March of Life

My friend and I sat through the same homily yesterday. Hours later, as she is enjoying a fresh pot of my coffee while Bill puts the wheels on her son’s pinewood derby race car, she asks me if I’m going to the March tomorrow (today).

A little robot in my brain started flailing its arms saying, “Warning! Warning!”

I told her that although I had gone several years ago, obviously no, I would not be taking my five little kids to D.C. to stand around in the freezing cold (or rather to run in 5 separate directions driving me completely batty). Had she ever gone?

Well, no, as a matter of fact, she didn’t feel that she had any business preventing a woman from killing her child, as long as the child was unborn, of course.

She was polite about stating her opinion, and no, she didn’t really use those words because how can someone phrase it like that and really mean it? Murder is, after all, one of the chief crimes we expect our society to prevent. And those who murder children are ranked at the bottom of the scum pool with an extra-special lowlife status for parents who take the life of their children. But somehow, for some reason, it’s different if the child is still in the womb?

The only thing that is different is that the child’s cry has not yet been heard; the child’s eyes have not yet found a mother’s face; the child’s mouth has not yet awkwardly formed a smile; the child’s fingers have not yet curled around a gentle hand.

It is a good thing that human nature tends to amuse me more than anything. What inspired my friend to ask her question while receiving my hospitality? Had I begun the conversation, I would expect someone to freely defend his or her position. But I just don’t think it’s polite to go to someone else’s house, say, that Catholic homeschooling mother of five’s house, and bring up controversial topics when it’s likely that your position will be counter to hers. I don’t go to my evangelical friends’ homes and try to teach them about the Catholic faith.

My guess is that she brought the subject up because, deep down, she’s looking for someone to convince her of the truth. When you are convinced of the truth, your heart is at peace. You search no more. This doesn’t mean you know everything; it just means that you discern what is right with clarity. Having once spent many years in doubt, I know the difficulties of having to justify a false morality. It is a heavy, oppressive burden. The Lord’s yoke really is light, because it comes with the comfort of truth.

Having been there already, I know that there was nothing that I could say to change her mind right then. Had it been that easy, I would have spared myself a decade of agony. Faith is a gift, and if you lack that gift, you are lost. The good thing is that the gift is there for everyone. You just have to want it and ask for it and you’ll get it, sometimes in a gut-wrenching instant.

I found out over a year ago that my friend was Catholic, but had allowed her child to be her excuse for not going to Mass. He had been baptized, but the difficulties of taking a child to Mass (and he was born with some special needs) quickly made Mass attendance low on the priority list. But he and Billy are good friends, and he had to wait until afternoons on Sundays to play. And then Billy (dressed in camo) would come over singing his favorite song he learned at CCD: I’m in the Lord’s Ar-my, yes, SIR! And her son wanted that. He started passing the chapel and telling his parents he wanted to go too. No no, they said, very boring…you’d have to sit still for an hour (quite a challenge for this kid). I offered to take him (silently praying, “Your will, God, but please have her say no!“). I offered to take them both. I told her Mass times, and which one I thought was best based on how long it lasted and what kind of music they played (we have a variety here). Finally, over Christmas, her mom told her she was going to hell. Unconvinced of that, she apparently felt guilty enough that she’s been taking him to Mass and put him in CCD too.

And so it was that we both listened to our pastor talk about the defense of the unborn. He said that although not everyone is called to march or pray in front of abortion clinics, he does believe that on Judgment Day we will each be asked what we did to protect their innocent lives. Praying for an end to the atrocity is the basic first step. Beyond that, I think we, especially those of us currently raising children, are called to be models of the culture of life. If you are joy-filled in all that you do, I have noticed two different reactions to that joy. One is a rejection of it in the form of animosity, envy, mean comments, or worse. The other is a curious envy: what do you have and can I get some too (but can I get it without going to church, having more children, or giving up my me-centered lifestyle)? I don’t push my beliefs on others. I simply am. And in this post-modern era, what I am amounts to a freak on a traveling side-show. But there’s no admission to get a glimpse, and I can only hope that those who enter the tent go out the other side at least pointing in the right direction.

No news is good news

We don’t get the newspaper, and I really don’t spend too much time at online news sources. I’m not turning a blind eye to the world, I just can’t handle it. Half of the news is really gossip: what celebrity was arrested, which famous marriages are on the rocks, who is being treated for love addiction. On the “serious” news side, we have articles about legislators who apparently think parents should reason with their toddlers. I’m not a proponent of spanking, but if your 6 year old runs across the street without looking you can point to a car and explain to them how stupid it was; if your two-year old does the same thing, a stern NO punctuated by a whap on the rear sends the message that running across the street has bad consequences better than rambling speeches or an impromptu 2 minute time out.

