"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.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Patrick Laughing

Maranatha Chocolate and Christmas Trees

For the past few years, I've had a chocolate-filled Advent calendar. The girls have become sharers in the tradition, and now, first thing upon entering the kitchen in the morning I hear two voices saying: "Maranatha, can I have some chocolate?" But wait - they know that "Maranatha," means "Come, Lord Jesus," not "Can I have some chocolate?" Right? Yes, they do.

I have to say that I love Advent. Every night since it started we've been lighting our wreath and singing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" as a family. But waiting is hard, isn't it? To intensify my longing for Christmas (and as an act of penance, since Advent is penitential), I gave up sweets for Advent again this year. Wow, am I ready for Christmas. Making cookies for Maia's preschool class and helping her and a friend decorate a gingerbread house have thrust me into the throes of temptation. I've survived, but bring on the sweets, I say!!!

Because we like to keep our Advent and Christmas distinct, we only recently started pulling out the Christmas decorations. For little Maia, who is SOOOO EXCITED about Christmas, the decoration procrastination has been VERY difficult. We finally went to get a tree last weekend. We had fond memories of our last tree that we got in Dayton (usually we're traveling, so this is only our second time having a tree) at Young's. We loved hiking through various trees, picking ours out, cutting it down, putting it on a sled, having it shook out and tied to the roof, and so on. Maia remembers the wonderful hot cocoa and popcorn in the barn by the Christmas tree farm.

So I looked up a place where we could cut down our own tree, and we finally (in Maia's mind "FINALLY") headed out to get a tree last weekend. When we arrived however, we found some bad news. The place only took cash or check, which we didn't have. And the trees all started at $65. Yes, $65. If you're from Jersey reading this, you're probably saying, well, yeah, of course, and that's a good deal. But if you're from Iowa or Ohio, you're probably thinking - $65!!!!, to cut down your own tree? And of course, there was no hot cocoa, nor popcorn, included in that price. Above is a picture of the girls with the trees.

After a brief walk around, we got back into the van, with two somewhat confused girls. "But what about the tree? Aren't we going to cut down a tree? What about the tree?" To which we responded, "Let's go get some hot chocolate first."

We went to the mainstreet of this town, hoping to find a quaint little local coffee shop. But we didn't know the area, and we didn't find it, so we ended up at Panera in your typcial strip-mall shopping center. Maia and Eva split a hot cocoa, but Maia really wanted to try the peppermint hot chocolate, even though I didn't think she'd like it. She didn't, and she didn't drink it either. Eva did, however, and she managed to get the lid off when we were back on the road, picture below.

As we headed back toward home, Jeff and I were making plans in a quiet tone, suggesting places where we'd seen trees on the side of the road. We stopped at the one across from the Y, got the kids out, took a glance and then found out that they only took cash, too, and that the trees started at $45. We got back in, and it looked like Maia had tears in her eyes. She probably couldn't figure out why we were driving all over the place getting in and out without getting a tree.

Then we stopped at the place across from the train station, and ended up getting our tree there, with a blank check Jeff found in his wallet. The tree had obviously been sitting out there for a long time; most likely it had been cut before Thanksgiving. It was kind of small, and the men who sold it to us seemed a little strange. $40. To me, that still seems like a lot of money for a tree.
But anyway, we had succeeded. Jeff had it in his head that we would decorate the tree on Christmas Eve - yeah, right! This was clearly the thought of an adult. Maia was so excited that she wanted to start immediately! Oops- no stand. I had to go buy one. When we finally did start putting on the lights, the tree skirt, the angel on top, and the ornaments, Maia was out of her mind happy. Eva was having a lot of fun too. They both liked looking at all of my childhood ornaments. (My mom did a great job labeling our ornaments and putting dates on them, and Maia loved the glitter-tree ornament with my second grade photograph on it.)

