Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Catherine Lily: A Birth Story

“You finally got a girl!" A well-meaning church lady said excitedly as I walked in on Sunday.

After parading son after son (times four) into this church for seven years, only to walk in one day with our newborn frill-bedecked daughter, I was not entirely surprised by this exclamation - you might say I expected it - but truth be told, almost nothing prior to this moment at the church was expected when it came to the arrival of Catherine Lily in our lives.

It was not a case of "keep trying until you get a girl," (though now that she is here, we are delighted) but more of a complete and total surprise (for the NFP-followers, I was charting meticulously, but evidently missed something).

Our family of six would be seven, and throughout the pregnancy, the utter shock that I felt really didn't go away. I still feel it! I did not deign to hope that we were having a daughter, though in retrospect, I had a tiny inkling that I made efforts to ignore. I felt it would be a disservice to the human being that existed within to hope for a girl or a boy. I was convicted early on to keep it a secret and leave it in God's hands.

Catherine's birth is a complicated story. It seems every other birth had its part to play in the process of hers. Martin, our fourth son's birth was a bit traumatic with a shoulder dystocia holding up his entry into the outside world. He was absolutely fine and became pink and regular after a short hospital stay at my side. Yet, having a grey, still baby laid on my chest came back to me over and over as I pictured birthing this new baby.

Though I would tell myself over and over, "totally different baby, and totally different birth" I struggled with getting my head around birthing again. My first was an emergency c-section which in my opinion was an emergency caused by inducing labour simply because I was 10 days past 40 weeks, and not because the baby himself or because I was in any distress. My second, third and fourth were VBACs delivered by teams of midwives in the hospital at almost 42 weeks, though on number 2, I figured out that our archaic way of dating pregnancy doesn't account for women conceiving at any day other than the 14th day of their cycle, and I'm a day 19-24 ovulator (what a term!). All of the boys weighed 10 lbs or close to. Carter was almost 11 lbs. All births are hard in different ways, but when you've had a lot of experiences, I think its difficult to put aside what you know could potentially happen.

I dove deep into prayer over the course of this pregnancy, taking time to pause whenever I could, turning to God to calm my thoughts and quell my fears. "God is faithful," kept coming back to me over and over throughout the nine months of waiting, which gave me incredible peace. The assistance and listening ear of a sympathetic doula made also made things so much better. Just talking things through and texting with a woman who'd felt what I felt and had been through the births of her own children gave me incredible strength.

In the days leading up to Catherine's birth, I had utter and complete faith that she would come in her own time and that my body could do this. There were concerns about how large she was, but because I'd had 4 other big babies, it was not on my radar to worry about. What did worry me a bit was her position. I had hopes of labour happening, and contractions began and then stopped several times. She kept coming back to the same position, no matter how many things I did to try to get her to engage in my pelvis and help labour along. Resting her head on my hip bone in sunny-side-up position was not ideal, and since Martin had also been in a weird position at birth, though I only know he came sideways, shoulder dystocia was on my mind. I also didn't have any idea when she was conceived, which is actually pretty important at the end of pregnancy, because when you reach 42 weeks, the risks to maternal and baby health increase significantly.  If I'd known, as I'd known with my other babies that she'd been conceived later, I'd also have eliminated that from my list of reasons to worry.

My midwives, following the community standard of care, had me see an OB-GYN about halfway through the pregnancy to consult on the risks of shoulder dystocia, because once one has happened, the risks of another statistically increase. The OB consults were nervewracking and made me a little angry actually considering that I had chosen midwifery care as a result of what I still feel was a pretty bad experience with my first child with the typical OB care, but when I met the doctor, she turned out to be the very same doctor who had preformed my first c-section, and actually, the only redeeming part of my c-section experience. She had talked about the surgery with me and agreed to close the layers of my uterus individually rather than all together to decrease the risk of rupture with subsequent children. I felt validated and heard by her in the midst of trauma. The fact that out of the many OB's who work in this city, I'd see the one who had already safely removed a baby from my body was more than a strange coincidence. Near the end of the pregnancy, I saw her one more time, and though she was insistent on the high risks that large babies, a previous c-section, a previous shoulder dystocia and a tendency to go past 41 weeks present in my case, she wasn't pushy about simply doing a c-section and seemed amicable to helping me go through another VBAC if she could.

