Sunday, February 26, 2012

Our Lenten Week

After a good cry a few days ago  (I don't even remember when ; it's Her Fault!) over my utter lack of preparation for Lent, I drank another mug of coffee  (possibly a pot), mopped myself up, gathered my sleepy brain cells, and devised a Plan :

*Family fast  (Personal penances private)
*Weekly "Pray, Fast, Give" focus
*Scripture passage to memorize together

So for the week ahead, we will think about Jesus' wounded Hands, and ~

Pray -- for priests whose hands bring us the Eucharist,
Fast --  from rough handling of each other and our material goods,
Give -- our own hands for a kind act each day.

And we're working on this beginning of a section of Tobit :

"Through all your days, my son, keep the Lord in mind and suppress every desire to sin or to break His commandments."  (4:5)

Since it has been just four days, there are minimal discernments or discoveries, other than how embarrassingly close I am to pawning my van for a cookie.  But this introspection and God-spection is hard work.  Good work.  Training-the-will work.

"Lent must renew in us our union with Jesus Who speaks to us of the need of conversion and shows us the way to reach it.  The Church, a wise and loving Mother, suggests useful ways to reach this wonderful purpose ; these are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving."  (Pope John Paul II)

All for Him,

Friday, February 24, 2012

Just for smiles

This old picture scanned pretty well : Rees looks to be a little over a year old  (Which means I was 16 years younger, too.  Yikes.).  IV'd arm, doing the family thing at Providence Hospital.  It works.

I miss that adorable baby ; I like the man he's becoming ; mothers can feel both ways at the same time while smiling and crying!


Monday, February 20, 2012

One More Soul

*This was written in my spiral notebook almost 2 weeks ago.  But I've been busy baby-having ~ welcome, Adah Marie!

What with the recent HHS mandate / compromise fervor and the subsequent interest in the Catholic Church's position on contraception, two of my favorite writers have tackled the topic with clarity and wit : Ms. Borges and Bad Catholic Part I and Part II. 

So how do we Howells live our Faith being open to new life with a 1:4 chance of cystic fibrosis shadowing every pregnancy?  First fact is that there are hundreds of genetic issues that children can be born with and hundreds more conditions that children can develop or catch once born.  Second fact is that we are called to live a vocational, considered life based on sacraments and living well ; not an entitled, fast food life, based on my life, my way.

Here's our life, quickly :
Marriage is a sacrament.
Sex is good.
Children are a blessing.
NFP is too much work.
    ~Like, when it's time to consider charting or children, children always win!

What's so bad about another baby, CF or otherwise?

Money?  Ever heard Cat's in the Cradle?  A picnic with PB&Js is better than a plane ride to Disney.  A fun family game of hide and seek beats a show at the theater.  Kids don't really like steak anyway ; they prefer hamburger helper.  Presence, not Presents.

Alone time?  Teens can stay home with littles or take charge of backyard play or monitor DVD viewing for a coffee date, a bubble bath, a telephone call, or locking oneself in the bathroom.  Before teens is admittedly tough, but they do grow up and get there.

Health therapies?  It eventually eases up on parents  (Physically, not emotionally, but that's true for all children.).  My teen is in charge of his own nebulizers, his own clapping with a flutter valve, his own exercise routine, and makes sure he eats like a horse.  He handles hospitalizations by himself, too, although visitors are very important.

My hope and prayer is that this is encouraging, especially for CF parents.  You already know that your kids are extra excellent ; they're stronger, deeper, sweeter.  The world is better.  Heaven is better.  One more soul.

As I gaze into the face of my new, tiny daughter and wonder about CF, about suffering, about her life span and hospitals and IVs ; my heart breaks.  Here is where the theological Truths of our Holy Faith and the primitive pain in the reality of a suffering child crash together.  I am afraid and I am weeping.  But I am not filled with fear, because she is a beautiful gift.  Because of Jesus.

                                                     Thanks to Bad Catholic again.

Serving my King the best I can,

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pretty, Funny, Happy, Real ~ Valentine's Baby!

We have a pretty, funny, happy, real Valentine's Day Baby!  Adah Marie was born at 3pm Tuesday afternoon and within an hour was surrounded by the rest of her family.

