Friday, March 30, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 52)

--- 1 ---

My cousin and his fiancĂ©e asked me and David to be the godparents of their daughter, who is almost exactly one month younger than Lucia.  I started crying when he asked.  Having grown up in a small family (he is my only first cousin), he was more like an older brother to me.  We won’t be able to attend the baptism, but we will get to meet our sweet goddaughter in May when we fly to Arizona for my brother-in-law’s wedding.  What makes it even more special is that we are my grandfather’s godparents, so my Papa and his great granddaughter have the same godparents – too cool!  (My grandparents were so happy they were almost in tears when I told them).

--- 2 ---

Have you heard the news that there is an #iuseNFP website in the works?  It’s not up and running yet, but you can follow on twitter, Facebook, or the rss feed to be notified when it is.  My #cathsorority friends, Katie (of NFP and Me) and Kayla (of The Alluring World) are the geniuses behind the project, so if you have any suggestions of what you would like to see on the site (or what you would like to win in the launch giveaway), head over to their blogs or contact them through twitter or Facebook and let them know.

--- 3 ---

Ladies, do you let your husband “be the man”?  This is something I’ve been struggling with and I’d love if you'd hope over to my post and chime in!

--- 4 ---

I finally took the plunge and made a Facebook page for Catholic Newlywed.  I’m really excited about it, because Facebook makes conversing back and forth so easy and is a place where I can quickly post great articles, blog posts, and other resources I find online without having to make an entire blog post about it.  Won’t you “like” me?

--- 5 ---

Lucia rolled over for the first time on Tuesday!  She rolled from her tummy to her back two times in a row and was quite scared by it.  I then ran and got the video camera and, of course, she didn’t roll over again. 

--- 6 ---

I have some product reviews and giveaways in the works!  I’ve been talking to some companies and other bloggers and will soon be able to offer my readers my opinions on some great products as well as the chance to win some themselves!  This includes Catholic products, books, baby products, food, and more!  My main focus of this blog will continue to be my family, faith, and vocation as wife and mother, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to do a review or giveaway that relates to these topics now and then!  If you want to stay up on the contests I’m running, you can do so on my new Facebook page or follow me on twitter.

--- 7 ---

Did you see the birth announcement wall print I made for Lucia?  I can’t wait to get it printed out and put it up on her wall.  Being not particularly crafty, it’s the first thing I’ve made for her (and hopefully not the last). 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Let Him Be the Man

A few nights ago, my husband was putting together our tax paperwork to mail the next day.  As he was doing so, I asked him several times if he remembered this specific paper or that specific W2.  When he was done, I told him I wanted to look through it all to make sure he had everything.  He turned to me and with frustration in his voice said, "Let me be the man."

There wasn't anything particularly wrong with helping him make sure he had everything.  Except that wasn't what I was doing.  I wasn't asking to be helpful, I was asking him because I didn't trust him.  This was a minor incident, but it exposes an underlying problem.  I have a hard time letting go and let my husband take control of aspects of our life together.  

My husband doesn't question me when I make decisions about the care of our daughter.  He supports me as I often struggle with keeping our household running smoothly.  He is not critical when he comes home to see that the house was messier than when he left and that there aren't any groceries for dinner.  He trusts me.  So why can't I trust him in his role as provider?

The ugly truth is that while I do trust my husband specifically, I unconsciously think of men as incapable, prone to failure, or at the very least unable to function without women fixing their mistakes.  How many times has the plot of a sitcom been yet another screw up by the bumbling husband.  How often have you heard "That's just how men are, they can't get anything right!" from your acquaintances, friends, or perhaps even your mother.  And I'm afraid that sometimes men do prove themselves to be incompetent fools.  But it's not because that's all they're capable of, it's because we as women don't hold them to high standards in the first place and when they do make mistakes, we more often than not belittle them for it.

I know these are generalizations.  Perhaps you have no trouble trusting the men in your life.  As for me, I'm going to be spending the next few months supporting my husband and building him up.  I'm going to let go and trust, so that he can learn to trust himself to provide for us too.  I'm going to let him be the man.  Who knows, if I can learn to trust my husband to provide for me, I might even be able to trust my God to provide for me.

Have you ever had trouble trusting your husband to care for you, to provide for you?
How do you show your husband that you trust him?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Catholic Newlywed on Facebook

I just made a Facebook page for Catholic Newlywed and I would love it if you would like it!  What's the benefit for you?  Well, at least for me, I like seeing my favorite blogs' new posts on my Facebook feed and love taking part in the conversations that arise from the more conversational back and forth commenting on Facebook.  If you don't have a Facebook or aren't interested in liking me, no hard feelings!  You can get to my Facebook fan page by clicking on the "like me on facebook" button on the right sidebar of this blog (I made those buttons all by myself, aren't you proud!) or can like me straight from this blog using the like button below.  Thanks!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book Review: Seek First the Kingdom by Cardinal Donald Wuerl

We mention the “Kingdom of God” each time we pray the Our Father and hear it regularly in the Gospel readings.  In Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI calls the Kingdom of God the “core content of the Gospel”.  It is mentioned 122 times in the New Testament, 90 of them by Christ himself in the Gospels.  It is unlikely that any Christian is unaware of the Kingdom of God, yet how many of us really understand what it?  How then can we fulfill our responsibility as Christians to create and maintain it?

