Friday, July 31, 2015

You down with TVP? Yeah, you know me!

Hello, friends!

 Rebecca, Heather, and I are very excited to record another round of TVP episodes *next week,* but we need to let you in on a secret:

like many good things in life, producing The Visitation Project comes with a pricetag.

It's not too steep, but it's more than we can afford from our tight family budgets. If you like what you've been hearing and not only would like to hear more, but would like to help us expand our outreach with a website, iTunes podcasts, newsletters, and more, please consider supporting us financially!

Any amount helps, but we've got some awesome incentives for those who can give more, beginning at $25. (That would be the "Bathtub Madonna" level of giving. I'd like to see a few Whovians donate some "Jammie Dodgers.")

You can get to our GoFundMe page by clicking here.

We love you, and are so grateful for your assistance to keep meeting you wherever you are.

St. Charity, St. Hope, and Coptic 21 - Pray for Us!


The day I did the Amazing

It was a feat most woman would not dare to do. An adventure so epic even myself - especially myself - just a mere five years ago would have thought it improbable. No: Impossible.

"What was it?" you ask.

Well friends, I'll break it down.

First, while five months pregnant, on a hot summer day, I loaded up all five of my kids - aged 7, 5, 4, 3, and 2.

Second, we went to Hobby Lobby. All of us. With only their ridiculously small carts that can only fit the 2 year old in the basket-kid-seat-thingy, and the three year old in the main basket of the cart.

Third, we took a bathroom break. It was our first destination at the store and I was able to fit the cart, myself, and the three other kiddos in the smallish one room, sorta dirty bathroom. Everyone went potty, everyone washed their hands, and the baby had a diaper change.

Fourth, we shopped and got all the supplies needed for a bridal shower I held for my sister-in-law. No one cried and everyone was cheerful.

Fifth, we looked at the Christmas decorations (because it's still July so that makes sense). Glass ornaments were ooohed and ahhhed over and nothing broke. Nothing.

Sixth, we stood in front of an entire wall of pumpkins and I chuckled as James kept running his eyes floor to ceiling while waving his arms in big, open circles and saying, "Pumpkins. Pumpkins." He was in total amazement.

Seventh, we went through the check-out and no one asked for candy.

Moms and dads, if you are reading this and intimidated by the thought of taking your one or two, or three or four kids shopping I just want you to remember this: if I can make it at Hobby Lobby with 5 kids, no accidents, no shouting, and no tears you can too.

I'm gonna link this up with Kelly's Seven Quick Takes since I broke it down into seven steps, and now I'd like to make a little announcement:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Answered questions and the Fulton Sheen / Alleged Miracle talk - just in case you missed the broadcast

You guys! Wow!

Thank you so much to everyone who showed up for last night's broadcast. I was happy so many were able to show up and I apologize for the bad lighting and for not always knowing what I was doing with the Google Hangout. But we made it through and all-in-all I thought it went rather well.

I also apologize because there were several questions people had submitted but I didn't see until the broadcast was done. I'll definitely be answering those in this post!

In case you missed it last night, you can watch it right here or on my YouTube channel. I spend the first two minutes doing an introduction and figuring things out, about 35 minutes doing the actual presentation, and about 15 minutes answering questions. If you watch it and have any further questions please don't hesitate to ask!

But now for all those questions I missed. There were some really good ones so I wanted to respond publicly. Here we go;

From Kendra: Bonnie, if the cause is reopened, if he is beatified, what will be James' role?
Usually at the beatification Mass the recipient of the miracle carries the first class relics and presents them to the main celebrant (sometimes the pope, usually a cardinal from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints). So James would have that role at the Mass but that would be it. We'd get nice seats for the Mass, and likely for the canonization Mass, too, which is a nice bonus.

