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