Sure enough, I went past 41, then right up to 42 weeks. I found myself in a consult at the hospital with an OB and my midwives who outlined the risks of going past 42 weeks gestation - primarily, stillbirth. During this consult, an ultrasound showed that Catherine was still sunny-side-up and still not engaging in my pelvis. I trusted that my midwives had brought me to the hospital out of the best intentions to help inform my choices, and as the doctor and resident outlined my options, I felt compelled to listen, but also to pray for right judgement. My midwives were willing to wait with me for labour to happen, should I choose to continue past 42 weeks. In fact, as I was in the consult room and throughout that day, pre-labour contractions had begun, so I thought the potential was there.
I was offered an induction that night, but exhaustion took over, and I simply wanted to go home, sleep and potentiallly give my body a chance to begin labour for real where I felt safe and loved.

We had a lot to think about as we drove home from the hospital to our sleeping children. We stopped and got Blizzards at Dairy Queen. Meanwhile, I had light contractions all the way home. I felt conflicted with all the information before me. An induction wasn't entirely a great option because the OB felt the best course of action would be to break my water, then if labour didn't ramp up, to use pitocin. My bad experience of pitocin and breaking my membranes with my first bubbled to the surface. Since baby wasn't engaged in my pelvis, the potential for cord prolapse was also high, so what the OB would try to do was upon breaking my water and contractions, was to move the baby into a better position so that the cord couldn't escape before the head. That sounded like a painful process, stressful for both me and the baby. Basically, a recipe for another c-section. I just wasn't feeling confident about simply waiting either.

I sobbed out all my worries to Joseph, and received comfort from both him and from the doula we were working with. I prayed and prayed through broken sleep, saying over and over, "God, what is your plan? Could you let me know your plan?"

At 4 a.m. Joseph stirred during one of these times and I woke him up to talk. I laid out my thoughts: "Something about just waiting for labour doesn't feel right. This induction we are talking about really doesn't feel right. I love this baby so very much. I would do anything for this baby, so even though I really don't want a c-section, and the recovery will be intense and lets face it - will really set us back as a family, at this point that feels like the right move. Weird?"

"That sounds reasonable," Joseph agreed.

The next day, I laid out this thinking to my midwife, my doula, and eventually to the OB. The surgery was scheduled, and since I wasn't to eat or drink anything, and the protocol for prepping had to begin prior, I spent the day napping, stretching and having light contractions that never got any stronger at the hospital. I listened to Gregorian chant and Benedictine nuns as I drifted in and out of sleep and prayer, wondering all day if this was the right move, but also thinking about my overwhelming love for this baby, whoever they may be, and my desire for him or her to come safely. Joseph waited patiently, talking to me, napping, getting food while I napped, and comforted me as I worried about afterwards. As always, he was a calming presence, and my anchor to what mattered.

The surgery was weird. We had a little meeting prior with the doctor, nurse and anesthetist. My anesthetist was a tall, willowy, red haired woman with red-rimmed glasses. I remember her vividly because it was in her that I trusted to get me through the surgery. The spinal took awhile to take hold - I could still feel the pokes on my tummy when they were hoping I was numb - so they had to invert me until feeling was gone. I breathed a sigh of relief when I couldn't feel poking anymore. But halfway through the surgery, what was pulling and pressure turned to actual pain. I let the anesthetist know, and she gave me some other pain meds in my IV. But again, pressure turned to actual pain.
"I'm fine," I told myself, willing my body to be still.
"Ow. Pain. I feel pain again," I said as calmly as possible.
I was given something more once again, and though I was worried I'd be feeling the full extent of pain by the end of the surgery, I bore what I could calmly until it was again unbearable.
This time the anesthetist gave me fentanyl, which she said might make me a little foggy. It did, to say the least. I'd really wanted the curtain separating me from seeing the big reveal to be lowered, but concerned with my pain, my red bespectacled hero simply concentrated on helping me through. When our girl was finally born from my belly, I was in a state of consciousness but could not form words. They just would not come out.

"We have a girl. It's a girl." Joseph said to me, and the doctors and nurses who knew that we had four boys ooed and ahhed.
A happy "Ohhhh" was all that I could say, though I wanted to say some actual coherent words. I closed my eyes as they cleaned her up, weighed her and swaddled her.
"Oh, goodness," my surgeon exclaimed, "You must've had angel on your shoulder. There is a true knot in this umbilical cord."
Joseph took a photo to show me. Indeed, the umbilical cord was knotted. Later, the OB would say that she'd never seen births with a true knot involved go smoothly. Could this have been the reason a c-section felt like the right call? I breathed a sigh of relief at the thought of the trauma we'd avoided for our baby, even though the surgery was riddled with moments of pain. "I've just experienced a miracle," I thought to myself, glad that I had trusted those feelings as I'd prayed so intensely the night before. The complete fog and delirium of those moments were also joy-filled at the thought of a daughter, and the thought that this part of it would soon be over. 

