Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Regarding That Palm Sunday-Good Friday Spectrum

Allow me to whisk away any pretense of being The Uber-Domestic Church Momma by admitting I did not prepare my kids for Palm Sunday this year.   No crafts, no stories, no talking about the upcoming Gospel narrative.  I was sleep-deprived and having hormone-induced, over-tired melt-downs, so I didn't even plug them into the Holy Heroes' Lenten Adventure.   

At 6 pm we took them to the Extraordinary Form.  Mass was beautiful (incense! chant! procession!), and of course, the longest Gospel reading of the year was all. in. Latin.  (and did I mention that I hadn't prepped them?) 

They were so good, my children.  We were proud of them: no whining or melt-downs.  Just wiggles, sneeling and slumping that I let pass (because honestly, I have always been a poor excuse for a traddy).  

Father B. is over 80.  Since he’d already (heroically) processed the Basilica, and prayed the entire EF Mass without needing help in getting up and down, I was not going to fault him for skipping his usual “re-read the Gospel in English during the homily” EF habit, because, hello, that would’ve added another half hour onto Mass.  

When the time for his homily rolled around, Fr. B. was unapologetic with his select few words.  To paraphrase: On Palm Sunday, the mobs outside of Jerusalem shouted a welcome to Christ, waved branches, sang "Hosanna!" and brought Him into the city with great joy.  Just five days later, these very same people would yell, “”Crucify Him!” We must all remember that when we call Christ “Lord,” we are proclaiming to live for Him.  Are we prepared to follow through with that?  Or are we welcoming to Jesus only as long as it suits us, only as it is easy, safe or feeling good to do so?  Do we really accept Him as our Lord, or are we too ready to Crucify Him?

That two minute homily convicted me.  I may be a cradle Catholic, with all the trappings of a “solid,” “practicing,” “orthodox,” fill-in-the-blank-with-your-own label, homeschooling mother, but my conversion to Christ is an on-going event that has rarely been entirely “comfortable.” 

When I call Him Lord, have I totally laid down my life to Him?  Have I taken His advice to the rich young man, and given up my possessions to follow Him?  Or am I still holding onto something else, just in case this Christian life gets too intense, too out-of-hand; beyond my control, my comfort or my worldly comprehension?  

My quips about longing for the mud last week weren’t mere jest.  My moments of saying, “Yes, Lord,” and stepping closer to Him have always been a counterpoint to the tug of my own longing for something easier, more socially acceptable, more fun.  There remains that temptation to move towards whatever wins the approbation of others. 

Anything ongoing can be interrupted.  Any work-in-process can be abandoned and left incomplete at any point in time.  True enough we all are called to sainthood, but truer still is the fact that I am no saint yet.  

It is never God who walks away; it is always the sinner, who is more attached to her sin and her self than she is to her Lord.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes: What's in a Name? ( Our Boy, George)

1.  A few months ago John Paul was rallying to name this baby "Benedict" if a boy.  Although on our short list as a first or a middle name, we'd ultimately ix-nayed it.  As I'd told John Paul, "One pontiff in this house is enough.  I can't handle two of you."

With the election of Pope Francis, J.P. eagerly suggested we drop "George" in favor of "Francis," to which I (firmly) said: "No."

 "Awwwww... Why?"  I just looked at him.  "I know, I know," he sighed.  "We already have enough popes in this house."

It later occurred to me that "Jorge" is Spanish for "George."

I swear, I give Jesus a really good laugh.

2.  Rumor has it that the baby on Downton Abbey will be named "George."

3.  My husband and I are Trekkies; we just bought the 2009 Star Trek movie directed by J.J. Abrams.  We'd seen it last year, but had forgotten (and were stoked to rediscover) that the father of Capt. James Tiberius Kirk was, in fact, named George.

Spoiler alert (because my fellow Downton fans are only just recovering from Season Three): This is the uber-intense opening sequence.  It is a little long, and you'd better have tissues ready if you watch this right now; it is a sacrificial-beautiful, joyful-tragic scene.

If you have not yet seen this film, you totally should.  This is one of my all-time favorite movies.

4.  OK, so what is the story with the actual Saint George, who is always depicted as a knight slaying a dragon?  I assume this is a metaphoric-symbolic story.  Given the fact he is one of my son's patrons, I should research this further.  Even so, the legend appeals to my former Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying self (Ooops; was that out loud?)

