Thursday, December 31, 2009

10 Questions to Encourage Engaged Parenting in 2010

A great set of questions from, worth pondering on a rainy New Year's Eve when I'm stuck at home sick, listening to the pathetic wheezing of my 1 year old and the coughing of my three year old. Here's my run-down. Anyone else?

Parenting Personality
1. How do you think your children have experienced you as a parent in 2009?
I’ve been something of a roller-coaster parent, I think. There have been high points of patience and new understanding, as I’ve begun to decipher my three-year old’s temperament, but there’s been low points of anger, short-temperedness, and annoyance. I think this year has been a jumble, with a lot of changes in our home (two moves) and a lot of changes in our lives (a baby who went from a little sleepy bundle to a walking almost-talking, almost-toddler), and my parenting is jumbled as well.

2. How do you want your children to experience you as a parent in 2010?

If Gabriel-and-Peter-as-adults could remember me in 2010, I would hope they would describe me as:
  • Prayerful
  • Smiling (ah, the mother's smile, so hard to find some days!)
  • Constant (a constant loving presence, engaging in constant routines, and calmly enforcing constant limits--even if difficult)
  • Giving (to my husband and to them)
Hit the Highlights
3. What aspects of parenting brought you the most joy in 2009?
Making time to be in nature with the boys during the week, and spending our free family time hiking or camping.

4. What are you looking forward to with great anticipation in 2010?
I don’t really have anything in mind... maybe this means we need to make some fun summer plans to look forward to.

Strengths and Challenges
5. As you survey your parenting toolbox, which tools do find to be working well for your family, and which tools could use some sharpening?
Sometimes I feel like nothing is working well with Gabriel, my three year old. He takes so much energy, it is like I can only do a good job with him when I am 100% rested, 100% present, 100% on top of my game. However, there has been a very important thing that has helped me more than anything else: make a connection before giving a direction. This idea--from Hold on to Your Kids-- is so good for Gabriel. If I call down the stairs "It's lunch time, come up and wash your hands" while he is playing in the basement, he will literally scream because he is so flustered at being interrupted in whatever he is doing. If I walk down the stairs, play with him for as little as 30 seconds, admire his work, whatever-- and then say that it is time for lunch, usually he will cheerfully bound up the stairs. The latter scenario takes more effort, and sometimes I stubbornly don't do it, thinking "he should just obey me." This usually has an effect of spiralling awfulness-- screams from Gabriel, more commands from me... the connection is really worth it.

That being said, I think the tool that needs most sharpening is the spousal help-tool. I think Michael and I need to talk more about how to approach parenting. We can learn a lot from one another, it's just a question of sitting down and talking about our parenting in an intentional way.

Building Connections
6. How have you pursued your children in the past year?
After hearing somewhere that the human psyche needs 5 affirmations for ever criticism made, I've tried hard to affirm Gabriel. In particular, the last moment before he goes to bed, I try to make a point of telling him something positive-- that he did a good job with his brother in a particular situation, or that I had a really good time baking bread with him, etc. Usually this evokes an incredibly positive response. A big smile, an "I had a good time doing that with you too, Mommy," and a hug. I hope that's what he drifts off to sleep thinking about, rather than the tears or the hard moments.

7. What actions will you take to be more engaged with your child in 2010?
I think both Gabriel and Peter need "special Mommy time" and "special Daddy time." When we have the chance to be one-on-one with them, I want to make the most of it, and intentionally do a special activity with them, rather than just trying to get more things done because there's one less child in the picture.

Mending Missteps
8. Is there any aspect of your relationship with your child that has been strained by unforgiveness or regret?
There are so many things that I regret about the last year, so many ways I wish I had done better, so many times I wish I had been more patient, more creative, more understanding. If there's one thing that's beautiful about Gabriel, he is very seemingly very forgiving. I know he's not quite at the stage where he can comprehend what that even means, but he doesn't seem to be one who holds grudges. It's more a question of me needing to forgive myself.

9. Is there an unresolved issue for which you need to offer your child forgiveness, or do you need to ask for forgiveness from your child?
Even though he's only three, there have been times when I have been so unreasonably impatient and short-tempered I have apologized to Gabriel. I think I need to just forgive him for being himself sometimes... he just lives life at a high-octane and sometimes I start to wish he were different. That's certainly not productive, and it doesn't take into account the fact that someday (please God) these difficult-to-handle bursts of energy and willfulness will be used for productive purposes!

10. What actions will you take to nurture a healthy connection with your children in 2010?
I think the number one thing I would like to do is focus on quality time at home. We can be so busy during the week--groceries, playdates, errands, library, Atrium, playschool--that our home time can be so filled with cleaning and tidying and moving on to the next outing. I want to have the time and space at home (or outdoors near home) to do quality activities with the boys.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New for 2010: Traditional Table Tuesday

Everyone who approaches eating with a high degree of intentionality seems to like to label themselves– perhaps because the way they eat is not just about scanning a finger down a menu and choosing one thing rather than another, but it can become a whole way of life. I’m thinking here of vegetarians, vegans, raw foodies, etc. Over the past five years that we’ve been married, my husband and I have been on a gradual path towards becoming quite intentional about what we eat, but we don’t fall into any of those categories. We’ve been drawn, for a variety of reasons, towards becoming “traditional” eaters.

Traditional eating, for our Catholic family, means that we try to:
  • eat foods that have fed and nourished humanity for thousands of years.*
  • purchase food that is local; grown in a sustainable and traditional manner
  • prepare said food in a traditional way–maximizing not only its nutritive value but our understanding of meals as the gift and fruit of labor
  • ponder in ever-greater depth what it means to eat if our God has become Incarnate; if he asks us to take and eat of His very self.
On Tuesdays I will chronicle our adventures in becoming traditional eaters. I'll try to add a suggested booklist and some recipes too, eventually.

