happy Christ the King's birthday.

Ya, I know. The Feast of Christ the King was Sunday, and His birthday is Christmas. Two separate events. However. I felt like trying to be one of those amazing moms who celebrate the liturgical year with their children. And all the amazing moms bake crown cakes on the Feast of Christ the King. Sweet. I can make a cake. Joseph likes cakes! He'll totally get it, and I'll feel like I made our faith real to him. Yep.

Yeah, they're really "getting it."

I had plans to make a truly grand crown cake--as in, one that resembled a crown. But reality struck and we ended up with a sheet cake with a crown outline via mini M&Ms (artfully designed by Sean). Eh, not bad, right?

And it was all going so well until Joseph said:

"So, when is Christ the King coming? Is it his berf-day?"

No no, Joe, we're celebrating the kingship of Christ. His birthday is Christmas.

"But ... when is He coming to eat the cake?"

Um, we saw him this morning at Mass, remember? And we're celebrating how he is our King. Sometimes you can celebrate something with a cake even if it's not a birthday.

Joe is confused.

"I want to get out the hats."

Sigh. Ok.

And so at 5:30 p.m., our household consisted of:

- Joe, continuing to yammer incessantly about cake/crowns/hats/party paraphernalia
- Amby, wailing and falling to pieces because he got up at 5:00 a.m. and hates when I'm more than six inches out of his reach,
- Me, realizing that I failed to buy food for dinner because in addition to the cake, I spent Saturday cooking an early Thanksgiving feast for 10 of my in-laws and Sunday providing stroller-pushing, zipper-pulling, affirmation-giving help to my postpartum sister who desperately needed to find a schnazzy dress to wear to her husband's upcoming office Christmas party, and who wants to face an Ann Taylor dressing alone when you're accompanied by a three month old and wearing a nursing camisole? NOBODY.


At 5:30 p.m. we sat down, donned our hats, and ate the cake for dinner.

Who am I to deny a kid a party when he's got a perfectly good berf-day cake sitting in his kitchen.

Next year, we'll work on liturgical distinctions.


7QT: Thanksgiving sides (gluten free), slides and asides.

I kicked off my week of Thanksgiving prep with a trip to the dentist for a cleaning, and subsequently, a cavity. So I'm enlisting extra help with brushing my pearly whites. 
The water spots on the really mirror really make this shot, agreed?

In looking at the classic recipes on my Thanksgiving dinner menu, they all scream "baked stuff that's been fighting for oven space and will probably get to the table lukewarm at best, and possibly room temperature." So I'm throwing in a salad as an outlier to that bunch. 

And now for a word on pie. Or rather, gluten free pie crust. Here are my deep, soul-stirring, culinary words of wisdom:

Pick a recipe and make it. 

Stop worrying about how it will turn out, or whether the sky will fall if it doesn't turn out as delicious as dad's crust (my dad makes killer crust, and any crust I make, gluten free or otherwise, will never rival his--because stuff is always better when either of my parents cook!). 

Just make it. People like having dessert. Period. 

I made this one last year for my pumpkin pie and it turned out better than acceptable (acceptable is where I set the bar when trying a new g-free recipe). 


Generous gifts from said parents for my birthday back in October sent me on a serious shopping spree. I nabbed this puffer vest for $15 during a Saturday store special, and I think I've worn it everywhere (including awkward photoshoots in the rain) except Mass. But hey, maybe with a string of pearls and a pencil skirt...


My Mom bought Joe this train hat from the incredible railroad museum in my hometown. He wears it nonstop. I'm tempted to go back this Christmas and get him in the next head size up, because I can't count the number people have said to him, "Wow kid, that's a great hat." To which he replies, "Oh, it suuuuuure is."


High temperatures this week topped at 36, so I think our days at the park are numbered. How difficult can it be to install a tire swing in our basement? 

For our final number, I bring you the brothers in slow mo:

 Whichever brother doesn't kill you makes you stronger, I say. 
Now go back to Conversion Diary and find something more cohesive/coherent/creative to read. :) Gobble gobble. 


Five Favs: Gluten free frozen comfort meals.

When you go gluten free, you have two options:

- Stop eating gluten and do not find replacements for the foods you love (this is essentially a paleo diet of fruits, veggies, meat, nuts, twigs and an unhealthy amount of trail mix)

- Stop eating gluten and find replacements for the foods you love (this means you'll gain something, probably weight, from reading this post)

I'm a replacement girl, though I went the no-replacements route for about a year. I felt great, lost 10 pounds and finally got that sought-after long and lean body. 

However, I found myself crying to my mother, sobbing "there's just nothing for me to eat! Except almonds. I eat so many damn almonds."

