30 May 2014

SQTF 90: "Phases," Going to the Gym, and Cooking on Friday

I'm so bad at this these days. Sorry, y'all. I spent a bunch of my writing time recently scrambling to get a freelance project finished before the deadline (today), and when I did have time to blog, I had nothing to write about. Not nothing going on--way too many things have been making us crazy recently--but I can't really talk about any of them...but I haven't been able to stop thinking about them to come up with other things to write about. Life needs to stop being so crazy, so my brain can start working again.

Yesterday I put Little Bear in shorts for the first time this summer, and he promptly went running down the sidewalk and tripped and scraped his knee. Poor boy. It wasn't too bad, though, and after a couple of "Oh no!"s he got distracted by the wind chimes and hasn't noticed it since.

This child... Little Bear has gotten frustratingly good at imitating my "exasperated parent" voice. In the bathtub? He'll throw a toy out onto the floor, say his name with my full exasperated inflection, and smirk at me. Playing outside, or in his room, or sitting in his chair? Same routine: pick something up, throw it, say his name, smirk or burst into giggles. Folding laundry, it's "hey": pick up neatly folded laundry, throw it back in the basket, shout "hey!" with a huge grin. I know it's a "phase," but how does he manage to be so frustrating and so funny at the same time??


"Lights," by our budding photographer. He pulled my phone out of my purse in Sam's Club the other day, and this is what I found when we got home...

Matt and I registered for a summer membership at the campus gym last week, and we are trying to set a routine. The goal is for us to meet there after Matt gets off work Tuesdays and Thursdays, and to head in together first thing Saturday mornings. It's summertime and beautiful outside, and I feel a little silly for walking in the gym instead of outdoors, but between pollen and the annual smoke from wildfires going for walks outside can be hard on both Matt and Little Bear. And we both need the exercise, and to me "we spent too much on that membership, we have to use it!" is an effective response to most excuses. Little Bear rode in the Ergo all of this past Tuesday while I walked laps, and most of yesterday while I used the rowing machine and then did more laps, but I don't think he's going to be willing to spend long blocks of time in the Ergo three days a week all summer long. Toward the end of our time yesterday we discovered that the room with mats and such for stretching out also has lots of exercise balls; Little Bear was so happy running back and forth pushing balls as tall as he is!

What is the hardest day of the week for you to meal plan/cook for? For me it's Friday, hands down. Case in point: it's 2:30pm, and I have no idea what is for supper tonight. Okay, I do, because just this second "zucchini lasagna" popped into my head. Thank you, Holy Spirit. But every week, it seems like, it's Friday afternoon and I either don't want to make whatever is written down, or I realize that I never wrote anything down for Friday because I couldn't think of anything. Which is silly, because I had that huge long list of meatless meals for Lent! I need to post my meatless meal list on the fridge, or tape it in the back of my planner or something, so I don't keep having this problem.

We are closing in on the light-all-night part of the year: Today the sun rose at 3:38 am, and will set at 12:01 am tomorrow. I was up at both 3 and 4 this morning, and 4 was noticeably brighter. Since we hung a blanket over the window (over the closed curtains and shade), Little Bear hasn't seemed much affected by the excess light. He's still happy to sleep until 7:30 or 8 every morning, which is nice for us! You hear stories about kids, especially in families who move here after their kids are old enough to have learned that "when it's dark outside it's time to sleep," who have an awful time with our summers... thankfully, that hasn't been our experience so far.

Have a nice weekend! If Little Bear naps early enough tomorrow, I'm hoping to take him to the open house at the university's Large Animal Research Station (aka Muskox Farm) to see the baby muskox and caribou! For more Quick Takes, hop over to Conversion Diary. 

24 May 2014

SQTF 89: Picnics and Baking and Vikings

Please excuse the lack of posting this week... Little Bear was sick, and I couldn't seem to find the time or mental wherewithal to write coherently. After Saturday and Sunday's high fever went away, he developed a nasty cough that is still hanging on; he's fine during the day, for the most part, but when he lays down at nap or bedtime he's coughing himself awake every half hour it seems like. I don't think Matt or I got more than three hours of sleep most nights this week--after a few nights of that, it just wasn't worth attempting to accomplish anything beyond what was necessary. Thursday night, though, I think he slept from 10:30 to 7 without waking up once! Either that or I'm so tired my memory is shorting out, but I'm finally free of the throbbing headache of the past few days, so I think he is finally getting over it. 

Yesterday Little Bear and I made it to Mass and the Catholic homeschoolers' end-of-year picnic at a nearby park. He had so much fun running around after my younger siblings and their friends, playing in the playground gravel, and kicking a soccer ball. Sharing the soccer ball, though, was... well, he took my instructions to share the ball nicely with a little girl about his age as an opportunity to "practice being two": laying on the ground and fussing. I kind of shrugged at him, handed the ball to the little girl, and walked away. When he realized he wasn't getting the attention he wanted, he got up and wandered back over to play in the gravel. Thankfully it only happened once... I know all of the other parents there have been through the toddler years many times, but I still get really self-conscious about being a horrible parent any time he acts out in public.


I decided to go to the picnic kind of last-minute; I really should have made something to bring the night before, but instead found myself wandering around the kitchen at 8:45 am looking for inspiration. There were four bananas on the counter waiting to be turned into bread, so I wound up making muffins. To avoid bringing boring banana muffins, I stuck a teaspoonful of Nutella in the middle of each one. It sure made Little Bear more interested in helping! I went through three spoons just while putting in the Nutella, because he kept licking them when I wasn't looking.

