31 December 2014

12 for 2014

Feeling so, so grateful to Dwija for hosting this linkup and giving me a reason to look back through this year's photos... all of the "there's no way he was that small a year ago" moments, the "how did I forget that?"s, the happy and sad and words-fail-me times. I don't think there's ever been a year that I honestly wanted to re-live, and 2014 definitely does not break that streak, but there were so many good things about this year, so many blessings.

January was pretty. Snow, clear skies for the few hours that the sun was visible, relatively warm weather... I don't think it ever got too far below 0. We loved our unusually warm winter, and sure wouldn't complain about a repeat in 2015.

By mid-February, even in the mildest winter most people are ready to be done with the snow and dark. I'm not really one to keep track of milestones, fill out baby books, etc, but pretty much the only thing I took pictures of this past February was Little Bear learning to eat with a fork, so I'm going to guess that that was (at least one of) the most notable parts of the month.

The sun comes back in a hurry in March! Little Bear loved our afternoon at the ice park, looking at sculptures by artists from around the world and playing on many elaborate ice slides in the kiddie park. It was a particularly warm afternoon—in the upper 40s, if I remember right—made even warmer for me courtesy of some extra progesterone: on March 15, we learned that I was expecting #2!

Lent, Holy Week, Easter baking: I spent a lot of April in the kitchen. This was the first year that I attempted Jidáše (Judas Rolls) for Spy Wednesday, my family's traditional Italian Easter bread, and dying eggs with natural dyes, and they all turned out surprisingly well. We had a beautiful Easter, but just a few days later learned that our little one no longer had a heartbeat. Alexandra Reece was miscarried on Saturday, April 26. 

As I grew physically able to return to regular activity, we spent many May afternoons at the boat launch near our apartment. Little Bear loved throwing rocks into the river, and only got his feet wet a couple of times. 

The ground had finally thawed enough by early June for us to bury Alex; our pastor said a funeral Mass for her and blessed the gravesite. We spent the month of June apartment-hunting, as it finally registered that "our landlords are selling" meant "we need a new place to live."

On July 3, we signed a lease on an amazing apartment: The upper level of a duplex, we have a fireplace, deck, garage, high ceilings, and trees as far as we can see in every direction! We made our first attempt at camping with Little Bear in early July at Paxson Lake, three and a half hours from town; by 2 am we had dragged our sleeping pads and quilt into my parents' already-at-capacity cabin and were curled up under the table, but we have high hopes for next time.

With a fireplace came the tantalizing promise of lower heating bills. Matt spent much of August splitting and stacking three cords of wood, and while at 2 years old Little Bear wasn't actually all that helpful, he was certainly enthusiastic about it! The wood-cutting is paying off: although we cringe at the monthly heating oil invoices, longtime Alaskan homeowners tell us that we're using remarkably little oil.

"Fall lasted nine days this year," Matt has been saying lately, but looking at September photos I can't believe that it was quite that short. Maybe two weeks. The thermometer jumped around for a while, giving us a mix of beautiful golden days and chilly "I'm refusing to believe I just saw a snowflake" mornings before giving us an undeniable centimeter or two of snow on September 30.

October... warm fires in the fireplace, squash of every shape and size appearing around the kitchen, lots more snow taking up residence in our yard for the next many months, and the wonderful news that I was expecting again! Matt finally triumphed over the grouse he'd been hunting since late August, bringing home one which quickly found its way into a pie.

In early November, I received the wonderful gift of hearing and seeing our newest little one's heartbeat on an ultrasound. Now I'm impatient for the 20-week ultrasound to get here so I can see little "Kit" again! Matt, Little Bear and I spent the last two weeks of November visiting his family in Pennsylvania, as well as my siblings in Ohio and several friends in the area. Little Bear loved visiting Grandmom and Grandpop, and frequently asks to go back.

Baby Kit's odd dislike for sugar made early December quite disappointing: no cookies, fruitcake, or candy for me! Getting farther away from the first trimester has helped, but Kit still lets me know if I have too many sweets. Somehow, despite my inability to eat them, we wound up with the most varieties of Christmas cookies since we've been married, along with fruitcake and Christstollen. I'm totally not going to remember saying this next year, but I am not allowed to compare Christmas 2015 (with a 6 month old) to this Christmas' baking!

And it's still the Christmas season until Epiphany, so Merry Christmas! And happy new year. Praying that 2015 is filled with blessings, for our family and for all of you!

29 December 2014

Merry Christmas Season!

In a wonderful Christmas present from the university, Matt has almost the full 12 days of Christmas off from work! So we've been having a very enjoyable, mostly relaxing, Christmas season: building castles and making pretend pots of soup with Little Bear, cooking fun meals together, taking advantage of the mid-20s weather to haul wood, go sledding, and spend Saturday moose hunting. (Saturday was actually a little colder, -10 in town, -25 down in the flats where Matt was hunting. Matt says he was plenty warm enough, but having his eyelashes freeze together got annoying.)

Christmas Eve, the plan was to follow the Italian tradition of a feast of fish dishes; the number of dishes seems to vary based on region, anywhere from seven to thirteen. We were aiming for five this first time, as an ambitious-but-achievable number, but then I felt sick all afternoon and Matt wound up cooking an abbreviated version of the planned feast: cod, linguine with scallops, and steamed vegetables. We should have followed a recipe for the cod... we found one that sounds pretty good for next Christmas Eve.

Christmas was nice: peaceful in the morning, exciting in the afternoon. Little Bear took a while to warm up to the idea of looking in his stocking before Mass, but he did want to see the baby Jesus in the manger (and made a point of fixing the blanket that I'd set the baby on top of instead of underneath). During the homily, our pastor brought Little Bear up to look at the baby Jesus in the big nativity scene (a perk or peril of sitting at the very front!) After Mass, he helped Matt cook eggs and sausage to accompany our traditional German Christstollen. After opening gifts at home and somehow convincing Little Bear to nap, we spent the rest of the day at my parents' house for dinner, more gift-exchanging, and lots of fun with Little Bear's aunts and uncles.

Saturday's moose hunt was a little chilly but otherwise uneventful. Snow had fallen just hours before, so the tracks everywhere made it clear that the area they were hunting was full of moose, but they hadn't seen a single one by the time it began to get dark and they had to turn back.

Other than that, it's really been pretty calm and peaceful around here, with the slight exception of this noon. Matt and Little Bear played together at home this morning while I ran to the grocery store and gas station. On the way home I passed our mailman, so I decided to stop and check for mail... I pulled onto the plowed-smooth area next to our street's mailboxes, and discovered that the plow had pushed snow out past the edge of the pavement: the jeep sank right in and slid several feet into the ditch.

