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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas in Pictures

Merry Christmas! Christmas is full of surprises, and ours was no exception.

Midnight Mass is the highlight of the Christmas celebration for me, and this year we braved it once more, this time with 2 little ones. One little girl slept the whole time, not moving a muscle in response to the trumpets next to us, nor the merry greetings of those around us. One little girl was bright-eyed and wide awake for the entire duration. Now guess which one was which? ... No, guess again!!!

We had a slow start to Christmas morning, but once we made it downstairs (after lots of snuggling and milk) Bella was a transformed little girl. She caught on to unwrapping the presents and was thrilled with each treasure she found. Santa seemed to know exactly what my little girl would like, as is confirmed by her enthusiasm each morning since. She likes the idea of presents so much, in fact, that each present she unwraps now is greeted with an excited "WOW!" I loved watching her play with each toy, her eyes shining, running around in uncontainable excitement and pure joy.

Reality came to play throughout the morning, as well, in the form of lots of laundry. Bella went through 3 pairs of pajamas, Anastasia was on her 3rd outfit, Daddy and Mama each needed new attire, too. Both girls got a bath, and after lunch we ALL slept well! The good news is there was no real sickness, just phlegm and poorly positioned diapers. Lesson learned, I hope.

As we do every year we headed off to my parents' house after nap, and there we celebrated with the rest of my brothers and their families. The cousins have such a great time together, and the euphoria of Christmas only serves to heighten the mood... and the volume.













Click! Bella loves to "take pictures" and says "cheese" each time she gets her hands on an unattended camera.



oooo, what else is in there?

















The Sunday before Christmas we enjoyed "breakfast with Santa" at our local volunteer fire company. Bella is in love with Frosty, and allowed him to hold her, but preferred to greet Santa from the safety of Mama's lap. Anastasia was more than cooperative for yet another photo op.
















A Merry Christmas to All!!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 22, 2008

Haul Out the Holly

We're just 2 days away from Christmas! Every year I look forward to this whole season with the joy and anticipation of a child; there is warmth and love everywhere, people are friendly, and I can even be civil while driving with the pleasant tones of Christmas carols on the radio. It is no secret that I am not a terribly organized person (perhaps that is an understatement?) and so this time every year also brings out a personal challenge to stay focused on the True Meaning and not get wrapped up (no pun intended) in the hoop-la. Of course, I LIKE the hoop-la, but I try to make my spiritual growth a priority, and not stress out about what I haven't done.

So this year... I haven't wrapped, baked, or hung up my wreaths. I didn't remember to put out our Advent tablecloth for a liturgical focus in our Domestic Church, and the Advent candles melted over the summer so we didn't even have an Advent Wreath. I decided to make my niece's Christmas gift and haven't started painting yet. I was going to write a blog post about the Best Christmas Music of all time. I didn't send out any Christmas cards.

I HAVE... spent a lot of time gazing lovingly into the eyes of a newborn. Isn't that what we're supposed to be preparing for, anyways? There is nothing glamorous about being 2 weeks post-partum and getting very little sleep. My house will not make the cover of a magazine for the "homiest most festive places on earth" and Martha Stewart does not want to conduct an interview to find out my holiday secrets. Instead, I am spending my time and energy on 2 little Pure and Spotless Souls.

I am watching all the tiny movements and listening to the squeaks and peeps of a newborn. As I feel her tiny breath upon my skin I contemplate another Newborn, and His first breaths. There was nothing glamorous about His first dwelling on earth, either. If I listen closely I can hear His voice in her grunts and peeps, and if I loo closely I can see His love through her eyes. I feel her warmth and know His love.

We're just 2 days away from Christmas, nothing is done, and yet this year I think I am more prepared for Christmas than I have ever been.

Baby Equipment: Second Child Edition

It's amazing how much you learn about baby "stuff" after you have your first. There is a long list of things that are marketed to first time parents as absolutely necessary, that you learn are completely superfluous. However, there are certain accessories that remain indispensable, although their usage may change...

The Cradle - Description: A beautiful, hand-crafted wood piece of furniture - the best-looking piece in our house, I might add, thanks to the talents of my brother. Provides a comfortable resting place that rocks gently, lulling the baby into peaceful slumber. Advantage: A high, safe place to put the baby, complete with pin that stops it from rocking to prevent little fingers from 1) slamming into the wall, and 2) rolling the baby roller-coaster style.

The Bouncy Seat - Description: light-weight seat that bounces gently with baby's tiny movements, which continuously calms them for either awake or sleepy periods. Advantage: Lightweight enough to pick up and move to higher ground to prevent that gentle bounce from becoming a catapult. ("Baby bounce!")

Sling - Description: comfy baby-wearing, snuggles baby close, easier on the back and allows mama to be a little more hands free. Advantage: Also doubles as toddler's back-up blanket.

Diaper Bag - 1st Child: An over-sized shoulder bag into which you put 2 changes of baby clothes, 25 diapers, wipes, rattles, camera, 2 pacifiers, your own wallet, cell phone, baby book, nursing pads, change of shirt for mama, extra keys and hair clip, baby tylenol, mama tylenol, receipt from last doc's appointment, granola bar and bottle of water. 5 months later: you change the style of bag because your back is killing you. 4 months later: you clean out the bag, realize how much junk is in there, and make the switch to a small bag that holds your ID, 2 diapers, a baggie of wipes since Toddler has pulled them out of their original container, and a quiet toy and book for Mass. On good days it may hold your camera, too, but let's not push it. Second Child: Back to the large bag, but this time it's full of newborn diapers and wipes, some toys for toddler, one larger diaper ("did I remember to bring one?") and your camera. Realize once you're at the doc's office that you forgot your insurance card again, which also means you've been driving without carrying your license again ("for how long?" you wonder). Your back is still killing you, but now it has nothing to do with the diaper bag.

Pacifier: That little plug you resist for the first baby for weeks, until her crying is so bad that you want someone else to hold her and not have her nurse 23 hours a day. It then taunts you for the next ___ months while you remind yourself that you weren't going to use it; it's only because she was so fussy. Second Child: she's sucking on one before you leave the hospital.

Yes, with experience comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes humility, and with humility comes... more children from which to become wise and humble.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Anastasia's Long Trip Home

These have been the fastest 2 weeks of my life, but I am finally getting around to share Anastasia's dramatic coming home story. This is a long narrative, but I want to remember the details to share with Anastasia someday.

I sent Patrick home on Thursday night to be with Bella and his mom, knowing he would be back up with us after Friday morning Mass. When I emerged from the bathroom Friday morning one of the pediatricians was assessing Anastasia, and mentioned casually that he wanted to run a CT scan of her head just to make sure she was fine. It was so casual that I figured I would ask more questions after the fact. Honestly, as a medical professional myself I can appreciate the caution used in the assessing/diagnostic phase of treatment, as you don't want to raise alarm unnecessarily. Like I said, I figured I would get myself ready for the day and ask questions when they came back. Little did I know that all hell was about to break loose.

When Anastasia returned the nurse said they were going to keep her for 24 hours of observation because they suspected a head injury. Before I could even get ahold of Patrick (he was at Mass at the time) they made the decision to airlift her to Children's Hospital in DC because the CT scan showed a subdural hematoma (a blood clot in the brain)! "Scared" does not even begin to describe the feeling that consumes a parent's being at that moment. I frantically called Patrick, who made it to Hagerstown in record time, thankfully in time to hold our little girl before she left. I pray that Anastasia is our only child to be baptized by her father - what a start to her Life in Christ, baptized with a syringe of salt water!

