Busted Halo

Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.

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July 19th, 2011

milk-flash1La Lupe is probably the best nagger on the planet. Everyone around her is poked and prodded to change certain habits. Of course her constant corrections come from a place of total love. She has lived 82 years and knows a little something about habits and what happens after a lifetime of them.

The two things she is always hounding me about are to sit up straight and to drink plenty of milk. Between having eight babies and breastfeeding all of them, La Lupe knows a thing or two about the logistics of motherhood. Whenever I talk to her on the phone she asks me if I’m drinking enough milk because if not then those babies are going to take all my calcium and make me jorobada like her. And as for my posture, moms in general always have bad posture. If we’re not holding one baby on our hip and trying to drag another away from imminent danger, then we’re lugging loads of baby gear around or stooping over to pick up toys or looking for a lost sock or something. You get it. Moms = bad posture.

I’ve never taken any of this seriously. I’ve never actually been …

July 12th, 2011

marriage-rainbows-puppies-flashI confess. I love celebrity gossip. I love all those magazines that crowd the checkout aisle at the grocery store. I love the fashion. I love the makeup. I love the gossip. But with kids, our budget made me decide between diapers and Us Weekly. Assuming that the girls wouldn’t enjoy their bums being swaddled in pictures of Alicia Silverstone’s new baby, I choose to go with diapers.

But this past weekend we took a mini-vacation and visited my parents in Houston. So I splurged and bought the juiciest looking mag I could find.

As I flipped through the pages I was not disappointed. Beautiful dresses and gorgeous handbags. The newest trends in shoes. I was almost giddy. But then I started reading about couples that have separated or divorced. While this isn’t new — celebrities not having long-lasting relationships — I read about some couples I thought were going to be together forever. Courtney Cox and David Arquette? When the heck did that happen? I thought they were rock solid. I had to run to the computer and look up Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. just to make sure they were still together so I could feel …

July 5th, 2011

toomuchlove-flash“Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little.” -C.S. Lewis

I know that Lewis was probably referring to God loving us too much but I think this works for us as well. I am always too embarrassed, and sometimes even scared, to love people the way I know I should because I don’t want them to think that I love them too much.

The women in my family have taught me how to show love through affection, hospitality, and generosity.  There is not a woman who so openly shows her extravagant love as La Lupe.  Everyone that crosses her path is well-fed, hugged, kissed, maybe scolded a bit, but definitely knows her love.  She is a great role model in this regard.

For some reason, while I know what I need to do to show people love, I really struggle with actually doing it.  When I attend weddings, I get so nervous about talking to the newlyweds that I actually avoid them. I tell myself that they have more important people that they want to talk to than me so I avoid them to not take up time. (I know, pretty self-deprecating. …

June 23rd, 2011

suckitup-flashWe’ve all been there. Your husband is spilling his heart out to you and the only thing you want to do is yell, “Freakin’ suck it up and deal with it!” Ok, maybe it’s just me. Sometimes I’m too tired to offer a sympathetic ear. Sometimes I’ve heard the same thing over and over, and I just don’t want to hear it again. But mostly I want to tell him this because I don’t think what he is complaining about is all that bad.

When Brandon complains about having a hard day, I have to bite my tongue from saying, “Hard day? When your client poops all over your last clean t-shirt and knocks over a canned food display in the grocery store then I will believe you’ve had a rough day.” I feel like I have it harder than him so I don’t feel like his complaining is justified. More likely than not what actually comes out of my mouth is, “Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and keep forging ahead.”

Talk about breaking the first rule you learn in Marriage 101. Listening and being compassionate are pretty high on the list of necessary communication skills. So while I …

June 14th, 2011

flag2-flashWhen I was a kid, I always enjoyed holding my hand over my heart and saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the school day. I love singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the beginning of baseball games. My heart can’t help but swell with pride for my country. My dad, being from Mexico, always made sure I knew how blessed I was to be born and live in the United States of America.

That being said, my first allegiance is to God. When it comes to “God stuff” in “State stuff,” I have no problems. I think it’s great that the Pledge of Allegiance includes “one nation under God.” I know the Knights of Columbus fought hard for this addition. It is citing the correct order of things — God first, Country second.

It is important to keep this order in mind when putting “State stuff” in “God stuff.” The majority of Catholic churches in Texas that I have entered (which is a lot because I’m a big nerd and love visiting churches I’ve never been to) have an American flag displayed near or next to the tabernacle. I take issue with the flag being up there next …

June 8th, 2011

boogeyman-flashI have been failing as a Mexican for a while now. I have not been passing on important cultural traditions to my children. This isn’t because it slips my mind; I have consciously been avoiding it.

