Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Today we were met with some disappointments.  Things are not going as well as we'd hoped, and the ultimate timeline for everything has been extended indefinitely.  It's hard, and very draining.  Please continue your prayers for us all.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Seven Quick Takes: Christmas Symbolism

The spiked leaves of the holly plant are used at Christmas to represent  Christ's crown of thorns.  Because even as we celebrate His birth, we also remember and celebrate His death, by which we were saved.  

This is also why in art, you tend to see the infant Christ with His arms spread in anticipation of His crucifixion.

2. Christmas colors: Green
 Why do we use evergreens at Christmas?  In our homes we decorate with trees, boughs, garlands, and wreaths.  These undying plants represent eternal life.

3. Christmas colors: Red
Red, as in the berries on the holly plant, or the bows we tie around our wreaths represents Christ's blood, shed for us [and for many, unto the remission of sins -- can't help quoting the Mass here!].

4. Lights
Before electricity, people would place candles on their trees, or a bright flame in each window.  Now we wrap our homes and trees with colorful electric bulbs.  These lights represent Christ, the Light of the World, as well as the bright star which led adorers to the place of his birth.  This is also why a star tree-topper is the most common type.

5. Christmas Bells
I feel like these are a less common decoration than they once were, but Christmas bells are intended to call to mind that church bells that announce Christ's birth, and call us to prayer.

6. Gift-giving
The first people to give gifts at Christmas were the Magi, arriving twelve days after Christ's birth 9Feast of the Epiphany, January 6th0.  For centuries, Christians have imitated this practice.  I have read that in the past, gift-giving was just directed at children.  And they would receive just a few small items - maybe some candy, an orange, perhaps a small toy or coin.  These days, adults have jumped into the gift-giving full-force, and I don't think anyone could argue when I say that it often gets out of control.  People give much more extravagant gifts today than our ancestors would have considered decent.  The consumerism surrounding Christmas is sometimes disgusting, and so opposite of the true meaning of the day.  I know that as soon as I was old enough to suddenly feel an "obligation" to buy gifts for many friends and family members (with my own scant supply of cash), the Advent season took on a definite stressfulness that should really have no place in this time of joyful anticipation.

7. Secular symbols
Santa Claus, reindeer, jingle bells, snowmen, snowflakes....most of these things are tied up with the Santa Claus legend, or the fact that Christmas (in the northern hemisphere at least) falls during the winter.   I don't think there's anything wrong with this side of Christmas, except when it detracts and distracts from the true meaning of why we're celebrating.

See more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Novena To St. Sylvester

St. Sylvester, who obviously shares Sly's name, has his feast day coming up on December 31st.  A friend reminded me of this, and suggested starting a novena (nine days of prayer) in honor of St. Sylvester, asking for Sly's healing.

Don't know anything about St. Sylvester?  That's alright, because neither did I, until I found myself with a son named after him (see explanation of how Sly got his name as well as some info about the Saint in this past post).

Since he is a somewhat obscure Saint, despite having been Pope, it's not easy to find existing prayers to him.  So my friend Karla kindly wrote one herself for our purposes:

Novena to St. Sylvester for Baby Sly
pray once daily December 22nd to December 30th (the vigil of St. Sylvester's feast)

(sign of the cross)
O admirable St. Sylvester, you lived through the persecutions of Diocletian and not only survived but flourished. Intercede for your namesake Sly and lay before the throne of Jesus our prayers for his recovery.

Heavenly Father, Almighty God, you chose St. Sylvester to be your pope, who would guide your Church into an era of peace. Through his intercession, kindly grant our petition that baby Sly will safely pass through this time of suffering and be completely restored to health.

Pater noster. Ave Maria. Gloria Patri. [Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory be.]

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.
St. Sylvester, pray for us.

(sign of the cross)

Tom and I will be praying this prayer over the next nine days.  If anyone would like to join the novena, or pray in your own way, we would all appreciate it.

Can't wait to see my little man happy again

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Happened To My Posts?

To anyone coming here looking to read about the recent events that happened to my family, or for updates on my son, I most sincerely regret to tell you that I had to remove those posts at least for the time being, and I am not supposed to continue to talk about anything that is going on with this.

This is going to be extremely difficult for me, and I'm sure for so many readers as well, who are anxious for updates.  I'm not sure if my blog will even survive this because...whatever will I write about these next few months, if I can't even mention anything that's going on or share any pictures that relate whatsoever to this incident?!

