Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Crisis of Faith

I am not having one, but I don't seem to be much help to those people who are.  That makes me incredibly restless and itchy, so this is just an outlet for the maelstrom of disjointed thoughts swirling around in my head.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have never had a crisis of faith.  Maybe it's my phlegmatic nature, but working on the assumption that Catholicism is indeed the one true faith informed by a just, omnipotent and omniscient God, I assume that there is a reasonable answer for every question, and we can find it if we look hard enough.  Likewise, whatever crap happens to me in the life must have an equally compelling reason, and it isn't necessary for me to know.  That is not part of my job to work out.  That is why I am not God.

Many times the first thing I hear is the tired old question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"  It just saps the life out of me, because it has been asked and answered so many times before.  Deep down, it's usually a case of the tough getting going when the going got tough.  They hadn't really thought about it before and went through life on spiritual cruise control until suddenly something horrible happened in their lives, and now they have to reinvent the theological wheel.  Their prayers weren't answered to their satisfaction; God wasn't there for them; they didn't get their miracle.  Clearly God isn't worth their time.

What helped me most during the dark times was putting things in perspective.  The worst suffering in our lives is probably peanuts compared to the suffering of someone else.  There is always someone with a more compelling tragedy.  Getting pissy and angry with God is completely pointless, because He is the best and sometimes only comfort.  The crucifixion should be reminder enough.

"But now I'm thinking for myself," they say.  Are they really thinking, or are they just angry and feeling sorry for themselves?  I congratulate them if they are able to intuit what we have gained over thousands of years of collective study.  They come to the prideful conclusion that they don't have to take this supposed abuse from a tyrannical deity, that they are taking a stand for the little man, a stand against all the injustice of the world.

Even if God was an arbitrary tyrant, what would this little hunger strike accomplish?  He doesn't need our approval of His management of the universe.  Deciding to ignore Him doesn't make Him go away.  If we are angry enough to deny His existence, who are we angry at now?  If we acknowledge His existence but don't like Him, we can either just come to terms with Him because there is no getting around it, or we can invent the God we like and live a happy fantasy.

There are some hard questions which must be asked.  Are we rejecting everything we ever thought we knew and believed about God because we suddenly know better, or because we are angry and emotional?  Are we too proud to admit we were wrong?  Are we getting some perverse enjoyment out of the mistaken romance of our own "Non serviam," or the feeling of self-righteous victimhood?  Are we just too lazy to give the matter serious thought anymore?

In any case, imagining God to be a capricious abuser who enjoys inflicting suffering on us, that the crucifixion was no more than a case of divine one-upmanship to stem the tide of human complaints, must be a very bitter and lonely place to be.

There is no need to stay there.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Now that we have a spare moment . . .

Now that her highness is in bed, I can finally get a spare moment on the computer.  I do so miss my laptop these days.  Little JoJo has become the clingy koala bear who doesn't like to play independently for more than five minutes.  This picture was only possible after she accidentally fell asleep after screaming to be picked up while I was busy making lunch.  Thanks for small miracles.

She is now five months old and sixteen pounds.  Her new skills include laughing and sitting up in the bath.  She's mastered all the toys on her jumperoo already, so we'll have to use some ingenuity to keep it interesting.  She's broken her winning streak of sleeping through the night, and now calls for assistance regularly around 2 and 5AM.


In other news, I've finally decided to walk the walk when it comes to plastics and an ecologically conscious household.  The first steps include reusable lady pads, which I discover are called "mom cloth."  I sprung for the organic cotton ones from Etsy rather than the polyester from Amazon because of the plastics issue.  They haven't arrived yet, so I can't comment on their performance.  It was a very short leap there from JoJo's cotton diapers.  I was also finally brave enough to buy a man razor, which I'm finally getting the hang of after some trepidation.  I can't continue to rant against single-use plastics without being willing to make some changes.  That also means a win for Smuckers natural peanut butter over the other brands because of the glass jar.  I've been saving them so we can eventually get rid of all our plasticware food storage.


