Friday, December 28, 2012

Seven Quicktakes-Dec. 28

Merry Christmas!

Seven Takes On My Christmas This Year:

1. Apparently I contracted "walking pneumonia" during our family's bought with the stomach flu. After going to the doctor, I took a Z-pack of antibiotics which lasted through Christmas. I started feeling a lot better by the time we got to Christmas, but the cough is still lingering so much so that I have pulled some muscles in my core from all the coughing. This has been a lot of fun I tell you. At least I am hanging out in St. Louis with very few responsibilities and not managing the home and children while M works all day.

2. If you want to know how to extend a 8.5 hours drive to 11 hours, let me tell you. First, make sure you need air in your cars tires and fill them as you are leaving town. Stop a two gas stations with unavailable air pumps before finding one which will pump your tires. Second, bring a three year old who is still feeling off from the stomach flu along and make sure she vomits four times along the way. If you are lucky like us it will be in a disposable coffee cup (that you bought full of coffee at the second gas station you stopped at for air) instead of all over the back seat. Third, make sure you bring a newborn who likes to nurse on both sides at a leisurely pace, ensuring that all of your stops take at least 30 minutes. Fourth, have the same newborn have an explosive outfit-soiling back poop just as you are about to get back on the road. Fifth, stop for dinner.

3. My parents bought a two bedroom ranch when I was one year old. My two older sisters and I shared the second bedroom until my brother was three (he shared with my parents) when we moved to a basement bedroom that my dad made wonderfully nice for us girls. We always talked about adding on to the house to make more space, and I believe my parents once had an intention of moving to a larger house. They never did. So this Christmas, we decided it would be fun to have 8 adults and 6 little girls share three bedrooms (plus a semi-finished second basement room) and one bathroom for three days and two nights. It was fun. We all made it to 9 am Christmas Mass EARLY, had a delicious brunch, and managed to open all our presents by 2pm so that the kids could get a little bit of napping.

4. I think we must be a strange family that does not open presents until late in the morning. My dad has always played music for Mass on Christmas morning, so we always had to wait for him to finish clean-up and come home before we opened our presents. As a kid it made Christmas morning take forever as we watched and waited for him to come back home. I am glad we always waited until we had time, because the time we had for presents ended up being nice and leisurely. This was again the case this Christmas.

5. Christmas this year really felt like Christmas to me. Maybe it was because we were in my childhood home with all the siblings together, plus our children and spouses. Another thing that made it nice was that I had seen everyone but my sister and her family just a few weeks earlier because of F's birth and baptism. It is nice how seeing people more often makes you feel more in touch and closer to them even if you don't live in the same town as them.

6. While we have been here we have had the traditional: Amighetti's special sandwiches, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, Cecil Whittaker's Pizza, and toasted ravioli. Yum!

7. We still get to have Christmas in Michigan with the in-laws. Hopefully by next week I will be healthy and without any pulled muscles. I am supposed to do Jillian Michael's 30-Day Shred during M's J-term break to encourage my extra baby weight to go away...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Call to be Outcasts: A Reflection on Les Misérables

I have not seen the new movie that came out on Christmas, and will probably not get a chance until it is on video or at the $2 theater in Minneapolis (when maybe I will be willing to leave the baby with a sitter). I have seen the musical performed live and have read the unabridged novel; this reflection is based more on the novel but does not depart from the plot of the musical.

While I can't boast of fluency in French, I have read that "les misérables" translates into something like "the outcasts” or “the wretched ones” or “the miserables.” I want to focus on the “outcast” translation. If you look at each of the main characters, they are all outside of society: Jean Valjean the exconvict, Fantine the former mistress of a wealthy student who was left with an illicit child, Cosette the orphan child being raised by the exconvict, the Thenardier family who spend their whole lives stealing from people, Javert who is a police officer standing outside society to keep order, and Marius the orphan and republican student.

The character I am going to examine is Jean Valjean. He spent 19 years in jail regretting his small crime, and is filled with rage and hate. He encounters society's terror of exconvicts when he is on parole when he is unable to find food or shelter; however, even after his conversion caused by the bishop’s kindness, he lives in fear of his former self. No matter how many good deeds he does and how virtuous he becomes, he is always aware of who he is, Jean Valjean the exconvict. It doesn't matter that all he did was break a window and steal a loaf of bread when he was starving: he is an exconvict. As soon as people learn of his past, they fear him and think that there is no possible way that he can be good. Yet, when they do not know his identity as the exconvict, they recognize his saintly deeds and virtuous character.

