Friday, February 29, 2008

Love during Lent

Since this is the season to try and create new habits, by either giving up old ones or starting new, let's talk about Love. The reflection for Friday mentions “love one another, just as I have loved you” (John 13:34).

How is this possible? Well, it is not by feelings, or flowers, or perfume. One of the best lessons I have learned is that it is ok to ask God for what we do not have. Like the prayer "I believe, help my unbelief."

This works with love too. "Lord, give me a love for this person I do not have. Help me love them like you would." It is ok to admit what we do not feel, things like love or even forgiveness. God knows what is in our hearts, no use trying to hide. Admit your shortcoming and ask for His help. Make this a new habit between you and Jesus. He will not let you down.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Some days are diamonds...

This week has been remarkably good for Holly. But full of ups and downs for me. Her surgery is approaching and I think the anxiety is getting to all of us, even the kids.

It was really good to get the following link in the mail this week. Nice to lift my mind up. Shared it with the children too. Hope you enjoy it!

Click here: Catholics Come Home

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Power of Christ to Heal

Today's reflection from Catholic Exchange is worth repeating.

So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. - Philemon 17-18

Onesimus flew the coop on his master, Philemon. As one might expect, he wasn't terribly fussy about private property since Philemon had owned Onesimus as a bit of private property. But something happened to Onesimus. He went to Paul perhaps for protection and, through him, was introduced to Jesus Christ. Instead of a bunch of lectures about "knowing his place" Onesimus found he was a man made in the image of Christ, his human dignity affirmed, and most amazing of all the ability to forgiven and return to Philemon, "no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother" Phil 16.

As to his sins of theft, Paul did a typically Christlike thing: he took them upon himself, laid no burden on Onesimus's shoulders and wrote Philemon with the very strong hint that he should set him free for what man holds his own brother as a slave?. In all this, Paul showed a salient fact: Forgiveness is not just vertical between God and man. It has a horizontal dimension. God's forgiveness healed the relationship, not merely between God and Philemon or God and Onesimus, it healed the relationship between Philemon and Onesimus. It still heals the Church today.

Just a Word of Encouragement from Mark Shea and Jeff Cavins

Monday, February 25, 2008

How much can you blog about a bottle?

Well, just one more thing. I have gathered that every baby and mom finds a different system that works for them. Some prefer the Mead Johnson, others the Pigeon/Dr. Brown combination. For better and worse, Holly and I are sticking it out with the Haberman.

I feel like this bottle is like that little girl in the nursery rhyme:

There was a little girl,
who had a little curl,
right in the middle of her forehead.

And when she was good,
she was very, very good.
But when she was bad, she was horrid!

Haberman - The Bottle

This bottle is in the breastfeeding section at Babies R Us. It holds 5 ounces, 3 more than the bottle that comes with the Haberman nipple. Leaks even less than the ones that come with the bottle! And while other bottles fit, this one we have found to leak the least. Especially if you line up the teeney, tiney line on the valve with the lines on the nipple.

If you are reading this, you may want to see this, this, this and finally this.

Haberman - The Plan

This is a styrofoam plate with lollipop sticks. You could use a regular bottle dryer system from the store. The key is to number each post, as well as the slot for the valve to match. Most important in the very first spot labeled NEW. Never, ever want to offer a new nipple by accident at night. Not knowing, we were up for HOURS, while Holly drank a little, got tired, not sleepy waited for her to be hungry again, drank a little etc.!!!

How to Make the Most of The Haberman

As a person devoted to a simple, frugal life. I have learned a hard, hard lesson this week. Sometimes less is not more. Holly's bottle, called the Medela Special Needs Feeder or The Haberman, is quite expensive. We receive two of these each time we visit our plastic surgeon, but I quickly realized we needed a few more.

5 ought to do the trick. Since we were new to the bottles, and Holly was recovering from a milk allergy/lactose intolerance, the initial weeks on with the new bottles did not register as difficult.