Seek First the Kingdom: Challenging the Culture by Living the Faith begins with a thorough examination of what Christ and the Church teach us about the Kingdom.  We simultaneously live in a democracy in the secular world and a spiritual Kingdom which, though invisible, is just as substantial.  The Kingdom of God is not complete and will not be so until Christ comes again, nevertheless, it is our job as Christians to manifest the Kingdom by working toward God’s will here on earth.  As Cardinal Donald Wuerl correctly points out, this is not a job to be left to the clergy; it is first and foremost the responsibility of the laity to see that God’s Kingdom is brought to the world because we are in the world. 

Seek First the Kingdom is the not the political book I thought it would be.  And that’s a good thing.  One of the ways we as Christians are called to bring the Kingdom to our secular society is through politics, yet that is only part of our responsibility.    For example, we must work to do God’s will in healthcare, but seeing that just laws are passed regarding the health industry is not enough; doctors and nurses must imitate Christ the Healer by bringing compassion and love into their practice.  The second part of Seek First the Kingdom is a call to action, with Cardinal Wuerl putting forth the many ways Christians must bring the Kingdom of God into the world.  I read it as a sort of guidebook, not necessarily specific in its instructions, but laying down the general direction toward incorporating my faith into the society in which I live. 

Living in a society that is so focused on political correctness and relativism, I have often been confused about how (and how much) to openly discuss and fight for my beliefs without impinging upon the rights of others.  This book largely answered my questions in that respect and gave me a greater understanding of the Lord’s expectations on this matter.  I highly recommend this book for all Catholics that are looking for answers about how to bring their faith with them outside of Mass and their own homes into the public sphere.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Seek First the Kingdom: Challenging the Culture. They are also a great source for a baptism gifts or first communion gifts.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Baby Announcement Wall Art

I've been admiring baby announcement wall art for a while.  You know what I'm talking about, right?  The prints you can order that include your baby's name, birth date, size, etc.  For example, this adorable one:

Source: via Mandi on Pinterest

or this sweet one:
Source: via Mandi on Pinterest
The other day, I decided that I was going to stop staring at them, I was just going to have to make one myself.  So I toyed around on the computer (I used piknik) and here is what I came up with:

I was pretty pleased with how it turned out, especially since this was a first attempt.  I thought about adding her time of birth, location of birth, and a few more details, but ultimately decided I liked how it looked as is.  Now all that I need is to print it out on some quality paper, buy a matte and frame, and voila, Lucia will has beautiful wall art to commemorate her birth.  I plan on it looking something like this once it's framed:

I don't consider myself crafty or creative (although I certainly try and desperately long to be) and I definitely am not a graphic designer.  But I am very happy with the results (and proud of myself for attempting such a project without explicit instructions to follow!).  I might even make one to commemorate our wedding (or would it make a nice wedding gift - we have a few coming up this summer).  The most important element for me was having a blueprint to follow.  Before I started, I found many different examples and keep them open on my desktop so I could refer to them when I got stuck.  

What have you made recently?  
Is there something you've been wanting that you can make yourself instead?
Is there a craft you've been wanting to try by have been holding back 
(out of fear or because you think, "I just can't do that.")? 
While we're on the subject, is there anything in your life that you've been putting
 off because you think you can't do it (or for any other reason?)

Now's the time, do it!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Guest Post: Hiring Your First Real Babysitter

When Sara contacted me asking if I would be interested in having her guest post for my blog, I noticed right away that she was a nanny.  I couldn't let her expertise in childcare go to waste and asked her to write a post on a question that has been forefront in my mind: how should you go about finding a babysitter for the first time you need to leave your child?  My husband and I live far away from our family and have made only a few friends since we moved here last July, so if we have to attend a function (or want to go on a date) without Lucia, we will most likely have to find a stranger with which we feel comfortable leaving our daughter.  For me, and I assume for most moms, the idea of leaving our child with someone we don't know well is a little nerve-racking.  Hopefully Sara's tips will leave you with a little bit of peace about the process.  I'd love to hear any suggestions you veteran moms might have as well!


That first time your sister or mom can’t take care of your little one can be a scary thing. No matter the age of your child, finding a babysitter that is not related to you can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips on hiring your first real babysitter:

Where to find: Word of mouth. Ask around your neighborhood and family for reliable babysitters that they trust and use. Most of the time babysitters work for several different families and are happy to share their information if you want to contact them as references. If asking around your neighborhood doesn’t work there are plenty of professional sites that can help you find a babysitter online. Most of the sites do offer background and reference checks. 