Months ago my parents bought us some books in Spanish that contain traditional Mexican folklore. One story is “La Llorona.” It’s about a beautiful woman who threw her children in the river out of rage after her husband left her for another woman. After realizing what she did, she ran along the banks trying to catch them until she slipped and fell and died. To this day you can hear her ghost’s shrill cry as she wanders around after nightfall grabbing any children she finds to make them her own.

I know. Scary, right? Can you imagine reading that to a 2-year-old? And yet that story was really important to my childhood. It used to be one of my favorite stories to listen to. All of my friends knew it. It’s so old, La Lupe was told the story when she was a kid. Whenever I hear it, I feel connected to my past because of how long it has been around. …

June 1st, 2011

babyboom2014-flashLike any young couple with a growing family, Brandon and I have been discerning and having monthly conversations about when we should have our next child.  Recently, the following statement actually came out of my mouth, “Well, Obama’s health care reform will kick-in in 2014 and then we will be able to get maternity care on our insurance plan.  Maybe we’ll just have to wait until then.”

Wow.  As soon as I said it I was just so disgusted by the kind of system we have that would make it so hard to have kids.  Our family planning is going to be based on when a law goes into effect?  No way.  I refuse to be bullied by the insurance industry into letting it dictate our reproductive planning.

Our mailbox has been bursting at the seams with medical bills the last few months.  When I stop to think about all the money we have spent on medical needs in the last year it seriously makes me sick.  Granted, Lina is absolutely worth all the bills (those chubby cheeks are so irresistible,) but it doesn’t make the amount of money that is moving from our savings account to the hospital’s or …

May 23rd, 2011

prudish-flash1Several people have called me prudish for writing my “i love boobies” post.  I’m totally comfortable with this label because I believe our girls are growing up in a hyper-sexualized world.  If someone thinks I am overly sensitive about modesty, well, someone’s got to push the other way, right?

When I taught at a Catholic high school, I was in charge of monitoring the girls’ dress code.  What a great gig – extolling the virtue of modesty to teens everyday.  As I would walk down the hallways, girls immediately started checking the buttons on their shirts to make sure they weren’t unbuttoned too low or tugging at their skirts trying to make them longer.  This was good for them.  There was a voice in their head telling them to cover-up among all those voices telling them to bare it all.  It is all too common for a teenage girl to believe that her power lies in how sexy she is.  Being “hot” and making boys “want them” is the goal, not being kind or smart or funny.

And I’ve known all this for…pretty much as long as I’ve been alive.  I remember being really young, like 7, and knowing that …

May 9th, 2011

confession-flashThere are at least two kinds of penitents: one who goes in and wants a lengthy conversation with the priest about their sinfulness and how to change and another who just wants to get in, list their sins, get absolution, get out and get it over with.  Both styles are legit and priests seem to be sensitive and respectful of both.

As for me, I usually want to be like penitent #1 but get mistaken for #2 every time.

I am horrible at confession.  I really am.  Though my confessions are valid — I’m contrite, truly want to avoid sinning in the future, etc. — I am never satisfied with my confessing style.  When I go to confession I want it to be like spiritual direction with absolution at the end.  I want to have a dialogue with the priest about what I am doing wrong, why I am doing it, and how I can change it.  I want to truly hash out my sinfulness.

But in reality, I don’t really know how to start that conversation.  I’m so anxious walking into the confessional that, once seated, I nervously stammer out a vague list of sins, the priest offers …

April 28th, 2011

dejection-flash1It started April Fool’s Day if you can believe it.  We’d been going to the Friday Fish Fry at our new parish all of Lent, and it had really become the highlight of our week as we loved the community we found there.  We left our house a little later than usual and  unfortunately arrived at the end of a line of about fifty people.  We had brought separate food for Olivia (who is allergic to dairy and eggs) so she and I parked our stuff at a table while Brandon stood in line with Lina.  As we waited, a man at our table with a terrible hacking cough threw the napkins he was using to cover his mouth directly onto Olivia’s plate of food.  Shoot. There went her dinner.  Brandon ended up waiting in line for an hour, after which Lina started to break down because it was so near her bedtime and Olivia because she was hungry and we had no food for her.  We dejectedly drove home with the girls crying the whole way.

