Thursday, September 15, 2011

Belated, but in Reality, Totally Timeless

The UM/ND football game last weekend was glorious mayhem to the last second and enjoyed immensely in our household, at least by those who know, watch and stay awake until midnight watching Michigan football. The next day, Kevin found this little gem in the combox on MGoBlog:

When I got back to my tailgate there was a car full of dame fans next to me. As we're both packing up our respective stuff I see this guy take off his ND shirt and put it on the ground, go into his truck, pull out a bottle of some form, pour the contents on the shirt, strike a match and lights the tanker on fire,then gets in his truck and drives away leaving the smoldering shirt. I do in fact feel for ND fan right now.

Yowza. That's some serious football fan pain. While I don't feel the general hatred and vengeance that some UM fans feel toward ND, I totally got a laugh out of this one. I also had some sympathy. Let's be honest. What Michigan fan didn't feel tempted to burn some Maize and Blue after the Appalachian State debacle?

But who wouldn't feel some Michigan love after seeing Little 'Nard Dawg?

Monday, August 29, 2011

What's Trending This Fall?

Jingly Frog Bracelets.

You saw it here first, Fashionistas. Monica spent half of last week with jingly frogs dangling from her wrists. It definitely made getting dressed and undressed and buckling the car seat a little challenging. Anything for the hottest look, right?

It could be worse... She could be insisting on walking around in these beauties. Ouch.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Me Want Pie!

We heart summer...and blueberry pie!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tried the Potty...Again

We tried the potty again. And, I have one word for you:


It was a rough few hours, my friends. We have some success but the fact that one normally sits on the toilet more than once a day seems to be more than Monica can bear. She totally wants to wear underwear, but does not want the responsibility of not wetting/pooping herself.

You can't have your cake and eat it too, Babe.

The morning of said potty escapade was really rough. By the end, we were both in tears. We did the whole "set the timer for 20-ish minutes then sit on the potty" thing, but every time she sat, she screamed like a banshee while flailing all limbs like helicopter blades. It was hazardous for everyone's health.

At the end of the three hour, one accident attempt, she was crumpled on the kitchen floor in underwear wailing "I'm sad! I miss my polka-dot diaper!"

Dude me too. Polka-dot diapers, here we come.

I think the issue is that she doesn't want to sit on the potty without eliminating, because that's frustrating and seems to be a waste of precious playing time. Indeed. However, if you want to sit minimal times per day, you have to read bodily cues. And for Monica, no reminders/forced potty sittings = accidents of all types. So, we're on another hiatus.

If the first few times you don't succeed, try, try some other time.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tried the Tri

Last weekend Kevin and I raced at the Sanford and Sun Triathlon. We both raced the sprint distance, which was challenging without being too exhausting. This was my first triathlon, and it may very well be my last. Not because I didn't enjoy it, but mostly because of the time it takes to train for all three disciplines. It's relatively easy for me to pull on a pair of shoes, load the kids in the jogger and hit the road. It's another matter all together to find the time to get to the pool or to do a long bike ride.

I wanted to include some sweet action pics from the race, but I really didn't want to pay the $20, and the site with said pics was pretty clunky, necesitating a lot of searching.

But, I do have a great video of Kevin using his sweet new racing bike. Heh.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011


I've been stealing some of James's tasty full-fat yogurt, and I'm loving it! In the past few years, I've really latched on to full fat dairy in yogurts, cheeses, and creams for coffee and desserts. Not just because it tastes good, but there was something in me saying that all of the processed, chemically altered food we Americans consume in mass quantities cannot be good for our bodies. I mean, some of the ingredient lists on snack foods takes up half of the side of the box and most of what is on there can hardly be categorized as real food. After finding this little gem of a blog post about full-fat dairy, I will definitely be consuming the fat (in moderated quantities) and trying to hunt down some non-homogenized milk...mmmmm.

And on another note, James is eating dairy without any digestive rebellion whatsoever. So, our nearly three year streak of someone being dairy free in our family has come to an end. We are all lovin' the pizza and ice cream now!

Soon to come, my thoughts on E-mealz...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

File Under: When I Am Weary of the Wee Ones

When the days get long and tiresome, when the food explosion from lunch necessitates an industrial strength hose-down of the entire dining room, remember this...

When you tell your child a story, when you play a game with your little son, you tell a story, you play a game with the Christ Child...A woman too weary for articulate prayer will find that for her the best of all prayer is the unspoken act of faith in Christ in her children. When she knows that she is setting the table and baking the cake for the Christ Child, her soul will be at rest.
Caryll Houselander

Future Farmers of America

We're back from Indiana, and yeah, there's whole lot of corn! But we actually spent most of our time in the canyons of Turkey Run State Park. When this trip was still in the planning stages, I was really skeptical about spending a few days in rural Indiana on vaca. But, it really is a beautiful place! Some of the hikes definitely rival some of the sights in the Adirondacks. And, we were able to share our love of the outdoors with the kids, thanks to baby backpacks.

Now, to catch up on some sleep...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cramming into the Car

We're leaving for a short vacation today, and so far, we're on target for a smooth departure. We're staying in a little cabin in a state park with lots of outdoorsiness and a pool. The weather should fabulous and the family time is needed.