What you should look for: There are a few things to consider when looking for a new babysitter, here is a checklist:
  • Age
  • Maturity level
  • Experience
  • Certifications
  • Love for children
  • References

Be prepared: Don’t overwhelm your new babysitter but be sure that you go over what is expected from them. Have a list of emergency numbers and notify your neighbor that is closest to you of your situation. They will most likely be happy to help if something were to happen. Keep calm and confident, your babysitter has done this before. And remember it is okay to call and check on the babysitter and your child but also be aware that you may drive the babysitter away if you doubt them too much. 

Test Run: If you are uncomfortable leaving your child at home with a babysitter for the first time, try a trial run before the actual day you need the babysitter. Run to the local grocery store for an hour and let the babysitter have some time with your child. Choose to run an errand that is within minutes of your home and choose to be gone no more than 2 hours and no less than hour. Once you arrive back home, speak with the babysitter and ask how they felt. If you sense hesitations then you know the babysitter was not comfortable. Slowly build your trust in your babysitter.  

Keep calm, be confident and prepared; your sitter knows what they are doing. It’s time to let go and let them do their job. The first time is always the scariest but no need to worry. Ask around for the right babysitter for you and good luck in your search!

Author Bio
Sara is an active nanny as well as an active freelance writer. She also helps in providing information on nanny jobs through her writing. Contact her at

Friday, March 23, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 51)

--- 1 ---

My husband passed his dissertation defense yesterday!  Nothing stands in the way of him graduating in May.  I am so proud of him.  He was able to get his Ph.D. in only four years with added responsibilities of a wife the past two years and more recently a baby girl.  More than anything, I am so grateful to him for working so hard to provide for us.

--- 2 ---

Not only is he done, he doesn’t have anything to do until graduation.  Which means I get to spend all day, every day with my husband!  I am not taking this for granted because I know once he gets a job, he’ll (hopefully) be working fulltime until retirement.  But for right now, he’s still being paid his stipend until graduation, won’t be hearing back from jobs until May, and is free to spend all his time with family.   I’m thinking lots of walks, picnics in the park, and afternoons by the pool.  I’m also hoping for day trips to see the beach and other places around the state; if David gets a job elsewhere, I don’t want to regret not seeing more of this area of the country while we’re here. 

--- 3 ---

ready to go out for my birthday dinner (the dress Lu's wearing was mine as a baby)
Last Friday was my birthday. We went to a Spanish restaurant to celebrate and had some divine pan de queso, gazpacho, paella, and flan.  I hadn’t been able to find a good Spanish restaurant in Colorado and have been craving some good paella for years since I studied abroad in Spain in the summer of 2006.  The food we had Friday was definitely worth the wait.

--- 4 ---

I had a few romantic surprises waiting for my when I came home from Atlanta last week.  While I was gone, David bought the sheet music for Pachelbel’s Canon in D and starting practicing it on the guitar so he could play it for me when I got home.  Since the first time I heard that song, I absolutely loved it and knew it was the song I wanted to walk down the aisle to (and I did).  I requested that David learn to play it a while back and he remembered!  He also cleaned the apartment and brought me roses when he picked us up at the airport.  (All this while finishing his dissertation.)  I guess you could say he missed me.

--- 5 ---

What do you think of the current US education system?  Earlier this week, I wrote a post asking for your thoughts about education in the US and I’d love if you’d hop over to that post and leave your opinion.  I found a really great graphic to include with some disheartening statistics that show that more money and technology hasn’t been improving education.  If those aren’t the answer, what do you think is?

--- 6 ---

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who left me advice about vaccines for Lulu after we found out our insurance wouldn’t cover them.  After reading your advice, I was able to find out that we qualified for Vaccines for Children.  Not only will we be able to get her next vaccines through this program, I was able to call our doctor’s office and have them rebill her two-month vaccines to Vaccines for Children.  What a huge relief!

--- 7 ---

In case you needed to see another picture of this cutie!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Blog Jesus Award

Waaaaay back in November, Tricia of Peace Love Religion (formerly Saintbound Sinner) awarded me the "I blog Jesus" award. (I swear she did, the post just didn't make the move over to her new blog!)  I am really honored because that's exactly what I started this blog for, to bring Christ to the internet in my own little way (in the vein of The Church and New Media).  I don't overtly mention my faith in every post I write, but I hope that His light is still shining through when I talk about my baby girl (talk about a blessing from God!) or my marriage (a sacrament) or housekeeping (how I live out my vocation in the day to day).  I feel so humbled though, because I don't think that my blog is nearly as worthy as many of the amazing Catholic/Christian bloggers I follow.  Here are just a few of those I think are deserving of this award:

Letters from Momma - Kaylene is a young Catholic woman and mother.  While her blog focuses mainly on her little girl and life as momma, she weaves her Catholic faith into her blog posts effortlessly.  This is as it should be, faith as a part of our life and our life as a part of faith.

NFP and Me - Katie is a medical student, a wife, and mama to an adorable dog, Jack.  She blogs about all these things in addition to her belief that fertility is a gift from God, not a disease.  She also made some pretty amazing NFP buttons to help spread the word about Natural Family Planning (and through it, the dignity of women) across the internet.

Wonderful World of Weez - During Lent, Louise is writing 40 Things I Love about Catholicism.  Can't blog Jesus any better than that!

