Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sanctifying Angry Birds

A new addition to our family bus...


Friday, June 29, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Frosting Shots and Fulton Sheen

Joining Jennifer at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday...

~1~

My relationship with food has been going well.  And not really so well. I am doing fine with will power... I can face a bowl of ice cream and feel nothing. The part I am not doing fine with is preparing a variety of healthy foods that I can eat. I have no problem finding sweet things to eat. Exhibit A:

Frosting Shots from Chocolate-Covered Katie made
with coconut milk and coco. :)

I am finding it difficult to plan meals that I can eat three times a day (or however often) while still feeding the rest of my family. The result is that there are times when I eat like a bird (lots of nuts and berries) and times when I make up for it all by rapidly consuming a pound of bacon. A little balance would be nice.

~2~

Great article in the most recent publication of Imprimis. Federal Student Aid and the Law of Unintended Consequences.  

"Federal student financial assistance programs are costly, inefficient, byzantine, and fail to serve their desired objectives. In a word, they are dysfunctional, among the worst of many bad federal programs."

Why? More here. And how complicit are we individually in this failure? Sometimes it seems that there is only ever one cultural path to follow in these details. The answer to the problem "we have no money for college" is answered with "our only option is federal aid." If we don't learn to think creatively as individual families, I don't see how we can solve a problem nationally.

~3~

Early morning bus driving. Cookie decided to be funny and surreptitiously took a photo of me while I drove her to a very early morning doctor appointment. The amusing part of this photo is the lines still embedded in my forearm and face from my blankets and pillow. I said my morning offering in the car that day.


~4~

I have been enjoying Pinterest and am surprised by how useful it has actually been. I assumed I would face the temptation of getting sucked into endless, fruitless, lovely images. Not so. I have already used a relatively large percentage of the ideas I've gleaned and don't find the site overly distracting. My current favorite thing to do there is to gather ideas for an upcoming Miss Suzy themed birthday party we are planning for Jellybean. We never do theme parties (being totally boring and countercultural in that regard) so this is going to be particularly fun for the kids. Cookie has already finished cutting out fabric for aprons and tulle for the firefly lights.

And if you've never heard of Miss Suzy, you're really missing out! I don't generally have strong attachment to childrens books... but you really ought to read this one. :)

~5~


After completing the 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian Consecration, I discovered this parish renewal program based on the author's books and offered by The Marians of the Immaculate Conception (his order). His first book, Consoling the Heart of Jesus, has also been an influential book in my life and finding a parish program that incorporates the message of the two was exciting.

If you have any influence at all in your parish, you might want to have a look at this program!

~6~

Ann Voskamp strikes again. Right at the middle of my heart. I would read her words every day if I could handle it emotionally, but so often, her words hit me like a prayer that is particularly raw. But I did read last week and think that you should go read this one, too... especially if you're a mother...


When your ethnicity is heaven, then all adversity offers the gift of intimacy, driving you into the home of His heart.
I’m a mess and I keep driving, smiling, and I know my citizenship and where this road leads. Who in the world gets over this?
There are hills and there are detours and there is this getting lost and it feels so late and it can creep in everyday like the dusk, this feeling like a failure, and there is Scripture in the stereo, Hope in His Word, and I try to remember to breathe, lost and right turned around.
Because this is always it: All my brokenness is a whisper that I don’t belong, and every time I don’t feel like I belong, the Scarred and Rejected God whispers, “Come here, my beloved.”
And the longer I live, the more I feel like an exile. This is a gift. The exiled make His extravagant love their home.



~7~

Archbishop Fulton Sheen is now "venerable"! If one recognized miracle can be attributed to him, he can be beatified. Two, and he can be canonized.



Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What Writing Can Do For the Restless Soul...


I've written a song, he says. And he sings it all day long... and the next. It fills the rooms and his siblings throw pillows at him and I stop them and tell him that his work his good.

But Mommy, what if I forget my song? I'm starting to forget. It seems to change a bit every time I sing it.


Oh... well, you should really write it down. That's what writers do when they don't want to forget.

I glance out of the corner of my eye to see how he takes that. Because the child does not like to write. The act of writing causes various expressions of misery to plague his sweet face. His spine stiffens and my young sponge becomes like impervious steel. I am gentle with him in this matter. I do not like to bang my head against a brick wall and I would prefer not to force teach. I throw a prayer up to the patron saint of reluctant writers (i.e. any saint who would like to take the job) and trust that he will eventually embrace this on his own. He is an exceptional reader. But those fingers... bah.

