Friday, February 29, 2008

On Fish

B-mama brought up a great question about fish and mercury levels during pregnancy. Many pregnant women are nervous about fish and so they don't eat it during pregnancy, and many don't eat it at all, which is a huge shame because fish has so many beneficial omega fatty acids that are not found in other foods--fatty acids that are very beneficial for a developing baby--maybe better than mad-cow beef. Most health care providers give women a list of fish known to be high in mercury (large fish that live in the ocean for a long time). For mercury levels of various fish see this chart. Personally, I would avoid fish on the top of this list or have them no more than once per month during pregnancy and with small children. All other fish, especially those low in mercury, can be consumed regularly. Tilapia is a favorite in our house because it is relatively inexpensive and fairly tasty. I'd recommend buying fresh fish, not frozen, because I find that frozen fish can be mushy and taste, well...gross. We try to eat fish on Fridays. DH doesn't like fish very much, so eating fish for dinner on Fridays is a real sacrifice for him, but the kids love it. I think serving it regularly really helps them think it is "normal" to eat fish, and the texture seems easier for them to like and chew than meat.
**This picture is not meant to promote dolphin consumption


Someone forwarded me an article, from the Catholic Exchange, I thought it might be of interest:

Why We Are Not Losing the Battle

I was recently at a party where my picture was taken, I was an Ivy League educated, under 30 mother of 5 and I was sitting next to an Ivy League educated, under 30, fully habited religious sister! By the grace of God, we had both found our vocations, and I think it is a pretty hopeful picture!

Wow, I want to have dinner at your houses!

I have loved reading the food chat, and I hope that the conversation continues. I will post the penne bolgnese recipe soon (it was really good!), but right now it is 5 am and the lights are off, so I just wanted to say that all of this puts me in mind of a line from one of my favorite folk songs (thank you Dan Zanes!) "Hungry babies must be fed!"

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Getting Back to Food

Okay everyone.
It’s time to fess up…
Last week, Mary Alice challenged all of us to an honest food log of 5 days of our children’s/family’s meals. What a great test this was for me. To see my kids' meals in written form was incredibly illuminating, insighting some pleasure and some shame. The beauty of such an endeavor, though, is for all of us to be REAL and life-supporting to one another! I can’t wait to read your thoughts.

Here’s our list from last Tuesday through Friday (I only made it four days).
Note: quantity is undefined due to one/or both children eating all, some, or none of the food offered. Here, at least, is what was placed on the table (or given for snack). Nothing more or less.

Breakfast: Life cereal, whole milk, ½ juice/ ½ water
Snack: goldfish crackers
Lunch: peas (from frozen), turkey and cheese quesadillas (white flour kind—they haven’t taken to the whole wheat version), strawberries, banana
Snack: lollipop potty reward
Dinner: mixed veggies (from frozen), McCain’s Smiles (trans-fat free! J), cheeseburgers on wheat buns, plenty of ketchup (why do they love this stuff so?), cut up apple; (GG and I also had a salad)

B: Life and Multigrain Cheerios, whole milk, orange juice/water
S: goldfish, Nutri-Grain cereal bar, part of Panera bagel
L: carrots (cut up into “coins”), chicken nuggets (from freezer), green grapes
S: wheat thins, apple; lollipop potty rewards
D: corn (from frozen), Orange Chicken (made from scratch), brown rice, Yoplait kids yogurt; (salad for GG and me)

B: same as Wednesday (we’re rather boring for breakfast; this is all I can muster)
S: goldfish (I’m realizing we’re rather boring for snack too!)
L: McDonald’s chicken nuggets, French fries, orange slices, mozzarella sticks
(I’ll comment more about this meal later)
S: lollipop potty rewards
D: steamed broccoli and cauliflower (reheated), scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese, Lundberg Risotto (“eco-farmed”, box) (GG and I had open-faced chicken salad sandwiches with cheese—I didn’t even try to pawn this off on our boys.)

