7 Quick Takes - December 31, 2011 - Saturday edition

--- 1 ---

Wow, my last Quick Takes of the year. We have no wild and crazy plans for NYE; Collin is doing overtime today (8am-5pm), so as soon as he's done we're going to head out to Golden Corral (my dad's request) for supper, come back home, put the kids to bed, and watch a movie. Or maybe play Apples to Apples. I picked up a bottle of Wilson Creek Peach Bellini sparkling wine with which to toast the New Year (assuming I make it to midnight!).

--- 2 ---

Gabriel is doing great - he is 9lbs and still growing! - although we had a scare with possible pneumonia this week. He had his first chest x-ray, poor kid, and his first breathing treatment. We had a couple of rough nights Thankfully he's doing much better and there's no sign of pneumonia.

He is being baptized tomorrow after the 11am Mass! Hooray! I'll try to update with pics ASAP.

--- 3 ---

Christmas was lovely, although my house looks like a toy store exploded. The kids got spoiled rotten. Elanor got her long-awaited My Little Ponies, William got his much-longed-for lightsaber, and Violet got a Pillow Pet and THREE different baby dolls. Plus more toys and books and clothes. Gabriel received some nice things, too, mostly clothes. They are happy children.

--- 4 ---

I used Jennifer Fulwiler's Saint Generator to pick a patron saint for 2012, and it picked St. Anastasia. Her feast day is December 25 (!) and her intercessions are credited with the protection of the faithful from poison and other harmful substances (uh oh). I also read that she's the patroness of martyrs and widows... and I'm hoping I become neither in 2012 (gulp).

--- 5 ---

My dad has been here since Christmas Eve, and it's been so wonderful having him here, especially since Collin has been working tons of overtime this week and I've been sick with a cold. He leaves Tuesday and I'll be sad to see him go. :( But my grandmother plans to come out in the next month or two, and my mother, stepfather, and aunt are planning a visit in March, so I'm looking forward to having more family visit.

--- 6 ---

Obviously, my biggest achievement in 2011 was my sweet baby Gabriel. :) However, one of my other noteworthy accomplishments was my first paid freelance writing job! I wrote an article about Mary, "Humble Handmaid and "Mother of God"? What Catholics Believe about Mary" for Crosswalk.com.

--- 7 ---

Have a happy and blessed New Year!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Logic: You're doing it wrong

Netflix has been my friend this maternity leave, and I'm catching up on one of my favorite shows, Law and Order: SVU.

Love the show. Dislike the boneheaded logic spouted in some episodes, such as "Mask" (Season 12, episode 13). Here's a choice quote:

"The Catholic Church considers IVF to be a sin. I called the Pope and invited him to come and meet some of our babies. So far, no response." - doctor at a "reproductive services" clinic that does IVF and experiments on embryos

Her logic, simplified:

Babies are good. IVF produces babies. Therefore, IVF is good.

Let's apply that logic elsewhere:

Babies are good. Acts of rape sometimes produce babies. Therefore, rape is good.

Huh? You mean that doesn't work? Rape is still bad and immoral even though the children who are the result of acts of rape are not?


Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Carol
by G.K.Chesterton

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down

'A Christmas Carol' poem


The shepherds went their hasty way,
And found the lowly stable-shed
Where the Virgin-Mother lay:
And now they checked their eager tread,
For to the Babe, that at her bosom clung,
A Mother's song the Virgin-Mother sung.


They told her how a glorious light,
Streaming from a heavenly throng.
Around them shone, suspending night!
While sweeter than a mother's song,
Blest Angels heralded the Savior's birth,
Glory to God on high! and Peace on Earth.


She listened to the tale divine,
And closer still the Babe she pressed:
And while she cried, the Babe is mine!
The milk rushed faster to her breast:
Joy rose within her, like a summer's morn;
Peace, Peace on Earth! the Prince of Peace is born.


Thou Mother of the Prince of Peace,
Poor, simple, and of low estate!
That strife should vanish, battle cease,
O why should this thy soul elate?
Sweet Music's loudest note, the Poet's story,
Didst thou ne'er love to hear of fame and glory?


And is not War a youthful king,
A stately Hero clad in mail?
Beneath his footsteps laurels spring;
Him Earth's majestic monarchs hail
Their friends, their playmate! and his bold bright eye
Compels the maiden's love-confessing sigh.


Tell this in some more courtly scene,
To maids and youths in robes of state!
I am a woman poor and mean,
And wherefore is my soul elate.
War is a ruffian, all with guilt defiled,
That from the aged father's tears his child!


A murderous fiend, by fiends adored,
He kills the sire and starves the son;
The husband kills, and from her board
Steals all his widow's toil had won;
Plunders God's world of beauty; rends away
All safety from the night, all comfort from the day.


Then wisely is my soul elate,
That strife should vanish, battle cease:
I'm poor and of low estate,
The Mother of the Prince of Peace.
Joy rises in me, like a summer's morn:
Peace, Peace on Earth! The Prince of Peace is born!

Possessive last names make the Baby Jesus cry

A Christmas card PSA from your friendly neighborhood grammar/punctuation freak:

When signing your Christmas card/letter (or return address labels), do not sign them like so:

Merry Christmas from the Wahlund's!

If your intention is to send Christmas greetings on behalf of your entire family, then you want your last name to be plural, not possessive. For example:

Merry Christmas from the Wahlunds! means there is more than one Wahlund wishing you a Merry Christmas.

The possessive form, on the other hand, indicates that something belonging to the Wahlund family is wishing you a Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas from the Wahlund's... what? The Wahlund's cat? The Wahlund's dog? The Wahlund's thermonuclear bomb facility? 

If your last name ends with an 's' or 'z', then your best bet is to use a workaround such as, "Merry Christmas from the Glass family!" Or you could add an -es. But for the love of all that is holy and innocent, do not use an apostrophe to create a plural form of a surname. Please.