While I was waiting for Patrick and the transport team, I rocked and nursed my little girl, cradling her tightly in my arms. Pressing her against my heart, I whispered how much I loved her, and told her all about how much we had looked forward to meeting her. I prayed over her, recalling Scripture's command to call upon the Holy Spirit's gifts. I handed her over to the care of our Blessed Mother, knowing that Anastasia needed a Mama there even when I couldn't be. Then we did the hardest thing that I could have imagined - we entrusted her to the care of total strangers who carried her to the waiting helicopter.

I was and am so thankful to the staff at Washington County Hospital. My nurse was caring and kind, and worked double-time to get me discharged right away; she made all the paperwork quick and painless, fulfilled her obligations with lightening speed, even made sure I was medicated and had some extra supplies, all the while being so gentle and understanding. The lactation consultant ordered me a breast pump since I would be separated from Anastasia, hand-delivering all the supplies and instructions I would need. The nurse manager made sure I had directions to Children's; the transport team was affectionate toward her and reassuring toward us. More so even then all of that was the incredible outpouring of prayers I had from those people. The nurse midwife, lactation consultant, and RN all prayed with me. In a society where we are so afraid of offending people with religion, they stepped out from behind the professional curtain and prayed with a scared mama. Thanks be to God for such people.

When we were leaving we found out that my brothers Tom and Scott were on their way to pick us up so we didn't have to drive ourselves down there. Besides the obvious relief from not having to drive into DC in the midst of the biggest emotional crisis and adrenaline rush ever, there was the added benefit of having law enforcement behind the wheel. Thanks guys - my brothers have always been, and will always be, my heroes. If you can even imagine such a thing, they managed to keep the mood in the car reasonably light.

We arrived in the NICU at Children's and almost immediately heard music to our ears - "she's fine." As the NICU resident (doctor) assessed her, the nurse went over the details of a stay in the NICU, all the while saying "we don't think you'll be here very long. We think she'll go home in just a few days, maybe even tomorrow." Shortly after we finished the logistics, the NICU attending (highest-up doctor) came around and with a big smile announced that we were to be his shortest stay ever - we were going home! We just had to wait for my father and another brother to arrive with a carseat, and for Anastasia to eat. Unfortunately, this included a "car seat challenge" that's standard procedure for the NICU, in which the baby has to sit buckled in the seat for 45 minutes of observation. Crazy, I tell ya. My uncle and aunt came to meet Anastasia and brought us food (great Italian place in DC), and then we hung out in the waiting room taking turns visiting our precious, healthy baby.

As we walked out carrying our Precious Cargo, I took note of the time - we had been scheduled to be discharged from Hagerstown around 5pm, and we walked out of Children's at 5:15. God is so good, even in little simple details. He astounds me.

There is really no way to describe the emotions involved in such heartache of unknowing surrounding your child. The only way I can think of to summarize it is my heart is ripped in two and my very soul aches for my child. Time swirls around me with it's great offense, since my own world has stopped, and yet I am painfully aware that time must continue for the rest of my family. I would bounce between total enrapture with Anastasia and her condition and how long it had been since I held her, and suddenly be thrown with force into concern for Isabella, and if she was noticing our absence. (Which, by the way, she did not of course. Not only is she just 17 months old, but she had 2 grandmothers with her the whole time. I don't think she thought about us until we walked through the door!) I refuse to think "what if" and yet my mind wanders there in defiance of my will. Then, life changes abruptly again and we bring a healthy child home. In a single instance the world is restored to it's proper order, and the relief that washes over is more like a tidal wave or hurricane rather than a breeze. The adrenaline high starts to ebb as we drive home, and I spend the whole ride home just touching her face.

We were greeted at home with a whole party. The best part was Bella running into my arms; I had missed her so much! Although I had imagined a quieter homecoming, everyone's emotions had been on high alert all day and it was a blessing to have such a jovial outlet for everyone to unwind. It ended up being a perfect ending to the day, to be surrounded by love.

Speaking of which, I am humbled by the outpouring of prayers on our behalf. It still gives me goosebumps (alright, alright, I'll admit it brings me to tears) when I think of all the people who were praying for us. Words cannot even express how touched I am to realize how loved we are, and the faithful, prayerful, wonderful people we have in our lives. Truly the Body of Christ is a far-reaching reality - we had people praying for us from coast to coast (literally), Masses being offered up, rosaries said, phone calls of encouragement. Just this past Sunday I had yet another lady I didn't know come up to me just to congratulate us and let me know her family (5 kids) had been praying for us, thanks to the home-school email list. We've gotten a few emails from CA family and friends expressing their love and thankfulness. I was realizing that news spread through so many prayer networks so quickly that I don't even know who knows! That's fast work, and powerful prayers.

Through it all, the answer remained "With God's Grace" - no matter what the question was, total trust in Him was the only option. God often gives us opportunities to draw closer to Him, and I am eternally thankful, with an overflowing heart, for this outcome, and for our Beautiful, Healthy, Anastasia.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Coming Up For Air

Just dropping in from the underworld of a post-partum Mom to say hello and post a few pictures of the Latest Model.

A big shout of thanks to Alexis for keeping my faithful readers (all 3 of you) up-to-date on our adventures for a few days. We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support and especially the prayers we have received. Words cannot express the depth of gratitude for the storming of heaven that was going on for our family! We know that God had a lot of people to whom He was listening on our behalf!

And with that said, please allow me to introduce (for the second time) Anastasia Kathryn! A beautiful, perfect, HEALTHY Gift from God!

The new Big Sister is in LOVE with "my baby Stacy" as she says... over and over throughout the day. The minute that Anastasia starts to cry Bella jumps up frantically insisting "Mama! Baby! Cry! Baby!" I have some competition for the role of Attentive Mama around here, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Just yesterday she was heading up the stairs and I asked her from my seat where she was going, to which she replied "Up see my baby."

Also overheard from the bathroom was "Baby, rock, wwhhheeeeee!" Nothing can get Mama moving faster than that combination of words. Turns out she was swinging her baby doll in Anastasia's swing.

As for the Little Babe Herself, Anastasia is doing great. She sleeps very well (Praise God!), nurses like a champ, and is an over-achiever in the pooping department - every mother's dream, right? We joke that she is false advertising for babies, because she slept through dinner at a restaurant, and when she wakes up she is bright-eyed and content. As I type right now she is sitting in the bouncy seat watching the Christmas lights on the tree not making a peep. I just sit back and stare at her, amazed at God's Goodness reflected in this precious infant. What a great reflection for Advent - but I digress.

I will post the details of our little adventure soon... "soon" being a relative term, but I promise to work on it. Also, for those interested in every little picture of The Newborn Anastasia you can check out our photo web page which has all of her pictures from the hospital as well as the continuing updates.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Voicemails

This is still Alexis, Kate is otherwise occupied.
I forgot my phone today in my bedroom, it's never in there. NEVER.
So I just listened to three voicemails in the span of 5 minutes and I'm crying but I'm not sure why. Here they are, in REVERSE order, for the sake of your hearts.
3. Anastasia is fine and released to go home. The diagnosis was wrong.
2. Anastasia is being taken to Children's hospital.
1. Anastasia has bleeding on the brain.

Phew. God is good. And they should all be home soon. Let's keep praying just in case!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Anastasia - Day 2

Anastasia (Drizella?) Tramma
For stats see the previous post


What the heck is she doing looking so good?! Both of them for that matter!

Proud Papa of two little ladies.

Bella and Stacia playing dress-up already.

"Give me that head! Soft spot be damned!"

Kate's thinking, "Here we go. I'm cool, calm and confident." Doesn't she look great?!

The new look of the Troup of Trammas. The Tribe of Trammas. Whatever.

Baby, Baby...

Alexis here, in for the new mother.

