26 October 2012

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 4

A friend of mine was shot Wednesday night, and has been flown out of state to Seattle for treatment. He is still in critical condition. Please pray for him, his family, and the repose of the soul of the young man who shot him (who killed himself).

Having a deployed spouse must be one of the hardest things in the world; Matt was in Anchorage for work this week, just one week, and it was no fun at all. Never having another adult around the house to talk with, another set of arms to hold the crying baby, another voice to sing to him when mine grew hoarse, had me at my wits end long before Daddy finally came home. Dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's house on Wednesday saved my sanity...

It didn't help that Little Bear, picking up on the fact that something was wrong, completely gave up the nice sleep schedule he had established -- he would not stay asleep more than 45 minutes at a go, day or night, the entire time his daddy was gone.

Little Bear's middle-of-the-night wakefulness had one bright spot: each night, I was awake while the northern lights were dancing. They are harder to see in our densely-populated neighborhood than they are at my parents' house... I miss waking up late at night as a kid, throwing coat and snowboots over pajamas, and running outside to stare up at the huge, starry sky split by dancing green and pink bands of light. We can still see them somewhat here, if we stay away from streetlights and peer up between houses, but it isn't the same.

Can you believe that it's been nearly a year since the new translation of the Mass was implemented? I realized that during Mass today. It has been such a blessing... sadly, we still encounter instances of priests ad libbing parts of the Mass, but that seems to have decreased to some degree since we switched to the new translation.

Given that we've had a year (longer, in our parish) to become accustomed to the new responses, I oughtn't still be struggling with any of them. I do, though, with the Lord, I am not worthy... and I've only just realized why: it's not the words of the response I'm tripping over, but the language. The part just before that response, when the priest says "Behold the Lamb of God..." was (and in some instances still is) a favorite place to ad lib for some local priests, and because it upset me so much that they dared interpose themselves into such an important part of the liturgy, the only way I could avoid having my concentration broken and becoming angry was to concentrate on the proper words in Latin instead of English.

It eventually became instinctive, and now, every time we reach that point in the Mass, the priest is still speaking English but I am only hearing Latin. When we go to respond, then, I automatically begin to say "Domine, non sum dignus," catch myself, tell myself to use English, and wind up half a beat behind everyone else, flustered and trying to make my tongue hurry and remember the right English words.

Many apologies for the infrequent posts recently; Little Bear was unhappy and clingy the whole time Matt was gone, so it was difficult to find opportunities to write. I'll be working on a freelance writing project for the next couple weeks as well, so the bulk of my writing time will be going to that. I'll do my best to put up more than just the Seven Quick Takes each week, though!

That's all for today... more Quick Takes at ConversionDiary.com!

25 October 2012

A matter of perspective

I have been all set, these past few days, to write a post lamenting the dreadful, horrible, insufferable weather we've been having... each grey morning the thermometer displayed a new low, and my spirits dipped lower and lower with the temperature. On the drive in to early morning Mass yesterday, it was -16 F! (That's pronounced "sixteen below," for the non-Alaskans out there.) But then last night, as I carried Little Bear out to the car after having dinner with Grandma and Grandpa, everything was different: the moonlight sparkled on the snow, the air was clear and still... and warm. It felt warm outside.

More cheerful about weather and winter than I've been in nearly two weeks, we kept an eye out for a thermometer as we drove home. The first few were displaying the time or the Celsius temperature as we passed; it wasn't until we were nearing our development that I spotted a thermometer proclaiming it to be all of 9 degrees out.

What? No, it was wrong. It had to be. Not a week ago, I was complaining about warmer temperatures than that. Surely it was at least 32 F... it felt so nice!

The next thermometer confirmed it, though, and I was forced to admit again what I forget and re-learn each year: It doesn't matter how cold it is -- if it is at least ten degrees warmer than it just was, it will feel pleasant. -20 degrees feels like shirtsleeve weather after a week of -40 degrees.

Am I done complaining about the cold for the winter? Not likely! As much warmer as it may feel to me, I still do need to be mindful of the temperature for the baby's sake. But now that I've been reminded of how pleasant even a small rise in temperature can be, I hope it will be easier to keep the next cold spell in perspective.