When it was all finished, I was sitting in the chair, looking at it with my cynical, critical adult self. It's small, I thought - too small for the space. And too crowded with ornaments since it's so small. I wanted to put the star on top, I thought, but the top was so crooked we had to use the angel. It's so dry, I thought, I can already see needles all over the floor. It's a little lop-sided near the bottom, I thought. And there's a patch on the tree where there aren't enough lights. We paid $40 for this tree?

As I was sitting there, thinking this, I heard a running commentary from Maia: "Mom, our tree is so beautiful!!! I love all these ornaments -- ooh, look at the sparkly ones! Isn't it neat how the angel has little lit-up candles in her hands? This tree is so tall, I can barely see the top! Mmm...it smells so good, doesn't it? I'm so happy we have a tree! I can't wait to see what it looks like with all the presents under it!"
Honestly, it made all the stress worth it. Advent and Christmas are so meaningful when you throw in a little excitement from children. It's the magic of Christmas; it's how we should be thinking about the great gift given to us in the baby Jesus!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


It's that time of the year again... that time when everyone wants to know what my kids want for Christmas. Wow. Do we really need any more toys? Well, I don't want to be a scrooge, and, let's be honest, kids love opening gifts and having new toys. So, in preparation for Christmas, we cleared out the toybox (for the SECOND time this fall) of all the toys that the kids were willing to give away. It's nice that we have a playroom (pictured above), not that there's any containing our fun here.

(Above: Eva on one of the top gifts for one-year olds - the bounce and spin zebra; Maia setting up her dollhouse, which is a favorite.)
This deluge of gifts is just what happens, I guess, when your kids are the only kids on one side of the family and the majority of grandkids on the other side. Because it always seems to me that we already have a lot of toys, last year for Eva's first birthday, I did some research on top gifts for one-year olds and suggested to the grandparents toys off of that list. This year for Christmas and for Eva's birthday, I did the same thing, hoping to come across something we didn't already own that I thought the kids would like.

The top gift for two-year olds is this Billibo thing. I call it a "thing" because it's not really anything specific. Just a piece of plastic that can be used in various ways. Eva's first reaction was that it was some kind of hat (see above). But it wasn't long before the kids figured out some other ways to use the Billibo.
For example, as a seat, to sit in or to balance in.

It also makes a nice turtle shell, although I think Maia above looks more like a snail than a turtle.

Even Patrick got in on the Billibo action.
A doctor's kit is also on the top ten list of gifts for two-year olds. We didn't have that, and it seemed appropriate that the doctor Grandpa and Nana would give Eva a doctor's kit. In the above picture, Maia and Eva are playing doctor in the new tent (tents are always a good gift for kids... and our other one was pretty much broken for good, so they wanted a replacement).

The doctor's kit also allowed us to practice for Eva's two-year visit to the doctor. She knew exactly what Dr. Straw was doing when she pulled out the stethoscope. But let's be honest, those real shots hurt a whole lot more than the one that came with the kit.
Now the funny thing about my doing all this research and wracking my brain to come up with possible gifts for the girls is that I had just heard/read these stories from NPR, which confirmed what I already knew, namely, that kids don't need a lot of fancy toys (especially all those electronic/battery-powered toys...a few is enough; my kids are more drawn toward the dollhouse, nativity set, baby dolls, kitchen, and so on). They need to use their imagination without the scripts that might be supplied by a toy (or movies or television!!!). Listening to these stories made me feel good about my kids because Maia (and Eva too, actually) really excels in what they call "private speech," which is an important indicator of success in school.

Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control
Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills

The Billibo is kind of cut out for imaginative play, but I admit, when you first see it, you wonder why bother? All I can say is that my kids have had fun with them so far, and they've used them in a hundred different ways. But at this time of the year, my favorite playing to watch is Maia using the Nativity set (the Fisher Price one this time). Of course, there is a script that goes along with it, and today I acted out the whole play for them. But really it's more exciting when Maia does it. Like today she was insisting that Mary should sit in the cart attached to the donkey rather than sit on the donkey directly. "Mom, that way she can lay down, and that would be so much more comfortable!"
And when we play "Mary and Elizabeth" (not the queens, but the Blessed Virgin and her saintly cousin), there are always some strange twists, like Zechariah's car breaking down or Mary having twins, followed by a set of triplets (one of which is Piglet and another that is a bear), not to mention John the Baptist sleeping in a carseat in the kitchen. Since Patrick was born, Eva is no longer allowed to play the part of John the Baptist. So she's taken to being called "Hava" (her Hebrew name) and being the neighbor lady, who also is pregnant (sometimes with a puppy, but once in awhile with a baby doll). I admit that I like playing Mary and Elizabeth because I can clean the kitchen during the game and feel like I'm just playing my part of Elizabeth, rather than ignoring Maia. I can also serve lunch to Mary and Hava, and sometimes the Blessed Virgin also likes her older cousin to read her a story. So it all works out. No batteries necessary.

Little Miss Helpful is 2!

Yes, Miss Eva is now two years old! She's still small (weighing in at a mere 21 lbs.), but she's definitely changed since those old chubby cheeks days. Recently, Eva has been into being helpful. When we're getting ready to go somewhere, she brings me my shoes so I can put them on (even though I prefer to put them on right by the front door). Since it's been cold she's been bringing me my gloves, too. A few weeks ago, Maia spilled some milk on the table, and Eva got down from her chair, pulled a towel from the front of the kitchen stove, went back to the table, and wiped up the milk: "There you go, Maia," she said. Eva is also great at throwing away wrappers, orange peels, you name it. She doesn't mind cleaning up after herself.
(Above: Eva trying on her new sparkly shoes, courtesy of Granny Kathy and Grandpa Bob.)
And Eva really has figured out how things work around our house. She's got the routine down. A week or so ago, she even started putting her clothes in the hamper. One morning I spotted her nightgown, and I pulled it out because it didn't need to be washed and I knew she was going to want to wear it again that night.
(Above: Eva wanted a chocolate dog cake for her birthday - here it is.)
But when I went to pull the laundry out of the washer the next day, I had an unpleasant surprise. Eva had also put her night-time pull-up into the washer. While it was most likely dry and clean to start off with, nonetheless, it was of the disposable diaper sort and hence exploded all over the laundry with a nasty sort of gel stuff that was stuck to everything - including Jeff's work clothes. The pull-up itself was still kind of in tact and seemed to weigh about five pounds!
(Above: Uncle Eben lights the candles as Maia and neighbor Anna look on. Notice the chunk missing out of the dog's ear. Eva decided to sample the cake early, when I was on the treadmill out of reach.)
Anyway, happy birthday to Eva! Being the second child with a newborn baby brother, having a birthday so close to Christmas, and having a nasty cold on her birthday kind of put a damper on the celebration. But I think she's glad to be two anyway because she likes being helpful!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Smiles, Yawns, and Other Baby Looks

"Wow, these hands are both interesting and delicious!"
"What's going on over there?" asks Patrick.

"Like the sweater? I do."

"But laying on the ground really makes me (yawn!) tired."

"Being a baby is fun! I highly recommend it!"
Patrick poised to "fall over."

Babies like to move, but newborns have such limited options. When Eva was a baby, Maia and I discovered that if we propped her up on a chair, she would do her best to fall over. Of course, I have to supervise this game, and we only do it on big, soft chairs. In the above video, Maia explains how this works, and then Patrick demonstrates his ability to fall over, with just a bit of help.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Two on a Tire

Does it make you dizzy to watch?

Uncovering Sanctity

For quite awhile now, Eva has been copying most of what Maia does - good and bad alike. But it wasn't until just recently that Eva marched into the kitchen and proudly handed me a drawing she'd made, saying " 'ang it up, 'ang it up!" (Eva's great at talking, but she omits her h's.) We have a little ledge in the kitchen where we put Maia's artwork. So I put Eva's up on the ledge as well, and have continued to do this nearly every day since then.

