Sunday, November 16, 2008

Being Pro-life Outside the Voting Booth

There are many conservative and faithful Catholic voters for whom the issue of abortion is paramount; I would consider myself to be among them. However, I would question how far many of these sincere pro-life friends extend their commitment to life. How far do they - how far do you - take this commitment into everyday decisions? What do you do to be pro-life? If it starts and stops with taking the pro-life voter’s guide into the voter’s booth, I would argue that you are doing very little to end the scourge of abortion in this country.

Unfortunately, I have spoken to many committed Catholic and Christian people over the last few months who do just that. There are a vast number of citizens who take their pro-life position very seriously, at least in the voting booth every four years. The truth is, abortion will end when the hearts and minds of the majority of Americans understand abortion for what it is, the killing of human life. It will not end just because we elected a pro-life president.

Abortion will not end from the top down. Think about it, twenty of the last twenty-eight years our country has had a pro-life president. That is twenty years of “conservative” court appointments, and “pro-life” presidential leadership. Yet, we still have abortion.

Look at it another way, the last two decades there has been a steady decline in the number of abortions. This decline continued, even accelerated, under the pro-abortion Clinton administration, and curiously, the decline stagnated under the "pro-life" Bush administration. For a good reference of a sociological study of abortion see here.

It certainly seems that the person who holds the office of president, and their views on abortion, are virtually irrelevant to either the continuance of abortion in this country or on the actual number of abortions. Perhaps there are other cultural developments that lead to this decline in the number of deaths due to abortion.

Abortion will end from the ground up, from the grass roots, when the American citizenry understands the evil that it is. The question is then, what are we who are pro-life doing to end abortion. What are we doing outside the voting booth? What are we doing to help the women in our own families, neighborhoods, parishes, and communities choose life? What are we doing to bring truth to our culture?

There are plenty of options. You can stand at the annual Life Chain and peacefully pray for an end to abortion. You can march in the National March for Life which is held every January on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade in Washington, DC, and in communities across the country. You can do personal penance to end abortion and pray fervently every day for its end. More materially, you can donate to your local Crisis Pregnancy Center or Birthright or Gabriel Project. Also, check out Feminists for Life for some fresh ideas about advocating for women and babies in our society. You can donate your time, money, clothing and possessions to allow these agencies and groups to offer real support to women in need who are trying to provide for their children. The thing is, to end abortion, we who care are going to need to do some real penance, some real prayer and fasting, some real hands on sacrifice.
Another way to assist women in crisis pregnancies is to support government programs that provide tangible help to women in need. When I worked as a counselor in a Crisis Pregnancy Center, it was the referrals to government services that enabled many women to see the option to carry their pregnancy to term as viable. Section eight housing, WIC, food stamps and access to health care is the ongoing help that these ladies need. Government leaders who vow to close the door on these programs are closing the door for many of these women and families in need.

You can see that your work starts when you walk out of the voting booth. A woman in a crisis pregnancy does not care who you voted for last November 4; they are just wondering how they are going to get a job, an education, medical care and the housing they need in order to choose life and be a mother. How can you help?



Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Wicked Witch is Dead

That's me, under the house, buried - and only sometimes am I a wicked witch. In order to lift myself from the ground, I must first lift this house above me. To run, I must carry this house along with me, this house and everything in it. This house is filled up. It's filled with kids, my nine kids and the dozen or so neighbor kids who spend their afternoons loitering around my lot. It's filled with clothes and shoes and coats and leotards and soccer jerseys and boy scout uniforms. It's filled with the chore of feeding breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. The house's desk is filled with papers and books and correspondence and phone messages; it's filled with papers to be graded and notes to be written and a calendar to be planned. All this work - every, every, everyday. Everyday.

And where am I? Oh here I am. I am melting. The wicked witch is melting. I guess that is what it is taking for me. For the wicked witch in me to die, to melt away. Oh no, she's not gone yet, but she is slowly dying. My self pre-occupations, my petty attractions, distractions and attachments, my sloth, my lofty opinions and ideas. Yes, here under this house, a part of me is dying. I am dying and it hurts. Sometimes, it hurts a lot.

However, the wicked witch must die. She must go, for there is no room for her in this house. The more this witch is purged, the lighter the weight of the house. The witch cannot lift the house; she can only be buried and burdened by it. That is all the witch can see of the house; she can only see the burden that it brings to her, for her thoughts are only of herself. The more the witch is concerned with the weight, the heavier is the burden.

The witch begins to melt when the waters of truth and light, of beauty, love and forgiveness are poured out. The thing is, this water is only poured out from above. As Saint Paul tells us in the New Testament book of Colossians,

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

And as the witch melts, the burdens lighten. Perhaps someday we can rejoice that the wicked witch is dead; she's finally dead. AMEN.



Friday, February 1, 2008

Putting It In Perspective, part II

Anonymous said...
Please remember that there are many, many families right here in the states who do not have access to healthcare. families who would be bankrupt and lose their homes if they had to pay for the birth of another child.not everyone in our country is "spoiled."

I received the above response to Putting It In Perspective and thought I'd comment on it. In no way was my post meant to suggest that those who are struggling financially or otherwise in this country are nonetheless spoiled by virtue of being American. I know families truly do have hardships of all kinds and that require compassion and assistance.

