Thursday, February 23, 2012

Did you get your Ash to Mass?

And Lent begins.

And there is so much to give penance for, so many sacrifices to be made.

My attempts at conscientious interior change has a lot to do with the way I parent my children, which of late has meant a louder voice, a slower step, and an angry spirit.  I don't like that, and I want to change it.

You've seen, I'm sure, the ads for anti-depression or anti-anxiety medications that ask the questions about who depression hurts, where depression hurts, etc, and the answers begin with "every."  "Everyone," "everywhere," etc.

It's true.  I wonder, where I am concerned, if I think myself into the pain I experience from time to time, inferring discomfort where none actually is.  I need to change my attitude about it, I think.  And I know that my disposition affects everyone around me.  Although I can reason about it, that doesn't mean my little ones can do the same.  All they know is, "Gee, Mama's in a rotten mood today.  Again."  I need to change that, too.

So, this Lent, I do not intend to "give up" things that really make no true difference to anyone but me, because that doesn't do any good for anyone else, and it doesn't really even make a big difference for me--because at the end of Lent, I would just go back to my old ways, and what kind of sacrifice is that?  I want a sacrifice that will have lasting meaning.  Giving up chocolate or soda or whatever doesn't have lasting meaning.

Instead, I propose a true change in spirit.  I need to make an intentional effort to change from within, and that means beginning by altering my interior prayer habits.

I am re-reading Holiness for Housewives and Other Working Women, and I am adding The Way.

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As always, things move along with the addition.  Though we moved out of our former bedroom in October, it remained as a sort of hallway between the old hallway and the new laundry room.  The lack of privacy made it impractical for use as a bedroom in the interim, and so it was a place for cousin sleep-overs, storage, and collection of stuff.

But it's one of the last rooms needing work, and so My Darling has (finally!) turned his attention to it.  I think he goes in seasons, like I do, with being in a funk.  I saw it coming, and I wanted to help him swing around it, rather than slog through it...so I said, "Hey, could we start work on That Room?"  And so he did.

There was a huge, beautiful, built-in dresser in that room.  It was one of the things we were most excited about when we looked at this house twelve years ago.  Fifteen drawers is a lot of storage!!  Well, fifteen drawers is also a lot of space to fill up with things we don't need.  So the first thing done in That Room was to remove the top of the dresser, cut down the supporting structure, and replace the top.  This will serve as storage (but only six drawers, thankyouverymuch) and also a seating area.  And since this is to become a bedroom for some girlies, we'll make a comfortable cushion to sit atop the lovely bench, and toss some squishy pillows on it, and let the girlies sprawl out and read or gab or sing or *whatever*.  He added boxes above the bench, where we'll put two sconces for light.  Dimmer switches will make them useful for nightlights if necessary, too.  Here, you can see My Darling measuring for the sconce placement.  See the finished bench?  The wooden side was part of the original dresser.  The man who built the thing was brilliant!

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The next order of business was building the end of the bench.  Previously, there had been a wooden divider between dresser and closet--that whole wall had been devoted to clothing storage.  When we created the upstairs opening between the existing house and the addition, we did it through that closet, eliminating half of it.  For months, it was just a hole in the wall, and we could close it off by sliding the closet door shut.  Eventually, My Darling framed in the actual door, put up drywall to shape the passageway, and added a door.  Good thing, too, since the laundry room also houses the third flush toilet, thanks be to God! 
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To go from a home with one bathroom to all of a sudden having options, well that's just about the biggest luxury I can think of.

Anyway, the end of the bench is now a little half-wall, and will be a nice place to lean against when sitting on the bench.  See where the sconces will be?

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The new wall, the actual wall, which now divides the room from the old hallway, has been framed and drywalled now, too.  It's so exciting to see this transformation--once again, to have thought something up and see it take shape, to know that that bedroom served us well for eleven years and will now be the place where our daughters will sleep and play and study and dream and gab and *whatever*, is a great thing to be able to reflect on.

Looking into the laundry room, through what once was the closet in our bedroom, now looks like this:
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And speaking of studying, the gap between the wall and the half-wall will be a desk area.  Ok, this was complete and total genius, if I do say so myself--and I do.  I do!!  When I found the smaller dresser (for SEVEN DOLLARS, for Pete's sake!) which was stripped, refinished, and transformed into the sink for the laundry room, part of that process was cutting off the top of the dresser.  I wasn't sure what was to become of that piece of walnut: should we put it on a piano hinge, attatch a swinging leg, and make a wall-mounted, fold-away table with it?  Should I add legs to it and make a little stand-alone table with it?  What would become of this beautiful piece of wood??  Well, of course it was meant to be a desk top.  Didn't you know?  I didn't know.  But now I know!  My Darling will fix this lovely piece of wood into the space between the two walls, build a bookshelf beneath it, install a floating shelf above it (which will house a couple of lights, of course!) and make a great place for studying.  See?  Genius!  So in the photo above, you can see where the desk will go (imagine away the 5-gallon bucket of debris, if you would please), and to the right is the laundry room.  If you were to turn further to the right, still, you would be looking down the old hallway.  The bedroom door is on an angle.

My hope is that we can somehow use the remaining nine drawers and their framework either in the sun room or the basement.  We do have things to store.  And these drawers, having been crafted bya cabinet-maker, are really well-made.  I do not intend to waste them!!  And if it works out the way I am hoping it will, I can make another set of cushions and pillows, and have another bench...so it won't be wasted storage space.  Woot!

I'm not sure about the timeline, but I'm guessing we'll be able to start painting That Room this weekend, and will hopefully be moving the bunkbeds into the room next week.  I don't want to think too far ahead about it, because I know all too well the disappointment that comes with projecting a timeline on something like this, only to be held up by something or another.  So I'm making up my mind ahead of time to remain flexible and as relaxed as possible.  Saint Joseph, pray for me!!

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Prayer Requests:

*Keep praying for C and V.  Baby is not yet born, which is good.  What the outcome will be, only our Father in Heaven knows.  I know what I'm praying for though.

*Still praying for Joshua P. and his family, and for Rebekah and her family, too.

