Thursday, July 28, 2016

How NFP Can Save Your Baby's Life

In case you weren't aware, it's Natural Family Planning Awareness Week!  It's a week set aside to promote natural methods of fertility awareness and the many many benefits they contain.  While no one, of course, is required to use fertility awareness methods either within their marriage or for their own health tracking, there are lots of other advantages to its use besides the commonly known ones of achieving or avoiding pregnancy.  I'd like to point out one of the truly remarkable, and often overlooked benefits of fertility awareness - one that happens after the baby is conceived.  And perhaps, we could say it is even the most important.

For the already pregnant woman, an understanding of her fertility and the likely day of conception is an invaluable tool.  I've talked before about how knowing NFP can substantially change your birth.  It can be the difference between an induction or natural onset of labor, a vaginal or cesarean birth.  But there's more.  Knowing your fertility and conception time can also save your baby's life.  Crazy claim?  Let's see.

Identifying Progesterone Deficiencies

When a woman is  pregnant her body makes the hormone progesterone to help keep the baby alive and sustained in her womb.  A woman who is not making enough progesterone may miscarry causing the death of the baby.  We know that a healthy woman's luteal phase (the phase after she ovulates and before her menstrual cycle starts again) on average is 14 days.  A shorter luteal phase may indicate that the woman's body is not making enough progesterone to sustain a new pregnancy.  So, a baby may be conceived but there is not enough progesterone being made by the mother to keep the pregnancy.  This is why having a knowledge of ovulation is so critical.  A woman who has been charting her cycles and knows she is prone to short luteal phases and lower progesterone levels can upon believing she may be pregnant or getting the positive pregnancy test, have her progesterone levels tested and if necessary, supplement the low progesterone.  Those supplements can literally prevent a miscarriage and save the baby's life.  

This progesterone supplementation can also be used when a mother is absolutely sure that she conceived on or around a certain date but the old fashioned (and still common) way of dating her pregnancy (by using the start of the last menstrual period) shows a different day.  Since not every woman has the same length of cycle, her ovulation date is much more accurate in determining a correct gestational age and due date for her baby.  The woman can use her conception date to get a more accurate assessment of what her progesterone levels should be for how far along she truly is and make a better decision on whether they are at healthy levels or not.  Using more accurate dating makes for more trustworthy readings and puts the baby at a greater advantage.

Providing More Accurate Dating

This optimal and more accurate pregnancy dating can also be used when a woman early in her pregnancy is bleeding and a miscarriage is threatening.  Twice now I have heard from women who KNEW when they had conceived but the doctor wanted to give the baby a different gestational age either using the old form of dating or by using ultrasound dating.  Both times they were told that the baby had no heartbeat and the doctor recommended a D&C to remove the remains.  Both times, the dating was wrong and had they listened to their doctor, they would have unintentionally aborted their babies.  Both women decided to wait, trust their dates, and their babies were, in fact, alive.  They were just younger and without an observable heartbeat yet.  The bleeding may have been from the loss of a twin (called a "vanishing twin") or a simple and very common subchorionic bleed that resolved itself.  In any case, the knowledge provided when a woman can identify the different times of her cycle and know the timing of ovulation and potential conception can be invaluable to her and her baby - it can be the difference between life and death.

It is a horrible evil shame that we have easy access to this information and these treatments (sometimes the treatment simply being don't do anything and let the baby prove that it's alive!) and yet they are not used.  I must assume this is because these tiny lives have been so devalued and deemed so disposable by our medical community.  I mean, what's another miscarriage, right?  It happens all the time.  

If we are a community, a Church, that values every single human life no matter how small, then this needs to be important to us.  If we say that each human person has dignity from the moment of conception then we need to stand by and support mothers with scientifically based information on biology and fertility awareness.  If we claim to support women, we need to always be using and offering the best in terms of evidence based care and support before conception and after.  We need to be willing to question common protocol from providers and demand scientifically-based care for ourselves and our babies.  

