Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wordless Thursday

She didn't quite make it in time for Wednesday, but this is why there was no post:

Anne Virginia

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, December 21, 2012

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 22): Is it Advent or Christmas?

Last weekend my in-laws came to visit. "Are you going to have a tree?" my mother-in-law asked. "Yes! You walked right by it!" To be fair, it was still bound up from the tree farm and leaning against our Japanese maple in the front yard. I guess she has a good reason to have missed it. :-)

Tonight, my dad and husband gave it a fresh cut and got it upright in the tree stand. There are perks to being pregnant around Christmas, no? My only responsibility was to be in a cute picture with my son. (Sadly, the overalls, which belonged to my brother, are too small, but Peter fit in them long enough to be photographed.)

Tomorrow, my husband will string on the lights. We'll actually hang the ornaments during the day on the 24th, then plan to leave the tree up for the entirety of the liturgical Christmas season. It ends on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated on January 13 in 2013. Here's hoping the needles hang on that long!

I'm glad I didn't give in to my desire to have everything done before the baby arrives. For one thing, the baby won't be overdue until 1/20, so there's not much reason to expect the baby early. Also, I like the season of Advent. I like the time of mindful waiting, of anticipating the coming of Christ - not only celebrating His Incarnation, but looking forward to His glorious return.

Too often, Advent becomes Christmas. The month of December is spent celebrating Jesus' birth or with gift exchanges and holiday parties that celebrate the secular while ignoring the sacred. I don't object to some early Christmas festivities (in fact, I've been singing carols as lullabies this month), but I think it should be interspersed with reminders that we are still waiting.

Our crib scene has no Christ Child in it yet. Our tree is only up this "early" so that it has time to settle before we hang the ornaments. My conversations with Peter have compared Advent to waiting for our baby to be born; we really want it to happen, but it's not time yet! The few secular decorations we have are still packed, to be put out on the 24th.

We also try to fully celebrate the Christmas season (nearly three weeks of it, this year!), continuing carols and readings and special treats. Our culture celebrates Christmas for the month of December, putting everything away and moving on before the new year. Our Church reminds us that there is a time and season for everything. Let Advent be Advent. Then, enjoy Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Staying Attractive After Marriage

A friend's blog post recently reminded me of the attitude among some married people (men and women) that, once married, there's no need for keeping up appearances. It's acceptable to gain weight, maintain poor hygiene, and wear pajama-type clothing most of the time. After all, you're already married, so why bother putting in all that effort to keep yourself looking nice?

We always look this good.
Photo credit: Eric Brophy,

My friend responded with a number of reasons why it is important to keep yourself attractive after marriage, including showing respect for your spouse and maintaining a good sex life. She also mentioned that we honor God with our bodies, so it is important to treat ourselves well.

I think she wrote a good response. I also think people are asking the wrong question. Asking, "Why keep myself attractive when I'm already married?" implies that the reason we care for ourselves at all is to attract a spouse. While we are made for community, and many are called to marriage, this is not our highest calling. We are children of God; our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

Why care for myself? Because I'm worth it! God created me in His image. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Throughout my life I have maintained good hygiene, healthy eating habits, and (usually) regular exercise. When I gained weight in college, I was frustrated. Not because I was unattractive and couldn't find a boyfriend, but because I knew I deserved better than that. So I started running again and stopped bringing snacks into my room. I wanted to be in shape for ME, not for someone else.

When I got married, it never occurred to me that I should cut myself some slack. If we follow the line of thinking that marriage ends our obligation to look nice, why should people not called to marriage ever care for themselves? It just doesn't make sense.

"Therefore, glorify God with your bodies." Do it for God. Do it for yourself. You're worth it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 21): Peter Says

I happened to be watching the Weather Channel on the 10 year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers. The anchors were remembering their feelings of helplessness and foolishness, as they continued to broadcast weather patterns on 9/11/2001. They had nothing to contribute to the news, no way to mitigate the tragedy, but still felt as if they should be saying something other than the weather.

That's similar to how I feel today. There is nothing I can say or do for those families in Newtown to bring back their children. I cannot erase from the minds of survivors the terror they felt or the images they saw. My blog cannot make today's shooting less tragic. What I can do is bring a little smile in a world full of pain. I hope you enjoy tonight's Peter sayings. And say a prayer for all those affected by today's events.

