Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Works for Me: Washing Baggies

For a frugal zealot like myself, washing and reusing plastic baggies is a no-brainer. It saves money. For a stewardship-oriented, "green" lover like myself, it is also a must. Although not using any plastic at all would be ideal, reusing plastic baggies is a better alternative than tossing them out after a single use. I only trash baggies when they have holes or when they have been used to contain raw meat.

But I have yet to meet the frugalite or greenie whose favorite chore is washing said baggies. It's time consuming and requires effort. When I washed dishes at home I always left the baggies for my mom to do. But when I lived on my own, I set my mind to developing a system to get the chore done with as little trouble - and waste - as possible. Here it is:

1. Sanitize the sink. Sometimes I use bleach - I know, it's a terrible chemical, but it brings both David and I peace of mind after we've been rinsing raw meat, etc., in the sink.
2. Fill one side of sink with hot soapy water and the other with just hot water. By "fill" I mean 1-2 inches - that's really all that's needed.
3. From stack of plastic baggies (I always wait to do this until I have a good stack - seems more efficient that way), take 4 or so bags and dunk and swish in the soapy water. Let some soak while you work on each one individually (I usually use a washcloth to wipe the outside and inside of each bag under the soapy water).
4. Shake excess suds off each cleaned bag (over the soapy water) and place in rinsing water. When the 4 or so bags are all on the rinsing side, dunk and swish them, scooping and pouring out the water until the suds are all gone.
5. Hang bags on your long-handled cooking utensils to drip dry. It's important to make sure the bags are held open so they will dry thoroughly inside.

Voila! Clean bags with minimal effort and minimal water used. Rinsing each bag under a running stream uses so much more water - just an inch of rinsing water in the sink will de-suds 20 or more bags. I often wash our water bottles the same way, in the same water, too!

For more insights into best practices for families, check out the weekly Works-For-Me Wednesday post at Rocks in my Dryer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Almost Done

After three years of going back to school, I have accepted a job offer on a telemetry-medical-surgical unit at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. This unit has 36 beds and focuses on Congestive Heart Failure. While the focus is on heart patients, it’s also open to surgical and general medical patients. I have been working on the unit since April as a Nurse Aid and Unit Secretary, and I have been working in the Level 1 Regional Hospital since June 2006. So I feel pretty comfortable with how the staff, unit, and hospital flow. This was my first choice of where to work and so I’m grateful to have gotten the job. I do have some ideas for where I’ll be in two years, but that’s for God to confirm.

The catch to all of this is that I have to graduate from nursing school and then pass the NCLEX, the state board exam, to receive my license. I’ve thankfully completed the classroom portion of schooling. So here’s the list of tasks I need to accomplish to finish up:

  1. Complete a 144-hour preceptorship (internship) on a progressive trauma floor over the next nine weeks.
  2. Send a political action letter to a North Carolina politician about a controversial issue.
  3. Send in my registration for the NCLEX.
  4. Pass 3 computer tests designed to prepare students for taking the NCLEX. (Pharmacology, Assessment, & RN predictor)
  5. Serve successfully as a leadership student and mentor for intermediate students two days in November.
  6. Participate in 3 day NCLEX review session.
  7. Pass the NCLEX, which I hopefully will take in January, but I won’t know until the end of December.
The list to get to this point would be exhaustive, but these are the last few things that I need to accomplish. For those of you who know what it’s been like, you’re probably thinking that this will be easy in comparison. I’m just glad that it’s almost over.
Thank you, Frances, for your understanding, patience, and support. We’re almost there.

Photo Credit: a.drian

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Works for Me: Swap a DVD

If you find yourself needing to trim down your DVD collection for any reason (desire to simplify, change of tastes, lack of space, etc.) I highly recommend Swap a DVD. While Ebay and require pricing, marketing, and maintenance if you want to individually list and sell your DVDs, Swap a DVD is as simple as typing out the UPC on the back of your DVD, waiting for an email that it has been requested, printing off and taping up a very basic mailing wrapper, and sending it off. For every DVD you send, you receive one credit, which you can then use to request a different DVD you desire (or would like to give as a gift) from someone else.

For first time users, simply listing 10 DVDs will get you a free credit. If you're interested, go through one of the links above (or use the button on our sidebar) and I'll get a credit when you sign up. (If you do this, let me know and I'll thank you personally.)

In the time we've been members (6 months?) I've sent off over 10 DVDs and the recipients have always responded promptly and with gratitude. I've also acquired some great DVDs for our collection: 4 prenatal yoga DVDs, The Sound of Music, and The Fellowship of the Ring extended edition. Our wish list is long but promising. Who knows - maybe you'd like to part with something we'd like to have. Go try out Swap a DVD today!

