Happy Family Friday, folks! Yes, I know, it’s a week late. We’ll be doing a double header, I promise. We’ve been busy.

That’s right. Mommy has been organizing! Watch out or you’ll get organized!

We will get to Family Friday, but I want to do something a little different first.

Early this week I had a dream. I was falling asleep saying the Rosary, as I almost always do, and suddenly, without warning I was standing in the middle of a street in Aleppo. I have never been to Aleppo, I just knew it was Aleppo the way you know things in dreams. A bomb had just gone off on a crowded street. To my right there was a pile of rubble from a collapsed wall, with about a dozen bodies in it. To my left was a tent where some first responders were just starting to set up a triage point.

I saw all this in no time, because my attention was immediately focused on one woman lying among the rubble to my right. She looked about middle-aged, in a black hijab, and she was alive, and not wounded at all, but she lay among the dead, not moving, because she was cradling her dead baby.

She did not cry, or move, or look around, or give any sign that she saw any of the commotion around her. She just held her baby close and stared at her baby’s lifeless face with blank, empty eyes.

Again, this took less than a second to take in. I must have started to wake up, because I had a horrible moment of confusion where I thought the woman was either Kathleen or I, and the baby was either Evie or Ellie. Then I was awake with my heart going about 180 BPM, and Kathleen breathing softly beside me, and my rosary in my hand. The real strange part is that I felt a sudden reassurance that it was a dream, and that the girls were safe and well in their beds in their room. This assurance was so strong and complete that I didn’t feel the need to get up and go check on them, which is completely out of character for me.

There was more to it as I drifted back off to sleep, before I completely passed out, but that doesn’t really matter. I was left with two strong impressions. One was of the Blessed Mother weeping for her children: “And a sword of sorrow shall pierce your soul.” The other was the certainty that I was being asked to pray and fast and offer sacrifices for the children of poverty and war: “Blessed are they who mourn.

I don’t want you to think this is some kind of PTSD thing, or anything silly like that. It isn’t. It was a completely fictitious, though plausible dream, not based on any real experience of mine. Nor would I consider it a spiritual experience, except in the way that every experience is spiritual, since we are spiritual beings.

It may seem like a strange thing to share in a Family Friday, and it is, but there is a point to it, which is really the reason we do Family Friday at all. That is, we hope to show that Family is the great adventure of our time; that it is good, it is beautiful, it is meaningful, and it is worth it.

Planting flowers!

It is also fragile and vulnerable. Our relatively happy, stable and peaceful family life coexists in a world where children are murdered, families are torn apart, lives are ended too soon, souls are lost to hatred, violence, addiction. These things happen in Syria, in Cambodia, in Nigeria, in Tacoma, in your home town. We are at war. We are in a spiritual war against demons of unimaginable power, cunning and malice, and their all too real human allies and minions. We are supported by beings of light, and incomprehensible strength, intelligence and burning charity, and by the saints, known and unknown.

But we are at war. Our happy family exists on a battlefield, and is a target in the war spiritually, if not also physically. It is never far from my mind, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. (There is a difference between eternal vigilance and paranoia. The key difference is a sense of humor.)

But more to the point, I think, is that I want you, the readers, to remember that there are children who deserve a stable happy family no less than Evie and Ellie and your children do. Do not feel guilty because you have some happiness and stability, and they do not. This is not a privilege that we were given and they were not, it is a human right that they have been horrifically denied.

Do something to give it back to them. Pray and Fast. Give to worthy charities. Adopt. Join an NGO. Whoever has two tunics should share with the one who has none. Whoever has peace and security and financial stability should share with those who do not. You don’t need to look in Aleppo. They are not far from your door.

And enjoy the gifts you have been given with gratitude. Do not take them for granted. Hug your children and your spouse, be there for them, love them with every fiber of your being.

And that’s all for this week, or rather for the last two weeks. It has been a very busy, and I hope not too depressing, post. Please do pray and fast. It can move mountains.

And live with a grateful heart.

God Bless you all!

What should I do when I just cannot feel any trust in God?

