30 March 2014

WIWS: 6 Weeks

Happy Laetare Sunday! This is the fourth week of Lent already; it seems like it's going so quickly this year. Did you see rose-colored vestments today? Our small parish doesn't have any, unfortunately, so we had violet. Little Bear and I were wearing rose, though!

Little Bear behaved himself so well today. He sat still on his seat or on Matt's lap most of the time, he payed attention to Father whenever he was talking, and he only had to be taken out once, and that wasn't because of bad behavior: he'd kicked his boots off during the offeratory, and when he tried to stand up as we were kneeling for the consecration, his sock-clad feet slipped out from under him. Matt said that as soon as they got out into the foyer, Little Bear calmed right down; he was more startled than hurt.

The homily today was a really good reflection on how God calls weak people and gives them strength. Father pointed out that in the first reading, God says that He judges men's hearts, not their outward appearance, which means that God already knew David's weakness, and that he would commit adultery, when He instructed Samuel to anoint David. But He also knew how much David loved Him, and that he would repent and keep trying to follow Him. God knows we aren't perfect. By this point in Lent, we've probably slipped up at least once on one of the things we gave up or said we'd do more of. But God doesn't want us to just give up because we fell once, or twice, or ten times. If we keep asking for the grace to try again, He will always give it to us.

Today was a little bit cooler than it has been recently--only 25 F by noon. It's supposed to be 39 this afternoon. We will see how warm it is after Little Bear's nap. Hopefully it'll be warm enough for there to be lots of puddles to splash in if we go for a walk. We're loving getting out in all of the spring weather and sunshine!

Cropped cardigan: Boden, thrifted
Lace-edged tank: St John's Bay, old... 
Paisley skirt: Villager by Liz Clairborne, thrifted
Chocolate pumps: Sarah-Jayne, garage sale
Blindingly-white legs: five months of winter and counting :-)

Other than the skirt riding high, this outfit doesn't make it super obvious that I'm expecting, which is okay with me! There are plenty of days that I look in the mirror and wince; there's no way I looked like that this early with Little Bear! And it's true; I didn't. But this isn't my first kid, and my body doesn't particularly care whether I'd really like to pretend I have abs for another few weeks or not. Don't take this wrong--we are so happy to be having Squirrel!--but sometimes there's a little (huge) part of me that's jealous of the women who totally don't look pregnant until well into the second trimester. That will never be me!

Have a lovely Sunday! Visit Fine Linen and Purple for more What I Wore Sunday posts!

28 March 2014

SQTF 83: Of Puddles and Toddlers, Pregnancy and Food...

How about some very quick takes this week? First trimester exhaustion is making it hard to keep my eyes open... 

I hate hiccups in the first trimester. With so many exclamation points. They make the nausea so much worse.


Yesterday, Little Bear learned about puddles. There's still a lot of snow everywhere, but with afternoons consistently getting into the mid-40s, breakup is upon us. Little Bear had such a blast stomping and splashing with his new breakup boots! Everywhere we went yesterday--our driveway, the bank, Matt's office, my parents' house--he found puddles. The bank parking lot had a particularly large puddle; there, we learned an important lesson about not letting go of Mama's hand and running when she says to stay still... we had to go home for a complete change of clothes after that. But it didn't stop him from being excited about puddles for the rest of the afternoon!

We are up to more than 13 hours of daylight now! We've had to rig a blanket over the bedroom window, to make the room dark enough for Little Bear to fall asleep at night. Even with the shade down, curtains closed, and blanket up, there's still enough light getting in at 9 pm to see the whole room pretty clearly!

Weaning. It's not working. I've convinced Little Bear that he only gets to nurse at nap/nighttime, but now, instead of constantly asking to nurse, he's constantly asking to go to sleep! And getting him to fall asleep without nursing is regressing badly, now that he's linked the word "nightnight" with nursing...


(Photo from Quaker's website)

My favorite breakfasts are oatmeal and yogurt with granola. The other day I was picking up oatmeal at the store, and discovered Quaker's new fusion of oatmeal and granola: Warm & Crunchy Granola. You add milk and microwave it, and it becomes a creamy, crunchy, hot cereal. Delicious. And because it's a new item and they want people to try it, I found it on sale for less than their normal oatmeal!

Somehow I wound up with the car every day this week, except today. Not having to drive anywhere is a nice change of pace! Having the car, and getting out of the house for at least the last half hour of Matt's day is also nice, though: Little Bear loves busses, and if we get to campus early he has fun watching for them. If I'm being a particularly nice mommy, sometimes we even park in the far-away lot and ride the bus up to meet Matt.


Another first trimester-approved meatless supper to remember: zucchini and asparagus tossed with a little olive oil and broiled, scrambled eggs with white cheddar, and fresh strawberries! 

Have a beautiful weekend. For more quick takes, stop by Conversion Diary!

25 March 2014

Annunciation Day

This morning as I wrote out the check for the internet bill, the date jumped out at me. 

"It's the 25th! Why does that sound important? Christmas is the 25th of December... I guess every "25th" makes us think of that..."

Can I blame baby brain? Of course March 25th reminds me of December 25th: today is the feast of the Annunciation, celebrating the archangel Gabriel appearing to Mary, exactly nine months before Christmas!

I had a nice blank calendar for today, so Little Bear and I ran to the store for a little bunch of tulips. In a mason jar of water, they made a nice centerpiece with the Annunciation icon! Simple and pretty and still fairly Lenten, although if I'd thought of it I'd've gotten the all-purple bunch.

It being a feast day and all, I wanted to do something nice for supper. I'd just finished putting a Mexican pork something-or-other in the slow cooker and was starting to pull out ingredients for shortcake when I got a call from the manager of the local Catholic radio station. Cardinal Dolan, who is speaking at the retreat for all of the priests in Alaska this week down in Anchorage, was willing to do an interview for the radio station today and how quickly could I prepare questions?

