Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Getting to know our niece

We really enjoyed our time with my sister Beth and her 2-week-old daughter Arianna last week. My mom was able to stay in Virginia until Christmas day so we got to see her, too. But Arianna was definitely the star of the show, receiving lots of loving from everyone. Here are David and I with Ari:

And here's a video of me enjoying Ari's "new baby" scent:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chocolate moose?

Here's a picture of me (taken today) with one of my favorite Christmas decorations: a chocolate moose (my dad sometimes called me Moose when I was a kid - who knows why - so I have a very small collection of moose). This stuffed moose's soft, silky fur really smells like chocolate! Every year I pull him out of the decorations box and marvel at his delicious scent and how it remains strong, year after year (I've had him at least three years, probably longer). In the hubbub of the holidays, sometimes I pick him up and sniff him - I find the scent very relaxing! Hmmm, should I pack him in the hospital bag when the Christmas season ends? ;)

In case you're wondering, our tree has no lights or ornaments because we just put it up yesterday and haven't had time to trim it yet. This Advent I've chosen to delay Christmas decorations and music. The simpler and more penitential time of preparation has been meaningful for me. Next year, though, I think we will start decorating on Gaudete Sunday (the third and most celebratory of the Sundays of Advent). It seems a shame not to enjoy the beautiful and symbolic decorations a little bit longer.

David graduated!

On Friday, December 19th, we celebrated the momentous event of David's graduation from nursing school. Many long and challenging years of study, practice, and performance culminated in his graduating with honors, and we give all the glory to God (David even wrote "Deo Gratias" on his cap with medical tape). Next step: taking and passing the NCLEX (state boards) some time in January. Thank you all for your encouragement and prayers for David during this journey! May God be glorified by the results. :)

David with his school and work schedule marked off each day leading up to graduation:

The cap (which sparked lots of questions from fellow students and instructors):
(David is holding our nephew, Sean)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Confession & Letting Go

This afternoon I participated in our parish's Advent penance service. Father began by exposing the Blessed Sacrament for Adoration, which was a real treat. I got in the line for an order priest (a pastor at a local parish who had come to help out) who I'd never met before. As each person in line in front of me went for their Confession, I stepped closer to Jesus on the altar. Sweet. Our line moved the slowest of the three I could see from where I was standing, so I assumed that this priest liked to give a bit of counsel. I looked forward to hearing what he would say to me.

Ever since I returned to the regular practice of Confession my junior year of college (six years ago?) I have taken time to make an Examination of Conscience and write out my confession in preparation (sometimes days beforehand). I used to write it directly in my journal, but a few confessors along the way encouraged me to throw the record of my sins away after I received absolution, so I began to write them on slips of paper that I joyfully tear up and toss after my Confessions.

Well, today I sat in front of the priest, made the sign of the cross, asked for blessing, and turned over my piece of paper to begin reading off of it. Imagine my surprise when the priest reached out and grabbed the paper, crumpled it up, and set it off to the side. "No lists!" he insisted. "Just tell God what you're sorry for."

I sat in stunned silence for half a minute. As shocking as his actions were, they were incredibly appropriate for someone who had come to confess her desire for control and negative responses when that control was threatened. I was totally out of my element, naked before God. I faltered in recalling and articulating my sins, but, by God's grace, I made my confession with a new sincerity. My repentance became palpable in the absence of that neat little narrative I'd written - no smooth sentences and complete thoughts to hide behind...only the very raw feelings of my exposed heart.

The priest encouraged me to bathe in God's love for me, as though I were getting a suntan. He asked me to pray for peace - not just "no war" between nations, but God's peace in my heart and mind. He reminded me that God doesn't want me to feel unsettled, as I have so often lately. He also insisted I pray for my husband every day - something that seems so obvious and yet, I have failed to faithfully put into practice.

After I received absolution I returned to my seat, knelt, and wept. Once again God had taken me totally by surprise and shaken up my comfortable ways of doing things. He broke me down so He could really work in my heart and build me up in His love. I still haven't completely processed the experience, but I am very hopeful as to its impact in my life.

