Sunday, March 30, 2014

Modesty - Let Me Tell You How to Dress

So - Modesty...a rather hot topic, no?

Well...let me sum up how you should dress in only seven words.   

Dress to be attractive, but not provocative. 

Unfortunately I did not come up with that myself ...I read it in Beyond the Birds and the Bees, Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids.  Good should read it.

Someone...not sure who, could have been Marilyn Monroe, or Edith Head or some totally different person (the Internets disagree) once said A Dress Should Be Tight Enough to Show You're A Woman, but Loose Enough to Prove You're A Lady.   

Kinda along those same lines, right?

Anyway, then the question comes up....where does the line fall, when it comes to provocative dress. 

I propose that the answer to that question depends on two factors

1). The intent of the person wearing the clothing.
2). The intent of the person designing/manufacturing/sewing the clothing.

Some clothing is designed with the intent to be provocative. Like this,

Or a super low cut shirt with a deep, deep, deep v-neck that goes down to the belly button.

Or a pair of yoga pants with the words "hot stuff" printed on the butt. 

And, some clothing is worn with the intent to be provocative.   But, since this is a family friendly blog, I'm not going to show you a picture of that. I think you know what I'm talking about. 

But, everything else, there is a lot of gray area.  And, really, I think it's depends on the intent of the wearer and their body type.  Things like tank tops, leggings, sleeveless shirt, short skirts....look totally different on different people.  For example. a person who is smaller chested is better able to "pull off" a tank top than someone who is more well-endowed (such as me).

And someone (like me) who is well-endowed and always carrying around a toddler that has a tendency to pull on the front of your shirt may have a tendency to show a bit more than wanted thanks to the tugging toddler, and that is okay, because nothings says not provocative like a baby pulling on you.  I try to wear clothes that cover more, but I'm not going to sweat it, if it happens.   I once read a blog post/comments where the writer and reader were afraid to wear knee-length "swingy" skirts because the chance gust of wind could come along and blow things up.  Who cares, says I.   Not that we shouldn't try to keep ourselves covered, but I'm not going to go around worrying about chance gusts of wind.  

Furthermore, context also matters.  

Something like this is totally appropriate for the beach and totally inappropriate for church.

Now, let's look at what the Catholic Church teaches us about modesty. 

“2522 Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.

2523 There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.

2524 The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.”

I love how the catechism talks about the purpose of modesty....that it protects the dignity of the person.

I also love how it talks about modesty being discreet.  Because modesty is more than just about how much skin is showing.   I think one could also be immodest if they are totally covered but dress in such wild, unusual way that their goal is to draw undue attention to themselves.  There is of course, nothing wrong with expressing your personal taste or individuality, but there is something wrong with always dressing with the purpose of everyone look at me. 

Notice, however, that it says that the forms of modesty vary from culture to culture.  I really started to question my preconceived notions about modesty when we moved to Florida.  Because, in many ways, Florida is a different culture than New England.   What is appropriate in a climate where it is 95 degrees and 10000% humidity for most of the year is going to be different from what is appropriate in a climate where it rarely gets above 85.  It just is. An article of clothing which would be considered provacative in New England, would not necessarily be considered so in Florida.

I think this is also important to keep in mind when you have people who think all women should go back to dressing the way they did in the 1800's and cover up any possible clue they are a woman by wearing long, high-necked, shapeless clothes.  We don't live in the 1800's..and what was considered provocative back then is considered totally normal now.

Modesty is an important value to have and teach our children...but I do see one problem with the so-called "modesty culture" which I think is totally different from the church's teaching on modesty.

Let's take this video, put out by some fairly talented boys from the Mormon church.

However, I take issue with the line Girl, I Need Your Modesty. 

In Christopher West's book, The Theology of the Body for Beginners  he talks about "negative purity" and "positive purity."  Negative purity prevents the sin of lust by not looking, by so-called custody of the eyes.   And, that is good, and that why we need to protect our dignity by dressing modesty.   But, he says we should go beyond that, that being able to look without lust is the higher virtue and what we should be striving for,

The problem with a lot of "modesty culture" as I see it, is that it teaches boys that they are helpless and turn into lust-driven fools at the sight of too much skin, so those temptress girls need to be covered up.  But, the thing is, people generally act the way you expect them to.  Tell a child they are stupid or bad and they will act stupid and bad.  Tell a boy that he is a slave to his hormones and he will become a slave to his hormones.   We can do better than that.  We HAVE to do better than that.  In our sex-crazed, pornographic culture, the "don't look" doesn't cut it anymore, unless you never leave your house and never get on the Internet.   We need to teach our girls to dress modestly to protect their dignity and value, and we need to teach our boys to see the dignity and value of the girls no matter what they are wearing. 

Another issue I have with this above video (not to pick on the Mormons or anything) is the line

Virtue is so beautiful.  

Yes, virtue is beautiful, but again, it seems to imply that a girl's value and dignity is dependent on the way she dresses and if she meets this guys standard of "modesty".  As though girls who don't meet this guys standards are not beautiful, and don't have dignity.  Even worse, as though as long as a girl meets his standards of modesty, she is virtuous, even if she is also lazy, unkind and dishonest. Virtue is not dependent on what you wear, but rather how you act and treat others. 

Yes, we have to respect human nature being what it is.  But, we aren't animals.  We aren't a slave to our hormones and passions.  We have to be prudent and decent and discreet and wise, but we can't just say "oh, I can't help myself so every girl around needs to cover up."  Modesty is a two way street..and it's not just up to the girls. that we've covered the "not provocative part"...what about the "be attractive part."  No, I don't think this means we have to wear a ballgown and a tiara every day.  But, I do think it means we should at least make an effort to dress in clothes that are well-kept, clean, flattering and fit well.   Hopefully I meet that, at least some of the time.  You can judge for yourself today.

Since we're talking about clothes and it's Sunday and all that good stuff.  I'm linking up with Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday.   Here is my hopefully, modest picture.

Ignore the bad hair and the crazy kids. 