The Cardinal Dolan.

Of New York.

Former president of the USCCB.

Teething toddler on one hip, sack of flour on the other, phone perched on my shoulder, this was not a phone call I was prepared for.

I am so, so grateful for my time in PR, and the people I learned from there, and all of my classes with my journalism professor, because somehow my brain was able to snap into gear and start asking all of the right questions, about the subject of Cardinal Dolan's talk last night, the theme the station manager would like to center the interview around, any points he wanted me to be sure to hit, etc.

And that was my next couple of hours! Researching Cardinal Dolan and the Archdiocese of New York, talking with a few solid Catholic friends familiar with current topics in New York and the Church, and crafting interview questions that could tie his experience and expertise into the lives and concerns of Catholics in a largely rural Alaskan mission diocese. I don't think I've had a project that was so fun and yet so intimidating since writing questions for Franiscan University Presents' interview with Fr Raniero Cantallamesa.

Technology in Alaska being what it is, I couldn't actually do an interview long distance and have it turn out suitable quality for broadcasting; one of the priests at the convocation will be using the questions to record an in-person conversation with Cardinal Dolan, and then the recording will be aired. I'm a little disappointed, but at the same time relieved--writing the questions, trying to find just the right wording, was intimidating enough!

After a surprise like that, it would have been difficult for my day to get any more exciting. Fortunately, we didn't have to find out what it would have taken to top that! The only other unexpected/exciting moment came in the form of gender-stereotype-reinforcement:

My little brother, not the one in college (although he probably would have joined in had he been home), was using scraps of my dad's ultra-low-friction plastic to "snowboard" down their icy/slushy driveway when my mom, my youngest sister, Little Bear, and I got back from a walk. My sister wanted to try, but cautiously sat down on her piece of plastic instead of standing on it. Little Bear had no such concerns... he ran right over to my brother's piece and tried to stand on it. To let him have fun safely with the kids, I plunked him in the wood-hauling sled (made of the same plastic) and was pulling him up and down the driveway when my brother started laughing. I looked behind me, and there was Little Bear, standing up in the moving sled with a huge grin on his face. Boys!

Our Annunciation Day supper was okay... In the future, I would definitely use a pork roast like the recipe called for instead of two pork shoulder steaks that I bought just because they were marked down... The recipe was worth trying again, though. They looked good, anyway:

And our Lenten feast day strawberry shortcake:

Whole-wheat shortcake, strawberries, and unsweetened whipped cream. Next time, Matt says, whole wheat shortcake is fine, but can I please add at least a little bit of sugar when I whip the cream? Yes, yes I will. Although it was still pretty good without it! And the main reason I left it out today honestly had less to do with it being Lent, and more to do with me being in a hurry and not being able to remember how much sugar one would add if one were to add sugar...

24 March 2014

Sun and Ice

Yesterday afternoon was beautiful! Blazing sun, snow melting all over the place, 47 degrees above zero... It would have been such a shame to stay inside.

We made the most of it. After Little Bear's nap and a quick lunch, we ran out to the last checkpoint before the finish on the final heat of the Open North American. One of my dad's friends was racing, more for the fun of it than to win, and we kept hearing about him on the radio coverage as we drove. Traffic lights were against us, unfortunately; we did manage to watch the last several teams go through, but from inside the car while they crossed the street in front of us, so Little Bear couldn't see well. 

I was bummed about missing most of the teams, and Little Bear was antsy because he was bundled in snow gear and we'd promised to take him somewhere fun. Matt decided that, since we were out, we should visit the ice park. Regular admission prices are highway robbery! It's been so long since I've gone as an adult not part of a "school group" with the homeschoolers, I'd forgotten. No dates for us in April... but we all had so much fun, it was worth it.

The ice park, Ice Alaska I guess is the official name, is divided in two parts: the kids ice park, and the competition single-block and multi-block sculptures. We spent the better part of an hour running around the kids park with Little Bear; he loved the slides, even the big ones, and bounced up shouting "Again! Again!" with a huge grin on his face every time he got to the bottom. The maze was fun too: I went one way and Matt and Little Bear went the other, and the walls were just low enough that from his perch on Matt's shoulders, Little Bear could see me. He was laughing and shouting and tugging Matt's hair to get him to run toward me.

We didn't get a chance to look at many of the actual sculptures, because we were getting uncomfortably warm and Squirrel decided that I needed to be nauseous again...thank you, baby...but we did walk down one aisle on our way to the exit. They were all so incredibly detailed! Some of our favorites:

Poseidon riding a sea horse

Ballet... Look at the delicate spiraling!

I think this was called Aurora Dreams? Definitely our favorite; it's so realistic, so intricately textured! It was carved by a three-person team from China (we knew it couldn't be by Alaskans, because those are deer; very well-done, lifesize deer, but still...no deer live by Mt McKinley!) But despite that technicality, the detail on this one just blew us away. There are ice rocks in the river. The tree branches look like there is actually snow sitting on them. The texturing on the mountain, the northern lights, the contrast between the river and the "snowy" ground... amazing.

I am so, so glad we went... what a perfect afternoon outside together!

22 March 2014

Time to be Outside

It's above 0, the sun is shining, the eaves are dripping, and springtime is beckoning... It is hard to stay inside these days! And there's so much going on:

Today wraps up the Arctic Winter Games, a weeklong series of competitions for circumpolar youth that is held every other year. This year Fairbanks was the host city, and it's been so neat seeing members of the different teams walking around town in their bright coats. Nine teams have been competing: Alaska, Alberta North, Greenland, Northwest Territories, Nunavik Quebec, Nunavut, Sapmi, Yamal, and Yukon Territory. There are Native events, like high kick and snow snake; winter sports like dog mushing and speed skating; and indoor sports like basketball, wrestling, and table tennis. What do those have to do with "winter games"? When it is cold, dark and snowy outside for half the year, indoor sports become very popular!

