Sunday, June 29, 2014

Answer Me This: Volume 7

This week's installment of Answer Me This from!

1. How often do you take public transportation?

Very rarely. I LOVE taking the train to far away places, though. It's so much easier than driving! I also fly on airplanes usually a few times a year, but I don't really enjoy it. I'm not comfortable on planes and I can never sleep on them. Plus I do not like just freaks me out.

2. How many cousins do you have?

I had to have help with this question.
My mom's side of the family was easier: 19 cousins.
My dad's side of the family is HUGE. Some cousins I have never met. So we had to estimate. This was just including 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cousins: 82 cousins.

Grand total (drumroll please....)
101 cousins.

Maybe I should make a movie just like 101 Dalmations. Only with cousins. Eh?

3. Have you ever fired a gun?

A BB gun, yes. (Imagine me saying this with a southern accent): 'Round these here parts we gots to go huntin' for rabbits n' deers n' birds. We gots to train our babies when they're good n' young. (End accent)

Other than that, no. Although, I probably should get comfortable shooting a gun, just in case I would ever need to. But I'm kind of terrified of them. So I don't.

4. Do you ride roller coasters?

YES. A thousand times, YES! My love for roller coasters is only surpassed by my love for food. I went to Disneyworld for the first time in my life in January with JUST my husband. BUT, I was newly pregnant at the time, so I couldn't go on any of the hard core roller coasters.

5. What's your favorite flower?

I'd have to say a tie between tulips and lilies. My favorite were the flowers at my wedding:

Bridesmaid's flowers
My flowers

6. Are you allergic to anything?

Do chores like laundry and vacuuming count? If so, yes.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

When Our Baby Went To Heaven: Catherine's Birth Story

As I have said before, every child has a birth story. Birth stories are important, especially for the parents, as a reminder of the day a child came into the world.

Unfortunately, not all birth stories have happy endings. But this does not mean they should be hidden away. All children are precious gifts from God, regardless of how long their stay on Earth was.  As a Catholic, I believe that a person's life starts at the moment of conception. This does, of course, mean that many children have died without the parents even knowing. Some women have miscarriages before they realize they are pregnant, and mistake it for a late, heavy, particularly painful period. This is why we have the feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28: to remember the children who were slaughtered by King Herod after Jesus was born, and to remember all those babies lost in the womb due to miscarriage, abortion, or other reasons.

I have felt the need to write down the birth story of my first child, Catherine, for a long time. I am not sharing this so people will feel sorry for me, or to draw attention to myself, or to depress everyone. I am sharing this because I have come a long way since the death of my first child, and I feel like it will be a step in the healing process to do so. I am sharing this in the hopes that it might help other parents who have suffered the lonely loss of miscarriage, and that they might find solace in the fact that they are not, in fact, alone. I am sharing this to open the eyes of those who have never experienced the loss of a child, and perhaps give them a better idea of how to better love and comfort those people who have.

Thanksgiving Day, 2011, I was full of joy. My husband and I had just found out we were pregnant with our first child. We were giddy. Full of anticipation. We certainly felt the spirit of Thanksgiving, as we gave thanks to God for our precious baby.

We wanted to keep the news a secret until we could tell our immediate family members in a special way. So for an early Christmas present, we wrapped up frames that said "Uncle", "Aunt", "Grandma", or "Grandpa". Inside each frame, we printed out the due date for our baby: August 2, 2012. It was hard to keep secret, but we did it.

We gave the presents to Trent's family and my family separately. They were all shocked and overjoyed. It was wonderful to finally share our excitement of the baby in my womb.

The next few weeks, my mind was filled with thoughts of the life growing inside me. I downloaded apps telling me information about my baby each day. I thought of how we would decorate the nursery. Trent and I discussed names, and whether or not we would find out the sex. It was such an exciting time.

One Friday night before Christmas, Trent and I had a date planned. We went out to dinner and rented a movie. The whole dinner, I was thinking about how happy I was. When we got home, before we started watching the movie, I went to the bathroom and immediately saw blood.

I panicked. I called my mom five times. She reassured me that light bleeding during pregnancy can be normal, and I should just keep an eye on it. I spent the rest of the night worrying about what could be happening.

After a few days, the bleeding had not stopped. I started to get mild cramping. I knew in my heart that this was a bad sign, but I kept telling myself that maybe it was normal. I had a family event and a concert that evening. It was very difficult to act normal around everyone when I knew in the back of my mind what could be happening. I called my midwife the next day. She said cramping with bleeding is not usually a good thing, and that I should keep a close eye on it and come in to the hospital if it got any worse.

About five days after the initial bleeding had started, my cramps got worse. They did not happen often, but when they did, I had to practically bend over to deal with the pain. I was teaching that day, and I remember trying to hide the pain. (I later found out that these cramps were actually contractions)

That night, I lay awake googling (which is, by the way, the worst thing you can do in this type of situation). Maybe I had twins? According to Google, painful cramping and bleeding are more common in pregnancy with twins. Maybe all this was normal? I knew in the back of my mind what was happening: I was losing my baby. But a small part of me refused to believe it.