The next Friday came.  Brandon had a meeting out of town but had plenty of time to drive back to Austin, pick up …

April 19th, 2011

chreaster-flashA couple years back, Brandon and I went to a talent show sponsored by a college Catholic student group.  Most people sang, nothing too out of the ordinary, however, one girl did stand-up.  She was getting a good chuckle out of me until she started talking about “Chreasters”.  I had never heard this term before.  Basically it refers to people that go to Mass only on Christmas and Easter.  She went on to talk about how annoyed she became when Chreasters would come around and sit in her pew or take her parking spot.

I’ve written about how important it is to feel welcome at church, and I cannot think of anything that gets under my skin more than when People of the Church make it hard for the People Who Are Trying To Be of the Church.  Not because they are abiding by Canon law or the rules of the Church, but because they have come up with their own personal set of rules by which they can judge a person to be holy or not.

I’ve heard (and experienced) some pretty horrific stories about various Holier-Than-Thous trying to make sure people knew that they weren’t as …

April 11th, 2011

bucketlist-flashI know I’m in my twenties so the idea of being worried about a bucket list already may seem somewhat silly, but one of my good college friends just visited last weekend and reminded me how quickly life is starting to pass us by.  She came to check out Austin because she got into grad school here at UT.  I asked her what made her want to go to grad school.  She responded, “Well, we’re getting to the point in our lives where everything we do is going to dictate the next 20 years.  I want to get this out of the way because I’ll need it eventually and it’s easy to do now without a family.”

We started talking about how, even though we’re only a few years removed from college, everything is moving much faster.  People know more of what they want.  We’re not 21 year-olds new to adulthood and testing the waters; we’re at the point where people want to begin settling down, starting careers and families and such.

Then she said something that totally blew my mind.  She talked about how incredible it is that our 10 year high school reunion is coming up.  No, no, …

April 4th, 2011

church-hopping-flash3The more years that separate me from my time at Notre Dame, the more I realize how easy college made certain things in life.  Making friends was easy as I was surrounded by a great community of people with whom I had a lot in common; I never had to spend a lot of energy finding people with similar interests.  We also had Mass in our dorm, which meant we all went to Mass with our closest friends — it didn’t take a lot of extra work to be part of a spiritual community.  In fact, being a theology major and, in general, just being a Domer, it was never difficult to find tons of groups, retreats, events, or volunteer opportunities that guaranteed an awesome spiritual community.

Then I graduated and lived in a Catholic Worker house.  As a community we said daily prayers together, usually attended daily Mass, and were always having discussions about faith and Church teachings and how to live out the Gospel.  It too was a wonderful spiritual community.

Then came Austin — when I finally found out how hard it is to make friends in the “real world”.  There was no longer a guaranteed community.  …

March 31st, 2011

hateaboutyou-flashWhen it comes to loving technology the difference between Brandon and I is staggering.  Brandon loves it and, if not married to me, would have all things iThings.  On the other hand, I’m constantly trying to figure out how to use less of it just to prove Brandon wrong.  To be fair, Brandon has helped me (begrudgingly) understand how valuable technology can be.  It’s a tool and like any tool can be extremely useful, but can also be abused.  Seeing so many people using technology inappropriately has led me to create this list…

Ten Things That Drive Me Crazy About Technology:

10) It makes things that are not HD, 3D, or wide screen “boring”.  (On Christmas Day we were all watching the Muppet’s Christmas Carol – one of our family traditions.  After the opening credits my dad had already pulled out his iPad to watch YouTube videos, my mom was returning text messages on her iPhone, and Brandon was playing Monopoly with his iPod Touch.)

9) It has come without an instruction manual as to how to use it in a mannerly way.  (Very few people have a true sense of cell phone etiquette.  We all know this because we’ve …

March 21st, 2011

lentenbandwagon-flash2My biggest problem during Lent is that I listen to too many other people’s Lenten sacrifices and get so excited about doing them myself that I take on too many things.  One year in college I was feeling particularly scrupulous and decided to give up sweets and meat and promised to go to daily Mass everyday (including Saturdays) and even do night prayer every single night.  That lasted all of four days.  Pitiful.

After many years of this I’ve come to realize that I won’t instantly transform from a regular schmo to a saint just because it’s Lent and I pretend to be a monk and give up snickerdoodles.  That’s why the Church gives us this time every year, because it takes time.  We can slowly and yearly become a little more like the person God wants us to become, but it cannot, and does not, happen from one day to the next — it takes a lifetime.

