Friday, May 31, 2013

7 Quick Takes

Do I have something to blame my blogging hiatus on...nope. Just normal life. 

Have you seen anything on A Beautiful Body project? Yo, check it (unless you're squeamish about artistic naked photography of which case, don't). I was really moved by the images and the story there; reminded me of The Shape of a Mother website. The fact is that we don't see ourselves reflected in media; we see photoshopped images of people that don't actually exist. I think images like these are so very important because we need to see the beauty in each and every person we meet, and they're not photoshopped. Lets get used to that. 

Whenever I see projects like the above, it really gets me to thinking about embodiment. Bodies! We have bodies AND souls! It's so great. Embodiment is so messy, weird, and enchanting. I love that about Catholicism - it embraces this bodily reality, and raises it up. Christ became man, and he ascended into Heaven - so wherever Heaven is, Jesus is there as a man in a body, right? Incredible. Heaven is a physical reality. It helps me feel better when I'm leaking breast milk, or covered in baby poo. 

Embodiment means MACAROONS !!

la-la-love eggs in pretty containers! I would have these all over the house for keys, jewelry, whatever...cause ceramic is baby-proof, yes?

In that vein, today is the Feast of the Visitation - one of my favorite mysteries. After I became pregnant, meditating on this mystery became a favorite of mine! I love the way mothers, especially pregnant mothers, talk to each other. Share stories, pains, aches, food, tips, tricks. Fellowship at its best. Mary had and needed that, just like us. Faced with a pregnancy that was the Good News, but a great deal of suffering, she sought out female companionship and found "the joy of the Lord" that was her strength. (Nh. 8:10) 

My big sister Kim, Zuzu, and K's husband Eric. 
I love visits with my sisters.

Calah and I were talking about Florida yesterday. I understand her hatred of it; she asked me if I really liked it here. At different times in my life, I would have given different answers. But now, I could honestly say, yes. Florida is home. For as much as I miss autumn in Alabama and spring in D.C., my land of perpetual summer, of gators and mosquitos, lizards and Disney World, hurricanes and droughts, gives me a sense of being connected to my ancestors and my history. You have to be tough to be from Florida; it's not an easy place to love year round.
I like that. 

Florida beauty. Naples Botanical Gardens.

Went to Costco. Felt like I came home as a hoarder. Who needs a 50 pound bag of sugar? Me, apparently. 

Did you know that bleach takes out stains? 
I know that sounds idiotic. But I had tried everything to get this one stain out and then I was like, OH BLEACH AND WATER. Well...guess I was a bit heavy on the bleach. Her bloomers are now a bit lighter colored than before...but spraying it on there and watching the spots literally melt away made me feel like a magician. 
I tried vinegar...Biz...soaking...scrubbing...but bleach. Sigh. I'm a really bad hippy. 

Cousin Maddie thinks I'm weird...

Zuzu rocking Baby Gap

I won't be talking about the Bar much on here...unless I find out some interesting legal, I probably won't. But if you wanna toss up some prayers for me, that'd be great. 

Zuzu and Daddy in the pool...Memorial Day 2013

Saturday, May 25, 2013

{Bits and Pieces} a la LMLD

One of my favorite blogs, Like Mother Like Daughter, does a {bits and pieces} post on Saturdays about various fun and thought-provoking items found throughout the week...I thought I'd emulate them and do my own, although they haven't made this series a link-up (they really should!!). 
Please visit them for the original B&P, which has many hilarious links.

  • TMI, if there are any men out there reading this...Following my theme of hating to buy items that I can easily make and reuse, I am eyeing this tutorial for making your own breast pads. However, I have heard that wool actually makes excellent breast pads, so I'm up-cycling an old sweater of Mr. Oram's...that means I have to lanolize it, so I found this great tutorial on lanolizing wool (you can use Lasinoh brand lanolin if you have it on hand for sore nipples, like I do). Fun! (gosh my definition of fun is weird)

  • Jennifer Fulwiler linked to a spectacular article on spiritual direction that I found really quite helpful. Enjoy it here.

  • I discovered an interesting (key: I don't always agree with) blog this week that has a very thought-provoking (for me) discussion on nudity in the home with young children. It's a good question - how long do you let them run around nude, is it only in the home, or in the backyard or frontyard...different for boys or girls? What about pictures of cute little kid tushies - okay, not okay, would you post on Instagram? All considered in the post, When is Naked Okay?

  • Dwija sent me down the rabbit hole this week by linking to a website that reviews homeschooling literature. So now I have ordered some books on Charlotte Mason from the library, and am plowing through one that discusses Montessori's theories of education. Enjoy Cathy Duffy reviews, if you dare - it's a time suck, albeit a productive one.

  • Really sincerely enjoyed Emily Stimpson's How to Become an Annoying Catholic in Eight Easy Steps really challenged and provoked me - not an easy thing to do for someone as prideful as I am. I have considered printing it out and putting it on my fridge, or next to my non-existant-prayer-corner. 

  • Last one I promise - Steve Gershom has great thoughts as always on the intersection of being same-sex attracted and Catholic...or SSA and human, really. Love his article for Catholic Exchange, Coming Out Human, and his calm demeanor in the comment section. I also recommend following him on Twitter (@stevegershom), since his account is very enjoyable and usually hilarious. 
Enjoy and head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more bits and pieces! 

