Thursday, February 28, 2013



Mae is obsessed with shoes.  And one pretty shoe just isn't enough for her these days.  So she mixes and matches.  This was the winning combination on Tuesday... one is a size 9-10 and the other is a size 13 1/2... but it doesn't matter, because Mae Bae loves playing dress up with shoes:


Is there anything better than a fort?  A pink princess fort?

She found every princess doll in the house that she's accumulated over a lifetime of princess collecting (and stealing any princess dolls that her little sister happens to be given...):

And the princess party commenced:


Sometimes you just need to get away from a princess party.

And this is one of Mae's favorite forts:

Daddy's big rocking chair is a close second:


This is how we've spending a lot of our days lately.  Sadie sets up the fort.  And then we lay on the ground or the couch and read Little House on the Prairie books.  We're on the fourth book now and I think we'll finish the entire collection before spring makes an appearance.  But I don't mind, because they're an awfully cuddly bunch!

A Bittersweet Goodbye

Sadie:  "Mommy!  Mommy how did he just do that?"
Me:  "Do wh-"
Sadie:  "How did the Pope just BLESS US through the TV?!?!?!"

This morning school consisted of Sadie and Patrick and I being glued to the TV while Mae Bae ran around us not destroying stuff (wheat free!!!).  We were streaming EWTN on the Roku, and it was nice having Sadie there peppering me with questions so that I didn't descend completely into the melancholy sort of mood that was threatening and instead managed to pass the hours with bouts of over the top sniffling accompanied by an occasional tear or twenty.

But I turned the TV off when the Pope left the balcony after addressing the crowd, and I'm pretty sure that outright sobbing might have followed if I'd seen the Swiss Guards leaving because he's no longer the Pope.  When he left the balcony it was still a few hours off and those few hours were somewhat comforting because it wasn't here just yet and I've been holding that moment at arms length and trying to push it away to some little back corner of my mind since that morning when the announcement came that he would be stepping down.

Sadie played while the commentators spoke and the cardinals each came up for a moment with the Pope (and I felt my eyes glued to the screen because the idea of him standing for that long had me worrying for him), but when he came out and got into the car her little eyes became glued to the television and the overflow of questions began, with any answers I gave or that she answered for herself mixed in:

"Is that the castle Mommy?  Is that the castle he's going to live in? What castle is it?  Why is he going away?  Is he the king?  He's the Pope.  Is he the king too now?"  (Oh how desperately she'd like to have a royal family in the US)  "That's Rome?  Oh that's Rome!  Rome.  That wall looks like a castle.  That's the Vatican!  It's a city and a country and a castle?  It looks like a castle."

"Why are you sad Mommy?  The Pope is going to pray.  For who?  For the world.  Is he going to the castle in Florida?  Mommy, he's going to the castle in Florida to pray that I will become a prima ballerina."

I listened to the beautiful tolling bells, mixed in with her words and wished that we'd gotten to see this Pope, this great teacher, during his pontificate, and wistfully thought of how near we came to being in Rome for Paul's studies if another path had been taken.

I made lunch quickly during the helicopter ride after they passed the Colosseum, and ate an entire plate of shortbread that I'd been saving for dinner (which I might note is the second time this has happened, the first shortbread incident being on the day he announced his abdication).

We avoided the secular news once his departure began because I didn't want to the bittersweet beauty of the morning and our goodbye to Pope Benedict XVI to be tainted by anger at the commenters and whatever it is they'd be spewing today.  Sadie began calling him Pope-pa at some point.

And I thought about the post that I'd like to write but found the words escaping me.  How do you say thank you and goodbye, and our prayers go with you, when you feel like you should say so much more.  Words fall short.

And so we use the simple words, insufficient though they seem, and say "thank you for all that you have done Papa" and send out those words along with our prayers for our Pope now retired and for the conclave who will choose our next Pope.  We pray also for the man that they choose, who will take on the responsibility of continuing to guide the Church (prayerfully guided by the Holy Spirit) through our modern days.

A part of me wants to imagine Benedict relaxing now, enjoying the twilight of his life after carrying such a heavy load these past years... and yet I think a more realistic picture is of a man retiring to do battle for this world by pouring out his prayers so that through God's grace more souls might be drawn to Christ.

Let's pray for him too and give thanks to God for the past eight years of leadership which he gave us, and for the leaders that are to come to guide us through these stormy waters.

The above photos are from this page on the Vatican website.  The below picture (from this site) I included for all of those of you who need a smile right now...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Over Active Imagination and Last Night's Scare

Last night was evidence of my over active imagination.  It also showed me that I'm really incredibly thankful for our alarm system.

Here's my overly dramatic rendition of what was probably just someone mistaking our house for someone else's house and how much it freaked me out:

And of course, when I look out the window I
see this... and can't see the front
porch area.
It was almost nine o'clock at night, and had long since been dark outside.  Paul was at the library studying.  Patrick was in his bassinet in the kitchen, sleeping, since he seemed to have something of a tummy ache and it had taken three tries to get him to stay asleep when I put him down, and the girls were both asleep in their room upstairs.  I was kneeling on the floor cutting out the pieces for a new quilt when a huge thundering banging began behind me, on the front door.  I jumped and froze for a minute.