Here's Addie ~


Very early in the morning, the day after birth, Clare took over for a minute.  The three of us had slept on the couch together.

Am I allowed 2 pics for a word?  I'll check.  In the meantime, John set this shot up, what with the roses, my flowered blouse, and Addie's tiny pink mouth.  Good job, Honey!


In between contractions.  Enough said.

All strapped up and ready to go home ~ Wednesday evening.


Clare loved that the pediatrician on call had the same last name as ours.  This is minutes after birth.

This is funny in a strange and lovely way, as this great kid has 3 little siblings and still couldn't wait to hold our new baby, too. 


A real baby sister for our real big girl!

 Our 3 littlest.

Happy Valentine's Day!

As always, these lovely ladies have lots more.

Pretty happy here,

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rambo, McGyver, and Howells; Oh My!

Quick note ~

Rees, John, and Ken are away on their yearly Survival Night, out in the wild somewhere with only  pocket kits and knives, getting in touch with their inner Rambos and McGyvers  (Minus the murdering and mullets, of course.). 

See how it works in an Altoids can?  Having a backpack stocked to survive a nuclear war is great, but not if it's lost in an accident.  Something on your person (in your pocket) is much more important.

They eat what they kill or find ;  they construct a shelter depending on the terrain ; they keep watch all night by the fire.  I have no idea what they talk about.  I don't really want to know.   All I know is that there's a lot of eye-rolling, guffawing, and punching each other when I venture a tiny question.  Boys.

I never know if they'll come home famished or full so I just make sure to have plenty of vittles upon their return.  And lots of clean towels.  They'll smell weird.

My girl's picking a movie ~

PS ~ Rees always keeps his flutter valve in his pocket, as well.  Must keep lungs clear!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real

Farm edition.

Since financial troubles  necessitated the selling or butchering of our backyard farm animals last week, PHFR today is dedicated to the Howell Homestead.  May it rise again  (along with our bank account) :


I know my boys wouldn't like to be called pretty, but they just are!


                                                             We'd watched them since egghood!


                                                    Somebody get this thing off me, please . . .


                                                    Real newborn goat in my real den. 

For more real life, visit these lovely ladies.

Sorry, farm,

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Church Militant is more than smart writing.

*This post is personal, pointed, and painful, based on my experiences after a year of blogging and facebooking.  I have found that the world of online Catholics would rather rail about hot button, cultural and political issues that garner much attention, than actually aid brothers and sisters in Christ  (Not even talking about "lepers", but parish people.).

This is within my little Catholic corner of the world.  You may have a vibrant, active church circle.  So pray for us.

One problem that parents of older children with CF (or any chronic condition) face is indifference.  In the beginning years, when every hospitalization was horrifying and we were reeling with God's rejection  (Our perception, of course, but real.), church people came.  They came to sit with our son, to take us out, or to drop by with a sub or a movie or a cappuccino.  Sometimes all three ~ halleluia!

Then two things happened :  Rees grew up and we converted to Catholicism.  He was no longer a crying, confused toddler with distraught new parents ; he was a cool dude who understood CF and dealt pretty well with hospitalizations  (I think we became cooler, too, but don't ask my kids.).  And we found that, in our world, Catholics go to church, then go home.  No visits.  No restaurants.  There's plenty of Facebook and bloggy bemoaning the state of the country and our Church, but when I posted a status update that Rees had been hospitalized?  Silence.  Indifference.  In fact, this past time, a church leader told us he was heading in for a visit, then never showed.  Readers, this is Even Worse than not showing.  

We (older CF parents) may be at existential peace with a chronic condition requiring hospitalizations, but the hours still   D R A G   by when hooked up to an IV.  The Communion of Saints is more than asking Sister Mary Martha to recommend a good patron for a particular malady and begging intercession from the Church Triumphant.  It's the Church Militant, too ~ those of us here, working out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12 but read the whole chapter!).  And while it is intellectually stimulating to read insightful, witty commentary on the World Wide Web, Real People in your parish need Other Real People with telephones and trucks to really contact them.

There's enough pentecostal left in me to recommend dropping to our knees, closing our eyes, raising our hands to Heaven, and asking the Holy Spirit to fall on us and fill us with Love.  And information.  Information on whom to pour out that Jesus Love upon. 

