Saturday, April 8, 2017

Seven Quick Takes (Vol. 21): The Lent-est of Takes

1. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person trying to live a good Lent will find lots of things to detach from-things they weren't even looking to give up. Let me explain, no there is too much, let me sum up: 

Right around when spring break started is when all the dominoes started to fall. A broken a/c, an $800 bill to repair said a/c, canceled trips to the beach (see a/c repair), late night drives to the ER for bad croup, return trips home from the ER when 3 year olds magically improve the minute you pull into the ER parking lot, canceled trips to the rodeo (see trips to the ER), broken engine mounts in cars that are only 3 years old, power outages, and remember that a/c repair? It lasted only 2 weeks before the diagnosis was: we're gonna need to replace the entire HVAC system. Sigh. Silver lining? Replacing an HVAC in March is far more pleasant than replacing one in August. 

2. A good (quick) Lenten read: "The Mental Sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion" a homily by Cardinal John Henry Newman. This English major is rusty, and the diction took a bit to get used to, but here's a money quote:
"Oh, who does not know the misery of a haunting thought which comes again and again, in spite of rejection, to annoy, if it cannot seduce? or of some odious and sickening imagination, in no sense one’s own, but forced upon the mind from without? or of evil knowledge, gained with or without a man’s fault, but which he would give a great price to be rid of at once and for ever? And adversaries such as these gather around Thee, Blessed Lord..."

3. Some Lenten viewing: The Letters, available on Netflix, starring Juliet Stevenson. Credit for this one goes to my sister Jessica. Inspiring to say the least. Lots of pondering after about "how should one spend a life", and more to the point, "how how should one spend one's love?" Now I want to read this book to get to know Mother Teresa better.

4. Some Lenten eating: For a while now, Mark and I have been following a ketogenic diet, more on that another day. So fish sticks and macaroni & cheese are out when it comes to Lenten meals. This tuna salad recipe is what I have for lunch, (it's the best in the world) and dinner is whatever cut of salmon is on sale, lightly smoked on the grill (doesn't that sound posh?) with another America's Test Kitchen Recipe-Quick Green Bean Casserole. The recipe is behind a paywall, but here are the salient details-fresh green beans, sliced baby bella mushrooms, shallots, cream and chicken broth, they use some flour, but I leave it out. No Cream of Mushroom soup involved. Both of these recipes fit the criteria for THM S meals, and are ketogenic compliant. 

5. Some Lenten fasting: So I gave up Facebook before Christmas. The political vitriol from all sides post-election was a convenient nudge. I liked it so much, I decided to keep going. It's been very freeing. Now when I want to share something funny, I text a friend or one of my sisters-yay for real human interaction. Of course, not having an active account on Facebook means the readership for this post will probably be in the single digits, but on the upside, I'm no longer compelled to form opinions about every tempest in a teapot that comes along. It also means I need to find another news source. Instagram doesn't really keep me up on current events.

And then I took the screen fasting to a whole 'nother level, turned into my mother, and decided Isaac was giving up screen time too. The detox has only lasted about a week and a half, and I can't even say he's 100% screen sober, but it's made such a difference in the way he acts at school that his teachers thought he was sick (read: calm)! Mom guilt, party of one.

6. Speaking of Isaac, so far his sense of Lent/Holy Week/Easter is mainly a vague sense of foreboding that there's a lot of church coming up in the near future. We need to start celebrating more saint feast days that don't involve being brought gifts. When I was telling him about St. Patrick's Day, he announced, "He can bring me presents, just like St. Nicholas!" The Easter Bunny nabbed the complete set of Beatrix Potter books on Ebay for not an arm and a leg, so Isaac will probably be raising him to sainthood soon.


Hammering his very own Easter basket
7. And, to round things out, in the space between this post going from draft to published, our sewer line clogged. Mark's heading out to rent a 100 ft auger as I type. Happy Lenting everyone!

Linking up with Kelly, a day late and a dollar short.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Seven Quick Takes (Vol. 20)

Kelly's got a link-toberfest extravaganza going on this week, and really all month, to celebrate the 7th anniversary of Seven Quick Takes. I missed answering last week's featured question since we were traveling (see #5) What was your first quick takes post? Mine was way back in June of 2011. It featured commentary on short stories my first graders wrote for the end of the school year. Their stories were way better than my quick takes. And in answer to this week's question, this is my 20th Seven Quick Takes Post.