*The fascinating findings of Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist who travelled all over the world and observed the eating habits of populations that had been isolated from industrial civilization are well-chronicled elsewhere. The short version is this: he observed diverse populations– from the Inuit in Alaska to isolated mountain-dwelling Swiss villagers to Afrikan tribes– and found that their health, not only dental but all-around, was excellent. He compared these isolated peoples to members of the same racial/cultural groups who had begun to eat the foods of industry– white flour, white sugar, white rice, concentrated fruit juices, among many things–and saw the industrial eaters suffering from a great many more health problems as well as physical and mental debilities. Although we have joined the Weston A. Price Foundation– a group that encourages traditional eating and publishes an interesting a quarterly journal on the subject– I must make a caveat here that I do not wholeheartedly endorse everything this group says and does, for reasons I am feeling out slowly and will discuss here as time goes on.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

You know you're a Catholic family when...

... your son, upon examining the first Pez dispenser he has ever seen, says:

"Mommy, it's opening up its mouth to receive Communion! Can this guy eat the Body of Christ too?"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A birthday letter for Peter

November 17, 2009
Dear Peter,

Today you are one year old! We’ve lived 365 days together since you were born, but the details of this day one year ago are still vivid. I remember realizing as I woke up that morning that your entrance into the world was beginning, slowly but surely. I had enough time to eat a light breakfast, take a shower, and clean up the house. I wore a blue sweatsuit I had borrowed from a friend. Daddy stayed home from work so he could drive me to the hospital, and Grandma came over to take care of Gabriel, because he wouldn’t be able to stay in the hospital while we were there with you. I remember the silly questions the nurse asked me as we checked into the hospital. You were more and more insistent about wanting to come out and be with us, meanwhile I had to respond to questions about if we had stairs in our house, and whether I would be walking up and down them after you were born! Finally we were admitted, and not too long after that–after about 2 hours, and some creative help from our Midwife Wendy–you were with us, wearing your I’ve-just-been-born hospital cap and lying on my chest. Grandma told me it snowed the day you were born. I didn’t know it– you, Daddy, and I were snuggled up together in our room rejoicing that you, Peter Timothy, were finally in our arms!

Thanks to your big brother, I already had practice with the logistics of babies and toddlers. If you were anything like him, you would be happy nursing or being wrapped in the sling or carrier. So I did what seemed best and you were happy, and you shared your happiness with us. The first day you laughed at Gabriel, playing silly games with a baseball cap after dinner, and he laughed back at you, I realized the dynamism that is having another person in our family who can both give and receive joy. Now that I can see this, I pray that someday God will bless us with more children, brothers and sisters for you to tease first smiles and giggles out of, just like Gabriel did with you.

You are your own person, Peter. Gabriel wanted me to hold his hands for three months straight while he was learning to walk; I think I tried that with you once or twice but you preferred to crawl, usually after your brother and whatever exciting thing he was doing. Now that you have learned to walk, you fling yourself into it with gleeful abandon, arms held wide, running towards the next adventure until you lose your balance and plop to the ground. You’re persistent, though. You scramble up, all on your own, and keep going.

The world offers you its treasures and you marvel– yellow ducks, barking dogs, playground slides, bike trailers, tennis balls, sand boxes, and ice cream all elicit exclamations of interest and approval from you. Your smile is contagious, and your hugs (you even pat me on the back sometimes!) are encouraging. I know God sent you to me for a reason–sometimes I can make mothering such a complicated and busy proposition–because without fail your grins entice me to play, to relax, to be. As my second son, my little Peter, you are ushering me into a motherhood of greater fullness–each day I spend with you, I am more aware, less afraid; more appreciative, and less anxious. Here’s to many more years like this one.


(Thanks to Elizabeth Foss for the inspiration to write birthday letters--I can do this, even if I can't keep up with a baby book!)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sacrificial Giving

My little ones and I made a weekday odyssey into downtown Washington, D.C. today. Highlights included my three-year-old crowing “ALL ABOARD!” in the mostly-quiet commuter train, my one-year-old nearly crawling into an indoor fountain in the art museum, and a perfect-for-little-boys exhibit featuring lots of armor and swords. The day also gave us all an unplanned lesson in sacrificial giving.

Just before entering the museum, I paused to rummage around for something in the bottom of the stroller. While we were stopped, an older woman approached us. (Read the rest here...)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest I think my efforts are in vain...

Today as Gabriel, Peter and I were riding in the car to go pick up our veggies and milk from the co-op we participate in, we were listening to the classical music station on the radio. A Mozart piece came on– don’t ask me the name, because I don’t really focus on these things(!)– and I waited for a reaction from Gabriel. Suddenly from the back of the car I hear:

“Mommy! Is that your phone? Is your phone ringing?”
“No, Gabriel. That’s the radio.”
“But, no, Mommy, I hear your phone!”
“Actually, what you hear is the melody my phone plays when it rings. Mozart wrote that melody a long time ago, and now someone is playing it on the piano.”
“Is it Daddy?” [Daddy is our home’s resident pianist and musician extraordinaire...]
“No, it is a different man, or maybe even a woman.”
“Hey...Mozart! That’s like the book we read! Is this the melody he found? Is this Mozart’s melody?!”

At least ten months ago we read a book from the library called Mozart Finds A Melody. Gabriel would have been not quite 2 ½ years old. It was a rather whimsical rhyming picture book about Mozart and his pet bird, and his attempt to find a melody for his next composition. I had just grabbed it off the shelf, seeing that it looked kind of like a “living book” and hoping he might connect it to Daddy’s piano playing. It seemed way over his head at the time, but we read it a couple times and then returned it, not to mention it again. But it was there, swirling around in Gabriel’s little thoughts, and it!

