Friday, December 31, 2010

Holiday Travels

10 days, 5 states, 12 cousins, and too many cookies later, we are tired! We got started on our first trip straight from the Jedis' bus stop after school on the 21st. Everyone had a great time at Grammy and Papa Benjamin's, where we celebrated Christmas with the 5 Bowen cousins. There's a new Benjamin cousin on the way as well from Unkie Nate and Aunt Becky. The boys were very happy to get individual DVD players and the Star Wars original trilogy. We headed home on Christmas Eve and joined our congregation for the evening service. On the 26th, we decided to get going early in the day in order to beat a Nor'easter, which is nothing to mess with if you've ever seen one. Fortunately, we arrived in Bethlehem, PA, by 1pm on Sunday, and family continued to arrive for the next 12 hours. I cooked for all 18 of us so that my MIL could get lots of time with grandchildren, and I'll post about the meals later. The 10 kids in the house were kept busy by watching movies, sledding, playing in the fieldhouse of the college where Pop-Pop works, and ice skating (where I think I cracked my kneecap!). The kids all played together beautifully. It was fun to see the different pairings throughout the day! They solved mysteries, decorated gingerbread, and drew on reams of paper. Now we're safely home and are enjoying a quiet New Year's Eve. We have a few containers of cookies left and some holiday decorations to dismantle after Epiphany, but I can relax in the mess for a while.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Noisy Christmas!

We are having a day of happy noise around here with no meltdowns to speak of, which is really excellent if you've met my kids. Last night we made it back home, did laundry and unpacked, then got the kids to church in nice clothing. The Jedis were asked to help carry a baby Jesus figure to the manger in the Christmas Eve service last night. IM would carry Him up the aisle and hand him off to A-man, who would carry Him to the manger and place Him there. When A-man was asked to do this, he bowed and said "it would be an honor." Then he had a few follow-up questions: "do I get to bathtize (working on pronunciation) Him?" and "do I get to make the sign of the cross on His forehead?". While we've been doing some hands-on learning about sacraments in the Children's Chapel, clearly we haven't gotten to enough theology to avoid multiple kinds of heresy. He does at least know that John the Baptist performs this later on. It's easy enough to remember since it's part of his name.

Fortunately no major heretical acts were committed, and my family enjoyed a beautiful candlelight service last night with no fire accidents. We got the kids to bed and assembled the table and chair set that we bought for M. I fell asleep on the couch, and Dr. O' left me there rather than waking me. I awoke at 4am and decided to put the cinnamon roll dough together in the bread machine. Unfortunately, I could not fall back to sleep because M was crying intermittently and later insistently, and I got her out of bed at 5:30. She was thrilled with her table and chair set and played with it all morning. The boys came down around 7:30 and had to be reminded to open their gift. They got a Wii that we bought from my brother for about 90% off, which was a huge blessing since our Christmas funds are lower than usual. The only manual included was in Spanish, but we managed to get it put together and loaded with Star Wars Lego, which they've been playing whenever they're not playing actual LEGOs.

Tonight we have to move into travel mode once again. The laundry is caught up, and we need to get the bags packed so that we can visit with the O'Hare side for the next few days.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Food Nerd is Born

I have always wanted to cook primarily from scratch, although I have done so with greater and lesser degrees of success. 5 years ago, Dr.O' was working on his Ph.D. at Notre Dame, and we had 2 little boys by that time. I think we lived on $16,000 that year because I was home with the bebe Jedis. We were getting our budget under control, and I had to dramatically change the way we grocery shopped. Since one of the Jedis showed signs of food allergies, we needed to be able to remove certain ingredients from his diet. Add to that my fears about food additives, and there was plenty of reason to make as much from scratch as possible. Just a simple red popsicle could be harmful. My kids showed sensitivity to Red-40, made from petroleum by-products, and fairly recent studies have shown that the HFCS used to sweeten it could have mercury in it as part of the extraction process. Then there was the genetically-modified stuff, which is in all processed food. So I had to feed tiny people with food sensitivities and behavior concerns, and I had to do it very cheaply! We received help from WIC, which didn't offer the healthiest foods, but it helped to buoy our bottom line a bit. Soon I figured out that 2 staples could be made at home for next to nothing! I became a hard-core bread baker, and I used that WIC milk to make yogurt.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

An Unusual Answer to Prayer...

