Sunday, January 31, 2010

Touching on Tithing

My sister-in-law and her husband have always given 10% of their income to the church. Four years ago, about 1 year into their marriage, their finances got very tight. With the arrival of their first baby, and some unexpected medical bills, they fell behind in their bills, and were forced to charge some expenses. My brother-in-law’s teaching salary (their only income) wasn’t able to pay off this debt, and for months they prayed as to whether they should give less to the church and put some of their money towards their debt. They prayerfully determined that they should continue to give to God what was rightfully His and trust that He would provide for their family. I’m sure it was very tempting to transfer several hundred dollars each month away from the collection basket and towards their medical bills, but they pressed on, giving God their first fruits each month.

Several months later, with no real improvement in their financial situation, my sister-in-law and her husband entered the “big-bucks” drawing at our church. Sure enough, Father pulled out their ticket, and they won $6,000 that night—this $6,000 was almost the exact amount of their unpaid medical bill debt. My 200+ pound brother-in-law had tears in his eyes as he gave our old, barely 5 foot tall Italian priest a bear hug. I don’t think Father Anthony ever witnessed such a grateful winner.

Our financial trust in God is most tested when it hurts a bit to give the money away each month. But it is at times like these when God really proves that he is never outdone in generosity.

Generosity, specifically with regard to our finances and money, is a very difficult area for many of us. A recent study conducted by the Barna Group found that Catholics were the least generous of any Christian denomination—giving less than 2% of their income to the church and other charitable organizations. Evangelicals were in the “elite” of givers, with 24% giving 10% or more of their income. The only groups that gave less than Catholics were atheists and agnostics.

Historically, Christians were called to tithe. A tithe is not synonymous with simply giving, but is a specific type of giving whereby we donate 10% of our income to the Church. There are differing views on how to define “income,” whether that means gross, net, pre-tax, post-tax, etc. I don’t intend to address that issue here. Let’s just settle on 10% of some reasonable definition of income. Also, many Christians tithing to be applicable to donations to both the Church other charitable organizations. This is another issue beyond the scope of this post.

While tithing isn’t a hard and fast requirement for Catholics, it is a tradition of our Church, reaching back even to the Israelites. As such, I will argue that we should only break from tithing for serious reasons.

The tithe is a barometer, so to speak, of what most of us should be giving. Some families may be blessed financially and be called to give more. Other families may struggle with poverty and be called to give less. But for most of us, the tithe is a good measuring stick of what we should be giving back to our church.

There are plenty of Scriptural references to tithing, many of which are found in the Old Testament. The early Church took the tithing requirement from the Old Law, first making it an obligation of conscience, and then an obligation via ecclesiastical enactment. The Catholic Encyclopedia provides the following:

The payment of tithes was adopted from the Old Law, and early writers speak of it as a divine ordinance and an obligation of conscience. The earliest positive legislation on the subject seems to be contained in the letter of the bishops assembled at Tours in 567 and the canons of the Council of Macon in 585. In the course of time, we find the payment of tithes made obligatory by ecclesiastical enactments in all the countries of Christendom. The Church looked on this payment as “of divine law, since tithes were instituted not by man but by the Lord Himself.” (C. 14, X de decim. III, 30) (emphasis added).

While the
New Testament doesn’t explicitly set an expectation of a tithe, it does require Christians to care for the poor and provide for their clergy, and I think St. Thomas makes an excellent point when he says: “…the people of the New Law are under greater obligations, according to Matthew 5:20, ‘Unless your justice abound more than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’”

After all, why should we give any less freely than those who were compelled to give?

Considering that we live in the richest society in the entire world, it is amazing that so few Catholics, and really so few Christians, take the call to financial generosity seriously. We put so much weight on material possessions, and our own personal desires, that most of us cannot give generously, or even sacrificially. Most of us do not budget 10% or even 5% of our income to charity. And yet we do budget money each month for things like a cell phone, a second car, dance classes for our child, cable television, a Netflix subscription, an internet connection, new clothes, dinners out, a cup of coffee each morning, a fast food trip, or even a nice bottle of wine. In our culture, these items are often viewed as necessities, and tithing is an afterthought.

