Sex Ed Starts At Birth

(writer’s note: this short blog post is not meant to be a comprehensive plan for sex ed. These are just some thoughts about raising kids that hopefully will inspire you to further reflection and education on the subject.)

I recently came across this article on the PBS website called The Case for Starting Sex Education in Kindergarten.

It explains the comprehensive sex ed program taught in schools in the Netherlands. I was pretty horrified by the content of the country-mandated program, but what they do have right is the idea that sexuality is part of who you are and shouldn’t be avoided. In kindergarten they aren’t using the word “sex” and instead are talking more about feelings and identity in the early years, but it got me thinking that really we should be starting sex ed at birth.

It's a girl!

It’s a girl!

Because, with the exception of a very small percentage of people, you are born with male or female parts, and that’s a good place to begin. You are born male or female, and your sexuality is a part of who you are. God made your body, so it’s good. In fact, our male or female bodies are meant to be a visible image of certain aspects of the person of God, equal but complimentary. You were loved into being by God, you are born to be loved by your parents, and you were made to love others. Your whole life is meant to be about true, self-giving love. And sexuality is tied to love.

You first learn to love in a self-giving way in your family. Giving hugs and kisses to your parents, sharing toys with siblings, and obeying and growing in responsibility. My husband and I were talking yesterday about how it’s important that kids see their parents be affectionate with each other, because this is where they learn. The family is the first school- for many things, including “sex ed.”

There is a lot of gender confusion in our society, so as babies grow, parents should help them see how their masculinity or femininity helps them in relation to others and to God. Not all girls need to wear princess dresses to be fully feminine (I preferred shorts) and not all boys need to like weapons (though if they do that’s okay!) to be fully masculine. But you are either male or female, so even though your hobbies and interests and feelings change over time, your physical parts wont and therefore neither will the core of your identity.

Lastly, parents should tell their girls they are beautiful and guys that they are handsome and strong. Give them a solid foundation for their self-image. Because as you approach adolescence, the sex conversation will have to change and their self-esteem will be under attack. But at least you’ve given them a good foundation. Which will lead me to my next blog post, so stay tuned!

“The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible, the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial, and thus to be a sign of it” (St. John Paul II, Feb 20, 1980).

Advertisements

Grasping for Sanctity (And Sanity!)

cropped-interior-logo.jpg

Before I had kids, holiness seemed like something that was attainable, albeit difficult. There was a routine to follow that made sense as ways to “accomplish” sanctity marked by daily mass, holy hours, and personal prayer time. There were opportunities for retreats and confession, and I lived a life in ministry.

Then came the kids. There was no more daily mass or holy hours, confession became more of a logistical challenge, and a routine of personal prayer went out the window. I know that when the kids are older routines will again take shape, but for now I still struggle with seeing the sanctity in my day of diapers and dishes and bedtime. After all, this was my vocation, correct? This sacrament of matrimony and the blessing of children were to be my ticket to heaven, right? Well, they are but it doesn’t look the way I expected or how it looked before, and I’ve struggled with that adjustment.

My intention in starting this blog was to draw connections between every day life and the sanctity I’m grasping for; the closeness with Jesus that I know deep down below my tired eyes, saggy belly, and impatient heart that I am longing for. I wanted to find the deeper meaning in this interior house life of motherhood.

So I have taken a break from writing to collect and find myself, and to find my niche. I don’t want to be “another mom blogger.” There are so many out there (and so many good ones!) that I didn’t want to re-write the same things everyone else was saying and I wasn’t sure if I would even keep the blog going.

Thanks to some encouragement and some inspiration, I’m going to re-focus and try one more time. I’m going to write a weekly (hopefully) reflection on family life and how I’m trying to find holiness in mine. I promise writings that are sincere, honest, and encouraging. I hope you can journey with me as I figure out how this interior house life will draw me to sanctity (and hopefully to sanity).

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.

St. Joseph Answers Prayers!

Authors note: A few weeks ago I started to write a serious piece on prenatal testing and kids with disabilities. I had a great vision for it, but I won’t post something serious that’s not well thought out, – and these days with my mushy pregnancy brain, nothing is well thought out – so I move to some lighter topics.

