Motherhood & Parenting

Raphael Marie: Story of a Miscarriage

Dear Readers, I realize that this subject matter might be either too heavy or uninteresting to some of you, for I intend on writing about the actual miscarriage of our baby. I am also posting a picture below, which some of you may find unsettling. If this is not for you, I understand, and I’ll see you next time.

For the rest of you…

Four Weeks of Waiting

As I mentioned earlier on my blog, I learned about four weeks ago that our little baby had died in my womb. I was about 8 weeks pregnant at the time when we weren’t able to detect a heartbeat, and I chose to wait and let the miscarriage happen naturally, rather than seek a D&C or take medication to speed the process up. My doctor was comfortable with this, but she gave me a 4 week window for my body to figure it out. (Apparently after 4 weeks the risk of complications increases dramatically.)

In any case, I waited and waited in a silent agony for the miscarriage to happen. It was a queer sensation to knowingly carry a precious, but dead baby in my womb for so long. How could I be ok during this time? And yet, how could I not go on? I had a family to care for; life would go on. And I will be perfectly honest, it was tremendously difficult on many levels.

Perhaps one of the most burdensome things to endure was my body’s inability to recognize it’s situation. For you see, I kept producing normal levels of HCG, which is a hormone that maintains a pregnancy. In other words, I still felt all the symptoms of being pregnant–especially persistent nausea and sheer exhaustion–all up until a few days ago.

Let me break the numbers down for you. Here are my exact HCG levels taken at three different times:

My Particular HCG Levels:
5 Weeks Pregnant: 4,068 mIU/mL
6 Weeks Pregnant: 8,010 mIU/mL
10 Weeks Pregnant: 30,204 mIU/mL

Here are the standard HCG levels for these same weeks. You’ll notice there is a wide range of what is considered normal. This is because each woman is unique.

Standard Chart of HCL Levels:
5 Weeks Pregnant: 18-7,340 mIU/mL
6 Weeks Pregnant: 1,080-56,500 mIU/mL
10 Weeks Pregnant: 25,700-288,000 mIU/mL

As I said, during each week, I fell within what was considered “normal.” The interesting thing is, however, that I had two ultrasounds that indicated that my baby had died somewhere around 7 and 1/2 weeks. That would be the point where one would expect HCG levels to drop dramatically. But mine didn’t. Why? I’ll likely never know.

Bleeding Begins

A few days ago, at about 12 weeks “pregnant,” I began bleeding. It was the day before our family was to travel to South Dakota to visit family. The children were wild with excitement to see Grandma and Grandpa and all their cousins. They had their bags packed days ago and could speak of nothing but drinking Mountain Dew with Uncle Rodney in the combine, eating candy bars with Grandpa in the semi-truck, and cooking in the kitchen with Grandma. What were we to do? For surely I would be miscarrying any moment.

In the end, my husband took the children and went to South Dakota, and I stayed home.

After packing their lunches and seeing them off, I decided to drive to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and spend an hour with our Lord in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I wasn’t bleeding very much, after all, and I thought it was worth the risk.

While I was praying my rosary, however, I noticed a dull aching-feeling spread across my abdomen, and I sensed that I had better finish up and drive home. Now, if any of you have been to Our Lady’s shrine in Wisconsin, you know that one has a ten minute walk through the woods to get there. As I started walking down the hill, a thunderstorm, complete with pea-sized hail, broke loose and poured forth from the heavens. It was majestic and strangely beautiful. Thankfully I had an umbrella.

Once I reached my car, though, I sat down and started having contractions. I drove as quickly as I could to my home, while experiencing these contractions almost continually. I pulled into the garage, turned the engine off, and stood up. As I did so, I felt a gush of blood and ran into the house, stripping off boots and coat along the way. I made for the bathtub, leaving a trail of blood behind me.

Then I carefully held my little baby in my hands and wept.

Now this may sound cold or flippant, which is certainly not my intent, but I was tremendously relieved. And thankful. For you see, my little baby was easily identifiable in his perfect little sac, which I’ll post below.

It may be hard to see, but here is Raphael Marie. I placed him in a bowl for this picture.

I marveled that he could have been dead for at least four weeks, but was still obviously there. For I had worried and worried that after so much time, he would perhaps have disintegrated or gone away somehow. I felt extraordinarily blessed that he did not. (In my first miscarriage, I did not have a recognizable baby, which was a cause of deep suffering for me at the time.)

And so my story comes to an end. We are contacting the Shrine to see what should be done with our baby’s tiny body. He will be laid to rest there in the Memorial to the Unborn.

And now, I hope to begin to heal.

