Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And now for something not so different.

As opposed to something completely different.

I want t get the Reepicheep's birth story written before I completely lose my mind to the swirling whirling dervish of hormones. It's a delightful journey; slightly maddening at times, but otherwise quite enjoyable. At least, it's becoming so, thanks be to God. With this one, there have been many moments when I have questioned whether that would ever be the case.


We began learning NFP when the Pickle was about 10 months old. God had really been working on our hearts, and had been putting us in places at times with people so that finally we began truly seeing Him at work. Man, was that awesome! It's so obvious to us at this point that I almost think we've become spoiled--we're nearly "used to" seeing the effect of His hand guiding us. At any rate, we began with the sympto-thermal method, and started charting immediately. It was also right about that time that we began praying on when we wanted to welcome another child into our family. We knew that we wanted them close together, and since the Frog was 25 months older than the Pickle, we knew that that particular age gap worked very well for us.

When the Pickle was 11 months old, we were looking over our chart and saw that the timing of my cycle was exactly right for us to try. We tried, we succeeded, and we began our journey to the Reepicheep!

The test (unnecessary, as we had waited 20 days and watched my higher temperature remain elevated--and so we knew we had conceived!) showed that we were indeed pregnant, and the Nausea Bug and his friend, Major Pukey, began their assaults about three weeks later. I remember two things vividly. First, there was the part where owing to a humongous bedroom in that apartment, our bed was about 50 feet from the place I really needed to be when I was in the middle of being slapped by the Major. This necessitated the use of a traveling bowl, with which I literally crawled from the bed to the bathroom. I pushed the bowl on the carpet right in front of me, and sometimes technically didn't really need to make it into the bathroom, except to dump and rinse the bowl.

The second thing that I remember is that at exactly 13 weeks and one day, the Nausea Bug packed his meager belongings and vacated the premises. And ever after, I felt fantastic! My sister and niece came to visit us in October that year, and I even have video of a late afternoon that we spent laughing riotously at the antics of my niece D and the Pickle, who were only 6 months apart in age (she having freshly turned one, and he being 19 months old), being goofy toddlers together. I continued to cantor through the third trimester, having no difficulty at all catching my breath. I walked a lot, spent time with family and friends, and felt generally great.

I loved that pregnancy so much that it made me want to have 12 children--but only if all of them were that easy!

Now, there was a little bump in the road. First off, my doctor (Doctor Pompous, who had attended the deliveries of both the Frog and the Pickle) began to seriously irritate me. The short of the long is that all through high school, I was a skinny-minny. I could not gain weight to save my life, let alone anyone else's. I ate like a trencherman, and I was active as all get-out, and I really just plain had a high metabolism. Please do not think that this meant I was blessed; far from it: I was teased mercilessly. One of my dearest friends in high school was rather overweight, and the two of us together must have received about 90% of the teasing from the entire student body (no pun intended)...no kidding. For me, it was just always that way. Except for my endometriosis, I was also generally a healthy person (not counting mono during my senior year). Beginning with very serious morning sickness (I think they call it hyperemesis gravidarium) with the Frog, and then also with the Pickle, I weighed a mere 127 pounds the night before I delivered the Frog. This is FANTASTIC, considering that at 20 weeks I weighed about 97 pounds because I literally kept nothing in me, due to the battles with the Major. It was awful. There were even occasions when I would lose the fluid being pushed in intravenously, for Pete's sake.

So at 20 weeks with the Reepicheep, I had already gained 15 pounds--a new record!--Dr. Pompous was not happy. He who had harped on me through my first two pregnancies for not gaining enough weight, who knew my history, who saw my struggles with the Bug and the Major, insisted that I had not gained enough! Can you even imagine??? I certainly couldn't.

He actually first "accused" me of having an eating disorder ("I don't want you to be another Karen Carpenter..."--he really said this!), and then he sent me to a dietitian. After looking over my history and the food diary that I had brought in with me, she couldn't figure out why I was there. In the background, Dr. Pompous (family doctor, you know) had also insisted that the Pickle was not growing the way he should be. News flash: if your child begins on the small side (but on the chart nonetheless) and grows along with the curve for his beginning size, he's probably okay. Also, using words that only Mama can understand (about 75%, anyway) and walking beginning at 14 months does not necessarily mean that he is developmentally delayed. It might just mean that he is a boy, and that he has an older sister who talks for him. But not in the Know-It-All-Eyes of Dr. Pompous! No, he sent us on a worthless visit to a pediatric specialist. He also could not figure out what the fuss was all about. After analyzing the hormonal output in the Pickle's pee, he said everything was absolutely normal. We might just have a smallish boy. NO!!!! To this day, he's a lightweight, but he's certainly healthy.

But I just couldn't take it anymore. I switched doctors. At 7 months pregnant, I entered a different practice (in the same hospital system) and began care under Dr. Wonderful! She was so different, it was like night and day. She was all about taking the time to listen, not make a person feel like an idiot, looking for alternative treatments for things when drugs were not warranted (YES! There are some doctors who will actually do this!), and refusing to become alarmed at things that were actually, well, normal.

There was a little discrepancy with my due date. Because we had charted, we knew when conception had occurred. Dr. Pompous had refused to hear me out on this one, telling me that just because some women think they have longer cycles sometimes doesn't mean that they do. (It does, actually, but not according to the Know-It-All-Mind of Dr. Pompous.) So his charted due date read December 14th, which was loosely according to my LMP. My charted due date, according to ovulation, for Pete's sake, was closer to November 25th. That's a big difference when you're talking about lungs and things. For the sake of being official, Dr. Wonderful went with the date recorded by Dr. Pompous in my medical chart, and kept the other date at hand as well for comparison.

I figured I was closer to being right on the date, when in the middle of November, my Grandma said to me, "Are you sure you're due in December? That baby looks awfully low....."

And so, on a particular Monday evening in late November, while I relaxed in the bathtub, I felt The Pop. My body had not been anywhere near as uncooperative as it had through the last two pregnancies (read: no bed rest because of the illicit preterm activities of my belly!), so I figured this was probably Really It.

I had learned with the Pickle that a precipitous labor with one baby does not always predict precipitous labor with the others (Remember? 3 hours, 43 minutes for the Frog, and 13 hours for the Pickle.), and so I figured I'd stick around home as long as I could. I wanted a nap, I wanted to eat, and we were only 7 blocks away from the hospital. (We moved from one apartment to the next when the Pickle was 1 month old, with a two month rest stop at my Grandma's....another story.) I finished my bath, had a delicious supper, and headed to bed for a nice, long nap.

I had one contraction. One. Weak. Ineffective. Contraction.