From Kaylan: Hi Bonnie! My husband has a question - have any of the doctors ever tried to offer you any medical explanation as to how James could have gone an hour without a heartbeat and then be completely normal?
Yes, but honestly the answer is pretty lame and even other medical professionals have told me that. It usually goes something like this:
Doctor: You said sixty-one minutes, I think you mean sixty-one seconds.
Me: No, James didn't have a pulse for sixty-one minutes, over an hour.
Doctor: Well, he must have had a pulse and you just didn't know since it was a homebirth.
Me: For about forty minutes he was hooked up to a heart monitor, in the ambulance and in the ED, and that whole time he was P.E.A. on the monitor.
Doctor: Well, he must have gotten very good CPR.
Me: I didn't know a person without a pulse could receive CPR for over an hour, come back to life once all resuscitating tactics had ceased, and go on to live a normal, healthy life. Has that happened before?
Doctor: -------  No. --------  But then he must have been receiving oxygen through the umbilical cord.
Me: The medical records state that there was a "tightly tied true knot" in his umbilical cord. It cut off all his oxygen supply. It's the reason he was a stillborn.
Doctor: Well, he wasn't really a stillborn.
Me: He was a zero on the APGAR scale at 1, 5, 10, 30, and 60 minutes. I thought that's what a stillborn is.
Doctor: --------
Me: It's all in his medical records. Everything was documented.

Those are all snippets of actual conversations I've had with a handful of doctors. There always comes a point where the conversation ends because they have no more ideas but they also don't want to call it a miracle. One doctor made a list of "if/than" statements. "Well, if this happened, and then this happened, and if this was what was going on but we didn't know, than that would explain why James is healthy today." But there's so many conditions to their theory it's just ridiculous, and I've seen other medical experts reference the medical records and point out a flaw in the theory. And so the conversation usually just ends.

Our family doctor told me one day, "It's not a miracle that James is alive. It's a miracle he's doing as well as he is."

From Sheena: Question! Have you kept in contact with his doctors? I'm sure the whole situation was life-changing to some or all!
We have gone back and visited the NICU several times over the years, and due to James' severe allergies we've also been back to the emergency room more than once, so we've bumped into quite a few doctors and nurses who cared for James.

In particular, there is one NICU nurse practitioner who has since become a friend - when James was about a year old we ended up in the same Bible study. She has been wonderful at helping me understand all the medical jargon and explaining what everyone at the hospital was thinking and feeling while we were there. I don't know if it changed her life, but she is a wonderful nurse, mom, wife, and friend and I'm so happy to know her. :)

And that's it! Thank you again to everyone who watched. Oh! And if you would like to bring me in to speak at your parish, moms' group, conference, youth group, etc. please check out my speaking tab. I currently have openings for August - October and will be doing resuming local-ish speaking gigs in April 2016.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Details for Tuesday Night's Broadcast of "Fulton Sheen & the Boy Who Lived"

Here's the details for Tuesday night's event, folks!

As previously stated, sometimes I travel around the country sharing the story of my son's life, death, raising from the dead, and current perfect health. I share about Fulton Sheen, his cause, and how canonizations happen. I answer questions about it all and I basically get to have a lot of fun meeting wonderful people and sharing our incredible story.

I can come to your parish, group event, or conference, too (I even have other talks I can give!) but if you'd like you can put your comfy jammies on, pop some popcorn, pour some wine, get online and watch my talk for free, from the comfort of your own home.  Tomorrow night I'll be broadcasting, via Google Hangouts, the 30 minute version of my talk on James' alleged miracle through the intercession of Fulton Sheen. You should come!

I'll be starting at 8:30pm Central time and once the talk is done I'll answer some questions... so if you've got a question now about the James' birth, NICU stay, our devotion to Fulton Sheen, Sheen's cause, or any part of our son being dead for an our and then inexplicably coming back to life - well you can leave a comment here, on Facebook, or at the broadcast event.

Finally, for the broadcast I will be "passing around a tip jar." My speaking engagement stipends are super helpful to my family - they've purchased Christmas presents, paid school tuition, and have even helped us with the grocery budget  at times. Everyone is welcome to enjoy the presentation and Q&A for free, but if you would like to give and are able, we would definitely appreciate a donation.

