Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Joy of Chocolate Chips

Per my sister's request, I thought I would stop in for an advent update. This stomach bug I have had for the past few days has made it incredibly easy not to eat sweets. In fact, it has made it incredibly easy not to eat anything at all. But the point of advent wasn't to starve myself, so I'll just stick with the sweets.

When I first started the no sugar road, I was in a very, very bad mood. I didn't realize how much eating sweets effected my mood. And I didn't realize how much denying myself would really piss me off. I was literally mad at times that I couldn't have that cookie. I pictured myself at the gates of heaven and Jesus saying something like, "You thought THAT was Joy? No, no....that was only all those chocolate chips you were eating." How sad it would have been had I gone without this advent fast and not realized how much true joy is lacking in my life. And how much sweets and other foods have a real grip on me.

I will admit I have fallen a very few times. What is different is my ability to pick myself up without being discouraged. In times past when I have fallen off the bandwagon, I have been so disappointed I just give up entirely. I think God has given me some very special graces this advent season. He sees me toddling as a little child, often stumbling, rushes to me, picks me up and says, "Don't be discouraged, child. Get up and continue this journey."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sacrifice In Advent

Did you know that people used to give up things for Advent just like they do in Lent? When I first heard this, I was a little shocked, but as I pondered it for a few days it made sense. Giving up physical pleasures and in their place seeking God should be done in Advent as well as Lent. What better time to detach from worldly things than in the season where we prepare to invite the Word made flesh into our hearts? What better way to prepare than to give something up.

This Advent I'm giving up sugar. I know it's cliche, but it really is the hardest thing for me. I'm a sugar addict, there is no doubt about it. I'm not posting this to brag or toot my horn, but because every time I have tried to detach from sweets I have failed. I figure a little online accountability couldn't hurt. A few weeks ago I confessed being gluttonous, especially with sweet things. The priest said something very profound that has really stuck with me. He told me that when we are gluttonous, particularly with sweets, it is because we are filling the place in our hearts where the sweetness of Jesus is supposed to be with sweet food. Our bodies and souls naturally seek out this sweet pleasure that can only be truly satisfied in Christ. It seems so simple, but it was very eye opening to me.

My continuous phrase this advent season will be, "Jesus you are my sweetness" whenever I crave sweets. I have also asked the Blesses Virgin to walk with me and teach me the virtue of temperance as she taught it to the child Jesus in Bethlehem. I'm praying that you all have a blessed and fruitful Advent season.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Things They Say (5)

After explaining to Peanut how his friend got a baby brother I asked, "If mommy and daddy have a new baby, do you want a brother or a sister"
Peanut: "Hmmm...a baby brother AND a baby sister"
Me:  "Well if you just had to choose one would it be a brother or sister?"
Peanut: "Hmmm....GREEN!"
(When Peanut doesn't know the answer to questions he usually spits a random color out. Pretty cute and funny!)

Me: "Please don't step in the flower bed"
Peanut: "Ok..." (Long pensive pause) "Mama? Who sleeps in the flowers?!!?"

Peanut has recently entered the "Why, Mommy?" stage. It's just as lovely as everyone describes would be amazed at how many of our conversations end in "Because that's how God created it". Not because I am using this as an out, but because I have seriously answered so many "Why?"s that it really is the only answer left. This evening I tried something different on our drive to Target:

Peanut: "Why do all the lights turn on, Mama?"
Me: "So you can see the signs when it gets dark"
Peanut: "But why, mama?"
Me (trying something new): "Well, why not?"
Peanut: "NO! You know how to answer me that question! Now behave!"

Geez...won't try that one again!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Man I DON'T Want My Daughter To Marry

My birthday was this week. I asked for an ipod to listen to Catholic Answers on while I do my housework (kids napping of course). Since we are a little lot short on cash these days, my husband ventured to Craigslist to find a gently used one. He found one for a decent deal and met the seller to pick it up. He was a fourteen year old high school student who apologized to my husband that he hadn't deleted his music from the ipod before selling it. When my husband came home, gave it to me and explained his music was still on there, curiosity got the best of me. Of course, I started scrolling through the music this kid listened to. I didn't actually listen to the music, just read the titles. That was enough for me. Some are too dirty to even post on this blog, but among some of the worst were:

Miss Me, Kiss Me, Lick Me
Go Hard in the Paint
How Do You Want It?
Homegirl Dirty
Teach Me How To Jerk
Ink My Whole Body
Ice Cream Paint Job

He was FOURTEEN, people! Excuse me while I puke. How can we expect men to treat women well if they are constantly filling their heads with this crap (oh gosh, I sound like my mother!)? Are we really surprised when women are beaten, raped and sometimes killed when they are treated like nothing more than sexual objects? Why aren't parents paying attention to the music their kids listen to? 

My husband and I often talk about what we will say and do the first time our daughter brings a boy home. All of the scenarios we have come up with went flying out the window tonight. Now I KNOW what my first question will be..."Excuse me, if you want to date my daughter, I'm going to need to see your ipod first". 

For now, I think I will just dunk the thing in holy water and pray it doesn't break in the process...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Baby to Be

My sister is having a baby. I'm beyond overjoyed about this (you have no idea). I can't help looking at newborn baby girl clothes at every store I walk in to. Unfortunately, for numerous reasons, I won't be able to make her baby shower. But that doesn't mean I didn't venture out for a gift. Tonight I went to Target and started looking for a card to send for her shower.

Couldn't find one.

Do you know why? Because every single flippin' card I picked up said something like this..."Congratulations to you and your baby to be!" BABY TO BE?!?!?! What the!?!? What in the world, if not a baby, has been kicking my sister's ribs the last few weeks, causing her to pee every two seconds and probably occupying her every thought? A "baby to be" apparently. What does that even mean? Baby to be. It's a baby right now, Hallmark! She's just covered up by human skin in a little sack. Did you not take Biology 101? She has her own human DNA, a heartbeat, legs, arms, ten fingers and toes and everything else that physically constitutes us as human beings. Not "almost" human beings.

I must have looked like an idiot searching for cards. My other option was to get one that said, "Congratulations on the birth of your daughter!" The doula in me comes out. Tears start flowing. So one minute I'm picking up a card that makes me cry and the next I'm picking up one that makes me so frustrated I'm slamming it shut and angrily shoving it back in it's place. Surely I was the bipolar mother who just didn't get enough sleep to those around me. Maybe I should write a letter to Hallmark. Maybe it would start something like this:

Dear Hallmark,
Does this look like a "Baby to Be" to you?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Unspoken Truth

Every evening we take our children to the park before bed time. On Wednesday I ventured out myself because my husband had dental surgery and couldn't come. It gave me the opportunity to have a discussion with a woman I probably otherwise wouldn't have. We talked about motherhood, being military and a whole bunch of things. Somewhere in the conversation religion came up. She shared with me that if she had one wish for her son it would be not to raise him in naivety like her parents raised her. She was raised in a Christian church and sheltered from all other religions. She went on to share that she no longer attends any church, and when her son is old enough she will take him to all churches and let him decide for himself what, if anything, he wishes to believe in.

This isn't the first time I have met parents with this mind set. I think they have very good and honest intentions in raising their kids this way, but I think they don't realize the unspoken truth they are teaching their children by doing this. Children are these little blank slates we fill and color with our teachings. They don't come out of the womb knowing how the world works and how to respond to certain situations. We teach them that. Yes, we have a heart made for Christ but who directs the heart there? The parents. We also have a strong tendency towards sin. When we send our children into the world saying, "here, explore everything and find what works for you" we are really saying, "There is no truth. Nothing worth believing in, fighting for or loving. All paths lead to the same end." The common belief in today's world of cultural relativism is doing nothing more than confusing hearts that were made for Truth; and one Truth at that.

