Monday, December 29, 2008

Back on track

Today was our first day back to normal after the holidays. It was back to school, back to housework, back to our regular routine. We needed it! After weeks of Christmas break, we had gotten so used to living with no routine, no school, no housework and it was starting to really show! The kids were getting wild and out of control, I was getting frustrated and crabby, and the house was way past messy! So we got up this Monday morning and got ourselves back on track..... well......sort of!

We did not start our school work until about 10 am and the kid's attention had wandered by about 10:30. We couldn't find any pencils but there was paper all over the desks and the floor, there was a ton of bickering and commotion, the girls hair never got combed, everyone wanted lunch a half hour earlier than usual, and there are still toys underfoot wherever I go in the house.
In reality, I did not expect anything different. As usual, it will take time to really settle back in. We really enjoyed our Christmas break free-for-all and, though we do need our normalcy back, it will be a process to get used to work once again. We are taking it slow. Today, we did accomplish a few things. We dug the classroom out from underneath all that paper, found at least a few of our pencils, wrote our Christmas thank you notes, and did some reading together. I spent the rest of the day catching up on laundry. That's not so bad for a Monday, right? My hope is that by next week we will be back up to a full school schedule, and will have the house under control again.

On days like today, I feel so blessed to be able to home school and to have the flexibility to take things at a slower pace sometimes. It is wonderful to be able to take a break when we are feeling burnt out and ineffective, and it is just as wonderful to ease back into our busy life after our break. Home schooling is so very family friendly and suits our family so very well; even when we struggle, at least we struggle together. So today, as I review our first day back from break, I feel very grateful to have this time with my children and especially to have the perspective to be impressed with so little accomplishment.

Friday, December 19, 2008

tarnishing the golden rule

I've been trying to be nicer lately and through my efforts I have realized, kindness is not one of my strongest virtues. It does not really come naturally to me. I want to be kind but, most of time, only to those who are kind to me first. As a child, I remember thinking that it was my duty to live out the golden rule by treating those who were mean, mean in return so they would be treated as they wanted to be. Isn't that what it says? It took me awhile to realize that this is NOT what Jesus teaches. Now, as an adult, it is more obvious to me that He wants us to look at our own behavior, as He said, treat others the way we want to be treated. He certainly did not mean we should treat others the way they have treated us so that they can learn the consequences of their actions.
In addition to the golden rule, Jesus commands us to love God, then to love our neighbor as ourselves. Since kindness is sometimes a bit of a struggle for me I often times don't get around to the 2nd part of the command. I love God, I really do. I pray, I go to church, I read the Bible. Loving God, Who is perfect and Who loves me unconditionally is really not too hard. And I love a lot of others. Loving my friends, my husband, my children, who are all loving and kind to me, is really quite easy as well. But then there are all those other others, the ones who are not so nice to me and the ones who are just plain mean to me, and the ones who ignore me completely. Those are the "neighbors" I have a lot of trouble loving. Jesus knows this. He knows that loving our enemies does not come naturally. He knows we do not usually want to be kind to those others. Yet we are all God's children. We are all His creations. We can only show our love for God if we not only love Him but also all those He created.
When discussing this very topic with a priest recently he asked me how I would explain this little discrepancy to God on judgment day. How will I account for the lack of love I feel towards those who do not treat me the way I want to be treated? Who will I claim is responsible? Oh! Well, when you put it that way, I guess I really do get it. If I am not kind to others, how can I expect them to be kind to me? And will we ever get anywhere if we play that game my children often play- he started it! no, she did! no I didn't, he did- ?
So, though I've tried to find a loophole, there is no way around it. We must live by the golden rule and love our neighbors. It will never guarantee that we will always be treated with kindness ourselves. But on judgment day, I will only have to account for my actions, not for how they were received by others!

