Thursday, January 31, 2008

Separation Anxiety and Naptime Refusal – RESOLUTION! - Part IV

My now-eighteen-month toddler has finally resumed her normal night and naptime schedule. We went out for a quick errand at 11:30 AM today and she promptly fell asleep on the return trip. I took her shoes and hat off and carried her to her crib. An hour-and-a-half later, she remains in a deep sleep. I am so thankful!

She goes to sleep at 7:00 PM and often wakes up at around midnight. We have found that she quickly goes back to sleep if my husband goes in to see her. He cheerfully goes in, tells her to go back to sleep, and she does! This is in line with several parenting books that advise the non-primary caregiver put a child to bed when there is a problem with separation anxiety.

If, on occasion, she wakes up in the wee-morning hours, I can nurse her back to sleep, as I always did before the height of her sleep crisis.

The only problem I have is that she has been waking up earlier than she used to. Last year, her normal wakeup time was around 9:00 AM. This worked great for me and my husband. We normally work on paperwork for our home-based business until around 11 PM, after the children have all gone to bed, then watch television for one hour before going to bed. A 9:00 AM wakeup time gives us a full eight hours of sleep. I could go to bed at 10:00 PM, but then I would be missing out on quality time with my husband.

This new wakeup time only offers me six hours of sleep. When I go in to see her, she is standing at the crib rail closest to the door, holding her “nigh-night” blanket, ready for me to pick her up. If we were in the army, I would tell her, “At ease!”

I am hoping that she will be able to resume her old habit of playing in her crib for a while, rather than waking up crying for me. It has been suggested that I use “blackout shades”, but I do not think this is the problem. Although the older children make every effort to go about quietly in the morning, I do believe she is sensing the activity in the house.

Still, six hours of unbroken sleep is better than what I was getting. And I am more thankful than ever for the naptime that I always had taken for granted! With her newfound sense of independence, I also have learned how to get more things done during the baby’s awake time, giving me more free time to read and write.

To put this whole situation into proper perspective, parents with older children look adoringly at my little one and say they wish theirs were little again.

“It is vain for you to rise early and put off your rest at night,
to eat bread earned by hard toil –
all this God gives to his beloved in sleep.”
Psalm 127:2

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Little People Must Write to be “Heard”

I subscribe to the popular mainstream, liberal newspaper on Long Island, Newsday. I feel I have little choice in the matter, as they have a virtual monopoly on the local news. The writing is mediocre to excellent, depending on the columnist. From time to time over the years, I have cancelled my subscription after reading an outrageous, one-sided story. Within weeks I was back again, missing my daily morning read with my coffee.

After reading the same paper for many years, with careful analysis one may recognize the bias behind many of the headlines, as well as the details or lack of details that go to back up those stories. The educated person knows not to believe everything he or she hears or reads, even if it comes from the government or some other well-documented source. When a scientific study is noted, one should keep in mind that the parameters of the study are not detailed; the specific source should be found and read. One also should know that one study is just one study. There may be many studies that run counter to its results.

Most of the people who get their news from the internet already know to be skeptical and not to receive all their news from one source. Hopefully, conservatives would not just listen to conservative talk radio, or they would just hear what they want to, to back up what they already believe. I also read Suffolk Life, a weekly local paper with a conservative editor and excellent editorials.

Having to keep tabs on my infant, I am not able to follow what is being said in most of the blogs. (I do keep up on my sister’s blog and the numerous blogs of my well-educated and widely written friend Leticia Velasquez.) Nor do I find much time to sit in front of the news programs; when I do, I watch Fox News. I find the print media much easier to fit into my lifestyle. I can carry a newspaper into the bathroom while my toddler plays in the bathtub, or outside while she runs around, or into a doctor’s office, etc.

I have just finished reading a book claiming that the government and big business virtually own the media. According to the author, the little guy no longer has freedom of speech. On the contrary, I have evidence that the opposite is true.

Today’s newspaper carried two pro-life letters to the editor, in response to recent stories printed in that paper. Here is the proof that anyone, regardless of education, credentials, or whom you know, can write his or her opinion on virtually any subject and have it read by thousands of people.

The “little person” can bring subjects to awareness that many might not normally think about. For example, Suffolk Life regularly features opinions on rights to hunt or ride off-road recreational vehicles. I do neither; and yet, I feel my horizons are widened by the knowledge that people who would like to pursue these activities are being stifled.

People also know that what is presented as “fact” is also just well-documented popular opinion. The most obvious examples are the contrarion established views on dieting, which have us disbelieving what is the best way to lose weight. One decade it is calories, then it is dietary fat, etc. People are not stupid. They know to take the “news” with a grain of salt.

A well-written letter to the editor is a good way to remind the public of evidence to opposite points of view. Regardless of the bias of a specific paper, the owner wants to appear to give both sides to a story. And so, if a letter is written criticizing a journalistic point-of-view, there is a good chance it will be printed.

The influence of the blogs on the mainstream media and popular opinion is obvious. Please do not overlook the power of an op-ed piece or letter to the editor in your local newspaper.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Eighteen Months

During these difficult few weeks I had to sometimes remind myself that motherhood was truly a divine gift. “Could one die from lack of sleep?” I wondered. What on earth was I thinking, having four children?

I have heard mothers mocking the parenting textbooks, saying there was nothing they could learn from them. But at the turning of eighteen months my child has been a classic textbook example of the age. Knowing that all babies (and their parents) must resolve these stages; being given various tools to deal with them, albeit the advice is sometimes conflicting; being reminded that all babies express their needs in their own way, according to temperament and personality; all these things I think are empowering to us as parents.

Eighteen months. The coming in of the upper incisors, accompanied by lack of appetite and changing sleep habits (in this case, the apparent dearth of a need for it). Separation anxiety at its height, accompanied by the need for a comforting blanket, whining, clinging, and the related difficulty sleeping alone. The frustration of understanding language and yet not being able to fully express it.

Prayers came from across the continent, from family with whom the spiritual bond is so close that the need for prayer is received by these supplicants without my asking. And at the moment of highest necessity it is felt, like a trickle of water in a desert. A moment of grace is all around me: before me, behind me, beside me, and above me.

There was light at the end of the tunnel. And in that light I found myself again. A newly born confidence in my relationship with God, self, and others – especially, those in my charge as a Mother.

And at the same time, my little one seemed to strike her own required balance of dependence-independence, realizing her own competency and ability to communicate her needs. The sleep pattern is still resolving, giving me just enough to feel on top of things, but she has become quite cheerful and winsome during her waking hours.

It is like the quiet after the storm, when the earth seems shiny and new. One appreciates its beauty all the more for having weathered it.

“God, my Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet swift as those of hinds
and enables me to go upon the heights.”
Habakkuk 3:19

Painting above:
Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair
1878; Oil on canvas;
National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Separation Anxiety and Naptime Refusal - Part III

If I complete this post, you may assume I have achieved some reasonable amount of success in the sleep stand-off between me and my toddler. I had considered waiting until I had triumphed completely and reestablished a normal sleeping routine for several days, but as I have yet to find a complete account of my problem described anywhere else I thought it better to publicly share the process.

I called the pediatrician’s yesterday, stating that I had a question about a change in my child’s sleeping patterns. I was immediately connected with the doctor.

“How are you?” he cheerily asked.

“Not so good, Dr. The baby is turning 18 months old this week, the incisors are coming in, and she is refusing to go to sleep. She will not nap at all during the day, and at night she will only sleep for a few hours at a time. When I lay her in her crib, she clings to me and screams,” I summarized the problem.

He listened, and then I asked, “Is this normal?”

“This happens sometimes,” he answered, “There is one thing you can try. Give her a teaspoon of Benadryl at night.”

“Thank you,” I happily replied.

Of course in the past week I had wondered if there was such thing as a sleep medication for babies. Surely if there was everyone would have heard about it. I was glad to hear there was something considered safe to give.

Still, I had some reservations about giving any kind of cold or allergy medicine to an under-two, especially considering the current debate among pediatricians that has resulted in many children’s medications being taken off the shelves. So, upon purchasing the bottle of Children’s Benadryl, I warily asked the pharmacist if there was any reason I should avoid giving the medication to my child.

“How old is she? How much does she weigh?” she asked while studying at the ingredients.

“18 months, about 25 pounds,” I replied.

“There are only 25 mL in a teaspoon. As long as you don’t give any more than that, there are no side effects other than sleepiness,” she assured me.

I questioned her about the current debate regarding cold and allergy medication being given to babies.

“That is because people were over-medicating,” she replied.

(Of course, I highly caution any parent or guardian reading this to consult your pediatrician before giving any over-the-counter medication to a child under age 6.)

Armed with a new tool in my battle against her (our) sleeplessness, I put her to bed at her usual time of 7:00 PM. As usual, she went to sleep at that time with little problem. When she awoke at around midnight, fully alert, I gave her the teaspoon of Benadryl before nursing her.

When I lay her in her crib, instead of coming to with an anxious jolt as she has been doing of late, she settled herself calmly. She slept until 5:30 AM.

Today, at the normal naptime of 12:00 noon, I made up a sleeptime area on her bedroom floor. This consisted of a large blanket to lay on, a large Winnie-the-Pooh to lay her head on, and her favorite blanket. I nursed her to sleep on the floor.

The idea here was to re-establish her normal routine and eliminate her fear of being alone in the crib, before trying to have her nap in the crib again.

I waited until she was in a deep sleep. Carefully, over the course of about five minutes, millimeter-by-millimeter, I removed myself from her side. I replaced myself with a large stuffed cat.

I tiptoed over the squeaky floor to the door and cautiously closed the squeaky door.

I unplugged my printer before turning on the computer. The printer is very loud when it turns itself on during the booting-up process.

A half-hour later, she is still asleep! A mini-triumph!

[Author's post-note Jan. 31: The Benadryl was used for exactly three nights before her normal sleeping habits were naturally restored.]

Above: "Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child"
Sandro Botticelli, circa 1485
Tempera on canvas, 122 x 80.5 cm

Monday, January 21, 2008

Separation Anxiety and Naptime Refusal – Part II

The problem of my toddler's "sleep strike", as outlined in my last post, has persisted for one week now. Things have gone from bad to worse, but I am optimistic that I will find the solution in due time.

Last night, after refusing a daytime nap, she slept from 7:00 PM to midnight. I made several attempts to nurse her to sleep, which always resulted in her crying when I put her down in her crib. Finally, at 6:00 AM, I nursed her to sleep and we both got two hours of rest.

Today she would not nap and was very tired all day. Fortunately, my kids had no school and I was able to rest on the couch during the afternoon. I put her to bed at 6:00 PM and am hoping not to have a repeat of last night! (As I go to post at about 10:00 PM I hear her waking again and I am thinking about how I will handle it tonight.)

Upon a close examination of her teeth, I found that one incisor had just come in and another was on its way.

My hypothesis is that the first incisor was the cause of the first night’s crying, and that if we keep to our regular routine of at least attempting her regular naptime it will eventually be restored after the teething pain is gone.

By her regular eighteen-month checkup, which is next Monday, the teeth should both be in and I should have a feel about whether this is going to be a long-term problem or not.

In the meantime, I am fortunate to have the support of several females in the family, who offered emotional support as well as some (albeit conflicting) practical advice.

Dr. Spock has some real gems in his parenting book, which is difficult to navigate but quite resourceful. I also found some useful advice at

Painting above by Mary Cassatt,
Mother and Child against a Green Background (Maternity)
1897 (40 Kb); pastel on beige paper mounted on canvas; Musee d'Orsay, Paris

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Separation Anxiety and Naptime Refusal – Part I

I know there will be a Part II to this, at the very least, as this has been the major ongoing issue ruling my life over the past month.

My youngest baby never suffered from stranger or separation anxiety at nine months, the typical first peak. I thought myself lucky. I thought perhaps her being constantly around older siblings had effectively immunized her against the fear of strangers, much as breast milk immunized her against most of the germs the kids brought home.

But at the eighteenth month, the second average peak of separation anxiety, which just never occurred with my first three, hit us like a hurricane without warning. One day she was this happy-go-lucky toddler, happy to finally be up and about on two legs, refusing to say “mama”; and the next she was clinging to “nigh-night”, her favorite white blanket with tassles, and whining to be picked up by “mama” whenever she was in sight.

This started when we were in Florida for Christmas. I am sure the change of atmosphere brought it on. Then we left her for a full day while we went to Disney World. She reportedly was good for my grandparents, but the next day she apparently was quite afraid that I was going to pull another disappearing act. This is also when she started to be attached to the white blanket and calling it “nigh-night” (which is what we say when we put her to bed).

Now I must say I have been quite a stickler about naptime ever since she was born. She would never take a long nap as a newborn, so we settled into a one-time nap of two hours, from noon to two in the afternoon, pretty early on. I stubbornly refused to make plans during these hours, and even managed to maintain that time during our vacation.

As soon as I nursed her, I would carry her into her bed, say “nigh-night”, and kiss her. As recently as last week, she would say “nigh-night” back, wave, and sometimes even blow me a kiss. Then she would fall asleep within a minute or two. So it came rather as a shock to have her refuse her nap.

The naptime refusal started after I left her for several hours with my husband this past Saturday, to attend a baby shower. That night she gave me some trouble going to bed. The next night was worse – and I made the mistake of picking her up and bringing her downstairs for a while – quite rewarding. Monday she hollered when I put her down for a nap.

Finally, I brought her into my bed, where I nap-nursed her and she slept next to me for an hour. I put her to bed a half hour early that night and she whimpered for a few minutes, but then fell asleep okay.

Tuesday, she again refused to nap. I let her holler for a while, then brought her to my bed. She snuggled in for a while but stubbornly refused to sleep. I was pretty upset at this, having a list of things to do during her naptime. All these things would have to go undone. She and I were quite exhausted early in the evening. I put her to bed a full hour early – myself as well.

Today, Wednesday, was a repeat of Monday. She hollered for an hour – this was unavoidable, as I had to clean up a broken dish in the kitchen and scrupulously clean the entire floor to make sure there were no broken pieces anywhere. I brought her to my bed, nap-nursed her, and again she slept for an hour. She was cheery after that, and we stuck to our usual bedtime of 7:00. There were no problems here.

Having received my degree in psychology, I think back laughingly to my reading of case studies as a student. I can imagine myself reading mine and thinking critically about the “conditioning” that must be going on between this mother and this child. It was so easy in those days, with no children, to think theoretically about the best way to modify a child’s behavior!

How different when this real, living, breathing creature takes over your own life and you have that sometimes illogical feeling of parental love. The Cognitive Psychologists might call it the “Organism” factor that the Behaviorists had ignored between the Condition and the Response. I think of the scripture that asks what a father would do if his child asks for an egg – would he give him a scorpion instead? When a baby is asking for her mama, should she be ignored? Would that not be incorporated into her psyche, leading her to suppress her feelings because they were not responded to?

I welcome your thoughts on this as I continue my attempts to break this cycle. As my husband once commented, it is not just the baby that needs the nap. It’s Mom too.

To be continued. . .

Mother and Child by Mary Cassatt
1888 (40 Kb); pastel on paper; Art Institute of Chicago

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Toddler and "The Water Horse"

Two weeks ago the Catholic school had a half day for teachers’ conferences. I love those days because I can take the kids wherever we like to go without the crowds experienced on days off shared with the public schools. If there is a movie we all want to see, I usually save it for one of those days.

We went to see The Water Horse. We have always been fascinated by tales of the Loch Ness Monster. I for one believe the explanations of an ancient sea monster (Plesiosaurus, perhaps) that used to be in the open sea and eventually became land-locked. Certainly Noah was not instructed to bring sea monsters into the ark. The creature could have become displaced by the high waters and then left in Loch Ness.

Incidentally, my attention had originally been gotten by an advertisement that read “The Chronicles of Narnia” as a subtitle. I thought perhaps this was a renaming of The Voyage of the Sea Treader. The advertisement was misleading, and I eventually found out it was created by the same company that produced The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

We ran into two other families from our school – happily, at first, but later this would turn to my embarrassment.

The older children and their friend all fit in a small row on right-hand side of the theatre. I sat across the aisle, on the left-hand side, where the seats were joined in pairs. At first the baby was amused by her seat and her animal crackers. But this did not last long. Whether it was the darkness, the loudness of the movie, the sea monster, or just the fact that she was supposed to stay in one spot, she soon became very upset.

She ran into the aisle; I caught her. Repeatedly. I tried to take her into the back of the theatre. She ran into the aisle, tripped over herself, and started to roll down the aisle – right past the friends from school. By the halfway point of the movie I gave up and decided to watch the movie from behind the door in the back of the theatre, through the little window.

I could see the picture fine and missed out on the dialogue, which I figured was not too important anyway in an action-adventure-fantasy. I was a little lost on what was happening with the army, and more than a little perplexed by my toddler’s behavior.

I later found out that my friend Leticia Velasquez had reviewed the movie on her new blog, Catholic Media Review. Had I previewed her review I would have been forewarned that the movie was a little too loud, dark, and scary for little ones. I probably would not have listened – but then I would only have myself to blame.

I also later discovered that some theatres have “family-friendly” morning showings specifically for mothers with toddlers. The lights are not so low, the volume is lower for sensitive ears, and changing tables are available. (On Long Island, Holtsville’s Island 16 is one such theatre.)

Catholic Media Review, an alternative to the USCCB Office of Film and
Broadcasting Site, was co-created by Julie at Happy Catholic, Jean at Catholic
Fire, Christine at The World . . .IMHO, Scott Nehring at Good News
Film Reviews, and Leticia Velasquez at Cause of Our Joy.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Shower of Happiness

Today my daughters and I attended a baby shower for my sister-in-law. It was in a very classy restaurant, which was well-attended by about sixty friends and family members.

I am astounded by all the wonderful new products that have come out, many that are helpful for attachment parenting, including: slings, co-sleepers, and breast pumps (which I believe help Mom to be attached to Baby in a physical way even while at work).

It took several vans to load up the presents to be taken to the mother-to-be’s home. I remarked to the father-to-be, “All this for one little person!”

I think of Jesus, who was brought into this world with nothing but swaddling clothes. Not even a crib in which to rest. I do believe we can think of Mary’s situation with humility and be all the more thankful for the modern comforts we are afforded.

Pictured above are the white chocolate lollipops I made for the shower favor. The details are made from colored white chocolate wafers. I tried out the new squeeze tubes for drawing on the colors. In the end, the tubes melted and I wound up using my old tried-and-true method of using a paint brush. For the last few dozen, I ran out of time and just filled the molds with white chocolate. These looked nice also, and tasted great. By the way, white chocolate is not really chocolate.

Please take a moment to say a prayer for Baby, who is due Feb. 22.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


When my mother called last night, I gave her little chance to tell me why she had called. Barely pausing to take a breath, I told her how my nine-year-old had had a fever all weekend and my six-year-old had thrown up in his bed and slept in it.

“And yet you tell me this so lightheartedly,” she mused.

I could not explain my carefree attitude except by the grace of God. “Laughter is the heart’s best medicine,” Proverbs tells us, and somehow the capacity for laughter had been sent me as a much-need gift overnight.

Certainly I was not seeing things so well early on Sunday. Halfway to church, we realized we had left the offering envelope at home. After dropping my husband and the older children at church, I went back to retrieve it. Coming in halfway through the mass, as soon as I found a seat the baby started acting up. She wanted every hymnal in the pew. She wanted to stack them up a certain way, then put them back, then hold them all at once. If she did not get her way, she would shriek. Even half a mass was too long for me.