Welcome is in order for Anastasia Tramma! Born at 5:30 December 3rd, 2008. A little tax exemption, indeed.
She was born after 12 hours of difficult laboring and is healthy and apparently a good eater, pooper and sleeper. Every mother's dream.
The stats are: 7 lbs 10 oz. , 20 in. long and with a head of curly hair!

The best thing about the labor is that it's over.
I'm sure Kate will fill you in with the blood and guts details in a few days/weeks.
I will post some pictures as soon as I get some (later tonight?).

The trick now is to cast your vote for the middle name. Options are:
Katherine (after Kate)
Catherine (after Catherine of Sienna)
Francis (after Francis Xavier - feast day Anastasia was born on)
Frances (same as above but feminine version - possible for Frances de Chantal).

P.S. Bella loves, loves, loves her new little sister. It's going to be fun watching those two grow up together, so close in age. "Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters..."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fabulous Friday

The day started very early this morning, with a wake-up at 0630. For some families this is routine, or even sleeping in (yikes!) but neither Bella nor I tend to act human before 7am. This morning was no exception, we just happened to be awake. With her early request for milk I took her to my bed to "nuggle" and maybe even fall back asleep! No luck. In fact, Bella had just nestled down on my lap with her head resting on my belly when Little Hidden One decided he/she did not like the encroachment on his space and started kicking her in the head! Poor Bella, how was she supposed to fall back asleep when I could watch her head visibly move with each thump?

The plus side to being awake early is that there is no struggle at all to make it to Mass. Well, ok, at least there shouldn't be, but we had our daily installment of the Getting Dressed Olympics. This is a series of sporting events beginning with the Removal of Jammies, an event in which Bella lays there patiently smiling, happy to be getting naked, until she realizes that it is now cold. Mama then faces the task of completing the removal with Bella plastered against her, burrowing into Mama's chest for warmth. You might think that this makes our next event, the Placement of a Clean Shirt, an easy task, but you would be mistaken. No, after the initial shock Bella decides she likes being chilly, and so this event involves getting 24 arms into 2 arm holes. Then of course we have the You Must Have a Clean Diaper relay, in which you must complete all necessary steps of a successful diaper change while holding 36 legs still and maintaining the appropriate supine posture. By this time neither of you notices the cold, and in fact Mama is sweating and her hair clip is in Bella's hands in a desperate attempt to distract her. Begin singing silly songs before initiating the next event. Finding the Matching Pants You Just Had In Your Hand is the next in our Olympic series; in this task you must employ all creativity to get Bella to stay on the changing table while you step back to scan the room for said pants. Hint: crawl on your hands and knees under the changing table; the pants are most likely to be located tossed on top of the heater vent. If this fails, check the dresser drawer. Having made it this far we at least know we are on the homeward stretch. Bella like shoes and socks, so the only challenge here is making sure the shoes are lined up for immediate placement after the socks, lest the need to find her toes takes over. When all is said and done, the race is completed and points are tallied, do you win a gold medal? Nah, you just have a dressed child!

Isabella is definitely feeling better as also evidenced by her wiggles and squirms at Mass, but that is much easier to handle. I consider the normal activity and babble of a toddler to be completely acceptable, and luckily the people around me do, too.
After she fell asleep literally in our driveway, I was afforded a few minutes of peace and quiet to myself. Of course this actually means emptying the dishwasher and starting laundry, but I also inserted the luxury of making coffee and internet time! As I sit here sipping my hot coffee there is a beautiful snowfall swirling around the great outdoors. The flakes are abundant, creating a beautiful, gentle curtain of white against the colors of our suburban neighborhood. It accumulates in the grass, forming a heavy dusting and adding the Artist's touch to the gray day. I am thankful for my warm house and yummy flavored coffee while I watch a perfect display of the glories of the change of seasons. Strange, a week ago I wrote about the fall colors, and I'm already nestling into a winter's day.

Augh! The peaceful scene is interrupted by a %$&*! dog barking right outside the window, which has startled my little Bella awake. Back to reality - lunch and playtime, coming right up!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Blogger-Myers-Briggs

ESFP - The Performers

The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.



Although this is not entirely my personality, it might describe my blog pretty well. What do you think? What personality is your blog? Leave a comment!

Shorts 4 - Bella Edition

Yes, these are all shorts centered around my favorite topic: Isabella!

Back to the doc today - aren't we lucky? Seems that after her little viral gastric upset last weekend she has also developed another ear infection. Although I am well acquainted with the idea that there are many causes of infections I am still left to ponder why in the world has she managed to get yet another one? I'll have you know she can say "medicine" with pretty impressive clarity.

~
Current obsessions: Babies, animals, and apples - in that order. She cannot get enough of babies, whether dolls (don't leave home without one!) or the real kind! She was mesmerized with the little 4 week old we saw in the office today. She loves to sing "rockababy" (as she says it) and make the baby participate in all games that she is playing; the poor baby dolls when "we all fall DOWN!" We read any and all animal books she can get her little hands on, multiple times a day; I LOVE hearing all her animal sounds and how excited she gets to see real ones. Bella does not understand why we cannot touch every one we see, though - I draw the line at stray cats.
The love of apples started when we went apple picking many weeks ago, but they have not lost their appeal. This suits me just fine, as she eats them skin and all! She has not been a big fan of applesauce for many months now, but after I made my own (! story coming soon!) she LOVES it! She asks for it by name very clearly and will eat more of that than any other one item. No complaints here - without any additives it's a healthy menu item :)

~
Bella saw snow for the first time in her memory a couple of days ago! It was the thick, warm snow that is pretty to look at but never lasts, which was perfect for a little one to see! Patrick bundled her up and took her out for their nightly constitutional and when they returned she very excitedly told me "snow!" Of course it melted by morning, and the following night she was content to see the stars which is what they usually talk about on their walk.

~
Should I be concerned that she says "football" and "remote?" What next, "nachos and beer?"

~
I just read about the Toy Hall of Fame and was very intrigued. It's a simple list of the best classic toys of all time. Although I don't think it's comprehensive, the ones listed there are certainly tried-and-true, sure to build imagination and creativity. "The Simple Dollar: financial talk for the rest of us" writes a very good post about Christmas inspiration for great toys that are sure to inspire creativity AND are inexpensive. Yay for that! Why do I mention this? Has anyone else realized that Christmas is only 5 weeks away, or am I the only dolt-in-the-dark? I love the idea of classic toys that will stand the test of time and multiple children, and I really love the idea of being able to do so on a tight budget.

~
As hard as it may be to imagine, my daughter is a Drama Queen. I'm not sure where she gets that exactly. Today we were playing, singing songs, reading books, and she was simply adorable. She starts pulling facial tissue out of the box, holding it up to my nose and saying "honk." The next moment she takes a swing at my face then runs to the middle of the floor and throws herself down with flair, crying like her heart was broken. Somewhere in there I'm certain I heard "please put me down for a nap." This is not the first time something like that has happened, and I could dare to suggest we may be in for many years of such demonstrations. It would be actually rather hysterical, if she wasn't feeling so out of sorts.

~
We are really looking forward to Gram's visit (Patrick's mom). Bella does not know it yet, but she is in for a real treat. I know I'm in for one, as her visits are always delightful. We have had mixed feelings, I have to admit, this time around - her visit is scheduled to correspond with the New Baby's Arrival! There is a strange emotion that occurs when you are counting down to an event that significant. In any case, we've been letting Bella talk on the phone with Connie as much as possible to re-acquaint her with Gram's voice. Today Gram mentioned Mama reading a book to Bella, at which point Bella pulls away from the phone and repeatedly insists "bye!" She felt she had a better offer.