Exactly what I would do if I did feel trust in Him.

The feeling doesn’t matter. It is a distraction. It is only the choice, the action, that matters.

I have always had a fear of heights. I get shaky and uncomfortable standing on anything higher than my own height above the ground. I am also not one of those fortunate people who enjoy the kind of adrenaline rush that comes from free-falling, free-climbing, free-floating, or pretty much free-anything. So rock climbing, rappelling and parachuting all suck. There is adrenaline there, right enough, but it isn’t your happy-go-lucky “This-is-fun-let’s-do-that-again-to-feel-alive-with-the-illusion-of-risk” kind of adrenaline. This is the full-on pulse-pounding, heart-racing, nausea-inducing anxiety that makes me think, “If I get off this rock alive I swear I will never go climbing again.” I have sworn that many times. So far it has always worked.

Me, shaking in my boots in Colorado.

The issue is I don’t feel any trust in my gear. I know that parachutes open 99.99% of the time, and reserves open just as often. I know the rope is rated to 12 kN, and I weigh less than 1. I know that lots of people weaker and less in-shape than I have climbed this route before. I know it, but I don’t feel it. I don’t feel in control, and so I get anxious and nauseous and it generally just sucks.

But here is the secret. It doesn’t matter whether I feel good about this or bad about this. It only matters that I do it.

So when I say, “Trust your equipment,” I don’t mean “feel confident that it will support your weight over this sudden drop to inevitable and gruesome death.” If I could do that, I wouldn’t have to tell myself to do that. I simply mean Step. Jump. Climb. Whatever.

Neither the sky, nor the rock, nor gravity, nor the Army, nor my buddies, nor the people back home give a damn how I feel about the climbing, the rappelling or the jumping. It will succeed or fail based on what I do. The parachute does not require good vibes to open. It does require an act of trust, i.e. I have to leave the airplane. The rope does not require calm confidence to support my weight. It does require my weight to be entrusted to it. The rock will hold me up, but only if I hold myself up on it.

Any jump you walk away from is a good one.

God does not require me to feel good about this. He only requires me to obey. He will take care of the rest.

Family Friday 95 (2)
Dory fish, and Baby Me-mo fish, and Me-mo Dada fish, and Me-mo Mommy fish too! (Evie insisted I draw Nemo’s Mommy)

Family Friday 95 (3)
Singing in the rain, under the sea!

Family Friday 95 (4)
Evie sweep!

Family Friday 95 (5)

Family Friday 95 (6)
Helping Daddy plant fruit trees and berry bushes.

Family Friday (7)
Evie and Mommy’s inside garden.

Family Friday (8)
Baby ‘Resa and Baby Margaret

Family Friday (9)
Baby Margaret plant some seeds? Okay!

Family Friday (10)
Evie is not convinced these are connected with veggies in any way, but playing in the dirt is fun.

Family Friday (11)
You will see, Baby Girl. Trust Mommy.

Family Friday (12)
Working on learning how to use chopsticks!

Family Friday (13)
Date Night for Ryan and Kathleen!

Family Friday (14)
First time riding facing forward, Coming home from Deedee and Papa’s House! Such a Big girl!

 

On Monday afternoon, Evie was perfectly happy, healthy, her normal self. Then, right before bed she threw up twice. On Tuesday she was tired and worn out feeling.

 

Evie Seizure visit (1)
That is not our normal Baby Girl. 😦

On Wednesday morning, while Mommy was still at work (night shift), she threw up two more times.

Then she had a seizure, but the paramedics couldn’t find a fever higher than 99.

 

Evie Seizure visit (2)
Mommy doesn’t get to sleep today. That’s okay. Evie needs her.

Evie had another seizure at her pediatrician’s office. He sent us home to watch her, and when she had another we called the ambulance again and went to Mary Bridge Pediatric Hospital.

 

Evie Seizure visit (3)

She had three more seizures in the hospital, for a total of six, including one that broke through the atavan and keppra.

Evie Seizure visit (4)
Maybe just because I am her father I am biased, but I think she is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

Father Kyle came to the ER to give her Anointing of the Sick.

