Thursday, July 31, 2014

I'm THAT person...Why I Don't Give Money to Charities

You know the scenario. I'm in line at the grocery store. I put my groceries on the conveyer belt. I watch sadly as the total gets higher and higher. I get out my credit card and slide it through the card reader.

Then, the cashier asks the inevitable question: "Would you like to donate $____ to the _____________ charity?"

And I, with my "Catholic Radio" bumper sticker, and crucifix on my neck, and rosary in my purse, always say the same thing, with incredible guilt bubbling to the surface as I say the words:

"No, thank you."

I feel all eyes on me, including (and especially) the cashier's, judging the living daylights out of me and my crucifix necklace: Typical Christian. Talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk. 

How can you say no to me??
I always hate this. I hate passing by the bell-ringing Salvation Army people without giving change. I hate turning away the sad eyes from those puppies who need medical help. I hate saying no to the children in third world countries who don't know where their next meal is coming from.

But for me and my family, we know it's the best thing to do for us. Because here's the thing: do we ever really know where our money is going?

To me, giving money is like voting. You can't just walk into the voter's booth and randomly fill out circles, not knowing a thing about the candidates. Well, you can, but it's not a good thing to do. I personally do not feel comfortable giving money to any organization that I know nothing about. So I say no. Because I'm sure that some of it will go to that good cause...but do I really know?

I'll never forget the day I decided to stop buying Ben and Jerry's ice cream. It was (and still is) my favorite store bought ice cream in the world. Just typing about it right now is making my saliva production substantially increase. I used to eat it all the time. Then I found out that they give a substantial amount of their profits to Planned Parenthood. And the internal battle inside of me raged: Really, do your $4 per pint make any difference at all? Surely it doesn't matter.

I ultimately decided that it did matter. And from that day forward, I resolved never to buy it again. (I will admit that people have bought it for me as gifts, and I accept it and eat it....but that's the only time I eat it).

But here's the thing: if I were to boycott every single product, business, or organization that gave money to something I didn't agree with, it would be virtually impossible for me to live. Disney. Whole Foods. American Airlines. Oreos. Amazon. Cheerios. Google. The list goes on and on.

So what do I do? Do I live in a bubble, become completely self sufficient, and never buy another product again?

Again, I'd like to compare this to voting. When we vote, we must decide what political subject is most important to us. Because the reality is that no perfect politician exists. And every one will probably stand for at least a few things that we disagree with. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't vote. We must simply make the best informed decision that we possibly can which aligns with our beliefs.

So I do believe there's no doubt that a lot of those charitable organizations to which I do not contribute certainly do a lot of good. (Did that sentence make any sense at all?) But I must pick and choose which organization is the most aligned with what my priorities and beliefs are.

We choose one organization to give our money. We have chosen the Catholic Church, because it is the biggest charitable organization in the world. It feeds, educates, clothes, houses, heals, and supports more people than any other charity. We trust that when we give the Church our money, it will be used in the best way possible. Of course, there's always going to be a level of trust when you give money, and you will never know for sure if it's being used wisely. But we have been doing it for years, and we feel like it's the best decision for us.

So next time you see me at the grocery store, hanging my head in shame as I softly mutter "no" to the picture of the near extinct tropical birds, please don't judge...I promise, I do give as much as I am able. I'm just picky.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Answer Me This: Volume 11

This week's installment of Answer Me This from!

1. What’s your favorite thing on YouTube?

I do love a good laugh. And I love dogs. And I like cats, but think they are strange. So I picked this:

2. Who taught you to drive?

My dad taught me to drive in his piano-moving van. He figured if I could drive in that, I could drive in anything. And he's right...most cars are easy to drive compared to a huge piano van.

3. What’s your favorite thing to cook?
This kind of cheese, this brand.
Makes ANY pasta or vegetable

Oh my gosh....that is a hard question. Because really, I love to cook everything. Cooking soothes me and calms me and makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something. Plus I love to eat. So I want to answer this by saying "EVERYTHING."

If I HAD to choose, I think I would pick leftovers pasta. Usually once a week we have pasta for dinner and I just throw together all of our leftover veggies in the fridge with some meat in there. Add some olive oil, nice cheese (Pecorino Romano is the best and I use it for everything), and garlic, and's incredibly delicious, every time.

4. Are you a hugger or a non-hugger? Why?

I'm definitely a fact, I have actually freaked out a few people in the past who don't like to be touched and asked me not to hug them. Oops. But if someone sticks their hand out first before I can hug them, I'll just shake their hand.

5. Where do you pray best?

I think in the morning when I am walking my dog outside, by myself. I'm still bad at it then because I get incredibly distracted by even a speck of dust floating in the air. But I'd say that's my most concentrated place of prayer.

