Carrots for Michaelmas: Musings of a Catholic Wife, Mother, and Occasional Redhead

The Weekend of a Birthday and a Big Boy Bed
January 30, 2011, 7:33 pm
Filed under: Children

Now that Daniel doesn’t have to work weekends anymore we get to have the wonderful experience of sharing Friday night through Sunday night together. Benjamin almost always goes to “Ooma” and “Oompa’s” house on Friday night and Daniel and I took the opportunity to have a date night. We got amazing Thai food then went to see The King’s Speech which was fantastic. Colin Firth and Jeffrey Rush were phenomenal and Helena Bonham Carter played a sane person, which doesn’t happen often.

Saturday morning we walked to our favorite breakfast cafe and then I finished painting our hallway trim while Daniel worked in the garden.

We picked up Benjamin after his nap and headed over to the park for our friend Lois’s birthday party. A perfect spring day! 75 degrees with just enough sun.

We snacked and then walked the kids down to the boardwalk to throw bread in the water for the turtles. It wasn’t a very successful endeavor as far as attracting turtles goes but they loved it.

I love Amanda’s cute bandana. Benjamin spent at least a half hour filling up a cup with a leaky outside faucet and pouring it out.

This occupied him for a bit and gave me a chance to chat with these pretty ladies, including the birthday girl:

Benjamin was thrilled by the water and looked at his reflection in the lake with Daddy.

After the party we went to get a guard rail for Benjamin’s new Big Boy Bed so that he could sleep in it and not fall out onto the hardwood floor. We were VERY skeptical that he was ready for a bed but he can easily climb out of his crib and it seemed like a good time to transition. So we did lots of snuggling and book readin’ before turning out the light.

Sweet boy was SO excited about his new bed. In no uncertain terms, we explained to Benjamin that if he couldn’t stay in his Big Boy Bed we would put in back in his baby crib for the night. We were sure that once we left the room we would hear the pitter patter of little feet climbing out of bed and getting into all kinds of mischief. To our great surprise he didn’t climb out ONCE and slept soundly through the night. What a little pumpkin! But the angelic streak didn’t last too long. His behavior during Mass left something to be desired but I guess he can’t be perfect ALL the time.


Benjamin’s Birth Story: Part Three
January 28, 2011, 1:47 pm
Filed under: Birth, Children, Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , ,

This is Part Three. You can catch up by reading Part One and Part Two.

My water still hadn’t broken so Christy, our midwife, asked if we would like her to break it and we agreed. This was 6pm. By 7pm Benjamin’s head was still tranverse and the contractions were still out of this world but I didn’t have the urge to push yet. But due to being able to labor all around the room and get things opened up, he was finally able to maneuver his little head into the right spot! Hooray! Once he was good to go Christy told me I could start to push. And pushing him out was easy peasy. Well, not easy peasy, but pushing is great because you get to work with the contractions. I delivered him in a squatting position, holding onto a rope thingy to hold myself up. I don’t really remember a rope thingy, but Daniel says there was one and I was incredibly loopy, exhausted, and sleep-deprived by this point so I trust his memory over my own. I would rest sitting on the edge of the hospital bed and then pull up with the rope to a squatting position when a contraction came along. I spent really all of my laboring to this point in silence. I talked a little bit between contractions but mostly just to ask for “fisticuffs.” But with pushing it was different. Primal grunting sounds escaped my lips. I was WORKING. Benjamin’s heart rate dropped some at this point so they put the fetal monitor into his head just to be safe. It only took about 10 minutes to get his head to crown. They set up a mirror so I could see him come out but…I’m a fainter. My dad and I are both fainters. We faint. A baby coming out of me just didn’t sound like something I needed visual confirmation of. I could feel that baby quite well, thank you very much, so I mostly closed my eyes and worked hard to push him out. After his head crowned, it felt like he TUMBLED out, elbows and knees.  This was 7:47pm.

He gave a good strong cry and I was able to hold him right away and begin to nurse him. Then Daniel held him while they were stitching me up and sang, “Be Thou My Vision” to him, the hymn we sang to him everyday in the womb. Well, we didn’t sing it IN THE WOMB, but he was in the womb when we sang it. You know what I mean.

He was perfect and alert and deeply resented his first bath. Pink and chubby with a full head of black hair. He was 7 lbs 10 oz and 20 inches long with two 9s for his APGARs. The excitement wasn’t quite over. I fainted a half-an-hour after delivery (I told you I’m a fainter) but was quickly revived. Once Benjamin was in our arms, I realized I was STARVING after almost two days without eating hardly a thing. My sainted mother found us some sandwiches because the hospital restaurant was already closed. Apparently these ham and cheese sandwiches were out of some sort of vending machine but they tasted like the food of the gods to me. At this point, I was keyed up to spent the next few hours staring at my baby. Daniel said with relief, “Now we can go to sleep.” After getting set up in our room Daniel immediately nodded off while I unadvisedly slept not at all, enthralled by the sight of my little one. This is not to say that Daniel wasn’t excited about being a father, but as a general rule, exciting events don’t interfere with his ability to sleep. But babies do interfere with your ability to sleep. A couple of months ago we said to ourselves, “hey! I think we finally caught up on sleep from when Benjamin was born.”