Four weeks later when the nipples began to tear, and we switched all at once to 5 more new bottles, it registered! Holly went from drinking 4-5 ounces in about 20 minutes every 4-5 hours and sleeping about 6 hours at night, to 2-3 ounces over an hour every 3-4 hours. Aack!

Every one needs a plan! And this may require obsessive compulsive levels of organization. But I am certain I am up to the task. If you are just starting out on the Haberman, or plan to, please consider this approach:

1. Begin on Day 1 with a new nipple and valve, use this for 2 days straight.
2. On Day 3 early in the morning begin again with next new nipple for 2 days.
3. Do this 7 times. This will take 2 weeks to break in 7 nipples.
4. At the end of the two weeks, begin rotating the nipples for every bottle.
5. Week 3, Day 1. Choose a time that is convienient for you, either early to mid morning or early afternoon. At that feeding every day for a week, use a new nipple. This bottle will take longer than the others. You do not want to introduce a new nipple at night!
6. At the end of the week, move this nipple in with the others for regular use and begin with another new nipple, at once feeding every day for a week.

My deep hope is that in this way, Holly and I will never go "cold turkey" again with new bottle nipples. Always have some "broken in" before all "break"!

Pictures of this system will follow soon!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cleft Talk

Two must visit sites are:


In addition to Wide Smiles, if you are the parent of a child with a cleft, these two sites have perfectly described what is happening to me (and Holly).

Thank you God, that Holly was born in this time. That through this internet I can find support and encouragement from around the world!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Dose of My Own Medicine

Just as soon as I posted the idea of grocery shopping on Saturday. I forgot. My daughter and I had a spare moment to go to the store without the baby on Thursday night. All day on Friday, I had to keep walking out of the kitchen, and reminding my oldest it was Friday too. The house was full of good food and plenty. What a temptation.

Note to self: Satan is the king of immediacy. One spur of the moment grocery shopping trip led to 24 hrs of temptation. Wow.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Just Say Yes

How hard can that be? How many times have I said to my children, "Will you just say yes ma'am?" As in "Yes ma'am, I will take out the trash." or "Yes ma'am, I will not eat in the living room again." Not until today did this simple request register with ME.

During our usual math struggle, me struggling to get my son to finish his math, the moment occured. He said "I will do it. I want to do it my way." By God's grace, I was able to direct him to time out, and then after we both calmed down, I could politely discuss this. My response was, "I am glad you know how to do this another way. But this lesson is not about solving the problem that way. This lesson is about learning a new way to solve the problem."

The very next thought I had was, "are you listening to yourself?" It is not about me doing it my way. But about God showing me there is another way. The original way isn't bad or wrong. But this way is new and better for the circumstances. In Holly's short life, I have given up countless "old ways" of taking care of my newborn. Instead learning a new way that is better for her.

From the very start, this has been about Just Saying Yes to God. My friend, Fr. Shawn said early on, "Hey, you can call me if you want. I'll say its not about you." That was the best advice I have received. It isn't about me. It is about God. About saying Yes to what He wants.

Saying Yes to God is not impossible. Many, many people before me have done so. Not that it is easy. What countless ways of her life did Mary give up when she said Yes? or Esther? or St. Elizabeth Ann Seton? This is not impossible. So I will begin again today, Just Saying Yes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Amazing Grace

Six Little Ducks, Wee Willie Winkie, All the Pretty Little Horses.

Of all the lullabyes I have sung over the years, and there have been many, I am quite pleased that Holly's favorite song isn't a lullabye at all. It's Amazing Grace. I can remember with my first child singing "Six Little Ducks" until my brain began to turn to mush! Or with my second singing "All the Pretty Little Horse" until I saw horses in the few moments of sleep I did get.

