Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Welcoming James Donald!

James Donald was born on Thursday, January 23!  What a delight it's been to see his siblings welcome him into our family!

hospital selfie (I wanted to always remember this moment - crocheting in peace and quiet with the sweetest smelling baby on my chest - sounds a little like heaven, doesn't it?!)

The Lord bless you, and keep you;

The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.

Numbers 6: 24 - 26

Welcome James Donald!

Monday, January 27, 2014

It Has Come to My Attention...

...that someone saw fit to nominate my blog as Sheenazing in the Best Under Appreciated Blog category!  This is the second year that Bonnie at A Knotted Life has hosted the awards recognizing Catholic bloggers in the name of Venerable Fulton Sheen - a "new media" man in his own day.  There are tons of great blogs (in a number of fun categories) for your consideration.

I have been out of commission as far as the blog-o-sphere is concerned for the past several days, so I had no idea that I had received a nomination and I have no expectation of performing very well in the polls.  However, I am deeply honored and grateful that a thoughtful reader submitted my name and Ordinary Lovely. Thank you!  Truly.  It is humbling and exciting to have readers who have recognized me in this way.  

Next year I shall be bettered prepared - in case I'm nominated again, I have started mapping out major metropolitan cities Catholic school playgrounds to hit on the campaign trail. As far as this year is concerned, time's a running out to vote for this blog or any other, so if you have some free time tonight, head on over to Bonnie's to check out other nominees for the 2014 Sheenazing Awards.  

Thanks again, dear readers!

(And tune in here tomorrow so I can officially introduce you to our newest little one!  He is already quite a delight!)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nesting in Technicolor

It started after all my Christmas crafting was done.  Nesting in high gear, I mean.  This third trimester has been like none other.  In the past, nesting for me has meant lots of cleaning around the home (with a very brief foray into painting wooden things when I was expecting Clare.)  This time around, I still want a clean house, but I just don't want to be the one to clean it!  During this pregnancy I've been unusually attracted to color, and my recent nesting has been about how much I can sew and crochet before the baby is born... and how colorful I can make it.

Some projects are still in the works, so these are mostly just cheery, colorful sneak peak pics of the big things I've been working on:

I'm crocheting this throw blanket according to this pattern from Whit's Knits.  But since I wasn't going to spend the $800 for the same wool yarn that she used (insert spitting out of coffee in shock here), I just started using whatever soft acrylic yarn I had on hand and have bought additional colors to round it out. I can't wait until it's done!  It's my first large scale crochet project.  

* * * * * *

I started crocheting the above blanket after a short-lived sojourn into crocheting baby clothes...

I got one bootie done and quit.  I realized that (1) it was super tedious and time consuming, (2) they were blue and we don't even know if it's a boy or girl, and (3) boy or girl, s/he would grow out of whatever I made in a matter of weeks... so, it wasn't worth it to me to spend the time and mental energy on little slipper and sweater patterns.  I'd rather stick with blankets that can be used for as long as they hold together (!) and hats that are simple to whip up and don't require a lot of squinting at patterns and watching bizarre crochet stitch tutorials on youtube :)  So, feast your eyes on the this lone blue bootie, because I don't think I'll be making any more...

* * * * * *


This quilt started out as a non-rainbow doll quilt.  But once I got rolling, I realized I had so many scraps of fabric I could make it much bigger.  And I happened to have a crib size batting hiding under a pile of stuff.  So, now I'm in the middle of a Scrap Bag Rainbow Crib Quilt.  If we have a girl, this is hers. But I'm still not certain how I'll feel wrapping a bouncing baby boy in this beauty.  If we have a boy, I may claim this for my own - a lap quilt for while I read and crochet???  (I'm starting to sound like a little old granny... it's too early for that!  help!)  The thing I love about the front of this quilt is I can remember almost all the original projects that the scraps are left over from!  

* * * * * *

And this is the only project I've actually finished recently...

needs to be ironed apparently.  sorry about that.

Once I realized that I was crafting a lovely baby quilt that I may not actually use with the sweet baby we'll soon be holding in our arms, I started to panic.  I set the rainbow quilt aside to put together a smaller quilt (it's about 35" x 35") that's a little more appropriate for a boy.  This is another one I managed to complete using scraps and fabric from my stash.  Most of the blocks on the front were left over from the crib quilt I had made my nephew in the fall, and the animal print I used on the back - well, I've had that forever and figured it was time to stop "hanging on to it" and just use it. 

I cheated a little on this quilt, but I'm proud of my thriftiness.  I didn't have any batting for it, but I did find an unused, thin fleece blanket that I had bought years ago for a different project.  I used it for the batting with much success! The weight feels great, and although I real quilter may balk at my shortcut, I feel like I ended up with a decent quilt for tucking a little one into his car seat or bassinet!  

