Thursday, January 29, 2015

{pretty, happy, funny, real} - vol. 63

{finding the little joys in everyday life}


I feel so blessed that Michael received this rosary as a First Holy Communion gift from his Godparents. It was handmade by Sarah, a.k.a The Clay Rosary Girl, who passed away extremely suddenly back in July.  I didn't follow her blog then but learned of her story afterwards through Ginny who was a dear friend to Sarah's and whose blog I've followed for years.  I feel pretty darn special that we were able to receive one of her beautiful handmade rosaries that was ordered before that tragedy.  It feels like a relic.  Michael, our lover all things colorful, thinks it's the best and brought it to Mass to be blessed last week.  He loves that the symbol on each and every bead carries some meaning.


"Mama, the baby's kickin' me!"

This baby's gotten pretty active and I love so much that the older brothers can now feel him or her.  Their faces are priceless when they feel the little bump from their brother or sister.  I love the conversations it's triggered about birth and baby development and my pregnancies with them and their own birth stories.  They each have parts of their birth story that they remember from my telling them that they love to share.  "Remember that as soon as I came out I fell right to sleep on you?"  "I came out super super fast!"  Even Luke knows he was born "under the Christmas tree."  I love talking about that with them and feel so blessed that I am the one who gets to teach them and share it all in this context. 


My post from last week on the baby items I never needed triggered a memory of one of the oddest baby gifts we have ever gotten.  I love that the people who gave it to us were being kind and very...creative? They were generous in giving us a gift for our newborn baby.  It was very thoughtful and kind.  However, I'm not sure a skeleton bag with your child's name on it is the best reminder of the gift of new life.  Or maybe it's just me.

I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be like a Halloween trick or treating bag?  (He was born in June.)  But personalized skeleton for the nervous new parents seemed like a...unique choice.  We did keep it until decluttering and a move (and our decision to not really do Halloween much anyway) prompted its donation.  In my defense, it was also shortly after Joseph Mary died and I didn't need yet another reminder of my children's mortality at the moment.
But yes, maybe I should add personalized skeletons to the "probably don't need" baby list but what do I know...there was baby Jesus with that myrrh so maybe it's a must have after all.


It's couch cleaning day.  Which is not that big of a deal really.  But not something I get excited for.  These little scampery scampertons, however, very much do.  

Amazing how peaceful it all seems when you put it in black and white, right??? ;)

Happy Thursday!  Hope you find a little pretty, happy, funny, and real in your day, too :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Good and Holy Friendship (sponsored by St. Thomas)

I've been thinkin' lots about friendship lately.

What it is, what are fair expectations, what are the obstacles to it, what it should look like in this season of little ones and within the context of the vocation of marriage.  

Friendship can be a good and holy thing.  Our friends can draw us to Christ.  They can help us realize our full potential.  They can cheer us on in our successes and be our support and crutch in our pain.
This post sponsored by St. Thomas Aquinas, whose feast day it is today.  
He thought it was pretty important.
So does Scripture.

They can be, should be, an opportunity for holiness.

And that, I think, is why the evil one attacks it so hard.

Do you think so?

I don't have many answers to it all.  There are so many different kinds and levels of friendship, too, of course.  There are the acquaintances and the shallower friends.  There are the friends with whom you can have only certain conversations.  There are the ones that are fun but lack depth, the ones you only speak to occasionally, and then there are the ones that last.  They are thicker than blood or distance or death.  They know you as well as, if not better than, you know yourself and will defend you to the end.  These are the ones who will be there no matter what when the mask is dropped and your heart bleeds, giving what Scripture calls "life-saving medicine" and helping bind the deepest wounds of our hearts. 

I'm kinda curious what other women's experience is with friendship, especially women who are in the same state of life.  My gut and other people are telling me that there is a void here.  That there are lots of people, men and women, walking around quite lonely.  Do you feel happy with this dimension of your life?  Do you have that kind of good and holy friendship or do you feel the void sharply?  Do you feel like the friendships you do have are quality ones?  Deep?  Shallow?  Too challenging?  Pure?  Or maybe you just feel like they're impossible given your current state in life?  

Then there's the question of how social media plays into it - whether it deepens friendship, makes it more frequent yet shallower, or more likely, either, depending on how we use it.

I've also been ruminating on what makes a true friend:
Genuine support
Exclusivity (not that you can't have other friends, of course, but knowing that you have a unique relationship with this person)

And the things that kill friendship:
Fear of vulnerability
What I call "The Vibe" (i.e. nothing has happened but something is just…off.  Sometimes I think this is where the evil one loves to play.)

I'm wondering what your needs are for friendship and whether you believe that they're being fulfilled.  If they're not, why?  If they are, what is it about them that you value most?

I think sometimes we women are afraid of friendship.  Afraid of the ways it makes us vulnerable.  Afraid that it will somehow "take away" from our vocation.  Afraid that we will be hurt yet again.  But the Lord desires good and holy friendships for us (unless, of course, you're called to the hermitage…none of those hanging out here, I presume).  It is a gift from Him to share this life with others…we are made for communion after all, not only with Him but with those around us.  

I've learned not to be afraid to pray for the gift of holy friendship for it's growth and when we are given the gift, for its protection.  It's not silly or trivial or immature or somehow selfish to desire good and true friendship.  It's a holy and beautiful gift from Him.

