Archive for February 2010

7 Quick Takes (v. 18)

February 26, 2010

1.  We took the girls bowling last weekend.  Boy, it is expensive.  The basic rate was $8 per person per game not including shoe rental (which I think was $4), but they had a Sunday special where for $12 per person you got a lane for two hours, shoes, and all-you-can-eat pizza.  I didn’t bowl even though it’s the one sport I’m really good at; my muscles have just been a bit tender with this pregnancy and I didn’t want to risk straining something.  But just for Ricky and the big girls it was about $40.  They managed to get in three games in two hours.  It would have been a better deal if we hadn’t just eaten before we went, but Bailey and Piper had a lot of fun.

2.  I always feel slightly sad when I notice on Facebook that people I went to Catholic school with are being baptized or attending other denominations now.  I wonder if they weren’t actually Catholic when I went to school with them, or if they fell away because of the horrible catechesis.  Then I feel conflicted because I would much rather them be an on-fire Protestant than an a non-practicing Catholic or proclaimed agnostic or atheist (not that I have anything against respectful agnostics or atheists other than concern for their souls).

3.  We went by Staples the other night to pick up some stuff Rick needed, and I let each of the big girls pick up a cheap composition notebook.  Since then they’ve been having fun with their journals.  Bailey, especially, likes to write down all of the events of her day.  On a tip from David H. Albert, I give her the spelling of a word whenever she asks without interrupting her train of thought by making her go look it up herself.  But I don’t correct the spelling on journal entries or “reports” that she takes it upon herself to write unless she asks me to do so.  It is very hard to restrain myself, but I don’t want to kill her love of writing by being nit-picky.

4.  I’m really beginning to wonder if I have short-changed Piper by ordering the Explode the Code preschool books.  She is starting to spell/read some three-letter words on her own.  I’m not sure, though, if she is using phonics or memorization.  She overheard me explaining the use of a “apostrophe s” to Bailey the other night, and Piper has been using it correctly ever since.  Again, I am trying to restrain myself.  I’d rather start reading lessons a little late than way too early.

5.  Katie is just talking a blue streak, as they say.  She’s putting together sentences left and right.  She repeats everything her sisters say and everything we say.  We really need to be careful!!

6.  Piper had her last dance class yesterday.  Much to my surprise she says she wants to go back to gymnastics.  She seemed like she really enjoyed the classes overall, and it seems to my untrained eye that she might have a natural talent for ballet.  So, I was really surprised when she said she wanted to quit.  Piper said that the class is too long and makes her tired; it is 15 minutes longer than gymnastics.  I can’t help wondering if the time of day is the bigger factor.  Her gymnastics classes were in the morning, and her dance is in the late afternoon when she gets a little tired and cranky.

So, we’ll switch her back to gymnastics when we get the new schedule (due out March 1).  I warned her that she would probably have to wait a few weeks between dance and gymnastics.  To my surprise, she said, “Good.  We can just stay home and not have anything to do.”  (She is so my daughter.)  I actually questioned if she wanted to sign up for another activity at all, but I think she just wants a small break.

7.  Most mornings Piper wakes up between 7:30 and 8:30 and crawls in the bed with me.  Some mornings she drifts off back to sleep; other mornings she lays quietly for fifteen minutes or so and then wants to go downstairs.  This morning she did a little of both.  But as we were laying there I shifted onto my back.  This inevitably gets the Mystery Baby moving around.  So, I had Piper put her hand on my belly.  Of course, the baby stopped moving.  But I shifted position again, and Piper felt it twice.  She’s the first person besides me to feel it, and she’s been so excited about this baby I’m glad she got the distinction.


Things I Love About My Parish

February 24, 2010

In the past year we’ve attended Mass at four different Catholic parishes in our area besides our home parish.  We’ve been to churches ranging in age from over 100-years-old to three-years-old.  Along with the kids we’ve compared and contrasted the architecture, the music, and other slight differences, and we’ve concluded that there is no place like “home”.  Instead of focusing on what we didn’t like about this parish or that parish, I decided to focus on what I love about our home parish…in no particular order.

