31 January 2014

SQTF 75: Feasts, Football, and Sweater-weather Fun

Oh, that warm weather spoiled us... I suppose it must be getting warmer again everywhere else, because we woke up to -5 F this morning. And it felt SO COLD, which is absurd, because on a typical year I'd be so happy that it was practically 0 instead of pushing -50 right now. We felt like such wimps this morning, shivering as we walked out to the car! Time to wear the heavier coats and mittens again.

The dip in temperature really could have waited a day; if it were the weekend, Matt would be home and we could take turns bringing Little Bear outside to go sliding on the snow hill. (These grownups are definitely bigger wimps than the toddler when it comes to spending time outside sledding.) Below zero, since I have yet to find a way to keep a scarf on him, I prefer to only let him play outside for short stretches of time; adding on the time it takes to get in and out of gear, I usually only want to do it once or twice a day! He would be so happy to spend hours on the hill, though, so when Matt is home tomorrow maybe we will each take him out a few times.

Happy feast of St John Bosco, apostle to youth! I'm so glad Little Bear and I made it to noon Mass today. To be honest, I didn't plan to; I had a meeting at 12:45, I needed Little Bear to be fed and happy at that point so I could send him with my mom, I didn't want to be in town for hours and hours, the timing was all wrong... But God must have really wanted me to be there for the rosary and Mass, because at 11 o'clock I looked around and realized the house was clean, supper was under control, and the child was fed and standing by the door holding his boots. It doesn't get much clearer than that!

I need some new ideas for ways to keep Little Bear awake in the car when we are driving home around nap time. Okay, what I really need is a garage, so that I can let him stay asleep in his car seat and just leave the car windows and the door into the house open so I can hear when he wakes up. But absent that, I need ideas. It's a huge problem when Little Bear falls asleep on the way home, wakes up while I'm carrying him into the house, and decides that those ten minutes counted as his nap for the day.


Behold, the furthest extent of my arts and crafts skills. I'm so glad Little Bear isn't old enough to be disappointed yet... At least he has aunts and uncles who will have fun helping him make stuff as he gets older. Seriously, though, he has had so much fun with this "telephone," even though he doesn't really understand the point of it yet. And maybe he never will... how, in an age of wireless, am I going to explain to him that the voices go through the string? We don't have a landline at all, so he won't have any frame of reference for what a tin can telephone is imitating.

Super Bowl Sunday is coming up! I'm not all that attached to either team, although Seattle is the team most adopted by Alaskans as "local," and I remember cheering for the Broncos in the last years of John Elway's career. The game was always a day for a party growing up, though, and this'll be the first year Matt and I are hosting. I'm sure that, by Super Bowl party standards, it will barely even count; my family is driving over during halftime to watch the second half of the game, so that Little Bear can nap through the first half, and most of my siblings who'll be present will probably spend most of the time in another room playing board games anyway. But it's still enough of an excuse to make guacamole and hummus and other fun food! And I really do enjoy watching football.

This coming Sunday, February 2, is Candlemas; bring some candles to Mass to have them blessed! The day celebrates Christ the Light of the World: we will hear the Gospel reading containing Simeon's prophecy, calling Christ "a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." In 638, Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, described the importance of Candlemas and the blessing of candles: "Our bright shining candles are a sign of divine splendor of the One who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of His eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ." Candlemas falls forty days after Christmas, which is the length of time Mosaic Law proscribed that a women should wait and purify herself after giving birth before she presented herself in the temple---thus the day is also known as the Feast of the Presentation.

Have a great weekend! For more quick takes, visit Conversion Diary!

30 January 2014

He Was Almost Too Sleepy To Think Anymore

Definitely my current favorite line from a children's book; every time we hit that page in Guess How Much I Love You, which Little Bear would listen to ten times before bed every night if we'd let him, I have to smile and nod because it's just so very accurate an image. You can tell so clearly when little kids hit that point, and more so recently, I can tell when I'm getting there. I've been having a world of trouble falling asleep and staying asleep again; my brain just won't shut down at night, and I keep discovering that I'm awake at all hours. Little Bear is actually sleeping well these days, darn it; why can't I?

If it wasn't bright and sunny all day long, I don't know how I'd be making it without napping. Fortunately, the skies have been clear and blue, and with the curtains open there is enough light coming in during the middle of the day that I can turn all of the lights off! I love when we reach that point in the year; goodbye horrendous midwinter electric bills! Not entirely, because we probably still have a few months of plugging the car in at night, but keeping it on a timer so that we are only feeding electricity to the engine heaters for a few hours helps. 

Being constantly tired, I haven't been a very fun mom lately... All Little Bear wants is to sit on my lap on the floor and read story after story for hours, and he's just crushed when I finally lose patience with reading the same story five times in a row and plop him on the floor so I can go do something more fun, like folding laundry. I shouldn't complain--I wanted a reader, and I sure got one--but really? Shouldn't he want to play with toys at least part of the time? It's hard to get anything done when he's always grabbing my hand and crying for "One, one, one," more story.