It got to be about 10:00, and I thought, "Well, I should call, I suppose." So I did. Ah, if I'd only have known what I know now.

Of course, the nurse that I spoke with said, "You'd better come in right away. You know, you're supposed to come in immediately if your water breaks." Her tone said, "You have absolutely no regard for the health of your baby, you ignorant peasant!"

So we called my dad to come over and sleep on the couch, and in we went. I was hooked up to the monitors, my vitals were taken, I was checked for dilation (and found to be the same 3 cm I'd been for a month), they used nitrizine paper to confirm that I was leaking amniotic fluid and not something else, and then we turned out the lights and attempted to sleep. I had refused an IV, because I wasn't dehydrated and had no intention of becoming so, and had already decided that I didn't want any medications again. Of course, things don't always go the way we plan.

The attempt at sleep was typical for a night in the hospital. My Darling slept very well, thankyouverymuch, on the comfortable pull-out sleeper sofa. I, on the other hand, was the usual guinea pig for the night-shift nurses. Every hour they had to hook me up for monitoring and vitals, which meant that the cold jelly splooshed onto my belly to check Reepicheep's heart rate, and the blood pressure machine strangled all traces of life from my arm. The entire night, my blood pressure was textbook-perfect, and I had not even one contraction.

It got to be about 6:00 AM on Tuesday, and Dr. Wonderful made an appearance. She's a farm girl, who cares for her horses and various other livestock before coming in for rounds and clinic, so I saw absolutely none of the attitude that Dr. Pompous had thrown at me (for daring to birth my babies on his day off!). She said, "Well....if you hadn't come in, I'd say, 'Let's just wait it out and see what happens.' But you're here, and there are policies [which I knew full well....rats....], and your body is doing absolutely nothing, and I can't let you eat until the baby is here, so how do you feel about pitocin?" I cried. I think she may have, too. But I knew she was right; it was either pitocin or a policy-forced C-section at the 11th hour (or in this case, the 23rd hour).

She was kind enough to wait on the order until I had showered, and My Darling had gotten something to eat down the hall. When I came out of the bathroom, I was hooked up to an IV drip and a monitor. Having never labored under these circumstances, it felt absolutely wrong to have to sit in the bed. The contractions started with a bang. They were hard and painful and unrelenting. I felt wildly out of control, which was completely new to me--even with the fast labor for the Frog, I had never felt this way. It was intense and frightening and overwhelming, with no opportunity to blow away the last contraction before the next one began. I started to hyperventilate because I couldn't catch my breath long enough to take a deep one. I was put on oxygen, and a nurse brought in a syringe full of something which was injected into my IV to "take the edge off." It didn't help; it just made me not care. It made it so that when I rolled from my back to my side, the lights on the ceiling tracked all blurry in my vision, as though I were drunk. It made it so that when Reep's heart rate crashed in that position, I didn't care, as they encouraged me to roll to the other side. Her heart rate stabilized.

It made me not care that My Darling, God bless his heart, was doing everything he could think of to help me...and it made me not care that he was as terrified as I was.

It made it so that I barely registered that Dr. Wonderful had finally come back, which must have meant that It Was Time.

It made it so that when my body and the monitor and my doctor encouraged me to push, I didn't want to.

But I did anyway. I pushed and pushed and pushed. I don't even know how long I had pushed, but I vaguely remember Dr. Wonderful supporting my body (rather than my needing stitches afterward) and saying, "We might need the vacuum on this one; she's just not bringing the baby down." Now THAT got my attention. I pushed one more time, and her head came. I pushed once more, and her body was out.

She was little and pink and perfect and clean (no vernix--which meant that--*surprise!*--my date was the correct one). My Darling and I had not wanted to know if this baby was a boy or a girl, and when our baby was born, HE was the one who told me, "We have a little girl!" She was born at 9:23 AM (not quite three hours, for those of you playing at home) and weighed in at a petite 6 pounds even.

The rest I remember clearly, but only because it's on video. The medication I had been given left me woozy, and the incredible intensity of my pitocin-induced labor left me so exhausted I could barely speak. They had also left Reepichep needing to have oxygen blown at her for a few minutes before she got the hang of breathing with those newfangled lung thingies.

I was out of the bed about an hour after the Reepicheep was born. I took a shower, had a lovely breakfast, and began really falling in love with our third baby.

On an interesting side note: You know how lots of parents ask their older children, "What shall we name the baby?" Well, we asked, and the Frog had long insisted that if the baby was a boy, we'd name him "Fourteen Plus Nine," and if the baby was a girl, we'd name her "Ten O'clock."

Reepicheep was born at nearly 10:00 on the 23rd...which is, of course, what fourteen and nine add up to be.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sooner or later, it had to come out.

We, as a family, often come up with strange names for ordinary things. This is probably true of all families (to some extent), but having grown up with a father who thoroughly enjoyed word-play (except when we were playing dumb or trying to spin things in our favor--then we heard, "Young lady, don't you bandy words with me!"), I especially enjoy toying with semantics. When we were kids, sometimes my siblings and I would ponder just one word at a time, saying it over and over until it became strange. Try it--just pick a word and say it a bunch of times until it makes you think, "What were they thinking when they came up with that word?" Every now and then, one of our family words eeks out, and everyone around us gets just a little taste of how weird we can be. Weird, but in a good way.

When the Frog was little, "The Wizard of Oz" was really "Mizzer Bozz." Her blanket was her "Minky." It's apparently a commonly used word for toddlers, as I've seen numerous products marketed using that exact term--mostly through work-at-home-mom-type small businesses, like this one. But there were lots of others. Much like the Monkey asks for his Ohs, and loves to have maish-meeyows in his hot chocolate, we also have our various situational plays on Reepicheep's nickname (Eaticheep, Sleepicheep, Gooficheep, etc...), we also have family words for foods. The Pickle said, "Dit-dew," for thank you. They all have their unique speech patterns, and siblings tend to feed off of siblings.

My latest craving has been carbohydrates, and lots of them. Mostly noodle in form, but occasionally with rice snuck in there for variety. (Ooh....from noodles to rice. The options are astounding.....) But specifically, the one thing I desire above all other carbohydrates are Taco Bell's Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes. I long for them. They haunt my dreams. My waking hours are spent contemplating their Tremendously Processed Non-Dairy Artificially Colored Cheese Flavored Substitute, mixed with full-fat sour cream, perched atop a mound of fried potato chunks. I positively shudder with delight merely at the thought!!