6. When is the last time you saw/spoke to your grandparents?

All of my grandparents have passed away, but I was able to visit all of them right before they died. I was actually there for both my grandfathers' deaths, and they were both peaceful moments. The last thing I remember saying to my father's mother before she died was to go to the light if she saw it. I was maybe 10 at the time. She was in a coma, but I still like to think she could hear me.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Letter: To Those of You Who Complain That Parents Nowadays Aren't Good Disciplinarians

I had a particularly difficult time-out session yesterday. Oh wait, did I say "I?" I meant Elizabeth. But really, it was just as hard for me as it was for her. It's in no way fun or easy to sit there and listen to my little girl cry for 50 minutes straight. But I knew that, since we are starting to implement new rules based on her growing understanding of (and attempting to get away with) unacceptable behaviors, the first few weeks (and especially days) would be the hardest. It's like ripping off a band-aid. Once she realizes what's going on, she'll get it. Even today was better...she only cried for 35 minutes straight. But PHEW, this consistent discipline stuff is not for the faint of heart.

It got me thinking about the different discipline techniques that are out there, and which ones are and aren't effective. That's a difficult subject to tackle, because really, a lot of it depends on the family and what they feel comfortable with. But a lot also depends on what produces results. When I look back on how parents used to discipline their children, it seems so great and simple to me. But it bothers me when people complain about how other families discipline their children. Sure, if their discipline methods are not producing results, perhaps they should try something else. But, as I've said before, what's right for my family might not necessarily be right for yours.

So if you find yourself grumbling about how "things just ain't what they used to be," this blog post might just be for you.

Dear Person Who Thinks Discipline Has Gone Down the Drain,

Hi! I'm Ashley. I'm glad we've met. Because I think we have a lot in common. I, too, think that parents back in the day had the right idea. Children were expected to behave, and quite simply, if they didn't, there were consequences. That was that. Things were simple. Both parents and children knew what was acceptable and what was not. Both parents and children knew what would happen if and when rules were broken. And for the most part, a majority of parents agreed with each others' parenting styles.

I'm all about disciplining the "old-fashioned" way. It fits me. And, having a strong willed child, I find that it is much easier for me to be consistent when I have clear cut rules: "If you do action A, consequence B will happen, every time." I have no problem with spanking, and think for some families, it can work very well. I have a hard time believing that if you give children time-out for longer than the recommended "one minute for every year of age" that they will completely fail to understand the consequences of their actions. I have learned that, when done appropriately, I CAN let my child cry and work out her own problems, and it won't result in long term brain damage or emotional instability like so many "researchers" say it will.

Bottom line: disciplining your child is the most loving thing you can do for her, because it teaches her how to deal with real life. Agreed? Yes? Cool.

But. Here's the thing. Times are much, much different now than they used to be when a smack in the behind would suffice for proper punishment. It's very easy for anyone to sit back and say to himself, "If I were that child's parent, things would be quite different. If I had done that when I was a kid, my parents would not have tolerated it for one millisecond. Back in my day, that kid would have learned respect." Etc, etc, etc.

Again, I agree with you. But you must keep in mind what our current society is like, and the pressures parents now face that were never even on the radar of parents 50 years ago. Sure, we have a lot of things easier than parents back then did. Life is much more convenient. But we have different difficulties than they did. Especially those of us who want to implement good ol' fashioned discipline for our children.

1. Parents back then did not have the constant worry of DCFS showing up at their doors
Please understand that I am in no way saying DCFS is a bad thing. Of course, there are unfortunately so many neglected children who need assistance and benefit greatly from this organization. But sometimes, parents who are just doing their job and raising their children appropriately and lovingly are accused of doing the exact opposite. I am terrified of giving Elizabeth a "time out" somewhere in public, because someone could potentially see that as "child neglect." I always hesitate to leave her be in a store aisle while she throws a fit, because I know someone could easily report me for abandonment. I never spank her in front of strangers, even though I sometimes do when we are by ourselves at home, because in their eyes, that would make me a child abuser.
I think it's pretty obvious where the line is. You can tell the difference between a parent who disciplines in a firm but loving way and one who does so in a totally inappropriate and harmful way. At least, you would think people can tell the difference. But it's not so anymore.

2. Appropriate spanking was normal and common
And maybe, some of you might say, inappropriate spanking was considered normal. I know my parents have told me that if they would have done to me what their parents did to them, it would have been easily considered "abuse." But they have never talked about their parents with fear or trepidation in their voices, and they do not feel emotionally stunted or damaged from the way their parents disciplined them. Nowadays, if you even say that you spank your child, you are given looks. When I spank Elizabeth, it involves a swat on the hand or the behind. And yes, it is hard enough so that she gets the message. But then it's over and done. And we both move on. It is an effective way for me to communicate to her when something she does in not acceptable, because she is not able to communicate with words yet. I don't enjoy doing it. And she doesn't enjoy receiving it. But it works for our family.

