Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The True Gifts of Christmas

We decided this year to wait.

Now that I read that thought put into writing, I am overwhelmed by what that has meant over the past twelve months.

We waited through the storm of grief which followed losing Gabriel--a baby we never saw, never held, never heard cry...though we wait still and know that we will see our child in Heaven.

We waited during Holy Week and the three days of the Triduum for the joy of the Risen Christ--and that Easter Week found us discovering the knowledge of the miracle of another baby.

We waited and watched the addition take more definitive shape, with windows, roof, insulation, lights, and now plumbing--and we still wait for the day we will expand ourselves into the new part of our home.

We waited the nine long months, through discomforts and inconveniences until the joyous event of the birth of the Little Snuggle Bug.

We began the waiting for healing for such dear friends after the loss of their infant son...and we will continue to wait and pray with them for God's gift of peace and healing in their hearts.

And today we have come to the end of the waiting of Advent.

Up to now, these things were all circumstances beyond our control, timed by God.

Here we are now, and today has also marked the end of the waiting which we were able to choose ourselves--the waiting for our Christmas Tree. It sits before me with blinking lights (although...they're not supposed to be blinking.....hmmm...), and My Darling has gone on a reconnaissance mission to the basement to retrieve the box of ornaments. Our family tradition is to acquire a new ornament each year for each member of the family (with a few others added in here and there). The intention is that when each child moves away from home as an adult, he or she will have a collection of beloved ornaments with which to adorn their very own Christmas tree.

Wait! Life just happened! Through the magic of cyberspace, we have just traveled nine hours in the span of three lines! Ah well; this happens when your author is the Mama of five children.

In the meantime, we completed decorating the tree.


My Darling was even clever enough to find alternative strands of lights which are in fact not blinking (and that's just dandy!). My job for the past three years has been to open the boxes containing the ornaments, to unwrap each ornament, and to give it to the owner thereof. My Darling hangs those designated as Mom and Daddy's, and the kids each hang their own, with the Frog, the Pickle and the Chicken helping the Monkey to find suitably strong branches when necessary. As you can imagine, this can result in that well-known phenomenon commonly referred to as "Ornament Clusters". In some families, these may be frosted and eaten. Around here, they are looked upon with much love and appreciation.

"Ornament Cluster"

Underneath the tree, we place the most beautiful ornament, the most treasured gift...

The Most Treasured Gift

We shared a sumptuous meal--a most delicious rib roast (sometimes called prime rib--spotted by My Darling at the local grocery store...they panicked and cut the price in half this afternoon!) with baked potatoes and au jous.

And now the house rests quietly, waiting for Mama to wake them to prepare for Midnight Mass. Around here, it's rare to find a church which still offers the Christmas Eve Mass actually at midnight. We are blessed to be members of one of the only parishes in the area which continues this sacred tradition.

It strikes me at this very moment that the thoughts which sent me to my keyboard earlier in the day have vanished completely from my mind, like so much steam wafting over a cup of hot coffee. The day was productive and full, and I am so thankful. What a cherished blessing it is to have our family all together tonight. Everyone is healthy, fed, warmly clothed, and comfortably ensconced in our modest home.

And now we wait again.

Mantle...waiting for Christ

Merry, Blessed, Joyous Christmas to you and your family from me and mine.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Carols--and the Lessons

Last night, we were treated to perhaps the Advent season's finest offering: Lessons and Carols.

Our whole family went, of course, and the Big Three were greeters. Their job was to smile, look pretty, and hand out the programs. They did it very well!

Lessons and Carols, for those of you who have not had the blessing of experiencing it, is an Advent worship service which incorporates Scriptural readings beginning in Genesis, with the story of the fall of man, coursing through Isaiah's prophesies, the Annunciation in the Gospel of Luke and ending with the beginning of the Gospel of John. In between the readings are various carols and the like, with most of them being performed by the choir, but the people joining in here and there. Kings College in England is the most famous for such a performance, with a rich history. Our own Diocesan Choir doesn't do too badly, either.

It was a wonderful experience to be sitting in the audience for the first time in years. (I'm on leave from the choir this semester because of the Bug, for Pete's sake.) I was able to meditate on the readings for a change, and to listen attentively to the music--some of it familiar, and some of it not.

The Gospel reading for yesterday was from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, vs. 26-38 . It never escapes me how quick Mary was to say her fiat to God, to trust His will even though it was such a huge unknown for her. Her example of obedience is truly one from which I pray daily to learn, and to which I aspire to attain. I have asked My Darling to pray for his wife to have a more obedient spirit and the humility and grace needed to accompany such a gift.

This same Gospel reading was repeated for us again at Lessons and Carols, and then again (however more abbreviated) in the Rosary last night (the Joyful Mysteries were prescribed for the day). It really seemed to me that God was again nudging my heart to more fully hear His words to me--words which were first spoken by our dear pastor, homilized by our dear bishop, read by a dear friend, sung of twice (both by the cathedral and the diocesan choirs), and then repeated by the first of the Joyful Mysteries.

Daily I find myself wondering how many times I have to repeat (fill in the blank here with whatever directive you can imagine for my kids--make your bed, brush your teeth, put away your laundry, do your math...). Why should I imagine that such a loving Father would not also repeat to the heart of His daughter that which He intends for me to hear?

At any rate, consider it heard. Consider it meditated upon. Consider me likely still needing reminders...regularly!

And in the mean time, I pray that the heart of this beautiful little child would be moved to obedience also. So far, she's doing alright.

Mama and Kateri

Friday, December 12, 2008

23 Whole Days

I absolutely cannot believe she's 23 days old already. It seems like forever ago that my Little Snuggle Bug was born--and yet a mere three weeks and two days ago, she was just barely 10 minutes old.

From this:


to this:


Where in the world has the time gone?? And how did I miss it?

Of course, I look at the Frog, the Pickle, the Reepicheep and the Monkey and wonder those very same things.

Last night, we had a Mass and social with the boys' club that the Pickle and My Darling are part of. I watched the Frog walking to and fro with her friends, chatting, giggling and blushing, as twelve-year-old girls are wont to do. TWELVE! Is that even allowed? And at twelve, I'll have you know she stands better than an inch taller than I. And we can no longer share shoes, since she outsizes me by half.

The Pickle, I noticed, needs new pants. Not only does he not "need" his belt anymore, the bottoms of the cuffs are no where near the tops of his shoes...more like hovering somewhere around the altitude of an orbiting spacecraft! I guess the second-hand store will be seeing us again sooner than we thought.

The Reepicheep was treated to new Sunday shoes a couple of weeks ago, and we ended up buying shoes not one, but TWO full sizes bigger than her previous pair.

And the Monkey? I've had to pack away every pair of pants he wore last year, even though some of them were far too long for him back then. I always tear up when I box up the "too small" clothing.

I know in my heart that they will grow, for Pete's sake, and I'm happy that they are all healthy, thriving and growing! But it breaks my Mama Heart to know that they are getting bigger and older. It just always feels like they're getting a little bit farther away from home each time this reality makes itself known.

My Darling and I were looking at the Snuggle Bug last night as she slept between us in the Big Bed. We remembered each of the kids when they were the age and size that she is now...and we talked about the time passing and the possibilities of the future.

More babies? We hope so.

Our fears for our children? Lots.

Our hopes and dreams for them? Even more.

Our prayers for them? Endless.

But for now, I'm just prayerfully taking each day as it comes. With all the things we've been through, with our blessings--even our blessings which have fronted as challenges--I don't know any other way we could live.

I don't think I'd do it any other way....anyway.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

"...and I'll fall asleep counting my blessings..."

I love the move "White Christmas." Love it. I remember waiting for it to come on every year as a child, and practically holding my breath until Judy and Betty appeared at the end in the gorgeous red satin dresses with the white fur trim. And the little ballerina girls would come out from the sides of the stage on their tippy toes and dance like little fairies, and then ever-so-delicately perch on the knees of the adoring little boys who raised their soprano voices in cherubic harmony.

Seriously--I am not joking--I would find a curtain, a table cloth, a bath towel...anything that could resemble a skirt if safety pinned around the waist, and dance around for the next several days, singing the theme song......"IIIIIIIIIIIII'm dreaming of a whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiite (a white) Christmas........

And now I have the movie on DVD. I try not to watch it until at least Advent, but I almost always break down around mid-November and just have to watch it. Can you blame me? It's the one pre-season indulgence I allow myself, for Pete's sake. If that's the worst I can do, I think I'll be ok.


I spoke with My Wonderful friend on Thursday....the Dear Friend who is missing her Dear Baby. She asked me how my little Snuggle Bug is doing. She sounded not sad--well maybe a little sad, but more wistful. I said that The Bug is doing very well....she's starting to fill out and look chubby around the neck and wrists.....and My Friend said to me, "Cherish it, please. Just love her and kiss her and look at her, and cherish her."

And I do.