Monday, December 15, 2008


We are already celebrating the third week of Advent,. This is the week we light our pink candle and rejoice because, Christmas is just around the corner. I would like to take this time to share our family's favorite things about this time of year. Our family has many traditions that make the season special.
Some of our traditions are fun but spiritually meaningless. The kids and I make cookies together every year. As a family, we go look at Christmas light displays in the evenings. We take a Christmas card picture of the kids in their Christmas p.j.'s to send to our family and friends. We always eat appetizers for dinner on Christmas Eve. These traditions, though they are somewhat frivolous, are still always a part of the season for our family.
The things I really look forward to the most at Christmastime though, are the ones that focus on Jesus, rather than the worldly aspects of the season. Starting on the first Sunday of Advent we end our dinners with a family Advent prayer service. It takes only a few moments but we dim the lights, light our Advent candles, and say our special Advent prayers. The children take turns leading the prayers. It is a peaceful way to remember what we are waiting for in Advent.
Another way we make our holiday preparations meaningful and spiritual is by attending two different live nativities put on in our community. One is a walk-through nativity where we become a part of the first Christmas. We experience the city of Bethlehem, with all its busyness and overcrowding. Then, with the shepherds and the wise men we search for and find baby Jesus and his holy family in the stable. We have a chance to adore Him as his first visitors did thousands of years ago. The second live nativity we attend is a drive-through version. Though we are not as much a part of this one we love seeing things as they were when Jesus was born as a poor baby in a stable. We sit in our car and listen to spiritual music and feel the warmth and safety of knowing God’s immense love for us.
My favorite of all our Christmas traditions, however, is our own family nativities. We started collecting nativities a few years back and we add to our collection each year. We are up to ten and my goal is to have them everywhere you look in our house at Christmas. When we decorate our house, in early December, we always save the nativities for last. Right before the children go to bed we sit down at the foot of the tree and read the story of the first Christmas, as we unwrap our holy figures and set up our many crèches. Then we hide away all the baby Jesus’ until Christmas morning. Every Christmas Eve, again right before the children’s bedtime, Tim and I give them our newest nativity. We set it up and re-read the Bible account of the first Christmas. Then on Christmas morning, before we open any gifts, each person in the family gets one baby Jesus to place before Mary and Joseph in his respective stable. The kids get as excited for this as they do for their presents! Though we only take a minute or two to admire the scenes ,before we move on to the presents awaiting us under the tree, it reminds us again of what we are truly celebrating!
We are so blessed to once more be anticipating and participating in this holy time of year. The season of Christmas is perhaps, God’s greatest symbol of hope. And the gift of His Son is, without a doubt, the greatest sign of His love, as alive in the world today as it was all those years ago at the very first Christmas.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Wishes

I have noticed that when I do not feel close to God, I do not feel good about myself. My self-esteem, which is never very high to begin with, seems to take a huge nose dive when I lose my focus on serving God. When I let myself get caught up in life and in distractions it is very easy to feel disappointed in myself. I guess part of it is the worldly view of who I should be, as a woman, but most of it is caused by simple self-centeredness. When I focus all my energy on myself, I ignore God. How can I possibly feel good about myself, when I am turning away from the One who gives my life meaning?
It is Advent, a beautiful time of preparation in our Church. Tim and I had talked about changing the focus this Advent and making the season more spiritual. We talked about all sorts of things we could do to put Jesus at the center of our Christmas celebrations. We had some great ideas. Unfortunately I feel as though my heart is not in it. We are doing a lot of stuff this Christmas but I’m not feeling closer to God through any of it. It is not only busyness that is clouding my spiritual vision, it is selfishness. I am putting my own desires before my prayer time, I am thinking too much about the things I want to do, and the way I want to do them. I am afraid when Tim and I had our talk about making Advent more holy, I missed the point a little. I think I figured it was all about me doing the right things in order to make this season holy. I left God out of the planning. Instead of trying to figure out how I can make Christmas a holy time of preparation, I need to simply turn to God. Instead of focusing on what we are doing to prepare, I need to focus on who we are preparing for! If I invite God to do His will in my life this season, and all seasons, each and every day will be more holy, more meaningful, more awe inspiring.
This Christmas, instead of planning more, I will try to pray more, to invite God to make His plans known, and to listen for His guidance. I will focus on trusting more and letting go of my ideas of what this season should be. I will allow this Christmas, instead, to be an opportunity to see all that God has in store for me and my family. For I know that Jesus is the reason for the sacredness and holiness of the season, not me.
May this Christmas be filled with God’s plans in your life and in mine. May your Advent be filled with preparations to receive whatever gifts and blessings He sends your way this year. May you and your families be abundantly blessed by God at Christmas and always.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The difference between 1st and 4th