Incidentally, today is the traditional feast day of St. Raphael the archangel, patron of healing and marriages.

St. Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.

P.S. Some of you may be curious about the name we chose, for after all, it’s a masculine name, even though we aren’t certain of the baby’s sex. In the end, we figured God could sort it out. If little Raphael is really Raphaella, He’ll take care of it, and we’ll be glad either way.

Motherhood & Parenting

Missed Miscarriage: The Agony of Waiting

“How many pregnancies have you had?” asked the ultrasound technician, as she guided the transvaginal wand and clicked away. I couldn’t see the screen.

“Including this one? Eight. But I miscarried one of those babies a year and a half ago, and one pregnancy was twins, ” I offered, wanting to see this baby on the hidden screen, but not daring to ask.

“Hmm…do you have an appointment with your doctor today?”

“No, my doctor only needed a lab to verify progesterone levels and an ultrasound to verify a heartbeat.” My heart raced. A heartbeat. Is there a heartbeat? There should be at 8 weeks. But I couldn’t ask.

The tech finished up and said, “Go ahead and get dressed. I’ll set that appointment up for you right now. I’ll be right back.”

The door shut. I changed and sat still. Either this was bad news, that I must see my doctor, or it was wildly good news. Perhaps the tech found twins, and she wasn’t able to say so? But if that was the case, surely she would have shown me the screen. No, this was bad news.

I was then directed to another room. My doctor came in and quietly sat down and said, “I’m afraid the ultrasound indicates that your baby died. I’m awfully sorry.”

I nodded, feeling suddenly hot.

She continued, “You may quit taking the progesterone now. You’ll likely start bleeding and cramping in a few days, or maybe not for a few weeks. This is sometimes called a Missed Miscarriage…”

She went on, but I couldn’t register it. A silent sob choked in my throat. It’s happening again? Oh, my dear baby. I am so sorry.

I blinked back my tears and forced myself to listen, as my doctor kindly went on with other instructions.

And then, numb and dazed, I walked out to my van and sat down. I thought of everything I still had to do that afternoon. Drive home. Switch out the laundry. Make supper. Help the children with their homework. Fold laundry. Eat dinner…

And my little one died. Oh, Jesus! Not again. How can I do this a second time? And a flood of tears overtook me as I sobbed and sobbed. But I submit myself to your holy will, O Lord. Only hold me and my little one, for I cannot do this without You.

And what could I do? After a time, I had to pull myself together and drive home.

That was Monday.

Now it’s been a few days, and I still haven’t miscarried the baby’s tiny body yet, for my body still thinks it’s pregnant, as I continue to be exhausted and nauseous. These days have been full of a Silent Agony, as I wait for my body to figure it out and for the baby to completely pass away from me.

And then, we must somehow tell the children–the children who speak of nothing but the tiny baby growing in mommy’s tummy and all the wonderful plans they have for him.

Plans that will never happen.

I am sick, as I hold this silent sorrow in my heart and in my womb. And I wait. Wait.

Motherhood & Parenting

Should One “Stockpile?”

I’m not one to hoard things.  I’m not one to have an over-stuffed pantry.  I’m not one to buy extra food or supplies of anything, mostly because I hate clutter.

But I’ve been forced to rethink this, as I do my weekly grocery shopping and notice that certain items have been sold out week after week.  Not only is rice and Cream of Chicken Soup almost always sold out, but there have been other things missing at times too–toilet paper, peanut butter, spaghetti noodles, chicken, bread, tampons…goodness, the list goes on.

I suspect it’s likely different from place-to-place.  Those cities where rioting, looting, shooting, and burning aren’t happening, perhaps aren’t seeing a shortage of supplies.  I don’t know.  Here in Minnesota and Wisconsin, however, the supply chain seems to have been shaken a bit.  I suppose because people have been shaken a bit.

I wonder if the cultural situation will get better or worse as we move nearer to the election?  I think worse, especially if Trump wins.  (Please God, let him win, though.)  Those who are opposed to Trump seem to be very angry, and I mean, angry to the point of destruction.

So, as I look around me, I think Fr. Goring is right–it’s likely prudent to gather a few items to last a month or two, or maybe even 3, as Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God is suggesting.*  And to do it now.

What Am I Gathering?

