Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy birthday, Mr. Wonderful!

Forty-some odd years ago (one before 50!), the love of my life was born in Panama to an Irish father and a Russian mother. He spent his childhood around the world (Switzerland, Australia, Belgium, and I'm forgetting at least one!), because his father was in the British Foreign Service. When he was nine, he was sent to a Catholic boarding school in Yorkshire, and that and their house in Reading were his home bases during his adolescence as his parents moved around the world. After earning his degree in English at Exeter University, he went on to earn an M.Phil. at Oxford. Inspired by Japanese friends he met at Oxford, he then decided to teach English in Japan. And that's when his life truly began (meeting me!). Haha.

We met 25 years and 2 months ago, and I married him 21 years and 9 months ago. I feel truly blessed to be married to and partnered with this amazing man. I couldn't have dreamed of a more perfect person for me. Happy birthday to my Mr. Wonderful...this is your (adult) life in pictures!

The young man I fell in love with in Japan

Gifted with children
With my cousins Annie and Elena  (who were in our wedding)
 Tour guide
Visiting a Yorkshire pub in the early 1990s
Lover of the outdoors and beauty
Butchart Gardens, 2000 (our 10th anniversary)
 Loving, fun, and fantastic father
With Chris right after coming home from the NICU

With Baby Kieran

California, 2006

With Baby Nicholas

Loving and attentive son and brother
Dual American-British citizen
 Good sport (and Thomas Merton)
 Book lover!
 Brother-in-law and son-in-law

Fun uncle

We look forward to celebrating your birthday with you, as we have done in so many different places over the years:

New York City


The Oregon Coast
Happy birthday, sweetheart!

Here's to the Catholics I know and love

As Frank Bruni writes in today's New York Times, the United States has "many kinds of Catholic." And most of them are not like Rick Santorum, as he is finding out after losing the Catholic vote to Mitt Romney in Michigan, Illinois, and elsewhere. The evangelical Christians love Santorum, but the Catholics not so much.
Even though Santorum is surely the darling of the Catholic hierarchy, following every outdated and archaic dictum issued from the Vatican with nary a stray foot, most regular, everyday Catholics do not follow the official church party line on a wide variety of social topics. As Bruni writes:
American Catholics have been merrily ignoring the church’s official position on contraception for many years, often with the blessing of lower-level clerics. When my mother dutifully mentioned her I.U.D. during confession back in the 1970s, the parish priest told her that she really needn’t apologize or bring it up again. Which was a good thing, since she had no intention of doing away with it. Four kids were joy and aggravation enough.
Santorum is not like the Catholics I know...my Catholic friends and family...
  • Are deeply committed to social justice instead of trying to legislate morality
  • Are more concerned about helping the born children than the unborn
  • Believe that women should have equal opportunity and voice in the church rather than be confined to nonclergy and altar positions
  • Believe that no one church or particular mindset (conservative Christians) can read God's mind
  • Are committed to welcome and inclusion, including to our divorced, gay/lesbian/transgender, immigrant, and otherwise disenfranchised brothers and sisters
  • Walk the talk of Christianity and value, above all else, helping those less fortunate than they are
  • Believe in the separation of church and state
  • Use birth control, do NOT believe this is a sin, and view it as responsible family planning
  • Work with protestants (and other religions) in the spirit of ecumenism
  • Believe that Catholic clergy should not be above the law when they commit a crime, and the church should make amends to all the victims of clergy sexual abuse
  • Are greatly distressed when they hear about people who were hurt or rejected by the church
  • Do not believe that the words "liberal" and "Christian" are mutually exclusive
  • Who believe that Jesus wants us to take care of the poor and needy
Evangelical Christians were terrified of John F. Kennedy when he became the first Catholic president. Santorum himself said that he wanted to "throw up" after reading Kennedy's thoughts about the separation of church and state. I suppose some could view it as some warped kind of progress for the Republican party--their three leading candidates are Catholic and Mormon, both denominations that have suffered prejudice and religious persecution (while also practicing prejudice and persecution, at other times!).

The fact that most Catholic Republicans are not flocking to Gingrich or Santorum but instead are veering to Romney should be a big wakeup call for the church. One news report (on a Catholic web page) claims that more Catholics (the white ones, anyway) are voting Republican this year. However, Democrats still hold quite a significant percentage lead (48 percent to 43 percent, compared to 53-37 in 2008). Those white Catholics who attend mass weekly, though, are more likely to vote Republican. So this should be good news for Santorum and Gingrich, right? Even those Catholic Republicans who might not consider themselves liberal still don't want Santorum or Gingrich in general.

As for me, I'll stick with the Catholics I know and love...who are trying to lead the lives Jesus wants us all to lead, showing love, justice, and compassion to all humankind.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Weekend excitement--three plays and an auction!

Friday night we went to see a production of "Little House on the Prairie" at the local arts center; several kids from Kieran's school (including one of his best friends, Kayra, who was Laura) were in the show. As is so often the case in theater, the girls vastly outnumbered the boys. The only boy played Mr. Edwards. Can you imagine a Little House without Pa Ingalls? Unimaginable! I wonder why they chose to keep Mr. Edwards over Pa; they must have had to rewrite the play quite a bit. The play was a bit nonsensical anyway; it didn't feel much like the Little House I knew and loved...with the exception of the fact that there was a fight at the end, and Laura got to punch out Nellie Oleson!