I ran to the Triadelphia Wal-Mart today for a few things, and I was in the baking aisle to grab a cake mix for IM7's birthday. On the bottom shelf were multiple 25lb bags of chemical-free hard white winter WHEAT! It is the same brand, size, and approximate price that I usually pay for it (about $13/25lb bag). This is tremendously exciting because I am a baking nerd. I prefer to grind wheat flour myself for really healthy and delicious bread that's also very cheap and has no non-food additives. I have moved away from an area where I had a nearby Amish bulk food store, and since our friends weren't able to bring some wheat from there this weekend, I was actually pretty close to running out. It was cool to show IM that God answered Momma's prayer. Not only did God provide a source for wheat, but it's close to home, at a place where I shop weekly, and at about the same price! There is a place 2 hours away in Ohio, but I'll keep buying it at Walmart for now. I could avoid shopping at Wal-Mart altogether in Indiana, but these days, it's my Brokeback Mountain: Wal-Mart, I wish I could quit you!

And another one down...

I had a down day emotionally yesterday. Just a general low feeling, with spurts of ultra-grumpy ire, I must admit. The Jedis are really loud and rambunctious now that they feel better, and M is really whiny due to the respiratory mess we've been dealing with. Thank God for her nap!

I watched Christmas movies and laid around yesterday afternoon once we had gotten the house cleaned up. I was very cold and tired, and I must've really needed a rest because I even fell asleep on the couch with kids all around.

Dr.O' came down with the high fever and respiratory mess last night. Think of your tonsils as two Christmas hams wrapped in barbed wire and a sinus headache that feels like a fist pounding from the inside, and you've mostly got the picture. He's been so helpful in keeping everything working around here while I've been sick, so I've been after him any time he's doing work today, insisting that he veg out in our bed and get good rest! He was happy to do so once we had found the remote. Guess he didn't want to watch ABC Family for 2 days while he recuperates!

I decided not to share our plague at church today, especially since I don't know who in my family has actually had this virus and may still come down with it. Instead, I took the kids to the store where we got the last of the necessary items to celebrate IM-7's birthday tomorrow. It was good to give Dr.O' some solid sleep time without interruption. Now it's M's nap, and the boys are enjoying Rudolph.

Friday, December 17, 2010


The immense cookie baking was put off this week by our sudden respiratory malaise, but we have recovered and gotten life back in order. Our friends the Hamricks couldn't come due to respiratory stuff on our end and illness in their household as well, so we have shifted our plans around significantly. I baked most of the day today and have hundreds of cookies neatly stored in colored buckets of all sizes. Dr. O' stayed home and helped with M, who is in full toddler mode and a Daddy's Girl, and we had a nice day listening to This American Life on the iPod dock he gave me early for Christmas. Nice to have our holiday back on track! I'll finish baking tomorrow, and then the celebrations and travel will commence!

I posted a list of links with my Christmas cookie recipes in the right-hand column. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Things are calm for now...

Today is our first "normal" day in a week, with me + Dog & Baby Show @ home. I'm enjoying the Peanuts Christmas Soundtrack and munching on one of these.

I took M to the pediatrician yesterday and found out that she did not have influenza, which likely means that the rest of us didn't, either, despite having all the classic symptoms. He was kind enough to give us a prescription for Augmentin just in case we ran into a secondary sinus infection over the weekend. It's nice to have some credibility with the doctor. I'm conservative about doctor visits and antibiotics, and I'm glad he trusts my judgment. I'd really rather not mess with Augmentin if I can avoid it anyway! I was pleased to hear that we were doing exactly the right thing to treat her pain and breathing difficulty, and all he did was up her frequency of breathing treatments. It's good to have some serious momma experience under one's belt, you know?