St. Thomas Aquinas, please pray for us that we may be blessed with good and holy friendships.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Want to share?

"Pleasant speech multiplies friends,

    and a gracious tongue multiplies courtesies.
Let those who are friendly with you be many,
    but let your advisers be one in a thousand.
When you gain friends, gain them through testing,
    and do not trust them hastily.
For there are friends who are such when it suits them,
    but they will not stand by you in time of trouble.
And there are friends who change into enemies,
    and tell of the quarrel to your disgrace.
And there are friends who sit at your table,
    but they will not stand by you in time of trouble.
When you are prosperous, they become your second self,
    and lord it over your servants;
but if you are brought low, they turn against you,
    and hide themselves from you.
Keep away from your enemies,
    and be on guard with your friends.
Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter:
    whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Faithful friends are beyond price;
    no amount can balance their worth.
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
    and those who fear the Lord will find them.
Those who fear the Lord direct their friendship aright,
    for as they are, so are their neighbors also."
Sirach 6:5-17

Sunday, January 25, 2015

We Don't Know What Didn't Happen

I'm kind of impressed by the people of Ninevah.
For three days a man, who could very well be taken for crazy, goes around announcing that God will destroy them if they don't shape up and do it now.  
And they listen!  
The people begin to fast and put on their sackcloth, the king even orders a fast, and God changes His divine mind.

I feel like there must be more to the story because I think the majority of people, even in ancient times, would have written this person off as a mentally challenged lunatic and dismissed his warning.  I mean, the guy just claimed to have been swallowed by a fish, been in the belly of that fish for three days, and somehow survived that.  But they didn't.  They listened and things changed.  

It is so hard to get my head around that.
Not only that they listened and God changed His mind (which has all sorts of ages-old questions implied) but it also reminds me that we never know what didn't happen.  This boggles my mind.

The Ninevites, after the wrath of God was spared, did they know it?  I mean, nothing really changed from the outside.  Did they laugh at themselves or just blindly trust this random guy that they truly had been spared some pretty awful stuff?  Could they really believe that something didn't happen?  Do I believe that?

Prayer is a weird and funny thing.  We believe it can change things and yet we never really know what would or could have happened.  Heck, even in normal decision making, we don't know how different things would be had we taken that other choice.  Do you ever go back and think about that?  How things would be if we had taken that other route?  (Sometimes with profound gratitude and sometimes with a sigh, right?)  Even in the tiniest of decisions, it's true.  Despite what well-meaning people want to tell us, our decisions, little and big, have consequences.  We believe in guardian angels and that they have the ability to protect us from harm but we never really know the extent of that.  We believe in Providence and yet we believe in free will.  Their interplay is beyond our current understanding.  When you get deep enough into it, you realize the possibilities of what could have happened are truly infinite.  

Do you think we'll have this awareness in heaven?  I kind of hope so.  I hope we get to see the greater picture and understand not only how it all worked for our good but also see how the myriad of things that didn't happen worked for our good and the ways in which our prayers and decisions played into that.  Maybe I'm crazy for wanting to know something so infinite, and I'm certainly no philosopher, but I think it's interesting that the psalm refrain today is 
"Teach me Your ways, O Lord."
It's referring to the upright and moral life, yes.  But I also think it means that it's okay, in fact it's holy, to probe and seek to understand and question.  It means we're seeking the mind and heart of the One we claim to love.  
True love seeks to know the other.

Our prayer somehow changes things.  Our sacrifices change things.  Our actions, our little and big decisions, change things.  And we will never know, not in this life anyway, the extent of that God-given power and freedom.  It's all at once humbling, motivating, terrifying, and dignifying.  
Lord, may I seek to live my life at every moment, even in the littlest ways, choosing the best I can, glorifying You, and trusting in Your providence and mercy through it all.

{Sunday Scripture Snapshots}

Friday, January 23, 2015

What I Didn't Really Need for that First Baby

I told you I was going to make this a thing :)

I wrote about the things I wish I had from the beginning so now today I get to regale you with the things I was told I'd need but didn't.  Yay!

 Do you feel sometimes like our culture makes having a baby into a much more commercialized (and therefore expensive) thing than it needs to be?  I think there's some truth to that.  And it scares people.  Yes, you will need some things but you won't need ALL those things, despite what they tell you.  I wonder how many people are put off from having children or are terrified of the idea of parenthood partly because of this idea that they are so expensive and complicated and need all the things.

Now, I know, some of you will look at this list and proclaim how much you needed said listed item and how wonderful it was for your life with a newborn.  That's fine.  There's nothing wrong with anything on the list.  But I thought I'd share a little bit of our experience since the store registry list is going to tell you you need ALL THE THINGS.  And really, you don't.  I would say probably, at most, half those things are actually "needed."  Some of it is trial and error figuring out what works for your family but some of it, maybe you can skip all together when you are able to think clearly and before you walk into the baby supply store and they hypnotize you with all their baby powder magic.

So this is our list of what we didn't even need a little bit for that first baby.

The Diaper Genie
(or any other specialized diaper disposal system)
Otherwise known as the glorified and very expensive garbage can.  We received one of these with our first when we were still using disposables because it was on The Store Recommended Registry List (henceforth referred to as The List) and we we apparently needed it.  It is seriously a garbage can with special (read: expensive) liners you have to buy and it twists up each diaper individually in the can to decrease the possible smell.  Surprising fact:  breastfed newborn diapers don't smell that much anyway.  Plus, there's also another option:  take out your garbage.  We filled it up once and never really used it again, selling it at a garage sale before we moved.

