Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Big Purse Dump

Joining Kendra for her fun link-up today.  

Did you ever play this game at a bridal shower?  Each lady gets a checklist of things that might possibly be in their purse, with each item given a point value - more points for less common items (such as "handgun" or "rock").  I always enjoyed that game because I tend to do pretty well.  My purse is usually way overloaded with random unnecessary things.  (I remember this one guy I dated in college always praised me for being the one woman he knew who didn't carry around a purse - something he found to be ridiculous.  Little did he know that my backpack served as my enormous all-purpose purse extraordinaire!  I just accepted his admiration, and didn't say anything.)

Unfortunately for the sake of your entertainment, my purse has recently been relatively organized and free of randomness.  But let's see if I can find items to fit the categories Kendra suggests:
It's my favorite thing in here.
Wow, I really have a lot of these.
 I've been looking for those.
Huh.  THAT shouldn't be in there.

The basics.  Phone, wallet, house key, pen, notebook.  Also pictured is the veil that I wear to Mass, my IKEA family cards I just got last week (I don't know what kinds of discounts they get, but I'm pretty sure they qualify you for a free coffee every time you visit, which was incentive enough for me), and a wad of cash - $90.  This is money I've been given as gifts, and I keep it separate from our "family money" to ensure that, as the givers always insist, I "spend it on myself" :-)

Gift cards.  I have so many, they don't fit in my wallet, so they're just loose in my purse.  I think this qualifies as my "I really have a lot of these"!

Coins and tokens.  I'm a dork, and collect all the State Quarters and other special gimmicky coins the US Mint is always putting out.  On the bottom are tokens for a carousel in town which I've only ever taken the kids to once...but the machine made me buy $5 worth of tokens, so I have leftovers.
 Wet wipes.  If you have kids, this is self-explanatory.

Makeup and such.  My daily routine is just concealer and lipstick, so I keep extras.

 "Personal care items".  Most of these are absolutely in the "my favorite thing in here" category.  The compact folding hair brush, the Ruby Stone nail file (LOVE these.  They last forever.  Except for that old one which is in three pieces on the right, and I really should throw away...), and the blue microfiber cloth that I use a billion times a day to clean children's fingerprints off my glasses.  The tissues and the Tums come in handy a lot too.

Assorted paper.  A used Kleenex, some coupons I'll probably never use, various lists on Post-it notes.  I keep the dimensions of our unframed "art" written down so that when we're at a thrift store, I can try to find frames.  I seem to have lost my tape measure, though, since that didn't turn up during the dump.

 A balled-up heavy-duty twist tie.  This is definitely my "Huh. That shouldn't be in there" item, at least as far as anyone else is concerned.  There is an explanation and a purpose to it, although it's going to sound really silly.  When Tom and I were dating, I found this on the floor of his apartment, and for fun, stuck it in his ear.  He freaked out, not knowing what it was, grabbed it and chucked it into the corner.  I thought it was hilarious, and refused to tell him what it was....I just secretly collected it later on, so I could repeat the little prank again and again.  By now, he has realized that it's just a twisty tie, but he still has a surprised reaction every time I deftly slip it into his ear....about once every three months, when I happen to notice it in the bottom of my purse.  Still very amusing for me.

And lastly, I'm going to include a picture of this one:


What crazy things are in your purse?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

From a 1931 Obstetrics Textbook

A few months back, I found a gem of a book for $1 at a thrift store.  It's a rather fragile 1931 textbook written for those learning to be obstetric nurses.  I have a real interest in learning about pregnancy and childbirth, especially in the history of how these processes were approached in times past as compared to the modern ways.

Not surprisingly, things were rather different in the early 30's.  Many women still gave birth at home, though a lot of them went to special hospitals for the birth.  After the baby was born, women were expected to stay in bed (called "lying-in") for at least two weeks.  Doctors still often worked on women "blindly", reaching in to examine them under a sheet, so as to preserve her modesty.  And the doctors and nurses were absolutely obsessed with sterilization.  This isn't surprising.  At this time, people had finally come to understand that the "puerperal fever" which had tragically killed so many new mothers during the previous century was actually the result of infection - often unknowingly caused by the doctor himself.  But this was still before the advent of antibiotics.  So the best solution was to just be extremely rigorous about making everything completely and utterly aseptic.

