Our Advent

Hows your Advent going?

Here we are in week two and we are doing so-so on our goals to grow in holiness and have our hearts ready for Jesus when Christmas day comes.

I was going to include a picture of our wreath looking all perfect by itself but I decided this was much more realistic!

I was going to include a picture of our wreath looking all perfect by itself but I decided this was much more realistic!

I don’t know why Advent always sneaks up on me! Actually I’m so focused on Thanksgiving–I can only prepare for one thing at a time.

As far as goals go, I’m trying to keep it simple, realistic (as our lifestyle seem to keep getting busier and busier) and not too overwhelming.

Anyway, here’s what we are focusing on as a family:

  • Advent wreath with special prayer and Gospel reflection (from Magnificat companion) everyday at dinner
  • family Rosary once a week
  • family Adoration once a week (which can and probably will be brief)
  • Earn hay through kind deeds to put in the manger so that baby Jesus will be warm when He comes on Christmas day (a little more on this in the next post)
  • And this year, instead of focusing on the virtue we need to work on the most, we are going to try something different: focus on improving our greatest virtue.

This last goal is an experiment based on advice from Eva’s religion teacher who said that if you improve your already strong virtues, your weaker virtues will improve too. And that this is a much less discouraging process than focusing on our weaknesses. I’m much more inclined to have them set a goal to improve on weaknesses–like the story of Saint Therese going out of her way to be nice to the Sister she liked the least–but we will try it this year!
We all took a virtue test to help Eva with a school project in religion, so we all have an idea of what our strongest virtue is. (To take the test, follow this link: https://www.viacharacter.org/www/ ). Then they each set a concrete goal to help them work on that.

I also asked the kids how they were going to focus on giving, not getting this season. I’ll have more on that–and their goals–in my next post.

We are not the best at setting these goals and especially at following through (not for 4 weeks straight anyway) but as always I’m hoping that whatever we actually are able to accomplish has some positive effect on their character and their spiritual life.

Here’s to our imperfect Advent walk!

What does your family do during Advent?

Thanksgiving Project

I’m not a crafty person but thanksgiving-clothyear for as long as I can remember, I have the kids do a thankfulness project before Thanksgiving.
I think it’s because I always feel like we are focused on the wrong things for the holidays (the days before Thanksgiving, all we did was clean!) and because I always feel like my kids are not thankful enough.

I look for any way I can to get  them to reflect on how much we have to be thankful for.
This year’s project, a thankfulness tablecloth was a repeat of one we did several years ago.

 

Here are a few of our other ones:

 

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One of my favorites that I didn’t find a picture of: we drew the body of a tree  on posterboard and they wrote their thank yous on different colored leaves we glued on the tree and falling to the ground. I also remember doing placemats one year.

I think I’m running out of ideas, but we will keep doing something! My small effort to teach my kids to be thankful!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not complaining

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For the last few weeks, when people ask me how I am my standard line was “I can’t wait until football is over.”

I blame football for my burn-out. Really.

In my opinion, football is the most intense of youth sports. And with two sons playing, it’s 5 days a week and some Saturdays we can spend 6 to 7 hours at the ball field just to get all the games in. Long days, running back and forth, rushing to get homework, showers, dinner, etc.

My husband works a lot of evenings so I’m doing coordinating, driving, getting kids ready by myself most evenings.

And then there’s the conflicts. Since our kids are in Catholic school but play sports for the city, we don’t know a lot of families . . .so what to do when two (or three) kids need to be somewhere at once? Awkwardly asking for rides from people who barely know us, or trying to figure which practice, which game, which place to go with which kid . . .

Yeh, football season gets long. It got to me. So I started to always say, “I can’t wait until football is over.” And then I realized . .

I sounded like one of those moms.

You know the harried mom. The perpetually stressed mom. The mom you feel sorry for because she’s lost all perspective and everything just seems like a big hassle to her. That mom.

I thought, I must sound like I’m really unhappy with my life.

But I’m not. I’m just busy. And perhaps just looking for a little sympathy.

But that’s not who I want to sound like and it’s definitely not the way I want to be.

Am I busy? Yes.

Stressed-sometimes and burnt out-sometimes.

But being a stay-at-home mom to five beautiful kids is exactly where I want to be. And if the life and activities we choose to follow sometimes leads to stress, burn out and a few dropped balls, well, that’s okay. Or at least it will be once the pieces are picked backed up. We figure it out.

 

So I stopped saying it. Not to be dishonest about how I’m feeling but actually to be more honest. I’m happy with my life.

I’m not too busy to remember that.

So from now on, I’m not complaining.

My Family, My Way, My Choices

It’s funny, but I’ve been criticized and praised over the same things, the choices I make as a mother, the things I feel are part of my job to do as a mother or what I feel the kids can do for themselves.

