Raising Chaste Catholic Men! Chatting with Leila.

Today is an exciting day, my dear readers!  Have you heard me talk about my friend of several years, Leila?  Here she is:

leila

 

Well today, Leila is publishing her first book, entitled Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom.

chaste

 

As a general rule, I would say you should buy any book Leila writes, or even just recommends.  She is a gifted defender of the Catholic faith. She is intelligent, courageous, and humble.  I could go on with many accolades, but what you really need to know is that she is the mother of 8 children 6 of them boys!  She is familiar with all the challenges our boys are up against these days, especially in the realm of sexuality and virtue, yet she is managing to raise faithful and chaste young men.

As a mother of 3 sons, I was so excited that Leila was writing this book!  To look around at today’s culture and then to turn and look at your little boys and wonder how that culture will shape them – well, it is hard to be hopeful sometimes.  But Leila’s book gives me hope, as well as practical advice that will help me be a better mother.

Since I got an early copy of Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom, I was able to put together some questions so you could get to know a little bit about Leila and this book, so here we go…

 

I love that you described the book as two Catholic moms sitting down over a cup of tea to have a conversation.  It made it very honest and down to earth to me.  And as a person who has only been mothering boys for 5 years, I so appreciated the stories you told about when you caved to some of your sons’ demands or that you had a difficult relationship with one of your sons for a few years.  It’s comforting to know that we can mess up, but we can also change course, and our kids can still turn out ok.
Yes, that is part of the “hope” that I wanted to give the moms out there who are struggling, wondering what will become of their son(s). I had great fear about one or two sons in particular, and today they are just good, solid young men! For a while, I just had no idea how we were going to get out of this behavior problem we had with our third son, and it went on for years, with lots of attempts to fix things, in various ways. That’s probably a whole other story in itself, too long for a blog post! But it has a very happy ending. Keep praying, never give up. 
Early on in the book, you talk about how important it is to be both a parent and a friend. How do you create the right balance in the relationship?
This is probably not a great thing, ha ha, but there is part of me that is still very much “young” (should I say “immature”?). Meaning, I like hearing about the kids at school and who my girls (at the time) thought was cute, etc. I like teasing my boys about stuff — in a non-mocking way, of course. I guess there is a playfulness that needs to be there? That is friendship. But at the same time, I am very strict about things of the faith (barring sickness or legitimate excuse, we will never miss Mass, not a day in my life while they live under my roof, for example), and moral formation. I don’t know that I always strike the right balance, as sometimes I’ve been too much a “friend” and sometimes that can lead to unconscious disrespect especially from boys. So, I reorient and try again. Sometimes it’s hit and miss, but that’s probably true for all parents and their kids. None of us knows exactly what we are doing all the time, and sometimes we look foolish. But, if the kids know we love them, and if they know we mean business on virtue training and our faith, then things tend to work out. 
You discussed how each of your children is different, and so you approached the sensitive topics of sex and chastity in different ways and at different times. It seems to me that doing so, goes against a lot of what I see and hear in the parenting world- that parents find *their way* of doing things, and if we do things differently for different kids, we are somehow being unfair.  Almost like it is more about the parents finding their method than the kids and their unique needs.  Do you feel like you see that in this particular area of parenting, as well as in others?
 
You know, that’s a really interesting question. Here’s one thing that comes to my mind: In general, with a big family especially, you have to do things differently because there is no way at all that you can make things “fair” for many kids. Sort of like, if I take one child to get ice cream on the way home from somewhere, the others might complain that it’s not fair, so that is when I say, “If I have to be fair and treat all of you the same all of the time, then that means you will all end up getting nothing. Because it cannot be done. So, if that’s what you want….” And usually that stops them, ha ha. But that is not really what you asked. You asked about the topic of sex and chastity. I think anyone who has more than a bare bones outline of what they will do or say for each child might be making a misstep, since each child is SO different in temperament, intellectual understanding, fears, needing to know, etc. Yes, we have a *general* plan, but that is as far as it goes. We go with what the child needs, and we use the Church as a guide. I stress in the book how much the Church stresses the parents’ DUTY and OBLIGATION to teach children about sexuality. But that will look different for each child. 
You have a chapter of the book entitled “Fear Has A Place.”  I think most of us parents don’t realize that this is already a page in our playbook, like in your example of teaching a toddler not to touch a stove for fear they could get burned.  But I still think the idea of using fear will rub people the wrong way, so for those parents who haven’t read your book yet, what would you like to say to them to ease their minds about this chapter?
I remember my dad teaching me how to drive and telling me that basically the car was a killing machine if it was not in the right hands. It made me really understand the power that a 16-year-old could have! That is the type of “fear” that we want to warn our kids about. The idea that there really ARE negative consequences to misuse of sexuality, and it’s stuff from which one cannot be easily extricated. It can really harm others, and even kill their soul, if not their body. Now, just like my dad, when he was teaching me to drive, did not dwell on the “killing machine” narrative, we shouldn’t be about negativity when it comes to sex. Sex is a great thing, sent straight from God for us! But just like a car, it has to be used as designed and intended. When that doesn’t happen, bad things result. We must tell our sons about the bad things that can result, simply because their education is not complete if they don’t get that part of the message. Not to mention that, just like telling a child not to touch a hot stove lest they get burned, there is a deterrent factor in letting them see the consequences of misuse. It sure helped my boys. 
Several times in the book, you mentioned a child’s character, and that when you see your child’s character change, it means that you might need to make a change. Can you discuss this principle a bit, what it could look like or maybe give us an example?
Sure! In our family, that “making a change” might mean a change of schooling. For example, we might pull a child in the middle of the year and homeschool. Maybe later, the child would go back to the school. We had and have a great deal of flexibility in our schools here, which some folks may not have, but for us it is a godsend and we use the opportunities we have to make sure that we are doing what each child needs at that time (or what the family needs). One son did not thrive at the charter school that the rest of his siblings attended for high school, so we allowed him to go to the huge public high school nearby, with the caveat that if his character changes, he’s outta there. So far so good, because he knows we mean it. 
 
It might mean cutting off video games completely (for several months at a time), or taking away means of communication if they are not communicating respectfully (so, the phone goes). We always say, “If anything causes evil in our home, the thing goes.” And so it does. Things like that. It goes back to one of the first principles of parenting that I outline in my book: Moral formation is the number one priority. The kids know how serious I am about that. 

 

Thank you Leila!  I encourage you to go buy Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom!  It is being released today and is available on Amazon, paperback or kindle version!

Possible paint color

We are on the painter’s schedule, and hopefully, if all goes well, our house will be painted and stained in about a month.  On their part, it depends on the weather.  On our part, it depends on whether or not we will chicken out and opt to save money.

Only time will tell.

BUT!

In my recent efforts to learn some more photography, I took some evening shots of our house and did a little editing in light room.

Our House

Our House2

 

I know.  The front steps.  And the faded stain everywhere.  And the chipping paint (even more of it on other sides of the house!)

So as far as colors, I am thinking we should go neutral.  It’s quite common around here to have a neutral home when you have our color roof.  Plus, I tend to think it is generally pleasing and won’t put off any future homebuyer.

Here are two shades I’m considering.  They are Sherwin Williams Anonymous and Sherwin Williams Felted Wool.

Our House-anonymous

SW Anonymous

Our House-feltedwool

SW Felted Wool

 

We’ll also have some sort of white/light trim and we will be browning/darkening up the stain (looking at SW Hawthorne color.)  If the trim looks crazy bright in these photos, just disregard that.  Between the color underneath and the twilight tone of the rest of the photo, I just didn’t want to spend the time making it right.