But this is a different kind of midnight experience. "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me." Somehow, these words, this tune, captures Holly attention and she will pretty quickly fall asleep. What an unexpected gift God has given me. The thing my daughter needs the most is a song about Grace. The very thing I need the most.

Midnight meditations on Amazing Grace have lifted me up, out of the sleep-deprived nonsense of nursery rhymes into another place. I am counting on God's Grace to carry us through the next few years of surgery and treatments that I can't comprehend. So I am counting these nights, singing about God's Grace, as treasure in heaven for the nights ahead. Those nights after Holly's first surgery, when I don't know what I will be able to think about.

I hope this Grace will cover me, today when I am talking to my husband and older children and in the future when Holly is recovering. What a great "auto-pilot" prayer to have ahead of me: "When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining like the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise then when we've just begun."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Warning: Low Capacity

My printer is kind enough to remind me when to replace the ink. Although being a frugal shopper, I know that I really am NOT low on ink. I can't figure out how to trick the computer into thinking that each cartridge is really "new" even if it is just refilled.

Don't you wish you had your own warning message too? Like a flashing yellow light on your hand to indicate: Warning: Low on Sleep or Warning: Need more coffee. Or, its been a few days since my last post: Warning: Low on Energy.

How do you handle these warnings? The best advice I have ever, ever heard is that a 15 minute rosary is more refreshing than a 1 hour nap. Hard to believe? Truth be told, when I am at a "warning" level, I don't have energy for even a 15 min Rosary or an hour long nap.

But what I have managed to learn is "auto-pilot prayer." Like, a decade of the rosary, or repeating part of the Divine Chaplet "For the sake of his sorrowful passion, Have Mercy on Me and on the whole world." The prayer to St. Michael, especially good to have memorized. Training yourself to switch this "auto-pilot" mode during a difficult situation takes the pressure off you and hands it back over to God. You don't have to think about what to think, or say. Just say what you know to be true, even if you don't feel it at the moment.

The Rosary is Truth, the Divine Chaplet of Mercy is Truth. All these prayers we memorize are undeniably Truth at any moment in our life. Lean on that!
.ps This is one of the few pictures of Holly's beautiful wide smile. How can someone so precious create so many "warning" moments?!?!?!?

Friday, February 15, 2008

What are you giving up?

Holly Marie looks peaceful here. This is just after her Baptism. If you could see the picture up close, you could also see the red around her eyes from screaming. She was so tired, so miserable from two months of the wrong formula.

So what am I giving up for Lent? I think it is to try extra hard to remember the Fast, everyday. And to give up anger, resentment, fear and worry. That may take more than 40 days, even if I don't take Sundays off. Good thing Lent began early this year!

Where will you begin to run the race to win this Lent? Go for the Gold! Make it your own personal Olympics.

Simply Fast

Lent must be the Olympics for Catholics. There are so many opportunities to excell. My biggest challenge is simply the Fast. Can you call it fasting if you just end up throwing the cake away? All day I have been haunted by cake, tempted at every turn. Finally, when I went to grab the fork one more time and remembered again it was Friday during Lent, so I just threw the cake away. Erring on the side of caution, I hope this still considered part of my fasting for today!

How can you make the Friday observance of abstinence and fasting, simple for you and your family? Well, start by grocery shopping on Saturday during Lent. If the pantry isn't newly stocked with all the best snacks, it will be easier to remember that you are actually Fasting on Friday. Or try setting out smaller plates and bowls for the family to eat off of. But most of all, remind each other.

There is such an abundance of food in our country, in our stores, restaurants and even our homes, it is so easy to forget to Fast! The tradition has been to empty the pantry before the fast began (Fat Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday). Just because we have a refrigerator and prepackaged food, doesn't mean we can't participate in this ritual too. Take a bag of extras to your church for their pantry. Less for you, more for them!

This Friday remember to Simply Fast.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Rose By Any Other Name

Happy Valentine's Day! There is something inhierently beautiful about a rose. Is it the color, or the scent, or the shape of the petals? Haven't met a person yet who can't appreciate the beauty of a rose.

