Artist: Jim Janknegt

Monday, October 1, 2012

St. Therese...the little things

Hey! I just remembered...I have a blog!

As a quick foray back into this blogging thing I wanted to share a little something the kids and I did to celebrate the feast day of St. Therese (which is today).

But first I have to brag on my K. I told her this morning we were going to go to a park with some friends after nap. Not just any friends, the friend who so loves one of K's dolls and will cling to it for dear life if ever in the same room with it. K is always good about sharing this doll with her friend, and always gets it back when the play date is over, even as the friend is in tears having to detach herself from the doll. Well this morning K says, "Momma, I want to bring my doll so [friend] can play with it and then she can bring it home and play with it." Little miss wants to not only share her doll, but let her friend take it home to play with! What a sacrifice! We'll have to wait and see how this pans out.

Back to the main point...

Since one of my goals as a parent is to pass on the faith to my children I want to live the faith, celebrate the faith, and do all that is required joyfully.

Since St. Therese said she would send a shower of roses from heaven, I decided that we'd shower the pastoral and support staff at our parish with roses to commemorate the day. We went to the store, the kids helped me pick out roses (they quickly moved on to pumpkins from there), and then I attached a card to each stem with a ribbon which read, "Sending you a shower of roses! St. Therese, pray for us!"

We went to the church offices. I wanted this to be anonymous, but remembered once there that it was Monday, so a lot of the staff wasn't around in the morning. So K, J and I marched down the hall leaving roses in some doors, visiting with whoever was there after the little ones shyly presented the rose, and leaving the rest in a vase in the office for the others.

Hopefully we brought a little joy to the staff on this Monday. And hopefully the kids learned another lesson in giving.

I think this will be a tradition!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cute things they say

Those who've read the first few posts on this blog know that we're doing our best to not only raise competent human persons, but also to raise faithful followers of Christ. So, when our little humans say or do things that make us feel we're on the right track, we like to boast (a little). Or at least I do. Can't speak for my other half here. But, bear with me as I retell a conversation John and Kate (3) had on the way to, during, and after church this week.

I grab the cans of tuna from the homeshrine we've been meaning to bring to the food pantry for the last two weeks on my way out the door on Sunday morning. Kate sees me put them in the car.

K: "Are we bringing those for the hungry people?"
"Yes we are!"

John's started the wonderful tradition of saying a decade of the rosary on the way to church every week. It's been awesome. But before we begin he asks the kids who or what they want to pray for.

K: "The hungry people!"

So we go through the rosary and make it to Mass (early for once!). Throughout Mass, John and Kate are talking a little bit here and there. During the presentation of the gifts John asks

"What did they just put on the table?"
K: "That's not a table that's an altar!"

"What does all the purple mean?"
K: "It's still Lent!"
"And what happens after Lent?"
K: "It's Easter!"
"What does that mean?"
K: "I get candy!"

Well, it's a start at least. Especially when the rest of the conversation plays out.

"Maybe we should bring some candy for the food pantry so those who are hungry can have some."
K: "But we already brought the hungry people food!"

Like I said, it's a start. And yes, she does say almost everything emphatically enough to warrant an exclamation point at the end of every statement. Emphatically with a touch of excitement and wonder.

Friday, March 23, 2012


 Grief is a strange thing. And being one who, until now, had never experienced grief or loss, a wholly foreign thing. It is something that one may be able to study and know of intellectually. You know, the stages and process of, the causes and exhibitions of, these are all topics easily found in popular literature, media, university studies, etc. I'd seen people grieve. I'd read about the psychological phenomenon of grief. These things made sense. What doesn't make sense is this hole that seems to persist in haunting my heart and brain like phantom. It is like a phantom. I think it's gone and then suddenly, wham! out of nowhere it hits like a car running a red light at an intersection you've just entered.

And the phantom just sits there, like a hole in the heart and in the brain. I see the joy in things, but don't much feel it. I know there are things that need to be done, but what they are I can't seem to remember. Things like appointments, errands, dates. They've all fallen into the phantom hole. I don't even actively think about the loss, it's always on my mind, like at the center of the hole, but never in my thoughts. Except when that metaphorical car hits. After that it just aches, sitting there at the center of the hole. Waiting.

