Thursday, August 29, 2013

Make a Mud Pie (it just may save your life): 7 Quick Takes XXVII

Okay, maybe that's hyperbole. But SCIENCE says that women tend to have allergies and auto-immune diseases at a statistically higher rate than men, perhaps because they don't get exposed to as much immune-system-boosting mud and dirt as children.

So here my girls are, boosting their immune systems. Mud pies for the win.

This girl's probably going to be good, too, immune-system-wise:

It is possible that she'll have some attachment issues though.

And hey, speaking of science, I hate drinking water. Seriously, I really don't like it. I ran Division I track and cross country in college drinking almost exclusively Mountain Dew.

I found this water bottle at Costco (after a blogger recommended the kids' version, but I don't remember who it was):

and it has really made a difference. Somehow I don't mind water nearly as much out of this bottle as I do in a cup. And it keeps the water cold all day long. So I've been drinking 1 or 2 of these per day of water, because I'm pregnant and all.

But NOW it turns out that all the 8 glasses of water stuff was a bunch of hooey anyway, (Big Water strikes again, amirite?) and that most people get plenty of water from the foods we eat, and that we only need to drink if we feel thirsty.

But really, I like this bottle so much, I MAY just continue drinking water anyway.

Look out people, I'm about to lay another professional segue on you (and I spelled segue right on my first try, woo!). . . 

Speaking of ignoring medical advice during pregnancy, I do. Nearly all of it. And I wrote a post about it that I was just certain was going to shock and horrify the world.

And it totally didn't. At ALL.

I have written stuff on this blog that has elicited some less than charitable comments (some of which are still there, but many of which I have deleted). I expected it on some posts, like the red equals sign one. Some surprised me at the time, but if I had spent more time reading comments on other blogs I guess I would have seen them coming, like on my posts about bringing young kids to Mass. Some have been totally out of left field for me, for instance there are people who seem to hate my guts for not liking a particular movie (not you Bonnie!).

But it turns out that I can tell people that I totally disregard almost all of the conventional medical advice for pregnancy in the English speaking world and get not one negative comment. 

(I do realize I'm jinxing myself here, but I'll continue to be amazed even if it was just the first couple thousand people who read it who, if they didn't have anything nice to say, didn't say anything at all.) 

And, I'm out of segues . . . 

Pop Culture minute:

I tried not to write (or think) about Miley Cyrus, but then I did anyway. I needed to tell her that it's ALL HER FAULT.

Wasn't it better when everyone was talking about Batman? Remember? That was great.

But I have to say, I'm with the nerds on this one. He doesn't seem like Batman. He's not dark and edgy. I hope they're not planning to go Adam West, Michael Keaton slightly campy Batman. That's not who Batman is. From the beginning, he was gritty and conflicted and in need of redemption.

They've already missed the mark recently with a Superman who KILLS someone, even though Superman's defining characteristic is being SO powerful that he doesn't NEED to kill anyone.

I don't mind movie makers putting their own stamp on a famous character, but he needs to still BE that character. Otherwise, why not just make a movie called Damaged-hero-man or Really-powerful-man and do whatever you want with it? (answer: because money)

This was a great week for feasts, with St. Monica on Tuesday, St. Augustine on Wednesday and St. John the Baptist on Thursday. Lots of desserts around here. But OUR Augustine has been in San Diego all week (with Anita) getting some quality time with Nana and Grandad, so we missed celebrating his nameday with him. 

Don't feel too bad for ol' Gus though. I hear he spent the day at Legoland.

Here's something I made for him on a previous nameday celebration: says that lions are appropriate for celebrating St. Augustine's day, honestly, I don't really get why, but the pizza turned out cute.

I had EVERY INTENTION of serving actual crickets to my family for dessert for St. John the Baptist (since, to my knowledge, locusts are not indigenous to the greater Los Angeles Area). I even found a website that told me how to prepare them. We have a kiddie basketball hoop outside that is cricket central. You tip the thing up and crickets galore come hopping out, our neighbors used to regularly come get crickets for their lizard. But TODAY? Nary a cricket.