After Mass last Sunday, we met a reporter from Inuvik, Northwest Territories, who had come over to cover their team. Later in the week, Little Bear and I had fun watching some of the snowboarding. I'd hoped to take him out to see some dog mushing or curling, but the timing never worked with his naps.

Fortunately, there is more dog mushing to take in: the 67th Open North American Sled Dog Championship, recognized as one of the most intense sprint races in the world, is run in three heats this weekend: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. "Open" means that mushers can run as many (or few) dogs as they wish; in past years, I can remember seeing some 22-dog teams, and some with fewer than 10! Given his love of (obsession with?) dogs, I think we'd definitely better take Little Bear to watch at least one of the days.

To go along with the Open North American, downtown Fairbanks is also hosting the annual sled dog weight pull competition, Alaska Trappers Association fur auction, and Parka Parade this weekend. If you aren't in town but want to experience the race for yourself, check out the live streaming on the Alaska Dog Mushers Association website!

And before March ends, we have to make it to the World Ice Art Championship! We still haven't found time to go play with Little Bear in the mazes and slides of the kids ice park, and admire the works of art-in-ice that carvers from all over to world have created this year. It's particularly beautiful at night, when they have all of the sculptures illuminated with colored lights. Unfortunately, it isn't getting dark these days until well after Little Bear's bedtime!

I think we have enough to do to keep us busy...

21 March 2014

SQTF 82: Spring Snow, Spring Break, Spring Fashion...

There is, I admit, a small part of me that's laughing at all of the grumpy comments on Facebook today about having snow fall on the vernal equinox, or "first day of Spring." The concept of the weather obeying our neat little division of the year into quarters just seems absurd; people expect it to be done snowing because we've reached a particular date on the calendar? Are they serious? Really, I don't get it. Yes, I live in Alaska, but it just doesn't make sense to me that people are put out because weather patterns aren't conforming to a piece of paper. I guess maybe that's unfair of me; I'm accustomed to having snow on the ground October through May, and most of the country isn't. 

This morning Little Bear and I visited the courthouse to fill out the temporary exemption affidavit for jury duty. He was kind of uncooperative getting through security, but the security people were nice and there was no one behind us. I'm so glad to have that taken care of! He still has yet to fall asleep, for a nap or at night, on his own... We are trying, but it just hasn't clicked yet. It would have been a horrible week if I had to try to leave him with someone else every day all week, because he wouldn't have gotten any naps, and nights would be awful because he'd be overtired, and I'm too tired and nauseous to deal with that.

My first appointment with the midwife is scheduled! It's not until Easter Monday, but just seeing it on the calendar makes me so happy. Matt may try to take sick leave to go with me, to keep Little Bear calm and out of the midwife's way and to ask any questions he has because I know I won't think of half of the things he wants to know. I'm seeing a different midwife with Squirrel than I did with Little Bear; I met her last year when I had an annual exam, and I really liked her--I remember coming home and telling Matt that the next time I had a baby, I wanted to work with her! As far as I know, she's the only NFP-trained CNM in town--knowing that she understands and respects our decision to use NFP makes me much more comfortable around her. It would probably be good if Matt had met her at least once before delivery, too.

This past week has been spring break for all of the local schools and the university, and all of the University of Alaska Fairbanks employees got today off work. Matt's department is technically part of the U of A statewide IT, but because they are located at UAF, they were given the day off too. It's so nice to have him home for a three-day weekend! Especially since I've been feeling sick in the evenings lately, making me not feel up to doing anything fun in the little time that we do get to see each other before I go put Little Bear and myself to bed. I'm hoping that I am feeling well enough this evening for us to go to stations of the cross together tonight; it's usually too difficult to squeeze it in between Matt getting home from work and Little Bear going to bed, but since he's home today... we will see.

It seems like denim jackets always appear this time of year. And I always marvel at how they look so good on everyone, and wistfully remember having one I loved in high school, and then sternly inform myself that it would be a waste of money because I definitely don't need one. And I don't! I have plenty of jackets. But they look good with everything... But it would be even more of a waste this year, wouldn't it, since I'm pregnant and it probably wouldn't fit in a few months anyway? But if I got one now, then I'd know it would be the right size again for next Spring...


This kid. If he sees one of us smell something, he will run over, stretch out his arms toward it, and sniff loudly until we let him smell it... which always involves mashing it against his nose. He really liked the fresh bread smell: every time we came into the kitchen for the next few days, he'd look all around until he spotted the loaf, then lean toward it, sniffing.

It's time for our annual sunglasses hunt: every winter at least one of us manages to lose or break our sunglasses, and now that we have so much sun constantly glaring off the snow, we can't keep sharing one pair! This year, for the first time in quite a while, my sunglasses are the ones that survived the winter. They have been living in the car for a couple of months, though, so that whoever is driving can use them. It's sunny enough outside now--twelve and a half hours a day and increasing!--that taking Little Bear for a walk or even just going outside for a little while is painful without sunglasses. Once the snow all melts it won't be so bad, but we have a good while yet before that happens, so... hopefully the stores will put out their sunglasses displays soon!

Have a wonderful, warm weekend! Visit Conversion Diary for more quick takes!

20 March 2014


Wow. How in the world was I going in to work every day through the first however many months of being pregnant with Little Bear? I am exhausted, y'all. Constantly. Forget teaching Little Bear to sleep in his own bed; I'm putting him to sleep the easiest way possible so that I can crash. Having my evening end at 7:30pm used to be frustrating, but now it can't come soon enough.