We're celebrating Isaac's birthday this weekend and I tried to make his cookie cake this morning. Lesson learned: One does not double an Ina Garten recipe and expect it to fit in a slightly bigger pan. Looks like I'll be starting over this afternoon. The longer I baked this one, the more spilled over the sides. Hopefully the burned cookie on the bottom of the oven won't affect the flavor too much.

Lots of lovely ladies in my part of town have been having babies. Including this one. Chances are, if I bring you a meal after you've had a baby, you will be getting one of two recipes. Irish Stew with Mashed Potatoes or Carnitas & Mexican Rice. Both can be made in a slow cooker, for those days when your heart is telling you it's stew season, but your mind is saying, "It's 95 degrees!"

My birthday was the last Friday of September. Earlier in the week, I was at a doctor's appointment (#notpregnant). She noticed my birthday coming up, and asked our plans. I mentioned we'd been having a hard time finding a sitter, so she wrote down the information for a babysitting service of grandmothers that they use and love. On her prescription pad. Date night as prescribed medical care? I'll take it.

Taking advantage of Isaac's last few weeks of free travel, he and I accompanied Mark on a work trip to San Diego. While dad sat in conferences, we went to La Jolla Cove, and the San Diego Zoo. I think we chose the better part. 

Enjoying his California Adventures

On a whim, we drove up to Anaheim early Saturday morning for a day at Disneyland and called it an early birthday present for Isaac. In doing so, we broke the cardinal rule of Disney going- plan your trip around the crowds. Of course the one random Saturday we decided to go would end up being the most crowded day of 2015. Good thing we followed the other Disney rule of getting to the park right when it opened. The first two hours were when we were able to do the most. By 10 am even the line for beignets was 45 minutes long. We clocked 11 miles of stroller pushing. At the end of the day we were glad we'd come, but decided, if there's a next time, it'll be
in Orlando.


When we ask the professional photographer to take a picture with our phones

And when we try ourselves, I think we'll stick with the professionals

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Stretching-the-Season Fall Wreath

A few weeks ago, one trip to Hobby Lobby + one nap time + one Amazon Prime shipment = 


Not too bad, right? My favorite part about this wreath is the color scheme. It says fall, but the cranberry color of the apples not only ties in well with the maroon of our door (and shutters) but will keep this wreath looking seasonal well past Thanksgiving, buying some time before the season calls for something more wintery. As an added bonus, the browns in the pinecones and eucalyptus help tie-in the brown of any bare spots where the wreath shows through, making that look intentional, not sloppy. Wink.

Here's how I made it happen. I started with this tutorial, but with a smaller wreath, so I didn't need as many flowers. What I did need:

1 18" grapevine wreath
3 burlap roses
2 stems of crab apples
2-3 stems of brown eucalyptus
4-5 stems of cream chrysanthemums
1 stem of miniature pine cones
Floral wire
Heavy Duty wire cutters
Close ups of the florals used
My wreath wasn't perfectly round, so the most lopsided edge became my starting point. The fullness of the roses rounded that part out so it's not really noticeable anymore.

Station break for iphone "in progress" photos. You will need to vacuum the rug you build this on

The underbelly
As suggested in the tutorial, I was mostly able to weave the wire stems of the flowers into the vines to secure them. But for things that "stick out" like the eucalyptus and pinecones, I used wire to tie them down so they would lay where I wanted them.

These flowers are not going anywhere

For hanging the wreath, magnetic wreath hangers were useless; they slid down or popped off immediately. Double paned leaded glass might have something to do with that. Since our door is painted, I didn't want to use a metal hanger that could damage the paint as it rubbed. Amazon Prime came through with this intense suction cup, and though I was skeptical, it's worked like a dream.

Sturdy and not even very noticeable
So there you have it, a naptime-sized project of a DIY wreath. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Blisters and Broken Legs

Picking up where we left off, I’ve still got post-partum thoughts rattling around in my brain almost two years later. What better place to put them than here?

After 5 weeks of hospital bed rest, 10 weeks in the NICU, an extra bonus surgery for me, a simple Christmas, and an emergency surgery for Isaac as the cherry on top, we threw all our stuff in a moving van and finally settled into our new house. And we lived happily ever after. Except we didn’t. Or at least I didn’t. There was still a pumping schedule, a baby who wouldn’t sleep unless my face was touching his, the piles of boxes to unpack taunting me as I was chained to a pump, not mention the piles of emotions I hadn’t unpacked either.

