Thursday, December 31, 2009

Catholics and Chanukah

Kristi has been asking me some interesting questions about celebrating Chanukah as a Christian. I can address this a bit more specifically as a Catholic.

Let me start by saying I am not a historian, theologian or scientist. My statements are based solely on my personal beliefs within the framework of the Bible and the Catholic church.

For several years now, I have hoped to commemorate Chanukah in our home. I would like to emphasize to my children that Chanukah is not the "Jewish Christmas" as many erroneously believe it to be, that instead it celebrates the triumph of Judah the Maccabee and his brothers for their victory over foreign armies and the return of the Temple to the Jewish people. The miracle culminated when there was not enough oil found to light the lamp in the Temple but the lamp burned for seven days and eight nights.

Why would a Christian, or more directly, a Catholic want to celebrate Chanukah? For me that is answered by Paul in several of his epistles. Paul identifies Christians as spiritual descendents of the Jews. Paul was unique in his time in that he converted not only Jews, but Gentiles as well. Before Paul, many saw Christianity as a branch of Judaism. As a spiritual descendent, I feel it is important to honor my spiritual heritage by celebrating many of the traditions that come along with it. Technically, I celebrate Passover every week as that was the meal Jesus was presiding over during the Last Supper.

The problem we run into as Christians when we decide to celebrate the traditions of Judaism, is doing so respectfully. When I was in high school, Adam Sandler first played the Chanukah Song on Saturday Night Live. While it certainly gave Chanukah a fresh face, it also played on stereotypes and played up the non-religious aspect of gift giving ("eight crazy nights"). It is one thing to have the symbols, it is quite another to say the prayers and teach the significance of the dreidel and it's characters. My advice is to seek out any friends you may have who happen to be Jewish or contact a local temple or synagogue and ask for guidance. We are blessed in our town to have 3 temples, at one of which is a rabbi who seeks to find unity amongst religions. In fact, after becoming close personal friends with our previous priest over (of all things) a viewing of The Passion of the Christ at behest of the local paper, this rabbi has done a Passover sedar meal each year as a fund raiser on Palm Sunday.

As for the question as to whether Jesus would have celebrated Chanukah, again not being a scholar of history, theology or science, I believe he was a faithful and practicing Jew and would have participated in all of the traditions and religious ceremonies associated with Judaism. Yes, he would have celebrated Chanukah.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wii Wish You a Merry Christmas

So, for Christmas this year, Jeff and I asked for a Wii from his parents. We expressed an interest in playing the Wii sporting games and I said if I had the console, I could just get the balance board to do Wii Fit. So, on the second day of Christmas, two Wii items entered our home. We were given as a present together the Wii Sports plus and I was given Wii Fit Plus.
And I LOVE them! Bowling is fun and I'm good at it. I practice the tennis training. I used the Wii Fit Plus for the first time and did step aerobics, hula hoop (which is exhausting) and some torso twists. The best work out though...boxing. My delts are a little sore from KO-ing my opponent in less than 3 rounds. And I have a mean right hook. That was what took him down!
And like all good things, more was to come, including that Wii Resort Sports was onsale at Target after Christmas with a free Wii Motion Plus addition included. I threw the frisbee to a virtual dog while Jeff did archery, cycling, and some kind of flying (as he described it to me). And I am hoping to get the new dance Wii disc for the whole family.
Probably the best thing about this gift is that it fits in with our family goal of being more active and healthy this year. (Notice I didn't say resolution :)!) I am hoping that my other tool in this, joining Weight Watchers online, will also extend out to other members (read: Jeff) of my family's health as well. Yes, I have weight and inches to lose, lots of them, but most important is to be healthy. I am one of those people who no matter how many endorphins I had, hated exercise and sports, but I love the Wii products. I especially love how when I did the tennis training it told me to relax and have fun and just to do my best to return the ball. As a co-worker told me, it's really amazing just how far these systems have come and how many people they have helped.
If getting active is a goal of yours for mental or physical health, I highly recommend the program. Especially if you're like me and hate to work out and claim you don't have time.
Merry Sixth Day of Christmas!
I hope six geese lay you golden eggs of health/wealth!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tiny Treasures

William- Will went back to the doctor today for a follow-up appointment after his procedure. While he was fully healed from that, turns out he has his first ear infection. He had not been fussy almost at all beyond the normal when he wants to eat and gets tired. In fact, my in-laws commented this weekend they had never seen a happier baby. He enjoyed Christmas morning immensely, especially the wrapping paper.

