Friday, August 29, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Up, Down, and All Around (Bonus Edition)

So, it's been one of those times. You know what I mean?  The kind where it seems like you fluctuate between bad news and good news and then bad news again, back and forth, to the point where you are just weary of any news?   Thank goodness for the peace that comes from the constant things in life, like the sunrise and sunset, the early changing of the leaves in late summer, the whirring of the katydids that eventually gets overtaken by the humming of the crickets, and, most of all, the arrival of...

...squirrel season!    Yep, it's that time of year again.  Time to oil up the rifle that my daddy and his daddy and his daddy all used before me to shoot the "tree rats" right out of the oak leaves and right into the frying pan.   Gee, I've missed that.

I haven't hunted in about twelve years, but now that we are back in Kentucky, where I can get a hunter's license without having to sit with all the eight-year olds in a hunter ed class (being "old" does have some advantages), I couldn't wait to re-up. Opening day of squirrel season found me and my father each sitting on far ends of a hemlock cove swatting gnats and peering into the treetops for anything with fur that moved.  The stillness of the woods, however, was deafening.  Not a bird sang, not a cricket chirped and not a single. dang. solitary. bona fide. squirrel squawked.   So, it was beans for supper again that night.   Still, time spent sitting quietly alone in the woods on a cool morning is always time well spent.   I guess you could call it "Adoration for Rednecks".     Sorry I don't have a photo to post of me holding supper, but no doubt some of you are very thankful of that.   Maybe next time, so consider yourself warned.


So, when the huntin's slow, what else do you do?   You go fishing.  There's a free public fishing pond near our home and twice now, my father and I have taken the boys to drown some worms.  Fishing with three and four-year olds is a lot like sitting in church with three and four-year olds...namely, there's not much sitting being done.   Stand up, cast out, sit down, stand up, reel it in, untangle line, replace worm, cast again, sit back down, stand back up, reel it in, untangle line, replace worm...well, you get the picture.   Somehow, though, between all of that reeling and casting and sitting and standing, we actually caught a fish.   Joah's take on it:  "this is my new pet". Uh, sorry, Joah.   So instead, Joah had to be satisfied with his other new pets, also known as bait.   John seemed happiest pulling apart the plastic crawdads he found in the tackle box.   After about two hours of this, Pawpaw announced that he had a banana pudding waiting for everyone when we got back home so, at that point it was

Okay, so back to the good news, bad news part.   Good news first.   Many many hundreds of people are praying for our priest and if you are one of them, thank you thank you thank you!   In some ways, I almost feel like the prayers being said for him now actually benefited him before they were said (I suspect somewhere, there is a theological document that explains if that is possible. Prayers transcend time, right?)   What I mean by that is that it is truly a miracle that our priest survived the accident at all. The good news is that he did survive, he has no head or spinal injuries, and he will recover.   Unfortunately, he also is in great pain and still unable to be moved and his hospital time alone is expected to be at least eight weeks, followed by months of re-hab.  So please do keep praying for him and the doctors, nurses, his family, and all others taking good care of him.

Then there was some good news followed by bad news that hit a little too close to home.   Tom and I have been praying nightly for a couple in our family who has been trying to conceive for about three years.   They are not Catholic and took the IVF route first.   That turned out to be emotionally and financially devastating for them.  After that, they decided to undergo a vasectomy reversal for him and so they did, again at considerable personal expense.   Two weeks ago, we learned she was expecting but was not far along.  She was so excited and I encouraged her to ask her doctor to check her hCG and progesterone levels asap because she was terrified of having another miscarriage.  However, her doctor would not oblige and wanted her to wait the standard three to four weeks before coming in for an appointment and any lab work.  She's over age forty and I really encouraged her to find a doctor who would at least get her hormones checked.   We even contacted PP.VI for her, and they were more than happy to help, but her insurance refused to cover the costs.  Finally, she did find a doctor who did a 48-hour hCG and progesterone check, and unfortunately, her levels were not responding and she lost her baby.  So please pray for her as well.
Which leads me to...

