Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's all in the details

We read parts of the Passion narrative tonight at youth group, including the following verse
Pilate then took Jesus and had Him scourged. John 19:1
 My group of seventh graders weren't familiar with the words scourged or flogged. I told them it was similar to the way slaves were beaten for running away, that this wasn't just being hit once or twice, but a beating that could potentially kill someone. "And they did that to Him before they made Him carry the cross?" Some of them were outraged, others quietly thoughtful.

They've all heard the story before, of course. But the scourging didn't make an impression. It makes me wonder what details I'm missing when I read the Bible.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Shouldn't he fall asleep alone by now?

I've never been in a particular hurry to get Peter to master the next milestone. In fact, I've noticed that many of the same people who are concerned that he's not doing what they expect at 19 months (sleeping through the night, weaning, eating with a spoon) are the same people who bemoan how quickly childhood passes. Perhaps it wouldn't be so fleeting if children weren't rushed through it!

He's already growing so quickly!

That being said, I decided recently to find out if Peter was ready to fall asleep on his own. I tried a couple months ago and he definitely was not. (I tried to lay next to his mattress instead of on it with him; he wriggled over to press against me, grabbed my hand, and wrapped my arm around himself!) Now, he falls asleep on his own about 95% of the time.

Stage 1: Next to him without physical contact. After singing and nursing as long as he wanted, I laid him down, pulled up his covers, and sat next to him. He said, "Mimi?" once or twice and subsided with a little smile when I touched his face to let him know I was still there. We did this for two nights, on the second night he didn't need any reassurance.

Stage 2: In the room, but not within reach. This stage took the longest, I think three nights. When he called me, I would first respond by whispering, "Sleep time," so he knew I was there. If that wasn't enough, I would walk back over and stroke his cheek to help him feel secure again, then back away.

Stage 3: Out of sight, within earshot. I stood just outside his door, so I could immediately reassure him if he called me. I think this was only one night.

Stage 4: Downstairs! This is how tonight went: Lullabies, nursing, getting tucked in, a kiss and a whispered, "sleep time." I left the room with him quietly awake and happy. He fell asleep. No crying it out, just happy parents and happy little boy.

My general strategy was not to do anything that made him unhappy. I want him to know that I will respond whenever he needs me. Since he was ready, I wanted him to learn that he could safely, happily fall asleep without me next to him. If he hadn't been ready (not easily reassured by voice or touch), I would have waited another month or so and tried again.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Babymoon Flashback, Part 4

The concluding segment of our babymoon story. (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3)

Due to the way in which early events transpired on our vacation, Monday worked out to be the only true, full day we had in Miami. The forecast called for rain, and we'd decided our Plan B was to make the hour and a half drive to Biscayne National Park. However, having each spent some time in Central Florida, we thought that perhaps the rainstorms would be like the rainstorms in Orlando: pour violently for 20 minutes, then be sunny for 2 hours, and repeat.

Turns out rain in Miami is more like rain in Upstate New York (continuous and overcast for most of the day), but with more wind. We still gave the beach a shot, because we're tourists, but even going for a short walk wasn't particularly pleasant. We drove down to the park, hoping it might clear up by the time we got there. It didn't.

The visitor's center had a short, well-made informational video about all the things we would have seen had the weather been better. I knew from skimming the website that the islands were not accessible except by boat (and we weren't about to pay $70 for their boat tour in the rain), but the park also included several miles of coastline, so I figured we could drive around as we had in the Grand Canyon park on our August honeymoon when the heat started to get to us. I asked the employee in the visitors' center if there were any driving or walking trails around, and she curtly replied, "This is a marine park. It's 95% water." I guess in retrospect I'm not totally shocked that they didn't have roads, but I can't believe they only had one walking trail, that basically circled the visitors' center. That may have been just as well, though; the road leading to the park was not well-maintained, and I felt like we were going to be washed away when we exited due to the overflow from a small canal-like trench that ran parallel. I would like to go back sometime with a boat in better weather, though; the park looks like it's beautiful.

We didn't particularly have a Plan C, as the only other free, indoor things I found were art museums, which Liana doesn't care for (despite having once worked in one). We did have a Regal gift card, so we drove to the closest Regal, which was in the right direction anyway. However, the only thing playing Liana would have sat through was Percy Jackson, which I had roughly zero interest in, so we passed. It was in a mall, and we briefly considered hanging out there to kill time until dinner before realizing how pathetic that would be. We decided to head to the Hard Rock, where we'd decided to have dinner, early, in the hopes of beating rush hour traffic.