Episodes like this make me increasingly more committed to filling my children’s hearts and minds with excellence and beauty, and more averse to fluffy cartoon characters or books featuring characters with bad attitudes, slapstick violence, or potty humor. You’d think the library would know better than to stock such stuff, but I find that 75% of the time when Gabriel randomly finds a book off the shelves, it features the above-mentioned attributes. Books can be fun without all that... Cynthia Rylant’s books are great examples. (I’ll talk more about them in an upcoming post.)

Finding living books that feed Gabriel’s mind and heart takes extra effort–in our case, I check trusted booklists, go to the library website, request the books online, and wait until they come in. Then our trip to the library is much simpler... I have a huge stack of genuinely good books waiting for me (although I always flip through them now before reading them) and we can make a short visit to the children’s section for one or two spontaneous finds. Much easier than browsing shelves with two little ones in tow!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Recipe for Learning at Home

It’s been quite an adventure figuring out what method of education is going to work for our home this year, but finally, two months in, I think we have it somewhat figured out. It’s kind of like one of those long-simmering winter soups that keeps expanding as I add a handful of this, a pinch of that...and so on. I can never be sure until later which flavors will stand out, which will recede into the background, and which things I know I would leave out next time.

Here’s the “recipe” for what I've been doing with Gabriel (3yrs old) so far:

  • I began with a curriculum book called Little Saints which featured three days of a structured preschool curriculum, but it just seemed too... constraining, as well as a little over Gabriel’s head. I’ve been using it instead as a resource.
  • As a preview to reading, we’ve been structuring our weeks around the alphabet, working mostly on sound-letter correlation. I’ve been getting many of my language ideas from Mommy, Teach Me to Read.
  • We’ve been using a lot of ideas from Elizabeth Foss’ Alphabet Path, particularly the booklists for teaching science with living books and the saint ideas.
  • Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy has pointed us in the direction of focusing on teaching everything possible through books that engage the heart of the child, lots of outdoor nature study, and a focus on the formation of good habits.
  • I have skimmed some Montessori books and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd materials, and I've been using Moira Farrel's Home Catechesis Manual to begin introducing Gabriel to some "altar work"--in other words, he gets to learn about the Mass and its purpose using hands-on materials.
  • I've planned my weeks using the following categories: Language, Math, Nature Study/Science, Habits, Saints, Music, and Menu Ideas. We tend to try to focus on language elements on Monday, the Saint of the Week on Tuesday, and everything else basically shuffles in between outings, chores, meals, playtime, etc...

  • I'll try to post some highlights and photos of this week, along with a review of our favorite book this week, on Friday.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Hidden at Home

He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced (in) wisdom and age and favor before God and man. ~Luke 2:51-52

These sparse words, found after Mary and Joseph retrieve the young Jesus from teaching in the Temple, encompass about 20 years of Jesus' life. When I stop to ponder them, they are astounding. Jesus, God among us, was a “stay-at-home son” for most of his life.

Being a “stay-at-home mom” is a relatively new thing for me. I've only been home full time for about two years. My former life involved spending twenty-plus years out of the home, receiving a formal education, much of which never mentioned what one does when one is “at home”, or, for that matter, that there is any value whatsoever in “home”...

Read the rest here!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Gabriel's First Poem, for Mommy

I love you like the sun loves setting on the horizon
I love you like the river loves flowing down the mountain
I love you like the plug loves the drain
I love you like apple pie loves icing
I love you like rain loves splashing
I love you like the sun loves the moon
I love you like hugs love kisses.

(Narrated to Mommy at age 3 years, 3 mos, while splashing in the tub with little brother Peter, in these words precisely. A spontaneous and original response--albeit in the style of a book we have called "I Love You, Good-Night"-- to a few simple words from me: "I love being a mommy to you, little boys." Gratitude bringing forth beauty. Material for later blog post indeed!)

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Hallow's Eve Adventures

Gabriel Francis is... St. Francis!
At 8:30pm tonight, as our trick-or-treating guests were heading back home, I offered them some candy for the road. Gabriel, ever on the lookout for treats, took the opportunity to help himself to yet another piece. "I'll just take this," he said, thoughtfully, "as an...appetizer."
Peter's first pumpkin carving. He was gleefully in the middle of the action all day today.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Come, Mommy!

Smiles have been hard to find of late, but my almost-1-year-old Peter managed to pull one out of me with this little manoeuver. I was attempting to get him to sleep on his floor bed, and he finally decided he had enough of this going-to-sleep stuff. He wiggled off the bed, and took a long look at the crack of light spilling in from the door. I continued lying on the bed, hoping he would take the hint and come back. He glanced back at me, then stood up and toddled precariously over to the door. He edged it open a little bit, then scooched part way back towards the bed. He seemed rather undecided. He made a move towards the door, then finally, he lunged for my arm and pulled me meaningfully towards the light. I got it. He wanted to have his cake and eat it too–adventures in the lit-up hallway, but not without Mommy! He doesn’t say any really recognizable words yet, but he is learning to communicate loud and clear. When I finally dragged my half-asleep self from his bed, and followed him into the hallway, he wanted to go straight for the room where big brother Gabriel (the source of all excitement around here) was already sleeping. Instead we went downstairs, where he rode koala-style on my back while I finished the dishes. Probably not his idea of excitement, but it was all I could muster for 8:30 on one of those baby-should-already-be-in-bed nights.

Blog silence...

