Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Thanks Key & Peele! Thankful to be drafted - gotta buy my babies those diapers!

The latest developments in pro teaching... back to updating my course pages.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

This is my Confession: A Lesson in Humility

We're home from vacation!

Not as restful as vacation should be... the girls never sleep well away from home, but Grace officially (and successfully!) slept in a bed! Every night! The funny memories came when we put her down for a nap, only to see her knocking on the glass sliding door leading to the porch.

Sunday's second reading really hit home for me. Ephesians 4:1-6, emphasis mine:

Brothers and sisters:
I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:
one body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.

Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Bearing in love. Unity through the bond of peace. 

What a tall order! What is needed more in this world - in the public and private spheres.

My failings are obvious: I was crabby for half of vacation. I can freely admit this now, having gotten way more sleep now that we are back home. I didn't want to be, and I tried not to be, and, at Will's gentle urging, I ended up apologizing to every member of my family for the fog I felt around me. They, of course, were gracious and understanding (as they cuddled my children).

So, this past Saturday, I went to Confession. It seemed to be the thing to do after vacation, plus Will had fallen asleep on the couch instead of in bed (another no-sleep SICU shift left him passed out before he finished his lunch), and the girls needed to get out of the house. I took the girls with me on a penitential trip when I went to the wrong parish at the wrong time. I went an hour early to the one farther from our house, and decided to not risk missing my turn by driving to the other parish.

We creepily followed the older lady up to the church steps, only then seeing the sign that confession was in an hour. She offered to let us in, but I balked, saying I would take a walk with the girls instead.

Mistake. It was SO HOT OUTSIDE. We said half a rosary, and hurried back to the cool air condition to wait out the rest of the 40 minutes. Grace and Laura were very reasonably behaved, especially considering Grace was missing her second nap for mama's reconciliation.

Finally, it was almost time for Father to come out. The older lady re-approached me, and introduced herself as Monica, the sacristan before 5 p.m. mass. She offered to watch the girls while I was in the booth. I piled the girls into their double stroller and off they went! Monica very slowly pushed them around the church, and it seemed to calm them both into silence.

Father came out: I stood awkwardly, allowing him to put out his little name plate before I dove into the kneeler. It had been too long since my last confession.

And it was a good one. I felt my heart being opened. The beauty of confession is that, while Christ already knows all, you are the one that brings forth your sin and admits to them. You must present yourself honestly, humbly and with the dignity of knowing you are wrong, and determine to do right. The priest is a minister of Christ: in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. ("Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers" as St. Thomas Aquinas said, as quoted in the Catechism). This man of God listened to me, and responded so gently and thoughtfully that I finally had to say,

"Father, that is my child screaming."

Yes, in an attempt to quiet Laura's more frequent whining, the lady had picked up Laura, who then realized her own mother was not pushing the stroller, and thus decided to test the acoustics in the buttressed church.

She was full-out crying. Father acknowledged this, and continued his counsel. I have to tell you: I expected to feel mortified. I did not. I felt love.

I felt the love of this priest, counseling me.
I felt the love of the Lord through the sacraments.
I felt the love of a community of believers as they (yes, I walked out to many) tried to pacify my daughter. (Grace was shockingly calm! They usually pair up when one starts crying.)
I felt the love of my baby daughter, crying out for her mother.
I felt the love of forgiveness; the love of mercy.

I also thought of Hell, which is not to be feared for its flames, but rather, the total absence of God. Laura felt my absence, and wailed. I thought, This is what brings me back to mass every week, and to confession: my soul screams for God because I love him, even when I am not feeling amorous. Sin does that - pushes us away from God. Reconciliation brings us back.
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because I have offended you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen. (An Act of Contrition)
As I walked out of the booth, I felt light and immediately went to pick up Laura, red in the face and sobbing. As I held her, even for those brief first moments, she calmed down and stopped crying. My child, I love you. I said this to Laura. God says this to each of us.