And that is what I do. I wait. I have this image of a baby in utero, snug up, waiting. That's me, the baby, snug and waiting, enveloped in the love of God and in his perfect timing. And I'm waiting. I don't feel the need to rush. I don't want the phantom hole, I don't want the ache, but I don't want the loss to every leave. So I wait.

Psalm 139

Lord, you have probed me, you know me:

You know when I sit and stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.

You sift through my travels and my rest;
with all my ways you are familiar.

Even before a word is on my tongue,
Lord, you know it all.

Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is to wonderful for me,
far too lofty for me to reach.

Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence where can I flee?

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;
if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.

If I take the wings of dawn and dwell beyond the sea,

Even there your hand guides me,
your right hand holds me fast.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

practice of the virtue

So Kate is wearing me thin. So thin! I never imagined myself the hardened harsh mother who speaks gruffly and sarcastically to her children. I always imagined myself a gentle mother. the image in my head was of a woman dressed in soft white with the sunlight dancing about her, illuminating her hair and face as she sits in the grass with her happy children quietly, yet gayly, playing together. Mind you, there were always four or five children, young children, in these daydreams. Very romantic, no? Is the life I’m living now very romantic? No.

Things have been progressively deteriorating over the past few months. It’s no wonder either, what with John’s work continuing at an insane pace, my own pursuits into teaching infant sign language classes, and other major happenings in the last three months. And then there’s the fact that Kate is now 3 years old. A life stage that seems to imbue an already spirited and opinionated toddler with a more intelligent, questioning, and downright willful pre-school persona. Now, I say intelligent, for her sheer knowledge and ability to retain information is astonishing to me. Yes, she is intelligent but far from reasonable. And it’s this that gets me.

“Kate, please wait there for Mama. I’ll be right there.”

She pauses about 10 feet away, only long enough to turn her curly hair aside and take a peek at my face, and then she smiles wryly and darts off faster than before. Every entreaty to wait, to listen, to walk “like a person”, every warning of time-outs, consequences, or punishments go unheeded. I listen to the escalating severity in my voice as I hurry after and finally catch up with her. And then I’m left hoarse, red faced, out of breath and contemplating re-examining my stance on corporal punishment as a means of discipline. All this while holding desperately onto Jack hoping he doesn’t go toppling out of the one arm I have only half free.

I pray and pray for patience. I’m given daily practice of the virtue. And daily I fail. And the worst is I know the strategies of positive guidance. I know the strategies of parenting that should and could work. Yet I can’t seem to get them from their neat and tidy university-era file in my brain and bring them to the forefront of present life. Maybe it’s not Kate I need patience with, maybe it is me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I don't know if I have mentioned this before, but my daughter's favorite color is purple. She'll wear it if it's purple, or sparkly, or is a tutu. She tells me often that she wants a "purple car, purple scooter, and a purple flower umbrella!" for Christmas or her birthday or whatever it is that we're talking about at the time. Purple, purple, purple. Well let's just say that we had the BEST time at Mass last Sunday when we walked in and what was the entire church dressed in? PURPLE! Yet another reason I love Advent as I do.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions growing up was our family's practice of evening prayer as we gathered around the Advent wreath. I have vivid memories of my brother and I arguing over who got to hold the smoke tarnished silver angel-shaped candle snuffer at the end of our prayer time and snuff out those four cascading candles. And singing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" was always a happy time for me as mom and dad belted it out in harmony. I thought we were so cool and liturgical and stuff (whatever that meant!). We were the cool protestant family incorporating old world Catholic traditions into our family prayer life. I loved it! I think I loved it most because every time we lit a new candle I knew Christmas was drawing nearer and nearer. 

I loved Christmas! I was the girl who had the lights up in her bedroom in October and Christmas music blaring as I hung them. I decorated my locker at school. I started Nutcracker rehearsals in September. I wore the red and green toe socks and reindeer antlers to school. I relished in the fact that Hobby Lobby always had Christmas decorations and craft supplies on shelves in July. I was the first person out of bed Christmas morning, and my family celebrated like no other. 

It was a morning long affair of morning prayer, stockings, breakfast of homemade sticky buns, and hours sitting around the tree enjoying watching each other open the beautifully wrapped gifts and getting that burst of delight when someone found another one with my name on it. And there was that time right after all the gifts were open when I felt a little disappointed it was all over, but still bursted with the remembrance of all there was still to discover in the packages that lay open at my feet. 