Can't be Crunchy without a Plant

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Scotts® for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I’ve been making gradual baby steps over the past year toward becoming more healthy and environmentally conscious (“crunchy”, if you will).  I’ve started making some of my own home cleaners, my own body products, and buying more organic foods.  I feel like it’s time to take it to the next step… growing some of my own food.  Almost every serious “crunchy” bloggers I’ve come across grows at least a few of their own vegetables or herbs.  We live in an apartment, so a garden is out of the picture, but I did make a goal to grow at least one plant this year, perhaps a cherry tomato plant or an herb we regularly cook with.  I know, it seems as though one plant isn’t much of a goal, but it really is a huge feat for me.

My mom has what we call a “brown thumb”.  She can’t keep any plant alive.  In fact, one of my close friends brought my parents a cactus as a “congratulations grandparents” gift when Lucia was born.  Lucia’s only 3 months old, but her cactus is already dead.  Seriously, who kills a cactus?  (It’s worth mentioning that my mom didn’t even realize it was a cactus and over watered it.)  So I never really had plants around growing up and I’m terrified that I’ve inherited her brown thumb.  And I’ve been putting off getting that plant I promised myself I would get.  

EnG Product Shot.png

I was recently offered the opportunity to receive a sample of Expand ‘n Gro™ Concentrated Planting Mix.  Combine that with the fact that it's spring and stores are just filled with plants and gardening products, I no longer have any excuses not to get that plant, especially since Expand ‘n Gro™ planting mix should make it so much easier to grow plants even I could do it.  According to it's label, some of its benefits include all natural fibers which can hold up to 50 percent more water than the basic potting soil (it won't be as fatal if I forget to water the poor thing once in a while) and the fact that it feeds plants for up to 6 months (I won’t have to change/add potting soil more than twice a year!).  I also like that it can be used in pots or in the ground, so once David and I do get a house and have a spot for a garden, I won't have to worry about buying different planting soil for my pots and my garden (the simpler the better for a beginner like me).  Even more exciting, it grows up to three times the amount of flowers and vegetables than a plant in native soil, so maybe my one little plant will grow enough to actually cook with!  With results like that, my mom might even be able to keep a plant alive with the help of Expand ‘n Gro™. Advertisement

Do you garden?   What are you growing in your garden this year? What do you think would be a good "starter plant" for me to get?

Would you like to try Expand ‘n Gro™If so, don't forget to check out the website, there is a coupon on the website for $3 off.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Education in America

I graduated from college with degrees in history and Spanish and certification to teach secondary education (and an endorsement in English as a Second Language).  I married my husband right after graduation, moved out of state to be with him and wasn't able to find a teaching position.  Now that we have Lucia, it's not likely that I will try to find a teaching job anytime soon, yet the state of our education system is still constantly on my mind.  It will be quite a while before we have to decide on how our own children will be educated (at this point we are leaning toward homeschooling), but education is not only about one's own children, it's about all children and the future of our nation. (And in fact, I believe that at least part of the education problems in the US is the apathy of those who don't currently have children in the education system, combined with the apathy of some who do.)

I was very disheartened by what I saw and heard about the education system while I was in my university's education program and throughout my student teaching.  Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like much is being done to fix any of our problems.  The statistics have been abysmal, but there doesn't yet seem to be any solutions is sight.   

I don't want this post to be about me and my opinions, I want it to be a jumping off point for a discussion about what you think.  So I'm asking you, my dear readers and friends, what do you see as the biggest obstacles in our education system?  What do you think are the solutions?    I'm serious, I'm curious!  What do you think?

And if you need a little something to get you thinking, here are some recent (depressing) statistics about the US education system:

Why America's Education Isn't Worth the Money

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Win Catholic Products!

Spring is the time when most people are looking for Catholic gifts, for First Communions, Confirmations, and people of all ages entering the Church!  So it's very fitting that right now, Discount Catholic Products is running a giveaway on their Facebook page with three amazing Catholic prizes!  All you have to do to enter is go to their Facebook page and like it, then you'll see the opportunity to enter.  The first place prize is a beautiful statue of the Holy Mother that would look lovely in any home (fingers crossed that I win it!).  The contest ends April 9th has been extended to April 15th.  And while you are on their Facebook page, you might as well check out their awesome Easter sale (15% off!).   

Monday, March 19, 2012

Married to a Meat Eater

I started eating a vegan diet at age 18, shortly after graduating from high school.  My father is an avid hunter and meat always played a predominant role in our meals, so it took me several years to become accustomed to making well-balances and filling vegetarian meals without having to consult a cookbook.  When I married my husband at age 23, I had to once again adjust my cooking style, because I married a meat eater. I that I would essentially have to make two separate meals, one for him and one for me, each night.  While my husband is often happy to eat meatless meals (and I do eat seafood, so I wasn’t completely vegan), I acknowledge that it is my choice not to eat meat, not his. The first few months were rough, but I now have a repertoire of meals that can easily be made with and without meat.  When we decided to start trying to conceive, I added dairy and eggs back into my diet, which has made even more meal options available to us. Nutritionists know of other ways to create meals with or without meat:

If you are in a “mixed diet” marriage or relationship, are having guests over that are vegetarian (or you are the vegetarian and you know they will expect meat), or are in need of meals that can easily be made with or without meat for any other reason (your child’s a picky eater?), here are some of the meals we regularly make in our household:

Vegan options:
Stir fry - Cook the vegatable stir fry and meat separately (tofu too if you wish), once everything is cooked, separate the stir fry in two, add chicken to one (and tofu to the other, if you want).