Thanks very much, everyone! I hope you'll join my husband and I tomorrow night! (Here's the link for the show one last time, just in case!)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Seven Reasons I Prefer Being a Mrs. Mom

When I was growing up there were two types of moms: the ones I was instructed to call by their first names and the ones I was expected to call by "Mrs. + Last Name." As a child and even as a teen I saw the First Name Moms as the fun moms, the cool moms, the moms who would let us get away with stuff. Interestingly, as a child and a teenager I saw the Mrs. Moms as the reliable ones, the moms who asked about my grades and extra curriculars and were always proud of me when I did well. To be honest, I felt safer in those homes, even if the looseness of the other homes seemed a bit more fun.

As my friends and I began having children I started to see that it was not just a phenomenon of my youth, but even among my friends and acquaintances there were First Name Moms and Mrs. Moms.

photo credit: via photopin (license)

What I found even more surprising was that the it seemed to work that the moms would decide what their kids would call other moms, usually without asking preferences. I guess that's a parenting style?

But if anyone ever does ask I tell them to call me "Mrs. Engstrom" or at least "Mrs. E." This isn't a backhanded way to try to get my friends to comply with my preferences, but I thought I would share the seven reasons why I prefer being a Mrs. Mom.

1 - I am your friend, not your child's.
Are we friends? Great! Call me Bonnie. But even the teachers at my kids' schools and the nurses and doctors who have cared for my family will call me Mrs. Engstrom because I'm not friends with them. I'm not friends with your children either. They are friends with my children and should call them by their first names but they should call me Mrs. Engstrom.

The only time I make exceptions for this is with godparents. There should be an intimacy with godparents that does not exist with other non-family member adults.

2 - It makes me an authority figure to children, someone they should obey and someone they can come to for help. 
This is surely heavily influenced by my own experiences, but the Mrs. Moms were always the ones I trusted most as authorities. Just as a police officer or teacher would be obeyed and someone a child knows they can go to for help, when a child sees me as an authority it makes it so much easier to keep him safe.

3 - It honors my marriage.
Being Mrs. Engstrom communicates a lot of information. It lets people know that my husband, our kids, and I all go together. And honestly, because I so love and respect my husband, it thrills me to known as his wife. Our marriage is a happy one and any time it can be acknowledged makes me feel like the luckiest woman on earth.

4 - It distinguishes between adulthood and childhood. 
A friend of mine grew up in the 1950's and shared with me that when she was young one had to accomplish something in their life before they were considered mature enough to call their elders by first names. Marriage or a college degree were the basic standards, though I believe returning from military service or building a successful career were also acceptable. I am quite drawn to the practice, to acknowledging the difference between the two stages of life but also acknowledging when a person stops being a child and becomes a man or woman.

5 - It makes sense with my husband's job.
My husband is a teacher and is known as Mr. Engstrom or Mr. E. There are plenty of times when we are out together and run into ones of his students. As our children age and their friends become his students it just makes good sense that we are Mr. and Mrs. Engstrom all the time, not just during school hours and on school grounds.

6 - It shows respect.
If we were to meet the president, queen, or see our doctor or priest we would not refer to any of them by their first name. We would respect their title and call them by it: Mr. President, Your Majesty, Dr. Smith, Father Thompson. By calling all adults Mr. or Mrs. we are automatically communicating to our kids that they should be respected, while teaching them a societal standard.

7 - I'm not a cool mom.
Nor do I want to be. I want kids to have fun at my house, while playing with my kids, but I never want them to think that I don't have standards and expectations for them. I would much rather let them know that I will always have cookies and fresh fruit for them, but never beer. I can be counted on to get them safely to and from events, but I won't be okay with them going to a house party. Parenting children is not about being friends or being liked - it's about being someone who will love, nurture, provide and care for. That's not cool, but it's what I want.

So there's my reasons. I'd love to hear if you're a Mrs. Mom or a First Name Mom and why. In the words of Pat Benatar, hit me with your best shot.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A chance for *you* to hear my talk about James Fulton, the alleged miracle, and Archbishop Sheen

 I have the great honor and joy to travel the country, sharing the story of when our son James was stillborn and dead for over an hour only to amazingly come back to life, and miraculously be alive and 100% healthy today, almost five years later. I am able to share with people the reasons why my family, our friends, and many others - including medical and theological experts at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints - believe that this alleged miracle happened through the intercession of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.

It's awesome. I get to travel to new places and meet or re-connect with all kinds of wonderful people.