Monkey has a multi-purpose word to refer to both tomatoes and potatoes. That word is "pantato." It's adorable. Say it out loud, and you'll never go back to the way you were. Last week, My Darling took pity upon his overwhelmed bride, and he took me to the Taco Bell. I had been searching for a pet name for my favorite treat, and the name came to me on the way to the drive-thru. That name was: Pantatoey Goodness! You know you want to say that one....I could not wait to get that hot, gooey Pantatoey Goodness into my hands. I know exactly how bad they are for me. It's just that I don't care! They're so good it's frightening. I did, however, refrain from actually saying the words, "Yes, may I please have an order of Pantatoey Goodness?" into the speaker. I figured if I had, I'd be letting all of the Taco Bell employees know what a wacky woman they were dealing with. Since enough people in my life already know this, I chose to keep my secret well-guarded.

Fast forward to this evening. At suppertime, we sat down to a fabulous meal, prepared by My Darling. Lovely pork chops, grilled to perfection, seasoned only with freshly ground pepper and sea salt. Green beans, opened and heated like the professionals do, by the Frog. And a delectable foil packet, fairly bursting full of red potatoes, which had been drizzled with olive oil, salted and peppered, and grilled into tender morsels. Oh, yes, the term exploded at the table.

Daddy was seranaded, as best he should be. Arias were brought forth on the spot by grateful children, thanking him for the Pantatoey Goodness. And now I hear my children singing about the attributes of Pantatoey Goodness from various corners of the house. Monkey, upstairs in the addition, working with his Daddy, pounding around with his hammer, and singing at the top of his little voice, "Paaaan-tatoey GOOOOOD-ness!!" The Reepicheep, putting away the clean dishes from the dishwasher, and chanting, "Pantatoey, pantatoey, pantatoey goodness!" The Pickle, vacuuming the chair feet (we have dogs...the pads on the bottoms of the chair feet collect fuzz...), and singing to himself, "Pantatoey goodness, pantatoey goodness, pantatoey goooooooodnesssssss...." The Frog is the only exception. She merely looks upon her brothers and sister as though they're completely looney. Alas, being my children, she may be at least partly right.


My Darling is going hammer and tong at the addition. Reaching the milestone of 20 weeks of knitting on the Wee One last Sunday (which makes this Week 21) tripped a switch in his head, I think. Tonight he brought home his latest awesome purchase: gorgeous, industrial quality French doors for our bedroom. He finds these spectacular deals at a Habitat for Humanity store. When people remodel or misorder, they can donate the usable leftovers to this store. We, the frugal consumer, spend about 80-90% less at this store to buy things that we need for our project, and Habitat for Humanity gets all the profit. Not a bad deal, eh? These doors, which would easily have been in the $1000 range retail, set us back a mere $250. Nothing to sneeze at, certainly, but a heck of a deal, for Pete's sake!

At the moment he's working on closing up the last gap...it's a tricky part of joining the wall of the addition to the roof of the existing house...hard to explain, but if you saw it you'd probably say, "How in the world are you going to engineer that?" It's amazing to me. My Darling is literally building this house out of his head. There are no blueprints. There is nothing on paper, except what he draws out for his own calculation purposes. God has blessed him with an ability to picture something and then just build it. And He's seen fit to bless me with this wonderful husband!!

Hopefully the weather will cooperate this week...not too much rain, not too much heat, just the right amount of breeze and a smattering of cloud cover would be just about perfect. If all goes well, he might get the roofing done, and that would make him a very happy husband, indeed.

Friday, July 25, 2008

September Babies Bring July Showers

I have been graciously invited to a baby shower for a childhood friend.

We met when we were three. My family bought the house across the alley from her family, and although our parents (mostly our moms) didn't see eye to eye on almost anything, B and I were inseparable for the remainder of our childhood years. That's a long time! There were times when we were told not to cross the alley (when some rule had been broken or when Mrs. S. grew weary of having a 7th child to look out for), so we would meet in the middle of the alley with our Barbie dolls and play there. It worked for us.

B's family moved out of town when we were in 6th grade. Although we hadn't gone to elementary school together (we each went to different parochial schools), we played together every day (barring sickness, for Pete's sake, but sometimes even then...) and loved each other dearly. We camped in our back yards together. We played in the sandbox, creating elaborate villages that had pine cone trees and moss yards. We played in snowbanks and built tunnels spectacular enough to make moles jealous and snow forts worthy of brotherly bombardment. We hung out in the fort that Mr. S built for us--mostly, I think, to keep us out of the bridal wreath bush that we had practically built a house in the middle of. We spent hours on the tire swing which hung from the 300-year-old oak tree in their back yard. We made cucumber shoes and boats from the shells of those cucumbers deemed not worthy of canning by Mrs. S. We ate grapes from the arbor in their back yard and filled our bellies to nearly overflowing on mulberries from the tree in their front yard. We played hide-and-seek in the garden and between the sheets on the clothesline. We played kick the can and ghost in the graveyard on summer nights. We learned to ride bikes together, and skinned our knees many times--always to hear her mom say, "Put some salve on it!" We signaled to one another through the treetops by turning lights on and off--she from her bedroom and me from our bathroom. And when it was hot, their house was the only place in my childhood where my thirst was quenched with the ultimate childhood beverage of the 70's and 80's--Koolaid.

So when they moved away, it was traumatic. I remember watching their big red van pull the last load of boxes and laundry baskets, with B's face plastered to the foggy window, the tears blurring my last glimpse of my childhood bosom friend who had been a kindred spirit in every sense of the phrase.

We visited--or rather, I visited--as much as we could. Overnights were the norm, because the town where she lived was 30 minutes away. We got used to the new house, and played the same old games, although some of the charm of Barbie was lost with the lack of an alley. There was a sandbox at the new house, but it was much smaller than the old one. There was no fort; there wasn't even a bridal wreath bush. But the love we had for one another was as strong as ever. Even though she had two older sisters and one younger, and I had one older sister, we were True Sisters in our hearts.

The family moved back into the old house several years later. They had retained ownership of the place, and had converted it into a two-flat. I had some great babysitting gigs in that house, and met the woman who played the part of labor coach for me at the Frog's birth when her family moved into the upstairs apartment. It was strange though; their living room had been B's bedroom. Their kitchen had been Mr. and Mrs. S's bedroom. The stairs were blocked completely off.

When the S family moved back home all those years later, B and I were in high school. We almost never saw one another now, because she was away at school...and I was home as little as possible. For a time, I lived with my Grandma, and every now and then Mrs. S would call and say, "B will be coming home this weekend. Why don't you come visit?"

Every time we saw one another, most things were the same...but there were people in our lives that neither of us had known in our early years who were quickly becoming good friends to us. It was a little like marrying into a big family, when you begin hearing stories of people you don't know but are now attached to through your spouse. Even if you meet these other people, you can't quite picture the stories because you just don't know them.