First of all, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Don’t hyperventilate about gathering food, water, or supplies.  Honestly, it does cause me some anxiety, as I’ve got a family of 9 to feed, but God knows.  He’s in charge.  I think of Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?”
  2. That said, Noah spent how long building an ark and gathering supplies while onlookers scoffed and partied?  Or how about Joseph in the Old Testament spending 7 years gathering grain for Pharaoh to feed his people during the subsequent famine?  This may be one of those times.
  3. As far as what to stockpile, I would suggest buying only those items that you currently eat or use.  Don’t buy a bunch of rice if you’ll never eat it.  (What if one doesn’t need the extra food after all?)  Rather, purchase those items you will use.  For example, we love oatmeal, noodles, and peanut butter.  It wouldn’t hurt us to have an abundance of those items around.
  4. How about water?  We’re not buying water, but rather filling each empty milk jug we consume with water and putting them in our garage loft.  (We drink about four gallons of milk a week.)  I will continue to do this until the cultural situation looks better.
  5. Don’t break the budget.  Only spend what money you can without putting your family in a tight spot.
  6. Lastly, do you live in a major city where rioting has already occurred or might occur?  Do as Fr. Z always recommends, have an escape route.  Where are you going to go, should mobs truly begin destroying everything around you and the city is burning?  It wouldn’t hurt to talk about it, even if it’s a scary thing.  Remember, God gave us brains to use, but in the end, He is in charge.  He loves you so much and will only allow that which is good for your soul.
  7. Lastly, lastly…Go To Confession!  The Sacraments matter.  You know this.

I’d be curious to know your thoughts on these things?  Or any ideas, questions, or concerns you might have?  For, it’s all new to me.

*Mother Miriam just gave a talk at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe last weekend wherein she told everybody to, “Wakeup!”  We had better note what’s going on around us.  It’s madness, and one ought to be prepared for a 3 month disruption of food supply.
Motherhood & Parenting

Quick Update on Paul: Giving Thanks

Paul’s surgery went very well.  He’s got a new valve installed in his side to regulate the flow of spinal fluid.  We’re hoping this does the trick, and we need not visit another ER for a long, long time.

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Paul is awfully sore where his two incisions are located, but otherwise, he’s happy and itching to go home.

Thank you for the prayers.  Indeed, we feel very blessed.

Only a Year Ago…

It was only a year ago that we were here…where Paul was experiencing all kinds of heartbreaking problems.  God has taken us a long way on this mysterious journey, and we are so thankful.  It has been nothing but a blessing for our family.

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Paul about a year ago – weak and unable to move from incessant vomiting, seizures, bradycardia, and pain.

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Motherhood & Parenting

Another Surgery For Paul

Dear Readers,

If you have a spare moment, would you consider a prayer for Paul?  The area surrounding his spinal catheter has filled with fluid, again.  He’s undergoing surgery right now to test a new pressure valve, which sits near his rib cage to regulate the flow of spinal fluid.

Paul’s doctor just came into the pre-op room and prayed with him and my husband.  He asked Jesus to heal Paul and to bless the endeavors of his surgical team.  What a blessing–to have such a doctor.  May the Holy Angels guide the hands of Dr. Ahn and the entire medical staff.

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Right before being whisked away to the OR.  You can see that he’s in good spirits.

Paul is praying for his twin brother and his older sister, as they will begin school tomorrow without him.  His twin brother is taking it especially hard to be in a new school without him, but if all goes well, Paul will join him on Monday.

I hope to offer an update later tonight or tomorrow.

Motherhood & Parenting

More Questions: Fear of Childbirth & Age of Confirmandi

I received two more questions the other day, which I’ll post below, as they’re good questions and interesting, too.

Question 1: Age of Confirmandi?

Hi Kim! Thank you for blogging!

It looks like some of your new confirmandi are pretty young.  How did you determine their readiness, and did you experience any resistance from the church because of age?

Response:

Thank you for the question.

Yes, it would appear that my children are young according to many bishops’ later age requirements for Confirmation.  (My children were confirmed at ages 13, 11, 11, 9, and 7.)  The Roman Rite, however, clearly states in both the Catechism of the Catholic Church (see paragraph 1319) and the Catechism of the Council of Trent (look under heading “Confirmation” and flip to the paragraph on “Proper Age”) that one need only reach the age of reason, which is stated at 7, prior to receiving Confirmation.  And that’s it.

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Consider owning both Catechisms–Trent and JPII’s.  Well, the Baltimore Catechism is great too.

Any bishop worth his salt will not deny anyone Confirmation, so long as he or she has reached the aforesaid age of reason.

Think of the Eastern Church, which does Confirmation immediately after Baptism because they wish to emphasize these Sacraments of Initiation and not to delay in distributing sanctifying grace.  Remember, Baptism gives one sanctifying grace and opens the doors to Salvation, while Confirmation pours out more sanctifying grace with the additional 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  And both leave an indelible mark on the soul.

