30 January 2013

Getting So Big!

It is hard to believe that Little Bear has been with us nearly seven months... and then I look at him, and I can't believe that he's changed this much in only seven months! He looks like a little boy now, not like a baby, especially since getting his hair cut Monday. And he's all boy: In my experience, when a little girl falls over, it is a *big deal* and she is *very distraught* and everyone needs to give her *lots of comforting* to make everything better. (Maybe my littlest sisters were just drama queens, but really.) Little Bear falls over, yells for a minute because how dare the floor jump up and get him, and then everything is fine and he goes back to hitting things with his current favorite kitchen utensil. Today we visited the clinic for vaccinations; he yelled when the nurse gave him the shots, and as soon as she handed him back to me, everything was fine.

We love you, big guy.

Blog Sale!

Linking up with Fine Linen and Purple again today for their women's clothing sale! What a good idea... I've been needing that push to go through my closet and get rid of the things that didn't fit me pre-pregnancy, so I have no idea why I've held onto them hoping they would fit post-baby.

I'm definitely open to discussion over prices, especially if you want multiple items: if you see something you're interested in, email me at rmshiffler @ gmail.com with an offer (or let me know if you're also participating in the clothing sale and are interested in swapping!). We can work out shipping over email as well.

All items are in good condition, gently worn (no stains or tears) unless otherwise noted.

Pink crochet sweater: Victorias Secret Angels, size M/L runs small $5

Red sweater set with black faux fur collar: Moda International, size M $6

Brown and blue tweed cropped jacket: OneWorld, size L (never worn--I love it, but it doesn't flatter my body shape) $10

Red velvet tank with bead/lace edge: ?, size M $3

Pink impressionist floral dress: Liz Clairborne, size 10 $10

Brown leather flower sandals: Paolo, size 7.5 $5

Black low-heel sandals: Predictions, size 8 $5

Check out more fabulous deals via the linkup at Fine Linen and Purple!

27 January 2013

What I Wore Sunday

I've been meaning to join in this fun linkup, hosted by Fine Linen and Purple, since it started, but one thing or another (like feeling silly asking my husband to take a photo of me) always seemed to get in the way. Let's see if I can keep up with it, now that I've started!

This weekend's "theme," if you will, was not-freezing-to-death; our temperatures have plummeted over the past few days. The weathermen were calling for -50 today, so for Little Bear's sake we decided to go to mass last night instead, while it was only -35. Our parish is almost 45 minutes down the highway, so we all layered up well and brought extra gear, just in case.

Scarves have to be my favorite accessory: pretty and functional at the same time, they keep more of you warm than a hat, while doing less damage to your hair! I may have gone a little overboard on textures last night, between the skirt and the blazer; I know that the blazer is dreadfully dated--seriously, suede and cable-knit ribbing---but it is definitely warm, and the color worked with the rest of the outfit. Warmth is my excuse for the skirt, too--the heavy crushed velvet panels block the cold quite well.


Scarf: Gift from a friend who traveled to the Middle East
Blazer: Hand-me-down from my mom's teaching days
Tee: Target
Skirt: handmade in India; I found it at a street fair a couple of years ago
Boots (not shown): Cabela's--similar to these, but from seven years ago

25 January 2013

Observing The Day

A few things for today...

First, our prayers are with all those gathered in Washington DC in support of life today! I was fortunate to be able to participate while going to school back east, but flying in from Alaska for the March for Life would obviously be impractical. If we ever live on the East Coast again... well, I pray that by that time the March will no longer be necessary, because the murder of children will no longer be protected by federal law. If that is not the case, though, I'm sure we would do our best to attend.

Second, happy Danish Squirrel Day! I'm at a loss as to what to make for dinner tonight, because the traditional meal is ribs, but today is a Friday... What? Am I making up holidays again? Maybe a little bit. I think all of my siblings have their own versions of the origins of Danish Squirrel Day, but as I remember it, my mother had a rack of pork ribs sitting out thawing for dinner one late January day when my then-young brother (now in college) came into the kitchen.

"What is that?" he asked. My father, with a perfectly straight face, told him they were squirrel ribs. "That's a big squirrel," the skeptical little boy said. Dad retorted that it was from Denmark, which satisfied my brother, and my sister and I spent the next hour cutting out construction paper squirrels with Danish flags to decorate the kitchen.