When B went to college in a neighboring state and then decided to stay there, I was sad...but somehow it was okay, too. I still missed her--terribly at times--but the pain of it had grown dull over time.

I wasn't able to make it to her bridal shower or her wedding, both held within the last year. Life happens so much more frequently these days, and I've found that although I am still friends with a handful of women from my youth, my station in life does not afford the luxury of meeting up with them very often. Most of the people I spend time with now are circumstantial friends--that is, we've met and become friends because our circumstances are similar. We've met because we go to church together, or are homeschooling our large families. Of all of my childhood friends, I was married the youngest and had children much, much earlier. B is the second friend of mine from those years to have her first child this summer--my friend K had a very handsome son earlier this month. Here I am expecting my 5th on earth, God willing, and have two little saints in heaven praying for their Mama. We all just don't have that much in common anymore.

But I suspect that when I see her at her shower tomorrow at her parents' house, B and I will be able to relive some of those childhood memories.

After all, grapes and mulberries are in peak season.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The next one

Things here are going swimmingly. It's hot.....blasted hot, as Fr. Tim would say if we were in Mitford. We finally broke down and picked up the air conditioners on Sunday (they're stored at the shop). Truth be told, I implored My Darling on Wednesday of last week to bring them home as the mercury hovered around the mid-90's, but he had so much going on that he just plain forgot. Thursday, he took the Pickle with him to work so that they could go to Mass together, and then again, he forgot. Friday he took the day off because he and the Pickle had a guys camping trip with their Father-Son group, so there was no chance until after Mass on Sunday. By that time, I was certain that my brain was at least well-done, and perhaps a little charred on one side, like a steak that had been set off to the side of the grill and forgotten. My Darling put the units in, one in the living room and one in our bedroom, and turned them on, and nearly immediately I began feeling like myself again, thanks be to God.

The fans are still doing their part as well, moving the air so well that the rest of the house receives benefit of the air conditioners, too.

Reepicheep has taught herself to rollerblade; apparently the romance of the new bike has worn off, and she wants to see how many more bandaids she can apply this summer.

Pickle and Monkey are playing Guy Stuff together (read: Legos and trains) on a nearly constant basis, retreating to the relative cool of their bedroom in the heat of the day.

Frog gets prettier and taller as the days get shorter, making me wonder where that particular train will ever stop. She has finally reached my height of 5'5" at 12 years old.....it's slightly disturbing. We're awfully glad we homeschool.........


So I wrote about the Frog's birth story here, and now it's time for the Pickle.

Pickle was our early wedding gift to each other, you could say. Before our hearts were fully converted to God and His plan for our life, we were practically living in sin without actually cohabitating. It's certainly no secret; if you do the math, you'll come to the conclusion that since we were married in August of 1997, and Pickle was born in April of 1998, there could be just the slightest discrepancy there. I do, however, take comfort in the knowledge that by July (of '97), we were deep in the throes of wedding planning, for Pete's sake, so it's not as though it was a shotgun wedding by any stretch.

I also take great comfort in frequent confession. ;)

The beginning of my pregnancy with the Pickle was a very difficult time in our family. In July, my niece had been born into the arms of her Mama, my sister J, way too early, way too small, and already sleeping with Jesus. Thankfully, blessedly, J had a good priest who correctly counseled her to fully mourn her loss, including a full funeral Mass. Now, I certainly don't pretend that this made everything all better for my sister, but I do know that it was a good start to healing for many of us who shared even a small part in the loss of such a loved and wanted baby.

When we found out that the Pickle was on the way, it was about three days before our wedding. I had an inkling, with the way I was feeling, that something was going on, and when it was confirmed, it was a bit bittersweet. For one thing, we were not ready to welcome a child into our marriage, for Pete's sake. Had we known better, had we been taught, had we been better counseled, we would have been taking NFP classes. Our faith and our marriage would have benefited much earlier...but I digress. Thankfully, we do know better now, and through the marriage preparation ministry in our diocese, we are able to share with young, starry-eyed engaged couples our experiences, and hopefully they can benefit from what we have to say.

Another contributing factor in my pregnancy with the Pickle was what some people would call "survivor's guilt." I was feeling horribly guilty that I had already been blessed with one child unexpectedly (and I use that term lightly--unexpected implies something that you truly didn't expect--and when one engages in intimate activities with another, a new life should most certainly be expected each and every time, for Pete's sake! A word to the wise: if you are not ready to be a parent, then don't participate in the one activity that could very well make you one.), and was now the recipient of another unexpected blessing...and here was my sister, grieving the loss of a child for whom she had prayed, and whom she and her husband had tried unsuccessfully to conceive for nearly a year. Guilt is, perhaps, a feeble word for what I truly felt at the time.

Besides all that, we were newly married and I was horribly sick, yet again. The Nausea Bug and Major Pukey had held onto my address, knowing that I was a weak opponent in battle. Yet again, I was faced with an irritable uterus, tired from heaving so constantly, and a little too eager to be done.

Without too much more detail, I'll just say that it was during those months that we were led back to the Church. We met some wonderful friends, several of whom remain dear to us even ten years later. We were drawn onto the path that would lead us home in our faith, and the things we went through on the way made certain that what we would learn in the years ahead would find their mark in our hearts and souls, praise God.

Fast forward to April, where we find the Mama completing seven weeks of bed rest. I had again been treated to numerous trips to the local hospital, contracting away, but not actually going into meaningful labor. Finally we were to the point that I could be up and doing, and I was beyond ready to do so. On The Night In Question, we were in a neighboring town about 20 minutes from home, shopping for a tricycle for the Frog--the little red Radio Flyer that has been loved by children through the years, which makes appearances in almost every neighborhood around this great country. We ended up having to get a rain check, as the tremendous sale which we were taking advantage of had indeed been taken advantage of by dozens of other parents.

We spent some time browsing the store, while I happily contracted away, hoping that this time it wasn't a false alarm. As bedtime for the Frog neared, I began to know that this time was Different. It's funny--even with the Monkey being my fourth baby, it was hard to know the difference between contractions and CONTRACTIONS. You think you know, but then when you really know, You Really Know. Anyway, at about 7:00, I informed My Darling that perhaps it was time for us to complete our shopping adventure and head home, because I was about to be very busy.

He had no clue what I meant, not having been through this before.

I think he got the picture when all of a sudden his very pregnant wife, who had been smiling only a few moments earlier, suddenly began walking faster and faster toward the check-out line and then breezed past him and said, "HurryupI'llwaitforyouinthetruck!"