A week later or so, I was doing a routine clearing-off of the ledge and deciding which pictures to keep. Maia produces so much artwork that we simply can't keep it all, but some are so good that I can't bear to let go of them, and I usually staple them together into a book. Without really thinking about it, I put all of Eva's pictures into the throw-away pile. After all, compared to Maia's art, Eva's pictures are just scribbles.

Of course, anyone would say that it's unfair to compare a 4.5 year old's artwork with an almost 2 year old's drawing. Obviously I knew this, and I laughed at myself for unconsciously favoring Maia's artistic skill over Eva's.

But later I was thinking about being a child of God and the lives of the saints (yes, this is what I think about when I'm running on the treadmill). I was thinking about what makes Eva's and Maia's artwork different: Maia's has recognizable shapes and forms and she is able to actualize her intentions. In other words, she has a clear end in mind when she's drawing. Sometimes the picture is truer to her idea, and sometimes she's disappointed. But she knows what she's doing when she sits down to draw. Perhaps Eva does too and is just unable to actualize her intentions, but regardless, we can say that Eva's drawings appear to be only scribbles.

It occurred to me that some who strive for sanctity - especially the beginners - merely write scribbles whereas the more practiced can draw recognizable images. We who are early on the path lack the attention to detail and the understanding of how each mark fits with an overall picture. And yet God appreciates both the scribbles and the pictures, regardless of our human judgment. God knows when failure (sin) is not hypocrisy, but human weakness. God notices our progress, even when others fail to see. God understands how we are trying to fit the marks into an overall picture, and God can probably even see the picture before we can. Moreover, God can recognize great artwork even when those with a close-up view can't make out anything from the images.

On All Saints' Day I heard a great homily that included a true story that I saw as connected to this. My husband confirmed it with his students that are associated with the order, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (Gray Friars). They had just purchased a convent from some Dominican sisters who no longer had the population to keep it. In the process of moving in, they were moving the bones of the long-deceased buried below and respectfully interring them elsewhere. In the process of doing this, the Gray Friars made a few discoveries. They came upon the prioress of the congregation, whose head was incorrupted. The rest of her body was decomposed, but she, as the head, had still a perfect head. Then they came upon an incorrupted hand on a decomposed body; upon research, they learned that this particular nun had been an icon painter. Her hand that had spent so much time painting sacred images, was just as it had been. Then, with nothing but bones to left and to the right, they came upon a completely incorrupted entire body. Who was this? Someone important? Not really. It was just the doorkeeper. The woman who had spent her time opening the door and welcoming people to the convent. But she must have done a good job at it, eh?

On the Solemnity of All Saints, this woman served as a good reminder to us that there are many holy people who are not officially canonized saints. Or we might say, there are many excellent artists who spent their entire lives perfecting their art, giving their lives to God, and supernaturalizing the everyday (yes, there's even a holy way to open up a door). Many are not recognized either in their lifetimes or after for what they have done, and yet, they are not forgotten in the Kingdom of Heaven.

God knows when scribbles are just scribbles and when scribbles are actually his children's first steps to something greater. In the latter case, even these pictures are worth hanging up on the ledge. They are reminders that no one starts off as a saint, and as a confessor recently told me, God smiles at our efforts.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chapel Time

Earler this week when I picked up Maia from nursery school, I noticed, per the notice board, that the kids had enjoyed some "chapel time" that day. I mentioned last year in my blog my concerns about Maia attending preschool at a Methodist church. To be clear, the school is not Methodist, but the school is a ministry of the Methodist church at which it is located. It's sort of generically Christian, if there is such a thing... what I mean is it's a kind of watered down, unspecific sort of Christianity that the kids are exposed to there.

Anyway, chapel time. So when I picked up Maia, the teacher told me that everyone was impressed with how Maia knew the names of items in the church, like "pew." On the way home Maia and I had a conversation about the church's interior, which I've actually never seen.

