Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
So I'm wondering why so many friends and family have forwarded me the link to this story? Is a 19.2 pound baby going to make me somehow feel better about my tendency to have very large babies? Or maybe this is just funny and I fail to see the humor because my due date is 11 days away and I'm rather anxious about my baby's size. I have a hope that she will be smaller than my last (10 pounds 13 ounces), I'm praying she won't top 11 pounds, and I'm really praying for a healthy delivery free of any broken collar bones. But I am frightened that a woman's body could grow a child THAT large. I'm praying my body is not capable of this feat. I don't have gestational diabetes, so that's a start.
The last days of pregnancy seem to be a real emotional battle for me. One day I'm optimistic that it will soon be over, the next moment I can actually convince myself that I will be the first woman to be pregnant forever. In the last weeks, as the sleepless nights increase, my ability to view my situation with a level head practically disappears. I start dreaming about robbing the local pharmacy and injecting myself with pitocin. I scour the internet for labor inducing techniques and I actually start believing that eating pineapple will put me into labor. In my more sane moments, I remember MaryAlice's wise words, "If chinese food or spicy mexican food or pineapple actually put women into labor, there would be no need for pitocin." I realize how irrationally I'm behaving. Suddenly, I feel trapped, hopeless, and depressed. I then think about my baby, and I feel guilty for having any depression--how lucky I am!
The insanity continues, day after day, sometimes for several weeks, and then it happens. Labor begins and in the time it takes to watch a football game (or at least I hope that's the length of my labor!), I have a beautiful baby in my arms. The babymoon ensues, and most of my suffering is soon forgotten.
The end of pregnancy is so hard precicesly because it is so unpredictable. The wait, the uncertainty, the what if's dominate those last weeks. I am reminded each day, and often each hour, that I am not in control. For a type A control freak like me, this lesson is hard to swallow. I pray for the grace during these last days to trust in God's plan, and in his perfect timing.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Every pop early childhood education book I've read has exploited that fact as its selling point and cornerstone. Do our “x, y and z” plan (and buy our CDs, DVDs, flashcards, workbooks, and equipment) to be sure you’re maximizing your child’s most acute learning years.
Frankly, I’ve been left desperately afraid that I’m stifling my children’s curiosity and squandering their brain power if I don’t pump them full of information, skills and experiences. The window closes with each passing day. How exhausting for everyone.
Reflecting on this, I’ve started to wonder whether God wired the youngest children with the greatest learning capacity for an entirely different reason, mostly unrelated to academic learning. Ages newborn through five are naturally the years they’re closest to home and under the full-time care of parents, not yet in a formal academic environment. The brain is growing and working hardest in the first five years as the child learns the basics of interacting with his physical environment... but, more importantly, as the child, prior to leaving “the nest” for larger parts of the day, rapidly absorbs and begins taking ownership of family values, family spiritual practices, and all the loves, virtues and priorities modeled by his parents. Trying to take this to heart as my children approach school age has given me great peace.
I think that the most worthy and only necessary “educational” goal in these first five years is to instill in my children that they are children of God, that He loves them with divine love and only He can satisfy their souls’ longings. Accompanying this naturally is consistent training in virtue in their relationships, decisions, and behaviors. These five years are not a laboratory for teaching children the most things; rather, they are a window of opportunity to train children in the most important things. When I listen to their questions, there are a hundred daily chances to talk about the Christian life, about God's creation, God's great plan for us, loving our neighbors. Family life and community life provide ample opportunities for them to practice virtue in little ways, with some parental guidance. Their amazing brains, unquenchable curiosity, and clean souls are fertile ground for Jesus’ love to enter and imprint their hearts permanently.
What a gift, too, to spend our days pointing the souls of children to Jesus, without fanfare and as we go about daily life. By their inquisitiveness and purity, my children keep the presence of God in our home and in my heart, if I follow their lead.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
...in your backyard, and in full view of your school room, school for the day is canceled. It is completely IMPOSSIBLE to get any formal schooling accomplished under these conditions.