However, my original intent was to highlight the hardship of those who do not even have the remotest expectation of acquiring things we see as necessary in our country. For instance, health care, as the commenter made reference to, is not an option for some, as there are no doctors, midwives, or medicines even available in their communities. So, in the American mindset, the thinking may go, "we can't have another baby because the doctor bill would crush us." Those in other places and times would not have this sort of thinking at all, as there is no doctor available in the first place. This is what I mean by putting it in perspective. Think tee-pee versus humblest of American homes -- dirt floor, no heating or cooling, extremely limited food and clothing options, health care that consists of gathered herbal remedies, etc. Now picture an impoverished American lifestyle, if all else is equal, the family would have a much higher standard of living than most of humanity could even imagine. The Bible says that the Abraham of the Old Testament was wealthy, yet he was nomadic and lived in a tent. Jesus was raised in a relative hut and born in a stable -- no hospital to pay for there.

God help us to open all of our eyes to this fact. We are called to be joyful and generous no matter what our circumstances. Sometimes it helps to do this if we look past the modern day lifestyle expectations we have developed.

Peace, Hope

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Putting it in Perspective

On the HMS website, Dr. Greg Popcak, continued the debate about family size with the following quote from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

"In today's world, where the number of children cannot be very high given living
conditions and other factors, it's very easy to understand." (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium. An Interview with Peter Seewald. Ignatius Press, p.200)

Dr. Popcak says he does not agree with this quote, and nor do I. However, I really wonder what this future pope of ours meant by this quote, as there is no context provided and I do not have the book to reference. Surely Cardinal Ratzinger was not referring to the living conditions in the Western World. How could it be that in today's world, it is not easy to raise a large family given our living conditions. Surely he is not addressing the average American's access to health care, education, clean water, safe streets, sufficient clothing and housing. Even what is considered to be living in poverty in America, much of the current world, and most of the historical world, would be grateful for.

I cannot imagine that I have it so tough, even with all these kids, when I have a comfortable climate controlled home, can wash the families clothes and dishes with the touch of a few buttons, have access to healthy, convenient food, have top doctors a phone call away, plenty of books to learn from, and clean water that pours in whenever I want it with the flip of a faucet. I mean, really, we Americans are so spoiled if we entertain the idea for a second that it is too tough to raise a large family. In most cases, it is considered too tough because we like to keep ourselves comfortable. It is our devotion to the easy life, that gets in the way, not our actual living conditions.

Even today, there are happy families giving glory to God who eat cornmeal for every meal, who carry water from wells a good distance away, who are barely literate and have little access to even the most basic health care, who wash their clothes in rivers and cook over fire pits. I am certainly not advocating that this is God's ideal lifestyle for humans, just putting our own American lifestyle and expectations in perspective.

When considering if we can provide for one more soul in our family, perhaps we should look beyond what the neighbors have and give to their children, and consider all the blessing we really do have to share.

Peace, Hope

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Brothers and Sisters

I came across this post today from Danielle Bean's blog. It is so positive, and tells a story of the beauty of siblings and big families. I really agree with Danielle's perspective on this, and must say that nothing warms my heart more then when my eight children are loving each other the way only a brother or sister can.

Peace, Hope

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My Two Cents on the Attachment Parenting Debate

Quote from Dr. Popcak at Heart, Mind, and Strength blog:
"I would agree that you cannot do AP without going to the nuthouse if you have
another child every year. But the AP response would be that, unless God
has somehow specifically called a person to act in a manner that is contrary to
what he created the child's body to need (which would be remarkable considering
Pope Benedict's assertion at Ravensburg that the Christian God
is a God of order and reason who does not contradict the laws of his
own creation) then it is imperative to the bonding process and the health
of the mother that children be spaced about 2.5 to 3 years apart (give or

This is in reference to what has turned into a debate at HMS and at Danielle Bean's blog about parenting a large family and attachment parenting principles. I pulled the above quote because I think it contains a fundamental part of the argument.

First, no where in this debate has anyone really laid out what attachment parenting is. Looking back, I was a rabid adherent to Attachment Parenting philosophy and practices when I began my mothering career fifteen years ago. Now with baby #9 due to arrive next month, I have gained much wisdom and experience regarding parenting methods and philosophies. I would still call myself an attached and attentive parent, but I would not embrace Attachment Parenting as a philosophy any more. Why? Because family life and mothering is much too complicated. I would not suggest that one must or must not follow an arbitrary set of rules to be a good parent -- beyond the "rules" of our faith. Can a mother be an attached and loving parent and use a pacifier, or a crib, or wean at 18 months? Can a child be healthy and whole, physically and psychologically, and be attended to by older siblings, strapped in a high chair at meals, or attend pre-school? Wouldn't some of these violate the tenants of Attachment Parenting?

Even so, I would still advocate for the benefits of natural birth, breastfeeding, a mother's presence, and homeschooling, but see these more as goals and ideals than absolute mandates for everyone in all situations.

I would argue that loving parents can depart from AP methods and still be attached. Just as adoptive parents can still lovingly bond through bottlefeeding. It is donating yourself to your parenting vocation that makes a good parent, not a set of methods. Sure, breastfeeding and co-sleeping may help the process, but are not required. In some instances, AP methods could even interfere with loving parenting; I have seen it happen. We all have different circumstances.

Now to specifically address Dr. Popcak's assertion that "it is imperative to the bonding process and the health of the mother that children be spaced about 2.5 to 3 years apart (give or take)." I totally disagree with this statement. Children can be loved and well parented, healthy and happy, and grow up in a large family with closely spaced children. My vocation as the mother of one such family requires much of me, and many nights I go to bed exhausted emotionally, spiritually and physically. This is my path to heaven, and this is what God has created for me and our family. Yes, this is what God has done in my family, and as was mentioned above, God does not contradict the laws of his own creation.

