Posts Tagged ‘family life’


After writing about the Pope after a long break from blogging, I realized I had not yet said anything about our baby! This little bundle of joy is Bernadette Rose. She was born at 1:50 in the morning on November 14 after a fairly easy labor. Of course, by fairly easy I mean it was still labor and therefore painful and hard. Compared to Philomena’s birth, however, it was a piece of cake. She was and is completely adorable, mellow and happy unless it’s the two hours before dinner and you want to put her down. She doesn’t like that at all.

We waited a long time for Bernadette, who is a miracle baby. She came when I had resigned myself to secondary infertility. After she was born Will and I discovered she really is a miracle.


This is a picture of Bernadette’s umbilical cord. That is a true knot. It occurs in 1% of pregnancies and significantly increases the chance of what the nice scientists call “fetal demise”.  The attending midwife and the nurse had never seen one before and let me know how lucky we were. A week or so later we received a phone call from one of the nurses, who told us that h er heel prick blood test had come back abnormal and we’d need to take her in to get retested. Scary, no? My husband asked “abnormal how?” and she told him “cystic fibrosis”.


In that instant I was deeply frightened.  Deeply.  I got a a glimpse into what an adverse diagnosis feels like. My family is absurdly healthy.  Being an imaginative sort, I’ve always wondered what getting that kind of news would feel like, particularly if it happened to a child of mine.  It turns out the feelings are hard to sum up. Fear, grief, a weird sort of battle-mentality, anger all surged around my mind at the same time. There is probably a word for it in German.  Life seemed very, very different, very suddenly.

We took her in and got the actual lab results. The test had been invalid, which of course makes me want to know why they said abnormal when they could have said invalid. The new nurse did the new test quickly and well and then showed us the actual lab report. No cystic fibrosis. Mom and Dad are not carriers, you see. Apparently these false positives happen all the time. All the time.

Needless to say, we wanted Bernadette baptized as soon as possible. With the close call from the true knot in utero and the cute little false positive, Will and I were in a bit of a hurry to get the original sin cleaned up.  Fortunately, Will had set up the baptism time when I was four months along.  She was baptized in the basement chapel of the Cathedral, and, though we are not traddies, we asked for the old rite. It’s beautiful, and very, very thorough. The only time she cried was during the main exorcism. They always cry during the main exorcism.

Pagan baby


Almost there!


As soon as the water stopped pouring Will and I both exhaled. What a profound relief it was, knowing we’d done what we needed to do. We had a little saint.

Christian baby



Afterwards, instead of having a party, which would have required planning and consciousness, we repaired down the road to Clary’s, where we feasted on fine diner fare. It was good day. and the answer to many prayers.


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This month has been…hard. It’s July in Savannah, so my backyard looks like this:

We all got sick, and my house during my never ending illness looked like this:

Okay, so maybe not this bad.

And that  brings me to what I am thinking about today. Order! Yes, I am a very, very disorderly person. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people who thrives on mess. I like routines because they make me feel calm. I like a reasonably clean house because it keeps me calm and able to do things besides worry about whether the health department is going to come and shut me down. What is a girl to do?

A girl is to bite the bullet and realize she is a grownup with other people relying on her to provide a semblance of order and beauty in their lives.

At the beginning of July  I realized I had no, and I mean NO, order in my daily grind. The dishes were piled up in the sink (no dishwasher-thanks, retro kitchen!) the laundry  strewn throughout the house and dinner while usually there, was a source of strain. Frustration, hormones exhaustion and chaos all contributed to my feelings of inadequacy.  When I managed to pray it seemed like the Holy Spirit was tugging me toward establishing order in the home and embracing this life I’ve chosen. So what happens? He gives me tons of energy and a a hearty dose of perseverance? Nope. We all got the flu.

I sat on the couch and watched cartoons with my daughter for five days. I struggled to stagger over to the sink to wash a few dishes, but upright just wasn’t in the cards. I was completely helpless. Will was out of town on business and he was still getting over the virus from the pit of hell. The filth  piled up. And do you know what I realized? I realized that, if I’m an at-home wife, it’s mostly my job to ensure a very few things get done every day, barring emergencies. The husband must help, to be sure, but providing the basic framework of order is a job that falls to disorganized, slightly slothful me.

