Monday, January 30, 2012

What my kids teach me

I've never considered myself to be all that learned, especially in the ways of the world. I'm kind of glad for that, now that I have children. I think, during the moments when I am open to them, it enables me to learn all sorts of amazing and interesting things from these little people.

1. Patience - Anyone who has a two-year-old (or many in succession) has realized the importance of learning this early. Unfortunately, I am still a work in progress but it is more clear to me each time I need a refresher course. Thankfully these four never fail to provide an opportunity.

2. Vocabulary - Today's phrase is "sandal gap toe". I know, I had no idea either. Well, in case it comes up the next time you're on Jeopardy!, it's an extended gap between a person's big toe and first toe (like where the flip flop thing goes) and it's a "soft marker" for Down Syndrome. If nothing else, this pregnancy will make me even more fascinating at parties!

3. Acceptance and Unconditional Love - Since finding out about #2, I felt it might be time to introduce the idea of a baby with Downs to the two oldest kids. I said "the baby may look or act differently" instead of saying Down Syndrome so my 4-year-old son said, "oh, like Peter's hand!" (A classmate has a deformed hand that they spoke about in class a few weeks ago, to clear up any curiosity or confusion). "Well, that's OK, I will love my brother or sister just as much and if anyone makes fun of him/her I'll say 'robber, get out of my house'!" Not sure what the last part means but it sounded very endearing - like a good big brother defending his younger sibling. My 6-year-old said, "Of course we'll love the baby just as much, every life is a gift from God".  I am pleased that some of the things we talk about seem to be getting through. I am humbled that it is so simple for little people to see it so clearly. I am shamed by them for my lack of trust and faith.

4. The Importance of Brothers and Sisters - Being the last of five, I already knew this at some level. Still, I cherish those moments when I get to "peek" at some or all of them huddled together doing something. The whispering among them is just beginning and although it's intimidating sometimes (there are more of them than me!) it's still so wonderful to see them sharing things and working together. Even when they're demonstrating the worst that sibling behavior has to offer, I get a bit nostalgic. I know that the bonds I am watching form will last their entire lives.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Enjoying (almost) every moment...

My dear friend sent me an article today. It made me laugh out loud and really think about the way things are around here. Perhaps it will help you too, which is why I'm sharing ;)

Don't Carpe Diem

It is an odd thing to me when people say "enjoy - it goes so fast". I do understand that it goes fast and yet there are days that seem to stretch on for a lifetime. The good thing for me is when a day has a really memorable event. A shining moment that makes the rest of the just OK or downright difficult day seem worthwhile.

Last night after baths I suggested that we say a family rosary before watching a show. I was completely at peace with not fighting because I was exhausted. If the said "no" it would just be a story then bed. To my shock and awe they (being the two oldest) knelt down and proceeded as if they did it every day. The younger two went in and out but caused little disruption. This was such an amazing event in our household that my husband said "where have our children gone?" later that night.

Such grace-filled moments are what keep me moving forward and what remind me that this is a vocation, not just a temporary gig. God clearly invented variable reinforcement. I never know when one of these "bright" moments will come along so I just keep moving forward, always pleasantly surprised by my next reward.

Then there are "wow, this does go fast" moments. They are harder for me to grasp since I seem to always have a new little chubby cherub floating round. Still, I know that will also pass one day. So, I take great joy in little things that flashback to when someone was smaller and I am awed at the rapid passing of time. Looking at my four-year-old's hands, I still see the short, dimpled fingers that were there a few years ago. When I'm in a room with just the two oldest, I realize there was a time (if a short time) that it was just them. Lately, when I'm drying my oldest's hair, if I pull up the side at just the right angle, I still see the curve of her jaw that was here...
and she's back to being my only baby.

So, I'm trying to stay positive and not wish away the Chronos time while relishing the Kairos moments. Both are necessary to this life. Without one, the other would not be nearly as spectacular.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Our New Miracle

Well, it's looking like we're on track to have another big baby. The u/s tech looked a bit frightened by the whole idea but, personally, I enjoy these big little people. The only one under 9 lbs had colic. Call me superstitious but I'll be fine if this one is again over that mark.