Why do we celebrate this every year? I do not know. Possibly because, at this point, we are already four months into winter with at least two and a half to go; it is still dark outside more than half the day; it is always cold (and usually getting colder); and we just need an excuse to do something fun and a little bit silly. None of us remember the exact date of the original, but have gone with the 25th in recent years because it is easy to remember. We talked about changing it this year; the 19th is the (old calendar) feast of the Danish king and martyr St Canute, and some American ecologist has apparently declared the 21st to be National Squirrel Appreciation Day, so either would theoretically make a good candidate. The discussion was extraordinarily unfruitful, though:

Me: What do y'all think of changing Danish Squirrel Day to the 19th?

Sister 1: That sounds good!

Sister 2: St. Canute's feast sounds like something we should celebrate. Hey, you should name your next son Canute!

Mom: I like the 25th because we always forget until the 22nd... and maybe you could make "Canute" a little more Alaskan, like "Kanuti."

Matt: ...

So for the time being, since as far as I can tell there was no consensus and it's already the 25th anyway, Danish Squirrel Day remains January 25. And just to be clear, we aren't expecting, and I don't have any idea why the conversation got hijacked into a discussion of our hypothetical future son's name.

This little guy is enough of a handful all by himself right now.

Seven Quick Takes, Vol. 16

I'm sorry I missed last week; we were all still recovering from the hospital stay and our illnesses, and I didn't even realize it until Monday.

Wednesday night, I used Captain America as an example in a zoology debate with my husband. Yay! It made him happy, even if I was using a superhero to argue against him.

The subject in question was boreal wood frogs. Yes, I compared Cap to a frog. Don't kill me. See, these frogs--the only amphibian native to Alaska--survive our winters by burrowing into the mouldering leaves and topsoil, and freezing solid. In the spring, when the ground thaws, the frogs thaw too and go on their merry way.

We've been going back and forth for several years now on whether the frogs die and resurrect, or are just hibernating. I think we have actually switched positions a time or two, but right now, Matt is holding that they die and come back to life, because brain and heart are both frozen, while I'm saying that they go into a state of suspended animation, like Han Solo or Captain America.

Yes, I am aware that I'm using purely fictional examples to try to support a scientific argument.

Neither of us "won," and I doubt either ever really will unless we some day become friends with a Catholic theologian well versed in Alaskan amphibians. Not that we mind; it's fun to hash out the different sides and try to come up with new proofs one way or the other.

The topic came up last night as a sort of rabbit trail from a song I had been singing to Little Bear and gotten stuck in Matt's head. It was the first time he'd heard "Five Green Speckled Frogs," and if you're familiar with it, you can probably empathize with him. Unfortunately for Matt, Little Bear really likes the song, so he will be hearing it again.

Speaking of songs, I'm looking for the title and author (songwriter?) of one of my favorite lullabies; I'm pretty sure there is an illustrated version out there, and I'd love to get it for Little Bear's birthday, but I need to know the name in order to do that. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Over the crust of the hard white snow, the little feet of the reindeer go. Hush, hush, the winds are low, and the fine little bells are ringing. Nothing can reach thee of woe or harm; safe is the shelter of mother's arm. Hush, hush, the wind's a charm, and mother's voice is singing.

Go visit ConversionDiary.com for more quick takes, and have a great weekend!

23 January 2013

Getting Life Back Under Control

We have been home from the hospital for more than a week, and I'm only just now finding time to write. I would say, Hopefully life will be nice and calm for a while now!, but we all know that that would just be asking to have everything explode again, so I'll resist.

Little Bear finished his antibiotics at 2am yesterday, and is pretty much over his cold. Matt's cold never got as bad and has nearly disappeared, while I am finally coming out of my ibuprofen-saline mist-cough drop-laden fog. I'm SO grateful to be able to take "vitamin I" instead of just acetaminophen, but I cannot wait to be done nursing and able to use sinus decongestants again! My usual last-ditch sinus-clearing option, eating straight cayenne, hasn't even been available since Little Bear gets mad when I have too much capsaicin.

