Marko had a good birthday. He was a little disappointed to find that the next day wasn't also his birthday. But we had cake for a few days, anyway. He suddenly reached a breakthrough and now knows what a telephone is for, so he had a long conversation with his Aunt Mary on his birthday, and my mom the day after. It's adorable to watch.
I finally have a double stroller now. It's this one, the Safety First tandem stroller, only instead of $150 it cost us $30 off Craiglist. W00t! It makes walking a lot easier. I've been going out to the library or church several times a week, and now that I'm in a bit better shape, it's really not a big deal.
For a brief review of the stroller -- it's pretty good. It's kind of massive. And long. And heavy. But on level ground, that doesn't matter; the wheels are big and it trundles along like nothing. Of course level ground isn't what I'm dealing with, and it is admittedly a bear to push uphill. But I think that would happen with anything; I do have sixty pounds of kid now. (Yes, Michael is 27 pounds at 11 months, and Marko is about 35.)
The real struggle with it is when the road is slightly slanted sideways (as roads usually are). The stroller always pulls to the side then, and I have to push hard with one hand while pulling with the other to keep it straight. That leaves me with extremely sore wrists! And the other day, when I was crossing a steep street, it nearly tipped. I'm not sure if most large strollers do this, but my umbrella stroller didn't do it to any noticeable degree. But then yesterday I figured out that you can lock the front wheels, which almost eliminates the issue.
It folds up easily enough, but it's still kind of enormous even when folded. And heavy; I have to fold it to get it through the laundry room door, and then drag it sideways, and every time I feel like maybe I pulled something. My least favorite part of it is the back canopy; it doesn't shade much, I can't see Michael through it, and it's always flopping off. But the one plus is that it is removable. Most parts are removable, including the front seat, which can be replaced with a carseat. I haven't tried that feature.
Anyway, I'm glad to have it because it makes getting out of the house SO MUCH EASIER.
Yesterday we went to the river to splash around. It's literally three blocks from my house, but I always get intimidated by the large hill. I've gone down there maybe five times in two years. But it's been scorching the past few days, so I promised Marko we'd go. And oh boy, was it fun. There were no bugs at all (for once!), it was hot, the water was cool, and there was pretty much no one there. I wished for my bathing suit! Michael and Marko didn't bother wishing for theirs. Marko was soon wet up to his neck. Michael stayed at knee depth mostly, but he sat down in the water a couple of times and had to have his diaper taken off. I spent the whole time trying to stop Michael from eating rocks.
Seriously, that place is a toddler wonderland. There are little fish and rocks and a dock and a boat launch and little clam shells. It's shallow very far out. I just wish I had been more prepared. I thought I'd go for an hour or so, so no need for sunblock, extra clothes, a snack, etc. Within ten minutes both kids were wet and I was covered with mud. I did leave after an hour because I was beginning to get burned (luckily neither kid was), but none of us wanted to go at all. I'm usually not the one dragging away crying kids, because Marko does know when he's reached his limit most of the time, but he didn't understand what a sunburn means. And once we got home, he said, "Go get the sunblock and let's go back to the river!" I was almost tempted. Almost. But there is that big hill.
We're going to go there today, first thing. As long as it's hot and not buggy, I see no reason not to go there every day. And if I can get John to come with me this weekend, I will get a chance to swim myself.
Since I wrote a post awhile back about health care, I feel I owe it to you to tell you, I'm pretty sure I was wrong. Yes, I still agree that some degree of health care is something everyone has a right to. But before I thought that it couldn't possibly be so simple as just high prices. Then I read this article and I'm completely convinced. Hospitals could charge much less than they do and still stay in business just fine. Couldn't we just mandate that hospitals' price sheets are not allowed to be higher than what Medicare pays? Or even find a way to put an end to the collusion of insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies, and watch the prices balance out on their own.
Also, I think there should be a law that, for non-emergency procedures, you must be shown the bill in advance. Then you are not allowed to be billed more than what they told you it would cost. I know there are similar laws in some states for mechanics to keep them from ripping you off. I don't know why people's lives don't merit that kind of safeguard.