One evening, I found myself awkwardly sitting on a couch in a therapist’s office, making very stilted small talk. He saw right through me, and cut to the chase, “You’re a busy new mom, I know there’s a reason you’re here” but even then I couldn’t bring myself to open up. Finally he said, “I get the sense that you don’t think you’re allowed to be here.” And he was right. My baby lived, his life was miraculously spared not once, not twice, but three times, our NICU stay was smooth, motherhood was what I had wanted for years. This is what I had always wanted. There were people out there who were sicker, sadder, lonelier, and we’d been abundantly blessed. With our abundance of blessings, wasn’t it ungrateful for me to be struggling?

Luckily, he disagreed. Here’s how he explained: If you’re hiking and get a blister, every step you take is painful. Sure there might be someone further ahead on the trail who’s broken a leg. Of course, they’ve got severe injuries that need care and attention. But that still doesn’t change the fact that the blister is painful, and that it hinders any progress you make. Acknowledging the blister in no way discredits the pain of the person with a broken leg.

I don’t share this with you to air out the nitty-gritty of my private therapy sessions, but because we all buy into this lie from time to time. We don’t think our troubles are big enough for attention because we know of someone who’s suffering more. How does our reluctance to admit to our struggles help those with heavier crosses? It doesn’t. There’s enough mercy and consolation to go around. Sometimes, we’ll have blisters, sometimes we’ll be the one with a broken leg. One person’s blister could be another person’s broken leg (this analogy is a dead horse now, right? I'll stop, you’re welcome). Two years later, I’m glad to have gotten some ointment for my “blisters,” they’re mostly a memory. If you have some nagging blisters, I hope you get some balm for them too.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Five Favorites: The Post-Partum You

So thrilled to be linking up with this week's host of Five Faves, Mary Kate!

Now, down to business, could I have come up with a cornier title? Nope. I tried. You're welcome. I don't think I get to say post-partum anymore since we're two weeks shy of a year, but from the other side, these are the things that made me feel not so much like death-warmed-over.

Eyeliner. In the unfortunate event that seeing your baby requires going out in public. Eyeliner. Even if you don't plan on leaving the house for many many days, those glimpses in the mirror will look that much less haggard. And you'll like it, I promise. I used to steer clear of eyeliner thinking it was setting the bar way too high for a daily routine. A friend once told me she could never not wear eyeliner because since everyone was used to seeing her with it on, without it even the people she lived with were convinced she had a cold. That stayed with me and I didn't think I was up for the challenge. I was wrong, forgive me, eyeliner. 

You hardly notice I'm still in pajamas because eyeliner
Sticking with the theme of eyes for a second, an eye brow wax. One of my aunts calls it the cheapest facelift money can buy. A $10 facelift? Get one.

And while you're at the salon anyway, a haircut. Be honest, it's just a matter of weeks before it all starts falling out anyway. I'm a firm believer that the temptation to chop your hair off in pregnancy is really just a desire to not look pregnant anymore. But now you're not pregnant, so chop away my friend. And take your biotin for the hair loss.

Jeans that fit. Have you ever read a blog post about a woman who bought a pair of postpartum jeans and regretted it? Nope, didn't think so. So bite the bullet and don't look at the size. Bonus points for a higher rise to go easy on your diastasis recti and or c-section scar. 

And on a much less light hearted note, therapy. Even if you think its just a phase and you'll get through. Even if all you ever wanted was to be a mother, so you're afraid to admit life's got you down. Even if you're terrified that you'll fork over the cash for a therapy session only to have them tell you you're over reacting, which they won't. If the thought has crossed your mind that talking to someone might help, do it. Is this a necessity for every new mom? Of course not, and we all have our bad days, but at least give it a good think. Healthy babies need happy mamas, and your husband won't mind it either. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


It's been a year since a routine, follow-up anatomy scan changed everything. At 22 weeks, I was dilated 2 cm, bulging amniotic sac, and 100% effaced. I was admitted to the hospital, and given a rescue cerclage.

Allow me to indulge in a little looking back at the two days that kicked off our 100 days of hospital. I'm the mom who relegated most of the updates of Isaac's NICU stay to 7 Quick Takes, so I think I'm allowed this one. Smiley face emoji.

Today, I'm remembering:

//The long walk from maternal fetal medicine to labor & delivery triage. Seriously, why were they letting me walk??? It was at least 48 hours before I was allowed to stand up again.