His brow furrows as I expect it to and he stands silent. The eyes squint as if he's in pain and he bites his lips and kicks the floor with his toe. And then he leaves the room. When he returns, only ten minutes have passed... and he hands me two pages of solid writing.

I've done it, he says. I stand speechless, staring at work that would normally represent a substantial amount of time and misery.

I notice that in his haste to pour out the contents of his mind and heart, he has neglected pretty much all punctuation and various other details involved with the art of writing. Today, it really doesn't matter.... because today, he found a reason to write. The rest will come.

He starts to notice his failings...
I don't know how to spell, Mommy. You're getting better. Once you choose to learn it, you will.
My writing looks crummy. It's not as bad as it used to be... but if you want to change it, you'll need to spend more time writing. Perhaps you could write more songs.

The incessantly loud singing that has plagued his siblings for 48 hours comes to stop and the restless child is temporarily at peace. And his mother takes the carefully trimmed and stapled pages and hugs them to her very soul and prays...

Dear Lord, please don't let me forget my song. I'm starting to forget....




Tuesday, June 26, 2012

OLLY Update: Homeschool Planner for Mac Users

I have really been enjoying my experience with OLLY so far. I have waited a long time for a Mac compatible homeschooling planning program... I wish it had come sooner but I'm pretty happy with what I'm seeing so far.

I have yet to dive into any serious planning but I have set up the logins for each student and begun adding and organizing information a bit at a time. The book list feature makes me giddy with happiness. I can type in book information manually or type the title into a search feature. In a snap, I've got the book info logged and I can drop the title into any book list I've created. Then... I can print out my lists all neat and tidy at the end of the year to put into portfolios. The program organizes it for me. *sigh* Lovely.

Here is a screen shot of an individual book page. I selected the "search for new" option, typed in the title (Catholic Comparative New Testament), and the program did the rest for me.


The screen shot below shows the results of my first day of book list tinkering. The master book list. I just picked up every book within two feet of me (yes, we swim in books) and started typing titles into the search feature. This can also be done with movies, software, websites, or other resources you use and want a record of.


Finally, this screen shot shows what appears when I select a particular book list that I have created. I selected titles from the master list and did a drag-and-drop into the appropriate categories. When I select "reports", the book lists are ready for me to reference or print.



I have only tried a couple online planning programs (I could not use any of the PC compatible software) in the past and found them rather difficult to use. They were not particularly useful for our more flexible approach and I found myself trying to conform my school to a particular (and uncomfortable) planning method. We are largely literature-based (hence, the book list joy!) and OLLY looks like it will provide a way for me to organize and plan according to my own style and school personality.

One of my favorite features is the Yearbook, which allows me to drop in photos of events, activities, or whatever we want, and then add text. It's a quick, intuitive way to make sure that we have an outstanding portfolio of achievement for our non-traditional approach.

I love paper. I love writing out calendars and book lists and plans. But I gotta tell you, I'm overwhelmed by the paper. I waste a lot of it. I lose it. I forget to make copies. I run out of printer ink. I do think that this program is going to be a breakthrough in my day-to-day operations.

Each child has a personal login so it's not just about mom. I anticipate that my older students (or at least my high school student) will be using this program on a daily basis, if not as a primary planner, at least to mark attendance and get an overview of expectations.

I have found the OLLY website to be extremely helpful. They have a very nice How-To section, including instructional videos, and a forum for OLLY users.

There is an option to try out the program for one month, free of charge. After that, you pay $40 for unlimited use on all of your computers. Some other programs do make that an annual fee so I'm inclined to think that OLLY is a great value if you like the program. The good folks there did agree to provide me with a complimentary download in exchange for my honest review throughout the year... but after my brief experience, I would not hesitate to make the purchase. I will update again after I have had a little more experience with the actual planning.




Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weekend Wrap: Hair, Spontaneous Acts, and Good Reads

Totally random weekend stuff that will never make it onto the blog if I don't do it right now...

~1~
Haircut. I have never had a boy with so much hair at Cub's age. I loved his mop top and wasn't planning on cutting it close. Until... we had 90 degree weather for a straight week and he just looked so warm and sweaty all the time. If I was a boy, I would totally cut all my hair off. So here are the before and after shots. And yes, he does like it... and yes, Cookie and I were slightly emotionally affected by the change...

Before.

After.


~2~
Mr. Spontaneous my husband is not. Consequently, he greatly surprised us on Saturday by announcing his intention to take us to see the fireworks in a nearby city. (Mind you, he is a fire chief, so we do see his city's show every year making this trip extra surprising.) I was sweaty and grubby from a full day of working around the house and thought that, of all days to surprise us with spontaneity, this was not the best one. But I didn't want to kill the moment and so we all piled in the car and went.

