Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Blogging for Lent

I spent a good amount of time thinking of things to give up or take on for Lent this year and due to certain circumstances giving up something such as a food isn't going to work this year.  And while I love reading, I haven't been able to do a ton of that lately, either, so outside of reading one book of St. Francis de Sales Sermons for Lent, I don't exactly have a ton of Lenten reading planned either.  I'm not even sure if I'll make it through the book.  I hope I do.

I tossed about the idea of giving up Facebook for Lent, but even that seemed like something I wasn't being called to do.  Then I thought about the neglected blog.  And that's when I got the idea to write each day.  So I'm going to give it a shot and see what happens.  It's going to be an exercise in letting go for me, since the primary reason I haven't been blogging, aside from having too many demands on my time, is I don't always feel like I can just come here and write if I don't have pictures for you to see as well.  I think it's pretty evident that I've read too many articles about how blog posts need pictures and a ton of other things if they want to be read.  So I'm not going to worry about it.  If you really want to read, you'll read.  If not, no worries.  In a way I think it has been pretty silly of me to worry about whether or not people will find the blog interesting if there are not a slew of gorgeous photos.  My photography skills, despite years of trying, are not exactly impressive.

Much has been going on around here as of late.  It seems like this is my year of medical misery.  Last year I spent seven months battling on again off again sinus and ear infections.  Since April I've had crackling sounds in my right ear anytime I swallow, and I find it a bit maddening.  I finally went and saw an ENT dr in January and basically there's no chronic or serious issue, no hearing loss, and not anything they can do for me other than tell me to keep taking my allergy medicines and use a saline nose spray.  The sinus and ear issues have led to me leading a mostly coffee free existence.  The baristas at my local Target Starbucks miss me.

My newest medical issue seems to be my gallbladder.  I've been having pain for the past few weeks and I'll be going for an ultrasound next week.  At the moment, I'm trying to figure out what I can eat without being in pain.  After talking to two doctors yesterday, it looks like dairy and a lot of other foods I like are off the menu.  It's frustrating to say the least.  I'm praying that's it's not anything serious and is hopefully something that can be resolved with some dietary changes, but I'm not sure if that's very realistic.

I told Bryan the other night that I sort of feel like Job.  I feel like I'm really being tested right now and I'm trying very hard to just trust Our Lord with this, but He's certainly not making this easy for me.  The past month in particular has just been very difficult for me.  So please don't be surprised if there comes a day when you find me whining on here.  I suspect it's bound to happen.

I don't feel as prepared or organized for Lent as I ordinarily do.  I still need to get our merciful tree up on the basement door, and I waited until today to decide that I should replace our felt Jesus Tree with something that doesn't need pins to hold the ornaments onto the felt tree.  I just don't have it in me to chase Anthony around the house trying to get the pins and ornaments back from him which I'm sure will be an all day, every day of Lent fiasco.  So I ordered a set of ornaments from Jesse Tree Treasures.  I'm looking forward to using them once they get here, but in the mean time I'll just use the felt ornaments we have until this set arrives.

So until tomorrow, I hope your Ash Wednesday is going well and I'll be back sometime tomorrow.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

It's More Than Just How You Respond

Last Friday was New Years day, but, more importantly, it was the solemnity celebrating Mary, Mother of God.  I always love celebrating Marian feast days, and this day was no different.  My eldest daughters were both scheduled to altar serve the morning Mass so the Mass we were attending was already chosen for us.  Katie, still had a fever from a recurring ear and sinus infection so she stayed home with Bryan while I took Anthony and the older girls.  I assumed I'd have a few of my normal struggles with Anthony climbing in, on and under the pews and making some noise, but I figured if I can wrangle him by myself at daily Mass most weekdays that I'd be just fine with him for what would be an hour Mass.