As it turns out, traffic doesn't seem to get much heavier or lighter at any time of day in Miami, so it was a fun/harrowing drive through downtown. The roads reminded me quite a bit of the tropical level in any real-world-inspired street racing video game I'd ever played. (Who needs to travel when you've got an Xbox?) We parked and walked over to an outdoor mall near the Heat's stadium in search of the Hark Rock, and found it right on the oceanfront. I was very impressed by the setup and, being from upstate New York, that some cities have managed to keep their downtown areas vibrant and safe.

We walked around a little bit after dinner and decided to head back to the hotel, figuring, if nothing else, we could relax in the room. It was still a bit too windy, but the rain had stopped, so we went to the hotel pool, which was heated to nearly the temperature of a hot tub. (It was lovely.)

The tub in our room was pretty sweet, too.

Fortunately, it was 81 and sunny on Tuesday, so although we had to leave around noon to catch our flight back, we got plenty of swimming and lounging on the beach in before we did leave. All in all, and despite everything else, I had a really enjoyable time, though I must admit that, if I had to do it again, I'd rather escape the cold weather in any other warm place I've ever been than Miami Beach (with the possible exception of Augusta, GA...I don't golf, so as far as I know there's not much for me there). They do allow tenting on the islands at Biscayne, however, which could be a great experience, provided the weather cooperates...

So there you have it. The craziness that was our babymoon. Did you take a vacation while pregnant with your first child? Was it anything like ours? :-)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Babymoon Flashback, Part 3

For those just joining us, I've been reposting my husband's account of our somewhat surprising  vacation to Miami Beach. Our first night in the other hotel was fine, if a bit short, considering we'd decided to go to 10:00AM Mass at a nearby church.

We got up, and I was all set to head down to breakfast when Liana suggested we get clarification from the hotel we were supposed to be staying at regarding what, exactly, "free breakfast" meant. I was confident that we could just bill the breakfast back to the room and they would take care of it...but I was wrong. Turns out they wanted us to check out and drive back to their hotel to have their breakfast for free. The breakfast was edible, but...well, let's just say I would've been annoyed if I'd paid $9 for it.

Since we couldn't check in yet and had some time, we decided to walk the mile or so to the church. The weather was sunny with temperatures in the 70s - a VERY welcome change for February. We also got to take in some of the sights of the more touristy areas of Miami Beach. It probably wasn't much longer walking than it would've been driving; traffic was horrendous. The cars themselves were not, though. Probably every fifth vehicle was a Mercedes. We later heard radio commercials for Mercedes and BMW dealerships...in contrast to Rochester, where you either get one at the one dealership in town or (if you're most of the populace) just drive past and dream. I also saw a Lamborghini in person for the first time (illegally parked, of course). We couldn't really see the beach as we were walking because of the large hotels, but it was still nice to enjoy the weather.

The church was in a more residential area, across the street from a park where what looked like a soccer league game was taking place. At 9:30 AM on a Sunday, in February! The church service was mostly normal, though I bring it up because, immediately prior to the dispensation of communion, the ushers walked up the aisles shouting, "PLEASE STAY IN YOUR PEWS UNTIL YOUR ROW IS DISMISSED!" I'm not sure which was more jarring: the shouting, or that it was immediately followed by a few people trying to run up to get ahead of everyone! (After we got back, we mentioned this in a meeting at our church to several middle-aged folks, who all reacted "Oh, the Communion Police! I haven't seen them in a long time!" Which suggests to me this used to be more common. I'm glad it's uncommon now.)

After walking back and doing our grocery shopping (eating in the room was quite a bit cheaper, and it was a bit of a stretch to even take the trip), we needed to take a nap. That was probably the worst part of our escapades the previous evening, since by the time we woke up, the temperature had dropped and it had clouded up. We still decided to make our way to the beach for a little while. There were a bunch of beach chairs set up, and we sat down in a small faux hut with cushioned, wooden seats. After a minute or so, a hotel staff person came over to us and asked if we were staying at the hotel. We told him we were, and he informed us that, if one wishes to sit in the faux huts, one must rent them. $20 for the privilege of sitting there, and another $5 for the cushions! We declined, and moved to the regular, plastic chairs (which we both actually found more comfortable, and were free to hotel guests). We stayed for a short while before heading back to our room. It had a Jacuzzi tub, which was quite relaxing, and we got to watch some of the Olympics. It was supposed to rain the next day, so we checked the Internet for a free or cheap Plan B. The best option seemed to be Biscayne National Park, which was about an hour and a half away, so we decided that would be what we'd do if sitting on the beach wasn't an option.

