Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When 10,000 Hours is Just the Beginning

I know what you're thinking.  "Didn't she say she's on a blogging break until September?"  Why, yes.  I did.  I am.  Maybe I should have added a little caveat.  You won't see any new content on my blog, but you may see a guest post every now and then elsewhere.  Like today.

I'm over at my friend Sarah's blog, Two Os + More, talking about sewing machines, marriage, and how 10,000 hours just doesn't cut it. 
I have a sewing machine sitting in my bedroom. I got it for Christmas 2012 and I have yet to use it. But if I were to conquer my fear (which I have every intention of doing this summer), dust off the sewing machine and sew every day for the next four years, I would expect that I would be a pretty good seamstress. I’m sure most others would expect that of me as well.

Not that I would be an expert. Nay expertise takes 10,000 hours of practice (or so says Malcolm Gladwell) and to get that many hours in would take nearly 7 hours a day for four years to get to that magic number. I certainly won’t be sewing for 7 hours a day but, surely, by the end of four years, I would be able to make a passable frock in a decent amount of time.

In a couple months, my husband and I will celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. And marriage, well, despite not sewing a stitch, I have a feeling that it’s nothing like sewing. You see, by the time we reach four years, I’ll have spent 35,064 hours as a wife...
continue reading at Two Os + More

Monday, May 12, 2014

See you in September!

Hi all! I've decided to take a blogging break for the summer.  I know it's not technically summer yet, but it sure feels like it here so I'll just call it summer anyway.  Fall officially starts in September, so let's just set that as a tentative "I shall blog again" date.  

This break hasn't been prompted by anything specific.  We're all still doing well here.  I've been toying with the idea of distancing myself a bit from blogging and with an upcoming summer filled with traveling, the timing couldn't be better.  

I'll still be present online over on the blog's Facebook page and Twitter where I'll be sharing my favorite links from around the web, Lucia's funny quotes, asking for advice, etc. - the same old, same old.  

I hope you have a blessed summer and I'll see in in the fall!

Friday, May 9, 2014

When to tell a toddler about a pregnancy

I recently had a reader email me with a question about when to share her pregnancy with her toddler.  Since this is a question many women may have, I thought I might expand a bit on my answer and make it into a blog post.  I'd love to hear other thoughts on the matter as well, so please share yours in the comments below!

First of all, if you are reading this because you are pregnant, congratulations!  Each family may share the joyous news of a pregnancy in different ways and I truly believe that there is no one right answer.  This question is, understandably, a little more complicated for women who have previously had a miscarriage or have reason to suspect they have a higher than average risk for miscarriage.  However, the truth is that every woman and every pregnancy may end with the death instead of the birth of a baby, so it's a valid concern for any pregnant woman.
In the past, David and I have told Lucia about our pregnancies as soon as I got the positive test.  We strongly believe this was the right decision for our family and will continue to do the same for future pregnancies.  We liked that she was able to talk to and kiss my tummy and this bond with her siblings from the beginning, something that meant even more after we lost the babies.

Young children are generally very resilient when it comes to loss. They often cope better than adults.  (In part, I think, because they have such a strong connection to the divine.) It's valuable for children to learn about death as a part of life. My role as a parent is not to shield Lucia from tough realities but to help her work through them in age appropriate ways.  Because of the incredible advances and medicine, death is not as much a part of daily life as it once was.  Obviously, that's a good thing, but it also means that we as a society are often ill-prepared to face death when it does occur.  Learning about death at a young age, in a way that is guided by loving parents, will lay a foundation for our children to deal with death in healthy ways later in life. 

We keep the memories of our lost children alive in our family by naming them and talking about them regularly.  It didn't make sense to us to hide the existence of our unborn children from Lucia until we were past the first trimester since we didn't plan to hide their existence even if they had passed. They are members if our family from the beginning and we treat them as such.

I also cannot imagine how I would have explained to Lucia why mommy was so sick and so sad for so long if I couldn't explain about my miscarriages.  Most likely, after you lose a child, you're other children will notice something and I liked being able to be honest with Lucia about what was going on.

All this is not to say that I don't see some benefits of waiting to tell. Because of our history we plan to wait as long as possible before telling others (outside our immediate family) about our next pregnancy - something a loudmouth toddler might spoil.

If you do miscarry, having to break the news to a little one can be extremely painful for you. After both my miscarriages, Lucia continued to kiss and talk to my tummy, something that always brought me to tears. It took a while for her to understand that the baby was no longer there and that she would not, in fact, be able to hold and play with and grow up with the baby like we had told her. That second part was mostly an issue after the first miscarriage. After my first loss, we talked about pregnancy much differently with Lucia, focusing on the present (the baby in mommy's tummy) instead of the potential future (what life will be like after the baby is born). When the baby died, Lucia only had to grieve the fact that the baby was no longer in mommy's tummy and not the lost future with a sibling. I suggest that no matter when you decide to tell your child(ren), you think about how you'll talk about the pregnancy and the baby in a way that fits for your family and your situation. 

