"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Very Tall Mouse and Very Short Mouse

(Sister Deb with Eva)

"Once there was a very tall mouse and a very short mouse who were good friends. When they met Very Tall Mouse would say, 'Hello, Very Short Mouse.' And Very Short mouse would say, 'Hello, Very Tall Mouse.'

The two friends would often take walks together. As they walked along Very Tall Mouse would say, 'Hello birds.' And Very Short Mouse would say, 'Hello bugs.'

When the passed by a garden Very Tall Mouse would say, 'Hello flowers.' And Very Short Mouse would say, 'Hello roots.'"

-From MOUSE TALES by Arnold Lobel

(Sister Deb, busy painting the girls' playroom on her day off)

When I realized that we were moving to New Jersey, one of the few things that excited me was the thought that I would be closer to my friend Sister Deb Wilson, MSBT. Sister Deb was one of my classmates in my M.A. program. She made a good impression on the whole class when she showed up one day for 500D with loaves of pumpkin bread for each student. But even beyond that, she seemed to be such a calm, happy person (not to mention smart but humble).

So I shortly accosted her and persuaded her to join a prayer group that I was starting. She later told me that she felt obligated to say yes because she thought it would look bad to refuse, since she is a nun. But thank goodness she joined! For the first two years, our group was blessed with her peaceful presence. Then Deb graduated and was sent to Connecticut, to Trinita, a retreat center run by the MSBTs.

Being a Missionary Servant of the Blessed Trinity keeps Deb pretty busy, but she managed to come out to visit recently while Jeff was away at a family wedding (ahem, where no children were invited). If you think that my version of hospitality is to let a friend enjoy her day off in a relaxed fashion at my house, you're wrong. I warned Deb in advance that we'd be painting the girls' playroom.

I've been itching to paint something (first-time homebuyers' syndrome, I guess), and the playroom seemed like a great option. (Jeff's too busy for these kinds of projects.) I showed Deb the room the Friday night that she arrived (after working a whole day and driving three hours to Jersey), and she assured me that there was no need for ladders, "I scoff at the thought of ladders - ha-ha-ha!" she said, looking around the room.

So Saturday morning we headed to Home Depot for some paint, rollers, brushes, and a really crappy (but expensive) canvas drop cloth that leaked paint all over the floor. We started taping and preparing the room at about 8:00, after both girls were finally asleep for good. Then we painted. Deb did the high parts, and I did the low parts - since she is a Very Tall Mouse, and I am a Very Short Mouse. It didn't take too long... but we ran out of paint.

(A glimpse at the finished project - a cheery shade of yellow)

There we were, after Church the next morning, back at Home Depot buying more paint. Only now, what were we to do? Jeff was gone, so I was still watching the girls. Deb needed to leave, but the room was unfinished. Deb excused herself from the living room and went upstairs, changed into her painting clothes, and painted by herself while I raked leaves with the girls. (Take this as a warning, friends...if you come to visit you may end up painting a room all by yourself.) When Jeff got home, I was able to help finish up the job, but I never could have done it without my Very Tall Mouse.

(Eva tries out the new playroom)

It was great to see Deb, and, in addition to our disparity in heights, I reflected about the different ways we live out the Catholic life. John Paul II calls it "complementarity." (Check that out - "complementarity" in TOB is more often in reference to religious life and married life than to the relationship of husband and wife.) Deb kept suggesting that I needed a nap, seeing how exhausting it is to take care of the girls. For me that's just daily life, one of the many sacrifices I make as a full-time mom. "Middle-class asceticism" is my best option for growing closer to God these days, and it comes in lots of little ways.

Deb, meanwhile, endures a different set of hardships, which she mostly laughs about and takes in stride. These are things like living in a space where she doesn't have room to stretch her arms straight up above her head. Or having to act like a "friendly, happy morning person" when she'd rather not. All just part of being a missionary, she says.

I say, thank God for Sister Deb! And not just because she painted the girls' playroom, but because she makes me appreciate both of us more.

(Maia and Eva playing in the playroom)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mom has the greatest ideas.

Wasn't it a great idea to put a leaf pile at the bottom of the kids' slide?

Giving Away God's Gifts

(While raking leaves)

M: Mom, here's a beautiful leaf for you. I know you say that when God gives you a beautiful gift, it's good to give it away. I found this pretty leaf, but I'm giving it to you. Isn't that good?

TM: Yes, Maia, that's great. And it is a beautiful leaf.

