When the Professor went to Boston in the Fall…

I don’t know how some moms do it all the time: parent for days without their husband or even make it through the night with an infant without their husband home and available for backup.

Some cute kid in Boston in the Summer of 2010.

The Professor went to a conference last weekend, and his wonderful mother cheerfully agreed to fly out from Michigan and help me while he was gone. The great thing about my MIL being here is that she makes not just bedtime and mealtime easier without M, but she makes all day long easier. The kids are happy to play with her, she is happy to give them all of her attention, but she also helps keep them disciplined. She even held baby T more than he normally gets held.

When I picked M up from the airport (30 minutes after dropping off his mother for her return flight), he said, “You know, it sounds like you actually had a good weekend.” And he was right, I think that I did. But I did because I put myself into survival mode, and anything beyond the minimum was a bonus. And we got beyond the minimum after the first day.

My biggest worries when M is gone revolve around sleeping. I worried the whole week leading up to his conference whether I would be able to handle the baby at night without him. I have said this before, but this baby is not the best at nursing right back down at night and often requires means beyond nursing to get to sleep. So, I was imagining being up ALL NIGHT, EVERY NIGHT and not being able to get the baby to sleep. (Keep in mind he has had teething bumps in his mouth getting bigger daily.)

But this was not the case Thursday night. Thursday night, I had no trouble getting T to go back to sleep when he woke up. The trouble was that he woke up every hour. I was such a zombie when he woke, that I did not think: maybe he is waking up because his diaper is full since he has nurse like 6 times already since 7pm or I am cold and maybe I should turn the furnace on and the baby might sleep better.

So, Friday it was the minimum, well even less than the minimum. The minimum required the morning at our twice a month co-op. I left F(normally I fight her to stay in the nursery classroom) at home with Grandma, and spent all of the co-op holding the baby and drinking coffee in the mom’s hangout/discussion part of co-op. In the afternoon I took a nap, and ordered pizza for dinner. I had planned a dinner that takes about 15 minutes to put together, but I could not even do that. That would mean explaining it to my MIL and I had no ability to do so. So, we ordered pizza. That was good.

I started asking people for prayers that T would let me get some sleep that night, and took a few precautionary measures for Friday night. I turned the furnace on so the baby would not get cold, and made a plan to not nurse him if he woke every hour but try walking and bouncing him instead. But he only woke every 2 hours, only requiring nursing, which was great in my book. And I got him back down every time!

Saturday went well. My goals for me were: grocery shopping, running, and showering. And we got them all done around playing with the girls, getting T to nap, and the afternoon quiet times. We went out to our favorite family restaurant for dinner and T slept the whole time there.

Saturday night: I had been reading Bl. Zelie Martin’s letters. In one she talked about how she had her daughter pray to the baby brother who had died in infancy to intercede for the healing of a two week long awful ear infection. The ear was better the next day. So, I thought, why not pray to our little one, JP, and ask for him to intercede for T to sleep comfortably, because I have been attributing bad sleep to teething. Well, we had three longer stretches, including a 3.5 hour one.

Then, Sunday Mass: WE ALL STAYED IN THE PEW! There may have been a lot of whispering from the younger girls, but for the most part, everyone behaved well. Hooray!

In the afternoon, we picked up the Professor, and as we were circling through the passenger pick up, waiting for M to be let off his plane, the girls reflected on how it is “just not the same with Daddy gone.”

And now my survival mode is over; we made it! This morning (thanks to academic schedules M was home most of today), we sat and drank our coffee chatting for about a half an hour before I had to start school. It was so pleasant to have a normal day begin, and I feel about 10x less stressed this week than I did last week, like I might be able to do something beyond home schooling this week.

I realized that the impending conference had been weighing on me, but I also realized that I can do the baby care alone at night if I need to. But it is still really nice at 5:30am when the baby won’t quite settle to be laying in bed, knowing that he will be put back to sleep by his father. What is even nicer is that M has such a good touch with this baby that he resettled him at nap (while I was running) and extended the baby’s nap by two hours. Baby is awake and kicking now, but and awake baby is much easier to blog next to than anyone else around here…

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, August 7–Summer, never leave me!

