[ C ] Piero di Cosimo - Madonna and Child, with John the Baptist and Saint Magdalena (1485) - Detail

Possessive Last Names Make the Baby Jesus Cry

Originally written for my old blog, but I thought it was worth putting here as well.

A Christmas card PSA from your friendly neighborhood copy editor. (Like Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility.)

When signing your Christmas card/letter (or creating return address labels), do not sign them like so:

Merry Christmas from the Wahlund’s!

If your intention is to send Christmas greetings on behalf of your entire family, then you want your last name to be plural, not possessive. For example:

Merry Christmas from the Wahlunds! means there is more than one Wahlund wishing you a Merry Christmas. In fact, the entire Wahlund family wishes you a Merry Christmas!

The possessive form, on the other hand, indicates that something belonging to the Wahlund family is wishing you a Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas from the Wahlund’s… what? The Wahlund’s cat? The Wahlund’s dog? The Wahlund’s thermonuclear bomb facility?

If your last name ends with an ‘s’ or ‘z’, then your best bet is to use a workaround such as, “Merry Christmas from the Glass family!” Or you could add an -es, which works well for families who have a last name ending in -ch (e.g., “Merry Christmas from the Marches! Love, Meg, Jo, Beth, & Amy.”)

But for the love of all that is holy and innocent, do not use an apostrophe to create a plural form of a surname. Please.

Baby Jesus will thank you.


Someone who has seen this on her received Christmas cards entirely too often.

emergency fund piggy bank

Setting Up an Emergency Fund in 2018

2018 is right around the corner. That means you need to be prepared for it. You never know what next year will have in store for you, and it is important to plan ahead. With a little bit of determination, you can have a nice emergency fund saved up throughout 2018 and going forward. The below tips are designed to help you get started.

If you do not have an emergency fund, you are not alone. In fact, most people do not have an emergency fund, and many people with a fund do not have more than a couple of hundred dollars in it. If you are a part of the larger group without an emergency fund, it’s not smart to continue that way.

An emergency fund can help you when you truly need it, and it offers security for you and your family’s health. For example, think about your child knocking out his or her tooth. If you live paycheck to paycheck, then a $500 dental bill is not something you can afford. Ideally, if you saved up $1,000 in your emergency fund over time, then of course, the incident wouldn’t break your wallet.

That’s a picture perfect example, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that having emergency savings set aside is extremely helpful.

Automate Savings with Direct Deposit 

One of the hardest things to do is save money when you have bills to pay. Financial obligations often require you to devote the majority of cash to bills, then afterwards, you might be tempted to spend the remainder on something more fun. This is where many people slip up when it comes to saving for an emergency fund.

One way to overcome this is to set up automated direct deposits, so your paychecks go to your accounts directly, including your emergency fund. If you have direct deposit through your employer, choose to send a percentage of your check every pay day to the emergency fund. This way, the money is already removed from your check and you won’t miss it, so to speak.

Make an Off-Limits Account

For the above to work, you would need to have a separate account for your emergency savings. Ideally, you wouldn’t have easy access to the account either. You’ll find it harder to save money if you have a debit card linked to your emergency fund. You should consider setting up an account without a linked debit card, and you could even require multiple steps make a withdrawal. This way, it’s inconvenient to dip into your savings, and you’ll only be incentivized to do so during an actual emergency.

Once you have the account in place, you can designate the percentage from your paycheck to go to this account. In addition, you could also easily make transfers from one bank account to another. If you have a cheap week, maybe you can devote an extra $100 to the account.

Use Expense Trackers to Your Advantage 

An expense tracker is one tool that you can use to your advantage. There are plenty of tracker apps out there, and you will need to choose one that meets your needs. With an expense tracker, you should be able to see where you put your money and where you can slim down certain spending. Overall, these apps are a great tool to help you take control of your daily personal finances.

For example, if you notice that you eat out three times a week for $40, then you can make a point to shop at the grocery store and replace those three meals for $10 with wholesome foods. The expense tracker would quantify this for you in a simple way, and it can provide you with a clear objective to improve your budget. Look at your expenses for the month and find anywhere and everywhere that you are able to cut and make sure to do it.

Talk to a Financial Advisor 

A financial advisor is someone who can provide you with tips on what to do to save money. They will look at your finances as a whole and provide you with expert recommendations on how to cut back on expenses. If you pick the right help, then you could save more money with expert advice.

In addition, your financial advisor will be able to work with you to invest your money. They know what the conservative and risky options are, and they will advise you on where to place your money based on your needs. If you cannot afford a financial advisor, an alternative could be a robo-advisor. These offer some of the same benefits as a traditional advisor such as investment allocation, goal setting, and tax planning.

Final Thoughts

The hard part is saving up the money in the first place for an emergency fund. Once you have one in place, you will wonder why you waited so long – trust me.

girl, upset, layoff

Lessons Learned from a Layoff 

As those of you who follow this blog’s Facebook page are aware, I was unexpectedly laid off from my job of eight years in April. April 19, to be exact. I was absolutely blindsided by the layoff, as was the rest of my former team (one other team member was let go besides myself). From what I understand, it was purely a cost-saving measure, and my former company gave me a generous severance package, including two weeks’ pay in lieu of notice.

I had never been laid off before, so it was a new experience. Thanks for the severance package we didn’t have to panic immediately, and we were able to give our daycare two weeks of notice instead of pulling the kids out immediately.

The layoff happened mid-morning, and I spent a good chunk of the day wandering around the house in shock. I called my husband to tell him the news, and after he’d gotten over his shock, he instructed me to go out and do something just for me. Go to the library, go to a movie, browse a bookstore, go shopping, but he wanted me to do something. I took his advice and went to Chick-fil-A to eat, and then did a little bit of shopping. And it did help, at least a little.

The next few weeks were spent in a flurry of paperwork — I spent long hours applying for government aid as well as scheduling last-minute appointments before my various insurances ended (the kids were covered under my plan too, so I had to scramble to make other arrangements for us).

It wasn’t until I was no longer working that I realized how much of my identity had been bound up in being an employee. I felt lost, adrift, and oddly unsettled. To be frank, I hadn’t liked my job, but I’d stayed with it because of the benefits — flexible schedule (including the ability to work from home most days), good benefits, decent pay. And on one hand I was glad not to have to do the work anymore, but on the other I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself now that I was no longer an employee.