Thank goodness for our Church's teachings and her protection!  My heart just goes out to this couple and the pain that they've had to endure as a result of failed IVF treatments and a sterilization that they later regretted.   Wanting a baby badly is painful enough, but I can only imagine the pain that must come with learning the hard way that IVF to achieve pregnancy and sterilization to avoid pregnancy are drastic measures that often have drastic results.  Unfortunately, the sad stories of IVF and sterilization are rarely shared and this poor couple fell prey to the mainstream hype because they did not realize they had other choices.   They seem to be on the right track now, and praise God for that, but some lessons just come with such a bitter price.   I'm so thankful that Tom and I listened and followed, even when we didn't fully understand, what our Church asks of us in regards to having (or not having) children.   Some lessons I'd rather not learn the hard way.   Doing God's will is hard enough.

And lastly, as far as trying to discern God's will goes, Tom and I are still plugging away on getting re-approved to adopt again.  We've attended an orientation meeting with one agency and sent in an initial application to another.  We have been trying to discern how best to approach our adoption process this time and are considering listing with two agencies at once now.   Because in one more year, most agencies won't even accept us due to our age, we want to increase our chances in the coming year.   Time is not exactly on our side anymore.   We are very blessed to even be able to consider listing with two agencies, given the expense.   Sometimes, I think to myself "maybe this is the benefit to working all those years when I really wanted to be at home raising a family. i.e. now we can pay for adoptions".   Who knows?   I'm always trying to rationalize everything I don't understand.  However, God does have ways of making something good come out of something that, at the time you are going through it, feels pretty bad.

Mama's version of preschool.
And here's a bonus Quick Take for ya (assuming you've made it this far). Because I really didn't want to leave my three dedicated readers out there hanging from the last Quick Take, if you were wondering what we decided regarding preschool, the answer is....  yep, the boys are going.   All you homeschoolers, please don't shoot me!  It's what we're calling a "test run" and we'll see how it goes. If I have to spend more time de-programming them than they actually spend AT preschool, we'll be back to homeschooling.   But it's only two days a week, classes are very small, the boys will be in separate groups (a big plus when you have "twins") and it is affiliated with a local church (Baptist, but don't tell anyone).   We attended the orientation meeting a few days ago and as soon as he saw the teacher, John walked up to her and asked "when do we do our lesson?"  I think he's ready, even if I'm not sure I am.

That's it for now.  Have a great holiday weekend, and thanks to Jen for hosting another Quick Takes this week!

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Prayer Request for Our Priest

I know everyone has a lot to pray for already, but if you wouldn't mind, could you say a little prayer for our parish priest, Fr. E.  He was involved in a serious motorcycle accident yesterday and was pinned between two vehicles for at least fifteen minutes.  He has serious injuries and is in critical but stable condition with several surgeries in his future.  He has only been ordained for three years.   He loves the priesthood and God knows we need priests like him, especially here in the hills of Appalachia.
Thank you so much.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.
Mary, Queen of Heaven, pray for us.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Mother I Can Relate To

A few days ago, I received the Christmas cards that I'd ordered from this pro-life organization.   Now before you think I'm that super-organized person who buys all their cards in July and has all their Christmas shopping done by Labor Day, don't.  I'm far far far from that person.   As a matter of fact, I'm often the person who mails gifts and cards the week after Christmas, with the comment "it's still Christmas so this REALLY isn't late."   

But this time, I ordered early because the design of one card in particular really struck me.   It was an image painted by Bartolome Esteban Murillo of the Holy Family with St. John the Baptist standing next to the child Jesus.  I can't say I've seen many images like that, maybe because if you read the New Testament, it gives the impression that Jesus didn't actually meet John the Baptist until Jesus' baptism. However, other ancient texts and traditions suggest that Jesus and John the Baptist were together starting from a very young age.  And this makes sense to me, because we know from scripture that the Blessed Mother and St. Elizabeth were related and spent time together during their pregnancies, so it seems reasonable to me that they'd raise their children together too, if circumstances allowed.

