A Very Merry Porky Christmas

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


noun \trə-ˈdi-shən\

Definition of TRADITION

: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
I'm big on tradition. You don't grow up on a farm that's been in your family for over 100 years and not learn a little something about heritage. But my appreciation for tradition is greatly attributed to my mother. She did not grow up on the farm, so I suppose her East Coast, Bostonian heritage is what helped shape her view of valuing the intangibles in life.
We had lots of traditions growing up, many of which I hope to carry on into the Pardy family. And some traditions morph with the times and convenience of our culture today. For instance, I believe it would be greatly frowned upon today if Josh and I just went out hunting for the perfect Christmas tree and then just chopped it down wherever we found it - like my dad and I used to do in the middle of Kansas!

I remember trudging through the ditches of snow, inevitably choosing the one tree that would most certainly not fit into our living room. Nevertheless, my daddy would chop that tree down and we would end up chopping and chopping until it was at least able to fit through the doorway. One year in particular I remember having to put the tree in our foyer, as it was simply too tall for anywhere else in the house (a-la-"Christmas Vacation"-Chevy-Chase-style). Grand.
And other traditions have been customized to fit my liking. For example, my family always made "Porkies" on special occasions. That's right, Porkies. The recipe is top secret, so don't bother asking, but I can tell you that they are a sweet meat mixture molded into giant meat balls and then baked. (Or, as my brother so politely would refer to them growing up "They look like a tray of broiled gophers, belly up".)

Anyhow, they are delicious, and we always looked forward to going to my Grammy's to partake of the Porkies. Now, in the Pardy home, we have adopted the Porky as the official Christmas meat. So, we will once again be having a very Merry Porky Christmas.
And yet, some traditions are just perfect they way they are. Watching the George C. Scott version of "A Christmas Carol" together as a family. Opening Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve. Listening to the Nativity Story and saying what we are thankful for. Baking, baking, and more baking followed by eating, eating, and more eating! The list goes on.
I love tradition because it helps give me a sense of belonging. "I know what this family is about"..."this is what we do"..."you are part of something special", year after year after year. It isn't about having a "right way" of doing things, not at all. It's about appreciating the people and places and the times that have helped established you exactly where you are today. When I hang an ornament on the Christmas tree that was Matilda's great-grandmother's, it amazes me to think about the journey that little ornament has taken - how my Grandmother celebrated Christmas when she was a little girl, and how that history still trickles down and shapes me even today.
It's easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle, the commercialism and Santa Clausism of Christmas. But, when I unwrap the pieces of the Nativity Scene and remember back how that was my very favorite tradition as a little girl, setting up the Nativity in our living room, I instantly am taken back to a nostalgic time where Christmas was filled with awe.
I hope that I can instill in Matilda an appreciation for the little things that our family does year after year, just as my mother did for me. I hope she will take pride in taking them on and making them her own. Until then, I'm so privileged to get to be the mommy that can hand down little pieces of our family history...one porky at a time. :)
Merry Christmas everyone!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Welp, I've set a new personal best. At only 9 weeks pregnant a stranger has asked me when I am due! I was totally taken off guard, honestly. I thought I was just slightly easing into the "Has she eaten too many Doritos today?" phase, and apparently I have skipped straight ahead to the fully "There goes another pregnant lady" status. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars. Hello elastic waistband.
Still, I've been wearing my regular clothes fine (albeit, the clock is ticking) and I wasn't even having a "fat day" as we all do now and again. In fact, I was even wearing a scarf that hung down in front, so it wasn't even like my tummy was just sticking out there for the world to question. Anyway - it was strange.
We were in the American Girl store at the Grove in LA and I was carrying Matilda around. This nice lady and her teenage daughter noticed Matilda and mentioned how cute she was. Naturally, I turned toward them and smiled and said thank you. Then, the mother goes "How OLD is she?" in a very serious tone. And I was like "Thirteen months," expecting her to say something like "aw, how sweet" or some sort. Instead, she glares at me with huge eyes and says "And HOW far along are YOU?"
Obviously she was more interested in doing the math (of how far apart the kids would be) than actually wondering how I was.
I stammered out a "9 weeks" after I got over the initial shock of someone asking. Don't get me wrong - I wasn't offended - I mean, thank goodness I actually AM pregnant! (Cause I have totally been there, not pregnant, and been asked before as well - obviously that is...well...worse.) But, I thought I had at least a few more weeks in me before the questions from strangers started pouring in.
With Matilda I was only about 12 weeks when the first person asked. It was a boy behind the concessions counter at the movie theater. He just stared at my waist and abruptly asked, "Are you pregnant?" and I very firmly answered "Yes - and you are lucky I am! Never ever ask a woman that!" I hope he learned his lesson - one he would be wise to learn while still in his youth.
So - the doors have been opened. My apparent belly is now up for public speculation.
I embrace the awkwardness. Bring it on, strangers. Let the games begin.