I did appreciate the extra time with my kids, but it was quite a shock to realize that my dreams of being a stay-at-home-mom didn’t quite match the reality. I think part of that was due to having a nursing baby, but all the extra free time I thought I’d have evaporated like steam from a kettle. It was all I could do to keep up with basic housework, and the kids made messes faster than I could clean them up — even though they all had chores to do every day. Some nights I’d crawl into bed and think, “Why on earth didn’t I get anything done today?” And it was usually because the baby wanted to eat all the time and the three-year-old went through the house like a tornado, and because I had to referee arguments between the older kids, and a dozen other small things that ended up taking up all of my “extra” time.

Job-hunting consumed a great deal of time as well. We knew that once the severance ran out, we would need income of some kind, even if it was just what I could earn doing a part-time, work-from-home job. I applied for those types of jobs as well as for full-time work, and I signed up with a local temp agency specifically geared for writers, editors, artists, etc.

I had a phone interview for a very promising job, a position as a copy editor for a local media company, in late May. The phone interview led to an in-person interview, and then a second interview with one of the company’s VPs. I also did an editorial assessment and provided my references. I was extended an offer in late June and conducted salary negotiations. Once those had been wrapped up, I ended up starting my new job on July 17.

Ironically, I was offered a part-time, work-from-home gig the same week I was offered the full-time job. Initially I accepted both, thinking that the part-time job could help supplement my income (which was a pay cut from my previous salary, even after negotiating), but I quickly realized that one full-time job was about all I could handle, and I ended up declining the offer of the part-time position.

I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive about going back to full-time work after three months as a SAHM, as well as commuting to an office every day after nearly a year and a half of working at home full-time. To complicate matters, we had to find a new daycare as our old daycare was unable to take our two youngest kids back.

However, I’m happy to report that things are going very well, even better than I’d anticipated. We found a great new daycare that is actually less expensive than our previous one, and the kids are thriving. The commute is only 30 minutes one-way; while not as convenient as working from home, it definitely beats the 90-minute commute (one way) that I drove for almost seven years. My new commute is the perfect length of time to say a rosary, as it turns out, so I’ve been successful incorporating more prayer time into my day. As an added bonus, my house is actually cleaner now that the three-year-old is at daycare all day.

Most importantly, I LOVE my new job; it really does make a difference to love what you do. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a job like that. I don’t dread going to work every day anymore. While I wish I could get more sleep at night (my six-month-old still wakes up to nurse once or twice), I greet the day with enthusiasm and look forward to working. My new supervisor is wonderful and my coworkers are lovely people. The culture is wonderful and the office (a brand-new building!) is terrific.

The layoff also helped me realize that my long-cherished dream of being a stay-at-home-mom was grounded in fantasy instead of reality. Being a SAHM didn’t mean I magically had a clean home and plenty of time to do chores. It was more convenient when it came to things like scheduling doctor’s appointments, but otherwise I found that it wasn’t the utopia I had imagined it to be — and I think I romanticized the situation in my head because I was so miserable at my old job. And while I did enjoy being a SAHM, I’ve found that I can also thrive while working full-time outside of the home, now that I’m in a job I love and that I can really succeed in.

In hindsight, my layoff was a blessing in disguise, and I can honestly say I’m glad it happened.

instant pot

The Instant Pot: A Working Mom’s Best Friend

“Oh no,” you’re probably thinking, “not another lunatic raving about the wonders of that Instant Pot contraption.”

I too was initially skeptical of the Instant Pot, but I’ve come around.

What Is The Instant Pot, Anyway?

In a nutshell, it’s a pressure cooker, which is a device that cooks food by heating liquid to boiling, which forms steam within a sealed pot. The steam cooks the food rapidly and also forces liquid into it, which increases moisture and helps quickly tenderize cuts of meat. Once it’s done cooking, you vent the steam out of the pot through a valve on the top.

I knew nothing at all about pressure cookers prior to getting my IP, but from what I understand, they’ve never been considered a reliable cooking device. I read horror stories about spaghetti sauce and beef stew spattered all over kitchen ceilings because the steam built up and caused the lid of the pot to blow off. The IP, however, has multiple safety settings designed to prevent that sort of thing from happening.

It is intimidating and even a little scary to use at first, but once you learn the ropes it’s like a whole new world of cooking possibilities opens up before you.

What Else Can It Do?

In addition to being a pressure cooker, the Instant Pot is also a slow cooker, a vegetable steamer, a porridge maker, a yogurt maker, a soup/stew pot, a rice cooker, and more. Here are some of the things you can make (some of which I’ve tried, others I haven’t).

  • Steamed vegetables (fresh or frozen)
  • Steamed seafood, such as shrimp or scallops (fresh or frozen)
  • Hardboiled eggs – I usually screw up hardboiled eggs on the stove, but they turned out perfectly in the IP (which worked well when I made Scotch Eggs, a great recipe from my Hobbit cookbook)
  • Roasted garlic
  • Cheesecake (I haven’t done this yet as you need a 7-inch springform pan, and I only have a 10-inch one at the moment, but I’ve heard it’s incredible — once I can acquire a 7-inch pan, I want to try it)
  • Oatmeal
  • Cook a whole chicken, and then use the carcass to make bone broth
  • Soup or stew
  • Homemade yogurt (sadly, I only have the 6-in-1 instant pot, so I do not have the yogurt setting – you need to buy the 7-in-1 version, linked below, for that particular setting)
  • Rice (I’ve made both white rice and brown rice, and pretty soon I’m going to try mango sticky rice
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Macaroni and cheese (pasta and all!)

There are so many possibilities that I almost wish I had two Instant Pots! The one I have was a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law (who also had no idea what it was but bought it for me anyway), and I’m seriously considering investing in another one someday. I’d like to be able to make both a main dish and a side dish using the IP (for example, honey chicken teriyaki in one pot and brown rice in the other).

Why Is This So Great for Working Mothers?

Two words: it’s fast. You can cook an entire pot roast in 90 minutes, start to finish. Something simple like macaroni and cheese takes around 10 minutes. A few nights ago I made the honey teriyaki chicken I mentioned above, and it was done cooking in the IP before my rice cooker had finished cooking the rice!

My biggest epiphany came when I realized what this magical device can do for the busy working mother.

It can cook a meal in less than an hour even if your meat is frozen.