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Friday, March 28, 2014

7 Tips to Thrive While Homeschooling

I'm been homeschooling for seven years now.  That makes me a guru, right?  Ha..not! But it does at least qualify me to give you some totally free, unsolicited (hopefully at least somewhat useful) advice. 

So, I may not be a guru, but I have learned a thing or two or seven that I thought I would share with you.

1. Forget about preschool.  Look...unless your kid is asking and begging to learn, you can pretty much forget about anything academic before age 5. can.  Three and four year olds don't need to know their letter sounds or how to count or write their name.  They don't need phonics drills.  They don't need to learn Spanish or the names of the planets or the states and capitals.   They need to play...preferably in dirt.  To be more precise, here is what a four year old needs to know. 

2.  If something is too hard...back off.  Not to say that you should never challenge your children, but I'm firmly convinced that certain academic skills (like reading) are just as developmentally varied as learning how to crawl or walk or talk.  In my experience, all the phonics drills in the world aren't going to teach a child who isn't yet developmentally ready to read, how to do so.  And, when a child is developmentally ready....reading just takes off and it's easy.  Some kids are ready at age 4 and some aren't ready until age 7 or even older.  And, that's okay, because as long as you have a lot of books in your house and you are reading a lot TO your child..they WILL learn. Not to mention, that in the elementary years, just about everything comes back around.  If your kid doesn't get what a noun is in second grade, rest assured, he will have another chance in third grade and fourth grade. 

3. Relationship is more important than school.  Some days will be a struggle, but if you find yourself yelling and screaming and pulling your hair out through every lesson, something has to change.  If schoolwork becomes a battle of wills or a constant fight and struggle, something has to change.  It's not worth it to gain your child's mind if you lose their heart.  I don't know about you, but a big part of the reason why I homeschool is to help keep my relationship with my children strong.  Yelling and screaming and making threats and doling out excessive punishments does nothing but hurt your relationship.   That doesn't mean that you don't expect hard work...but it does mean that you don't let the work get in the way of your relationship. And, if there is too much of a clash.....change something. 

4. Get organized. I'm not naturally an organized person...but homeschooling has forced me to be (somewhat) that way.  We need a schedule.  My kids need to know what to expect.  Things go much better if they know what time we are doing school, what subjects we are doing and even in what order we are doing them.  And, feel free to have an atypical schedule.  There is no rule that says you have to school M-F, Sept-June, 8-3.  We school-year round, typically only doing 2-3 days of school at home/week.  For us, that works so much better.  Some families really need that summer break, but I prefer to take shorter breaks throughout the year, rather than cram everything in during the school year and then take two months off completely. 

You also need to get organized with your space. I invested in one of those organizational carts...and we keep all our books organized by subject.  This has been a life-saver. All the religion books are in one drawer, all the history books in another, handwriting books in another.  It has saved us countless hours searching for missing books. 

5 Listen to your kids...and keep searching until you find what they need.  If your kids are asking for a change....give it to them.  My 6th grader has been asking and asking and asking to do more "online school" or "computer" school. At first, I dismissed her...saying that most of the programs are too expensive, would tie us down too much (there is no way I want to sign my child up for a class that required we are home every M and W at 9:30 AM.  I need to have freedom to go on field trips, join coops, etc.).  But, I knew I needed to do something.  She will be in 7th grade next year, enjoys working independently and really needed something *more* than just me teaching using books or a curriculum.  So, I kept looking and looking and finally, found something that I think will be awesome for her.  Anyone have any experience with the recorded classes from Homeschool Connections?  It's affordable, they have really awesome selection of classes and everything I've read so far is really positive.  Any of you guys have any experience with them?

6. Join a coop. don't have to do this if you aren't the coop type.  But, we have benefited *so much* from being part of coops.  Since I've started homeschooling, we've been part of 5 different coops (several years, we've done 2 at a time) and they've all been awesome.  Honestly, in my mind, it doesn't even matter what classes my kids take....the point is they aren't taking them *from me*.  They are getting the experience of being in a classroom, having another teacher (sometimes even having homework).  We all get a break from each other and it's just overall been a great experience.  Yes, it's tiring having to teach or assist in a class, but I try to make a point of not teaching or assisting in any classes in which I have a child (with the exception of nursery or toddler classes).  That break is just so helpful. 

7. Make yourself comfy and enjoy. It sounds simple, but it really does help.  When I teach my kids, I sit in my favorite, comfortable recliner chair, sip a nice relaxing cup of hot tea and take turns working with them on math or reading or spelling or whatever we are doing. The chair is big enough for a kid to sit on it as well and we can read together or go over math or discuss religion...whatever we need to do.  The toddler can even fit up there too.  Being comfortable helps me to be relaxed and being relaxed helps me to be more patient and being more patient makes everyone happier.  Plus, it gets me away from the computer so I don't have *that* distraction.   And, I try to enjoy homeschooling. I read aloud books that *I* like. I try to find curriculum that we *all* find interesting.   And, I try, really, really, really hard not to get too stressed over math. 

(Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary for 7QTF)
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Monday, March 24, 2014

My Changing Thoughts on Homebirth

Everyone loves a good I've changed my mind post, right?  Well, I haven't totally changed my mind, but I've sorta changed my mind.  Close enough for a blog post, right?

When I was pregnant with Heidi, homebirth wasn't even on my radar.  I didn't consider it at all, and actually sorta thought that people who did it were crazy.  Although I was interested in natural childbirth and knew I didn't want an epidural or any other interventions. I was the crazy one who showed up at the hospital with a long birth plan that I'm sure the nurses proceeded to totally ignore.

I had a completely problem-free pregnancy.  I went into labor all on my own at 38.5 weeks, went to the hospital way too early, ended up with artificial rupture of the membranes, they gave me staidol (which was terrible, as it didn't take the pain away, but made me feel loopy).  She was born just fine after about an hour of pushing (6 lb, 12 oz.) problems during birth, no problems during breastfeeding.