Dozens of Washes/Creams/Lotions/Powders
I registered for a few and then got a whole bunch more as little add-ons to gifts.  I used to think the smell of Johnson's baby lotion was THE baby smell but then I had babies and realized that they make the best newborn smell all on their own without any help.  We barely used any of those items.  Partly because I didn't think they were needed but also as I got crunchier and read the labels on them, I was kinda freaked out about slathering all those unpronounceable things on my baby's skin, even the "natural" ones.  (Part of that was due to using topical progesterone cream during my next healthy pregnancy and learning that all that stuff really is absorbed into your bloodstream.  That previously loved Johnson's is now planning on graciously removing the carcinogens that they've contained.)

Babies don't need to be washed washed a whole lot, especially in the winter when it's already so dry.  We Americans get a little obsessive about our hygiene and it ends up backfiring.  Sometimes we start a cycle of washing too much, using a soap, and then baby's skin gets too dry so then we do have to use lotion and all the time we're the ones perpetuating the need for all those things.  Now, I use a homemade olive oil/beeswax salve on them only as needed which is only a few times during the dry winter months.   For washing I use plain old water…if they're older and genuinely dirty, I use a small bit of organic wash.  I still don't really know what powder is for but my kids have gotten along pretty well without it.

The Baby First Aid/Grooming Kit
Several of the things inside are helpful, definitely.  But most of it is pretty superfluous to make you think you're getting some great deal.  For us, I think we'd have been better off just buying a pair of nail clippers, a bulb syringe (though everyone is swearing by the Nosefrida now), and a thermometer.  Do people use baby nail files?  (Maybe.)  There's usually a few medicine dispensers in there as well but almost every baby medicine comes with its specially designed dispenser and makes sure to specify that you should only use that one anyway.  Hair brush and comb?  No.  If you're one of those lucky parents that has a baby with long hair that does need to be combed, you can pretty much use your own or buy a better one separately.  And no, you also don't need a gum brusher.

Special Towels
Yes, they're cute so get one if you want.  Wash cloths, too.  But you don't need a specially designed/shaped/charactered towels to dry your baby.  Regular people towels and wash cloths work just fine and, in my opinion, are better baby burrito makers.
The Dresser/Changing Table Combo
The List said we needed one.  So we took a whole bunch of store credit we had saved from all the gifts we knew we wouldn't need.  (I worked at a very wealthy parish at the time and received some very generous gifts at the shower.  Expensive stuffed animals, clothes, etc.  Thank goodness for easy return policies!)  We were able to get the special changing dresser without paying a dime.  It looked cute, yes.  But after having the baby, we realized that most of our diaper changes were happening downstairs on the couch or floor and not in the specially designed and positioned Changing Area of the upstairs baby's room (which didn't even hold said baby for a good four or five months).  No one runs upstairs just to change the baby.  I wish we had just gotten a plain old dresser that would grow with the child or saved the credit for diapers or something more useful.  If your changing area/bedroom is downstairs, it may be more useful, but still, the weird shape of those things means that it doesn't really make sense beyond the baby years.

Toys and Stuffed Animals
Having a baby?  Get ready to get ALL the toys and stuffed animals.  Here's a secret that experienced moms know but that The Man doesn't want you to:  newborn babies don't play with toys.  They don't even care about stuffed animals.  But those toys and animals will slowly take over your house if you let them.  When they do start playing with things, they usually prefer the weirdest and/or simplest things anyway…mom's necklace, a plastic bottle, grass, the chewed gum they found underneath the playground picnic table.  All of that is much more appealing than the expert-designed, educationally stimulating toy that will surely help them to read and perform simple mathematic equations by the time they're eighteen months.  I'm so glad we set up a precedent with our first and kept only one or two baby toys and a couple stuffed animals (and those animals were later discarded as well).  Part of it was that we just didn't have the room and part was because people had spent money that at the time we really really needed for more important things so we returned them.  I'm so glad we did, though.  I think it prepared us to be pretty discerning in the amount of stuff we let in our home and avoid the trap many fall into a few years later of drowning in all the kids' stuff.

Bottles (and all! the! accessories!)
Baby equals needing baby bottles, right?  That's like item numero uno on The List and the quintessential baby item.  Not necessarily.  Now, obviously, a lot of people are going to need bottles and those people should buy them.  But what was really surprising for us was that we didn't use them at all for our first three babies.  Much to my own shock I didn't really leave our babies much when they were tiny and I was able to exclusively nurse and that worked really well for us.  By the time I was ready to leave them for more than an hour or two they were able to take a sippy cup.  All those bottles and washers and accessories went unused until I finally donated them.  If you plan on nursing and not leaving baby for the first few months, you might not need all the bottle things.  If I were doing it over, they would be something to hold off on and only bought if I did end up needing them (or, if that makes you nervous, have them but leave them in the package so that you can return them if you don't).

A few honorable mentions:

Pacifiers - I like to have one around just in case someday one of our newborns will take one.  None of them ever really did (despite some moments where I desperately wanted them to!)  But I never ended up needing the six or seven that we got at the beginning.

