Catholic Basics · Parenting

Raising pro-life children — Part One

Every Life is Beautiful
Every Life is Beautiful

I remember very clearly the moment I became pro-life.  I was in my 10th grade biology class and we were learning about fetal development.  My teacher was one of my favorites.  She was beautiful – tall and elegant, smart and she cared very much about her students.  Her husband had been my science teacher in Jr High – he was also a coach.  They seemed like such a wonderful couple,  and it was no secret that they wanted a child – but had never been blessed with one of their own and they had been trying to adopt for at least a couple years.  And so with that knowledge I sat in a darkened room with pictures of the tiniest of babies on the overhead while Mrs Watts explained the changes that each week wrought and as she finished the last frame of the 8 week embryos she quietly said, “this is when most abortions occur”.   She said it so sadly and so quietly that I doubt most the class heard, I was sitting right beside her so I caught it.   I had never really thought about abortion, I’m not even completely sure I knew what it really meant before that moment.  But looking at my teacher I knew completely what it meant.  Little tiny developing babies, little ones with toes and hearts, with DNA and a life and future all their own were being destroyed and sweet, intelligent women who longed to be mothers were sitting on long lists to adopt babies who were never born.   From that moment on I would be unshakably pro-life  — in fact I could hardly imagine how anyone could not be.

The next year I attended Governor’s School.  It was a state sponsored summer camp for students of high academic ability.  One of the “classes” was on ethics and morality – I am not sure that is what it was called, but that is unquestionably what it was.  The topic of abortion was presented.   “What if you were grabbed off the street taken to a hospital and strapped down with tubes sticking out of you.  You are connected to a person who is the greatest violinist in the world while they are ill, the treatment will take nine months,   if you decide to leave they will die.”  The question was posed – would it be ethical to refuse – to get up, walk away and let the musician die.

This is of course was a sly way of introducing the abortion debate.  I argued heartily with the teacher about the minutiae of his set-up.  Pregnancy isn’t they same as being strapped to a table for nine months.  Very, very few woman find themselves grabbed off the street and impregnated against their will.  Consenting to sexual relations means you engaging in activity that may and can by its nature pro-actively places you in the position of being responsible for another beings well-being and safety.   I don’t think the instructor was moved, but I don’t think the class went as he had planned either.   I have no doubt that the “plan” was to convince as many of us as possible that the “pro-choice” stance was the more ethical side of the debate.   If I had not already been convinced with absolute moral certitude of the pro-life position I might have been swayed.

When I had my own children one of the things I wanted to be sure to pass onto them was a respect for all life from conception to the grave.   My desire was to raise children who understand the precious gift that life is.   Sons and daughters who are willing to accept the challenge and responsibility of living in a world where this precious gift is assaulted from all sides.  I wanted to launch adults who know will protect the innocent in the face of of the strong, who are willing to stand up and even to fight for what they believe, but ones who remember every moment that life is beautiful and good — children seeped to the soul, dyed in the wool in the culture of life.

Part two


On Parenting: Ezzo, Babywise and Growing Families International

It is 11:30 at night and your two month old baby just won’t sleep.  You are tired and exhausted and wondering what you have done wrong and you type into Google “How do I get my baby on a schedule?” and land at or you might ask around and  hear someone whisper the advice to you “Try Babywise” or “Try Growing Kids God’s Way”.  Do you give them a try?  Having a schedule, peace in your home, well behaved children – and for the Christian – the promise this is all Bible based is seductive.   If you think that you might have heard about them before you are probably right.  They made the news because their strict scheduling of feeding was (allegedly)  associated with malnourishment and even death in some babies whose mothers were obviously following the program a bit too closely.

Portrait of the Children of John Angerstein - Sir Thomas Lawrence
Portrait of the Children of John Angerstein - Sir Thomas Lawrence

What is Ezzo, Babywise and Growing Families International?  Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo developed the Growing Kids God’s Way workshops and books and their more secular book Babywise was at one point a hot seller.   I have know people who have really stood by the GKGW program and would rave endlessly about how great it was.  One of my “rules for life is:   “Always assume good intent”.    Most parents want to be “good parents” and while what we feel constitutes a good parent is sometimes be very different we all want to do what is good for our children.  I don’t think anyone would have the fortitude to stick with this program unless they really felt they were doing what was best for their children.

