Friday, May 14, 2010

A Slow Progression

I am going to slowly move this blog over to wordpress. I really love blogger, but I kind of love wordpress more....

St Monica's Bridge here

I will for the time being, post both places and am working to export this blog there.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Small, but Mighty!


1) I managed not to be the one who melted down on the baby's birthday. I left that to our two-year-old.

2) I haven't had to ask God once for strength in cheering my husband on as he continues on the job search. I know not every week will be like this one, but I want to celebrate that I have been able to joyfully do this!

3) I got all the Mother's Day cards out on time! This includes the one that someone else insisted he would sign and send out before the actual day.

"Playing" Mommy

Remember when this used to mean you and siblings or other kids were playing "house" and someone was designated as "the mommy." Well, now that we're big girls and the house is a real structure and the title mommy we earned however we did, this can take on a whole new meaning. Sometimes, not entirely nice.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I was talking to a friend. She was describing a friend of hers who I never met and told me that she "plays mommy." I asked her for some clarification on that. She told me, "well, you know, she doesn't work, she has a housekeeper, her kids are in school all day, she doesn't cook, all they ever eat is take-out..." you get the idea.

I know many people like her friend. I have one in my, ahem, extended family. I never would use the term "playing mommy" though because I think these people love their children, it's not a game to them. They are doing the best they can in most cases or the best they were taught. I may not think I could live like them, but I'm not going to hold it against them.

That being said, I can certainly imagine that there are some people out there did not become parents because of a "calling" or vocation to do so and do feel they have a part to act out and maybe it is something of a game to them. For some people, parental love is not an innate thing but a learned behavior, and some people may not be "good learners." I don't know the person my friend was talking about, so I don't know if she is the former or the latter.

With the high rate of divorce and parents choosing not to marry, is it any wonder this trickles down to parenting. I mean, really, let's think about this. I know many, many people who married to fulfill their parents expectations of them. A few of them multiple times. First of all, marriage is a vocation, one that should never, ever be entered into lightly. And one of the principle reasons for a marriage is to create a family. Now, when I use the term "family" that does not imply children. While I know the church teaches that children should be a natural blessing of marriage, there are people who have very serious and significant reasons why children are not part of their marriage. I will not be one to judge that. A family can be just a husband and wife. Marriage is not something to put on one's bucket-list or something we should be entering into lightly. There is a good reason for marriage preparation classes in all churches. In fact, if you are not Catholic and your minister doesn't require them, find a new minister. Seriously. I was married in a Methodist church where the minister complained that one thing he could say for certain that Catholics did right and Protestants screwed up was making marriage a sacrament. He felt at the very least it needed to be treated sacramentally. So, if we are "playing" husband and wife, isn't the next logical step to "play mommy and daddy?"

Bad idea. If you are already not entirely in this for the right reasons (each other) then, introducing new humans who are not used to chaotic upheaval (ie--divorce, separation, etc) might not sit well. But we've been doing it for a generation now, so it's become a learned behavior and accepted as one.

I am not going to say that my marriage or parenting is perfect. Both could use work. But that's what marriage and parenting are. They aren't your birthright. If it's so easy, it's not the real thing. Yes, there are tremendous rewards inherent in both marriage and parenthood, but let's not confuse those things with ease.

I Link Because I Can

Have you ever noticed links on blogs? Did you ever wonder how someone was added to a list of links?

Well, I can't answer for everyone, but for me, the links I have are carefully chosen blogs that I read, that I like and that I feel are relevant to what I have posted here. Only one is not by a mother, not because I don't read blogs by men or women who don't have children, but because I do not find most of them to be relevant to this blog. The one I do link to here, I will do because it is written by one of my most favorite people that I haven't gotten to meet in person (yet!) and because I think that whether you agree with the opinions or not, they are well thought out and well written.

I was once the subject of a link war. Another woman put a link up to my blog and several of her friends decried it because, alas, I don't homeschool. (Although we do now for Joey's preschool needs. ) I'll admit, I took it kind of personally. At the time, blogging was new to me and she had a very large readership. However, I got over it, because eventually, I realized that I didn't want those women necessarily reading my blog anyway! Not that I turn down readership, but I kind of have this "thing" against unnecessary judgment.

I have a friend who links to everysingle person who asks her. That's her prerogative, but if someone whose content was offensive to me asked, not gonna happen. It's a free web, say what you want, but I don't have to acknowledge your existence.

So, I hope you enjoy the links I provide here, but please do not come to me to complain because you "don't like what so-and-so had to say about such-and-such." If you are really upset, let that person know.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tiny Treasures

William-- Mr Will is one-year-old now. Today is his 12-month check-up and Daddy is with him at the doctor's office right now. He took five full steps today independently with no prompting. Much earlier than his brother and sister! He is still teething and it is about to be the death of Mommy too!

Joseph-- Joey is working on manners a lot these days. Mostly please, thank you and your welcome. And sharing of course. There is some progress, but as all toddlers, he is a work in progress. He also is now telling us when he has gone potty. Immediately after pretty much, and sitting on the potty with less resistance. But no repeat success yet!

Shelby-- Shelby said two words within the last week! At school a therapist heard her say "pig" when going for a pig toy she liked. And Sunday, when someone had an accident all over her room (she and Joey were in there together and both had their diapers off when discovered), I asked her who made poopy all over her room and she said to me, "stinky." Because she is not saying them consistently yet, we don't count them as "words" but with the progress she has made with signing (up to 3 words) now, we are hopeful that the persistence of her speech therapists is paying off!

UPDATE: while it might not be true, we are taking Shelby's use of "stinky" to indicate that she was not the one who decided her room was a toilet. In her defense, she typically only removes diapers that are either clean or just wet. Yes, she went through an unfortunate smearing phase which was, thankfully, short lived. Another, unnamed child, however, has trouble remembering that poop goes in the potty (and the diaper as it may be) and will remove his diaper regardless.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Andrew James Kosmala
We remember our mothers and in our family we also remember him...Forever Andy.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Quick Takes

1) In our house, we are lucky when it comes to stomach viruses (odd statment I know). We rarely get them, and when we do we are good at not sharing them. Jeff and I both were infected this week. And, mercifully, God spared the kids!

2) Skin-So-Soft. I love this stuff. Avon is so worth it for this alone. Our poor Shelby, in addition to everything else, is a mosquito magnet (she got it from me). Since her skin already has issues, this is the perfect solution as it helps her skin and protects from insects.

3) Speaking of skeeters....summer is here! And I mean here. The 90 degree temp lows, the thunderstorms, the sunburn, the...well you get the idea. Unfortunately the ocean hasn't warmed up enough to swim yet. So we are waiting it out.

4) And our first crop is coming in now. Peas. The squash are starting to flower and produce fruit but it'll be a few more weeks. And the wait for the tomatoes continues.

5) Since summer is here, hurricane season is not far behind. We live in Hurricane Alley. If it's coming up the East Coast, we'll get hit in some fashion. It makes these months interesting that's for sure. We've been spared the last couple of years, we're praying God's mercy holds out.

6) I was off last night so I get to take Shelby to school for the first time in forever this morning. She and Daddy have a pretty solid routine, so I can't wait to see what I do wrong. (I mean this in a comical way. It's a steep learning curve.)

7) Lastly, here I was one year ago today:

Happy First Birthday Sweet William!

Get more Quick Takes here

Thursday, May 6, 2010

So, do you "look the part?"

Okay, because I lumber around with 3 kids in tow, in the south, people assume I am Catholic. It hardly matters what I am wearing. I have more than one, so I must be one of "them." Fair enough.

One of my favorite Catholic bloggers is Simcha Fisher. Her old blog I Need to Sit Down was something I looked forward too. Now Simcha blogs for Inside and a while back shared this gem. (BTW IC blogger Margaret Cabaniss and I made our First Communion together, were confirmed together and graduated high school together.)

I laughed. I really did, until I realized: that might be what people think of me! I still think her exaggeration is funny, but it's always impressive to me to see a woman at mass with more than 2 children who is well put-together and looks as though she just got back from the spa. Not that I look slovenly, but next to her, I could use a lot of work!

Call me silly, but I'd rather people figure out I'm a Catholic by witnessing my faith in action. My corporal works of mercy, my minstering to those around me, rather than how I look. Yes, my children are an example of my faith in action, but I'll admit, when I have all 3 with me, I'm most likely with no makeup my beat-up glasses and clothes that could have been worn yesterday too. I resemble Our Lady of "who needs charity and patience" rather than Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Is that why I go out of my way to be nice to people that I maybe shouldn't bother with? So that everyone can say, "look at how nice she is?" and forget about my appearance? I'm not vain enough. Truly I'm not.

