Monday, October 31, 2011

The Sticky Subject of Halloween

Before my conversion to Catholicism, I didn't realize that Halloween was, even among some Catholics, one of those hotly contested subjects that can tell a person everything that they could possibly need to know about a family on par with other heavily-assumption-laden-topics like headcovering, co-sleeping, NFP use and whether or not a household has a television (I'm hoping you note the sarcasm in italics and don't think I'm being serious...  I'll note it just to make sure it's not missed!).

As a protestant growing up I'd known families that were of the let's-go-down-in-the-basement-and-wait-for-the-end-of-the-world-every-October-31st variety, and so I approached the entire issue carefully, turning to the be-all-end-all of all sources of Catholic information for the answer, the world of Catholic forums (maybe we should just assume that all italics in this article aren't serious.  Just for today.).

And I learned some very interesting things.  I learned that the Pope had condemned Halloween and said that it was Satanic.  The Pope.   When I asked for a source, the answer was never actually the Pope, it was usually a particular priest (whose books I have found very interesting) or an article in the L'Osservatore Romano (the Vatican's newspaper), which has caused it's own share of troubles over the years and shouldn't be read as some sort of infallible weekly report.  Responses to "but that isn't the Pope..." were usually cut off with "The Pope!  Are you going to question the Pope?!?!" Who can argue with that?

So I began to read, feeling a little bit guilty about my attachment to the holiday, which really comes from the fact that I think that dressing up can be fun, and that candy tastes good, and that I don't really see the harm in taking the kids to the local school/park/whatever and letting them run around dressed up as princesses or clowns.  

I mean, don't get me wrong, I cringed when I got the Halloween costume catalog that some company sent us this year, complete with ten year old girls looking like they were ready for their very own street corner, just like I cringed a couple of years ago when I first saw a pre-teen girl going out with her family as a "sexy" version of Alice in Wonderland.  There are some major problems with the way that the holiday is celebrated in our culture... but you could say that about pretty much every holiday in our society.  When you make every holiday about spending money and you live in a world where "sex sells" you're bound to run into problems, or at the very least, the complete decimation of any really meaning.  

Our own celebration falls somewhere in the middle (in other words, not all costumes are religious).  The girls are dressing up as princesses today, and dressed up as princesses for the Halloween party we went to a couple of days ago.  And tomorrow Mae will be Saint Margaret (if I don't complete the Blessed Kateri costume I've been planning) while Sadie is Saint Scholastica.  We talk about the saints a lot as it is, year round and as we celebrate All Saint Days.  

I guess my final thoughts on Halloween tend to be: Celebrate it if you'd like.  Don't if you don't want to.  But let's not pretend that parents who let their kids dress up and leave the house for fun are somehow doing them a great disservice and are not actually Catholic.  That's the part that I dislike: that this holiday has been raised up as some sort of litmus test of religious belief, when it is in fact simply the vigil of All Saint's Day.  And the vigil of All Saint's Day, just like All Saint's Day itself, has some real potential for learning and fun.  

In the end, in our house, that's what it comes down to.  I want to help my children learn about the beauty and rich traditions of our faith.  So far I haven't felt that celebrating this day in two ways takes away from that.  In fact, I think it can be very enriching.

For more Halloween reading check out:

How do you handle this particular holiday?  Any big plans?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The 15 Month Frown

Sometime around 15 months old our kids seem to develop a rather dramatic little frown, that seems to pop up when they're having their pictures taken.  This led, about a year and a half ago, to the "Sadie Frown" being awarded, not infrequently, on my blog.  

This particular picture, my favorite of the Sadie Frowns, taken in October of 2009:  

A little over two years later Mae Bae is now 15 months old.  Yesterday Paul captured an expression that very much reminded me of my favorite Sadie frown.  Mae wasn't thrilled I was pulling her hair back out of her face.  This picture was the result:

I have a feeling that a new age of frowning pictures is about to begin...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sadie's Princess Jewelry

I made Sadie a necklace and a bracelet to go with her princess dress.  It was hard to get a picture because she kept hugging me over and over again.  I finally snapped this first picture when she was working on taking the bracelet off and on over and over again.  Sadie picked out the beads herself!  Here they are:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The D&C

Since I've been pretty detailed up until this point about everything that's happened pertaining to the miscarriage, I thought I'd write what is hopefully a final post on the topic of the whole physical journey through this process.  I'm feeling remarkably well at the moment (due I'm sure, in no little part to the percocet) and this time I'm giving "taking it easy" a real effort.

We left the house at 6 this morning and got to the hospital only a few minutes before I was supposed to check in.  Sadie and Mae were still in their pajamas and I gave everyone a quick kiss goodbye and I headed inside to be checked in.  The girls went home with Paul for a princess movie marathon in their princess pjs.

I'd already felt a little rebellious when getting ready before we left.  I'd followed all the pre-op instructions carefully, until I got the one that said I wasn't allowed to wear a dress.  Um.  I don't really have pants anymore that aren't pajama pants and most of my pajama pants are pretty hole-y (there are a couple pairs of old pants up in boxes somewhere...).  I wasn't wearing pants with holes in them out in public, even to surgery.

