010

baby girl's birthday

Our wee lass is one year old today.  She came into this world around seven in the morning (all three bambini have been born between midnight and seven a.m. -- this might explain some of their night owl proclivities).  The five of us spent the day together beginning with Mass; we will celebrate with the extended family this weekend.

I've been thinking about the day of her birth all day long, actually starting last night when I noticed that we had for dinner last night what we'd had the night I'd gone into labor with her.  (I remember quirky things like this.  It's part of my charm.)    The sequence of events leading up to her arrival are so finely etched in my memory that it's been like reliving the day for me. 

So it has been for each of my children's birthdays, beginning with my elder lad's first birthday.  It was then that I realized how profoundly important a birthday is to the parents of the child whose birthday it is.  It's equally if not more meaningful to them, as it marks a life-changing day in each of the parent's lives as well as the child's. 

Since becoming a mama, I've been more mindful of taking my parents into consideration when celebrating my own birthday.  It's not just about me.  It's probably more about them.  It's a day to thank them for the myriad gifts of self they have made throughout my life and continue to make in a new way now that I am a parent myself, and to think about all the ways in which God himself cares for each of us as a loving father.

Our lass has brought us such joy in the year she's been a part of our family.  She's walking now, signing a little (especially "more"), and has taken to chatting on the telephone in the cutest way.  From the moment we first heard "it's a ... girl!", she has endeared herself to us in a way all her own.  I pray she will always know how cherished she is by so many, and that by our examples of love shown to her she will come to know of the infinite love her heavenly father has for her. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

a year ago today

Tomorrow is our lass's first birthday.  It has been a wondrous, challenging year. As much as I've been thinking of what I was doing this day last year, my thoughts are with a childhood friend of mine, who lost her mother to cancer a year ago today.  I cannot imagine what the past year has been like for my friend.  The timing of her losing her mother just as I was about to become mother to another is uncanny.  I pray the relationship I develop with my daughter is as strong as the one my friend had with her mother, and I wish for my friend continued peace, solace, and strength. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

not 'til you're 12, son.

Elder lad, at dinner: "Dad, when I'm 16, can I use your miter [saw]?"


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

fun non-fiction

Some of our favorite books of late are non-fiction (at least mostly), highly imaginative, and great good fun.

In Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings, Douglas Florian combines fabulous illustration with clever rhyming text and word play. Highlighting herbivores and carnivores throughout the ages, Florian brings to life those ginormous creatures now extinct. In ways both witty and insightful, each page is illustrated with incredible detail and thoughtfulness such that we can really get an idea of the individuality of each dinosaur. Those charged with reading aloud will appreciate the pronunciation guide (especially for such creatures as the Micropachycephalosaurus).  

Uproarious laughter rang out from the lads' room one recent bedtime as my beloved read John, Paul, George and Ben to them -- one page in particular over and over and over (at their giggly request).  Charmingly illustrated and written by Lane Smith, this one introduces young readers to four (five, actually) of our country's Founding Fathers (with an obvious nod to The Fab Four from across the pond).  Smith takes some liberties (no pun intended), so there's a true and false section at the end for the sake of checking facts.

When I was in elementary school, I used to collect paint chips.  I'd type the names into a long Word document catalog I constructed.  How does one land a job naming paint colors anyway?  After school today the lads requested watercolors and paint brushes for their foray into art on the back porch.  They came up with some pretty interesting colors.  In An Eye for Color: The Story of Josef Albers, Natasha Wing (who grew up next door to the artist in Connecticut and later studied art) chronicles the study of colors and how they interact that German artist Josef Albers made his life's work. 

I am often struck by the creativity some authors and artists are able to employ in bringing history to life for young children.  These stories are fine examples.

And while I'm in the non-fiction way, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Hill of Fire -- a perennial favorite of my elder lad's after having seen it on Reading Rainbow.  He's had a long-standing fascination with volcanoes, so this is right up his alley.  The story, by Thomas P. Lewis and illustrated by Joan Sandin, is of a poor Mexican farmer who complains that every day is the same -- nothing ever happens.  To his surprise, the ground he's tilling one hot day opens without warning one morning in February 1943...