The boys are both finally back at school today after a week of sick days and snow days. IM's throat still hurts, but he's turning into a whiny pile of mush on the couch from watching TV, and he's been fever-free for almost 24 hours. My throat still hurts too, but we gotta get moving some time!

The weekend will be much quieter now, and I'll have to ask IM if he prefers to wait to celebrate his birthday with extended family or to have cake at home on his birthday, which is Monday. He's turning 7 folks, 7! We have some fun surprises for him!

A-man is incredibly loud these days, talking right over me every time I attempt to say something, which is hard because my throat hurts. Kind of infuriating. Definitely asking God to help me love that child better on the hard days. I have to make sure to connect with him 10 minutes each day with a snuggle in the chair together. It's a powerful reset button for him.

Dr. O' is back to work (kinda) today, reviewing applications for a job opening in his department, a new and strange feeling for someone who was just applying a year ago! He's got a retreat today too. I can't begin to express how thankful I am for that man. He kept things sane around here when I was feeling lousy, and he was so patient and thorough in every task. He is definitely the cheese to my macaroni!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

You Give Me Fever: both the cabin and actual varieties

Things fell apart at the O'Hare house in the last 24 hours, but we are on the mend. We got slammed by the influenza virus, and if Momma is sick, this house can turn into a petri dish pretty fast! Dr. O' did a marvelous job keeping things together, baking bread, running to the store for meds, convenience food, and soda and sherbet for Yoda Sodas (our favorite treat for sickies!). I had a 102 fever starting yesterday afternoon, and Dr. O' has kept a mountain of laundry going, kept kids reasonably clean and fed, and has vacuumed the house. I'm kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop, with Dr. O' coming down with it. When he gets sick, it's pretty awful! A-man was home Thursday and Friday with what seemed to be a cold last week, but he may have had the flu as well. Since then, we've had snow days Monday and today.

The worst part is that we won't be seeing our friends the Hamricks now because we'll still be potentially contagious when they would be arriving. It's a disappointment, but we did see them twice in the last two months.

So we are making a new game plan, hoping to do lots of fun things, but also trying to get plenty of rest.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My life or something (title suggested by my always-helpful IM)

I am drinking tea and listening to Handel's Messiah, thinking about how dark it is at 6pm now. With the huge hill in my backyard, by kitchen gets dark even earlier. My sons have birthdays at the beginning of winter (IM next Monday) and the beginning of summer, and I find the contrast in weather and daylight so interesting. We are in full-scale Christmas prep when IM's birthday comes, but we try hard to make his birthday a special day. We're discussing cakes now.

This is the last full week before Christmas break. I will be making cookies in the church kitchen Monday and Tuesday, and I'm thrilled to have access to huge counter space and industrial ovens, which will make my 1000-cookie-project much easier. We both have large families, so we do need to bring plenty!

Dr.O's grades are due tomorrow, and he has only a handful of items left to grade. He and I need to do a bit of shopping for IM's birthday and to enjoy some quiet days together before the travel, etc. starts.

Our special friends the Hamricks will be here Friday afternoon (yeay!) to spend a day on their way to visit grandparents. The boys will have school on Monday and Tuesday next week, with me helping out in IM's class for the Christmas party. Then on Tuesday afternoon, we will head to visit Grammy and Papa and stay through Christmas Eve morning. We'll attend our church's Christmas Eve service, celebrate Christmas day at home, unpack, do laundry, re-pack, and leave for Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop's for a few days. By the time we get home, most of Christmas Break will be over for the boys. It'll be a busy semester, ending with the anniversary of our first year in Wheeling.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Laundry Nirvana, or How I Learned How to Stop Worrying and Love the Mound