The point I'm trying to get at hear is that even though, appearance-wise, I am low-maintenance, I need to dress it up a little and put a little thought into it not just to defy a sterotype, but also to show God that I appreciate what He has given me.

It's like my Dad always says: The abilities you have are your gift from God. What you do with them is your gift to Him.

So, I'd like to give our Lord a little bit of gratitude. Starting today. When I get home and venture out for groceries with my little guys.

Thankful Thursday

1) That one year later, Will is still with us despite a huge scare when he was seven months old.

2) That small blessings are coming more and more these days with kind words and prayers said.

3) That when I ask on facebook for good news, I have plenty of friends that are willing to oblige.

4) For old friends I have reconnected with recently.

5) Rain
6) That Sherri was okay after this:

happened last Friday.
7) That St Joseph's intercession can help produce miracles
8) That Jeff and I are recovering from a stomach virus and thus far God has spared our children
9) That our good friend's son (who is also autistic) is finally starting to potty-train! Yeah!!!!
10) That even though we were both too sick to participate in Cinco de Mayo, there will be a party at our house tonight for the 6th of May!

Small Successes


1) I have managed to faithfully keep to my 3 am (while I am at work) saying of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and my life seems ever better since!

2) I haven't cried once about the baby's first birthday (this Friday). I hope I can keep it up!

3) I made new friends, yes, anti-social, shy me made friends after mass this past Sunday. I guess I'm not to wierd after all!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tiny Treasures Tuesday

1) William-- Will is going to year old....on Friday. I can hardly believe this year is up. Looking back at how different our lives were one year ago when we welcomed our tiny miracle boy...I can't imagine he wasn't already with us! Will is desparately trying to walk and stands unassisted for several minutes at a time now. He is "daddy's boy" clinging to his father. He is also teething. Again. He is our only thumb-sucker. Last week he was peering at his Daddy out Shelby's bedroom window crying for him and holding his blue blanket and sucking his thumb. He had on a red shirt. Why all the detail? If it were animated, we would have been watching Linus Van Pelt from the Peanuts. Will still heavily resembles Shelby but looks more like himself now. He is still resistant to a sippy cup...we're working on it!

2) Joseph-- Yesterday my 2 1/2 year old asked me to hush when I was singing. He also corrected me and told me I wasn't "Mommy" I was "Mama." Okay, that works too.

3) Shelby-- Shelby loves that summer is here. She loves the sprinkler on in the back-yard (mostly to water the plants, garden and grass, but for kids to run through too). She loves evening thunderstorms. And she loves walking barefoot outside!

But What Happens when it's not cool ENOUGH?

Again, looking to Faith and Family Live for inspiration and it comes from Rebecca Teti's piece Big Love vs EWTN. Which dissects Barbara Nicolosi's interview about Christianity and the arts, particularly EWTN.

Here is what EWTN does well:

1) It focuses on prayer.
2) It introduces people to foregone Catholic figures such as Mother Angelica and Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
3) There is excellent live coverage and some of the documentary style pieces are great as well

Here is where EWTN could use some work:
1) Very low production value on children's programming and dramatic interpretations
2) Lackluster interview style shows.
3) Outdated programming

What is funny is that sometimes these good and bad points are both/and. Take for example the International Rosary that airs at 3:3o pm EST on weekdays is exceptionally beautiful. I can actually hear different prayers of the Rosary in languages from Greek to Japanese. However, it is incredibly outdated (it looks to have been filmed sometime around the early 1980s) and the production value is poor.

The children's programming is cringe-worthy. I find more quality programming from PBS and Nick Jr.

And while I don't expect Oprah style interview shows from EWTN, I am often disappointed by the interviews that are either so far over ones head or dumbed down as if to make one feel stupid. I many times wonder if the person being interviewed went through any type of "vetting" process. Many appear sick to their stomach about being on camera. Some ignore the camera altogether and give you the feeling you're intruding on a private conversation. Some PR skills are definitely needed.

But if you've ever watched a Papal audience or an event like the introduction to the year of Paul, you are seeing what EWTN could be. I am never let down in this area.

The point I am getting at here is that to be religious in media is not to be anti-secular, but to apply what is aesthetically pleasing in the secular media to the religious media to make something that is both interesting and spiritual at the same time.

While I agree with Hank Hill that ,"Our Lord and Savior doesn't need your help keeping people's interests," I also believe that if we are going out of our way to help educate both strangers to our faith and the faithful, we do have an obligation to grab their attention away from dangerous programming or too much secularity.

So, here's an idea to help. Donate to EWTN. They are on a shoestring budget, donations will help them to improve what needs improvement and keep going strong in area that are already healthy.

Monday, May 3, 2010

When is Christ "too cool"

Back in Lent, Arwen Mosher over at Faith and Family Live asked this question: The Passion on Good Friday: Would You Watch? In which she described how her father watches the movie The Passion of the Christ each Good Friday but she cannot bring herself to do the same.

I read the comments with some interest because I never have, nor do I plan to, see the movie. I know, I'm waiting to burst into flames any minute, but seriously, I experienced the intensity when I read the accounts in the Bible of the Passion and I have spent much time in front of the Blessed Sacrament contemplating and re-reading. It is real to me. I cry about it. Often.

One commenter mentioned how she resisted the movie because it became a test of how good a Christian you were. Amen sister, no one knows this but yourself and God and if seeing a movie wins you a seat in heaven, why didn't everyone see it?

However, I do not think people were wrong to see the movie or if they watch it each and every Good Friday. What I do think is wrong is the commodification of the Passion of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ.

I was in shock at the number of my Protestant friends who spend Easter Sunday watching the movie (which is about the Passion, it occurred on Good Friday) but I was more undone by the number of people I knew who were creating "movie night" with this film. Popcorn, pizza, jammies, the works. This is the story of redemption of evil over sin, this is not a chick flick or action-adventure complete with car chase and explosions. So why are we treating it this way?

I found an answer at this post on Faith and Family Live about what is good about Protestantism.

The first commenter Inge, describes it this way:

Protestants love Jesus as the Victorious Savior.
When talking about Christ, a lot of Protestants stress only one side of Jesus: He is the one who was victorious over death and we share in this victory. The other side is hardly talked about: Christ as the suffering servant. Christ suffered a lot during his life on earth, his Passion was the crown on his work her (sic) on earth. There's hardly an interest in Protestant theology for this side. The fact that they only show a cross without corpus is very telling in this respect. The focus on the suffering Saviour is very Catholic.

Inge introduces this idea by mentioning she spent years as a Protestant before converting. However, even the cradle Catholic in me still sees this is true. What many forget is that Jesus had a ministry before his Passion, death and resurrection.

He had followers before this time (including Mary, his mother, another sore spot for Protestants). He had 12 special followers called apostles. One of them, Simon Peter, didn't just play a pivotal role at the Passion when he denied Christ 3 times, he also tested Jesus' strength when he was allowed to walk on water. He became the first Pope.

He preached sermons. He drove money-changers out of the temple. He performed miracles. He cast out demons.

Jesus Christ was crucified, died and was buried. On the 3rd day He rose again. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. But before all of that, He impressed the teachers in the temple with his knowledge and understanding and He converted thousands.

When we neglect this part of Christ's life, we neglect Christ's truth. When we ignore what Christ did on earth before he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while people waved palm branches and sing "Hosanna in the highest" we are ignoring teachings at the core of our faith.

What Mel Gibson did when he brought the Passion of Jesus Christ to the big screen was too fold: he exposed millions to our Lord and God, but he also commodified it and glorified just one portion of his life. So, like everything else "cool" it can be put in a case and put away for a time. And it can color someone's entire view with one slim glance. It shows people that to be good Christians you only have to believe part of the story.

I applaud Gibson's intentions, but I abhor the results I see when people are making snacks to enjoy during the movie. People are watching it for a reaction they feel when they see it. A reaction that we should be having more than just once a year.

Our local paper invited clergy of multiple faiths to a screening and asked them questions afterward, you can read the entire article here. What was most interesting to me, was the reaction of my priest at the time Father John Gillespie. He did not believe this movie deserved the extra attention it got. (And let's face it, that's the most attention Jesus has gotten in a while, why? Not because of what He preached, but because a Hollywood actor recreated his final moments.) Two statements of Father John's stood out to me in particular:

When asked: Do you think the Gospel message of love and forgiveness was part of the film?

