Thursday, May 30, 2013

Theme Thursday - Self Portrait

This is hard for me.  Like super super hard.  I was going to finally finish one of the seventeen posts I've been sort of working on but ohmygosh I cannot get five minutes to myself lately to think anything beyond anything.  So I'm just linking on up with the Donaldson Clan for some Theme Thursday action.   Cari's Theme Thursday this week is self-portrait.  Eek.  

I never thought I would be one of those people who felt like what was on the outside did not match the inside.  I took a bunch of pictures and literally did not recognize the person in the shot.  It's crazy and surreal and man, I really need to get a haircut.  And some wrinkle cream apparently.  So, thanks Cari, for that boost for the day ;)

So I treat you to the least worst of all the shots, in black and white cuz that's what the cool kids do.  

There I am.

Head on over to Cari's for more.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Stabat Mater

You know what I can't imagine?  Losing one of my boys to war.  Having their body flown home in a casket.  Being one of those wives, mothers, sisters, daughters of someone who willingly sacrificed their life for another.  There must be a mixture of inexpressible grief as well as a bit of pride in their hearts.  I can't imagine what it would be like to sacrifice that person, to know that your loved one bled, suffered, and died for someone else, and have that sacrifice be ignored or mocked or the freedom for which they fought attacked by the very people for whom they died.

But I know someone who can.


This gal.  

May Mary intercede for all those who have died in service of our country.  May she comfort those who remain behind.  And may she remind us to never take their sacrifice for granted.  If you've lost someone in service to our country, THANK YOU for that sacrifice.  I am so sorry for your loss and our family will be remembering them today.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Three Reasons I Love the Faith - Haters, Priests, & Time Redeemed

I'm joining up with Micaela to share three things I love about the Catholic Faith.  And hey, three things?  Trinity Sunday?  See how that works?  There are hundreds I could write about but here are some of the maybe not so obvious ones...

I love that people hate it.  Except that doesn't sound right.  I mean, I love that the Catholic Church is demonized by the media and secular culture way more than any other institution or organization.  Shoot.  That doesn't sound right either.  What I'm trying to say is that when the Church is mocked and criticized and scorned by media and pop culture, that's when I know she's onto something.  It strengthens my faith.  

See, they sometimes hate on Pat Robertson or James Dobson but that's usually for something socio-political.  They don't bother with Billy Graham or Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyer or what have you.  They just sort of give them a smile of condescension or downright ignore them or make jokes.  But a Catholic priest?  The POPE?  Hoo boy.  Their claws come out and they get snarling and vicious and all objectivity is so clearly thrown out the window that I KNOW there is something deeply supernatural going on there.  They KNOW that the Church is powerful.  Not in just a political or social way (though she is) but somewhere deep inside them on an intuitive level they know that the Church is the antithesis of their secularism and that she represents God.  And they hate that.  The fact that neither kings nor dictators, disease nor famine, torture nor scandal, nor any other attack from the gates of hell has succeeded in destroying the Church?  That infuriates them.  And while more than anything I would love for hearts to turn and join the body of Christ, I know Christ pretty much assured us that there would always be enemies.  And after their hatred saddens me, it strengthens me.

Let's get back to the priesthood for a second.  I think this one is related to the first a bit.  I love that people know intuitively that a priest is just, well, different.  I think this applies not only to the visceral haters of the Church but also to those who are just lukewarm or simply uncatechized.  When they find out someone is a priest there is something that they intuitively respect and revere in that.  You see that reality often in film and other media.  There is something different and other-worldly about them.  It changes that person which is exactly what we as Catholics believe happens at Ordination.  A man's soul is truly changed forever and marked as priest.  Now, you could say that every culture has it's deference to its spiritual authority, be it medicine man or lama, monk or shaman.  There's truth in that.  But I love that  Christ recognized (or more appropriately, designed) that humanity would need that societal archetype pointing them to the eternal, those that are set apart and ordained for things higher.  As Catholics we don't hide that or get embarrassed by it (or at least, we shouldn't) and we don't surrender to the secularists who cry offense and repression at the idea of hierarchy.  We simply recognize our need for them and honor it.  And then we give them awesome outfits to wear.

With capes.

And really big hats.