So, the stats at 28 weeks:

3 lbs, 4 oz - that's 96th percentile
9 lbs, 13 oz - predicted weight at delivery

Maybe we'll finally get our Uncle Charlie ;)
Oh, and s/he is shy, always covering her face :) Cutie.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New and Old

This morning I had the pleasure of delivering meals to two families who have had babies in the last few weeks. I our group. I love having the opportunity to share in the joy of a new family by providing some type of support at a hectic time.

When I got back into the car, one of the Archbishops was on the radio talking about Chicago and Catholic Charities. He said "where there is selfless giving, God is present." I'd like to think God was with me on my travels this morning. I know for sure He is ever-present in our mom's group.

In addition to the joy that comes with bringing a meal, sometimes I even get a peek at the little fresh miracle. Such was the case at the second house. I don't care how many kids I have, I will ALWAYS forget how tiny they are at the beginning. Just so adorable. So new. So much promise.

The two houses weren't far from one another and I found myself in an oddly familiar part of the city. Suddenly, I looked up and saw "Burchfield Avenue" on the sign. Well, I thought, "hello to you too, Bub." You see, this is the street where my grandmother (aka "Bubba") lived a great deal of the time when we were kids. Well, when my siblings were kids, I think she moved when I was five. I had to take a slight detour from the rest of my day.

Isn't funny how your heart remembers? I know the street and even though they painted the beams this terrible shade of tan (who does that to a beautiful Tudor?) and even though it has degraded a great deal, I recognized it immediately. Driving down the alley, I could see and smell and hear all the joy that happened there.

What a joyous day for me. Seeing new blessings and remembering the old.

Sil's Cello Performance

Sil played on The Saturday Light Brigade this Saturday at the Children's Museum. In the photo, she is right in front of the teacher in the pink sweatshirt and her part of the interview is approximately 11:20. She's very humble, that one ;p

Sunday, January 22, 2012


I liked this article. I think it does a fairly good job of recounting a life which could easily be overshadowed by the last two months.

I'm not a PSU grad but with 3 of my 4 siblings attending there, it's hard not to feel moved in some way today. Joe Paterno was Penn State. It's a sad day in Happy Valley.

Yes, I struggle with the scandal. However, I've begun to soften, if only slightly, my opinion. I know I'm biased because, for whatever odd reason, he has always reminded me of my dad. Not just the hair, the glasses, and the nose(!), but the era. These were men raised before the Internet and before the news felt the need to expose us to every minute detail of every evil that exists. That made them, in a way, naive, but also made them gentlemen who are so hard to find these days.

Clearly the abuse is unforgivable. The children who suffered have the right to restitution. I refuse to read all the testimony so I won't ever know exactly how culpable he was. I am just saddened that a life so seemingly dedicated to helping students (I saw him on campus - he was approachable and not above those with whom he lived each day) would end in such a tarnished manner. I hope that he sought absolution and is now on his way to a better place. I pray that his family might find peace.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Rejoicing in Life

We were at dinner with friends last night and somewhere near the middle of the three plus hours, we came around to the topic of death. All four of us at the table are, what I would consider, quite strong in our Catholic faith, so the discussion was definitely more uplifting than dour. In fact, when finding out that we had already purchased our cemetery plots and a headstone, the wife of the other couple announced, "I am jealous!" I had to laugh out loud while, at the same time, rejoice that we can discuss these types of things with others who feel as we do. (I later found out that the people at the next table may not have had the same opinion of the topic. Oops.)

The discussion went on to life in the world today and the never-ending quest of people to eat specific things or undergo plastic surgery or drive a fast car. I wondered if this was to help themselves enjoy life more and to feel better about themselves or, ultimately, postpone that which seems most difficult to face about our mortal being. Every person has a different answer, I would imagine. Someone mentioned the reading in Exodus about the Israelites traveling with Moses who were bitten by a snake and how, by looking upon the snake he had fashioned, they would be healed. So we, too, must look upon the thing that frightens us most, our ultimate death, to be "healed".

This week will be one in which I am very in tune with life and so I intend to celebrate! Sunday is the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It's amazing that, for almost as long as I've been alive, it has been legal to take life, all under the banner of "choice".

Since becoming a mother, the "pro-choice" arguments have become more and more difficult for me to grasp. The first time I felt a baby kick inside me, there was no question that this was a life, waiting to come forth. Seeing a tiny heart beating on an ultrasound...what is that if not life? I hear all the arguments and, while I try to be compassionate and I pray for hearts to turn, I have yet to become convinced that killing a baby is acceptable. Ever. Yes, I am first in line to take away that "right" from women. With rights come responsibility and the responsibility comes before the baby is created.