B: same but add an apple!
S: animal crackers/ juice and water
L: carrot coins, whole wheat English muffin pizzas (made with spag. sauce), mozz. sticks, apple
S: lollipop potty rewards
D: peas (from frozen), whole wheat spaghetti with jar sauce, Yoplait kids yogurt

Regarding the McDonald’s lunch on Thursday, I definitely have misgivings. I've seen "Supersize Me"; I know McDonalds isn’t the healthiest fare on the planet; I know they slither into children’s subconsciouses with happy characters and golden arches. Yet I still find myself defying those facts and saying, “So what, they’re just kids!” Am I really creating tiny fast-food junkies?

A Mickey-D’s (or similar fast-food) trip is a special occasion for our family and one that happens rarely (though, wouldn't you know it, occurring during my meal logging!). We also tend to tap into the red and yellow frenzy whenever we’re traveling. What do you think? How does one approach McDonalds and children? "All systems go", "All things in moderation", or “Not with a 10-foot pole"??

Hope this posting finds you and your families well-fed and blessed today.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's the in thing now...

I took Gianna (age 4) to gymnastics last week. As we waited for the class to start a new girl and her mother entered. I introduced myself and the mom started peppering me with questions about the class. I was answering them to the best of my knowledge when suddenly the baby started to cry, and Charlie (age 2) made a mad dash for the bathroom. As I yelled for him to stop, she glanced down at Gianna, who was waiting patiently for me to help her with her hair. The woman immediately asked, "are all three of these yours?"

I smiled and said, "yes."

With a slightly disapproving edge to her voice she stated, "I guess that's the in thing now."

Taken aback, I immediately responded, "excuse me?"

She clarified, "it's the in thing to have 3."

I wanted to say, oh, "I thought you were talking about my shoes." But I just stood there, awkwardly silent.

The "in thing!?!" are you kidding me? Yeah, I have three young children because I think it looks cool. It is even cooler when one of them is crying in your arms, another is about to put his hands in the toilet at a dirty gym, and a third is hugging your legs. I have had this strange desire to be popular since high school and now I have finally succeeded. Who would have thought that having 3 kids was so darn cool.

Wow, talk about materializing our children. In an age where one boy and one girl have become an accessory for many parents, I didn't know if I should laugh or cry at this woman's statement. I wish she were only talking about my new shoes.

Monday, February 25, 2008

(Un)Healthy Suspicion of Health Care?

We’ve hit this topic a little in our email discussions about midwifery, but I wanted to revisit it more generally. What’s with the larger-than-average number of Catholic moms who harbor a suspicion against the medical status quo? I wouldn’t pin myself as a “granola” or “homeopathic” mom, but this weekend when I found myself formally declining Pedialyte solution during a late night visit to the emergency room with a 105-degree 18-month-old Bean, I had to stop and wonder. It’s just Pedialyte! But on the other hand, I had explained to Mr. Nurse that Bean drank 32 oz. of diluted juice and had several wet diapers over the course of the day, so why pump him full of dextrose and dyes at midnight just because Mr. Nurse says to? Besides, I was still dealing with the guilt of giving poor sick Bean only watery juice to drink when I saw that Elizabeth Foss was spoon-feeding her feverish 18-month-old ice cubes blended with whole oranges. While homeschooling 6 other children with her husband out of town. She rocks.

Quite a few of us tend toward midwifery and natural birth before obstetrics, natural remedies before medications, observe and wait before rushing to the doctor for sure treatment… and it seems to me that a disproportionately large number of Catholic moms are the same way. Bean had ibuprofen, acetaminophen and an antibiotic for the first time ever this weekend, and this is certainly not the first time he’s been sick. I’ll admit I can be an obnoxiously inquisitive patient or mom when I do find myself or my children under medical care. I’m not proud of being a thorn in the side of the noble doctors and nurses who help keep my family healthy.