I am still reading through the huge number of very kind comments and e-mails people have sent, and I can't express how much I appreciate them all.  It makes it easier to get through my days, knowing how much love and support we have.  I know it's not an exaggeration to say that Sly has tens of THOUSANDS of people praying for him, all over the world.  And I can definitely feel the power of those prayers working for him.

Thank you thank you all for your concern and interest in our story.  The second I am allowed to say anything or give any sort of update, I promise I will.  In the meantime, if you find my blog becomes pretty boring and impersonal (as I'm afraid it might be forced to become), I won't be offended if you unsubscribe.  Thank you all again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Downtown Christmas Displays

Last weekend, we went downtown to check out the various Christmas displays and activities.  Last year, we went on Christmas Eve during the daytime, so there was hardly anyone around.  It was really pleasant to have downtown all to ourselves.  When we went to Macy's, there wasn't a soul in there, and we got right to the front of the line to see Santa.  But I had forgotten that we had gone that day last time, so I was expecting that Sly would get to meet Santa again this year.  When we got there, the line must have been three hours long!  Needless to say, we skipped meeting Santa.  I need to remember this next time.

Despite that, we still enjoyed various other attractions: the "Santas From Around the World" display (I doubt that's the real name of it, but it's what I always refer to it as), the contestants for the big gingerbread contest, the train set, etc.  I didn't take enough pictures to fully document the day, but here are a few.
Watching trains with Daddy

I'm thinking he's pretty much train-obsessed now, like all little boys seem to be

Being cute for some strangers

Some of the gingerbread houses were really impressive.

A talented group of high-schoolers from a local youth orchestra.  Love the poinsettia trees.

Yep.  Still wearing the cat-ear hat this winter.

Sly's coat is enormous on him!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


My apologies for not updating recently.  Our computer has been getting infected with a virus the past few days.  We'll think we got rid of it, but it keeps coming back (it automatically starts when we turn on the computer).  So I haven't been able to use the computer for long stretches of time, while we run various scans.  And when it is available, I've had to use for my cyber school grading.

Tom thinks he can finally eradicate it this evening, which is good.  The one thing that has me troubled, though, is that right now - even though I have internet access again - our computer's still being funny.  And by funny, I mean that all the things we had saved to our desktop are GONE (or just...not available right now?).  I had finally gotten comfortable with the idea that those files might be permanently deleted (most of them could be replaced, or their loss dealt with eventually).  But then I tried to access some Word documents.  And windows told me the entire file was empty.  I checked my music folder - empty.  Photos - (gasp!) empty. 

"It's okay," I quickly assured myself, "you have the external harddrive.  It will all be there"  I went to open the files in there....empty.   !!!

The only thing keeping me from having a meltdown right now is that I had the sense to see if my apparently-deleted music files would still play through iTunes.  And they DO!!  So even though windows believes everything is seems that might not be the case.

Hopefully, I'll be back soon to report that all is well!

Monday, December 5, 2011

News in Pictures

I hardly ever make lasagna, even though I have a killer recipe, handed down by my Nana via my mom.  It just makes WAY TOO MUCH FOOD.  This crusty beauty from last night is going to make us two dinners in a row, then I'll freeze the rest...for probably another two dinners in a few weeks!

Toddler (!) Leg Warmers
Now that we've been getting some winter weather, I've noticed that when we're out with Sly, his little ankles are always exposed.  Especially when he's sitting in the backpack, since it pulls his pants up a little.  So I knit him a pair of legwarmers!  This is the first thing I've knit in a few years, but they thankfully came out just fine.  They reach about to his knees.  I haven't had a chance to try them out yet, since we've had crazy 60° weather the past few days.

Waiting for Christ
I've been trying to decorate for Christmas in stages, as a way to sorta observe Advent.  Instead of having a Christmas explosion in the house all at once.   I love the Fontanini Nativity sets.  Not only are they reliably attractive, and easy to find at stores, but best of all - they are made from PLASTIC!  So when Sly plays with the sheep (which he's already insisted on doing many times), I don't have to worry.

Christmas book basket

I've been collecting children's books at thrift stores since before Sly was born.  I kept putting aside all the seasonal ones in the boxes with that holiday's decorations.  It was fun last week to crack open the Christmas stuff, and see how many Christmas books had built up in there - about fifteen.  I put them all in a basket in the living room, to make sure they get read.  Sly's been "asking" us to read them to him many times each day.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Angry and Venting

I hate my health insurance.  Hate hate hate HATE.  I want to cry right now.  Or scream.

So a little background.  When I got pregnant with Sly, I was uninsured.  I qualified for medical assistance, and it was pretty much the best thing ever.  I literally owed ZERO dollars for the entire pregnancy and labor (with the exception of a silly $12 charge from the hospital for cable tv availability).  Even though Tom did eventually get hired on at work and started receiving benefits, since I was already receiving the medical assistance, it still applied for me until a short time post-partum.