I'd think back in that moment to the same people, in the same room one, two, three, four weeks before and how I didn't know back then what I knew in that moment of what had been secretly waiting tied up under fancy wrapping paper or stashed in some still unknown hiding spot around the house. Or of how every year I had the same joy, the same feeling, the same sense of how everything was wonderful just the way it was in that room at that moment. That was the feeling of Christmas for me. And every Advent I waited  with much anticipation to light that next candle, knowing that the feeling would be there soon.

Now I'm not as eager to celebrate Christmas in the ways I did as a school kid. As John and I blended our family traditions and created our own, we chose to do Advent more simply and to wait to throw up those decorations until Christmas was here, or at least closer. And believe me it was hard. I love having a Christmas tree in the house early, with the lights telling me that these weeks were special and the stress of the ordinary days of school and activity weren't so bad. I longed for that distinction between the joyous and sacred times and the mundane time. And this for me was marked by the twinkling lights inside and outside in the dark, the garland on stair rail, and the train with its smoky plastic smell buzzing around the floor. I would sit and look at the tree and get lost in the Christmas wonder. 

I still do, just...later. And I still want the distinction of these four weeks before Christmas to be present and joyful in our home. I want the kids to have that same feeling that something is different, something exciting is happening, something wonderful is here in our home and family, but also that something even better is coming. So this is what we came up with, John and me, to help our family prepare for the coming of the Christ child, and to make our domestic church travel along in the season and song of the Church season:

I enjoy taking the kids to a local farm store to pick out our Advent wreath. As soon as you get out of the car you can smell the Christmas trees on the other side of the lot. Happiness. I loved the look of this wreath, and so did my daughter, but I do miss that evergreen smell...I guess I'll have to get a scented candle!
Our Advent sacrifices are silver and gold glitter foam stars that we're placing each night in a treasure chest to fill up and give to Jesus on his birthday. K's sacrifice yesterday was being a "good listening girl!", and today was to try not to push her brother. Our sacrifices are positive sacrifices for the most part, especially for the children. Obviously the concept is a little out of their reach and abilities right now, as it's hard for an almost three year old to remember to try to not push her brother all day, let alone for fifteen minutes. But the thought is that we are striving to live as Christ would want us to, and in this time of preparation for the big day, we should be more cognizant and direct with our striving. Having a tangible representation of this in filling the treasure chest with stars helps us remember why we do it, and, for the children, what it leads to. That box will be overflowing by Christmas, and I know K will be so excited to give it symbolically to Jesus as a gift.
The creche, another family tradition and staple in our home growing up. Since it isn't Jesus's birthday yet, he's not there. But each night we add another figure so that as we get closer to Christmas the people and animals that surround him during that time start to gather in and around the stable. This is day one. That sheep looks hungry. I'll post another picture soon of as the crowd starts to gather. Only trouble is, I think we're going to run out of figures in a week. And K doesn't forget a thing.

So that's what we do. What things do you do as a family or individual to get ready for Christmas and celebrate Advent? I'm always looking for more ideas!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The end of ordinary

Well, ordinary time has come to an end. The every day, ordinary, busy, endless weeks of nothing special are over. Today is the beginning of a new season and a new liturgical year. And I'm making resolutions.

First, I'm going to learn the new translations of the responses, prayers, and creed that are now being used in the Mass. We've been practicing at Mass for the past couple of months, but I still can't remember some of the bits. And then I'm going to finally work up the courage to ask our parish pastor why he doesn't say that last bit right before communion, the Communion Rite. It's one of the most powerful moments in the Mass,  and my favorite part as I was on my conversion journey. To get the chance to say to God, "I'm not worthy!" and to have the humility and faith to ask for transformation.

Thew new translation more closely mirrors the scripture passage it is drawn from:

"Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed!"

It's that last reminder of the unworthiness of our poor souls to receive the sacrifice of Christ and the realization that though we are unworthy He freely made the sacrifice anyway. And that makes the magnitude of Christ's gift of self even greater. We are unworthy, we don't deserve, and yet He gives it anyway. Taking this part away robs us of part of the gift of Christ.

End of rant, continuation of story...

The second resolution I'm making is to not let the ordinary time become so ordinary anymore. After the quiet anticipation of Advent is over, and the joy and celebration of Christmas has ceased, I'm going to do my best, by the grace of God, to make every day the altar is dressed in green a day worthy of that color. Full of life-giving energy, the kind of pulsating energy that gets us through the day with love and joy,  not stagnant drudgery.