Additionally, the burden does not entirely fall upon my husband and I to ensure that we only have children spaced an arbitrary number of months apart in order to never have to use a pacifier or because of some parenting method. God has given some couples abundant fertility. Our families may not fit neatly into a philosophy or look like the perfectly "planned" NFP family. Just as God permits infertility, infertility that can lead to pain, desperation, or can lead to spiritual growth and other avenues of charitable living. Couples who are very fertile have our own avenue of charitable living and a unique burden that can lead to disorder and pain or to spiritual growth. Infertile couples or small families are not necessarily less married or less Catholic then large families. Large families are not necessarily less attached, loving, or healthy than small families. I say necessarily, because families of any size can allow their struggles and challenges to get in the way of their path to holiness or they can use these struggles and challenges as their avenue to holiness.

Let's all be careful how we judge families of different shapes and sizes and not create burdens for each other that God never intended.

Peace, Hope

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Beautiful Life

When I think of a saintly mother, I picture a sweetly smiling, perfectly patient, neatly dressed lady in a well kept house with cooperative children. The family's days surely flow seamlessly from work to play, from meals to bedtime with little complaint and lots of love. For this saintly mother, with her skilled parenting and virtuous demeanor, would cultivate peaceful surroundings, well behaved, smiling children, and a beautiful life. Shouldn't this be my goal too, this beautiful life?

Surely our primary goals involve loving God and bringing this love to our families, and teaching our children to know and serve God and others. If we do these things, won't we achieve this beautiful life we imagine? How can it be then, that in our pursuit of the beautiful life, we compromise our true goals, to know, love and serve God?

We begin to serve the image; we begin to strive for the beautiful life; we begin to insist our families and our homes appear beautiful and well ordered, at least on the outside. We define our selves by our parenting style, by our educational philosophy, by the way we eat or dress, by the choices we make for our children. We decide that we do things a certain way, that we know best, that this is God's will for us, and for everyone. The image is being served.

Can it be that God permits messes and disorder? Can it be that sometimes God calls us to compromise our worthy ideals? Could it be that God may call us to sacrifice some of our well intentioned good deeds, some of our vision of beauty, some of our well crafted ideology?

The answer is yes, and it is painful and confusing. However, it is best to keep in mind that this pain and confusion stems from our disordered service of the vision, our vision of the beautiful life we believe we were called to, the vision that we have put before doing God's will.

For doing God's will may actually lead us to places, to ideas and understandings we never could imagine. God's infiniteness clashes with our finiteness. We arrange our little worlds a certain way to make sense for us, but God calls us to grow.

For it is in the messes and disorder that we demonstrate our patience and virtue, it is with pain and sickness that we reveal love and forgiveness, it is when we encounter frustrations, disappointments, conflict and embarrassments that our true character is revealed. It is during the trials of life, when we fall on our knees, that we gain wisdom and grow. This is where we meet grace. Let us turn our attentions then, away from the beautiful vision, and fix our eyes on God, wherever that may lead.

Peace, Hope

Friday, September 7, 2007

Why Me?

One thing I hear regularly from others when commenting on the number of children I have is, "Oh, you must be so patient." My usual response is, "I'm working on it!" If they only knew how much I have to work on it. I am not a natually patient person. Sometimes I wonder why God would give eight children to an impatient, perfectionist, introvert like me, surely my children do not benefit from this bent I have. Wouldn't a gregarious, messy, fun, creative type provide better mothering to this brood? Daily I have to work to overcome my personality type, while pasting a smile to my face and confronting another mess, something broken, a child screaming and pounding down the steps, or a pile of kids jumping on me each time I sit down for some peace. I know loud, chaotic situations are a challenge to the average adult, but one would think dealing with childish noises and mishaps should come naturally to me.

In the much prayer I have done over this something comes to mind. God loves my children, yes, but he also loves me. This mothering thing, it is not supposed to be easy. My vocation is designed to lead me to Christ. God uses all these challenges to lead me to holiness and virtue, and instead of fighting it or thwarting his plan, I must cooperate. Perhaps an impatient, perfectionist, introvert is just the person to have a large family, perhaps it is the only way for me to be molded and changed into a saint. God loves me, yes he does.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Be All You Can Be

Here is what my husband's day looks like. He get up at 5:30 and leaves the house to catch the 7:00 am train. He commutes to work a total of four hours a day, four days a week. During his train commute he works on his lap top computer. He has a high pressure job, and all day long I know he works very hard. One day a week he is able to forgo his commute and work in his home office, but even these days he barely has time for lunch. He likes his work and enjoys his vocation, but he definitely has a challenging life. I know many others live challenging, productive lives as well. Many men and women have demanding careers that require much skill and responsibility.

I think about this sometimes when I read various parenting magazines in waiting rooms of doctors' offices or while getting the kids' haircuts. It always amazes me how the articles describe the work of a mother as almost unbearably demanding or suggest it is the most difficult of jobs. The articles sometimes suggest that putting dinner on the table, getting the laundry done, or even getting showered and dressed in anything beyond sweats is almost beyond reach of accomplishing with any regularity.

Now I certainly have had some bad days and even weeks when life seemed overwhelming, times when getting the basics done was a real struggle. Of course, we all have, it is part of learning and growing, and just managing the challenges of life. However, when I read the magazines it is no wonder that the employed women and men of the world, who are not home raising a family or keeping a home wonder what we do all day.