I realize that this can be a very difficult topic in some marriages, particularly if finances are tight and there are many set expenses each month. A large mortgage, car payments, and other like expenses can make tithing seem impossible. I realize that nobody wants to move to a smaller house so they can tithe.

For this reason, it is obviously best to set up your finances with the assumption that you will give 10% as a tithe. But for many couples the decision to tithe comes after they bought the house and the car. If this is your situation, don’t just throw up your hands and say you can’t. Everyone can give something, so why not see what you really can give, even if that is only 1% or 2%, and then move in the direction of giving more over time. In a few years, you may be surprised how much more you are able to give.

So many of us have young growing families, and many of us are living off of one income. Most young families who are open to life are not exactly well off, but will struggle to pay their bills each month. With pressure to feed a growing family and put gas in our cars, it can seem impossible to commit to giving away a portion of our income each month, especially if that amount is 1/10 of our income.

And even if we decide we should give, with financial pressure comes a temptation to cut back on the amount we give, justifying it by saying things like: “God wants me to pay these medical bills now, not wait until next month.” “God wants me to save for my child’s education, that’s the more responsible thing to do.” “God wants me to make this house repair, after all, my primary responsibility is to provide for my family.” “It’s just one month, next month I’ll give 10%.” Unfortunately, as sinful human beings, most of us err on the side of giving less, not more of our income. Most of us, including myself, fall victim to these sorts of justifications when money is tight.

Many of these temptations can be avoided if you sit down with your spouse and budget a certain amount of your income each month to charitable giving. From past experience, I can say that we gave less when we didn’t budget for it each month. When you budget a certain portion of your income to charitable giving, it can become enjoyable to figure out what organizations will get that money. The money is no longer your money, but God’s money, and you really feel like a steward as you sit down and decide who will benefit from these funds.

The true spirit of tithing is to see the money we earn each month as God’s money, not our own. He has generously given to us, and we should graciously give back to him. But not just the leftovers. If the money is His, then God should receive his share first. That’s why the Scriptures refer to the “first fruits” of our labor being designated for God. This teaching is hard. But as my sister-in-law and her husband learned first hand, God is never outdone in generosity.

Probably Why More Builders are Runners

Running: The Type-A Workout

“Running is ideal for type-A personalities who prefer routine, structure and a little self-competition,” says Jessica Smith. With a no-nonsense attitude and motivation to burn, you enjoy a no-strings workout that lets you enjoy the scenery (and solitude), anywhere at anytime. Plus, you can harness your own momentum to clinch that runner’s high. Make sure to invest in a supportive pair of sneakers.

From: What Does Your Workout Say About You? By Melissa F. Pheterson

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Small Successes


1. Stayed caught up on laundry while in the midst of a family wide stomach virus
2. Stayed caught up on school work by having kids read to me while folding laundry
3. Produced one bland meal after another even though nauseated myself and out of groceries

I have to be honest, and I'm not sure that I can count this as a success, a week of queasiness has made me NEVER, EVER want to be pregnant again. Is that wrong? My baby is over a year old, and I was just beginning to forget about labor and sleepless nights, but now my mind is fixated on the misery of the first trimester. I'm sure I'll get over it, but I really, really, hate that feeling!

In general, though, I like that this list happens to fall on Thursday -- our week ends with a very busy and fun Thursday and Friday, so my successes on the home front mostly happen on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. All that is left now is for me to keep my patience and joy as we drive from one activity to another, and just keep my head on until Friday night pizza and movie!

Share your small successes at Faith and Family Live.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Do You See What I See?

We recently discovered, with the help of our son's teacher, that he needs glasses. We survived the ophthalmologist appointment and will pick up the new specs in a few days. When the nurse walked me over to the wall of glasses and asked me what kind we would like, I asked for, "Whatever is the most indestructible." She showed me ones that you can literally bend in half and they won't break, thank goodness.

Any tips from moms out there about glasses-wearing for young boys (Dash is a VERY hyperactive 4 year old who has sensory integration issues and often has very violent outbursts with flailing limbs). I read somewhere online that two good rules are:

Always take glasses off with both hands.