The Liturgical Year.  I love that our year has such beautiful rhythm.  Ebbs and flows, ordinary and special, feasts and fasts.  It all speaks right to the human condition and our need for that rhythm.  The fast of Lent better emphasizes and makes way for the joy of Easter.  The quiet of Advent makes way for the blare of trumpets announcing His arrival at Christmas.  The ordinary makes the extraordinary richer with importance.  I've found the more our family enters into the rhythm of these times, the more fuller our Christian walk seems somehow.  It gives meaning to time and I love thinking of it in term of Time Redeemed.  I think I would be more than happy to live in a completely liturgical mind frame rather than have to manage both a secular calendar and a liturgical calendar.  In fact (tangent alert), it bugs me how the secular calendar is arranged.  The seasons don't line up with months.  The months all have different amounts of days.  The school year doesn't match up with anything.  It is so messy and doesn't make sense.  I'm looking forward to the call when they ask me to help straighten things out :)  Anyway, the liturgical calendar would be the skeleton of how I would arrange things if I were to be president of the world.  And I love that it seems that more and more of our separated fellow Christians are finding the beauty in it as well and observing these seasons and feasts with us.

(Can we all just pause a moment to reflect on the quotey-quote "artwork" of this calendar?  Perhaps my next 3 Reasons will include something about sacred art that is timeless and beautiful and not something that looks like it came out of The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Really.  Are they having the Last Supper or playing checkers?  Not sure.  But I had to share it when I saw it :)

Happy Trinity Sunday!

Click on over to see more 3 Reasons at Micaela's!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

{pretty, happy, funny, real} - "Field Trips"

 The last few weeks we've gone on a few field trips, or as we like to call it, going places.  Field trips makes it sound much more official like, though, doesn't it?  All mixed up like, here we go...


The Strong Museum of Play was closing a Lego exhibit and we made it a point to get there before we missed it.  This huge salt water tank is right at the entrance and is mesmerizing.

While the older boys were in Denver, my mom and I took the two littles on a quick trip to the zoo.  I didn't get the greatest pictures, unfortunately.  Some of the peacocks were walking around and a few were showing.  They always look so goofy, like they are holding their breath and can barely hold themselves up when they're strutting around like that.  Our turkeys would do the same thing.  Their plumage is so beautiful!

In the rainforest.  It reeks to high heaven in there but they have some really neat animals.

Another trip we took at the beginning of the month was to the local power plant, organized through our local homeschooling group and freeeee!  I thought it would be a great trip for the older boys since they like things like turbines and engines and all such things that I really know nothing about.  If I had been a conscientious blogger I would have gotten the gorgeous view right over that fence in the back of the Niagara River Gorge but alas, you just get half of my kids looking under a half of the entrance sign.


About two minutes before my batteries died

Some of the creations were amazing but I wasn't feeling that great and you know, batteries are important so I didn't get many great shots.

There were no hippopotami "to swim with" and the monkeys were in cages so he couldn't "climb with them to give them a banana" so David had to settle for a ride on the train as his favorite part of the zoo.

It's a light bulb that turns on.  Apparently for the Amish tourists.

I let John Paul go with the older group because I knew he'd want more than what the littler group was getting.  It's so weird to realize that he's growing up and can go with the big people sometimes.


Rhinoceros are just funny, right?

We got quite the show in the gorilla habitat.  This little guy would stop, pose, and then run crazy around the place having a ball and sometimes banging on the windows.  They ended up being our favorite animals that we saw.  

David thought it was hysterical that he put a blanket on his head and ran around and then was rolling around and just acting goofy.  Luke was in awe.

Mother was just sitting while little one used her as a playground.  I can relate, mama.

I'm no fancy zoologist but...

Completely out of focus (I had like 14 seconds to get a shot with a toddler in my arms) but I was happy that Michael was assertive enough to get squeezed in for the static ball amongst all the kids, despite the fact that his hair wasn't really long enough for the effect!


This guy.  Oh my.  He was inches away from us, separated by glass, of course.  But he entranced me.  David called him "The Grandpa."  He is huge and his expressions were so deep and...real.  You could feel the tension as he walked by and sat right next to us.   His body was massive and so solid.  You could easily fit three of me inside him.  Look at those veins in his chest.
(Linking this one up with Cari for Theme Thursday of "Bodies")

And then he looked at us.  REALLY looked at us and made eye contact.  It was disconcerting and his expression made me sad.  I'm not anti-zoo, I don't think, but gosh, it's hard to see some of these animals locked up like that for our entertainment.  Is the learning value worth it?  I hope so.