Instead, we are talking about trees, ropes, climbing, chainsaws, and physics--and I will say, even as an adult, I am amazed at what these tree guys are able to accomplish with a few ropes and a chainsaw.
The excitement from last months lightning strike on our 150 year old tree seems to never end. I just wish the cost of tree removal were a bit cheaper. From a financial perspective, today might be one of the most "expensive" lessons of our entire year.
1. Love God
2. Love People
3. No Whining
Several months ago, Mr. Red hung this sign next to the upstairs bathroom--
I have since wondered whether this was for my own benefit, or that of the children. Either way, we can all use the reminder on a Monday morning.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
What could be better than supporting a Christian-based business (Tegu) that creates these amazing wooden magnetic blocks as a cool plaything for kids? Being a part of a mission to change the world.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Chosen And Cherished: Biblical Wisdom For Your Marriage, Servant Books
Parents, if you are looking for a great family reading experience you must get this book.
I just witnessed the most touching reading of this book by my eldest daughter. Her wide-eyed 20-month old brother was so enamored of the pictures that he was willing to sit through her slower speed of reading and everyone felt enriched and empowered at the end of it. I hope you can get your hands on it. Our small overseas library had it, so I am hopeful. Happy Friday.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
This trip was difficult. Foreign travel with young children is always difficult and expensive and exhausting and rewarding. That last adjective is the tricky one. Whenever we were tempted to look at the latenight paella-eating, Sangria-drinking couples and think that maybe the next time the kids should stay home with neighbors we would do a 180. All it takes is to hear an enraptured 4 year old girl describe a stalagmite in an underground cave as "the world's hugest wedding cake." Then you realize that you could never leave them home. Traveling as adults it would all become a rush of itineraries and shopping and dining. Whereas, with our insane little ones in tow we are forced to axe many of the sites we would have visited, but watching Daddy explain the significance of a Michelangelo statue of Mother and Child being housed outside of Italy to his daughter is worth the price of admission to all 4 other museums we didn't visit. Thus, our conclusion was that a romantic weekend away in some Euro-city will have merits of its own at some time in the future, but we are glad we pushed through these last few big ones with both children along.
Sidenote, in the T.M.I. category - I think all my walking and lifting and what not caused Baby Brother to descend further into my pelvis. You know, to lighten? My hips feel way weirder than they typically have at this point in the pregnancy and my Braxton Hicks are much more noticeable. Is it ok for the baby to drop this early? Am I still going to make it to 40 weeks? Note to self for future pregnancies -- no travel beyond 30 weeks.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Many of us tend towards fear, anxiety. Babka, my Polish grandmother would call, panicked, if she heard on the national weather that it was raining in Texas. It's a big state. I, too, have been struggling with fear and anxiety recently following a diagnosis for one of our sons. What should we do? How should we proceed? Special education or home education? How are we going to manage? If I let my thoughts run wild, they usually do and I am overwhelmed, anxious and afraid.
Mary was able to respond with her fiat to the Angel Gabriel's "troubling" news. Such peace and obedience! And grace. Perfect grace. As we celebrated her birthday yesterday, we recalled how she was born into the world without the stain of original sin, how her every action corresponded with love for God and others. She allowed grace to flow freely through her. Our Lord desires to shower grace upon us, too, if only we are receptive. If we offer our fear and turn it into trust. If we let go of our pride and are cheerfully obedient.
We need not fear the future. We need only to be open to God's grace at this moment and take courage.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
MaryAlice used a birthday example to illustrate this point. If each year, your birthday or other special day (Mother's Day, Anniversary Date, Christmas, etc.) ends with you feeling disappointed that your husband didn't acknowledge the day in a different way, there is a good solution! Make your wishes clear to your husband in advance. Let him know your expectations, and if he can't meet those expectations, have a discussion about it right then and there. Don't wait for yet another disappointment and express your problems then--this leaves him feeling hurt and defensive. Talk about these things ahead of time, and give the poor guy a break.