They admitted us and we had the most sleepless and anxious night of our lives. Except for Evie, who was in a drug and exhaustion induced sleep.

 

Evie Seizure visit (5)
Not herself at all Thursday morning, but she wanted to read “Bible Book” with Daddy and find Baby Moses.

 

Evie Seizure visit (6)
She fought the EEG tooth and nail, until Mommy snuggled next to her. Then she could calm down and watch “Broom” (i.e. “Room on the Broom”).

 

Evie Seizure visit (7)
Even Singing in the Rain can barely make it better.

 

Evie Seizure visit (8)
When Daddy wasn’t up in Seattle taking finals (yuck) he was down in the hospital reading books with Evie. Mostly “Otter in Space” because that is her current favorite.

On Thursday she had no more seizures and slowly started coming back to her normal self. Thursday night Mommy finally got a few hours of sleep.

Hundreds of people all over the world were praying for her, and dozens of friends were calling, texting or messaging to offer whatever help we needed. We had so much food in our hospital room we couldn’t eat it all, and had to bring most of it home (our refrigerator is now packed).

 

Evie Seizure visit (9)
Evie found the toy room at the end of the hall!

Because by Friday she was almost completely back to normal, just a little wobbly. But wobbly or not, we couldn’t keep her in the room any more. She had to be up and exploring around. Can’t keep a Baby Girl down, Yo!

And now we are home, with meds to prevent more seizures and more meds in case she has one, and we will be seeing the pediatric neurologist again at the end of April. We don’t know for sure why she had seizures, especially without a fever, and so many so close together. All her tests came back normal, so the doctors think it was most likely a virus of some kind.

We will take it. God is good to us. The timing could not have been better. Ryan was home when it all went down, and he only had to be in Seattle for a few hours a day while she was in the hospital. Somehow he managed to pass all his finals as well. Kathleen was home too, and was able to take a night off and be done with work for the week so she could be there the whole time. The hospital was only a couple of blocks from Uncle Adam’s house, so he and Aunt Maryanne were able to keep us well stocked with delicious home-cooked food.

And Ryan doesn’t go to Seattle at all next week! Instead he will be working short hours at a clinic only about ten minutes from home, thanks to a classmate who traded rotations a few weeks back.

We love you all, thank you for your prayers. God Bless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week has been a quiet week. Not much has happened. But Evie finds a way to make it look good.Family Friday 47 (4)

As far as she is concerned, just going outside to run around is an adventure.

Why can’t we all be like that?

She is happy just to get a plate full of chicken and veggies and couscous all to herself.Family Friday 47 (1)

While Daddy and Mommy get stressed over little things like money and time and lots and lots of projects that need to be done yesterday, Evie is busy just being alive. She knows it’s all good. Mommy and Daddy take care of everything, so why should she worry?Family Friday 47 (5)

Evie likes to turn the pages. Sometimes Mommy can’t keep up with Evie’s page turning, but that’s okay. Evie is patient. Family Friday 47 (7)

Little does she know, Mommy and Daddy don’t actually have anything under control. We’re both like, “Oh well, I guess we’re winging it… again.”

But it’s all good because we have a Daddy too, and He actually does have everything under control. He sent His Son to take care of everything, and all we have to do is let Him.Family Friday 47 (3)

His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. He is the Heart of our Family.

Family Friday 47 (2)

Those pictures were from Adoration on Divine Mercy Sunday, which was last sunday. It is one of the most beautiful feasts of the year, one that is absolutely critical for our world.

In other news, Evie learned how to make banana bread with Auntie Grace this week.Family Friday 47 (6)

But she doesn’t like to eat it very much. She would rather eat couscous and berries and peas and carrots. Nothing wrong with that!

Uncle Matthew was on vacation for a while, so he and Ryan couldn’t hang out. Besides, Ryan was very busy. Then when Uncle Mattlew came back he went straight to the field for a few days. However, they were able to hang out Thursday night one more time before Ryan heads back home. They ate at a quirky little pizza place called the Mellow Mushroom.