I woke up about 4am the next morning and went to the bathroom to check on the bleeding. It was worse, much worse. That was the moment, I think, that it really hit me. I started crying and woke Trent up. He comforted me and told me we would go to the doctor's office first thing in the morning.

I called in sick for work, and Trent was thankfully off that day. We both went into the doctor's office. I remember thinking: "I always thought my first doctor's visit would be so joyful. I was wrong." The nurse who checked all my vitals went through the list of questions. "Have you had any miscarriages?" was one of them. "Uh...." I answered, "I think that's what is happening right now."

My midwife came in, her eyes full of compassion. She started talking about how difficult miscarriages are, and how this baby was real to us and to God. I remember thinking,'s for sure? I am losing my baby?" They took my blood work, with the instruction that I would return a few days later for the same blood work to make sure that I was, indeed, having a miscarriage.

My midwife told me the pain would be bad. I was not the least bit concerned with that. I had no clue how bad the pain would actually be.

The cramping got worse and worse, and closer together. What many people do not realize (and what I myself did not realize as I was going through it) is that when a woman miscarries, she goes through labor just like a woman with a full grown baby, but the miscarried baby is much smaller. I remember, at one point, the pain was so bad, I was on my hands and knees making those animal noises that you hear women in the hospital making when they have their babies. I texted my mom, "how could the pain possibly get any worse?"

Finally, the baby was born. Many medical people use the term "passing the tissue." I do not use that term. It was not tissue. It was my baby, and she was born, just like every other baby is born. She was a life, she had a soul, and she was my first child.

I took three days off work to recuperate, both physically and emotionally. Three days is such a short amount of time. A woman needs much longer than three days to recuperate from something like this. But miscarriage is something that our society neither understands nor likes to talk about. It is an uncomfortable subject that people do not know how to handle. Women are expected to simply move on and get back to normal as quickly as possible. This is partly due to our culture of death in which people do not consider a young fetus as a life. But it is also due to our "seeing is believing" mentality. In miscarriage, a woman is often in early pregnancy, when no one can tell she is pregnant. So they just don't think about it. They think that just because the woman could not "hold" her baby, it should not mean much to her.

The weeks and months following the loss of my first baby were so difficult. I did not want anyone to know. Partly because I didn't know how to handle the situation, and also partly because well-meaning people said such hurtful things like "Well, you can always have more children" or "It was probably just a bundle of tissue anyway" or "It was probably for the best, the baby would have had severe problems if it had lived". I did not care that I might be able to have more children in the future, or that my baby probably had a severe genetic problem. All I cared about was that I lost my baby.

For awhile, every time I passed a visibly pregnant woman or small children, I cried. I remember once sitting in a restaurant, and the table next to us had a newborn sitting there. We asked to move tables because I couldn't stand looking at what could have been my child. As the weeks went on, I kept track of how far along in my pregnancy I would have been. This week, I might have felt my baby kick. This week, my baby would have fingernails. 

I grieved silently and by myself. Only my husband, my immediate family, and a few very close friends knew. For a year and a half, I did not tell anyone else. I felt it was something that others would not understand, so I did not want to deal with the conversations that would inevitably come up.

A few months later, I found out I was pregnant with Elizabeth. The experience of finding out about this pregnancy could not have been more different than my first. I sat on the steps and cried, praying to God and my baby in heaven to protect this new baby. I felt no excitement or joyful anticipation. Instead, I began mentally preparing myself for what could happen.

As my pregnancy with Elizabeth went on, I had severe symptoms of "morning" sickness (a term that should be called 24 hours a day sickness). But although I was suffering greatly, I was so thankful to God for the sickness. It meant that my hormones were working, and that the baby was probably doing okay.

When I became pregnant with my current baby and found out the due date, I gasped. August 1, 2013. One day before my first baby would have been due. Throughout this whole pregnancy, I have been thinking about how the timing would have been exactly the same.

In the process of my healing, I have learned that it is not healthy for me to keep this a secret. I realized that instead of keeping it to myself, in fear of getting hurt by what others might say, I should share my story. I should not view my child as a shameful or fearful circumstance. Rather, I should celebrate that God chose me to be her parent, even though it might have been a very short time. I should rejoice that my child is in a place that God specifically made, just for her. I think more than anything else throughout my experience, this prayer helped the most:  

I am healing. But I will never forget my first child. I pray for her and talk to her every single day. I will tell all of my living children about their big sister. I am reminded daily of her. Whenever people ask how many children I have, I always hesitate for a second. I want to say "three." Because my first child, although in heaven, is still my child. And she always will be.

I plan on writing a post in the future about ways to help parents who have suffered the loss of miscarriage. But for now, I'll leave it at this. And I know that when my newest baby is born soon, his or her big sister will be in heaven, guiding us and smiling down on us all the way through.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Answer Me This: Volume 6

This week's installment of Answer Me This from!