These all came from the garden. Yum!

1. I am really soaking up summer right now. I don’t really want it ever to end: sunshine, warm days, garden fresh veggies, flowers everywhere, barefoot children, and squishy bare baby legs. It does not really get better than this… please summer, don’t go away, ever…

2. This guy is smiling and cooing, and as F (2) says, “He is talking at you!” That is probably the most apt way to describe it: “talking at.” And we are getting some sleep at night, at least six hours most night of interrupted sleep is all I need as long as I can have my cold press coffee mid-morning after I have had my hot coffee with breakfast.

3. We checked out a beach at a local county park last Sunday. (The Twin Cities has amazing parks). It was perfect. The water was not too deep, there were umbrellas for shade for the baby, and the bathrooms were about 30 feet from where we laid our blanket. This was our plan for teaching the girls to swim this summer, but we might just have to give in and do lessons at some point. Anyway, the beach was nice and I did some coverless public breastfeeding to kick off World Breastfeeding Week (because everything needs a week I guess) and showed less skin than most of the other women on the beach, so there…

Not a nursing picture.

4. We have had the following conversation at dinner about 5 times in the last week:

G (6): “I still am going to be a nun when I grow up.”

L (4.5, and who previously expressed a desire to be a nun): “I think I might get married instead.”

F (2.5): “I am going to be a PRINCESS!”

Of course you are, F; dream big. Be who you want to be. You can keep the Disney Princesses out of you home, but your can’t take the dream out of their hearts. Actually, we do a lot of princess stories here, just sans Disney.

5. G came out of her room dressed like this the other morning.

Me (wondering if she is going emo): “You know, G, you are wearing all black.”

Her response?

“Some nuns wear all black everyday!”

Me: “True. Good point.”

6. Back in June, M and my mother took the girls strawberry picking. They came home with 30 lbs of strawberries, most of which we cleaned, crushed and froze. Well, last Sunday (the one before we went to the beach), we made a whole bunch of strawberry jam. So much so that we canned it in quarts and pints. With four kids we have moved up to club size canning!

7. And in case you don’t follow me on Instagram, check out these morning glories:

I love them!

That’s all folks… I guess this was a photo dump post…

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum!


How I am Really Feeling About Having Another Baby

This is one of those posts that my friend Anna would call a “Mom Confession.” I have one to make, and probably I just need a pep talk. It has some content that may not be familiar to those who have never been post-partum or around a post-partum woman from day one until the baby is one.

I have been struggling against a dread of the newborn phase for the entire pregnancy, actually since I first got my cycles back after F was born. I was visiting Buffalo, NY at the time, and discussed my unreadiness while using a hot pack to battle a small bout of mastitis/clogged duct. I had a rough first year with F. She was a great baby, my easiest yet, but I spent 9 months dealing with infections that only women can get, 4 months dealing with post-partum depression, and barely knew anybody in the Twin Cities. On top of that I was dealing with my first Minnesota winter.

The three girls.

The first two months with F were actually really pleasant. She was born in early November, so I took some walks with her as a newborn. We had grandparents helping for two weeks, people we knew brought us meals, so I actually saw people without much effort, Thanksgiving was brought to us by our Wisconsin relatives, Advent was lovely, and we traveled over Christmas. Then we came home in early January, and the PPD and isolated stay at home mom loneliness set in. The only way to see people and attempt to make friends was to venture out into the Minnesota cold with 3 children under 4. Then infections.

Since F has been 18 months, things have been really nice. I feel like I am finally used to having this many kids. I remember last summer just enjoying the kids and our family, not really wanting it to change. But we also felt like we needed to be open to having more children, we wanted more children, we still want more children. And here we are about to have another child in our arms. The newest child is squirming inside me as a write this. I feel like this year of being content with three kids has been really good for me, like an amazing retreat. I have not been night nursing for almost a year now. I have not been nursing at all for five months. But I am feeling afraid of the change before us. I am not looking forward to sleepless nights. I am not looking forward to being post-partum, especially the physical recovery.

32 weeks along and counting.