Next: The weather, the mall and downtown Miami.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Babymoon Flashback, Part 2

After getting all the all clear for our "surprise" trip to Miami Beach, we thought we were in the clear for a totally relaxing vacation. The flight down was largely uneventful (even got to Atlanta ahead of schedule). Our flight left at 5:30, first afternoon departure for either of us. There was practically no line at the airport, and everything in general just felt much more relaxed.

However, once we got to the car rental lot, I could see the downside of late afternoon travel. It was a little after midnight when we arrived, and Budget's computers were all down, so they had to do all the paperwork manually. While standing in line for 45 minutes would have been frustrating any time, it was much more so given that it was so late and I knew we still had a half-hour drive to our hotel. (The people in front of us had missed their connection to Chile, though, and their luggage hadn't, so it could've been worse...) Eventually, they gave us our car - a Corolla, which I'm pretty sure was an upgrade. An upgrade that had me paranoid about sudden, uncontrolled acceleration, but since that didn't happen, it was better than an Accent.

The first thing that struck me about driving through Miami was how much it looks like Vice City. I know the game was modeled after Miami, but I thought it was an exaggeration. The colors really are that pastel on many of the signs. The second thing that struck me was how sketchy Miami is at 1 AM. I spent a few evenings in various parts of Las Vegas on a business trip once, but even that was less sleazy than the areas we were driving through on the way to the beach. Oddly, the same roads looked fairly normal during the day, which means that the XXX places are intermingled with all the fast food joints, convenience stores, and cash for gold places (also a higher concentration of the latter than I've ever seen before).

The part of Miami that we drove through the first night had few skyscrapers, and I'd speculated that perhaps they built the city flatter than most its size due to hurricanes. My, was I mistaken. The entire coastline in the part of Miami Beach where we were staying is speckled with tremendously large hotels designated by tiny little signs. We missed ours on the first pass, and circled back around. We found out later it was 12 stories high, and was dwarfed by several of its neighbors.

We walked inside, and were promptly greeted by a strong alcohol stench. It reminded me of my college apartment that bordered a frat house. We went to the desk and tried to check in.

The operative word in that sentence was "tried", because the fellow working there informed us that, due to "an incident", they didn't actually have a room for us, even though we had a reservation we'd paid for. But don't worry, he assured us. They'd made arrangements with another hotel about a mile down the road for us to stay the night there, and to make up for the inconvenience, they'd give us free breakfast the next day, and we'd get free parking for the during of our stay. (The parking would have been $12 a day normally, something that wasn't advertised and I found to be outrageous...I understand it makes their rates look lower, but I can't imagine it does wonders for repeat business. Then again, not having rooms available can't help that either...)

So we went down the street to the other hotel, armed with a letter from the first place. I drove past that one as well, and when I did get to the entrance, I pulled up to their garage. It was under the hotel, with a ramp to the side that led up to the actual building. A sign said to wait for valet, so I rang the buzzer nearby. Nothing happened. We sat for a minute or so before deciding to go up the ramp.

"You know," Liana said, "I think I know now why neither of our parents ever took us to Miami."
"Because it sucks?"
"Yeah, exactly."

Turns out the valet was at the top of the ramp (guess the call box was for show?) and he took care of us. We gave the letter from hotel #1 to the clerk at hotel #2, who then pulled out a small storage tote that was labeled "Vouchers" from under the desk. There was about a quarter-inch of paper inside, and I could see hotel #1's letterhead on the first few papers. Even in my exhausted state, I was still able to find it amusing/incredible that this happens frequently enough that hotel #2 has a LABELED STORAGE TOTE for such things.

After all this, the room ended up being very nice - though, by this point it was after 2 AM, so anything with a flat and somewhat soft surface would've been 5 stars in my book.

Next: The Communion Police, and how even sitting on the beach can be expensive in Miami.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Babymoon Flashback

My husband originally wrote about our comedy of errors (aka babymoon) in Feb. 2010 as a series of four posts. It bears reposting.