Did you catch that?

Even if your meat is frozen.

So if you, like me, constantly forget to take your meat out of the freezer in time for it to thaw in the refrigerator, only to suddenly remember you needed to do so the day you’d intended to stick the meal in the crockpot, this machine is a miracle.

Now, there ARE some exceptions to that rule — it’s best not to pressure cook a frozen pot roast, for example, since a roast is a really thick chunk of meat and it will definitely take over an hour, even in the Instant Pot, and may not cook evenly. (This article is a good guide to cooking frozen meat in the Instant Pot.) But for other types of meat — beef stew meet, pork chops, chicken, turkey, even ground beef — it’s amazing.

Most slow cooker recipes can be converted for use in the IP (there’s a good tutorial on that here), so it’s a lifesaver if you plan a crockpot meal and then realize around 3pm that you forgot to put it in (like I do… all the time…).

What’s Your Favorite Instant Pot Recipe?

I’m so glad you asked! My favorite so far is the recipe for Fall-Apart Pressure Cooker Pot Roast. It only has five ingredients, it’s very easy to make, and it tastes fabulous. The five ingredients are a 3-4lb pot roast, an onion, 2 cups of broth or water, sea salt, and oil (I use olive oil). Ninety minutes later (allowing 20 minutes to come to pressure, and 70 minutes actual cooking time) it’s as tender and delicious as if it’d been cooking all day in the slow cooker. (This isn’t one of the recipes that allows to cook from frozen, but it’s still my favorite.)

Where Can I Get One?!

You can usually find them on sale at Amazon. See the affiliate links* below!

7-in-1 pot

6-in-1 Pot

*If you choose to buy the IP via this link, I receive a small percentage of the sale. Your support is appreciated!

Okay, I Have One… Now What?

The first thing you want to do is read the manual cover to cover. After that, there’s no shortage of resources available online!

The Instant Pot Community on Facebook is a great resource, although it can be a little overwhelming what with 400,000+ members. I highly recommend checking out the documents in the files section first, as they contain a lot of helpful links to various YouTube videos and such to help you get started.

After that, if you want to join an Instant Pot group on Facebook that’s much smaller and a little more intimate, I highly recommend Instant Pot Recipes with Kara, which is run by a friend of mine. We’re all learning to use our IPs together.

There are thousands of Pinterest boards containing Instant Pot recipes, tips, tricks, etc. My Instant Pot recipe board contains all of the recipes linked in this post as well as others that I’ve tried or am planning to try.

If you have an Instant Pot of your own, feel free to leave a comment with your favorite tips, tricks, and recipes!

The Dinner Daily

And The Dinner Daily Winner Is….

The winner of the six month subscription to The Dinner Daily is…

SaraLynn G.!

Congratulations, SaraLynn, and I hope you enjoy your subscription!

For those of you who didn’t win, I have exciting news for you. The great folks at The Dinner Daily have created a special 10% off coupon good until May 14th. The Coupon Code is TCWM10 and you can use it on the signup page to receive the discount. As always, the first two weeks are free to try – there is no charge until day 15 and you can cancel anytime before that, without charge, on the account settings page.

As I said in my review, I think this service is great, and I can see it being a fantastic resource for busy families. Thanks to everyone who entered, and thanks to The Dinner Daily for providing the subscription!

The Dinner Daily

My Review of “The Dinner Daily”

Note: I wasn’t paid or otherwise compensated for this post; all opinions are my own.

Ask any working mom which regular chore is the bane of her existence, and the answer is often, “Making dinner!” It’s so hard to work a full day, drag yourself home, and then jump right into dinner preparation — especially if you have several little ones and/or are pregnant. Sometimes the husband will help, but let’s face it, most men aren’t able to prepare anything other than basic meals for their family. Meal planning helps, but that’s just one more chore to add on to all the rest, and it can be a daunting one.

I’m always on the lookout for goods and services that will make meal prep and planning easier, which is why I was intrigued when I came across The Dinner Daily. This company was founded by a working mom and promises to take the hassle and stress out of meal planning. I signed up for a two-week trial to check it out.

How The Dinner Daily Works

When you register for a membership, you’re given a selection of local grocery stores in your area. Based on the store you choose, The Dinner Daily will send you a recipe plan and shopping list based on what’s on sale in your chosen store on the day that the store’s sales are published. You can opt out of choosing a specific store; or, if they don’t have the store that you prefer to use, they’ll send you an “Any Store” plan that isn’t based on sale items (but still has a menu plan and a shopping list).

Shopping and Sales

The only store given to me as an option was my local Fry’s Food Store (a.k.a. Kroger). I was happy with this choice, because my local Fry’s also has a grocery pickup service (ClickList) that allows me to shop for groceries online and pick them up at the store. (I intend to do a post singing the praises of grocery pickup services sometime soon, because it has been a game changer for me!) If you can sign up for a store that also has grocery pickup or grocery delivery, that’s a win-win in my opinion.

I can also earn gas reward points from shopping at Fry’s, which helps keep our fuel costs down. So even though there was only one option, it was the one that was most convenient for me. The “Any Store” option would have worked as well, though, because I also have a Safeway and a WinCo nearby, as well as a Wal-Mart. (The Wal-Mart nearest my house does not have a grocery pick-up service, but the one that is approximately five miles away does.)


The Dinner Daily has a wide variety of menus, including Everything (no exempted ingredients), No Seafood, No Red Meat or Pork, Poultry and Vegetarian, Vegetarian with Seafood, and Vegetarian. In addition, each menu plan, no matter which one you choose, has options for reduced carb and gluten-free. I chose No Seafood because I don’t like seafood (my husband and kids do, but since they don’t do the cooking they didn’t get a vote).

The site has sample menus for each option, so you can take a look before you sign up to get an idea of what recipes are used.

What I loved about this service is your ability to switch out a meal. If I came across a meal that I didn’t think I’d like or that I thought my family wouldn’t like, I just clicked an icon in the menu and was presented with several alternative choices. I picked a different one and my menu plan and shopping list were automatically updated to reflect my new choices. So easy!

I was satisfied with the menus I used for the two weeks I was a member. All of the meals were fairly quick and mostly easy. I didn’t end up making all of them, but I tried Greek Burgers (basically hamburgers made with feta cheese) which is a meal a little out of my comfort zone, and they were delicious.