What I am looking forward to is the baby having a regular nap schedule, and a bedtime, and being able to be put to sleep easily. All of our children have gotten to that point, and that is when I feel the most relaxed with a baby. I crave a loose schedule, ie. morning nap around 9, afternoon nap around 2, bedtime around 8. But I dislike the in between time, when baby is too little for structure.

This is the point when you should tell me that it is just for a short time. Or you could tell me that I don’t need to feel guilty about not being a huge fan of the newborn-6 month stage. You could say it really is a hard time. I know some people love the stage, and I recognize the perks. I just love my routine. Being more flexible is something I need to work on, so I guess baby is going to help me with that.

Seven Late Takes: Septuagesima Sunday

1. This is the last weekend of my husband’s winter break. His school has a January term, in which teaching is voluntary, so he has been researching and class prepping since we got home from the the girls call, “our travels.” We are really going to have to live it up this weekend. It is nice when the semester starts because it helps us establish a better routine. We have been pretty good about home schooling, but getting up for morning Mass has been a struggle. We have been pulling the tired pregnant lady card when the alarm goes off, and while it sounds legitimate, the mornings we do get up I am just fine.

2. The weird thing about this semester is that once finals are done we will be at the due date for this next baby. We have not had a new baby in over two years so it will be a family adjustment. I think it will be easier than the transition to three. When F was born, G was not even 4 and L was almost 2. It will be much different with a 6 year old, a 4.5 year old, and a 2.5 year old, who all play well together.

3. Speaking of a 2 year old, potty training is still going on. It has improved greatly over the weekend from the small accidents we were having last week. The only question is when to stop awarding her with chocolate every time.

4. We finally employed our Ikea greenhouse. We planted our amaryllis from M’s aunt and found some potted herbs at Trader Joe’s. Now I need to get around to planting some basil and find another good indoor flower to get us through until our bulbs come up outside. I really like the greenhouse largely because it is easy to move the plants if we want use of the whole table and it mostly keeps the little hands away from the plants, unless they get a desire for some fresh parsley.

5. We have been spending our last two evenings watching movies about St. Francis of Assisi. The first, Francesco directed by Liliana Cavani, I recommend never watching; it is just not worth your time and really does not portray his life well at all. Cavani does not grasp St. Francis or his motivations whatsoever. The second movie was The Flowers of Saint Francis. It is based on several episodes from the book The Little Flowers of St. Francis, and it embodies Franciscanism beautifully. The neat thing about it is that the director, Roberto Rossellini, used real Francisca friars to play the part of the Franciscan monks.

6. Today, in the old tradition of the Christmas season, we took down our Christmas decorations. F finally got to indulge her toddler desire of taking ornaments off the tree for as long as she desired. I really like the rhythm we have around our Christmas celebration. Taking down the tree listening to Christmas music was an appropriate end cap to our putting it up listening to the same music in December. Tomorrow is Candlemas, the Presentation of our Lord, and we are going to celebrate by having crepes, which is another traditional food. Today also happens to be Septuagesima Sunday, which means buried the “Alleluia” until Easter, and we are 70 days from Easter and less than three weeks from Ash Wednesday.

7. Finally, for people like my sister who like to see it, I present my 22 week bump (and my new favorite, super soft sweater that I found on clearance last week):


Working Vs. Staying at Home: The Decisions American Women Face

G hard at work at my desk years ago when I took her to work with me.
There was an outrage on Facebook last Saturday about President Obama’s statement about stay at home parents:

 “Sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

In context, he was talking about having tax payer funded preschool so as to allow parents to not have to choose between a job and having children. And while perhaps he did not mean to reject entirely the idea that parents should stay at home with their children, he pretty clearly stated that he thinks that working is the best choice for everyone.

I understand that when a parent makes the choice to leave a career and stay at home with children, she is making a life-long financial sacrifice. She is losing the chance for career advancement. But the choice between a career and staying home is much more complicated than the issue of money.