Joseph placed her next to me and I greeted her. She was breathtakingly beautiful with chubby cheeks and a cute little nose, and a little bit of dark hair. We named her Catherine but didn't decide a middle name right away. I looked at her as I was being sewn up feeling elated and mystified that I'd just birthed a daughter. "A girl." I thought to myself.

When we got my pain under control in the recovery room, we got to bond. I held her to me and marveled at the fact of having done this all over again. With each of my babies after the first, the experience of having a newborn has felt strangely new, though I know a little better on number five what to expect. It's the mystery of this new little person, this strange-yet-familiar little being in my arms that leaves me in awe. The old familiar poetic thoughts, communicated only through my arms around her and my eyes meeting her eyes began to take shape: Beautiful. You are just beautiful. You were just inside me a few hours ago. You were surrounded by my body, nourished by my body, and now you're out. So little. Perfect. Utterly and completely perfect. Welcome. Welcome to the world little one.

The next day, I thought about the day she was born. May 1st. The feast day of St. Joseph the Worker. In my mind, I pictured a statue of St. Joseph holding the child Jesus and a lily.
"What about Catherine Lily?" I asked Joseph, explaining the significance. I also think it no coincidence that the feast of Catherine of Siena was only a few days before on the 28th of April.

Nearly three months later, I've got a happy, chubby (14 lb) baby kicking and cooing next to me as I type. Recently baptized in the very same church her father and I were baptized in, it seems the graces and sweet mercies of her birth and little life keep pouring on us like sweet rain.  Each day I am extremely thankful for her, and even for the pain and circumstances of her birth. Indeed, she is a marvelous blessing.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Wow: A Day-in-the-Life Post

I confess I adore day-in-the-life posts from great bloggers. So real, so fun, and in some households, they practically write themselves! This one is just going to cover what my grocery trip was like plus my thoughts on motherhood in public. 

5:30 a.m. I start the day tossing and turning, because my pregnant-with-fifth-child body is just not comfortable with more than four hours of sleep at a time. I get up, stretch, and oops, I have made too much noise flipping the blankets back, because I hear a sleepy "Mooommm??" from the 3-year-old down the hall. I don't answer. Experience tells me that if I answer, said child will think that I'm awake, and I'll have to explain that its time for sleeping and likely wake his brother in the bed next-door.

6:30 a.m. Joseph's alarm goes off. He sits up and starts getting ready for the day. For some reason, the kids don't ever wake to his phone's melodic alarm. "Noooooo" my inner self screams. "I can not get up. Must sleep some more. Maybe I'll ask Joseph to stay home from work...." But Christmas gifts and dollar signs flash before my eyes and I sigh. "He should probably go to work. I can do this. I can do this. I can DO THIS." Then, "Ugh... we need food. All four boys to the store..." Grumble. We do all the things getting-up people do, then the 3-year-old knows it's really time to wake and bounds into the room, excited about his Rescue Bot, whom he shared a bed with last night.

6:45 a.m. I'm in the shower, and all four boys are now awake. The 2-year-old comes to see how I am doing. "Mom, shower?" I am doing fine, and apparently watching me shower is no longer very exciting, so he leaves the curtain gaping, cold air streaming in, and traipses down the stairs to play.

7 a.m. I'm awake and searching out the coffee press, meanwhile Joseph is making pancakes and eggs, talking to the two oldest boys. I don't understand the conversation, but it's something about Star Wars battles and astromech droids. Turns out Joseph has already made coffee, and I pause to think about how thankful I am for his foresight.

7:30 - 9:45 a.m. Fastforwarding a bit here because it's all pretty mundane. Joseph leaves, I begin a grocery list, then sit on the couch watching a baby-in-the-womb story on Formed while sipping coffee. I settle arguments, nag a little to put toys away and get the kitchen in satisfactory condition. Then put on an episode of Cat Chat for the kids, and complete the grocery list and find socks. Then I proceed to do my hair and makeup nicer than I would for a date with my husband. Why? Because for the first time in awhile, I'm taking four kids and a very visible baby bump to the grocery store. I've got to look put together, or at least a little less haggard... I never do more than a messy bun and leggings for a 2-kid run, but a 4-kid run requires a little more armor... and mascara, and jeans.