Living in Fairbanks is so great. In the time it took for Matt to bundle Little Bear up and walk the quarter of a mile from our house to the mailboxes, three different guys stopped and asked if they could help. The first ran home to get his towing chains, and Matt got there just in time to help direct us as the other guy used his truck to pull me out of the ditch.

So yeah, other than that, quiet and peaceful! Little Bear has discovered sledding, and loves to have me pull him up the driveway, aim the sled correctly, and then let him fly down to where Matt is waiting to catch him. So far since Christmas we've made several of our favorite meals, including the lasagna I first made for Matt not long after we started dating, as well as his delicious chicken Provençal. It's so nice to have both of us home and in the kitchen together! 

Hopefully the rest of the week runs smoothly; I keep thinking that we have this wide-open quiet nothing-happening week, and then I catch sight of the calendar and realize that, oops, there are things happening that I can't forget about! Making supper for Father tomorrow, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day (which is a holy day of obligation!), and it seems like there was something else...? I don't remember. It doesn't matter tonight.

Blessed octave of Christmas!

23 December 2014

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their savior; come to save us, O Lord our God!

The last of the O Antiphons! Tomorrow night we will celebrate the coming of Christ in the flesh, the birth of the Child Jesus in Bethlehem more than two millennia ago. Little Bear has been "shushing" me all day as I keep starting to sing the titular verse of O Come O Come Emmanuel, but I'm cheerfully annoying my son and continuing to sing because I'm so excited. The night of the nativity is almost here! 

King, lawgiver, expected-of-nations, savior: tonight's Antiphon sums up the themes of many of the previous Antiphons, presenting a clear and mighty image of the One whose coming we await. As we hurry through these last hours of probably-too-many Christmas preparations, try to find a few moments here and there to remember the most important kind of Christmas preparation: that within your heart.

We pray that everyone has a safe, happy, and blessed Christmas! 

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

22 December 2014

O Rex Gentium

(Recycled from 2012)

O King of the nations, only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

In stonemasonry, the block at the apex of an arch is called the keystone. An arch cannot support itself without the keystone; the pressure the keystone exerts holds the arch in place and allows it to bear weight. Truly, Christ is our keystone: He is the head, the Church His mystical body. He gives us life, holding us in existence. With God, we are strong ("I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phil 4:13); without Him, we crumble back to the dust from whence we came.

Only in Christ, the king of all nations, can all nations of the world be brought together in peace; the "arch of man," the coming together of all humanity, cannot hold together or bear weight without Him.

O come, desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
And fill the world with heaven's peace.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

21 December 2014

O Oriens (and o, so behind...)

Happy Fourth Sunday of Advent! Everything just gets so crazy as we get closer and closer to Christmas, and unsurprisingly, blogging tends to be the first thing to fall through the cracks. The past couple of days we've been coming and going, having friends over and visiting family, baking and cleaning and preparing... Friday night we were able to meet and have dinner with our newly-ordained bishop at my family's house, which was wonderful. Yesterday Matt and a good friend went out in the woods to cut our Christmas tree, and I'm pretty sure they found the nicest, most even black spruce I've ever seen. 

And over the past couple of days I've made cutout cookies, toffee bars, chex mix, a second batch of fruitcake... All of Little Bear's nap time has been put to good use in the kitchen instead of writing. But today's kitchen list requires his help: Matt wants to make peanut butter kiss cookies with Little Bear, and I'm hoping to finally get the cutout cookies iced. So I figured I could justify sitting down for at least a few minutes here!

So I missed Friday and Saturday's O Antiphons: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse) and O Clavis David (O Key of David). Today we have O Oriens, or O Rising Dawn.

(NOT recycled from two years ago, because that one didn't make sense without the post from the previous day.)

O dawn of the east, brightness of light eternal, and sun of justice: come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

The concept of the sun rising in the east and the inherent symbolism of Christ, the Son, coming from the east didn't make a whole lot of sense to me until I went to college in Ohio; we're so far north here that the sun doesn't rise in the east and set in the west. In the summer it kind of goes around in a circle, and in the winter it rises in the south and sets in the south a couple of hours later. So in Ohio, seeing the sun rise in pretty much the same place every morning a) was weird, but b) made this imagery make a lot more sense.

There's no way it is just a coincidence that today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and today's Antiphon is all about light, dawn, enlightenment, etc. Here, the sun rose at 11:00 am and will set at 2:38 pm. Enlighten those who sit in darkness. The imagery is particularly poignant given the very literal interpretation just outside the window; we know all about physical darkness, and are eagerly, impatiently, awaiting the light's return. Going so long with so little visual light makes it easier, I think, to understand the idea of the darlness within our souls when we lack Christ. We need light. The dark Alaskan winters can literally make people crazy. And Alaskans are chronically Vitamin D deficient because we get so little sun exposure from September through April. Without seeing the sun, being in the light, our mental and even physical health starts to deteriorate. 

In the same way, we are not spiritually healthy without the Light of Christ. When our souls are in darkness, we cannot even see to find our way back to Him without the grace He gives us, especially through absolution in the sacrament of Confession, enlightening us from the darkness and from the shadow of death.

O come Thou Dayspring from on high
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh.
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death'd dark shadow put to flight.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

18 December 2014

O Adonai

(Recycled/expanded from two years ago, because I want to try to post about all of the O Antiphons again this year but am too tired/stressed/busy to be original. Sorry!)

O Lord and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: come, and redeem us with outstretched arms.

I don't think this has struck me in past years, but today, that very last part of the Antiphon has really caught my attention. "...come and redeem us with outstretched arms." What an image those words evoke! Two different "types" of outstretched arms come to mind as I read that: a priest or bishop stretching out his arms to give a blessing, and a parent opening their arms to embrace a child. In His great gift of redemption, God reaches out to us in both ways. He showers us with grace and blessings, and draws us to Himself.

Today's verse from the hymn is a bit less exact a transliteration of the Antiphon than yesterday's was, but the sense is still there: come, mighty ruler and lawgiver, majestic beyond our comprehension! Come, lord who spoke through fire and cloud, at once ruler and ransomer of your people.

O come, O come Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times didst give the law
In could and majesty and awe.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

17 December 2014

O Sapientia

(Recycled from two years ago, because I want to try to post about all of the O Antiphons again this year but am too tired/stressed/busy to be original. Sorry!)

O Wisdom, who came forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly; come, and teach us the way of prudence.

It's December 17! We begin the final stretch of Advent this evening with the O Antiphons. Each antiphon invokes one of the Scriptural attributes of Christ, referring to Isaiah's prophecy of the Messiah. By praying them in English, we miss the acrostic hidden in the Antiphons: read backwards, the first letters of the titles in Latin form the phrase "ero cras," or "I will be with you tomorrow." (The Antiphons begin tonight and end on December 23, as we celebrate Christ's birth the night of the 24).