Mommy, want to go back in your tummy.
Well, once you are born, you can't go back in. You were in Mommy when you were a baby, now you are out.
WANT to go back in.
Because you want to see the baby?
But you can't. There's no room.
(pause) Daddy will push the baby to the side and I will go in.

Jeremy: What a good drummer! Are you just like Animal?
Peter: Um, I like animals.

Jeremy, to me: Have you decided where we're going to dinner tonight?
Peter: I can go to Chipotle! If I want to.

Papa! I see a rooster! (pause) Actually, it's... a reindeer.

Papa: Do you think the school bus will go to other houses and pick up children for school?
Peter: It will go trick or treat!
Papa: Oh! What costume would a school bus wear?
Peter: Um, it would be a duck. And ducks are yellow.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dr. Phil does Social Justice

I've never actually listened to Dr. Phil's show, but I've been told that his advice often boils down to, "just stop it." Regardless of your problem, it could be solved if you'd just have a little willpower and change your behavior. Anyone who has been in challenging life situations can you tell that willpower can only take one so far. Some situations are not completely within our control.

I recently had a conversation with a friend in which he defended the right of businesses not to pay a living wage to every employee. He argued that capitalism is not compatible with egalitarian standards of living and companies should not be vilified for failing to provide social justice. While I'm not convinced the situation is as black-and-white as he painted it, I'll concede the point that it is unrealistic to expect retail cashiers (as just one example) to be paid a living wage.

When I pressed the issue, though, I was reminded of Dr. Phil. Given that this friend and I both value social justice, I asked what he thought people should do who needed a living wage (i.e. supporting a family) and could only find entry-level, low-paying employment. Apparently, they just need to work harder. They should find a different unskilled job with better wages. Like what? The only example provided was manufacturing, which is not a thriving sector of our current economy. If they can't find that, they should pursue training or education in another field where they can excel.

There are so many problems with this. Employers are not beating down the doors to find unskilled laborers. Our society currently has many skilled laborers unable to find jobs, even entry-level, low wage positions. Additional training requires money, which these workers don't have. Yes, loans and grants are available, but not to everyone. Additional training also requires time, a luxury many cannot afford while working two, three, or four jobs trying to stay afloat.

Finally, our abilities are on a bell curve. There are those in the work force who, regardless of how much additional skill they may wish to acquire, are unable to progress beyond a certain point. They are not the bottom of the curve with visible mental handicaps. They are just stuck in the "below average" zone with little hope of completing the certification or educational degree that might spring them into a better career.

I'm not saying companies are evil for paying less than a living wage to some employees. But I'm not willing to accept a blame-the-victim explanation that suggests these workers are just lazy, either. There are situations beyond our control.

Friday, December 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 20): 3 Feasts in 1 Week!

We went to Mass tonight for the vigil of Immaculate Conception. The priest addressed the common misunderstanding (misconception?) that this feast celebrates Jesus' conception, when in fact it is Mary's conception without original sin. Apparently this feast used to be titled "Mary's Conception by St. Anne". Granted, this is a longer title, but why change it? It's so much more clear!

Speaking of Mass tonight, Peter was excited to hear the Mass parts chanted. "Mommy! So many songs at Mass tonight!"

On Monday, we celebrated the feast of St. Francis Xavier. We explained to our son that we were celebrating Peter Xavier and Francis Xavier today. They both love God and they both help people! That seemed simple enough for him to understand. In the evening, we told him he could pick where he wanted to go to celebrate: library, mall, Wegmans, Grams and Papa's house, or Barnes & Noble. He picked Barnes & Noble.

My parents pretended to be offended. I told them if they would install an escalator in their home, he would be more excited about choosing them. :-)

On Thursday, we celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas. Peter and I bought chocolate santas for his classmates at open gym class, which I viewed as being a fun and nonabrasive way of sharing our faith. I try to do this every year with whomever I'll see on December 6th.

After talking with my husband, I'm less confident that I'm sharing my faith. Apparently, St. Nicholas Day has become a cultural celebration, comparable to Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day. It's just another day to enjoy the holiday season. Not that I'm going to stop my tradition, but it was a bit discouraging to learn.