Lord, help me to let go and let You in!

Just in case you're wondering, the priest did give me back my paper with the stipulation that I destroy it immediately. He urged me not to write my sins down any more, but I'm not 100% convinced. What do you think?

Image from Holy Cards for Your Inspiration

Friday, December 12, 2008

Deja Vu Baby

My sister Beth had her baby on Wednesday morning, December 10th (the day after her 2nd wedding anniversary). Arianna Marie (7 lb 10 oz, 19") came into the world by emergency c-section and is now doing as well as can be hoped for a 4-week premature infant. By the grace of God, my mom was able to fly from one side of the country to the other (WA to VA) soon after she learned that Beth was admitted to the hospital and she arrived 5 or so hours after the birth. She has been a great help to Beth, whose husband is deployed with the Navy.

When I got my first peek at little Ari via a cell phone picture, I marveled at how much she looks like Beth did as a baby (not that I remember back to that time, but I've seen pictures). Mom said she's experiencing deja vu - "I've held this baby before, haven't I?" :)

I wish I had more pictures of Beth as a sweet little blond cherub here with me to really make the comparison, but I was able to find one old picture for your viewing pleasure.

Here's Beth with Ari:

Here's me (and my brother) with Beth:

And here they are side by side:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Miracle Maker on Hulu

Have you seen The Miracle Maker? The movie interweaves the story of Jesus with that of Jairus' daughter (whom Jesus raises from the dead). It's mostly done in claymation (think Wallace and Gromit) with a bit of cartoon animation thrown in. I saw it years ago and had been hoping to watch it again since.

I recently discovered that anyone can watch the whole movie for free, anytime, on Hulu! Hulu offers both clips and full cuts from lots of movies and TV shows - in recent months David and I have perused its offerings and found some light entertainment for quiet evenings. Although much (if not most) of what Hulu offers is not recommendable to a discerning consumer of media, there are some diamonds in the rough. Like The Miracle Maker! Safe and inspirational for the whole family (well, except for littles who might be scared by the cartoon demons that haunt Mary Magdalene and Judas at two points in the story). The only thing I wish the writers hadn't included is an eye roll by Jesus when one of the Jewish officials asks him an antagonistic question. (The Bible says Jesus called some Pharisees hypocrites, blind guides, and a brood of vipers, but it does not say He rolled his eyes at them.)

Here's a clip to whet your appetite:

If you choose to watch the whole movie, enjoy! If you've seen it already, let me know how you think it compares to other Jesus movies.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pregnancy Update

Deo Gratias, everything's going well! Compared to some other women's experiences, my pregnancy is an "easy" one. Although I have my share of little woes, they aren't much to complain about.

On Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) I went to the OB for my glucose tolerance test. I actually enjoyed the drink, which tasted like condensed orange soda (the carbonation helped). While we waited for an hour to pass we got to meet with the Certified Nurse Midwife I like best (of the three we've met). I asked her to help me understand exactly why my due date was changed from February 25th to February 15th and she explained that the new date was actually set back at my 8-week ultrasound (when Teresa was just a little bean) and confirmed at my 19-week "anatomy" ultrasound. Although I'm still inclined to answer "mid to late February" when people (frequently) ask me when I'm due, I now know why the OB thinks she'll come closer to Valentine's Day.
If Teresa chooses to wait longer, I will hold my ground against induction for as long as possible.

I also asked the midwife if she had any tips for preventing or alleviating the back pain I'm experiencing daily now. She gave me a helpful brochure with exercises to strengthen my back. I'm trying to sit conscientiously (especially when I spend many hours in front of the computer for work) and change my position often. But every afternoon or evening that nagging pain in the right center of my back returns and
usually doesn't leave until I get in bed at night. I use my hands or a vibrating massage bug to put pressure on the painful muscles.