This conversation, of course, got me to thinking about my own upbringing. My parents never sheltered me from other religions. They didn't encourage me to go to any church I wanted either, but I knew what others believed. And when I did venture out as a teenager to explore other belief systems my parents were always there to answer EVERY question I had about my Catholic faith. If they didn't know the answer, we looked it up together. It wasn't about brainwashing me to believe whatever they believed in, it was about seeking truth. Finding what logically and contextually made sense. How many people do you know that have left the Catholic faith simply because there was no one there to answer the questions they had? Sadly, I know plenty. But this is why I continue to try and learn my faith and seek out Truth in all questions that arise in life. So that one day, I can answer those questions for my own children. My wish for them is that they grow up knowing that truth in this messed up world does exist and that He is worth living for.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Bad Blogger...and An Update on Miss Belle

So, first of all, sorry for being a bad blogger these last few months. I know I don't update my blog nearly enough, but sometimes there just isn't much time or content to write about. And I don't want to bore you with my day to day activities, because trust me, they would bore you (not saying they bore me, but they would bore you).  If you are still reading this scarcely updated blog, thanks for sticking around for the ride. I really do appreciate it!

Miss Belle fell in the bathroom last week and cracked one of her teeth in half. Of course it was her upper front tooth. You know, the one that shows every time she smiles? The one she uses every time she bites into food? Yeah, that one. Why that one!??! My husband and I aren't sure this girl will make it till she is five. Seriously, she has no fear, and at eighteen months has already broken her leg and is about to have major dental surgery. I rushed her to the dentist that day. The dentist said it's about as bad as it can be. She needs a baby root canal (another phrase I never thought I would hear), and will have to be put under general anesthesia. Yikes! Talk about scary. It seems to be our only option, besides pulling her tooth which could affect her speech and ability to eat. Not to mention, I really didn't want my baby girl looking like a hillbilly with a knocked out tooth. Oh, daughter of mine, please stop hurting yourself! You are killing your mama with worry. Her surgery is on the 17th. Please pray she does okay with the anesthesia and that she doesn't kill herself before them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Turning Three: The Things I want to Remember

Peanut turned 3 last week. I still can't believe he is three. Here are just a very FEW of the things I want to remember about this special age.

The way you tell and listen to stories. You still remember stories from when you were just a year old and you tell them as if they happened yesterday. Some of these include: the first time you saw the Easter Bunny (and screamed), the monkey at the zoo, and the bear taking a bath at the zoo.

Your laser. Yes, you actually think you have a Buzz Lightyear laser on your arm and you pull it out whenever the need arises (mostly when you are upset). You say, "I'm shooting my laser at you" then you squint, stick your tiny arm out with finger pointing and go, "wooo-woo-woooo!" (obviously the noise any good laser would make).

Your slight obsession with Buzz and Woody. I always promised myself I would never be one of those parents who lets their children become obsessed with a movie character, but watching your imagination go and how much you love to play with these characters brings joy to all of us.

Your love for reading. You can sit down for very extended amounts of time and listen to stories that are far beyond your age level or reading comprehension. Often times, you pick up a book and read it to yourself, making up the story the best you can remember it.

How you like to call me Mommy Monkey and like me to call you Baby Monkey. This game never seems to get old to you and I love it. Sometimes you even go around on all fours making monkey noises. When you do something that upsets me, sometimes you will tell me, "No baby monkey did that!" Smart boy.

How nice you are to your sister. Always trying to help her, play with her and make her feel better when she cries (and yes, these occasions far outweigh the times you knock her on her rear).

Your curly brown hair that your daddy likes to comb down, but I like all a mess. I hope you never loose them, but I'm sure that's wishful thinking.

You playing priest and reciting the entire consecration. You walking around with "Big Jesus" (a large crucifix) and singing "Awww-aaaaa-eeee-wuuuuuu" (Alleluia) just like at mass.

All the funny ways you pronounce things that are very very quickly becoming extinct: bilabot (buffalo and helicopter), banacanacas (binoculars), me-na-meet (oatmeal), poon (spoon), some-ping (something).

Your cute expressions that you use like an adult: "Probably we need to...(fill in the blank)", "OH! I have a good idea (enter idea here), you like that mama?", "It's ok Belle, I here I here" (when Miss Belle is crying).

The way you like to compromise with us. You hardly ever whine to get things, but instead offer an alternate solution. Example: the other day I told you we couldn't ride anymore rides at the shopping center because we were out of quarters. You responded with, "Mama, probably we just need to get in the car, go home, get more quarters then drive back to the shopping center." You always have the best ideas...

We love you Peanut. Every day is filled with so much joy, smiles and laughter that you bring to this family. I'm so proud of the boy you are and the man I know you will become. I look forward to seeing you grow and helping and teaching you through this journey of life. I love you, my son.

Mommy Monkey

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Things They Say (4)

Peanut: Mama, hum ear I need show you sum-ping (mama, come here I need to show you something). I show you what me did.
Enter in the kitchen and see puke all over floor.
Me: What happened??!!? Did you puke?
Peanut: Yes. I eat dog food then I puke all over.

Peanut: "Can I go with you to play volleyball?"
Me: "No, not tonight"
Peanut: "Oh, why mommy?" (His new favorite question by the way)
Me: "Because you could get hit with the ball and get hurt"
Peanut: "Probably they need to say, 'are you ready to catch?'"

Me: "That dinosaur has a horn on it's head. Do you see it Peanut?"
Peanut: "Oh...Yeah...I can't hear it!"

After Henry (the dog) chewed up Peanut's ball:
Peanut: "NO HENRY! NO EATING BALLS! Woof! Woof-woof-woof woof! WOOF!"
(Who knew the kids spoke dog?)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Top Ten Phrases I Never Thought Would Come Out of My Mouth

Along the journey of motherhood some pretty wild statements have come from my mouth. It's amazing what kids cause you to say in certain moments (and I'm not talking about profanity here). Somewhere along the journey I started keeping a list of all the crazy stuff that comes out of my mouth. Here are the top ten:

10."Don't hit the roof with your stick." (Peanut playing with a stick in his carseat)
9. "Don't ride your sister like a horse." (You can figure that one out yourself)
8. "Get that fork out of your nose." (Again, no explanation needed)
7. "Stop licking the frisbee."
6. "I can't, I can't talk about "Go Dog, Go!" and listen to Bible study!" (We were on a roadtrip trying to explain a book to Peanut and listen to Scott Hahn teach the book of James,
5. "Don't fling your oatmeal like a priest." (Peanut was pretending to be the priest sprinkling holy water on the people at mass...with his oatmeal)
4. "The Gospel is not in your nose." (Peanut was trying to bless his "mind, lips and heart" like we do in Mass before the Gospel. Guess he wanted to throw his nose in there too.)
3. "What is Nemo doing in the cheese?" (Yeah, I don't know either.)
2. "How did St. Therese get in the trash can?" (Turns out Miss Belle put her there.)
1. "Please keep your blueberries off the baby Jesus" (Peanut was playing with a small nativity scene while eating in his high chair.)

Now who ever thought blueberries and baby Jesus would end up in the same sentence?

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Girl In Our Bed

When we first had Peanut we had certain ideals about how we would parent our children. We stated things we would never do and how we would react when certain situations arouse. Some of these ideals were noble and we have stuck to them to this day. Others have been tossed out the window, namely, the ideal that our babies would always sleep in their own cribs.

Peanut was a good sleeper from the young age of eight weeks till about nine months. To be quite honest, he preferred to sleep in his own bed and slept most soundly there. The standard we had set before our children were born was easy to keep. Miss Belle has been a different story. She loves, and I mean LOVES to snuggle up close to her daddy at night and sleeps perfectly contently all night when she is near us. And so the standard of getting the baby out of the room at three months went flying out the window. Then six months, then nine months then a year...and here we are nearly eighteen months later and she is still sleeping right next to us, perfectly content. We call ourselves, "accidental co-sleepers". It's never something we planned to do, it's just something that ended up happening so everyone in our home could get a good night's sleep.

