"Do penance: bury your negligences, offenses, and sins in the deep pit dug by your humility. Thus does the farmer bury rotten fruit, dead twigs and fallen leaves at the foot of the tree that bore them. And what was unfruitful, even harmful, makes a real contribution to a new fertility.
I was looking for some beautiful images of Holy Week to share with our children and came across the website Joyful Heart's list with links to many, many beautiful images. I have not reviewed any of the other content on the site, but this list, which includes images of the Last Supper, Gethsemane, the Trial, the Crucifixion and the Pieta, was exactly what I was looking for. Not all the links work, but many can be looked up by artist/title at the Web Gallery of Art.
My kids have been sick, on and off, for the entire month of march. Not all of them, but one or two at a time, and not really sick, just sort of stay in your pajamas until 11:30 and ask for toast sick. They have also been mean, tired and bickering almost constantly, and there has been a major rain storm for several days each week. March has been a bear, and I am glad to see it go.
Over the past couple of weeks, our family has been enjoying lots of quality time with our newest addition, little Caroline Rose. The older kids are having a great time playing with their baby sister, and we're all settling into the new routines and schedules of having a newborn in the house again! Here are some random thoughts that I've been having:
We heard a homily yesterday that reminded us that this should be a week set a part for all Christians. We have one last push of Lent, a little more time to carefully offer our sacrifices with love, to make some extra time for prayer and to contemplate the Passion. It is particularly special this year as it overlaps with Orthodox holy week and also with Passover, so around the world people are praying this week.
Danielle Bean linked to this video, Come to Jesus, which is putting me in a contemplative mood this morning.
The world around us will not stop, but it did not stop 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, either, so we have to make the time.
Ladies, Christmas may be 9 months away, but Easter is 9 days away and I have an urgent issue. What are your creative substitutes for Easter grass? I am NOT bringing that stuff into our home for another year. Last year my five-year-old daughter wanted to stuff it into ziploc bags, put pillow cases on them and use them for her animals. I am still finding pieces of the stuff. Does anyone have an attractive substitute?
Like Abraham, Mary must walk through darkness, in which she must simply trust the One who called her. Yet even her question, "How can this come about?", suggests that Mary is ready to say yes, despite her fears and uncertainties. Mary asks not whether the promise is possible, but only how it will be fulfilled. It comes as no surprise, therefore, when finally she utters her fiat: "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me" (Lk 1:38). With these words, Mary shows herself the true daughter of Abraham, and she becomes the Mother of Christ and Mother of all believers.
The day I received an email from Melanie and Hal Young was probably like any other day with 3 young boys. Except that the commonplace falls, bumps and bruises of this particular day necessitated our first ER visit (I know, not too bad in 9 combined years of little boyhood).
My two year old son Gus teaches me a lot about life. The little guy has some sensory integration issues, and the more he feels in control, the better his reaction to uncomfortable stimuli. We can sometimes avoid tears and tantrums by making him feel in control. For example, after he finishes a meal Gus hates to have his face wiped. If I give him a warm rag, and allow him to wipe his own face, he does not cry or complain. If, however, I take the warm rag and very gently rub his face to make it clean, he protests vehemently.
The trouble is, I can't always allow him to wipe his own face. He does a lousy job, and it takes forever. Most of the time, I have to help him.
When I was on retreat last weekend, I realized that, like Gus, I am happiest with my life when I feel I'm in control. I get into a groove, run from one activity to the next, and so long as things go somewhat according to plan, I feel great about my day. For much of my life, God has handed me the washcloth and allowed me to wipe my own face, and at times things seemed so good that I even lost sight of His hand.
But things changed about five months ago. With a fourth baby, I can no longer pretend that I have control over my life. On a good day, we are just 5 minutes away from total chaos.
God has used this very challenging time to teach me about surrender. My sense of control was an illusion. My face is too dirty to clean myself. But fortunately, there's Someone who can help, and I'm slowly learning to hand over the wash rag.
