Heroic Moms


For Mother’s Day 2015, Catholic Digest offers readers great Mother’s Day gift ideas –but first, we highlight three mothers who exemplify heroic motherhood.


More than morning sickness

It’s par for the course for pregnant mothers to suffer from morning sickness, but Catholic mom Karen Kuplack experienced a much more serious malady called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). During four of her 10 pregnancies, she suffered such severe vomiting that she received fluid and nutrition through an IV to avoid dehydration. (She was also very ill with her other six pregnancies, but they didn’t require an IV.) If the illness sounds familiar, it’s because the Duchess of Cambridge has suffered from HG during both of her pregnancies.


“Knowing that this horrible illness would result in a wonderful new baby got me through it. Don’t get me wrong, there were dark times, very dark times,” Karen told Catholic Digest.


Karen, who resides outside San Antonio, Texas, with husband, Christopher, and their 10 children, ages 21, 20, 18,15,14,11, eight, six, four, and two, says during her HG pregnancies, she was on an IV anywhere from four to 12 weeks. During those times she had trouble ingesting anything—in some cases even her own saliva would make her ill.


Her eighth pregnancy was her worst. Not only was she deathly sick, but she had seven children that needed her, and her husband was away in Germany for his work. “I had to drive myself to the hospital to have a PICC line inserted. This is a long, semi-permanent IV that is threaded through your brachial artery to just above your heart. It sounds awful, but it’s great for someone who has been constantly stuck with needles,” Karen told Catholic Digest.


“I came home exhausted and depressed. My house was a mess, and my husband wasn’t coming home. I had declined help for many years. I was famous for saying, ‘We’re fine!’ to people who offered help. Finally one of my friends, Michele, ignored me. She and her daughter came and cleaned my whole first floor, including the bathrooms. I sat there and quietly cried as I realized that my friends wanted to help, and by submitting to my pride, I was denying them the opportunity to help me and receive God’s grace.”


Karen feels that there needs to be more awareness and support for those suffering with HG. “Many women abort, even very wanted, babies because HG is so miserable,” she says. “All HG moms are heroes—they all put their lives on the line for their babies.”


Visit the Her Foundation for HG education and support.

Grandma takes in babies

Leona Lamb lived to be nearly 107; one wonders if she lived so long because of her generosity and never-give-up spirit in the face of tragedy.


In 1969, Leona’s 38-year-old daughter died from surgery complications. Two of her granddaughters, age three months and two years, came to live with Leona and her husband, Richard, at their home in McCook, Nebraska. Leona was 74 years old, an age when most people are winding down.


Emily Naugel, from Nampa, Idaho, told Catholic Digest, “My great-grandma never saw taking care of those children as a sacrifice; for her, taking those little girls into her home was the most natural thing for her do. She thought of it as a privilege.”


A year later Leona’s husband died, but she continued to care for the girls until they were both old enough to attend school. The two little ones had four older siblings, so to keep the family together, Leona would prepare a nice Sunday meal after Mass every weekend.


“Leona was always a fireball; she had tenacity and a strong spirit to pull through tough times. If she thought that going up and down the stairs was getting a little difficult for her, she would go up and down the stairs two of three times in a row to prove that it wasn’t going to get the better of her,” Emily recalls.


Leona never allowed herself to think of herself as old. She drove a car until she turned 100. “Great-Grandma decided after her birthday it was time for her to stop driving,” Emily says. Leona also lived on her own into her early 100s and remained sharp-witted until the end, dying in her sleep in 2002.


Emily says, “I remember my great-grandmother telling me she didn’t think she’d get married and have children. She didn’t marry until later in life and, despite coming from a large family, only had two girls. When tragedy struck she was able be a mother again, and she viewed it as an honor to help in any way she could.”


Mom takes on the army for her children

During the Persian Golf War, Lori Anderson, a sergeant in the army, was deployed. Her three small children, ages three, two, and six months, would stay with her sister because Lori’s husband, an army drill sergeant, worked long hours.


Lori felt a twisting in her gut as she watched her children board the plane; she felt torn between her duty as a soldier and her duty to her children. “Asking to be released from the army is difficult in peacetime; it’s close to impossible when your unit is preparing to deploy to war,” she told Catholic Digest.