Anthony is not shy at Mass.  This kid will happily babble, sing, wave hello, and even participate at Mass when he can.  But, he's still a toddler, so sometimes he cries and sometimes he just makes small little noises that many people seem to enjoy.  He has quite the following of people from daily Mass who simply adore him and all the chaos that he brings with him.  But despite him having so many fans, I still make sure I'm prepared with a sippy cup, bag of cheerios, a couple of pacifiers, and a Thomas train whenever I go to Mass to keep him occupied and as quiet and still as possible.  I'm very conscience of the noises he makes and I do everything I can to make sure he's not a major disruption.  Some days are good and people hardly realize he's there and other days are not so good and I hope that the noise sitting next to or climbing all over me isn't as loud as I think it is.  Sometimes, those are the days when Anthony gets called out during a homily or at the end of Mass.  Those shout outs used to totally mortify me, but when they happen at what feels like 50% of the Masses we attend, I've gotten used to it, but there are still times (this past Christmas Eve comes to mind) where I want to pretend I have no idea who Father is talking about, but that's hard to do when you're holding said noisy baby.

We belong to an awesome parish where most people who approach me about my kids and their antics have very nice and encouraging things to say.  And some of the ones who do come up to comment on the noise do it in such a lighthearted way that I'm never upset about it.  I am aware that there are a few people at daily Mass who are less than thrilled about some of Anthony's noises, but aside from a glance or a sharp look when he's particularly vocal, they've never felt the need to approach me about it.

This past Friday, however, was different.  I always sit in the same pew for Sunday Mass and holy days of obligation.  So when we got to the church, the girls went to the sacristy to get ready to altar serve and Anthony and I went and sat in our usual spot.  The spot that had the lady my kids call Grumpy Cat Lady, because she looks like Grumpy Cat from those memes, sitting in the pew right in front of where we sit.  Several months ago Bryan pointed out to me that this particular woman has a habit of moving from her pew to another pew across the church anytime Anthony is behind her.  The first several times she did it, I never noticed.  I would see her in the pew, kneel down to pray and when I was finished the pew would either be empty or someone different would be sitting there.  I always assumed that she was there from a prior Mass and had just left after she finished praying.  Then there was the day when I finished praying and Bryan, looking annoyed, leaned over and told me that she moved again and told the woman next to her that Anthony was a screamer.  At that particular Mass, Anthony didn't make a single sound.  She turned and looked at us when we slipped into the pew and was visibly annoyed, so I wondered if she was going to move away from us.  While I prayed before Mass, Anthony walked along the kneeler and the backs of my legs and quietly hummed what sounded like the Alleluia.  It was a sweet happy little sound that was fairly quiet for him.  He wedged himself between me and the back of the pew ahead of me while I was still kneeling and that's when I heard a growling "Shhhh!" which snapped me out of praying and caused me to look up.  It was followed by a grumbling "Be quiet!" right in Anthony's face.   My first thought was that she wasn't serious since he wasn't loud and he wasn't crying.  She turned back, obviously annoyed and in a huff.  Within a minute she had decided to pick up and move across the church and up a couple of pews.

Her actions just left me washed in emotions.  I was hurt that she felt the need to so angrily snap at the baby.  And then I started to feel very annoyed that she even thought that it was ok to do it which made me start to wonder how many people she's done this to before.   Were we the only ones or have other families had her snap at their children or been made to feel unwelcome by her practice of getting up and moving away from them in a very obvious manner.  Then I started to think about how I would have felt and reacted if this had happened when Madeline or Ellie were his age.  I likely would have left the church right away horribly embarrassed and would have thought twice about going back for a long time if at all.  I know it would have made me cry.

I know that not everyone has to like the sounds of children at Mass, but how you respond to those things that annoy or distract you at Mass affects those around you.  Based on people coming up to me after the Mass and making overly kind comments about Anthony, I suspect her growling at the baby and subsequent relocation was noticed by those around me.  I don't have the answer for the right way to approach the parent of a noisy child, because I also don't know how to tell the gossiping old ladies who chatter before and sometimes during Mass to zip it because they're bothering me.  I also don't know how to tell the people who come to Mass doused in a bottle of smelly perfume that makes me feel sick to my stomach to lay off the scent.  And, I also have no idea how to tell the people who either say the responses too fast, too slow or incorrectly to get with the program and say them right and on time.  Do you know why I don't know the answers to those situations?  It's because there are no tactful ways to tell someone that you find their presence at Holy Mass annoying.  Responding rudely to someone at Mass may just be the thing that sends them out the door never to return.  If you make it clear to someone that their presence at Mass is annoying and unwelcome they make take your hint and not come back.  Would you want that on your conscience?  I know I wouldn't.

