Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Friday, September 7, 2012
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Thursday, June 21, 2012
- Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.160
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Monday, May 21, 2012
This morning I woke early to go to 9 am Mass with my parents and the kids. I usually sing upstairs in the choir loft, but speaking loudly is beyond me, much less singing, so I sat with the rest of the congregation. It is really difficult to contain the urge to use my talent to praise God. However, the kids were so excited to see me that I spent most of my time cuddling with them. Initially they fought over sitting by me. They finally settled though. Mom, Rachel, and I sported our hand-made veils. Rachel went so far as getting angry when Mass was over and I removed her veil.
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Not only is NFP a moral alternative to avoiding pregnancy; it is also highly effective at achieving pregnancy. That is yet another reason why NFP is not Catholic birth control -- the exact same system can be used to achieve and maintain pregnancy! No birth control drugs can claim that! Contrary to what many main-stream media outlets (including American Pregnancy, the CDC, WHO, etc) indicate, NFP has been thoroughly reviewed in peer-reviewed journals. Not to mention that NFP has been used with approximately a 100% effectiveness rate for avoiding and a 71% effectiveness rate for achieving pregnancy (the first statistic is true for Third World countries; the second is for couples with primary or secondary infertility in the US). As a matter of fact, NFP is more successful and much less invasive than IVF.
Another misconception the mainstream touts is that NFP is difficult to learn, practice, and understand. Learning NFP is no more difficult (and far less invasive) than being examined by a doctor to be given a prescription for birth control. Most methods have a manual, online information, and face-to-face instructors (complete with email addresses, phone numbers, etc) to guide you through the learning (and practice) issues you may encounter. As a matter of fact, NFP instructors invariably have actually used the system themselves. While having control over your urges for intimacy can be difficult, the benefits far outweigh the deficits. After all, no other method lets you bond as intimately as NFP. Tracking fertility signs literally takes about 3 extra seconds for each use of the toilet. Actually, evaluating the fertility signs is probably something most women do without realizing it on a daily basis. So, all-in-all, the mainstream (yet again) misinforms the public about the best option for family planning.
So from a women's health perspective, NFP has many more benefits (and less deficits) than birth control. From a moral perspective, again, NFP has many more benefits than deficits than birth control. From a financial perspective, once again, NFP has more benefits than deficits. It is hard to believe that it is not more widely taught and practiced. There is no risk of personal harm when NFP is practiced, unlike birth control, abortion, and IVF. So why not investigate NFP instead of blindly following the mainstream?
This is a site claiming no ties to any particular NFP method. http://nfpsite.aldred.org/primer.php
This is a site that embodies care for women as it's purpose. http://www.naprotechnology.com/ncwh.htm
This site has a list of references to NFP, what it does, who it can help, and journal articles about it. http://www.naprotechnology.com/references.htm
This is a page that explains the scientific foundation of the Creighton Model of Fertility Awareness. http://www.unleashingthepower.info/PDFs/IA-SciFoundationCrMS.pdf
This is a page with information on NFP verses IVF. http://www.physiciansforlife.org/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=2059
Monday, April 16, 2012
Thursday, April 5, 2012
The other day, a discussion came up between me and a few of my co-workers. I'm the only practicing Catholic of the group. Our conversation wandered until one of my co-workers brought up Christ's words to "Do this in memory of Me". As a devoted Non-Catholic Christian, his opinion was that he doesn't need to participate in a communion service often because he seldom forgets Jesus. I'm definitely not a quick thinking kind of person, so I didn't say anything. However, the thought stuck in my brain as a refrain.
My non-Catholic Christian friend's comment that he doesn't need communion to remind him of Christ emphasized for me, the rift between our faiths. You see, as Catholics it isn't that we constantly forget Christ. Instead, we know we constantly need the support the Eucharist can give us. We take Jesus's words literally. He offered Himself as our food and drink. To memorialize His great Sacrifice and take Him at His word, we invoke His name each and every time we join for Mass. As the priest says the words of Consecration and the veil of time lifts. The priest is actually a co-celebrant in the Greatest Sacrifice ever made.