Monday, January 18, 2010


Just as I was about to go to bed last night, my elder lad appeared at the bathroom door needing my assistance (he had awoken after having been asleep for a couple of hours already).  When I might have been inclined to gently insist that he do the things that needed to be done by himself (as he is at times inclined to let me do them for him if I am willing), I sensed that he really needed his mama's help.  And something told me to tell him simply, "I love you."  This changed the entire dynamic between us, as he had come into the bathroom in a very ill humor, and afterward seemed relieved. Together we took care of business, he crawled back into his bed, and fell fast asleep.

Contrast this scene with the one that played out upon our arrival home this morning from a fun outing.  Everyone was hungry, tired, cranky -- and edgy.  Each of us snarked at the other until we were at last seated for lunch (which took some convincing).  Soon a smile emerged from someone's face, and then laughter.

How I wish I'd handled the second situation more like the first.  I wish I'd focused on the task at hand of getting lunch on the table, instead of getting caught up in the drama that was unfolding.  In so doing, I would've shown today what I showed last night:


I just read this interesting post about a mother's works of mercy day in and day out, and it really resonated with me.  There is a major difference in my handling of the two situations: in the former I was able to be merciful, recognizing and responding to the need underneath the snarly exterior instead of reacting more negatively.

I really get upset with myself when I give into the weakness toward irritability and snappishness like I did at lunch time, but I realize that being merciful with myself (without excusing the poor behavior) is necessary in order to model mercy for my children, which is really the lesson I want them to learn. I also want to help them learn to recognize when they are feeling tired, hungry, cranky, or a combination of such things, and how to help themselves by tending to their needs without lashing out at other people (such as picking on one's sibling or speaking rudely to one's mother).

I wish them to learn mercy, both by experiencing it from us, and in extending it to each other and those around them.  Such a thing is best learned by observation and experience, as we all well know in our own experiences of Christ's infinite mercy and the mercy we've received at the hands of others. 

When I don't meet my expectations, I can all too easily dwell on my slip-up.  Ultimately this only serves to distract me from taking care of my children.  The best I can do is to apologize for my mistake, make amends, seek forgiveness, recognize what contributed to my mistake so as to prevent it happening in the future, and move on.

In my quest for everyday sanctity, I have to be merciful with myself.  Maybe my children will see the steps I take (especially if I spell them out and am consistent about them), and God willing learn from my mistakes without having to make their own. At least I hope so.

When it comes to my expectations for my children, I have to remind myself that they are in fact children and that they will occasionally mess up.  This is (usually) nothing personal against me.  It's just a fact of childhood.  We all make mistakes, after all.  Our mistakes do affect others, so when we make them we must take steps to make things right as much as we are able.  And when we have been wronged, we are called to extend mercy and forgiveness.  I hope to equip my bambini with the tools to meet their needs without harming other people.  In our fallen world, I know this won't always work out.

This work of motherhood is humbling.  Mama's mistakes are plainly there for her children to see.  I hope how I handle my handling of my mistakes will be of use to them when they must own up to theirs, and I hope they will dispense mercy with each other as freely as they do their laughter and forgiveness.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

books by John Burningham

At siesta time I snuggled up with my two lads (the lass was already asleep) and read It's A Secret by the prolific John Burningham -- new in 2009.  What fun it was!  A young girl wonders what her family cat does at night when everyone else is sleeping (apparently the cat is let out to roam overnight, and returns in the morning).  She sneaks down one night to discover the cat dressed to the nines and about to head out for a night on the town.  He allows her to come with him (only after donning her own party frock) after she promises to keep their doings a secret.  The neighbor boy notices them and finagles an invitation of his own to the festivities. 

We've read a couple other of Burningham's books, published several years ago -- Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car and Mr. Gumpy's Outing.  These involve a couple of children and a menagerie of animals insisting on being part of one adventure or another.  These were both enjoyable, too (the protagonist's name is a large part of the fun), though It's A Secret would be my favorite among the three.

Burningham's tales are imaginative and fun, great for reading aloud and fostering creativity.

Friday, January 15, 2010

happy hour

There comes a time of day when bambini and Mama wear kinda thin.  For us, this is around 4:30 or 5pm.  It's late in the day but not yet quite time for dinner, Daddy's not home yet, and we're all running a little low on energy.  Other mamas may have more colorful names for this particular time period, but I like to refer to it as "happy hour" -- a description I can't take credit for but choose to use in order to retain a sense of hopefulness.