So these two colors, Anonymous and Felted Wool, are basically the same, Felted Wool is a shade lighter.  I tend to prefer Felted Wool, but I’ve heard that you should usually go a shade darker than you think.  PLUS, when you search for home exteriors in that color, not one comes up, but when you search for SW Anonymous, there’s quite a few.  So, that has just made me question my instinct.

I think the smart thing to do is probably to go with my gut (the lighter one) and then if the first coat looks too light, I could ask them to use the darker one for the second coat.  I haven’t run this by the painter, but I think since it’s basically the same color, just a shade darker, it should work out ok and not be too much of a pain.  We would maybe just have to pay extra for more/different paint, but that would be worth it.

 

On reluctant husbands {repost}

 

A number of you have contact me after the post about Cristoff and a common theme is husbands who have concerns about adopting.  You aren’t alone!  I wrote this quite some time ago, but thought I’d repost it (with an updated pic of Paul at the end!)  I hope it it a little helpful.

***

As was the case in our family, it seems that the woman’s heart is often the first that is moved toward adoption.  God fashioned the feminine heart to be keen and sensitive, with the desire to nurture and care for those who are vulnerable.  I’ve seen these traits in one way shape or form in every woman I’ve encountered, even those who don’t fit the traditional role of mother. Look at Bl. Teresa of Calcutta.  She never bore a child, never adopted a child, but the love, and tender care she gave to those in need were a fruit, an overflowing, of her feminine heart.  She was of course the “Mother” of her religious order, but she was also a mother to the children in orphanages and the poor and homeless on the streets.

MT

Our sensitive heart can act as a compass with which God gives us direction.  This is something that, hopefully, our husbands recognize and honor.  It is a beautiful compliment to the drive, strength, and stamina that they have innate within them.  (Of course, this isn’t to say that these attributes are mutually exclusive, but that as a matter of personal observation, seem to come more easily and with more prominence to husbands and wives as I have described.)

But, with such sensitive hearts, I think some might have concern that we make decisions based solely on our emotions.  I know that when I first felt this call to adopt a child with special needs, and after I had wrestled with it during one fateful night and was left with a firm belief that this was from God, I was in a panic.  This is no exaggeration.  I felt like we should move on it at that moment, and work as quickly as possible.  But Ryan had reservations.  Something I decided to do was to fast from those things that would pull at my heart, that would give me a sense of urgency or emotion regarding adoption and orphans.  So I avoided Reece’s Rainbow, adoption/orphan advocacy blogs, and even certain music.  I let Ryan know that I was doing this, as an exercise to test my sincerity and the authenticity of Christ’s calling for us.

So, I would say this: when approaching the subject of adoption with a reluctant husband, do justice to the inclination of your heart, but take measures to temper any overwhelming emotions.  Doing so helps both spouses be confident that prudence (“the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it”) is being exercised.

I believe that this first step is important for both spouses, but I think it is particularly important for husbands because it gives them confidence that we aren’t just riding our emotions and attempting to make major life decisions in the process.

We must be mindful that husbands will typically approach family decisions with a “provider and protector” mentality.  They often feel the weight of ensuring that all family members are well cared for in all circumstances: physically, through such things as food, shelter, and healthcare; and emotionally, are the needs of a new child, especially one with medical diagnoses, or a difficult social history, going to negatively effect us or our other children? Could it cause serious strain on our marriage?  These are valid concerns that need to be explored.

It is a good husband, father, and head of household who attends to these questions, so I would say: thank your husband for providing for and protecting your family.  Together, consider the effects adoption could have on your marriage and family life, and do so with candor and with prayer. 

The candor part is important.  There have been times when I have thought that we were putting off adopting again because Ryan wanted more time to put into his business.  If we adopted, he would need to return to contracting sooner than we had planned, which I knew he didn’t want to have to do, but I wasn’t sure that was reason enough to delay.  It was only after a couple of candid conversations, during which I gained more insight into not just his business, but the climate of his entire field of work, that I understood his hesitance.  And even though it wasn’t what I really wanted to hear, I knew that his desire to wait a bit longer was more reasonable than I had originally thought, which helped me to accept it.