With my last pregnancy (which ended in miscarriage), I had only the insurance from Tom's work.   I knew we'd have to pay some deductibles and such.  But I didn't realize how expensive it would be.  Now that all the bills have come in (I hope!!) from that ordeal, we've ended up having to pay almost $500 for a baby we never had...for a miscarriage that was early and happened naturally.  Just a few appointments with the midwives, an ultrasound.  Imagine how much it would have cost by the end!

It's making me very worried about how we can possibly afford another pregnancy and labor.

Anyways, I spent a long time on the phone with the midwives billing person, trying to find out why the bills were so high.  The answer we both settled on was this: my health insurance is shit (excuse the French).

I wrote Tom an e-mail complaining about it, and he told me that a co-worker of his had recently visited a doctor, and the doctor informed her that her insurance policy was "the worst he'd ever seen."  AWESOME.

I then spent a half hour on the phone with the insurance company (it's United Healthcare, btw - avoid using them at all costs!!) to try to figure things out.  Amongst the outrageously high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, there was another problem.  As it turns out, the Midwife Center is not actually in-network as they claimed to be.  Only *particular* midwives are.  If I get pregnant again, I might be able to insist that I only have appointments with those particular midwives.  But what happens when I go into labor?  You're stuck with whichever one is on call.  I explained this dilemma to the representative on the phone, and she launches into a speech about "well, that's the problem with midwives" and goes on, putting them down, and making it clear that she doesn't respect them as professionals.  It made me mad.  She claimed that United Healthcare has the same policy towards all other midwife groups, which effectively prevents me from changing to a different midwife group.

So basically...if I'm still living in Pittsburgh (which I will be) and get pregnant again (which I hope to), I'll have to pay thousands of dollars (that I don't have) for prenatal/labor care.  And I can't have a midwife.  And I'm really upset about that.

Ugh.  Makes it tempting to just go without prenatal care and have the baby at home with only Tom there to catch it.

Please respond

Hey, quick question to readers...does my blog text look all huge and weird now?  Recently, I was noticing that the pictures and fonts on my blog page were all super tiny and hard to see.  So I've been messing with things, and enlarging it all so it looks normal again.  But I realized that maybe it's just my computer that's the problem.  Please take a second to respond and let me know!  Thanks!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Recently, Sly has learned the fine art of dunking.  He loves to dip his fries in ketchup, crackers into hummus, animal crackers into milk.  He thinks it's great fun to do, and yells when I don't give him his own little cup of sauce, etc. the dip into.

Today I was at the computer checking mail, and Sly was wandering around the second floor.  I hadn't seen him for a little while, and then I started to hear a splashing sound.  THE TOILET!  I ran into the bathroom to find him dunking a plastic toy doughnut into the water.  And yes...Yes.  He was then sucking on it.

Needless to say, he got scrubbed down, and I made him drink a bunch of water to try to dilute any bleach (we have one of those blue 1000 Flushes tablets) he might have ingested. 

Our House Tour Part 4: The Kitchen

This is probably my favorite room in the house.  I spend the most of my waking hours there making meals, cleaning up after meals...It looks pretty similar to my old kitchen, since it's about the same generous size, and has most of the same decor.  But this house has much more attractive white cabinets and countertops, a fresh new marble-look floor, and I made some awesome curtains for the window.

As always, I apologize for the terrible quality of these photos.  I. hate. my. camera.

Looking in from the hall.  You can see my aqua and yellow theme.

A brand new stove!  We have all our pretty glassware up on the shelf.  The decorative plate (which is usually NOT my style) over the coffee maker says "Coffee maketh BRIGHT the spirit" - hehe, so true.

I way reduced the amount of magnets and "stuff" on the fridge because it looked so cluttered before...still too cluttered for my liking.  And the top of the fridge looks pretty bad as well.  I think I need to invest in a few more canvas bins like Caitlin!

This huge ugly metal behemoth is a total eyesore, but oh-so-crucial!  The new place just didn't have any pantry space, so we had to pick something up from good old Craigslist.

It's like my own little grocery store!  I know it doesn't look like it, but it's actually organized.

This is sorta the utility corner.  The chalkboard has our meals for the week (which I've finally resumed), and To Do list.  The broom and dustpan are out of Sly's grasp, the recycling bag is up a hook, the calendar...and off course, the cookbooks and the booze on the tabletop.  We used to store stuff under this console table at the old place (espresso maker, rice steamer, etc.), but Sly pulled them out ALL THE TIME.  So we got smart and just left it empty this time around.  It's sorta a waste of potential storage space.  But Sly loves to use it as a little seat, which is cute.