However, I'm alway amazed at the amount of STUFF crammed into the car, even for a 3 day jaunt. The double all-terrain stroller, the booster chairs, the pack n plays, the floatie toys, the books, the food, the diapers, the plethora of clothes for hiking, for the pool, for after the pool, for cooler evenings, and on and on and on... Sometimes I think that the volume will decrease as kids get older and need less "equipment". But, while there will eventually be less eating/sleeping/strolling equimpment, that will probably be replaced by bikes, more food for hungry older kids, and non-necessities that kids sneak into their bags.

When it's 11:30pm and I'm shoving onesies into every nook and cranny of an already-stuffed bag, I wonder if it's all worth it. But that time just playing together in the sunshine, in God's beautiful creation, really does refresh, heart and soul.

Sweet, sweet, vaca...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Easing In

Oh, blog.

I've neglected you.

Life has been busy and I've signed in with great intentions, but laziness, fussing, projects, travel, or any combination of the aforementioned have kept me from writing.

That first post from a long hiatus is usually the toughest, so here goes. Pictures. It may the the easy way out, but who doesn't love to see cute little people?

Happy (Belated) Independence Day!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Son of Mine

Happy First Birthday Jamesy! It's been a great year and we're looking forward to more giggles and good times in the years to come.

We love you!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Like Mother Like Son?

I think James may resemble my side of the family...

(yeah, that's me lookin like a boy in the yellow sleeper)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Home Life

It's 5:36

The house is a mess.

There are flies buzzing around my head as I type because Monica left the door open.

I went to put expensive professional pics into a frame and found them mangled on the floor by the pint-sized subject of aforementioned photos.

Monica started whining for the 37th time that she wanted Daddy to come home.

I snapped and, while pacing anxiously about my toy littered house, said, rather rudley, that Daddy will be home when he gets home and not a minute sooner.


"Want a raisin, Mama?"

And, with a little dried fruit and a smile, all the stress melts and you realize what really matters.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Date Night

Last night Monica and Kevin went to their first Daddy Daughter Dance at our parish. It was a sock hop so they got all decked out in their finest 50s attire. Monica talked about the dance all day leading up to it and loved (nearly) every moment.

According to Kevin, Monica can burn the floor with her dancing skills. She kept asking to go out onto the dance floor, but if Kevin held her, she arched her back and tried to jump out of his arms. If he held her hand, she went dead weight and crumpled to the floor. If he let her dance on her own, as she preferred, she would twirl a few times, sit down with her feet and bum in the air, roll over to her belly and keep rolling. Kevin did a demo for me and I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. Needless to say, that didn't last long with a lot of other little girls and their dads trying to dance. But hey, to a two year old, the whole floor is up for grabs, right?

Making the poodle skirt and sending Monica and Kevin off on their date brought back a lot of fond memories for me. I went to Daddy Daughter events with my dad as a little girl and it was truly special. One of my date nights with my dad at our church was a sock hop as well. I know there's a picture out there to prove it, but I have yet to hunt it down. If I find it, I'll post it.

I'm so glad that Monica has a father who is willing to spend time with her, even if that time involves a whole lot of spilled lemonade and disruptive dancing. A close, loving relationship with a father is so important. Kevin is helping Monica to build a foundation for her relationships with boys and men throughout her entire life, a foundation that will help her to make wise choices in friendships, dating, and possibly marriage. Through him, she will learn what it means to be loved and respected by men. Granted, there are other factors in how Monica will relate to men later in life, but the father-daughter relationship is key. And, in my opinion, Monica is one blessed little lady to have such a loving, attentive, and patient father. Thanks for being a great dad, Kev!

And thanks to Maureen and Jen for helping me with the poodle skirt. It totally made the evening that much more special for Monica.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Grand Rapids: Alive and Well

In January, ranked the top 10 dying citites, with Grand Rapids, MI coming in at #10. Grand Rapidsites were not pleased with the distinction so they put together a video in one continuous shot featuring thousands of people lip syncing to Don McClean's American Pie. Roger Ebert called it the greatest music video ever made. Choreographing thousands of people cheerleadering, marrying, ballroom dancing, kayaking, playing football and riding helicoptors is a feat, but the video also boasts the world record for the most people lip syncing. Maybe G-Rap isn't dying out after all!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Today is surprisingly fabulous!

I won a contest at one of my favorite blogs, Testosterhome.

The grand prize is one free month of E-mealz. I'm excited to have less fuss and more variety in our family fare. I'll keep you posted on my experience.

Eeee! Very excited.

Update: Kevin's reaction to the E-mealz prize (keep in mind that he eats PB&J for lunch five days out of the week): "Congrats. But don't make me eat weird things."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bats and The People Who Love Them

Last Friday we did some yard saleing. I've never been much of a garage saler, but in the spirit of thrift and reuse, I thought that hey, maybe someone else's trash really will be my treasure.

I haven't been disappointed. Nor has Monica.

We found a particularly interesting yard in the midst of a subdivision wide sale with some great kid stuff. While I picked through some fare on the tables, Monica found a large trunk of 50 cent stuffed animals. I'm not really big on used stuffed animals, or other used plush objects that are difficult to wash, but since she was being a good sport in the heat, I told her she could pick *1* thing. Among the little tree frogs, bears, bunnies and dinosaurs, I'm pretty sure she picked the strangest thing: a bat with flaming wings, fangs and goggley eyes. I tried to make other suggestions, but no. It had to be the bat. So, off we went with a play tent, cat ears, and the bat, all for $3.