The blog has been silent as the days have been so hectic and my mind has been both full (of seemingly mundane daily details) and empty (of anything seemingly worth recording) at the same time. I think the key may be to write anyway, to not expect depth or masterful words, but to write nonetheless.

(Deep breath)

Here goes.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Happy Confusion

This afternoon we gathered with some good friends to celebrate a birthday. Two beautifully pregnant women were part of said gathering. Later in the evening, I noticed Gabriel patting his little round stomach and looking with satisfaction into the mirror.

I didn't really make much of it until prayer time, when we were thanking God for things that made us happy. Gabriel's contribution: "I'm happy that I'm going to have Petey's baby!"

Certainly he's got quite a bit left to figure out, given that his statement probably means he thinks his 8 mos old brother Peter is "his baby" and another baby appearing in our family who would be younger than Peter would "belong to" Peter, but we're on the right track if babies in the womb make him happy, right? :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Weight of Memory

The contrast was striking. Surrounded by packing paper and cardboard boxes, I sat on the floor of our bedroom closet filling boxes upon boxes with photo albums, baby books, yearbooks, scrapbooks, journals, and other memorabilia type items -- all from my side of the closet. I then turned to my husband's side of the closet and packed exactly one quarter of a moving box with one photo album, one shoebox of photos, and a small box of memorabilia. I felt a slight pang of guilt when I saw the difference between "my side" and "his side." My husband often encourages our family to get rid of the unneeded stuff hanging around our house and here I was with a huge pile of things that had no clear use, other than to help me remember.

Read the rest here...

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

On living simply (part 2 of 3)

In the last post I wrote about my family's challenge to “live simply.” We strive towards simplicity for two main reasons: first, to be good stewards of what God has given us and second, to make more space in our lives and quiet in our souls for loving and serving God and those around us. Lately, I've been pondering this phrase from Isaiah 55: “Why spend your money for what is not bread—your wages for what fails to satisfy?” Although this passage deals directly with money, it draws my thoughts towards another precious commodity—time.

Read the rest at Phases of Womanhood!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Nature, Healer and Restorer

After my thoughts on nature in this post and this post, it seems timely to share Ann's many fruitful thoughts and links about the restorative power of nature, in particular, it's educating power. (I love her nature table in particular.)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Man time

I caught father and son working on the car with some help from a friendly visitor--our neighbor's father from West Virginia. Gabriel was asking "what is this?" and Mr. Butch (yes, that was his name) was telling him all about it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Out-of-Door Life

A love of Nature, implanted so early that it will seem to them hereafter to have been born in them, will enrich their lives with pure interests, absorbing pursuits, health, and good humor. ~Charlotte Mason, Victorian British educator

In the spirit of Charlotte Mason, I have been striving to wander through the woods with my boys at least once a week, if not more. We spend time outside daily, but these weekly wanderings are something I've tried to build up in Gabriel's mind. We bring water bottles and “provisions” for the trail, we sometimes wear hiking boots, and we try to visit a different park each week. We leave ourselves a full morning for wandering through the forest, observing. I have been doing this instinctively for a while, but it has become a decided project after delving into Charlotte Mason's original writings. Her own time was over 100 years ago, but I believe her insights into the needs of a child's early education are wise and transcend the time in which they were written. She says, “in this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother's first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air. And this, not for the gain in bodily health alone—body and soul, heart and mind, are nourished with food convenient for them when the children are let alone, let to live without friction and without stimulus among influences which incline them to be good.” The receptivity to, and wonder about, all that nature holds, as well as the simple power of observation, are some things I hope to be cultivating in Gabriel on our little walks through the Virginia forests.

One of the secrets of the educator is to present nothing as stale knowledge, but to put himself in the position of the child, and wonder and admire with him. ~ Charlotte Mason

That being said, I just have to take the chance to pat myself on the back and tell the virtual world out there that today, baby in the backpack and all, I bent over and scooped up a little tadpole so that Gabriel could hold one, wondering at the little legs that were sprouting on either side of the tadpole's little wiggling tail. Certainly I have done my fair share of running through woods and creeks, being out of doors, and camping, but never once have I been inspired to plunge my hand into a creek and fish out anything. I guess it's not much, compared to other motherly acts of love and self-sacrifice, but I felt it was quite a triumph. All for the love of nature and education, and my little guy, of course. Hopefully Charlotte Mason would be proud.

Gabriel stops for a break and some "provisions" along the trail.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Holy Fermentation, Batman!

It's been a busy night in the kitchen. In the quart jars you'll see the night's big project: Cortido, a.k.a. Latin American Sauerkraut, ready for 3 days of lacto-fermentation on the countertop. Next to it is a bowl of black beans, soaking so they'll be ready to cook tomorrow night, and a bowl of oats, soaking in warm water and 2 tablespoons of cultured buttermilk and cinnamon so it will be ready for our muesli tomorrow morning. Finally there is a big, beautiful, and oh-so-delicious loaf of sourdough bread, a collaborative effort between Michael and me today.

The cortido is my first venture into lacto-fermentation. It's kind of like a leap of faith into the wilds of non-refridgeration, and it's honestly taken me a while to get here. After seeing the beautiful results of sourdough, with its non-refridgerated (at times) starter, I am willing to take the leap! Basically, lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits bacteria, and historically lacto-acid fermentation has been used by traditional socities to preserve vegetables for extended periods of time. In other words, leaving the cabbage mixture out on the counter for three days won't kill us, and the author of my cookbook assures me that if the batch goes bad, it will smell so awful there will be no mistaking it. We'll see! I'll let you know how it all turns out when we open the jars on Friday, to use as a condiment for our Black Bean Tostados.
Posted by Picasa

We love springtime in the country...