For instance, I don’t pack my kids lunches. They pack their own. Some other moms have said, “what a great idea!” and others have said, “well, I always pack theirs so I know they are eating well,” with a disdainful look on their face.

Also, most of the time, I don’t make my kids breakfast. Nope. I always make sure they eat but they eat cereal, waffles, instant oatmeal, a piece of fruit or once in a while, even Pringles. Not making them breakfast allows me to get up early and do my prayer time before I have to wake them up (At this point, I have not entertained the idea of getting up earlier than 5:45 so I have time to do both). Some people think that’s awful.

I also don’t get involved in my kids homework. If they need help, they ask and I help them but in general, I don’t look at what they’re doing. This is out of necessity. With 5 kids, dinner to make, sports practices to run to and a to-do list that is routinely two pages long, I just don’t have time or energy to micromanage their homework. I’ve talked to a lot of people who aren’t so nearly hands off but I’m glad for it. I think it’s taught my kids greater responsibility. And, they all do pretty well in school.

Call me a bad mom if you want–you may hurt my feelings (in fact, you probably will because I’m fairly sensitive) but I’m not going to apologize for these choices or others.

Like I talked about last week, we, as moms make the choices that work for our families. These choices simplify my life, get me through and keep me from feeling too stressed out and overwhelmed. And my kids may even learn some extra responsibility from it.

If you can make breakfast, make lunches, and oversee homework, I tip my hat to you and am impressed by you.

But I myself, am a lower-energy little soul. And so great feats of motherhood are not for me.

I won’t apologize for finally being able to embrace that that’s how God made me.

Do I have it all together? Nah, not really. But you know, I’m learning to find my way. My way. It works for me and my family for the most part and most of the time.

Your path is just for you.

 

PS–I would love to hear what things work in your family. What do you do or not do for your kids?

Being ok with being authentic

So at the big annual Catholic Fest in Wickliffe, I had a chance to meet and get to know a mom I’d never met before. Her husband had known mine when they were younger–they were from the same hometown–and so we stopped to talk to them.

Sometimes in meeting another mom for the first time, it’s like we are sizing them up, or they’re sizing us up or we think they are… And sometimes we walk away feeling inadequate… You know that whole comparing their best foot forward with all the weaknesses we know about ourselves.

And from appearances, this situation had the potential to be like that. Here was this mom, probably almost ten years younger than me, with three small kids, each spaced 18 months apart so probably on their way to a nice big family; she’s beautiful, thin despite having a five month old, feeding her kids ants on a log where I have a bag of chips.

But as we began to talk, one of our first conversations was about why it always seemed our kids were the only ones squirming in Mass while everyone else’s sat quietly.

So this young mom was happy to be authentic with me right out of the gate. And when you have two moms willing to just be authentic, it’s easy to form a real friendship.

In fact, this mom, whom I had just met, and I talked about all sorts of things. Childbirth and NFP, adoration, nursing, tandem nursing and–

Now this was where I experienced a moment of grace and learning for me, and to practice something I had just recently come to realize. It’s about our parenting choices. It’s about not judging another moms parenting choices. I guess in some ways I be struggled with this because  I choose, like we all do, what I think is right and best. And if we think it’s right, I guess it makes sense that we think everyone should choose that.

But what I’ve come to realize is that we all have to choose what’s best for our family. And our families, our temperaments, their temperaments, the number of kids we have, our own upbringing…. It’s different for us all. So what works best will be different for us all.

So when I confessed that I don’t believe in letting babies cry and she said she was the exact opposite, I was ok with that.  And so was she. And I didn’t have my usual reaction of secretly feeling sorry for her kids or even try to find a gentle way to win her over to my side. We just kept talking–about our faith, our kids and all sorts of things.

And when we said goodbye I left that interaction with her feeling–uplifted.

Not bad, not wishing to validate myself, not critical of her or her choices as a way to make myself feel better about her seeming perfections.

And I saw a real example of how when we dare to be authentic with each other, grace follows. Grace that we as moms so desperately need. We need to know that we are all imperfect. And that is just fine.

Then, we can truly begin to form bonds with each other that are based on faith, hope, and love . . .and real authentic friendship.

 

P.S. I was very inspired with them as a Catholic couple so I have endeavored to support their ministry. If you’re curious about their efforts to proclaim their faith from the housetops, check out their Catholic t-shirt business at housetoptees.com.

Saint Faustina–learning about Mercy

So the assignment was to pick a virtue that you needed to work on and a saint that exemplifies that virtue. Then, present to your family about that saint and  why they show that virtue.

And the results are:

Imperfect.