For example, last year I turned 30. I was feeling a bit old and over the hill, but I also wanted to celebrate the day in a special way. I talked to my husband about what I wanted for my birthday--a nice day out with just him and a trip to a fancy brunch in the city--and he was more than happy to oblige. In fact, like many men, he was elated to be told what I wanted, and then he made the day happen. For some women, they may want a surprise, and that's great. Let your husband know this is what you want, men are not mind readers! Most husbands really do want to make their wife happy, so if you have something you want or expect, it is important to acknowledge that you are a human being with preferences, and then make those preferences known in a clear and loving manner.
In my experience, there are few men who are really good gift givers. If you happen to be married to one, good for you! But overall, I find that most men are thrilled to be told nicely what their wife wants and expects. This type of communication avoids so many feelings of hurt and anger.
Unfortunately, instead of communicating their wishes nicely to their husbands, many women fear making their preferences so clearly known. They think it romantic to have their husband read their mind, or they want their husband to think about their wishes so often that he just knows what they want and need. I often hear, "if he really thought about me or cared he would know what I want." Unfortunately, such an approach often results in one of two scenarios. Either the wife will 1) not say anything and allow the disappointment to build and slowly affect the relationship, or 2) explode and let their husband know how disappointed she is, resulting in a huge fight. It is rare that we as women will just swallow the disappointment, pray for the grace to forget about it, and actually forgive and forget. Often times we think we are doing this, only to have things fall apart YEARS later. I have known so many empty nest couples where the wife has all kinds of anger towards the husband about these things. Her anger has literally been building for years, and all along she just thought she was doing the right thing by not saying anything. In such cases, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that the husband was acting thoughtlessly or selfishly, but in reality he was just clueless that his wife had any problems.
Now for my disclaimer--Are there things that we should not communicate to our husbands and just let slide? Absolutely! I would say this is a good strategy if it is something small that is not likely to reoccur. In such a case it is often easier to forgive and forget. Obviously no man wants to be married to a woman who has preferences about every little thing, and then communicates theses wishes constantly--who can keep up with that! But if the problem area is one that comes up often, or is of greater importance, good, clear, kind communication is a very important part of a good marriage. Let us not fail to be good communicators under the guise of submission. The result will be a passive-aggressive wife, and a disappointing marriage.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
In the comments of a recent post, we were discussing what "being submissive to your husband" might mean in practical terms, and especially how to live this teaching when it feels like your husband is not the "head of the family" that you might like him to be. The thought was this -- what if my husband is not a bad guy, but just sort of "ok"? It might be easier to be submissive if I felt like he was actively taking the lead and steering us in the right direction, but what if your husband is lukewarm in his faith, or lacks solid Christian formation, or is just a little burnt out himself? Does submission require that you just allow the family to drift? Well, the Kennedys have got me in a sailing mood, so my advice is this: trim the sails and get the boat moving, and you may well find he takes the helm in the very best ways.
I am going to give some specific, practical advice. Because it is specific, you will probably find that at least some of it does not apply to your situation. Take what is useful and disregard the rest, or take these things as babysteps a little bit at a time. What I can tell you is that my husband is a wonderful man, which is why I married him. When I have struggled, this advice has come either from the builders, spiritual directors, or my mother and grandmother, and when I follow it, my marriage is terrific.
1. When you want or need something from him, ask for specific things using nice language.
Sure, we all wish that our husbands could read our minds, or were just so sensitive that they knew what we wanted, but this kind of attitude is unfair and unrealistic. If your husband is a decent guy but doesn't take out the trash, tie up the trash bag, and ask him to please carry out the trash. While he is doing that, replace the trash bag. If he stinks at celebrating your birthday, you can say "my birthday is next tuesday, I am arranging a babysitter, would you please make a reservation at LeCirque." He will do it.
For a real life example, this principle made a huge difference in Red's recent family beach week. She got all the bags ready, and then told Mr. Red "It is important to me to leave before 8:30 because sitting in traffic puts me in a foul mood at the start of the vacation. The bags are all ready, so would you please pack the car the night before and plan to get an early start?" It was a reasonable request, she asked nicely, he is a reasonable man, and they were sitting on the beach at 10.