Curry - same as the stir fry; mix in cooked meat (and tofu) at the end.

Burritos/tacos/tostadas - Most Mexican food can easily be made with or without meat.  Make beans for the vegetarian, shredded chicken, ground or shredded beef, steak, etc. for the meat eater.  And all the other toppings of course.  This can easily be vegan without cheese and sour cream.

Pasta dishes - Cook some sauce with meatballs, some without.  (Or make two sauces, one with meat, one without).  It’s vegan with tomato or pesto sauces (if you aren’t making them yourself, be sure to check that there are no dairy products in them), lacto-vegetarian with alfredo or other creamy sauces.

Lacto Vegetarian options:
Enchiladas - this is one of my husband’s favorite meals, and he actually thinks it’s just as good with or without meat.  I always make enchiladas on each separate plate, his (sometimes) get chicken in them, mine just cheese and onion. 

Pizza - make homemade pizzas (one with meat and one without), can also be vegan if you make it without cheese (if there is great sauce and lots of vegetables, cheese isn’t as necessary as you would think).

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian options
Quiche - Make enough to fill two pie shells; add cubes of ham or another meat to one, leave the other meatless.  (My favorite quiche is this spinach goat cheese quiche.)

A few extra tips for making meals for a vegetarian (or someone else with a dietary restriction like celiac, lactose intolerance or a religious dietary restriction): 
  • Make sure you know what foods they eat (do they eat dairy or not, do they eat seafood, etc.). 
  • Try not to make a completely separate meal for them unless it is absolutely necessary. It can make them uncomfortable that their diet is creating an extra burden for you (at least in my experience and that of some of my friends with special diets).
  • Don't forget to think about all areas of the menu (it's especially easy to forget about dessert when considering a special diet - obviously dessert doesn't [usually] contain meat, but it does often contain eggs, dairy, wheat, and other foods that people commonly avoid or are allergic to).
  • Along the same line as the previous suggestion, don't make a big deal about their diet, announcing it loudly to other guests or saying things like, "I just never know what to make for you."
  • If in doubt, let them know what you plan to make and ask if they have ideas of how to make it fit their diet.  They are used to having to accommodate themselves in all kinds of situations, so they most likely will have some suggestions.  This works best if you could give them a few options.

Do you have any dietary restrictions or often cook for someone who does?  How do you accommodate cooking for different diets?  What meals have worked best for you?  Do you have any other tips for cooking for people with dietary restrictions?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saint Patrick's Day

Unfortunately, you can't see Lucia's bib that says "Irish at Heart"

I have always loved Saint Patrick's Day.  As a child, I grew to love it since I associated it with my birthday (my birthday is March 16) and also because I loved corned beef and cabbage (this is the one day a year that I truly miss eating meat!).  But most of all I loved it because it was a holiday celebrated by the general population that had strongly Catholic roots.  Even as a young child, I was so proud of my Catholic faith.  Saint Patrick's Day is no longer celebrated as a Catholic holiday, and often you can't find any religious reference to it, but even so, it is a reminder of just how influential Catholicism has been in the development of American culture.

This Saint Patrick's Day, I'm thinking about Ireland with sadness.  Once such a strong Catholic country, only a small percentage of the country's population attends church regularly.  This had only been exacerbated by recent sexual abuse scandals in the Church.  Won't you join me in praying for the return of faith in Ireland and the healing of those affected sexual abuse in the Irish Church?  May the great people of Ireland who first found their way to Christ through Saint Patrick find themselves returning to the Lord through his intercession.
Do you do anything to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day?  
Are your celebrations religious or secular? 
Why do you love this holiday? 
Did you remember to wear something green?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Guest Post at Catholic and Crunchy: A Day in the Life of Mandi

Today is my birthday (a quarter of a century old!) so I'm taking the day off from Quick Takes, but I guest post today over at Catholic and Crunchy.  Stacy is running a series entitled "A Day in the Life" where various women give you a peek into their everyday life.  It's not glamorous, but it's the little moments that make up our lives.  My installment is a little more exciting that my average Friday, but a glimpse into my life nonetheless:

Today is my birthday, so it isn’t a usual Friday in my home, although I suspect that it will be much more ordinary than last Friday was.  Last Thursday, I flew to Atlanta with my three month old daughter, Lucia, to be with my best friend, C., while she had a minor surgical procedure.  I went back and forth regarding whether I should write my “Day in the Life” about last Friday which was a very abnormal day in my life or the previous one which was much more average.  Ultimately, I decided to write about our unusual Friday in Atlanta for two reasons.  First, life with a baby is ever-changing and unpredictable, so even if I had written about my Friday at home two weeks ago, it would only vaguely resemble how I currently spend my days.  Second, by describing what was out of the ordinary last week, I am more aware of what exactly I’ve come to rely on as my “ordinary”...continue reading at Catholic and Crunchy

Stacy and I have met in real life (we met through out blogs) and she's just amazing.  If you are unfamiliar with her blog, you should check out some of her past posts and get to know her a little (after you read my guest post, of course!).  She is getting married next month, so won't you offer some prayers for her wedding and marriage?

