Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Life With A New Baby In the House

An odd thing has started happening to me.

I'll be chatting pleasantly with someone when suddenly my conversation partner would look over at cute Baby Tess, grimace and mutter "I bet that new baby is really messing up your older kids home-schooling experience!"

It happens over and over again.

I first noticed this phenomena while talking to my OB. He's says "Abby, do you need any birth control?"

"No!" I giggled. I smile at the baby in my lap and 3 bored children hanging off of various pieces of medical equipment. (Because that's how we post-NICU mother's roll. You must take all FOUR children to a post-birth vaginal exam because your poor husband has already exhausted all of his 2010 sick leave.)

"Instead, you'd rather have a tutor! Right Abby?"

"Huh?"

"You know, a tutor . . ." my doctor said uncomfortably "for your kids . . . because your home-schooling is going so badly this year.

"SAY WHAT???"

Until I started getting bombarded with criticism, I didn't think our home-schooling was going so badly this year. Since my 1st and 2nd grader can discuss organic chemistry with their Dad on weekends and polish their basic phonic skills with Mom on weekday mornings, I figured we were we solidly on track.

Granted, as the sleep deprived mother of a newborn, I'm not the most creative teacher this Fall. Home-schooling comes behind making sure that Baby Tess is healthy and growing, insuring my Family has clean clothes in their drawer and good food in their bellies.

All the same, the stream of comments started getting under my skin. So during Thanksgiving break, I kicked our school lessons into higher gear.

Which all explains why this morning I was sitting in front of a chalkboard with Baby Tess trying to teach my seven year old daughter Hannah double digit addition.

We'd hit a rough patch. Hannah could add double digit numbers when they were listed out horizontally (10 +15 = 25) but she was having trouble when the equations were listed out vertically. Suddenly the number 1,105 was showing up as an answer to the above equation.

I could tell that Hannah was about to lose it. When things get tough, my sanguine tends to fly off into an 'This is too hard and I can NEVER understand it" tantrum. I could see the cracks beginning to surface. We were way past my usual line "Jesus likes it when we do hard things for him, it's called perseverance!"

Totally inspired, I picked up sweet Baby Tess and used her as a ventriloquist.

"Shh! Don't worry Hannah, I know the answer." I had the speechless baby say to her sister.

Then I picked up a piece of pink chalk and put it in the baby's hands. I had Baby Tess assume the classic Thinker's pose.

"Hmmmmm!" Baby Tess said. "What can be the answer to 10 +15? I know! I know!"

Putting my hand on top of Baby Tess I had her draw out a bottle under the equals sign!

"That's it! That's it!" I had Baby Tess sing out merrily! "Hannah the answer to all of life's problems is always a bottle of milk!"

My stressed Hannah went from mad, to confused, to side splitting laughter. She thought my little comedy routine was the bees knees.

After we'd played out the comic math lesson, giving the further answers of "a pacifier" and "a clean diaper", I shrugged my shoulders.

"Maybe you should take another try" I suggested gently. "It doesn't seem like Baby Tess is much help on the math section of your Quiz Bowl Team!"

Hannah happily picked up the pieces of her math equations and went on to correctly answer 4 new problems.

So that would be the answer that I'd hand my doctor and all those naysayers out there.

Yes, babies are hard work. Babies are messy. Babies do tend to throw off your normal routine and spiral your life into chaos.

HOWEVER, at the exact same time babies can help propel your entire family forward.

If my Hannah was an only child, I'd have many more hours each week to go over double-digit addition with her. Most of that "extra" time we would have spent butting heads and becoming increasingly miserable.

Sometimes what you really need is a silly, giggly, newborn baby Sister in your math class to make things come out right.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Deep Mystery of the Incarnation

From Five Hundred Chapters by St. Maximus the Confessor, abbot.

"The Word of God, born once in the flesh . . . is always willing to be born spiritually in all who desire him. In them he is born as an infant as he fashions himself in them by means of their virtues. He reveals himself to the extent that he knows someone is capable of receiving him. He diminishes the revelation of his glory not out of selfishness but because he recognizes the capacity and resources of those who desire to see him. Yet, in the transcendence of mystery, he always remains invisible to all."
(Advent, Office of the Readings, pg. 519)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Prayer: How the Lost Get Found!

