Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Review #3 - the 7 quick takes edition


What a beautiful song "In the Bleak Midwinter" is.  There's three verses that are usually not sung - maybe because they're a little too religiousy? - but nonetheless the last verse is still my favorite.  It's so easy for me to think about all the ways I'm not measuring up.  Sometimes it smacks more than just a little bit if I think about all the ways that what I'm giving isn't good enough.  But I'm giving God my heart and my life and I'm not trying to be someone else and see, that's all He wants anyways.  My life, my talents, my trials, my joys, my heart - that's much more valuable to Jesus than a sacrificial lamb or a box filled with gold.  Whew.

Of course I picked a Christmas carol because we are still in the octave of Christmas (eight days beginning with the 25th that are all celebrated by the Church with as much gusto as Christmas itself), which is within the 12 days of Christmas (the 26th - Jan 6th, aka Epiphany or the day the Magi brought the gifts). 
Today is five golden rings.

I've never cared for the song "The 12 Days of Christmas." 

All I wanted was a cute picture of my Christmas-best-wearin' kiddos in front of the tree.  This was maybe as good as it got.

Hey, here's some really good news:  I'm 20 weeks pregnant and I've only gained 4lbs.  That's pretty daw-gone good for me.  My total weight gain goal is 15-20lbs for the pregnancy and I'm thinking that if I can get through Christmas and only gain one pound and be pregnant, well I have a very good chance of meeting that goal.

Other really good news: 
Today I mark 5 years of being married to the best man evah!
My husband is awesome and I love him so much.  Yay us!
Also, December, after Christmas, is the best time to have a Catholic wedding.  The Church is decorated beautifully and so you save all kinds of money.  We plugged in the lights on the trees that were up, called it good, and received one compliment after another. 

Special prayer request:
My friend Alicia is asking for prayers for a friend and the friend's babies. 
Triplets Ryan, Norah, and Lucas were born at 24 weeks and are now in the NICU.  Please pray for their health, their mom who is recovering, and all the people who love them and are very worried.
Thank you for praying!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Review #2 - cute things that happened

Bennet walked around using Hershey Kiss filled candy canes as walking canes.

Lydia was given some toenail polish and decided to go right ahead and give herself a pedicure.

James had more fun carrying his gifts around than opening and playing with them.

Lydia and Bennet sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus. 

Bennet got in a box that was filled with wrapping paper and read himself a book.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review of Christmas #1 - What I baked

Perfect chocolate crinkles, they were my impossibly hard to shop for dad's Christmas present.

So grateful to Lisa for sharing the recipe with me.  And YAY for breadmachines!

My first ever homemade cheesecake. 

Me saying a prayer before it goes in the oven. 
Well, okay, it was a staged picture but I did say a prayer.

Four hours later - perfect.
It was creamy.  It was yummy.  It was one of my life goals met.
Thanks to Jen for sharing this recipe with me.

And here's a picture of my really cute kids playing together.  It has nothing to do with baking but everyone needs a good dose of cute in their lives. 


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A little Matisyahu for your Hanukkah

It is true that this is a wierd video.  Maybe if I was Jewish it would be funnier?  Whatev's - I like the song! 

Also, if you have never read First and Second Maccabees, in which the story of the miracle of Hanukkah is told, I strongly encourage you to do so.  One of my favorite Old Testament heroes is found in II Maccabees 7, the mother of the seven sons who were all martyred. 

A snippet:  Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother who, seeing her seven sons perish in a single day, bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord. Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly reason with manly emotion, she exhorted each of them in the language of their ancestors with these words: “I do not know how you came to be in my womb; it was not I who gave you breath and life, nor was it I who arranged the elements you are made of. Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shaped the beginning of humankind and brought about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.”

You can read the whole account by going here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

50's family Christmas

These are my grandparents in the early 1950's.  My mom's mom and dad. 
I love the charlie brown christmas tree and my aunt's saddle shoes.

And look at the dress my grandma is wearing!  I want one! 
You should see her wedding dress.  Satin, long sleeves, modest, classy, gorgeous. 

I was named after my grandma, a fact that has always made me proud of my name despite the fact that it's not Jennifer, Sarah, or Rachel.
How can you not be proud of being named after such a beautiful woman?