Joseph--Joey made a new friend. His name is Chance and he jumps and barks and tugs. Chance was being puppy-sitted for by Uncle Ben who brought him to Gigi and Papa's house for Christmas. Joey especially enjoyed taking all of Chance's toys away from him and putting them up (he's never seen anyone take a toy away from a dog and put it up high lol). His big gift of a basketball goal turned out to be a little too big but we'll hope he grows into it. His funniest Christmas day moment, finding the mother-lode of bags of leftover Christmas candy at his grandparents house and proclaiming, "Oh WOW!"

Shelby--Shelby enjoyed Christmas quite a bit this year. She got a doll house similar to the one she plays with at school and really plays well with it at home too. Her Nan and Poppy got her a portable DVD player which is truly a Godsend! She really engaged all of her family members this holiday season which is wonderful for us to see and them to experience.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Humbling Reminder of Angels Among Us

I debated about posting this and finally decided yes, I should.

On Wednesday, the 16th, Jeff came home from picking Shelby up at school and placed a large black trash bad on the table. I came in and asked what it was. He replied, "Shelby's Christmas presents." I gave him a look and asked, "What?"

Shelby had been, unbeknownst to us, put on the school's angel tree. We believe this is because she shows on the medicaid and disability rolls but we had never even imagined that this alone would qualify her. We typically take an angel off a tree each year and Jeff had every intention of taking one off the tree at Shelby's school and had forgotton. We feel immense gratitude with what we are given and as such believe we should share with those less fortunate. And we feel so rich in love and health (recent events aside) and general good fortune in life, that we never had thought of ourselves as being candidates for an angel tree. We certainly had a reasonable budget for gifts this Christmas and felt our kids would have plenty.

But we were truly humbled by the angel or angels who gave Shelby her gifts. It reminded us that God looks out for those who need it the most. That there are rewards for living a good and righteous life. The generosity of the angels has allowed us to give our kids a Christmas beyond what we could have before.

I was mildly embarrassed at first, but as a good Christian friend pointed out, that embarrassment is pride. So I decided instead of being embarrassed, we would accept the gifts in the spirit they were intended, to bring our daughter a merrier Christmas and to practice gratitude.

Merry Christmas to everyone and their families. May angels touch your heart this year as they have done ours.

Tiny Treasures-Merry Christmas Edition

William--We are up on all fours and rocking back and forth now. We are also doing the slug scoot on the tummy. Crawling is sure to be right around the corner! How can this be that he is almost eight months already. He is holding his own now when Joey takes toys, but big brother usually still wins. We are also seeing an increased interest in the dogs. It is too early to tell if this is good or bad.

Joseph--Joey told me today that Shelby was kicking. She wasn't, he was. Kicking is a new word, that is good. Tattle-taling and lying, not so much. He also practiced sitting on the potty, but still no action there for him. He loves our garage so this week has been tough as he has not been allowed access while Christmas presents are afoot. He is, however, expanding his movie viewing horizons. New favorites are "MoMo" (aka Finding Nemo) and Toy Story. He also loves Shelby's new baby doll. He carries it around like a baby and tried giving it the real baby's bottle. The real baby was not amused.

Shelby--Shelby is enjoying a week off from school. She signed "more" three times during her class Christmas party last Thursday and was a real trooper for her H1N1 booster and seasonal flu mist. The Santa from the Sertoma club in Wilmington brought each of the children at Shelby's school a present and she got a baby doll. She is showing a lot of interest in dressing and undressing him (he came dressed all in blue, so we're assuming it's a boy). Shelby is making considerable progress with hand washing and I'm hoping we can get her started with tooth brushing soon. The daily wrestling match rarely results in any teeth being brushed. Here's to hoping 2010 will bring progress in this area!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tiny Treasures--Holiday Decoration/Nativity Scene Edition

William--We have entered the "festival of lights" in more than one respect. As Chanukah began last week, we also put up our Christmas tree and trimmed it last Saturday. Will is infatuated with the lights. We really enjoyed his joyful reaction. He is getting up on his hands and knees more and plays peek-a-boo. He initiates the games! Watching his little face light up at each new decoration and tradition is a true festival in our book!