Was it really this tiring last time, or is it just the combination of pregnancy + toddler + running twenty million errands every day this week and shoveling my parents' driveway? Okay, don't answer that. Humor the sleepy pregnant lady.

There's one good thing coming from this exhausted, nauseated state of existence, though, other than the obvious bundle of joy in nine months: I'm supposed to start jury duty on Monday morning, but I called the jury clerk today to find out whether they reeeaaally want a juror who may be running out of the room to throw up sporadically all week, and she told me to come down to the courthouse and sign an affidavit granting a temporary exemption. Yay, I can be nauseous in the comfort of my own home instead of in the jury box.

Little Bear's recent desire to take his daily nap on the early side of midday has also been shockingly appreciated: if he isn't starting to ask for a nap by 10:30am, I'm catching myself yawning and trying to coax him to rest. My caffeine allergy definitely isn't helping with my being-a-sane-functional-person efforts, and I can't even give myself an occasional sugar-high energy burst because it's Lent. What to do? "Pillow" is one of Little Bear's newest words, and I'm definitely not above putting two pillows on the living room floor, laying down on one, and hoping that he comes and lays his head on the other so I can close my eyes for a few minutes...

Seriously, how do you deal with first trimester exhaustion? I clearly can't remember what I did last time, but whether that's because I was too tired then for memories to form or because I'm too tired now to be able to remember anything is probably a question I'll never know the answer to. Is there something I should be getting more or less of? Other than sleep, obviously, and shoveling. I don't want to be this tired and useless all the time for the next couple months...

19 March 2014


If you asked me on a typical day how much exercise I got, I'd probably roll my eyes and say "none." Sure I chase after Little Bear all day, and usually spend some time running around out on the driveway and playing in the snow, but that doesn't really "count," does it? Some days, very rarely in the winter, I will take him for a short walk: short because it's cold, and slippery, and snowy, and he decides that he wants to be carried after the first 20 steps and he's just way too heavy.

This week, though? This week I've gotten exercise. And oh, my body hates me right now.

Yesterday it was warm and sunny, and we were early getting to campus to pick Matt up from work, and I somehow got the bright idea to park way far away from his building and walk aaaaaall the way up the hill with Little Bear to meet him. It took us nearly a half hour. (Little Bear walked the whole way, except for when we had to cross streets!) And then, despite my knee starting to give me the stop-abusing-me-or-you'll-regret-it twinges, I agreed to walk back down with Matt and his coworker instead of taking the bus. Because pride, and other such foolishness.

This afternoon we found three inches of snow on my parents' driveway when we swung by to feed their dog. Their long, wide driveway that Dad usually clears with the help of his snowblower and  four-wheeler plow and small legion of kids. I gave the dog a defeated look and trudged over to pick up a shovel. It was light and fluffy, not heavy at all, but there was no end to it! An hour and a half later, I had to give up and leave the last twenty feet for my siblings because Little Bear was all. done. with this shoveling nonsense.

And now I'm laying here in bed, my back angry with me, ankles and knees and hips and shoulders aching, abs throbbing, terrified that I unthinkingly overdid it and somehow hurt the baby despite Matt's reassurances that I'm just hurting because I'm out of shape. ("Remember how you're always saying that you aren't physically capable of sit-ups? That's why you're sore. Everything will be fine.") Exercise? So very overrated.

(He's right, and the rational part of my brain knows it: I didn't start hurting until I lay down and let the muscles stiffen up, and I've been grumbling about my horridly weak abs for months and months. And I didn't do any heavy lifting, and I didn't exhaust myself: I just left the snow shoved up against their existing burms for the most part, and I certainly wasn't too out of breath to carry on a conversation with Little Bear while I worked. I even took a little break halfway through, to go find Little Bear some new mittens. But no one ever said that the rational part of a pregnant woman's brain was the loudest voice in her head!)

18 March 2014

New Boots for Next Winter

I shouldn't have ventured into the super winter outerwear clearance at the store today--I definitely know better than that, when there's nothing that we need--but I'm glad I did, because I found the cutest pair of boots for next year:

We can't wait to meet "Squirrel" sometime around Thanksgiving! 

16 March 2014

Weekend Wrap

And a sort-of photo dump, at least in comparison to how ridiculously few photos I tend to post. Matt takes most of the good ones, and half the time his phone only pretends to email them to me and I just give up and publish photoless posts... But not today, because he sent most of these last night while the internet was cooperating!

Friday afternoon: snow cave digging! As you can see, "It's Spring!" means something different in Alaska than it does elsewhere... because it is definitely Spring, and that's not at all an unusually-sized pile of snow to have sitting in the front yard. Little Bear has been just beside himself with excitement over how much time we've been able to spend playing outside recently!

Excuse me, child... what do you think you're doing?


Little Bear was helping Matt unload the dishwasher while I set the table last night; the fridge must not have latched all the way behind me, because Matt turned around to see Little Bear standing up inside the fridge, happily eating leftover pasta. This kid.

"He... probably shouldn't be standing there."

"Yeah, but I've been trying to get him to eat that for days. At least take a photo before you move him..."

Parents of the Year, that's us.

Do we get extra points for feeding him eggplant? I made eggplant Parmesan for the first time this weekend, and while the little noodle-lover turned up his nose at the tricolor rotini, he could not get enough of the eggplant or tomato sauce. It didn't even have to have cheese on top to get him to eat it! I was impressed.