For more insights into best practices for families, check out the weekly Works-For-Me Wednesday post at Rocks in my Dryer.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

We will vote for...

When the 2008 Presidential Race narrowed to McCain and Obama, I received a slap in the face from the culture of death. In a speech given last week, Archbishop Chaput commented, “I believe that Senator Obama, whatever his other talents, is the most committed ‘abortion-rights’ presidential candidate of either major party since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in 1973.” The natural reaction, not response, by dissenting “Catholics” trying to undercut the issue is that we shouldn’t be focused on just one issue. Thankfully, Bishop Kevin Farrell and Bishop Kevin Vann of Dallas and Fort Worth issued a wonderful response to this line of thinking. (Credit to AmP for posting the info.)

The USCCB provided guidelines back in November last year and Bishops around the country are courageously responding to Democrats and “Catholic” organizations trying to peddle their version of Catholicism. In this open war, lives literally hang in the balance. Some might scoff at the term “war,” but I recommend today’s post from AmP to provide justification.

So with less than two weeks left, I have discerned (a bit late) that I could not stand before Christ one day without having tried to stand for what the Church is teaching in this election.

So let’s make it real. Here’s our personal perspective on the candidates, neither of whom we endorse, but one of whom is the clear choice for the best chance of promoting the culture of life in America for the next four years.

  • Through Obama’s website, words, and past political actions, Obama has said that he will initiate, support, and approve legislation that will protect killers, violate the sanctity of life, and annihilate millions of defenseless and innocent babies living in their mother’s wombs. We cannot support such an institution of death.
  • McCain’s words and record prove him to be more pro-life than Obama, and he will support and approve legislation protecting life in the womb and the family while advocating to overturn harmful legislation. However, McCain’s stance on abortion is not perfectly in line with Church teaching. He thinks abortion would be permissible in cases of rape, incest, and protecting the life of the mother.
Stem Cell Research
  • McCain supports federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Obama supports increasing embryonic stem cell research. Both of these stances are incompatible with the dignity of human life. Thankfully Palin has stated that "My personal opinion is we should not create human life -- create an embryo and then destroy it for research -- if there are other options out there... And thankfully, again, not only are there other options, but we're getting closer and closer to finding a tremendous amount more of options, like, as I mentioned, the adult stem cell research."

Bottom line #1: McCain’s not perfect, but he’s a better candidate than Obama for the culture of life. The other issues are also important. The Democrats might argue that pro-lifers fail to provide for the future of the mother and the child facing abortion. These same Democrats would also criticize our current financial structure, which fails to support those in poverty. These and other issues are relevant and I don’t know that Republicans have an adequate solution. The Catholic Church does. Bottom line #2: neither party platform is completely in line with Church teaching. So we have to make the best choice as Catholics.

On making such a choice as a human, much less a Catholic…
God commanded: Thou shall not kill. The Jews from the Old Testament did not have Jesus to convert their hearts. They needed such a law to guide their choices. When Jesus came, died, and rose from the dead into heaven, His fulfillment of the Law gave humanity a new way to live: through love (Matt 22:37-39).

If we give Jesus our hearts, He heals and restores them. Then we realize that we don’t need God’s fifth commandment if, in our hearts, God's love reigns. “To love is to will the good of another”(CCC 1766). In loving, we want to see every soul live forever with God. (For us sinners, this is a continuous process and I’m not saying that anyone, especially me, is perfect.)

The Bishops of the United States have made it clear that danger to life is the most important issue to consider in voting. For those who have surrendered to Jesus, the Bishops are confirming what is in their hearts. For those who are confused, resisting Jesus, and/or resisting His love, the Bishops’ teaching is imperative.

We will vote for McCain and continue to pray for legislation to protect life within the womb. Because even though Jesus is holding out His Sacred Heart to us, some people still need the Old Testament law: Thou shall not kill.

Photo (ceiling shot of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the Catholic University of America campus in Washington, D.C.) credit: NCinDC

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cooking for my pregnant wife

The times Frances and I eat dinner and other meals can vary from day to day. I like to cook and I've gotten to do it more since we've been blessed with the pregnancy. Frances' eating habits have varied even more since then. Back in the first trimester, we never knew when Frances was going to be hungry, so we had to capitalize on every opportunity. Bearing that in mind, read the following exchange:

"Can you make me something?" Frances asked.
"What would you like, dear?"
"I don't know. But when you make it, I'll know."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Saving My Kisses

My sister Beth called me the other night to tell me a TV show she watched made her think of me. TLC runs a program about a real life family of 19: "17 Kids and Counting." The Duggars are devout Christians who have invited the network to share their life with the world. The episode my sister saw recently highlighted the eldest Duggar son's engagement to his girlfriend - and their decision to save not only sex but also kissing for their wedding day. The Duggar parents have encouraged all of their children in this idea and those of dating age shared how they have embraced it.