Each meal plan menu item comes with a suggested side dish, which is included in the shopping list. However, these are fairly easy to ignore if you have something else in mind, or if you want to go super simple with a bag of steamed veggies.

The menus themselves were arranged logically, and the ingredients are color-coded as well as numbered so you can easily identify which shopping list item goes with its respective menu item. I could save the menus as PDFs and keep them in my Google Drive folder for easy access, or access them on the site via my iPhone – perfect for me because I never remember to take a physical list to the store, but I always have my phone. I could also keep the menu in one tab and have the online grocery ordering system open in another, and easily switch between the two. I could also make the grocery list on my phone while looking at the shopping list on the computer, or vice versa.

I was pleased with the variety of dishes, and according to their FAQ, they won’t repeat recipes for two months to ensure variety.


Dinner Daily memberships are just $1.50/week or less, depending on the plan you choose ($18 for three months, $30 for six months, or $48 for a full year). I think that less than $50/year for a meal planning service is very reasonable, and it would likely pay for itself over time given the savings incurred with eating out less and not having to run to the store for last-minute ingredients or last-minute supper items.

What I Didn’t Like

My quibbles are minor. I wish there was a menu option for larger families. Your choices are for a family of 2-4 or a family of 4-6. I have eight in my family; however, one of them is still exclusively breastfed and the younger ones eat smaller portions, so I was able to make do with the 4-6 people option. I’m not sure how feasible that will be as my kids get older. It seemed to me that most of the recipes would adapt well to doubling, so that could be an option.

I also wish that there was an option to include meals made with the Instant Pot, as I absolutely adore mine. (I’m currently writing a post about how awesome it is for working moms.) However, it’s fairly easy to convert most slow cooker recipes for use in an Instant Pot, so that could work.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I was happy with the service. I was actually intending at the outset to purchase a full membership, but my circumstances have since changed (I was laid off from my full-time job) and I need to reevaluate my budget before incurring any extra expenses. Also I’m hoping that meal planning will be a bit easier now that I’m not working full-time. But I can definitely see this service being very useful to those who detest meal planning or who just want to take something off of their plate.

I reached out to the folks who run The Dinner Daily, and they graciously and generously agreed to provide a six-month membership (value: $30) as a raffle prize for one of my readers! (Happy Feast of St. Gianna! As a busy physician with several small children, I bet she would have loved a meal planning service!)

Please sign up at The Catholic Working Mother Facebook page (you don’t need a FB account to enter) if you’d like the chance to win six months of free meal planning. The raffle will run until 11:59pm (AZ time) on May 5, 2017. I’ll announce the winner on May 6, 2017, and put them in contact with the folks at The Dinner Daily to claim their prize. Good luck!

breast milk, pumping

Pumping Hacks for Working Mothers

I have a love-hate relationship with my breast pump, and pumping in general.

I love the fact that it allows me to express milk for my baby to drink at daycare since I can’t nurse her myself. I hate having to hook my breasts up to a machine and “milk” myself 2-3 times per day. I feel like I should be mooing and chewing cud the entire time.

I’ve pumped for all six of my kids (which means I’ve spent five years of my life as a mother pumping multiple times a day, five days per week, and I’m currently pumping now for my 2.5-month-old daughter). I’ve gone through two Medela Pump-in-Styles and now have a brand-spanking-new Spectra S2  (thank you, federal government, for requiring insurance companies to pay for breast pumps!).

I’ve learned a lot along the way, as have the other moms in the Catholic Working Mothers Facebook group, and you get to benefit from our combined wisdom with the following pumping hacks for working mothers.

Leave pump parts in refrigerator between pumping sessions

I’m an hourly employee. I have two paid fifteen minute breaks, and one unpaid lunch break (it can be 30 or 60 minutes long). I mostly work from home now, but when I commuted 90 minutes one way, using the extra 30 minutes at lunch meant I left the office when traffic was at its worst so I usually tried to take only a half hour lunch break. Since my daily breaks totaled one hour, that gave me three 20-minute pumping sessions as long as I ate lunch while pumping or at my desk. That gave me about 15 minutes to actually pump, and only two and a half minutes on either side for set up and break down of all my pumping gear. What with washing my parts, I was usually a few minutes late getting back to my desk and would have to stay a few minutes later as a result.

When I realized I could just put my pump parts in the refrigerator between sessions instead of having to wash and/or sterilize the parts each time? GAME. CHANGER.

If you don’t have access to a refrigerator or are unable to leave your parts there, Medela makes quick clean wipes for breast pump parts that work, too.

Keep pump parts at work

One day, while driving to work, it suddenly hit me that I’d forgotten to put my pump parts back in my breast pump bag, and they were still sitting on the drying rack by my kitchen sink. It was too late to turn around and go back home to get them. I ended up having to make a mad dash to the nearest Target store to buy extra pump parts. Not cheap, but better than being painfully engorged the entire day or having to hand express into whatever container I could find. I ended up leaving those pump parts in my desk at work in case I ever forgot again.

Check with your insurance company and see if they pay for an extra set of pump parts — as it turns out, mine did, so now I have an extra set for my Spectra, if needed.

In a pinch, though, you can pump into anything if you have to. Mugs, mason jars, bowls, and rumor has it that Dasani water bottles will fit a Medela pump. (I’d forgotten the flanges as well as the bottles, though, so that wasn’t an option for me.

Pump directly into bags

I’ve never tried it myself, but several of the women in the CWM Facebook group recommended the Kiinde system, which allows you to pump directly into bags, which saves time since there is no need to transfer the milk into bottles, and, subsequently, no bottles to wash.

Go hands-free

It will make your pumping sessions infinitely easier and more tolerable if you have use of your hands instead of holding the flanges to your chest. In my pre-smartphone era, I made sure I kept a book to read in my pumping bag. These days, I play Words with Friends, read on the Kindle app, or surf Facebook (fun fact: I created the Catholic Working Mothers Facebook group while I was pumping).

There are several ways to go hands-free with your pumping — you can purchase a pumping bra like this, which holds the flanges in place; you can try making one out of an existing bra; or you can try the rubber-band trick (this works in a pinch if you forget your pumping bra at home).

I bought a pumping bra similar to this, and I put it on over the nursing bra I’m already wearing to save time.