When I got pregnant with Greta, I was in a totally different place.  I had gotten a lot more immersed in natural family living culture...I was into cloth diapers, baby-wearing..the whole she-bang.  So, I had definitely come across the idea of homebirth and it was always portrayed in a positive light.  Since my first birth went off just fine, I decided to try it.  Our insurance at that time was such that it was almost as cheap to pay a homebirth midwife out of pocket as it was to pay the 20% co-insurance for the hospital birth.  We hired a homebirth midwife (the first one I interviewed and I honestly had no idea about checking credentials.).  I was with her until around 25 weeks pregnant, when we moved from TN to NH because Ben got a new job. Well, his new job had fantastic benefits, everything was covered at 100%, so we couldn't justify paying out of pocket for a homebirth midwife when the hospital was free.  So, instead we found an OB (a big teddy bear of a guy) and "hired" a doula (actually she worked for free, because she was in training).   Again, the pregnancy was smooth and problem-free.

I  went into labor all on my own at 38.5 weeks. Labor started with my water breaking, but contractions started on their own a few hours later.  We went to the hospital way too early again, but still everything was fine and I gave birth to 7 lb 14 oz. Greta after about 10 minutes of pushing.  Totally natural childbirth.
She wasn't too pretty when she first came out due to all the brusing and she ended up back in the hospital with jaundice at four days old, but ultimately all went well.

When I got pregnant with John, I chose a CNM (certified nurse midwife) that practiced at a hospital 45 minutes away from our house, because I had heard fabulous things about her.  And, she was fabulous.  I had another super smooth, complication- free pregnancy.  I went into labor all on my own at 38.5 weeks.  His labor however was long and difficult and the heart monitor started picking up heart decelerations after they artificially ruptured my membranes.  He had a hard time descending down and I was pushing for a long time (probably about an hour and a half). Finally he came out, without any assistance, right about the time they started talking about doing something to pull him out.  And ultimately he was fine.  He was born sorta gray and limp at 8 lb. 1 oz, but pinked up and starting screaming right away.  The midwife said he had a shorter umbilical cord which made it harder for him to descend and caused the heart decelerations.  I gave birth to him on my hands and knees, which looking back probably wasn't the best position with a short cord.  Anyway, we went home only a day later and all was well.

When I got pregnant with Elsa, we were living in Florida while Ben was in law school and I had to be on medicaid.  There is a law in Florida that states all licensed midwives have to accept medicaid.  So...finally....a homebirth was financially accessible.  I interviewed and chose the only homebirth midwife (who was a CPM..certified professional midwife) that serviced our town.  Another completely smooth and complication free pregnancy.  I went into labor all on my own at 38 weeks (notice a pattern uterus apparently sends out the eviction notice at 38 weeks).  This was by far my easiest labor and delivery.  I wrote about it here.  I had a few minor contractions off and on all day, but it wasn't until 5:30 or so that I realized I might be in labor.  We called the midwife at 6:30, she got to our house around 7:15.  At that point, contractions were fairly intense but still 10-15 minutes apart.  At 8:40, I had to go to the bathroom (yes..*that* way) and suddenly I entered transition, with contractions basically back to back.  I was in there dealing with back to back contractions for about 10 minutes...walking through them the whole time as that was the only way I could deal with them.  Finally, I managed to come out, call Ben and the midwife for help...just as they walked into the room, my water broke, I started pushing and Elsa was born 2 pushes later (6 lb, 15 oz.) just before 9 PM.  Totally healthy and fine. I almost felt like I hadn't had a baby.  I kept looking at her and thinking where did you come from, because her birth was so fast, and so much less painful and difficult than my other ones.  Oh...and she was born with a short cord as well..but this time it didn't cause any problems at all (I think because I was standing up and basically walked/stood though the whole labor and pushing part).

Despite the fact that her birth was so easy and quick...I felt really unsettled by it for some reason.  I loved giving birth at home, but I hated being home after birth.  I actually missed being in the hospital with cable TV (we don't have cable) and the ability to watch anything without a bunch of kids around. Not to mention the meals they just bring you and the nurses that are always checking on you.  I am such a Nervous Nelly about my babies when they are newborns, I am constantly checking their breathing and looking for chest retractions.  I think I would have really appreciated a professional set of eyes looking at her.  Sure, the midwife did come back about 1 1/2 days later to check on her, and obviously I could have called her if I was really worried, but it's hard to tell real worry, from just Amelia is crazy worry.  And, in fact, when Elsa was two weeks old, I took her to the ER for what I thought were chest retractions.  The doctors were all....she's fine, that's normal, those aren't retractions.  So, I don't always trust my worry radar.

Anyway,  after Elsa's birth, I spent a lot of time reading up on homebirth and thinking about if I would do it again.  We would like to have at least 1 or 2 more children, so it may come up in the future.  And, I'm pretty sure the answer is no.  No, I wouldn't.  If/when we are blessed with another child, I think I would go the hospital route.  Hopefully with a good CNM, because I really did love the midwife experience I had with John, but I also appreciate that if there is an emergency, you are already are in the hospital.

Anyway, here are the reasons why I wouldn't have another homebirth, even though the one I had was basically fantastic.

I don't really think my midwife was all that qualified.  From what I understand, the CPM (certified professional midwife, which is different from the CNM (certified nurse midwife credential) isn't that riguous of a program.  You don't need to have a degree in anything medical.  When I interviewed my midwife, she told us that she had attended about 450 births with 2 infant deaths. The first death was an infant that died in early labor for no explained reason.  The second death was a baby that died at 7 days old from an undiagnosed heart condition. When I heard about those, I blew them off...thinking, oh, those could happen in the hospital too.   It wasn't until I started thinking more critically about homebirth (after Elsa was born) that I realized maybe those infants *could* have been saved if they had been born in a hospital.  Maybe the baby with the heart condition could have had that picked up on earlier, and received life-saving treatment or surgery in the first few days after birth? Newborns are tricky.  It's easy to tell if my older kids are sick or can see if they are acting normally, playing normally, eating normally, etc.   Newborns are harder...they sleep all the time, they make funny noises, they cry a lot.  I can see how it would easy for parents to miss respiratory distress or other problems in a newborn.

