Saturday, June 29, 2013

Suffering and Sacrifice

Suffering - the pain, misery, or loss experienced by a person who suffers
 
Sacrifice - the destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else
 
I got a book for my husband to review recently (the review will come sometime next week). I asked for a quick overview and he said, "wise words...'parenting is sacrifice'". It was funny for him to say, since last week my friend stood in the kitchen and said "I think I figured it out...this world is about suffering and sacrifice. We're not supposed to be completely happy here." Amen, sister.
 
I never cease being amazed at the workings of the Holy Spirit. They are all around, if you just look for them. The opportunities for suffering and sacrifice are even more abundant. As Catholic Christians, we should REJOICE in these opportunities.
 
OK, I know where you're going. "We should be happy - God made us and He made all things good." True. Absolutely. Exact. Spot on. However, there was that little thing about Adam, Eve, a serpent and a choice. After that, my friend, suffering and sacrifice became part of our everyday life. This, after all, is not heaven.

I have been astonished, lately, about how little suffering and sacrifice we want to endure as individuals. If, in fact, those opportunities lead to our sanctification, why would we want to see them only sparingly, if at all? Does it really make sense that we get to live easy here and still get to heaven? If so, why would Christ bothered to become one of us and die the way he did? Why didn't he just say "yeah, it's all good, I created you so do what you want...you still get to live with me for eternity." Suffering and sacrifice draw us closer to him. What a blessing.

I'm really bad at suffering (have you been around me at all during any of my five pregnancies)? Lately, though, I'm trying to look for more opportunities. Surprisingly, they are abundant in my life! All I had to do was open myself beyond the "physical" suffering (although that is there too) and I have all sorts of stuff pop up:

 - being a mother of many small children
 - being an older mother
 - being a homeschooler
 - being introverted but choosing to do extroverted things
 - leading a group
 - being a practicing Catholic
 - etc...you get the idea.

The sacrifice thing has come only as a conscious effort over the last several years. Once, long ago, I had an acquaintance who said "You know, everything isn't always about you." Wow. Shockingly accurate and difficult to hear at that point in my life.  I think if we're the youngest, or the favorite, or the only child, sometimes it becomes part of us to think we're in charge of everything and the only opinion/timetable/agenda that matters is our own. Being self-less is one difficult thing to manage. We are built, from tiny babyhood, to put our needs first. Sometimes it's really hard to get past that stage.

I feel like, while there is always room for improvement, sacrifice is something that I'm grasping more and more. It pleases me greatly when I actually get it all together and "offer it up" while it's happening. "God, help me make a yummy dinner so the new mom has an enjoyable dinner and relaxes for five minutes." "God help me to be a good friend even though I feel like my head will soon explode." (all my friends can use that one!) "God, thank you for the blessing of these children. Please help me to have the patience I need to put their needs before mine." (Please, I beg you, don't go to the "but your needs come first". If you've had any children below the age of three, you know that's not at all true. Hopefully you've saved up a bunch of "me time" before the whole parenthood thing. It's pretty sparse after).

In the end, even though we are called to live in community, it is really between God and us. No one else lives your life and no one truly knows your motivation but you. The newest sacrifice I'm working on is giving the benefit of the doubt. I have no idea what anyone is dealing with, truthfully. Even what people say/post/blog isn't the whole and entire truth. It can't be. So, I'm trying to let go and let God sort it out. I'm kind of liking it because it gives me sooo many more people for whom to pray! As #1 would say, "I'll add you to my list."

Have a blessed day.



 

Brothers

By far, the boys in this crew are the funniest of the kids. They even manage to crack up one another!
video

Baby laughter - one of life's greatest blessings!

Friday, June 28, 2013

My Funny Middle Child

N: Sniff, Sniff
M: What's up? You sound sick
N: I'm very sick. I think I have allegories.

Kid cracks me up.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Swim!

I've already mentioned the awesome pool that exists at the end of our street. This is a huge blessing to us because, even though it takes about 15 minutes (it's very steep on the way home!) we are able to walk to and from; enjoying the day and time together.

This year I finally got myself organized enough to enroll #s 1&2 in swim lessons at said pool. All-in-all, it's been a worthwhile endeavor. Unlike the more expensive private and semi-private lessons we've tried, the kids are all thrown in together in groups of similar ability.

This caused #2 no end of anxiety since it was a little beyond what he was used to doing. Still, I think the pressure has made him progress more than any amount of hand-holding has in the past.

Hey, they even get to go down the slide at the end. Who wouldn't go for that?

So, while none of them seem to be following mom's history of competing early (I was known to hold my own in the 8 & under butterfly ;0) ) that's OK. (The competition thing is starting to wear on me.) I'm just happy they're learning to keep themselves upright and, most importantly, having fun!

kicking

and more kicking...

floating? unheard of. he even flipped over!

sib love


no playground so they improvise

"super" D on the slide



and, the landing!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Little (and big) boys' dream

We suffered for 3+ hours with no electricity but, ultimately, I guess it was worth it to dine al fresco and watch this
As they put away their equipment, we thanked them and one of them smiled and waved to middle son. "I just waved to a real, live construction worker, mom!!!". Definitely made his night.