I'm certainly not trying to suggest that spanking is a good disciplinary tool for everyone. Some families might be very uncomfortable using it with their children. And that's fine. But it's a shame that I have to feel judged and even frightened to use my completely appropriate disciplinary tool in public just because others don't agree with it.

3. Most mothers stayed home with the children
This is a big one. When I was a full time working outside the home mom, I found it very difficult to consistently implement my own discipline techniques, when during the day my child was disciplined in a completely different way. I think it's safe to say that most, if not all, day care facilities (rightfully so) would never dream of spanking a child in their care, even if a parent gave them permission, for fear of getting sued or fired. Some people think time-out is not a good thing. Regardless of who thinks what, the fact of the matter is, if I am the parent, it is ultimately my responsibility to discipline my child. And this is much harder to do when I am not a near constant presence in the child's life.
This is not, of course, to say that moms who work outside the home should just throw in the towel and give up. It is definitely possible to implement your own disciplinary methods on your children, even if they are cared for by someone else for much of the day. But it is impossible to deny that it is much more difficult.

4. Fathers played a much bigger role in the family
Unfortunately, nowadays, the amount of single moms out there is frighteningly high. And the feminist movement has made it seem that men are no longer needed to raise a family. I've written before about just how important daddies are in raising children. 60 years ago, divorce was rare. Fathers were a much more constant presence in the lives of their children than they are today. And as a result, a child received discipline from both parents. Even in families today who have both a mom and a dad present, the mother is usually the disciplinarian. It is now politically incorrect to refer to the father as the head of the household, even though it makes Biblical and logistical sense.

5. There were not "experts" coming at parents with copious amounts of research, all stating different things
Don't spank your kid, or she will think violence is acceptable. Don't let your kid cry, or he will develop severe trust issues. Don't do time out, or the world will explode.
I'm so. sick. of. all. the. research. It's overwhelming, exhausting, and confusing. Because every "expert" says something different. 50 years ago, parents just did what their instincts told them. But now, you've got people coming at you from all over telling you that what you are doing is WRONG and it will affect your child for LIFE. Talk about insecurity.

6. It was considered a good thing to let your child learn by doing.
This one, probably more than anything, irks me the most. I am a very "hands off" parent. When I say this, I mean that I am perfectly fine with allowing Elizabeth to do things many other parents would (and do) think are "dangerous." Now, obviously, I am smart about this. I do not allow my child to do anything that is downright unsafe, like playing with electrical outlets, knives, fire, or anything like that. But I realize that there are risks with everything, and I cannot let my fear of a small risk outweigh the benefit of Elizabeth learning how to do common tasks or activities. Typical occurrences in my house:

Freaked out person: "Elizabeth, NO! Don't close that drawer! You'll smash your fingers!"
My response: "Maybe then she'll learn that closing the drawer that hard is a bad thing." 
Freaked out person: "Elizabeth, NO! Don't run so fast down the driveway! You'll fall and scrape your knee!"
My response: "Uh....she's going to fall in her life. Many, many times. A scraped knee is not concerning to me at all." 
Freaked out person: "Elizabeth, NO! Don't help your mom unload the dishwasher! That fork could poke you in the eye!"
My response: "Elizabeth, YES. Help me unload the dishwasher. The pain it saves my 9 month pregnant back from not having to bend over is well worth the risk of your eyeball." (Just kidding...kind of...) 
Freaked out person: "Elizabeth, NO! Don't go up the stairs! You are going to fall down!"
My response: " else is she supposed to learn to go up the stairs? Perhaps we can learn to to apparate like they do in Harry Potter."

So, person who complains about how kids just aren't disciplined the right way anymore, I'm right there with you. But I also know better than to automatically assume a family's situation. And I realize that, as nostalgic as I am about the way things "used to be," it's just not realistic to assume things are that simple. Discipline is not a's a marathon. It lasts until your child leaves your home, and perhaps even past that point. It's a complicated thing, and more of a learning experience than I ever imagined it would be. Certain things will work for some families and not for others. And we must figure out what is best for us.

Much love,

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Answer Me This: Volume 10

This week's installment of Answer Me This from!

1. What’s something you've won and how did you win it?

I've never won a "enter your name in a drawing and win a prize!" sort of contest. Sad face. But I guess there was an award in college that I won for oboe (although it resulted in many, many hours of hard work) called the Gumberts award. It was for music major seniors, and four musicians (any instrument or voice type) were nominated by faculty at my University. We then each played or sang 15 minutes worth of music at a recital, and were scored by three judges. That was pretty cool to win. A nice way to end my college career. 

My reaction upon winning. I was really, really shocked.

2. Do you save old greeting cards and letters, or throw them all away? Why?

I used to, but then I realized that these sort of things pile up and become clutter in my already-cluttered-house. So I usually read them, smile, feel warm and fuzzy, and then regretfully toss them. Unless they are really special or meaningful.