Bienvenido a Miami

On the advice of Liana's cousin, we decided to go on a short vacation before the baby is born. It would be the last chance we'd have to get away, just the two of us, for a while. So Liana looked into it and booked us a trip to Miami Beach for a relaxing, long weekend at the end of March.

Or at least, that's what we thought.

I had an hour-long meeting at 9 AM at work on Friday, and returned to my desk to find 3 missed calls and an urgent-sounding "call me when you get this" voicemail from Liana. I called back.

"So, you know that trip to Miami next month?" "Yeah..." "We're leaving tomorrow."

Apparently Liana had accidentally booked the trip for February rather than March, and didn't notice on the first confirmation e-mail that the month was 2 instead of 3, since the dates were the same. We were notified by the two-days-before reminder e-mail Orbitz sends that we were, in fact, about to leave. (Liana commented after we got back that she had always questioned the purpose of the two-days-before reminder e-mail: "Who's going to forget about their out-of-state vacation?" Now we know.)

My boss very graciously allowed me to take the following Monday and Tuesday off when I explained the situation. As it happens, we had made our deadline that day at work, so in that sense, the timing was good. It was also fortunate that Liana had used a site like Orbitz, which meant that, while the flight and hotel reservations were wrong, they were wrong consistently.

Since we'd gotten all of that taken care of, the rest would be smooth sailing... right?

Next: First impressions and the downside of late-afternoon departure times.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I don't want to work for solidarity.

Sunday night, my husband and I had a long discussion about politics, economics, and the state of our country. We talked about the effectiveness of The System and what people like us might be able to do to change it. How do we respond as Catholics? What is beyond our control? Are some things inevitable?

By the end of the conversation, all I wanted to do was close our curtains and stay home for the rest of my life, inhabiting a safe little bubble of Catholic life, natural parenting, and eco-friendly choices. It would be so much easier not to care.

I don't want to call my government representatives, who reply in sound bytes and do what the people with money ask of them. I don't want to rally my neighborhood to petition for change, just to be ignored by the town council. I don't want to remind pastoral leaders about the dictates of Canon Law, only to be assured that this way is just as good.

I'm tired of fighting. I don't want to care. But I don't really have a choice.

"Open your mouth for the mute, 
 For the rights of all the unfortunate."
 Proverbs 31:8 (NASB)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Medical Monday, again

In good news, the diaper rash is almost gone. They never did figure out what caused it. It ended up responding to Bum Balm and Triple Paste. (However, now our lovely cloth diapers are somewhat water repellent, due to diaper cream use. Any stripping suggestions?)

In bad news, my little guy who had a cough yesterday woke up this morning with a 102F underarm temperature, which is equivalent to 103 orally. He also has a runny nose and the cough continues. We made an appointment with our pediatrician for this afternoon.

Of course, by about an hour before the appointment, the fever had broken once and returned much lower (~100.5). He had eaten lots of canned pear and was mostly acting normal, if a bit clingy. So we called back and the nurse recommended canceling the appointment.

But never too sick to pose for the camera!

Tonight, the fever got a bit worse and he was miserable again. When he coughs, he cries, which makes it worse. We put him to bed with his humidifier running and his head elevated (pillow under his mattress). Here's hoping for a good night's sleep (for all of us) and a healthier little boy tomorrow.

As an aside, I am SO glad to still be breastfeeding. Fluids, calories, and comfort all in one!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lessons from Peter, age 19 months

This morning Peter and I went to donate my hair to Locks of Love, as part of a fundraiser for Camp Good Days. I brought him along because I needed to leave soon after he woke and I didn't want my absence to make his morning miserable. I'm not sure it helped. He was wide-eyed through the entire ordeal and would not be separated from me by inches, even to eat cereal with my best friend, whom he likes. (He even calls her by name!)

Not my best shot, but you get the idea.
And I didn't color it, it's still reddish, not whatever odd color is showing here.

We arrived around 8:30, my haircut probably happened around 10. The time for us to reveal our new haircuts kept getting pushed back, so we stayed until 12:45. By this time, he had eaten the banana and cereal I packed for him and used up both clean diapers. We were past ready to leave.

Peter fell asleep in the car. We picked up my husband and drove up to my parents' house to take a walk with my Dad to the local craft/hobby shop. Peter was pretty stoic about the whole thing, until he saw the play train tables. He was enthralled. He played happily through the whole visit and tried to take a train car with him when we said it was time to leave.

"Peter, the train needs to stay here. We can't take it with us." He turned around, immediately replaced it on the table, then burst into tears. He wasn't angry, he didn't resist comfort from us, he was just heartbroken about losing his new toy.