For the tiny one, though, all that matters is his trampoline practice. LOL

Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Who's Who" Review


Who's Who in Heaven: Real Saints for Families in Plain English

In his book, Who's Who in Heaven: Real Saints for Families in Plain English, Father Thomas G. Morrow gives families a wonderful resource to begin (or continue) their education about the Saints. Fr. Morrow covers eleven Saints in all, most very recognizable and some of whom you may be yet unfamiliar.

We have begun to read a Saint story after dinner or lunch once each month. Each is several pages in length so it may be best to divide it up among several sessions when reading to an under-6-year-old crowd. My three oldest (7, 6 and 4) listened well and the older two were able to participate in the discussion after. The stories do a good job of covering the Saint's life and the discussion questions, even if the children are too young to answer them all in-depth, are a good place to begin.

Because of the length and lack of pictures, I would follow the publisher's recommendation of third grade and above. If you have that age child in your home, as our oldest is, I still believe the little ones benefit from hearing the stories repeated whenever possible, and this is one way to accomplish that. If you only have tiny ones at home, save this for later. I can imagine it to be a great resource for middle-school children and older.

Overall, we are enjoying our monthly lesson on each new Saint. I can see that this will be a book we return to periodically as a refresher. Definitely one to have on your religious shelf!


This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Who's Who In Heaven. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papal Year of Faith.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Busy Summer

As my month of June (remember, I scheduled nothing? Ha.) winds down, here are some of the things that have been keeping us busy...

1. VBS

Thankfully #2 child was a bit less teary and a bit more "excited" for VBS at our parish this year. I have realized that he, like myself, is fairly anxious in crowds full of people and noise. It has been wonderful to see him mature and work through some of his challenges each year.

Smiles everyone! (well, at least my kids are smiling)

"freestyle dance"!

Berea's group chant
 
2. Summer Reading
 
I love our house, because of it's layout/structure/character, but also because of its location. One of the places we can easily walk is the library. This weekend is the Summer Reading Program kickoff. This year's theme:
 
DIG-into-Reading-Logo
 

This is always a big deal around our house. I'm not sure why. We've always been avid readers and love our bi-weekly trips to the library. Perhaps it has something to do with receiving candy and stickers for each book that you read. Like Halloween and parades all wrapped into one!

I've added an extra component this year for the elder two (although the little ones are "participating" as well). There are millions of examples on the web, we're using one that looks very similar to this Reading Bingo. When the whole card is filled, we get to go to Five Below (Blondie has been DYING for her own, personal, tiny size hula hoop). For #s 1&2, it's just a good way to get them to branch out with reading spaces and genres.

3. Homeschool

It starts again in 2 weeks. I know, that was quick. Still, we have been off since the first week of May and the kids are asking about it so it's probably a good time to begin. We will start with a few days/week to try to get the routine down (which will now include two pre-schoolers!). I'm excited.

Recently, I purchased this


to help with the organization. Like most things, it's a little TOO organized for me but it's going to help keep everything in one place (I hope). It is also lovely in that it has a space to record things like the "Bible quote of the week" you've selected and "evidence of God's graces" during the week. I think it will be a nice keepsake if I can keep up with it.

4. Europe

Yes, that. We'll be there in 8 weeks. You would think such information would put me in a complete panic. It does. Still, there are other things to attend to before that (picnics, school, birthdays, anniversary, etc.). I'm trying, little by little, to get to it when time allows. I've also been using the trip as an excuse for lots of other things, like Blondie's birthday. She is having a princess-themed party but her gifts are all about the trip. For instance:

(she also adores Hello Kitty and I adore the way she says "Hello Kitty")

Skip Hop Zoo Pack Toddler Backpack Ladybug
goodness...is that the cutest backpack you've ever seen?

5. First Day of Summer

Today we had a wonderful picnic with two families who are so very dear to us. We were together to celebrate one of them leaving town in a few weeks. Sigh. How blessed we have been to know both families. What a gift their friendship has been. How amazing it has been to share the journey of motherhood with them. Sigh. I know, it's all good. It may just take me a while. I am so thankful that we have had so many years together.







So, that's what's been happening here. It's shaping up to be one of our best summers yet. I'm not sure if it's the age of the kids (somewhat more independent) or the abundance of sunshine or my lack of pregnancy/new baby (I knew it would happen eventually!) but it's been awesome. I pray that you are all enjoying the sun and relaxation of this beautiful season. How blessed we are.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kid Switch

Yesterday, DH took
the little girl

and middle boy
 
to a funeral in Philadelphia.
 
That left me with
 these two
and of course
Yes, I have other pictures...I just like these ;0)

This is the first time, ever, I've had a 7-, 6-, and 1-year-old together alone over night and through the next day. It has been an interesting experience. For example:

- when I dropped the older two off at VBS and went for a run, jog, period of forward motion (have you seen Biltmore/Sleepy Hollow? Don't end up there while pushing a stroller) no one looked at me. Not once. Just a mom and her baby out for some morning exercise.