Since then, the bat has become indispensible. Bat (that's its name of course) is in the crib for naps and nighttime and comes with us to the store, to playgroup, and even the dentist.

On the way to the dentist, Monica informed me that she is a princess, "a pretty pretty princess." So, playing along, I made up a story about the princess and her bat. "Once there was a pretty pretty princess named Monica. Princess Monica had a bat who loved her more than anything. This bat was so loyal and loving that he went everywhere with the princess. He played with blocks and the dollhouse. He sat with her at dinner and stayed with her all night while she slept, even though he'd much rather be awake and flying around and drinking fruit nectar. He was the best bat a princess could have. What else did the bat do, Princess Monica?"

"The bat snuggled right into Monica's heart."

Well, that settled it. This bat is loved and not going anywhere anytime soon.

When the dentist came out into the waiting room to collect us for Monica's very first exam, he found me, Monica and Bat reading a book on the couch. After complimenting Monica on her very pink outfit, he said, "Oh! Is that your kitty?" Monica wasted no time in correcting him, "No! It's a bat!" she exclaimed while flopping him around above her head. "Complete with flaming wings and fangs!" I said.

The dentist seemed a little surprised to see a 2 year old loving on a stuffed bat, but I'm sure he's seen stranger things. When we entered the exam room, we found out that David, the 20-something dental assistant, also loves bats. When Monica showed him the bat, he gave her a big grin and said, "Oooh! Bats are my favorite!" Obviously, we came to the right place. Monica's appointment went really well, and Bat never left her side.

I guess we got our 50 cent's worth and then some.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Happy 30th Kev!

It's a day late but...

Here's to 30 years! We love you!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


We've really been encouraging Monica to be attentive to James and respond to him when he has needs. If he's fussy or on his own, I'll often ask her to bring him a toy or just go talk to him. It took a while, but she's really starting to get the hang of it and often responds to his fussing or chatting without being prompted. The other morning, James was being particularly fussy and Monica decided to cheer him up. This time, she went a little overboard.

" you want this in your nose? How 'bout this in your nose?"

"Monica what is that?"

" your nose?"

"Monica, is that a booger?"

" James nose?"

"No, Monica. Thank you for being so generous, but we do not share our boogies with anyone. Let's get a tissue."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Is it weird...

...that I'm sitting in front of the computer,
obsessively monitoring the live-tweeting of the birth of my friend's identical twin boys,
that's happening at the hospital five minutes from my house,
all while sipping a bottle of beer?


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Crafty Exploits: Millinery Part 2

Here it is! I successfully trimmed my first hat. It was easier than I thought and a lot of fun. I personally think that the hat is an underutilized accessory in the US. I'm looking forward to sporting one of my own creations!



Final piece*

*Note: The plumage will actually be worn to the side, not to the front.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

James--The Golden Age

James is currently in the Golden Age of Infancy. He likes to eat; he sleeps reasonably well; he isn't really mobile and making messes, and he needs no discipline. He is also super happy, which is so refreshing on days that Monica is tantruming and just throwing lots of challenges at us. Don't get me wrong. I love Monica more than any little girl on this planet, but 2 1/2 can be trying. God is good in giving us such a wonderful little man to cuddle.

This Golden Age of Infancy is why we ended up with two kids so close in age. When Monica was this age, we thought, "Hey! We could handle another one of these!" Enter James 9 months later. I now realize that one does not give birth to another 10 month old. There are 9 months of pregnancy and 10 months of infancy before you have that 10 month old again! (I am the master of the obvious, I know...) So, the rose colored glasses are gone and I now realize that for us, there is some wisdom in spacing children a bit more. But I will be soaking all of the baby love I can get before our little James turns into a little man.

Oh James, how do we love thee?!

Happy Easter!

I hope you and yours had a wonderful Triduum! We were able to spend the weekend with family, which was great.

Now that Monica is older and excited about helping in the kitchen, I decided to put together some yummy treats to celebrate the easter season. This Bird's Nest isn't the most traditional of desserts, but it is springy and sugary. I just made a batch of Rice Krispie treats, molded them into nest shapes and put Peeps and jelly beans on top. Monica thinks they're great! She told me that the birds would eat the eggs and that they were looking around the kitchen. I love how little kids think stuffed animals and dolls, and really anything shaped like a living thing, is alive.

I think Kevin and his notorious sweet tooth will appreciate this more than Monica!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Don't forget Daddy...

A blessed Holy Week to you all! I hope your Lent has been fruitful and grace-filled. I've spent my free moments today reflecting on my own lenten experience this year and I've decided that it has been humbling and hopeful. I didn't give up much in the way of food, since I'm still on my dairy-free nursing-friendly diet, which is mortifying enough in and of itself. I specifically focused on being patient and gentle with Monica. There were times of great victory, and times of total defeat.

I also decided to get the kids to one daily mass per week, which has also proved to be quite a sacrifice. There were a couple of times where Kevin joined us which was super helpful for me, but definitely stressful for him. I think Monica might have amped up her mass-time craziness just because she knew there were two of us to handle her.

We go to daily mass at a small chapel in an office building. It's nice because the daily masses are no more than 30 minutes. It's not so nice because it's super small and any little bump, rattle or shout carries for all to hear.

And, since Monica's whisper capabilities are still latent and she has only two volumes, loud and louder, it can be really challenging it is impossible to keep her quiet and in the pew for the entire mass.

