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Just Showing Up by Brianna Heldt - 1w ago

Hello!

No real major life updates to share…just plugging along, as it were. Maybe I need to start doing Very Exciting Things, in order to blog more. Just kidding. I love being boring–truly.

Homeschooling…mothering…and winding down the schoolyear, which has gone MUCH faster than should be allowed.

Spoke to a friend recently about how this phase of life–when your oldest kids have reached the teen years–allows for a bit more breathing room. Even with small children currently underfoot, it’s just so different from when all of our kids needed help making it safely through the parking lot. I also think that over time you kind of figure out your family’s unique rhythm, priorities, and culture, and some things just kind of go on autopilot. You start to spend more time simply enjoying your children, and station in life, and less time trying to figure everything out. (Maybe part of this is because you know you never will!) Parenting will always be a ton of work, don’t get me wrong, but there is such a tendency in American culture to bemoan so much of motherhood. I’ve begun thinking so often, when I’m doing the most mundane and seemingly least-productive of things–like cuddling a sick little one or driving a teen to Latin class–that, really, what else would I be doing? Besides living out my vocation to the best of my ability, what could possibly deserve my time or attention more than my family?

My perspective on this has been confirmed time and time again, ever since my youngest was born. She’s been one of my harder babies in certain ways…strongly preferring me, not consistently sleeping through the night, and still, at nearly two years old, nursing a TON. As in, alotalotalot. She is also now waking at 5:30 am some mornings. (Why? I have no idea. All I know is that it’s EARLY. So, so early.) But oh, she is cute. And sweet. And full of sass. And really just a very good reminder that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

There’s such a tendency, I think, for women to want to avoid the small, inconsequential stuff of life. How long before we’ll be done with diapers? When will I be able to go here or there alone? Why are these kids still so needy? I don’t mean to imply that there aren’t things you look forward to about the future–that’s normal, and natural. I love that my oldest children are such capable helpers, and things really have gotten much easier over time, as the older kids have gotten bigger and taken on more responsibility. (I used to have four kids ages three and under, you know!) But I do mean to say that when that is the predominant, overarching narrative about motherhood, well, that is a problem. You will probably not be very fulfilled, as a mother. And if you’re Catholic, you’ll most likely continue having little ones for awhile and every time you do, it’s like starting over. Again.

Anyhow, just some thoughts I’ve been having. Like I mentioned above, nothing much is new around here. My oldest daughter is now officially enrolled in a classical high school for next year. Others are still waitlisted. (Yes, I am VERY OBSESSIVELY checking the list. It might be a problem.) It’s looking like, at the very least, I’ll still have two (probably three) kids at home, which will be nice too. In other news, we’re gearing up for the second phase of our home remodel, which will be much larger in scope than the kitchen redo we did a couple of years ago, and so I am therefore in denial about it. (Though I’m also really looking forward to it because, well, our house needs some attention!) Finally, I’ve been trying to pick up more freelance writing as of late, which so far has proven to be utterly fruitless. Part of the reason might be that I refuse to pay a fee to see available jobs because, hello, what if I don’t get any?! PLEASE SOMEBODY PAY ME TO SAY STUFF!

So, that’s me in a nutshell these days. If you want to read more substantial (and occasionally controversial) things written by yours truly, you can check out my column at National Catholic Register. Hope you all are well!

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Just Showing Up by Brianna Heldt - 1w ago

Hi friends! It’s been awhile, so I wanted to take a few moments and give an update on what we’ve been doing (spoiler alert: just the usual stuff. Also? My picture editor program that I have always used NOW CHARGES MONEY to save or export the image so, well, no more images from me with text on them, because I’m a relatively obscure blogger not earning enough money to make the subscription worth it. Hence the lonely, random image above. Of course I discovered all of this AFTER taking the time to resize and add the text, which has me shaking my fist in fury at this most terrible injustice. That was a dirty trick, PicMonkey!) Somehow, Christmas has come and gone, and the school year is half-over, and I’m over here all like WHERE IS THE TIME GOING? and CAN IT STOP PLEASE?

As you know, we’re homeschooling five of our kids this year. Which is going well, for the most part. In fact, I’d say nothing is going NOT well, really. My kids generally work hard, get their stuff done, and are making good progress.

Of course after having had all of my school-age kids in school for the past three years, it’s definitely been an adjustment for me. I confess I kind of miss my old routine of, when the morning hurry-up-and-get-out-the-door ends, settling in with my coffee and having a (relatively) quiet house, with the day stretching out before me. Now when I get two kids out the door and onto the bus (my daughters with Down syndrome both attend a neighborhood public school which they, and we, love very much), I have my coffee while overseeing our school day and prodding sleepy teenagers to get their math done. My older kids are able to work (somewhat) independently much of the time, but when it comes to younger elementary, it feels a bit like starting allllllll over again–didn’t I already teach second-grade math four times already?!

All told though, I am very glad we made the decision to leave the school we were at. It was definitely time for us to move on. After three years it had become apparent that it was simply not the education or learning environment I’d wanted for my children. I’m super grateful the kids are home, and I wholeheartedly recommend homeschooling to anyone who’s thinking it might be time for a change, who wants something better for their child academically, or who simply wants to bypass the many sordid dramas of middle school. My kids are having a great time and they really don’t miss school–even the more social ones–all that much. Sometimes mothers unhappy with traditional school wonder if this is something they could do, and it absolutely is. Perhaps not everyone will enjoy it, or choose to homeschool long-term, but I assure you that it is absolutely feasible, and your kids can get a good education at home.

The million dollar question when January rolls around is, of course, if we’ll continue educating the kids at home next year. (Why do we have to make these choices so early? Is that just Colorado? Sheesh!) And honestly? I don’t really know. My oldest will be starting high school, then I have a child who will be going into kindergarten, and of course there are many kids in between (along with sweet little Beatrice who spends her days marching around, demanding to “netz” (nurse), and telling people what to do.) The truth is that there are certain aspects/benefits of a classical education, particularly once you hit the logic and rhetoric phases of learning, which are less easily replicated at home (good Socratic discussion, for example, or instruction in a foreign language). And because we have, over the years, become fairly committed to the idea of a liberal arts, classical education for our kids, this is definitely a consideration. Plus I’d really kind of love my daughter to go to Kindergarten, because hello, Kindergarten is pretty cool.

And there is a (completely technology-free, which is a HUGE sticking point for me for eight million reasons) school, affiliated with Hillsdale College, that we are considering for next year (though even if we decide we want to send the kids, some of them may end up wait-listed and, in that case, homeschooled anyhow.) So, we’ll see. I’d be sad to give up the things I love about homeschooling (including the label Homeschooling Family, which I admit greatly appeals to my politically-conservative heart), but everything is such a trade off. You know? Pros and cons. Right now I like that my kids are with their siblings each day, that they’re not being negatively influenced by other kids, and that we’re not doing homework every night. I also like that I can direct what they’re learning, and that I can work on things with each child that he or she needs extra time on. On the other hand I do miss my quiet days, and there are indeed benefits to being in school. Here in Colorado there are a variety of options, but sometimes that makes the decision making harder, doesn’t it? One thing I’ve learned over the years is that kids are fairly adaptable, and continue developing and learning no matter where they are–but that a school environment can really have an impact on a child’s academic and/or social success (or failure), and I’m grateful for the freedom to educate my kids at home if I so desire.