Navigating the day takes some strategy.  This includes siesta time after lunch -- something upon which I am insistent because of the overall impact its inclusion or omission can have on the rest of the day.  My two lads don't fall asleep very often anymore, but we do settle down and read together for a while.  This gives me a chance to put my feet up for a minute, and more importantly a chance to reconnect with the bambini if we've been either busy doing separate things (like them playing while I tend to household duties) or out and about.  I try to make siesta time last at least 45 minutes to an hour.  The lass often drifts off to sleep while I read (if she hasn't already fallen asleep).  It's a highlight of our daily routine.

Infrequent naps can make things dicey later, though, so to weather Happy Hour, here are some things I try to take note of and address...
  • hunger (mine and theirs): I try to offer a snack with protein after school (or at least by 4pm on stay-home days).  My own fatigue by this point in the day can easily dissolve into irritability (which I pray to be free of) unless I can recognize that I myself need some protein too at this time (although endorphins via dark chocolate are also highly appropriate at this time, this can be tricky if I'm not willing to share -- which I'm often not right about then).
  • busyness: it's during Happy Hour that I might be trying to round up things for dinner and get it going so that it's ready when my beloved gets home, though lately we've been trying to have simpler meals or those we've prepared in advance and are simply reheating.  If I'm able to get down on the floor with and play with the bambini or read a book (or four) to them instead of scurrying around the kitchen, we all tend to fare a little better.
  • humor (or lack thereof): oftentimes, we need some levity to keep our spirits buoyed as we eagerly await Daddy's return home.  Mama has her ways of accomplishing this, as do the bambini (some within house rules, some outside them; Mama's challenge is to channel things in the former direction).
  • energy expenditure: especially on days when the elder lad doesn't go to preschool, it really helps the lads to get outside and run around.  The past few days have been temperate enough for them to muck around in the mess of the melting snow and the mud beneath it.  This means bath time immediately afterward, but that works in our favor for an earlier bedtime.
  • media consumption: sometimes after the reading part of siesta time or after school I will turn on the TV for a show or two (favorites are Curious George, Dinosaur Train, and Good Eats -- pre-screened, of course).  But I'm careful not to let the TV stay on very long.  The longer it's on, the more likely moods are to deteriorate.
Still, in spite of experience and forethought and everyone's best efforts, Happy Hour can still wreak havoc on the early evening all the way through lights out.  No one wants this, and we all resolve to start fresh in the morning and do better tomorrow.  I pray and hope for a good night's rest, a peaceful day, and a sense of humor to keep us afloat through these days of early childhood that will too soon be gone.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

the Bonnie box comes full circle.

Growing up, I passed along a lot of my outgrown clothes to a girl five years younger than me.  Our families are close like family, though we're not related.  She called the periodic windfall "the Bonnie box," and apparently it was something very exciting for her.  I'm honored she felt that way.

Now that we're both mothers, we refer to each other as "sister mama," as we've long thought of each other as sisters.  We live close to four hours apart, so we don't get to see each other very often, but we find ways to stay in touch.

So imagine the glee when a couple of days my lass received a box of clothes in the mail from my childhood friend's younger daughter, several months older than my lass.  My lass may be too young to fully own the delight of the occasion, so for now I'll do it for her.  She may be our only girl, but like her brothers before her, there's someone a little further down the path of life sharing her hand me downs.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

future foodies

My lads might be selective in their food choices, but they sure can speak about them articulately:

The elder lad, when asked if he wanted some veggie chips in his lunch for school like he'd had at dinner the previous night: "No. They're too zesty for school."
The younger lad, enjoying some homemade jam made with love by one of my beloved's aunts and her family on his biscuit, described it as "very tasty."  When I told him who had made it, he said "that was very kind of her to share it with me."

Indeed.  Maybe someday they'll be posting such keen observations alongside their auntie and mama.