He usually naps around noon, so Mass pushed his nap late, and then the picnic afterward really did: by the time we got home, it was after 3 pm! It worked out perfectly that way, though: He slept until 5:30. Matt called at 5 to say that he and a friend, who had planned to go see X-Men after work, wanted instead to stop by the brewery and then come back to our place for supper (picking up Thai on their way) and a movie. I had plenty of time to straighten up and play outside with Little Bear before they came, and then he was happy and energetic and not at all ready for bed until the movie and our conversation ended around 10. It wouldn't have worked without the very late nap!


Somehow I never fully internalized how much of a difference kneading makes in how well dough rises. I tend to knead until it's no longer sticky, just a few minutes, and my dough usually takes forever--hours and hours--to rise semi-respectably, and it verrrrry rarely actually doubles before I lose patience and throw it in the oven. And part of the problem is certainly that it's just so cold for more than half the year, but my kneading is also part of the problem. Thursday, though, I gave it a full twelve minutes of kneading while Little Bear poked at it with me, trying to keep him from swiping bites of dough, and then we covered it and walked away and it actually rose! Definitely happy to have proof that I can turn out great bread without a bread machine, even if it takes more work.

Garage sale-ing is one of my favorite things about summertime Saturdays. We don't need more stuff, though! I try to keep a list of things we actually are looking for in my head and not get other unnecessary things, but this morning Matt and Little Bear came with me, and we did a less-good job of that... We only spent a total of $6 at all of the garage sales we stopped at, and came home with a DVD we'd been looking for, a pretty Japanese blue-on-white ceramic bowl with a lid, a hotwheels Mini Cooper for Little Bear, and some wood grain contact paper for a project Matt wants to do, so it wasn't exactly extravagant... I've been in "spring cleaning throw out all the stuff" mode recently, though, so now I'm finding myself eyeing the little pile of not-yet-put-away treasures skeptically.

The winning photo in HooDoo Brewing Co.'s recent contest:

Matt, the jolly viking. Photo by Artem Zhdanov. They did such a great job!

Have a good Memorial Day Weekend, everyone. We will be praying for the souls of those who have died for our country, and those they have left behind. 

For more quick takes, visit Conversion Diary.

18 May 2014

Answer Me This

What a weekend... crazy, but definitely not in the way we expected. Little Bear woke up with a fever at 1 o'clock Saturday morning and has been a very sad child since then; it's so hard, holding him while he whimpers and tosses and turns and not being able to do anything to make it better. He was up from 4:45 until 6:30 this morning, and I slipped out to go to the earliest Mass in town while he and Matt slept. As soon as I got home he crawled back into my lap, and spent most of the day there.

Since I'm sitting on the couch holding him while he sleeps, I have time to play along with Answer Me This again this week. Check out more responses at Carrots for Michaelmas this week!

1. What's the scariest thing that's ever been in your yard?
A moose. I know they look like big placid deer in photos, but they can be deadly: we had one dog who was almost trampled to death by a cow moose after the cow got angry at the dog for barking at her calf. We get at least one or two bedding down in our yard over the course of each winter here, and when I was growing up and lived farther out of the city we saw moose frequently.

2. Beards. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Thumbs up. Way up. I would be so disappointed if Matt ever got a job where they made him shave his beard!

3. If stuff breaks, can you fix it?
This is why women marry men, right? To have someone around who knows how to fix things? Kidding... I have a good working knowledge of how to use many hand tools and power tools, and can manage basic home repairs by myself. Matt's much better at fixing things than I am, though, and I'm always happy to let him handle repairs!

4. What was your first car?
I drove an '88 GMC Suburban--built like a tank and you could hear it coming a mile away--whenever I was home from college and for a few months after graduating and moving back to Alaska. The first car I actually owned, though, is our '05 Jeep Liberty, which Matt and I bought a couple of months before our wedding.

5. How often do you eat out?
We probably go out to eat roughly once every other month. There are days, though, when everything conspires against my meal-planning and I just can't get dinner made, and so we wind up getting takeout (usually Thai) or something easy to assemble from the grocery store... That usually happens once or twice a month.

6. Why is your hair like that?
Let me just say, I love the wording of this question... maybe it's just the way I'm mentally enunciating it, but "why is it like that?!?" is pretty much how I feel about my hair more days than not. It's nearly always pulled back in a braid or up in an alligator clip... boring, I know! But it's long enough that if I leave it loose it gets in the way and tangles awfully just in the course of everyday life with a toddler. I keep thinking about chopping it off, but I don't have the face shape for a short haircut that doesn't require more than running a brush through it in the morning, and I don't have the time or mental energy to do more than that each morning. 

16 May 2014

SQTF 88: A Day Off

Wait, it's Friday. How did that happen? I just frittered away most of my nap time/blogging time because I was so sure that it was Saturday, so now I'll have to see just how quick I can make this week's Seven Quick Takes. Why don't I know what day it is? Because Matt is home today. 

As part of his work benefits, in addition to sick leave and annual leave he also gets one "personal day" that he can take off each year. They go away at the end of the fiscal year, which is coming right up, and Matt always forgets to use his earlier in the year, so for the past few years every May or June he's wound up taking a random Friday off so he doesn't waste the personal day. Today is his random Friday for this year, so we all slept in and spent the morning doing errands, and it definitely feels like a Saturday.