And, the first baby, the one that died during early labor.  I have no idea what happened there. I have no idea how may weeks she was.  Who knows if the mom had undiagnosed diabetes or pre-eclampisa or something else?  Maybe there was nothing that could have been done to prevent it.  I don't know, but I will say that my midwife was not rigorous in testing.  She did take my blood pressure every visit (and during labor). However,  I had the diabetes *test* at 23 weeks pregnant (4-5 weeks earlier than it is usually done) and the test consisted of nothing more than a finger prick to test blood sugar after I ate *my normal breakfast* (which is not high in carbs or sugar). No glucose tolerance test or anything.  Now, clearly, since I gave birth to a 6 lb baby, *I* didn't have gestational diabetes, but her "testing" for it was fairly atypical and I'm not even sure it was all that accurate, because it was done so early.

Now, maybe those babies still would have died if the mother had given birth in the hospital.  I have no idea..this is all pure speculation.  And, maybe other midwifes are more qualified, I'm sure many are. However, I do think there is a problem with the CPM credential as a whole.  It's just not nearly as regulated or rigorous of the education of a CNM.  In Florida, where I had Elsa, midwives are licensed and regulated and they carry malpractice insurance.  Even with that, I feel as though my midwife did not have as much experience, with only seeing 450 births in 14 years of practice, considering that a midwife or OB working in a hospital could easily see that many births in a year.

While it's rare, there are babies that have died at homebirth that could have been saved if they were in the hospital.  It's tragic and sad, but it does happen.  Not all that often,  Most of the time things go just fine (as my homebirth did).  But, it can and does happen and I don't know that I could live with myself if it were to happen to me.   When I was thinking about homebirth with Elsa, I read an article saying that there were really only two emergencies that are dangerous and where the mom would be better off in a hospital (placental abruption and pulmonary embolism). However, I think there are more emergencies than that (ie. shoulder dystocia, meconium, cord accidents).  When I was deciding on a homebirth, my thinking basically went like this.  I'm weighing the small chance of a life-threatening emergency happening against the large chance of unnecessary interventions.  Except that I don't think the chance of a life-threatening emergency is as small as I had previously thought.  Still small...but not as small.  And, ultimately, I'd rather have a c-section that was unnecessary than have needed one and not have it available.  To be perfectly blunt, a dead baby is way, way worse than an unnecessary c-section. And, to be totally fair, if I'm counting on my history of super low risk pregnancies and births to make a homebirth safer than I have to count on it making a hospital birth smoother and less likely I would have any unnecessary interventions.  After all, I've managed to have three babies in the hopsital without ever being induced, put on pitocin, getting an epidural, or having a c-section,   And, even if those do happen, it's not all that terrible in the grand scheme of things.  Not to belittle anyone who felt traumatized in the hopsital by having those things done, I'm just trying to explain *my* thought process here

I liked being in the hospital after birth.  I really did.  I liked that time to relax (without other kids around) and having a professional set of eyes looking at the baby.  By the second day, I was more than ready to go home, but I always really enjoyed that first day, with lots of good food and cable TV.

My decision to homebirth was based on fear.  Fear is generally not a good way to make a decision.  A big part of my decision is that we didn't have anyone to watch our other kids without imposing on friends, so it was easier to just stay home.  Plus, being on medicaid, I was worried about being treated poorly in the hospital.  That sounds silly, but I was worried about being looked own upon, or hassled because I was on medicaid.   Plus, I  had a fear of hospitals. We had a bad experience at the ER with my husband about a year prior...I felt like the hospital was all oh, just leave your brain here at the door when you walk in. You won't need to think anymore, we'll do all your thinking for you and do whatever we want to you and you don't get any say and then we're charge you an arm and a leg for it.  I don't like that.  But that's not necessarily a reason to avoid the hospital...just a reason to be more assertive and ask more questions.

If I were to homebirth again, would everything go fine? More likely than not..yes.  I've always had healthy, smooth pregnancies. I have smaller babies. I go into labor spontaneously at 38 weeks.  It seems fairly unlikely that I would suddenly have a big baby with shoulder dsytocia that waited until 42 weeks to come out, when all my other babies were small-avg. and born at 38 weeks.   But, you never know and I am now considered "advanced maternal age".   Plus, one thing I've learned is to never take good health for granted.  I've never been GBS+, I've never had meconium, never had pre-eclampsia or diabetes or any other issues..but that's not to say that those things coudln't happen in the future.

However, If an emergency were to happen..things would not go smoothly.  My midwife couldn't work at a hospital, I'd get stuck with some random doctor.  And, it would be an emergency..which is never good.  They'd have to do all the paperwork and intake. I would hate to transfer.  It just sounds like a nightmare.  Worst of all, it just might not be *soon enough" to avoid tragedy. However, if an emergency were to happen and I already was at the hospital, I think it would be less traumatic, a better experience and quite possibly a better outcome.

The experience of birth doesn't mean all that much to me.  I choose natural childbirth because I hate drugs and I hate the way they make me feel.  I really do.   When I had my wisdom teeth taken out, I thought the nausea and drowsiness and loopiness of the pain medication they gave me was worse than the pain of the teeth.  And, I've had similar experiences with other pain relieving drugs.  Most of the time, I'd rather have the pain and not deal with drug side effects.   I found my homebirth to be the easier and least painful of all my births, but not the most meaningful.  I didn't find it "empowering".  I actually found it unsettling, I seriously felt like Elsa just fell out of me and I barely did anything.  My most "empowering" birth was my third...the difficult one with John at the hospital.  That was hard and long and painful and I felt like I had run a marathon after it was over.  I'm still a big fan of natural childbirth *for me", I realize it's not for everyone.  But, I personally prefer to just deal with the pain than deal with the drugs and side effects.

