Sunday, December 18, 2011

Radical Christmas

I haven't written in a long time. I haven't had those compelling urges where I need to get an idea down in writing. I am not sure why. Maybe my creative energies have been being used else where, maybe I haven't had a thought in my head, maybe it is hormones. Who knows.

The greatest indicator of this is that I did not send out Christmas Cards this year. I know some people dread this tradition, but it is one of my favorites. I always take time to write little notes and to those I only communicate with once a year, a letter. I couldn't do it. Again, not sure why.

It is certainly not that I don't want to hear from anyone else. I love getting cards and seeing pictures and hearing what everyone has been doing. I just felt I wouldn't enjoy the process this year and that it might be reflected in what I sent out. So if you are one of those on my list, please forgive. I do think of you and cherish our friendships. I just couldn't get it in writing this year.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about Christmas Time and how to bring back its true joy and meaning to my children. I have tried in years past to institute traditions and limit materialism, but it has never really worked. They can not see the forest through the trees.

The excitement of Christmas Eve has long been a source of spirituality for me. I remember those years from childhood and that feeling that one never feels again in quite the same way. For me it has become the feeling I am trying to recreate for heaven. I know that I should anticipate heaven in the same way a child anticipates Christmas Morn, and while I have not yet gotten there, I will recognize the feeling when it comes again.

I fear my children do not even know the feeling. Part of the anticipation was the magic: The lights and the tree, the music floating softly on the air, the programs that came on once a year and left you feeling so warm inside. Sure there were gifts to be opened, but they were part of a bigger package that was Christmas. I always got up hours before everyone else. We could not open gifts until everyone was awake. I would sit in the dark in my dad's big brown leather chair where I could smell the tree and stare into its twinkling lights. It was an hour of such peace after the excitement of the night before. I remember this more than the chaos of opening presents that came when everyone else was up and moving. I fear the stuff is all my children are thinking about and they will remember nothing.

I have long noticed that these moments of quiet contemplation are missing in our lives. The children are so busy. Before we were in school, we had more time to sit quietly in our prayer space or in our rooms alone. Now we get it about once a week and only for about 20 minutes.

When we make time, it never ceases to amaze me how refreshed and at peace the children are. Because we do it less, it takes longer to calm down and to get quiet. But they emerge with a feeling of joy that they do not get from sports, play dates, toys or TV. When I remove all the distractions from their environment and let them contemplate the love of God, they are nourished.

My goal for this year was to remove the distractions and allow as much of The Christmas Season as possible to nourish them and speak to them about the love of God. I will post some of the things I have done in the days to come.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Service has been on my mind for awhile now.

I volunteered to head up the sixth grade service project for my son's class. It was important to me that the experience be a meaningful one. In preparing for this project, I came up with some things to think about if you are trying to instill in your own children a spirit of service.

1. All work can BE service. I think there is a danger in calculating service hours or even in doing service "projects". The spirit of service can often be lost.

I have spent the last month preparing for my son's service project and organizing a benefit party for a non-profit. While on my hands and knees scrubbing my floor for the benefit, I was working through my thoughts on the goals for the service project. I stopped mid-floor and realized that I had spent three weeks running errands, sending e-mails, making phone calls, I had just done 1/2 a floor, all in service of my child's class and the beneficiary of the benefit. I had not taken one minute to consider all the preparations for the Events as service themselves. I was certainly not on my hands and knees simply because it needed to be done.

I took a moment to reflect on why I was cleaning. I was making my house welcoming for the women who would come to help raise money for Children with Down Syndrome. I offered up the rest of the floor for the children and their mothers.

The nature of the work itself changed. The first half of my floor had been a task. The rest was work with a purpose. I enjoyed it more. I felt good about the work. I probably scrubbed a little harder with less effort.

2. Let the work speak for itself.

Some service opportunities allow the work to speak for itself very easily. Visiting someone in a nursing home gives a child immediate feedback. The smile on the person's face is the reward. Service that involves an interaction with the person we are serving gives great satisfaction.

However, most service opportunities are far removed from the beneficiary: Jumping rope for Hearts, Selling popcorn for the Soldiers, Collecting canned goods for the Poor, Buying Christmas gifts for a Family in Need. We never see the faces of the people we help.

It is important in these circumstances, to let the work speak for itself. The child needs to take time to reflect on why he is getting ready to campus the neighborhood. Then he needs to continue the work in that spirit.

Children have felt the nature of work change. Everyone enjoys cleaning their room a little more when a friend is coming over for the first time. Help them to feel how jumping rope is somehow different when we think of the purpose it serves.

3. Choosing the best work and setting the best goals

I think the best type of work to teach this lesson is work which requires attention to detail. Work which allows the child the opportunity to choose to do it well or not.