After drawing my blood, the clinician told me that my glucose tolerance results would be in Monday and no news is good news. When we got home I received a phone call informing me that my hemoglobin level is low (9.4) and I need to be eating more iron-rich foods. So David made us steak that night. :) It's now Wednesday and I haven't heard from the OB again, so I'm assuming I passed the glucose test and do not have gestational diabetes. :)

I do experience a bit of heartburn at night and some digestive troubles now and then, but that's about it. David would add that I also have wild hormonal mood swings, but I don't know what he's talking about. ;)

Teresa has become very active - or I've become more sensitive to her movements. Either way, I feel her bucking, rolling, kicking/punching, and stretching often - I've even started feeling her feet in my ribs, as my sister described with her pregnancy a few weeks back. The movements are not bothersome and haven't kept me awake at night yet. Sometimes it can be a bit disconcerting when my belly "does the wave" or I'm repeatedly poked while trying to concentrate on a conference call or something. But I usually put my hand on my belly and she goes still. I enjoy sharing the experience with David, who has gotten to feel a lot of movement under his hands and his cheeks (he likes to put his face up against my belly).

My first nursing shirt (ordered during a Thanksgiving sale) arrived yesterday - it will be a cute part of my summer wardrobe. I look forward to collecting some more nursing-friendly tops as I prepare for Teresa's arrival.

Prenatal Yoga DVD Reviews

I've been practicing yoga (by myself, with DVDs in the comfort of my own home) for about 4 years. At first I saw it as a way to build muscle tone and increase my flexibility in between runs. Now that I don't run any more (I stopped after the miscarriage and may or may not pick it up again post-baby), yoga and occasional walks are my only form of exercise. And, I must say, they are both GREAT for this pregnant mama.

Quick disclaimer: I avoid anything to do with the "spiritual" aspect of yoga, as it is generally not compatible with my Christian faith. But the postures, movements, and breathing of yoga are easily separated from the mumbo jumbo and are highly beneficial, both physically and emotionally (in the sense that they can help us to relax and focus and to be more aware of how we're carrying our bodies throughout the day).

In anticipation of my pregnancies, I started collecting a handful of prenatal yoga DVDs last year, mostly through Swap a DVD. I needed the "professional" guidance to make sure I only did postures and sequences that were harmless for the baby or - even better - excellent for pregnancy and labor. I ended up with 4 very different programs, which I present here with my personal reviews.

TOP CHOICE: Prenatal Yoga With Shiva Rea, produced by Gaiam

Pros: Shiva has a great personality/style - she is capable and confident yet gentle, warm, and encouraging; exercise moves fluidly from posture to posture, promoting flexibility, strength, and calming breathing; all poses are modified and demonstrated according to trimester/ability; props used are common (folding chair and block)

Cons: program is a bit long, so I usually do it for 30 minutes or however long I feel like it (I'm probably missing some great stuff in the last segment)

Final Say: This is definitely my favorite and the one I use the most. I love how the program increases in challenge as it progresses, beginning with simple stretches (and including "elevator" Kegels, which I find very helpful) and building up to poses that challenge various muscle groups in the best of ways. I usually feel light and energized after these workouts. (I have yet to try the bonus Pregnancy Massage instruction, but I'm sure it's great, too.)

SECOND CHOICE: Prenatal Yoga Complete with Mary Pappas-Sandonas, produced by bodywisdommedia

Pros: Mary is another instructor I enjoy - her guidance exudes experience and encouragement (she is very practical/precise); this DVD offers a huge array of possibilities: first you choose your trimester, then you choose which program you'd like - most are geared toward the relief of discomfort, such as morning sickness, back pain, or headache, or toward the promotion of a positive feeling, such as energy or relaxation; the poses are long-lasting and thus you can really maximize their benefit according to your particular needs that day

Cons: Mary is not present in the video, demonstrating the poses - you only hear her voice while a model demonstrates; the programs jump between poses (no smooth transitions), causing me to scramble to prepare for the next pose; lots of props are needed to get yourself in some of the poses (several bolsters and blankets, a chair, blocks, and strap)

Final Say: I grab this DVD when I have a particular issue I want to address (for example, I do the "Rejuvenate" sequence when I feel sluggish) and look forward to the challenge of holding poses as long as they feel good. As much effort as it takes to get into a Reclining Bound Angle Pose, the results are totally worth it.

