Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Blessed for our efforts

Last year, at just about this time of year, our family participated in the 40 days for Life program in our local community. All six of us went to pray in front of an abortion mill and stood in a very prominent spot on the side of the road with our rosaries in hand and our pro-life message on signs that we held overhead. The experience was very positive for all of us, from Tim and I to our then three year old son. I wrote about the blessings that came out of the experience in one of my earliest blog entries entitled Become like little children. It turns out the blessings may have been even greater than I could see at that time....
This year, we were once again invited by the organizers of the 40 days for Life in our area to offer our prayers in front of the same abortion mill. Tim took our oldest two children and prayed with them on the side of the road, as I stayed home with the younger three kids and prayed from the safety of our family room. It just did not seem practical to stand on the side of the road, just a few feet from rushing traffic, with a 6 week old baby. As I prayed, it occurred to me that one year ago I would not have expected to be now holding our little bundle of joy, blessed with a beautiful new life in our own family.
Upon further thought it occurred to me that maybe I should not be at all surprised by this interesting little coincidence. It has happened before....
A little more than seven years ago the Respect Life committee at our parish launched a program they called spiritual adoption. The idea was to "adopt" an unborn baby who was at risk of abortion and to pray for them for nine months in the hopes of saving lives. Of course, one would never know the outcome of these prayers, as the unborn child was known only to God and the prayers would remain forever anonymous. Both Tim and I eagerly signed up. We took home brochures which explained the program and included information on the development of the baby from conception to birth. It even had a place to name "your" baby. We chose names and I hung the brochures on the refrigerator to remind us to daily offer our petitions. During the nine months we prayed, we were happy to find out we were expecting our third child, making our prayers for an unborn baby even more meaningful to us.
The spiritual adoption program was so well received they introduced it again two years later and again we participated. This time we were blessed with a very unexpected surprise pregnancy of our own. We welcomed our fourth child just before the nine months of our spiritual adoption wrapped up.
Now, I am not sure if it is the prayers and petitions we have offered that has made us more open to the new life God had already intended to send us, or if it is more a gift and blessing bestowed by God as a sort of reward for our pro-life efforts that has resulted in the blessings of our three youngest children but it does seem that as soon as we pray for life God abundantly answers our prayers! I am so very, very grateful for my beautiful family. My life and my home are full of 5 of God's amazing gifts of life. I only hope that He understands why I felt it necessary to warn Tim to be careful what he prayed for as he left the house for this year's "40 days" participation. I am just not quite ready to handle any more of God's answers to our pro-life prayers!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Where did my newborn baby go?

My baby is growing up too fast! I know it seems silly to say that already. After all she is only 6 weeks old and just now reaching 10 pounds, but in only 6 short weeks she has changed so much! She was born at 7 lbs, 5oz, small and dainty (though she did, even then, have very round chubby cheeks). She has filled out quite nicely and now the adjective "robust" comes to mind as I look at her sleeping in her bassinet. Her thighs and belly have rounded out to match her, now even chubbier, cheeks. And the bassinet, which had so much room for her to stretch out in when we first brought her home, now leaves her very little room to grow. The crib will have to be cleaned up and assembled this weekend so she will have somewhere to go in the next few weeks when she is officially too big for her newborn bed. Though I am so very grateful she is healthy and growing so well, it saddens me to think I am already having to say good bye to her newborn days. I wonder why the time really does fly by so quickly and why babies grow up too fast.
Speaking of growing up too fast, not long ago my oldest daughter celebrated her 11th birthday. We held her party on the same day that the baby hit exactly one month old. If you are a parent yourself I do not have to tell you that I really do not know where all the years have gone. It really does seem like days ago that I brought my first daughter home from the hospital and laid her lovingly in the crib that will now house her baby sister. I was watching my oldest and youngest girls recently as the former held and snuggled the latter. As so often happens these days, tears sprung to my eyes and I found myself pondering the eleven years of my motherhood. It occurred to me that if the next 11 years go as quickly as the past 11 years have gone, my first child will be 22 years old before I know it. I was 22 years old when I got pregnant with her!
These thoughts threaten to truly depress me at times. I really wish I could freeze the time for just a while, so I could enjoy my children's youth longer. I sometimes even wonder why does God let the time fly so fast? But then I think about the sleepless nights, the ill-timed messy diapers, the unexplainable fussy times, and my feelings of being overwhelmed that are also a part of the newborn experience. The truth is if it lasted any longer I would probably go crazy but if it went any quicker I probably would be deeply depressed. God has timed it all so perfectly!
I also think about all the fun that is still to come. If I had frozen my oldest child's infancy I would have missed out on her adorable toddler stage, her precocious pre-school years, and watching her grow from a tiny, helpless infant into a beautiful young lady. No, we cannot make our children stay little for long. We cannot make them babies forever but we can try our best to enjoy the experience as long as it does last.
I realize that I really don't want to stop time from passing. I could not handle the extreme exhaustion that I felt the first three to four weeks of the baby's life for any longer than I had to. I would not want to be forever stuck with my post-partum weepiness (or my post-partum body!). And I definitely don't want to rob my children of the amazing experience of growing up and developing into the people God created them to be.
Instead of focusing on the gloomy thought of my children's passing childhood I will try to remember to slow down and take pleasure in each moment with them. I will also remember that as a stay-at -home/home schooling mother I am blessed enough to not have to miss even a minute of their fleeting youth!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Life Marches On...