I definitely spent no small amount of time doubting that it was worth the effort.

As always, God came through in the end. Today, as we were pulling out of the driveway for our last lenten daily mass, I told Monica that we were going to church to see Jesus. She said, "Jesus loves Monica!"

"Yes, he does! He loves all of us, the whole world."

"Jesus loves Monica and Mama and James and Daddy and Buck..."

"You're right, Monica!"

"Mary loves Monica." (Mary, as in the Blessed Mother.)

"She does, Monica! Mama Mary loves all of us. Who else does Mama Mary love?"

"Mama Mary loves Monica and James and Mama and Buck and trash."

That made it all worth it, right there. On some level, the all-encompassing love of God and the Blessed Mother is sinking in. Granted, the whole skipping out on Mama Mary loving Daddy and then adding trash was a little weird, but there's time to work on that. It is wonderful to see that even our most feeble and frustrated of efforts can be used for eternal good.

May you have a blessed Holy Week and a joy-filled Easter!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Crafty Exploit: Millinery!

James and I will be flying to Albany NY in a couple weeks to visit my dear friend Claire. She has a serious preoccupation with British royalty and so, to commemorate the upcoming royal nuptials, she will be throwing a party. And, of course, in typical UK fashion, I have to wear a hat.

I spent way too much time on Saturday combing the internet for a fun and inexpensive fascinator, but nothing in my price range really screamed, "You must have me!" The fascinators I really liked (those that didn't look too prom-ish or flapper-ish) were upwards of $60, which I really didn't want to spend.

On an impromptu trip to Target, I found this little cloche for $12.99. I admit that it is rather drab, but the neutrality has its appeal. The party isn't formal, so I'll probably wear jeans and fun shoes, and since I'm traveling and won't have access to my closet for last minute wardrobe changes, I'll have to deal with what is in my over-stuffed suitcase, i.e. black, pearls and easily packable. So, I went on Etsy and found some fabulous feathers and a cameo brooch to dress it up. I'm really excited to embark a completely new creative endeavor. I've never really worn hats (knit snow hats don't count!) much less trimmed one myself. This will be an adventure.

Stay tuned...

Birdie and Bubbles

Two weeks ago,Monica, James, and I were sitting on the driveway blowing bubbles when Monica found a little house finch near the garage. I think it was injured or ill, since most wild birds don't stick around long enough for anyone, especially unpredictable, fast-moving two year olds, to get this close.

I was proud of Monica. She followed my directions and did not touch the bird or scare it. She was also very generous in offering the finch a blow on her bubble wand. If she would always be that generous with James when he is interested in her toys...

Eventually, the finch did fly off to a nearby pine tree, although he didn't seem to have his bearings. I hope he ended up finding a safe place and recuperation from whatever ailed him.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


This Sunday's mass was a doozie for Monica and Kevin. I was out of the church, changing a diaper when this all went down so pardon any lack of detail.

Apparently, in her boredom, Monica started picking her nose and succeeded in finding a hefty booger. Once she had it on her finger, she began waving it around and talking loudly about "the boogie" on her finger. I had the diaper bag, so Kevin didn't have a wipe, kleenex or burp rag to take care of this really large boogie, and he really didn't want to wipe it on the dry clean only pants. So, Monica continues to wave her hand and yell about the boogie while Kevin tries to keep the boogie out of his face. This is, of course, totally hilarious to Monica so she tries to stick the boogie in his mouth. He deflected that shot, but then she shoved it into her mouth, laughing the whole time.

Apparently the boogie survived her mouth but no one's really sure where it actually ended up...ugh crusty boogies...smeared on clothes or a church pew, always disgusting. At least the people around us got a chuckle out of it. And, kudos to Kevin. Can you say that someone else has tried to stick their boogies in your mouth?


Yesterday we went to the grocery store just before 1pm...naptime. While that was defintely not ideal, it's just what happened. I knew it would be rough, but I just buckled down and readied myself for a meltdown.

It was all I expected and more, believe me. Monica actually tripped over her own feet multiple times in her sleepy/cranky daze, but the last time was apparently the worst because she walked down the aisle moaning "Boo boo!" I stopped and asked her, "Where is the boo boo? Does it need a kiss?" and she affirmed the need for a kiss but also told me the boo boo was on her bottom.

That's definintely the first time anyone has outrightly asked me to kiss their bum, in public no less. I love my kid, but I just wasn't willing to plant my lips on her behind in the middle of the frozen food section. I just kissed my hand, patted her bum, and moved on. Motherhood, you never know what it will bring.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Eeeeeek!" and Other Happenings

Monica is just so two-and-a-half right good ways and challenging ways. We're having a lot of fun doing projects together, like coloring, making birthday cards and baking bread. Like most toddlers, she's really curious and loves to touch and taste everything, as evidenced by the picture of her below, after she got into the whole wheat flour and decided to eat handfulls of it...weird. This time is also challenging because she is becoming a lot more verbally creative and also a lot more creative in her defiance. Yet, I'm frequently reminded that she still needs to mature in communication skills. We still experience some really cro magnon-like moments. Lately, in our house, when the going gets tough, the tough get screaming. Monica's been a shrieker since she was four months old, and we're going through one of those phases again. Whether she needs to transition out of playing with a toy, to eat, to sleep or just can't get her slippers on, there is often ear-piercing, blood-curdling screaming. We're working on directing her toward other frustration-outlets, but it is a process, and it seems pretty slow sometimes. Monica has also taken a lot more interest in James lately, probably because he has taken a lot more interest in her toys! He is still not crawling or scooting, so he can't do a whole lot to defend himself when she comes at him to take whatever he has, besides screaming and waving his arms. And he does a lot of that while Monica is putting him in one of her vice-grip hugs around his head or neck. (Another skill to work on: appropriate and gentle affection.) But just the other day, we were at the local hands-on museum and I realized how quickly she is growing and changing. The way she can run and jump and play now, compared to even just after James was born is amazingly more complex. I am so grateful and humbled to be a part of my children's lives, even in the tensest of shriek-laden moments.