Let’s see, what else is new? This year five of my kids have been swimming on a club team. Which is great, but the older ones have reached a fork in the road because they’re now at the age/level where they can try out for the competitive USA team. And, I don’t know if we’re really wanting to start down that path because, let’s face it, it’s a heck of a time commitment (practice four days a week, with meets all over the state.) The nice thing about swim, of course, is that all ages more or less do it together, but I’m still not totally sure we want to lose all of our weekends, together or not. Plus, there are other sports some of my kids want to try, and this would absolutely rule that out. So while I do love swim for a million reasons, it may be time for the older kids to move on from club. Sigh. Do your kids play sports? I think they’re great, and I love watching my children compete and gain skills and confidence, but it can certainly make for a bit of a crazy schedule. Plus my kids also really love just being home, playing board games, and running around outside. Unstructured family time is really important around here. So it’s all about figuring out the priorities, and a workable plan that meets both individual needs and serves the good of the family. So easy, right?

Speaking of family, recently I’ve been reflecting on how, at age thirty-six, I’ve definitely transitioned to “old mom”–when for so long I was more or less “young mom”. (I was only twenty-two when my oldest was born, and very few of my friends were married at that time, much less having children. So for awhile I was a bit younger than other moms to kids my daughter’s age. Now though, with my youngest being 18 months old, I’m older than most moms with a baby that age.) But you know what? I’m really loving being an older mom. Teenagers are turning out to be pretty fun to have around the house (also exhausting and filled with feels and attitude, of course), and it’s so much less stressful parenting the younger kids when you’ve done it a few times before. (And the teens make the little ones seem so much simpler!) I appreciate having littler ones so much more now, I think, because I see how quickly the time goes, and I want to soak it all up. Plus as I get older I think I become more comfortable with who I am, as a mother. It’s somehow easier to see the beauty, meaning, and love in family life. I’m really kind of loving it. So I am embracing this phase of life and parenting, even as I look around at several of the other moms and think, wow, I’m old.  

As you know, I’ve not been writing much lately, partly due to Christmas festivities and partly due to the fact that I had a series of colds for pretty much all of December, and some of early January too. Plus we’re gearing up to have some more work done on our house, and staying fairly busy with church and homeschooling and life. As always I should probably figure out what I’m going to do with my blog and various other writing projects (and I want to get back to podcasting, too), but alas, I seem to keep procrastinating. I’m rather good at it! I haven’t yet made any official resolutions–I never really do–but I’m thinking about actually setting some simple goals for myself.

But maybe not for awhile, because procrastination.

I hope you all are well, and enjoying the new year. Feel free to hit me with what your kids are up to, if you have any good resolutions, and what you’re thinking for school and sports or extracurriculars for next year. I love hearing what you all are doing!

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Just Showing Up by Brianna Heldt - 1w ago

Well, September has come.

And, along with it, a brand-spanking new school-year filled with lots of changes, hope, and a fair amount of trepidation on my part. Because homeschooling. And middle schoolers. And just plain doing something hard and counter-cultural, when you don’t know how it will all turn out in the end.

Last year, right around Christmastime, things really started going south between us and the school five of my kids attended. Concerns I’d had for awhile began to manifest themselves in ways I wasn’t loving. Bullying, racism, and kids not getting the academic help they needed (and were legally guaranteed), along with a few other pretty horrible incidents, combined to make us decide that this was no longer an appropriate place for my children to be spending eight hours a day, five days a week. You keep asking yourself “Is it just me? Am I making too big a deal out of this?”, but then enough bad things happen where you decide that no, no you are not.

And you make the really hard decision to bring all five of those kids home the following school-year.

And now September is here, and we’re beginning our third week of school at home.

Turns out that homeschooling a bunch of big kids is fairly exhausting. Who knew?

I took advanced courses and earned good grades in school, but at thirty-six years old my brain is woefully out of practice when it comes to algebraic equations and subject complements. It hurts–OH HOW IT HURTS–to solve for that sneaky, elusive value of x. Thank goodness for solutions manuals, and teacher editions. Caffeinated coffee also earns a well-deserved mention here, because I gave it up back in January to see if it helped my nonexistent energy levels, but then I discovered the real culprit was hypothyroidism. So, I’ve recently run happily back into the arms of my favorite legal addictive stimulant. (Easier said than done, though, because once you’ve been off caffeine for awhile, it makes you reallllll jittery when you add it back in. But I have played through the pain and come out calmly, and heart-palpitation-free, on the other side.) And miracle of all miracles, it makes math and grammar and science and mornings, in general, more bearable. Oh coffee, I love you so.

Anyway yes, we’re doing hard, new things this year. But do you want to know something absolutely crazy? We may be only two weeks in, and it’s far too early to know too much, but I’m loving what I’m seeing.  

My kids who struggled with math so much last year? Including the one who failed second semester, and had no clue what was going on? That kid is KILLING IT so far. Working hard, gaining confidence, and discovering they are, actually, very good with numbers, computation, and operations. My other kid who is taking advanced math in the form of (gulp) Algebra 1 right now is also doing so, so well. I worried I might not be able to keep that particular kid academically challenged, in general, but then she told me that this year is way harder than her years in school so, I guess we’re doing okay in that department. They are all also working hard at studying History, which includes (among other things) reading and outlining encyclopedia entries and primary sources, writing summaries, and taking oral and written exams. Oh yes, I do love history. Sorry kids.

The four oldest kids are also taking courses at a classical Catholic program–things like Latin, Writing, and Literature. It feels so good to have a few subjects taken off my plate! We’d initially planned for them to attend something similar through the local school district, but the drive was going to be a bit long, so we opted for something closer (for now. Because it’s wayyyyyyyy more expensive. But, the kids are praying the Angelus at noon, so we’ll call it a win.) Our parish is also offering some classes this semester, like Music Appreciation, and a book club discussing St. Augustine’s Confessions. My eighth grader is pretty excited about being in our priest’s book club!

It was, in many ways, very difficult pulling the kids out of school. Harder than putting them in, and harder than deciding to homeschool in the first place all those years ago. Even when stuff at school was going badly. Why? Because once you are part of the “system”, you start to think that way. You start to believe that something magical is happening within the school walls that is not within your grasp at home. You start to wonder if your kid is just plain destined to be a failure, in spite of having demonstrated that he or she is quite smart. You question your capabilities, your kids’ potential, and whether what you’re doing will serve them well in the end. But I wish to say that the last two weeks have shown me that you absolutely CAN prepare your kids for high school and college at home. It’s not the only option, or automatically the best option, but it is an option. I’m still adjusting to the workload and trying to find a good rhythm to my day–it doesn’t help that I’ve caught two colds in the last two weeks, so I have yet to have more than about one day of good health since we started–but I’m at least confident that this was the right choice for my kids this year. Socially, academically, spiritually, and psychologically.

