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

This Week’s Miscellany: Vol 9
April 20, 2012, 2:45 pm
Filed under: Misc

Coming Up in the Liturgical Year: St. George’s Day on Monday! I don’t have a menu planned yet but we will definitely read this beautifully illustrated book to the kids. It’s one of Benjamin’s very favorite books. Do you have any St. George traditions?


Letters of Note: C.S. Lewis on Writing

Pray the Family Rosary, Distractions and All by Agnes Penny (A great reminder!)

My Life as a Failed Country Gentleman by P.J. O’Rourke: “One season of agriculture in New England explains manifest destiny. America’s westward expansion was mainly an excuse to kill raccoons and wear them as hats.”

Humility: The First of the Lively Virtues by Anthony Esolen (I’ve never read anything by Esolen that I didn’t absolutely love.)

Top 10 Things NOT to Buy If You’re Pregnant: House Unseen, Life Unscripted This is so right.

10 Easy Natural Household Switches (That Anyone Can Make): Keeper of the Home

The Quotable Benjamin:

“Can I have s’more jelly beans? I mean, garbanzo beans?” – candy-deprived 3-year-old, gobbling up chick peas like there’s no tomorrow.

“I think our next-door neighbors are pirates.”

“Would you like a bite of my om-a-lette, Mama? Here, open up your little bird mouth and I’ll let you taste it!”

“Let’s go outside so I can grow a beard. Do you think we have the right kind of seeds?”

Pictures Worth Sharing:

Benjamin seems to be completely over his asthma attack of last weekend. And thank goodness because the boy does not stop moving. So I had to say the phrase, “SLOW YOUR BODY DOWN” at least 500 times when he was still under Dr’s orders to take it easy. I took this picture during naptime, the only time the constant wild motion stops…

This sweet girl has a little temperature this morning. She’s acting normal and eating well so I’m just gonna keep an eye on it.

There’s something about a baby girl in a sundress that just slays me. Giant forehead!

When Daniel cooks it makes me want to give up cooking forever. He makes amazing things that look so purty. This was Short Ribs in Asian Black Bean Sauce, Cinnamon Cumin Glazed Carrots, Rice Noodles with Tofu and Egg, and Salad from the Garden.

Springtime in the South is just…..perfect. Confederate Jasmine has to be my favorite scent.

I just bought one of the Mamapedia deals for ($20 for $40 worth of products) and I think I’m going to use it to get Lucy some cloth training pants. Do you get the Mamapedia emails? I found out about them from Brittany and the nifty thing is that you get $10 credit anytime someone you shared the deal with makes a purchase, so usually I’ve got some credit in the account and I feel like I’m always getting freebies. There’s another one available for 50% off Bumkins, too. Speaking of cloth diapers…I’ve got a cloth diaper giveaway in the works. More on that soon.

I hope you have a lovely weekend! I’m throwing a friend a cloth diaper shower tomorrow in celebration of her baby girl’s upcoming arrival. Got any weekend plans?

p.s. You can be super hip and like Carrots for Michaelmas on FB now.

“A Dog Could Take Care of Your Child” Or Why I Quit Grad School to Stay Home with My Kids
April 16, 2012, 3:11 pm
Filed under: Children, Motherhood | Tags: , ,

Firstly, let me clarify what this post is not. This is not a post in which I judge working mothers. Five weeks after my son was born I went back to work full-time until after he turned one. Daniel needed to finish school so I needed to bring home the bacon. I don’t think that made me a bad mother, nor do I think that other moms who need to or choose to work outside the home are bad mothers. However, this is a post in which I explain why staying home was the right choice for me. This is a post in which I challenge our culture’s views on the value of motherhood.

My story:

My husband had just finished his thesis and graduated and our son was almost 18 months old when I applied to and was accepted into a graduate program at Unnamed University in Unnamed Department with stipend and a tuition waver. I was really excited about the opportunity. I had been pretty miserable being away from my son, Benjamin, 9-10 hours everyday at work and I thought that my program would allow me more time with him since I could do much of my studying at home. I was also motivated to begin grad school because a) I loved what I was going to get to study and b) I felt like I needed to use my academic skills (I graduated from a very prestigious undergraduate program) and move toward a career path. Because that’s what you do if you’re a well-educated, intelligent woman, right? You have a career! You make an impressive salary! You definitely don’t just stay home, right?