So… why? Is it because of a leaning away from things artificial—such as artificial birth control and baby formula (not to compare them morally)—that we lean away from technological solutions and trust our bodies? Is it because we’re subtly influenced by some complicated mind-body unity philosophy that has Catholic origins? Is it because of a more recent cultural trend to get back to nature/back to the earth among religious parents, evidenced also by attachment parenting and the like? Is it because we’re micromanaging, hands-on, stay-home, potentially-homeschooling moms (versus moms who have help from day cares/nannies), so we expect to know exactly what treatments our kids are getting and why? Or is it not Catholic at all, just a swelling trend among a certain segment of moms?

May God bless all the doctors and nurses out there. Maybe our next batch of cookies will be for the emergency room personnel, Saturday pm shift.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Master Plan

Since we are all talking about what we are feeding our families, I am wondering if anyone does a rotating meal plan. I've seen lots of versions on-line. Some moms use a 3 week rotating schedule, some a monthly schedule, some cook and freeze for weeks at a time with tired and true (and easy) recipes that take a lot of the guess work out of meal planning and grocery shopping.

At this stage in the game, we don't do anything of the sort. I generally meal plan the same day or, possibly, the night before. I have the flexibility to pull something out of the freezer in the morning and if I realize I am lacking an ingredient, run to the grocery store with my 1 and 2 year old. This may happen 3 days a week. Totally doable now, but as schedules fill up these fun and educational grocery outings (we talk about what we see, etc.) will be more of a struggle.

I bring this up in the spirit of Lent. I have been thinking of ways to simplify our lives to leave more time for just being. And, since unpacking the Last Box this afternoon, I am returning from a bit of survival mode to maintenance mode. I do, however, foresee more times of slight chaos, be it from moving or new babes, or sick kids, etc.

As stay-at-home mom beginning to homeschool my kids I find less time than I'd like for planning and thinking. About 18 months ago I started to feel very overwhelmed and inadequate, perhaps not too differently from the feelings articulated by this reader of Elizabeth Foss' Real Learning blog. I didn't know where to begin. So many cirriculums, educational philosophies, resources (ahem, my first baby was 1 at the time). I wanted to read everything. The impossibility of this project never crossed my mind. Until I became overwhelmed. So I started to think of what I really wanted our family life to be. Peaceful, uncomplicated and, most importantly, centered around the Liturgical Year. No need to figure out math manipulatives or a high school curriculum just yet. Just focus on the seasons of the Church.

To that end, I made a plan.

Year One: Read, gather ideas, pray.

Year Two: Begin compiling ideas and sketching out an annual calendar, pray. Pay attention to Feast Days special to our domestic church.

Hopefully, the fruit of this labor in the form of monthly and daily sketches will serve to simplify our lives in the years to come, especially during those busy baby times. I don't want this kind of planning to give me the illusion that I am in control. That is the last thing this control freak needs. Rather, I hope that it allows us to relish in the seasons of the church year by having some ideas and plans sketched out and in one location.

All this to say that, while we don't need a weekly meal plan now, it may be a good way to simplify things around here and establish a routine for the more hectic times. Does anyone plan weekly, monthly?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mean Mommy

For the past couple of nights, my almost 4 year-old C has been calling out in his sleep, "Mommy, mommy" in such a sad, almost pathetic, tone. It's heart-breaking, at least for this mommy, and the reason is that I fear that I've been a bit too harsh with him over the past couple of days. I'm usually a fairly calm, upbeat person, but over the past couple of days I have been "laying down the law" and in the process, I fear that I have been traumatizing C.  This is not to say that I'm not firm in general when it comes to our family rules, but the past couple of days have been different because I've been doing a lot of the disciplining right before bedtime.  I find discipline in general to be the most difficult in the evening hours, because it is hard to come up with and enforce consequences around bedtime, and also because my patience is sometimes running lowest this time of day. We work on the understanding that if Christopher wants certain privileges (stories before bed, dessert, a video during the day, etc.), he needs to fulfill certain responsibilities (taking care of himself by getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating good meals, etc.; taking care of others by being kind, helpful, etc.).  If he doesn't fulfill his responsibilities, there is a consequence.  Around bedtime, the only immediate privilege that can be taken away is bedtime stories - all of the other consequences must wait until the next day. Maybe some of you have other ideas for consequences in the evening?? 