As for the lass, she might prove to be the next Nigella Lawson (whose lexicon and wit I admire very much).  My girl's healthy appetite is quite varied, and I suspect her burgeoning vocabulary (presently consisting of a few signs and an impressive array of vocalizations and facial expressions) might rival that of Nigella's someday.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

birthday season

Yesterday it seemed all the Google products I wanted to use were taking a mental health day -- including the search engine itself, the calendar, and Blogger.  Maybe it was just me, but I'm sure glad they seem to be back in business today.

In our family, January 11th is a momentous day.  It's my mother's birthday and parents' wedding anniversary.  They celebrate 35 years of marriage in 2010.  Theirs is a testament to the faithfulness of the married vocation through all of life's seasons and all the ups and downs they present.   I pray Christ will continue to bless them with an awareness of his presence with them, and with profound joy for length of days. 

The longer I am a mother, the more I come to understand my own mother (though I will not be so presumptuous as to say I completely understand her.  Who can totally understand another person anyway?  Only Christ.).  She is a lady of great sensitivity, humor, wit, intelligence, resourcefulness, and deep concern for those she loves.  I wish for her only good things, abiding peace, an understanding of how much she is loved and cherished, and continued faith in the Creator who loves her. 

So no matter the technical difficulties.  We celebrate a "birthday season" around here.  All my love to you, Mom and Dad.  Peace be with you both.

favorite picture book series: My First Little House

One of our favorite series of picture books is My First Little House, from Laura Ingalls Wilder's original Little House books.  These picture books are marketed for three- to eight-year-olds, (though they appeal to all ages), and give a glimpse of Laura and Almanzo's (Wilder -- her future husband) lives as children.  Lately we have out Christmas in the Big Woods, but we've also liked Sugar Snow, Summertime in the Big Woods, Going to Town, Farm Boy, and Going West, among others.

Thinking about the life Laura and her family lived on the frontier helps me keep things in perspective some days.  When her mother is busy making cheese or butter or even just doing the wash load and caring for her three children (later four) without the conveniences of modern life (such as an enclosed vehicle to travel in), it can snap me out of any pity party I might be inclined to host for myself. I draw great inspiration from her. 

My bambini marvel at the way of life Laura and her family lived (as do I) and enjoy the beautiful illustrations. As they grow up, I look forward to sharing the original Little House books with them if they're interested.  These picture books are a wonderful introduction to that innocent, hard-working world of Laura's childhood over a century ago.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

fresh books

Our latest library haul includes several books published in 2009.  We're still working through the sack, but here are some of our favorites so far:

Otis by Loren Long.  A "vintage" tractor gives long and faithful service on a farm, only to be replaced by a bigger, yellow tractor.  The little tractor had served as security blanket for an orphan calf, which takes comfort in the soft purring noise the tractor makes when it sleeps in the barn next stall over from the calf.  The yellow tractor scares the calf.  When the little calf goes missing, Otis the vintage tractor purrs to the rescue.  The illustrations are captivating, and my lads have asked for repeated readings of this book -- as in, we get to the end and they say "let's read it again!"  That's what I call "a ringing endorsement."

I am a space program junkie -- at least, early space program.   I plowed through Apollo 13 (and have the movie memorized), read The Right Stuff (but found the movie a little less captivating than Apollo 13), and speed-read James Michener's Space for a book report in senior year English (though I wouldn't recommend that).  Imagine, then, my delight at Moonshot by Brian Floca, which chronicles the Apollo 11 space mission -- the one in which they actually land on the moon.  Densely (but wonderfully) illustrated and scripted, this one handily holds my four-and-a-half year old's attention.  Floca is also author/illustrator of Five Trucks, which my lads liked very much, among others.

Martin Waddell's The Super Hungry Dinosaur is a silly little story.  We are in the throes of dinosaur mania here, to the point where I of all people can distinguish among a triceratops, a brontosaurus, and a stegosaurus.  (This is another area of skill-building I never foresaw -- one that parallels the vast knowledge and quick recall I have of various breeds of dually trucks and other big rigs).  Anyhow:  A Tyrannosaurus Rex threatens to devour young Billy's dog, mother, and father, but quick-witted Billy and his willing four-legged sidekick forestall the dinosaur's intended destruction by some quick work with a garden hose.  Not to be a spoiler here, but no children, parents, dogs, or dinosaurs are harmed in the devouring of this book.  It's a fun one.  Leonie Lord's illustrations bring it all to life.  I daresay my lads envision themselves fending off dinosaurs in the backyard with a garden hose and that dog they keep asking for. 