3. When you’re at home, do you wear shoes, socks, slippers, or go barefoot?

I'm a barefoot hippie child. In fact, I love being barefoot outside too, and if it were socially acceptable, I wouldn't wear shoes at all unless it was cold. I spent practically my entire childhood being barefoot outside. My feet were so calloused that I could walk on gravel streets with rocks and not even feel it. I find shoes to be annoying and uncomfortable. So I don't wear them unless I have to.

4. Who’s the most famous person you have ever met? 

The only famous people I've ever met are famous in the Catholic sense, so all you Catholic brothas and sistahs out there will be really excited about these.

I've "met" Scott Hahn, which consisted of getting a book autographed by him at a talk I attended, and talking to him for a few minutes about homeschooling and how awesome we think he is. My husband and I (but mainly my husband) acted like teenaged school girls meeting their favorite boy band when we met Scott Hahn. Looking back, we should have been embarrassed. But I feel no shame, nor regret.

We've also had dinner with Christopher West. Wish I had a picture of this one, but alas, I do not. This dinner was actually totally accidental and not planned at all. We were at one of his talks, and went up to him afterward to ask about how Trent should handle being in the pharmacy profession, which demands employees to sell contraception. He invited us to this dinner he was attending that night with Catholic medical professionals, and we excitedly accepted. The crazy thing was, when we talked to him at the dinner, he was really low key...much different from how he acts at his talks.

5. What has been your best work of art?

Well, when I see the word "art," I immediately think of drawing or painting or something like that. But I'm going to branch out (because I am horrible at drawing AND painting AND all things "art" related) and say that my best works of art involve singing. And I think that the most emotional and spirit filled song I ever sang was at my brother's priesthood ordination, when I sang the Litany of the Saints. 

6.  What’s your strongest sense?

Probably hearing. I guess because I've used my ears for performing my entire life. I can hear conversations from far away. It came in handy when I was younger and my parents were trying to talk quietly about me. This quality gets kind of annoying, too, though, because I notice small sounds (especially repetitive sounds, like the air conditioning vent, or fan, or something to that extent) that others don't normally notice. It also means that lots of noises are particularly harsh to me that would not normally bother others. I carry earplugs with me in my purse (I know...I'M A NERD) for this reason.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

That Time I Didn't Wash My Hair For 3 Months: My Experience With The "No-Poo" Method

I can almost guarantee there are three types of people who read this title and what their thought processes were:

1) Um. Ew. That's disgusting. And weird. Why would you do that, much less admit to doing that?

2) Hmmm...interesting. What is this "No-Poo" method of which Ashley speaks?

3) Yay!! I LOVE the no-poo method! I have been doing it/wanting to try it for a long time!!!

If you fall under any of these categories, you might just find this post interesting and informative. Or, you might still just think it's weird. Either way, it's okay.

As I have slowly come to realize that I am, indeed, a huge hippie (except for the part about free love and feminism and basically all the ideologies that hippies believe in), I have become more comfortable in sharing my naturalistic attempts and approaches. Someday I'll write a post about my experience with cloth diapers, my journey to eat only unprocessed and made-from-scratch food, and making my own cleaning products. And how much joy all these things bring me. And how I use them as an excuse to not do laundry.

No-Poo Method
This does not involve anything with toilets. Poo is short for Shampoo. Hence, the "No-Poo" method. The idea is that commercial shampoos strip your hair of its natural oils, which is why you have to use conditioner. Supposedly, it makes your scalp over compensate with oil production, which is why most of us have to wash our hair at least a few times per week. There's also the claim that the chemicals in many shampoos are dangerous for our skin, although I personally was not worried about that (I think you'd have to bathe in those chemicals every day for many years in order for there to be some adverse effect). Plus, and this was the biggest reason for me, the cost of shampoo (especially the good quality stuff with less chemicals) is $$$EXPENSIVE$$$. I get my kicks on saving as much money as possible, so I've been wanting to try this for awhile.

Instead of using commercial shampoo and conditioner, most websites suggest using a mix of water and baking soda for shampoo replacement, applied only to your scalp. You then typically spray the ends of your hair with a water, apple cider vinegar, and essential oil (just to get the vinegar smell out) mix to replace conditioner. It is suggested to do this as minimally as possible...if your hair will allow it, try to go once a week with applying these mixtures.

According to the theory of "no-poo," once you get through the Transition Phase (a period of anywhere between 3 weeks-2 months when your hair looks very oily and not that great, since your scalp is freaking out that it is no longer being stripped of its natural oils), your hair will all the sudden be soft, shiny, beautiful, and perfect. There are many, many different ways to go about it. Here's what I did, what happened, and how it all turned out.