At least going outside is a popular way to take a break from books: Yesterday I taught him about climbing the "mountains" out by the end of the driveway. The graders went through a couple days before our freezing rain last week, so the hills of already-hard snow are immovable. After helping him scramble to the top, I got him started scooting over the crest of the hill, then ran down to the bottom to catch him as he slid down. What a grin! I wish I'd had a camera.

It's not that he never wants anything other than stories, I just realized; that's just the only thing he wants to do with me. The minute Matt gets home from work, Little Bear forgets all about books and is ready to run around laughing and shrieking, tickling his Daddy and growling like a bear and wrestling all over the living room. I guess it's pretty clear which parent is more fun to play with! Maybe if I can get more sleep at night, I'll be able to come up with things to play during the day that'll be acceptable breaks from listening to stories.

28 January 2014

January Spring

This is definitely going down as the most gorgeous January ever... Everyone else is suffering through our cold weather for us, while we have been enjoying beautiful double-digit positive temperatures for weeks now! We've had 20s and 30s these past few days, and it's been so great to be able to take Little Bear out to play in the snow all the time. The only thing that could make this weather undesirable would be rain, but that hasn't put in an appearance since Friday morning... Hopefully it stays gone!

Between working from home Friday due to ice and staying home Monday to watch Little Bear while I recovered from several nights of insomnia, Matt had a nice long weekend, which Little Bear sure enjoyed: Daddy is so much more fun to play with than Mama! The two of them wrestled, played ball, and took walks outside over the weekend, and Little Bear was very disappointed indeed to realize Daddy was going to work this morning. It'll be a rude transition back for Matt as well; all OIT has regular work as well as a mandatory playing-nicely-with-others training today and Thursday, and Matt has to stay until 8 tonight monitoring two conferences for the state library system.

But at least the sun is up! Goodness, it's strange; not that long ago we had hardly any light at all, but we've been gaining a quarter of an hour of daylight every couple days for a while now and the difference is tremendous. And not only are the days longer, but the light hours are lighter, as the sun climbs higher in the sky each day: in the dead of winter, it only barely scrapes above the horizon. It's still not high enough that we have to worry about it melting snow, but it's moving the right direction. Just a couple weeks ago we were getting great sunrise photos after Mass on Sundays, and this past weekend the sun was already too high as we drove up the hill on our way to Mass.

With the warmth and light, it's hard to believe we are still only in January. Will it just stay warm all the way through to spring? The warm weather came so late last year--my brother threw his snowmachine in the back of his truck and went down to the mountains after he got home from college in May--maybe this is making up for it. I've never seen a year like this, and while it's sure nice to be reveling in the March weather already, there's an uncomfortable niggling in the back of my mind warning against growing too attached to the warmth... I've seen too many sudden February cold snaps to trust that we won't be plunged into weeks of -40 F to compensate for this loveliness.

24 January 2014

SQTF 74: Meltdown, Meals, and Mitten Memories

I take it back. Pleasantly-warm weather in January should still never exceed 30 degrees Fahrenheit. This morning it's 43, and sleeting. That's an April temperature, and in April there's enough sun to keep the rain a liquid! January? Not so much. Roads are horrible today, and pretty much everything is shut down; police are warning people to stay off the roads if possible. At least my meeting is cancelled! And Matt shouldn't have to go in to the office, although he's still waiting to confirm that with his boss because the campuses in other parts of the state obviously aren't shutting down just because we have bad weather.

You could say that I'm not exactly a happy camper at the moment, because if we'd known ahead of time about the closures and cancellations, I could still be asleep. Given that Little Bear was up almost every hour last night, that sure sounds nice... but I got up and dressed before we found out, and now I'm too awake. Not that I have anything at all to complain about compared to all the people in the ditch this morning.

It's not exactly something you'd record in a baby book, but one thing I want to remember about this age is that Little Bear has picked up this hilarious fake laugh, and he only does it for one specific thing: when he pulls his mittens off while we are driving. Every single time we are in the car, roughly halfway to wherever we are going, we'll hear this self-satisfied little "Heh heh heh heh" from the back seat, and he'll be sitting there smirking and waving his mittens at us.

So far this week our shift in eating habits has gone better than expected. I know they say it takes 30 days to form a habit, and we definitely aren't at habit-stage yet, but not eating between meals and eating salads for lunch every day has actually been manageable, which is better than I expected. It definitely helps that Matt has been putting together the salads, because he puts more thought into them than I would. For example, yesterday's:

Leftover bourbon-glazed chicken, a bit of smoked Gouda, dried currants and balsamic vinegar. Not vinaigrette--I just put straight vinegar on my salads. Don't worry; Matt does a good job of reminding me of how weird I am.

Our kid, the inverse picky eater: Little Bear happily eats things like pickles, olives, pesto, and beets. Offer him something normal little kids like, though, like fish sticks or mashed potatoes, and he turns up his nose. And cheese! Sharp cheddar, smoked Gouda, Swiss? He can't get enough of it. Medium cheddar? Won't touch it.