This is the initial van chaos. I think Crash was howling. Jellybean was... well, I honestly don't know what she was doing. I just heard commotion in the van, thought I would take a random picture to match the moment, stuck my hand in the van, pressed the button, and this is what developed...


The spontaneous moment yielded lovely fruits and multiple photo ops that I repeatedly messed up. My point-and-shoot is 7 years old and failing. hint. hint. hint.


The Chief and I finding a romantic spot between the telephone poll and street lights. Hey, when you're as in love as we are, any spot is romantic, eh? :)


Little Cub was initially completely terrified by the fireworks. He kept telling me to take him the "other way" and I kept trying to convince him that the giant explosions weren't actually scary. After a while, Chief took over and Cub forgot to be afraid.

~3~
Summertime. Time for young lads to learn how to assault siblings with streams of water from the safety of their... buckets. Incidentally, he sat in that bucket for an hour and just watched life happen around him.



~4~
Crash served his 4th Mass ever today... completely by himself. I don't know where the 8 scheduled servers were (swimming, baseball, youth conference?) but my little guy stood in for every one of them. Father looked a tad nervous, giving me a "well, here we go" kind of look before the entrance procession.  Crash looked a bit nervous, giving me a look in which he tried to convey confidence but which betrayed other emotions as well.

I shouldn't have worried. All went well. In fact, he loved it because he got to do everything. Just like his older brother. Guess that's not such a bad thing. :)

~5~
Played around with OLLY a bit more on Saturday and I'm loving it. For those of you waiting for an update, I will be offering one within the next couple of days.

~6~
Cookie and I made a boatload of these flower clips for the Christmas craft show last year. The bad news was that we sold... two. The good news is that we have pretty hair accessories in every color of the rainbow! And we are rather fond of roses. I wasn't sure about brown roses initially, but I do think it looks rather pretty on her...



~7~
Best read of the week. Don't miss it. Written by a priest. A pastor. Here's a snippet, because I know once you read this you will want to read the rest to find out what Father intends to do to make a change in his parish....

"Catholic schools, by and large, have become failures themselves. There are some splendid Catholic schools, but in my experience of 40 years in ministry, increasingly, especially in large urban areas, Catholic schools have become inexpensive private schools for middle class people who have little or no interest in the Catholic faith,maintained at great expense by Catholic parishes. Catholic schools are, for the most part, over. 

We may have a few parish schools still plugging along, but are they Catholic? It seems that all we have left to us is the threadbare cousin. All our resources and energies go to maintaining the private school in the building next to the church. While the world is starving for Christ, we are giving them bingo and bratwurst, raffles and dinner dances, all to keep the school going. "


Update: 
The article quoted above is apparently no longer available from the source where I first read it. I changed the link... you should be able to read it now.



Friday, June 22, 2012

Don't Kill It, Mama...

Adoration
Eucharistic Adoration at a previous Franciscan University Youth Conference

Chief and Professor spent last weekend at a Franciscan University youth conference. I had been eagerly  awaiting this weekend all year. I knew I wouldn't be able to go but I couldn't wait for the outpouring of blessing that would be coming to those two. The timing was perfect: First Confirmation, then family Marian Consecration, and finally, the Conference... a triple dose of the Spirit.

Overriding the waves of these thoughts and experiences is an encompassing sense that the Holy Spirit is never still. The continual effort and drama of life is really a constant attempt simply to open the door to His power and grace and the greatest day-to-day failures are when we neglect to even make that attempt. The greatest obligation of the Christian parent is to continually place the child in the path of that saving grace.

It is not enough to be a cradle Catholic. It is not enough to homeschool. It is not enough to have Christian friends. It is not enough to memorize the catechism and celebrate feast days. At some point in every Catholic person's life, he or she must look at Jesus with an unclouded gaze, know Him as the Everything that He is, and choose to love Him. I no longer have the kind of access to the hearts and minds of my older child that I had when they were tiny. But moms still have a lot of pull... and I'm giving it my best shot.

Most kids at the conference attended with their youth groups. My guys went on their own and were able to connect at various points with a parish group from our area. It worked out perfectly with an excellent proportion of fun and focus.

I can't relate here every conversation and event and good fruit that resulted from the weekend. There's so much and most I am likely not privy to. I counted the minutes until their arrival home and waited to hear it all. I knew it was coming because I know those two guys. They are open to God's work in their souls and the Spirit never misses that open door.  I have heard enough already to overwhelm my soul with gratitude. I'm sure the fruits will continue to unfold as time goes on.