He hurried.

It's not as though I was in transition. I wasn't anywhere close. I just really needed to be at home and not walking around a store. I wanted to get the Frog in bed, and to call my dad so that he could come camp out on the couch and be there for the Frog when she woke up in the morning. I wanted to get into the shower and let the warm water soothe my aching back.

When we got home, I did all of those things, and while I was in the shower My Darling (bless his hard working heart) fell asleep.

Cardinal Sin Number One: Whilst thy wife labors to bring forth thy boy child, thou shalt not slumber. Neither shall thee rest thine eyes, though they be marred with gunk. Thou shalt kneel by her side, groaning with her in her pain, meekly waiting to serve her in ways which neither cause her consternation nor suffering, for it is thy fault which causes her pain.

I woke him up less than gently, and forced him to play cards with me until I couldn't sit anymore. We walked around our apartment, he drinking coffee, and me clutching anything I could reach on which to lean, and finally at about 1:30 AM we headed to the hospital.

Our nurse was amazing. My labor was much longer than it had been with the Frog (3 hours, 43 minutes for those of you keeping track at home), and it hurt so much I thought I would surely die. I had indicated that I really wanted to do things naturally, knowing that I had and therefore could, and knowing that I abhorred anything remotely needle-like coming anywhere near my body. Also, this hospital did not offer epidurals--only spinals--and I knew that I didn't want one of those. Tracy heard me--I mean, really heard me when I told her this. She didn't nod and smile and totally disregard our wishes, pushing me into things I didn't want. No, she encouraged and supported both me and My Darling, reminding me that this is what I was made to do, that my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to do to birth our son, and that I was getting closer with every contraction. She was fantastic. (At the time, though I didn't know it, she was also studying with Chris--our midwife!!--to become a nurse-midwife. No wonder she was so fabulous!)

The back labor was due to the Pickle's sunny-side up position, which meant that the back of his head made full-force contact with every single vertebrae in my back, and even some from people I've never met, just for good measure. I used the shower. I leaned over a ball (at which time I devised a clever new device: suction cup handles which could be attached to the floor so that the laboring Mama has something to hold onto, for Pete's sake, lest she be tossed like so much flotsam as her well-meaning husband applies the much heard about counter-pressure to her lower back!). I rocked on my hands and knees. Nothing would turn this boy.

When transition hit, I was sitting in the bathroom. I tend to labor there a lot, since it gives your body a great place to absolutely relax and open up the way it needs to. I was hot, and My Darling sat on a chair, facing me, applying washcloths soaked in ice water to my lower back which was screaming with each contraction. He was crooning soft words of encouragement and love to me in between contractions, as I rested my head on a pillow which was perched on his lap.

Now, I must bring to light Cardinal Sin Number Two: Thou shalt not utter words of obvious truth to thy wife whilst she labors to bring forth thy boy child. Nay, phrases containing words eluding to the changing colour of the hair of thy wife's head shall be as an abomination in her sight, and her teeth shall gnash at the flesh of thy arm.

It's true. He pointed out a white hair. I was in transition. Out of my mind with the pain in my back. I bit his arm. Hard. The bruise lasted about two weeks. Maybe even a month.

When I was near the end of transition, I was helped back to the bed. It was all the way across the desert--you know, the hospital room--and it took both My Darling and Tracy to get me there, and it involved three contractions. By the third one, I knew things were changing again. I got up onto the bed, and when Tracy told me I was finally complete, I was elated--and promptly threw up.

Now, Dr. Pompous, whose practice I've since left, finally made his appearance. It was about 6:45 on Friday morning--my second Friday birth in a row. Friday being his day off. The nerve. How dare I do this to him? He immediately informed Tracy that she had to break my bag of waters. Obviously, babies cannot be born with that intact. (At least I'm not bitter.) Since I didn't know better then, I could have cared less......until after this was done, I was pronounced to be not complete, but a mere eight centimeters. I promptly fired everyone in the room.

Thankfully, it only took one contraction to correct the situation, and I was told to begin pushing.

Oh, the back pain. It wasn't done. I gave one half-hearted attempt at pushing while sitting in the Doctor-Friendly position, and then informed him that this was Not Going To Work, and I turned to my left side. With my arms around his neck, my head in the crook of his right elbow, and my right knee in the crook of his left elbow, My Darling encouraged me as best he could. Now, as much as I love and admire him, and realizing that in this position, and with me pulling earnestly with each pushing effort I made, and minding the fact that he couldn't quite get his hands together to counter-balance the forces being applied to his body, he did it again.....

Cardinal Sin Number Three: Thou shalt be mindful that whilst thy wife groans in her pains to bring forth thy boy child, that thy pains are but a speck. Thou shalt not weep, nor shalt thou wail in thy sufferings, for thy weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth shall be as an abomination in her sight, and she shall seek to smite thee for it. Yea, thou shalt set thy suffering aside as an offering, seeking only to lessen her pains.

By the time the Pickle emerged, at 7:01 AM, weighing in at 6 pounds, 11 ounces, and measuring a petite 18 inches, I felt fantastic. Tylenol was all I needed to take the edge off what I felt. Even the after pains were tolerable with my friend Extra Strength. Total labor time: 13 hours.

My Darling, however, as a result of his efforts to assist me in mine, had ruined his back. He was stuck, bent at about an 80 degree angle, and no help for it. While he sat across the room from me, cradling our beautiful son in his strong arms, I put in a call to our chiropractor, Dr. K. She graciously agreed to meet him early at her office, and she did her very best to put him back together.

There was, however, nothing she could do for the bruise on his arm. :)

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Oh, good heavens. Oh, my gracious. Heavenly days and all my stars. Go read this straight away....and remember to thank Him every minute for everything, for Pete's sake.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A quiet week?

Can we have one of those? But so far, it really has been. Other than Reepicheep's ankle injury (which turned out to be twisted and badly bruised, but not sprained and nothing broken, thanks be to God!), it's really been very quiet here.

It's also been very hot, which I suspect is playing a rather prominent role in the quiet we've been experiencing. When it's hot, there is little energy for bickering. Now here's the interesting part: we have yet to put our window air conditioners in. It's in the 90's today, as it was yesterday. Normally we would have both units droning on in the background. But this year, we have the sun room to block all the direct southern sunlight through the picture window, so the house is surprisingly cool!