Looking straight at us.  This would have been one heck of a shot if there hadn't been that girl next to me with a bright orange shirt reflecting in the glass (and if I were more skilled with the camera).  But man, look at that expression.

Joining with the ladies at LMLD

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Yarn Along - 5/22/13

After a long break from the needles, I started a very basic baby hat over the weekend for a doula baby I should be meeting soon!  I'm using an organic cotton yarn (Nature's Choice from Lion Brand) because I think mom will appreciate that and wool seemed too hot for a summer baby.  I liked the colors in the store but now I'm not so sure.  I feel like they may be too Easter egg-y.  What do you think?  Obviously, baby is showing to be a girl :)

I'm almost finished with The Temperament God Gave Your Kids and I'm really getting a lot out of it.  I've read the Bennett's other two books The Temperament God Gave You and The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse and I found them really helpful.  If you've read the other ones this one is definitely not groundbreaking but it does give a lot of great insight into parenting different temperament types.  I especially like how it helps lay out different virtues that each temperament is naturally strong and weak in.  I've found it very balanced, although I do wish it would delve more into the temperament combinations.  I was thinking we had one each of the four classic temperaments in our bunch but after doing the tests (and being unsure how to answer a lot of the questions for the younger two) I think we have a mostly melancholic, a sanguine-choleric, a choleric, and a once-phlegmatic-now-just-a-toddler.  Toddlerhood does seem to mix things up a bit :) I guess we can reevaluate in a few years!  Anyway, I don't necessarily like the idea of compartmentalizing and labeling people so much but I can't deny that there is a lot of truth to it.  I do think it's important to realize that, especially with children, labeling them can be very dangerous and I am VERY careful not to box them in or assume that their temperament won't change a bit as they mature.  However, it's been really helpful in helping me understand other people, work with different temperaments, and figure out as a melancholic-choleric how I can play nicely with others.  I think this book would be really helpful to read for a lot of younger generation parents who tend to think that something is wrong with their child when really, they may just be a child with a different temperament and normal childhood quirks.

Brian and the boys arrived home yesterday!  It sounds like they had an amazing time and the boys were chattering on about their camping trip and the ordination and the praise and worship night and the Cabrini Shrine and how Father John blessed them.  If I can get some of the pictures off Brian's phone, maybe I'll get to share some.  I could totally see us living out that way some day.  They brought the three of us each a special memento from the trip, mine being a beautiful St. Benedict cross to wear, David got a cross, and Luke a (non-breakable!) rope rosary.  I am so so glad they were able to go and I just know that God wanted them there and that there will be many graces from it.

Waiting for the other half of the family to come home

Joining with Ginny!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Spirit Gifts (Even When We Struggle)

This year there won't be a special cake or even the fruits of the spirit salad for Pentecost.  This year we have a First Holy Communion party for 2 nephews and a niece and we will be celebrating with them there.  Last night was the last day of the Novena of Seven Gifts that Brian and I had been praying together.  It was his idea to pray it which was neat and so I followed his lead.  I found that I really appreciated it as we went along and loved its layout.  According to EWTN it is still the only novena officially prescribed by the Church.  I wanted to share with you the descriptions of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that it includes.  I found it really helpful and maybe you will as well.  It's interesting to take account of gifts that we've opened and are using and those that we need to ask for a greater share of and live more fully.  

Fear of the Lord
The gift of Fear fills us with a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread nothing so much as to offend Him by sin. It is a fear that arises, not from the thought of hell, but from sentiments of reverence and filial submission to our heavenly Father. It is the fear that is the beginning of wisdom, detaching us from worldly pleasures that could in any way separate us from God. "They that fear the Lord will prepare their hearts, and in His sight will sanctify their souls."

The gift of Piety begets in our hearts a filial affection for God as our most loving Father. It inspires us to love and respect for His sake persons and things consecrated to Him, as well as those who are vested with His authority, His Blessed Mother and the Saints, the Church and its visible Head, our parents and superiors, our country and its rulers. He who is filled with the gift of Piety finds the practice of his religion, not a burdensome duty, but a delightful service. Where there is love, there is no labor.

By the gift of Fortitude the soul is strengthened against natural fear, and supported to the end in the performance of duty. Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and energy which move it to under take without hesitancy the most arduous tasks, to face dangers, to trample under foot human respect, and to endure without complaint the slow martyrdom of even lifelong tribulation. "He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved."