*Pray for all those affected by emotional or mental disorders, for all those in chronic pain, for all those lonely and forgotten, and for their families.

*Pray for expectant mothers, their babies, and their families.

*Pray for those terminally ill and their families and caregivers, especially when their primary caregivers are their family.

*I always keep anyone who might be reading in my prayers, too.  If you want to leave a prayer intention, feel free to do so.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

And today, we shall wash the diapers.

I make no promises of regularity, because I don't like to break promises, and I've already done so too many times in this place.

And I really do need to wash diapers.  But it's more like "tonight" than today.  The diapers don't know the difference though.

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It's been such an odd winter.  So little snow, so little cold, so few days where it looks or feels like winter then, and no help for it.  People keep muttering, "Yeah, but we'll get socked in the spring," but I don't think we will.  If we could get one good snowstorm this year, I'd be happy with that.  I think it's just a mild winter.  Ho-hum.  No snow-days.  No blizzards.  No hibernating.

Not like last year.

My Gingersnap has turned ONE.  She is a year old, plus a few weeks.  It's hard to believe, though I think back on what things were like around here a year ago, and I believe it all too well.  It's been a year of many refinements, through the grace of God.  It's awesome and wondrous and terrible and mystifying all wrapped up into a year's time.  Some of the lessons God intended for me, I believe I've come to terms with.  Others have remained as elusive as a cloud.

I still experience brief, unpredictable bursts of intense pain in my side where my blood clot was/is, though the scan I had over the summer showed no reason to be alarmed about it.  My vascular surgeon doctor was pleased with the progress.  She told me that with clots the size mine was, they expect about 80% reduction, but that there will always be something there.  I'm no longer on the blood thinner (which is such a funny name...it doesn't make the blood thinner, it makes it slippery--but they don't call it "blood slipperier".  Too bad, too.  I think it's funny.), thanks be to God.  That mess ended in July.  I was happy to see it go--no more fresh crop of bruises on a daily basis, just from existing.  No more avoiding a glass of wine, should the notion strike (which isn't frequent, but it does happen from time to time...).  Best of all, though, no more lab visits for blood draws for the INR test.  I was over that dog and pony show.  Pin cushion?  Yeah, that's a tool in my sewing box.  It no longer defines my arm.

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So the Gingersnap is ONE.  ONE!!!  ONE!!  I cannot even believe it!  She is an entire year old.  She crawls with amazing speed and agility.  She has a gorgeous sense of humor, and loves to see everyone around her laugh at her little antics.  She has a few words, and is learning new ones every day.  She gets very upset with me if I do not Give Her The Milkies Right NOW and tell her to sign "milk" to me.  She beats her little fist at my chest, tugs at my shirt, and whimpers like a sad puppy.  Is it wrong that I find this not only adorable, but amusing?

Cuppie is THREE.  But we don't say "three" around here.  We say "flee."  So Cuppie is FLEE.  She has become Little Miss Independent, deciding, thankyouverymuch, that she is over wearing diapers or pull-ups or anything other than Princess Panties on her little rumpy.  And that's all there is to that.  Yes, really.  She decided one day that she was going to wear panties, and so she did.  She is dry overnight, she is dry all day, and in the course of the past 5 weeks of wearing them, she has had exactly three--oops: flee--accidents with wetting.

With poo, it's not quite the same story.  That bit always takes a little longer.

I admit I am into bribery that way.  When she began, she would get five "white chips"--so-called because she refused to call them "white chocolate chips."  Everyone knows, after all, that there is not one iota of chocolate in white chocolate anyway.  It's vanilla.  So, white chips they are.  So she would trot herself to the loo, do her business, and after the loooooooooong hand-washing ritual, she would count out her white chips: "One, two, flee, four, five!" and eat them up.

Once I remembered (DUH!) and bought the Tootsie Rolls, well that was all the motivation she needed for the Number Two to become her new goal.  So she learned very quickly to run (RUN!) to the loo for poo, too, and the Tootsie Roll came out.  But------we don't call them Tootsie Rolls.  No.  They are "Twitsie Lolls"!!  (Of course they are!)

My Squash......he just turned SIX.  Saturday was his birthday, and he was beyond excited to be turning six.  I likened it to Winnie The Pooh--"And Now We Are Six"--and he was unimpressed.

He is reading.  He loves Dick and Jane, just like my big kids did at his age, and he loves that he can now sit down with his books, open them, and make sense of what he sees on the page.  It's one of my favorite things in the entire world--watching a little child decoding the written English language and realizing that the whole world has just shifted greatly in their favor....poetry, stories, ideas, Psalms--it's all of a sudden open to them, like the sunrise!  What a blessing!!

My Squash has such a beautiful spirit and such a loving heart.  He has a fondness for a girl named Annie.  Not long back, I said to him, "Are you going to marry that Annie girl?"  He said to me, "Probably."  And then he grew quiet and thoughtful.  After a minute or so, he said, "Well, unless I hear God tell me I need to be a priest.  Then I can't marry Annie.  But I could still see her."

I melted.  I completely melted.  This sweet boy knows that we need to be still and quiet and wait to hear what God has to tell us, what God wants from us, and what we need to do and be to fulfill His design for our lives.  Thanks be to God!!

Reepicheep.  Ahh.........Reepicheep.

She is twelve.  We're in the thick of it, she and I, in the part where it feels like she's running at a pace through the thick jungles of the Amazon, and I'm trying to keep sight of her, let alone keep up with her.  This age has so far been the most difficult for me to parent my children through--especially the girls.  I've found that when their bodies start to really take off and grow like crazy (at about 9) and through puberty, to the other side, it's fish or cut bait.  It's so difficult to keep up with the emotional challenges, the outbursts of frustration and anger and emotion, the desire for more freedom coupled with the resistance to responsibility are just a huge obstacle for me as a Mom.  I'm working my way through it--we're working our way through it--but it's a big jungle, and it's awfully darned hot in here.....I feel like the heroine of a movie, before she earns her heroine status.  I'm slogging through the jungle, all hot and sweaty, with hair falling out of my ponytail and sticking to my forehead and cheeks...legs all scratched up, machete feeling reeeeeaaaaaallllllllyyyyyy heavy about now, barely able to swing it to clear my path, and all kinds of venomous creatures lurking about, just waiting for me to have to stop to take a breath.