Saturday evening we went to the Thomas A. Edison High School auction at the Governor Hotel. It was pretty swish, and we felt pretty poor! Just to get in and buy a raffle ticket, some raffle beads, and two glasses of wine set us back over $200, and everything we bid on got too expensive for our wallets. I think most of the people spending a lot of the money were those who do not currently have students there. All for a good cause, though. Each family had to procure items, and Mike had arranged for children's authors to donate signed copies of their books:

Of course, the highlight of the evening was hanging out
with our dear friends Lynn and Jolie!
Sunday afternoon Mike and I went to the Portland Center Stage production of "Red," about artist Mark Rothko. It was good but I think I enjoyed the theater's premiere production of "North Plan" better...probably because I think I'm not patient, deep, or contemplative enough for abstract art! I'm sure abstract art lovers appreciate the play more than I do. One of my friends loved it.

Then last evening, Kieran and I went to "Wicked." He's been waiting for that night for nearly four years (since he learned of the play's existence)...and especially since we gave him the tickets for Christmas. He absolutely LOVED the show--he kept leaning over and asking me to pinch him!

I lucked out and found that baseball hat in a resale shop!
I think this is my new favorite photo of my middle child.

Thanks for taking our photo, Mary!
We had a very fun--and busy--weekend!

Keep your baby safe from RSV!

As I've written before, respiratory synctitial virus (RSV) is a highly personal subject for me. Chris contracted RSV when he was nearly 15 months old (actual) and was hospitalized for a week, in isolation, with pneumonia. We knew some people in the NICU who took home a healthy, comparatively huge 34-weeker who returned to the hospital sick with RSV, had to be put on the heart-lung machine, and actually died. He went home in the height of cold and flu season. Although RSV is extremely dangerous and even deadly for preemies, all babies are at risk.

It's especially awkward for new parents to ask their friends and family to wash their hands before entering their home, avoid going near the baby when sick, and keep sick children away. MedImmune has some excellent resources on its RSV Protection web site, including a map that shows when RSV season hits each state. I especially like the "Open Letter to Loved Ones" (below), which parents of any new baby can adapt and send to their friends and family in advance of any visits.

I remember the attitudes of some people who seemed to think that we were being overzealous, but better to be overzealous and keep your baby safe and healthy. People would make completely ignorant comments about how children need to get germs so they can "get used to them." We made people wash their hands as soon as they walked in the door, and we wouldn't allow anyone to visit if he or she were sick. In our case, since Chris was so tiny and fragile, we actually didn't take him out in public until he'd been home for 6 months...Mother's Day was his first visit to church (after RSV season was over). Our pediatrician's office allowed us to come in through the back door and ushered us immediately into an exam room. Chris was on breast milk for over a year. We took every precaution we could to protect him.

Open Letter to Loved Ones

If you are a new or expecting parent, I encourage you to consider using some form of this letter--in particular if your baby is a preemie, but even if he or she is not.
Dear [Loved One],

I know sometimes people think I go to extreme lengths to protect [Baby], and I understand my methods may seem strange. I wanted to send this note to you to give you insight on what life is like when you’re perceived as an “overprotective” parent.

[Baby] was born [prematurely or with X condition], which puts [him/her] at an increased risk of developing a serious infection from many common, seemingly harmless, germs and viruses. For example, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is an extremely common virus that all babies contract by their second birthday. Most infants have the immune system and lung strength to fight off the virus, but in high-risk babies, it can cause a very serious infection. In fact, serious RSV infection is the leading cause of infant hospitalization. Note: For more information on the dangers of RSV, you can check out www.RSVprotection.com.

Because [Baby] is so vulnerable to RSV and other illnesses, it’s important to us to avoid exposing [him/her] to these germs. Viruses like RSV are highly contagious and can live for hours on objects like countertops, doorknobs and toys. Frankly, the idea that visitors may unknowingly bring in these dangerous germs is very scary to a new parent!

So I’m asking that you please be patient with me and my precautions to keep [Baby] safe. Please contact me before dropping by for a visit, and know that while I hate turning you away or asking you not to come over, it’s always for a good reason and never personal.

And when we’re eventually ready for visitors, please remember that prevention is key to keeping [Baby] safe.

• Please refrain from visiting when you are sick or if you’ve been around someone ill.
• Please make sure your clothes are clean and you haven’t smoked or been around smokers recently. Smoke can be very dangerous for underdeveloped lungs.
• Let’s wait until [Baby] is strong enough to be introduced to your little one(s), You know I love seeing [him/her], but toddlers and school-aged children are very likely carriers of germs and viruses.
• Wash your hands immediately when you come into the house, or sanitize during your visit – this is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs. Wash, wash, wash!

I hope this helps to explain a bit better why I’ve been keeping [Baby] in and, often, visitors out. I appreciate your understanding and look forward to seeing [Baby] grow stronger and healthier everyday with your help!

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of MedImmune and received promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.