Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When My Martha Tendencies Highjack My Desire To Be Like Mary During Advent

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 I woke up one morning recently and panicked about my failure to "plan" Advent.  After a few hours of agonizing about an approach, I concocted a plan of attack. 

 “If we get an Advent wreath, make a calendar, prepare an empty manger with sacrifice straw and pull out all fifty of the Christmas books, I think we’ll be in good shape to help the kids prepare for Christmas,” I said to my husband, John, as we drove to church.  

Did I check with him to see if he agreed with my ideas?  No, I probably should have.

Did I ask for his input about favorite Advent past-times?  I forgot about that one, too.  

I simply outlined our various stopping points after Mas and John humored me, without enthusiasm.

(This, by the way, was my first tip-off I needed to go back to the drawing board.) 

Read the rest at Integrated Catholic Life.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Why We Need Joyful Witnesses





Over the Thanksgiving holidays, I found myself in multiple conversations with people who were distressed about the evils of the world today: the lack of faith, poverty, injustice, and pornography, ISIS, abortion, euthanasia, and materialism, to name a few.  While all the concerns expressed were valid, I walked away from the discussions feeling depressed and hopeless about the state of affairs.

It’s easy for faithful Catholics, who desire to concentrate on the good, the true, and the beautiful, to be distracted by the abundant grotesque around them, to feel discouraged when it seems as if the darkness consistently overshadows the light.  It’s also easy to allow these feelings to dictate our conversations with our friends and family. Instead of focusing on the goodness and making conscious efforts to share the tid-bits of beauty we see in daily life, we fixate on the negative, talk about the evil ad nauseum, and then walk around with a general feeling of uneasiness about the world in which we live.

Read the rest at ICL.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

When Cutting Down A Christmas Tree Almost Causes A Divorce
















Last year John and I almost divorced because the Christmas tree we cut down was too big.  OK, using the word "big" to describe that tree is an understatement.  The tree was so colossal, it almost didn't fit in our yard let alone in our house.

And OK, maybe the whole "we almost got a divorce" thing is also a bit dramatic,  but trust me when I tell you that tree was the cause of many fights.

I'll admit it:  I have a thing for lush, full Christmas trees.  I blame my mother, who also is Christmas tree obsessed.  When I was a kid, I remember by mom and dad taking us all to the lot to pick out a tree and every year they same conversation took place:

Dad:  What about this one?

Mom:  (aghast at his minute, spiny selection) No, it's much too small.  Plus, it's filled with holes.  Do you see them?

Dad:  What holes? (cue obligatory walk around tree to search for signs of "holes")

Mom:  (waving at some gaping vague spot on the tree)  It's a Charlie Brown tree.  Totally unsuitable.

It wasn't until my mother "stumbled" upon the sixteen footer section of the lot where the trees required special tractors to move them to customers' vehicles that she seemed happy to even consider purchasing a tree.

But the tree ordeal didn't end there because then the Colonel had to put on the lights.

Oh, the lights.

There were never enough on the tree, according to my mother.  I remember one year the tree my mom picked out was so full, when my dad finished stringing all the multicolored twinkles--after it had fallen over at least six times and he'd finally rigged it to three corners of the room--he was covered in sap.

He was also cussing.

So...yeah...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Tale Of Christmas Shopping Bedlam (Subtitled: On Having The Last Word)





When the older kids were at school one day this week, I stopped at Kohl's to pick up some gifts for the feast of St. Nick.  I almost never shop with my children in tow anymore because I don't have patience for their perfectly-normal-but-annoying-nonetheless behavior, especially in the public arena.  Also, their million requests for stuff to clutter up my house taxes me, so I prefer to fly solo.

But I broke my rule in order to accomplish a necessary task and I paid for it.

Literally.

Admittedly, I stayed entirely too long at the store, which meant four year old Camille occupied herself with the abundant displays of FROZEN merchandise littered throughout the store. 

"Elsa, Mom!" she would exclaim, every time we saw yet another display case.  "Doesn't she look beautiful!  OHHHHHH, I love this necklace!  I want it."

"Will you buy me this Frozen sippy cup, Mom?  It's so cute."

"Look at Olaf.  He's adorbs.  Can I have this fleece sweatshirt?"

Her requests for Elsa and Anna paraphernalia permeated our trip, with Edward punctuating the conversation at random intervals with horror movie like screams.  

At one point, I looked over and saw Camille struggling to get into a camouflaged purple and black fleece Elsa sweatshirt to no avail because it was a size 2T. When I walked over to help her remove it, she sighed in dismay, "I just wanted to see if it fit!"

It didn't.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December Daybook: Is This Thing On?



Try as I might, I can not convince Camille that tights ARE NOT pants. 








Outside my window:  it's still dark and there is freezing rain.  Our driveway is probably a sheet of ice.

I am thinking:  about balance.  I can't do it all, and some things are more important than others.  How to fit all the important things in?  How to practice ADVENT and WAIT rather than scurry around like a madwoman this time of year?

