Super Bowl LI and Pope Francis’ TED talk

Super Bowl LI and Pope Francis’ TED talk

The Holy Roman Pontiff gave a TED talk last wek and it was pretty great. Let me start off by saying that I have heard criticisms of our Holy Father that don’t bother me a tenth as much as the fact that they come from his children. I haven’t read any commentaries on this talk yet, but after watching it myself, I must say I am more in love with the man than ever!

For two reasons, it reminded me of his Instagram post I watched on Super Bowl Sunday this year, in which he praised sports for their ability to promote a culture of encounter, solidarity, friendship, and peace; teach sacrifice and fidelity; and promote a healthy relationship of rules:

  1. It was addressed to the whole world, via a platform the whole world listens to, in a context and regarding content that the whole world cares about.
  2. It takes a human discussion and elevates it to the eternal.

When this was current news, a brother in Christ remarked that Pope Francis shouldn’t be wasting time talking about the Super Bowl and instead should be focusing on the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East. I’ll just mention that he often covers that topic, like in this Instagram post mere weeks later. But that really is beside the point. If over 111 million people are turning into an event, and if “out of a hundred souls we are interested in a hundred”, then we should be talking about the Super Bowl! Pope Francis is not careless – another criticism I have heard. If you were being recorded, miquoted, paraphrased, and referenced out of context 24/7, you wouldn’t look perfect either. I believe our sweet Christ on earth puts very much care into what he says because he, like all Christians ought, strives to have rectitude of intention. He’s not talking about the Super Bowl because he likes football, friend. This 80 year old Agentinian bishop in the white hat is talking about the favorite sport of the United State’s because he loves people and he wants eternal happiness for them. He is doing things for this reason alone: God’s glory. You can’t get more full of care than that.

In his 17+ minute TED talk, Pope Francis mentions Our Lord only a few times. He talks at one point about thinking tenderly of him, when it’s obvious he means to ask for prayers, without saying the word, “prayer”. I can see many points over which a critical Catholic would have contention. But more than that, I see a pastor who wakes us from our stupor. And it’s jarring.

It is easy to do what has always been done. And, unfortunately, within the Chruch, this is very common. Perhaps it is because we don’t want to move too fast and risk overstepping our bounds, committing heresy, risking truth and justice for the sake of mercy. But Jesus doesn’t care about “what everyone else is doing” or about “the way things are done here.” He cares that we love. Pope Francis illuminates this idea in way that is accessible to people of all faiths. In his TED talk, he remarks that, as a community of creative, foward-thinking people, we must use our ingenuity to make people the focus rather than things, to put love into action and move it from our heart to our hands, to listen to and comfort those in need. He is managing to preaching a captivating homily to people who have never been to a Catholic church.

In the past, popes didn’t give TED talks. But in the past, people weren’t listening to TED talks. St. Francis terrified many in the hierarchy of the Church because he refused to do things as they had been done. He put together the first living nativities, lived and loved poverty, and didn’t hesitate to call out those in authority or mingle with the powerless.

Being Catholic doesn’t mean praying outside of an abortion clinic on Saturdays or financially adopting a child in a third world country. We can and should do those things, if that is what God is calling you to! But being Catholic is about encounter: our constant encounter with Christ, and our subsequent encounter​s with those around us, which are part of the Christ encounter, because we must be Christ to them, and we must see Christ in them.

Pope Francis calls on us to see the other as beloved and brother. He is speaking to all people. But in a special way, I think, he is speaking to us Catholics, for whom it is easy to check off our to-do list “be Catholic” and consider it done because I made it to Sunday Mass and didn’t use birth control. He is reminding us that the only measure is love. He is calling us to be truly Catholic, to take Christ at his word, to live the Gospel. To engage with everyone, not just those we feel comfortable with or who agree with us. To watch the Super Bowl, if that will open up a conversation with a co-worker who hasn’t been receptive to the faith. To leave behind our cloak, jump up, and follow him. Bumper stickers and rosaries hanging from your rearview mirror don’t make you Christian. Living in communion with and in imitation of Our Lord does.