Friday, December 16, 2011

7 quick takes - the picture edition

My favorite version of this song!

This is what my kids look like when they see a train pass by our house.
Yes, I let her go out in public with her crown.
And we live on the Right side of the tracks!

Remember when we were interviewed for that documentary?
The director (with the grey scarf), camera man (obviously with the camera), and the sound guy came to the house and shot some photage of the kids playing. 
I baked them chocolate chip cookies which meant they hung out even longer.  So good tip - if a film crew is coming to your house have warm cookies waiting for them so you can chat them up.
They were wonderful, fascinating men and I hope I get to see them again.

Princess Lydia on the phone.

My slippers were falling apart.  Then a kid puked on them  and there was no saving them - into the garbage they went.  I've been wearing Trav's Homer slippers, hoping that I'll get a new pair for Christams.  These slippers are obnoxiously big and thin on the botton. 
And I don't like having those four huge eyeballs looking up at me all the time.

Bennet, whom we sometimes refer to as a raccoon, was quietly dumping things down the register vents when I wasn't around.
When Trav went to the basement to clean out the vents he found
- 4 small puzzles - 2 sippy cups -8 beads -1 pair of panties -2 socks -1 toy baby bottle -1 watch -1 small watering can -1 teething ring -1 small plastic cup

We don't have a fireplace and I've run out of room on the bookshelf for the stockings.  This year St. Nick filled our stockings that hung on the staircase. 
Where do you hang your stockings if you don't have a fireplace?

Bennet is so cute!

So is James!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

for Pete's sake

I am so sorry that I haven't posted this in about three months.  Things have been super, crazy busy but that's really no excuse since this is the one thing I am able to do to "parent" the child I lost!  I am so sorry if I missed any of your intentions!  Please know you are always on my heart.

As a way to honor the child I lost through miscarriage, Peter Mark, and to share your burden, please allow me to pray for you or your loved ones who are carrying the cross of infertility or loss of a child.

You may share your prayer request in the comment box or by emailing me at bonnie engstrom at gmail dot com.

Comments may be anonymous and please feel free to share as much or as little as you like.

It is an honor to pray for you! Thank you for the privilege!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

just a little something for today

It's raining here.  I wish it was snowing.  But I'll just listen to She & Him sing The Christmas Waltz, drink myself a chai hot chocolate, turn off all the lights but those on the Christmas tree and pretend.

I love The Christmas Waltz.  My mom has an old record of Christmas music and I think Dusty Springfield sings the song on it.  I think the reason I'm so partial to this version of the song is because, not only does it look like an old LP, but it sounds like one too.  And I mean that in the absolute best way. 

Also, here's a great article from the Catholic Post about last Sunday's Cathedral Mass to close the investigative tribunal on James Fulton's alleged miracle. 

Help Support Students for Life

Students for Life is an impressive organization that was born at the University of Illinois by one of its students.  Its goal is to build up the pro life culture on college campuses, educating students and equipping them to make a difference.  They are passionate about doing this because they know that today's college student is tomorrow's doctor, politician, teacher, and voter.

They are a great organization.

Recently they have been given a Christmas challenge.  If they can raise $37,500 a donor will give them $15,000.

Please consider donating to them.  It's easy to do, just click on this link.

Monday, December 12, 2011

my thoughts on the alleged miracle

Fifteen months ago my son was delivered a stillborn.  It was the middle of the night and there were only a small group of people with me.  Three of us present asked Fulton J. Sheen to pray with us and ask God for a miracle.  Our wording was not quite so specific, but the Holy Spirit understands the groanings of the soul. 

It wasn't until the emergency room staff was prepared to call time of death - 61 minutes after he had been born - that my son's heart began to beat.  Medical staff did not think he would live because no one comes back to life after being dead for an hour and stays alive for long.  No one thought he would live.  And then he did.  So the experts thought he would be severely disabled, and let me tell you exactly what that meant.

Diapers for the rest of his life.
A feeding tube because he would aspirate on any and all foods and liquids.
Unable to walk.
Unable to stand.
Unable to hold his head up.
Unable to open his hands and grasp items.
Unable to stretch out his arms.
Inability to speak or communicate in any way.