The whole thing is, we have fans strategically placed. There are two ceiling fans in the living room, both on almost all the time just for air circulation, and a floor fan which oscillates. We have two small fans in the kitchen which we move from the floor to the windows in the morning--they bring in the cool morning air until it becomes warmer outside than in. Then the windows and curtains are drawn shut, and the fans are lowered back to the floor. There is a fan in one window in each of the bedrooms. The one in the girls' room is always exhausting (blowing out), so that it draws air through the hallway to encourage thorough ventilation. The other two are spiffy, in that they have switches that allow them to either bring in fresh air or exhaust inside air. In the evening, through night, and into the morning, they draw in the fresh, cool air, but again, when it becomes warmer outside than in, we use them to exhaust. And in our bedroom, we also have a second fan which is always on, again to just plain circulate the air. This also works to bring the air from downstairs "up and out," so to speak.

Highly effective! At this moment, it is 91 in the shade outside (and miserably humid), but only 78 in the house (and beautifully dry!).


I plan to make some delicious sun tea this afternoon. My Darling has been working so hard on the house, and he just loves tea, and I want to give him a treat. I make it with plenty of lemon and sugar...mmmmmmm.........

Last evening, he (finally) completed half of the upstairs staircase. It's absolutely amazing to me when I see what he has accomplished. I've gone over the pictures that we've taken, (and I would LOVE to post one RIGHT HERE, but Blogger won't let me. If I want to post one, apparently it has to appear at the beginning of the entry. Hmmmm.....sorry about the mini-rant!) and it strikes me as nothing short of miraculous that things are as advanced as they are. We've gone from jack-hammering the patio and yanking out shrubs and small trees (I wept. Really....when the choke cherry tree went, I wept. We tried to replant it, but it died.....*sigh*) to having lights that turn on when you flip the switch and having actual windows and door and now stairs in place. And all this from a man who sells, makes, installs and repairs signs for a living, for Pete's sake!

Everything he needs to know, he either reads about or watches someone else do on a job site so that he can come home and do it himself. From digging the basement to shoring up the foundation to framing to roofing to making sure he knows all of the building codes for our county and state, he has researched this thing from here to the back 40.

And best of all, he goes about it not with a heavy heart or a build up of anxiety, but with a willing spirit of love and gratitude. My Darling with the servant's heart, that's what he is. Truly, this is a man who deserves, at the very least, a freshly brewed gallon of iced tea.

He took the Pickle with him to the shop today so that they could go to Mass together. I'm waiting to hear how this went: the boys he usually serves with are out of town with their family, so this is the first time I remember the Pickle serving by himself. I'm sure it was just fine; he's really been working hard at reverence and obedience, and has been itching to be able to do this on his own. My Mother's Heart prayed for him intensely, hoping that he would be able to do as well possible.


For your prayerful considerations:

*My dear friend who is suffering terribly in chronic pain. She is the beautiful Mama to six lovely children, and is scheduled for an MRI in 10 days.

*My friend and her middle daughter, who are suffering with strep throat, for Pete's sake.

*My friend and her family who are trying to find peace within their family.

*My friend and her family who are dealing with a less-than-ideal job situation and are contemplating selling their lovely home to relocate closer to extended family.

*All of the good young people who have gathered in Australia to attend the celebrations of World Youth Day with Pope Benedict XVI, including dozens from our own diocese, along with our beloved bishop and our dear friend, Fr. E. We pray for their safety in travel, and for their spiritual growth at this time.

*All priests and religious throughout the world, as well as an increase in vocations.

*We pray in a special way for all parents, that they may raise up children who are able to quiet their hearts to hear God's plan for their lives.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On Being Productive

Long ago, I discovered the benefits of FlyLady. I love FlyLady. My control journal is ever present, and each of my children has one of their own.

I grew up in a home where CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) reigned most of the time, unless Pop was coming home from a work trip. While he was gone, he would stay in motels or with host families, in generally much nicer surroundings than our home--at least this is what Mom told us.

She would get word that he was on his way home, and the frenzy would begin. Things that had lain around for days would suddenly be put...somewhere. It was not a home where everything had a place, so few things could actually be put away.

I learned housekeeping from my Grandma, bless her heart. Her house was neat and clean and orderly and predictable.

I am saddened that my own home does not always follow suit...but I must keep a few things in mind.

First, I have four children, the Big Three of whom are home schooled. This means We Live Here--five of us are here nearly all the time. We use lots of dishes and cloth napkins and towels throughout the day, every day. We play games and we play with toys. The yard gets used a lot, and dirt and sand (and sticks and rocks, though they're not supposed to...) get tracked in multiple times each day. There are not extended hours spent somewhere else, making messes that janitors or cleaning ladies clean up. We are constantly doing spot maintenance.

This is not to say that the kids don't have chores--they do, and they actually do them daily. Sometimes more than once. They are each assigned a room of the house where there are particular jobs that must be accomplished. In fact, the rule of our home is that before any meal, two chores must be performed. "He who does not work, neither shall he eat." Proverbs, my friend, are a beautiful thing.

Suffice it to say, this is not a home where both parents leave in the morning for an eight (or more) hour work day, dropping the kids off somewhere for the entire day, come home around suppertime, leave again for an evening full of soccer or baseball games, and then come home again just in time for bed. We have very dear friends whose lives mirror this example, literally, and their homes are immaculate almost all the time. I have to remind myself that they are in their homes for two or three hours each day, if even that, which means there is almost no time to make the kind of messes that are made by 9:00 in the morning almost daily in our home!

We Live Here.

Second, this home is rather on the small side and very limited storage-wise. Hence the addition, for Pete's sake. We are currently surrounded by everything we own--as in, we can actually see everything that we own. There is one closet, under the stairs, where normal closetish things are stored: rubber stamps (in a huge tub), Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, and sewing odds and ends. The basement is really a cellar, which this time of year means that water comes seeping through the limestone walls when it rains. And this year, it's rained a lot. Rubbermaid, alas, though wonderful against standing water, cannot always offer protection from constant humidity. This means, of course, that the basement (what little of it there is) does not afford household storage.

The attic is a joke. It holds insulation. That's all it has room for. End of story.

And the garage is so small I nearly bump the side mirrors on my mini-van when I park in it (when I could park in it--it is currently lumber and supply storage for the addition!). No storage there, either.

Now, this will all shortly be remedied by virtue of the addition, thanks be to God! The addition, which will include a humongous pantry, two gigantic closets, a family closet, an upstairs laundry room, and a water-tight basement promising oodles of storage space!! Not to mention eighteen feet of window seat, underneath which will be cubbies, and at the end of which will be a book shelf with cupboards below. I definitely take comfort in these thoughts. Don't get me wrong, I am happy with what we have. And I am definitely not planning a shopping spree to fill all the new space--the space is for what we need and have (including children, thanks be to God!!)!! However, I am hoping to be a little less stressed (and feel a little more freedom of movement than can currently be felt in our 1200 square feeties!) when there are homes for the things we have.