Having today off wound up being very fortunate: We were at a friend's house last night, and all of the extra light we're getting right now totally threw off our estimation of how late it was getting... With the sun not setting until after 11pm these days, it certainly didn't look like 9pm when one of us finally pulled out a phone to check the time. Oops! Very late bedtime for Little Bear, especially since we'd been outside and we all needed quick baths/showers so we wouldn't bring extra pollen in to compound Matt's allergies all night. This morning's sleeping in was less a luxury and more a making-sure-the-child-would-last-through-the-day necessity.

I'm glad today is only Friday, though; there's a lot happening this weekend! A friend's coming over for supper and a movie tonight. Tomorrow there's the annual Really Free Market on campus (drop off any used books/clothes/stuff you don't want anymore from 8-10am, take anything anyone's dropped off from 10-noon, completely free); the Farmer's Market will be open; there's a celebration at the local co-op market for their first anniversary, with lots of door prizes and free samples; Saturday is always garage sale day in the summer; and two of my siblings are coming over for supper and card games. Sunday we have several Skype calls to look forward to, an open house at a house we have been looking at for a while (and watching their asking price slowly creep down into our price range), and... something else? I'm sure there's something else, but my calendar is in the other room. But yes, busy weekend!

Hmm. I might have to pare down my Saturday list, because Matt needs the car to go out to the gunsmith's shop a good half hour away. Maybe Little Bear and I will go with him? But then he'd have to come to all of the places with us and be out in all the pollen... We will see. If we all go in together, I at least want to try to stop by the Really Free Market! We've found some fun things there in past years, including a full set of encyclopedias with a bookshelf, and busts of Homer and Aristotle. The main items we are in search of at garage sales this year are an office chair and a step stool, and maybe we will get lucky and find one or both at the Really Free Market instead.

And the new REI in town is having their grand opening this weekend! Someone stopped us in the grocery store parking lot this morning to give us some free carabiners and a leaflet about their door prizes today, tomorrow and Sunday. It would be fun to swing by tomorrow morning, but it's at the bottom of my list if I'm prioritizing what I really want to happen. Eventually we will have to make it in there, though; Anchorage just got a Cabelas, and we've been wanting to drive down and visit--Cabelas stores are so fun!--but the REI doesn't require a six-hour drive and probably has similar items and pricing. Not that we'd actually go to buy something, but it's fun to look. Imagine. Try to remember that some day we'll be able to go out backpacking and real camping again.

[Much later] Little Bear woke up and cut me off at six, and now it's bedtime and I'm tired and this has been a super boring edition of Seven Quick Takes anyway, so... I'll try again next week. Have a good weekend!

14 May 2014

The Question

Yesterday was my final follow-up appointment with the OBGYN after the miscarriage and its complications. I went into it not in the best frame of mind, ready to be calm and polite and diplomatic, because the car practically died in the middle of the expressway several times in the ten minutes it took to get from dropping Matt at work over to the health center on the other side of town. Multiple cylinders were misfiring, the check engine light was blinking rapidly, the car was shuddering, and twice it seemed to lose power significantly and started lurching. Is it really safe to be driving? Will it even start when I come out of the appointment? How will Little Bear and I get home? I was, I think, pardonably stressed.

Then the OBGYN came in, confirmed that my physical recovery was progressing the way they wanted to see, and asked what our plans were now. He agreed with my hesitance to become pregnant again right away, explaining that there was an increased risk of miscarriage if I became pregnant within the first three months after miscarrying. Then came the question: "So what kind of birth control will you be using?"

"We're Catholic," I explained. "We aren't open to using contraceptives." (Thank you to Jen Fulwiler and Something Other Than God! As soon as I read her response to her doctor this past weekend, I tucked it away in my head: a polite, accurate, succinct response to the question I'm going to be asked on Tuesday!)

He didn't roll his eyes, and here I'm entering willful-believing-he-wasn't-making-fun-of-me mode: "So you, what, use the rhythm method?" he asked. "Or just get pregnant whenever you get pregnant?"

Which I expected, of course, but the question still rankled. And I could have, and maybe should have, just said something polite and vague. "It's a little more complicated than that," or maybe "We use a modern form of NFP." But he had an impressionable young med student with him, certainly younger than me, and I had to wonder if the kid had ever even heard about non-rhythm-method NFP. "Actually," I said, "every day we chart..." and went into a detailed explanation.

They both blinked at me a moment, but then the OB actually picked up where I'd finished with basal temperature. "So you know that your temperature drops right before it spikes with ovulation? But that's too late of a 'tell;' you could become pregnant from as early as five days before ovulation. I don't know what Catholics believe about condoms...?"

I briefly explained how particular signs indicate the beginning of a period of abstinence, and he said, "Well, it sounds like you have things under control. Very good. We will see you again once you become pregnant again, or in a year for your annual!" And we left on a positive note.

I am, I freely admit, heavily prejudiced against OBGYNs after several very negative past experiences. I automatically expect to be looked down on for not using artificial birth control, and so I feel very defensive whenever I have to see an OB. But I am trying, trying so hard, to choose to believe that he did believe that I understood what I was talking about, and that he didn't think I was a crazy lady trusting her fertility to the whims of lunar cycles and wild guesswork. And so far it's working.

I know that if I was choosing to believe ill of him, it would be very easy to take his comment about seeing me when next I'm pregnant as commentary on NFP not working, but on the flip side, he's an OB: yes, the next time he sees me, it'll more than likely be because I'm pregnant. And I definitely got the impression from his office that he loves babies and sees them as a good thing, and given why I've been seeing him lately, it does make sense to choose to take that comment as being hopeful encouragement that before too long we will be able to have another.

