"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.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

So Big!

Eva's made leaps and bounds since she turned one last month. She's become more mischevious, for one thing. She now purposely splashes water out of the bathtub, screams at her sister, fights over toys with her sister, and sometimes hits her sister and pulls her hair (I kept warning Maia that this was going to happen if Maia wasn't nicer to her...).

In an earlier post, I mentioned that Eva spins in her dancing now. She also can walk down the stairs (holding on to Mama's hand and the handrail). Eva also is quite a little fish. She loves to jump off the pool edge and go under water for a few seconds before I grab her and pull her to the surface. In fact, someone even asked me how I had "taught" her to hold her breath... well, I didn't!

I realized the other day that our playset had a low setting, so I put the steps and the slide a notch down, and, it turns out that Eva can go up the steps and down the slide all by herself! This video proves it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

No Snow, But Sleds Are Still Fun

The winter in New Jersey has been unseasonably warm... or maybe it just seems that way since I'm from the Midwest. But really, we had a 50 degree day last week that made me forget it was January! The downside of all the sunshine and above-freezing temps is a lack of snow. Maia has yet to use her purple sled in Jersey.

That, is she has yet to use it on snow. One of the girls' favorite games is Maia pulling Eva in the sled. In particular, Eva tries to stand up, and then Maia pulls the sled and knocks her backward. I'm not sure why Eva enjoys this so much...

You might notice that in Maia's mind, 41 degrees and sunny merits a skirt and short-sleeved shirt, with winter boots of course. She lasted outside like this much longer than I expected, but she did eventually get cold and go inside.

We all had muddy shoes upon re-entering the house, but it was fun nonetheless. Kids are such an aid in enjoying the outdoors!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pretending Mary

(In the photo above, Maia is posing like one of the Immaculate Conception statues that we see when we walk around our neighborhood. She thought that her purple sled made a nice little shrine.)

"At nursery school, when we get dressed up in the dress up clothes, Gia likes to play bride and Madison likes to play princess, but I'm the only one who wants to play Mary."

In the video below, Maia tries to rope me into playing Mary with her (that's Jesus underneath her shirt). Eva was playing the part of Joseph, but since Eva didn't know that, much of Eva's being Joseph consisted of Mary yelling at her to come back to the house.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dissertation Motivation

(above, Jeff and Maia looking at snow in Cleveland - unrelated to the following abridged dialogue which excerpts all communication about/from/to the children)

"Congratulations," Jeff said to me when I stepped in the house following my morning run. "You got into that conference."

"Oh, thanks... but how did you know?"

"I checked your email." (Yes, in our marriage, we sometimes check each other's email.)

"Why did you check my email?" I asked.

"Because I had an email saying that my paper proposal was accepted, and I wanted to make sure that you had gotten one too. I'm on the Catholicism in France panel and you're on the American Life in a Time of Reform panel."

"Oh, well, thanks," I called as I headed up to the shower with 20 minutes to go until Mass started.

"I think this will be a good thing for your dissertation - chapter 2, you know," Jeff said as I walked out the door to Mass.

Forty minutes later I stepped back into the house with 20 minutes until Maia's preschool starts. I sat down to nurse Eva, and Jeff said, "But, just so you know, we only have six weeks until we present."

"No way, Jeff, your math must be off! It's only January, and it's in March!"

"Ok, seven weeks. You have seven weeks to research, write and revise."

Ahhh, deadlines, both a curse and a blessing.

Cousin Time

Pictures from Christmas -aren't cousins great?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Snowmen of Bronze

While we were in Iowa, Maia and I seized the opportunity to make some snowmen (we had not yet had snow in Jersey - and when we returned all the Jersey snow had already melted!). The snow we were working with was very dense because it had been rained on, so Uncle Biff had to help us lift the snowman sections that were 100+ pounds. These four are supposed to be our family, but Maia and Mommy came out to be about the same height - oh, well! My mom says she's continuing to get compliments on them, three weeks later. After we made them they were coated in a half inch of ice, like a glaze. Then it kept snowing in Iowa, the most snow they've had since 1978, i.e. before I was born. Definitely no melting there.


Near my parents' condo in Iowa, I saw this sign, pictured above, in front of the local Church of the Brethren. Of course, as a theologianerd, I thought this was kind of funny. But then I tried to explain the difference between a high church and a low church to my mom so she could understand why it was funny. Following the explanation, she said she thinks she prefers a low church. So I said I must have done a bad job explaining the difference!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Spin Move

Eva's mastered the spin move in her dancing, as you can see in this video of the girls dancing.