TM: So did the church look like ours?

M: It had pews like ours all lined up facing the front.

TM: Did it have an altar at the front?

M: Sort of.

TM: Was there an ambo - you know, the place where they read the Bible from?

M: They had something like that, but it was all the way at the back.

TM: Really? The back? That's funny. So was there a tabernacle?

M: Nope, no tabernacle.

TM: That's because they don't have Jesus there. (Pause as I consider what I just said...) What I mean is, they don't have Jesus present in the Eucharist inside the church, so that's why they don't have a tabernacle.

Later, at home, we renewed the conversation as Maia was coloring the coloring page of a church sent home with her from school.

TM: What's that you drew on the steeple of the church?

M: It's a cross. I think they forgot to put the cross on this church, so I added it for them.

TM: Pretty windows. Is that what they looked like in the church you saw today?

M: Well, the windows were stain glass, you know, like in our church, only they didn't have pictures on them.

TM: What, no pictures? You mean no saints?

M: No saints, Mom, and no angels either! Isn't that strange?

TM: What are you drawing on there now?

M: That's Mary. I'm drawing a statue of Mary on the top of their church because they didn't have any statues of her in their church.

TM: Nice job, Maia.

I think she did a pretty good job Catholicizing the picture.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Patrick's Baptism

When we scheduled Patrick's baptism, we thought he'd be about four weeks old at his baptism. That seemed like a good age, as I'm the kind of person who prefers not to delay baptism. Since Patrick ended up being 11 days late, he was only two weeks at his baptism. That was fine by me, but admittedly a bit awkward as we ended up having to invite people to the baptism before he'd been born. A couple of our guests even joked it was the first time they'd been invited to an unborn baby's baptism. Anyway, it all worked out in the end, although at one point during the ceremony Maia decided that she and Eva should run off to the side of the Church by themselves. Neither Jeff nor I could chase them since we were standing up in the front. Fortunately our neighbor Anna was there, and she caught them for us.

Go, Dog, Go!

One of Jeff's and my first arguments as parents was in regards to whether or not the book Go, Dog, Go! has a plot. I think any sensible person who read this book would agree with me that it does not have a plot. Jeff, however, has always insisted that the book is a romance between two of the dogs. After not liking her hat at several different occasions, the penultimate pages have the male dog liking the female dog's party hat, and they drive off into the sunset together.

While we had family in town for Patrick's baptism, an account of our disagreement on this book arose and we ended up reading the book aloud over dinner. I should say Tia Carla read the book aloud because Jeff was convinced he could read it in such a way that the plot was emphasized, and I was convinced I could read it in such a way that it was clear there is absolutely no plot. Carla had never read the book, so she was the neutral party.

Following the reading, we took a vote as to whether or not it has a plot. The results were a clear male-female split. All males present (3) voted that it did have a plot (although Tio Kyle said it was not a romance, but the narrative of a pilgrimage where the climax is the dog party in the tree). All females present (4) voted that it did not have a plot.

What do my readers think?

St. Baby Patrick

Eva is still getting used to having a little brother. She tries to be gentle, she really does, but it's just a little hard for someone her age (now 23 months). Sometimes I think she thinks of Patrick as a little animal - a puppy or something.

Over the weekend, my friend Carla was watching Patrick downstairs while Eva and I were putting away laundry upstairs. Patrick was asleep, so Carla put him in his carseat so she could go to the bathroom. She told me she had done it, and I thought I was watching Eva, but then Maia came into my bedroom and all of the sudden I heard Eva screaming from downstairs. I thought for sure she had injured herself very seriously, and, of course I was surprised because I didn't know she was downstairs in the first place. So I ran down the stairs, and the first thing I saw was the carseat... EMPTY. Eva was still screaming, and she was squealing "I hurt the baby Patrick!!!" I looked down, and Patrick was laying on his belly next to the dining room table, pretty much still asleep. I guess it was a close call. I've learned it's best to strap Patrick in, even if I'm going to be in the room... last week I decided to disassemble and reassemble the crib (out of the girls' room, since Eva can now get out of it, and back into our bedroom so it'll be ready for Patrick), and Eva managed to get Patrick out of the swing, even though he was secured by the closed tray.