It's such a cold list, and one that is incomplete I'm sure.  But now let me tell you what that list meant for us.

A different family dynamic than we had ever imagined.
My son not being able to see me smile or look with love and pride at him.
James not being able to eat his first birthday cake, Halloween candy, a perfect fall apple, my homemade pizza; or to have a refreshing drink of water, his first sip of beer, champagne at his wedding.  No Holy Communion.
No dancing, hopping, jumping, running with his family and friends. 
Probably no friends.
No getting down on one knee to propose to a girl or laying prostrate on a cathedral floor.
Not being able to turn to look at a sunset, a Christmas tree, a crucifix.
My son not being able to hold my hand.
My son not being able to wrap his arms around me and give me a hug.
Medications and doctor visits and therapists and stares and whispers and emergency room visits for the rest of his life.
Never getting to hear my son call me "Mommy" or tell me he loves me. 

That list meant that I had to mourn a lifetime of moments that I assumed I'd get:  first steps, first day of school, first communion, science projects, playdates with his friends, high school dances, graduation - the rest of his life as I had pictured it.  My son was still alive but I was mourning the loss of the son I thought I was getting.  The pain from all that was so great that I still cry about it.

So what to do when that list was taken away?  The doctors cannot give good reason as to why he is alive and well.  One of his NICU doctors has said, "The CPR must have been very, very good."  But it wasn't.  The oxygen bag wouldn't seal around his mouth and nose though different people tried various times.  Attempts at intibation (putting an oxygen tube into the lungs) failed at least 3 times.  The boy wasn't getting oxygen.  No oxygen = no life.  It's that simple. 

Some have jokingly called James Fulton "The Boy Who Lived."  I like that joke.  What I don't appreciate are all the comments of hatred, ignorance, bigotry, stupidity, and/or arrogance that come in comment boxes related to James' story.  How can people be so mean about a little boy who was dead and came back to life?

I know that James' story has brought joy to many, many people.  I know James' story has affirmed the existence of God for some doubters.  I know James' alleged miracle has brought hope and a renewed faith to many people. 

I also know that for many his story is too hard to hear.  Every day I hear of people begging for a miracle - a healing, a restoration, an answered prayer.  Their grief - their lists - are just as cold and heavy as mine was.  For some of these people James' story hardens their hearts and makes them angry at God and resentful towards us.  I can understand and appreciate their feelings. 

I think it's important that people know that this didn't happen to us because we prayed the right way, or had the perfect number of people praying.  It didn't happen to us because our family is perfect.  Neither is our marriage perfect.  Neither are we perfect.  I am high strung, quick to judge, and I can really cuss when I'm mad.  I didn't deserve to be the mother of a "miracle baby". 

Life is easier lived when viewed through the lens of "this is what I was given" instead of "this is what I deserve".  During those 61 minutes, and then the first days, and then the 7 weeks of the NICU stay my life was harder when I cried out "Why?" and much more peaceful when I focused on God's will.  Had I been living God's will to the best of my abilities in the time before the stillborn birth?  Yes.  Was I trying to live God's will to the best of my abilities in the time after the stillborn birth?  Yes.  That was all I needed to know.  "His will is our peace."

Travis and I truly believe that Fulton Sheen was praying with us during those 61 minutes.  We truly believe that saints are more alive than we on earth are and that their prayers are powerful because they are truly before the Lord.  We believe that Fulton Sheen's intercession was integral to what happened next.  We believe that God wanted James and Sheen to be connected in this way and, if it be God's will, we hope that this alleged miracle will be declared an official miracle and Sheen will be beatified because of it.  We believe all of this is for God's greater glory and it is an honor and privilege to be a part of it.

All of this has come out because of recent media coverage, such as the Peoria Journal Star and because of the closing of the tribunal that investigated whether or not James was miraculously healed.  There is still a long process ahead - translating the documents into Italian, having European medical experts look over the case, having theologians look at the case, etc.  If it is declared a miracle I'm sure more ugliness will be spouted.  Travis and I want to promote Sheen's name and good works, God's saving power, and the amazing story of our son.  But today I just had to vent a little bit.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fancy Behold Button

No need to be jealous.  You can have a Behold button for your blog, too!