On living simply (Part 1 of 3)

A friend recently asked us (my husband and me) for tips on how to “live simply.” I laughed, because any life that involves children is endlessly complex, and at the moment we have two under the age of three. I also laughed because it often feels like we are so far from living up to our ideals. But it is true that we have thought long and hard about how–and why–we should keep our lives simple.

We strive for simplicity for two basic reasons: Click here to read the rest!

(I know there hasn't been much action here lately, but I've been busy working on these couple posts for Phases of Womanhood!)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New Mom, New Prayer

In theory, setting the alarm to get up before anyone else in the house would be good for me. In my pre-mommy days, I would do my best prayer, meditation, and planning in the quiet, hopeful stillness of the new morning. But in this baby-and-toddler season of my life, setting an alarm would mean getting up earlier-than-early! I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it.

To remedy my alarm-setting reluctance, God has sent me my son Peter, now five months old...

(Read the rest of my e-publishing debut here, and check out this excellent new website started by some enterprising Catholic women in the DC area!)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day, Mom...

...thanks for all the playing, the caring, the loving, the driving, the cooking, the worrying, the shopping, the sharing, the helping, the sewing, the cleaning, the nurturing, the teaching, the supporting, the chatting, the advising, and the loving that you've done over all these years. I love you! (Hey, and that shirt is pretty hip too! :) )
Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 08, 2009

My Sprouting Debut

One of my recent resolutions has been to incorporate more traditional, varied, and nutritious foods in our family's diet. Sprouts, anyone? :) Apparently germinating seeds, nuts, and grains turns them into nutritional powerhouses, and it's pretty exciting for a two-year-old too!

We chose lentils as our first sprouting experiment. It was actually pretty simple. (Gabriel saw the red ones in the Whole Foods bulk bins and asked if we could try them, hence the red and green combo.) Here's a quick story about how it went. If you want more in-depth info, check out Sproutpeople, the folks we got our sprouting lids from.

First, we obtained our equipment: mason jars for about $1.25 at Michael's and the lids from the abovementioned site.

Next, the lentils were soaked overnight to jump-start them out of their dormancy.

Second, I rinsed long and well, especially those red guys. They were very starchy and the starch inhibits the sprouting.

Then I drained, long and well. (8-12 hours). I repeated rinsing and draining until the sprouts were about 2.5 days old. The most important thing was to make sure there was enough air circulating in the jars, I think so they didn't get moldy or suffocate.

By about day 2.5, this is how the green lentils looked. Exciting, no? Raw they tasted a bit like an uncooked bean sprout. As well they should, because lentils are beans. :)

Finally, I steamed a mixture of the red and green lentils to use in the recipe below, an invention of my own.

Sprouted Lentil Salad
2 cups sprouted lentils (or other beans)
1 red pepper
1/2 Vidalia onion
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Homemade red wine vinaigrette (to your own
Toss everything together, and serve on top of greens, if desired. I think I actually prefer it on its own, though. And yes, for those of you who are wondering, Gabriel did eat it. And he even said "yum". Although that might have had something to do with the fact that he got to pour his own dressing on top of the two tablespoons of sprout salad he had, and he poured about a tablespoon of dressing on. Not sure he could taste anything through the vinegar, but at least he ate it!

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

"Mommy, I want to pray by myself"

...and with those words Gabriel proceeded to lead a decade of the Rosary during our little Mommy-and-me morning prayer time! It wasn't perfect, but he got the idea. And totally not something I suggested. Never would have thought he'd have the attention span or interest in it yet. Praise God! So sweet.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Peter's great E.C. adventure

During my first pregnancy, I joked, I laughed, and I made fun. I had heard some talk about mothers and fathers who were so vigilant about their baby's elimination patterns that they would dangle them bare-bottomed over a potty when baby needed to relieve himself, rather than using a diaper. "Elimination communication" or E.C. it was called, and it just sounded so outlandish I couldn't even contemplate it. But then I think I inadvertently ended up doing it with Gabriel. He was 8 mos old, he was an extremely regular diaper-filler, and I decided I was tired of cleaning poopy cloth diapers. So we sat happily on his little potty chair looking at books and toys. Somewhere along the way I had glanced at a website about E.C., so whenever I sat him on the potty I also made the ASL motion for "toilet" and gave him a cue sound (a little grunt, to mimic what he usually did while going #2), hoping that someday he would associate the urge to relieve himself with that sound & sign and be able to tell me before he went. By the time he was about a year old I'm pretty sure he was running to me whenever he needed to go #2, although he never really did the sign. I could just tell by the look on his face. I don't think I cleaned a poopy diaper after about the time he was a 16 months old, although he could have been a bit older. I put him in thick training pants just before he was 2, and he seemed fine with us just going periodically to the bathroom so they didn't get wet. He is 2.5 now, and in the last couple months he's gotten pretty independent about going on his own, both #1 and #2.

With Gabriel I hadn't really read anything about toilet training...we just sort of did what seemed fun and natural and it wasn't until friends talked about it that I realized that normally one doesn't start doing this sort of thing until much later, when a child seems "ready". I am quite glad I didn't wait until later, because Gabriel has developed into the strong-personality type A toddler that would probably still be insisting on wearing diapers because that's what he is used to.

So now the big experiment is to see if the process that we went through with Gabriel will work for Peter, or what we did wasn't really that important and Gabriel just had a quirky love of using the potty at an early age. For now, I prop 5 mos old Peter on the potty and sit with him after his "wake up nurse" in the morning and after naps. We've saved a couple diapers so far, and he seems to like sitting on the potty because it actually helps him balance to play with his toys and laugh at himself in the wall mirror, instead of rolling forward onto the floor, which is what happens if I just sit him on the floor on his own. I've also been feeling a little bit disconnected from him because of all the focusing I've been doing on books and activities with Gabriel, and the potty time has provided the perfect "special time" for little Peter.