HONORABLE MENTION: Crunch Yoga Mama - Prenatal Yoga with Sue Elkind, a CRUNCH workout

Pros: basic yoga postures and breathing; some flow sequences; variety of poses all suitable for pregnancy; shorter complete workout (about 30 minutes)

Cons: I don't like the instructor much (her lines seem canned, not heartfelt); the program is very simple and doesn't leave me feeling like I did a challenging workout

Final Say: For a beginner or someone looking for a quick and easy prenatal yoga session, this DVD is decent. I just wish it moved my body and my heart more.

TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT: The New Method Pre & Post Natal Yoga (2 Pack DVD Box Set) with Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa

Pros: lots of general stretching and repetitive motion (sometimes it even gets my heart going); the endurance exercise (continuous arm movement for 3 minutes) is a real mental challenge which may help prepare for the rigors of labor

Cons: This is the most new-agey of the four programs: the turban-wearing instructor leads the group in chanting and spouts such nonsense as "sometimes we have more trouble with our left leg - it's ruled by the moon" and "build your electromagnetic field." The few times I've done the program I've bypassed the intro and fast forwarded through the chanting. Because this program offers Kundalini yoga, it offers few (if any) actual muscle-toning postures and never holds any pose longer than a second.

Final Say: Although I could do without all the hokey elements, I have done this program a few times because it limbers me up and gets my blood circulating in a way the other DVDs don't.

For more tips and reviews, check out the weekly Works-For-Me Wednesday post at Rocks in my Dryer.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Handy Burp'em

During the Fall Y'all Bloggy Giveaway Carnival last month I won a specialized burp cloth called a Handy Burp'em. The creator let me choose a fabric (I chose Sea Friends) and she graciously sent me my prize.

As grateful as I am to have won something useful (especially as we prepare for Teresa's arrival in February), I am still not quite sure what to make of this unique burp cloth. You're supposed to slip your hand through the top loop and press it up under baby's chin while you burp her. The bottom opens up with a little pocket ready to catch anything that might dribble down. End result: ultimate spit-up protection.

Sounds good, but I'm wondering - is sitting the baby up an optimal position for burping? I guess I always imagine them leaning up against my shoulder. But this cloth should work well for that, too.

What do you think?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Experimenting with foil

In preparation for Thanksgiving, I decided to roast my sweet potatoes this morning (9 lbs!). Remembering that the potatoes tend to drip while roasting and not wanting to put them on cookie sheets (I thought those might prevent even roasting), I decided to try using foil to line the bottom of the oven.

Success: beautifully roasted potatoes that slipped right out of their peels and mashed easily (I portioned them into plastic bags and froze them)

Lesson learned: if you're going to use foil to line your oven, be sure to put it UNDER the bottom heating element. ;)

Oops! Thankfully, the foil came right up and I was able to vacuum up all the little flecks left on heating element.

This experience reminds me of the turkey lessons I learned a few months ago. Yes, we're roasting our bird in a bag next week!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fasten your seatbelt...

Last night David and I were playing/practicing with the car seat (a wonderful gift from friends). David has encouraged me to start carrying it around a little so I get used to balancing its weight (it's a heavy one). He had fun figuring out the buckle and tightening the straps - he assures me he will be far more gentle with a real baby (poor bear!).