Truthfully, it also strikes me as a little odd. Not just St. Nicholas, but St. Patrick's or people who love the Ave Maria. If people have no faith and just view these as fun or pretty, that's more understandable. But I have a hard time understanding how Christians who oppose veneration of the saints and Mary justify celebrating feast days or singing the Hail Mary. (I've actually been told, "Well, it's in Latin, so it doesn't matter.") I know we all have our blind spots and irrational things we justify, so I'm not trying to cast stones, I just think it's interesting.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Peter Says

me: I'm excited about these Tums. Maybe I can actually sleep tonight!
Peter, from the back seat: No, Mommy. No sleep.
me: I can't sleep?
Peter: It's a lie.
(He was right. He woke me up three times.)

Jeremy: Egad!
Peter: Be gag!
(later) Peter: Be gag, little gag!

*drops spoon on floor* Now look what you did! You did... shut fridge door annnnd eat banana annnnd make tea annnnnd... go to bed!

Mommy, love you face. Love you nose. Love you eyes. Eyebrows?! How can that be?!!

Baby Jesus and Mary and Jof-, Josus, Jofus... and Mary's friend.

Monday, December 3, 2012

It Doesn't Take One to Know One

In my life as a school psychologist and later a social worker, one of the most frustrating roadblocks was a parent's refusal to take me seriously because I didn't have my own children. I heard from my colleagues that it wasn't just my age; parents were often hostile even toward established workers in the field who were childless.

This is ridiculous. The male obstetrician who assisted me with Peter's birth had never given birth, but he knew what needed to be done (and what didn't need to be done) for a healthy birth. I've never dealt with divorce, self-injury, or parental substance abuse, but I've had successful counseling relationships with teens and children facing these issues. Even before I had Peter, I had an understanding of child development and positive parenting choices.

Clearly, parenting this boy has brought me new levels of wisdom.
And yes, that's the U from his foam tub letters.

The "you don't know me!" mindset is pervasive, though. It prevents pro-life men from speaking out because they'll be accused of being chauvinists. It's used as an argument for priests to marry (how can a celibate possibly be able to counsel a married couple?). Even among parents, we find a way to dismiss another's insight. "You wouldn't say that if you had a son/daughter/teen/etc."

If the only flaw you can find in someone's advice/critique/opinion is that he doesn't share your life experience, perhaps you need to reevaluate your position. Then you'll be qualified to give advice to people who change their minds. ;-)

Friday, November 30, 2012

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 19): Summer Babies are Better

Peter was a summer baby, born in mid July. When I told people I was expecting, many of them lamented how hard it would be to have a summer baby. It would just be too hot. I would be so miserable. Imagine carrying all that extra weight in the hottest temperatures of the year!

3 days before Peter was born. Still had not spontaneously combusted.

Even at the time, I thought it would be much easier to have a summer baby than a winter baby. First of all, I live near Rochester, NY, where the average high temperature in July is only 83F. Not exactly oppressive heat. But I mostly held my tongue, because what did I know? This was my first child, so I had no experience from which to draw about either summer or winter babies.

Now I have experience. Summer babies are better.

For one thing, summer weather is much more conducive to exercising regularly. With Peter's pregnancy, I took long walks in the evening with my husband almost every day. My brother is in the area and has a pool, so I went swimming regularly. This time around, I spend my evenings snuggled up in a blanket, marveling at how quickly it gets dark.

Summer weather also means fewer clothes and therefore a cheaper wardrobe. I'd been assured that being pregnant would make me noticeably warmer, a drawback in the summer but a definite plus in the winter. I haven't found that to be true in either pregnancy. Last time around, all I needed was a few pairs of shorts and some tank-tops. Now I need to layer up with a shirt, sweatshirt, and a coat just to go grocery shopping. I am refusing to buy a maternity coat, so I'm making do with the loose jackets I have and leaving my real winter coat unzipped the few times I've worn it. (Unzipping a coat makes it much less effective, if you were wondering.)

I'm not looking forward to having a newborn in January. Our lovely location on Lake Ontario moderates the cold (average low temp in Jan. is 17F), but it's still pretty cold, especially for a baby. Peter had some jaundice, but it was easy to take him out for some indirect sun every day. This baby will be lucky to have sun on anything but its face in the first few months. Extra blankets, bundling up and taking it all off again, more layers for diaper changes... doesn't sound appealing.