10:05 a.m. I take a deep breath as I pull the keys out of my ignition. "We can do this."
I've had to give myself "going out in public" pep talks lately and really dread going anywhere but Mass. My pregnant belly + four boys always seems to invite attention. My pregnant self on the other hand, suffering from a pretty intense introvert's anxiety, just wants to hide in my room until the baby comes. "Why didn't I just click and collect?" I think, but then I remember that I hate the produce that gets picked for me, and I really need a lot of vegetables and fruit.

10:07 I get the boys and a cart headed toward the store, talking about how they're expected to behave and what might be in store for them if they do really well (sugar cereal is rare and highly motivating around here). We enter and the stares begin as a line of boys follows me through the produce, while I command the procuring of certain fruits and vegetables, teach my oldest how to pick the best bananas, and remind the 3-year-old not to dart out in front of other's carts.

10:15: "They'll be back in school soon," a man says comfortingly as I steer out of the banana aisle.
"Actually, I like having them around," I smile and say, putting a hand on my 6-year-old's shoulder. The man smiles, but doesn't reply. What could he say?

10:20 I reach for my phone, on which my list resides, and realize that I've forgotten my phone in my purse in the van. I try to coax my almost-8-year-old to go and get it, and that he can look both ways and be safe, but his look of scared uncertainty convinces me.

10:30 I ask a kind customer service rep if I can leave my cart of groceries. The five of us dash to the van to get my wallet and back. The 2-year-old resists being stuffed back into the seat of the cart after a few moments of aimless running, but I am firm and ignore the staring people as he squirms and protests. 

10:40 We go on, picking up some now dollar-a-roll wrapping paper for next Christmas.  A man stops in his tracks. Seeing my baby bump and the line of children behind me as I say, "single file" to let a cart pass, the men says "Wow." I can see his head bobbing as he counts with a wide-eyed stare. I paste on a smile and practice the old "walk-away-fast" maneuver and whisper to the kids through my teeth to hurry. 

10:45 We're picking up diapers and wipes when a lady comes around the corner. I move my cart and tell the kids to step aside. "You've got a whole army," she says.
"Yes, I do," I reply, to which my oldest adds, "Yep, a whole army. But we don't have any weapons yet." Yet...

10:55: We are almost done, and I've made it to the milk aisle. It's crowded, and several people are waiting in front of the cooler where our milk comes from. "This is taking a long time!" my 3-year-old says loudly. People turn to look at him, then more stares. "Good grief," mutters a woman, head bobbing. I'm not sure if she's counting the three four-litre jugs of milk I'm buying, or the kids. I want to point to my bump and say, "Five. That's right. Five. And these four will get through all this milk in a week."

11:00: 3-year-old begins to have a meltdown because each of his brothers got to put a milk-crate on the rollers. Despite the crowd, I tell him that he too can put a milk-crate on the rollers. After all, that is a help to the store staff and to the people who want milk. It's during this time that a couple with a baby walk by and the husband says to the wife, "Sheesh. Glad I don't have to feed all THOSE."


11:45: We got out of the store after going to the toy aisle to check things out because everyone was good (and convincing the kids that the grocery store is not the place to get bang-for-your-buck when buying toys) then an altercation in the cereal aisle when I said the three oldest could pick a single box of sugar cereal. We left the aisle with no cereal though after a loud argument couldn't be settled. The parents of one, searching labels for palm-oil looked extremely relieved (maybe because we weren't getting sugar cereal, but maybe because we took our chaos away from their precious snowflake, who looked fascinated). We received an "Oh. My God." at the checkout when the lady behind us saw there were four boys in my brood plus a bump. She then said something indiscernible to the cashier about the spectacular sight, but again, walking-away-fast saved me from hearing exactly what it was. 

Once I got back to the sanctity of my mini-van full of kids (loud sanctity, but sanctity nonetheless) I sighed with relief. As we pulled into the driveway, I said, "Well guys, we did it."
"Was that so hard?" my oldest asked, "All you did was get groceries."

Little do you know, son. Little do you know.

The simple act of getting groceries, which is something I do weekly, always seems to give me a lot to contemplate. There's a massive difference in my experiences when it's me and my two youngest vs. all four children. The actual act of shopping is easier with the help of the capable older kids, but the psychological fortitude one must muster is another thing entirely.  I must be clear that I'm not complaining. Afterall, I did say to someone today with genuine feeling that I do like my children.
I think it's the spectacle, speculation and commentary that makes it such a heavy cross to bear. I've crossed the precipice of "hands full" comments into the land of "you are a lunatic," and that both infuriates and mortifies me with each step. 