So I went with a skirt and a top, because it's not a dress, right?  Except that annoyed me, because I have several stretchy knit cotton dresses that are super easy to put on and my skirts tend to be more formal, and more formal usually means, not nearly as comfortable.  In reality, I don't think any real person in the hospital would have noticed or cared had I gone with one of my comfy dresses, but I'm not much of a rule breaker these days.

A few minutes after checking in I was headed back to get ready for surgery.  Everyone was amazingly nice.  I changed into the gown and socks (I kind of like hospital socks, with their little non-slip bottoms and their nice warm softness) and went over my penicillin and sulfa allergies.  I explained that I turn bright red and swell up and am covered with hives for quite a while if either of those drugs come near me.  I told the story of putting my hand in a fish tank I'd treated with sulfa once when I worked in a fish store, and then watching the hives instantly go up my arm.  And I got my IV started.

One of the surgical nurses came in along the way and asked me if I would take off my brown scapular. No one else had had a problem with it (since we'd already gone through the jewelry discussion twice), up until that point.  I said I'd really, really, really like to keep it on, but if I absolutely had to...  (okay, truth be told, if they'd made me take it off I would have asked my doctor if it was alright to wear it when she got there... because I'm pretty sure she would have said yes).  That wasn't necessary though because they let me keep it on.

At some point we found out that the doctor was running late, and while everyone expected me to be annoyed by an hour waiting, I was pretty happy to have the chance to say a rosary... and take a nap.  Unfortunately the nap started during the fourth luminous mystery, but I think it was forty five minutes of much needed rest.  I'd been bundled up in about five nice warm blankets, with my own little private tv right there if I wanted it (I watched EWTN for a bit, before the rosary, after deciding that I really didn't want to see blurbs of people analyzing the latest Madoff family drama, or seeing pictures of the broken toothed rocker who'd fallen in the shower, which seemed to be all they were talking about on every morning news show...).

I woke up just in time to talk to my doctor, who took the time to pray with me before the surgery.  She also suggested I learn the Creighton method, so we can figure out what's going on with my body (I'm hoping maybe we could tie my migraines in somehow, since they seem to be directly related to my cycle and figure out what's going on there...).  Then I was falling asleep again.

About an hour later one of the nurses woke me up and after a few seconds I realized where I was.  After making sure I was okay, and going over all the discharge information, they called Paul to come and get me, and I got dressed to go home.  I was pretty uncomfortable by the time we got in the car.  After dropping off the prescription we went through a drive-through and headed home.

I opted for a migraine pill (hydrocordon), which the nurses had told me should work just as well for the pain, and was surprised to be feeling much better within ten minutes (because it usually takes quite a bit longer with a migraine).  Then the girls and I continued the princess movie day.

I'm still taking the painkillers at the moment, because just as each one reaches the "time to take another" point, I start to feel pretty bad again, and at this point I don't feel like grinning and bearing it, which is what I did when I only took ibuprofen after my c-section so I'd get to go home early (I took vicadin once in the days that followed, when they got behind on bringing the ibuprofen, proving that ibuprofen really does work!).  But the bleeding has stopped completely, which, after three months, makes me want to do a little dance, especially since I was told when I woke up that it might continue to be heavy for up to a week.

I am so relieved that this seems to be coming to an end.  Thank you all for your prayers!  Our family has appreciated them so much!  Hopefully we're finally turning the page on all these problems.


At Sadie's age, not being invited to a party, is usually not a big deal.  After all, its not like she goes to school where everyone is talking about it.  But today I wanted to put her in a little bubble and make all her cares go away, because a birthday party, complete with hats and cake and tons of kids, was directly outside our living room window, and apparently everyone else in the entire world was invited.

If I was up and about I would have taken the girls out to get ice cream or go to the park, or go anywhere other than here with the party right there, with Sadie wondering why she wasn't down there too.

And of course I'm doing a not great job at not being really super sad that Sadie's feeling... the way she's feeling... which is probably a result of just having surgery and being on peroacet, mixed with natural momma bear emotions.

And maybe it's because I feel a little bit guilty too.  Being sick for the last three months has meant that I haven't been able to go to every single event and activity, and it's meant I haven't been able to go down and sit with everyone else and socialize every night.  Being shy played into it too... Maybe if I wasn't shy I would have felt like going down and hanging out, but when you mix sick with shy a person often finds themselves feeling weary at the very idea of going down and mingling.

On a happy note, the surgery went well, and I think that this really is it.  So hopefully I will be a bit more able to go to events soon.  And maybe my socializing a little more will mean that Sadie doesn't find herself sitting in a window, watching everyone else have a blast at a birthday part, any time soon.

A Quick Surgery Update!

I'm home!  The surgery seems to have gone well!  Thank you for all the prayers.  I'll write more later when things have settled down around here.  The baby bunnies are wildly excited (okay, mildly excited) for me to be home.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pre-Surgery Jitters

Tomorrow morning, over an hour before the sun comes up, I will be dropped off across town for the surgery.  I know that it's an hour before the sun comes up because I'm awake before the sun comes up every morning, and this is early, even by my standards.