Joseph-- So, this year, as we have a real, full-size tree, Joey is into not only the lights but the ornaments asking us about many of them, pointing out shapes like hearts and stars that he knows. To try and distract the kids from the tree (there are globe lights on it that look suspiciously like balls) we placed a hope chest in front of it and I set up the Little People Nativity scene on it complete with the shepherd boy and his sheep, the little drummer boy and the innkeeper and his wife. The wise men are a short distance away with camels. My parents bought the kids the Little People Nativity scene so they would have a touchable way to interact with the figures in the birth of Jesus. We christened our nativity "O Little Town of Bethlehem." Joey enjoys all of the figures although he dislikes the donkey being hooked to a cart. His favorite though, is the "Bee-da Jee-da" or Baby Jesus. He gives the Baby Jesus kisses and asks us to kiss him as well. When Daddy moved "Bee-da Jee-da" someplace out of the manger scene to another part of the town, Joey quickly corrected him. Joey loves the scene so much that Lightening McQueen and the Hudson Hornet visited and parked in the auxiliary stable. We're learning about better places for the "dor-dees" to park.

Shelby--Shelby has no use for O Little Town of Bethlehem. She removes it with one swipe and is up on the hope chest attempting to remove ornaments and unscrew lightbulbs. This tree has something for EVERYONE! We're really working on this. She especially enjoys the stockings which can't be hung by the chimney as we don't have one, but are hanging in our front windows. Unfortunately, with Will being in the hospital that weekend, I didn't get to have the St Nicholas day festivities I had planned but Shelby seems to get the whole stocking thing and looks in hers each day to see if anything came (on Christmas Bucky Badger will hopefully be there for her).

All three kids are enjoying Sirius/XM's Holly station. It plays more updated versions of Christmas classics. We often play it (we get in through DirectTV) during the day and the kids have a favorite Christmas song...Christmas in Hollis by Run-DMC. The kids have also watched A Charlie Brown Christmas many a time. It is wonderfully refreshing to see them enjoying Christmas and not caring about the material aspects.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tiny Treasures~ Miracles Edition

William- Yesterday Will was seven months old. Last Thursday I arrived home from work to find out that Will had, since waking, refused to eat, thrown up bile and had blood in his stool. I turned right around and went to the pediatrician. My worst fear was confirmed: bowel obstruction. We were admitted to our local hospital for him to be stabilized and receive IV fluids and then Will was airlifted to UNC-Chapel Hill Children's Hospital. I followed by car. Once there, Will was given an enema of air that straightened his intestines out. My normally cheerful, talkative baby had mostly slept and just been lying still. Once the obstruction ceased, his personality and vigor returned! We stayed overnight for observation, and were released the next day. Prayers for protection from St Nicholas, St Christopher, Our Lady of Guadalupe and our family patron The Infant of Prague, were answered. Will is home recovering beautifully now.

Joseph- Joey is really into terrorizing his baby brother. Will loves Joey's colorful hotwheels cars and Joey knows it. So, what's a big brother to do but pretend to give them to the baby and just when his little fist closes pull it away and say, "no, no, no!" We are really trying to discourage this, despite knowing it's normal. Joey still gives Will kisses good night though, so we are hopeful this phase is short lived.

Shelby- The wrestler. This little girl comes up behind Joey and grabs him by the waist and pins him to the ground. (To be fair, he started doing it to her first.) It is their favorite way to play and it is nice to see them interacting, just hoping it doesn't dissolve into fighting...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

Have you ever been caught up in a wave. Something that seemed great and rewarding and good for you soul, only to be let down?

It's even worse when someone is trying to use faith to let you down like that.

Years ago, several of the Catholic members of my family were swept up in the Left Behind book series. Before LB had become popular, I had read Bud MacFarlane's Pierced by A Sword series and was moved. So, I was considering the books too, at the end of my semester when I didn't have so many school books to read. Then, just as I was ready to pick up LB, I came across some interesting information. Tim LaHaye, co-writer of the series, is anti-Catholic. In his own words from his 1973 book Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain, he writes "(the Catholic church) is more dangerous than no religion because she substitutes religion for truth." I was shocked and angered. How dare he claim to be saving people when he had this type of falsehood in his doctrine? And there is supposed to be a leader of people in the apocalypse who looks and talks well but is evil, well to me, this might as well fit the bill. One member of my family was somewhat dismissive of my anger, which made me extremely sad. I did find it interesting how some other members of my family showed waning interest in the series of books as they wore on and did not make it to final book in which it is never outright said if the Pope was raptured or not. I am not as angered now as sad that people like Mr. LaHaye use Christianity to divide us. I am sad that impressionable people may be getting the dead wrong image of the church.