But looking back on today, I managed to walk out with a little sense of pride. I had not only survived the trip, but I had helpful older boys, and younger boys who were as good as they could have been, given how difficult it is to follow mom around or sit in the cart when they'd rather be playing. I hadn't snapped or yelled, and evidently we had an effect. This time, I even handled the tantrums with better-than-average speed.

It occurred to me as I ate lunch with the boys that every time I am seen with all of them, I am seen not just with a bunch of little boys (and bump), but that I am seen with the very vocation I have embraced in becoming their mother.  It's not something I have to have emblazoned on a t-shirt, or something I have to shout from the rooftops. I don't have to explain it. No, I simply have to walk out the door with my larger-than-average family and live.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Savour: Battling in the Heart and Mind

I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about savouring the moment lately. A friend is enjoying her newborn - something I want to be doing right about now, but am stuck waiting. Another friend wrote about her beautiful single life, where she is thriving and growing and savouring. Then there's the countless Instagram and Facebook posts on this theme that traipse across my feeds. They always seem to be there, but today they are striking a chord in my little heart.

I think I'm starting to get the message.

Here we are in our fifth pregnancy, and I’m definitely in a state of harried preparation coupled with a “hurry up” feeling that I can’t quite describe. When it comes to pregnancy, I feel like “Been there, done that. Let’s meet this little one already!”

My pregnancies haven't been particularly rough on the physical side of things, aside from intense morning sickness at the beginning of all but the second, but mentally and emotionally, I feel like a completely different person.

I want to be that woman who is glowing and rounding out who seems to be filled with mirth and gladness at the miracle inside her, but I'm afraid I'm just not. And when it comes to savouring the moment? I'd definitely sprint through to the finish line of pregnancy if I could. Why? Let's be intensely real and a little personal for a moment: It took me three pregnancies to figure out that I definitely experience pre-natal depression and anxiety.

Looking back to my first pregnancy, I should have known that sometimes lying on the floor petrified to move, and feeling a nothingness I'd never previously experienced was probably not just normal pregnancy stuff. There were other hints too. Joseph said more than once that I wasn't acting like myself. But somehow I just thought I was just busy and tired and pregnant, and that I needed to simply push through.

Pushing through when you're just you with no children is a lot different than with children. Fast forward to pregnancy number three where I found myself with two active toddlers day in, day out. I noticed that I was incapable of enjoying the mothering tasks I lived for; hugs, kisses, snuggling or reading to them without intense claustrophobia. Making a meal was another thing I love doing that became an insurmountable thing. Being with my children without becoming anxious at their very presence, or kissing them goodnight, constantly thinking it was the last time I'd ever do that, and going to sleep at night thinking we might not wake up tomorrow were among my big clues that I might have something bigger going on.  Long story short, I got some guidance from midwives and my doctor and managed another pregnancy with their help. My typical experience is that I leave these things behind post-partum, and then I get back to being myself.

Now, in the throes of pregnancy number five, I'm managing decently, which is to say that I'm parenting well, getting rest and I've got tools for when I begin to implode.  Fresh air, exercise, good food and sleep is doing wonders. Prayer and routine and honestly, a good amount of herbal and homeopathic medicines are making me feel more on the side of thriving vs. surviving. And yet, the threat of sheer panic at the unfamiliar, or at moments of overwhelm looms. That feeling like the world will crumble at any moment and that I'm walking on thin ice is constantly there, making it difficult to actually enjoy, to actually savour this time of rounding belly and little flutters, of wonder and intrigue at the prospect of meeting an entirely new human being of my husband and my making.

But I woke up this morning and realized that I have to try. Last night I had a dream that my late father was beside Joseph and I as I delivered this baby. He held the baby and my hands in his, then I woke up. I woke up feeling incredibly comforted. I don't put a lot of stock in dreams, but this one was definitely a positive one that inspired me to reach inside for more. That's when I realized that I'm not as alone and as weak as I feel a lot of the time. It is actually possible to be in this moment of waiting and wondering and give it meaning. It is actually possible to savour a time of uncertainty, of unknowns and of a bit of darkness, like a little personal Advent.