Friday, November 14, 2008

One Handed Laundry

After 5 nights of very little sleep, 2 days of a fever and a runny nose, I felt sure Bella was teething. After the vomiting ensued last night into this morning, I am no longer as confident of my diagnosis - this may, in fact, just be yet another nasty virus. Oh goody. *sigh*

As much as I love to cuddle and snuggle my baby as much as she'll let me, changing the sheets (twice) and doing (three) loads of laundry (already) one handed has proven VERY difficult. For that matter, changing my shirt (twice) has also been more challenging today... While I obviously put her down as needed, the broken-hearted screaming that results is sure to upset her stomach and produce more phlegm, guaranteed to make the whole situation worse. A vicious cycle, I tell ya.

Speaking of one-handed, typing as such is not so easy, either. I guess today will be more reading and watching TV while my Little Sick One "nuggles" (as she says it). If it weren't for the being sick detail, it would be a perfect way to spend an overcast day such as today.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Today we honor our thousands of men and women and thank them for their patriotism and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good of our country. Without the loyal, selfless service of those who have fought we would not have the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Please, today, say a prayer for all veterans and their families. Even knowing that our country has her flaws should not stop us from expressing the heartfelt appreciation for those who have believed enough in her to put their lives on the line in the name of freedom.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 saw the cessation of fighting in the "War to End all wars."
Soldiers near a church at Stenay-Meuse in France, at 10:58 am Nov 11th 1918 just two minutes before the official armistice took effect.


"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…" President Woodrow Wilson


Armistice Day was renamed "Veteran's Day" in 1954.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Shorts 3

I have less than one month until my due date. Let me restate: I have about 4 weeks until this little guy/gal makes his/her great debut. I'll say it in yet another way: I'm almost done being pregnant! As much as I enjoy pregnancy, I am positive that God originally intended gestation to last 8 months. This 9th month is something I intend to take up with Eve someday - damn that loss of paradise! Now we have this extra month that serves to ensure that Mama is ready for ANYTHING, as long as we won't be pregnant anymore! Labor pains? Bring 'em on. Difficult infant? No prob. Fear of unknown? I'm ready. Besides, by now I'm very eager to meet the little one who has been using my insides for boxing practice. I want to see his/her beautiful little face and strong little kicking legs.

~
Why is a toddler's eyesight SO MUCH better than ours? They can see microscopic items at a distance that puts the strongest microscopes to shame. They can identify the one thing you put out of their reach and eyesight and beg for it, even using words like "pease?" in such a way that makes your heart melt, although you did not intend for them to play with it. *sigh* Parental resolve must win again.

~
After 3 years of avoiding it, we have a TV in our bedroom. I am still not too sure how exactly it happened, but Patrick's rationale of "a small one for while you're awake nursing" somehow took root this time. I thought the question was still hypothetical, when he came up with a sale add that made it very tempting indeed. Suddenly the leap was made to having a large one in the basement (hooray for Craigslist!) and our old one on the dresser. Not the decor I had in mind, but I must admit we have really been reaping the benefits of snuggling up for our favorite show all cozy in bed. Yes, I am admitting it was a good idea, especially with the infrequence with which we use it. I still don't like the appearance, though.

~
Has is dawned on anyone else that Thanksgiving is only 2 weeks away? My parents host dinner and we each bring a side dish. I am already pondering what to make, as it may take all my brain power until then to decide and carry it out. How about your families? Who hosts and who cooks? What are some of your family classic dishes that come out for this Annual Feast?

~
I am really excited to see how Bella takes to a little brother or sister. This past weekend we were with friends and 8-week-old Baby Thomas absolutely fascinated her! She climbed onto my lap and quietly and gently pointed out all his uncovered body parts! Oh, and his toes - Bella seems to be offended by socks without shoes, and kept pointing out that his toes had no shoes. When I took off his itty-bitty little sock to reveal his precious tiny toes she was much happier. She kept hugging him and giving him kisses! Although I do not take her gentleness for being par for the course, it was very sweet to watch her fall in love with a real baby. She was not at all bothered by the fact I was holding him, either!

Autumn

Fall amazes me every year. I think it was my grandmother who used to call the changing seasons "God's tricks" because He seems to sneak you into another season before you have a chance to protest. This fall has been warm, which has made the transition even sneakier. (Is that really a word?) We have flipped from a winter coat back to shorts and back into corduroy again and again. Each year I think "Wow, the leaves are changing already?" only to realize that it's the middle of October. This year, thanks to the warmth, I did not have to mentally adjust to arrival of fall, but rather just enjoyed the view. Suddenly I find myself shocked that the colors are past their prime, the leaves have already formed their collage of color on the ground, and the mountainside is just a little more bare and brown. Oh, yeah, that's right - it's NOVEMBER. This is what's supposed to happen now! Darn, next thing you know it will be winter!

The truth is that I actually enjoy fall a lot once I accept its presence. This year, thanks to the warmth, I have been able to be outside walking Isabella around crunching the leaves without bundling up and holding her for fear of a Mary Poppins moment with the wind. It's almost disappointing not to have the crisp air beginning to bite at your nose and bring that flush to your cheeks, but I'll take it anyway. Isn't is amazing how much more beauty we see in each piece of nature when viewed through the eyes of a child for the first time? Showing Bella the colors in the leaves opens my eyes to the diversity and splendor of God's palette. Bringing her attention to the crunch and crinkle as we walk has brought a stillness to my soul, a pause that encourages me to simply listen to God's symphony that surrounds us.

Today is colder again - the thermometer reads 47, and outside my (closed) windows the leaves are swirling around causing the dog across the street to bark like a moron. What was that about peaceful stillness? Bella was angry at her long sleeves getting dressed this morning, but is now tucked snugly in bed for her nap. Oh, that peaceful stillness. I am pining after some good orchard-fresh apple cider, but will enjoy a cup of hot tea while I prop my feet up to delve into a good book that does not involve dancing hippopotamuses. (Can you guess what I spend a lot of time reading?) Life is Beautiful, and the changing of the seasons, in whatever form it happens, is a constant reminder of that.

Friday, November 7, 2008

NC Trip

Last weekend found us in North Carolina for a fun-filled, busy-yet-relaxing weekend! On Thursday my mom and I drove down to Chapel Hill, NC for my cousin's wedding. He and his bride unwittingly chose Halloween as their date, and we headed down early. Although it was a long drive (Bella couldn't be expected to sleep the entire 5 hours) it lent itself to a very relaxing day Friday; it also meant Isabella was well-rested and adjusted before the actual wedding and reception, which was the true blessing.

We have quite a Dancing Queen on our hands! Bella followed big cousin Sara on to the dance floor, and once she caught on she was unstoppable! She stayed out there for every dance, happily bopping and twisting and laughing.

Mama had an important realization, too. Chubby Checker did not have pregnant women in mind for his "Twist!" Nevertheless, there I was - my very pregnant self holding Bella in heels doing the Twist. Actually, it was a lot of fun!


When Patrick scooped her up to dance a slow one with her, she pushed her head off his shoulder and frantically started twisting and swinging her arms; apparently slow-dancing is a little too much like bedtime! At the end of the evening she was so tired but still determined to party; she collapsed on the floor with her head down, but the little arm and leg were still moving to the music! What a party animal!

Saturday we drove a little farther to see cousins in Fayetteville. You could not ask for a more welcoming Bed and Breakfast than Mary Joan's own home. Bella was a perfect little charmer, stealing their hearts and winning their undying affection - as toddlers have a way of doing! Outside of their church is a large statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who Bella immediately recognized. She pointed excitedly, exclaiming "Maawy!" She reached out and was thrilled to give "Maawy" kisses.