Yeah.  It's like that.

Now, having parented a girl through this already, I also know that I'm doing the right things, and that even though it's tremendously difficult, the rewards are even greater than the challenges.  I know that if I can help Reepicheep navigate through the puzzle of hormonal swings and moods and interior struggle, that she and I will both come out of this not unscathed, but definitely stronger, both emotionally and spiritually.  That is why I take a deep breath every morning before I wake her up, and continue to breathe as deeply as I can throughout the day.  I pray every time I know I need to correct her.  I search for reasons to praise her, no matter how small.  I remind her how blessed we both are, especially that we can come and go as we need to, that we can put food on our table at every meal, that we have plentiful choices in the way we dress our bodies that keep us modestly covered and comfortably warm, that we can attend Mass daily if we want to without much effort at all, save for driving, and that we have a snug, warm, FULL home to live in.  And I remind her that there are lots and lots of little extras that can be made to disappear if necessary (and sometimes, they do!).  :)

My Pickle is still thirteen; his birthday isn't until early spring.  He is absolutely thriving at the Fabulous Catholic School where we are blessed to send our children.  He struggled in the beginning, going from having been home schooled for four years to being in the classroom setting again, but he's been spending some time after school a couple of days each week with a tutor, and he is improving so greatly that it's actually astonishing!  He's found a really good groove of time-management, for the most part, and has learned through natural consequences that his school work is his responsibility.  I must say, it's an advantage sometimes to live 35 minutes from school.  If he forgets something, there is no way I'm packing up my three little ones and the Reepicheep to bring it to him!!  (I doubt I would if we lived in the same town as the school, anyway, but at least this way, there isn't even the temptation.)  He's looking so forward to next year's cross country season, and is already running a couple of times a week.  Because in this completely ODD winter, running is actually an option.

There was a family who used to belong to our Parish whose eldest son was the head server, and I think they've switched to a parish closer to their home now.  They've not been to Sunday Mass in a long time.  I'm not sure what to think about it, but I do know that it means that Pickle is one of the older senior servers now, and he's really doing a great job shepherding some of the younger boys.  I'm so proud of him!  He's showing a maturity that is very gratifying to witness in my own son.

Also, his voice is changing.  I am a little fragile, emotionally, about that fact.  I make him laugh at every possible opportunity, because I just cannot get enough of his ridiculous giggle, and I know that someday it will be gone.  *le sigh*

And the Frog.

The Frog will be sixteen in just a few days.  SIXTEEN!  SIXTEEN???!!!  WHAT?!

There are all kinds of things that barrage my head about this.  Sixteen is old enough to drive, when properly licensed.  (She won't be just yet.)  Sixteen is the age at which My Darling and I decided that, should a young man desire to court our daughter, and should he seek our permission--in person--and should we decide to grant him permission, we would allow her to be courted.  Chaperoned, of course.  In groups, of course.  One on one, not so much.

Sixteen is the age, it seems, when childhood is carefully folded, set into the Hope Chest, and looked back upon with wistful memories clouding the vision.

I remember holding her when she was tiny, combing her impossibly curly hair and pulling it into pig tails for the first time.  I remember her taking her first steps, in those old-fashioned white baby shoes--on her first birthday.  I remember singing with her, dancing with her, playing tea party with her, hearing her read her first book ("Go Dog, GO!"), and watching her the first time she walked to school with the Pickle (I never let her walk alone).

How, in Heaven's Name, can she be turning sixteen?  Now I'm watching her dance with young men (MAN, can they swing dance!!), hearing her sing in the choir with me and at her private voice lessons, watching her put her hair in any manner of elegant or fun or frilly arrangements, running cross country, baking or cooking anything she fancies, and reading to her younger siblings.

The lump in my throat is enormous.  It hardly bears mentioning that she is better than half way through her sophomore year......just a little over two years and she'll be-----------------

*sigh*    ~~and *sigh* again.

For now, she is my little Froggy, and she is here with me.

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I'm working on me.  Every day, every hour, I'm working on me.

I still don't know where my heart is on the things that happened after my little Gingersnap was born.  I have my moments when I am overwhelmed by the thought of being rushed to the hospital in agonizing pain, sure that I was going to die, and then learning how real a possibility that was.  Looking into the sweet face of my tiny, tiny baby girl, I was thinking, "Will I ever see your face again?  Will you grow up knowing me, or being told stories about what others remember about me?"  Even now, it's hard to reconcile it in my heart.

I had a lot of guilt to carry in the aftermath.  I felt guilty that it happened at all.  I felt guilty that I needed the help of others to do simple things for so long.  I felt guilty that My Darling had to ferry me about, because there was no one else to do it.  I felt guilty that my medication stifled my milk and forced me into choosing formula supplementation, even though it was only for a few months.  I felt guilty that I didn't get thank you notes written and sent out, or that I got some of them written and not others, or that I lost track of the ones I had written, so I just stopped, even though I never stopped being grateful for the people who helped me and my family, and I told them so every single time I saw them over the year since.  I felt guilty that I felt guilty about things that were completely out of my control, were not my choice, were not predicable or preventable, and will probably never happen again.  I felt guilty that I didn't think my faith was up to snuff when the chips were down.

Sometimes I still do feel guilty.

Part of my Lent will be to finish here.  To complete my story, to get it out, to hammer it until it's shiny and smooth instead of a lump in the pit of my gut.  I'm asking God to refine me and help me to stop hanging on to this albatross of guilt and shame.