I have always been bad at carrying the laundry tasks through to completion. I married while in college at age 21 and lived in a place with terrible water, so we ended up using the laundromat. That was helpful in getting me organized about laundry, and I liked that it all got done and put away. When we moved and had city water and a new w/d, I became a laundry slacker. I let loads sit wet overnight, I forgot softener, I dried pens and chapstick, and I used a LOT of detergent. Laundry PILED UP because we were both grad students and both commuting 40 minutes each way in different directions. After that, we had children, and I had their tiny laundry piling up as well. As much as I wanted to cloth diaper them, I could barely keep my head above water with 2 little boys 18 months apart. I wish I had known that diapers would later become the key for laundry nirvana for us!

Cloth diapers require very simple detergent with no artificial additives because these can cause residue, rashes, and funk, and the same thing goes for fabric softeners. When I was expecting M, I knew it was time to try cloth, so I researched detergents and found Charlie's Soap. I learned that even switching back and forth between commercial laundry soap and natural detergent can still result in residue getting dumped onto the diapers. So we have a 5-gallon bucket of Charlie's Soap powder, and we use it for EVERYTHING except delicates. Check it out on Amazon, where I can often find it for $100 for the bucket, which lasts at least 6 months, if not a year.

The diaper pail is in the basement next to the washer. This forces me to go downstairs multiple times per day to put a diaper into the bucket. While I'm there, I might as well sort the pile of dirty laundry at the bottom of the stairs, move stuff to the dryer, start a new load, and bring the clean clothes upstairs (remembering a basket helps!). I do a quick run around the house in the morning looking for stray dirty laundry in each room, and I toss it down the basement stairs.

Why is my laundry pile at the bottom of the stairs? My whole family can easily toss things down the stairs. It is the one place where I can guarantee that everyone can follow through on putting dirty laundry where it goes, and I don't have to look at it unless I'm doing laundry. The boys are learning to sort as well and can empty the dryer and bring the laundry upstairs. The Dog & Baby Show wait for me at the top of the stairs every time, and just as I reach the top, M slams the door in my face. Every time. It's a game for some reason.

The clean laundry is my weak spot! I lack focus to stay with it until it gets put away, and here I call on lot of help! I put the pile of clean laundry on our bed and sort the clothes into baskets for M, the Jedis, linens (we don't use paper towels here, so there's a lot), and our clothes. I get towels, wash clothes, and linens put away first because they're easy and always needed. The Jedis and I put their clothes away every few days, and I put M's away. Dr. O' hangs up his load, or I do it. We don't have a closet, so our clothes hang on a bar in the basement, so it's actually easier to hang clothes straight from the dryer. I grab the diaper load during M's naptime since it gets dried every other morning. I stuff the pocket diapers and leave them in their basket in the bathroom. That load also has the cloth wipes in it, so I stuff those into a wipes box by the sink.

Here's my wash routine:
- 4 loads of darks per week, cold water, 2T Charlie's
- 2 loads of lights per week, warm water, 2T Charlie's
- 1-2 loads of colors per week, cool water (reds, pinks, oranges, and yellows), 2T Charlie's
- 1 load of Dr. O's work clothes and my church clothes per week, cold water, gentle cycle, dry low, 2oz EcoStore liquid (I buy it at Meijer whenever I'm in Indiana), which smells deliciously like eucalyptus
- 3 loads of diapers and wipes per week, cold wash, hot wash in 4T Charlie's Soap, then an extra rinse, tumble dry low or line dry.

