Now that I am (finally) through the first-trimester yuckiness that so many of us face - yes, I am pregnant (15 weeks) and we are very happy! - I feel that it is my duty to share a wonderful revelation that I had about 6 weeks ago. Truly, I should have figured this out about three babies ago, but perhaps by sharing I can help some of our readers who are still trudging through those difficult first few months of pregnancy!
This summer, I have had a bounty of healthy green tomatoes which have rotted on the vine while turning red. This may be a blight, too much rain, or the fact that the fruit are low to the ground and not well staked. There are still about 20 green tomatoes left in my garden. Does anyone know if I would be better off just picking them now, while they are green? Will they ripen on the windowsill?
Once every year, my husband leaves for a week-long theology course and week of fellowship with other great Catholic men. That one week a year, and only that week, I am guaranteed some exciting new pest or rodent infestation. Two courses ago the mice moved in and set up shop for a year and a half.
Tomorrow is the feast of St. Monica, the day before the feast of her son, St. Augustine. I have always had a special place in my heart for St. Monica, but especially recently as our son was diagnosed with a disorder and will likely have long-term behavioral issues. When I feel overwhelmed and anxious about the future it is a comfort to turn to St. Monica, who walked a hard road with trust, abandonment and patience.
How can a mother not love this saint who shed tears and implored heaven on her son's behalf? Would that I could be as persistent and patient as St. Monica!
Charlotte of Waltzing Matilda has a beautiful coloring image of St. Monica here.
In the spirit of Mary Alice's post on Shared Milestones, here is a milestone of our own to share:
My little boy started Kindergarten yesterday, and this morning he rode the bus to school for the first time - he'll be taking it home as well! Where has the time gone??? I can still remember dropping him off for his first day of "school" when he was 16 months old, and calling a friend from the car afterwards sobbing. I was in grad school at the time and needed the childcare while I completed an internship, but it sure took a while to get used to the idea of spending so much time apart from Christopher! Now that he's started Kindergarten, I realize that our family has entered a whole new reality. Gone are the days when I can take Christopher out of school for a week to go visit our family or for the day to visit the zoo, and gone are our lazy mornings of playing and taking our time before breakfast. Ironically, my early riser has taken to sleeping in, and his body has severely protested the early wake-ups these past couple of days. I predict that we will have an exhausted 5 year-old on our hands by the end of the week!
It was such a thrill when I met Danielle Bean last spring. After reading her first book in one session, I have been following her family for a few years on the internet. As I summoned the courage to begin to homeschool and to allow God to continue to expand my own family, her laid back style of large family Catholic motherin' has been an inspiration, and her sense of humor has helped me to keep mine.
For the husband is head of his wife
just as Christ is head of the church,
he himself the savior of the body.
As the church is subordinate to Christ,
so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ loved the church...
Recently, a reader asked us to speak about plans for paying for college when you have a larger family. I must admit, "how will you pay for college?" is one of the more personal questions, once strangers have established that they are all, indeed, yours and you do, indeed, know how "it" happens.
Financing life with a large family is serious stuff, even long before college becomes an issue. We have found that finances have been an important area of growth in our marriage, which is why I volunteered to write about it and begin the conversation.
First of all, I think that small savings early on in marriage can really add up, and I would advise any young couple to begin, even as soon as their engagement, to talk about and plan financially for life as a family. We did not do this as much as we should, but my husband is financially prudent by nature (that makes one of us), so we made fairly good decisions, but if I had been really planning ahead I would have saved even more early on.
I firmly believe that it is a big mistake to go into debt to pay for a wedding party, whether the parents or the couple are paying, and I am hoping that one of the effects of the recent economic difficulties will be a cultural change on this issue. If you have the money and choose to spend it that way, have fun, but we must understand that a prudent and wonderful life can be begun without a fancy ring or a fancy cake, most of our grandparents began that way.
Recently, my husband found a program called Seven Steps to Becoming Financially Free. This is an AMAZING resource. I believe that this program should be made part of all marriage preparation courses in the Catholic Church, as well as offered for other parishioners. It is a legitimate and sound financial planning course combined with a bible study and prayer plan to help your understand financial stewardship. This concept of stewardship has really changed our outlook and we have had really positive conversations about money and been able to make much better, more peaceful decisions since we began the program. At the time that we started it, we were at a bit of an impasse, as the realities of first time home ownership were combining with the slowing economy to make money a real source of stress in our marriage. I would say that we are both much more comfortable with our financial situation and decision process now, even though the dollars and cents have not really changed. We know where our money goes, we have a plan for the present and the future, we do not feel gutted every time we have to talk about money and we do not spend money that we do not have.