Always hand glasses to Mommy or Daddy.

After commenting on Red's Olympic unit post, I realize that I will probably have to add various rules about not using glasses as weapons, lock picks etc.

I decided against getting a bunch of library books about getting glasses, wearing glasses, etc., because, with Dash, I think our best bet is to downplay. I'm more worried about how to keep them in one piece!

How Do You Carry Baby?

As my due date draws nearer, I have been gathering all of the items that I know I will need immediately upon the birth of our next child. All of the neutral-colored baby clothes have been washed (but have yet to be folded!), the baby seat is in the minivan, and I'm gathering together my nursing-friendly clothes and other such things.

I loved using the Ergo baby carrier when Maria was little (until she was about 18 months!), but remember that she wasn't really comfortable riding in it until about 4 months of age. Up until that point I used a sling that someone had passed down to me, but wasn't thrilled with the fit or the support. I'm wondering which baby carriers you have found to be the most comfortable, functional, and easy to use. Does the Ergo infant insert really work, and if so, could I start using it from the beginning with our new baby? Is there a sling that is easy to use with itty-bitties and allowed you to still take care of your older children while wearing it? I am definitely investing in one of these water-friendly baby slings, recommended by Tex last summer, for all of the days that I know we'll spend at the swimming pool starting in just a few months!

Thanks once again for your infinite mama wisdom, dear readers!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Winter Olympics Unit Study

The Winter Olympics begin in just a few short weeks (February 12-28). I am planning to do an Olympic unit study with my oldest daughter Gianna (almost 6), and my pre-school age son Charlie (4). Our family loves sports, so the Olympics provide a great opportunity to learn about history, geography, sportsmanship, healthy eating, exercise, and even virtues like perseverance and discipline. My children are very young, so I'm not going to go crazy with the idea, but I do want to use our T.V. time in the evening as a springboard for some great learning during our school mornings. I spent some time searching for inexpensive ways to incorporate the Olympics into our February curriculum. First, the free resources I found:

1. Download and print out free flags of the various countries here. They even have color by number options for the flags! I plan to have the kids color in the flag of the host nation--Canada, and about 10 other nations competing in the games.

2. For more in-depth information about the nations and their flags (for older kids), check out the enchanted learning site. Again, this is completely free!

3. For great Olympic print-outs, including coloring pages of Olympic torches, the medals, and different sports, try the awesome clipart for educators site.

4. For great links and more free resources, check out the ABC Teach Directory and also The Teachers Corner (there are helpful age recommendations for each resource on this site).

If you are interested in spending a small sum of money, and want something simple and easy to use--

1. Consider paying $4 to download The Winter Olympics 2010 Lap Book and Study Guide, from CurrClick. The Lap Book is recommended for children ages 2nd-7th grade, and it has gotten good reviews. Since it is only $4, I plan to purchase the book and use it with my K-1st grade daughter.

2. Consider paying $10.95 for The 2010 Winter Olympics Unit Study by Amy Bennett (this has gotten some good reviews on a couple of homeschool parenting boards).

3. Finally, consider purchasing a good world map for your house or schoolroom (or if you have one already, get it out to display it for the duration of the games). We have a U.S. map, but I plan to purchase and laminate a world map so that we can locate the various countries that win medals.

I'd love to hear about other resources that exist (especially free ones) and other ways to incorporate the Olympics into our home curriculum.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I Love Zappos!

Gone are the days when I enjoy a shoe shopping trip. I've never been much of a shopper, but shoe shopping--that was fun. These days, I dread both clothes and shoe shopping obligations. I know MaryAlice feels similarly, so she has started to purchase clothes for her children online at Lands End. We have made a move in this directions for Christmas gifts, for some limited clothes purchases, and now think I'm going to take the plunge on shoes.