But mostly I am more aware that among some of the flock, there are wolves who are biding their time and waiting for oppurtunity to destroy it from within.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

True Mom Confessions 2

This might, quite simply be the greatest "Christmas carol" ever.

Do not get me wrong, I love singing carols at church (my two favorites being Hark! The Herald Angel Sings and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear) but these funny ones when I feel like the stress of the holiday season is getting me down help me smile!

Trust in a time of Autism

It seems that everyone I know with a two-year-old's two-year-old is speaking in complete sentences. Everyone except me. Joseph babbles, he says actual words and points, he even has a few phrases down. But no sentences, not even close. My husband had difficulty with annunciation as a child, so we were sure we'd see that in at least one child and Joseph does slur some things together. The pediatrician tells me there is a wide range of normal and that Joseph is still within that acceptable range. I try not to make it worrisome, but I won't lie. I worry.

The sibling of a child with autism is 50% more likely to have the developmental disorder than a child without an autistic sibling. That means, say if the autism rate is 1 in 150, for the sibling of an autistic child's chances are 1 in 75. The numbers don't tell the whole story though. There is still no clear genetic link in this disorder. The causes could very well be environmental as the children often grow up in the same home from conception to birth, consume the same foods, and are exposed to the same toxins. More research is needed.

No one ever told me that when I got pregnant with my second child when Shelby was six months old. Of course Shelby had not been diagnosed then, but looking back, we saw signs very early on. As early as two months. The crying jags that could not be soothed and were more than just purple crying. A stronger than normal aversion to strangers. The need to ALWAYS be tightly swaddled even when most babies had outgrown that phase. The bizarre reaction to sensory stimuli. Regardless, it would not have changed my decision to have another child. And when I did hear this statistic after Joey was born and Shelby had be diagnosed, a month after she was diagnosed, I became pregnant again with Will. Because what do I really have, if I do not have trust in God that He is in control and everything will work out for the best? If God knows we can handle another child with a developmental delay or a physical disability or even a mental or physical illness, He will send that child to us. By the same token, if God feels our arms can hold more children but our hands are full with special needs, any other children will be normally developing.

So, back to Mr. Joseph. Today he said a new word, "duck" and quacked like a duck. I was afraid to tell the pediatrician that he does not imitate or make animal noises, but she said that's mostly an interest thing with kids and not to worry. We have a well-child exam for 30 months scheduled in May and I won't be surprised if I get a referral for evaluation with the CDSA. I was actually surprised we didn't get one in September. I have to trust that whatever the outcome, God knows better than I do what to do and we will be taken care of. In the mean time, I am trying everything I can to help him learn language and be a successful person.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tiny Treasure Tuesday

William--Little man is cutting two teeth on the bottom and it is no laughing matter. It's, in fact, very much a crying one. And where are the Zwieback toast? We can't find them anywhere for a kid who loves these kinds of biscuits! He has pushed up on his hands and knees a few times and scoots on his tummy fairly well these days. He has a big brother to catch up to and he's working to catch up!

Joseph--Joey has recently started saying book (as book-ee for some reason) and has started that toddler phase of repeating EVERYTHING. So when Mommy dropped a pan on her foot and some less than Christian things came out of her mouth, they came out of his mouth too. He loved our trip last weekend to Atlantic Beack/Emerald Isle. He did very well with holding my hand in parking lots and walking independently but staying close by. He's changing right in front of my eyes!

Shelby--Shelby LOVES school. She can't wait to put her bookbag on and get in the car with Daddy to go. They are making great progress with object exchange during meal time as a way to communicate her needs as well as with pulling her pants up and down to sit on the potty (still not "going" on the potty but steps in the right direction). Shelby loves her teachers especially Miss Krysta, the lead teacher, who just graduated from college and is young. Shelby's other teacher, Miss Cheryl, is so calm, nothing phases this mom of teens who has worked in classrooms like Shelby's for eleven years. When I mention that Shelby was being very self-directed and not minding at home, Miss Cheryl knows it's just a phase! Miss Mary, the speech therapist, is steadily getting into Shelby's good graces but is a wonderful and patient woman who is a long way from giving up! Miss Michele, Shelby's OT, is also slowly finding ways to engage Shelby. We are so thankful to have this wonderful support system for her!

For more Tiny Treasures, check out Lerin!