For several centuries, the Church of England began their O Antiphons on December 16, adding an Antiphon invoking Our Lady: O Virgo virginum, or O Virgin of virgins. The acrostic then read "vero cras," or "truly, tomorrow." This practice, however, was not adopted by other Christians.

The Advent hymn "O Come O Come Emmanuel" is actually a musical setting of the O Antiphons. Include them in your prayer this evening by singing the verse:

O come, thou Wisdom from on high
Who orderst all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.

(Out of respect for a former schola director, I feel compelled to point out that we "dreadful American congregations" have an unfortunate tendency to add a comma after "Emmanuel" in that last line. Note the meaning of the text; we aren't telling Emmanuel to rejoice--we're telling Israel to! It doesn't make any grammatical sense to put a break there.)

Whoa, Advent

The O Antiphons start today. Today. I have baked exactly zero Christmas cookies. Same with the fudge, the breads... No gifts are wrapped, and there's still a stack of Christmas cards sitting in my purse because I haven't managed to make it to the post office recently. I did finally get my act together yesterday afternoon and candy 10 cups of nuts, but that's the only thing I've accomplished. Last year, I'm pretty sure I'd begun baking mini loaves of festive breads to give as gifts and sticking them in the freezer the week before Advent began... I feel woefully behind.

But I probably shouldn't be comparing myself to last year, when I had a 1.5 year old who took 2+ hour naps and there was no one else asking anything of me. If I look back to our first Advent married instead, I was spending every possible moment curled up on the couch feeling miserable, and I don't think I managed any candied anything, or fruitcake, or stollen, and probably not more than one variety of cookie. As far as my pregnant Advents go, I'm doing pretty well here.

But really, it's time to start making some progress in ye olde kitchen.

Because I like schedules maybe a little bit too much, I actually went through and wrote down every single thing I'm planning to make, each on its own day so maybe hopefully they'll all actually happen. But now my schedule is all mussed, because I kind of want to add two things to the list and there aren't any more days... I know, not the biggest problem in the world; I'm just trying to be realistic about what I can accomplish in a day, with the baby stealing all of my energy. Getting groceries and putting them away this morning still has me tuckered out. The Christmas season is just beginning on December 25; maybe I'll push a couple more things off to the week after Christmas Day.

My list of "I totally can't accomplish all this before Christmas Eve":
- toffee bars
- shortbread
- spritz cookies
- fudge 
- Christstollen
- lefse 
- chex mix
- peanut butter kiss cookies (Matt and Little Bear will hopefully be making these some evening, because Kit still hates the smell of peanut butter)
- maybe some basic cutout cookies for Little Bear to decorate? Is he not old enough for that to be worth it? He's been having a lot of fun looking at the cookie cutters, but I'm not sure I'm up for that kind of chaos.
- also all of the local gift-wrapping and gift-giving and Christmas decorating...

There's definitely a difference, I've discovered this year, between the acclaimed prayerful intentional "celebrating Advent as Advent" and "decorating for Advent and then blinking and it's practically Christmas." Oops.

What's left on your list?

14 December 2014

Seven Quick Takes: A Feast-Filled Week

Late, late, I know. Lazy blogger, or actually using Little Bear's naps productively this week? Maybe a little of both.

I have two freelance projects going right now, one that has to be sent in by Sunday night and one with a fuzzier free-floating deadline that I can't make any progress on until other people finish and give me their pieces of the puzzle, so I'm trying to work on the first while being hazily aware that time is passing on the second. And encountering writers block like crazy, because we're halfway through Advent and pretty much nothing is done around the house... nothing wrapped, no cookies or candy started; I finally finished Christmas cards last night. And for some unfathomable reason, the fireplace can burn for hours without raising the temperature more than a degree or two, so I'm spending way too much time babysitting the fire. At least my fruitcake is done! I borrowed my 13-year-old sister for the morning on Tuesday, and in between doing her schoolwork she kept Little Bear's fingers out of the mixer so I could turn these out:

Mmm. No red 40 lake in here; none of us like the sticky-sweet colorful candied fruits, so this year's fruitcake is full of flame raisins, golden raisins, currants, apricots, and pineapple!

I heard about Emily Oster's book Expecting Better when it first came out last summer, and remember telling myself, "That sounds great. I'm definitely going to look for it next time I'm pregnant." And then of course I forgot, and it's only recently reoccurred to me as I'm finally beginning to feel like eating food again. Post-Christmas-shopping December wasn't the best time to remember... Maybe I can look into it after we get a ways into the new year and have recovered from Christmas. I love the idea, though, that Oster has actually read the scientific studies and parsed out what they really say about what is and isn't safe during pregnancy, allowing women to make their own decisions based on facts instead of leaving them at the mercy of Dr. Google and sweeping generalizations and all of the wildly conflicting advice you get from old wives' tales and well-intentioned strangers. I'm looking forward to eventually reading through her data.

And now it's Sunday afternoon... oops. I'll try to finish these up quickly while Little Bear naps.

I finished and submitted that freelance project yesterday—hooray! I hate having writing projects come down to the last minute.

We've reached the time of year when wars about Santa, the "you're ruining their childhood" moms vs the "you're lying to your kids" moms, spring up all over the internet. I'm not about to add to it, because I honestly think that both camps are a little bit silly... But "what are we going to do about Santa?" is a legitimate question that parents (particularly those whose kids are just becoming old enough for it to matter) have to figure out. I highly recommend Cam's recent post on The Santa Debate: Delving into the Whys. We're handling Santa pretty much the same way they are; it makes a lot of sense to Matt and I. But like Cam says, it's completely up to the parents of each individual family how they want to do Santa. Matt and I both were told that Santa was real as little kids, and I certainly don't think that other parents are doing something wrong if they choose to do that with their kids!

Matt's out at the rifle range with my dad and brother this afternoon, taking advantage of our beautiful sunny almost-30-degree weather. It's supposed to slide back into the mid-20s, low-20s, teens as the week goes on, so I'm so glad that he's getting out today! I'm definitely setting out Little Bear's snowpants for when I bring him over to Grandma's house after his nap, so that he can get some good running around outside time as well.

I think I originally intended to talk more about all of the feast days crammed into the past week, considering the title I gave this post, so let's run through those quick. What a week! The Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States (and of our parish), on Monday; St Juan Diego on Tuesday; Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and one of the Marian titles we have a particular devotion to, on Friday; St Lucy yesterday; and today is Gaudete Sunday!

Monday we had a white cake with blueberries scattered throughout—the Marian colors seemed appropriate, and it was a recipe Matt had been asking for. Mexican food on both Tuesday and Friday, along with lots of stories about OL Guadalupe. And Little Bear has been so, so eager to light the pink candle ever since I set up our Advent wreath, so today he was very excited: we talked about the pink candle, and hope and joy and rejoicing, and when he saw that Mama was wearing pink today he wanted to too. We sat right up front at Mass, and he could see that the pink candle on the parish's Advent wreath was lit; he couldn't sit still when we got home until we lit our pink candle, too.