And of course, the prayer part is important as well.  Without a focus on God and an outpouring of His grace, we would almost certainly tend towards our own comfort and self-preservation.  We must always keep before us God’s model of love, generosity and adoption, through which we become His sons and daughters and partake in His saving act.

By being vigilant in our prayer we can prudently discern adoption, giving proper weight to the practical concerns of marriage and family life, but infused with supernatural grace which inspires us in generous self-sacrifice.

Honestly, without God, I am not sure many couples would find reason to adopt, least of all a child with special needs.  And any child from a foreign country or from foster care, is truly a child with a special need, even if it is not a certain diagnosis or social history.

Lastly, I think an important part of such discernment is education. We must have eyes wide open, both to the potential effects of adoption on our lives as well as to the plight of the children who wait. We need to view, as fully as possible, both sides because they temper one another.  The preservation of a healthy and holy family life is important, but the stakes for an orphaned child are dire and should receive due consideration.

It is important to be exposed to the challenges that a family can encounter when adopting a child with a medical condition, or who grew up in an orphanage, or has some other traumatic social history.

On the flip side, I think it is also important for both husband and wife to know about the dire need of orphans all over the world.  It is much easier to say “no” or even “not now” to adoption when you think of these children in the abstract.  Perhaps something like this:

ST-AdoptionOrphanCare

But they are real, flesh and blood, created in God’s image and likeness.  They have names, and they are alone, often hungry and neglected.  Many are dying.

valiant

Valiant

nat

Nathaniel

Alistair

Alistair

Real children.  Encourage the reluctant husband to meet them, as best he can through a screen, not for emotionalism, but so that his heart is stretched, so that he is aware of the ones who wait.  Their reality should test our conscience if we discern a “no” or “not yet.”  There are many sound reasons not to adopt, but I think every family, especially every Christian family, should periodically revisit the idea of adoption.  We need to get out of our comfort zones and do the difficult work of discernment. When it comes to the question, “Can we adopt a child?”, millions of children are waiting to hear our answer, so if we say “no” or “not yet”, we should be sure to have good reason.

Paul in the orphanage, 9/2012

Paul in the orphanage, 9/2012

Paul, home for less than a year

Paul, home for less than a year

IMG_3733

Paul, home 3.5 yrs.

***

Here are some links to others who have reflected on this topic (disclaimer: I have not read all of these, they were just suggested to me).  I hope to discover some more posts to share soon!

No Greater Joy Dad: Reluctant Husband Syndrome Series
A Reluctant Husband Adopts
When Your Spouse Doesn’t Want to Adopt

On mysteries.

I’ve seen this article shared before.  It’s about a teenaged girl with Down Syndrome who has a goal of serving Mass in every state.  In it, the girl says, “All I want is to be a saint.”

Reading those words makes me think a little deeper about Paul.  There’s a lot more within him than we can see from the outside.  He is, in a way, “trapped” by his inability to talk, and even by his poor fine motor skills.  And sure, maybe this girl is less delayed than he is, and she probably doesn’t have autism like he does, and obviously, she is older than him.  But the truth remains that Paul has deeper thoughts and feelings than he can express.   He is, in a sense, a mystery.

I have to try to remember this, even in daily tasks, but I fail an awful lot. Like when I let Ben choose which color cup he wants, and then just hand Paul whatever is left or when Ben chooses the music in the car and not giving Paul a turn to pick.

I know he can’t exactly tell me what he wants in every situation, and he seems content with any cup or music, but I should still ask.  He’s made it clear he has opinions and preferences and I should honor that.  I cringe to think of the feelings he may have that he can’t express- maybe he’s been jealous, or resentful, or hurt, but I just kept on with my day.