2. Don't give negative feedback as soon as he has done something.
This is a toughie. If you are asking for help inside the house, or with anything to do with the kids, he might not do it the way you would have done it. His way might be different, or it might be just plain wrong, but either way, bite your tongue. If you ask him to dress the baby for church and he comes out with stained overalls, let it go. Keep this in mind: the fault was yours, you should have been more specific and asked him to dress the baby in clean clothes. If it really matters, next time lay the clothes out, but in most areas it doesn't really matter, so accept that if you are going to get him involved you are going to have to let him do it his way.
3. Praise and say "Thank You"
Let's face it, everyone loves to hear how great they are, and if you thank your husband for the great job he is doing in certain areas, there is a good chance that he will try even harder. Also, in looking for opportunities to thank him, you will have a chance to notice for yourself all the great stuff he is actually doing.
4. Don't Compare
It does not matter which one of you is working harder, and it also does not matter what is going on in anyone else's marriage. The truth is, you just don't know what goes on behind other people's walls, but more importantly you have to live within yours. The last thing someone wants to hear is how much better someone else is, and really, it doesn’t even help to think it.
5. Cheer for his team
I grew up a Yankees fan, but I have recently realized that embracing my husband's hometown team is an important part of "leaving and cleaving." One way in which he is the head of the household is that he gets to pick what team your sons are going to fall in love with. Now, I am not a football fan at all, but I learned last year that football was not going away, so I had a choice: it could unite us, or divide us. Going back to #1, I told him that I would happily make game day food and let the kids wear jerseys, but that we could really only dedicate one weekend day to football, and this compromise seems to have really worked out for us. Now, I am happy to watch part of the Phillies game, then do the dishes or fold laundry while he watches, happy to have him shout to me when there are exciting plays, happy to have a household that is obsessed during the playoffs.
Recently, some guy friends were complaining to my husband about their wives hating sports, and he was so excited to say that I love watching the game with him. Now, Red can testify that I am not a true Philly fan and that I know very little about sports, but the key words here are “with him.” The reality is, football is his "man zone" so I am just glad that he wants me in there at all. I think of it like dating – you would try to find out a little bit about his team before you went to the Monday Night Football party at the fraternity, so give yourself a shot here – order some hot wings and get in on the fun.
Please note: If you are yourself a die-hard sports fan and you can cheer for a different team in a flirty-friendly rivalry sort of way, then by all means, keep your loyalties.
6. Find common ground
Of course, I don't want to watch sports all the time, and my husband has no interest in scrapbooking, so it has helped to find some things that we have liked to do together. This can mean compromising. I ski on easier ski slopes because I enjoy skiing with him, we DVR'ed American Idol and watched it every week, even though it is cheezy, because it was something fun to do together, we go to the driving range and he watches me do a terrible job hitting golf balls, and I let him show off as he does a better job, and we have fun. These are all things we would have done when we were dating, and they are an important part of maintaining the relationship.
7. Hire help
JM is laughing because I got all negative when she suggested this, but the truth is, she is right. If you are overwhelmed and burnt out, you need help, and if he can't or won't give it, you have to hire some to get over the hump. If there are areas of major contention in your marriage, like house cleaning, yard work or child care, hiring help may ease the tension. I have had a revelation recently, becuase our budget is tight, that hired help can come in the form of a frozen pizza and a DVD on Friday nights. Seriously, I don't have to cook dinner and kids are glued to the TV for 90 minutes, what a way to start the weekend!
8. Lay off the in-laws.
Of course his parents annoy you sometimes, even your own parents annoy you sometimes! Try hard to let it go, because no one wants to hear nasty comments about their family, and it is just going to lead to bad stuff. He loves you, he chose you, but he loves his parents also and he, and you, owe them some respect. Nobody's perfect, and they do things differently than you do. It is hard to blend families together, but this is another important part of "leaving and cleaving." You can follow #1 and set reasonable boundaries about the role they play in your life, how much you see them, etc, but err on the side of generosity and remember, you will be someone's mother in law someday, too, and no matter how much better you think you will be, you will still drive her a little crazy.