There is a part of me that feels I have to apologize to people when they find out she sleeps in our bed, and it has me thinking. All the reasons I have been given about why a baby should NEVER be allowed to sleep in your bed make perfect logical sense.  But the truth is, none of the so called negative consequences have come true in the reality of a baby being there. Our marriage is better than ever, everyone in our home gets a good night's rest (most of the time), my daughter is perfectly content, and my son never has to wake up to his crying sister. And contrary to what some people may think, she won't be there until she's five. No, I don't know when she will move, but what's the harm in her being there? If anything, I think it has been a positive thing to have our baby sleep in our bed.

EVERY night, I crawl into bed and find my husband's large hand curled up around the small of my daughters back as she lay there soundly sleeping. Every night he tells me, "I just love her so much. She's just so little. I don't want her to grow up." And every night I fall in love with my husband all over again. There is nothing more manly or more fatherly than when a man is so loving towards his children. Sure it's not what we ever "planned" for our children, but it's so much better. Thank you, husband, for doing what works best for our children and family, loving them so fully and being the best father I could ever dream of. I love you.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Things They Say (3)

Me: "Are you excited to go to Aubrey's house?"
Peanut: "Yes"
Me: "Is Aubrey your good friend?"
Peanut: "NO! Auby girl. Not friend. Auby girl!"

Peanut looking intently at a crucifix in church after confession, yells loudly, "JESUS WAKE UP!"

Peanut wanting out of his carseat: "Mom, buckle me out please!"

Friday, July 29, 2011

Being Present

Miss Belle has recently become obsessed with reading. If I sit down on the couch at any point in the day, I can be assured that she will be at my feet holding a book up in the air for me to read. My "quick" facebook and e-mail checks have been seriously interrupted.

One day, as I was holding my daughter on my lap and trying to read "Go Dog, Go!" for the BILLIONTH time while simultaneously checking my e-mail, it hit me: "What am I doing!?!?!" Do I think this 15 month old girl is dumb? Do I really think she doesn't see me looking at the computer screen instead of at the book (because I have it memorized, ya know)? Miss Belle may not speak, but at such a young age she already understands non-verbal communication very well. And what I was saying was, "this e-mail and computer is more important and interesting to me than reading to you."

This new reading obsession got me thinking about all the other times in the day I scream of being disinterested in my children without saying a word. I started to notice all the times my Peanut would be telling me his very theatrical stories or ask me questions, and I would be doing something else instead of looking him in the eye with interest. Or all the times he tells me, "Hum ear mama, I need show you someping" (come here, mama I need to show you something) and I make him wait, just one more google search, just one more dish, just one more load of laundry, just one more fill in the blank. How many times do my children call out my name and get a half serious "yes, sweetie?" while my eyes and attention are turned a different way? How many times have I shouted across the room for them to do something or stop that instead of getting up and showing them how? I tell them often how special they are and how much I love them, but often my actions don't coincide with my words.

I am happy for Miss Belle's new reading obsession. It has forced me to looked at how present I really am to my children. I know the days where she climbs up on my lap to read will be over in the blink of an eye.  I need to cherish these moments when my children are small and I am their world. After all, if mommy and daddy don't treat them like they are God's greatest gifts to them, how will my children ever believe that they are valued, special and important in this world? I am focusing on putting the computer aside, the dish down and the project away and being present to my children. There is no task in my life more important than that. How do you make time and efforts to be present to your children throughout the day?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why It Matters

I had a friend from high school share her birth story with me tonight. It was nothing less than traumatic. Although she probably doesn't know this yet, it is the typical c-section birth story. Mom's not progressing fast enough, epidural not working, labor taking too long, mom freaking out so baby stresses and you need a c-section.

A lot of people would look at a birth story like this (and there are many like this) and say, "Oh well? Mom and baby are healthy, and my gosh! At least they got the baby out before something bad happened. It doesn't matter how the baby got here as long as it is healthy". While I'm all for healthy babies, IT DOES MATTER HOW THE BABY GOT HERE! For the rest of her life this mom will look back on the day her son was born as the most traumatic, overwhelming, lonely and helpless experience of her life. All because someone wasn't there to tell her it's ok and that she was strong enough and capable of  birthing her own son. All because doctors want mom in bed on her back because it is convenient for them, but not the best position for the baby or mother. Or maybe they just don't know the right positions, which I'm not sure is any better.

A woman will remember the day her child was born forever. It's a memory that needs to be protected not thrown away like she is just another patient. The family unit, specifically during labor, needs to be protected, respected and cherished. A couple (more specifically the mother) will either come away from birth feeling empowered, taken care of and at peace or feeling out of control and forgotten.  There are a lot of women walking around today feeling like the day they gave birth was the day they lost all control of their body and handed it over to a sharp knife on an operating table. And the majority is because of lazy practices and a misunderstanding of the birthing process.

It was reaffirmed to me tonight why I am becoming a doula. Women deserve a better birth story than my friend's. A baby's birth day should be the best day of the mother's lives, in every way. Hopefully, through education, doulas and competent midwives, we can begin to heal the broken labor practices in this country. And through this, heal the women who have fallen victim to them.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bye Bye Stains

Mom's of small people know that no matter how hard we try, some great clothes are going to end up with some very stubborn stains. A very very good friend of mine allows her children to "self-feed" a great deal more than most parents, and therefore knows all about stains. She has shared her secret with me, and I feel obligated to share it with you. This simple recipe has gotten out all my stubborn stains on clothes I thought were ruined:

1. Boil a large pot of water (large enough to fit your stained clothes in. People with a lot of stained clothes and a top loader washer can just fill their washer with very hot water)
2. Add one scoop of Oxiclean (add slowly, or it will overflow. I know this from experience).
3. Add a tablespoon of dish detergent (I use Dawn)
4. Add clothes making sure they are soaked in solution
5. Cover and let sit overnight
6. In the morning, wash on a normal cycle and TADA! Clean, stain free clothes!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Becoming a Doula: A Catholic Birth Story

As some of you know, I have started the (long) process of becoming a certified doula. At my last birth, I had the amazing opportunity to help a good Catholic friend and her husband through childbirth. Regardless of her pitocin induction, this mother did an amazing job looking to Christ for strength in labor and was able to birth her son without the use of any pain medicine. "As Catholic mothers, we cannot embrace motherhood while rejecting the process which makes us mothers; we cannot appreciate our vocation while resenting the mysterious time when our child resides tranquilly in our womb and while fearing that joyful moment when the child emerges from our womb and is first welcomed into our arms" (From Your Vocation of Love pg. 115).

These are birth notes from the eyes of the Doula:

It is May 18, 2011 and you are scheduled for an induction at Mercy Medical Center. I arrive at your house at 6:50am to find you hurriedly trying to do the last bits of laundry before going to the hospital. Your children are so excited that their baby brother is coming, and sister speaks of how big of a help she is going to be.  We arrive at the hospital at 7:20am and meet your kind nurse. As we check into the room, your children dance around with excitement as they look out the window and discover the hospital room where their baby brother will be born. At 8:15am you are checked and found to be 3-4cm and 50% effaced. At 8:20am your Pitocin is started while Dad takes the children to eat breakfast in the cafeteria. When they return from breakfast, you and Dad decide it is time to take them to the sitters house. They all kiss you goodbye and shout, “Goodbye mommy” as they exit the door.