It's been tough lately with the kids' new outbursts of independence and temperament display, and the continuing saga of John's overworking working schedule. And I'm sure there will be more days that I feel I just need to get through and can't wait until they're over, especially as John ramps up the studies for his professional exam. But through it my prayer will continue to be that I and our home can be a place of refuge, filled with grace and love, for my husband and our kids. Not always clean, hardly ever quiet, but still peaceful.

For now, it's Advent! The kids and I are going to set up our advent home shrine this afternoon. I can't wait to see how it develops!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Toddler Dinner Party/Stepping Back

Toddler dinner parties are fun. Just had a spur of the moment one with a good friend and her two children who are each a little younger than my two. It hysterical. There were actually hysterical toddlers loose in my house (two of them were mine). The kids were laughing and running around, taking each other's toys, but generally having a great time. Toward the end of our visit both of our oldest children were wild and crazy, running and screaming from excitement. We tried to keep some semblance of peace, as it was dinner time. But they were playing off of each other's excitement, and nothing short of separating the two oldest seemed like it was going to work.

It was everything I could do not to lose my cool in front of my friend when trying to guide my little lady's rambunctious behavior into something a little more...calm. The normal paths of guidance weren't having an effect at all. I even threatened to put her straight to bed, and then acted on that threat, to no avail. So, I thought, I would just let it be. They're two, and excited, and this is different and new having to share your every toy and even your high chair to a smaller child. Since I'm sitting in a big seat I can stand! I can get down easily and play! I don't have to eat! I can run and scream and climb on the chairs and...

OK, so I did lose control of my little lady this evening. And all those reasons may not be an excuse to just let her run wild. I did try. And it didn't work. So for just this occasion, with all these new and different experiences, it was OK. And I had a blast.

What was surprising to me in all this, was that I didn't actually get frustrated with her. I got a little peeved that she wasn't heeding my instruction, but I wasn't the red-in-the-face frustrated as is the usual run of things. And if you've been reading my blog at all before this post you'll know it's something I've been struggling with the past few months. And, as an aside, I'm wondering--is this patience thing something all moms deal with or is it my own personal cross to bear?

My mom always says, "Don't lose sight of her joy! Don't let her lose her joy!" And I think this speaks to another bit of parenting advice that I have received along the way. That is when you start to get bogged down in all the many things toddlers do that are frustrating, against the rules, down right mean or messy, to take a step back and admire all the amazing aspects of the child God has created and given to you. This works in three ways for me.

First, it helps me to take stock of who my child is. What are his or her strengths, gifts, talents? What makes her happy? What brings out the best in her? It helps me learn who she is. By learning more about her I can love her better and help her learn more appropriate ways to express herself.

Second, it helps me put her behavior into perspective. Because I know she squeals loudly enough for the neighbor across the street to hear when she is excited, I can look more organically at her behavior. She's not squealing to make me mad. She's squealing because she is excited! Doesn't make the behavior OK, but it does help me to form a plan of action, to set new limits and show her different and equally fun ways of showing excitement. Like clapping or jumping or waving her hands. This is freeing for me as well. I don't have to keep saying, "Stop squealing!", or the ever ineffective, "Stop squealing or you're going to time out." Time out is over, nobody is happy, and she's still squealing two minutes later.

Third, it actually makes me appreciate and love her for who she is and what she can do. I love that she gets so excited about things. I love that she feels so happy she just can't keep it in any longer and has to let us all know, in no uncertain terms, that she is, in fact, that excited.

Is the squealing socially acceptable behavior? Probably not. Am I going to let her keep doing it? I'm hoping one of these techniques I'm coming up with works. But after taking a step back and looking at the situation with all of its many variable instead of getting bogged down in the action of squealing, I can better understand my daughter and the influences on her behavior. Knowing this helped my come up with a plan for next time. And now I get to implement it!


I'm realizing that I'm writing more about my parenting struggles these days, and less about parenting as a part of growing a domestic church. Looking at it organically, it's all part of the big picture, but I would like to share some different anecdotes of life in our home in the coming posts. We've been off the wagon of celebrating Church holidays since Easter, but I hope to bring these back starting with Thursday's birth of Mary with a birthday party for the Blessed Mother. That's the plan at least...