For the sixth grade project we are hosting a bake sale. Instead of having moms send in cookies, we decided to let the kids bake for themselves. We chose a cookie that can be decorated with as much or as little detail as the child wishes. This allows children to decide how much effort the purpose they are serving deserves.

As the adults in the mix, this was a hard call. We had to change our goal from making the most money to making the best experience for the kids. But, if we have fewer beautiful cookies, we have done our job. The money will come from somewhere.

Amount is probably not the best standard to use for goals. While the amount of money or cans or whatever collected can be a sign of the amount of effort, it is too relative. A child can visit 20 homes and come home with $5.00 or visit one and come home with $20.00. The work is dependent more on the charitable nature of those he visits than on his own work.

If the nature of the work lends itself to setting amount goals, change the goal. Set goals the children can have control over. How many homes will you visit, how much time will you spend asking, etc. This allows the child control over the work. He can feel a sense of accomplishment about the work itself rather than the outcome. Because no matter how many cans he has at the end of the day, his service to others has not been affected one iota.

4. Let them do it.

Many service opportunities require money. We have a school wide adopt a family program at Christmas. Each class is assigned a child with a name and and age and a wish list. While the children do wrap these gifts. I bought them all. Or I let my children buy the gift with my money. Not this year.

I am making a Chore Chart and Price List. My children do not have to participate. These chores are for Service Money ONLY. They can NOT do the work and spend the money on themselves. But, they can also choose not to do the work and not to participate in the Service Project.

If they want a gift to take to school, they need to buy it. They can earn as much or as little money as they wish. Then they can buy a gift from the wish list that they can afford, or none at all.

I have started my Chore Chart and Price List.
If you have any ideas to add, I would love it!

Murphy’s oil wash the Plantation Blinds: $5. for a big one $2.50 for a little one

Rake and bag leaves: $3. per bag

Murphy’s oil base boards: $1.00 per four feet

Windows: $1.00 per window

Fold and stack Laundry: $2.00 per large load

Our goal as Christians is to work towards each and every minute of our lives being done in the service of others. Teaching our children how to make any work service is the first step.

Rather than using Service Opportunities to DO good work.

We can use them to learn how if we just take a moment to reflect, how all work done can be done in service to others, and work done well is the better gift.

And if you are a bit slow like me, in teaching our children, we can remember the lessons ourselves.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


The Devil has been a hot topic of conversation of late. I blame Halloween. The girls started by being DE vils. Feminine devils according to them. They do not have horns, but they look enough like devils to lure them in, and then they shock them with the news of Jesus. ? Yea, don't ask me. All I know for sure is they wear red or black.

My daughters are much like I was. I hated to say in church, "I reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises." I was ready to reject his message, but something seemed wrong about rejecting him. When my girls were parading around the house in their black and red, their clever" brother tried to put them in their place. "If you are a devil, God hates you." My eight year old immediately responded, "God doesn't hate the devils even though they hate Him."

Out of the mouths of babes.

He came up again tonight after dinner. As the younger children talked, the familiar response emerged. "If the devil...I would make him sit on a tack." Fine, I think that makes sense for a six year old, but when my pre-teen had the same response, I had to pause.

"The devil would actually love you to picture him on a tack," I said. "Your six year old sister's threat is truly terrifying to him, but from you, he knows he has you just where he wants you."

Thinking himself very cute he asked, "But mom, if I ever did meet him face to face can I punch him?"

"Oh, but you have met him face to face. Do you remember when you.... do you remember how you knew it was wrong, but something inside you told you to do it anyway? That WAS the devil.

And you did 'punch him in the face.' When you rode your bike to church, and when you told me about it, and when we went to Confession, that was a punch in the face worthy of an 11 year old.
But if you didn't do those things and you kept doing what you knew to be wrong, he wins. You need to remember what you felt like. Remember what it felt like when he was there because he will be back. Maybe next time you can 'punch' him before you give in."

I got the I don't want to talk about this face.

So be it, but I planted the seed. The Joy Joy Joy song plants the seed for the little ones. "If the Devil doesn't like it, he can sit on a tack. Ouch!" Enough for a small child. Someone who deserves the TACK with adult encouragement is scary enough. It doesn't need to be scarier. But as they get older, they need knew images, new scenarios, new ways to recognize not just evil, but the evil one.

I am very careful to never allow my kids to think humans are devils. Humans do bad things, but they are by nature good. Maybe the devil doesn't exist, but I am not willing to take that risk. If there is a spiritual word, and half of it is out to steal my children, I think it is worth the effort to prepare them.