I started out being pretty excited that this whole thing was, hopefully, nearing an end, but tonight I'm pretty nervous (with the nervousness approaching all-out-panic at record speeds).  I guess I've developed a fairly pessimistic outlook on this whole thing, that stands at odds when compared with my normal personality.  I know where it's coming from though.

These past months, with regard to this whole medical situation, it seems like everything that could possibly go wrong, has.  I mean, I remember being twelve weeks pregnant a little over three months ago and thinking: "Yay!  I'm twelve weeks pregnant!  What are the chances of miscarriage now?  One percent!  I've made it!"  Followed by, what are the chances that the next sonograms would miss everything and that every doctor I talked to for months would think that nothing was wrong?  So when I find myself thinking, D&C's are safe and routine, the small pessimistic voice in my head, says, "everything else has gone wrong these past few months, who's to say this will be any different."  I mean, what are the chances that the hospital wouldn't do a D&C to begin with, at 14 weeks along?  Or that they wouldn't check to see that I'd passed everything before sending me on my merry way?  Or that the misoprostol would do a whole lot of nothing?

Those thoughts were followed by increasing panic at the pre-op when I read the paper that the paper work lady was filling out, upside down that said "Dilation and Suction Curettage and any other necessary surgery" and found myself thinking "any other necessary surgery!  They must think something else is wrong!" while the logical part of my brain says: "calm down... I'm sure it says that on every pre-op paper in case something goes wrong and the doctor needs to fix it."

So yeah.  I'm not feeling particularly logical tonight.  And apparently it's catching since Sadie asked me about my "ouchie" tonight and then when I explained that the doctor was going to fix the ouchie with surgery tomorrow announced that she was scared of Mommy's surgery...  I can't imagine where that's coming from...

And of course I feel guilty that Paul's missing classes tomorrow, which might seem silly... but in law school you really don't want to miss class at all... so... that's stressor #3431 at the moment.

I'd like to fast forward to the weekend and have this all be over with.  Any and all prayers are greatly appreciated.  I am so ready for it to be next week...

Corn Crab Chowder

Here's my latest cooking creation.  I made this earlier this week and the family loved it!

4 Potatoes
2 tbs crushed garlic
2tbs garlic powder
1 large onion
3 ¼ cups chicken broth (1 32 oz box)
2 cans sweet corn
1 can cream style sweet corn
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup whipping cream (you can substitute milk here!)
1 package cream cheese
1 can crab meat
2 tbs corn starch

Peel and cube 4 medium potatoes.  Begin to heat on low in 2 tbs of olive oil in a large pot.   Dice Onion.  Add onion and garlic to pot.  Add corn starch to 1 cup chicken broth and stir until mixed.  Add chicken broth (including the cup with the corn startch), corn (drained) and creamed corn, whipping cream, crab meat, cream of mushroom, and cream cheese .  Increase heat to medium.  Cook for ½ hour stirring frequently!  And enjoy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's Almost Over! Surgery!

Today was the doctor's appointment.  The medicine had been pretty painless (that was a pleasant surprise!) and I had a feeling we were probably heading towards surgery since not much had happened (if you're queasy at the mention of bodily fluids, there will be light mentioning of said fluids, so you may want to turn back now).

The news I had for the doctor was this: the light spotting was picking up again and I had a jar of... "debris".... that was the product of the medicine doing a bit of what it was supposed to do.

Paul had class until mid-afternoon, and so I took the girls along with me, and headed to the doctor's office.  As I drove into the parking lot I remembered that the other doctor... the super doctor, Doctor H, had a second office in the same building as my new doctor, and I wondered if I might run into him.  In my head I imagined the scenario.  I would be indignant.  I would pull the bottle out of my purse and say:  "For your future patients, the next time a woman tells you something is really wrong and she's hemorrhaging, you might want to believe her, because this is not dysfunctional uterine bleeding."  I imagined myself bravely holding out the jar.  

I unloaded the girls, asking Sadie why she'd taken her shoes off yet again, and put Mae in her stroller.  As I approached the large glass doors, the sun reflected off of them and I saw him standing, in the open elevator, with a rather smug smile on his face.  Dr. H.  

By the time the doors opened and I saw that it wasn't actually Dr. H, but a life size decal of Dr. H, with his arms crossed in his white coat, with his name and gynecology embroidered on his pocket, plastered on the front of the elevator doors, I knew that I was far too cowardly to say anything had he been real.  I would likely have waited for the next elevator.  

After hearing that the bleeding hadn't stopped, she (my new doctor) glanced at the "debris" (while Sadie loudly said: "It's the baby!", I wondered how she even associated what was in the jar with me being pregnant three months ago, and the doctor explained: "No Sweetie, that's not the baby.") and ordered a D&C.  Apparently the bleeding means that whatever is there, is still there, even after taking the misoprostal.  I'll find out tomorrow if she managed to convince the OR to fit me in on Thursday, or if we have to wait a bit longer.  

I came home and cooked four meals for the next week, while Sadie and Mae held Paul hostage (it's amazing how differently they play with him when compared with how they play with me... they wrestle with me a little.  They go into bouncing-off-the-wall-giggling-hysterically-tackle-mode when he comes in the room).  The freezer's now full of meals, which always makes me feel better.  And from what I've heard the recovery from D&C's tends to be fairly easy.  