And it didn't really strike me how deeply she meant that until we were gathered together last night after the First Friday events: our family, our three friends K., T., and V. and their families (we were at V.'s home) and three of our good priests, Frs. E., B., and L. We were talking after supper, and V. mentioned that she had spoken with Our Dear Friend. Our Friend mentioned that she just really misses holding her Little One and that his memory is fading so quickly and it was taking her by surprise.

And then I began to remember how it was after my dad died, and how I looked at his picture as often as I could so that I could see his face. And I plugged in the videos that we had taken regularly so that I could hear his voice. But there was nothing that could bring back how it felt to hold his hand or feel his arms around me in a hug. I could smell a shirt, but it wasn't truly him--it was the smell of the laundry. It scared me silly, because I couldn't believe how quickly I was beginning to forget him.

I remember buying tiles to fill out the floor in front of the fireplace, and how I knew I had found The Tile I Wanted when I ran my hand across it and it faintly felt like his hand. (And yes, I know how odd that sounds.) I felt like a child who sees a grown up for a while, and then not for a long time...and the next time you see that person they're so much different than how you remember them. I just wanted to always remember him just the way he was, and it was fading so rapidly.

My heart aches with such a raw wound for my friend, although I have the absolute luxury of being witness to her grief rather than being at the core of it. And while I know that right now, at the onset of her true grieving, her pain is growing steadily, mine is coasting and becoming familiar. And it just doesn't seem fair.

And still she ministers to everyone else with such love and wisdom and passion that she just continues to inspire everyone she knows. It's not always comfortable: her statement to V. was something like, "It was a SACRIFICE for us to have to give up our son. People have been asking what they can do to help us...they can sacrifice to make it to First Friday Vigil and spend time in prayer together."

We are on day 7 of our Rosary Novena for this good family. We have been praying for them each night, and last night it was with 20 children, 4 couples and 3 dear priests. We all sat together and prayed the Rosary for our friends. Somehow it didn't feel like the sacrifice that we ought to be making, but I know that God will use it for His purposes anyway.

But now, tonight, sitting by my beautiful baby's cradle, I find it all too easy to do as my friend exhorted me to do. I am cherishing, kissing, gazing upon my lovely child, and it is becoming easier, too, to allow the reality of this blessing sink in.

I will see my Dear Friend tomorrow at Mass. I know that she will come to me and we will hug. She will look at my baby and smile, and maybe cry a little. She'll touch her head and maybe kiss her a little, and her heart will just pour out the love that consumes her. And then she will remind me to cherish my beautiful children and to be thankful for every little blessing.

And I will.


Please pray in this Season of Waiting for those who wait in Hope: for healing, for forgiveness, for love, for new life, and for new life in Him, that they may rejoice in God's Timing as He remains faithful to those who remain steadfast in their faith in Him.

Please pray for those in need, whether it be the need for food or shelter, for a job, for acceptance, for a softer heart, for Jesus in their lives, for the Sacraments--that they may accept the prudence of God's Timing.

Please also pray for all those who wait, trusting in God's Perfect Timing for their families, that their hearts would be blessed for being so open to His will for them.

And please continue to pray for My Dear Friends, who have been an amazing example of accepting God's Timing. Tonight marks two weeks since their infant son's death...and not quite one week since it's just been Their Family (all the visitors have gone back home)...and they are finally beginning to grieve here and there. Please pray for them to just trust God to catch them in His loving arms when they fall apart. Please especially pray for the Daddy and the sons in this family.

A continued Blessed Advent to all of you.....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Back to......normal?

........though I'm not really sure just what constitutes normal anymore.

For the past few months, "normal" meant that I was on my pseudo-bed in the living room, directing traffic and chores, correcting schoolwork, quilting or embroidering, reading, and getting familiar with the remote control.

Then came the Snuggle Bug. For the past two weeks, there really hasn't been a "normal," so to speak. I only say this because you can't really count close friends losing a child, closely followed by a major holiday as being in the spectrum of normalcy. Life, yes, but not normal life.

And in between, there are sleepless nights spent with a baby who seems to think that dancing around the milk with her tiny, opened mouth is the way to get milk rather than Just Latching On Already. There are countless diaper changes (many of which are just so comical--such a great reminder of how little control we really have in this life!) and the realization that sometimes you really have to give in and turn on the lamp, even at 2 in the morning, just so you can gaze on the soft beauty and perfection that a healthy new baby brings into a family.

And what happens when you spend hours on your feet a mere week after the birth of a child? Your body lets you know that you shouldn't have, that's what.

And so it has.

And rather alarmingly, to boot.

So "normal" has returned, in the form of midwife-ordered REST, for Pete's sake.

Now, still coming to you via the trusty laptop, I am now ensconced in another nest. This one is more comfortable (it being my deliciously cozy bed), and includes a bedside table not filled with a rainbow of flosses, but with diapers and wipes (we no longer need the alcohol and cotton swabs, since my Little Bug now has an Official Belly Button!), burp rags and apricot oil. I also have, of course, my assortment of books (I'm starting in on the Mitford series again...) and plenty of room for my eternal glass of ice water.

And of course, my nest now also includes One Small Girl, with beautiful eyes, a perfect tiny mouth, soft, sweet cheeks and unbelievably adorable newborn grunts and squeaks.

I still plan to attend the First Friday events tomorrow, and of course Sunday Mass is a must. But the trips grocery shopping with the family (last week) and the other incidental shopping that must be done for things like diapers and wipes and the like must be done by someone other than me for the time being.


But you know, everything in perspective.......................normal for me still means that I have my vibrantly healthy children surrounding me; that I have a husband who more-than-capably provides for our family (and does so cheerfully into the bargain!), loves me and our children dearly and serves us all so very well; that I have a warm home surrounding me and nourishing food set before me. And miraculously, I have the gentle blue-gray eyes of a newborn daughter gazing at me in complete and utter innocence, learning about what Mama is all about, and learning that every need she has will be fulfilled.

And yesterday and today, My Darling has very kindly taken three of the five with him to the shop (yesterday the Frog, the Pickle and the the Frog, The Reepicheep and the Monkey). He's left me with a Helper and a Helpless, and the result has been very quiet, restful time with the baby and the one left to lend a hand...and time that the older ones get to spend with their Mama and baby sister. It's been lovely.

Normal is rather comfortable, no matter if I can be out and about or not. Once again, I am reminded that I am so very well blessed, thanks be to God.

Normal is a good place to be.


Please keep in your prayers the Mamas who are still waiting, either for the conception or birth of a child.

Pray also for the mother-in-law of a dear friend whose cancer has returned and spread to her brain. She will be receiving radiation and chemo beginning in a few weeks and lasting for a few weeks. Timing-wise, this encompasses the time which includes my dear friend's due date.....

Pray, please, for the humility which should be so abundant this time of year and which always seems to be just a little elusive. (It is for me anyway....perhaps not so much for others.)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Story of My Snuggle Bug

I know it's been a while....."Circumstances alter cases," as Fr. Tim would say. It's been a flurry of activity around here, and no two ways about it. First the birth of my Sweet Little Pumpkin, then a death and funeral, then Thanksgiving, and here it's already Eleven Days Since My Snuggle Bug Arrived.

And so.....the story you've all been waiting for:

The Birth of my Little Pumpkin!


Two weeks ago, I knew that labor was going. It was Sunday afternoon, and after Mass we made a stop to pick up a few last-minute items (new shoes for two of the kiddos, a couple of other things), and I Just Knew that we had to come home. It was the same feeling I had when labor began for the Pickle.

But it was not to be that day! Eventually things petered out, but not before we had our midwives, Chris and Billie, and Pumpkin's Godmother T. here with us. They all ended up spending the night with us and then going home Monday morning.....without having witnessed a birth.


My Darling stayed home on Monday. I don't know what other choice he really had; neither of us had any sleep at all Sunday night, of course, so we two mostly rested on Monday. Nothing really happened labor-wise, but since Chris had brought the birth pool, I was able to spend some time just relaxing in the water. That was heavenly (!) and it allowed me to really relax my body, which I desperately needed to do.

Tuesday late afternoon we started up again. Not much really happened during the day, but that evening things got a little more active.

Until the pool broke.

(Well...sort of.) The pool itself is constructed of a rigid foam material, not unlike the mats you can buy for a layer of insulation between a sleeping bag and the cold ground. There is a vinyl liner that goes all the way around it like a sleeve--covers the bottom, comes up around the inside edges and to the floor on the outside like an apron. Then we put another layer of clear plastic inside it as Our Own Personal Liner. There's a rope that then goes around the edges to anchor the plastic and to put tension around the pool and hold it together. The only problem was.....the rope snapped.

Enter that fabulous layer of vinyl, which (along with me, CONTRACTING, for Pete's sake!) held the pool together while My Darling raced out to the garage to grab a nylon ratchet strap (like you use to hold down cargo on top of the car on a trailer) to put in the rope's stead. (Now mind you, we laugh hysterically when we think back about this or tell the tale to the moment, I was panicking, I assure you! But it really was such a comedy of errors--I only wish we'd had a camera set up to take in this scene!)