The real topic here is beauty. Is it in the Eye of the Beholder? Or is beauty something else. Something created by a Creator? There exists an Absolute Truth, and there are absolutely Good Morals. Where does Beauty fall? In the eye of the beholder, or like other absolutes, a taste we must acquire?

Paul encourages us in Romans 12:2 "Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect." Certainly, things that are good, pleasing and perfect could be considered beautiful too. To be able to recognize what is beautiful, we must transform our mind.

And sometimes our home. Look around your home and see what is good, pleasing and perfect. Pick one spot to display something beautiful. Something that lifts your mind to Jesus, and out of the day to day stuff! Simplify what you display by choosing what you like best. Pack up the rest and put it away for awhile. If you find you don't need the extra stuff, then you can decide what to do with it. In the meanwhile, you will surround yourself with what is "good, pleasing and perfect." Allowing Jesus to transform your home through Beauty, one spot at a time.

The Green SUV

for babies, that is. No environmental footprint, no expensive fuel, and excellant mileage. Of course, I felt like I needed a handicap sticker on our car, for all the accesories we needed to get Holly Marie to her doctors appointment.

Her stroller, alone, is not an imposing machine, but once you load it down with the baby car seat, a musical toy attachement, diaper bag, bottles, pacifiers, extra blankets and the hat for our sweeties head... Holly's entrance into a room was certainly a force to be reckoned with. People parted in elevators, hallways and waiting rooms like the Moses and The Red Sea.

Here comes a sweet little baby in her own SUV! The one thing I did not want was a Baby SUV. As I have mentioned though, plans change and the one thing we needed at that hospital was our own Baby SUV.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Enduro Race

My husband likes to ride dirt bikes. The smell, the gas and fumes, the dirt, the dust, it is all close to heaven for him. He even entered an Enduro race one year. Didn't get very far, but still was glad to have participated in the challenge.

A visiting priest from the Missionaries of St. Paul remind us this weekend of the real Enduro Race, the one Paul mentions. 1 Cor 9:24 Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win!

Sometimes to win the race, you have to SIMPLIFY. Catholic Heritage Curricula has published a free e-book at their website. Simplifing Your Domestic Church by Abby Sasscer. This is a great place to start to understand how to get rid of distractions and focus on the real race.

The most recent chapter, Chapter 6 is on meal planning and preparation. I love this approach. For a long time, I had a grid like the one she provides posted inside a cabinet door. Then when I went to the grocery store, I made sure to buy the ingriedents to make the recipes on the grid.

While I may not have known exactly what we were having for dinner, I knew the stuff was in the house. That is half the challenge, right? Take a few minutes to read this resource and also reflect on Romans Chapter 5. Run so as to win!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Poems and Prayers and Promises

I miss John Denver. He was an optimist that I could identify with. Still in the dark of the night when my Baby Whisperer skills begin to fail, I appreciate his postive outlook in the piano music that is sooo soothing to Holly.

"And talk of poems and prayers and promises

And things that we believe in

How sweet it is to love someone

How right it is to care

How long its been since yesterday

And what about tomorrow

And what about our dreams

And all the memories we share."

In the middle of the night, when my Baby Whisperer skills begin to fail... I knew there was a reason we wanted another child.

The Baby Whisperer

Did you heard that Oprah had a guest on her show who was an expert in baby cries? Too bad that market is taken. After 8 weeks of Holly Marie crying and crying and crying, I too believe I am a Baby Whisperer.