So I'm feeling an odd mix of a little bit smug for daring to explain NFP to a doctor, a little bit ashamed of feeling smug since he didn't treat me like I was ignorant for using NFP, a little bit confused because it's always been a "fact" in my head that I don't like OBs, a little bit confused and amazed that this doctor who doesn't seem to have any other NFP-using patients was willing to talk about temperatures on a technical level which indicated that he believed that I understood... I've never said "I'd like to work with that OB again" after any of the other OBs I've seen before, but I think I would like working with him the next time I'm pregnant.


Don't worry about us getting stranded on the roadside in the middle of nowhere; my dad, my brother, and a good friend of the family checked the jeep out for me--I'd diagnosed the problem myself correctly!--and were able to get it fixed yesterday afternoon before Matt finished work. My dad showed us how they'd fixed it, since it's the same problem that's sent us in to the shop at least three other times in the past three years, and now we can fix it ourselves next time!

12 May 2014

Answer Me This with WIWS

Late to both parties, but I'm doing it anyway: linking up with Kendra at Catholic All Year as well as What I Wore Sunday at Fine Linen and Purple, with a photo for Jen Fulwiler's selfie contest!

So many links. Why do I always do this on my phone, which hates linking? I don't know. Because I can only blog while the child is asleep and usually sprawled on top of me?


1. What's for supper?
Ree Drummond's Fried Round Steak, which I've never attempted, but I happened to notice a pack of cube steak at the grocery store hours after seeing this recipe, and heavens, cube steak is cheap. So it came home with me. We shall see how it turns out. I'm also planning on my mother's potato salad and an as-yet-undetermined green vegetable, likely beans or broccoli.

2. What's the last thing you borrowed from someone?
Me personally? My sister's yellow cardigan to wear on Easter:

Matt and I collectively? A spade from my dad to help Matt's friend with some work outside his cabin.

3. What is your favorite prayer?
In this Easter season, I have been really appreciating the continual reminder of Easter joy in the Regina Coeli, and I've actually managed to say it pretty much every day so far!

Overall, though, I'd say that my favorite prayer is one I learned from one of our former pastors, whose previous assignment had been among aboriginal Australians. This is a private act of thanksgiving after receiving communion, translated from their language:

Oh my Jesus, I believe in You.
You are my Lord and my God.
I trust You, and I love You.
Thank You for all the good things You have given to me.
Please look after me and all my family.
Keep us safe, and free from harm
And make us all truly good, deep in our hearts.
Oh my Jesus, I believe in You.
You are my Lord and my God.

4. What is the oldest thing in your house?
We really don't have much that's old; I have a ring my great-grandmother's uncle had made for her in the early 1900s, but I can't think of anything else that's been handed down from past generations. 

But there is one thing that's quite old: Within the first couple of months that we were married, a priest friend gave us a first class relic of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos! He was a Bavarian Redemptorist who served German immigrants in America from his ordination in 1844 until his death in 1867. He died in New Orleans of yellow fever, contracted while tending to poor victims of the disease. We had never heard of him before, but now we include him when we are praying to our patron saints, and make sure to celebrate his feast day (October 5).

5. What's the best concert you ever attended?
It's been so long... There were a few amazing Baroque concerts I attended in Pittsburgh while I was in college, but I can't remember going to hear live music of any kind since then. That's sad! We were too poor to even consider concerts right after we graduated, and now our lives are so busy and we don't go out at night because of Little Bear and concert tickets tend to be ridiculously expensive... And it's pretty rare that anyone we'd want to hear comes all the way to Alaska, anyway. Someday, though.

6. Do you have a nickname?
Most of my family and friends from when I was younger still call me Rose, which I pretty much dropped in favor of my full name by the beginning of college. There are probably quite a few nicknames my siblings could dredge up from their memories, so let's not ask them! 

One that has stuck around, though only in a very specific context, is my radio call name: Whenever we were out hiking, pretty much every Sunday afternoon in the summers, the four oldest of us plus my dad carried short-range handheld radios. The idea of course was that they were safety equipment in case someone got lost, but we had so much fun talking code, warning each other of "trail hazards" up ahead, etc. And "just in case we're overheard," we all had radio call names. I, being the oldest, the first, the one who named the others... was Adam.

— — — — —

With the end of the university's academic year, the university parish where we've been attending Mass switched to their summer schedule this weekend, celebrating Mass at 11:00 am instead of 10:30 am. The 10:30 was already a little late to work with Little Bear's nap, and 11:00 was so much worse... I know that he's getting old enough that we should be requiring better behavior of him, but when you know that the kid is tired and ready for a nap and you bring him somewhere he has to be still and silent for an hour anyway, is it really only the kid's fault when he gets fussy? I don't know what's going to happen next week.

The priest saying Mass yesterday had a wonderful homily, though, about how we are all called to be both shepherds--leading those entrusted to us--and sheep--listening to God and following Him and those He puts in authority over us. He really stressed that we cannot be good shepherds until we are good sheep and are honestly open to listening to and obeying God.