The lady then offered to help me to the door ("You can say your prayers later, okay?") and I laughed a little at the whole scenario. I buckled Laura back into her seat, thanked the lady, and off we went. Both girls ended up falling asleep before we arrived at our next destination: the grocery store.

That was the first time I've wrangled both girls to confession by myself, and surely not to be my last. It was, more importantly, another opportunity to say "I am sorry." We're teaching Grace to say "sorry" - she says "uh oh!" when she drops things, which is super cute, except when it's on purpose/ food-related. I repeat ad nauseam: "Uh oh! You did that on purpose, Grace! Let's say, Sorry Mama!"

Is Grace saying "sorry" yet? No. Does she understand what "sorry" means? Absolutely. Today, Will and I were busy cleaning, etc. and not paying close attention to Grace. She became absolutely irate at us, and we scooped her up and placed her on our bed. She wouldn't look at us. We sat with her, explained that we were cleaning, we love her and we are sorry she is feeling upset. We apologized to her and asked for a hug. She hugged us both.

It's essential for me to model humility; the inability to admit one is wrong (or might be wrong) is a harmful vice - it leads to dishonesty, stubbornness and a close-mindedness that is hard to crack. I want my children to know that struggling is okay. Struggling breeds innovation if positively encouraged.

Pride is forever my confession-worthy vice, but I, a disciple of the Lord, "urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace."

Love like a child, forgive like the Lord. God, keep me humble! (Ouch, this prayer is going to hurt.)

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Picnic Post and Poconos

Hi gang!

We're off to vacation today! We're going to the Poconos (1-2 hours away, depending on who you drive with) with my family and in-laws. My mom and two of my sisters arrived last night, and we'll leave soonish. Wanted to drop a little link love for the next week:

Three billion miles away, no problem: Houston, we have pictures of Pluto! Thanks NASA!

If you've never heard of Sr. Theresa A. Noble, now's the time. A former atheist/ current Catholic nun, she writes (well!!) for Patheos. Her latest is gold: 5 Tips: When Friends and Family Disagree on Gay Marriage

I've been perusing the web for some supplementary reading for my AP kids, and ran across this great piece by Lawrence Reed at The Freeman (publication of FEE, or Foundation for Economic Education) about Anne Hutchinson: America’s First Feminist Was a Radical Libertarian

If you're interested in urban planning, I loved this piece from The Manhattan Institute’s Center for Rethinking Development: Four Jane Jacobs Ideas that Should Have Made a Difference

Laura at Mothering Spirit touched a lot of hearts with her piece "the essay I never wrote"

As a ballet lover and a mother of a child with cerebral palsy, I adored this post on the NYC ballet: "The New York City Ballet Conducts Workshops For Disabled Children"

Nike collaborated with a CP kid to make these shoes too. So cool.

For my vacation week, I bought Harper Lee's latest and am very excited about it. NPR's review is spot-on, especially concerning the initial backlash: 'Go Set A Watchman' Is A Revelation On Race, Not A Disappointment

This is a surprising piece from NYT's Modern Love section about how a couple faces adversity: Superheroes, Just for Each Other

Thanks First Things for this woman-roar!! piece: Learning from Bodies

Finally, this is THE BEST article I have read on marriage, well, ever: The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give

Cheers from us Baldwins, catch y'all in a week!

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Teaching Grace to Walk the Walk

Lately, we've been doing a lot of walking. Grace is a cruise master - she can walk along furniture and the wall to get where she needs go.

Here she is at the pediatrician's office a few days ago:

We're practicing walking on different kids of surfaces too - this was yesterday with her Dad. Please note the fabulous pink shoes with bows, a surprise mistake from Zappos!

At both her physical therapies this week, her therapists talked about how she is doing more advanced movements than first steps, but she is lacking the confidence. She does not need the balance, but she wants it. 

We found a nice park about a mile from our house, so the last two days we've been introducing Grace to the straight, bumpy and twisty slides; the monkey bars; the unsteady bridge; plenty of wood chips. She loves it, which makes us so happy.

Laura loves it too!