Tis the Season

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's that time of year again...Christmas shopping. It is such a love/hate relationship when it comes to Christmas shopping, isn't it? On one hand I totally embrace the idea of finding the perfect treasure for someone I love, buying them the exact-right gift that I know perfectly balances the need/want of their desires and, if I'm lucky, will also be on sale and in their size or color. The idealism of it all is enthralling - every year I have these grand notions that I will be sauntering around the mall with a peppermint mocha latte in one hand and a fat wallet in the other - just waiting for the perfect item to catch my eye so I can scratch another name off my list.
This never happens. Christmas movies have ruined me. Still, each year I'm still bound to the unspoken agreement with which to exchange said gifts with multiple individuals, nearly forcing me to compromise one of my ideals when it comes to either selection, price, or even recipient.
After all, December is sort of a nightmare month when it comes to gift-giving in my family. Not only is it Christmas for everyone - it is also my dad's, mom's, brother's, niece's, and nephew's birthdays! Whew. Now, that is just unfair. Are you people trying to force me into poverty?
Nevertheless, each year I waver between the emotions of looking forward to Christmas shopping, and cringing when I glance at the bottom of each receipt. I mean, I love them - how can I put a price on showing my appreciation of them? But, of course, I must.
We've tried to control the chaos. We began to "draw names" in our family a few years back, and now that we have our own child she, too, can now participate in the exchange which makes it a bit easier than having to buy for 6 other nieces and nephews, but still. Granted - this is just MY side of the family! Of course we are on the hunt for gifting the in-laws as well, and then there are all the "fringe people" with whom we are entitled.
You know, you have them - "fringe people"... The neighbor, the pastor, the landlord, the co-worker, the boss, that one lady who always seems to get you something and you're not sure why but you still feel like you should have something for her as well.... It all adds up. Usually I bake something for most of those people - it tends to be cheaper in the long run and yet still shows I care enough to put the time into stirring batter and hopefully not burning down my apartment. "Here, Merry Christmas - I hope this doesn't kill you!" (Just kidding, I'm actually fairly skilled in this area, so it is one part of it all I can not stress over - oh, except for the part of actually taking the time to do it!)
And then there are the Christmas cards. I love Christmas cards - I love to make them, get them, give them...but, again, work! And every year I'm like "Do I write a letter to go with it? Do I just include one picture or more? Does anyone even read these anymore?" and the list of addresses gets longer every year.
Oh Christmas, you are certainly power-packed with reasons to stress, but I refuse!
It will all get done.
Each person on my list will have SOMETHING to open (or read or eat, etc) on Christmas, and the day will come and go with full hearts of gratitude, no doubt. There are plenty of things to get done between now and the 25th of December, but there are also too many things to miss if I don't stop and breath and take the time to enjoy them: Trimming the tree! Pictures with Santa! Looking at the Christmas lights! Peppermint Frozen Yogurt! Singing Christmas Carols!
Now...that's a list I love to check off!