“It is an old story that, while we may need somebody like Dominic to convert the heathen to Christianity, we are in even greater need of somebody like Francis, to convert the Christians to Christianity.” G.K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas

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My journey as a cook: Part I

My journey as a cook: Part I

After I graduated college, I moved to Spain to work as an English teacher and meet my Spanish, soccer playing husband (one of those two things actually happened). My first week or two were spent in a hostel while I tried to figure out where to live in the sprawling city of Madrid. Even though I was staying in a hostel, I cooked all my meals because who has money to eat out every day?! I remember my first day I went grocery shopping and it hit me for the first time: I don’t know how to cook.

This was a terrible blow to my ego because, for some reason, I thought of cooking as one of my hobbies. Growing up, I helped a lot in the kitchen. Being the oldest of the 6 at home kind of leaves no other option. But I only really knew how to be told what to do. Making my way through the grocery store, I tried to think of a dinner my midwestern mom would make a lot. I had it! Pot roast with potatoes, onions, and carrots! She would buy the meat from the Schwan man and it was to die for. I didn’t know what animal the meat came from, so I bought a couple slices of the cheapest deli ham, one carrot, and one potato. I would leave the onion for another day because it seemed a little extravagant. I got back to the hostel kitchen (after embarrassingly realizing that you have to weigh your own food, bring your own bags, and bag your own groceries in Spain) and looked for cooking utensils. I can up with a dull paring knife, a microwave, a coffee mug, and a spoon. I cut up everything, put it in the mug, added some water, salt and pepper, and kept adding more time on the microwave until it was edible.

And so began my cooking career.

To be continued…

5 things we are getting for our second baby, and 2 we aren’t

5 things we are getting for our second baby, and 2 we aren’t

With your first kid, there’s the baby shower. Everyone’s excited. Especially if that baby is also the first grandbaby. The cutesy stuff pours in thanks to generous and loving family and friends. Some of it you return so you have some practical stuff too. But what about baby #2?

Boy clothes – Our first was a girl, and this hunka munka is not, so despite my earlier attempts at gender neutrality, we will still need a few items. (The toddler’s favorite pajamas are her fire truck/helicopter/police car/ambulance/motorcycle ones. Butterflies are a close second.) But honestly, I’ve learned that summer babies don’t need a ton of clothes. If people gift us any (thanks for the cute, striped onesies, Nonnie!), I will be grateful. But on my “need” list for him are a couple t-shirts to go with his cloth diapers when we leave the house. We’ve got a hat, swim diaper, socks, pajamas, swaddlers, and blankets. At church, they are in the car seat asleep the whole time or under a blanket nursing, so he doesn’t need fancy clothes until he’s a little older, and then only one outfit. And maybe some trunks to go over the swim diaper because, who can resist. 

Baby carrier – While we already have a lovely Beco Gemini and a ring sling, we are a hiking family. For long/strenuous nature walks, we need something for each little person (don’t worry, we let them out often to run, but I don’t think the two year old can handle a 10 miler just yet). I’m looking into carriers that can put an infant on your back. We bought a hiking carrier with an external frame a while ago and hated it so we got rid of it. The Beco is great, but when I am hiking I prefer them on my back so I can watch my foot placement, and the manual says the back position is only for babies with neck control. I’m not waiting 6+ months to go on a hike guys. I need your suggestions on this one!

Mattress – And sheets. But no comforter or pillow. This is actually for the toddler, since she sleeps on her crib mattress straight on the floor (and has since about a year old, when I read about Montessori floor beds). I was going to get rid of the crib when we made that switch until I realized that if we had another (which we wanted) and they had to share a room (which seemed highly probable), I didn’t want my oldest smothering her little sibling with affection, or blankets, when I wasn’t looking. Our oldest stopped night nursing at 6 months (when I moved to the living room), so the plan is to put the babe in the room with the toddler whenever that happens in the safety of the crib. Which means that the toddler now needs a mattress! I’m thinking a twin, so it will last, well, until she moves out. I have made the switch to plastic-free, organic, natural jimmy jank in many areas of my life, and I know your face is pressed up against a mattress for like a third of your life beating in its contents, but guys, THE PEE! So feel free to try to convince me either way. We will just have to see what’s in the budget when the time comes.