Previously I had thought that shoes were something I just had to go to the store and try on. I am incredibly particular about my footwear--I usually wear sneakers because my feet feel terrible in most shoes--and so the thought of purchasing shoes online seemed crazy. And then last year, I hunted and hunted for a pair of casual (but also somewhat dressy) brown shoes. I wanted them to be comfortable, and appropriate for both jeans and a cute skirt. After consulting with some friends, I decided to purchase a pair of Dansko's. I bought these adorable shoes at the Walking Company and have never looked back. They have held up great, and I wear them almost every day. I tossed ALL my other cold weather brown shoes, and I love how this one purchase has simplified my life. I only have one pair of brown shoes. Aren't they cute?

But there was one problem--I never wanted to wear any of my black shoes because they all seemed so uncomfortable compared to my brown shoes. I thought about it for a while, and decided to purchase the exact same pair of shoes in black! I knew my size, and I knew what I wanted, so I ordered them on Zappos. Zappos even has free shipping (and free-return shipping if the shoes don't fit!). The shoes arrived the very next day and they were $20 less than what I paid at the Walking Company!

So now my closet has only 4 pairs of shoes (brown Dansko's, black Dansko's, sneakers, and slippers). I'll refrain from sharing a picture because I don't want to make everyone jealous.

This weekend, I mentioned to Mr. Red that I needed new running shoes. He suggested a date with Zappos (Mr. Red is now ordering all his shoes on Zappos), and while hesitant, I obliged. I know Nike running shoes fit my feet well. I know my size. I went to the Nike site and figured out what type of running shoe would suit my needs best. I then went over to Zappos, and 15 minutes later I made my purchase. That's 15 minutes TOTAL.

With four children, a simple shoe errand would be almost impossible and so purchasing a new pair of running shoes requires that I either 1) pay a babysitter or 2) eat into precious family time. The Zappos experience was so amazing that I want to do all my future shoe shopping this way. The children regularly need new shoes, and I have to bring them along to measure their feet and try on the shoes. But now I am thinking of switching to Zappos for my children's shoes. Is that crazy? There are plenty of shoe sizing charts online, see here, and here. I can print-out the chart, measure their feet, and then pick something appropriate. Has anyone else gone this route?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Higher Calling

Another inspiring story, and shockingly, this time it comes from ESPN. So often our athletes disappoint us with their blatantly immoral and selfish behavior. Most recently, Mark McGuire let us all know that he would have told the truth sooner if only he was granted immunity. According to McGuire, speaking truthfully is not in itself a duty he owes to other people, it is only something he would do if we guaranteed to him that he would not be held accountable for his actions. His failure to tell the truth was really our fault. If only Congress had guaranteed him immunity for all the repercussions of his steroid use and cheating, the public could have gotten to the bottom of things much sooner. Unfortunately, McGuire's attitude is not only typical among athletes, but persists among many famous and successful people in our society.

And so the story about top Oakland A's prospect, Grant Desme, leaving his baseball career behind at the age of 23, and heading to the seminary, stands in stark contrast to McGuire and most other athletes. Desme announced Friday that he was leaving baseball to enter the priesthood, walking away after a breakout season in which he was named MVP of the Arizona Fall League. He was doing really well, and full of so much baseball potential, but he felt a higher call to serve God and his church. It took a tremendous amount of courage for Desme to follow God and his call, and it is my prayer that more of our young people will do the same.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pray for an End to Abortion

Today marks the 37th anniversary of the dreadful Roe v. Wade decision. Please take a moment today to pray for an end to abortion in this nation. Pray for all the women hurt by the terrible procedure and all those contemplating an abortion as the solution to their unplanned pregnancy. And please pray for all those attending the March for Life today in Washington DC. May it be a peaceful protest against the legalized killing of innocent children in our nation.

Princeton Numbers Game

26,166 = # of applications received this year for Princeton's class of 2014

1300 = # of projected freshman to matriculate in the fall

4.9% = an applicant's percentage chance of getting into the class of 2014

91% = the percentage increase in applications over the past 6 years

74% = the percentage of applicants indicating intent to apply for financial aid

$113 million = Princeton's budget for financial aid

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Feel Good Story

So I'm a little late on this, but I came across this link today and was really inspired. Maddy Curtis, the 9th of 12 children (including 4 down syndrome brothers) was featured on American Idol and made it to "Hollywood." She is an evangelical convert to Catholicism, a cantor at her church, and the daughter of a wonderful woman who blogs here. Her mom is a big pro-life advocate, and overall I am just thrilled that Maddy is following her dream and representing her Catholic Faith so well--especially at the age of 16! It is my hope that we will see a lot more of Maddy on this season of American Idol.