“Before we left for the Persian Gulf War, I called my sister’s house regularly to check on the children. My oldest, Rachel, said, ‘We’ll be good if we can come home, Mommy.’ Suddenly, I knew. Even though I was excited and honored to be heading to war, my children needed their mom.”


Lori felt a part of her die when she told her commanding officer that she couldn’t go to the war with her company. “When the battalion commander called me into his office over my dilemma, he was very upset with me, and rightfully so. He chewed me out for the conflict I was causing because I might ‘open the floodgates’ of parent-soldiers trying to get out of going to war.”


As the higher-ups decided Lori’s fate, she had already brought her children home. She grappled with her humiliating decision. Wondering, “Did my comrades think I was afraid to go to war? Could I bear sending my soldiers to war, while I stayed in the luxury of our country?”


Lori received a general discharge; she would need to appeal for honorable status. “After all, my photo was on the wall of our battalion headquarters because I had earned the title of Battalion NCO of the Year. I was no slouch, so I also needed to stand up for my own dignity.”


On a happier note, her children were content and oblivious to all of the publicity their mom’s case was generating in local and national news outlets. “I was home to see my third child take her first steps. Ironically, she toddled across the room as the news broadcast that the Persian Gulf War had just begun.”


After being denied an honorable discharge, the decision was voided because the board failed to follow protocol. “This caused my case to require a decision by the highest commanding officer on our post. By a twist of fate, this man was caring for his grandchildren while their army parents were away at the war. He understood the unique needs of children whose parents were at war,” says Lori who resides in Troy, Missouri, with her family. Within days, she received notice of her honorable discharge.


“When I went through all this in 1990, I was afraid to ask what my dad (a 30-year army veteran) thought of my actions. I now know that my parents believe that because I spoke up about our vulnerable children, it changed the way the military views the families of service members.”


20 gift picks for moms and grandmas




Personalized phone cases

Use your own artwork, photographs, or make mom a designer phone case with her name or initials on it. $49.95 (Tough Case) from TheCaseStudio.com.


Mom’s Garden Caramel Apple Gift Set

Give moms and grandmas who like sweet treats this pretty planter filled with Mrs. Prindable’s gourmet treats including their heavenly-tasting Milk Chocolate Walnut Petite Apple, a Triple Chocolate Petite Apple, assorted Natural Caramels, and a quartet of Chocolate Covered Caramels in the exotic flavors of Banana Walnut, Coffeehouse Mocha, Hawaiian Red Sea Salt (our favorite), and Pomegranate Cherry. Made fresh on the day before they are shipped from Niles, Illinois. $34.99 from MrsPrindables.com or 888-215-1100.



I Love Lucy: Mom Edition


In this Mother’s Day edition are four different I Love Lucy episodes that deal with pregnancy and parenting, including the hilarious Lucy Goes to the Hospital episode. Comes in gift-ready greeting card packaging. $14.44 from Amazon.com.

Tea charms

Tea lovers will like these cute little charms that add a little whimsy to teatime. Choose from a bunny, owl, squirrel, or cat. $6.99 from EverythingKitchens.com.


Lamp Work earrings

For the mom or grandma who appreciates handmade jewelry, these lovely black-and-purple blown glass, sterling silver earrings created by Catholic glass artist Tori Daniels are perfect. $25 from TorisFire.com.


Tirra slide

This new, sporty slide from Teva is extremely comfortable and cute enough to wear with summer skirts. $60 from Teva.com or 800-367-8382.


Gifts for moms who love to cook


This nifty reusable pie carrier is made from pine and holds a 9-inch pie plate. Handcrafted in Chicago, the PieBox comes with a leather carrying strap. $50 from PieBox.com.


Coin laundry towels, napkins, and aprons

Designed for the cook who likes to entertain with artsy flair, these hand-screened printed towels, napkins, and aprons are sure to please. They are made with earth-friendly inks and solvents and 100% cotton in a textile mill in Chicago and then printed in Montana by an artist. $10–$24 from TheCoinLaundryPrintShop.com.


Salad serving kit 

For moms who like to entertain, this plastic red serving set includes a caddy for two salad dressing bottles and a pepper grinder, as well as salad tongs and three serving spoons. $69.96 from Zak.com.