So you get unsettling suggestions like,
"Some parturients [women in labor] are unruly, and persist, against advice, in putting the hands on the sterile abdominal towel or even on the vulva.  In such a case the nurse should tie them loosely at the head of the bed."
I can't say I'd appreciate giving birth with my hands tied to the bed.  My favorite part of this quote is that such women are called "unruly"!


The book explained another practice I just could not abide, the lying-in period after birth:
"The writer's practice is to allow the woman to have the back-rest on the fifth day, to sit bolt upright on the seventh day, to get out into a rocker or Morris chair on the tenth, stand on her feet on the eleventh, have the freedom of the room on the twelfth, and go down stairs on the fifteenth day."
Ugh.  I could be forced to spend maybe one day lying in bed after birth, but beyond that, it would be torturous.  I need to be up and moving again!


Some of the baby-care practices were pretty different from today as well.  It seems the nurses urged mothers to waste no time in getting the baby on a strict nursing schedule and to commence immediate sleep training:
"The baby is put to the breast every eight hours until the milk comes, then every four hours during the day, but not during the night.  The first nursing is a 6 A.M., the last at 10:30 P.M., and the child is put to the breast once during the night if it seems really necessary.  The four-hour schedule is for robust children.  Those under 2700 Gms. [5.95 lbs] and those that do not gain after the eighth day have a three-hour schedule: 6, 9, 12, 3, 6, and the last feeding about 10 P.M."
Four hours between nursing?!  How could anyone stand to wait so long?  Most babies would start screaming long before four hours had passed (and I'm sure the breasts would be uncomfortably teeming).  I'm all for gradual night-time weaning, but a newborn baby is just not ready to go for an eight-hour stretch without nursing at night.  I really wonder how many women still followed this schedule, after they were out from under the watchful eye of their nurses.


There was a section about the baby's layette, and what materials you should prepare.  So many women still made clothes by hand (either sewing, or knitting) at this time.  I was particularly interested in the recommendations for cloth diapers, since I wanted to see what was used then as compared to all the fancy types we have available these days.  The book recommends:
"Four to six dozen diapers of cotton diaper cloth 20x40 inches.  These can be bought in sealed packages or made at home.  Two dozen cheese-cloth squares 1 yard square to use folded inside the diaper.  Ten or twelve dozen pieces of clean white absorbent cloth 10 inches square (old linen or cotton) to be used inside the diapers."
I'm very curious about how this worked.  Did the "diaper" go on the outside sort of like a diaper cover, with the cheese-cloth acting as a "doubler" and the white absorbent cloth as a "diaper liner" (to use the cloth diaper parlance of today)?

In the section explaining the type of stockings you should get for your baby (presumably because the babies of the time were all put in dress-like garments, and their legs might get cold), they suggest
"machine-made woolens...which are easily washed and fit comfortably over the diaper at the knee."

Huh?  The knee?!  Just how huge were those diapers?  Or is it just because newborn's knees tend to be bend upwards all the time?


Anyways, it's been an interesting book to read.  I'm not even halfway through yet, but if I find anymore ponderables like these, I can share them in a future entry.  

Though I've peeked ahead to the "Grave Disturbances During Pregnancy" and "Complications During Labor" chapters and let me tell you, there are some pretty gruesome pictures there.  It might be best for me to wait until after I've given birth.

Friday, February 21, 2014

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 36)

It just hit me this week that I'm going to have a baby in a MONTH.  It's not like there's much to get ready....I pretty much know what I'm doing by now, and we already have all the "baby stuff" - it's just a matter of dragging it all up from the basement (a job for my husband, and not me).  But I'm not sure that I've really mentally prepared for it.