When I think about shopping at Sam's Club, I generally just think of the usual grocery items. Food, paper products, etc. This past week, though, we re-discovered that they can have incredible deals on good brands of clothing as well, and you never know what you'll find: we found heavy Eddie Bauer plaid flannel shirts for less than $7.00! I need to remember to run through their clothing selection each time I'm in there.

After spending a half hour in a video meeting with the rest of his coworkers--because they're the video conferencing department, so of course the boss can't just call them on the telephone--the verdict is: Matt is staying home. I'm so glad. He's working from home this morning or as long as it takes to finish up some projects, then burning a couple hours of annual leave to round out the day. It would be so nice if his boss have them the option to work from home more often--they really can accomplish most of their work from anywhere with an internet connection--but I'm grateful that it's an option today.

Have a wonderful, safe weekend! Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary, and don't forget to vote in the Sheenazing Awards, for Catholic bloggers who follow the example of Ven. Fulton Sheen in evangelizing through the media, over at A Knotted Life.

23 January 2014


My calendar seems to be on the wrong page. It says "January," but clearly that's not right; if it were January it would be 33 degrees below zero, not 33 above. Maybe it's March. Or maybe global warming/climate change is actually pretty amazing and wonderful. For Alaskans. Sorry to everyone shivering in the Lower 48, but we'd be perfectly happy to keep your weather instead of trading back. This is beautiful.

Little Bear and I have been loving the balmy weather these past few days. He loves running around in the snow, stomping his boots down the driveway, pushing his mittens into the snowbanks and shaking them at me with the biggest, goofiest, happiest grin imaginable spread across his face. Once we get through the hassle of getting into snow gear and heading out the door, it's impossible to lure him back inside!

Yesterday morning we were visiting my family and interrupting their school day, so the kids took Little Bear out for recess with them. He wasn't too sure about the whole sledding business at first, but as long as he wasn't the only one in the sled he seemed to enjoy it.

We really couldn't have asked for better weather for last night's prayer chain, either, and the impressive turnout was surely in part thanks to the warmth. We got there halfway through--I'm not at all unhappy that we share one vehicle, but scheduling can be frustrating--and Little Bear had so much fun running and crawling through the snow while I tried to keep ahold of the Y at the back of his snowpants. Can we just pretend that I was planning ahead and being well-prepared when I put them on him on top of his coat instead of under it? Thanks.

Late this morning there was a burst of freezing rain, but Matt was already at work when it happened, and by the time we ventured out to pick him up the roads were fine. I hear that people had trouble with them in the middle of the day, but putting another layer of gravel down seems to have taken care of it. (We will see if I'm this dismissive of it tomorrow if we get any more, when I have a midday meeting in town... praying for no more rain for the next three months!)

My only real quibble with the warm weather (please no rain tomorrow! Other than rain) is this:

That's the light above the front seat in the jeep, and a water droplet falling from the button. It seems that melting snow is seeping into the roof of the jeep somewhere, freezing, then thawing in the warm weather and running on down through the only opening it can find: the lights. Every time we go from reasonable temperatures to cold to super warm, the interior lights all start dripping. It's not bad, a mechanic friend tells us, just odd... but it's still unsettling, because water just doesn't belong around wiring.

But if that's the only thing I have to complain about? This warmth can definitely stick around. As long as it doesn't keep raining!

21 January 2014

Feast of St Agnes

If I had anything resembling a handle on the liturgical calendar, maybe we would be having lamb tonight. Or something lamb-shaped, like the Eastern traditional butter lamb. Or even the mulled drink, lambswool, that Matt was so enthusiastic about finding a recipe for the other week. Nope; bourbon-glazed chicken, spiced carrots, and rice will have to cut it. Don't lambs eat carrots? Carrot tops? Oh well... at least I can try to find something in Little Bear's book of saints about St. Agnes, and set it out to read tonight after supper.

It seems a cruel coincidence that we celebrate St. Agnes, a Roman virgin martyred at 13 and a patroness of innocents, on the day before the anniversary of the legalization of murdering innocent children in America. I suppose the juxtaposition is a good reminder to ask for her intercession, though: for the children, for the mothers who feel like they don't have any other choice, for conversion of heart in all those who do not find abortion reprehensible.

Will seeing the many people attending the March for Life in D.C., or participating in local prayer vigils or rallies, suddenly convict legislators of the evil of abortion? Probably not---although we know better than to limit what God can do! But there's always a chance that some passers-by will wind up wondering why these people care enough about the issue to stand out in the cold, find themselves looking for answers, and experience a change of heart. And, too, we know that "Where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in their midst." Coming together to pray for an end to abortion is certainly valuable, even when we can't see visible results.

Whatever you to do mark tomorrow, don't forget: "In all the dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life." GIRM, no 373. 

And, parents: Don't miss Simcha Fisher's  Ten Ways to Raise Pro-Life Children over at the National Catholic Register!