I am thankful:  that November is over.  Two weeks ago, I flew to California by myself for my cousin's funeral.  It was a terribly sad event.  Last week, we drove up to Boston with all six kids for Thanksgiving with my in laws.  We hit the snow storm on the way up and an 8 hour drive took us 12 hours, the last two plagued by wicked ice and snow.  Our fifteen passenger hooptie does not do well in wintry conditions, so the final leg of the trip was fraught with stress.  We made it, but I'm glad it's all over.

I am going:  to try to get organized?  As of last night, I had no idea where my advent wreath was.  I think I have some purple and pink candles laying around here somewhere.  I always stash the Jesse tree ornaments in a "safe" place but I can't seem to remember where that place is right now. 

I have laundry everywhere from our trip and frankly, I haven't unpacked my own bag in two weeks.

Also, I intend to do something about our lack of a tree.  We also need to pull out the Christmas decorations sometime this weekend.  There is much too do and many lists to be made.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On Accepting Help


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To quote Betty Duffy,” I had a booger of a sin to confess.”   I decided last night I couldn't put it off any longer so I scoured the Internet looking for a local church that holds confession during the week and I made plans to go.  I knew I would have to bring all the kids with me because John was working.

I was dreading the scene.

Had it not been for the blackened condition of my soul, I would have skipped this trip altogether.

But I knew I couldn't and as such, I decided I would bite the bullet and take all of them to Mass since we were going to be there anyway. 

I had accompanied my children to daily Mass the previous week and was very grateful to the kind lady who held the baby so I could collect the toddler crawling up the aisle on all fours, his tongue waging like a dog.  His behavior was offset, of course, by my other precious angels who were busy tossing books, talking, and standing and walking fully erect across the pew to get to a desired spot.

After the “short” 30 minutes, I confess to having questioned Jesus’ invitation to ‘Let the children come to me.”

Since, however, I’m a glutton for punishment I needed Confession, I decided to recreate the fun again.  Sadly, my darling progeny’s behavior wasn’t much better save for the fact the three older kids managed to irritate a nun.  At the end of mass, she hobbled over and chastised all of them for messing with the Sisters' things.

By the time we collected bags and books and dropped possessions and found the Confessional, the wait had morphed into one you might find at a Bon Jovi concert.

I considered leaving.

They're never gonna be able to sit this long, I thought.

Friday, November 7, 2014

7 Quick Takes: The Tough Stuff Of Parenting And The Sweet Stuff Too















1.  I took Patrick to be evaluated yesterday by both a physical and an occupational therapist.  He's fine, but in August we visited with a neurologist and she recommended we see a few specialists to make sure Patrick is growing properly and to ensure his muscles and balance and coordination are up to par.  So yesterday, he and I drove to a rather large, but very reputable medical facility to have his body poked and prodded and exercised.

It was painful to watch the therapists work with him.

Patrick lacks a great deal of balance, strength, coordination and basic body awareness.  He's also on the short side and as skinny as they come.  His physical weakness and short stature makes keeping up with his peers and doing basics things like carrying groceries or even his backpack harder for him than the "regular" kids.  To add insult to injury, he's also on a special diet, which makes him even more different than the other children his age.

A few times throughout the morning, I had to fight back tears as I realized just how hard certain tasks are for him.  On the one hand, I felt great relief for the medical progress we've made with him (I mean, dealing with physical weakness is much easier than dealing with life threatening illness).  However, on the other hand, I felt sad Patrick has to suffer at all; I felt sad he faces these burdens.

But here's something else I realized while the therapists were working with Patrick:  this kid has many gifts.

He's got a tack sharp memory, he loves to read, and he doesn't struggle with academics, like some of my other kids.  He's also a people person.  He enjoys meeting others and talking to them, especially if those people share a common interest in history.  Making friends comes easy to him.

It's actually good he has these small crosses because these are the things he's going to learn from the most.  We don't grow from the things we are good at.  We grow from the things that are hard for us, the things for which we don't have natural talent.

Patrick's weaknesses will keep him aware of his need for God.

If he were an astute student, people savvy person, AND a physically strong specimen capable of moving boulders with his bare hands, why would he need God?  What lessons would he need to learn?

His weakness is a gift.  It's a present wrapped with a big red bow and a note signed With Love From, God to keep him humble and aware of his neediness.

I have my own gifts of weaknesses which keep me needy for God. 

2.  It's that time of year.  The stores are already going crazy decking the halls and the Christmas tunes can be heard frenetically floating through the air at local craft stores.  It's so insane how big industries have turned Christmas into one, big gigantic money making opportunity.

Most years, I walk right into the corporate track.  I buy and I get stressed out and I worry that the small gifts I have to offer are not enough.

But not this year.

This year, I'm not buying gifts.  At all. 

Instead, John and I are thinking about taking the kids on a small trip the day after Christmas.  Maybe to New York City?  To see the lights and maybe a show?  The money we spend doing this will be so much better than any money we spend on barbie dolls and hot wheels.  We're buying time to be together as a family--time away from our usually chaotic routine--and I think that is more valuable than anything.

This year I want to buy an experience for the kids, not a toy.

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