 1. When's the last time you got a new bathing suit?

I got a new one piece speedo for Christmas last year. The one I had before lasted about 10 years, and I finally realized I needed a new one when it got covered with milk stains that wouldn't come out when I was nursing Elizabeth. I love one piece speedos because they are very modest and last for a long time. I also wear swim suit shorts over the speedo because I feel much more comfortable. Unfortunately, though, being due August 1st means I can't exactly fit into a speedo at the moment. 

2. Who made the last incoming call on your phone?

My mom. I left Elizabeth's milk cup at her work. Oops.

3. If you receive communion, do you receive it in the hands or on the tongue?

Tongue for sure. I'm not against people receiving in their hands. But I personally feel like receiving on the tongue is more respectful, and I want to show as much respect to Jesus as I possibly can. I also feel like it's easy for crumbs from the consecrated host to fall on my hands or the floor if I receive in my hands, so I'm eliminating that possibility as best as I can. Plus, let's not forget the part about holding a struggling toddler while receiving pretty much have to receive on your tongue unless you are an acrobat. 

4. Do you have a tattoo?

Heck no. Not only could I not pull off a tattoo, but I also have never had a desire to get one. So I never have. I'm not against tattoos, though, and think they can be done respectfully and tastefully. 

5. How many dinner plates are in your house?

12 small, 12 large! Wedding gifts!

6. Do you have an accent?

I don't think I do. But my family from out East says differently. I do tend to say "y'all" every once in awhile because I student taught in Kentucky. And apparently I say the word "hammock" and "bagel" weirdly. (Ham-ock, not ham-ick...bay-gul, not bah-gul)

BTW-I don't think this is entirely accurate. But it's close.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wives, Submit To Your Husbands

Mid June is always what we in our family call "Trent Appreciation Week." June 15: Trent's Birthday. Always within a few days of (or on) his birthday: Father's Day. June 18: our wedding anniversary. I guess we just like to celebrate a lot of things at once in our family, since Elizabeth was also born the day after Christmas.

I met my husband in marching band when I was 15 years old. He was a year older than me in high school so I thought I was sooooo cool to be with an "older" guy. We were sort of set up by mutual friends, and things just started gaining momentum from there.

I like to think that we had two "phases" of our courtship: our pre-breakup phase and our post-breakup phase. I wrote a bit about our post-breakup phase here, but I'll summarize our pre-breakup phase in two words:

Immature and selfish.
(Okay that's three words, but just don't pay attention to the "and" because it doesn't count.)

I will take most of the blame for this one. In high school, I was incredibly self centered, emotional, and over reacted to most situations. Of course, I still constantly struggle with these issues, but I like to think I've calmed down considerably as I've aged and gained more life experience. I suppose most high schoolers are all like this in some way. (And, by the way, this is a reason that I no longer agree with dating before the age of 18...but that's for another blog post) But I feel like I thought about myself far more than most other people. I was always mad at him about something. Honestly, the fact that this amazing man put up with me for so many years like that is, in itself, proof of God's existence and daily grace in our lives.

We broke up my freshman year of college. I was still self centered, and was wondering "why oh why am I so unhappy?" When I finally came to my senses, and realized that WOW, Earth does not revolve around me, everything clicked. I realized how blind I had been to this Christ-like man who is now my husband.

I realized what love really is. It's not a feeling or an emotion. Sure, those "warm fuzzy feelings" can be a product of love. But it's not what love is. Love is unchanging. Love is constant. Love is sacrifice.  Love is GOD. I know God loves me, but I don't always "feel it." I love God, but more often than not, I say my daily prayers with irritation because I'd rather be doing something else. I love my husband and he loves me, but we don't always feel lovey dovey oh my gosh I can't believe you're mine you're the best person EVER.

On our anniversary, I'd love to go on and on about how amazing my husband is, and maybe I will in another post. But for today, I want to talk about love and marriage, what I've learned, and what Scripture tells us about it.

My favorite Bible passage about love and marriage is the one many people tend to skip over because it makes them feel uncomfortable:

21 Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. 
22 Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. 
23 For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. 
24 As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.  
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her 
26 to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, 
27 that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 
28 So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  
29 For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church,  
30 because we are members of his body. 
31 “For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 
32 This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.  
33 In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.

Let's break it down, shall we?
(Don't worry, I won't start dancing. Trust me, you don't want to see me doing that. EVER.)

21, 22: What does the word "subordinate" mean? Sub = under. Ordinate comes from the word ordain, which means "to decree." Decree = an official order issued by a legal authority.
In this case, the authority is God. God has given us each an order, or a mission, to complete. So, subordinate = under the mission. Wives, we are called to be "under the mission" of our husbands. In other words, we are called to support our husband's mission.

23, 24: Note the second part of verse 23: the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. We must ask ourselves: how is Christ head of the Church? Is it in a dominating, overbearing way, with the members of His Church cowering down before him? No. It is the complete opposite.

This is telling us wives to support our husband's mission, just as the Church supports Christ's mission. So what the heck is our husband's mission? Read on:

25: Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her. How did Christ love the Church? He died for it. He sacrificed his entire life for the Church. Husbands, your mission is to sacrifice your entire life for your wife. You must give all of yourself to your wife: Mind, body, and soul. Kind of a tall order.