In any case, I struggle when C is being difficult around bedtime -  I hate the idea that he is going to bed thinking that I am angry with him.  The past couple of nights have been particularly frustrating because I cannot get him to even TRY using the bathroom before he goes to bed.  He is great about going to the bathroom during the day, but there's no chance that he'll wake himself up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. In any case, I "laid down the law" and told him that if he didn't at least try, then there would be no stories. But C is one of those kids that can't be talked into anything. Once he has a certain idea in his head - "Mommy, I PROMISE that tonight, I'll wake up and say, "Ah-hah, I need to go to the potty" and then I'll tiptoe to the bathroom and go pee-pee" - nothing that I (or ET) says seems to get through. He is so stubborn! So I said, "Okay, no stories", and then closed the door and left. I also said some other, not so nice or calm, things along the way...Actually, I think that what I said and how I said it was worse than the consequence of taking away stories, and I think that's what got us to the calling out in the middle of night phase. 

Do any of you mamas ever struggle to find a balance between being firm and loving at the same time? Any ideas on how to handle situations around bedtime? And any suggestions on how to deal with very stubborn kiddos who won't budge once they get a certain idea in their head? :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Getting Real About Food

These conversations about food are challenging; feeding a growing family is a big part of a mother's job, and picky eaters, dietary restrictions, and environmental concerns make decisions seem so complicated!

In this month's Domino magazine there was a woman who tried to eat locally for a month and wrote about the fact that it was hard and expensive but also delcious and satisfying. In O! Magazine, there was a woman who tried to "do everything right" for a month -- exercise, eat right, floss, wear sunscreen. She also found it hard and time consuming, but did find some new habits that were easy to maintain.

I have recently been eliminating all simple carbs for health reasons and it has been an intense experience, but I have learned alot, too, and now that I am working carbs back in I will continue to eat Fage plain yogurt for lunch and a grapefruit instead of orange juice in the morning, among other small changes.

My friend K has been listening to our conversations so far, and she asks: what are people really eating? K proposes that we keep track of what we eat/serve our kids for 5 days and then post it, and I do think we could all get some good ideas from one another. This is a call for honesty, so I will begin by saying that yesterday my children had Chex for dinner.

Are you game? No recipes needed, just a simple list, to be posted next week?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Closing the barn door after the cows have left..

I just finished reading Fast Food Nation, and the book was quite disturbing. One of the most upsetting parts--the gory details of the U.S. beef industry. And now we have the largest beef recall in American History. See story here:

Huge Beef recall stems from California plant

The beef industry regularly mistreats cattle and serves meat tainted with e-coli and other diseases. The entire system is set up with a drive for higher productivity, and higher profits, at the expense of safe food, safe working environments for workers, and animal rights. This beef recall is really telling and I find three things particularly disturbing about this article.

1st--this meat was served to school children, where the government has a policy to buy the cheapest--and often times unsafe--meat for our children. Low bid contracts, without concern for food safety--is a real problem of school lunch programs. As a mother I find this appalling.

2nd--regular workers and plant managers were fired as a result of the recall. Laying the blame on low level employees for abusing cattle and selling beef from sick cattle to our nations schoolchildren is really disturbing. At most of these slaughterhouses, policies as to how to handle sick cattle come down from the top, and I highly doubt some immigrant and likely illiterate workers made the decision to shuffle sick cattle along and sell the stuff. I'm also skeptical that such a decision was made by a plant manager--unless intense pressure for higher profits was put on him from the top of the company.

Finally, the most disturbing fact of the article--
"Officials estimate that about 37 million pounds of the recalled beef went to school programs, but they believe most of the meat probably has already been eaten."
Great. And that is the problem with a system that uses recalls--rather than proper prior safety inspection of plants--to regulate the beef industry.

Friday, February 15, 2008

My daughter, God is counting on your help

I thought this message from St. Josemaria Escriva, regarding the role of women, was very uplifting. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Catholic Loves

Happy Feast of St. Valentine!

