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

First Advent: Repost
December 12, 2011, 11:45 am
Filed under: Advent, Motherhood, Our Lady, Pregnancy | Tags: , , , ,

This is a repost from last year of a piece I wrote for our beloved Landing Literary Society in Waco about what pregnancy taught me about Advent and I’m thinking of sweet friends who are expecting this year during the Advent season (hi, Jen, Jeni, and Emily!)


I was huge. Not just big—gigantic. Even before I entered my third trimester, well-intentioned old ladies would pat my shoulder and say, “Any day now!” encouragingly as I waddled my way through the grocery store. Considering the raging pregnancy hormones running through my system, I’m impressed that I didn’t slap any of the kind-hearted dears. I was huge.

As it neared the end of November, I started wearing flip-flops exclusively because my swollen feet wouldn’t fit into anything else. I think I gave up on other footwear after one particularly bad day when my husband had to help me get my boots off as I helplessly yelled inchoate phrases about being the only woman who would be pregnant forever. My maternity coat didn’t fit anymore by the time it was cold enough to wear it which enraged me further. When I wasn’t at work, I was lying on the couch or in the bath tub trying to remember what it felt like to be able to see my toes.  Then I would see a tiny limb change position—reminding me that my massive tummy housed a moving, living child.

As December neared and Advent began I considered this season for perhaps the first time. I had lighted Advent candles as a little girl and been excited about Christmas coming but had never considered the season as anything except a Pre-Christmas countdown. I came to realize that this is as incomplete an understanding of Advent as a definition of pregnancy as simply the nine months preceding a birth.

While I tried to remember what my feet looked like, I remembered the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I confess that I had never thought much about her before. I had never felt that we had anything in common until now. But as my belly got rounder and rounder and my back got achier and achier, I remembered her. She has done this, I thought. She has felt her child move in her womb, perhaps even responding to the sound of her voice or her song. She experienced this miracle of life taking place within her.

In our modern disenchanted age we have not completely lost our fascination with the miracle of new life.  Whenever I dragged my sleepy pregnant body to public places my experience was different than ever before. Little children looked at my belly, fascinated, sometimes even trying to give my belly a pat or lift up my shirt to discover if there was really a baby inside. Other mothers smiled at me and grandmothers reassured me. My ordinary child, this new ordinary life, elicited such a response of amazement. How much more miraculous is the coming of our Lord?, I began to wonder.

For unto us a child is born.  Unto us a son is given.

I was expecting my son during the season of expectation. The word comes fromexpectare—to wait, to hope, to look for. I did all this things. At first there was a contentment in the waiting and the hoping but eventually the groaning, miserable discomfort led to a readiness to be delivered of the tiny tyrant reigning over me from my womb.  A week before my due date I was so exhausted and so tired of bumping the counters with my colossal tummy and getting up 10 times a night because the little angel had given my bladder yet another energetic punch, that I began to lose it a bit. I couldn’t go to work one more day.  I couldn’t fit behind my desk. I couldn’t sleep. Until the discomfort crossed a certain threshold and I was struck with a desperate desire to be pregnant not a day longer, the pain of delivery was alarming to me and I remained unprepared.  Now it did not frighten me. Anything but this. I started to understand that it is not until we are exhausted, ill with our condition, miserable, that we are ready for Christ—when we can really desire to be delivered.

I kept thinking about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Was she as desperate to give birth as I was? I considered with wonder how when her baby boy was delivered, he would in turn deliver her, deliver me, deliver my own unborn son.

As I waited in joyous, miserable, anxious expectation, I started to understand an inkling of what it must have felt like to wait for the Messiah, Mary’s son. I begin to understand the Joy born to the world on Christmas and present with us now as I heard the sound of the first beautiful and strong cry of my newborn son. I realized in a new way how to wait with groaning and expectation for our Lord’s return in glory. It was my first Advent.