Getting our feet back under us is a good feeling, though. I have managed to stick to my schedule this week with laundry, dusting and vacuuming, bathroom cleaning, etc., but I think we finally felt like everything was under control again when I actually made dinner last night instead of pulling something out of the freezer. Yes, I braided smoked sausages into pizza dough, baked them, and smothered them in sauerkraut, but still. Food. My man was happy with it, and in the end that's all that really matters, right?

Today's big adventure has been trying to keep Angry McTeethingpants quiet enough that he doesn't bother the landlords (who live above us). I do try to avoid giving him Tylenol if I can help it, distracting him with food, cold teething toys, and such, but it is amazing how quickly Tylenol works; in literally less than one minute, he transforms from the teething monster who wants nothing to do with that syringe to an angelic little boy making faces at Mommy in the mirror. There must be a lot of sugar in it; I can't think of any other reason for it to make him happy so quickly.

Any suggestions for other ways to help him through the teething process?

15 January 2013

Our Hospital Saga

Deo gratia! Home at last. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us!
Little Bear is still pretty sick, but there was nothing the hospital could do for him that we can't do at home, so the doctor agreed that it would be best for him to be in a familiar, less stressful environment. We can certainly use more prayers as we work to help him get better!

I meant to post updates while we were there if I had the chance, but it didn't happen. For those who are interested, here's a run down of the past few days:

Saturday evening we brought LB to the hospital, where he was treated for dehydration and eventually admitted. That night is fuzzy in my memory, because I've gotten so little sleep, but it can't have been too too awful because the next morning we were thinking we might be released in time to make it to evening mass. The doctor thought that he looked good, but decided to keep him a second night because he wasn't eating much (he was getting enough through the IV that he didn't want to nurse).

Sunday night he continued not wanting to nurse, and we figured it was probably because of his nasal congestion. He has a nasty pattern going here: his nose is stuffy, so he can't breathe well, so he coughs, so his throat hurts, so he cries, so his throat hurts more, so he coughs, and then he throws up. At night it's particularly difficult to keep him from coughing a lot, because the mucus from his nose runs down the back of his throat when he lies down. We got his nose pretty clear around 4 am Monday, though, and he slept until 8 am!

Monday was frustrating. They took LB off the IV because a) he was doing fine physically and b) to try and encourage him to nurse, because he just wouldn't. It didn't help. I finally had to pump milk and give him bottles, to get milk into him at all. We couldn't even spoon-feed it to him, even though he was doing so well with spoons at home--the hospital spoons were apparently not acceptable. The pediatrician was okay with his progress, though, and had his discharge papers drawn up and the iv catheter taken out of his foot. Matt had signed the papers and we were starting to think about packing up when the nurse came in to give him one more dose of his antibiotic; he got so upset, he couldn't stop coughing and threw up several times. Discharge was cancelled, and the pediatrician decided to start him on a different antibiotic instead.

Today (Tuesday) he was more calm and cooperative in general. He slept a lot last night: midnight to 5, when he took medicine and threw up, and again 6 to 9:30. The nurse came in at 8:30 and gave him another dose, and he barely even woke. We got all of the signs we were looking for: eating food, nursing well, not throwing up much, and wet diapers, by the middle of the day, and the pediatrician agreed that he would be better off at home (less-stressful environment). The hospital's lactation consultant stopped by to give us ideas for helping him eat despite his nose, too. We had to wait a while for his prescription to be filled, and then Matt had to drive to North Pole to pick it up, but we were finally released.

What now? Little Bear is taking an oral antibiotic four times a day (8am, 2pm, 8pm, 2am) for six more days. He still very much has his cold, so we will be doing our best to keep his nose clear and helping him handle his cough--he is too young to take anything to help with either, so it'll be a good old-fashioned nasal aspirator and humidifier. We have a follow-up appointment tomorrow at the pediatric clinic, and I imagine the pediatrician will have further instructions if he is concerned about anything.

We appreciate your prayers more than I can say! Thank you so much!

13 January 2013

Prayers for Baby

The good news is, we think we know what is ailing the little boy.

The bad news is, well, there are several bits of bad news.

First, we are in the hospital. More on that in a minute.

