About Kristen

A 30-something wife and mama of 3 (so far) living out my faith (Catholic) in the southeastern US.

Maybe all we needed was a king size bed and a pool…

Today is the second day of school. Today was the first day that everyone rode the bus to school and it will be Shelby’s first day riding it home.

For the first time ever, as I watched the boys get on the bus, I felt myself choke-up. I have missed my kids before, but this was a whole new level of missing them. Shelby and I went back to the house and waited on our porch for her bus. She had really wanted to get on the boys’ bus. Then she thought, for sure that we would be riding in my car. She has grown up so much. When I told her “no” there were no hysterics, just calm resolution. And then excitement when I promised she was going to school and would see her teacher and teacher assistant. She really, really missed the structure over the summer.

The last few years have been rough. We lost jobs when William was born and Shelby had just been diagnosed. We went through major health scares with both William and Joseph. Everyone started “real” school and Jeff worked in a series of teaching jobs far from home. I did a lot of solo parenting in that time. Jeff and I were often like two ships passing in the night and many times, he left before the kids got up and was back after they were asleep. While Jeff worked in Pitt County, I had a strict routine established with the kids. When he took the job in Jacksonville, that entire routine went out the window (particularly bath, story-time, singing songs and bed time).

We had two cars die and our house needed work that we neither had the money nor patience for. Nothing major, but nagging things. And we knew we were getting to the end of the lives of our cabinets and major appliances. Life was stressful, unbearably so at times. Everyone spent a lot of time getting on one another’s nerves in a major way.

After our house did not sell last summer, we began to think that maybe we were stuck there for a while and that God just wanted us to stay put. And that’s when things started to happen. The painting and re-carpeting and the purging continued and then, finally, the house went on the market and sold in two days.

Since we’ve been here, all we’ve had is God and each other. We love our new home and new furniture and our proximity to the beach and pool. We are easing our way into our community and the school year. But those things are nothing compared to what God has shown us we have this summer. The pool was a tool for showing us how to have fun together, how to play together. A bigger bedroom was the tool to show the boys they could have their own space, even when their preference is to be together. The beach was a tool for showing us we could thrive together. And our king-size bed was a tool for showing us we want to be together. God pulled out all the stops and used it all to show us just how connected we are to one another and need each other. That doesn’t mean we haven’t and don’t have tense moments (like when our closing wasn’t received at the court house in time to record on the Friday before Memorial Day and we were broke with no furniture til Tuesday night). It doesn’t mean we don’t have our share of struggles or pain (please keep Jeff’s father in your prayers). But we are happier and better now.

Last night after school, Jeff sat in his recliner with Shelby while reviewing things from school and the boys and I sat together on the couch reading books. William had brought down a comforter we were snuggling under. It was the best moment of the whole day. I realized we never did that at our old house. No, not in a long, long time. We were all to busy getting things done so another day could begin. Jeff had to rush to bed because 4:45 AM got earlier and earlier (he now gets up at 6:15). Last night around 3 AM, I heard Shelby get up and she went over and climbed into our bed. And because we upgraded to the king size, no one was suddenly cramped and we all got the restful, restorative sleep we needed.

God wanted us to reconnect with each other and that is what stirred our hearts to move and take new jobs (well, Jeff’s is new-er, I’m in the same position in the same company just a different location), change schools and learn routes. We trusted. We obeyed. We were rewarded.

There Can Definitely be a Wrong Way to Do This Whole Pro-Life Thing…

Obviously most of us would agree that blowing up abortion clinics or gunning down doctors or workers is wrong. If you don’t think that’s wrong, take your business elsewhere.

That being said, there is a lot of gray area in what is “right” and what is “wrong” with pro-life work in general. I personally dislike the use of graphic images of aborted babies. I think it not only does NOT change hearts and minds (and often hardens them) but I think it denigrates the dignity of that baby. If you’re loved one was spilt into four pieces by being in a motorcycle accident with body parts all over the highway, would you want that pic used? For me, I wouldn’t. However, many people think this is the best way to educate and it’s a legal form of free speech.