Father Gillespie responded: "It got sort of drowned out through a lot of the violence. If I had to compare this to a symphony, there was a lot of drums and cymbals, and I couldn't hear the violins."

When asked: Overall did you enjoy this movie?

Father Gillespie responded: "Joy's not the right word."

In response to the same question Reverend Mark Opgrand the associate pastor at a local Lutheran church responded this way: "There was a huge wince factor in this movie that was so manipulative. But the divinity of Jesus did not come across."

I think these responses are incredibly telling about why I continue not to want to see this film. I do not want Jesus to be "too cool" for me to approach as my savior. I do not want Christ to be something that gets put into a box and forgotten. I need to hear the violins in the symphony of Christ's life and ministry. As Hank Hill tells his son Bobby on King of the Hill when he pulls Bobby out of a Christian rock group, "You're not making Christianity better, you're making rock and roll worse." And when we put a price tag, when we make Christ a movie star, we're not doing much better.

So, please continue watching the Passion of the Christ on Good Friday if you choose. I see nothing wrong with that. However, make sure you are giving yourself over completely to that experience. And make sure you are remembering daily not just that Christ triumphed over life, but that He taught us lessons while He was here on earth that may not always be cool, but never go out of style.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fellowship....make it a Catholic Thing!

This Sunday I was able to attend the early mass because I worked Saturday night. It was a First Communion mass and good friends of ours were in attendance not only because it was their normal mass time, but because the husband is a photographer and offers his services to photograph the children receiving. His wife sat with me and another good family friend and her son sat right in front of me.

After mass, both women encouraged me to come over to the school cafeteria for coffee. Our church has a small ministry that offers coffee and doughnuts/muffins during the school year after the early mass. I had never attended and today was the last Sunday for the school year till fall.

I am not sorry I went. I consumed only one cup of coffee but consumed much good conversation. I met new friends, I made some connections for Shelby. And I got to have some "adult time." Jeff was at home with the kids. It was a good social outing for me, one I don't get often. There were mothers there at all stages of their lives and motherhood. We shared stories, frustrations and FELLOWSHIP!

One thing I think Protestants do WAY better than Catholics, is fellowship. It is hard to join a church you are unsure about if you don't feel welcome. I know, I know, it should be about more than feeling like you "fit in." However, today's Gospel said it best, "Love one another, as I have loved you." This wonderful love, known as agape, is easily shown in fellowship such as our parish's "coffee klatsch" ministry. It is more than coffee and doughnuts, it is a time we share ourselves with one another. We open up like a family and get along better than most families.

It is a time we remember that although "we are many parts, we are all one body." The body of Christ!

Peace of Christ be with you!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Quick Takes Friday

1) I got all my kids to eat spaghetti last night. Well, the baby's noodles had no sauce, but I'm still counting it!
2) I get a 3 day weekend next weekend...but I have to work this Saturday night. I am praying it goes quickly and painlessly!
3) I am at a loss how in one week I will have a one-year-old. Completely at a loss
4) Overheard this week:
Me: Joey did you poop?
Joey: No poop mama
Me: Joey did you pee?
Joey (getting slightly exasperated): No pee-pee Mama!
Me: Are you sure?
Joey (smiling): not sure!
5) I have found I like sleeping in a really cold bedroom....really cold. With lots of blankets on me. I don't know why, I just DO!
6) I fully blame my best friend Paula (and Joey's Godmother) but baby fever is sweeping our house. As evidence this exchange:
Joey: Mama, want baby brother AND baby sister THIS YEAR!
Me: Joey, you might get a baby brother OR a baby sister MAYBE NEXT YEAR....
7) Speaking of babies: congratulations to Allon and Jess on Baby Laya born this week!
Wow, those were quick!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Small Successes

1) When head-on provoked by someone I have had a tendency to have a short-temper with, I simply smiled and thanked them for their opinion.

2) I managed to make it in and out of my parents' house with everything I came with. I left Will's birthday present there, but I didn't come in with that so it doesn't count :).

3) When a little person asked me on Tuesday to "get shoes, socks. Get Mama's keys, Mama's car. Go Cabo (my parents' dog)'s house." I, once again, managed to persuade him that we would be staying home.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tiny Treasures

William- In less than two weeks he will be a whole year old! He is a really cruising a lot now and wants to walk really bad. He loves Cars as much as Joey now and Blue's Clues too.

Joseph-- Joey is ever the helpful brother. He is enjoying being a little enforcer and helping make sure Shelby is not getting into trouble. He pushes Will in the swing.

Shelby-- Shelby was crying last week...because she had to change her pants before school and thought that meant she wasn't going!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Fight Goes On....

One team walked for a thirteen-year-old boy, another for a former Marine who passed just six months after his fourth grandchild was born. Team AK Strong and Team Doin' It 4 Dale still can use your support as can the other angels fighting brain tumors at Duke's Preston Robert Tisch Brain Cancer Center. Please help us end this thing!

For him:

and him:

and those of us who walked for them!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Believe

Yesterday my parents walked for Andy. My friends Holly and Christy, along with their families, walked for their father Dale. Brain tumors claim young and old but at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Cancer Center at Duke University, where both Andy and Dale received treatment, there is hope. Hope that a cure will be found. We had planned to walk but multiple scheduling conflicts combined with a stomach virus foiled our plans. Please listen to Alabama's song and watch the images and remember that there are always angels in our world. Angels like the doctors, nurses and researchers at the Tisch Center at Duke. Angels like those fighting and surviving or fighting and being born to eternal life as a result of brain cancer. Angels like Andy and Dale.

I believe, there are angels among us....

Click here to help the doctors, nurses, researchers and patients fight this disease...our team is AK Strong and Holly and Christy's team is Doin' It 4 Dale. Either team or any of the others can definitely use help in this fight!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Is She For Real?

OMG, it was a magical experience. You'll never know what it was like, but it was the greatest thing ever. It's just too bad you can't feel the empowerment I feel now....

I'll spare you the rest. Recently I met up with a couple of friends, one of whom just had her first baby. At home. With her midwife. I was totally revved up to hear her birth story. I was totally let down. Instead of hearing how wonderful it was and how much she loved the baby, I heard about how I had somehow been devalued and how my births just wouldn't measure up. I looked over at our other friend, to see if she was hearing what I was, (she has never been pregnant or given birth) and she was shifting uncomfortably in her seat. When there was a break, she tried to bring up anything not baby, but when someone is a first-time mom, everything is all about the baby. All the time. I wasn't any different.

I tried not to let it bug me. I tried to just ignore it, but it ate at me for days afterward.

I wanted a homebirth with a midwife. But I had a genetic disorder so that midwives ruled out even a hospital birth with one of their own. So I found an OB/GYN. A great one. And her amazing partner. My great ob/gyn suggested everything to try and get my baby turned. That baby was comfy and not moving. Everyone was realistic with me about my chances for an external version. I talked to Jeff. I prayed. We decided that a c-section was the best chance for me. I told friends and family, some who were worried, one who was wonderful. My friend Andrea, who had two c-sections, told me that when she was having her first and was heart-broken a nurse asked her, "Do you know what they call a woman who has had a c-section? They call her mom." That put it in perspective for me. I still got to experience labor and dilation and my water breaking and contractions! And out came a beautiful baby girl. I was never happier.

Fourteen months later, my water broke, I went into labor again. The nurses asked me if I wanted to try a VBAC. I hesitated for a second and said no. My babies were very close together, my uterus had most likely not completely healed and there was a bad family history regarding VBACs. I went into the OR again. I got a blond (surprise!) boy. And 20 odd months after that a c-section went as scheduled and I got another robust little boy. (That was almost one year ago.)

They may not be stories of giving myself over to my body, or maybe they are.

One indisputable fact, they are the stories of how my children came to be. And contrary to what some may believe, they are beautiful stories. The stories about how I learned to accept that sometimes what we want isn't what we get. How I had to surrender my "dream birth" to get my "dream babies."

If you have the birth of your dreams, I am happy for you, please do not tell any other woman that her birth was less than ideal. If she already believes that, you will do her a great disservice in making her feel inadequate. If she does not, you will alienate her as she probably does not want to be around someone who looks down at her.

And if you find out that the birth of your dreams is just that, a dream and the reality is something you never imagined/wanted, take heart. You just did something selfless for your child.

