Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Be My Friend... When You're Expecting And I'm Not.

This is one of the trickiest things I've had to navigate in the last year.  Other people's fertility.  I've had friends get pregnant around each of my three losses and go on to have healthy, beautiful babies around my due dates.  There have been much prayed for children after years of fertility struggles and heartaches, "Hey, look at that" pregnancies that are just par for the course and "Oh no how are we going to cope" pregnancies due to a plan that is not our own.  There have been first babies, second babies, babies to families bursting with children and babies to unwed parents.  There have been healthy pregnancies and scary pregnancies.  I feel like I've seen it all.

I can't say I've handled every pregnancy announcement with grace.  I have sworn.  I have been angry.  I have cried silently in numerous bathrooms and declined invitations and outings because I just can't deal.

But in the end I've learned one thing.

The world does not revolve around me and my less than stellar genetics.  It's not that I don't deserve sympathy, respect and private "heads up" before a public announcement.  It's not that I don't have a right to be sad or angry.  It's not that I don't have a right to silent cry in every bathroom.  I deserve every moment of that and say that without shame.

However, it's bigger than me

Each of those children (and their parents) deserve love and joy.  My sadness and my struggles, as justified and important and worthy as they are, cannot stand in the way of celebrating life where it is.  No matter who it comes through.  No matter when it happens.

I cannot ask the world to forever consider me and only me in my sadness - there must be life, there must be love and there must be hope.

If you are one of the lovely ones around me carrying a new little baby please do not shy from me, do not feel like you need to side step or stay silent.

There will be days when I am sad and angry.  There will be days when I fight with bitterness.  There will be days when I need to shut the computer or ignore email, blogs and social media because it's too much.  These are a given for a grieving mother; but these are things that will happen regardless.  These are things that I can deal with and navigate.  These are not reasons, and never should be, to minimize the joy your children should bring to the world.

If you are my friend and expecting, please don't be afraid to share with me.  Know that there will be days when I close my computer on your blog or your pictures, but that is not about you - it is me; it is me grieving and coping and healing.  For every day that I need to step away there are dozens more when those sonograms, clever announcements and mountains of baby cuteness are what keeps me going.  They remind me of life and love.  They give me hope.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Surviving the Apocalypse: How We Make It Through Saturday Evening Mass

I love reading peoples suggestions on incorporating and training children to be good and attentive at Mass.  I love the inspiration I get and the feeling that my efforts are one day going to pay off, but I have to let you in on a little secret - for a long time I was doing it wrong.  For us.

Kendra is one of my favorites for straight up, no nonsense advise about kids.  I don't even do half the stuff she does with her kids - we have different styles, demands on our time, personalities and number of kids so naturally our homes and techniques are going to look different.  But oh have I been trying to live up to her advice when it comes to kids in church.

Some of it has been spot on.  Getting better about regular attendance, dressing nicely, sitting up front, when to take a fussy baby or toddler out and when to lay down the law and tough it out, but try as I might, not all of it has been working for us and then I realized - oh hey, wait a second...that's not my family!  No matter what I need to be doing what works for us.

We have a unique situation that because of schedules Saturday Vigil is it if we're all going to go as a family.  There's one Mass at the perfect time (not too close to when I get off work or too late in the night), but it's still not ideal.  It's at 5:15 p.m..  For us this is usually around the time when either all he** is breaking loose or about dinner time, but it's this or nothing.  On the occasions when we do get a chance to go to a regular Sunday morning Mass I notice that our plan of attack gets to be much different.  11 a.m. Mass and 5 p.m. Mass can be totally different experiences for us just based on things like being well rested and well fed so I've finally given in to the idea that I need to alter my expectations for our Vigil Mass.

This is how we survive the apocalypse that can be Saturday Vigil Mass.

1.  Energy 

What Works:  We try to get to church early enough that we have time to run around and cool down. By this point in the day we've been playing for hours and the sudden change from active to sitting can be rough. We have a long walk from the car to the front door and I give H. free reign to nicely run around for about five minutes, slowly working our way to the door.  Once we're inside we ideally have enough time to wind down before things actually get started.  Running around a bit afterwards seems to help as well.

What Doesn't Work:  Bursting into the church with only a few minutes to go before the processional.  Instant recipe for grumpiness all around.

2.  Food 

What Works:  Oh I still have a love/hate relationship with this, but at the moment since Mass falls right around dinner time we've eased up on our no snacks for 3+ rule.  A small - and I mean small - handful of pretzels or goldfish right at the beginning is enough to tide over bloodsugar levels until 6:30.  Note:  We bring just enough that he is usually done before the first readings and he knows that's it.  

What Doesn't Work:  Cranky, hungry child. This has made the biggest difference in Mass recently - I want to be a no food after two years old family, but it just doesn't work for us particularly at night.  Bringing back that small handful of pretzels has really changed everyone's enjoyment of Mass.  Maybe we'll be a no snacks after four family.

3.  Stuff

What Works:  No toys.  Nothing that can make noise or leave marks (crayons, pens, etc.)  We have stack of church themed books that we can take.  Books work for us right now; he's passed the age of "dropping everything is fun" can occupy himself looking at pictures.  Note:  I find it very, very helpful to rid my purse of anything but the bare necessities.  After the Great Toy Car Meltdown on Easter of aught-fourteen when I missed a single toy in my purse I always make sure to double check.