Tonight, he was all smiles and hugs and kisses. He played in his bath, snuggled before bed, and fell easily asleep.

Wouldn't it be great if we were all so forgiving?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Why Bad Things Happen to Good Children

I know a little girl who was diagnosed with a lifelong disease in early elementary school. Every day she undergoes medical treatments to keep her healthy. This is one of those situations that can make people question God. Why would he allow a little child to suffer like this?

I don't know this girl's family very well, but I see them every now and again, as I have since well before the disease was diagnosed. When I first met them, I was struck by how unhappy the mother was. Aside from the typical griping about the hardships of child-rearing, her interactions with her little ones seemed completely devoid of joy. It was as if every request they made, whether for play, affection, or basic needs, was unreasonable. She felt martyred and it showed.

The diagnosis of the little girl changed everything.

The threat to her daughter seemed to awaken this mother to the gift of her children. Seeing her now is a lesson in good parenting. She can laugh at frustrations of raising her spirited younger one. She freely offers and receives hugs and kisses. She anticipates her little ones'  needs and cares for them. This family has blossomed. Everyone, including the little girl, is filled with love and joy.


Is it possible that this transformation could have come through another situation? Maybe. Maybe not. God's wisdom is not ours. The hardship of this disease should not be downplayed; it is a serious struggle for the little girl and her parents. But the gains have been amazing.

There are situations where the ultimate good is not as visible. But I don't see tragedy as an obstacle to faith in God. If pain in this life is what is required for eternal joy, isn't it worth the trade?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Empty Buildings Are The Safest Of All

My husband and I are frustrated at the state of affairs in our diocese. While we're better off than some (one diocese has cited children's safety as a reason not to have coffee hour!), the culture of fear is getting ridiculous. My husband commented recently that he wished he had a blog people read, so he could voice his discontent. I offered mine. 


A few weeks ago, a woman from a ministry I volunteer with at church went to the building during a youth group meeting to do some work for the ministry. She is also a Sunday School teacher, has completed the Diocesan "Creating A Safe Environment" training required for working with kids, and had her 5 year old daughter with her.

She was kicked out of the building.

We learned that the policy of the Diocese of Rochester is that, during any youth group meetings, no adults who are not official youth group volunteers are allowed in the building unless escorted by a youth group volunteer. I also learned that, during CYO basketball games, they have a separate "adult bathroom" to which a volunteer must escort parents and fans so that adults and children will not be in the same bathroom at the same time.

All of these are in place, of course, because "we have to put the security of our children first".

So, basically, we've institutionally begun treating every person who enters our churches as child molesters, and implying that anyone who complains about it is trying to compromise our children's safety.

And they don't understand why attendance is dropping precipitously.

My hometown is in the Diocese of Syracuse. My friend's parents are the youth group leaders for the Catholic church in town, and at least as of last time I checked (which was after the draconian policy was introduced in Rochester), they led youth group meetings at their house. By themselves, sometimes. Granted, the town is much smaller, but I haven't heard any issues with that. And they were recently able to build a large new addition onto their building, so even as church attendance goes down nationally, they seem to be doing all right.

What's making this issue worse is that catechises (the fancy Catholic word for "teaching our faith") has been abysmal in the Diocese for many years. My wife and I have been absolutely flabbergasted at some of the things we've heard people being taught, or things others have said (antithetical to Catholic teaching) that have gone uncorrected. Without knowledge, the Catholic Church is no different than Protestant churches other than a bunch of arbitrary restrictions. They aren't truly arbitrary, but if you don't explain things to people, they sure will seem that way.

If I didn't believe in the Eucharist, I would shake the dust off my feet on my way out of the local Catholic church in a heartbeat. And we've raised a generation of people who, by and large, do not believe in the Eucharist. And now we're treating them like second-class citizens. (I was actually told openly at a church event by an older woman that all men are either child molesters or would cover for them. While the leader was not supportive of the comment, no one but me called her out on it.)

Instead of asking why people are leaving, I think it's time to start asking ourselves why people would possibly ever want to stay. How sad. But we can fix it! We just need to actually teach people the faith again, and treat them like people. It should be a beautiful faith. Let's try to keep it that way.

Jeremy is still praying for the Catholic Church even though he has all but given up the idea that he can say anything himself to stop the currently pervasive insanity. You can catch him in all his snarky glory on Twitter (@top10wolves).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Boy at Play

He didn't build most of this, but he did get that triangle to balance!