Once she was tucked in for her nap, we started a project I had not looked forward to. We had left the Christmas tree and lights up until January 6, and my husband was anxious to take them down. I served lunch and retrieved the Christmas boxes from the garage to get them set up. Then I went food shopping.

When I got home, the lights were down and away, and the tree was at the curb. My husband had vacuumed and swept. All the ornaments were neatly laid on the dining room table. And yet I grumbled. Each of the decorations had its own box, which it had to be laid in precisely. Then each individual box had to be packed into a larger box in such a way as to maximize space and minimize breakage possibilities. The chore seemed so depressing to me and I moped through it for hours.

After the children were in bed, I noticed the sap that had dripped across the floor. I got the floor cleaner out and started polishing the dining room floor – something only done when it becomes obviously necessary. Then I swept and cleaned the kitchen floor. My husband ripped up old boxes and put the packed boxes back into the garage. He saved Mary from accidentally being thrown away (!).

Finally, exhausted, we lay on the couch and watched some television. Looking around me, the cleanliness and absence of clutter calmed my spirits. I peeked in on my son, who had conked out before changing into his pajamas.

My husband turned on an infomercial and my ears perked up as a medical author discussed natural remedies for some ailments some of my relatives suffer from. “Should we order it?” I asked jokingly. Surprisingly, my husband answered in all serious, “Go ahead!”

We had never ordered anything over the telephone before, and I was so pleased at having this gracious permission offered, that I picked up the telephone. The customer representative soon started in on a series of related offers. Was I interested in a weight loss book in the series? A smoking cessation book? Free trials for three magazines? A shopping savings club? No thank you, no thank you, went my “broken record”.

My husband was nearly in stitches listening to my end of the conversation. Finally, “we have made arrangements for you and your family to spend six days and seven nights in sunny Florida,” and I broke into peals of laughter. “No thank you, we just got back!” I answered, “Have a nice night!”

Monday morning, my son came to me in silent tears. I asked my husband to help me discover the cause. He looked into our son’s room and informed me he had thrown up. So at 6:00 AM I started running a bath for him, stripping the bed, and disinfecting.

“Mommy, my head hurts,” said my nine-year-old. She was running a fever of 102 degrees.

“I guess you’re the only one of us going to school today,” I told my eldest.

Once I heard the baby wake up, I started to steam clean the rug in my son’s room. When I was done, I went in to get her. She had fallen back asleep – and stayed that way until after noon! I went downstairs and joined the sick children, who lay on the couch watching television. I caught up on some sleep.

My son had a little table with Cheerios and grape Pedialyte. Of course, he knocked it over. The steam cleaner came down the stairs and now my living room floor is really clean.

Concerned about my daughter’s state-mandated English-Language-Arts exam, which was to take place starting Tuesday, I called the school secretary. She let me know that a child must be fever-free for 24 hours before returning to school, and that a makeup period would be provided for her. After all the preparation that had gone into this test, she was going to miss the first day. What else could I do but laugh?

It was unseasonably warm, so we all went outside for a few hours. It was very pleasant. Once the baby was up, she was happy to stretch her legs outdoors.

It definitely could have been worse, so for what it was I had to be thankful.

I turned in at midnight, saying I’d been up since 6:00. Then I corrected myself, remembering my morning nap. “Oh yeah,” I said, laughing aloud, “I’ve really only been up since 11:00!” I kept chuckling until I finally fell asleep.

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”
Proverbs 17:22

Pictured above: Saint Francis of Assissi, whose lightheartedness was contagious with both children and animals.

Friday, January 4, 2008

"Emily's Hope", by Ellen Gable

“Emily’s Hope” by Ellen Gable is a semi-autobiographical novel about a young woman, Emily, who, in the course of doing a genealogical high school project, discovers the spotty life history of her great-grandmother, Katharine. Her curiosity continues as she explores the family albums into her forties.