20 January 2014

Our Latest Experiment

Earlier this month, Matt and I sat down to figure out what we should do to get back in shape. It's been on his "meaning to do that eventually" list for a while, and the twelve days of Christmas saw me lose pretty much all of the progress I'd made recently. Cookies are evil... okay, not really. But I've always had a weakness for sweet carbs, and with a toddler who's been giving us an exclusive preview of his starring role in the upcoming Terrible Twos, I've been stressed and much more susceptible to the siren call of the cookie jar.

We agreed to get a membership at the university gym. It's a lot of money, but it's convenient for Matt after work, and Little Bear and I could go walk their track or swim while he used the equipment he wants to. We need exercise, and this seemed like a way to ensure that we got it: buying a membership would guilt us into going regularly so that we weren't wasting the money.

But then we thought about it for a few days. When would we actually be able to go? After Matt got off work was the only time; that would push dinner back, and cut out the relatively small time Matt and Little Bear get to play together before bed. Was it worth the whole cost? The only membership we could at all afford is the student one; I'd have to take a (distance ed) class so that we could get that rate. Because I'm Matt's dependent the school would waive the tuition, but we'd still be paying for fees and the book. And when would I have time to do the classwork?

We do have a gazelle elliptical machine, and a weight bench, and a perfectly good floor for doing sit-ups and push-ups on. If guilt over having spent so much money for the membership was the only reason we would spend time exercising at the gym when we don't at home, we didn't need a gym membership; we needed to take more responsibility for actually getting in shape.

So what does it take to get in shape? Everyone knows the simple answer, even if we don't like it: getting enough exercise and eating right. In that spirit, our plan is simple: we will each do some kind of exercising every day. Vague? Yes, but it'll keep us from saying "I forgot, and it's too late; better luck tomorrow"... We can always pick up a jump rope for five minutes before bed, if we really haven't done anything else. As for eating right? Farewell to my sugary carbs... We aren't dieting---we're being very clear on that point---but we are trying to change how we eat.

Dry cereal with milk is simple and convenient, but doesn't actually fill us and we wind up hungry and snacking on less healthy foods in a couple of hours. Instead, we're making sure breakfasts are filling but healthy: things like eggs, oatmeal, or yogurt with fruit. For lunches we are trying to have salads with vegetables and proteins: meat left over from the previous supper, cooked beans, hard boiled eggs, or maybe a little cheese. Suppers aren't changing much; I'm just trying to make sure the meat and vegetable components together take up more of the plate than the starch.

And because the best way to kill an attempt at eating better is to completely cut yourself off from things you really like, we fully plan to bend the rules occasionally. As long as we are both in it together, I think it'll go well... and hopefully there will be positive reinforcement from the bathroom scale to help as well!

Being the one who does the shopping and keeps the budget, I initially hesitated out of concern for what it would do to the monthly grocery bill for us to buy more meat and fresh produce... they are so expensive here! It's easy to make one chicken breast into dinner for the three of us when I'm cooking a pound of pasta to go with it. But if the meat isn't supposed to be dwarfed by the grain, and actually supply enough extra for our lunch salads the next day? There's no way. Matt reminded me that we'd been prepared to pay a lot for the gym membership, though; if we divide up what we would have spent on that and add it to the monthly grocery allowance, he thinks it will all work out. I hope so! We will see.

19 January 2014

Inside Outside Upside Down

The problem with suddenly acquiring a tv after several years without one is that they take up space... a lot of space. You need an expanse of wall to put it against so kids don't get into the wires. A shelf or table of some sort to set it on; wall mounting is a practical alternative, but not allowed in an apartment. Cables running to the antenna, which wants to be near a window. And people want to be able to sit down while they watch it... which means rearranging everything.

Our apartment is set up kind of funny: there is a smallish kitchen, a bathroom, two bedrooms, and a room shaped rather like that piece from Tetris that looks like a rectangle made of six squares that's missing one of the corner squares. Does that make sense? This is our dining room--office--living room: table and chairs, couches, desk, bookshelves... and now, apparently, a tv.

Yesterday morning, Matt and Little Bear adventured through a couple of second-hand shops and furniture stores on their quest for a tv-bearing shelf, and came home with a little two-shelf bookcase roughly as broad as the new tv. I took advantage of Little Bear's absence to get as much stuff as possible cleared off of the desk and bookshelf already in the room, and move small, light-weight furniture down the hall out of the way.

When they got home, Little Bear took off with the screwdriver while Matt was attaching the stand to the tv, and had great fun evading me while running around the room "fixing" things.

My costochondritis is a lot better than it was: I'm down to one megadose of ibuprofen a day instead of three, and the days I've forgotten to take it haven't been horrible, so I am optimistic that it'll all be over soon. Moving heavy furniture around sounded like a good way to bring the problem back full force, though, so we were so grateful that my dad and sister came by to give Matt a hand! The three of them got pretty much everything rearranged nicely; we are still puzzling over what to do with our sack chair, because we've run out of corners and it's ridiculously large when not squished between walls and other furniture--that was definitely a college-student-mentality purchase, not an adult one, but it was a fun thing to have as the first piece of furniture we bought together.