I certainly am not a medical expert and want to make that clear.  But it seems we live in an age where women who understand their own fertility and cycles and how they were designed to work are actually more educated in the matter than much of the medical community.  It is an age where women need to advocate, sometimes fiercely, for themselves and their babies to receive care based on scientific evidence and basic human biology.  I also don't intend obviously for this to be a comprehensive look at the subject at hand or to give false hope to someone who may truly be suffering a miscarriage that is not preventable.  But I trust that the reader can discern that and the potential for this information to possibly save a life is worth a little bit of 'false' hope.  Perhaps, it may even help the mother who truly is losing her baby to exhaust every possibility and in the end know that it wasn't something that she could have prevented.  

While the knowledge may not be widespread, I am still profoundly grateful to live in a time that it is possible to understand our cycles so well and make decisions for our family based off of that information.  I'm also very grateful for the wonderful physicians and teachers we DO have that know and spread and use this information well.  I've said it before but it bears repeating:  Natural Family Planning or just plain 'ole fertility awareness is information.  That's it.  It is powerful God-designed information available to be used for our good and the good of our families.  And how we use that information can have long term (eternal!) consequences.  We are wonderfully, intricately designed by a loving and perfectly wise God Who then allows us to participate in that mystery.
Have you had an experience where knowing your cycle helped protect your baby?  I'd be very grateful if you could share your story in the comments below and possibly help others who may be facing something similar.

If you're interested in learning more about natural fertility awareness methods check out: (this is a great resource site but be aware that some of their recommendations and protocol may not always be in line with Catholic teaching)

For a list of physicians who respect and use fertility awareness in their practices:
or ask your local Catholic moms

Monday, July 25, 2016

I Want to Die With Battle Scars.

The baby found my belly.

It seems every baby has gone through this stage where during or after a nursing session they are fascinated with and amused by my mid section.  Each time it's gotten softer.  The skin that was five times stretched to fullness of life displaying the evidence of its past work more with each new life it's housed.  A few more silver streaks here, some new creases there, the skin a bit looser and softer everywhere.  Not to mention the quirky looking belly button that popped out and never went back in. The baby thinks it's hysterical.  My husband says it's beautiful.  My mom taught me that they're my battle scars.

If our bodies speak a language, then I want mine to say that I gave.  I don't want to be embarrassed that my belly was six times blessed to be swollen with life, my breasts filled and emptied tens of thousands of times.  I don't want to look with disgust on the hips widened by the passage of five fully grown, fully healthy babies.  I don't want to try to erase the creases caused by too loud laughter or sick with worry nights.  I don't want to spend precious energy seeking cures for what is simply the risk of my vocation.  I want to offer my body, given up for them.  For Him.  And I don't want to look like it didn't happen.

We won't have our bodies immediately upon death.  But as Christians we do believe that at the end of time we will.  Our bodies will be resurrected.  While we don't know what that will look like, the fact that Christ's resurrected body still had the wounds of His love, makes me wonder if we, too, will still have ours.  Perhaps at that point, viewed in the Presence and with the eye of God, they won't be deemed ugly or offensive, disgusting or embarrassing.  Perhaps they will be our glory.  Perhaps they will be a bit like His wounds, an eternal testimony that we chose to love beyond ourselves, to sacrifice our bodies for another.  They will be the scars of a battle won.

My battle is now.  It is against powers and principalities and the voices of the world.  It is not against others' flesh and blood but it is against my own.  It is a battle to choose love, to give until it hurts, to be like Him, offering my very flesh and blood for the sake of another.  It is a battle to reject the voices around us that scream that our worth is in our youth, our purpose mere pleasure.  And just like Him, we who are called to this vocation will often bear the marks of battle on our bodies.  This is my specific call from Him.  What a tragedy it would be if I were to die having preserved my body from any signs of that love.  What a waste if at the end I have found I've squandered my energy on perfectly manicured hands and cellulite-free thighs.  God help me if I stand in front of Him one day and have to answer for a talent buried in the ground, kept clean and perfect, but bearing no interest.  I can't bring Him much but I can bring Him this body, the wrinkles and scars a testament to how I tried, albeit imperfectly, to love.