Anyhow, it was that image of seeing the Blessed Mother with two young boys, likely about six months apart, being raised together, that really hit home with me, because, of course, I find myself in that situation today.  

I haven't always felt a strong connection to our Blessed Mother.   I didn't grow up in a home where Marian devotion was practiced.   In our church, statues of the Blessed Mother were not used for fear of promoting ideas of "idolatry" among our neighboring Protestant brothers and sisters.   I was in my late twenties before I ever said a rosary, and the concept of "consecrating yourself to Mary" was completely foreign to me.   

I can't say that the early years of infertility, which really tested my faith, did much to help me grow closer to our Blessed Mother either.   As I spent those years praying for a child, I couldn't bring myself to ask the Blessed Mother for her intercession because, frankly, I just didn't think she could relate to my pain.  After all, I thought, she was able to be a mother during her life and all the statues and portraits of her holding the Christ Child, of course, proved it.   But then I lost a baby, and during those dark days of mourning, I thought about her and the pain she must have known when she lost her baby, our Lord, but still, her baby.   So I asked her to help me with my struggle, and with that prayer, I began to feel peace in the days and months that followed.   And I realized that there are some things that only a mother understands, and now I had found mine.   

And today, I am a mother, and I find myself getting too caught up in the day-to-day struggles and challenges that come from parenting.   I tell myself that nobody understands my unique situation, blessed as it is, but still difficult.   And then I run across an image that reminds me that she's been there, too.   She watched two little boys only a few months apart in age grow before her eyes and no doubt, it had its challenges.   I know it did, because I can relate to it, and now, thanks to an image on a Christmas card, I know that she can relate to me, too.   But then again, she always could, and always can, no matter what our situation.   I just need to be reminded of that from time to time.

Friday, August 8, 2014

7 Quick Takes- A Birthday, A Feast Day, Overrun by the Wild and Running Wild

Thought maybe a little update was in store considering we've had two milestones to celebrate these past few weeks.   Of course, the biggest was celebrating the 4th year of this little guy!  I decided to have a little birthday party for him and he had a grand time.   He got the cake he requested "brown, with lots of icing" and way too many gifts from the way too generous grandparents (our kids are their only grandkids; 'nuf said).  But what he loved more than anything was just having other little kids around to play with.  Both he and his brother were all smiles and full of laughter as they ran wild with the other kids searching for Easter eggs (yes, we hunt Easter eggs year-round here;  we like to keep the "paschal people" theme going!) and playing on the slip-n-slide.    The party lasted well past bedtime, as they insisted on catching fireflies after dark in their pajamas and were already cranked up on cake and ice-cream.   As I told a friend the next morning at Mass when she commented that I looked a wee bit tired, "you ain't really partied until you've partied with four-year olds".

In addition to having John's birthday party on that day, July 26 was also our son Joah's feast day because it was the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, two very special saints to us and so many others who struggle with infertility.   One of our little ones in heaven is named for St. Anne and Joah is named after St. Joachim.   We named him Joah, however, to save him from a lifetime of having to say "no, it's Joe-ah-kim" (and actually, I'm not even sure most Catholics agree on how it is pronounced).   As a matter of fact, when we lived in Missouri, we lived near Joachim Creek.  Everyone called it "Joe-ack-him" which always sounded to me like "Joe, whack him!" and I could just picture my son whacking some little kid on the head (which he does frequently enough anyhow!).  Some others called it "Joe-kim" which sounded to me like "Choke him!"  Nope, that wouldn't work either.  So, we just stuck with Joah.  And later we found out that "Joah" means "brother of God"  which made it really feel right because Joah is such a gift from God to us and without him, our John would not have had a brother, and most likely, Joah would not have had one either.   So his existence particularly brought the gift of "brotherhood" to our family. Did I mention, too, that every day for 10 years, on my way to work, I drove past this little church, and when I did, I always asked St. Joachim to pray for us and help us have a child?   So, thank you, St. Joachim.
Joah, giving me his big puppy dog eyes.