1.  The Priests:  We are blessed to have two wonderful priests assigned to our parish.  Father David is so kind and understanding.  He’s the sort that you could never imagine getting angry with someone.  He runs the parish with cool competence.  His homilies are short and to the point, and he has a great sense of humor.  Father Marek seems a little more no-nonsense, but he still has a great sense of humor if more dry.  His homilies are more likely to be steeped in history and are intellectually satisfying.  I love to hear his stories from his childhood in Poland.

2.  The Music:  It’s not traditional in the “everything chanted in Latin” sense, but it’s traditional in the type of music I grew up hearing in church.  It’s not Christian pop nor does it seem like James Taylor has taken over as music director.  Every song uses the piano or organ.  Very often flutes and recorders are also used.  Sometimes you can even hear the subtle use of guitar and drum kit.  The choir is also really good.

3.  Communion in Both Forms:  I’m surprised by how many parishes do not offer the Precious Blood on a regular basis, but our parish always does.  They didn’t even back down when swine flu first became a big deal.

4.  Blessings and Bulletins:  Our parish offers blessings during Communion for children, non-Catholics, and anyone else unable to receive Communion.  The girls really look forward to this.  Our parish also offers special bulletins at the end of every Mass with coloring pages and activities based on the Gospel readings.  It’s so sweet to watch all of the children go up to the altar to receive them from the priest, deacon, and altar servers.  Even Katie has started going up with her sisters.

5. The Crucifix:  Our parish has a huge crucifix that hangs from the ceiling just slightly ahead of the altar.  The first time I saw it I was little unsure that it really needed to be placed so high or so huge.  But now I find it very humbling to see Christ raised so high above me.

6.  The Bells:  I know that ringing the little bells during the consecration is no longer necessary in this day of speaker systems; everyone can easily keep track of when it’s happening.  But I love the bells, and I’m glad my parish uses them.  They make the big moment seem so much more special.  And they also usually help distract feisty or fussy little ones, at least temporarily.

7.  Project Gabriel:  This program helps women of any faith, ethnic background, or marital status who feel pressured to get an abortion.  The volunteers work to arrange new homes for those who need them, transportation to doctor visits, maternity and baby supplies, postpartum care, and anything else that these mothers need to keep and support their babies.  Although, I am limited to donating supplies at the moment (mainly diapers), I love that my parish has such a proactive support program to fight the evil of abortion.

8.  Stain-Glassed Windows:  I remember what a big deal it was when my childhood parish finally was able to get stain-glassed windows.  I fell in love with them immediately.  I was so pleased the first time I walked into my local parish and saw the Seven Sacraments represented in the glass.  It is something that I have learned not to take for granted.

8.  Community:  It probably helped that we were “baptized” into the community through the RCIA program; it allowed us to quickly get to know the priests and deacons as well as other members of the parish quickly.  And because the church is in our local community we started seeing people that we knew or recognized from other aspects of our life, like tee-ball or even the library.  We’ve had a few older couples complement us on our beautiful family or offer us encouragement at those times when the girls have acted less than stellar.  And we’ve begun to recognize the same families there with us week after week even if we’ve yet to learn their names.  Even though we haven’t been able to get as involved with the parish as we hope to do someday, it is so nice to see friendly faces every week who smile and wave to us or come up to offer a hug and a chat after Mass.  It has made us feel more at home than anything else since we moved up here six years ago.

NASA Parenting

February 22, 2010

I have this theory that getting ONE small child to sleep is a lot like coordinating space shuttle take-offs and landings.

1. You have to find the perfect “window” between not-yet-tired and over-tired.
2. If you miss your window, you may have to wait a long-time for the next one.
3. You have to use a variety of ever-changing factors to calculate an approximate “sleep window” such as age, temperament, individual sleep requirements, wake-up times, activity levels, illness, and scheduling issues.
4. You must be able to observe and interpret last minute data, such as the child’s behavioral changes leading up to and during bedtime routines, and adjust accordingly.
5. You have to train your little “astronauts” about their responsibilities.
6. You have to have policies in place to prevent or handle emergency situations, like drinks of water or last-minute bathroom breaks.
7. You have to pray that everything runs relatively smoothly and no one crashes and burns, especially you.

*Of course the difficulty and stress increases when you have more than one young child to deal with. You hope that you can get at least a few on the same shuttle.