Stay tuned for many more posts about the crafting projects that have been going on.  The felt food got bogged down in the green beans, since they need to be sewn by hand and free time is in short supply.  I still have to post pictures of the busy book I finished before she was born, and I managed to bang out a growth chart and a rewards jar.  One other extremely forward-looking activity which has captured my interest is printing out handwriting worksheets from an online generator, both printing and cursive.  Seems you can find an online generator for anything.  Little JoJo will have plenty of practice for her penmanship, and the extra busy work will let her earn marbles for the aforementioned rewards jar.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Baby Progress Report

For about five minutes, I imagined little premature JoJo would be a petite, underdeveloped baby.  Now three months old, Princess Chunk is closing in on 15 pounds and wearing clothes sized for a 12 month-old.  No problems catching up to the average here.  I am also extremely gratified to report that she has figured out how to deal with a normal breastfeeding routine, and we have been able to put away the pump.  Hooray for many fewer bottle washings.
Her current interests include morning stroller walks and lounging on the porch with the dog.  She's reached that awkward phase when she's awake more often and completely bored by the activities she's capable of.  Hopefully that will spur her on to more manual dexterity and we can break out some of the cool toys.

Most fabulous of all, she's consistently sleeping through the night in her own bed in her own room, generally from 9:30 PM to 6 AM, with no diaper overflow.  I feel like we've won the parental lottery.

My every spare baby-free moment is spent on a new all-consuming project - a deluxe kitchen and felt toy food set for her future use.  We've finished making hamburgers, lettuce, spinach, tomato slices, onion rings, mushrooms, avocados, bacon, fried eggs, cheese slices, condiments, cookies, sandwich bread, luncheon meat, linguine and farfalle pasta, two kinds of cereal, and pancakes with all the toppings.  Currently in progress are kiwi, banana, strawberry and peach fruit slices, ravioli, breakfast sausage, and more cookies.  Getting some little green pom poms for peas, and considering making green beans.  Loads of fun, but very time consuming.  Someday we'll have our dining room table back.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Tastes of the Week

I've started to notice that we are falling into a rut as regards our culinary habits.  There are too many interesting edible items on this earth to be limited to the basic selection of the average supermarket.  So, I think we should try experiencing something new each week.  Here's what we've tried so far.


Kumquats.  Tiny oranges the size of cherry tomatoes that taste like lemons.  Not really good for a quick snack, and really hard to make juice with.  Better left for people making preserves.


Passion fruit juice.  Maybe one day we'll find an actual passion fruit.  Tastes like mangoes. 


Eggplant.  Sort of weirdly bland and peppery at the same time.  Not sure it's worth the bother of preparation.

Star fruit, product of Taiwan. Great for garnish, but not much to eat.  Tastes like an apple collided with a pear.



Saturday, April 18, 2015

Positive Developments

Olive oil to the rescue, once again.  Great for raw skin,and for lubricating flanges of unfortunate size. We are back in business where the pumping is concerned.

Also, JoJo has finally (mostly) overcome her uncoordinated attempts at nursing.  She still comes down pretty hard with the gums sometimes, but we've had more success lately than not, free from the pressure of lactation specialists.  No nipple shields, supplementation tubes, or other strange devices.  She just needed some time to sort herself out and grow a bigger mouth.  Nipple confusion is totally not a thing in her case; she knows exactly what everything is for.  Again, smart but lazy.  We'll have to practice some more mobile positions before we attempt it in public, because I'm not dragging that ergonomic pillow she likes so much around everywhere.




Thursday, April 16, 2015

Joys and Woes of the First Month

They weren't kidding when they talk about the proverbial sleepless nights.  I don't actually have any room to complain, because for the most part JoJo sleeps pretty soundly, wakes up to be changed and fed, and then obligingly goes back to sleep.  My routine is slightly encumbered by the subsequent chores of pumping and cleaning pump parts, after which I am allowed to go back to bed.  The trouble is that I don't ever remember sleeping, just constantly waking up to the same tasks, like groundhog day.