Then I got married and had kids, and now I'm writing a post about gluten-free frozen corn dogs. Whatever.

So when Sean's out of town and I'm alone with the little people for dinner time, I have no patience for home cooking. I also have no patience for hauling two kids into a restaurant so I can grab take-out. Even though these favorites are pricey, they're still cheaper than the cost (both in dollars and energy) of dinner out. 

Let's crank the oven to 400 and pull one of these babies out of the freezer.

Come to mama. Dogs without nitrites, antibiotics or fillers, all wrapped up in a slightly sweet corn batter. $6.99 for a box of four. 

I've yet to find a better frozen gluten free pizza than Udi's, and blessedly, they're popping up more and more at local grocery stores. And the price isn't bad--$7.99, though it'd be a stretch to say it feeds two adults. But a tired mom and two toddlers with mini appetites? It does just fine. 

Sean once tried to pick out a frozen gluten free burrito at the store for me, and he picked one of the usual "rice/beans/cheese" suspects. No no, put that puppy back, said I. It tastes like, you know, a burrito. Oh, the horror, he said! That a burrito would taste like, you know, a burrito.

Enter the Pesto Chicken Pizza Wrap. All the chewy burrito texture and not a bean in sight. It's more like a frozen ravioli, really. They had me at pesto. 

$3.69 regular price, but often on sale for $2.50. I stock up. 

While home in California last year I ventured into Walmart Neighborhood Market. I perused the frozen foods aisle and let out a loud "OHHHHHH no WAAAAY" when I saw that:

- Tyson made gluten free chicken nuggets
- Walmart now carried this holy grail of gfree goodness
- the price was like $6.75 or less for a 20 oz bag

I bagged those bad boys, made Joseph pound it, and had everyone in my family eat them for dinner that night. And you know what I did the next day? Went and bought another bag. Because they were SO CHEEEEEAP.  I've yet to find them anywhere except that little Walmart. As if I needed any more reasons to live in California. 

Here's the one exception to my bake it/eat it favorites list. These require the makings for fish tacos to be properly enjoyed, so they're not simply bake--dip in processed sauce--eat, like the others above. But these have made Fridays in Lent more enjoyable than they probably should be. 

Prices vary greatly between store chains and sales, but I generally pay $6-7/box. 

So, go forth, heat and eat. You have my permission to give up the nuts and twigs, at least if your husband is working late. 

And head over to Moxie Wife to see how to kiss properly. Really!


Patches of red + library winners

On a cold walk this weekend, Joe picked up a little branch of red berries. He carried it home with all the solemnity of a nervous ring bearer. He refused to walk any faster than a slow march, saying "I won't shake the berries. They'll fall off. I'm saving them for the birds to eat."

You cling to that color, honey. In this part of the country, color's hard to find these days. The brilliantly colored leaves we marveled at in October now populate the gutters and streets, all trampled and brown. Pumpkins on porches have begun to rot. I even saw a few depressing streams of fake cobwebs still hanging around the neighborhood.

So until the visiting family and frantic (and fun) food prep of Thanksgiving begins, we're ignoring that mostly-dreary outdoors and scouting out the bright patches of red that splash a little color into drab mid-November.

I love this red head wrap/ear warmer a dear friend made me for my birthday. I feel like I'm channeling Rosie the Riveter when I wear it, if Rosie ever riveted in the tundra.

On the couch, I'm quite taken with this fellow:

Good thing I'm the only one in my family who knows some French. Otherwise they'd all know I had a Christmas pillow out before Advent began. But since it says "Il neige ici," and it did "neige" here last week, I'm letting the charming cardinal stay.

Then there are these ruby delights:

I know, I know, I must quit this red-40 crap. But cinnamon bears and I are in a long-term relationship. We began so many years ago, when I'd spend November Sundays watching football with my Dad, opening up the Brach's cinnamon bears that came in individual little plastic wrappers. I found them again during college, when my bestie and I would buy them by the pound in the bulk section of a local grocery store. High fructose corn syrup at its sentimental finest.

Last bit of red: If we make it through a Walmart trip with no meltdowns, we visit this wonderland:

... even in the midst of all this manufactured redness, Joseph himself is often the brightest patch of red in my day.

Incidentally, we walked past a house last night that already had some Christmas lights up. Joe asked:
1. if we could stay and look at the lights for a little bit
2. if it was Christmas Eve yet
3. if he could go up to their door and tell them trick or treat.

I don't even think he wanted candy. He just thinks that's how to greet his neighbors.