Dresser – Not normally on baby registries, but with our first, we were in a one-bedroom so our dresser was also her dresser and changing station. For the past year, her clothes have been in baskets on toy shelves or on her closet floor. It’s time to upgrade. We did the measurements the first time around so we knew my husband who’s over a foot taller than me wouldn’t break his back changing a diaper on it, nor would I need a stool. So we are thinking the half-size, same height version of what we already have to go in their closet.

Carseat – #2 gets the hand-me-down. #1, the Costco multi-use on sale for $80 that’s been sitting on our dryer for 6 months.

What we are not getting:

Diapers – We did cloth for the newborn stage, so we are covered there. One is pink, but we got the rest as culturally gender neutral as possible. And it won’t kill him to wear pink. People confuse the sex of your kid even when she’s a girl in a headband with a bow and taffeta dress with roses on it and lacey slippers. One thing I learned with the first is that cloth can be so bulky, pants don’t really fit over them. You might see that as a drawback, but I see the silver lining! In the California winter, we just used leg warmers. And in the summer? Well, all he’ll need is a diaper!

Double stroller – Maybe we’ll change our minds on this. Many a woman is wiser and more experienced than I who swears by them. But, for now, my two year old walks just fine. I have not once had her ask me to pick her up because she was tired. Because she wanted love and attention, about every 5 seconds. But not for muscle fatigue. Plus, we’ve got at least two carriers that fit in the basket underneath the stroller if we ever need to swap! (Granted, no swapping will occur whilst babe still requires infant adapter and carseat. But it’s like St. Josemaría says: “Don’t create needs for yourself.”)

What wisdom do you mamas of more than one have to share?

Chic-Fil-A and the salt of the earth

Chic-Fil-A and the salt of the earth

What it means that Christ calls us to be salt of the earth became much more clear to me the other day. We were leaving the Chic-Fil-A Escondido drive-thru and I realized we forgot to ask for salt for my french fries.

French fries are my favorite food. If I was stranded on a desert island and I could bring one thing it would be french fries. But french fries without salt are just potatoes and oil. Driving away, I tried to eat them, but I couldn’t choke ’em down.

Salt brings out the best in food; it brings out its true flavor. That’s why the vast majority of Christians are lay people. God placed us in the world (Jn 17:15) – in the midst of soccer practices and work deadlines and presidential elections – to bring out the good. He didn’t introduce us to our social media acquaintances or family members to win arguments.

He put us in our exact circumstances to love, and love calls forth love (1 Jn 4:19), just as salt calls forth the best flavors of those delicious fries.

Maternity clothes when you have HG

Maternity clothes when you have HG

I am 6 months pregnant and not yet sick of the three items of clothing in my closet. That’s a good sign!

Everyone is different, but my pregnancies involving hyperemesis gravidarum complicate many things, one of which being my style. I know that sounds low on the list when I’m practically homebound anyway due to HG, but for my mental health, I need beauty. And my collection of baggy t-shirts paired with no pants and the extra Tinkerbell mumu from the kids clearance section was not cutting it.

You see, HG for me means not being able to handle pressure on my abdomen or chest. I can’t wear bras, or pants, or skirts, or dresses with elastic below the bust, or underwear that cover everything. TMI for some, but for moms who can relate, we need to hear that we are not alone! In the first trimester, I can’t shower without vomiting because of the water pressure on my chest and back. It’s a good thing I’m hot blooded and only like a sheet anyway because pulling a blanket over my belly makes me physically sick. So where does that leave my inner fashionista?

Dying on the side of the road.

Then comes this season’s off-the-shoulder peasant dress to the rescue! Normally, I wouldn’t wear these things. Off-the-shoulder means gets-messed-up-everytime-I-move-my -arms. And peasant really doesn’t fit into my clean and classic vibe. But, let me tell you, after months of pantlessness and Tinkerbell, I feel like a freaking super model in the three dresses I own! Thank you, Target!

One is denim with a flutter top that gives an extra layer to cover my non-bra-ed chest. That hem and the one on the bottom are unfinished, so that’s some fun fringiness for ya.

The other two are the same style as each other but have different patterns. Tjey don’t have the ruffle up top to hide my au natural shape, but they are made to look embroidered  so the detailing is distracting. The print is the plastic-y kind that peels off after too many washes (ask me how I know), but they don’t look too bad yet. One in black with a white design and and the other in maroon with white and pink. 