So if you're getting ready to share your good news with family over the holidays, be ready for the naysayers lamenting your summer pregnancy. Then reply, "Could be worse. It could be a winter baby!" (Unless you live in Dallas or somewhere like that. Then summer might actually be worse.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Baby Name Update

We thought we were done. We had two meaningful names we both liked. So we revealed them to the general public and waited for the inevitable critiques, confident we would not change our minds.

We changed our minds.

We got the reactions we expected; universal approval of Anne Virginia and criticism about Karl Wojtyla (no one will know how to say it! too hard for a child to spell! too weird!). We had anticipated that and, frankly, didn't care. What we hadn't anticipated was complete bafflement.

Even among Catholics who lived through the entirety of Blessed John Paul II's papacy, we got a lot of blank stares when we announced the boy name. This was a problem. The whole reason we had chosen Wojtyla as the middle name was to make it obvious who the baby's namesake was, that Karl was an anglicized version of Karol. If adding Wojtyla as the middle name didn't prompt an "aha!" moment, then our reason for choosing it no longer existed. Time to reassess.

Since Peter was born, we've called him Peter the 10th on occasion (his middle initial is X). If we have a daughter, she will be Anne the 5th. :-)  So when looking to replace Wojtyla, we decided to go with the theme we unintentionally began. Why not give all the kids middle names that are Roman numerals?! (Don't say, "Because that's dorky." It's totally not.)

Without further ado, the new boy name: Karl Dominic.

And yes, if you're wondering, we've already picked out middle names for I (girl), L (girl), C (boy) and M (boy). If we have more than three girls or four boys, we'll revisit our choices. And if we have more than seven kids, I guess we'll start repeating middle initials. Cross that bridge when we come to it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 18): Communal Penance and General Absolution

The Diocese of Rochester (NY) has been a pretty liberal diocese. In recent years, priests at many parishes have fallen into the habit of giving general absolution at the conclusion of a communal penance service, without any individual confession taking place.

The bishop overseeing our diocese recently reiterated that this is not an acceptable practice. Canon law says that, in ordinary circumstances, the sacrament of reconciliation is to include individual confession. "Only physical or moral impossibility excuses from confession of this type" (see canon law 960 and following).

The Catechism reminds us that "confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance" (1456). Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote a number of apostolic letters on this sacrament, including Misericordia Dei, which states, "in some places there has been a tendency to abandon individual confession and wrongly to resort to “general” or “communal” absolution... [resulting in] a lessening of fidelity to the divine configuration of the Sacrament...with consequent serious harm to the spiritual life of the faithful and to the holiness of the Church."

With such clear opposition to general absolution as the ordinary form of the sacrament, why did it become so pervasive? I suspect it was with good intentions. People find individual confession to be daunting and choose, perhaps, to avoid the sacrament altogether rather than venture into a confessional. Priests believed that by granting general absolution, they could draw back those who were skittish of individual confession.

I hope that the directive to diocesan priests has positive results. My fear is that priests will tell their parishes, "We can't do communal penance services anymore. The bishop said they are not allowed." This would be incorrect and deprive these communities of a wonderful opportunity for experiencing God's mercy. It would also sew discord and dissent against the Church.

How can parishes have penance services without granting general absolution? There are a few models I have seen in other dioceses. The service can simply conclude with an invitation to individual confession. Times for individual confession can be announced and/or priest(s) may be available immediately following the service. Alternately, particularly with a small community or when many priests are available, individual confession and absolution can happen within the service, which then concludes simply with a prayer.

I hope and pray that parishes in my diocese are able to continue penance services while accepting the directive to avoid general absolution as an ordinary form of the sacrament. We all have so much to gain from a communal recognition of our sinfulness and God's mercy.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Breaking Habits

Peter currently has three habits that we would love to see disappear. If you have any suggestions, I would be quite grateful.

