Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Happy Birthday Catherine Elizabeth!

Our sweet little Lady Catherine turned 4 on Tuesday...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Religion called Environmentalism...

...where Abortion is one of its most Sacred Sacraments ...

from the

Meet the women who won't have babies - because they're not eco friendly
Last updated at 22:05pm on 21st November 2007

Click here for original article

Had Toni Vernelli gone ahead with her pregnancy ten years ago, she would know at first hand what it is like to cradle her own baby, to have a pair of innocent eyes gazing up at her with unconditional love, to feel a little hand slipping into hers - and a voice calling her Mummy.
But the very thought makes her shudder with horror.

Because when Toni terminated her pregnancy, she did so in the firm belief she was helping to save the planet.
Desperate measures: Toni Vernelli was steralised at age 27 to reduce her carbon footprint
Incredibly, so determined was she that the terrible "mistake" of pregnancy should never happen again, that she begged the doctor who performed the abortion to sterilise her at the same time.

He refused, but Toni - who works for an environmental charity - "relentlessly hunted down a doctor who would perform the irreversible surgery.
Finally, eight years ago, Toni got her way.

At the age of 27 this young woman at the height of her reproductive years was sterilised to "protect the planet".
Incredibly, instead of mourning the loss of a family that never was, her boyfriend (now husband) presented her with a congratulations card.
While some might think it strange to celebrate the reversal of nature and denial of motherhood, Toni relishes her decision with an almost religious zeal.

"Having children is selfish. It's all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet," says Toni, 35.
"Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population."
While most parents view their children as the ultimate miracle of nature, Toni seems to see them as a sinister threat to the future.

It's an extreme stance which one might imagine is born from an unhappy childhood or an upbringing among parents who share similar, strong beliefs.
But nothing in Toni's safe, middle- class upbringing gave any clues as to the views which would shape her adult life. The eldest of three daughters, she enjoyed a loving, close-knit family life.
She excelled at her Roman Catholic school, and her doting parents fully expected her to grow up, settle down and start a family of her own.

"When I finished school, I got a job in retail and at 19, I met my first husband," says Toni.
"No sooner had we finished our wedding cake than all our relatives started to ask when they could expect a new addition to the family.
"I always told them that would never happen, but no one listened.
"When I was a child, I loved bird-watching, and in my teens that developed into a passion for the environment as well as the welfare of animals - I became a vegetarian when I was 15.
"Even my parents used to smile and say: 'You'll change your mind one day about babies.'
"The only person who understood how I felt was my first husband, who didn't want children either.

"We both passionately wanted to save the planet - not produce a new life which would only add to the problem."
So, instead of mapping out plans for a family, Toni and her husband began discussing medical options to ensure they would never reproduce.
Toni, from Taunton, Somerset, says: "When I was 21, I considered sterilisation for the first time.

"I'd been on the Pill for five years and didn't want to take hormone-based contraception indefinitely.
"I went to my GP, but she wouldn't even consider the idea.
"She said I was far too young and told me I could 'absolutely not' be sterilised, and that I was bound to change my mind one day.

"I found her attitude frustrating.

"We decided my husband would have a vasectomy instead. He was 25, just a few years older than me, but the GP allowed him to go ahead.
"I found it insulting that she thought that, just because I was a woman, I'd reach a point where an urge to breed would overcome all rational thought."
When Toni was 23, her marriage ended. She says: "We married very young and grew apart."
Toni found herself young, single and with a new life in London, working for an environmental charity.

But while other young women dream of marriage and babies, Toni was convinced it was her duty not to have a child.
She claims she was far from alone.
"Through my job I made many friends who, like me, were more interested in campaigning, trying to change society and save the planet rather than having families of our own.
"We used to say that if ever we did want children, we'd adopt, as there are so many children in need of a loving family.

"At least then, we'd be doing something positive for the world, rather than something negative."
Toni was happy, at last, with fellow environmentalists who shared her philosophy. But when she was 25, disaster struck.
"I discovered that despite taking the Pill, I'd accidentally fallen pregnant by my boyfriend.
"I was horrified. I knew straight away there was no option of having the baby.
"I went to my doctor about having a termination, and asked if I could be sterilised at the same time.
"This time it was a male doctor. I remember saying to him: 'I want to make sure this never happens again.'
"He said: 'You may not want a child, but one day you may meet a man who does'. He refused to consider it.