So I had to make my Cricket*, Almond and Wild Honey Clusters with only almonds. <sigh> 

Not nearly so memorable. (I like to make the feasts memorable, see below.)

Here's my recipe:

Cricket*, Almond and Wild Honey Clusters

  • combine 1 cup plain almonds in a bowl with 1/4 cup honey, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp salt 
  • mix to cover
  • drop three almonds each (touching) in little piles on a parchment covered cookie sheet
  • optional, add one prepared (frozen, then boiled, then roasted) cricket to each pile
  • microwave 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips until melted and smooth (30 seconds at a time)
  • spoon melted chocolate over each almond/honey/cricket pile
  • refrigerate to set

And since we were busy in San Diego buying our new BIG van last Saturday, we missed doing our traditional Tierney family St. Bartholomew's Day celebration, which is: Going apple picking (in our front yard) and SKINNING hundreds of apples for freezing and canning (get it? GET IT?) because we are totally awesome or totally creepy and either way my kids are going to remember the feast days.

So we did the big apple-pick on Monday instead (sans Gus and Anita):

It's just one tree, but it gives us a ton of apples. Well, not a ton, but four bags worth anyway. Which got skinned and processed into . . . 

eight freezer packs of sliced apples for pies or apple pancakes, eleven jars of applesauce, and four jars of apple butter which is soooooo easy and so good and I think that's what I'm going to make more of if we remember to get out there and do another pick in a week or so for the stragglers (which sometimes we don't).

The recipe I used is here, and it is awesome.

Oh, and all those cores and peels went to the chickens.

And, finally, all of this is true. But you'll have to take my word for it, because, as the famous quote says: 

Have a great weekend everyone, and a great holiday weekend to my fellow Americans. Drive safe, everybody!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


It's ALL YOUR FAULT Miley Cyrus

Why, oh why, won't this Miley Cyrus thing just go away from my Facebook?

the reaction of Will Smith and his family seems about right

And I tried, I really did try, to just not say anything about it. But I kept having thoughts. And I have a blog. So . . . 

Basically, I love everything that Matt Walsh wrote about it, but mostly I love this:
I wrote about Cyrusgate myself, simply making the rather obvious point that pornographic sexual degradation and confusion are interwoven into virtually every facet of our society, so it’s a bit absurd to randomly erupt with shock and outrage at one comparatively minor manifestation of our collective cultural rot.
Preach it brother.

I'll have to write a whole post sometime on my "It's All YOUR Fault Method of Divide and Conquer Parenting" in which I separate two squabbling siblings and explain to one of them how the whole incident was his fault and could have been avoided if he had changed his behavior in such and such a way, then I go to the other party and do the same thing.

That's how I'd personally like to approach this incident (which I did not and will not watch, by the way). 

  1. "It's ALL YOUR FAULT Miley Cyrus: you're a grown up and a professional and you should know better than to behave like that. And on television. And with a married man! Now go put some clothes on and start singing country music again."
  2. "It's ALL YOUR FAULT Robin Thicke: she's a child and she's been in the industry all her life and she doesn't know right from wrong. You're a married man. You should know better. And stop singing that song. It's gross. You should call Kirk Cameron and see about hanging out more."
  3. "It's ALL YOUR FAULT MTV: you want to be edgy and cool, sure. You're only giving people what they want, I get that. But surely, someone, somewhere at your corporation has a shred of goodness left and realizes that there is such a thing as indecent and this was it. You could have stopped it, but you didn't. You're exploiting damaged, sad, desperate for attention people. Knock it off. Now go play some (nice) music videos for a change."
  4. "It's ALL YOUR FAULT America: If you didn't watch this garbage it WOULD NOT EXIST. Period. You have done this to her and him and them and future generations of hers and hims and thems. Now turn off the TV and go outside."