Today I looked over to see Eva leaning over Patrick asleep in his carseat and blessing him "I bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit," just like our parental blessings, which at night involve holy water. How sweet, I was thinking to myself. Then I wondered what was in Eva's other hand... a sippy cup of apple cider was the answer, and why did Patrick's head look so wet and sticky? Oh, she had blessed him with apple cider, of course. It became very clear when she started doing an aspersion with the apple cider. Well, more laundry.

We all think it's great that Patrick is named after St. Patrick. Patrick even got an awesome St. Patrick statue for his baptism. But Eva can't seem to keep the Patricks straight. She's started referring to Patrick as "St. Baby Patrick." Maybe that's an improvement from calling him "the Patrick."

Monday, October 25, 2010


"Mom, I'm glad Patrick was born because now Eva's not special anymore," said Maia.

"What do you mean? Eva's still special, only now she's special in a new way because she's a big sister!" I answered, quoting Joann Cole's book I'm a Big Sister.

"No, Mom, you know what I mean. Eva's not special anymore, and I'm glad about that."

In case you're wondering, Eva hasn't noticed that she's not special anymore. She's not so gentle with Patrick, but I have not seen any signs of jealousy. She's had to share attention her whole life, so she seems to be taking Patrick's appearance in stride. Maia, however, was an only child for almost her first three years of life, and she's clearly still recovering from that.

Maia has been celebrating Eva's not being special by antagonizing Eva non-stop. This has become Maia's number one favorite activity - whether it's telling Eva that there are monsters in the basement or taking away whatever toy Eva has or chasing Eva or insulting Eva or, well, you get the picture. Her behavior has been so poor that Jeff and I have really been at a loss for what we could do - send her to Grandma's for a week? It's too hard to spend all day punishing her, and neither of us seems to have the time that she seems to require in terms of attention.

I was at the park today with Eva and Patrick while Maia was at school and a mom there asked me how far apart the kids were, and when I said 22 months, she smiled kindly and said that her kids were 17 months apart: "It gets easier," she said sympathetically. I was thinking to myself, "Easier than this?" Patrick was sleeping in the stroller and Eva was running around happily, playing on the park equipment. If all I had to deal with all day was Patrick and Eva, my life would be pretty easy.

But as someone (I forget who) recently said to me, the challenging, strong-willed kids are much more interesting to raise, and much more rewarding in the end. I still have high hopes that a difficult early childhood will be followed by an easy teenage time period. But anyway, I think parents get their parenthood points by dealing with kids when they're being difficult - not just when they are sleeping in a carseat all day.

Boring Baby

Patrick's life, by the hours...

8:00 a.m. "I am SO tired after all that sleeping last night. Better take a nap."
11:00 a.m.: "That morning nap and nursing session really wore me out. I better get some sleep."

2:00 p.m. "My sisters are so loud; maybe if I sleep I can just tune them out."

5:00 p.m. "Must be getting close to dinnertime. I can smell the onions cooking... and it makes me so drowsy."

8:00 p.m. "Well, now that the girls are in bed, let me just stretch out on the couch and get a little shut-eye before bed."

Yes, I've been calling Patrick "Boring Baby" because it really seems like all he does is sleep, sleep, sleep. Not that I'm complaining. It does make my life with three pretty easy. I guess a boring baby is God's gift to a busy mom.