Here is a little bit about what I have learned, in case you need a little baby whispering at your place:
  1. It might be might be: Milk allergies/lactose intolerance take 3-5 days to show up. Symptons are rash, gas, distended belly, wheezing, gasping or choking on the bottle. And don't forget persistant diarrhea or constipation.
  2. It might be might be: Reflux. One sign to look for is a small croupy sounding cough. In addition to other symptons like frequent or painful spit ups or vomiting. There are lots of good websites out there to help better understand this. This can take 2 weeks to show symptons.
  3. It might be might be: time to change outfits. This is my favorite cry. How can a two month old know what she is wearing????
  4. It might be might be: time to change a diaper. Duh.
  5. It might be might be: time to blow her nose. Duh. This requires some coordination on your part, possibly the help of another person, one of those bulb syringes and maybe even infant nasal saline. Better ask your doctor about this.
  6. It might be might be: a stray string wrapped around your baby's toe. This is another favorite. I remember my brother John crying for ever one night. Mom finally changed his clothes and discover The String! So check your sweeties feet, often.

If your child does show signs of milk allergy or lactose intolerance...well, welcome to the world of buffet bottles. With your doctors direction, you will have to begin the most important science experiement of your life: new formulas. Talk about needing a Baby Whisperer. But more on that later.

Try this website for some perspective on the situation. Holly Marie never got as bad as "Little Dude" but I can certainly relate.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Cheapskate Chicken!

Meet one of my heros: Cheapskate Mary Mary Hunt has devoted her life to encouraging people to live simply and debt free. Definitely what I am interested in! Although we have yet to achieve a debt free life, we are trying to be aware of what we need to spend our money on versus what we want. And so far, this approach has enabled us to live on one income for close to 11 years. Ok, I have held part-time jobs along the way but nothing that was a major income producer.

Anyway, on to Cheapskate Chicken, also known as Blasted Chicken. You can not get a better meal for less money and time involved. Very simple. Mary printed this recipe in her newpaper column several years ago and it has become a family favorite. Take one whole chicken, completely thawed. Rinse, dry, salt and pepper the chicken. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place chicken in a roasting pan, bake for 45 mins until juices run clear.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Change in Plans

Sometimes when you wake up in the morning, you just have to go to Plan B. Maybe it is when you or a child gets the latest virus floating around. Or if your dishwasher breaks. Or, lets say, you realize that "Yes, you are pregnant...again!"

For seven years, when people would ask that question "are you done having children?" I would reply, God Willing. Apparently God was willing in another direction. As 2007 passed, both Lee and I began to realize that one more child might be a good thing. So onto Plan B.

We joyfully began to make space in our house and hearts for our fourth child, Holly Marie. Our due date came soon enough, and Holly Marie was born. As for Plan B? Well, that has become Plans C, D, E.... Holly arrived with a cleft lip and palate.

She is beautiful, nonetheless. And her wide smile is a joy to see. Fortunately, God has place many people in our lives to guide through the next few years filled with surgeries and doctors appointments. The Wide Smiles website is a wealth of information. And even in our small town, it didn't take too long to meet other moms whose children are cleft affected.

So my new prayers is "Jesus, I trust in You." Along with the Divine Chaplet of Mercy, for those long new baby nights. I will share more about this journey as we go along. Hopefully, my prayer can become your prayer "Jesus, I trust in You" no matter what Plan B brings.

Valentine's Day Crafts for Pennies

Any holiday is absolutely my favorite day. Especially ones that involve chocolate. Interesting way to celebrate Lent, though. Here is an idea that came from EWTN's website for children for a uniquely Catholic Valentine.
Draw a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Color and cut this out. Paste it onto a heart shaped paper doily. Include the following verse:

May St. Valentine inspire us to greater charity, that we may ever respond more fully to Jesus' call, "Be Mine".

The art that we used on ours is from the "Catholic How to Draw Book" published by Catholic Hertiage Curricula. One of the best purchases we have made!

Look for the doilies in the after holiday sale carts at the grocery store. I got these last year for $0.69 for 18. No way can you buy Valentine's for 3 children's classes this cheaply!
Have fun this Valentine's Day and remember the real invitation to "Be Mine" is from Jesus!