There was one concern that I had: that my son would come through that door full of enthusiasm and love of Christ, with the passion for doing His work on earth... and that I would kill it. Not intentionally, of course, just with carelessness. With an abrupt reintroduction to the worldliness that so quickly overwhelms us. His chores do have to get done and details managed... but please, God, help me nurture the fire that you ignited this weekend. Faith is not an aspect of life. Faith is life. And I want it to grow in my home. Well, extracurricular religious activity is over. Back to the real world, son. Nope. Not me. Please God, not ever.

The powerful, personal interactions with God that happen during the ongoing conversion of Christian life can be shared with others... to a point. I have found, however, that the most intimate moments in my relationship with God are unable to be communicated well to any other living person. There is something too tender and beautiful to expose. If a child of mine nurtures those moments of relationship with Christ in his heart and wants to try to communicate them, I plan on treading with the utmost care. I don't expect to ever be able to enter fully. But if a lack of awareness can lead to a kind of carelessness, disrespect and irreverence for the presence of God working in a soul.

The Holy Spirit who touched my loved ones this weekend is the same Spirit who descended upon the Apostles at Pentacost. The same who bestows the Corinthian gifts of healing and prophecy and tongues. The power of the Holy Spirit is as gentle as He is mighty and does not rest for a moment among the faithful. This is the same Spirit who pursues my family. Come, Holy Spirit!

I have never received the gift of tongues. Come to think of it, I've never particularly desired the gift of tongues either. But if the good Lord wants to bestow it upon me, who am I to refuse? Wouldn't it be just like the good Lord (who has the best sense of humor) to bestow this on me at some point? We would laugh about it afterwards... forever! If my son wants to kneel in silence at a Latin Mass... or if he wants to raise his arms and voice in charismatic praise before the Blessed Sacrament... who am I to hinder him? The only concern should be: Is it pleasing to the Lord?

So I will do my best to walk gently with him while he learns to hear the whisper of the Spirit in his soul. And never to hinder.



Update:

I just returned home from picking Professor up from serving a funeral Mass at our parish. As we were leaving the parking lot, we noticed a bus full of teens ready to leave for this weekend's conference. We also noticed our young associate priest embarking on a solemn march across the parking lot with his gear. "He looks like he's going to his funeral," I remarked. "Yeah. He really does." Professor determined to run across the parking lot to give Father a word of encouragement. When he returned to the van I asked how it went. "Well," he said, "I told him it was going to be great and not to worry... but he did not appear convinced." Don't worry, Father... the Holy Spirit has your back! And we'll be praying for you all weekend.  :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How the Pill Harms Women and Girls

If you are a woman who uses the Pill, or if you love a woman who does, you have an obligation to become fully educated about what you are putting into your body.

"Since when is it a good idea to give a Group 1 carcinogen to a teenager when they have no disease?"




Monday, June 18, 2012

On the Job Training: Domestic Mistakes #1

On the Job Training: Domestic Mistakes #1

Microwaving a Hardboiled Egg (duh)

My training in the domestic arts was limited. I'm learning "on the job" for the most part and I've made countless ridiculous mistakes.

Today, I microwaved a partially hard-boiled egg. Partially hard-boiled because I didn't boil them long enough in spite of having boiled a gazillion eggs in my mothering years. Microwaved because I needed those eggs to support my limited diet... and I needed them quickly.

My first thought before I put the egg in the microwave was: This will probably explode. So I cracked it to allow any steam to escape. Apparently, this was not sufficient. The rest of the eggs (all 23 of them) are now boiling (again) on the stove and I just finished cleaning up a big mess.

Examples of domestic mistakes in my early years:

~Filling the dishwasher soap dispenser with liquid dish soap (not intended for dishwasher use) when I ran out of dishwasher detergent. Result: Kitchen overflowing with bubbles. Like a scene out of a movie. Not recommended.

~Cleaning my pretty wood floor with PLEDGE. Really bad idea. Thank God all 14 people who fell weren't seriously injured.

Examples of domestic mistakes made when I had sufficient experience to know better:

~Filling up our diesel-only van with regular gasoline. Still feeling the fall-out from that one.

~Breaking my toe while intentionally kicking a large toy. Double duh.

For a pretty good visual of what happened in my microwave oven, check out this YouTube video of a different, but remarkably similar, incident:

The Antidote to Angry Women Religious...

The Franciscan Sisters T.O.R. of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother
in Steubenville, Ohio
With a whole lot of talk about unfaithful, angry women religious in the news, I can't help but think of (and thank God for) all of the faithful, joyful sisters who serve the Church...