Speaking in other tongues optional.

Now let's walk away from our computers, pick up a $6.99 box of doughnuts, and go help someone.  Also please note that the last paragraph contains several our's and us's.  Although I admit to whininess and discouragement, I'm in this as well.  After all, my kid is not always in the hospital . . .


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sarcastic politics

I read that President Obama made some recent remarks regarding loving thy neighbor and expecting much from whom much has been given, insinuating that Jesus would approve of his plan to force the wealthy to give more  (Force + Give = Take or Tax).  Perhaps he wasn't paying attention during Sunday school or perhaps he does not possess the skill to connect logical literary dots ; but sitting here in my wingback, scribbling away in my favorite spiral notebook at 3am, grumpy that this baby in utero has kicked me awake and that this man is our president, and without a Bible nearby to check references (I don't want to wake my husband.) ~ I can call to mind several Scriptural "giving stories".

*Zaccheus.  After an encounter with Jesus, he announced that he would pay back anyone he'd cheated four-fold.

*The rich young man.  Jesus told him that he loved his stuff too much and should give it away  (He did not.).

*The woman who poured her perfume out on Jesus' feet.  Interesting to note that Judas wanted to take it for a social program.

*Several injunctions of Jesus to go the extra mile and give the extra shirt.

*Ananias and Sapphira.  They brought their money to the apostles.  Of course it did not end well but that was because they lied.

Now let's connect the dots, shall we?  In every one of these instances, individuals gave what they wanted to whom they wanted.  Nothing was taken.  No forcing to give.

So the next time some liberal, socialist sort spits out pseudo-Scriptural sound-bytes, give 'em this.

You're welcome.

Far too sarcastic for my own good but it's 4am now,

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Coffee can be an Act of Love

True or False :  Skipping exercise and doubling up on coffee in the solitary morning hours often results in great ideas for the family.

Most mornings after breakfast and chores, we gather up for prayers, which also includes some sort of reading and discussion.  Wipe away any idyllic, maternal Cassatt scene ~ we're more like a Rockwell painting with one kid crawling over the back of the couch with a full diaper, another covertly fingering a Thomas train within his folded hands, and another speeding through prayer words as fast as possible  Is that English?  Oh wait.  It must be.  We're not classical Latin homeschoolers.  I often practice Bradley breathing techniques to keep my blood pressure down.

We offer our prayers for "the 14 P's" ~ a list of requests that, over the years, we've somehow managed to finagle all beginning with "P"  (Pope, priest, papa, president ...).  Then I read something themed ; could be children's apologetics or Mass readings or OT books like Judith and Tobit (stolen from me from protestantism.).  When I'm at a loss for something new, we simply sit quietly (and I use that word very loosely), give God our small sacrifice of Time, and recite prayers. 

This is not us.

But then one morning, I skipped exercise and doubled up on coffee.

I had my new idea.

First Communion prep books that my 7 year old is working through.  Very simple.  Very basic.  And amazingly, my 17, 14, and 10 year old  (Who have, of course, already gone through all this.) had the most comments and questions.  It was good.  Very good to be reminded of these things :

God made me because He loves me.
The love of Jesus is like a fire in His Heart.
Sin is disobedience to God's laws.
Grace makes the soul holy and pleasing to God.
After Holy Communion, I should tell Jesus how much I love Him.

I fell in love with our Holy Faith all over again, and I believe my older children were re-animated with affection.

I plan to do this once a year, right before Lent (like now).
I also plan to skip exercising and double my morning coffee intake much more often.  An act of love, right?

O my God, because You are all-good, I love You with my whole heart and soul.  Amen.

Jesus loves me, this I know ~


P.S. ~ the answer is TRUE, of course!

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real


Not much prettier than a tiny baby girl, except that tiny girl in my arms (a few more weeks!)


God bless boys who are still little enough to think their Mommy's robe is the perfect cozy thing.


Wool rug?  Check.  Wood stove?  Check.  Barbell weight pillow?  What?


My, my.  Someone's not happy about waiting his turn for a kayak ride.

For more day-brightening pictures, see these lovely ladies.