Microwave sterilizer bags for parts

I sterilize my pump parts once per day, usually in the evening, and the quickest and easiest way to do so is with microwave sterilizer bags. My favorite brand are the Munchkin Steam Guard Microwave Sterilizer Bags.

Car pumping

Some women with a long commute like to save time by pumping in the car on the way to or from work. I always wanted to try this but never did. Bear in mind that you should only do this if you think your concentration won’t be affected, and also be aware that it can cause problems if you should get into an accident and the airbags go off. (Ouch…)

If you do choose to try pumping while driving, a vehicle adapter or battery pack for your pump is needed. Medela sells a car adapter for their pumps as well as a battery pack. There are adapters that work with Spectra and Ameda pumps, too, or you can buy a more generalized adapter that converts the cigarette lighter into an outlet.

Milk storage

Working in an office without a refrigerator? Or maybe you don’t want to put your breast milk in the shared office refrigerator? Or maybe the only refrigerator you have access to is several floors up or down? You can buy a portable mini-fridge that can sit on or under your desk and hold several bags of breast milk.

General tips

Watch a video of your baby while pumping to stimulate let-down. If possible, keep the outfit s/he slept in close at hand (some women put the outfit in a Ziploc and keep it in their pump bag so they can smell it as they pump).

Breast massage while pumping can help increase output, as can 500 mg of magnesium before bed.

If you typically do some kind of activity while nursing (reading, scrolling through social media, watching a show, etc), do it while pumping if you can. As similar an environment between nursing and pumping as possible can yield more milk.

Read up on the Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, or D-MER. If you experience it, eating chocolate immediately after it occurs can help.

Do you have any pumping tips and tricks to share? If so, leave a comment!

child monk, daycare

Kids in Daycare Are Not Being “Raised By Strangers”

Last June, an article appeared on the National Catholic Register that denigrated daycare. Although it was titled “The Truth About Daycare,” it contained anything but truth. In fact, it was a poorly written article containing several blanket assumptions supported by misleading evidence (many of which were pointed out on the article’s post at NCR’s Facebook page).

What annoyed me the most about the article was the insistence that kids in daycare are being “raised by strangers.” I see this argument often, especially in Catholic Facebook groups. Each time I do my eyes roll so far back in my own head that I can see my brain, because that stance is both ludicrous and illogical. For example:

Unclear Metrics

Unless you take your kid to a new daycare every day, or you take your child to a center where turnover is unusually high (as in new employees are hired and fired on a daily or weekly basis), strangers aren’t raising your child. Instead, your child is forming close bonds with an adult who cares about him or her. Furthermore, even a stay-at-home parent isn’t engaging their child 100% of the time. A SAHP does housework, reads, visits with friends, grocery shops, brings their kids to playdates where they play with other kids, perhaps does volunteer work, blogs, gets into pointless arguments on Facebook about why they are superior to parents who work outside the home, etc. What’s the metric for gauging how much one-on-one time constitutes raising versus not raising? Is there a mathematical formula?

It’s Not Pro-Life

We want to foster a culture of life in this country, right? If so, we — as a Church — must stop denigrating daycare. As I said above, most single moms need to work to support their kids, and a lot of mothers who choose life, and choose to keep their children instead of placing them for adoption, must by necessity place their child in daycare so that they can support him/her. Yet so often Catholics say things like, “Mothers who put their kids in daycare are ruining them. Parents shouldn’t have kids if they’re just going to let them get raised by strangers.”

You know what a mother in a crisis pregnancy might think when she hears something like that? “Hmmm, maybe they’re right. Maybe my child would be better off dead than raised by strangers.”

Is Being “Raised by Strangers” Always a Bad Thing?

Are Catholics who talk snidely about people who let their kids be “raised by strangers” aware that their words could also refer to adoption? That’s basically the definition — handing your child off to a couple you don’t know, or don’t know well (strangers), to be raised. Yet adoption is an option championed in Catholic and pro-life circles. Isn’t this a conflicting message? Letting your child be “raised by strangers” is a wonderful, life-affirming option… unless you work full-time, in which case you’re destroying your children by placing them in daycare to be (allegedly) raised by strangers. What?

Do Catholic Schools Raise Children?

You’ll often hear Catholics singing the praises of giving your child a Catholic education by sending him/her to Catholic school. But wait a minute: if I send my child to Catholic school once s/he is five years old, isn’t that letting Catholic school teachers — i.e., strangers — raise my children? That’s the logical extension of the “daycare is raising your child” argument. (To be sure, there is a faction out there with the firm believe that all parents should homeschool.) But by and large I’ve found that the same Catholics who would criticize mothers for working full-time and sending kids to daycare have no problem with mothers sending kids to Catholic school full-time. Why the disconnect? Do children not need to be raised after the age of five? Last time I checked, my kids still had a lot of growing and learning to do after age five.

Do Only Mothers Raise Children?

I also wonder if people who make this statement have ever taken it to its logical conclusion. If it is the quantity of time that a parent spends with a child that equates to “raising” them, then logically only mothers raise their children. Fathers do not, since (presumably) the father is working 40+ hours per week and only sees his children evenings, weekends, and holidays. Yet Catholics speak about both parents raising their children, as does the Church. How can this be, if the mother is the only one doing the raising?

The Real Truth About Daycare

What this article, and those who share the author’s mindset do not realize is that a good daycare complements our parenting; it does not replace it.The article’s author seems to be under the impression that all daycares are government-run centers hellbent on indoctrinating young children with the vices of modernism and hedonism.

While a centers like the ones she envision may exist, they certainly aren’t like any of the ones I’ve had experience with, or have sent my children to in the past. She’s obviously never seen my kids’ current daycare, which is a home daycare run by a Mormon husband-and-wife team with four kids of their own. I know from experience that they share many of the same moral values that I do as a Catholic, and they’ve also been very respectful of our Catholic faith (just as I am respectful of their Mormon faith).

Their house is clean and neat (much cleaner than my house, for sure!). They have a huge playroom with lots of toys, and a big backyard with artificial turf and play equipment, plus a misting system for hot months. They take field trips, play games, and read stories with the kids. They provide two nutritious meals a day plus a snack in the afternoon. We’ve been with them since 2011, and they’ve cared for all six of my children, three of them since they were eight weeks old, and one since she was a year old. They’ve become good friends, and I feel blessed and reassured that my children are in excellent hands while I work to help support our family.

