28 April 2015

Rioting in Baltimore

There are a couple fellow bloggers/blog readers who stop by here on occasion who live in Baltimore and its environs; if you are that person, know that I'm praying for your safety.

I don't know if it's national news (I'm local enough that it's been dominating my news), but there are riots happening right now in Baltimore following the death in custody of a 25-year-old named Freddie Gray. Gray was arrested for carrying a switchblade; at some point during his transportation to incarceration, he suffered a serious spinal injury. He doesn't seem to have been given timely medical attention, and as a consequence, he passed away.

And now Baltimore is ablaze, literally.

It's not clear quite what happened to Freddie Gray. It seems to be undisputed that he wasn't buckled into the transport van, but I don't see how that can cause, as his family alleges, his spine to be 80% severed at the neck. It's certainly possible that Freddie's cause of death was some form of police brutality, but we don't know what happened to him.

Meanwhile, since I live in the Northeast corridor, Facebook is rife with opinions. They range from the simple and poignant: "Prayers for Baltimore," to the vitriolic: either "The rioters are animals," or "Anyone who would call the rioters 'animals' is an animal."

As always, I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Certainly there is something to be said for making an effort to understand. I don't know what it's like to be a young black man in a majority-black, economically declining city like Baltimore. I also don't know what it's like to be a police officer in Baltimore, on the other end of the kind of interactions that cause mistrust on both sides, and charged with keeping the peace.


There is never any excuse for the kind of rioting happening in Baltimore right now. Rioters looted and torched a CVS drugstore, and then punctured the firehose so that the blaze couldn't be put out. Explain to me how CVS is responsible for what happened to Freddie Gray. A store run by Chinese immigrants was completely wiped out. Innocent people are losing property and they're being made unsafe because all the police in the city are otherwise occupied.

After the death of Michael Brown in August 2014 in Missouri, Ferguson experienced weeks upon weeks of this kind of unrest. It is widely accepted that it only died down because the weather got to be too inhospitable. Unfortunately for Baltimore, protest weather is just ramping up.

I have to withhold judgment on what happened to Freddie Gray in Baltimore. But I do not have to withhold judgment of indiscriminate destruction. 

26 April 2015

Four Reasons Why Early Teething is THE WORST.

Early teething suh-huuuuuucks. I've been through this before; Keira had ELEVEN teeth on her first birthday. I'm enjoying it no more the second time around.

My son will be four months old tomorrow. He has already been teething for weeks. Here's why it sucks:

1) He can't have Advil yet (two more months!), and as I'm sure the formerly-pregnant remember, Tylenol is a cruel joke on the pain-having community. It. Is. Worthless.

2) He, like all other babies his age, isn't even close to having the coordination to hold his own teether.

3) He's going to have a couple of razors in his gums e'er long. Waaaay too early. By which I mean: long before I have any hope of convincing him not to bite me while nursing.

4) His sleep has gone to crap.

I guess #4 is true of babies teething at any age. Poor little boy, and poor us!

24 April 2015

Seven Quick Takes - April 24, 2015

These Quick Takes are in no particular order. They're up and down from important to trivial and back again.

1. It is almost May in Virginia and when my two-year-old walked out the door this morning, the first thing she said, while her hair blew back from her sweet little toddler face, was, "Ohhh it is COLD out here." Seriously, VA, what's up. Dwija's Instagram has been making me jealous, and she lives IN MICHIGAN.

2. Grey's Anatomy hit the airwaves at some point while I was in college. I graduated in 2005; I'm not going to look up when it actually debuted because I don't care that much, but I distinctly recall watching with my roommates. I quit watching a couple of years later, I think around the time Kate Walsh went to that terrible spin-off I cannot recall the name of, that I quit immediately because holy manufactured drama, Batman (and then I was mad I'd ever watched any of it when I found out how radically pro-abortion Kate Walsh is). Aaaaaanyway: I haven't thought about Grey's in years, but this morning my Facebook had exploded with ridiculousness because SPOILER ALERT, they killed off McDreamy. I saw at least two people declare that they needed to take bereavement time from work today, and three separate people said they were sitting shiva.

It made me laugh, and then it made me so relieved that I'm completely divested from Shondaland. I hope that all those people can see their way clear to get a life soon.

3. This is National Infertility Awareness Week. I wrote about my experience with infertility here.

4. We finally shuffled the furniture around so that little man would have a real place to sleep. He hadn't been doing so great in the Rock 'n Play anymore because he weighs like 20 lbs at almost four months and every time he moved the thing creaked and the creaking would wake him up. So two weeks ago we transitioned Keira to a big-girl bed...