So, I began my program during the summer session. My classes were inspiring. I loved the course material. I was getting good feedback from my professors. But…I just wasn’t happy. When I was in class or in the library I missed Benjamin so much and I wished I were home with him. When I was home with Benjamin I felt anxious and preoccupied: “I really should be studying right now! I wish he would go to sleep so I can finish my readings! I need to go back to the library!” I couldn’t just relax and enjoy the precious hours with my boy. I started to think more seriously about my program and what exactly I was going to do with my degree. After all, our current economy isn’t kind to teaching positions in the humanities. When I graduated, how would I get a job? Would I have to move? (We had just moved back to our hometown for my program and were blissfully spoiled by having two sets of grandparents in town.) What about having more babies? Wouldn’t it be impossibly hard to get tenure while mothering more than one child? And if I wait to have more babies until after getting tenure…my fertile days might be over. And perhaps most importantly: do I really need a prestigious career in order to be happy?

Toward the end of the semester, I met with the Director of the program and explained that I was seriously considering leaving the program to raise my son and just work part-time. The director voiced his concern that I was throwing away a great opportunity: great program, full-tuition waver, stipend, not the sort of thing you just walk away from. “You can be a mother and an academic,” he claimed. He described a female faculty member in another department who had 3 children and yet had a successful career. (I later discovered that the female professor’s husband stayed home full-time to raise their children.)  Anyhow, he said he would give my number to the only female faculty member in our department who had children (she had one child) so she could explain just how to do it all.

When she called me, she described her life a little bit. I was admittedly shocked to hear that she commuted to Florida from…..Pennsylvania. Every week, leaving her son with her husband for the week and going home for the weekend.  It’s not that I think that makes her a horrible mother. Different things work for different families and jobs in the humanities are hard to come by. But, for me, it would be a miserable way to live my life.

I voiced some of my struggles with being a mother in grad school such as feeling constantly torn between two worlds. “What you need to learn,” she explained, “is how to compartmentalize your life. When I get on that plane I am Dr. X, then when I get home I can be mom again.” I tried to explain that learning to compartmentalize my life didn’t appeal to me very much, what I was trying to do was integrate my life. Live it as a whole. Not have to sever various aspects of myself into this or that context.

Then she told me all the dreadful things that would happen if I left the program to stay home: “You will become intellectually stagnant.” (I’ll forget how to think? Is that what happens to everyone who doesn’t have an advanced degree?) “You will only have friends who talk about diapers and you’ll be bored out of your mind.” (Um….who do you think I hang out with? And how insulting is that to SAHMs?) “You will wake up in 10 years and realize you don’t know who you are.” (You are your career, she seemed to say. If you’re merely a mother, when your kids go to school, you are no one.) But to me that mindset seemed very odd because my identity must be found in Christ, anything else will be ultimately unsatisfying. If my identity was wrapped around being a respected professor, it would be just as misplaced, if not more, as if my identity was founded on my role as a mother alone.

Anyhow, I tried to explain to her that I just didn’t feel like I was being the mother I desired to be while I was trying to succeed in the graduate program.

Oh, you’re just experiencing guilt because of cultural norms of motherhood.” (“I am?” I thought. “Aren’t almost all American mothers working mothers? Isn’t staying at home the exception, not the rule? Isn’t the pressure I’m feeling concentrated around having a successful career to define me instead of the unimpressive role of merely being a mother?”)

You have no reason to feel guilty. Your son doesn’t need you with him every minute.”

It’s not that I feel guilty, necessarily.” I explained. “When my son isn’t with me he’s with his dad or his grandmother having a wonderful time. He’s happy and coping very well when I leave for class or to study. But I am miserable. I MISS him.”

Well, your son will be around forever. But this is your one chance to do this program and have this opportunity.”

This statement seemed completely upside down to me. “But…my son won’t be almost two forever. He’ll only be almost two RIGHT NOW. And…I wasn’t aware that medieval studies was going anywhere…”

You son is almost two? At that age they just want attention. It really doesn’t matter at all whether they get that attention from you or from someone else.” And then there was the real kicker: “At that age, a dog could take care of your child.”

A dog could….what?!” I refrained from saying, “You are out of your ever-loving mind! You have successfully convinced me to stay home with my kids because your entire perspective on motherhood is absurd!” But I didn’t say that. I think I mostly just stood with my mouth open, too shocked to speak a real sentence. Because of course, I knew she didn’t mean that literally a dog could raise my kid. No, indeed. What she meant was far more offensive than that. She meant that the day-in-day-out tasks of motherhood are such meaningless drudgery that an intelligent, well-educated woman with potential to succeed in a prestigious career should never lower herself to merely raise children. Such work requires neither intelligence, creativity, engaging challenges, nor the unique attention and love that only I, as their mother, can give my babies in the daily tasks of mothering them. Staying home with my babies has no real value. There would be no paycheck, no performance reviews. Diaper changes and feedings and kissing boo boos and tucking them in at night: those things can be done by someone else, while I reach my true potential and gain respect in my field.