"I didn't like having a termination, but it would have been immoral to give birth to a child that I felt strongly would only be a burden to the world.
"I've never felt a twinge of guilt about what I did, and have honestly never wondered what might have been.
"After my abortion, I was more determined than ever to pursue sterilisation.
"By then, I had my mother's support - she realised I wasn't going to grow out of my beliefs, and was proud of my campaigning work."
At the age of 27, Toni moved to Brighton, where her dream of medical intervention was realised.
Toni says: "My new GP was more forward-thinking and referred me to hospital. I couldn't wait for the operation."
As Toni awaited the surgery which would destroy her fertility, she met her future husband, Ed, 38, an IT consultant.
"A week before my sterilisation, I went to an animal rights demonstration and met Ed.
"I liked him immediately, and I told him what I was doing straight away - because if he wanted children then he needed to know I wasn't the woman for him," she says.
"But Ed was relieved when I told him how I felt and said he didn't want children for the same reasons."

On the morning of surgery, Ed gave Toni a card saying "Congratulations".
Toni says: "After the operation, which is irreversible, I didn't feel emotional - just relieved.
"I've never doubted that I made the right decision. Ed and I married in September 2002, and have a much nicer lifestyle as a result of not having children.
"We love walking and hiking, and we often go away for weekends.
"Every year, we also take a nice holiday - we've just come back from South Africa.
"We feel we can have one long-haul flight a year, as we are vegan and childless, thereby greatly reducing our carbon footprint and combating over-population.
"My only frustration is that other people are unable to accept my decision.
"When I tell people why I don't want children, they look at me as if I was planning to commit murder.

"A woman who does not have maternal-feelings is seen as some sort of anomaly.
"And a woman like me, who is not having children in order to save the planet, is considered barking mad.
"What I consider mad are those women who ferry their children short distances in gas-guzzling cars."
But Toni is far from alone.
When Sarah Irving, 31, was a teenager she sat down and wrote a wish-list for the future.

Sarah Irving and Mark Hudson were adamant they would live the greenest possible lives
Most young girls dream of marriage and babies. But Sarah dreamed of helping the environment - and as she agonised over the perils of climate change, the loss of animal species and destruction of wilderness, she came to the extraordinary decision never to have a child.
"I realised then that a baby would pollute the planet - and that never having a child was the most environmentally friendly thing I could do."

Sarah's boyfriends have been less understanding than Toni's, with the breakdown of several relationships.
"I've had boyfriends who wanted children, so I knew I couldn't be with them long term,' says Sarah.
"I've had to break up with a couple of boyfriends because I didn't think it was fair to waste their time.
"In my early 20s I had a boyfriend who I really liked, but he wanted to start a family as soon as possible.

"I was tempted to stay with him and hope he would change his mind, but I knew I couldn't provide him with what he wanted so I walked away."
Sarah started work for the Ethical Consumer magazine, and seven years ago she met her fiancÈ Mark Hudson, a 37-year- old health- care worker.
When they started dating in 2003, they immediately discussed their views on children.
"To my relief, Mark was as adamant as me that he didn't want a family. After a year of dating, we started talking about sterilisation," says Sarah.
"I didn't want to have an 'accident' if contraception didn't work - we would be faced with the dilemma of whether to keep the baby."

While other young couples sit down and discuss mortgages, Sarah and Mark discussed the medical options for one or the other to be sterilised.
"We realised it was a much more straightforward procedure, safer and easier, for a man to be sterilised through a vasectomy than a woman to be sterilised," says Sarah.
"In January 2005, Mark had a vasectomy and we both felt incredibly relieved there was no chance of us having a baby."
Ironically, the couple who have decided to deny themselves children for the sake of the planet, actively enjoy the company of young children.
Sarah says: "We both have nieces who we love dearly and I consider myself a caring, nurturing person.
"My sister recently had a little girl, and that has taken the pressure off me because my parents wanted to be grandparents.
"At first, they were surprised by my decision, but they have never criticised us.
"I'd never dream of preaching to others about having a family. It's a very personal choice. What I do like to do is make people aware of the facts.
"When I see a mother with a large family, I don't resent her, but I do hope she's thought through the implications."
Mark adds: "Sarah and I live as green a life a possible. We don't have a car, cycle everywhere instead, and we never fly.