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PRAYER REQUESTS, and the first one is urgent:

Dear friends of mine--a couple, V and C.  V is pregnant with their sixth baby, and has just made it to 23 weeks.  Twenty-three.  Barely over half-way.  Last week, she started bleeding and cramping, so they went to hospital.  They were sent home after a while, but returned soon after.  The scan showed fluid in Baby's abdomen.  She's been in hospital ever since, and today they induced her.  I've not heard an update yet.  She had lost a lot of blood, and very early this morning she was given a blood transfusion, finishing up about 9:00.  By this afternoon, she had lost another 2 units of blood, and between that and almost no amniotic fluid, they needed to deliver her.  They are in an amazing hospital, where other friends of ours delivered a baby at not quite 24 weeks--that baby's birthday is tomorrow, and he's turning three.  That is a tremendous factor in their favor.  The fluid, though, in V's baby's abdomen, is a factor not in their favor.  It decreases the odds of survival for the baby to under 10%.  So please pray--pray for God's will, for peace in their hearts, for the teams of doctors and nurses who are caring for this family, and for the children who are waiting at home for their Mama to return to them.

God's ways are the best ways, even when it hurts like heck.

*Pray for other friends of ours who were very uncertain about their pregnancy until the scan this morning showed things to be fine.  They suffered a miscarriage about 6 months ago, and so are understandably anxious about this little one.  Saint Padre Pio says, "Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry."  Well, he's the saint, so I reckon he knows.

So many prayers to lift up, and God knows what they are even when I don't.

*Pray for Rebekah, who is 6 and will be receiving a bone marrow transplant from her little sister, Theresa, who is 2.  Rebekah is BRAVE--her Mama says, "Broken, brave, and blessed."  Rebekah is the fourth of the five children in their family.  She's quite an inspiration!

Know of my prayers for your intentions, too.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Progress here, progress there, a little progress everywhere...

The carpet has been installed in the new master bedroom.  There's still a bit of trim needing to be put up--there are no baseboards yet, and the door trim needs to be nailed up.  One of the window frames needs to be painted, and a little bit of paint here and there on the walls needs to be touched up.  The handles on the doors haven't been changed, and in fact, the doors don't stay closed at this point.

But--I absolutely could not wait.  We moved the bed in on Thursday, thanks be to God!

Before My Darling picked up Frog and Pickle from cross country on Thursday afternoon and returned home with them, I had moved the bedside tables and lamps, my striped chair and footstool/ottoman, Gingersnap's little bed, and all of the bedding.  We were able to move the bed easily, and I very soon had it made up.

Over the weekend, we moved the credenza into place, hung pictures, and brought in the little things that make it the quiet, welcoming, relaxing place I need it to be.

There are still a few things that need to be moved, but for now, I am very pleased.  Five years is a long time to wait and plan and work toward a specific goal!

One thing I've been thoroughly enjoying is the decision-making during shifting things into the new room.  What things do I truly need/use/want/enjoy?  What things have I been holding onto out of habit, sense of guilt or obligation, or greed?  What things could benefit someone else, or be used to make someone else happy as a gift?  I'm trying to simplify, to not hang onto the false need of having something in every corner, nook and cranny.  We are so blessed--blessed in abundance, for Pete's sake, and it's a fine line between abundance and excess.  I don't want this beautiful room to be turned into a storage unit, so I'm taking the time now to discard junk, donate things I don't need, and remember to give thanks for the things we have.

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This past Saturday was the last cross country race of the season.  The kids were satisfied with their performances--which were a bit slower than the week before, because the week before it was cold (which is perfect for runners), and Saturday was hot.  The team has a banquet coming up on Friday, where they will receive rewards and recognition.  It's been an incredible thing to watch my children learn, improve, meet and surpass goals, and constantly challenge themselves.  It's been difficult in some respects--watching them give every ounce of effort they can and sprint at the end toward the finish line, dripping with the sweat of their effort is bittersweet.

One of my favorite things about these races, though, is seeing the kids who don't finish in 17 minutes or 20 minutes or whatever is the average.  The kids who take 30 or 35 or even 40 minutes, but stick it out and still finish the race, are the ones that really get me teared up.  Those kids are pillars of the virtue of perseverance.  They're not in fantastic shape, and they cross the finish line after everyone has left the course sidelines.  Their teammates have already had their shoes off and their water bottles refilled again and again.  But when they come toward the finish line, everyone gathers again by the chute and hollers and whistles and claps and cheers for them as they finish!  And that's their goal--not to shave of 10 seconds from last week's time, but just to finish, for Pete's sake!  It's incredibly humbling.  It's also a reminder that I don't even have the guts to start one of those races...

...until now?

At some of the events, after the various heats have been run, and while the time judges are tallying the results, there is an open race--open to coaches, parents, spectators, basically whoever wants to run--and some of us Mamas decided that we want to run next year.

This is a very silly thing for me to commit to.  I cannot run.  I do not run.  I walk very quickly when I need to get somewhere fast, but I do not run.  I used to run.  I used to do lots of crazy things.  But I am in no shape to run.  Especially not the course in question: it's fraught with hills, and is definitely among the more challenging of the courses for the year.  There is no way I can do this.  I don't have the guts to even stand behind the start line.

But that's kind of the point--I'm not in good shape at all.  In fact, I'm not in any kind of shape.  I'm just kind of....here.  That's not good.  I'm tired, I'm sluggish, and Sloth has gotten hold of my ankle and is yanking with strength.  Pile on the guilt factor, and it's just not a pretty picture.

So I spent $10 and bought the 30 Day Shred video.  I've heard good things about from people I actually know.  I've seen some tremendous results from those same people, and I'm hoping that it will help me, too. I don't know how much I weigh, because we don't have a scale.  But I do know that I could stand to lose some inches just about everywhere.  I figure I can hack a 22 minute workout--at least time-wise!--and hopefully it will give me the boost I need.

I definitely need the endorphin boost that I know exercise will provide, too.  Even if my body aches and my muscles scream in protest, if my moods improve, it'll be worth it.

And so, as soon as my little ones are asleep for Quiet Time, I'll open the box that's had me trembling since Wednesday, and see what I can do.  I might even do "before and after" pictures.  I'll wait to post those though....

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Prayer requests:

*In thanksgiving for the Ordination to Transitional Deaconate for Deacon Mark!  Thanks be to God!!

*For the conversion of our neighbors, who increasingly call us to patience and forbearance.  Thank the Lord we have someone who draws out virtuous effort on our part, all for our sanctification.