I was appalled. The thing is, the professor wasn’t a bad person. She wasn’t trying to insult me. She was trying to help me. She felt sorry for me. (Poor young mother! She got landed with this kid at 23 and now she’s having to give up her dreams and throw her life away!) But I think her perspective was misguided.

At this point in the conversation, I tried to respectfully explain that I thought I had made up my mind as to what I would do and I would let them know as soon as possible so that they could give the funding going to my tuition waver and stipend to someone else. Because I had made up my mind. I had made up my mind to be there with my kids. To embrace the daily grind of motherhood. To discover it’s not drudgery at all, but something meaningful and beautiful, using every ounce of my intelligence and creativity to do it well, challenging me at every turn. This work of motherhood is my vocation, my privilege, and my joy. 

It’s been almost two years since I quit grad school. During that time, I’ve had another precious baby and never regretted my decision once. Not for one second. Because I can’t imagine that life could get any better than this.

This Week’s Miscellany: Vol 8
April 15, 2012, 8:34 pm
Filed under: Misc

First of all, sweet Benjamin is home from the hospital. We are so thankful that he only had to stay one night before being released. He really was very very good for an insanely active  3-year-old who has to sit still on a bed for 24 hours. He tried to be very brave and was so good and cooperative when they removed his IV even though he cried hard enough to break this mama’s heart. We’ve been trying to keep him quiet and still (yeah RIGHT) as best we can. It doesn’t help that albuterol and the steroids they prescribed him make him super WIRED. But we’ve been playing cards, reading books, and watching movies as much as we can. Right now he’s at the IMAX seeing The Lorax with Daddy as his special treat for being such a good boy at the hospital. Thanks so much for all your prayers and well wishes for him! I think we have a plan for his asthma treatment in the future and we’re going to see an allergist in a couple of weeks (his asthma is usually triggered by runny nose from colds or allergies). Look at this sad little boy in this pic from the hospital. Can you see how he’s got dark red circles around his eyes? Apparently they’re called allergy shiners and can signal the beginning of an attack. They’re almost gone today so that means his asthma is getting under control.

Coming Up in the Liturgical Year: We’re still in the octave of Easter. Celebrate! Since much of our Easter Octave was spent at various Dr’s offices and the hospital, we didn’t get to do as much celebrating as I’d hoped (although we’re certainly celebrating that Benjamin is home and getting better!). But I would love to make one of these beautiful Paschal Candles.

Links: Survival Tips for Parents of Three-Year-Olds – Natural Parents Network (Helpful since we’ve been experiencing some serious terrible threes around these parts)

Declaring War on Newborns – Andrew Ferguson

Killing Kindergarten – Amanda Moreno: “If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you would probably design something like a classroom.” (quote from John Medina)

How to Be a Good Mom on a Bad Day – Inspired to Action

 The Quotable Husband:

“The library is open Sunday! I’ll take Benjamin because I need to pick up a book about prehistoric mammals anyway.” (Oh right, of course, you do.)

“I have a confession to make. A couple years ago I used our blender to blend up raccoon brains to tan a hide. But don’t worry. I cleaned it out real good.” (Commence my full-fledged freak out.)

“Did you see the brand name of this dish towel?! ‘Thomas O’Brien!’ So, you know what that means….it’s an EVIL dish towel.” (Apparently, my attempt to get Daniel as obsessed with Downton Abbey as I am has been successful.)

The Quotable Benjamin:

“These jelly beans are gonna make us nice and fat! YUM!”

“Benjamin, please take all these stuffed animals back to your room.”
“NOOOOO, not my pile of sleeping kittens!”

Pictures Worth Sharing:

My husband grows food and makes it look amazing. This was lettuce wraps. He also made that mint julep for me after a rather long day. Really, he’s the best.

More food art by Daniel. I think it’s an Apple Banana Peacock/Loch Ness Monster.

Hope the rest of your Sunday is loverly!

Benjamin Hospital Update
April 14, 2012, 2:38 am
Filed under: Misc | Tags: ,

Our little bear has improved significantly since this morning! His oxygen levels started to go up and they didn’t end up having to give him any extra oxygen. He got breathing treatments throughout the day as well as an IV of steroids. After assessing him this evening, the Dr. thought there was a good chance that he WILL get to go home tomorrow instead of in 2 or 3 days as they previously thought. Benjamin had an x-ray of his lungs to make sure he didn’t have any pneumonia. His lungs were free of pneumonia but the Dr. said they showed his asthma attack was VERY bad. I’m glad I didn’t delay taking him in this morning when he continued to wheeze!