* * * * * *

It's my hope to spend some time crocheting in the hospital (because they might not look too kindly on me hauling my sewing machine in!)  I have fond memories of creating little hats for Clare while she was laying on my lap in our hospital room and I've been daydreaming that it will be the same this time around.  I'm fairly certain that once we're back home my crafting time will be severely limited - replaced by the infinitely more rewarding duties of nursing, diapering, cuddling, and caressing.  But if I finish any other lovely projects, I'll work on getting some pictures up here!  (I think I can guarantee pictures of the  new little one nestled in these blankets, if nothing else!)  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I Dreamed a Dream of Nancy Drew

I dreamed that my some-day daughter would love her as much as I did.  (And in my dreams, Nancy will always be wearing a skirt and pumps.)

When I was a grammar school student, the library in the Catholic school I attended had old books.  Lucky me!  I bet you can figure out where you'd find me on library day - perusing and choosing one of the yellow-spined hardcover Nancy Drew mysteries.  I could hardly wait for library day every week so I could delve into new adventures with Nancy, George, and Bess.  I'd start to unravel the clues along with Nancy, speculate which bad guy was behind all the mayhem, and know that despite all the peril she put herself in, Nancy's brains would ensure that in the end, she would solve the crime and would live to tell the tale (and go out on another date with the dreamy Ned Nickerson!)

I loved mysteries and I loved Nancy Drew.  Back when I was in school, I don't think I ever wondered why I loved her.  But I was probably smart enough that if someone had asked me what was behind it all I could have told you that Nancy was confident, competent, considerate, kind, resourceful, educated, and not afraid of danger.  She knew how to do everything - tie knots, ride horses, drive a speed boat (not to mention her blue convertible), speak French, and wield a flashlight.  She always looked great.  She was using her brain and she was making a difference.  As an adult I think I can appreciate what the stories have to offer even a little more - loyal friendships, a doting father who gave Nancy the freedom to pursue her passion, the often life-saving value  of Nancy's confidence in herself and consideration for others, the fact that she was competent in such a variety of areas (none of which was acquired at college and narrowly geared toward a high-paying career), and the fact that Ned was in her life but was not a distraction and was not the object of everything she did. 

I don't ever remember being the type of girl that sat around dreaming of her future wedding, or planning what my house would look like when I grew up, or what the names of my some-day children would be.  But there was one thing I did dream... that my some-day daughter would read Nancy Drew and that a never-to-be-broken, sleuth-loving bond would be forged between us.  As I entered high school I had already seen that Nancy Drew was changing (In fact she bad been changing ever since her very introduction to girls in the 1930's.) Even at the dorky awkward age of 14 or 15 (incidentally, I usually still feel like I'm at a dorky awkward age...) I had the presence of mind to know that I wanted my some-day daughter to know and love the Nancy that I knew and loved.  It was the Nancy of the 1960's and 70s. (thanks to the school library with the old books!) The music department at my high school had a used book sale fundraiser one year, and what do you suppose I bought??  An entire box full of Nancy Drew's from the the 50's and 60's. (Who would give those away????)  Twenty years later, I found them still packed in the same box in which I first toted them home (my mother shaking her head in amusement that a high school sophomore just spent $10 on a daughter she *might* have!)    

I have that some-day daughter now.  In fact, I have two.  (with perhaps another on the way?!?!?)  And the box of books is waiting.  Some day these girls will be ready to curl up on the couch, tune out the hum of the rest of the household, and plead with me, "Mom, just one more page!" when I say it's time to set the table.  Nancy, who of course will be wearing a skirt, cardigan, and pumps, will have illuminated more than dark corners with her always-on-hand flashlight.  She'll have lit imaginations and a mother-daughter bond that I've dreamed about since before the "daughter" even was.  

* * * * * *


If you're a fellow Nancy Drew fan I know you'll love this book, Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her,  by Melanie Rehak.  I read it about six years ago, but still recall how much I enjoyed it - the history the series, the format, the many writers all under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene, the quarrels and lawsuits, and most of all the evolution of Nancy.  I was particularly fascinated with the details on how the character changed over time to suit the times - her personality, her dress, her hair.  It was also interesting to read about the changes that were made to the texts to reflect the changing cultural and societal norms, particularly in the areas of civil rights and women's rights.  