"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beginning Again

I don't really like New Year's Resolutions. Well, that's not entirely true. I think what I don't like is the idea that the time for making resolutions is once a year. When I think of making a resolution for a whole year, I am paralyzed, as I have very little idea what the future holds and am afraid that I will fail. Then there is the inevitable discouragement of failing in a resolution or the temptation, once off the bandwagon, to let things slide until the next resolution-making holiday.

With our children we still say the prayer that I said as a child: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Each night, we sink into sleep, however briefly, and each morning is a new dawn. The time for examining oneself and for making resolutions? St Josemaria calls it a daily task, "If you are really fighting, you need to make an examination of conscience...It is the same as when you look at yourself in the mirror to know where you have hurt yourself or where the dirt is or where your blemishes are, so that you can get rid of them."

A few moments spent at the end of the day asking ourselves, What did I do well today? How have I loved our Lord? How have I failed? In what little thing will I struggle to do better tomorrow? Smiling at others? Being patient? And then, recognizing those things I have to be sorry for, that, once again, I return like the prodigal son, I can make a sincere act of contrition and sleep knowing that tomorrow we will begin again.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Gift of an Ordinary Day

Friends: I hope you enjoy this video. I'm so thankful for all the older mothers, those with grown children, who take the time to remind younger mothers like me of the gift of these days. It's wild how easy it is to race around meeting urgent demands and miss the small joys--it seems to take a little self-restraint and a lot of grace to be able to pause and live in the moment. Please Lord help me to take better care to savor these moments.

Monday, January 18, 2010

For We Hold this Treasure in Earthen Vessels...

“But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the all-surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4: 7

The above verse comes from one of my favorite passages in Scripture. St. Paul is addressing the Church in the Roman city of Corinth in the year 56 A.D., but he is also speaking to each one of us in the year 2010. The “treasure” that St. Paul is talking about is “the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4: 6) that each of us, as Christians, carry around in our hearts. The reason that we carry this treasure around in earthen vessels – our selves – is that “we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord” (2 Cor 4: 5). In other words, God asks us – imperfect and weak as we are – to carry out His work and spread His gospel on this earth because ultimately we are not preaching our own truth, but the truth of our Creator.

The image of the “earthen vessel,” or the jar of clay, is a beautiful one. At the time when St. Paul wrote his letters, people would have used vessels made of clay for many different purposes – carrying water, holding grains, etc. They would have understood that earthen vessels crack sometimes, and these cracks needed to be patched up and filled before they could be functional again. Similarly, we are like jars of clay – we have many weaknesses that are like cracks, and we need God’s grace to fill these cracks. If we were perfect, there would be no room for God to work His way into our beings, and we would be totally self-reliant. This is not God’s will, and we should rejoice in the fact that we depend on His grace! Whenever we are victorious in overcoming an imperfection, we must glorify God for filling in this crack in us.

“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” Luke 12: 34

God has given us the supreme commandment to “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and strength,” not because he is an egotistic and selfish being, but because he knows that loving Him above all else is the only way that we can lead truly joyful, purposeful lives. We are “earthen vessels” and our earthly selves fail us sometimes, but God is unchanging and His kingdom is eternal. Our loving God wants us to depend on Him entirely, and in speaking to his disciples Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and these other things will be given you besides…For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Luke 12: 31, 34).

God knows that we, as human beings, will give our hearts to whatever we hold as our greatest treasure, and He wants us to give our hearts to Him. If we hold possessions as our greatest treasure, our hearts will be broken if we lose our possessions to a robbery or house fire. If we hold our success as our greatest treasure, then our joy will fluctuate as our success grows and declines. If we hold our children or our spouses as our greatest treasure, then we will be constantly discontented as our children or spouses make mistakes and act in ways that are disappointing to us. But if we have Christ as our firm foundation – if we have given our hearts to God – then nothing can shake us. Disappointments will come, and tragedy may strike, but we will hold an abiding joy in our hearts that cannot be touched by earthly disaster.