Tim and I bought a one year old minivan in May of this year. In late July we were having problems with one of the warning lights. It would not turn off no matter what we did. The problem was a bad sensor which was, thankfully, covered by the warranty. Except when we went to have it fixed, we were informed that we had voided the warranty in our efforts to remedy the problem ourselves and avoid an unnecessary trip to the dealership. We had the car fixed, at our own expense, a week before our new baby was born.

As I wrote about in my post "an ode to Swine Flu..." everyone in my family, except our new baby, came down with a highly contagious virus that left us feeling miserable and run down even after the fevers had passed. This happened a mere two weeks after bringing baby home from the hospital.

My four year old son went to pre-school for the first time that same week as all our illnesses. He loves school and is doing well. This is a wonderful thing except that getting him ready causes me an enormous amount of trauma each day. Most mornings he eats his breakfast of dry cereal from a zip lock bag while I drive him to school. One day we forgot his backpack at home. I did not discover this until I was dropping him off at school and he hopped out of the car empty handed while all the other kids toted their well packed bags on their little backs. On another occasion we were all walking out to the car after our usual hectic morning when my oldest daughter exclaimed, "hey, you need to get your shoes on!" I glanced over to see my son, ready for school, with his backpack on this time, all prepared to attend school bare footed. This event unfortunately illustrates the norm around here.

Tim's new year of youth ministry started the first week of September. He has been very busy attending meetings, preparing his calendar, and planning fund raisers. He has been working crazy hours and is often not home until the sun has gone down. Because he works a second job, out of our house over night, he often has to start working again as soon as he gets in the door. It seems he has something going on every evening and every weekend for the foreseeable future. I am attempting to handle the home front while he works hard to provide for us all.

Over this past weekend we arrived home from Mass and noticed the house felt unusually warm. As the day wore on the temperature continued to rise inside and we realized that though we could hear the air conditioner running it was doing nothing to cool the place down. We suffered through three days of hot, humid Florida weather as we waited for the repairs to be done. Then, of course, we handed over a hefty amount of money to cover the cost of those repairs.

Over the course of my long nine months of pregnancy I envisioned the first few weeks of life with baby. I prepared our house and planned our school schedule around the baby's birth so we would have time off to settle in after her arrival. I told myself I would be able to truly appreciate the time because the other children were older and more self sufficient this time around. I believed I would spend my days rocking the baby and snuggling her in peaceful relaxation. I thought we were organized enough to enjoy a few weeks of quiet serenity before we had to start back to the normal routine of school and busyness. As you can see, despite my plans, life has marched on as crazy, busy, and unpredictable as ever. As usual, Gods plans differ from mine in almost every way imaginable! As always, though, He sees me through each chaotic day and blesses and strengthens me along the way. And though I am tired, overwhelmed, and completely unorganized at this point, I am eternally grateful that God's plans did include a healthy baby and a family overflowing with love for her....and me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Riding the waves of marriage