Second, the diarrhea is caused by C. difficile. Possible complications of which, according to the doctor, include death.

Third, the antibiotic used to treat C. difficile comes in pills. Six-month-olds can't take pills. We have to wait until Monday, when the only pharmacy in the area that can turn pills into liquids, opens.

Fourth, Little Bear started throwing up Saturday evening and couldn't seem to stop. We brought him to the ER, where they treated him for dehydration and decided to admit him to keep an eye on his progress.

Prayers would be appreciated! We how to bring him home today. More info as we have it.

11 January 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 15

Today's 7QT is not for those without small children or otherwise easily grossed out.

Thank you, Lord, that it is finally Friday! The week can't get any worse now, because at least tomorrow Matt will be here to help deal with whatever new insanity arises.

Little Bear is still sick; possibly sicker than he was before. I brought him back in to the doctor with bloody diarrhea on Wednesday, and we've been working on collecting samples for the lab to run tests since. The doctor hopes it is just a lingering temporary irritation of the intestines from when he was taking the antibiotics.

Yesterday he was a pretty happy boy, we got the first sample in no problem, but then he wouldn't give me any more messy diapers. The other big sample was time-sensitive: I had to get it back to the lab in 20 min, so it had to be enough and at a time the lab was open. Frustrating.

Not as frustrating as last night, though; he had eight (!!!) episodes of diarrhea, most bloody again, and threw up in our bed. Twice. He also acquired a stuffy nose and an awful-sounding cough that kept waking him up but made him too miserable and uncomfortable to nurse.

After a night like that, today could only get better, right? We dropped Matt off at work, and I called the pediatrician. "Yes, bring him in," they said, "but we don't have any openings until 3:30." So I drove home. As I pulled into the driveway, my phone rang: they'd had a cancellation, if we could get there in 15 minutes. I backed right back out of the driveway and headed back to town.

Long story short, the doctor thinks he has a separate viral infection causing the cough/sneezing/stuffy nose, so there isn't anything we can do but cuddle him and try to keep his nose clear so he can breathe and is willing to nurse, because he's at risk for dehydration from the gastrointestinal stuff.

We had been home again for five minutes when he finally messed his diaper again, giving me that sample for the lab. Back into the car.... Little Bear let me know how displeased he was, at the top of his lungs, all the way to the clinic where he threw up in the parking lot. At least they have a restroom. Dropped off the sample, completely changed the baby, and came home, where he threw up again.

At least I'm doing a good job observing the fast today; I didn't eat anything until after noon! Prayers for the little boy would be appreciated this weekend...

I'm sorry for writing a whole 7QT about this... it is kind of the only thing on my mind right now.

Don't forget to check out ConversionDiary.com for more quick takes!

08 January 2013

On Not Complaining

I need to make an addendum to my resolutions: to work on not complaining.

I say "work on" so that I can't weasel my way out of it by saying "oops, too bad, I tried" in a couple hours, which is unfortunately the longest I'm likely to make it without messing up.

Last Lent, Matt and I both tried to give up complaining. It was a good spiritual exercise, and consciously trying not to complain made me painfully aware of how readily I do it. But Lent ended, and as our Lenten sacrifices usually do, my efforts ended with it.

It's not that I have trouble with gratitude; each night as I'm putting Little Bear to bed, I thank God for so many things that I tend to fall asleep in the middle of the rest of my prayers! Our family has been greatly blessed, and I am very aware of that.

Why do I complain, then? Maybe I need to start by asking what I complain about. Not my family, at least, not much; I occasionally become frustrated by unhelpful "helpful suggestions," but that has been pretty rare, thankfully! Not our circumstances; I am so grateful to my wonderful husband for going to work at a frustrating job every day to allow me to stay home with Little Bear, and I know that we have everything we need--we laugh together about what we want in our someday-house, but I am certainly happy where we are now. The cold? Well, yes. But there is complaining and complaining, and I'm pretty sure that when I grouse about -40F, I'm more expressing a (fairly) genial "Good heavens, that's frigid!" than whining and wishing it would change.

I complain the most, I think, about myself. My own failures, imperfections, even doubts. I've set up an impossible standard of what a 'good Catholic wife and mother' looks like, and when I don't measure up, I become so frustrated! Pretty much anything that goes wrong during the day, I can attribute it to my not doing something right. And then I complain about it.