The people of Haiti are suffering greatly in the aftermath of last week's earthquake, and the death and destruction present in this island nation must be overwhelming. We hear stories of dead bodies lining the streets, looters overcoming the teams of people trying to bring medical supplies and food to those who need it most, and children who have been orphaned and are suffering greatly from their own injuries. We try to imagine what it would be like to lose everything - our home, our neighborhood, our community - and we are baffled at the magnitude of this disaster. Yet we also hear stories of incredible hope and resilience in Haiti: women who are organizing marches through the streets of Haiti, clapping and singing and trying to lift people's spirits. People who are holding church services in fields because their churches have been destroyed. Communities that are pulling together to help each other to recover, even in the face of incredible obstacles.

These amazing people represent the epitome of Jesus' words, "For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be." Yes, the people of Haiti must mourn the loss of the hundreds of thousands who perished in last week's earthquake, as well as the destruction of their homes and communities. It will take a long time to rebuild, and the road to recovery will involve much suffering. But those Haitians who are already speaking a message of hope have shown that their treasure was not in their possessions or in their homes, but rather in an unchanging God. Even a magnitude 7.0 earthquake cannot touch this treasure, and no matter what tragedy may strike over the next couple of months, their hearts will be joyful if they take their refuge in Our Lord.

We, too, should not be discouraged by the magnitude of this natural disaster. We must recognize the suffering of our brothers and sisters and Haiti, and we must pray fervently for all of their needs and do what we can to help financially. Similarly, we must not be discouraged by the great obstacles that we face in our own lives. Perhaps we are facing great disappointments in our jobs, our marriages, or with our children. We must recognize the difficulties that we face and ask for God's help and His grace, but we must not lose hope. If we have given our hearts to God, then there is no earthly trial that can overcome us.

May God bless you and your families as we begin this new week...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Read this and pray for Haiti

Let's Talk

Over the past week I have been chatting with lots of mothers of eight year olds. I got together with my playground buddies from the days when PT was a toddler, and it was so fun to reconnect. With moves and homeschooling it has been a very long time since I have had friends with kids just the same age as mine, and it was amazing that we fell right into the same fellowship that really got me through my time as a grad school wife.

There was one aspect of the conversation that really got me thinking. Several friends shared that they have had a basic "sex talk" with their child over the past year. I was surprised -- seven and eight strike me as very young for this. The great advice I got was this:

--You want to begin a conversation, make it clear that they can come to you at any time with questions about what they are learning in school, from friends and in health class

--You want to be calm and straightforward, matter of fact and unflustered, so that they will not be embarrassed to come to you with further questions

--You want to get it started early since they will be hearing things on the school ground before you know it

--Both parents should participate

Now, we have had a basic anatomy of male/female conversation because of an awkward page in a children's encyclopedia, but I have to admit that I was taken off gaurd and I clammed up when asked about the how/why. I said that it was for married people, not sure if that was the right answer, but it was the best that I could do in the moment. I also then carefully removed that page from the book, which was probably not the best way to promote further dialogue!

I am thinking that I may need to re-introduce this subject soon, perhaps with a good children's book on the subject to aid me in keeping calm.

For years I have been praying for the physical strength to meet the needs of my young children, and my days were demanding and exhausting. I am beginning to realize that we are entering a new territory now where the emotional and intellectual strength needed is going to be much greater, and I have to admit that I don't feel up to the task. I am going to take it to prayer, but I wonder whether you more experienced mothers might have any resources to recommend for the school age/pre teen parenting issues? At what age do you think that it is appropriate to have these conversations? What, if anything, do you know about what is being taught in school and when?

When my mom was in middle school, the scandalous "f" word started being whispered on the playground. The boys seemed to know that it meant something, and the girls were curious, so my poor mom was elected to go and ask a boy what it meant. With great embarrassment, a boy said "you know where boys go to the bathroom? You know where girls go to the bathroom? It's when a boy goes in there." My mother went back and innocently reported to the girls that the "f" word meant that a boy goes into the girls bathroom! So much for what you hear on the playground!