Not much new to report on the adoption front.   We have an orientation meeting with Catholic Charities in two weeks to start the process all over again. I'm not feeling encouraged at all but so much of this is out of my control.    I hope God understands the timing of all this because I sure don't.   I do feel more inclined to consider fostering, though, especially as our boys get a bit older.   I think the one thing that encourages me more than ever right now is just knowing that there are still options available when it comes to having more children in the house.   Whether or not they are actually "mine" is starting to feel less important.

Speaking of children in the house, this coming week, we are saying goodbye to the boys' cousins.   They've been visiting all summer and are like brothers and sister to our kids now.   The boys keep asking me if we can go visit them, and they haven't even left yet!   The sound of a houseful of kids all summer was music to our ears and it is going to be painfully quiet around here come September.   Well, at least as quiet as two preschool boys can make it, which now that I think about it, isn't quiet at all.

The cousins, mesmerized by the electronic babysitter (TV).

Moving to a new place this past spring meant starting over with a new garden spot, which meant I was totally unprepared for the voracious appetite of the deer on our property.  Despite cages around every tomato and squash plant, the varmints managed to gnaw their way right through most of our summer harvest. Oh well. In some ways, I am thankful because I didn't have much time for canning anyhow, and we still haven't consumed all the tomatoes, beans, and corn from gardens past.   I am going to try again with a fall garden, this time with deer-proofed raised beds, and am considering surrounding them with eight feet of concertina wire.  Nothing says "home" like a garden that resembles the perimeter of a maximum security federal penitentiary, right?   With any luck, we'll be eating fresh spinach at Christmas.   Not to mention, come November, I intend on getting my summer garden back from the deer in the form of venison. What goes around comes around, you rascally deer!

Tom and the boys putting together a couple of garden boxes.

I suppose while I'm giving updates, I'll give a report on my new found habit of running.   Short report.  I hate it.  But I'm still doing it.   I'm wondering how many miles a person has to run before it starts becoming enjoyable (not to mention, easier)?   My friend, the one who inspired me to adopt this insane form of exercise, just hit her 1000th (yes, that's three zeros!) mile of running and says she loves it and that I just need to give it some time.   I'm guessing that means I'm still probably about 992 miles away from it becoming fun.   My niece decided to become my running partner for a while, but that only lasted about a week.   Then it was just me and the dog, which lasted about three weeks, and now even she disappears when I step out in my running shoes.   And based upon my lifetime of experience, I tend to believe that most 10-year olds and dogs are smarter than most adult humans.    Good thing I never claimed to be smart.

And then there's the other big decision looming over my head these days. Preschool.  Do I or don't I?   Now, for all you homeschoolers out there, hear me out.   I'm totally 100% supportive of homeschooling. I'm not sure I consider myself a homeschooler, unless it might be by default, simply because our boys haven't attended any formal school to-date (well, there was a 6 day trial run, but that failed miserably).  I think that, so far, I would consider my "technique" closer to "unschooling".  However, now we have been given the opportunity to send our boys to a small Christian school that offers two-days a week of preschool classes (aka, babysitting).   First impressions are very favorable, and I've heard nothing but good stuff about it from other parents.  So, we are considering it.  I have a few more weeks to decide.   I have no doubt the boys would love it, plus it's free (funded by a local philanthropist), classes are small, and the boys would be in separate groups, so that part all sounds good. But I wonder how disruptive it will be to our daily routine that we already have? We have a pretty good groove going over in these parts nowadays and I kinda hate to rock the boat.   So, stay tuned.   So much drama, I know.

That's about it for now.  Hope you have a great weekend and thank you to Jen for hosting another Quick Takes!   And speaking of Jen, how cool that she hosted this?    And even cooler, that it inspired others to talk about this?   Thank you, ladies!