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

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.

10 Ways to Nurture Positive Body Image for Your Daughter

I’m not an expert. My daughter’s a baby and whether she’ll turn out to have a positive body image is yet to be seen. But, I’ve learned a few things about the challenge of nurturing a positive body image over the past two and a half decades from growing up as a girl in our weight-obsessed culture, watching my mother thoughtfully and intentionally raise me, and as a ballet teacher seeing even very young girls struggle with the cultural messages of body image constantly before them. Here’s my two cents:

  1. Love Your Body: If you want your daughter to grow up confidently loving her body you will have to model this behavior for her. Dissatisfied looks and critical statements when you look in the mirror will not go unnoticed by her. Constantly complaining about weight and your plans for dieting will affect how she views her own body. This is a tall order. I know that I don’t always look in the mirror and have lots of positive thoughts. I see things I think are flaws and wish I looked different. But I never see room for improvement when I look at my baby girl—she is absolutely perfect in my eyes. She is a precious little body and soul beloved by her family and by her Heavenly Father. And if I want her to see herself that way I have to remember that I, too, am made in the image of God and that He looks at me, his creation, with tender affection. If I want my daughter to be confident and at peace with her body, I must show her how.
  2. Eat as a Family: I know there might be overwhelming demands on your time in the evening with extracurriculars to attend and family members moving in a thousand different directions.  Eating a leisurely meal together on a regular basis might feel impossible. Change this and make time to eat as a family. By eating dinner together and enjoying each other’s company, you are impressing upon your daughter that partaking of food is a positive experience. It’s not just calories in your mouth, it’s a MEAL. Over the dinner table you connect with your kids and spouse. I’ve read several times that the occurrence of eating disorders in preteen and teenage girls decreases dramatically when their family regularly eats dinner together.
  3. Cook as a Family: Take the family togetherness a step further. Cook together. Now you’re not just opening up a packaged meal with a label explaining how many grams of this or that is contained within. You’re creating culinary art together! Food isn’t just sustenance, it is a delight. And you’re also providing your kids with skills they can take beyond your kitchen. When they move out, they can take positive eating habits with them!
  4. Grow a Garden: OK, so now you’re cooking together. Great. Now, start a garden in your yard. Begin with just herbs if you’re overwhelmed! Fresh herbs are easy to grow and so fun to use in recipes. Grow some veggies in a little raised bed and let your children be involved in every step. Then food isn’t just associated with sustenance and positive family experiences, but it takes on an entirely new role: the bounty of nature, God’s creation. Watching plants grow is exciting to children! My 3-year-old will run inside to tell me that the tomatoes “ARE TURNING RED! And RED MEANS RIPE!” Then we will go out so he can pick them off our tomato plants and he will devour a juicy, sun-ripened tomato that HE GREW. Often before cooking begins, he will participate in harvesting what we need for our meal. He sees us prepare it and then we sit down to eat it. Food becomes downright miraculous!
  5. Tell Her That She Is Beautiful: She needs to hear this from you and, perhaps more importantly, from her father. She must know that you think she is beautiful, absolutely gorgeous. And start using the word “beautiful” to mean more than physically attractive. Say, “that was a beautiful thing to do,” when she acts kindly. Note that a woman you admire is a “lovely person.” Help her expand her idea of beauty from what our culture says it is (sexually attractive) to include: virtuous, feminine, courageous, self-sacrificial, loving.
  6. Tell Her She Is More than Beautiful: Note and praise her other attributes. Mention that you think she’s clever, interesting, determined, kind, fun, delightful, talented, etc. Don’t allow her identity to be limited to her physical appearance. Nurture in her the understanding that her identity rests in her status as God’s child—so beloved that Our Lord sacrificed himself for her.
  7. Be Honest With Her: When we as mothers fall short of #1 (confidently loving our bodies) we should offer those experiences to our daughters to learn from. It was incredibly helpful to me to hear about my mother’s struggles with healthy body image as a college student. She was very open with me about her bouts with anorexia. She explained what pressures caused her to harm her body by not eating, her need for control over her weight, the dangers of her behavior, and her road to recovery. This provided me with the ability to see red flags in my own thought patterns when pressures arose in my life and environment. When, knowing intellectually that I was at a healthy weight, I looked in the mirror and didn’t see a thin girl, I remembered her explanation of how our minds can get sick and our perspective warped so that we can no longer see reality and, instead, become obsessed with being thin. I was able to stop those negative thought patterns in their tracks because of the honest conversations my mother offered me.
  8. Discuss Cultural Messages of Beauty: Another awesome thing my mother did to guide my way to healthy body image was to point out positive and negatives messages in advertising, toys, movies, etc. For example, although my mom never bought me a Barbie doll, she didn’t ban them from the house when they were gifted to me by others. Instead, we talked about them. She noted the length of the Barbie’s legs and her tiny waist in proportion to the rest of her. “Have you ever seen anyone who looks like that?” she asked. No, I hadn’t. “That’s right. This isn’t what women really look like, is it?” she explained. “Do you think the people who made this doll want us to think she’s pretty? How do you think a girl would feel if she thought she was supposed to look like Barbie since no one really looks that way? Do you think she might feel bad about how she looks—how women are really made to look–since she can’t ever look like that doll?” Open a dialogue. Teach your daughter to question the subtle messages that are being presented to her. Teach her to distinguish between lies and the truth about her body. Expand her views of what beauty is beyond the narrow box of the runway model.
  9. Don’t Watch Commercials: When I see a commercial for makeup or clothes or razors or whatnot presenting skinny models as the epitome of beauty that I should be seeking to imitate, I know it influences my thoughts. I’ve got almost 3 decades under my belt of learning to fight those messages. How much more dangerous are those messages to a young girl who hasn’t yet learned to see the lies presented in commercials for what they are! Your daughter will be receiving negative messages about her body every time she steps out of the house. Don’t let those messages invade her household as well.
  10. Provide Her With Positive Role Models: There will come a time when she will struggle with these issues, so give her some good company for her journey. I grew up with my head full of wonderful characters like Anne of Green Gables. I watched Anne struggle with her body: she felt ugly and wished she was pretty like her best friend Diana. “Why doesn’t Anne like herself? Anne is SO COOL!” I would think. Then I watched Anne grow up to be a confident, amazing woman during Montgomery’s wonderful series. These sorts of tales served me well when I felt awkward or ugly as a girl and compared myself to friends I thought were prettier. Anne was in it with me. I wasn’t alone and I wanted to be as confident, clever, funny, and kind as Anne. Because after all…who wants to be boring and pretty Diana when you can be amazing and exciting ANNE?! Here’s my list of the 10 Books You Must Read to Your Daughter that might help you get started. And even more importantly, give her the wonderful gift that Our Lord gave to us when he was on the Cross: the Blessed Virgin Mary as her mother. Pray that Our Lady will be her model and guide. For who is more truly beautiful than the Mother of Our Lord?