7 Quick Takes!

Lately, a lot of the blogs I follow (and love) have been emphasizing the, erm, more difficult sides of motherhood. It's been complain week around here after Jen gave everyone permission. I dont' mind; blogs exist for people to have an outlet for their thoughts and struggles. But I do wonder: 
Is motherhood harder now than it was in the past? Is it difficult because many of us come from smaller families, so we aren't used to helping with little brothers and sisters, or maybe because we spend a longer time in independent adulthood, unused to caring for other poeples' daily needs? I'm truly curious. Were women 'back in the day' happier with their role, because they knew beforehand what was expected and had seen it modeled by their own mother, aunts, grandmothers? Will our daughters struggle like we have, or will our example give them better preparation?

Photo boothing it up...

So many tragic events lately and what startled me the most was that there as a link to images of the beheadings in London - video even! I know that we live in an age of the pornography of violence, but that's ridiculous. Honestly, I'm not sure it's necessary for anyone to see that - is that really respectful of the dead, does it serve to give that poor man greater dignity in death? I worry that our refusal to leave anything to the imagination is creating a society of callous indifference. 

If there's one thing I find ridiculous, it's those silly articles about how much children cost over the 18 years you're responsible for them. Not only are they calculating many items that some parents don't need or have to use (disposables, disposable wipes, bottles, breast pump, wipe warmer, new sew of nursery furniture, etc.), they also don't take into account others generosity. We won't have to buy Zuzu clothes until she's in 3T because of how generous people are to us; we also have never (get that? NEVER) bought her a toy! Or a book. We have received so many wonderful items from others, it's been unnecessary to purchase those things ourselves.
Also, no offense to those of you that buy her such lovely and educational toys, but her goal these days is to locate and chew on my yeah. Not that expensive. 

Zuzu playing with her "Busy Bible" - one of the best toys ever! Hand-made here in Florida, helps with fine motorskills, and beautiful. My mom got it for her. Check them out!

Just finished reading Greg and Lisa Popcak's "Beyond the Birds and the Bees: Your Guide to Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids." Wow, I was very impressed - and I say that as a Popcak skeptic. Although I adored their book "Holy Sex" (we read it on our honeymoon), I had some real issues with his parenting book, "Parenting with Grace" and found several of his statements truly problematic. So it was with trepedation that I approached his one on how to talk to your kids about sex - but it seems that when it comes to sex, the Popcaks know how to get the right ideas across. Their book was full of great ways to teach your children the fullness of the Church's teaching about their bodies and sexuality from birth! They make the great point that you can't just give them 'The Talk' at 12 or whenever and expect them to follow what you say. You have to train them from the moment of their birth to see themselves as made in imago dei, and to respect that others' are made so as well. 
He has great examples of how to handle conversations with your kids on masturbation (even at a very young age), nudity, abortion, sex itself, boyfriends/girlfriends, dating, and everything else. If you're wondering how to deal with these topics, I found this book very helpful. 

I'm taking the Bar again this summer. 
I'm really hoping I can pass it and then just have it under my belt! Move on! We shall see...

We had some front landscaping done - cleaned up the Eureka palms, took out a mimosa tree that infringes upon the driveway, and took out a dead 'junk' palm. Now my front yard looks...naked!! A lot of foliage gone, but it's a nicer, cleaner look. Now I am knee-deep again in garden dreams, thinking about planting sweet potatoes, avocado and mango trees, and some alysium borders...ah, to have unlimited time - and money! 

This is not our front yard. This is clearing the lot down the street. But you can see how the foliage down here leans more towards jungle than English garden.

I love cloth diapering and all, but man, isn't it annoying when I ask "what diaper rash ointments are compatible with CDs?" and the person replies, "if you're using CDs, you shouldn't have diaper rash." ....uh, okay. But obviously that is an issue, so can you help or not?! 
Similar and even funnier story, during our birth class I asked "what tips can you give to partners on dealing with seeing their wives in pain? I know it's very hard oftentimes for men to see women in pain..." Her response? "You're not going to be in pain." (this is because the birth education class was hypnobirthing, may adherents of such claim to not feel pain during labor) Well, HAHA, lady the joke's on you - cause I was in pain during labor!! And I was all visioning and deep breathing! Still in pain! 

Well that's a good note to end on I guess... :) 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

5 Favorites

In case you thought I'd pass up a chance to tell you all the things I'm coveting lately...
you're wrong. 

Monogrammed tervis.

Although you can find these on Etsy, they're technically  just a plain tervis with a vinyl label on the although Etsy sellers have cooler fonts, at least the above won't wash off ever. This would go nicely with my previously mentioned monogrammed beach hat.
Can you tell I love monograms? Is it a Southern thing? 


Not to be confused with the cheap purveyor of excellent party goods, this store is based out of New Orleans and carries beautiful traditional children's clothing. I was raised wearing clothes out of Little House on the Prairie (that is not a joke - boots with long dresses plus braids was my life), so this place appeals to my love of smocking and dresses that don't look like they came from Cissy's House of Whores (what? isn't that a place?). 
Notice I did not say they were cheap. 

AKA my (second) favorite holiday. 

I LOVE 4th of July. Love it so much I got married 4th of July weekend and reeeeally want to have a Yankee-Doodle baby. I know it's still a ways off, but I am already gearing up. Last year, I kept my Fourth wreath up...for all of summer. I also kept my American flag table cloth on the table and of course, we fly Old Glory every day on the front porch. 
Party at my place on the 4th?? 