"We recycle, use low-energy light bulbs and eat only organic, locally produced food.
"In short, we do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint. But all this would be undone if we had a child.
"That's why I had a vasectomy. It would be morally wrong for me to add to climate change and the destruction of Earth.

"Sarah and I don't need children to feel complete. What makes us happy is knowing that we are doing our bit to save our precious planet."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No more Kumbaya?

I hope this is true...

Pope to purge the Vatican of modern music
By Malcolm Moore in Rome
Last Updated: 2:30am GMT 21/11/2007
Source: UK Telegraph

The Pope is considering a dramatic overhaul of the Vatican in order to force a return to traditional sacred music.
Damian Thompson: Why the Pope is right

The Pope wants to widen the use of Gregorian chant and baroque sacred music

After reintroducing the Latin Tridentine Mass, the Pope wants to widen the use of Gregorian chant and baroque sacred music.

In an address to the bishops and priests of St Peter's Basilica, he said that there needed to be "continuity with tradition" in their prayers and music.

He referred pointedly to "the time of St Gregory the Great", the pope who gave his name to Gregorian chant.

Gregorian chant has been reinstituted as the primary form of singing by the new choir director of St Peter's, Father Pierre Paul.

He has also broken with the tradition set up by John Paul II of having a rotating choir, drawn from churches all over the world, to sing Mass in St Peter's.

The Pope has recently replaced the director of pontifical liturgical celebrations, Archbishop Piero Marini, with a man closer to his heart, Mgr Guido Marini. It is now thought he may replace the head of the Sistine Chapel choir, Giuseppe Liberto.

The International Church Music Review recently criticised the choir, saying: "The singers wanted to overshout each other, they were frequently out of tune, the sound uneven, the conducting without any artistic power, the organ and organ playing like in a second-rank country parish church."

Mgr Valentin Miserachs Grau, the director of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, which trains church musicians, said that there had been serious "deviations" in the performance of sacred music.

"How far we are from the true spirit of sacred music. How can we stand it that such a wave of inconsistent, arrogant and ridiculous profanities have so easily gained a stamp of approval in our celebrations?" he said.

He added that a pontifical office could correct the abuses, and would be "opportune". He said: "Due to general ignorance, especially in sectors of the clergy, there exists music which is devoid of sanctity, true art and universality."

Mgr Grau said that Gregorian chant was the "cardinal point" of liturgical music and that traditional music "should become again the living soul of the assembly".
The Pope favoured the idea of a watchdog for church music when he was the cardinal in charge of safeguarding Catholic doctrine.

He is known to be a strong supporter of Mgr Grau, who is also in charge of the Cappella Liberiana of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Scientists Guide Human Skin Cells To Embryonic State

ScienceDaily (2007-11-21) -- Scientists have genetic reprogrammed human skin cells to create cells indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells. The finding is not only a critical scientific accomplishment, but potentially remakes the tumultuous political and ethical landscape of stem cell biology as human embryos may no longer be needed to obtain the blank slate stem cells capable of becoming any of the 220 types of cells in the human body. Perfected, the new technique would bring stem cells within easy reach of many more scientists as they could be easily made in labs of moderate sophistication, and without the ethical and legal constraints that now hamper their use by scientists.

Read the article...

Stem Cell Research - Looks Promising!

From the Wall Street Journal

Advance in Stem Cells Avoids Ethical Tangles
By GAUTAM NAIKNovember 20, 2007 7:36 p.m.

The promise of using cells from human embryos to treat disease has moved a tantalizing step closer to reality – but without the ethical shackles that have long hindered its progress. The breakthrough is likely to bolster the cause of those who oppose embryo research, and accelerate the pace of stem cell research as scientists rush to build on the new approach.

In a compelling scientific feat, independent teams of researchers in Japan and the U.S. created human embryonic stem cells without destroying any human embryos. The technique appears to be easier, cheaper, and more ethically appealing than an alternative approach that involves a controversial form of human cloning.

Scientists said they "reprogrammed" mature human cells in such a way that they reverted to a primordial, embryonic-like state in a laboratory dish. The hope is to some day convert those cells into fresh heart, nerve or other tissue and transplant them into patients to treat diabetes, Parkinson's and other ailments.