My three year old son is so funny. Last night as I was cleaning up after dinner, he said, very seriously, "Mommy, speaking of putting dishes away, can we watch a movie?" At breakfast he got upset when I did not give him the oatmeal with the “color smellables” in it. Huh?
He has been a little slower than his siblings in developing language. He had the right number of words in his vocabulary at the right age, according to our pediatrician, but his words still don’t always make sense. Our oldest child was speaking very clearly, very early. I remember having real conversations with her at 18 months old. I remember her yelling out in the middle of church when she was, maybe two years old, “These books are not cooperating!” Ironically all these years later, she is the quiet one, while her youngest brother talks incessantly about who knows what.
No one knows for sure why children develop at such different rates. I know there have been many books written about the significance of birth order on child development, and on their personalities, as well. I have not read any of them. In my completely unprofessional, untested, and unscientific opinion, the reasons for the difference in development based on birth order is so obvious it is not really worth the effort to conduct a scientific study on it.
Let me illustrate my point. When my oldest was a toddler, I had lots of time on my hands. She was an only child, Tim worked full time, and was in school. We had one car, which he obviously needed most of the time, so my daughter and I were alone together all the time. She not only got my undivided attention, she also provided me with companionship. I knew her personality very well. I , therefore knew what she was capable of, and I held her to a very high standard. If she could speak clearly and communicate her ideas she was definitely not going to get away with baby babble, or pointing and grunting.
Now when baby number four came along......I had a 6 year old, a three and half year old, and a very-close-to-two year old. My life consisted of a changing diapers, doing laundry, back and forth trips to kindergarten with the oldest, meetings at church where I was very involved, keeping two toddlers out of trouble and occupied, feeding them, wiping them, trying to do some housework, and changing more diapers...... I’m not sure I ever talked to him when he was a baby. I do vaguely remember walking around with him on my hip all day and forgetting he was even there half the time. I’d catch his eye every once in a while and then remember, “Oh... baby!” Is it any wonder he is a little slower with his mental advancement?
The thing is, my youngest is such a happy kid. He has always been such a happy kid. I could beat myself up all day feeling guilty that the fourth child has never gotten the same attention from me as the first, but maybe all he really needed was to be with me. It seems that being surrounded by people who love him has benefited the youngest in innumerable ways.
Now, I must go to see if I can get him to explain what he meant when he told me, “you look just like the guy who got fired from Ratatoille.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

What's for dinner?

Family dinners- all the parenting experts agree it is one of the best ways to strengthen families and raise well adjusted children. Wanting to do all that we can to encourage family together time, we try to sit down to a family dinner every night if we can. Dinner at our house is practically right out of a 1950's television show, I lovingly prepare healthy, well balanced meals while wearing an apron and high heeled shoes. We all sit down to a beautifully set table with the children smiling and scrubbed clean. Tim sits at the head of the table and tells us all about his day at work. It is no wonder family dinners are such an important part of raising children.

A beautiful picture isn't it? But seriously, the reality of dinner at our house goes a little more like this--- I throw together something while tripping over kids, stepping on legos and toy cars, and dodging questions about what dinner is going to be. We sit down to a table with no silverware because I haven't gotten that far in setting the table yet, which is really fine because the boys' hands are caked with mud and they have to go wash them before we can eat anyway. Our youngest daughter usually brings a baby doll to the kitchen and has to set up her baby's meal of plastic pizza and cake before she can eat and our oldest often has her nose in a book and doesn't even realize the rest of us are at the table at all. Once we do finally say our prayers and start eating it is inevitable that someone, or several someones, start in whining about the menu. "I don't like lima beans", "My soup is too hot" , "The casserole is spicy", "There is something brown on my plate", and so on and so on....... 

Tonight for instance our three year old had a tiny bit of zucchini on his plate. Rather than eat it and be done with the unpleasantness of vegetables, he sat in his chair and cried for about 20 minutes, at the end of which he was fed the zucchini anyway! If whining and complaining are not enough, the table manners at our house are as atrocious as my children find my meal planning. It is not unusual for the children to be eating with their fingers, even foods like spaghetti or mashed potatoes. They grab food out of the serving dishes and burp repeatedly just to get a reaction. I wonder if this is what the experts are talking about! Can this possibly help my children to grow up well adjusted? Instead I fear it will push Tim and I over the edge of insanity!!!!!