A Few Extras

I found a few extra shots from Kevin's trip to Japan that I had to share...

"Welcome to Nara" says funny antler-wearing Buddha

Don't mess with this guy.

Locust ala soy sauce...mmmmm...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here's a little something to make you smile. I love the sock puppet narrator.

I also love that this is a "flannelgraph." Totally reminds me of Sunday School and learning Bible stories with huge flannel boards and little flannel people stuck to them.

h/t to Kresta in the Afternoon

"Delicacy" of the Week

Kevin's Japanese colleagues have made a side show of sorts out of getting Kevin to eat strange, and often disgusting, food when he is in Japan on business. This trip's delicacy: dried locust drenched in soy sauce. For the record, they weren't able to find a restaurant that served the little insects. They had to order them online and bring them to the restaurant. Apparently, locust is not typical Japanese fare.


Kevin pretty much knew what was coming, but I think the blindfold gave everyone more of a thrill. Just thinking about crunching a bug between my teeth makes me queasy.

To donate to the earthquake and tsunami effort:

Catholic Relief Services

The Red Cross

Salvation Army

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kevin's Status, Life on the Homefront, and Greedy Deer

I've had a few calls and emails from people concerned for Kevin's safety and our peace of mind over the past few days, so I just want to let you all know that he's still safe and sound. Maybe a little tired from putting in a lot of hours at work, though.

Life at home has been really busy. I didn't realize how much Kevin helps out until he's not here helping out! It's a lot of work to take care of these two little turkeys and keep the house relatively picked up and in order by the time I go to bed. On the go from dawn til dusk, except for a nice little snooze in the afternoon, courtesy of coinciding naps (Cue the rejoicing angel choir music.)

It has been difficult watching the nuclear reactor accident unfolding, since it is perilous and it also has an affect on Kevin's work. The incidents in Japan are having and will continue to affect nuclear policy and attitudes toward nuclear power in the US, for better or for worse, and I can't help but be concerned about job security and the future. I must admit I've been obsessing over the grim headlines blaring all over the world wide web. (Darn that whole infinite-information-at-your-finger-tips-24-hours-a-day feature of the internet!) But for now, I'm just praying they are able to solve the problem at the plant and keep everyone safe. There is more than enough sorrow and tragedy in Japan right now.

On the lighter side, Kevin sent me some pictures from his trip to Nara over the weekend. Here is some basic info about its history:

Japan's first permanent capital was established in the year 710 at Heijo, the city now known as Nara. As the influence and political ambitions of the city's powerful Buddhist monasteries grew to become a serious threat to the government, the capital was moved to Nagaoka in 784.
Nara is located less than one hour from Kyoto and Osaka. Due to its past as the first permanent capital, it remains full of historic treasures, including some of Japan's oldest and largest temples.

Bronze Buddha statue from 700 AD. It used to be plated in gold!

This is the temple housing the Buddha, built in 800 AD. It was rebuilt 2 times and is the largest wooden structure in world.

This is the entrance gate to the above temple. Note random deer in the foreground. Kevin said that there are many of these deer at the temple site. They are tame and eat little pellets right from your hand...or they may just try to find a snack in your back pocket or bag as well!

Speaking of eating...Kevin will be eating some more strange food in the coming days and I'm sure he'll send me pictures. Warning: you may not want to eat before reading the next post!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Other Side of the World

As family and many friends know, Kevin was scheduled to go to Japan on business. And, just to clear up any questions, he did go and he is safe. While much of Japan has experienced after shocks and waves from the larger, 8.9-on-the-richter-scale earthquake, Kevin flew into much further south into Kansai with a final destiation of Kobe, which is just west of Osaka. Kobe is also on sheltered shoreline, so it is not a location at risk for tsunamis. So, in short, Kevin and his colleagues are safe, which gives me piece of mind. It is always hard to see him go on these long trips, but it was especially difficult this time, with questions about the disaster(s) unfolding as he flew away.

The kids and I talked to Kevin over video chat this morning and he's doing well, though he was pretty tired after a long journey. Here is a picture of Mt. Fuji that he snapped while on the plane. The passengers on the other side of the plane were able to see some of the earthquake aftermath, which is obviously quite severe in some areas.

Please be sure to keep those who lost loved ones, homes and businesses in your prayers. Here are some organizations involved in the relief effort as well, if you care to donate or keep tabs on how that is going.

Catholic Relief Services

The Red Cross

Salvation Army

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Fat Tuesday

I won't be eating those famed paczki, but this dairy free indulgence is no less than fab.u.lous. Mmmmmm...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Capturing the Moment

We had some family pics taken yesterday and the preview is up on the photographer's blog. So far, so cute!