Do I regret my homebirth? Obviously not.  Everything went fine, and I feel like I learned a lot from it.  I learned why I want to be a hospital next time, and I learned what *I* need to do to have a smooth and easy labor (lots of walking around and moving through contractions and standing during pushing).

Do I think homebirth should be made illegal? No! I can definitely understand the desire to birth at home, surrounded by familiar surroundings.  Birth DOES go best when the mom is comfortable and feels safe.  And, I definitely think a big part of the reason that homebirth was so fast and easy is that I was in safe, comfortable surroundings and didn't have to move in the niddle of labor.   However, I do think there needs to be reform.  I think it should be better regulated, I think the CPM credential needs to have a more rigorous educational training associated with it and I do think moms who choose homebirth should fully understand thte risks involved.  I think there needs to be better cooperation between homebirth midwives and hospitals and OB's.  I certainly didn't fully understand the risks involved in homebirth the first time I chose it (with Greta, where were ended up switching to OB and hospital birth anyway).  I don't think midwives should work alone. I think it's safer to have two professionals at a birth. I also think there needs to be hospital reform, so hospitals are more amenable to moms who choose natural childbirth.  A big part of the reason I chose homebirth with Elsa is because we lived in an area where the hospitals were notoriously unfriendly towards natural childbirth.  Most importantly I think there needs to be more frank discussion of the risks and benefits of any birth location.  I didn't feel like I was properly informed of the risks and benefits of homebirth, nor of the risks and benefits of certain procedures (like artifical rupture of the membranes) in the hospital.   I'm thankful that I never had a bad hospital experience, and I'm thankful that I never had a bad homebirth experience.

Birth is a touchy and personal subject and I DO think the birth experience matters.  But, ultimately safety matters as well.  This is why *for me* I would likely choose the hospital should we be blessed with another baby. I guess you could say I've come full circle on this matter, although I no longer think people who choose homebirth are crazy.  I totaly get it.  I just don't think I would choose it again.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

What I Wore Sunday and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Hope everyone is having a better weekend than we are.  On Friday night (of course these things always happen on Friday night), our hot water stopped working, the dishwasher stopped working and the kitchen sink won't all.  So, I have to wash our dishes in cold water and then empty the water out the side door.  Fun times, I tell you.  Can't wait until Monday when hopefully the property management people will get back to us and get someone out here to fix everything! 

Not to make this post all a downer, here is what I wore today. 

The shirt is from Spiegel (formerly knwon as Newport News)

The skirt is Old Navy.

Boots are from Amazon.

I love the sleek look of all black (except the boots) but for some reason I don't usually wear it.  This outfit probably could have been improved with some sort of belt or scarf, but I didn't think of that.

Elsa is being held so she doesn't destroy my little garden.  I planted lettuce and Swiss chard.  We transplanted containers of basil, lemon balm and chamomile that we had started indoors.  And I generously gave the girls 1/2 of a container to plant a "butterfly garden" which is was part of their Botany school project. 

I had extra potting mix and extra soil, so I filled up two cardboard boxes, wedged them in between those grow boxes and planted even more lettuce.  Yes...I really like lettuce.  I had read on the Internet that you can use sturdy cardboard to grow things, although obviously they only last one season.    So...we'll see how it goes.  I'm hoping that by the end of May we have a plethora of lettuce 


And, now for your weekly Chesterton.

Good reminder to keep our eyes on the heavenly goal!

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Why is Dirt so Expensive and Other Quick Takes about Stuff.


I have a bunch of grow boxes. I got them three years when we lived in Florida and used them to grow a few vegetables on the sidewalk outside our tiny little house.

I'm trying to decide if I want to invest the money to buy the dirt (potting mix) to put in them.  Especially since we will most likely NOT be living in this house next spring, which means we will have moved, which means I'm not moving a bunch of dirt, which means I'll only be able to use the dirt for one season.  And, while they do produce well, it's not like I don't still have to buy vegetables. I do.  They don't produce enough to 100% keep our family supplied with organic vegetables and sometimes I wonder if they even produce enough to make the dirt worth it. 

On the other hand, Heidi and Greta are studying Botany this year for science, which means I *HAVE* to use them or they might just take away my homeschooling license. 

So, I'm probably buying dirt and seeds (and a really, really, really long hose, to reach the one corner of the yard that actually gets some sun) this weekend. 


March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day, and in honor of my first cousin once removed who was just born with down syndrome two weeks ago, I'm sharing this video.  For those of you not in the know of cousin-speak, my first cousin once removed is my cousin's child.  The once-removed means that we are in a different generation.  However, little Gabriel (along with his sister and brothers and his first cousins) is my children's second cousin, because they share a set of great grandparents.  You are welcome for that little genealogy lesson. 


In that same vein, I'm sharing this post from my friend, Jacqueline, who we were lucky enough to know while Ben was in law school.   This really is an excellent post and I think you should all read it.


So a little over a month after I posted how I'm a fan of early potty-training, we finally have reached some sort of success with 18-month old Elsa.  She will reliably sit on the potty and produce on a regular basis, both at home and when out in public and she "tells" me when she has to go.   She's still not out of diapers yet, but I figure taking her to the potty isn't any more work than changing diapers, and now I have way less cloth diapers to wash.  Note, it did take a month to get to this point.


Speaking of potty stuff....I really loved this post from Sole Searching Mama.  Can you spare a square. Revelations that Result When the Toilet Paper Runs Out.  Probably because I'm always running out of toilet paper.  Actually, she has some really good insights.


I also really loved this post from Molly about the holidays and  that Huffington Post piece.


I amostly liked this article about modesty.  I'm trying to decide if I want to get my thoughts together to actually write a post, but I'm not a huge fan of the whole "modesty movement." Not that I think people should be dressing provocatively but not dressing provocatively is not the same thing as meeting some arbitrary standard of "modesty."  Perhaps I shall try to get my thoughts together on it.

Go see Jen for more quick takes.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

WWRW: The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning

So, I'm sure a lot of you have already read about Simcha Fisher's book, The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning.   But, I'm always months (or years) behind the trend so....