Our door has a window on it, with slightly blurred glass, so I knew that the person standing out in the dark could clearly see me in the lighted room, in my oversized pink Winnie the Pooh sleep shirt, while all I could see was distorted dark blurriness.  My phone must have been right next to me because I grabbed it and ran over behind a little wall in the dining room, next to the security panel and called Paul.

And then, as the thundering on the front door continued and I debated hitting the police button on the box next to me, I heard Paul's phone ring on the mantle in the living room.  Seriously!  I thought, with annoyance mixing with the adrenalin rush that had been brought on by the loud startling pounding.

I was actually rather surprised that the alarm hadn't gone off, since it was set to doors and windows and had gone off yesterday morning from the girls racing back and forth across the living room when it was still set... and the pounding on the door was of a rather fierce variety.

I'll admit that the only thing that stopped me from calling the police at that point was the knowledge that an ear splitting siren would sound if the door so much as opened a crack.

The pounding stopped and I crept over and peeked out a side window.  I couldn't see a car or a person. I called my parents as I walked around looking out windows and then checking on each of the babies, finding Mae Bae asleep clutching a little pink bunny sweetly in her hand.  I promised them that I would call 911 if the person started pounding again.  I fired off an email to Paul and then glared at the computer, knowing he wasn't online and was reading books, which wouldn't let him know that he had a little message in his facebook email box.  Then I posted a message on his wall asking anyone who noticed it and saw him in the library to have him check his email, while trying not to sound like a panicked wife who was debating calling the police.

All the while my fears were of course running wild with thoughts like:  "What if it wasn't the girls who set off the alarm this morning?  What if someone broke one of the basement windows open and that set off the alarm and I just turned it off and reset it and now the doors and windows sensor won't pick up a change and someone's in the basement right now?!?!?"  I crept downstairs and peeked my head in each door in the basement to check the windows, phone tightly in my hand.

Our Mom totally has an overactive imagination...
I was so much more fearless before I had kids.  With kids I freak out about things like, "if someone broke down that door, I would have to get to Patrick in the kitchen and get upstairs to the girls and which direction to go first because that's pretty much impossible since the front door is between those two points."  Before kids I would have remembered that I'm a black belt and have spent hours and hours training for exactly this sort of thing.  After kids I feel panicky about the difficulty of defending someone small and defenseless (or three) if I were outnumbered.

So that by the end of it I was wishing that I had a gun safe and had taken those conceal and carry courses that are offered in our area on Groupon pretty much every other week.

And yes, I apparently have a fanciful imagination that runs wild when the whole thing was likely just someone getting an address wrong and banging on the wrong door of the wrong house during a snow storm.

I have never been so thankful for that alarm system though.  I'm sold on the idea of having one now, wherever we live.

Maybe I need a sign next to the alarm sign that says: "If you bang on this door late at night I won't be opening it... I'll be calling the police..."  or something like that.  I don't know... What would you have done?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New Recipe Tuesday: Cranberry Chicken Cabbage Wraps

I've been working on writing a cookbook, so I'm keeping some of my recipes under wraps at the moment, but  since today is New Recipe Tuesday I thought I'd share my most requested recipe (which I think would also be great with turkey substituted for chicken!):

Cranberry Chicken Cabbage Wraps

1 lb chicken, cooked and shredded
1 Savoy Cabbage
2 tbs chopped garlic
1 white onion- chopped
2 large tomatoes- chopped
1 tsp rosemary
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
Cranberry Sauce (make in advance and allow to cool in refrigerator for at least 1 hour)

First, to make cranberry sauce I wash and pick over the cranberries and put them in a pot, slightly covered with water.  I then boil the cranberries until they pop and add sugar to taste (or no sugar at all if you prefer it, you could also add a dollop of maple syrup or honey if you prefer!).  I also sometimes add a few dollops of mint jam, although I didn’t for this recipe. 

Now for the wraps.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In the bottom of a baking dish spread Cranberry Sauce evenly.  Steam the cabbage until the leaves are soft.  Mix the shredded chicken, garlic, onion, tomatoes, rosemary, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.  Carefully hold each piece of cabbage and spoon the chicken mixture onto the middle of the leaf.  Fold in the ends and then roll the leaf.  Place side by side on top of the cranberry sauce.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. 


Monday, February 25, 2013

Little Dolls for the Girls

Last night, after making the front sides of one and a half quilts out of a cute little russian inspired doll print, I began taking the leftover scraps and started cutting out the little dolls.  I backed them with cuddle fabric and stuffed them with rice and voila:

This is the beginning of my Easter basket sewing!  They're perfect for fitting in Mae Bae's hand (she loves carrying little dolls around in her hand) and they're snuggly and soft!  I can't wait to see her playing with them!

Are You Ready to Sign Up For the Draft?

Deep breath.  Many of us suspected that this was coming.  I wasn't sure anyone would be prancing around proclaiming that it should happen now, but I can't say that I'm really surprised either.  

I woke up this morning to read this article about people who are fighting to make sure that the women in our country have to register for the selective service.  But don't worry, they assure us.  It's not like we'll actually call them up.  It's just fair.  I mean we're the same now.  So why wouldn't you send you're girls out to register.  Since they're the same as their brothers they have the same obligation to fight and die in the name of our country.  