Pumping milk is a drag.  I waffle between loving it and hating it, and right now I'm not a fan.  I can build the thing and break it down like a Marine field stripping a rifle, sometimes literally in my sleep.  Unfortunately for me, my skin obligingly expands to overcrowd any size flange available, so chafing has become a real problem, aggravated by JoJo's chomping pseudo-latch when we attempt direct nursing.  At this point, I've discovered it's less painful and sometimes quicker to express by hand than to be bothered assembling and cleaning the pump.  I have a new affinity and pity for dairy cows and their lot in life.  It doesn't help that the largest nursing bra Amazon had to offer is too small, resulting in an almost constant war on blocked ducts, which has in turn made the baffling lack of hot water in the shower a critical issue.  I begin to suspect we share a hot water heater with the neighbors upstairs.  On particularly bad days, sleep once again takes a back seat to a steamy therapeutic shower at 0300, because it is absolutely worth it.

On the positive side, she's much cuter now!  And she opens her eyes a lot more.  She doesn't mind being put down, and is still quite content to sleep most of the day.  You would think I'd have many opportunities to nap, but having another diurnal critter around who would very much like to play or just howl bloody murder at passers by complicates things.


As babies go, she's remarkably low maintenance.  She sleeps in the car, and is generally happy to carry on napping in the car seat through any errand I need to run so long as we keep it under an hour or two.  We have yet to manage her grand debut at church, but we hope for the best.  Today will be the first time I attempt to take her along to Andy's doggie playdate.  I look forward to the day when she can finally hold her head up and fit in the Ergo carrier, which is a lot easier to get into alone than the wrap.  We broke in the stroller for the first time yesterday, and managed a casual pack walk with the dog, who is fortunately better behaved in the presence of baby than otherwise.

Interesting updates to follow as they occur. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The First Two Weeks



There isn't too much more to report.  JoJo continues to be a great sleeper, except at night.  But even then, it isn't terrible.  A few well-placed naps make that situation manageable.  Also, my incision is healing nicely, so getting in and out of bed is much less odious than it used to be.

Nursing seems to be a complete bust at this point.  Her latch is terrible and she either gets frustrated or falls asleep before we can work on it much.  I want to assign her some reading from a book on the subject, but sadly she doesn't seem interested.  In the meantime, I'm pumping enough for twins, and the only drawback seems to be fussing around with cleaning bottles several times a day.  It's not what we envisioned, but I think we can make it work.  We've replaced all the plastic with glass bottles to avoid as many of those nasty endocrine-disrupting chemicals as possible.  She's gaining weight nicely, which is the important point.

More interesting updates to follow as she approaches her due date and becomes less grub-like.  She would be 38 weeks by now.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Package Has Arrived


Ta-da!  It was an absolutely miserable process I am not keen to repeat anytime soon, but they were right when they said the end result would be worth it.  After a c-section that was at least four times as horrible as the last one, little Johanna was born just before 4 PM last Friday, 6 lbs 12 oz.  It was tough to bond right away while I was having my own problems in the OR, but Dave got to be there in his hazmat suit to hold her and cut the cord after the fact, and that was cute to watch.

The good news is that little JoJo seems completely healthy and a good size for almost 37 weeks.  The bad news was that the pain meds weren't working for me, and she was born with absolutely no suckling coordination, ruining our rosy plans for breastfeeding.  The lactation people basically gave up on us after a while.  In the meantime, she lost so much weight that they ordered formula supplementation, which bothered me a lot, but fortunately we've been able to keep that to a minimum.  We tried the sneaky supplementation tube while breastfeeding, but she quickly cottoned onto that and just sucked on the tube.  We abandoned that strategy in favor of bottle feeding to save trouble for everyone, and invested in a fancy electric double pump immediately upon arriving home.  It means double the time and effort, but at least we've been able to eliminate the formula and I can keep an accurate log of the volume she's getting.  Yesterday she outgrew her preemie diapers, so it must be working.  First pediatrician appointment is pending.