I feel like I can take a lot of the credit for our little guy’s birth but I could not have done it without our amazing midwife, Christy, whose patience and expertise saved me from the c-section I would have had due to the transverse position of his head and long labor or without Daniel who coached me through every minute of labor with encouragement, calm, and love.  My mom was my doula during the birth and brought ice chips, blew up birthing balls, put heating pads on my back and cool cloths on my head, and a million other vital tasks. So I had a good team for which I am grateful.

So, Febuary 8th, 2009: Thus began months of exhaustion, continually having vomit on the shoulder of my shirts, and seeing/touching more poop than I thought possible. And thus began my transformation into a mother and falling in love with Daniel all over again as he learned to be a father, relearning the words to lullabyes my mother sang, soaking in the smell of my baby’s head, laughter in the bath tub, and a million other beautiful events of inexpressible joy and boundless love. Picking a best day of one’s life isn’t easy. But it’s hard to beat the day you meet your first-born son.

Benjamin’s Birth Story: Part Two
January 27, 2011, 2:09 pm
Filed under: Birth, Children, Motherhood | Tags: , , , ,

This is Part Two. If you missed Part One you can read it here.

By the time we got to the hospital I was 7 cm and labor was intense. Daniel and I wanted to use the Bradley Method of husband-coached natural childbirth (no drugs). Christy, our midwife, suggested that Daniel and I walk around the halls to keep things progressing. During the next few hours my contractions intensified until they lasted for almost 2 minutes and were less than a minute apart. I would count down slowly from 20 as the contraction started, telling myself that by the time I got to 1 the contraction would be close to the peak and then start easing up. After a few hours of this, I started blacking out around the peak of the contractions, like I had fallen asleep. Daniel, who was right next to me timing each one would wake me before the next one started so I wouldn’t be surprised. I guess this was my body’s way of controlling the pain for me. It would allow me to feel as much as I could handle and then give me a rest. I sat in the bath tub, on a birthing ball, on the toilet, Indian style on the foot of the bed, and stood holding onto Daniel during my labor. I know some women labor on their backs in the hospital bed, but I can’t imagine how painful that must be. Because it was a low-risk pregnancy, I didn’t have to be continuously hooked to the fetal monitor and could move as much as I wanted for which I am very grateful.

In about an hour (2pm, I think) I had progressed to 9 cm and began to have excruciating pains in my upper thighs and lower back because Benjamin’s head was transverse (he wasn’t breech, his head was just turned to the side instead of up or down and couldn’t fit in the birth canal). So, his head was hitting some pretty serious nerves. Daniel would knead his fists into my lower back after each contraction was over to relieve the lower back pain. We called it “fisticuffs.” Just a little labor pain joke we had. When the contraction ended I would pant, “cold cloth! Fisticuffs!” Then 15 seconds later I would beg, “Socks! Blanket! Hot cocoa!” Not really. I was only interested in ice chips, but I was FREEZING in between contractions. Eventually I said, “Christy, I can’t handle much more than this. How much worse will it get once I move into transition?” “You’ve BEEN in transition, Haley. It won’t get much worse than this.” Was that a relief! I felt like I could handle the current intensity of the labor but anything more was daunting. But it’s not you can quit having a baby in the middle of labor so I don’t know what my plan would have been if things had gotten much harder.

At this point I thought, ”Hey, labor won’t last forever! At some point in the not too distant future, this will be over!” Then I remembered an important point that I’d forgotten during my labor trance, “Oh yeah! And a baby!”

I think it was also at this point that I made a mental note to myself, “Haley, this is your body giving you a message. Do NOT do this again. Next time you get baby fever, adopt. You will forget how you feel in a few hours when you look at your snuggly baby. So just remember: don’t ever do this again.”

It was 6pm and my water still hadn’t broken and Benjamin’s head was still transverse (turned to the side so that it couldn’t fit through the birth canal.) To be continued…

Read Part III.

Benjamin’s Birth Story: Part One
January 26, 2011, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Birth, Children, Motherhood

In two weeks Benjamin will turn two-years-old! He loves to tell everyone that his birthday is “Febu-rary 8th!” This impending milestone and a friend’s birthing story  I recently read have inspired me to edit the notes I jotted down about his birth and turn them into a real birthing story. If you’re not interested in the gory details of birth…this story isn’t for you. Go do something else.