Whatever you decide to do, be assured that your family is in my prayers.  I pray for families who are expecting and families who have experienced pregnancy loss every night.  May God bless you as you make this and other decisions for your family.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What the internet gave me; And a few tips on how to make the internet work for good.

Money in my pocket.
My husband.

Just a few things the internet has given me over the past ten years.  

I'm of a generation that hardly remembers what it's like to write a paper without the internet.  I do vaguely remember making copies of Very Heavy Books in the public library for my report on tortoises.  And I do know how to work my way through archives of bound government documents, but only because I was a history major (and I think that's fun).  But I truly cannot fathom a life without the internet.  Sometimes I get a little down about that and daydream about the good ol' days when children spent all day in the backyard as I chatted with our next door neighbor while both of us hung our laundry on the line.  I decry my love of the internet and admonish myself because I just can't seem to go a day without it. 

But let's be honest here: We live in a society that assumes internet access.  It's also quite different from that of my grandparents.  

Instead of sitting around sipping coffee and playing card games with the neighborhood ladies, my days as a stay-at-home mom are fairly isolated.  I can go to play groups, but guess where I find about about those?  Facebook.  And they are often far away (which means I would need to google some directions).  

I didn't learn how to sew or cook or keep house from my mother as my grandmother did from hers.  So I watch YouTube tutorials and follow blogs with housekeeping tips, google "how to remove a ____ stain" (you would not believe how many options there are for that blank until you have a toddler!) and search for local sewing classes.

In a modern society where babies aren't nearly as abundant, I entered motherhood without a clue and still frequently can be found asking, "Is it normal that my toddler _______?" in a myriad of Facebook groups.  

I don't have time to leisurely read the newspaper with a toddler afoot (and no neighborhood kids to keep her entertained). I keep up on current events by reading news stories online and discussing them through social media in the small pieces of time I have throughout the day.

The internet kept me sane after my miscarriages.  I googled and before my eyes appeared other women with their stories and their advice.  There were other women who had experienced miscarriages! And many of them had some of the same thoughts and feelings I had!  So I wasn't crazy after all!  I researched and ordered the most helpful books to read.  I found a Catholic counselor online.  And a local pregnancy loss support group.  And Facebook groups about loss and infertility.

My life has been immeasurably enriched by the internet.  Of course, meeting my husband online was the greatest of these internet blessings.  Four of my deepest friendships (including three local friends that I see regularly) were women I first met through social media.  I also have made innumerable friends through the blogging world and social media, women who I may or may not ever meet, but who have been a lifeline for me particularly through my miscarriages.  My husband even found his current job (after an unfruitful yearlong job search) through one of my blog readers!

Instead of longing for a life without internet, I'm learning to accept it for what it is and it's role in our current society.  The internet is not inherently bad.  Living an "unplugged" life is not inherently good.  The internet is a tool, and you can choose how you use it.  Here are a few tips for maximizing the potential for good while limiting the bad:
  • Record your time. For a day/week, record how much time you spend online and what you're doing with that time.  This is fairly easy for me to do because we don't have wireless internet and I don't have a smart phone, so I have to actually sit down at a computer to use it, but if you do have more mobile methods, make sure you include those!  Once you have a list of the basic internet activities you do and how much time you spend on each, divide the lists into two categories: online activities that enrich your life, and those that don't.  You might realize that you're spending less "wasted" and more "productive" time than you thought or...the opposite.  Work on cutting out the waste, but acknowledge that not all your internet time is bad.  
  • Log out. After you're done on Facebook, Twitter, your blog reader, even your email, log out.  If I force yourself to log in each time you go online, it an extra barrier up and forces me to reconsider, "Am I only going on because I'm bored? Do I really need to check Facebook right now? Will this I'm-just-going-to-check-real-quick turn into 20 minutes wasted? What can I be doing instead?"
  • Schedule specific internet time.  I'm awful at this, but when I stick to it, it really cuts out the internet crap.  In the morning, I'll set aside a specific time of my day to go online - maybe nap time or after Lucia goes to bed or a set our like 2-3. Before that time, I'll jot down the various things I "need" to do online.  When the time comes, I usually have to prioritize my list because I won't have time to work on a blog post, pay a couple bills, research blood clotting disorders, manage my blog and business social media, and read all the new posts in my blog reader.  Focusing on specific tasks keeps me focused.  And if I do have extra time left after I get everything done that I wanted to, I don't feel guilty wasting the rest of my time on mindless internetting.
  • Fast.  Consider fasting from the internet or from a specific site - be it one day, three days, a week or a month.  Take note of what  you really miss while you're gone.  When I've taken Facebook breaks, I've realized that I didn't missed as much as I thought I would.
  • Be choosy.  That's the beauty if the internet, right? You get to decide what you see.  So if someone's posts or comments tend to bother you, unfollow or unfriend.  If you find yourself often just pressing "mark as read" on a particular blog in your reader, just unfollow.  If you find spending time in a particular FB group makes you depressed, grouchy, or frustrated, leave!  If you spend too much time in another group but the benefits don't outweigh the wasted time, leave!  Since I've left a few facebook groups (and unfollowed others so the posts don't pop up in my news feed to suck me in), I've just naturally found myself with not a lot to do when I get on Facebook.  So I log off.
  • Make a "one tab" rule.  If you are like me and have the attention span of a squirrel, it's easy to go down the rabbit hole of the internet, opening tabs here and there like a madwoman and never quite doing what you meant to do.  Make a rule to never have more than one or two tabs/windows open at a time.  This will force you to complete the task at hand before you move on.


