Friday, October 02, 2015

Long Time, No Update...

I'm often finding myself too busy to update the blog... I really should make a grocery list right now, or sweep, or do laundry, or something otherwise useful, but I will throw out a little update here.  We are doing very well, just busy!  Chris and I went to Austin and San Antonio, Texas - first trip alone with no kids ever, since before Caroline was born over ten years ago.  He had a business trip in Austin, and I attended the evening events with him - snacks and drinks the first night, a full dinner and party with live band the next (and they played Bon Jovi and Metallica, so it was pretty awesome).  It was a conference for computer geeks, so it has a Star Wars theme:

Lucy turned four a few weeks ago... getting so old.  She is still nursing once a day and the trip didn't stop her, of which I was glad.  She is almost done, I know.  She can finish up at her leisurely year-long pace if she wants.  The girls all stayed with my parents - we just dropped them off on our way to the airport in Atlanta.  I had not flown since 1997!!!  Honestly, it wasn't much different.  I expected a much bigger hassle, but we had plenty of time to spare and even rode the train (which sadly does not sound like this anymore - but I pulled this audio up and listened on the train for old time's sake) to all the concourses - to visit my brother who was passing through on a connecting flight, and to see the newest concourse, the international concourse F.  With Hartsfield being the only airport you are used to (I used to hang out there in high school), most other airports seem pretty lame.  The flight to Austin announced that we would be landing at gate 6.  Just gate 6.  Not E6, or B6.  Just 6.  So, flying was fun, if not a bit unnerving after so long.

Look who we found!

Giant Chupa-Chups and Mentos... only in the international terminal of the airport...

On the plane, trying not to be scared to take off
San Antonio was lots of fun.  We stayed on the River Walk and explored there on Saturday, along with visiting the five mission churches in the area.  We drove there from Austin in a rental car.  A yellow 2015 VW Beetle, ha ha.  Our hotel was in a historic bank building downtown.  It is lots of fun to walk down the River Walk - way too many restaurants to choose from, and ice cream shops!

hotel lobby - the Drury Inn

The Alamo

Cathedral in downtown, directly across from our hotel.  They do a light show on the front of the building every night!

prayer intention in the cathedral

Creepy monkey thing that asked us to "please play with me" while we waited to get ice cream cones

ice cream while waiting for our boat tour ride!
So, what else have we been up to?  Lots of feast day celebrating this week.  We had the feast of the archangels on Monday, St. Jerome on Wednesday, St. Therese on Thursday, and the guardian angels today.  Here are some of the meals we had to incorporate the saints on these days:

Feast of the Archangels... apple chicken, angel hair pasta, steamed carrots, salad, blackberry cobbler

The cobbler is for St. Michael the Archangel... legend says when he kicked Lucifer out of heaven, the devil fell in a blackberry bush, spoiling them so that they are no good to eat after this date every year. 

Lion pizza for St. Jerome, said to have befriended a lion.  Tapioca starch pizza crust, yum!

French Onion soup for St. Therese of Liseaux... homemade beef bone brothsimmered since Monday to make this!  Topped with sourdough and raw gruyere that was under the broiler for a minute.

Our homeschool co-op is going along nicely.  We finished geology and began anatomy this week.  I am in the nursery with the preschool group this quarter, so I brought some angel coloring pages and watercolor paints as well as a little angel craft mobile to make and hang up there.  Thinking of more games and activities we can do with them, maybe some songs and rhymes to give them a little preschool-type experience.  Next quarter, beginning in January, I will be leading a unit on writing and literature.  We'll be singing parts of speech songs, playing games to learn prepositions and adverbs - which they can begin adding consciously to their writing to add interest - reading from a chapter book and practicing restating/rewriting things from memory, and more that I haven't fleshed out yet.  I will need to start prepping folders for each kid sometime.

the earth's plates


Our Little Flowers Group is also off to a good start... only seven girls this year, but they had fun at the first meeting playing games and they are enthusiastic about earning badges.  Next week our meeting will be followed by a family cookout!  Fire pit, hot dogs, marshmallows, and everybody bringing sides to share.

I'm also busy typing up the LLL of Georgia Area Conference program booklet - that will be the first weekend on November!  The conference is so much fun; I haven't missed one since Caroline was 13 months old!  It is being held at Jekyll island, so we will be making it an extended trip to explore the area a few days after as a family.