I admit that I haven't read many of the Nancy Drew stories that were written after 1980, but I'm not too upset about that.  I know that contemporary Nancy is far more concerned with her relationship with Ned and *gasp!* other young suitors.  I love her relationship with Ned in the old days - he was mature, strong, and accomplished, but he was not her rescuer, and she certainly was not chasing after him with fluttering eyes and a flirtatious smile.  The Nancy and Ned of old had a healthy, respectable relationship that my former-counselor husband would call love and admiration between two well differentiated people (laypersons talk - they weren't co-dependent or manipulative.)  I also know that contemporary Nancy has a cell phone and a hybrid car. Who knows - she might eve have a blog!  She may be a modern gal with politically correct sensibilities and a spare thought for the ozone layer...  

But I just want my daughters to love the Nancy that I love - the one with the blue convertible and the flashlight, the girl with the serious but not-a-distraction boyfriend, the girl who gets out of a jam with her brains, not a text message.  And the one with the skirts.  To me, she's not Nancy Drew without 'em :)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

5 Ideas to Get Active Boys to Sit Still for a Few Seconds

You know your personality and temperament guide and affect how your parent, right?  I have a classic melancholic temperament - the type that makes parents bemoan the fact that their children behave like children.   

Kids can be loud, fast, and boisterous.  Energetic.  Inquisitive.  I have a love/hate relationship with these words.  I truly want my children to be energetic and inquisitive - that's so much more desirable than the alternative - lazy, bored, needy, apathetic, uninterested, unimpressed and uninspired by the world around them.   But I have to very intentionally hold myself back sometimes from pouncing on this energy, inquisitiveness, and excitement.  I can mistake it for rowdy disobedience and disrespect for home and family.  Sometimes it is, but usually it's not.  Usually it's kids being kids, and the melancholic mom in me - the one who wants her children to read the classics in a cozy corner of the couch before rationally discussing with me the dichotomy between Tom Sawyer's (another active, inquisitive boy) freely spent youth and today's micro-managed after school programs, or the influence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the development of Encyclopedia Brown - has to bite her tongue and trust that the uncomfortable feeling in her gut is worth it because kids with properly encouraged energy and enthusiasm will, by the grace of God, mature into motivated, capable, competent, interesting adults.  (Oh please, God!  Please!)

BUT - sometimes I really just need my kids to sit down.  Especially my boys. (And even more especially during the months of the year when, "go outside and burn off this energy" isn't always an option.)  This "just sitting down" is, historically/psychologically/traditionally speaking, often more challenging for boys than girls.  So I've made it a little bit of a project to keep a mental log and a rainy-day stash of stuff for getting my boys to sit still for a few seconds.  

Here are my Top 5 Ideas For Encouraging Boys to Sit Still for a Few Seconds (for the years when they've pretty much outgrown play-doh but don't read all the time yet - which is what I really wish they'd do!):

[1] Legos.  This is probably the most obvious, but it's also my favorite.  I am amazed time and time again with what these kids come up with.  They've received a couple fabulous sets at birthdays and this past Christmas.  But we were also so fortunate when the high school boy down the block knocked on our door two summers ago with a huge bin of random Lego pieces. Things have never been the same. The boys' creativity literally knows no bounds and I love seeing what they construct! 

[2] Consumable Activity Books.  The ones we've really enjoyed so far are Mindware Color By Number (Mindware also has Extreme Dot to Dot books which I'd like to check out eventually) and Kumon Maze Books.  (both are kind of pricey, and I have been known to spend a quiet afternoon here and there erasing all the pencils lines out of the maze books so we can use them again...)

a work still in progress

[3] Other Books with Guided Activities (non-consumable):

Ralph Masiello's Learn to Drawn books - I hope to own a few of these some day, but for now we usually just get the Robots and Bugs books out of the library every couple months.

Ed Emberley's Books - we have Make a World and the Complete Funprint Drawing Book.

Books on Folding Paper Airplanes - I think there are quite a few books on folding paper airplanes, I only mention these two here because they're the ones we've had from the library:

The Paper Airplane Book, Seymour Simon (this one includes a lot on the science of flight - somewhat less of an "activity" book and more of a "science" book, but still good.)