The question is then, why would anyone want to wait on this?  Either you have that grace and that beautiful mark on your soul or not.  And does it matter?  Yes.

The problem is that many Catholics in the Church see Confirmation as some sort of “graduation,” and so we have Catholics wrongly asking, “How do you know if your child is ready for Confirmation?”  Are we ever “ready” for any Sacrament?  Look, we do not ask our babies if they are ready for Baptism, and we do not ask them if they’re ready for Confirmation.  Naturally we prepare them as best as we can, but this is not some test.  Rather, we desire an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and we’ll do everything we can to continue their education then and afterwards, forever and ever.  Amen.

Shoot, I’m still learning about Confirmation now at the ripe old age of 38.

Secondly, dear reader, you asked if our family received any opposition to receiving this Sacrament because of age?  Not in this diocese–the diocese of La Crosse, WI.  (May it please God to preserve our bishop for a long time.)  But I’m fairly certain I would have met with a silent storm of opposition in my prior diocese.  In the latter case, one can only politely ask and pray.  Or seek the Sacraments elsewhere.

In the end, either these things matter, or they don’t, though.  If it were me–and it does pertain to our family too–I’d get these things done.  Now.  I’d ask myself, What did our bishop and priests do during all this Corona Madness Shutdown?  Did they close your Churches and quit administering Sacraments?  If so, what makes you think they won’t do it again, come Corona Version 2.0 this Fall or Winter?

As my father, an eminently sensible farmer, says,  “Make hay while the sun shines, Honey.”

Question 2: Advice for a Fearful Mother About to Give Birth?

Kim, do you have any advice for fear of childbirth? As a bit of background, I’m due any day with Baby #6. I’ve had 5 amazing natural births, and yet I’m here and TERRIFIED to give birth again myself. (Needless to say, I feel rather silly…) I’m trying to approach it from a spiritual standpoint, and yet a terrible anxiety remains. Have you ever experienced this, and do you have any advice?

Response:

First of all, congratulations on Baby #6!

Now to the question and a full disclosure: I personally have not experienced fear or anxiety for an impending labor and delivery.  This is likely because I emphatically dislike being pregnant, and so when labor and delivery come around, I couldn’t be happier.  In fact, I love it.

But you are not silly for struggling with these thoughts.  There are mothers–good mothers too–who do fear childbirth and for all kinds of reasons.  I think it’s natural to anxious about the whole thing.   I mean, it is rather a painful experience after all.

The question I’d ask myself is, what is the cause of my anxiety?  Am I afraid of death?  Am I afraid of the baby dying?  Am I afraid of the pain?  Or is it something else?  If you can pinpoint where the anxiety is coming from, then it might be possible to come up with a few ideas.

If it’s death, perhaps one could find a few pertinent scripture verses on the fleetingness of life or on the glory of heaven?  Or, if it’s pain, consider an epidural or some medication to take the edge off.  You mentioned that you’ve done all natural births, but perhaps this time God wishes otherwise?  (I had a dose of Nubain during the last labor and delivery.  See HERE for those details.)

In any case, the Divine Mercy Chaplet might be a good option for you to pray daily.  Or if you enjoy reading, check out St. Faustina’s Diary, which is all about trusting in Jesus and doing His will amidst pain and suffering.

Lastly, I’ll ask a question to the readers.  Are there any mothers out there who have experience with anxiety in childbirth?  If so, please consider sharing any ideas in the Comments Box below.

Motherhood & Parenting

Prayers For Paul

Some of you may have heard that we were in the hospital again for Paul?  Alas, yes.

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Paul in ER last Friday night.

A few months ago we noticed his back, where his catheter enters his spine, was terribly swollen.  We knew something was up then, and that it would only be a matter of time before his spinal shunt slipped out and failed, which is exactly what happened.

Last Friday Paul began having migraines–the kind where one can’t move from the couch.  The kind where one trembles in pain.  The kind where one eventually vomits, and in Paul’s case, will not cease vomiting–if not anything worse–until surgery.  When this happens, we call the ER in Rochester, pack for an extended stay, and get on the road–all of which we did.

Now, unfortunately, we’ve got this Down to a Science.  When Paul starts vomiting, I go for the medical binder, containing all the important phone numbers, and as I said, call the ER.  But it is best if I not only warn the ER that we’re coming, but also insist on speaking to Paul’s neurosurgeon’s Resident Doctor, who will in turn beginning looking over Paul’s thick file and speak directly to his neurosurgeon and get a plan going.  (One is not able to speak directly to Paul’s neurosurgeon, regrettably!  Apparently they’re very busy, which is why they all have at least one attending resident doctor.)