I've been wanting to read this book for awhile, but never got around to buying it until Simcha lowered the price on Amazon by two dollars, for one day only.  Yes, that two dollar discount was enough to motivate me to snatch this puppy up.  I won't pay $4.99, but I will pay $2.99. 

And, I'm ever so glad I did. 

While, the book is called The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning, in many ways I think it should be called The Sinner's Guide to Marriage.  Yes, it does talk a lot about NFP and the unique struggles that entails, but it also have some great advice which would apply to all marriages, whether they use NFP or not. 

Honestly, I don't really struggle with NFP and I can't really relate to a lot of the complaints people have about how hard NFP is.  That particular struggle does not happen to be my struggle (don't worry, I have plenty of other struggles).

That said, I still got A LOT out of this book and greatly enjoyed reading it. The book is funny and refreshingly candid.  So many other Catholic books tend to be all flowery and poetic when it comes to sex. Not, this book. I love the way she talks about sex in a practical, no-nonsense, honest, but never vulgar way. 

Simcha has a lot of great suggestions about communication, marital intimacy and just general insights into better understanding and loving your spouse.  I think a lot of Catholic couples would get a lot out of this book, whether they struggle with NFP or not.   I know I did, and I think you will too. You should read it, even if you do have to pay $4.99, it's worth it.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Best Oven-Baked Fish Nuggets (Gluten Free)

We pretty much only eat fish during Lent.  Not because we eat meat every single day the rest of the year, but because there are always really good seafood sales during Lent, so that is pretty much the only time that we eat it. 

I've been wanting to come up with a really yummy, delicious, "fried-fish/fish nugget/fish stick" type recipe without actually having to fry anything.  Because I don't fry things. 

The other day, I came up with a winner of a recipe!  Soft, moist, flaky on the inside and crispy and flavorful on the outside.  Just delicious!!  And, they are gluten-free!!

The Best, Gluten-Free Oven-Baked Fish Nuggets

2 pounds swai (you could probably use another type of fish, like whitefish, tilapia, etc)

1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
paprika to taste
pepper to taste

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup milk

Combine dry ingredients for breading.

Combine milk and mayonnaise.

Cute fish into small strips or nuggets.

Dip each strip or nugget into milk mixture.

Coat with breading

Place on greased cookie sheet and spray tops of fish with olive oil.

Bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until fish is cooked through and topping is crispy.  Be careful that you don't overcook the fish and dry them out.  

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Chesterton, St. Patrick's Day and What I Wore Sunday

Thank you all so much for your super kind comments on last week's What I Wore Sunday post.  It was kinda a scary post for me to write, so I really appreciated all the support and kind words and encouragement!  You guys are the best!!!
Here's what I wore today!  It's getting to be the end of sweater and boots season, so I'm trying to wear them as much as possible.  I know everyone else is super eager for spring, but after living n FL for three years and never getting to wear sweaters or boots, I'm sorta enjoying it.  Plus, it's not super cold here...I feel for those of you who still have snow on the ground.

Yes Elsa is wearing a Patriots cheerleader dress during basketball season, even though my husbands hates the Patriots (he's a Manning guy) and I hate football.  You figure it out, because I can't. 
Now, for your (sorta) weekly Chesterton hosted by Sarah.  In honor of St. Patrick's Day tomorrow, I decided to go with this quote. 

 Ain't that the truth?  It's so easy *after* something happens to be all "oh, I saw that coming."  Anyone can do that. I do it all the time, and I'm not even Irish.  I used to pride myself on having pregdar.  As in pregnancy radar, as in whenever a friend announced that they were pregnant, I was all I knew it, before you said anything.   When in reality, I was just looking back at previous signs and thinking Oh, so that's why Sally Sue was munching on snacks in the middle of coop.  It must have been to ward off morning sickness. 

And, what about all those times the phone rings, and I'm all I know who that is, it's x person.  And, then when it is x person, I'm all ahha, I knew it, I must be psychic.  Conveniently I tend to forget all the times I'm sure the phone is x person and it's someone totally else.

Anyway...those are my not so deep thoughts on that Chesterton Quote.

Happy St. Patrick's Day tomorrow!

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Friday, March 14, 2014

The Trials and Tribulations of Toddlerhood

Hello!  This is Elsa here.  

I just had my 18-month birthday on Tuesday, but do you think my family made me a birthday cake or celebrated?. Noooooooooo.  Apparently, we don't celebrate half-birthdays around here.  What meanies. 

Anyway, on Wednesday, I was lying on my mama's lap getting my morning nana (sometimes I call them nursies, but whatever you call it, it sure is yummy and I'm never, ever, ever, ever gonna wean) when I happened to look over at mommy's laptop and saw that she was reading a post written by a little boy, named Frankie.  Well, that got me thinking.  If a BOY can blog, I can too, so I decided that I better get started on this blogging thing myself.  My two older sisters, Heidi and Greta, have their very own blogs, but their blogs are private, so only Grandma and a few other people get to read them.  EVERYONE gets to read this blog post, so I'm going to be FAMOUS. I can't wait. 

So, for my very first blog post, I'm going to tell you all about how hard my life is.  Because, it's not easy being a toddler.  Oh no, no, no.  Everything thinks it's all sippy cups and stroller rides, but I have a tough life I tell ya.  Here are 7 trials I have to suffer on a daily basis (and cause I want to be super famous, I'm going to link up with Mrs. Jennifer for her 7 Quick Takes Friday)


My big brother and sisters are always, always, always, always, playing this game.  

And, they never, ever, ever, ever let me play. It's not fair.  Every time I try to play, they pick me up and carry me away.  Every time they do that I screech...just to let them know how displeased I am.  I don't get why I can't play too. All they do is move pieces around the board. I can do that.  I can even throw pieces off my board.  I bet I can throw my pieces farther than anyone else.


I'm too short.  Which means, I can't get whatever I want or need.  Everyone else just gets them self a snack or a toy or a drink of water whenever they want.  But, I can't reach.  So, I have to climb to get everything.  And, then I get in trouble.  