Pregnant Ballerinas!
November 21, 2011, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Pregnancy

My fellow former ballerina and fellow teacher at the ballet school, Jenna, had the brilliant idea to document our pregnancies this past year by taking photos at the studio.

Barely showing!

Tiny Bellies!

August and looking very pregnant!

And even more pregnant!

My last day of teaching. SO BIG.

Pregnant no more! Baby Lucy and Baby Sam in all their glory. Also…how awesome does Jenna look just three weeks after delivery?!

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting
October 20, 2011, 8:29 pm
Filed under: Pregnancy

As you may have gathered….we are STILL WAITING for Lucy to decide to come out. We had our biophysical profile this afternoon which was basically just an ultrasound to check on Lucy’s size, the amount of amniotic fluid in the womb, and the overall health of the placenta. Everything looked great. The Dr. just said that she appeared perfectly happy in there and doesn’t appear to be post-mature at all. So, thankfully, they didn’t insist on inducing me today and if I haven’t gone into natural labor before then, I will be induced on Monday morning.

But, we hope that she will arrive tonight or tomorrow! After acupuncture yesterday morning, I started having some good contractions which really picked up around 11pm and stayed 6-10 minutes apart and over a minute long for a few hours. But, by 4am, they started to space out again and I was able to fall asleep until 7am. Today they’ve been coming and going but I hope that they really pick up again this evening so we can meet our girl!

Thanks for your prayers and messages and texts! We will certainly post here and on Facebook when she (finally!) arrives.

Week 41 Pregnancy Update
October 17, 2011, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Pregnancy

You’ve probably gathered that I’m STILL pregnant. I was being very whiny and irritable about it all weekend until I realized how stupid it is to be upset that I’m still carrying a perfectly healthy full-term little girl in a safe and healthy pregnancy. So I’m trying to be nothing but grateful. But I’m still just shocked that I’m overdue. All the cramping and contractions started almost 4 weeks ago and I’ve been expecting to go into labor every day since then.

This morning I had an appointment with my midwife, Kim. She stripped my membranes and hopefully that will kick start labor in the next 24 hours or so. She sent me over to labor and delivery for a non-stress test just because of being almost a week overdue. Lucy seems to be absolutely perfectly happy and fine in there. On Thursday if I haven’t gone into labor yet I will get a biophysical which checks the amniotic fluid levels, etc. to make sure that my body is still giving Lucy everything she needs. If that raises red flags they will induce me right then, if everything looks good then they’ll give me until Monday hoping I go into labor naturally before getting induced. Kim said that if Lucy’s head is low enough on Monday, she will try breaking my bag of waters to start labor before giving me any Pitocin. Hopefully, we can avoid Pitocin altogether!

I have an acupuncture appointment tomorrow to try to induce labor. If stripping the membranes doesn’t do anything then maybe that will! If I haven’t gone into labor by Sunday I might try some castor oil as a last attempt before getting induced Monday morning.

I’m about 3.5 cm dilated and 60% effaced. So at least I’m making a little progress!

Thank you everybody for your prayers for me and Baby Lucy! Benjamin is all better and has settled back into a normal routine at our house. He was so perfect at Mass yesterday and was just angelic all day today. We’ve had some special time together 🙂

Please pray that I will go into labor naturally before Thursday and not even need to mess with the biophysical and for safety for me and for Lucy during delivery! But no matter what happens, God willing we will have a baby in our arms by Monday night at the latest.

40 Week Update
October 12, 2011, 7:13 pm
Filed under: Pregnancy

Still pregnant….I’m feeling generally ok. Had an appointment with the midwife this morning: I’m 2.5 cm dilated and 60% effaced and baby is very low in position which is all good news. Lucy’s heartbeat sounds great and the midwife estimated that she’s about 6 or 6.5 lbs. I’ve been having cramping and contractions on and off for a couple of weeks now and I’m trying not to get too excited when they show up because they always fizzle out. My only real complaint is that the pressure on my pubic bone feels unbearable every time I try to change position. Getting out of bed is excruciating. The midwife says that’s just the pressure of the baby’s head and the ligaments and bones opening and stretching. Whew. Otherwise, everything is about the same!