Please support women's rights to birth and midwifery with Where's My Midwife?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Seven Quick Takes

1) I am nervous for Jeff taking his Praxis II in Family and Consumer Science this Saturday. It will make him more marketable for sure. No, he doesn't sew or do interior design (although those will be on the exam) he can teach agriculture and the food portions well. I really, really hope he passes!!!! For me it is more stressful than when he was taking the exam for elementary education certification for some reason.
2) Lately I am having the strangest dreams. Like that a I work at HT but it's a very strange HT and the sell things like dead rats because people in some parts of the world eat those. My friend Lea worked with me in the dream and people kept walking off without paying us while we were ringing them up and they wouldn't let us go on breaks. I blame this dream and other stranges ones on giving up soda. Yeah, that's what's causing them!
3) I am, I have discovered, hopelessly addicted to some television shows. These include: King of the Hill, Law and Order: SVU, Snapped, America's Next Top Model, and Deadliest Catch. I missed out on the Desparate Housewives, LOST and 24 addictions, but I kinda like mine better.
4) Today is a special little guy's birthday! Our friend Julie's grandson Dylan turns 2. We've never met in person, but thanks to a little invention called facebook, we have seen many pictures of this little guy and I just want to hug and squeeze him! He looks like Shelby and Will in coloration but I can tell in the pictures he is Joey's little twin in personality and adventureness. I hope one day the boys can get together and play as I think they would love each other.
5) I am seriously excited to meet Paula and Scott's little frijolito in September! Ryan already has so many people who love him and for me, that is the most exciting part of being pregnant or having a close friend be pregnant. Seeing the love that a person who we haven't ever seen can generate is freaking amazing!
6) I love it when my kids want to snuggle. Of course I tend to fall asleep and that is not allowed! Joey will pry my eyes open and say ,"No seeping Mama! No seeping!"
7) It is hard to believe, but southeastern NC is actually enjoying a spring this year. Normally we go from bitter cold winter straight to 90 degree days, but the past couple of weeks have been upper 40s at night and low 70s during the day.
Check out more Quick Takes @ Conversion Diary!

Thankful Thursday

1) For Tuesdays, SVU marathon

2) This sweet face

3) And this one

4) And this one

5) For a husband who never gives up

6) A rainy day to sleep yesterday

7) That so many people are motivated to walk for brain cancer research

8) A beautiful and fruitful vegetable garden

9) Friends who are as obsessed with baby names as I am :)

10) Really comfy pajama pants

Small Successes


1) I stopped drinking sugar soft-drinks and limit myself to one Diet Coke at work. This is to curb budget as much as waist line!

2) I have started teaching Joey to use an open cup instead of a cup with a straw. We have spillage issues, but he's been really good about trying it out.

3) I managed to hold down the fort and not count how many time I heard "where Daddy go?" last Saturday when Jeff went to a job fair. I also managed to persuade a little person who was determined we were going to "get mama's car, go out town" that we were staying home.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tiny Treasures Tuesday

William-- In 3 weeks, he will be 1. How this year has passed so quickly. He is a little machine and into everyone else's business. Let me try and change a diaper that is not his and he's in my face. He is big into smiling still and molars are coming in now. Oh the agony! But he is handling quite a bit of food, all of it real. We are working hard on a sippy cup. Hoping he gets it quick.

Joseph-- So (and Jen, don't throw something at me all the way in China for this) Joey is big into repeating things, and so we wanted him to say something on the phone to his Uncle Max (who stopped a puck with his chin and required seventeen stitches to close it up) to cheer him up. The phrase I taught him, "Sidney Crosby is a girl." Max is a huge Washington Capitals fan, so I figured that would make him proud. And boy did it ever. Joey thinks all forwards in the NHL are "Wayne Grecky" and goalies are either "Patrick Roy" (which like a good little French Canadian--NOT-- he says correctly) or "I-ann Milla." We are working on manners now as well which has the funny result of Joey saying "Thank you, you're welcome" whenever we give him something.

Shelby-- Would you believe the one unrolling the new roll of toilet paper wasn't the child who loves repetitive behaviors? Shelby resisted when her brother brought her a roll to undo (he handed it to the baby who was thrilled). We got her school progress report yesterday which shows her greatest growth is social and self-help skills with progress in speech and fine motor skills. She loves school so much that yesterday when she got her pants dirty before leaving and I had to take her shoes off to change them, she started crying thinking she wasn't going to get to go.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Quick Takes Friday

So, here we are again....
1) I did our taxes. I know, I know what you're thinking, doesn't everyone do them the day you get your W2's? My answer is what fun would tax day be if I didn't do them then. I'll let you ponder that...
2) I am ever more drawn back to the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as I struggle to help many close to me through this crisis in the Church.
3) I am going to be doing pre-school at home with Joey this fall (he will be 3 in September) but am still trying to decide how I want to do it. My options are a) just one on one (with the baby too of course) or b) trying to find two to three other moms and doing a co-op preschool where we rotate houses. I'm leaning toward a) because I think it will be easier on me but I like the idea of b) and him being able to play and socialize. Decisions, decisions
4) We are so excited that Will's Godmother Gina is coming for a visit on Sunday. Due to conflicting schedules we haven't been able to see her in months! Last week Joey's Godmother Paula came by for a visit as well. We are so blessed to have their Godparents close by!
5) Can you believe in just a few more weeks Will will turn 1. Where has this year gone? He is so ready to walk it's not funny, but his body isn't quite ready yet....stay tuned for details....
6) Next weekend is the 5k for Brain Cancer Research at Duke. I am praying for cool weather but no rain to walk in. I get to push Shelby and Will in the double stroller while my brother Matt runs with Joey in the jogging stroller my mom got on craigslist. (Fingers crossed!)
7) Our peas are starting to grow in our garden and my fingers are crossed we get a good tomato crop (at least) this year. Last year's crop was foiled by children pulling unripe fruits. I guess it's the idle hands thing?????
Check out more Quick Takes over @ Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Advice? Really?

Everyone has advice. On everything. Especially parenting.

Your kids won't eat something: well tell them they can have nothing until everything is gone!

Difficulty potty-training: remove all "fun" from their lives until they decide that poop and pee only go in the potty.

Acting up: a good hard spanking will resolve that once and for all!

(These are common ones I hear people doling out to friends, family and complete strangers.)

I'm pretty up front about how I take advice on parenting. I don't. Unless I ask, don't offer. And I rarely offer advice. Only when it's asked for. In case you haven't noticed I refuse to subscribe to the "one-size-fits-all" parenting approach. And it's a good thing too, because with a special-needs child, especially one with autism, you spend a lot of time re-writing rules and being flexible. So, I especially like this button I found recently:

I found it here, where I highly recommend people visit who would like to support autism research and the families (like mine) who benefit from it. Until April 17, shipping is free and a portion of proceeds benefits Autism Speaks.

Here is the thing, I LOVE talking about autism. I love helping people understand my daughter, her classmates and children and adults around the world. I love sharing ideas. However, I strongly dislike well-intentioned people who believe it is their job to tell me what therapy I should use on my child, what so-and-so celebrity is doing that I should as well and most-importantly, how I should deal with my child's idiosyncratic behaviors.

And while we're on the subject, parenting advice is not appreciated for my normally developing sons either. When my two-year-old has a tantrum and I remove him from the situation and we discuss self-control, that is something that works for me and him. I don't care what you would have done differently, you're not me and he's not your son to discipline. He's two, there's a big learning curve, so do I think he'll have another tantrum, you can bet your bottom dollar. And yes, my eleven-month-old is teething and biting, please keep comments to yourself. I do not spank infants. And he is not biting out of malice so there is no need to bite back at this point (which failed miserably when I tried it with the previously mentioned two-year-old, I got bit back).

Am I a perfect parent, no, I am not. Is there a possibility that somethings could benefit by my changing them? Yes, of course. But let me figure that out. Don't shoot down my way of doing something because it didn't work for you or your friend or your cousin. Let me be the mom I am supposed to be and trust me, if I need your advice, I'll let you know. I'm not shy in that way.

Monday, April 12, 2010

So, now what?

We want an answer, but we don't know what that answer is.
We want accountability, but we don't know how.
We want no more lies and cover-ups, but we can't decide how to enforce this.

I feel like the fish in the plastic bags at the end of Finding Nemo. We made it this far, what next?

I feel like Dory, just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

I am angry, I am agitated. My husband always says everyone has a breaking point, I haven't come close to mine, but I know many who have. I am reminded of Rod Dreher's defection to the Eastern Orthodox faith as he grappled with covering the scandals in the church and found the pressure too much. I cannot fault him as many, many people did when they found out. Everyone has a breaking point, and everyone has different ways of dealing with it when they reach that point. How do I know my reaction would be different?