That's all fine and good, you think, but not only did we realize then that the liner had a tear in it (which we discovered because My Darling's knees were then getting wet...but BEFORE the carpet got wet, thanks be to God!)--so then we had to empty the pool, re-line it with different plastic (and we were out of clear, so we had to use depressing black!) and then refill it--but it was also enough excitement, thankyouverymuch, that labor STOPPED.

S. T. O. P. P. E. D.

Rats again.

Only to pick up again Wednesday morning--and this time, it stuck around to see what was what!

At last!

And while I was rather certain that my water had broken on Sunday afternoon, there was no doubt at all on Wednesday morning at about 10:45. I felt the tell-tale pop, and that pretty well gave it away.

Enter labor. Took off it's coat. Stayed a while.

I must apologize in advance--if I heard this from someone else rather than having it happen to me, I'd feel cheated. But this really is what happened.

Labor was a joy! I had intense contractions, but not many contractions. They were just effective is all. And the surprise was that they didn't hurt. At. All. They were work, yes, but not painful in the least.

So I labored about it. We called the midwives and T., and my friend V. (who was to be my doula). T. and V. were delayed for various family reasons, and by the time they got there, I was at nearly done, for Pete's sake...and the contractions had been good, but I still had some work ahead of me to do. Chris suggested that I get onto my hands and knees with my rump up in the air and my face in the mattress. I did. The contractions STOPPED. So we waited a while, told some jokes, talked about the weather (balmy, at 41 degrees--compared to seventeen below zero when My Monkey was born!), and after a bit V. asked me if I wanted her to use some pressure points.

Hit me! I gave her my hand and she went to work. And it Worked! More contractions, more work, but still no pain. And there was time in between these contractions. At one point I said, "We have enough time in between these things to go out to eat!" (Even at a place with ssslllllllloooooooooooooooowwwwww service, like AppleBees!) We laughed. We joked some more.

Then Chris checked me. I had just a little way to go, but still with some hard work to get done.

At this point, it was about 5:00, and T. and V. Just Knew...and they took the kids and went to McDonald's.

Now the pain.

But it was only for 20 minutes, and then I was able to get into the water. I gave a couple of good pushes, and there was her head.....and it was that place that by all rights should burn like fire...and it didn't. I reached down and felt her silky little head, and I was just marveling at it! I could feel the top of her wrinkled up little forehead and the sweet softness of her brand new hair, and I just smiled and smiled and said, "Hello, Baby! I love you! You're so soft!" I couldn't have gotten the huge grin off of my face if you'd paid me!

And Chris said, "You know, you could push the rest of your baby out and actually hold him!" (Because this whole time, we were convinced [by heart rate numbers] that it was a boy!) And it was like I suddenly remembered that...Oh yeah, I'm here to do something, aren't I?! Well, so I did. I pushed the rest of her out with the next contraction (and as with the others, there were about 4 or 5 minutes between them!), and literally just as Chris was lifting my Little Pumpkin up out of the water and onto my chest, the kids walked in the door!

I just sat and loved on her for a few minutes and then T. said, "Well what do we have, for Pete's sake?!" I said, "I don't know, I haven't looked yet!"

And I looked......and she was Our Little Pumpkin! Our Snuggle Bug!! Her birth time was 5:57 PM...she weighed 7 pounds on the nose and was 20 1/2 inches tall.

Reepicheep cut the cord. Monkey kept gently saying (through his immense grin), "Pumpkin is here!" Pickle was quiet and looked away a lot. (Typical 10-year-old boy, I guess!) The Frog was enthralled, but quiet.

Physically, I've healed very well.

And I'm trying to let my heart immerse itself in the joy of this beautiful birth, while at the same time being so intensely sad for our very dear friends who very suddenly and unexpectedly lost their little seven-week-old baby boy just four short days after my Little Pumpkin was born. He was not sick; he was not injured--he just simply...stopped. This baby was the sixth child in their family, but the fourth little Saint in Heaven for them (they've suffered three miscarriages as well). Beginning tonight, our family (and several others) is praying a Rosary Novena with this dear family in mind, set to end on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

God has already allowed my Little Pumpkin to help begin healing the hearts of this dear couple. During the reception following his funeral Mass, they each held her--they asked to hold her. And God bless them, their faith is so strong that even Monsignor commented during the homily at the funeral that not once did he hear the questions that so many parents rightly ask, "Why us? Why our baby? Why our family? What kind of God does this?" No, their faith remains rock solid, because it is based on the Rock of Jesus Christ. They keep in mind that our children are not ours; they are His. It is a faith truly inspiring to all who know them, and it is a comfort to know that they have such solid ground. They will need it in the days and weeks to come.

Needless to say, it's been something of a roller coaster, both terrible and wonderful. I know full well that Satan does not want us to feel the joy of our blessings; rather he wants us to question our worthiness in God's eyes....and I do not intend to let him win. My humble prayer for myself is to stop allowing the fear of losing my own precious baby to override the joy of her birth.

Please pray, at this beginning of Advent, for all families who are suffering losses, that they may find hope in this beautiful time of year.

Pray also for the couples who want so much to bring children into the world and raise them up, and who find themselves in circumstances which make this dream difficult.

Pray for those who deny themselves of the warmth of the love of Christ, for whatever reason, that their hearts might be softened by the love of a Child.

And Rejoice! Praise the Lord that we have this lovely season of Advent to gladden our hearts as we anticipate the joy of The Birth!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A little piece of Heaven on earth.....

.....and her name is Little Pumpkin.

It's a GIRL!

Born on Wednesday, November 19th--the Feast Day of St. Agnes--was my sweet Little Pumpkin. She came at 5:57 PM, just in time for supper. Weighed in at 7 pounds, and measuring 20 1/2 inches tall, with a full complement of dark hair.

I'll post her birth story in the next few days...but at the moment I'm very busy falling madly in love with my sweet baby girl.

Everyone is thoroughly enchanted with her, of course......especially the Monkey, who insists on smooching her at every possible turn.

More to come soon!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Nearing the end?

Chris will come today. Maybe she will take one look at me and take great pity and tell me that she will give me something to get labor really and truly going.

Ok, likely not, but I needed to say it.

I've gotten to the point in pregnancy when I can be up and around, doing what needs to be done--just in time, of course, for that point in pregnancy when it hurts to be up and around, doing what needs to be done. Not complaining; just being honest.

It's the point when I really want to whine and cry and whinge to no end about how uncomfortable I am, how much it hurts to walk, how it's difficult to sleep, how flipping from one side to the other in the bed is really time-consuming and painful, how I have to use the loo every fourteen seconds and yield practically nothing....and the thing is, all of it is true, but I'm trying so hard to keep things in perspective--so most times I just keep my trap shut.

I know that all of this is part of what brings about the new life in our family. I know that this physical discomfort is fleeting--it will absolutely not last, and when it's gone I'll have forgotten it nearly immediately anyway. I know that suffering is part of being human, and that so little is asked of me when seen in the shadow of the Cross.

I know that in a matter of days, I will be holding a sweet bundle of wriggly love, smooching little cheeks and smelling a sweet head, marveling at the velvety softness of brand new little feeties, and falling absolutely in love with another small soul.

Yesterday was a bad day. Yesterday found me all too human, breaking down emotionally, and taking my frustrations out on my family. Of course, I thought to myself, everyone is conspiring against Mom to make things as miserable as possible. The children cannot (or will not, for Pete's sake) stop their squabbles long enough to remember that they love each other. My Darling husband thinks it's cute when I waddle (can you believe the nerve?!) rather than noticing that every step is painful. All these things added up for a rather explosive temper fit on my part. There were tears, there was blowing of the nose, there may have been a raised voice and harsh verbiage. Never mind the part where everyone has been sacrificing around me to make things happen in our home--the kids are just kids, for Pete's sake, and have really been doing their best (mostly) to get their chores done. And of course, My Darling has been grocery shopping and cooking, in addition to keeping on with the addition, working full-time to support and provide for our family, and still he is loving and supportive of me emotionally and just takes everything in and copes with it.

I am well blessed.

Still, yesterday Perspective was nowhere to be found. Completely MIA.

And today, alas, is shaping up much the same way, although it looks like it might get better.

We have Mass tonight with our dear Bishop, followed by a dinner of appreciation for the couples involved in the Marriage Preparation ministry.

I hope there's Confession offered before Mass......

Sunday, November 9, 2008

....And here we are--Thanks Be To God!

We did it! We made it to 36 weeks. The Pumpkin is growing larger (and larger, and larger...) with every passing moment. In truth, I'm starting to feel a little nervous about just how big this baby might get! At any rate, we can now take each day as it comes, and whatever day this baby decides it's birthday should be will just be.

Chris came on Friday morning and gave me the green light to (as she phrased it) "get up and jump around" if I wanted to--which I do, but let's face it: that's not likely to happen at this point! My Darling joked that he would bring the little trampoline into the living room. At least I think he was joking!