Matt's allergies were pretty bad yesterday, so our Mother's Day plans of going up north and spending the afternoon on a river didn't work out, but we did get out for a little bit and walked along the riverbank at the boat launch a few miles down from where we live. Little Bear had a blast throwing rocks into the river, and he and Matt found some pretty ones for me:

And here's what I wore Sunday, along with Jen Fulwiler's book Something Other Than God! You can't really tell here, but I'm being a ridiculous woman wearing wedge sandals and trying to keep my balance on those rocks and not fall into the river. Which would certainly have made for a more exciting entry for the Most Epic Selfie contest, but would probably also have ruined my book!

Cable-knit sweater: Tiara, thrifted
Skirt: White Stag, thrifted
Sandals: Dansko, found on the free pile at the dump!!
Tichel: CoverYourHair.com

11 May 2014

Five Hours Later

Yesterday morning, once Matt and Little Bear sat down to breakfast, I picked up Jen Fulwiler's book, Something Other Than God. I didn't set it down again for five straight hours: they ate, they played, I sat on the step out front and kept reading as I watched Little Bear run around with his ball, then balanced the book on my knee while Little Bear nursed and fell asleep curled up on my lap. And after five hours immersed in Jen's beautiful conversion story, just as Little Bear began to stir, I turned the last page of the epilogue and set it down, bursting with thoughts and emotional responses and enthusiasm. Since I didn't want to wake Little Bear I couldn't share them with Matt, so I quickly pulled up a new post and began letting my thoughts bubble over onto the page.

As Little Bear woke up, he flailed and hit the screen and closed Blogger. Before I'd saved.

So you are (fortunately? unfortunately?) spared my initial exclamation-filled response to Something Other Than God, and now that I've had a day to mull over the book, hopefully I'll be able to do it justice because it is no exaggeration to say that Something Other Than God is the best book I've read this year, or even one of the best books I've read in several years. 

If you've ever read her blog, Conversion Diary, you know that I picked up Something Other Than God expecting Jen's candid, intelligent, witty, conversational writing, and of course you won't be surprised to learn that I wasn't disappointed. I expected to learn, and I did; to be entertained by her stories, and I was. But I didn't expect to be so deeply impacted by moments throughout her journey, to find the words suddenly blurring behind a sheen of tears as I heard my own thoughts in her frustration and struggles to understand suffering, death, and loss. 

The way Jen came to her answers to the hard questions we all ask-- how can a good God allow this? how can this terribly difficult thing be good/right/the only option? --spoke to me in a way I particularly needed just now, on Mother's Day weekend just weeks after losing our daughter. The Fulwilers' investigation of Catholicism, their gradual transformation through belief, was inspiring; the sound reasoning they employed and the breadth of history they read through on their journey-- St Justin Marytr, St Augustine, C.S. Lewis and so many more --brought both centuries of theological perspective and the very personal reminder that it is not until we choose to orient our hearts to God that we encounter Him.

Something Other Than God is an open, honest, from-the-heart story of an intelligent young woman seeking happiness, opening herself to answering fundamental, difficult questions, and ultimately discovering and choosing Truth. I fully expect to find myself reading it again and again, and thoroughly recommend it to anyone looking for an entertaining, inspiring read, particularly those who may have questions about the Catholic Church.

09 May 2014

SQTF 87: Toddler Happiness, Spring, and #SOTG

We aren't quite to the stage of putting words into sentences yet, but Little Bear is finally starting to move that direction: "Dada, bye-bye," as Matt gets out of the car in the morning; "Dada, work," as we drive around campus; "Dada, chair," as he points out Matt's empty chair while we are eating lunch. It's so fun that he's talking more! I don't think I could begin to list all of the words he's using now, although most people would probably disagree that they count as words; I know most people other than Matt and I can't really understand him, and even we have trouble sometimes. His imaginative play is developing, too: yesterday he was sitting on the counter playing with a measuring cup as he watched me make meatloaf. First it was a hat, then a shoe, and then he held it up to his ear. "He-o? He-o? Bye!"

After my whole frustrated "I never accomplish anything!" morning yesterday, we had such a great afternoon and evening... I felt so badly for having complained! Little Bear was happy and helpful with the meatloaf, peas and potatoes for supper, ran around picking up books with me, helped put away dishes and laundry... We spent a fun half hour outside playing with his ball, and he must have worked up quite an appetite, because the kid who usually spits out meat ate his piece of meatloaf, half of my piece of meatloaf, and half of the second little piece I brought over for us! He got all excited when I offered him a bath, and he played happily in the water until bedtime.

I know not every night will go half as smoothly as yesterday did, but it was still nice to realize that Little Bear is getting to be an age where he and I can have a fun time together on nights when Matt goes out after work to do something with friends. He's able, most of the time, to stop fussing and listen to me explain that "we do not have any grapes but I will buy some at the store tomorrow," or to put down his favorite story even though I haven't read it ten times yet because "Mama really needs to go check the meatloaf, but you can come too, okay?"

Jen's book, Something Other Than God, finally arrived! Sometimes Amazon ships quickly to Alaska, but sometimes...not so much. I'm so excited to read it! This weekend. I have to make it through my crazy list of weekend chores and errands today, so that I can dive into it tonight and tomorrow without feeling guilty for neglecting things... Maybe I can even prep something for tomorrow's lunch for Matt and Little Bear so I can feed them without having to set it down! It's going to be that good, I'm sure of it.

I don't have a photo yet, but if Matt's allergies aren't killing him on Sunday I am hoping that we can go driving up toward the mountains. I'm probably one of the only people with a chance of entering a photo in Jen's "most epic selfie" contest of myself holding Something Other Than God while sitting on an ice floe...

