Sit Still and Be Quiet!?

I grew up making fun of homeschoolers. It was a way of life I didn’t understand. And now we have decided to homeschool our own children. One of the many reasons is because I truly believe that sitting still for 7 hours and reading from a textbook is not really learning. I get excited thinking about learning fractions from baking or working with daddy in the woodshop; of all the field trips and experiences we will get to have- life is one big education!

Then we had prayer time last night. We asked the kids to sit still and recite their prayers. While it is very important for them to know how to sit still and to memorize their prayers, that is not all there is to be learned about the faith. I realized that to sit still and learn your prayers is teaching in much of the same way that I’m trying avoid.

I think many well intentioned families have turned their kids off to religion by only applying that same approach to faith: sit still a recite your prayers or be quiet and go to Mass.

It is important to eventually be able to sit still and recite the rosary. It is essential to learn to be quiet and sit in Mass. God definitely speaks to us in the quiet of our hearts. But, it has to be age appropriate. And, sitting still and being quiet can’t be all there is to faith. If so, we are missing out on life being one big spiritual education: Who are we? How did we get here? Why is life hard? What is the point?

To pass on the faith means that you are letting your offspring witness your lived experience with t11011453_1596240467281706_5479734691516327357_nhe Trinity on a daily basis. It’s more that sitting still (which again is definitely essential!) It’s talking, singing, crying, laughing, etc. Just yesterday Timothy pointed out to me all the features of the Sacred Heart: a heart, a cross, fire, crown of thorns, blood. When I asked him what all the fire around the Sacred Heart meant, he said: “Love.” He told me today God heard his prayers when he asked for help getting his poopies out. He is beginning to grasp the idea of a relationship with God in the way a 4 year old can.

11246024_1593646200874466_489587991628054299_nBut for many, we are missing an important element of that relationship of faith: The Holy Spirit. I believe that the Holy Spirit is the key to entering into the faith, to living it out, and to successfully handing it on.

The Holy Spirit. The forgotten person of the Trinity. Jesus is easy to grasp because he has a human nature. God is comprehendable because of creation and because we have earthly fathers. But a dove? A tongue of fire? It’s much harder to intellectually grasp the concept of the Holy Spirit.

That’s why I’m excited for Fr. Dave Pivonka’s new series called “The Wild Goose.”

10401939_1596740307231722_8665441408544622917_nIt just finished it’s fundraising to create a 14-part video series that will be available for free December 2015. The goal of the videos will be to invite us into a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit. So in the meantime, you can read a great article on the Holy Spirit by Fr. Dave called “The Forgotten Person of the Trinity” here:

https://redeemedonline.com/forgotten/

May your education of faith be much more than sitting still and being quiet. May your children embrace a life of faith lived in the Spirit.

EnthronementHappy Feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (yesterday)
and Immaculate Heart of Mary (today)!

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Parenting and Perspectives

Timothy turned 4 back in April, and got some gifts of course! I had him sit down to draw a thank you card for his grandma. I went to the bathroom and when I came back he had drawn this:
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My first thought was “F. U. is not a good thank you card”, even though his Grammie is very understanding. But when he explained it to me, it was through the eyes of a 4 year old that can’t pronounce his th’s. Hence, his attempt to spell “Fank” resulted in a “f” and then a “c” for the k sound.

I kept these things in my heart until a few days ago when he drew this beauty and asked if he drew a 6:

IMG_1881If you’ve taken high school biology then you are picturing something very different than a number less than 10.

The theme from these stories is perspective. Sometimes I get so frustrated with Timothy for not obeying or for doing something I see as destructive. But instead of yelling and giving time outs all the time, when I ask him to see the world from his eyes, his reasons are never malicious. And then it becomes a teaching moment. The number 6 is not sperm. Thank you is spelled with a “th.” You cannot hang on the window shades because it will break them. I know you think you are a construction vehicle, but I told you not to forklift the piles of clothes I’ve already folded because then I will have to fold them all over again. You cannot feed your baby brother a chicken nugget because he will choke. Etc. Etc.

Communication is the key to any good relationship, and the same holds true with parents and children.

“Train a boy in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not swerve from it.” Proverbs 22:6 NAB

“Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instructions of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 NAB

You’re Doing A Great Job

I take great comfort in knowing that Mary and Joseph lost Jesus for 3 days. I imagine their conversation went something like this:
M: Joseph, where’s Jesus? I thought he was with you.
J: no…I thought he was with you.
M: NO….I told you to make sure he doesn’t dally.
J: Oooohhhh, I thought you said that’s he’s with Aunt Sally….

