Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ordinary Time

Today is January 19th. In Catholic circles, it's the second Sunday in Ordinary Time.  That really struck me this morning at Mass.  While there is still a potted poinsettia or two in front of the altar, the wreaths are down, the wisemen have come and gone, Jesus has been baptized and there's not a red ribbon to be found.  We have even opened the significantly-delayed-because-we-didn't-see-Uncle-Kyle-at-Christmas gifts.  Even for we Catholics who eek every last moment from the Christmas season, it's over. Life is back to Ordinary Time.

Liturgically, I always feel like this is a boring time.  A holding pattern. A time of nothingness just waiting for the next round of excitement.  We're through Advent, when the Church helps us prepare for the birth of Christ.  We're through the excitement and magic of Christmas.  We're not quite to the penitent time of Lent that leads up to the Resurrection and celebration of Easter. We're just ordinary.  And I've always viewed ordinary as boring...mundane...routine.

This morning, however, as I heard the lector proclaim that this was the second Sunday in Ordinary Time, I recalled something I said to my husband about a week ago.  He had taken time off, we had had our umteenth "Christmas", a concert, special dinners, new toys, stuff we keep kicking farther under the tree rather than finding a permanent home for, excusing again our breech of bedtime/meal time/rest time/school time protocol because it is, after all, Christmas.  We were driving to another event, I was exhausted, but excited, yet I mentioned how I couldn't wait to get back to our "normal" routine.  I was looking forward to some boring time and beyond ready to get things back in order.  I mentioned how the kids were "better" when we had routine and we were past the point of all this excitement.  They thrived and learned and functioned better when things were predictable.  In times of calm order, the children learned more and we could dig deeper into projects because there weren't so many distractions.

That conversation all but hit me upside the head this morning as I heard the lector say, "Welcome to the celebration of the second Sunday in Ordinary Time."  This is the down time when I can really dig in to my faith.  This is the time when I can take on some deep discerning.  Waiting until Lent to become routine in my prayers or penitent in my sacrifices means I've missed the boat.  This is the time to work out new rhythms to my daily prayers and sacrifices.  This is the time to evaluate what I want my year to be. 

This is Ordinary Time.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Sound of Silence

"Silence is the root of our union with God and with one another. In silence we are filled with the energy of God Himself that makes us do all things in joy. The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

 Ahhh, Mother Teresa. So wise were you. So true are your words....especially today. With four children, two dogs and a busy husband, it is rarely silent here. In fact, I had copied the above quote on my phone and was going to shoot it out as a quick Facebook quip along with a witty bit about my newly realized introversion....and then I thought, "The baby is sleeping upstairs and the big kids are in the other room. I'm gonna sit here and write a..." "MOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!" Since then, it's been a word here then a hunt for underwear (they have 82 pairs between them, but today, apparently. they're out), a few "get off me"s and "go sit at the table with your (dutifully homemade, grain free, soaked nuts that you-will-eat-and-love-so-help-me-God!) muffins, with a "I know that's your button on Mommy's computer but please don't touch it right now, Mommy is working!" thrown in for good measure.

But I digress....silence.

I also can't help but wonder if the intentional paragraphing I've done in writing this is even going to show up when I save it. The last several times I've written, it's just come out in one big, uneducated blob. Drives. Me. Crazy.

So, the Mother Teresa quote strikes me on so many levels.

Yoga is all the rage these days and I'm just not into it...for some very intentional reasons...that I'll happily share with you, but not in this entry. However, the breathing and the stretching and the promise of peace is enticing for sure. "In the silence we are filled with the energy of God Himself that makes us do all things in joy." Ahhhhhhhh. As a newly realized introvert, I'm understanding more and more why that speaks to me. I always figured I was an extrovert. I love attention and don't mind speaking in public (though I'd prefer a group of 30 adolescents to a room of 10 adults). I've always been a natural take-charge person and a joiner. But not all that long ago, I read a different view of intro/ had to do, not with preferences, but where you get your energy. My husband, the serious extravert's, feels depressed when we have had people over and they leave. When the last person leaves (and both of us hope it's been a good, long visit...ideally with a bit of a houseful that slowly dwindles to one last person or family), I smile and exhale. He frowns and slumps. He was truly energized by them being in our home....I had to gear up for it. I loved it...but it drained me. I need to carve out some quiet time for myself each day. Maybe it's setting the kids up for lunch and sitting in the other room by myself for a few minutes. Maybe it's sitting for a few moments while Hubby puts the kids to bed.