The most concerning is his determination to pick at his face. He had a small injury on his cheek, which he began picking. We put antibiotic cream and a small bandage over it. He began picking at the edges, creating a new wound and learning how to remove the bandage. Picking at his face is now such a habit that he has created a few new spots on his other cheek! When we remind him not to pick, he responds, "Want to pick you face!" and continues. Bandages are removed within minutes. Using a thicker cream (like petroleum jelly) is occasionally effective, but not always. Right now I'm keeping his nails as short as possible and trying to keep cream on his "bumps". (He told me today, "You bump is hungry. Wants white yogurt." !!)

Daddy, Scooby-Doo, Peter, and his bumps

Less concerning but more annoying is his default to whining or all-out crying at the least provocation. Sometimes no provocation. With this one, we're at least making progress. We remind him that we can't help him if he doesn't use words to say what he wants and won't help him if he just cries at us. I'm also doing my best to provide lots of cuddle time and positive attention (as is my husband, but he works full-time). We seem to slowly see improvements, so I'm optimistic about phasing out the whining. You know, at least until the baby arrives.

Finally, the most perplexing. I'm a behaviorist, so I believe every behavior is goal-oriented. He picks his face because it feels good. He cries because it's gotten results in the past. Why does he persist in saying, "Oh my gosh," despite our disapproval? He learned it from some visiting kids. For the first couple weeks, we completely ignored it. No change. Then we started supplying alternatives. (i.e. "Oh my gosh, you shoes are there." "Oh dear! I see your shoes there!") Now we've been explicitly telling him we don't like him to say that. No change in frequency. I have no idea what he is gaining by saying it.


Friday, November 16, 2012

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 17): Of Love and Soup

On or near the 16th of every month, my husband and I go out to dinner to celebrate our "monthaversary." Peter plays with his grandparents and we take turns picking the eatery. I say eatery and not restaurant because I've been told my choice of Arby's does not constitute a restaurant.

Graduation, 5.13.06. We'd been dating less than a week.

Tonight, we went to an Irish pub on a local college campus, my husband's pick. Tip 1: Food quality and service at a college bar suffer when the college is on break.

Tip 2: This particular college (RIT) uses a quarter system (rather than semesters). Break started today.

The first oddity was the tomato basil bacon soup. The menu said tomato basil. It definitely was flavored with bacon bits. Glad I am not vegetarian.

My husband's soup came out after his meal arrived because the waitress forgot to put in the order. He didn't really mind, though, because he loves French onion soup, so he decided to save it for dessert. After he ate the cheese, he was perplexed by both the flavor and appearance of the soup. It had seeds. Turns out it was rye onion soup. Not sure if they ran out of French bread or just forgot how to make the soup. :-)

My husband pointed out to the waitress that this wasn't French onion soup, nor what the menu had promised (it specifically said French bread). She looked at us in bafflement. "What do you want me to do about it?" My giggles almost overcame me before she left the table. I turned to my husband, "I don't know. Do you want to finish it for me?" (She did take it off the bill when we suggested that.)

Truthfully, we had a good time and were satisfied with what we ended up paying for our meal, as we also had a coupon for a free entree. We plan to never go back. But hey, tonight was about celebrating our marriage. We had some laughs and now have another good story to tell each other. "Remember the rye onion soup place...?"

Monday, November 12, 2012

To Blog or Not to Blog

Over the summer, I drastically reduced the frequency of my blog posts. I was pregnant, traveling, volunteering at camp, and hosting visitors. Those were the stated reasons. Another big reason was simply burn-out. It wasn't fun to write anymore. I didn't think I had much of value to write and certainly didn't believe my usual readers would be excited by drivel.

When fall began, I got back into writing regularly, albeit only on weekdays (cutting out my Saturday posts). It's been going fairly well, but there are still evenings where I stare at the computer blankly, or go check out popular tags from some other blogs I enjoy, just hoping for inspiration. What started as a welcome project, giving me something creative and productive that encouraged daily reflection, has become a bit of a chore.

I don't want to stop blogging completely. For starters, Peter's grandparents and Godparents use my blog to keep up to date on his life and see lots of pictures. :-) More seriously, I do still have ideas I believe are worth sharing. If I stop blogging regularly, next time I want to write about something important, no one will be reading it anymore. (This is why my husband guest posts here on occasion. He doesn't write on his blog often enough that people check it, so he uses my audience.) :-)

Peter and my older Goddaughter on her iPad

It is not uncommon, though, for me to spend an hour each night on this. While that hour could be sucked away by Facebook, I could also be using it to work on learning more German, creating lesson plans for Sunday school, and/or researching activities I want to do with Peter. And once the new baby arrives, there will be even more demands on my time.