While discussing this article in the Catholic Working Mothers Facebook group, I asked for and received many testimonials from Catholic working mothers who had glowing reviews for their children’s daycares:

I’d love to introduce them to my center, Handicare, Inc. – founded by a woman who needed to work to afford medical care for her special needs child and couldn’t afford private care or find a center who had people skilled to manage her child’s disability. Sometimes life is complicated and you make the village you need; for every bad daycare story out there there are more that show it’s (properly used, funded and staffed) benefits particularly for children with needs outside the “norm.”

My 3 year old daughter literally RUNS down the hallway every morning to see her friends, and tells me all about centers and dressing up and playing outside and gymnastics when I get home. She LOVES the other kids in her class, is being socialized, is learning all about sharing and conflict resolution, and gets to do far more in a group setting than she would get to do if she was gone with me all day!

We love our daycare provider! She’s become like family. Whenever [my child] or I get sick she sends us home with home remedies. She also frequently sends me to work with pastries to eat with my coffee. [My child] loves his friends at daycare, he’s so good with other kids now, even though he’s still an only child. She also sends me photos all day long, which is the best.

My kids are in daycare, and you know what? It’s great! They are learning so much that I wouldn’t have thought to teach them yet. They are loved by the teachers and they love the teachers and the other kids. They are learning manners. They get nutritious meals and snacks. If I were to stay home at this time, we’d be scraping to make ends meet. We’d be eating beans and rice, rice and beans. There would be no trips to the zoo (like they do at daycare), they wouldn’t have the available educational toys because we wouldn’t be able to afford them. You know what else, without our daycare center, five women, none of whom have young children, would be out of work. Not to mention the other families in our center with single moms who are able to provide for their kids only because they can put their kids in daycare and go to work.

Our provider is Montessori and has helped us (first time parents – we know nothing!) instill respect, boundaries, and a loving attitude in our daughter. She absolutely LOVES her little “school” and happily kisses me goodbye each day and runs into her class with a smile on her face. They have a beautiful curriculum where our kiddo is able to grow and learn among her peers and understand how to interact with others. It’s been a true blessing in our lives and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Frankly, her daycare is doing a lot of things better than we would even know to do!

My son’s day care teacher loves him so much she offered to be our babysitter at home! She sends me photos of him throughout the week. I know he is being lovingly cared for. Also, because of day care, my son is a social butterfly at 15 months. He playswith other kids and shares. He is not shy or anxious around new people and is able to light up a room. He’s confident and funny, always trying to make people laugh even as a toddler.

My daycare provider is one of the kindest people I know. She considers herself an adopted grandmother to my son and loves him dearly. She has been a huge blessing to my family and my son lovingly asks her to come play with him even when he’s at home. She has attended his birthday parties and baptism (even though she is not Catholic). He is an only child but is learning how to be a big brother by being around a baby in her care. He is happy, well cared for, and loved. She will be coming over to help me while I am on maternity leave with my next baby. Though returning to work was hard, knowing that my son was going to her house to be cared for made it much easier.

Daycare early educator for 14 years. Exclusively infants and toddlers. I love my job, every single day. I love the kids, every single one, and I’m a huge advocate for doing what works for the family. (Nanny, family home, staying home, I’ve suggested all those things throughout the years) and I see it as my job to be a support for the family. My own kids started there and are now too old and they all have fond memories and lifelong friends because of it.

Sometimes daycare is a rocky road for us, but the lead teacher in my daughter’s room is amazing. She is so fun, she cares about every kid in there and teaches the curriculum our daycare provides well. Something I love most about daycare is my daughter is cared for by and is among other children in her class who are multi-racial. I love that she will grow with a positive view of cultures and skin colors that are different from ours. She would not have that from home!

I have two children who attend daycare. I am constantly amazed at the love and support the lovely ladies at my daycare provide my children. When I ask my two-year-old who his best friend is, he often tells me his teacher. In a world where so many children, teens and young adults are left without positive role models, I am grateful for this “village” to help provide my children with additional love and support in addition to their family. I know they are being emotionally cared for and I am grateful that my daycare provides an excellent learning environment to challenge them mentally as well as provide meals and a safe environment to care for them physically.

I met one of my adulthood best friends in daycare when we were two. She was present at my fifth child’s birth when my husband was too sick and taking care of our four sick children. We both have a set of twins. She is converting to Catholicism. We are linked forever and never would have known each other without daycare.

I don’t even know where to start. I found my daycare provider when my oldest daughter was two. She is now 8. She excels at school always gets the good Citizenship Award and has been asked to join the gifted talented program. She reads several grade levels above her grade and she has a vocabulary that beat even some adults I know.her 3 year old sister was also attends the same daycare, also has above-average verbal skills and at three and a half is able to write her own name. The daycare lady runs the daycare out of her own home; she is young and has never had her own kids. She is excellent with all the kids in her care and knows exactly how to meet the needs of each individual child. She also has a small farm and garden so the kids in her care are able to learn a little bit about those things. not sure if this is something I should really tell people haha, but my husband was nearly deported from this country and she willingly stepped up and wrote a letter to include in an immigration packet. I was also unreasonably investigated by CPS and she said that if the kids were taken away she would step up to be the foster parent. Thank goodness that was unnecessary. Even though I did not know her before she became my daycare lady and we do not socialize outside of our work relationship, I am very much considering asking her if she would be the guardian of my kids if anything happened to my husband and me. Her parents and in-laws also visit the daycare and treat all the kids like they were their own grandchildren.

We LOVE our daycare. We use Bright Horizons but I knew them prior to BH buying them because my nephew went there and I picked him up twice a week. When we had our daughter, it was a no brainer of where she would go. I have never felt bad about taking her there. I truly have felt like the staff loves my daughter and cares for her wellbeing. She is smart and learns so much there! More than I could ever do for her if I was home full time. I have received calls from them when she bumps her head or runs into another kiddo. I am never left in the dark about anything. I recommend it to all my friends who are looking because I truly feel it’s a safe and nurturing place that cares for all of us as a family. We just had a son and he will be going there. They made sure he will get the same lovely caregiver my daughter had. I don’t know what I would do without them in my corner.