But, I just give them this look, so they know I'm really innocent.  Fools them every time. 


My brother and sisters spend their time doing something weird called school.  They complain about it a lot, but I think it looks super, super fun.  They get to write in books.  It looks like so much fun.  But, if I try to do it, they just take the books and pen away from me.  So, not fair. 

This was supposed to be my big brother, John's page, but I did it for him.  No one appreciated my hard work.


I can't talk, sure I can say a few words (mama, daddy, nana, Heidi, hot, Greta, my, ice, uh-oh, bye-bye), but I can't talk in sentences yet. Good thing I can type though.  It's super frustrating not being able to talk. In fact, it's so frustrating, I can't quite articulate just how difficult it is (Aren't you impressed that I know a super big word like articulate? My daddy uses big words all the time, so that's how I learn them). Not being able to talk is just so difficult. I get so frustrated, I just have to scream sometimes and arch my back.  I hope I learn to talk more soon, I have so many important things to say.


I'm always getting strapped down...into my high chair, into my carseat,  into my stroller.  And, you know what's so annoying about that.  I CAN'T GET OUT WHEN I WANT TO. 

Sometimes I like being in there...but when I want to get out and can't because I'm strapped down.  Well, what's a girl to do, other than scream?.  I have to exercise my vocal cords somehow.  Plus, I want to make sure EVERYONE knows how displeased I am and that I need to be let out IMMEDIATELY.  Isn't being strapped down considered torture or something??


No one appreciates my home decorating skills.  They just get frustrated and mad at me.  But, I think those books look better all over the floor, don't you?


Everyone is always laughing at me.   Cause sometimes I look like this.

Or make faces like this,

Or look like this.

And, they just laugh at me. I don't get it.  I'm not trying to be funny.  Sometimes I just can't help being a messy eater. I hope you now understand just how hard and difficult my life is.  Maybe I'll start to get a little more sympathy around here.   

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What's the Answer to Dyscalculia?

Math. It's the bane of my homeschooling existence.  Which is sorta odd, because I was just nerdy enough to be on the math team in high school.  Yes, I really was. 

Yet, in doing research on dyscalculia (learning disability in math), because I think one of my children may have a have mild form of it, I discovered that I too may have a mild form of it.  I was able to compensate and I did just fine with higher math.  In fact, oddly enough, I found calculus to be easier than long division.  I still struggle with things like making change, calculating discounts, directions, motor sequencing, and puzzles. Yet I can do calculus just fine. My teachers all thought I was super good at math, because I could get A's in geometry and trigonometry and calculus...yet I struggle to figure out the change you get for something that cost $8.23 from $10.00. You figure it out.  Actually I think it makes sense in a way, because higher math requires a different set of skills and thinking processes than arithmetic.  

All that to say that I'm finding teaching 6th grade math to be a challenge. I feel I'm learning right along with my daughter.  Sometimes I have to think for a minute or two, before I am able to explain something to her. And, sometimes we have to look up videos on Khan academy.  Teaching math has actually improved my math skills quite a bit.  I can now figure out change in my head (albeit slowly, but I can do it.)

Some people may not agree with labels, like dyscalculia, dyslexia, etc, but I find them useful.  It's much kinder and more helpful to think that a person has dyscalculia (even if it's mild) than to think that they are lazy or stupid or just not trying hard enough.  And, then once you realize there may be a problem, you can look for alternative ways to help them succeed.  

Math instructional videos on Khan Academy have actually helped us quite a bit.  I'm hoping to find a few more methods or tricks that might help us as well.  

I took this photo with the page up to the window.  You can see the writing on the back through the paper.  I think it gives a neat effect. 

Looks like someone needs to learn how to spell "quarter"
 And, this are my photos for theme thursday, answer
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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Definitive Guide As to What to Keep and What to Give Away when it Comes to Baby/Kid Clothes

Are you doing the 40 bags in 40 days challenge?  Me neither...but I am doing a simplified version of it and focusing on de-cluttering this Lent.  I like to get rid of stuff and keep my house nice and uncluttered.   Or at least uncluttered...the nice part is highly questionable.  

Do you ever grapple with what to keep and what to get rid of when it comes to baby/kid clothes?  I do. 

Maybe you're planning on having more children or hoping to have more and you don't know what you should keep and what you should get rid of.   

Maybe you're struggling financially or on a tight budget and don't want to get rid of something only to have to buy it again.  I am too.  

Maybe at the same time, you don't have room to store a bunch of stuff. Or you will be moving and need to de-clutter.  Me too!

And maybe you know someone who could really use those clothes.  You neighbor who's having a baby or someone from your church or your sister or that mom in playgroup.   There's definitely virtue in passing things on to someone who can use it, rather then letting it languish in boxes. 

What you keep and what you get rid depends on your family.  But, in my 12 years of parenting with 4 kids,  here is my definitive guide of what I found makes the most sense to keep or get rid of.  


-Anything you already have that a child that will wear within 2-3 years.  I refuse to keep clothes longer than 2-3 years, so unless I have a child that can wear it within the next 2-3 years, I get rid of it.   So, if you have 2 girls that are 8 years apart, get rid of all the clothes as the older one outgrows it.  No need to hang onto stuff for 8 years, that's just crazy.   

There are a few exceptions of things I keep longer than that.  Those are

-bathing suits 
-rash guard shirts

These are items you typically need and are harder to find in thrift stores and hand-me-downs.  Especially the rash guard shirts....I like my kids to wear them for sun protection at the beach and pool and they aren't easy to find on the cheap. 

Dress Clothing 
-dress shoes 
-dress clothes

Not a bunch of these, just one or two outfits.  Just because these aren't as easily found in thrift stores or as hand-me-downs.  It would be a shame to spend money on a beautiful Easter dress when you already had one. 