We're working a lot on walking... and it's just frustrating for all parties. As long as she feels comfortable, she does well. If she feels unsure (like walking on wood chips), she is much more stiff. This affects her gait. Here is a short video - we're really encouraging her to walk with minimal support:

Then again, if she doesn't want to walk, she won't. 

She wants to walk and move on her own... our hope is that she takes off on her own by the end of summer, or before her second birthday. It's tough to be in limbo. Don't misunderstand me  - we are over-the-moon for how much Grace has improved and how well she is moving: her therapists are beyond pleased. We're grateful that she's high functioning in this way. And sure, even after she's walking on her own, there will still be more to work on. A prescription was written for an AFO (ankle foot orthotics), so we'll get fitted after we get back from vacation next week.

As always, God provides and guides. Grace is flourishing, happy and overall responsive to therapy. Her normal movements are fluid and controlled, and she has does a deep plie!

The park was a total success, by the way. Mom and Dad got their walk in too!

I don't mind answering questions about Grace walking; I would prefer other questions, as well:
  • How's Grace?
  • Tell me about Grace's therapies!
  • What does Grace like doing these days?

(And don't forget about Laura! Wink.)

If you're unsure what questions to ask, a safe bet is to ask about the child over asking about progress the child is making. If the child is plateauing, it can be a less desirable topic. If you're the parent/ loved one and you're feeling sensitive about your child, just be honest: "[My child] is working very hard in therapy right now; he/she is loving _____!" You do not owe anyone outside medical professionals the full story - but don't be afraid of the story either. It's yours too!

Grace is such a bright, spirited child. She loves and feels deeply: she loves shoes, dressing up, coloring, building blocks, dancing to music, and being sweet/ super close to Laura, as well as cuddling with her mom and dad.

It's going to be great when she does walk, but this is where we are now. Thanks for asking, y'all!

Stay tuned for more pictures of that fantastic neighborhood park; we are thrilled to find this treasure within walking distance! Such a nice borough we live in for now.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Up Close

Is Vivian teaching Grace to take a selfie, or is Grace teaching Vivian?

And a gratuitous shot of our sweet lady, Laura.

We had two visitors (!!) last week, Will worked another 80++ hours, and I am sitting here, having a cocktail. I know, I deserve it. Today, we officially mailed in our new lease. All the waiting, all the negotiations and back and forth: done. We're here for (at least) another year!

Back to watching Flip or Flop... 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

What My Kids Listen To: Blood on the Tracks

In the Baldwin household, my kids definitely listen to Sesame Street and Disney on Pandora. They've also got two parents with a very wide range of musical interests, too. I'm going to start sharing the kind of musical ballads I want my kids to grow up with -- very different from what I grew up listening to as well, which was mainly Rogers and Hammerstein musicals, Raffi, classical music, Motown and Evangelical Christian bands/ singers.


Blood on the Tracks is my favorite Bob Dylan album.

"Tangled Up in Blue" - this is a wonderful song.

Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century
And everyone of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin' coal
Pourin' off of every page
Like it was written in my soul
From me to you
Tangled up in blue

Listen here for an amazing live version from 1975; Bob looks a little native in this version. A few years ago, my sister Marianne was listening to this track when she asked me, "What was he doing in a topless bar in the first place?" Topless bars, Italian poetry, New Orleans, revolution and lumber jacks ... what else does this song need?

"Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" - here's to walking up to a stranger and grinning. I love this ballad of greed, conquest and revenge.

"Shelter from the Storm" is my favorite Dylan song, period, and its location near the end of the album is the perfect poetry.

I need to mention that the songs are best listened to in order on the album. It's easy to pick out one's favorites; but to really feel the emotional powerhouse this album is, it must be a continuous flow. This is Dylan's magic - the sublimity of story, the allusions of pain, hope and the path of someone else's journey.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Giddy Up, Rawhide!

I'm getting back into exercise. Due to my proclivity to shin splints, I always take it slow after babies. A few days ago, I decided to step it up and sprint every other block. Laura falls asleep; Grace loves it.