The rest of the news is generally unpleasant, depressing or sad. And important news makes its way to your home through other channels. I am so glad my husband is here. I am so weary of worrying for my friends whose husbands are not. I just want the war to end.

Embarrassing moments

I confess that I am somewhat hot-headed at times.

My husband is at least as hot-headed, if not more so.

There are moments when the voices raise, the tempers flare, the eyes narrow. Sometimes I even wag my finger in his nose. Seldom does the emotion last long. Like a tea-kettle whistling, such outbursts are often the signal for us to remove the source of heat. And once the heat is removed the boiling ceases and things begin to cool down.

One such moment occurred this afternoon as we were cleaning up the house in preparation for some guests due to arrive in ten or fifteen minutes. And, why yes, that was my voice yelling something at my poor husband just seconds before the ding-dong of the doorbell.

Nice, huh? I’m sorry, honey.

The Realities of Homeschooling

A friend emailed me this link: What Non-Homeschoolers May Not Know. It’s a list of things that friends, relatives, and neighbors who don’t homeschool don’t seem to understand.

Those for whom homeschooling is completely foreign tend to fall into two categories. One group seems to think that you spend eight hours in highly structured activities. The other thinks you do nothing all day long. The former thinks you are either a saint or a masochist. The latter thinks you have time to babysit their preschooler.

I don’t agree 100% with this list. I don’t want to use homeschooling as an excuse to not clean my bathroom or brush my hair. If manicured nails are your thing, a homeschooler has just as many hours on the weekend as a woman who works full-time to tend to that “need.” Personally, my relaxed appearance and the often chaotic state of my home are the real me, and I don’t notice people tsk-tsking over them. That doesn’t mean that they don’t, it just means that I’m not the type to care or pay attention. You would have to say some pretty obnoxious things right to my face for me to note your disdain of my lifestyle…but then, to say those things would make you a really obnoxious person and after a momentary flare of ire, I would likely calm down, forgive you, and make a mental note to avoid you in the future.

Also, I don’t want any help – not with housecleaning, not with babysitting, not with schooling, not with money. I definitely appreciate educational gifts for the kids, but we’re not poor by any stretch. I choose to not give my kids every little thing their hearts desire. And since my closest relatives are not local, Grandpa taking the boys to a museum or Grandma baking cookies with the little ones or Auntie doing weekly arts and crafts are not possible scenarios, and I just wouldn’t be comfortable having neighbors do that sort of thing. Honestly, I hate it when a non-homeschoolers says, “Oooh, let me watch your kids for you one day next week. You need a break.” Please, if you’re going to have a pity party, find another guest of honor.

But that’s just me, and situations vary. So the list is a good one.

Word of the day

Pete is at that age where he correctly uses, on average, one new word every day.

I made brownies today. When they were done, I spread chocolate chips on top and put it back in the oven for one minute to soften them. Then I spread the melted chocolate all over and left it on the stove to cool.

Hours later, the top is still gooey. It will harden to a thin crust eventually.

Pete got up from his nap to discover someone had left a chair in the kitchen. He relocated it to the stove and was using his hands and a measuring spoon from the drawer right there to dig in to the icing. He was covered in chocolate.

No, I didn’t bother to take a picture. Maybe the next time – as I’m sure there will be many of those.

I began to wash him up, and Jenny got a hand-held mirror so he could see himself. He smiled broadly at the image of the little tyke in the mirror. And then he said his new word for the day:

“Funny!”

Learning Latin

This year, Fritz is learning Greek and Latin root words, and next year he’ll move into Latina Christiana. I’m floundering with just the roots! I have little idea how to pronounce the words, and so I do the flash card drills with less confidence than a teacher ought to have.

Fortunately, I have an aunt who taught Latin – at the collegiate level, I think. I emailed her an S.O.S. last week, and she said she put some pronunciation guides in the mail. I can’t wait to get them.

She also sent me a link to Living Bread Radio. They have the Our Father and the Hail Mary in Latin, and you can listen to a Latin expert recite them to learn how to say them properly. The Latin expert happens to be my aunt. I thought it was neat to hear her. And now I can learn those prayers.

This weekend I listened to Living Bread Radio for a bit. I left it running on my computer and would hear bits and pieces. I had a funny kind of nostalgia. The station is out of Canton, Ohio – what was once HOME for me. I lived in that area until I was 9, and the vast bulk of my mom’s family still lives there. One ad was for Walsh University. I remembering attending my father’s graduation from Walsh College. One thing I remember about my grandmother’s house was that she always had the radio on in the kitchen. She would listen to Paul Harvey as she went about her chores – cleaning up after and feeding a house full of men who were all working the farm. Living Bread Radio doesn’t have Paul Harvey, but I bet Grandma have listened to it had it been around then.