Have great HOPE for success from the Holy Father's call for a prayer Vigil tonight for Nascent Human Life. Even stubborn hearts can get turned around with the touch of Christ's grace.

I should know!

(For the full story on how I went from a pro-choice, career-obsessed Protestant woman to a pro-life, Catholic mother of five click here.)

Vigil for Nascent Life

The Holy Father has asked all Catholics to hold a vigil for Life on this last day before the Advent Season.

"Today, Pope Benedict XVI has called Catholics worldwide to a special prayer for the most vulnerable persons in the world with a profound conviction that our attention to them is the cornerstone to peace on earth.

He asked every bishop to lead his diocese in a Vigil for Nascent Life.
This prayer will be prayed in Catholic churches around the world, invoking God's protection on all human beings who have been called into existence.

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict recently said, "when the promotion of the dignity of the human person is the primary inspiration of political and social activity that is committed to search for the common good, solid and enduring foundations are created for building peace and harmony between peoples."

In our world today, those who were just conceived and those who are in the womb of their mothers are often not shown peace, but the opposite. Their lives are ended.
We pray today for the many ways that human life, the very gift of God, is threatened and often deemed useless.

We pray to end abortion; we pray for the embryos stored at fertility clinics; and we pray for those newly created human persons in research clinics whose fate is destruction.

In this prayer, we also pray for ourselves, that we might be instruments of God's love to ensure all lives are treated as sacred.

It is important for us to remember not only the fetus and the embryo, but also those who are in a position to bring dignity to the very delicate life of the unborn person.

In our prayer this evening, we ask for the protection of pregnant women who are vulnerable to physical violence that they might be safe from harm and their child might be safe as well.

We pray for those parents who have received a diagnosis of a fetal abnormality of their unborn son or daughter. May these parents receive the grace and support to celebrate the life of their very special child or children who may have special needs so that they choose life for their loved ones without falling to the pressures of abortion.

Our prayer extends to medical research and science.
May God's natural law be applied in all testing, remembering that every human person is precious to God.
As the Judeo-Christian Scriptures proclaim in Psalm 139 (13-14), "You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works!"

May our medical treatments using adult stem cells continue with the great success we have already achieved, so that cures continue to help those afflicted while no emerging humans or nascent life is destroyed in the treatment of disease.
I have invited the pastors in our diocese to share in this Vigil for Nascent Life at our Sunday Vigil Masses this evening." (quoted article from Cleveland Catholic Diocese)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Baby Skylar is Home!

Thank you for all the prayers said on behalf of Baby Skylar, my baby Tessy's old roommate at the NICU. After 87 days, this baby is now HOME! Thank you, St. Nicholas!

 

Here's a picture I snapped last week with Mom and baby hanging out in Skylar's new "big girl crib".

Enjoy life outside the NICU, Baby Sky! As Miss Tess can tell you, it's easy livin'. All the food you want, whenever you want it. No one waking you up in the middle of the night to draw blood. No weird tests or funny smells or uncomfortable NG tubes down your throat. A Mommy who suddenly doesn't have to drive an hour just to change your diaper. Sunshine on your face.

Life with a healthy, pretty Skylar is going to be beautiful!

This Thanksgiving, I'm Thankful For Baby Tess

 

. . .and all the people who cared for her
. .. all the people who loved her
. . . and all the people who prayed for her!
Thank you!

Turkey Trot

 

After four years of resistence, this was the year that I finally brought my kids to my Sister Emily's favorite athletic event "The Turkey Trot." As my husband said, after my sister's heroic service to my family during Baby Tessy's illness "Give Aunt Emily anything she wants!" (My Sister is the one in the middle holding my daughter, Maria. She just finished running the Marine Corps Marathon last month.)

In previous years, I was rather smug about going to Mass in the morning and hosting Thanksgiving at my house in the afternoon. I felt like charity runs were a tad less important than eating Jesus himself. I ate humble pie when I realized this year that the food pantry which hosts this charity event, So Others Might Eat (SOME) was actually run by a Catholic priest.

I was totally shocked by the amount of money friends donated to this run. In one day, we raised what took 33 months for Jon and I to donate to the local Catholic food pantry from our own teeny pocketbook.