Now I don't know why this woman is so grouchy about kids.  Maybe she never had any or she just doesn't like children at all.  Maybe seeing or hearing little kids reminds her that she has grandchildren that she never sees.  A lot of people come up and tell me about their grandchildren that they never see or that parents never go to Mass and how they wish they would take them.  So maybe she has a personal issue and Anthony strikes a nerve that hits a little too close to home.  But we all have crosses to bear and lashing out at someone because their presence makes your cross a bit more difficult to carry in that moment isn't going to make anything better.  I know for me personally there are times when I am sharply reminded of one of my crosses, but I can't take it out on someone else just because it upsets me.  In those moments, I bring it to Our Lord and let him know why I'm upset, but I don't move away from what's upsetting me because I believe that it was placed before me for the benefit of helping me to grow in holiness.

So ultimately what I'm trying to say here is this:  If you have a problem with the presence of a noisy baby, before confronting the parent or the baby about it stop and take a few moments to bring it to Our Lord.  Tell Him that the annoying child that He created is getting on your last nerve.  Tell Him why you find that child of God so repugnant and then take a few moments to see what He has to say.  Then take a few moments and ask yourself if you might just be overreacting.  Maybe you're justified in saying something, maybe you're not.  Perhaps, this moment is a test.  You could perhaps see it as a moment to bear a wrong patiently.  Chances are the baby isn't doing it to annoy you, he's just doing it because he's little and he's testing out his God-given free will probably much to his parents' dismay.  It's even possible that that mother sitting all by herself with an energetic toddler who treats the church like it's his second home is incredibly self conscious about every single sound her child is making, even the ones you don't hear.  Mass with little ones can be very exhausting.  It's an hour packed with trying to contain a little one who wants to run, climb, crawl, yell, sing and explore a very curious building filled with many new faces.  It's enough to leave you feeling like you need a nap afterwards.  While lashing out at the parent or baby might make you feel vindicated or triumphant, I can assure you that it will be remembered by the parent long past when you've forgotten what you've said.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Review: Saint John Bosco

I have been a fan of the books in the Encounter the Saints Series from Pauline Kids for the past several years.  The books are kid friendly and do an excellent job of retelling the stories of saints in a way that will stick with your child long after he or she reads the book.  One of the more recent books in this series is Saint John Bosco Champion for the Young by Emily Baeta Marsh FSP.
Saint John Bosco is a great addition to the Encounter the Saints Series.  The book gives an account of the life of St. John Bosco from his infancy through adulthood.  I sat down one afternoon to page through the book and I found myself reading it from cover to cover because I really enjoyed the book.  It's a book that will certainly appeal to young boys, but I suspect many girls will also enjoy reading it, too.

One of the things I like best about this series of books is it offers pronunciation guides for words that might not be familiar to young readers.  There's also a glossary in the back of the book that further explain some of the religious terms used in the book.  Given that the book is geared to middle grade elementary students, I find the glossary to be a wonderful addition.

Compared to other series of books on saints from other publishers, this book and the others in this series, are easy and enjoyable to read.  My kids have never groaned about reading these books like they do with other series.  The book does have a few black and white illustrations that are spaced out quite a bit, so older children who feel they are too old for books with pictures won't feel like they're reading a book intended for a younger audience.  The illustrations are nicely done and complement the story.

Overall the book is nicely done.  It certainly gets my recommendation.  With Christmas just a few weeks away, I'd suggest that this book or others from this series would make a great stocking stuffer for a child between the ages of 9-12 on your list.