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Paul waking up right after spinal surgery.

Once this is finished, and while my husband is caring for Paul, I glance at my trusty Packing List, which I keep taped to the front of Paul’s binder, and begin throwing things together that one might not normally think of.  For example, we’ve relied heavily upon a few unusual items like a Traveling Lego Box, which contains Legos that are used exclusively at the hospital, not at home, and are especially detailed and take forever to put together, in an attempt to pass time away once surgery is finished.  We also cherish the joys of Perplexis Balls and Monopoly Deal.  Then, there’s the laptop for audio books, and a few slices of bread for me to toast in the nurse’s station for breakfast, as I never have time to run down to the Cafeteria in the morning because generally we’re prepping for surgery or visiting with doctors and nurses, who are perpetually doing their rounds at outlandish hours.

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Paul eating goldfish and listening to The Hobbit.

Anyway, this trip to the ER was no different.  As we live so close to Rochester, however, we need not fret so very much–or at least we tell ourselves this–because the drive is literally a tiny fraction of what it was prior to our move to eastern Minnesota.  Now, we need not spend hours and hours watching Paul decline on an agonizingly long drive while worrying about truly disturbing things like seizures or bradycardia–both of which have happened in the past and are terribly frightening.

This time, we got into the ER at about 11:30pm, got the vomiting under control at about 12:30am, were wheeled into surgery by 8am, and done 3 hours later.

And Paul is well again.  The timing couldn’t be more perfect, too, as he and four of his brothers and sisters are slated to be confirmed this Sunday by none other than His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke.  (Awesome.  Just awesome.)

If you think of it, remember them all in your prayers.  And especially pray for Paul’s continued healing.  Twelve surgeries is a lot for one boy, in 15 months.

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Paul putting together a police station set, prior to leaving the hospital after a two night stay.

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Paul today, just this minute, actually.  You can see both incisions and his beautiful smile.

Truly, we are blessed!  God is good.

Motherhood & Parenting

Miss Severed Fingers Is Whole Again!

Our family has great news: Miss Severed Fingers is whole again!  It’s been a little over two weeks since her calamitous encounter with a folding chair wherein one finger was dangling by the skin and another was sliced through the bone.  These fingers, however, haven taken nicely.  A couple of days ago she had all sixteen stitches removed.

It was quite the ordeal, though, having those sixteen stitches yanked out.  Miss Severed Fingers screamed bloody murder during the entire clipping and tugging, especially when the doctor had to forcefully wrestle with the ones stuck in her nail beds.

We had a very sympathetic nurse, whose job it was to hold sharp-looking implements for the doctor.  She kept smiling and crooning, “Oh, Honey, you’re doing such a good job!  Just a few more!”  Whereupon Miss Severed Fingers wailed even louder, and I snickered and interiorly rolled my eyes.  Doing a good job?  Humph.  Four-year-olds.  Everyone in this hospital is wondering what kind of hellish operation is happening in this back room.

But I did my part to console The Poor, Afflicted Thing too.  I said, “Honey Babydoll, calm down!  I’ll buy you a lovely coffee afterwards!”

The Little Dear quickly turned her teary, blue eyes towards me, and whimpered, “Really?”

“Of course, Honey.  Coffee fixes nearly everything, you know.”

And so that’s what we did.  After her little fingers were re-bandaged, we drove straight to Moka Coffee.  Miss Severed Fingers ordered an iced vanilla latte; I had a hot cappuccino with a much deserved extra shot of espresso.

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What a Honey.

Notice the delectable donut?  The Coffee Check-Out Lady was so impressed with Miss Severed Fingers that she even threw in the donut for free, along with a tootsie roll.  For you see, Miss Severed Fingers rolled her window down from the backseat and stuck her damaged digits out for the Coffee Lady to admire.  She even graciously wiggled them too.

Then we drove to the Post Office.  She showed her bandaged extremities to the Post Office Lady, and you guessed it, the Post Office Lady was mighty impressed with her cuteness and gave her two suckers–one for each afflicted hand.

Oh, what a day!

Motherhood & Parenting

When Darkness Creeps In

It’s been incredibly difficult over the last few months to navigate these uncharted waters of no piano lessons, no Chess Clubs, no Moms’ Nights Out, or no anything.  One would think that with the Government Lock-Down and cessation of all social activities that stay-at-home mothers wouldn’t be affected, for they stay at home after all.  But I know that they are.

Even as restaurants and other stores begin opening up, nothing is the same.  And sometimes, it’s just downright difficult.  Sometimes darkness comes creeping in, whether or not we invite it.