Mortar and pestle

Ideal for making homemade pesto and grinding fresh spices, this marble mortar and pestle from RSVP International has a shallow bowl for grinding a larger quantity. $32 from TheEverydayChef.net.


Indian for Everyone: The Home Cook’s Guide to Traditional Favorites

Anupy Singla says Indian cooking is all about understanding the spices and having them on hand. With Singla’s recipes, you can enjoy restaurant-type Indian dishes such as curries, chutneys, and masalas at home. $35 from IndianAsApplePie.com.

Gifts for do-it-yourself and handy moms


Victorio multi-use steam juicer

For moms who garden, the eight-quart, stainless steel Victorio Steam Juicer is a way to make healthy, homemade juices from fruits and vegetables. The steam juicer can also be used as a stockpot, roaster, or colander. $139.99 from VictorioProducts.com or 866-257-4741.


The Heal Your Gut Cookbook

The GAPS diet, designed to restore and maintain a healthy gut, now has a beautiful cookbook. Written by two moms, Hilary Boynton and Mary G. Brackett, The Heal Your Gut Cookbook is not only filled with healthy recipes, it also has beautifully photographed recipes. $29.95 from ChelseaGreen.com.



Extendable telescoping magnetic flashlight

This nifty, extendable, six-inch LED flashlight stretches 21 inches and has a magnetic head and tail. Comes in red, blue, back, silver, and pink. $20.99 from ImpelTronics.com or 717-440-1680.


Smart Scissors

These super sharp scissors have professional grade steel blades that are great for the kitchen and garden. They’re strong enough to cut through meat, bone, or metal. Use them to crack nuts, crush garlic, open bottles, and much more. $24 from AnySharp.com.


Gifts for expecting moms

A Baby Blessing

With gorgeous illustrations, A Baby Blessing by Welleran Poltarnees celebrates life and captures beautiful moments every mom experiences, such as the joy and love a mother feels for the sleeping baby she cradles in her arms. Moms will enjoy looking at all the vintage illustrations of babies with their own wee ones. $19.95 from LaughingElephant.com.


Angel in the Waters 10th Anniversary Gift Set

Angel in the Waters book and mug is the perfect gift for expecting moms. Illustrator Ben Hatke’s beautiful drawings complement Regina Doman’s story about the journey from conception to birth. $25.95 from CatholicCompany.com.


Kevel Mommy

Back in the day, pregnant moms would use hairbands to expand the waistline on their jeans to get more mileage out of them before they were forced to wear maternity pants. Now there’s something more secure that also holds the zipper in place. The Kevel Mommy includes six Kevels in three different sizes to accommodate a pregnant mother’s expanding belly. $16.99 from Kevel.com.


Spiritual growth for moms


Written by our very own Catholic Digest editor-in-chief, Danielle Bean, Momnipotent is a group study program that validates the dignity of motherhood.


Angie Hancock, mother of five young children, leads a Momnipotent group at St. Patrick Church in Vale, Oregon. She says about Momnipotent: “I have loved getting together with local Catholic moms to commiserate about our struggles and build each other up in our feminine strengths. Moms who feel they need more support in recognizing the beauty of their vocation to motherhood or struggle with the day-to-day grind will find this program refreshing, challenging, and empowering.”

Momnipotent: The Not-So-Perfect Woman’s Guide to Catholic Motherhood is also an enjoyable stand-alone book. $13.99 (book); $129.00 (starter pack study program) from AscensionPress.com or 800-376-0520.


The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home by David Clayton and Leila Marie Lawler is an absolute gem for mothers who want to create a Domestic Church in their homes—making it possible for their families to live out their Catholicism every day, not just on Sundays. We love that the end of the book contains several full-color icons, so families can make a beautiful home altar inexpensively. $19.95 from SophiaInstitute.com or 800-888-9344.


Trusting God with St. Thérèse

In captivating prose, Minnesotan author Connie Rossini interweaves a dramatized story of St. Thérèse of Liseux’s life with pivotal happenings from her own life. Written as a self-help book, Rossini’s intention for this book is to help readers grow in holiness. $14.36 from Amazon.com.

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