At around 9:15am your doctor arrives to greet you with his enthusiastic smile. He decides to break your bag of waters to try and get labor moving.  Soon after, Dad returns and finds us chatting up a storm. He suggests we read the daily mass readings. As we wait for contractions to pick up, you suggest praying a rosary for a safe delivery. Dad leads us all in the rosary as we contemplate the glorious mysteries. This moment was so special to watch a couple pray so devoutly to the Mother of us all for your sweet baby boy.

At 11:15am you are checked and still found to be 3-4cm and about 50% effaced. We decide it is time to get you out of bed and moving to get baby to come down the birth canal. For the next hour we move around trying various positions. You slow dance with Dad, sit backwards on the bed, and lean over the edge of the bed during contractions. We can all tell that the contractions are getting more effective and stronger. Dad looks at you with a loving smile and tells you how great of a job you are doing. You continually ask him, “Am I still here?” and he smiles and says, “You’re still here!”  In these words you find strength to go on.

At 12:30pm you mention feeling pressure and are checked to be 6-7cm and 80% effaced. You are so happy that progress is being made! We continue moving into different positions and at 1:05pm you are checked again and found to be 8cm and 100% effaced. You are focusing through each contraction with such peace and strength that you surprise us all! Contractions begin to really pick up and you mention how badly you want baby  here. You whisper to him in between contractions, “Come on baby. It’s time to come out.”  As contractions get harder, you ask for a prayer from your bag. You silently pray a prayer for strength to our Blessed Mother and are immediately uplifted and determined to continue on. In your hand is a small wooden cross that you grip with each contraction, remembering the true meaning of labor and the sacrifice of motherhood. What an honor and blessing to witness the strength found in Christ during your labor. It was truly breathtaking.

At 1:15pm you say that you need to push and your doctor is called in. You are set up in bed with Dad at your head, holding your hand and encouraging you during pushing. At 1:26pm your baby boy comes slipping out of your body and everyone in the room exclaims in unison, “HE’S BEAUTIFUL!”  Baby  is so pink and handsome and is quickly placed on your chest where he is perfectly and wonderfully content to be in your arms. Dad is so incredibly proud of you and tells every person he talks to how wonderfully you did with no pain medication throughout labor. 

This birth was filled with so much love, strength and an incredible amount of grace. You did AMAZING! Please know that this is only my perspective on the birth, and Baby’s true birth story belongs to you.  This birth has taught me so much of the power of prayer in childbirth, and it is a day I will remember for the rest of my life. I feel very honored and blessed to have been a part of something so sacred. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why We Don't Have Cable

We don't have cable in our house, and by "don't have cable" I mean we don't have one single channel on our TV. Just black fuzzy stuff. The thought of getting cable has crossed my mind a time or two, but it was once again put to death after our vacation last month.

On our trip to Colorado and New Mexico, we had more time in front of a television than we have had in a long time. So did our children. At our hotel while getting ready I turned on a cartoon for Peanut and thought, "Hey why not? He never watches cable." This happened three different times, and three times I wished I hadn't turned it on.

Show number one: Disney Channel. Turned on a cartoon that was in half english, half spanish. The ENTIRE episode was about water conservation and saving the environment. The show used some pretty extreme fear tactics including have a character move out of her home because she couldn't water her garden anymore. I'm not against water conservation. I'm not against doing things that help our environment. But the truth is, my two year old son really doesn't need to learn that from the cartoon on TV. Can't we just keep it to a cute story about sharing or using your manners? I'll teach my son how to turn off the water when he is brushing his teeth without making him fear that he will go thirsty for the rest of his life if he doesn't. And I'll do it in English. 

Show number two: Disney Channel (again). A "family" show about siblings. One of the brothers is trying to master his wizard skills. WIZARD SKILLS! Seriously, I don't remember this stupid stuff when I was growing up. Not only do I have a problem with the moral aspects of wizards, witchcraft and all such things, but also with the fact that Disney tries to make it look cool and normal for kids to go around with sticks and manipulate their environment however they see fit without ANY mention of God. It's not in the context of imaginative play, but in the context of reality.  Now I wasn't expecting Disney to mention God, but I was expecting a little something more like Mickey Mouse or the Mighty Ducks.

Show number three: The Cartoon Network gets turned on for Peanut at my parents house. A nearly pornographic commercial of Lady GaGa comes on in between cartoons. What in the world do cartoon watching aged kids have to do with Lady GaGa? Am I missing something? The commercial showed her in barely a bra and underwear doing extremely sexual dance moves! On Cartoon Network! 

I know some parents say they monitor very well what their children watch. And I believe that. But I don't trust the television industry enough to let them anywhere near my home. We only get one shot at innocence, and to have it taken away in the snap of a finger on a TV station that was supposed to be "kid friendly" is not going to happen in this house. The truth is, we don't know when little boys start viewing women sexually, or when little girls start thinking that they should look just like that model on TV. I am not willing to take the risk of assuming my kids "don't get it" only to find out they were negatively influenced by the shows I put on for them. I know my kids will come in contact with some of the scenarios on TV in their everyday lives, and I'm not trying to put them in a bubble to shelter them from that forever. But I am not willing to let cable television form the way my children think and respond to those situations. I will decide when things are "age appropriate" and explain things in the context of our faith, not in the context of a television show.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Other People's Kids

For some reason, I always seem to have more patience, kindness and charity towards other people's kids. If I am babysitting someone else's children, I am the world's best "mom" for the few hours I have them. This has always bothered me. Why can I be so consistently nice to other's kids and not my own? Of course you already came up with the answer (because you are smarter and faster that I am). It's because I can give them back. At the end of the two hours, no matter how many fits they threw, questions they asked or times I had to repeat myself, I can give them back to their own parents. When I am watching other children, I always try and think of how I would want someone treating my child if I wasn't around, and presto! I'm the (almost) perfect sitter.

Have I forgotten that my children are not mine? Have I forgotten, or perhaps never realized, that I'm really just "babysitting" for the God of the universe? Sure babysitting a couple of hours versus many many years is quite different, but when put in the perspective of eternity, it's all a short time. Being a mom to small children is very hard sometimes. It has tested my patience beyond what I ever thought possible and necessitates that many times I have to put my needs and desires on the back-burner for the time being. But in those moments when I do loose my patience (which is quite often), or do choose to do selfish things instead of play with my children, their true Father is watching in on this mommy whom He has entrusted with their care. I am not trying to say that God is up there judging and condemning my every fall. He knows I am weak. He knew that when He gave me these children. I am merely saying that these children aren't mine. That I am only responsible for them for a short while. And hopefully at the end of that time, I am able to give them back to their heavenly Father and say, "Here he is, more perfect than when you first gave him to me, ready to enter into your eternal kingdom."  

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why I Suceeded

My mom often gets asked a question, "What did you do with your girls to make them turn out so great?" Her response is always the same, "I have no idea." Last night I think I found the answer to that question.

I'm not trying to brag, but my parents raised some pretty awesome children. My oldest sister is a Phd student studying neurobiology at a University expecting her first child in November, I' know me, and my youngest sister is a nursing student and completely devoted to pro-life work. Beyond wordly success, none of us have left the Catholic Church and we have all been very successful at whatever we have set out to do. I have often asked myself that same question, "Why have we all been successful and not lost our faith in the midst of the world?"

Tonight we watched the documentary The Human Experience. If you haven't seen it, it's a must. It documents two brothers who live homeless on the streets of New York, visit orphans in Peru, and speak with the Lepers in Africa. One of the brothers had an abusive father growing up, and didn't say much about his mother. At the end of the documentary, he spoke in length about how people with two parents who loved them growing up take that for granted. He lamented that those people are successful in the world because they always have the "safety net" of their paren'ts love to fall back on.