I'm pretty excited about the surgery (is that odd?).  After a three month roller coaster ride, which involved around two and a half months of being pretty sick, the physical side of this might actually be coming to an end (I say might because I feel like I've thought "surely this is it" before and each time I've been wrong).  But really: surely this is it!  

Monday, October 24, 2011

The End of Monday Morning Rants...

You may remember a time, not that long ago, when every Monday, almost without fail was a "I-can't-believe-what-happened-at-Mass-yesterday" rant.  I felt like I was spending most of Mass trying not to be upset that someone had taken it upon themselves to change the words to the Our Father, or was ad libbing their way through the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  And of course, there was the baby glaring incident that made me exceptionally eager to leave our last parish and find a new, baby friendly, home.

When we arrived in Florida it took us a few weeks to find a good fit.  The first week Paul went to two Masses and was fairly sure he'd crossed two parishes off the list of potential homes.  "Cam.  You really wouldn't have liked it." He said of the second when he called me that night and I skeptically asked if it could really be that bad: "They were actually singing a hymn by the name of 'We are Church.'"

The third parish we attended we liked quite a bit, but then we made the fairly long drive out to the main campus chapel and fell in love.  The quiet reverence of the Mass was amazing.  But there was a drawback.  Our 1999 van has over 100,000 miles on it and guzzles gas like there's no tomorrow.  Driving over twenty miles each way would add up quickly, particularly since the car appeared to be on its last legs as it was.  As we drove, power steering fuel trailed behind us, despite various efforts with liquids that claimed they would fix the problem (a few hundred dollars later the leak has at least been fixed), and so we knew that we needed to find someplace closer to home.

Then we began to hear of a Latin Mass at one of the first parishes Paul had attended (not the "We are Church" one).  And we heard that it was beautiful and reverent.  So we gave it a try, and managed to get the girls up and dressed and out the door by 7:45 in the morning.

As you may have noticed, there hasn't been a Monday morning (or Sunday evening) rant since we made the switch.  As I'd long suspected, it is possible for a Mass to be conducted without a single blatant liturgical abuse taking place.  With the Eucharist as the very obvious central focus, it would be glaringly odd for anyone to try to place themselves in the spotlight.  So the focus stays where it belongs, on God, who loved us enough to give us this great gift.

Thankfully this means that Mass is no longer a near occasion of sin... in which I do my best no to wince  over and over again and don't feel even vaguely tempted to write a letter to the Bishop.  And I'm so grateful for this.

Prayers for all of you who are stuck in places where twists and changes in the liturgy means that Mass does feel like a frustrating near occasion of sin.  And prayers that in the future those instances are few and far between as we transition to the new translation.  I've been reading Mass Revision by Jimmy Akin and I'm really excited to see what the coming months hold!

Now for a little sleep before I fall asleep at the keyboard.  I find out tomorrow afternoon if I'm going to be having surgery...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Misoprostol Experience (So Far)

I thought I'd write about my misoprostol experience too, for anyone out there who's wondering what the range of experiences is like, who's searching, like I was, for blog posts.  My experience seems to be on the mild side, possibly because my doctor's having me take one pill every day for five days (and the other stories I've seen are larger amounts of pills, all at once).  I am going to go into some details here for queasy readers who may want to pass, but really, the whole experience hasn't been all that bad so far:

I took the first dose of Misoprostol (for anyone who reaches this via post via google, for a miscarriage at 14 weeks where no D&C was done two and a half months ago) two nights ago and prepared for the worst.  I'd read other stories on other blogs and I just knew... it was going to be horrible.

So I lay down and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I couldn't sleep, even though it was almost midnight, because the contractions would start any moment and I would be in agony and who wants to wake up in agony (okay it's not logical at all... I was just too busy worrying to sleep)?

At some point I finally drifted off, because the next thing I knew I was waking up, feeling perfectly normal and wondering if the pharmacist, who'd seemed a little confused by the prescription when Paul had taken it in, had given us the right medicine (although I really knew he had because I'd checked the little pill description on the side before I took it).  I was still spotting, just like I had through the estrogen that Dr. H had prescribed, perhaps slightly more, but other than that, no change.

I took the second pill yesterday afternoon, out of impatience, and finally felt a tiny bit crampy.  It wasn't even as painful as most menstrual cramps.  I had mild back pain and was starting to get impatient.  After all, I don't want to be in pain, but I don't want to have surgery more than I don't want to be in pain.  I mean, if I have to have surgery, fine, let's get it over with, but if it can be avoided, I'd totally be on thrilled with this whole thing being over, once and for all, without heading into an OR.  

And that's where we are this morning: a tiny bit uncomfortable, but other than that, pretty much fine.  I have had some little bits of "debris" pass but we're talking teaspoon amounts (can teaspoon amounts really have made me this sick?).  I imagine it's going to get a little more intense with each dose, but I'm definitely not terrified of the pain level any longer.  Hopefully this is just doing enough to end this entire process!