Her nickname in utero - especially during the last few months - was "the Lump," and I had no idea how appropriate it would be.  I have never encountered a baby who was so laid back.  If she isn't eating or pooping, she's sleeping.  She's pretty much been asleep since they pulled her out.  They tell me part of that is just her trying to catch up to full-term babies, and we're certainly enjoying the quiet.  She sleeps through the dog barking, the vacuum, the veggie juicer, TV, loud music, whatever.  Waking her up for feedings and keeping her awake long enough to finish a bottle (five minutes?) is the toughest job we have at the moment.  I think she'd just continue sleeping and starving if the appropriate milk volume wasn't made so easy to access.  I'm hoping in a few weeks she'll be more alert and able to maintain an interest long enough to work on a decent latch, but we'll see how that goes.  The only time she doesn't sleep is when it is dark and quiet, when the rest of us want to sleep.  We're working though a list of proposed solutions to that problem.

I'm still having a tough time recovering from the surgery, but otherwise life is pretty good.  Right now Dave is reading "The Hobbit" to her while she's sleeping.  Yep, still sleeping.

Monday, January 12, 2015

27 Weeks and Closing

I realized yesterday that we only have nine weeks left.  We've been doing lots of things we don't usually do, like preparing a nursery, but the part of my brain that deals with emotional perception hasn't caught on just yet.  I've been tidying up the extra room; I do that all the time.  I've been building furniture; I do that all the time.  I've been painting walls; I do that all the time.  I've been painting and decoupaging decorative canvases; I do that all the time.  I'm used to pregnancy being a sort of incidental bodily function that eventually resolves itself and disappears without any long-term consequences.  Eventually it will seem real, but in the meantime there's lots of puttering around to do.

I'm still going in every week for a progesterone injection, and every two weeks now I have to get my cervix looked at just to be sure nothing untoward is happening.  So far, so good.  JoJo apparently weighs 2+ pounds and is right on target.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Habemus New Car!

For some reason, we always end up shopping for new cars in January, and with no time to lose.  Our old trusty rusty 2009 Hyundai Elantra's mishap on Christmas Eve apparently resulted in so much structural damage that it was declared a total loss.  It was almost a death in the family; it was my first car, it drove me to Georgia for our wedding, shipped out to California with us, then drove us back to the east coast.  RIP, little car.



Fortunately, USAA is giving us the full retail Blue Book value, which is just short of $10,000.  With this knowledge, enough cash for a decent down payment and a rental which needs to be returned very soon, we trotted off to Carmax and proceeded to shop like we always do, like the entire lot is on fire.

We had some possibilities in mind.  We found several candidates online this morning, including two 2009 Hyundai Elantras with lower mileage.  One was white, and we almost wanted to get it just to make Gandalf jokes.  But neither of them was actually on the lot we were visiting.  We had almost decided to settle for an unfortunately painted powder blue one, but it turned out to be manual, and we're strictly automatic people.  The first one we looked at in the flesh turned out to be a rather drab and disappointing white 2009 Hyundai Accent with no radio and old-fashioned crank windows.  We weren't set on a Hyundai, but the selection was what it was.  We were about to go look at some Kias, but then we saw it.  Across the lane was a beautiful black 2012 Hyundai Accent, the exact car we had originally set out to buy new three Januaries ago.


It was love at first sight.  We had to go a bit over budget, but we didn't care at that point.  We were driving away with it, and that was the end of it.  Turns out it was a fleet car in its previous life, half as old and half as well-traveled as Dave's old car.  I always felt just a teensy bit bad for sniping the new car out from under him back in 2012 when we bought the new Elantra, so now it's his turn to have the spiffy new wheels.  And now we have a very fashionable complementary black and white set of 2012 Hyundais.