But at the moment.....

I will be dealing with the School Table today. It will be cleared off completely and reorganized...but not before everything comes out from underneath (where the bins are stored--each child has a wooden bin on wheels which contains all of their text books and supplies). The bookshelves need overhauling and reorganizing as well.

Now, FlyLady says, "Don't start something that will overwhelm you, for Pete's sake." Ok, not in those exact words, but that's what she says. She's all about doing anything for 15 minutes--wiping down the bathroom or shining up the kitchen sink. I know full well that the school table will take longer than 15 minutes, but blast it, it needs to be done.

Well, here's to hoping: hoping that I have the uninterrupted time I need to get through the things on the table; hoping that I carefully and correctly discern the need for each thing I come across (it has, after all, become something of a catch-all) so that I can discard the things we do not need; hoping that when I am finished, my goal of organization of this small area will make a difference, at least in the short term.

Here's to a productive day!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Home again, home again, fiddle-dee-dee....

....and they're back.

Just like that, the house goes from woefully quiet to joyfully loud.

They all had a grand time at Camp, and I had a small time at home with my Monkey...it was hard to get used to it being Just We Two. I enjoyed it though; I've had time at home alone with each of my children through the years, but this was different.

Now that we're home schoolers, there is not so much Just We Two.

The Frog, being the first, had just more than two whole years of Just We Twoness.

The Pickle, being the Middle Child of fame and fable, had small amounts of Just We Twoness here and there--mostly while the Frog was in preschool.

The Reepicheep, being the third of the Big Bunch. had two whole years of Just We Twoness while the Frog and the Pickle were in their early years of Building School.

And it was then that the impending arrival of the Monkey made me long greatly for Just We Twoness with each of them....and so I stole them from their classrooms, one at a time, for one day each, just to be with me. To have Just We Twoness once more before the Monkey joined us.

The Monkey had nearly a year of Just We Twoness while the Big Bunch were off at Building School. But then, just before his first birthday, we began life as home schoolers.

And so, barring forays into Just We Twoness during the week that the Big Bunch are at Camp, the Monkey and I really just don't have Just We Twoness very often. It's a rare thing, indeed. Oh, we have naps together, and sometimes we go on errands together, but whole days are a rarity.


When the children go out to play in the yard, there is almost always The Talk about the Boy Who Cried Wolf. "We do not scream," the earnest parent entreats, "unless we are really in danger, or actually hurt--like with blood or broken parts or the like."

The children rarely listen the first time, and countless mothers, upon hearing frantic screams, wring their hands and rush outside, searching the area for the child who cries for her, certain that she will be met with Impending Death or something nearly as tragic. And almost always, the child is screaming for the pure delight of swinging higher than her brother, or because he is being chased by his big sister who holds the hose full of freezing water, or Just Because Screaming is the Thing To Do.

And so the mother, after sternly warning her children once again about the dangers of Screaming for No Apparent Reason, and now weary from her burst of Olympic speed, retreats into the quiet of her abode to continue folding the laundry or putting away the dishes or sweeping the floor or something mundane that mothers do all day, for Pete's sake.

This little scenario repeats itself, until the mother gets tired of false alarms...and just listens through the open window, straining to discern the nature of the current cry emitting, no doubt, from the Chronic Screamer--who is, at last, screaming for an appropriate occasion!

Yes, here I sat, searching building codes for My Darling. (This is, after all, something I can actually do to help him with the addition.) The children were out playing for the last few minutes of the day, and the screaming began. I wasn't even paying very close attention, I admit, as I quite honestly didn't associate this particular scream with any of my progeny.

Well, I was wrong.

It was the Reepicheep, the Chronic Screamer, for whom screaming is often The Thing To Do.

See, we got her this spiffy new bike a couple of weeks ago. At the late age of 8 1/2, she finally has the confidence to really ride--you know, without training wheels. Please don't laugh. So she was zipping along between the stop signs on our very short street, and then somehow...she was no longer zipping along. Mostly she was sitting on the ground with her foot stuck in the spokes of the front wheel.

And screaming.

It was the kind of scream that Mama would really rather not know her child can scream. It was appropriate, by the looks of her foot.

At this moment (which, I might add, is 28 minutes past her bedtime of 8:00--yes, even in the summer!--and a mere 2 minutes until her lights out time of 8:30), the Reepicheep is sitting on the couch, propped by fourteen pillows, her foot and ankle swathed in ice packs, playing "Sleeping Queens" with the Frog. The Pickle is brushing his teeth (because his bedtime approaches--in two minutes), a bit miffed that his younger sister is still not in her bed.

My Darling and I are concerned, though, and would like to keep an eye on the foot in question. She will stay down here until we go up to our bed.

Just a few minutes ago, the Monkey came in and said, "Are you okay, Reep?" Adorable.

And so I go from an entire week of Just We Twoness to an injured Reep, a miffed Pickle, a concerned Monkey, and a doting Frog.

I'm glad to have my babies back home.....

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Quiet House...

So the Big Three are off at camp this week.

We took them on Sunday after Mass. The Reepicheep and the Pickle are Main Camp campers, living with their cabin groups and doing general camp activities: archery, outdoor science (way cool science stuff, like rockets, egg parachutes, volcanoes, etc.), swimming, performance (skits, etc.), trail rides, and tons of other things that tire them out! So far the camp website has shown me pictures of Reepicheep with a caterpillar (which Monkey proclaimed as "cutie"!) and Pickle being generally goofy at his cabin group's table...and several others, including Reepicheep with her bow and arrow (I think she fancies herself Susan Pevensie...), The Pickle building something akin to a parachute (for the egg drop, I'm sure), and a couple of great shots of general campfire antics.

The Frog is a ranch camper this year. That means that she gets to bond with one particular horse, learn about the breed and how to care for it: tack, grooming, feeding, saddling up, and how to ride on more than just a trail. When we were pulling into the road to Camp, she said to me, "Mom, how do I make a good friend?" I was stunned! I said, "Sweetie, you've done this before! You've been to camp and made new friends. You've gone to building school and made good friends. You started homeschooling and went to First Friday for the first time and made good friends. You know how to be a wonderful friend--and that's the best way to make a friend!" My very dear friend (whom my children refer to as Auntie Trish) called me (she lives on camp) and let me know that the Frog has indeed apparently made a good friend. :) As Pa Ingalls would say, "All's well that ends well!" I've been able to see pictures of her out by the horses, both sitting near the arena and on her horse. She is so tall and poised, it's breathtaking....