Since we've decided to go with a Graco SafeSeat/stroller frame combination for Teresa's first few months, we've seen more of them around and have watched caregivers easily move the seat from stroller to base and fold up the stroller one-handed. While the seat is heavy, the stroller is light (much lighter than those "travel system" strollers that are so popular). Although I hope to "wear" our little one in a sling as much as possible when we're out, the stroller will be very useful. We're grateful that an acquaintance of my sister's had one she didn't want any more, which will be passed on to us when we visit Beth in December. :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Turkey cupcakes

My mother-in-law just dropped off these cuties, made by a local bakery. Yum!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Bradley childbirth classes are a go

On Thursday David and I attended the first Bradley Method class in a series of 12 offered in the home of a local instructor. We agreed to give it a try and discuss whether to continue after the class.

Although the instructor anticipated five couples, we were one of only three that attended that first night. Turns out we know one of the other couples - they're due right around the same time as us - so I felt a little more comfortable in the new environment. With friendliness and earnestness, the instructor led us in introducing ourselves and discussing our decision to prepare ourselves for natural (unmedicated) childbirth by means of a healthy, informed pregnancy. She gave us an overview of good nutrition and exercise and led us in relaxation techniques, stretching, and massage.

I must admit that my predominant feeling that evening was humiliation. I had to admit (out loud!) that, though I understand the tremendous benefits of regular exercise and stretching, I have not been doing a good job of either. My lack of flexibility (even with helpful pregnancy hormones) and my inability to squat properly proved my lack of discipline in this area.

As we drove home, David and I discussed our reasons for and against continuing with the course. I admitted how challenging it would be to share my failings with the group - but I also saw potential for the accountability I need to get on track. David agreed: as much as he would like me to respond to his prompting, I'm probably more likely to listen to someone else.

I'm seeing the fruit of the instruction already - I'm definitely more motivated now to do my yoga, to take little walks, and to fit those stretches into my daily activities. And David has responded to my request that he give muscle rubs with a little more focus and effort.

As I type, I'm sitting on my ball leaning forward to promote optimum baby positioning and hip openness. Earlier today I was able to put my feet on top of a chair (one at a time, of course) to buckle my sandals without stiffness. Good stuff!

Photo credit: Annie in Beziers

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Feel like giving up?

Is life getting you down? Share in the hope of this special man:

You can read more about Nick Vujicic and his ministry at Life Without Limbs.

Thanks for passing this along, Maureen.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Belly shot: 6 months

Here I am at 24 weeks, undeniably pregnant. :)

Actually, yesterday a store clerk was so bold as to ask me when I'm due. When I cheerfully replied, "February!" he congratulated me and shared that he has 5 children. Now, I've read a lot about parents of many children receiving less-than-pleasant comments from others, but my first real experience of it came when this clerk's coworker looked up from his computer and said, "Did you say 5? You need to get a TV."

"We have 3 TVs," the clerk quickly replied.

"Well, you need to watch one."


I wish I could have come up with something clever and overwhelmingly affirming of the blessing of children, but I am grateful to the Holy Spirit that I at least took the opportunity to show my support by saying, "5? That's wonderful - we hope to have many, too."

The top I'm wearing in this picture was expertly sew by my mom. She really does fine work!

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?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Approaching anonymous fame

This morning I checked on some of Saint Benedict Press's products on Amazon (where we've had issues with inaccurate or missing information) and was pleasantly surprised to see that one of our new books' page has been updated with a description I wrote. If you check out Abandonment to Divine Providence, you'll read my words under "Product Description." They left out a dash after "happening" (probably a text conversion error), but it is otherwise the same as what we printed on the back cover. Way cool!

Now, if only Amazon would get our new Dark Night of the Soul up and running - it's my favorite of our three newest books.