 I even get to wear cute clothes and use a powerpoint to illustrate the difference between the "bump bump" and the "jigga jigga," because I use just enough medical jargon so the doctors, nurses, and paramedics in the audience believe what I'm saying. The rest of what I say is said in a way so even I could understand it if I was an audience member.

The speaking gigs are a really great thing for us. We are happy to be able to spread the message of Fulton Sheen and the alleged miracle that was submitted for his cause. And on a much more practical level, the stipends pay my kids' parochial school tuition. Win-win.

But I know that not all the awesome people who have followed along with James' story are able to fly me to their home and pay me to share the story with them. So I'm offering something special and I'm really excited about it.

Next week. on Tuesday, July 28th at 8:30pm CST I will be hosting a Google Hangout where I share the 30 minute version of my talk. I would love it if you'd come!

Afterward I'll field questions - they can be about the talk, Fulton Sheen, the cause, or even about the blog.

All of this is being offered for free, though through the encouragement of some of my readers I will be sharing my PayPal link if anyone wants to donate a few dollars to the tip jar.

I will have more info on Monday so please stay tuned! I hope you can make it!

Monday, July 20, 2015

How are we still surprised and what will happen next?

The news does not surprise me any more, nor does the state of our culture.

I believe, for me, the turning point was when ISIS beheaded those twenty-one Coptic Christians on a lake's shore, filmed it, put it online, and only some people gave a damn.

I cried for days about that. I cried because of the barbarism, the terror of it, the faith of those men who called out "Ya Rabbi Yasou," and the feeling that the terrorists really weren't that far away any more.

When most people don't care about twenty-one people being beheaded because of of their beliefs in 2015, how can we still be surprised by anything else?

The Little Sisters of the Poor are being forced by the government to buy people's contraception despite the fact that contraception goes against their core beliefs. Disappointing, but not surprising.

The Supreme Court decided that all fifty states must have gay marriage. I would have been surprised had the ruling gone the other way - in favor of states' rights or at least with built-in protection for religious groups.

Planned Parenthood performs abortions so they can then sell fetal body parts and its legal. I didn't see it coming, but I'm not shocked at all.

None of it surprises me any more. Am I saddened? Yes. Am I jaded? I don't really think so. Am I worried? Yes, worried about possible coming persecutions, government regulations, and what that will mean for my children.

As an orthodox Catholic my definition of the basic rights our country was founded on are very, very different than most of the American culture's. To many of my peers, politicians, and the media, Life is a right only if the mother or caretakers believes the person is convenient and not a burden. Liberty is being able to do whatever I want to do and no one can judge me. The Pursuit of Happiness is the doing of whatever I want  - whatever will make me happy right. now. 

As a Catholic, Life is a precious gift and lasts from the moment of conception to death. Liberty is not the license to do whatever one wants but the freedom to do what we ought. And the Pursuit of Happiness is all about living a joyful life filled with meaning that is focused on God and looks forward to Eternity. 

I know Jenny wishes we would rise up and fight though she feels the same as I do, but I wonder if that time has passed. Maybe now is the time, not for revolutions, but for churches to only perform religious ceremonies and courthouses to perform legal ones, for families and parishes to huddle together to build up and preserve the Faith, and if it comes to it, a time for civil disobedience.

In this culture where lewd behavior is celebrated and trending right now on social media, where people misuse words to the point of redefining them (words like "love," "bigot," and "tolerance"), where many of my fellow parishioners support abortion, divorce, contraception, women priests and scoff at the idea of mortal sin and the True Presence - well I'm wondering if the current is just too strong.

We cannot fight this culture any more. We need to stop pretending that America is a Christian country and we need to stop pretending that Christians are united in our teachings on morality. It is not and we are not.

We are supposed to be loving, serving, and passing on the faith. What that may look like in the coming years, I do not know. Will the Church go underground? Will there be a schismatic American Catholic Church? Will there be persecution for faithful Catholics? Maybe. Maybe not.

What I hope happens is that this is the beginning of a renaissance.

May the Lord be with us all. +

This isn't the first time I've written about some of these things. Here's some related posts: