Twelfth Anniversary

Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. A public festival thrown for the people of Munich in honor of the occasion was the very first Oktoberfest.

I’m not royalty. I’m not Bavarian. My name isn’t even Therese.

But I did get married in the fall, and went to Germany on my honeymoon. In fact, it was probably pretty close to Ludwig and Therese’s anniversary when Bill and I got to Munich. The Oktoberfest had already ended, but that was okay; we were on our honeymoon and didn’t need to do a big social thing.

One place we stopped was the Hofbrauhaus. There are six beers made locally, and Hofbrau is one. I think we went to the Hofbrauhaus for lunch (and so Bill could have their beer). Typical for a beer hall, we sat at a long, public table. Another couple joined us. Like us, they were tourists, but they were German tourists and they were obviously country bumpkins (I think they had one complete set of teeth between the two of them). They were obviously thrilled to be in the big city for a holiday. It was so cute to see them enjoying themselves and their trip. And I took much comfort in knowing that they stood out as tourists as much, if not more, than I did.

Not far outside Munich is a place called Schloss Nymphenburg. This was the summer home of the Bavarian royalty, including Ludwig and Therese. One of the rooms, the Gallery of Beauties, contains portraits of 36 women, commissioned by Ludwig. Bill recalled that our tour guide said that these were Ludwig’s conquests. I’m not sure of that, but definitely, at least one woman was at the center of a major scandal that ended with Ludwig abdicating his throne to his son.

So, he wasn’t a good king, and definitely not a good husband…but he threw a good party.

Twelve years ago today, my life changed forever. Although I was no more mature when I left the church then when I went in, I can say with certainty that the sacrament of marriage transformed me. All of me – my future, my dreams and my hopes – was bound to this other person who would either drag me down like an anchor or lift me like a helium filled balloon…or…keep me grounded like an anchor or have me drifting aimlessly like a helium filled balloon…or…do all four of those things depending on where we are in our life! For better or ill, we’re traveling this road together.

We don’t have a fancy summer home, and Bill’s gallery of beauties is filled with photos of me and our children instead of exotic dancers, thank goodness. He’ll never be king, but he’s a good husband…and, he throws a good party.
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Party Time

Today is our 4th Annual Oktoberfest. I noticed that Danielle Bean is having hers this same day. I’m pretty sure we started doing ours after seeing an article she wrote for Faith and Family many years ago about her fest. I had no idea who she was four years ago (future patron saint of Catholic domesticity and laughter), so I felt it safe to shamelessly copycat.
Here’s tonight’s Speisekarte. Everything, except the cucumber salad, can be made well in advance, frozen, and reheated. That’s how I’ve managed to effortlessly (ha!) host 80 to 120 people at my home (half of these people are under the age of 12, so it’s really not that big of a deal – honest). This year is the first time I’ve been down to the wire, and neither my cucumber salad nor my potato salad is done yet (potatoes are boiled, though). Sleep…rest…these things can wait until next week!
Bratwurst, boiled in beer and then grilled to perfection
Frankfurters, aka hot dogs, for the kids who don’t like bratwurst (all my kids love bratwurst, though)
Sauerkraut, from a can!
For dessert, we’re having:
Brownies
Of course, of interest to the majority of the male guests is the beer: Spaten Oktoberfest, which we did manage to find after a few frustrating days. And to complete the beer hall aura, we have available apple schnapps, pear schnapps, Jaegermeister, and this rapberry liquor which is really yummy.
Traditionally, the Oktoberfest ends the first weekend in October, which is next weekend. There’s plenty of time to throw together an impromptu party if you are so inclined. Go ahead and copycat!

Week 7

I am so glad we’ve made it to Friday. This week was a killer.

Last Wednesday, Fritz was sick with a bad cold and did no school. On Thursday and Friday, he was still sick, but managed to do some school. On Monday morning, we had to go to the doctor for Billy. The bottom line was that he was behind, way behind. Even omitting subjects or exercises that can be skipped – for example, I love the Explode the Code books and each of the kids is working their way through one of them – we (mainly Fritz and I) were doing school until after 3 pm all week long.

I know it seems like we should be able to back off a bit. We’re on Week Seven – that seems so far ahead to anyone who didn’t begin school until after Labor Day. But I’m having a baby soon, and we’re taking a break. And I’m moving next June, so the school year has a definite end.

And although I’m pretty relaxed about most of life, my children’s education is one thing that I’m really, really uptight about. I don’t like to skip things. I don’t like to rush through things. I don’t like to leave assignments incomplete. It’s one thing to not finish a handwriting book and quite another to not finish math. I still feel a certain amount of guilt about having not finished reading the book on Clara Barton that we began at the end of last school year; my only consolation being that I’ll be able to read it with Billy next year (and then with Katie, and then with Jenny, and then with Peter…). Fritz will hear her story, will likely read her story to a younger sibling, more than once.

I know I need to not worry so much. When I hear my kids humming classical music or discussing theology among themselves or quizzing each other on math or geography – for fun – I know they’re getting a good, solid education. I just wish they had the same motivational drive to check off all those little blocks on their weekly assignment sheets as I do.