I stopped using commercial shampoo and conditioner, cold turkey. Ironically enough, I actually didn't intend to do the no-poo method when the process began. It actually came from a really, really busy week when I was too exhausted at the end of each day to actually exert the energy to wash my very long hair. I'm sure all you long haired sistahs can relate. So I went about five days without washing. Don't worry, I still showered. Just no hair wash.

After five days, when I was used to an every other day wash, I realized that my hair didn't even look that bad. I couldn't really wear it down at this point, but in a ponytail or nice bun, it was fine. So my laziness encouraged me to go a few more days. I then made the decision that, well, if I've made it a week, I might as well try that no-poo method I've been wanting to try for awhile. So I made the baking soda and vinegar mixtures, and away I went.

The Transition Phase
Not a fun phase for me. I think the second and third week were the worst. I washed my hair once a week with the baking soda/vinegar mixtures. On the day I washed, my hair looked great. I just let my hair air dry, with no product, and the curls were not frizzy or out of control like they typically are. However, as the week went on, it looked drab. I personally don't think it ever looked dirty or oily, but I couldn't do much with it except put it in a ponytail.

The "oh my gosh my hair looks amazing now phase"
I really wish I could say I got to this stage. But I never did. I tried this method for three whole months. The problem, I think, was that I initially did not want to use any product in my hair. So after wash day (always on Sundays), when I brushed my hair out, it just looked like a frizzy mess. I ended up getting my hair cut really short (not at all because I was using this method...I had been planning on doing it for awhile) and then decided that I would start using natural products to just help my hair retain its curl, since I could no longer just throw it in a ponytail. I'm not sure if that messed anything up. But I really never did feel like my hair changed for the better. So I was kind of disappointed with the whole thing.

I stopped taking pictures after this point...oops

Going back to shampoo
I decided last week that I wasn't seeing any positive results from the process (except saving money, I suppose), so I went back to my normal shampoo. I commend myself for trying and for sticking it out for three solid months. But I really like to style my hair whenever possible (which for me involves 30 seconds of wetting it, putting curl enhancer in, and a few spritzes of hairspray). Plus, I just didn't like the way my hair felt. It was kind of dry and not very soft. Exactly the opposite of what the internet said would happen.

The cut...yay for hair not being in the way while breastfeeding!!

Perhaps I should have tried more methods. I only stuck to one. Perhaps when I decided to use styling products, it did me in. Perhaps I should have rinsed my hair with water more often during the week. Who knows? But it didn't work for me. Maybe I'll try again in the future, with a different method.

Have any of you had success with the No Poo method? Any non-successes? I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Answer Me This: Volume 9

This week's edition of Answer Me This from!

1. How did you get your name?

I'm pretty sure my parents just liked the sound of "Ashley." My mom said she thought it was beautiful and different. And then, a few years later, she realized that EVERYONE who had a girl in the late 80's named her Ashley. So there goes the "different". She wanted to name me Alexandra, but my dad said no -- too long. Then she wanted to name me Noelle, but my dad said no -- kids would make fun of me at Christmas (plus, my brother and I would be Nick and Noelle...even more Christmasy). 

My middle name, Lucia (pronounced Lew-sha), comes from my paternal grandmother's best friend, Sr. Lucia. I have never personally met Sr. Lucia, but I feel like I have a special connection with her, especially because I have a rosary she gave my grandmother (which was involved in a miracle that I will soon write about).

2. Do you have a set time for prayer in your day?

My Grandma's miracle rosary
Yes. I plan to write an entire post about this soon. I have found daily prayer to be the most important thing in my life. And since I'm an incredibly lazy person, I must devote a set time for it every day, or else it just won't happen. Daily prayer has been a very difficult thing for me to implement, because to be quite honest, most of the time I don't really want to pray. I'd rather be doing something else, like surfing the internet, or watching TV shows, or writing my blog. But it's like working just have to do it. Regardless of how you feel that day.

I say a rosary every day. I do not give myself the option to skip, because if I do, then I won't say it. Usually, on weekdays, I get up at 5:30am with Trent, walk the dog by myself while he's getting ready for work, and say a rosary. I love this time of the's quiet, cool, and calm. Plus it's nice that I have a dog who is made for bitter cold mountain weather, so I can even do it in the winter mornings. Now that I'm not working outside the home, I also go to daily Mass with Elizabeth whenever possible. I feel extremely blessed that I have the opportunity to do this now, since I never could when I was working. 

If Trent is off, or if it's a weekend, I let myself sleep in. But when I get up in the morning, I figure out exactly when I will say my rosary. Usually, I plan to say it in the car. But if I don't plan, I know it won't happen.

Trent and I always pray together before we go to bed, too. It's short and sweet, because we are both typically exhausted and ready to go to sleep. We usually like to read a daily short Bible verse, and just meditate on it for a minute or so. It's nice to have quiet and just let Jesus talk to us in the stillness.