Some of our non-Catholic brethren think Catholics are too focused on the death of Christ and we forget about the purpose behind it. In reality, you cannot separate the two. Our salvation was bought for us by the blood of Christ. Without His suffering, death, and subsequent Resurrection we would have no Salvation. Much like Paul said in his letter to Timothy, faith and works are BOTH necessary for salvation. The same is true of Christ's suffering being as necessary to our salvation as His Resurrection.
At each Mass, we call to mind not only Christ's life and teachings (the Liturgy of the Word), but also His suffering and death, prefaced with His gift of His Body and Blood (the Liturgy of the Eucharist). The two are intricately melded together as the readings in the Liturgy of the Word often contain references to Christ's suffering. The words of Consecration are a direct quotation of Christ's words at the Last Supper. Throughout both parts of the Mass we are also reminded of our Salvation through Christ.
This remembrance of Christ is not meant as if we're going to forget Christ. Instead it is meant for us to adore Him through imitation of Him. Remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Just as thinking about or looking at photos of your friends and family doesn't replace actually seeing them and visiting them, neither does just thinking of Christ replace worshiping Him. Each time we visit with Christ whether at Mass or adoration of the Eucharist, we are getting closer to Him and gaining God's graces to continue with our journey to Him
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
This is another one of those "Mary worshipping" mysteries that Catholics celebrate. Like the previous one, this mystery comes to us because of our belief that Mary was sinless. She was the handmaiden of the Lord. In her "yes" to God she granted Him, with child-like innocence, her permission to do as He wished with her. Since He is God, He already had that power, but as I discussed in a previous post, He desires that we be obedient to Him out of our own will.
The previous discussion of the fourth Glorious mystery involved a bit of explanation about why Catholics believe Mary is so special. However, Revelations also points to a special female figure wearing a crown of stars, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet (12:1). Now, what other woman besides Mary in the scriptures brought forth a male child who would ascend into Heaven and vanquish sin? What does the crown upon her head mean, but queenship?
In ancient times, the queen had great power, but was always subjugated to the king. However, the queen almost always had the ear of the king and could sway his decisions if beseeched. Who is the King of Heaven, but God? Who did God raise from the sinful millions to bear His son, but Mary?
Mary is Jesus's mother. In ancient times, when the King or was no longer able to rule, his son would take over. However, if the son's age was still minor, his mother would assume power with advisors. Just as in any family, the mother has a voice above other voices. She can hold sway over her children.
Therefore, we, as Catholics, pray for Mary to intercede for us with the King of Heaven and earth. For though not God, she holds a special place in His heart and life. She nourished and protected His vulnerable son from embryo to full-grown man. Even as an adult Jesus obeyed Mary (as in Hs first miracle, discussed previously). That relationship would only grow as God the Father and Son were joined by Mary in Heaven.
Mary had child-like trust in God. She away greatly exalted for her humility and obedience. She protected Jesus through His life on earth. One of His last utterances was to provide care for her and give her to His beloved disciple. We, as Catholics, believe that in giving Mary to John's care and John to Mary's care, Jesus gave us Mary as our mother. Therefore when we beseech her to intercede for us, we can trust that God will listen to her pleas on our behalf. W can also identify with her a little better because although we hold her in high esteem, we know she was human. Yet, she, without a divine nature that Jesus had, was able to stave off sin for her entire life. Who better to ask for intercession than one so vitally important and obedient to God?
Most non-Catholics think we give Mary too much devotion. We've been term Mary worshippers. This mystery and the next are definitely centered on Mary. However, instead of us glorifying Mary for her sake, we glorify God through Mary with these mysteries.
Briefly, as Catholics we believe that Mary was not just another Jewish girl of her time. She was set aside by God even in the womb for this great task. She is the revocation of Eve's "No" by her beautiful "Yes".
There has been much study in the effects of nature verses nature. There are some things that are dictated purely by nature, while other things are learned through nurture. However, even nurturing cannot change the fundamental nature of a person. Since Jesus was truly God, His nature was divine. As God sin is abhorrent to him. That is the basis for the Catholic belief of Mary's sinlessness. Although Jesus was humbled by His incarnation, He would not have desired to be housed in a sinful body.