So take heart, dear readers. If you’re trying new things that are hard, wondering if you have what it takes, or being tempted to despair, please remember that we parents absolutely have the freedom (and responsibility!) to figure out what’s best for our children. Sometimes that takes awhile. Sometimes it looks like placing them in a new school, and sometimes it looks like pulling them out. I’m still just as sure I don’t really know what I’m doing over here, but I’m also pretty sure we’re doing well enough.

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Hello there. Is anyone still here?

I am, even though I haven’t written in forever.

While I’d love to say it’s because I’ve been so busy doing Very Exciting Things, the truth of the matter is that I’ve just mostly been busy doing Very Normal Things. Getting kids to and from school, offering (occasionally unsolicited) homework help, and getting meals onto the table. Also, making sure my oh-so-active nine-month-old is safe as she crawls all over the house, leaving behind a wake of destruction. (But oh, is she cute!) Most days, that’s more than enough for me.

In many ways, it’s been pretty quiet around here–or as quiet as it is when you have nine kids! We made the decision to take a nice little sabbatical and forgo winter and spring sports which has, frankly, been glorious. After enduring several soccer seasons of trekking all over the Denver metro, it’s great to have those Saturdays back. In the summer the kids will resume swim team and then we’ll reevaluate for the fall, but for now we are enjoying that extra bit of margin. And anyway, who needs organized sports when your husband installs a basketball hoop in your driveway? My kids spend hours out there, people. Hours. They’ve also ratcheted up their rollerblading, and most evenings can be found skating around. Also, kickball. Needless to say, Denver weather has been beautifully mild (read: warm!) for the past several weeks, and we’ve been taking advantage of it.

We’ve also been preparing for next school year. Because (hey!, here’s some actual news to report!) after many months of much prayerful discussion and discernment, we are bringing five (of our seven) school-age children back home in the fall. (Everyone except for my two daughters with Down syndrome, who will happily remain at their public school.) Yes, we will be homeschooling once again and no, I didn’t really imagine we’d ever be saying that but, you know, here we are. Time to dust off those denim jumpers.

When people ask me why we’re transitioning back to home education, I have a hard time explaining, because it’s complicated. There are a million reasons, really, some more significant than others but all played into the decision. The first year my kids were in their classical charter school, things went really well. Other than my initial freak-out early on in the year, I never really doubted that decision. But last year, a couple of things happened at school that had me concerned. Then dear Beatrice was born in June, we had a fantastic summer and I was actually a little sad to send the kids off in August. (Though don’t get me wrong, I do love my relatively quiet days! I say relatively because my four-year-old loves to talk, and has many things to say.) With my two sons now also in middle school, my husband and I were both feeling a little like family time was becoming harder to come by. Lots of kids needing that aforementioned homework help, and wanting to talk about whatever had happened that day. For the first time, we decided to try medication with a child to help them focus better and be more academically successful. (And yes, it did help. Quite a bit.) But then one November evening, as I was telling my husband that it was still so hard to meet everyone’s needs, even with the medication and my attempts at getting dinner on the table earlier to accommodate nightly prayer time, he asked me if I thought I’d ever consider going back to homeschooling. (Which we’d done for five years prior to putting the kids in, and which had certainly afforded more flexibility for our large family.)

Then he ducked, fearing my wrath. Just kidding. Sort of.

But instead I admitted that I’d actually been thinking about it for the past month or so, and wondering if we might just be able to make it work again. We both agreed to pray about it, and about our kids, most of whom have really enjoyed school. I knew they would be sad to leave, and that is something I do take pretty seriously. We grownups make the final decisions around here, but with a thirteen year old and two twelve year olds in the mix, well, we value their input too.

And then we watched as over the next few months, one thing after another began to fall apart. The medication was starting to produce some pretty bad side effects for my child, so it was no longer a feasible option–even though that means my child now has a harder time in the classroom. (Said child is legally guaranteed accommodations, but it seems they are just not receiving enough academic supports this semester). There’s been some bullying of one of my kids, and I felt like some things were maybe mishandled. But even when less-than-positive things were dealt with swiftly and appropriately (credit where credit is due!), they still happened. You know?

And, the technology policy in schools today is one that I just personally really oppose. In my view, kids ought to be socializing and playing at lunch, not sitting around on their phones and devices. iPads in the classroom seem mostly unnecessary, and kids inevitably misuse them, or are exposed to whatever’s on the screen after a prior student has misused them. Yes, I’m old and grumpy beyond my years, but the screen addiction is ridiculous.

So before long, we decided that the benefits of our kids being in school were no longer outweighing the increasing number of cons. That is NOT to say there is nothing good happening there–there are some fantastic teachers, administrators, and staff members, some really wonderful families, and a lovely music program. I am really going to miss the Latin instruction one of my children is receiving, the memory work the younger kids do, plus I’d always kind of assumed all our kids would graduate from there. We’ve had some great experiences being a part of this school community, and most of my issues probably boil down to public school in general. And it was nice getting a break from being solely responsible for the kids’ education, which had grown tiresome in certain ways. So this was not an easy decision for us as my kids have, for the most part, loved their time there. But I do believe it is the right decision, so, off we go.

And we go with confidence because as daunting as it is on the one hand to think about a return to homeschooling, God has more than made it clear to us through prayer, conversations with wiser and more experienced parents (and my retired-teacher dad), and circumstances, that home education is right for us at this time. I am grateful He prepared us by putting it on our radar again because, honestly, that would have been difficult to feel like on the one hand it was something we needed to do, once everything seemed to be going downhill, but that we had no real desire to do.

And I admit I’m pretty excited about the whole thing. It’ll be good to help the kids focus on areas where they need to grow, they can move at their own pace (either more quickly or more slowly), and there will be less opportunity for distraction. (And negative influences. Which yes, I do think is a valid thing to be concerned about in this day and age. No, my kids are not perfect angels themselves, but that is all the more reason to limit exposure to stuff like bullying, various forms of media, bad language and inappropriate conversation, etc.) They’re all reading so they will be more than capable of working at least semi-independently. My kids will also be returning to their once-a-week enrichment program where they can take things like piano, art, theater, and science. Homeschooling back in the day was, all told, a fairly good fit for us in certain ways. Not perfect of course, especially having had two kids who were late readers, but it had its charms. Of course my kids have grown a lot during their time in a brick-and-mortar school too, and I’m super grateful for that as well. I have always been pro-whatever-works-for-your-family, and one of the most valuable assets in raising a large family is the ability to be flexible, and to adapt, and to try new things when something isn’t working.

At the end of the day, I’m just glad to be an at-home mom with a wonderfully supportive and engaged husband, where I have the freedom to choose something different for my family, should the need arise. There will be challenges for sure, but as I’ve learned, there are challenges in school, too. Parenting is darn hard no matter what. No one form of education will change that. Period.