Baby Jesus will thank you.


Someone who has seen this on her received Christmas cards entirely too often this month.

Gabriel's birth story - November 2011

The birth story of Gabriel Keith
11/26/11 (37w1d), 6:09am MST
Weight: 7lbs, 9oz; Length: 18.5 in.

I discovered a surefire way to induce labor - just cook a Thanksgiving dinner for nine people and poof! You'll go into labor the next day. At least, that's what worked for me...

I spent most of Thanksgiving (36w6d pregnant) on my feet, roasting a turkey for the first time, concocting homemade stuffing, and making various side dishes. I did try to get off my feet whenever possible, but it was still an extremely busy day. I was wiped out by 6pm and in bed and asleep by 8pm.

The next morning, I woke up at 4:45am and couldn't get back to sleep. I decided to go downstairs and surf the Internet for a while. I ended up finding a fantastic Black Friday deal on a new pre-lit Christmas tree at Joann.com ($130 tree for $40, plus free shipping) so I (foolishly) went upstairs to wake up Collin and ask if we could buy it. He did not take kindly to being woken up that early on one of his rare days off (can't say I blame him) but eventually he gave me the green light to buy the tree. I did, went back to bed, and managed to fall back asleep until 8am.

When I got up again and used the bathroom, I noticed a bit of blood in the toilet and on the toilet paper. Hmmm, odd, I thought, but passed it off as spotting due to my overexertion the previous day. After all, I was only full-term that very day, and my last pregnancy had gone to 40w3d, so I doubted it meant anything.

I told Collin abut it, though, and we decided that I should pack my hospital bag just in case (something that was on my to-do list for the weekend, anyhow). I packed as best I could and threw some stuff into the washing machine to pack later (such as all my newborn-sized baby outfits, none of which I'd washed yet).

Collin wanted to see the chiropractor, as he'd been having back pain the last week, so we loaded everyone in the car. The kids and I did a bit of grocery shopping while Collin visited the chiropractor. When he was done, we went to see The Muppets (fantastic movie), and then went home.

I used the bathroom again when we got home, and -- surprise -- lost my entire mucous plug in one fell swoop. That had never happened to me before so it was rather jarring. It made me think that maybe something was happening, after all. Still, I'd heard that it was possible to lose your mucous plug and not go into labor for days or even weeks, or that the mucous plug could regenerate, so I still tried to convince myself that it didn't mean anything. Even so, I finished my laundry and made sure my hospital bag was packed and ready to go.

I started timing contractions around 5pm. They were painless, but coming in fairly regular intervals about 10-20 minutes apart. I took a warm bath with Epsom salts, a trick that had always worked to calm BH contractions before. This time, they kept coming. We all piled onto our king-size bed and watched TV for a while, and by 9pm the contractions were starting to become a bit uncomfortable. Collin noticed that I was pacing around and decided to put the kids to bed ASAP. After they were settled, he called his sister-in-law to let her know we might need her to watch the kids. (She was actually our back-up plan for childcare - our initial plan had been to have his dad come over, but his dad was currently en route from North Dakota and was scheduled to arrive in AZ sometime late Saturday or early Sunday!)

Around 10:30pm or so I called my doula, Brealin, to tell her that my contractions were about 7-8 minutes apart, and I wasn't sure if we should go to the hospital or not. I was skittish because of my precipitous labor with Violet, which had only lasted 2.5 hours start to finish. Brealin encouraged me to wait for an hour and see how I felt first, and to eat something nutritious and rich in protein to keep up my energy in case this was real labor. I ate some Thanksgiving leftovers (turkey, sweet potatoes, and a roll) and drank water, all while timing contractions.

Finally, around 11:30pm, I decided I wanted to go to the hospital. The contractions weren't lasting very long but they were coming closer together, and I at least wanted to get checked out to see if anything was happening. I was open to coming back home if necessary, but I didn't want to have too close a call as I'd had with Violet. I called Brealin and arranged to meet her at the hospital, and as soon as my SIL arrived we headed to L&D.

[Collin asked me to write about how he single-handedly defeated a horde of Viking warriors that were between us and the hospital, so I'm humoring him.]

Once I got settled into triage, a check revealed that I was 4cm and 60% effaced, but baby was still high up (-3 station). The triage nurse encouraged me to walk the halls for an hour or two and then come back to get checked; if there was progress I'd be admitted, but if not I'd be sent home. In retrospect I probably should have labored at home a while longer, but like I said Violet's fast birth had made me skittish. With her birth I had labored at home too long and had just barely made it to the hospital in time.

Brealin, Collin, and I walked the halls from 12:30am-2:30am. Thankfully the place was deserted since it was the middle of the night, so we were able to wander around the public areas -- the lobby, the chapel, etc. When a contraction hit I'd stop where I was and "slow dance" with Collin, laying my head on his chest and swaying my hips as he and Brealin rubbed my back or stroked my hair. It was wonderfully soothing.

Around 2:30am we went back up to L&D triage, and the nurse checked me again. I was 5cm and 100% effaced! I can't remember for sure if baby had come down at all -- I think he might have been at -1 station -- but they were going to admit me. I was elated that I was going to meet my baby that day, and that I'd finally have a chance to labor in a jacuzzi tub!

The triage nurse told me that my OB, Dr. N (the one I'd seen throughout my pregnancy) was scheduled to be on call at 7am, but the doctor currently on call (Dr. M) was one I'd never met. I told her there was no way I was going to wait 'til 7am to have this baby so I'd take my chances with Dr. M!

Luckily, the nurses had gotten my GBS test result, which was negative (I'd had the test at my November 17 appointment but hadn't gotten the result yet) so I didn't need an IV. I consented to a heplock, stayed on a monitoring strip for 20 minutes while Brealin fired up the tub, and finally was given the green light to get in around 3:00am or so.