That is a reason for another of the Catholic beliefs -- Mary's perpetual virginity. Just as a Tabernacle holds nothing but the consecrated Body and Blood of Christ, Mary was a living Tabernacle. To place anything else in her womb would defile it. Not because children are bad, just because other children would have original sin within them.
The prophets spoke of a person who's body would not meet corruption even in death. That is the basis of this mystery. Since Mary did not have sin within her, sin could not reign over her in death. She survived Jesus so He could open the doors of Heaven and prepare a place for Her and His other faithful. The corruption of the dead body is a visible reminder of our sinfulness. Had Adam and Eve not sinned, none of us would have to die. However, since Mary revoked Eve's sin, she was not party to the punishment for that sin. Therefore, when her time on earth was through, God assumed her into Heaven, body and soul intact.
People often speculate about how they'd like to die. Most people envision for themselves a peaceful death in their sleep because they are afraid of the alternatives. Since Mary's death was the easiest of any recorded, she is truly an inspiration for us about death. She experienced no pain, unlike Jesus, and went straight into Heaven, unlike Jesus who descended into hell prior to rising back to life. Since she is the only person recorded to experience this phenomenon, we pray for that our grace is sufficient to give us even a portion of her peaceful end. "...Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen."
Sunday, April 1, 2012
Thursday, March 29, 2012
The Transfiguration was an awesome sight for Jesus's most beloved disciples. As faithful Jews they revered Moses and Elijiah. This event foreshadowed the coming Rsurrection and Jesus walking the earth again unrecognized. It also emphasized how wise Jesus was in His disciples' eyes.
Peter went a bit out of his head when presented with the sight of these holy men. H was star-struck and uncomprehending. Yet, his first thought was not to gain something for himself. Instead he offered to build tents for the holy men to shelter them from the elements. This is a drastically different reaction than most star-struck individuals of this day and age. Cameras are whipped out of pockets, clothing is torn, booklets or scraps of paper are thrust into the faces of the star. In ancient times, selflessness was highly regarded. Caring for elders, the unfortunate, and the revered was foremost to these people.
Jesus's disciples had also had quite some time to absorb Jesus's teaching of further humbling themselves. Their desire for holiness was not simply for themselves, but firstly in homage to God. The disciples sought to share the knowledge of these holy men with others, but also offer the holy men some rare privacy and accommodations. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the same were true today? I pray to desire holiness for God's sake not my own. Amen.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The path Christ carried the cross-member of Hs cross was arduous. The crowds and soldiers jeered and inflicted insults upon His battered body. Historically, I've learned that carrying the cross-member was somewhat reserved for further humiliating the victim of crucifixion. Although the entire cross was not carried, the cross-member weighed upwards of 100 pounds. Carrying an awkward load like this after being scourged was simply more torture and a means of ensuring a fairly quick, although more excruciating, death once crucified.
Christ knew this was His cup in the Agony in the Garden. Perhaps He thought He fully understood the physical pain, exhaustion, and grief that this cup meant. I can personally say identify with that thought with my breast cancer journey. However, no matter how prepared you think you are, the reality is unbelievably different -- usually worse. However, even if Christ was surprised at the horrible reality of this cup, He persevered in His task.
Christ didn't have to do anything. At any point Jesus could have called the angels to His aid. He is God and all-powerful. However, the other side of God is that He is all-loving as well. John 3:16 is often quoted, "for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son." God's plan for His Son included this excruciating and humiliating death. Jesus willingly accepted that this was the only way to save man-kind. Why were we worth all this grief?
In a way, we aren't worthy of anything. We are sinful, prideful, independent, careless, etc. however, just as God has another side; we too have another side... We were created in His image. God gave us free-will and desired that we use our gifts for His glory. Not because He needs us, but because love is not complete without being returned. The ultimate gift of love was laying down His life to ransom us. It was a huge price to pay, but since God created us out of love, He saved us out of love.
Jesus told the parable about the lost sheep. As a literal (OCD) person, I've always had a little trouble with this parable (kind of like the one about sheep not opening their mouths when they're sheared or slaughtered). In the parable, the shepherd abandons 99 sheep to find one. In my experience, farmers (as close to shepherds as I've experienced) do not abandon the majority of their animals. Perhaps if the lost animal is the only one of its kind or highly prized for some reason, they may look for it. However, realistically, the 99 are worth much more than one.