There is an important conversation about Postpartum Depression going on over at Faith and Family. I have not listened to the podcast yet, but I did read Kate Wicker's post and I really agree with her advice. I have had postpartum depression to various degrees after every single pregnancy, so I am beginning to feel like a bit of an expert on the matter. My wise OB offered prozac, but encouraged sleep, diet, exercise and B-vitamins first, and I find that if I am able to get those things, I am able to ride out the rough times without needing medication.
For me, it really has a lot to do with sleep, so having lots of help at night from my husband is crucial (he gets the baby and changes diapers so that I can nurse and we do not co-sleep because I cannot sleep with a baby in my bed and I become severely depressed when sleep deprived), and I sleep as much as I can during the day in the early stages. I also suffer from insomnia, so a doula once advised me to start a bedtime routine while I was pregnant to help to train myself to sleep -- stay away from TV at night, have some soothing tea, etc.
Getting outside helps a lot, though I seem to develop a fear of being in public when I have just had a baby, so a quite walk around the neighborhood is a good first step. It is important to me to have time alone to bond with the baby, now that I have so many other children, so I have developed a habit of going to my room to nurse alone for at least one or two daytime feedings. It is also important to have time totally alone, even just a few uninterrupted moments to shower, phone a friend, or take a walk, alone.
I also have to protect myself emotionally, so I try not to read anything really sad or draining. This meant that I could not read my brother's book while I was post-partum -- it chronicled a difficult time in the life of our family, and I knew that I was just not emotionally strong enough to go back there. My husband knows that sad news stories are not to be repeated, etc. It is pathetic to feel so fragile, but for the good of myself and my family I need to be very gentle for a while.
The greatest change for me came through advice from my spiritual director and that was to take my older children into my confidence. I have told them that my emotions get wacky after I have a baby and that I am trying hard to control them. They know to steer clear or offer to help when I am starting to seem tense. At first I felt guilty about this, almost as though it was abusive, but now I realize that I am giving them a wonderful life skill -- if they have families of their own, they will live with real, complicated emotion and it is important to know how to respond to that. There are moments when a hug from a two year old can be all you need in the world, but also times when being able to ask your six year old to take the two year old to play for a few moments so that you can shower without an audience can save your sanity. If, after wards, you thank that six year old for her help, she has learned that she can really contribute to the well being of the family.
I have also learned that I have second bout of hormonal craziness when my babies wean, which mimics or extends PPD.
They say that a little bit of "baby blues" are normal, but a nurse once told me that a key sign of trouble is when things are not getting a little bit better everyday. This is really helpful advice for a new mom in general because it applies to pediatric health as well -- how do you tell if your baby needs to see a doctor for his runny nose? If it is not getting better. The same is true for that funky looking cut your two year old got at the playground -- not getting better? Time to call the doctor.
I've shared a bit more here than I intended to, it is hard for me to hold back on this subject, but I am closing comments because this is a bit too raw for me, but if you have questions or stories to share please do so over at Faith and Family Live.
Dear readers ~ I wrote the following post for our church's mothers' group (St. Anne Society), and thought that I would share it with you all as well...Enjoy!
Like many of the members of the St. Anne's Society, I spent my childhood moving from one place to another, and I am also a transplant to Texas. Our closest family members (my parents) live over 800 miles away, and we have family living thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean in Germany and (soon!) in Spain. As I was growing up, my immediate family – my parents and my younger sister – was the only segment on both my mother’s and my father’s side that didn’t live in the same town that we had been born in. We were always traveling to see our extended family for holidays, and never spent Christmas morning or Easter in our own home. By the time that I entered high school I had attended eight different schools in three different countries, and these had been a mixture of public, Catholic, and international schools. As a child, this was a great adventure and I have great memories of all of the places that my family visited and explored. I feel richly blessed to have had all of the experiences that I did growing up, and I know that I would not be the same person today if it had not been for all of these experiences.
