Monday, November 26, 2007

8 silly & endearing habits of Booga-bear:

1. He Lines up sippy cups on the microwave cart. I once found an entire row of who knows how old juice cups hidden behind the cereal boxes.

2. He goes to sleep in his crib hugging a book--he arranges a book next to his head and puts his hand on it before falling asleep.

3. He takes almost any snack I give him to either the front or back door, where he sits down on the doormat and eats the snack.

4. One of his new favorite things to do is to drag the broom and carry the dustpan around the house.

5. He brings me a box of cereal whenever he is hungry.

6. He always runs around the house laughing after his bath, wearing nothing except his hooded towel.

7. When I turn on the microwave, he tries to get behind the microwave cart to see the light that comes through the slits on the back of the microwave.

8. He likes to sleep with the bus schedule (it has a picture of a bus on it).

Friday, November 23, 2007

At home mom

It's starting to not bother me when I tell people I'm a stay-at-home mom. Becoming a mom is a big transition, and watching my identity become wrapped up in being an at-home mom has been interesting. Sometimes I tell people off-handed that I'd work part time if I could find a job that would be worth while when factoring in the cost of childcare, as if that dignifies my decision to stay at home. But I'm not actually looking for work- I just assume that it would be almost impossible to find such a situation.

Honestly, I have a nagging feeling that I'm doing something wrong by not working. That I'm wasting my college education, or going unfulfilled, or that I'm disappointing people who probably barely remember me - professors, old college friends, coworkers. I'm not sure exactly what it is that bothers me so, but it's something! Maybe it's just that I don't feel normal - normal seems to be 'working moms'.

I've been wondering for a while why I feel, well, sort of worthless being 'just a mom', but I read an article in a student newspaper today that shed some light. The author of the article spoke about how women need to triumph over sexist, outdated and limiting gender roles. From the rest of the article, I think it's safe to assume 'home-maker' is one of the things she would hope women would be able to overcome and not be limited by. The presumption behind the article is that women deserve MORE than just being wives and mothers. This attitude by now is just normal-I think most people would agree. But, if you tell a woman that she will be severely limited in life by being an at-home mom (or just a mom, period), or that no person should expect a mother to want to stay home with her children, then how valuable is choosing to be an at-home mom? Not very.

Perhaps the true mission of the feminist movement has been to only give women the opportunity to choose a career OR to choose raising children full-time, and not to insult motherhood as a calling. But the message I've received is that as a stay-at-home mom, I'm not worth as much as I could be. I first learned in any seriousness about feminism in my college sociology 101 class. The encouragement for women to be successful wasn't blatantly negative towards women choosing to stay home, but subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, it is. Anyone remember Hillary Clinton saying "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life." ? This is a very familiar attitude. (Now, girls, what do you want to do--stay home and have a life that culminates in baking cookies, or do you want to have an exciting profession and do something important?!) Or did anyone read some of the brouhaha over Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's move to start offering home economics courses to women? The world seemed pretty peeved that a college would stoop to the level of re-enforcing traditional gender roles by offering practical tips on raising children, etc. for women to use later in life. I understand that this doesn't seem very scholarly, but I took badminton, a math-for-middle-schoolers equivalent course, and sailing as part of my required courses in college in the name of being well-rounded.

Actually, that reminds me-I feel kind of cheated by my college education. Academia seems to mostly ignore the fact that most women sitting in the classroom will eventually become mothers, and will have to decide how they will balance work with children. Perhaps it would be labeled sexist to discuss this (there they go again, touting those traditional roles), but frankly, I think it would be prudent for women with vague ideas of getting married and having kids someday to at least consider pursuing careers that tend to offer flexible or part time positions.

To be fair, I haven't only received negative messages about being a stay-at home mom. A lot of people recognize it for what it is: a really good thing. People who had children themselves responded positively when I told them I was planning on quiting my job for the long-term. But this is not the message I feel I have been fed by society at large, nor what I had accepted.

There are two things that will never change in this debate on what is ideal. Children will always need caretakers, and women will always be the ones that bear children. So prattling on about how women should not be expected to be nurturers seems to be an exercise in futility. Of course there is the option of more stay-at home dads, but if full-time motherhood is perceived as such an unfulfilling gig in the first place, good luck with that.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The best baby carrier

I'm pretty excited about this baby carrier I just got, the ERGO. Normally, I would not take the time to write about baby gear--that's BORING--but this carrier merits some attention.