The popular notion is that our husbands come home to a messy house, no dinner, and their wives wearing sweats, which begs the question, just what do we do all day anyway? I am sorry to say that even some of my favorite parenting resources, especially regarding attachment parenting and breastfeeding, fall into this mindset as well.

Although we will never escape having "one of those days" now and then, there really is no excuse for not living out our vocations admirably. Being up and dressed and ready for work is not a unique idea, and there is no reason at home mothers are exempt from this task. Having some degree of organization to our home and to our day should be a minimum expectation we have for ourselves. Keeping up with the laundry and preparing dinner for our families should naturally fall to the parent at home, and distractions like attending play groups, cruising the internet, or attending field trips may be keeping us from these important tasks, that when left undone, leave us feeling discouraged and unprepared.

Our vocations, as Catholic mothers, are noble and worth giving our best too. We need to see it as real work and rise to meet the challenges of each day. We need to prioritize and do the first things first, and learn how to better manage our obligations as any professional in the workplace does. God calls us to give our best to every task, every day, no matter where we do our work.

Peace, Hope

Sunday, August 26, 2007

All You Need is Love

I used to think I knew it all. When my children were little and my world was a little smaller, I definitely had some strong opinions about how "it" must be done. Parenting, that is; I was confident I knew the right methods. For instance, it was easy to get my two year old to play a "clean up" game with me while we sang and picked up his little basket of toys. This would lead me to think how simple it is to get kids to help around the house. When my little one year old would say "ta-oo" (thank you) when I handed him a cookie, I would proudly observe what a polite child I had raised, as if the job was done.

I have since had some time to reflect on the issue of parenting styles and methods. I have also observed my children exhibit less that helpful and polite behavior at times, and have seen friends with radically different parenting methods who have delightful children. Although, I do think there are some preferred ways of raising children, I no longer believe that there is only one way to do most things. I am definitely more open-minded and relaxed and less judgemental. I have observed that children are way more resilient than I believed them to be. I also have learned that there are some things that are critical to good parenting, and these things don't always translate easily into a formula, method or philosophy.

Beyond all the methods, the one thing that is paramount to parenting is love. Love of God, love of your husband and family, and love of each individual child. Love that seeks out the will of God and leads us to a life of prayer. Love that makes our husband's needs a priority and brings grace to his life. Love that compels us to serve our families with passion. Love that allows each child to feel the embrace of God. This love will give us the wisdom to make the appropriate parenting choices, and will help smooth over the rough spots. Love conquers all.

Peace, Hope

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Three Tips for Homeschooling

We are well into our second week of school for the new year, and my kids will tell you that it is really hard to crack open the books when the neighborhood kids are skating and biking down the sidewalks. However, we are taking a beach vacation in September, so it will be good to have an entire month of work done before we leave. It will be a well deserved break.

I was recently asked by a friend for some time to sit and talk about homeschooling. She wanted some advice. I came up with three things that have really worked for me in organizing our homeschooling effort that I thought I would share with you.

1. Incorporate some structure in your day. The amount of structure and the timing for things will look different in each family, but having a plan for when meals are, a time for naps, a period for school, work and play, and a time for getting up and getting to bed, are very helpful. A routine allows the children to understand that there is a time for everything. If the important things of the day follow a logical and anticipated routine, it cuts out a lot of nagging and arguing. The kids and I know what to do when and they know if they are responsible with their work they can enjoy their free time later.

2. Have your lessons written down in advance. I found that when the kids had to come to me for what to do next through the day, and I had to figure it out, it was just not working. Having the lessons written out ahead of time allows the children to see exactly what they need to accomplish before the school day is considered done. With their lesson planners, they have been able to learn how to budget their time, and plan ahead for big projects. I give them some flexibility, and the responsibility, for taking charge of their work. They have learned to be independent and self-motivated students.

3. Focus on the basics. The classic reading and writing, 'rithmatic and religion should form the foundation of your curriculum. If you do not have these subjects well established, then there is no use going off on elaborate unit studies in history and science, or anything else, that is unless the lessons incorporate a lot of reading and writing.

So, hopefully, some of these suggestions can inspire you to another successful year of homeschooling. If you are not homeschooling, may you and your children enjoy a good year. I still can't believe another summer has passed us by (almost!).

Peace, Hope

Here I Am!

I have been a bit absent from the blog lately as I have been carried away with real life. We had some travel and various time consuming events, we have started homeschooling up again, and I have survived my first trimester. So, as I attempt to get back into a regular routine again I can hopefully be posting more regularly. Talk to you soon!

Peace, Hope

Thursday, July 19, 2007

How to Clean the Kitchen

I have mentioned before all the lists I have for the children that are hung strategically through the house. I decorate them with a little clip art and laminate them, so they do look decent. The lists serve as reminders to the children for what or how they are to do things. Below is the list hung in my kitchen.

How to Clean the Kitchen

Before Meals:

Help prepare meals as necessary
Empty dishwasher if needed
Set table with plates, napkins, utensils, and glasses
Fill glasses with water
Set out vitamins at breakfast

After Meals:

Clear table
Rinse dishes
Load dishwasher
Put food away, wipe off jars
Wash and dry items that need hand washing
Clean off highchair
Wipe table, chairs, counters and stove
Wipe out microwave
Rinse out sponges and dishcloths
Hang dishcloths and towels
Rinse out sink and run disposal
Start dishwasher if needed
Sweep floor

Additional jobs in evening: trash needs taken out and dishcloths taken to laundry.

Peace, Hope

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Contraception Works!