However, not every child that moves around a lot has the same positive experience as I did. Recent studies indicate that children who move often are more at risk for experiencing depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior than their peers who have not moved. So what did my parents do differently that made my experience so positive? I truly believe that the main factor in my ability to transition from one place to the next was that my parents kept certain things constant, and they especially made a point of keeping our family’s faith life a priority no matter where we lived. I remember living in Istanbul, Turkey, where there is not exactly a high concentration of Catholic Christians, and the Catholic churches were not abundant. My parents drove us for almost an hour to the closest Catholic church every Sunday morning, and I can still remember many things about this particular church: The crowded streets outside, the ceilings inside that seemed to reach to the heavens, the little room under the main church where my sister and I attended religious education. It would have been easier for my parents to stay home and avoid the risk of driving without their weekday driver on the crowded and treacherous streets of Turkey, but they knew the importance of attending Mass as a family, no matter how inconvenient.
As an adult, I remember many of the places that I have visited or lived most poignantly by the churches that I attended while I was there. I spent a summer working long hours at a hospital in Freiburg, Germany, and was very lonely and challenged for much of my time there. I probably would have gotten on the first available flight back home had it not been for the opportunity that I had to attend daily Mass – my lifeline for those two months! – and a compassionate nun who took me under her wing and guided me through the problems that I was facing. My husband and I spent our honeymoon in Vancouver, Canada, and again had the opportunity to attend daily mass at a local church. We befriended an older couple throughout our week in Vancouver, and on our last day they gave us a beautiful “Marriage Prayer” plaque that still hangs on the wall of our bedroom. Some of my most treasured memories from college are the times spent in prayer with my fellow classmates in the university chapel. I attended a secular university with an amazing Catholic community, and a series of felicitous events in the first weeks of my freshman year truly turned my life around and pointed me back in the right direction. I have forgotten much of the material that I learned in my university courses, but I will never forget the booming voice of Fr. Tom during his passionate homilies or the heads of my classmates bowed in fervent prayer in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
As I think about what qualities I would hope to instill in my children – self-discipline, honesty, respectfulness, kindness, etc. – I realize that all of these flow naturally out of a deep and abiding sense of connection to our faith. Our Lord is “the way, the truth, and the life,” (John 14:6) and if we can help our children to foster a true friendship with Christ, we are giving them a great gift. One of the ways that we can help our children to grow in friendship with Christ is to bring them to Mass, to the feet of Jesus Himself, to pray and to worship and to rest. No matter what challenges life may bring for our children, God will never change His promises nor will he leave them. And no matter where life may take them, they may always claim the Church as their home, their refuge, and their universal family.
God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble. ~Psalm 46:1
May God bless all of you and your families!
There was a time when living the liturgical year was the primary theme for my home school lesson plans. We had a magical year, our first year of homeschooling, when I was happy and flexible and it was all just one great preschool jumble of crafts, living books and time outdoors. Those days have passed, and I find that these days my desire to keep the older ones "on track" and the littlest ones from "eating glitter," we have not given as much attention to the minor feasts and holidays.
Book baskets help a lot, at least that one area of the curriculum is ready made, and I do still believe firmly that read aloud time counts as "real school" for anyone, at any age, but cooking and crafting and playing are important, too, and feasts can be a good excuse to fit these in. Plus, my mom often let me CUT SCHOOL to go to the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York, so I am sure that she would approve of our laying aside lessons to celebrate.
I have given the children a dispensation from their lenten sacrifice of sweets because back on Valentines Day, Peter suggested that if we used yellow m&ms, our dots would make great "pots of gold". We will be baking those, along with soda bread, which we will eat with Irish butter, which is sweet and amazing and makes you wonder what Americans are doing wrong when making butter.
I have printed out these simple shamrocks to color as we talk about the Holy Trinity, and we may even label the petals for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We will review the sign of the cross, why we pray it and what makes it so powerful.