By darkness, I suppose I mean feelings of loneliness, sadness, helplessness, or hopelessness.  Depression maybe.  Anxiety.  Feelings of worthlessness or incompetency–a whole host of dark sentiments.

These things are difficult, and mothers are suffering.  If you’re one of them, today I want to encourage you and offer a few things that have helped me out from time-to-time.  Maybe you’ll find one or two helpful.

Have a Daily Schedule

If life is feeling dark right now, take a look at your day.  Is chaos reigning?  Do your children not know what to expect from day-to-day?  If you’ve never had a daily schedule, it might seem daunting or restrictive to do so, but I can only say from experience that it’s freeing.  For I know at all times what I ought to be doing, and so do my children.  Children thrive in routine, and I find that I do too.

Ah, but it’s not easy when the alarm goes off at 6am…

If this is something new to you, I highly recommend Holly Pierlot’s A Mother’s Rule of Life.  I’ve said it before, this book literally changed my life.

Set Aside Time For Prayer Every Day

I probably should have put this one first.  Don’t let any feelings of darkness take time away that would be normally spent with Jesus.  He is the Light, even if you don’t feel anything.  He is always with you.  Don’t listen to any lie saying that He doesn’t care; He does.

Prayer is so important that it needs to be a fixed thing in your day.  Pick the same time every single day to pray.  Lauds or morning prayer and a family rosary are great places to start.  And let me tell you, Satan loathes families that pray every day.  You will be attacked and tempted to cease your daily prayer, but don’t give in–no matter how loud or raucous the children may be, or how low you may feel.

Go For a Walk

Go for a walk or get some form of exercise every day, if you can.  And without your phone or any other technology, if possible.  Disconnect.

It’s amazing what 20 minutes will do for a gal who’s down in the dumps.  I personally prefer to do this in the evening after supper while the children are (loudly) cleaning up. It’s a perfect time for me to escape, even if it’s 90 degrees outside.  I’ve never regretted a walk or a run, have you?

And no, exercise is not about having the “perfect” body or any other such worldly nonsense.  Our culture takes exercise to the extreme–one must always look young and beautiful!  Garbage.  No, going for a brisk walk gives a body life.  It clears the mind.  Just do it.

Are You Getting Time To Yourself?

I mean, are you getting any time to yourself during the day?  Not prayer time, but just time doing whatever it is that recharges you?  A nap, a cup of coffee, twenty minutes of rereading a Jane Austen novel…anything.  Make it happen, if you can.  There’s a reason why at a 8-5 job there are two mini-breaks and a lunch break.  How much more does a stay-at-home mother need a few minutes to herself?

When I put the toddler down for a nap, I require the older children to stay in the basement for about 45 minutes of “Quiet Time.”  I lie down myself for the first 20 or so minutes, and then I drink a cup of coffee or tea.  By myself.  The children are not allowed to come upstairs, and that’s it.

When this doesn’t happen, I notice that I’m grouchier.  Touchier.  Maybe frazzled.  I know sometimes it can’t be helped like when the toddler wakes up early or another kid chops her fingers off, but most days, this can be done, if you’re children are old enough to follow directions.

Are Your Children Whiners?

Ah, this is a difficult one, and something that always requires work.  Indeed, if you’re in a really dark place, this is the one thing that absolutely must be fixed.  It will take a lot of effort and support from your husband, if possible.  But it needs to be done.  Now.

Truly, whining is about the worst thing in the world.  I’d institute Black Out for it.  One whine from little Charity, and its, “I’m sorry, Honey, but now you will have to go to your room for Black Out.  That means no books, no toys, no anything until I come and get you.”  If your children can’t resister the temptation to play with their things, just remove their “things” from their room.

A Word About Black Out

I’ve been asked, how long should Black Out last?

It depends on the situation, the age of the child, your family life…

Just the other day, The Eldest said something incredibly sassy, so she was in Black Out the rest of the afternoon.  After an hour or so, she was incredibly bored.  And I knew it, so I went in there and said, “My kitchen and dining room floors need scrubbing.  If you want, you may come out of Black Out and do that.  Or just sit here until supper time…”  She came out and washed away, very slowly and meticulously, so as to enjoy her time out of Prison.  For she had to return to Black Out when she was finished.

The point is, all families are different, but human nature isn’t.  The Bible is replete with verses warning parents about the dangers about “sparing the rod.”

My favorite?  Proverbs 13:24:

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

And, oh, it’s hard, especially when you’re down, for one must keep a clear head and not yell.