I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  For more information on this title or to take a peek inside, visit Pauline Books and Media.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Book Review: God Has a Plan for Boys and Girls

Pauline Kids has added a few more books to their Building Blocks Theology of the Body series for kids.  The first books are geared to little ones ages two through five, and the next step up is for children between four and seven.  One of the books in this series is God Has a Plan for Boys and Girls.
In God Has a Plan for Boys and Girls children learn that both boys and girls can do a variety of things that children of the opposite sex can also do.  Their own individuality and uniqueness are also emphasized.  But, they also learn that their gender does make them distinctly different from the opposite sex.  Children will learn that while there are some things men can't do, because they aren't women, doesn't make them any less special or less of a gift for being male, and they will also learn that the same is true for women.  In a world where these simple truths seem to be muddled by the current cultural climate, this message is very much needed.

The book is well done and I think children will understand and appreciate the message in this book.  The parent and teacher overview page for the book does an excellent job of explaining the theme of the book so that parents and teachers will be better able to present the book and field any questions they may get from little ones.

I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Pauline Books and Media to see inside this book or for more information on this title.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Book Review: Christmas Fun

Happy Advent everyone!  Since we're in the season of preparing our hearts and minds to celebrate the birth of Jesus, now is the perfect time to also help our children to do the same.  I recently received a copy of a great children's activity book that is ideal for helping little ones between the ages of four and seven (pre-k through 2nd grade) to understand the real meaning of Christmas.  Christmas Fun Bible Activity Book is a full color activity book that will be sure to catch the attention of little ones.
Christmas Fun has more than 15 puzzles and activities, so you could use this book throughout Advent to help teach your children about Christmas.  As children complete the activities they learn a bit more about the Christmas story.  The book starts with the Annunciation and ends with the flight into Egypt.  The activities are varied so you're children won't be bored using this book.  There are mazes, dot to dots, games and simple crafts.  

Overall, it's a very nicely done activity book that tells the story of Our Lord's birth in a way that little ones will understand.  The book isn't short on fun, so kids will enjoy it.  I'm looking forward to using this book with my four year old this Advent.

I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  You can learn more about this title and even take a peek inside here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Freaking Out on the Inside

I've probably mentioned a few times in the past that I'm not a fan of traveling by air.  When Bryan has a business trip that involves flying I spend days before his departure and the entire time he's gone worried about him having to fly.  I've always been like this when it comes to planes.  When I was a kid, my parents would try to quickly shush my never a whisper voice when I'd sit on a plane before takeoff and ask if we were going to crash.  It's just who I am.  I worry about these things, because I feel like any flight involves a certain amount of risk.  So here I am, nearly eleven years after the last time I flew anywhere freaking out and having intermittent panic attacks because Bryan, the kids and I are getting set to fly out to California.

I don't do particularly well on the two hour flight from Philadelphia to Orlando, so I can only imagine what the five hour flight from Philadelphia to San Diego will be like.  I think my fear of flying is mostly linked to my motion sickness.  The thought of willingly putting myself through several hours of nausea where I have no way of stopping for fresh air or a few minutes of solid ground beneath my feet is pretty unsettling.  The lack of control over my circumstances is concerning to say the least.  And as much as I'd like to just call the whole trip off, I know I can't.  The kids are excited about going, Bryan is probably still in some state of shock that I agreed (even if only very reluctantly) to go out there, and one of my best friends was just so surprised that I'm flying out there that she and her husband have set us up with tickets to Disneyland for two days as well as a VIP tour guide for one day.  So while I'm totally dreading the flights, I am excited about the things we'll get to do and see while we are there.

I'm spending a lot of time these days just trying to distract myself with things that are keeping me busy so I spend less time fretting about the flight.  I'm trying to make sure we're packing the essentials that we'll need while we're out there.  We have a tendency to overpack in a big way, so I'm trying to focus on going out there as slimmed down as possible.  So far I think I'm doing this right.  Of course, the moments where I start to feel like I'm going to have a panic attack when my mind goes back to why I'm packing have been keeping me from getting the job done.  But, I'm almost done.

We're already in our second week of homeschooling for the new school year, and initially I thought we'd just leave all the work behind while we went away, but seeing how quickly the girls have been getting through most of their work, I've decided to put together packets for each of them so we don't have to completely lose a week of school.  Bryan assures us that with the time difference, we will have several mornings where we wake up and it's still going to be the wee hours of the morning on the west coast, so I figure having some work with us will give the girls something productive to do in those instances.  I also imagine they can get some work done on the plane.