I have also looked at this simple rainbow craft which may appeal to my older children. With the little ones, we will color rainbows and talk about the colors, and work on staying in the lines, which is always a struggle for 5 year old boys in our house. I may also present the option of watercolor rainbows just to mix things up.
Lastly, for copywork and memorization, we will be using this verse from the prayer known as St. Patrick's Breastplate
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I may explain the title of the prayer by showing the picture above, which fits in nicely with our current Medieval studies. Just think of the power of these words as your armor!
And of course, I can't leave out the titles in our book basket this week: Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie de Paola and St. Patrick's Day by Gail Gibbons, and Brigid's Cloak.
We do not own the CCC video St. Patrick, Brave Shepherd of the Emerald Isle, but JM does, and my kids have seen it and declare that it is their favorite of the series, so I wish I had thought to order it sooner.
One more thing to convince myself that this is
really school good for our family, we are studying Europe (working through CHC 2nd grade continent studies and using this as our writing prompt) and so we will find Ireland on the map and add it to the list of countries that we have "visited," reading a bit about Ireland and then writing a three point paragraph.
Gosh, isn't it amazing that I started out thinking that we would be skipping school and it turns out to be quite easy to include many of our subjects while working around this theme? I think that the baking can even count as math! Or, I could easily make some number cards and have the little kids put the correct number of shamrock stickers on to the cards, and then the big kids could use those cards, plus and operations card, to practice math facts! Oh, and I just found this Coloring Grid!
Plus, when we talk about "pots of gold" we will refer to Matthew 6:20, "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;" and maybe even get into the transition from folk tales/myths/legends to Christianity in early Europe.
I love homeschooling! Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Help me give my children the best – not of trappings or toys, but of myself, cherishing them on good days and bad, theirs and mine.
Teach me to accept them for who they are, not for what they do; to listen to what they say, if only so they will listen to me; to encourage their goals, not mine; and please, let me laugh with them and be silly.
Let me give them a home where respect is the cornerstone, integrity the foundation, and there is enough happiness to raise the roof.
May I give them the courage to be true to themselves; the independence to take care of themselves and the faith to believe in a power much greater than their own.
See that I discipline my children without demeaning them, demand good manners without forgetting my own, and let them know they have limitless love, no matter what they do.
Let me feed them properly, clothe them adequately and have enough to give them small allowances – not for the work they do but the pleasure they bring – and let me be moderate in all these things, so the joy of getting will help them discover the joy of giving.
See that their responsibilities are real but not burdensome, that my expectations are high but not overwhelming, and that my thanks and praise are thoughtful and given when they’re due.
Help me teach them that excellence is work’s real reward, and not the glory it brings. But when it comes – and it will – let me revel in each honor, however small, without once pretending that it’s mine; my children are glories enough.
Above all, let me ground these children so well that I can dare to let them go. And may they be so blessed.
Leo got a "baby einstein" video for Christmas from an uncle. He asked to watch it this morning, so I put it on, thinking it would keep him out of trouble while we did school work. He watched for about a minute, and is currently back at work removing all the q tips from the box in the cabinet below my bathroom sink, while four school age children have abandoned lessons and sit slack jawed in front of a screen rotating pretty colors.
Just back from my run, and I noticed that several houses still have Christmas wreaths on the door, slowly turning brown and confusing the crocuses which are popping up on the lawns. My wreaths are off the door, so you cannot see them from the street, but my dirty secret is that they are still lying on the ground beside the door! So, in this third week of Lent, join me now in throwing away your Christmas wreath. Get up right now and do it, the computer will still be here when you get back.
If you are self-righteously laughing at all of us slackers, I challenge you to go take a look around your house. There is one thing that has been sitting somewhere so long that you don't even see it anymore, a news clipping on your fridge that has yellowed, a pair of shoes kicked into a corner long ago, the pile of stuff that has accumulated on top of your dryer. Be thankful that you put your wreaths away long ago and instead go tackle that one thing!