Do you have anything to add? How do you nurture positive body image for your children?

GIVEAWAY! (NOW CLOSED): Penguin Clothbound Edition of Pride and Prejudice
February 15, 2012, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Books, Children, Giveaway, Health | Tags: , , ,

Well, it’s high time for a giveaway! Due to the flu bug hitting our house, Lucy getting pneumonia, and Benjamin having asthma attacks…it’s been a pretty lousy past few days. We’re still kind of under the weather and Lucy is still coughing, but I think we are at least on the mend. But wow, with two sick kids and a sick mama…mark down yesterday as a big, fat mothering fail that included tears, desperate threats, and hollering. Apparently, I’m not great at handling a 3-year-old asthmatic wired from albuterol and prednisone, worry about my sweet baby girl (how scary is the word “pneumonia”!), and tending to the two of them while muddling though the day with my flu symptoms. I need a little fun today so…..giveaway? Yes.

Everybody needs one of the beautiful clothbound Penguin classics editions of Miss Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, amirite?

I am completely obsessed with these gorgeous clothbound classics. I talk about them all the time. My in-laws gifted me several for my 26th birthday and I have them all on a pretty shelf in the bedroom. I love that when Lucy reads Miss Austen for the first time, she’ll be reading such a lovely edition. And since I have such wonderful readers, I want to share my love for Austen and these Penguin Classics by doing a giveaway and sending a copy of Pride and Prejudice to a lucky reader.

