Seven Quick Takes – Big Family Craziness, Running Late, Confessing, and a Book Design Sneak Peek

seven-quick-takes-friday-2Well, I’m a day late with this, but, as you’ll read below, I’m a repeat offender as far as tardiness goes. Regardless, thanks for dropping by, and please read on for a little update on the Engelman family.

— 1 —

I am learning just how crazy life can be with five children. Last Saturday, for example, we had to drop off Ray and Bear for soccer pictures at 8:15, get Dude to football at 8:30, take Bonita to basketball IMG_9816.JPGevaluations at 9, have Boo at soccer pictures by 9:30, pickup Bonita from evals at 10:15, and pickup Dude at 10:30. Of course,  Little Man had to be fed in the midst of the mayhem, which I wound up doing while sitting on the ground beneath a tree amid a chaotic mass of people while waiting for soccer pictures. CRAZINESS!

But, who can complain about the hectic lifestyle of big families when they’re still this cute, even at eleven?


— 2 —

If you know me, you know how truly remarkable it is that we were on time to all of those engagements. I struggle with punctuality, to say the least.

Last Sunday, I went to Reconciliation. One of the items that I confessed was a somewhat habitual tardiness to Mass. In fact, we’re generally late any Sunday that the Dude isn’t serving or I’m not lectoring. Unfortunately, I was forced to run to confession by myself, leaving the rest of the family at home because they weren’t ready yet. So, after confession, I raced home to grab the family before returning to the church for Mass. Late.

— 3 —

On the topic of Reconciliation… on Sunday, after addressing a few items and offering some advice, Monsignor asked me, “OK, is that all you have to confess?” To which I dumbly responded, “Yep, that’s it!”


Actually, my response should have been, “Well, no, Monsignor. Those are just the big things. If you really want to hear all that I have to confess, we’ll both be late to Mass!”

Really, though – and with all due respect to Monsignor –  isn’t that an unfair question? Can many of us ever confess all we have to confess? As soon as I uproot one sin, I discover another. I’ll never be done with that process, and I doubt I’ll ever fully recognize all that I have to confess, let alone remember to tell them to the priest in the confessional!

— 4 —

empty tableWhen I came home from taking the kids to school this morning, the dog had much to confess. Upon seeing the look on his face and his tail between his legs, I knew instantly.

Needless to say, the children did not finish their pancakes, but Keyser was happy to make it appear as though they had.

— 5 —

A quick publishing update: I received the “Author Final Review” version of my IMG_9830.JPGbook, A Single Bead, on Thursday. This is the paginated, proofread “proof,” which basically shows exactly how the text will appear on each page. Here’s a little sneak peek of the first page. I love the font they chose for the chapter headings, and the way they positioned it at the top right of the page, rather than centered above the text.

Now, I am anxiously awaiting the cover design, and praying for Sister Mary Joseph, the cover designer, and the rest of the team who will be selecting it. It’s a little nerve-racking, to have something so crucial in the hands of others, but Pauline Books & Media has done a great job so far – from the editing suggestions to that lovely chapter heading font – so I have faith that the cover will be equally as well done!

— 6 —

As we get closer to publication, I am turning my attention toward efforts to promote the book. A big part of that will be public speaking engagements, most likely to church groups.

Apparently, this makes me very weird, but I absolutely adore speaking in public. That said, I’ve been stressing out over possible topics. Then – silly me – I realized that I needed to pray about it. So I did. And now topics, quotes, and quips seem to be coming out of the woodwork.

I’ll be creating a separate “speaking” page on my website soon. In the meantime, if you know of any group that is looking for someone to speak about the Rosary, Biblical words of life for women or teens, mothering with Mary, or any such topic, please keep me in mind! I need to get some official engagements under my belt, for groups ranging from two to two bazillion, and I’m “free” for a limited time! 🙂

— 7 —

A friend recently recommended Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love. It’s the story of a young girl sold into prostitution, who is rescued from that life by a God-fearing man. She then struggles with her own self-worth and ability to love and accept forgiveness. I highly recommend it, along with Rivers’ Mark of the Lion Series which gives beautiful insight into the life of early Christians, with self-sacrificing romance woven in.

(The links above are affiliate links. If you click on them, you’ll be linked to Amazon. Then, if you add any item to your cart and purchase it, I’ll receive a tiny commission. This little “job” doesn’t pay, so I really appreciate it!)

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Closer to Christ – A Birthing Story

For most families, it was a Sunday night like any other. They ate their dinners, laid out clothes for the day to come, and tucked the children into bed.

For the Engelman family, it was the night when the much-awaited fifth baby would finally come.

My mother-in-law came to stay with the kids and we said tearful goodbyes. The children aren’t used to having me gone more than a few hours, so the thought of my absence for several days was a bit daunting for them.

As for me, well, I’d had strange premonitions that something might go wrong during labor. While I managed to walk out the door all smiles and reassurance, I spent most of the ride to the hospital in tears.