Now, when it comes to paying for education, let's be honest -- there are many of us who have to finish paying for our own educations before we begin to think about our kids! Seriously, it is a goal of ours to not still be paying for our college when our oldest starts college. The answer here is something called "debt acceleration" and I encourage you to read more about it in the Seven Steps to Financial Freedom book and workbook.
In addition, please indulge me in a few other pieces of financial advice:
1. If you do not have children yet and you are both working, try to live on one income. This will help in two ways -- first of all, you will not have to factor in a drop in standard of living when you decide whether to stop working when you have children, and better still you will already have money in the bank as well. We did this, or pretty close, during the few years after college. My husband worked before we were married and he lived at home and saved a lot, and then we lived on less than our two incomes when we were newlyweds. When he went to law school, the money we saved together with his summer incomes went a long way to reducing the debt we had to take on.
2. Be open to less than ideal housing situations. Now, I am not suggesting that you live in a slum with extermination problems, but we made a very nice life in several very small, fairly unattractive apartments, in "uncool" neighborhoods, even with as many as four children. When your children are very small, you can stick them anywhere, so two bedrooms were really plenty for us until fairly recently. Our rent when he was in law school was a tiny amount, and we lived in a family housing complex which we loved, we made great friends and had a great time. Back then, they would loan you an almost unlimited amount of money when you were in school, so some of our friends lived in much nicer places, took vacations, etc, all on student loans. We lived on less as a family then most of the single folks. Because housing is your single biggest expense, you can make a big impact by being especially thoughtful in this area.
3. Get life insurance coverage for both parents. It would be catastrophic to lose your spouse, and while you cannot prepare for that, you can make sure that you would not have an immediate financial crisis as well. Many couples only hold insurance on the working parent, but think of this -- if a SAHM dies, her husband will have to pay someone to do everything that she does, or take time off from work for a while, or both. In the case of homeschoolers, children may have to go to school, and you may want private or parochial school to be an option in that case. Lastly, to just think of the worst possible scenario, if both parents were to die it is just irresponsible to leave someone else to care for a number of small children without putting the financial means in place. This is tough stuff, and I know it is tough to justify it if you are just barely making ends meet as it is, but please do not put this off.
4. Start now. You can enroll in Upromise and earn free contributions to a college savings account. You may have relatives who give your child money from time to time -- put these small gifts in an interest bearing account and they will add up. I believe that Valley National Bank gives 4% interest in a child's savings account, which is a pretty high rate for something with no minimum, and it is a great feeling for the kids to see the money start to compound. You might decide that rather than telling them the money is for college, you are saving it for their "future." That money might buy the used car which they drive to summer jobs in high school, or if you are in a position to pay for college they might use it for an engagement ring someday. That money might help to finance a year off before or during college to do mission work, something that would not be covered by student loans.
However, unless you have significant financial means, steer clear of making major contributions to a 529 type college savings account where you will be locked in to using the money for college. While there are benefits to this type of account, many of us would be better off paying down high-interest debt, including our own mortgage or student loans, rather than saving in this way.
5. Be open to the fact that your children may have to carry some debt from their education. While this may make it harder for them starting out, it may also help them to be financially prudent. Also, I think that when the time comes it is well worth considering whether some private colleges are really worth the money, when compared with honors programs at State universities.
6. Work hard every step of the way. Seriously, parents of large families are going to have to do more with less, and this may mean cleaning your own floors or having your teacher husband take several summer jobs. You are going to have to figure out how to have fun in the backyard rather than heading to Disney World, how to make the most out of hand-me-down clothes, how to use the library instead of the bookstore. The benefits will be great and we will grow in humility. Our children will be better off. However, I have recently made a decision to stop telling my children that we cannot do things because we they have a lot of siblings. I know a woman who says "that is not how we choose to spend our money" rather than "we do not have enough money for that" -- she is absolutely right, because this is a choice we are making about how we use our resources.
7. Put your life in God's hands. This is first, last and most important, and is an integral part of all areas of family planning. We are called to be stewards of our resources and talents, and to use them to make a return for the kingdom. I am not a providentialist, and I believe that this requires a delicate balance of prudence and trust in the Lord. As we have seen in the recent economy, many were tempted into living way beyond their means and are really suffering for it now, however, we can be open to children and live within our means if we are careful, and when we are generous with God, both in our tithes and in our generosity to life, He will show us the means.
So, it is that time of year at church... CCD registration time. I have a near-kindergartner who is eligible to attend, but do I want her to?