I personally began to think about the choice between stay at home parenting and having a competitive career when I was in high school. A young woman thinking about college, adulthood, and discerning religious life considers all the possibilities. At my highly competitive, all girls Catholic high school, the issue of working and raising children often came up. A motivated, intelligent young woman does not know if and when she will get married, but she does know that she is expected to go to college and choose a career. My personal goal at the time was to become a sports journalist. When I applied to colleges, I planned on being a communications major. I even got into a pretty good local school known for its journalism program, Webster University. It was five minutes from my house, and I was offered a nearly complete tuition scholarship. I could have succeeded academically there, and I could have made my way into the world of journalism. But when it came down to it, and I imagined life as a journalist, I realized that it would not be compatible with my dream of family life. I could not be the beat writer of the St. Louis Cardinals and be the type of mother that I wanted to be. I had no idea if I would get married and have children, but I hoped that I would. I made a choice to move away from a lucrative career back when I was 17, not when I decided to stay at home with my children.

By the time I got my financial aid package from Franciscan University, I was already wavering on whether to go into journalism. I could have chosen a lucrative career path, but went instead with the college that I thought would best form my character. I started off as a communications major, switched immediately to undeclared, and within three semesters had switched to theology and philosophy and was participating in the Great Books program. I am so glad that I made these choices.

My college experience formed me into the person I am now; I am not sure what I would be like without this experience. I learned to value virtue, family, and religion above material wealth and worldly success. I learned to discern what God had planned for me, and it was made pretty clear halfway through college that I would marry the man I was dating. While I focused on that, I always thought that, if for some reason I am unable to have children, I would pursue a doctorate. However, within a month of marriage, I was already on track to be a stay at home mom.

It was not easy to be a stay at home mom, even with my 12 hour a week, bring the baby along part time job, on my husband’s meager graduate student income. But we knew that it was important for our family for me to be at home. During my first years of marriage and parenting, I had close female friends who were all making economic sacrifices to stay at home with their children. Some of them had part time positions that they could work from home, and some of them had free grandparent childcare. I lived in the subculture of college educated, single income, stay at home moms. If anything, it reinforced my choice. My pro-life Catholic friends all valued spending time raising their children more than their careers.

When we moved to St. Paul, Minnesota to advance my husband’s career (we moved for his tenure-track academic job), I became friends with a number of moms who had Ph.D.’s. Most of my husband’s departmental colleagues who have young children at home have all made the choice to have one parent at home with the children, whether it be the mother or the father. In philosophy, the decision of who stays at home is often based on who has the tenure-track job. All of the academic parents who stay at home also adjunct classes and write. I have spent many a play date with these Ph.D. moms discussing the life and career that they had thought they would have until they met their husbands in graduate school. They are fully aware that by staying at home they are setting aside chances at a successful career in philosophy, but they realize that their children will only be young for so long and that it is important for them to raise them.

I am not claiming that it would be wrong for both parents to work and have their children taken care of by someone else. I think that having a thriving career is a good thing and that many women are meant to have competitive and lucrative careers. I am so thankful for my doctor, who is a mother of six, and who delivers my babies and looks into my children’s ears. I am thankful to my mother for keeping her nursing career going while my father pursued a new career path. Both of them had a strong presence in the lives of their four children. I am sure there are many mother journalists who are happy in their lives and jobs and have growing families. I really think that we cannot make a sweeping judgment about what is best for “Americans.” Every family makes a decision about what is best for their family.

And some families decide that a parent spending the weekdays with his or her children is more important than how much money they make later in life. Couples decide that, yes, they can make ends meet with a single income, and they go for it. It is not an easy decision to make, and career advances are sacrificed. But if anything is worth sacrificing income for, the care of a human being is. The life and formation of a human being is far more important than the salary one brings home. The salary provides the material needs, the parent at home provides so much more. The working parent, hopefully, finds fulfillment in work and home life.

Other families have both parents working. Some arrange schedules to have one parent at home at all times. Others have grandparents who can help with the childcare. Others hire childcare. I do not think that it means that these parents value or love their children any less than those who are able to stay a home. I have spoken to working parents who wish that they could stay at home, but they cannot make that sacrifice.

For a mother or a potential mother in a society that values so highly education and then “doing something with that,” the tension between work and family is always there. Feminism has brought this upon mothers. But no mother who stays at home should be made to feel that their choice was not worth it. Because, while children change ones life forever, human lives will always be more valuable than worldly success.