Thanks to my Protestant (and vegetarian!) Sister who found a way to combine charity on Thanksgiving Day with a super, yummy free-range Turkey from a local Amish farm.

 
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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Today My Archbishop Becomes a Cardinal!


EWTN is replaying the broadcast of the first ceremony at 12 noon today.

Also, for an adorable "techie" post on the reasons to prepare our hearts this Advent, check out this post on my Archdiocese Blog.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why I Love My Husband- Part III



Because I like to give those Mission of Charity Sisters a run for their money . . .

A quote from Mother Teresa:

"I'll never forget my own mother. She used to be very busy the whole day, but as soon as the evening came, she used to move very fast to get ready to meet my father. At that time we didn't understand; we used to smile; we used to laugh; and we used to tease her; but now I remember what a tremendous, delicate love she had for him. Didn't matter what happened, but she was ready there with a smile to meet him.

I tell my Sisters, 'We must more and more fall in love with God. Let it not be said that one single woman in the world loves her husband better than we do Christ.'"

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us. Help us to greet our husbands with a loving smile this evening after a long, hard day!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Amnesia

So I was on the US Postal Service Website today to order nice stamps for our Christmas Cards, and I wondered how in the heck I missed the fun unveiling ceremony for the Mother Teresa stamp which was held in my own backyard at the National Basilica on September 5, 2010.

Then I remembered, "Oh yeah, on that day my Teresa was still dying at our local community hospital."

Guess that was a good reason to skip Mother Teresa's big party! :-)

On other news from the US Postal Service, did you catch that from 1978 to 2009 the "traditional" stamp has always honored the Madonna and Child. For some unexplained reason, in 2010 we've suddenly switched to honoring a generic angel? Anyone have any information on this? I like sending my Mom on my mail!

Send Beautiful Pictures this Holiday!

Just wanted to share that the Metropolitan Museum of Art Shop is having a buy one, get a second set 50% off on all of their exquisite Christmas Card sets. It's so hard to find cards that do Our Blessed Mother justice, but so many of these paintings are jaw-droppingly gorgeous!

Victory!

I just took 4 kids to Michael's (a local craft store) and they all were EXCELLENT! Wow!

Michael's isn't on the bus line, so we made a special trip today for the first time in almost 2 years. I can't believe the difference between taking a 7,6,3 and a newborn into the store, versus being there with a 5, 4, and 1 1/2 year old.

Michael's is "temptation to touch" city. But we did great!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Calling all knitters!

My husband would like to me to knit a tea cosy for our family for Christmas. I've found an easy looking pattern, but its from 1915!

Anyone an expert on antique knitting terms? What does "5-ply BEEHIVE Scotch Fingering" yarn or "No. 8 Celluloid Knitting Needles" mean?

Here's the link:
http://www.allfreecrafts.com/knitting/teacosy.shtml

Happy St. Elizabeth of Hungary Feast Day!

My seven year daughter introduced me to this wonderful saint.

My favorite St. Elizabeth of Hungary story is when the sweet queen ran out of room to house a sick leper in her castle, she decided to place him her own royal bed. Her husband was very "put out" and started to chide her for exposing him to infection. Just in the middle of the rant he looked over at their royal bed-- the leper transformed into an image of Jesus! Her husband stopped in mid-sentence, "Yes, Elizabeth, do what you will" and gave his consent.

I didn't get time to make these delicious looking rose cupcakes in honor of this saint today. Will try again on her "old feast day", November 19th.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us!

ht: Catholic cuisine (a great site, scroll down to see St. Elizabeth of Hungry food ideas)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Surgery Today

 
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My baby Tessy's buddy Miss Skylar Elizabeth is getting surgery at her NICU to repair a hernia either today or tomorrow. I'm planning to visit our little sweetheart tonight.

Can you please say a prayer today for Skylar?

11/17 Update: Got to hang out with my pretty princess friend last night. ADORABLE! Poor kid is currently on a fast for surgery right now and will come back tonight on a ventilator. There are just no easy days for a baby the NICU. Last hiccup before your homecoming Little Skylar, last hiccup before home!



ht: Artwork by Little Catholic Bubble

Monday, November 15, 2010

Real Love Stories

Miss Betty Beguiles is back online (HURRAH!) and she's got the cutest conversation going on her website while she unpacks her house. Stop by and leave a comment.