I don’t have any problems with people giving up sweets or beer or whatever they decide, but I’ve found this practice doesn’t help me in the slightest.  I usually just replace what I gave up with something else and go completely …

March 13th, 2011

thenwere4-flashIt’s logical that the more you do something the better you get at it but it’s very strange to me that you can actually get better at giving birth. I did recently, giving birth to our second baby, Maria Catalina.  I handled the contractions much better and this time around it was a totally natural — no pain meds, no pitocin, not even an IV to stay hydrated.  It was a slow and long labor but we made it.

Our nursing situation was almost comical.  We had an awesome nurse at first but with a shift change 2 hours later we lost her pretty early in the game.  Then we got 3 nurses – a supervising nurse, a new nurse, and a student studying to be a nurse on her OB rotation.  It was quite the party in L&D Room number 7.

Our “new nurse” kept having to go ask the supervising nurse how to do stuff because it was so uncommon for her to be working with a woman that didn’t have an epidural.  That part was pretty annoying.  Um, I’m not sure if we can take the heart rate monitors off, let me go ask.  I’m not

February 15th, 2011

hello-world-allWith great joy, we’re happy to announce the latest addition to the Kraft family — Maria Catalina Gonzalez Kraft. Catalina was born February 10th, at 1:30 p.m. She was 8 pounds, 7 ounces and 20.5 inches long.

Olivia loves to hold her and occasionally poke her in the eye. Catalina is a lot more mellow, thus far, than Olivia and looks like they’re going to be great friends.…

February 8th, 2011

Freedom-flash1When I think of feeling free, I see the stereotypical scenes of me on a beach somewhere, enjoying a drink with a little umbrella in it. That feeling of carefree-ness, no rush, no worries, no impending deadlines.

Honestly, I rarely feel this way.

Sometimes being a wife and mom (a very pregnant mom at that) can feel pretty burdensome. Most of our friends do not have kids so we always miss out on a lot of events: parties, birthday dinners, and pretty much anything that takes place after 6pm. Of course, we get a babysitter for more important things like weddings, but on most regular days I see nightfall through my window. This is suffocating sometimes. Especially right now when anything I do is seriously hampered by the impending birth of our next one. I’m the size of a house; my movements are very slow and need to be very calculated. It’s nearly impossible to find a comfortable position sitting, standing, or lying down. Sleep is such gift when it finally happens uninterrupted for several hours.

Sometimes I look at our married friends without kids and get jealous of their freedom. They can go out to dinner at 9pm without …

February 2nd, 2011

reformandchurch-flashOur baby is due mid-February and in last week’s post I wrote about how our health insurance plan does not cover maternity care.  In fact, many pregnant women are not cared for adequately by our health care system in its current form.

Bringing up the subject of health care reform is a risky move these days as the issue has become an increasingly hostile partisan debate.  Just turn on the TV or radio and you will witness mud-slinging and fear-mongering on both sides of the aisle.  Both sides would agree our current health care system needs some kind of change, but it’s hard to know which side and which arguments to support.

The media likes to report on what the Catholic Church says about certain hot-button issues.  Every time I hear a news story attempting to explain the Church’s stance, I usually end up mad at the Church, expressing, “Come on Church, that can’t be right.”  Then I turn to the USCCB website and read up on what the Church’s actual response is and realize how unclear and slanted the media can be in explaining the Church’s stance on matters.

This happened with health care reform.  I was upset with …

January 25th, 2011

uninsuredpregnancy-flash2An uninsured pregnancy. Definitely not a boat expectant parents want to find themselves in. The common perception when you hear those two words together is that the mother must be poor, young, and uneducated. Wrong. This describes me and many other women I have met.

How did my husband and I find ourselves in this predicament? After Olivia was born, we decided I would be a stay-at-home-mom and we went down to a single income. We had the option of paying for insurance under Brandon’s new employer but it was just too expensive. We couldn’t afford it. We decided to find an individual plan and did a lot of research. We made sure the individual plan we found paid for well-visits and vaccines for Olivia, as well as eye, dental, etc. This individual plan, when compared to the employer insurance we were trying to substitute, looked identical but for half the price. Awesome. Until I got pregnant. I went to my first OBGYN appointment to confirm the pregnancy and to my total shock they returned my insurance card to me and told me that they don’t cover maternity care.

So while I do have health insurance, they do not pay …

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