Collin actually took a short video to commemorate the event:

HEAVEN, I tell you. HEAVEN. Brealin laid out a bunch of little battery-operated tea lights, then shut off the overhead lights. She also laid gauze pads with drops of of clary sage essential oil
around the tub. Oh, it was amazing. I sat and soaked, my head pillowed by a fluffy towel, and let the jets pound my back whenever I had a contraction. I felt like I was in my own little exclusive birth spa. The white noise of the jets was almost hypnotic, and I kind of felt like I was in a trance. The contractions didn't even hurt - I felt pressure but no pain. I'd rest my head against Collin's hand whenever I had a contraction, but otherwise I didn't move other than to sip water, and once to suck on a honey stick provided by Brealin.

Our L&D nurse, Amy, was absolutely FABULOUS. She left us completely alone and trusted my doula to come get her if necessary. She came in every 30 minutes to check the baby's heartbeat via Doppler, and I didn't even have to get out of the tub. She read my birth plan and respected it 110% - I couldn't have asked for a better nurse.

Around 5am I started feeling "pushy," and also started feeling a little panicky - the "I don't think I can do this much longer" feelings that usually indicate transition. I got out of the tub (boo) for a cervical check. When Amy told me I was only 7cm, I was devastated and started to cry. I thought for sure I'd be fully dilated.

Amy quietly recommended sitting on the birth ball to encourage baby to drop down further to promote dilation, so they brought one in and I spent the next half hour or so sitting on that. At this point my former peace had been shattered -- I was chilly from leaving the warm environment of the tub and the contractions hurt like hell now that I was out of the water and sitting upright. After a certain point I couldn't stand sitting anymore and started pacing the room, stopping to brace myself at the end of the bed with each contractions. I swayed my hips like I was doing the hula, and made low mooing sounds (that's what they sounded like to me, anyway) in my throat.

The running commentary in my head was, I hate this. I want an epidural. I want a C-section. I don't care how, I just want this baby OUT because I can't do this anymore. However, I didn't vocalize my thoughts because I knew it'd be useless, and some part of my brain knew that I really didn't want drugs, no matter how appealing they seemed at the moment.

Brealin, Collin, and Amy were all doing their best to encourage me, but I felt like labor would never end. I was accustomed to speedy transition (with William, I went from 7cm to 10cm in 15 minutes; with Violet, I arrived at the hospital 10cm and ready to push), and this time transition was taking forever, like it had with Elanor's labor (I'd also had the urge to push at 7cm with her). I was scared that it'd take over an hour to push this baby out, as it had with my first labor.

Around 5:50am I said that I felt immense pressure and really had to push. I was checked again - 9cm.

Amy explained that the bag of waters was literally bulging out of my cervix, and the minute it broke the baby would be here, but in the meantime I had to get to 10cm. I was not a happy camper. I stood at the edge of the bed and worked through contractions as best I could, with Collin and Brealin doing their best to give words of cheer and encouragement, and me fantasizing all the ways they could die. (Okay, maybe I wasn't that bad, but I was in a lot of pain.)

Brealin repeated again that once the bag of waters broke, the baby would be here. I growled in a voice reminiscent of Linda Blair in The Exorcist, "Then let's break the goddamn thing!" Brealin quickly agreed and Amy went to ask someone to find the doctor to come in and break my water.

At this point, things get a little fuzzy for me. I had a contraction that felt like it was ripping me in two, and my body started to push all on its own. The feeling was so consuming that I couldn't vocalize what was happening other than to groan. I was still standing at the foot of the bed, with my hands braced on its sides, when I heard a *plop* and felt something literally drop out of my vagina.

I gasped, "Oh my God!" and reached down to feel a bulging, squishy bag hanging between my legs - it felt like a water balloon. I thought it was the baby's head, but it was only the amniotic fluid sac - baby was coming out in the caul. That same second, things went nuts. Amy, Brealin, and Collin were the only ones in the room. Amy shouted at Collin to go get the doctor and more nurses to help. Brealin was telling me that I had to get on the bed, but I shook my head and said, "No, I can't!" - fully intending to push the baby out right then and there, standing by the end of the bed. (Probably not the best choice given that I was standing on a hard wooden floor, but I wasn't thinking too clearly at the moment.)

I have always said that I have membranes of steel, as my water has never broken prior to pushing (and twice it's been broken by the nurse or midwife as baby was crowning), and this birth just reinforced that notion given how long the sac stayed intact.

Amy and Brealin both told me that I had to get on the bed. They gently, but firmly, lifted me on to it, with Amy supporting the sac that was still hanging out of me as I awkwardly climbed in. I crawled on the bed on my hands and knees and stayed that way. I was not moving, and to their credit I don't think anyone asked me to move.

All I have to go on now is what I could hear, because I was clinging to the bed for dear life, on my hands and knees with my butt in the air and couldn't see much of what was going on. I do remember someone - maybe Amy? - telling me not to push yet. I was trying not to but my body wasn't cooperating; with every contraction I could feel myself push but there wasn't anything I could do to stop it.

Brealin told me that Dr. M moseyed on into the room -- apparently, the urgency of what was going on had not been thoroughly communicated to him. I imagine that the sight he met when he walked in the door -- me, on the bed, butt-first and an amniotic fluid sac hanging out, huffing through a contraction, as the nurse supported the sac in her hand, and other nurses scurrying around getting the baby warmer ready -- made him realize that we didn't have any time to lose. He ran to the sink, scrubbed up, and dashed to the bed. God bless the man, he didn't bat an eye at the fact that I was on my hands and knees, as some OBs might.

Now everyone was telling me to push. I was in too much pain to communicate the fact that I didn't have any control over it anymore -- my body was pushing all by itself regardless of what anyone wanted me to do! I made an effort to push harder, more because I wanted to pain to freaking END already.