St. Joseph’s feast day – solemnity, actually – was last week. I had been very much looking forward to it. One reason is we were having a big feast with all the families from my mom’s group, which was definitely fun. But as his feast approached, I had some serious requests for his intercession, and nine days before March 19th we started a novena to him.Image

Now, I have had a deeper love for St. Joseph since I read John Paul II’s “Redemptoris Custos” in college. I had prayed a novena to him after college and I got offered the job in Denver the day I finished that novena. My husband is a quiet, hardworking woodworker who took St. Joseph as his confirmation saint. He is currently in the residential remodeling business but wants to focus more on woodworking.

So, we prayed the novena for 3 things: to sell a table he had built (which we had been trying to sell for almost 2 months), to grow his business, and to find a new house for us with shop space to grow his business in. Since he is the patron saint of woodworkers, house hunters, families, and happy deaths (hopefully that last one is a ways off), we felt he was the perfect person to ask for some help!

From the time we started the novena, we found a house, put an offer on it, and on St. Joseph’s feast day we received the counter offer which a day later we accepted.  Our new house will have 4 bedrooms for our growing family and a 1200 square foot shop in the back yard for my husband to work out of. It had been on the market for several months, and I believe it was just waiting for us to find it!

Also, we had been in touch with several people over the last two months about the table he had built, but on St. Joseph’s feast day a woman contacted us who ended up buying it today, almost a week later. He now has three more tables to build, and we haven’t even put up the rest of his work on Etsy yet!

Nathan is trying to keep up with his busy workload, but we are overjoyed and thankful that God has seen it fit to answer our requests. It has given me a little insight into petitions, particularly into how they may be answered.

I know a lot of times when I pray for something, it’s more like my son Timothy who says, “I want this, and I want it NOW!” Patience is a hard thing to teach a two year old. And a twenty-eight year old, I guess. Sometimes when we think our prayers aren’t heard, it’s just because it’s not time for them to be answered. The table didn’t sell on his feast like I was hoping, but the pieces were put in place for it to sell at a later time. Sometimes things have to fall in place before we can see the results, and God can be working through people before we even know what’s happening. Like a good parent, God wants to give us things that are good for us, but only when we need them, and when it’s the right time. And sometimes it helps to have the right people asking on your behalf. I’m thankful, though, that this time I could see the prayers being answered and worked out right in front of me. To God be the glory that he provides for his children! Thank you St. Joseph for your faithful and powerful intercession!

Why Am I Worrying?

ImageThe priest as Mass today, reflecting on the Gospel, started his homily stating that he was a born worrier. I can relate. All my life my melancholic self has divulged in worry, guilt, and sadly, grudges. But today we’re talking about worries since that’s what the Gospel was about. And it’s a hard one for me. Listen to how Jesus starts it out:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”

Yikes! My thoughts are running through each line:

Do not worry about your life.
How are we going to manage with a third baby? Are we making enough money? Is my husband’s business going well? Am I playing with my kids enough? Are we watching too much TV? What are we going to do this week? Where do we want to be in 5 years?

Do not worry about what you will eat or drink.
Do I have enough groceries for the week? Am I within our budget? Do we have enough fruits and vegetables in our diet? Do I have snacks for the kids and to satisfy my pregnancy cravings? What am I going to feed our dinner guests tonight? What am I going to have for breakfast in the morning?

 Or About Your Body.
I feel like a fat whale. I am definitely bigger than this stage the last two pregnancies. My hips hurt. My belly hurts. I’m starting to not sleep well at night and get pregnancy acne again.

What you will wear.
Does Timothy have enough 3t clothes? Do my maternity clothes fit? Nathan doesn’t have any clean clothes? That means I have to do laundry again tomorrow? Didn’t I just do it a few days ago?

 Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
I guess so, but I sure can forget it in the daily grind of life and in all my worrying.

It seems as mothers that our main goal is to provide the corporal works of mercy for our family by feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, and I can get so wrapped up in it that I forget about providing the spiritual works as well.

I heard a speaker recount a story in which a lady in the grocery line was commenting on all her kids and asked how she was going to get all 7 of them through college. She responded, “I’m more concerned with getting them all to heaven.”

 Thus today’s Gospel ended with:
“Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.”

When has God not met my needs? When has he not provided? Many, many people have lived on less than we have, so why am I worrying all the time?

Jesus, I trust in you to provide for our family, for the new baby, for my husband’s business, and most importantly for our holiness. Help us to seek you first.

Image

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.

———————————————

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.

——————————————–

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!

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!