Since I had the approval of my ever-wise midwife, I went with my family to Mass on First Friday. Afterward, we went to the home of some very dear friends for supper, along with two other families and Fr. E. and Fr. B. (who is our chaplain this year, since Fr. E.'s new duties keep him so busy he can scarcely find the time to breathe, for Pete's sake!). What a perfectly lovely time we had, with a big, delicious meal graciously spread before us by equally gracious hosts, several rounds of cards for the men, satiating conversation for the ladies, and general merriment for the (19!) kids. Just to be in the mix of it all was such a tremendous blessing, I can barely express my gratitude.

Thanks be to God!

Yesterday morning, My Darling took me and the Monkey along with him on some errands. Since it was my first time out in nearly a month, there were a few things which had long been on my priority list that I had hoped he would have time to pick up.

Ah-ha: the key word here is my priority list.

We stopped and picked up some odds and ends, along with a package of teeny tiny diapers for the Pumpkin, and The First Outfit. I'm not always so picky about what my children wear--modesty is always a priority, of course, but hand-me-downs are the standard rule of play. That First Outfit, though, has to be just the right thing. I like to have something new, purchased specifically for each baby. I've saved them, of course, with the intention of passing them down so that if they are blessed by children and choose to use their First Outfit for their babies, they can. I've been looking and looking online to see what's out there, but it's never the same as going and looking through the racks and touching the fabrics and imagining my sweet baby's face and hands appearing, dressed in whatever my heart settles on.

I finally saw something that was just right--a set of three cotton sleepers, with matching t-shirts, gowns, receiving blankets and hats. I have enough to put together an outfit suitable for either boy or girl, and now I finally feel like everything is in place, and the Little Pumpkin can make a grand entrance any time.

You hear that in there, Little Pumpkin? Any time. Any old time would be just spiffy.

I know that patience will be well rewarded, but it's a virtue I've never been blessed with.

Especially now that I waddle rather like a penguin.


Mass this morning was overwhelming in its beauty. My perspective was of one who's been deprived nearly of the very air, finally able to gulp in all I wanted all at once.

In addition, My Darling and I had listened to a presentation by Steve Ray while we were out and about yesterday morning. In talking about the history of written scripture and how unavailable it was to early Christians, he explained how people would memorize what they heard at Mass--the Scripture readings, especially. They had to; they didn't have Bibles unless they were the absolute upper-crust of wealthy, and even if they could afford them, there was a pretty high likelihood that they couldn't read anyway. (Bibles in churches were chained to the pulpit not to keep them out of the hands of the common people (who couldn't read them anyway--but could sell them if they chose to), but because they were so incredibly valuable that the Church wanted to keep them in a place where they were accessible to be read to all of the people. Their worth was about three years' wages for the average laborer at the time.) He said, "They memorized them as if it was the last time they would ever hear them. Can you imagine how differently you would view the Mass if you thought each time that it would be the last time you'd hear those words?"

Well that's a great thing to say to a hormonal woman who's prone to emotional outpourings anyway! (Yes, I sit on the throne as Queen of the Weepy People...and I hold court several times a day...) So while I was at Mass today with my family, this thought kept running through my head..."What if this truly was the last time I could go to Mass?" Not even in the sense that you never know what tomorrow will bring, just what if it was the last time? What if I had to live out the rest of my days without the beauty of the Mass? Without receiving Jesus sacramentally? Without hearing the Word of God in nearly every single spoken word that is part of the liturgy? Shouldn't I be absorbing every single word, every action, every prayer--every single time--as though that truly was the case??

Remember that air I was suddenly able to gulp?


I've cried at Mass before, but not with the sheer wonder in my soul at what a miracle it is that I can walk into any Catholic church any time I want and attend Holy Mass. People around the world die for this. Their sacrifice for the Mass is so inspiring that it has pushed me to feel even more deeply appreciative of the Sacrifice of the Mass.

I think Pumpkin sensed the intensity of Mama's emotion. While Mass is usually a rather active time of day for my sweet babe, things were relatively subdued this morning. Oh, everything's absolutely fine--we're rocking and rolling this afternoon--but during Mass, things were very subtle.

I can barely wait to have my beautiful baby in my arms as it is, and now in addition, I am anxious in my heart to have my baby in my arms at Mass. I want to bring this child into the church and allow the sights, sounds and smells to permeate this precious baby's heart and soul the way they do mine. Is there anything more beautiful?


Any time, Little Pumpkin.

We're ready.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Four days left until I can putter around my home, nesting like the Mama Bird I feel I am these days.

My little nest has nearly lost it's charm, although I've surrounded myself well: books, laptop, remotes, cordless phone (what would I do without technology?!), a veritable rainbow of embroidery floss, hoops and needles, and a stack of pre-ironed towels to complete, basket of pedicure/manicure supplies, crossword puzzles--and all of this is to keep me busy between moments with the kids (of which there are plenty!)...and of course my Survival Kit: Bible, Rosary and Magnificat!

Four days. Four more (short, please Lord!) days. I can do four more days.


I've specifically avoided political entries thus far. While I enjoy a lively talk with people face-to-face, I don't necessarily relish getting into politics in a forum where just anyone, seen or unseen, can attack what they think are the entirety of my views and beliefs because of a sentence or two. I'll leave comments enabled for the time being, and we'll see what comes of it. I just want to be clear that I'm not making these statements to draw some big debate, and quite frankly, I don't know that I have the energy for one at the moment (I'm very busy...............).


I am upset about the results of the presidential and senatorial elections, although I can keep the economical side in perspective. We will see soon enough that the wealth has already been spread to those who actually choose to actively participate in our society. We will see soon enough that you cannot force an economy to grow "from the ground up"--the poor cannot pay the rich. Taxing the already taxed will not make this country greater. Encouraging reliance on government will only serve to increase our fiscal problems, but encouraging business development and healthy competition in the marketplace will help things move along in a positive way. (Did you know that the top 1% of wage earners in this country pay 39% of the taxes? The top 25 % pay 86% of taxes? And the top 50% pay 97% of taxes. This means that the bottom whole 3% of all taxes are paid by the bottom 50% of tax-paying wage earners. And that doesn't even count the entire sub-population who don't make enough, and so don't qualify to pay taxes--roughly 35% of the entire population! Thanks, all you "greedy, undeserving rich," for employing us, paying us, and then paying our bills. Spread the wealth, ha. Trickle that up!) Are you picturing me on my little cyber-soapbox?

That's all going to work itself out in the next couple of years though...because in two years there will be another election, and the next opportunity to correct these mistakes.

But that's not my real concern. My real concern lies with the ignorance of life, and the alignment of so many against the miracle of every human life, from conception to natural death.

I am praying for the Mercy of God to be upon all those who engage in or enable or promote the destruction of human life at it's most innocent and vulnerable.

This morning, as My Darling and I prayed together, and the Little Pumpkin was stirring as usual, the tears began and I could not stop them. I didn't even really want to try. So many lives are lost every day--lives of human beings who did not enlist as adults into a military unit with the intention of defending their country, and therefore understanding that conflict or combat could mean death. Lives of individuals who did not make the mistake of "magically appearing" where they could not know that they were not wanted, and will therefore pay the ultimate price for the sins of their mothers and fathers. Lives of tiny babies who are perfectly formed or not, who will survive outside their mothers' wombs or not, who were "planned" by human beings or not (because every life is ordained by God!), and who will be treated so cruelly that were we to see it in action on the street we would not hesitate to put ourselves between the violence and the innocence.

Please, God, have mercy on us and on the whole world for our silence, for our inaction, for our lack of compassion, for our sinful and willful neglect of this entire defenseless segment of society. Convert the hearts of those who seek these actions, and convict the hearts of those who fight for what is good and right.

May this time serve as a lesson in humility for all of us as children of God.

May the Divine's assistance remain always with us, and may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercies of God, rest in peace.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Holding steady

Well, we seem to be in a holding pattern, thanks be to God. While some things remain a bit tedious (contractions and bed rest combined with the intense urge to NEST, for Pete's sake!!), my hypoglycemia issue has apparently been assuaged by small, frequent infusions of high protein. Meatloaf, eggs, nuts, cheese...everything helps. Oh, and yogurt, too...but I only tolerate the taste of yogurt when it's mixed into a smoothie. Mmmmm!!

Saturday brought a crew of helping hands to the house, and boy did they get a lot done! Thanks be to God for good friends, decent weather, and a fruitful day.


Missing Mass yesterday was hard. Aside from the intense longing just to be at Mass, our dear friends were having their precious baby boy baptized (thank goodness the Frog took her camera and captured some beautiful images for me...), and there was a prayer service following Mass to support our wonderful priests (yesterday was Priesthood Sunday).

When my family returned home, My Darling removed his sweater and handed it to me, knowing exactly what I would do with it: I covered my face with it and deeply inhaled the sweet, holy fragrance of incense. I still have it near my pillow so that I can grab it from time to time and smell one of my favorite scents in the entire earthly world...

And, of course, My Darling brought me Communion in our pyx. It is so comforting to know that I can read and reflect on the readings in my Magnificat, watch Mass on EWTN or one of our local stations (one of them broadcasts Mass every Sunday for those unable to attend), and then My Darling can bring me Jesus. It's so not even close to being there and experiencing the Mass, but it'll do for the next couple of weeks. I can do this for two more weeks. Really. I can. Philippians Four-Thirteen, for Pete's sake!!