I have seen many point to the easy solution of just simply changing faiths as an answer. I remember growing up Catholic in a very Protestant south being surprised when I realized that people who found something they didn't like in their denomination just "switched" to another. I saw many Methodists become Baptists, Baptists become Presbyterians, Presbyterians become Evangelicals. I don't know that this is wrong, but for me it was certainly confusing. I know and understand people leave the Catholic church, but not quite with the frequency I was seeing. The phenomenon of being a "cafeteria Christian" is still going strong today. Don't like it, try this counter and see if it's better. While I agree it's probably not too hard to just walk into the local Baptist church and join up, does that make it right? For me, no.

For me, it comes down to beliefs. I believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist through a miracle called transubstantiation. I believe it is a gift to receive the body and blood of Christ in the form of the sacrament of Communion. For that reason, during a period of my life when I did discern whether the Church was where I belonged, the only alternatives I considered were the Greek Orthodox church in my city, a small upstart Ukranian Orthodox church and a Byzantine rite church over 50 miles away in Myrtle Beach.

For me, the hierarchy of the Church does not bother me because I go back to this:

And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18

Christ instituted a hierarchy with that statement. And in many, many Protestant churches there are hierarchies (the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Mormon prophets, the presidents of the Southern Baptist conventions). While they may not serve the same purpose or authority as the Pope does and perhaps are chosen differently, they exist in some form or fashion. I do believe that knowledge or not of incidences does not exempt the Pope from question. As the leader of the Church here on Earth, it's his responsibility to acknowledge problems, address them, and see that they do not happen again. He is accountable both to God and the people of the Church. While we may not elect him, he still should be hearing our voices.

I completely understand and respect the rights of others to disagree with me on these topics. I am not here to debate them, but share what I believe. I believe that right now, I am called to pray for the Divine Mercy to come upon the Church and the Pope to help right the egregious wrongs that were done to so many.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


How does one deal with disappointments?

Is it based on how we were raised? Our religious convictions? A combination or other things entirely?

I am one of these people who pray on things. I pray that if things don't turn out the way I would like that I will accept this as God's will and be able to bear it. I don't always succeed.

Recently one of my best friends became pregnant despite being told she would have a very uphill battle to do so. She did need some minor help, but got pregnant immediately and is nearing 20 weeks.

She had always wanted to have a little boy but had been, since getting pregnant, getting herself used to the idea of a girl. Her husband has a son from his first marriage who has 2 half-brothers on his mom's side. The men in her family were all about wanting a girl this time around. My friend is a people pleaser and would have loved to have given her husband and step-son a daughter and sister, but, was thrilled at her ultra-sound last week to find out she was having a boy and that they were just as happy.

She told us that she did feel a twinge of something, but Jeff quickly assured her that she was only human (before I could even process a thought! sometimes my husband really amazes me) and those things happen and we shouldn't feel guilty about them. I told her that during my first pregnancy when I didn't know the sex of the baby, I had no expectations. I only looked at yellow clothes. I had long lists of names for both sexes. I listened as one person told me I was having a boy because I carried low and another tell me I was having a girl because I threw up EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. When Shelby was born, I had a very hard time believing I had a girl. For one, my husband's family told me almost daily that they only had boys (and he is one of four boys). And since I had no expectations, I am sure I would have been just as surprised to be the mom of a boy. But I got that twinge. When Shelby was about four months old I was shopping and saw so many cute little boy outfits. In my mind I thought, "So this is what I would have bought for a boy." The feeling lasted a brief second as the sleeping baby in my cart that I never imagined I would have reminded me of the gift I had been given. And two short months later I was pregnant again, this time with the first of my two boys. After sharing this with her, my best friend said she had gone to the mall the day after her ultrasound and saw all these little boys with their mothers and thought to herself, "This is what I get to look forward to!"

But I know many women who have cried for days on end after an ultrasound where they found out the sex wasn't what they were expecting. And in one extreme case, I know of an intact family who turned their daughter over to social services after she was born because she wasn't a boy. I'm not posting these as judgment, just as a contrast to the other example.

I know people who do not find out the sex of the baby simply because they fear they might not like their own reaction. I find that opinion extreme because honestly, even if you follow Landrum and Shettles to the letter, there are no guarantees you are getting what you are trying for. And I have seen people be downright competitive. For what? I have no idea.

Disappointment is something I feel when my team doesn't make the playoffs or I don't get a job offer I really want. Disappointment is when I expect something better than what I end up with. Wondering what if about a baby...I don't qualify that as disappointment.

And I while I don't fault people who may have a much different reaction than my own, I do sometimes wonder about the degree of the reaction. I wonder if people remember that God is always in control, not us.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Reality Bites...or does it?

Last night I briefly had the pleasure of meeting Marc Elliott.

I was at work when I opened the door for a man about my age (there is a remote button behind the desk). The man entered and was making a loud noise over and over again. As he approached the desk, he looked at me and smiled and said, "Sorry, it's Tourette's didn't mean to scare the hell out of you." I smiled back and said, "That's certainly okay, I've met scarier." He laughed and went on his way. My heart was instantly touched. I didn't know his name or story, but something spoke to me.

This morning when he checked out I found out more about him. He was in town speaking at the local university's Greek Life program on tolerance. He is a motivational speaker. Tourette's was not the first major struggle in his life. It probably won't be the last. But in my brief meeting him, his friendliness and upbeat attitude made me instantly forget those things.

I've told many, many people who would like to help my daughter that she is receiving therapy, but in the end, if she still has some meltdowns over sensory issues or if she never speaks, I am okay with that. Really, I am. But I know the rest of the world, the world that doesn't know Shelby doesn't understand her and is not always okay with her being different. I wished I had been able to hear Mr. Elliott's speech last night. It would have been wonderful to see someone living against such odds holding an audience of sorority (and yes, I am a sorority sister) and fraternity members captive. It might have given me a light too look to when I let my mind wander to what may become of Shelby as she becomes an adult.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Matters of Sin

I'm not going to beat around the bush because unless you've been hiding under one, you might have heard about the latest scandal/cover-up regarding priests and sexual abuse.

Let me start by saying that sexual abuse of anyone by anyone else is always wrong and should be punished by law. Yes, I think that priests who abuse children should face the law the same as any other citizen and those who think priests are above the law and protect the ones who abuse children should be punished as well. This is the reasoning side of my brain talking.

My heart hurts though. Because although priests are not above the law, I do hold them to a higher standard and I believe people should. So it hurts to be this let down. And I am grieving. Grieving that I cannot trust that someone who helps nourish my soul, who feeds me the body and blood of Christ will not turn around and do something so terrible, so heinous to another human being.

But my feelings on this subject took on a new meaning this week. Everyone has shakes to their faith periodically, and something minor can rock that shaky faith one direction or another. So imagine you were truly standing at a crossroads in your faith. You could seriously turn and leave at any moment because you felt pushed to an edge for whatever reason. And something major happens (like this most recent scandal)...what would you do? Lerin doesn't have to ask this hypothetically, she is there right now.

When I first read her post I wept. Tears for what she has gone through, what she is going through now and for the unknown future. And I prayed because I knew God was calling me to answer her thoughtfully but I didn't know what words to use. I had wanted to blog about this recently, but everytime I just sat and stared. Suddenly the words poured out of me. And to my surprise, they made sense and they seemed to help me process what was happening.

What I am about to say, is pretty much what I said in the comments on her blog. I am not defensive about media portrayal of the Church as many are. Fair or not it is there. I am not going to attempt to hide behind the bias of the majority of the media (and let's face it the world) against the Church and Catholicism. There is no excuse for the behavior of any of the people involved in these cases. What these priests and those who covered up their actions did is unconscienable. Wrong.

It is very easy to say that if these men are called to be the shepherds, we, the sheep, should trust them and our faith and perhaps walk away because of these recent actions. But that is not the best response. Christ institued the Church, he founded it on Peter, the Rock, the first Pope. But men run the Church. And men sin. They are fallible. They see the same temptations we all do. We, quite simply, cannot find perfection in them or in any other human being. Only He is perfect and it is through Him that we seek and find perfection for our souls, our selves.

What remains true no matter what the time, place or situation is that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. Christ is forgiving our sins in confession. Christ is present and blesses the union of a man and woman in Holy Matrimony. The Holy Spirit comes in when a someone is baptized and is renewed when one receives Confirmation. Christ is present when priests and nuns go through Holy Orders. And it is Christ who blesses us when we are sick and annointed. These things remain true no matter if a priest abuses his power and position or not.