Questions not exactly answered. Saints picked for convenience and . . .some hilarious recordings where no one–including me–is exhibiting the virtues they are discussing.

Imperfect and perhaps hilarious.

Hopefully, somehow, they learned and they will grow.

Here is my eldest talking about Saint Faustina and mercy.

The video is divided into two parts because of the size. . . .Sorry I’m pretty new to this whole video thing!

Here is the link to the second half as well: http://walkwiththesaints.com/saint-faustina-part-two/

Saint Faustina–part two

Not really good at this video stuff!

But here is the rest of Eva’s skit (and the unintentionally comedic intereactions among my family)

Here is a link to the first half of her presentation, in case you arrived here without any seeing the first one. http://walkwiththesaints.com/saint-faustina-learning-about-mercy/

(Check the side bar if the link above is not working).

Honesty and Failure

I have always, at least since motherhood, felt like a failure.

I firmly believe that God called me to be a wife and mother and yet sometimes I feel like He didn’t give me the skills to do this job.

Compared to pretty much every mom I know, I am less organized, less cleanly, less prepared, less talented and able to do far less, oh and usually not as skinny either. Seriously–that’s just the way it is.

I used to beat myself up about it. I used to tear myself up about it. I used to feel so . . .bad.

But by and by, through prayer and study and just letting God speak to my heart and getting a glimpse of how much he loves me, I came to be ok with it. Because it just doesn’t matter if everyone is better than me, if everyone can do more than me. I am what God created me to be and if He created me to be a little, hidden soul, then that’s who He intended me to be.  I don’t need to have a perfectly clean and organized house or even be interesting to other people. I just need to be what God created me to be.

It doesn’t always work just like that. It’s a process that requires me to get my pride out of the way constantly. But hey, I’m making headway.

And the other thing that happened was this book study we are doing this summer. We are reading Momnipotent by Danielle Bean. A big theme for her is that us mothers need each other to be honest with each other. Honest about the struggles, honest about the discouragement, honest about the moments we fail or our families fail–and of course the good stuff too.

See, one of our big problems as women is that we compare. But we often compare our worst to someone’s best–everything we know about ourselves to the front others choose to show people. So it’s not an accurate comparison. And here we are, feeling so bad about how we measure up.

As moms, we need to know we are not alone. That other moms are struggling like we do.

And so this re-purposed blog was born.

An honest look at the success and failures as I try to lead, drag, and push myself and my family to holiness.

 

And now . . .here is what I want to call a turtle food story.

In Danielle Bean’s chapter called “Give Till It Hurts . . .Everyone”, she shares a story about a full day where she realized she forgot to buy turtle food. After this realization she locked herself in the bathroom and cried because “there always seemed to be something  . . .to remind me that I was falling short . . . .” Her point is that if we don’t keep ourselves spiritually, emotionally and mentally fed, we end up feeling overwhelmed and incompetent.

Anyways, here’s a recent turtle food  story from my many. It’s about shirts.  So, my kids go to Catholic school so they wear uniforms. My oldest is starting high school–a new school so we don’t yet have many uniform pieces.  The school sent a letter telling us about a used uniform sale. Thank goodness, right, cuz uniforms can get expensive. So, I never wrote it down on my calendar (huge mistake, my calendar is my brain!).  You know when I remembered it? Yesterday.

But the sale was two days ago.

I just literally cost my family at least $60. Maybe it’s not the end of the world but it definitely is a moment that makes me feel like I fell short. I didn’t have my act together.

Thank goodness my mom was here to put it in perspective, to say “So what?”

I looked up the world record for number of balls juggled at once . . it’s 11. Turns out the uniform sale was ball number 12.

So, you see, I’m telling you this because forgetting turtle food (or uniform sales) happens to everyone. And to hear that it happens to everyone, makes us feel a little bit better when it happens to us.

And lastly, now that I’ve told you the truth about myself, I will tell you my greatest strength. Despite the fact that I fail more often than not, I always try.

The definition of earnest is: serious in intention, purpose or effort, sincerely zealous. That’s me. Not a succeeder but a trier.

I fall. I get back up. I fall. I get back up. I fall. I get back up.

I came across this on retreat when we prayed the Stations of the Cross. It’s from Station IX:

Holy Father, enable us to understand that it matters not if we fall a thousand times as long as we love the fight not the fall. Grant us strength to battle on, knowing for sure that this is more pleasing to Christ than an easy victory achieved at no cost.

I am a warrior.

There you have it, my  weaknesses, my failures and my strengths.

Welcome to the honest look at my walk of holiness.

 

PS–The Saint reports are done! We video taped them and I will share it with you soon. Talk about an honest look at all the squabbling nonsense that goes on in my family!