Her basic question: Was it love at first sight? How did you know he was the one?

Here's My Story:

At age 25, I broke down in tears over my sorry dating life in the middle of a tour of Notre Dame in Paris. I said my first Hail Mary (I was Protestant at the time) from a printed guidebook I picked up there in English. I told Jesus "Okay, I'm ready to date your way."

Nine days later I was back in the States having a Saturday night out on the town. My husband saw me from across a crowded bar and he fell in love at first sight.

Our first conversation that night was unusually easy. I didn't know that he'd be my husband, but I knew that I felt unusually comfortable talking to a stranger. I gave him my phone number--something I'd NEVER done to a strange boy before.

My husband was worried about freaking me out with his intensity, so we had a series of weird (to me) non-date meetings--walking his dog in the snow, talking in a coffee shop, etc.

Three weeks after we met it was Valentines Day. My husband showed up to attend Church with me. He left me a special Valentine message based on the movie "Mission Impossible." We were supposed to meet on a bridge overlooking our graduate school at 10 PM.

I went to the wrong bridge!

My husband had given up hope that I was coming. "I guess she doesn't like me," he thought. Just then, I showed up at the other side of the right bridge (in the middle of a snowstorm) carrying a red carnation.

When my husband saw the flower in my hand he said "I guess she does like me!"

Almost ten years into a sacramental Catholic marriage, I still do!

What Not to Send

(my apologies to What Not to Wear)

Just for fun here is a list of the worst gifts Jon and I have ever sent to our families:

1) Homemade Candles (which were packed incorrectly and became dangerous glass shards to all who opened them)

2) Homemade Flannel Pajama Bottoms (This was my first attempt to sew as an adult. I didn't know how to finish the bottoms properly and they all developed giant holes in the crotch after the first wash. Only my dear husband treasured the fraying robe that I made him for the next 7 year!)

3) Plastic Safari Animals in Paper Maiche Boxes (In college, I once got $5 gifts for my siblings to put under the tree with an attached promissory note to buy cooler gifts during my upcoming trip to South Africa two days later. My sibs have never let me live that one down).

4) A Homemade Christmas CD (with music illegally downloaded from the Internet)

And the Worse Gift EVER!

5) A Water buffalo
(from Heifer International. I remembered this project as a child and convinced my new husband to send all our gifts from this site. The reaction from every single gift recipient was horrible! My Sisters-in-Laws still call it "the Christmas we got gifts that were actually sent to someone else.")

Christmas Shopping

I love getting formed in Christ!

This year, I got inspired by the Holy Spirit to completely reverse my gift giving strategy. I just bought the "hardest to please" difficult people on my list FIRST with money from my husband's November paycheck.

I'm also spending money this month to get beautiful holy Holiday Cards this year. I'm even creating extra special pre-printed Spiritual Bouquet cards for all the priests and religious in our lives.

I told God that this year, for the first time, I'm not going to worry about my FOUR kids Christmas gifts. My own kids will get the last minute Target run with whatever money is left over from my grocery budget on December 23.

I just figured out finally that my kids are easy to please. They are with me all the time. They get almost everything they want every day. They've got Jesus in their heart already during this Christmas season.

I'd like to use most of our limited holiday budget to bring gifts of LOVE to other lonely people this year.

(In the past I've obsessed over buying my kids gifts first and then use the money left over to buy really lame other "obligation" gifts for other friends and family members.)

St. Nicholas, please pray for us!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Prayer Request

 
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Please help Baby Tessy's NICU roommate make it home by her Mama's Birthday on Christmas Day.

Miss Skylar Elizabeth was born almost the same day as Baby Tess, but she was only at 27 weeks. She's growing like a bean in the NICU and getting more adorable each day.

Please beg St. Nicholas to send her home soon!

ht: Artwork by Little Catholic Bubble

Meet the Saints- St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

St. Frances is an example of a dream gracefully deferred for the good of the Church.