I didn't forget about St Lucy, but her feast day gets its own take, because:

I made St Lucy buns for the first time! They were a lot easier than I'd thought they would be, and we've all been enjoying them! I used this recipe from Simply Recipes, which I'm not going to copy out here because she has a bunch of really helpful step-by-step photos interspersed with her recipe. Yes, saffron is awfully expensive, which is one reason I've never made these before... But all of the Spice Island spices have been 50-60% off here recently, so I was finally able to justify it. :-) I made slightly shorter snakes than the recipe says to, so we wound up with 18 instead of 12. Because they were smaller, I rotated the pans after 4 minutes and checked them for doneness at 8; I think I let both pans go about one minute longer, but I'm not quite sure and our oven has been finicky lately, so check them a little bit earlier than you think you have to.

Have a lovely, not too stressful, third week of Advent! Join the fun at This Ain't The Lyceum.

05 December 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Vacation Edition

Somehow, between lingering first trimester awfulness and trying to catch up from being gone for two weeks and it suddenly being December and Advent (how did that happen??), I completely ran out of time/energy to post this week. Again. Seven Quick Takes to the rescue! Let's see if I can manage to break down our trip into seven parts, and knock SQT and the vacation recap out together.

A friend from Matt's work picked us up at 11:30 pm to drive us to the airport on November 15. As we stepped outside, the sky was covered in the biggest, brightest, most colorful display of the Aurora borealis that I can remember ever seeing. All the way to the airport, the lights danced and changed overhead, and even as our plane was ascending we could see the ribbons of light covering the sky on both sides of the plane. It was incredible.

Photos from newsminer.com.

Between the flights and drive (and trying to navigate Philadelphia traffic in the dark during rush hour—we are never living in a big city again!) we'd been traveling for about 16 hours by the time we reached Matt's parents' house. Little Bear did a great job of sleeping on both flights, so he was happy when we arrived. Because we Skype with them every week, he was comfortable with Matt's parents right away—and very excited to follow their cat around everywhere! It was so nice to spend time with his family again; it'd been two years since we last saw them. And as my morning/all day sickness got substantially worse shortly after we arrived, I was very grateful for Little Bear's desire to play with his grandparents and their happiness to spend time with him. I'm afraid I wasn't a wonderful guest, often winding up needing to go lay down.

We made the roughly five hour trip out to Ohio on Wednesday to see the three of my siblings currently at Franciscan. They were all very busy, but schedules worked out just right that apart from Little Bear's nap we were able to spend time with at least one of them at almost any given time. On Thursday morning, the sister who is in grad school had us over along with the sister who's a freshman. After morning classes got out, my brother was also able to meet the rest of us for lunch at the lower campus coffee shop/café. Little Bear was excited to see them all, and has since started adding the three of them to his list of "please bless"s at prayer time without prompting from us. We also had a chance to stop by and visit my boss in public relations, which was great, and when he found out that Matt works in video conferencing he arranged for him to meet Franciscan's head of video conferencing; Matt spent about a half hour talking with him that afternoon while Little Bear napped. And I was so glad that we were able to visit one of my household sisters who still lives in town, along with her sons! Little Bear had trouble sharing with the other boys, but when we were ready to go decided all on his own to give them hugs. As we were heading out Friday morning, we ran up to campus one last time so I could catch my Latin professor during her office hours. We weren't in town for even 48 hours, but it was so nice to be able to visit.

I have to say, for being a pro-life school and all of the talk about openness to life that goes on there, it was frustrating that I could only find one changing table on the entire campus, in the chapel... I do realize it's a university, but a lot of the professors have big families, and alumni come visit with their families frequently, and they make many of their events open to the public. Would it be so hard to put one changing table in the bathroom of the student center or the coffee shop?

Following the cat around everywhere remained a favorite activity of Little Bear's the entire trip. It took us a while to teach him her name, but once he got it, we frequently heard "Molly! Molly!" and an occasional "Molly, come here right now!" as he learned that cats just don't listen when you call them. She was surprisingly patient with all of his attention, though, and he did a pretty good job of being gentle when he petted her. Wherever Molly was, Little Bear was pretty sure he needed to be there too.

We made a whirlwind trip to Baltimore and back the Monday-Tuesday before Thanksgiving. On Monday morning we walked around by the water and visited the national aquarium with Matt's good friend from college, my matron-of-honor, and their two sons. We spent the day/night with them, enjoying the warm weather and the chance to catch up after so long; we hadn't seen each other since I was pregnant with Little Bear! 

The next day we met my other best friend and her family at an indoor playground just north of Baltimore. We'd last seen each other shortly after Matt and I became engaged, I think, but it might have been slightly before... It'd been way too long! Little Bear and her daughter had a lot of fun playing in a kid-sized village and on the play equipment and bouncy slide/ball pit, but not together... They each happily played with their fathers and pretty much ignored each other while us moms sat and talked.

Matt, his dad, and I took Little Bear to the zoo one afternoon. I think the adults enjoyed looking at most of the animals more than he did, but he loved the ducks: there was a little observation deck built next to a creek, and dispensers with corn and seeds that you could feed the ducks. Matt got a handful of corn, and Little Bear quickly learned that if he threw a bunch of pieces at once the whole crowd of ducks would swarm after them. We did so many other fun things with his family... An early Christmas gift exchange, so that we could actually be present to open gifts; talking and reading and cooking together; spending time with his brother's family. Matt's mother hosted Thanksgiving dinner, and I helped with part of the food prep; baby was being particularly uncooperative on "Thanksgiving Eve" and Thanksgiving, so unfortunately I wasn't as much help in the kitchen as I'd have liked. Our last night in town, Matt went over to his brother's house for a few hours while I watched the movie Moms Night Out with Matt's mom, my sister-in-law, and Matt's grandmothers. And Little Bear loved all of the story-reading, picture-coloring, train-watching, puzzle-assembling, and running around that he got to do with Grandmom and Grandpop!

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, our last day with Matt's family, was our niece's baptism. Matt and I were honored to be her godparents, and we were so glad that we could be there for her baptism! 

My baby unfortunately doesn't seem to like the smell of chrism... usually I love smelling it on newly-baptized babies, but it (like pretty much every other sweet scent these days) wound up making me feel sick. Baby had better get over that by this summer!

(Eight takes today, just because :-)
We drove back to Philadelphia right after the reception, going to an evening Mass, returning our rental car, and checking into a hotel with a shuttle to the airport. After making plans to get up at 3:30 to catch the 4am shuttle, we went to sleep. Well, Matt and Little Bear did. I lay awake, dozing occasionally, unable to sleep, worrying about flights, until I finally got up at 1:30 to check my phone in the hopes of finding a confirmation email that our first flight would be on time. Instead, I found a message that our flight had been bumped from 6:30 to 9. Our second flight was supposed to leave Chicago at 9:30. I spent the next hour and a half on the phone with the airlines, and got us all moved onto a 6am flight on a different airline. Woke Matt and Little Bear, threw everything together, ran downstairs to check out, and barely caught the 3:30 shuttle.

