Tuesday, December 28, 2010


This year, my Advent and Christmas meditations have--not surprisingly--been informed by my own recent experience of BIRTH.

Advent: During Advent we wait for the coming of the Christ-child, God with us, Emmanuel. It is a pregnant pause in the church calendar, if you will. This Advent I thought a lot about my own pregnancy. I spent nine months contemplating the coming child, imagining her face, how my life would change. Nothing, nothing, nothing could prepare me for the revolution this baby brought with her. The joy, the depth of love--things I cannot describe--have become my reality. How much more will the expectation of Advent be fulfilled and exploded by the reality of Christ's birth? Christmas is come, Christ is here--but His birth is, we find, too much for us to bear. We learn slowly--have needed so many Advents to begin to understand. Will need so many more to fully comprehend.

Christmas Eve: On Christmas Eve this year I remembered my own labor and delivery as I thought about Mary--who labored on Christmas Eve to give birth to the Savior. As always, I hope follow our Lady, and I hope that in some real way the pain of my labor was joined with hers--that my suffering will, like hers, produce good fruit. "For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only creation but we ourselves...groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons."
Christmas Day: On Christmas day I remembered Harriet's first day: the shock, the exhaustion, the strange sense of well-being and safety as our little family huddled in the hospital room. Animals and angels did not attend, but we were well taken care of by nurses and our wonderful family. (And, might I add, a manger would have been more comfortable than Hattie's plastic hospital cradle!) On Christmas Day Devin, Hattie and I drove around the city. The quiet, the empty streets always surprises me. Is this a quiet echo of the first Christmas? Did creation pause, the sky grow still, the hills fall silent? "Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright!"
Feast of the Holy Family: On this feast I thought about the "silent years" of Jesus' childhood, where he lived quietly with Mary and Joseph, learned to walk, to talk, to feed himself with a spoon (or whatever utensil Joseph carved for him out of wood). How blessed Mary and Joseph were to see Jesus as I see my child: all the joy at seeing Him grow, and the sadness to see Him grow up. I ask God to make us a holy family also, to raise our baby so she can see beauty, so she can love purely.
The Feast of the Holy Innocents: Today is the dark day of Christmas, the day we remember the babies killed by Herod as he tried to destroy the infant Jesus. I have never understood this feast like I begin to understand it now. Lord God, preserve my child. Today I mourn with those mothers, whose suffering foreshadowed the suffering of Our Lady as she also watched her child die: "A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children, she refused to be comforted, because they are no more."

But, as we know, Love conquers death. The Holy Innocents, the first martyrs, are glorious now. And though Christ died, Christ is Risen, and Christ will come again! So Merry Christmas to all. A Christmas full of Joy which lights up the darkness.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Last weekend we took the babe to visit her great grandmother in Houston. In the family home, surrounded by portraits, collected nicknacks and heirlooms, Hattie was able to marinade briefly in the family history which has helped make her the little person she is--and will shape the woman she will become.

Four generations. And More!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What is a Successful Day?

Yesterday was a successful day for New Mommy Me. I arose with the sun and, accompanied by my precious daughter and lovely husband, visited the local coffee shop where all was warm and jolly.

Back at home I bundled precious daughter in her Moby wrap and cleaned *the entire house*: including 3 bathrooms, 3 bedrooms, and the kitchen. I swept and vacuumed all the floors. I dusted. I even did laundry.

Later in the day, while nursing, I worked on a poem in progress.

I wrote three thank-you notes.

I ordered two Christmas presents online.

I planned my menu.

In the afternoon my mother-in-law came and sat for my precious daughter while I ran two miles and lifted weights.

Lovely husband came home and we ate Home-made chicken noodle soup that had been simmering deliciously on the hob all day.

Then we listened to Christmas music, lit the Advent wreath and read the scripture readings for St. Lucy's day.

Booyeah!! It was a good day.

Then there was today...

I arose much, much after the sun. Since it was too cold to go out for a walk I lounged in bed until dear daughter awoke (closer to 10 AM than I am proud to admit).

Bathed precious daughter. Upon becoming, once again, fully clothed and fluffed-of-hair, precious daughter urped profusely into new clothes and lovely fluffed hair.

Bathed myself. After which, precious daughter urped into...MY lovely fluffed hair.

Since it was too cold to go out, I spent the rest of the daylight hours (4 hours-ish) working on a "memory video" from our very eventful 2010 year.

As the sun went down, realized that my photos and videos were incorrectly formatted. Lost entire video.

Ate (almost) entire plate of Christmas cookies to make myself feel better. Did not feel any better.

Lovely husband came home. Lovely husband made dinner while not-so-lovely and very whiny wife lay on the floor with the dog.

Attempted Advent devotion but precious daughter did not comply. Alas.

Alas Alas.

Ah well! Tomorrow cometh, cometh quickly.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Little Saint

Last weekend Harriet Paloma was baptized. Our little family gathered in Our Lady of Good Counsel parish and the venerable and most aged Monsignor Blacet poured water over Hattie’s unruly mohawk and cleaned out her little soul "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." She screamed. “Don’t worry,” said Monsignor, “it’s just the Devil coming out of her. Scream, little baby, scream!” After she had been duly dunked, dried, and sealed, we were given back our “new little saint.”