The baby's head came out in the caul, and as the shoulders were being born, the amniotic fluid sac "exploded like a bomb" (quoth my husband). The nurses had prepared for this by putting towels on the bed and floor, but I don't know how wet they (they nurses) got. Once the shoulders were out, the rest of the baby was born quickly, and I heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Since he couldn't put the baby on my chest as I'd requested in my birth plan, the doctor instead handed the baby to Collin, who looked between the baby's legs and gasped, "It's a boy!" We hadn't found out the baby's sex beforehand but I'd had incredibly strong boy vibes throughout my pregnancy. Still, it was jarring to realize that my vibes had been correct and we indeed had a new son! I said something like, "Oh God, it's a boy, I'm so happy! I really wanted a boy!" and was half-sobbing with joy. (Collin said he was pretty teary-eyed too.)

The doctor asked a nurse for the time of birth, and she said 6:09am. Collin remembers seeing that the sky was lightening outside, and later I looked up the time of sunrise - it rose exactly one hour after he was born, at 7:09am.

Meanwhile, it was very awkward, clinging to the bed with my butt still in the air, not knowing quite what to do now that he was born. I heard the doctor asking about cutting the cord, because our birth plan specified that we wanted the cord to stop pulsing first. However, it was a little complicated given that I was on my hands and knees and couldn't really hold the baby skin-to-skin in that position, but it was equally as awkward trying to flip over while the umbilical cord was still intact and the bed below me was soaked with fluid and blood. Eventually I just told them to go ahead and cut the cord to make things easier.

Once they did so, the nurses removed what dirty linens they could and put clean blankets and towels underneath me, and helped me turn over. While my butt was still in the air, I heard a nurse say, "He's 7lbs, 9oz!" I couldn't believe how big he was for 3 weeks early; Elanor had been born at 39 weeks and she'd been only 1oz heavier at 7lbs, 10oz.

As soon as I had turned over, I saw an unfamiliar man watching me with a smile on his face. "Oh, hi," I said. "You must be Dr. M."

"Yes, that's me," he said.

"Nice to meet you face-to-face instead of butt-to-face," I quipped.

He just grinned wider and shook my hand. "Congratulations."

Then, FINALLY, they handed me my sweet baby, and I marveled over his full head of hair and his adorable little scrunchy face. I kissed his cheeks, raved over his cuteness, and told everyone his name was Gabriel Keith. I tried to breastfeed him in order to aid the expulsion of the placenta, but he wasn't very interested in latching on right away; he just laid on my chest, blinking his eyes, and watching my face.

Collin took a video of us about 10 minutes after Gabriel was born, while we were doing some skin-to-skin snuggling. Please ignore how drugged out I look; I promise it's due to exhaustion (and baby bliss), not medication!

Dr. M was incredibly patient. He just sat and waited for a good 15-20 minutes, as the nurses did all the newborn procedures on Gabriel (he was on my chest the whole time). Finally, he spoke up and said he was concerned about the amount of bleeding I was having, and he thought it best if we tried some fundal massage to get the placenta expelled. He also asked if I'd consent to an IV bag of pitocin, due to the amount of bleeding I was having. I consented to both, and was very pleased that he'd asked my permission first.

He came over to the bed and did the fundal massage, which worked almost immediately to get the placenta out. The nurse hooked up the pitocin to my heplock, and then I gave Gabriel back to Collin so Dr. M could check for tearing. Not surprisingly, I had a 2nd degree tear (the only birth I haven't torn was with William). I had to wiggle my way toward the end of the bed and put my feet up in stirrups so he could stitch me up. Even though I got a shot of local anesthetic, the stitching hurt more than I remembered from previous births, and it seemed to take an inordinately long time. I think part of that was the fact that I was absolutely exhausted, so the experience seemed to last longer than it really did.

Finally, he was done and I got my baby back. :) Soon after I got a lovely dose of ibuprofen, a wonderful ice pack for my nether regions, and I got Gabriel to latch on. He nursed like a champ from the get-go. I went on Facebook to spread the news, ate a ham-and-cheese omelet that tasted fantastic (I hadn't realized just how hungry I was until I ordered breakfast!), and a few hours later we were moved up to our postpartum recovery room and starting calling family and friends to spread the joyful news that unto us a child was born.

Before we were transferred to the postpartum unit, Amy thanked us for the privilege of witnessing our birth, as this was her last shift; she was transferring to another hospital in the Valley to work as a lactation consultant, and she was glad to end her career in L&D on such a high note. That made me a little teary-eyed. She was a fantastic L&D nurse so it's definitely the hospital's loss!

Also, the pediatric nurse said, "I've never seen anyone deliver on their hands and knees before. That was cool to watch." I later learned that the L&D nurses on the floor that day had nicknamed me "Rockstar Mom" due to the hands-and-knees birth. I didn't think it was all that impressive at the time, given that I was the one with my butt in the air, but hindsight is 20/20 (ba dum bum ching!).

We saw Dr. N as we were leaving the L&D ward, and he came over to congratulate us and said he was disappointed he'd missed the birth, but was glad things had gone so well for me. He said something along the lines of, "I heard you did great," so evidently my reputation of Rockstar Mom was already making the rounds.

The story behind Gabriel's name: Gabriel Keith was the boy name we'd had picked out for Violet, had she'd been a boy, so it's one we'd been waiting to use for a while. Gabriel is Collin's confirmation name, and as an added bonus this baby was conceived on the Feast of the Annunciation, making it very appropriate. Plus, the name goes with the "Holy Family" theme we have going with our kids' names (their middle names are Mary, Joseph, and Elizabeth). Keith is my father-in-law's name, and we wanted to honor him as well. We also liked the initials G.K., in honor of G.K. Chesterton, one of my very favorite authors (Collin and I were confirmed into Catholicism on his birthday!).

Gabriel is such a sweet baby, so mellow and content. His two sisters and his brother absolutely adore him. We are blessed!