But some of this free speech becomes a gray area. One story that haunts my memory is this one. In fact, it was so questionable that New Mexico Right to Life pulled their support of it once they realized the image wasn’t exactly what it seemed. The point being made of a father’s loss and lack of rights in an abortion could have been portrayed differently. And the ensuing fall-out from this billboard seriously undermined a valid point.

And if you think the ambiguity of whether the woman in that case had an abortion or a miscarriage is a strange thing, think again. Do you know what the medical term for miscarriage is, particularly a miscarriage in progress? It’s not miscarriage. It’s “spontaneous abortion.” And if a miscarriage is suspected the medical term is “threatened abortion.” I know because I’ve seen those words on my own personal medical records. Now imagine you’re a father in an unplanned pregnancy. Imagine there is some kind of disagreement as to whether you and your wife or girlfriend or occasional sexual partner want the baby. The woman goes to the doctor and finds out there is no heartbeat, no signs of life, the baby has died and she now requires a DNC. On her check-out paperwork it says “spontaneous abortion.” You’re not trained medically so you believe that she went to Planned Parenthood or another clinic and underwent an abortion when no such thing actually happened. Trust me, seeing those words on my own check-out paper, everything and I mean everything, goes through your heart and mind. I was already grief stricken and that was a knife in my heart.

While we’re led to believe the man behind the billboard in New Mexico was completely out of the loop on this one. But a situation like the one I described above could very well take place easily if there was still even limited contact. Publicly we’ve only heard one side.

This man, while certainly working through grief, severely harmed his underlying message by posing himself in his picture. He claims he had money donated from private businesses, Could he not have had enough money donated to hire an actor? I realize that personal witness is always best, but considering how he had to back pedal when more about his situation became known, it might have been a wiser move to make.

I think when we are looking at ways to promote a pro-life agenda, sometimes, we need to consider why we are doing this. This man had a very powerful message that most people do not now get because of how he chose to portray this message. In the end, yes it’s about the mother and father…but it’s also about the baby. If his campaign was seeking vengeance in his loss, then the life of the baby is nothing more than a utilitarian means to hurt the woman in this situation. Also, the kind of marketing that targets only the adults in the equation, mutes the life of the unborn child. That’s something we accuse the anti-life movement of doing all the time. That child deserves to continue his or her life and does not deserve murder. Yes his or her murder will impact his or her’s mother and father for the rest of their lives, but we cannot focus on one or the other to the exclusion of the child his or herself. Because if we do…we re-murder that child again and again.

First Day of School Blues, Blahs Etc…

Today is the kids’ first day of school. Okay, maybe it’s not as bad as the title makes out. We’ve had some major, major snafus with Shelby’s classroom placement and transportation. We’re still working through the transportation issues. Otherwise, things are great.

Here are our obligatory first day of school pics. Note: no cute signs or chalkboards. I’m lucky I remembered to take pics at all.

1st day of Fourth Grade 2015-16 Dixon Elementary Mrs. Lesvesque’s class

A photo posted by @recoveringpeoplepleaser on Aug 24, 2015 at 4:25am PDT

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1st day of Second Grade. 2015-16 Dixon Elementary Ms Kearney’s Class

A photo posted by @recoveringpeoplepleaser on Aug 24, 2015 at 4:24am PDT

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1st day of First Grade 2015-16 Dixon Elementary Mrs Costanzo’s class

A photo posted by @recoveringpeoplepleaser on Aug 24, 2015 at 4:23am PDT

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Back to school feels extra stressful this year and I’m sure it’s because it’s the culmination of our move. Like the last nail in the coffin of our old life in another place. A lot of things are done VERY differently here which is a huge adjustment for me, the kids and even Jeff because this is his first year with the kids in the same school district as him.

William’s teacher is young, vibrant, sweet and energetic. I am sure she is a perfect fit for him. William’s had the most anxiety and fear regarding everything about our move. When I met the teacher on Friday, I was sure that he will have a smooth transition.