Do you have one of these near you? 
Neither do I. There's one in Miami or Orlando; either way a significant drive. 
But when I was visiting the fam up in Orlando, we visited. I love it everytime I go...not for furniture so much, but definitely for kitchen stuffs! 
My haul: 6 cloth placemats, one bread pan, a strainer, a big hanger thingy for cloth diapers, plus a queen size duvet cover and pillow cases - under $50. Score. 

Lilo and Stitch

I love this movie. LOVE IT. When summertime comes, I want this movie playing - which is dumb, because it's about Hawai'i where it is eternally summer, not unlike where I live now. But still. Love it. So many great lines...

Aloha, y'all.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Five Favs: Around the House Edition

Today's post is coming from my big sister's guest room, as the babe and I are visiting my family in Orlando. My poor husband could not come, so I am blogging to distract me from his absence, as I miss him terribly...
Back home, as more and more work goes on in L'Orangerie, my mind has been dreaming about all the lovely items I want to fill it with to make it feel more like home. Here are some of those items...


Done by Etsy artist Magnesia, I just love this photograph! Ever since visiting Italy, I have a great fondness in my heart for St. Peter's Square and that wonderful way that it feels like home for all the millions of Catholics who visit each year. The balloons make it real the joy that I felt when stepping into that space for the first time...!

A Child's Prayer by Jessie Willcox Smith
I adore this print - I adore pretty much anything by this illustrator! Unfortunately, I cannot find this particular print for sale, anywhere. I can find many others of hers that I like, but I can only find pics of this one. Weird, huh? 
Still I love it. I already have Books in Winter, given to me by my mom, and it hangs in Zuzu's room. This artist also illustrated my favorite version of Little Women.


I love me some ABCs - and this fun whimsical one is one of my favorites! I had this game I used to play as a kid (I'm not even kidding), where my job was to make the other kids laughing by counting sequentially. So all I could say was, "1, 2, 3, 4..." but I had to say in such a way that made all the other kids laugh. Guess what? I ROCKED that game - and this print reminds me of the same idea. The letters  are presented like words - with personalities and a message. 
Love that. 


Collective nouns are possibly the best thing in the English language. The number and poetry of them is staggering and lovely; I can scarcely get enough. Unfortunately, good posters illustrating such wonderful imagery are few and far between. The above is the best I've been able to find, but that isn't saying much. There's another one out there that I don't care for, but it's by Woop Studios if you care to check it out.

Virgin Mary Art Print by ModHMary (aka Elise Faurote)

I really love so much of this lady's work, and I encourage you to check out her Etsy shop! I think this print is particularly nice as it has the Hail Mary in Latin, if that is important for you to teach your kiddos. I would like this in Zuzu's room...

So that's it for me, reporting live from Orlando, dreaming of Naples - and hope your favorites are all coming true! 

Monday, May 13, 2013

29 Reasons My Mom is the Bomb

Happy Mother's Day, Ya'll! 

Of course, I wish this to all women who foster their motherhood in some unique way. But I especially wish it today to my own mother. She has been my mom for 29 Mother's Days, so, in honor of her, here are 29 reasons she is the bomb. 

Zuzu and I tell my mom a happy Mother's Day!

She shaved her head.
My mom shaved her head because she had always wanted to - at the age of 50. She had always wanted to try she did. That's so gutsy. 

She converted.
My mom became a Catholic 4 years ago - well into adulthood, obviously! Prior to that, she endured a long wait to enter into the Church (2-3 years?) because of some annulment issues. She went to Mass, alone, for a long time - not knowing any of the responses or without any friends. Since I was Catholic too but lived several states away, I could not be there with her. When she felt the tug on her heart, she pursued herself. I find that amazing. 

Mom and I, circa 2009 when she came into the Church!

She knows how to be a mom!
My mother stayed at home with my brother and I even though it entailed great sacrifice. It wasn't easy to stay at home when my dad was starting his business, and mom went without most of the times so that my brother and I could have what we needed - or just what we wanted. She knew that love meant sacrifice and she embraced that. What an amazing example! 

She went back to school.
My Mom wanted a college degree, but spent her early years having and raising babies. She always wanted to finish school, but when did she have time? or money? She felt called to teach more children, beyond her own brood, and wanted so much to do so. Well, in 2006, she graduated from the University of Central Florida with a BA in English Literature - one year before her youngest daughter graduated from college! She made that happen and is now an amazing 9th grade English teacher. 

She runs.
A lot of people wanna-be a lotta things, but they don't follow up. Achieving goals and dreams takes hard work more than luck or motivational posters, and hard work is hard to come by these days. Except for my mom. Once again, proving to herself she could do something, my mom has run two marathons over the age of 50 - including the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. 
My mom and my niece, Katie, after running the Reindeer Run

Her laugh! 
My mom has a great, no-holds-barred laugh. She laughs a lot. It's a real treat if you can make her do it. 

Childhood Christmases. 
I had an amazing childhood, and some of my best memories are from Christmastime. It always seemed like the air was full of magic - the house would be immaculately decorated, we'd have a huge tree, all the meals were special and delicious, served on elegant dishes. We even got to drink Martinelli's out of fancy glasses! She made my Christmas dresses and scrimped and saved so I could get just what I wanted - from Santa, of course. I'll never forget getting my American Girl dolls - which cost far too much, but she wanted me to have them. She made my doll a dress to match the Christmas dress she'd made me. I'm telling you - Christmas at my house was like NO OTHER. 