Boppy - Some people LOVE their Boppy but I didn't find it helpful for breastfeeding at all.  Too small and I still had to hunch over or bring baby up to nurse.  I did use it for sitting on after having stitches, though!  And a couple times to prop up baby.  I ended up getting rid of it.  For nursing in the early days I much prefer the Brest Friend that I got when I had my second.

Diaper Bag - Do you know what a diaper bag is?  It's a big bag with several pockets.  You'll need a bag, of course, but a good size purse of backpack is just as good.  Diaper bags are much cuter nowadays then when I started but still, just a fancy bag so you don't NEED need a special diaper bag. I've had several diaper bags - one new from a shower, others from garage sales or hand me downs.  Every single time I try one I end up going back to something simpler.  After a few months you realize you can get along pretty well on short outings just by throwing a diaper and maybe an extra onesie in there.

 ALL the Onesies and Blankets - The List will tell you that you need thirty seven onesies and seventy two receiving blankets.  You don't.  I would say 10-12 onesies and maybe six blankets is more than enough.

Special Baby Laundry Detergent - This stuff doesn't make sense.  It's heavily fragranced, which isn't really good for any skin, let alone baby skin and there's really nothing else about it that makes it special for baby except the packaging.  Stick with a free and clear normal or naturally-derived detergent.

ALL the Baby Holders - There are so many contraptions out there and this one is tricky because you don't really know what you and baby will prefer until you're in the thick of it.  But chances are you won't need the bouncer AND the newborn seat AND the swing AND the bassinet AND the play yard AND the cradle AND the exersaucer AND the jumper, know what I mean?  We barely used our swing and ended up getting rid of it a few years later.  Same with the bassinet.  We do like having a little bouncer type seat and something for when baby wants to be upright (we got rid of our exersaucer because it got gross and those things are huge to store…not sure what we'll use this time but maybe just a baby seat/Bumbo thing.)  All those things are good things to pass around between other friends with children and borrow if needed rather than everyone shelling out the money for all of them.

So, how'd I do?
Was your experience totally different?
Any "we didn't need that at all" items on your list?

Linking up with Kelly and 7 Quick Takes despite the non-quickishness of it all

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How We Met (a tale of shoddy appliances, dangling undergarments, and a God Who planned it all)

Our dryer broke last week.

It's okay.  It had this same issue before and Brian knew what it was. I'm very thankful that the inconvenience only lasted a week, the part came in earlier than expected, and he is a capable, awesome husband and was able to fix it himself.  We just did a lot of clothing inspection to see if things are really dirty (I mean, it doesn't smell, right?) and my laundry system works pretty well for a situation like this.  I had my quaint little line draped across the laundry room to hang dry the underwear and socks and things that do need to be washed every few days (though it was at the risk of being - literally - clotheslined when you walked in unsuspectingly).  In a weird way, it was kind of fun, despite the hanging undergarments that flagged the room right next to our entry door and how blessed am I that I have a husband that intuitively just seems to know how to fix things like that?

Which reminds me.

I've never told you the story of how we met, how this whole family we've got going on here, all began, have I?

It all started with a similar broken dryer and similar dangling undergarments.  Or a tad bit before, I guess.

Ahem.  Prepare thyself for the romance.

Once up on a time in a time before Facebook and smartphones, in a time where a blog was a new and ridiculous concept, a whole thirteen years ago, there was another broken dryer.
This was in the land of college.  The land where you sleep when you want and eat things that have barely the capacity to sustain life (and yet they somehow do) and where you and your housemates light dozens of candles to somehow make up for needing to keep the heat at 58 degrees because even split among six people, a several hundred dollar gas bill from an ancient drafty old house is impossible to pay.  (That doesn't work, by the way.  But the ambience was nice even if I did twice set my hair on fire.)  I had just returned from a summer spent interning in Colorado and it had been a summer filled with peace and joy and an interior knowledge growing in me that God had something around the corner.  I had no idea what but I was in a beautiful, freeing place where I had no preference.  

I wasn't supposed to live there.  I had made plans to live in a different house with a group of people I didn't really know all that well.  But it was so much cheaper than living on campus and I was beginning to resent the dorm life.  I had one semester to go and would graduate in December.  The plan was sketchy at best but it was college and who needs to plan things like where you're going to live and all, right?  So I showed up at this house of the girl who was a household sister but whom I didn't know well at all on that late afternoon in August ready to meet my new housemates.  I can't even place her name now.  My little stick shift Mazda Protege was packed full of everything I would need to survive the next few months and I went in.  She welcomed me in and things were just…off.  I got really uncomfortable when I saw the house had a bunch of random people in it that I didn't know.  "This is Joe…he's needing a place to stay for a bit so he's going to be here, too.  Hope that's okay."  Umm…okay?  As I was taking the tour the direction of the conversation I was overhearing threw up more flags.  There were snippets about getting high and parties to plan and who would sleep where…and it smelled funny already.  I was feeling more and more like this was not the place I was supposed to be and knew I couldn't stay.  I excused myself somehow, I don't really remember how, and drove off.  I dialed the number of another household sister who had called once during the summer hearing that I might need a place to stay and they had one if I needed it.  I had declined at the time thinking I was all set.

"Umm…Mary?  (Yes, another Mary.  It was Steubenville, after all.)  Is there, um...still space at your house?"