Like many of you, I am a 24/7, on-call, do-it-all mama! And day by day, my family and I are trying to make it in this crazy world and do so with grace, love, and reverence for our Church. Not an easy feat, by any means, and one that takes great patience and forbearance for any mother!

Thankfully, we've been recently taken by a few Catholic media items that have helped in a small way to smooth over the rough patches in our day and bring us to our knees more often. Couldn't we all use a little more of that? The first has been cycling on our CD player already this morning. My two cherubs love Rose Marie Rudolph's Tiny Hands Precious Feet: A Catholic Baby's First Lullabies. Thanks to Aunt Kat and Uncle ET, our T-baby's godparents, this CD made its way into our home and has been a blessing to us since. In it, Rose Marie and her 6 sons and 6 nieces and nephews sing into the hearts of their listeners with songs, prayers, and poems. It is a beautiful compilation, including Catholic favorites like "Sing of Mary", "Panis Angelicus", and "Adoro Te Devote" along with other classics like "Braham's Lullaby" and "Pachelbel's Cannon in D". It is a heartwarming work and one that my boys love hearing over and over (and over, etc.!) again. Having it play as the soundtrack to our day-to-day has been quite a blessing for our growing family.

The second of our media loves came by the way of a dear blogging friend and sister in Christ and His Church. Prayerfully Expecting: A Nine Month Novena for Mothers-To-Be by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle has already graced this pregnancy with insight, wisdom, and prayerful encouragement as I journey through month four and beyond. The book invites readers to experience pregnancy in prayerful meditation. Each chapter walks through one month of pregnancy, giving general information about the baby's development and then offering various St. Anne (patron saint for mothers) and St. Gerard Majella Novenas, insights from Pope John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Rosary meditations. The chapters end with space for the mother to write out her thoughts and reflections for that month. How I long to make this journey of pregnancy through prayer... Day by day, one prayer at a time! I can already tell it will be, by far, one of my most graced-filled pregnancies yet thanks to this wonderful Catholic book.

As we journey this road together, what products do you love? What has encouraged your family toward a more Christ-filled day-to-day? Please share your insight--we are always looking to expand our inventory here in Gasperini-Ville!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Nutrition for Toddlers

“Toasties” are the kids’ name for my latest—and one of my greatest—culinary feats. These are created as follows: melt a bit of butter in nonstick skillet, break egg into saucepan and cook on both sides. Then the final step (my secret weapon) is sprinkle shredded light mozzarella on the top side… then, after melting the cheese a little, flip the cheese side down and press with spatula until the cheese is lightly toasted. Serve warm with cheese side on top. The end result is a thin egg patty concealed by a crispy, flaky layer of toasted cheese, with very little obvious “eggy” consistency or flavor. What’s not to like about that? And when my children devoured 3 each of these at lunch one day along with their usual dose of fruit, I was congratulating myself as the mom of the year for the rest of the afternoon. (Kids’ day to day acceptance of nutritious foods can really make or break a young mom’s confidence!) They’ve been eating toasties on and off ever since that glorious day.

Nutrition for busy, picky toddlers is a continuing struggle for me. They eat nothing green… in fact, they eat vegetables and chicken rarely if ever. Their diet is pretty simple: lots of dairy, lots of fruit, whole grain bread and cereals, some lean red meat, and OH SO MUCH natural PB and J. We don’t snack or drink much juice or else meals are ruined. This is very kid-typical and nothing to balk at, but I would like to add some variety.

So I’m asking for suggestions. If your children are good eaters, really good for you. Pat yourself on the back and go puree some pumpkin and avocado for tomorrow’s breakfast shakes. If they’re not, please help me. What are your tricks for smuggling in wholesome, varied foods or preparing them so that toddlers and young kids may entertain the idea of eating them? Especially veggies, meat, legumes, eggs. Here are some parameters:
(1) Nastiness factor: I’m not looking at using my extra-sour-curdled-unsweetened homemade organic yogurt as a vessel for smuggling in chopped spinach and broccoli (ahem, Texas Mommy/Mrs. Incredible). This needs to be palatable for non-superkids, not just Dash Incredible who would rather eat flaxseeds than M&Ms.
(2) Ease factor: “Toasties” take 4 minutes start to finish, and there’s almost no cleanup. Cooking is a means to an end around here, not a hobby.