There are several turning points in the story where Valjean struggles with choosing the morally right thing. If he follows his conscience, he will have to expose his past (and what he believes to be his true self) and be condemned by those who respect him; however, because of the influence of the bishop, he has been transformed and cannot disregard his conscience. It is not until the end of Valjean’s life that there is a person who is aware of both his criminal history and all the good he has done. This person recognizes that he is a saint.

Jean Valjean represents the life of a saint. He has a conversion, turns from his old life, never does a wrong thing again and is constantly running from his former sins. He seeks the life of virtue and union with God, but is always aware of his sinful nature. He constantly condemns himself when he is already good. He continues to find his weaknesses and overcome them until he has completely abandoned himself to the point of physical death. I think this is how we are called to overcome our sins, to become more and more selfless so that we completely lose ourselves in God. We need to be horrified at our ability to sin and our past sins. Fortunately, God is much more forgiving than society, and we must run to him. Valjean’s one flaw is his inability to accept forgiveness from God for his past sins, but in this he displays what it is to live a penitential life.

If we truly live the call to sainthood, we will be cast out of society like Jean Valjean. To seek be holy in a modern society is to be set apart a life of virtue and penance does not make sense without God. If we are truly seeking to be holy, we will be outcasts. This experience of being cast out of society is becoming more and more real for Catholic Christians in modern America. Being “set apart” is never easy, but with the grace of God it can and will be done. God will provide what we need to be sustained through the community of believers. Valjean says that love is what leads to human flourishing; without love the human soul dies, the human dies. So we must live the lives of saints with those whom we love and not fear the call to be outcasts.

Originally posted on Truth and Charity.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Still Sick

The stomach bug the girls had last Thursday night hit me on Sunday night, and I am still nauseated from time to time. The last time I got sick was Monday night. I have been easing back into foods still, and I really wish I had a scale to measure how much baby weight I am losing because of this (the one upside of this illness).

G randomly threw up again this morning just as I was about to take the older girls to the store since they have been cooped up since Sunday Mass in the house with a sick mom and a wonderful dad taking care of us all. I am waiting from a call from the doctor to see if what is going on with us is at all normal. Also, I have a really annoying phlegmy cough that only my albuterol inhaler seems to help. Anyway, not trying to complain, just explaining why I have not been blogging at all.

Prayers for health would be much appreciated especially since we are supposed to spend the next two weeks seeing relatives...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Seven Quicktakes-Dec. 14

1. Today is trying to recover from the stomach flu day. Hopefully it will just be G and L who are victims. I am not sure about the baby, but she sure did spit up more than usual yesterday. The older girls had an overnight illness with a hiatus from 1-7am so we could all get a little sleep. Now we are at nap/quiet time after a small lunch of toast and applesauce. We will see how the rest of the day goes. 

2. The baby had her first five hour stretch on Wednesday night. However, it was from 9:30pm-2:30am; I was only in bed for three and a half of those hours. Too bad, but it was followed by a three hour stretch. Yay!

3. In honor of The Hobbit coming out today, I will share this: Hitler and the Hobbit.

4. I thought L was taking the new baby really well, that was until she started hitting us all this week. I think maybe she needs more attention and is seeking it by being crabby and violent. Oh children, there is enough love for you all. Balancing time for all three children is a little difficult. We have been taking G on little one on one parent dates about once a month, maybe it is time for L to have her own as well. Plus, I need to remember how to parent a two year old. She is also asking to potty train, and I think we are not quite ready. Our plan is to start on that after Christmas.

5. How many people can say that they are still using diapers on their second and third children that were given to them for a baby shower for their first child? We can! The best thing about cloth diapers is that they are lasting us for four years and three children. The only thing we are needing to replace is the larger size cover for F once she gets to the size L is currently in, unless I can revamp them for a second time and fix the snaps I put in (to replace velcro) that did not quite take. Diaper fixing projects take two hands and I do not often have two hands for projects.