Let everyone know that you are so cool you'll be hanging out with Kate Wicker, the Sisters of Life, Marie Miller, and Ginny Baldridge for the day.  Oh yeah, and in case you want some more names to drop, how about Jennifer Fulwiler, Hallie Lord, and Sr. Helena Burns.

Then encourage your mom, sisters, cousins, friends, daughters, and grandmothers to register too.  And make sure you do it by December 15th if you want to save $15 and be signed up to win a free registration!

All you've got to do is copy the  text.
Then, in the Layout page of Blogger click "Add a Gadget".  Choose "Picture", select "From the Web", paste the text in the box, and Save.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

7 quick takes

1 - This is probably my all time favorite Christmas carol.  The language is so powerful - long lay the world in sin and error pining...  a thrill of hope... fall on your knees.  I love this rendition of it by Tracy Chapman; I think it's her humming.  The way she sings it reminds me of something I would sing to my babies as I rock them to sleep on a winter's night.  It's so soft and approachable but the power and beauty are still present.  Lovely.

2 - My favorite Sunday of Advent is coming up.  Gaudete Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent and after two weeks of repenting and longing for our King we Rejoice because we know He is near.  My yet to be typed Ignitum Today post will be about this very thing.  But what a wonderful thing to ponder throughout our day - our God promised to save us and He keeps His promises!

3 - If you live in Central Illinois then I cordially invite you to come to the Cathedral in downtown Peoria for the 10:30am Mass.  The tribunal investigating James' alleged miraculous healing will be closed.  All the testimony, records, and other documents will be sealed up and sent to Rome.  I have no idea how cool it'll be but it'll probably be really cool. 

4 - I give you two reasons that you *should* come.  #1 You prayed for this alleged miracle to happen.  You are a part of all this!  This is your story, too!  #2 This may be your only opportunity in your lifetime to see how the Church does these things.  I have learned so much already in the process and been really impressed with the detail, truthfulness, and integrety of the process.  Plus, the mini liturgy that happens around these things is so beautiful and medieval feeling.  And I mean that in the best possible way.

5 - This morning there was a dusting of snow on the ground.  Pretty and promising for a person who likes snow.  The best part was the kids looking out each window and shouting about the snow.  The wonder and joy of a child...

6 - In case you have not yet seen the Catholic Throwdown between Jack White and Stephen Colbert you should really, really go watch it.  Be warned there is super strong language and little or sensitive ears should not listen.  Despite the language, what I love about the clip is that both men clearly respect and love the faith they were raised in and have a lot of pride in being Catholic.  It's also nice to see people in the media enjoying their faith.  Here's the Colbert Nation Catholic Throwdown link.

7 - If you're in need of some new Christmas music I highly suggest the Indie Christmas Pandora station.  Hat tip to Rachel for that one!

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

I'm not a theologian but I do want to offer a few thoughts on this beautiful feast day and I'm going to try to write for those who may not have a deep understanding of the Catholic faith.

First, it's a solemnity which is like a high holy day.  A holy day would be something like the Feast of St. Nicholas which we celebrated on Tuesday.  It's special, it commemorates something, but it does not have the importance that a solemnity would.  A high holy day - a solemnity - is extra special, commemorating something that is intricately tied to our salvation.

The Immaculate Conception refers to when Jesus' mom, Mary, was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne.  (You may have confused it with the Annunciation - when Mary said Yes and conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.)  Things between Anne and her husband, Joachim, were ordinary but the salvific grace of God spared Mary the stain of original sin.

So Mary was saved by Jesus' act of dying on the cross, just preemptively.  (God being outside of time, remember.)

We believe this NOT because it makes Mary so super awesome but because of what it means about Jesus Christ Himself. 

Along with calling Mary the Immaculata, we Catholics also call her the New Ark of the Covenant.  The Ark of the Covenant of the Old Testament was beautifully crafted and completely pure, all according to the instructions of God.  It was so pure and precious that no one could touch it except a high priest of God, hence the poles to carry it.  That's why when the Nazi's got ahold of it their faces melted off.  Okay, that didn't happen, but one man did touch it and was struck dead.