Originally published in full at Truth and Charity…

When the Husband Goes Away for the Weekend…

I hid it well from you social media places, so well, that my own mother called me Sunday night asking if M had been gone all weekend because the only thing I posted was a screen shot of M’s flight minutes from landing. I think I did fairly well. But now that he is home, I will tell you all about my “girl’s weekend.”

The last time I stayed alone with my kids (I am pretty wimpy and usually ask a grandmother to come and help) was when M had five on campus interviews in one month. I had an almost 3 year old and a 1 year old at the time, and it got pretty tiring. I am pretty sure that I went over to my closest friends house everyday that he was gone (she had same aged children). But by the fifth interview (which was three nights and four whole days), I asked my generous mother-in-law to come help. I am very aware that many wives have husbands who travel far more than my own, and I am in awe of all of you. I really am. But I made a happy discovery this weekend, and that was that a 5 year old, an almost 4 year old, and an almost 2 year old are actually easier to take care of and more enjoyable to be with than a 3 and 1 year old. We had a lot of fun this weekend. Though I did some simple things to make it easier on myself.

1. I did all my weekly chores before M left town. The only housework left was putting some laundry away, three meals a day, dishes. This made things easy peasy. Plus, with my home school schedule I am in the habit of keeping up with the dishes throughout the day.

2. Our regular schedule. While our regular schedule has daily conveniences, I always appreciate it more when we are outside of the normal. M being gone is not normal, but that does not effect our morning routine, lunch time, afternoon nap/quiet time, dinner prep time, dinner time, dinner clean up, and bedtime routine. Things just fell into place, and the kids are so accustomed to them that F (1) practically gets herself ready for nap (well not really, but she switches from running away from me laughing to laying quietly falling asleep in about three minutes, so yeah, routine). Also, nap time for me was completely unproductive besides internet roaming. But I think that was acceptable given my low key plans for the weekend.

3. Getting out everyday, and knowing my limits. I made sure to see other adults everyday, but to not overdo the outings. While little kids are fairly entertaining if you just take time to be with them, seeing familiar adults helps with sanity. I am pretty sure it not natural for women to be alone all day with kids (and no one around until their husbands are done working), but it is not entirely foreign to the history of womankind either. Just look at the pioneer ladies alone on in the claim shanties for days on end. We had our co-op the first day, a playdate/lunch date with another conference-widow the second day, and went to Mass on Sunday. I am particularly impressed with my ability to get myself and the kids up and ready for our normal 7:30 AM EF Mass on time. It makes me think that I am getting used to this three-kid thing.

4. Easy food.
Our dinner’s were so simple, which meant few dishes. I even asked G (5) to help me with the clean up and she happily filled in as she could. I was particularly impressed when she volunteered to finish the broccoli so that we did not have to save it. She looked just like her father finishing off the last few bites off the serving spoon.

I had such a good time with the girls that I found myself a bit lonely after they went to bed at night, though one night I spent on Skype with my sisters monitoring the Cardinal’s loss in game one of the NLCS. I prepared myself to not stress out, and I did it! I don’t really want to do it again any time soon, but I am glad to know that I can. Further, I think a weekend with just the girls was a good relationship building experience for us. I spent meals talking to them, listening to them, telling them stories. We went for walks together. We played games together. I think they had a good time as well, though having M home is much better.

(And just to put a funny image in your head, imagine 15 philosophers, after a four course dinner and multiple glasses of wine a piece, sightseeing around the Mall in D.C. at Midnight…and texting their spouses random shots of the monuments)

In Dread of Bedtime: Going Solo

I am a fairly spoiled stay at home mom in terms of the help I get from my working husband. My husband as a university professor has a fairly light schedule of hours that he must be physically “at work.” This means most days in the summer and on his long Christmas break, I have him at home. He works those days in his study, and then comes up for lunch and is done for the day by five o’clock. This does not mean he has to commute at five, he is upstairs from his study and talking to me and changing diapers. During the semester, he goes to campus 3-4 days of the week, and works at home at least two afternoons. This means that once I get the kids settled in nap/quiet time, I can escape for an hour to my haven of the treadmill in M’s study in the middle of the afternoon. Then, I get to take a shower. I also do this on the weekend afternoons. It is wonderful.