I'm upset at the bishop of Detroit right now. He's said that Catholics who support gay marriage shouldn't receive communion. I firmly believe that anyone who is in a state of grave sin shouldn't go to communion; that's a teaching of the Church and I've held back myself many times for one reason or another.
But I don't think supporting same-sex civil marriage is a sin. The infallible teaching of the church states that homosexual acts are sinful. It has never had any doctrine about what we should do in civil society to keep people from performing them. The only magisterial document out there on the topic is an advisory piece by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It's helpful, but it's not infallible. In short: refusing to agree with the CDF about gay civil marriage is not refusing to accept a dogma of the Church, and so it is not the sin of heresy. I don't see how it's any other sin either. Perhaps you could argue that you're encouraging others to sin, but I don't see that. Homosexual people who want to get married are generally already committing homosexual acts. The question is, do we want to treat them the way we treat married people? I can see a good Catholic argument either way, neither of which is about encouraging people to sin. On a point on which there is some permissible doubt, I think it's very wrong to talk about denying people the sacraments.
A dozen years ago, I remember complaining that the US bishops were too liberal. Now they've turned around quite a bit, but they strike me as very hard-line about a few things where a hard line isn't appropriate.
Speaking of which, I ended up in a facebook debate with someone the other day about a gay man in France who was brutally beaten. He didn't think it was a big deal, or that we should be talking about it, because the man "brought it upon himself" by his life choices. I was beating my head against the wall trying to explain to him that his views were antithetical to Christianity, when finally I got him to admit that he actually thinks gays should be executed by the state.
Oooookay. I just extricated myself from the conversation and let it go. I'm not going to get anywhere on that one. But it depresses me. Lately I've just been in awe of the beauty of my Catholic faith. I read the words of the Gospels, or the liturgy, or the catechism, and think "Wow. That's exactly right. Here I've been holding back studying this stuff out of fear, and instead it's so much better than imagined. What a good and merciful God we have."
And then some satan like this fellow appears, claiming to have gotten his disgusting beliefs from the Church I believe in, and I want to scream. Go ahead, believe any lie you want, but do not attempt to convince me that Jesus taught that lie to you. Don't even go there. Don't.
Which brings to mind something I've thought often before: to stay Catholic, I have to stop indiscriminately reading stuff written by Catholics. I can read Pope Francis (obviously), Simcha Fisher, Mark Shea, Elizabeth Esther, and any number of purely spiritual blogs. I already don't read Rorate Coeli or Father Z or the comments on pretty much anything. Comments, John often reminds me, can be the dregs of the internet.
Reading things written by atheists can be much, much less harmful to my faith than reading things written by Catholics. If atheists are wrong, they're just wrong, no harm done. And if they're right, I can learn from it. But Catholics always seem to be speaking for the Church, so when they're wrong ... I wind up disheartened. Though I have definitely learned my lesson: when in doubt, look it up. There's the Catechism, the Vatican II documents, the Trent documents, and the Catholic Encyclopedia available online. And odds are, I'm right. I have had an extensive Catholic education; when my gut tells me that's not what the Church teaches, it's usually right.
On the other hand, just yesterday I was thinking something that Simcha Fisher then posted about: when a Catholic says something publicly that gives scandal or a misconception about what Catholics believe, it kind of is our responsibility to speak up. She was talking about holocaust deniers, but really it happens everywhere. It's important to let people know that we're not all like that, that actually our church is opposed to this stuff, that we do very much care when people are dishonest or cruel in the name of our religion. I know I am not responsible for every nasty Catholic out there and what they choose to do, but they are associated with me in some way and I feel I have to at least try to make up for it.
So I do what I can. I do speak out about pedophilia, and homophobia, and anti-semitism, and also everything else. But balance is important too. I could spend my life trying to set everyone straight, and I just can't.
Seven Quick Takes is a Conversion Diary thing, but I don't know if she's going to put it up this week, seeing as she is in the hospital still, so far as I know. Say a prayer for her and her newborn baby!
Edited to add: the linkup is being hosted here if you would like to read quick takes from people who are not me.