Note that I don't use softener. You don't need it if you use a residue-free detergent. It's the residue that makes your clothes stiff or scratchy, and softener is like laminating a layer of grime onto your clothes. Static can be remedied with wool dryer balls.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Trying to figure out my next step

I have had a difficult week. We had IM tested for a gifted program. The test was heavily skewed toward short-term memory, which he apparently has a deficiency in. I knew that he doesn't always know the content of a passage that he's just read, even though can decode words that are far beyond his grade level. He's fidgety and can't always tell me what he learned in school that day, but that's true of many 1st graders, right? His very high scores in some areas, which would have qualified him for gifted services, were totally negated by his lower scores in working memory. Suddenly a 2-hr/week gifted program is not the least bit important.

I am looking into ADD, ASD, Cranial-Sacral issues from his very difficult birth, and into a special program (pricey) for memory training. I just want to help him be the best IM he can be and for him to be happy. He's so gifted in some areas that I feel I owe it to him to find a way to balance out his skills and make his language ability more meaningful. He is socially awkward and physically uncoordinated, but it always seemed to be within developmental limits, and I could look past it as the stuff that gifted kids often exhibit.

My first impulse is toward homeschooling, just to get a handle on all of this. I can control the curriculum and structure activities around remediating that deficiency while still providing the enrichment that will keep learning exciting. I can keep distractions minimal. I can keep other people from making him feel weird. Except that I know I can't do it. I will get very depressed and overwhelmed, and I know it. So many of my friends homeschool, several with more children than I have, and I just can't. At least not now. My heart wants this for my child, but I don't trust that I can keep emotionally buoyant enough to homeschool. A would want to stay home, too, and he brings his own set of struggles.

The homeschool idea beckons to me because I could go to the therapeutic treatments on our schedule, not just after school when he's tired. I could take him to museums and let him take music lessons during the day. We could take off on trips without the worry of missing days of school. The snag is that this would only work if A was homeschooled too. I have just gotten to a place where he and I are doing well in our relationship after years of daily violent tantrums. The other snag is the fear that IM will suffer more social awkwardness if he is not with peers on a daily basis. I can see that. I don't know the homeschool community here, and it's hard enough to meet people in general here.

We've decided to start the school interventions with an occupational therapist and to start investigating working memory training, a concept that some experts don't believe is possible but which has been tested at Notre Dame. That has to be a sign, right?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why I love cloth diapering...

I wanted to cloth diaper IM, but someone convinced me it was terrible. When he was 9 months old and experiencing horrible diaper rash (Thanks, Pampers.), I looked into cloth and found the choices too overwhelming and the start-up cost too high. Wish I could do that over! A was born when IM was 18 months, so I had 2 in diapers for 2 years. A went on to wear diapers until his 4th birthday because we were focusing on his behavioral issues rather than potty training. M was born when A was 3 3/4, so I had 2 in diapers again for a while. However, I wanted to try cloth with M to cut down on waste, cost, and likely diapering time.

I bought $350 worth of prefolds and Bummis and Thirsties covers. Functional, cute colors, very affordable. They seemed to be the choice of my more thrifty and pragmatic friends. At 1 year, however, we had constant ammonia issues, M could remove the velcro covers, and the diapers were hard to put on over clothing and still allow freedom of movement.

I spent $300 on some FuzziBunz One-size, which I would have started with if I had it to do all over again. If I had started with those with the boys, we're talking $3000-$4000 that I could've saved!

I've had my bad days with stinky issues with the FuzziBunz, but I LOVE these diapers. They fit babies from 7 to 35 lbs. I love that they snap because I've had problems with velcro wearing out on the earlier covers.

Here's a few common questions and my answers-

-What do you do about poo? I flush it down the toilet, which is technically the only legal way to dispose of human waste. I do occasionally dunk diapers, but I don't have to often since I use a polyester fleece diaper that lets it roll off. First, I remove the microfiber pads that are inside. Sometimes, I use a liner that keeps the poo from getting onto the diaper. That can be flushed as well. They're pretty cheap, but I don't always remember to use them. Rinsed dirty diapers or wet diapers go into a pail in the basement until wash time.