Hmm, what else interesting?  Chris pulled the sliding doors off the tub last night.  They need to go.  the gasket underneath was all rotted out.  Maybe it will be easier to keep it clean without the doors there against the edge of the tub.  He worked his butt off though, until close to midnight last night!  Oh, and yesterday I got to explain to my older two what circumcision was... yeah, that was fun.  They were absolutely horrified - and I didn't go into graphic detail.  It came up as we were reading a book about the life of Jesus, and it mentioned that on the 8th day following his birth, he shed his blood for the first time at his circumcision.  So Caroline asked what that meant, why he shed his blood as a newborn.  I figured they needed to know about it sooner or later, and not having any brothers, this may be the most teachable moment I get.  I told them that it was a rite the Jews did on all baby boys, but in the Bible Paul explained that circumcision is not necessary for salvation and that it is under the old Jewish laws like not eating pork and such, not the new Christian faith, so it is not something that we are bound to have done to our babies... but that many people still practiced circumcision today for non-religious reasons as well.  Figured I wouldn't go much into the cultural American aspect of it with them!  I was actually surprised at how horrified they were; I figured they'd just say "gross" or laugh or something.

Lots of things going on this month... lots of chances for fun outdoor activities, like apple picking and such.  Busy month of October!

Well, dinner time is here, so I better go cook!  But I will leave you with something that may just be more terrifying than circumcision:
The mascot on this sign is the stuff nightmares are made of.  This is near where Chris grew up.  Is it a man-butterfly, or an angel, or... what???  Why is his face painted??  I'm terrified that if I went in there, a real person would be dressed up like this inside.  good thing I don't need quick cash!

Okay, that would be mean to leave you with that as the last picture... so here are Lucy's birthday flowers.  Got them from a local farm that sells at our farmer's market.

Thursday, July 09, 2015


This is a long journey, and it is very difficult to get away from the feelings of discouragement.  When you are discouraged over a big thing, like wondering why your body can't conceive after losing a baby, then little discouragements - while they may seem insignificant in comparison - seem to build up, like piling extra pounds onto an already existing burden.

With what would have been my due date approaching in a few days and an empty womb, seeing other discouragements just leaves me feeling drained.

Little things... my tomato plants are getting yellow from the bottom up.  Not much on the Cherokee Purples or the Rutgers, but the Romas and the other variety we have planted are yellowing quickly.  There are over a hundred green tomatoes out there, but how many will make it before the plants die?  So many possible explanations found online for what causes this - too much water, too little water, blight, fungus... and all we can do is try something and hope it helps.  If it doesn't, then it is discouraging.  So it might be a bacterial thing or blight, and there are some sprays we can try on the plants.

Little things... my kids arguing with each other.  One pestering the other, one screaming at the other.  The thought that creeps in of how maybe you don't deserve to have more kids if the ones you have are acting like this... that you should take care of what you already have better somehow.

Little things... like trying to put forth an effort to keep groups going.  Our La Leche League meetings have low attendance, and interest from others in becoming Leaders along with me will crop up and then is gone.  I cannot even count how many people I have had who are interested in becoming a Leader and then aren't.  I have had one co-Leader in the seven and a half years I have been doing this, and she moved after a couple years.  Yet there are many nursing moms who will pay for a $150 breastfeeding photo shoot... but they won't come to free LLL meetings.  It is discouraging to run a group when there is little interest.  Larger towns don't have this problem - they have many Leaders and more moms coming to meetings.  The idea is to find a common ground with other moms, meet friends, get support in an area that often is saturated with formula-feeding and people who think breastfeeding is gross.  It is discouraging to try to get a group together and maintained on any topic.  My Little Flowers group looks like it has no interest this year.  My girls want to keep doing it; I want them to keep doing it for the virtues and Bible verses they learn, for the camaraderie with other Catholic girls, for growing in the virtues they are learning as stepping stones towards Heaven.  I do not have a leadership type personality (I am actually a phlegmatic/melancholic), so it takes inner determination to take on these kinds of things for me and carry them through.  So it is discouraging when they fall apart, or when plans are made and only one person shows up at a meeting... although I can't feel like my time has been wasted if that one mom who comes to a LLL meeting is helped in some way.  Those little here-and-there moments when a mom tells me she is so glad LLL was there so she had some support while nursing her baby... those counteract the discouragement.  It is still hard to keep trying and not just give up when there is very little interest or even negative responses to anything you are putting effort into.  I have been telling myself not to take it personally - that it is not necessarily me or my leading style that keeps our LLL meeting attendance low, for instance... because taking it personally would be that much more discouraging.  Trying to stay positive is hard, but it is what I have to do in order to keep moving forward.  And remembering that if something is helpful to just one other person besides myself, then it is worth it to keep going.