If you are visiting my blog for the first time, I'm glad you're here!  I blog about marriage, motherhood, faith, and everything in between.  I also host two series, on entitled On Marrying Young and the other Baby on a Budget.  Both are filled with great guest posts and I'm always looking for more guest posters.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review: Your Labor of Love by Agnes M. Penny

As soon as I knew I was pregnant, I started looking for a book specifically for expectant Catholics, however,  it was late in my pregnancy that I discovered that one did in fact exist, Your Labor of Love: A Spiritual Companion For Expectant Mothers.  I had high expectations for this book both because it came highly recommended to me and because I found a great personal need for spiritual guidance during my pregnancy.  My pregnancy, while a joyous experience, ha lacked the spiritual depth that I expected to gain while intimately participating the creation of new life. 

Due to my high expectations, I found some of the first several chapters disappointing because they lacked the profound spiritual insight that I was seeking.  Many of the earlier chapters with names such as “Your Changing Body”, “Bodily Discomforts”, and “Mood Swings” seek to provide spiritual solutions for common pregnancy complaints, however, I found the author’s suggestions to be simplistic or unspecific.  For example, for several chapters in a row it seemed that she was simply repeating advice to pray for strength to endure pain and discomfort.  I would have preferred a less generalized approach, with spiritual reflections and exercises directed toward each specific pregnancy situation.

However, after these initial chapters, Penny’s writing acquires the level of spiritual depth I was hoping for and provides truly insightful and uplifting reflections on pregnancy as part of the vocation of marriage and motherhood.  She reminds expectant mothers that their pregnancy, and all the discomforts that accompany it, is an act of love done in service for both their child and God.  She includes some practical spiritual tips, that while seemingly simple, have already made a great difference in my personal understanding of my pregnancy and how it can be used to better glorify God.  One of my favorite pieces of wisdom in this book is the comparison of waking often during the night to use the restroom (or later on to feed a newborn) to those in religious orders who regularly wake during the night for worship.  Giving these small inconveniences a greater purpose by using them to utter a few words of praise to the Lord makes them much easier to bear. 

Penny further helps pregnant women understand their vocation by exploring the pregnancy and motherhood of the Blessed Mother.  She constantly reminds the reader of ways in which expectant mothers can learn from her example and lean on her as the “Mother of mothers” through the difficulties they may face.  Also included are some short examples of faithful motherhood provided by the Saints.  I was particularly drawn to her descriptions of Venerable Zelie Martin, the mother of Saint Therese of Lisieux.  I found these to be particularly valuable and only wish that the author had included more of these examples and elaborated upon them further.  However, they provide a good starting point for the reader to engage in her own research of faithful maternal role models. 

The book is rather short, at little over 100 pages, and is deliberately divided into 36 petite chapters on various topics in order to make it easy for women to pick up and read a chapter or two in spare time.  While I understand the purpose of this, the brevity of some of the chapters left me feeling as if some of the topics were underdeveloped and may also be why some of the earlier chapters lacked depth.  However, if my biggest complaint about the book is that it’s too short, that’s more like a compliment!  The only problem I found with the content is that the author’s clear preference that women stay at home with their children may alienate, upset, or shame women who plan to continue to work after the birth of their child.  While I myself planned to stay at home and understand the author’s reasoning for encouraging women to be stay-at-home-mothers, I thought the way she presents this issue is overly harsh toward working mothers.  This one small issue aside, I would encourage all Catholic women who are expecting to include this book on their pregnancy book list; preparing spiritually for pregnancy and motherhood is every bit as important as reading up on proper nutrition, childbirth, and breastfeeding.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Birth Plan

I've been wanting to write Lucia's birth story, not so much to record her specific birth but as a testament to the grace and beauty of a natural birth, a midwife birth, a birth center birth.  I've sat down so many times to write it and I just can't seem to find my way.  She just recently turned three months, and I figure I better write it soon or I might begin to forget. 