This is the first time the kids and I will be going to California, so we're looking forward to being tourists for a week.  Bryan keeps telling me that I have to see what it's like to have the ocean on the wrong side.  That should be interesting.  I'm looking forward to visiting a couple of the old Spanish mission churches.  There are two near where we will be staying so I'm planning to visit each of them.

We'll be in the San Diego area so if any of you have any suggestions for places we should visit leave me a comment.  I'm not too familiar with what's out there.  Are there some great historical sites that we should visit?  Is there a particular beach we should check out?  Someone recently mentioned that there was some great shrine out there but she couldn't recall the name of it.

I'm doing my best to approach this trip as calmly as I can so I don't freak out the kids with my fear of flying too much.  To me it feels like a crazy trust exercise with God.  So on Saturday I'm going to do my best to offer up all my worries and fears and just lean on Our Lord to get me to the other side.  So do me a favor, offer up a prayer on Saturday morning and the following Saturday morning, as well, that our flights will be on time, and uneventful.

I will do my best to share lots of pictures of our trip.  I need to get back to blogging.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

How to Freak Out Your Friends

A lot has been going on around here lately.  School is pretty much done, although one child is still finishing up math for the year.  I'm in full out VBS planning mode.  Soccer season is so close to being done that I can almost imagine what a house that doesn't smell like dirt or grass will be like.  In my scarce free time I'm pouring over lesson plans for the upcoming school year while trying to compile study guides. Bryan is just hours away from having his ankle sliced open to repair a tendon he had the misfortune of snapping off two and a half weeks ago and I am just trying to stay sane in the midst of it all.

So tonight I stopped by a friend's house to drop off something, and I managed to freak her and her son out a bit.  I was talking about Bryan's upcoming surgery and the fact that he's going under general anesthesia, something neither of us is thrilled about.   I'm of the ilk that always seems to go to worst case scenario in just about any situation.  Not in the pessimistic sense, but more or less just acknowledging the reality of what could happen.  So when asked if Bryan was ready for tomorrow and talking about how he's just ready to get it done so he can get on with the four weeks of life on crutches followed by another two weeks in a walking boot, I had made an off handed remark that you should always be prepared to die.  Now, I didn't mean that I think or expect that he will have any complications but rather, that one should always make sure their soul is in such a state that you're ready to die.  I know not everyone thinks or feels that way.  But I do and I feel so strongly about it.

You can well imagine that my friend was probably more than a little stunned at my words.  So I had to explain how I feel that one should take care to make sure their soul is in a state of grace.  Is my approach off?  I'm really not sure that it is.  I feel like the biggest tragedy that can befall a person is to be so lax in caring about the state of your soul that you would be willing to take the chance of dying while not in a state of grace.

Perhaps I'm too scrupulous, too focused on dotting i's and crossing t's, but I certainly make it a point to be sure that I get to confession regularly in my journey towards eternity.  I would not want to spend an eternity in hell going over the should've could've would've's that would have saved me from an eternity of total separation from God.  My end goal is sainthood, anything less than that would be tragic.  Until then, I will continue to strive for sanctity.  Will I fail along the way?  You bet!  But, the point is I'm not about to give up.  As many times as I fail,  I'm determined to dust myself off and seek reconciliation with Our Lord so I can try again.  I figure eventually, I've got to make some progress on the road to perfection.

My friend did raise an important question that is certainly worth pondering.  Is anyone ever really ready to die?  I suppose some are, like those who have suffered through a long terminal illness who know that death is imminent.  But I would imagine that most, like my friend and even me, have that unprepared not quite ready feeling.  Until any of us really, honestly and truly knows where we stand with Our Lord,  how can we be?  But, really, it all boils down to hoping and trusting in God.  One thing is certain.  We're all going to die, so the least we can do is try to be at least somewhat prepared.  Acting like you have years or even decades to go before you need to ponder this inescapable reality is likely not the best approach.

My advice is simply this.  If you haven't been to confession in ages, just go.  Why chance an eternity of misery; and more importantly, why deny yourself the mercy Our Lord so ardently desires to bestow on you if only you humble yourself and ask?

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