My goal, my calling, is to love and love - if it is real - costs something.  It is an action. Mother Teresa said, "Love to be real, it must cost, it must hurt, it must empty us of self."  She had more pressing things to do than worry about her crow's feet or sagging skin.  She was too caught up in love to be dissecting herself in the mirror.  I will do what I can to be healthy, yes.  I'm weaker than I should be and I am obliged to care for my body in the way I eat and exercise.  I honor Him by honoring how my body was designed to work - with real food from the earth and with real movement from work and play.  I respect His design for my body enough to only use medicines and supplements insofar as they help my body to function as He created it.  I can be more open to life and available to love when I take care of what He has given.  But I refuse to mourn that using my body in love will leave its mark.  If my back aches let it be from carrying one of His children.  If my eyes grow weak, let it be from straining to see the little people around me.

I don't want to be a person whose eyes are turned inward, mourning what we all know is passing anyway.  I don't want to grasp at the exalted body of a teenager, a body that has never known the joy of a baby's smile, drunk with milk from its breasts, a body that has never known the triumph after the last agonizing push as new life slips out from it and into aching arms.  I want to rejoice that He gave me the opportunity to love and I want to honor that this love was so real it changed my very skin and bones.

If we are to be running a race, I hope to show up at the finish line sweaty and aching, knees bloody and heart pounding.  What I want is to reach the end of my days, wrinkled and worn, scarred and used up.  I want to give it back to Him and say, "This is what I did with what you gave me.  I lived.  I loved."  No doubt I will grapple a bit a lot with letting go of the image of me in my head, an image formed by the world's eye, to meet the reality of what I have become, what I hope is an image formed by His.  But I will try.  Because I want to be a woman who gives my assent again to continue that fiat started long ago.  Be it done unto me, Lord.  Even the stretch marks. 

I don't want to look back and regret what I didn't give and when in doubt, I hope I will err on the side of giving too much.  I want to reach the end of my days having held nothing back.  I want to reach His feet, exhausted and scarred from the battle, and hear Him say those words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant.  The battle has been won."

"We are...always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh."  2 Corinthians 4:10-11

Monday, July 18, 2016

Your Rights During a Miscarriage

When it comes to birth more and more women are realizing the rights and the amount of choices they have. We are slowly seeing a shift in provider and hospital protocol in our country towards respecting the rights of the mother to make choices in her care and that of her baby. Birth plans and questionnaires are becoming more common and hospitals are tiptoeing their way into care that places the respect and love for mothers and babies ahead of profit and efficiency. It’s very slow, yes. We are far from where we need to be but the movement has been growing for years and is finally making some headway in mainstream birth. But just as it is true that mothers have the right to a dignified birth and true evidence based care, they also have a right to that when it comes to miscarriage.

Regrettably, this is not always the case and in the midst of shock, fear, grief, and ignorance, the mother suffering a miscarriage is swept into a medical system that may or may not be giving her proper individualized attention and care. She often feels like she doesn’t have a choice in her treatment or course of action. She often doesn’t get valid answers to her questions or because she is in the midst of grief, doesn’t think to even ask them. Very rarely are options presented to this vulnerable mom so that she can then make the choices that are best for her in her circumstances. There are countless mothers and fathers who, looking back upon the loss of their baby, wish they had done things a bit differently. Because of this, while of course we hope and pray the information is never needed, it’s important for women of childbearing possibility to know their rights when it comes to having a miscarriage before it happens. So, below are a list of rights that a woman has when it comes to miscarriage and stillbirth. This list is not exhaustive and I welcome you to add any others in the comments below.

During a Miscarriage…

You have the right to another ultrasound to confirm beyond any doubt that your baby has passed.

You have the right to request a copy of the picture.

You have the right to a funeral for your baby.

You have the right to bury your baby.

If the baby’s body passes in the hospital or the remains removed via a D&C, you have the right to your baby’s remains. Be aware that in some states there may be laws governing how his or her body is released. (Funny how in some states this same “blob of tissue” in some laws is now considered human remains and cannot be released without a funeral director’s oversight.)

You have the right to ask to be tested for progesterone levels and an immediate prescription for supplements if there is a chance it could save your baby.

You have the right to know all the short term and long term risks of a D&C procedure. For some women a D&C may be the smartest option however women deserve to know that it has the risk of causing infertility or compromising a future pregnancy, weakening the cervix resulting in a future premature birth, or complicating a future birth because of scar tissue.