And, um, I DID try to warn you guys.

p.s. If you just read this and have no idea what I'm talking about I would really encourage you to NOT try to find out. You'll be glad you didn't.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Touchy Subjects and Kids: how we talk about the stuff we'd rather not talk about

This is not going to be one of those posts where I tell you what to do, because so much of this is going to depend on your particular kids and their particular environment. But I know it's something that young moms struggle with, that I struggled with, that I continue to struggle with. But I think we've come up with a general policy that works for our kids and their environment. So today, I'm going to share how we handle touchy subjects, whether they are brought up by us, or by the kids themselves, or are forced upon us by circumstances beyond our control.

Preserving the innocence of my children is important to me, but it's also important to me that we be engaged in our culture and the world around us. We aren't hermits, we aren't cloistered religious, we live in this world. And that means my children are going to be exposed to some concepts that I would have just as soon they never heard about at all, let alone heard about as children. Figuring out how to handle that fact has been a journey for me.

My oldest son was a very bright and observant little kid. He was always very aware of his surroundings, asking me about things he overheard in grown-up conversations, or read on billboards, or heard about from kids in the neighborhood. My policy with him was to almost always tell him that that was a topic for grownups and that we would discuss it when he was older. We prayed for an end to abortion without him understanding what that was. We had a Prop 8 (defense of marriage) sign up in our yard when he was six years old, but again, decided not to tell him what it meant. He didn't know that there was such a thing as divorce or out-of-wedlock births. We even debated about explaining the concept of kidnapping or bad guys in general, not wanting to destroy his trust in the goodness of most people, but wanting him to know what to do in the very unlikely event that he was in danger.

But, eventually, I realized that I was going to have to talk to this kid about some stuff. I wanted to take the kids to say the Rosary outside the abortion clinic, and we became close friends with a family who have one child who has a different mom, born before our friends were married. I couldn't keep avoiding all of these topics forever.

But by this point, since I had waited so long, it had to be a Big Important Conversation. I suppose there's a place in life for Big Important Conversations, but I don't remember any of the ones I had with my own parents with a particular fondness and I sure didn't like being on the giving end of one either.

So I've totally changed how I approach touchy subjects with my kids. Here's what we do now:

1. If I don't like it, I don't make a big deal about it.

Let's call it the Voldemort method. I am not afraid anymore to name a thing for my kids. Instead of attempting to shield them as much as possible from any concept of a particular subject, I try to allow them to gain an awareness of it and an understanding of our family's position on the matter, but without any big to-do.

This is especially true of subjects that are not immoral, just kind of uncomfortable: like menstruation and how we get babies. I'm grateful that my kids have been exposed to mating behaviors in our chickens, and have the general concept of male and female coming together to make new babies and that we can't get baby chicks when we don't have a rooster. I also try to have my daughters witness menstruation and get a small explanation of what's going on in my body now, rather than waiting until they are going through it themselves and having a Big Conversation.

Of course, I would prefer that my children did not have to know about same-sex marriage, and child abuse, and divorce, and abortion at all, ever. But they WILL have to know about those things eventually, and I'd rather that it happened in a controlled environment.

I have found that little by little is a much less traumatic way to gain information than completely oblivious to Big Conversation. So, I am comfortable with my children, even my very young children, understanding that some men want to be married to other men or that sometimes people who aren't married do the "special kind of hug" that God wants only Mommies and Daddies to do together, and so sometimes babies are born without a whole family.

2. The car is absolutely the best place for uncomfortable conversations.

Whenever possible, I'd prefer that the information-gathering be child-led. I am guardedly open in my own conversation, and don't avoid controversial subjects entirely. My hope is that they put together for themselves a general concept of something, then come to me and ask a question, rather than to sit them down and give them a Big Talk that they might not be interested in. 

Most often, our conversations happen in the car. I'm a captive audience for my kids there, plus there's no eye contact required in car conversations, so that tends to be where my kids ask me things. It also helps that I always wait until we've been driving a while to turn on the radio, or CD, or even to start our Rosary. I want to give the kids a chance to bring up anything they've been wanting to talk about, controversial or mundane.

It is very, very important to me that my kids feel they can come and talk to me about anything. I want to foster an environment in which we can talk about anything, even evil or immoral things, without feeling that even a conversation about a particular thing would be wrong. I think that my former policy of putting off almost all my son's questions didn't help with that.