Birth is natural.
I have two older sisters and was blessed to be there to welcome several nieces and nephews into the world. I loved that my mom welcomed each grandchild with joy and encouraged my sisters to believe in their ability to birth children. From the time I was quite young, my mom talked about birth in a no-nonsense way; it's something that women can do, she insisted, and have been doing for centuries. Her business-like confidence meant that I grew up believing that my body was built to have children, and birth them naturally and easily. Long before I was married, I knew a great deal about childbirth and had witnessed several. This was such a gift to me! I never had to experience the fear that many moms encounter when they have only seen Hollywood representations of birth - screaming and rude language. I always regarded birth as a natural and sacred event, worthy of respect.
Whoooeeee looking ROUGH - and Zuzu looking like an ALIEN! But here we are, 7.5 hours later, with a healthy baby (in a bathtub!)

Push Me/Pull Me
My mom has this in spades. When I was younger, I was perplexed that my mother would critique my friends or offer to help me with a teacher that was being hard on me. I (almost?) always refused these requests for help, but found it weird she was even offering. 
Now I get it. After many years, several of the friends my mom was hard on revealed their true nature. And when I thought back over my childhood, I could see they were really just mean kids - and my mom knew that. She knew that. But she also knew she couldn't make my choices for me - there was this push me/pull me going on inside of her, wanting to protect me vs. wanting me to gain independence. It was hard to learn some lessons on my own, but it's made me a better judge of character in the long run. I'm much more cautious about who I consider a best friend; I can easily count them on one hand.

Marriage is Forever. 
One thing that is evident to most people who meet my parents for the first time is that they are madly in love! Which is great - nothing makes a child feel secure like knowing their parents are in love. 
But it wasn't always this way. My parents went through some very tough years when I was a young teenager, and those years persisted. They had to work through a lot of issues and they didn't get a lot of support; I think us kids were especially hard on mom, and urged her (frequently) to consider divorce. 
I am so glad she didn't. 
Their marriage today is so beautiful, such a testament to love and faithfulness! Fully united now since my dad became Catholic two years ago, they continue to model growth and renewal within the married vocation. That witness has made a great impact on me in my own vocation, so that even when my marriage is difficult, I remind myself that it is forever. 
Mom and Dad - so cute!

Modesty is not only a religious thing.
We were not raised in a Christian home, but that didn't mean we were not imbued with a sense of the importance of some virtues, including modesty. Since my mom approached it from a secular mindset, I appreciated as I grew up that dressing modestly was not something we 'had' to do, but it was a classy choice, made with an eye towards respecting oneself. Clothes communicate to others how you should be treated and how you view yourself. As my mom drolly remarked once when I came downstairs in a risque outfit, "if you want to dress like a whore, don't be surprised when you're treated like one." 
(thanks, Mom. I changed my outfit)

You can do it! 
I know all moms believe in their kids, but man, my mom put her money where her mouth was. I don't think she thought her youngest would take her so seriously when she said, you can do anything, because...well, I did a lot. Every single idea in my head (I'm going to school out of state! to study history! now study abroad! creative writing! now grad school! theology! now law school!) my mom went along for the ride, counseling wisely but encouraging too. She and my dad always found ways to send me money to help fund my latest educational adventure...and I like to think it paid off. 
Mom and Dad, dancing at my wedding!

Parents are not your friends. 
If there's one thing my mom hates, it's the concept that parents are friends. My mom emphatically told me growing up, "I am not your friend. I am your mother." This was a liberating concept, because the relationship of a mother and daughter is far stronger than a friendship; it gives my mom and I the freedom to fight and disagree, to say the really hard things to one another. For, although you can stop being friends with someone, you can't just stop having a mom! It makes my relationship with my mom balanced; she is not there to make me feel good about myself - she is constantly guiding and mothering me. For that I am grateful. 
She might say she's not my friend...but she is.

Messing with your hair too much usually makes you look stupid.
My mom did not let me cut or dye my hair until I left her house. Okay...slight exaggeration. I was allowed to cut my hair when I got a bit older, but she never approved. Actually, she still doesn't like it when I cut my hair...but anyway. She made a valiant stand against me looking like an idiot for much of my high school life, and let me embrace my natural hair color. I am very glad I didn't spend my early teens frying my hair into blonde submission, as I may have been wont to do. 

No bull. 
My mom doesn't pull punches and she doesn't like small talk. She says what she means, and she is working on making her blunt manner a little less, ah, painful. Although sometimes hard to hear, I appreciate it now because it's rubbed off a lot. One of the most frequent compliments I get is that people like that I am a straight shooter; no bull, no frills. Ask an honest question get an honest answer. It's a quality that is harder and harder to find.

High standards. 
I wasn't allowed to use 'like' as a filler. I couldn't half-ass a book report. I wasn't allowed to read the Boxcar Kids any more when I was capable of reading Shakespeare. My mom had high standards for me - standards many parents might classify as 'too demanding' or 'over the top'. But she knew me. She knew I would get lazy academically, that I would let myself be less than I could be. And she wasn't going to let it happen on her watch! 
My standards are so high, I could only have married Mr. O.