Yet we persevere. Night after night, I prepare meals for us to all sit down together and eat. Night after night, we come together, as a family, and share this time with each other. In the midst of the complaints and disgusting habits there are moments when we really do enjoy each other’s company. There are opportunities to share conversations and re-connect after busy days. Dinner, like most everything else in family life, is often not pretty but it is in these moments our children know they are loved. It is in these little daily traditions and routines that they know they are a part of something pretty special. They are each valued members of this family, and despite their bad habits and grumbling they are welcome at our table. We wouldn’t have it any other way (though it would be nice if they’d use their forks!).

Hope in uncertain times

We've had quite an interesting week. We've gotten a lot of news from friends about life changing events in their lives. Two families we know were celebrating their babies' first birthdays. A family in our home schooling group welcomed their sixth child, a healthy baby boy. Another friend of ours underwent surgery to remove cancer and we were overjoyed to hear that the procedure went perfectly. Unfortunately not all the news we received was good news. We found out a close friend had a miscarriage, and lost the baby, her and her family were so thrilled to be expecting. And, just this afternoon I received an e-mail telling me about the diagnosis of cancer for yet another family friend. So many life and death situations... this all coming just a few short weeks after the election that left me feeling very scared and uncertain about the future. At times like these it can be so hard to make sense of our world. It sometimes seems impossible to understand God's will. Why are some people so blessed while others are suffering? I am just naturally a big worrier and it is so easy for me to give in to fear and uncertainty, especially when life seems so fragile and God's will seems so arbitrary. So how can we go on, without being paralyzed by our fear? How can we not give in to discouragement and panic ? Some might even wonder, how can we believe in God when life is so indeterminate and random?
All I can say is I am inspired by these wonderful friends of ours. These families, who are each facing huge changes in their lives, are doing so with such faith and determination. None of them are giving in to discouragement or fear. They are all looking towards God with hope for a better future.
God does throw us curveballs upon occasion. It is true that His plans are often not our plans, yet He always wants what is best for us. Though it is very hard, even impossible, for us to understand how it could be the best thing for anyone to undergo the pain of loss or illness, God can bring good from it. In fact, He promises to do so, if only we keep our eyes, and hearts, firmly focused on Him.

Fullness of Faith

I went to Eucharistic Adoration this afternoon for about an hour. What a beautiful and peaceful experience it was. It always is......when I go. It is an amazing thing to be able to sit before Jesus and spend time with Him in prayer. How wonderful it would be if I spent time praying in front of Jesus more often. So why don't I? I could make a million excuses, and, well... I guess I do. I find countless reasons not to spend time praying. There are always unending distractions that keep me from focusing on God. I could go to daily Mass regularly if I wanted to. Probably even every day if I were so inclined. And I wish I were so inclined. I want to put God first and fit everything else in around Him but most days, I don't. It reminds me of St. Paul's words, "For I do not do what I want but I do what I hate" (Romans 7:15). Why are we so weak and so quick to turn away from our God, even when we claim to love Him with all our hearts? I don’t know the answers but I take comfort that St. Paul also tells us that Jesus said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Despite my weakness, I love my Catholic faith. It is truly who I am and what I want to live. I love, admire and respect the Pope. What a wise and genuinely holy man he is. I have no doubt about the sanctity of our sacraments, or about the truths the Catholic faith teaches us. I know that the Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ, yet I often choose to sleep in rather than to get up and meet my Lord at daily Mass during the week. I always feel so close to God and so grateful for His mercy following the sacrament of Reconciliation, yet I usually avoid it until I feel riddled with guilt.
There seems to be so many who leave the Catholic Church, who claim they do not find any spiritual fulfillment there. It always saddens me to hear stories of people who go elsewhere to seek the Lord when I know He is present in our Church in a way He can be present in no other. We have the sacraments, we have our wonderful priests, who alone can bring us the Eucharist, we have the Holy Father to guide us, and our Catechism to enlighten us. Our faith has so many beautiful gifts and blessings. Perhaps the only thing missing is the passion in our own hearts to share these gifts with others and to appreciate and participate in them ourselves as often as we can.