For Eva's Hagiography

They often say of a saint, "She displayed extraordinary piety at a young age." Just in case Eva becomes a saint, here's her early display of piety, which may or may not be extraordinary as such but is a little unusual for a 13-month old!
I should add that she initiated what you see here. She wanted to get up on the couch near the crucifix and so was pointing and begging with her eyes. I think she learned the kissing the crucifix stuff from her big sis. During our house blessing, instead of participating, Maia kept getting up on the couch to kiss Jesus. Maybe Maia was trying to impress Fr. Pablo. Anyway, this morning I got the crucifix down for Eva and in the video above she's dancing while attempting to kiss Jesus (you might notice that her kisses don't coincide well with when she has Jesus by her mouth - she's just learning how to kiss!).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Did Mary run?

(Here's Mary doing something that I do too as a mother... unsurprisingly there are no images of her running.)

On the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, I was taking advantage of Grandpa and Nana's treadmill when Maia joined me in the basement and hopped on the elliptical stepper. "Hi, Mom," she said, "I think I'm going to do some exercise."

"Good idea," I panted.

She looked over at me sweating and running and a thoughtful look came upon her.

"Did Mary run?" she asked me.

What a great question for the feast... I paused in praying my Rosary (ah, middle-class asceticism!) and as I continued running I thought about what I could say in answer... I was thinking back to the historical time period and Mary's cultural background and thought it fairly certain that Mary probably wasn't a runner, though no doubt an excellent walker.

"She probably ran when she was a little girl, but after that I'm not sure." I told Maia.

And as I went back to my Rosary, I mused about why I'm so OCD about something that was unnecessary for the sanctity of the Blessed Virgin. I strive to be a mother like she was a mother, but sometimes the difference in time and culture is brought out by the questions of a three-year old, who can make the celestial seem oh, so practical and real.

The End of Christmas...

(The family on Christmas Eve)

I always want to get the most from each liturgical season, and with Christmas coming to a close on Sunday, I feel like I have not adequately experienced it. Part of this is due to a whilrwind two and a half weeks of traveling wherein it's been tough to make it to daily Mass and wherein - the absolute worst part of our trip (worse even then getting vomited on) - I apparently left my prayer book on an airplane. I'm still mourning the loss and borrowing Jeff's for the meantime (well, actually, the one I lost was Jeff's, and the one I'm using now was a wedding gift to both of us).

(The girls opening gifts on Christmas morning)
Advent was great this year, however. It was nice for once not be ruled by the academic calendar and free to enjoy the liturgical calendar. Save for my daily piece of chocolate from my Advent calendar, I gave up sweets for Advent, and it really helped me be more aware of the season, since I also basically gave up baking for Advent. Since a few pieces of Maia's wooden nativity set walked off, we got the girls the deluxe Fisher Price Nativity set this year for St. Nicholas Day, and Maia and I had a blast acting out the Nativity story during Advent.

On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, we went to Mass as a family (I sat with Maia in a side transcept and Jeff with Eva in the back of the main transcept - a trick we learned from a father of six. We don't do this at Sunday Masses, but at daily Masses it has worked wonders...). Then we took Maia to preschool, where we were reminded that they were having their first "chapel time." As we walked out the door, Jeff immediately began panicking about what Methodists might say to disillusion our daughter of her Catholicism. But he wasn't scared enough to want to stay for chapel time (we were invited).

When we came back to pick her up, her teacher informed us that everyone was very impressed with how much Maia knew about the Christmas story. She said that even the pastor was amazed with her knowledge. We tried to get Maia to tell us about what she had said, but she wouldn't. I had visions of her telling everyone about the annunciation, the visitation, the census decree, or perhaps the slaughter of the Holy Innocents- all of these things are included when we act out the Nativity.

(Santa goes for a ride in the new doll stroller)

Today Jeff and Maia were supposed to be acting out the Nativity, but when Jeff plays with it, the story takes strange turns, like Joseph deciding to ride in the wagon while Mary pulls the cow who is leading the cart. Yes, I know it's funny, but I still sometimes get annoyed with these antics. But I guess it's better than their arguing about where the camel was supposed to be and why Mary would be riding a cow instead of a donkey ("The donkey is lost, Dad, that's why!") and why they couldn't just throw Jesus in the back of the cart. At least it made me feel like Christmas is still on.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Christmas, Sleep Deprivation, and the Desert Fathers

Earlier this fall I read a bit of the desert fathers, and one of the themes that really stood out to me was their enthusiasm for sleep deprivation. For those of us with kids, sleep deprivation is basically a part of life, but it is one that we always bemoan rather than celebrate. That's not to say that I don't appreciate those middle-of-the-night moments of silent prayer (not to mention the pleading to God, Mary, all the angels and saints, that the child will fall back asleep). But few of us who joyfully anticipate parenthood are prepared for the intermittent lack of sleep that comes with it.