And as silly as this is, seeing other pregnant moms, or hearing people talking about how easily they get pregnant, is discouraging.  Inside, I am screaming, "It might not always be so easy - I always thought myself how easy it was for me, but it can change on a dime!  Don't take it for granted!"

And my dreams have been so vivid and intense lately... so detailed.  People and places from long ago playing into them.  Feeling like they really happened right after waking up.  I can recall all these little details in them immediately and then I forget everything.

I have to be encouraged by the doctor I am seeing who will look at things like hormone levels and not just brush off concerns.  One who knows the normal rhythms of the body and expects that her patients know their own bodies too.  I have known about this doctor for years (and went to high school with her daughter) as being one of the few in the state who is knowledgeable about natural family planning - rather than prescribing birth control as a band-aid fix to everything.  I am glad that a friend encouraged me to go ahead and see her when I was just considering it.  I am encouraged that I was able to say, "I think my progesterone might be low," have it tested and confirm my suspicion, and then have my body respond favorably to a natural progesterone supplement to support my hormones during the appropriate time.

But I still have to make myself focus on the encouragement rather than the discouragement - big and small.  It takes will to do this rather than to give up.  What happens when people can't make themselves find some encouragement?  It is hard to do when you're just not feeling it.  It is hard to try to stay happy and positive.  It is hard to even pray about it all - but I am thankful that I know that even when a prayer doesn't "feel" sincere or deeply moving or profoundly spiritual, that doesn't matter... it is not the feeling you get from it, or a happy feeling about God, but just plugging away even when you don't feel it... because a commitment in any relationship is more important than how it feels moment to moment.  So just trying - just doing things even when they feel pointless, like nobody cares, like they will bear no fruit, like they aren't working... just plugging away anyway.  It is hard... life is hard.  But it is all I can do, really.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Six months...

 This is what six months looks like.  What one month until my due date, yet not pregnant, looks like.
 The trees are in full foliage over our church's Respect Life Prayer Garden.  I still wait for new life...

Praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy on my rosary, I noticed the reflection of it in the monument which reads, "In memory of the unborn and all our lost children."

Just keep moving forward... one day at a time towards July... please, God, pull me through this desert.  Mary Karol, please beg God for a new sibling for yourself... for us... one that we can keep with us for awhile.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

I had a bunch of paragraphs in my head but now that I sit down to write, I think most of them are gone.  I will try anyway.

I went to Atlanta last weekend to attend a Catholic homeschool conference on Friday - it was free, and there was some encouragement from the speakers and some good deals on some books I can make use of with the girls.  My heart wasn't totally in it, as with most things lately.  I am trying to get motivated to do some things.  That sounds vague, I know.  My girls' Little Flowers girls group will be having our end of the year tea party this coming weekend, and I have been trying to get into the planning of that and do some fun things there.  So I started making up menu cards, made certificates for this year for the girls who earned all their badges, and sewed the remaining badges on Cecilia's sash.  Gotta do Caroline's soon.  I have been feeling like I let Little Flowers slide this year and haven't been making it as fun as I could, with a little extra thought and effort... it is hard because I was leading the December meeting when I started miscarrying, so of course that meeting was crap... I knew in my heart what was happening as that meeting began that day, even before confirming it at the ER with an ultrasound.  I still haven't gotten an ultrasound image from the hospital; I know I want to have it but I don't have it in me to get it right now, either.  I am still finishing the school year and then want to throw myself into reorganizing the rooms in the house and planning for next year, and I hope to find the motivation to get myself occupied with that.

When you lose a baby and are approaching what would have been that baby's due date and you are still not expecting another baby, you have to take comfort in the little things.  While in Atlanta, I went shopping with my mom, looking for a dress for her to wear at my brother's ordination party.  The one in the above photo is one she bought but doesn't think she will fit into in a month, so she let me try it... and it works.  Score one for a new dress with no effort.  Then we found a few more cute summery dresses at Steinmart, so she bought them for me.  Retail therapy - being able to buy regular clothes is a small perk, but it not only makes me happy to get a new dress, but also deeply sad, because I shouldn't be fitting in regular dresses right now.  I should be hugely uncomfortable instead.  But the dresses are nice, so there's that little bit of comfort.  One thing to be able to enjoy.  Thanks Mom for the dresses.