I'm struggling knowing that my prayer routine, which has worked really well for me, will soon totally change when the baby comes. But I know I'll figure it out.

3. Did your mom work or stay home (or both)?

She worked part time as a nurse. From what I remember, she typically worked 3 days a week. So it was nice because I got a good amount of time with her, but she was still able to keep up with her nursing job.

4. Do you vote?

Heck yes. I like Kendra's take on it: if you don't vote, you have no right to complain. I like to complain, so I vote. More seriously, though, I feel like it is such an honor to be able to vote and have a say in who runs our country. So I take it very seriously. And you should too!

5. What's your favorite drink?

Just posting this picture made me drool.
I'm being serious.
CHOCOLATE MILK. The real stuff. Not the regular-milk-mixed-with-Hershey's-Syrup nonsense. We have our milk delivered to our house every week, and I only allow myself one half gallon per week. Because if I had more, then it's probably all I would consume. You'd find me in a corner, rocking back and forth in the fetal position, glass in hand, muttering to myself about how "IT'S MINE...MY PRECIOUS...."

Oh wait, are we talking about alcohol? Because really, I don't like alcohol. It tastes terrible to me. I do love a good glass of red wine with dinner (and do still drink it occasionally during pregnancy). I feel badly for my beer connoisseur of a husband, because I just can't bring myself to like beer.

6. How are your photography skills?

Hahahaha. I like to think I can take pictures, but really, I can't. So I'm more of a utilitarian-type photographer. I get the job done...and I'm not really that artsy about it.

This is probably the most "artsy" picture I've ever taken.
It was during our honeymoon in Rome and the Mediterranean.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why Being A Cow Was The Hardest Thing I've Ever Done

As I've said before on this blog, I had a LOT of ideas of how I was going to raise my children, if God so blessed me with them, before I actually had any children. Before I was even married. My oh-so-ideal viewpoint of child rearing came back to bite me in the butt when I actually HAD a child and realized that it might not be so simple as I thought, after all.

Breastfeeding was, so far, probably the most eye opening experience for me in regards to raising children. I had absolutely NO idea what it involved or how it worked. All I "knew" was the following:
  1. It's free
  2. It's more healthy for the mom and baby
  3. It promotes bonding between mom and baby
  4. You put baby to breast, baby eats until baby is content, mom and baby then go about their day
Picture perfect
When I was pregnant with Elizabeth, I got free samples of formula in the mail. I immediately gave them away. "Why the heck do I need formula?" I said. "I'm going to breastfeed for two years. Think of all the money I'll save! Think of how much healthier my baby will be! Think of how much more baby weight I will lose!"

Every time I saw people buy formula at the store, I judged them. "Why in the world would you not breastfeed??" I was baffled. 

And clueless. And ignorant.

And here's what I have to say now to my pre-parent self:


So far in my life, breastfeeding was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It drained me physically, emotionally, and mentally. It was not a was a marathon. A marathon times 10. Times 50. I had absolutely NO IDEA what breastfeeding really involved.

Here is what they DON'T tell you (or maybe they do tell you, but for me it didn't sink in until I actually had to DO it):

1. You must nurse or pump every 2-3 hours (sometimes less) around the clock

I knew this going into it, but I didn't realize what it actually meant. Sometimes a normal activity, such as cooking dinner or working on a project, requires at least that amount of time of nonstop attention. But when a baby is hungry, you must feed her. Even if you have a pot of pasta on the stove or your picture is only half hung, you stop what you are doing and feed. This was extremely difficult for me to get used to.

2. If you wait any longer or skip any feedings, your milk supply will decrease
Elizabeth had her days and nights mixed up as a newborn. So during the day, many times, she would take 6-hour long naps. You're thinking: "wow, you were lucky!" I kept wondering whether or not I should wake her to feed. But the resounding majority of people always told me with great fervor: "Never wake a sleeping baby!!!!" So I didn't. So my supply started to decrease, and Elizabeth began to not gain enough weight. All this spiraled out of control for a few months until I was finally able to re establish my milk supply. For my next baby, (as a newborn), I will never let him or her go more than 4 hours without eating. Even if I have to wake the baby up.

3. The average amount of time one feeding takes is 30 minutes (but can easily take longer)
I used to think that breastfeeding just involved sitting in a chair, feeding your baby for 10 minutes, and then going about your day. Wow. Was I wrong. Did you know that the average amount of time per day a woman spends breastfeeding an infant is 11 hours?? And that's average....many women spend longer! That's about half of your day. It was so hard for me to spend that much time just sitting. People would try to make me feel better, and tell me that I wasn't just sitting. I was providing my new baby with nourishment. And I did agree with that. But all that sitting, even if it is for a purpose, is very hard for some women like myself to do.