So, I have been spending some time on FaceBook after realizing that my kids already have friends who are using facebook daily. While I am not ready for my kids to use it, I think that if I get to know it a bit, I will have a sense of the possibilities and pitfalls of this social media thing. We have some helpful computer rules in place already, my kids only visit one website that I trust and play games there, and they are instructed not to give out any information without talking to me first. This article points out some of the issues with other forms of technology which are now interactive -- your phone, Nintendo DS, etc, which can go online and get to sites you do not trust. The best advice I read here was to TALK TO YOUR KIDS! We cannot guess what new threats/temptations are on the horizon, but if we keep an open dialogue about the benefits and dangers of technology then we can hope that they will make better choices. I recommend reading this now so that you can be thinking about these issues even if it seems like many years before junior will have a cell phone or computer of his own.
HT: a facebook post by Fr. CJ McCloskey
For your meatless fridays this Lent, consider these bean soup mixes. While they cost more than the dry beans at the grocery store, you will be supporting something worthwhile, calling to mind the fig tree in this Sunday's gospel who just needed one more chance, patience, nourishment and careful tending to bear fruit. When we go without meat or eat lower on the food chain, we are stewards of the environment, and through this project we can be stewards of one another as well.
For a refresher on the difference between contraception and NFP, click here to view the full text of this excellent document put together by my lovely, recently-married, hoping-to-be-a-mom, passionately-Catholic, darn smart friend. Thanks, Mrs. C., for keeping my brain sharp on this fundamental truth.
As a new Lenten discipline, I've been wrangling my laundry crisis. It is no secret laundry and I have been in a dual for some time and I thought it a necessary sacrifice for Jesus this season. Leading up to this point, I've had good weeks and good days, only to be followed by periods of neglect and inactivity that have all resulted in chaos. For me, home chaos is the devil's tool, which then breeds general sloth, apathy, and the like. It is not prayerful or even mindful of Christ; instead, it discourages my daily walk.
I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that my 4 year old knows more Spanish than I do. He comes home from Spanish class and tries to teach me the days of the week, names for articles of clothing, etc., but I am a slower learner than he is. I have wanted to learn Spanish since moving to Texas 5 years ago. Has anyone had any experience attempting to learn a foreign language alongside their children? I vaguely remember the Muzzy videos and figure if I can handle the BBC's Scottish goat giving typing lessons I might be able to handle a giant green monster teaching me Spanish.
Rosetta Stone is also highly recommended and I noticed that they have a homeschool program, but am unsure if it would be doable for a 4 year old as well as mom (and it's really expensive).
Even with 4 children successfully wearing undies night and day, I consider myself a potty training rookie. My first was trained mostly by Grandma, in the summer, teaching him to pee on trees. My next was trained in one day by our cleaning lady. That girl trained her little sister, also in a day, using the "strawberry shortcake underwear and m&m rewards" method. Training the twin brother was a total disaster and he was in diapers until he was 4! He decided to make a power play out of it, and I lost, big time, he trained when he felt like it, pretty much on his own.
So, here I am again with a two year old on my hands. He takes off his diaper when he naps and in the morning, no matter what he is wearing, so I have been having to wash his sheets twice a day. He follows his big sisters into the bathroom and has even had a few successful visits to the potty chair before his bath. He can take off his pants by himself, and he puts his own diaper in the trash. He follows one step commands with about 80% obedience, and he is fairly verbal. For all of these reasons, I think he might be ready to begin training, but I do NOT want this to be a 2 year start and stop process.
What are your thoughts, ladies -- have you had success with training two year old boys? Should I just wait a year and do it the easy way when he is 3? How much discipline will it take on my part to take him to the potty every hour? Since I am already changing one in diapers, and they wear the same size, would it be easier to just keep him in diapers? If so, how do I keep his diaper on for the nap? Duct tape? And, how do I go about training, do I just let him run around naked for a while and put him on the potty every so often, hoping it works? Do you think this slot machine potty would help?