That hit me like a ton of bricks. All parents make mistakes, but through my parents mistakes I have never doubted for one moment their love for me. I was constantly being told as a child, "I love you!" "I'm proud of you!", not matter what. If I did poorly on a test in school (which was rare), I was simply asked, "did you try your hardest?" If my answer was yes, then it was a simple, "Then I'm proud of you" once again. This is the key to my parents success in raising children. We were loved unconditionally. That is all. I have always felt, and still do feel, that I could go out and attempt anything in this world. If I failed, I knew there was my parents love waiting for me like a giant safety net, to catch me as I fell.

Someone very near and dear to my heart has struggled with alcoholism for a very long time. He has fallen and gotten up more times than I can count. He has never given up on God or himself. I never can figure out what gives him the want and the will to keep trying. Then, I look at his parents and it becomes clear. They have loved him through it all. Though they may not run to him and physically rescue him every time he relapses, they are there, offering masses, saying prayers and holding on to hope for their child. They have clearly and abundantly demonstrated to their child how the Father loves us, even when we fall for the hundreth time. I have never asked this person what drives him to get up every time, or what keeps his faith in God alive, and maybe he wouldn't have an answer. But I do know one thing. I know this man is loved unconditionally by his parents, and they aren't afraid to tell him that.

Parents tell your children you love them! Tell them you are proud of them (even if you were really hoping for an 'A' on that report card)! Every day. Many times a day. Their faith, their life and their sucess depend on it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What's Up In My Life

I'm sorry I haven't been around much lately. May is a crazy month for us. My sweet husband is graduating with his MBA tonight! After a year and a half of lonely nights putting kids to bed myself and spending a total of an hour a day with my hubby, it's finally done. And I couldn't be more proud of him! Pictures to come.

My in-laws are in town for the graduation. They leave on the 10th. My younger sister is coming into town the night of the 10th. She leaves the 19th. My older sister comes to town the 18th. She leaves the 22nd. We have a good friend (Miss Belle's godfather) coming in from the 23rd to the 24th and we leave for a much needed vacation on the 25th. Can anyone say busy month?!?! So if I'm not around much this month, you know why.

Even when I'm not blogging, I blog in my head (do you other bloggers do that?). Lately, I have written 'head' posts on anti-family attitudes, Miss Belle's first birthday (I know I'm a bad mom, right?), things I'll miss about Oklahoma, and how annoying the self-checkout line is at the grocery store. I don't have time right now to actually type any of these thoughts out, but I'll try to get to it in the near future. Until then, have a blessed May!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Things They Say (2)

Grandma MiMi To Peanut: "What did you do today?"
Peanut: "I pooped on my hand."

Me to Peanut while he was pretending to be a priest: "Do you want to be a priest when you grow up?"
Peanut: "Noooo"
Me: "Why not?"
Peanut: "I only two"

Peanut: "You put Woo woo's hat on me?" (will you put woody's hat on for me?)
Mommy places Woody's hat on his head
Peanut: "GOOD GIRL!"

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What I Learned While Being A "Working Mom"

Last weekend I attended a Doula's of North America (DONA) training to start the process of becoming a certified birth doula. For three days I was away from my family from 8:00am to 5:00pm and only saw my baby girl every 4-5 hours for the ten minutes she needed to nurse. Not only was the training itself awe inspiring and extremely educational, but I also got the added benefit of trading my husband places for three days. He was able to see what it's like to stay home with the kids, while I went to "work". I think my marriage is all the better for it. My husband seems to have a little more appreciation for the patience and work it takes to stay home with two little ones, and I was able to see the difficulties in switching from "work" to family life. Playing the role of the working parent opened my eyes to a few little things that can make a husband's day so much more enjoyable, and create a home that he wants, not has, to come home to. Here are some tips I learned:

1. Welcome Your Husband at the Door
After being away from family all day, and being mentally and physically exhausted, there was nothing I wanted to see more than my family's faces. It was disappointing to walk in the door to nobody and have to go searching the house to find them. There would have been nothing more refreshing after a long day than to have a small kiss and hug from my husband at the door. Kids do this without thinking. The second my husband walks in the door their whole world stops as they run to greet daddy at the door and give him a big hug. How often are we so caught up in the children or what we would rather be doing that we ignore our husband's sudden presence in the home when he returns from a long day at work.

2. Allow a Time for Transition
When we have had a very busy and stressful day with little ones, often the first thing we want to do is transfer the kids over to our husbands the second he walks in the door. After all, he hasn't had to change six poopy diapers and deal with whining all day. He's just been at work. Hold off.  Instead, try giving your husband a little transition time from work to home life. It's hard, mentally, going from being a man in the work field to being daddy the diaper changer. I know in the few days I was gone, it was a little difficult to go from, doula training mindset, back to mommy mindset. I have known a few women who give there husbands a set amount of time (say 15-30 minutes) when they arrive home to just relax before taking on any children duties. I know this may seem strange, being that we as mothers take care of children all day every day with no "transition" breaks, but if these few minutes can make your man a better husband and father for the rest of the evening, they are well worth it.

3. Ask Him How His Day Was
I know the first thing we want to talk about when our husband walks in the door is how Johnny pooped on the couch and Susie threw up three times, but hold off. Your turn will come. It was nice to walk in the door from doula training with things I wanted to share from my day, and have my husband ask me how my day went without first telling me everything that happened in his (although he was eager to share, as well). I think sometimes we forget that our husband actually have a whole life at work, one that he spends 8 hours a day living. It's not some black hole he disappears in to and comes out unaffected. His job and workday are a huge part of his life, and in that sense a huge part of yours as well. Get to know more about what he does and ask detailed questions about his day (if possible). He will repay you by asking about your day in return and actually listening to what you have to say.

This post was in no way meant to insult anything my husband did while staying home for those three days. I don't expect him to become Mr. Mom in such a short time. Rather, I feel in these three days I was able to see  life from both a husband's and a wife's perspective. In getting to experience what it's like to go to work and come home after a long day, I was able to learn how I as a wife could make my home one my husband loves to come home to.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Things They Say

My son is starting to say some pretty funny stuff. This will be a new part of my blog where I record those funny things. They may not be funny to you, but they are things I want to remember.

Miss Belle screaming in the car.
Me: "What happened"
Peanut: "I threw shoe her head"
Me: "You did?"
Peanut: "Yes, I need spanking"
Me: "Well, did you do it on purpose or accident?"
Peanut: "On purpose."
Me: "You really aren't helping yourself here kid..."

Trying to put Peanut down for a nap
Peanut: "I need poop"
Me: "Are you just saying that to get out of bed?"
Peanut: "Yes." (Lays back down)

Friday, March 25, 2011

For Stay At Home Moms

This is an excerpt from an article my mother in law sent me. I thought it was awesome!

"For example, the mother who stays home with small children experiences a very real withdrawal from the world. Her existence is definitely monastic. Her tasks and preoccupations remove her from the centres of power and social importance. And she feels it. Moreover her sustained contact with young children (the mildest of the mild) gives her a privileged opportunity to be in harmony with the mild, that is, to attune herself to the powerlessness rather than to the powerful.
Moreover, the demands of young children also provide her with what St. Bernard, one of the great architects of monasticism, called the "monastic bell". All monasteries have a bell. Bernard, in writing his rules for monasticism, told his monks that whenever the monastic bell rang, they were to drop whatever they were doing and go immediately to the particular activity (prayer, meals, work, study, sleep) to which the bell was summoning them. He was adamant that they respond immediately, stating that if they were writing a letter they were to stop in mid-sentence when the bell rang. The idea in his mind was that when the bell called, it called you to the next task and you were to respond immediately, not because you want to, but because it's time for that task and time isn't your time, it's God's time. For him, the monastic bell was intended as a discipline to stretch the heart by always taking you beyond your own agenda to God's agenda.
Hence, a mother raising children, perhaps in a more privileged way even than a professional contemplative, is forced, almost against her will, to constantly stretch her heart. For years, while raising children, her time is never her own, her own needs have to be kept in second place, and every time she turns around a hand is reaching out and demanding something. She hears the monastic bell many times during the day and she has to drop things in mid-sentence and respond, not because she wants to, but because it's time for that activity and time isn't her time, but God's time. The rest of us experience the monastic bell each morning when our alarm clock rings and we get out of bed and ready ourselves for the day, not because we want to, but because it's time.
The principles of monasticism are time-tested, saint-sanctioned, and altogether-trustworthy. But there are different kinds of monasteries, different ways of putting ourselves into harmony with the mild, and different kinds of monastic bells. Response to duty can [be a] monastic prayer, a needy hand can be a monastic bell, and working without status and power can constitute a withdrawal into a monastery where God can meet us. The domestic can be the monastic."
 - Ron Rolheiser OMI