Starting this week, I am going to experiment with writing only M/W/F. Wednesday will still be gratuitous pictures of Peter (cute series of him first experiencing headphones coming soon!). Friday will still be "quick takes," but with legitimate subject matter (no more brain dumps). Mondays are anyone's guess. Optimistically, this will encourage me to delve into some other interests on Tuesday and Thursday while still providing a good outlet to write regularly. I hope you'll stick around!

Friday, November 9, 2012

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 16): Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse of Terror

About a year and a half ago, we took Peter to Bugaboo Creek, a steakhouse themed as a Canadian hunting lodge. Among its decor are a handful of animatronic animals that sporadically sing or make comments. Peter was a bit on edge, so my husband took him to walk around and look at something else. Then the Christmas tree opened its eyes and spoke. Peter lost it.

Last weekend, we decided to try Bugaboo Creek again. We actually picked it especially for Peter, who we thought would enjoy the animals now that he was old enough to understand they were just pretend. He was, in a word, terrified.

His biggest concern was for the life-size bison head mounted on the wall somewhat near our table. After the first time it spoke, he kept his eyes riveted on it, refusing to look away even to drink his chocolate milk. Sitting between my husband and me, he kept a grip on both of our hands, releasing one only if he could sit in one of our laps.

Eventually, the stress got to him and he asked to lie on the booth. He was asleep in about one minute.

He woke later and accompanied me to the bathroom (since staying at the table with only one of us was too scary). He was actually pretty happy in the bathroom, where nothing moved or talked. To convince him to leave, I reminded him of his dinner waiting: applesauce, hot dog, even chocolate cake! "And guess what, Mommy." "What?" "Buffalo." Well, yes, that too. He was relieved when it was time to go home.

Today, he and I went to the zoo. He liked the little animals (penguins, snakes, meerkats, etc.), but was visibly uneasy watching the big animals (lions, polar bears, elephants). "Probably going to sing, Mommy." "No, these ones are real animals. Real animals don't sing." *next exhibit* "You scared, Mommy. Going to sing." "No, only the pretend ones sing." *next exhibit* Trying to sound brave, "It's OK, Mommy, just pretend." "No, these ones are real... so they won't sing..."

It was a lost cause. I'm thinking it might be awhile before his grandparents can take him to Disney...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Peter Says

Me, reading from a book: What grain is in your favorite cereal?
Peter, whose only cereal is organic corn puffs: Corn syrup.

Peter is thrilled by the chance to help me do dishes: Mommy! Play dishes tonight!
(My husband says maybe I just have the wrong attitude about it...)

Mommy, sing do nothing song!
I don't know that song.
(sadly) I don't know that song either.

Bishop Emeritus of our diocese: Hello, Peter. How are you today?
Peter, who frequently refers to himself in the 2nd person: You are poopy!

Warming the heart of his English minor mother:
How are you, Peter?
You are doing well, Daddy!

Looking at some of my husband's novels:
This book. Let me check if it is boring. *flips through* It's boring. I probably put it back.

This is where he took his nap the other day.
On top of his matchbox cars.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Water into Wine

Praying the Rosary with Peter, I've been doing one luminous mystery each weeknight at bedtime. Tonight being Tuesday, we reflected on the wedding feast at Cana. (Well, at least I reflected. Peter interrupted a few times to ask when it would be his turn to say the Glory Be.)

Usually I reflect on Mary's command to the servers: do whatever He tells you. Miracles happen when our first response is to obey the voice of God.

Tonight, though, I was struck by another aspect of the story, the transformation of water into wine. Jesus took the mundane (if crucial) stuff of life and made it extraordinary. No longer water, nor even simply wine. The steward's reaction makes it clear that this was wine of the highest quality. The ordinary became worthy of great celebration.

Do I allow my encounters with Christ to transform my life like that?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Birth Plan, Round 2

Last week, my midwife encouraged me to bring my birth plan to the next appointment. Here's what we had for Peter's birth, which I plan on reusing unchanged. Hope this is helpful to moms trying to design their own plans! Most of my wishes were met for my first birth. I've included four footnotes to explain the few that did not go as I expected.