The funiest moment was Sunday morning during brunch. The adults were sitting around a delicious array of edibles, while Bella walked around "reading" her books and talking to her baby. She had already surprised me by eating quite a serving of egg casserole and applesauce and cereal and grapes (very uncharacteristic of my pipsqueak). She climbs her way into Daddy's lap, rests her head on his shoulder, and falls asleep. Now for some of you parents out there this is no big deal, but this was earth-shattering for Bella! We laid her down on the carpet behind us and she did not stir until I woke her up! (I wanted her to play and run before getting in the car for the long ride home.) ????? Seriously, I'm not sure what came over her, but we took a picture knowing that no one would believe us otherwise.

We were so lucky to have such a wonderful opportunity for a weekend of fun and family. Arriving home late Sunday evening found us exhausted but rejuvenated; now if only we could explain to Bella why Monday mornings seem so quiet!

Sweetheart "meme"

I was tagged, so here I am happily obliging for a chance to brag about my sweetheart. Rules are to (obviously) answer the questions and then tag other people to do it. We'll see about that.

Husband's Name: Patrick Joseph

How long we've been married: 3 years (only? or already? )

How long we dated: 6 years, including the 7 months we were engaged. We met within the first couple of weeks of my freshman year in college, and he was my first boyfriend.

How old is he?: just turned 29, that old man

Taller: HAHAhahaha... um, Patrick. By at least a little bit.... or by over a foot... He couldn't figure out for the longest time why I was so picky about his choice of neckties. I explained to him that when we dance that's the only thing I get to see.

Who can sing best?: Definitely Pat. People don't tend to cringe when he opens his mouth. On the other hand, I am the one who remembers the right words.

Smarter?: Again, I'll say Patrick. Although I'm no idiot (I did, after all, survive nursing school and graduate with my BSN) you will not find me in graduate school, or with anywheres near the test scores he has received. His academic strength lies in math/logic, while mine is definitely verbal.

Laundry: ouch. With a big blow to my pride, I have to admit that we share this household task, and he has been pulling a lot of weight here. With my ever-growing belly I simply cannot carry the baskets up and down the stairs, and since he carries it he often just goes ahead and starts a load while there. Before my belly started interfering I did more, but he also uses his sports-watching time to fold.

Paying bills: Pat again. He's lucky to have a wife who doesn't spend a lot of money, and I am lucky to have a husband who doesn't mind managing it.

Who sleeps on the right side of the bed?: This is a silly question - who's right? Anatomical Right (looking down from headboard) is me. Isn't it funny how this seems to be decided right away when you get married, and it never really switches? The first night we slept in our marital bed Patrick claimed his side, based on the fact that it was farther from the door which meant I was the first line of defense for invading kids.

Mows the lawn?: I am proud to say that we share this one. Up until a few weeks ago I was still mowing the front and one side. Now there's a spectacle - a 7 month pregnant lady out there behind the push-mower. That's one chore I don't mind sharing, especially past the dead-heat of the summer. It's great exercise with immediate gratification from the results. We also share snow-shoveling, in case you're interested, and I prefer that.

Cooks dinner: Mostly me. Patrick enjoys cooking so most weekends he'll make one big meal. I love a man who can cook!

Who's the first to admit when they're wrong?: Him, since I'm never wrong. lol. Really, that's hard to say since we're both pretty darn stubborn. I think we mostly just apologize for being pig-headed and the instance of bad communication. We're both open to explanation and apology, but I'm not sure how often "I was wrong" comes out of either of our mouths - it just isn't always necessary for us.

Who kissed first?: Pat. It was my first kiss :)

Who wears the pants?: I make the day-to-day decisions around the house, I'm home all day raising Bella, and I mostly decide our schedule. HOWEVER, I would still say Pat wears the pants with his welcome input and veto-power. I find that allowing him to be the head of our household is important to the way our family thrives. He is our Protector and Provider and I am happy to honor him in that role.

I'll tag:

Angela @ Hook, Line, and Sinker
Jen @ This Family of Ours
Patty @ Holy Banana Hands
Alexis @ Love Life

Although I will leave comments at their blogs to let them know, I am not offended if no one decides to follow. I just thought it was fun talking about my Hubby.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Shorts

Maybe I should say NO more shorts, as winter arrived yesterday. Yes, Sunday was comfortably cool, and yesterday it was January. I know that time flies, but really... When Bella asked "outside" and "golk" (walk) I thought to myself how good that would be for us. After one quick look at the thermometer I decided we would be houseplants until Daddy came home. Daddy did indeed take her for her "golk" - Daddy is a much better person than I.

~
Perhaps another reason why I was looking for an excuse not to walk yesterday has to do with this 7 1/2 month pregnant body. Although I had gained more poundage during my pregnancy with Isabella, and I have remained rather active, this time around is finding me much more sore, especially the past few days. One cannot understand sciatica until they practically fall down the stairs. I love my doc, whose recommendations were "localized heat and giving birth in 6 weeks." Funny man, he thinks he is. In the meantime, my poor hubby will be subsisting on leftovers and coexisting with a dirty kitchen floor. In the words of Old Blue Eyes,


~
God's grace constantly amazes me. Monday evenings Patrick and I enjoy going to Mass at our local parish together. It's a small, intimate crowd, and any chance to go to church as a family is such a blessing. There have been several weeks lately in which we have set ourselves up for disaster and have been proven totally wrong. Bella is still hovering between 1 and 2 naps a day, and when she takes a short ONE and doesn't take a second... oh, oh, oh, the attitude. This leaves me to lament on the drive to Mass how bad of an idea this was, and how we're going to disrupt the whole congregation, etc. Every week she has been surprising us and doing great! No, not always quiet. No, never calm and still. But GOOD! When I go in front of God and tell Him "I'm here, and as pitiful of an offering as it is please take the sorry soul of this frazzled woman" I am starting to really understand that He does, and He blesses my efforts no matter how feeble.

~
Yesterday was also the first day that Bella has ever worn a coat. Last year she was still bundled, baby-style, when it was cold. This year it's on to a real toddler coat. If it wasn't so darn cute it would break my heart. Of course, there are even more things that would break Mama's heart if we weren't starting all over in the such near future! As it is I can still snuggle her and cradle her for those brief seconds before she's off and running, while appreciating the independence that is emerging, as it should.

~
Can you believe that in 9 short days we will elect a new President of the United States? Seriously people, if you weren't praying before, start now. I prefer not to make political statements on this blog as there are others who can express it much better than I. I will say, however, that while neither candidate lights my fire (in a positive way) I believe in a moral obligation to protect the vulnerable and work to learn from history. Refer back to your core values. First and foremost, PRAY PRAY PRAY.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pumpkin Patch


Sunday was another perfect fall day, and we were happy to partake in another of those quintessential October traditions: pumpkin picking. I'm not sure exactly when or how it happened, but Isabella has become obsessed with pumpkins, second only to babies! I knew she would be thrilled, and I was right.

We met Bella's Godparents and family - Anthony, "Sosie" (Rosie), and "BABY" (Thomas) which course heightened the whole experience, as Anthony loves Bella, Bella loves Rosie, and everyone loves the 6 week old! It was a lot of fun seeing the kiddos all dressed up in costumes, from my Little Pumpkin to the sleeping Bee. We took a hayride behind a bona-fide tractor out to the patch, where Bella proceeded to touch almost every pumpkin she could. It was a slow walk.
After selecting the prized goods, we headed back, listening to Bella say "pupki" the whole way. She is very proud, indeed, of the one *she* selected.

There were a few animals there to pet, which caught Bella's attention quickly! She immediately clucked with the chickens, but was rather wary of the goats with their heads poking through the fence out to nuzzle her. She was oinking with the pigs until one started to nibble at her fingers (NOT bite, there was no pain involved). I learned that the substance lanolin comes from sheep wool - thanks, little lambs!