We made all of our connections fine after that, despite spending eight hours on the plane from Chicago to Anchorage (supposed-to-be-6.5 hour flight + technical difficulties + strong headwinds). Little Bear was as well-behaved as you could expect a two year old to be, trapped on a plane for so long. Matt had thankfully taken this past Monday off work as well; I don't know how he would have functioned at the office after that trip, or how I would have managed to unpack and go shopping and survive that first day at home with Little Bear by myself. I'm so glad we went! But now I'm so glad to be home.

Linking up with everyone else at This Ain't The Lyceum, the new home of the Seven Quick Takes party!

02 December 2014

People, Look East

I'm so sorry for disappearing there for a whole 2+ weeks... We've been traveling, and I don't like telling the internet when we are away from home because who knows who might find out and decide to take advantage of an empty house, you know? But we're home now, and I'll have stories and photos from our wonderful trip soon. Today, though, because my brain is all fuzzy from flying and not sleeping and trying to adjust to the four-timezone shift, I'm just going to throw out a handful of Advent links.

Four weeks until Christmas, y'all! Advent is definitely one of my favorite liturgical seasons. What are your favorite resources or traditions for the Advent season?

Some new finds and old favorites:

AdventReflections.com – FREE daily Advent reflections emailed to you from Fr. Robert Barron, available in English or Spanish.

Magnificat Advent Companion – I loved going through this last year, and am definitely looking forward to using it again! Scripture readings, prayers, and meditations for each day of Advent. The print edition is sold out, unfortunately, but e-editions are available for Kindle, Nook, or Kobo for 99 cents, or on the iOS App Store for $1.99.

Prepare Him Room: Advent Family Devotions – Amy Welborn's new devotional booklet, available for Kindle for just 99 cents. (You don't have to have a Kindle to read Kindle books; there's a free app you can download to your phone/tablet/computer.) It looks like a print edition was also put out by Creative Communications, but in my admittedly brief perusal I couldn't find a way to buy one; perhaps they're only available in bulk to parishes?

Our Favorite Family Read-Alouds for Advent – Kendra at Catholic All Year has a great list of picture books and short chapter books that kids and parents will both enjoy as we prepare for Christmas.

Melissa & Doug Nativity Set – I've been looking for a kid-safe nativity set that wouldn't completely break the bank since Little Bear's first Advent, and just hadn't been satisfied with the more cartoon-ified versions I'd seen so far. I had no idea Melissa & Doug made one, but we discovered this at a toy store in Matt's parents' town last week, and I was so happy! Little Bear still spends more time taking the roof off than anything else, but he did sit through the nativity story last night and seemed to understand which people in the book corresponded to the wooden people I kept pointing to... we still have a few weeks for him to figure it out.

12 November 2014

Much Rejoicing

I've been trying to find the time to write for days and days and days, and it just never happens, and now I'm exhausted after a ridiculously long day (in town 7:45 am to 2:45 pm and again 4:45 pm to 9:20 pm). But I have to at least throw a quick excited post up here because...

...we have a new bishop! After more than a year of waiting for a new ordinary, we found out Friday that next month we'll finally get to celebrate the ordination of Bishop-elect Chad Zielinski. He's currently an active duty chaplain stationed at the local Air Force base, and has served several tours overseas. I haven't met him yet, but have heard wonderful things from others who have.

...and Little Bear slept five straight hours in his own bed the other night, which was seriously a minor miracle after the awful nights we'd been having. He hasn't repeated the feat yet, but at least he's regularly giving us until 1 am or later before climbing in with us.

...AND today I had an ultrasound, and got to see baby Kit and hear the heartbeat! I've been so stressed all week, half convinced that the ultrasound was going to show that I'd lost another baby. I was so relieved, so happy, to hear Kit's heartbeat and see a tiny arm waving!

07 November 2014

Seven Quick Takes

Linking up while it's still Friday this week!

"Mama, go 'way! Want Daddy!" Somebody took a while to go to sleep tonight... After getting a scant half hour of nap total today, I was really hoping for an easy bedtime, but we must have let him slip from "tired" into "overtired." Praying that he stays asleep in his own bed for hours and hours now!

I lit a fire this morning, tended it carefully, and it burned for hours but was unable to get the house even up to 70. Matt lit a fire after supper this evening, haphazardly tended it while we did a million other things, and now the house is 86 and I can't bear to sit within 10 feet of the fireplace. Does fire-building prowess come with the Y chromosome?

This morning I needed to spend a lot of time sitting still on the couch. It was a challenge to keep Little Bear happy without getting up, but we read stories and played red light green light for a while—he has loved pointing out stoplights for practically as long as he's been able to talk, and he discovered the game all by himself one day while he was helping me push the grocery cart. It's a good thing we usually go shopping in the morning so the aisles aren't crowded! He also built towers for me and knocked them over with stuffed animals. We definitely need to work on the concept of putting toys away! He'll happily help me straighten up, but pretends he doesn't understand what I'm saying if I ask him to do it by himself.

Eventually he got fussy and I gave in and told him we could watch something... but Mama got to choose. Did you know that the first episode of Ree Drummond's Food Network show is on Netflix now? I've enjoyed her blog for several years, but had never seen the show. Well, I'm not sure whether Little Bear or I enjoyed it most! It was hilarious to watch him watching "the cooking lady." He was glued to her every move, narrating her actions, repeating her instructions:

"Butter in pan. Garlic pan. Oil! Oh, wow!"

"Mix mix round-a round-a, all done."

"Dump! Red wine vinegar. Mix pan, oh wow!"

There were many "oh, wow!"s. The cows and horses on the ranch were also pretty exciting.

I am so impatiently looking forward to this coming Wednesday morning: my first official appointment with the midwife. Hopefully with an in-office ultrasound to see the heartbeat. I know it's on the early side for the initial appointment, but we're right at the point where we lost Alex last time, and I think it would help my peace of mind to hear that everything is going okay so far. We're coming up on Alex's due date soon, and it seems like being able to have some confidence that Kit is okay will help me handle Nov 23 better.

Speaking of Kit, this baby needs to get the memo that he or she is Catholic, and stop making me crave meat on Fridays! Every Friday for the past month, I haven't been able to shake the mental image of a thick, juicy burger with sweet potato fries. And only on Fridays; the thought never occurs to me any other day of the week. I tried to compromise with the baby tonight by having salmon burgers with sweet potato fries, and baby did approve of supper, but the image of a half-pound elk burger with onions and blue cheese is still lingering in the back of my mind...