The gift of Knowledge enables the soul to evaluate created things at their true worth--in their relation to God. Knowledge unmasks the pretense of creatures, reveals their emptiness, and points out their only true purpose as instruments in the service of God. It shows us the loving care of God even in adversity, and directs us to glorify Him in every circumstance of life. Guided by its light, we put first things first, and prize the friendship of God beyond all else. "Knowledge is a fountain of life to him that possesseth it."

Understanding, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, helps us to grasp the meaning of the truths of our holy religion. By faith we know them, but by Understanding we learn to appreciate and relish them. It enables us to penetrate the inner meaning of revealed truths and through them to be quickened to newness of life. Our faith ceases to be sterile and inactive, but inspires a mode of life that bears eloquent testimony to the faith that is in us; we begin to "walk worthy of God in all things pleasing, and increasing in the knowledge of God."

The gift of Counsel endows the soul with supernatural prudence, enabling it to judge promptly and rightly what must done, especially in difficult circumstances. Counsel applies the principles furnished by Knowledge and Understanding to the innumerable concrete cases that confront us in the course of our daily duty as parents, teachers, public servants, and Christian citizens. Counsel is supernatural common sense, a priceless treasure in the quest of salvation. "Above all these things, pray to the Most High, that He may direct thy way in truth."

Embodying all the other gifts, as charity embraces all the other virtues, Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts. Of wisdom it is written "all good things came to me with her, and innumerable riches through her hands." It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree. Wisdom enlightens the mind to discern and relish things divine, in the appreciation of which earthly joys lose their savor, whilst the Cross of Christ yields a divine sweetness according to the words of the Saviour: "Take up thy cross and follow me, for my yoke is sweet and my burden light.

I've been thinking a lot the past few months about what a life in the Holy Spirit looks like.  I don't think my life does, to be honest.  I grumble too much, get angry too much, feel sorry for myself too much, ahem, analyze too much, and so on.  I know I still have so very much that needs to be healed and transformed by His Spirit.  I also know that He's done a lot with me thus far and that He has worked in and through me a whole lot in this little life of mine.  I pray I can be an open vessel for Him more fully than I ever have been.  I know it's possible, despite my temptation to doubt that my issues and sins will ever get out of the way enough for that to happen.  I want to be one of those people that by just being in their presence, you KNOW they know Christ and it permeates everything about them.

Yesterday was a hard day in so very many ways.  Emotionally, spiritually, physically, and any other -ly you can think of.  I was reminded over and over of how weak I truly am and how much more I need to throw everything at His feet and pray, or rather beg, for help.  But He is so much bigger than all of this.  So much bigger than my sins, my issues, my limitations, the thoughts that disturb my peace.  He yearns to pour out His Spirit more and more upon this life of mine.  And His Spirit is a spirit of power and grace, a Spirit that can transform even my deepest vice and ugliness.  And when those things threaten to overtake today, rather than focus on them, I will instead pray "come, Holy Spirit" and fix my eyes upon Him.  Or at least I'll try.

I heard a quote on the radio today that was attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas.  "It is a sin to be scandalized by one's own sins."  Or something like that.  I couldn't find the reference anywhere but regardless, it still makes a point.  We should never let our own weakness and struggles (or those of others) shock us.  It is actually a gift when we can see our own sinfulness and recognize how desperately in need we are of a Savior.  God works in that.  He longs to pour down His gifts upon us and sometimes those struggles and terrible days are just the opportunity He needs to make that happen if only we let Him.

May the gifts of the Holy Spirit dwell deeply within us and be renewed each day.  Happy Pentecost! (And happy birthday to my husband 1500 miles away.  And I hope those super exciting brownies survived the trip!)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

Having more kids is like training for a marathon.  Did you know that?  You know when you start running and you think you're going to die if you take another step but you keep going and eventually your body gets used to it?  And then you get used to running those three or four or five miles and if you were to go back to running just a mile it would seem like a breeze?  Not that I would really know that after my thirty seven second foray into running over a year ago but I've heard that's how it works.  Anyway, it's the same thing with parenting.  With each baby you have moments of feeling like your whole world is rocked and how in the world are we ever going to do this and maybe I just wasn't cut out for this.  Or maybe you don't.  I've never been one of those "oh! another baby?  No big deal!" type of people.  But eventually you sort of find your groove.  And it's still hard but you get used to that level of hard.  And then your husband takes two of them on a trip and man, having two kids when you're used to four feels like a BREEZE, despite the fact that you still have the needier two.  But I never would have said that when I "only" had two.