And then yesterday we finally had the time to move the guest bed out of my office and move the crib from Keira's room into the office so that Declan could have the crib.

It was all very, very promising. And then Declan, my good sleeper, slept like crap. I'm hoping it's just the transition, and the fact that we haven't hung the blackout curtain yet, and the fact that I need to put electrical tape over the 1,000 bright little LEDs on my office equipment, and he'll be back to sleeping like a champion again soon. This week has been challenging.

5. I'm expecting a new little niece or nephew any minute. Please say a quick prayer for my sister-in-law, so that she has a quick and uneventful delivery of little Tanner or Bryn (unless they change their minds about the names).

6. This week, a judge ruled that Sherri Shepherd is, in fact, the mother of the child she and her husband commissioned from a surrogate. ("Commissioned" is the most accurate term. The baby boy is biologically the child of Shepherd's ex-husband and a donor, but Shepherd was complicit in the ordering of a child as if children are custom couches instead of unique and precious gifts from God.) This makes me so disgusted. Please say another prayer for that poor baby, who's going to grow up someday and find out that his father had to go to court to force his mother to be his mother.

7. I think I found a new favorite meal. I had made this kielbasa and potatoes recipe for dinner a couple of nights ago. It's the non-soup version of this Crock-Pot potato and kielbasa chowder, which I LOVE and my husband loves less, because he's not into soup (i.e. he's a crazy person). We had a ton of leftovers because 5 large potatoes and a pound of kielbasa makes a lot of food -- plus we obviously had to have a vegetable on the side so I couldn't just totally fill our plates with it like I'd have wanted if I didn't have to be concerned about our health. Stupid health. It occurred to me that the leftovers would be perfect for breakfast with eggs. Specifically soft-boiled eggs. But I'd never made soft-boiled eggs before and I struggle out of all proportion with hard-boiled eggs and soft-boiled seemed even harder. So I hopped on Pinterest and found a tutorial that was perfect. And easy. And when I opened up the perfectly soft-boiled egg and the yolk ran down into my potatoes and kielbasa...

I may have cried. With deliciousness.


Thanks to Kelly for hosting!

22 April 2015

Infertility Awareness Week

Soooo... I've never gone into much detail in this space on my struggles with infertility. I have (finally!) been blessed with two gorgeous children, and hopefully there will be more, but they were years in arriving. So buckle up, here comes all the nitty-gritty.

Michael and I were married in October of 2008. A couple of days after we got back from our honeymoon, I realized my period was overdue and we went to CVS to buy a pregnancy test.

{I'm not going to go into details about the fight we had in the car about my husband's reaction to finding out I might be pregnant already. ;)}

It was the first of many, many negative tests.

My period arrived a few days later, typically keeping to no kind of schedule, and we went on with our lives. We had been married for two weeks and we were relieved that we could get used to being married before having to make such a major adjustment -- Michael especially.

It was probably seven or eight months later that I had reason to take my next pregnancy test, which was again negative. At this point I started to wonder if something was wrong; we had made absolutely no effort to avoid pregnancy -- and I knew Michael was ready now, as I had caught him eying up strollers -- and I come from a long line of endlessly, effortlessly fertile women.

I was between gynecologists. When I had last been, just prior to getting married, my doctor had asked me what I intended to "do about birth control." I told her that we were practicing Catholics and would be learning NFP. She laughed in my face and told me that with my irregular periods, "there's no way that's going to work for you." I immediately resolved never to return, but I hadn't yet found a new one. It was almost time for my yearly exam anyway, but I didn't know how to go about finding a doctor who would not laugh in the face of my deeply-held religious convictions. On a whim, I Googled "pro-life OB/GYNs" and stumbled on Tepeyac Family Center.

{I have since discovered the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which is a great resource for finding out if there's a pro-life doctor in your area.}

Founded by Dr. John Bruchalski, Tepeyac is named for the hill on which the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego. It is an entirely pro-life practice, and I immediately called for an appointment. I was unable to get an appointment with Dr. Bruchalski, who's a very busy man, so I took one with another doctor in the practice, Dr. Cvetkovich. {I mostly see Dr. Bruchalski now; he's a wonderful man. A third doctor in the practice, Dr. Pereira, happened to be on call and delivered both my babies.}

After my first appointment, I had a raft of blood tests done and was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This is when I started to get mad. The previous doctor (you know, the laugh-in-your-face secular nightmare) had done the same blood tests for PCOS (but her office had neglected to call me with the results) and had sent me for a pelvic ultrasound, which uncovered no ovarian cysts. Dr. Cvetkovich told me that the actual ovarian cysts need not exist for PCOS to exist; my bloodwork made it clear.