On the subject of beginning a conversation, I also wanted to share this Top Ten list from Father's For Good, which I think would open dialogue on several important subjects.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rules of Engagement

Charlie (almost 4): "Mama, what do teenagers do?"
Me: "What do you mean?"
Charlie: "What do teenagers do?"
Me: "I don't understand what you are asking?"
Gianna (almost 6): "Teenagers look for someone to marry. They hang out with other teenagers so that they can find someone to marry. It isn't easy to find someone to marry because they have to be Catholic, and they can't be your brother or your cousin."

Well, she has the basics right. And for right now that's all she needs to know.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Because Red and MaryAlice...

...have been able to post all the sports pictures the last few years (with my not terribly sincere apologies to the Eagles fans in the Builder family--Mary Alice, at least you have your weekends back!):

Go Cowboys!

Friday, January 8, 2010


In the recent onslaught of holiday cards and letters, we received the gamut of greetings. We learned of the joys of new babies, the accomplishments of children, the travels of friends and families, and for the most part, the happy reflections of 2009. The reports were uplifting and especially endearing accompanied by pictures of smiling people and children, dressed well and seeming to have it all together.

There was one letter sent to us by friends, though, that stood out from the bunch. Knowing the family had endured some hardships in the past year, I was curious as to what it would contain. The letter highlighted various goings-on in the family, a recent move, and the here's and there's of certain relatives, very much like the other letters we had received. It was the closing paragraph that struck me most. It read:

"Life is rich and hard and sweet and frustrating--the same for us as it is for you. We are wealthy in love of friends, family and our faith in the good news of the Gospel. Who can ask for anything more?"

I was moved to tears reading it. The writer so beautifully summed up life in four descriptive words-- rich, hard, sweet, frustrating.

It can be easy in the blog world to drift from blog to blog and begin the illusion that everything in others' lives is perfect. Even over here at Building Cathedrals, we may appear to have it all together--well-behaved children, cleanly homes, well-ordered days and organization, perfect marriages with nary an argument... I could go on, but you know what I mean. It is the danger of blogging. Putting ourselves out there to the world, but only partially. No one really knows what goes on unless you're here and living it.

NEWSFLASH: We're not perfect. None of us.

And life, in fact, often takes the shape of those four words above--rich, hard, sweet, frustrating.

I would agree, we are rich in the love of Christ and the Grace emanating from His Church and the people here on earth who represent it. How blessed are we to have such richness! Thank you, Lord!! We are rich in friendship here at Building Cathedrals. I am rich knowing every night upon lying down to sleep that there are people here on this earth who I trust and love and who would advocate for me in an instant. How blessed and rich.

But life is hard. Mary Alice wrote a beautiful reflection in Faith and Family earlier this week about being open to God's will regarding the size of her family. Does Mary Alice have it easy with 6 children? Do any of us? I speak collectively in saying, "NO!" Does an openness to life mean that every day is graceful and beautiful and worthy of praise? Heavens no! But is it grace-filled? As long as we allow it to be. Our family is preparing to welcome baby #4 into the fold come June and I already know that with this new addition will come many hardships. Growing pains hurt, though they are usually accompanied by other joys that help us deal with the pain. Life can be a challenge, there's no two ways about it.

Oh, but life can be sweet. The little things are sweet to me these days. The high voice of my toddler as he beckons to his grandfather, "Pa-pa!" It has to be about the sweetest thing one could hear. And what about my 5yo, who last night threw me the football, busted my finger, ran to get a band-aid for his mom, and tended to my wound with utmost care. So sweet. These are sweet blessings that sprinkle our day with goodness.

And finally, yes, life can be frustrating. Usually my frustration comes in reference to my interactions with the outside world--the customer service personnel, the DMV (or BMV, depending on where you live), the pharmacy staff, or perhaps the receptionist who continues to put me on hold! There are bigger frustrations too, but none worthy of any of our time. Life isn't always fair; and it isn't always peachy.