Now I feel compelled to start off with a little personal history.  In 2005, shortly before I met Paul, I was thinking of joining the military.  Two things held me back at the time.  The first was that I was in the middle of a 13 month hiring process with the CIA and I was waiting to see how it would play out (where I was offered a job that was ultimately rescinded around the time I got engaged).  The second thing holding me back was this:

Ah yes... that's what you think it is.... my neck tattoo... I was a stupid kid...
I don't know what the rules are now, but back in 2005 a neck tattoo disqualified me from even enlisting in the Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps.  The Army would have taken me, but I had my little heart set on the Navy and so, when I met Paul that year, I had undergone two laser tattoo removals (let me say that taking off a tattoo is more painful than putting it on...).

And that little tattoo, that mistake that I thoroughly regret and feel idiotic about (I have other tattoos but they don't make me feel as stupid because they're not on my neck... kids take it from me and never, ever, ever get a neck tattoo...) is the main reason I was around to marry my husband and start a family with him (I guess I shouldn't hate it that much, since it, in effect, made the life that I love today possible).  

So I can understand the desire to serve one's country.  I was all for the idea of women in combat.  At the same time, other types of personal experience had to make me wonder, if I was truly honest with myself, about how capable I was of keeping up with men who I could clearly see, had a natural advantage.  I was in pretty great shape back then.  I could easily swim two miles without stopping.  I could bench press quite a bit more than my own body weight.  I worked out for hours every single day.  But I was also a black belt in karate and one thing my years of training had showed me was that men with quite a bit less experience and skill often still had the upper hand when we were training, because their natural strength and speed was superior to my own, despite my hard work.  Which was frustrating.

The thing is, no matter how much certain people wish away this fact, it still stands: men and women are inherently different.  Men generally have a great advantage when it comes to innate abilities that come in handy on the battle field.  I think it's ridiculous to expect to be able to draw from a random pool of women across the country and, even with extensive training, expect them not to hinder a combat unit.

We aren't the same.  Writing laws that say that we are won't change that simple fact.

More than that I think it's incredibly stupid to take away from women who are in their prime child bearing years, during this hypothetical future situation, and put them on birth control and put them on the front lines.  That ought to do wonders for future generations.  Especially when we're already below replacement levels.  Let's further decimate the number of children we have growing up to support our retiring workers.  That sounds like an awesome idea for economic stability.

Now I'll pause so you can read some highlights from the actual article that started this rant:
"The Obama administration's recent decision to lift the ban on women in combat has opened the door for a change in the law that currently compels only men between age 18 and 25 to register for a military draft, according to legal experts and military historians.
Never before has the country drafted women into military service, and neither the administration nor Congress is in a hurry to make them register for a future call-up. But, legally, they may have no other choice..."
"...Groups that backed the end of the ban on women in combat also support including women in draft registration as a matter of basic citizenship. Women should have the same civic obligations as men, said Greg Jacob, a former Marine Corps officer and policy director for the Service Women's Action Network. "We see registration as another step forward in terms of equality and fairness," Jacob said..."

"..."You can't pick and choose when equality should apply to you," Hegar said. "Making generalized statements like, `Women are capable of being in combat' or `Women are incapable of being in combat,' are equally ignorant. People are either competent or they're not competent."..."

"...Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has made several attempts over the past decade to reinstitute the draft on the grounds that a small fraction of U.S. citizens are bearing a disproportionate burden in fighting the nation's wars. But his bills have gone nowhere.
That hasn't stopped him from trying. Just this month, Rangel introduced another bring-back-the-draft bill that also would require women to register..."

Here we go.  Are you ready to take your girls to sign up for the selective service?  Depending on your age are you ready to sign up for yourself?  I'm certainly not.

In fact I absolutely believe that I'm innately unsuited for military service or war.

You see, I can flip through any of dozens of pictures of me standing next to my husband and it is abundantly clear that one of us would be more suited to the conditions of war:

We are of equal worth in God's eyes, but it's perfectly clear that physically we aren't the same.  And I just can't understand how anyone could think that this idea would make our military stronger.

The idea of sameness as equality has run amok.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hollywood's Church Slamming Obsession

I'm sick of television at the moment.  At night, when the babies go to sleep and Paul goes to study, I set up my sewing machine and turn on the TV, usually to Hulu or Netflix to try to find something that will distract me from being very, very sleepy after the first few hours of sewing, without making me feel like my brain is melting from the stupidity flickering before it.

This past week I tried two programs that looked promising and both managed to disappoint in a twenty four hour period.  I'll start with the newest program (since it was the first to disappoint): Zero Hour (spoiler alert, if you don't want to know any part of what happens in this stupid new show, or in Touch, which I'll be talking about in 6-ish paragraphs stop reading now).

I watched the pilot of Zero Hour and thought it looked promising.  It begins, I told Paul when he got home, with priests who seem to be trying to save the world as the Nazi's bear down upon them, ultimately giving their lives as they rush around talking about how it's the end of the world.  One of them says something stupid along the lines of "even God can't help now..." but in the realm of current tv stupidity I thought that ranged on the low side.

Part of the premise of the show that becomes apparent is that in order to stop Nazi Germany from destroying the world the Church picked out twelve "new apostles" to protect some secret.  In the first episode you see that the first apostle we're to meet is "New Bartholomew" and he walks across the screen, dressed as a Nazi officer with a rosary barely showing in the palm of his hand.