This is another example of how God's ways are not our ways. Jesus's point, the moral of the story, is that all of His flock are prized. If I try to think like God (impossible I know, but I try) and abandon what little I know of farmers (shepherds), I can reason that having one sinful person return to the flock means more than keeping 99 in the flock. The reason is because the return of the one indicates the depth of love of that one. Initially the lost sheep forsakes its shepherd. Once it is found, the sheep once again obeys its shepherd. This type of devotion is crucial to our relationship with God.
How many times have I been that lost sheep? How many times have I abandoned what I know is right to do what I want? How often do I express my love for God by doing His will and not my own? I pray that the answer to the latter is 'often' and to the former are 'seldom'. In truth, I know that I need to be more like a sheep to God's shepherd.
During Lent most Catholics participate at least once in the Way of the Cross. Catholics have elevated this Sorrowful Mystery to it's own prayer. In some opinions, we emphasize the suffering of our Lord more than the celebration of His rising. However, is it possible to do one without the other?
Although He was already suffering greatly, Jesus showed exemplary patience along His death walk. He fell only to fall again and again. He was given unwilling aid from Simon the Cyrene. Yet, He looked upon the women of Jerusalem and spoke to them. However, His words were not ones that are comfortable to hear. Jesus at this time was not all love and joy. No, at this time, Jesus was pretty harsh. He rebukes the women for crying for Him. Instead, He tells them that there are even worse days ahead.
A friend of mine used this scripture in a novel way (to me) in her post on Catholic Sistas. She linked the reference Jesus makes, "blessed are the barren, and the wigs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed..." to the current contraceptive, anti-child mindset. I thought this was genius, because I'd never really considered that verse before. However, it appears in Luke as well as in some of Jesus's earlier discussions in Matthew.
As I researched this verse I saw commentaries that linked it's meaning to the desolation of Jerusalem. However, I agree with my fellow Sista that it holds true today. It is often implied or even outright said that children are more trouble than they're worth, so don't burden yourself with them... Take this medication or precaution. In Jesus's time, barrenness was a great issue for women. Without offspring they were destined to have no one in their old age to care for them. They were replaced with fertile wives. However, today, barren women (except those fighting infertility) are held in highest esteem. These women have "taken control" of their fertility and are living their dreams.
I also found some modern blogs of infertile women grasping this verse as the theme for their journey. I just browsed a few entries and came away with the thought that these women get it. Children are a blessing given to us by God. Barrenness (childlessness) is not something to be praised or sought. Throughout scripture, God calls us to be fertile. There are occasions where barrenness was used for God's glory, but never was it the intended purpose of womankind.
It takes incredible patience to deal with this sign of sin (not personal sin, but generalized sin of Adam). Jesus displays His patience as do women who fight their infertility within moral limits. Women who "control" their fertility are impatient and shutting God out of their lives. So let us pray that we can all receive some measure of Christ's patience when dealing with our own crosses.
If you're looking to have more "control" over your fertility while maintaining morality, check out this link: http://r1rk9np7bpcsfoeekl0khkd2juj27q3o-a-fc-opensocial.googleusercontent.com/ps/ifr?container=friendconnect&mid=0&nocache=0&view=profile&parent=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.catholicsistas.com%2F&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Ffriendconnect%2Fgadgets%2Fmembers.xml&communityId=07392896805747272642&caller=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.catholicsistas.com%2F2012%2F03%2F26%2F6422%2F%3Futm_source%3Dfeedburner%26utm_medium%3Dfeed%26utm_campaign%3DFeed%253A%2BCatholicSistas%2B%2528Catholic%2BSistas%2529&rpctoken=1468124537
Monday, March 26, 2012
Luckily, so far in my parenting adventure I have not had a situation quite like Mary and Joseph faced. However, in my own little way, I have experienced some of the anxiety associated with searching for a child. Mine was much less dramatic.