5.  Speaking of St. George, this statue at the Yale Museum of British Art has always been a favorite work of art to visit on our family outings:

6.  The real reason we've named this baby George is because my dad (and brother) are both named George.  My dad died  in 2006, when J.P. was still a baby.  I've written about the type of man he was, and also how I'd not properly grieved that loss for several years.

I miss my father every day.  I am so grateful to have the opportunity to grant him a namesake.

My dad with John Paul in 2005.

7.  By George, that makes seven takes!

I think this has been the only truly "quick" takes I've ever written.  Check out Jen's blog for more 7QT.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Heart Longing for Mud

It has been too long since I've linked up anywhere, especially at Clan Donaldson's Theme Thursday.  I resolved to take photos to share for today, come what may!  With growing excitement, I looked for Cari's pre-Thursday tutorial and checked to see today's theme.

Really, Cari?


Question: How does one get excited about photographing mud, especially in New England, when Spring has not yet sprung?

Answer:  I've immersed myself in parenting self-improvement books this Lent.  As I insanely pulled on my boots, left the house, and crouched close to the barely-thawed ground, the following passage sprang to mind:

"Simply put, concupiscense is the 'longing for the mud' that remains after the waters of Baptism have washed us clean."- Dr. Gregory Popcak, Parenting with Grace

Forget my kids; this explains a lot about me.

Ah Cari, you wild woman, you.

All right then: let's get down to it.

Presenting: the mud-path which leads to our driveway.  Those white specks in the upper portion of the photo are real-deal snow flakes, captured thanks to the Rebel's pre-set Sports setting.  It has snowed all this morning.  At the point of my descent down the front porch stairs, the large and fluffy snowflakes morphed into miniscule, barely visible bits.  Go figure.

But the rebel caught them!
 How does one lend quasi-frozen, muddy terrain more visual interest?  This pregnant body was not about to lay itself on the ground (although I managed a good low squat for this pic, in the name of perspective) and I switched to that funky tulip setting to capture the imprint of my snowboots:
 Diamonds in the rough. 
 ...and with concupiscense on the brain, I went for a contrast between the mucky mud and the pure fallen snow that fell to cover it:
Its mud, not dung. ( I'm not down with that theology, anyway.)

With apologies to Martin Luther, the dung-snow metaphor doesn't stick: our sins are forgiven.  God's grace does work to perfect us (however slowly).  My hankering for the mud is not the same as continually rolling in it.

Still, the above photo begs for an analogy.  I'll grant it a haiku instead:

Grumpiness settles
on my heart like snow in Spring;
more coffee needed.

For more March Mud Madness, click over to Clan Donaldson's Theme Thursday!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

White Smoke! We have a new pope!

It was a tough week for people I love: my baby godson was hospitalized for respiratory problems (he is home with his parents now, praise God), and others close to me have had to carry interior crosses of great weight.   In the meantime, I was miserable with my own little cold, exacerbated by pregnancy aches & pains and anxiety about an in grown toenail from pregnancy-swollen feet; I tried my best to offer up my minor sufferings without too much outward complaint.  Thus, my week-long absence from the blog-o-sphere, which lovingly tempts me to indulge in my kvetching.

Well, now.  What better time to resurface for air than this?

Habemus Papem!  Pope Francis! (I love that he is a pope of many firsts.)  Some weight has been lifted today.  A reassurance has settled on me in the midst of much that has troubled, worried and upset me. 

I first heard the news through Facebook (thank you, Michelle!) and turned on EWTN in time to see billows of white smoke pour out against a rainy Roman night.

I was surprised by the emotion in my reaction: my heart beat eagerly.  My eyes brimmed.  The tolling bells and the crowds in St. Peter's Square touched me, even as I was half a world away.

Calling the kids inside from their outdoor play was thrilling, too.  I opened the front door to call, "We have a pope!"  Their delighted squeals and race to come inside to see the white smoke and wait for the big reveal was a more raucous stampede than our last Christmas morning.  Seeing that interest, eagerness, and effusiveness inside of them filled me with increased joy, too.

Then: the suspense.  Which cardinal was it!?  I coped by posting to Facebook, and taking photos of the moment in our Catholic corner of the world.