After he was up at 1, and 1:30, and 2, and 2:30, and so on and so forth this morning, we gave up and got out of bed at 6:30 am, hurried (okay, meandered sluggishly) into church clothes, and ran out the door for the earliest Mass in town: the 7:30 at my parents' parish. Little Bear was incredibly well-behaved--it's too bad it is so early, or we would have to consider going more frequently! It's an old, pretty church, and there are so many different things to keep his attention: stained glass windows, candles, the altar boys moving back and forth, the bells--the bells are definitely his favorite. After Mass, because we were still tired, and because Sunday is a little Easter, and because I was not up for cooking when we got home, we went to a little diner for breakfast. 

Again, a crazy-well-behaved child... what got into him today? He drank his water nicely from the straw--he's never seen a straw before--because I didn't have a sippy cup; he sang happily "back forth back forth" as he rocked in his booster seat on the bench next to me; and he ate his toast and bites of my omelet without fussing, or grabbing anything, or dropping any silverware, or trying to get down and run... I don't know what happened, but having a little boy all of a sudden instead of an angsty toddler was wonderful! (Yes, I do know better than to expect it to last... but I'm enjoying it while it does.)

What's a weekend photo dump without a What I Wore Sunday outfit? Top and skirt are thrifted; tichel sliding off the back of my head is from CoverYourHair.com.  Don't worry, the socks were well hidden in my big clunky brown boots, because we woke up to -11 F this morning... Fortunately, it warmed back up to the mid-20s by early afternoon.

And last but certainly not least exciting, Little Bear is doing a great job of learning to sit up nicely at the table with us and behave himself during meals.

At least, when he's not getting tickled...

Have a great week!

14 March 2014

SQTF 81: Weaning, Spring Cleaning, and Fun with the Toddler

So I just deleted a couple of paragraphs of whining about my teething toddler dropping a coffee mug on my foot this morning and refusing to nap, and when he finally fell asleep the landlady starting to vacuum hard floors right above us... Such a fun day. Not. But now he is finally sleeping soundly and I'm going to try to find positive things to focus on instead of all of the frustrating stuff.


Things like the goofy boy playing with his toothbrush. You'd think it was the greatest toy in the world, the way he begs to brush his teeth (and tongue, and hair...) every time we go into the bathroom. He has such a blast making faces at us when we are brushing our teeth before bed, mimicking and over-exaggerating our actions.

And things like weaning; yes, that is a positive thing! I'd planned to let Little Bear be the one to decide if we would stop before he turned 2, but about a week ago, my milk pretty much disappeared all of a sudden. He's taking it better than I expected, although we've usually had one brief midafternoon bout of tears when he asks and I have to say no. There's still just enough to let him nurse before nap time and bedtime, which I'm sure has helped--he's going down easily and getting enough rest to be able to handle it the rest of the time. It's so nice to see him learning to fall back asleep without nursing when he half-awakens at night or in the middle of a nap.


And the weather! Ladies and gentlemen, Spring has arrived. It is beautiful outside, and Little Bear and I have been loving the long sunny afternoons of playing out in the snow this week. Spring is the best time to play in the snow, because it's actually warm enough to pack snowballs and build forts. We still have several feet of it in the back yard, but in the south-facing front yard, the indentations are growing around the fence and the tree trunks. All of the main roads were clear when I was out running errands yesterday, although some were awash with melting snow and probably slickened up after nightfall. Little Bear discovered puddles for the first time yesterday when we were waiting to pick Matt up from work, and after Matt met up with us, Little Bear dragged us back over to the melting spots to show Daddy how he could splash.

Oh, and spring cleaning. I love going through cupboards and closets and getting rid of clutter, and last weekend, while Matt played with Little Bear I managed to go through my dresser and closet, actually try on every single item, and sort things. One pile to keep, one to mend, one to sell, one to donate. Anything that didn't fit, or I didn't like, or I was only keeping because "I really ought to have one of those for someday," went on one of the last two piles. No wonder I was always frustrated and uninspired when I looked in my closet: eight grocery bags of clothes went out the door! One to my sister, who is a size I'll never be again; one to a local consignment shop; one to Once Upon a Child, a "gently used" kids/maternity store; and five to the local thrift store. I am all done wishing to be the size I was back in the middle of college! I'm happy with myself the way I am, and--especially with as little storage space as we have here--there is no point to hanging on to cute skirts and tops that haven't fit in five years. There's definitely even less point to hanging on to things that I've never liked.

Getting out of the house yesterday was definitely a positive thing; comparing yesterday to today, I think it's pretty obvious that being all by myself at home with the crazy toddler is a whole lot more stressful than being out running around town with him. Which sounds self-evident now, but I always think that I'm making my days easier by opting to stay home... Hmm. Anyway, yesterday was a little bit ridiculous: after Little Bear's nap and lunch, it was 1:20pm. We browsed the sale racks at the consignment shop while the clerk looked at what I'd brought, then got gas across the parking lot. Ran out to my parents' house to drop off the bag for my sister and let Liitle Bear see the "arf arf," which always makes him excited, then drove across town to Sam's Club. What should have been a quick stop morphed into a more-than-40-minute mess of wandering back and forth trying to find the dried fruit, which they had moved somewhere so illogical that none of the employees I asked could find it; I finally gave up and got a tin of their survival-food freeze dried strawberries instead. Once Upon a Child was a fun stop; Value Village was quick, just dropping things off, but I had enough bags that they filled up my savings pass stamp book: 30% off my next purchase! That'll be fun. After that we swung through the bank drive-through--possibly the best modern invention ever for moms of fussy tykes--and picked up some groceries from Fred Meyers, while Little Bear was bribed into sitting quietly and happily in the cart with a cookie from the bakery. By the time we left, we barely had any puddle-splashing time before picking Matt up from work!

That was very long, and is going to count for two because it looks like Little Bear is awake.