Andrew, Simon, Rachel, and I were lounging around the house one evening. The kids were flitting in and out of the living room. Typically, for our house, if we couldn't see them, we could hear them. I don't remember exactly what we were doing, but suddenly I noticed that I wasn't hearing Rachel. I walked throughout the house calling her name. I looked in all her favorite hiding places: the shower stall, her closet, Simon's room, my closet, even the kitchen cabinets. I thought I had looked every where, so I anxiously went to the back door and peered through the glass. No sign of her.
I finally asked Andrew if he'd seen her. He too began searching throughout the house calling her name. We spoke briefly of our fear that she'd learned to open the doorknob and gone outside. Our search became more frantic. It doesn't take very long to search a 1750 square foot house with an open floor plan.
Finally I heard Andrew exclaim, "I found her!" I rushed from the other end of the house to see him pull a grinning Rachel out from under our bed. I hadn't considered that space because Rachel's pleasantly plump figure dwarfs it. Andrew just then mentioned that she'd hidden under the bed previously. We gently chided her... Ok ok, I admit we were not quite yelling, but not terribly quiet either. I still can't believe that my vocal, extremely active, 2 year old little girl could hide under the bed without making noise or coming out to see what all the fuss was about. That night, Andrew and I discussed how happy we were that our children aren't lost or ill. Our joy in finding Rachel was complete.
So as I think about Mary and Joseph on their way home from Jerusalem finally figuring out they lost Jesus, my heart drops for them. I mean, Rachel is my miracle baby no doubt, but Jesus was entrusted to Mary and Joseph by God because He was God's only begotten Son! As God-fearing Jews, Mary and Joseph probably had fairly strict rules governing their lives, especially for Jesus.
In my mind's eye I can't quite picture Jesus as a child, much less a teenager. Jesus was on the cusp of His teenage years when this event occurred. Yet, I have a hard time imagining Him laughing at His parents or being a smart aleck. However, His recorded response, "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?" seems to me to be a little bit defiant. After all, it had been three days since they'd seen Him. God the Father had put Him in their care. They were likely mindless with worry. In Hs wisdom, Jesus would have known they would come looking for Him. He was their Holy child and Savior of the world.
I don't feel as if I've ever lost Jesus in my life. I have definitely had difficult times, but I don't recall ever feeling as if I had lost Jesus. I've lost hope before and I've pondered why my life is so crazy sometimes, but I feel confident that God has a plan for me, I just don't understand. However, there are times when I come to the realization that something clicked into place and the joy I felt when we found Rachel is replicated in my heart and soul. This joy is difficult to describe and sometimes I cannot even pin-point the change in myself. I pray that I can maintain this joy in my life at random times just to be sure I am in close contact with Jesus. I pray that each and everyone who reads my words and about my journey can feel that same joy some day.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
I would normally have composed and scheduled my Lenten Mystery by now, However tonight, God had a different penance/obligation for me.
It all started this morning when both my arms were numbing and tingly as my alarm went sounded. As I rolled over to turn it off and get up, I felt like a knife was stabbing me in the chest. It seems that my ribs don't stay in place like a normal person's, they move and poke out at random causing intense irritation (pain) of the covering muscles. During physical therapy last night, the therapist did "joint mobilizations" to try to decrease the pain although an increase in pain was the immediate side-effect. As the therapist placed a special kind of tape across the offending muscles, we noted that my chest was actually swollen where the irritation had been so severe. With pain this severe, driving to work is not really an option. Not only does this not put my bosses in a good mood; it also reduces my paycheck and increases my tension.