Does the Body Good

Friday, December 3, 2010

Let this post go down in history as "the one where she rambled on about breastfeeding". Correct. So if you aren't up for it, you can stop reading now, no offense taken.
Last week, on Thanksgiving day, I finally came to terms with ending nursing Matilda. This might actually surprise some of you, thinking that a pregnant lady is crazy to continue to nurse at all. Actually, though it may be against popular belief, it is often totally and perfectly healthy to continue breastfeeding even if one becomes pregnant. I knew however, that since Matilda turned one and then finding out I was expecting, the clock was ticking on our nursing days. I didn't want to tandem nurse (this is when very courageous, albeit a bit crazy, women nurse their toddler along with their newborn - whew). This is a valid choice, but I just felt like nursing was such an incredibly intimate bonding experience with the newborn that I didn't want to "split the time" with my toddler as well. And, let's be honest, I didn't want to just sit around and be milked non-stop all day. Nor did I want Matilda to feel jealous of the newborn because of nursing (I'm sure we'll have our challenges in this department as it is - so why push it.)
Anyhow...I had been trying to switch Matilda to regular milk, without success. It was making her very sick and she didn't like the taste of it. So, I continued to nurse her only in the mornings and at night before bed. Within a couple weeks of finding out I was expecting again, I noticed behavioral changes in my girl. The happy natured girl who was once so chipper suddenly seemed...well, emotional. It wasn't just a clingy day now and then. It was like I was watching a teenage girl with raging hormones with no outlet for communication except screaming and crying. It was like watching a Lifetime Original Toddler Movie of the week every time the littlest thing happened. It was weird. Something was wrong. Something was making her...well, hormonal.
I tried to look up information about nursing while pregnant, but everything I found was about the health of the mother and the unborn child - nothing was saying "your toddler might be freaking out because you are pumping her full of your pregnancy hormones" or anything...still, my motherly intuition knew something was up. However, I knew my theory could only be truly tested if we stopped nursing for good.
So, Thanksgiving morning I nursed her and then, as I saw my little girl ride the emotional roller-coaster throughout the day, I knew that was it. We were done.
I had been dreading it for weeks. There are several mothers who you will hear say "Oh, I was so glad it was over. I could finally have freedom, I could finally get a break." and I'm sure as most of you are thinking "Isn't she going to be nursing again in like...7 months?" Yes, but I will never nurse my sweet Matilda again. I was sad. Each little chapter in our lives is marked by change. Each little milestone that Matilda hits is a new part of her life that won't exist anymore. Though we rejoice in the progress - "She rolled over! She's walking! She's eating Cheerios by herself!" a little piece of my heart grieves the action that will now only be in memories "Remember when she used to crawl everywhere? Remember when she used to make that silly squeaky sound like a pony? Remember when I used to get up every two hours to feed her?" and time marches on.
Nursing is a sacred time. I never knew it would be such a powerful time in my life. In fact, I had NO idea what to expect before I started doing it! Breastfeeding can be a scary and wondrous experience for a mother. I'll admit I was anxious and hesitant before Matilda arrived. I had no idea if she would "latch on" or "get the hang of it". It is a frightening experience to fully give a part of your own body over to something that you barely have control over.
You've all heard the jokes (or experienced them!) of the newly breastfeeding mother having leaked onto her shirt, or having her milk let-down at an inopportune time. (A wonderful feeling when you are among primarily male co-workers, let me tell you.) And I absolutely had no idea how I was going to manage the pumping and bottling in between work and home, etc. It all seemed so daunting! But, I was determined, and as we persevered, we found total success!
To nurse for over a year while maintaining a nearly full-time job, well, to say I am proud seems silly - but I am so thankful to have reaped the reward of the experience. It was so worth the effort and time. If I dare to stand on a soapbox (ahem, step step step...) I will happily say that while all medical and health communities clearly state that breastfeeding is by far the healthiest way to feed your baby, it is also the most rewarding. I will go as far as to say that if you are considering not breastfeeding your baby that you should take a minute and truly think about your intentions. Are you doing what is best for your baby or for your situation? Because those are very different things. This is not a time to be (dare I say) selfish - this is a time to be thankful and take the extra steps and learn to enjoy them. Honestly, you will end up saving time and money in the end once you get the hang of it! (Obviously some women have medical reasons they can not breastfeed - and therefore, you are already doing what is best for your baby, so bravo to you, I'm speaking to other moms here). The practical advantages (cost, time, nutrition) are blatant, but the emotional and intimate investment that you make with your baby are lifelong when you decide to breastfeed. I would just highly encourage any new mother to truly do all they can to pursue breastfeeding. I'm speaking from experience, and I was fortunate to have a wonderful experience, so I hope you will too (it's like when you find the perfect pair of jeans - you want that for everybody! Even if you aren't my size - try them out! They might look great! You might love it!....okay, weak analogy, but I hope you get the message)
As I approached the end of nursing, as I suspected, the anticipation of the end of nursing was far more emotional than actually following through with it. With times like these, I fully allow myself one night to just be sad about it - to mourn the loss of that chapter - and then to wake up the next day fully embracing what lies ahead "I can wear normal bras for a while! I can have more time to get ready in the morning!" What have you.
So, we now have an official "sippy-cup drinker" at our house now. She has taken to milk fairly well (though we are having to keep her on lactose free milk for now) and has not had any trouble waking up or going to bed without nursing. Not only that - but my theory was correct! Within a couple days, Matilda has fully become "herself" again! My happy and easy-going gal is back!
Hooray for maternal instinct! She no longer has "highs and lows" like she did in the weeks prior, and while my nausea has increased due to my hormones, I am so grateful that she isn't suffering the effects of them anymore. (By the way, I'm not saying this happens to every pregnant nursing mother - many can successfully continue with no adverse effects...but this was my experience, and it seems my theory paid off.)
So, for the next seven months or so, this cow is out of business. Gone to pasture...and all those other silly "milk'em" jokes. I'm looking forward to nursing our next baby as well, but I will always cherish the time I had spent feeding Matilda. God sure does make those babies so you are willing to give them everything you've got - inside and out. What a privilege.
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