So they retrace their steps and of course he’s in His Father’s House, a 12 year old prodigy on all things torah-related.

But could you imagine losing your child for THREE DAYS? Oh my goodness. I’ve lost my children in my own house for 5 minutes and almost had a heart attack.

I’ve had some time to reflect on the Holy Family, given all the recent feasts since Christmas: Feast of the Holy Family, Feast of Mary, Mother of God, and just this past Sunday, the Baptism of Jesus.

And I’m taking comfort in knowing that not even the family of God was without it’s oddities and perhaps a certain level of dysfunction. Mary and Joseph weren’t even living together yet when Jesus was conceived. Obviously, it was to preserve her perpetual virginity that she became pregnant when she did, but think of the times they lived in. The scandal; the unconventionalism. And then don’t forget about Elizabeth, her cousin. She was PAST MENOPAUSE, people, and her husband even older than she was. And bam, a baby. You don’t think people questioned? Thought it was odd? And then to be born in a stable where animals live (the thought of the germs and the smell just kill me!). Packing up your family and running for your lives because someone wants your child dead? And then to lose Jesus for 3 days, just to top off his childhood.

Jesus! Where have you been? I've been looking for you for DAYS!

Jesus! Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you for DAYS! Don’t you ever scare me like that again!

I read a story the other day about a house that burnt down and killed a little 3 year old inside because her mom left her for the afternoon alone in her house. Heart-wrenchinging, I know. But stories like that remind me that I’m doing a pretty good job at this whole parenting thing.

A mom in my mom’s group last week asked that to our table: When was the last time someone told you you were doing a good job? Everyone was silent, and the first person I thought of was my doctor. Bless him, for telling us young mothers that. I know my husband and mom have also said it on occasion. But we modern day mothers can be so hard on ourselves. So I gave myself a little mothering test based on stories I have heard in the news.

Have I fed my children this week? Have I taken drugs around them or beaten them? Have I left them alone for long periods of time? Have I seriously neglected them or abused them? Have I buckled them in their car seat and put shoes on them when its snowing?

On the contrary, I tell my children I love them multiple times a day. I feed them a well-balanced diet and take them on trips to the museum, playground, etc. They have clothes and toys and games, and I do bathe them occasionally. We have prayer time at night and they know who Jesus is. They know their shapes, colors, ABCs. I nurse the baby on demand and change his dirty diapers, using rash cream when necessary.

Sure, I lose my temper sometimes and I yell, and I let them watch more TV than the doctor recommends. But it is winter and we have been sick and cabin fever is a real thing. So a little more TV and a few extra sugary treats to bribe them into good behavior and a “mommy meltdown” or two do not mean I am failing at being a mom. It just means I’m being human, and hey, the Holy Family wasn’t exactly perfect, either. (But close, poor Joseph.)

So I hope you take the test with me to see that you are doing a great job. Maybe I’m the first one to tell you: You are doing a great job! But even though our failings can overwhelming us sometimes, take comfort in knowing that God’s favorite way to come into a family can be very unconventional, and I do believe there’s nothing He likes more than to enter into our dysfunction and save us.

P.S. i really enjoyed these reflections on the 7 Sorrows of Mary. It reminds me that being a mother, especially for the Blessed Mother, wasn’t always easy.

You know you’re a mom when…

The other week I was leaving the grocery store on a high. I had scored big with sales. And I thought to myself, “You know you’re a mom when the highlight of your week is a deal at the grocery store…and getting to go shopping alone!”

A few days later Timothy ran past me with no pants (or underpants) on and yelled, “Mommy! I went peepee and poopy for you!” As if I should be so proud… And yet I am. And I thought to myself, “You know you’re a mom when poop is a normal part of every day conversation.”funny-moms

So then I asked some of you on Facebook to finish the sentence “you know you’re a mom when…” and here’s what you answered.

YOU KNOW YOU’RE A MOM WHEN…

-when you carry diapers in your purse.

-when you look for products that make you smell and feel as if you’ve showered, without actually showering.

-when you are used to cold coffee.

-when your kids boogers, snot and pee don’t gross you out.

-when you realize you forgot to get dressed for the day.

-when you say things you never thought you’d have to say, like “no we don’t suck on trash cans or dirty diapers.”

-when you find yourself doing the things your mother did but you SWORE you’d never do.

And, you know you’re a mom when you can’t stop praying and offering it up for your kids.

 

Being a mom changes you.