Harry and Horsie by Katie Van Camp is another fun, whimsical story.  Horsie is Harry's ever-present sidekick and cohort.  When they break out the Super Duper Bubble Blooper one night, Horsie is caught up in a bubble and swept out the window!  Harry rushes to the rescue, blasting off into space after his raggedy friend.  Lincoln Agnew's comic book-like illustrations really serve the story well, giving it a vintage vibe with a modern day twist.

And one that's been out for about five years now but fresh in my mind is Halibut Jackson by David Lucas.  Halibut is a shy but crafty lad (as in, skilled with needle and thread), so he fashions outfits for himself that allow him to blend into the background of whatever environment he's in.  Finding him among the various settings is part of the fun -- he goes to the library, the market, and the park.  When he's invited to a party at the palace, he decides to craft for himself a suit evoking the palace itself.  He doesn't know, though, that the party is going to be out on the palace grounds, so he is anything but inconspicuous come party time.   These illustrations are so intriguing to me.  I could sit and stare at each page for untold lengths of time (hypothetically-speaking, of course).

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

always an exciting sighting

Today I returned a sack o'books to the big regional library not too far from us with the drive-up book drop on the way to retrieve the elder lad from preschool.  The younger lad (the one who had declared "I don't want to nap!" at siesta time) was out cold in the back seat, and even though I had a trip planned to our local library for "fresh" books, as we call them, after school, I wanted to drop off the big load beforehand for simplicity's sake.

Three huge firetrucks were parked in the big library's lot.  None of them had lights or sirens on -- it wasn't an emergency.  The firefighters must've been inside the library.  When I related this story to the lads after school, I mused aloud "maybe they were there for a program or something." 

The elder lad had a different hypothesis:

"Maybe they were there for fresh books.  Not picture books.  Firefighter books."

He might just be right.

Mass with bambini

We Catholics call our communal worship service "Mass" or the Sacred Liturgy*.   It's offered every day of the year except Good Friday and Holy Saturday (until the Easter Vigil begins, in many places after sundown on Holy Saturday).  We go weekly, though I love to go to daily Mass whenever I can (which isn't often these days).

For me, Mass has long been a source of great spiritual sustenance and strength.  I try to keep up with the daily readings at home, though doing so with greater regularity should be one of my New Year's resolutions.  The readings are the first part of Mass, followed by the Eucharist -- what we believe to be Jesus's body and blood in the form of consecrated bread and wine. 

This is one of the central tenets of our faith, one we strive to impart to our children through our faithful attendance of Mass and the living of the Gospel day in and day out.  When we go to Mass each weekend, we go to worship God the Father, His son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  If we are open to it, we stand to receive a multitude of grace and blessings, but this is not the primary reason for going.  That would be to worship God -- the One who has created each of us and placed each of us in our particular circumstances, whatever they may be.

Realizing this puts things in perspective when children are fussy or otherwise not as attentive to the goings on at Mass as we expect them to be.  It can be, we do understand, difficult for young children to sit through an hour-long Mass, but it is nonetheless important for them to be there along with us.  They are as much a part of the community as anyone else.

Setting them up for success in Mass goes a long way for everyone's sake.  Here are some of the things we try to do:
  • make sure they're fed.  We usually go to 8am Sunday Mass, which leaves little time for dawdling beforehand, but we get them up in time to feed them something (here's where I reiterate my public service announcement about protein, too.).  Blood sugar levels on even keels go long ways in helping everyone have a good experience at Mass.
  • pack some age-appropriate church-related reading material and quiet toys for the littlest ones, and make use of children's missals for those who are starting to (or can already) read
  • point out things around the church, as well as quietly offer brief explanations of what's going on during Mass
  • make our expectations clear for their behavior before walking through the door
  • commend them on their attentiveness, respectfulness, and reverence when appropriate
Now that my elder lad is starting to read, I often have the hymnal or missal (which contains the texts of the readings and prayers) open and trace the words with my finger so he can follow along.  He is participating in Mass more each week, saying the Creed and other communal prayers, singing the Gloria, and listening to the readings and homily with keen interest.  Seeing him participate makes my Mass experience so much richer.  The greatest gift we can give our children is faith in the God who created each one of them and has a plan for each one of their lives.  To see him beginning to develop his own faith life gladdens my heart profoundly. 