"Do you think they'll do the bait and switch approach?"  Paul asked me after I told him about the show.  This is the typical tactic where a show lures you in by being entertaining and inoffensive during the first season and then, once they have you hooked (or hope they do) becomes extremely political in the subsequent seasons, determined to cram every bit of moral relativism in that can fit in a hour long program.  "I hope not!"  I responded.

I watched the second episode on Hulu shortly after it was released this weekend.  We quickly discover that the second "new apostle" is a Hindi holy woman ("Doubting Thomas"), with characters exclaiming that there are powerful forces (obviously within the Church) that would be determined to keep an apostle from being both Hindi and a woman.

Dun dun duh duh...

I wasn't upset when it became clear that the second "apostle" was a woman.  What can I say... it's Hollywood and my expectations are pretty low.  They lost me, however, with the comment that followed when it became clear that they were going with the, "there are two forces within the Church and one is good and loving and trying to save the world with their female apostle and the other will stop at nothing, even world destruction, to make sure that women are downtrodden for all time" approach.  Yawn.  Hollywood portraying the Church as villainous... how original...  click.

Last night Hulu told me that there was a new episode of Touch on.  Touch is based on the premise that there are 30-something holy people in the world and as long as those holy-people exist, God will stay his wrath and not destroy the world.  A Rabbi explains this to the father on the show, who's tween genius son is the main character and apparently one of the "holy."  The plot had ambled along through the first season with the boy giving his father numbers which ultimately lead to people being saved all around the world through chain reactions.

Of course bad people who would use the boy and the others like him for their own means are chasing after them by the second season... and in the last episode we find out who's been brutally murdering these people...  Prepare to be not-surprised... it's the... Catholic Church.  Or at least a Catholic priest who explains that he's been tasked with this mission.  Eye roll.

Again the originality is astounding.  Creative genius and all that (sorry, I just can't seem to overcome the sarcasm this morning).  The Church is Hollywood's go to villain these days, which is hardly surprising, but does have me wondering if they ever get bored with writing the same story line over. and over. and over again.

I know I'm bored being not-surprised by the lack of creative thought that keeps pumping out Church-as-evil scenarios and I've only been Catholic for six years this Easter.  I guess it's back to searching Netflix for classics that harken back to the days when portraying the Church as the bad guy wasn't quite so cool.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bedtime Bear

Last night I heard a small sing song voice coming down the stairs about an hour after bed time.  I peeked up from the bottom of the stairs and saw Mae, sitting on a step in her pajamas, wide awake.  Scooping up the stairs we headed back to her room and I asked her:  "Did you come downstairs because you wanted a bedtime story?"

"Yeah..." she said, her little arms hugging tightly around my neck.  I tucked her gently back into bed and told her the same story I tell every night, since the girls are obsessed with it at the moment.  It has the elements Mae Bae wants (a map and an adventure) and the elements Sadie wants (she and her sister are princesses and baby Patrick tags along with them too).  On Mae's bed was her little toy flashlight and a book, showing why the previous hour had passed so quietly that I'd been sure she was already asleep.

As I told the story she hugged Oatmeal Bear and repeated: "Bear.  Bear.  Bear.  Bear!" while giggling.

Then I sang a made up song that my mom used to sing to me when I was little, replacing the name of my bear (Pink Bear) with Oatmeal Bear.  About half way through the song Mae was giggling hysterically.  After singing it twice I tucked the covers around her (although it was pretty clear that she was ready to get out of bed and play more), reset the gate slightly higher so that she couldn't squeeze under it, but hopefully wouldn't be able to scale it (yeah, right...) and closed the door.

Then it was downstairs for laundry and sewing and waiting for Paul to get home so that we could watch one episode of Doctor Who while I knitted... and then, finally with my orders for today that need to go out done, it was time for sleep...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Still the Greatest Giveaway...

No, no, no... nothing to see here...  Just go on with what you're doing...  No need to go over and enter the Greatest Lenten Giveaway, because I've already entered almost every. single. day.

Okay, okay... you might want to go over and check it out, because Gina's put together some great prizes!

7 Quick Takes Friday

--- 1 ---

I usually get my weather report from the little security system panel on our wall and it's usually wrong.  So when it told me that snow was likely last night and said there was a 67% chance of waking up to a winter wonderland, I thought, "yeah right, that's what you say, and then the rest of Michigan gets snow and we get a few little flurries."

So, of course, I was shocked when it was right and we woke up to a white winter wonderland.

My observant four year old gasped after being awake for roughly two hours and said:  "It's snowing outside!"

I have seen a plow now.  It plowed one lane of our street three days after the last storm, but the snow was already so packed into such an icy solid strip that you couldn't actually tell that it had been done.  But at least we know that the city has them... and that they sometimes do find their way down side streets!

--- 2 ---

Last night I finished setting up our seed starter area.  The seeds arrived this week, with their guarantees of being of the organic non-genetically modified heirloom variety, because I don't like looking at tomatoes and automatically thinking, "tomato frog" and I got all ready to plant them because in the past when I've done major gardening years, February was the time to start and let's face it, February is practically gone.

I felt like I was running behind schedule.

Then I decided to see what the internet had to say about planting indoors in Michigan and the consensus seems to be not to do it before mid-March if you want those little plants to survive in their starter containers past the last frost.  So March it is.