4. To time feedings, you must start at the beginning of a feeding.
Example: Begin nursing at 3:00. Takes 45 minutes. At 5:00, it has been 2 hours since the last feeding, even though technically it was 1 hour 15 minutes since you finished feeding. Elizabeth had a knack for wanting to eat every hour for a lot of the day. So I'd start feeding her at 1:00, she'd be done at 1:30. Then at 2:00, she wanted to eat again. Then again at 3, and 4. Etc, etc. And people wondered why my house wasn't clean or why we ate crackers and jelly some nights for dinner.

Now you're probably asking: "Well, since you had such a hard time with it, you're not going to go through it again, right?"

Answer: WRONG. Breastfeeding was difficult for me. I went through a lot. But I wouldn't change it for anything. And I plan on doing it again as long as possible with my next baby.

This post is not at all meant to shed breastfeeding in a negative light. Breastfeeding certainly is the best thing you can do for your baby. It does do all the things the experts tell us: it promotes bonding, it is more nutritional, it is cheaper, and it helps mom get back to her pre-pregnancy self more quickly.  I did have some wonderful experiences breastfeeding Elizabeth. And many women have amazing breastfeeding experiences for the whole time and are able to keep up with it for years. I am truly happy for them, and I really hope that with my next baby, I will have an experience like this.

BUT. I really don't believe that breastfeeding is the best thing for your baby if it stresses you out to the point where you can no longer care for your baby as well as you might have otherwise. Many women who can no longer handle the pressure feel an obligation to continue breastfeeding, even if it is bringing them to the breaking point. Many women who want to give their baby the best nutrition possible feel an incredible amount of guilt if they are not able to supply their baby with sustenance the natural way. Many women who are longing for that "bonding experience" feel only frustration when it seems that their baby simply cannot cooperate with the physical requirements needed for breastfeeding.

If you are one of those ladies...I hear ya. I understand what you are going through, went through, or are afraid you might go through again. This is my story of being a cow, and why I now gaze at those large, black and white, mooing beasts with such reverence and respect.

Multitasking at its finest
I am the type of person that needs to be busy. I do not enjoy spending large amounts of time sitting around, unless I'm with friends or family. I get great satisfaction out of accomplishing tasks, even if it's something simple such as baking a cake, making my bed, or watering my garden. I can physically see the fruits of my labors, and it brings me great joy. I have spent most of my high school, college, and early marriage years being very busy. Not because I think "oh I'm so popular, oh I just have so much to do I can't possibly manage it all blah blah blah." It's because I choose to live that way, I'm used to it, and I enjoy it. Even during my summers off as a student and a teacher, I have always been busy. I worked until the week before Elizabeth was due. I'm just that way.

**Note: I don't think that people who are not busy are lazy or dull or living their life wrongly. In fact, I think being busy all the time is actually a bad thing. But I'm giving you some background so you can better understand why breastfeeding was so difficult for me.**

So when I went from this kind of lifestyle to immediately spending 12-14 hours a day sitting in a chair feeding my baby, it was a huge transition for me. I loved spending the time with my newborn. But there was a large part of me, too, that kept thinking of how much I needed to get done. About the massive pile of laundry on the floor. About how we had only eaten fast food for days. About how I simply could no longer do ALL THE THINGS.

This viewpoint is, of course, not good. I realize this time that I need to change my viewpoint from "I'm not getting anything done by just sitting here" to "I am giving my baby the best possible nourishment I could, which is definitely being productive." It's just a different kind of productive.

So what did I learn from all this? I think that with my next baby, my breastfeeding experience will be a lot more positive. I know a lot more now than I did then. My expectations have changed. I understand the level of time and commitment it involves, and I am okay with that.  I will not put the same amount of pressure on myself as I did then. I eventually figured out what worked well for Elizabeth and me, and I'll figure out what works well for my next baby. And if it doesn't pan out the way I expect it to, it's alllll good.

Basically, it boils down to what I've said before: you must do what works best for you and your family. God has given us the wonderful gift of breastfeeding to nurture our babies. But he has also given us other means to feed our babies, in case the natural way just doesn't work out. I'm mentally preparing myself now to transform my thought process. If there's a huge pile of laundry on the floor, who cares? That can wait. I'm going to focus on spending precious time with my baby, who will grow so quickly. By breastfeeding, I am showing my baby sacrificial love in the best way I know how.

I'm going to go drink a big glass of milk now, so maybe I'll become more in tune with my inner cow. Moooooooo.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Answer Me This: Volume 8

This week's installment of Answer Me This! from

1. Have you ever walked out of a movie?

Once: District 9. Honestly, I don't even remember much about it. All I remember is that there was a scene in which they were torturing an alien (I think) and I was too upset to keep watching. I'm kind of a wuss in that way.

2. Do you abstain from meat on Fridays?

During Lent, yes. Other times, no. My husband is a huge meat eater, and abstaining from meat is very difficult for him. However, it's something that we've talked about doing as a family, since the tradition of the Catholic Church since before the 1960's. Put that on the checklist of "Things To Do."