As a little girl, St. Frances had a burning desire to be a missionary in China. She invited a game of sailing paper boats in a stream by her house. She gave up candy because "she probably couldn't enjoy candy in China."

After overcoming many obstacles to her vocation to religious life, St. Frances found herself face to face with the Pope. She asked for the Pope's blessing to start her new order of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to evangelize China. This was the moment she dreamed of as a child.

The Pope said No!

What?

The Pope said, "Go West, not East." With tears in his eyes, the Pope told St. Frances about all the suffering Italian immigrants faced in America. They didn't know the language. Because of racism, Italian immigrants had trouble finding work or even receiving the sacraments from the Irish dominated American Catholic clergy. "Our country men are in grave danger of losing their faith, it weighs heavily on my heart. Won't you go to America and help them?" the Pope asked.

St. Frances shoved her childhood dream in a drawer and a said YES!

Once she got in America, St. France had a chilly welcome. As soon as she got off the boat, the Archbishop of New York said "Why are you here? Didn't you get my letter telling you and your Sisters aren't needed. We have Nuns enough in New York already!"

St. Frances said determinedly "Your excellency, the Pope sent me here and here I must stay!"

Since no one in New York City wanted them, no preparations had been made for the Sisters. Her first night in America, St. Frances and her companions spent a night in such a seedy hotel that the rats came out and daringly chewed on this Sister's petticoats. St. Frances was forced to arrange for the Sisters to sleep in shifts to take turns chasing away the brazen rats with a burning oil lamp.

St. Frances didn't let this cool reception deter her. She started at once helping the poor and the sick. She built hospitals, and schools and orphanages all over the United States. Near death in 1917, she roused herself from sickness to make sure that the children in the Chicago hospital that she had founded had candy for their Christmas stockings.

She became the first American citizen to be named a Saint in 1946.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini pray for us!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Ring of Safety

I went rock-climbing for the first time at age 15.

This wasn't the modern, sissy attempt of climbing on a rock wall in a gym with safety harnesses and a soft mat at your feet.

This was rock climbing, old school. Me. A gigantic 100 feet slab of granite. And a safety harness I knotted myself and chiseled into fresh rock with a hammer.

I attended my first rock climbing expedition with my United Methodist Senior High Youth Group.

It was a typical "Abigail Tries to Hard to Meet Jesus" fiasco.

I bravely jumped into a rock climbing expedition solely because the sign-up sheet has "Jesus" in the title. Only in the middle of the weekend, I realize that I'm way over my head. I was one of three girls with 30 upperclassman boys who are so excited to be scaling "real Rock" that they blithely assure our guide that everyone in the group has tons of experience. The boys insist we skip over all the easy and intermediate climbs and dive right into "impossible."

Which is how I found myself rock climbing for the first time, after a brief 3 second lecture on technique and safety measures, a cliff rated "extremely difficult."

I started climbing -Extremely Slowly. I shook so much from fear that I made miniature rock slides under my feet and hands. Eventually, I got totally stuck. There was a sheer slab of rock without any toe holds or finger grips for the next 8 feet. I came to a stop and hugged the Mountain with my face in total fear.

"It's not so bad," a helpful male voice shouted up at me. "All you need to do is crouch down on your ankles, make a big jump and grab that shelf of rock above you with the tips of your fingers and haul yourself up higher!"

Did I mention that I'm short? Did I mention that I'm not athletic? Did I mention that expecting me to jump eight feet up a mountain is virtually impossible.

I don't know how long I hugged that mountain with my cheek debating with the nameless male voices behind me. "I can't do that."

"Yes, you can! It's closer than it looks. It will be easy."

"Not for me!" Eventually, my legs got tired. So I closed my eyes and

LEAPT . . .

. . . . .and I missed.

I scraped my cheek against the rock and started hurtling downward. . .

STOP

I opened my eyes.

I was swinging completely upside down fifteen feet from the ground, my back against the mountain, my feet over my head. As soon as I started falling, my spotter had yanked my safety harness closed. My safety harness had held.

I was safe.

Falling that morning turned something around inside of me. I feel in love with rock climbing, and repelling (which is when you come down off of a cliff). Once I knew that my safety harness worked and I could trust my spotter, I was fearless. Mountain climbing became fun.

