UPDATED: {dusting the shelves}

IMG_3992Half a dozen blog posts percolate in my mind, but this space lies dormant as I tackle more urgent to-dos. (Those diapers just don’t change themselves!) Hence, a new feature of the blog — {dusting the shelves} — to be published whenever I need to quickly clear my head and fill a little gap in the admittedly spotty narrative of “On This Shelf.” So, here goes, in no particular order of importance:

On the {book} shelf:

My doctor gave me strict orders not to read another parenting volume for at least a month or two, and, I must say, it’s been refreshing to remember the whole wide literary world. Let’s just say I’m inclined to read more self-help books than is, er, helpful, a habit I’ve battled since college.

This week, I cleared my nightstand of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy ChildThen Comes BabyParenting with GraceBoys Should Be Boys, Bringing Up BebeMomnipotent and a handful of other how-to titles and replaced them with Middlemarch by George Eliot, Virgil’s Aeneid (which I have been theoretically reading for the past year!) and The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. Here’s to enjoying a novel, elevating my mind and — here’s a revolutionary idea! — trusting my maternal instincts, regardless of whether they’re corroborated by the so-called “experts”! In the school of motherhood, no book can replace experience!

Incidentally, I do plan to review the many parenting titles I’ve read. While I’ve gleaned useful tidbits from almost every book I’ve read, I’ve been generally unimpressed. Three books, though, have acquired a permanent place on my shelves as indispensable aids to ordering my mind to think rightly about how to create a home that introduces Jesus and the world to my children in a sensible, comprehensible way: We and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland, The Little Oratory by David Clayton and Leila Marie Lawler (the book is how I found her blog!), and Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen. Properly speaking, the latter two books are not even parenting books, but I think every parent should read them! Oh, I have several honorable mentions, but those three will be the ones I reread with each child!

On the {pantry} shelf:

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Two weekends ago, I reorganized our pantry and our refrigerator. Clearly, I have a long way to go to have a truly well-stocked pantry that efficiently supplies the needs of our family. Fortunately, for now, our family is small enough that I can get by without yet buying in bulk. In fact, I might even indulge in a meal plan subscription service like Blue Apron until we need a larger volume of food.

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Our cupboards might be empty, but our bellies have not been, thanks to the generosity of friends and family. A friend recently brought us a delicious meal of pork loin, potatoes and green beans, with extras of bagels, banana bread, fruit salad and wine. I felt almost guilty accepting the generous gift of so lavish a meal, given that Mint Julep is already two months old, but, if I’m honest, I’m still not cooking to the extent I would like, so it was a very welcome help — and we lived on the leftovers for days! My parents also treated us this past Sunday to a steak dinner with sweet potatoes, green beans and red velvet cake. We’ve eaten like kings, then, despite the paucity of our pantry!

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On the {nursery} shelf:

No sooner did I quit reading parenting books than Mint Julep eschewed his day-night confusion for six-to-eight-hour stretches of sleep. We became religious about a bedtime routine — bath, prayers, nursing, lullabies, a bit of rocking in the bassinet and then “the pause,” in which we give him a few minutes to fuss to see whether he’ll fall asleep before another round of comforting — and it has worked beautifully! In fact, most nights, he’s not fussed at all before he’s fallen asleep.*

Meanwhile, Sweet Potato has learned how to properly complete a puzzle and sort shapes. She learns new words by the day (“apple” and “oatmeal” are two recent favorites!), and she also had her first hair cut, about which I’ve tried not to be too sentimental (because, let’s be honest, her hair had begun to look a little ratty and ridiculous!).

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On the {closet} shelf:

As sometimes happens, I’d not made it to the hair salon in quite some time myself. To hide my three-month-old roots, I had to be creative. So, I sported a floppy hat one day and a head scarf the next. The March issue of WSJ magazine features Christy Turlington Burns on the cover in a hat of roughly the same shape and color as the hat I’d been wearing, although hers was haute couture and mine was merely hot in this unseasonably warm March in Oklahoma. One fine morning, Sweet Potato pointed to the picture of Burns and said, “Mama!” — all the confirmation I needed that, in this role of “Mama,” I do, indeed, get to be all things to a couple of people — even a supermodel, apparently. It was a glorious moment.

On the {virtual} shelf:

OK, OK, I know I’m stretching the “On the shelf” formula, but how else to address a bit of politics?

If you haven’t seen it, here’s an appeal from prominent Catholics to their fellow Church members to not vote for Trump! Hillary Clinton is, of course, no better. Does this mean, I wonder, that, come November, it will likely be our moral — if not necessarily civic — responsibility to stay home and not vote at all? To do so would be a de facto vote for Clinton, I know. The tension between our two citizenships — City of God, City of Man — grows ever stronger. Why do the lyrics of At the End of the Day keep up a running chorus in my head? “There’s a hunger in the land. / There’s a reckoning still to be reckoned. / And there’s gonna be hell to pay … / At the end of the day.”

Where is the type of leader about whom Saint Paul writes in 1 Timothy? We had a few candidates that came close, but voters aren’t choosing them for reasons I clearly don’t understand. Oklahoma went for Ted Cruz, at least.

Ah, well. Sweet Potato is awake and hungry, so that’s as much dusting as I’ll get around to today. Pictures and links to come at a later time, so check back!

UPDATE: Pictures and links added (obviously)!

*While I do not at all want to wade into debates about infant sleep, I will say that, because of certain articles I’ve read against “crying it out,” I was terrified to leave Mint Julep alone and awake for even a few minutes for fear of his probable crying and consequent brain-damaging cortisol level — and, in the process of incessantly “comforting” him, I was prolonging his crying, reducing his overall sleep and losing all confidence in my ability to mother well. In my experience, then, a few minutes of space — after changing and nursing, obviously! — can be worth hours of sleep — and hours of comforting can sometimes only be worth a few minutes of sleep. In other words, sometimes our “soothing” becomes “stimulating” and our poor children (and we!) become frustrated because all they really need and want is to sleep! This is child-and-parent-specific, of course, and, like all parenting, requires sensitivity! Also, on that note, while I know that a sensitive mother can often discern the various types of cries (hungry, wet, etc.), I also know that babies can sometimes be like a smoke detector; their volume is the same whether the toast burned or the whole house is in flames! Sometimes, then, a bit of time and space is helpful even to be able to distinguish the type of cry (i.e. whether it is a cry for comfort or an exhausted cry for solitude and sleep!).

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