For unto us a child was born

It's a boy! Gabriel Keith was born at 6:09am AZ time (37w1d), 7lbs 9oz, 18.5 in long.

7 Quick Takes Friday - November 25, 2011

--- 1 ---

We had a lovely Thanksgiving. I roasted a turkey for the very first time, and it turned out well. I also made homemade stuffing, sweet potato casserole, green beans, homemade rolls, and mulled wine. Collin's grandparents, sister-in-law, and niece came over, and after stuffing ourselves we lit the firepit and stayed outside visiting while the kids played. (Thank goodness I had help with the clean-up, because I was wiped out! I went to bed around 8pm.)

--- 2 ---

I do not, as a rule, participate in the Black Friday madness. No money savings is worth being trampled. I woke up at 5am this morning and couldn't sleep, though, so I started aimlessly surfing the Internet and stumbled across a 7-ft. pre-lit Christmas tree at Joann.com for $39.99 (originally $129.99)! As the top tier of our current (secondhand) Christmas tree didn't work last year, this sale was appealing, so I went so far as to wake up Collin to ask his opinion. He was grumpy but after a long discussion he gave me the the green light to buy it, and I did! I even had a coupon for free shipping. Yay for a working Christmas tree!

--- 3 ---

I also dropped by Half-Price books the other day and got some great bargains:

A dozen Star Trek: Voyager books for $5!

A hardcover box set of the Lord of the Rings trilogy for $30!

--- 4 ---

Wednesday's drive home was my last time commuting until my maternity leave is over (probably sometime in February-ish). Hooray! That drive was getting tough.

--- 5 ---

As has become our Black Friday tradition, we went to see a movie this afternoon (we saw Tangled last year), and it was fantastic:

The kids loved it too! Violet was dancing along with the opening number; it was so adorable.

--- 6 ---

In pregnancy news, I'm full-term today. As much as I'd hoped for a December baby, s/he may come sooner than anticipated. I think I lost some of my mucous plug this morning, and I've started timing contractions just in case. It could be prodromal labor (I had a ton of it with Violet), but we'll have to see what happens. I'm going to take a warm bath with Epsom salts shortly and see if that makes the contractions fizzle. On the up side, at least it's kicked my butt into getting my hospital bag packed and all my newborn-sized baby clothes washed.

--- 7 ---

Ready for the first Sunday of Advent and the new Roman Missal? I am! I downloaded the "iMassExplained" iPhone app from the Daughters of St. Paul and I'm looking forward to using the new translation for the first time this weekend.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Quick Takes Friday - November 18, 2011

--- 1 ---

36 weeks today! We're heading into the home stretch. I had an appointment yesterday; everything looks great. I had the GBS test and the NP attempted to check my cervix, but it was so high up that she decided not to try. So, seems as though Baby is content to stay where s/he is for now. :)

--- 2 ---

I went to a blogger meet-up last weekend!

From L to R: Me, Alison, Danya, and Leila. We had lunch at the Arcadia Cafe (yum!) and gabbed for hours. So rejuvenating! HUGE thanks to Kara who watched Violet for me (Collin was overloaded with homework and needed a toddler-free day) so I could go.

--- 3 ---

I start working from home November 28, thank goodness. I got everything squared away with paperwork and etc. this week. The commute is really getting difficult.

--- 4 ---

We are hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year! Eep! Have I mentioned I've never roasted a turkey before? I'm thinking of using this recipe, but I'm not sure. Is it important to have stuffing actually in the turkey, or is it okay to make separately? Is it redundant to have mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes? (I love 'em both!) We're going to do our ingredient shopping this weekend so I have to get this figured out...

--- 5 ---

I've done a bit of Christmas shopping already but there's still more to do... I did pick up a Christmas present for SeƱor/ita Cuatro yesterday, however:

I love the little reindeer on the feet!

--- 6 ---

Collin has Wednesday through Monday off of work!!!! (Well, technically, he's working for a few hours over the holiday weekend, but no more than 2 per day.) It'll be nice to have him around to run kid interference while I'm in full-bore "decorate for Christmas and get everything washed/ready for baby" mode.

--- 7 ---

Encyclical on the Feast of Christ the King, His Holiness Pope Pius XI, December 11, 1925

The faithful, moreover, by meditating upon these truths, will gain much strength and courage, enabling them to form their lives after the true Christian ideal. If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God.[35] If all these truths are presented to the faithful for their consideration, they will prove a powerful incentive to perfection. It is Our fervent desire, Venerable Brethren, that those who are without the fold may seek after and accept the sweet yoke of Christ, and that we, who by the mercy of God are of the household of the faith, may bear that yoke, not as a burden but with joy, with love, with devotion; that having lived our lives in accordance with the laws of God's kingdom, we may receive full measure of good fruit, and counted by Christ good and faithful servants, we may be rendered partakers of eternal bliss and glory with him in his heavenly kingdom.

Have a blessed Christ the King Sunday!

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Broken Fortress giveaway week!

Edit 11/16/11 - check out today's giveaway featuring a gift certificate to Hand Knit by Cara. I am in love with this Christmas stocking!

The very talented Allison over at A Broken Fortress is hosting a Holiday Giveaway week! Today's giveaway features items from her wonderful Etsy shop Lila's Locker. Check it out!

7 Quick Takes Friday - November 11, 2011

--- 1 ---

Thank you to our Veterans! I'm very proud of the two servicemen in my family. This (middle) is my cousin, Sgt. Adam Walsvik, who serves with the 188th Engineer Company in the North Dakota National Guard. He's currently serving in Afghanistan. Here's an article about an award that Adam won last year. (Incidentally, I had no idea my cousin knew General Hammond. LOL!)

This is my uncle, Command Sgt. Maj. Joel Walsvik (he is also Adam's uncle). I am his namesake (I was named after him and my great-grandmother Anna). He's also with the North Dakota National Guard, and has served several tours of duty in Iraq and one in Kosovo.