- same is true for the grocery store. Two in the "Nest" and one in the cart. "Oh, he is precious..." "what a cutie". I could go back to my constant narrative of things/colors/people to G without having to stop to answer questions from the others in the cart/walking beside me.

- the pool! Taking two people who are not at very high risk for drowning and who can move past the 2 inches of water space? Delightful!

- bedtime. they showed up dressed and clean in pj's. I spent a glorious few minutes nursing and changing G while they read books and relaxed. We actually prayed two decades without too much whining and no one wandered away!

- these two can lift and move baby, get diapers, clean up dishes, etc...

Yes, that all sounds wonderful. The benefit of a baby with the bonus of older kids to help out and no one in between to take up your extra time and energy. Why then, were we nearly in tears at dinner and again at bedtime? We MISSED those two little people. They are, at this point, the most talkative of the group and the house was soooo quiet without them. We missed the three people who make up the rest of our family. It is so clear, when we have a break like this, that our family was intended and chosen for us. Everyone fights and loves and struggles but we all belong together. Especially now, while everyone is little and close. How blessed we are.
 

 


Monday, June 17, 2013

The Summer of Loss

When I look back at this year, I think that will forever be what comes to my mind.

People going to their eternal reward, friends leaving for new endeavors, more friends leaving, projects coming to an end.

Sigh. I'm not a big fan of the goodbye stuff.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Five on Friday

We've been taking full advantage of our early vacation and enjoying the weather...five ways we know it's Summer (even if the calendar hasn't caught up quite yet).

1. Pool!

This was Mr. G's first time out and he took to it wonderfully. Another similarity with his momma...loves the water!

everyone actually went in today


love the mushroom!
I adore this pool - so much like the one where I spent soooo many summers

tiny man on the move


2. Backyard fun!


 
 
Thanks, Uncle Dave. I have a feeling it will have great power as a bargaining tool!

I always think this water table is too small. They always make it work.
 
3. Travel!
 
We have successfully completed our first family vacation of the summer. We headed to Split Rock Resort in the Poconos to hang out while DH gave a talk. It was a bit like the place where Dirty Dancing was filmed. Not exactly a "fit" for us but there were some pleasant moments. On the way we stopped at Old Bedford Village (think Williamsburg in smaller form). We learned how shoes were made (beginning at the cow), how to punch tin and visited a general store. Very cool.
The reason it's called "Split Rock"

The walk back...

Typical era home - one room

General store

Leather making

Candle making

School house

Before the concept of self-esteem

The tin shop



4. St. Apollonia
 
Well, this one happens every season it seems. Thankfully St. Apollonia is well-stocked with quarters. She will have to be to get us through all the coming visits. Add a Divine Mercy holy card and that's a pretty good haul!
 
 
5. Artist in residence
 
#1 doesn't really consider herself an artist...not like #2. Yet, she is constantly doodling, labeling, making renderings of things. Unfortunately she has her mom's talent :0p
 
I loving looking to see what symbols she uses for each feast/holy day. Sometimes I don't get it at all...(see July 24th)

"S is for savings!" She opened her first bank account on Saturday. I'm guessing it was on the literature somewhere. (we go through lots of sidewalk chalk in the summer!)

 
 



Heaven

 
While I was driving their dad to work, my children just had the most delightful conversation in the back of the car. Each of them taking turns contributing their own little idea of heaven.

Let me explain. My husband's godmother is nearing her final time on earth. Some of them met her and they have all heard her spoken about in our home. She never married or had children and she is a very devout, Catholic woman. She will be greatly missed.

That, and the fact that they attended their great-aunt's funeral a few months back, was enough to get them talking.

First, they always have to recount their time on "the white couch". I am not sure anymore who exactly came up with this idea but it goes something like this...there is a white couch in heaven and that is where all the babies for our family sit until it's time to come down to earth. Children #s 1 and 2 always comment about seeing the younger ones sitting there before they, themselves, made the trip down. It's quite a beautiful image for me. All my babies bonding together before we even meet. The idea that the siblings are a family before they even make it to earth. The only drawback is, when I ask them if anyone else is on the couch, they don't have an answer. ;0)

Anyway, back to funerals. My kids, in their short lives, have been through a few deaths/funerals. Even if they were too young to remember or not here yet ( #4 was still in my belly when my uncle died) they visit the cemetery with us and they know the whole deal.

So, this morning, there was a discussion. In my earlier life, I was very afraid to die. Now I think I still fear the process but not the actual thing. It's beautiful to hear my little people so freely discussing what happens next. Things like "perhaps I will get to play cello with St. Cecilia" or "I think it will just be the greatest family reunion ever" make me so thankful that their attitude is trusting and open. I pray that they can keep that throughout their life and see death as merely a transition. What a blessing.