On to this week's library report. Three decidedly non-red delights:

Knock, Knock, Who's There? (My First Book of Knock-Knock Jokes) by Tad Hills, 2000. Joseph's introduction to the knock-knock joke. Cue the hysterical cackles and snorts. Hills' How Rocket Learned to Read is another don't-miss.

Rainy Day by Patricia Lakin, 2007. Crocodiles Sam, Pam, Will and Jill travel their city in search of adventure and end up in the library. Besides a bit about hail the size of a softball, it's a lot of rhyming fun.

Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban, 1960. Just like Harold last week, I can't believe we haven't checked out a Frances book before. Frances' curiosity and mild bedtime worries pair sweetly with her parents' assurance that she's just fine and should really go to bed. A pleasure to read. Joe and I chuckled together when she gets up for the third time and finds her parents watching television and eating cake.

Like that would ever happen.

Head on over to the Time Warp Wife for other domestic encouragement.


Seven Quick Takes: 24-hour defrost.

Linking up to Jen at Conversion Diary--Austin this July, anyone?

"It'll need to defrost for 24 hours," said refrigerator repair guy on day 2 of the ongoing Great Refrigerator Disaster, which began this week and won't end until next week.

So. We unplugged the fridge, then rigged a fan to blow on the back freezer wall to melt the wall of ice that's preventing the cold air from circling up to the 'fridge. I had to keep the milk and yogurt over ice in a cooler outside my back door for two days, so I'm praying our 40-degree November weather kept everything cold enough.

I might have to drink that wine and beer before they go bad, you know? Just in case. 

We finally watched all six episodes of Sherlock. Hello, gentlemen.

I expected the series to be rather grisly, but the suspense factor vastly outweighs the gore. In fact, I appreciated that the producers had the opportunity to be more graphic and declined. For instance, scenes featuring bodies being examined in the morgue rarely featured the faces or wounds of the dead. Small details, but they made the series that much more watchable and fascinating. The focus is on the mystery and thrill of the case, not the blood.

Needless to say, the kids are going to bed early on January 19. Mommy and Daddy have dates in Yorkshire and on Baker Street.

Amby must have cut 12 molars this week (or so it seemed).[--[][
'p  ΓΈ;'[[[[[[[[pnh'p['m''=]'''=,''

(Ironic that he climbed up to the open laptop on the table to pound out his feelings on the matter this morning while I was getting his brother dressed, and right after I typed that first line. Rather impressed he found that o thingy with the line through it.)

He's feeling a titch better.

How to fuse the idea of Santa's workshop and the Costco toy aisle is currently beyond my parenting skills.

Joseph: Will Santa bring me this airport for Christmas? Can we take it home with us now?

Mary: Well, we can't take it home today because Santa might need to come pick it up for you for Christmas... *realizes this sounds ridiculous and like Santa is dependent on Costco* Um, but you know... Oh, I don't know. Put it back and we're going to look at the Nativity set and ogle the ornaments.

Amby: Ba-ball!

The Domestic Apologist high five goes to the newly-elected (and quite publicly pro-life) president of the USCCB, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville. 

God bless him and all the work he has done and will do for Christ's Church.

I visited a prospective pre-school for Joseph this week. It can't be possible that he's old enough to go yet. Small mommy sob.

Mary: Joe, I went and met a teacher at a pre-school for you today.

Joe: That's my favorite teacher, Mom!

Mary: You haven't met her yet.

Joe: Oh, she's my favorite.

And I'll always love you too, Joe, even if I just became chopped liver.

Happy weekend!


On the move + library winners

Boys in their natural habitat

These boys. They don't stop moving. Ever! Or so it seems these days. Every picture I take with them on my phone's camera is blurred. Granted, I should just use a better camera. But still. Moooooooving.

Though they still love going to the park, I can't stand to see their little hands turn beet red in the cold (and wearing gloves seems anathema at this age). So if I have the stamina, I take them to the library, then try to simultaneously monitor two short boys who instantly disappear behind long rows of books the minute we pass through the doors. I usually find Joe sitting quietly with a book at a tiny table. I usually find Amby ripping books three at a time out of the Native American section.

I grab about 10 kids' books (judged solely on their covers), and when I get home, I cull out the ones that are either too long, abstract, or sassy. Then I wipe them down with a Lysol wipe. Hey, it's flu season.

This week's winners in heavy pre-bedtime book reading rotation:

Harold at the North Pole by Crockett Johnson. Charming little Harold finds himself and some other Christmas friends amidst a self-drawn snow storm. Did everyone but me know that Crockett Johnson wrote the Harold books in the 50s? Love them.