I know, what a revelation, right? So, while lying in my bed of contagion, out came a  notebook to list the stuff that had to get done on a daily basis so my kitchen wouldn’t end up on Hoarders, and so I’d have things like clean pants. To my surprise,  the stuff that had to get done every day were really basic. Dishes/kitchen tidy up, bed making, at least one load of laundry (including putting it away) and making sure meals were on the table. I had read this many times at Auntie Leila’s, who is my guru, but it didn’t really sink in until I realized how unhappy I was because of my environment. I’m a very visual person. Too much going on around me actually makes me feel physically overwhelmed, to the point of needing to retreat to dark silence and do deep breathing. Anyway, I figured that if I can do these few things every day, the rest of what needed to happen (daily exercise,  walks with Philomena,  fun, learning, prayer, all that good stuff) would fall into place. Because you know what? The disorder had unleashed itself on every aspect of life. I didn’t do anything that I actually wanted to do. I  spent my time trying to stay afloat. Life should be more than drudgery and trying to keep on top of chaos. The time for picking up my cross of dishes and daily tidy up had come.

I’m a little over a week into this wild new life of cleaning up immediately after every meal and getting the laundry done daily. Will helped me dig out from under. It took a solid week. Please bear in mind that all through this he was doing dishes, taking the trash out, keeping the child occupied and doing a great deal of grocery shopping while studying for and taking the bar exam. Stars in his crown. The difference in the quality of day to day life here is HUGE. I mean, HUGE. It’s starting to feel like home.

With this new- found  order comes the freedom to create beauty. Order comes in lots of different packages-overflowing bookshelves are glorious to me and a menace to the sanity of other people.  My house will probably never grace the cover of Dwell. For one thing, people live here. For another, we’re not pretentious hipsters. I’ll never be a neat freak.  I’ll stay up too late more often than I should. But my house doesn’t smell. I have pants again. Philomena has daily cuddle and play time and isn’t saying things like “Mommy, why is this bathroom not clean like my friend’s bathroom?” I now have the freedom to do little things to beautify the house. You know, great big fancy things like hanging the pictures on the actual walls and putting a jar of marigolds on the table.  And when Baby Girl arrives, she will rejoice, secure in the knowledge that Mommy keeps the floors relatively crumb-and-therefore-palmetto-bug-free.


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It’s been a great, big, long week here at Nouveau Chez Cubbedge. We’ve been painting, fixing electrical things about which I know nothing, and generally going completely mad. When one thing was repaired, another thing broke. When I needed quiet, I was assailed with to-do lists (not from my husband-he knows better). When I wanted to check out a little March for Life coverage I was reminded that there are still people who think eugenics is a great idea (seriously). When I sat down to dinner tonight I realized that, apart from mass on Sunday night, and a hardware store run or two, I haven’t been out of the new place since we moved in. Blogging has been on the back burner for so long, though I had to do something. And so, in honor of my dwindling sanity, I give you this week’s Quick Takes.


As I mentioned in my last post, our last place was tiny. It was also downtown. Downtown Savannah is a truly excellent place to live. It’s beautiful, vibrant, and there is always something to do. The problem wasn’t so much the city-dwelling aspect as it was the lack of space or anything green to look at on a hot day. For some reason our street was the only one without purposeful shade. It gets incredibly hot here and last summer I discovered that, even if Philomena wanted to walk to our beautiful park to play in the splash pad (which may or may not be turned on), it was a ten minute stagger through the desert, but with the sensation of drowning in a warm sponge. We spent a great deal of time on our tiny front porch with bowls and buckets of water. Charming and fun,  but not something I want to do again. This brings me to…


…our new house! We moved to a suburban neighborhood that is still very much in the city limits. We’re now homeowners via the charity of relatives. It’s a 1950s ranch style house with three bedrooms and a sunroom. It’s got lots of nifty 1950s details (including chrome cabinet handles), everything in the house works and the unfortunate paint job is now going away. But, the best part of all, better even than the increase in living space, is the back yard.