Joseph’s teacher is a veteran. And she’s awesome. She is big into creativity and making everything work for the kiddos. She even paired up all her new students (we live in a military community now so there is a constant flux of students as parents get deployed and stationed elsewhere) with returning students to help them learn the routine of the school.

Shelby’s teacher is brand new to the school. She’s new to the state. She’s new to marriage! She’s been a teacher for five years though. While Shelby is the only girl in her class (still) she is one of only three students. She seemed right at home this morning when I brought her in. She hopefully will get into the routine and like it soon!

We’ve always prayed the Holy Michael, the Archangel prayer in the morning. As the adventure is SO new to us this year we say it with even a more hopes of protection.

Holy Michael the Archangel

I am waiting out picking Shelby up at the school now. I am in constant prayer today for all three kids and that Shelby’s transportation issues are resolved asap!

Our family prays for all families starting the school year this year!

End of Summer Surprise

Over summer, with our move and things being generally disruptive, we bounced around with where we attended mass. There is no parish in our immediate area and we fully intend to stay at our current parish as we have a major sacrament year coming up this year and next year plus we enjoy having Shelby’s Godfather as our pastor and our current church community.

One week we ended up 30 minutes late to the closest parish to our house. The boys weren’t thrilled with the parish filled with mostly retirees and just a few younger families. Joseph commented on there being no pews and kneelers. The following week, Jeff dropped us off at the mission at the beach which provided tourists mass during the summer months. We ended up standing in the back due to limited space in the gazebo and Joseph complained of people being too casual and talking loudly. The teenagers horseplaying next to us did not help either. And again, no kneelers. Now, we weren’t (and still aren’t) looking for a new parish but we were hoping to find a parish closer by than our parish that we felt comfortable at in case we had a scheduling issue on any given Sunday. The mission was never really an option as they only offer mass from Memorial Day to Labor Day there. The closest parish clearly was not the right fit.

This weekend, we had planned to go to 9:30 AM mass at our parish but Jeff’s dad had asked him to bring the boys down for a visit (we were actually all invited but Shelby’s behavior has been on the more erratic side this last week so Jeff thought it was a better idea for Shelby to stay home with me). So we looked at a parish about the same distance away as ours but in the other direction, Infant of Prague in Jacksonville.

Now, I should mention here that our family patron is the Infant of Prague, chosen by Jeff and I shortly after we got married. The parish is about a half hour away from our house and has a slightly different mass schedule. Our parish has 7:30, 9:30 and 11 AM masses. IOP has 8 AM, 10 AM and 12 PM masses. So we agreed to go to 8 AM mass at Infant of Prague to try it out.

That was Saturday morning. I had to work til 7:30 pm on Saturday. When I came home that evening, I was in severe pain. My lower back has become the bane of my existence going into spasms frequently when I work longer shifts and last night was no exception. So I took a small dose of a muscle relaxer and used a heating pad in hopes of getting some relief and sleep as I knew from experience, I would not be able to drive and would have to move very, very slowly in order to get to the point I could drive. So I prayed and settled in.

That’s where things got interesting. For the first time in nearly five years, I was struck with a crazy case of insomnia. It was after 2 AM when I finally fell asleep. And stayed asleep until Joseph woke us up in the morning. When I opened my eyes he was dressed for mass. My boys are good about going but waking up on their own and getting dressed independently for mass has never, ever happened before. He told us my father-in-law had just called and left a message on our machine about their visit today. Suddenly a thought dawned on me and I asked what time it was. 8:46 AM…yikes! I had slept through mass!

William was dressed and ready to go so Jeff told me to hop in the shower (Shelby was just waking at this point). Jeff said he would keep Shelby home since readying her was not an option with just 30 minutes until we needed to leave to ensure we got there on time. He made sure the boys had eaten breakfast and in 25 minutes, the three of us were out the door for 10 AM mass. While this later mass messed with the timeline for their visit, no one for one second suggested we skip mass which in itself was a miracle.