*For Joshua P. who is desiring to feel the warm embrace of Jesus as he struggles with terminal conditions, and for his family, especially his mother, who so desperately wants to see her son's suffering end...even though it means she will bury him.

*In thanksgiving for the joyful news of our dear friends, who find themselves preparing to welcome Baby Number 11--with eight safely in their home and two little Saints praying for them in Heaven.

*For a renewed effort to promote respect for all human life, from conception to natural death, during this month of October (Respect Life Month).

*For a renewed passion for Our Lady's beautiful prayer of the Rosary, and for many souls to be brought nearer to her Son, which is all she desires for us...

*For a very specific intention, dear to my heart, which is known to the Holy Spirit and does not need to be given in detail here.  He knows.

I thank you graciously for your prayers on my behalf and for those I love and who are dear to me, and I bring to Our Lord all of the prayers of your hearts, too.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

For everything there is a season

I'm trying to ease back into the early morning rise routine.  It's actually been easier than I expected it would be, given that nights can be unpredictable and filled with many moments of staring at the clock, wondering when my little Gingersnap will allow sleep to be victorious.  What I've discovered, though, is that the waking up and getting up part is not the challenge: it's staying awake through the afternoon  that's giving me fits.

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This Wednesday will usher me into my 38th year, thanks be to God.  (Or for a more common way of putting it, I'll be 37, for Pete's sake.)  I thought I'd feel older somehow, though I'm not certain what that means anymore.  I do remember carrying my little Squash and really feeling like I could never have another baby--he was definitely my last baby!!  HA!  And look what God really had planned!

I have found that with each passing year I find more joy in this season.  The stunning colors peeking from every possible crevace absolutely thrill me in a smiliar way I once felt about fireworks.  And how could it not?  The carpets of muted golds and browns of the fields fairly glow when the sun hits them on the hills.  The velvety red of the sumac is my favorite, but the surprising colors on some of the trees are astounding.  Japanese maple leaves that turn purple at the edges and simmer into a golden syrup toward the center...the plum in my very own front yard which darkens and darkens, from a deep violet to nearly black...the brilliant gold of the birch leaves...the red of the ivy vines, climbing everything in sight and providing such an abundant variety of reds (and I know they're invasive and choking, but they are still quite lovely)...and the noble oak--dropping acorns and a veritable carpet of oranges, browns and persimmony orange leaves--which seasons such a scent into the air that it permeates every breath--how could anyone look upon these things and not be overtaken with praise and thanksgiving for the One who deems us worthy to behold them?

The Saturday morning cross country races have meant that we, as a family, rise very early in order to drive our runners to their venues.  And where we live, we go through very hilly country, providing incredible views.  The early mornings these days always mean sunlight filtered through fog (except for the couple of rainy race days in there for good measure).  It's been inspiring to have so many moments of such beauty before us.

One particular morning as we drove toward the southeast, I was drawn into something of a meditation.  There were layers and layers of fog settled over fields of corn, soybeans and wheat.  The trees still have enough leaves on them to give a full silhouette, and the profiles of houses, barns and silos were prominent in some places, and obscured in others.  The first layer was softened, as though peering through the screen of an open window.  The next layer was like steam-covered glass.  The next was even more obscured, like trying to look through tracing paper.  And the next was like parchment.

I thought how our souls see Heaven was so similar...we have an idea of what Heaven is--everyone has their own idea of what the Beatific Vision will truly be like.  We see in our mind's eye what we think it will be.  And as we learn more and more truth in what Holy Mother Church teaches us, we realize how far removed our ideal is, like the second and third layers.  What it will actually be is so far obscured, like trying to peer through the thick layers of fog.  We can sense the light through the parchment layer, but nothing can be clearly seen through these frail human eyes.

God is good.

Prayer intentions:

Please keep My Darling's Grandma in prayer.  She is old and tired, and some days would dearly love to go Home.  God's ways are the best ways; His timing is always perfect.

Please continue to pray for Joshua P.  He has had some extraordinary days of energy and healing and feeling really good, but then contracted a cold...which can be devistating, or even deadly.  Please continue to pray for miraculous healing, on whatever terms God wills for him, and for peace in the hearts of his family.

Please pray intently for our Holy Father, for our dear Bishop, and for an increase in vocations to the ordained and consecrated life.

And I humbly beg for your prayers for my own needs and intentions.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Moving along...

I keep neglecting my blog.  I know this, and there's been no help for it save for me to put some strict limitations on other things that have kept me occupied in ways I perhaps should not be.  Prudence, self control, and the other good virtues in which I seem to be lacking these days, have nudged my shoulder.
This is a good thing.

Interestingly, though, I seem to have lost the list of blogs I've been following all along--I'm not sure why this has happened.  But I wonder if it's something tied to my inability to comment on any blogs as well.  There has been a lot I've wanted to say in response to some excellent entries over the past few months, and every time I have attempted to do so, I'm hit with the "choose an account"--and when I do, nothing happens.  It's as though I've no account and am thus unable to sign in at all.

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Home schooling is going better these days.  My little ones are loving their binders, which I've outfitted with plastic page protectors covering pages of letters, numbers, shapes, names, and words for them to trace or color or circle or outline.  My Squash is reading, however haltingly, the short stories which begin with Dick and Jane and Sally and Spot and Puff and Tim...and of course, Mother and Father.  It's what all of my big kids learned with, and Squash seems to really enjoy himself when he realizes he can recognize a word from a previous page.  I love this stage!!

Even Cuppie is enjoying tracing the things in her book, and naming the shapes and colors, and learning the letters in her name, and counting things all over the place.  I was thrilled to find some math manipulatives in the dollar section at Target, and scooped up a bunch of different colored foam shapes for sorting, counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, making patterns and so on.  Cuppie and Squash have loved using them.

And Reepicheep, as my last big kid at home, has been working on things like sketching, investigating botany, reading like a fiend, knitting, and writing stories.  I know she'll learn whatever she needs to know as she needs to know it, so it's been a blessing just seeing her gravitate toward things which truly interest her.