9. Respect him
Do not insult or belittle your husband, especially in the area of "manly" things that he is not good at. Do not list off all his faults to your mom or your girlfriends on the playground. We all need a good vent now and then, but do this with a trusted friend who will, at the end, tell you something wonderful about your husband and encourage you to get right back to loving him. Most of all, encourage your children to treat him with respect and do not enumerate his faults to them. There is nothing so inspiring to a man as being his little child's hero, and if you pop that bubble you also lose all the chance for growth that your husband might have had in that role.
Everything is better when you exercise. If your husband needs to exercise, too, leave that aside, and just worry about yourself. I often leave for a run with a list of grievances, but I always come back in a much better mood. I have come to realize that it is so important for me to take care of myself in this way. If your husband wants or needs time to exercise, make that as easy for him as you can, he will be better for it, in health and disposition, so the time is very well spent.
Pray for your husband, your marriage, and your family every day. Go to the sacraments. Seek out a good priest for Spiritual Direction. Have faith that marriage to this man is your path to sanctification, but that does not mean that if your husband is not dragging you to prayer you do not go yourself. I spent a lot of time on "if only" -- we would pray a family rosary if only he would take the initiative, we would stop falling into certain sins if only he would take the lead. Well, that will get you nowhere. First, get yourself right. Next, feel free to invite or suggest, but stop nagging and let him come to it in his own way and God's own time.
I hope at least some of these suggestions are helpful. All I know is, this is what works for me, and my marriage is as good as it gets.
I hope at least some of these suggestions are helpful. All I know is, this is what works for me, and my marriage is as good as it gets.
For more on men and prayer, you might check out the podcast at Faith and Family Live. Episode 20 has a great comment from a married man about his growth as the spiritual leader of his family.
An important disclaimer:
This advice assumes that neither you or your husband have underlying mental health, substance abuse issues or other reasons for needing therapy. If you do, or he does, there is really no amount of friendly advice that is going to help you, you need to seek professional help. If you are in an abusive situation, tell someone you trust and make a plan for leaving as soon as possible. It is not your fault, it will get worse, and it is not up to you to "be nicer and work it out."
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
The nursery was painted in a sky blue, perfect for a baby boy. I wasn't in the mood to paint anything, so I opted instead for a few quick changes, and I'm pleased that these few things transformed the room into a girly nursery.
First, I cleaned and ironed Gianna's old pinked checked valences, and I love the way they look on the windows with the sky blue paint. I then cleaned some of Gianna's old baby blankets to add a nice touch to the crib and chair. I purchased a new changing table cover (pink polka dots). And finally, Gianna helped me decorate the room with butterfly and flower stickers. I was a little worried that these wall decals might look tacky, but they added a great touch, transformed the room, and will be very easy to remove when we want to change things around. We still have a few pictures to hang, but overall this nursery redo took about one hour, and cost under $20!
And I should also add that I sorted, washed, and folded all of our baby's clothes. In the process I a came across this adorable dress, and had tears in my eyes as I remembered our baby Gianna getting her first set of baby pictures taken in this dress.
And then it all hit me. We are having another baby, another little person will soon join our family. My pregnancy has been so difficult that I have been counting down the days until our baby's birth, all along thinking of the birth as an event that will make me "unpregnant!" But seeing this dress brought me a lot of joy. I sighed, I got nostalgic, and I was suddenly excited. Our baby girl is arriving soon, and in the end, THAT is all that matters.
At my midwife appointment yesterday, after discussing my latest aches and other health ailments, my midwife looked through my chart and commented that I have really had a rough pregnancy. After this comment, she handed me a form for my birth plan, or as they like to call it, "Birthing Hopes and Dreams". I laughed and said, "In all honesty, I only have 3 goals for this birth. I want a healthy baby, under 10 pounds, and I don't want a c-section. I'm sorry if these goals are a little lame for you and this all-natural birthing center!" She looked at me and said, "with what you have been through, I think those are GREAT goals." And so they are.
And I will keep this little dress out to remind me of my baby girl, and my very simple birthing hopes and dreams.