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Filtering by Tag: Family

"The Present is the point at which time touches eternity"

alec vanderboom

Hi, everyone! Abby's friend Jen here again. Abby asked me to do a guest post summarizing her birth story. I wasn't able to take notes while we talked, so I hope I got this all right. I'll do my best!

When I talked to Abigail yesterday, she sounded like a different person than she did just a few days before. As you probably know from reading her posts about feeling like she's offending people by breathing or having her childcare arrangements for while she's in the hospital fall through, she was having a tough time leading up to the baby's birth.

But yesterday she sounded joyful. Actually, a better description might be to say that she sounded victorious. The day of her fourth c-section was when the spiritual and metal battle that she'd been fighting for nine months finally came to a head, and the way she handled it was a shining example of how to stay spiritually strong even when you're plunged into a situation that triggers all your anxieties and fears.

"I will bless the Lord either way"

My impression is that the turning point came at 4:00 AM yesterday, the day of her surgery. Abigail woke up and couldn't go back to sleep. She was harassed by those same thoughts that had been plaguing her for days:

The baby's not going to make it.

She's already gone.

You're not going to make it either.

Though she didn't spell this out, it seemed to me that it was at that moment, in the pre-dawn darkness, that she suddenly realized that these thoughts were simply temptations to give in to despair. Every time that she'd indulged them in the past, following the trail of "What-If Worst Case Scenarios", she drifted a little further away from God. But this time she fought back. Her simple response to each of these thoughts was:

I will bless the Lord either way.

Even if all those worries did come to pass, she would still cling to Jesus. She would still thank God for his goodness. That response had a neutralizing effect on those acerbic whispers that had troubled her for so long.

"Let's just try, and leave the outcome up to God"

She and Jon left the apartment a little later than expected, so Abigail figured that they already missed the bus to get to Mass before going to the hospital. Jon suggested that they at least try: maybe they wouldn't be able to make it, but if they didn't at least give it a shot, they weren't even giving God the opportunity to work something out. Sure enough, the bus they needed to take was late, and they arrived at the church just in time.

(Abigail did note that they got a lot of funny looks riding on the bus with her so pregnant and carrying an empty car seat.)

"This is my work"

They called a taxi to get from the church to the hospital, and the skilled driver navigated them around all the rush hour traffic. Abigail got checked in so early that she and Jon were able to say their full morning prayers together in a silent room.

While they waited to be taken into the surgery room, she says she felt waves of panic come over her, but, through prayer, they'd eventually subside. She thought of it like contractions in labor: you have to just push through the intense parts, and know that they'll be followed by rest.

When she faced those moments of anxiety, Jon pointed out that this was her work for today: She was to undergo the surgery to have her long-awaited baby, and unite her suffering with the suffering of Christ on the cross for the salvation of souls. She had a cheerfully resigned tone when she recounted the words she kept repeating to herself as the big moment neared: "This is my work for today!" This was the special task that God had picked out for her, and she'd do her best to embrace it.

"Stay in the now"

Then it was time for her and Jon to separate (he would only be able to return right before the baby was born), and she was led into the freezing, bright operating room, where the arms of the table were spread out Dead Man Walking style. It was tempting to panic. She had so much to fear: the physical pain, her doctors' warnings about the possibility of an emergency hysterectomy, the judgment of the medical staff (who'd already made some comments about this being her fourth c-section), the worry about the recovery, the baby, the money, the size of their apartment.

She clutched her rosary beads as an outward expression of her inner clinging to God. A surgeon's assistant walked in, and she expected that he'd tell her she couldn't keep them; instead, he pointed to them and said, "That's good. Hold on to those."

She defeated the temptation to panic by staying in the "now." The way Abigail described it, it reminded me of a post I recently read by Anna Mitchell where she quoted C.S. Lewis to point out that the future is least like eternity. It's made of unrealities. "For the Present," Lewis writes, "is the point at which time touches eternity."

If I had to choose one theme for the spiritual victory that Abigail wrought that day, it would be that: to stay in the now. Praise the Lord right here, right now. Turn to him with your joys and sorrows and concerns that come from whatever is happening to you at this moment -- not what you fear might happen to you later.

"Our 'extra' baby"

The surgery went great, and the doctor even commented that Abigail was easily in good enough shape to have future c-sections. The joy poured through the phone as she described the moment she and Jon first saw little Teresa. All throughout the pregnancy they'd heard plenty of critical comments about having a baby, especially since they already had three other children. "What's the point?" the society around them seemed to ask. When they looked at the world's newest human being with her little blond curls, they knew the answer.