6. We are going to put up our tree with its lights this weekend. Gaudete Sunday! Ornaments will be hung at a later date. I would normally wait until the fourth Sunday, but we will be doing that at my parents home and I want to come home to a treed home after our travels.

7. I am praying for all those effected by the shooting at CT elementary school. The killing of children is one of the worst evils in the world (born and unborn).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Feast of St. Lucy!

Our St. Lucy rolls. Yum!

Head over to Truth and Charity to read my thoughts on St. Lucy's Day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Secular Advent Music

When I think of Advent music the first song that comes into my head is O Come, o come, Emmanuel. There are other hymns that are suitable as well, like Come Thou Long Expected Jesus  and Wake, Awake, but these are not what you here on the radio. So, here I am going to give a few ideas for songs to listen to in the more secular line of Advent music:

1. Santa Claus is Coming to Town- Watch out, don't cry, or else guys. That is the message of this song. :)

2. I'll Be Home for Christmas- This is also an anticipatory song for Advent. It dreams of Christmas and all being together, which are very good values, especially wanting to be with loved ones.

A White Advent.
3. I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas- This is definitely for Advent, as once Christmas comes, you can't really dream of a white Christmas coming.

4. Silver Bells- "Soon it will be Christmas Day." It is all about shopping, because that is where you hear the silver bells.

Anymore good "secular" Advent songs?

While the secular ones are fun, they do not compare to the depths of the coming of our Savior:
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
What does Santa coming with presents have to compare with Jesus coming to bring us eternal life? Snow is a cool gift from God, and very beautiful, but it is not God Himself. Being together on Christmas with gifts for each other is nice, but it does not compare to being together in Heaven. I am struggling to find the value in the seemingly shallow secular celebrations of Christmas, but maybe I should see them as a precursor to the joy that will be eternal life together in Heaven.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Seven Quicktakes-Dec. 7

1.  I caught a nasty head cold over the weekend and it makes me feel like I am a week post-partum instead of four. It is kind of annoying, but is forcing me to take it easy when I might normally try to get lots of things done. The baby also caught the cold, poor girl, and has been fussier because of it; it is her second cold since birth. We should have a Spring or Summer baby next, because this is not nice to a newborn. I am sure we will find a few more colds over our Christmas travels.

2. Here is what we did for St. Nicholas Day:
Just chocolate. The presents we save to celebrate the birth of Christ. You know. 
St. Nick also made it into the center of our Advent wreath, until someone decides to eat him.

3. This meme made me really happy:

4. Tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when Our Lady was conceived without original sin. Dom Gueranger in his The Liturgical Year on the topic:

"The intention of the Church, in this feast, is not only to celebrate the anniversary of the happy moment in which began, in the womb of the pious Anne, the life of the ever-glorious Virgin Mary; but also to honour the sublime privilege, by which Mary was preserved from the original stain, which, by a sovereign and universal decree, is contracted by all the children of Adam the very moment they are conceived in their mother's womb. The faith of the Catholic Church on the subject of the Conception of Mary is this: that at the very instant when God united the soul of Mary, which He had created, to the body which it was to animate, this ever-blessed soul did not only contract the stain, which at that same instant defiles  every human soul, but was filled with an immeasurable grace which rendered her, from that moment, the mirror of the sanctity of God Himself, as far as this is possible to a creature." (p. 377-378, Vol. 1)
5. My second contribution to Truth and Charity was posted yesterday. Please support that great blog!

6. After going to story hour at the library today, I realize my almost four year old needs to learn classroom etiquette. They all thought it was cute, but she probably should not yell out in the middle of stories and wait for her turn in line. Oh the misfortunes of staying at home with mom... ;)

7. We have barely made a dent in our (20ish) freezer meals thanks to visitors after the baby and meals from friends. While I love to cook it is nice to not have to while the baby's schedule is so unpredictable. I am really wanting her to be old enough to be on a regular sleep schedule, but I need to remember patience and appreciate the newborn qualities she has.