This was how the family looked as they waited for the news:

"I wish we were there!"

  He looked this way for nearly an hour while we waited to "meet" the new pontiff.  

"Mom, look now!"

"His name is Francis!? Really!? ...Can I have more munchkins now?"

I am glad I'd taken time yesterday to explain the conclave (which I'd expected to last all week).   We have yet to begin the epic Papal Lap Book from Shower of Roses, but we did manage to make the lovely Sistine Chapel conclave chimney from Catholic Inspired before I'd rushed off to myriad doctor appointments.

John Paul and Gianna were eager to change the smoke from black to white.

"White smoke!  We have a new pope!"

More and deeper thoughts on all of this tomorrow (I hope...)  For right now I will bask in the warm knowledge that the Chair of Peter is occupied once more. 

God bless Pope Francis!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

WIWS: Why Pregnant Women Go Barefoot

This is what I literally threw together to wear to Mass today.  I call this ensemble, "one more reason to get a full-length mirror in our bedroom;" it isn't quite as swell as I'd thought.  This was my third outfit attempt of the morning; I had to quit running to the full-length mirror in the main bathroom, as I was running out of time.

Brown skirt: Duo Maternity
Blue embroidered tank: Old Navy
Blazer: Larry Levine (from Marshall's, at least ten years old!)
Shoes: Never you mind; they are 12 years old, more suited to pants, and totally didn't go with this outfit.

I finally found a pair of maternity pantyhose, so I wore them today as well.  I am horrified to say that they looked like my grandmother's support hose in the other photos; no world wide web, I am not showing them to you!!

My feet are crying out for cowgirl boots; perhaps I should use this pregnancy as reason to buy a pair.  That way my pregnant stature can get to Mass in fashionable flat-footed attire (and if I choose to wear the pregnant lady support hose, they'll be obscured).

At least I had on makeup, including lipstick.  And I brushed my hair for real, using a brush, and not the mere "finger-combing"technique I utilized last weekend.  You see, last Sunday, na'ry a hairbrush could be found for the girls and I.  Little G had absconded with and misplaced every hairbrush in the house.  I think she did it on purpose, because she hates getting her hair brushed.

I'd purchased three new hairbrushes on Monday.  Murphy's Law then went into effect (I knew it would), so after my purchase, two of the original three missing brushes turned up.  Now there is a hair brush for every room in the house.  I shall be perfectly coiffed from this moment on!

That's all, folks!  Click over to Fine Linen and Purple for some non-failing footwear and more matched ensembles.

Friday, March 1, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Embracing March Madness

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!
1.   In order to catch up with some school work, house work, and Domestic-Church Lenten adventures, I'd avoided my computer all morning.  I finally had the opportunity to read Conversion Diary during lunch time today.  At that point: I moved from jawbone-hitting-the-floor, to nearly not breathing, to hysterically laugh-screaming, all in a five minute span which felt oddly like eternity. because time. had. stopped.  I was referenced in Jennifer's Seven Quick Takes.  Wait.  WHAT!?????

 I felt like this:

And no, I'm not drawing any parallels between Jennifer and Alice Cooper.   (Aside from the fact that she totally rocks.)  

Thank you, Jennifer!  I am flattered and humbled and so completely stoked.  You totally just unplugged/unclogged/hosed away Suckuary for me. 

Bring on that March Madness!

2. As I belted out my scream-shriek and busted some happy-jig-in-the-kitchen weirdo moves, my progeny came running with beaming faces.  They were eager to know what was so exciting.  They have a vague idea that mommy "has a blog" and that I read other people's blogs when I hide from them  when we take breaks from our school work during the day.  I explained who Jennifer Fulwiler is, wrapping up with, "She has been on EWTN a few times!" 

 At which point Gianna ran off shouting, "Mommy is famous!"

I laughed and said, "Noooo not even close.  Mommy was read.  Mommy was noticed."  
Then I turned to Anna and beamed, "Do you know what this means?!"

She radiantly smiled, clasped her hands and gushed back, "YOU'RE GOING TO GET PAID!?"

No.  No. This doesn't mean that...