Paper Airplanes - Flight School , Christopher Harbo - I highly recommend this book!!  The boys have spent TONS of time perfecting the various models and even making planes for their sisters. The cool thing about this book is that once you master all the planes in it, you can move on to the next books with higher levels of difficulty - Copilot, Pilot, and Captain.  The only obvious downside to this activity is that your home will be littered with paper airplanes for the rest of the day :(  

Usborne Activity Books - Truth be told, we haven't actually used these yet, so I can't quite offer an honest assessment of their value.  I bought these two books used off of Amazon and am hanging onto them until a needy moment after the baby is born. I've browsed through them - the picture instructions are clear, the written directions are simple enough for my young readers, and I really like the spiral spine feature because the book can lie open on the table and stay on the same page :)

[4] Kids' Craft Box - Thank you Dollar Tree for having everything these boys need to be bizarre and creative for about an hour!  The only rules for our craft box are (1) ask mom first and (2) you clean it all up when you're done.  The box has stuff like tape, string, bottled glue and glue sticks, craft sticks, pom-poms, pipe cleaners, paper doilies, ribbon, buttons, colored paper, stickers, cardboard, etc...  The kids are good about cleaning up so I'm willing to withstand the mess that comes with "independent craft time" for an hour or two.  Most of the time I end up throwing out whatever is created (you can imagine the late-night clandestine trips to the dumpster outside!), but once in a while a gem will appear that's worth keeping!

[5]  Puzzles and Games - I guess this is another obvious one.  Still, it's worth mentioning some favorites around here like Battleship, Jenga, simple card games (like War), checkers, Connect Four, and Spot It.  (my boys are 6 and 7... so not quite ready for Monopoly and Risk.  I'm still waiting for someone to want to play Clue and Pictionary with me...)

So there you have it.  Those are my sit-still ideas.  But you know I'm always filing away other great tips - don't forget to fill me in on your fabulous ideas for encouraging active boys to sit still for a few seconds!   

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why Parenting Controversies Don't Bother Me Anymore

Have you ever checked your blog feed reader and it's all a rehashing of the polarizing parenting controversies?  The post titles look something like this: 

The Reasons Why I Tandem Breastfeed in Public and You Should Too 
- or-
The Top 17 Reasons the Great Christian Literary Geniuses of the Past Say You Should Encourage Your Children to Believe in Santa Claus 
- or - 
Only the Cruel Let Their Babies Cry Themselves to Sleep :: Our Pediatrician Told us So
- or - 
Thriving Babies Should Eat Pureed Homegrown Organic Barley Grass before Prunes and Oatmeal
- or - 
Homeschooled Children are Socially Stunted Awkward Oafs (and How to Keep Them at Arms Length)
- or -
Halloween is From the Devil.  Are You Really Willing to Lead Your Children Down That Path?? 
- or -
To Vaccinate or Not?  The Myth of Polio. 

and on and on and on.  

A few years ago I probably would have wound myself into a tizzy reading stuff like this.  All the back and forth - attack, defend, quote your favorite doctor-author with a book on child rearing, etc...  But as my cumulative years of parenting have multiplied (and granted there have not been that many, and there are still many, many more to go) and I've gotten more comfortable and confident in many of the parenting decisions my husband and I have made, the hullabaloo has affected me less.  A few years back I finally decided it didn't matter what other parents did because they weren't raising my children.  It only mattered that I made the right decision.  Ashamedly, it wasn't until this past year that I truly, truly could take an even more important concept to heart: when it comes to those "controversies" parents love to attack and defend, I have more respect for the mature discernment of such decisions, and less concern about the eventual decisions themselves. 

There are so many parenting controversies.  And understandably so.  Parenting is HUGE - a monumental task that everyone wants to get right. And yet there's no rule book.  (Well, the Bible has some gems to offer - especially important are those nuggets on the obedience of children! - but modern-day parents aren't turning to Sacred Scripture for info on sleep training and baby wearing.)  

I think this may be felt more keenly by new parents, (it was by me when I was a newbie mom) but often it seems like when it comes to those big parenting decisions that get everyone riled up, it's black and white and you have to choose sides. Choosing sides. That can be a pretty intimidating concept because in effect, when you choose one method/philosophy/practice you've rejected the alternative.  There were times for me in early parenthood after we had carefully chosen our sides, that those who had chosen that alternative which we had intentionally snubbed seemed the ill-informed parents who did things "differently," and were even "wrong." 

Even though I'm a certifiable introvert with reclusive tendencies ;) I've been blessed enough to make a few new friends in recent years.  These are women who have many similarities to me - they are married to men they are devoted to, they have children whom they love unconditionally and serve with fervor, they are Catholic and are striving to live the Faith fully in their family life.  And among these friends, I have encountered many different styles of parenting, opinions on child care and discipline, and varieties of education, indoctrination, values, and priorities. Parenting magazines and Facebook statuses and blog posts (and lordy, the com boxes!)would have me believe that I'm at odds with these women - a real Western-style showdown of moms whose hip holsters are loaded with near-explosive parenting philosophies. But finally, in my journey as a parent and friend, I know that I am not at odds with these fine women.  On the contrary, the very fact that we have each poured so much of ourselves into researching and thoughtfully making controversial child-rearing decisions unites us far more than the fact that choosing opposing methods divides us.  (For example, my husband and I feel strongly about excluding Santa from our family's Christmas traditions, but I'll never forget how impressed I was with the well thought out reasons some friends gave us for choosing to encourage the belief in Santa in their children.  It was obviously not what we had chosen for our family, but I absolutely respect the fact that someone who had come to a completely different decision had done so with the same amount of thoughtful consideration that we had also put into it.)