//Dispatching Mark for the essentials: Chik-fil-A and my phone charger while I got checked in. My battery was dying and we had lots of people we needed to get ahold of. Later, asking if I was allowed to sit up to eat.

//Being scolded by nurses and orderlies as I transferred from the gurney to the bed in the antepartum unit. It hadn't sunk in yet just how dire things were and all I wanted was to get off that hard plank, as quickly as possible.

//The slightly overbearing and way overly chipper student nurse who didn't even give me and Mark a moment alone before I headed off to general anesthesia. She would ask things like, "how do you plan to use your time well, now that you're in the hospital?" I'm sure she meant well...

//The tearful conversation with the on-call neonatologist as she honestly portrayed the risks and decisions we'd have to make if the procedure broke my water and Isaac was born right then. How that conversation ended with me sobbing after each potential complication, "he'll still be our baby."

//The consoling conversation that followed with a dear and fatherly priest. He'd counseled me before in our cross of infertility, and now he counseled us that we wouldn't be in the wrong or bad parents if we wanted to hold our baby, and snuggle him in his last moments. It was ok to want to fill his last moments with the love only a mother and father can give instead of desperate pricks and pokes in an all but futile attempt to save a 22 week old baby.

//My dr. asking for some of the holy water Mark had smuggled into pre-op in an empty soda bottle. Asking her to baptize Isaac if he was born during the procedure.

//The on-call maternal fetal medicine doctor telling us that everything went beautifully. Reassuring us that it we would be on pins and needles until we made it 24 weeks/viability but also promising that "we could hope for much more."

//And all the miracles that followed.

This blanket was made for Isaac by the mother of one of my kindergarteners, the ones I only taught for 20 days. In her note, she told me, "every stitch became a prayer" We used to be able to swaddle Isaac in that blanket, and now he's way too big and wiggly! But every stitch of that quilt reminds me of all the prayers. And so today, we'll go to the grocery store, and have nap time, eat lots of puffs, run some laundry, try a recipe off of pinterest, and in all of that normal, we're saying thanks for all the prayers answered.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Seven Quick Takes (Vol. 19)

I've finally had to admit to myself that Isaac is no longer of an age where he can nap anywhere. Now, our days are carefully planned around morning nap and afternoon nap, and do we dare for an early evening nap? My mind is continuously full of contingency-plan schedules. I have to admit, this wasn't really one of the challenges of motherhood I'd considered. We've found a pretty good groove, I'm ready for  more on my plate, and as an extrovert, long to be out and about, but those naps are not to be tampered with. There was a saint who said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "a very great deal depends on whether you live your life as God wants" what I think he meant to say was "a very great deal depends on how nap time goes."

Has anyone tried out Kindle Unlimited? I signed up for the free 30-day trial because I could get this month's book club pick on it for free. Maybe my interests are too obscure, but I keep finding that "unlimited" is a very loose term.

This year, I'm turning 30. I have very little wisdom to show for it. But this I do know, I'm kidding my self if I think it'll be ok not to blow-dry my bangs.

A few weeks ago, we flew to Chicago so the youngest cousins could meet and so I could be there for my god-daughter's baptism. We had one job. One job. Get to the church on time. We were definitely a good 15 minutes late. My brother-in-law was standing outside the church to make sure we got the best parking spot. Every other family, all with many more children than we had to get ready, were all sitting, and waiting, at the front of the church. No sooner than I had sat down in my waiting place in the very first pew, my phone very loudly announced, "you have arrived at your destination." Blush.

Since the spring, I've been meal planning using Google Calendar. I set up a dedicated calendar just for meals and it's worked great. Moving meals around if something comes up is a cinch and whenever we get into a meal rut, I scroll back a few months to see what we were having for dinner then, and voila! no more rut!

My first foray into blogging was actually reading infertility blogs. And one infertility blog always stood out head and shoulder above the rest. This particular blogger is kind of like the fairy godmother of other women with IF, she even has a wand. And this week, she shared with the internet the most joyous news of all. Eight years of waiting and suffering and learning acceptance. Eight years.


There's another family I know who isn't having quite so great a year. A mother with a chronic illness, a teenager with severe autism, and now a 3 year old with cancer. You can read more about their challenges on the go fund me page, and even if you can't spare a dime, no prayer is wasted. My faith tells me that God has a plan, and his plans are always good, but my gut says, "couldn't you pick on someone else for a change?"

Jen it's great to have you and your takes back