The achievement won accolades from Catholic groups and leading scientists. "I suspect this will completely supplant the need to use [cloning techniques] to achieve tissue regeneration," says Sir Martin Evans, a British stem-cell pioneer who shared this year's Nobel Prize for Medicine. "We've all been waiting for this."

Ian Wilmut, who famously got the ball rolling a decade ago by cloning Dolly the sheep, is so impressed that he plans to abandon cloning experiments altogether. In his quest to find new treatments for motor neuron disease, he's now betting on the newer, reprogramming approach. "Cloning has had its impact," says Prof. Wilmut. "It seems we should all focus our efforts on reprogramming."

Still, many scientists want reprogramming techniques to be pursued alongside more embryo-based stem cell research. But in Washington, where stem cell research has long been the subject of bitter disputes, the new findings are certain to galvanize policymakers who believe it is immoral to destroy human embryos for research.

Since 2001, the Bush administration has decreed that federal funds may only be used to pay for research using roughly 60 or so stem-cell lines obtained from human embryos that existed at that time. Many Bush supporters – especially those on the religious right – would like that constraint to remain, and possibly even be tightened.

One set of experiments, published Tuesday in the journal Cell, was led by Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, a pioneer in the reprogramming field. A second paper was published in Science by researchers at the lab of James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin, who isolated the first human stem-cell line in 1998.

In both cases, the scientists inserted several genes into a mature human cell. For reasons that no one can yet fully explain, this reset the molecular clock and turned older, mature cells into embryonic-like cells. Even among researchers, the result has a touch of science-fiction.
"You have this extremely strong arrow of time -- and it's going completely backwards," said Dr. Thomson.
(my emphasis)

Douglas Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute says: "You have to give Yamanaka enormous credit. Most people, including me, wouldn't have thought about using this approach."

But reprogramming has plenty of hurdles to overcome before it can yield useful medical treatments. To ferry the genes into the cells, both teams had to use dangerous viruses as a transport mechanism. Unfortunately, the DNA of those viruses gets incorporated into the genetic structure of the cells, causing cancer or other unwanted side-effects. Dr. Yamanaka and others are now racing to find a virus that doesn't trigger those problems.

The most famous reprogramming experiment was the cloning of Dolly the sheep, in 1996. However, in that case, a sheep's egg mysteriously reprogrammed a mature sheep's cell and returned it to an embryonic state known as a blastocyst. When that cloned blastocyst was carried to term, it yielded Dolly.

Some researchers then began to wonder whether it would be possible to avoid eggs and reprogram a cell by introducing genes. In a paper published in 2006, Dr. Yamanaka and a colleague showed how four specific genes could do exactly that in a mouse cell. But the fresh mouse cells failed to be successfully incorporated into mouse embryos – a vital test.
Then, in June 2007, Dr. Yamanaka and two other independent teams of researchers published another set of studies showing that they had surmounted the earlier problem. Each team used the same four genes to reprogram a mouse cell and return it to its youthful, embryonic stage. When implanted into embryos, the cells produced healthy mice.

That result set off a global race among scientists seeking to replicate the mouse results with human cells. But almost nobody predicted that the human barrier would fall quite so quickly.
"We were very surprised because human and mouse embryonic cells are very different," says Dr. Yamanaka, who is also a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in San Francisco.

Dr. Yamanaka's discoveries have sparked a flurry of fresh research. Some scientists are introducing different kinds of genes, in the hope of improving the reprogramming process. Dr. Melton says his colleagues want to see if they can pull off the same trick by using chemicals instead of genes.

Unlike cloning, "the wonderful thing about this approach is that it's easy. You're going to see lots and lots of labs give it a try," predicts Robert Blelloch, a stem cell biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who recently published his own reprogramming experiments partly based on Dr. Yamanaka's breakthroughs.

However, the nuclear transfer approach – which uses a cloning step to get embryonic stem cells – isn't likely to disappear. Just last week, researchers in Oregon used the technique to create embryonic clones of monkeys.