I have been finding it a little easier to keep in mind that whatever sacrifices He asks of me, God intends for either the betterment of my own soul, or for someone else. Two weeks really is not so long.


Some ladies are coming tomorrow night for what our home school group has dubbed "Maternity Moms' Night Out." There is a regular "Moms' Night Out," which always involves going out to eat as a group and recently has included karaoke. But one of the moms decided that with all of the pregnant Mamas in our group, we needed to do something specifically for the expecting Mamas.

Most of us are having our fourth, fifth, sixth--even seventh babies. Sadly, so many of our family and friends outside our home school group or parish families just don't seem to recognize the miracle that each life is! I remember having a shower for the Pickle, but nothing for Reepicheep or Monkey. And with Monkey, we really could have used one! We had given all of our baby items away, after four years of secondary infertility and having been told that we would likely never conceive again. We ended up having to buy everything all over again, from the car seat to the crib and high chair. A few of the special clothes had been set aside, so that each of our children could have something from their babyhood down the road, but most of them had been given away long ago.

More than a shower, though, it was the support that we really found hurtfully lacking. There were a very few of our family members who came to visit after the Monkey was born (some of them never even called or acknowledged his birth at all!), and only a fraction of them were in attendance at his baptism. And forget the notion of bringing a meal or tossing in a load of laundry, or giving a hand with household chores. I think there were perhaps two people who filled that role, and the rest of it fell to My Darling. Do people think that if it's your fourth or fifth baby, you bounce back faster physically??

And the announcement that we were pregnant *again* was met with just plain eye-rolling disdain on some parts--not just with this Little Pumpkin, but even with the Monkey. Hey, we happen to have planned this baby, and by the grace of God, we were blessed! And we happen to realize that every single baby conceived and brought into a family is a miracle, whether they are the first, the third, the fifth or the tenth!! Every soul is new, every new life ordained by God Himself. It saddens me that so many fail to recognize this.

Well, this happens to be an issue faced by many of the families with whom we are friends. So rather than having a shower for each baby, we Mamas gather together with the expectant Mum and treat her at her favorite restaurant. We talk and share our pregnancy and birth experience stories over good food. Some people bring small token gifts--a crib medal, perhaps, or a baby Rosary--but most just come for the fellowship.

Since I am on bed rest, the Mamas are coming here and bringing potluck. We shall play board games and laugh and visit, and most of all, they will bring love and support for this sweet Little Pumpkin! I am so looking forward to the company of my dear friends; it almost makes the next two weeks seem even more bearable!

If my prayers come to fruition, the birth of this baby will be celebrated with joyful thanksgiving, prayer, and love from all sides. I pray for everyone who knows us to welcome this child as heartily and enthusiastically as they did our first and second and third. And I pray for hearts to be softened to know that children are such precious gifts, that families can have more than two or three, and that no matter what number in the mix they are, each dear child is cherished and loved.

And hey, a helping hand wouldn't hurt, either. :)


The Forty Days for Life campaign is coming to a close on November 2nd. Please continue to keep in your prayers all those whose lives are adversely affected by this tragedy; may God have mercy on them and on all of us.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Just give me two weeks of your time

Unbelievably, this is what my midwife has asked of me. Or rather, what she has asked of my Little Pumpkin.

Let's go back a few days, shall we? Let's go back to Sunday, when I sat through Mass, only to find myself not timing, but definitely counting contractions. There were far too many of them, and I decided immediately that although I long for the Mass, a healthy Pumpkin is top priority at the moment.

Sunday night I had a nightmare that was just...well, nightmarish. It was horrible!

In the dream, we returned home from Mass and I decided to relax in the tub for a while to slow things down. (Coincidentally, I did actually soak in the tub for a bit...) But then (in the dream), my water broke. And it was the color that it would be if the baby were in serious trouble. (Now, for those of you not-so-much in the know, this is perhaps possible at 33 weeks, but not likely, as the baby has yet to ingest the substances which produce this particular color...and that's all I'm going to say about that.)

So of course, I ended up being raced to the hospital, where I was told, "We need to get this baby delivered!" And I said, "Ok, bring on the pitocin." "Nope," they said, "we're going to do a C-section." "Ok," I said (rather disappointed, for Pete's sake...), "then bring on the epidural." "Nope again," I was told, "we're going to put you under."

Now, as horrible as this dream was, I don't remember past that point. I am certain that there was some outcome that was probably troubling, but I apparently couldn't think past the general anesthesia part. See, I would far rather my labor look something like this:

So moving on to Monday...Monday, where--to put it delicately--I had one of the first signs of my dear body beginning to think about labor. It took me by surprise, because even with all of the contracting that I've been doing, I guess I didn't think it was going quite that far. So I called Chris and told her what had happened. She was concerned (but not alarmed), and suggested that perhaps she ought to come and see me on Wednesday rather than wait until Saturday.

Ok. Since Chris does not easily alarm or upset, her even demeanor was calming to me when I most needed it, and I am eternally thankful.

She didn't sound really concerned until Tuesday.

Oh.....Tuesday will spook me for a long while, my friends.

Tuesday was going along swimmingly. Mid-morning found me directing the kids in their various chores--with a visit from Chris on Wednesday and a crew of men coming on Saturday, I wanted to make sure all of the proverbial bases were covered. As I was explaining to the Frog that the carpet needed to be vacuumed, I started feeling a little queasy.

I'll try to go into detail without going into too much detail...but the long and short of it is that I ended up nearly passed out on the floor in front of the loo! I was drenched in cold sweat and completely panicked.

I hollered for the Frog to get Dad on the phone. Bless his heart, My Darling was balm, as usual, and encouraged me to calm down and breathe deeply and keep my head down. He was on his way home--and I pity anyone who chanced to drive anywhere near him, because I tell you, he positively flew. He told me to give the phone back to the Frog, whom he instructed to prepare a snack for Mama, with orange juice and something with potassium (which, as it turned out, was tater tots, because that's what we had). Then he told her to call Dr. H.

With Dr. H. now on the line, the Frog handed me the phone once again. Dr. H. said, "Can you get to the bed? Because if you can't get to the bed, I'm calling 911." I got to the bed. "Get dry," she said, "and get warm. And put the Frog back on the phone."

A mere moment later, I found myself being patted dry and tucked in. The Pickle grabbed my rice pack and nuked it, and then tucked it in up against my back. He grabbed his own rice pack and warmed it up and put it against my feet. Reepicheep was busy spreading out throw blankets over my comforter. Even the Monkey found a job--he was patting my hair, and saying, "Feel better, Mama," in between smooches.

Dr. H. called every 15 minutes over the next hour, and then continued to call throughout the day just to check up on me and make sure I was doing ok.

And when My Darling came in, he called Chris. "Protein," she said. "The woman needs protein. Throw a couple of eggs and some milk in the blender and have her drink it."

My Darling. My wonderful, sweet husband. "How about if I throw a couple of eggs and some milk in a frying pan and scramble them?"

God bless that man.

After a ham and cheese omelet, I was feeling markedly better. The whole thing exhausted me though--I could not believe how tired it made me!

As it turns out, the scourge of our family (my biological family, that is) has come home to roost. Hypoglycemia, which is pretty much opposite of diabetes--too much insulin versus not enough--is now my companion. Chris brought me a glucometer so that I can see how low my sugar is. She suggested a high protein and fiber diet. Complex carbs and fats are ok, but if I want crackers, I have to eat them with cheese or sausage. (Oh, twist my arm!) I am also to take it very easy, as I'm doing now, with trips to the loo being about what I can handle. I can get a glass of ice water from time to time, but household stuff is falling to my family.

Her next statement was what shocked me: "Ok, Little One, you need to stay in there until November 9th. The 16th would be better, but the 9th will do."

Um.............we're not officially due until December 7th. Not one to make promises or predictions, Chris was unwilling to work with me when I was desperate for the Monkey to make his appearance--no tincture, no green light on getting things going, no nothing!--until I reached that magic 40 week mark. But this time, for her to elude to a date four whole weeks before our actual due date....I wonder what she's thinking..........

Our next visit with Chris will be next Friday--Halloween. As long as my Little Pumpkin doesn't want to compete with Charles Schultz's Great Pumpkin, we'll be doing ok..........


Please keep in your prayers all of the precious unborn souls which are lost to the horrors of abortion. May God heal the hearts and souls of those providing and procuring abortions, and especially the hearts and souls of the parents of all those babies who are taken.

Remember in thanksgiving all those who work to end the injustice of abortion.

Please also pray for those babies who are born too soon and suffer for it, for their parents and families, and for those who give them the care that they need.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hiatus? Moi??

Never. In need of one, perhaps, but not actually on one, for Pete's sake.

The past couple of weeks have been full.