Parents invest so much time, reading and research, and personal beliefs and preferences into making each decision, into choosing which "side" they fall on. No wonder we can be so passionate about our decisions.  Sometimes passionate parents butt heads. Unfortunately, sometimes they attack, even unwittingly, those who have chosen the "other side." But most of the time, in my experience, mature, confident, passionate parents spend less time attacking the opposition, and instead focus their energy on the decisions that are right for their children and family.  We put a lot of ourselves into choosing what works for us, what will be best for our family, and what will be best for the well-being and development of our children. Not your children.  Not our neighbor's children.  Not the Catholic blogger across the country's children.  Not even my best friend's children. Our children.  And while it's important to be confident in the choices we've made for our own families, it would be wrong to ignore or discount the multitudes of good parents who have chosen differently.  I give my unreserved respect to all other mature and conscientious parents who have pondered and decided on the big issues - even if they have chosen the "other side."  My ways are not, and should not, be the ways of other parents.  As I have poured my efforts into determining what I want for my own children, so have they, and that is more significant to me than the actual decision itself.  

(So, that was one of my big revelations this past year.  And I wish I could say it more clearly and succinctly than I have here, but if I don't publish this now it will never, ever be!)  It's not enough to spout "I do what's best for my family," and "everyone does things differently."  We have to appreciate, even love, the differences because we respect the women (and men) that made them out of love for their children.   Each of us parents according to our personality, strengths, abilities, beliefs, and even limitations, and it's all good parenting.  I believe in nursing my babies, sleep training them, vaccinating them, homeschooling them, I don't care for baby wearing that much and only ever do so out of convenience, and I allow my kids to eat non-organic food.  The mother who has carefully chosen bottle-feeding, co-sleeping, not vaccinating, traditional schooling, baby-wearing, and natural whole foods, is, in my mind, the same kind of mother as me. Though it may appear that she cares for her child in a way that is entirely different from me, she actually cares for her child in the same way - with the best she has to offer - a heart full of love and a head that did an awful lot of work navigating those controversial topics :)  

Here's to women who put a lot of effort into making tough decisions out of the purest love for their children and still come out on "opposite sides."  We are the same.  And we are only belittling the hard work we've done if we let blog posts and Facebook arguments convince us otherwise.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How We Weathered the Storm (mostly photos)

This blizzard?  Not so bad.  The last two days saw minimal snow but lots of way below zero temperatures, insane winds, and ice on the inside of our window panes.  Last night the snow hit us and Russ had the snow blower out before he left for work this  morning.  Now, at mid-morning, you can hardly tell he did all that work.  But we're good. In fact, we're better than good.  We've really been making the most the cold and snow... 

Remember all that white chocolate I ruined trying to make New Year's Eve candy?  Well, I saved it, that I did, and yesterday we turned it into snow cocoa:  7 cups milk, 12 ounces white chocolate, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 1/2 tsp. nutmeg.  Served with a candy cane and whipped cream, of course!  

An even better treat than the cocoa was that Russ got out of work an hour early - we were all very excited...

cozy socks and crocheting by the fireside - pretty much a perfect evening!

This morning after school lessons we made snow ice cream!  Check out this post from last year for the "recipe."

And I finally let the boys go out today... once it hit 12 degrees... 

Ruth painted while the boys were out...

Clare caring for her dry skin chin!  (could she be another chapstick addict like her mom?)
The kids got crazy in the basement (I don't photograph that behavior!)  and the rest of the time we just sat around and played...

Today ended with a very popular dinner - sausage and spinach egg scrambler and baked oatmeal with blueberry topping.  It's always breakfast-for-dinner on special days around here!

AND... just in case you've fallen for the illusion that everything here is snow-shine and roses and all we do is love the snow and being cooped up inside together, I will briefly mention that storm stir-craziness also got us - I lost my temper, everyone was in time out at one point or another (or was writing things like, "it is wrong to hit my sister" 10 - or 20 - times.), and the kids may have watched a few episodes of Feeding Time on Netflix.  Also - this pile of stuff is ever-present in our living room, but was tastefully avoided in all photos of fabulous family fun  :)  

It's real life here, people, I'm just trying to post the best parts of it!  

Happy snow days!

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