Kindness counts.
I was pretty naturally empathetic as a child, but I went to school with a lot of entitled, bratty, rich kids. My mom made sure I knew that she would not allow any child of hers to become rude and unkind. Kindness mattered to my mom; treating people with dignity and respect was an integral part of her personality. My mom always gives people the benefit of the doubt, and has a real Southern charm about her kindness to others. I love that about her.

Don't be a silly girl. 
This, of course, did not apply to toddlers - but to me as I became a young woman. My mother abhors young women who act like idiots when they are clearly bright and capable. So she did NOT put up with any of this trait in me. If I got hysterical over a bug or put on airs, oh man, I felt the sting of my mother's condemnation! 'Stop that,' she'd snap at me 'you're acting ridiculous.' Does it sound harsh? It was. And I am so glad. I have an ability to control how I react to things, I am generally calm and in charge of my emotions. I like that.

Your body is nothing to be ashamed of.
My parents being hippies, they were a bit libertine about my sex education. But the greatest take-away from all this was that my body was good. My mom was not shocked by me walking around naked as a toddler...or a school-aged girl. There was no hurry to cover me up because oh my gosh, I was naked! She would tell me to put clothes on, but it was never in a tone that was disapproving - it was brusque and matter-of-fact, the perfect way to deal with children. In talking to me about sex, my mom was honest and forthright. 
Loving my body - by playing rugby. 

This is none of your business. 
When I got older I realized that my mom's hair was not actually jet black and curly...shocker! She had been perming and dying it for years. I had no clue. When I asked her why she never mentioned that she got her hair done, she replied simply "it wasn't any of your business." At first I thought that was so rude - why wasn't it my business?? But now I look at it and see how great it was that my mom had boundaries. My mom did not feel the need to lay bare her entire life and justify it to me, her child. That was not part of being a mom to me. And now being a mom...I get that. There are parts of my life that just aren't any of my child's business! 

The home is important.
I know that might sound like a 'duh', but it seems that for a lot of families today home is just a place to sleep. It's a stop-over between sports and parties and dance and school. Home is not a place that anyone wants to be. But it was for me as a child. My mom put so much work into our home, and it made such an impression on me. Our home was warm and cozy, filled with good books and nice little corners to read them in. We spent time there, together, as a family, doing family things - games, dinner, reading stories, talking. Our home was not just another place; it was THE place, the touchstone of our family. I loved our home, and so did most of my friends. 
Grad school dinner table, filled with roommates and friends

Food is love.
I loved coming home from college because my mom would stock the house with everything she knew I loved. She would make the dinners she knew I enjoyed or take me out to eat. When it was my birthday, she'd make a big deal about me choosing the meal and getting all the things I liked. is such a wonderful way of caring for people. To feed them - such a Eucharistic way of love! Mom understood that deeply and her meals over the years have communicated her deep love for her family.

Don't get a dog if you can't care for the dog.
I know this sounds weird but I know a lot of people who get a pet, decide 'whoops! not for us!', and back to the pound the poor pet goes. That really ticks my mom off. When I was going to get Blackacre, she was really upset because she insisted that if I get a dog, that's it - that's a responsibility like a baby, she said (which I laughed about at the time, but I now I see she's totally right). She insisted that I treat animals fairly, and that's something I look for in people - the way they treat animals. It says something about a person, the way they treat a being smaller than they are, one who relies on them for all their needs. 
Blackacre, who went as a rugby player for his first Halloween in my house

Education of children is the parent's responsibility.
Man were my parents dedicated to my education. DEDICATED. They sent us to private school even though they really couldn't afford it, then when they couldn't find a school good enough they founded one with other parents! Private, public, parochial, homeschool - my mom was not afraid to try anything to see what would be the best education for me. She took responsibility; my education was her priority. She didn't just put me in a school and hope it worked out, wait another year, see if the next teacher is better - she was very proactive and made changes if it appeared it wasn't working. 
Obviously it worked. I love learning. 
Dad, me, and Mom at my graduation from Marymount

Your choices determine who you are.
My mom emphasized to me over and over again that we are who we choose to be. That emphasis on free will and self-determination helped me to realize when I had made a mistake, that I could choose better next time. It's led to a self-improvement streak a mile wide, but one that I am very grateful for. I never have any doubt that even if I am not the woman I want to be, I can get there - one choice at a time. 

Makeup is best subtle.
I don't remember my mom wearing make up, except for lipstick (always a shade of red/red-brown). But when she did, it looked so...natural. It was so very becoming, but never overdone. It gave me the courage to enjoy being 'made-up,' but to never feel naked without it. And now when I see young women - very young women! - walking around with makeup slathered on looking like clowns, I am so grateful that my mom limited my make up use as a girl...thereby protecting me from some truly embarrassing pictures later on.

My mom messes up a lot because she's really blunt and doesn't have a lot of diplomacy (sorry Mom; that's what you have Dad for). So she apologizes. This is a recent thing, I might add, but it's really beautiful to see. It's easy to be stubborn in relationships where we are older and more experienced, but my mom's example has taught me a lot about humility and being willing to own my mistakes.

Children are gifts.
My mom loves kids. Not unlike me, she seems to like children more than adults. She delights in every age and stage, although she claims her favorite is toddlerhood (who says that??). My mom is so good to affirm women who are having babies, especially my sisters and I, and to affirm that every child is a wonderful thing, even when the circumstances of their conception or birth were less than ideal. 