I've been wanting a 'system' that would allow us to go on hikes, or to the zoo, without a stroller. I tried out several models of Kelty baby carriers (the kind with the metal frame), and even though they were up to double the price of the ERGO, I could barely stand to walk around the store with Booga bear on my back. All I could think about was my poor spine, and how darn heavy a 25 lb. boy is! Not so with the ERGO! I also think it would be far superior to baby bjorn-type carriers, which I found to be fine up to about 15 pounds, but too uncomfortable to use after that.

(I got free shipping on the ERGO here)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Goodbye baby

We've had a small victory over here: booga bear has given up his pacifier. (Because we took it away, naturally.) We've always tried to restrict its use to the crib, but over the last month or so, he seemed to be getting quite attached to it. I'd look up, and he'd be toddling towards me with his pacifier in his mouth. Apparently, he'd learned to reach into his crib and grab it between the bars.

I've been putting off taking away the paci because I was a little afraid of how he would react, and because it seems like one of those milestones that puts a child well past babyhood. Anytime you see a kid sucking on a pacifier, it always makes them seem a little babyish. It's a bit sad to see booga bear so fully loosing his baby characteristics- how much longer will it feel appropriate to call him booga bear? I kind of wish he would stay little and cuddly forever, because even though it's fun to watch him change, I know someday I will miss the age he is now.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Why I'm Catholic

My last post (On Mary) has made me think about the process I went through in deciding what I thought about accepting Catholic dogma on Mary and the saints. It was similar to accepting other doctrines that Protestants typically have trouble with because such doctrines seem, at first glance, so...unChristian. All Christians know there are some things that you have to trust 'on faith' - doing or believing something one believes to be God's will despite the inability to 100% scientifically prove it is so. This was one of those things.

At a certain point, after I had read all I could read about Mary and the saints, and had experimentally spoken to them in prayer with positive results, it was crunch time. Did I believe this- really believe that it was good to ask for the saints intercession, and that Mary should be venerated? It was a crux. Either say yes, and continue down the road of entering the church, or say no, I can't be sure and because I can't be sure, I won't become Catholic. Note my alternative position was not 'I'm positive this is wrong', but rather it was 'I can't be sure this is right'. On one hand, there were so many persuasive arguments presenting themselves to me that I couldn't easily rule out that God intends Mary's veneration and the intercession of saints, such as reasons from scripture I didn't notice before, nearly two thousand years of church teaching, and a bevy of respectable theologians and historians who have sided with what the Catholic church teaches.

So, the logical reasons were lining up nicely- but on the other hand, I struggled with it feeling so foreign. I didn't want to let foreignness keep me from this Church that on most accounts I was eager to become a part of. After all, the historical perspective is that NOT venerating Mary is abnormal. At most points in most places across time, Christians have venerated Mary, and believed that the saints pray for us. But still, I was afraid - what if I had missed something? And wasn't I doing just fine before I ever paid Mary or the saints any attention?

And here is where something new happened in my life: I decided to defer to the Church. Instead of just 'going on faith'-- I 'went on the church' in faith. Instead of desperately needing the Holy Spirit to speak to me mystically about Mary, I trusted that the Holy Spirit had guided the Church across the centuries, because that is the way Jesus set things up to be. I added a new element to faith: trusting the Church. (By the way, I did feel the Holy Spirit speaking, it just wasn't quite enough, although it probably should have been. One thing I heard was: you're not going to heaven based on right belief.)

All my life, I'd been focusing on my individual relationship with God and wasn't excited about the idea of anyone having spiritual authority over me - they're all just my 'brothers and sisters in Christ', right? Oh, I wasn't rebellious or refusing to believe any basic tenants of the faith. But I thought it was ridiculous that women were barred from being pastors in some churches, and got irked when it seemed like people would follow whatever pastor Ted or motivational speaker Sally told them to do, and so on.