I have felt evil. Sometimes it is from my own sins. Sometimes it is the weight of knowing the horrible things that one human can do to another. But I know it is a weight. It is a physical presence. It is not guilt or fear. It is a pressure in the world that pushes us toward the center of the earth, just as an inspirational story of victory against all odds makes us feel as if we have wings.

Is evil just evil or is the devil real? Faith alone can answer that. But evil seems to exist outside of human actions. Even when an evil act is done by accident or with good motive, the evil still exists. We can still feel it around us, pushing us down.

And so I ere on the side of prudence. "Remember what it felt like when he was there, for as sure as you are human, he will be back."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Love Story

I was told a story recently of love and pain. Love and pain live along a vast and rolling landscape. They are hard to describe, hard to measure and sometimes hard to believe. But sometimes they are very simple.

Thomas was having a hard time. Most of the time he didn't mind that he was different. But sometimes he did. He liked chess and imaging himself a knight fighting dragons. He liked to read or simply sit by himself and think in the rays of sunshine that streamed through the crack in his bedroom window's curtain. His mom told him he didn't have to like football, or basketball, or soccer, or any other sport if he didn't want to. And he believed her. But sometimes even though he didn't like them, he wished he was at least an okay player.

At least for awhile Ethan didn't like to play all the ball games at recess either. They would run around smashing into poles and it was fun. But then the game on the playground changed to kickball and Ethan thought he might be good at that. Thomas decided to give it a try. He was feeling brave. It didn't look that hard.


Mary was worried about Thomas. He was having a hard time. She knew he wasn't a typical kid. But most of the time it didn't seem to bother him. Maybe it was her fault. If it hadn't been for... or if she had just... maybe he would be more athletic, more aggressive, more typical. But no, she didn't want him to be any of those things, not unless he wanted it for himself. She just wanted him to be happy. And lately, he wasn't. As she lay beside him in his bed she wanted to know why.

"What did you do at recess today, poles again?"
"No? Then what did you do."
"Nothing hu? Well did you do nothing with Ethan?"
"How come, was he sick today?"
Breathe, she told herself. Wait.
"He played kickball."
"Oh, you didn't want to play?"
"No, I did."
And then the tears came, and they wracked his small frame but that was nothing to what they did to his mother's heart.
Through his sobs she barely heard,
"No one would pick me. Ethan got picked last and then they all ran off. I didn't even get picked last, I didn't get picked at all."

Breathe, she told herself. Breathe, do not cry. Do not think of all the terrible things you could do to those kids and to their parents and to the teachers on the playground. Just Breathe.

And so, she took a deep breath and said a little prayer to the Mother of God whose Son had also been rejected. Putting her arm around him, pulling him close she said:

"That is a pretty big Cross for a seven year old to carry around. And that tells me that God must have some mighty big plans for you, young man. He is getting you ready for something very special that He needs you to do.

But Crosses are hard. Even for big people, but especially for little kids. And so I want you to look at me, and I want you to hear what I am going to tell you."

Small tilt of a tear stained face.

"If you ever get to school and you think that your cross is too big, you tell God. You tell him that you know He has big plans for you, and you want to help Him, but today your cross is just too big, and you can't carry it by yourself. Are you listening to me Thomas?"

Small nod .

"If you tell God that today your cross is just to heavy, He will take that Cross and make it lighter. I promise you that, Thomas. He will make it lighter, and you will know it."

And a peace fell over the bed as if a cloud had descended upon the mother and child, and she knew he had heard, and she knew he felt peace.

But as she closed the door, her own tears came. Quietly so he wouldn't hear. For his pain was her pain, and she loved him so much that it hurt. But she didn't ask God to make it lighter, instead she thought of her small brave son, picked up her Cross and carried it to bed.

For Mary, who shared who story and let me tell it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

From the Mom

Okay, you know you are an official blogger slacker when your computer doesn't finish your address for you when you type it in. Sorry!

As a mother of five, I know enough to know one thing. I am not an expert!

I have also found that other mothers are the best source of food for thought and tricks of the trade. And so I offer the following tid bits that I tell myself, or my kids, on a regular basis:

1. When arguing with a five year old (or an eleven year old for that matter), it is helpful to remember, I am the adult.

2. Fair does not mean equal. It would be unfair to treat different human beings with different strengths and weaknesses the same. Plus, Life ain't fair, so get used to it now.