The further along in the pregnancy I get, the shorter my dresses become, but as those with HG know, when you’re​ puking out of your nose in the bushes of the Costco parking lot from your wheelchair, modesty gains a temporarily lower value and a meaning more open to interpretation.

I also have a beautiful, spaghetti strap maxi from Motherhood Maternity in a navy blue with blush, burnt orange, and green exotic flowers. That fabric, though, has no give, and only lasts half way through the second trimester. But at least it coincided with winter for me so my legs were covered!

The underpants that have brought me such joy I got from Amazon for Valentine’s Day. My husband is a true romantic. I picked the non-lacey basics in grey, black, and neutral. There is a band inside, but only in the back to keep them from slipping down so no pressure on my belly. I got a medium just in case, but if I had to order again, would try my normal small.

There you have it. Literally three dresses and some underpants. Talk about a minimalist wardrobe!

What to wear while breastfeeding

What to wear while breastfeeding

Agggghhhhhh!!!!!!!!

I have been wearing the same three dresses for 6 months (that’s not true, I wore that fugly mumu from the clearance section for the first trimester) and my beauty-loving soul is starving to death.

But the end is in sight! And what do I have to look forward to? It’s not my fav, but it’s better than this!

Some women love nursing. All their baby weight goes into making literal awesome sauce for the munchkins. I love nursing too, but my figure doesn’t benefit in the same way. I hold onto those extra pounds no matter my eating/workout regimen until we cut out the momma milk altogether, and then they melt away!

That leaves me with loose fitting clothes to hide said extra baggage, whereas my non-pregnant/nursing self wears legitimately only waist-defining items.

And some people might like cleavage, but to me it’s just a nuisance. When I’m nursing, I double in size, and I have to consequently double up on my sports bras if I want to jog or dance. Anything that doesn’t have a high neckline, has a too low neckline. Models and some people in real life don’t look too strange showing cleavage, but I feel absolutely exposed. And HUGE. And veiny. And not sexy.

What does that mean for me? That advice to grab a v or cowel neck top for nursing doesn’t cut it. And a scoop neck will give you a scoop of something! Wear a scarf you say? Obviously you don’t live in southern California in the summer time.

Ok. It has to be loosely structured, with a high neckline, in a lightweight material, that won’t show leaks or stains (so solid prints – my air – are mostly out, as are many lightweight fabrics)… What can I wear?

I’ve got four boxy, casual shirts and three short sleeve blouses that I wear with maternity shorts or pants (and no photography skills, so you’ve got to use your imagination). One tee in light blue, a leaf-printed one, a white guy with thin black horizontal stripes, and a white peasant top with navy blue embroidery. A royal blue blouse with subtle, flutter sleeves and two patterned Merona buys are my up-my-game, I was once in the career world too, tops. These I pair with a nursing camisole from undercover mama that attaches​ to my bra so I only have to deal with one set of straps instead of two. I’m not a huge fan of the double layering thing simply because it’s hot, but it provides dec coverage and isn’t ugly. Let’s top that off with one nursing dress in light grey from Dote Studio with a scalloped hem hiding my chest of plenty that gets worn to every Sunday Mass, every wedding, and every date night for the next year.

I’ve got my eye on a nautical, little number from Seraphine with cap sleeves, blue and white stripes, and appears to be linen. It is a dress designed for nursing, so I have high hopes. But don’t buy it before my birthday because if they are sold out I’m​ gonna be pissed.

I hear the advice all the time that you don’t need to buy nursing clothes, you can just wear regular clothes and make it work.

I call bull. We make it work because we have to, but I’d much prefer something designed to not flash the world, that takes into account my still present baby bump, my rather prominent and rather leaky chest, and the Bunsen burner often strapped to my hormonal, heat-flashing body. Even if it’s only for a year. Even if I might not wear it again. Even if it’s a chunk of change we could have put towards student  loans. Because, I’m not in the future. I’m here and now.

And right now, I want to feed my baby and feel beautiful.