Oh and if you’re wondering, each and every one of my kids has come around on the whole thing, independently. God answered those prayers in big and difficult ways. The one child who was hating the idea of leaving the most? They wound up so frustrated over how their sibling was being treated that they looked up at me one afternoon, eyes filled with tears, and said we needed to be done. Now they’re even a little excited about being home. My other kid who didn’t want to leave (for purely social reasons) told me the other day that they were really struggling with school, and have decided they are happy with our decision. My kids are all pretty self-confident, and I believe they will do just fine making the transition. They’ve made me so proud this year, each and every one of ’em.

So now you’re all up to speed. And in the end, I suppose nothing for us is really changing so much at all–regardless what we do, life at my house continues to be a wild but completely entertaining and (mostly) delightful adventure.

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I wrote a piece for NCR yesterday about the man with special needs who’d been kidnapped and tortured on Facebook Live, by four of his peers. The primary reason I wrote it was that, in my opinion, this story was not getting the attention it deserved in the media.

A few people were quick, however, to point out that it WAS getting plenty of attention. “The Today Show” and ABC News had featured the story, they said, which I hadn’t known and is, of course, great. My overall impression though had been based upon what I was seeing throughout the day on the internet, and on the reticence of some (including Chicago authorities) to call it a hate crime–which, in my view, it certainly seemed to be.

Later that evening, I came across an article by journalist Shaun King, a Black Lives Matter supporter and activist, who said he would not be speaking out on the matter since, after all, the arm of justice came swiftly for the four African American suspects. All are in custody. He contrasted this with various times where the victim was black and justice was NOT served, and said that is where he will continue to put his energies.

King’s perspective was good food for thought. It is silly, in my opinion, that people are blaming black activism for this cruel act, or using it to somehow “prove” that racism against white people is worse/equal to/the same as racism towards black people. (Cultural context matters here.) And I would never expect any one individual person, Shaun King or otherwise, to come out and decry something simply because he or she is of the same race as the perpetrator. However, just because someone is held accountable in a court of law doesn’t mean that the conversation should end there. This crime, which certainly may have had something to do with race (how much though is something we can’t really know for sure), is in my view about a lack of empathy and a general disdain for the dignity of the human person. And particularly the human person living with developmental disabilities. It reflects a dangerous and quick-spreading coarsening of the culture, and a big problem with American young people in particular. And THAT is what my article was intended to be about.

I have two daughters, ages nine and seven respectively, who like the victim in this case are developmentally delayed. They have Down syndrome. So I am ever aware that they are at a much greater risk of being abused than my other children, and will be for the rest of their lives. I am also aware that it is a relatively small portion of the population that has a loved one living with these challenges. Raising kids with special needs, whatever the needs happen to be, can be lonely, confusing, and exhausting. My heart goes out to the victim’s family–talk about your worst fears for your child being realized!

One reason why I suspect that raising differently-abled children is so difficult is that people don’t really know what to do with it. Should they feel pity? Should they tell their kids not to stare? Is it okay to ask questions? And, as far as the culture at large goes, the writing is on the wall. It’s estimated that up to 90% of prenatally-diagnosed babies with Down syndrome are aborted. So while most everyone I’ve met seems to like my kids okay, the statistics speak for themselves. But you see, it’s not just my kids with special needs that the culture has a problem with–consider the fellow swim dad I encountered at practice one evening, me sitting there with my sweet four-month-old, and him telling me he was SO GLAD to be done with that HORRIBLE PHASE, while he eyed my little Beatrice like she was a blood-sucking mosquito. (I didn’t say it out loud, but I wondered how much of the hands-on work he’d actually done with his infant anyhow. I doubted it was much. I also doubted his infant ever necessitated him killing time on a humid, chlorine-laden indoor pool deck two nights a week, which really makes you wonder why we act as if babies are such killjoys when it’s really these rotten older kids that hold our feet to the fire. But I digress.)

And so four young people torturing a classmate with special needs live on social media, well, it’s a stark example of sin and hate, but I think many are concerned not so much about the potential racial aspects of the crime, but moreso about the fact that the man had special needs. Some are calling it an instance of “ableism”, which I suppose is just another way of saying that we’ve reached a point as a society where people have little use for folks living with challenges, and the inconveniences they might bring along with them. (As if life is ever all that convenient in the first place.) This is of course something we should all be gravely concerned about. This is where the real story lies. It is also something we should perhaps no longer be surprised by. Just look in your own backyard–voters in my state of Colorado recently legalized physician-assisted suicide, for example, under the ridiculously stupid euphemism “death with dignity.” Sick and probably dying? Meh. Just end your life, which is obviously useless if you’re weak and suffering. Or consider that less than an hour from my house sits one of only five late-term abortion mills in the United States, where women travel from all over the world to have their pregnancies (read: babies) terminated by the man who wrote the definitive textbook on abortion.

But the real problem is bigger than that, even. I fear we really are seeing entire generations of people growing up without the capacity to empathize, think critically, or recognize a person’s humanity, and social media plays a significant role here. Be brave and take a look at Sherry Turkle’s research. Think about how even just the dating landscape has changed, how friends aren’t meeting face to face so much anymore (or how if they do, they are all looking down at their respective screens), how the pervasive hook-up culture is transforming the notions of romance and love. Heinous acts against one’s fellow man aren’t really anything new, but the types and degrees of things we’re seeing now are definitely concerning.

At least, they are to me.

The truth is that I hesitated to write my column yesterday, for fear of further fueling racist sentiments directed toward black people. This is presumably the reason many did not speak up. And, I get it. Four of my children are black, and yes they have encountered prejudice and recently, some unfortunate racial bullying, so I am just naturally sensitive to such things. (As I, and fellow white people, ought to be). But two of my kids also have Down syndrome, and just because this story has the potential to be spun the wrong way it shouldn’t mean that we ignore this issue or merely chalk it up to, as a Chicago police officer called it, “kids making stupid decisions.” Of course they WERE bad decisions, and that is the whole point. If we can’t look at these things and see what is happening, really happening, in our world, well, we’re in trouble. There is a definite problem among young people today. It transcends politics and socioeconomic status and yes, even race. I don’t know if it will get any better. I DO know that I will do my best to raise loving, happy, compassionate, and well-educated children. I will try to stand up for the “little guy”, the vulnerable among us, and I’ll teach them to do the same. I will continue to promote healthy, connecting, life-giving activities for my kids to participate in.

I’m convinced that the best way to combat all the garbage in our world is to pray, and to live life to the fullest in our homes. I cannot control what others do, say, or believe (though as a blogger I can occasionally offer my humble perspective in hopes that it might be encouraging to someone), but I can try to do good stuff in my family. It’s sad to know there are people out there who would find sport in hurting kids like mine, and yet it is also discouraging to consider what has brought them to this point. At a time when the world ought to have been filled with promise and hope for a future of possibility, the lives of those four individuals are now forever changed. The trajectory is set. The culture of self and nihilism has claimed four more victims, in addition of course to the dear gentleman who was the victim of their cruelty.