26, 27: Sanctify = make holy. Husbands, you must help your wives become holy so that "she might be holy and without blemish." Wives, we must help our husbands become holy so that he "might present himself to the Church in splendor." This is our duty to each other.

28, 29, 30: Think about marital intercourse. When done in the way God intended, the husband and the wife are not thinking merely of their own satisfaction. They are also wanting their spouse to experience the joy they themselves experience. This includes the physical, emotional, and spiritual parts of sex. Take that example and branch it out to all areas of marriage. We are not called to think only of ourselves. "He who loves his wife loves himself." In order to fulfill our mission in marriage, we must think of our spouse before ourselves. In this way, we will be fully participating in the marital union, just as members of the Body of Christ participate with Christ.

31, 32: The two shall become one. When husbands and wives fulfill their duties out of love for each other in the way Christ commanded, they will be a sign of Christ's love for others. They will work harmoniously together and with each other. Christ=husbands, Church=wives. It all makes sense when it's put together.

33: Summary of everything St. Paul just said (because most of us are pretty dense and we need to hear things multiple times)

This is not, as many people think, a chauvinistic, anti-woman, outdated way of thinking. In fact, it is more "pro woman" than any other feminist philosophy out there. Wives, we must expect that our husbands are willing to sacrifice everything for us. And in return, we must support and accept their mission to love us. This is hard for women to do. To let our husbands love us. How many of you have scoffed when your husband compliments your appearance? "Ugh, I look like I just got hit by a garbage truck right now." I know I have. How many of you have a difficult time believing your husband when he says he loves you? Or when he tells you what you mean to him? Or when he says he would rather be with you than anyone else? Many of us do. Because many of us, deep down, are insecure. God knows this. And he tells us that it is our duty to let our husbands love us.

As Bishop Fulton Sheen once said, it takes three to get married (It's a great book, by the way). None of this is possible without the grace of God. These are difficult orders to live by. But I can tell you from my short three years of marriage that when I think of my husband before myself, I am at peace. I show my love for him in that way, and he shows me his love, too.

There's a funny bumper sticker out there that says: "Marriage isn't a word. It's a sentence." This bumper sticker, intending to be funny, actually couldn't be closer to the truth. Marriage is not just a word. It's an order. Just as priests are ordained to serve us, their Church, married people are ordained to serve their spouses.

So wives, we should thank God for giving us the opportunity to "submit" to our husbands. Rather than fight it and view it as a way to degrade women, we should look at it for what it is: a gift of love.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Answer Me This: Volume 5

This week's installment of Answer Me This from!

1. What’s something you intended to do today, but didn't?

I was ALL KINDS of productive today. So I'm going to answer NOTHING! The reason is because we're having a BBQ today, and nothing is a better motivator to do ALL THE THINGS than having company! It's pretty much the only time I clean my house. If my house looks dirty, I plan a party. That will make me clean it.

I guess the one thing I DID plan on doing was putting homemade ice cream in Trent's ice cream cake that I made him. I'm really into making things from scratch whenever possible. I think it's healthier and tastier, and I really enjoy doing it. However, our freezer decided to not work as well as it normally does (couldn't possibly be because I stuffed too many things in it, preventing air flow) so the ice cream maker wasn't cold enough to work. Grrrrr.

2. What's your favorite grilling recipe?

I'm new to the area of grilling. We just got a charcoal grill recently and have used it about once a week since the weather got nice. To be honest, I am extremely intimidated by grills, and it's the one cooking appliance I have never used. Trent is really into it, so he's the one who usually looks up the recipes. I have used this spice rub for meat before, and it's really tasty (but pretty spicy so beware):

Our first grilling endeavor (it was extremely windy and cold)

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 tablespoon granulated onion

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon white pepper

Read more at:

3. What movie did you see most recently?

The Lion King is the most recent movie I've watched all the way through. Probably one of my top 5 favorite movies of all time.

4. Would you say your tendency is to over or under react to medical situations?

I'd say generally, I under react. I don't like using medicine unless I absolutely need it, so I tend to underplay how serious situations are.

However. If the medical situation involves ticks, I FREAK. OUT. I also have this phobia that my homemade canned food will have that deadly bacteria in it that will instantly paralyze and kill you. So I have 8 jars of homemade sweet pickles in my basement from last year that have never been eaten. 

5. Do you squeeze the toothpaste tube or roll it?

Squeeze. I'm a pretty impatient person so when the toothpaste gets to that annoying point where there's still a little bit left but not enough to where it easily comes out, I just want to pitch it.

6. What are you doing for Father's Day?

Father's Day this year is a double whammy: Father's Day AND my husband's birthday! AND he was actually off work today! He wanted to have a BBQ today, so that's what we're doing. We went to Mass this morning and Elizabeth was actually REALLY well behaved...I think it was her present to her daddy. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sensitive Issues: How Do You Respond?