Hattie won’t remember her baptism. Or rather, she won’t remember it until she has a child and stands at their baptism to renew her baptismal vows:

“Do you reject Satan?”

I do.

“and all his works?”

I do.

“and all his pomps?”

I do.

“Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?”

I do.

“Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?”

I do.

“Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting?”

I do.

“This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


Devin and I renewed these vows last Sunday. We witnessed both the promise and the responsibility of this sacrament as we stood by at the baptism of our first child. Our new little saint. And as the water dried and her mohawk re-erupted, Harriet had indeed become a little saint. That is, after all, what we believe--that the waters of baptism create a new Christian, cleansed by God’s grace from the stain of Original Sin.

As I spoke the baptismal vows on behalf of my child, my mind was drawn back to my own salvation, which I must continue to work out “in fear and trembling.”

Becoming a mother has forced me to realize--again, and in a new way--that I AM NOT MY OWN. My salvation, my personal holiness, is not merely “between me and God alone.” I stand as a mother at a child's baptism. I am responsible for another soul. In some real way Hattie’s faith depends on my own. I am one of the "great cloud of witnesses” who surround her. I must learn to be a holy witness in her life. I must learn to be a saint.

This work of love, this journey to holiness is difficult. Impossible even. As difficult and impossible as a camel going through an eye of a needle.

Yesterday I was reminded of this fact as I read this story which Thomas Merton relates in his book The Seven Story Mountain:

…[he] suddenly turned to me and asked me the question:

“What do you want to be, anyway?”

I could not say, “I want to be Thomas Merton the well-known writer […]” or “Thomas Merton the assistant instructor of Freshman English […],” so I put the thing on the spiritual plane, where I knew it belonged and said:

“I don’t know; I guess what I want is to be a good Catholic.”

“What do you mean, you want to be a good Catholic?”

The explanation I gave was lame enough, and expressed my confusion, and betrayed how little I had really thought about it at all.

[He] did not accept it.

“What you should say”—he told me—“what you should say is that you want to be a saint.”

A saint! The thought struck me as a little weird. I said:

“How do you expect me to become a saint?”

“By wanting to,” he said, simply.

“I can’t be a saint,” I said, “I can’t be a saint.” And my mind darkened with a confusion of realities: the knowledge of my own sins, and the false humility which makes men say that they cannot do the things that they must do, cannot reach the level that they must reach: the cowardice that says: “I am satisfied to save my soul, to keep out of mortal sin,” but which means, by those words: “I do not want to give up my sins and my attachments.”

I must throw off my sins and my attachments. I must throw off everything that hinders, the sin that so easily entangles, and run with endurance the race marked out for me.

I also must become a saint.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Roommate Weekend 2010

A few weeks ago I was blessed by a visit: my roommates from college descended upon the Kansas City area, bringing with them much joy. If this blog post is late (and it is), I trust in the patience and clemency which my roommates most certainly possess. (And if they possess the virtues of patience and clemency, I most certainly helped them obtain them!)

Twas a wonderful weekend. Reuniting with old friends refreshes the soul. And when old friends are united by faith in Jesus, the soul rejoices all the more.

May all of us continue in His love, which is the strength and joy of the world.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hattie Shoot, 8 Weeks

So I admit I caved and bought a Sophie Giraffe (because all the cool kids have them). I also admit that I bought my baby daughter leg-warmers. But YOU gotta admit that she's rocking the leg-warmers. And Sophie doesn't look so bad herself.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Let them Eat Cake

Girls, this is not the way to lose the “baby fat” after pregnancy. I recognize this fact. I understand the whole “calories in calories out” thing. I know that cake (with cream cheese frosting) does nothing to shrink one’s expanded midsection.

But really, how could I resist? …the cream cheese frosting…the lovely red color…

I stole this recipe for Red Velvet Cake from your friend and mine at The Smitten Kitchen. Like most recipes on this delightful blog, the cake was fab. (I would, however, recommend a double recipe of frosting in order to achieve that fluffy, slathered look. BUT TAKE NOTE! A double recipe of frosting means TWO sticks of butter and TWO packages of cream cheese. Devour if you dare!)

In my defense, I had a very good REASON to bake a triple layer cake (the birthday of *two* friends), and I didn’t consume said layer cake ALONE (thanks to said friends…plus another friend…plus Thomas More).

Also in my defense… I have finally reached the post-partum Plateau of Sanity (which comes after the Canyon of Craziness, the Slopes of Sleeplessness, and the Wilds of Overwhelmedness). This means that I am not only 1. Sleeping at night, 2. Keeping up with laundry, 3. Reading books, 4. Making the bed regularly, and 5. Applying makeup daily—I am also making food for myself and my whole family from my own kitchen. And more than this—I feel confident enough in my parenting and multitasking skills, that I feel ready to start experimenting in the kitchen once again. Hurrah!

So of course the first new thing I decided to try was a multi-layered red velvet cake. With cream cheese frosting. Of course.