I'm flashing back to that moment, because I feel the same way after coming out the NICU. I'm braver now. Life is more fun. I still have no idea "how to do" my vocation as a wife and mother. I don't know what Christmas gifts to buy this year or when my three year old is finally going to allow herself get potty trained. Those everyday fears don't bother me so much now.

Thanks to the NICU, I know that there is a "Ring of Safety" around myself. God's got my safety harness.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Doing His Will

I am yours Lord.
I was born for you.
What do you want of me? (St. Teresa of Avila's prayer)

Abigail's Current Prayer Proving that She's Far From Sainthood

Please Lord, please!
I've been SO good.
Can't I do ONE thing that I want to do when I want to do it?

Here's what I'm learning this week. It's not about me. What I want. What I'd like to accomplish in a day.

It's about doing God's will. Cheerfully.

Here's what I'd like to do tomorrow. Clean a kitchen that is currently infested with fruit flies. Order warm winter clothes from the internet. Teach a 2nd grader how to read. Bake banana bread. Write a batch of cheerful letters to priests and religious. Call some friends.

Here's what is most likely on God's agenda tomorrow.

None of the above.

Instead, based on my week so far

God would like me to
a) sit still

b) nurse a 2 month old baby who likes to eat slowly
VERY slowly.
(As in Tess is a baby girl who can rouse herself from a milk coma in order to keep nursing for a solid 2-3 hours at one time without stopping.)

c) work on not losing my patience with the newborn, or the toddler, or the first grader, or the second grader.

So far this week, I haven't mastered the doing God's will and not my own "cheerfully" thing. Will try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

He's on His Way



An adorable Keep Christ in Christmas Campaign from the English. Man, are those Brits on fire after the Holy Father's visit, or what?

After seeing all of those precious little babies in the NICU, this image gets me a little teary!

Opera Company of Philadelphia "Hallelujah!" Random Act of Culture



I'd really like all my 2010 Christmas Shopping to be like this!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Scaling the Tippy Top Bottom

Where are you on the rough Mountain Climb to Heaven?

In the middle?

Near the top?

Or Gleefully making it to the Tippy, Top Bottom?

(I'm only at the Tippy Top Bottom of Mount Carmel but I'm so happy to finally be climbing the right hill at age 35!)

(this link is to my friend in real life, Ordinary Time Maria. Her four kids are awesome. Her younger child, Jane who is only 2? (or 3?) is the one who made it to the top of the rock climbing wall. Go Baby Jane!).

Every Child is Both a Gift From God and a Task For Him

I went to confession last Sunday and scrapped six weeks of muck off of my soul. (Nothing like the drama of the NICU to point out how dreadfully short my soul is on charity!) After laying down my sins and telling Jesus that I was sorry, my priest handed me some deep food for thought.

Every Child is a gift from God. Like all of God's gifts, children are both a "gift" and "a task." A gift implies work--- a responsibility to heaven.

When God hands me a gift, it means that He trusts me to do the work.

God would never give me a task if he didn't already believe that I possess within me the means to accomplish His Will. In fact, God is waiting with the gift of grace to help me accomplish each of the tasks that I have as a mother, even the ones that seem impossible or overwhelming.

Still Meeting My Girl

 

This is my girl, Tess.

I'm still trying to figure out her personality.

The NICU put a giant monkey wretch in the typical "Getting to Know You, Getting to All About You" stage of newborn life.

For example, if asked by a reader last week I would have described my youngest daughter as--Intense, Moody, Sensitive, Fussy, One of those demanding babies who wouldn't let you put her down for a second-- a melancholic girl similar her older brother.

Then I went to the doctor. I got my newborn back on the strong anti-reflux meds that she was originally prescribed in the NICU after a NG tube rubbed a bloody hole in her stomach.

72 hours later, I have a different kid.

Baby Tess now sleeps! She smiles! She will let you put her down in a bouncy chair or a stroller!

Who is this smilely, phelgmatic kid we brought into our home?

Will it last? Or is my overly-sensitive, melancholic girl simply catching up on two weeks of lost sleep?

Friday, November 5, 2010

2 Month Check-up

Baby Tess got all A's on her two month check-up. She was in the 29% percentage of height/weight for her age when she left the NICU. A mere four weeks later she's in 86% for height and 75% for weight. Grow baby grow!