I wish I could say that everything is all neatly organized again now--they moved the furniture early yesterday afternoon!--but Little Bear has been giving us the predictable but frustrating toddler overreaction to change, and the table still has a jumble of bric-à-brac that needs to find news homes on the desk and bookshelf... or maybe at someone else's house. I'm really enjoying the sparse, clear aesthetic of flat surfaces with nothing on them. We will see. (As though that could ever last in a house with kids! I'm not completely delusional, I promise.)

It's very nice to have everything becoming orderly again, though, and I think we will like this new arrangement. Matt worked with the antenna this morning, and we can now receive all five channels broadcast locally! Which is five more than we will watch very often, but we were glad that the static cut out in time to see Shaun White locking up his Olympic halfpipe spot!

17 January 2014

SQTF 73: As Seen On TV

Check out more Quick Takes atConversion Diary!

Remember being a young teen and wishing that your mom would let you wear makeup, ladies? Somehow, I lost that desire by the time I reached high school (and would presumably have been allowed to start wearing it if I'd asked). By the time I cared again partway through college, I was too self conscious about not knowing what I was doing to really experiment and find a look I liked; a friend taught me some basics so I could avoid looking completely socially inept for job interviews--a girl definitely can't get away with going bare-faced to an interview in media!--but the art of applying makeup really remains one I don't trust my skills in, and so I only rarely attempt it.

Yes, I know, it's one of those practice-makes-perfect things, but I just don't have the patience. Or to be more accurate, Little Bear doesn't: he yelled and yelled today because I did have to "put my face on" and do something other than the usual braid with my hair. Toddler tantrums are definitely an understandable excuse for not doing this every day, right?

How do you do it, those of you who wear it regularly? Little Bear wakes up as soon as I do, so getting up and doing it sans toddler isn't an option. And all I did was twist my hair up, hairspray it, put lotion and powder (foundation? I don't know these words) on my face, and add lipstick: 5 minutes. But 5 minutes spread over the course of a half hour as the toddler screamed and sobbed and brought me stories and pushed me away from the mirror because I was apparently doing something completely unacceptable. I didn't even do "real" makeup! It would be kind of nice to pretty up more often, become more comfortable with it and learn to do it better, but I can't just let him scream.

The most common advice I get for how to do anything with a toddler who wants my undivided attention is "just do it. He can play with something for five minutes; he needs to learn to entertain himself." But can he learn that, really? At this age? This advice usually comes from people who have had so many kids, it's hard to believe that they actually remember what it was like to just have one. And when you have an older kid or two or ten whom you can tell to entertain the baby for five minutes while you do X, of course it makes sense that accomplishing those little things isn't really that big a deal. The youngest learns to occupy himself without his mom's undivided attention by watching the older kids do so. The first, though, doesn't have anyone to set that example for him. And if the kid actually needs something, if Mom is the only other person in the apartment, she can't exactly delegate the job to someone else...

Anyway. Putting on makeup with an angry toddler shoving you out the door is frustrating, but I did it anyway today because next Wednesday is the 41st anniversary of Roe v Wade, and I agreed to stop by two of the local tv stations today for brief interviews on the anniversary and the prayer vigil that the local Right to Life group is planning for that evening. I enjoyed being back in that environment; I haven't been in front of a camera since college. One studio was...underwhelming...compared to what I worked with in school, but the other felt pleasantly familiar.

I'll try to remember to say something again early next week, but if you're local: Come join Interior Right to Life at the Cushman Street Bridge on Wednesday, January 22, from 5-6pm for silent prayer and to hold signs reminding passers-by to pray for mothers and babies, and that abortion continues to take so many innocent lives in our community and across the country. Bring your kids: they are a testimony to the beauty of life and the gift that children are. If it's chilly, you can warm up in Immaculate Conception on the northbound side of the bridge.

And pray that this nice warm weather sticks around until then! Goodness, standing outside for an hour at nearly 30 degrees above zero would be incredibly pleasant compared to some recent years.

And in almost totally unrelated news, we have somehow found ourselves to be the proud (?) owners of a ridiculously large television. (Which is related in that now maybe we might catch my interviews when/if they run...) We'd been perfectly fine without a tv for these past few years, but with the Winter Olympics coming up, we started talking about looking for an inexpensive tv so that we could watch some of the events. And I'm sure Matt, who works with high quality video equipment and streaming every day, had already been wishing for a better screen than the laptop for movie nights. We started doing research into the different options. Because he's used to top-of-the-line equipment at work, and I was more of the smallest-and-least-expensive-possible mindset, we were having trouble finding something... And then Matt came across a remarkable deal on Craigslist: the size he wanted, for the price I wanted, on a brand he trusted. Sold. We have yet to watch anything on it, and Little Bear is so very confused by the giant black thing laying on the floor that doesn't do anything, but Mama and Daddy won't let him touch it. Oh child, just you wait.