Personally, I come from the "I knew you before I formed you" school of thought. My dearly beloved and I have had discussions long into the night, he has more difficulty with God placing babies into the arms of abusers, murderers, or otherwise less-than optimal circumstances. I too struggle with choices people make but I don't think any baby is a "mistake". I truly believe that God selects each of us at the proper time.

This year, Roe v. Wade is especially poignant to me. At 43, my chance of a baby with Down Syndrome is "elevated". After my first blood test and ultrasound, the risk was even greater. I found it slightly ironic that I happened to be at a 40 Days for Life vigil and got the news upon my return home. Yes, I cried. I have often thought that God has more belief in my abilities than do I. After settling a bit, I realized this was the big "put up or shut up" from God. Would I walk the walk now that it was me? Would I stand for life even if mine was about to be forever altered?

Immediately I looked into the issues we would face with a Downs baby. I spoke to friends with Downs children. I fought off several attempts by my OB to have amino. "Just so you know" he said. "Know what" I said. I felt, even that early, that I was as prepared as I wanted to be about what we faced. Truly, no one mentioned colic before I had Dominic. It was one of the most difficult times of my life but we adjusted and found ways to cope. Yes, colic passes and DS does not but there are numerous challenges and rewards with each child. The question is on what you choose to dwell.

In all the time that has passed I can honestly say the thought of abortion has never crossed my mind. Many, many days I have prayed that I would not be blessed with a special needs baby. I don't think my patience and temperament is cut out for that. Yet, isn't that what it's about? We receive challenges that will ultimately improve us and make us stronger, more tuned-in to what is important. Life is a gift. A rewarding, challenging, fleeting gift. So is praying for grace and receiving it at just the right time.

So, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I believe I will be saying a prayer that other mothers in my situation may choose to look at the possibilities of their unborn child as a gift rather than a burden. I will pray that we can all be more like Our Blessed Mother, who knew how to trust and accept without knowing every last detail. Let us say "yes" and rejoice in life.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Feast of St. Sebastian

If you're needing a little bit of reinforcement in your faith, check out St. Sebastian's story:

Sebastian was the son of a wealthy Roman family. He was educated in Milan and became an officer of the imperial Roman army, and Captain of the Guard. He was a favorite of Emperor Diocletian. During Diocletian's persecution of the Christians, Sebastian visited them in prison, bringing both supplies and comfort. He is reported to have healed the wife of a fellow soldier by making the sign of the cross over her. During his time in the army he converted many soldiers and a governor.
Charged as a Christian in 288 in Rome, Sebastian was tied to a tree, shot with arrows, and left for dead. However, he survived, recovered, and returned to preach to Diocletian, where the emperor then had him beaten to death.
During the 14th century, the random nature of the black plague caused people to say that the plague was introduced to their villages through being shot by natures archers. In desperation they prayed for the intercession of a saint associated with archers, and Saint Sebastian became associated with the plague

I wonder if I would have the strength in the face of persecution that the early martyrs did. Thank goodness the Church was started and spread by these people. I'm fairly sure the arrows would be enough of a deterrent today.

St. Sebastian, pray for us. Help us to be courageous in our faith as we work to teach others.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Much Am I Worth?

Just came across this on Yahoo How Much is a Homemaker Worth? and I just couldn't let it go without comment.

I get kind of agitated when these types of articles are posted. What is the purpose, exactly? For those women who are going to print it out and hand it to their husbands, friends, whatever, what is your point? Is someone astonished that homemakers (who, um, are "non-wage-earners") are "underpaid"? Wow. Isn't everyone who does something and makes nothing, at least in theory, "underpaid"? I know, I know, there are arguments about supporting women who chose to stay home for a while, extending maternity leave, state-funded childcare, etc., but I'm not sure that's where this is headed. I think articles like this are just another excellent example of society trying to get moms out of the home by telling them how little they are valued doing that work.

My answer? Who cares what value society places on me? Seriously, if you're in this for the money, go back to work. If you're in it because you want to actively form the next generation and because you look forward to running a marathon having only trained for a 5K, come talk to me. I'll tell you how worthy and how important you are. I will personally thank you for taking on this most difficult yet rewarding venture.

