Monday, November 29, 2010

being a fat mom and the pope's comment on condoms

Simcha Fisher has a wonderful post on these two things, and how they're related, right here.

Here's a couple of snippets to wet your appetite:

My husband thinks I’m beautiful, but I don’t.  I hate wearing special sizes with labels like “Curvy Coordinates!”  “Luscious Lady Plus!”  “Gee, Your Ass Looks Enormous!”  Being fat feels bad, but knowing I’m still gaining feels horrible. The real misery is in feeling like I had no control.
conversion is incremental.  That’s how it is, whether it’s for me getting back into normal-sized pants, or for more dire lessons of the soul.  For the hypothetical male prostitute, the goal would be to renounce fornication and seek healing for his disordered sexual appetites.  But can he do that in a day?  Of course not.  You can’t just strip away every aspect of your old life in a single motion, and expect to live that way from now on.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


I have a strong belief that the way a Christian celebrates Christmas should look and feel different than the way non Christians celebrate it.

I also am convinced that the days leading up to Christmas should look and feel different for a Catholic. I would argue that Catholics should keep Advent - the time when we prepare for the coming of Christ - so that our December is counter-cultural.

It's so important to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ, to take time to think about what God did and what He will do again with the second coming. It is good to slow down a little bit, to fast before the feast, to long for Someone.

In our home, I have found that the best way to celebrate Advent is to keep Christmas out of it. Currently our house is decorated for Advent - not Christmas. We have empty mangers, a Jesse Tree, the Advent wreath, and stockings. On December 6th we'll awaken to stockings filled by St. Nicholas with gold coin candy and pajamas - because that's what St. Nick brings around here. Every night at dinner we'll light the Advent wreath and a part of the bed time routine will be the Jesse Tree. Christmas music, the Christmas tree, and other little things won't come out until Guadete Sunday -the 3rd Sunday of Advent where we Rejoice that our Savior will come. And then Christmas is celebrated through Epiphany (at least!).

For awhile I felt like this was what good Catholics should do - have Advents that look similar to mine. But then someone told me that people are just trying to do the best they can, and I realized that all the little details don't matter so much - like when you put your Christmas tree up. What matters is that preparations are made for the coming of the Lord.

You'd think that I wouldn't be such a judgemental jerk about how other people get excited about Jesus, but then again if you knew me you probably wouldn't be surprised at all.

Do I still think the goal should be a distinction between Advent and Christmas? Yes. Do I finally see that there are many ways those distinctions can be made? Yes. I'm just trying to do my best, and so are you, right? Good for us. And happy first Sunday of Advent.

this Advent I will give up being a snob

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for my children, my husband, my mom.  My dad, brothers, and grandparents.  I'm thankful for my Catholic faith and my faithful God.  I am thankful for the miracle of life.

In no particular order, I give thanks for:
chocolate, insurance, our house, our cars, my brother-in-law's training as a mechanic, my brother-in-law, my mother and father-in-law, heck - all my in-laws are great.
owning a washer and dryer and dishwasher, people who give me their old clothes, all the people who spiritually, emotionally, financially or otherwise supported us through the last two months.
my alma mater, my husband's two best friends (Charlie and Toby) who are such amazing men, the priests who hear my confessions, coupons, Dr. Pepper, neonatologists, my midwife Bernice.
my friends, my friends whose kids are my kids friends, my children's godparents: Katie, Michael, Fr. H, Kimberly, Charlie and Jenny
autumn, liturgical seasons, the thinning effect of the color black, our couch, books, youtube, facebook, blogs, the Behold Conference, Rose Marie.
living between two cities with amazing young Catholic communities, Newman Centers, FOCUS, Johnny Cash, Sara Groves, Jars of Clay, 826 Valencia, St. Nicholas, JPII, Joan of Arc, St. James, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Mother Teresa.
homemade pizza, hummus, guacamole, root beer and a Sunday Bears game.
traditions, the Eucharist, redemptive suffering, merciful friends, the chocolate chip cookie recipe I've finally found that I love.
feeding therapy, James' night nurse Megan, volunteer EMTs, Christian radio, our kind neighbors, my dining room curtains, fertility, four years of marriage.

I know this list is silly at times, so here's the bottom line:
God has blessed me with many good things.  He has given me a husband I love and respect, who loves and respects me too.  He has given me many friends, several of which are very dear.  He has filled my life with examples of honesty, humility, kindness, generosity, joy, love, and beauty.  He has provided for my family well beyond our basic needs.  We are so blessed.

What are you grateful for?  Leave a comment or link to your own list.  I'd love to know all the things you're thankful for!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Christmas before Thanksgiving

It's annoyed me for years that Christmas decorations go up in shopping malls before Thanksgiving, but now people are beginning to decorate their homes in mid November, too. 