I hereby challenge any and all media outlets, mainstream or otherwise, to facilitate thoughtful and reasoned discussions about the increasing problems facing young people in our culture, and the discrimination (which, frankly, begins in the womb) against differently-abled individuals. There is a story here worth telling.

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Just Showing Up by Brianna Heldt - 1w ago

Good news for all the tired parents out there: WE ARE IN THE HOME STRETCH!

We have almost made it!

Christmas is almost here!

December in our family is, well, busy. Busier than probably any other month. School music performances, assorted Holy Days and Feast Days, parties, the end of a swim season, All Of The Things.

All very good things, I might add, but it’s still a lot.

Overall this year I feel like we’ve done a decent job maintaining a sense of quietness and a focus on Advent, in spite of all the hustle and bustle. Having a five-and-a-half-month-old baby probably helps with that–she more or less forces us to slow down, in the very best possible way. So thank you, Beatrice!

I also resolved this year to have all of the kids’ Christmas gifts bought by…wait for it…December 1st. And I did it! Thanks to Amazon Prime and a few other online options, everything was purchased nice and early. We do one large gift per child, occasionally rounded out by something else if the gift itself is relatively inexpensive.

Lest you start to think I’m some sort of supermom Christmas dynamo because I did all that shopping ahead of time, let me tell you that some of my goals were definitely not met–like the one to have everything all wrapped and the Christmas food all bought before we go out of town today to visit my in-laws–because I finally fell victim to a most horrible cold that had made its way through pretty much everyone else in my family, before finally deciding to take me down too. In spite of my valiant efforts to stay healthy, in the end, it got me. And I took to my bed like pretty much the most pathetic person ever, only getting up to shuffle to the kitchen for more water, and watched a bunch of shows. LAME. So when we arrive home on the evening of December 23rd, I will have some MAJOR THINGS TO DO before December 25th. I will begin the long task of giftwrapping, and curse my cold. I will shake my fist in the hot, crowded grocery store filled with like-minded procrastinators, and pronounce that next year I will prevail. Next year I will not be crashing my cart into summer sausage displays and small wandering children, as I buy my ham.

But you know, it’s really okay. I’m nothing if not flexible. I have nine kids for goodness’ sake, and let me let you in on a little secret here: you have to learn to be flexible when you have nine kids. Or you will die. Sounds dramatic, but it’s the truth!

And over the past few months–okay, probably ever since Beatrice was born–I’ve given a lot of thought to my life, to my vocation, to motherhood and to my family. Again, fresh new babies have a funny way of getting you to really think about things in a new way, or maybe it’s an old way, but regardless what it is, I’ve decided that I really want to embrace this season. I’m on the precipice of having a teenager, I have a sweet baby, and a bunch of kids in between. My life consists of changing diapers, preparing meals, and having LOTS OF CONVERSATIONS about everything from dating to atheism to friendships to screen time to abortion. I belong to a faith tradition which asks me for my yes to Jesus and to love, and I can give it kicking and screaming (yes, I do my fair share of that!), or I can give it humbly, trusting God to meet me there and fill in all the holes. Though the first option is tempting and, to be honest, is one that I occasionally fall into when I’m feeling sorry for myself, it leaves no space for joy, hope, or the beauty that can be found in daily family life.

Yes, it really is possible to find the good in the daily grind.

I see so many things about our large family that are positively priceless. The sibling relationships, the love, the mess-ups that give opportunities for forgiveness, the togetherness. It all runs counter to our culture, that is for sure, this being open to children thing. I do regularly ask myself “What on earth am I doing?”, but then if I really think about it and open my eyes, I am indeed able to see what God is doing. This is what allows me to embrace and, dare I say, treasure, my role as mother.

So as Christmas approaches I’m okay with a few things not going as planned. I’m okay with the fact that Beatrice still needs a bath before we leave today, and people still need to pack, and I forgot to finish buying stocking stuffers–add that to the list of daunting Christmas Eve tasks. (Also, making non-gritty fudge. Why is it always gritty?) But it’s all good because at 10:30 pm on Christmas Eve (my church doesn’t shut down for Christmas, by the way), my husband, nine kids and I will be sitting in Mass listening to the beautiful choir and receiving Jesus Himself in the Eucharist, the highest form of worship there is. A Merry Christmas, indeed!

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St. Nick is saying “It’s not too late to decide to celebrate my feast day!”

I am, as you know, Catholic.

But it was not always thus.

Up until my conversion five years ago, as a Protestant of sorts, I was ignorant of 99.99% of the saintly liturgical celebrations–little did I know that hordes of Catholic mothers regularly get onto Pinterest to find assorted themed activities and recipes, for various annual calendar dates related to various holy people in Heaven. We had Christmas, and Easter. That was it.

So for the first time {ever}, this year, I am instituting some good old-fashioned St. Nick traditions in our home. His feast day is tomorrow, December 6th.

Why has it taken me five years to get my act together? Because it’s me, and I procrastinate. Why now? I don’t know. It’s definitely not guilt or peer-pressure, both of which I have become quite immune to over the years, thanks to what is probably an over-inflated sense of self worth and confidence. (This comes in handy when you’re raising nine kids, by the way.) I guess it’s just that my kids are getting bigger, and I feel like we as a family need to circle the wagons a bit. Embrace our Catholic identity. Build good family memories to pass down. Get refocused on the main things.

But oh, I am not naturally gifted in this area. I am woefully and embarrassingly uncreative. Crafts and Hobby Lobby make me nervous. So what is a convert mama to do?

Well, first I discovered the oh-so-helpful blog Shower of Roses. This woman is…well, she is the anti-me. All organized and feast-ish and such. But I’m not jell or begrudging her any of her fabulousness because she lays out all kinds of great ideas for the rest of us, and offers free printables. (I figure those are something even I could manage, because a) free and b) printable, meaning I don’t have to draw or paint or use a hot glue gun. Winning.)

Like these pretty St. Nicholas Day circle cutouts, to be glued onto the gold chocolate coins that St. Nick is supposed to bring. (If you scroll down, she also has ones for Christmas, and the O Antiphons. And, let’s be honest–I don’t know a whole lot about what the O Antiphons even are, just a very little bit because I went to a retreat on Saturday where my parish music director talked about them. I am learning!)

Then, I visited the website for the St. Nicholas Center. Oh yes, it turns out there is actually some sort of center dedicated to this saint and his feast day where, among other things, you can get ideas for what to do to celebrate, and what to put in the kids’ shoes. I guess the three main traditional symbols are chocolate coins, candy croziers (also known as candy canes), and clementines. If you weren’t totally last-minute like me, you could have even purchased cool stuff in the online store–bookmarks, prints, ornaments, and more. Something I’m WISHING I’d snagged ahead of time is this handy dandy set of St. Nick cookie cutters, because how cute are those cookies?!

Hashtag procrastinator life for-evah.