M: See, I'm not like that girl at the park yesterday.

TM: Which girl? The one named Zinia? Why?

M: Yes, Zinia. She found a beautiful green hair rubberband at the park. I kept telling her that she should give it to me because God wants you to give gifts away, but she didn't want to give it to me. After I explained to her a few times, I finally convinced her that the good thing was to give it to me. That's how I got to take it home from the park.

TM: Perhaps we need to have a more extensive conversation about giving away God's gifts... it's not something you say to try to get someone to give something to you...

M: But I REALLY wanted it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lunchtime Conversation With a Future Princess Nun

M: Was Tia Ann inside Granny Kathy's uterus?

TM: Yep.

M: What about you, were you inside Granny Kathy's uterus?

TM: Yes, I was. But Tia Ann and I weren't there at the same time. First I was there, and then after I came out, a little while later Tia Ann was in there and then she came out.

M: Just like me and Eva! First I was in your uterus, then Eva.

TM: Yes, and so, like Tia Ann and I, you'll be sisters forever. Even when you grow up and both become nuns you'll still be sisters.

M: But wait- when we grow up, I'm going to be a PRINCESS nun, and Eva will just be a regular nun!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Announcing: Caritas et Veritas

Here's a new blog, started by four really cool Catholic guys. Check it out at www.caritasetveritas.com .

Thursday, November 12, 2009

St. Michael at the Door

Last year, I bought Jeff a gift in celebration of his first decade as a Catholic. It was an icon of St. Paul (his confirmation saint), a print of Rublev's image. Somehow I accidentally ordered two, and instead of returning one, he kept one at home and took the other to school.

In the process of "decorating" (this might be too strong of a description) our house, I hung up St. Paul next to a crucifix. Something was needed on the other side. None of our other icons were close enough in size or style. So at first I wanted to get an icon of my patron, but I couldn't decide exactly who that was (I have too many). Anyway, to make a long thought process shorter, I ended up purchasing St. Michael the Archangel, also depicted by Rublev. Jeff's had a devotion to St. Michael, and the size and style were similar to St. Paul (since it was the same artist).

I had been tracking the UPS package, so when the doorbell rang today and Maia asked, "Who do you think it is?"

I said, "St. Michael the Archangel, of course... I told you he was going to come today." I glanced out the window to see a UPS man on the front porch, and knew I was right before I opened the door. Maia hung back, uncharacteristically nervous and shy.

I opened the package right away and showed Maia. "See," I said, "St. Michael the Archangel was at the door. You've heard that prayer Daddy says, right?"

"Yes," she answered, but she looked confused. I hung up the icon, and we went in the kitchen for lunch. Maia still looked confused.

"But St. Michael was at the door?" she asked.

"Yes, and now he's hanging on the wall."

Another puzzled look. "But how did he ring the doorbell?"

It warmed my heart so much that I couldn't bring myself to explain all. Maia actually thought that St. Michael the Archangel had rung our doorbell and was coming to live with us. So I told her that the icon on the wall was a representation of St. Michael.

"Then where is he RIGHT NOW? Is he here?" she asked.

"Hmm... good question. Well, he probably is right here with us. Angels are always around, but you don't always know they're around."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Announcing: Heart and Hands Blog!

My ultra-cool sister has finally started her own blog. If you read her post on my blog, then you know she's both a great writer and very smart. Her life as a midwife is fascinating. So check it out: http://hrtandhnds.blogspot.com/2009/11/sitting-on-my-hands.html

Also, my bro continues to have a fascinating life in Benin, West Africa. You can read about it at revolutionme.net.

Given the Nod

I absolutely love how communicative Eva has become. In addition to now saying "duck," "mom," "dad," "ba"(nana), "hi," "bye," as well as signing a few things, Eva is an expert nodder. The first few times she did it I thought it was an accident. But now it takes just a quick game of 20 questions. For example, I walked in from my morning run. Eva, who was in the kitchen, heard the door open and came to the foyer to meet me. I kissed her and went past. She made frustrated noises as she followed me back to the kitchen. I picked her up, "Do you want something, Eva?" (Nod, nod). "What do you want - a drink from Mama?" (Nod, nod). Or at the park, she walked over to the swing, touched it with her hand and then looked at me expectantly. "Eva, do you want to swing?" (Nod, nod).