Our CCD classes start 20 min. after Mass lets out on Sunday morning and run for one hour. What is my issue? Well, twofold -- 1) I am not convinced of the orthodoxy and formation of the adult volunteers teaching the classes and 2) If some of my fears related to #1 are realized, then why waste a valuable hour of family time to have my impressionable daughter receive vague/possibly misleading catechisis?
To give you a bit more context before you sound off - I think I am doing a good job with fledgling catechism myself. I have committed us to a very enriching and exciting Catholic-centered kindergarten homeschooling curriculum for the upcoming year, we celebrate holy days, saints' feast days and the like year-round. Daughter knows all the staple prayers and seems to have a hunger for more.
Therefore, the conflict boils down to me wondering if a home-schooled kid with a very social disposition could benefit from an hour a week of "classroom" type instruction with a bunch of other Catholic kids or if we will interrupt our lovely family-oriented Sundays in order for her to receive lukewarm religious instruction that she really does not need. Thoughts?
I am not "maternal" by nature or by nurture. Over the last four years, though, I have settled down and settled in and allowed my heart to wander where it belongs, to fall in love with my children. Thank God for the love of mother and child. We put in more than we think we can, and we get out more than we dreamed we could.
My baby Angelina is 15.5 months old. She is starting to walk. She has humored me by being a late walker, a late weaner, a late talker. She still responded primarily to the name "Baby" until recently. She has been so sweet and lovely. I wanted her to stay a baby forever, and she tried to. But toddlerhood is upon us.
For my fellow fast-paced workhorses, I thought I'd share this simple poem I recently read, not to guilt us into slowing down, but to fan the sweet fragrance of mother-baby love...
Cooking and cleaning can wait til tomorrow,
For babies grow up, we've learned to our sorrow;
So quiet down cobwebs, and dust go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.
Indeed, babies don't keep. I'm off to rock mine while I finish today's prayers. Sigh.
I am feeling a bit guilty that I complained to MaryAlice about having to go outside in the pouring rain to pick this eggplant for our dinner. Now that the eggplant parmesan is cooking, I am enjoying the smell, and reveling in the joy of having grown our main course!
There is much dispute as to if the current health care bill will allow for government funded abortion. Health care reform is needed. But health care is irrelevant if you are dead. Health care reform that ensures abortion as an "essential health benefit" is inherently unjust. As Juris Mater has pointed out to us before, the single most dangerous place to be as an American is in your mother's womb.
Thus far, amendments introduced to explicitly exclude abortion have been defeated, yet the Capps amendment passed, which would protect abortion coverage (the details of how, as I understand it, depend on the reauthorization of the Hyde amendment). FOCA seems to be creeping into the health care reform bill. Be aware! With a majority of Americans describing themselves as pro-life, it would seem to make sense to take abortion funding off the table and proceed with a discussion about health care.
***Updated to add Red's comment here, which I forgot to mention***
I think it is important to note that one of our good friends from Princeton, an aspiring doctor, asked us to post this and notify our readers about the risks of this bill. I am frightened for good doctors like her, who may have their career greatly affected by the unwillingness to participate in abortion.
You can read more about the potential of health care reform to fund abortions from the Catholic News Agency:
As Congress prepares to consider President Obama's health care reform this week, the legislation is drawing opposition from both sides of the aisle. At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, ten lawmakers warned that the current draft of the health care bill will force taxpayers, businesses and insurance providers to pay for abortions.
Reaction from Democrats first became public when a group of 19 congressmen, some of them "Blue Dog Democrats," sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the end of June.
In their letter, the group of 19 warned Pelosi that they would not vote for any health care reform bill that either mandates government coverage for abortion or allows the Health Benefits Advisory Committee to recommend abortion services be included under covered benefits or as part of a benefits package.
"We believe in a culture that supports and respects the right to life and is dedicated to the protection and preservation of families. Therefore, we cannot support any health care reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan," the congressmen wrote.
"Obamacare is the greatest threat ever to the lives and wellness of unborn children and their mothers since Roe v. Wade was rendered in 1973," Smith charged.
Recalling President Obama's comment to the Pope about wanting to reduce the incidence of abortion, the New Jersey congressman said that the "ugly truth is that his so-called health care reform bill, if enacted, will lead to millions of additional dead children and wounded mothers."
The group of representatives, which included doctors and pro-life women, asserted that the funding of abortions under Obama's health care restructuring will increase the number of abortions.
Agreeing with the 19 Democrat congressmen, Rep. Smith cited a Guttmacher Institute study that found "20%-35% of Medicaid eligible women who would chose abortion carry their pregnancies to term when public funds are not available."
"Government funding, facilitation, promotion and mandates will cause abortion rates to skyrocket," he warned.