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It’s a conversion, this life of motherhood. Five years ago I would have never imagined my day to day conversations about bowel movements or not being able to shower on a regular basis. I now love to cook and make menus for the week. It’s a game to me to use up all the ingredients in my house. I now enjoy folding clothes at night while watching TV and making my chores part of my “down time”.  My highlights these days usually involved saving money on a good deal or something my kids did or said. 5 years ago my highlights would have been about travel or going out with friends. Then one day your looking at a positive pregnancy test and nine months later everything changes – your hobbies, your dreams, and even your highlights of the day.

But it’s a good thing – the changes; the journey. My husband and I have been watching the Symbolon videos about how our faith is a journey. It seems scary at first to change, to deepen your faith, and what if I have to give up all my fun? But as you get to know the Lord and have a relationship with him, you don’t WANT to sin the way you used to. Your idea of “fun” changes.

It’s the same with your vocation. Your idea of fun changes. As you journey in motherhood and grow to love your children more and more, you can’t imagine life without them anymore. Even with all the snot and boogers and laundry and dishes.

As a child, I use to think my mom was crazy for not waiting to jump in the pool with me or play on the playground. “How can just sitting there and watching me be any fun? How come you just want to be in the background taking pictures?” But as a mom now, I get it. My happiness is watching them be happy. My fun is centered around my family. My desires have grown and changed along with my vocation.

St. Paul says in Philippians 1:6- “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

In encompassing all that motherhood is, we are growing and changing and being brought to perfection through our vocation. The person I am today I couldn’t have dreamed of 5 years ago, but that’s a good thing.

So, you know you’re a mom when you can’t imagine having it any other way!

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From the Spotlight to the Hidden Life

I used to be a youth minister.  I worked in a church where I was in front of people all the time. Talking, leading, and ministering. I had to be on top of my game, spiritually speaking, if I was going to be effective.  Sometimes it was more about deepening my personal relationship, but sometimes it was that outside pressure that kept me going to the UnknownChapel and waking up for daily Mass.  And so there I was, at the Church all the time because I was the face of the youth in our church. I was in the spotlight.

And then I got married. And immediately the kids started coming and I was now at home. All the time. It was more of a hidden life now – for most of the day it was just me and babies who can’t talk. The way I was used to praying involved daily mass and frequenting the adoration chapel, and I no longer had those luxuries for my prayer time. And so my priorities became eating, dishes, and laundry, and it became difficult to find time to pray. “They don’t even know what prayer is; they wouldn’t notice the difference if I prayed or not.” Or so I thought. I convinced myself that my spiritual life wasn’t as important now that I wasn’t in the spotlight.

But I was incredibly wrong. I remember when it hit me. I was in line for confession examining my conscience. It has been a while, but I hadn’t really done anything that bad. I’m a mom now, so I don’t really have time to sin, right? And then I started to recall every time that my husband and I had fought. Every time I had lost it and yelled at the kids, every time that I had failed to discipline in love. I realized that my spiritual life was more important now than ever before because I was responsible for the souls of these tiny children who do not know any better. That I am accountable to my husband and our vows to be leading him closer to heaven.

So while the hidden life, the “interior house life” of a mom may seem inconsequential, it will impact your family and society for generations to come.

I think of Mary, who we know so little about in the Bible, but yet she was the most important person in Jesus’ life. Her role was so great, and yet so hidden. With every newborn comes an adjustment in routine and schedule. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of prayer; I think it increases it.images-2

So now it’s time to be motivated out of love for God, love for my vocation, and love for my family to be striving for sanctity and to find time to pray. Not just to say grace before meals and bedtime prayers, but to find time to be anchored in prayer and to be more like Mary.

“But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Matthew 6:6

 

To Share, or not To Share?

A few months ago this story was a popular thing to share amongst moms on Facebook (and I am only now getting around to writing about it). The article is about why this mom isn’t teaching her kid to share. The first time I read it, I got swept up in her argument and at the end thought, “you’re right, we don’t want our kids to feel ‘entitled’ and not be able to cope with disappointment.”

rule10_final-Conflict-1024x810Then later in the day after I had asked my 3 year old and 1 year old to share for the twentieth time, I realized a few important things that have compelled me to write this blog in defense of sharing.

My first realization is that sharing is practical. I realized that the author’s son is at the current time an only child. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t want more children, can’t have any, or will have more in the future. She only has one child right now. I have two of the playing age.  If they do not share, they will steal toys from each other and scream until I lose my mind. It brings so much joy and peace to me and to our home when they are playing together and taking turns sharing.

I guarantee, if you DO NOT teach your kids to share, you kids will have NO friends. Who wants to be friends with someone who only thinks about themselves all the time? Who wants to play with someone who wont invite others to play along? This is not entitlement as the author suggests. What IS entitlement is hogging the toy all day long simply because you got there first. A swing or a car on the playground is not yours any more than the next kids. You just got there first.