The yard is big, and fenced, with lots of flowering trees. It’s got room for a vegetable garden, the flower beds are in place and are crying out to be weeded and loved. The other day a friend brought her three year old over and for the first time I was able to tell the children to go outside and play. This summer I’ll be able to watch Philomena in her paddling pool and in the sprinklers.


Philomena has adapted beautifully. The first few days she couldn’t go into the backyard at all without getting nervous. All the open space was a little overwhelming. She clung to me and Will, and we’d gently show her the places where the flowers would be in the spring, and where the bird feeder was. Eventually she started running around playing tag with me. Today she dragged out her play food, a bucket and her daddy and stayed outside playing chef. She didn’t want to come in.


The paint job in the house was unfortunate. Stark white walls with battleship periwinkle woodwork in all the rooms, except where there was deep lavender trim. As of now, the living room is finished, the dining room is half finished and the hallway is next.


In spite of the great blessing of this house, there are still a number of worries in my little family.we’re still job hunting, still wondering about God’s will for us, still wondering when we’ll have the means to treat the IF problems. There is even the worry that assails me from time to time, what if this house wasn’t God’s will for us? What if, in the words of that fish headed admiral in Star Wars, it’s a trap? It still takes an effort of the will to know this is where God has placed me, and I’m in His hands. I reassure myself that my family has sought to do His will in everything in the last year especially, and this is what He has given us. I’m happy about it, and very grateful, but the anxiety comes and goes.


I have a few ideas floating around for posts. The HHS malarkey has had me reeling this past week, but there’s been no time to formulate thoughts. The most coherent ideas I’ve had are something along the lines of “Oh expletive,” and “They can’t do that! This is AMERICA!”  As you can see, my mind isn’t quite clear yet. Soon, my friends.Soon.

Be sure to head over to Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes.

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In the last two weeks I have had a number of  exquisitely irritating things happen to me.  By irritating, I mean maddening, frustrating, hurtful, and downright nasty. Here’s the thing. We are poor. Very, very poor. We have people in our lives who do not like “the poor.”  We have Catholics around here who take their spirituality straight out of Fox News Channel. We have people in our lives who think that my husband is “lazy”, not understanding that it’s really hard for a guy with a J.D. to get a cruddy job at Walmart. Overqualified people don’t get hired as waiters, because the managers rightly think that when a better job comes along, that guy with the J.D. will take that better job. That doesn’t stop my husband from trying for those jobs, though.  Try explaining that to invincibly ignorant people who want to “have a word” with my husband. I tried. It didn’t go well. It’s hard to explain to someone that they are being offensive when they won’t stop talking long enough to give you a fair hearing. It’s harder when they say that “they’re praying for you,” when you know that means “they’re talking about you behind your back in order to criticize and belittle you.” It’s really hard when you live in an oversized small town and you know they know all the people you’ve gotten to know over the last year.

I’ve had it with people. I like people, really. I just don’t like people who know they’re right about the intimate details of my life. I have two options before me.  Either I take this anger and frustration to the cross and nail it down, praying that He will use it somehow for my good, or, I can stew in my juices for another week, getting more and more bitter and distrustful of God’s plan for my life and my marriage because of the idiocy of some people. The latter is more appealing at the moment. Isn’t it funny how what we know is bad for us is so often the most attractive

My little heart is tied up in knots right now. I want an end to this hardship. I want an end to the criticism of my poor husband, who is trying so hard. I want stability.

I think that a novena may be in order, but it’s hard to feel hopeful at this point.

Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.

Rant concluded. Thank you for your patience.

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Once again, be sure to check Conversion Diary where Jen has more lovely Quick Takes!


Stuff my daughter says. Sometimes being awake with a flailing toddler at three in the morning is Heaven. Last night Philomena had a nightmare. It must have been a doozy, because she woke up screaming. Apparently, it really confused her because in it her adored Daddy was a bad guy. She ended up in our bed. She snuggled between me and Will before he took himself out to the couch. Sometime later (we were up from after midnight until three-thirty or four), she says “Mommy, I love Daddy in my holy heart. Daddy loves me in his holy heart. You love Daddy in your holy heart.”


John Mulcaster Carrick, The Death of King Arthur, 1862.