You are a good mom.
I am lucky to have many positive people in my life, but my biggest cheerleader is my mom. And that really hit home when I became a mom, seven whole months ago! The one thing my mom told me was that I was a good mom, and I had to trust my instincts. She has reiterated that over and over again to me, every time I call for advice ( a lot). She'll give me advice and then add "but I'm not the expert on Zuzu - you are. You're her mom. Trust yourself." Her confidence and obvious pride in my mothering helps me to relax and mother however I feel like. 

I could go on and on, but I'll stop here (reluctantly). My mom is the best mom (for me, as Amelia points out in her great post). God knew what he was doing when he sent me to her and I am so grateful to have her in my life still, to keep guiding and mothering me as I find my own way. 
I love you, Mama. I always have and I always will. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

More Thoughts on Modesty and Nursing

Huge thanks to Katherine over at Having Left the Altar for finding and pointing out this amazing comment on another post (Is Female Purity Bull****? by the ever-controversial Marc Barnes, censorship my own). I am reprinting it here in full; the author has not given herself a name, but identifies herself only as 'a mom.' I think her excellent thoughts give us a really great vision of what we want to strive for - how men should regard nursing women, and how women might regard themselves as they do so.

"Sexuality" is the quality of being either male or female.

Women have breasts that are able to nourish a child. Men don't. Breastfeeding is, therefore, an inherently "sexual" capability. In other words, it differentiates one sex from another.

The essential difference between the sexes points to our complementarity, and our complementarity points to the fact that we are called to sexual unity. This is the logic built into our sexual -- male and female -- bodies.

So yes, it's perfectly "natural" that that which differentiates us helps to attract one sex to the other. It's perfectly "natural" that there would be an element of awe, an element of attractive beauty attached to what is "other" or outside of our own experience of life. "I'm made for you. You're made for me. We see this in our bodies. We belong together."

But that logic of complementarity, in the mystery of its imago dei, does not simply feed one into the other, as if it were a matter of filling a mutual void. No, the logic of complementarity that we read in our bodies necessarily pours outward in new fruitfulness, increasing wonder upon wonder.

Thus, when men (or women) make the argument that mothers ought to cover up when breastfeeding "because their breasts are sexual," my heart aches for the vision they lack.

By reducing "sexual" to "that-which-arouses-me," they have reduced complementarity to an exchange of self-serving use, and have severed its fruitfulness. In saying the "erotic" value of the breasts trumps the nurturing, self-donative value, they have shown their ignorance of the meaning of "sexual" in the first place, and in doing so have shown their poverty. And those who insist upon this poverty, as if it is "just how God designed men," are missing out -- not just on the full beauty of the sexuality of women, but in the dignity of the sexuality of men.

That child breastfeeding is the crown of our sexual complementarity -- a gift that completes the sexual logic of our bodies and showcases it in all its glory. That child is a reminder to a man that a woman is his equal in dignity, not his object of pleasure or his toy. That child reminds man that together he and she have poured their lives out to one another for neither simply his sake nor hers, but for that of another.

A man who is truly attracted to the full sexuality of a woman should see in the act of breastfeeding the epitome of her sexuality -- and his response should be awe, gratitude, and respect. It should be the same awe and gratitude with which a father watches his wife gently tend to any of their child's other needs with the special grace bestowed upon her.

It should never be a jealous, "I wish I were in the child's place," nor an uneasy battle with an interior desire to "have" or "own" her, nor disapproval or disgust. The latter, sadly, are too often the reality for those who make the argument that women ought hide themselves away while breastfeeding. They are the mark of a man who wants to keep woman for himself.

Yes. Breastfeeding is sexual. It is something only she can do. And we should thank her for it, as it is a reminder that we all exist for the good of the other."

Prayers, Please

I hope y'all are having a happy Saturday...

Just a quick post to ask for prayers for an amazing blogger, Mrs. Rebecca Frech over at Shoved to Them. Her daughter was in a very damaging accident and is in the hospital; this is after she (the daughter!) has been dealing with her diagnoses of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis for the past year. The poor child has so much to deal with; I can only imagine how hard it is for Rebecca to see her young daughter suffer so much.

It's a very scary time for their family and I know they would appreciate the support. Since it's a Saturday in the month of May, I'm going to offer up a rosary for them today. It's also the second day of the Holy Spirit Novena, if you are praying it to end on Pentecost, so you might include this in your intentions. 

Holy Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help, hear our prayer. 
Holy Mary, healthy of sinners, hear our prayer. 
Holy Mary, comfort of the afflicted, hear our prayer. 
Holy Spirit, the comforter, have mercy on us.

Friday, May 10, 2013

7 Quick Takes

It's Friday! So I don't have to come up with an original idea, instead I jump on Jen's train of genius for 7 Quick Takes... 

Sooo this weekend is Mother's Day! My first one with a baby in my arms! Wooo! 
I also thought that I'd be celebrating it with my own mama, but a few things came up and she will not be traveling down to see me. I have no idea why (hormones? crazy genes?), but this has severely depressed me. Dinner last night was, therefore, 2 homemade chai tea lattes and two homemade Vietnamese banana muffins. 
I might have cried into my baked goods...just a little bit.

Banana bread recipe and picture from Simply Recipes...I call it Vietnamese banana muffins because a) I do not have a bread pan, therefore I make them into muffins, and 2) the only time I make it is when my Vietnamese friend brings me 10 thousand of these special bananas that grow in her parent's yard.