My second realization is that sharing teaches virtue. They learn to be generous; to think of others; to be selfless and sacrificial. These virtues will go a long way when they are older- when they fall in love, get married, and have kids of their own. When they donate time and money to charities and people in need. This is my goal as a parent: to raise my kids to be virtuous, and so I need to teach them to share.

Certainly there are not hard and fast rules that make sharing work every time. There are different cases and sometimes a child is allowed to play with a toy without sharing. But if Lily has two balls and shares one with Timothy, everyone wins. When there is only one toy involved that they both want, we usually set a timer, and in the words of Daniel tiger, “I can take a turn, and then you get it back. You can take a turn, and then I get it back.” And it seems to work. And sometimes after 5 minutes they forget they even wanted the toy and learn to find something else to occupy them. This, my friends, is teaching them to cope with disappointment. Not teaching them to share at all is the real disappointment here.

Catholic Quick Takes from Timothy

A few weeks ago at Mass, I was taking a quiet moment before communion to talk to Timothy, my two year old, about what was happening on the altar. I was pointing out Jesus on the cross when Timothy said with a serious/sad face, “Yeah, and he died.” Surprised, I said, “Yes, he did die. But the good news is that now he’s alive! He died but then he rose from the dead, and now he lives in heaven.”  Another matter of fact response: “Yeah, and he sits with God the Father of the mighty.” Another surprised face by me. I have not intentionally told my two and a half year old about these truths, but he has picked up on them.

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Two weeks ago I decided it was time to teach Timothy a new prayer to add to his repertoire: the Angel of God. He loves this prayer because it has a nice rhythm to it, and had me say it over and over again until he basically had learned it in two days.  When it was his time to shine and pray it on his own, it went a little something like this: “To light, to guard, to ruin, to died, Amen.”  Close, but not all the way there yet.

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ImageLast Friday we went to a family Adoration at a nearby church. We made it through the whole hour! Timothy learned the words “adoration” and “monstrance.” Well, kind of. Towards the end of the holy hour the Deacon came down from the sanctuary with the monstrance and invited people to come up and kneel before Jesus and touch the humeral veil. As I brought Timothy up to the feet of Jesus in the Eucharist he started asking quite loudly, “Where’s the monster? I can’t see the monster!!”  I guess we still have more to learn about monstrances and adoration!

The good news is, we’re hoping to have lots more chances to learn. Although the kids were running around and tearing up offertory envelopes and talking loudly (Lily liked to hear her babbles echo throughout the Church), it was a family adoration. And we were there, as a family, to adore. It looked different than when I would go to adoration as a single young adult, but it was just as blessed. I want my kids to grow up knowing that adoration is normal, that Jesus in the Eucharist is to be loved and adored, and that Jesus invites us to come and pray, just as we are. And I’m learning that there’s no better time to start than now, even at the ages of 1 and 2. So we’ll be back!

The Snuggles Remind Me: All We Have Is The Present

Last week was a little different around here. My husband was sleeping on the recliner in the basement while recovering from his surgery, while my mom was in town sleeping in Timothy’s bed, so my two-year old was bunking with me.  It was actually kind of fun snuggling up to my sweet little boy at night since he’s not always so sweet when he’s awake.

Lately Timothy has been into reading the book, “Love You Forever.” It’s about a mom who, as her little boy grows up and drives her crazy throughout the day, comes into his room at night to rock him and say, “I’ll love you forever/ I’ll like you for always/ as long as you’re living/ my baby you’ll be.” It’s quite cute, except for the part where she drives through the night with a ladder to climb through her grown son’s window to rock him. That part is just creepy. But when we are finished reading sometimes Timothy asks me to rock him back and forth and sing to him.  I gladly oblige because suddenly this newborn became an almost 3-year old and soon he will be a teenager, and then there will be no more cuddling.

Also, it makes up for the terror he’s been during the day. I’m exhausted by noon from his frequent temper tantrums and potty training efforts.  A friend recently quoted, “The days are long but the years are short.” And I’m trying to remember that. The days are quite long until Nate comes home to rescue me, but yet my kids are growing up before my eyes. I am already halfway through my 3rd pregnancy and I have no idea where that time went!

The snuggle nights last week and the bedtime book are good reminders for me to enjoy this time because it won’t be long before he’s grown. He can be so difficult during the day but the cuddles at night make up for it. I recall the time my mom was pushing Timothy in the stroller and said that she didn’t mind because one day it will be Timothy pushing my mom in her wheelchair.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, all we have is the present. As much as I want my kids to grow up and be independent and stop driving me crazy, there are beautiful moments every day to be cherished while they are young. Like it says in James 4:13-15:

 “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit” – you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow.* You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears.  Instead you should say, “If the Lord wills it,* we shall live to do this or that.”