First of all, I need to update my Dear Readers to let you know that J.'s mother did indeed fly to Jesus last Sunday morning. J. called me that afternoon, and we had a wonderful conversation, remembering her mom and all that she had been and meant to us--the first of many to come, I'm sure. She said that her mother's death was very peaceful, as the weeks preceding had been. The baby shower was held, and J.'s youngest brother was married to his Beloved in the hospital courtyard so that his mom could be present. They were all with her when Jesus called her Home, which is such a blessing....

I was devastated to miss the services on Tuesday night, and the reason for it fits in to my story a little later. I do know, though, that J.'s mom had specifically said, "Nothing dirgy. I want this to be a celebration!"--which is something that I can absolutely hear her saying! Another of my friends was there, and her note said that it was very touching, as I can only imagine it would have been.


Last Sunday, after returning home from Mass, I began to know that I should no longer bother myself with stairs. This is a double-edged sword, because although I am now closer to the loo, I am not so much as close to My Darling at night. This, as my Reepicheep would say, is a Big Fat Rats.

That evening, I sat out in the sun room and played cribbage with My Darling (who had the Monkey on his lap--two against one...I ask you, where is the fairness in that?), and the Frog, the Pickle and the Reepicheep opened up the love seat (the one from Grandma's house!) and proceeded to make it a bed fit for a princess. Or a queen. Or just a tired, rather cumbersome Mama, who really needs to sleep in a place closer to the loo!

When I came inside, it was to my feather bed having been placed on the mattress, and the down comforter draped over top. My favorite sheets had been lovingly tucked in, and my multitude of pillows had been plopped at the head. Although we had to do a little bit of adjusting and rearranging, I have been very comfortably ensconced upon my little nest for a week now. They even made a couple of cards, one of them saying, "I hope your time sleeping downstairs is fun!"---ah, the romantic notions of childhood! They see this as an extended slumber party for Mom. Aren't they sweet?

My Darling has taken up night time residence on the couch, just as he did when I carried the Monkey. I am sad that I cannot share his warmth each night; I never have slept well when we're not in the same bed, but at this stage of the game I don't sleep well anyway. The upside for him is that he no longer has to abide my constant shifting and mashing of pillows all night long--say nothing for the three or four trips to the loo. He, for once, is sleeping better than ever. And he does make it a point to snuggle with me for a bit each night, sometimes falling asleep next to me and making the move across the room when I make my first move to the powder room. He is a good man, and I am well and truly blessed!

On Tuesday, I had booked myself for a 90 minute massage, followed by an adjustment at the chiropractor. I had two hours in the middle of the afternoon, all to myself, which is so rare and lovely that I scarcely would know what to do with all those little minutes, had I not had something specific all planned out. I went, I melted, I was rubbed and soothed, and I practically became part of the table. My adjustment was equally wonderful; I floated in and I was so relaxed that my joints nearly adjusted themselves.

Then I came home and detoxed my appreciative muscles in the tub and laid down, intending to nap. Apparently my belly did not get that memo.

The contractions began, and they were ruthless. In, say, six weeks, this behavior would be perfectly acceptable. Now, however, is a bit early. And this, my friends, is why I am on bed rest. This is just what my body does. But on Tuesday, when what I wanted to do was to relax and then attend the service for J.'s mom, it was so the last thing I wanted to be going on. I had already let J. know that we were planning on attending, but she also knows my I knew that if we didn't make it, she would know why.

All this is to say that was the last time I was out of the house this week, until Mass today. And there I sat--literally sat my way through Mass--and contracted away yet again......and knew. This is the last Sunday I will be able to be at Mass until the Pumpkin makes an appearance. My Darling will bring Jesus to me in a pyx, and I'll participate in the Mass through EWTN, God bless them.

Bed rest is now in earnest, as it should have been before (I blush tremendously at this point), with privileges only to use the loo. I am in my nest, and the activity buzzes around me like a veritable hive. I am writing to you now from the laptop, which My Darling has bullied into accepting the Internet. I have no excuse to be out of bed now.



Please keep in prayer our dear Bishop, who has been under spiritual and personal attack of late. This has prompted a huge outpouring of support for him from many good and holy priests and laypeople, thanks be to God, but the prayers must absolutely keep coming!

We also pray for those who ache for the joy of nourishing new life. Infertility is a heavy Cross to bear, and so many suffer through it, including very dear friends of ours. May God bless their hearts to His will and grant His peace to their spirits.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Time for the soup....

Well it's definitely been a spell since I've checked in to write here.

The crisp autumn weather is definitely here to stay. It's nearly the time of year that I love best--namely.....Soup Season!

When I make soup, I use my huge stock pot. Why bother with small batches? Around here, we take our soup semi-seriously, and we depend on it to last through several meals. I use a screen strainer towards the end to make sure we get every morsel we can, and then I save the delicious stock to use with beef or pork roast, or as the base for other soups. And this time of year, it begins to stay cool enough that my stock pot can be taken out to the garage, set onto a crate to cool, and then left in my temporary "walk in refrigerator".

My favorite soup to make is chicken, whereby the entire chicken is submerged for an hour of boiling on my stove top, along with the seasonings that give it the characteristic flavor. The windows become misted with the steam, and I settle at the table with my cutting board and half the produce section, with the strains of Mozart keeping me company in the background. The peelings mound up, eventually making their way via ice cream bucket out to the compost bin. The big mixing bowls, usually in want of cake or muffin batter, begin to fill with their cheerfully colorful heaps of chopped potatoes, cabbage, carrots, celery and onion. The big pot on the stove rattles gently, as bits of savory steam escape and fill the whole house with the aroma of pure warmth.

Eventually, the chicken comes out of its bath to cool, while potatoes and cabbage boil, and onions, carrots and celery mingle together in olive oil in the big cast iron pan.

Then the time-honored process of removing the meat from the bones of the chicken--this never gets old for me. It takes about 20 minutes if I'm not interrupted, and it's an occasion to smile as my children seem to find their way into the kitchen again and again to snitch pieces of warm chicken from the bowl.

I really enjoy the therapeutic process of taking so many raw ingredients and allowing their individual flavors to meld together in something so comforting and nourishing as a bowl of homemade chicken soup. It is prayerful, in a way. Putting these things together is so reminiscent of the way God uses all of the ingredients and seasons of our lives to make our souls pleasing to Him.

My making soup has long been one of the ways I love to minister to my family, and anyone else who chances to place their feet under our table. The simple joy of cutting into a crusty loaf of bread to dip into the broth, the smiles of delight from my children as they feel the warmth of the soup fill their little bodies, the satisfied smile on my husband's face after he finishes a big bowl of hearty soup--that's absolutely one of the Basic Definitions of Home, for Pete's sake. I was blessed to have a bowl of homemade chicken soup served to me by My Darling while I labored with the Monkey. On such a long, cold night, it was like a benediction.

I love to fill canning jars with soup. I love to see the vegetables and meat settle into the bottom, letting the light shine through the clear amber broth. I love giving the jars of soup to friends and family, especially when there is the hint of a cold going around....few things work in a sick or tired body like homemade goodness. This past week, Reepicheep and I made a big double batch (thereby using both the stock pot and the canning pot). We took some to share at a meal after First Friday Mass, and then also sent six quarts to our dear friends who welcomed Baby Number Six on Wednesday, thanks be to God! (Pickle and Frog also made banana bread for them.)

I enjoy swapping soup recipes, so if you have a favorite, don't hold back! My recipe for chicken soup was taken from a magazine several years ago--by a friend, no less, who then came to my house and made the soup for me--what a gift!! I've altered it a bit, and generalized it a lot, so the fact that I've long since forgotten the magazine in question doesn't bother me too much. The recipe follows.........


Place one large chicken, minus neck and giblets (and well-rinsed), in a large stock pot. Fill with as much cold water as you want broth in your soup. Add six-ish teaspoons "Better Than Bullion" (or six bullion cubes, but the Better Than Bullion is tastier and healthier), a teaspoon of dried sweet basil, 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning and a bay leaf. Bring to a rolling boil, cover, and boil gently for one hour.

In the meanwhile, prepare the vegetables: five large potatoes (whatever type you fancy...I use whatever I have on hand), peeled and diced, and two cups finely chopped green cabbage (once I thought I'd give the soup more color and character, so I tried red tasted absolutely delicious, but turned the broth an unsightly shade of me--use the green!)--the potatoes and cabbage can be put together in one large bowl and set aside.

Then prep four or five large carrots, peeled and chopped into lovely round slices (great job for a child who is confident with a peeler and paring knife!), two or three stalks of celery, including the leafy bits on the ends, chopped into smallish pieces, and one large yellow onion, diced. Keep the onions separate, as they go into the frying pan first. Put the carrots and celery together in a large bowl and set aside. Small hands love to blend the two in a mixing bowl, and what a delight it is to watch the colors mix together!

Remove the chicken from the pot, and place it in a large colander over a pot or bowl to collect the juices (add the juices back into the soup later, along with the chicken and veggies). Set the chicken aside to cool. This means away from the edge of the table where curious pets like to wait.......or is it just mine?

Add the potatoes and cabbage to the stock, along with one tablespoon each soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce (which I unfailingly call "Lea & Perrins" because I hate trying to pronounce the other!). Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper (about a teaspoon) and sea salt (again, to taste--about a teaspoon--and I always add a dash or two of blessed salt as well!). Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for an hour.