Here's something fun about this stage of the pregnancy: I've starting thinking about myself in terms of "we". Now that I've seen baby Teresa's face and refer to her by name half the time, and now that I can feel her moving inside me almost every day (which is so much fun!), I'm far more aware of there being a little person with me all the time. So I approach tasks and pleasures as a "team" experience - now WE eat something, WE go somewhere, WE hear someone. I love it!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Teresa Marie

Unless the Holy Spirit inspires us differently in the next five months, we will give our little girl the name Teresa Marie. Here's why:

In naming her Teresa we invoke three very holy women as her special patron saints: St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Avila, and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (who is bound to be canonized soon). St. Therese's Story of a Soul is one of my favorite spiritual classics (and David is enjoying it, too, as he reads it for the first time). In her autobiography, this childlike Doctor of the Church shares her sweet and simple experience of faith, devotion, and selfless service. Although this champion of the "Little Way of Love" lived very briefly on Earth (only 23 years), she's spent her "time" in heaven showering those who seek her intercession with roses - figurative and literal!

St. Teresa of Avila also left us with some inspirational writings (we've written about Interior Castle before) but it's what she did that really impresses me. This Doctor of the Church labored for the reform of the Carmelite order alongside her friend St. John of the Cross. Impelled by ecstatic visions of Christ (she was truly a mystic), Teresa sought perfect obedience and self-discipline in adherence to the Carmelite Rule - first for herself, and then for others. She governed and nurtured her sisters as a prioress and founded several convents.

Mother Teresa needs little introduction, as she has been admired by modern people of every religion. Her life speaks volumes without words, but I've always loved the way Mother Teresa got to heart of the matter in her pithy quotes. One of my favorites: “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”

We have chosen the Spanish/Italian spelling of Teresa because it is simpler. It also goes well with our last name. According to at least one dictionary, Teresa means "harvester." We hope our Teresa will participate in God's great harvesting of souls and faithfully answer Jesus' request: "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest." (Matt. 9:37-38)

Marie is a Stone family tradition. In honor of their mother (my paternal grandmother), my father and his siblings have all given their firstborn daughter the middle name Marie. Since I am the firstborn daughter of my family, my middle name is Marie. My sisters and I intend to continue the tradition - that is why my sister (who is now 26 weeks along) has chosen the name Arianna Marie for her baby girl. Of course, David and I are delighted to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and place our daughter in her loving care.

It's a GIRL!

This morning's ultrasound went splendidly. Our little baby appears to be healthy and whole, thanks be to God. It was fun watching the ultrasound technician search for, capture, and tag all the parts they identify and measure. The baby's position made it challenging to confirm a heart with four chambers and a proper flow of blood, but we were able to see all that eventually. Best of all, we were able to see the telltale "three lines" and now know that God has blessed us with a little girl.

Our OB clinic automatically provides DVDs and record part of the ultrasound session for patients. They also use a special device to offer a 4D view of the baby, so we got to see her facial features (which will continue to develop and may look different later on). Way cool!

Her heartbeat: a very normal 143 bpm

A nice profile (don't worry about the darker spot - the ultrasound device couldn't get her whole head, but it's there)

She was opening and closing her mouth here...aww

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Works for Me: Refilling our Ink Cartridge

Printer ink cartridges are very expensive. Even the store brand look-alikes are expensive. Getting empty cartridges refilled at Walgreens and similar stores has become reasonable (they offer deals frequently to attract new customers and we've taken advantage of them to refill David's HP cartridge), but my printer happens to be a Canon, one of the brands that they don't refill.

So I looked into home refill kits online and compared prices. After much research, I decided to order a black ink only kit from The Printer Ink Warehouse. It's really simple (heat the end of a paperclip to poke a hole through the cartridge and use a syringe to squeeze new ink through that hole) and has worked splendidly for me for ten or more refills. I recently ordered a new bottle of ink to continue refilling my original cartridge. I haven't refilled my color ink cartridge yet (not sure it's a worthwhile investment), but I'm sure The Printer Ink Warehouse's kit for that works well, too.

If you haven't considered getting the supplies to refill your own ink cartridges, I highly recommend it!

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

Friday, September 19, 2008

You know...