A related question: how far do you go in catering to your kids’ tastes to get them to eat, especially at family dinner time? I think Red is more of the school where, if they don’t eat it for dinner, nothing else is offered, and then they see it again for breakfast. Her kids are great eaters. Maybe I need to get tougher. We offer them what we’re eating, but if (when) they don’t go for it, I usually offer other healthy, limited options like cheese, yogurt, cereal and fruit to supplement. Do you think supplementing with other options encourages them to remain picky because they know something else will be offered? I sure don’t like putting my tenth percentile kids to bed on an empty stomach!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bloom Where You're Planted

At 8:30 this morning my dear husband peeked into the bedroom (yes, I was still in bed...he is Mr. Incredible!).

"You've got to see this!"

We moved about 2 weeks ago and are loving our new home and all that came with it, including an enormous corn field in our back yard that has yet to be develped. In addition to providing a spectacle of tractors and other farm equipment that makes young boys' eyes grow wide, the field doubles as a perfect landing pad for hot air balloons.

While I had been snoozing, the boys and Mr. Incredible has already seen one hot air balloon land in the field a mile away. Now one was headed for our field! I grabbed a camera and we ran outside, all 4 of us in pajamas, Dash in puffy Thomas the Train slippers. What a sight!

Fortunately for the moment, we have no neighbors.

Dash and I started across the field while Mr. Incredible lagged behind with our newly minted biped tripping over the recent sprouts of foliage. Dash and I raced towards the balloon, which was deceptively far away. Soon, this pregnant, pajama clad mom was carrying a 40-pound toddler racing toward the balloon we didn't want to get away. Fortunately, "we made it to the biggest balloon ever!" Dash was even allowed to touch it and handed the ballooners the straps to pack up their balloon.

5 years ago, I never anticipated living in Texas. I never suspected I would be married and thankful for several children. I knew exactly one person when I moved here, Mr. Incredible, my fiance at the time. Most, if not all, of the builders of this blog probably would not have predicted their whereabouts nor their family status just a few years ago.

When I moved here I was very lonely and needed true friends with whom I could talk about hopes, joys, doubts, struggles. I desparately missed my college friends. Thankfully, there was a slew of weddings, baptisms, etc. over the next few years that meant semi-annual gatherings.

But in between we had the miracle of the internet. Hundreds, probably thousands of emails, individually and as a group ensured that support, encouragment, and, occasionally, a good kick-in-the-pants, was never far away. We have joked about picking a location and all moving there to raise our families together. However, this is not what God has called us to do.

We are to bloom precisely where we are planted at this moment. As we begin this Lent, the builders of this blog are planted all across the country in a variety of situations, some welcoming new babies, others battling nausea. We have so many moments to take advantage of our unique situations. We can turn them into joy for our families or we can roll over and go back to sleep. As we live our lives, regardless of our current sitution, I pray we can just get out of bed and go chase a hot air balloon.

And, as Mr. Incredible and Jack-Jack, after realizing just how far Dash and I had trekked in our pursuit of the ballooon, pulled up beside us in our car to spare us the 10 minute walk home, we can always be assured that the assistance and encouragement of both our Heavenly Father and our friends is there to pick us up just when we need it.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The feelings are universal

Sometimes as moms we feel so alone (except why is it that I am never alone in the bathroom?). And yet it seems that often we are all thinking along the same lines. I am thankful that this blog and others give us the chance to share the things that we might not otherwise.

All around the net, moms are sharing similar sentiments about Lent. Here are a few to check out:

Elizabeth Foss

Danielle Bean

Eileen's family made the crown of thorns Kat mentioned.