In a large, heavy frying pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil, then add the onions. Saute until translucent; then add the carrots and celery. Cook over medium-high heat, covered, until the carrots and celery are fork-tender (about 20 minutes), stirring occasionally. I use a wooden spoon because of the next step...

While the carrots and celery are cooking, pull the meat from the chicken bones and cut or tear into bite-size pieces. Your hands will get very chickeny, so it's best to either ignore the phone or have someone else answer it for a while. That's ok; use the time for reflective prayer. :) Don't forget to stir the vegetables from time to time. Your chickeny hands will not bother the wooden spoon.

Add carrots, onions, celery and chicken to the soup when everything is finished. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes.

Enjoy the soup with crusty bread, slathered with lots of butter. The stock makes an excellent base for other soups, or for roasts. Sometimes I'm in the mood for an even heartier soup, so I'll use more carrots and potatoes. If I have something in mind that needs a good bit of stock, I'll use fewer veggies. I added noodles only once, because they have a tendency to get mushy with reheating. The soup (and stock) freezes very well, and reheats beautifully.

Let me know how you like this...and be sure to share your favorite soup recipe.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fall? Already??

Well, J's mom is doing a little better, thanks be to God. Better, as in, her kidneys did not shut down entirely, so they have a little time left with her rather than just a few days.

With this in mind, I was feeling so blessed to be able to write her a letter of appreciation...and while I could never express everything that she has meant to me over the years, I am so glad to have had the opportunity to put at least some of it into words. For Pete's sake, she ought to know just how special she is! Today, then, I am just feeling very thankful that God allowed a little more time for this amazing family to be together, to celebrate the baby shower for the one coming in December, and just to bathe in each others' love. I know that they will treasure fondly the memories that they will make together in the days to come.


Chris came to see me today. She brought her lovely daughter with her, and while Chris asked me all of the routine questions about various things--leg cramps? Check. Swelling? Not so much. Sleeplessness? Definitely--Billie took my blood pressure and did other various things that midwives do during routine home visits. The Little Pumpkin is doing just fine...growing well, doing Olympic-worthy acrobatics several times each day, having hiccups dozens of times each day, and generally delighting us with the "Is it a knee or an elbow?" guessing game.

We had such a nice talk, and they checked out the addition (because they're going to need to know how to get in the new entrance, and how to get to the new bedroom, for Pete's sake!), and we made plans to see each other again in four weeks. Thank Heaven for the blessing of dear midwives who make house calls!


And by the way, I am absolutely stunned and nearly refuse to acknowledge that it is less than a week until October. However, I am not without common sense, and because I love autumn so dearly.....well, we did indeed decorate for fall the other day. We have a few crafty things that have been picked up over the years, and so the girls and I put them out on Monday. We have little pumpkins, with their little leaves on tiny springs. We have brightly colored silk leaves. We have a very cute scarecrow and a few pilgrims--and even though it isn't Thanksgiving season yet, they do look rather fall, so they're out already too. We have some apple-scented candles that I've been burning regularly, and they make the air smell like it wants to be orchardy in my very own living room. If I were not on bed rest, we would be making a trip to our favorite fall market to pick up some pumpkins and apples and maybe even a mini bale or two of straw.

I really do get into the mood to decorate my home for the cooler months. We spend so much time outside in the late spring and summer that I don't bother for those seasons, but when we spend lots of time inside, I'm all about being festive. I have such beautiful decorations for Christmastime that I often pull them out right after Thanksgiving so that we are feeling celebratory all during Advent. This year we are considering beginning the tradition of waiting until Christmas Eve to put up and decorate the Christmas Tree....we're still pondering that one. I would love to hear what other people's traditions are in this regard!

Please continue to keep J's family in your prayers. Also, my dear friend C, whose Grandmother was buried yesterday. She lived a long life, thanks be to God, and is sadly missed by her family.

Thank God for the gift of family, whether they are the families into which we are born, or the families that God surrounds us with through friendships. May we be ever mindful of those whose families are not intact, or who suffer from loneliness, or who have no family to speak of. Lord, allow each of us to remember that we are all family, after all, brought together by Our Father.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I didn't want to know that...

There are some phone calls I'd just rather not take.

I have a dear friend who called me in July, asking for prayers for her mother. This lovely lady, who gave me such wonderful guidance when I was young, had gone through breast cancer several years ago and had survived and thrived. In July, she had some tumors removed from her abdominal area, and things were looking like they were going to be back to normal any day.

But not so much tonight.

Tonight when she called, J. let me know that her mom is critically ill...she had a lot of pain this past week, and now they know that the tumors came back, as tumors are wont to do, and with a vengeance. Apparently they didn't get that particular Scriptural memo about vengeance belonging to the Lord.

The family is praying that her kidneys begin to work again. If they don't, it's only a matter of days. Either way, the prognosis is not good. She is on massive doses of pain medications and is beginning to say goodbye to her family.


She loves flowers--she's a master gardener. Her hands are pretty, but they are the hands of a woman who is not afraid of work. I remember that I gave her a set of hand care products as a thank you one summer day, when our family and J's family gathered at her parents' home for a day on the lake.

She makes the most beautiful quilts--my favorite was a sun-burst cross, with all different colors coming together to create a mosaic masterpiece of the beauty of salvation. She could put together the best Halloween costume or play costume at the drop of a hat. When we were kids, she loved dressing up like a clown.

Her house always smells like freshly baked muffins or cookies or breads, and her refrigerator holds perpetual meals for whomever happens by. She always keeps a "Herman" starter on her counter, faithfully stirring it and adding to it when necessary. When something happens in a family, dozens of mini-muffins are immediately forthcoming from her stock.

Her Bible is well-worn and well-loved. It sits in her living room on a table next to the sofa. She and her husband have their time together every single day, and it doesn't stop there for her. She is a woman of unbelievably strong faith, and I would wager there is not a single moment of her day that does not include a prayer. She prays unfailingly for her friends and family, for those who have no one else to pray for them, in supplication for those in need and in thanksgiving for those who are not.

Her guitar and piano were rarely silent when I was a child. She often sings in her garden or in her kitchen, piecing together snatches of hymns and songs here and there to make musical quilts. She passed this love of music on to her children. Her daughter, my friend J., is a music teacher herself.

She is an author, penning everything from the occasional letter to the local newspaper to children's books to articles for national publication in devotional monthlies.

She is a grandmother to three vibrant boys. She has had more than a small hand in raising them, helping them understand the importance of the littlest things of creation: bugs and seeds. She helped to shape their first days and years, and continues to be a strong guiding force in their lives.

She will likely not live to see her first granddaughter born in late December.

She kept me safe when I was a kid. I ran away to that home more times than I can remember. When things were really bad at my house, their home was almost always the place I'd end up, and it was because I knew I would be safe and loved there.

I walked there almost every morning before school, and then J. and I would go on together from there, always with something freshly baked in our hands to munch on the way.

She loves trying new things, always enforcing the rule at the table: everyone has to try everything. If you don't try it, how do you know you don't like it? Imagine what you'll miss if you don't try something that you have a chance of liking!

She has always been a care taker and nurturer, a prayer warrior and a lover of all things beautiful. She taught her children to be compassionate and loving, and with the help of her husband and by the grace of God they have raised three fine people.

I am sick in my heart for my friend, because although she says she is fine Right Now, I know that the stealthy knowledge of loss will shake her to her core. I thank God for J. and all the years of friendship that she and I have been blessed with...and more so for her mom and everything she gave from her heart to me over the years.

Please keep this family in your prayers: for God's will, and for His everlasting peace in their hearts.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Watching Daddy Vroom Away

Our latest routine change has come because the mornings have been so beautiful that we open the front door almost immediately. Let the fresh air pour in here, I say!!

My Monkey loves his Daddy. This is a beautiful and tender thing to behold, not in the least because I identify completely with it: I love him, too.

The time between Monday morning and Tuesday evening is a bit of a challenge. My Darling is in a leadership role in the Father/Son ministry which he and the Pickle are a part of. Consequently, My Darling takes the Pickle with him on Monday mornings and they don't get home until late evening--and sometimes this means the Monkey is already in bed and fast asleep. Then on Tuesday mornings, My Darling leaves rather on the early side so that he can get in an hour of Adoration before he goes to work. This makes my Monkey sad for pretty much all of Tuesday morning...So when Daddy comes home from work on Tuesday evening, my little Monkey goes, well, ape.

But the mornings that are now the "norm" look like this:

My Darling gets up way early. He does this because he is a good man who loves his family, and takes good care of the dogs, for Pete's sake. They walk together, and he runs into the same crowd at the park every day. He gets the neighborhood news, and brings in the paper upon his return. At the appropriate hour, he comes and wakes me up.

He fixes me a cup of coffee (two scoops of hot chocolate, no sugar, lots of cream!) and comes to sit with me. I read the paper, and he proceeds to decimate the crossword puzzle. In pen. Twerp.