"I'm such a bad wife--dinner wasn't ready on time."
"I'm a terrible mother: I only read him one story today."
"None of the housework got done today... I'm such a failure."

Is this pride? Wanting to be perfect, and complaining when I don't achieve that goal? I never will, and I know it; only God is perfect. I'm a mother of a small child, and who one else really expects my home to be cleaner than "good enough" for the next few years? I can do my best, but it isn't right to be unhappy when I fail to reach perfection if it simply isn't within my reach to begin with.

So pride is certainly a part of my problem, but I think priorities are a part as well: I get so caught up in everything that has to be done, I need to realize that holding my baby while he sleeps is infinitely more important than scrubbing the bathroom floor--he won't be a baby forever, and the floor will still be there to be scrubbed when Matt gets home and wants to play with him.

Pride, priorities... and peace. Beyond pride, my need to do everything perfectly stems from a fear of being looked down on, as if people will only like me, will only think well of me if I don't make any mistakes. If my house is clean. If dinner appears on the table precisely at 6:30, the towel rack in the bathroom looks like Martha Stewart's, and the baby is always quiet and happy. I need to learn to let go of my concern for what others may think of me, and ask the Lord for the grace to be at peace, accepting myself, and our home, and our lives as they are right now, not as I think that someone else thinks that they should be.

There we go: I will focus on (and pray for help with!) overcoming pride, reordering priorities, and finding peace. Hopefully that combination will help me to work on not complaining!

04 January 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 14

There's nothing quite like the sight of a flock of drunk songbirds thudding into the living room window. I'm so glad the landlords left the chokecherries on the tree out front to ferment.

What happened to my baby??? I turned around yesterday to discover that he's been replaced by a small child--one who sits up, and babbles, and eats oatmeal like a good Scotsman. And is huge. So huge. His preference for sleeping perpendicularly to us has definitely become a problem.

We never meant to co-sleep with Little Bear; in fact, I have to admit that I never really liked the idea. I can remember, during pregnancy, seeing statuses on Facebook from friends who were struggling to teach their toddlers to sleep in their own beds after a year or more of co-sleeping, and I would smugly tell Matt, "And that is why Little Bear will be sleeping in his own crib from day one." Then Little Bear was born. Oh, humble pie, how I loathe thee.

Lesson learned: every child is different. Every family is different. You cannot judge another parent's decisions unless you've been in the same situation, and no situation is ever exactly the same.. It wasn't exactly fun to learn, but I think it's stuck, at least somewhat, and made me less judgmental of other parenting styles.

Speaking of lessons and humility and such pleasantries, my I-have-everything-planned-perfectly ego took another blow today as I went to dig out the next size of clothes for Little Bear and realized that there was no such box. I had 0-3mo, 3-6, 6-9, 12, and 18, but there was no 9-12 box anywhere. There may have been a moment of slight panic wherein I pictured doing laundry twice a day every day until I could get to the thrift store.

Fortunately for the water and electric bills, we do indeed have 9mo clothes; they were just scattered haphazardly through the closet and under the bed and in the other boxes. Honestly, you'd think I sorted this stuff in the sleep-deprived fog of the first week postpartum...

Aside from the glaringly obvious need to become more organized, I've been thinking about New Year's resolutions. Not that I have any real delusions that I will wind up making good on them, but the beginning of the year is as good a time as any to turn over a new leaf, right? I don't always fail miserably, anyway; last year I resolved to get a better system down for the housework, and for the past nine months or so I've done laundry on Monday and Thursday (at least!), dusted and vacuumed on Tuesday and Friday, and cleaned the bathroom and kitchen on Wednesday and Saturday.

Resolutions for this year:
-Get back in shape. This means buying an accurate scale, not just using the one that broke early in the second trimester. And doing sit-ups. Ugh.

-Stop using bad logic. Case in point: I need to get back 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.

-Be more social. If you knew me in college, this sounds strange. These days, though, my day-to-day human interactions usually are limited to Little Bear and Matt; we see my family once a week, Skype with Matt's family on the weekend if LB isn't sleeping, and talk with people we know for five minutes after church on Sundays. That's not really enough adult interaction, and there is nothing except my own fear of rejection to keep me from reaching out and getting together with other moms who are probably feeling isolated as well.