Lastly

Lastly, dear Reader, Jesus loves you so much.  If you’re in a dark place and you need further help, consider reading two things:

  1. The Catholic Guide to Depression by Dr. Aaron Kheriary.
  2. The Gospel of St. John.

“In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

I always want to put an exclamation point at the end of that John 16:33 verse.  “…but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!

 

Motherhood & Parenting

Paul’s in Surgery Right Now

Dear Readers,

I am once again asking for prayers.  Yesterday Paul began vomiting due to a migraine.  Immediately my heart leapt and then raced.  My husband and I began packing, for we knew it would end in surgery.  We called our priest.  He came over immediately and anointed him.  Our entire family made our confessions and prayed the rosary.  Shortly thereafter, I drove Paul to the ER in Rochester.

And what were my thoughts?  What were my feelings?

I had recently been meditating on Isaiah 48, and in particular verse 12, “I am He, I am the first and I am the last.”  I am He.  God is so great and so powerful.  He orders all things for good, and He will take care of us.  I must rest in His will, even if it means watching my son suffer.

While in the ER, in the dead of the night, in between trembling in pain and vomiting, we trusted in Jesus.  And we even witnessed His joy in one of the ER doctors.  She came in, looked at Paul with kindness and asked, “Do you know Jesus?”

My son smiled, and she smiled.  “He cares for you.  Stay close to Him.”

And so we are.  Paul’s in surgery right now, which will likely last 3-4 hours.  His spinal shunt had slipped out of his spine, causing fluid to buildup on his brain.  His doctor is very hopeful that by replacing it with a new one, Paul will be well, once again.

Keep us in your prayers.  I hope to send an update on him in a day or two.

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Paul in the ER last night.  He’s praying for the souls of 3 people who have died recently.

 

Motherhood & Parenting

Is Fasting For Mothers?

Prior to the beginning of Lent, nearly every year, I am tempted to bitterness and resentment.

Why, you may ask?  Mostly because I’m a whiner, but also because I’m a mother.  A mother of 7 children, all under the age of 14, and I am almost always nursing or pregnant.  While I know that there are mothers out there who find motherhood easy and breezy, I do not.  On the contrary, I find motherhood difficult, for it involves great suffering and great sacrifice.

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My house on any given day.  Lots going on!

And then Lent rolls around, and I’m tempted to think to myself, I never left Lent last year!  I was up four times last night.  The baby screamed all day.  I have stains on my shirt.  I spent a 1/5th of this year in a hospital for my son.  We just moved 600 miles.  We have no friends.  I already fast every Friday, and now I’m supposed to do more penance?  I think I’ll drink another glass of wine…

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My house on a bad day.  Mea culpa.

This kind of thinking does no good, and when I catch myself at it, I consciously reject it, for I’m only thinking about myself; I’m not thinking about Jesus, and I’m not thinking about my eternal salvation or that of others.

And of course motherhood is worth it!  I’m just saying there are moments when extra penance is incredibly difficult and perhaps not advisable in certain situations.*

Enter Simcha Fisher’s Thoughts

But, truly, I wonder about women–mothers, in particular.  Is extra penance and/or fasting for mothers in general?  Simcha Fisher has an interesting piece HERE at The Catholic Weekly.  I think she makes a really good point.  Go read it.

Or it’s HERE on her blog.  Seriously, go read it.  I know that some people consider her a bit edgy, but boy, can I relate sometimes!

Enter Ember Days

Last week I finished my very first Ember Days of fasting.  It was so difficult.  By the time Saturday rolled around, I literally couldn’t move and crashed on the couch.  My husband–no stranger to fasting–looked at me and said, “Enough already, Kim.  I know it’s only 2:30pm, but go eat.  You’ve done a good job; you haven’t complained to anybody except me, but now, go, eat.”

I hesitated a moment, then walked to refrigerator and ate a leftover sandwich, for I was exhausted and famished, and for a brief moment, I felt guilty.  Couldn’t I just make it a few more hours until dinner-time?

No.  No, I could not.

Even though I couldn’t make the full 3 days, however, it was still worth it, for I need to fast and deny myself periodically, but I also need to be attentive to my particular situation.  If I’ve been up all night with sick children and am sleep deprived, it may not be a good time to take on extra penance.

Dear Readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts or any inspiration you may have.

 

 

*In the very least, do I need to say that I don’t fast when I’m pregnant or nursing?  I probably should clarify that.  Let me repeat: I don’t fast when I’m pregnant or nursing, nor do I recommend it.
Motherhood & Parenting

Got Sick Kids?