But the Ark wasn't special because it was an ark.  Just like Mary's not special because she's Mary.  It was special (she was special) because of what (Who) was inside. 

The Ark carried in it Manna from Heaven, the Ten Commandments, and the priestly staff of Aaron. 

Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant, carried within herself the Bread of Life, the Word of God, and the Great High Priest - Jesus.

We Christians understand that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and promises.  Things that were hinted at in the Old Testament (like the manna that sustained the Jews) are revealed in the New Testament (read John 6 to hear Christ say that HE is the Bread of Life come down from Heaven and that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life within us).

So when we say Mary is the Immaculata what we're really saying is that Jesus Christ is so super awesome that He deserves the best.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why I want a landline in our home

My brother, who works for a telephone company has said repeatedly that it is far safer to have a landline than a cell phone in case of an emergency.  As the mother of toddlers I have listened to his words and so, when many people are getting rid of their landlines and opting to only have cell phones, we resently installed one in our house.

Some quick facts:
- A landline can tell the dispatchers *exactly* where you're calling from.
- A cell phone can only give a general proximity for where you're calling from.
- The above is true even if you have GPS on your phone.
- Adults misunderstand even me when I tell them where I live.  If Lydia had to give someone our address (which she sorta kinda can) they might not get here.
- We've had to call 911 twice in the past three years.

Don't believe me about the pros of a landline and the cons of a cell phone.  Watch this news clip.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

special needs

There is an article being circulated right now called An Apology from Your Child's Former Teacher.  If you haven't read it I strongly encourage you to do so.  

chocolate loving tricky girl of mine

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!

This morning my family found that St. Nicholas had visited our house last night. (He comes for his feast day, not on Christmas Eve.  It's a special arrangement we have with him.)  In our stockings my kids found new winter pajamas, markers, and golden chocolate coins.

The kids have had a lot of feasting today - lots of chocolate - and I just let them each have two more coins to hold them over until after supper.

Upon finishing hers, Lydia asked me if she could play church. 

"Of course, sweetie!  That's a good idea!"  I was so proud.

"Well, can I have another chocolate coin to be Jesus Christ?"

No, sweetie, you cannot.  Though that is very, very clever, you cannot.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

let's be mean about santa claus

Maybe this wasn't nice of me...

If you haven't read the Dear Santa post at Ignitum Today, please do, but make sure you also read the comments. 

I call someone a bully.  Maybe I'm a little out of line.  But I think he's moreso. 

You don't have to comment there- especially if you're on my side since I don't want it to look like I'm having my thugs gang up on him, but you could comment here and let me know if I was a bit of a jerk. 

When I'm pregnant I'm more likely to be a jerk.

Like, for example, when I'm pregnant I'm more likely to sing the following song in my head when I think of / interact with / hear of a woman I don't like:

Well, I won't put it here, but it's about Kyle's mom, and how she's a *itch.

Friday, December 2, 2011

7 quick takes

1 - Good music.  This is probably one of my favorite carols.  Do you know it?

2 - Did you know that you can win a free registration to the Behold Conference?  Dude, you can!  Anyone who registers before the early registration deadline of December 15th is eligible!  So go to the Behold blog and find out the info and then register, already!  We've already gotten a ton of registrations

3 - I slightly rewrote my Open Letter to Santa Claus post (you can click on it at right) for my Ignitum Today post of the week.  It's called Dear Santa.

4 - Didn't you hear?  Virtuous Planet is no more and the revamped website is Ignitum Today.  I need to update my blog a bit, but for now the links will still take you where you want to go. 

5 - I like to ask Lydia if she thinks I look good once I get dressed in the mornings.  Usually she will emphatically say, "Oh Mommy, you look beautiful!"  But yesterday she walked into my room as I stepped out of my closet.  "oooooh" she said with a little bit of concern in her voice.  "How do I look, Lydia?"  "Ooooh, Mommy, not very good.  I'm not sure if that matches."  I wore it anyways.

6 - My kids are crying.

7 - What are you gonna do to celebrate St. Nicholas' feast day on Tuesday?