It was about 17 years ago that I had the privilege of briefly attending the Franciscan University of Steubenville. The experience was amazing. Defining. I had no idea what I was getting into when I stepped onto campus the first time and had a vague feeling of dread that everyone there would know what a tiny little Catholic I was. Fortunately for me, that campus had the highest concentration of patience and charity that I had ever experienced up to that point! The joy, passion, and faithfulness was in the air I breathed each day. And I began to discover real beauty in that fertile soil.

One of my fondest memories was of the Franciscan sisters who were being temporarily housed on the top floor of my dorm. Their motherhouse was under construction and the students had the pleasure of their daily company until its completion. I was new on campus and very busy between classes, an evening job, and visits with my future husband, but my brief experiences of the sisters touched me deeply...

~ Every dorm had a chapel where students could spend time with our Eucharistic Lord. There were many times when I encountered different sisters during their private prayer time. Faces in love. Foreheads to the floor. Arms raised. Hands folded. Lips silently moving. Each sister was uniquely, completely, passionately in love with her Divine Spouse. They never altered their postures when I entered... oblivious to my presence. With eyes, knees, tears, songs only for Him.

~ I recall one snowy Winter day when I was walking back to my dorm from class. I was cold and eager to get to dinner. My eyes were trained on the ground ahead of me so that I would not miss seeing any patches of ice. I heard the sound of laughter and light hearted yelling and raised my eyes to a beautiful site: A field of white snow dotted with gray habited sisters... flinging snowballs at each other.

~ Joy. They lived a life of joy. There was no question. In their worship, studies, play, meals, and work... they expressed a profound gratitude and joy in their vocation.

The photo above is of those Steubenville sisters in the motherhouse that was built during my time there. I will never forget how their simple presence in the community formed my understanding of vocation. May God richly bless their efforts and increase their harvest!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Little Summer Reading

Let me preface this by saying that I can no longer keep up with the reading my kids do. When the older ones were little, I used to read everything they read and then some. Now, I'm fortunate to find some reading time of my own. Most of the books we have in the house have already been through my hands years ago, which makes monitoring easy! New stuff usually trickles in at the older levels and I find myself doing more skimming and trusting. There have been a handful of times when kids have approached me after reading a book and said: The younger ones should not read this. Gotcha. 

The following books are a small sampling of some healthy books that have been recently spotted on various beds and coffee tables...



Professor is an athlete and loves to be fit. He also loves God and faith... and reading. So this book (given by his sister for his Confirmation) has been a delight for him to explore! He has actually already finished reading it and has passed it on to me with a high recommendation. But I am still working my way through the last 12 books that he has passed on with high recommendations, so I'll take his word for it for now. Fit for Eternal Life: A Christian Approach to Working Out, Eating Right, and Building the Virtues of Fitness in Your Soul.


He received another book by the same author and is having a great time learning to quickly memorize all kinds of faith facts. I can't tell you too much more about it since it hasn't left the Professor's hands long enough for me to explore for myself... but there's a lovely description here!
Memorize the Faith! (And Most Anything Else) Using the Methods of the Great Catholic Medieval Memory Masters


Professor took the Confirmation name of Thomas (Aquinas) and has been asking for a copy G. K. Chesterton's study on his patron for many months. He is currently reading it and is very animated in his recommendation. Saint Thomas Aquinas "The Dumb Ox"


33 Days to Morning Glory is a beautiful approach to Marian Consecration. I have never personally made a formal consecration even though I have been praying a consecration prayer for years. When I discovered lovely book, I knew it was time. It seemed the perfect way to pursue a Marian Entrustment for our entire family. We will be making our Consecration this Saturday, on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 


The original reason that I picked up the above book on Marian Consecration at all is because it was authored by the same priest who wrote Consoling the Heart of Jesus: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat. This book goes in my life-changer pile with all those volumes the Lord has used to bring me closer to His Sacred Heart. It is one of those books that I could read continually and never find it dull. Perfect for Lent or any time at all. In fact, perfect for this particular Summer... the Holy Spirit is always ready to work. :)


Cookie (12) is reading Dombey and Son at the insistence of her brother. I did nag her a little because I wanted to challenge her a bit and start raising her comprehension level. Dickens seemed to be just the thing. She asked Professor, "Is it sad?" He replied, "Yes, all of it. From beginning to end. But it is excellent and well worth reading." I probably would have advised him to use a different choice of words but he did speak the truth.