Tom is scheduled to go on a business trip less than two weeks before my due date (!).  It's something he *could* get out of, but it's potentially useful for his career that he go.  We've been discussing the pros and cons.  My other two kids were born a little early - seven days and five days, respectively.  Still, the chances of this baby being farther ahead of schedule seem rather slim....

On the other hand, if I did go into labor while Tom was gone, it would be a pretty big deal.  To be honest, I don't think I'd mind too much about my husband missing the birth (at least I'll still have my doula with me!).  It's that I would have to deal with all the arrangements completely by myself - having contractions at home (hopefully at home, and not out somewhere!) while making frantic phone calls, trying to find someone willing to pick up and entertain my kids for the day (or night?) as well as a ride to the hospital for myself.  Usually, Tom handles all that stuff, because while I'm in labor, I'm just not in the right state of mind to deal with all that crap.

We still haven't made the final decision about what he's going to do....but I think we're leaning towards him going.  Yikes!


Earlier this week, I watched Milo and Otis for the first time since I was really young.  Oh. my. goodness.  First of all, I felt like the whole premise of the film was: "let's have Milo and Otis encounter any and every type of creature we can get ahold of - whether or not it makes sense for that species to appear in this particular landscape - and just see what they do with each other."  Did you know that lobsters and crabs live on farms?  Neither did I.  It really strained credibility to see the combinations of animals that supposedly lived together in this imaginary country.

But mostly, I was seriously disturbed the entire time by all the risky situations they put those poor animals into.  Was it really necessary to send the cat down a waterfall in a wooden box, or have the dog fight with a bear?  There is NO WAY some animals weren't killed or seriously injured during the filming.  I checked Wikipedia, and it seems that many others have had the same concerns...

It seems like all the cool bloggers are going to the Edel Gathering this summer.  It sounds like a really great event, but unfortunately, I won't be there.  Not only would it be difficult to swing financially, but....having to bring a four-month old baby would just make it a lot less enjoyable, I have to be honest!  I'll try not to feel jealous of the opportunity to meet so many interesting Catholic ladies.

I've been starting to think about Lent (which starts March 5th this year!), how I should observe it, and what to give up.  I'm afraid the whole season will get rather overshadowed by all the stressful (but exciting) things we have going on these next two months: signing on the house, fixing up some stuff in the house prior to move-in, giving birth, planning a baptism, moving day... (ideally in this order, but the "having a baby" part I don't really have any control over!).

I'm thinking I should definitely reduce my internet use during Lent, since it can get out-of-control at times.  And I don't even own a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or any of that stuff.  Very intentionally, we have only a desktop computer.  And that is temptation enough for me, believe me.  A practice I think would be good, yet challenging, is to not allow myself to use the internet except when the kids are in bed - for naps or the night.  So many times during the day, I pop into the room just to "check my e-mail", and it turns into twenty minutes of browsing Facebook or reading random articles people post about "23 things you'll only remember if you were born in the 80s" or something else stupid like that.  It's unnecessary, and it takes time away from my family.

Kendra has some great ideas for Lent that I will have to look over again.

Aaaaand, because I'm running out of ideas, I'll share a few recent quotes from my little man.

Listening to a song with the lyric, "there he knelt down on the floor."
Sly: "That song just said 'meltdown on the floor' - Stella does that!!"

Sly, to Tom, as soon as he walked in the door after work: "Mommy said I can't have a snack because I lied. What's up with that?!"

Sly and I were waiting forever for Stella to climb up the stairs.
Me: "What's taking her so long?"
Sly: "Probably gravity."

Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Friday, February 14, 2014

On Valentine's Eve

I had planned to have some women from the Catholic Moms group over last night to make "Valentine's Day surprises" for our husbands - basically spending a fun evening making chocolate-covered goodies (Oreos, strawberries, pretzels, etc.), talking, laughing, drinking, sampling.  And sending everyone home with a bag of chocolatey yummies to share with their loved ones for Valentine's Day.

Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate.  Unexpected snow during the day made the roads pretty bad, and people started cancelling, and...well, I decided it would be best to move it to sometime post-Valentine's Day when we could get a better turnout.  It was a bummer.

BUT I still had a container of fresh strawberries in the fridge, and I knew they wouldn't stay good until next week.  So I had the brilliant idea of letting my two toddlers help me make chocolate-dipped strawberries instead.  It was, as expected, an enormous mess.  But still mostly a good time.
Stella just dipped and licked the whole time

Thank goodness for IKEA's full-body bibs!
Yes, I'm still in pajama pants at 7:30pm....this is uncharacteristic of me, I swear! :-)

Sly got to "lick the bowl"

Not too bad-looking

Enjoying the fruits of our labor

I realized, for the first time, that strawberries look a lot like hearts.  I feel like someone could come up with some neat symbolism or theological parallel with this....but that person is not me :-)

Happy (St.) Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Starting to Feel Like a "Real Mom"

Well, we finally bit the bullet and got a mini-van!  It really wasn't a hard sell on my part.  With a third kid on the way, we knew we needed more space for the car seats.  100% of the people I asked for recommendations of family-friendly cars (both in real life, and on this blog - thanks again, everyone!) positively raved about the benefits of mini-vans, saying they were *the* best vehicle for families.  And I believed them.  It's what I grew up riding in, and the type of car I learned to drive on.  And the thought of the increased amount of cargo space had me drooling.  Tom - as many men are - was fairly reluctant to have to join the legions of what he sees as totally-dorky-family-friendly-vehicle-driving-dads...but it had to happen.

We sold our old car and also bought this used van (a Dodge Caravan) via Craigslist.  I was nervous at first about doing everything through private sales like that, but it was easier - and much less expensive - than I expected.  The van is in great shape, with practically the same mileage as our previous car...and yet we netted $1000 overall from the trade - with some bonus room-to-grow to boot!

Tom refused to be in the shot with us - he's been playing up how embarrassed he is to own a mini-van

I feel like SUCH a mom now.  I mean, of course I've been a mom for several years, but....come on, I'm driving a mini-van!  We're (in the process of) buying a house!  I'm turning into my parents, man.  Not that that's a bad thing.  But it seems like not so long ago, I was still a carefree college student...

My younger brothers were all teasing us at dinner last night about "dropping the kids off at soccer practice" in our big old mini-van.

Also, a question for those who have blazed this trail before me:  The kids will be ages 3.5, 1.5, and newborn.  Any suggestions for the best seating arrangement?  I'm thinking of putting the youngest two in the second row (bucket seats), and Sly alone in the back seat.  I'll feel bad for him, though, since he'll be too far away to hand him stuff while I'm driving, or to have conversation with :-(


On a related note, I got my hair cut recently (which you can see in the photo above).  The lady chopped off seven inches, and this is the shortest it's been in many years.

Tom has always preferred me with long hair, and has begged me to keep it as long as possible.  Ever since Sly was born, I've been tempted from time to time to cut it to a more manageable length, but my dear husband has always expressed his extreme dislike for so-called "mom haircuts".  But I finally just got tired of dealing with so much hair, and announced that I was "going short!"  I think *maybe* I just said that to scare Tom a little, because I didn't even get it cut that short anyways - still past shoulder-length.  But now it's so much easier to deal with!

Tom's response when he saw it: "Ok.  It's not as bad as I expected."  ...whatever, I'll take it.

I probably needed a new "mom haircut" to go with my dorky new mini-van anyways :-)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Setting up a Home Altar

When we got married, one of the first things Tom insisted on was that we create a home altar.  I had seen such things at the homes of a few Catholic families we knew, but never really understood how they were "used," or why they had decided to dedicate a specific area of their house for one.  I resisted for a while, not wanting to sacrifice any space in our tiny little duplex towards something that I felt we would never actually use.  Tom won out in the end, though, and we set up a little altar.  I'm glad he insisted on it, because I've seen the graces that the altar has brought to our family and our prayer life.
So What is the Purpose of a Home Altar?