-How do you wash them? I have hard water, so I'm careful of mineral and detergent build-up. I do a cold wash without additives. Then I start a hot wash with 4T of Charlie's Soap. I stop it when the machine is full of hot water and let it soak overnight. Then I resume the cycle in the morning with an extra rinse. After that I run them through the dryer on low or put them on the washer line. I like Rockin' Green Soap, too. This routine has been going great for about 2 months now, and since my M is 21 months, I think the routine is fine through potty training. Actually, both FuzziBunz and Rockin'Green will help customers troubleshoot their washing problems, and I fine-tuned mine with advice from FuzziBunz.

-What about night time?
I have to confess that cloth just DOESN'T work for us at night. M is a heavy wetter and pees through 3 heavy microfiber cloths. Maybe a FLIP diaper would work, maybe hemp, but I'm not interested in buying more. So we use disposables at night because we worry about ammonia and leaks.

-What about wipes?
Baby washcloths stored dry in a wipes container work great for us. I keep all the diaper stuff in the bathroom, which I think will help with potty training: this is where we deal with potty things. If I need wipes, I grab one, wet it, use it, and put it in the pail with the diaper when I'm done. No sorting out piles of things to wash and things to toss that way. I do like California Baby's spray to spritz on during a change, but I make sure to wipe well so that the oils don't get on the diaper.

I can't say that this is what everyone should do or that doing it my way would work for everyone, but it works great for us! I love seeing M's little cloth-covered bum and hate the sight/smell of disposables. If nothing else, I'm preventing a lot of landfill waste and using biodegradable detergent on all our laundry, so it has to be a point for the green side.

Most of the research that suggests that cloth is equal to disposables or is worse than disposables in terms of cost or environmental impact is funded by disposable diaper companies. Typically such research assumes that cloth diapering parents use a diaper service, which involves delivery pollution, harsh chemicals, and high energy costs. Not me, I do it all at home for the cost of a load of laundry. 'Scuse me, gotta start the wash!

Hooray, God provides!

I've been a bit low this holiday season. It's hard for me to not be able to focus entirely on Advent, but it's for legitimate reasons. My husband had a miscommunication with his employer resulting in our not getting reimbursed $500 he paid for a conference put on by his publisher. This $500 was the bulk of our Christmas fund. We also have important birthdays and travel that will cost money. It's just discouraging. However, we have a gift for the boys that we know they will love and that we can add to later. (Shh! It's a Wii that we're getting second-hand from my brother). My 1000-cookie-bacchanal won't be that expensive, and it provides a source of gifts for friends and family. Any money that we get from our parents for Christmas will pay for us to get home (maybe that's why they give us cash! ;).

I get upset from time to time when I think about this lack of funds, but I have to realize that we put out $800 for this conference over 3 months. After grad school poverty, I marvel that we paid all our bills and still managed to sock away enough to pay for Dr. O' to go to Atlanta.

I took IM today to JCPenney's because we had a 20% off coupon from a church friend. The coats were at least 50% off to begin with, and we got to use the coupon, so I bought him larger snowpants and some nice Thinsulate gloves. The original price for all was $135, and I got all for $45 with tax. Thankfully, his boots still fit, at least until they go on clearance in a month or two! The best part of today was some one-on-one time with the son who is growing up so fast. He turns 7 in 2 weeks! We had a late lunch at Panera and did some quick grocery shopping. What a huge blessing to get affordable and durable outerwear and get some time with my not-so-little guy!

When I get a little annoyed, thinking that my kids deserve I deserve to see a HUGE pile of presents under my tree, thinking that our present unwrapping should take even a scant hour, I remember that I've been given far more than I could ever hope to be worthy of. I want my kids to be so immersed in Advent joy that the Christmas Day materialism becomes part of Christmas but not the sum total of Christmas.