When it comes to interacting with people I do not know, I like to avoid as much conflict as I possibly can. In a restaurant, if they get my order wrong, I almost never say anything because I don't want to annoy the waiter or waitress. If, at the grocery store, someone approaches the same line as I do, I always let them go ahead of me because I don't want to make them angry. Whenever I am dealing with customer service employees, whether in person or over the phone, I am always extremely apologetic of using up their time and many times blame the problem on myself, even if it is clear it's not my fault.

I wish I could say that I did all this because I was a "good person" or because I am genuinely concerned about the well being of others. The truth is, I am like this because I am so scared of offending others or doing something that will make them think less of me. So instead of being virtuous, it's really a huge pride issue. It's all about ME.

You might think it's strange that I am afraid to offend people. After all, I write about controversial topics all the time on this blog, and I make my opinion clearly known. Part of the reason I love writing this blog is because I find it's so much easier for me to put my thoughts into writing than it is to speak about it. Another reason, though, is something that my generation suffers from because of the "computer" and "texting" age: I do not have to respond to people who disagree with me right away. I have time to think about my responses. With a blog, I can think about what I'm going to say, say it, and then check it to make sure I said everything the way I meant to. It is so much different from a person to person conversation. In that case, your response must be immediate. You have much less time to think. You have much less time to "calm down" if one person offends another.

Last weekend, Trent, Elizabeth, Cocoa (our dog) and I stayed at a little cabin in Shawnee National Forest. We went to a few really great wineries (and yes, I did drink some wine, despite the judgment stares I was getting from some people). One of the wineries was having a charity event for animal shelters. We brought Cocoa and walked around to the different activities and booths, all of us having a great time.

Elizabeth was tuckered out after the weekend.
Don't worry, she didn't get punched in the face. That's a face painting.

At one point, Trent went inside the winery for a few minutes while I stayed outside with Cocoa. Suddenly, a woman with a clipboard approached me and two other girls who were standing next to me. "Hi everyone!" she said cheerfully. "Would you like to sign a petition to help the Green Party get on the ballot for the next election?" I froze. The two girls next to me shrugged and said "sure, why not?" The woman looked expectantly at me. "Uhhhh...." I said awkwardly, "Um, maybe I should wait for my husband to come back. He knows more about this stuff than I do."

First of all, that was a lie. I am just as involved with and informed about political issues as my husband is. I needed to buy myself some time so I could think of what to say to this woman. Ordinary people who were unsure about signing the petition would just politely say "no, thank you" and move on. But not me. I wanted my husband to do the dirty work for me because I was too much of a wuss to say anything.

Let me be clear, here, that I do not associate myself with a political party, per se. I vote based on which candidate will most carry out the issues that are aligned with Catholic Church teachings. I love that the Democratic party focuses on helping the poor. I love that the Republican party is pro-life. I love that the Green party is concerned with saving the environment and making our world a better place to live. Obviously, there is never a candidate who will stand for every single thing the Church teaches. So I make priorities. To me, sanctity of life is the most important issue, because if we do not value human life, then what else matters? Keep in mind that when I say "sanctity of life," I mean ALL life, from conception to natural death. This includes not only unborn babies, but children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly. However, since unborn babies are the most innocent and vulnerable of this group, I have made abortion my number one priority when I vote.

So this is why I felt so awkward when the woman asked me to sign the petition. I didn't even know if the Green party was pro-life or not. Trent returned, and I pointedly looked away from the woman, trying to avoid eye contact. "Excuse me, sir, your wife said I should talk to you." The woman explained what she wanted. "I see you two have a child, which means you must be concerned with making our world's future a better place! Please sign this petition to help make that a reality!" My husband looked at her and immediately said, "I'm sorry, but I don't agree with everything your party stands for, so I can't sign that." The lady wasn't going to give up. "You don't want to make your daughter's future better?" she asked.

I started to get sweaty and nervous. My "avoid conflict at all costs" alarm was going off in my head. My husband seemed unperturbed. To try to smooth things out, I said, "I really like a lot of what the Green Party stands for. But are you pro-life?" She paused, then said, "You mean anti-choice?" That statement right there answered my question. But she went on: "No, I firmly believe that all women should have the freedom to control their own bodies. Think about how many unwanted children there are out there. I have three daughters myself, and they have gotten bullied by other children who have terrible lives, simply because their parents don't want them. Do you really want your daughter to be around these types of children?"

Musician joke...teehee!
This statement dumbfounded me. It sounded so similar to the words Hitler said when he wanted to eliminate the "unfit" races. I had no words, no response. There were hundreds of thoughts racing in my brain, but I said none of them. My husband simply responded, "Yep, it's a tough world out there." Then we walked away. I didn't talk much for awhile. I was too busy wondering if what I did was the right thing. I truly felt that this woman had her mind made up, and no words from me or anyone else would convince her otherwise. But part of me didn't want to respond because I just wanted to avoid conflict.