I had the idea that Christianity was 'jus' me an' Jesus, or 'jus' me and the Holy Spirit'. Of course there were many collective spiritual activities (for lack of a better word) that I participated in and looked forward to, and that in fact brought me closer to God. But, who would I trust if I thought someone was teaching me wrong things about God, or about holy living? Or just incomplete things? In theory, the idea of relying solely on 'the Bible' to discern God and holiness is a good one...but in the church as a whole, it doesn't work well in practice. All churches, protestant and otherwise, teach 'what the Bible says', but where does that leave us when they are all teaching different, conflicting things? And not just trivial things, either--how one is saved, how one is justified before God, how one lives a holy life, how one respects the Lord, etc.

By becoming Catholic, I discovered a great gem in scripture that I'd never taken the time to consider. I Timothy 3:14-15, Paul, speaking to Timothy, says: "If I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth." Wait - what is the pillar and bulwark of truth? The church! And what church existed at the time St. Paul said these words? The one we call the Catholic church.

It is a great comfort to me in life to know that God didn't leave us behind on earth to flip-flop on what he meant for us to do after Jesus ascended to heaven. That before the New Testament was written, people were not floundering about in their faith, or that people who are unable to read, or who don't have access to a Bible can still know the truth through the Church and live fulfilling lives. That there are absolutes in life, and that one of them is that what the Church teaches is absolutely true, through the Holy Spirit. I do not deny that priests, bishops, etc. have done evil things. What I'm speaking of here, and where the Church claims authority, is in official doctrine. The people who make up the Church are flawed, but official teaching is not. This is known as Papal infallibility.

Papal infallibility is the machinery that puts truth into place within the Church. Catholics believe in apostolic succession- that is, Peter was the first head of the Church, given this authority by Jesus, and his authority has been passed down to each successive head, who we call popes today. The other piece of this is that bishops, when in union with the pope, also have authority and infallibility, like modern-day apostles. This authority comes from Jesus, not any special power of their own. Jesus clearly granted Peter authority in Matt. 16:14-19; Jesus asked his disciples who men were saying he was,
"And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jo'na! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Here Peter is singled out among the disciples - he alone is shown a truth by God the Father (that Jesus is the Christ), and is given the 'keys of the kingdom of heaven' and some pretty hefty authority. There are several other passages that detail exactly what the disciples were given, (and that has since been passed down), but this is probably the most important...and since I'm against long blog entries, I'm saving it for another day, but please realize this is a very incomplete picture of the authority Jesus gave to his disciples.

I'll close by saying, if we as Christians believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God, it is not a blind leap to believe that the Pope has infallibility to interpret God's word. Were the last words penned of what became the New Testament the end of the golden age of absolute truth? If so, how can we trust that what we call the Bible is actually what God intended to be scripture - did the creation of the cannon not involve councils of men with clear, God-given authority? If there is no authority on earth to interpret scripture and doctrine other than personal conscious discerning the Holy Spirit, then we will divide ourselves again and again and again, and all in the name of following Jesus. That's wrong. Church division is unbiblical. And I hate to say it, but constant division is what happens in the Protestant world. (I googled, and at best guess, there are between 1500 and 7000 Christian denominations in the US, and over 32,000 world-wide...and counting.) The refusal to accept the Catholic Church's God-breathed authority has created a million different beliefs, all of which cannot simultaneously be true. And that, friends, is why I'm Catholic.

I do not speak with spite against Protestants, because they are my friends and family. Clearly we disagree, and I'm not trying to slam non-Catholics- we have more in common that not. But, I am Catholic, writing from a Catholic perspective, and I can't apologize for that.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On Mary

I've been drawn to praying the rosary the last week or two, and I've come to a realization that feels a bit odd. I think I love Mary.

What I feel is a sense of connectedness to Mary, like we are a part of the same family. Her place in the family is different than mine, but instead of being removed from each other by thousands of years, a different language and culture, there is a sense of mutuality...that we are both about the same thing, worshipping Jesus. Instead of a simple biblical character, she is alive to me.

I had a similar feeling the first time I walked into Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles, a few years before I became Catholic. The sanctuary walls have these massive, awe-inspiring tapestries of the saints facing the altar in prayer, as if they are worshipping right there with us. (A taste of the view here.) I got a shiver looking at them, and something clicked in my head. The communion of saints. They're alive, they're here praising God. We're all participating in the same act of worshipping God. I'm here on earth, they are in heaven, but Christ unites us, and we are especially joined during Mass-- Mass touches heaven as we enter into the worship that is constant there.