3. When my kids ask questions, I answer them, but I start very, very small. Often, that's enough.

When my kids do bring up a touchy subject, it can be tempting to launch into a detailed treatment of that and all related matters. But I have found out through experience that sometimes, all my child wanted was a very small, specific answer. And my broad answer had kinda freaked them out. So now, I start with a small answer, then if the child has follow-up questions, I answer those.

I remember, on a day at the lake from my own childhood, pointing out that one dragonfly was giving another dragonfly a ride. My aunt pointedly explained to me what was really going on with those dragonflies. I remember it so vividly. I really wish she hadn't.

Sometimes, our kids get exposed to a concept not on our preferred timetable. A parish announcement about child sexual abuse (a friend just went through this one) or a homosexual family member, can sometimes force our hand on discussing issues with our kids. But, again, for our family, I think the best policy has been to address the issue, call it by its name, and only answer the questions my kids actually have about the matter.

I have on occasion been sure a big question was coming only to find my kids hadn't noticed the situation at all. 

4. I try to make these moments lessons in compassion rather than in horror.

When we do have these conversations about abortion, or divorce, or out-of-wedlock births, I try to emphasize how unfortunate the act is and how complicated the effects of the act are, rather than how sinful the person is who is committing the act.

After all, we are all sinners, and I don't personally find it very helpful to dwell on how much worse other people's sins are than are my own.

Abortion, for example, is a tragedy for every person involved from the mother and the father and their extended families to the doctors and nurses and cleaning crews at the clinics. I want my children to pray for all of these people. I want them to understand that many people who participate in an abortion feel like they have no other options, or wrongly feel like they are helping a woman. Then we can pray that God will soften their hearts and heal them. 

I try to focus on homosexuality and out of wedlock relations as just not God's plan for us, and not the way to feel happy and fulfilled and connected to God and our fellow man. Also, how inclinations aren't sinful, only actions.

Again, only you can know what's right for your particular child. 

For me, when my four year old prays for an end to abortion, it feels right that she understands what she's saying. And if any of my kids want to know what those dragonflies are really up to, I will tell them. But only if they ask.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hey America, Pregnancy: You're Doing it Wrong

I've debated writing this post for a while, because really -- who wants to be the poster-child for "irresponsible pregnancy?" But, you know me, I can't resist a can of worms. And I think it needs to be said. So, here goes: You know all that stuff you're not supposed to do while you're pregnant? I do pretty much all of it. And mostly, I think you should too. Because the English-speaking world has a fundamentally flawed way of looking 
at pregnancy. 

I turned up pregnant a month after the husband and I got married. So, of course, I immediately consulted the internet. I learned that I wasn't to run or hike or jump up and down, I had to be sure to eat a lot of fish while being very careful not to consume any fish. I was to have no alcohol, no soft cheese, no caffeine, no tap water, no cured meats, no sushi, no hot tubs or hot baths. I was to do no painting, no gardening, no microwaving, no housecleaning, and no pet care. I probably shouldn't talk on the phone or use a computer. I needed to get all the recommended prenatal ultrasound and doppler testing, but be sure to avoid bombarding my baby with sound waves.

And, of course, no feeling stressed. It's not good for the baby.

But all that just didn't seem to me like it could possibly be right. Pregnancy is a natural thing that happens to women, often many times, and it's been happening throughout time and all over the world and how could it possibly be that fragile and burdensome?

Thank goodness my first call was to my very reasonable family practice doctor who told me that being pregnant was not a disease. He had some expertise in the field of fetal alcohol syndrome, and helped me to understand how very rare it is (a woman who consumes 18 drinks PER DAY has a 30-33% chance of giving birth to a baby with FAS). He explained that the safest place a baby could possibly be was inside its mother. He said I should feel free to continue to live life like a normal human being. So that's what I did. And that's what I've done through all six of my previous pregnancies, and what I'm currently doing during pregnancy number seven.