Mr. Independent

Straight line, single file.

Static here?

Swim class with Daddy!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Did you plan for Lent today?

The two biggest feasts of the Church year are Christmas and Easter. Each of these is so important that, in addition to an extended season of celebration, the liturgical year includes a season of preparation. Advent and Lent help us to focus on what is important and prepare ourselves to celebrate Jesus' birth and resurrection, respectively.

This is good. I appreciate the time to prepare. I value the Church's help in being mindful of the season. What I don't appreciate is preparing to prepare.

Currently, the Church is in the season of Ordinary Time (1/9-2/22 this year). We still have a full week left! This is time to enjoy the rhythm of the Church year, to explore our spirituality, and soak in what we have learned. It is a good time.

Golfing to celebrate Ordinary Time.
Get it? Because I'm on the green. Like the liturgical color! Get it?
Oh cheesy Catholic humor...

Unfortunately, people at church have been prompting me to prepare for Lent for the past month.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why can't we just enjoy the time we have instead of constantly looking ahead to what is next? Many families begin celebrating Christmas weeks ahead of time and have erased all signs of Christmas by the end of December. I know very few people who celebrate Easter throughout the entire 50 days of the Easter season. We want to check off our To Do list and move on, satisfied that we have completed our latest assignment.

Lent is a season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I don't think any of these require much, if any, pre-planning. Certainly not weeks of it! Lent is not the event we should be anticipating. Let it be as it was intended, a time of preparation. The main event is yet to come.

Monday, February 13, 2012


I am reading... Dreaming the Eagle, a book about the old tribes of Ireland. It's a well-crafted story, if a bit different from what I usually choose.

I am praying for... a good night's sleep. I need to shake some lethargy/apathy that's plagued me recently. On the positive side, I am praying for the unborn child of a close friend, for a healthy pregnancy for mom and baby.

Yeah, that kind of sleep would be good.

My favorite seasonal food is... warm brownies. I made a batch at my parents' house the other night and they were delicious! Really, it's hard to beat chocolate.

I am planning... to go out to dinner on Wednesday. My husband and I go out on the 16th of every month to celebrate our "monthaversary". In February, we usually go on the 15th, splitting the difference with Valentine's day. It's my month to choose the restaurant... so probably Panera or the food court at the mall. (I have the cultured palate of a 5 year old.)

I was recently surprised by... the lack of penguins outside at the zoo. We took Peter on Saturday in sub-freezing temperatures, mostly staying in the buildings. Of the outside exhibits, we saw a cougar, some wolves, a tiger, and a polar bear -- but none of the penguins! Wimps. :-)

Saturday, February 11, 2012


I considered including information about adoption in yesterday's post regarding the morality of fertility treatment, but ultimately decided the two topics didn't necessarily belong together. Certainly families well able to have biological children can adopt and couples unable to have biological children are under no obligation to adopt. At the same time, for couples who desire children but struggle with infertility, adoption can be a wonderful opportunity.

There are literally millions of children around the world eagerly awaiting adoption. They are in every country, sick and healthy, newborns and teenagers, typical and with a variety of physical, emotional, and mental disabilities. They are children. They want to be loved.

My cousin around the time of his adoption ceremony.
Yes, Peter does look a lot like him sometimes!

You can read about Christine's dream to adopt (the comments are great, too!) and Melissa's loving family of biological and adopted children. Both of these provide excellent food for thought about what adoption means, both for the adopting family and the child.

At this time, my husband and I are not considering adoption. I think the explanation "God's not calling us to that" can easily be a cop-out and I pray we're not using it as one. Right now, we don't think this is God's plan for us. However, discernment is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. Things change. There certainly is a Biblical mandate to care for widows and orphans, so we know we could be asked to bring a new family member into our home, rather than simply donating money to agencies that serve these "least ones".

Have you considered adoption? What factors do you weigh in the decision?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Treating Infertility as a Catholic

One of my dearest friends desires a child more than any other gift. Some of my cousins have struggled with infertility and the devastating grief of miscarriage. Through them, I know some of the pain involved. So I hesitate to even write this post. I know that I cannot speak from experience, so what I say may be viewed as judgmental or heartless. I hope you can believe that what I intend is an explanation of Catholic theology, not criticism or dismissal of another's pain.