Thank God there was.
I called and cancelled on the other place.

Fast forward a week or two.  
Moved in.  Bonding with the new housemates.  Old huge drafty house with six girls.  Lots of pasta and beer.

The dryer breaks.

Six women in one house and it was kind of a big deal to get it fixed.

One of my housemates was good friends with this kid who lived on lower campus who offered to come look at it for us.  His name was Brian and he claimed he might be able to figure out what was wrong and fix it.  We obviously knew our landlord well enough to know that going that route wouldn't be fruitful.  So the two of them decided a time for him to come over and check it out.  I, however, was not let in on the plan.

When he came and knocked on the door that late summer evening, I was sitting on the floor in the living room, beer bottle in hand, donned in some sort of pajama pants and tank top getup watching I have no idea what on TV.  I was in the midst of some necessary laundry doing and all my undergarments were at that very moment bannering the basement makeshift clothesline.  I jumped at the knock, hastily and awkwardly covering myself while he told me why he was there.  I stammered out that I'd be right back while I hustled downstairs to hide a little bit of my wardrobe from view.  It would've been awkward no matter who it was but this guy was kind of cute to boot.  As I was pulling them down and hurriedly clothing myself in a damp bra to save myself a little bit of embarrassment, he came down the stairs.  Having a hint of what I was doing, he fumbled out, "It's okay, I have a sister." (#awkward)

I hastily collected the rest of my things and booked it upstairs while he checked out the dryer.  (Later confession:  "I don't think I had any idea what I was doing.")

And that was that.  Amidst the dangling underwear, I had met my future husband.

He actually did figure out that the plug needed replacing, drove out to the appliance store a day or two later and got it for us, and proceeded to fix the dryer.  To this day, I still think that must've been part of what hooked me in.  Even if he had no idea what he was doing on the inside, there definitely is something about a guy who is willing to take a look and try.  I'm not sure I could ever be married to someone who wasn't handy.  Much to his sometimes chagrin, I still think Brian is able to fix, create, or do anything around the house or pretty much anywhere.  I'm usually right.

A few days after the dryer incident we think he came over to hang out with a big group of people on our porch.  I don't remember much of that but we must've chatted or at least clicked somehow because a few days later he and the housemate conveniently arranged that we would join up with some friends at the Pittsburgh Irish Fest.  Because of differing schedules, the three of us would have to drive together.  They were tricky.  I have vague memories of lemon ice, beer, Irish music, a pick up truck (interior me:  He has a pick up truck!!!!), the Corrs playing on the radio, and a very late night drive home.

A few days later he asked me out on our first official date and that was that.  I was hooked.

Babies!  (And probably the only picture I will ever show you from that era…)

Six months later we were engaged and six months after that (much to the shock and concern of some friends and family), we got hitched.

 It's amazing to me looking back.  Six new people (and who knows how many more), a marriage of some crazy ups and downs, and a whole life I never would have planned…all because of a shoddy dryer, some dangling undergarments and a God Who planned it all. 

Learning from the best how to capture a lady's heart

Monday, January 19, 2015

Why Our Babies Aren't Angels…And Why It Does Matter

My baby’s not an angel. And I’m glad for it. Almost anyone who has ever lost a child has probably heard it or said it themselves. In the midst of condolences or their own processing of grief, they are told that their child is now an angel. We hear it often:
You’re now a mommy to an angel.
She just received her angel wings.
I have two angel babies in heaven.
Now he’s your very own guardian angel.
There is talk of an “angel day”, jewelry with angel wings representing their baby or loved one, sweet poems regarding our new angels in heaven, and even Catholic companies selling items bedecked with winged babies as a memorial for miscarriage or infant loss. “Angel baby” is a very common term in the miscarriage/infant loss world for a baby that has died.
It’s a tricky topic to bring up. Who wants to be the person to gently remind someone that that isn’t quite the case? That their child, or any loved one that has died, does not become a different creature in heaven? (And certainly, there are often times where it’s not appropriate, of course.) And anyway, does it even matter? Why not just let people believe whatever they want to in their grief, if it’s consoling to them? But the fact remains, and thank God for it, that our babies do not become angels when they die. Nor do any of us. We will never ever in all eternity become an angel.
And that, dear friends, is wonderful and important. Because we become something far more appropriate. We become saints.
See, angels are completely spirit. They are a completely separate form of creation than humans. They do not have and never will have a body (excepting the few cases where God allows an angel to take on physical form). It is impossible for us to fathom in our limited minds how different from angels we are.
Angels have no bodies…The angels are pure spirits without a body, and their intellectual operations of understanding and willing depend in no way at all upon material substance. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theo; 51:1
We as human beings are a union of spirit (soul) and body. You cannot be completely human without one or the other. That is one of the reasons death is so tragic. It separates, temporarily, our body from our soul. But as Christians we believe (as all Christians have since the early Church) in the Resurrection of the Body. Our bodies will rise again. We will have a physical body in heaven. Saint John Paul the Great declared that we are “worlds apart” from the angels and that man himself enjoys a “unique position in the sphere of creation.” (General Audience, July 9, 1986)
When we die, our bodies and souls separate but at the end of time, at the Resurrection of the Body, we will receive our real, glorified, new bodies. As saints in heaven we will be able to glorify God with our bodies AND our souls. We don’t know much about those bodies other than conjecture from what we know of Christ’s glorified body after the Resurrection but we do know they will be physical bodies…and they probably won’t include wings.
In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection. – Catechism of the Catholic Church, 997
This is wonderful, glorious, happy news! Why?
Because you can’t hug an angel.
Without a body, you cannot hug. You cannot touch. You cannot kiss or know the color of someone’s hair or eyes or the way they smile. I will never be able to hold an angel in my arms. But I can do so for a saint. And that means, God willing, that someday I will truly be able to hold my sweet son or daughter in my arms again.  
It is we humans who are called in a unique human way to become adopted sons and daughters of God. It is only we who have the capacity to have Christ living fully inside us. And it is only we who can receive Him physically in the Eucharist. In fact, some saints talk about the angels being jealous of us for that reason but also because in Christ’s redemption of the material world, we can now praise Him in ways that they cannot. It is an acknowledgement of their incredible worth, dignity, and uniqueness to recognize those in heaven as saints rather than angels. Our babies deserve that recognition, too.
Being saints also means that they will be connected with us, in communion we say, more than any angel ever could. We become part of the Body of Christ together in a physical way. When our loved ones pass on to heaven they can intercede for us more than they ever could before. Loving us, caring for us, praying for us, becoming not our guardian angels but our personal and unique patron saints. What a gift that can become to our families and what a consolation in our grief.
May all of our loved ones, those babies we have lost, too, our own personal patron saints, be praying for us now that we can one day join them in heaven.
This post originally appeared at

