Why I Wanna Be My Parents When I Grow Up

ImageWhen you become a parent, you start looking at your own parents differently; examining what they did and didn’t do well in raising you.  While nobody is perfect, my parents did a darn good job at raising us in the faith and giving us solid ground for raising our own kids, too.  I know many of you have awesome parents as well, but I didn’t grow up with them, so here is a list of the things I love most about how my parents raised me (in no particular order):

1. Catholic Parties. As children, we were surrounded with other Catholic families. We’d have huge parties together, celebrate feast days and holidays, and just be fun! We’d end up playing praise music and praying. As a kid, being Catholic was normal.

2. Personal Prayer Time. In high school I can remember brushing my teeth every morning before school and watching my parents pray the daily readings on the couch in a nearby room. They weren’t trying to do it so I would see them, or even wanting me to join in, but I was a witness to their humble and sincere desire to grow closer to God every day together.

3. Daily family prayer time.  I have a confession that might offend some: if my parents had been the type to have EWTN on all day long and forced us to pray all the mysteries of the rosary every night, I probably would have rebelled and wouldn’t be writing this blog today.  Our prayer times were sometimes reverent, and sometimes not so reverent, especially when the opportunity to crack a joke presented itself.  We learned about the saints, we learned our prayers, we memorized bible verses, we learned about our faith, but most of the time it was fun. The length and content of our prayer time changed with our age. More than just time to grow closer to God, we grew closer as a family in laughter and tears.

4. My parents love each other and they showed it. Oh yes they disagree and argue like any human beings, but in 30+ years of marriage there also has been much PDA, smooching, squeezing, and other things that make you embarrassed when you are a child- but now that you’re older your parents are your heroes for being so affectionate so long into their marriage.

5. We grew up knowing morals and learning right from wrong, but we weren’t sheltered.  Sure we watched saint videos and veggie tales, but as we got older we watched normal movies and did normal things too, and I went to public school most of my life.  My parents said, “I love you” and “I’m proud of you” often and they gave us the freedom to make choices instead of hovering over our every move.  Most importantly, I know my parents prayed for me every day, and God listened.

6. They were involved in the church. They taught NFP classes and Pre-Cana. They sang in the music group. They participated in parish functions. They even started a prayer meeting there years back. From that example led me to be involved in parish activities, too. In high school I volunteered to teach Religious Ed with my mom, and eventually ended up working in a parish myself.

7. My parents encouraged us to be involved in youth group, prayer meetings, Steubenville youth conferences, and even attend Franciscan University of Steubenville. These experiences deepened my faith and solidified the foundation my parents gave me.

If I can be half the parents that mine were, than maybe our kids will turn out ok:)

Happy Feast of the Holy Family!

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Making Peace with Motherhood: Raising Saints

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There’s the kiddo at 10 weeks! Nathan thinks he/she looks like a dinosaur…

Here’s the big news: we are pregnant with #3! Our oldest, Timothy, will turn 3 in April, and baby #3 will be born at the end of June! Nathan and I will have been married 3 and 11/12 months by then. That’s a lot of threes!

The week before my brother’s wedding in October was a nerve-racking one as I waited to take a pregnancy test. Post-partum charting is much more difficult than people led me to believe, and while we wanted to space our children farther than 18 months apart, we knew there was a possibility we were pregnant again. That week we were just playing the waiting game before being able to find out for sure.

My good friend was in town for the wedding (since it was her sister marrying my brother) and I was crying to her that I was pretty sure I was pregnant again and I wasn’t ready.  I sobbed to her that so many other moms have this “mothering” thing down and it’s just not coming easy to me and now I’ve got to do it all over again.  I just wanted a time when, like it seems with so many other moms, I was wanting to get pregnant again versus having one thrust upon me. I was obviously not at peace with motherhood.

Then came the day of my brother’s wedding. The priest began Mass saying, “The greatest tragedy on this earth is to not become a saint.” That was a good starting point for my mini-journey toward peace as I was reminded that that is what marriage is about: getting each other to heaven.  Then, during the wedding vows, I heard my brother and new sister vow to “accept children lovingly from God.” Those words rung in my ears. I hadn’t accepted Lily so lovingly at the beginning, so I renewed my own marriage vow and promised to love this potential new child I might be carrying as a gift from God.

And then I started thinking about my Confirmation saint, St. Bridget of Sweden. One of the reasons I picked her as my patron saint was because she was a mother. She had 8 children, some of which also went on to become canonized saints. Even as a 13-year old going through Confirmation, I somehow knew that motherhood would also be my path to holiness and that I wanted to raise more saints.

And I realized that although I’m a supporter of NFP and all things Catholic, I was still holding on to a “contraceptive mentality” that we had to be able to have enough space and money and leisure, and having too many kids just wouldn’t be a part of that plan.  I was “open” but I still wanted to be selfish. I had never wanted to be one of those large, crazy homeschool families but I am realizing more and more that that’s what we will be turning into. And I’m becoming OK with that now.  Because my marriage is my path to holiness, and accepting children lovingly from God is my vocation. It’s what is going to make me into a saint, even though it won’t be easy.  So I’m making peace with that.

The night of the wedding I went home to take a pregnancy test that turned out positive. And this time around, although I am still scared of how it will all work out, I am thankful. Thankful that God has believed in me enough to grant me the opportunity to raise some saints. Thankful that so far I have two beautiful, healthy children and an amazing, supportive husband.  Thankful that I am making peace with this exhausting, diaper-filled way of life with 3 kids under the age of 4.

And thankful because I am starting to fully realize my purpose in this life: to raise saints and help my husband get to Heaven. In this, my vocation, there is peace.

Poopy Diapers…and Advent: a quick reflection

Note: I was tempted to use a picture of a poopy diaper as my visual, but I will refrain for all of our sakes…we see enough of ’em as it is.

ImageWe were visiting family a little bit ago and Timothy was playing so happily with his cousins that a few hours went by before realizing he had a poopy diaper. When I went to change him, the poop had hardened around his bum, making it difficult to scrape off and leaving a red sore. He screamed and cried that it hurt, and I told him that’s what happens when you sit in a poopy diaper for too long. I told him even though it hurt I had to clean it off so he could feel better and so his butt could heal.

And as I’m saying this to him, I’m realizing that this is like sin and vice in my own life. I get comfortable sitting in my own c.r.a.p., justifying that I’m just an angry person who yells a lot, or that I can be selfish in my marriage because I already give a lot to my kids.  It hurts to peel off this layer of garbage from our lives that we have grown so used to. But without the hurt that comes with separating ourselves from the poop, we won’t be able to put on the Desitin of healing. Too descriptive? Probably, but it worked for me.

And I’ve been thinking about that analogy a lot these last few days as Advent begins. What a perfect time to clean ourselves off to prepare to receive the King of Kings into our heart at Christmas.  And then I start thinking that maybe it’s time to potty train Timothy…

Happy Advent, and here’s to less poopy diapers!