On the part of the spouses, the desire for a child is natural: it expresses the vocation to fatherhood and motherhood inscribed in conjugal love. This desire can be even stronger if the couple is affected by sterility which appears incurable. Nevertheless, marriage does not confer upon the spouses the right to have a child, but only the right to perform those natural acts which are per se ordered to procreation. A true and proper right to a child would be contrary to the child's dignity and nature. The child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered as an object of ownership: rather, a child is a gift, "the supreme gift" and the most gratuitous gift of marriage, and is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents. For this reason, the child has the right, as already mentioned, to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception. Donum Vitae

Momma Jorje asked how I feel about planning for children instead of planning to avoid them. It is good to want children. God commanded, "Be fruitful and multiply." Using NFP to track fertile times and increase the chances of conception is a proper use of our sexuality -- assuming that sex does not become just something that must be done, separated from the love between spouses.

A simple explanation of other fertility treatments is that love and life should not be divided. Any treatments that improve the likelihood of conception within the natural marital act are acceptable. This would include treating ovulatory and hormonal dysfunctions or surgical correction of physical causes of infertility. (Somewhat as an aside, sperm samples can be morally collected using a perforated condom during sex. Sperm samples from masturbation are unacceptable.)

Treatments that make marital intercourse unnecessary are considered immoral. This would include IVF, artificial insemination, ovum donation, or a surrogate uterus. I truly cannot imagine how couples must feel to be denied children. I know my soul-friend's pain, but only filtered through her, not as my own. It must seem cruel for the Church to speak out against technology that would allow these married couples to become parents.

prayer for souls

The Church is compelled to speak here. Even artificial insemination using sperm from one's husband disorders God's plan for sexuality. It separates the act of love from the act of life, leaving the creation of life in the hands of a doctor instead of the child's parents. The issues of masturbation, homosexuality and bisexuality, artificial contraception, premarital sex, and immoral fertility treatments are not separate issues. They all spring from a misuse of our sexuality.

Trusting God can be so hard.

"For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the LORD, 
"plans for welfare and not for calamity 
to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).

Image credit: archangel_raphael via Flickr

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thy Will Be Done

Welcome to the first Family Size Blog Carnival!
This post was written for inclusion in the Family Size Blog Carnival hosted by Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling and Patti at Jazzy Mama. Today our participants share their decisions on family size and whether or not to grow their families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

When Patti asked me if I would be writing for this carnival, I replied, "I am definitely going to submit something for this one! The hard part is deciding what aspect and writing in such a way that I am not dismissed as a Catholic freak."

Family size isn't a big deal to me. I think a family with one child can be loving and complete, just as a family with a dozen children can be. Every family is unique and the birth of a child will change family dynamics, bringing new joys and challenges. I wouldn't presume to say a family had too many or not enough children.

My mom with 7 of her 8 siblings at my cousin's wedding.

What does matter to me is how family size is determined. My understanding of human sexuality is that conjugal love is expressed through the covenant act of marriage, which is intercourse. Sex is sacred and designed to be life-giving. The gift of life comes from Love. That's why Catholics oppose artificial contraception. (And, incidentally, why Natural Family Planning is not just an alternative form of contraception. Click here to read my journey from NFP to control free!)

Part of a Catholic marriage is vowing to be open to children. This means every sexual act is to be open to children. After all, our other vows weren't meant to be applied sporadically! "Hey, you know how I promised to be faithful to only you? Well, I didn't mean every day." :-) It's about trust. It's about surrender. It's not about convenience.

I try not to visibly wince when people say they've decided to be done having children. Intellectually, I know that others don't see sexuality the way I do, but emotionally and spiritually, it's a hot-button issue for me. I wish I could craft such a blog post that all you who read it would jump up and say, "That's right! That's how God created us to be! Honey, throw out the condoms!"