Also, Dawn has a really beautiful Lenten Craft planned for her family, perhaps something to file away for next year, when I hope to be back in maintenance mode (although around here we call it the plateau). Of course, with the best of intentions I told the children that next Christmas, when I was not pregnant, I would take them around the city to see the decorations, and Merry piped up "what makes you think you won't be pregnant next Christmas?" I guess she's been paying attention.

And, on the subject of our title, I share this quote I found on Danielle Bean's website:

A mother is the most important person on earth. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any Cathedral -- a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's body. -- Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty

Melin agrees, I'm sure, and writes about the contentment that she feels in her role as mother. Her pictures always take my breath away, I wish she could follow me around and photograph my life!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Amazingly enough, tomorrow is already Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our Lenten journey towards Easter. Weren't we just celebrating Christmas?!? As happens to me every year at this time, the days leading up to Ash Wednesday are filled with conflicting emotions: excitement that Easter will soon be upon us, but mostly, anxiety about the discipline that I know comes with the Lenten season! How silly that after all these years of going through Lent I still dread the discipline that comes with it - I know the fruits of extra prayer, fasting, works of mercy, etc., but part of me is afraid to enter into it all! I think this is because Lent is in large part about dying - to our own desires, inclinations, habits, whatever - in order that we might LIVE as we were intended to live. But dying is hard, it doesn't come naturally (at least to me!), so I will be asking Our Lord for many graces this Lent!

I found the following "Question and Answer" page to be helpful in my preparation:

Here is a neat idea for a children's activity during Lent:
"Crown of Thorns"
Twist some bread dough into a braid and then into a circle, making sure that the ends are together. After it has risen for the last time, place sharp toothpicks all over the braid, but not too far in as you want it to look like a crown with thorns sticking out.
As children are caught being good, carrying out a work of mercy, or other good works, let them pull a thorn out of Jesus' crown and place it in a jar. Remind them that every time we do these things we are truly aiding Him, but when we do the opposite we are wounding Him again.

One final thought on this Ash Wednesday...The reflection in our parish's Lenten booklet for today actually relates very well to the reason for our blogs title, "Building Cathedrals," so it caught my attention. Here is a small portion:

"Historians tell us that the stone carvers of the famous medieval cathedrals never signed their art. They preferred to work anonymously, solely for the honor and glory of God. The story of the stone carvers and the words of Jesus about not making a show of what you do invite me to inventory my motives for working and giving."

In the context of being a wife and mother, the idea of "not making a show" of what we do day in and day out can be a very humbling, and at times frustrating, thing for us to do! On days when I have spent lots of time cleaning the house, or when the kids and I have had a particularly difficult day, or when I haven't gotten much sleep because the baby was up a lot, I want to tell my hubby about it so that he knows what I have done for our family! Of course, the truth is that he usually notices whether I tell him or not, but when he doesn't notice, boy do I get frustrated! Here comes the tough part: If I notice that I'm getting resentful towards my hubby and kids because I'm feeling unappreciated, should I offer up my frustration and move on, or should I talk to my hubby about it? I don't think that there is one clear-cut answer, and here's why: For the sake of preserving a strong marriage union, I think that there needs to be clear communication with our spouse about how we're feeling, especially when resentment starts to creep in. On the other hand, it would be great if I could offer up my frustrations for the sufferings of others, the sins of the world, etc., and I will ask Our Lord for the grace to do this more often!

This makes me realize that ET probably feels unappreciated just as often as I do, which makes me think that maybe we should give each other the "benefit of the doubt" more often. Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could assume that ET is doing the best that he can for our family all of the time, whether I see it or not?! Then maybe I wouldn't get so upset when he walks in the door a few minutes late :)

Thanks for bearing with me in this rambling post! May God bless you and your family as we venture into this season of Lent together!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Thanks for Your Support

Last spring, I was waiting in line for confession with my two children. Battling 1st trimester nausea and fatigue, I waited for around 40 minutes in a silent church, desperately trying to keep my 3 year old daughter, Gianna, and 15 month old son, Charlie quiet. I held Charlie tightly, whispering in his ear, bouncing him around. Gianna clung to my legs as I swayed, bounced, and hoped that the line would move faster. I dread taking my children to confession.