16 January 2014

Toddlers and Toilet Plungers

Need I really say any more?

I spent all morning trying to fix the backed-up toilet while keeping Little Bear out of it, and Little Bear was simply beside himself that I kept herding him away. Screaming and sobbing and grasping frantically for it... There were plenty of other good things for him to do, but how do you reason with a teething 18 month old? And the plunger wouldn't fix it, and the problem just kept getting worse, and the child kept screaming louder and louder, and I finally snapped and yelled at him to be quiet.

And he looked so shocked and hurt, because I really try not to yell and he doesn't hear me do it often. And of course I felt so very guilty... but not any less frustrated, because he didn't stop screaming and clawing at the toilet for more that ten seconds.

After bothering Matt at work and being told to do exactly what I'd been doing, I finally gave up and called our landlady. Her fancy plunger is apparently much better than our cheapest-one-at-Walmart plunger, because it fixed the problem right away. She was very nice about it, though--we have some of the best landlords ever--and explained that this just happened occasionally with the low-flow toilets and that she'd gotten this plunger because it creates a better seal. 

And that is probably far more than you wanted to hear about toilets today!

Little Bear's usual quiet and shyness around people he doesn't know came in incredibly handy today, as he stopped crying completely and just stared, silent, the whole time our landlady was here. By the time she left, I think he'd forgotten about being upset.

Speaking of which: Since before he turned one, Little Bear has been very quiet and shy around people outside of our immediate family and my parents and younger siblings; he's starting to become more comfortable interacting with Matt's parents when we Skype, but otherwise, being around other people always results in him clinging to me, hiding his face, turning away and crying "Mama, Mama, Mama," when anyone tries to interact with him. Always. Until yesterday.

Yesterday we visited a friend and her kids, and after sitting quietly on my lap for fifteen minutes, Little Bear ran around chattering and playing happily for hours, only calling for me occasionally when he couldn't get down some steps or got tired and wanted to eat. It was wonderful to see him enjoying interacting with other kids, and being comfortable in a place he'd never been before without being attached to me constantly.

14 January 2014

Winter, Where Art Thou?

Glorious warmth! Today it got up to +8 F, and Little Bear and I thoroughly enjoyed getting outside. My mom picked us up so that we could join her and my youngest sister for daily Mass, and after his nap the munchkin and I went back outside to run around on the driveway and check the mail. I wish my camera wasn't such a wimp with winter weather; I can't take it outside to try to get a photo of Little Bear's huge grin as he plays in the snow, because the battery drains in a snap.

We keep telling ourselves that it'll be cold soon enough, but it's already the middle of January and we still haven't had a real cold snap. It's been wonderful, but weird. Yes, we've seen -35 F or so several times, but nothing much colder, and never for more than a couple of days. Where is our week-plus of -40 to -50 F? We always get at least two weeks of that, and the first is almost always before Christmas.

Maybe we are just going to have a wonderfully pleasant winter... or maybe the cold is waiting, biding its time, allowing us to enjoy and adjust to this warmer winter weather while it prepares to mercilessly crush our spirits in late February. Yeah, that sounds more like Alaska.

12 January 2014

What I Wore Sunday {38}

It seems the weather patterns have returned to normal: most of the Lower 48 is back to positive temperatures if not above freezing, and we were back down to -36 F this morning. Oh, winter.

It's not all that bad, I say as I'm sitting snugly inside wrapped in a sweater, a 25-pound heater snoring on my lap. But really, it's not---you just have to know how to deal with it, and avoid spending unnecessarily long outside. Little Bear and I will still run out and check the mailbox in this weather, because staying inside all day long for days on end with a toddler is enough to make you crazy; we probably spend longer getting into and out of our gear than we do outside, but he's always so happy to get out for even those few short minutes.

This morning Matt was apparently on autopilot, because at the campus roundabout we headed east toward his office instead of northwest to Mass. We thought we were going to be late after that detour, but I guess the cold had everyone moving slowly today: we were practically the first people there! 

I don't have a full shot today, because we were in a hurry and there was an angry toddler clinging to me, but:

Everything's ancient or thrifted, as always. Hair courtesy of a little boy waking me up every twenty minutes all night long; eyelash-shadows on my nose (eyelash-shadows! I didn't know that was possible) courtesy of weird lighting.

Want to join the fun over at Fine Linen and Purple?  Go see who else is participating this weekend, or snap a photo and link up!

10 January 2014

SQTF 72: Costochondritis and a Lazy Week

So much for productivity, timeliness, or a "proper" Epiphany/Twelfth Night party this week. We spent Twelfth Night in the urgent care clinic doing tests to make sure the pain in my chest wasn't pointing to something wrong with my heart, and I've spent all week since then moving very slowly, taking lots of ibuprofen, and wincing as my ribs chafe against my sternum. (Costochondritis being pretty much the least-bad diagnosis I could have received, but it's still a pain with a toddler!)