At times today, it truly feels like a battle. Other times, it's like a refreshing workout. I'll say to myself, "Lets enjoy these facts: The baby's heartbeat is going strong as we heard at the midwives. We made ice cream and yoghurt today to enjoy and to nourish us. Today there is sunshine and not a lot of wind, which means we can go outside."  Putting those little things above the looming shadows of doubt and unrest takes true effort. Banishing unhappy thoughts is work, but it's a start in savouring.

"Snow may come, she has no fears for her household, with all her servants warmly clothed."
                                                                                                                       Proverbs 31:21

Sunday, October 29, 2017

My Sunday Best Vol. 1: Epic battles and sweet relief

My Sunday Best with A blog for my mom is so fun, so I've decided to join in, and my 7-year-old agreed to be my photographer. Carter, 5, wanted to show off his Sunday fashion. We were all pretty casual in jeans today. I attempted a skirt but it cut me strangely.

Top: Zulily 
Leggings: Old Navy 
Boots: Zulily 
Necklace that you can barely see: A gift

I now have a full-on bump (that will likely just keep on growing till April) rendering most of my clothes uncomfortable or awkward. I actually wore the most uncomfortable dark-wash maternity jeans (that I will not recommend) to Mass, but took them off upon our return and stuck them in a good will pile. So not to worry, I didn't wear leggings as pants to Mass.

Carter's entire ensemble: Old Navy
Glasses he didn't wear to Mass: Treat bag given out at school.

Mass behavior: 5/10 for all 4 boys.

Joseph and I were supposed to make coffee and read today, but I forgot about both, so when I went to put the coffee on while he processed with the book of the Gospels, three of the four boys had to be trusted to sit alone in the second pew. Two of them chose to use this parent-less time to dig around in my bag, pull out a play-doh knife and a pregnancy test and begin sword-fighting with them.

Why a pregnancy test you might be wondering? Well, I'm not a sentimentalist by any stretch, but I had it in my bag since testing positive with this latest baby. I didn't throw it in the garbage because at the time because I thought I'd dispose of it at home, so in a little baggy it went. Evidently I forgot it was there, and seriously need to clean out my bag.

Mass then proceeded in the usual fashion. During my husband's reading, our almost-2-year-old kept saying "Dad! Read!"

To summarize the rest of Mass, here's some things I said to the other boys, possibly more than once:

"Finger out of nose please!"
"Touch your brother again and there will be no timbits after Mass"
"I don't know what kind of timbits there will be, you'll have to wait and see."
"Stop throwing pretend grenades."
"Stop shooting at Father"

Near the end, Zachary, 3, got super fidgety, and insisted on running to the back laughing. He came back though, so I told him that Mass isn't over until Father says "the Mass is ended."

When Father did say "the Mass is ended," Zachary tried to leave, and when I stopped him, loudly said, "But he said the Mass is ended!' Perhaps it's better to say that we don't leave until after Father does. When I said "Thanks be to God," I might have been saying it like "Thank God that's over."

That was not our usual jam for Mass, so I was a bit exasperated and puzzled.  However, I had the lovely realization that no matter how many times I remind the kids to sit still or pay attention, Jesus still shows up. He still becomes present, and He still wants us there. I chalked that Mass up as one for the books, and left reasonably filled and happy.

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Runny Noses Prayer

Who doesn't hate runny noses?

I, like countless women, am at that stage of motherhood where my little ones' immune systems are developing (too slowly for my liking). ''Tis the season for nose wiping... fa la la la la (big thumbs down). 

I am doing all the things to get my four 7-and-under's healthy: cutting sugar, adequate rest, frequent hand washing instructions and "coughing lessons" (in which I pull my hair out because I am 98% sure these things are not done without my supervision), and every vitamin and supplement and essential oil I can throw at them! 

Yet, the coughing through the night persists, and one cold seems to follow another.  I am so discouraged (and winter hasn't even arrived!). I hate seeing them suffer. I hate that I can't make them better, even with all the great things I know to do, and no matter how conducive I make our home to wellness.

Now, I do realize that there are mothers out there whose children have worse things than a cold. My heart hurts just thinking about hospital stays, of which I've only gotten a taste in my seven years as Mom.  The fundamentals still apply here though, in that we mothers can not make them well. We can seek the best medicines and the best consultants, but the really hard thing, and what it all boils down to, is that we are not enough. 

And that kills me to know!

We must suffer alongside our sick children as we do our best to help their little bodies heal. We must hear and feel the coughs, wipe the little noses thousands of times, comfort in the night, snuggle and caress, and teach our children the fundamentals of weathering illness. 