Sally's Snow Adventure by Stephen Huneck. We loved Sally Goes to the Farm and Sally Goes to the Beach. I lucked out this time and grabbed a seasonally-appropriate Sally adventure.

The Puddle Pail by Elisa Kleven. Sweet story of two crocodile brothers who collect little kid treasures: rocks, gum wrappers, and puddles.



Seven Quick Takes: Burn baby burn.

Linking up to Jen at Conversion Diary today to play another round of Seven Quick Takes. 

Our little abode comes complete with a working fireplace, hurray! Are all boys pyromaniacs by nature? All three of them took great delight in watching the flames flicker. Every morning since, Amby walks up to the fireplace doors and gives them a good shake, looking at me with a face that says, "Mom, you haven't lit it yet." Sorry kid. This ain't Downton Abby and I'm not the scullery maid.

Said fireplace has now lit the proverbial flame of interest in Joe for all things fire and smoke related in his books. He kept pouring over a board book about the Nativity, zeroing in on the page that shows the angels coming to tell the Good News to the shepherds. Ah, the faith of a child, I thought. No, it's that the shepherds gather around a FIRE outside. "Is that the smoke? Is it buuuuurning them? Are they being careful? Do they put newspaper in their fiiiiire?"

We woke up to a few inches of snow this week. Boys rejoice; mommy goes hunting in the basement for snow boots. But a good time was had by all, once the torture of putting on snow mittens ended.

In my zeal for safety and concern for my neighbors, I grabbed our snow shovel during the snow storm and cleared our sidewalks. I then spent the rest of the day so satisfied with myself that the little children walking home from school past my house would be free from the hazards of icy patches and snow in their boots. 

The snow all melted by noon. Whatevs. 

I'm just discovering the wealth of materials at Catholic Icing. I know, I know, I'm late to the party. But it took me a few months to realize Joe is a preschooler capable of, you know, the dreaded arts and crafts--or as Camp Patton's Julia would say, "I just love arts and craps!" The Catholic Icing link above takes you to their November printables page. Joseph isn't that great at coloring yet, but I think he'll be freaking-out-excited to make a gluten-free crown cake for the Feast of Christ the King.

Some days, the boys go down for naps and I pick up every last toy and block in the living room, effectively hitting the reset button on the daily house mess. And then there's Friday.

It's like a picture out of an I-Spy book. I spy a fish, a monkey, and... what's that in the bottom right corner? Oh, it's Mommy's credit card which she couldn't find when she checked out at the grocery store this morning. Hurray.

It's only 18 months late, but I finally recorded Amby's birth story.

Here's looking at you, kid. I love you. Now quit taking stuff out of my purse.

Also, please allow me to introduce myself. Happy Friday.

Birth, round two.

Doth there exist in the blogosphere a statue of limitations for writing birth stories? Ambrose, my second little sweetheart, is already 18 months. But after reading another mom's beautiful birth story this week, I felt called to record (if for nothing else than my own memory) the night of his birth.

Start your pitocin drip and let's go. :)

Eighteen months ago, I went for my 39.5 week check up on a Friday. My due date was only two days away, and we had scheduled an induction for the following Friday, just in case I hadn't had the baby yet. I was, however, 3cm and 30% effaced! To celebrate, I stopped and got a Five Guys bunless cheeseburger on the way home. With Joseph, I hadn't had any early progress like that, and I remember calling my mom from the Five Guys parking lot, thrilled to know my body was working like a second-time mom's probably should.

After Joseph went to bed that night, I realized that the Braxton-Hicks contractions I had been feeling all day had intensified. Sean was on the phone. At one point in the conversation, he looked over and took note. I sat with my hands firmly pressing my big belly, my head pressed back against the sofa, my eyes closed and my face in a grimace with the contraction. Sean said slowly into the phone, "Yeah, I'm going to have to call you back. This looks different."

We started timing contractions; after an hour of steady pains, we decided to head over to the hospital. A friend who lives nearby came to stay with Joseph, and we were off by 11 p.m.

From check-in at the hospital, to the OB admitting room, we eventually got the news that I was only... 2cm. Sigh. Instead of sending us home, the kindly nurses sent us for a hour of laps around the hallways to see if I'd make any progress. We took a trip to the cafeteria to get snacks, since it looked fairly certain that we'd be up all night.

Every 4-5 minutes I'd stop, gripping the handrails or Sean's arms. At each contraction I'd work on relaxing my face, squatting down, remembering that I had to help that baby twist and turn his way out of me. I even made Sean download an entire album (on the hospital's slow wi-fi) of John Michael Talbot songs on his phone, thinking the troubadour's voice would help keep me calm. Knowing we would be up all night having this baby put an additional stress on my mind. By the time we came home from the hospital with Joseph, I had gone three nights without two consecutive hours of sleep, and I was an absolute mess. I tried pushing those fears away, listening to the music and praying when I could.