I need a mini-computer for my kitchen – an under-cabinet mount kind that has nice speakers. An ordinary radio won’t cut it because I’m stuck with local programming. Do they make such things?

Teasing and Tears

Last night, Katie undressed for bed. Wearing nothing but her underwear, she gathered her dirty laundry and took it to the crowded bathroom to properly deposit it in the hamper. Fritz greets her by singing, “I see London; I see France; I see Katie’s underpants.” Katie dissolves into tears and comes into the room where I am directing bedtime traffic from the rocking chair.

“Go put your pajamas on, Katie,” was all I replied.

Honestly, what does she expect? Yes, I also chastised Fritz for teasing – his current raison d’etre. But 99 times out of 100 Katie leaves her dirty clothes on the floor of her bedroom. It seems to be the natural instinct of little girls to do precisely what is right at exactly the wrong moment to achieve the greatest grief and consternation for everyone, including themselves. And then she plays the role of victim, when really it was all her own doing. I don’t think that I do this, but every other person I’ve known to behave this way was female.

I believe God gives every child to exactly the right parents. Sometimes it is that a parent who struggled with some issue – like socks that must be on just so – is the only sort of person who could tolerate a child’s obsession with that issue. Sometimes it’s that a parent who despises a certain behavior is the only sort of person who could work to weed that behavior out of a child, lovingly of course. The former seems to be the case most between my son, Billy, and me. The latter seems to be the way it is with me and Katie.

It is my hope that by her adulthood, Katie will learn to foresee the consequences of her actions and choose to avoid roiling the pot instead of reveling in the mayhem. And, definitely, I hope she stops prancing around in her panties, too!

Down for the Count

I woke up Sunday morning with a searing pain across the middle of my back. I’ve spent the majority of the last two days either moaning or hissing depending on how efficacious the Advil has been and the degree to which it has been upsetting my stomach.

I’d say I’m doing better, but it’s not even 6 am. We’ll see.

I plan to do school from the couch with an ice pack on my back.

At dinner last night…

Bill: There’s a new movie coming out soon…300.

Me: Gates of Fire?

Bill: Uh-huh.

Me: Aren’t you impressed at my guess?

Bill: Oh, I’m all hot and bothered.

We realize comments like those at the dinner table will have to cease soon, but then again, we’ve been thinking that for years now, and I do recall my own parents taking great pleasure in mentioning their plans to lie around the house naked when we’re all moved away…or sooner if that’s what it required to get us to move away.

I’m waffling about whether or not I’ll see this movie, which is actually based on a novel by a different author but of the same battle. I didn’t read Gates of Fire. Bill read it and shared it with me. The one scene that sticks with me is when the head honco talks with one of the women. The Spartans all know that nobody will return from this mission. The chosen 300 will fight to the death against the advancing hoard. All they’re doing is buying time so the rest of Greece can better prepare its defenses. The Spartans take care to not leave any woman or child without a patriarch: if her husband goes, she’ll have an adult son remain and vice versa. Except for one woman who will lose both. Mr. Head Honcho tells her he knows this will be hard for her, but he also knows she’s a really strong woman and can handle it. And then he says that since her grief will be the greatest, he expects her to set the tone for how all the women should handle this tragedy. In other words, Mrs. Smith can’t justify hysteria if the woman with the greatest loss is putting on a good face. Lovely, eh?

And Bill told me this scenario as a sort of pep talk for me, telling me that he sees me as that strong women, yada, yada, yada. I really don’t want to be a strong woman. I want to be a taken care of woman, know what I mean?

Anyway, since the movie is based on a different novel it is likely that scene will not be in the movie, but war movies are not really what I enjoy watching. I thought it was pretty normal for women to not be interested in watching war movies, but I know two women who loved Master and Commander.

Master and Commander, to me, was like Band of Brothers meets Moby Dick. All the horrors of war, but on the sea and with a captain obsessed with capturing his nemesis. At least the nemesis was another ship commander, and not a whale. Bill had already seen it once and said that I might enjoy the story line. I did find the relationship between the doctor and the commander of the ship to be interesting. However, those scenes were few and far between the other scenes which include a 12 year old having his arm amputated, a suicide, and a bad storm wherein a soldier is cut away from the ship to name just a few of the times that inspired me to query: And why did you think I would like this movie?

I have subjected him to a few chick flicks lately, so perhaps he stands a good chance of wrangling me into the theatres to see this one. I just hope he doesn’t consider it foreplay.