Aaah! This new world is so bright!

I hope to have a natural childbirth, with as few medical interventions as possible. I understand that interventions may be necessary for the health of the baby and me. I plan to have my husband, Jeremy, present throughout labor and birth. Please consult with us if medical concerns mean you will be unable to respect the following wishes. In case of a serious medical emergency, I would like a Catholic priest to be called.

I would like to be able to walk and change position at will throughout labor and delivery.(1)
I would like the room to have quiet, dim lighting, and as few people present as possible.
I would like to wait until I feel the urge to push before beginning the pushing phase.
I would like to be able to drink clear liquids throughout labor.

Medical Interventions
I do not wish to have any artificial labor induction or augmentation.
I would like to avoid using an IV or having an access device inserted unless necessary. (2)
I will ask for pain medications if I need them. Please do not offer during labor.
I prefer not to have an episiotomy unless required for the baby's safety.
I prefer not to have continuous or internal fetal monitoring, unless necessary. (3)

After Delivery
My husband does not wish to cut the cord. Please do not clamp/cut the cord immediately.
I would like to hold the baby while I deliver the placenta and any tissue repairs are made. (4)
Unless required for health reasons, I do not wish to be separated from my baby.
I plan to breastfeed the baby and would like to begin nursing very shortly after birth.

Infant Care
I would like to have the baby evaluated and bathed in my presence.
I prefer any immunizations, including Hep B, to be postponed to a later time.
If the baby is a boy, I do not want him circumcised.
I do not wish to have any bottles or pacifiers given to the baby.

(1) I spent most of my active labor time asleep, so this wasn't really an issue until the pushing phase. Somehow I ended up on my back with my legs in the air to push, which definitely wasn't what I originally had in mind. However, by that point I couldn't sustain logical thought for very long and just kind of did as I was told. This time around, my husband knows in more detail what I would like (last time, I think I confidently told him, "I can tell you what I want when it happens."). He can advocate for me more effectively.

(2) I was strep positive during Peter's pregnancy, so I was given antibiotics administered via an IV device. It was a little annoying, but not as bad as I thought it would be. Still, I hope to avoid it this time.

(3) Since there was meconium in my amniotic fluid, Peter was considered "in distress." The nurse began external continuous monitoring, which prevented me from using the shower. When my doctor arrived, he basically told her she was over-reacting, since there were NO signs of distress from the monitoring, and removed the monitor until during the pushing phase. Hooray!

(4) Again, since Peter was considered in distress, he was taken to the other side of the room immediately after birth to be checked. (His APGAR score was 9 both times, so he was fine.) Anyway, he wasn't brought back until after I had delivered the placenta and was all stitched up. Truthfully, that didn't really bother me, but since breastfeeding stimulates oxytocin release, it makes sense to have that helping along the placenta delivery.

Friday, November 2, 2012

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 15): Sabbath is made for man

As he was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. At this the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions?” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” Mark 2:23-27

For many Christians, keeping the Lord's day holy means attending church on Saturday evening or Sunday, end of story. I believe this misses the intent of the sabbath. (I realize the sabbath is Saturday, but most Christians interpret keep holy the sabbath (Exodus 20:8) as a commandment now applied to Sunday, the Lord's day.)

The Lord's day is intended to be a day of rest. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus emphasizes that the heart of observing the sabbath is not to follow restrictive or arbitrary rules, but to honor God through a day of rest. Yes, we Catholics are required to go to Mass, but that rule is similar to the law about stopping at stop signs - even if it weren't a law, we would do it because to do otherwise is to court disaster.

I know a handful of adults who use Sunday afternoon or evening as a time to catch up with the demands of their jobs. I know about this because the impending works ruins their day (and sometimes entire weekend). Instead of spending Sunday in joyful appreciation of the blessing of a day of rest, they spend it dreading work that needs to be done. Sunday is no longer the Lord's day; it is a reflection on the stresses of the work week.

I also know many, many students who use Sunday as the time to catch up on homework. Again, this robs the Lord's day of its holiness, focusing attention on mandatory assignments. I operated this way until a year or two into college, when I decided enough was enough. I wanted my Sundays back. I wanted one day a week to truly rest, not plan and stress about what needed to be done next.