The good news is that Benjamin should be coming home this afternoon. He hasn’t had a fever since Saturday and his rash has been clearing up and no new spots for a couple of days. I put in a call to his pediatricians office to see what they recommend but while we wait for them to get back to us, we’re just going to bring him home. Can’t wait to see him!

Keep praying for Benjamin and Lucy’s health and a safe delivery! We can’t wait to have both our little ones under the same roof. Also, I’m totally interested in any of your natural labor induction methods! Send them my way. I’ve been eating spicy foods for almost every meal for two weeks.

Still Pregnant…
October 8, 2011, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Pregnancy

Just a quick update:

I’m still pregnant. Not much news on that front.

Benjamin is still at his grandparents house (we have the most amazing families!) and is getting better. Today his fever started to go away, but he still has the rash on his little hands. Although the virus stays in your system for several weeks, it is most contagious during the first week after symptoms occur so he’s going to go back to my parents house tomorrow night and hopefully he can come home on Wednesday night! We miss him so much. Life is way too quiet and efficient and boring without him!

I’ve been trying to stay busy and distracted while I impatiently wait for Lucy’s arrival and Benjamin’s homecoming. Last night I went to see Colleen Nixon’s concert with my mom. This morning we went to the Titanic exhibit at the Brogan and the annual Quilt Show at the Museum of Fl. History before a delicious lunch at Harry’s in Kleman Plaza. Then Erin and I went to see Midnight in Paris at the dollar (technically THREE DOLLAR) movies. Now I’m watching movies and shows while I finish washing all of Lucy’s clothes and blankets. I guess I’ll eventually run out of nesting to do. Or maybe I’ll just get ridiculous and start cleaning baseboards on my hands and knees with a toothbrush.

Keep praying for us while we miss our sweet boy! Pray for his recovery and for a safe delivery for Lucy and I and that she will not catch Hands, Foot, and Mouth when she arrives. Thank you everybody for all your prayers, phone calls, and support. We have the best friends and the most fantastic family (two sets of grandparents!). We are so thankful to have so many amazing folks in our lives.


39 Week Update
October 6, 2011, 12:35 am
Filed under: Pregnancy

Thanks everyone for your prayers! We feel so covered in prayer and filled with peace.

So far I’m feeling fine so I don’t think that I caught Hands, Foot, and Mouth (hopefully, I was exposed to it as a child and am now immune.) Sweet Benjamin has been having slumber parties at Marmee and Grandaddy’s house the last couple of nights since he is most likely to have caught the virus. We feel bad for quarantining him away from me but think it’s the best thing we can do to protect Lucy and I from getting sick! He has been having such a good time at Marmee’s house for the past two days that he said he was just “too busy” to talk to Mama on the phone. In fact, the first thing he said to Marmee after waking from his nap today was , “Marmee! We’re having SO MUCH FUN!”  He finally “had time” to talk to me on the phone tonight and seems to be starting to miss home a little bit. I’m so ready for him to come back home, but he started acting a little bit sick tonight and has a runny nose, etc, so we think it’s best for him to stay at least one more night and we’ll check on his symptoms tomorrow. By Friday morning we should be pretty much out of the window of symptoms showing up and should know whether we’re in the clear. I sure miss my little guy!

Please keep praying for health for all of us and for a safe delivery for our sweet Lucy!

My midwife yesterday said that I’m still about 1cm dilated and about 50% effaced. I delivered Benjamin at 39 weeks so I wasn’t really expecting to make it to 39 weeks with this pregnancy but….we’re still waiting. I’m taking lots of naps, doing baby laundry to get ready for her, and taking long baths while I can! I’m getting impatient but I know she’ll be worth the wait.

Thank you again for all your prayers for our health and safety!

Waiting: Pregnancy Update Week 38
October 1, 2011, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Pregnancy

I’m still pregnant.

Now there’s nothing unreasonable about still being pregnant at 38.3 weeks EXCEPT that I’ve had almost every pre-labor symptom known to man (except my water breaking) in the past week. On three different nights last week I had a few contractions strong enough to think…hmmm, is this it? It was not it.

But the good news is that my midwife told me last Tuesday that I was already dilated 1cm and very effaced. Baby Lucy is in the right position and very low so…it really could be anytime. I’m guessing on Monday. Anybody want to make a prediction?

While we’re waiting for this little lady to make her arrival (wouldn’t today be a great day on St. Therese of Lisieux’s Day, Baby Lucy?) we’re LOVING the fall weather and making preparations.

This is her changing table nook in our bedroom (we expect that she’ll sleep in our room for at least the first year, just like Benjamin did). Daniel created this beautiful changing table out of an old black desk. Isn’t it lovely!?

We’ve also been soaking up as much special time with our little boy as we can before he has to share our attention with a new baby. He’s been so precious lately and definitely seems to know that changes are afoot. He’s been wanting to snuggle constantly which is fine by me.

Here’s one of his new favorite pretend games: Computer Work:

But his favorite play is still digging in the dirt. Obviously.


All Things Michaelmas!

I LOVE the Feast of the Archangels. We’ve got a feast planned, but, I’m 38 weeks pregnant today on Michaelmas, so you never know if we’ll be having a Michaelmas Baby instead of a Michaelmas Feast. Just in case I go into labor  and Michaelmas feasting gets skipped over this year, I thought I would compile some of the previous Michaelmas posts and some good resources I’ve found.

What is Michaelmas?

Michaelmas (pronounced Mickel-mas) is a feast day celebrating the Archangels. It follows the fall Ember Days (last Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) during which Christians traditionally thanked God for his creation and the bounty of the earth and fasted penitentially. Michaelmas was a Holy Day of Obligation until the 18th century and honors St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael. My linguist husband particularly likes the name Michael which means in Hebrew “Who Is Like God?” and is the battle cry of the angels. St. Michael fought against Lucifer and the fallen angels and defended the friends of God. You probably remember that St. Gabriel announced the coming of Jesus to the Virgin Mary and also the coming of John the Baptist to Zachariah. St. Raphael is found in the book of Tobit.

Michaelmas Menus:

For a seasonal table for Michaelmas, think of autumnal foods. Usually our Michaelmas feast is full of beta-carotene.

Carrots are very traditional. According to a Scottish custom, women would harvest wild carrots on Michaelmas by digging triangular holes with a three-pronged mattock. Apparently the holes represent St. Michael’s shield and the mattock represents his trident.

Terrible iPhone pic from 2009. My apologies.

I love this Whiskey-Glazed Carrots recipe by The Pioneer Woman. I can’t help but love her. These are seriously amazing. Whiskey? Butter? Brown Sugar? Can you go wrong?

St. Michael's Bannock on the left!

Another traditional food is St. Michael’s Bannock, a simple, sweet bread. We’ve used the recipe from Meredith Gould’s The Catholic Home. It’s super easy and turns out well.

Goose is also very traditional but we’ve discovered that it’s almost impossible to find an organic goose that’s remotely in our price range. So, we’ve cooked turkeys or chickens for the occasion. Last year we roasted sweet potatoes and onions with the chicken which turned out so yummy. This year we have tons of delicious sweet potatoes from the garden so we’ll definitely do a repeat!

Blackberries: There’s a legend concerning Lucifer falling into a blackberry bush after being expelled from heaven by St. Michael and spitting on the blackberries to make them bitter so that they cannot be picked after Michaelmas.

On Michaelmas Day the devil puts his foot on the blackberries.

-Irish Proverb

We’ve had blackberry buckle and blackberry cobbler but since they’re not in season right now in Florida, we try to just get organic frozen berries.

Ugly photo, delicious cobbler, promise!

A super easy and yummy blackberry cobbler recipe is The Pioneer Woman’s.

A Michaelmas Prayer:

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Michaelmas Daisies:

The aster flower, also known as the Michaelmas Daisy is in season in North America at the end of September. We meant to grow some from seed this year but…never got around to it. Last year Benjamin and I got beautiful mums (as seen in the picture at the top) and this year my two sweet boys picked beautiful Daisies they found and Bachelor’s Buttons and Marigolds from our garden:

What a pretty sight to wake up to on Michaelmas morning!

The Michaelmas daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael’s valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.”

I can’t believe that two years ago, Benjamin was still a wee babe!

Just look at my grown up boy on this Michaelmas morning!

He’s still not into wearing pants, but my, he’s big and cute.

I guess I look a little different this year, too.

38 weeks and ready for Baby Lucy Elanor to arrive! Doesn’t a Michaelmas baby sound like a good idea?! C’mon, Lucy!

Michaelmas posts from other years:

Carrots for Michaelmas – September 29th

How the Michaelmas Feast Turned Out (2009)

Preparing for Michaelmas (2010)

The Feast of the Archangels: Michaelmas 2010

Birthday and Settling on a Baby Name!
September 8, 2011, 8:24 am
Filed under: Books, Husband, Our Lady, Pregnancy

I’m awake at 4am with a little pregnancy insomnia, that pregnancy refluxy feeling, and after being awakened by what sounds like a crazy party at our backyard neighbors house (3:30 am…on a THURSDAY morning, people?!). But it’s my birthday! 26! AND I get to share it with Our Lady because September 8th is the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin.

Last night Daniel’s family completely spoiled me with an amazing dinner at Bella Bella followed by Au Peche Mignon’s White Forest Cake (same cake Daniel and I had as our wedding cake! so good!) and some amazing presents. Including…

Eek! The stunning cloth-bound Penguin Classics I’ve been wanting for almost two years. I’m in love…

My sweet husband says he’s going to build a special shelf to display them. Aren’t they gorgeous!?

I started Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford tonight which is already a treat. I’ve wanted to read something of hers ever since I saw the miniseries of Wives and Daughters over three years ago.

I had a good appointment with my second-favorite midwife yesterday morning (my favorite is still on maternity leave but should be back in time for Lucy’s arrival). Everything still looks good. I’ve been worried that Baby Girl is already dropping and might arrive too early, but my midwife assured me that it’s normal to feel more pelvic pressure the second time around and that she certainly hasn’t dropped yet. So maybe she’ll hang out until her due date afterall.

I think her arrival is feeling closer and more real for Daniel because all of a sudden he is tackling tons of baby projects. He rearranged all the furniture in our bedroom to make room for a bassinet and changing table. He made a BEAUTIFUL changing table out of a small old desk that was given to us. I’ll post pictures once it’s all set up in our room. It’s LOVELY. And now he’s sewing a stuffed animal (a bantha, he’s trying to introduce her to the world of Star Wars a little early) and making a baby hat for her. Isn’t he the best?!

And I think we’ve found a middle name we both love: Elanor. It’s been a frontrunner for a first name and we thought about saving it in case we get to have more girls but…who knows if we’ll have more girls? What if we have boys from here on out? And it’s really the first middle name idea that we both feel sure about. And there’s a saint Eleanor and my best friend in Waco is Eleanor. We’re doing a slightly different spelling and I’m not going to tell you why because you’ll immediately stop following this blog due to excessive nerdiness…

Well, I guess I have to tell you now, right? Elanor is Rosie Cotton and Samwise Gamgee’s daughter and the name of a flower in Middle-earth. Yes, we’re naming our child after a fictional character’s daughter. Deal with it.

So, Lucy Elanor Stewart. So she shall be.

Now back to bed…or…a late night/early morning slice of birthday cake?