I've always wondered about the people who celebrate Christmas all through Advent and then take down the decorations on December 26th.  Are they so tired of it all that they're ready to get it over with?  Merriment, peace on Earth, Jesus' birthday: check, check, check.  Several years ago I spent so much time celebrating Christmas in the month of December that by the 24th I was done with it.  I'm sure that's not how it is for everyone, and I'm sure a lot of it comes down to how different denominations celebrate liturgical seasons. (do other denominations even have liturgical seasons?) 

But today I had a thought.  In our culture Christmas often has very little to do with Christ but is much more about other good things:  joy, family, love, warmth, feasting, gifts, pretty decorations, feelings.  To me, this shows a kind of bankruptcy - especially when it's Christians who are losing the focus.  And I wondered if we are so bankrupt that we have to fill ourselves up with good, but lesser things.  So we rush past Thanksgiving - barely acknowledging things like food, shelter, a good harvest, fair weather, family, health - in order to make ourselves feel better. 

A Christmas tree and some lights on our gutters are not bad things.  But I do feel like it's incredibly important to be thankful for the blessings we have, and to not lose focus on the meaning of a day that has been intentionally set aside for that purpose.  And I do think that part of giving Thanksgiving its proper respect is to keep the Christmas decorations in their boxes for just a little bit longer.

What do you think?  This was a thought borne today on a car ride and I'm not set on it yet.  I'd love to hear your perspectives and thoughts if you'd like to share them. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

7 quick takes

I know that it's Sunday night and not Friday.  What can I say?  Oops?

My middle child likes to take off his pants, especially his pajama pants.  I hope this is a phase he grows out of.

James hasn't been tubed a feeding since Thursday the 11th, which was only an ounce to finish off a feeding that he had fallen asleep during.  After that feeding I realized it was stupid to give him an ounce when he fell asleep.  He's gaining weight, he likes a bottle, why not just let him make up the ounce later?  And so Thursday it will be two weeks of no feeding tube.  How awesome is that?!  The surgeon's office said if he goes two months of not using the g tube (which means we'll have to stop using the tube for seizure med and begin giving that orally) and all doctors are in agreement, we can have the tube taken out.  This makes me happy because I would really like to blow raspberries on my son's belly. 

Lydia's verbal skills continues to amaze me.  For example today she said, "I'll stop whining, and then we can go to Old McDonald's.  I'll be super duper hungry, and when I've eaten all my food I can go down the slide!  How 'bout that?!"

Congratulations goes out to the Heads, who recently go the phone call they've been dreaming of for a long time - a birth mother chose them to parent her unborn child!  How awesome is that?!  They have a beautiful post about it.  Here's a snippet:
It is so amazing to see His plan unfold after so long of questioning if He really had one...

I want to thank everyone for the comments they left on the previous post.  Clare, I especially want to thank you for standing up for me and for providing some really good information on why a woman chooses home birth.  I also want to thank you, Jessica, for talking about the elephant in the room.  I know there are many, many people who never understood why we choose home birth in the first place and - believe me - the unspoken "I told you so"s are deafening at times.  As a former English major, I think of the hospital birth vs. home birth a little like post colonial literature.  Hospital birth is what is modern, civil, standard, and what we do in this culture.  Home birth is the "other" - for some people the exotic other and for others the savage other.  It is unknown, dangerous, backwards, uncivilized.  Of course this is only an analogy, and a pretty flawed one, especially since most of you didn't study literary theories.  But in the end I think I've given up on trying to have pro-hospital folks understand my side.

I'm gonna blog about Advent soon.  I'll probably tick some of you off. 

But before we get to Advent, let's talk about Thanksgiving.  I say on Wednesday night / Thursday we all post about what we're thankful for.  Let's make a good long list, that includes things like health insurance, neonatalogists, children, parents, Dr. Pepper, chai tea, chocolate...  I could keep going up I need to save something for Thursday.  Maybe I'll even have a linky thingy...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

God set the table

The week before I gave birth to James I dreamed that I gave birth to a stillborn baby boy.  It sounds sensational, I know, which is why I'm just now bringing it up. 

With Lydia I dreamed of holding a happy baby girl.  With Bennet I dreamed of snuggling a cute little boy.  With James I dreamed that on the soft brown carpet in my bedroom I delivered an ashen boy with black hair.  I told Travis about the dream.  "Oh no, he said.  "That can't happen."  And then we both chose to ignore the dream.

I think most people assume that I regret having a home birth.  I do not. 