One thing that contraception has done very well is to separate the connection of the marriage act from procreation, not a big surprise, as that is what it is intended to do. However, I do not just mean that sex and babies are separated in the physical sense, as in if you use "protection" you can avoid pregnancy. I am suggesting this separation has affected our society's very understanding of the purpose of marriage, sex and babies.

A recent poll of married couples suggests that children are perceived as irrelevant to finding happiness in marriage. It is now completely common, accepted, and expected for people who are not married to have babies and for people who are married to choose to avoid having babies. Further, our separation of marriage, sex and babies has resulted in "valid" marriages of same sexed persons, and conceptions without sex (in vitro fertilization, donor eggs, surrogate mothers, and cloning). Perhaps you agree with these cultural shifts, perhaps you do not, but one thing follows another, and the point is that contraception works. We have effectively separated what was meant to be intrinsically joined.

"What God has joined, let no man separate," we hear in the traditional wedding as man and woman are joined as husband and wife. God joins a man and a woman in marriage, with the resultant sex and babies. This is God's design, but in our limited human thinking, we have separated all of the above so that today our cultural understandings of marriage, family, husband, wife, mother and father are confused.

This is not about married couples who do not have children or have smaller families, due to their God given vocations, or because of infertility. This is about the confused, shocked, and dismayed reactions that confront couples in loving marriages when they announce that *surprise* they are having a baby!

For some reason, even faithful Catholics seem to think that married couples who are having babies are simply making a lifestyle choice. The idea is that couples who have been blessed with many children are doing it because...they always wanted a big family...they love kids...they are really organized and hard working...they are trying to "prove" something...they are trying to keep up with the big family down the cetera. There is always some planned reason that must be attached to the excessive procreation in some families, reasons that ignore the simple connection between marriage, sex and babies.

Those who choose to simply follow God's plan for marriage, as the Church so beautifully describes, may find that the babies just come. It really is as simple as that, no further explanation needed.

Peace, Hope

Monday, July 16, 2007

Two Pink Lines

So, there it was, right there on the bathroom counter, a pregnancy test with two pink lines. It was a bit faint, but definitely, there was a second line. Hmm, this with all the other evident symptoms, and I feel pretty confident making my own diagnoses. Wow, pregnant with baby #9. It never ceases to amaze and surprise me. How am I going to do this?! How can I be pregnant NOW? There are so many things I have to do, that I was sure now was not the right time. Things like getting my house decluttered and back in order before starting another school year. Things like a family reunion, a black tie function and my twenty year high school reunion --ARGH, I have to go to all these places pregnant. Oh, the comments! Oh, my body looking so pregnant! Oh, and I'm so tired and nauseous and emotional! How am I going to do this?

Pep talk to self: This may not be my timing, but what do I know anyway? This is God's timing and I can already see some good aspects to it. It is summer break, so I am not having to get up every morning for the busy busy school days. That helps when you can barely get off the couch. I have already had a longer break between babies than I have had in a long time. Right now, my baby is over 18 months, usually I am in my last trimester or already have another in arms by now. The kids are so excited. My 14 year old son leaned over me to give a big hug with a huge grin on his face. Then he picked up the house and got his little sisters dressed. It is good. It's all good. I am just praying that I and my little one stay healthy, and that I start feeling better soon. I pray for confidence, confidence to face all the worldly judgements and questions from strangers and even well meaning friends and family. I am excited now too, and already attached to this little tiny one forming within.

God Bless, Hope

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ora et Labora

Ora et Labora, Latin for pray and work, is the motto of the Benedictine order, founded by Saint Benedict, whose feast day we recall today. Pray and work, there are two ways to consider this powerful phrase. One view is to make your prayer manifest in your work, the other is to consecrate your work with prayer.

Prayer becomes manifest in work when, through prayer, the Spirit leads you to specific tasks. Perhaps you will feel God's call to perform certain works of charity, helping a needy neighbor or bringing a meal to a family. Maybe your prayer will lead you to new ways to serve your husband or help one of your children. Prayer can enlighten you to many productive activities that enable you to serve your family and community in new or better ways. We must always be attentive to God's tug on our conscience to perform works of love and mercy.

We consecrate our work with prayer when we offer up even the most insignificant, repetitive or aggravating work to our Lord. God calls mothers to many such tasks, the jobs few may see or appreciate. But, if our work is done in a spirit of service, humility, and love, and offered to our Lord as a physical act of prayer, our work is transformed to the supernatural, and we are transformed as well.

Peace, Hope

Mega-Mom Interviews

Jen over at Et tu? did a series of interviews with some "mega-moms," a.k.a., mothers of large families. I thought it was interesting and appreciated the perspective of some of the other ladies who responded. Check it out here.

Peace, Hope

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Modern Day Noah

Our family went on an outing to a movie theatre last weekend. It's something that's not usually worth doing, but given the heat outside and the exhaustion of my sons who had just returned from camping, it seemed like a fun option. My husband checked out the movie reviews on the Conference of Catholic Bishop's site and we settled on Evan Almighty.

I wasn't sure what to expect as, without television, I remain pretty ignorant of new movie releases. Evan Almighty, though, got me really thinking about how God works in the lives of his people. Strangely (must be hormones) I even got a little misty eyed thinking about it. The movie is about a somewhat self-obsessed and materialistic, but nice enough guy, "Evan," and his wife and three sons. The family moves to Virginia to be near Washington, DC, as Evan is a newly elected Senator. Then quite by surprise, God starts intervening in Evan's life and he undergoes a metamorphosis into a very different person -- a person very much resembling the Biblical, Noah.

Just like Noah, God calls Evan to build an ark. God causes Evan's beard and hair to grow long and white, and clothes him in Noah-like robes. Evan is to build an ark in his modern day, upscale suburban neighborhood. For a person obsessed with his image, this was an unwelcome and uncharacteristic change for Evan.

The movie had some important lessons. One lesson was that God is in control of all things. Another lesson was that he uses failed humans to do his work on earth. A third lesson was that God loves us and everything we are called to is ultimately for goodness. Forth, it is evident in the movie that doing God's will is not easy, but can challenge all of our preconceived notions about what we think is best. Last, the movie shows that to follow God we must swim against the tide, and though our culture may mock us or merely misunderstand us, God's will surpasses all the transient and insignificant things the world has to offer.

I don't really think God is going to call any of us to physically build an ark in our neighborhoods, or transform our appearance into an Old Testament hero, but he does have plan for each of us. God may not appear before us, but we can still hear his voice. God's plan for us is one born of love, the eternal love our Creator has for his creatures. What God calls us to is obedience, this obedience may not always be easy, but the blessings we receive in this life and the next, surpasses the weight of any earthly burden. Pray for discernment, humility and courage, as you carry out the work of God.

Peace, Hope

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Raising Good Citizens

In honor of Independence Day I thought I would share some ideas for creating a spirit of good citizenship in our children. Our faith calls us to active participation in our communities; the Bishops explain civic involvement and participation in the political process as a moral obligation. If parents take on the responsibility of active citizenship, then we can transmit this way of living to our children.

VOTING Voting is a responsibility of all of us living in our free country. The opportunity to vote for our representatives in government is a foundation of our democracy. I do not just mean voting in the presidential elections every four years, I'm talking about voting every time the polls are open. We should be voting in every primary election, each community referendum, state-wide elections, county elections, in city and school board elections. We are to make educated votes too. This requires us to research and learn and talk to others and pray. This is active, responsible citizenship, and it is not always simple or easy. However, it is a duty, even a Catholic duty. Your kids will get involved and interested as you do. They will learn much from hearing the give and take and debate regarding candidates and issues, and they will see your commitment as you take them to the polls.

EDUCATION It is every citizens' responsibility to be educated regarding local and national and international issues. No, we don't have to know every detail, but we must have a working knowledge of what is going on in our local communities and the world. Most of us have some awareness of what goes on at a national level, but do you know on a day to day basis what decisions your local school board is making? Are you aware of your city and county governments' activities? How about at the state level, do you keep yourself informed? It is important also, to not just find information sources that are within your comfort zone, or that just bolster your already formed opinions. How often to you look at news through the lens of "the other side." You will learn a lot if you make this a habit. One key to being truly informed is to eschew television news sources as a primary means of information, including network news, and shows like MS NBC and FOX news --- really, it is mostly sensationalist trash with a few newsworthy items thrown in to make you feel good. Be truly informed --- READ. A good place for kids to learn about current events is through God's World Publications. They put out a weekly news magazine for kids of all ages, from pre-school through high-school. Sometimes, their news weekly for adults is a bit partisan and protestant for me, but it's nice to read something outside the mainstream.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT Get yourself and your kids involved in the local community. Specifically, teach your children Catholic social doctrine, post the corporal works of mercy on the fridge, learn where the local soup kitchen, food pantry, and clothing ministries are located, and volunteer. Our children have been involved in varying capacities in these local programs. We spent one year doing monthly food collection in our neighborhood. The kids would leave a note that we were collecting food for the food pantry, and ask for a donation to be left on their doorstep a few days later. We collected hundreds of pounds of food this way. The kids did most of the work and they really enjoyed it. Now they are working for another ministry that aids the home bound.

The idea is to resist cynicism, work against apathy, and realize that we are all responsible to make our communities, our nation, and our world a better place, and there are tangible ways for us and our children to be involved.

Peace, Hope

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Summer Sunshine and Sunscreens

I have always been a bit suspect of the practice of rubbing chemicals all over my children's bodies each time they exit the house to spend time in the summer sunshine. Although I don't hesitate to use sunscreen when we are in the sun full on for long periods of time, like at the beach; I generally opt for less hazardous means to protect the children. Thankfully, even though I have a bunch of blondies, most of my children have complexions that are fairly sun tolerant, and we have a shady backyard. Another tactic is to avoid sun exposure during the heat of the day. If we go to the pool or beach at all, we try to go in the morning or evening, and we encourage the kids to wear t-shirts when out of the water. Hats are a must too, especially on the baldy babies.

When you must slather the chemicals on, check out this website for recommendations for safe and effective products. It is a very helpful source for making comparisons, when the labels are less than clear.
Peace, Hope

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Little More Than A Servant and Baby Maker?

I was listening to NPR this morning on my way to Mass and briefly heard an interview with author, Lisa See, who has written a series of historical novels set in China, with the primary characters as women. According to one part of the interview that I heard, Ms. See refers to one of the characters in her novel as little more than a servant and baby maker. I have heard this phrase many times before, and unfortunately, it is often used by pseudo-feminists to describe the traditional role of women who tend the hearth and home. Perhaps, Ms. See just misspoke and was not describing her own view of the traditional role of women, I don't know.

It is true that women have been oppressed and demeaned in every time and place, that is nothing new. The sad thing today is hearing those who would consider themselves enlightened disregarding the indispensable role women have in their families. In many places and times, a woman's role in her family is her only source of power and esteem, and some would take even this from her.