I'm learning to slow down a little now that I have four kids.  Sometimes it just takes more effort than I can muster to schlep four kids a lot of places. I'm learning that just pushing through until it's finished isn't always the best way to tackle a problem...and lands me with mastitis....

It's kind of scary to uncover new parts of myself, but it's also exciting. Thanks for sharing it with me.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

One Must Have Faith Like A Child...aka my kid is awesome

Back in November, my oldest (6yo) and I were talking about works of mercy (one of which is feeding the poor) and we were trying to purge through clothes and toys that were perfectly good things, but that we didn't need anymore. She got her mind wrapped around the idea of feeding the less fortunate and didn't look back! She was first just going to ask people for money, but then decided that she would likely raise more if she made some marvelous works of art and sold them. She decided that she would come up with a variety of things from which people could choose and she would tell them all about her cause…then of course people would purchase her treasures and she would have money to buy food for those in need. She worked for two solid weeks. She made murals, drawings, 3D paper cat (complete with leash for walks, of course), paper hats, boats, working airplanes, picture books, I can’t even remember what else. Over Thanksgiving week, she laid out her pieces and drew people one or two at a time to the table. She explained what each thing was and what her project was and pointedly asked which item they would like to purchase to help the poor. For those of you who have ever met this kid, you know what a feat that in itself is. The parental pride was welling to the brim already. At the end of the week, she had $66. She could hardly contain herself and went to work making grocery lists. Then, as can be expected, life happened. We got the stomach bug. Then we had colds. Then I had the front end of mastitis. Needless to say, the work of mercy got put on the back burner…but her $66 was tucked neatly away in my cosmetic bag, of all places, just waiting to bless someone. And boy, does the Holy Spirit have great timing. Wanting to take care of this before Christmas (while we’re in Advent, a time when we are supposed to focus on preparation and added works of mercy), we were planning to talk to the giving ministry at church. Before I could even make that phone call, a came across a young family just having had their first child who really needed some help. I had such a sweet conversation with the mother and we came up with some ideas of what would help them most acutely. Tonight, my daughter and I finalized her shopping list and she and her daddy (after adding $6.26 from her piggy bank) headed to the store to shop! I can’t tell you how perfect this is. At the beginning, my daughter said she wanted to buy the food and take it to someone’s house. I, in my adult way of looking at things, am trying to prepare her for what will likely be a drop off at the church annex to be distributed as the people there saw fit…which would still have been wonderful and worthwhile. But God has a way of answering specific prayers of the faithful. So, tomorrow afternoon, my amazing kid and I are going to drop off the fruits of her labor at the home of a young, new family. I am beaming.