She leans forward, into the wind, and her left arm goes up and down, up and down, keeping to the tempo of the run. She leans back then, into her seat, and looks up at me, laughing.

I am panting, and smiling, and out of breath. I know I am going to hurt later, and I also know how happy this makes her. I run on.

I'm on summer break right now, and I'm still dealing with frustrations that come with being an adult. But as important as all of this work is, I have not included Will in it. I have not let him help me, and while this is fairly typical (I have to make a lot of day-to-day decisions), this particular situation launched frustrations on both sides.

So is the tale of poor communication when dear husband is working with no sleep... and still, I am the one dropping the ball.

Visiting Dad! Our favorite thing!

Will is working night shift, and when he gets off (almost finished now!), he'll have spent 80++ hours at the hospital in the past five days. These past five days, of course, have included a lot of busy work at home, and I find it easier to handle situations independently.

This is not necessarily a bad thing - a lot of the work I did is beneficial, and helped Will when the time came for him to step in. But I am guilty of hoarding responsibility, channeling Atlas as I carry our world on my shoulders. Do you hoard too?

Unfortunately, as noble as my ideals and intentions are, that is not partnership. That is survival mode, and I have war paint on my face.

Or rather, had. I wiped off my stripes. I am letting myself walk again. I am letting down my guards.

I constantly find myself in a mama bear position. A week ago, Grace had another check-up with her eye doctor. It was decided that her intermittent exotropia in her right eye is getting worse, and she needs to start wearing a patch every day for 1-3 hours.

"It'll be like wrestling a little bear cub," said Dr. K. How prophetic: that afternoon, the first hour of patching was a lot of screaming, yelling, restraining her left arm/hand, and cuddling. Grace would not be bought by vanilla ice cream or Blue's Clues. By the end of the hour, she fell asleep in her swing to Sesame Street tunes on Pandora. Day 1 complete.

I felt very overwhelmed. Will was gone too (night shift, brouhaha) and that seemed to make everything feel worse. When your child has certain needs, crying takes on a less affecting role. Sure, no one wants their child to cry: but sometimes, they have to, as a means to an end. She needs to wear the patch - we're already seeing a stronger right eye as a result! Still, the crying can take an emotional toll on the mama as well. You just want peace on earth, if that is not too much to ask.

It's been much less fighting since then, thank God. Yesterday was an easy two hours, complete with our new ritual of a walk/run. When I am struggling, her grin holds me up. When she is struggling, I'm there to coo and kiss. Add the adorable Laura to the mix, and we're all peaches and cream over here.

I guess I thought summer would be different. Less stress than the school year. But maybe it's not the summer winds that have to change, it's me.

Giddy up, rawhide! Time to keep riding these trails.

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Friday, July 3, 2015

Fourth of July for Introverts

"What are you doing for the Fourth of July?"
"Reading the Declaration of Independence!"

How well do you know the Constitution? Take a quick quiz here, compliments of my alma mater.

My dear college friend Anna opened a shop, and I need one of these in my office.

And this one.

Read: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (trust me when I say this thriller is patriotic in the best sense - wonderful for children and adults!)

Movies to watch:
History Channel's America: The Story of Us
The Patriot
HBO's John Adams

Fun apps:
US Citizenship 2015 Free (a nice refresher course too!)
Civics 101

Have you ever heard of The Presidency Project?

In the spirit of Independence Day:

Really, indulge in everything red, white and blue. Clothing choices, food choices and decorations, if you are so inclined. Put out the flag and sing out an ode to the men who risked their lives by committing treason in order to [eventually] create a more perfect union for future generations.

We Baldwin ladies are planning on a low key time. Will is working a 30 hour shift in the SICU, so he'll technically get off at noon, and will need to be back at the hospital at 6 a.m. on Sunday for another 30 hour shift, so I am doubting a big interest in staying up for the fireworks this year. Grace likes hamburgers and strawberries, and I think we'll play with the water table and mini pool.

What are your plans, readers? Have a wonderful weekend!

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

#5Faves and the War Between the States

With all the recent news and debate on the Confederate flag hanging above the South Carolina state house in light of violence against black Americans in churches, I thought I would share a few books on a turbulent time in our country - our only civil war!