Side-note: if you’re ever looking for a Saint Nicholas peg doll, I cannot recommend the ones from Shining Light Dolls highly enough. It’s fun because they are a quite a bit larger than the standard peg dolls, and who doesn’t like a little variety? My kids are each getting a different one in their stockings for Christmas. Shhh, don’t tell.

Finally, I’ve been collecting various saint books (a few chapter books but mostly picture-type books) over the past couple of weeks, to give as gifts to each of the kids. I confess a deep and abiding love for anything by Tomie DePaola but there are so many great ones out there, in general. For chapter books, we enjoy both the Mary Fabyan Windeatt and Vision Books series’. And I buy a lot of books used–either at the thrift store, or online via Amazon or half.com. I am cheap. Sorry.

So what exactly have I decided upon for this year, our inaugural observance of St. Nicholas Day?

1.) Before the kids go to bed tonight we’ll get cozy in the family room, and read the story of Saint Nicholas aloud. We’ll also talk about what symbolizes him and why, which means I need to look that stuff up because I am not totally sure about the clementine connection. Anyway.

2.) The kids will put their shoes out, outside of their bedrooms, and after they’re asleep I’m going to fill each shoe with a few gold coins, a candy crozier, and one of those mysterious clementines. I did not get around to the coin printables this year (wahhhhh!), but it is something to aspire to next year for sure.

3.) Each child will receive a saint book or two, as well. I was going to gift-wrap them but I don’t know that I’ll get to that today, so I’ll probably just set them there with the shoes. #realisticmomgoals

4.) After our read-aloud, we will say a prayer to Saint Nicholas. (And also for my paternal grandpa, whose name was Nicholas. He passed away several years ago, but the beauty of being Catholic is that we pray for departed souls. Of course the reason we pray for them is because we believe in the reality of Purgatory, which frankly kind of scares me. And yes we also pray to the saints, in addition to praying to God, to intercede for us. The more prayers the better, we Catholics say!)

And that’s it. Now what about YOU–are you planning to observe the feast day? If you hadn’t been, but now you’re thinking maybe you want to, this is all pretty much stuff you can decide to do today, after you’ve finished reading my post here about underachieving. If you don’t have any St. Nicholas books lying around, get an ebook! Chocolate coins are readily available at Trader Joe’s, See’s Candies (oh how I love See’s), Party City, and probably other places too. Then grab yourself some candy canes and a bag of clementines from the grocery store, and you’re all set for a fun new tradition.

Underachievers and procrastinators, unite!

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Late last week, a shipment of books arrived in the mail.

Is there anything better than when a shipment of books arrives in the mail?

See I’m on a frenzied mission to stock (or restock, or continue stocking I suppose) our home with good books–when we quit homeschooling three years ago and sent our children to nearby charter and public schools, I pretty much stopped shopping for children’s books. Yes, that sounds sad. But we already had quite a number of them, anyway, and my kids were no longer around during the day to read. (That also sounds sad.) We had switched gears and so, apparently, I stopped buying books.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a copy of Jim Trealease’s The Read Aloud Handbook. If you have kids at home and do not own this book, get thee to a bookstore and buy it. Jim offers GREAT, backed-up-by-research insights into education and literacy, along with a descriptive (and large!) booklist with summaries and age recommendations at the end. As a formerly-homeschooling mother (I had kids learning at home for five years), I actually had this book sitting on my shelf for years, but had regretfully never read it. Some of his ideas which, again, are supported by both anecdotal evidence and legitimate studies, run contrary to what I had always assumed about reading. It would have been helpful back in our homeschooling days to have this information. Oops.

The whole reason I finally pulled the book off my shelf and opened it up was that now, with three kids in middle school (and three years into our public school journey), I find myself a little concerned about a few things. Namely, one of my middle schoolers doesn’t like to read (he says it’s boring, which sends unbearable and stabbing pains through my book-loving heart), and I feel like two of the three perhaps aren’t reading enough. One of my kids said she wished we owned more saint biographies.

Enter the aforementioned shipment of books. Fill the shelves with all the books!

I have big plans, by the way, to give some as gifts for Saint Nicholas’ feast day–which yes I do plan to implement and celebrate in our home this year, FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. (I’ve been Catholic for five years. Clearly, I’m a late adopter. Mea culpa.) The books will of course be in addition to the chocolate coins that I will somewhat-reluctantly place in the kids’ stinky shoes, as I hold my nose. Then some of the books are for Christmas gifts. They (both chapter books and picture books) are primarily about various saints, but there are also some great fiction titles thrown in there as well, like Raymond Arroyo’s first Will Wilder volume, which looks positively delightful. My sons (even the one who, sniff, doesn’t like to read) will love it, I think!

But anyway, imagine my surprise and frustration when I tore open the package (again, is anything better than receiving a big ol’ pile of books in the mail?), and instead of the St. Ignatius biography I’d selected for my twelve-year-old daughter, was a copy of The Fault In Our Stars.

Can you hear the sad trombone?

Now I know–I know–this was a really popular read. I read it myself, in fact, on a flight to Rome last year. Certainly it was gripping and compelling and, well, a page-turner. I realize I’m treading on thin ice here because it was beloved by so many, and for all I know you thought it, and the movie that followed, were the bees’ knees. And yes, knowing the general gist ahead of time, I certainly expected a bittersweet love story as I munched on my mini-bag of mini-pretzels, begged God to keep our plane in the air as I always do, and dove in. Yet I have to be honest and say that when it was over and done with, I found it overall to be, well, downright depressing. (Good thing I had gelato and cappuccinos and Pope Francis to look forward to when I disembarked the plane!) The whole “there’s nothing after you die” and “this is all there is” mentality that permeated the story was, in my mind, decidedly and dreadfully nihilistic. Particularly when you consider that the characters are all teenagers. The idea that there was nothing remotely redemptive to be found in suffering was kind of a drag. And as we touched down in the eternal city, I ranted to my husband about all of the already-prone-to-being-angsty-because-hormones young people reading this stuff, and about how steeping oneself in literature marked by this worldview, without the knowledge or capability of discerning a better way, might negatively contribute to the collective state of that age group.

No doubt he, too, developed a desperate and urgent need for gelato, on account of my rant. Sorry dear.

Sure, it’s always possible that I overthought the whole matter. I do that sometimes, being an introvert and whatnot. But the novel left me with a very yucky feeling, and I felt that it had given me a window into how much of the world (particularly young people) currently thinks. It made me more resolved in my mission to raise my own children with a Christian worldview marked by hope, faith, and truth.

Incidentally, my daughter had asked me earlier in the year if she might read the book herself, as it was on her teacher’s bookshelf. I was glad that I had gone with my instinct and said no.

But now, sitting among the stacks of beautiful Tomie DePaola stories, I unfortunately own it (again–I’d donated my original copy back to the thrift store, from whence it came in the first place, shortly after we returned home from our trip). And not only that, but in lieu of a book about a Spanish priest who founded the Society of Jesus in the sixteenth century. Sigh.