A brief video from the life of a boring baby.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Patience and Its Reward

As I've written before on this blog, parenting involves a lot of patience. This is especially true for mothers, I think, and it all begins with the pregnancy - nine months of waiting. As Patrick's due date approached (October 4th), I started getting the usual questions and comments from friends, neighbors, family, and complete strangers: "So, are you ready to get this kid out?" "I bet you're ready to be done being pregnant!" and the like. Actually, this was my most comfortable pregnancy yet - no swelling, for one thing, and no real problems at all other than some nasty acid reflux. So I prided myself on being patient.

Then my preferred birthdate passed. Granted, that was the 1st, the Feast of Therese Lisieux, so it was a bit of an early shot. Then my second choice, the 2nd, the Feast of the Guardian Angels passed. As a bunch of other good liturgical choices passed, including the due date (St. Francis), I began to hope for at least a fun secular date: 10-10-10. Then that passed as well. Ok, I was doing great at being patient... but how late could this kid possibly be? Especially since I was having contractions off and on for about two weeks, I thought for sure he was going to come out any time! In fact, there were three separate times that I really thought I was in labor and got ready to head to the hospital.

For the last few months I've been reading Teresa of Avila's Way of Perfection, and I happened to read her thoughts on the Our Father, specifically "fiat voluntas tua" about the time of my due date. So this became my prayer over the last few weeks. In the end I had a good delivery with Eva, in that it was unmedicated and my sister got to catch her. But I also think I ended up having a premature rupture of membranes and having to get pitocin because I used castor oil to try to induce labor so that my sis would be there for the delivery. I wanted to have a better delivery (no pitocin!) this time around, and so I knew I needed to be patient, patient, patient and just wait for the labor to happen naturally.

Since Patrick was eleven days late, "fiat voluntas tua" became a daily struggle. Again, I wasn't particularly uncomfortable, but I did feel a bit of pressure, not just from the friends, neighbors, and strangers who kept asking... but also because my parents very generously came out to be with the kids while we went to the hospital. They had planned to be here about one week before the birth and about two weeks after. But with Patrick being eleven days late, they ended up being here for two and a half weeks before and only five days after. They had to cancel their visit to Niagara Falls, and my mom had to reschedule several doctors' appointments. The other pressure was that my husband had a wonderful fall break that would have been perfect if Patrick had been born on his due date or just a few days late. Instead, the break passed by with no baby (but still some good quality time with the husband).

As a planner who had two other late babies, I knew I could go late - but really, eleven days late? Who would have thought that! Even Maia was only about five days late. Some people say it's because this one was a boy, but I think it's because we gave him an Irish name. Next time, we'll pick a German name, and I know that baby will be punctual.

Anyway, the reward of this patience was that I did go into labor naturally, right as I was on the verge of taking castor oil (facing a 42-weeks post-date induction on Monday anyway). I had heard many stories of Mom's having really quick labors and deliveries with their thirds, but, true to my style, I managed to have contractions beginning Friday around midnight, and then he wasn't born until 11:34 at night! So basically it was a 24-hour labor, with some more painful times than others. When I went to my midwife appointment in the morning I was four centimeters and 70% effaced. But although I was having contractions, the midwife made me feel like I wasn't really in labor... she said things like, "Well, if you haven't had the baby by Monday, then we will need to set up the induction for that day."

I think it kind of psyched me out, so Jeff and I went to noon Mass (we had missed the 8 a.m. because I thought my labor was going to pick up soon), had lunch out, stopped at Trader Joe's, etc. all while I was having really painful contractions every few minutes. When we came home I attempted to take a nap because then I was scared that my contractions would pick up right at rush hour and it would take us an hour plus to get to the hospital. I didn't eat dinner, but I did help put the girls to bed, and I think it was nursing Eva that finally put me over the edge and full swing into labor.

Even then, though, we were debating just going to bed. It was 8:00 at night, and I hadn't slept the previous night at all (due to those contractions). My contractions were painful and pretty regular, but for all I knew they were going to dissipate again, since they seemed to be doing a lot of coming and going.