7 Quick Takes (v. 17)

February 19, 2010

1.  I’m at 23 weeks today. Last week  I had my first visit this pregnancy with the midwife who delivered Piper.  Because of this, I really wanted Piper to go with me.  Plus it’s a special experience for the big girls; the midwives usually let them help out with the exams in little ways.  They also kind of see it as a Mommy/Daughter date.  Unfortunately, Piper had moved onto the coughing stage of the cold going through the house.  I didn’t want her hacking the entire time, getting everyone sick, or risk her picking something else up while we were out.  But this week she developed an ear infection, so the hits just keep on coming.

2. The midwife and I went through all of my blood work.  Apparently, I’m still showing signs of Group B Strep in my system, so that will play a part in the decision of how early I go to the hospital when labor starts.  Unfortunately, my platelets are already making a dramatic drop as well.  It was discovered with my first pregnancy that I have mild thrombocytopoenia.  We finally confirmed that it’s pregnancy-related when they did a blood draw at my postpartum check-up for Katie.  My platelets have dropped from 146,000 (normal range) in June of 2008 to  99,000 in December 2009.

In the short term this means that they are going to check my platelets again next month when I have the blood draw for gestational diabetes.  If they have dropped more, they’re going to refer me to a hematologist.  I don’t really expect a hematologist to be able to do anything about it, though.  In the long-term it may mean that if I need a c-section I will have to have general anesthesia instead of an epidural.  Of all the issues that one could have during pregnancy these are relatively mild inconveniences rather than real problems, so I’ll try not to whine too much.

3. Until this past week I managed to catch all the new episodes of Lost as they aired.  But then American Idol ran for an excruciating two hours on Tuesday.   I know it won’t be the last time this happens, either.  American Idol is something we watch as a family, though, so I’ll just have to catch episodes of Lost on line.

4. After we dropped all three girls off at Granny’s for the afternoon on Sunday, we headed for the IKEA which is on our way home anyway.  I was determined to get a new computer chair after using a kitchen chair for a year and a half.  Well, while I was writing down the bin number for my replacement Moses chair, I couldn’t help but notice all of the computer desks just across the aisle.  My computer desk has been in need of replacement even longer than the chair (can we say duct tape?), but I couldn’t find one I liked that I could afford.  Until I saw THIS!  Did you notice the attached magnetic board?  I also happened to scope out this kitchen table that I want.  I have about two and a half years until the Mystery Baby will need some table room, so I have time to save up.

5.  So, I spent Sunday afternoon putting together my new desk while I didn’t have little ones around to run off with my screws and generally distract me.  What I don’t like about IKEA products:  because they are multinational they eschew using written instructions in favor of pictures only.  They’re also not real big on labeling the various parts, so when you have fifty different boards you have to spend ten minutes to determine if you’re using the right one or not.  What I like about IKEA products:  if you make a mistake, it’s usually fairly easy to fix without dismantling all of your previous work or completely destroying the unit.

6.  Our federal tax refund finally was deposited today.  Tonight we’re off to Best Buy to order a new dryer ASAP after we dropped off all three girls to sleep-over at Granny’s (this will be a first so send lots of prayers her way for a smooth evening).  For three weeks now I’ve had to break down each wash load into three dryer loads and run them for 100 minutes each just to get them damp dry and expose them fabric softener.  I will be so glad to get back on a regular laundry schedule!!

7.  But now that we’ve got our big money in, I have some other big shopping to do besides the dryer.  I put in a big homeschooling order with the Rainbow Resource Center (and of course realized after wards that I forgot something).  Then the other big purchase will be the double stroller and car seat.  I think I’m going to get the Graco Duo Glider LX and the Snug Ride 32.  Hopefully, those should get us through the first year, and then we can play musical car seats with everyone.

7 Quick Takes (v. 16)

February 5, 2010

1.  I received a package of baby formula samples in the  mail last week.  I also received a flyer for a baby-supply company with which I’ve never ordered a few weeks ago.  Which leads me to wonder how “they” know that I am pregnant.  Do they have clairvoyants on staff?  The only official agencies who have been informed of my pregnancy are my doctor’s office and the blood lab, and I would assume that due to  HIPAA they would not be allowed to sell the information.