Of course, things don't always go smoothly.  When one of them is really struggling, we excuse ourselves to regroup, but then we return to the pew for the remainder of Mass.  We don't expect complete silence and total stillness for an hour from these young children, and most of the time they are able to conduct themselves with reasonable decorum.  All the same, there is usually a fair amount of shuffling around from lap to lap, rummaging through the aforementioned bag of "amusements," and general whispering and whatnot.  These come with the territory, and from what I understand (and hope to be true) are not generally disruptive to other people as they create a sort of white noise rather than disturbances. This kind of stuff does distract Mama and Daddy, though, and we don't always catch the readings or homily in their entirety.  Sometimes we might even miss the Eucharistic Prayer if we're out placating a child or changing a diaper.  But we always come back for Communion -- the reception of Jesus in the Eucharist.  This is the whole reason for being there. 

Christ deserves our attentiveness and devotion.  He also knows each of our circumstances and realities and is present within them.  The grace we receive in the Eucharist is His gift to us -- noisy children and shuffling of their books and all.   Even if I feel like I've missed most or all of the Mass, reception of the Eucharist makes up for everything. 

Following Communion I offer this:

"Lord I pray You will strengthen me by Your presence within me to do Your will, and to be the person Uou call me to be for the people You place in my midst..."

*The Catholic Encyclopedia (OSV) states:
 The purpose of liturgy is diverse. First and foremost, it is to give glory and honor to God through prayer. Second, it is to build up the faith of the people. Third, it is to teach and instruct the faithful in the meaning of Christ’s word through the sacred mysteries.  Liturgy is not simply an intellectual act but an act of the whole person. The intellect, senses, and emotions are involved.

For further reading, check out What You Need to Know: Mass (The Sacred Liturgy).

Monday, January 04, 2010

unsolicited advice

We are expecting our fourth child sometime in mid- to late July.  Our elder lad thinks it will be another sister, but my father-in-law thinks it's a boy.  We shall see.  We have been surprised by the gender of each of our three children in the delivery room and anticipate another surprise.  After feeling *certain* that my second lad was in fact a girl the entire time I was gestating him, I think my intuition has been disabled.  I have no idea which gender our newest babe is.

Pregnant mamas are prime targets for unsolicited advice (though admittedly I haven't attracted quite so much this fourth time around).   Three children born within three and a half years of each other (the fourth is due about a month after our elder lad's fifth birthday) mean that I have gleaned some insights into how to manage the roller coaster of tummy troubles that I ridden with each pregnancy.  If these insights can be of any benefit to anyone else, this post will have served its purpose.

** Remember: I'm a pianist -- not a doctor -- so this is all based on what I've read and what I've experienced personally in this particular season of my mothering journey. **

I struggle with "morning" (more like all-day) sickness throughout each pregnancy.  My bambini in utero didn't seem to notice us having passed the first trimester mark; I was sick pretty much most of the time for the first three, and I have a prescription nausea drug that I'm taking now (as I have for two of the previous three pregnancies) that takes the edge off and helps me maintain some functionality.

I've read about (and experienced) links between "morning" sickness and blood sugar as well as morning sickness serving to dissuade pregnant mamas from eating foods that are allergenic or otherwise potentially harmful.  But when one has been spending not quality but quantity time with the commode and just can't seem to make the room stop spinning, what is there to do?

Being proactive goes a long way.  The main thing for me is to always have something in my stomach.  If I get hungry, I often get sick.  Eating is often the last thing I feel like doing when I'm nauseated, but ironically, sometimes it's what helps turn the tide, a little bit at a time.

For me, protein is very important.  Favorites of mine have included yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs (hardboiled or scrambled), other kinds of cheese, milk, nuts, beef, etc.  It's very important for me to moderate my intake of carbohydrates (even like cereals and bread) and try to have protein along with any carbs I'm eating.  Along those lines, fruits like apples and grapes treat me better than sugary things. And the adage to eat what sounds good often holds true for me, with the premise that the body craves what it needs.  When the cravings are for greasy, fried, sugary, or otherwise not-so-healthy things, I try to temper them by having a little but not too much. 