Yes, it is as psychedelic as it sounds, but the pizza is delicious.

As one would hope when the munchies strike…

(Couldn’t resist.)

At any rate, the pizza is so good that they have to have a terminator outside to guard the front door. Family Friday 47 (8)

And they even bought a metal statue to keep him company!

Family Friday 47 (9)

Pow! Right on the button! He may look scary, but he has a glass jaw.

Well folks, hope y’all are doing well. Have a good week, stay classy.

God Bless, from the Kraegers.

One of my least favorite verses in the whole Bible is Psalm 127:2.

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
Eating the bread of anxious toil;
For He gives to His beloved sleep.
 

My least favorite version of that verse is the translation in the Divine Office.

In vain is your earlier rising, your going later to rest
You who toil for the bread you eat
While He pours out blessings upon His beloved while they sleep.

You see I have always had a conflicted history with sleep. I don’t like sleep.

It isn’t just that I don’t like sleep, and I would rather be awake doing things. That would be fairly normal, I think. Just think of how much we could get done if we didn’t have to sleep!

But no, I don’t just dislike sleeping. I positively resent the need for sleep. I have the tendency to regard my continuing need for sleep as a personal affront to my productivity. Perhaps that is why I still need to sleep, and why I don’t do as well on no sleep as I used to.

And yet, God has decreed that I shall need to sleep fully a third of every day, on average. Without sleep memories don’t consolidate, muscles don’t regenerate, the immune system doesn’t kill bad bugs, and eventually I crumble and grind to a halt. I suppose you can look at the time that God has free reign to repair all the damage I do to myself on a daily basis. I am not striving, I am just doing nothing, so I am not getting in His way.

God knows that I need to shut down and let Him do His thing on a daily basis. Sleep is the great humbler. So I thank Him for it. I wonder if in Heaven we will combine the awareness and alertness of the conscious awake state with the total vulnerability and relaxation of the sleep state?

Before Evie was born, we did what many young parents do. We read parenting books. After Evie was born we continued to read parenting books. Three of the top books were The Baby Book by the Sears family (that kind of makes them sound like an organized crime syndicate); Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parent’s Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids by Greg and Lisa Popcak; and On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the GIFT of Nighttime Sleep by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam.

After reading and referencing through these and others and the internet (and rest assured, we found some helpful tidbits in all of them, especially The Baby Book) we began to notice that they all had something in common. With the exception of the Popcaks, who make a conscious effort to add disclaimers disavowing this approach, all of the parenting books, blogs and forums had in common the assumption that “I Have Found the Parenting Method that WORKS and if you don’t use it you are not a bad parent but you are horribly misguided and we pity your children who will be at higher risk for autism and social awkwardness and getting eaten by sharks.”

In general I have found that parenting books are divided fairly clearly into two schools, what I call the “attachment school” and the “independence school.” Both want the same thing, i.e. a formula or technique for raising children to be happy, healthy, emotionally balanced and morally upright citizens who will win at life, be successful at everything they try, outperform their peers, win the Nobel Peace Prize, take care of us in our old age and become canonized saints. Is that really too much to ask?

However both schools go about it a little differently. Attachment parenting advocates emphasize the importance of building stable emotional connections within the family, especially prior to and immediately after birth. Exploring and independence will come naturally in time, they say, but the foundation has to be a secure, warm, open, affectionate relationship. They tend to characterize the independence school as harsh, cold, mechanistic and emotionally unavailable.

The Independence school, oddly enough, emphasizes teaching routine, schedule, and… well… independence from the parents. They value skills such as independent problem solving, sleeping alone and regularly from an early age (certainly by the age of 12 weeks) and providing strong, consistent boundaries at all ages, but giving the kids maximum freedom to maneuver within those boundaries. They characterize the attachment group as being soft, easily manipulable, and unrealistic. They tend to go a little bit further with the straw man thing and accuse attachment advocates of hovering, helicopter parenting, making the parents slaves to the infant’s whims, etc.