This afternoon, they had the opportunity for Confession. On Friday they'll have Mass before lunch. It's such a beautiful place to experience faith, and especially to partake of the Sacramental life.

This is our seventh year as Camp Parents, and it's the camp where I used to work. I'm still there very occasionally, but with homeschooling and house building and family activities, it's pretty rare these days. I miss it.


The house is so quiet with the kids gone. It's just been me and the Monkey during the days since Sunday. I've gotten a lot done, which surprises me--I guess I thought he'd require a lot more entertaining than he does. I've been blessed by his ability to play by himself...it's something I knew the others did well, but with Monkey being the youngest of four, for Pete's sake, and having his brother and sisters around him all the time, I guess I didn't realize that he really does play alone very well. This is an important thing!!

I've enjoyed this time with him, Just We Two. He comes downstairs with his characteristic smile in the morning, cheerful and ready to snuggle for a few minutes before we find breakfast. We've read stories, played blocks, snuggled for snoozes, colored pictures, listened to music (check out John Lithgow's "Singin' In The Bathtub"--who knew?!--Our favorites are The Gnu Song and The Hippopotamus Song...but they're all good. Except the Triplet Song. We don't so much like that one.), danced, watched the rain, listened to the thunder, squealed over all manner of bugs...and he's had a hair cut and several baths. Tomorrow he wants to paint, so I'll get out the watercolors and let him go crazy while I wash the kitchen floor.

In the evenings, Monkey follows My Darling around with awe in his eyes...which I love. They've done wiring, watched baseball, built roads (some out of sand and some out of boards), gone to the hardware store--general Guy Stuff. Last night, when he needed to get some things done in the upstairs of the addition, My Darling hauled Monkey's bike up there so that he could putter around while Daddy worked.

Every time we get into the van to go somewhere (and apparently when he's gone on errands with Daddy), My Monkey pipes up with, "Can we go pick up (insert the name of any of his siblings here) now?" and we have to tell him, "Not just yet, Buddyroe."

We'll pick the Big Three up on Friday. They'll be completely worn out, and there will be the usual long faces and even a few tears about leaving Camp behind for another year...but they won't be able to stop chattering about everything they did. My ears will be ringing by the time we pull into the driveway, but I'll love it. They'll each bathe and fall into their beds, remembering the special things they did and learned at Camp.

And the Monkey will be thrilled to have them home.

(And so will I.)

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Let your light so shine....

Last week was chock full. We had the funeral for My Darling's uncle (finally--and it was beautiful, thanks be to God), followed by a First Communion Mass and celebration (on the same day as the funeral, for Pete's sake), then the annual family camping weekend for My Darling's gigantic family (which ran from Thursday until Sunday but we were only there Friday and Saturday), and then on Sunday we took the Big Three to camp for the week. Shwew!

Quite honestly, I was dreading most of the weekend. Although My Darling comes from a large family, most of them don't understand the Big Family mentality and pretty much turn their noses up at the joyful acceptance of fertility and the gift of children. This means that each time a pregnancy is announced, there are shamelessly lewd comments made about the bedroom habits of the expecting couple, along with remarks like, "What's the matter, you haven't heard of birth control?" (well....like Bishop Sheen once said, those who use birth control use it because they don't want to give birth or they don't want to exercise self control...we choose to use NFP when we want to avoid a pregnancy, and each of our pregnancies--from the Reepicheep on--are absolutely intended) "So are you done yet?" (as though it's a project) and, "So are you going to get fixed this time?" (as if something were broken) and, "Boy, you just can't keep your legs closed, huh?" (I won't even dignify this one...)

When the Pickle was born, we heard lots of comments (even from complete strangers) about how now we had our boy and our girl--The Perfect Family!--so we could be done now. These types of comments irk me for so many reasons, not the least of which is that our family is perfect no matter how many children we have, no matter how "evenly divided" they are between boys and girls. Is this to say that our friends who have four boys and one girl--and are expecting their fifth boy--is not a perfect family? Or that my sisters-in-law, each with two children (one with two boys, one with two girls) don't have perfect families? However many children God intends for our family, no matter the number of each gender, no matter how many in heaven or on earth, is the perfect family in our eyes.

The questions dealing with, "Gee, can you really afford another one?" get me, too. "Gee, is that really any of your business?" It kills me how intent our society is on stressing material goods and objectifying our children, as though they are burdens. No, we can't afford to budget in luxuries like expensive vacations or boats or going to the movies every week. We shop at Aldi's, St. Vincent de Paul stores and garage sales. We camp when we want a getaway. We didn't hire a contractor to build our addition. We budget very carefully, seldom indulge in things that are costly (except things like appliances....), and we teach our children that the things they have are to be treated with care, and that if they choose to attend college they need to work hard to earn scholarships (and money). Somehow, this has not made our lives miserable or lacking in any way--it's actually brought us joy in the little things!

We've had run-ins with so many friends and relatives about our family, and it makes me sad...and it's largely why I dreaded the majority of this weekend. We would love for just one announcement of new life to be met with joy rather than skepticism. We would relish not having to defend our faith and our family, to not be attacked for the way we are raising up our children. I suppose most of all, we would like our families to just love and support us rather than questioning every decision we make: our homeschooling, our strict adherence to the Church and her teachings, our traditional marriage (complete with Honor and Obey, for Pete's sake!), the number of children we have, the way we discipline them, the activities we allow them to participate in (or not), etc. ad nauseum.....

I so did not intend for this to be a ranting post, but sometimes you just have to let off a little steam. Now that everyone in the family knows about this beautiful baby--who is, at this very moment, bouncing around like Tigger!--I am feeling somewhat relieved. No more, "What will Aunt So-and-so say when she finds out?" It's not that I really care what other people think; I just dread confrontations with people that I love.

Lastly, stemming from a rather unpleasant conversation we had with one relative this weekend, I would ask you to pray for the Church as a whole: those who follow the teaching of the Church, those who don't, those who are learning more about their faith through a desire to seek the truth, who are searching and studying to deepen their love of God, those in formation for the priesthood, and of course, our dear bishops and priests...all of them. It is hurtful to know so very many wonderful priests who lovingly guide us and teach us, and then to have people we know and love malign these good men for their steadfast adherence to the truth and their unwavering mission to preach the Word of God and bring us closer to Jesus Christ.

[Edit: I have to, at this point, add a video link. This is an amazing vocations video that My Darling saw on a men's retreat, and it definitely stirred his heart...not that he is called to the priesthood, for Pete's sake, but that we more fully support the men who are--maybe, in the future, even our own sons. Added Tuesday, July 8, 2008, at 7:27 PM.]

Now my promise: My next post will be far more light-hearted.