I'm sure everyone is as excited as I am about my children's "elimination story" (ha ha) so I will provide updates and anecdotes as appropriate, and field questions should they arise. :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Simple Woman's Daybook, March 16

Outside My Window...
It is a dreary, moist, March day. Michael recently noted to me that he really doesn't like March. I'd have to agree. Wet, still cold weather, and those tantalizing few warm days that fool you into thinking that spring is really here...sigh. Although since we've moved to an area where there are more patches of woods here and there, there are many more visible signs of Spring! Gabriel and I look for "robin families" while we're walking now. He also likes the little black-capped chickadee who keeps visiting our bird feeder, mostly because the name is fun. So there are a few up-sides to March too.

I am thinking...
about how to have a more compassionate heart with my children, my 2.5 year old in particular.

I am thankful for...
the welcome we have received at our new parish and our new neighborhood after our big move last month. So many people have been approaching us with invitations to join groups and do things I am overwhelmed! We actually have to pick and choose what we will do. I'd rather have it this way than the other way, though.

From the kitchen...
Crockpot beef stroganoff, egg noodles, and frozen veggies.

I am wearing...
An almost-FOUR-month old baby in a moby wrap (oh how I love all these baby carriers!). Underneath, jeans and a nursing top.

I am creating...
a bit of order in our still chaotic home after the move. Is it crazy that I want to organize all our books by genre?

I am going...
with all my boys to Mom & Dad's for St. Patty's day dinner on Tuesday. Got to love the Green!

I am reading...
Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI
On the Passion of the Christ by Thomas A Kempis
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (for my book group)
Letter to Families by John Paul II (for my couples' group)

I am hoping...
to institute some more enriching educational practices in the rhythm of our days, in particular, classical music instead of just "silly songs" on the CD player.

I am hearing...
blessed quiet from Gabriel's room, and breathing from the little one wrapped up in the Moby.

Around the house...
we only have 6 more boxes hanging around! I counted!

One of my favorite things...
maple syrup. We all went to Cunningham Falls State Park last Saturday for their annual sugaring festival and had loads of wonderful pancakes and sausages with maple syrup, around a roaring fire pit. Gabriel, I'm afraid, ate just as much as Michael and I did!

A picture thought I am sharing

Check out more of the Simple Woman's Daybook here.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

You know you need an attitude adjustment when...

...your two-year old says to you: "Mommy, don't talk to Daddy that way! In this family, we talk nicely to one another!"

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Professional Mom

Gusts of wind wave and snap the branches of the trees that line the playground. I'm wearing a baby wrapped snug against me, under my coat, and looking up warily to make sure no errant sticks come flying our way. It is still unseasonably warm, as it has been for the last few days, so being outside is actually pleasant, with the exception of the gale-force winds. Gabriel is trotting around busy with this and that, digging and wielding his own sticks and pretending to be a fireman all at once. I decide to sit down slowly, gingerly on one of the swings--the "mommy bench" won't work, as the little wrapped bundle on my chest doesn't seem to like to stay asleep when I sit down. Perhaps, I think, I can rest for a moment, and fool baby Peter by half-standing, half-sitting on the swing.

The second I sit down on the swing, Gabriel's eyes light up. "Mommy! I would like to swing!" For a split second, I think: Of course. And sigh inwardly. But I muster up some cheer, and go to lift him up onto the swing. Quite a trick when he's 35 pounds and I'm already wearing 15 extra baby pounds of Peter on my front. It also takes a bit of work to be cheerful, as I know Gabriel will probably complain that I can't push him high enough. He's been going through a "negative" phase recently, and doesn't like the fact that I can't sprint under the swing and do an "underdog" while I'm carrying Peter.

At such moments, I am beginning to find that analogizing my role as mother to a position in the working world quite helpful. If I were getting paid to do this--if I were literally employed to be a mother to these two children--I would, out of a sense of integrity and duty, give not a second thought to plopping the little guy on the swing and helping him have some fun. After all, someone would be paying me to do it; my time would not be my own; I would be on someone else's clock.

It has only recently occurred to me that my staying home full time is, in our culture, just as much a choice as working out in the world in some professional capacity. I decided to do this. I had forgotten this somewhere along the way. In my former life, I took all the paid jobs I worked quite seriously, and tried to be conscientious about doing only tasks relevant to my position while "on the clock." I organized more than one office in disarray; made thousands of photocopies; set up programs that I hoped would be enriching; and taught and counseled a couple hundred kids, most of whom I don't see anymore. I made some money that is probably all spent at this point, and learned some useful life-lessons.

If I approach my work as a mother with the same integrity, I must realize that here at home I am not on my own clock either. My heavenly Employer asks me to be fully present to my children to the best of my ability, rather than sticking to a rigid agenda of "things to get done" and responding to them with absent "mmm hmms" and nods. I get paid in my baby's belly laughs and my two year old's sweet words: "Mommy, I like reading books with you." I have to cling to these when my baby is wailing and overtired and my two year old is screaming "NOOO!" to my polite request that he use the bathroom before his nap. Certainly any employee has to overlook the not-so-savory qualities of the others she is working with; most people would be out of a job if they threw in the towel the moment someone at work annoyed them.

On-going job training is key in the mothering business: it starts with daily prayer and Scripture and branches out into spiritual reading, parenting books, spousal consultations, and even S.O.S. phone calls to other trusted moms. The more training I get, the higher my pay, as my eyes are opened to who my children are right now and how I can best love, serve, and teach them. Their sweetness becomes all the more apparent and carries me through the low times.