So, here’s the drill: subscribe to Carrots for Michaelmas via email or an RSS reader and then leave a comment to say you did. If you’re already a subscriber, leave a comment letting me know. For a second entry, leave an additional comment telling me which Austen novel is your favorite and why. For a third entry, share this giveaway on Facebook (you can use the FB “like” button at the bottom of the post under “share it”) and leave an additional comment letting me know that you did. For a fourth entry, you can link to this giveaway on your blog and remember to leave an additional comment telling me you did. Be sure to include an email address or blog where I can reach you if you win! I can only ship the giveaway prize to readers in the continental US. Giveaway ends next Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 at 12pm EST. I will use a random number generator to choose a winner. Giveaway will be announced soon after it closes and I will probably have a book sent to the winner directly from Amazon.

Disclosure: I am in no way affiliated with, Penguin, or (unfortunately) Miss Jane Austen (unless being a fanatical admirer counts). I just like giveaways and saying thank you to my dear readers!

p.s. Does anyone use the Amazon affiliate program on their blog? Do you like it? How does it work?


Lucy Pneumonia Update
February 13, 2012, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Children, Health, Motherhood | Tags: , , ,

Thanks to everyone whose been praying for Lucy! She seems to be fighting the parainfluenza bug and the bronchial pneumonia really well. No fever so far, praise God. And she’s been sleeping upright in her bouncer to help her breathing.

I wasn’t sure if we were going to get any sleep last night since she was sniffly and since she’s used to sleeping in bed right next to me and would have to sleep upright in the bouncer, but she did great. She woke up every 2-3 hours to nurse (which is a good sign!) and slept very peacefully between feedings. We have the humidifier going full blast in the bedroom, too, to keep her breathing easy. Today she’s been taking lots of good, long naps but when she’s wakeful she’s alert, happy, and eating well. We’ve had some trouble getting her to take her antibiotic but for the last dose, I mixed some breastmilk in with it and gave it to her a little bit at a time right in the side of her cheek which helped her swallow it, I think. She’s still snotty and congested, but I would have had no idea that she had pneumonia if the Dr. hadn’t listened to her chest yesterday. I mean, does this look like a baby with pnuemonia?

How about this?

This is her Lucy Skywalker outfit:

I love this sweet little lady so much and just hate hate HATE that she has pneumonia. Please keep praying for our girl to get better!

I am feeling so much better today. I used some of your natural remedy recommendations and didn’t need to get any antibiotics. Hopefully, I’ll be all better tomorrow so I can take care of Lucy and Benjamin (my sweet mama took care of him today so I could sleep and rest with Lucy).

Wanted: Your Natural Cold Remedies
February 12, 2012, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Books, Children, Giveaway, Health, Husband | Tags: , , , ,

Ironically, I’m a little bit awesome at going through childbirth without meds, but I’m a complete baby when it comes to dealing with the excruciating condition of having a cold. I think Raleigh’s final words in this clip kind of sum it up:

That little Tenenbaums reference was for my big brother who HATES Tenenbaum references. Just a little sibling banter. Cute, right?

First Benjamin got a runny nose which triggered his asthma. Breathing treatments weren’t enough to make the wheezing/coughing go away so Daniel had to take him to Urgent Care to get his oxygen levels checked and to get Prednisone. Daniel slept in his room last night to comfort him when he woke up coughing and to give him a 2am breathing treatment. Benjamin seems to be a little better today. Poor sweet boy!

Last night Lucy woke up coughing and sneezing and I woke up with what feels like a sinus infection. Not much sleep was to be had after that. I can tell that she’s not completely herself, but she’s still a precious, sunny, smiley baby today. I on the other hand, am a whining, miserable mama. So, since I’d like to try some natural remedies before taking anything over the counter since I’m still nursing Miss Lucy, I want all your cold/sinus infection natural remedies. Give them here! And in return…I think I’ll post a giveaway in the next couple of days that involves Miss Austen and those beautiful clothbound Penguin classics.

Carrots for Michaelmas is about to hit 20,000 views and 50 subscribers (as far as I can tell from Google Reader and WordPress, how can you really tell accurately?) so as a thanks to you guys, I think a Giveaway is in order.