I've found that, in general, cosleeping has allowed us to avoid the worst of the lack of sleep problems, but there are always those moments where you plan on a good night's rest only to find that your child is sprouting a tooth. Yes, parenthood is a lot of unanticipated opportunities for self-sacrifice, mortification, if you will, that the desert fathers purposely sought and that parents, however reluctant, can use to grow closer to God.

Christmas Eve in Iowa was "icey and dicey" as one newspaper warned. We managed to make it to a lovely Mass, however, at the small parish where I was baptized, had first communion, first confession, and confirmation. I enjoyed the service, but I also got a work-out holding onto Eva - up, down, up, down, to the side, under the pew, and you name it. As the service ended, Auntie Tricia and Uncle Jeremy offered to take Maia to see the Nativity set. She assented, then changed her mind and told her daddy that actually, she needed to vomit. Jeff, who is always attentive to the kids' health, fought his way through the crowds by using urgent announcements that our daughter was about to vomit.

Through the faithful, out the doors, leaning over the ramp (did I mention Maia wasn't wearing a coat?), Maia vomited into the snowy bushes. The next morning the first thing she said was that she was hungry, so we deduced the culprit was not of the viral or bacterial sort but rather, perhaps a bit too many sweets and unusual foods.

A few days later, we were on an airplane heading to Cleveland. Our "continuous with brief stop in Chicago" flight suddenly became a two-hour layover, switch to another plane flight. We were stuck having to eat dinner (or some kind of imitation thereof) at the airport, and instead of arriving right before the kids' bedtime, we arrived half an hour afterward. After the exhausting journey, and waking up at 5:00 a.m. CST (our kids were operating on EST) every morning for the previous week, I was thrilled to climb into bed.

Baby was sleeping in the portacrib, Dad and Maia were in a different room, different bed. At some point Eva woke up and I moved her to my bed. Then at some point I realized she had woken up again. She was crying but didn't want a drink. I reached out for her and encountered her just as I had a multi-sensory experience: the feel of warm, wet vomit on my arm, the smell of vomit, and the sound of a vomiting baby. I had picked her up, so she proceeded to finish vomiting all over our bed.

Is there anything that can improve upon the mortification of sleep deprivation better than coupling it with vomit? St. Anthony of the Desert would have envied this opportunity.

The situation necessitated my waking the baby daddy so he could hold vomit-smeared baby while I changed out of my pajama shirt. Jeff also stripped the bed for us and helped us put another bed onto the ground while I cleaned off (as best I could) myself and Eva.

The culprit once again seemed to be food - this time that funky, disgusting airport pretzel that marauded as "dinner" when we were unexpectedly trapped at Midway. Eva was fine the next morning, or, I should say, she was fine within an hour when she nursed the first of four times during that night. She doesn't usually do that these days, and, when she does, I barely wake up for it. This time, however, I was terrified of a vomit-repeat and slept uneasily each time after a feeding.

And as I lay awake preparing myself for the next round of unchosen mortification, I remembered another time, a similar situation. I was a full-time doctoral student, full-time mother, and Jeff was away at a conference hoping to land a job so that we might actually (gasp) have some financial stability. My sister and her fiance were to visit the next day, I had had an exhuasting week averaging four hours of sleep each night in order to get work done on my papers while also grading exams for my GA work. I had met with my spiritual director that day, and he was all sympathy and compassion, supportive of my endeavors and my spiritual stress and encouraging me to find some way take away some of the burdens of my dual vocation.

When I went to bed that night, I thought to myself, he doesn't know what he's talking about. Sure, I'm exhuasted, sure, I've taken on too much, sure, Jeff and I have tensions about all of our work, sure we don't have much money, sure, I can't be the kind of mom I want to be in this situation, sure, I can't be the kind of a doctoral student I want to be and, in short, it's been one heck of a week. But really, Fr. Jim doesn't know what he's talking about - here I am, curling up with my baby at 9:30 at night, eagerly anticipating a weekend off and the companionship of my sister. It's a lot of hard work, but life is good. Or as a friend used to say, "When the going gets tought, just remember you're living your dream."

I drifted easily off to sleep, only to awaken within a couple of hours to Maia vomiting all over me and the queen-sized bed.

But I digress and the details of that night are unimportant... as I lay awake several nights ago with a different post-vomit baby, I thought back to the wondeful ways that God has provided me to grow in holiness, from being vomited upon to having an unexpected two-hour layover during a "continuous" flight.

And, in the background of these thoughts was the gently playing melody of Adeste Fideles.

Merry Christmas!