Wednesday's appointment will be with a midwife I've never met before, but have heard good things about. She had the licensure for home births before getting her CNM, so while she now does deliveries at the hospital, it seems likely that her philosophy toward unnecessary interventions will be similar to mine. But how do you find out whether a midwife or doctor is the right one for you? It doesn't really seem possible to know how they will be at the birth until you get there; with Little Bear, I liked the midwife I was working with pretty well up until we got to the hospital, and then I... really didn't. She moved, I found a new midwife I liked, but then she moved right around the time that we lost Alex and I was transferred to the care of an OB, who was okay until recently and now I'm not comfortable working with him. So I'm a little nervous about finding someone who I'll actually be okay working with all the way through this pregnancy. Are there any questions you would ask a new-to-you doctor? Is it okay for me to tell her briefly about Little Bear's birth and what was particularly hard for me, as long as I don't say anything negative about the midwife I was seeing at that time?

06 November 2014

Theme Thursday: Brick

Oops; I almost missed Theme Thursday! It's still Thursday in my time zone, though it's probably not (at least for too much longer) elsewhere. 

A fun evening with a friend wound up resulting in a pushed-back bedtime for Little Bear, and then he sure took his sweet time falling asleep... so I'm off to bed as well. Fortunately, I already have a pretty good photo for this week's theme of "brick":

Ta-da! The lovely brick fireplace that's keeping us warm this winter, and our pregnancy announcement photo that I think I forgot to post here earlier! 

Check out more Theme Thursday snapshots at Clan Donaldson!

04 November 2014

Drunken Noodles

My favorite Thai dish. The "drunken" part supposedly refers to how much you have to drink to cancel out the spiciness; there's no alcohol in it! I prefer it not-so-spicy, though, so it's a little of a misnomer...

Matt and a friend from work have been taking that Gourmet Asian Cooking class together, and last week their focus was on Thailand. They didn't make this particular dish in class, but because they've been talking about bringing home their Asian cooking skills and making something for me to try for a while now, and we were all thinking about Thai food after their class, they decided to try making a batch for us all for supper. Since Little Bear would be eating too, and Baby Kit hasn't been a big fan of spicy food so far, they left out the actual chilis that the original recipe called for and used sweet chili sauce instead. It was a great idea: we got all of the flavor without the heat.

2 14oz packages 1/4"-wide flat rice noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 small garlic cloves, diced
3 to 4 chicken breasts, diced 
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup light/golden soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 12oz packages frozen mixed broccoli/carrots/cauliflower, thawed 
6 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring often. Drain.

When the noodles go in, start heating oil in wok over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add chicken, fish sauce, both soy sauces, and sugar and saute until chicken is cooked through.

Add chili sauce, vegetables, and noodles. After combining thoroughly, add more chili sauce if desired.

Transfer to a serving bowl or platter and scatter with the basil. Serve immediately.

(The menfolk ate the leftovers for lunch on Monday, including Little Bear, and unanimously declared it to be even better after the flavors had a chance to meld overnight. So don't be afraid to make the full recipe! It looked like a lot, but it sure disappeared quickly.)

Okay, Little Bear wasn't that sophisticated in his praise of it. But he very happily ate it all up, pointing out the different elements as he stabbed them with his fork: "Carrot, noodle, broccoli, LEAF!!!" The basil made quite the impression!

01 November 2014

Seven Quick Takes: All Hallows' Weekend

Little Bear is down for an early nap after last night's bedtime fiasco, and there's a whole list of things I should be doing with this block of time before we leave in an hour (or less) for the All Saints party. Working on the freelance project due Monday. Working on the other freelance project due Friday. Sewing the second horn onto Little Bear's blue ox hat. Taking a nap of my own. Getting changed and brushing my hair.

Instead, I'm sitting here eating crackers, trying to convince myself that going to the party and doing errands afterwards is a good idea even though I feel the sickest I ever have in all three pregnancies so far. "You can stay home and feel sick and have to deal with Little Bear alone," my rational brain argues, "or you can go and hope that the cold air outside helps, and even if it doesn't and you still feel sick, you can sit in the corner with your eyes closed while other people keep an eye on Little Bear."

I'm pretty sure the rational side will eventually win, because the only argument the rest of me can muster is "But I feel siiiiiick..."

I've gotten the house up to 80 F every time I've built a fire this week! The thermostat is set at 60, so mornings can feel chilly if I banked the fire down by 8 the night before. One (of the many) advantages of the nights when Matt doesn't work late or have class is that he keeps the house at 80 until 10pm, and then it's still at least 65 when we get up the next morning. It's like there's an invisible thermal barrier in the hallway, though; even with the living room at 80, take three steps past the fireplace down the hall and the temperature tumbles drastically. We've finally decided to get an electric heater, and run it in Little Bear's room for an hour or so before he goes to bed. We wouldn't leave it running in his room while he was in there, but we need to do something about how cold his room gets -- most nights my nose is pretty cold by the time I'm done putting him to sleep!

Did anyone else actually hear and announcement last weekend at Mass, or see something in a bulletin, saying that the Solemnity of All Saints has been abrogated as a holy day of obligation this year? It seems like here, they just assumed that if they didn't explicitly say that it WAS a holy day of obligation, nobody would even think of the possibility of going to Mass on November 1. It confused me to no end this week: One parish in the next town over announced their Masses for All Saints and All Souls on Facebook, and so I thought perhaps it hadn't been abrogated, but our parish isn't offering Mass for All Saints at all; the Saturday vigil will be All Souls, because that's Sunday's Mass. I'm so disappointed that we can't realistically make it to Mass for All Saints; the one parish that is offering Mass is probably close to 50 minutes away from where we live now, and it's at 9am. Between Matt and Little Bear, and the ridiculously small amount of sleep I got last night, it's probably not possible for us to make it.

...And now it's Saturday night. Happy nearly-belated solemnity! Little Bear was so wound up last night, bedtime took forever and then some, and the one morning Mass in the next town over did indeed prove unattainable. We did sing "For All the Saints" with Little Bear several times—he was quite excited about the "church song"—and talked about saints with him and read his book of saints. I'd intended to make a nice meal for the solemnity, but the baby nixed that plan... Supper was a somewhat cobbled-together affair, but Little Bear and I did make chocolate pudding for dessert. (Instant pudding, and the 2-year-old honestly did more of the work than I did. First trimester is so much fun.)

I wish I had photos from the All Saints party yesterday afternoon! Little Bear was very proud of his St Romanos the Hymnographer getup; okay, he didn't know who he was supposed to be, but he did know that it was a costume and costumes are exciting. Going to a party with a bunch of big kids was also exciting; by the time it was over, he'd given up the "pick you up, Mama" refrain and was following his youngest aunt around on his own without too much trouble. The doctor didn't say to keep him off of his leg, just that he'd likely want to stay off it for a couple of days, so we figured he was probably fine.