Of course, these are the times that it's easy to tell what she wants. At the dinner table tonight I asked her what she wanted and she nodded. I tried to explain to her that I had not asked a yes-no question. She looked confused, then nodded again, in the direction of the bread. I gave her some bread, which she quickly threw on the floor. She loves to watch the food drop to the floor. Hmm... not sure what she wanted there.

I should also add that she can shake her head "no," too. She doesn't do that as much, but I'm sure she'll be quite adept at "no" thanks to her sister's pedagogical influence. Maia loves telling Eva "NO" at the top of her lungs.

Anyway, in the above video, Eva nods to the question of whether she wants me to read her a book.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Few of Eva's Favorite Things

Now that Eva is "highly mobile," she's enjoying exploring the house more than ever. Here are a few of her favorite things to do.

1. Stand on the baseboard heater and peer out the window. Sometimes, if she's lucky, she gets to wave and say "hi" to our next door neighbor Margaret or her daughter Anna.

Unfortunately, Eva has a tough time reaching up to the ledge, so she has to persuade her big sister to lift her up a bit (her mom certainly is not willing to assist!). Fortunately for Eva, big sister is obliging when it comes to such things. Recently, however, I locked the window, and this has made it harder for Eva to get a good grip. But it is saving us some on our heating bill, since the window was left open a few times after Maia and Eva had a window party.

2. Destroy the kitchen. This is a broad description, so I can list particularities, as well: 1. Pull down all the dish towels. 2. Open the potholder/bib drawer and remove contents. 3. Get into the pantry and pull down all food storage containers. If possible, take lids into living room or dining room. 4. Seize Mom's sweeping as an opportunity to grab some of her leftovers from the "dirt pile." 5. Dig through recycling. 6. Remove lid from trash can.

3. Eva's third favorite thing to do around the house is try to catch a moment when the gate is down, and then furiously climb up the stairs. So far she's only made it to step four before we grab her, but she's so quick that we have to be super cautious about this one. She loves climbing the full set of stairs, but that requires a spotter!

4. Pulling down all the books off of the bookshelves. Maia loved doing this too, but fortunately, now that we live in a house instead of a tiny apartment, the only books Eva's pulling down are hers and Maia's. Mine and Jeff's are safe in their respective places.

5. Trying to get in to the front closet, especially if there's a chance to pet the vaccuum cleaner.

6. Picking out the outlet plugs. I've never seen a kid as adept at this as Eva. But the good news is that she's more interested in the plastic plug than in the outlet itself. Although, of course, those plugs are a choking hazard too. We always keep our eyes on the babe, so don't worry.

There you have it. Although it's kind of annoying to have an Eva-mess at all times, it's kind of fun to see what she thinks is interesting and entertaining.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I know how to save the healthcare system billions of dollars

No, actually, I don't know how to save the healthcare system billions of dollars. But my little sis does! The following was written by my sister, who is a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) and caught both of my babies. She did it as a facebook note and has allowed me to post it here (thanks, sis!). Ann writes:

Hey, guess what? Barack Obama is right. It is possible to cut health care spending AND provide better quality care at the same time. Trust me, I work in one of the most wasteful areas of medicine (OB/GYN). Here are my ideas that could save SOOOO much money. I'm no rocket scientist-these ideas have all been shown to result in cost savings by people way smarter than me.

Hope I don't sound too judgmental here...I could never write this if I were running for office, but here's what I think:

1. Insurance companies should refuse to pay for elective inductions of labor (before 41 wks of pregnancy, no medical indication). NUMEROUS studies show that induction of labor increases the c-section rate and leads to worse outcomes for babies too.

2. Insurance companies should refuse to pay for elective c-sections. If a mom wants a c-section, she should pay for it herself, out of pocket, because it's shown that c-sections yield more complications for moms and babies and are therefore more costly. If a mom wants to take this risk for no good reason, I think it should be on her and not at the expense of insurance companies/taxpayers-SORRY!

3. Hospitals that want to do OB should be required to offer and provide 24hr OB backup coverage for VAGINAL BIRTH AFTER CESAREAN and women should be highly encouraged to chose this option if they are a non-risky candidate. VBAC attempts are shown to result in cost savings and better outcomes...it's a win-win! And if hospitals have competent OBs on staff to appropriately screen out high risk women and act quickly in emergency cases, really bad outcomes should be extremely rare.