So I was telling Jen this the other day, but when I first came to Naples, I was so excited to be part of this dynamic Catholic community...but it seemed like everyone I would meet would suddenly reveal their SH. What is a SH? SECRET HERESY. These faithful Catholics would suddenly bust out with, "I believe in reincarnation!" or "abortion can be a loving choice." 
I have to admit, it's made me still a little wary of Catholics down it in the water?!?

My husband did yard work today - gritty, hard work in the yard in the beating sun. He came in smelling of sunscreen and sweat. 
Moments like that I love looking at him and thinking, he is AAALLL mine. hashtag: something sappy and possibly inappropriate.

This is where we got all that free mulch - the lot being cleared down the street.

I made my own hummus today - really pretty easy. I'd like to take this opportunity and apologize to my grad school roommate because, when she suggested that I make my own hummus, I reacted like she'd just told me to bugger off. 
Sorry Rose. You were right - really wasn't that hard and it's better for me.

All of my grad school roommates - Rose in red, Jess in yellow, Ashley - head only, Abbie in blue? white?, Jen of course, and then me in grey (with short hair - before I dyed it blue).

What are people's policies on nap schedules...stick to them religiously, have roughly the same time every day, or just intervals (2-3-4 schedule)? What's important enough to move them? Just searching for some advice out there...I've been trying to keep Zuz on a schedule, but it inevitably means I miss out on a lot - play dates, girls night out, etc.  

happy morning baby

I've been thinking of starting to pump so I can have a bit more 'freedom' - but I honestly don't know how it would work. My angel is...not the best sleeper (to put it sooo lightly). I put her down for her 1.5 hour nap in the morning...and I have to go back in to soothe her to sleep at least twice. At nighttime, the soothing can be endless - sometimes I just give up and go to bed. And soothing = nursing. 
Is this just a phase I deal with until she self-weans? Which...I really hope she does. Because I cannot imagine trying to wean her - it breaks my heart. Sometimes I read weaning stories on the internet and cry. (did I just put that on the internet, Lorda mercy, someone do an intervention for me)

Although I do not get to see my mom this weekend, I DO get to travel to Orlando next week to see the WHOLE FAMILY. Beyond excited. I am so looking forward to seeing all of my siblings, nieces, nephews, parents, heck even my parents' crazy dog (also known as my Father's fourth daughter). Really really pumped to see everyone! 

Family time, Florida caption for this pic on facebook is a perfect description of our beach days: 
pass the SPF 4, chatting chatting, what are you reading, do you see the kids, anymore pretzels, oops watch that wave, man I wish we'd brought beer...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

More Nudity Thoughts: What is Modest Breastfeeding?

Today I read this article by Amber Hines about being told to stop nursing in public. The comments are atrocious, as usual. But it just kept my thoughts going...

Most people's objections to nursing in public without a cover fall into these categories: 1) it is immodest and could provide a stumbling block to men (like a revival of the 2-piece debate), or 2) that's a bodily function private act, like going to the bathroom, or 3) if it makes someone uncomfortable, don't do it.

Arguments two and three are easily dismissed. Breastfeeding is eating, not eliminating, and the comparison of the two is unwarranted. The idea that we should refrain from something just because it makes someone uncomfortable is blatantly false - I wouldn't give a rats if me praying before meals made someone uncomfortable, etc. etc.

So it's back to the modesty question. Does breastfeeding, discreetly, but without a cover, violate the prohibition to Catholic people to be modest? Also, what part does culture play in this debate - to what degree is modesty a construct of culture, and how much should we try to change that culture, if indeed it needs changing?

NB: For those wondering why it would be such a big deal for women to wear a cover, I would like to say that some infants really don't tolerate covers. And if you're nursing older children, covers can become insanely attention-drawing as the child thrashes about or tries to play peek-a-boo with it. 

What is Modesty? 
As any good Catholic would, I looked first to the Catechism for an exploration of this subject! The Catechism has several things to say on modesty, but what I found most elucidating was: 

"2524    The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person." 
"2522    Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet. (2492)

I think this gives us some direction in the conversation. What is most interesting to me here are the two bolded portions (which was my addition).

CCC 2524 tells us by the first sentence that the Church acknowledges some changing norms with culture, but does not make it an absolute pass - good. 
Then we read that teaching modesty (and we must realize that our actions are always teaching someone something, especially for those of us with little ones about) is primarily about "awakening in them respect for the human person." Hmmm. 

When we are nursing, there are two humans involved, both due respect. The mother (that's us reading, I assume) and the baby (if you're capable of reading this, I'd love to meet you). I do wonder if nursing, discreetly, will teach young children and adolescents to respect mothers and babies. I think for young women, it certainly would - probably a big reason why young women fear motherhood and all that entails (including nursing) is because they do not see it. Nursing is a wonderful way to show the beauty of God's design for mothers and babies. 

But what about for boys? I know certainly that male adolescents might feel rather uncomfortable. But perhaps (and I'm just exploring this here) it might be good for them. The fact is that everywhere they go, adolescent boys are bombarded with distorted images of women - women who are airbrushed, wearing very impractical clothing, in unnatural positions, beckoning, always beckoning. Nearly every image of a woman they see implies sex...but rarely babies. So he is encouraged in his visual encounters to think of sex as the contraceptive culture wants him to - as a very fun recreational activity having no consequences, let alone no true joy beyond the fleeting pleasure it promises. 
Perhaps, to a degree, a nursing mother might show a different picture and awaken in him respect for women and children. 