What will they think of next

My children have, over the last three or four days, turned my backyard into a miniature golf course. Yes, all on their own, they have designed and built a golf course consisting of eight holes. The course is quite complex: one hole has a slide, one has a tunnel, several have pits to avoid, and because of the state my backyard is in, all of them have very large sand hazards. I must say I am blown away by their ingenuity.
So to whom do I give credit for the amazing creativity and engineering prowess of my oh-so-talented children? Well, actually it is not so much who as what. I am convinced there are two factors that have helped to develop their natural curiosity and creativity. It is not really my doing, or Tim's for that matter, however I do think it is because of a few decisions we've made for our family.
The first thing that has helped is that we do not watch television. We used to love our TV and spend hours in front of it, happily amused and entertained. In fact, even when we were not sitting in front of it, the TV was on just for background noise (as if we ever needed more noise!). However, when our second child was a toddler he took television viewing to a new level. He did not just enjoy it, he lived for it. He would sit for hours with his eyes glassed over, not moving a muscle, just mesmerized by the images in front of him. It was a little scary to see our very active, very busy little boy just languishing like that. It was clearly an unhealthy thing for him. Oh we tried just limiting the television viewing. Would a half hour a day really hurt? I enjoyed having an "electronic babysitter" that allowed me a bit of a break now and then. And our oldest, who was a preschooler at the time, had a few shows that she enjoyed watching. The problem was it just always seemed that I would get busy with something and would get distracted. The half hour would stretch to an hour, or an hour and ten minutes, which then meant the kids were in the middle of a show and couldn't they please just finish this last show? And so it went, until we realized it would have to be all or nothing. We choose nothing. I learned a lot from that decision, not the least of which is that kids have an amazing ability to amuse themselves so that mommy can get a few things done or sit down for a minute or two to take a breather.
The second decision Tim and I made that has encouraged our children's creative juices to flow so freely is to home school. When we made the decision to educate our children at home there were many pros, and a few cons we considered. One of the "cons", in my mind, was that the kids would have an awful lot of free time to fill. There would be no homework, and school would likely be done in less than the normal institutional school day of 6-7 hours. I wondered what I would do with them to fill all those empty hours. As it turned out, I have not done much. Maybe it is because of my earlier discovery that children do not need the TV, or me to entertain them or maybe it is that there are so many house chores that keep me busy in the afternoons but I have allowed them to fill their own free time. I have basically given them the freedom to play however they'd like, within the rules, after we've finished with our schoolwork. I think all that time to just be a kid has given them the opportunity to be very original, very inspired, and very imaginative in the ways they fill their hours.
I never know what they may come up with next but I am fairly certain it will surprise me, and I am very certain it will be an idea I could never have come up with on my own...