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

13 March 2014

Meatless Mealplanning with an International Flair

Before this Lent began, we went back and forth on what/how much to give up in terms of food; it's hard when you have very different ideas about food-related sacrifices, because there's only one supper being prepared each night, so you can't really make different sacrifices! We finally compromised on giving up meat on Wednesdays and Fridays, and sweets and fun drinks every day. 

I think that my pitch of a completely meatless Lent sounded like a bad idea to Matt for two reasons: Firstly, his Russian Orthodox bodybuilder coworker has been subsisting on fake meat, "tofurkey" et al, so far this Lent... and I definitely understand Matt's reaction of "that's not real food." Secondly, in the modern Western diet, "meat" is often conflated with "protein" to the point that on a subconscious level, "meatless meal" as an abstract concept means "meal where you are leaving out the meat/protein," ie, a light meal that won't be filling unless you load it heavily with starches.

I can't do anything about the first one--like I said, I share his aversion to fake meat--but the second? That's fixable. 

To clarify, I'm not trying to convince my husband that he's wrong! We came to a decision together, and I respect that decision and his thoughts on the subject. However, I am enjoying the chance this Lent to dig into cookbooks from other cultures with less of a traditional reliance on meat as the primary protein source, and find new filling, healthy, meatless options that we will all enjoy.

So far this week I've attempted two meals waaaay outside my normal cooking comfort zone, and both went over very well. Tuesday I made an Asian-inspired Noodles and Vegetables in Peanut Sauce from a Russian Orthodox Lenten cookbook; I threw a chicken breast in the oven for Matt to have on the side, and after supper he said that the next time I make it, it would be fine as a full meal in its own right without the chicken! And Little Bear loved the broccoli with the peanut sauce, so it's a keeper. 

Yesterday, we had falafel patties on pita with tzatziki. A larger food processor would have helped: I wound up using the potato masher after the food processor gave up, and I eventually got frustrated and just left some of the chickpeas more or less whole. It tasted good, though! Little Bear was more interested in the tzatziki than the falafel, unless he could have bites of ours, but he did pretty well with it.

Tomorrow, the plan is eggplant Parmesan... It's one of my favorite Italian dishes, but I've never cooked eggplant before; we will hope for the best. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

Noodles & Vegetables with Peanut Sauce

1 lb short pasta
3 carrots, julienned 
16 oz frozen broccoli florets
4 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
8 Tbsp very hot pasta-cooking water
7 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp lime juice
4 Tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, diced finely

Cook the pasta according to package directions. 

While pasta water comes to a boil, begin steaming carrots. After carrots have had 5 minutes, add broccoli to pot and continue cooking.

In small saucepan over low heat, whisk together peanut butter and hot water until smooth. Whisk in remaining ingredients.

After draining pasta, combine everything in the pasta pot. If necessary, allow to continue cooking until sauce has thickened to desired consistency.

Serves 4-6.

Falafel Patties with Tzatziki 

2 15-oz cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 slice onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely diced (or grated, if you have the patience it takes to get garlic mush off a grater)
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs 
1 tsp cumin
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp pickle or pickled-pepper brine
Vegetable oil

In food processor, grind together chickpeas, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, cumin, and half of the cilantro. Form into four patties, less than 1" thick. Heat about 2 Tbsp vegetable oil in a large non-stick skillet and cook patties 3-4 minutes per side. Add more oil when you turn them if necessary.

In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, brine, and remaining cilantro.

Serve on pita with sliced tomato, lettuce, and sliced pickled peppers. Serves 4.

08 March 2014

Speedy Spinach-Swiss Quiche

Or sort-of quiche, because it doesn't have a crust. It's much more a quiche consistency than an omelet or egg bake consistency, though. Last night's supper was inspired by my mother-in-law's recipe and adapted from my sister-in-law's. I really wanted the spinach-Swiss cheese combination, but making pie crust was not happening with Little Bear clinging and whining and teething. We can see a second molar poking through today, so it was justified, but productivity was still pretty low yesterday.

But! This worked well, and was delicious, and was quick, so I had to share!

Spinach-Swiss Crustless Quiche

1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
olive oil
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed
6 eggs
salt and pepper
6 slices Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil. Squeeze spinach dry and add to skillet. Cook 5 minutes or so; remove from heat. Crack eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly, adding salt and pepper to taste. Slowly add in vegetables, stirring constantly to keep the heat from cooking the eggs. Pour half of egg mixture into a greased pie plate. Top with the slices of Swiss, and pour the rest of the egg mixture on top of that. Bake for 20-30 minutes. (Our oven doesn't hold heat well, so it took 30; I'd start checking it at 15 or 20 minutes.)

07 March 2014

SQTF 80: Lent, Thrifting, and Alaskan Springtime

I don't think I've spent as much time out of the house as I have this week since I was working, before Little Bear was born. What a crazy week! Matt worked 10-7 all week to help cover night classes since one of their student workers is out, and Little Bear and I drove him in the first four mornings because somehow there was always something I needed the car for. We made... ten trips to town in the last four days! Eleven, if you count running home yesterday after the thrift store because I forgot something I was supposed to bring to my parents' house. I am so, so grateful to have the whole day at home today to let things become un-crazy again and catch up on everything that's fallen through the cracks recently.

So my Lent has definitely not gotten off to a very peaceful start. It did get an early start; thanks to Matt's shifted hours and the local parishes' annual inability to stagger the times of their Ash Wednesday evening Masses (seriously, everyone has to have it at 7pm? No one can do 7:15 or 7:30?), the only Mass we could make it to was at 7:30am, ie the time Little Bear usually wakes up. We had a cranky kid by the end of the day! The other option was for Little Bear and I to go at some point throughout the day and Matt to just not go, but... I'm glad we were able to go as a family.