Friday, November 2, 2012

When One Status Update Just Isn't Enough

So the youngest has apparently wandered into the wonderful world of night the same time (perhaps due to?) as cutting four molars at one time....oh and poops 4-5 times A DAY! You know, like a newborn...except it's not EBF newborn's big boy...ok, I'll stop. It's gross. Anyway....and the dishes aren't done because I spent the day going through Mt. Mail on the kitchen table. And the vacuum cleaner is broken so my snotty son looks like he's been tar and feathered. And the fruit flies are taking over the bathroom. And money's tight and my pelvis is disfunctional. But I still have power. And running water. And no one's bombing my house. And (despite the fact that I want to reach through the phone and punch the next political caller I get) I live in a country where I get to vote for my leaders. My daddy taught me never to wish away time...but I'll tell ya, I can't wait for the next four days to be behind us! Of course I believe this is an important election. And I really do think that it's not a simple difference of opinion in an "agree to disagree" sort of way. I do believe it's a decision between two completely different philosophies of governing and that there is a LOT at stake. But I just want it to be over. At this point, most people have made up their mind and frankly, for those who haven't, I'm not seeing a whole lot of effort being made to convince or sway...mostly just battering and belittling those who are the other side of the fence from you. Very little "Here's why my guy is better" and more "You're a feeble minded ignorant fool (or worse) for beliving what you believe". Hooray for tolerance. My kids were Saints for the eve of All Saints Day. Well, at this point, they're saints every day...being beyond their Baptisms and before the age of reason...though I think one is getting close. Anyway, why not take the opportunity to learn more about the holy men and women of the past? Also, what's the point of Halloween? Have fun dressing up and pretending to be something your not and begging for candy....done and done...AND the added bonus of extending our faith...both in our own learning as well as exposing others to something that could enrich their lives. And for all us femanists out there, we learned (reinforced) that so much of Catholic history was carried on the shoulders of strong women. Now my daughters know that Joan of Arc was a "super tough girl!" So I've started driking apple cider vinegar. Well, I'm on day two. And let me just tell you. It. Is. Awful. This had better change my life, knock my socks off, blow my hair back...and fast. I have several friends who do it, some take a shot, some do it mixed with water through a straw, and some add honey etc. I hear it's amazing and cures 101 woes...but did I mention it's awful? I have opted (for my first and only two days) to mix mine with water and add a few drops of my vanilla stevia extract. That makes it at least potable. I guess I got used to tonic water, though I still gag at wheat grass juice. This being healthy crap is for the birds! Insert witty conclusion that ties my thoughts together in a cohesive and satisfying way. My and my disfunctional pelvis and throbbing head are gonna go lie down and bask in how great my screaming, tooth-cutting, children are :)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What the crap is an unschooler?!