It reminds me of what my mom used to say when people would ask her how she had SEVEN kids.  "One at a time."
(Moms of multiples clearly develop superhuman powers.)

But talk to me on Tuesday.  I may just want to come back and kick myself in the face for writing that.

Last week I was invited to be part of a fancy focus group for our local talk radio station.  And by invited I mean they sent out a mass email and I was one of those lame enough to be lured in by the promise of free pizza and a restaurant gift card and opinionated enough to actually have a lot to say on the subject.  It was really interesting and fun even though I got stuck with the chair RIGHT in front of the two way mirror where people were staring at us making me too self-conscious to enjoy my free food.  I mean, really, it is inherently impossibly to eat a chicken wing daintily and without looking like a slob and I was hoping they'd actually listen to my opinion with some note of dignity rather than be distracted by my noshing.  (I did, however, take my plate with me when I left.  Pride be damned for chicken wings.)  I think, though, that I have found a future life calling.  Getting free things to be annoyingly opinionated?  Yes, please.

Last week we got our newest batch of meat chicks.  I told Brian I was okay with ten, maybe twelve.  So he compromised and got nineteen.


Does this count, Cari??  Even if they're destined for the dinner table?

I really like this article Have American Parents Got it All Backwards? or as I like to call it, Guilt Relief for When the Toddler Has Found the Knives and You Realize Your First Concern is That He Will Scratch Your Countertop.

For the g'rents.  But if you want to suffer from a mild cute attack, you can watch, too.

And pretty much the same thing but even longer:

Happy Friday, y'all!
 Joining Jen the Scorpion Slayer and Cari the Fisher Cat Fearer for Friday fun.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

This Month in Boys - May 2013

In the wee hours of this morning, Brian, John Paul, and Michael hopped on a plane to Colorado.  Our friend Brother (now Deacon) John is being ordained this weekend!  We thought about just Brian flying out but then realized what an incredible opportunity this would be for the older boys to see an ordination as well as have some growing up man time with Papa.  They'll be camping in the mountains, attending the Ordination and the parties around it and going on some other little adventures.  In the meantime I'm back here remembering what it's like to only have two to tend and not thinking about how far away my boys are for the first time ever.  I so wish we could have all gone but I really felt convicted that things were supposed to be this way.  They are going to have an amazing time and I'm so glad the three of them have this opportunity.  Also praying for Deacon John as he enters into holy priesthood.  God is so good.

John Paul

-could hardly sleep with how excited he was to go on the big trip to Denver. 
-shoots down flowers for Mama via bow and arrow.  
-still has big plans for "my army."
-when not building or riding his bike, his free time is spent curled up with a book.
-would love to be on Jeopardy! some day.  Once in a great while if he's had a good day, he can watch some of it at night.  He is absolutely thrilled when he gets a question right.
-knows way more about physics and space than his mother.
-is convinced he is more than old enough to mow the lawn (can't wait either, buddy).
-just started fifth grade math.
-has the neatest shade of dark gray (with a small touch of blue) eyes


-on packing for their big trip first and foremost was concerned with his rosary.  "Mama, are we going to be praying the Rosary or the Chaplet while we're gone?"  "I don't know...maybe!"  "Okay.  Well, John Paul has a black rosary in his suitcase so we'll keep that in there.  And I'll go get one to put in mine."
-loves reading Little House with Mama.
-calls his bike "Hawk."
-isn't at all motivated by money offered if he deems a chore too hard but is still super helpful with tasks he feels he can manage.
-has a great baseball swing and can hit without the tee.
-does not like to make decisions.  Even deciding what to draw is difficult for him.  He thrives on knowing what is expected and having a routine.
-has finally started to eat a bit more and put a tiny bit of meat on that skinny body.

-has gorgeous blue-gray eyes that reflect the color of whatever he is looking at or wearing.


-turned FOUR!
-has not once been sad that he wasn't going on the big trip and has just been thrilled that we get to do "special things" at home like go to the zoo where he really and truly plans on swimming with the hippopotamus.
-gets up earlier than the older boys and walks all groggily downstairs to find Mama or Papa.
-every night remembers that he forgot to build his "push mower" that day.
-has the greatest expressions of excitement when he is telling you about something.  His arched eyebrows are hilarious.
-"Guys!  Papa gave ME a blowing kiss (don't's not like blowing a kiss...less dainty, more boy)!"  "What did it feel like?"  "Like a BOMB hitting my face!!"
-had what we thought were deep brown eyes but just the other day noticed a dash of hazel creeping in (yay!).