So in situations like these, what should a person do? Should we use the opportunity to evangelize, and to explain our faith? Or will that backfire? I have seen "Christian Evangelists." Many times, they do more harm than good. They talk too much, and end up frustrating people more than they help people. It is more effective, in my opinion, to evangelize by example: by living your faith in the best way you can. But what about strangers who we will never see again? Should we remain silent and simply pray as hard as we can? Part of what held me back from responding to this woman was certainly cowardice. But part of it, too, was my feeling that talking to her would do no good.

How do you respond in situations like this? What do you think is the best way to convey the truth without being pushy or annoying? Where, in your opinion, is the balance between "saying" and "praying"?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Answer Me This: Volume 4

This week's installment of Answer Me This from!

1. Do you have a land line?

Nope! We only use cell phones. We probably SHOULD have a land line, just in case, given the fact that I lose things at an alarming rate...but we can't bring ourselves to spend the money.

2. What is your least favorite food?

I hate mustard and french dressing. I've tried forcing myself to like mustard, since it seems healthier than mayonnaise, but I just can't. I also despise soda, although I don't know if that's considered a "food." I can't stand carbonation.

3. What's on your summer reading list?

I'm currently reading this Catholic fiction series that a friend gave's SO GOOD! The first book is called "Pierced By A Sword." I also plan to read lots on breastfeeding so I might have a better experience with this baby than I did with Elizabeth!

4. Is there something that people consistently ask for your advice on? What is it?

Not really...I guess whenever people have an oboe-related question (which doesn't happen that often since there aren't many oboists out there) they ask for my opinion. Most of the time, I'm asking for other peoples' opinions!

5. What's the most physically demanding thing you've ever done?

Breastfeeding. Not even a hesitation there. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. Post coming on that soon.

6. How do you feel about massages?

LOVE. One of my absolute favorite things of this world. Especially when my back always hurts from carrying a toddler/being really pregnant!! But I have to have a woman do it...I feel like it's not a good thing for men to massage women (unless of course they're married), even if they are professionals. I also feel like it's a really good for me to get them as a preventative measure, since a large majority of my whole family has horrible back problems.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Elizabeth's Birth Story

Birth stories are like war stories. Every mom has one. And they are not limited to moms who have physically given birth...they also apply to moms who have adopted. Perhaps they were there for the actual birth of their child, or perhaps they have another story about what happened when they first laid eyes on their child. Birth stories can be filled with pain, joy, sorrow, awe, or any other emotion you can think of.

I never actually wrote Elizabeth's story down. I have been meaning to since...well, since she was born, I guess. So I figure I need to do that before I have another birth experience in (hopefully) a few months, before I start confusing the details and can't remember what event happened when and with which child.

(Also, I think writing this down will help me realize that HOLY MOLY I am actually going to be giving birth again soon and I need to get my act together and GET READY)

And before I start, don't worry, I'm not going to write in any gross details that you really do not want to know. BUT the following words WILL be in this post: poop, cervix, dilated, amniotic fluid. If that grosses you out, then don't say I didn't warn you!!

*Looks at crowd*

I am well known for making grand plans, expecting they will happen the way I want them to, and then realizing that oops, I forgot God is in charge, not me. And almost every time, God's plan is a bit different than mine. It's always better, too. But sometimes I don't realize that until later. Sometimes WAYYY later.

My due date was December 15, 2012. EVERYONE (except maybe 2 people) said I was having a boy. People were having "dreams" and "visions" and "feelings" and they just knew it would be that way. I totally believed them, because I, too, had always envisioned that I would have only boys if God blessed me with children.

One of the "visions" someone had was that I would give birth on December 14. This person has actually made many predictions in the past, some frighteningly detailed, that have all come true. So I set my mind to it that December 14 was the day. "Perfect," I thought. "This way, I'll be home and ready for Christmas."

Come on, baby! The room's all ready!
(There was a time when her room was that clean?)
I packed all my bags and had everything ready. Trent and I made no plans that evening of December 14 because we just assumed I would be giving birth. I told him to have his phone on all day at work and be ready for the phone call that "ohmigosh I'm in labor get home now baby is coming!!"

December 14 came. I waited all day, mentally willing the contractions to start. And, as I'm sure you are totally surprised and shocked to hear, notta one came. December 14 went. I was so disappointed (Looking back now I laugh at my naivety). "Well, my due date's tomorrow," I thought. "Surely it will happen in the next few days.

Every morning I went to Mass. Every morning, the Scripture readings were about Mary or Elizabeth waiting to give birth. Every morning, the priest preached about the season of Advent. And waiting. And why it's important. And how we as Americans are not good at waiting anymore. Every time, I chuckled at the irony of it all. As the days rolled on and on, I started to get mad. "Okay, God," I said, "This isn't funny anymore. Can you just MAKE THIS BABY COME ALREADY??!!" Because apparently talking to God like that will make everything just magically start going your way.

I went to a midwife (a wonderful, amazing, fantastic midwife who is one of the best human beings I know and I feel blessed that she is able to be the person to bring my children into the world) because I'm a hippie, and I wanted everything to be as natural as possible. I did not want to be induced unless it was medically necessary. I also wanted to attempt a natural delivery with no epidural. This was actually one area where I was realistic and understood that if I did, indeed, need to get an epidural, it would not be the end of the world.