I was just writing a letter to our daycare because at the end of the summer my younger son will start preschool. I’ve had kids in daycare for over four years and my experience has been so amazing. They both love going to “school” where they have music, outdoor play time, art, Spanish, and field trips. The teachers adore them and greet my boys with huge hugs every morning. My son told me the other day that his teacher is his “best friend.” When my older son started preschool he was way ahead of his classmates thanks to amazing teaching from our daycare — he already knew his letters and numbers and could write his name. Of course it is hard for a parent to leave a child, but I have nothing but positive things to say about the outcome!

My previous daycare provider was incredible. She made healthy organic food for all meals and played games outside all morning long and made crafts with the kids. She encouraged the kids to play together and to be kind. I felt that she and her assistant were particularly excellent in many of the areas where I was weakest, it was as though she filled in the gaps. My son adored her and the other children there. He was always so excited to go. I felt comfortable taking him and I still think that I was at my very best during that time. I was accomplishing so many good things for myself and others but most importantly for and with my son. He was so healthy and happy and I received daily reports on what he ate and did. I cried so much when we had to move and she and my son did too. My son was like another child to her. I was nervous about childcare but my experience with her was beyond my best expectations. We have a new place here that I think will be great as well. There are certainly some terrible places and situations out there but there are many incredible daycares as well, run by people who care deeply for our children. One reason my head daycare provider was so great was that she took her children to daycare so she did everything the way she wished it was when she took her kids. The other point worth making is how people with this anti-daycare view have such a limited understanding of the diversity of people. Women have talents and vocations outside the home just like men. It’s not just about needing to work but for some about wanting to fulfill a God-given desire. And their children are given to them by God, specifically for them. And children are all different. Some love daycare and some don’t but it can be beneficial. I once her another working mom, a professor with six children say the best way to describe it was to quote Eric Liddell from Chariots of Fire, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” And that can be in combination with motherhood.

My kids go part time to the parish preschool, which also provides summer care for my school aged child. It has our adoration chapel connected to it so we say “hi” to Jesus coming and going. they get access to the lovely Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Montessori based religious education. The teachers are sisters of mine through the Christ Renews His Parish retreat that we see at mass on Sunday. My children have access to outdoors, messy art, field trips, visit the school library, and have all sorts of fun while learning. They have a prayer table in their classroom. We are so blessed.

My oldest son went to an in home daycare until kindergarten. She and her day watched 5 other kids (including my daughter when she was born ). She was great! My parents and in-laws both moved to FL when my son was born. She was so sweet and gave great advice when I had panicky mommy moments. When my son started kindergarten we had to switch to a “regular” daycare for my then 3 y.o. daughter. It was great too! My kids are super social. They excel in school. I loved both of their daycare sand they did too!

I work at a community college. There is an childcare center on-campus and my children have attended the last four years. While breastfeeding my daughters, I was able to nursing my daughters during the day for their first year. It was awesome to visit her during the day and not have to pump the entire time I worked.

I found an at home daycare near my work that is owned by a devout Catholic grandma from Argentina. My kids learned quite a few words in Spanish. They are well cared for with good Latin food, naps and 5 playmates of various ages. They love her. Most of the other kids are her grandchildren, and my babies are treated as part of the family. We are even included in some family gatherings.

Our home sitter is absolutely wonderful!! We gave her permission to drive our little guy around so he can have the same type of experiences he’d have if he was home with me (changing the oil, going to the store, going to the park, etc). She loves him so much, as do her daughters, who even wake up early to play with him before school on days I’m picking him up early. She sends us pictures and videos throughout the day, too, so we can see what he’s doing. We couldn’t have a better experience!

Our daycare center does more than I would ever think to with our 11 month old son! He’s been there 5 months and loves it. I can come & visit him as I please. I nurse him on my lunch break, on one of my days off I actually got to do a “craft” with them (painting with food-dyed ice cubes). He is held, rocked, kissed, & loved on 9 hours a day two days a week. He gets to play outside, interact with other babies, and is exploring the world around him. I have to work for my family and it makes it so much easier knowing he is loved on as if he was with family at the center. When my son got a fever & they called me to pick him up, they emailed me to check up on him later that day! It’s more than I could ever ask for. Also, that article talks about “non-maternal” care. I’d like them to say the interaction my son has with his two daycare teachers not maternal, because they might as well be his aunts!

I know our kids learn so much more at daycare than they would if they were home with me. I am totally confident that my kids will be academically prepared for school when the time comes. Also, I am so thankful that they allow us to pull our kids out for the summer since my husband will be home with them (teacher).

I love our daycare. The staff and teachers are happy to be there and the students feed off of that. I know they love my boys as much as I do. My 4 year old has has stitches twice while there because he is crazy and reckless. Both times I have have come to get him after getting “the call” his teacher was sitting on the floor holding him in her arms. She left her class to be with him until I got there and held him as if it were her own son.

Our daycare is an in-home daycare that is run by a young “Grandma” that has a daycare just because she enjoys having children around. There are two other children (besides our two) that are there full time, and there are a couple of part-timers that are there at various times. My daughter has blossomed since having a consistent daily routine (rather than babysitters with odd hours). Both my son and daughter love her, as well as all the family that comes around–they are a traditional Mexican family with lots of extended family that visits frequently. They look forward to seeing her and the other children, freely give her hugs and kisses every day. It is obvious that she doesn’t need the money, and is doing it exclusively for the love of the children she cares for–we are very blessed!

My children went to a great daycare! My son was speech delayed barely spoke 5 words by age 2. Worked with the teachers at daycare that I still talk to and we came up with a plan to work with a log to write down new words so we could all repeat them. He was still delayed in reading til 5th grade but made honor role in his middle school years! Without the help of these daycare teachers who knows where my son would be academically?

My children have a sitter who treats them like they are her own. Every day she tells me and them how much she loves them. She take them to programs and play dates I never could and has the patience of a saint. Her own children are role models to my own. I wish I could be as good a mom as my baby sitter is! Also, my kids’ vocabulary is through the roof which I totally attribute to being around her children when they are not in school.

I love, love, love dropping my kid(s) off at the play area at the YMCA. They play, have fun, meet other kids, and I get to workout for 1-2 hours. It’s great for everyone! As far as daycares go, we used a friend for one, and I occasionally use our parish daycare. It seems to be okay, but I have to admit that I haven’t done much research. In all, I have probably used it 3 full days and 8 hours or so other than that. Since I work for our parish, I can get free daycare when working, so when I have to go to the diocese–2 hours away–and my friend cannot watch our youngest, I take her there. It’s only once or twice a month. Sometimes when I have tons to do, I’ll drop her in for a few hours. I would not ever be able to complete these two parts of my job without it! Plus, having it be free is the only thing that makes it possible to use it because, well, parish ministry isn’t a super-high paying field.