I am certain some would consider me likewise, as little more than a servant and baby maker. It is true, I do little more than serve my family and care for my children. But, to consider me "little more than" this is judgemental and demeaning. In fact, it demeans the contributions of many strong, intelligent and virtuous women who have persevered in many cultures, places, and times through history doing the significant and timeless work of raising the next generation.

Can you imagine the phrase being applied to a person in another vocation? He was little more than a janitor. She was little more than a police officer. He was little more than a teacher. She was little more than an author.

Peace, Hope

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Big Family Television

We do not have TV reception, but we do watch DVDs and videos on occasion. We rent from Netflix and can get some fun stuff that's not available at the local video store. My kids have really taken to old TV shows like The Brady Bunch and The Waltons. They love watching all the kids interact with the same sort of issues they experience with all their siblings. I especially like watching The Waltons. Perhaps I am romanticizing the era a bit -- it could not have been that easy to feed all those kids cooking over a wood-fired stove, and it IS a TV show, so not entirely realistic. However, what a quaint time to live. Everything just seems so slowed down and simple with few cars, no soccer practice, and bare feet. Though, I still look at all those kids around the dinner table and think, "now that's a lot of kids!"

Peace, Hope

Friday, June 29, 2007

Happy 5oth Anniversay to The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

When I discovered I was expecting our first baby, after just one year of marriage and with two years of law school left for my husband, I was nervous and so excited. I decided I was going to give as much dedication to my new role as a mother as my husband did to his future role as a lawyer. So, much scholarship was in order. One of the first books I read ,cover to cover, as a brand new expectant mother was La Leche League's publication of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. In honor of this book's 50th anniversary, I recall the impact it had on me.

My first year of marriage was spent learning Natural Family Planning through the Couple to Couple League. That and my year working in a natural/health food store convinced me of the importance of breastfeeding. The Womanly Art, though, gave me specific and convincing facts as to why breastfeeding is so crucial to mother and baby, and gave the information I needed to succeed. This book helped to develop my framework for all the other pregnancy and parenting books I read thereafter, because I determined that if following some bit of advice would jeopardize my breastfeeding relationship, the advice probably wasn't so great. The book encouraged me to see pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding as part of a continuum of baby care, and that my choices regarding my pregnancy and birth could impact the health of me and my baby, and my ability to breastfeed. The Womanly Art even gives guidance for healthy eating for the whole family, for it's natural to desire to feed ourselves and our babies well while we're breastfeeding and as baby weans from the breast.

So, Happy Anniversary to The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding! May many more mothers, babies, and families grow and learn from your sage words.

Peace, Hope

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Best Prayer

A few years ago my family and I went to Mass and toured around the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. We like to take religious field trips on occasion, and we always have a very uplifting experience. On our visit we ran into a nun, who stopped us to say hello to the children. She was so sweet and loving and just exuded faith and charity. She asked the children if they knew what the very best prayer was, and they guessed the Our Father, the Glory Be, the Rosary, and to each she said, "that's a good one, but there's one even better." After much guessing, she finally shared that the very best prayer is to simply say, "I love you, Jesus." My kids love to say the "best prayer" and I love to hear them say it. "I love you, Jesus" always works.

Peace, Hope

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My Lists

I have mentioned before that I have created lists hung through the house that detail for the children exactly what and how they are to do certain things. One I have posted before is the good morning list and another is the good night list. See below the good-bye list and the welcome home list which outline how to manage a family's comings and goings.

Peace, Hope

Welcome Home List

Pray for peace in your heart
Take shoes off and put them away
Hang up jacket
Place any papers or letters in kitchen in-box
Put away other items: backpack, books, etc.
Wash hands

Good-Bye List

Collect my things for outing

Any books or papers, clothing or equipment needed? Anything to return to
somewhere or someone? Backpack, cell phone?

Have a snack and drink

Go the the bathroom

Wash hands and face

Brush hair
Socks and shoes on

Jacket, if needed

Tell others where I am going, when I will be home, and get directions

Pray for blessing in all I do and spread the love of God

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Philadelphia Gone Mad

Our family has been on a trip to Philadelphia the last few days, visiting the usual Ben Franklin, Continental Congress, and Betsy Ross history. We also got to see King Tut - cool. It has been a fun, but sometimes trying experience. I have been reflecting on how to share some of my thoughts on this trip with readers. Traipsing about with the eight kids through a city, although not a foreign activity to us, still can be a bit of an organizational challenge. A test of patience too.

My kids have had their curiously piqued. My 6th grade daughter, studying Egyptian history next year, can't wait to get into it. My 3rd grade son, studying American history, has excitement about seeing things he will be reading about. My 9th grade son, who has Thomas Paine's Common Sense on his reading list, as well as many other books relating to our nation's founding, wants to start his reading early. All good, and make the trip worth its cost.

However, the kicker was my newly minted three year old showing off her well developed lungs for half an hour, in a room with, like, 100 foot ceilings (think echoes). It was so bad a security guard checked on us and we drew a crowd -- B.A.D, bad. At the end of it -- my twelve year old son gave her gum (that's what worked?), and she stopped screaming, but then I was crying. My husband was really stressed, and got impatient with my fourteen year old, who then started moping about as only a fourteen year old can. Fourteen year old then kicked the six year little brother who was being annoying as only a six year old little brother can be. Little brother got mad and it went on. Dominoes.

I know others look at us and think how perfectly behaved, how beautiful, and if only they had the patience or the (fill in the blank) they would do it too. I know this because people say it all the time. Obviously, we didn't get those comments Saturday at the museum, though. But people suggest that it takes some special sort to care for a big family, or that the family is a special sort that it makes it easy to care for. I would say it doesn't take anything special. God is the one who makes it special, we're just following his call. So, if you feel God's tug on your heart for just one more, think about it. It's not always easy, and it doesn't take a superhuman, but God will use it, all the good days and the bad, to get you to heaven.