19 October 2012

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 3.5

I know, I sort of did seven quick takes on Monday, but that counted for last Friday instead of today, right?

It finally stopped snowing yesterday afternoon! The sparkly white wonderland out my window looks so much less depressing under a bright blue sky with the sun shining down. I have not quite reconciled myself to its being winter yet, but I am certainly much less miserable about it. The snow outside even makes the room brighter, as it reflects the natural light in to us.

I can hear some people thinking "Oh, the sun is shining. What is she complaining about? The snow will be gone soon." Sorry to disappoint, but that isn't how it works here... Since Alaska is so much closer to the Pole, the angle of the earth has a much greater impact on our climate. In the summer, this means that the sun is hot and high in the sky, but in winter the sun is lower on the horizon, eventually so low that we will barely see it. The low angle, and the brief period of exposure each day, mean that the sun doesn't provide enough heat to melt the snow. Even though the sun was shining brightly at 2 pm yesterday, it was still only 25* F outside.

"Be not afraid..." All of my dire fears of what could go wrong on our trip were completely unnecessary; so far from spitting curdled milk at the passenger behind us or all over the rental car, Little Bear didn't throw up a single time, the whole trip! (He waited until we were at the library yesterday, far from a change of clothes for mommy... but that doesn't make me any less grateful!) Yet another reminder not to worry... I know that it never does me any good, and that a problem won't be any worse for my not having worried myself sick over it, but it can be so difficult to just let go and say "Whatever You will," taking things as they come.

Little Bear seems to have taken his entire week's worth of naps while we were traveling... He hasn't taken a nap longer than 45 minutes since we got home. One sleep habit he does seem to have retained from our trip, though, has been so welcome: falling back to sleep at night. Before we left, he would usually need to be held and walked at least once in the middle of the night. Since the trip, though, he has been willing to eat and doze off quickly whenever he wakes up at night.

Today was my second chiropractor appointment. Toward the end of the first trimester with Little Bear, I developed problems with my hips, often with pain to the point that I couldn't walk. I saw a couple of physicians, and the consensus was that it was probably being caused by pregnancy hormones and would go away after birth. Six weeks postpartum it still hadn't cleared up, and my midwife suggested that the offending hormones (if it was hormone-related) might be present until Little Bear stopped nursing. A few weeks ago, I finally gave in and booked an appointment with a chiropractor to find some relief in the meantime. So far, so good... I can't feel much difference in my hips yet, but the related pain at the base of my spine has decreased dramatically.

We're all fortunate that Little Bear isn't old enough to realize that the pictures on the pages have something to do with what mommy is saying. Years of reading the same stories over and over to my siblings mean that now, I can recite Goodnight Moon while paging through Field & Stream, and the baby doesn't know the difference!

There's one particular story which, even though I have it memorized, I could never do that to: The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear, by Don and Audrey Wood. The illustrations are too much fun. We read that book so frequently, Little Bear may have it memorized by the time he can talk!

Done for this week... check out more Quick Takes at ConversionDiary.com!

17 October 2012

Be sure you take lots of photos! Vacation 2012

Our first family vacation. Homecoming, introducing Little Bear to his daddy's side of the family, roadtrips, plane flights, a wedding. Of course, everyone reminded us to take as many pictures as possible. How many do I have? Two. And they are both of Little Bear lying on nondescript pieces of furniture making faces.

We will just have to hope that, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a few words may make up for the photographic record I should have brought home... or, we could use stick figures!

Vacation 2012 Highlight Reel

Little Bear was a wonderful traveler... he slept nearly the entire time we were on planes and in the car. Matt joked that we should get a jet engine to lull him to sleep at home.

We saw so many friends over Homecoming. It felt strange to be back on campus and know very few current students, especially among our households, but it was good to see so many people whom we hadn't spent time with in the past two years.

Little Bear was so good and quiet those nights to thank his Aunt Kimmy for sharing her room!

Our nephew, John and Karen's son, was afraid of Matt's beard when he was a baby... During our visit, he reminded everyone, "Don't be scared of Uncle Matt!" We spent an enjoyable, relaxing Sunday afternoon through Thursday afternoon with Matt's family in Pennsylvania.