Uniform Type Clothing
-white shirts (polo and button-down)
-black/navy/tan pants 
-black/navy/tan skirts

This is most important for kids once they reach age 4 or 5 or so.  There have been numerous activities my kids have been part of where they want everyone to wear a white shirt and black/blue/tan pants or skirt.  So,  I keep these because you never know when you might need them. 

Any Outfit you Really, Really Love

-Just because you really love it.  I do have a few outfits that all 3 of my girls have worn, even though there is 8 years between Greta and Elsa. I cherish those outfits..but there are only a very few of them.


-you always need socks

Warm Weather Clothes (especially that which is gender-neutral)

-coats/jackets/snow gear
-winter boots
-warm, fleece pajamas

Again, because this stuff can be harder to find (especially if you live in an area where it snows only occasionally), is more expensive and in a pinch you can always fudge on boy/girl stuff and let anyone wear anything.  That way you have those snow pants and hats and mittens when you need them.

Cloth Diapers
-if you use them, they are definitely worth keeping.  

Get Rid Of:

Basically, just get rid of regular, every-day clothes.  They are easy and inexpensive to acquire and typically get handed down, so someone may very well just hand you a big bag of clothes before your next baby comes along anyway.

This includes




-play dresses

-cheap clothing

-anything Carter's 

In my experience, Carter's clothes just don't store well.  They are super prone to baby stains and age stains and just aren't worth saving. 

-nothing special everyday clothes


-any baby clothes which are highly seasonal and gender specific.  

Assuming you don't have another baby on the way and don't know if you will need these again, get rid of baby clothes which are highly seasonal and gender specific.  Babies outgrow clothes really fast, and in order to use that super cute, newborn sized sun dress, not only would your next baby have to be a girl but she would have to be born in the summer.  It's been a looooong time since I took statistics, so someone correct me if I'm wrong please, but there is a 50% chance your next baby will be the same gender and a 25% chance they will be born in the same season as your last baby, so that means there is only a 12.5% chance you would use that item again within the next 2-3 years.  Get rid of it.  Unless you live in FL and it's summer all year long.  Then consider saving it.

When in doubt....get rid of it.  I've kept way too much stuff over the years and most of it, we actually didn't use again, either because I forgot we had it, or it was packed in the wrong box with the wrong size/wrong season. Better to pass it on to someone who could actually use it.  Over the years, I've had to buy very few things,  (mostly thanks to friends who are more than generous with hand-me-downs) and I discovered that for most regular clothes, it's just not worth it to keep them.  So what are you waiting for?  Go start getting rid of some stuff!

What have you found makes the most sense to keep or get rid of?  

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

How posting What I Wore Each Sunday Healed Me

It's my one-year anniversary of posting What I Wore Sunday.  I think that's party worthy, don't you?
Ice cream all around (hey, it's Sunday...feasting time)!

There are 46 pictures here, so I've only missed a few weeks over the last year. 

And, here's today's picture. 

On my very first post. I wrote that it was an exercise in humility for me.  And, it was.  It still is. 

Many times I've wondered why I continue to post What I Wore Sunday.   I'm not a fashion blogger. And, I'm certainly not all that fashionable. You probably shouldn't get any fashion inspiration from me. 

A year ago, when I started posting WIWS, Elsa was not quite 6 months old.  I don't know about you, but it always takes me a long time to lose excess baby weight.  Longer than 6 months anyway.  I'm in the 8-months on, 12-months off club...except I gain very little in the first trimester so it's more like the 6-months on, 12-months off club. 

So, at only 6 months after giving birth, I wasn't in love with my body. In fact, prior to that point, I usually avoided being photographed.  I'd look at pictures of myself and cringe...just cringe.  I HATE baptism photos especially, because I certainly don't look good at only a few weeks postpartum.

So, I'm not really sure why I decided to start posting WIWS, but I know why I continued. 

Getting my picture taken week after week and posting it on the Internet changed me. 

It changed me profoundly. 

That sounds dramatic, but it's true. 

It helped me see myself in a more objective manner. 

It inspired me to put more effort into my appearance.  It inspired me to dress nicer, to find more flattering clothes, to wear more make-up and to put forth more effort. 

But, most of all, it helped me love and accept my body more.  To love and accept it the way it is, right now, not the way I want it to be, or the way it used to be, but the way it is. 

Whenever I would get down about my appearance, I'd always think at least I can still rock a WIWS post. 

Many years ago, when I was in college and graduate school, I struggled with disordered eating...maybe not quite a full blown eating disorder, but bad enough. I was skinny back then, too skinny for my body type really.  I went 18 months without any menstruation, because I was too thin...except I wasn't by most standards. I was still considered a normal, healthy weight for my height.  But for me, for my body, it was too thin, so thin that my reproductive system ceased to function.

This was over 15 years ago. I've been basically fine for the last 12 years. Except that tiny, tiny part of me that wasn't....that tiny part that still had those negative voices. The tiny, tiny part that still has vestiges of occasional disordered eating.  I was mostly healed, mostly fine...except the tiny part that wasn't. 

Until I started taking full body pictures of myself every week and posting them on the Internet.  And then, I finally healed.   Because somehow in the process of taking pictures of myself every week and posting them on the Internet for all 25 of my readers to see, I finally learned to love and accept my body as it is. 

 I finally was able to see myself as a beautiful woman.

I was finally able to heal.

It's not about the clothes...not really.  Although, I do appreciate the motivation to dress a bit nicer for Mass, especially when we lived in a place where shorts and flip flops were not uncommon Mass attire. 

It's about me...learning to love and accept myself...and I'm sharing my journey with all of you. 

So, this is my message to you.

No matter what you look like, no matter what you weigh, no matter how many wrinkles or gray hairs, stop hiding from the camera.  Stop cringing at photos. 

Take your picture...and share it with others.  Your friends and family want to see you, YOU.  They want to see you as you are, because that is who they love. Wear rocking clothes that make you feel good about yourself.  Exercise because it makes you strong and eat healthy because it makes you feel good.   And, stop hiding from the camera.  Because, you are beautiful.

(Linking up with FLAP). 

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