Games my family plays. Philomena commits regicide at least once a week. She takes her Daddy by the hand and leads him away for a game of dress up. She drapes a blanket around his shoulders, places a tiara on his head and hands him her trusty Nerf sword. She wraps herself in a blanket, places a tiara on her own head and kneels down in front of the rocking chair, where King Daddy is distributing largesse to the stuffed animal populace. He decides to knight her. He dubs her Dame Philomena, and hands her the sword. Philomena says “Thank you, Majesty, ” and takes the sword, only to immediately spin around, yell “Sword!” and thrust her vorpal blade into the King Daddy’s armpit. He obligingly expires, and they start over again.


SPF 100 sunblock. It’s hot here! Unbelievably hot. It is also always sunny. I’m a bit of a puddle duck. I love rain. I do not love excessive heat. It makes me cranky, and, adding to the crankiness is the anxiety that pale Irish me will tan or burn. I don’t want to tan, beyond looking healthy. Tanning results in a shar-pei like old age. I refuse to spend my youth offering my body to Apollo when he will only laugh hollowly when I’m a pruned 65 year old. Ideally, I’d cover up in something billowy. Unfortuantely, it’s too darn hot to be covered up. The only things that are comfortable to wear are sundresses. The problem with sundresses is that they leave your shoulders and decollete’ exposed. Solution? SPF 100! No wimpy 75 for me! That, a sundress, and a big hat and sunglasses, will keep you skin cancer free and as cool as these heathen tropical climes allow.


Sean Connery in a red diaper Speedo. This may take some explanation. You see, Will and I are bad movie buffs. You can imagine how happy I was to see a frame from the post-apocalyptic cheez-fest, Zardoz, featured prominently by Simcha Fisher and The Jerk over at I Have to Sit Down.  I was so happy I called my sister to talk about it, and we began to plan a bad movie night. She has to somehow get from DC to Savannah, we have to get lots of wings and beer, or margaritas, Will has to get a copy of Zardoz, and we will all huddle together on the couch, and watch Sean Connery parade about in a film that desperately tries to mean something.  As a palate cleanser, I plan to have a selection of the cheez-tastic Twlight movies available. Totes Team Jacob.


Writing an actual proposal for something that might possibly get published in something. Yippee!


Eucharistic adoration. Catholicism means being able to mention Sean Connery in a Speedo and devotion to Jesus in the same post. My latest plan to take over our diocese for the New Evanglization is to try to plan a monthly night prayer and benediction at our Cathedral. It would be pretty low key, just sung night prayer, confessions and socializing afterwards.  A couple of other slightly disenfranchised younger Catholics are interested in helping, and Will is going to put the idea before the parish council, hopefully before they decide to do something “relevant” and embarrasing in the way of a youth mass.


New books.  I’m in need of reading matter. Any suggestions?

That’s all I’ve got! Have a grand weekend.

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The Holy Spirit is really stirring things up around here in the domestic church department. Without going into detail, we’ve had some run ins with some folks in the world who believe in the cult of family togetherness, whether they like each other or not, whether they interact appropriately or not. In these folks’ minds “family is everything,” but they rarely go out of their way in true charity on behalf of their families. Judgement, manipulation and rancor are the reality of family life, and to think otherwise is to be naive.

How wrong they are!

The real mission of the family is to show Christ to the world, not to force feelings of cheap sentimentality  in place of genuine love.  The family is only capable of fulfilling its mission if it’s grounded firmly in Christ, infused with the Holy Spirit, and engaged in the continual praise of the Father. The love of God gives us the ability to rightly love our families.

I need to take notice of and responsibility for my vocation as a Catholic wife and mother.  The laziness that says “I’ll just pray later” ultimately leads to massive burnout. I’m not feeding my soul with the Lord, and then I wonder why I get discouraged or overwhelmed?