Yesterday afternoon, Little Bear and I picked my sister up after she finished class and went on an expedition to the thrift store, which was having 50% off on all of their wintery clothes. We had such fun. I hadn't been in months, because it's pretty much impossible by myself with Little Bear: he wants to run, screams about being in the cart, licks the mirrors in the changing room... It really takes having at least two big people, and having one pay attention to him while the other browses. I found several sweaters, a fun dress (maybe for Easter this year?) and a new-looking jacket in a weight I've been looking for. 

We spend so much of the year wearing coats here, they are practically their own category in a girl's wardrobe. I remember getting funny looks when I was in college for having so many different coats--what college girl has more coats than shoes? An Alaskan one, clearly! I pared down considerably over my college years and post-college moves, but now? I have two lightweight spring/fall/chilly summer jackets, two slightly heavier down-to-32 degrees jackets, a black wool that was getting worn out as my sole down-to-0 option thanks to this warm winter, the new purple lightly-lined down-to-0 coat (probably down to -10 or so; I'll test it today), a heavy navy coat that's warm to -35, and a heavy tan down-filled coat for colder than -35.

Growing up, we always had potato soup for supper on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Which was... a little less of a sacrifice, because I love potato soup. But it happened so many years, I've definitely developed a subconscious association between fast days and potato soup. I thought about making it this year, but with Matt working late, he had to bring his suppers in to the office with him; by the time he got home every evening, we had to start getting Little Bear to bed. Soups are pretty low on his list of foods-that-can-be-transported-and-eaten-at-work, so on Tuesday, I made a tuna noodle casserole and stuck it in the fridge for us each to microwave the next evening. Apparently, we have discovered Little Bear's favorite food ever. He ate half of my plate--even the peas!

How does giving certain things up for Lent work with toddlers? I obviously don't expect Little Bear to understand the concept of Lent, but if Matt and I are giving up sweets, does that mean that he is too? The problem is really two-pronged: do I go out of my way to keep him from eating any sweets because it's Lent (and how do I make him understand that we can't get the free cookies from the grocery store bakery for the next six weeks?), and if I try to keep it moderate but do allow him Nutella occasionally when he asks for it, what am I supposed to do with the half-eaten whatever-it-is he will invariably hand back to me? I don't usually eat lunch--I just finish off the bits of whatever Little Bear starts eating then decides he doesn't want--but if it could count as a sweet, am I supposed to throw it away? I don't like wasting food, but I'm not going to keep a store of shards of cracker smeared with jelly sitting in the counter for the next time he's hungry...

Now that we are into March, our daylight is increasing by 7 minutes a day and growing! The sun is getting high enough and staying up long enough--11 hours at this point--that heavily-traveled roads are losing their hardpack, the south-facing sides of snow hills are starting to melt, and the parking lot up by Matt's building was a slushy mess yesterday. Yay, Spring! The annual World Ice Art Championships are in full swing here, and the university's engineering students recently unveiled this remarkable ice structure on the square:

Why does "ice" say "spring" here? I don't know. It was still -17 this morning, so it's certainly too early to start even thinking about a snow-free yard, but it is 15 above now and Little Bear and I are looking forward to getting out and playing this afternoon!

Have a good weekend! For more quick takes and to hear about Jen's audiobook, visit Conversion Diary!

05 March 2014

Dust to Dust: Not Fasting on Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday has been hard for me these past several years now. The first day of Lent, a day of fast and abstinence, and... I'm not fasting. It feels all wrong. I know, in my head, that there's a very good reason that pregnant and nursing women are exempt from the fast: it would be would be irresponsible, even sinful, to deprive little ones of the nutrients they need and can only get from their mothers. That knowledge does little, though, to quell the feeling of but I should be fasting too.

Talking with other moms this year, I've realized that that response can actually be a form of pride, and not-fasting a sacrifice in its own right. Why do I feel that I should be fasting? A large part of it, I think, is because that's what we're supposed to do on Ash Wednesday, and just because I'm pregnant/nursing, I can still do it -- I'll be fine. It might affect my milk production a little bit, but not too much... and it should come right back. And the kid can really wean any time now anyway. So I can do this thing that I want to do, and not worry about it. Right? 

When I spell it out like that, it becomes obvious how selfish my desire to fast really is. There is another human person who -- totally regardless of whether I want him to wean or not -- does still receive a substantial amount of his daily nourishment from me. There's no guarantee that my milk supply wouldn't be dramatically impacted by fasting; how could I justify risking depriving him of what he needs, just so that I can feel like I'm "doing Ash Wednesday right"?

Cheerfully accepting the cross, uncommon perhaps except among Catholic and Orthodox mothers, of not fasting is my sacrifice today. Walking back into the kitchen to make a real lunch after the teething child nurses through a nap and my stomach is growling is my denial of self. Pushing aside the image of the fasting regulations and having a small snack when I know that I need it is my obedience and submission to the Lent which God is calling me to right now.

03 March 2014

A Medley of Media: Gearing Up for Lent

Ash Wednesday is the day after tomorrow, and if you're like us, you probably have a pretty good general idea of what you're doing for Lent this year, but maybe it's not quite all hammered out yet. We are giving up sweets, as usual--we both grew up doing so, and eating desserts just doesn't seem fitting with the penitential nature of the season. Alas, March is always Lent and McDonalds only carries Shamrock Shakes during March... I have a ridiculous sweet tooth in general, so giving up desserts is definitely a sacrifice. Especially sweet, minty milkshakes...

But other than avoiding sweets? There are a bunch of ideas floating around in my head, some grand, some realistic, but I haven't quite made up my mind yet. If you're in the same boat, here are some things that might help:

On the web...
Catholic All Year's Outside the Box ideas for Lent, with beginner, intermediate, and advanced options. Kendra has a lot of great ideas for things to give up or add in that, undertaken in the right spirit, can help you and your family grow closer to God. Be sure to read the comments section, too: there were many good suggestions there as well!