Baby-proof vs baby-friendly: Making your entire home a “yes” space

Baby-proof vs baby-friendly: Making your entire home a “yes” space

There’s something about the term “baby-proof” that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s the pro-lifer in me, saying that babies aren’t dangers that we need to defend ourselves against. Maybe it’s just that I wouldn’t want something to be Hannah-proofed, because that would imply I couldn’t develop a healthy relationship with that object and treat it respectfully and appropriately, that the standard was set so low because not much was expected of me. I know that this is not what people intend when they use the term and that people love their children and simply want to keep them safe, but I believe these inferences are still fair.

This is why something clicked in me when I first discovered RIE, a philosophy of respectfully interacting with infants and toddlers that treats them as capable persons, rather than dolls that need everything done for them (no finger-pointing here; I use such an extreme comparison merely to emphasize what RIE values). RIE teaches that in our homes we ought to have a “yes” space, where our youngest ones are free to examine and touch, to explore, learn, and grow, without being told, “No!”. “No” can take many forms:

  • Get down!
  • Don’t touch that!
  • Be careful!
  • That’s not for you.
  • That’s not for babies.
  • That’s sharp!
  • Be careful not to break it!

You get the idea. 

Babies put things in their mouths. It’s a fact of life. But I think we too often buy into our modern consumerist and “expert”-led culture that implies only products created and purchased for teething can go in their mouth, and they have to by sanitized anytime they touch anything ever. Every family parents differently, so please don’t take anything I say as a criticism of your lifestyle. Some people value germ-free environments more than others. Some people have health problems where they need a more sanitary environment. I don’t fall into either of those categories, and I grew up with 8 siblings, so in our house, we ask two questions when the baby wants to mouth an object:

  1. Will it harm the baby? 
  2. Will it harm the object?

And we have to answer honestly. Will junior really suffer physical or psychological harm from chewing on that ball/pan/hat? No? Then, will it damage the object itself? Because we do want our children to treat their belongings well, to be good stewards of what God has given us. That means no eating books, or sister’s artwork. But that also gives freedom to play with objects in an unexpected manner. Blocks don’t have to be stacked one on top of the other; they can be stacked on top of Daddy while he is reading. Crayons don’t have to be used for coloring; they can be separated into different jars for fun! And things can go in baby’s mouths, whether that’s what they were designed for or not.

RIE, from what I have read, usually creates one (or more) rooms/fenced off areas in the house where the child can explore freely. Our house is fairly small and adding fences wouldn’t help that situation. So while our house isn’t entirely a yes space, our toddler is allowed everywhere in it, and often unsupervised. For us, this means that no dangerous chemicals or sharp objects are within reasonable reach ever. Parents of toddlers know what I mean by reasonable. My almost two-year-old daughter can slide a chair from the dining area to the kitchen counter, climb it, open the overhead cupboard door, and reach the knife block contained therein. She can physically do that. But we talk to her about safety in an open, respectful, and consistent way, and we know her pretty well, so we trust her not to do that. We do have areas that are more easily accessible to her that we still do not want her making a mess of. Under our bathroom sinks, we store toilet paper, and if she wanted, she could unspool all the Costco-quantity TP until our apartment was ready for Halloween in February. But we have asked her not to, we have shown her other areas that are more appropriate for her, and we have not shamed her for getting into messy things so that she sees them like some forbidden fruit that she can only play with when mom and dad aren’t looking.

When friends come over, they see all the spots that our daughter now generally ignores, and messes happen. But I want to give my daughter as much freedom as possible and appropriate, and I want her to know that we trust her. Even and especially from this young age.

We cover outlets, hide cords, and secure furniture to walls. Her bedroom, where she sleeps on a floor bed and has unsupervised access to everything therein every night, contains nothing sharp, poisonous, or otherwise dangerous. I love plants and they are within her reach scattered throughout the house, but not in her bedroom, because if they aren’t poisonous, their fertilized soil might be.

Yes, sometimes she gets into somewhere I wouldn’t necessarily want her to be, but she is not in danger. Things break, but so do people. I want her to know that broken things can be fixed or replaced, and that I trust her, and that she is capable of doing things well. Not to sound all hippie-dippie (although I could argue this concept as very Christian), but I would much rather things break, than break her spirit. And, honestly? We’ve used glass cups and plates with her since she began to wean and she has maybe broken four things in our whole house in two years. So while our entire apartment isn’t exactly a yes space, it is our daughter’s home as much as it is ours, and she is learning responsibility, self-awareness, and self-confidence day by day.