It's getting better, slowly. On days when I can stay home all day, sitting on the floor reading story after story to avoid picking Little Bear up, actually taking my ibuprofen on schedule, I don't feel too badly. Days when I have to lug the toddler from house to car to store, keep making him sit back down in the cart, hold him still while he gets immunizations... Those are unhappy evenings, especially when I miss the midday dose.

Little Bear and I finally stripped the tree of ornaments and lights today, and when Matt gets home this evening he will take it outside. I could pretend that we were being Old Calendar and leaving all of the decorations up through Orthodox Christmas, but... I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a relief to finally have all of the Christmas things packed away for the year. Although I've just noticed that the Christmas cards haven't come down yet; they'll disappear as soon as Little Bear's nap is over.

We did eventually celebrate Epiphany, on Wednesday: meatloaf, rotini, mixed vegetables in an asiago cream sauce, and a bread pudding made from the leftover stollen. The golden raisins, currants, and figs from the stollen made the pudding festive, so I felt like I wasn't cheating quite as much by skipping the traditional king cake. Kneading the dough sounded potentially too painful. There's always next year.

I know that the phrase "unless directed by a doctor" is included on the ibuprofen bottle for just this reason, but it's still unsettling to be taking double the listed maximum daily dosage. Thank goodness for the Drugs and Lactation Database from the National Library of Medicine! It was definitely reassuring to read through the test results and clinical information they have on ibuprofen and see that even at such a high dose, the amount that Little Bear is getting by nursing is negligible.

At Little Bear's 18 month checkup yesterday, we seriously got the best nurse in the office. She let him stand on the big person scale to be weighed because he gets so upset about being on the baby scale; she remained happy and upbeat and encouraged him to be cheerful even when he was being his usual the-doctor's-office-is-the-worst-thing-ever-and-no-one-loves-me self; and she let me hold him on my lap for his DTaP immunization rather than making him lay down (and be pinned there) on the exam table like the other nurses do. He calmed down so much faster than usual afterward!

Shrimp fajitas. My weekly menu says that I'm making shrimp fajitas tonight. I vaguely remember Matt requesting that while I was working on the menu last weekend, and I remember laughing kind of incredulously because I've never heard of such a thing and it sounds kind of awful and I have no idea how I'd do it, but... somehow it got written down. And it's going to be either that or grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, because I'm not making pasta again, and it's Friday. So if anyone has any experience with fajita-ing shrimp and wants to spare my husband from having to eat peanut butter and jelly tonight, please share your wisdom!

Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary! Have a great (and hopefully warm) weekend.

05 January 2014


Today I learned that walking into a busy urgent care facility and telling the receptionist that you've been having sharp pain in your chest will catapult you to the top of the waiting list.

Three hours, one EKG, one "GI cocktail," and one toradol injection later, the doctors concluded that there is nothing wrong with my heart (thank heaven), and that I have costochondritis: inflammation of the junctions between the ribs and sternum. Presumably from hauling around nearly 25 pounds of squirming toddler all the time; he's been particularly insistent on being carried constantly the past few days, so that makes sense. I am to take 800mg of ibuprofen three times daily for a week or so, and to try not to pick the child up very much for a day or two.

So that was exciting. Little Bear was actually phenomenally good the whole time we were there, playing with Matt, hearing songs and stories, and giggling as he kicked a little water bottle around like a ball. Matt has been wonderful, carrying Little Bear, picking him up for me, and he's taking tomorrow off work to help me ease into the week and avoid straining the inflamed sites further before the ibuprofen has had a chance to start helping.

Getting a "perfectly normal" on the electrocardiography, after the doctor's slightly concerned frown as he explained why he wanted to have one done, was definitely the best part of my day.

Before the whole urgent-care-something-may-be-very-wrong thing, though, the best part of my day had been these:

Danskos. Free, brand-new, no-wear-anywhere Danskos, from a family friend who found them at the transfer station reuse pile. She is incredible at finding treasures there! These are the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn, and they fit perfectly. And, goodness, Danskos; I don't think I've ever in my life spent more than $20 on a pair of shoes, so I certainly never expected to have anything by them! 

I know, it's winter and I live in Alaska so it'll still be snowy in May... but I can't wait to be able to wear them!

Since I'm being frivolous now anyway, and it's been a while since I've linked up, how about a What I Wore Sunday outfit?

Grey short-sleeved sweater: thrifted
Black polkadotted pencil skirt: thrifted
Black Mary Jane wedges: hand-me-downs
Black wool jacket: gift from my mom

(Photo taken at noon. That's as high as the sun got today.)

Doesn't my outfit just scream "January in Frigid Alaska"? No? We keep hearing about horrible winter weather and bitter cold from friends down south (Minnesota, Indiana, etc), and have been trying not to rub it in too badly, but... it's nice and warm here. 20 degrees above zero, no wind, no ice, occasional light snow falling... We will get our fair share of cold eventually, I'm sure, but we are sure enjoying the overall mild weather we've gotten so far this winter!