Picture perfect

We recently had a family picture taken. It had been about three years since our last professional family picture and it definitely needed updating. Trying to get everyone sitting still, looking at the camera and hopefully even smiling can be quite a chore. It is not always fun posing for family pictures, but they are well worth the effort. The truth is, it may be prideful, but I really love looking at pictures of my family.
I enjoy the candid snapshots we take on our own as much as the professional portraits. I love the shots of us at the beach, or on vacation, or taking a nice little walk in the woods. What a beautiful photograph we make. I love the images of the six of us together, smiling and having fun. In our pictures, my life looks just like I always imagined it would be. We look like such a happy, loving family. I appear to be a wonderful, patient mother. The kids look so cute, so happy, so well behaved. Tim looks relaxed and content. How different real life is from our pictures! The camera shows no sibling rivalry. My unending anxiety seems to be absent. And there isn't one photo of Tim and I fighting about extended family, or house work, or who is going to bathe the kids. Now, of course, no one would actually pull a camera out in the midst of the difficult moments of life but our life seems so close to perfect in the family scrapbooks.
Lately, I have been enjoying the time I spend working on my blog too. It is another opportunity to put our best foot forward. As I look back and read my earlier entries, however, I feel a little dishonest. I fear I have given in a bit to my pride. Though our family is very blessed, we are not as holy (or as perfect) as I would like to portray us. Despite what I may want to believe, I have a lot of room for improvement. In truth, I am often not the wonderful, patient mother I strive to be. I am very often not the supportive, cheerful, subservient wife I wish I was. Of course, I love my children and my husband, and I am devoted to caring for them the best I can- but there are a lot of days when the best I can muster is really pretty pathetic.
So, for any of you reading this who are at all impressed with our unpretentious little family, and especially for myself, in the event I will want to re-read this at some point and believe I am almost perfect, I must confess I am a fraud! I can hardly spell the word perfection, much less live it. I may continue to want to believe that we are a perfect family as I gaze at our pictures but, it is really only by the grace of God that our lives are filled with so much that is right and good. And I ought to be continually thankful that God is patient enough to keep working in my life and allowing me, on occasion, to be an instrument of even a modest amount of accomplishment.
I'm sure God wants me to realize that what I see in the pictures, though it is NOT perfection, is as real and true as the sibling rivalry, the worries, and the inevitable disagreements that pop up from time to time in family life. I should not try so hard to be perfect, or to believe I am perfect, when what I most need to be is grateful! Our life is filled with joy and love but also with struggles, regrets and mistakes. Yet despite it all, God's love for us remains, always- perfect.

A quiet evening-FINALLY!

Sometimes the noise level in my house is exhausting. It is not that the kids are so loud it is just that the noise is unending. One can take such a sustained racket for only so long. Yesterday was one of those overstimulating days. The kids were good but my patience was wearing thin all day and it did not help that half the neighborhood kids were traipsing in and out of the house throughout the afternoon. Now don't get me wrong, I really love that my kids are growing up in a neighborhood that is full of kids their age, and that all they have to do is go out in the front yard to find someone to play with. And I really am glad when they are all playing at my house. Then I can keep an eye on things and be aware, ahead of time, of any crazy ideas they may all come up with. But some days I could just use A LITTLE peace and quiet.
So after a long, busy day of schoolwork, housework, a frustrating sewing project, kids under foot at every moment, throwing together dinner, baseball practice, a 40 minute workout, and then bath time, I was ready for my bit of peace and quiet. I sort of felt I had earned it. Thankfully, the day starting improving almost immediately. It was after baths, so the kids were all scrubbed clean and smelling so sweet. Their p.j.'s were on, sticking to them a little because they were still a bit damp from their baths, and their hair combed out straight. There is just something about fresh-from-the-bath children that I can't help but delight in. They look so snuggly in their p.j.'s and are so lovable and warm. I gave them their options for evening activities- they could sit quietly on the couch and read or they could scamper off to bed early. Of course, an early bedtime had no appeal for them so all four squeaky clean children choose a book and sat on the couch to read quietly. These are the moments in life I savor. All my children love books and they were all so content with their stories. How blessed I am to have moments like these. How wonderful to be safe in our warm, little house, all together sharing quiet time together. It is these little blessings in the midst of our crazy existence that show me God goodness and His love alive in the world.

Driven mad!

I'm driving myself crazy! I have major control issues. I always have. I want to control the world, my family, my emotions- well everything really. This is not really my biggest problem though. It is not my need to control the big things that drives me mad. It is my reaction to the fact that I can NOT control these things. I find the more out-of-control I feel about the big things, the more I obsess about controlling the little things.
The election has been causing me a lot of stress and worry, so I've noticed the last few days I have been trying to make everything in my environment "just right". I may not be able to bring about world peace but all the blinds in my house are hanging perfectly straight down. The children's workbooks are free of all stray pencil marks and have no erasures in them. All their letters are completely closed in or I must make them go fix it. All the tags on our towels are tucked in and hidden from view. The drawers of all our dressers are closed with NO clothes sticking out the tops. The rug in the foyer is perfectly straight and even with the front door. The books on the book shelf are put in correctly, with the pages facing in and the spines facing out. I prefer if they are placed on the shelf in descending order from tallest to shortest. Everyone's pillows are on their beds with no part of the pillow hanging out of the pillowcases. I won't have it any other way. Little toys and crap on the children's bedroom floors, or God forbid, on my classroom floor, truly eats away at me. Just thinking about it makes me want to wash my hands. In fact, I have to wash my hands any and every time I touch, look at, or think about anything dirty.
I put enormous amounts of energy into fixing all these little insignificant things all day long and then find, I have very little patience towards my family. I would love to just relax but, at the same time, I can not just leave the tags sticking out of the towels! I feel compelled to fix it!
I always try to end my blogs on a positive note, with a hope towards the future or an answer to my problems.... but this one has no solution. I'm sure, though I am very aware of my issues, I will just continue to drive myself crazy fixing towel tags all day and resenting my children for drying their hands!