During my reading of the first few chapters I feared the novel would be overly preachy. However, it is soon revealed that the physically innocent Emily is in her heart no saint, and has only remained a virgin for lack of opportunity. She falls prey to the liberal attitudes of the 1970s regarding premarital sex, contraception, and abortion, believing all the above are up to the individual and not harmful to society. As she embarks on her first romantic experiences, I found myself in suspense, hoping that she would still keep herself for marriage.

Emily has the great fortune of falling in love with a spiritual young man who lovingly convinces her that they should wait for marriage and practice Natural Family Planning. The book takes the reader through a long and difficult long-distance courtship and one hopes the young lovers will be able to continue practicing self-restraint. Do they or don’t they? That is part of the page-turning drama, which I will not spoil for the reader.

The chapters alternate between the stories of Emily and Katharine. Katharine does not present as a likable character. Cold, adulterous, and multi-abortive, one wonders what she could possibly have in common with the warm and thoughtful young Emily. Emily discovers with shock that the “BPO-Midwife” entries in her great-grandmother’s ledger refer to a turn-of-the-century practice among midwives of “bringing on the period” by abortion.

As Katharine begins to age, the reader is able to view her choices with more sympathy in light of the circumstances of her life. Emily does not condemn her ancestress, but forgives her poor choices and prays that she has received grace enough to enjoy the afterlife with her Maker.

The stories of both women show how intricately tied together with spiritual well-being is the way in which we use the gift of sexuality that God has given us. Emily and her husband demonstrate that with Natural Family Planning comes love and joy in its fullest. Several quotes from Papal Encyclicals may lead the reader to explore the original texts for themselves. Included at the end of the book are prayers and references that give hope to those who wish to renew their purity, who have had an abortion, or who have suffered a miscarriage.

As a subheading underneath each chapter number is a reference to a scripture, which the author leaves to the reader to look up for oneself. I must confess that, during my initial reading of the book, I was too curious to find out what happens next to the characters to stop and pick up my Bible. However, upon completing the book I looked up each reference and found that each one was carefully picked in a way that would set the tone of each chapter. I wish now that I had kept my Bible by my side while reading the novel through the first time.

There are some mildly descriptive scenes in which both Emily and Katharine miscarry due to tubal pregnancies. The purposes of these sections are not for shock value, but rather to convey the emotional effects on each of the women. Also portrayed are a few near-death experiences as well as a young woman who dies due to an abortive attempt. For this reason, I would not recommend this book for the young, innocent teen. However, lest I scare off the more mature but squeamish reader (as I would describe myself), I will say these scenes are depicted delicately, with much sympathy toward the victims of these tragedies.

Heartbreakingly, Emily and Jay lose six children due to tubal pregnancies and miscarriages. However, they do have at least five sons and hope for more. One of the scripture references is one that I think summarizes the tone and purpose of the book. “But not only that - we even boast of our afflictions! We know that affliction makes for endurance, and endurance for tested virtue, and tested virtue for hope. And this hope will not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5, NAB)

I can see this text as being highly valuable in preparation for marriage. I would recommend reading it together with older teens as part of the discussions of courtship and how best to respect and enjoy God’s gift of sexuality in the context of marriage. Also for older couples who may find something lacking in their relationship, this book may convince them that Natural Family Planning could result in their experiencing marriage in the fullness and joy intended by God.

For more information or to order a copy of the book, go to Full Quiver Publishing ( or write to:
Full Quiver Publishing
P.O. Box 244
Pakenham, Ontario KoA 2Xo
You may email the author at:

This review has also been posted at a new blog:
"Catholic Media Review:
Shining the Light of Christ on Everything the Media Does"

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Christmas in Florida

We just got home from a long-awaited vacation to visit my grandparents in Florida. Until I met my husband, I used to visit them annually. Then I got busy with college… then with marriage… then with having babies. My husband being self-employed as a process server, it is very difficult for him to take time off. But between Christmas and New Year’s is the slowest week of the year in the legal field; so back in July we decided we would finally make the 20-hour drive with the four children.