(Brief note: this is me 6 months pregnant. I will never post pictures of me right before delivery on the interweb. I only show a handful of friends those pictures. I was wider than I was tall. Really, it’s unbelievable)

It was Friday, February 6th, 2009. I was DONE being pregnant. OVER IT.  I was exhausted and uncomfortable. Nay, miserable. The idea of sitting in my office chair at work for one more day was unbearable. “I WILL NOT go to work on Monday. I WILL NOT cut into my maternity leave. I MUST have the baby this weekend,” I unreasonably decided to myself.

After work, Daniel and I took a long walk. This was my general plan: walk until a baby comes out. I was also taking Evening Primrose Oil like there was no tomorrow. We ate spicy Thai food with friends and stayed at the restaurant until late. Just before going to bed at midnight I had the bloody show. It looks exactly like it sounds…just…kinda bloody. Although this doesn’t usually mean you’re going straight into labor, I took it as a sign that my weekend delivery plan was working and told Daniel (who promptly fell asleep). Although excited, I listened to the soporific tones of Jim Dale reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to put me to sleep. I had been having some menstrual crampish contractions for a couple of days but started to have actual contractions immediately after the bloody show. By 3am the contractions were waking me up and becoming regular: 10 minutes apart, 8 minutes, 6 minutes. By breakfast time they had spaced out and early afternoon Daniel and I took a long walk. My mom and I washed baby blankets and clothes and watched North and South, then I took a hot shower.

By late evening the contractions were much stronger.  By midnight they were 3-4 minutes apart, strong and had been that way for an hour.  After explaining our status with Christy, our midwife, over the phone, we headed to the hospital but when we arrived my contractions began spacing out to six minutes and I was only dilated 2 cm, 90% effaced.  They SENT US BACK HOME. I was in no mood to be sent home.  I was ready to have a baby. Also, car rides during labor? Not fun. At the hospital they gave me a sleeping pill so I could sleep during the contractions at home. Sleep? During the contractions? Yeah, right. As soon as we got home they picked up again: Night Two of no sleep. By the morning I was doing some serious laboring in my bed. Daniel was pretty sure it was time to go back to the hospital but to my labor-crazy mind, the hospital is the place where they poke and prod you then SEND YOU AWAY. No, thank you, I said. Daniel called Christy and explained the strength of my contractions and how many minutes apart as well as my unreasonable refusal to go back to the hospital. The saintly woman came to our house at noon to check me: 6 cm. Contractions were 3.5 minutes apart. “Please go to the hospital right now. They won’t send you home,” she said.

To be continued…

Read Part II and Part III.

Tea for a Cold and Preparing for Candlemas
January 26, 2011, 2:14 pm
Filed under: Candlemas, Health | Tags: , , ,

Candlemas is on February 2nd and I would really like to make some 100% beeswax candles to be blessed for the year. Any suggestions on where to get the supplies and how to do it? I think beeswax can be expensive so we might only make a few, I just don’t want to be burning anything toxic in our home. You can read the very little that I know about Candlemas on last year’s Feast day post. But I still have some questions about it such as, do all Catholic churches bless candles that you bring to Mass on Candlemas? Or is it celebrated on the Sunday before? Or is it after the Mass? Anybody know?

Elizabeth Foss wrote a beautiful entry this morning about how her family uses blessed candles throughout the year at her blog, In the Heart of my Home.

Benjamin thoughtfully shared his cold with me this week so we’re both congested and coughing but not feeling too crummy. Unfortunately, our hot water heater has been broken since Friday so nice hot baths to relieve achy muscles and congestion haven’t been an option at our house. Hopefully it’ll be resolved this afternoon when “Mr. Plumber,” as Benjamin calls him, comes for a second time.

I’ve been soothing my sore throat with steaming hot tea. I recently found out that I’m allergic to black, green, and white tea so herbal tea is my only option. However, I’ve been also staying away from lemongrass and other non-pregnancy safe herbs, (I don’t think I’m pregnant yet, but since we’re open to getting pregnant again I want to be careful just in case), which cuts down significantly on my options. So I just made an old-timey cold remedy out of lemon juice and raw honey.

Just squeeze some lemon juice and honey into the bottom of a mug and fill it with hot water. Feels great to a sore throat! Hopefully we’ll all be better soon.

Lemon Curd on a Rainy Holiday
January 18, 2011, 5:05 am
Filed under: Children, Feasting, Saints, St. Anthony of the Desert

The magical yellow substance in this jar is lemon curd. It’s amazing and was made by our friend, Lois. If you haven’t ever enjoyed the delectable taste of lemon curd over pastry, I’m sorry. Maybe you don’t know Lois. This is also regrettable. Lois is awesome.