I've been contemplating the virtue of mercy lately. I’ve heard so much about what a beautiful gift it is but most explanations of mercy have fallen short of the mark for me. I mean, what is it really? Does mercy refer only to forgiveness? Does it also include love? Kindness? Generosity? Then I heard this definition: mercy is when we are given gifts and blessings we do not deserve. God pours out His mercy whenever He blesses us, because, in reality, we are not entitled to any of His gifts, or even His love. This definition truly helped me to understand and appreciate God's mercy and how I am so incredibly dependent upon it. If I was only given the help and guidance, the forgiveness and patience, the love and kindness, the compassion, peace, wisdom, understanding (etc...) I was deserving of I would be without so much....
However, as much as I am grateful for my new understanding of mercy, and , of course, for the mercy I receive in my own life, I also feel condemn by it all. By grasping the concept of receiving lovingly from God all that He gives, though I deserve none of it, I feel compelled to look at my own generosity, or lack of it. I must ask myself, am I merciful to others? Do I give to others, even to my family and friends, that which they do not necessarily deserve? Am I generous in handing out forgiveness, love, kindness, patience, and compassion especially to those who I do not see as deserving? The frightening but true answer to all these questions is, unfortunately, NO.
I realize that I am very reserved in my giving. I only give love and kindness to those I see as worthy. I am even more stingy about forgiveness. I oftentimes do not even give to others the things that they Do deserve! And I tend to justify my selfishness, usually by reminding myself of all the reasons why other people are undeserving.
Understanding mercy is like a slap in the face to me! If God is truly asking me to be merciful than I have run out of excuses for myself and my actions! If I call myself a Christian but refuse to imitate Christ in mercy than what am I really? And what is the solution, but to turn to God and once again ask for HIS mercy? Please, Lord help me, strengthen me and guide me so that I may grow in mercy, because, though I do not deserve your help I can surely not be merciful without it.

What's Missing?

I just finished reading Tim's blog on his "place in this world" where he starts out by lamenting our financial situation and our lack of "stuff". He is SO right , we are doing without a lot of things that others feel are important, even essential. We don't have a DVR or even cable television, he and I are both driving old, not-so-great cars, I got new shoes today (a great deal at $10, though they are a bit ugly) but his are probably 4 years old, I've been wearing the same clothes since we got married 12 years ago, our kitchen chairs have all broken so the table is surrounded by mismatched seats... I could go on all day.
Our children must make sacrifices too. The girls have never taken a dance class, none of the kids has ever had a swimming lesson, all of their clothes are hand-me-downs or consignment shop finds, they do not get new toys except at Christmas or birthdays, they never get treats from the concession stand at baseball practice, we never buy pop tarts, or popsicles, or cones for our ice cream.
Yet, as I read Tim's words, I felt so blessed by the life we have! It is crazy, I guess. In fact, more than one person has implied (or said outright) that we ARE crazy for the choices we've made. But there is one sacrifice I've never had to make and it has made ALL the difference to me. Tim has NEVER once asked me to leave our children and go to work myself. Despite the fact that he works about 70 hours a week to barely pay our bills, and despite the fact that he worries about money and sometimes loses sleep over it, he has never suggested that I should make my own share of the money around here.
I would do without a whole lot more, if I had to, but I am so glad, and so blessed to have what I want most from this life. I have my faith, my amazingly supportive, loving husband, and the opportunity to be with my children each and every day. Tim and I, by making the choices we have, have the chance to raise our children the way we want. We can be the greatest influence in their lives, and guide them in all they do as children. What other "stuff" do we need?