She's having some bad acid reflux, which I hear is a pretty common complaint for post-NICU babies. We just switched her back to the "strong stuff" for reflux medicine. Hopefully, that will translated into more sleep at night.

St. Peter of Alcatara, a master of penance, only slept three hours a night with a wooden beam as his pillow. It's pretty bad when Jon and I could claim to match his feats on most nights during this past week. Praise God for the supernatural gift of cheerfulness to the involuntarily sleep deprived!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Love and Laundry

Last Sunday, my daughter sat in a church pew in front of a dear friend of my grandma, Mrs. Kelso. In passing, I told Mrs. Kelso that my daughter was sad she never met "Grandma Jean" because they are so much alike--two party girls who love Jesus and pretty shoes.

Mrs. Kelso said "That Jean was a sharp dresser! Of course, your grandpa kept all of her clothes in tip top condition."

I gave a confused look. My grandpa was born in 1917 and was totally old school in the line between women's housework and men's work. After grandma got Alzheimer's, my grandpa tried to take over the housework. Grandpa ruined load after load of clothes by accidentally adding bleach to colored loads and other such laundry mishaps.

That's when Mrs. Kelso told me that when my grandmother started suffering from advancing Alzheimer's disease and could no longer handle the laundry, then my grandfather asked his neighbor, Mrs.Kelso for help. Every Thursday morning my grandfather would walk my grandma's pile of delicate laundry down three houses for Mrs. Kelso to wash for him.

Mrs. Kelso told me "He asked me to do her pretty things when Jean started getting so sick from Alzheimer's. It was my JOY to do that for her."

This new story about my grandparents made me cry. A friend saying that it was a JOY to do a sick friend's wash. My grandfather's total humility in asking a neighbor to do his family's wash.

My grandfather could have dressed his Jeanie in some easy to care for cotton sweatshirts at that last stage of her life. At that stage, my grandma wouldn't have know the difference. Instead, my grandpa insisted that his wife keep up her love of pretty, fussy clothes, even if that meant extra work and humiliation for him.

Married life is so beautiful!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Heaven Touching Earth

I wrote about the pain of losing my maternal grandfather, George Gableman, the last solid Christian in my family tree here. At his funeral service, I laid my head down on his casket and said "My friend, you have gone and left me here all alone."

I wanted to share with you the Joy that comes after the tears that I shed during the night.

From 2010-10-09


If you click on the picture located above, you can hear 30 seconds of Heaven touching Earth.

My maternal grandfather, George Gableman, spent almost 50 years wearing a red robe for this choir, the Fairlington United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Virginia (a suburb of Washington D.C.) After his death, my Mom told the choir director that she'd like to donate a new piece of music to the choir in honor of my grandfather.

Everyone expected the choir director to chose something typical like "Go Tell It On the Mountain."

Instead . . .

the choir director chose Schubert's Mass in G which she preformed with 90 voices and a four piece orchastra, all fellow members of the congregation to play on All Saint's Day Vigil.

I heard about the selection and started dancing around for pure joy in my bedroom.
The choir director chose Catholic Schubert, the composure who adored the Blessed Mother, and made sure that selections of the MASS got played in my grandfather's Protestant Church in honor of his memory. "The Catholic Mass" is never played in a United Methodist Church, and I took this selection of music to be a special gift of my grandpa to me.

The music was unbelievably beautiful. I drank it all in. My grandfather was an ordinary guy, who worked a boring government job. The only remarkable thing in his life was his great love for my grandmother and his fidelity to his little Methodist Church. My grandfather made sure that I was baptized during my parent's rebellion from the church. (He was responsible for baptizing a Secular Carmelite!) Last Sunday, it felt like God was sending down angels to dance in celebration of the extraordinary grace that comes from a hidden, humble life spent in dedication to the Sacrament of Marriage.