"Be Not Afraid" must have worked because the final contraction of the hour left me shaking and nauseated. We returned back to the admitting room, and hooray, 4cm! A nurse began walking us to our room, but contractions repeatedly brought me to my knees and left me shivering and chattering. Our nurse radio-ed to the room nurses ahead of us, "Yeah, we're on our way. She's starting to get busy."

Once we got to the room, a nurse tried starting my IV/hep lock. Failed. It was agreed that since I desperately wanted to get in the jet tub for pain relief and to relax, they'd try to get the IV started there. So in the tub I went, grateful for hot water and those miraculous soothing jets. Second try, failed. Another nurse comes in. Third try, failed. I struggled to unclench my teeth and remain focused on labor, assuring myself that surely, SURELY there will be one medical professional in the institution FULL of medical professionals who can start an IV on a woman who admittedly has veins as small and fickle as cheap wet yarn.

An angel disguised as a fresh faced young nurse came in to try. Fourth attempt, and blessed success. I melted into a puddle of relief, then knelt in the tub for nearly an hour, enjoying the vision of myself as a woman laboring in a tub in her sports bra, just like those home birth moms in A Baby Story. Heh.

The water eventually overheated me, and I climbed out of the tub with Sean's help, all lightheaded and flushed. I told Sean I just need to lie down for a bit, and he started to help me to the bed. No no, I said in typical laboring lady talk, I need to lie down right now, right here. (On the floor. The bathroom floor. Of a hospital.)

So the image most seared in Sean's mind from Ambrose's birth isn't the baby crowning, or holding his new son for the first time.... No. It's of his germophobe wife, so overcome with labor and fatigue and baby-birthing-hormones that she actually took a 10-minute nap on the floor of the restroom, laying her head on her own cardigan with her bottom half beached on the paper bathmats supplied in said bathrooms.

When stronger contractions woke me, I moved out to the room and began the familiar "I can't do this any more. I'm done. I'm done! I want the epidural--I'm done. I can't. I can't!" of transition. That same angel nurse came in, saw me and said, "Let's check you! I bet you're doing really well! This is going so fast. You won't need an epidural." And in my mind she lost all credibly and should have been stripped of her license. Of course this labor would never end! I'm tired! I'm done! Pain pain paaaaain!

A quick check showed me to be at 9cm. And a check of the clock showed 6:30 a.m. A bit more of that "I can't!" nonsense, and I felt the pressure. I also felt the need to sit on the bed and pound my head into Sean's torso like a ram. For most of Ambrose's labor (post bathtub), actually, I think I used my sweet husband as a stress ball, alternately pressing against him or pushing against him to balance the forces pushing against my own body.

Another check 30 minutes later showed me to be almost 100% effaced and nearly ready to push, but not quite. The pressure felt so overwhelming, though, that I laid back on the bed and told the nurses in the room, "You don't understand--I can't not push; I need to push. Now." And the nurses, truly God bless them, told me there wasn't a doctor there yet.

Well. Summon one, perhaps? Pretty please??

At that point the resident flew in the room, tying on her gown. The minute I saw her, I released my last shards of labor pains, tension, stress and any form of communication. I closed my eyes and pushed.


Two pushes, and that baby who had kept me vertical, standing or kneeling for the last eight hours came out.

 They placed him on my chest, and Sean told me we had a boy. Eyes still closed, I smiled and cradled my infant. I knew he was out and safe... and that I was 90% done. Sean took him from me, and the "after birth" began.

No one writes much about the after birth, and maybe it's a good thing. I've birthed two babies now, one with an epidural and one without. They were equally hard, both during labor, birth and after. But one special thing happened this second time. While the resident and (finally) a doctor from my doctor's office began repairing and doing whatever they do down there, a sweet nurse took hold of my left hand. I opened my eyes and looked at her. She looked down at me and said, "You did so great. Great job. You're almost done."

To the second angel nurse of this birth, I cannot properly express my gratitude. Following any baby's birth, the Dad holds the baby and sees him weighted and measured. But the Mom's still on the table, having an organ squished out of her and her nether regions stitched up--it's like adding insult to injury. So to that angel nurse who tenderly held my hand, during the chills and shaking that come once your body pushes out another human being--thank you. Thank you for doing your job so very, very well.

And that, as they say, is that.

Ambrose, my sweet little soul who weighed exactly the same as his brother but came out in half the time--I love you, my little cub. Thanks for going easy on me.