So I’m experiencing a bit of an identity crisis these days…or perhaps a bout of multiple personality disorder….am I a homeschooler? An unschooler? Kidding myself? If you ask my oldest child (a very wise 5 year old), she’ll tell you she’s in Kindergarten and attends Royalmont Academy….neither of which is true. (are you tired of the … yet? I’ll try to reel it in). At home, we have been doing some Kindergarten level work and even have a fair number of books and materials on our “school shelf”. We’ve been working on reading and spelling and math…and not enough on handwriting, but even that’s getting better. She learned to count to 100 while we were driving to visit a friend. She learned to count by 5s and 10s while she was helping Daddy build my gardens. She learned to count by 20s and 25s again in the car looking at a book about 100 that we checked out from the library. She thinks she attends Royalmont Academy because she screamed and cried her way through 5 days of Vacation Bible School there last summer. She told the volunteer lady at the zoo that everything she knows about mammals, especially manatees, she learned from watching “Wild Kratz”. Thanks, Dear. Even though one is not obligated to formally educate their child until the age of six (for those of you playing along at home, that buys us one more year of undocumented freedom since she won’t turn 6 until January and therefore misses the public school cut off…so legally, she doesn’t have to go to school for another year) in Ohio, she’s ready to learn and I’m ready to start. So here goes nothin. But goes where? Everyone has a default when it comes to educating their children. For most, they just assume they’ll send their kids to public school. Some assume they’ll send their kids to Catholic school. I grew up a public….all the way through college. I did test and get accepted to a Catholic high school in Cincinnati, but opted to stay with all my friends in the same district I’d attended since second grade. Rumor has it, I attended a very strict (ironically) Montessori kindergarten, but all I remember of that was walking a shoe polish kit back to the shelf as fast as I could manage because my nose was itchy….and that it was a rare occasion that we were permitted to color with black crayons. My mother loves to tell the story of the day I got suspended from said kindergarten for reading to another child (again ironic)…but apparently I was sneaking books (an offense I also was punished for in Jr. High) at an inappropriate time. As we start to think about formally schooling our first child, all of the strange things in the above paragraph keep creeping back into my thoughts. No black crayons? Being punished for reading? Itchy noses?  Anyway…those memories coupled with the timid, yet imaginative nature of my sweet girl gave me pause. I just wasn’t ready to throw her to the wolves. By the by…I know many wonderfully talented and amazingly compassionate kindergarten teachers who give their all and then some to the children in their care. But I worry that my kid isn’t going to speak up if there’s something she doesn’t understand. She can’t focus on anything else as long as she feels there’s injustice being committed (even if it’s the number of pretzels being given to each child at the table), and she’s super sensitive to being corrected. She likes to stand back and watch rather than dive right in…and I’m just worried that she’s going to get lost in the crowd. Worse yet, I’m worried that whomever is in charge is going to miss out on just how amazing she is. Then there’s the teaching that tells us that parents are the primary educators of their children. It just doesn’t make sense to me that the minute they turn five, we ship them away whether they’re ready or not and trust their education to someone else. My husband and I knew we were called to a different path. Our default was to keep our kids at home. So far, we’ve done a lot through “teachable moments”. Something comes up at story time or on Wild Kratz or on Cat Chat? Well, we talk about it. I ask open ended questions “What do you think he meant when he said that it was a sin to treat another person that way?” “What’s the difference between penguins and seals? They both live in the water but breathe air.” There may be a story that gets told or written and there’s sure to be a picture drawn. We talk a lot about courage when it comes to trying new things, and we spend time discussing what we do and don’t say to people we don’t know. Based on outside development and academic standards (which, sometimes, frankly, are arbitrary), I feel pretty confident that we’re doing ok. My five year old can read, write, draw people with (elaborate) features and somewhat to scale, count to 1000 and recognize numbers to 100 at least. She can count by 5s, 10s, and 20s without error. She can hop on one foot, cut with scissors, and recognize colors and shapes. We’re working on grouping numbers and place value as well as time words (yesterday, next, before). Enough with the laundry list of wonderful right? But my point is, we’re doing ok so far….but can we get away with continuing with this “method” of learning? I feel like we need to be “officially” in Kindergarten and that we need to have a curriculum and books….new pencils, a first day of school picture…the whole nine yards. Perhaps even a home school “uniform”…something we wear when we’re working that distinguishes between work and play time…but wait…*is* there a difference between work and play time? Does there need to be? I feel like we need to have some kind of phonics guide because, even though she’s reading just about anything she can get her hands on, what if there’s something we miss and then there are holes in her learning that we don’t see until it’s too late? But what if there’s not? Is it important that she can “identify the diphthong” if she knows how to say the sound each time it appears (except for the exceptions…and words borrowed from another language…and the made up words)? Does she have to be able to say “That’s the distributive property,” if she can do the math and understand that each problem set up that way is solved the same way? But at the same time…. I’m reading a book right now that is a collection of essays by Catholic unschooling mamas. There was one essay in particular that rubbed me the wrong way. She talked about a deal she struck with her son. He hated math….with a passion. She said he would (as I’m typing, I’m getting interrupted by my 3 year old who’s asking questions about different ways to count to 7) rather argue with her for an hour about why he shouldn’t have to do a math worksheet than use the 15 minutes it would take to just do the problems. The deal was, if he did well on his 5th grade standardized tests (which he did), that he didn’t have to do more math if he didn’t want to. She went on to say that the next time he “did math” was as an 11th grader when he was preparing to take the SATs. That does not sit well with me. Uneasy feeling #2: Many (if not all) professed unschoolers talk about following the child’s interests. If they are interested in mammals, that’s what we focus on. If they like art, we run with it. Great. In my world, my daughter came home from Church during Holy Week and spent seriously three hours writing and illustrating an 11 page book about the Passion of Christ. It’s beautiful. And waaaay more than I would have ever a) thought she could do and b) planned as part of our “school day”. And you bet your #2 pencil she learned more about the Passion of our Lord than she ever would have from anything *I* came up with and decided when and how she was going to do. Unschooler right? But back to the book I’m reading. In another part of the book, the writer talks about following the child’s interests and low and behold, her son wanted to know about communication…written and verbal…and how to interpret (read) someone else’s written thoughts and document his own. He was also fascinated by numbers and how to manipulate them. As far as she was concerned, they were covering the “Three Rs” and that was enough. But if they’ve never heard of multiplication, how do they know to ask about it? If they’ve never seen a fish, how are they going to want to learn about them? Don’t we have to do at least *some* manipulating of their interests so as to expose them to the unknown? The same woman said her oldest son had never memorized his times tables, but was working successfully as a programmer in a financial institution. I had a hard time sleeping the night I read that. And then I get to the parts of the book that remind me of my singular goal as a parent: to get my children to Heaven. My only charge is to form the souls of my children. Teach them to love God and serve others. It’s not my *job* to get them to college…or into the NFL. It’s not my job to make them the smartest kid on the block or to have them make the highest level select soccer team by their 6th birthday (thankfully). It’s my job to teach them the value of hard work, to respect life in all stages and forms, to treat each other with love and kindness and to seek out those in need. It’s my job to teach them about God and HIS plan for their lives and then to follow that with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. There is no curriculum for that. It would be nice if, at the end of this long, rambling post, I could present you with my conclusion all tied up in a neat (color-coded) bow with a highlighter on top….but I still have no frickin idea what I’m gonna do come fall. I had settled on a boxed curriculum that I was gonna do…and then the wind changed…and I was sure I was going to just pick a math program, simple phonics program and writing program (2/3 of which I’ve already procured) and let the rest fall as it may….and then there are days I think, we’re doing ok right now and if it ain’t broke….but that terrifies me.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