Because here's the thing: all that unscientific fear-mongering just serves to degrade a culture of openness to life. How can a woman be expected to avoid all of those things for all of her fertile years? The answer is she couldn't. So if my view of pregnancy is that it's something that's dangerous to mothers and babies, then I'd have to treat fertility as a disease to be cured. I'd have to "plan parenthood" so as to make very, very certain I didn't ever accidentally ride a roller coaster when I might unknowingly be pregnant. Or have a glass of wine. Or eat a bologna sandwich. I might have to abort a perfectly good baby just in case.

But for me, my fertility and pregnancies (and breastfeeding and newborns and children) are all a part of my normal life. I didn't stop out of real life and into a sterility bubble to carefully breed two children. I embrace both my fertility and my real life at the same time. Because my fertility and my real life are the same thing. 

So when I'm pregnant, I make very few if any changes to my normal routine: 

  • I continue to drink 1-2 alcoholic drinks per week (but recent studies and all of history and most of Europe suggest that up to 7 drinks per week is completely acceptable)
  • I continue my normal routine of exercising: running up until the last month or two of pregnancy, then walking instead. 
  • I continue to eat in a moderate and healthy way, and limit my weight gain to avoid feeling overweight and miserable during and after pregnancy. This has been a great benefit to both my physical and mental well-being.
  • I go on roller coasters and water slides even into my third trimester, brazenly daring the teenaged minimum wage theme park employees to accuse me of being pregnant.
  • I drink caffeine.
  • I take hot baths.
  • I eat sushi and brie and prosciutto because they are yummy and because they have never yet given me food poisoning, pregnant or not.
  • I don't smoke or take drugs, but I also don't do those things when I'm not pregnant. 
I have been fortunate enough to never lose a baby to miscarriage and to have given birth to six children without disabilities or special needs. But I do not attribute that fact to anything I do or do not do during pregnancy. It just is what it is, as they say. Plenty of women do everything just right and still lose a baby. To point fingers and try to figure out what they did to cause their miscarriage seems unhelpful and just plain mean. Tragedies happen, and we don't always get to know why.

And the thing is, most of this pregnancy advice seems to me to come, not from actual scientific research, but rather from theme park lawyers, internet conspiracy theorists, and Victorian novelists whose heroines will insist on going horseback riding against the wishes of their husbands and can be counted upon to miscarry and learn an important lesson about docility.

I don't think any of those three are better sources of lifestyle advice than the whole of human history in which, for many women, pregnancy was the rule rather than the exception for 20-30 years of their lives. And they didn't have time to sit around letting Google freak them out about it. They knew that pregnancy was just a natural part of life. 
That's how I view it as well. I have now been pregnant or nursing for over twelve years straight. And, for me, it mostly hasn't felt like a sacrifice or a burden. It hasn't felt like something other than real life, like a season of illness or misfortune to be weathered until better times return. And I think being able to have a glass of wine with the husband or go on a roller coaster with my kids has been a big part of that.


And hey, it's Sunday so you get to see what I look like pregnant today and what I wore to Mass:

Dress and Belt: Old Navy; Shoes: Zappos; Necklace: Personalized Creations; Earrings: a gift; Bump: 26 weeks!
And, if you're wondering about that big accessory in the background . . . why yes that is our new BIG van (and my first new car ever!). Thanks to the fine folks who like Catholic All Year on Facebook and responded to my cry for help, we test drove the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford E350, and Nissan NV.

I think any of the three would have worked for our family. But, I felt like the Mercedes was a combination of too spartan on the inside and too fancy (or at least too fancy a name) on the outside. I just somehow don't feel qualified to be driving around in a Mercedes. Even a decidedly unsexy one. The Ford seemed very utilitarian, so it certainly would have gotten the job done, but then we drove the Nissan and IT felt just right.

While the other two had a rather industrial feel, the Nissan NV really seems like a consumer vehicle. It's got things like a usb port, gps, a back-up camera, and little slide-out cupholders underneath each of the seats. And this one wasn't white (hallelujah!) so we went ahead and bought the thing.