Thanks to everyone for the prayers and support through all of this.  I'm so ready for the entire physical process to finally be over!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What's Cooking: the week of 10/16/11

I've been a little more excited to cook lately.  We finally got to go food shopping and were actually able to buy meat, so I've been doing more than coming up with different variations on rice, beans, lentils and peas.  However I didn't quite think things through when I was making my Lunch and Dinner lists for the week... so when Paul got home the first night after shopping and asked what was for dinner I proudly showed him this pie (with my first ever homemade pie crust).  When he asked what was in it and I said: "beef and beans" he did a fair job of not looking disappointed (and he didn't say:  "I've been eating beans for two months and we finally go shopping and we're still eating beans!" which must have gone through his head!).  But I suddenly realized... I might want to lay of the beans for a little while.  However, everyone agreed, this taco themed pie was delicious!

The next day I used some of the frozen chicken I had cooked in the crockpot and then shredded to make this apricot chicken dish.  It used apricot preserves and cashews and is now a family favorite.  Then again, it wasn't all that hard to top the last few weeks...  They were just thrilled that there wasn't a bean in sight!

This was the night that I went all out.  We bought a steak!  I stuffed it a mixture of sauteed mushrooms (in olive oil), spinach and blue cheese.  I took the leftover spinach filling and mixed it with whipped cream and a few other ingredients to make creamed spinach as a side!

On Friday I made Shrimp Bisque before leaving for my doctor's appointment.  Here's the final picture:

Today was a day for leftovers.  However I did decide to make this appetizer for everyone to snack on (particularly since Paul goes to work in the early afternoon and misses dinner).  I was particularly happy with it since I'd baked the bread bowl from wheat bread a few nights earlier.  I think I'll post the recipe for this one soon!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Miscarriage: Finally Getting Some Answers...

Finally.  We are beginning to get some answers.

I went to the NFP OB today.  She's really busy, and I had heard hard to get into, so I was thrilled when she called and said she could get me in this week.  I finished my antibiotics three days ago, and two days ago started feeling exhausted again... but for the most part things have begun to get back to normal, and I was wondering if the miscarriage really was over.

I hadn't had an "incident" (my code word for the periodic hemorrhaging incidents that have occurred throughout the last two weeks) since Saturday, although the estrogen hadn't completely done the job it was supposed to be doing and as of now, two months and a week after the miscarriage, I am still spotting.  I'd even taken another pregnancy test earlier this week and gotten a very faint positive.

As I left I was relieved to know I would finally be getting some answers.

Paul had class, so the girls got to tag along during the appointment.  With a bag full of books, toys and snacks I hoped we could stave off disaster.  I was a bit nervous about how they would handle being in a doctor's office though, since neither one particularly likes going to the doctor.  Disaster averted.  They sat and ate their snacks.

I told the doctor I would feel better hearing her answer, whatever it was, because I knew that she wouldn't be the type to prescribe me estrogen for every single imaginable ailment ("You have allergies?  A toothache? Here have some birth control pills!").

It took the doctor all of thirty seconds doing an ultrasound to announce that the bleeding wouldn't have stopped with the estrogen.  Because my uterus is still full of remains from the miscarriage (Yuck.  Nine weeks later.  How unhealthy is that.).  She showed me the picture on the ultrasound and then continued to look around.

So....  I wasn't crazy.  It wasn't just "psychological" pain as Dr. H suggested.  The doctor continued and explained that the dose of estrogen I'd been given wouldn't have stopped the bleeding anyway, because it was such a low dose.  She was very surprised he'd prescribed it.  I am somewhat less surprised.  I think the "good doctor" had decided the problem was all in my head and he gave me the birth control pills that he knew I didn't want as a placebo, thinking that would end the whole thing.  Instead, it slowed the bleeding, and didn't address the actual problem at all.

The new doctor explained "the plan" to me.  I'm to take misoprostol, which is a drug traditionally used for ulcers, but that's also used to cause contractions after a miscarriage (it's also unfortunately used in abortions), for five days to see if that can take care of the problem.  I go back in on Tuesday for another ultrasound and if that doesn't work, we're going to go ahead with a D&C.

I have to say, I am wondering what the next few days will be like... it can't be worse than what has already happened (I found this site, in which one mom describes her experience with the drug)... and at least it will be over.

I'm still kind of relieved at the moment, to have some answers that didn't send the message: you just must be crazy!

Now I just need to get through the next few days...

Friday Shrimp Bisque Recipe

I was trying to follow a recipe for Shrimp Bisque, but after finishing the instructions and tasting it I discovered that I wasn't a fan.  Quite a few modifications and new ingredients later, I discovered this combination, which I actually like.  It is a little light on shrimp, because I only had a small bag, so feel free to add more (I think 1 /12 lbs would be similar to what the initial recipe would have called for if it had been this size...):

1 medium onion
4 tbs minced garlic
4tbs olive oil
3 tbs flour
3 cups water
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
4 tbs chili powder
1 cube chicken bouillon
3 tbs cumin
1 tbs coriander
3 tbs garlic powder
½ pound small shrimp, cleaned, deveined and minced
1 ½ cups sour cream
1 can cream of corn
1 can cream of mushroom
1 package cream cheese

Saute onions, garlic and  olive oil until onions are tender and then add flour.  Once the flour is completely mixed in add, water, whipping cream, chili powder, chicken bouillon, cumin coriander and garlic powder.  Add shrimp.  Cook for ten minutes.  Add sour cream, cream cheese, cream of corn and cream of mushroom.  Stir.  Simmer until cream cheese is melted.  Serve with avocado and crumbled lime tortilla chips (optional, but pretty good on most soups!)  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sadie's "Rosary"