Many of my Protestant and Evangelical friends will like to point out that if we go to the Bible it shows us the real truth and that turning to Christ is the only means of redemption. Let me answer this in two parts:

1) If someone attends a Protestant church faithfully and listens each week to the teachings of the Bible as delivered in the sermon and/or in Sunday school and then finds that their minister has been abusing a child or children, does that make the words in the Bible, the things it has taught us any less true or relevant? After all these things came out of the mouth of someone who directly disobeyed the teachings of the Bible? The answer is no. And the same is true when receiving the sacrements and attending mass. Those teachings, Christ's presence does not change.

2) Because Christ is present in all the sacraments, when we receive them, we are in fact turning to him.

Now here comes the part where people always like to pick on a sacrement: confession. Did those priests go to confession? Were their sins forgiven? Assuming yes, the priest did go to confession, yes his sins, are forgiven. But that does not absolve him from sinning in the future. And in the Act of Contrition we speak these words: "I detest all my sins because of your punishment, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin."
Meaning that this priest who would have received absolution of past sins is promising God that he will attempt not to sin again. Yes, we can question the sincerity of someone saying this prayer but what does that accomplish because in the end, as George Clooney says in O Brother Where Art Thou, even though God has washed away your sins,the state is a different matter. So the fact that a priest went to confession is not reason to shield him from the law if matters are reported.

There is no easy solution to this mess. I have heard people say we should allow priests to marry and that will solve all the issues. I have been ministered to by a convert to Catholicism who was married with children and grandchildren. He was and is a wonderful man. Who was falsely accused of abuse by a church member who disliked the fact that the Vatican had allowed him to be ordained. That is a whole can of worms I'm not sure I want to open up except to say, that a married priest is not the salve to cure-all. After all, the highest percentage of pedophiles are married heterosexual men. And the majority of the high profile cases we are seeing are involving homosexual priests, so does that mean that the Church will also need to allow homosexual unions? And the point of celibacy is self-control and true devotion to the Church and her people. Regardles of sexual orientation, if one is seeking to become one of the religious, then in fact, he or she must take the vows of chastity. And stick to them.

And stripping the Church down and starting over will only serve to create a greater division among peoples.

Ordaining women is not a cure either. While it may very well be a wonderful thing, it does not stop the actions of people or the sin in their hearts.

I don't know the answer, so I pray that God will reveal it to those who can affect the changes needed.

Years ago, while going through a crisis of faith and during the trial of John Geoghan and it's aftermath, I realized through prayer that if I let my faith be shaken by the sins of others, I was allowing Satan to cast his net even wider than the original sin. He had not only taken over the person who had sinned, but my heart as well. I have to pray, literally every day, that the sins of others do not lessen or damage my faith.

I pray today for the victims of abuse of all kinds, that the abusers will see the sin they commit and stop themselves from more vile action, that those whose faith may be rocked either as a victim of abuse or as just one of the faithful find strength and comfort in Jesus and through the sacraments, and for all of us who are struggling to move on and make the Church the noble institution we know it to be.

Rachel may want to consider changing her blog name....

while it's still true there is so much testosterone in that for something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT! Congratulations to the Balducci family! I cannot stop smiling.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Some FAQs I get about being a parent of an autistic child...

These are some of the most common questions I am asked:

1) How young can children be tested for autism? When was Shelby evaluated?

Well, this is a complicated question. Most pediatricians (at least the ones accepting insurance) will have parents/guardians fill out some type of developmental questionaire when they see the child for well-child visits. The ones our pediatrician has are called "Ages and Stages." These give you a scale to rate your child on for gross motor, fine motor, social, and communication. It is important to answer these honestly because it is for the good of your child. If the pediatrician sees a gross deficiency in an area they will usually refer you out to a specialist for more in-depth testing and diagnosis. From what my pediatrician has told me they most commonly refer out from the ages of 18 months to 3 years, based on the questionaires. Of course, sometimes they refer out when a parent contacts them about a concern as well. Shelby was first evaluated at 18 months for communication delays. She was not found to be autistic at that time. However, when we saw no improvement in six months, she was re-referred and it was showing at that time a much greater delay. In fact, her speech had stopped progressing at 18 months and still has not increased. At that time an occupational therapist was brought in who also diagnosed Shelby with sensory-processing disorder.

2) Who should I see if I suspect my child has autism or is on the spectrum?

First I would contact a pediatrician because they may be able to sort out any confusing behaviors etc. Most states have some type of agency for early childhood development that will provide testing free of charge or bill to insurance. Many larger communities have non-profits that also provide this testing. North Carolina has an agency called the Child Developmental Services Agency (CDSA) which provides testing for children under age 3 free of charge. If they deem your child falls into the autism spectrum or has a significant delay in an area they will qualify for services from the state which are provided on a sliding scale based on household make-up and income. They have negotiated rates with providers that are sometimes lower than an insurance co-pay. After the age of 3, the school system will take over in our state with testing and service providing.

In North Carolina the University of North Carolina has a non-profit calls TEACCH which also offers testing services.

I opted for the CDSA because it turned out the TEACCH center had an over six-month waiting list for testing. CDSA got Shelby in same week. Also, TEACCH is able to offer some limited guidance on service providers, but no negotiated rates or sliding scale as CDSA did.

3) Does insurance cover the services for autistic children?

Check with your insurance provider, but mine did not. Speech, occupational and what is known as CBRS (Community Based Rehabilitative Services) therapy (available for children under age 3, a play therapy that reinforces other therapies and helps with socialization) were not available. Some insurers are also trying to label autism as an educational issue (like a learning disability). Forward thinking states (like North Carolina) are being proactive and trying to enact laws listing autism for what it is: a neurological disorder, in order to prevent insurers from denying coverage to adults and children with the disorder.

4) I suspect my child is autistic but many of my family members are in denial. If my child receives a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, what can I do to help them understand what this means?

When Shelby was first diagnosed, we got her into a playgroup at the local TEACCH center where another child's father was a Marine deployed in Iraq. His wife had to break the news of his diagnosis over the phone. She said he did not take it well. Denial was in full force. The TEACCH center did lots of video-taping of the playgroup to create DVDs to send him to help him feel connected to what was going on in his son's treatment.

Families are sometimes the least accepting of a situation like this sadly. Or worse, they are accepting but try to be "helpful" in less than helpful ways. Someone who googles everything and questions all of your decisions is not being helpful.

One of the best resources I found to help family was the book Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm.

This book opened up the eyes of so many in our family as to what Shelby was going through and more productive ways they could channel their energy rather than just trying to "fix" her. A young man with Aspergers is quoted in the book from an editorial he wrote for the New York Times as saying (paraphrasing) I'm not broken, I don't need to be fixed. I'm not sick I don't need to be cured. That brought me to tears as it clearly articulated from someone on the spectrum to those of us not on the spectrum how we should approach someone with autism and how we should adjust our outlook.

Also, I would say share your feelings with your family. Jeff and I made very clear that we didn't see this diagnosis as "devastating" or a "setback." We saw it as a tool to help our daughter be "the best Shelby she can be." When family members "act out" after hearing a diagnosis it is often a result of not knowing how to act around you or the child involved. But they will follow your cues and, most importantly, your words.

5) How did you come to the decision to have more children?

We decided before we had Shelby that we would have more than one child. We stuck to that. And we did have Joseph before Shelby was diagnosed.

This is a very personal decision and there is no right answer for everyone. Siblings of autistic children are 50% more likely to have autism. Again, read that statistic carefully. It does not say that autism is genetic. Remember that most complete siblings (siblings with the same two biological parents) are more likely to have the same exposure to toxins in the home because they live in the same home and if their mother lives and works in the same places during both pregnancies can be exposed to the same toxins in utero as well.

We were not going to let a statistic keep us from having the family we felt led to have. And after Joseph was born and shortly after I found I was pregnant with William, Discovery Health ran a special called Autism x6 featuring the Kirtons family from Utah who have six children, all with some form of autism (check for local listings, since this is Autism Awareness Month, it will probably be rebroadcast). Jeff said, "If that family can handle six autism diagnoses, I am sure we could handle at least one more." So far, neither of our boys has shown any signs of autism and have shown promising signs we did not see in Shelby at a young age: looking for our faces, good eye contact, and responding to their names for example. Joseph is showing a few speech issues, which we are having him evaluated for, but is miles ahead of Shelby and is mostly able to communicate in words, phrases and sometimes sentences.