It's going to take some getting used to, but I'm really very happy with it. Twelve seats! Imagine the possibilities. Now we just need to figure out if we're keeping our old 2002 Chevy Venture, too, and if the new one will fit in the garage, and how we're going to get three cars back up to LA. Jack's pretty good at Project Gotham Racing on Grandad's Xbox, but I'm not sure how well that would translate into real life driving skills.

Thanks to the good ladies at Fine Linen and Purple for hosting yet another What I Wore Sunday. Head on over to check out what everyone else wore to Mass today!  


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Drunk Octopus Wants to Fight (but I do not): 7 Quick Takes XXVI

I cannot explain why I find this so amusing. It defies explanation. I just really, really like it.

I want to put a bunch of these up in my house and not caption them or anything, but just chuckle to myself every time I go by one.

Or maybe if I ever have a mudroom, I'll have a big line of them across one wall and I'll get some of those fancy script decals for the wall and instead of them saying "family" or "laughter" or "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," mine will say "You better hang up your coat, drunk octopus wants to fight!"

This is Bobby's impression of Drunk Octopus:

This is Anita's:

I trust you all had a lovely Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Thursday. We did!

Those of you who like Catholic All Year on Facebook know that I planned to let the kids make Queenship-themed ice cream sundaes. (You also know that for some reason I think the Queenship of Mary is a solemnity, when it's just a memorial. Oops.)

Anyway, they turned out quite cute. And they were easy to prep and for the kids to do. Ahead of time I used a serrated knife to cut triangles out of the top edge of some pink ice cream cones we had in the pantry, and I also cut most of the handle part off. Then I let the kids decorate them with cut pieces of gummy fruit slices. They stick right on! Then we made ice cream sundaes and put the crowns on top.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, pray for us!

We also said an at-home family Rosary that night for the first time in too long. After all, it was a special day AND I am the proud owner of a custom made new Rosary.

I'm pretty sure all the necessary parts are there.
I just need to figure out how to access them.
Gus is awfully pleased with himself for making it.

I have a whole post on How We Say a Family Rosary, but it was written back when Frankie was in bed before we would start saying our family Rosary. 

Here's what it looks like saying a Rosary with Frankie:

and that was BEFORE the ice cream. But I'm sure Our Lady appreciated his efforts.

In a post earlier this week, I explained why my kids wear uniforms for homeschool, recite the pledge of allegiance, and do calisthenics before we start school each morning.

But you only got to see ONE of their two sets of uniforms. I know you're dying of curiosity. So, here's what the Tierney kids look like on Wednesdays and Thursdays:

Hey! Here's another random thing that is awesome:

Question . . . better photo to go with this:


Or B?

So hard to decide.

I really loved this post at Verily Magazine, defending the wisdom of an educated woman's (even an Ivy League educated woman's) decision to stay at home and take care of her children. 

While I'm not an Ivy League graduate, I do have two bachelor's degrees from USC, plus considerable post-graduate training in a field that would seem quite unrelated to stay-at-home mothering. But my education allows me to pass along a way of seeing the world to my children, a love of knowledge and beauty and culture that I would not have but for my studies.

When I was pursuing my education, I didn't yet know that my vocation was to be a stay-at-home mother. And when I quit my job to stay home with my first child, I didn't know that I'd one day be his teacher, along with his siblings. I also didn't know I'd become a writer, and end up using those English degrees after all.

To say that a woman ought not attend a prestigious university if she intends to stay home with her children would require a crystal ball, would it not? How can we know what the future will bring?

The whole debate reminds me of the father from The Poisonwood Bible who says, "Educating a woman is like pouring water into a shoe. It wastes the water and spoils the shoe." In case you haven't read that particular book, let me assure you, you DO NOT want to be on that guy's side. He's pretty much the worst.

Finally, there is this:

Happy weekend everyone! We're heading down to San Diego to visit my parents and see my sister and her girls and meet up with an old college friend of the husband's and his wife and their five kids. Annnnnd . . . we're going to test drive some big vans. Yikes! Thanks to all the awesome folks who responded to my Facebook cry for help, we've decided to take a look at the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford E350, and Nissan NV. Wish us luck!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!