I was so proud of our sweet brave boy during this tough day. He was good as gold except for one major meltdown in the early afternoon when the novelty of the hospital wore off and he realized that being there is boring and dreadful. So hard to see him cry and beg to go home! He also had a really hard time when they were trying to put in his IV (Daniel took him to the treatment room for that while I was with Lucy. I tend to faint when I get shots or blood drawn, so I think he knew he would be better at handling the situation.) Daniel was so amazing with Benjamin all day. Our family is so lucky to have such a wonderful daddy!

And if you have to be sick in the hospital, at least you get to snuggle with Daddy and read Dr. Seuss.

Please continue to pray for our sweet boy’s recovery and that he will improve enough to come home tomorrow! I am so grateful for my precious family, medical care, insurance, and grandparents in town to bring us food and treats for Benjamin, and for your prayers.

I Hate Asthma
April 13, 2012, 5:22 pm
Filed under: Health, Prayers | Tags:

Just a quick note to ask for prayers for our sweet 3-year-old Benjamin Bear. He started having trouble with his asthma last night and after two breathing treatments, I took him to the pediatrician this morning who promptly had him transferred to the hospital. He’s wheezing, coughing, and having very labored, fast, and shallow breathing. The Dr. at the hospital is getting him set up with an IV of steroids as well as getting him some more oxygen. Benjamin is being sweet and compliant and still a little impressed with the novelty of his “special bracelet” and “a sleepover at the hospital with daddy.” But, I think our little spitfire is already starting to get bored. Please pray that he can recover quickly and go home tomorrow instead of in the  2+ days that the Dr. expected! I’ve never had one of my babies in the hospital for anything other than their birth so the whole thing is new, scary, and dreadful! Thank you for your prayers, you wonderful folks.

Easter 2012
April 10, 2012, 11:16 am
Filed under: Easter | Tags: , , , ,

And I’m back after the Holy Week silence! Happy Eastertide! We had so much to celebrate this Easter: the Resurrection of Our Lord, my older brother’s confirmation, Lucy’s first Easter, dear family and friends. This is Lucy’s sweet Easter dress:

The Easter Vigil was three hours long and the little lamb slept through almost all of it. Is it just me or is she looking more gingery? I would love it so much if she has red hair. And I really think her grey-blue eyes are here to stay!

Lucy and Oompa at Easter dinner. We had a full house! 19 folks!

THE HAM! I’ve mentioned that we bought an organic, local pig with our friend Kaitlin and Ted. The menfolk successfully butchered it leaving us with a freezer full of pork. Daniel brined the ham in a molasses and coffee porter (his homebrew) brine. Oh. My. Yes. Turns out real ham isn’t pink! It’s the color of pork chops. The nasty nitrates (nitrites? I always get them confused) that are added. Eew. Just a little fun fact about our nasty food industry.

All the different kinds of lettuce Daniel has been growing in our garden! So pretty in a big Easter Sunday salad!

Daniel sweet sister brought deviled eggs. Yum. Guests brought so many delicious side dishes.

I made coconut macaroons. The first batch was covered in chocolate. The second batch of chocolate underwent a tempering disaster at my hands. I made them because the only ingredients are honey, egg whites, coconut, and vanilla and almond extract so my gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free little boy could eat them. But then his eyes swelled up and eczema went crazy so he might be allergic to coconut. Food allergy fail. More on that later.

Weather was gorgeous so we ate outside (it’s a good thing because we wouldn’t have all fit in the house).

I hope you had a wonderful Easter Sunday!

It’s Holy Week…
April 4, 2012, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Easter, Lent | Tags: , , ,

…hence the blogging silence. Until Easter, this will have to suffice, dear folk:

Daniel and our friend Ted butchered a pig on Monday night. Moral of the story: we will be eating ham on Easter Sunday.

My brother will be confirmed in the Catholic Church and receive his first communion on Saturday night. So excited for him!

I found out I’m probably allergic to dairy. Blerg. Almond milk just isn’t the same.

I finished the first of the Hunger Games books. I enjoyed it, but I have mixed feelings about whether I should have enjoyed it. Taking a break from the series until Holy Week is over…

Here’s what we’re listening to this week:

Now it’s time to snuggle this blue-eyed darling:

I hope you have a wonderful Holy Week as we prepare our hearts for Easter!