I'mmmmm dreaming of a baby-filled Christmas
So, the days kept rollin' on. A few days turned into a week. People started getting nervous. Going past 41 weeks increases the chance that your baby will pass meconium (aka, he or she will poop in the uterus) which can cause complications. I was fine with waiting longer. And when I say I was fine with it, I mean my strong feelings of not wanting to be induced far outweighed my feelings of irritation and impatience of the fact that there was STILL A BABY IN MY BELLY.

My midwife and I finally decided that if the baby did not come by Christmas, I would get induced Christmas night and have the baby the next day. When this sunk into my brain, I realized that ironically my "plans" might actually happen...I WOULD be home for Christmas. Just sans baby.

I went to Christmas Eve Mass with Trent and was somehow able to sit in the front row. During his homily, the priest gathered all the children together and asked them questions about Christmas. When he started discussing Mary, he asked them how many months does a baby grow inside his or her mother? All the kids said "NINE!" Father then said, "Very good! Although, in some cases, such as Ashley Gutridge who is sitting in the front row, it can take a bit longer!" The whole Cathedral turned and looked at me. I turned a shade of red that was probably very similar to the poinsettias adorning the altar.

I went to bed that night feeling very emotional. I knew this would be the last night of my "normal" life. The life that I had always known. Starting the next day, I would be responsible for another human being. It was such a surreal feeling.

I had a strange dream that night. It involved water. And suddenly I woke up, heard a "popping" sound, and realized that my water broke (I later found out it was not all of my water, but I didn't know any better since this had never happened to me before). I looked at the clock: 2am. Merry Christmas! I shook Trent's shoulders hard. "Whaaaa?" he asked groggily. "Trent, my water just broke," I said. He looked at me with a confused facial expression. "Are you serious?" he asked. We look back now and laugh that he thought I would have joked about that.

Another one of my "plans" was to stay home as long as possible before going to the hospital. If I was going to be uncomfortable during labor, I at least wanted to be in my own home. Apparently, though, if your water breaks, you're supposed to go to the hospital as soon as possible because of the risk of infection. I showered and stayed home about 4 hours, but then we decided it would be best to just go to the hospital. I was having contractions, but they weren't strong and they weren't close together. Ha! I thought to myself. If this is labor, I got this in the bag. This isn't so bad at all. I can hear all of you mothers out there laughing hysterically at my naivety. Because I'm doing the same thing. I had no idea what was coming.

I walked around the hospital room and the halls for a few hours, feeling pretty darned good. There was pain, but it was very manageable. They checked my cervix and found that I wasn't dilating. At all. And it had been about 6 hours since my water broke. Apparently there is a 24 window in which you must deliver the baby after your water breaks.

12...or 23...and no, that's not a picture of Elizabeth
Sooooo they decided to put me on Pitocin, which is supposed to speed things up. It's the drug that I now hate more than any other drug because it made my labor go from "I can handle this" to "HOLY MOTHER OF EVERYTHING THAT IS HOLY SO MUCH PAIN WHY IS THIS HAPPENING WHAT IS GOING ON AHHHHHHH!!!!" in a matter of minutes. I remember telling the labor nurse "I don't think I can handle it if things are going to get worse than THIS."

By the way, labor nurses are saints. Hug all labor nurses that you know.

Elizabeth decided that she wanted to be posterior, which means her face was pointed toward my belly instead of my back. Apparently it makes labor last much longer, makes it more difficult for the baby to come out, and gives you constant pain in your back that I can't really describe (there's no "apparently" about the last fact. Trent spend a total of 12 hours, nonstop, applying pressure to my low back with his fist).

So the next 12 hours were spent with the moaning and the wailing and the gnashing of teeth. Apparently I sang a lot during my contractions. I don't remember this. In fact, I don't remember a lot of those 12 hours. Apparently we prayed an entire rosary with music. Apparently people came to see me. Apparently my mom kept Trent fed during those hours, and I yelled at someone for eating tuna because it smelled horrible.

Somewhere in that time, they broke my water, and it was full of meconium (when baby poops in uterus). This made everyone, especially my mom, very nervous, because it can be dangerous for the baby. This made us all hope and pray that things would go quickly.

At around 8pm, the contractions starting coming full force. There were no breaks. I remember
gripping the railing of my hospital bed and asking the nurse, "WHERE'S THE BREAK? WHY ARE THERE NO BREAKS? WHAT IS HAPPENING?" She checked how dilated I was. After 18 hours, 12 of which were hard labor, I was a whopping 4 cm dilated. I cried as much as the pain would allow it. At this rate I was going nowhere fast.

Then the doctor came in. A military, no nonsense, say-it-like-it-is sort of fellow. "Why in the hell are you not getting an epidural?" he asked. "Would you get your appendix taken out with no meds? No!" I finally agreed to it, and apologized to him through my sobs that he had to interrupt his Christmas to come see me.