For Days When One Status Update Just Isn't Enough.

1. Coke Zero soooo does NOT taste like real Coke.

2. Metal Chipotle lids make EXCELLENT paint holders for kid crafts....or glue holders.

3. Boys are different from girls. It's not nurture. It's nature. They're just different. So far, in my house, a golf club has always been a golf club. A straw is a straw. And my son? Crawling out of sheer willpower.

4. Everyone thinks their children are brilliant. Mine actually are.

5. I have an issue with pride.

6. I put my son on the floor on his back. That gives me about a 10 second head start on whatever I need to do before he's gotten into something he shouldn't. (See #3)

7. Eating a Chipotle bowl with a fork is eternally frustrating. One really needs an over sized spoon to effectively shovel.

8. I've come to realize that denying that Mary was kept pure from original sin and made full of grace is to deny that Christ was fully human. In order to hold and grow Christ in her womb, she would have HAD to be fully pure because sin cannot be in contact with God.

9. My favorite quote these days goes something like this: When a woman looks at you and says "What?" it's not that she didn't hear you, it's that she's giving you a chance to change what you said.

10. See #5

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Deep me

Usually Bachmanfest begins with wagers of arrival times and a Euchre tournament…the first of several cut-throat Feats of Strength. This year, it began with multi-generational crafts, story time, some cooking, had a steady sprinkling of arriving family and culminated with the entire family (less the ones who are arriving this weekend) sitting around in a circle laughing at pictures of baaaad haircuts of the past, sharing Grandpa stories and reminiscing about Bachman weddings of the past while looking forward to the next wedding this summer. What a perfect day.

Most every Hollywood telling of the holidays includes a quirky (sometimes creepy) uncle, an overbearing mother (mother-in-law), an obnoxious kid and the one person that nobody wants to be around but you have to invite them because they’re family, after all. There’s always the seemingly normal couple (perhaps newlyweds or a dating couple meeting the family for the first time) who assure each other that they’ll get in and out as quickly as possible because we all know that family gatherings are torture and at best can only be tolerated….and for as short of time as possible. Sometimes they’re headed to a “better” gathering afterwards and sometimes they’re simply planning a quick, revolving door visit and then are headed back to their own….far superior…lives.