M at work upstairs in the afternoon.

Then there is bedtime. After dinner (which I cook), M does the dishes, and then we put the kids to bed. We do this together. On bath night I take care of the two older one’s while M does the youngest, and on non-bath nights I dress the one year old and he encourages the older two. We do our family prayers together, while I nurse my still nursing 22 month old. (I asked her last night, “Are you going to nurse until you are two?” Her response, “Yah!”) Then I put the “baby” to bed, and M tucks the girls in and reads them a chapter of our current bedtime story. It is nice, and it is a great routine.

Tonight it is not going to be that way. Tonight, M has a Dinner and Talk he is going to, and I have had a slowly growing dread of the post nap time. I think I am going to have to pull the Skype card while I make our heart, butterfly, and flower shaped mac and cheese and fish sticks. For the record, I never cook like that. When M is home, I like to cook like this (steak is like a once every two months things):

Steak and Bearnaise sauce, grilled veggies, baked red potato wedges. (Well, M does the grilling)

If we get the food eaten by 6pm, I should be able to clean the whole kitchen before bedtime. Then I can manage the PJs and teeth brushing. I can manage the prayers and nursing. I can manage putting F down while the other two bounce around wait quietly in their beds. I can even read them a story.

But what I dread is the after story, after tucked in, waiting for them to actually sleep. I can count on them coming out of their beds at least three or four times for “one last” prayer, hug, drink, potty, etc.

But maybe tonight will be different. Maybe tonight, they will remember that I have been “meaning what I say” for a few weeks now, and listen to me. So, I will face it courageously, and pray for patience (and obedience). Also, to the Archangels…who should intercede for us extra on Michaelmas.

A Saturday With My One Year Old (well… 22 month old)

When my first gave up taking her morning nap, I used to drop my husband off on campus and spend a weekday morning going to three different grocery stores. I saved money that way, plus it was the way to pass a morning as a stay at home mom of a baby. Then I had two children to take to the grocery store, and shopping only happened at one store, sometimes two. When we got to our third child, grocery shopping became an even bigger ordeal, so much so that I switched my grocery shopping to Saturdays and left all three at home. These past two weekends, my husband has had some yard work to do, so he asked me to take “the baby” who happens to be 22 month old now (how old is too old to call the youngest “the baby”?). I was transported back to life with just a one year old, and it was very sweet.

After making my list, last Saturday, I set out with F in her car seat, planning to stop at three stores. I popped Late to Love by Sam Rocha into the CD player and we jammed on our way. (F likes to sing along, “Show mEEEEE!!”)

Our first store (bulk, club shopping) was a breeze. She was cheerful, talkative, and interested in the food, “Cheese! Raisins! Apples!” It was cute and fun. And when she got bored of the food, I let her figure out how to work her buckle. We checked out, and headed out to the car. With her safely strapped into the cart I was able to bag into the trunk without children running around the parking lot, and then I had only one child to put back into the car.

We headed onto the next store. It is a small store, but often has better prices than our club, so I get a lot of our weekly staples there. We were in and out in about 20 minutes, plus once again I had no children to reign in during bagging. At this point she got hungry, so I did something I have never done before. I sat in the back seat eating chips with her. Sometimes string cheese does the trick, but today I went for the chips that I had already splurged on. Food cheers a kid (and a mom) up, and it gave us stamina for the next store. We even had a conversation about dirty hands, yummy chips, and “wawa cups.”

Then to the next store. The thing I like about bringing a cart riding, slightly verbal child to the store with me is that I can mutter quietly about what I need to get without getting funny looks. If I shop alone and say out loud, “We just need pasta and vinegar now,” people wonder, but if I talk to my one year old, no one even notices. At our third store, the did not have the special kind of whole wheat egg noodles that I love for my chicken soup, so we decided to stop at a fourth store. We could not leave, however, until F had requested and received her “dog ticker” from the cashier, who completely understood her request.