One of my favorite lessons with my students is discussing the Civil War/ War Between the States. It's important to emphasize that the North and South were both to blame in terms of how they handled the crises leading up, how the regions and their people's philosophies conflicted, and that nothing can justify the evils of slavery, even if someone had good intentions. I also like to add that slavery is nothing new to history - it should not be surprising that our country had it - especially considering trade with other countries - and we should be proud to have gotten rid of it within one hundred years of America's Founding. That is exceptional. And racism? That is a power struggle and it is wrong.

Here are a few excellent books for adults to read!


Ordeal By Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction by James McPherson and James Hogue

This is actually the textbook from college days that I read during my Civil War/ War Between the States class. It is written in the narrative, which lends to a beautiful visualization of the historical events. This book gets into the sociology of the culture as well, and really fleshes out the country. An outstanding read!


A Nation Transformed: How the Civil War Changed America Forever by Gerald S. Henig and Eric Niderost 

I picked this book up in Georgia at a local history museum in Marietta. If you're looking for a book like the above (but not as academic), this book is a dream. It is well-written, discusses over 150 "firsts" in our country as mini-chapters, has 160+ pictures, and is very detailed and delightful.


Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

I was shocked to hear that politicians in Maryland wish to re-name Robert E. Lee Park to a more "sensitive" name so as to not honor someone who "led the forces in rebellion against the United States of America on behalf of secessionists who sought to perpetuate slavery" - frankly, this shows a deficiency of knowledge and understanding about General Lee and his life. Here is a letter written by Lee on December 27, 1856 [separated and emphasized by me for easier reading] in response to a speech by President Pierce:
I was much pleased with the President's message. His views of the systematic and progressive efforts of certain people at the North to interfere with and change the domestic institutions of the South are truthfully and faithfully expressed. The consequences of their plans and purposes are also clearly set forth. These people must be aware that their object is both unlawful and foreign to them and to their duty, and that this institution, for which they are irresponsible and non-accountable, can only be changed by them through the agency of a civil and servile war. There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil. It is idle to expatiate on its disadvantages. 
I think it is a greater evil to the white than to the colored race. While my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more deeply engaged for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, physically, and socially. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their further instruction as a race, and will prepare them, I hope, for better things. How long their servitude may be necessary is known and ordered by a merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild and melting influences of Christianity than from the storm and tempest of fiery controversy. This influence, though slow, is sure. The doctrines and miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years to convert but a small portion of the human race, and even among Christian nations what gross errors still exist!  
While we see the course of the final abolition of human slavery is still onward, and give it the aid of our prayers, let us leave the progress as well as the results in the hands of Him who, chooses to work by slow influences, and with whom a thousand years are but as a single day. Although the abolitionist must know this, must know that he has neither the right not the power of operating, except by moral means; that to benefit the slave he must not excite angry feelings in the master; that, although he may not approve the mode by which Providence accomplishes its purpose, the results will be the same; and that the reason he gives for interference in matters he has no concern with, holds good for every kind of interference with our neighbor, - still, I fear he will persevere in his evil course. . . . Is it not strange that the descendants of those Pilgrim Fathers who crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom have always proved the most intolerant of the spiritual liberty of others?

This volume of letters was collected and curated by his son, Robert, and gives insight into the man of compassion and culture. He was a true gentleman, and whose character is worth studying. Maryland should proudly have a park named after him!

Bonus: currently free for Kindle!


Emilie Davis's Civil War: The Diaries of a Free Black Woman in Philadelphia, 1863-1865

This woman has a very unique perspective, and I love primary documents. A free black woman in the north who was active in the abolitionist movement? Sign me up!


The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South by Bruce Levine

If you want to understand the origins of the War, that is awesome. But don't forget about Reconstruction - for example, President Johnson's allowance of black codes is a lasting legacy and a contributing reason we are still seeing the horrible repercussions of racism today. This is a fantastic book.

Joining up with Jenna!

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