We had a great experience with Melanie, and I definitely recommend her. I think she captured our family beautifully!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cabin Fever

Is anyone else sick of winter? Are your loved ones, especially pint-sized loved ones, driving you a bit bonkers? We've been a little stir-crazy in our house, and it has been difficult to stay cool and collected at times. Most of those times are when Monica is bouncing off the walls. What we all need is a good romp at the park, but with nearly a foot of snow on the ground, that is a ways off. So, as always, patience is key, and little reminders on the basics of loving little ones is also helpful. I found this article on 9 Simple Ways to Make Your Child Feel Special right around Valentine's day, and it has been a great reminder that little things--like cuddles, loving words, and letting little ones help around the house--go a long way in restoring love and order where toddlers are concerned.

Monica is now at the age where she likes to scribble and draw and help with projects. She especially enjoys Do-A-Dot markers (She'll say "Monica wants to do Dooadah!), which are basically sponge-tipped bingo markers scaled down for little people. The markers and a Do-A-Dot book were a Christmas present from Aunt Beth and Uncle Marty and they are a hit! We used to have to sit next to her to help her push down on the marker, encourage her to make more than two dots with one color, and keep her from Do-A-Dotting her mouth, her clothes and the furniture. It took about half of the coloring book for Monica to find her stride, but now she can sit at the table on her own and produce fabulous works like the little garden scene below. This is particularly exciting for me because I LOVE craftiness and projects and I would LOVE to include Monica in some of my crafty pursuits. Granted, knitting and quilting and jewelry making may be a few years away, but every step counts!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Potty Talk

We have officially entered into the whirlwind of potty-training. It seems kind of silly to call it a whirlwind, but if you've done it, I'm sure you can think of really chaotic moments...sprinting to the bathroom with an already-peeing kid...hearing your child say, "I need to go potty!" and then, 3 seconds later, watching the pee run down their leg onto your floor...smashed #2 in the underwear...the list goes on.

I originally did not plan to potty train until Monica was much closer to three, but when she started stripping off her dirty diapers and leaving them as presents throughout the house, we figured we had two choices:

1. Duct-tape her diapers on

2. Start potty training

We opted for the latter, since she is over two, has a lot of interest in bodily functions and is generally eager to use the potty. At first, we went full-board--training underwear, plastic-y training pants setting the timer and having her sit on the potty every 20-30 minutes. There were some accidents, and some successes. We were not to be daunted! But then the plastic-y pants chafed her legs and she ran away from us at the mere suggestion of big girl underwear. So then we took the risk of just the underwear. That was when we all started getting discouraged.

I think we attacked it a litte too much by having her sit on the potty every 20-30 minutes because then she started to whine and fight, sit on the potty for 10 seconds, say she was done, only to have a huge, clothes-soaking accident 10 minutes later. After a couple days of that, my patience was waning. However, it wasn't until the dog got involved that I lost my patience altogether. Just before Kevin came home, Monica had a poo accident in her underwear and ran to the bathroom with said poo dropping to the floor as she ran. I ran after her, cleaned her up and, having had my fill of accidents that day, put her in a diaper. When I went to clean up the poo on the floor, it was gone, but there was Buck looking up at me innocently. I'll let you put two and two together on that one.

Since the Buck Incident, we've backed off on Potty Training Boot Camp for everyone's sanity. I don't think Monica has quite enough self-awareness to be potty trained as of yet. If we didn't remind her to use the potty, she would probably just go in her diaper 80% of the time. But, I also don't think it is wise to give it up and go with option #1 above. So, we have her sit on the potty a few times a day with some success, and everyone is more at peace. The road to potty trained will probably be a long one for all of us. Let the adventure continue...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jim Dinosnore

Up until a few nights ago, no one was sleeping very well in our house except Buck and Monica. James had back-to-back colds, and being a mediocre sleeper in the best of times, he was up A LOT over the past couple of weeks, which means that Kevin and I were up A LOT over the past couple of weeks. Fortunately, this last bug is on its way out and we hope to have a reprieve for a little while. I took these pictures and look at them frequently to remind me that :

1. James is a precious little bundle!

2. Time moves quickly and James' babydom will be over before we know it.

3. Assuming #2 is true, Kevin and I will sleep again!

Monica calls this outfit "Jim's dinosnore clothes"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Well-Intentioned but Watered-Down

Finding My Voice: A Young Woman's Perspective by Beth Knobbe

I was immediately attracted to this book because, like so many young women, I am searching for purpose and meaning. Granted, I am very entrenched in married life and motherhood, and I truly believe this is right where I ought to be right now. But, I am still seeking for ways to live my life in a more fulfilling and purposeful way. Knobbe, a campus minister at Northwestern University, wrote Finding My Voice for young women in the post-Christian era who are searching for meaning and purpose and truth.

So many young adults in today's post-Christian society identify themselves as spiritual, but not religious. In the first chapter, Ms. Knobbe states that spirituality and religion go hand in hand. "Religious practices give voice to spirituality, and spirituality gives meaning to our rites and rituals. Spirituality without religion is empty belief, and religion without spirituality is uninspiring. (p.15)" To be truly spiritual and religious is to acknowledge that all of life exists in relationship to God, and this God became man, a man that reached out to women in a totally new way in his earthly life. This God continues to reach out to women today in order to give their purpose and meaning and love.