But more than just the mundane tasks of each day, this article makes me think of the holy mysteries that permeate life.  I believe Paul to be a naturally spiritual person, as children tend to be- he participates when we pray, attends at Mass (as much as any young child), clearly prefers Marian hymns to other music, and Brother Francis is his favorite show.  Some of this has to do with familiarity for him, but we ought not discount his “popular piety,” because these things can be instruments of grace and a source of true enjoyment and sanctification, not just routine.

The yearnings of our heart, our desire for our Creator and for holiness, do not need eloquent words or even an intelligent mind* to be fervent.  The soul is deep and transcends beyond the material limitations of our bodies.  Paul is called to be a saint, and not by some incidental means (like assuming he doesn’t have the capacity to sin), but by virtue of his creation in God’s image, his baptism into new life, and even just the nature of being a human being.

As Paul ages, I’ll try to keep the “holy mysteries” and Paul’s own mystery in my mind.  I don’t want to assume that he doesn’t know or understand things; I don’t want to assume he has no desire to participate and serve as he is able; I don’t want to assume he doesn’t know about or desire to be a saint.

 

 

*This is not a statement about Paul.

“Dying before our eyes”

When I wrote about Cristoff only 5 weeks ago, I said that he was dying before our eyes.  That was more true than I realized.  Cristoff has passed away.

This happens, you know.  Children die alone.  And you know what?  Children live alone too. Cristoff lived his whole life alone.  And he suffered alone.  And he was likely in pain while he was dying, and he was alone then too.

Sure, there are caretakers, but they don’t really care.  Not most of them anyways.  Seeing Cristoff’s decline in health through pictures would suggest that no one cared.  They did what was necessary to keep him alive.  Until they didn’t.

And I feel guilty.  I’ve thought of him so many times.  Maybe we should have gone for him; added the “triplet” to our boys born in 2011.  I’d be lying if said I hadn’t thought about it.  We could have gotten there fast; he could have been home a long time ago, enjoying a mom and a dad, and three brothers.  He could have gotten healthy and could have spent this summer playing in the backyard and getting ready for preschool or kindergarten.

But we didn’t.  Really, I didn’t.  I didn’t even think of it seriously enough to bring it up to Ryan.

So I’ll have to let that sit.  I’ll have to let it test my conscience.

You didn’t go get him either.  Maybe you should let his death test your conscience.

These are the harsh realities we have to face when we say “no” to adoption.  Our choices have real consequences.  There are real children, waiting for us.  So when we say no, we better be damn sure we have a good reason.

 

 

Tricking Children into taking medicine

First it was Alexander.  Mild fever, happy go lucky attitude, rash from the pits of hell.  Then Paul, mediocre fever, maybe a small rash, acting like he was in the pits of hell.  And finally Ben, mediocre fever, tired, no rash (yet.)

Hand, foot and mouth disease has overcome us.

And I’m just stopping in to say, if any of you has a child who will not take tylenol *ehem, Paul* you must play smarter, not harder.

Enter, the applesauce pouch.

pouch

Squirt that medicine in there and let them drink it down.  This works for antibiotics, too.  You may need to squeeze out a little bit of the applesauce first, just to make sure you have room in there.

If your child cannot drink from a straw, just mix it and spoon feed it.  Just be sure not to mix it in with too much applesauce (or yogurt, or whatever) because you want them to consume the entire amount of whatever you prepare.

In the case where your child may need LOTS of medicine: dump it all in chocolate pediasure. Chocolate pediasure was how we got 2 yr old Paul to take all his tuberculosis meds.  That was four different antibiotics, each with their own unique and terrible taste, totaling about 30 mls of liquid medicine, everyday for 6 months.  It is in situations like these where we consider the “take on an empty stomach” thing as more of a suggestion, because it is more important that they take it any way that they can.

So, there you go.  Happy medicating!