Yesterday I was sitting at the dining room table working on a rosary while Sadie and Mae played.  Sadie had been asking me questions about the rosary while I worked, and after a few minutes of silence announced that she had made a "necklace" (she's had her eye on the rosary I made myself and desperately wants it as a "necklace") and then confirmed that it was in fact a "rosary."  She was pretty proud of her creation:

Of course it very quickly turned into: "Can you make me a good rosary for my wedding Mommy?" followed by demanding to be changed into her white princess dress and then claiming my rosary which she was surprisingly careful with).  Daddy got home just in time to be convinced to waltz around the living room.  

She actually went and found the rosary coloring book to make it part of her "rosary" because I put it away last night, and we hadn't worked in it at all today.

And of course what do you do with a rosary?  You pray.  So after making the rosary (before convincing Mommy to change her into the white dress and then convincing Daddy to dance) she sat down in the middle of it and prayed.  I had to snap a picture:

Deep in thought with her favorite stuffed animals.  She constantly surprises me with her sweet, growing faith and love.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sadie's Bagel Pizzas

Sadie helped me make lunch today.  We made little bagel pizzas.  It's pretty simple and Sadie was thrilled to be able to help in the kitchen.  Here's what we used:

7 mini bagels (English muffins work too)
1 cup of pizza sauce
Basil, Garlic Powder and Oregano to taste (we used about a tbs of each)
Mozzarella Cheese
28 pieces of pepperoni (2 for each slice)
A small can of sliced olives

First we combined the pizza sauce with the herbs and mixed them in a small bowl.  We ended up needing about twice as much as is shown here (about 1/2 cup is pictured).

Then I sliced the bagels and spread on the pizza sauce (Sadie isn't quite ready for this, potentially messy job):

Now it was Sadie's big moment.  She added the mozzarella cheese I had grated.  I then asked her to put two pieces of pepperoni on each pizza and then gave her olives to sprinkle, one pinch at a time (when I gave her more than one pinch at a time they all went on one pizza, so pinch by pinch it was!).

Sadie stepped back as I put the pizzas in our 350 degree preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Here's the finished result:

Even Mae Bae finished her mini sliced pieces, before falling asleep at the table:

As you can see here, Sadie was very excited about her first cooking experiment!  I have a feeling I'll be having more and more posts of this sort, since she's having so much fun being in the kitchen!

The Perfect First Communion/ Flower Girl Dress!

If I had a little girl who was getting ready for her first communion this year this would be my dream first communion dress (with a little matching white bolero, which Maria also can make!).  It's just so beautiful! Although at the sizes our girls are growing I would probably have to ask for a larger size to be made than an 8!

Maria made this dress for Susi's presentation and I can't stop looking at the pictures of it!  Maria's blog, Crafty Catholic Mamacita, was the main blog that inspired me to start sewing, a couple of years ago as I watched her making more and more complex and beautiful dresses!

I can also picture this as one of the most beautiful flower girl dresses I've ever seen!

I'm a big fan.  And I just had to share with you this morning because this picture is just so cute and this dress is so beautiful!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Smacky. The Gecko.

I just had my second encounter of the night with our new house guest: a not-un-cute gecko about an inch and a half long.  He keeps running under m feet and then escaping into another (dark) room.  By the time I turn the light on he's gone.  The fact that he's off white and blends with our light brown carpet quite well doesn't help.

Paul does not appreciate the seriousness of the situation.  I pointed out, after barging into the dark room where he is asleep, that this is likely because he is not the one who's going to step on the gecko in the dark, squishing it's cute little body under the bottom of my foot.  He made a sound that indicated that he thought this was unlikely (and that he wished I would leave him alone so that he could go back to sleep, since he has a class at 8am tomorrow morning), but having already found one squished gecko in the apartment upon moving in, and having seen others out in the wide world outside our apartment, I do not completely trust the gecko to take off when a giant foot, or bike tire, is looming over head.

And so the gecko, let's call him Smacky, after the gecko that lived in my home in South Africa (who was named after the tiny bear in the Get Fuzzy comic book for some reason), looks like he's here to stay... for now.

Before leaving the room to let Paul sleep (and to finish up my work for the night) I mentioned the real reason he wasn't concerned (okay not really, but it was the first thing that came to mind).  I was a little dramatic:  "I know why you aren't worried.  It's because you're not the one who's going to have to get it away from Mae Bae when she catches it and tries to eat it tomorrow."  Because frankly, if you know Mae Bae, or Margaret Rosella as Sadie has now taken to calling her, you know that that is not outside the realm of possibility.

I hope Smacky hits the road soon.  I don't mind geckos on some far off corner of the ceiling, but this little guy keeps running around on the ground.  And I do not want to squish him.  Or see Mae holding him by the tail.

And we don't even have 19 year old Puddy here to go after him...

Now to get some sleep.  The tornado watch from earlier in the night is over (if the forecast for it ending at 10 was correct), but we're still in the middle of a thunder storm, with claps of thunder that go on and on and on.