This made Beth think of me because of my own decision not to kiss anyone but my future husband.

"So, now you know I'm not the only weird one," I said.

"Right!" she replied. :)

I didn't really date in high school (I was too busy with academics and athletics). By the end of my freshman year of college I had committed myself to honoring God in my relationships - for me, this meant I desired a chaste and holy courtship. This fuzzy ideal became a concrete reality days before my 21st birthday, when I began my first courtship. Deo gratias, my first boyfriend had been raised in a devout Catholic home where respect for God and for women was taught and modeled on a daily basis. He told me that he had decided to save kissing for engagement and, though the concept was fairly new to me, I agreed. He modeled purity throughout our courtship and I learned the practical side of chastity. Even though our courtship ended after 11 months with a discernment of "no, God is not calling us to marry each other," I am incredibly grateful for all that I learned from that brother in Christ, including the art of patient passion.

Two courtships later, I (finally!) discerned a "yes, God IS calling us to marry each other" with David and we got engaged - and shared our first kiss. I was 25-years-old, terribly awkward, and terribly (in the good way) excited. What a mysterious gift!

I share all this to encourage any singles who are considering what boundaries to set on their physical intimacy within courtship: you will not regret saving kissing for engagement or even marriage. I also encourage all you parents to suggest this idea to your children - and pray for them to experience (or, for the boys, lead) chaste and holy courtships.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Childbirth Classes - Bradley?

One item I keep pushing down on my "to do" list is registering for baby-related classes at the hospital. Because David works for the hospital, we will be able to attend almost any class we're interested in for free. We reviewed the list and agreed that we'd like to go to several together. However, David's busy schedule has limited our availability in recent months - maybe now that he has completed his last lecture course (he got a 97% on the last test - woohoo!!) we'll be able to get our calendars coordinated.

I'm interested in attending sessions on newborn care, CPR and child safety, and breastfeeding, and I'm definitely hoping to tour the facility. The nurse highly encouraged us to attend the Childbirth Prep Class offered over a weekend or on a series of weekday evenings, but I am a little hesitant because I've confirmed that they only introduce Lamaze techniques for getting through labor.

Dear friends and a little study have led me to believe that David and I should learn about the Bradley childbirth philosophy and methodology. I found a class that starts next month, but the time-intensiveness and high cost are somewhat prohibitive. We would have to pay $250 for 12 weekly sessions leading up to the birth. Is it really worth that much money?

I've found the key Bradley texts online (and requested them on our Amazon baby registry) - can we just study those?

I'm very interested to hear others' perspective on this choice: what did/would you do to prepare for labor and delivery? What are the pros and cons of Lamaze vs. Bradley (that you know of or have experienced)? Can books and Internet research provide enough information, or are in-person classes essential?

Photo credit: G u i d o

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Here's a neat display of words used recently on our blog. Click on the image to see it larger.

You can create one for any website at Wordle.

Hat tip to Devin.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Nifty furniture

Deo gratias! A very generous family from our parish offered to donate a combination changing table/dresser to a family in need. The Director of Stewardship approached me after Mass one morning and asked if I would be interested. Indeed I was! So we made all the arrangements and the piece of furniture came to its new home last night.

The dresser unit is a really nice, sturdy, functional piece of furniture. The family kept mentioning that it is a Bellini, a manufacturer with which I was unfamiliar. But a quick search online led me to discover that this item is worth up to $900! It's a unique design - the "Retractable, oversized changing surface allows you to change the baby from head to toe, not from the side like most changers. The top powder shelf allows generous storage for toiletries, while a lower shelf allows easy access to diapers. When your child is out of diapers, simply retract the slide top and attach the top molding (included) to use this piece as a three drawer dresser with three open shelves."

Now I just need to wipe out the drawers and I'll finally be able to put away all the cute little clothes and cloth diapers I've been collecting and receiving as gifts (thanks, Beth, Patty, Mom, and Grandma!).

I'm especially jazzed about the pull-out changing surface, but I'm not 100% on the huge pad - are those smaller, contoured pads better for keeping a little one in one place during a changing?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Belly shot: 5 months

We're getting bigger! Yay! I realized after the first picture was taken that I was arching my back - therefore, the picture makes me look bigger than I actually am right now. The second picture is more realistic.

On Thursday evening David and I will attend a fundraiser banquet for Room at the Inn, an awesome local ministry to moms and babies. I don't have any maternity dresses. Do you think I can wear the black flowery dress pictured above? My belly stretches the fabric to the max, but if I keep my sweater on, it shouldn't be too bad, right?