One of the challenges I face every December is preparing for Christmas and my daughter’s birthday at the same time. So I went ahead and had her invite two friends to sleep over the weekend after Thanksgiving. That got the party out of the way so all I had to do was make a cake for our private family celebration.

The KISS (“Keep it simple, stupid”) principle rules with me. I am constantly streamlining my life so that I can spend my time on the most important things. I turned down several party invitations and asked some friends and family if we could skip the gift exchange this year. I took care of Christmas cards, shopping, and baking as early as possible.

I used to scoff at people’s preprinted picture cards, but this year it was a real boon. I took a picture when the kids were dressed up on Thanksgiving, uploaded the digital picture into Walmart’s picture machine, and ordered the cards. Two days later I picked them up, addressed them, and put them out. That was simple.

Shopping I did mainly online. I was looking for small things because I thought I would be packing them in the car to be opened Christmas morning in Florida. I got collectible coins from the U.S. Mint. They range in prices starting at $3.50 on up to whatever you want to spend. I got them a few audio CD’s and video DVD’s that they could use during the car trip. Books are a given. Other gifts I picked up while doing my regular errands over the month.

A large box of mechanical pencils and a few boxes of candy-canes were sufficient for the treats St. Nicholas leaves in their stockings during Advent. (This may seem excessive, but it helps with the waiting for Christmas if I tell them St. Nick will only come each night if they are good, their rooms are clean, and they go to bed on time.)

Baking for the kids’ class Christmas parties was easy using a cookie press. The weekend before our departure, I made a double batch and had the kids help me press out and decorate several dozen small cookies. Then I divided them up equally onto six styrofoam plates: three for the kids’ class parties, one for my next door neighbor, one for company, and one for us (the burnt and funny-looking ones). I double-wrapped them with cellophane so they would keep until the last Friday before school vacation, when they would have their parties.

How do you celebrate Christmas in a traditional manner when you are not home for Christmas? This year I felt I really had to focus on Advent because we were departing from our usual routine. A friend made the observation that Mary and Joseph were traveling when Jesus was born – so why couldn’t we celebrate Christmas on the road? I have written in my December posts about all I learned about celebrating Advent, and I truly feel we were spiritually enriched by starting these traditions in our home.

We wound up not having room in the car for our gifts, so on the eve of my daughter’s birthday (and our departure) my husband suggested we open them at home before leaving. I went and got the gifts, which I had already packed into the car. They were well-chilled from being outside for a few hours. So now Christmas morning was definitely not going to be about gifts, an important lesson I hope they will carry with them in case one year comes when they cannot afford to shower their own children with gifts.

The two-day trip was very difficult, especially because the birthday girl was sick with a stomach virus the first day – and on the same day she turned nine! My husband was happy to be able to see his very good friend – our best man – who graciously put us up at his home in North Carolina. That lightened his spirits for the second leg of the journey.

We had a wonderful reunion with my grandparents, uncle, and cousins. We went to Christmas Eve mass at the local church. On Christmas we had a nice early dinner with a fried turkey and boiled ham, then went swimming at the clubhouse! The next day we went to Disney World. (I never knew such crowds existed!)

The following day we went to a beach on a peninsula near Clearwater. How strange to be on a beach at Christmas in the winter Florida sun, my husband commented. It was his first time he ever went to the beach with the kids – he is always working! He and I went on a date – our first since three days before our 18-month-old was born – to see National Treasure.

On the last day, Nanna took the kids to pick organic oranges and grapefruit at her friend’s house. I could not believe how much they brought back! I squirreled them in to the car before my husband could see. I found room in the glove compartment, backseat compartments, and under all the seats.

The return trip was not any shorter than the journey there, but noone complained. It was a beautiful Christmas.

And Christmas is not over – not until those wise men come on January 6. Our tree is still up, with more life in it than years past (having been well watered by our pet sitter), and the lights outside (which we put on timers this year) will burn until then.

Pictured above is the St. Nicholas Mission Parish in Delray Beach, FL. See pictures of St. Nicholas parishes worldwide and learn more about St. Nicholas at St. Nicholas Center.