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Day...So Far *Updated*

12:00am - Still not asleep. Daughter wrangling in our bed not wanting to be still and keeping me up.
1:00am - Half asleep. Yell at my daughter to stop moving and go to sleep. Husband tells me to be nice.
2:00am - Snap at my husband for not offering to take my daughter out of the room so I could sleep
2:30am - Husband in living room with daughter screaming. Can't sleep because of the screaming. Go to living room and get daughter, who is now FULLY awake. 
3:00am - Contemplate killing myself so I can go to sleep. Cry instead
3:30am - Finally fall asleep
7:30am - Wake up to "Mama!!!!!!!" and loud kicking on the wall from my son. 
8:00am - Make son breakfast.
8:15am - Son goes around screaming, "mama! where are you?!?!" and wakes daughter up.
9:30am - Try and get in the shower, only to find my son stuffed a trash bag and whole roll of toilet paper in the toilet.
9:31am - Contemplate how in the world I'm going to get that out of the toilet.
9:33am - Get stuff out of toilet with use of plastic trash bag as hand cover
9:40am - Get in shower. Remember that we are having company who I have never met for dinner. Worry about how dirty my house is.
10:30am - Get in car to go buy food for dinner tonight. Starts raining right as I'm loading kids.
10:45am - Arrive at store and realize I haven't eaten anything all morning. Hands start to shake because of low blood sugar.
11:00am - Look for the one thing I needed at the store. Call a friend to see where it is. Circle store six times trying to find it. Couldn't find it. Buy $40 of stuff I really didn't need because I'm so hungry
11:15am - Realize my kids are hungry too. Major store meltdown. Try and make my way out the door as fast as possible.
11:40am - Arrive home and cut my children strawberries. Cutting board slides off counter onto daughters head. Loud, loud crying.
11:42am - Daughter pulls herself up on broken cabinet. Cabinet comes crashing down on her. Remember to call the maintenance man.
11:50am - Kids snacking. Eat an entire bowl of chips and salsa. Realize I could have made a better meal choice.
12:30pm - Kids napping.

Very soon - Me napping. Hopefully, the second half of my day is smoother than the first.

Update:  Unfortunately the second half of my day wasn't much better than the first. Peanut took an exceptionally short nap. When I went to the living room, he woke Miss Belle up from her nap. I tried putting a short video on for him so I could clean and the DVD player broke. Miss Belle had yet one more huge fall wherein she hit her head. It was then that I just heeled over and started to laugh very very hard at my day. It was either laugh or cry...luckily this time I choose laugh. On the upside, dinner turned out well and we had an enjoyable evening with new friends and fun at the park. God is so good even in the hectic days. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Confession For Ash Wednesday

My husband and I always joke that Catholics come out of the woodwork for Ash Wednesday. You may have not seen these Catholics all year long, but they all show up for their ashes. This used to frustrate me, but now I kind of enjoy it. It's sort of neat that people want to come to mass on the one day of the year that we receive a physical marking of our faith. I have a slight confession to make about this marking, and it is quite humbling to admit this. I write posts on prayer and fasting and growing closer to Christ, and yet when it comes to wearing ashes on my forehead as a physical sign of my faith...

I wipe them off.

Eh-Hem! I wipe them off. That's right, I am that vain and not proud of it at all. I kept them on almost all day, but when I had to go to the grocery store, I "accidently" kept touching my forehead, not wanting to be told, "Hey you have some dirt on your face" by a hundred people at the grocery store. I don't know why this scenario scares me so much, but it does. So this is my act of humility for the day: to confess to the whole blog world that I am a wimp when it comes to wearing ashes on my forehead. Maybe by next Ash Wednesday I will have grown enough in humility to stop caring what people are thinking of me and the "dirt" on my forehead and view it for what it is: a great opportunity to share my faith.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Preparing for Lent: Part II

Preparing for Lent: Part I

As stated in my last post, one of the main purposes for fasting during Lent is to grow in the virtue of Temperance. If denying our flesh and self-control were not important to Christ, I don't think He would have mentioned it in scripture so often. If we are truly going to grow in this virtue, fasting two days out of the year just isn't going to cut it. When we deny our flesh and practice self-control, something else amazing happens: we bring our worldly passions under control.

If we are unbelievably passionate about something, let's say soccer, then we would probably give up other things to go play soccer. We would probably rather play soccer than eat, watch TV or be on Facebook. People who are intensely passionate about something are almost consumed by it.

So why aren't we this passionate about Christ? Why doesn't he consume our actions and thoughts? I for one believe it's because we have filled our hearts with so many other, worldly passions. The only way to put these passions in their place is to bring them under submission, by being able to deny ourselves of them. As the priest in the homily said, we should serve our passions, our passions shouldn't serve us.

Now who above all do you think wants to see us passionate about the world and not about Christ? It's that guy that no one wants to mention these days. Satan.

"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8)

Someone to devour! I'm sure he is sitting there with a big old grin on his ugly devil face saying to me, "You haven't said your prayers today? Oh, it's ok. Stay on Facebook a little longer. See that cheesecake over there? Go ahead, idulge, have three more slices. You've had a long day."  Here is what I am doing to try and make this Lent a time of growth in virtue and a time to bring my passions under control. I hope you will join me.

1. Pray
According to the priest in the homily, the devil tempts pious people to give up more than they can handle, knowing they will fail. This is me. I always start Lent trying to give up my left arm for 40 days. Pray about what you are going to give up. Try and pinpoint what worldly passions and desires are keeping you from growing closer to Christ.

2. Choose Something and Stick to It
I have been known to try and change what I've givin up 10 days in, because I thought of something else or the first chosen thing was "too hard". If your fast is getting hard, it probably means that you are detaching from whatever it is you have chosen to give up. Secondly, try and fast or abstain a little more than the current 8 days a year weenie standards. Abstaining from food, is a sure way to grow in the virtue of self-control.

3. Make Your Home a Reminder of the Season
One thing I am going to try this year is to place things in my home that remind me of the season at hand. We decorate for Advent, Christmas and Easter, why not throw Lent in there too!? I am going to place Bible versus around my house (particularly in my kitchen) that remind me of the goal of the season: namely to grow in temperance. I figure if I have a verse about self-control and gluttony on my pantry door, I'll be a lot less likely to indulge. I have also been thinking of placing a Lenten centerpiece on my dining room table. When I finish this idea, I will post pictures.

4. Pray Some More and Pick up Your Cross
If we try and do something by our own will, we will surely fail. Only prayer for sustainment and God's grace will help us. Pray that by denying your flesh, you will grow closer to the Lord, and that He will become your number one passion. Surely, we are His number one passion, as He came and died on the cross for us. He knows how hard it is to suffer. "For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning". (Heb 4:15). And lastly,  pick up that cross and embrace it. Christians don't run from the cross. We don't run from suffering, self-denial and fasting. We yearn for opportunities and ways to grow closer to Christ and walk with Him, carrying our own cross on the way.