We're also working very hard toward temperance.  I think it's the virtue left behind sometimes; it's almost as if it's expected for a "tween" to be sassy and short-tempered.  What a perfect time to work even harder at holding one's tongue, carefully thinking before speaking and acting, and always with charity as our goal!  It's definitely not without challenges, and I've found myself having to grit my teeth mightily more than once.  We'll get there, though.

My little Gingersnap grows at a pace.  She has begun to get beyond even squunching (which some people call creeping, but we've always said "squunching") to nearly crawling.  She's been saying "Mama" quite intentionally for weeks now, generally when she is not in my arms and wants to be.  And I have on my hands my very first ever baby who fits into the size clothing which manufacturers deem age-appropriate: at not quite eight months old, she fits neatly into 6-9 month sizes.  She's loving whatever we give her to eat, but only if she is allowed to feed herself.

Having my two eldest both in school at the Wonderful Catholic School which we are so incredibly blessed to have available has been a true mixed blessing.  On the wonderful side, they are learning so much from an incredible faculty!  And the focus that is required, the self-discipline and time management--that's all definitely fantastic.

They are also both running with the cross country team, and doing unbelievably well.  I've always known that junior high boys are ridiculously fast--like fleas, really.  But I had no idea how, with some intense coaching and conditioning, that my Pickle boy could be hearing things like, "You have the ability to become a truly great cross country runner."  I had no idea that by watching my boy run, I would be so inspired that my entire understanding of who he is and what makes him tick has changed dramatically.  And watching the Frog improve her time, meet after meet, mile after mile, has been inspiring, too.  She has been able to change her attitude from, "I'm running well and that makes me happy," to, "I'm running well, but I know I can run faster, so I'm going to work really hard toward that."  That inspires me, too.

We've been going to all of the meets as a family, which enables us to spend a great deal of weekend time together.  We have a family habit of praying the Rosary whenever we're in the van for any length of time--which is usually the case, since we're roughly half an hour from most of our destinations.  It's been truly bonding for the kids, to cheer for one another, to know that their family is literally backing them every step of the way.  And it's been one step in this stage of life which sees us with kids in junior high and high school who have found a niche where they are more than comfortable, they excel.

We bring our big water coolers and a little folding table, two big canopy tents with sides and tarps for the ground, and a few camping chairs.  We get to the meets early, which really does mean early--most meets are on Saturday mornings, with the runners needing to report in time to walk/jog the course, stretch, warm up with their team, and prepare mentally and physically...which means they're usually arriving about 90 minutes before their race begins.  We get things set up for them so that when they arrive, they can relax, get into their warm up shoes, and stay warm while they wait to run their respective races.  Last year, when I was carrying my little Gingersnap beneath my heart, I stayed home with little ones (or sometimes alone!!), and now I see what I was missing out on.  Even with a very small team (we have about 15 runners all together), the kids have a wonderful time.

And so we're all just going along, day by day, trying to hang in there with the intensity that beginning the school year brings with it.  Some activities have been set on hold until a good pattern is established, or until cross country season is over, or both.  Some activities have been stopped all together in the interest of more family time.

Though I've said it before, I really do hope to come back to writing here with some increasing frequency.  I've written many posts in my head, and at some point, I need to make room for other thoughts.  :)

Prayer requests:  Please keep in your prayers:

* Kate and her family, who are dealing with a terminal illness within their family.

*Mary and her family, who recently welcomed their fifth child.

*Our neighbors, who could just really use some prayers--and I'll just ask the Holy Spirit to use those prayers in whatever ways are necessary!

*My Grams, who celebrated her 96th birthday this month, thanks be to God, and who is just always wonderful.

*All those suffering from depression, anxiety, stress, or any other mental ailment, especially those who are negatively affected by the change of seasons--those silent sufferings can be so terribly crippling, even though the one bearing them does not look sick.

*All those suffering with health issues which result in seasonal flare-ups, like arthritis, fibromyalgia and others--for the same reason as above.

Always know that I pray for those who ask me to do so.  Your intentions are always brought before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament when you ask for my prayers.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blogger has changed things since my last venture this way.  I have, too.

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I've decided that I'm not going to finish writing about my birth experience with my little Gingersnap.  She is beloved, precious to me, and gives me cause to smile every day.  I've thought and prayed and processed over and over the things that happened after her birth, and though I may change my mind in the future, for now I'm going to just move past it.  It was traumatic and transformative, and that's enough for now.  I am well, my health is good, and it's been a long road...but God is endlessly good.  I thank you for your patience and your prayers, and always know that when someone asks me for prayer, I do remember and pray for them as well.

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Things are moving forward at a pace around here!!  We have a bank inspector coming this week to see the nearly-complete addition!  We've all been busy, and my projects are mounting.  I've been thrift shopping, recovering, refinishing, sewing, stuffing, and painting.

My Darling is hanging drywall today.  The Pantry Room is the last room which needs finishing, and it's getting the attention it's been needing at last.  Eventually, the floor will be tiled, there will be a row of cupboards (on a narrow wall, so we're using upper cabinets on a pedestal) with counter top against one wall, and a large closet-style pantry cupboard against the opposite wall.  The room will be our entry room, but will no longer be where we hang jackets and shuck boots.  That's what the Mud Room is for!!

The Master Bedroom has been completely painted; light fixtures have been installed, and subfloor has been laid.  We're waiting to make the final decision about flooring...the walls are a delicious suede-chocolate brown on the bottom, and a beautiful elegant blue on the top, with a white chair rail around to divide them.  The light fixtures have an oil-rubbed bronze finish, and I'm going to have to replace the door hardware.  The French doors we have for the bedroom were from the Habitat for Humanity Restore--they were a bargain for $200!  They are 15-light doors in a beautiful maple, with the gorgeous grain of the wood showing through the protective coat of polyurethane.  The hardware on the doors, though, is in a brushed nickle, and the door does not latch.  They were initially installed in an office, and I think they were not intended to close securely. So anyway, when we replace the hardware with the same finish as the lights, we'll get them to close, too.

My projects for the bedroom have included reupholstering a chair and a little bench, spray painting the frames of some mismatched mirrors for one wall, and refinishing the top that was taken out of the dresser which is now the vanity in the laundry room/bathroom.