And that's okay.
"We are wealthy in love of friends, family and our faith in the good news of the Gospel. Who can ask for anything more?"

Thursday, January 7, 2010

At Least He's Honest...

As my father laboriously installed 24" sliding locks on the french doors leading to our learning room (previous locking attempts having been thwarted), our 4 year old engineer Dash observed:

"Papa, those should work until I figure out how to open them."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


for All You Who Hope and her husband!

If you have a moment, go read and and let their beautiful story lift your spirits!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Just One More

On Christmas Eve our church was filled to capacity. We managed to arrive early enough to find a pew that was empty and pile in our six children along with their coats, angel wings, and a stuffed lamb for the shepherd, but it seemed like we got the last seats, because everyone who walked in after us had to stand...

I felt awkward, sitting when others didn’t have a place, so when a nice looking man approached our pew I pulled the children closer to me and invited him to sit down. Certainly, on Christmas, there was room for one more, I thought...

Read the rest here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Our Home is a Work in Progress

When we moved into our home 18 months ago, it felt quite large and spacious to me - definitely plenty of room for our little family of 4. I remember the previous owners leaving us a note that said, "We hope that you enjoy this little house as much as we have," and thinking to myself, "Little?!" The house felt just right, and as first-time homeowners, my husband and I were thrilled to finally be moving in and making the home our own.

Fast-forward to now: We still love our home and feel completely blessed to be here - truly, it is the perfect home for our family at this point, and as a bonus we love our neighborhood and the local school system. At the same time, we are already starting to feel like we are outgrowing this space! There are several factors at play here: We have a growing boy who likes to have his also-growing-boy friends over to play, but we can never seem to find the right space for them to be while they're over here. We have a feisty toddler who has just decided that she will no longer be confined to her crib, so we are working on some new sleeping arrangements :) We have a new baby on the way that will eventually need a place to sleep, but we're still working out the logistics of room-sharing and saving our guest room/office vs. separate bedrooms and losing that extra room. Also, we are realizing that we need to purchase some new furniture to make our home more functional, but we have been going back and forth for months on what to get and where to put it.

The questions are less about square footage and more about layout: Could we pull off putting our desk and computer in the playroom, which is already starting to feel full? Should we purchase some new furniture that will provide more functional storage for the children's toys, and if so, how should we arrange it? If the new baby is a girl, would we put her in the same room as our big boy? If so, for how long would that arrangement work? (Our toddler daughter would not be a suitable candidate for sharing a room at this point :) )

I imagine that every family goes through similar growing pains, and that these will be issues that our family will deal with on an ongoing basis as our family continues to grow. The funny thing is that my husband and I are both such analytical thinkers that we are trying to plan out every last detail before we act, which leaves us with lots of planning but not much decisive action! We are also trying to spend our money wisely, which involves a lot of talking, thinking, searching, and waiting :) At some point, we'll probably need to just move things around, try them out for a little while, and rearrange if necessary.

How have you and your spouse made decisions about your home? Do you have any great advice to share with all of us? Any helpful books or websites? Have you made any mistakes that you've learned from and would like to share with us?

A blessed Feast of the Epiphany to all of you and your families! It's hard to believe that we're already a few days into January of 2010!

Cute stuff

A very happy new year to all of our readers! Things have been pretty quite around our house as the entire family has been out for the count with a nasty cold or flu virus. I came down with the bug on Wednesday, we were forced to defrost our entire refrigerator (long story) on Thursday afternoon, and then deal with an clogged and overflowing toilet! My head couldn't have felt worse, and so I headed to bed at 9:30pm. I awoke to fireworks and pots and pans in the streets, and poor Mr. Red watching the festivities on TV. Mr. Red now has the virus, and I'm praying he feels better by tomorrow am when he begins his new job.

And now the reason for my post. I came across this trailer while surfing the web today, and thought it was adorable. My kids and I are loving it. I admit I'm a sucker for a good documentary, and so I can't wait to see the full Babies doc. Love, love, love the goat at the end. Enjoy!

Apparently, the film takes a look at one year in the life of five babies living on five different continents. It will be released in a limited number of US theaters on April 16th, 2010.