2.  I finally was able to get in touch with the DRE at our church.  I knew that FHE ceremonies aren’t until June, so I thought I had lots of time to prepare Bailey for her first confession and the sacrament test for First Holy Eucharist.  Boy, was I wrong!!  Confessions are set for mid-march, and Bailey has to take the test by the end of April at the latest.  So, I’ve frantically been trying to get our preparation program together and get with it.

3.  My dental office drives me crazy!!  Last Monday was my regularly scheduled six-month cleaning.  The hygienist is like a broken record, “You know, you should really consider coming in every three months for a cleaning.”  Now my teeth are far from a model of perfection, but I haven’t had a cavity in close to ten years.  The bigger issue is my gums, and while I am not the most consistent flosser, I can’t help wondering if part of my problems aren’t due to genetics.  Every time she makes that recommendation, I want to say, “Well, maybe if you worked more than two days a week and I didn’t have such a hard time making an appointment around my husband’s work schedule I would consider it.”  On top of that I just found out that if we did schedule a cleaning before the six-month limit established by our insurance, it would cost us $80 out-of-pocket.  Forget that!!

4. We were Mario Kart crazy last week.  The girls received the Wii game for Christmas.  We played a little bit since then, but last week we discovered how to unlock more tracks, characters, and vehicles.  The biggest surprise was how well Piper (age 4) did.  We knew that she could play the game, but we never expected her to be able to get all of the first place finishes that are necessary to unlock things.  She got  on a roll and earned four medals in one night.

5. When we weren’t playing Mario Kart as a family, we were watching the Back to the Future movies.  It’s so funny to think that when Doc Brown first talks about going to the future at the beginning of the first movie he says that he plans to go ahead 25 years.  Since the movie is set in 1985, Doc Brown would have been headed to 2010!!  At the end of the movie, though, he plans to go 30 years ahead, so the second movie is set in 2015.  It is even more hilarious watching the sequel now because on one hand everyone has flying cars but then they are still using dot matrix printers.  At some point we’ll have to watch the third one; my husband and I both seem to remember it being better than the second one.

6.  We had our taxes done this week.  We get another big refund thanks to our 3 little tax credits, and we’ll have a fourth one for 2010!  It really couldn’t come too soon, though.  My dryer is on the fritz now.  Since we moved to this house, three and half years ago we’ve had to replace the stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine, and blower motor for the heater/air conditioner….and now the dryer.  The water heater was installed in November 2002, so with any luck that won’t die anytime soon.  But we know that the outside air conditioner unit needs to be replaced at some point.  Just call this house “The Money Pit”.

7.  Katie is great about saying “Thank you”.  She is also the most helpful little person you will ever find.  The other day she spontaneously cleaned up one of her big sister’s messes.  If you so much as mention to yourself that you need something, like a tissue, your sweater, or your keys, she takes off in search of it for you.  However, when Katie wants something she’s developed this tendency to screech out her commands.  So, I’m working on introducing the word “please” into her vocabulary.  Of course it is completely adorable when she does say it.

The Bedtime Monster

February 1, 2010

I’ve been in the process of taming a monster that has been living at our house for a few years.  I’m not really sure how it got in or when it grew so big and unwieldy.  But it had to be stopped!!  It was the monster that the kids’ bedtime routine had become.

I remember back when Bailey was around two the bedtime routine consisted of reading three books in the bed, turning out the lights, and then singing and scratching her back until she fell asleep.  Then around the time Piper came along, Bailey decided that she didn’t like being read to anymore.  Then somehow books turned into oral stories.  Then sometime after we moved into this house there started being a “lights-on” portion of the bedtime routine that happened downstairs.  This was usually a game of some sort and lasted anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes!!  Then Bailey got her “lights-off” portion of oral stories and back scratching that usually lasted another 30 minutes.

This all must have happened when she moved to her own bedroom, because Piper by this time was on the strict three-book followed by lights out routine.  Rick would mostly do Bailey’s and I would do Piper’s, but sometimes we would switch.  Then Piper got old enough to feel like she was being cheated out of a “lights-on” part.  So they would each get their own completely separate routine, with Rick and I taking turns.  But then the girls decided that Daddy’s routines were way more fun than mine and would complain when they were stuck with me.  At least twice a week  one (or both) of them would get over-tired, be convinced that they got the short end of the deal, and become hysterical for an hour before finally drifting off.  It was out of control!!