The year before Sadie was born I planted a couple entire packages of tomato seeds, thinking that I'd never grown tomato plants before and most probably wouldn't make it to adulthood and I ended up with 90 fully grown tomato plants and more tomatoes than the local soup kitchen could get rid of on Tuesdays.  This year I'll try to be a bit more realistic... so that the tomatoes don't take over the entire yard.

--- 3 ---

Paul's in the midst of the sugar/carb withdrawal headache.  I remember it well and it is definitely not fun.  At least it's a weekend.  And I imagine it will make this Friday especially penitential...

--- 4 ---

One of my favorite parts of each day is snuggling under a blanket on the couch and reading to the babies.  We've been making our way through the Little House on the Prairie series and are halfway done with Farmer Boy.

Yesterday we decided we're going to try Almanzo's giant pumpkin recommendations for a "milk fed" pumpkin.  Let's just say it involves cutting all the vines but one, and then all the flowers but one and making a small slit in the bottom of the vine and inserting a piece of wick in the slit so you can feed the pumpkin a bowl of milk each day.

And then I just hope that the freakishly large black and grey squirrel that I see skulking about my back yard every day doesn't completely destroy the garden... like they destroyed the Halloween pumpkin within hours of putting it out on the front porch...

I could just hand out snuggies
to everyone...
--- 5 ---

After three days of battling with the laundry room, I believe I may have finally won.

I finally came to the conclusion that hauling laundry up two flights of stairs and putting it away in the already small bedrooms was just never going to happen.

Especially since laundry is a night time thing, and I can't very well put away the girls' clothes without waking everyone up.

So now everyone has a shelf or dresser in the basement laundry room and I can put the clothes away the moment it comes out of the drier.  This strategy is making laundry time so much easier.

--- 6 ---

Last night I made lettuce enchiladas and waited nervously to see the crowd's reaction.  They liked them and said that they were "cook book worthy" which is the test of any recipe these days around here.

I haven't typed up the recipe yet, but it pretty much involved using my regular enchilada recipe and then using lettuce to wrap the filling instead of tortillas.

--- 7 ---

Patrick is attempting to scoot himself along the floor when he's in tummy time.  He can get his little knees and bum in the air, but he can't quite do it while pushing himself up on his arms.  He is trying to worm his way forward though, and spends ten or fifteen minutes before bedtime working on this new skill while I clean the downstairs.  

I'm not particularly enthusiastic about him being mobile just yet, since I have visions of a certain two year old trying to ride him around the living room and know that mobility will mean a whole new level of vigilance to make sure that that situation never, ever actually happens.  

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Goodbye to Gluten...

Yesterday I was going about my day when a sudden realization struck me.

Mae Bae hasn't been having tantrums.  She hasn't been going through her daily 4 o'clock hour of terrors, where she engages in the systematic destruction of the house. She's been exceptionally cuddly.  And I have been seriously more relaxed on those long days when it's just me and the kids while Paul is in class during the day and through dinner and then stays at school to study late into the night.

When did this happen?  I wondered, as I puttered around in the kitchen.  And then the answer popped into my head and stopped me in my tracks.  It's been about two weeks... which is around the time I ran out of bread and rolls and hadn't bought more simply because they weren't on my meal planning list.

I wasn't intentionally avoiding them with the girls, it just so happens that I haven't been cooking with wheat since Patrick and I can't have it, and as a result, the people I'm cooking for are eating a lot less of it too, since I try to make something that everyone will enjoy.

And Mae is like a different toddler when it comes to tantrums.  She's still destroyed quite a bit of furniture, but the difference is that I haven't seen her intentionally destroy things.  It's usually the result of her... unfortunate... climbing prowess and the fact that she's bigger than you're average two year old. She isn't breaking things when she's having a tantrum.  She's breaking them because she's climbing something and that something isn't built to hold forty pound of two year old (like our space heater).

She just seems happier.

Now I should mention that usually the child is practically addicted to all things bread.  Given a choice between bread and candy she'd likely take the bread.

This morning, however, helped cement the discussion Paul and I were about to have to make.  He got up early with the girls and gave them cereal... wheat cereal.

An hour of screaming followed.

Coincidence?  Maybe.  But I'm not doing a study.  I don't need irrefrutable proof that there's a difference.  I can see that there's a difference.

She has started talking... which could account for the difference.  But this change began two weeks before she started bubbling over with words, which makes me wonder more if this diet change has actually contributed to her sudden ability to communicate with us.

We discussed the research I'd discovered last night and talked about the changes I've seen.  And Paul agreed that he wanted to try giving up gluten and wheat too, after hearing me gush for a month now about how I feel better and have more energy than I've had in years.  So we're going gluten free al together now.

I never expected this.

You see, it wasn't like I felt particularly "bad" before.  At least I didn't think that I did.  If you'd asked me I would have said I'd had a rough year, with all the illness during my pregnancy with Patrick, but that I was fine.  Maybe starting to feel a bit older and more run down, but fine.

I believe she just stole an ice cube....
And I was skeptical of all the various diets that I saw floating around.  Sure, they were okay for other people, and seemed to work for other people, but we were okay eating the way that we ate.  I cooked healthy homemade meals.  I love to bake.  I didn't think we needed to change.

I'd think of my ten years as a vegetarian and how so many people had told me I would be ill if I ate meat after ten years without it and how the transition had been smooth when I did decide one day to have a streak, and I felt exactly the same, no better or worse than I had in the previous decade.