Here's an article about some awards he recently bestowed to fellow ND National Guard soldiers.

--- 2 ---

Speaking of the North Dakota National Guard, I read this blurb at the bottom of one of the above articles: Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about a dozen North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas while more than 4,000 remain in the state for emergency response and national defense. For every 10,000 citizens in North Dakota, 65 serve in the North Dakota National Guard, a rate that’s more than four times the national average. Wow! So proud and thankful for our troops, no matter where they are. Here is a great prayer for veterans that I read today.

--- 3 ---

Anyway, back to more mundane topics. I try to restrain myself from being snarky to total strangers on Facebook, I really do, but there are some occasions where I just can't resist. Case in point, from Kohl's FB wall:
--- 4 ---

Elanor's first T-ball game went really well! I'm so proud of her.

--- 5 ---

I met Kara in person on Saturday, at her sweet girl Tessa's 2nd birthday party! We were both so busy running after kids that we forgot to take a picture together, but she got a great one of our oldest daughters together:

(My daughter Elanor is on the left; Kara's daughter Amelia is on the right.) They became fast friends!

--- 6 ---

Violet particularly enjoyed the cupcakes at the party:

--- 7 ---

By the way, did anyone else know that Google released an official Blogger iPhone app back in September? It makes posting on the go a lot easier, especially when it comes to uploading pictures! That'll come in handy for updating my blog after Senor/ita Cuatro arrives. Plus, it's free.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Quick Takes Friday - November 4, 2011

1. I turned 31 yesterday! Other than that, it was an average day. I went to work, got off at 1pm, prayed at the abortion clinic for an hour, did some browsing at the St. Vincent de Paul store (I found a Spiderman coat in William's size for $1.29! Woohoo!), drove home, picked up the kids, took them to Elly's T-ball practice, and then went home. (Whew!)

2. However, I took today off of work, and Collin already has the day off. We went to my OB appointment together, then out for brunch, and we're going to go see Courageous.

3. My OB appt went well. Baby's still head down and has a heart rate of 140. I mentioned the near-constant back pain, and Dr. N recommended a chiropractor he knows who works with a lot of pregnant women, so I might try that. He also recommended a support belt.

4. When I was at the St. Vincent de Paul store yesterday, I handed my debit card and ID to the cashier. He looked at my ID, looked at me, looked at my ID, looked at me. I thought he was going to make a birthday comment, but he said, "You're even more beautiful in person." It was a sweet compliment and made my day!

5. Elanor has her first T-ball game tomorrow morning! She has a uniform and everything. I had thought they were just getting T-shirts, but no - she has gray pants, a blue shirt, blue socks and a hat. I'll be sure to take pictures. Her team is the "Kansas City Royals." (All the teams are named after professional baseball teams, and the real Royals train in Surprise.)

6. I'm terribly excited for tomorrow night - the Knights of Columbus are hosting a "Wives Appreciation Dinner," and Collin and I are going! By ourselves! To a fancy restaurant! With other adults! (My BIL and SIL are watching the kids.) I might even wear make-up, which is usually a once-per-year event.

7. On Sunday the kids and I are going to meet Kara at her sweet daughter's birthday party! I can't wait!

7a. I had hoped Collin could come with us to the birthday party, but his stupid employer has required mandatory overtime on Saturday AND Sunday. Boo, hiss. I think I just need to resign myself to the fact that he will have mandatory overtime for the rest of our natural lives, because there's no end in sight. At least when I have the baby he can take a week or two of FMLA leave and get a small reprieve - even his slave drivers at work can't deny him that without violating federal law.

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7 Quick Takes Friday - October 28, 2011

--- 1 ---

Elanor had her first T-ball practice yesterday. It went surprisingly well. I was a little apprehensive beforehand because she's never participated in any kind of organized sport before, but she was excited, enthusiastic and did a really good job of following the coach's directions. I was also afraid that she'd inherited her parents' complete lack of anything resembling athletic ability, but she managed to hit and catch decently enough for a 6-year-old. Maybe the complete lack of coordination has skipped a generation. :P

--- 2 ---

Remember how I said last week that I wanted to get her a pink glove? Well, call me Mother of the Year, because it suddenly occurred to me on Tuesday that my daughter, like her mother, is left-handed, and thus she needs a glove to wear on her right hand. Of course, there is not a single place in Phoenix (that I could find) that carried a right-handed pink T-ball glove. I would have ordered the dang thing online weeks ago had I remembered that she was left-handed. I ended up having to get her a boring black-and-white one instead (it was the only one at the sports store I went to that was right-handed, in her size, and didn't cost an arm and a leg). In retrospect I guess it's good to have baseball gloves that are gender-neutral, in the event that Violet and Baby W. ever reuse them. Still... she would have been so cute. Oh well.

--- 3 ---

Happily, I ended up only having to buy one Halloween costume this year (William's Spiderman outfit) as Elanor decided to be Princess Tiana again - thankfully her costume from last year still fits. Our plan is for me and Violet to stay home and hand out candy while Collin takes the older two trick-or-treating. If Collin gets a call at 6:29pm from a long-winded, whiny customer who won't shut up, I swear I'm going to reach through the phone lines and slap him or her. I hate the nights when he gets a call a few minutes before his shift ends and ends up having to take an hour or more to deal with it.

--- 4 ---

William asked me what I was going to be for Halloween, and I replied, "I'm going to be a pregnant mommy." He considered this, shook his head, and declared, "No, you need to be a princess, because you're my princess." He even found me a princess crown to wear from Elanor's dress-up stash. So, I guess I'll be a pregnant princess.

--- 5 ---

I suppose it beats the other costume I had in mind:

It's quite the resemblance right now.
--- 6 ---

Forty-nine days until my due date. As cool as it would be to have a December 17 baby (it's the 11th anniversary of our engagement as well as my grandma's birthday) I'll be good with anytime after December 1. I'm ready for this pregnancy to be over so I can walk without pain. At least I start working from home after Thanksgiving - getting rid of the 2+ hour commute (one hour there, about an hour and a half home) will help significantly.