I freely admit, on my most exhausting days, I will make the comment, "I don't get paid enough for this." Of course, that's the dark one talking. There is no way to value the reward that comes from this vocation. Any measure, especially a monetary one, will never suffice.

I'm not going through the entire article because, to me, it's ridiculous. Allow me to say that, while my cooking and cleaning skills are decent, I'm fairly certain that no one is suddenly going to hire me as a housekeeper and/or personal chef so the comparisons are laughable.

Rant over. Have a nice day ;)

PS - I neglected to thank my beloved, who works all day then comes home to another job for NO PAY(!) and rarely complains or feels undervalued. Without him, the wheels would completely come off.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Babies, Chicken and Snowmen!

The three things on my mind this week!

I am so blessed to know so many women (6 or 8 last count) who are expecting new little miracles within the next few months. My go-to meal for new families is baked chicken and mac n cheese but, truthfully, I'm sick of it. I know it's a kid-friendly meal but there are so many other good things to make (can you tell the morning sickness is almost totally gone and the nesting has begun?!)

Therefore, it's been chicken around here this week (with the exception of Wild Mushroom Pastitsio , which was a HUGE hit with the little people around here!)

Let's see, back to all starts with my very favorite cookbook...
Which has the best chicken soup recipe...ever.

Eight pounds of chicken with sixteen cups of water, onion, celery, spices, carrots...simmering all day. Yum. Good to freeze as a base, add noodles, bread and salad. Excellent winter meal!
Next we have Crockpot Lemon Chicken. Simple to make, easy to freeze the shredded chicken for Alfredo, chicken salad or some other tasty treat later on.

A few days ago I made this Italian chicken with potatoes in the crockpot. Mixed reviews. Probably not a keeper.

Thankfully I always have a sous chef on hand. This guy would only help with dessert today, though!

Next, snowmen...As many of you know, Silvana has been in the habit of using her snack days at school to introduce a lesson about that day's special Saint. Her next snack day is January 20th. That is the feast of both St. Fabian and St. Sebastian. St. Fabian is one of those "mystery Saints", little known and not a patron of anything, so we looked to St. Sebastian. It turns out that he is the patron of soldiers, archers, and athletes.

Hmmmm. Already covered the soldiers with St. Martin of Tours and I couldn't really find anything else that was "healthy" (a rant for another time) and screamed arrows or sports.

Much to my daughter's dismay I was planning to send in a standard snack with a coloring sheet on St. Sebastian and call it a day. Then, I happened to be scanning the web and found this adorable Trinity Snowman poem and snack.

The poem and coloring sheet are here

The "snack" can range from snowmen made of mini-doughnuts to biscuits. They are supposed to look something like this
I had some sweet dough in the freezer so I tried and came out with something that resembled that Calvin and Hobbes "snowman house of horror" cartoon ;p

Luckily I have 4 whole days to get this right!  Pray for me ;)

Looking ahead. Silvana's "half birthday" (celebrated for the Summer kids) happens to fall on Ash Wednesday. This is going to take some serious thinking...stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Weep in peace

"Weep in bereavement or misfortune, but weep in peace. You may lose everything, but you do not have the right to lose your peace...We can be very shaken, very upset, as long as it is only on the surface, but the depths of our souls must remain tranquil as the depths of the ocean, even during the greatest storms."
     - Fr. Jean C. J. d'Elbee, I Believe in Love

I went to a bookgroup last night and this was one of the passages we read. Even now I am astonished at how the Holy Spirit puts me right where I need to be at exactly the right time.

Reading this passage, I was immediately returned to the month or so after my dad was killed. I went to confession and explained that I was there because I was fairly certain that I would soon be leaving the faith. I'm not sure the exact words Father used but it was something like, "You can be sad. You can be angry at God ...really, really angry. However, you cannot question Him or His direction for your life. He knows what is best for you and He will not leave you."

Needless to say, I chose to believe his words. Words that sound so much like the passage from the book. I made a conscious effort to live my faith more fully and to commit to a life where I would do all I could to put God first.

As I sit and feel this fifth baby kicking inside me, I am overwhelmed at the thought of how this all worked for good. Some of the worst days of my life led me to this point. There are still many difficult days. There will be even more to come (which, I believe, is why I was lead to read this particular part of the book at this time).