You know you're Catholic when you watch segments of an online video of Solemn High Mass (in the Extraordinary Form) during breaks from studying for a nursing exam. (David)

You know you're pregnant when you sing to yourself in the shower and the line "If you're happy and you know it, do your Kegels!" pops into your head. (Frances)

Monday, September 15, 2008

My plant babies

I like my houseplants. Because we don't have pets and David is fairly self-sufficient ;) they were the closest things I had to children before God sent us baby. My plants require minimal care, but they do depend on my watering for survival. I like that. And I'm proud of them when they do well (I add a few drops of Miracle Gro to the water almost every time - seems to work!). One vine plant in particular has grown almost 8 feet since I clipped a few leaves off of a friend's plant in 2004.

Sadly, our apartment only has three small windows, one in each bedroom and one in the main living space. The sunlight doesn't often reach the other side of the apartment, so I have trouble keeping plants alive unless they are by the window. When there is no danger of frost, I keep half of the plants out on our balcony, where they can get more sun. But during the winter they keep cramped quarters around the living room window.

With baby on the way, I'm concerned about the plants. Before the little one is mobile, I know they will be good to have in our home, cleansing the air. But when crawling begins, what will I do? I've heard some houseplants are actually toxic if ingested.

I'd appreciate anyone's advice/tips for keeping a safe space for children and houseplants. Thanks!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

For the love of Timmy

A few weeks ago David came across a video for "Shaun the Sheep," a claymation cartoon about some cute and clever farm animals. Created by the minds behind Wallace & Grommit, Shaun has been airing on TV in the UK for a few years and is now played by the Disney channel here in the US. Several episodes are available on DVD - for those in the UK. DVDs playable in the US are expected in November.

Why am I telling you all this? Because Shaun the Sheep and one of its characters in particular have become something of an obsession to David and I in the past week. We are head-over-hooves in love with little Timmy, the pacifier-sucking, teddy-toting baby of the flock. This particular video clip tugs at David's heartstrings just as much as it does mine:

In addition to watching this clip at least once a day, David and I have enjoyed doing impressions for one another. Yesterday he even distracted me with those big eyes and a plaintive bleat while I was having my blood drawn at the OB clinic. Awww!

How do people come up with this kind of stuff? Do they try several different versions of characters and mannerisms and submit them to a group for feedback? A panel of cute-ologists? If so, count me in!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Freepeats & Baby Clothes

God provides! This week He blessed us with a whole bunch of baby items for an even lower price than last time: FREE!

Freepeats recently opened a forum for Charlotte-area moms to swap "gently-used baby, kid, and maternity items like clothing, high chairs, bouncers, swings, bikes, and toys for free." This online community (with forums for more than 23 cities) provides an organized system for parents to give away their unneeded items and pick up other useful items. I've been looking forward to the opportunity to participate for over a year (ever since I first heard about Freepeats).

Less than two weeks after the Charlotte forum opened, someone in my neighborhood posted an offering of baby girl clothes, blankets, and products. I let her know I was interested and we made arrangements for me to pick them up. This morning, on our way to an OB appointment (all is well with baby!) we got what I gratefully refer to as "a gift." Here's a picture:

sweet lil girl clothes!

20 girl onesies and 4 gender neutral onesies (all sized 0-3 months) and baby wash and lotion on three beautiful girl blankets

While we have very little and are mostly in receiving mode right now, I hope to be able to share our blessings with someone else on Freepeats in the future.

PS If you're a Charlotte mom who hasn't yet joined Freepeats, I encourage you to do so now. Free membership until 9/16!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

First belly shot

Four months!

Cabarrus County Fair

After all the hype, tropical storm Hanna sent absolutely nothing our way this weekend. Both Saturday and Sunday were clear and hot! So I was very glad I had held fast to my plans to visit friends and go with them to the Cabarrus County Fair on Saturday. David would have liked to come, too, but he had to fulfill a nursing school requirement and complete a 10-hour shift with an ambulance crew (it went well).

Besides enjoying the company of my friends, I had a great experience at the fair. The highlights were pigs swimming (they actually jumped into the pool!), piglets being born, and a thrilling circus-type show.