Of course, there are places where the analogy just falls through. Sick days come to mind. Oh how wonderful it would be to have someone just whisk the little ones away for a bit while mommy goes about resting and recovering. (Sometimes I wonder if this momentary respite from the mommy job wouldn't speed my recovery along--I feel like even a little cold just drags on and on now that I have babies to keep caring for.)

For the most part, though, the analogy works, and it has been helping me approach my role at home with a new level of enthusiasm, and a new realization of just how much energy it actually takes to "be at home with the children." The next time someone asks me what I do, I will not use the words "I'm just at home." I am 100% sure this job is tougher and more emotionally and psychologically challenging, and requires more creativity, than any other one I have ever had in the working world. I am not sure how to convey that in a short, casual, small-talk-esque response, but I will be working on it--off the mommy clock, of course!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Teams of Our Lady Challenge: February

Did anyone join in our Teams January challenge to pray every day with your spouse? How did it go? Michael and I were rather successful in making conjugal prayer a more constant part of our days; as I shared in our Teams meeting I think this was thanks to a simple commitment to going to bed on time (usually 10pm). We prayed Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours just before retiring almost every night. In addition to being my favorite "hour", saying Night Prayer together seemed to spread a blanket of peace and unity over our evenings that was not present when we didn't pray with one another.

The Teams challenge for February is to have a good "sit-down" with your spouse. This is a monthly endeavor for all Teams couples, but sometimes it can fall by the wayside, as it has for Michael and I in the past few months. A sit-down can be different things for different couples, but the basic idea is to spend some time together discussing issues of core importance to the marriage and to the family. The format can vary: I was struck by a suggestion that each spouse have 20 minutes to say whatever they feel they need to say to the other, without interruption (or criticism, correction, etc...) and then the other spouse has a time to thoughtfully reply to the whole of what the other has expressed. Another couple in our Team spends time discussing the Teams reading, shares high points and low points of the past month, and then has an "airing of grievances"--this same couple always accompanies their sit-downs with a special dessert. I think we could learn a thing or two from them!

For Michael and I, the key is scheduling, setting aside a particular time in which we agree this sit down will actually happen. As soon as we got home from the meeting, we set up a time for our sit-down. I think we still need to have a sit-down to discuss what our sit-down format should be... regardless of the format, one will be happening later this month.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Must read for Moms

Ann writes over at one of my favorite blogs...

Love is patient. How can I be patient in the tipsiness of this domestic chaos? How can I be patient in the pain of now? When vocal cords pitch screams, when tears brim and fall, when the clock keeps ticking steadily ahead and we just keep sputtering, stumbling along? I want to strive ahead of now, into that future where we all stick to the script of buffed perfection.

Read the rest...
The Order of Love

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Simple Woman's Daybook, January 12, 2009

Outside My Window...
It was so icy cold this morning when I took a short walk! But now it is sunny and the sweet sounds of the Safeway being constructed across the street are echoing through our courtyard. (Oh, to have toilet paper and dish detergent within walking distance again soon!)

I am thinking...
about how to healthfully, economically, and creatively feed my family in this new year. Our number one resolution is avoiding most packaged foods.

I am thankful for...
My husband's continual forgiveness and for his community, the Youth Apostles, with whom he just spent a good time retreating up in Emmitsburg.

From the kitchen...
Butternut squash souffle, chicken in white wine sauce, egg noodles, and greens.
I am wearing...
An almost-two-month old baby in a moby wrap (oh how I love all these baby carriers!). Underneath tan cords and a printed sweater.

I am creating...
nothing much material at the moment. Hopefully, slowly, peace and order in our home.

I am going...
to the midwives for a postpartum visit on Wed, and maybe (oh exciting) out to dinner with Michael on Friday!

I am reading...
Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI
Leap of Faith by Queen Noor (for my book group)
Letter to Families by John Paul II (for my couples' group)

I am hoping...
To continue with the halting steps we have been taking as a family towards having a more regular prayer life.

I am hearing...
Baby breathing, and a beep on my cell phone, which means a mommy friend from the neighborhood is probably letting me know where afternoon playtime will be! So good to have people nearby for Gabriel to socialize with.

Around the house...
I keep finding cotton balls everywhere... someone's brilliant idea at library story time to give the kids "snow" to take home. It was fun for a while, but it's getting a little old...

One of my favorite things...
Chocolate chip cookies, mom's recipe with half vanilla and half almond flavoring.

Friday, January 09, 2009

From Car Talk to the Trinity

(Spoken as we are driving home from dinner at Grandma's...)

Gabriel: "Mommy, what was that clicking noise?"

Me: "I just locked the car doors."

Gabriel: "Why did you just lock the car doors?"

Me: "To keep us safe."

G: "Why do you keep me safe?"

Me: "Because I love you."

G: "Why do you love me?"

Me: "Because you're my son."

G: "Why am I your son?" (Well, he couldn't quite figure out the grammar of this one but I understood what he meant when he said "why are you my son?")

Me: "Because Mommy and Daddy love each other."

G: "Why do you love each other?"

Me: "Because God made us to be like Him."

G: "Why did he make us to be like him?"

Me: "Because he wants us to share his life forever."

G: "Why?"

Me: "Because that is God's nature."

G: "Why is that God's nature?"

Me: "It just is."

G: "why is it just is?"

Me: "... because it just is."

G: "Oh. Mommy, is this the Beltway?"