We arrived at Infant of Prague about 13 minutes early. I was nervous about what the parking situation would be like having never been there before. We found several great spots and took one. Jeff had a co-worker who attended the parish and said she felt it was “cold” and “unfriendly.” But I wasn’t thinking of that. I was thinking of the many miracles that had occurred this morning to allow us to get to mass when Satan had thrown up lots of roadblocks.

When we entered the church and an older couple was there preparing to be Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist in the back of the church. They warmly greeted us and welcomed us. We went from the vestibule into the sanctuary and caught our breath. I was standing in one of the most beautiful churches I had ever been into and I’ve gone to mass at Cathedrals and Basilicas. This day, I was unprepared for the physical beauty of the church. We quickly found seats near the front of the altar and Joseph pointed out to me that we were sitting on “St Joseph’s side of the church.” On either side of the altar were pictures of Mary and Joseph. We had talked about the Infant of Prague being our family patron and the boys found the Infant of Prague statue behind the altar, above the doors leading from outside to the Perpetual Adoration chapel. We saw beautiful stain glassed windows and gorgeous Stations of the Cross. Then William focused my attention to the ceiling above the altar. There hung the Infant’s crown and in the bottom of it was a stain glass image of the Holy Spirit as a dove.

But the beauty wasn’t just physical. We saw a variety of people there to celebrate mass that day. In addition to many friendly retirees (our experience with retirees at mass has been a mixed bag, so that was pleasant) we saw lots of young families. Lots of military families and some of those had a parent on deployment. Over the years I’ve learned to ignore looks when I bring the boys in by myself because Jeff is either in the vestibule with Shelby or Shelby just could not handle mass so they stayed home both at our old parish and our current one. Most people are fine but there are always a few…but here, I got no looks at all and people weren’t cold and unfriendly but welcoming and kind. I’m not saying everyone is or was perfect, but overall it was a positive impression. And they sang! At our old parish, the use of electric guitars at one mass and the lack of a choir at another meant that we usually were hearing only the cantor sing along with us. And it seems like people are more timid at our current parish but people really sang out joyfully with the choir and cantor.

The priest had an excellent homily that both the boys and I were heartened to hear. It wasn’t dumbed down but it also wasn’t so existential that the boys fell asleep (that happened exactly one time at a parish we didn’t belong to).

If there was one thing that I wasn’t thrilled about, it was that there were no bells during the Consecration. However, I grew up for many years without the bells and the priest did hold up the Body and Precious Blood for a longer time than I am used to and it still felt reverent.

After mass, the priest recognized that we were not regulars at the parish and made sure to tell us he enjoyed having us there. I have been a member of many parishes where the priest can’t tell most parishoners except a few, so it was very nice to hear him greeting many by name and to welcome us.

This week has been super blah. Then there was the back spasm and sleeping in nonsense. But I kept praying that God would lead me to where I needed to be and should be and this Sunday, I am sure He was letting us know that there was a parish with a slightly different schedule that we could feel comfortable at.  Joseph even remarked on the way home that as there were many happily vocal babies in the parish that Shelby would “blend in” as long as she was happy a bit better. I also realized as we were leaving that the parish, which was constructed pre-Vatican II, is designed so that mass can be celebrated both ad orientum and versus populum which I think is so cool and I could tell where the Communion rail was once upon a time (if you’re new here, I kind of love Communion rails).

We will happily be back at our own parish next weekend but I feel so incredibly blessed to have another parish so close by that we also feel comfortable at. Who would have thought that this would turn my whole “end of summer blues” around?

When our first reaction is criticism…not compassion

Many, many of you have heard about and prayed in regards to the recent tragedy of the Kaza family and their loss of little Sebastian. I ask you to continue your prayers for the repose of sweet Sebastian’s soul and comfort for the family who has shown a resilient grace in the loss of their precious boy.

Sebastian’s mother, Tabitha, in the days following Sebastian’s death, has posted this to facebook in response to all the queries and prayers. I urge you to read both of those links (with tissues) before reading on here.