Arriving at the hospital, we were quickly shown to my room. Over the course of the next twenty or so hours, they tried every means possible –other than Pitocin, which I wanted to avoid—to get that baby to come.

It’s all a bit of a blur, but at some point Monday afternoon, labor finally kicked in. I labored naturally for a long time, and, by late Monday night, was even to the point of pushing. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, the doctor recommended an epidural, in hopes that it would help me relax and allow the baby to turn around, who seemed to be “sunny side up” and wasn’t applying enough pressure for full dilation.

I may be a natural girl, but an epidural has its time and place and, for me, that was it. Pushing when you’re not fully dilated involves unmentionable interventions that are extremely painful, to say the least.

The epidural took effect, allowing us to rest for a bit. Unfortunately, even with the Pitocin that they had also administered, I still wasn’t completely dilated. But, baby was also now twelve days overdue, and we knew him or her to be swimming in meconium (aka: poop). So, it was back to pushing, under the same circumstance as before, only this time there was no pain—thank you, God.

Everything was moving along, and seemed to be going somewhat normally, when the doctor told me to push, and I did. Suddenly, the room – and the doctor and nurse – were covered in red.

My doctor had been wearing a really beautiful cream jacket. I imagine that got thrown in the biohazard bin.

Doc and nurse stayed remarkably cool, but Ray and I were well aware that this was not normal. They left to get cleaned up, while Ray and I waited and worried, wondering what on earth was going on. After what seemed to be an eternity, they returned and the doctor explained what she believed had happened. She gave us two choices – try pushing a little bit more to see what happened, or go in for a C-section. Trouble was, there could be internal bleeding, and the pushing would exacerbate that situation.

I know the doctor wanted to be respectful of my desire for as natural a birth as possible, but when it comes down to life and death, I’ll choose life – and having my abdomen cut open – every time.

Ray and I were both scared. We’d seen the amount of blood loss, which I was told later was probably about two liters. We knew that internal bleeding to that degree could be dangerous. I gave instructions for him to text two prayerful women – my friend Karin, whom I knew would be in adoration at that time, and my sister Suzanne – and ask for their prayers.

Oddly, my sister told me later that she had been unable to sleep and woke up early that morning, deciding to spend some time in prayer. Normally, her phone would still have been turned off and she wouldn’t have seen that text until after the baby had been born.

I had spent much of the last thirty six hours in prayer myself, offering up my pains for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, purity and peace in the world, and the health of a little girl suffering from a heart defect. I had prayed the Rosary, meditating on Christ’s Passion and death, uniting my suffering with His. I had been to the sacrament of Reconciliation ten days before, and managed to keep my soul relatively clean in the interim. If I was going to go, I figured this was as good a time as any. Nonetheless, I worried for my children, who would be left motherless, and for Ray, who would be left to care for five children by himself, when, let’s face it, he had made it abundantly clear that we were done at four.

As they wheeled me into the OR, I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and found immense comfort in it.

They moved me to the operating table, strapping my arms out as though they were spread on a cross. Ray sat at my head on my right, while the anesthesiologist sat at my left. Before I knew it, I felt some tugs and pulls, and then heard the staff talking amongstEvan newborn themselves, “Oh, he has so much hair!”

I looked at Ray, feeling more than a little disappointed that this was how we found out.

“It’s a boy?” I asked.

From my other side, the anesthesiologist said, “Oh, you didn’t know? Well, go ahead, Dad, take a look!”

Bad idea. I should have stopped him, but, well, my arms were strapped down. Ray stood up and looked over the sheet. And saw me and my internals in all their glory.

I think that might have eclipsed his first vision of his new baby boy.

At this point, I began to shiver uncontrollably. The anesthesiologist thought I was just wigging out, but I have a theory (having talked to other women who experienced the same thing) that it was the result of the Pitocin, which no longer had any uterine muscles to act upon and was therefore acting upon all of my other muscles. The anesthesiologist tried to reassure me and get me calmed down, but I could not stop the violent shaking. Unbeknownst to me, he administered a sedative. I began to feel sleepy, and, not knowing what was happening, kept thinking to myself,

Don’t go into the light. Don’t go into the light.

Fortunately, there was no need to worry.

It was a harrowing experience, so much so that my doctor asked me at my follow-up visit whether I was experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Recovery was difficult, involving two blood transfusions and way more pain and discomfort than I had planned on.

IMG_8565But at the end of it all, I don’t regret a single decision, or one solitary moment. Not only do I have a beautiful child of God to show for it, full of dimply-sweet-lovin’. In going through a long labor, the pain of pushing naturally, and the frightening experience of unexplained blood loss and an emergency C-section, I actually grew closer to Christ. Through God’s grace, I was able to do just what Christ tells us to do in the Gospels. Having entered into the experience prayerfully, and remaining prayerful throughout, I was able to pick up my cross, and carry it. I had moments of weakness, fear, and doubt, but ultimately, I give thanks.

What might have been a terribly “traumatic” experience was actually an opportunity to offer up my pain and fear, to unite my suffering with Christ’s, and to grow in my faith and love of the Lord.