-still gets called Lukapotamus from time to time but it is also often shortened to Lukapot or morphed into Lukapotpie.
-gets taken down from the kitchen or dining room table at least ten times a day.  He's also discovered that he can move chairs and climb on or get into anywhere the chair can go...
-loves to play ball.
-has spent more than a few nights in Mama and Papa's bed this month.
-every day runs excited and with arms up to Papa when he gets home from work.
-loves to get his shoes in the hopes that we'll get to go outside.
-had no fear of picking up our new chicks and loves to look out the window at the birds or squirrels or chickens.
-still hasn't settled on an eye color yet.  Lately, they're looking dark blackish brown similar to how David's were at this age.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Abstinence Only - A Quasi-Defense from a Former Teacher

Sometimes I'm blissfully unaware of things buzzing around the internet, especially in the more Catholic intellectual circles.  What with diaper changing and dinner making and lesson teaching, I don't have the ability or the calling to be on the up and up with every discussion (even if part of me wants to).  I recently learned, though, that there's been discussion regarding the use of abstinence only methods for teaching sexuality, mostly as a response to Elizabeth Smart's statements.  Elizabeth Smart suggested that she can understand why someone being abused and in captivity would not run if they had received the message that any compromise of their virginity leaves them dirty and used.  She criticized the abstinence-only message she received that likened sexual activity before marriage to used chewing gum.  

I haven't been privy to every comment section or blog post on this topic but as a former abstinence-only teacher, I thought maybe I could weigh in on the subject.  I worked for a year and a half as part of an federally funded abstinence based program for youth implemented through Catholic Charities.  Our primary activity was going into schools, community centers, and youth groups and presenting a program that focused on character building as a tool in preventing sexual activity before marriage and I taught students from 5th grade to 12 grade.  The intention of the program itself was to provide positive reasons for avoiding extramarital sexual activity rather than merely being consequence driven, though out of necessity, consequences were not ignored.  It was an incredibly formative experience.  There were aspects of the program I was less than thrilled with and there are things about it that I now regret but one thing I did not take issue with is the need to inform many of these kids of the very real consequences of sex outside of marriage.

The problem with Elizabeth's statement and the blog posts that have followed is that they paint all abstinence only educators with an extremely broad and unfair brush.  I am so sorry that Elizabeth experienced the horror she went through.  It breaks my heart that she felt dirty and filthy because she had been raped.  From the training and reading I have done, this is a common experience for victims of rape and abuse regardless of what kind of sex education they received.  (For now I'll ignore my belief that rape, kidnapping, and abuse are in an entirely different realm than consensual premarital sex and that most students can naturally see the difference.  No teacher I've met would ever equate the two.)  Reading some of these posts you would think that all of these teachers are using shame-based methods and repulsive analogies to gross kids out of premarital sex.  One would be led to believe that the crux of these programs depends on shock value and that students are taught that they are "ruined" if they have sex.  Maybe some of them do teach that, I don't know.  Our program, though it had its faults, focused on character (admittedly a lesser substitute for virtue) and a positive, worth-based approach to sexuality (admittedly a lesser substitute for chastity).  As a federal program we were not able to bring religion into the discussion, though inside I squealed in delight when a student brought it up because then it could be a part of the discussion.  Our hands were tied when it came to diving deeper into chastity and virtue so without doubt, that limited the quality of the program, at least from a Christian perspective.  It is impossible to have a healthy and whole understanding of sexuality outside of Catholic teaching, however, we did our best despite those limitations.  And while the program wasn't the perfect Theology of the Body based program and I do not believe sexual education should be taught in schools by default anyway,  I still believe it did much good and in many cases was very needed.  At the very least because these kids were worth it and deserved something more than the animalistic approach of Planned Parenthood that relegates these teens to the status of a dog in heat.  