Abigail will probably take a week or two off as she gets used to life with her new little one. I know she looks forward to updating you soon.

Jamestown/Williamsburg Trip

alec vanderboom

My father, a college history professor, has basically started a second career as a historical tour guide. Over Thanksgiving he treated his grandchildren to a visit to Jamestown & Williamsburg.

Alex in Jamestown trying on 17th CenturyArmor

Hannah & Maria Bowling

My new method of Homeschooling Discipline

Petting the Horses


Alex at Solider School

A visit to the Royal Governor's Place

Getting Lost in the Hedge Maze

I strongly urge a visit at least to Jamestown for the Virginia crowd. It's a State Park with reasonable rates. All kids under 6 are free. You get a visit at a Native American Village, a tour of 3 17th Century Sailing Ships and a fun look into Jamestown.

My Saint In Training

alec vanderboom

Okay, so Alexander and I are having some challenges this summer. At 3 1/2 he's not a little baby, but he's not yet a "big kid". We're having the epic struggle over the milestone that starts with a P and ends with a Y. He can swim on his on, but insists on being carried home from the pool. Most day's Alex is decent at Daily Mass. Yesterday, he surprised me by start a game of chase up and down the entire length of the church. (You know you're a Catholic when you think "Alex, just kneel at the Tabernacle as you race past and I'll forgive you from making this gigantic spectacle during this quiet moment of Pre-Mass prayer.) Alex didn't remember to kneel at the Tabernacle during our impromptu game of tag. However, there is hope for the boy because.....

Today, we had two boys over to play at our house. The 4 year old and 2 year old could not stop playing with the Mac Truck (from the Disney Car movie). As they were leaving, both boys started crying loudly for more time with Mac!!!!

Hannah said, "go ahead and borrow Mac."

"Oh Wait!" I said. I meet the eyes of the mother. "I'm so sorry, but you'll have to ask Alex. It's his favorite thing to sleep with each night & I'm just worried he won't really realize it's gone, gone and so tonight we'll have a giant cry feast."

"I totally understand," this level headed Mom said. "When you let your favorite toys go, it's just heartache on both sides."

At this point, as the Mom starts to physically detangle Mac from the vice-grip of her sons, Alex walks up and says "you can have Mac."

"Oh no, Alex, he's yours. My boys will be find," the Mom said.

"Take him home, the boys like him." Alex says.

At this point the frantic eyes of both Mom's meet again.
"It's okay. I'll take Mac now, but I'll leave him here," the experienced Mom answers.

So visiting Mom exits with 2 crying boys. After we walk them to the car and wave goodbye, we come back inside.

"I gave them Mac" Alex starts saying to himself.
"What are you talking about?" Hannah asks.
"They were crying so I let them borrow my Mac?"
"What are you about brother?" Hannah asks. She's pointing to the brilliant red truck sitting on our kitchen counter.

Alex looks at the truck. Thinks for a moment, then he explodes into tears.

"What is wrong?" I ask.
"I wanted to share, but those boys didn't take Mac! Why didn't like my Mac, Mom?"
At this point, I'm stumped. (I do not have visiting Mom's calmness or clarity of mind. "Should I go chase after them to give them Mac?" I ask.
"Yes," he said.

So I go to get my shoes out of the closet and think, where can I stash Mac until tonight. In the shoe closet?
Hannah sees me by the door, "were they already gone, Mom?"
'Um," I start to think of a lie, but can't. I look at Alex who's about to get overswept by tears again."
Do you really want me give this to them."

So out I go, into our apartment parking lot. Our visitors are still there. I come out holding a Mac truck. The visiting Mom starts to wave me away.
"They've already stopped crying, they are fine."
I shook my head. "You don't understand. My son is crying now. He really, really wants your boys to borrow it."
"We'll take good care of it, " and the visiting Mom holds this little piece of plastic with gingerly with both hands.
"Don't worry about it," I shrug. "Whatever happens we'll be fine. I just can't believe he's so willing to part with it."
"You are doing something right," she nods as she rolls up her window.

I had that whole walk back to the apartment to think. It's a short, short walk. Yet it felt long. My little guy. He's growing up. He might be racing around the tabernacle in the morning. Yet Jesus is still getting into that little heart and making it grow.

