Sunday, February 27, 2011

foreign president

Richard and I were excited yesterday to enjoy a 3 hour whirlwind visit from Mike Sullivan, president of Catholics United for the Faith. I worked at CUF very briefly during our newlywed days, before we moved out of Steubenville. At the time, Mike was the editor of Lay Witness, the magazine published by CUF, but has since become the president of Catholics United for the Faith. He and his father, Bill Sullivan, are currently in New Zealand for a CUF NZ conference. Last night they were able to pop in for dinner, a tour of our church, a conversation with Fr. Michael, a glimpse at our Lighthouse youth group in action and a sunset visit to "The Mount" - a very hectic and enjoyable three hours! Mike is the father of 9 children and Mr. Sullivan is the grandfather of FORTY-FIVE grandchildren, so it was no surprise that Maria and Bernadette absolutely loved this visit. There are probably few people who have as much practice being around small children! Although we have met other Americans here in NZ, Mike's face was the first American face I have seen in 9 months who I already knew - other than Fr. Michael, he is the only person we have seen in as much time who was already known to us before we came here. So it was quite a treat to spend a little time together and laugh about our attempts to drive on the correct side of the road.
Also, you may notice that Richard has done what is impossible for me - he has added a "multi-media" element to our blog. In the upper right hand, he posted videos. The skit that he and Glen performed last week can be viewed. I think he also posted the (somewhat) cheesy video Fr. Michael asked us to make to introduce us to the parish before we arrived. Ok, it's very cheesy. I have no idea if there are other videos up besides those two, but if so, hopefully they are not quite as embarrassing!

Friday, February 25, 2011


Glen fastidiously chaperoning youth at the 
Parachute Christian Music Festival last month

Glen. If only there were words to capture the essence of Glen. We're about 4 weeks into our first term with him aboard and what a world of difference he's made! There is a wonderful new life and energy to the ministry. Not only has he recharged the youth program, but the youth ministers as well!  He's a double blessing to us - both a friend and a partner. We'd love to share just a bit of what Glen has added to this ministry.

Glen is a walking example of what it means to know Christ's peace - he never has an uncharitable or critical word to say about anyone, would not even know how to harbor a grudge, speaks carefully and deeply and from the heart. He does not worry or get agitated - even in chaos or in prickly situations. Furthermore Glen authentically loves those that Jesus loved. If you take a walk with Glen, be prepared to stop and have a thirty minute conversation with any lonely, poor, addicted or lost soul that you may encounter along the way. He truly listens to their story, prays with or for them, shares with them from his resources. He connects with young children and our girls both loved him instantly. Even when Glen is not actually smiling, there is joy and peace in his eyes. Glen loves to pray and is forever interrupting conversations with invitation to prayer. It's the only reason for which Glen would ever interrupt, as his soul is one that knows how to be present and be humble.

For all this inspiring holiness, Glen is also wonderfully F-U-N!!!!!!  Before the first Tahu meeting of this term, he asked one of our teen assistants to sneak up behind him and dump a bucket of water over his head randomly while he spoke to the youth. While this gag was carried out, he pretended not to notice.

He organized the performance of a hilarious skit at the local Catholic high school. He, Rich and one of our teen assistants pulled it off during a school assembly to the absolute delight of the students present. We have video footage of the whole thing and once Richard uploads it to YouTube I will post a link on our blog (assuming I can figure out how to do that).

Glen's been a wonderful asset to the Lighthouse boy's group (A Few Good Men). He took the boys on a "Manhood Initiation Hike" a week ago. At the base of the mountain, each boy had to slowly chew up three red chili peppers (and swallow) and then hike the mountain with nothing further to drink or eat and without complaining or showing distaste in any way. At the summit, Glen surprised the boys with their favorite beverages. But first they each had to do a shot.....of vinegar. As a woman, I don't really "get" this, but the boys thought it was possibly the most awesome night of their lives. The following week he had them melting lead over an open fire and pouring it into potatoes with cross molds carved into them. The Lighthouse girls are jealous. Glen is making me look bad.