Both sides have their points, and I can see why each is a healthy antidote for the other. I would also say that each one tends to exaggerate the other’s opinions, or to argue against the extreme fringes of the opposite school, but that’s America. Our politics are just the same.

For my part, I approach the debate with an open mind, i.e. with a healthy dose of skepticism. Kathleen and I lean towards the attachment end of the spectrum and spend almost all our free time interacting with Evie when she is awake (except for date night). However, we are also aware that, in the immortal (and almost indecipherable) words of Rocky Balboa, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.” A bit of frustration is a natural part of life in a post-fig-leaf world (starting with the necessity of wearing clothes. Evie’s philosophy on clothes is “the fewer the better.”)

The precise balance between the two philosophies is a topic for a long and fascinating discussion, a few more blogs, and probably a heavily researched and footnoted book, and another book composed entirely of “Baby Blues” and “Family Circus” illustrations.

“Baby Blues” is probably my favorite cartoon, along with “Peanuts” and “Calvin and Hobbes.”

It is not my purpose with this blog to hammer out what that balance is, when any pronouncement on it is probably meaningless. Instead, I just want to share my own personal philosophy on childcare (I say “childcare” rather than “parenting” because I formulated it years before I became a parent).

“God made kids washable for a reason!”

— Ryan Kraeger

There is a lot of nuance in that little phrase, and I could probably unpack it for a good couple of hours over a half-way decent beer or two. In a nutshell, though, it is an acknowledgement of limitations. Parents are human. Humans make mistakes. God knows this. He knows that He is going to have to pick up the slack for every human parent that ever lived, and not only is He okay with that, He’s already done it. That’s what the cross was all about.

This is not to minimize or excuse ignorance, neglect or sinfulness in parents. I will be the first to acknowledge that the effects of mistakes, and even more so of sins, can be catastrophic. Some of them can cause years of unhappiness, dysfunction, depression, even death. My point is that people were growing up as well as they ever have for generations before parenting experts came around. People were still growing up human, that is to say, flawed, wounded and imperfect. To become a parent is to accept the responsibility of doing your best for your kids, knowing that it is not going to be good enough, and committed to doing it anyway.

To say that God made kids washable for a reason is an act of humility. It is an acknowledgement that the world is imperfect, and I am imperfect. It is also an act of hope, because it insists that the dirt and dust are part of God’s plan. He sees them, He knows them, and He built the response to them right into the very fabric of Creation.

So relax about the parenting. Relax about the mistakes. Honestly, I suspect that mistakes in parenting are going to be like mistakes in everything else. The ones I stress about most at the time will ultimately be of no consequence, while the worst ones will be the ones I didn’t even know I was making. In any event, trust God in His goodness, that He who had the foresight to make kids washable will also raise them up on the Last Day.

Parenting can be stressful. Like that moment when your
pediatrician tells you that your baby has only put on one ounce in the last two
weeks. Suddenly you realize that you are probably the worst parent the world
has ever seen, and that you are failing this helpless little creature who looks
to you for everything. Nevermind that she is a healthy, active baby who can
push herself up into a standing position in your hands, make eye contact,
babble, mimic faces, laugh, and blow the sides out of a diaper with the best of
them. Never mind that she grew an inch in length and a centimeter in head
circumference. One ounce of weight gain, and immediately you begin to doubt
your competency even to be a parent.