The bold portion of CCC 2522 adds, perhaps, a chastening word to CCC 2524. "[Modesty] keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet." (emphasis mine) Hmmm. I readily agree that a nursing mother may be risking unhealthy curiosity by nursing without a cover in front of an adolescent boy. I am called to mind the moment when I realized my nephew could no longer join me and all my nieces in the dressing room - he was realizing there was a difference between his body and ours,  and was curious about it. This curiosity was not bad, but it was not appropriate to draw it out more than necessary. There needed to be a veil there. 
It is not unhealthy for children to be curious about how babies are fed by their mothers. It is unhealthy for an adolescent boy to want to catch more than a glimpse of a young mother's breasts. 

What I think this gives us is a guideline. Wherever I may be inviting unhealthy curiosity, I should use a cover. But just what is unhealthy is mine to judge. For instance, I nursed without a cover at the beach the other week. I did so because it was quite warm and because my child's sunhat is so large, I did not feel I was being exposed. The crowd around us was mostly families or older people, and those who did notice what I was doing did not seem very interested in it at all. 

We should not behave as if breastfeeding is anything to be ashamed of; indeed, it is not. But for some people, notably boys-on-the-verge-of-becoming-men, they may not yet have fully internalized our teachings. It is a difficult time for young boys, to control their hormones and their eyes, to tame their curiosity and imaginations. It may be most charitable around them to be more discreet, to use a cover. I certainly do so around my young nephews - I'm still giving a witness of the beauty of the bond between mother and baby. They know what I'm doing under my cover. They also learn to avert their eyes, say when the baby is done feeding and I'm struggling to get everything covered back up under my nursing cover! They learn that they can have a conversation with me while I'm nursing and then maybe offer to take the baby once she's finished, so that I can cover back up. Honestly, I've had some very tender moments with these sweet boys, who love my daughter so much and try so hard to be loving to she and I whenever we visit (which is all too infrequently!).

These are my thoughts on nursing with modesty, anyway. It is certainly an individual determination based on the circumstances, your own comfort level, and your own sense of appropriateness. The best guide, then, is to honor the spirit of the law and ensure we always respect the dignity of all persons - not only ourselves and our children, but those around us as well.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

5 Favorites Tiiiime

I think this link-up is a secret ploy by Hallie to make me people more positive...although if someone came up with a "five things that pissed me off this week" link-up, I think it'd be VERY popular (albeit non-holiness-producing). 
Oh - this week it's hosted by Grace. Go see her and laugh laugh laugh.

I hate to admit it, but this puzzle mat is coming in handy these days: 

Babykins can practice going from sitting to crawling position and I don't worry if she goes in head first. Usually our tile floors (yeah, tile - in the ENTIRE HOUSE, welcome to SW Florida) prevent a whole lot of time on the floor, because no carpet can make up for the cold unforgiving 16-inch tile. Enter in this hideous mat which announces to all and sundry "OUR LIVES HAVE BEEN TAKEN OVER BY A BABY. WE NO LONGER CARE ABOUT TASTEFUL FURNISHINGS." 
But hey - it makes life easy. And it doubles as a yoga mat.

These two posts by Dwija and Jen, respectively. 
I don't know either of them IRL (although I did meet Jen at an apologetics conference down here...but she met a lot of people, sooo I don't think I'm super special), I'm amazed at how close the blogosphere can make you feel to people you've never met. I am unreasonably excited about Dwija's pregnancy...and more than a little jealous, to be sure. And I'm proud that Jen articulated that a huge part of being Catholic is just saying, well we'll see what the future brings - not making any drastic decisions. 

This Chai tea: 

I looove chai tea lattes, but cannot stomach spending $4 on a drink without alcohol in it. So then I started buying the pre-made chai tea mix, only to discover it has sugar in it like everything. So then I thought, could I make my own? 
Yes, yes I can. 
For a little over $2 a box, I have infinite amounts of lattes at my disposal, that I can make using agave instead of whatever crazy preservative/fake sugar they use in the other ones. Just brew the tea with a 3:1 ratio of water to milk/cream/dairy substitute and add sweetner. Lovely!  

No, not Mr. Rogers - my neighbors!! 
We REALLY lucked out in the neighbor department and this was made infinitely more clear to me today. The lot at the end of the street is being cleared because someone bought it and is building on it. 'Cleared' down here means, as one neighbor girl put it, 'deforestation!' But that also mulch! 
So my neighbors, knowing that I was inside with a baby I was trying to get to sleep, brought over some of this lovely free pine mulch and spread it in my side yard, where I had mentioned I wanted it. 
This is after they took care of Mr. O and I during our encounter with the plague, and oh yeah, cleaned OUR WHOLE HOUSE when we left for the birth center to have Zuzu. 
Really really really really reeeeeeheeeheeeheeally good neighbors!! 

Though I am loathe to admit it, I might need a wee bit of help getting the last of this baby/law school/lazy weight off...enter in Wow, talk about an eye opener - never knew rice could pack that many calories! 
In order to be more mindful about my eating and activity levels, I downloaded the app on my phone and use it on my computer too. It's been a great way for me to bring more intentionality to my eating - instead of my usual, oh my gosh the baby is asleep and I can eat with two hands so watch as I gorge myself habit. Ew. 

Hope your week is going as well as mine, but with more sleep!