Through all the days when I can see my blessings clearly and through the others, when I struggle to find the grace to continue, my peace is secure. Under everything, the good and the bad, remains the calming force. For that, I will always rejoice.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy Epiphany!

It hasn't been overly "Christmas-like" around here this week since the kids are back to school, (although there were a lot of awesome Saints to feast), but we have finally reached Epiphany. I am so pleased that the older of our kids seem so excited about this day. The Blessing of the House and opening of the final gifts is a great way to send off Christmas for another year. Dominic made the crowns this year and Chiara will hold the star because, according to Dominic, "the child who cannot speak always holds the star." Not sure whether or not that's an official rule!

We split Mass today and Sil and I ended up at the choir Mass. Before the homily, the choir master sang the dates of the movable feasts for the coming year. Apparently it's a tradition from long ago, before everyone had a Church calendar at home and since then has been an occasion to bless the calendars that are distributed for the New Year. It's always fascinating to me to see something that was done and has fallen out of practice.

I would have liked to do more this Christmas season but, ultimately, I think it was a success. I feel like Pat and I should sit down this summer to work out the schedule of the holiday - what we should emphasize, what we should not. Alas, I'm sure before I know it, it will again be Advent and we will again fly by the seat of our pants. I guess we'll see what this new year will bring.

Blessing of the stairwell
Blessing the nursery

Prayers before the manger

One last gift!

As we journey through the year, may it be like the Three Wise Men - always seeking Christ. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

7 Quick Takes

1. I have now reached the point where fastening the laces of my shoes/boots is painful and/or physically challenging. How nice that I am again large-with-child in the Winter. I must survey my Dec 2008 photos to see what footwear I chose then.

2. Post-school discussion:

Sil: Today we were talking about people called "Sister" - by the way, that's the religious "Sister", not the regular sibling "sister".
Me: Ahh. Well, did you also talk about people called "Mother" - in the religious sense, not the family sense?
Sil: I know about them. They're also called Prioress.
Me: Yes, kind of. So did you discuss that or do you just know that from St. Therese?
Sil: I know it from St. Therese. Can't stop reading that book.

I wonder if the Little Flower knows how many other little flowers she has influenced?

3. If you are looking for a great baby name (like me) or just want to get to know some Saints better, check out this site. Really the coolest thing I've seen in a while.

4. Epiphanies are Made for Sharing . . . . . . . . . Father Thomas Rosica, CSB
"Unlike the poor shepherds, the Magi had to travel a long road; they had to face adversity to reach their goal. It was anything but a romantic, sentimental pilgrimage that we often see in our manger scenes!

"The experience of the magi reminds us that all who make the tedious journey to the truth will finally encounter it and be changed in the process. They can never go back to a ‘business as usual’ way of life. When we meet Christ and see who he really is, we will never be the same – and only then can we hope to begin to share in his mission.…"

5. I am thoroughly enjoying my profile these days :)

6. For the last two days, Pittsburgh PA has averaged a lower temperature than Crookston, MN. There is something very wrong with that statistic.

7. Some New Year's Resolution suggestions from Archbishop Dolan:

Everyday, first thing, a morning offering;
Every week, first day, Sunday Mass;
Every month, first Friday, confession.
“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God. . . .”

Happy Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Live simply, so that all may simply live.


St, Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821) Foundress of the Sisters of Charity, USA

What a beautiful sentiment for today. It would be so wonderful if, this new year, we each made a choice to give up something dear to us so that someone else may have what they need. (And by "need", I mean "sustaining-life need", not "new flat-screen tv with 100+ cable channels need"). Just to be clear ;)

Stay tuned. I will be praying about this and hope to post my thoughts soon.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Finally, SNOW!!!

I suppose, if you're a 4-and 3-year-old boy, nothing is greater than waking up to see SNOW. Really, truly, snow. Enough to use the shovels we got for Christmas!

So, trying to have a kindler, gentler, mom attitude, I didn't let the finding of boots, snow pants, gloves and hats hamper the day. I figured I'd just push them out the door and snuggle with little girl in the house. It turns out that little girl LOVES the snow and 24 degrees doesn't seem that cold when you're having fun!

 Doing their "work" for the day.

 I still can't believe I had a snowsuit for everyone.

 Steeler-boy :)

 Slides are more fun coated with snow and wearing a snowsuit!

What a beautiful first official (i.e. dad's back at work) day of 2012!