In our case, a "what-if" wasn't going to derail us. But that's not as easy for other people to decide. Please do not judge any family with a child with any kind of developmental delay or an illness in their decision as to family size.

6) Are there any prenatal tests for autism?

The short answer is no. In order for something to be tested, doctors have to know what causes it. We do not know the cause or causes of autism so it cannot be tested for.

And regular readers here will already know that Jeff and I did not have any prenatal testing of any kind for any of our children.

7) Do you immunize your children?

Yes. All of them. Autism will not kill my children. Polio, the measles, rubella...they most likely will. I know two children who died of those diseases because they were not immunized against them. I know 3 who are either blind, deaf, severely impaired or a combination as a result of those diseases. All 3 were not immunized because their parents were afraid of autism.

8) Is Shelby on any type of special diet?

No. Dietary changes may work for some children but rarely work for all. The most common diet restrictions I see/hear about in autism are gluten and soy. Keep in mind that diet is not a silver bullet. A mother of one of Shelby's classmates who eliminated gluten from her son's diet said she always tells parents who ask her that while eliminating gluten has helped her son's behavior, he is still autistic and still requires therapies. His speech did not become perfect as a result and he still has other sensory issues.

If you choose to try and change your child's diet keep in mind a couple of things:

1) Eliminate one thing at a time (for example red dye for 1-2 weeks before trying something else). Eliminating too many things at one time will not give you a clear picture as to what the aggravant is.

2) If you have other children especially, you are better off eliminating whatever it is from everyone's diet. Autistic children know when they are the only one not getting pizza.

9) What kind of support do you get?

I have a great network of other mothers of children with autism that I have met via Shelby's school and the TEACCH center. We have met more parents from the community through workshops offered. I encourage parents to find organizations like Surfer's Healing and others where their child can participate and they can socialize with other parents. While our friends with normally developing children are very understanding and wonderful with Shelby, having another parent who can sign or help with joint compression or deep pressure is a Godsend sometimes.

I am also blessed to have my husband. I do not know how single parents do it with a normally developing child much less one in Shelby's situation.

10) What do you foresee for Shelby's future?

I do not know. Because she is so young and there is still so much to be learned about autism, I try not to think too far ahead. What are we doing for school this year? What progress has she made to date? Those are things I focus on. Will she move into a group home when she becomes an adult? Will she be able to go to college? Those things overwhelm me and are not immediate worries so we don't focus our energy on them.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Small Successes

1) I signed up for the 5K in April with Angels Among Us to support brain cancer research and the Preston Tisch Brain Cancer Center at Duke where my cousin Andy was treated.

2) I didn't lose my cool when Shelby woke up from a nap with a blow-out diaper that required immediate laundering of her clothes and sheets (and some clean up of her) and then went into the boys' room to discover Joey had removed all his clothes and his diaper for his nap and wet the bed. Back to back large laundry loads, but survivable.

3) We are working on counting with Joey. Ask him to count the crickets, "one, two, two crickets!" and he is now spontaneously counting items (he can get as high as six alone).

Thankful Thursday

1) My husband because I don't know what I would ever do without you!
2) Joey calling himself Joe. So mature at two already
3) The roaster I bought Jeff for Christmas that he said he didn't want and we didn't need but we'll be using to cook a beef brisket in for the family on Sunday.
4) The wonderful people participating in the Angels Among Us 5k and Family Fun Run/Walk with us.
5) For the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And the fact that no one loves us as much as He does.
6) For my favorite bloggers, especially: Lerin, Ambrose, Rachel and Michelle, all of whom have been so inspiring and encouraging to me of late.
7) Zyrtec, I can breathe again!
8) That teething doesn't last forever.
9) That sometimes, there is a special therapist that works with your child, and your family, who becomes a good friend.
10) That tired and out of sync that it makes me, I have a job!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Even if I don't have to worry about this yet....

Rachel has blogged about it. Ambrose has too. And you can read about it everywhere from People to ESPN to CNN.

The recent bad behavior of athletes is, to say the least a huge turn-off. Especially to parents. Me included. But this is not a new battle. Yes, we may not see many more Wayne Gretzkys--who we call the Great One not just for the player he was on the ice, but the man he is off of it-- or Cal Ripken Jrs. or Lou Gehrigs but let's be honest, this has been going on for YEARS.

Back in 1919-- Joseph Jefferson aka Shoeless Joe-- Jackson and his teammates earned the nickname the Black Sox after throwing a World Series. And let's not forget my team, the Yankees had Micky Mantle (among others) who was a notorious philanderer, alcoholic, and absentee father. Too bad the winner of the 1961 home-run race, teammate Roger Maris-- a faithful husband, devoted father and regular mass-attending Catholic--isn't as widely revered. And the list goes on and into other sports as well.

In the early 90's NBA player (and bad boy) Charles Barkley was the star people loved to hate. But Barkley made no bones that he wasn't a role model, in fact, he launched an entire ad campaign about it. He was urging parents to be their children's primary role models and discouraging the hero-worship of athletes.

This anti-hero campaign enraged parents, educators and lots of other people. But I remember my father saying, "You know, he's got a point." I remember that campaign years later because what Barkley was trying to do was admirable. Bad behavior shouldn't be tolerated but we, as parents shouldn't be encouraging our children to look to athletes or actors as role models. These people are high profile, no doubt, but are human and foul up. Some of them, a lot. What we should be admiring about them is the good qualities they possess IE- drive, work ethic, charity, humility (which is in rare supply among all of us these days). But that should not become a worship of that person.

I was talking about Charles Barkley before, do you remember who the antithesis (according to the media and ad campaigns) was in the NBA. Ding, ding, ding! You're right it was Michael Jordan. He could do no wrong. He could retire from the NBA and then come back. He could go play minor league baseball and make a stupid-silly space-basketball movie. He sold millions of dollars in merchandising. I live in Michael Jordan's hometown. His star has tarnished a bit. When he was working for/playing with the Washington Wizards, he brought them to town. He skipped out on bills at restaurants and had a flagrant affair that went front page in the National Enquirer. And while he is certainly responsible for his actions, we are somewhat responsible for his thinking he could get away with it. We idolized him. We bought his stuff. We started fan clubs and told him he could do no wrong. About the only people in life who didn't treat him that way were his father, James (RIP) and the Laney High School coach who cut him from varsity. We all used to say, "Wow, you know that coach is feeling stupid." But when the jig was up, we were left feeling awfully used and foolish ourselves.

My husband idolized Mickey Mantle as a kid. This went on long into adulthood, but, the moment my husband most talks about when he talks about Mickey is not about a great play made in a game but about a press conference that occurred years after Mantle had stopped playing when he was in failing health and broken down and in desperate need of a liver transplant. At the news conference Mantle addressed the idea of being a role model and flat out said, "I'm not a role model." He went onto say why: God had given him the body and the talent and he had abused and wasted both. He said this through tears. He had realized this too late.

And women are not exempt from this either. Marion Jones served time for using performing enhancing drugs and lying and was stripped of her Olympic medals. And there was this figure skater who hired a thug to take out her competition.

I am a huge sports fan. If there is a TV with hockey on, I'm probably in front of it. If it's Saturday in the fall, we are watching college football. No one cheers louder for a Yankee World Series victory. And I'm raising little fanatics myself. But, I plan on keeping them in check about idolizing the gridiron Gods and ice kings. I'll probably allow posters and for sure jerseys, but I plan to teach them how to be a good person without using Gary Goal-tender or Bobby Batter as an example. I will refrain from referring to a person I have never met as a humanitarian or without a doubt a role model.

Friday, March 26, 2010

What Every Mom Can Live Without

Inspired once again by Michelle, there are some things every mother thinks she has to have that she can really live without. Okay, maybe some moms are smart enough to figure out they don't need these things, but here's the idiot guide for the rest of us:

1) Baby monitors: Now I know what you are all thinking, I will never hear my baby wake up, or but I want to watch them sleep! Here's the thing, unless you have actually slept through an earthquake or your child's room is on another floor or wing of the house, you will hear them when they wake up. And if you're breastfeeding and your ears don't hear them, other parts of you will. As for the monitors with the cameras: unless you have a Houdini on your hands, you probably can do without watching your child for EVERY second of the day. And if your child is walking and routinely departs his crib before naptime is over solo: it's time for a toddler bed.