As if to confirm my suspicions that the Almighty is trying to get my attention Melanie Bettenelli of has been guest posting a series on the religious formation of children over at Barefoot and Pregnant.  These posts hit home in many ways, particularly in the need to be intentional in my childrearing habits. And then, today I find the following completely astounding exhortation to families given by the Holy Father during his recently concluded trip to Croatia. I’m printing it up and sticking it on the fridge. Once again, the theme of intentionality, of knowing concretely your mission as a family plays a large part. Here is a part of what the Pope says:

“By the grace of God, many Christian families today are acquiring an ever deeper awareness of their missionary vocation, and are devoting themselves seriously to bearing witness to Christ the Lord. Blessed John Paul II once said: “An authentic family, founded on marriage, is in itself ‘good news’ for the world.” And he added: “In our time the families that collaborate actively in evangelization are ever more numerous […] the hour of the family has arrived in the Church, which is also the hour of the missionary family” (Angelus, 21 October 2001). In today’s society the presence of exemplary Christian families is more necessary and urgent than ever. Unfortunately, we are forced to acknowledge the spread of a secularization which leads to the exclusion of God from life and the increasing disintegration of the family, especially in Europe. Freedom without commitment to the truth is made into an absolute, and individual well-being through the consumption of material goods and transient experiences is cultivated as an ideal, obscuring the quality of interpersonal relations and deeper human values; love is reduced to sentimental emotion and to the gratification of instinctive impulses, without a commitment to build lasting bonds of reciprocal belonging and without openness to life. We are called to oppose such a mentality! Alongside what the Church says, the testimony and commitment of the Christian family – your concrete testimony – is very important, especially when you affirm the inviolability of human life from conception until natural death, the singular and irreplaceable value of the family founded upon matrimony and the need for legislation which supports families in the task of giving birth to children and educating them. Dear families, be courageous! Do not give in to that secularized mentality which proposes living together as a preparation, or even a substitute for marriage! Show by the witness of your lives that it is possible, like Christ, to love without reserve, and do not be afraid to make a commitment to another person! Dear families, rejoice in fatherhood and motherhood! Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them! The good of the family is also the good of the Church. I would like to repeat something I have said in the past: “the edification of each individual Christian family fits into the context of the larger family of the Church which supports it and carries it with her … And the Church is reciprocally built up by the family, a ‘small domestic church’” (Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Participants in the Ecclesial Diocesan Convention of Rome, 6 June 2005). Let us pray to the Lord, that families may come more and more to be small churches and that ecclesial communities may take on more and more the quality of a family!”

Read the rest here. Praise God.


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It’s been three days since we started hardcore potty training.

A year ago we bought a little baby potty. She used it as a chair, and then, several months ago, she began to display a slight, wavery interest in using it as God intended. So we encouraged. We cajoled. We outright bribed. We did everything we could think of until she was emotionally and intellectually and physically convinced that the potty couldn’t hurt her and was not a threat.  And finally, this week, we took the plunge. Except for nighttime, she has been diaperless.

Potty training has been for me the worst part of motherhood. Don’t get me wrong, she’s done brilliantly. She even napped with no accidents yesterday! However,  the process of getting to this successful point has been, frankly, nasty. I’m not squeamish by nature. I can change a monstrous diaper with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. It’s just that continually cleaning up a filthy child, only to have her step in it, which causes her to freak out and spread it all over the bathroom (or nursery,) is just plain gross.  And then there is the oldest/only child mind control game. This is when your darling tot, who, by a certain point, is completely capable both mentally and physically of using the potty, decides that it’s a conspiracy against her toddler sovereignty. Philomena has used every single trick in the Book of Naughty Three Year Olds to make you look like the worst mother on earth. Your crime? Calmly saying “potty time!” at the same times every day. There are some things up with which Philomena will not put. Potty time being dictated to her is one of them. There have been tantrums. Lots and lots of tantrums stemming from a threatened sense of autonomy.

I didn’t give in. I won the day! Diaper dependency is vanquished! She discovered that going to the potty by herself is the neatest big girl thing ever! She can wear pretty undies! She now runs to the bathroom, strips herself down and goes! She runs out, naked, as fast as she can to tell me of her magnificent achievement! It’s a dream come true!

So, while potty training has kept me very much in the trenches of motherhood, it has been worth it. Not only am I free of diapers, Philomena has accomplished the first feat of big-girlhood. I am insanely proud of her. Nothing can get me down.

Until night training begins.

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