"Obamacare opens the spigot of public funding and does more to facilitate abortion than any action since Roe. This is the big one!" Smith cried.
In addition to direct funding of abortion by the government, Smith explained that the legislation "vests new, huge, sweeping powers in an Obama-appointed committee tasked with establishing 'essential health benefits' that all plans must include."
These "essential benefits" include abortion, Smith said, citing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and remarks Obama made as a senator.
"Obamacare will also exponentially expand the number of abortion mills in the country by requiring that any insurance provider must contract with 'essential community providers, as specified by the Commissioner’," he said.
Smith pointed out that "Planned Parenthood, an organization that aborted over 305,000 children in 2007 alone, launched a multimedia blitz on June 17th, billing itself as an 'essential community health care provider.'"
I'm not sure I agree with all his arguments, but I thought this article in Christianity Today was an interesting piece about the problems of abstinence education and the trend of later marriages in Evangelical Christian circles (much of it can be applied to Catholics as well). Here's a tidbit:
Virginity pledges. Chastity balls. Courtship. Side hugs. Guarding your heart. Evangelical discourse on sex is more conservative than I've ever seen it. Parents and pastors and youth group leaders told us not to do it before we got married. Why? Because the Bible says so. Yet that simple message didn't go very far in shaping our sexual decision-making.
So they kicked it up a notch and staked a battle over virginity, with pledges of abstinence and accountability structures to maintain the power of the imperative to not do what many of us felt like doing. Some of us failed, but we could become "born again virgins." Virginity mattered. But sex can be had in other ways, and many of us got creative.
...It might sound like I devalue abstinence. I don't. The problem is that not all abstainers end up happy or go on to the great sex lives they were promised. Nor do all indulgers become miserable or marital train wrecks. More simply, however, I have found that few evangelicals accomplish what their pastors and parents wanted them to.
Indeed, over 90 percent of American adults experience sexual intercourse before marrying. The percentage of evangelicals who do so is not much lower. In a nationally representative study of young adults, just under 80 percent of unmarried, church- going, conservative Protestants who are currently dating someone are having sex of some sort. I'm certainly not suggesting that they cannot abstain. I'm suggesting that in the domain of sex, most of them don't and won't.
What to do? Intensify the abstinence message even more? No. It won't work. The message must change, because our preoccupation with sex has unwittingly turned our attention away from the damage that Americans—including evangelicals—are doing to the institution of marriage by discouraging it and delaying it....The abstinence industry perpetuates a blissful myth; too much is made of the explosively rewarding marital sex life awaiting abstainers. The fact is that God makes no promises of great sex to those who wait. Some experience difficult marriages. Spouses wander. Others cannot conceive children.
In reality, spouses learn marriage, just like they learn communication, child-rearing, or making love. Unfortunately, education about marriage is now sadly perceived as self-obvious, juvenile, or feminine, the domain of disparaged home economics courses. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In sum, Christians need to get real about marriage: it's a covenant helpmate thing that suffers from too much idealism and too little realism.Weddings may be beautiful, but marriages become beautiful. Personal storytelling and testimonies can work wonders here, since so much about life is learned behavior. Young adults want to know that it's possible for two fellow believers to stay happy together for a lifetime, and they need to hear how the generations preceding them did it.Abstinence is not to blame for our marital crisis. But promoting it has come at a cost in a permissive world in which we are increasingly postponing marriage. While I am no fan of the demographic realities I outlined earlier, one thing I will remember is that while sex matters, marriage matters more. The importance of Christian marriage as a symbol of God's covenantal faithfulness to his people—and a witness to the future union of Christ and his bride—will only grow in significance as the wider Western culture diminishes both the meaning and actual practice of marriage. Marriage itself will become a witness to the gospel.
If you have time, go check out the article. I particularly appreciated his thoughts on the extended adolescence of young males, a subject Mr. Red and I have discussed at length as we would like to avoid this with our boys. In addition, I appreciated how he highlighted the things parents sometimes do to discourage young marriage, as many have a preconceived notion for their children as to the right time for them to marry. I'm not saying we should all push our children into marriage at the age of 19--definitely not--but rather that we often have ideas about what should be accomplished before a good marriage can take place (such as college, grad school, financial stability), and that sometimes our notions may interfere with God's more perfect plan for the vocation of our children. Obviously each situation is different, which is why I find my own "plan" for my children so glaringly problematic!