Lord, help me to be present to my children each day.

How Gloriously Different Are My Children

Sometimes it’s hard to believe my children come from the same genes. Not only do they look vastly different but their personalities are polar opposite, too. For example:Image

Timothy is my snuggler. He wants to be held and comforted often. Lily, on the other hand, is Miss Independent and is like, “mom, back up off my space, yo.” (She doesn’t really say that, but it would be awesome if she did.)  Timothy screams for a napkin if a drop of yogurt touches his shirt or, heaven forbid, it dares to dirty his finger. After using that napkin once he will immediately throw it away until he needs a new one two minutes later. Meanwhile, Lily has yogurt in her hair, up her nose, and down her shirt all before her first bite reaches her mouth. Lily will run away the moment you take her diaper off to change it, while Timothy is asking me to put his pants back on.

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You get the picture. Any veteran parent tells me their children are all on opposite sides of the personality spectrum, too. It seems like a daunting task to teach, discipline, and love each child in the way they personally need it. Trial and error, they say, to learn how to relate to each of your kids.

“How gloriously different are the saints,” once wrote CS Lewis. It’s true! I’ve been thinking of this often lately: all the vocations, all the religious orders with different charisms, all the canonized saints with vastly different personalities. There is more than one path to holiness; and it gives me comfort- while still overwhelming-to know there is more than one right way to raise holy children. What works for my family may not work for another, and vice versa. And that’s ok!

While I have no practical advice on parenting children, the only thing that I know so far is that the Holy Spirit is sent into our lives to help us relate to each of our kids individually. In Luke 12:12 it says, “For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”  If we are parents that are in tune with the Spirit, we can trust we will be guided to raise uniquely different and gloriously holy children.

But if you do have any practical advice, I’d love to hear it!

Finding My Own Way of Being Pro-Life

I was never one of those people to go pray in front of an abortion clinic. Sometimes I felt like a bad Catholic, since the thing to do at Franciscan University of Steubenville was to do just that, but I just never felt like that was my thing.

Instead, I was involved in youth ministry.  I felt that if we could teach the message of real love and chastity and the beauty of life and marriage to teens, then we would have less abortions to worry about anyway. In youth ministry, girls ministry and chastity were the topics I was most passionate about. In it, I saw my part in spreading the culture of life.

Then I got married, had kids, and left youth ministry. I’m not about to bring my 2 ½ and 1 year old to pray a rosary in front of an abortion clinic (if you do, you rock but I’m not going there). I can’t donate my stuff to a crisis pregnancy center because, well, I’m still using all of it.  But I have been encouraging other women to embrace their vocation to life as mothers, and most recently this week I realized my part in the pro-life movement is being a witness to life by simply being a mom.

What do I mean? I mean, instead of being all frazzled and running around yelling at my kids all day, I can ask the Holy Spirit to bring peace into the chaos. I have two kids ages 2 and 1, and I am clearly pregnant again. In public, this brings on a lot of uncomfortable stares from strangers. But instead of being embarrassed, I want to be a witness for life and show the joy of life with children to strangers, instead of the stress.

This morning I took the kids to the indoor playplace at our mall to run off a little energy.  Instead of sitting there on my phone while they ran around or being stressed about trying to keep an eye on both at the same time, I asked for peace and just went with it. As I played with them, I saw strangers smile at us instead of give the usual uncomfortable stares. I felt the peace of being in the moment with my children,

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Mind you, this is just day one of intentionally asking for peace in my mothering and I definitely can’t stay that I’m a peaceful, stress-free mom all the time (or ever, usually). But I know God can give me the grace if I keep asking! We had a speaker at our moms’ group last week who is pregnant with their 9th child and their 8th boy.  She gave all of us younger mothers so much encouragement as we watched her speak with peace and joy about ways to raise your kids in the faith.  I want to be like her. I want less stress and more peace and in doing so I can be a powerful witness to the culture of life.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the story of Martha and Mary. In Luke 10:40 it says that Martha was “burdened with much serving.” Sounds like the story of every mom’s life. Jesus says to her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.” Like, feeding my family and paying bills and stopping fights and doing laundry and changing diapers and cleaning up. But Jesus goes on to say,  “There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part.”  Mary, who was sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to him speak.  “Mary” can be you and I, as moms, sitting at the feet of our children and basking in their glorious, messy, and chaotic joy. It is witnessing to the presence of God in each little child that deserves a chance to live.