And I did finally finish his other costume in time for trick-or-treating last night:

Such an exciting hat.

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox had great fun during our first foray into trick-or-treating! Matt and I drove Little Bear and my youngest siblings around my parents' neighborhood. We were the only ones that stopped by most of the houses, and people were so happy to see the kids. I noticed halfway through that they'd unintentionally put together a "frontier" theme: we had Paul Bunyan and Babe, Daniel Boone, Laura from Little House on the Prairie, and a gold miner.

One last photo, and I'll post before I'm two days late again. After building this morning's fire, we were all out of kindling and down to the last row of wood in the deck wood rack, so Matt spent two hours out splitting wood this afternoon and refilled the rack and kindling buckets. Little Bear had fun helping him stack the wood for a little while:

Stop by Conversion Diary for more quick takes!

30 October 2014

Theme Thursday: Crack

You can't see it, but it's there...

So today's been interesting.

Last night, Little Bear tripped on the bottom step of the staircase as he was walking downstairs. He cried a little at the time, but was easily comforted and soon he was playing happily again. A little bit later, he got up to walk over to me and he was upset, favoring his right foot, asking me to kiss it (because it hurt). Since then, he has been unhappy about being asked to walk; he can, and it doesn't hurt enough that he cries, but he looks unhappy and asks "Mama pick you up!" So of course I've just been carrying him everywhere.

After talking with other moms and then the pediatric nurse this morning, I brought Little Bear in to his doctor's office. The pediatrician wound up not ordering X-rays, instead sending us over to an orthopedic surgeon so the expert could make that call. 

After doing a physical exam, the orthopedic surgeon was pretty sure that Little Bear does have a tiny fracture somewhere in his foot/ankle/leg, but because he didn't complain at all during the exam, the doctor believes that the fracture is very very very small and not a big deal. Because Little Bear is so young and it's clearly not painful to the touch, he said, a) it's not going to show up on an X-ray, and b) the best course of action is to just let him be and it'll heal on its own. If he still isn't willing to walk on it by next Wednesday I'm to bring him back in, but it sounds like we just have a few days of him laying around or being carried ahead of us. I'm glad that it doesn't look serious!

We didn't get out of the orthopedic surgeon's office until after 2pm, and this morning had been crazy enough that I didn't really eat breakfast, so we were all hungry. Because he'd been such a good boy through two doctor visits and allowed both doctors to do the exams they needed to, I decided that he deserved a reward and took him to Pizza Hut on our way home. Tummy full of pizza, he fell asleep for the nap I'd kind of decided we were skipping today just a few blocks down the road.

...And now I'm regretting letting him, because predictably, it's 11:45 pm and I've finally gotten him to sleep and successfully escaped without him waking back up, and I don't know that I expect it to last...

For more "Theme Thursday"s that are probably much more in line with today's theme than mine actually was, hop on over to Clan Donaldson.

28 October 2014


Halloween. Every year, I encounter more Catholic and Christian moms who are emphatic that Halloween is objectively evil and their family will not be participating in any way: no costumes, no going door-to-door for candy, no handing out candy from their door. And every year, I kind of scratch my head and give them a puzzled look, then go on with my own business and throw together a costume for Little Bear at the last minute out of ephemera from the sock drawer and the sewing closet.

A part of it must come back, as so many things seem to, to the fact that I grew up in a fairly rural part of Alaska. This morning it was -2 F (negative, as in below 0) as I drove Matt to work. We aren't going to be seeing anyone trick-or-treating in miniskirts here. I grew up in a neighborhood with few kids, and we never really encountered any overly gory costumes. Most people don't do creepy (or any) exterior decorating here, because what's the point if it's all just going to get covered in snow? We and our neighbors did carve pumpkins, but setting out your jack-o'lanterns for longer than a few hours on Halloween night was inviting disaster: I can't tell you how many years we woke up to the THUMP, THUMP, THUMP of moose rolling our pumpkins off the front porch to eat them.

No, really. My brother probably still holds a grudge that I set his favorite cap on a jack-o'lantern one night, and we found it the next morning covered in frozen moose slobber amid the remains of a pumpkin.

Where we live, houses are far enough apart that--especially with our typical late-October weather--kids don't wander door-to-door on their own: mom or dad drives around the neighborhood with a passel of kids in the car, and at least at our house, Mom was always done after maybe two streets of houses and that's just how it was. We all dumped our haul in the middle of the living room floor, bargaining with each other for our favorites, and then squirreled our candy away in the hopes that Dad wouldn't find it and it'd have a chance of lasting until Christmas.

(We also had a rule, as long as I can remember, that we only ever ate candy on holidays and Saturdays. So we could have a piece of candy on Halloween night, and then it got hidden in the antique coffee pots above the kitchen cabinets until the next Saturday, when we'd hem and haw for easily 15 minutes over which one piece we wanted to have that day. My younger siblings are pretty darn good at both hiding their candy from Dad/each other, and at making it last; I don't think that any of them have ever run out of candy between Halloween and Christmas, and Lent definitely helps stretch their Christmas candy until Easter. Rather than being an occasion of sugar overload and gluttony, Halloween was really an exercise in resource management.)

So, evil? I just don't see it. My experience of Halloween has always been lighthearted fun, and since we now live in the same environment in which I had that experience growing up, I don't have any qualms about introducing Little Bear to the celebration of Halloween I knew as a kid.

I'm sure it's different in other places. When we lived in town the first few years of our marriage, there were certainly a few houses in our neighborhood that went overboard on the creepy decorating; we usually went over to my parents' house on Halloween night, so I don't know what the ratio of fine-to-objectionable costumes might have been (we were in a suburban neighborhood just a couple of blocks from an elementary school, and there were a lot of kids in the area). But does the fact that some people try to make Halloween exclusively about horror mean that Catholics should refrain from celebrating Halloween?

This bit from an interview with Fr. Steve Grunow from Word on Fire Ministries jumped out at me:
What do you think of the trend of parents boycotting Halloween on account of it being evil? What would you say to them if they told you such? Not safety or healthy concerns keeping kids indoors, but abject opposition to something believed to be satanic or terrorizing?
Fr. Steve: There is a lot that is unsavory about the contemporary celebration of Halloween. What does the singular focus on violence, horror and death have to say about our culture? The traditional, Catholic Halloween placed these realities within the context of Christ’s victory over sin, death and the devil. The current secularized version of the festival has no salvific content and has been loosed from its theological moorings. It looks very much like a festival of death for a culture of death and for that reason I can see why parents might be concerned.
But what is the proper response to a culture of death? To lock the Church behind closed doors or to let her out into the world? I think it is time for Catholics to accept the religious liberties that this culture claims to afford them and go public with their own festivals- and to do so dramatically and with a great deal of public fervor. What is holding us back? What are we afraid will happen? The reticence and fear that characterizes Catholics is costing the Church its unique culture and it is allowing the culture of death to flourish.  Halloween should not be a day when our churches go dark and Christians retreat into the shadows, but when we fill the darkness with Christ's light and go out into the culture, inviting everyone to the prepare for the festival of the Saints with all the joy we can muster.
You can find the whole interview here: It's Time for Catholics to Embrace Halloween

"The reticence and fear that characterizes Catholics..."  Ouch. Fr. Grunow isn't saying here that Catholics have to be actively engaged in every aspect of modern Halloween celebrations, certainly. But he is challenging parents to "reclaim" the Catholic roots of today's Halloween observances, reconnecting them to the context of Christ's victory over evil.

