Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Food for Thought (literally).

One of my biggest fears before getting married was my complete inability to cook. Mark didn't cook, I didn't cook, and the stories I have about kitchen mishaps and outright disasters abound the first few years of our marriage.

While plenty of marriages have husbands gifted in culinary skills, I knew that this was something I wanted to be good at. My desire was to be at home with our children, and I knew that to do this would shift the roles of our household to make me the primary food maker. This was a daunting order for a girl who could live off rice, raw veggies, and peanut butter for the rest of her life.

It was nearly four or five years in to our marriage that I finally felt like we had a groove. I could make decent dinners, and we even hosted guests at our house with me doing all the cooking. I had come a long way. Still, as one child turned to three, and three has turned into another on the way, there are still wide gaps that need improvement. The first one is lunch. We don't love sandwiches, and I like to save my chopping and pots and pans for dinner. The second is baking.

For the past seven years, I can count on one hand the number of times I actually baked. The Ritz crackers I put peanut butter on and dip in chocolate don't count. There were a number of attempts at cookies that were either to crumbly or hard as a rock, and banana bread that overflowed from the loaf pan so much it started a fire. No, I resigned myself, baking is not for me.

Then, as we get more settled in our home and the cupboards seemed chronically bare from the boxes of processed junk that didn't last more than one snacktime, something shifted. After a $6.00 box of Goldfish crackers evaporated the day after I bought it, and the pop tarts I bought as a treat caused a battle of the wills with begging children constantly asking for more,I began to wonder if I could try baking again.

My theory was that I would save a ton of money on snack food if the boys had a muffin or sweet breads available to them at snack times, and that if I did make cookies and treats regularly, the sugar rationing I previously had in place wouldn't turn them into monster-sugar-bingers. After all, I rationalized, my flour, eggs and sugar can't be any more unhealthy than Fruit Roll-Ups and Cheez-Its.

There was something else, too. I had visions of being that mom, who emanated warmth and happiness from the love she put into cooking for her family. Love it or hate it, there is something remarkably special about food and togetherness. We are all together in the breaking of the bread. It's significant in all cultures, and I wanted food to be part of that special haven my children call their home.

Now that the summer is drawing to a close, I am satisfied where I have come in this self-improvement category. I not only baked cookies, but I baked good cookies, in many varieties, no less. I tinkered with a banana bread recipe until (just yesterday!) I told the boys that I just might have got it right. The banana muffins that were previously my only card to play in the baking department, has now grown to several types of muffins, including one I'm working on delightfully called "Carmel Apple Cinnamon."

"It's not all hopeless", I would have told myself seven years ago as a new bride. "You can do this, and you can be good at it. Maybe someday you can be really good."

And let me just tell you, that the Hesitant Homemaker didn't get this name for nothing. If the girl who googled how to make a baked potato can learn to bake, and actually find some enjoyment in it, there is hope for everyone.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Birth, undecided.

We've had one hospital birth with a lot of interventions, one hospital birth go so fast that the delivery happened unassisted, and then our third birth which we planned at home with a midwife.

The homebirth was the best birth, for many reasons. I love homebirth, and I don't love hospital birth, so it would seem natural that the decision of where to deliver our baby in December would be an easy one.

But it's not.

The simple reason for this is fear.

As safe as birth is, as capable as our bodies are, there is still so much fear involved. You cannot predict or plan birth. You can prepare and anticipate, and if you've had more than one birth already, know within reason how your body will respond to the demands, but largely, each birth feels like entering into the unknown.

When we were planning Michael's homebirth, I read every book I could find on the subject, and was convinced at what homebirths advocated--that for those mothers who were good candidates, homebirth was   comparatively a very safe option.

So, why all the doubt all of a sudden?

It's not me, really, it's mostly Mark. He was/is nervous. There's a chance the midwife won't make it, and a chance that something could go wrong. Those are very valid concerns, and something that no amount of planning can predict. We've known people who have delivered unassisted (this is not okay with me, neither Mark or I are medically trained) and people who despite standard prenatal care have delivered babies that necessitated a medical emergency. These complications can be so random, and it is hard not to think that we might be leaving the health of our child to chance.

On the flip side, hospital delivery for me hasn't been a walk in the park. It takes multiple (3-6) attempts to start an IV, I have trouble communicating my needs and advocating for myself, and the thought of not being able to hold my newborn immediately following birth without him being taken away from me to be washed, given antibiotics and a Vitamin K shot is agonizing to me, especially after having been able to have the beautiful opportunity to hold Michael, and bond with him in his first moments. That experience was priceless, and in the same way I fear birth complications, I fear policy preventing such an important moment in the life of a mother and child.

There are so many things we're weighing these days--being able to stay at home and not rushing to the hospital (my last two deliveries have been fast), but, it is nice to have nurses take care of the dirty linens, drinks and meals. I worry about coping with labor in a hospital, when I know I am able to tolerate it when I am comfortable in my own home.

Really, now that I am noticeably, unmistakably pregnant, this issue is all-consuming to my thoughts. We are simply undecided. I'm thankful we have safe options available to us, and my healthy pregnancies have afforded this conversation in the first place. I want to do the right thing for us in this situation. I was confident that our last delivery was the right thing to do, and I am waiting in prayer as we try to maneuver another chapter.


"Luke, could you bring this meat out to the freezer?"
"Will I need my whip?"
"Um, no."

"Luke, would you please take this box out to the trash?"
"Do I need to bring a knife?"

Thursday, August 16, 2012

To Love.

One of the most beautiful parts of raising children is learning to love their childhood.