Near the end of my pregnancy with James I felt uneasy about the upcoming birth and I considered going to a hospital.  I was afraid of another long labor, and so I gave myself permission to transfer if I no longer wanted to be at home.  I reviewed all the reasons we chose home birth in the first place.  I prayed about it and never felt convicted to not birth at home.  I asked people to pray for a labor lasting less then 10 hours and I believed that I would be eating my chocolate blueberry cake in my own bed while Trav napped with our newborn.

My labor with James was perfect.  It was beautiful.  It was eight hours (way short for me!) and when I pushed I never tore.  I am sure this sounds amazingly selfish, but for me that labor was the best part of the first seven weeks of James' life.  I cannot change what happened, though I would to spare my son, but I am thankful that I have those eight lovely hours.

But my lack of regret is not based on the fulfillment of my ideal labor. 

In all my prayers I never felt that God was urging me to give birth in a hospital.  I never felt led by the Holy Spirit to leave my home the night of James' birth.  In fact I felt like we were on the verge of something great - the next step in this huge blessing from God.  James was a little bit of a miracle even in his conception, and all through my pregnancy we were reminded time and again of the goodness and faithfulness of God.  Travis and I believed that God wanted James to exist for some great reason.  "Maybe he will be pope," we even whispered to each other as we laid in bed at night.  I looked forward to meeting this little person who had a future full of hope and possibilities, and I was excited to see what great things he would do for the Lord.

I cannot feel bad about being at home when clearly that's where God wanted me to be.  As I explained it to a friend, "God set the table." 

God put down the linens, laid out the dishes, arranged the flatware, and set out the food.  He invited me to join Him so I showed up and sat down in the chair He pulled out for me.  Everything has been as He wanted it to be.
the consolation of a beautiful labor
the sixty-one minutes when he didn't have a heartbeat
the doctor who said to give him five more minutes in the ED so she could tell the parents that they'd done everything they could
the way his heart started at five minutes, just as they were stopping
the confirming him with the name Linus
the way his organs kicked in, one after another
the way his leg continues to heal
the way he takes a bottle, sucking it dry
the way people have prayed, fasted, given alms, and done good works
the way his story helped a woman evangelize for 45 minutes in a grocery store
the way little children have every word of the Sheen intercessory prayer memorized
the way my dad is going to Mass again, on a regular basis, for the first time in my life (don't tell him I put that on my blog - he'd kill me!)
the way I have relearned what it means to be pro-life
the way I have relearned how to pray, and trust, and praise, and say thank you.

How can I feel guilty about a choice I made - in good conscience and after prayer - when that choice so clearly has me and my family smack dab in the very middle of God's will.

You can still think I'm crazy and selfish for giving birth at home, but if you believe in God then I don't think you can judge that I made a poor choice and my son is suffering because of it.  It is obvious that God allowed this to happen because of the great good that could come from James' redemptive suffering.

Travis and I knew, nine months ago, that God would use our son to accomplish marvelous things.  We just didn't know that those things would include conversions, repentant hearts, and miraculous healings.

I feel great peace about the home birth.  For what it's worth to you, my heart is filled with peace.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Conference on the Dignity and Vocation of Women

Whether single or married, working in or out of the home, the Behold Conference aims to support you in your vocation, challenge you to seek God's will, and inspire you to better serve those around you.

Please join us for a day of reflection and fellowship:
Saturday, March 5, 2011, 8:00am-4:30pm
Five Points Washington

Featuring Guest Speakers Jennifer Fulwiler and The Sisters of Life
With Music Performed by Marie Miller
The day will also include Mass, Adoration, and Confession.

Cost:  $35 before 12/31/10, $45 as of 1/1/11

Visit for more information and to register.

Funded by the Fulton Sheen Endowment of the Rooted in Faith Campaign
Hosted by Saint Mary's of Metamora and Sponsored by OSF Healthcare

miscellaneous things I wanted to tell you

This picture, our first family picture, taken as soon as Trav and I brought James out of the NICU doors, right after Lydia fell and hit her head, shows what happens when your small children play with your camera.  They smudge the lens.

Now, I have three kids.  Our mini-van is filling up.  This, along with a daughter who changes her own diapers but won't be potty trained, a son with an epi pen, and another son who does physical therapy, makes me feel old.  But not really that old, ya know?  It's so weird to be in this middle place where I have huge responsibilities but still want to stay out late, drinking beer at a bar with some friends.
Second, we haven't used the g tube for feedings for over 48 hours.  This is so exciting for us.  We have finally figured out how to hold James best and he has finally figured out how to suck a bottle dry.  It's awesome.  Who is this kid?
Today I learned that James will drink and drink because he can.  The boy took almost 5oz in 3 hours and a bunch oozed out of his g tube site.  It was pretty gross cleaning it all up, but once the access was gone everything was fine again.  So mental note:  8 week olds should not take over 4oz.
We live near a town called Eureka.  Lydia refers to it as "My Reka."  A few days ago she referred to it as "Daddy's Reka."  How cute is that?