So, I saw a good doctor in Atlanta who understands how hormones in women work (why is that such a hard thing to find in a doctor???), and she tested my progesterone levels for the post-ovulatory phase of my cycle.  She found that my progesterone was low - ding ding ding, we have a winner!  Finally, proof to what I already suspected due to symptoms I have been having.  So I will go on progesterone supplements next cycle for ten days and stay on them once I get pregnant, if I ever get pregnant again, that is.  feeling pretty pessimistic about that currently.  Feeling pretty mad at my body too for it failing on me... I have been taking a vitamin for months now that is supposed to help correct low progesterone.  Many people report success with that.  Not me, apparently.  If my progesterone is supposed to be 10 and it is 7.5 during the luteal phase, then I think it is pretty safe to say that this has not helped me, so I am going to stop taking it and switch to a raw food based prenatal multivitamin.  I am wondering if I should add some fermented cod liver oil too.  I am pretty angry that I have been eating so healthy along with this supplement specifically targeted at my problem, and it is not helping.  It makes me want to throw in the towel.  I am not eating processed foods at all, I am eating very few grains (and when I eat them they are soaked or sprouted, generally)... basically I am eating the best I can afford.  Apparently I spend like 21% of our income on groceries - and that's not including stuff like toilet paper; that's just food.  So we will see what the progesterone does.  Maybe it will be the answer after six months, three doctors, and lots of reading on nutrition.  Along with continuing what I am doing otherwise... buying grass fed beef.  On Saturday in Atlanta, I went to a farmers market to pick up half a cow I ordered.  A quarter of it just barely fit in my deep freeze, and the other quarter was for my friend's family.  We each got 60 pounds of ground beef... and much, much more, as you can see by the above glance at my freezer inventory.  I see that I forgot to include the kidney.  I don't know what to do with beef kidney, but I am sure I will figure that out.  Lots of organ meat from grass fed animals - see?  Nutrient-dense diet.  Somehow it's not enough, though.

Here is the full deep freeze.  Since this picture was taken, a pound of ground beef and a chuck roast have been used.  Up next: bacon liver meatballs and sausage patties I will attempt to make from ground beef and heart.  And probably some bone broth.

So this post is also a photo dump from my phone.  This is the entrance to The Real Mandarin House, family restaurant of my youth.  When my family went out to dinner when I was a kid, there were no requests made, because we knew we were going to the Mandarin House.  And that we would be getting Happy Family whatever dinner.  Sadly, it has closed, after over 30 years.  I noticed when we were going to Trader Joe's.  Now I will mourn it alongside the former Wolf Camera.
 I have been swimming laps at the pool at Berry, I am sure I have mentioned before.  Lately, there has been a water aerobics class taking place in the other half of the pool on Thursdays.  Now, it should inspire me to see these old ladies moving around instead of wasting away with inactivity, but it is actually a little depressing... you are swimming laps and look over to see ladies in their 70s wearing black tennis shoes and shorts in the pool, slowly transferring weight from one foot to the other like they are going in slow motion to the beat of Tina Turner's "You're Simply the Best."  Somehow that is depressing to me even though it is impressive at the same time to see them dedicated to exercising there every time.  Maybe it is depressing to me because I can still move faster than that and one day I won't be able to do so.  When the instructor calls out, "Now let's cross the pool!" and they all jog in slow motion the 20 foot distance through the water like it is the culminating difficult part of the workout, I just feel kind of blah inside.  But then, I feel like that about lots of little things lately.  baby birds are depressing... why do their babies live?  How come they have babies with no problem?  Then I felt bad for thinking that about them when a crow stole the eggs from our backyard mockingbirds.  But yes, the pool... they play music for the water aerobics class, and it is often the same set of songs, unfortunately.  Rod Stewart makes frequent appearances.  Or whatever an auditory appearance would be called.  I knew I never liked Rod Stewart, but I never realized just how much I disliked "Maggie May."  And I always realized how much I hated "Forever Young" and have had to be reminded repeatedly, unfortunately.  To make this more torturous, this is a pretty new pool with state of the art speaker technology... there are speakers in the pool.  Like under the water.  And when you are swimming, every time you come up for a breath, you hear the distant speakers across the pool, and then you go back under and hear the tinny, no-bass blasting music.  Brain confusion ensues.  Rod Stewart does not belong in my swimming pool, thank you very much.  I try to pray the chaplet of divine mercy while swimming and can get through it twice with time to spare... when the music doesn't distract me.  Try praying the chaplet with Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" playing underwater... it probably borders on being sacrilegious.  I never realized how truly annoying those Wah wah wah wah wah's could be.  A few weeks ago, I thought for a split second that an Alice in Chains song was starting - I liked their music in high school, so I was almost excited, and then realized that if they did play Alice in Chains, anyone swimming laps would probably just give up in despair in the middle of the pool due to the deeply depressing music and just drown.  Thankfully it turned out to be something else that was annoying enough to keep up my motivation to keep swimming to work out my irritation. 

a break for a photo since that paragraph is already way too long: Lucy cuteness!!!

My baby is too big!  I am feeling very close to her lately, and she is so very sweet... when she's not whacking Caroline in the forehead with a baby doll, that is.  I am feeling very loving to her despite those kinds of things.  And very protective, too.  Also of Cecilia... she had a headache a few nights ago, and I was secretly freaked out and paranoid that she had a brain tumor or something... because do seven year olds normally get headaches bad enough to make them lie down crying?  Then Chris reminded me that the brain has no feeling, so it couldn't be that.  Then Caroline was 25-30 feet off the ground in our maple tree, and I was like, eh... I guess you should come down; that's kinda high.  My motherly protective instincts are whacked right now.

So anyway, back to the boring story I was telling about the music at the pool... tonight, the music was a little different.  I came in and Rod Stewart was ending, yay!  Then they played the Rolling Stones, so I was cautiously optimistic.  Some other not-awful song... and then... Styx.

Oh well, they were almost doing well before they plummeted to a new low.  At least it wasn't "Lady."  Then they might have had to clean up puke from the pool, ha.  I fully agree with Homer Simpson here.  But then they redeemed themselves a bit by playing Tom Petty.  It was a song I didn't recognize, but you can't mistake Tom Petty's distinctive central Floridian hick accent localized to the Gainesville/Ocala area, even when playying through tinny underwater speakers in an Olympic sized pool.  That dialect is found nowhere else.  And then they crashed out by ending with the grand finale... a Phil Collins song.  Now, I love me some sappy 80s love songs Phil Collins like "Take Me Home" and "I Don't Wanna Know."  But not the sappy cheesy Phil Collins songs of 1990 such as the one that was played, "Another Day in Paradise."  It makes me think of "We are the World" or the New Kids on the Block's "This One's for the Children."  Gag.  So there is my analysis of the senior water aerobics class, because I know you really cared deeply about that.

A new printer!  It was so big that we put it on the bottom half of the desk and moved the books to the top shelf.  Soon this will all go in the living room somewhere... not exactly sure yet how I will manipulate everything to fit nicely in there.  The old printer was leaving random marks on all the papers.  It was time for a new one.

I am truly so excited about my brother's upcoming ordination.  I am hurting that I won't be pregnant at it and so I am mad that it will be tinged with sadness for me... I told Chris I shouldn't have so arrogantly assumed I would be pregnant again by this time, but he said it's not arrogance, it is logic and reasoning based on several past pregnancy experiences.  But I know it will be a very exciting weekend: the ordination, followed by a dinner reception, and then his first Mass.  If you are in the area, some to St. Jude for the 2:30 Sunday Mass to see his first time ever as a priest celebrating the holy sacrifice of the Mass!  I might just cry, and I don't usually cry at weddings, but this is my baby brother who I sort of helped to raise.

The ordination is by ticket only.  There are only four men being ordained, but the tickets are still quite limited.  His three nieces age five and under are becoming lap babies for the event so they won't have to use tickets.  An ordination is a truly beautiful event, full of all the liturgical splendor that is the Catholic faith... and I hope it will light a fire in my soul because I have been feeling pretty bad at praying lately.

Random food pictures... Trader Joe's sells these canned clams.  We made clam chowder a few nights ago, with raw milk, yum.  So it wasn't as raw after I heated it, I guess, but I did so gently, not to a boil.  Yes, that is clam juice in the Pyrex... some of it from the cans goes in the soup.  Better than Mountain Dew (okay, so that's crab juice, but still, it's funny, and I thought of it as I was reserving the clam juice):

I kept looking on the box for the "serving suggestion" message, but apparently they don't intend for flowers to be a suggested side dish to these enchiladas.  I used to eat these like once a week when Caroline was little... it was like a treat to myself when she was napping.  I randomly bought a box earlier this week, either to reminisce, or because I was so surprised to see it at Wal-mart that I couldn't resist and bought it out of amazement.  Sometimes I get in a rut with what to make for lunches every day... apparently this will save me one day in the future.  Me, not my kids.  So I will still have to use half my brain to figure out what to feed them.

Real men do their own car work.  Don't trust a man who doesn't know how to do an oil change, that's my expert advice.  I'll close by bragging on my awesome hubby, who fixes the car.  And is left-handed.  Just like Phil Collins.  And now you have a random trivia fact to revel in the knowledge of.  Yes, I ended a sentence with a preposition... my standards must be falling or something. And now to work on Tim's slideshow for his ordination party reception... like I should have been doing in the first place.  The night is still young, and I am already up to about 2009, so only a few more photos to go (by few I mean 50, probably).