Nothing short of Patrick's allergy would have changed things, because I didn't think anything needed to be changed.

Then I began this new diet... and after the first week of sugar and carb withdrawals, I felt like a different person.  I feel like I've dropped a decade off of my energy levels.  My weight has stabilized now, below my pre-pregnancy weight with Patrick, and I'm able to eat until I'm full without having to count calories to make sure I'm getting enough.  When I eat wheat or something sugary, I feel sick.  And the two migraines I've had in the past month were both when I was testing new foods... first when I ate sugar (a small amount too!) for the first time in two weeks and the second when I ate wheat.  Other than that I've been migraine free.  I'm hoping with these diet changes I might stay that way.

Pumpkin and Maple Syrup Rice Ice Cream
It has been quite a change.  I'm compiling my own recipes as I learn to cook all over again.  Cranberry Chicken Cabbage rolls is a new family favorite.  I am relieved that we can have dairy and non-peanut legumes (Mae Bae loves chickpeas), so we're not strictly Paleo, although the Paleo recipes I've found have been very helpful.  I'm a little in love with spaghetti squash at the moment.  And my arms were sore today after making sauerkraut for the first time.

The whole family is also enjoying Paul's Valentine's day present to me, a homemade ice cream maker that guarantees we know exactly what's in our ice cream.  I've come up with a pumpkin and a blackberry recipe so far (both using rice milk) and I can't wait to see what else we can come up with.

It's been a crazy month since Patrick first started breaking out in hives.  He's now been hive free for five days, the longest we've gone without a reaction of some kind.  And while I pray he grows out of these allergies, I'm thankful for the information we've gained these past few weeks and the boost of energy these changes have given us.

And I'm thankful that the toddler is no longer focused on systematically destroying the house.

So I'm excitedly saying goodbye to gluten and hello to a whole new kind of cooking!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Chatter Box

Suddenly ready to tell us
exactly what's on her mind!
Mae has suddenly started talking, words bubbling off her lips after two and a half years of squealing and chirping.  I knew that she could talk... because I used to hear her over the monitor, talking to her bear when she was supposed to be taking a nap.  But for whatever reason she didn't feel like blessing us with her verbal thoughts, maybe because she did a pretty good job letting us know in other ways exactly what was on her mind.

This week, however, something just clicked and within half an hour she'd said four words.  Yesterday she started putting words together:  "Hot food!  Hot food!"  "Boots on!  Mama!  Boots on!"  and then, bringing a book over that asked about colors she said:  "purplepinkredgreen" as if it were on big word, saying the colors that were on the page in order.  I announced that Mae Bae would get a bean added to the bean jar for her new words, meaning that her big sister is now enthusiastically cheering her on as well.

I'll admit, I'm grateful for the words, mostly because it might stop the prying comments about the fact that both of our girls have both started talking later than the average.  I remember reading somewhere that children who are very physical often start talking later... and I thought, "aha!"  That's it.  Mae took her first steps at ten months.  She regularly scales vertical surfaces just for the heck of it.  She loves to run and jump and dive and crash... and words... until this week, just didn't seem to be that high on her list of priorities.

Sadie was a late talker too and when she began to talk there were letters that she struggled with.  Last year I made a list of those letters and was dismayed when I counted them.  13.  Half the letters in the alphabet.

We'd practice letters.  During the summer and the move things were so crazy that we didn't do any formal practice.  Now we read poetry together every day, and she repeats the words after me.  She's mastered ten of those thirteen letters during our reading time and she can say the others... we're just still working on putting them into words.

"I think we should do Spanish with her."  I told Paul jokingly, after our daily lesson one day.  What foreign language to begin with has long been a topic of conversation in our house.  "She says her l's like y's and her v's like b's."

I know there are people we've known who have vocally doubted our decision not to seek outside help... but my thought was always this:  As long as I'm seeing steady improvement we'll keep on as we are.  If I wasn't, I would ask for help.  I have greatly, greatly appreciated the practical advice I've received around here (that's how Sadie learned to say Q!). I have a harder time appreciating comments from people who have watched my child run around with other kids, out of breath and giggling, who then decide to offer their two cents about how something is severely wrong since they can't understand her (when they've never actually talked to her or in other cases, when they have but are clearly hard of hearing).  Yes, it is something we're working on.  Yes there has been major improvement.  And yes, she's a little girl with a little girl voice and being able to hear that voice does aid in understanding what she's saying.

I guess this is just another area, along with how many kids we're going to have and how they'll be educated, where I've gotten to practice not saying exactly what I was thinking in the name of good manners.

So I'm pleased with how things are going along.  I wonder how much Mae's deciding to talk had to do with the fact that about a week ago Sadie started saying:  "Mae doesn't talk.  Angelina Ballerina's sister talks." with a dramatic sigh.

Now to start our school day!  I can't wait to see what Mae is going to come up with today!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Chicken Tossing Guilt

I stood in the kitchen last night staring at a picked over chicken carcass and feeling guilty that I was about to throw it out.  I left it on the counter for a few hours while I had an internal battle over throwing it out or freezing it, finally telling Paul that it could be tossed, and not looking while it disappeared from my counter top.

I grew up with stories of a great grandmother in North Dakota who hoarded cheese puffs (if I remember correctly) and once slid a steak off of her plate and into her purse to save for later and I can't help but wonder... is this how it started?