Teaching our children to suffer illness is hard. It feels raw and terrible. But they must go through it, and so must we. 

In my journal tonight, I composed myself a little prayer. I hope there's someone out there who needs it just as much as I do.

Jesus, Lord of all,
Help me to surrender in this moment to your will. 
As I keep watch over my sick child, give me strength to help him suffer illness.
Help to have words that give him comfort and strength.
When he wakes in the night, give me the grace to put aside my weariness.
As sickness drags on, help me to endure.
Help me to keep my hands gentle and my words kind, 
Take my weary cries and my worries and bind them to your Cross.
Keep him close to Your Heart when I am resting.
Hold him in your arms when I am asleep, so that I may not worry, 
but know that You watch over him.
Grant Your healing to my child, and to my heart, 
That I may be faithful to Your Will at each moment.


Stay well friends!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Seven Quick Takes: Camping Edition

Linking up with Kelly again!

We are camping, so quick Quick Takes while husband is out boating and fishing with three (above photo) and I only have one. He's blowing bubbles and getting excited to chase them around. Earlier he was happy throwing rocks into a puddle. Toddler adventures really make you think about the pure goodness of simple things.


We are at this conference this weekend with a bunch of other families. This is my 18th year packing up with my family to come to it (I started as a young teen, I'm only 31) 

I was laughing at my teenage self as I was packing most of the things and food for 5 other people, thinking about the stress I used to feel planning my clothing (just my clothing!) so shout out to my Mom and Dad for getting us here and making sure we were fed and sheltered. 


He's just so darn cute.


My husband definitely deserves a lot of the credit for making this all work. He wanted me to drive his boat up, but after a long day proceeding a night where I had a terrible sleep, I told him his boat (not to mention me and the kids!) would probably end up in a ditch with how I was feeling. So he tied the canoe to our mini-van and nobly sacrificed his sailing dreams for me. Wouldn't you know, it's a gorgeous and windy day for it too. 


Post-partum body (x4 kids and poor maintenance) victory! I fit into a size smaller pants than a couple months ago! I've really only worn stretchy jeans or leggings for the past couple months. Because those are comfy, I really just didn't try on my old jeans, till I was packing clothes for camping and thought, "Hmmmmm, maybe those fit, but do I chance the misery when it turns out they don't?"
I am glad decided to swallow my fear and go for it. 


God is just great and hilarious and is probably chuckling at me right now:
Joseph and I married 8.5 years ago, and for that time, his copy of St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life has been a book I've kept my eye on. This year, the boys keep unknowingly knocking it off the shelf, or relocating it to the couch and every time I think "I should really get around to reading that."
After being encouraged by our parish priest to take on 10-15 minutes for spiritual reading, I cracked it open and .... wait for it .... 

I found that in 1923, Pope Pius XI "solemnly designated St. Francis de Sales, heavenly patron of Catholic writers and journalists."
And who is discerning what role to play on this front?! 
It's like God saying to me "What on earth have you been waiting for?!"


On that note, I'm making a concerted effort to put down technology and books and other distractions and be present to my family... who happen to be back from canoeing. 

Have a great weekend! 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Seven Quick Takes: Boy hilarity and rays of hope

Joining Kelly and the quick takers again this week with the happenings around here.

Alberta's gorgeous flower in my backyard. 
True summer (the one with no school drop-offs and pickups) is approaching and we are basking in the fun of popsicles and sprinkler running and gardening. 
Part of me can't wait till my eldest is home all day so that we can deprogram him from the social norms of school life and get our fun-loving, dreamy, hilarious big boy back. 
I know it's cynical of me to look at it that way, but when kids the same age get together, they're so full of insecurity and the desire to impress the others that they are just not their authentic selves. I love my guys when they're free to just be themselves and have silly sayings and ideas and maybe actually enjoy playing with someone younger (or older) than they are. 

Brothers who slide together...
 When you have two toddlers, the hilarity abounds:

Me: "Zachary, why did you take off his (Martin's) socks?"
Zachary: "So I can lick his feet."

Of course.