Glen comes up with fantastic, random and funny games and activities for youth group. Furthermore, he has completely thrown himself into the latest development in our ministry, which is a Young Adult group for those who have aged out of Lighthouse. He and Rich have been happily planning and advertising for this new ministry, which is set to really blast off this coming Tuesday night.
 post-chili pepper hiking

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


As many of you know, there was a massive earthquake in Christchurch yesterday afternoon. It was more shallow (and thus much more violent) than the one that struck a few months ago. Also, this one took place during the day when people were going about their business in the city; the last one happened while most people were at home in bed. We've been told it is the worst natural disaster to ever hit New Zealand. The news reports are calling this "New Zealand's darkest day". So far there are about 40 confirmed dead, but that number is expected to go up to 300 or more. There are people trapped in rubble with little chance of being freed in time. There are bodies in the streets which have yet to be collected and identified.

Christchurch is quite far from us, in response to the many emails we have received this morning about our own safety. Still, many of the friends we have met here are originally from Christchurch. Their family and friends live there and we do not know yet how their loved ones have fared.

We're praying for all those who lost their lives unexpectedly, for those who are trapped and afraid, for those who are living right now in fear, anxiety, sadness and with great loss. Strong aftershocks continue, which must be terrifying for young children in Christchurch.

Thank you to everyone for your concerned emails and please pray in a special way for Christchurch and New Zealand. We are okay - many others are not. We know that God can call forth great heroism, great faith, great conversion and hope in dark hours such as these, and we pray for those graces to be poured forth abundantly on this whole nation.

Monday, February 7, 2011

the twilight's last reaming

pre-game with Fr. Michael

Freckle's first SuperBowl party 
was also his first Steeler's game!

last few moments of happiness before the 
tragedy began to unfold....

Sunday, February 6, 2011

nesting in new zealand

My Little Pony has been through the dishwasher. So have 14 Fisher-Price Little People, the metal instruments from the Melissa & Doug My First Band set, all the plastic play food, the costume jewelry, 4 pairs of swimming goggles and Maria's pink Crocs. The washing machine took care of all the tutus, princess dresses, baby dolls and stuffed animals. Every curtain in the house - plus sheers - has been taken down, cleaned and rehung. Beds have been left in the courtyard all day for air, sun and a good beat down. The closets and cutlery drawers are next. It has begun. Well, perhaps it began a while back, but now it's in full swing. Nesting in a foreign country, in what feels like 'someone else's' house, is a process half odd and half familiar. I feel like a hummingbird trying to follow nature's directives in a robin's very large and scratchy nest. In the end, instinct prevails - and comforts.

Shortly after we first found out about Freckle's existence, I thought wistfully of all those helpful baby accoutrements I had back home: baby bathtub, exersaucer, snuggle nest. None essential - but all very useful. In the past week or so, every imaginable piece of helpful "gear" has been loaned to me by the wonderful women in my mother's group. I didn't even ask. The one thing I still absolutely longed for was a snuggle nest (a type of miniature bassinet that allows a baby to safely sleep right in my bed with me). I couldn't find one in the baby stores here, but my wonderful husband secured one for me off of TradeMe (a Kiwi blend of Ebay and Craigslist). On top of all this, heaps and heaps of baby clothes have been given to us - so much so that even if Freckle spent his first ten months being less than 12 pounds, he'd barely run out of new outfits to try. As has been the case since we first began this endeavor, the Lord has provided recklessly and abundantly through the generous hearts of many good people.

So...could there be anything still to be desired? Yes! There are two things I still am asking of Him, and invite you to join in these prayers if you feel so drawn. The first is less important than the second, so I'll start there.