Of course, trying nuclear transfer with human cells is harder. Human eggs are in short supply; the technology is tricky and expensive; and funding isn't so readily available. A major scandal has hurt, too. In 2005, a Korean researcher published a study that appeared to show how he'd used the approach to create human-embryonic clones. The claim turned out to be fraudulent.
By contrast, "any scientist with basic technology in molecular and cell biology can do reprogramming," says Dr. Yamanaka. "If we can overcome the issue [of using dangerous viruses to ferry the genes into cells], many more people will move from nuclear transfer to this method."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Mass Dilemma

It is always a dilemma at our house whether or not to take the whole family to Mass together. With a 3 & 1/2 year old, 2 year old twins, and a 5 month old baby, if one thing goes wrong, a disaster can ensue. Our parish church is only 2 minutes away, but with 3 diapers to change, 4 kids to dress, 2 girlie hairdos to do, one baby to nurse once or twice, not to mention breakfast and getting ourselves ready, the 8:30 Mass seems out of reach. Heck, it takes at least 10 minutes just to get everyone in their jackets and buckled in their car seats.

The second Mass is at 11:00 and then we have trouble because that gets into lunch time and naptime. So our last resolve was to try to go as a family at least once a month. When we do that we go to a different church which has a 10:00 Mass. When we go separately, Dan takes one of the twins when he goes and I take the baby and the oldest child.

Right now the tough ones at Mass are the baby, who sometimes gets very cranky and requires a speedy exit, and Dominic, one of the twins, who has a tough time sitting still and being quiet. The cry-room is not an option because it is a zoo of running, crying, eating, or playing kids. There is a nursery, but I would rather the kids learn to be with us at Mass and be quiet.

I don't bring books anymore to occupy them because then a war breaks out over who gets which book. I even tried getting two of the same book which didn't help much. We also don't do snacks or drinks in church, except for the baby who gets to nurse, of course. Dan is always in charge of Dominic and I usually have the baby, and the girls do fairly well, but half the time we sit in fear of everything slipping over the edge into total meltdown. I just hope and pray that there are special graces for parents who are unable to pay attention as well as they would like!

I do pray to their guardian angels to help them be good. Last time when we got there, I whispered to Dominic to pray to Jesus and then you could hear this little voice saying, "Pay, Jeziz!" I had also told them to listen for the bells and when they started ringing, the twins got excited and proclaimed, "Terch bells!" We are working on it. Hopefully, when the twins get a little older, we can all go together more, but right now I think we have to, at least most of the time, divide and conquer.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Art Class is now in session

Professor Daddy will be teaching "Introduction to Art" this fall. Class will meet every weekend in the kitchen. Required attendee is Lady Catherine. Optional attendees are Mr. Dominic and Sweet Little Anne. Professor Mommy will be the substitute teacher when required.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Flu Shots, Halloween, and All Saints Day

Whew, what a crazy few days it has been. Tuesday I had scheduled the older 3 for flu shots. Luckily, Dan was able to take the morning off, so we all went to the doctor's office. As we were waiting, I saw a couple struggling to get their little daughter out of the door. I thought, "What are we going to look like coming out of here with a 3 year old and two year old twins all crying from their shots?!" I could just imagine. Fortunately, it was better than expected. Dan took Dominic back by himself so the girls wouldn't see. Then I took the girls back and boy did they holler, but not for very long. Of course, the candy they got sure helped! As did the little rings the nurse gave them. All in all, it was okay. At least the baby didn't need anything.

Then, yesterday was the big Halloween adventure. Catherine was a Dalmatian, Dominic was a parrot, Anne was a Care Bear, and Joseph was a lion. Dan took the older 3 out in the wagon trick-or-treating for about 45 minutes and I handed out candy with Joseph. Joseph got very grumpy, so I took off his costume. That didn't help much, so I thought I would feed him, hoping the doorbell wouldn't ring while he was nursing (It didn't, thank goodness). Then he was still fussy, so I ended up carrying him in the sling while answering the door. He settled down and then finally fell asleep. The kids came back and the candy monsters emerged! It was a feeding frenzy until Mom and Dad said enough! It is once a year after all. I'll have to have Dan put on a picture.

Today we met Dan at noon Mass for All Saints Day. I parked the mini-van, put Joseph in the sling, took a twin by each hand, then had Catherine hold Anne's hand and we made it inside. That is always a trick! I think I spent half the morning preparing to go to Mass. Of course, it was worth it. The kids were pretty good today, too. I prayed to their guardian angels, so that must have helped!