The breakfast scones we slathered with lemon curd made by the lovely Lois were also awesome. Here is the scone master himself, spooning unreasonable amounts of lemon curd onto his scones.

He was sweet enough to make them almost entirely out of spelt flour (I recently found out that I have an allergy to wheat and I’m trying to cut it out of my diet.) They were delicious and didn’t have a weird taste or texture at all. Apparently spelt still has lots of gluten in it and so the final product isn’t very different from breads made with wheat flour.

Benjamin devoured his lemon curd scones with gusto. Check out his new antique solid wood high chair! It was a gift from my parents and I’m loving it. He calls it his “big boy high chair.”

We spent some of the morning playing with our new camera. Benjamin wanted to be a part of things and got out his camera (an old old camera of mine).

He built a tower with Daddy and then “took a picture” of it. He explained to me that the lego creation was “Aunt Lois’s house.” Maybe in his imagination Lois’s house is filled with many scrumptious delights as delectable as her lemon curd. If that was the case, I’d be thinking about Lois’s house all the time, too, Benjamin.

I think he’s got the camera backwards, but no matter.

What a silly sweet boy. We had to spend the whole rainy day inside and he was a jewel.  This evening we celebrated the Feast of St. Anthony of the Desert. Details at Feast!

Red Letter Day
January 15, 2011, 12:45 am
Filed under: Misc

Daniel was offered a new job today! Praise the Lord!

He’s been working miserable 12 hour shifts at a high stress job that is emotionally and physically taxing in the medical/mental health field. And not getting paid enough. Nearly enough. Really there’s nothing positive to say about his old (as of today! hooray!) job. However, I have been so proud and impressed by the patience and compassion he has shown to the clients at the mental health facility. He has truly been a vessel of Christ’s love to them and honestly didn’t complain. I wouldn’t have lasted one day and I would have whined about it. So hurrah for Daniel!

He’ll be doing computery stuff for a software development company and will be paid reasonably while working 8 hour shifts. And I think it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be bit or hit in his new workplace, as opposed to the old.

A second exciting event is occurring this evening as a friend is in labor with her baby boy. Please pray for a safe delivery of mother and child, free of complications. Saint Gerard, pray for us!

Let me follow that up with some less interesting news. Not even news. An observation: my hair is long. When did this happen?


Baby Jonah was safely born last night to a healthy mama! No c-section, no drugs. Way to go, Mama Tryna! Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Benjamin at the Museum…
January 10, 2011, 6:53 pm
Filed under: Books, Children

On Daniel’s birthday we spent the morning at the Jr. Museum. Daniel started trying out our new amazing fancy camera that his parents gave us for Christmas. We’re still figuring it out but here’s some highlights:

In other news, I finished the last 20 pages of my Wendell Berry book and finished the Susanna Clarke book. I just picked up a trilogy I read 12 years ago called Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, fiction set in medieval Norway. I think I’m going to enjoy it even more than the last time I read it because of studying medieval lit/art and because Undset was a Catholic convert as well and Catholicism is beautifully woven through the books. I know The Brothers Karamazov is on the Books-to-read-before-I-die list, according to Dr. Wood, so I think that’ll be next. It’s just a little daunting.

I realized last night that it’s less than a month until Benjamin’s 2nd birthday. I asked him what kind of birthday party he wanted and he said, “Green!” Any tips for toddler birthdays? Nothing crazy. We do things simple round these parts.

I finished my first knitting project. It’s a thin green scarf made from Texas Hill Country wool. Now I just need to send it to its recipient.

January Reads
January 4, 2011, 6:32 pm
Filed under: Books

I’m ashamed to say that I still haven’t finished Wendell Berry’s The Art of the Commonplace. However, I only have 20 pages left. If you read one book this year, let it be this one.

“To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do it knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and other to want.”–Wendell Berry, “The Gift of Good Land” written 1979.

The other book I’m currently enjoying was a Christmas gift from my best friend Eleanor: The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susannah Clarke. I LOVED Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and this collection of short storied is just as delightful. This one isn’t as weighty as Berry’s essays but it’s full of fairies so what’s not to like?

Some of Benjamin’s current favorites are:


He is obsessed with this Jan Brett version of Goldilocks and has been talking about it non-stop. Sometimes he gets the dialogue confused. He’s been saying “Somebody’s been sitting in my porridge!” instead of “Somebody’s been eating my porridge/sitting in my chair.” It’s cute and I haven’t corrected him.

Happy Birthday, Daniel!
January 3, 2011, 5:48 pm
Filed under: Husband

Happy 26th Birthday to the best husband and daddy!

Your little boy and I love you so much.