In the fourth store, I let F walk into since we only needed one item. She toddled happily up the aisles and look tiny next to the tall shelves. She helped me grab the pasta off the shelf and carried it to the check out. She then insisted on carrying the bag out to the car, one hand clutching the bag the other hand my own hand. We arrived home to her happy sisters and my husband, who were all eating lunch before their afternoon outing. F joined them in eating while I did the chore of unloading the car and putting everything away.

After lunch, we waved goodbye to everyone, and F and I set in on unloading the dishwasher. It threw me back four years to unloading the dishwasher with my eldest. The utensil rack all in a jumble, and a determined and delighted child, happy to be helping Mama. I could not get over how nice it was to spend time with her one on one. She supervises me most days when I am fixing lunch and dinner, but after the hours spent with her all morning I was able to appreciate spending a whole day with her without her sisters.

Naptime was a breeze as all I had to do was put her down and she was asleep for several hours. I got to exercise, work on other things, without the distractions. When she woke up and everyone was still out we set about folding the bed sheets that I had laundered the day before.

She watched me closely and did her best to wad fold up the sheets and lay them in a stack. When the folding was empty, she took delight in the empty laundry basket. First, she pushed her doll around in the basket, and then she insisted that I push her. Climbing into the basket, she stated, “Push me!” So, I did. I pushed her back and forth across the rug, and then spun the basket around and around. F starred at the ceiling watching the room spin and then decided to check this room spinning thing out for herself. “All done!” she told me as she climbed out of the basket, and standing next to it, tried spinning it herself. After a slight turning of the basket, she looked up to see if that ceiling was at it again, spinning, spinning. She tried this again and again, until she gave up.

Then we headed to the kitchen to work on dinner. During our preparations everyone else came home, and our day spent together was over.

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, September 12

1. I have heard from other moms about having a bad week or day this week, and I confess that it has been particularly rough for me here in the Spencer house, especially trying to figure out how to parent an almost four year old. I hope that part of it is just the end of the threes and transitioning into not needing a daily nap. I also know that part of it is my lax parenting with her, and that my parenting must be balanced with my personality. So, I have made some parenting plans, and I hope that by sticking with them, with all the kids, I will stop losing it entirely with them. You know you need to change something when you are confessing being impatient with your kids regularly…

2. Today has been the best day all week, and not just because it is Friday. I know that my success in not losing it will not be so easy every day, but I plan to persevere even on the hard days. We did our morning hourish of reading, catechism, math (sandpaper number tracing), and then for writing practice the girls made birthday cards for two different “C”‘s who have birthdays a week apart and are also 20 years apart in age. G (5) and L (3) worked on the cards for two hours, and F (22 months) and I worked on the weekly sheet and towel laundry along with the biannual-seasonal-clothing-dresser-swap.

3. The biannual-seasonal-clothing-dresser-swap is biannual, because it seems we only have two seasons in Minnesota: Winter and Summer. (We even have the furnace on today to keep the house from dipping to jacket weather.) For those of you not familiar with this, it means that I changed out all the summer clothes for winter clothes and checked the sizes of clothes to see what fits whom. Anyway, I used to think the whole changing sizes and seasons thing was a chore with just G, and now it takes a whole morning with three! I imagine that one day the older girls will be able to do more of it themselves. We also had a basketful of clothes handed down to us from a friend I had to sift through. As it is we have way to many pants and tops for the girls for the cold weather, and not nearly enough dresses and skirts. I did the skirt thing with leggings for them last winter, but they had holes in the knees by mid-February and that is not going to cut it. So, we are going the more practical pants route. Is it weird to put skirts over colored skinny jeans? Because I might just encourage that. They are so much cuter in skirts!

The hungry hawk is in possession of this squirrel’s sibling on the other side of the Ash.

4. Wednesday I noticed four baby squirrels coming out of a nest in our backyard Ash tree. They were squeaking and climbing up and down the tree, and were pretty cute to watch. M even stopped work for a minute to admire them.

The Circle of Life moves us all.