At this point, we still weren't necessarily trying to get pregnant. I started taking metformin, the non-birth-control-pill protocol for PCOS, in hopes of getting my hormones under control. Unfortunately, I was completely unable to tolerate it. It was months before I was ready to admit it; nausea is a known side-effect, but it typically subsides as your body adjusts. Mine never did. I slept with a mixing bowl next to the bed in case of vomit the entire time I was on the stuff. Dr. Cvetkovich prescribed me the name-brand version, which tends to be better tolerated. When I filled it, it was $90 for a 30-day supply so I thought, "This stuff had better be a magic bullet," but if anything I felt sicker. Dr. Cvetkovich took me off of metformin. She also referred me to a doctor who would give us private instruction in the Creighton Method for NFP. {We hadn't yet learned a method because I wasn't getting pregnant and it didn't really occur to me to get that ball rolling; Dr. Cvetkovich wanted me to have charts so we could find out if I was anovulatory.}

My charts showed that I probably wasn't completely anovulatory, but that during each cycle my body was trying two and three times to ovulate before it happened.

A healthy chart usually looks something like this:

We have a period, then a handful of infertile days, followed by a week or so of fertile days, a peak day, three post-peak days, followed by another (usually consistent from one month to the next) number of infertile days. And then another period, or a pregnancy.

And mine looked more like this:

Imagine that first line starts with a menstrual period. Then we have a bunch of infertile days, dotted with the occasional maybe-fertile day, and two-to-three peak days, after which the period does not come but instead another bunch of fertile days and a peak day. Eventually a period.

At this point I had been married for more than a year, and we were starting to move from the if-we-get-pregnant-it's-fine stage to the let's-get-this-show-on-the-road stage. Since my hormones were not fixed, I began taking fertility drugs.

I took cycle after cycle of fertility drugs, but I did not get pregnant. My charts got more uniform, but I did not get pregnant. I had horrible hot flashes and routinely woke up in a puddle of my own sweat, but I did not get pregnant. I prayed and cried, but I did not get pregnant. My friends had baby after accidental next baby, but I did not get pregnant. I took a dozen premature pregnancy tests and then got annoyed with myself for effectively peeing on $8 each time, but I did not get pregnant.

I was so sad all the time. I wouldn't say that I was ever mad at God, but I did ask Him a bunch of times what the deal was. I had maintained my virginity for my husband. I had never taken birth control pills or otherwise messed with my fertility. I had done everything "right," so why the heck could I not get pregnant?

Eventually, I marched into an appointment with Dr. Cvetkovich and pretty much demanded a laparoscopy. I was 99% sure I had endometriosis on top of my PCOS. There's no test for endometriosis except laparoscopic surgery. On December 1, 2011, I underwent a (thankfully outpatient) laparoscopic procedure, which uncovered and addressed the endometriosis that I was right that I had.

In mid-February of 2012, I finally, finally, finally took a pregnancy test that showed that wonderful little plus sign. Me, plus a baby on board. Thanks be to God. It felt like a million years, but I gave birth to my firstborn a week before our fourth wedding anniversary.

I know it takes a lot longer for some, and those people have my utmost sympathy. If you're still struggling, know you have my daily prayers. It's a terrible burden.

When we started thinking about a second baby, it only took two cycles of fertility drugs before I conceived again. I think God knew I didn't have another protracted battle in me again just then! I found out I was pregnant again with my little man a year ago today, and gave birth to him just after Christmas 2014.

Questions? Leave 'em in the comments and I'll get right back to you!

07 April 2015

Frozen versus Tangled: I am super-late to this debate.

My daughter has been watching Tangled (or, as she calls it, "Baby Rapunzel") -- we had recorded it on the DVR from the Disney Channel, but it kept skipping and was super annoying so I deleted it, and then the Easter Bunny delivered her very own copy in her Easter basket.

For some reason, I flashed back to the time right after Frozen went to DVD and so all the blogging mommies watched it with their kids and HATED it, and several specifically mentioned that they overall preferred Tangled.

But it occurred to me in the shower recently that Tangled has a serious problem.