 

 

Let’s talk about Cristoff

I have thought about this little guy many times.  Like Ben and Paul, he was born in 2011, so he holds a special place in my heart.  When I look at Paul and see how far he has come- how healthy he has become, how his interests, awareness and abilities have developed, how strong he is- I imagine how Cristoff could be.

In his older photos, you can see how alert he is, despite his circumstance.  He is clearly small and unhealthy, but he has a light in his eye.  This is much more than Paul had.

cristoffold1

Look at how bright his eyes are!

cristoffold2

He is clearly small and unhealthy, but alert!

But he has been in the orphanage for a long time- he is either 5 yrs old, or close to it.  These are photos from just last week:

cristoff-new1 cristoffnew3cristoffnew-2

 

These photos are a warning to us!  He is dying before our eyes.  He is at the age when orphans leave the “baby house” and are transferred to a different orphanage.  The team advocating for him in his country tells us this will happen to Cristoff soon, and that where he is going is a bad place.  Just as many other orphans, Cristoff will not survive long after he is transferred.

I want to take a moment to decode some of his diagnoses, because he has a seemingly intimidating list.

Down Syndrome– well, we know about this one, don’t we?  Nothing to be scared of.

Profound intellectual disabilities/profound mental delay– They have no idea.  Really.  Yes, people with Down Syndrome have cognitive and developmental delay, but all this “profound” talk?  No.  He is living in an orphanage.  He is understimulated and neglected.  He is malnourished and unhealthy.  He probably has some institutional behaviors because of how he is treated.  All of these things impact how functional he is, and therefore, how intelligent he seems.  But you honestly won’t know anything until he is home for years.  He needs time to help undo the harm that has been done, to get healthy and safe, and in a place where he can actually learn AND show you what he knows.  So basically, you should ignore this diagnosis.  Just my opinion.

Eating disorder/Vomiting associated with other psychological disturbances– My best guess at what this means: he throws up as a stim.  Due to neglect, some kids rock back and forth, some kids chew their fingers, some kids bang their heads.  Paul shook his head back and forth and stared at his hand.  Cristoff makes himself vomit.  It’s not unheard of.  I think that is why they are saying that it’s an eating disorder/associated with something psychological, instead of saying that it’s something physiological, like a food sensitivity.  That’s not to say that it isn’t physical, because medical info on these kids isn’t always accurate.  Kids with low tone often throw up (Paul did this a ton!) because tone effects every muscle, including the sphincter that closes off the stomach, so until his tone improves, he may well vomit often.  It could also have to do with HOW they feed him.  For expediency, they are probably slicing open the top of a nipple so formula comes out quickly, making kids eat fast.  This alone could cause him to vomit at every meal (and yes, he probably still is fed primarily by a bottle!)  My point is, this is manageable.  Please don’t be frightened by “psychological disturbances.”  It sounds worse than it probably is.

Umbilical Hernia– Mayo Clinic tells me these are common and typically harmless.

Exotropia– a type of strabismus, so basically an eye that turns in, or having crossed eyes.  Depending on his type, this can be managed with glasses, eye patching, or possibly surgery.

Open foramen ovale– a little hole in the heart that doesn’t close up by birth.  Most people who have this don’t even know they have it.  It causes no problems or complications, and doesn’t need treatment.  When you adopt a child with Down Syndrome, you’ll get a referral to a cardiologist no matter what, just to have him checked out, so this really won’t be much of an inconvenience for you.

As if all that wasn’t enough good news for you, here’s some more: He has over $3,000 in his grant to pay for his adoption!  That’s a great start (and you could add to it, too!)  And I do intend to blog about the money side of things because I know that is intimidating.  But I will just say this for now: God will not be outdone in generosity.  Please pray about adopting Cristoff, and if not him, then someone else.  There is no shortage of children waiting for families, in this country and in others.

And lastly, pray for this little boy.  He is innocent and pure, just trying to survive.  He has lived through more trials and suffering than most of us, and he is only 4/5 yrs old.  Pray for him, his health, and that his family finds him quickly.

cristoff