--- 7 ---

Collin's employer announced yesterday that they're continuing with the mandatory overtime for the next two weeks. This was after a week of all the employees assuming that it was no longer required -- that's right, they announced mandatory overtime with less than 24 hours notice. Apparently some of his co-workers are single parents and are frazzled about having to find childcare on the weekend on such short notice, one of his co-workers may have to cancel his vacation, and Collin's upset because he'd thought that he'd be able to have something resembling a relaxing weekend for a change. *sigh* It doesn't help that they're severely understaffed right now. So, prayers for stress relief and peace of mind would be appreciated.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Quick Takes Friday - October 21, 2011

--- 1 ---

Baby update: I had an appointment yesterday and everything looks good. His/her heartbeat was 145bpm, my bp was good, and weight is stable (actually, I've lost two pounds since my last appointment and am still about 5-6 pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight). I'm measuring right on target, which was surprising to me given that I feel like Shamu. The doctor thinks I'm just carrying this baby differently than the others, which is why I feel so big compared to past pregnancies. I also got a flu shot. Ow. My arm still hurts. I guess it beats getting influenza, though.

--- 2 ---

Well, here it is, October 21 and the world didn't end. Poor Harold Camping. Wonder what spin he'll come up with this time to excuse his invalid prediction to his followers?

--- 3 ---

We had a parent-teacher conference with Elanor's regular classroom teacher and special education instructor today. Bottom line is that she's making progress, albeit slowly. We're considering holding her back a year, depending on what progress she makes by spring. We're starting the paperwork now just in case we make the decision to do so. Generally, her teacher told us, the administration is reluctant to hold back a student, especially one with an IEP. Collin and I are both wondering if it might benefit her, though, given that she still shows significant delays when it comes to reading and writing. It's something we'll have to research more, I guess. However, her teachers repeatedly praised her imagination, her positive attitude, and her loving, happy personality, so that was nice to hear.

--- 4 ---

I finally got Elanor's school picture order (long story short, the order got lost somehow after it was delivered to the school and they finally found it):

--- 5 ---

Collin's employer has decided to extend their support hours. Worst case scenario, Collin might end up with a schedule where he's working until 11pm. The thought makes me want to cry. It's imperative that I keep the kids downstairs and quiet while he's upstairs working; I'm not going to able to put them to bed if he's working that late! I might be able to put the older kids to bed and just take the youngest into the master bedroom with me 'til he's off of work or something like that, which is not a fun prospect, given I'll still have to keep them very quiet (not sure how that will work once we have a new baby...). We can only hope and pray that he'll get a halfway decent shift (like the one he has now, 7:30am-6:30pm, 4 days per week) instead of a late night one. He can list his preferences but it's basically a randomized draw. *sigh*

--- 6 ---

Elanor starts T-ball next week. I want to get her one of these:
Back in my day I don't think they made pink-and-purple baseball gloves! I had a boring brown one when I played softball as a kid.

--- 7 ---

I do indeed have my new iPhone 4S now, and I absolutely love it. Siri is a very handy tool (and rather amusing at times). It's so much smoother, faster, and shinier than my old phone! I can't wait to use it for pictures and video of the new baby. :)

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Our Leap of Faith

October 17 marked the three-year anniversary of our arrival in Arizona, and I realized that I'd never blogged about what led us here.

In the fall of 2008, my husband and I faced a difficult decision. The recession had detrimentally affected both of our jobs. At the time, I was part of a dedicated team at my work serving a specific client - Lehman Brothers. Collin was working part-time in the evenings for a local ISP and going to college full-time as well. 

Lehman Brothers imploded, and I ended up taking a cut in pay and slightly reduced hours. Around the same time, Collin's employers informed him that they were eliminating all part-time positions in a few months and going to full-time positions only. As he was attending college full-time, there was no way he could accept without dropping out of school (nor did he want to accept; it was a decent job to work while in school, but not a job he wanted to do full-time).  

However, school was not going well for him (calculus was proving extremely difficult) and we were struggling to make ends meet the way it was with two little kids in full-time daycare. Neither of us had prospects for better employment in our area. Collin and I had a long talk one evening, and he asked me how I'd feel about moving to Arizona (specifically, Surprise, in the Phoenix metro area). His brother lived there, and he and his wife were willing to provide us with a place to stay as long as we needed one. His mother lived there full-time and his grandparents wintered there. Despite the impending recession, he felt our job prospects would be better in AZ, given that it was a large metropolitan area, and he would be willing to postpone school indefinitely until we got on our feet.

I was conflicted, given that most of my family lived in the Fargo area, but there was one thing I did know: we were stagnating where we were. It seemed like no matter how hard we worked, we couldn't get ahead.  Also, the winters were very hard on us -- driving to work through glare ice and snow, bundling up the kids like Eskimos every time we left the house, and Collin's bipolar disorder being exacerbated by Seasonal Affective Disorder. The climate in Arizona, in contrast, seemed like a dream.

We prayed, and talked some more, and considered all the pros and cons. Collin felt that God was leading us to AZ; I was more hesitant but I trusted him completely. I thought that if we were meant to go to AZ, then any obstacles in our path would be easily resolved -- and as it turned out, that was exactly what happened. Collin was able to withdraw from his current semester of school with no penalties (he just barely made the deadline); I found a co-worker of mine willing to take over the lease to our apartment right away so we didn't have to worry about getting out of our lease (our landlord had told us that if we could find a new renter, he'd let them take over the lease instead of charging us the standard fee for breaking the lease early). Our families, while sad that we were leaving, generously offered help with packing and moving expenses.  This all came about within two weeks of our decision to move.

