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.