You have the right to refuse a vaginal exam. If baby is still alive, it can increase the risk of a membrane rupture and preterm labor, compromising the life of the baby. They also carry the risk of infection to the mother.

You have the right to have the father, a doula, and/or other support person present during any medical exams or treatment.

You have the right to hold your baby’s body and not be rushed.

You have the right to choose some sort of pain relief.

You have the right to take personal time from work.

You have the right to say no.

You have the right to choose to do nothing.

You have the right to opt to deliver the baby’s body at home.

You have the right to ask questions.

You have the right to trust your instincts.

You have the right to not have any concerns dismissed.

You have the right to be treated with respect and dignity and at any point you have the right to change providers or ask for a new staff member.

You have the right to name your baby, grieve your baby, and talk (or not) about your baby.

Especially when a mother and father are grieving, they deserve to be treated with compassion, evidence-based care, and have their voices heard and respected. Maybe, slowly, as more and more people share their stories and stand up for better care, we can make a difference, not stopping until every mother and baby receive the care they deserve.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Very Good Day (for carousels and photo shoots)

Today was a very good day.  We decided to take a quick trip up after Mass to the lake for a picnic lunch and hit up the little carousel park nearby.  The last time we were here was two years ago and Luke couldn't remember any of it.  (Side note:  In those old pictures Luke looks exactly like Ben does now.  WE CLONE THE BABIES.)  The park is perfect for the under 52" crowd.  On a whim I decided to have the boys change after Mass into their polos to have an update of those last pictures.  We've got a Ben now, after all.  It works well to coerce them into some pictures before the park opens, using the opening of the gates as hostage for looking at the camera.  It also helps that there are few things boys like to do more than throw rocks into water so they stay relatively happy while I get to pose them.  

So here's my fancy photo shoot.  Some cute, some not as, but I love that my phone now takes pictures pretty much as well as my old camera did.  Or maybe even better, really.  The weather couldn't have been more beautiful. The bright sun did make for some squintyness, glare, and shadows.  But, whatever.  For getting somewhat decent shots of five little boys, I'll take it.  

A few rocks were sampled in the taking of these photos.

Yes, a much needed haircut is forthcoming.

Awful mom forgot to get a pic of baby Ben alone...I should just throw in one of those old ones of Luke.  

John Paul was super sweet teaching his little brother how to skip rocks.

And a few less than stellar from the rides and games.  Can't beat twenty-five cents a ride.  Rides and ice cream for four kids all under $20.

A very good day.  A day to remind me that while having five kids and being open to life isn't for the faint of heart, it's a very blessed and joyful and noisy and worth-it-all life indeed.

Friday, July 15, 2016

How to Design a Church {from a mom's perspective}

I know, I know.  The likelihood that sharing my thoughts and preferences might have any real life effect are slim.  But I can't help myself from thinking them as I go into different churches and experience the liturgy in very different environments.  I'm a mom to a mess of little boys and that is currently the vantage point I have when I go to Mass in all sorts of locations.  We've been to beautiful cathedrals and ugly, er, different quasi-church buildings, massive basilicas and tiny chapels, modern parishes and ancient shrines.  We've seen a lot of churches.  Through all of this, my belief that the physical environment in which we worship has a significant effect on how we worship has become increasingly solidified.  Not only does it affect my own worship and faith, it affects the kids.  I'd even go so far as to say it can have an effect on the catechesis and faith choices of our children later on.  I've noticed a few things and have a few thoughts.  Most parish councils are composed of parishioners beyond the parenting small children phase, it seems, so perhaps this is a perspective that might be worth a consideration should any random pastor confronted with the prospect of a new church design want (yet another) opinion.

I, of course, know finances and time and space are all huge stresses and considerations.  So are probably a million other things that I have the luxury to ignore with this little post.  And I don't at all think that every parent will agree with everything I've written.  But here are my thoughts to take for what they're worth.  You know, for the next time you just happen to be designing a church...