The walk through the corn maze was a first for several of us, and was quite the adventure letting the almost-4-year-old boy lead the way! Somehow we made it out before dark... in perfect time to see the large tractor just sitting there begging to be climbed on! In the company of good friends and cute kids, for what else could you possibly ask for a perfect day? The first thing Bella said to me bright and early Monday morning was "tactor?" and "Sosie?" and then said "tactor" all morning. Well, that is, until she saw her little "pupki" ...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Random Shorts

My blogging may take a new turn for a while. It seems as though I cannot keep a thought in my head long enough formulate a halfway intelligent post, so more often than not I simply skip writing. That just isn't any fun; I actually do this because I enjoy writing! So taking the idea from Jennifer F. here are some "quick takes."

~
This morning was a beautiful, chilly (read: COLD) fall morning. Wrapping my mind around the change of season, I decided to dress in "earth tones." I clothed myself in various shades of brown, feeling very earthy, indeed. By afternoon I simply felt like an over-stuffed waddling mouse. I think I'll stick to my reds and purples.

~
Please join me in praying for the repose of the soul of Officer Richard Bremer of the Frederick City Police Department, who was killed in the line of duty last night. He leaves a wife and 3 young children. I pray for comfort and healing for his widow and children, as well as the officers who mourn the loss of their brother officer. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

~
http://eol.entertainment.com offers a free trial to check out all kinds of coupons! You enter your locale and they give you tons of options! Here's to half-price ice-cream, and a yummy anniversary dinner! I am always looking for new ways to get out when we can even on our tight budget.

~
I am currently immersed in 2 different reads: Spe Salvi, which is Pope Benedict's Encyclical on Hope, and Fr. Thomas Dubay's "Fire Within." They are both incredible! The encyclical on Hope is a must-read for anyone and everyone, I think. Especially at a time in our country when there is so much uncertainty and dispair, the Pope's message offers such a beacon of light, reminding us of our true Hope. Fr. Dubay... well, I'll write a full post on him someday, as I could shout from the rooftops what his challenge does for my prayer life.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

3 Years Already

Time truly does fly when you're having fun AND having babies!

I stand in awe of the awesome gift God with which God blessed me when He gave me my husband. A perfect example of God's wisdom and mercy, He gave me the perfect help-mate with whom to share the rest of my life!

Three down, here's to 70 more! I figure maybe after that we could re-evaluate... nah! :)


I apologize for the lack of accompanying picture. I cannot, for the life of me, find one to post.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Call to Faithful Citizenship and Respect for Life

A letter from the Catholic Bishops in Pennsylvania, which I think beautifully challenges us perform civic duties in line with the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

"October is Respect Life Month - a special time each year when we prayerfully reflect on how each person at every stage of life deserves dignity and respect, and when we remind ourselves of the need to protect the most vulnerable among us.

It is also a time when we must pause to give thanks to God for the freedom we enjoy as Americans ... to participate in civic life. Recognizing our responsibility to promote the common good, we encourage our Catholic citizens, after they have formed their consciences in accord with right reason and Church teaching, to take the opportunity that our democracy affords them to influence the choices their government bodies will make in the future.

We encourage our Catholic people to read and study the document of our United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States. This document provides a good overview on Catholic teaching on important issues affecting public policy in our nation [and in PA], reminding us that the core of Catholic moral and social teaching is respect for the life and dignity of every human person.

We wish to reiterate that the intentional destruction of human life, as in abortion and euthanasia, is not just one issue among many. (emphasis mine) Time and time again we bishops have taught that the right to life is the most basic and fundamental human right and must always be defended. Intrinsic evils can never be supported. Catholic teaching does not treat all issues as morally equivalent. The protection of human life from conception until natural death is the preeminent obligation of a truly just society.

The Catholic Church teaches a consistent ethic of life which includes important teaching also on issues of war and peace, economic justice, care of the needy and vulnerable, education, stewardship of the Lord's creation, etc. We have a moral obligation to defend human life and dignity, to protect the poor and vulnerable, and to work for justice and peace. At the same time, however, we must never forget the words of our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. He wrote "Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights - for example the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture - is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination." (On the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful, no. 38)

We encourage the Catholic citizens of Pennsylvania to study carefully the Church's teaching as they prepare for Election Day. We bishops do not endorse any candidate of party. Our role is to teach and form consciences. Above all, we seek to ensure that the message of the Gospel is heard and upheld. Many of the issues facing our nation and our Commonwealth have important moral and ethical dimensions. We urge our Catholic faithful to be informed and guided by the moral truths of our faith and to exercise faithful citizenship.

May the Holy Spirit guide us with His manifold gifts! May God bless our nation and our Commonwealth with His abundant grace!"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Apple Picking

In my humble opinion, apple picking represents the beauty of fall just about perfectly. From the hayride out to the orchard, to the smell and taste of the fresh fruit our day could not have gone better. We met our good friends at the orchard not far from our house. The setting was picturesque with the multicolored trees as a backdrop, and the air was just cool enough to be comfortable as we traipsed up and down the rows of apple trees.Isabella decided that she really likes apples after I found a very small one for her to hold. She carried it around protectively the rest of the time, munching as she went! She also hijacked Lucy's bucket and put a very large apple inside; I would have thought it too heavy, but little Miss Determination drug it around all by herself for a good while. After picking 120 pounds of apples... yes, you read that correctly, 120 lbs! we considered our quest complete. The good news is that we split that between the 2 families, AND the cost was only 99 cents per pound! That's still a lot of apples...

We have lots of apples in our immediate future. Patrick is making pie tonight (YAY!) - any other great ideas for us out there? I, myself, am already enjoying the simplicity of eating the fresh apples straight. Now there's a healthy pregnancy craving!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Quick Bella Stories

This morning has been a lively one for us! Bella woke up happy after a full night's sleep, getting our day kicked-off to a cheerful, energetic start.

~We were looking through her alphabet book with her saying the names of the things she can (like Baby, Ball, Mama, dog...etc). When we reached the "Rabbit" page, she picks up her baby-doll and makes it hop, all the while saying "hop-hop-hop!"
~All that hopping must have made baby-doll thirsty because Bella sets her in the little chair and proceeds to feed her Bella's milk, while making that mock-drinking sound that we adults make when pretending. TOO CUTE!!!

~A few minutes later we're back to playing, when Bella turns and looks at me and plainly says "Mess" and grabs at her diaper. Very puzzled, I asked if she was messy and she wrinkles up her nose and sniffs! Sure enough, it was time for a diaper change! She is too smart for Mama.

~We LOVE dancing. With the music going I acquiesced to her request to be held, and we were dancing it up in the kitchen! She laughed and signed "more" each time I tried to stop. Now just to jeopardize your imagination's well-being, picture the scene - a very pregnant woman jitterbugging to some Buddy Holly and Elvis while holding the cutest little girl in the world. I believe this to be an underrated exercise routine; I was exhausted after a few songs!

Unfortunately for me, my computer is not in working order, so my ability to post pics and blog will be limited at least until this weekend when my live-in expert has a chance to fix it! In the meantime, I am still formulating a post I would love to write about St. Francis of Assisi (my Confirmation Patron), among others. Hopefully I'll get to that one of these days, too. Why is it that once the internet connection doesn't work there are great ideas for blogs?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dare to Discipline: Minimizing

Truly this part of my journey to more self-discipline can not possibly be summed up in one blog post, but I am at least going to write about my beginning. Handprints on the Wall is doing a series called "Minimizing Mondays" which has really inspired me to clean out and de-clutter. The more things you have, the more time you will spend cleaning/organizing/shuffling through those things. Life is too short to be constantly "rearranging the chairs on the Titanic", which is what having too much stuff to worry about becomes.