Thank you Alex for showing me the meaning of true charity. I love you!

Overheard at my house, but probably not yours

alec vanderboom

"Dad, Nanny McPhee has too much magic in it! You need to put back in Baby Godzilla right now."
(Alex, age 3)

"Mom, Santa Claus isn't real. If you pray to him, then you don't get the right toys on Christmas Day. St. Nicholas is real. He's in heaven. If you pray to him then you DO get the right toys!" (Hannah, my theologian in training, age 4)

Happy Birthday Jesus

alec vanderboom

For those of you who didn't receive our traditional Target Foto Card this year, (that would be everyone!)

The girls as we left for Christmas Mass, where Hannah got to talk to my choir's 16 year old harpist, play her harp, and hold the baby Jesus during Father's homily.

Daddy & Maria. (Unfortunately, of the 900 photos we snapped before Mass, none of Alex are post worthy. Little boys & chocolate filled St. Nicholas stockings do not mix!)

After Mass, there was the long awaited Butterscotch! Hannah's on the phone thanking Grandpa Rupp the giver of the "it gift" this Christmas.

At 12 PM, It was time to open presents. Daddy finally got new shoes! Snake skin shoes I found on sale at Macy's was my gift to Jon. I wish I could post the PERFECT romantic gift my husband got me. He designed these darling "free sounding board" coupons which I can redeem for "one free session of uninterrupted listening. Once the coupon is redeemed for services, the listener must drop everything he is doing. He may not tend to the children, eat or prepare food, channel serf, answer the telephone or clean, unless you, the recipient directs otherwise. This session will last as long as the recipient designates." Can you tell what I most desire as a stay-at-home mom? Not more help with laundry or food prep. No, it would be more uninterrupted adult conversation with my best friend!

After three years of endless Thomas the Train Sets & Barbie Doll Birthday gifts, Mom finally helps unwrap a gift she wants to play with!
Baby's First Christmas

And to all a good night!

Restless Leaves, Restless Toddler

alec vanderboom

Alex, age 3

A is for adorable! Alex jumped into this leaf pile exactly thirty seconds before we got into the car to drive to our Thanksgiving dinner. Thank goodness his Uncle Tad laughed, said "leaves brush off," and took this wonderful shot for me.

Make Straight a Path . . .

alec vanderboom

To the anonymous lady who complained on Danielle Bean's website that she never reads blogs anymore because all the women who blog brag about having a clean house and then the lady goes over to their houses and is SHOCKED to see how they really live?

No surprises on this blog!

(Yes, sadly this would be the messy remains after SIX hours of cleaning my kids' closet tonight. Despite all that work, I will still have to step over this trail of tears to get everyone out to Rosary Group tomorrow. Of course, I did stop to watch Heroes with my husband. That ate up an hour. I also complained bitterly of the futility of moving down my chore list while mothering three kids under age five. That ate up another thirty minutes.

Finally, it was my idea that Hannah & Alex needed to turn their closet into a secret play house. The insane part, isn't wanting my kids to have more fun with their dress up clothes, toy kitchen, and various imaginary rock climbing gear. No, it would be the fact that I live in a 900 square foot apartment with only three closets. Make that two closets now.)

My Son

alec vanderboom

Happy Third Birthday Alex!
This is us hanging out together in the winter of 2004.

Year Two was a big year for you. You've transitioned from your baby name "Alexei", into "Lex" and now "Alex." You figured out how to share (mostly), how to avoid hitting your older sister and how to gently kiss your younger sister. You've gone from extremely shy to cheerfully greeting strangers on the playground. You got your first big boy haircut and your first big boy bed. You started your obsession with Thomas the Train, Lighting McQueen and Spider man.

Your constant fascination with engineering is the revenge for my haughty dismissal of all those MIT boys in college. Because of you, I know that you are holding an American train as opposed to an English one.I know how pistons work on steam trains. I can identify all of the characters in "Cars" and all the villains in Spider man.

Because of you, I understand your father so much better. I have a sense of how men are different and yet complimentary to my sex. I'm kinder to your Daddy and more tolerant of my brother.

You've made me into a Nationals baseball fan with your happiness at attending your first baseball game and receiving a real foal ball. This picture is of you cheerfully home at 1 AM.

You are a rare gem Lex! You are a caring brother, a sweet son and a funny boy. We hope we get to celebrate many more happy birthdays with you.