Our objective was to focus on character and goal setting.  We did, however, talk about consequences.  Because it is impossible to teach a healthy approach to sexuality in the current culture without talking about consequences.  Let me tell you something.  It is incredibly hard to convince teenagers who have been brought up in a sex-obsessed culture and in a secular setting that sex outside of marriage might not be a good choice without discussing the consequences of the undesired behavior.  It just is.  Try uttering the word chastity in a room full of angsty teens from broken homes in a crumbling classroom in the middle of the city.  I did my best and I implored them to view themselves as worthy and good.  It sure would be nice if they subsequently desired to refrain from sexual activity out of pure virtue and desire to offer themselves as self-gift to their future spouse so that I never needed to discuss what could happen if they didn't.  That would be awesome.  But it would also be grossly unfair to these children to NOT give them information about the consequences of sexual activity outside of marriage simply because I didn't want to make them feel bad, especially when I knew that some of these kids were that very day, week, or year going to be making that decision.  Sometimes we weak humans are motivated not by purity of intention and perfect love of the good and are kept out of harm's way by a valid fear of the consequences of that action.  Or maybe that's just me.

The consequences of sex outside of marriage are real.  It's certainly not pleasant for anyone that sin has consequences and that those consequences often remain even after the sin is forgiven.  That's one of the reasons why sin sucks.  It's unhealthy for us and can affect our souls, our bodies, our relationships, our children, our health, our temporal and eternal future.  Many of us have experienced the far-reaching effects of premarital sexual activity within our bodies, our souls, our minds, our marriages.  Here's what these kids deserve to know:  Sex has incredible power and one of those powers is that it bonds us to our partner...for good or ill.  (Improperly used it can also leave us with diseases that can affect us the rest of our lives and that was discussed as well.)  The release of oxytocin as an agent of emotional bonding is biological fact.  Children (and adults) who are already engaged in or are inevitably going to have to decide on premarital sexual activity deserve to know that sex is more powerful than they've been led to believe.  And whether or not they view premarital sex as sin they deserve to know that it has far reaching consequences.  And, yes, they also deserve to know that Christ can heal all things and that grace is infinitely more powerful than nature.  But outside of the realm of faith and forgiveness where federal programs and public schools dare not tread, these children still need to know that there are natural consequences to sexual activity outside of marriage.  

I used the tape demonstration.  A piece of packing tape stuck to an arm to show the power of oxytocin to bond us to our partner.  And why it can hurt so badly when a sexual relationship is broken off.  It's meant to be forever.  Was this demonstration "shaming" those who had either beforehand or in the future decided to be sexually active with someone outside of marriage?  I don't think so.  I think it impressed upon them the power that our sexuality holds and I think it was a creative way to teach a biological fact.  Many of these kids had never thought about sex in this way before.  Many of them had never been told that their sexuality is, in fact, incredibly powerful.  Many of them had that aha! look in their eyes as I explained this to them because now it made sense to them why they hurt.  They weren't crazy.  In many ways it validated the fact that they were worth something and that their hurt was real and justified.  I pray that not one of my students ever felt that it demeaned them and I ask mercy from God if it did.  I know that I emphasized the importance of there always being the opportunity to start over despite their past and I hope I impressed upon them their inherent worth no matter their choices...I tried very hard to do that.  I also pray that my words and time with them saved even one of of them from the heartbreak and disease and the many many consequences of sex outside of marriage.  I do know that upon receiving their post program surveys I often read that the tape demonstration was powerful to them and that they had never thought about sexual activity in terms of being that important.  Maybe that demonstration actually played a part in them realizing their worth.

Any demonstration or abstinence only instruction that intentionally shames a young person or instructs only from a place of fear and leaves no room for redemption is misguided, repulsive, and dangerous.  It is not Christian, that's for sure.  Perhaps more needs to be done within these programs to address abuse and rape.  But to categorically deride any abstinence only education is not fair.  To be sure, a comprehensive chastity education (preferably taught primarily by the parents and NOT the school) is far superior but in its absence, a loving, character-based abstinence program can be the opportunity for these young people to rise above cultural norms and seek the best future for themselves, often giving hope where there was none.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.  I'm certainly a fallible person and open to changing my mind if I'm wrong on any or all of this :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday Musings