But alas, my abs, my rear, my thighs, alas! After several weeks of consistent weight loss this week the scales refused to budge. Could this, I ask, have something to do with three layered red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting? Perhaps.

So now I will endeavor to move my culinary experiments into more healthful realms. Thankfully The Smitten Kitchen contains many wonderful alternatives to three layer cakes. Like last night’s Mexican adventure: Acorn Squash quesadillas with tomatillo salsa. Truly delicious. Next, continuing with winter squash, I am going to try warm butternut squash and chickpea salad…right after I deal with that last piece of cake!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

September Child, October Ache

Autumn surprises me again with the same pain, the ache as I watch another year pass. It’s the same every time. The clarity of the air and light. Sound of a distant train, metallic, resonant down in the West Bottoms. Clatter of leaves, pull of wind. All of October, all these diamond minutes passing brilliant and lost. And now October is over also. Now November and the tail end of the season.

It makes me hurt: that I will never get this year back. This precious year. That it passes even as I watch and listen—strain my eyes, strain my ears.

It seems to me that October almost doesn’t exist in and of itself: it stands as a monument to lost things, is lost itself. Every October I am bombarded by memories, almost overwhelmed with nostalgia. I was surprised the other day to come across a photo of my husband and myself—one of the first ever taken of us together. We are no more than seventeen or eighteen years old. We are standing by the lake, at sunset, visibly nervous, arms awkwardly around each-other’s wastes. Fresh faces scared. This was not even ten years ago. But nearly ten years ago. And it’s lost—as lost as if it were one hundred, one thousand years ago.

Or yesterday as I walked it all came back to me suddenly—a cold Fall in Chicago when we were in college: down-town, the lake ice, the steel skyscrapers, blue everywhere. Russian tea and black bread in some restaurant I forget its name.

I forget its name. I forget the taste on my tongue. Even memory cannot preserve this. Even memory leaves me.

So the season is passing. Autumn falls on us so beautiful, and beautiful only because it passes and passes quickly, speaks of things passing.

It’s fitting, then, that Harriet is a Fall baby. I find I cannot keep her either. She is growing up and leaving before my eyes. And why is it that you can’t write about babies without falling immediately into cliché? These sentiments, repeated by a million million mothers for a million years. How quickly they grow up. Treasure treasure treasure this moment, for it will pass, and no matter how you treasure it, clutch it close, hold it tight, it will escape you. This child will never come back to you. You will be left an old woman with your memories.

But I understand now. I understand those clichés. Oh how I love her—her face as she sleeps, her smell, her heavy head knocking soft against my neck, her small noises, her little fists. Her face at this moment—now, this instant!—and the moment is gone. Lost—as if it happened one hundred, one thousand years ago.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Brookside Baby Names

After nine months of baby-naming stress (i.e. arguments, tears, second guesses, etc), I am very happy to give my baby-naming obsession a bit of a rest. However, my name-sensitive ears still can't help perking up when an interesting moniker comes their way.

Before I gave birth to our darling Hattie P. I spent quite a bit of time at the pool (i.e. fancy country club that I don't belong to, but had the temporary pleasure of using), where I listened intently as well-groomed mothers with perfect tans called to their brilliantly blond little darlings as they frolicked in the water. Names here included many lovely and classic appellations such as:


and so forth. Now I very much love each and every one of these names. But as I listened and took note, I began to worry that my own sweet baby "Harriet" would feel a bit odd amongst her peers...and thoughts of taunts and teasing occurred to me (i.e. "HAIR-y" Harriet). These country club cubs stirred up quite a bit of anxiety, and almost caused me to back down on our Choice completely. I am happy that my husband held firm, insisting on the virtues of the lovely "Harriet."

After this crisis, many things happened. Harriet was born and named and that was that. We also moved to a new neighborhood, which is a bit...funkier...and a little less country-club. AND where the parents name their babies a bit differently. I am happy to announce that Harriet "Hattie" Winter will not be the odd-baby-out in her play group. Names I have heard recently include:

Claudia and Stewart (siblings)

Today I joined the neighborhood mothers' association, where I found even more graciously named children:

Victor and Josephine
Oliver and Juliet
Faye and Evelyn
Henry and Amelie
Valene and Phillip
Hudson and Neva
Constance and Zooey
Soren (yes folks, as in Kierkegaard!)

...just to name a few. Methinks Harriet will fit right in!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Anna from New York

My lovely friend Anna came from New York to see me in Kansas City. We did a bit of wandering around the metropolis. It's not New York, but it's home.

Anna and I have been friends for 18 years. So she gets to be Harriet's "auntie."

She is Sleeping. And I should be happy about it.

Harriet is sleeping. Why am I not full of rejoicing? I should be in a state of bliss. She is sleeping. She is SLEEPING. She has been sleeping for over TWO HOURS. Elysium! Freedom!--yes?

Why am I nervous? Why am I full of nameless dread? Because, my friends, this
could suddenly turn into this:
OR because if she sleeps all day then she could look like this


But I can't wake her up. She is too precious. I can't disturb this precious thing.