Maybe this is utterly crazy, but the whole mix-up really felt to me like some sort of metaphor for raising my kids, in general. We Catholic moms have all these things we want to pass on to our children: virtues, joy, morals, peace, faith, knowledge, an appreciation for beauty. We long to instill a love for Jesus in their hearts, to cultivate a relationship between them and God, to show them how very much God loves them and wants the best for them. But there are so many other things (so.many.things.) competing for their affections and attention. This is true, by the way, regardless where you live, how you spend your time, or what type of school your kids attend. (Really. I promise.) You want to subject your children to the right things so that they’ll choose the right things and, ultimately, be happy, but there is other stuff out there subtly undermining all of that. That’s just the way it is.

I think it was Plato who said the purpose of education was to teach people to recognize beauty, or something similar. I could be getting it wrong. But anyway, I just feel lately like I’ve been renewed in my mission to do this very thing. I’ve been reminded that, hey, most of the people in my state think that suicide should be legal! and endorsed! by doctors. I’ve seen the hate and anger spewed at Christians all over my Facebook feed, when the election didn’t turn out the way that some hoped it would. On a pretty much daily basis I see and hear so much about the dangers of the internet and the ever-coarsening culture, be they pornography, bullying, or even just gossip that hurts feelings and wastes time. My children aren’t immune to being affected by any of this stuff, even in spite of the fact that they are generally screen-free at home (other than for homework.) It’s my job to help them navigate and learn to discern, but I can’t live for them or hold their hand every waking minute of every single day.

So, we press on. I won’t waste these precious years worrying myself to death, partly because I’m too busy trying to give my kids the tools to build a good, healthy worldview. I am also busy changing diapers. (Yet another side-benefit of babies–they distract you from becoming too hyper-focused on other scary things. So I may be tired, but I am also convinced that I’m winning.) What those tools are…well…that’s the rub. That’s the tough part, and what I’m always trying to figure out. For now the biggest and perhaps most crucial thing we have going for us (aside from prayer!), that we are always and forever working to maintain, is just this ongoing conversation between us and the kids. We do A Lot Of Talking in our home. Questions, discussion, processing, noodling. Sometimes it’s “I felt sad/frustrated/happy at school today because”, other times it’s “Mom and Dad, is Limbo real?” No matter what, there is ever-present communication happening in my living room, kitchen, and bedroom (also the bathroom, though that is NOT my preference). It occasionally hurts my brain and/or heart, but regardless, always remains a great privilege as a mother.

I get to see, really see, what my kids are thinking, hear their concerns, celebrate with them in their joys. When a 7th grader is elated when her poster on prepositions isn’t handed back, because the teacher wants to display it on the wall, or when a 4th grader is sad about sitting on the buddy bench alone at recess, or when a 1st grader has a silly story about a joke she told in the lunchroom, I am there. Listening, giving feedback, listening some more. (By the way, my favorite joke that my 1st grader tells, that I believe she came up with all on her own sometime around Halloween is, “What do you call two witches at the mall?” There is a pause until you ask her. Then she responds with, “Get out of the mall!” She tells me that the lunchroom supervisor once told them no more jokes, because the jokes weren’t that funny, and they weren’t real jokes. I highly disagree. Because “Get out of the mall”? Best. punchline.ever.)

Other things we try to do around here is to involve our family in parish activities (Little Flowers and serving in the sacristy for girls, altar serving for boys, religious ed and youth group, all in addition to attending Mass and potlucks and such all together as a family), offer guidance while also getting the child to really think through things, and provide background information behind rules/decisions when and where appropriate. That last one has become increasingly necessary as some of our kids are getting older. And more naturally, um, analytical.

Did I mention there’s a lot of talking in our home?  

And, of course, there is pointing our children to the beautiful and the True.

As mothers, we have such an opportunity here to love, shape, and guide these kids. I feel like I’m deep in the trenches, doing my best and praying hard that God not only helps me do all this super tough stuff, but also that He will fill any of the gaps. Which there surely will be, because I am human. I make mistakes. We all do.

And though it’s hard, grueling work in the trenches, I know that a bunch of you folks are here praying, toiling, laughing, and crying right alongside me. Trying to convince your own reluctant readers that books are pleasurable, helping kids learn to make good choices, and taking a break from doing the dishes to apply copious amounts of diaper rash cream to a screaming, fussy baby. This vocation to marriage, and subsequently, for many of us, motherhood, is no small matter. But it is also wrought with fulfillment, carries a great capacity for joy, and might actually just draw us closer in to the very heart of Jesus. Our kids need us, in the very best possible way. And unlike what popular young adult fiction novels read en route to Europe might have you believe, there is so much more to life than merely being free of pain or responsibility or a serious illness. There is beauty and hope and love, even in suffering.

Which is something I’m pretty sure someone like Saint Ignatius would say. But then again I’m not totally sure. Because, you know, I got a different book instead.

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DEAR FUTURE MOM | March 21 - World Down Syndrome Day | #DearFutureMom - YouTube

Oh, friends.

What a difficult, backwards world we live in.

The Huffington Post ran an article earlier this week about how France has banned the above award-winning (and rightfully so–it’s beautiful!) video about Down syndrome…because the participants are too happy. You see, it is apparently believed that this terrible Trisomy 21 happiness is “likely to disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices”.

Oh.my.goodness.

I have so many thoughts about this, beginning here: I am mother to two children with Down syndrome. I adopted my daughters when they were four- and two-years-old, respectively. Like the lovely folks featured in the video my daughters are also quite happy, most of the time, although one of them isn’t much for school. (Who is? Had I not had so many inhibitions as a child, I may have taken off and thrown my shoes too, when I didn’t want to do a thing.) They will probably never be able to live completely independently, and have a myriad of developmental delays. But, whatever. It is what it is. They’re people, made in the image and likeness of God.

And in the day-to-day, parenting them is not so different from parenting my other seven children. We meet their needs, give them as much responsibility as is appropriate, and try to be patient. I figure it is not such a bad thing to cultivate empathy, compassion, and love for the vulnerable around your dinner table every single night. My daughters have their little quirks but then, don’t we all.

But I have to admit that historically, I have taken no small issue with disabilities being presented to the world as NO BIG DEAL AT ALL! because LOOK HOW HAPPY THEY ARE! because, well, as a mom to children with special needs? It is a big deal. I meant what I said when I told you that in the day-to-day it’s not so different from raising neuro-typical children, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It is actually oftentimes hard. And frustrating. No two children with Down syndrome are exactly alike, but I think it’s fair to say that none of them are happy all of the time (is anyone?), and a fair number of these kids struggle on the regular with things like screaming, hitting, and throwing tantrums. Like my own daughter does at school, and occasionally on the bus. (Though never at home, really. Thank goodness!) I am all for giving women hope, and encouraging them that yes they can absolutely do this, but sometimes I feel like these videos tend to selectively feature what appear to be extremely “high functioning” people (yes that’s a loaded term, but you know what I mean), only showing a very small part of the very complex and nuanced picture.