Life with James is not as bad as I thought it would be.  However, life with Bennet has been horrible lately.  He's hungry but won't eat anything but pretzels, chicken nuggets, and candy.  He cries a lot.  He also lays down on the floor and has fits.  It stinks.  Fortunately for him, when he's cute he's c.u.t.e!  Especially when he gives kisses to his baby brother - completely unprompted!  awwwww!

Lastly, a huge group of women across the Diocese of Peoria and I have been working our butts off on the upcoming Behold Conference.  If you're a woman you should be there, and you should bring your mom, sister, cousin, friend, child's godmother.  Yes, you should.  It's going to be fabulous.  March 5, 2010 - mark your calendar and start saving up your $35.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Little Boy Blue and home sweet home

James is home.  We brought him home Wednesday night.  Discharge took two hours.  His grandmas and siblings waited for him in the family waiting room.  He wore a cute knit outfit with a brontosaurus on it.  We came home and ate a celebratory meal of leftovers. 

How is he doing?  Pretty well, I guess.  Thursday our home health care nurse came and was glad to see him moving and looking about.  From the information on her paper she expected a "limp baby."  Friday he met our family practitioner who was happy to see some good reflexes.  They both thought his g tube site looked good.  He sleeps a lot and usually nipples half of his feedings and then needs to be tubed the rest.

Lydia and Bennet like him a lot.  Bennet, who wildly flaps his arms when he's excited, should have been taught "gentle" in preparation for this homecoming.  I messed that one up.  But he also gives his little brother unprompted kisses that will melt your heart.  Lydia likes to hold him and is upset that she can't give him a bottle.  She's very proud to tell people his name.  It's quite sweet.

Today his g tube gushed formula while he cried during a bath.  It freaked me out and I cried.  After a day of horrible napping he also slept 10 hours last night without waking up to eat.  That makes me nervous.  I guess 7 week olds sleep a lot and only need a little bit of food to feel full, but I'm worried that he doesn't seem more hungry and less tired.

Preparing and giving a him a bottle takes a long time, and it's going to take a while to get down a new routine in the mornings that incorporate James.  I'm scared about that.  I'm scared about a lot of things, actually.

It's good having him home.  We just have to figure out our new normal.

He's so handsome.  I'll post some pictures soon.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

wrapping things up

Last night I slept on the couch in James' room.  Along with his super awesome primary night nurse, Megan, I took care of him.  Unlike her, I cursed the 3 hour feeding schedule.

I made all of his bottles, fed him via g tube when needed, cared for the wound, and basically did there what I'll be doing here as soon as tomorrow night.  That's right - James will be coming home sometime between Wednesday and Friday. 

So how do I feel about this?  Right now I'm feeling pretty good.  I feel confident.  I feel like I can do this.  I feel supported.  I feel prepared.  Yesterday, I was terrified.  I was depressed.  I felt like God had set me up for failure (ummm.. didn't He remember I did not want to be a nurse?).  I felt like this was going to be a slow burn followed by the initial crash. 

Being with him, caring for him like I did Lydia and Bennet, definitely reminded me that a baby is a baby and gave me the confidence to bring him home, but it was all still a bit of an emotional teeter-totter.  As Travis put it, sometimes in anger, sadness, self-pity, or despair I cry out, "Why did you let this happen?!" and sometimes, in peaceful anticipation I ask, "Why did you let this happen?"

And then I read this passage from Healing the Original Wound by Fr. Benedict Groeschel.

All sorts of things go wrong in the world that are not the will of God.  There is an immense difference between the actual will of God which decrees events and the permissive will of God which allows them.  The actual will of God caused the incarnation.  The permissive will of God allowed the crucifixion to take place - the best and the worst of all human events.  We need to recall that whatever happens, God goes with us.  God was there at the crucifixion as much as he was there at the resurrection.

Fr. Benedict goes on to talk about praying, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" which is a prayer I have prayed many, many times recently.  But he also quotes St. Augustine, "Flood our path with your light when the road is long and the way is weary and let us know of your presence."

It is ridiculous how often I have to come back to the beauty of the Cross and remind myself that suffering is evil; it is only in the world because of sin, but redemptive suffering, suffering united with Christ's passion, is beautiful.  I went to confession the week I was due and my penance was to pray "thank you, Jesus," throughout the labor, the contractions, the pushing.  I did.  I offered up my pain and I thanked God for the gift of fertility and motherhood.  It's understandable that I have not prayed "thank you, Jesus" during the suffering we've been going through lately, but it has definitely left me focusing on the dark instead of living in the joy and the beauty. 

Redemptive suffering.  Cross and Resurrection.  We are an Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.  James is coming home.