Most of us long to live free of material burdens, but find ourselves stuck in a rut of needing what we have... and often more! I am taking up the challenge of "living with less" which will give me more time for the things that I enjoy and help me lead a life more focused on physical and mental well-being and spiritual growth. A lot of this process boils down to giving ourselves permission to get rid of - despite how much we used to like it, despite it's condition, despite any other excuse we've been using.


I started with Make-Up, an area of my life/closet that I have not bothered realistically cleaning out since... uh... pathetic, huh? In high-school I participated in several theater groups, starring in a few plays and enjoying an "Improvisational Team." (Think an amateur version of some of the SNL skits, but without the political edge.) During that period I used a lot of dramatic make-up techniques mostly for fun, and because I could. Needless to say, I do not habitually run around in glitter and dark wine colors anymore, but there they sat in 4 bags of make-up! I am now down to ONE "current" make-up bag, consisting of my 'everyday' stuff in which I can also fit travel toiletries, and one "future" bag for the back-up as I run out of my current. It was so simple, and took me almost no time at all.

The following week I tackled my shoes. Shoes are such a complicated accessory for women; there are dress shoes for summer, dress for winter, shoes for pants and shoes for skirts and walking shoes and running shoes and hiking boots and match-just-one-outfit-but-I-like-them shoes. Stop the insanity!!! After allowing myself 2 indulgences, I still eliminated 8 pairs of shoes!!! I don't need 2 pairs of black heels, just one that won't cripple my feet by the end of church. I DO still need my wedding shoes, because they are bright red sandals with 3-inch heels. Seriously, those things are going down in history. I allowed myself to donate a pair that I didn't get "full use" out of, because they are no longer my style and I have to admit I will likely not wear them again. After only 1 hour of my precious time I can fit ALL my dress shoes in a "shoe hanger thingy" (thrift store special) and my others are neatly lined on my half of the closet floor. I could feasibly give myself permission to buy another (on sale, super cheap) pair of cute shoes sometime in the future without too much guilt.

There is such a sense of accomplishment after achieving just these 2 simple tasks. Opening my hall closet no longer entails the "catching reflex" and selecting a pair of shoes takes but a moment. Think of the time saved already!

Although I enjoy having pretty thing in my home, I am striving to maintain a simplistic tendency toward possessions. My goal regarding worldly possessions is to achieve and maintain a balance between enjoying the nice things we own and using them as good Christian stewards of hospitality while being detached from the actual ownership of them.

Anyone else have good minimizing techniques? Please feel free to share! And if anyone else is looking for ideas, check out Minimizing Mondays - they tackle one project each week and then write about how they achieved their goal, and are even brave enough to post pictures!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Celebrating

Yesterday was Patrick's 29th birthday, and I was really looking forward to surprising him. The best gift I can give him is... myself, right? A happy, relaxed, pulled-together Wife greeting him at the door with a clean and cheerful Daughter. But then I realized he might not recognize us, so I focused on a treat, instead.

"If you're going to bake an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe."

And if you're going to surprise your husband with his favorite cake for his birthday, you must make sure you plan ahead so that everything can be completed while the Child is sleeping.

-First, go to the grocery store. When? Well, that morning, of course! You didn't think I had gone 3 days ahead, now did you? Nope, I went in the morning when Bella is in desperate need of a nap so that I could spend time carrying her around with one arm, pushing a full shopping cart with the other, feeding her grapes to keep her from screaming.
-Bella fell asleep in the car right before we turned onto our street - carry her into her bed, then carry all the groceries in and put away.
-Clean counters because they look dirty to me, load dishwasher to make room, and clean pots and pans because... doesn't everyone start baking a cake by washing pots and pans?
-Haul pregnant self onto counter-tops to reach those little-used, yet essential, ingredients from the top cabinet shelf. Mix cake batter, looking at all the things on the "to-do" list, but make conscious decision to just enjoy singing along with the music, instead.
- Put cake into the oven and start cleaning up, adding to both the surprise and being a calm wife. Realize that I have forgotten the timer, so I make a guess and set timer.
- Run to take shower; realize that clean clothes are a commodity in this household, and run back downstairs in search of something that isn't covered in flour, grape puree, or toddler saliva. Then enjoy shower, until 3/4 of the way through shaving Bella wakes up screaming, leaving me no choice but to speed-shave. All women know what this leads to; will throw in laundry with bloody towel later.
- Step out to the smell of Carrot Cake - a strong smell of carrot cake. Mental debate ensues: cake then kid, or kid then cake? She's safe in the crib, but the milk is all ready for her, easily buying me time.
- As the NOT BURNT cake is cooling, I wrestle with the electric hand-mixer for the cream cheese icing. (YUM, my favorite part!) I realize that all this baking and cleaning and phone conversation is taking a toll on my pregnant brain - I had completely forgotten about my stand-mixer until in a call for help to Angela she reminded me. *sheepish chuckle*
- Delicious, homemade, iced Carrot Cake is covered and put away! YAY! Success! Success? I still haven't started dinner! When do I get my nap???

Dinner turned out wonderful; I just had time to start prepping veggies when Patrick arrived home to a tired but happy wife and daughter. I tried a new recipe for us, one from his family's recipe book called "Drunken Chicken." I figured anything with that name that called for RUM and setting fire to it sounded good to me! We enjoyed a pretty quiet evening at home (At least as quiet as it ever is when Sara and Rachael and Bella are all running around!) but that suited me just fine after being up and running all day. Oh, I mean, it was all for Patrick :)

Happy Birthday, Patrick! Maybe one year I will a) remember to plan ahead, and b) not be relying on a pregnant brain.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Patrick!



Happy Birthday to my husband! Thank you for being such an amazing husband and father, for working so hard for us, for always being willing to give of yourself endlessly.



I Love you so much, Patrick!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Different College

Last week Patrick represented GEICO's Actuarial Department at Penn State's career fair, held on their main campus. The company was reimbursing gas mileage and the hotel room and a small stipend for food; of course Isabella and I were happy to tag along! Anything for a change of scenery every now and then, right?

After leaving Patrick at the fair to do his thing, Bella and I took full advantage of a beautiful campus and perfect weather: have stroller, will travel! After a while all that sitting (We did just have 3 hours in the car) caught up with Bella, and she looks up at me and very clearly says "Mama! DOWN!" Not understanding that I was searching for a grassy spot, she thought I was ignoring her, so she grabs the straps, kicks her feet, and vehemently and with great volume insists "DOWN DOWN DOWN DOWN!" ...whew! Patience is not her strong point yet.

This was our pattern for the next 4 1/2 hours - walk for a while, then find a safe spot to run. At one stop we were sitting (thank the Lord!) reading a book when 2 squirrels scurried right in front of us, catching Bella's attention. Stopping barely 5 feet from us, one stayed put and watched Bella, almost as intently as she was watching it! Excitedly pointing and proclaiming, she jumped up and started toward the remaining squirrel; rather than running away, however, that little furry friend stuck around for some play time! It would approach Bella, and then hurriedly scurry past her, only to stop and make sure she was following. She would giggle and start toward it again, to chase it another couple of feet. This dance continued for a good 15 minutes, of the squirrel teasing Bella - there is no better way to describe the scene other than saying they were playing! Bella was fascinated! I must say, though, I was too! How many opportunities do we have to come that close to nature and connect in our play? It was simply adorable.

Unfortunately the pictures did not turn out so great - every time I tried to get close enough for our camera the squirrel would panic and start to run away. I stayed far enough back to watch them continue their game, which meant the pictures are a little dark and hard to see.