Honoring the saints or even asking for their intercession doesn't seem wrong because I don't believe that death separates us spiritually. (And because I've studied the theological points of the communion of saints doctrine.) Thus, I'm willing to pray the rosary, saying the same words the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!." (Luke 1:28) And the words Elizabeth spoke to Mary "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"(1:42. These things that are not any less true now than they were then.

A Hail Mary consists of:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is
with thee. Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us
sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The God of Substance

It's bread baking season again. Here in the south, turning on the oven in summer isn't a popular pastime for obvious reasons, and I'd forgotten how good homemade bread is. Honestly, the store bought sandwich bread I buy bears little resemblance to REAL bread. The plastic-bagged kind is more of an interesting scientific feat--just how DO they get it so soft?--and less of a substance one feels they could live off. I like to be able to knock on my bread and hear a hollow sound, to take a bite that doesn't instantly turn to spongy paste. It's a good thing to not be able to smash bread between canned food in my grocery bag. Thus, I find it interesting that long before Wonder Bread hit the scene, Jesus described himself to us as "the bread of life" (John 6:48). In fact, he commands us to eat him, to remember him by taking a bite of consecrated bread.

The longer I follow Jesus, the more sense he makes, and the reasons I follow him keep getting deeper and deeper. Insubstantial things in life do not have a similar effect; they wither, they don't hold up under light, they disappoint. Above all, I want my life to be one of substance. Oh Lord, keep ephemeral pursuits from being the sum total of my earthly existence!

There is nothing of more substance in the universe than God. He is the immense framework upon which it is founded, "for in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28a). "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17). It makes such perfect sense that Jesus would offer us his substance- his bruised and bloodied flesh upon the cross, and feed us everlasting life with his body. And that he repeatedly extends this promise to us by offering himself in the form of bread and wine in the Eucharist. He says to us, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53).

God is substance. God is weight. God is depth. God is sense. God is light. God is strength. God is power. God is real. He feeds us what we need and ignores what we don't. I am so honored to have him call me his own.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Monday, November 5, 2007

Biological friends

I've decided it would be much easier to be a mom right now if I had two kids. At the moment, booga bear is wandering around the house in distress crying because his dad just left. It's the same way when I leave. Because we're just a family of 3, we are the center of his world and he thinks we exist to play with him all day. I like playing with him, but not all day, and if I'm not playing with him or following him around outside, he's usually pulling on me and doing his whiny cry, which escalates into his uncontrollable cry. It's really annoying.

One day a few weeks ago was particularly bad. I couldn't do anything without him trying to loudly get my attention. He was okay outside, walking around and around the apartment building, but it was raining. I thought to myself, I need another kid! Fortunately, I knew where to find one because there is another little boy who lives in our building that gets super excited every time he sees booga bear. So we knocked on his door and invited him to play, and as soon his mom left, shazam! Two happy kids. The contentedness wand was instantly waved over my house.

So, I'm pining after something I'm not going to get anytime soon: closely spaced children, a.k.a. instant playmates--and ones who don't have to coordinate schedules. I'm sure the initial transition to two kids would be hard, because newborns are a lot of work, but eventually it would work nicely. It feels vindicating to have evidence that the female body's natural tendency to supply lots of chances to have kids close together is not some sort of built-in torture mechanism, but actually provides some benefits. Why have I not heard about this before?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

preventive medicine

We're having some great fall weather here, but I'm stuck inside. My new doctor has sentenced me to no exercise because my thyroid is producing insanely high amounts of hormone, which tends to speed up the body's systems. So, hiking in the fall foliage, or even walking around our neighborhood, is apparently a bad idea because my heart rate could skyrocket. I'm taking unhealthy-person medication to lower it (just in case) which is making me feel a little weird and really cold. Of course I'm glad the problem was detected, but the whiner in me says 'why now, right in the middle of my favorite time of year?!' At least I didn't register for the 5K I was thinking of running.

Anyway, all this has made me a believer in preventive medicine. I have never, ever gone to a general physician for a check up as an adult. Or the dentist either. But this thyroid problem, coupled with some very expensive gum surgery due to brushing my teeth too hard (who knew you could brush your gums away?) has changed my mind about that. If only I had needed a cavity filled, a dentist could have pointed out that my zealous brushing was going to cost me thousands of dollars down the road...yeah, I think the check-up idea is a much better deal.