I talked last year about how Alaskans refer to Spring as Breakup, because the ice on all the rivers and lakes is breaking up. There's another Spring-word that's unique to the North Country, though: Greenup. When I was in Ohio for college, I marveled at how the trees slowly took their time unfurling their leaves, how you'd see buds on one tree one day, maybe three trees a few days later. The vibrant Spring green spread gradually. In Alaska, in this part of Alaska, each Spring there is one particular day--referred to as Greenup--on which every single birch, aspen, and poplar (our three main deciduous trees) for miles and miles bursts into brilliant green leaf-ed-ness. All at once. It's insta-purgatory for allergy-sufferers. 

This year Greenup officially occurred last Saturday, coming a week earlier than average thanks to our bout of late-April and early-May 70s. The burst of pollen accompanying Greenup was the second-worst in the last 14 years, according to the certified pollen-counter at the city clinic. Poor Matt has had a rough week!

I'm doing a good job of remembering so far this year, but not having grown up with anyone who suffered from seasonal allergies, it's always so hard for me to remember that I can't throw open all of the windows and air out the house now that it's finally warm outside! I put the screens back in the windows yesterday and turned off the heat for the summer, and will just have to hope that the stronger-than-usual pollen count right here at the beginning will mean a shorter allergy season overall. Also that my recovery speeds up, so that if I can't let the outside in, I can at least start going for walks and enjoying the Spring weather during the days.

So surely my plan to get all of my out-of-the-house craziness finished today so that I can stay home and read tomorrow isn't entirely selfish, since staying home means not opening the door and letting pollen in, right? I may be a little nuts to think I can make it through the whole list this afternoon... There's noon Mass if Little Bear wakes up in time, the used book store to trade in some things for store credit, the crisis pregnancy center to donate the books and goodies my midwife's office gave me but now we won't be using, the thrift store to donate some items and maybe if I'm really a crazy person try to find a white or cream shirt, the grocery store for grapes and shelf pegs, the Catholic Student Association on campus to return some dishes, the Lutheran church across from the library to check out their annual garage sale (again with the "if I'm a crazy person" category), the dump, and my mom's house. Nine places. In a span of... two hours? maybe two and a half? with the toddler. Hmm. 

I just want to say Thank-you, again, to all of the people who have been praying for us since we lost baby Alex. Your thoughts, prayers, and kind words have been so appreciated! We are so blessed to have the support of so many wonderful people.

For more Quick Takes, and more about Something Other Than God, be sure to stop by Conversion Diary!

[Update: Little Bear and I did survive the list of craziness, so it's time to read!]

08 May 2014

Life Right Now

I'm having a hamster wheel kind of day today: pick up the blocks in the living room while Little Bear dumps out the duplos in his room, pick up the duplos while he pulls out all the books, put away books while he dumps the blocks everywhere... around, and around, and around, always cleaning, never making any progress.

When he finally fell asleep, I was torn; should I use the free time to finally achieve a neat house? Or should I try to make up for the two straight hours of fussing in the middle of the night by taking a nap myself? Of course, instead of choosing either worthwhile option, I wound up online... too tired to really be productive, not quite tired enough to sleep, just at the point where staring mindlessly at a screen sounds like something I can probably handle as long as I don't have to think too hard.

This is life right now, I think, looking around at the certain evidence of a little boy in the house: a dump truck driving over a pile of alphabet blocks, the mud-spattered ball that we only play with outside sitting in the highchair, Spider-Man tucked inside a sock under the couch. 

But that's not a fair thought, taking a day when we're both tired and then only focusing on the negative, and calling that skewed perspective the norm. We have good days, and fair-to-middlin' days, and days when we sit on the floor building towers together and reading P.D. Eastman and Al Perkins books for hours. Just this morning, he was shrieking with laughter as he tickled my feet and tried to avoid being tickled back. He's learning to say "clean up," even if he doesn't really do it yet... and he does help with some kinds of cleaning up. When I finish folding laundry today, he will happily run to put his socks in the dresser and the kitchen towels in their drawer. He's quick to put something in the trash can if you ask him to, and recently I've seen him running and throwing away trash without even being asked.

My slow recovery, which is still keeping me from getting out for walks or doing the deep spring cleaning that I want to, is definitely contributing to my feeling like I can't accomplish anything these days. And that makes sense. It's good to stop and actually think about it, though, and realize that maybe these "unaccomplished" days are what I need right now, and maybe things aren't quite as bad as they can seem.

06 May 2014

Answer Me This

Linking up for another round with Kendra at Catholic All Year!

1. Are you becoming your mother?
We are certainly more alike than I thought we were when I was a teen; I hear myself saying things I grew up hearing her say, and I've consciously adopted quite a few of the family traditions she built with us kids. Our beliefs and values are very similar, at least as far as Church teaching goes. I don't think I'm actually becoming more like her, though: our personalities, our likes and dislikes, the way we respond to many things are all pretty different.

2. Coffee or tea?
Strictly herbal tea, sadly... I developed an allergy to caffeine in high school, and in college began having a similar reaction to caffeine alternatives like rooibos or ginseng. I worked in a coffee shop for a while after college, and eventually breathing in the dust around the espresso machine all the time was making me constantly dizzy and nauseous. It's too bad; I really liked sweet coffee drinks and chai lattes when I was able to have them!