Baking Bread

Over the past couple of years I’ve slowly begun baking (this was one of my first attempts!), and with an occasional disaster (a particular baking soda mishap comes to mind) it has been largely uneventful.  Quick breads are charming, especially during autumn, and for a long time I stuck with them, intimidated by the whole kneading/rising process in baking yeast breads.   Despite the fact that I had no idea what I was doing, I kept finding recipes that involved yeast that I desperately wanted to try and so I finally took the plunge with a Taste of Home's roll recipes.  It involved dissolving the yeast in warm lemon lime soda, and after tasting the results was I hooked.  In fact, the whole family was.

I experienced a few less than spectacular results after deviating from the roll success, so I decided to give my old Fanny Farmer cookbook a try.  I found myself coming back to that particular cookbook more and more, because the recipes are consistently more reliable than those I'd found in some of my.... fancier... cookbooks.  

My beautiful Martha Stewart baking cookbook is lovely to look at, but today I gave it over to Sadie to play with... You see while the pictures are beautiful, the recipes, at least in my not-professional-level hands, leave something to be desired.  I’d tried recipe after recipe and, going against my nature, have closely followed the instructions.  Time and time again the recipe fell flat.  They looked beautiful, but even my not-exactly-picky-family admitted that the resulting cakes, cookies and brownies weren’t great. 

So I went back to my old, simple trusty cookbook.  And my family suddenly thought I’d become a culinary genius (I just assured Paul as he headed back to class that I think pretty much anyone can make a grilled cheese sandwich, although the homemade bread with a bit of garlic powder mixed with butter did give it a boost).  The recipes in that particular cookbook, even with my little twists and changes, work. 

This gave me the courage to give yeast bread baking a second try.  Last night I tried the “simple white bread” recipe in my Fanny Farmer Cookbook (after reading the intro in the baking bread section, in which I learned a lot!) and I’ve spent a large part of the morning wondering how the bread that results from that recipe can even be considered to be distantly related to the sort of bread I’d pick up in the super market aisle.  After that I spent quite a bit of time wondering how people went from primarily eaten bread baked at home, to eating grocery store bread…  Maybe the difference wasn’t as drastic at first? Because if I'd only eaten homemade bread and you handed me a piece of regular grocery store bread... I wouldn't be thrilled.

The two loaves of bread I baked last night have already disappeared.  The girls descended on them minutes after it was out of the oven, as I called out warnings of: “it’s hot!” they pinched off pieces with their fingers (from a piece I'd cut off because I wasn't sure if it was done...) and quickly devoured it.  We ate it with pulled pork last night for dinner, and with cheddar cheese and onions for lunch… and it is now almost gone (there’s a little bit left to go with our cheddar and brocolli soup for dinner).

Sadie loves every step of the process, which makes baking a bit more difficult at times, but which is also helpful when it’s time to knead the bread.  When I want to take a break she giggles and steps in.  When the bread comes out of the oven the fact that she helped means she’s incredibly excited to see the finished result (you’d think I was pulling a cake out of the oven). 

And so my new goal is to make Monday and Thursday’s around noon “Baking Day” at our house.  We’ll make a couple loafs of bread to last the rest of the week and Sadie will get her chance to do one of her favorite activities (she spends a lot of time pretending to knead “pizza” while turning over a brown fluffy blanket again and again). 

Now I just need to find a couple more bread loaf pans, so that I don’t have to use my seasonal thanksgiving pan every day!  It's not the best pan to use for yeast bread!  

Monday, October 17, 2011

More Than One Way to Wear a Snood!

As someone who spends a lot of time making snoods, and a lot of time wearing snoods, I've discovered some different twists on my same old headcoverings.  Some days when I'm home working around the house I might not feel like wearing an entire snood, but I still appreciate having my hair mostly pulled back out of my face (and my hair constantly escapes my buns!).  Frequently I use this variation (which coincidentally works with all of my snoods!):

I start with a bun.

I put the snood on just like I normally would (after turning it inside out!)...

But I wrap the tie around my bun, winding it from the top to the bottom:

And then making a neat bow under the bottom of my bun:

Some days I stop and wear the snood like this (which kind of looks like a tichel): 

Then all I do is grasp the front:

And pull it back:

And voila!  My bun is controlled, my hair is securely back and I have one of my favorite styles (that I used to usually create with a scarf) with one of my favorite snoods!

And if you're interested in doing this with a scarf, click here!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Feast of Saint Gerard of Majella

I just realized that today is the historical feast day of Saint Gerard of Majella! And since he is one of my favorite saints, I thought I'd share one of my favorite chaplets with you!  All you need are nine beads, separated into groups of three to make this chaplet yourself!

Here's how this particular chaplet is prayed:

There are two sets of prayer you may use for this chaplet.  
First you say the prayer, either for expectant mother's or for motherhood or another special favor, and then you follow the prayer with three Our Father's, three Hail Mary's and Three Glory Be's. 

"Great St. Gerard, beloved servant of Jesus Christ, you are a perfect imitator of our meek and humble Saviour, and a devoted child of the Mother of God. Enkindle in my heart one spark of that heavenly fire of charity that glowed in yours and made you a beacon of love.