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Pregnant Works of Mercy

There are times when I feel guilty for being pregnant and not being able to do all the things I want to do for other people.  Bringing dinners or volunteering for that extra activity at church or taking on babysitting for a friend.  There are amazing super women for whom pregnancy seems to put no damper on their activity level or social life or mental attitude.  Then there is the rest of us.  Most of us, I would say.

Pregnancy changes everything.  And especially when you're in a community where pregnancy is blessedly common, the fact that it truly is a really big deal can often go overlooked.  There are so many opportunities to help people and give and perform the works of mercy in the community and yet, when I'm pregnant if I try to do all those things, to snag every opportunity for giving that is presented, I will end up burnt out and hurting both myself and baby.  And that leaves me with a feeling of guilt like I'm not doing enough.  Like I should just buck up, suck it up, and if I can't then I'm just not being strong enough or holy enough or selfless enough.  

But that's not necessarily true.

I realized today during that most beautiful second reading where Paul reminds us of the purpose and importance of our bodies that I was living the works of mercy at that very moment.  That feeling of being useless because of being pregnant?  It is a complete lie.  Our preborn children are just as deserving of our efforts and charity as any other person out there, and for the pregnant mother, it is her first priority.  Wouldn't the evil one love for us to forget that?  Wouldn't he just love if we considered the raising of our tiniest and most vulnerable people to be a hindrance to "true" charity?  The truth is, though I struggle to believe it, that my body, a temple of the Holy Spirit, is now a work of mercy to one of the most vulnerable members of society, at every moment.  In fact, when I reflected on it further, I figured out ways that the pregnant mother performs every act of mercy in her very body.  Even when she doesn't even realize it.  

{Feed the Hungry/Give Drink to the Thirsty}
The obvious one.  There are no feeding times or bottle schedules for the preborn child.  Their mother is feeding them from her own body without stop.  (And I wonder why I'm tired!)  Her calorie intake must be higher in order to accommodate both her basic needs and the needs of her baby and so she obliges.  Without her even needing to be conscious of it, her body creates a completely new organ, the placenta, that will be the baby's constant source of food and oxygen and which she must constantly herself nourish.  In choosing a healthy, nourishing diet for her baby and drinking enough water to fend off the ever looming dehydration and ensure that the amniotic fluid remains at a good level, she feeds and gives drink to the least among us, whether she is awake or asleep, without stop.  

{Shelter the Homeless}
The woman's body in pregnancy becomes a home, THE home, for her child.  Even if she were to have no roof over her head, her baby does.  Because of her.  I never really thought about it like that but the pregnant mother's womb is literally HOME to another human being and she offers her very body as that home.

{Care for the Sick}
A pregnant mother has the choice with the knowledge she has to take care of that baby so that that little one has the best chance of being healthy.  While most babies are not 'sick,' most mothers I know make sure to take their supplements, eat a balanced diet, and get to their prenatal appointments to ensure that their baby remains healthy.  She takes birth classes to learn the healthiest way for her baby to enter the world.  She googles what is normal so that she has peace that her baby is okay.  She goes to the chiropractor and exercises and when there is an indication that something could be wrong, she takes the steps possible to fix it if she can.  

{Visit the Imprisoned}
Calling it a prison seems a bit off, but certainly the babe in the womb is secured there, kept fastened for (hopefully) the nearly ten months until it is time for birth.  But how beautiful that that baby is never truly alone!  The mother's very heart beats close by to soothe the baby.  She speaks and sings to her baby.  She encourages the other children to talk to the baby and places her husband's hand on her swollen belly to feel the baby kick.  She treats that unseen baby as a full and irreplaceable member of that family.  And most beautiful of all, when she receives Holy Communion, she grants that precious baby a true visit from The Visitor of all visitors.