3. What foreign country would you like to visit?
I'm honestly very content at home; foreign travel, especially at this stage in our lives, sounds like such a headache! Matt says that I should say the Lower 48... I do want to visit friends there again, and it's far enough from home--everywhere is, living in Alaska--that it practically counts as foreign travel. Daydreaming of traveling someday? The first places to come to mind are always Hawaii (not foreign, I know), Ireland, and New Zealand. 

4. Do you cry easily?
Not usually, but during pregnancy I'm more prone to it.

5. How often do you wear heels?
I'm inclined to say "rarely," but I guess I'm not sure what counts as "heels." I tend to think stilettos when I hear heels, and I definitely don't wear those very often. If heels includes wedges, then I do wear them more Sundays than not, and occasionally during the week during the non-winter months. Since the snow melted and we've been enjoying 70s all week, I've been alternating between little grey flats and a pair of incredibly comfortable wedge sandals.

6. Do you play an instrument?
It's been a while, but yes; I played violin and viola in school, and picked up classical guitar my last semester of college--I needed one extra elective, and it was that or Latin composition. Now that I haven't touched the guitar in years, I kind of wish I'd taken the Latin instead, but would I be using the Latin now if I had? Probably not... it would just be fun to say that I had a minor in it! Classical guitar was fun, though, and I should really pull it out again some time.

05 May 2014

Weathering It

I'm feeling properly chastened for flaunting our gorgeous 70-degree sunshiney weather last week: there were small white things floating past the window when I got up this morning. It's pollen, I told myself. Pollen, pollen, pollen, pollen, I'm not looking out the window.

Little Bear grabbed my hand and dragged me over to the living room window, pointing excitedly. "Snow! Snow! Snow!"

It's not sticking, thank heaven, but the huge temperature drop was a very unpleasant surprise, and I'm going to stay inside and look sadly at my sandals today. So here are a couple of pictures from last Monday, when it was pretty out:

Come back soon, summer!

03 May 2014

SQTF 86: Birthday, Superheroes, and More Stupid Miscarriage Adventures

Should probably get the unpleasant bit out of the way first, shouldn't I? I knew, the other day, that when I said I was reaching a stable point physically it was kiiiiiind of wishful thinking. But I said it anyway, because if you see it in print, it must be true, right? (Hopefully no one just said "yes" to that.) Yesterday morning, I talked with my midwife again to confirm that we were okay with my status going into the weekend, and she was concerned about how much I was still bleeding. She consulted with the other midwife at the practice, and they consulted with the OBGYN, and he decided that I needed to come in for another ultrasound. I dropped Little Bear off at Grandma's, picked Matt up early, and went in... and wound up having to have outpatient surgery. My body was stubbornly retaining part of the uterine lining, and it was causing me to keep bleeding fairly heavily. So far post-surgery, I'm doing much better; I'll definitely try to rest up a lot today and tomorrow, but I'm hopeful that we will see improvement more quickly now.

Last night, as we were getting Little Bear ready for bed:

Me: (surprised) I'll be 25 tomorrow.
Matt: (horrified) But that means I'm 26! I thought I was only 25! Are you sure?

I do plan to rest up a lot today, but how often does Free Comic Book Day happen to fall on your birthday? We have to swing by the Comic Shop. I'm honestly more interested in the sale they're having on board games today, but Little Bear is loving seeing Spider-Man everywhere these days ("Man! "Man!"), and I'm sure they will have a goodly display thanks to the new movie. His favorite superhero right now, though, is the Hulk. Which totally makes sense, because losing control and turning into a tiny green rage monster is one of the things toddlers do best!

Don't worry, Mom; we aren't letting him watch those movies this young--he recognizes the Hulk from his Avengers plate/bowl set, and learned about Spider-Man when we desperately needed a new little toy to keep him not-yelling in the car.

Some of the best birthday presents are the intangible ones, like the 10 hours of straight sleep Little Bear gave me last night for the first time, or the smell of wonderful coffee when I got out of the shower this morning. I can't drink it, but I love being able to smell it! It seems like the whole day is better when it starts off with the smell of coffee. 

Our landlords--the best landlords in the world--are looking to sell, and we had a showing yesterday at 5 pm. The timing was pretty inconvenient: I got out of surgery a little after 4, and we couldn't go home until after 6. And I probably overdid it a little the past couple of days trying to get the apartment looking nice for the showing... I don't want to make it harder for our landlords to get a good price for the house, and it's a really nice apartment; I wanted it to look the part. I didn't do anything too strenuous, but it was still more activity than I probably should have been doing when I wanted to just be laying on the couch. But everything looks really nice right now! 

Why are our landlords the best in the world? Well, for one thing, they've been incredibly compassionate and accommodating through this difficult week: the people who came to see the house yesterday wanted to come Tuesday afternoon, but when our landlady called Monday evening to ask if that would work and found out that we were at the ER, she pushed the showing off until Friday to give me more time to recover. She has also told their realtor that no one can come see our apartment unless they've already seen the main house and are seriously interested in buying, so we don't have to be kicked out for an hour for people who aren't serious. Also, she feeds us: this past week we have been able to sample four different delicious fruit-and-cream-cheese pastries she's made. The other night after we complimented the amazing-smelling chicken she was grilling, she brought us two pieces! 

Have a good weekend! Visit Conversion Diary for more quick takes.

01 May 2014


Thank you to everyone who has been so sympathetic and supportive in the wake of my miscarriage; we truly appreciate all of your prayers. In processing what has happened, I'm at a point where I really want to talk through the last week, but I certainly understand if others don't want to hear about it--I know that miscarriage is something people don't like to think about, and that many women find reminders of pregnancy loss very difficult and painful. It's been so frustrating, though, to be up at 3 am wondering if something is normal and not being able to find any answers because no one wants to talk about it... And for me, it is easier to talk/type through the events of the past week than to feel obligated to bury them away.