Ebbing and flowing. These words conjure up images of water, rivers streaming through valleys and meadows, ocean waves lapping on the sand or gushing forth and rushing back in dramatic fashion. Some years ago I heard these words used to describe marriage. At the time, I thought it was an odd way to refer to the normal ups and downs within marital relationships. Lately I can see that my relationship with Tim really does resemble a stream which drifts along ebbing and flowing.
Tim and I married young. He was 22 and I was 21. We still had a lot of growing up to do and were somewhat naive about relationships. Our early years were a lot like white water rafting, full of waves and whirl pools. It was exciting and tumultuous all at once. Sometimes we felt close and comfortable with each other and other times we were at odds with one another. We argued and fought, sometimes for days at a time. But though they lasted a while, the fights were few a far between and, for the most part, we talked and laughed together, growing closer and maturing together.
We welcomed our first child only two years after our wedding and the water got a little more rough for a while. Life was like a hurricane stirring up enormous waves and turmoil as we adjusted to the new role of parenting. We fought a lot more and distance grew between us. Though the water was rough for quite a while we toughed it out and life eventually became smooth sailing again.
Over the years, life and our relationship have continued to rise and fall like the waters of the sea. There are times I feel as close to Tim as I do to my own thoughts. And there are times I am incredibly frustrated with him and feel he does not understand me at all. I have come to realize that relationships do ebb and flow. It is normal to go through times of ease and comfort and just as normal to go through times of struggle and suffering.
Lately I have felt more like a co-worker of Tim's in the job of parenting than I do a friend and companion . As we once again adjust to a new baby in our family, our relationship, which had been flowing along beautifully for many years, is now stirred up and tumultuous on many days. Thankfully, we have learned that our marriage is strengthened more as we ride the uncertain waves of life together, than at any other time. As much as I want it to be, my marriage cannot be free from struggles and challenges any more than my life can be. It is only by facing everything in life, including our challenges, together that Tim and I can grow in our relationship. As long as we are committed to each other, and to a life of faith and prayer, we will survive the rushing torrents once again and come out all the better for it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Are you smarter than a newborn baby?

"I was not born yesterday"...I have heard these words many times, uttered in anger or screamed in frustration, as someone tries to explain that they are much more intelligent than they are being given credit for. The more time I spend with newborn babies, the more I realize that there is a lot to be learned from those who were born just yesterday. I have learned, as a mother, that my capacity for love can expand and my heart can grow in amazing ways as I peer at my newborn child. I have learned that I can survive on a lot less sleep than I ever thought possible. I have learned to do a lot of things one handed, including making p. b. & j. sandwiches and changing diapers. I have learned the difference between Huggies and Pampers. I have learned how to burp my baby, calm her when she is crying, and how she likes to be held best. This, however, is not what I am talking about...
A friend recently told me a story she had heard about a mother and her newborn child. The baby girl had been born with complications and was barely hanging on to life. She had a dangerously low heart rate and was gray from a lack of oxygen. The doctors, despite their efforts, were unable to improve the baby's condition at all. They handed the baby over to her mother and apologized, instructing her to enjoy the little time she had with the baby. The mother held her dying child as close as she could, with the baby lying on her bare chest, their hearts together. As the mother snuggled and grieved her newborn infant, a miraculous thing happened. The baby's heart rate began to increase. Her color slowly changed from gray to pink. Somehow, with nothing more than the closeness to her mother, the baby was resuscitated. My friend went on to share with me that the baby is now a healthy normal toddler.
I recently had a really rough night with my own newborn baby. I had had a few days of non stop busyness and was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. This, coupled with the sleep deprivation from having a newborn in the house, was getting to me and I felt desperate for a good night sleep, or at least a few good hours of sleep. Unfortunately, my infant daugher did not cooperate, and instead was getting up to nurse every hour all night long. By about 4 a.m. I was completely worn out. The baby, however, was wide awake, even after her feeding. I needed so badly to sleep and was unsure of how I was going to find the energy to survive the rest of the sleepless night. After my crazy, chaotic days and this seemingly endless night of wakefulness, I was literally emotionally distraught. Knowing I was in no shape to care for the baby, I put her, crying, in her bassinet. I went out to the family room to try to pull myself together. Tim, trying to be as helpful as he could be, got her out of the bed and was rocking her in the rocking chair when I returned to our room a few minutes later. Even though her daddy was lovingly holding and rocking her, the baby would not relax. I could hear her whimpering and sighing every few moments, as Tim gently rocked her. Seeing that there was no comforting her he finally handed her to me. As soon as I took her, we both relaxed. I sat in the dark holding her, with tears of frustration and exhaustion running down my face, and she melted into me, laying her tiny head on my shoulder. Her whimpering subsided and her breathing slowed into a quiet peaceful rhythm. Within moments she was sleeping soundly and my own frustration faded away. Though she is only a few weeks old and knows so little of the world, she knew I was upset and she was upset by that. She could not relax until she was reassured that I was close by and okay. As soon as she felt me nearby and calm, all was fine in her world again.
I realized, in the dark of the night with my beautiful baby sleeping in my arms, that she has the right idea. The way to cope in life is to put all your trust in Someone and rest in His love when things go wrong. For me, for us all, there is only One who can be trusted so completely. We all have a parent who loves us even more perfectly than a mother loves her newborn infant. Our Heavenly Father is always there wanting to hold us and comfort us in times of trial and insecurity. I need to trust completely that God is there for me, that He will never abandon me, that His love and His grace are enough to reassure me. Like newborn babies, we need to be as close to our Source of Life as we can. Without the presence and comfort of our Lord, we cannot expect to have the life giving love we all so desperately need. He will comfort us, He will never let us down, He will see us through all things.
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” ~James 4:8.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Calling the qualified...