{Clothe the Naked}
The mother's very body clothes her baby's body, giving her son or daughter the proper environment for growth.  Her body maintains the perfect temperature for the baby to grow and shields that baby's body from the harshness of the outside world, for which it is not yet ready.  Her skin stretches and pulls, tugging tightly over the body of her little one to keep him or her safe.

{Bury the Dead}
And when the unthinkable happens, when a baby dies within the womb of its mother, a mother is able to do her best to treat her baby's remains with respect, to help ensure that her baby has a proper burial, as she would give to any of her loved ones.  In some cases, when the baby is extremely young and small, the woman's very body absorbs the baby's and she herself becomes the burial place for that little one.  Whether or not a normal burial of the remains is possible, that mother never ever forgets that little one and we now know that her very body literally carries within it the memory of that baby.

These little ones, these precious and most vulnerable babies, are just as worthy of our care, if not more so, than any other cause out there.  And while, of course, we should stretch ourselves and challenge ourselves to give as much as we are able even when pregnant, how beautiful it is to realize that the woman's body, by the design of the Creator Himself, has the potential and is fashioned in its very self to be those works of mercy.  Mother, don't forget that.  You are doing a worthy and important work, the most important of all, and your very body is a testament to that.

"Therefore, glorify God in your body."
I Cor. 6:20

Thursday, January 15, 2015

This Month in Boys - January 2015

-a monthly recap of some of the things I just don't want to forget-

John Paul

-has such a ten year old boy silly humor.  All the puns.  It's almost painful except that it's so innocently sweet.
-fashioned the greatest cardboard doula ornament for me for Christmas.
-will fight me when I send him outside to play but then spends two or more hours engrossed in snow projects or shoveling.
-could probably write his own Lego design book.
-is very concerned with his altar serving schedule and always makes sure he knows when it's coming up.  He was very excited that his birthday this year is on a Sunday and he possibly might get to serve.
-is already beginning to make references to "when I can drive."
-is excited for our new beekeeping adventure.  I really hope we can pull this off the ground.  Visions of a vast honey-selling enterprise have been filling his head.
-has been waiting -and waiting- for the neighbors to open up the skating rink in the yard.
-ties Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride ( Europe) as his favorite game.


-has been so motivated to help shovel and earn money.  He's such a good worker!  Right now, he and David are saving up for a pearler bead set.
-lost yet another tooth.  The others haven't even begun to grow in yet and he's verging on jack o'lantern.  This time he lost it in the morning and didn't tell us to see if we would notice during the day.  I didn't and he told us at dinner!  (In my defense, you can't see his bottom teeth with his normal talking or smiling…but I still felt bad!)
-decided, "when the new baby comes out, I'm going to sit and snuggle that baby for a whole week long."
-wore his new priest vestments all Christmas morning long.
-is still certain that the baby is a girl.
-says Risk is his favorite game on a cozy day.


-was the very first one in the family (besides me, of course) to feel the baby move!
-has had a few nights where he has been a handful and a half at bedtime.  I kinda thought we were done with that.
-has never held a baby (according to him…he "held" Luke when he was little) and is very excited to hold the new baby and play games with him or her.
-is, I think, the one responsible for the rearrangement of the tree ornaments practically every time I look.  along with his younger partner in crime.
-still is my 'turn on a dime' child.
-has been on a 1/3 dose of his medicine every three days for a few months now.  He says he doesn't want to take it but has never actually given us a hard time about taking it.  I'm so hopeful that at some point, he will be completely cured and not need anything.  Thank you, God!
-agrees with Michael that Risk is his favorite game.


-still copies whatever the older boys say at dinner if it gets a laugh.  Even if he has no clue why.
-is not a big fan of the ole brushing of the teeth.  Unless, of course, it means just sucking water off the brush.
-anytime you call him any silly name will adamantly and quite seriously tell you, "No, I'm a person."
-will quite insistently let you know that you can't eat red dye because "it'll make you die."  Homonym confusion for the win?  (I do tell him it's not true, don't worry ;)
-very much believes that once he eats enough food he will be bigger than Papa.  He does probably eat more than the middles and at least as much as John Paul.  If you ask him how he got so big it's always, "because I ate lots of food!"
-at over two years younger is now wearing the same size as David.
-barely eats sweets, always preferring meat or dairy.  His favorite snack is a dish of frozen peas.
-gets up around six or 6:30 most mornings.  And Brian very generously keeps him upstairs and mostly quiet while I have my coffee/prayer/blog time downstairs.
-chooses Stratego as his favorite.  Or as it sounds when he says it, "Mister Tego."

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What I Wish I Had for That First Baby {Five Favorites}

I haven't really gotten into the mindset of preparing for a new baby yet.
Not like I did last time when I was painting a room before I had even taken the test because I just had a feeling of BABY COMING.  I don't think I'll need much this time in the way of material things, unless, of course, girl.  Then a dress or two would probably be good.  

After having four I'm pretty in the know of what items actually work for us and we have most of them now.  I only wish I had known I would need these things with the first, you know, when you had the big baby shower and other people paid for them.  And because they work so much better and were so much more useful than so many of the things we were told we just had to register for.  There were so many things that ended up being barely used  and later sold and a whole bunch of things I didn't realize were so much more helpful until baby two or three in.  