But there are some absolutely maddening things with this parenting method.   I have seen the very typical “blame the parent”  shtick  in both the criticisms of the program and the response to criticism from supports of the program.  Blame is laid at the parent’s feet more often than not.  If the program doesn’t work for a couple it is because they didn’t try hard enough or follow the plan close enough.   On the flip side if someone is describing the “strictness” of the program or faulting its practices it is always just a misreading – the parents are taking it too far and beyond the intent of the text.   Maybe there is some Ezzo Sweet Spot where if you do it just so then it works perfectly?   No, I am afraid this wagon is missing a couple wheels.

So, in fairness let’s look at the good things first:

Routine: Few and far between are the children who don’t do better on a schedule than off and for young children especially having a predictable schedule is a blessing to their lives.  It provides them with a sense of security and predictability in a world that is very big and beyond their control.    Routine is in fact very good for the whole family, the caveat to that of course being that the schedule must balance the needs of the whole family and work for the  family as a whole.

Respect: To me this is a key concept, but I think I take a slightly different tack then the Ezzo’s do.  Instilling children with a sense of respect for others, for authority,  and for themselves is the base for successful relationships.  While I am not convinced that the Ezzo style methods are going to achieve the goal of instilling respect in your children the goal is one I agree with.  But respect as a concept, respecting yourself, respecting others and respecting virtue, is absolutely key to good parenting.

Obedience: Again, this is one of my key concepts, but…  From what I have seen of the Ezzo material for older children obedience is the core of their parenting style.  What scheduling is to the infant obedience is to the older children… basically everything.  It colors everything.   Obedience is very important to a happy child and peaceful family;  it walks hand in hand with respect and discipline.  

Values Parenting I am not sure exactly what to call this so I will stick with “values parenting”.   It is (somewhat surprisingly to me) not universally agreed that parents should pass on their values and beliefs to their children.  Some  parenting philosophies feel that a parents shouldn’t “form” their children.   Personally I find this rather bizarre and agree with the Ezzo idea that one of the most important things parents do is shape the values and beliefs of their children.  In fact I would go so far as to say this is a universal fact of parenting, even among those circles that decry it as overwriting their child’s internal (natural, in-born) personality.  If parent’s value “self-discovery” and teach their children to “discover” their own selves then they raise children for whom this is the norm, they shape children to believe this is the right way.  The parent’s think the child is naturally a “self-explorer”  while overlooking the fact that they raised their child to be just that.  So at least let’s be honest and figure out what we are shooting for.

If you like your world view, your values, your faith and/or your culture then by all mean instill this into your children.   It is your right and obligation as a parent to shape the person you are launching into the world.  Every parent has the right to pass on their faith, culture, values and beliefs.    Now I know the inevitable comeback to this is something along the lines of  “what if parents are Nazis?”  Fair enough, but I have to pull the oft quoted line from Jefferson’s “Note to Elementary School Act, 1817″  where he grapples with the line between paternal rights and the societies responsibility to guard the rights of the child.  He  says:  ” It is better to tolerate the rare instance of a parent refusing to let his child be educated, than to shock the common feelings and ideas by the forcible asportation and education of the infant against the will of the father”.  Indeed I agree that it is better to tolerate the rare instance of a parent passing on questionable and at time repugnant world views on to their children than it is to try to interfere with the parent’s right to indoctrinate their own children into their beliefs and traditions.

Strong marriages: I find it interesting to see how often the marriage relationship is overlooked when speaking about parenting.  The Ezzo’s do not make this mistake and devote a goodly amount of material to the topic of healthy marriages.



Blowing the dust off my poor negleted blog.

Today is the first day for us to use the clothesline.    There is something about hanging the clothing outdoors that I really like.  Maybe it is just a nostalgia thing, but they way line dried clothing smells is very good.

music · My world

Ha, I feel clever

Back when Susan Boyle first came to my attention I wrote my thoughts out on her and her music.  One part saying:

Every one assumed that since Miss Boyle was lacking beauty and glamor that she couldn’t possibly have anything of worth.  Like  Grizabella’s  ( And who would ever suppose that that -Was Grizabella the Glamour Cat!)  plaintive reflections in Memory from Cats.   “I can smile at the old days –  I was beautiful then”.  Beauty and youth so worshiped and so transitory, the real beauty is the soul and the song and they only becomes more beautiful, more real and more  powerful with age.   The overwhelming interest in this woman and her moment in the spotlight is driven by more than the fantastic performance, while her voice is really tremendous, I think the shame and hope we simultaneously experience in her performance is the real force.   Shame for understanding so well the harsh judgment of her appearance and hope that we all can have that moment where we are judged on something more substantial.