My current plan to fight this monstrous cold is to drink unreasonable amounts of hot tea and all the raw garlic I can stand in between hot baths. Now let’s just hope that Daniel doesn’t get sick because then the household would REALLY fall apart.

p.s. Your recommendations of miniseries, etc currently streaming on Netflix would also be greatly appreciated. What’s the use of being miserable if you can’t watch a whole lotta Masterpiece Theatre?

This Week’s Miscellany, Vol. 3
December 13, 2011, 5:41 pm
Filed under: Children, Health, Misc, St. Lucy

Whew. We’ve all had colds that got better and then came back since the week before Thanksgiving. (And by all I mean OUR ENTIRE EXTENDED FAMILY.) The saga resulted in some serious sleep deprivation (I don’t sleep well when I’m sick, add one sick little asthmatic boy who wakes up wheezing and coughing, and then add one sick little tiny newborn baby sniffling and needing to nurse all night) which contributed to me getting a 102 degree fever yesterday from a secondary infection, probably a sinus/throat bacterial infection. They swabbed for strep because of the fever being so high but the rapid test was negative. So, unfortunately, I am continuing the yearly tradition of taking some Advent antibiotics, bleh. But, I already feel way better than I did last night so I guess they’re starting to fight the infection. Anyhow, keep us in your prayers. A season of familial good health would be loverly.

Coming Up in the Liturgical Year: St. Lucy’s Day is today! Unfortunately, I didn’t follow through with some of the plans I made to celebrate our girl’s Nameday due to this wretched illness. Next year I’d love to make a wreath like this one for her to wear and this bread recipe.

Listening to: Lots of Feist. Lots and lots of Feist.

A Blog I Follow: twIN STYLE. My college friends Sam and Lauren (fraternal twins) started a blog to keep in touch with each other (one lives in Indiana, the other in Texas) and to show each other their daily outfits. It’s charming and they’re both adorable.

Interesting Links: I read two blog posts about parenting choices that made me think.

The first is “I’m a Good Mother, You’re a Good Mother” by Heather Bogolyubova in which she she discusses the damage done when you criticize other people’s parenting methods. In general, I agree with her. Each family is different, each baby is different. Although certain sleep solution worked for us when Benjamin was a newborn, we’re doing things differently with Lucy. I’m not working full-time anymore and she is a decent sleeper so co-sleeping with her and nursing through the night is working great for us and Lucy is thriving. I have a friend who recently started using the BabyWise method (which I tried in desperation with Benjamin after about 5 months of no sleep, didn’t work for him at all) which is working great for their family and their little boy is happy and thriving. These are things that every parent has the right to decide for themselves without being criticized or judged. But that doesn’t mean that everybody is a good mother, does it? Haven’t we all known some pretty horrible mothers? Especially if you’ve been a teacher or worked in childcare? It’s nice to talk about how we all need to support each other’s decisions but…don’t you have to draw the line somewhere? Which is somewhat related to the next post:

On Pertussis and Vaccinations” by Sarah Christensen of Becoming Sarah. Sarah’s two-year-old daughter, Charlotte, contracted Whooping Cough this weekend after a playdate with an unvaccinated child who had it and was contagious. Charlotte was vaccinated against Whooping Cough but is in the minority of children who cannot develop immunity to it which is why she caught it. In this case, the unvaccinated child’s parents made a decision that affected not only their family, but Sarah’s family as well. This is actually why I decided to vaccinate my kids. If I opted not to vaccinate and they caused another child to fall dangerously ill, I couldn’t forgive myself. Let me be clear that I don’t think those who don’t vaccinate are bad parents. I have dear friends who decided not to because they think that’s what best for their children and I almost decided not to vaccinate Lucy but…this is an interesting perspective.


29 Week Update
July 25, 2011, 10:47 am
Filed under: Health, Pregnancy

Benjamin woke up at 5am after having a bad dream and even though my sweet husband jumped up to console him so I could rest, I’ve been wide awake ever since: thank you, third trimester insomnia.

Yes, I’m in the third trimester already. Can you believe it? I had a little bit of a heart attack the other day when I realized that if Baby Girl comes a week early like her big brother, I’m only 10 weeks away from bringing her home.