40 Days for Life

The 40 Days for Life campaign begins today across the nation. Eighty-nine cities and towns are planning daily vigils at abortion facilities or Planned Parenthood offices, including one that is about a half mile from the house I own in New Jersey. This one also happens to be right across the street from the church where my four older kids were baptized.

We have abandoned women in this country. When our best solution to an unintended pregnancy is to pressure an expectant mother to reject her maternal instincts which desire to protect and nurture the new life in her womb and to have that life eliminated, we force women to deny their own humanity, to deny the humanity of their children, and to deny a very fundamental concept that murder is wrong.

What choices do women have today? Virginity is mocked. Men want to test drive the model before committing to the purchase. Engaged couples are expected to move in together to be sure that they can get along. Marriage is pushed to an older age or put off altogether. The end result is that women must have sex in order to be considered normal; they must use contraception to avoid the consequences of an active sex life, regardless of the health consequences of those products; and if pregnancy occurs, they must get an abortion because parents, sisters, brothers, friends and coworkers will all tell them that their life will be all messed up if they have a child.

Instead of making them equal to men, the sexual revolution has further reduced the power of women. Where once society protected women from poor youthful choices, it now shoves them into an adult world, condoms in their junior-sized jeans, to try to find happiness through a decade of one-night stands or tenuous relationships.

Ending abortion is as much about protecting women as it is about protecting unborn children. For now, my young daughters turn to me and their father for love, affirmation and protection. There will likely come a day when we will no longer be enough. They will turn to peers and other adults for a second opinion: am I worthy of love? I do not want them to feel they must give away their bodies in order to win someone else’s approval.

As long as abortion is society’s preferred solution to an unintended pregnancy, women will be the biggest losers in this game. Nobody can help carry the guilt of being an accessory to the killing of your own child. Nobody can ease the grief of future miscarriages and infertility that may result from having had an abortion. Nobody can take way the physical pain of future medical problems that may occur.

The 40 Days for Life campaign is hoping to end abortion through prayer and fasting and the daily vigils. I can’t go to a vigil – not pregnant, and not with a slew of little kids. I can’t do a true fast, although I can give up sweets or some other indulgence. I can pray, especially for a closure of this facility in New Jersey, but most especially for women to have true freedom and support and encouragement to make good choices. Consider participating in some way in this campaign, too. At the least, offer up one prayer for an end to this insanity.

A voice of reason

Back in June, I took Billy to a pediatric endocrinologist and then to a pediatric gastroenterologist following his regular annual physical. He, and all my kids, are falling off the growth charts. At my request, I was also referred to a pediatric nutritionist, since I was (and still am) convinced that his biggest problem is not eating enough.

After those three appointments and a bone scan and some blood work (which had some low, but not too low, numbers for iron and growth hormone), I thought we were done. But no sooner had the gastroenterologist concluded that a wait-and-see approach with some follow up blood work to check on the anemia was the best tactic, when the endocrinologist called and insisted that we go to a pediatric endocrinologist out here after our move. Had we been staying in the area, the Walter Reed team would have been pressuring us to try to stimulate the growth hormone and do some other tests, including an MRI to check his pituitary gland.

It’s not that I don’t want to know for sure that everything is fine with my child, but I don’t feel that running every test available on a person, especially a child, who has all the appearances of being perfectly normal and healthy with no aches, complaints, vomiting or any other symptoms of illness, is a good idea. For a child, even a 7 year old, this might be somewhat traumatic. It certainly would be traumatic for me.

But I was happy with this referral, because there is no military pediatric endocrinologist in the area. We would have to go civilian. I think the doctors at Walter Reed are just fine, but they are a team. There is a group-think mentality. Oh, and did I mention that one of the doctors on the team was doing a study on smaller kids who have all the appearances of being normal and healthy? I don’t mind my kid being included in a study if he needs to have certain tests run anyway. But I do mind doctors drumming up potential problems in order to scare me into running tests which are actually unnecessary.

In July, I followed up on this referral, and the resultant appointment was yesterday – finally. I took growth charts, lab results, and family history along with all five kids and drove more than a half hour to the specialist. As I drove, I prayed for a happy ending to this saga, and I rehearsed my speech about how much my kid eats and how I’m being vigilant in making sure he gets enough calories every day.

At this point, Billy interrupts my thoughts to inform me that he forgot to eat breakfast.

Well, thank goodness he told me that before I claimed publicly to be a good mother, huh?

At the doctor’s office, on the line that asked for a reason for the appointment, I wrote that I was getting a second opinion. When I met the doctor, I explained that I felt the other endocrinologists were looking for problems where none existed.

“When most people want a second opinion, it’s because they think something is wrong but they’ve been told nothing is. You’re kind of doing the opposite…” he queried.

“Yes, I want you to tell me that my kid is fine,” I admitted.

And then he did.

Hallelujah.

He does want to do another bone scan in 6 months. And keep an eye on him. But, for now, he thinks he’s just a slow-grower. Like his dad. Like we’ve been saying all along.

And as for food and eating habits? Yes, scales are off from one place to another. But he weighed 39 pounds in May at the pediatrician’s office, and he weighed 43 pounds yesterday at this office.

And that’s without having had breakfast.