1.  Please reconsider that trendy "in the round" plan.

I know modern architects and builders may have convinced the world that having parishioners seated in the round is "more welcoming and inviting" or some such thing.  I'm convinced that not one of those people have ever brought children to church.  Because if they had, they would know that instead of feeling more welcomed, you now realize that every. single. eye. in the church can now see your children and any and every thing they do.  Heck, even when they're really being great, it's still very hard realizing that everyone can see every wiggle and nursing session, every missalette fight and spit up.  While I can't speak for every parent, I feel so much more self-conscious and hyper-vigilant in churches designed like that.  In a traditional straightforward seating, I feel so much freer to relax and worship and enter into the liturgy knowing that my kiddos' good or awful behavior is much less likely to be a distraction to someone else.  I want them to be there and I expect them to not sit perfectly still, they're kids after all, but I also want people to not be distracted by what's going on in our pew.  

2.  Pews - the higher the better.

We parents love them, especially we mothers who may need to nurse or who are managing fidgety toddlers.  A high backed pew can cover a multitude of sins.  I think that's how the saying goes, right? 

3.  Design your 'cry room' well.

You may not know it, but cry rooms are the topic of much debate and controversy in the Catholic mom world.  Who would have thought, right?  But there's lots of talk.  Should we use it?  Shouldn't we?  Are we expected to use it all the time?  Does it make children unwelcome in church?  There's lots to discuss there but I fall into the line of having a small room available in the back to use only when necessary and only by parishioners who truly need it.  Not elaborate but with a few chairs and kneelers and certainly not at the side or where everyone in the parish can still see what is happening (yes, those are out there!).  It's really helpful for moms with a newborn learning to breastfeed or a chatty or furious toddler or a child with special needs to have a safe space to go.  But please no televisions or buckets and buckets of noisy toys.  A good speaker and window is helpful to help us still celebrate the Mass while we are in there.  And, if I may be so bold, please consider placing a sign somewhere that the room is only to be used as necessary for those who, for whatever reason, cannot be in the main church that day and it is not just a play room or an "able to slip out post Communion easier" room.  We want children in the main church!  But we would love a place to go where we can slip out when needed and nurse the baby or change the messy diaper or deal with the fit and still (somewhat) hear the Mass and feel like we are present.

4.  Toddler-proof those kneelers.

Ah, kneelers.  We love the kneelers.  But you know how kitchen drawers now can have the "soft close" option? There MUST be something like that that can be designed for kneeler hinges now.  The entire congregation will be grateful, I promise, especially come Communion time when a well placed slam can shake the whole church and interrupt the holiest of prayers.  Our toes and shins will also approve.

5.  Please, for the love of all that is Holy, place Jesus front and center.

It's helpful for all of us to be directed towards the One Whom we worship but even more so for children.  It helps us know where to genuflect and it's hard to understand why we would have Him any other place, you know?  I really don't know how to explain to my children that yes, Jesus is present in the Eucharist in the tabernacle but, if He is truly God and we're here to worship Him, why He would then be off to the side or hidden in a closet.  I think placing Him anywhere else risks the child (or even the adult) believing that He's not the whole reason we're there.  I know that kind of perceived disparity is what led my heart away from the church as a teenager.  (They say they believe this but it sure doesn't look like it...)  If we believe it, our churches should wholeheartedly reflect it.

6.  Let the music ministry be placed behind the people.

I've definitely found it's more helpful as a family with young children to have the music ministry in a choir loft or in the back.  When they are in the front, it seems like a show rather than a liturgy, and children (maybe even all of us) get a bit more conditioned into thinking it's more about entertainment than worship.  My eyes inevitably go toward them rather than Him and the altar.  I find it's helpful when the music is coming from behind us rather than at us.  It feels more like we as a community are worshipping together and the movement of the music goes toward Him rather than toward us.  

7.  Finally, more than anything, make it beautiful.

When we go into a church we want it to feel different.  We want our eyes and ears and noses and imaginations drawn toward heaven.  That's why we're there and we make the (sometimes heroic feeling) effort to come with all of our children.  We want to worship with all of heaven and the Church on earth.  And I can guarantee you that children notice a difference.  I've seen my children sit in awe and worship during a two or three hour Mass in the most beautiful basilicas, drawn into the beauty and mystery of the space.  They don't behave the same way in the other churches.  They're more distracted and fidgety.  There's something about true timeless beauty that draws all of our souls more into the sacred.  The places that look and feel and smell like church...we need those.  There are so few buildings of real beauty left, it seems.  Our minds, and especially our children's minds, are inundated with cheap marketing and garish visuals all the time.  We need something different, an escape from the ugly.   Please don't feel like you have to dumb down the art or music or design or give us something more 'modern'.  We have that all around us.  Please give us something truly beautiful and timeless, a place where we can encounter Beauty itself.  It's not wasteful or outdated or beyond our means.  It's what our souls are craving, even those of our children.