1. It provides a location for prayer in your home.  A gathering place for the family to come together.  The home can truly become the "Domestic Church."

2. It can serve as a focal point - or focusing point - in the house/room.  When you pass by, it's a subtle reminder that your home life is to be centered around God.  It calls your mind to prayer.
"As we have altars and shrines in our churches, so a Catholic family would do well to keep a simple but dignified shrine in the home.  It would be an appropriate symbol to all members that their lives belong to God; that religion and prayer are not merely a Sunday affair, and that the Christian home is a holy place."  (Francis X. Weiser, S.J., The Year of the Lord in the Christian Home)

3. It a great place to live out the Liturgical year (especially if you remember to change some of the colors, images, etc. to correspond with the various seasons and feast of the Church).
"Thus the pulsing life of Christ's love and grace, radiating from the visual representation, will imbue our children with the sweet and solid spirit of piety based on the liturgy of the Church. There will be no need of elaborate explanations; for what the children see at the shrine will impress their hearts and minds more eloquently than a flood of words could do." (ibid.)
4. It can serve as a statement to all who enter your home as guests that your household is one that strives to have God at the center.

5. This one is objectively less important, but it's one of my favorite parts of our altar: it provides storage!  We keep many of our holy cards, medals, Rosaries, extra scapulars, and prayer books inside.  It is always easy to find what we need for our personal devotions, or to change the items we placed out on top as the liturgical season changes.

Creating a Home Altar

Your altar can really be as simple or elaborate as you like, as long as it is conducive to prayer.  The most basic requirements are just: a surface, and some sort of prayer aid(s) to place on it. 

Finding a good surface
We used to have an old-fashioned console-style record player (which didn't work anymore) as our altar.  When we moved into our current place, we replaced it with a nice $40 cabinet off Craigslist which has plenty of storage inside for all our "prayer stuff."  Other possible surfaces for your altar are almost endless.  Any sort of tabletop, a shelf, a mantle, a radiator cover....maybe just not on top of the television, as that doesn't seem to be very conducive to reflection and prayer!

What kinds of objects might go on an altar?
You probably have many things around your house already...a crucifix, images, icons, statues, candles, holy water, Rosaries, prayer cards, flowers, prayer books, incense, blessed objects, relics(!) ....anything that might lift your heart to God or help you to pray.  Many people like to put down an altar cloth or linen of some sort.  If you like, you could even find/make some in different colors, and switch them with the liturgical season, as they do at Mass.

Where should the altar be located in the home?
I'd say ideally in a common area such as a family room.  But you also want it to be functional, so it's best to be in a place where the family will actually be able to comfortably gather around for prayer.  This might end up being a bedroom or the dining room or some other part of the house.  (Bonus points if you can orient it on an eastern wall!)

Our Altar

Pretty simple.  I change out the cloth occasionally (I have a nice little stash of lace and embroidered cloths collected over the years from flea markets/thrift stores).  At this point, I really just switch them as a way to change things up, and allow me to wash the dust off the old one - I don't yet have cloths in the appropriate liturgical colors. Anytime I get fresh roses (which is not often enough!) I hang a few upside-down to dry, and replace the most discolored ones in the little brass vases.  St. Gerard is out on our altar now, since he is the patron of expectant mothers.  The painting above cost me $1 at a church flea market.  If your family has not yet enthroned the Sacred Heart in your home, I strongly recommend it!

And the cabinet below holds almost everything we need for family prayers.

When we have a special intention we'd like to pray for, we light one of the large votives seen on the right, and leave it burning for several days on the altar, carrying our intentions up to Heaven.

Some More Resources
How to Set up a Home Altar (Catholic icing)

Do you have a home altar? 
I'd love to hear what you place on it and how you use it!  (feel free to include links to pictures or posts if you have them)