2) Baby detergent: You can use the regular free-clear detergent for baby's skin. It's less expensive and comes in bigger containers and you can do a whole load with it. If you get tons of free Dreft samples or gifts, use them, of course! But there's no sense in spending the extra money if you don't have to.

3) Pee-Pee Tee-Pees: Don't know what these are? Check them out here. If you don't have boys you definitely don't need them. If you do, just keep a few old wash clothes around the changing table. At least those are reusable. Once little guy is potty trained, what are you going to use them for?

4) "Step-Up" Formulas: Rest assured moms who formula feed, you can go from regular formula to whole milk (obviously this is excluding babies with allergies to cows milk, follow your pediatrician's instructions). You do it the same way you would wean, replace one bottle of formula with one of milk slowly. This is a marketing ploy by formula companies to keep your business another six months to one year.

5) Tummy-time mats: I was seduced by these too. And I received them as gifts. You can do tummy time on a regular blanket on the floor surrounded by toys and pictures. They do not build up strength any more quickly with a special mat vs without one.

6) Baby Einstein DVDs and CDs.: Again, if you get them as gifts fine. But your baby will get much more valuable intelligence building by interaction. And it's a lot less expensive to just play the classical music station or watch animal webcams or whatever. I'm not saying never, but you don't need the whole collection.

7) Subscriptions to Parenting magazines: The ones like American Baby or Babytalk (my favorite) that give you one year free if you subscribe when you're pregnant are great. But who really has time to read them when you're chasing a two-year-old. Or multiple children.

8) A monitor to watch the baby in the car seat: There are enough distractions when you are driving without a color monitor to watch the baby sleep. You are not making your child safer by taking your eyes off the road.

9) A stroller and a pram: One is enough, preferably one that converts between the two, but to have two such big pieces of equipment is not an efficient use of space.

10) Every baby naming book on the market: one is enough if you even need that since every website out there has a baby name function. And I'm sure there's an app for that too. Trust me, the meanings of the names haven't changed.

Now, I'm not criticizing those of you out there who, like me, have most of these things. But the temptation, especially for new moms, is to have EVERYTHING. All the new gadgets and gizmos, but babies, especially new ones, eat sleep and poop. Sometimes all at once. And no is something you get used to saying a lot as a parent (and hearing starting as soon as they talk), so there is nothing wrong with resisting the urge to buy something you are pretty sure the baby will never use.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

So, I think this is worthy of a second post today...

I opened my email and got this message from a fed-up friend:

So, apparently, I am now a pariah among my "friends" here (she lives several hundred miles from me now) because I decided to give birth in a hospital with a doctor.

This really annoys me because they know what happend with F's (name abbreviated to protect identity) birth and how the lack of intervention by _______(midwife's name left out) caused the shoulder distocia (sic). One mom told me to forgive and forget. Well, I've forgiven even though my son was put at great risk, but I don't feel comfortable forgetting and I told her so.

See, here's the deal, we are all so quick to criticize doctors and the "sterile hospital setting" and too many interventions, but why don't I hear women coming out like I am about midwives so set on their own version of childbirth they put you and your child at risk. That sometimes the lack of intervention causes serious injury or death!

She went on to apologize for ranting but needed to get it out.

I don't know why more women aren't coming out with stories. Any number of possibilities exist among which are a) they don't want to relive a horrific incident publicly b) there is a low incidence of negative experiences with a midwife assisted birth and c) they may have signed some kind of legal document barring them from doing so. It really does not matter because the point my friend is making is a valid one, there have to be some cases of misconduct so why are they not being aired as publicly as complaints against doctors performing "too many" Cesarean sections or inductions.

I will summarize what happened to my friend (which she has given me permission to do) who we'll call Cate. Cate is in her late 20's and is expecting her second baby. Her first son, who we'll call Fred, is now 2 1/2 years old. Cate was excited to become a mom and had a very specific birth plan. Give birth at home, without drugs and with a midwife. Her two older sisters (who happen to be twins) are both l &d nurses and had been present both for midwife and physician assisted births at the hospital they worked at and thought it was a great idea, provided Cate was getting proper care. They both were on hand at the birth. Cate chose a midwife she liked personally although she felt the woman was a little unorthodox, she was not too much older than Cate and Cate felt sisterly toward her. More like a girlfriend than a health care professional. Cate had asked early on about a back-up physician just as a regular run of the mill type thing. She was a little surprised when her midwife told her that she did not "contract" with one particular physician group, but her patients were more than welcome to consult on their own with a physician. It seemed odd but Cate wasn't concerned. She also did not get any ultrasounds which she found unusual as most of her friends and family who had had midwife births still got at least a viability scan and most got an anatomy scan around 20 weeks. Looking back now, Cate says these should have been red flags, but she was enjoying her pregnancy too much. Disturbing to her older twin sisters was that Cate was told she didn't need a GTT aka the glucose tolerance test. Especially since Cate seemed to be larger than most women at her stage of pregnancy at that point, but the midwife told her that the GTT was overkill by physicians afraid of insurance companies and law suits, that women rarely had it and false positives were common. (Disclaimer here: due to a high dose of antibiotics I was on during my pregnancy with Shelby when I had my GTT my diagnosis of gestational diabetes was, to say the least, questionable but I went along with it to avoid retesting.) Cate went past her due date. 18 days past her due date. Finally she begged the midwife to strip her membranes to bring labor on. Thankfully it worked. And thankfully, her sisters were there when she delivered. Fred turned out to be close to 14 pounds at birth. Cate tore severely and he was so large he got shoulder distocia. And thankfully Cate's sister brought a glucose test meter and found that the baby was going into a diabetic shock. She called 911. Cate had undiagnosed, untreated and rampant gestational diabetes. Perhaps interventions in that way would have prevented such an oversized baby. And even if Fred had turned out to be quite so large anyway a doctor would have been able to assess this with ultrasound and make the call as to whether an induction or c-section was needed.

The midwife, in this case, was stripped of her license in that state and I think is a rare example of recklessness in midwifery. I saw a wonderful midwife for one visit while pregnant with Will. She knew I was high risk and a repeat c-section (I was not originally scheduled to see her, the doctor I was to see got stuck in surgery). She did a more than thorough exam and wrote down everything I told her and apologized the doctor had not been in and assured me she would personally sit down with him and go over my chart and have him call me. He did. She went out of her way to provide excellent care and I highly recommend her to anyone interested in a midwife birth in my area. I shared with her Cate's story and she was outraged. She told me that typically she has to be firm with a mother she is comforting who is finding out that she is high risk and will have to have a physician birth or who needs a c-section. She insists to them that they are still giving birth and that their first act of selflessness as a mother is giving up their "ideal" birth.

I see and hear all the time on birthing and mothering websites about how "dangerous" it is to tell stories in the media of negative things happening in midwife assisted births but I never hear anyone commenting on why it is okay for people to portray physician assisted births as negative. It is clearly a double standard. I understand that midwifes and their patients are immediately on the defensive because they are not the "norm." However, I don't think that gives anyone the right to criticize a woman for choosing a hospital or physician assisted birth nor for having a repeat c-section. This defensive posturing only serves to add fuel to fire against having a home birth or choosing a midwife.

Ricki Lake began her "social network" of Your Best Birth to show women that midwife assisted home birth was the best way to have a baby. I don't disagree that for some women it is and maybe a community should exist for those women. But calling it "your best birth" implies women either choosing to or being forced to consider doing anything else are not having a good birthing experience or are somehow less of a woman or a mother.

I'm all about representing balance. I am at peace with giving birth in a hospital by c-section. But I know a lot of women are not. A co-worker (who has had a vbac) and I were discussing this and she said it disgusted her when she heard women telling someone like me (who has had multiple c-sections) that I had made the wrong decision. "It's not their life, it's yours and you did what was best for you. Why don't people understand that? As badly as I wanted the vbac, if it was in anyway too risky for me, I would have had the repeat. It's not worth risking my or my daughter's lives." I couldn't agree more. But when I hear a woman ranting about her unnecessary c-section, I don't try and convince her of anything. I simply tell her I am sorry she had to go through that and I hope she'll be able to try for the vbac she wants the next time.

We've gotten to a point in our country and society where we don't care what others think to the point that we think that everyone who doesn't think our way is wrong and should be told so. That's just not right, especially in matters of birth, parenting, etc where there is clearly more than one way to do something.

I would not be telling Cate's story today if she had told her friends that she was giving birth in a hospital with a physician if they had, instead of treating her with disgust, told her that as long as she was doing what she believed was right and was best for the baby, they supported her.