On a smartphone or tablet... 
There are a growing number of Catholic apps specifically geared toward Lenten prayer and meditation. I mentioned the Lenten Magnificat Companion a few days ago, which I really appreciated last year; another I'm considering for this year is Catholic Meditations for Lent, by Valent Ritchie, which has daily meditations from the preaching of St Thomas Aquinas. Some teens and young adults I know have also appreciated Bob Rice's 40 Day Spiritual Workout app as a Lenten practice. And there are a number of free and inexpensive apps offering visual and/or audio aids for meditating on the Stations of the Cross!

In your CD player...
Lent at Ephesus. Following their very popular and successful Advent at Ephesus album, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, have released Lent at Ephesus. The 23-track a cappella album is full of beautifully-sung hymns and chants, and helps to create a more peaceful, prayerful environment in the home. CDs are available on Amazon or directly from the sisters; tracks are also available in iTunes.

Out of good old-fashioned prayer books...
The prayer of St Ephrem the Syrian is unfamiliar to many Roman Rite Catholics, but is commonly recited several times a day throughout Lent by Eastern Rite Catholics and Orthodox, and is a wonderful, and brief, way to refocus. This is one I'll have written out and posted a couple different places around the apartment to remind me to stop and pray throughout the day, and to help me be mindful of the point of Lent.

The Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian

O Lord and Master of my life, keep from me the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power and idle chatter.
Instead, grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love.
O Lord and King, grant me the grace to be aware of my sins and not to judge my brother; for You are blessed now and ever and forever. Amen.

What are you doing for Lent this year? I'd love to hear about any resources that have helped you prepare for Lent!

02 March 2014

What I Wore Sunday {39}

Quinquagesima Sunday: Lent begins this week! Little Bear had a very hard time being good and quiet today, so between the two of us, Matt and I were in and out of Mass a lot. We sit in the back row (of six; it's not like he can't see what's going on) for just that reason, but I still feel badly for distracting people. Today he was just sure that he needed to be out in the hall playing with the water fountain, and was very unhappy that even when I took him out, I wouldn't set him down and let him run and play.

So I missed much of both readings and the homily, and don't have any thoughts on them this week.

But since it's been a while again, and today is the last day of the 7 posts in 7 days challenge, and we did get a photo, here is What I Wore Sunday:

Dress: Talbots, thrifted
Stockings: Fred Meyers
Necklace: gift from a friend

It was below 0 again this morning as we were getting ready to leave, so I wore my warm boots... I can't wait for the positive temperatures to be here to stay! With all of the sunny days we've had recently, it's really looking like spring outside, but it needs to get a little warmer. 

Wearing a wrap dress wound up being a mistake today; over the past few weeks I'd pretty much convinced Little Bear that he doesn't get to nurse during Mass anymore, but with such a tuggable neckline, that didn't work this morning. We'll keep working on it!

I’m writing seven posts in seven days this week. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.

01 March 2014

Kindara Review

Forewarning: Skip today's post if you don't want to read technical stuff about fertility charting! 

Earlier this week, Business Insider ran a story about the success of a fairly new iOS app for tracking fertility to achieve or avoid pregnancy, called Kindara. Several Catholic bloggers I read picked it up, and after reading their reviews, I decided to download it and give it a try. 

Before we were married we took the Couple to Couple League's course on the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP (or Fertility Awareness, which I think is a much more accurate term, but some Catholics seem to equate NFP with Good Catholic Things and FA with secularism... science is science, but hey, call it whatever makes you happy!). Already having that background in the STM, I was so happy to open Kindara and see that it had places to input all of the different data we track on our paper charts; we've looked at free fertility-charting apps in the past, and universally been disappointed in their limited scope.

Kindara allows you to input your basal temperature and indicate type and quantity of mucus (choosing from four options), three cervical characteristics, menstruation, and marital relations, as well as create custom inputs. Their algorithm color-codes calendar days based on degree of fertility, and generates a chart which looks pretty much the same as our STM paper chart; line graph of temperatures, other characteristics below each day's temperature and coded based on degree of fertility.

One of the best features for sleep-deprived parents is that it reminds you to chart every day. Shockingly innovative, I know, but how many times have we pulled out the chart in the evening and realized that we didn't write anything down the previous day? Too many. They also offer charting feedback from "fertility experts"--not sure what training they have; we haven't had occasion to look into it--which may or may not be a paid feature, I'm not sure.

The Kindara app is only available for iOS right now, but Matt emailed them after I showed it to him and learned that they are working on a version for Android as well. And it's free! Did I say that already?

There is a web portal, but at this point at least, it is view-only; Matt can log in and see the information I've entered and the chart it generated from that information, but he can't add or edit anything there. Hopefully that will change as they grow, but for now you need iOS to make use of Kindara.

We aren't going to stop using paper charts; I'm not willing to risk something happening to the cloud server (no, no idea what I'm talking about; I'd ask my IT husband, but the kiddo's sleeping) and having our charting history disappear. It's already becoming habit to input the data on my phone, though, and then transfer it to the chart every evening or every couple days or whenever it's convenient. Having the paper chart was nice, too, when I first downloaded Kindara; I was able to go back through their calendar and input all of the data for this cycle so far. It will be interesting to compare the algorithm's calculation of peak day and the end of phase II fertility with our calculations based on the chart.

Kindara is a very nicely-done app, aesthetically pleasing with its muted color scheme on a hardwood background, sans serif typeface, and clean charting. It offers everything I'd want in a fertility-tracking app, and I certainly haven't seen anything half as comprehensive or useful available for free! If you are looking for a new way to chart, or want to have a second opinion to check your own interpretations against, give it a try.

I’m writing seven posts in seven days this week. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.