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Matters of the heart

Prayer over the People for the Feast of the Holy Family (Year B)

you care for your people even when they stray.
Grant us a complete change of heart,
so that we may follow you with greater fidelity.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

A complete change of heart. The words pealed like bells in my soul on the feast of the Holy Family. The words struck me--could one really pray for such a radical gift from God? Would it not seem more prudent to pray for small improvements here or there, or extra grace in areas where we struggle? This is not a prayer for those who want to wade in slowly, getting used to the waters of a life lived in Christ's foosteps. No--the Church encourages us to jump straight in without looking back. Reminds me of JPII calling us at the start of the new millenium to "go out into the deep" (Luke 5:4) , to duc in altum, and of his fatherly advice to "be not afraid", given at the start of his pontificate.

I have been praying sporadically, perhaps desperately at tougher times, for grace and understanding in my relationship with Gabriel. Last night I finally threw in the towel on those piecemeal efforts and decided to trust that what the Church prays, I too can pray. I begged for a complete change of heart, to allow me to see Gabriel as a little person who needs to be lovingly, creatively, and energetically taught, rather than a two-year old terror who needs to be controlled.

So much grace was poured out on all three of us today--Gabriel, Peter, and Mommy, home on our own for a few days while Michael is on retreat--that I have to say that I think my prayer is on its way to being answered. I don't have time to give all the details, as bedtime is quickly approaching. I'll finish with one sweet moment: I have been struggling with Gabriel's interactions with Peter being a little bit too rough--playfully rough, but nevertheless, too much for a 2 month old. Today while Gabriel was brushing his teeth, Peter was watching him intently from his snuggled position in the wrap. Gabriel stopped and said in a very loving voice, "Peter, when you get older, you can brush your teeth. And when you get older you can wear pajamas. And when you get older, you can play with me!" It almost seemed the complete change of heart was spilling over--improving not only Mommy's interactions with Gabriel but his interactions with Peter.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Prayer Challenge for the New Year

We're both Catholic. We married in the Church and value our faith. We both know the value of prayer, want to/try to/actually do pray every day on our own, and both pray with our children. Why can't we seem to pray together...?

All these questions filtered through the lips of almost every couple at a recent monthly meeting of our couples group. My husband and I are part of a movement called Teams of Our Lady, a lay-movement within the Catholic church that "offers couples a way to grow in married love, happiness, and holiness." As part of this group, we commit to a series of "endeavors" or basic practices that we will pursue as spouses for the purpose of building up our conjugal (and personal) spiritual life. This month we will be focusing on the endeavor to find time each and every day to pray with one another.

It would seem to be a simple thing, prayer with one another. But one of us falls asleep nursing the baby sometimes, and the other one of us falls asleep telling stories to the toddler, or when one is home alone while the other is out working, or when one is grouchy and the other is hurt, or when one is busy late into the night and the other is tired, prayer together becomes a bit elusive. Prayer together, if it is honest, is also a moment of extreme vulnerability. When we have drifted apart due to schedules or disagreements, coming together for prayer points out the abyss between us with a silent rawness that I can't stand... so I admit that sometimes I avoid it.

Yet I know that prayer can be a moment of healing, an anchor in a marital life that is being tossed on the waves of schedules and new jobs and a two year old who confounds us. So I look forward to the challenge of praying with one another each day this month, the quiet moment before sleep when we come before God together in humility, with gratitude for the day past and hope for the day ahead.

(Are you up for the challenge too? You're welcome to join in with your spouse and/or community and let us know how it goes!)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Simple Woman’s Daybook, January 5, ‘08

Outside My Window...
It is a middle-sort of day, with cool gray skies and only a here-or-there breeze. I’ve already been outside twice today, once on my own and once with the boys to “get some wiggles” out of Gabriel before lunch time.

I am thinking...
About how to best organize our home. One of my new year’s resolutions seems to be (never made any officially but they seem to be popping up nonetheless) that the mess in the house will not be MY mess. Gabriel’s toys may be strewn about, but if all the grown-up stuff has a proper home and proper order, I think I will be much more at peace.

I am thankful for...
Gabriel taking a nap in the middle of the day. It makes afternoon so much more bearable because he’s not at the end of his energy rope. Instead of getting sluggish, being over tired makes him get gets more and more crazy.

From the kitchen...
Leftover pasta with slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, a simple salad, and homemade bulghur-wheat bread. Tomorrow we’ll do a black bean stew in the slow cooker, over rice.

I am wearing...
A month and a half old baby in a sling! And brown cords, blue flowered shirt with dusty purple shirt layered underneath.

I am creating...
a new, more patient, more generous way of interacting with my 2yr old. Honestly, this takes up much of my creative energy throughout the day! Instead of saying "Time to brush your teeth", this morning I said "WOW, you have stinky dinosaur breath!" Brought him into the bathroom with no complaints!

I am going...
To donate many baby items to the crisis pregnancy center ASAP! Peter dutifully napped this morning and Gabriel “fixed his lawnmower” with his new tools all by himself, so I was able to organize all the items, bag them up, and set them by the door. This sounds like not a big thing, but I’ve been waiting weeks to do this!

I am reading...
Raising Your Spirited Child:A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.

I am hoping...
To continue with the halting steps we have been taking as a family towards having a more regular prayer life.

I am hearing...
Swallowing from a little nursling with big still-blue eyes.

Around the house...
Things are more organized... but still not squeaky clean. Still not on top of that. Not sure I can claim a newborn as the reason, either.

One of my favorite things...
Peter’s baby smiles.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
Gabriel and I will out the “Terrific Two’s” library story time, as well as bring back the armload of Christmas books we have in the library basket. Michael will be heading off to a mostly silent retreat this weekend starting on Wednesday evening, so we will have a long stretch of time with him gone... but we will by no means be alone, with evening visits to both sets of grandparents scheduled and birthdays to celebrate.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

(Click on the Simple Woman's icon above to participate in the Simple Woman's Daybook yourself!)