These three <3 td="">
The study of boyhood is of course one of my daily tasks. They are each different in their personality and phases, but there is still something in them that will likely continue to puzzle me to the end of my days. The older two are 7 and 5, and sometimes say the most profound things. Since we're raising them in the richness of Catholicism, they're in the process of getting to know where they are in God's eyes. They're so genuine in their prayers: 

"Please help all the people who don't have mothers and fathers and grandparents to take care of them."'
"Thank you for air! Because we can breathe and live."
"Please send lots of bats to eat mosquitoes on our camping trip, thank you."
"We pray for our Mom, that she can have help to stop saying bad words." 
"And God, please bless our baby brother Martin. Help him to talk so we can understand what he wants."
"Please tell Mom and Dad to buy me a skateboard. Amen"
"I pray for all the people in the whole world who don't have good suppers like this, because hot dogs are the best."

Last week we took part in a beautiful procession on the Feast of Corpus Christi. While we were kneeling in the church to pray at its close, Carter whispered loudly "Mom, we beat Jesus here." Kind of not the point, my son... but I had to laugh.
Later I had a somewhat serious chat with them about reverence only to find out that they had run ahead of our priest and altar servers to get away from the smell of incense coming from the thuribles. 
These are the people who laugh at flatulence and will stand in the smell of burnt hair at cattle brandings. 


This article about mothers who regret having children kind of irked me this week.  The New York Post is not what I'd call a highly discerning publication, so it's not surprising. Personally I've had a lot of offhanded anti-children comments slung at me as I go about life with my four guys and find this blatant rhetoric against the child truly ugly.  The sad thing to me is that this little article is not the first of its kind. Every few months since 2010 (and likely before, but I became someone with stake in the game in 2010) I've noticed some sort of news piece about how children ruin our lives. It comes down to selfishness really. 
The irony of that is that there are also all sorts of people who want children so badly that they're willing to go through rounds of hormones and drugs and literally torture themselves to have just one baby. There are people who are willing to buy babies. There are people who think that they have a "right" to have their own flesh and blood baby. 
Then there are people who are having babies and not properly caring for them. 
This is the world we live in.  Lord have Mercy.


A dash of hope!

That last take was horribly depressing. Also horribly depressing was last week when my son was having a tantrum in the grocery store, a lady who appeared to be in her mid-50s said to me, "That's why I only had one." 
I couldn't stop myself from saying, "Thanks for your insight. That is so helpful at the moment."
Then I felt awful for the rest of the day about the tantrum, the comment and my uncharitable response. 

Ok, but here's the hope:

I took my 2 little guys to Starbucks to pass an hour between kindergarten drop-off and the year-end school liturgy. 
We went in and sat at a table where I fed them overpriced popcorn and delicious oat bars while drinking a flat white. We had a conversation about how popcorn is so yummy and how fun it is to sit at cafes and drink coffee. Martin had a stick with him and was banging it on different surfaces, saying "Ah!" at different sounds.
Beside us was a lone middle-aged lady with a tablet. She glanced our way, and immediately I thought that we might be annoying her with our chatter and banging and my constant need to remind Zachary about inside voices. 
She got up to leave about 5 minutes after we sat down, but before she left, she turned around.
"Oh, here it comes," I thought to myself.
"You have beautiful boys." She said, placing a hand on my shoulder.
"Thank you!" I said, smiling, and since I have one of those faces that shows all my emotions, I'm sure I looked slightly taken aback.
"You're doing a wonderful job. Have a great day," she said, as she walked away.

Day. Made. Hope. Restored.

Z and Me. Martin is banging on a chair with a stick and therefore not in the photo.


I'm currently sitting at a gorgeous patio table that Joseph and I touched up with some paint on my deck. We've done so much to this little home of ours to make it beautiful and livable and I'm just so thankful for him and all his hard work. 
Meanwhile, inside the house are nicks in the fairly new paint and scratches in the hardwood and dents in the drywall. We just can't seem to keep this house perfect everywhere.
But as I was lying on the playroom carpet under a pile of two toddlers this morning, tickling them and enjoying their laughter, I realized that the nicks and scratches are going to happen if we let our kids live here. There's going to be wrestling and hotwheels flying and Lego creations on window sills for such a short time, and eventually, all the holes will be patched and the paint perfected, and the floors won't be sticky, and I'll be able to write two sentences without hearing "Moooommmm!". And I'll be a little bit nostalgic for these little imperfections and smudges, won't I?


After a hectic week, with another one coming up, I tend to need to unwind and relax and do something purely frivolous. Well guess what, writing down these little musings was it. I feel ready to take on the rest of Saturday, and maybe make some lunch for the non-verbal toddler who keeps biting me. If you've made it this far, thanks for reading all my little thoughts. I hope you have an excellent week!