For now Miss Boyle is enjoying her success,  she has gone home and the children of her village cheer for her in the street and her parish (yes,  a Catholic Parish  — had to toss that in there) gave her a standing ovation when she came to mass this past Sunday.   I hope like Grizabella,  Susan Parker is chosen as “the one” –  that she wins her contest and sees much success in the future.

You can imagine how delighted I was tonight to see this:

Honestly, her voice is shaky at the first.  You can even see in her face that she realizes she doesn’t have the breath and diaphragm control that she needs to put under those notes.  “Memories” is one of those ghastly songs that hops right on sustained tones and if you even slightly miss-pitch it you either have to bend the note or let it go (as you can hear her bend it on that first note).    Susan’s nerves absolutely kill her start.  I can’t even imagine the pressure she is under.  Heavens!  I feel queasy singing in front of a parish with maybe 100 people; if 100 million people were waiting to hear me sing I think I wouldn’t even make it onto stage without barfing all over myself. But, she pulled it out magnificently by the end.   Even on the second stanza she was able to reorient her breathing and by the last she could belt it out with all the abandon that served her so well in her initial performance.

I really hope to see more of her.  Her story and her voice make me happy.

My world

Hannah’s First Communion

The big day was yesterday!

Early in the morning and ready to go!
Early in the morning and ready to go!

Hannah looked like an angel.   Seeing her in the dress made me so very glad that I worked up the nerve to do it and so glad that my husband was persistent and encouraging.

Ashley and I drove Hannah to the parish early so we could gets a pew and make sure everything was in place.   In our parish the First Communicants give each other little favors, holy cards, little candies,  it is a very sweet tradition and makes the day even more special.  We made little boxes and put  a little tulle bag with mints and Tootsie-roll minis in each one.

Hannah's little gift boxes
Hannah's little gift boxes

Kyle brought the other children a little after us.

Sarah and Josh give Hannah a hugs before she leaves.
Sarah and Josh give Hannah a hugs before she leaves.

We got to the parish none too early.  It was already filling up and we were happy just to get a pew.  We passed my mother on the way there and Babchia and granddad had already arrived with Uncle David and cosines Logan, Shelby and Shane.

Here they come.
Here they come.

The first communicants processed in together.  They were all so lovely.

One thing I like about how our parish does first communion is that we have a professional photographer take pictures of the actual reception.  This means parents aren’t scrambling to get their pictures while no one gets to see a thing.

Happy and proud!
Happy and proud!

After the Mass we have a reception in the parish hall:

So exciting!
So exciting!

Babchia took Hannah outside to get some pictures and Father Antony was there.  I love this picture.

Shinning like the sun!
Shinning like the sun!

We all had a happy day, everyone is so proud of Hannah.

leaving church
leaving church

What a blessed day we all had.

My world

Sweet, sweet irony

I normally don’t blog about politics, but this is worth a moment:

Please watch both these videos –

“Guess who is going to be paying off Bush’s $1 trillion dollar deficit?” asked.

The answer:  The very same people who will be paying off Prez Obama’s $10 trillion dollar deficit.

H/T: hotair

My world

Clutching at Sunbeams

Some days I get to feeling a little out of sorts.  Nothing in particular will be wrong, no tragedy on the horizon, but I will still feel a slight desperation born of knowing how much I have to do and how little time I allow myself to do all those things.  I have a tendency at times to a dark mood where I find myself clutching at sunbeams and frustrated with my inability to catch them.

Sunshine - Lady Laura Teresa Alma-Tadema
Sunshine - Lady Laura Teresa Alma-Tadema

It is on those days that something happens to remind me of the importance of trajectory over velocity.   It doesn’t matter how fast or slow I may be going as long as I am going in the right direction and no amount of speed will get me where I am going if I am not heading the correct way.  So a dear friend will visit and bring her children, my husband will make a special trip to the store to pick up something I forgot that only affect me (coffee filters), a child will wake up with a happy smile and hug for mommy and the clouds will part for a moment or two and make me relax enough to remember who I am and who I want to be becoming.

I saw a wonderful bit of advice again today.  It is called The daily decalogue of Pope John XXIII

  1. Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.
  2. Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behaviour; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.
  3. Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.
  4. Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
  5. Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
  6. Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
  7. Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.
  8. Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.
  9. Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.
  10. Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

I have posted this before, but today I needed the reminder.  The sunbeams are there to enjoy and to savor, but they can not be captured in our hand, only remembered in our heart and reflected back out in the love we share with one another.