As an example, a couple of months ago my daughters and I were at the hospital for their bi-annual visit to the heart clinic. As we were going to leave and piling into the car, I was startled by some very sudden (and loud!) shouting and banging. As I looked around the parking garage for the source of the noise, I was surprised to see it was coming from a boy of about fifteen or sixteen. His parents were helping him into his fancy wheelchair, and he was yelling and slamming his fists as hard as he could on their car. “This is our car! This is our car!” he screamed happily, hitting and flailing and slamming and laughing. His mom and dad smiled, and talked calmly and cheerfully as they made their way through the garage and towards the hospital entrance with their son. My twelve-year-old daughter, who had come along to help with her sisters that day, was initially concerned. “Is he angry? Why was he yelling, Mom?” I told her that actually, he was happy, but that he had some special needs–kind of like Mekdes and Tigist do–and that we ought to say a special prayer for him and his parents.

All I could think of was that this couple’s parenting journey is surely nothing like they thought it would be. The milestones and accomplishments, the ups and downs, it’s all so different from what their neighbors and relatives know. They are surely exhausted. But the peace and joy evident on their faces–while I was sitting there thinking about how annoying it was to fold up my stupid stroller–spoke volumes. Just because a life is hard, doesn’t mean it won’t be good.

So that is why I have general concerns about videos and materials that tend to sugar-coat experiences. I am typically not a huge fan, even as I understand what they’re going for. Please believe me when I say that it doesn’t help anyone to pretend that suffering doesn’t exist.

But to ban a video because it features happy people with Down syndrome, all so it won’t hurt someone’s feelings?

That is discrimination of the worst kind.

How dare someone’s abortion decision somehow trump my child’s voice, or right to be heard! How narrow-minded to allow space for a child’s life to be ended, but not space for another woman’s child to smile! What is wrong with the world when someone being happy is seen as some sort of objective offense?

My daughters’ birthmoms should not have to apologize to anyone for choosing life for their daughters. Happy people with Down syndrome should not have to pretend they’re not happy so people can feel okay about their abortions. This is a twisted, messed up ideology that is rooted, among other things, in a prejudice against the differently-abled, and a preference for radical progressivism over a plain and simple respect for the dignity of human life.

And, that really should disturb your conscience.

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Just Showing Up by Brianna Heldt - 1w ago

Remember when I used to have a blog called Just Showing Up, and I used to write there all.of.the.time? About pretty much anything and everything? And people would leave comments and stuff? Yeah, I know. That is so 2007.

Well, over the years (eleven, to be exact, since I first started blogging) things have changed a little bit. The blogosphere has changed, the landscape of social media has changed, and I’ve probably changed a little bit too. People don’t want to read essay-style posts anymore, most of the action is happening on Facebook (not only comments but micro-blogging too), and I’m busy beyond belief. I’m a columnist for two different Catholic publications, one on-line and one in-print. I have nine kids, and several of those kids are involved in sports,have pretty dang active social lives, and then there is school. Oh, the school! With three middle-schoolers (and four in elementary) I find myself quite busy navigating homework, missing assignments, and all the various dramas that make me VERY VERY GLAD to no longer be in middle school myself. And, we just finished up another phase of our home remodel. And, I have my own friends and things I like to do, like sitting and staring at the walls.

Add to all of that the fact that I’m not really so sure I have much to say anymore. I mean, let’s face it. Whatever it is, it has probably already been said by somebody else, if not by me, a million different times. I guess you could say I’m over it. My traffic has taken a HUGE nosedive over the past couple of years, so I figure everybody else is probably over it too. It’s true that every once in awhile I’d write some embarrassing sort of “But I’m going to keep blogging anyway” post and attempt to redouble my efforts, but it just never really took.

We’ve lost that lovin’ feeling, blogging and I.

But when I reached the point recently where I was seriously (no really, I was) considering just tossing in the towel and running away to Mexico, I looked at my ghost-town of a blog and decided I positively hated the design. I thought about how I missed the old days of writing just to write, and I felt a little nostalgic for the time when, you know, there were lots of blogs and bloggy friends, and the little community was really a lot of fun. That was all back before my conversion to Catholicism, when I mostly wrote about adoption and homeschooling, and about my crazy kids. Incidentally, most of those bloggy friends no longer have blogs–maybe they ran away to Mexico, too?

So what I realized was that I didn’t really want to go out like that, nonchalantly fading away into the barren wasteland of abandoned websites after a really pathetic two years of trying-to-run-a-blog-but-failing-miserably. I used to have all these dreams of writing a book and becoming a published author, of sharing my own silly and laughable life in order to help people learn to love theirs. Maybe it’s the daily grind of motherhood, but I’ve all but lost any sort of vision for that stuff. I figure the time has passed. But what had compelled me to start blogging in the first place was really just the sheer joy of getting thoughts out on paper (or the screen, as it were), and sharing them with the world. That was fun, or at least that’s how I remember it being. It didn’t matter if the post was read by two people or two-thousand, writing it was something I enjoyed. 

Maybe wisdom says that I’ve just, you know, moved on with the rest of the world. Maybe the blogosphere and the essay really are dead. Maybe it’s dumb to, yet again, try to resurrect “things that are clearly floundering”. Maybe it’s time to break up. But being the apparent co-dependent glutton for punishment that I am, I’m going to give it one last shot. You’ll notice this website has gotten a rather nice face-lift, and I’ve even returned to my old blog name. Getting back to basics and all of that. I hope, too, to write more frequently and also have more of the random “I’m thinking about this inane thing today” sorts of posts I used to have. Those were fun and easy to write. And, I’d love to make some new blogging friends. So please introduce yourself, let me know if you have a blog, and stick around!

What’s funny is that I’ve also been thinking a bit lately about being a mom, about where my kids are at and where our family is headed. It seems life gets so busy (Beatrice was born in June, you know) and you go on autopilot and, well, you kind of forget about certain things. My husband and I have been having lots of conversations lately about what we want for our children, and how best to meet their needs–spiritual, educational, and emotional. Our oldest is right on the cusp of (gulp) becoming a teenager, so all this stuff feels so much more crucial than ever before. So I guess we’re kind of refining/fine-tuning things on the home front, as well.

But anyway.

ALL of this rambling is really just to say that I have a new blog design. (Sheesh!) On a more personal note, I am officially sick with a terrible sinus cold, but thankfully I still have my senses of smell and taste, which is really all that matters when it comes to Thanksgiving, amiright? I was initially in denial about having said cold, but no. Not anymore. I can no longer pretend that my head isn’t aching and my nose isn’t stuffy, and that my ears aren’t plugged. Gah! My kids on the other hand have been quite happy playing cards, Scrabble, and Yahtzee together, which is good because I have taken to my bed in hopes of kicking this most evil and terrible thing.

Anyhow, thanks, as always, for reading. If you don’t follow me on the various social media platforms, please click on the icons in the upper right-hand corner to do so. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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