We gave away many of our possessions (including one of our cars with a dying transmission, donated to charity), packed a small moving van with what was left, and traveled 1,800 miles to the south. It ended up being a long, four-day road trip. When we arrived, we had barely $100 to our name, two small children (a three-year-old and a six-month-old) to support, and were dependent on the kindness of relatives for housing. We'd prayed hard about our move and felt that God was guiding us in our decision, but it was still very scary.

Once we arrived, we both began sending out resumes and applying for jobs. Collin, a computer technician by trade, decided one day to go to the local Catholic Church and introduce himself to the priest. In front of the Church was a small garden with a statue of Mary in the center. He paused in front of the statue to pray, and just as he finished his prayer, his cell phone rang. The call was from a recruiter at a large and successful computer company. They were calling to schedule an interview. The interesting part was that he had never sent them him his resume; he hadn't been aware they had any jobs available in the area. However, somehow his resume had gotten to them. 

He immediately scheduled the interview, and eventually he was offered a full-time position with a salary higher than he'd ever made before. Exactly one week later I also found a very good job, and within days we'd also found a four-bedroom house to rent (a far cry from the tiny two-bedroom basement apartment we'd had in Fargo)! Neither of us think it was a coincidence that our good luck began after asking Mary for her intercession.

With our two good jobs, our financial situation continued to improve. We were able to invite my grandmother to spend an extended stay with us so she could escape the ND winter for a few weeks, and we loved having her as a guest in our home. (She's been back every winter since.) 

In December 2009, we realized a long-cherished dream: home ownership, something we never thought would be possible for us. Our new home was located right behind our church, the parish where Collin had asked Mary for her prayers. When we were originally looking at the house, we brought the kids up to the master bedroom to look around, and our daughter pointed out the window at the beautiful view of the church and said, "Look, there's Jesus!" Collin said he knew right then and there that God meant for the house to be ours, and he was right again. Despite nine other offers on the house, ours was accepted. 

In March 2010 we realized another dream -- a new sibling for our children. Soon we'll realize that dream once again. Collin was able to return to school and has been a full-time student at the University of Phoenix for a little over a year; his GPA is currently over 3.5 and he's set to graduate in 2012.

When I look back over the road we've traveled, I can't believe how our lives have changed in three short years. Moving to a new state with no jobs lined up and very little money was a huge leap of faith on our part, but it ultimately turned out to be the best decision we could have made for our family (and yes, we LOVE the weather!).

Deo gratias!

What's Wrong with this Picture?

A (very liberal) Facebook friend posted the following to her wall earlier today:

I commented that the initial assertion in the graphic (specifically, "The House just passed a bill that will let a hospital refuse a woman emergency abortion care even if she will die without it") was a blatant lie, offered a link demonstrating step-by-step how it is a lie, and asked her to please not post pictures that propogate lies.

The response by her and her liberal cronies, in a nutshell?

"It's not a lie! The Protect Life Act doesn't create jobs, therefore the graphic doesn't lie!"

I sometimes wonder why I even try.

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day

Today, October 15, is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day.

Please light a candle in memory of your own lost little ones, and/or in memory of those who have lost babies, either before birth or within the first year after birth.

I've lost two children to miscarriage, Noel (December 2006) and Chris (March 2009); I think about them every day.

Image: foto76 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

7 Quick Takes Friday - October 14, 2011 - Haiku Edition

--- 1 ---

New iPhone 4S is 
waiting for me at home. 
4pm, come soon! 

--- 2 ---

The kids watch Star Wars 
over and over again.  
Love this new obsession. 

--- 3 ---

I'm 31 weeks. 
Jeez, was I this big before? 
My belly is huge. 

--- 4 ---

My new goal in life: 
Please, Leila Miller?? ;) 

--- 5 ---

Prayed outside clinic 
yesterday afternoon for 

--- 6 ---

Pumpkin spice lattes 
are so very, very good.
I must get one soon 

--- 7 ---

 Plans for tomorrow: 
Sleep in, do laundry, fix bikes. 
Or maybe just sleep. 

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7 Quick Takes Friday - October 7, 2011

--- 1 ---

30 weeks
today! Baby W. has been moving around and kicking like crazy lately. I think s/he's had hiccups a few times, too.

--- 2 ---

You know how I said last week that I was hoping things would settle down this week? Well, they did to a certain degree, but it looks like the next two weeks are going to be difficult. Thanks to the release of iCloud, Collin has to work mandatory overtime for the next two weeks in addition to being in the final weeks of his most challenging college course to date. I think he's going to emerge from his office for meals, bathroom breaks, and the occasional nap, but that's about it. *sigh*

--- 3 ---

Speaking of Apple, Steve Jobs will be missed. He was a brilliant man who impacted several different entire industries -- and his company treats their employees quite well to boot. Prayers for his soul, and for his family in their time of grief.

--- 4 ---

Speaking of Apple once again, Collin ordered my birthday/Christmas present this morning (a white one, 64GB - I thought I was getting a 32 GB one but he decided to go for broke).

So. Excited. It should arrive October 14!

--- 5 ---

I had an intensely painful charley horse at 2am this morning. Ow. I swear it hurt worse than labor contractions did.

I hate that particular pregnancy symptom. The weird thing is that Collin woke this morning with a bad charley horse too! Must've been a sympathy one.

--- 6 ---

I read a birth story earlier this week that simultaneously made me laugh and freaked me out. It's called, "Is That My Uterus in that Taurus?"

I think it freaked me out because I came uncomfortably close to having a similar birth story with Violet, and I'm nervous that my labor this time around might go even faster. I really don't want to give birth in the car if I can help it.

--- 7 ---

Potluck tonight for the marriage prep group. We're bringing Beer-Braised Kielbasa, mainly because I KNOW the kids will eat it.

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Welcome to The Catholic Working Mother

Click here to order The Catholic Working Mom’s Guide to Life , released May 28, 2019 by Our Sunday Visitor Press. My blog,  The Catholic ...