May this upcoming Lenten season be one of tremendous growth and deepening prayer for you and your loved ones.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Preparing for Lent: Part 1

I love the Church seasons! Advent, Lent, Holy Week, Christmas, Easter; I love them all! I usually approach them with great excitement and readiness to grow and then...three days in to the season I've failed in some way at my attempts to grow and I've given up. "Oh well, there's always next Lent", I will say.

This Lent will be different. I'm actually trying to prepare for Lent before Ash Wednesday. Imagine that! I have a book by St. Thomas Aquinas on Lent and when I first opened it up, I was baffled as to why the Lenten readings didn't start until the middle of the book. Before the Lenten medidations are all these big Latin words I have never heard; Septuagesima Sunday, Sexagesima Wednesday, and Quinquagesima Friday. A few Google searches later, and I find that we are actually supposed to be preparing for Lent THREE WEEKS before it even starts! Holy Cow! Did anyone do this growing up? Because we didn't. Maybe this has something to do with my failings.

Fast forward a few days, and I find an awesome online homily on Lent. If you have twenty-five minutes while you are folding laundry, listen to it here. If you only have a few minutes, finish this post and I'll talk a little about it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, "By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert". So there is a very little explanation of why Lent is forty days. According to the priest in the homily, the main reason we fast is 1) to do penance in reparation for our sins and 2) to grow in the virtue of temperance. Did you hear that? To GROW in the VIRTUE of TEMPERANCE. I think to understand how to grow in temperance, we have to know what it is. Temperance is defined as practicing self-control, abstention, and moderation. Here are a few place where temperance is found in scripture:

"But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires" (Romans 13:13)

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:1-2)

"Training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age" (Titus 2:12)

So now the question is, how much should we give up during Lent. Of course, every person is different, but the Church has always prescribed certain things for everyone over the age of 14 and under the age of 60 to sacrifice. I'm just amazed at how much used to be asked of us, compared to how much is asked now. Did you know that hundreds of years ago, people used to fast on just one meal a day ALL 40 DAYS of Lent except Sunday? Furthermore, in this one meal a day they did not eat meat, dairy or eggs (basically anything that came from an animal). To top that off, they didn't eat this one meal until after sunset. During Holy Week they upped the stakes and only ate bread, salt, herbs and water for the entire week. Town theaters were completely closed during the 40 days of Lent and married couples were expected to abstain from the marital act and come together in prayer. Wanna know what the current fasting standards are? We are called to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstain from meat during all Friday's of Lent. That's right...we went from 40 days of  abstaining to a measly 8.

So, what happened? Well, over time the Church kept giving people small allowances during Lent (ie small cup of coffee in the morning with a slice of bread, etc) and eventually we became the total weenies we are today. We are living in very very weak times, where we indulge our every desire. When was the last time you wanted something, let's say a piece of chocolate to make it simple, and made yourself keep away from it for the sole purpose of denying your flesh? If you are anything like me, it was a long long time ago if any time at all...

Part II To Follow Shortly.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pray to Saints?

I was going to post about preparing for Lent today, but that will have to wait. Everyone who has ever questioned  if/why Catholics "pray" to Saints, should read THIS. Go on, you have a minute...tell me what you think.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Quiet Moments

I was driving home the other night and I flipped to a radio station with John Tesh on. I know he is kind of corny, new age-y sometimes, but I enjoy listening to his show. This particular evening he was talking about a new field of study in the world of psychology. This is the second time I have heard this, so it must have some validity to it. Apparently, psychologists are starting to study the effects of all the technology around us on our social behavior. I know, I know, you've heard it before. Texting, Facebook blah, blah blah...

But wait, I swear there was something new and interesting this time. He was talking about something they are calling "social autism". It's basically an inability to actually be with someone and be fully present to them. You can see it all around you...or maybe you do it yourself: texting in the middle of a conversation, carrying your phone EVERYWHERE and even talking to your spouse through technological means while in the same house! We literally are losing the ability to be fully present to anyone at anytime with out the interruption of technology.

He went on to talk about the loss of "quiet moments". You know, the ride up the elevator, the waiting room in the doctors office or the drive to work; moments where we used to just simply be. Turns out these moments are pretty important. Apparently, in these moments our brains sort of re-set and allow us to gather ourselves and continue through the day. Now, especially with those great new phones that do everything but drive your car, every single moment of our day is filled. That 10 second ride up the elevator is now an opportunity to post a quick status update. Waiting for a plane in the airport is now a place to get work done, not meet the person next to you. What are the consequences of these actions? I think they may be a lot bigger than we all think.

Next time you are on the elevator, be a trend setter, and don't take your phone out. Try talking to the people around you at the airport (if you can find one not on a computer). Try intentionally seeking out the quiet moments, even if they are only for a few seconds. The future of human communication depends on it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

First Things First

It takes a lot for me to get interested in a book. I'm a pretty picky reader and I can usually tell by the first ten pages whether I'll like a book or not. When my friend loaned me the book, Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, I assumed it would contain nothing new in it; nothing I hadn't read before. On the contrary, this book has done something that hasn't been done in a long time. This book has changed the way I will go about my spiritual life and the way I view getting through the day. Most books I read are lives of the Saints, or other books on spiritual guidance. Although these books encourage me along my journey and give me new ideas as to how better serve Christ, rarely do they completely change my outlook on things, because my outlook is usually in line with the particular author I have picked up.

Consoling the Heart of Jesus is very basic theologically at it's core. Most of it I have read before. But there were two pages that hit me like a ton of bricks. One of those "duh" moments where you think, "Why didn't I know this before?" Lately I have been struggling with making change stick. I go through phases where I want to give up all my vices all at once but fail in a few days if not a few hours. I couldn't, for the life of me figure out why my will was so weak and why I had such a hard time mortifying myself or saying no to the smallest piece of chocolate. I didn't know why I could only make it through a few days of Lent, only to give up on my fast when I used to be able to give up the world for Christ. Do you go through phases of change? Do you try to give up a lot at once and then fall backwards only to be disappointed with yourself when you failed to give up what you had promised? If so, this post is for you (Laura? Diet Coke?). Bear with me because it's going to be long, but if you are like me, it could be life changing. Here are the two excerpts from the book that really helped me:

     "Let's say we've decided to be hard-core. Let's say we're determined to detach ourselves from one of our pesky attachments. Specifically, let's say we've decided to zero in on our detachments to doughnuts. Now then, because we want to have Ignatian indifference, we force ourselves to let go of them...there, we're free. This "freedom", however, only lasts a brief time. The hand shoots for something else: ice cream! Or, as we begin to relax, the doughnuts come back with vengeance as they somehow jump up into our mouths and down into our bellies. No, this isn't the way to become indifferent.
     In striving for indifference, sheer acts of the will won't work - at least not for long. But don't worry, there's hope. There's a secret Ignatius wants to teach us. It's the principle I've already mentioned, 'first things first,' the principle of keeping your eyes fixed on the goal, the first thing. It's the principle St. Peter discovered the hard way when he began to sink into the sea after taking his eyes off Jesus (see Mt. 14:24-31). It's the principle we might call 'the primacy of contemplation,' the primacy of keeping the eyes of our hearts lovingly on the Lord." (page 38)