I thought about getting a credit card to make it through Christmas, but I'm not going to. I just can't put my faith in a piece of plastic with the expectation that "it'll all work out". If it'll work out when I pay off the debt, why not trust that things will work out now? God provides. Not all at once or always in the ways I think He should, but He has blessed us abundantly. Philippians 4:19

UPDATE: As usual, everything has worked out fine. We have been abundantly blessed with new clothes and new shoes and thoughtful gifts of all kinds by our family. We have had enough money to be able to travel to Indiana and Pennsylvania. My brother charged us $25 for the Wii, which came with 2 games and 4 controllers. We bought the Jedis a Star Wars LEGO game for the Wii and a table and chair set for M. Dr. O' got a great deal on an iPod dock for me, and I've been enjoying it throughout the Christmas season. Dr. O' bought all of his own gifts at his conference in Atlanta, where he can find the best deals on books each year. We have what we need, and then some! Thank you, Lord!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Gearing up for Cookie Day - Packing list to take to the church

My shopping list:
25lb all-purpose flour
25lb sugar
72oz chocolate chips
1 can shortening
10lb butter
5lb powdered sugar
5lb brown sugar
4 dozen eggs

Already have:
Using church's industrial ovens - Hooray!
1000'x18" roll of paper for rolling cookies on and for putting cooled cookies on
Enormous stand mixer
cooling racks and cookie pans
baking soda
baking powder - aluminum free!
orange oil
lemon juice
cocoa powder

The Move - 6 months later

We moved to Wheeling, WV, six months ago for my husband's job at Wheeling Jesuit University (a frequent stop for those nasty Westboro Baptist Church creeps due to its proximity to I-70 since WBC is apparently both lazy and bigoted). Our stuff came 6 months ago today. Since then, we have removed carpet, restored hardwood floors, painted only 1 room so far (and that was because the previous color was terrible), put in a furnace and A/C, run new cold water lines, straightened out some electrical issues, put down some laminate, and scraped a lot of paint.

Our kids are growing and are as rambunctious as ever. The boys, IM and A, are at a great local school where they apparently think parents have unlimited time and money, and that's probably true for many, although not-so-much for us. Daughter M is lovely and busy and sweet at 21 months tomorrow. I have not returned to work, although I've had 2 opportunities, because I want to make sure that everyone is settled and happy. The first 2 years of Dr. O's time at Jesuit will be among the busiest because he's writing all new coursework. I also want to finish my MA first so that I can make enough money for my time away from home to be worth the effort.

We managed to find a good church very close to home by the end of the summer and jumped in with both feet, starting a children's ministry to help alleviate our own stress at keeping 3 kids quiet and engaged throughout a eucharistic worship service. I serve as the Children's Chapel teacher, and we pull the kids out of worship during the sermon for about 20-30 minutes. We are blessed to find a congregation that is a good fit and that has just the right amount of activity for this point in our lives.

So what am I doing? I am a full-fledged homemaker trying to get back to my MA program and maintain sanity and sanitation in my home. I spend my time cooking, plenty of cleaning, wasting some time on the computer to feel like I exist outside of my home, spending time with Dr. O' and the kids, and working on my church stuff. I try to get out into the community a bit, although it is difficult to find members of what Kurt Vonnegut would call my "karass", aka other moms who aren't all competitive, who share my values, who aren't big on material stuff, who aren't constantly on their phones, and who love Jesus like I do. It's tough; there are great people here, but they're usually pretty set on friends. I miss my girls in the Village, but I don't miss the Village. It's complicated. I love my life here with the exception of the girlfriends part, but I love being here making a nice life with my family.

Time to get back to blogging for myself

Three and a half years ago I started writing a very useful and successful blog to help Notre Dame families navigate life at the University. I tried now and then to add to a little family blog, but it never really got enough of my time to be worthwhile. Several friends of mine have recently started new blogs, and I got inspired to write about what I'm doing, if only to cut down on an obnoxious quantity of FB status updates and to remember the things I've worked on throughout the year. If someone else finds something helpful or uplifting in my ramblings, that's a happy bonus!