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.