This one I found on Crash's bed. Being 10, he keeps most of his treasures and current reads there. I'm pretty sure that this is his second or third time through this one. Thank you, Bethlehem Books, for publishing lots of books about guns, knives, wars, castles, history, and all those things young boys are stubbornly attached to. The Red Keep.


Button (7) just finished reading The King of the Golden City: An Allegory for Children. This is a beautiful book for developing a child's understanding of the Eucharist. A perfect First Communion resource but profitable for all ages. Read more about it here.


It's tiiiime! I'm so excited to teach another one to unlock the secrets of reading. Jellybean (almost 5) has been ready for a while in most ways but she's a bit of a fidget. I am going to have to keep it short and simple... and possibly bribe with candy. Hey, it works. Crash was the least interested but most productive when it came to reading lessons... all because of the treat at the end. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Check out my tips for using this program here and here.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Happy Feast Day to Distracted Mothers...

Happy feast day to all mothers who lose their keys (or other objects of relative importance) at least once a day. Dear Saint Anthony, Please come 'round...

I found a terrific St. Anthony Outdoor Scavenger Hunt page for the little ones to enjoy today over at Shower of Roses. It really will be a perfect home and away activity for this beautiful afternoon.


ST. ANTHONY, PRAY FOR US!


And.... I pinned it. Really. I did. I caved. I said I wouldn't do it... and I did it. And it really is lovely. I'm a baby pinner and taking it slowly so that I don't get sucked into any digital vortexes. Follow me?

Online Homeschool Planner for Mac Users


I have been waiting for this for years. I love paper but I regularly use technology. Up until now, there has been nothing lovely at all for Mac users. Now there's Olly: the Organized Life and Learning Yearbook. I figured someone, someday, would step up and get the job done and here we are. I signed up for the free trial today and played around a little. It was definitely more intuitive than anything else I have tried online but I haven't gotten too far yet. Anyone else using this planner? I'd love to hear what you think.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Not Supermom.



I broke my wonderful van. I'm not going to tell you what I did. That would be too humiliating. I'll just give you a big clue in the photo. If you know anything about vehicles at all, you'll get it right away.

I was trying so hard to be a good mom that day. I was prepared and focused. I was Supermom. And then... I was broken down with six kids in a giant white van in the middle of a busy intersection during rush hour traffic.

Many people were incredibly good to me that day, including the Chief, who had every reason to be furious but who chose to be cheerful and charming and encouraging instead. I'm going to be the object of jokes related to the incident for the rest of my life... but I can live with that.

The most challenging thing for me is knowing how much money I have thrown away in a moment of stupidity. I was stunned when I learned what I had done. It felt pretty awful to be directly responsible for the hefty bill which my hard-working husband has to foot. On the bright side, the engine still runs. Time will tell if some related automotive parts will need to be replaced.

I am so sorry to my husband for the hefty repair bill and disruption in his work day at an outrageously inconvenient time. Sorry to my son who had to miss a meeting for which he had spent a great deal of time preparing. Sorry to those with whom he was meeting who had to change plans at the last minute. I'm sorry to the residents of my city who had to find a way through the traffic confusion and for compromising their safety. (You know, when I waved people around the van, I didn't mean that they should hurl their vehicles into oncoming traffic.) I'm sorry to the policeman for being a flustered flake while he was trying to help me. I'm sorry to the insurance lady on whom I accidentally hung up. Sorry to my brother-in-law who took time away from other responsibilities to drive some of my kids home. And to my sister-in-law for unexpectedly having to add several children to her household responsibilities. I'm sorry to my father-in-law who took time to come and help and generously went without his car the next day so that we could have one.

And I'm so grateful to everyone for their generosity and kindness. I'm particularly thankful to my heavenly Father who kept us all safe... and humble.








Monday, June 11, 2012

Pretend You Are a Saint...


As I stood at my stove on a recent evening, I was aware of a rush of colorful language gathering on the tip of my tongue. I had burnt some food and my finger, spilled chicken grease on pretty much everything, and run out of milk, counter space, and patience. The children were bickering in the next room about a ridiculous toy. Little Cub was screaming for me. I was sweating and hungry with rapidly dropping blood sugar. I managed to bite my tongue and recall the confessional advise of a wise priest:

Pretend you are a saint.

I can do that.

So I became an actress. I cleaned and comforted with angelic patience and devotion. I offered every inconvenience up in prayer, wore a cheerful countenance, dried tears with the my kisses, and was pretty much the perfect mom... for maybe 30 minutes. And let me tell you, that was one challenging half an hour! And then the crisis was over and children, kitchen, and mama were under control.