My children, who are such wonderful blessings in my life, have been driving me crazy lately. Now, in their defense and my own if I sound like a horrible mother, we have had an eventful few weeks at our house. It was less than 4 weeks ago that we welcomed a beautiful new baby into our family. It was only 2 weeks ago that my 4 year old son started pre-school for the first time. It was only 1 week ago that we all survived a bout with a very nasty virus. We have been house bound for nearly a month now and our whole lives are turned upside down. We have no schedule these days, no regular routines, and we have yet to settle into a new normal with the baby.
So, considering all that has happened in such a short amount of time, it should come as no surprise that the children are not quite themselves, and I am feeling a little overwhelmed. The bickering between the kids is getting on my nerves, the messes they seem to make and never clean up are stressing me out, the whining, the complaining, the griping are out of control. Our whole life is lacking discipline. Right now life revolves primarily around diaper changes and refereeing the older children. There are entirely too many moments lately where I want to throw up my hands and admit, "I am not qualified for this job of parenting!"
There are many moments that, not only do I feel unqualified, but I also feel very alone in my parenting struggles. As it turns out, I am not alone at all. Recently, a few friends shared some of their parenting struggles with me. Even though these friends seem to be very confident, very good parents, they too struggle with disobedient children, power struggles, and temper tantrums. My friends' children, who seem so well behaved and docile every time I see them, have just as many moments of meltdown and fussing as my children. I certainly do not want to see my friends struggle in parenting their children, but I have to admit, it is so comforting to know I am not alone! It is nice to know my children are not evil or uncontrollable- they are simply normal children who love to push their limits and who still have a lot of growing up to do.
Parenting is not easy. Neither is childhood, really. But as a family we are called to support each other in our struggles and difficulties. We are called to forgive each other in our moments of weakness. Above all, we are called to keep going and to love each other even on the hard days. None of us is really qualified but God will see us through as long as we keep our eyes and thoughts focused on Him.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

An ode to Swine Flu- this little piggy...

My first little piggy got a fever
It soared up to one oh three
My piggy laid there lethargic
Oh swine flu stay far from me!

My second little piggy was moaning
His tummy was hurting, he ached
He threw up all of his breakfast
So much for the pancakes I baked!

My third little piggy felt horrible
Her eyes and her cheeks were so red
Her head was burning with fever
She couldn't get out of bed!

My fourth little piggy was coughing
His nose was runny and sore
He had chills & his temperature climbed
I don't think we can take this much more!

My fifth little piggy, so tiny
Was the only one spared at our address.
Baby somehow escaped all the flu germs
And thanks to God I survived all the stress!


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