So maybe I'll make this a mini-series.  Baby Things:  The things I wish I had, the things that shouldn't have been had, and the things that only weirdo (like me) people have.  Something like that.

We'll start this puppy off with what I wish I had had circa baby one.

The Arm's Reach Co-sleeper

Oh my, I love this thing.  We have the mini version of the Arm's Reach Co-sleeper and it is the bomb.  Our babes tend to want to be right in my arms or skin to skin the first few nights and then a co-sleeper attached bed works the best for us.  I can reach and pull the baby in for night feedings and put them back in without even getting up.  I feel a little freer to actually get into a deep sleep (and don't have to worry about my husband's deep sleeping).  It's the best of both worlds.  We sleep deeper but baby is near us which studies show is safer for his breathing and SIDs risk and better for breastfeeding and natural fertility cycles.

I got our used one off of Craigslist before Michael was born.  It was so much better than the ancient bassinet I used with John Paul.  It's the same level as the bed and I love that it's a neutral cream color rather than obnoxious commercial baby colors or patterns (and now there are several color options, I believe).  We don't use the straps that strap it to your bed as I think they're unnecessary (and can't figure them out anyway) and we do have the leg extenders to raise it up to our bed level.  Our babies have tended to stay in it until 6ish? months before they transition to their own crib.  Bonus, you can travel with it pretty easily and it's nice for baby to keep their own bed and sleep better!

BumGenius Cloth Diapers
(or any good cloth diapers)

How I WISH I had registered for good cloth diapers with my first!  We used disposables and I don't even remember thinking of cloth as an option.  Silly me.  I wish I could go back and have a chat with her.  We switched to cloth with number two and while cloth diapering can be done very cheaply - way cheaper than disposables - there is a start up cost to swallow.  The nicer cloth dipes, or at least the ones that are most convenient for someone transitioning to cloth, are pretty expensive up front.  I was lucky enough to get our first stash of BumGenius one-size pockets as clearanced seconds so they were "only" $10 a piece.  Brand new they can be an even bigger chunk of money to have a big enough stash for full time cloth diapering.  They aren't going to last through four kids but it would have been nice if I had just had those from the beginning to start with.

We now use a combination of BumGenius one-size and unbleached prefolds and covers.  I took advantage of an amazing Black Friday online sale at Cotton Babies and got a good stash of the one-size all-in-one diapers (no liner stuffing!) for this new little one to replace the one-size pockets in our drawer that have seen much much much better days.

The Moby Wrap

In full disclosure, I do not actually own a real Moby.  I made several by cutting a long piece of jersey to size.  So easy and so much cheaper.  But it's one of my favorite gifts to give at a baby shower because  a good wrap in the first few months of newbornhood is priceless.  When I was pregnant with my first, we registered for one of those Bjorn things.  You know, the one that Babies 'R Us tells you you're supposed to register for.  We used it a few times with John Paul but it's not good for newborn babies.  They slump and fit weird and their poor head is unsupported and it's uncomfortable with all the buckles and it's hard to get a good fit on a petite mom.  I tried a sling with Michael and that went down fast because I always always felt like he was going to fall out if I moved the wrong way or bent over too much.  By the time David came along I had discovered the magic of the Moby (or "Moby" in my case) and it changed life.  He practically lived in that thing.  He was a hard baby and without that, I would've been lost, I think.  SO wish I had had that from the first go around.

Swaddling Blankets

I gave up on swaddling for our first couple of babies.  I could never seem to do it right and they would houdini their way out of it.  Enter the invention of the swaddling blanket around the time that David was conceived.  Wonderful, wonderful things.  They stay nice and tight which they love and sleep so much better when they can't startle themselves awake.  There are a bunch of different ones out there now but we have a few of the Swaddlemes and they're great.

Plus, you get a gloworm baby (remember those?) and who doesn't want that?

A Hammocked Bathtub

I'm telling you the absolute best way to cure a baby with the post-dinner, evening light crankies is by hanging out in a warm bathtub.  The best way to let them do that is with a hammocked bathtub.  I suppose it doesn't have to have a hammock but in order for it to be helpful, it has to be one where a newborn can lay safely on their own (within view and arm's reach of a parent, of course) without needing to be held in a death grip so their slippery little body doesn't go under.  A hammock is good for that.  (The one linked above even vibrates which is a little much.  Ours I got at a garage sale.)  The little tub we got before our first was a foldable basic plastic one.  We barely used it.  We would've been just as good in the kitchen sink.  BUT with a hammocked tub we had with our last two, we could let them hang in the tub in the middle of the living room while we hung out and talked or watched a show.  (We were right next to them, of course.)  Keep a warm washcloth on their belly so that they are totally warm and a previously unhappy baby becomes ultra chill and content baby.  It's like magic.  Just add water. 

Runner up 

The runner up wish-I-had-then baby item goes to the baby seat (aka Bumbo, though the one above looks better and more versatile).  Not a must have but more of a would-have-been-nice have.  They weren't around way back in the dark ages of eleven years ago and I still don't have one.  But I have people I can borrow one from and I most definitely will and have for that stage when baby wants to be upright and a part of everything, can't quite get their body to cooperate with that, and mom needs her hands free.  They're pretty great for that.

So now I want to know…are there things you wish you had had before that first baby???

Linking up with Jenna for some Five Faves!

FYI, affiliate links enclosed!  I think I'm supposed to say that here.

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