Peace, Hope

Children in Church, not always (or usually not always) problem free

Anonymous commented the following to my post titled Children in Church:

Please understand that not all young children are as amenable to sitting
quietly in a pew as yours have been.

To read the entirety of her comments see them here. I think the Anonymous commenter had some good points, and I totally can relate to much of what she said from my own experiences with my children in church. I want to emphasize that my little children do not sit as angels during Mass. It is a struggle each and every time we go. Some of them have had better behavior track records than others have had, and we have had periods where it was easier or more difficult due to the ages of the children at different times. Often too, I am distracted by parenting and miss the readings or homily (it helps to pray over the readings ahead of time). And, I agree, although it cannot be helped to be somewhat of a distraction, it is important to be mindful of others, and take the children out as soon as they are too disruptive.

However, it is worth it. Attending Mass as a family is so worth it. We have always had some medley of baby/toddler/preschooler, and usually all three, presenting some variety of trouble during Mass, so if we decided we wouldn't attend with the troublesome one(s) in tow, we wouldn't be attending as a family, ever. Making the commitment to taking your children to Mass and attending as a family will bring grace and blessings to you and your children. You may not feel it each Sunday, but over time you will see the fruits of this commitment. Further, you would be surprised, my husband and I have walked out of Mass with beads of sweat on our foreheads due to !&%#& behavior, but still people manage to comment on the good (!?) behavior of our children. I think we parents notice much more than the people around us.

And another little help -- practice at home, then practice at church, then move on to practicing at daily Mass (it's shorter). Set up little chairs at home or line them up on a couch and have the kids learn to sit with their hands folded. See how long they can do it, keep adding a few minutes each day, then reward! Take that skill they learned at home to church and have them practice sitting in a pew in an empty church the same way and see how long they can do it. Then try to go to daily Mass sometimes. This training will help, and children can learn, they really can. In addition, this sitting quietly practice will help in all kinds of settings -- the bank, the library, all kinds of places. Sure, it is definitely not always problem free - I'm no fool, but concentrated training does help. God Bless!

Peace, Hope

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Mantra of a Home Worker

I took this quiz some time ago and discovered that I have a full blow addiction problem as defined by Workaholics Anonymous. Actually, it would be difficult to be a competent mother at all, let alone a mother of many, and not answer "yes" to many of the questions on the quiz. The truth is that mothering a houseful is a lot of work -- it is a lot of housework, organizing, meals and laundry, discipline, diapers and teaching. Even when you do get to sit down, there is someone there who must talk or must sit right on your lap. Nights don't necessarily bring much relief either, as the little nighttime visitors start trickling in sometime after midnight.

The question is then, how do we balance all this work and all the needs of the little people around us without getting discrouraged and burned out? One thing I have done is to create priorities. For me, there are a few key tasks that definitly need attention each day. These tasks form the backbone for my daily to do list. Attending to these priority tasks helps me to feel some success at the end of the day, even when it feels like I am not accomplishing much else. Mentally recalling my priorities has become a mantra, for as I think over and over, "what's next?" through the day, I just mentally consider what I have to do with my laundry, dinner, school, and desk work; laundry, dinner, school, desk; laundry, dinner, school, desk -- all day long.

1. LAUNDRY - I have learned by now that the laundry is hardly ever totally done. That would de a major accomplishment. However, I feel free knowing that even if the laundry is never done, I can keep up with it by doing some each day. With this in mind, I don't have the burden of doing the impossible task of finishing it all each day, but am empowered to keep up with some of it.

2. DINNER - Breakfast and lunch just seem to happen easily, and the kids are able to do most of the clean up of these meals. Dinner, though, has been a burden for me. By making it an item on my list of daily priorities, it gets the attention it deserves and I remember to think about it early in the day when I am making my plans. If I know what I am making for dinner before noon, and even pull a few things out, I feel so much better about this daily task. When I have a nice dinner on the table at the end of the day, I feel so much more successful about what I accomplished in the hours before. My kids and husband appreciate it to.

3. SCHOOL - I should have put school first, but having this task on my everyday to-do list is a reminder to me that a priority is to keep the kids on task, to give structure to their day, to be available to look over work and answer questions, and to give my pre-schoolers some one-on-one teaching time. When I commit myself to giving each of my children some focused attention with school work, I feel much more encouraged about my accomplishments.

4. DESK WORK - The requirements of this task vary more than the others from day to day, but it is an important area to give attention to in order to keep everyone and every task organized. Each morning I check over my e-mails, check my calendar, determine what errands I need to do and when, add to my shopping lists, check who I need to make calls to, look over our bank accounts, and make plans for when to pay the bills. Taking some uninterrupted time each morning for some planning enables me to write a list of secondary priorities. Being organized in this way enables me know exactly what I can get accomplished when I have a moment here and there through the day. This is a big stress reliever, as I don't have to worry about what I am not getting done or what I am forgetting because I have already done the thinking ahead of time.

This little system is so helpful and flexible. There are those days where I may make a nicer dinner and give less attention to the laundry, or I may have a laundry marathon and plan for a simple dinner. This works because my priorities are determined ahead of time and as the craziness of the day takes over I can hang on to my established daily routines and my thoughtfully written to-do list to keep me sane and successful.
Laundry, Dinner, School, Desk

Peace, Hope