I was a little uncomfortable with the strong emphasis on sex--which is typical of my feelings regarding some Evangelical discussions on marriage--but I think his overall point that the current societal trends are working against God's design for our body was both very accurate and compelling. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
As I loaded the dishwasher yesterday after lunch, I realized something that only someone who loads and unloads the dishwasher quite often would realize: The side that holds our bowls looked empty compared to the side that holds our plates, when usually the opposite is true. This got me to thinking about why we use so few bowls on the weekends, and the answer is that rather than eating cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, we're usually eating something much more exciting. Like pancakes, or bagels, or eggs with toast...Yum :)
At the playground yesterday, while pushing my children in the swings, I noticed a pretty, young mother approach with three very young children and a fourth on the way. Yes! I could barely wait 5 seconds to strike up a conversation.
The great state of Texas hosted a wonderful reunion this weekend. Juris Mater, Kat and Bets all made the trek to our home for 3 amazing days. There have been many changes since our days as Princeton roommates, but we still love every minute we can spend together.
Mr. Incredible proved to be just that...babysitting 7 children under 4 so we could have a ladies night out.
The usher at church on sunday leaned over the pew in which we normally sit, which was was holding more children than usual, and whispered, "Are these your sisters?"
I smiled and shook my head no. But then I thought again. Sisters? Indeed we are. We share each other joys, sorrows, trials and heartaches. We are inspired by each other to be better wives, mothers, friends. We pray for each other and laugh hard together. I have to thank each one from the bottom of my heart for enduring travel to come to Texas in AUGUST just to spend time together.
One of these days we'll have to have a whole Building Cathedrals blowout. Do you think Mr. Incredible could babysit all our children??
I've seen this floating around on some other blogs. Since my romantic side is still under development, I figured answering these questions was a pretty low key way to let you all know a little bit about my relationship with Mr. Red ;-) Enjoy!
1. Where or how did you meet? 6th grade homeroom
2. With me in them and you in me, may they be so perfected in unity that the world will recognize that it was you who sent me and that you have loved them as you have loved me."
We are home from vacation and exhausted, but we had a wonderful time! All my prep last week paid off as we had a very stress-free departure last Saturday morning. We have enough children now that prepping for vacation is a ton of work, and in years past I grew resentful and stressed prior to our departure. This is the first year that I completely cleared my calendar the week leading up to vacation--and it paid huge dividends on Friday night and Saturday morning.
For the past four years, we have headed to the Jersey Shore for a one-week vacation with my extended family. My parents are very generous and rent a house on the beach for all 3 of their children (and spouses), and six grandchildren. With all of us living in one house for the week, there is bound to be a least a little tension! My brother and sister both have children younger than mine, and so in years past not everyone was on the same schedule. This year, however, all the children were old enough to be on roughly the same schedule as my children, and this made the vacation go REALLY smoothly! Everyone just seemed to be in step with everyone else, and helping hands surrounded us as we managed to take our kids back and forth from the beach two times each day. With so many hands, the burden was much lighter, and this was exactly the recipe my pregnant body needed to have a fun and relaxing time!
I am due to give birth to our third child in just under three months and I find myself wondering whether I can do it. This isn't the typical brand of motherly angst as the family prepares to undergo a drastic transformation. Instead, I just find that my "nesting" looks much different than that of most of the put-together mothers I know. I read countless blog accounts of pregnant ladies who love washing little clothes in Dreft and lovingly stenciling the baby's room. These wonderful mommies diligently clean the premises and even design the birth announcement months in advance.
You know what I do? I feverishly read intellectual type non-fiction books, I consume news articles late into the night, I try to edit together years of home videos on our computer, my husband and I watch classic movies and read reviews of them long past when we should be asleep. These tasks seem to be more a by-product of my angst over the impending loss of sleep and personal freedom that come with the arrival of a breast-feeding newborn, than healthy preparation for a new family addition. Don't get me wrong, we are really excited about our new son. I am taking good care of myself and I love breast-feeding and sling-baby wearing and co-sleeping and all that hippie attachment parenting stuff. Nonetheless, my emotions seem to be a strange blend for a pregnant woman. I am plagued with questions of whether I am right for this God-given vocation of being a stay-at-home mother of a large family, yet I know there is no other path for us. I am excited by our family's expansion, but I am perplexed by my selfish yearnings in these final months of the pregnancy. I question how I should handle these desires - should I really be reading The Arab Mind right now just because I have been meaning to do so for years or should I be boning up on the basics of natural child birth in order to give it another go?
I don't know that I have reached any conclusions, instead I spend much of my prayer time asking the Blessed Mother to prepare my heart and disposition for the arrival of our new son in October. Somehow, I think my family is accustomed to the brand of mother that I am, and I think God is so wise that He will continue sending us babies until I am forced to become better at loving self-sacrifice and prioritizing. In the meantime, I sure am learning alot about current events, and The Arab Mind is illuminating and so insightful.