My gratitude goes out to that priest who must know a thing or two about spilled chicken grease and cranky children... or cranky mothers. Either way, becoming a saint has a great deal to do with doing things we ought to do even when we don't feel much like it. And "pretending" is a marvelously simple way to instill real virtue.

For example, try yelling at your kids while simultaneously smiling sweetly at them. Or, try laying down on the couch (with your shoes on) while eating an entire pint of ice cream and watching Desperate Housewives.... while pretending that you are Mother Teresa. See what I'm saying? Some things just don't go together. If we move our body in one direction, our heart more easily follows.

It works with parenting, too...

But Mommy, I don't want to be around her at all. Sometimes I wish she wasn't my sister and I don't like her and especially when she LOOKS at me like that.

Well, I can't make you like her. But God gave her to you and expects you to love her. So, I'm asking you to pretend you like her for now. Pretend you are in a movie and you are playing the part of St. Dominic. Can you do that? For just 15 minutes?

The crisis passes. Disaster averted. The saints-in-training fall safely into bed for the night.

In virtue, "pretending" isn't really being false if we truly desire the virtue. It is like method acting except our ultimate goal is not just to imitate the virtuous character perfectly, but to actually become the part; a saint. It is fighting with a stubborn will. Teaching the mouth, feet, hands, and head to obey the will. And sometimes, it is simply getting through a critical moment with a little creativity, a little prayer, a little effort, and a whole lot of grace.



The Saint That is Just Me
by Danielle Rose

Oh I thought I'd be heroic and inspiring.
I wanted to offer you the greatest sacrifice.
Like all the saints who've gone before me,
I tried to prove my love for you and so to gain the prize.

I thought I'd be a martyr like Cecilia,
I hoped I'd disappear like St. Therese,
Or wear a hidden crown of thorns like Rose of Lima,
To heal the sick and raise the dead.

Refrain:
When you hung upon the cross looking at me,
You didn't die so I would try to be somebody else;
You died so I could be the saint that is just me.

I wanted to be poor and free like Francis,
To cut off my long hair like lovely Clare,
To be faithful like Mother Teresa in the darkness--
Lord, won't you make me just like her?

I tried to kneel for hours in the chapel corner,
To persevere like Paul with all my sleepless nights,
To stay awake and trim my lamp with ten wise virgins,
To really give the devil a good fight.

Refrain

Bridge:
Just me, just me, you died just for me
Just me, just me, you died just for me

You saw that I was perfectly imperfect,
O happy fault, the sin of Adam's pride.
That's the reason that you became man
And bore the New Eve from your wounded side.

If it weren't for my sins and wounds and weakness,
Then you wouldn't have married me upon the cross.
Why do I fear being seen naked and broken?
That's why you came--because I need you that much.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

When the years pass in a moment...


At a friend's home for a May Crowning. Cub clings to me tightly as children run and squeal and swirl about us. He loves it all... from the safety of mama's arms. Then he sees the tricycle. And if he does have a mama, he forgets about her for a little while. But she doesn't miss the way he rides and rides and rides without moving an inch. He laughs when the children laugh. He squeals when they squeal. But he doesn't run with them. He rides.

You're doing a great job, son! I say. He flashes me a look that says he knows all about the great job he's doing. In my imagination, I see the years fly past; my breath catches and my heartbeat quickens. The eye of my soul sees a glimpse of the joys and the heartaches, the laughter and the wounds. I look away quickly... and grab my camera.


Friday, June 8, 2012

7QT: Keeping My Big Mouth Shut (or not)

Various ways in which I am learning the appropriate time for keeping my big mouth shut (or not)...

~1~

Social eating challenges. My journey to health through dietary restrictions (or rather, embracing only foods that don't cause chaos in my body) has rewarding, but also rather challenging. I have literally salivated in the face of a bowl of potato chips (but not into the bowl of chips, thankfully). I have actually had dreams at night in which I ate forbidden food constantly until I awakened.

In spite of the obvious challenge of doing without that which I very much enjoy, I have done fine. The most difficult challenge has actually been a social one. Being in the midst of a celebratory and feasting group of people I love, without eating, is somewhat isolating. It is frustrating to not be able to honor the hostess' careful efforts by enjoying her food. It feels rude. And I fully admit that my pride is touched at the thought of standing out in that way. So, unexpectedly, this becomes a journey of humility.