While the out-pouring of prayers and sympathy is robust, there is a minority who cannot offer their condolences nor prayers for the criticism pouring out. If you haven’t seen it, consider yourself blessed. My seeing of it has made checking into social media a near occasion for sin.

I have heard everything from outrage to tsk-tsking about this sad story for a variety of things. Why did they not allow life-saving measures when the doctor asked? Why did they choose to donate his organs? And the kicker for those with large families: why were teenagers allowed to be held responsible for a young child, even for a few minutes? And the list goes on. In one of the many closed autism groups I am a part of on facebook, a woman posted the story asking for prayers and someone responded that the parents must have too many children to be tuned into the needs of the little guy who is “obviously autistic” which is why he climbed into the cat tree. (Children with autism, particularly those with sensory issues often like pressure on their bodies and so, yeah, it’s not unreasonable to think a child with autism might, might climb into an opening like the one in the cat tree. But this was a three year old playing with a kitten, so it is perfectly reasonable to think he may have crawled in after the kitten and that autism was not part of the equation at all.)

For many, in our search for answers (which is human) we demand explanation and it invites criticism. A few years ago, I needed to ask a prayer request for someone who did not really want people to pray for her because she was deeply embarrassed and upset about the situation she was in and did not want people to know about that. At that time, I asked friends and family to pray with the disclaimer, “no details, God will know what this is about.”  The need for this disclaimer has become more and more evident from my friends who have used it because they need prayer and compassion, not judgment and criticism.

The tragedy of the loss of a child seems to bring out the nastiness in some people. Even many who are initially sympathetic could quickly turn. The loss of little Sebastian Kaza is not a new appearance of this. I remember similar reaction just days after Shelby was born when the author of Angels in the Water, Regina Doman’s young son was killed in a tragedy where he was hiding behind a rear tire of the family van and was accidentally backed over and died. One of the fundraisers I saw at the time was for a new van for the family which brought out some, um, interesting reactions. Being the mother of a child with autism, every time a child wanders away and there is a search and especially when the child dies, the wunder-parents of all neuro-typical children come out in droves not to be sympathetic, but to talk about how the parents should not have had custody and should never have become parents and prevented this sort of tragedy. I’m going to tell you right now, God forbid something happened to Shelby and someone said that to me, I would not be responsible for my reactions to that kind of ignorance and blatant hatred.

The bottom line in all these tragedies, if you haven’t been there, you don’t understand the circumstances, and are therefore unfit to judge. We see a lot of this too over the summer when, sadly, children are sometimes left in hot cars and die. I see a lot of “these people should not be allowed to have children” or “never should have become parents.” Recently Abby Johnson posted a gentle reminder to her facebook page about this which was met with ridicule by many. And a few people did point out that there are the parents who do it on purpose not out of malice but they run into the store “to get one thing” and don’t want to wake the sleeping baby and suddenly they are stuck in the store. But hidden amongst those comments were a smattering of “I-never-thought-it-could-happen-to-me-and-used-to-think-all-parents-who-did-this-were-idiots-until…” some were cases of change in routine. At least one was the teenagers were getting the littles out of the car and got overwhelmed and missed one, the one who was still asleep and therefore not vocally reminding the teenagers.

And because we cannot understand so many of these circumstances without having tragically lived through them, it’s not our job to jump in with criticism. It is always prudent, it is always correct, to respond with compassion. With prayer. Whenever a child like Sebastian or Joshua passes, there are immediate investigations by CPS and law enforcement. If evidence of wrong-doing is discovered, then charges are filed and actions are taken. Yes, I realize there are flaws in the system, but as Christians, our duty is charity. My parents’ pastor often says that being a Christian does not make you judge, jury or executioner only a witness. You can witness your Christianity by praying for families in these tragedies. Especially for those you do not know or only hear of through any form of media. Our prayer is as compassionate an act as we can ever offer to those who are suffering, and it’s a much better use of time to offer charity and compassion than judgment.