After 4 1/2 hours of the great outdoors (yes, I walked for the better part of 4 1/2 hours!!!) the 3 of us went back to the hotel room - at least 2 of us were exhausted!!! Patrick went out for carry-out dinner and I put Bella to bed, but not before she had a chance to run around the hotel room being silly! (She is not a thumb-sucker, by the way; she really was just being silly, grabbing the remote and snuggling against the pillows.)



In walking around that afternoon/evening, I had a lot of time to be amazed at the differences to the college life I had known. Of course the obvious difference is mere size; my alma mater had 1900 enrolled students at the time I was there, and I could not venture a guess at the size of Penn State's student body. Also, there are stoplights on campus! And buses! And of course every state college must have the football stadium, which we also saw.
The difference that really struck me, however, was in the students themselves. They seemed nice, most of them were dressed well (although I did keep in mind that it was career week) and I even got some smiles in passing. During a visit to my alma mater I would have been swamped with "hellos" and comments about the Baby and offers to help me, and that doesn't include anyone I might know! It's just that kind of environment.
Another thing I noticed is most likely a generational change: the isolation that electronics brings. I saw so many students walking beside someone with whom they were not talking - they were on the cell phone or sending texts. There did not seem to be many casual passing greetings, because those walking alone were often plugged in to their Ipods. Of course this was not everyone; I saw many groups of friends talking and laughing. I am simply commenting that I would not have been able to identify with this generation of college students or this atmosphere of student life. Times change, and places offer different atmospheres.

It really was a fun little trip - a change of pace, a change of scenery, a great opportunity for outdoor enjoyment!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dare to Discipline: Menu Planning

Recently I decided that I needed a little more order, a little more structure, and a little more organization in my life. These things do NOT come naturally to me, and in general we do just fine without them; however, with another little baby on the way, joining a very active and energetic big sister, I felt that we would all do better starting out ahead of the chaos. This will require a LOT of discipline on my part - I am really really no good at organization. I am terrible at planning. I shrink away from schedules with a plague-like aversion. ( Which remains the #1 mental roadblock to the idea of homeschooling, but at least I have a few years before I have to stress about that.)

Well, we've undertaken several projects lately that are gradually leading to a simpler, more organized lifestyle for all of us. With all the extra time and energy I have lately (note extreme sarcasm) I'm taking baby steps in planning and minimizing. I realize that this is not at all earth-shattering for most normal people, but... I am not normal. This is a huge pill for me to swallow. But once again I rely on determination, if not downright obstinance, to accomplish tiny glimmers of order in our life.

Step 1: Menu Planning. I wrote out a dinner menu last week and only revised 1 day! It's not actually the revisions that matter to me, it's mainly seeing that by planning something out we are covered for the week without me having to think last minute! I am very flexible, so any night that something better comes up I am happy to drop the plan. However, it gives me an outline, and even helps me prepare while Bella is napping. (When I don't decide to blog, instead.)

This Week
Monday: Vodka Pasta - an absolute favorite! In fact, it's SO EASY and SO DARN GOOD that I'd be happy to post the recipe for anyone interested. With only 20 minutes to prep and cook, it's also a great last-minute fix. Yum Yum Yum. Besides, I am up to my ears in fresh tomatoes from my garden-jungle, so I'm working in several recipes that will benefit from fresh ingredients.
Tuesday: Blackened-Chicken Jambalaya - just have to remember to defrost the chicken in some marinade in the morning, then hit the grill when Patrick gets home if it's good weather again.
Wednesday: Pasta with Fresh Pesto - another amazingly good and easy dish! My basil plants are invading the peppers anyways, so time to harvest a decent amount and make some fresh pesto, which both Patrick and Isabella love. (me too!) Again, this is such a simple dish, taking just a few minutes of prep and a good relationship with your blender or small food processor.
Thursday: Stir-Fry - we buy large bags of cut and prepared veggies from Costco, not expensive and a worthwhile time-saving measure! I found some random stir-fry sauce recipe online (I think it was one of the first Google results) and have simply adjusted it to meet our tastes. It's so easy to throw chicken or frozen shrimp or even beans into this for added protein.
Friday: Pizza Night - an *almost* weekly tradition. We've had bought pizza a few times in the past few weeks, so I might have to revise this one for one more week; I'm not sure yet. This is such a fun event that I've blogged about it before, and I'll end up writing about it again I'm sure.

Breakfasts and lunches are pretty run-of-the-mill around here, so I don't bother to plan them out. Rather if there are specific options that should/need to be eaten then I write them on the smear board to alert foragers.

So, wish me luck, I'll need it! We often eat at my parents' once a week, so that night will be cancelled or moved, and of course some days the best-laid plans aren't worth a mite. It really comes down to having a general outline that allows me a default of brain power if and when I need it. Anyone else have great menu-planning tactics? How do you lay out your food for the week?

*edited already: Monday night found me not feeling so great (read: not cooking) so we ordered Papa John's thanks to the Redskins! Also, I realized after publishing that Friday is Patrick's birthday, so I will be rearranging the menu to ensure that Friday's dinner is something special for him. Don't ask me what.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Quirky Me

A while ago people were blogging about silly, harmless, little-known facts about themselves. I learned so many amusing things about my friends that I decided to finally do it myself. Keep in mind that this is not a confessional - these are just silly little quirks to make you feel a little more normal.

1) I have an art notebook that no one has ever seen except for one of my college roommates. I love to doodle and sketch, and have a book with many in them. I used both pencils and pastels (terrible for a notebook but I didn't care) and my subjects were anything from tattoo designs to spiritual images to fruit on my desk. I found art relaxing and stress-relieving, something vital to a nursing student! I also used to color in a coloring book when I talked to my boyfriend (now husband) while he lived in Italy.

2) I have a persistent desire to be multi-lingual. I have studied 3 foreign languages and speak none fluently, but I love them nonetheless. One year for my birthday Patrick got me a Rosetta Stone course and I really enjoyed, with great hopes to return to it. When I was a little girl I pretended to speak French. I still practice my French and Italian in private, and I have added the desire for a basic knowledge of sign language.

3) I am very opinionated and blunt, but in my quest to be more tactful and respectful toward others I often find myself resorting to silence. I pray constantly for a balance - the ability to express myself clearly and with conviction, while avoiding offending the person to whom I am speaking. I think that's really it - I am so "afraid" of offending with my words that I sometimes just avoid them entirely. I always seem to think of the right way to have verbalized after the fact.

4) My feet are painfully ticklish. No, seriously, I can't get a foot massage or a pedicure, and I have to wear socks to bed so the sheets don't tickle my feet. I do not find it funny at all when people touch my feet; it's one of the things that consistently ticks me off.

5) I love being outdoors in almost any type of weather, except cold rain/freezing rain. I love walking in warm summer rain, the hush of fresh-fallen snow, the crunch of autumn leaves. I am amazed by the beauty of the sky almost every day. I am such a nature lover, and would rather see the stars every clear night and have to drive farther for conveniences than to live in the city/suburbs.

6) My only real, true fear in life is snakes. (I wish I could say sin, but I am not virtuous enough to get the chills at the mere thought.) I really do get chills at the mere thought of snakes, and sometimes even have nightmares. Nothing else actually scares me like that, even things that are much more prolific/realistic/dangerous.

7) My MIL called me schizophrenic because the shapes have to be put away properly on the kid's shape sorter, but I have clutter on my end-tables. I get stressed out if my kitchen is dirty, but there is no rhyme or reason to my closet/shelves/drawers. I live a constant internal contradiction between wanting to be organized and pulled together, and just enjoying the chaos.



I know your lives are just that much more fulfilled now, right? At least I hope they made you smile and realize just what a NUT with whom you've chosen to associate yourself.