Okay, so, quick recap of what we all know: Mother Gothel kidnapped Rapunzel from her loving parents when Rapunzel was just a baby. She has been keeping Rapunzel locked in a tower so that she can make sole use of her magic hair to keep herself young, and she speaks to her with a lot of sarcasm and "jokes" that are pretty hurtful. She tells Rapunzel, "I love you," but in an insincere manner.

Because of all of those things, when Rapunzel defies Mother Gothel and leaves the tower, we forgive her.

Here's the thing, though: as adults watching a cartoon, we know that Rapunzel had been kidnapped, and was being held hostage out of selfishness, and wasn't really loved.

But Rapunzel doesn't know what we know. 

She has no idea she has been kidnapped; Rapunzel calls Mother Gothel "Mother," and she seems to genuinely love her "mother," even if she maybe suspects that Mother Gothel's love is less than perfectly sincere. This is addressed in a several-minute-long scene, after Rapunzel leaves the tower with Flynn Ryder, where she second-guesses her actions and is alternately elated to be free and consumed with guilt about not listening to the woman whom she thinks is her mother. This indicates that Rapunzel knows she's doing wrong and willfully chooses to do it anyway.

During her excursion, she meets with all manner of danger, thanks to her choice of companion. While he is ultimately redeemed, Flynn is a career criminal who has not only stolen the lost princess' crown from the palace but also has ripped off his partners-in-crime -- he doesn't even have any honor among thieves. Because he's being chased by both the palace guards and his fellow criminals, Rapunzel is subjected to various chases and at one point she's nearly drowned.

In other words, Mother Gothel was kind of right that she would have been safer in her tower.

My own mother always hated The Little Mermaid. As a kid, I assumed that it was because Ariel is dressed kind of provocatively for a children's cartoon.

{Ariel is, what, approximately 17 or so, right? THAT is some prodigious cleavage for a 17-year-old -- and I'm speaking as someone who has prodigious cleavage. Also, shouldn't she be built like a swimmer, with big old shoulders? I'm just saying.}

But now that I'm a mother myself, I get it: my mother hates The Little Mermaid because a) the cleavage, b) her mother is missing entirely and never so much as addressed, and the biggie is: c) Ariel defies her father, who only has her best interests at heart, and in the end she's not only rewarded but the message is that her father, King Triton, was wrong to try to protect her. There is a kind of danger in sheltering our kids too much, but Ariel had quite a bit of freedom in her undersea world. King Triton's refusal to let her visit the world of the humans is probably on a par with not letting your 17-year-old go to Cabo for spring break: understandable and hardly over-protective.

{And more than that: Ariel, you don't have LEGS. The only way to even go there is to make a really stupid deal with a shady character whose name is actually Ursula, The Sea Witch. Get a grip. Enjoy being a princess with a bunch of handsome mermen who would probably love to date you.}

To somewhat of a lesser extent, this is my beef with Tangled. Mother Gothel does not have Rapunzel's best interests at heart, but Rapunzel's defiance is almost as egregious as Ariel's because she doesn't know about Mother Gothel's deception when she defies her.

... Or I'm overthinking this. Am I overthinking this?

06 April 2015

Happy Easter!

Once again, I fail at everything. If by everything, you mean "Taking a family Easter photo," anyway. I hosted visitors in my shoebox of a home, hefted my 18-lb three-month-old through an entire Easter vigil Mass, and kept everyone alive. So I guess I fail at one thing, although in ten years it will seem like a big thing. I got four total snaps of my kidlets:

No lie: this child consumed nothing but butter and chocolate cake for Easter lunch.

Drool bunny!

My happiest little boy.

The Easter Bunny brought an Our Lady of Guadalupe Shining Light doll (in her hand) and Tangled!

And one of myself with two of my five sisters:

Two of my little sisters, only one of whom is little.

...But with all the kiddie wrangling (at a restaurant, for reasons that I will get into shortly), I never managed to get a snap with my husband and both kids at once. Oh well -- onward!

The Amazon in coral up there is my youngest sister, Michaela. She's only 19, which is why she's so disgustingly fresh-faced. ;) Her boyfriend, Dan, was initiated into the Church during the Easter vigil. My parents, my sister Briana, my sister Bridget (and her husband, Chalie, and her 1.5 year old son, Logan), and the aforementioned Michaela came down from Pennsylvania. Then they and we went back up partway to the University of Maryland, where Dan is at school and where he completed RCIA. Dan's parents had a small reception for him before the 8pm Easter vigil, and then Michael and Chalie brought the toddlers back to our house to go to bed. I kept Declan with me, with the intention of passing him around during the vigil so no one had to hold the Heaviest Baby in the World for hours.