Oh!!  The laundry room!!  Good heavens, it's pretty!  It's a truly pleasant place to do laundry, thanks be to God!  We did not go all-out with the size of it, but we have made it work beautifully for our needs.  Because it's upstairs, and just 'round the corner from the family closet, there is plenty of room to work getting things folded and put away.  And because My Darling is my builder, I've been able to customize every little bit about it all.

I need to shoot over to the photobucket site and upload my pictures this week.  I also have a bunch of sewing to do, and I need to finish the trim on the chair that I reupholstered.  I wanted to make an effort to get over here, though, and to say that I'll be back again very soon.  I know this has kind of been all over the place--I apologize.  There's been a lot going on, and I'll get it all sorted in a jiffy.

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Thanks again for dropping in to read, for your prayers, and for leaving comments.  :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Yep.

Yep, I'm still here.

Nope, I haven't abandoned my blog.

Yep, I'm still processing my little Gingersnap's birth, and all that I have been through since.

Yep, apparently it has affected me more than I'd initially thought.

Yep, I'm ok. Mostly.

Nope, I just haven't found the right words. Yet.

God is Good, and works all things for good for those who have faith and are called by Him. I'm clinging to that daily.

Hang in there with me, folks. Please keep me in your prayers...I covet your prayers. Know that I am keeping you in mine, too. Thanks for your patience with me. I'll be back very, very soon....it's been a long road, and I'm trying my best to keep the rubber on the road, keep it between the ditches, stay right of the center line and all that good stuff. I'll get there. Just bear with me.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Gingersnap, the Entrance

Sunday, January 30th began like every other Sunday does in our home. We are gentle in our waking on Sunday mornings...the children emerge from their rooms on a natural schedule, rather than being rousted. Mass isn't until 11:00, and we leave here at 10:00 to get there in time to calm ourselves and prepare our hearts.

Somewhere around 7:45 or so, My Darling and the Squash begin making the pancakes. Squash pulls his youth chair over to the counter near the stove. My Darling hauls out the cast iron griddle, which takes up two burners on the gas stove. They mix the pancake batter in the old Tupperware pitcher, and joust just the littlest bit with their spatulas--"tings" Squash calls them, because "ting" is the sound they make when their flat blades collide. He helps Daddy to flip the pancakes on the griddle, and then flop them into the stoneware bowl from which they are served at the table.

That Sunday, I was feeling a bit nauseous, and couldn't eat even a bite of the delicious pancakes. I think Squash was a little sad about it, but he was cheerful nonetheless.

As I dressed for Mass, I was just not feeling quite right--a little off, but not enough to make me think I shouldn't go to Mass, for Pete's sake. Mass is the one time I get out of the house these days, and I wasn't going to miss it for the world!! The drive in was mostly uneventful--My Darling took us past the scene of the Great Truck Roll, and we could clearly see the imprint of the truck door and window, and we could see the place where the mirror would have been...

I was very uncomfortable all during Mass. I could not concentrate very well, and I could not sit still. Things were beginning to happen, and I knew I was in early labor. I rejoiced, thinking, "All of the saints and angels are here, and I get to begin the joyous work of meeting my baby here at Mass!!!!" What an incredible blessing!!

I had to get up and move a little bit. I used the ladies' room, and then stood in the back of the nave, just swaying from side to side...just a little, subtle dance that I was sure no one could possibly notice.

That's not really how it works though, is it? In a parish with so many large families, there is always someone who knows. And in our parish, there are midwives, doulas, and Mamas of Many--and their husbands, who have watched their wives go into the beginning dances of labor. It nearly surprised me when, after Mass, my dear friend who is Mama of Eight asked me, "You're in labor, aren't you?" Actually, she didn't really ask me, so much as she made a statement of observation. I said, "I am totally in labor!" We grinned about it, and as she hugged me, she said, "My husband pegged that about five minutes into Mass."

So much for subtlety!

We intended to shop for groceries after Mass, but I informed My Darling that we had better reconsider. It took him forever to head for the parking lot to drive the van up to the door--the parking lot, being a block away, was not in the cards for me. The entire ride home, I found myself having to very quietly vocalise through each contraction, and the timing of them and the intensifying of them told me that this was true labor, that it was moving along very well, and that it would likely be just as wonderful and enjoyable as my labor with the Cuppie had been.

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When we got home, I went upstairs and spent some time dancing around in the bedroom...swaying, rocking, lunging--just as I had done on Thursday. After a fashion, I thought, "I'd better get a little rest. I'll lie down for a bit, and then I'll fill the tub," which was, after all, where Gingersnap was going to be born.

I did lie down for a bit, and since I hadn't really felt a ton of movement through the morning, I poked and prodded my belly a little bit. I talked to my baby, saying, "I get to meet you today! I finally get to see your sweet little face!" I was a little gun-shy about it, since Chris' comfort level for a home birth is normally 36 weeks 4 days, and at that point I was only 36 weeks 3 days...but I knew she wouldn't split hairs over it.

As I was going in to fill the tub, I felt a big thudding movement from the baby--and that was the beginning of the drastic change in my labor.

I filled the tub and got into the deliciously warm water. Good thing, too, because the contractions changed and became more intense...and began to radiate way more into my back than they had initially.

I suppose it was around 2 or 3 in the afternoon when that happened--I don't really know, because though I'm sure I glanced at the clock as I passed it, there isn't a clock in the bathroom, and that's where I remained for most of the labor at that point. My Darling came and went between me in the bathroom and the kiddos downstairs. I had no idea what they were up to, but he let them know what was going on, and they seemed to be just as good as gold. Don't know what they had for supper, or what movie they watched...don't know what time the boys went to bed--the girls stayed up for the duration.

What I do know is that by the time My Darling called the midwives and they arrived, it was about 6:30 in the evening. They were cold and so comforted by our heated tiles in the bathroom! They brought in their equipment and put things where they needed them to be. They began chatting with My Darling a bit....

.......and my labor slowed tremendously. I moved between the tub and the loo, and really thought it was *time*--but when Chris checked me, I was only at 2 cm.