~2~

The longer I homeschool, the less I like institutional methods. I think it's a natural effect of living a beautiful lifestyle that I love and advocate. It is getting a bit harder for me to be understanding and tolerant of pushy institutional educators who don't understand, nor have an interest in understanding, the blessing of our lifestyle. Since I don't want to be an obnoxious person, I am learning to temper my intellectual and emotional attachment to home education with a heavy dose of charity. Not always successfully. Particularly when faced with angst-filled institutional fervor. But that's when I get to practice the virtue of... keeping my big mouth shut.

~3~

The Chief and I do not argue very often... but it does happen. I freely admit that I am responsible for about 90% of our arguments. You see, even when I know he's wrong, I don't usually gain anything by letting him know. The vast majority of the time, simply remaining silent for a little while solves everything. It gives me the time I need to recognize either that I'm actually wrong or... he's still wrong but it's not worth an argument.

~4~

This is the song that I prefer to bellow while I do the dishes... until Professor comes along and tells me that Mozart is far better for my intellectual development. Then I sing louder so that I can't hear my teenage son lecture me about music.



~5~

I must tell someone about this beautiful painting that I discovered on Etsy. Every once in a while I punch in a search using terms like "pro-life" and "Catholic" to see what beautiful new work people are creating. This portrait captured me. In the artist's description, she writes:

"I wanted to paint a portrait of peace for those parents who lost their most precious souls in the world. A painting that when they look at it, especially the mothers that carried them, will know that their child is safe, loved, and protected forever in heaven in our Savior's arms..."

Read more about Laura D'Onofrio's "The Most Precious" HERE.

~6~

It is a Murphy's Law of my homeschool that, if I do lose my cool and raise my voice, it will be when the windows are open and the mailman is right outside the door.

~7~

Professor is beginning his high school journey (home based) this Summer and I am full of words, words, words about how I think all of this is going to go. Truth be told, I have a faint vision and a paper plan... but I am as curious as anyone to see how it is going to unfold. There is almost too much opportunity, if that makes any sense. Because we're not restricted by someone else's plan, the possibilities are extensive; a step left or right changes the entire image. So, if I tell you that I'm close to a concrete plan, I'm telling you the truth. If I tell you that I have any idea what that is going to look like, be suspicious.

* Joining Jen at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes

Monday, June 4, 2012

Goodbye Chocolate...


I just took a moment to look over the calendar for the next 3 months. After sitting here in stunned silence for a while, I reminded myself that it can't possibly be over yet since it has only just begun. But I did seriously just see the Summer go by in a supersonic flash.

I need chocolate.

Which reminds me... it appears that I have an allergy (or intolerance) to chocolate, or at least something in chocolate. Since eliminating almost everything delicious many foods from my diet a couple months ago, I have been able to easily identify strong allergic triggers. There is no doubt that one of my very favorites (Lindt 70% cocoa) is one of them. Ingredient list:

Chocolate
Sugar
Cocoa butter
Soya lecithin (I'm thinking this is the culprit)
Bourbon vanilla beans

That is a relatively tame list as far as processed food goes and has been my one indulgence. Whatever the trigger is, it causes stomach and esophageal spasms within a short time of consumption. The spasms last from 15 minutes to 40 minutes and leave me exhausted. I have battled this problem for years (along with multiple other symptoms including chronic joint and muscle inflammation) and have paid thousands of dollars to "experts" (allergists, gastroenterologists, endocrinologists, etc.) to help me identify it... with no success. Within two months of this elimination diet, I have been able to effectively manage some of the most severe symptoms.

I would give up chocolate for that.

This last week has been my toughest yet with the elimination diet. I have struggled intensely with the desire to shove handfuls of fish crackers into my mouth. And chips. And pretty much anything that is crunchy and poison for me. But this chocolate moment... is a gift. For whatever reason, some things make me very sick and I am grateful to do without them. Thank you, Lord, for the reminder.

I know there are other mothers out there who are struggling with chronic mystery illnesses. I know that sometimes, all you can see is what is undone... and you wonder if you are really the laziest mom in the world. You wonder, like me, if you are just a huge hypochondriac failure. Or maybe, just maybe, there is a reason that you don't seem to be able to keep up in spite of the fervency of your desire and will. You remember a time when your body was more cooperative and illness wasn't a daily event.

It is confusing to be a perfectly healthy person on paper with chronic mystery illness in reality. To be on top of the world one day, making plans... and clinging to the edge of the couch the next. I don't expect to ever be completely free of it. It seems like forever since the battle has begun and, honestly, it draws my attention to the eternal rather frequently. Some day, please God, I will be free of it forever. In the meantime, I will fight for health...

... and give up chocolate. Thanks be to God!

Related links:
Goodbye Pizza
Chocolate allergies linked to Cockroaches (yuck.)
Soy Lecithin dangers???





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