Then you start wondering, “How do I tell my parents? How do
I tell my in-laws? Won’t they just pounce on us with more advice than we can
shake a stick at? Will we have to rehash every parenting decision since
conception and justify them all?”
But most of all, the all-consuming question is, “How do we
get the breastmilk to come in more plentifully?”
Of course the answer is simple, and not too far off from
what we were already doing. The plan is mostly a scheduling thing, basically
just make her eat every 2 ½ – 3 hours, whether she wants to or not. This means
stop letting her sleep through the night (sad face) and wake her up for a
feeding every 3 hours minimum until she bulks up and has the fat reserves to go
longer.
What that simple plan adds up to in real life, though, is a
lot of anxiety, and almost no sleep for the first couple of days. Since my wife
is pumping after every feeding, we usually have an extra half an ounce or so of
milk in a bottle at the end of the feeding, and the temptation is to save those
little scraps up, add them together, and give Evie a monster feeding at the end
of the day, and give Mommy a rest.
But “No” says the lactation consultant, “That’s not what you
want to do.” Instead she wants us to use it as we go. Just feed it to her from
the bottle, because it takes less work than the breast and she will swallow it
even when she is tired. So now, unlike a few days ago when I could look in the
fridge and see at least a couple of ounces chilling there that we could fall
back on in an emergency, now there is nothing. There is only one feeding at a
time.
There are moments when I see the appeal of formula, not as a
supplement or as a replacement in emergencies, but as a full time strategy.
Formula is 100% in my control. I can go out and buy it when we need it, I can
stockpile it, I can mix as much as I want, and we can always see it, there on
the counter, ready to go. There is no fear
that maybe this time, there just won’t be enough. This despite all my medical
training and having done multiple research papers on the benefits of breastmilk
over formula, still, it is attractive because it is 100% in my control. I can
forcefeed that baby and make her put
on the rolls!
It shouldn’t be too hard to see where I am going with this,
should it?
Well, lo and behold, yesterday morning after less sleep than
I could conveniently count I turned on the Divine Office podcast while we fed
Evie her morning meal, which we refer to as first breakfast. The whole series
of psalms and readings was so perfect I am linking you to the page here (go to
Office of Readings tab).
Yet still they sinned
against him;
They defied the Most
High in the desert.
In their heart they
put God to the test
By demanding the food
they craved.
They even spoke
against God.
They said: Is it
possible for God
To prepare a table in
the desert?
It was He who struck
the rock,
Water flowed and
swept down in torrents.
But can He also give
us bread?
Can He provide meat
for his people?”
When He heard this
the Lord was angry.
A fire was kindled
against Jacob,
His anger rose
against Israel
For having no faith
in God;
For refusing to trust
in his help.
Yet he commanded the
clouds above
And opened the gates
of heaven.
He rained down manna
for their food,
And gave them bread
from heaven.
Mere men ate the
bread of angels.
He sent them
abundance of food;
He made the east wind
blow from heaven
And roused the south
wind by his might.
He rained food on
them like dust,
Winged fowl like the
sands of the sea.
He let it fall in the
midst of their camp
And all around their
tents.
So they ate and had
their fill;
And He gave them all
they craved.
Psalm 78:17-29
When I read this, two feelings immediately struck me. The
first was renewed hope and gratitude. Trust. God is trustworthy. He designed
the whole breastfeeding system, He loves Evie far more than we do, and we can
safely trust her with Him.
The second was shame. I had not been trusting. I had been
freaking out, at least deep down inside, if not actually in words or actions. I
mean really, what is your trust worth if you only trust Him when everything is
going right?
Of course, as I type this a little voice in my head
whispers, “Oh, it’s all very well to trust God in most things, but this is
different. This is serious. Too much is riding on this to sit back and do
nothing.”
But what about the Israelites in the desert? What did God
tell them?
“And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the
wilderness a fine, flake-like thing,

fine as frost on the ground. When the
people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did
not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord
has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each
one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to
the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” And the people of
Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it
with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered
little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. And Moses
said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” But they did
not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms
and stank.”

I am pretty sure the Israelites were far more desperate than
we are. They had no reserves, their very lives were at stake. If the manna
failed to come, they were literally going to starve to death! Is it any wonder
some tried to hoard up a supply? And yet God was requiring trust of them. He
was requiring them to trust Him with their lives, to give up their attempts at
control and just enjoy His providence.
This is what He is requiring of us. Absolute trust. That
little voice is right. It is all well and good to trust God most of the time,
but until I trust Him with something that really matters, when my life or the
life of someone I love is at stake, I have not really trusted Him.
So I thank Him for this trial of trust, and I am sorry for
not having seized it more fully. But all things work together for good to them
that love Him, even my slowness of heart. Glory be to Him!