I was so frustrated. It was about 10:00 in the evening, and this had officially become my longest labor...and I was only at a 2?

I sat on the edge of the bed and cried...and breathed through a few contractions. They were really spaced out though. Chris said to lie down and get some rest...maybe things would pick up again in the morning.

The midwives left.

I tried to lie down, and got gobsmacked by a contraction. And another one. And another one. And good grief did they hurt in my back!!

I got into the bathroom as quickly as I could, but had two contractions between the bed and the tub. By the time I got into the water and had it warmed up again, the contractions were like sledge hammers smashing against my spine.

So much for the peaceful, enjoyable labor I had envisioned. This was serious work, and having had two back labors before, I knew it wasn't going to be any easier until it was time to push.

With each contraction, I would squat and lean forward and grab onto the water spout. I sang a very loud song of opening, and tried desperately to focus on anything. After a few contractions like that, I began hanging onto My Darling's hand with each pain. I squeezed the very lifeblood from two or three of his fingers...I figured it was the least he could do. ;)

At one point, during a break between the pains, I slept. Actually, I slept what felt like a good bit between each of them, though My Darling says I only had about 30 seconds between the end of one and the beginning of the next. But at this particular point, Our Lady came to me. She said to me in the most beautiful voice, "Look there...do you see my beloved Son? Do you see His suffering? I am bringing you to Him, to His cross. Be there with him in your suffering and know that He suffers with you, for you. I will remain here with you." I have never experienced anything like this in my life....and I will never forget it. No song could ever be as sweet as her voice was. It was like the scent of heaven, but in a sound...and to even try to explain it with words makes it sound coarse and jagged.

I was also beginning to see, in the tile on the wall, the face of a lion. The face was gentle, but strong, with an open mouth and eyes. Something in my spirit said, "As with the Lion of Judah..." and I began to think, "I can roar my baby out like a lion." I really needed to--the pains were so incredible, so powerful, so much bigger than anything I had ever experienced, I could not help but roar.

My Darling called Chris to come back at around 1:00 in the morning. My labor had begun 13 hours earlier, and I was lost trying to get from one pain to the next. My Darling held the phone out as I roared through yet another contraction, and Chris said, "Tell her she needs to calm down...I'm on my way!"

This time when the midwives came, my labor did not slow. When Chris checked me, she let me know that I was at 6 to 7 cm, with a bulging bag of waters. It wasn't too long after that that I needed to give a push...and the bag burst. It was such a strange sensation, one that I could never adequately describe. It felt like a balloon bursting in my lungs, or something near to that. There were about 2 or 3 contractions after that during which I felt relatively little pain--Gingersnap's little head was descending from where it had been floating in her watery world...and when it finished descending, the pain came right back again.

The time came to help her to leave her little warm home and come into our big, open world...there was no position I could find that felt good or right. The world was entirely pain. Everything was pain. I could not believe the amount of pain I was in. It felt like my body was being torched with a fire that burned but did not consume. An unbelievable amount of pain which I never imagined existed was now banging against my back. I kept trying to see Our Lady and her beloved Son, and it was all I could do to keep that vision in my mind's eye.

I begged for an epidural. My Darling said, "I left the stuff for that at the shop..." I implored them to just knock me out. One of the midwives said, "I don't think that's a service we offer..."

Well, then, somebody get this baby out, because I can't!!!

Finally, Chris suggested that I stand. I did, and I leaned over her shoulders and gave a mighty push to help my baby's head come forth. Chris had me lower back into the water, and as I did, there was my sweet little Gingersnap. She was looking right up into my eyes, which is, of course, why my back had felt during my entire labor exactly like forty-two legions of soldiers were marching up and down my back, as though it were a battlefield, and stabbing their spears into my spine with every step.

2:34 in the morning, January 31st, thanks be to God!!

She was so tiny--and I was so surprised that she was a girl! I really thought there was a little boy in there!

Oh, she was so beautiful, and so very, very tiny...I could barely feel the weight of her.

Reepicheep and Frog and Cuppie came up from the downstairs to see...I believe Reepicheep was the one to cut Gingersnap's umbilical cord, which had a true knot in it. By the time I was ready to get out of the tub, Frog was holding Cuppie, and My Darling was tucking Squash back into his bed (he and Pickle had made a cameo appearance to lay eyes on their baby sister) or something--so Reepicheep was the first one to hold my little Gingersnap for a minute.

The midwives got me and Gingersnap tucked into the bed for a little while so that they could clean up the bathroom, get my herbal bath ready for me, and prepare for the newborn exam. As I soaked in the tub, Chris readied to measure and weigh my little Gingersnap. I had already guessed that she wouldn't even come near six pounds. But she was pretty long--I couldn't wager a guess at how long she was. Chris measured her, and scrunched up her face--"That can't be right!" she said. She measured again, and looked at me with a puzzled expression. "Twenty inches long?!" she exclaimed. That's my longest baby yet! "Maybe she'll surprise us with her weight, too," Chris said.

Five pounds, four ounces. Tall and thin!!

She scored well on her apgars, 9 and 10 I think.

She nursed beautifully, and pooped even before the midwives left.

By 5:30, we were all tucked into our respective beds, my girls finally collapsing into their beds, although I'm fairly certain Reepicheep didn't sleep until late that afternoon.

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Everything went very well...until Thursday, when I began to feel so low I could have crawled underneath a snake's belly wearing a top hat. Every single muscle in my body was doing it's dead level best to remind me what I had done on Monday. My back and my legs were in a screaming match, and the rest of me felt like so much jello.

Thursday night, I was beginning to notice a twinge in my side. It seemed to come on with the after pains, which were pretty substantial, but not unendurable. But by Friday mid-morning, this twinge had begun to hurt. By lunch time, it had begun to throb. And by early afternoon, it was getting so severe that I was getting a little scared about it. I began to feel feverish, and my gut told me that this was something substantially wrong.

I called My Darling to come home. He did come just as soon as he was able, and by the time he got home, I could not stand up on my own. I couldn't straighten out, couldn't lower my right knee from my chest. We got Gingersnap dressed, and My Darling brought me pants and socks.

We headed out to the hospital just like that.