It sounds easy enough. Newborns are so easy to love, infants with their wide eyes and big grins woo you over, too. Mischievous toddlers get away with just about everything because they are so funny and get such a kick out of life.

But then, around three years old, something changes. People aren't quite as enamored with the shenanigans, parents actually have to discipline their charges, and while it was always exhausting, the exhausted mother needs a break from it all every once in a while. It gets a little harder to love their littleness, clumsiness, and inability to control their tempers and emotions. We don't love them any less, but their mere childhood becomes frustrating.
There are some people who don't like children, and while I can't really relate to their perspective, I think it must have to do with children's lack of coordination and emotional control--their childishness itself, regardless of how sweet and well-mannered they might be.

While I don't do jumping jacks when my kids spill apple juice all over the floor, or when the toddler throws my freshly folded laundry out of the basket, by some miracle, I'm kinda over it. I mean, it's what they do, and  getting frustrated about it doesn't change a thing. Even if I freak out, they're still little and klutsy and curious.
When my children tell me their troubles--that they want to play pirates while their playmates want to play house, how can I not smile, and marvel at the endearing parts of what makes up a child. To watch them play pirates, to witness their pretend, and the unraveling of plans as the afternoon escapes structure and turns into a wonder of imagination--this is what childhoods are made of.

It melts me.

Grief still surrounds loved ones and friends this week. It clings to the laughter of my children despite their lack of understanding. I hold them closer, watch them play longer, and maybe say "yes" a few more times than I'm known. Because, when it all comes down it, love is what matters. And to love a child and all their frustrating childishness, is to be blessed beyond comprehension.
"It is love alone that counts." 
St. Therese of Lisieux

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Task at Hand.

We are in full planning mode around here now. The special shoes my kids need are ordered for the Fall (Extra Wide...all three kids), and each day this week we are expecting deliveries for the different materials we need for this upcoming year.

We're homeschooling this year. Oh my. I've blogged a lot about this in the past, but this is the first year that it is absolutely real, the year we actually are keeping a child home and out of school. Despite homeschooling being a mainstream and super legit thing to do, writing it down in words seems like a heroic act, with some people feeling very bothered by the idea. With homeschooling's  proven track record, and our dedication to all of our children's education and formation, I'm not interested in debating our decisions, but I do like sharing what we're doing, and hearing what others are doing, too. We are following in the footsteps of many families, and some are just like us--starting their first year!!! :-) .

Here's what our Fall semester lineup looks like! And, thankfully, each of these programs has been tried and tested by at least one family close enough to me that I can bug them endlessly on the how the program works, and it's effectiveness.

Math: Rightstart B. We got through Rightstart A last year, and I was blown away at the way math was taught. Concepts are actually understood, not memorized.This program is daunting because it is different from the way math is taught in America (it is based on Japanese math, and uses an abacus, groupings of 10, etc.).

Science Nancy Larson Science 1. I am SO excited about this program. It is primary science, but not watered down and not so basic that the child doesn't learn anything. It's hands-on, uses a rich vocabulary, experiments, and observations. I am guessing this will be a favorite subject

Language Arts: Institute for Excellence in Writing. We wanted rigorous and coherent language arts program that left no gaps, and taught students to be excellent readers, comprehenders, and spellers. We are several lessons into this already, and I am impressed and hopeful that a great reader will emerge!

History/Social Studies/Relgion/Geography: Connecting with History. This program is the same for K-12, only the reading lists change each year. The concept is Classical in approach, with repeating time periods throughout a child's education. It is living-books based, and I am hopeful, even though the material is overwhelming for a first time mom!

Throw in some Seton handwriting and Maps workbook, a few sports, piano lessons, art projects planned in the content area (because what good is learning if you can't connect it to other learning?), and we have our Kindergarten year.

The planning is nearly complete, we're almost ready to start. It feels a little rigorous, especially for a six year old, but maybe I'll be wrong, or maybe we'll adjust. Just starting out, I like the idea of being a bit accelerated, which will give us more wiggle room if we want to dive more deeply into an interesting subject, need a break, or focus more deeply on celebrating the liturgical seasons.

How is everyone else's planning going? Homeschooling curriculum all set? School schools getting broken in at home? It's a lot to plan for regardless of if your child is going away for school, or being taught at home.

Here we go, here we go, here we go!!!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

With Joy.

We are a-buzzing over here in the sweltering humidity of Minnesota. It's wedding week. A family wedding means lots, and lots of people around, and parties galore.

It's a very joyful time. At the culmination of the week is the wedding, a beautiful sacrament that I can't wait to witness. Since my husband, his siblings, and all their spouses are Franciscan University of Steubenville grads, when one of their siblings get married, who also come from strings of family all with FUS grads, it is one amazing get-together.

This week, from all across the country, all congregated in our town of 534, are loads of FUS grads and their children. Getting to visit with all of these beautiful people and their children is truly a joy to my heart, and I have been uplifted from all the laughter and visiting.

There was also a new baby born into the family this week. LOVE! It seems that at all these get-together, it's always a string of congrats to those who are expecting and those recently had their babies. The atmosphere is so incredibly pro-life, pro-family, and joy-filled to the brim.

With this joyful week nearly over, we also have family and friends close to us who are suffering immensely. Can there ever be joy without suffering? I don't think so. The two seem to run alongside one another to keep our perspective on the eternal. Along with the celebration of new life and a lovely couple, others are grieving deeply and facing trials most will never experience in a lifetime. Our prayers are with them all, those in JOY and those in PAIN. Christ is there in it all, and thankfully, in our circles, that is recognized profoundly.

"The Lord giveth, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. 
Job 1:21