Here is the Second Quote from the book:
     "We just stepped inside a big, Gothic cathedral. The lights are all out, except for one that brightly shines on the main altar. There, in the center of the altar, sending splintering rays in a thousand directions, stands a brilliantly golden monstrance with Jesus in the Eucharist enthroned at it's center. Behold him there as he waits for his friends to come to him. Now look. See that people do come and go. Many ask for something, 'Jesus give me this, help that person, remove this cross...' and then they leave. The Lord Jesus, who is so kind and good, readily gives to them. Now look. St. Therese has just arrived. Observe her prayer as she looks deeply into the heart of Jesus, truly present there in the Blessed Sacrament. What's her attitude toward him? Interesting. Her face is full of compassion. It's as if she sees that this good Lord who gives and gives, sorrowful, and Himself in need of help and consolation. Now listen to what she says.
     Did you catch that? She's not asking Jesus to give to her, rather, she's asking what she can give to him. What an amazing turn!
     As St. Therese gazes on the Eucharistic heart of Jesus, she doesn't see him as if he were a machine into which one puts a coin and then automatically gets graces. Instead, she sees him as living and real. In fact, she sees that he has a human heart. She sees a man who has feelings, a man who is hurt when people are cold, ungrateful, and afraid of Him. So, Therese decides she wants to console his aching Heart, which is so neglected. Like her, why don't we who have been given so much by this good and gently Savior allow our gaze to penetrate more deeply into his Sacred and Eucharistic Heart?" (page 44-45)

You see, for the past few years, I have been focusing more on what and how much I was sacrificing instead of focusing on The One for whom I was sacrificing. I was putting second things first and falling flat on my face every time I failed. And I assure you, if you go about "changing" and sacrificing with your own willpower, you will fail. My view of Christ has been more about what He can do for me rather than what I can do for Him. Giving something up or making a change is easy when you are getting something out of it (i.e. losing weight etc.), but when you are trying to change because you think that God calls you to be a better and different person, you have to know the person you are changing for. This may seem a simple thing, but it is a very difficult in practice. To see Christ as St. Therese does in the above meditation means knowing Christ on such a deeper and more personal level. I think the only way to change it is to stop focusing so much on the "doughnut" and focus more on the Man on the cross. I want to get to know Him more personally as a Man, who walked this earth, wept real tears and felt real pain. My mother's family has always had a great devotion to The Sacred Heart of Jesus, and after reading this book I have felt moved to pick up this devotion (for my non-Catholic readers who have no idea what I am talking about I suggest looking up The Sacred Heart of Jesus and reading my post on offering it up). I feel that the only way I will move towards an attitude of, "what can I offer up for you today Lord" is through a greater understanding and love of His Sacred Heart and a greater desire to offer reparation to that Heart who loves so much and suffers so deeply.

"Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to the point of spending itself and being consumed to prove its love to them." - Jesus to St. Margaret Mary

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Bold Homily

We had a guest priest today at mass. Maybe some of you have heard of him, Fr. McCafrey. If not, I'll explain a little about him. He is an 80 year old, retired army Chaplin priest who travels the world preaching on the harmful effects of contraception and sterilization in marriages and the meaning of the Church's teaching on these matters. Today he also preached on the beatitudes since that was this morning's gospel. I came home so refreshed to have heard such a bold and honest homily. Although his homily was completely counter cultural, it was refreshing for a priest to finally stand up and give a call to action for his people. He spoke beautifully about how the beatitudes are our way to sanctity and how contraception is killing our marriages and our Church. How if we aren't pure of heart and keep sin in our lives, God cannot work fully through us. He spoke about how money becomes our God and overindulgence in worldly things cripples our soul. He called all of us there to start living our faith, because if we did the whole world would change. And lastly he asked those in the parish who had a hard time with the church's teaching to go home, get on their knees, and ask our Lord to open their eyes to His truth.

In the world we live in today, we should be hearing a homily like this every single Sunday. But in the last ten years of my life, I could probably count the number of times on my hand I have heard a homily about sacrifice and becoming saints. Why are our priests so scared? Why do they feel the need to get up to the pulpit every Sunday and give a bunch of fluff and psycho-babble bull honky? The truth is, Christ calls us to "take up our cross" not "feel good all the time". This is what Christianity means. This is what Christianity looks like.

It's not about some feel good praise and worship music or a really awesome and talented preacher. It's about that picture right up there. It's about submitting ourselves to the Father's will like Christ did and living out the sometimes hard truth's of Christianity. Nothing great in life is every easy. So enough of the fluff already. It's time to start embracing our cross, not running from it. It's time to start living our faith, even if we are hated for it. It's time to start denying ourselves instead of giving into every whim and want of our body. It's time to start letting our priests know how much we need the bold, and sometimes hard to hear truth on Sundays. It's time we start living  the beatitudes. Only then will the world start to change; only then will we be saints.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cleaning House

I have been on a de-cluttering streak lately. My husband, I'm sure, will scream if I ask him if I can throw one more thing away. Although the house is still in a mess, things are starting to find a place and I can finally breath. How is it that we go through life with so much stuff that we don't even know what we own? I was blessed to be raised in a home with a mother who kept absolutely nothing that wasn't needed. She never had the "we may need that someday" mentality that fills boxes of junk in a home. Junk stresses me out. If I don't even know where something is, or where to find it, how am I ever going to use it? Cleaning out my house this week has not been at all sad or difficult; it has been freeing.

There is a lot of freedom in living with less. Less toys (as mentioned in my last post), less "sentimental" things that really will mean nothing to anyone in a few years, and less stuff that we never even knew we had. In the past weeks I was spending most, if not all of my time, cleaning, only to find the house a disaster 5 minutes later. The stress of not having a place to put things was about to put me over the edge. Now, it's true that we live in a very tiny 1200 square foot home, but hey, that's what we are given right now. My new outlook is if we can't fit in the house we live in, then we have too much. For the first time in a long time I feel a weight lifted from my shoulder. There will be no more dread when opening a closet and seeing mass amounts of disorganization and clutter. From now on we will know what we own and where to find it. I have reserved two small storage boxes for my husband and I to keep sentimental things we want to hold on to. If the box is too full to place another item in, it's time to get rid of something else in the box. It's time we start setting boundaries on ourselves in the way we live and the stuff we own. I want to use and enjoy the things I own, not be consumed by it. Most importantly, I want to teach my children that stuff is just that: stuff. I want them to make their attachments to the things of eternity, not the objects in our everyday lives.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Toys Toys Toys

This past Christmas had my husband and I thinking a lot about the things we own, specifically the toys we own. As first time parents we really are clueless as to what kind of toys a two year old likes, and I can count the number of toys on my hand that we have bought for my son. Most of Peanut's toys have been given to him by friends and relatives. The problem is, he doesn't really play with them much. I solved the possibility of having an overwhelming amount of toys by giving many away and putting the rest in organizers and only letting a few toys out at a time. I thought that would do it. Nope, still not playing very much.

On our very long drive back from our Christmas vacation, my husband suggested, once again, that Peanut had too many toys. I argued that he didn't have the right kind of toys. My husband then said something that, in my eyes at least, was very profound, "Peanut has toys he plays with, but not toys he uses to play". Maybe to many of you this sounds crazy or redundant, but it made perfect sense to me. What happened to toys kids use to play and why are they so rare and hard to find?

Try walking down a toy isle and finding a toy that doesn't sing, talk, dance, light up or fly. There is a very small selection. Who needs imagination when a toy action figure now talks, lights up and moves for the kid? Moreover, think about your favorite toys as a child. Were they the ones that made the most noise or had the most lights? No, our favorite toys growing up were the ones that we created. The simple stuffed animal that could be a rocket man, doctor or baby at any given point. The toys that had personality and characteristics that we invented and only we knew the extent of. Toys today come talking and walking with a personality of their own, leaving no room for imagination.

When we got home, we cleared out most of our sons toys that sing, dance and that he hardly plays with. We then took some Christmas money my mother had given to him specifically for toys, and headed to the toy store. We paid a higher dollar for the quality wooden and plain toys we bought, but found comfort knowing that they would stimulated Peanut and Miss Belle's imagination for years to come. One particular toy we bought was a little dump truck with a man sitting in the front seat. No sounds, whistles or motors. Peanut says he's the trash man. He hasn't put the thing down in two days.