Then I think no, with a little pang of guilt, because any depression era grandma worth her salt wouldn't have been throwing out that carcass!

But I have quarts of homemade broth filling the freezer at the moment and I'm out of jars to make more, and besides, I think I'm set on broth through summer at this point (or at least until the spring semester is over) and if I keep roasting a chicken once a week and dividing up the meat for meals, the supply is going to continue to far exceed what we need.  So, the carcass went.

Roasting a chicken is my favorite way to trick my family into thinking I'm a fantastic cook who's slaved for hours in the kitchen.  It's so easy.  I open the chicken, take out the giblets and neck if they're there, and rinse it inside and out then I set it on the roasting pan and pour a dollop of olive oil over it.  Next I sprinkle it with a layer of garlic powder and onion powder and a bit of kosher salt and black pepper, cover it with foil and pop it in the oven at 350 and let it fill the house with it's garlicky chicken goodness.  I served it alongside blueberries, which I'd found on sale and baked sweet potato fries (sprinkled with the same toppings and tossed).  It's a meal that doesn't trigger any reaction with Patrick and it makes the whole family happy.  And there's leftover chicken for at least one more meal (last night it was cranberry chicken cabbage wraps, which were also a hit!  And which made it feel kind of like Thanksgiving!).

I've realized, however, more and more of late, as I folded a clean but used zip loc bag and put it back in the drawer, that this recession has changed the way I think on a fundamental level, probably not all that different from the way our depression era relatives changed.  I find myself smiling and shaking my head at the many, many frivolous purchases I made back in college when paycheck after paycheck disappeared at the mall.  In many ways I laugh at myself now, as I found myself doing over my internal chicken struggle last night and yet... I definitely think more about how I can use things in different ways and stretch them to make them last longer.  I find myself reluctant even to throw out small pieces of fabric because just think! With enough of them I could make a quilt!

And I'm enthusiastically planning my garden for this year.  I'm planning to go big!  And pinterest is helping me get excited about the hard work to come!

What about you?  Have the past few years changed the way you look at the world?  Am I alone in my chicken tossing guilt?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Saturday Afternoon

Yesterday was a lazy sort of day.  Kind of.

Patrick was in a sleepy happy baby mood for much of the day and napped and sat with his sister who repeatedly exclaimed:  "Mommy, look at Patrick!  He's sitting up like such a big boy!"

Mae Bae was in typical toddler form and spent some time playing upstairs in the girls' room while I moved pretty much everything out of the dining room so that there was nothing left to break.  In the past week our space heater had a leg snapped off, the kids table was broken, the tv stand was broken and she's run at the walls with a crayon in hand while I chase after her, throwing herself at the paint and scribbling until I can get hold of her hand, and I've begun to wander about the house muttering "This is why we can't have nice things!  We just can't!" and wondering if every single thing we own will be broken before she turns three.  Oh to be two!

So much adventurousness wrapped up into such a small little frame.  I guess it's a good thing that I'm fairly good at fixing things.  Otherwise... well I have visions of a bare living room and dining room.

After the dining room was cleared of pretty much everything other than a table, chairs and a now empty bookshelf, I let Mae explore the newly bare room while Sadie and I snuggled on the couch and watched Song of Bernadette.  Mae would join us for a few minutes of the time and would then get too wiggly to stay.  As we watched we talked about what was going on and I'd ask her questions and answer her questions.

As the movie went on I asked Sadie why she thought the police men and city magistrate wanted to stop Bernadette from going to see Our Lady.  She looked very serious for a few minutes (before that she kept asking, "are those bad guys?" every few seconds) and then finally said "Well, I guess they just don't have love in their hearts" which took me completely by surprise.  Then she looked down at my lap, where a magazine that had arrived a few moments earlier was open to a page about the Pope's abdication and asked:  "Mommy, what's going to happen to Benedict now?"

I had talked with her a little about what was happening on the day that the abdication was announced, but I wasn't really sure she was listening or even really understood who the Pope was.  Now she was saying his name like he was a long lost relative she would dearly miss.

I explained that he was going to go into a monastery to pray for the whole world and she asked a few more questions and then went back to watching the movie.

She's like a little sponge these days, surprising me at every turn as she asks me to read her poetry and asks loudly in the locker room at swim lessons:  "Mommy, can you please tell me the story about Adam and Eve now?"  And I'm grateful that I have to keep learning to keep up with her!

Of course the calm part of the day was followed by some full contact ballet while I was making dinner, that involved a toddler with a bloody nose and a bleeding lip and Sadie telling me solemnly that they probably shouldn't twirl and hold hands anymore, which I've been saying for... oh I don't know... over a year now.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sadie's First Hockey Game

Last night Sadie and Paul left just before bedtime so that Sadie could go see her first hockey game.  A while back I'd found $6 tickets to the game and had completely forgot about them... until a few hours before the game.  Thankfully I remembered and called Paul and he came home early.

Sadie insisted on wearing her green velvet dress, over her pants and under her jacket since it's "Spartan Green."  Here they are on their way out the door.

Patrick was thankfully asleep in his bassinet, so I got some one on one time with Mae.  We popped in a Dora DVD, did piggie back rides around the downstairs and cuddled on the couch when she wasn't too busy hopping around the living room.