So there's the long winded opinion from a random mom of the littlest parishioners.  I truly believe these little choices can welcome more families and let them know they are loved, valued, and help them truly encounter the person of Jesus Christ, which is the point of it all.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

{pretty, happy, funny, real} - vol. 85ish

Except that apparently there's no {phfr} today?  But this post is already written so
I'm just gonna pop in for a quick {phfr} check in anyway.  I'll write something with actual words maybe - just maybe - even featuring such things as complete sentences and grammar and thought processes...umm...soon. 

We moved our coneflower to outside our garden and it's starting to bloom.

My boys toiling the land

Skinny boy potato hoein' 

The briefest of showers over the weekend.  It's been such a dry summer!

Someone was more than happy to finally pull out that first loose tooth.  Good thing because the new ones are already growing in behind!

His favorite spot.  He adores crawling around on and near plunging off of the couch.

His other favorite place.  His last one is now the cat's food and water bowls...

Y'all will be so proud of me!  I made zoodles and everyone actually liked them!  Thanks for all the suggestions on that last post!

Seen on the way home from Mass...  It'd be funny except it's {real}.

Happy Thursday!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Prayers, Garbage Picking, Elimination Diets, & More {7QT}

Jesus, have mercy.  I don't have much to add to the conversation on race and violence and murder and the horrible things that have happened in the last few days.  I don't consider myself well informed enough on the matters at hand to have any sort of educated opinion except that I know the devil is dwelling in all of this.  The anger, the racism, the murder, the division, the blood.  Last month I wrote a piece on the culture of outrage.  There are appropriate times to be angry at injustice, heck yes.  But that anger is only worth anything if it moves toward action.  Simply being angry gets us nowhere or worse, only fuels the fires and causes more violence and death.  Let your anger be channeled into discussions and prayer and fasting and donations and peace.  

Our family will be praying a Divine Mercy Chaplet today at 3 p.m. for the victims of violence these past few days as well as for peace in our country.  Join us?

Y'all know I love me some garbage picking.  LOOK WHAT THE SIDE OF THE ROAD SHARED YESTERDAY:

They are in absolutely beautiful condition!!  I think we're actually going to keep the high chair since we've never had a really great one.  And as much as I want to keep the beautiful bassinet (it's PERFECT!!), we don't need it so I'll either pass it along to one of my pregnant friends or donate it to the crisis pregnancy center.  I have a feeling they were hoping someone would pick it up because it just doesn't make sense to throw this away.  I just love when people give stuff away without expecting anything in return.  I get such a thrill when we put something by the road and someone comes and takes it!  (Is that weird?)

We're about to be knee deep in zucchini and summer squash, friends.  Help a sister out.  What are your favorite kid-friendly recipes?  Yes, I often saute with oil or butter and garlic and salt but that gets old real quick and the boys aren't big fans.  We've done zucchini cakes in the past that everyone loved but they're pretty time intensive and if you don't get every bit of moisture out, they can be mushy.  Are one of those zoodler things worth it?  This one is pretty cheap so maybe it's worth it to try...  I'm also on a super fun dairy-free thing right now so that complicates things a bit.  

Speaking of which...
Yes.  Dairy-free at the moment.  In case you were wondering why, well, here goes the long and boringish story.  A few days after Ben was born my legs started getting itchy.  Crazy itchy where I would start to bleed from the scratching.  That's never happened after any of my births but I was hoping it was a weird getting older hormone thing or maybe a side effect of the pitocin or saline I received at the hospital that I don't normally get.  It went away a few days later but for the couple months or so postpartum I just felt different.  Like my body was off somehow.  I had no desire to eat (postpartum and nursing!) and all I wanted was water.  I described it to my husband like I felt like I was "shedding" and I just wanted everything out of me.  