That sounds like enough to keep me busy! Hopefully I'll be able to carry through on all of them. What are you resolving to change this year?

Don't forget to go read more quick takes, hosted at MoxieWife this week! And pray for Jen: If you haven't heard, she was in the hospital with pulmonary embolisms in both lungs. She is home now, but still needs prayers!

02 January 2013

Akathist to the Theotokos

We finished off our celebration of New Year's Day and the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God last night by singing the akathist, a hymn of praise to the Theotokos (God-bearer, or Mother of God). I love, love, love this chant, which comes from the Eastern rites. It is beautiful!

Here's just a brief excerpt:

Rejoice, tree of shining fruit, whereby the faithful are nourished;
Rejoice, tree of goodly shade by which many are sheltered;
Rejoice, thou that hast carried in thy womb the Redeemer of captives;
Rejoice, thou that gave birth to the Guide of those who stray!

It had been a while since I'd sung it; I had to go dig through the bookshelf to find it, and I was a little bit worried that I'd have trouble with the chant because it's been so long since I've used anything other than Gregorian (with the exception of a few Pascha bits in Slavonic), but it all came back quickly.

Wow, I miss living in an area with Eastern Catholic churches! There aren't any here for hundreds of miles; while I was in college, there were two close enough to easily attend on Sundays. Matt's newest coworker is Russian Orthodox, and has invited us to attend Divine Liturgy with him--hopefully we will be able to take him up on that soon.

01 January 2013

Book Burning

Well, not exactly.

My parents' parish church is the oldest Catholic church in town, and it definitely has a library to match... most of the books are quite old, many sadly outdated, and all covered with a couple decades' worth of dust. Unfortunately, a disproportionately high number of them are also icky dissent-laden messes from the '70s and '80s.

Apparently someone on their parish council volunteered my siblings and /or me to sort through the library for them and toss anything that didn't belong. We're talking floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lining two sides of the room. Not exactly a job I wanted to tackle on my own with Little Bear, so I decided to wait until my siblings got home from college.

We finally had time to wade into it a couple of days ago. I think "discombobulating" might be an apropos word for the experience... I found titles like Eros Rediscovered: Restoring Sex to Humanity and Ancient Wisdom for Today: How Past Lives, Dreams, and Soul Travel Help You Find God mixed in with biographies of Padre Pio and late-1800s exhortations on virginity. Of course, there were also the expected (and quickly trashed) volumes purporting to explain why artificial birth control is acceptable and how the Church needs to revise her stance on remarried divorcees and reception of Holy Communion.

A parish councilman who shall remain unnamed popped in while we were working, and asked if we would rather just sort them with a match and gasoline. As I was in the middle of flipping through the second volume of a series purporting to explain the Second Vatican Council, penned in the early '70s by K√ľng et al, the offer was tempting!

But then I would have missed some pleasant surprises, like the slim volume with a hideous fluorescent-polyester-orange cover, written in 1974, which thoroughly upheld and explained the Church's teachings on homosexuality. Or the little booklet entitled Daughter Zion, whose felt-banner-style Modernist cover belied its solid Marian teaching by then-Cardinal Ratzinger.

There was a small part of me, a scholarly part, that wondered if some of the more blatantly dissent-filled books penned during and shortly after Vatican II might not be helpful for those of us who didn't live through those days and struggle to understand how things went so wrong. One questionable set was allowed to remain for the time being on those grounds, but I worry about allowing books to remain which could seriously malform consciences if a person picked one up without knowing that it was not faithful to Church teaching.

There is a good deal yet to do; we spent more than four hours sorting, and I doubt we made it through more than a quarter of the books. Hopefully we will make it back there a time or two before my siblings head back to school, but if not, I suppose Little Bear and I can keep stopping in occasionally when we have free time to pick away at it.

It's 2013!

Happy New Year!

Don't forget: today is also the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos), a holy day of obligation! Start 2013 off right by making sure you make it to mass today (if you haven't gone yet).

We wish you all a joyful year to come, filled with grace and peace!