For more thoughts on the internet and social media visit my friends (who I met through social media):

Kendra (Catholic All Year): If My Social Media Friends Had to Do This in Real Life, a screenplay in five acts (in which I have a small part!) 
Molly (Molly Makes Do): One is Silver and the Other is Gold
Haley (Carrots for Michaelmas): Dear Moms, Don't Hate Yourself for Liking Social Media
Christy (Fountains of Home): Life Online is Part of Your Life Too
Bonnie (A Knotted Life): A Shortcut to Friendship

Saturday, May 3, 2014


This started out as a Five Minute Friday.  But then I didn't have five whole minutes free on Friday.  Seriously. Not five minutes.  So it was written in a minute here and a minute there over the course of two days, probably equaling probably ten times five minutes, but I wrote on the prompt, so can I still get a cookie?

I noticed recently that the cleaner my home is, the better I handle messes.  If Lucia strews the contents of her toy box about our otherwise tidy townhouse, I know that it's only a matter of 10 or 20 minutes keeping me from order.  And if I need a break from the mess, I only have to walk into another room to get a reprieve.  But when my entire home is out of sorts, any one mess seems like it might be the one that sends me over the edge.  It's just one more thing on my already overwhelming to-do list.

That realization didn't stop there though.  My interior life is much the same.  If I face a hardship during a time where I am otherwise in a place of peace, it seems manageable.  I can let it wreak a bit of havoc knowing that calm is just a little while away.  But when the same suffering arrives into a life already burdened by sorrows, it knocks me off my feet.

So it was with my miscarriages.  We were just coming out of a year of unemployment/underemployment for my husband, our fourth out of state move in four years, and several stressful months of trying to conceive.  It looked like the sun was just starting to come out and we were anxious for some time to heal from the pain of the previous year.  And then we lost a child.  Three months later, we found out we were pregnant again, but the outcome of that pregnancy looked grim from the start.  We lost that child a month later.

Looking back, I don't feel like I dealt with either of those miscarriages particularly well.  I know that there is not any one way one should grieve, but I can see that so much of my struggles with the grieving process were caused by everything else compounded with the losses.  I just wasn't in a very good place to weather any tough blows and two miscarriages in four month really shook an already rocky foundation.

Over the past few months, I've made a lot of efforts to take care of the everything elses of my life - eating healthy, exercising, sleeping more, deepening my prayer life, spending quality time with my husband, reading literature and spiritual works, nurturing friendships, and focusing on being present to my Lucia.  In addition, several of the factors out of our control just seemed to fix themselves - we recently got an answer to our financial stress, David's job has turned out to be a perfect fit for him, and we've settled into our new home. 

We're coming up on the due date of the first child we lost, who we named Francis Michael.  I would be 39 weeks (and two days, but who's counting?) right now.  If things has been different, I might have a baby in my arms right now.  I fully expected this to be a difficult time, but the past week I've felt nothing but joy. 

I have done some specific things to heal from our losses - reading books on pregnancy loss, attending counseling and a support group, etc - but I truly feel like it's the cleaning up of all the other messes in my life and putting my health and soul in order that has made this healing possible.  Making the best of life as it is laid a foundation in which I have the freedom to focus on grief.

At the same time it's made me realize how good my life is now - today - and stop pining for the life it could have been with another child.  Truly, I can't imagine what it would be like to have a baby or me anticipating labor right now.  That life seems so far away, so distant.  Although I'll always wish to have those two children we lost in our family instead of just in our hearts, I know that the today of reality is not any worse than the today that might of been.  Just different. 
Enjoying the good life, my friends.

This post could have taken a very different twist, in which I wrote about the mess that a trip to the beach causes. We're still finding sand everywhere.

Five Minute Friday