{Well. That part didn't work out. I spent the procession and the first several readings nursing a fussy baby in the hall (thankfully I was able to move close enough to hear!), and then he finally passed out. Declan is like his sister in that he refuses to sleep on my shoulder, but insists on being cradled against my body to sleep, and in general prefers his own space for sleeping. By the end of the vigil, I could barely feel my left arm! Lucky he's so cute!}

The best part of the story is that Dan's grandfather got to co-celebrate the Mass! And he's not a deacon.





Wait, what?

Dan is English. He was born in England but moved to the States when he was a year old with his parents. Around the time that Dan's parents emigrated, Dan's grandfather, who was an Anglican minister, converted to Roman Catholicism. He went through two years of seminary, and then sought and received a dispensation from St. Pope John Paul II to become a priest even though he's married with children.

It was a very emotional moment when Dan's grandfather administered the Blood of Christ to his grandson for the first time. I'm sure he's been praying for decades that his grandson would come to know the fullness of the love of Christ and his Holy Church here on Earth. It was an honor and privilege to be present for this blessed event. Congratulations -- and welcome! -- to Daniel Dominic!

Sorry for the poor quality! Dan is in the back row, third from the left. His grandfather is in the front row, second from the right.

On Easter Sunday my parents threw a lunch for us and for Dan's family (his parents, grandparents and two brothers) at a restaurant because although I was willing to host at my house my mom just didn't want everyone to have to cram in. And they would have had to cram, because this place is just so tiny. So we had a lovely lunch out -- if you ignore my daughter's less-than-ideal behavior, which I could not -- and then almost everyone hit the road. My sister, brother-in-law and nephew stayed the night and the kids had a ball together until they left this morning.

iPad Miles from Tomorrowland party in Keira's crib. At 6:30am.

And that's my Easter! Hope yours was lovely and blessed.

02 April 2015


I have three posts started and not finished, which makes me twitchy. I imagine some people work ("work") that way all the time but I'm more of a start-a-task-and-finish-it person. Ideally.


Instead of finishing any of them, I'm going to write about something else entirely!

I'm taking a quick pumping break from work and I was just thinking about how grateful I am that my kids are doing so well at their new daycare. When Declan was about a week old, we got the devastating news that our old daycare provider, Stephanie, who had cared for Keira since she was three months old, was closing down on the last Friday of March. It's a long story that amounts to the county regulating her out of business -- and I had best leave it at that or else I'm apt to go on a LONG rant about the evils of big government -- but I lost it a little bit at hearing the news.

If you've ever been a working mother, you know what it's like, adjusting to the idea that someone else is going to be responsible for your sweet baby eight-to-ten hours a day. It's really, really hard. No one else is capable of loving them like you do, even if there are plenty of people capable of keeping them safe and fed. It gets easier over time, committing them to someone else's care, but the beginning is the worst.

I had been through it once and I was counting on it being easier with Declan, since Stephanie had done such a wonderful job with Keira.

So finding out that Stephanie couldn't do it anymore was a real blow. It didn't help that I heard about it 9 days postpartum when my hormones were a-ragin'. I cried and cried. Then I put off finding new care for way too long. We did the math -- might it be better if I quit my job and stayed home with the kids? Could we afford healthcare and the loss of my salary? -- and eventually realized that I had to keep my job. In the meantime, a couple of the other daycare moms had found another in-home daycare, in Stephanie's same daycare, which had room for more kids and was significantly less expensive to boot. We went to interview Subhadra, and although I had some reservations (not least that she told us that some of her current kids call her "Mom," which I did. not. want.) we decided to enroll our kids with her along with Keira's friends Reagan and Jackson.

They started with her on Monday. Michael has been handling drop-off, and I was so, so relieved that I wasn't going to have to be party to the total meltdown I expected Keira to have as she was left with a stranger. Then Michael called and said that drop-off had been great -- Keira was excited to see her friends and she sent him off with a kiss and a "Bye, Daddy!" and he gave me the good news that the kids were going to be calling the new nanny Subu. (Thank goodness!)

Every other morning this week, my not-a-morning-person toddler has woken up and said, "I going to Subu's house!" She's having a wonderful time there. The baby is eating and sleeping well. They're safe and happy. And I'm so grateful they have a wonderful place to be.

Thanks be to God.