I went in for a routine ultrasound to firm up our expected due date last Thursday. My sister came with me to play with Little Bear so he'd stay calm when I couldn't hold him. As soon as I could make out the shape of Alex's profile on the screen, I was so happy: she was so cute, so incredibly tiny. There really was a baby, and I couldn't wait to meet her. I didn't think anything of it when the tech turned the screen away and said that we needed to do an internal ultrasound because I was so early; it was early, only 9 1/2 weeks. I never suspected anything was wrong, even though the second ultrasound lasted much longer than the first, until she turned the screen back toward me and said, "I'm afraid I have some bad news." 

She didn't have to say more. It was obvious that the little flickery heartbeat I was looking for on the screen wasn't there. 

I picked Little Bear up and hugged him, tight, before running into the bathroom to change. My sister asked if something was wrong, and I nodded, but couldn't find words. She buckled Little Bear into the car while I called Matt to ask if he could leave work early, and somehow I kept the tears back until I'd dropped her off and gotten to campus to pick him up.

There were a lot of tears that afternoon and evening, and again Friday morning when we sat down with my midwife to talk about what to do. She explained that the ultrasound showed Alex had stopped developing at 7 weeks, but my body hadn't acknowledged it and the gestational sack was continuing to grow and develop. We agreed on a medically-induced miscarriage with misoprostol, since my body wasn't instigating the miscarriage on its own.

Labor all through Friday and into Saturday morning was more painful than it had been with Little Bear, but the pain went away and the bleeding dropped off to almost nothing after Alex's body and the gestational sack were delivered Saturday morning. The pain and bleeding both stayed at surprisingly low levels until mid-Monday, when both began increasing steadily until my midwife sent me to the ER at 5 pm. After tests, and exams, and blood-drawing, and another set of ultrasounds, and several hour-and-a-half to two-hour stretches of waiting without seeing any nurses or doctors, they sent us home around midnight saying that it was unusual but didn't look like intervention was necessary.

Now I'm in what looks like a normal miscarriage pattern, with dull pain much like the afterbirth pains that hung around for a few weeks after Little Bear was born, and steady but light bleeding. So physically, it looks like I'm reaching a stable point--yesterday was the first day I'd describe myself as feeling pretty "normal" again.

Tuesday night was the first night I slept well since Thursday. I haven't been kept up by thoughts of Alex; my brain has just been whirling through a host of random thoughts every time I lay down, and refusing to slow down or quiet down to let me sleep. Finally getting more than a couple hours of sleep at night has surely helped with my feeling better.

And emotionally? Ironically, after all of the TMI above, this is the part I'm hesitant to write. Emotionally, Matt and I are both fine. The first couple days, the sudden realization that Alex no longer had a heartbeat and that we were no longer able to look forward to meeting her and holding her and watching her grow and learn and play with her big brother... That was very hard. Very hard. And I was angry, not so much at God as at the Church, for not saying that my little girl who never did a single thing wrong was in heaven. "The Orthodox say she's in heaven," I complained. "I don't like St Augustine's stupid limbo theory!"

But over the weekend, we read a lot about what the Church teaches about infants who die without baptism (basically, just that "we don't know," which is super unhelpful and not the comforting, reassuring thing I wanted to hear). I also read some theories extrapolated from the Catechism by theologians, though, and found great logic and comfort in the concept of Baptism by Intention. The Cliff Notes version: 
  • The Church acknowledges the concept of Baptism of Desire, that is, salvation of a man who sincerely desires baptism and intends to obtain it but dies before he can do so.
  • The faith and intentions of the parents/godparents stand in for the child's in baptism.
  • If the parents sincerely desire baptism for their child and intend to have the child baptized, but the child dies before this can happen, the same logic should hold.
The idea of Baptism by Intention made a lot of sense to us. So did carefully reading the Catechism on baptism and salvation, and realizing that it says that baptism is necessary to the salvation of those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed. Obviously, an unborn child hasn't had that opportunity! We were reminded, too, that God isn't bound by the Sacraments: He can do anything He wants to, and we know that He is merciful and wants what is best for each of us. And as Little Bear keeps asking me to read him his Bible, I keep being reminded that Christ told His disciples to let the children come to Him. I understand why the Church has to say that we don't know what happens when an unbaptized baby dies, because it hasn't been revealed and we don't know for sure, but it truly makes the most sense to me to believe that Alex is in heaven.

And believing that, her death became a much less difficult thing for us to cope with. She's in heaven! Heaven is better than earth, so much better than we can imagine. We can't help but be happy for her, knowing that she will never know unhappiness, or pain, or have to deal with any of the problems of this fallen world. Yes, there are still times when something unexpectedly reminds us of how we won't be welcoming Alex home in November and we feel sad, but in general, thinking of Alex means being happy about our little saint in heaven. 

Did we logic our way around most of the stages of grief? It kind of seems that way. I'm afraid now that you'll think we are horrible, cold, emotionless people who didn't love our child... That's not the case at all! But as we see it right now, we have a choice: to be sad about not having her with us on earth, or to be happy that she is in heaven and hopeful that we will one day meet her there. And we are making the effort--daily, hourly, each and every moment--to keep choosing the latter.