That gradually went away, too, after a few months but then at about four months or so postpartum I started developing little eczema patches all over my legs.  I've never had any issue at all with eczema and every few weeks I would get a new patch and they would flare up every so often and bleed and peel (super pretty!!).  I got a few smaller patches on my abdomen and back but it was mostly on my legs.  I kept feeling like I should probably start eliminating foods to see if pregnancy had triggered a food allergy which I know happens.  But I kept trying other treatments because cheese and bread and laziness.  Anyhow...a few months ago I started periodically getting an itchy feeling all over and my sister was diagnosed officially with celiac's (which can run in families) so I decided it was finally time to cut things out at least to know and also to rule out anything more serious.  My guess is that pregnancy triggered some sort of sensitivity or autoimmune type of response?  I didn't notice a huge change with the gluten (except that too much of it will cause bloating) so I moved on to dairy and am in the midst of that.  I'm simultaneously wanting to see a difference and not wanting to because cheese and ice cream.  Boring story done now.

How about some pics from our Independence Day?

Our oldest turned 12 (12!) while he was away at camp last week so we did a really lame simple celebration on July fourth as well.  No fancy cake and because of the hot temperatures I steered him toward rice krispy treats so that the oven wouldn't have to be used.  Apparently all the fun special birthday treatment stops when you turn 12 around here?  But he did have camp so.

Not even the solace of a good picture taken.

Lastly, please say a prayer for the repose of Brian's grandma.  She passed away in her sleep yesterday. She lived a long life and was a beautiful faithful woman.  One of my favorite stories of her was that she put off having knee surgery done for years because it meant that she would no longer be able to kneel at Mass (which until the last few years she attended daily).  I know her prayers for her family are even more powerful now but I also know she'd be the first to ask that we pray for her soul, too.  If you could say a quick prayer for Mary, we'd be so grateful!

Have a great weekend, friends.  God bless.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

What I Learned From Summer Camp

Our two oldest went to their first ever sleep away camp for five days this past week.  Considering that we don't even do normal sleepovers this was a pretty big deal and one we discerned and thought about for a long time.  Quelling both my outlandish or responsible fears, they had a fabulous time.  My oldest even turned twelve while he was there!  I don't have any pictures from when they were there because I didn't even think to take any at the drop off or pick up.  But I feel like such a momentous event for our little family needs to be chronicled somehow even if it in quick jotted note form!  So here's some of the lessons I learned from camp week:


I learned that, despite the normal mom doubts, we're not doing a half bad job at raising confident, secure kids that can hold their own while away from us and make pretty decent choices while they're gone.  (Those two, anyway...)

I learned that the first three days I'll be pretty good without them here but at about 10 p.m. on the fourth day I will lie in bed and begin to panic with all sorts of awful scenarios running through my head and I'll desperately need a quick "they're both great" text from a friend who's there to calm the crazy mind games.

I learned (again) that God will always provide the right grace for each kid at the right time.  

I learned that these two boys can be trusted to make pretty good food decisions and that explaining your reasoning for family decisions really does work. 

I learned that number one is still not very sleep-deprived sensitive and number two still very much is.

I learned that the Holy Spirit is a better parent than I ever could be and when we work together it's amazing.

I learned that the amount of fighting at home when two are away reduces to almost nil.

I learned that when it comes to the safety of your kids and your peace of mind, it's worth it to ask question after question after question.   

I learned that showering is (apparently) for the weak.

I learned that newly turned 12 year olds can still want to share everything with their parents.

I learned (and knew) that I have great friends that I can trust with my kids.

I learned the joy of watching your two boys have something special to share as you hear them sing their camp songs together while doing their chores.  

I learned that five days is just about the right amount of time before you really start to ache for them to be home again.

I learned that my boy will listen to the voice of God and be willing to share what he hears in front of a hundred other peers and counselors.  

I learned that my other boy will be willing to lead the chain of kids winding around the room during praise and worship ("because then I could make it go slower...they went too fast once and I fell").

I learned that no matter the age, no matter how many kids you have, you will feel the void when they aren't at home and your family will feel sharply incomplete.

God is so good.  I'm so grateful for the experience they had and am so looking forward to how God will continue to work through it.

(how boys pack)

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