The silent church is a real stress elevator for a mother of multiple young children. Sometimes I go to confession with a friend and we take turns watching each other’s children outside the church. Once a kind elderly lady offered to hold my place in line while I took my children outside. On this day, there were no such offers.

As the minutes passed my son got progressively more squirmy and loud. He did not want to be held any longer. With aching arms I finally put him down and asked him to stay close to mama. He tested the waters a bit and wandered about in the pews, he eventually traveled a little too far way for my comfort zone—about 20 feet. In a loud whisper I said, “Charlie, come back here.” He gave me a huge smile and ran back into my open arms.

Instantly a woman I had never seen before, standing two people behind me in line, snarled at me in a raspy voice, “He shouldn’t be running in the church!” Shocked, I looked at her with a blank stare. She repeated her protests about my son’s behavior. Defensively, I said, “I put him down because he was getting very loud with me holding him and I didn’t want to be disruptive. She said, “If you can’t control your children, they don’t belong in here.” Again, shocked, I said, “I’m just trying to be a good Catholic, come to confession, and raise my children in the church.” She may have rolled her eyes at this, although I can’t be sure.

I was fuming mad. Humiliated in front of a whole line of confession seekers, I slumped back against the wall and held my son as he protested. Over and over in my head I just kept thinking, how dare she yell at me. I’m trying to do something good here—and look at the thanks I am getting. I thought, “does she have any idea how hard it is to take young children to confession.” Not to mention, the irony of yelling at someone while in line for confession is simply amazing.

Pridefully, I wanted to scream, “I’m a good Catholic, I know the priests, I lead a Mother’s Rosary group, I help with Pre-Cana, and you are a hypocritical old witch who drives good families away from the Catholic Church.” I said none of these things. I remained silent and I waited in line as it was soon my turn for confession. Once inside the confessional I was confronted with a visiting priest who was less than patient with my whining son. I apologized again and again for Charlie’s whining, but rather than make me feel better about this situation, by saying something like, “it’s just great that you are putting up with all this to come and receive the graces of this beautiful sacrament,” the priest actually asked if I had considered getting a babysitter to come to confession!

Defeated, I left the church furious and almost in tears. I instantly called Juris Mater, who may have been angrier than I was about the scene I had just endured.

I had temporarily forgotten about this tragic incident until this past Sunday when I saw THE woman again. She was sitting 2 rows in front of our family. I whispered to my husband—“that’s the lady who yelled at me while in line for confession.” I may have been imagining it, but she seemed to give me a dirty look on the way back from receiving communion. I was trying to think charitably, and so I really thought that I might have imagined this.

Well, after Mass, Charlie (now age 2) drifted out of the pew and started wandering toward the back of the church. My husband called for him, and Charlie turned around and jogged about 15 feet back towards my husband. Instantly, the woman snarled at Charlie, “No running in the church!” Shocked, my husband just stared at the woman. She then added, “Children need to learn manners, you need to teach them!” My husband, still shocked and unable to speak, just stared at her as though she was insane. The woman then began to exit the church, saying again as she walked past my husband and son, “You need to teach them manners!”

Really. Thanks for enlightening us.

Now, it seems that this woman was just waiting for our family to do SOMETHING so that she could censure us. And after she spoke in such a nasty tone to my husband and my son—I was convinced that she HAD given me a dirty look while in line for communion! Simply amazing. And I would like to add that our children had been very well behaved during the Mass and Charlie’s short jog after Mass was nothing that we felt merited any discipline and I am someone who is very particular about my children’s behavior during Mass.

I assume we will see this woman again. I also assume that she will find something wrong with our behavior and let us know about it immediately, loudly, and in the company of numerous bystanders. Any suggestions on how we should handle this? While part of me just wants to ignore her, taking the criticism as an opportunity to humble myself before a totally nasty woman, I fear that she may be making comments like this to other young families and maybe discouraging them from coming to Mass? It took me at least 4 months to return to confession after my experience—and I am someone who isn’t normally deterred by what other people think of me. Your thoughts?