Luckily, except for the achiness of a little cold that Benjamin sweetly shared with me this weekend, I still feel fantastic. The last pregnancy and this one are like night and day. With 7 or 8 hours of sleep at night and a short nap midday, I have energy, no headaches, and I feel motivated to take on the day. Last time, I felt like a semi had run over me every morning and I dragged through the day and fell asleep by 8 so I be sure to get at least 11 hours a night.

I also haven’t had nearly the trouble with my bladder that I did last time. I’ll usually get up once to pee but last time I was up at least every two hours at night all through my pregnancy. Pretty miserable.

I think the difference between my first pregnancy and this one has lots of factors. One is that six months before getting pregnant I went to a naturopathic sort of doctor to sort of my constant fatigue, foggy thinking, UTI symptoms, afternoon headaches, and lethargy. After setting me up with some supplements, cutting most of the sugar and gluten out of my diet and discovering that an allergy to coffee and tea as well as yeast were at least part of my bladder issues, I started to feel like a normal human being again. I remember a couple of weeks after really ruthlessly laying off anything sugary, waking up to the world again. The renewed energy I received from these changes has really carried me through this pregnancy. I feel way better pregnant than I did a year ago even though I wasn’t pregnant and was getting plenty of sleep. I’ve also been far more active during this pregnancy due to my job teaching ballet and chasing Benjamin around all day as opposed to sitting in front of a computer screen in an office all day. I think my job situation in general has also made a huge difference. Working full-time while pregnant was so hard for me, especially when I knew that five weeks after Benjamin was born, I would be back in the office. The past year has been so relaxed and delightful and this summer in particular (as I haven’t been working at all for June and July) has been the most stress-free I can remember since childhood. Benjamin and I have a blast going fun places where he can swim or run around each morning, followed by a lovely nap, and then playing at home and making messes in the kitchen until Daddy gets home. I’ve also been praying the rosary a lot. So there’s that.

I am so excited that this time around, I will get to be home with my newborn. It was torturous going back to work for Benjamin’s whole first year. I feel like I missed out on so much. At least I have the consolation that when I was at work he was either with Daniel, my mom, or my best friend Eleanor, who all love him as I do. So it’s not like he suffered, but…I did from missing him.

Some other updates: I started pre-natal yoga a couple of weeks ago. Feels great.

We’ve decided to name our little girl Lucy. I love that it means light and I love St. Lucy.

We’re going to have some housemates for about six months! Our friends Brian and Lois plan to move in early August into our third bedroom while the raise money to return to Nepal where they have been doing missions work. We love Brian and Lois and can’t wait. Lucy won’t need that room for awhile because we plan for her to sleep in our room for the first year like Benjamin did.

I’m trying to savor each sweet day that Benjamin is still an only child. He is at such a fun age. And here he comes toddling into the living room…our day has begun!

April 5, 2011, 1:05 am
Filed under: Children, Health

With a new baby on the way we’re facing the vaccine dilemma again. I didn’t feel informed about the vaccine controversy when Benjamin was born and so just went with our pediatrician recommendations. Benjamin is healthy and happy even with oodles of vaccinations but he did struggle with reflux as an infant and had eczema. Possibly (probably?) completely unrelated to vaccinations. But I just want to do a better job this time of educating myself. I’ve flipped through Dr. Sear’s Vaccination Book and read a couple of articles that are anti-vax. Most of the information I can find that is pro-vaccine hasn’t given me very much information other than, “Don’t listen to anti-vax alarmists. Vaccinate your child or they are endangered.” I don’t want to vaccinate simply because I’m afraid but I also don’t want to do something that might actually endanger my child. At this point I don’t feel certain whether vaccinating or not vaccinating is more dangerous.


So, Mamas, did you vaccinate? What have you read that convinced you one way or another? I’d really like to read some peer-reviewed articles on this subject. There’s tons of anti-vax web sites but it’s hard to tell which are actually reliable.


At this point my concern with vaccinations are two-fold. One aspect is the danger to the immune system that vaccines may cause and the other concern is the additives such as mercury and formaldehyde going into the child’s system.


Thoughts? Please comment respectfully. I have friends that feel strongly about both sides and of course every mama wants to do what’s best for her baby.

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.