When it was time to go upstairs to bed I was putting up the gate to her room (so she doesn't go downstairs at night) and she came over and closed the door and tucked herself in (actually she probably played for a while first).  She is little miss independent. 

Sadie and Paul had a great time at the game!  Since she's been at the rink most weeks she's seen a lot of hockey players walk by with their gear.  It was neat for her to finally see a game!

Here she is bundled up and watching!

And here she is with sleepy eyes!  After a little over an hour she was so sleepy that they headed home!  But she had a great time!  Maybe next year we'll all go as a family!  I think Mae would enjoy hockey... or really any full contact sport...

What I'm Working On...

Tonight I finished my first "for sale" quilt.  

It's so cuddly and pink.  And I have a soft spot for these bears:

Patrick loves laying on the fluffy side of his blanket.  It's where he does his tummy time each day.

Apparently tummy time isn't as horrible as he thought it was:

And here's the beginning of my next quilt.

I was excited to find the super soft red fabric:

The nativity fabric is one of my favorites:

Friday, February 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday

--- 1 ---

I kicked off the morning by making Tahini and Pumpkin porridge, pointing out to Sadie that it was what Goldilocks ate and then repeatedly saying to Paul:  "Well. it certainly feels like Lent now.  Doesn't it?  I think that this is one of the best Friday Lent meals ever?  It really makes it feel like Friday, huh?"

I might have been particularly gleeful since someone brought home to boxes of Pączkis and everyone ate them in front of me.  Powdered sugar covered cherry and creme filled pastry goodness.  I could smell them.  It was torture.

There was also no cheering when I announced I'd be making Butternut Sage soup for lunch and Broc-Cauli Chowder for dinner.  There will also probably not be celebration when I make enough of either of those soups to last through all the Fridays in Lent.

--- 2 ---

This giveaway is still so awesome that it gets its own Quick Take today.  I don't think I've ever liked a giveaway enough to come back more than one day to enter.  But yeah.  This one is that cool!

--- 3 ---

Mae Bae has a new word and it makes my heart feel all warm and glow-y every time she says it, even though it has yet to be directed at me.

She'll repeat it, in her sweet little voice and my heart leaps for joy!

"Love, love, love!"

She never says it just once.  It trips off of her lips over and over again.

And it has only been said to one person?  Any guesses?

Patrick.  The first time she said it, she stood next to him and stared at him for a solid ten minutes.  I was watching her, hoping that she wasn't jealous.  Then she reached forward and touched his nose and mouth very gently and began repeating "love, love, love" over and over again.

Yesterday she was silent at first, then showered him with kisses while he smiled at her (which is a change since generally he's rather watchful around his rambunctious two year old sister) before saying it.

Yup.  Every time I think about it, it makes my heart feel warm and fuzzy.

--- 4 ---

Patrick got dressed up to take his sister to dinner before the butterfly ball (a special occasion and the last time we're going out until my birthday on April 1st!).  He fussed when I put him into his button up shirt... but I kind of think he looks like Daddy in it!

He let us know what he thought about getting dressed up.
--- 5 ---

In other Patrick related news, I've never seen a three month old who is so in love with his "loveys."  He has a stuffed giraffe that plays music and several soft cuddly blankets.  He pulls the blanket and the lovey up to his face and presses them against his cheek to go to sleep.  If he's been nursed and changed and burped and played with and he starts to fuss I know what he wants.  I'll hand him his giraffe and his blanket and he's play with them for a few minutes and fall asleep...

And then I go to work trying to slip them away from his face while he sleeps... and he does is darnedest to wake up and catch me.

--- 6 ---

Paul proposed seven years ago yesterday.
It was cold.

I remembered last night at about 8 o'clock.

This conversation followed:

Me: "Hey! Seven years ago today you proposed!"
Paul: "You just remembered?"
Me: Silence and then... "Did you remember all day?"
Paul: "Yes."
Me: "Me too." with a cheesy grin.
Paul: "Do you need to go to confession now?"
Me: "Pretty much."

Um... how does one forget that when the proposal date is Valentine's Day?  Sleep deprivation?  

Our Valentine's Day treat was falling asleep at 9 pm.  I can't remember the last time that happened.  

--- 7 ---

I realized on Wednesday that I really, really struggle with my pride during Lent.  I have this driving desire to fast, even though I know that my body can't handle it and it will be a very bad thing.  And it feels like a pride, that somehow I should be able to do it,  and everything will be fine, and I have to remind myself fifty times a day that milk production is directly linked to food intake and I just can't and that there's a reason that these exemptions exist.  

I have been pregnant or nursing (or both) for the past 52 months.  I imagine there's a good chance that I could be in this situation for quite a few years in the future (God willing).  You'd think I'd have come to terms with this, oh I don't know, two or three Lent's ago.  But no.  It's still something I wrestle around with in my head.  I think it might be harder this year, because without wheat and eggs and potatoes and everything else the Boy is allergic to, there isn't really anything in the food category (that I would miss) left to give up.  I am avoiding meat (as long as I can), and getting my protein from tahini and sun butter and goat cheese... so I guess that's something.  

You'd think I'd be grateful not to fast, right?  I mean, it's not fun.  If I was really doing it, I'd be suppressing "I'm so hungry" whines in my head every five minutes.  And yet, illogically, I struggle with it.  

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!