It never fails.  Every Christmas our family gets sick.  This year, thankfully, only one child barfed on Christmas Eve.  The rest just got nasty colds, which turned into an ear infection for the baby.  And then all four girls got croup.  (Remember that scene in Anne of Green Gables wherein Anne cares for Diana’s sister, who’s practically dying from coup?  Well, we didn’t have it that bad, but still…)

Some of you may be wondering how it might be possible to survive sickness in your household and teach school all day?  Yes?  Then read on.

Since I’m in the midst of caring for Sick Kids, I thought I’d update my old post from awhile back.  This is mostly to encourage myself and cheer on the rest of you, who may be suffering from this most taxing and exhausting dilemma.

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Crabby Baby.

8 Tips to Survive Barfing Children, Ear Infections & Other Nasty Stuff While Teaching School, Cooking for a Family, and Cleaning a House:

1.Don’t clean your house.  Or if you must, just make your bed and call it good.  Heck, your bed is probably still made from yesterday because you didn’t sleep in it anyway.  You were sitting in the rocking chair, holding a screaming baby all night.  I know it’s a big deal in this household to get a load of laundry done every day too, but I guess it won’t go anywhere, so that can be left alone.  The children can turn their clothes inside-out and wear them again, for the 3rd day in a row, unless of course there’s vomit on them…

2.  Put lipstick on.  This should go without saying.  Not only is lipstick fun, but it brightens everyone’s day.  Especially if you’re not in the habit of wearing it.  Your husband and children will wonder what came over you.  And when you look in the mirror, you will not notice the dark circles around your eyes, but will instead, be stunned by the awesomeness of Hot Pink Lips.  You might even laugh at yourself, which is good.

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Survival Gear.  Must Haves.

3.  Reduce school to a minimum.  This is a very good time to renew your subscription to Audible, purchase The Story of Civilization, and commence History Class.  When your children are finished with this, send the healthy ones outside for the remainder of the day for Nature Study.  If the healthy children do not want to do Nature Study, offer House-Cleaning 101, wherein all children scrub floors, walls, and toilets.

Too sick to move?  We enjoyed this series on YouTube last week.

4.  Take two minutes and change out of your sweatpants.  Why?  Because you’re sleep deprived and look like it.  There are statistics out there saying that if you look put-together, you will feel put-together.  Paul Harvey, the decades-long iconic radio broadcaster, used to wear a suit and tie every day for his program.  And his studio was in his house, where virtually no one saw him.  But he knew that his performance was always better if he dressed the part.  So, this morning, I put on my favorite skirt and my new shirt that my husband bought me for my birthday last week.  And yes, it made me feel better about not sleeping last night.

5.  Eat takeout or something frozen for supper. Eating Little Caesar’s Pizza every once in awhile won’t kill you.  In fact, it might save your sanity.  And I’ve found that those $4.98 rotisserie chickens from Sam’s Club are handy too.  The best part is, they’re hot and ready to eat, and I’ve done nothing to prepare them.  (Someone I know gave me that great bit of advice.  Thank you!)  And I like to top it off with those pre-made salads in a bag.

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This one has been our  favorite lately.  I just add a bunch of spinach, so it feeds everyone.

6.  Decide not to yell at your children.  You are going to have a demanding day.  Just face it.  If the baby was up all night crying, he’s going to be crabby and cry all day too.  So, your nerves are shot.  You will be seriously tempted to yell at your other children.  Just don’t do it.  This will take a tremendous amount of effort and a lot of prayer.  And in some cases, like mine, it will take a minor miracle.  See my post HERE on that one.

7.  Spend more time in prayer.  Why?  Because you’re sleep-deprived and well, crazy from holding a screaming baby all night.  All sleep-deprived, crazy people need a lot of prayer.  I know this from experience.  The tricky part is making time to do it.  I suggest leaving your house and spending an hour in silent Adoration.  Hire a babysitter, call grandma, ask your husband to take sick leave…anything.  This hour of Adoration may be the only time you will get to sleep, until the illnesses go away.  And yes, sleeping in Adoration still counts as prayer.

8.  Drink More Coffee.  It’s a given that this helps, right?

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O Brewer of Buzzes!  O Terror of Yawns!  How I love thee!

 

Bonus Tip

Get yourself a teenager.  I’m telling you, it’s awesome.  It only took me 13 years, but I finally have one, and I will be eternally grateful to God for her.

Bonus Tip #2

Did I mention that you should just not cook anything?  Here’s what we did for lunch today:

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Yes, these are the most unhealthy bagels one can buy – the cinnamon and sugar ones.  But everyone loves them.  And we topped them off with Caribou’s honey/almond spread.  Delicious.

 

Know of anyone else experiencing Sick Children?  If so, share these tips with them?