(Another funny side note: The church bulletin printed out the Latin words of the Mass (The Kyrie, the Agnus Dei etc.) along with their English translation. I sat next to my father during the church service. I had the joy of having my Dad poke me in the ribs saying "Did you see that "Lord Have Mercy On Me"? That line of text is so deep, isn't it?" I kept trying to keep a straight face and so "Oh yes, very deep" without rolling my eyes and saying "Dad, I'm a Catholic. I know the English translation to the Kyrie because I sing it every single Sunday." Each time my Dad poked me with excitement, I kept praying 'God make him a Catholic! He's so close right now!")

All Souls Day 2

My Papa (my paternal grandfather) died six days after my daughter's birth. Papa sent me flowers to my hospital room. He saw pictures of Baby Tess.

I didn't hear about his death immediately, because I was inside a hospital fighting for my baby's life.

My dad left the bedside of his dying father to come visit Baby Tess in the hospital, back when we just thought she had simple jaundice. As a result of that sacrifice, my father and my mother were with me the moment that I got the diagnosis that Tess had a fatal birth defect in her small intestine and would require immediate surgery. My parents were there for Baby Tess' emergency baptism. They drove me home from Children Hospital and spent the night in a hotel across the street from my apartment.

When I got home on Sunday night, after my whole world had been turned upside down, I logged onto facebook and saw a comment of condolence on my grandfather's passing left on my aunt's wall. I called my Dad at the hotel and asked if Papa had died. My Dad got choked up and said he wanted to tell me in person but Tessy's illness made the day so crazy there was never a good time.

I didn't get to grieve about my Papa's passing because I was in the NICU. I missed his Memorial Service because it was held three states away the weekend after we got Tess home from the hospital.

I'd hope to get to the Mass of Remembrance at my parish church tonight, but my husband needed me at home tonight. It's good to put marriage first and I got a pretty clear directive from Jesus saying "stay home from church tonight and feed your husband the pie you made him."

I'm fine that I missed All Souls Day Mass. Yet I'm totally confused. I'm left here wondering, when am I going to grieve my Papa?

This year, I lost both my maternal grandfather and my paternal grandfather. One loss is very real and healed and straight with Jesus. The other loss is just this numb, unreal "feeling."

We've got to pray for the dead, the ones that we were close to and the ones that we weren't. My Papa often chose work ahead of his family. That weakness was passed onto my father and onto me.

Sometimes people ask me why I don't just work part-time, and I think "I don't know how to do that." Working in moderation wasn't a trait demonstrated in my family. I fell into the family pattern of failing miserably at combining work and family , so I simply quit working.

And yet. . .

My father left the deathbed of his father to see me and Baby Tess.

Was that a good thing? Was that avoiding a painful reality?

I don't know.

I just know on a very, very hard day, I was so grateful for my Dad and my Mom's concerned presence inside their sick granddaughter's hospital room.

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Souls Day

 
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Robert L. Rupp
Born into eternal life on Sept 5, 2010
(my paternal grandfather)

and George Gableman
Born into eternal life on Jan 1, 2010
(my maternal grandfather)

Eternal rest grant them O, Lord . . .

Help A Soul Get to Heaven this Week!

Lots going on this week, an election, etc. Don't forgot about our very important duty as Catholics to pray for the dead. This week getting an indulgence for a poor soul is easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy.

Indulgences for the Poor Souls
Current regulations in force by Pope Benedict XVI

I On All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2) a plenary indulgence, applicable only to the Poor Souls, is granted to those who visit any parish church or public oratory and there recite one Our Father and one Credo.

II On all the days from November I though November 8 inclusive, a plenary indulgence, applicable only to the Poor Souls, is granted to those who visit a cemetery and pray even if only mentally for the departed.

Conditions for both indulgences:
1. Only one plenary indulgence can be granted per day.
2. It is necessary to be in the state of grace, at least by completion of the work.
3. Freedom from attachment to sin, even venial sin, is necessary; otherwise the indulgence is only partial. (By this is meant attachment to a particular sin, not sin in general.)
4. Holy Communion must be received each time the indulgence is sought.
5. Prayers must he recited for the intentions of the Holy Father on each day the indulgence is sought. (No particular prayers are prescribed. One Our Father and one Hail Mary suffice, or other suitable prayers.
6. A sacramental concession must he made within a week of completion of the prescribed work. (One confession made during the week, made with the intention of gaining all the indulgences, suffices.)

HT: www-thelatinmass.com