Then yesterday I glanced out the nursery window, and saw a young hawk with a baby squirrel pinned under its feet. I mentioned it to G and L and they started shrieking and sobbing, “No! No! Chase it away! Don’t let it kill the squirrel!” Knowing that M would want to see the event, I called him up from the study to calm down and explain to the girls about how hawks have to eat as well. All animals have a purpose, and hawks is to eat baby squirrels. The girls stopped screaming, but were not convinced of the goodness of the hawk. At least it was free-range “happy” squirrel veal, right?

5. I was nominated for the 10 book challenge, under the rule that I list 10 that have stayed with me. It is not meant to be a list of the *best* books I have ever read, but ones that have impacted me the most (off the top of my head):

  1. The Complete Works of Jane Austen (I cannot pick one.)
  2. Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (Still the best spiritual book for lay people that I have ever read.
  3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (duh…)
  4. The Rule of St. Benedict (When M and I read it in college, we knew that we wanted it to influence our family life.)
  5. Kirsten Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (I love they way she presents motherhood and womanhood. And her insight into humanity is incredible!)
  6. After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre (Virtue Ethics are the best kind.)
  7. The Conservative Mind by Russel Kirk (An understanding of conservatism that I agree with.)
  8. The Complete Works of Laura Ingalls Wilder (They are even better as an adult.)
  9. The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber: A History of Vatican II by Fr. Ralph M. Wiltgen S.V.D. (This transformed my understanding of the modern Church, especially growing up post-V II.)
  10. Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (I will never forgive Hardy for being so cruel to his characters, and I am scarred for life…)
The pattern is called “Ozborne Slub.” I am so glad the seam looks straight in the photo…

6. I never shared my curtains that I sewed back in July (though they have photobombed a bit).  They cover all the kitchen windows including our long ones and the back door. I managed so easily because it was a stiff cotton broadcloth. I had been putting sewing them off for a year, and now that they are finally up, I am pretty happy with them, and they add a lot to the kitchen. 🙂

7. I leave you with our blue hubbard watch:

Has it grown since last week? I can’t tell…

Linking up again with Jen at Conversion Diary.


Postpartum Depression: It Happens

Heart to hearts with friends help a lot, too.

 After F was born it went on for about a month before my husband and I realized something was wrong. I had been doing so well with things: happy and managing the kids and home, and then I was not. It crept up on me, and I was unhappy, overwhelmed, and unable to do more than the minimal effort. The hardest thing was admitting that I did indeed need help, and then admitting it to the receptionist at the doctor’s office on the telephone. I left the message that I thought I had postpartum depression (PPD), and I got an immediate call to come in. With tears in my eyes, resigning myself to the situation, I drove in with the three kids. When I got there, they said that they were going to treat my symptoms with progesterone and that I would notice a difference within hours. It was like night and day. But I noticed bad habits that I had let myself get into over the month of feeling awful that I had to work through. I made it past it that time, but not without seeking the help I needed. I do not know how long it would have lasted, had I not gotten help.

This time we noticed my problems were more than just average “mom tiredness” within days of the first symptoms. After losing the baby, it was natural for me to be tired and sad, but I was managing things and sleeping well. Then M and I had a conversation during which I ended up in tears. I was feeling overwhelmed by everyday scenarios with the children, such as making them lunch. I was having a lot of trouble falling asleep at night. It took me about a half an hour to admit that I needed help. I had had a creeping realization for a couple of days, mentioned it to M on the way to Mass one morning, and his agreement sent my emotions spiraling all through Mass until I made that decision to call the doctor. I went in and again received an injection of progesterone (which, by the way, I am pretty sure I am addicted to…). More progesterone, and again I had an immediate difference in how I felt. This time I had not had enough time to develop bad habits beyond sitting in tears, overwhelmed by my children’s needs.

So, my point here is not to tell you all about my woes of PPD, but to spread that thing called “awareness”, which does nothing in itself. If others and mothers are aware, then maybe someone reading this somewhere can realize that she needs some help. And get that help, which can be as simple as a quick injection and some progesterone pills. PPD does not always mean going on an antidepressant for as long as those normally last, but just getting the right hormonal balance.

Thank you again for your continued prayers.