The epidural guy (I know there's an official name for it but I don't know what it is) came in and asked me to stay still (a feat that felt more impossible than climbing Mt. Everest). He warned that the numbing needle might sting. I remember laughing out loud when the needle went in. You call that pain? I thought. That is like a mosquito bite compared to what I'm feeling now.

After a few minutes, I had a break in contractions, which was something that hadn't happened in awhile. Then my mom said, "you're having a contraction right now." And I felt NOTHING. No pain. I started sobbing from the sheer joy of it. It was truly amazing. I could breathe, and I could relax.

I truly believe that if I would not have gotten an epidural, I probably would have had to have a c-section. The epidural made my body relax, which caused Elizabeth to turn around into the correct position. I actually slept. This epidural thing was AWESOME. From that point on, I started progressing very quickly.

At about 12:30am, it was time to push. And I have to say, I was pretty proud of my pushing skillz. Being an oboist, I think, made it very, very easy because I was so accustomed to using my ab muscles to force air through my instrument. I was also used to taking big, deep breaths. The pushing part was truly amazing. I had no pain, and was able to really take it all in. We saw a little head with lots of brown hair. Then her face. Then, at 12:53am, Elizabeth Ann Gutridge was born.

They had people on standby with equipment in case she would aspirate the meconium. But good ol' Elizabeth screamed so loudly that there was NO question about it: she was okay. The midwife immediately handed her to me. "It's a girl!" Trent said. We were beyond shocked.

To this day, Elizabeth continues to surprise us. She does things her own way, she is full of drama, and she gives us a run for our money. But she is so FUN. She is full of spirit and life and laughter. There is never a dull moment. I feel like every day I get to know her better. I love her personality and her gibberish. I thank God every day for my little girl. It was a hard road to get you here, Elizabeth, but we wouldn't have it any other way!

Leaving the hospital
(no, I didn't accidentally pack a size 3 month
sweater for my newborn baby...uh...)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Answer Me This: Volume 3

This week's installment of Answer Me This from! Feel free to comment below and answer the questions about yourself!

1. Do you have a smart phone?

Yes! I originally was against all forms of smart phones...I'm not really sure why. I think I just like to be a hipster like that. But one day my old dinosaur phone accidentally was left in my pocket (notice I refuse to admit that it was me who did it) and went through the wash. Phone store said it was beyond repair, but hey, they were giving away free iPhone 3Gs for those who signed up with the plan! At first I adamantly refused. Then after I thought about it, I caved. I kept that 3G until about a month ago when I upgraded to 5S (the phone people laughed when they saw I still had an "old" 3GS, which apparently is now considered a dinosaur phone) and OH MY GOSH SO FAST SO MANY THINGS OVERSTIMULATION!!!!! I mainly love it because of the camera quality!

2. Which is your favorite meal of the day?

Ummm...all of them? I really love cooking and eating. I guess if I had to choose I'd say dinner simply because that's when we usually eat together as a family! My favorite meal to go out to eat, though, is definitely breakfast. Pancakes and biscuits are something that, no matter how hard I try when I cook them myself, I cannot make taste as good as they do in a restaurant.

Foodie Family

3. Shower or bath?

Both! My shower time is my relaxing time. I hardly ever give Elizabeth baths because I love killing two birds with one stone so I just take her in the shower with me. BUT, if I am freezing cold (which tends to happen all the time unless I am hugely pregnant in the summer apparently) I LOVE taking a bath. And yes, I still take baths when I am pregnant. Technically that's a no-no but I love them too much (and I also personally feel like a lot of the things they say not to do while pregnant is a bit overkill).

4. Think of a person you love. How many days have you been in love with that person? (Don't worry, this site will do the math for you. And, hey, now you can order this card!)

My (senior?) year of college
How convenient! This question coming just weeks before my husband's and my 3 year wedding anniversary! I'm just going to say I fell in love with him in October of 2006 (we started dating in September of that year). Although I don't think my love for him in high school was as deep as it was in the last few years of college after I grew up a bit and got over that annoying "everything is about me" phase.
Result: (drumroll, please): 2800 days!!!

5. What's the best church you've ever been inside?

I've been inside some pretty awesome churches in Europe (Italy, Spain, and France). But honestly, my favorite church in the world is our home church of St. Peter's Cathedral. I really do think it's breathtakingly beautiful, and I have so many memories inside of that church. It holds a special place in my heart.
(Plus, it doesn't hurt that it has the best cry room EVER)

Chrism Mass 2014 at our church

6. Happy Feast of the Visitation (on Saturday)! Has anyone ever come to help YOU?

Ohhhh my gosh. The amount of help my husband and I have is unreal. I mean, really, we are unbelievably blessed. We live right next to both our parents (not literally next door, but in a 5-15 minute drive) and we have TONS of friends and family who help us. It is because of this that we are able to do all the things we do, like be in community orchestra, quintet, and go on regular date nights. Not only do we have help watching our daughter, but a lot of the people who help us ALSO help clean our house when they are over. It's truly amazing to me and we are so appreciative!!