Why don't more people want a day of rest? I think people do want it, but don't think they can afford it. Too much to do! Not enough time! That would waste an entire day! But would it, really? Would a day to recuperate and relax with your family truly be a waste? The Lord has given us six days to work. Can't we afford to follow his example and rest on the seventh?

In our household, we avoid any task we don't enjoy on Sundays (except changing diapers...). No yard work, cleaning, dishes, laundry, or job-related activities. Some might consider this extreme; we find it incredibly freeing. Yes, it requires a bit more planning (especially when Peter needed diapers washed every 2-3 days), but it's totally worth it. We have one day, every week, with no stress. Try it! What do you have to lose?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Saints Around the World

One way our family will celebrate our faith is by observing feast days of various saints. I know Peter is still too young to understand, but I hope as he grows he will appreciate learning about his faith and cultures around the world through the lives of these holy men and women. I have also included Church solemnities and feasts. Movable observances do not have a date.

This calendar does not include all the "famous" saints. Instead, I created it to have a mixture of men and women and to highlight many cultures, with an emphasis on those in our family's heritage (Irish, German, Dutch, Alsatian). I encourage you to find saints who share your heritage if you adopt this calendar for your family.

1/1       Solemnity of Mary
1/4       Elizabeth Ann Seton [USA]
1/6       Epiphany
            Baptism of the Lord
1/25     Conversion of St. Paul

2/1       Brigid [Ireland]
2/2       Presentation of the Lord
2/6       Martyrs of Japan/Paul Miki [Japan]
2/8       Josephine Bakhita [Sudan]
2/22     Chair of St. Peter

3/3       Katharine Drexel [USA]
3/14     Matilda of Saxony [Germany]
3/17     Patrick [Ireland]
3/19     Joseph, husband of Mary
3/25     The Annunciation

4/25     Mark the Evangelist

            Divine Mercy Sunday
            Holy Trinity
            Body & Blood of Christ
            Sacred Heart of Jesus

5/3       Philip & James, Apostles
5/10     Father Damien [Belgium, USA]
5/14     Matthias, Apostle
5/31     The Visitation

6/5       Boniface [Germany]
6/22     John Fisher [England] (patron of our diocese)
6/24     Birth of John the Baptist
6/29     Peter & Paul, Apostles (Peter's patron!)

7/3       Thomas, Apostle
7/14     Kateri Tekakwitha [Native American]
7/18     Arnulf of Metz [Alsace-Lorraine]
7/21     Abrogast of Strasbourg [Alsace-Lorraine]
7/25     James, Apostle
7/28     Alphonsa [India]

8/6       The Transfiguration
8/8       Mary MacKillop [Australia]
8/10     Lawrence
8/11     Clare [Italy]
8/15     Assumption
8/24     Bartholomew, Apostle
8/27     Monica [North Africa]
8/28     Moses the Black [Egypt]

9/8       Birth of Mary
9/14     Triumph of the Holy Cross
9/20     Andrew Kim Taegon [Korea]
9/21     Matthew, Apostle, Evangelist
9/23     Padre Pio [Italy]
9/29     Michael, Raphael, Gabriel
9/30     Jerome (my husband's patron saint)

10/1     Therese of the Child Jesus [France] (my patron saint)
10/2     Guardian Angels (our parish feast day)
10/4     Francis of Assisi [Italy]
10/7     Our Lady of the Rosary
10/18   Luke, Evangelist
10/28   Simon & Jude, Apostles

11/1     All Saints Day
11/2     All Souls Day
11/9     Dedication of Lateran basilica
11/16   Margaret of Scotland [Scotland]
11/24   Martyrs of Vietnam [Vietnam]
            Christ the King
11/30   Andrew, Apostle

12/3     Francis Xavier [Spain] (Peter's patron saint)
12/6     Nicholas [Netherlands]
12/8     Immaculate Conception
12/12   Our Lady of Guadalupe [Mexico]
12/13   Lucy [Scandinavia]
12/25   Nativity
12/26   Stephen
12/27   John, Apostle, Evangelist
12/28   Holy Innocents
            Holy Family