After months of searching for an affordable and appropriately-sized yellow tablecloth, I just decided to make one.  Why didn't I think of that earlier?  It's covered with clear plastic, which means I can just wipe it down and never need to wash it!  So awesome.

The back corner with some pretty stuff, and Sly's highchair, when not in use.


My retro-fabulous curtains.  The sheers (which are obscured by the light streaming in) are a pale yellow.  I used the excess material from those to make the tie-backs.  I think it looks great when the ties contrast with the curtains, instead of being made from the same fabric.

A close-up of one of the antique Ball jars.

My too-many aprons, and one of the pretty flower prints.

The cabinets, sink, etc.

My love&marriage towels, on a clothesline.

A perfect spot for our side-opening trash can!  This isn't completely baby-proof, but pretty good.

Just another view

Sly's up to some kind of trouble.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Baby Kisses

Sly loves to give kisses.  He kisses Mommy and Daddy all the time.  And his kisses are pretty funny.  He comes at you with a wide-open mouth, and makes a sound like, "aaah". Also, when he's not smacking him and pulling his fur, he can be very sweet with our cat Lance (the one one who lets Sly near him).  He snuggles into his fur and gives him kisses.  He also kisses the statue of Mary in the front hall (I only showed him that one time, and now he does it all the time!), and the picture of baby Jesus in his bedroom.  And he also kisses his reflection whenever he looks in a mirror.  SO CUTE.  He's very affectionate sometimes, or as Tom says, "mushy."

Earlier this evening, the three of us were sitting together on the couch.  Sly spontaneously gave each of us a kiss.  Then Tom and I leaned over and kissed one another too.  Though Sly has seen us kiss dozens of times, he somehow thought that this time was hilarious.  Laughing, he grabbed Tom by the ear, and me by my hair (ow!), and jerked our faces together to make us kiss again.  So we kissed, and Sly started laughing even harder.  He then made us kiss this way over and over, cracking up the whole time.

It sounded something like this: "Ow!" (Tom and I yelling as we got yanked by the hair, the ear, or  - a few times for me - the earring)... "mmwah!" (making a silly kissing noise)...and then laughter from all three of us.

It was a very sweet little moment :-)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Our House Tour Part 3: The Office

I mentioned that our new place has two extra bedrooms.  After first signing the lease, we had toyed with the idea of turning one into a library, and the second into a cozy family room.  After visiting the house again, though, we realized that the logistics for the living room idea just weren't going to work out.  We ended up turning that room into an office/"Christine's work room" (Tom's workroom is pretty much the entire basement - with the exception of my nice carpeted little laundry section -  where he keeps all his dirty tools, and grease-covered man stuff).

I took these pictures in the late afternoon when the light was dim, AND I think Sly had been playing with my camera and smudged the lens again.  So the quality of the photos is pretty poor.  But I didn't feel like re-taking them all.  Sorry, folks.  Here they are anyways...

Check out that beautiful hammered tin ceiling!  It's painted white, which means a lot of people don't notice it right away.  But it's still beautiful.  So glad this has been left in the house all these years.
I rescued these wooden shutters from the trash pile at our cottage.  They used to adorn all the windows there, but several years ago, we replaced them.  These ones had a lot of sentimental value for me, though.  So I spent hours cutting them shorter, sanding them to perfection, and painting them a shade of blue that *almost* matches the original color.  Also notice how my ironing board is conveniently ALWAYS OUT which means that now I do much more ironing!

A craft cabinet!  Papers, paints, crayons, ribbons, flower-pressing implements, jewelry-making stuff, my wax egg materials...and my knitting stuff all in a crate on top.

In one corner, I have three laundry baskets.  One is for clothes that need to be ironed, one for things needing to be mended, and the other for things needing to go to the dry cleaner.  This is so much better than my old system where all these things ended up in one basket, and then I had no idea what was what!

My own sewing desk!  This has proved invaluable, as I've been having to make so many curtains and other things recently.  And the drawers are great to stash all my materials.  The pretty chair came from Goodwill for $7.

Computer desk back in the corner, and some plastic shelving for all our office-type stuff.

We also keep the changing table here, since we wanted it on the second floor.  Notice that huge expanse of open white wall?  Very boring.  Tom and I have some crafty ideas for decorating it, though.  Maybe in time, I will have a nice project to share on here.

The closet stores board games, puzzles, fancy dresses :-)