4. OB wards should stop pushing epidurals on women. Yes, many women want epidurals, and that's fine. But what about the women who DON'T want them and are told they simply can't give birth without one? In some places the epidural rate is as high as 95%! (So glad the hospital I work at is not like this). Of course an epidural is a good intervention in some circumstances, but many, many women have uncomplicated labors and are MORE than capable of giving birth without them. Epidurals are expensive and occasionally have side effects that lead to increased medical spending (bad fetal heart tones>CS, spinal headaches, back problems, etc).

5. Insurance companies should refuse to pay for all these needless ultrasounds. Women with uncomplicated pregnancies should have 1 ultrasound in pregnancy, and if it's normal, confirms the due date and reveals no evidence of problems with baby, why waste money on more scans? Yes, it's fun to know the sex of your baby, but it's certainly not medically necessary so if you want more than 1 ultrasound just because they couldn't tell if it was a boy or girl, pay for it yourself! News flash-ultrasounds aren't even shown to improve outcomes.

6. Being a "baby friendly" hospital should not be optional. All hospitals that do OB should be required to adopt practices which have been shown to increase breastfeeding rates. Of course breastfeeding can be challenging, so hospitals should have several lactation consultants on staff to help women learn to breastfeed. The public health implications of this are ENORMOUS because numerous studies show that breastfed babies get sick less, and breastfeeding moms are less likely to get breast cancer down the line. Besides, guess who the biggest purchaser of formula is in this country? THE GOVERNMENT! Yes, it's true, WIC (God bless them) provides formula to poor women. We'd all save money if these women breastfed instead! Sounds like health care dollar savings to me, people! http://www.babyfriendlyusa.org/

7. Circumcision-hate to say it, got nothing against it, but insurance companies and taxpayers shouldn't be paying for elective surgery done mainly for aesthetic reasons. If you want your baby circumcised that's fine by me-but shell out the 500 dollars yourself then.

So see...it IS possible to improve quality of care and save money at the same time!!! Wow, I better get off my high horse now. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to add them to the list!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength

Recently I was inspired to bring my Danielle Rose "I Thirst" cd into the house from my car. Maia's favorite song on the album is "The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength." Here are the girls dancing to it. The second video is particularly short but sweet.

More Videos

Maia keeps dreaming of dancing like a ballerina. Here she is on a rainy day, giving it a try, with no help from her sister.

Beware of the walking pumpkin! Here comes Eva!

Now here's a difference in kid personalities. Maia was so scared of the vaccuum cleaner that Jeff always had to take her in a seperate room when I was vaccuuming. Eva is so fascinated that she follows me around trying to touch the vaccuum. Finally I just stopped moving so she could come up close and get a good look at the fascinating machine.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

After Virtue: Coffee or Tea?

Thanks to the computer problems, I've recently been finishing my first complete read of MacIntyre's After Virtue. Although I had class with him as an undergraduate, this is the first opportunity I've had to go through the text in a leisurely fashion. As I was heading upstairs to read, I asked Jeff if he thought MacIntyre went better with coffee or tea. Jeff has a lot of opinions about certain foods and certain activities, see. He can give an account of exactly which brand of pizza and toppings go best with certain movie genres.

I was leaning in the coffee direction, but Jeff insisted it was tea, due to MacIntyre's country of origin. Coffee seems more philosophical for some reason. And I'm pretty sure that Celestial Seasoning's Caramel Enchantment Chai does not fit After Virtue. I just thought I would inform my readers of this so that they might not make the same mistake. If you go for tea, do something more basic.

This reminds me of one of Maia's favorite nursery rhymes:

Molly my sister and I fell out,
and what do you think it was all about?
She liked coffee and I liked tea,
and that was the reason we couldn't agree!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Seat of Wisdom

In one of my earliest posts, I wrote about Mary as the Seat of Wisdom, and how this is such a powerful image for any theologian mom. Since then, I've kept Mary, Seat of Wisdom as a particular patron. It is interesting to me that we often associate wisdom with age, but this image seems to subvert that. Mary, whose lap was the seat of the child Jesus, was the seat of Wisdom. The image of a young mother as the seat of wisdom also attests to the words of Scripture: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom like a little child will never enter it" (Mk 10:15).

There is a real wisdom in childhood - a sense of wonderment, excitement, energy, exhaustion, and love - a truly full expression of life and enjoyment of all of God's gifts. We seem to lose this childlike humility with age, but being around children and exposed to their wisdom can help!

Eva Walking

Now that I have my computer back, here's Eva at 10 months, one day old. Since then (the last two weeks), she's gotten so used to walking that she hardly ever wants to crawl anymore.