I realized that I have already written something that portrays a birth center birth: my birth plan.  The birth center required that I write a birth plan, but left it up to me as to what it would entail.  I searched online for birth plans and printed out a few in checklist form, but when I started working through them with my husband, I realized that most of the options just didn't apply.  I didn't have to say that I didn't want an epidural because it wasn't even available at the birth center.  There was no need to request a room with a bathtub, because all the rooms had one and the midwives encouraged women to labor in them.  My baby would room-in with me, wouldn't be offered formula, and I would be encouraged to breastfeed within the first hour.  Had I been giving birth in a hospital, I would have gone in with a birth plan much like a soldier goes in with armor; it would have functioned as my protection against medicalized birth that I so wanted to avoid.  But since I was birthing at a birth center, I really struggled to write anything at all because I knew that my ideal birth was the birth center's norm.  Here's what I finally came up with:

  • I would like a natural birth with as few interventions as possible.  I don’t want to be offered any pain medication unless I first ask for it. 
  • For pain relief, I would like to try hydrotherapy, hot/cold therapy, and frequent changes of position.
  • If I have back labor pain, I’d like to try sterile water papules. 
  • Daddy would like to catch the baby and cut the umbilical cord.
  • No eye drops for the baby after birth.
  • If any potentially life-threatening  circumstances arise (to mother or baby) at the birth center or after transfer the hospital, please contact a Catholic priest as soon as possible.

Had I birthed at a hospital, my birth center would have been filled with "don't" and "no".  Instead it was mostly suggestions of what I thought might want (which really wasn't necessary; I would have been offered various comfort measures anyway).  Looking back, I should have probably made a more detailed birth plan in case I needed to be transferred to the hospital.  Although in that case, a midwife would have accompanied me and I would have trusted her to keep the birth as close to the natural, birth center ideal as possible.  

My birth plan was followed perfectly.  A few of the items ended up being irrelevant (I didn't have back labor and there was never an emergency situation necessitating a priest), but I'm glad they were there in case I ended up needing them.   Prior to given birth (and since), I've read and heard a lot of negativity about birth plans - that they are unrealistic, or that you might as well not write one, or story after story of women who had a birth plan outlining a natural birth and ended up with a c-section.  So I'm putting this out there to say that there are women who've had their ideal birth too, and if it's possible for them it's possible for you too.   

If you write a birth plan, prepare well for your birth, and still end up having it go a different direction, you'll have the comfort of knowing that you did everything you could and that it just wasn't meant to be.  If you end up with the c-section or epidural you were so trying to avoid because it was absolutely necessary, don't fret.  Just don't end up there because you weren't able to advocate for yourself.  And if you want a natural birth, seriously consider a birth center or home birth.  It makes it a whole lot easier to avoid a medicalized birth if you are in a place where it is neither an option or an expectation.   

Monday, March 12, 2012

Baby on a Budget Guest Post: Baby-Led Solids

When I started the Baby on a Budget series, my intent was to help other parents find ways to make it possible to have a little one on a little budget.  What I didn't expect was that it would help me find new ways to save money and new parenting ideas to boot.  First, Amanda of Making Memories offered to write a post on Elimination Communication, something that I was interested in but hadn't had time to research.  Then, Amy of You Shall Go Out with Joy sent me an email asking if I would be interested in a post on baby-led solids for the series.  Lucia just turned three months old, so I haven't had the opportunity to delve into solids yet.  Not only is this post providing another money saving solution for my readers, it's also providing me with a much-needed introduction to solids just in time to use the information with my little one.  Thanks so much, Amy!


Ahh, bliss. You’ve finally settled into this whole baby thing. Breastfeeding seems like a breeze now, after the first difficult weeks. Alternatively, you’ve finally figured out how to wash the bottles so there is always actually a clean one available when baby is hungry. (Or maybe that is just my own particular fear due to my inability to keep the dishes cleaned!) But then. The six-month mark approaches and people start asking: Has baby started eating food yet? Is your freezer stocked? Mmm, rice cereal! 

If the idea of spending hours pureeing food and trying to coax it into your little one’s mouth makes you sweat, never fear: there is another way.  Baby-led solids (or baby-led weaning [BLW] here in the UK) is a great alternative way to introduce solids to babies and, as I’ll outline below, can save a few pennies to boot!

But first, what is baby-led solids? Baby-led weaning was first developed (in the modern sense) by a health visitor / public health nurse in England, Gill Rapley, after years of observing children start on solid foods. She has written a great book explaining all the ins and outs that I would definitely recommend if you are interested in the concept. (There are a couple of fact sheets that can give you a good start on it all as well). The basic concept of BLS is that, from about the age of six months, babies have the abilities necessary to feed themselves. Instead of giving purees, the parent/carer offers baby soft finger foods that she can pick up and put into her mouth to lick, taste, gum, chew, or just spit out in disgust!

steak, yum yum (at 26 weeks)
Two ideas inherent in BLS are, firstly, that solids are not offered until baby is developmentally ready to eat more than just milk. The main signs to look for with regard to developmental readiness include being able to sit up unsupporteddisappearance of the tongue-thrust (when baby pushes things out of his mouth with his tongue), ability to chew rather than suck everything, and development of the pincer grasp (picking things up with thumb and forefinger rather than palm).  Not only do these outer signs indicate that the internal digestive track is mature enough to handle food, but they also help ensure that baby can coordinate their movements to pick things up, get them to their mouth, and move them around in their mouth in a way that means that choking is unlikely. The second idea is that baby is allowed to go at his own pace—there is more to food than just nutrition, and it can take some time and serious exploration for a baby to learn all about the smells, tastes, and textures of this whole new world of food. As Rapley says, babies initially don’t realise that food will satiate their hunger (and still rely on their milk to fill their tummies), they are just curious about these new objects in front of them. As they get more used to food, parents are still encouraged to trust their baby to know how much to eat of each food that is offered. Without any requesting, cajoling, or forcing baby to eat “just one more bite”, mealtimes are more relaxed and baby learns to listen to internal cues about hunger and satiety rather than external factors.