3.  As I'd mentioned in the post Jennifer linked, I have been reading a lot of parenting books again.  This week Dr. Gregory Popcak joined the party via Parenting with Grace: Catholic Parent's Guide to Raising Almost Perfect Kids.   Confession:  I have had this book on my shelf since John Paul was two or three years old.  He'll be eight this month.  I'd never read my way out of the introduction before now.  I am finally reading, marking it up, taking notes.  I can not recommend this book enough!

True, the 350 pages of small print explanation is a bit overwhelming. What parent of a tantruming toddler/preschooler/ grammar aged/teen aged kid (kids) has time (or at this point, an attention span) to read all of that?! Yes. I know.  I get it.  The book has been gathering dust in my house for nearly five years for precisely this reason.

That being said: if you share with me the experience of repeatedly not having the words or the blueprint for how to meet a given child-rearing situation (sibling squabbles, repeated disobedience, whatever) and are often nagged by the thought, "I was not equipped for this," then:  Get this book.  Skip to Chapter 3, "Tools of the Trade: Everyday Discipline that Makes a Difference" (Yes,  I skipped the first 70 pages! My needs are dire!), and dig into it.  I 'd never read a parenting book that lifts me up and feeds my mommy soul spoonfuls of hope, until now.  

Parenting With Grace has been immediately helpful to me (I'm implementing as I read), and I am not getting paid to say that.

4.  One of the things the Popcaks hit upon is the importance of parent-child relationships; without a good foundational relationship, all discipline will fail.  In effect, good discipline flows from the relationships we build with our kids.  Although I am home full-time and schooling my children myself, that does not mean I can assume I am "building good relationships with the kids."  More time with the children is an asset; it can also be more opportunity for me to blow it if I am not mindful of how I am parenting/correcting/teaching moment by moment. 

Honestly, I think I have unwittingly stepped onto the "not-so-good-for-relating" path more times than I care to admit.

Lent is a beautiful time to try, with God's grace, to improve myself in these areas.  To that end, I decided to let today's school day also serve the purpose of strengthening our relationships.  Since today's "Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure" included a recipe for making pretzels, I figured I should jump in with that project.  

I'll admit I wasn't psyched to introduce and then see this idea through.  My kids love to help to cook.  My anxiety hates the mess and pandemonium.  Hence, I have not enlisted their help much in the last year.  

Today's sacrifice was to take on the chaos, enjoy the mess, and capture it all on film.  I'll call it a success.

We ended up with something more like Pretzel cakes than pretzels, but they were so good, they ended up being our dinner!

5.  In that spirit of relationship building, today I opted not to teach Saxon Math, but to conduct a science experiment instead.  Our text always suggests experiments, and I always skip them in the interest of saving time and moving ahead...  but what fun is that?

Since we are talking about freshwater and salt water habitats, today's lesson proposed the following experiment:  make up two cups of water, one fresh and one salty. Have the students place a leaf of lettuce in each cup and predict/hypothesize what will happen to each lettuce leaf if left immersed overnight.   I had them draw pictures and verbally explain what they thought might happen.

They weren't all keen to begin, but very quickly they all got caught up in mixing the salt into the water, immersing their leaves, and drawing up their hypotheses.
Look at them go!  I never see this kind of intensity and interest when I am strictly by-the-book, intent on covering curriculum as opposed to exploring the curriculum...
6. Now before anyone gets sentimental about points 4 & 5, please know: each undertaking required grace-infused self-control, patience, fortitude, charity... from me.  These situations push me to my limits because I am a control-freak and an anxious person.  Opening the door to certain messes, mishaps, and unanticipated results is a massive exercise in trust! 

There were glitches and arguments between the sibs.  There was my ever-present temptation to bark orders for expediency instead of modelling good manners.  There were dropsies, there were spills.  For all I know, that lettuce is already too wilted to be any different tomorrow from what it was today.  (I figure if that is the case, it will be a good time to introduce the term "Error Analysis." )

Yet with all of the minor imperfections, the day was pretty perfect.

7.  I anticipate a lot more of this project-relationship building with the conclave starting this month.  There are myriad crafts/lapbooks/educational unit ideas to indulge in during the coming weeks.  I need to breathe and give myself permission to step away from my curriculum, and explore history as it unfolds around us.

These are the times  I am grateful to be home, schooling the kids; it is a privilege to discover and to grow in our faith together.  I look forward to this kind of March madness.