The Bed Broke

The bed we bought 3 months ago…it broke. Yesterday. I won’t get into details, but thankfully, it was under warranty and the sellers are being awesome about helping us get it replaced/repaired.

Tuesday was my last day of summer. Jeff goes back to work on Monday and next week will be our kids’ last week of vacation.

And the hits just keep coming. We still do not have classroom assignments for any of the kids at their new school. I’m trying to not let that bother me, but bother me it does. I have been advised that Shelby will not be able to get an IEP meeting til next week…and that’s a huge concern. Jeff has his first physical therapy appointment today. He was supposed to be going all summer BUT he did not check his referral paperwork which had our old phone number and address on it…someone (me) is not amused.

I’ve just realized a potential conflict with my work schedule next week and Jeff’s open house schedule. A major conflict.

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. –Hebrews 11:1

I keep praying for God’s will and to be able to surrender myself to it even if it means my kids won’t have teachers come the first day of school. I keep praying for God’s will that the IEP meeting will even happen. I keep praying and praying and praying. Because it’s all I can do. I’ve made all the necessary inquiries and the responses aren’t the greatest, but at least I got responses.

I’m working four days straight this week and that is exhausting in the midst of everything else that is going on at the moment.

Who would have thought it could all pile on like this…that summer would stop abruptly on a Tuesday and smack me upside the head with the “real life” of the school year. The devil’s fingerprints are all over these details. The details of me worrying and doing my best not to let anxiety get the best of me. The best of me will have faith and hope. The best of me will realize what is hoped for even when I can’t see any of it.

The bed broke. No rest for the weary. I’m  not looking forward to my husband going back to work or my kids going back to school, but it will happen. Faith, faith, little one. Your will, God, not mine be done.

Flooding the World…with Love

I’m sure you’ve seen the videos. I can’t watch them. I just can’t. I’ve tried and it’s impossible. People and media sites are sharing them, so I won’t here and don’t on social media.

There are active arguments about the images of abortion and graphic nature of many of them. We can argue the merits and demerits of showing them all day long. I fall on the side of they do more harm than good for most people, but they’re out there. They can’t be taken back.

Since we’ve moved we’ve made some very conscious changes in how we live. One of these has to do with media. We now watch local news in the evening (mostly for the weather) and then EWTN News Nightly on weeknights. We decided that if we are going to watch national news we want it to be without hysterics and having a Catholic perspective is decidedly best.

This and many of our other decisions have led me to understand something. Not posting graphic abortion pictures or beheadings of Christians or the abhorrent videos (may God have mercy on the souls of those recorded) is not sticking my head in the sand. It’s just not the way I witness.

I choose to witness love. This graphic was shared on facebook on American Catholic’s page recently:

From the American Catholic Facebook page with this caption: Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. #Saint Francis

From the American Catholic Facebook page with this caption: Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
#Saint Francis

When I shared this I included this statement of my own:

Sometimes people on Facebook make it too easy to hate. And extremely difficult to sow love. August 1, 2015

But it’s not just facebook, it’s everywhere now it seems. And so, taking a page from the prayer attributed to but not actually written by St Francis of Assisi, I have decided to witness by sowing love.

Friends have noticed that my personal facebook page and twitter are now receptacles of encouraging messages of Scripture and the Good News. I rely now more than ever on reaching people through love and sometimes Bishop-Elect Barron, Archbishop Gomez, EWTN, the Venerable Fulton Sheen, KLove, and Toby Mac are on call to help me.

The fact is, we are all called to witness but not all in the same way. Yes, some of us are called to be more, shall we say, confrontational, in our witness. Some of us are simply called to live our lives.

By spreading messages of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness, I am hopefully witnessing to people turned off by those who are preaching hellfire and damnation. For those who cannot see past the gore and the graphics, I hope to quietly lead them around to the right way. And for those who see the videos and live in fear and despair, I hope I am spreading hope.

Love has to be what I preach because in the end, God is love. That reminder keeps popping up over and over again. And so I will flood the world with love. Because I know the reality of the world we live in, but because I know the fullness of truth…I also know how the story ends.