With my son Gus, we gave him his first “meal” right at 6 months of age—banana and avocado. He wasn’t that keen on the taste—for a couple of weeks, he would have a horrified look on his face every time he first tasted something—but he loved experimenting with his food, and always went back for more. It was great fun for all of us to sit together as a family at the dinner table, my husband Jon and I eating our dinner and watching Gus explore. As he has grown (he is 15 months now), it has been a real joy to share our meals with him—and has taught me a thing or two about patience, trusting him to know himself and his needs, and accepting a bit of messiness! 

Okay, sounds nice enough, but how is this going to save me money?

To be honest, you can probably find ways to spend lots of money using BLW or very little money going the traditional route. But, for our family, it was easier for us to save in various ways by following a baby-led approach.

The beauty of BLW, to me, is that Baby eats what we eat, so there is no separate purchasing and preparation of food (as long as the food is low in salt—add it to the pot after dishing out Baby’s food or to your own plate at the table). This means that we didn’t buy any fancy equipment to make homemade purees or containers to freeze it in. There was no need to buy special spoons with curved heads or bowls with handles for feeding Gus with—we just used our regular old teaspoons, some glass ramekins we already had, and a few little bowls from Ikea.  We didn’t buy any foods that are marketed specifically toward babies, which inevitably cost at least twice as much as their “adult” equivalents. When Gus had porridge for breakfast, it was because I was eating oatmeal that day, and I just put a tablespoon or two into a bowl for him. Of course, when we are eating steak or asparagus (two foods that were on his menu quite early on—and very well received), maybe I do wish we had something a bit more cheap and cheerful to give him! 

practicing using a spoon--with mixed results!
But in all seriousness, babies don’t actually need to eat very much food. BLW allows the baby to regulate her own food and milk intake, which, with Gus anyway, is a surprisingly small amount. I read on the blog Cooking Manager that a good rule of thumb is to give a child one tablespoon per year of age for each food served, then allow seconds as desired. Most families cook enough food that a spoonful of casserole or a tablespoon of meat and veg can be given to Baby without either parent left feeling hungry at the end of the meal. Even now, there are very few meals that I prepare more than I did before Gus shared them with us (I usually have to make a bit extra risotto, which Gus loves, but that is partly because half of it misses his mouth!). 

Waste can also potentially be cut down. Since you are serving Baby food that you are also eating yourself, anything that he decides not to eat can easily be consumed by a foraging parent. That is, if it hasn’t been thrown on the floor, chewed up and spit out again, or had half a cup of water dumped on it (and let’s be honest, sometimes that doesn’t seem to stop you me). I have a friend that started solids the traditional way and has said that she doesn’t serve her son food that she wouldn’t eat herself, which seems to me a pretty good rule, but for me, I am not all that keen on eating leftovers of banana-broccoli puree or whatever weird flavours you find in some weaning cookbooks! Also, you don’t have to worry about half a (rather expensive) jar or pouch of food going uneaten and thrown in the trash.

A major factor, for me, is just the time that is saved by not making separate food for Gus. And time is money, people!  I always seem to have such a long to-do list, that I am grateful for one less thing to do. I’ve found that sharing my food with my baby has made me think even more about the healthfulness of my own diet, and not having to make special food for Gus has freed up time to make things that benefit the whole family, such as homemade bread or soup for lunch.

Starting solids is such an adventure, whatever way you go about it. But it should be fun and help babies learn to love food, not be stressful. Hopefully, baby-led solids can help relieve some of the stress from both feeding interactions and to your pocketbook.

More resources:

  • How do we get started with solids,, which gives lots of info about how to balance milk and solid food intake as baby is starting out
  • There are loads of bloggers that have written about the hows and whys of BLW, so here’s just one to whet your appetite: 10 Reasons to Choose Baby-led Weaning, Diary of a First Child
  • Some research regarding weaning, food preferences, and weight as a child has recently been reported in the news: NHS Choices and Analytic Armadillo talk about the research behind the headlines
  • Some documents on portion sizes for toddlers that were really enlightening to me in terms of how much food a toddler needs (these are for ages 1-4, so a baby just starting out would need even less!): The School Food Trust UK (Section 3 in particular) and the Infant and Toddler Forum (factsheet 1.3)

Amy is originally from the Midwestern USA, but moved across an ocean to be with the man she loves. She and Jon have been married for 5years and have a son called Gus, born in November 2010. She is writes about food,health, and parenting, but mostly just about her little family, at You Shall Go Out with Joy.

Please check out the other posts (including some great guest posts) in my Baby on a Budget series.