We talk about what the day will likely hold for each of us. We talk about the kids, the addition, work and school, and whatever else happens to crop up.

At some point, if the night was a good one for the Monkey, a little face pokes through the lattice work of the stairway. A little voice proclaims, "I-I-I-I-I-I'm awake!" and sometimes, "I-I-I-I-I-I found my Brown Monkey!" (his most beloved stuffed friend, along with Purple Bunny and Duhdoh...which, as everyone knows, is a turtle.).

The Monkey takes his mark and leaps directly for the lap of his loving Daddy, who scoops him up and loves on him in that fabulous Daddy Way. They usually head for the kitchen, where I hear quite a little dialogue. I am absolutely loathe to interrupt this time, which I recognize as sacred.

They share a grapefruit. This came about because my Monkey really likes to suck on lemon wedges, which I often have in my ice water, and that got me to thinking that he might enjoy the taste of grapefruit. And I was right. This morning, he ate the entire thing himself. His loving Daddy had been very conscientious about things, and had sectioned it into a bowl--and was then able to drain off the juice into a glass. The Monkey consumed every drop.

They talk about nonsense and good sense. They look at fliers for home improvement stores and farm feed and supply stores and point out the tools and the things that my Monkey associates with his Daddy. "That drill is just like yours!" my Monkey might exclaim.

Sometimes they sing together. Monkey's latest love is, "Glory to God in the highest....and peace to His people on earth...." Oh yeah, it melts my heart.

Sometimes it's just goofy banter. "What are you doing, Daddy?" Monkey might ask. Daddy replies, "Goin' crazy. What are you doing?" "Goin' nuts," answers the Monkey.

Sometimes they head out to the addition to poke around and see what supplies Daddy might need to pick up for his time out there when he gets home from work.

At some point, a cup of hot chocolate is consumed, complete with the obligatory marshmallows.

And when It's Time, they come back into the living room to sit with Mama and pray. We have our daily prayers that we say together, with Daddy leading the first three and then Mama and Monkey joining him on the others.

And then Daddy says, "It's time for me to vroom away." And the Monkey says, "Okay, Daddy.

There is a Squeezy Hug and a smooch.

Daddy says goodbye to Mama and the Pumpkin.

Daddy goes to the back door. Monkey runs to the front.

And momentarily, the Monkey hollers, "BYE, DADDY! I LOVE YOU! GOD BLESS YOU! HAVE A GOOD DAY!!!"

And then our day has begun.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Is there no balm in Gilead?

It was definitely one of those weeks. The kind that begins well but kind of goes downhill as it progresses. Not my favorite.

It was the kind of week where the children are resistant to obedience and prone to bickering and quarreling. The kind of week where I want to spend as much time in a hot bubble bath in a darkened, silent room with candles glowing gently, but instead I feel like I'm standing barefoot in a snowdrift.

It was the kind of week that brings on a migraine. On Thursday. The day of our bi-weekly study group. I needed that group this week. I needed to get out of the house, for Pete's sake.

It was the kind of week that sends me into a tizzy of desperate prayer, searching for the balm to soothe my sin sick soul.

Why do I allow myself to continually think that I am in this thing alone? That He is not providing--allowing--for every breath I take? One of my favorite lines from Anne of Green Gables is when Anne asks Marilla, "Do you ever find yourself in the depths of despair?" Marilla answers her very plainly: "No. To despair is to turn your back on God."

Such a thought should be the furthest thing from my mind. He has so gloriously and abundantly shown His hand to me that despite my humanness, despair should be impossible.

Enter satan and his little imps, who come about seeking to weaken my faith. They come in disobedient whinges from the mouths of my children. They come in jabs to my heart, seeking to misconstrue words spoken by My Loving Darling. They come in weakening little pings to my spirit, attempting to disengage me from the ones who love me, pray with me and pray for me.

And thank God for my Guardian Angel, who comes stronger. Thank God for those who love me and pray with me and pray for me! Thank God for My Loving Darling, who takes things graciously, knowing that my heart does not wish for separation and discontent, but for the balm that only He can give.

I was once accused by an anonymous relative of My Darling of craving drama in my life. Ha! It is the calm peace of the heart that I long for. Drama finds me often, as I'm sure it does many others, but it is not relished here.

The Psalmist says, in Psalm 63:

"O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see you strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise. So I will bless you all my life, in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul shall be filled as with a banquet, my mouth shall praise you with joy. On my bed I remember you. On you I muse through the night for you have been my help; in the shadow of your wings will I rejoice. My soul clings to you; your right hand holds me fast. But those who seek to do me ruin shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword, they shall be prey for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by Him shall exult, for the mouths of liars shall be stopped."

There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole...there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mama Mary!

It's a gray, rainy day. It may or may not get up to 60 degrees. What a blessed relief! We need the rain, and the cooler weather we've had in the past week has been such a blessing. At this point, the only fans used are in the bedrooms to circulate air at night!

And the
feast day....what a day! Just listen:

I've included information about the Angelus
before, and that's the text used here. The choir is stunning, and makes this sound so reverent and beautiful...what a fitting tribute to Our Lady.

We celebrated this morning by making muffins, and then putting birthday candles in them and singing, "Happy birthday, Mama Mary!" several times (it's one of Monkey's favorite songs!).

Please keep the following prayers close to your heart today:

Dear M, who is so very young and inspiring, and who needs hip surgery to correct issues stemming from being in his wheelchair every day. We also pray for his family--for his parents who care for him so tenderly and love him so well, and for his siblings who show such patience and compassion for their brother.

Dear H, who is fighting a true spiritual battle between right and wrong, good and evil in her quest to become a midwife. She has been attacked for simply stating the truth in regards to life and the teaching of the Church, in defense of lies spoken about by those who have no catechetical background whatsoever.

All women, who bear the incredible dignity in their very souls, having been created by God in such a beautiful way--and especially for the vocations of all women and their acceptance thereof.

Especially for all mothers, who have known the pure joy of carrying a soul, created by God, nourished by her, and brought forth in love.

And most especially for the mothers who do not recognize the miracle that is life.

May God bless each and every one of us, and if it be His will, may He grant us even a sliver of the favor He bestowed on Mama Mary.

Friday, September 5, 2008

I finished Tuesday...

I'm working on embroidering a set of days-of-the-week kitchen towels. I made a set of them for one of My Darling's sisters for Christmas a couple of years ago, and now I'm finally doing a set for the other one.

The ones for D. were adorable--cute little puppies with various kitchen tools...very adorable, and apparently discontinued. The ones for S. are of animated kitchenware, and I'm considering getting the companion patterns as well.

The time is passing. The Pumpkin (because we are bigger than a Bean now, you know!) is growing. The children are learning. The belly is contracting......

I'm not bored--Heaven help me if I ever utter the phrase, "I'm bored!"--but I am a little stir crazy. That's silly. I have at least 10 more weeks of this inactivity business, for Pete's sake. I have just fewer than two dozen flour sack towels at my disposal, and a whole passel of heat transfer patterns and scads of embroidery floss. I have tubs full of fabric and patterns galore.

I also have a rather social nature...and the urge to go out in the absolutely-gorgeous-nearly-fallish-weather for a walk...and the urge to go visiting or picnicking or hiking or anything but sitting in my living room. It's getting stale in here.

But I finished Tuesday's towel, and it's darn cute. And I don't make them monochromatic, like the one on the website...I make them colorful and lively and personable, as any dancing sugar bowl should be! This last one, little Miss Tuesday, had me cracking up. She's a sauce pan with her lid at a rakish angle, and she's grinning and winking. I never knew spaghetti sauce could be so, well, saucy!


I revamped our household chores the other day. The way it used to work was like this: The Frog was in charge of the kitchen. She loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, kept up the floor, kept the counter clear, and helped out with clearing and setting the table at mealtimes. The Pickle was in charge of the laundry room and bathroom. He loaded and ran both the washer and dryer, sorted laundry into the proper baskets, and kept the bathroom nice and clean. And the Reepicheep was in charge of the living room. She did Garbage Patrol (scraps, newspaper to the paper recycle--that sort of thing), Monkey Toy Patrol, and general straightening up of the couch and love seat. She kept Monkey's toys put neatly away in his little areas, and made sure that there were no stray dishes or anything of that sort out and about.

The thing is, the kids got tired of the repetition. The kitchen is demanding. The other rooms are, too. The grass is always greener. Two of them decided to trade...........which led to my bathroom and laundry room sparkling like the Hope Diamond, and my kitchen looking like...a river rock.

I broke up the rooms into levels of chores, and assigned three or four tasks in each room to each child. Now the Frog feeds the dogs and keeps the washer and dryer clear of "stuff" on top. The Pickle still runs the machines, but the Reepicheep takes the clean laundry to sort it. Reep sprays the bathroom sink with vinegar each morning and wipes it down, and puts a new hand towel on the ring. Frog keeps the bath towels and toys straightened up and put away. Pickle takes out the trash and cleans the toilet.

Like that. In each room. I made color-coded charts. I laminated them.

Maybe I am bored...............