We stopped back in Steubenville Thursday night on our way to Cleveland for Hank and Megan's wedding, and spent the night in Harrison and Ian's attic. After starting Friday morning off properly with tea, we had to show Uncle Ben Little Bear's new hat before picking Mark up for the drive to Cleveland.

Lindsay, my little sister in household who hadn't made it to Homecoming, drove out to see us Saturday morning at our hotel. Her little one is so big! I can't wait until Little Bear is that size.

The wedding was lovely. Matt was a groomsman; I'm so glad that we were able to come so he could be there for Hank! It was a long day for Little Bear, though... the wedding party went off and took pictures for four hours (!!!) between the wedding and reception, which lasted long into the night. "Uncle Harry," Kevin, and Beth all helped to keep the baby quiet, but he couldn't seem to fall asleep. By the time we put him to bed for the night, he was so tired that he slept 7 hours straight! (More than an hour and a half longer than his previous record).

Sunday morning, before getting on a plane home, we were fortunate enough to attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Cleveland with Mark and Harrison. Little Bear was as quiet as a pacifier could make him... it's difficult, with him being too little to understand that there are times when he can't make any noise. I'm sure it is just as frustrating for him as it is for us. He was good, though, and the Mass was so beautiful!

The trip home was uneventful, thankfully, and we fell exhausted into bed when we finally arrived at 2:30 am. It was a wonderful 10 days, and we just wish we had had more time to spend with everyone!

(Drawn in Adobe Illustrator)

Fluffy cloud innards

The snow hasn't completely stopped falling for any appreciable length of time since we got home early Monday morning. There will soon be three inches of snow on the fence. Every little notch of every tree, each loop of the neighbor's chain-link fence, bears a fluffy white cap. The downy grey of the sky softens any color which would be too bright for this Christmas card landscape. It is so beautiful... and so horribly disappointing.

When we left home for Ohio, it was autumn, if chilly. Ohio and Pennsylvania were both experiencing autumn as well, a glorious riot of color and not-too-nippy breezes. Returning home to a dusting of snow was a shock, but it was not unreasonable to hope for one last reprieve: more often than not, several dustings will fall and then melt before the snowfall that "sticks," as we say, forming the layer that will be the last to melt come next April.

When it snows this steadily, for this long, without even the briefest jump above freezing, though... winter is here. We may yet get a brief thaw, although I'm not getting my hopes up, but it will not be warm again until spring.

Don't mind me, I'll just go listen to the soundtrack of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and commiserate with the poor animals who endured years and years of winter under Jadis' rule...

15 October 2012

Jet Lag

Whoa... Long week, wonderful trip, nowhere near enough sleep. There will be a real post soon, I promise, but for now here are a few quick takes:

Snow. The first thing I noticed as we made the final descent into Fairbanks last night was the dusting of snow on the runway. Oh, no we groaned. Please let it all be gone by morning? It wasn't. In fact, it has been snowing steadily off and on since we woke up. Ohio was so nice and warm... I wasn't ready to come home and confront winter just yet.

The Flying White Noise Machine. The baby was so *good* on all of our flights! He was asleep before takeoff every single time, only woke up enough to eat briefly, and went back to sleep without fussing. Several times, as we were disembarking, people in the rows in front of or behind us expressed surprise at seeing a baby with us -- they'd had no idea he was even there.

Nouns. I'm not sure why, but we've taken to referring to objects in terms of what they do in relation to Little Bear: the flying white noise machine, the box of lights and sounds, mommy's (or daddy's) talking box, the child-quieter. Have we been very tired for the past week and a half? Yes.

The Heroic Moment. It is so hard to practice St Josemaria Escriva's "heroic moment" when you got home from the airport at 2:30 am... Is it cheating to wake up and say the morning offering, but stay in bed feeding the baby for a while?

Leave. Several months ago when we booked our tickets, Matt decided to take one extra day of vacation -- the day we got home -- rather than going directly in to the office. After getting home so dreadfully late, I'm so glad that he did! How in the world would we have gotten him out the door, with breakfast and lunch, four hours after going to bed? It would have been miserable.