Become like little children

We recently took part, as a family, in the 40 days for life prayer vigil going on in our diocese. The idea is to have a prayerful presence in front of an abortion clinic to offer our petitions on behalf of the unborn, as well as to increase awareness of the horrors of abortion.
Now Tim and I have always tried to protect the innocence of our children and have sheltered them, as best we can, from many of our world's worst evils. For this reason, we had never talked with them about abortion. But, the day before our hour of prayer in front of the "clinic", we had a little talk with them. We felt it was important that they were a part of the prayers, and therefore had to understand, on their level, what they were praying about. We briefly explained that some people think it is okay to hurt babies before they are born, even to kill them. I don't remember having to tell them this was a bad thing, they immediately knew. Our children, who are not nearly as far from the womb as we are, knew without a doubt this was horrible, appalling, and the gravest sin. And I was thinking, would any other child react differently? I'm sure ALL children would be disgusted if they knew the truth of abortion.

Our children have seen ultrasound pictures of themselves. They understand that the pictures show them in mommy’s tummy before they were born. Our 5 year old particularly loves the ultrasound picture showing her sucking her fingers in utero. She still sucks her fingers today, and when asked if that really is HER in the picture, HER- the little girl we know and love today, she answers that, of course it is!
Talking to my children about abortion was not an easy thing. I hated the idea of admitting to them that there is such dreadfulness in our world. Yet, as usual, they have amazed me. Their sweet, heart-felt prayers offered, not only during our vigil at the abortion clinic, but each day since then, have humbled and impressed me beyond words. It reminds me of Jesus’ words as he pulled a young child close to him one day, “...the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Our children know evil when they see it or hear of it. May we be inspired by our children and, someday, have understanding and faith as strong as theirs.

Overwhelmed, over tired, under appreciated

Ahhh! Parenthood- what a gift, what a blessing! How easy it is to forget that, in the midst of the exhaustion, the messes, the nagging, the whining, etc, etc, etc........ How easy it is to get caught up in the day-to-day struggle of raising children and housekeeping and to forget that God IS with us. Family life doesn't always feel like a path to holiness but instead often feels like running in circles and getting nowhere but weary!
I'm writing this in the midst of a day that has left me feeling overwhelmed, over tired, and under appreciated and it is not even dinnertime yet. On days like this (and sometimes it feels like MOST days are like this) it is so easy to be discouraged! I must remind myself (often), that it is on these days that God most wants us to turn to Him. Instead of yelling at my family and dumping my frustrations in their laps I need to turn to my Lord and allow Him to help me through it all. Now if only I could find a minute to spend some time with Him.....

What matters most...

What is important to me? I have put a lot of thought into this question. (Of course, according to Tim I think too much and therefore have put a lot of thought into every question, answer, and fleeting moment I've ever experienced. However, it remains to be seen whether that means I think too much or just enough!) At different times of my life, different things have taken precedence in my priorities and my thoughts, but two things have ALWAYS been there. First of all, my faith. And second of all my family.
I have always felt God calling me. I have always prayed and turned to Him with my needs, my fears, and my unending list of worries. I have ALWAYS believed God IS there- listening to my prayers and caring enough to respond (though not always in the way I want Him to). God has never let me down or done anything to disprove my belief in His love and steadfastness. My faith guides me in every day, every situation, every moment. I am kind of a failure in my quest towards holiness but my faith remains strong.
I am a wife and mother. Even before I was a wife and mother I knew I was called to be one. I believe God has given me the gift and responsibility of serving Him in a family. It is my calling and my greatest blessing. It is also my greatest challenge but perhaps that is only because I take it very seriously and want to please God in my vocation. Because I have always known this was what God created me for, my life leading up to my marriage and the birth of my children was truly, in my mind, preparation for this role. As a child I played house with my baby dolls, as a teenager I babysat often, as a young adult I worked in a child care center and as a nanny. I have always hoped and dreamed about a family of my own.
I admit I define myself by my vocation. I do not feel at all diminished as a person to be only a wife and mother. I am proud to have a wonderful family to serve and care for. It is enough for me. It is all I've ever wanted.
I want to share my struggles , my challenges, my failures, and (God willing) my successes so that others may be strengthened in their journey of parenthood, and even more important, their journey to holiness.


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