Kiwis receive free medical care. Americans in Kiwi hospitals do not. We knew that before coming here. We also knew we'd be happy to welcome a little kiwi into our family while here, so we purchased maternity insurance before departing. There was really quite an overwhelming "to-do" list during our 10 month preparations stateside, so all we really noticed about the maternity coverage was that we could not purchase the insurance if we were already pregnant. We were not. However, it is only this week that we realized that our hospital costs are only covered if Freckle is born exactly ten months after our coverage began (or later). His due date falls two days after this cutoff. For the first time in my life, I am hoping NOT to have my baby come early. With financial considerations in mind, my midwife Shirley suggested a homebirth. I think I have already mentioned on this blog that there are very few things in life I would like less than a homebirth.  However, given the circumstances, I was prevailed upon to at least think about it. And I did think. I thought about the entire office staff having to hear me endure my first epidural-free labor through the thin wall dividing our bedrooms from the parish office. I thought about what they might say to callers who rang the office during those agonizing hours...."Oh, pay no attention to that! We just have a parishioner in here who absolutely refuses to tithe! But I'm sure that you always give generously and we'd never have to bring you in here to address that problem!" I thought long and hard about the concept of "no possible epidural" (actually, in NZ, a home birth means no pain relief of any sort - although Shirley did suggest a birthing pool, in a chipper and overly-optimistic sort of way). I  thought about my darling little girls jumping excitedly on the bed next to me the moment the midwife left. I could see their happy little faces...bouncing and jumping and jostling - and did I mention the BOUNCING?? I remember it so well from Maria's hospital visit to meet Bernadette for the first time. Could they help but be totally oblivious to Mama's overwhelming desire for just a few precious hours of silence, stillness, sleep? I thought about Richard trying to take care of (ie "restrain") a highly energetic three year old and one year old, cook all meals and tend to me. He wouldn't even have time to keep up with the Steelers. Oh, then I remembered the season would be over. But perhaps would not have ended well. He might be having PostPigskin Depression.  Post Polamalu Depression? No, no, no - a homebirth is not for us.

So, we looked into the hospital charges and discovered that even if Freckle makes an early appearance, the Lord has provided well for that. It helps that medical charges here are not what they are in America. For example, my two asthma relief inhalers cost me about $100 in America (and that is after our insurance did their part!). Here in NZ each prescription costs $3.  Nevertheless, it would be nice if Freckle could just hold out until March 25 as it would save us money and give us the chance to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary properly.  So we are praying for that.

My much bigger and more pressing concern is little Bernadette. Back home she accepted short separations from Mama - and if she fussed a bit, we knew Grandma could handle it. Once we arrived in NZ, she became inconsolable if I tried to leave her. I never had the heart to put her - or our teenage babysitters! - through these epic meltdowns, so anytime she was not asleep by the time the babysitter arrived, she came with me to youth group, etc...  Well, taking her to the birth is not option. We thought it through long and hard. Twice. But it's not a very good idea for her, for me or for Rich. Maria is not a problem - she loves a babysitter and openly wishes that I had more of a social life. But Bernadette....well, it's not the same for her. We picked the person she likes best here (this is based on the fact that Tracey was the first - and for a while, the only - person to whom Bernadette said "Hold me!" besides Rich and I. We've been trying to "practice" spending time with Tracey on Fridays. Bernadette has caught on to the scheme and is doing everything in her power to thwart it. This week she strangled me around the neck the moment practice began, pleading "No Mama! No!" and sobbing hysterically. I couldn't remove her from my neck. I came home crying too. Against his preference, Rich tried to comfort me by offering to stay with her through the birth - provided I picked someone else to be with me at that time. If I can't have him, there is no one else that I would have with me at that hour. Also, he ought to be able to witness the birth of his own child. I briefly re-entertained thoughts of a homebirth, but realized someone would still need to watch Bernadette unless I was to read board books and play Itsy Bitsy Spider with her in between contractions.

This dilemma is not at all settled for me and it's tormenting me. Perhaps extra intensely right now, as I'm drafting this post at 4:30 AM, thanks to some 3rd trimester insomnia. I know she is not the first baby in the history of the world to endure this scenario, but it is the first time for her (and for me). My one hope is that my entire labor could span her sleeping hours and Rich could be back home before she has a chance to get her meltdown in full swing. I'm praying either for that or for some brilliant alternative. I'm open to prayers for either!