And my story could be that way too. (because of course, we are the cool ones, right? I don’t know about that…)

I could talk about passive aggression. I could talk about messing up my kids’ routines to satisfy other people. I could talk about the hassle of food issues and how unfair it is to my kid. I could talk about unfair, ever changing game rules. I could talk about driving from one end of the city to the other and back again in a car that may or may not make it to Sunday. I could talk about people we wish we were comfortable around but just aren’t….yet. I could talk about wishing we were getting together at a time/place/situation that wasn’t going to increase the likelihood that MY kid was going to be the obnoxious one screaming and throwing things.

I could.

But why?

Why wouldn’t I talk about special cookies made so that my Sweet Girl wouldn’t be denied? Why wouldn’t I talk about special aunts and uncles and cousins who make my little girls feel like the most important people in the room? Why wouldn’t I talk about the joy of spending hours preparing a bird so that someone else doesn’t have to (and the satisfaction of having it turn out sooo good! I know it’s not proper to toot my own horn, but seriously, it was good!)? Why wouldn’t I talk about dropping everything to make memories with people we only get to see once a year….or once every several years? Why wouldn’t I talk about teaching my children to look outside themselves and appreciate the gift of family…and what that means?

I choose to tell you about my amazing husband….who is here. Who is right now, holding a fussy baby so I can sit and get my thoughts down. I choose to tell you about my girls who have taken control of the (now clean, I promise) tub in which we transported the turkey yesterday. They took turns “cooking” each other and now, it sounds as though it has become a rowboat. Oh wait, now I hear, “Can someone come cook me? Um, Dad? Can you come cook me? Ok, then I’ll just cook myself!” I choose to look around the room and see seven couples (aka everyone in the room who has ever been married) who have been faithfully married for, all added together, over a hundred years. I choose to smile at five little girls dancing around the room with reckless abandon while Gramma plays “The Spinning Song” (for probably the fifty-third time)

In a few hours, we’re going to don our Sunday, er, Thursday best and head out for dinner (which is confusing the hell out of my little ones…..they had just mastered the idea that dinner was the evening meal). After that, we’ll slosh over to my parents’ house to wallow in our gluttony and spend more time together. Hopefully there won’t be too much laughing right out the gate or someone will bust a seam! Perhaps after a while, the Feats of Strength will begin and Aunt Petunia (names have been changed to protect the innocent) will break out the wine just to get through it. At some point the kids will cry and will be pushed so far past their breaking point they’ll be stooopid tired. There will probably be a scuffle over who has to leave the family funfest to deal with said crying child and it will take us weeks to get back on track (oh and then it will be Christmas), but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

And then we’ll start all over again tomorrow.

At the end of it all, I have more loving family than I know what to do with. I have parents and parents-in-law who love me and my children. They support my decisions (sometimes with bitten lips, I’m sure, but nonetheless) and love my children even more than I do sometimes it seems.

While, because of my faith and my goal of getting my family to Heaven, I would say that Easter and Christmas are the most important holidays of the year, Thanksgiving is probably the one I most enjoy. What could be better than gathering with the people you love and enjoy and just loving and enjoying them?

We’ve had one hell of a year…and it’s not over yet. But it’s in times of trial that your strength is exposed. In all that we’ve gone through this fall, one thing has stuck with me. Ben’s Uncle Tim wrote this to me a few weeks ago:

“This morning Greg and I were talking about abandonment to God will as I drove him to school. How we have to abandon everything, everything. And some people have difficulty accepting this death to one’s own view, desires, objects, etc. They are afraid of losing something, as if God does not have the capacity or desire to bring us joy. Yet, God rarely takes everything, in reality we are most often left with most everything and God carefully prunes where necessary, to help us examine ourselves, to rid us of that which would destroy us, to strengthen us, to lighten our load for some new adventure.”

When I am able to come under the mission (submission) of the Will of God…when I am able to put others ahead of me….when I am able to let go of the “perfect”, “superior”, “better”, “more thought out” whatever plan of how things should go, that’s when I’m able to see the richness of my blessings in their entirety.

Happy Thanksgiving.