For me, the answer to all questions regarding family size and sibling spacing is simple: God's will be done. Maybe that seems naive. Maybe it seems irresponsible. Maybe I'm being dismissed as a Catholic freak after all. So be it. :-)


Visit City Kids Homeschooling and Jazzy Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Family Size Blog Carnival!
Please take some time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants below:
  • The Perfect Family The family at Living Peacefully With Children isn't perfect, but the size is just right for them...at least for now.
  • Family Size Carnival Zoie at TouchstoneZ discusses how she loves the extremes of being happily child-free for life to being a mom of several. And on knowing when her family is just the right size.
  • Is Adoption for Me? Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares why she would consider adoption as the socially responsible way to have a large family.
  • Getting Used to Having Kids Lauren at Hobo Mama went from "probably one, maybe two" to wanting a handful, but not without some major struggles and soul searching along the way.
  • Magic Number For a while, Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales has wondered what the magic number will be for their family, but now thinks she's finally settled on an answer.
  • How Did You Get That Size Jorje explains how she "chose" her family size and why they aren't planning to grow again on Momma Jorje.com.
  • Family Size On A Per Kid Basis Sarah at Parenting God's Children shares how plans change as families grow.
  • More Babies: How, When, Why Joella at Fine and Fair writes to her daughter about when, how, and why she might get a sibling.
  • Family Size Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares how she has no idea what size her family will end up being; though she used to be sure, a few factors have recently come up to change everything.
  • Thy Will Be Done CatholicMommy hasn't decided how many children she'll have. And she never will. Because, you know, she's Catholic.
  • Sanity and Health Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment talks about sanity and health considerations when deciding on her family's size.
  • Love Comes In All Sizes Melissa at White Noise and Mothers of Change shares her family's journey to becoming a family of six!
  • Family Size Liz at Homeschooling in Buffalo discusses how this carnival occurs less than two weeks after "closing up shop" by way of vasectomy.
  • Family Size Blog Carnival Billy, a single mother by choice, writes about the size of her family at My Pathway to Motherhood.
  • Creating Your Perfect Family Size Dr. Alan Singer shares insights from his new book, Creating Your Perfect Family Size.
  • Our Family Size You might not be surprised to learn that Patti at Jazzy Mama can't find any reasons NOT to have more babies.
  • Economics of Family Size Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling uses an economic cost-benefit analysis to determine her family's optimal size.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Trials of a Long Attention Span

I recently recognized one of my greatest parenting struggles. I have a long attention span. I don't enjoy flitting from one activity to the next and I hate leaving a task partially complete. If we're going to play blocks, let's play blocks. If I'm going to wash dishes, I want to wash all of them. If I have a book to read, I finish it in one or two days.

The problem is, Peter is 18 months old. And has the attention span of a gnat.

A cute gnat...

I've adjusted to his style of play by cleaning up one activity before moving onto the next. This takes more time and gives me the sense of order I crave. It helps me tolerate the attention deficit world I now inhabit!

For my own activities, it's a little more difficult. I've never been good at breaking things down into simple steps. I was one of those students who wrote the essay first, then went back and did the required outline. I don't want to do a little bit each day. I want to take one day and do everything, but this just isn't possible with a toddler.

I think the best solution for me is to do chores before they become significant. Wash the dishes every day instead of every few days. Do laundry as soon as I have enough for one load. And maybe start reading short stories instead of novels... Ugh. Parenting is tough for procrastinators!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Quick Tips

A fun, busy day with my brother and sister-in-law! Time for a quick post, then off to watch some Psych.

To reduce the amount of conditioner you need, brush your hair before you take a shower. This really minimizes the number of tangles! Granted I have straight hair, but if I brush my hair first, I can comb it after without using any conditioner.

We buy a few foods (tortillas, cheese) that come in resealable plastic bags. It's not a great idea to reuse these for food storage, as the plastic breaks down over time, but we save them for our trash. Smelly food bits? Something sticky? Broken glass? Just put them in the resealable bag and save yourself a trip to the trash can outside!

If you've ever stepped on a Cheerio, you know they are difficult to clean. Peter doesn't eat Cheerios because of a low tolerance for oats and we've already decided our future children won't, either. Peter eats puffed corn. When you step on it, it stays in one piece! SO much easier to clean.

Any tips on how to clean a squished banana?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ability and Opportunity

I took Peter for his 18 month checkup and was given a whole list of developmental milestones to check. Overall, he's right where he should be in most areas and a little advanced in some.

But he doesn't eat well with a spoon.

I told the nurse practitioner that we usually feed him, so he hasn't had much opportunity to practice. I have no concerns about his fine motor abilities. She was not impressed.

I'm frustrated that she implied I was a lazy parent. I'm frustrated that she recommended starting with sticky oatmeal, when his chart says he's allergic to oats. I'm frustrated that we have a carpeted kitchen, that a spoon reflects on Peter's likelihood of success in life, and that we had to wait 20 minutes to be insulted.

It's a good thing we like our actual doctor. And that we have six months before we're supposed to go back.