Here are the newborn piglets, some already nursing (like pigs!) and two figuring out how to stand up and walk (the one farthest back was born while we watched and, within 15 minutes, successfully made its way over to nurse).

When we arrived at the pen and found out why there was a crowd around it, the sow had already delivered at least five piglets. The farmer predicted she would have around six more. Someone nearby told us that the sow was pushing one out every ten minutes or so, so we stayed for two rounds. Sadly, the second round contained both a live piglet and a stillborn.

They also had two cows set up for milking, which is something I've always wanted to try. But it wasn't worth $2 to me! So we pressed on, looking at the exhibits. When my friends saw a pretend cow ready for milking (rubber teats hooked up to a bucket of water) in the kiddie corral, they encouraged me to give it a try. Wee!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Be careful what you ask for...

I enjoy doing logic and crossword puzzles, quote falls and syllacrostics - really, almost any of the puzzles found in a variety puzzle book. My grandfather used to do his crossword puzzles in pen - I don't dare try. Pencils with erasers are my friends.

Sometimes, though, I don't discover I've made a mistake until the majority of a puzzle grid is filled in. That kind of redo calls for more erasing power than a little pencil-tipper. Alas, when I packed my carry-on bag for our latest trip, I discovered that my fat eraser had gone missing. I was not a terribly successful puzzle-doer on those flights. My book now has a page or two awaiting erasure.

So when my father-in-law started scouring the back-to-school sales for great deals (as he so LOVES to do!), I requested a big eraser. I didn't specify - I just assumed that "big eraser" meant "something like a Pink Pearl, about an inch long and somewhat rectangular."

This is what showed up in the mail today (along with lots of other goodies):

I don't think I'll be carrying it on any planes with me, but maybe I'll keep it just for the laugh value. If only we could just rub out our truly big mistakes...

PS Yes, I'm using a Christmas mug in September. It's the biggest one in our cupboards, so I grab it whenever it's clean.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday prayer: insight into love

I need some of that. So the "alternative opening prayer" listed for Mass today really struck me as I read my Word Among Us this morning:

Lord God of power and might,
nothing is good which is against your will,
and all is of value which comes from your hand.
Place in our hearts a desire to please you
and fill our minds with insight into love,
so that every thought may grow in wisdom
and all our efforts may be filled with your peace.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. AMEN!
Please pray that I would be a better lover - of God, of my husband, and of all the good people in my life.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Super Savings Saturday: Baby Clothes

Okay, so maybe I shouldn't have dropped my "no buying baby things" rule so soon...

A day or two ago I had a vague thought that I might visit the Assistance League Thrift Store this morning to see if they had any maternity clothes and, perhaps, to glance at their baby things. Well, David and I ended up driving to the 9 AM Mass in separate cars (he went to swim first), so I took the opportunity to stop at the store afterwards. I was somewhat surprised to see women lining up at the door (it opened at 10 AM, so I had just a few minutes to wait). But a sign on the inside door explained the crowd: "End of Season Sale: 90% off all clothes." Jackpot!

Do you think it was the Holy Spirit prompting me to go to the thrift store today?

Alas, their maternity clothes rack was bare, and the women's clothes were slim pickings. So I made a bee-line for the still moderately stocked baby clothes racks and started piling clothes into my basket. My criteria: cute, clean, no tears, no stains. The girls' outfits were especially nice looking and abundant, but I tried to get a fair number of boy things, too. With the prices so low, I reasoned I could "shop ahead" and chose items up through size 2T.

The wait in line was long, but oh-so-worth-it. A nice fellow shopper even helped me pull all my items off their hangers. In the end, I had claimed 60 items, most of which rang up for 10, 15, or 20 cents. The most expensive item, a Laura Ashley dress set (3-6 mo), was 40 cents. Grand total: $9.97.

With such an abundance, I'm eager to share with my sister or anyone else in need. I can't wait for baby to come and wear these clothes!!

My only regret: I got so overwhelmed by the clothes that I forgot to look for socks and shoes, which were also on sale. Bummer!