03 January 2014

SQTF 71: 2014

2014. Goodness. I look at that number, and am startled to realize how many New Year's Eves I can remember. A century ago, our lives would be half over by the time we were this old! What a morbid first thought about the new year, isn't that? I'm not actually unhappy about 2013 ending, really; just feeling thoughtful. Last year was a good one, all in all: Matt was hired as a regular employee by the university instead of just working for grants, and Little Bear was mostly healthy and learned and grew so much.

We used Jen's saint name generator to pick a family patron saint for 2014, and I'm so glad that we got St Isaac Jogues! I used to know much more about him than I can currently remember, so I suppose I have some research to do now. I do remember that he's one of the early Jesuit martyrs of North America, and I think he had something to do with St Kateri Tekakwitha's conversion...? Maybe? Full details when I get my act together and read up on him.

We had a wonderful Christmas break--it's so nice that Matt gets several days off from the university every year! A good friend came up for a week's visit and got to experience winter in Alaska... We had a couple of frigid days when he first got in, but by Sunday it had warmed up here and cooled down in Minnesota so much that it was actually much pleasanter here! He and Matt made a quick road trip down to Eagle River, outside of Anchorage, to visit another friend who is stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. They got some beautiful photos; it was so funny to see their photos looking north toward Mt McKinley instead of south! It's great that the mountain was out for their drive, though; it's said that fewer than 20% of visitors actually see McKinley while they are in Alaska, because the peak is so often shrouded in clouds.

Last year may have been the first that I actually committed new year's resolutions to paper---with the caveat that I had no illusions that I would really accomplish them---and I probably forgot what they were within the first week, but... let's see how I did anyway.

Get back in shape. Well, if by this I meant "get back down to my ideal weight," I did it! I'm not really in much better shape than I was a year ago, though, since I lost all of the weight by not eating anything for a week and a half after getting my wisdom teeth out instead of by exercising. This year: Matt and I have agreed to get a membership at the campus gym, even though it's dreadfully expensive, because we simply aren't getting enough exercise any other way, and it's important, and hopefully we will feel guilty about spending so much on a membership and that'll spur us to get there a couple of times a week!

Stop using bad logic. Oh, how I laughed when I saw this one. The example I gave last year of bad logic is word-for-word the same as the explanation I gave Matt just the other day for why I can't get in shape: "There are Christmas cookies in my house. I cannot get back in shape until the cookies are gone. Clearly, I should eat all of the cookies so that I can get back in shape." This year: Not even trying. I don't think I use this kind of bad logic about serious/important things, so I'm just going to accept that sometimes I say ridiculous things. It's part of who I am.

Be more social. Um, a little bit? I still really only see Matt in the evenings, my family one evening a week for dinner, and Matt's parents on Skype on Sunday afternoons, and I still grumble occasionally about feeling isolated. Last summer I was pretty good about going for walks with friends and their kids once a week or so, though, and we have had a few people over this fall/winter. Little Bear  is super fussy and clingy when other people are around, and I know that that means that we should do it more often rather than less, but it makes it so much less pleasant! This year: Keep trying, I guess. Maybe we will try to make it to at least one of the first and third Friday homeschooling families' potlucks after the noon Mass at my parents' parish each month. And there are three or four families with little kids at the university parish right now, and the priest last week brought up the possibility of family catechesis once a month after Mass, so if that winds up happening that'd be another good thing to become involved in.

Not terrible, especially given that I didn't remember that I'd resolved to work on those things! For this year, I have: Get back in shape; actually in shape, by exercising, and Make more of an effort to interact with other adults. Since those are both carry-overs from last year, and since I'm planning to build things into my schedule to make it hard to avoid accomplishing them (gym membership, parish commitments), I should probably add one more: Work on caring less about what others think of me, particularly in terms of my being a good wife, homemaker, and mother. I know it's easy, especially for women, to assume that others are looking down on us or judging us simply because they do things differently than we do. And I acknowledge that I'm particularly bad about worrying about what others might think: knowing that someone will be stopping by the following morning typically means that I'll spend the evening scrubbing the kitchen walls and sweeping behind the washing machine just because I "have" to make sure everything is "perfect" and they won't think I'm a terrible hausfrau. That's crazy. Who is going to check behind the washing machine? Who doesn't get lint behind their washing machine? I should work on that. Also on not letting lint fall behind the washing machine, because it's kind of a fire hazard, but that's not really worth being a resolution...

When are you celebrating Epiphany this year? I've mostly reconciled myself to the modern fad of moving the observance of so many feasts to the nearest Sunday, but moving Epiphany? No way. Christmas is twelve days long, and moving Epiphany this year take away the last day of Christmas! How can you have a Twelfth Night party when there are only eleven nights? You can't. We will go to Mass and hear the Epiphany readings on Sunday, of course, but I'm making the king cake and we are celebrating on Monday.

Head over to Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!