Weddings. I am so grateful that we could be present to witness the wedding of our friends Hank and Megan this weekend! As we flew home, Matt and I found ourselves talking about our own wedding, remembering some of the choices we made that probably drove many people crazy, but so happy with how everything turned out. We pray that the newlyweds will have as blessed and joy-filled a first year of marriage as we did!

Sleep. I definitely need to take advantage of the baby napping on me to take a nap myself... Everything is unpacked, washed, and organized, the house cleaned, and dinner prepared, so I can doze for a bit with a clear conscience. More later!

05 October 2012

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. II

Travel edition
It has been a crazy week of preparing for our first real trip with Little Bear. Worrying, and packing, and worrying, and cleaning, and worrying... I don't think I've ever dreaded getting on an airplane this much before. We're spending 15 hours on planes and in airports today, with another two to three hours on the road after we land. And this is just the first day! St. Christopher, pray for us!

If anyone has any tips for traveling (flying or road trips) with a baby, I'd love to hear them! How to keep him happy in a small space for hours on end, how to convince him to sleep in strange places, what to do if he has a diaper explosion while the "fasten seatbelts" light is on, how to prevent overstimulation when he will be bombarded with many new faces and voices and strange people wanting to hold him, how to respond if, while one of us is holding him up in the air, he throws up and gets the guy in the seat behind us in the face...

I need to stop coming up with new ideas of what could go wrong. But seriously, how would you apologize to that guy?

Alaska Airlines has a special program called Club 49 for Alaska residents, which offers great benefits. Up to 50% discounts on last-minute flights, exclusive sales, and most valuable just now, two free checked bags on all flights into or out of Alaska! I have been so grateful to not have to worry about baggage costs on top of everything else as I've been packing: it would be even more stressful if I was trying to pack everything into our carry-ons and had to decide how little we could possibly get by with rather than packing what I think we will need.

I'm looking forward to enjoying a bit of the beautiful, extended autumn back East. Winter is fast approaching here -- we have woken up to heavy frost on the lawn and windshield every morning for a while now, and it's lasting as late as noon or 1 pm. This past Sunday, we drove through some snow flurries on our way to Mass. Too soon!
Little Bear's hair comes down past his earlobes; I've been holding off, but I may just give in and cut it before his grandparents see him looking like a ragamuffin. I'd always heard to wait until the baby is at least one for their first haircut, but I can't see us waiting nine more months! Matt didn't seem to appreciate my observation the other day that the baby has Spock sideburns... :-)

Hopefully I'll have a chance to post at least once or twice next week, but no promises... I'm anticipating an even more hectic week than this has been.

Visit ConversionDiary.com for more Quick Takes!

04 October 2012

Angels in the corner

My mother always said, when a baby was staring off above everyone's heads as though captivated by something none of us could see, that the baby was watching the angels in the room. I suppose a medical professional would say that the baby's vision hasn't fully developed yet and the motion of their eyes learning to focus is merely creating the illusion that they are staring fixedly at something. It's such a lovely idea, though, isn't it? I can't think of any theological grounds for definitively stating that babies can't see angels, and there's a certain poetic rationality to the idea: babies are so pure and innocent, and we know that the pure in heart "shall see God" (Mat 5:8). When a baby laughs and smiles, seeming to stare at an empty wall, it is easy to wonder if he really might be looking at his guardian angel.

I was put in mind of this on Tuesday, the feast of the Guardian Angels. While not a definitive article of faith, many Catholics believe that every person has a guardian angel, who guides and protects them throughout their life and can intercede on their behalf. St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, defended this belief and explained why it makes sense that each and every person is granted the assistance of a guardian angel. A number of saints were known for communication with their guardian angels, including St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Pio.

The idea that Little Bear can see, or is in some other manner aware of the presence of, guardian angels is something of a comfort. I remember being three months pregnant, driving in to work on icy roads one cold dark morning, and realizing that there was now an extra angel watching over the car. It gave me such a sense of relief! We try to remember to say a quick prayer to our guardian angels every morning when we get in the car:

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here, ever this day be at my side 
to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

So frequently, when I'm sitting on our couch feeding Little Bear, he will get distracted and stare intently up over my shoulder at the corner of the living room. I'm happy to believe that he is watching our guardian angels, and to be reminded that they are always here with us!