What does your family do on Halloween?

Here are some more Catholic perspectives on Halloween I appreciated:

Halloween: The Real Story

How to think about Halloween as a Catholic

On Halloween

Don't Bubble-Wrap Your Kids

26 October 2014

Seven Quick Excuses

Mama: "Okay, all done. It's bed time."
Little Bear: "But... I'm a bunny."

Definitely the best excuse the two-year-old has come up with so far.

I'm late! I know. I usually manage to get this up on Fridays even if I don't post anything else all week, but oh, it's been such a week. All kinds of crazy. And I'm pregnant, which is probably going to get used as an excuse for a whole host of things over the next eight months, but it's pretty much always a valid excuse, isn't it?

Last Friday's post went up while Little Bear was napping and I was "napping" before Mass. We went on to attend Mass, participate in a homeschooling families potluck (at which Little Bear learned from his uncle & friends to run around waving a sword and howling like a barbarian), and do way too many on-my-feet errands leading up to picking Matt up from work. "I'm not feeling well," I warned him, handing him the keys and sliding over to the front passenger seat for the drive home.

My abdominal pain kept getting worse, and by 7pm Matt convinced me to bundle Little Bear back up and drive all the way back into town to the walk-in clinic before they closed at 8. "We don't want to wind up having to go to the ER in the middle of the night; that will be worse," he responded to my half-hearted "But we can't afford more doctor bills!"

Pregnant + abdominal pain got me seen quickly at the clinic. The doctor asked where it hurt, frowned, and told us we needed to go to the ER for an ultrasound to rule out an ectopic pregnancy.

Because it's flu season, the ER isn't allowing non-patients under 13 beyond the waiting room, so Matt took Little Bear home and got him ready for bed until my mom got there to put him to sleep. He managed to miss pretty much everything; the nurse didn't bring him back to my room until after the exam, ultrasound, etc. I was glad I'd thrown a book in my purse; it was pleasant and unusual to have time to actually sit still and read in between times the doctor or nurse were in the room.

The ultrasound suggested that everything was okay, but the doctor decided to have me come back the next morning when the regular radiology staff was in (it was nearly 11pm by this point). Saturday's ultrasound clearly showed the gestational sack in the upper right of the uterus, and when I followed up with a midwife on Tuesday, we were told that there's only a 1 in 10,000 chance of an ectopic pregnancy if the gestational sack is developing in the right place, a situation he referred to as a "ghost gestational sack"—I have no idea if that's a proper medical term.

So everything is fine, as far as they can determine. I'm still having some pain, but yesterday my left hip started its regular "oh, you're pregnant? I'm going to randomly stop bearing weight when it's most inconvenient for you" behavior, so it seems likely that everything is just preemptively shifting around.

Little Bear went to sleep for my mom without any crying or calling for me. And he stayed asleep in his own bed until 4:30am, the longest he's ever ever ever slept in his own bed. We were all amazed.

He apparently used up all of his good bedtime behavior with her, because the next two nights it took hours and hours of crying and flailing and yelling and stuffed-animal-throwing to put him to sleep. We're getting back into mostly-good sleep patterns now, though.

Yesterday at the grocery store, Little Bear and I were hanging out by the front doors counting pumpkins while Matt went through the check-out, because Little Bear was all done behaving in the cart. A portrait studio had a table set up next to the door, urging parents to sign up to have their kid's picture taken: one 8x10 portrait for $19.95. As I was wrangling Little Bear and struggling with sudden nausea, a smiling lady walked over from the table and handed me a registration form. "We only have a few slots left! How long has it been since you've had his portrait done?"

This would have been a situation where honesty wasn't the best policy, but I was thinking more about how to avoid getting sick than how to thwart the saleslady. "Um, never."

Of course she was faux-shocked (or maybe really shocked; is it that horribly unusual to not have professional portraits done of your kids? It's never even occurred to me) and tried to steer me over to the table to register. I demurred, with the excuse that I had to talk with my husband about it first.

She actually rolled her eyes. "Doesn't he trust your judgement?"

Whoa. I managed a polite smile and assured her that of course he does, but we discuss unbudgeted purchases before making them, then quickly led Little Bear back to Daddy at the checkout. I'm willing to entertain the possibility that I'm overreacting thanks to pregnant hormones, but was that not completely inappropriate and unprofessional of her? I was shocked.

Being a freelancer tends to mean that I grab every little chunk of time I can find for writing, but I try to avoid working on Sundays. So it wasn't procrastination that had me sewing a "Babe the blue ox" costume this evening instead of working on my immanently-due writing project... No, I'm confident that I'll get all of my writing done this week, but I don't think I could have let myself take a big block of time any other night to do this: 

The hat with ears and horns is still forthcoming, and the tail and zipper need to be attached. I threw together a diaconal-looking costume for Little Bear as well; he'll be St Romanos the Hymnographer for the homeschoolers' All Saints party, as long as I can find the time to make a little scroll for him to carry.

Have a good week! Don't forget to visit Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes.

23 October 2014

Theme Thursday: Nice job

Oh, look! Theme Thursday again, and it fits perfectly with the post I've been trying to find time to write all week! I promise I have a bunch of good excuses for being a lazy blogger this week, but you can hear about them tomorrow because today's photography theme courtesy of Clan Donaldson is "nice job," and:

Matt got his first grouse on Saturday afternoon!

He's been out looking for grouse at least every other weekend since the season opened back in August, and finally found one while he was in a place he could shoot and he was carrying his gun. He sent me a photo as soon as they got back to an area with cell reception.

He was actually out tromping around through the brush with my youngest brother and my dad, who has a late-season antlerless moose permit, in the hopes of finding a moose to fill both families' freezers. As they were heading back to the truck, they scared up two grouse. Matt kept one in his sights and was able to get it when it roosted in a nearby tree. My dad was watching the second and my brother tried for it, but he kept scaring it off farther into the woods.

After cleaning it, Matt brought the meat in and asked for a grouse pot pie for supper. A grouse is pretty small, so the pie was more veggie than meat, but it was so nice to eat meat that he hunted for and brought home!