3. What do you most often use for blogs and blogging: desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone?

Laptop! Trent got me a macbook for Christmas, right before Elizabeth was born. It's so great to have when nursing, and I like that I can take it anywhere in the house with me and be comfortable when I blog!

4. Have you ever had anything stolen from you?

I think I had a GPS stolen from me in college. But it's very possible that I misplaced it. I know, I know, you're thinking: "how the heck do you lose something like that?" Let's just say the level of scatterbrained-ness that defines me is sometimes unbelievable.

I also had a lot of money stolen in a hotel room once while I was on a high school band trip. Luckily I listened to my parents and kept my money in different places, so I wasn't broke for the whole trip.

This surely isn't a stereotype...
5. Do you identify as a member of a particular ethnic group?

Ya, Deutsch! I am about 75% German. My dad is almost 100% German, and my mom is about 50%. Interestingly enough, though, my last name I married into is English. So I kind of identify myself with that, even though I'm not technically blood-English myself.

6. Seen anything weird lately?

Yes. I went to a fireworks/laser show last night, and the laser show was definitely weird in my opinion. It kind of felt like a psychedelic 70's-esque sort of thing where everyone was tripped up on drugs. I wasn't really into it. But the fireworks for sure made up for it!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Why St. Thomas Is My Homeboy

You know, St. Thomas gets a bad rap. I have always thought that. Whenever the scripture reading about "doubting Thomas" comes up, I'm always the first to defend him. Why? Because I'm EXACTLY like him. Don't worry, Tommy boy. I got you.

Today, on the Feast Day of St. Thomas, I want to discuss this. Here's a recap of the famous reading regarding St. Thomas:

 John 20:24-29

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But Thomas said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

I put myself in his situation. The other apostles, who have seen the resurrected Jesus, are so excited! He has risen! He is back! I would most likely reply (quite skeptically and sarcastically): "Yeah....I'm sure he did." Then I would most likely feel like a total tool when I realized, only after getting proof, that...oops, they were right.

We all want PROOF. Jesus rose from the dead? How do you KNOW? God exists? What makes you so certain?

We have brains, and we have logic. We have science to help us discover the world and how it works. This is part of the reason why I love the Catholic Church, because I feel that out of all the religions out there, it most embraces and accepts science and logic for what it is. However, there are still things about the Church I love so much that you simply must BELIEVE. Like, that the bread and wine at Mass literally turn into the Body and Blood of Jesus. still tastes like bread and how could that be?

In order to be saved, we must have faith in Jesus. This actually scares the living daylights out of me. Because, so many times, I don't have faith. There always seems to be a creeping voice in the back of my head that questions EVERYTHING. How can you actually believe that little circular piece of bread up there is Jesus? Why do you actually think Jesus rose from the didn't see it, did you? How on Earth do you think that Scripture in its entirety is completely infallible?

You know what that voice is? Satan. Yes, folks, Satan is real. Just like Pope Francis has been preaching about so many times. Like Scripture says, Satan is "prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour." (1 Peter:5 8). Should this bring us to despair? No! We should rejoice that Christ died on the cross for us, and that He always has and always will win against the darkness.

Still...we all have these doubts in our minds. But here's what I always tell myself: God has given us the gift of miracles. I firmly believe that miracles occur specifically for people like myself and St. Thomas. These miracles, in themselves, are living proof that all these things Scripture claims are TRUE. Thomas needed proof because of his weak spirit, and Jesus gave it to him.

St. Padre Pio's uncorrupted body after 40 years
Don't believe the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ? There have been Eucharistic miracles aplenty. There are documented instances when the bread and wine actually have transformed and looked like real human flesh and human blood. Don't believe in sainthood? There are a large number of Saints whose bodies (hundreds of years old) have never decomposed, with no use of any chemicals or preserving methods. Don't believe in the healing power of Christ? There are countless stories of people miraculously healing from incurable illnesses and wounds (including amputated legs suddenly growing back).

Some skeptics argue that miracles are simply events that science has not yet explained. I just can't buy it. Sure, there have been events in the past that people thought were miracles, and were later proven to be normal acts of science. But I can't believe that with the amazing technology, information, and knowledge that we have in this day and age, science could somehow not explain these phenomenons.

As weak as my faith is, and as doubtful of a person as I am, I continue to thank God for the gift of miracles. For doubting Thomas's like myself, they are the extra encouragement I need that Jesus truly is our Savior, that He really did rise from the dead, and that I can continue to see Him every day at Mass in the Eucharist.

So instead of showing St. Thomas in a bad light, maybe we should cut him a break. He's just another guy like the rest of us who needed a little extra knock in the head to help him realize what was really happening. St. Thomas lives in the skeptical hearts of us all. Don't worry, Tommy. We ALL got you.