Anyway, I called the midwife on call, and she advised us to come into the hospital. When I got there, I was six cm and 100% effaced. But of course when they hooked me up to monitor my contractions, they slowed down, and I thought - here we go again. I had memories of being in labor with Maia and spending literally hours in the middle of the night walking up and down the hospital hallways. But this time it only took a few laps, and not even two decades of the Rosary until I told Jeff I just couldn't do it and I was going to go lie down because I was just too tired.

My mom (who got to come because the girls were both asleep) gave me a back massage, and when they came in to check me again, I was having body shakes and was 8 cm. I agreed (with surprisingly no hesitation) to have my water broken, and they let me get into the tub. This was by far the coolest part of my delivery. After two foiled attempts at getting a waterbirth, I was blessed with the coolest waterbirth tub ever. It was huge, with beautiful tile around it, and they filled it up with wonderful warm water. As soon as I got in my shaking stopped, my back felt better, and, although my contractions were still painful, they were much more bearable.

Then we discovered the buttons on the tub - one of them made lights turn on. Then it turned out if we pushed that button again that the lights started flashing and changing colors. Wow - what a great distraction for hard labor contractions! But of course, the real challenge was figuring out how to turn on the jets. That took a few contractions and asking a techy nurse, but what a reward! Massaging jets on the back during a contraction was amazing! At some point they seemed to turn off and we couldn't get them back on, but at that point I was feeling ready to push anyway, and - one push to bring the baby down, and two to get him out! A long labor, but definitely my fastest (and least harmful) delivery ever!

Other than the cord being tight around his neck, and the midwife almost falling into the tub as she caught him, the birth was pretty uneventful (although exciting, as these things always are). My first words to Patrick were, "Patrick, you look like a smurf!" And indeed, his Apgar was only a four and he had to be given a little oxygen. By five minutes, he was pinking up and meriting a nine on the Apgar.

I was really, really, really, hoping and praying for Patrick to be born on the Feast of Teresa of Avila. But I have to admit that when we went to the hospital at 8:30 at night, I didn't think it was very likely. And when we were still walking the hallways at 10:50, I thought it was pretty impossible. And when I was in the tub at 11:16, I didn't think it was very likely. The midwife and nurses probably got a kick out of me constantly checking my watch. I gave it a glance at 11:21. Jeff started praying "Nada te turbe." And he was out by 11:34. Thank you, St. Teresa.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Introducing Patrick Benjamin

The professional big sister.

Family photo.

Eva holds her brother.

Mom's first kiss.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bon Voyage, Uncle!

Back to Benin for an additional ten months with Peace Corps, this time teaching music! We'll miss you, JM!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shameless Alumna?

Football season is upon us. And since I married the one man in country with absolutely no interest in (or knowledge of) football, I've had to inflict any of my remaining interest on my girls. In fact, since I started doctoral work, I've seen only a handful of football games (which is probably for the best, given the spotty performances...and the need for me to get my academic work done on Saturdays). But when the air gets that crisp fall feeling, and I'm out walking on a quiet Saturday morning... it's hard not to think of football. Last Saturday, on the way home from morning Mass as a family, I beat Jeff to his customary line: "Well, it's Saturday: should we sing a hymn in honor of our Lady?" After I asked the question, I burst into a rousing rendition of the Notre Dame fight song, in which I was joined by Maia. Jeff either grimaced or smiled; I'm not sure which it was. I felt a little guilty afterwards about replacing the Salve Regina with the Fight Song (which is not properly a Marian hymn) and so I proceeded to sing the Alma Mater as well (which is much more ambiguous and could possibly suffice).

Notre Dame may have become a corrupt institution (I don't know, I'm not making any accusations, I'm just saying it's possible). And the football team may be contributing to a sort of moral bankruptcy (I don't know, I'm not making any accusations, I'm just saying it's possible). But doesn't Maia do a great job of singing the Fight Song? The above is not her usual version; I think she just got excited in front of the camera and wanted to be a little bit more creative.