French toast, whole wheat pancakes with cinnamon for blood sugar stability, and breakfast casserole work well for me as breakfast (or anytime).  Some favorite homemade snacks of mine include chocolate peanut butter granola and breakfast cookies

I've always been inclined toward motion sickness, and ginger helps quell the nausea (except when I'm pregnant, when oddly it isn't as effective; it might be different for other women, though).  I take it in capsule form.  I find it at the health food store, but pharmacies may have it over the counter.  I've also read that B vitamins, especially B6 (I think -- remember what I said about not being a doctor) can be very helpful with nausea.  There are also these things called "sea bands" that I tried when I was pregnant with our elder lad.  I hadn't quite figured out the whole carb/nausea link then, though, and they weren't as helpful for me as I hear they are for other women.

When nausea gives way to heartburn, I've found papaya enzyme tablets *very* helpful, even more so that Tums.  Similarly, pineapple -- especially fresh, but canned is OK too -- helps with digestion.  Sounds weird, I know, but a nutritionist told me that.  The acids in the fruits help break down the food.  And lying on my left side sometimes helps when my tummy is upset.  I read somewhere that the stomach drains on the left side, so lying that way can help it do its thing.  (Sometimes I even try this with my newborns if they seem to be reflux-y or experiencing tummy troubles of other stripes.)

Riding the pregnancy sickness wave can be exhausting, but keeping things in perspective is key to survival.  One mama friend once told me that she was sick throughout several healthy pregnancies, but not during the one she ended up sadly miscarrying.  Whatever physical illness and discomfort we go through gestating these children God entrusts to us is, hopefully, temporary, relieved soon after delivery.  I know several mamas who have struggled with the sickness and physical unpleasantries of pregnancy who would be quick to say that the children they have since birthed have been worth all the toil.

I'm one of those mamas.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


From the time I was a wee little lass, I traveled a lot -- mainly to Chicago to visit my family there, but to a few other places as well.  It was just my mom, dad, and me until my sister was born the spring before I turned 15.  My dad and I made many driving trips to Chicago and back when my grandfather was ill; I was five when he died.

I traveled to Chicago every chance I got: school breaks, summer vacations, anytime.  Being a part of the "doings" (as Grannie would say) was so fun for me -- even if we were just hanging out at her lake cottage, playing games or reading or swimming or whatever.  There didn't have to be anything big going on, even though trips into downtown Chicago and special events were always exciting.  Being together was the best part.

We have just returned from a two-day getaway to my parents' house about an hour from ours.  We all had such a great time.  It was very much like the happy times spent with my extended Chicago family, with kids and adults hanging out playing together, lots of food (including a decadent triple chocolate mousse cake my sister made for New Year's Eve), conversation, and fun.   We were sad to leave, but happy to return home. 

The logistics of traveling with three children under five (and soon to be four children five and under, as we are expecting a new arrival in mid- to late July) are ... formidable.  I can count on one hand the number of trips we've taken as a family.   For one thing, I've been pretty sick throughout each pregnancy, and the prospect of traveling like that has been simply unsavory.  Then there is the simple reality of traveling itself being stressful (nowadays, anyway), let alone with children who don't understand and therefore might resist the confines that are part of the territory.  This means, though, that I haven't been back to Chicago in a while (except a couple of short trips in the past five years), and I miss seeing my family there. Thankfully, most of them have traveled here at least once or twice in the same time period for the baptisms of our bambini or other special family events.

There is great value in learning flexibility and adaptability, and travel is one way of doing so.  I hope to help our children acquire these tools over time and through positive experiences such as the one we've just had.

I am most grateful for the comfortable home with which we are blessed.  It is our primary place of being.  Someday all too soon we might be running hither and yon, so for now I'm trying to keep myself squarely in the moment, relishing the time I have with these precious people all in one place.  These days are numbered.

Still, it was nice to get away.  The best part was simply being with our loved ones.  It has been refreshing, restorative, and energizing for the year to come -- one I pray will be filled with grace, peace, and joy for all of us, both at home and far-flung.
Related Posts with Thumbnails