We had a restful (albeit gray, cold, and rainy) weekend.  Saturday night Brian had his monthly overnight at the homeless shelter so I was on my own in the morning which was just fine.  On those weekends we usually get to the Vigil Mass and that Sunday morning is the one morning a month where we are lazy and don't rush out of our pajamas into daily tasks.  So the boys got pancakes and I was simply grateful that Luke only woke a few times during the night and slept in an hour after me which sets a whole different tone to my day.  Once Brian got home we laid low around the house getting little things done and...I got to take a nap!  Brian and the boys also surprised me with a new sewing machine!  I haven't had a working one for a while now and though I'm not an avid or skilled sewer, it is helpful to have one around for little projects.  I've been eyeing them up in the Joann's flyers and have a few projects already planned.  He did spend a bit too much on it which will make the throw pillows I have planned the most expensive throw pillows on the planet...sort of defeating one of the primary purposes of the sewing machine.  He said the long term use will make up for it (?).  I don't know what he's expecting I am going to make with my crude and uncouth sewing methods...  He tends toward the more money spent equals better camp while I remain loyal to the best deal gotten equals bragging rights and less guilt camp.  For that reason, there have been many gifts returned in our years together.  On both sides.  I'll have to try out the machine a bit before I decide on this one.

I also got to sneak out of the house for a quick dinner out with my mom and sisters which was a treat.  I was also treated to this gem from John Paul:

Someone was very sneaky during his writing lesson the other day ;)
I love that it's a poem!  It took me a second read through to see that he was intentionally rhyming!
Michael and David were coerced lovingly convinced by their father to finish cards for me before they went to bed.

I always find Mother's Day such a weird day.  I can't get over the forced sincerity thing.  It feels so Hallmarky to me even though it makes sense to have days set aside to honor beautiful things.  Maybe it's just because it's a secular thing?  I don't know.  I don't pretend to make sense sometimes.  I'm still getting over the fact that my husband proposed to me on Valentine's Day of all days.  I end up thinking a lot about people who find Mother's Day really difficult.  Maybe that's why it's hard.  Because along with honoring mothers comes a whole lot of hurt for those who have lost children, those who have lost mothers, those who long to be mothers.  It's a tough day for a lot of people.

I asked the boys to get me some lilacs for the house from the bush outside and they obliged.  The house smells lovely and I even remembered to make a little May altar before the month was halfway over so go me.  I'll pretend that I meant to do it on Mother's Day and not like it just sort of happened that way.

I realized as I saw people posting pictures with their kids online that I don't think I have a single picture of just me with all the boys!  So as I was running out of the house to dinner, they acquiesced to my request for a picture.  This way if I do end up keeling over via toddler-induced nervous breakdown like I keep talking about, they'll have some evidence that I did, in fact, exist.  

At least everyone is looking?  Also, on a not really related note, should I cut my hair?  The oft chosen sprocket look of late just isn't doing me any favors.  I'm getting tempted...

Hope you had a lovely weekend no matter how you spent it!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Finally Four

Our David turned four yesterday and chose to celebrate like a king!  He had been counting down for weeks.  How I love age four!  I am so excited to see David blossom and come alive.  Though no doubt the toddler years have their awesome moments, they can be trying and I love that kids just seem to flourish at age four.  You can have real conversation, use reason, and they are so eager to help and be involved.  I am psyched to see who this little boy becomes.

What a grace that yesterday was also the Solemnity of the Ascension.  David had planned for at least a month that he wanted a "crown cake" and we didn't realize until the other day that the two special days coincided and how appropriate his choice was for the feast day!  We found out the night before that a first class relic of Blessed John Paul II would be stopping at a church in Buffalo and that the public was invited to come for veneration.  So I trucked out the boys myself to a church in an extremely shady part of the city on a drizzly rainy day for a very long Mass.  It was hard but oh man, what a blessing for us to be able to be there with our little JPII namesake and on David's birthday!  

I was stunned when we walked in the doors by the beauty of this church!  Even John Paul's mouth fell open and he got the sweetest smile on his face when he looked around.  We were not expecting it to be so beautiful!

The relic is held in that "book."  We weren't able to touch it but knelt for a very quick prayer after Mass and then headed home for birthday time.

The king on his throne

(My icing standards just keep getting lower and lower.  Cake deets:  India Tree natural dye (turmeric based), "gems" and jelly beans from Trader Joe's, ice cream cones for the points)

As per custom, grandparents and Godparents joined us to celebrate!

Train stickers and tickets for a REAL LIVE train ride from Grandpa and Grandma!

And the skies cleared up just in time for us to eat and open gifts outside!

Giant frisbee and museum membership from the other grandparents!

The big gift from Papa, Mama, and Brian's parents...he loves it :)

We so love you, sweet David, and I am so very blessed to be your mama!
Happy birthday, big four year old!

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