My day was made worse by the cardio-thoracic surgeon telling me today that surgery is basically my only option to relieve the pressure on the arteries in my neck/shoulder (thoracic outlet). He typically recommends physical therapy, but since I've been actively involved in that for almost 6 months, he said if it was going to work, I'd notice a drastic improvement by now. So he's going to access my thoracic outlet via my collar bone to reduce the risk of lymphendema -- especially since my mastectomy scars are already located in my axilla (arm-pit). There is a risk of lymphendema anyway, as well as scar tissue formation and further disruption of the nerves or blood vessels supplying my arm. However, he said he hasn't had any trouble with those kinds of issues, so I should be fine. If the surgery is a success it could actually improve my nerve issues as well as the arterial issues I'm having in my left arm/shoulder. If it is a failure, I can try physical therapy again. Or, if the surgery is *really* a failure I may actually have worse circulation and nerve conduction that cripples my left arm permanently. Great news for a 30 year old with 2 very active children 4 and 2 years old, a full-time job, and a disabled husband. <---- very thick sarcasm
This was not the news I wanted to hear. I do not want to have an 8th surgery. I do not want to have another 2 week (minimal) recovery off from work. I can't afford it. I don't want to risk more complications to the problems I already have. However, unless a second opinion differs exceptionally, I foresee another surgery in my near future. Since I was unhappy with the news I decided, with the kids avid approval, to go visit the horses down the road from us. Mr. Oliver and his herd of gentleman horses (a Belgian with feet at big as my head, a Quarter Horse with a back as bad as Andrew's, and four ponies that barely come to my hip), are always glad to have us visit. The horses enjoy the treats and attention we give them. Mr. Oliver enjoys our enjoyment of his equine friends. Horses have always been my anti-depressant too, do I figured it was a win all the way around.
I am slowly and carefully introducing the kids to the joys of riding. The ponies are so docile and small that it is no strain at all to lead and hold a child upon their backs. Andrew was in charge of leading and I was in the support role of holding onto our kids while they rode one at a time. I deference to the hot weather, both kids were in shorts. By necessity, they sit astride without a saddle (pony saddles are hard to come by and even more expensive to buy). Rachel rode first and she wasn't as enamored with it as she was the last time. I thought it odd, but didn't really think much of it -- she is in her terrible twos. Simon rode as well, but also wasn't feeling it. Andrew noticed that Rachel had begun digging at her legs really badly. I had noticed earlier that her excema seemed flared up, but just figured she needed her generic Zyrtec and a rub down with one of her various creams. So we headed home.
Upon our arrival we noticed Rachel's skin started looking worse and worse. We debated over giving her th generic Zyrtec or the dreaded Benadryl. Since she began having redness and itching all over we chose the Benadryl, but only 1/4 of a teaspoon. Her pediatrician has told me in the past that when her skin really flares up and we think it might be an allergy to give her this medication. We stripped her down to her diaper and washed her legs, hands, and face with luke-warm water. As I applied lotion to her legs, I noticed that the bumps appeared more hive-like than excema-like. I looked at her face and noticed some bumps there as well as some swelling.
Since I've become fairly well-versed at allergic reactions with Andrew, I became convinced that a visit to the ER or at least a convenient care clinic was the best answer. This is not a typical reaction for me; I tend to avoid ER visits at all costs. I called the pediatricians office. The nurse (PA?) advised me to give her another 1/4 of a tsp of Benadryl and slowly make my way into town to be closer to the hospital if things got worse. she recommended we go out to eat and if things got no worse or even better, to just go back home. As I kept observing Rachel I was more and more convinced to just go straight to the ER. So off we went.
We arrived and were immediately seen. The assessment by the nurse showed that even after 1/2 tsp of Benadryl on board, Rachel's throat was slightly swollen, she was still covered in hives, and her entire face was swelling. When the doctor arrived in the room, she was still playing and talking, but her voice was raspy and her actions a bit slowed by her constant scratching. The doctor ordered an oral steroid and an antihistamine shot. Then she was kept in observation for about 2 hours. She sucked down the oral dose and only cried for about 5 seconds for the injection. Then she set to playing. I set about keeping her occupied and watching for signs of improvement or worsening. By the end of the observation period, she was more than ready to go, but still showing some swelling and hives, so the doctor called in a prescription for steroid and antihistamine.
Poor Rachel was very hungry, so while we waited for her prescriptions to be ready, we wandered through Rite Aid. She gobbled down some peanut butter crackers and whole milk. Then about 5 minutes after starting our journey home, she fell into a peaceful sleep. She is even now (as I type it is 11:15pm) tucked into bed beside me. We are making plans for our entire family to visit the allergist in town. I am hopeful that the allergist won't forbid horse-back riding for Rachel. Hopefully we'll even get some better treatment options for her excema. All I know is that today has just not been a very great day. Thank you for all the prayerful support. It really means a lot to us all!!