Head over to Jen for more quicktakes.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Losing Control: Trusting God and Those He Gives Us

When our newest addition was born four weeks ago, my parents came to help with the kids and house for a week, followed by my mother-in-law for another week. They took over many of my normal tasks so I could take care of the baby. And since they left, my husband, Mark, has been doing more than his fair share of the housework. The fact is that there is a lot more to do with a newborn around and for me, it is a lot harder to do my normal daily tasks. It has been difficult to let go of the way that I do things and just be thankful that others are serving me. I know it is a little over the top, but sometimes I just cannot be around when someone else is vacuuming for me; what if they use a different outlet than I do? (And seriously, I know I am not the only wife and mother who worries about these things.) Sometimes my anxiety causes me to wonder if it would be better for me to simply do the task myself than trust someone else to do it even though I truly need the help.
So what is going on? Why is it so hard to accept the aid and love of others? I have realized that as I have trouble trusting others to take care of things for me, I also have difficulty trusting God to care for me. I have found that when I am trusting God, I am happier, more peaceful, and more likely to trust as well. Further when I trust others to care for me, I have more trust in God.

In the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42), Mary spends her time listening to Jesus teach while her sister Martha is preparing food and laboring to serve Jesus and her guests. As a mother, my life is spent being Martha to my children and husband and anyone who comes to my home. Because of this it is hard for me to remember there are times that I am called to be like Mary and to be ministered to by Jesus, be it from others or in a few moments during the day I have to pray. Having three children, one of them a newborn, is teaching me again that I must lose control of things that are less important and to trust God and others. I know that being a parent is continually leading me to surrender my need to control details of life and of my children’s lives. I am learning the things that are important to take care of with precision and the things that do not need as much attention. While the cleaning is important, how it is done is not. While raising children to be independent is important, having to tuck them in multiple times at night is good and teaches them that they are loved. In losing this control, I am learning to be like Mary, to accept from God the love He is giving me, and to not be “anxious and troubled about many things.”

We are all called to learn to be like Mary, no matter what our vocation. Mary is traditionally as seen as representing the contemplative life and Martha the active life, but we are all called to be contemplative to whatever extent our duties in life allow us to be. This is how we learn a true love of God, in trusting Him and learning how to be loved. This is why it is so essential to give control to God, even when life is full of uncertainties. Saints are the people who face the trials of life knowing that God loves them and trusting and loving God through it all, and it is in the little matters of trust that we learn to trust in the great matters.

Originally posted on Truth and Charity.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Baptised at Last: Cradle Catholics

On Saturday the baby was baptised! Alleluia! She also came down with baby acne. I guess 3-4 weeks is about right for that to show up. We had a wonderful crowd of family and friends at the baptism (a great uncle and aunt with their three kids, three of four grandparents, the aunt and uncle godparents, a cousin plus a number of friends), and it was just a fraction of our Catholic family and friends that were present. M and I are both cradle Catholics and so are our parents. In fact our parents were also raised by cradle Catholics, and so on. The line of cradle Catholics goes back to at least my great grandparents on my side and probably further.

I am so blessed that my faith has been passed down to me from the Apostles through the Church and also from my parents and their parents. For all of high school, my grandmother in St. Louis was in my family's parish. I would see her every Sunday in the front row and then would catch up with her after Mass. It was such a blessing to share this part of life with her. I have always known my mother's parents, who live near Cleveland, to go to daily Mass. What great examples of holy lives they have given me. I see their marriage and how well they raised their seven children as an example to me of how to be holy, loving parents and spouses. As Catholics, we look to the lives of the Saints to learn how to love God and be saintly; and I feel so blessed to look to the lives of my people in my family to learn about being holy and Catholic.

It is so easy for cradle Catholics to take their faith and religion for granted; we need to realize that while our faith has been given to us by our parents, it is our responsibility to live the faith. We need to seek to have active prayer lives, go to Mass, have frequent Confessions; without these things, especially with the continued secularization and modernization of society, our faith will quickly fall by the wayside. M and I have discussed how many of the converts to Catholicism we know really know the faith and really care to live it well. Is there something about being raised Catholic that makes it harder for us? We could blame bad catechesis as children, but we are adults, so we need to take responsibility as adults. There are so many resources for learning about the Catholic faith, for example the catechism. Or one could look at New Advent for great resources about the Church.

And as a parent raising three little Catholics, I know the importance of teaching the faith to my children from a young age. I need to be an example of what I teach them in my behavior and in my life of prayer. I am so blessed to be continuing the line of cradle Catholics, and pray that my little ones grow up to bring more converts to the Church.
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