The following two chapters focus on prayer and vocation. Prayer gives life to a relationship with God. Ms. Knobbe encourages the reader to push the boundaries of preconceived notions of prayer and to see it as a "lifelong conversation with the one who created us and loves us. (p.24)" We can come to God just as we are, not as we think we ought to be. There is a freedom in being honest with God, just as we find freedom in being honest in other relationships. And, as we grow in relationship with God, we find our true purpose and become what we were made to be in the first place.

Ms. Knobbe also points out the importance of friendship in finding voice and purpose. In this fast-paced, competitive world, it can be difficult for women to forge deep, healthy relationships. Good friendships are based on shared experiences, equality, selflessness. While some friendships are temporary, they all have the potential to make a life-long and positive impact. And what is more profound than even the closest earthly friendship is the friendship that we have the opportunity to forge with God. He so deeply wanted to become our friend that he became man! (p.68) We can share experiences with God in the midst of all of life's situations. He is always there, but it is essential to spend time with him in order for that friendship to play a positive role in our lives.

The next, and most disconcerting chapter is on sexuality. Ms. Knobbe makes many thought provoking statements about commitment and intimacy and true love. However, she avoids discussing the Catholic teaching concerning the most controversial issues surrounding chastity: marital relationships, extramarital relationships, homose*uality, and contraception. These are major issues affecting young adults today, and I really thought this book would propose Catholic teaching in a way that can be understood and appreciated. I am sorely disappointed that the opportunity was lost. It is a pity that a young woman could read this chapter, and the whole book, and get the impression that becoming holy, becoming who God made us to be may have nothing to do with what we are actually doing. On the contrary, it has everything to do with what we are doing. The way we live our life, not matter how boring or painful or challenging it is, matters infinitely. There are times when Ms. Knobbe states this very thing and other times when she seems to shirk this truth in an effort to avoid being too preachy or perhaps, too Catholic.

The last chapter concerns working for peace and justice in the world. Ms. Knobbe encourages the reader to acknowledge violence and all its forms (celebrity obsession, negative body image, assault, por*ography, unfair wages for women, human trafficking) and to work against it in our own personal lives and in the lives of those around us. Our relationship with God is key in this area, since He is the source of peace. It is only through Him that we can have peace and be a channel of that peace for others. Many important topics are covered in this chapter, but omitting any discussion about the impact of abortion on demand in our society seems like a glaring oversight. Yes, this is a very controversial topic, but not delving into it at all is a disservice. When an estimated 43% of women will have an abortion in their lifetime, it seems like this topic is an important one to address in the emotional, physical and spiritual life of young women.

After finishing Finding My Voice, I was disappointed. I can defintiely see how this book could awaken in many young women a desire for God, an unknown need in their hearts for fulfillment and love. That is a great start in the life of any Christian. I do not doubt Ms. Knobbe’s sincerity or good intentions; she takes keen interest in encouraging women to seek God and find him in a broad, Christian sense. However, I find the Catholic identity of the book to be ambiguous. While there are numerous Scripture references, there no references to the Catechism, church documents, papal encyclicals, or writings of the saints even when important theological statements are made (e.g. equating sins to mistakes (p.43) and asserting that holiness is not about what we do (p.41)).

Throughout the entire book, it is obvious the author did not want to come off as “preachy.” But giving the idea that we are not held accountable for our choices in this life gives a false impression of Catholic and true Christian teaching. There is truth and beauty in the Catholic faith, and, in my opinion, there are too many missed opportunities to share that truth in the context of love.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Finding My Voice - A Young Woman's Perspective . The Catholic Company is also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I'm just as supportive of environmental stewardship as the next person, but I must admit that I'm a bit skeptical about the real impact of using compact fluorescent light bulbs, especially after reading safety tip email that Kevin received from his company today:

Broken CFL


Before Clean up

* Have people and pets leave the room, and avoid the breakage area on the way out.

* Open a window or door to the outdoors and leave the room for 5-10 minutes.

* Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning (H&AC) system, if you have one.

* Collect materials you will need to clean up the broken bulb:

o Stiff paper or cardboard

o Sticky tape (e.g., duct tape)

o Damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces)

o Glass jar with a metal lid (such as a canning jar) or a sealable plastic bag(s)

Clean up Steps for Hard Surfaces

* Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place debris and paper/cardboard in a glass jar with a metal lid. If a glass jar is not available, use a sealable plastic bag. (NOTE: Since a plastic bag will not prevent the mercury vapor from escaping, remove the plastic bag(s) from the home after cleanup.)

* Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag.

* Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.

* Vacuuming of hard surfaces during cleanup is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken. [NOTE: It is possible that vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor, although available information on this problem is limited.] If vacuuming is needed to ensure removal of all broken glass, keep the following tips in mind:

o Keep a window or door to the outdoors open;

o Vacuum the area where the bulb was broken using the vacuum hose, if available; and

o Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and seal the bag/vacuum debris, and any materials used to clean the vacuum, in a plastic bag.

* Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of properly.

o Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your area. Some states and communities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center.

* Wash your hands with soap and water after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing bulb debris and cleanup materials.

* Continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the H&AC system shut off, as practical, for several hours.

Clean up Steps for Carpeting or Rugs

* Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place debris and paper/cardboard in a glass jar with a metal lid. If a glass jar is not available, use a sealable plastic bag. (NOTE: Since a plastic bag will not prevent the mercury vapor from escaping, remove the plastic bag(s) from the home after cleanup.)

* Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag.

* Vacuuming of carpeting or rugs during cleanup is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken. [NOTE: It is possible that vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor, although available information on this problem is limited.] If vacuuming is needed to ensure removal of all broken glass, keep the following tips in mind:

o Keep a window or door to the outdoors open;

o Vacuum the area where the bulb was broken using the vacuum hose, if available, and

o Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and seal the bag/vacuum debris, and any materials used to clean the vacuum, in a plastic bag.

* Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of properly.

o Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your area. Some states and communities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center.

* Wash your hands with soap and water after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing bulb debris and cleanup materials.

* Continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the H&AC system shut off, as practical, for several hours.

Top of Page

Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rugs: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming

* The next several times you vacuum the rug or carpet, shut off the H&AC system if you have one, close the doors to other rooms, and open a window or door to the outside before vacuuming. Change the vacuum bag after each use in this area.

* After vacuuming is completed, keep the H&AC system shut off and the window or door to the outside open, as practical, for several hours.

Top of Page

Actions You Can Take to Prevent Broken Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Fluorescent bulbs are made of glass and can break if dropped or roughly handled. To avoid breaking a bulb, follow these general practices:

* Always switch off and allow a working CFL bulb to cool before handling.

* Always handle CFL bulbs carefully to avoid breakage.

o If possible, screw/unscrew the CFL by holding the plastic or ceramic base, not the glass tubing.

o Gently screw in the CFL until snug. Do not over-tighten.

o Never forcefully twist the glass tubing.

* Consider not using CFLs in lamps that can be easily knocked over, in unprotected light fixtures, or in lamps that are incompatible with the spiral or folded shape of many CFLs.

* Do not use CFL bulbs in locations where they can easily be broken, such as play spaces.

* Use CFL bulbs that have a glass or plastic cover over the spiral or folded glass tube, if available. These types of bulbs look more like incandescent bulbs and may be more durable if dropped.

* Consider using a drop cloth (e.g., plastic sheet or beach towel) when changing a fluorescent light bulb in case a breakage should occur. The drop cloth will help prevent mercury contamination of nearby surfaces and can be bundled with the bulb debris for disposal.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Resolving for a Better 2011

Get running
I'm out to post a 5k time in under 25 minutes by November 2011! Now that James is older (translation: sleeping better and eating solid food), I've decided to start running and practicing some yoga again. Just before Christmas, I hit the pavement for the first time in over a year(!) and that first run was, well, painful. My chest was burning after a block and didn't stop until I was comfortably in the house and stretching. Granted, it was really really cold, but I am also really really out of shape. Since then, I've been out a few more times and I've even run for over a mile without walking. And, it actually was semi-fun and mind-clearing. However, I strained some sacroiliac joint related muscle and now have to be content with gentle yoga practice and a heating pad. But, this too shall pass and I'll be back out on the roads soon.

Be more purposeful in my spiritual life
Pregnancy and postpartum are unique times physically, spiritually, and mentally for me. The state of my body and mind are constantly in flux and that presents a lot of challenges spiritually as well. I'm looking forward to having some time this year to have the time and energy to make a more consistent effort in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and maybe even seeking out a spiritual director. That is something that I've had on my mind and heart for over a year. I think the most helpful thing is that James goes to bed early in the evening and stays down for longer periods of time now. I have been able to use that time to pray and read and reflect more than I did when I was pregnant and going to bed at 8pm or when we were still in the intensely busy newborn period of time.

Make an effort to connect
It's mid January and the Winter Blahs are in full swing. Every year, I have a more difficult time being relationally motivated during the dark, cold months of the year that make me feel like I'm hibernating...except I'm not really hibernating because I'm not sleeping and I'm inside with two needy, very-much-awake little people. I guess I don't feel like I'm hibernating at all...I feel like I'm on the path to stir craziness. One antidote I've found to the winter crazies is getting out and being with people at least twice a week. Sometimes that means skipping a nap, picking up a cold from little play mates, or extra effort that I think I may not have the energy for, but in the end, it helps me to be healthier and a better mom, wife and woman. More often than not, the rewards of reaching out to others and getting out of the house are greater than the draw backs.

Be more loving and gracious with my husband
I am ashamed to say that Kevin often took the brunt of hormonal rants while I was pregnant and shortly after James was born. I can pull it together for appointments, friends, and the kids, but breakdown usually seemed to be reserved for the husband. While breakdowns will occur and we all need that safe place, daily emotional dumps and snippy attitudes are not what he deserves or needs. Kevin deserves my best, just as much or more than the receptionist at the dentist.
This year, I really want to make an effort to give him more of my best than just the leftovers.

Finish what I a timely fashion!
I am notorious for starting projects and books and setting goals and not finishing them for years. I started A Witness to Hope, the biography of Pope John Paul II 4+ years ago and I am still about 200 pages away from finishing it. Yes, it is over 1000 pages, but 4+ years is more than enought time to just get 'er done already. I also found a half-knitted scarf (which I promptly unraveled) in my crafty junk drawers that I think I started pre-Monica. Books, along with book reviews, knitting projects, photo albums and the like will not be just left half finished on the shelf, on the computer, or in my personal junk drawers in the closet!

Here they are. Resolutions for a better 2011 and in the end, a better me for the sake of those I love! Blessing to you all in the New Year!