My DH is a sahd to care of my son. The article states non-maternial childcare. I take offense to that because it makes it seem like even a dad isn’t as good of a caregiver as a mom. I am a paramedic and had to go back to work at 6 weeks. I work 24 hour shifts so dad had to do all the feedings, diaper changes, bedtime routine every 3rd day. He is an amazing dad and I don’t think I could have done all that.

My son’s daycare discovered a developmental delay in our son. He had early intervention services and lots of help along the way and is now thriving in high school!

In closing, I can only echo the comments offered by Molly Walter on NCR’s Facebook page:

“The author could have used this as a platform to discuss how we as Catholics can strive to do better in the care of our children – perhaps better salaries for fathers so two incomes becomes less necessary in high cost of living areas, more Catholic based care centers, more work at home and flexible hour options or job sharing, etc., but instead she hit “publish” on this which offers little emphasis on support and understanding and leaves a lot of room to assume judgement underneath some very broad blanket statements. We can do better. Instead of announcing something like this is “always bad” and cast stones at thousands of families of various needs, abilities and backgrounds let’s take the time and the space to build constructive avenues of discussion to find ways to better support our wonderful Catholic families, to do as the Pope suggests and meet them where they’re at and offer true pastoral support and care.”

Coming Soon!

I’m nine weeks postpartum with baby #6 on earth, newly returned to work after maternity leave, and… feeling an itch to start blogging again?! (Yeah, I don’t get it either.) So, stay tuned for some new (and long overdue) content!

A Trumped-Up Apology

Donald Trump

This is going to be a political post. Originally I meant to keep this blog free of political discussion, but I think this is a subject that is important for Catholic women, especially Catholic women pro-lifers, so I am putting it here instead of my personal blog. If you are as sick of politics as I am, feel free to skip this post. But this needs to be said, in my opinion.

Today a story broke regarding an audio recording of Donald Trump making some appalling, misogynistic, sexually explicit statements. You can read about the controversy here if you have somehow been unaware of it until now.

Trump first issued a statement dismissing his comments as “locker room banter,” tried to shift blame on to Bill Clinton, and apologized if anyone was “offended” (I think we all can recognize that as a non-apology.) 

Ten hours later, apparently after he realized that this statement would not be sufficient to quell the very large public outcry instigated by his behavior, he released a second, longer “apology.” 

It’s sort of an apology… for saying words that he regrets. No apology for dehumanizing women, no acknowledgment that it’s wrong to dehumanize women, no acknowledgement that both sexual assault and adultery are wrong and that he was wrong for glorifying them. 

No apology from this alleged Christian for lusting after a woman in his heart, which constitutes adultery.

He only apologizes for the words he said, because he claims to regret them. But he doesn’t really explain why he regrets saying those words.

He makes no mention of the initial statement he released earlier in the day in which he tried to justify his words as mere “locker room banter.” (Bear in mind, he was a 60-year-old married man when he engaged in this “banter.”) 

So was that statement wrong? Was he lying to us in his earlier statement? If not, does it mean he’s lying in his second statement? Which one should we believe? He doesn’t say.

Then he tries to shift blame on to the Clintons, which he also did in the first statement. While I agree that Bill has also dehumanized women, and that both Clintons dehumanize unborn children, neither of them are claiming to campaign as pro-life candidates, as Trump does.

To be pro-life means that you recognize the inherent human dignity and worth of every person. That includes women. Treating women as objects for sexual pleasure, as Trump did (and still does) dehumanizes them. 

It is logically inconsistent to claim to be pro-life while dehumanizing human beings.

I’m going to repeat that, because this is important.

It is logically inconsistent to claim to be pro-life while dehumanizing human beings.

I am not surprised that the Clintons dehumanize human beings. They have always done so. They probably don’t think they’re doing so (oppressors usually don’t), but that doesn’t change the fact that they are. 

However, it is appalling on several levels that a candidate who has claimed to be pro-life since 2011 — who has reputedly hired a cadre of pro-life advisers (many of whom are faithful Catholics), and who just the previous day sent a letter to Catholics promising to defend the sanctity of life — cannot issue an adequate apology for his appalling behavior other than to say he regrets his words.

He makes a weak reference to wanting to be a better man, but otherwise he remains silent about the flagrant violations of human dignity that his “words” portrayed. 

This from a man who claims to be pro-life? Who claims to care about the inherent worth and dignity of unborn children? 

How can we trust him to care about the inherent worth and dignity of unborn children if he displays blatant disregard for the inherent worth and dignity of women?

I beg you, do not justify this. Do not downplay this. It does not matter that these specific actions happened eleven years ago. It does not matter that other people do this. It does not matter that other politicians do this. It does not matter that the Clintons are just as guilty. 

Trump claims to be a pro-life candidate, and if we as pro-lifers have any integrity at all, we will demand that he act like a pro-lifer. 

Stop making excuses for him. Stop saying that beating Hillary is more important then the integrity and credibility of our movement.

At the very least, we should demand a that he give a public and thorough apology for his words and his actions — an apology that actually demonstrates his understanding of the gravity of his actions as well as the evil that comes of dehumanizing other human beings. 

Ideally, we should demand that he withdraw from the race. Even if he truly is sincere in his desire to be pro-life — which I doubt, but let’s say he is for sake of argument — he is nowhere near mature enough in his understanding of human rights and human dignity to adequately defend the intrinsic worth and value of every human being from conception to natural death as President of the United States. 

Yes, this might mean that the GOP loses the presidential election, but frankly I think there is more at stake right now.

Movements die when corruption is allowed to infiltrate its ranks for the sake of political expediency. If we cannot root out the corruption in our midst, we have not only lost this presidential election, we have lost our integrity and our credibility. 

We cannot claim to respect the inherent worth and dignity of human beings if the person we choose to represent us in the White House regularly dehumanizes them. That is the quickest and most expedient way to end the pro-life movement as we know it. 

At this point, I care more about helping women in crisis and saving babies than I do about saving Donald Trump’s reputation.

Do you?