Back in November, we moved Piper (4) into the same  full bed with Bailey (7).  In preparation, we combined their lights-on routine into a single 15-minute activity with each girl taking turns picking the activity.  Then they each got a separate story during the lights-off portion.  Inevitably one would not be satisfied with what was picked or would throw a fit if they lost the game.  Furthermore, I learned that if Piper was not tired or over-tired all hell would break loose.  She wouldn’t lay still and quietly, yet if Bailey made the slightest noise Piper would punch her or pull her hair.  And sometimes Bailey would egg things on intentionally.

I would try to leave them to go start Katie’s routine (three books), but I would constantly have to get up to yell at them to be quiet and stop bothering each other.  Some nights I was so angry I found myself really wanting to blister some butts.  I started making Piper lay down on the floor or putting Bailey in time-out in the hall until I get Piper to sleep.  We usually start the bedtime process at 9:00 with snacks, followed by tooth brushing and pajamas, and then routines, but some nights I wasn’t getting into bed until 11:30 or midnight.  Then I would be so angry and wired that I couldn’t get to sleep for another hour.  It was a nightmare.

It seemed to get better for a few weeks in December, but then it took a turn for the worse again in early January.  Something had to be done.  I realized that one reason for the set-back was because when Piper was sick over New Year’s I let her come back in the bed with me.  Not only did this make her resist sleeping in the other room again, but she was also sleeping later than usual by an hour or so.  Bailey had a morning wake-up time of 10:00 am for a few years, but this meant she was not often ready to go to sleep until 11:00 or 11:30 pm.  Before Piper moved in she could entertain herself by looking through books until she drifted off, but it was too hard to do until Piper went to sleep.  Then there was the bedtime routine itself.

I announced that as of February 1st there would not be anymore “lights-on” portion to the routine, and there would probably only be one bedtime story each night with the girls alternating the pick.  They took it better than I expected.  I actually ended up removing the “lights-on” portion a week early.  I said that we would try to institute a weekly game night  to make up for the together time that would be lost in the routines, at an earlier time when people (including me) would be less grumpy.

Next I started being stricter about wake-up times.  It hurt me as much as it hurt them, because there’s nothing more that a pregnant woman values more than sleep (especially this one).  Piper had developed the habit of crawling in bed with me between 7:30 and 8:30 and we had started sleeping in as late as 9:30 some days.  So now I really try to have us both up every morning no later than 8:30.  I also tried to avoid taking Piper out in the van after dinner when she might fall asleep.  I started moving Bailey’s wake-up time forward to 9:30.  Then when circumstances required that she be up between 8:30 and 9:00 two mornings in a row, I switched it to 9:00 am.

Things are getting better.  There are some mornings where I let Piper sleep into until nine, but usually we’re up close to 8:30.  Katie usually wakes up with us, which means that she’s normally ready for a nap between 1:30 and 2:00.  That has been added bonus.  Bailey is usually up, dressed, and downstairs at 10:00 at the latest.  Some days we get her schoolwork done by 10:30 or 11:30, when it used to sometimes run until after lunch.  And it hasn’t been as much of a fight to get her ready for Sunday morning Mass either.

The girls haven’t missed the “lights-on” portion too much.  Some nights they get snacked and dressed so quickly that they’re in bed by 9:30.  Other nights it’s closer to 10:00.  I still have to gauge how tired Piper is before determining how soon I can leave.  Sometimes I add some extra stories or discussion if I think she’s not tired enough to be still and quiet.  But most nights I’ve been able to leave by 10:30 without having to go back in again to settle any issues.  Piper is learning to drift off by herself, and Bailey is going to sleep sooner, too.  Then Katie gets an uninterrupted routine of books and snuggle time before we go to sleep.

Hopefully, we can keep this under control for the next few years.  And it should get better as Piper learns better self-control.  Of course when Katie turns 4 we’ll have to figure out where the heck to put her.  We’ll probably have to rearrange everyone and the routines.  A lot will probably depend on the gender of the Mystery Baby, and what kind of furniture we can afford when it becomes necessary.  But hopefully for two years at least we can keep the Bedtime Monster at bay.