Glorious St. Gerard, like your divine Master you bore without murmur or complaint the calumnies of wicked men when falsely accused of crime, and you have been raised up by God as the patron and protector of expectant mothers. Preserve me from dangers, and shield the child I now carry. Pray that my baby may be brought safely to the light of day and receive the sacrament of baptism."

"Most Blessed Trinity, I, Your child, thank You for all the gifts and privledges which You granted to St. Gerard, especially for those virtues with which you adorned him on earth and the glory which you now impart to him in heaven. Accomplish Your work, O Lord, so that Your Kingdom may come about on earth. Through his merits, in union with those of Jesus and Mary, grant me the grace for which I ask...

And you, my powerful intercessor, St. Gerard, always so ready to help those who have recourse to you, pray for me. Come before the Throne of Divine Mercy and do not leave without being heard. To you I confide this important and urgent affair....

Graciously take my cause in hand and do not let me end this novena without having experienced in some way the effects of your intercession. Amen."

Have a wonderful feast day of this very special saint!

On Thinking and Doing

Sadie was in the bathtub the other day when she announced: “I sew princess dresses!”  “You do?”  I asked. “Yes.  I sew princess dresses!”  It isn’t the first time she’s made that sort of imaginative announcement.  One day when we were in the car she told me that I didn’t need to teach her how to knit someday, because she already knows how.

Lately, she’s watched me work with pliers and wire, needle, thread and fabric, yarn, a crochet hook and knitting needles and hammer, nail and wood (I’ve built seven bookshelves since we moved!) and she seems to have come to a conclusion: Mommy can make anything. 

It comes up throughout the day.  The words: “Mommy make me __________.” frequently leave her mouth.  She worries about Mae too.  Before I finished Mae’s princess dress she reminded me almost hourly that Mae didn’t yet have a princess dress, and that I needed to sew one. 

As I cut the fabric for the latest dress she watched, with a slightly worried look on her face before saying “Mommy, can you knit it back together?” 

The baking we’ve done recently also seems to play into the idea that “we” can make anything.  After helping me make rolls earlier in the week she’s become fascinated with baking and has “made” pizza every day using a brown fuzzy blanket as “dough”.  The couch is the “oven.”  She even covers the “pizza” with another blanket so that it can rise, while repeating to me over and over again: “It’s not ready yet!” 

And I like that her first thought when we need (or want) something is that we can make it.  I think this might be why we have (so far) never had a tantrum in a toy aisle.  We’re way more likely to have a scene in JoAnn’s, which usually involves Sadie running up and grabbing a bolt of fabric while saying: “I like this one more better Mommy!” while I scramble to make sure it doesn’t fall, along with the five other teetering bolts around it, to the floor in a pile of gauzy sparkling organza (it’s happened). 

Craftsmanship, along with manual labor, are often undervalued in our culture.  These tasks, which actually keep our world running smoothly in many ways, usually aren’t looked at as appropriate goals, as if they’re somehow beneath us.  I remember being interviewed in high school for a newspaper article shortly before graduation and being asked what my favorite class was.  I knew innately that saying “wood shop” (the real answer) was out of the question for one of our classes two Co-Valedictorians and so I gave the next best answer “government.”  I enjoyed government and math and all the other subjects, but I already enjoyed working with my hands and coming up with a finished project, more

Then again, I didn’t know a single person growing up (through college) that just wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.  Something like that would have been seen (by ourselves and our peers) as a horrible waste of our very-special-one-of-a-kind-brilliance. 

Of course, being a mom involves much more than just making things, or manual labor.  As Chesterson said: 

"To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labours, and holidays; to be Whitely within a certain area, providing toys, boots, cakes and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can imagine how this can exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone and narrow to be everything to someone? No, a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute."

As usual Chesterton’s wisdom holds true over time because the truth doesn’t change. 

There’s something to be said, especially in the sort of economy we’ve had since both of my girls were born, for being a little more self sufficient and knowing how to do and think.  Just being able to fix things as they fall apart has become a real asset that I never would have dreamed was valuable back when I was dreaming about what I would do when I grew up.  Mending things isn’t my favorite job… but it is rewarding and does save money that is needed elsewhere.

I hope that’s something that I can impart to Sadie and Mae and to any other children we have:  A classical education that teaches them to think, alongside a more practical education that teaches them to sew a button, knit a sweater or crochet a blanket, make an inexpensive healthy dinner, or build a book shelf.  I want them to understand that knowledge is beautiful but that so is action and work, and that the two go hand in hand. And hopefully they’ll discover that most tasks become easier, and some are even quite enjoyable (I think it’s safe to say I’m addicted to knitting, crocheting and sewing), once a person is proficient in them.   

I hope that they understand, as far as one can understand when they head out into the world, that our vocations, which are who we are called by God to serve, often involve a life that is a bit more strenuous than we might imagine from a “traditional liberal arts education” because serving others is seldom easy.  That since we are composite creatures, both physical and spiritual, serving those we are called to serve, often involves meeting physical needs, and that we can grow spiritually through the mundane, unglamorous tasks that are part of daily life, which go alongside the sometimes lovely and sometimes difficult moments where we are given the chance to strive to grow in faith and love.