What Doesn't Work: Anything noisy or not having anything.  

Our Expectations:

Henry is three and a half and while I could go off others generalized age expectations I have to understand him and where he's at.  He doesn't have the attention span to last the whole hour plus some so we have some give and take.  We expect him to sit, stand and participate when he can; for him this is things like the Sign of the Peace and greetings, crossing himself, but we're not to the level of knowing responses.  Other than that he's expected to sit facing front and be reasonably quiet.  We make sure to point out important parts of the Mass, particularly during the consecration.  Luckily by this time in the evening the snack is long gone and the small stack of books has been looked at and he's usually pretty attentive when you direct his attention.

And that is how we survive Vigil Mass.  We still have our good days and bad days.  Last week he was content to sit on our laps and watch most of the Mass; this week he managed to ask "Is Church over yet?!" multiple times and always at the quietest times, break one of my rosaries and generally flop around like a wet monkey.

Thanks to toning it down a little on what works for others and focusing on what works for us we have started thriving in Saturday Vigil Mass.  What works for you?

Friday, October 17, 2014

7 Quick Takes : Usborne for the Lenaburgs!

Hey friends, I'm taking advantage of the 7 Quick Takes to remind you that 25% of any purchase this month through the "Love for the Lenaburgs" party on my Usborne site will be donated to help this lovely family.  It's a great opportunity to fill your stockings and help at the same time.

So to help out I wanted to share some of my favorites with you!

1)  Favorites for the Littles

2)  Favorites for the Bigger Kids

3) Favorites for the Big Kids

4)  Favorites for the Home Library

5)  Favorites for the History Shelf

6)  Favorites for Rainy Days

7)  Favorites for Stocking Stuffers!

Don't forget that I'm offering some incentives too

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lively Faith: Ten Virtues of Mary

Lively - 
1.  full or suggestive of life or vital energy; active, vigorous, or brisk:
2.  animated, spirited, vivacious, or sprightly:
3.  eventful, stirring, or exciting:
4.  bustling with activity; astir:
5.  strong, keen, or distinct; vivid:
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing:
2.  belief that is not based on proof:

I have to admit that one of the last words that pops into my head about the Virgin Mary is "Lively".  Every image I've ever seen of her is rather subdued.  I imagine her quietly sitting of to the side or calmly and serenely going about her day to day tasks.  I don't automatically think of her as drawing much attention, yet the first phrase we are given about her in this exercise is "Lively".

It takes four definitions of "lively" before the dictionary gets away from a definition that has to do with action.  The fifth definition is what grabbed me.  It is not Mary's active faith that I need to reflect on; in fact we know very little about her active role in much - other than her tendency to give advice to her son at weddings.  We don't know how great her cooking was, or how rowdy or well decorate her holidays turned out.  We don't know how planned her meals, crafted or even interacted with those outside her family.  But we do know, just from one simple action, how "strong, keen, distinct and vivid" was her faith.

The sum of Mary's faith was not in her decorating, her participation in Temple activities or her perfect Passover meal.  The sum of her faith was God.

I know I don't live up to Mary's example even on the best days.  I worry too much about my decorations, reading the right books, the right blogs, saying all the right prayers and appearing like the good girl I want to be.  I try to make my faith look vivid and lively and enticing.  I want people to ask questions about our feast days and copy my recipes.  I want those approving looks when my pre-schooler finally behaves in Mass or that pat on the back when I defend my beliefs.

I get caught up in the action of having a lively faith even though I know those are just the trappings and not the real fruit.  I know there's nothing wrong with having a energetic, eventful or bustling faith life; in fact, we have so many homes and parishes that need more of that energy.  However, in the end, that is not the "lively faith" we're called to.

We're called to have a strong faith, a vivid faith no matter what or how that faith is acted out.  We're called to emulate Mary from her most important moment - her fiat.  Her simple act of faith, the most distinct and vivid since Adam and Eve in the Garden, changed the course of human history.

We should be encouraged to live an energetic faith - be that woman who uses her talents to make her home welcoming, her parish engaging or her holiday meal delicious.  But we should not forget that at the core we must strive to emulate the strongest aspect of Mary's faith - her faith in God.  Not only that God exists or that his rules are true, but that he will care for us and see us through.  We should strive to energetically and actively show that strong, keen and vivid faith that rests in our heart and soul; to be filled with such Grace that it becomes an energy of its own guiding us and leading others back to God.


This post is part of a series on the Ten Virtues of Mary, hosted by To the Heights and running every Tuesday until the middle of December. So if you need some help in the virtue department, here's a great place to start ;)
October 7 - An Introduction to the Ten Virtues of Mary - Olivia of To the Heights
October 14 - Lively Faith - Molly of Molly Makes Do
October 21 - Blind Obedience - Kendra of Catholic All Year
October 28 - Constant Mental Prayer - Jenna of Call Her Happy
November 4 - Heroic Patience - Kelly of This Ain't the Lyceum
November 11 - Profound Humility - Carolyn of Svellerella
November 18 - Angelic Sweetness - Regina of Good One God
November 25 - Divine Wisdom - Britt of The Fisk Files
December 2 - Universal Mortification - Abbey of Surviving Our Blessings
December 9 - Divine Purity - Gina of Someday Saints
December 16 - Ardent Charity - Christy of Fountains of Home
December 17 - Massive GIVEAWAY at To the Heights - Just in time for Christmas