3. During a melt down remember: Some kids require food, some require sleep, some require a spanking to get it together.

4. Kids fight. Just do it outside, so I don't have to listen to it.

5. Whining is easier to ignore with wine.

6. As my mother often tells me, "You will miss this stage, you WILL!"

7. What are my priorities? Does this serve them? No, we aren't going to Disney Land.

8. Before speaking ask: "Is it necessary? Is it kind?" (kind does not have to be sweet)

9. I heard your question and I gave you an answer. No is an answer. Quit asking!

10. I will always love you, whether or not I like you depends on you.

11. I know you love me, you don't have to like me right now.

12. You can have X when you are the mom.

13. I feel your pain, would you believe when I was your age, I was the only kid in the world who didn't have X either?

14. We don't have to go to church, we GET to go to church!

And last but not least:

15. Go ask your dad!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Have you ever asked WHY?

Why did my car get a flat tire?
Why did I win the lottery?
Why is my child sick?
Why does this cup of coffee taste so good?
Why did I get stuck in traffic behind THAT bumper sticker?
Why are you my friend?
Why can't I find that stupid key?
Why did she call right when I needed her to?
Why did I over sleep?
Why did the cardinal build her nest outside my window?
Why are they fighting now?
Why do they grow up so fast?
Why did my nine year old just pick me flowers?
Why is my five year old picking her nose on stage?
Why did you just kiss me?
Why do I feel so sad?
Why did I get so lucky?

Have you? Have you ever asked why?

Sometimes the answer is obvious, other times you have to search harder, look deeper, trust more. But the answer is always the same. It is. It is always the same.

Why? Because it is the gift you needed today. Why? Because when you open it and look deep inside, you will see not just the gift but the Giver.

So don't worry so much about the Why. Instead ask the What? What am I to do with this Gift, God. What is it you want me to do?

And the answer to the What is always the same. It is . It is always the same.

"I want you to love."

Monday, January 31, 2011

How do you answer that?

I was filling out a form which asked me to include a brief summary describing my marriage. Hu? How in the world do you answer that question? It reminded me of the question: Tell me about your childhood. What?

Do you want to know about the imaginary triplets I had living in my attic? Or did you want to hear about how I used to pretend like I was a paraplegic who had to drag myself to my brother's concert. My brother was Sean Cassidy. Or do you want to know why I insisted on wearing the flowered shirt with the plaid skirt and argyle socks for two months straight? Is it my love of stuffed animals, my neighbor's dog, lightening bugs you are asking about? Do you want to know about sharing a room with a sister, competing with brothers or playing Indians and Stallions with a neighbor? Would you like to know who Lincoln and Neunan are?

Do you want me to say it was a happy one? It was...Except when I did a flip off the tire swing and slid down a tree with my leg; ran into a board playing hide and seek and got 100 stitches in my head; didn't make cheerleading in eighth grade; fought with my friends; fought with my sister; fought with my brothers; fought with my parents. Except when the bird died and I cried; my grandma died and I cried.

Do you want me to say it was rough? It was....Except most of the time. Because I had a sister who always made my birthday cakes and brothers who let me cut their hair and talk them into playing my games; Because I had a mom who was the best and a dad who listened. Because I got to spend so much time with my grandma and the birds.

Tell me about your childhood. Which part? Which day? Which year?

Tell me about your marriage.

I can begin to tell you about my childhood. I can paint little pictures of memories that might give you a glimpse of what I saw, or what I think I saw. I can tell you what I loved, what hurt, what I regret and what I wouldn't change for the world. But childhood is gone. It is gone forever. It shaped me, no doubt, but it is not me and it is not now.

But my marriage? I am my marriage, my marriage is me. And could you write a brief summary describing yourself? I can't: Brief is not my best trait and I am old enough to know I know very little about myself.

Please, a brief summary describing your marriage.

So, what did I put?

I was married on May 25, 1996 in Mary's Home, MO at our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church by the Rev William Korte. It was a beautiful day.

I don't think that is what they wanted.

But how in the world would YOU answer that?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Talking to God, His Omniscience and Lightbulbs.

The academic question of ethics has been a passion of mine. I am convinced that there is a right and a wrong and that we as human beings are given the gift of reason to figure it out. I have described in an earlier post (The Beauty of Truth, July 10, 2009) about an assignment I gave my high school student which attempted to force them to approach moral issues from a logical rather than an emotional perspective. I mused about objective truth in Simon Cowell, Prophet (July 17, 2009).

The last six month or so, I have been in more of an emotional mood. I have been attempting to find truth through ways that are less rational. I have been tinkering with the idea that those who told me that certain aspects of the Truth, say Faith, are not provable by reason may have some credibility. The older I get, the more I see the grey. While others may find comfort in this as it could seem to give one more wiggle room with regard to the truth, I find it completely disconcerting.

My own faith has always been, at least to me, rooted in reason. I have grown spiritually through my intellectual pursuits. If I have a spiritual question, a moral dilemma, or don't understand a doctrinal truth, yes, I pray about it. But I THINK about it. I read about it, I put myself through mental gymnastics asking and trying to answer question after question until I come to a better understanding. There was often a spiritual moment involved. An idea or an answer would enter my head that was the proverbial light bulb.

For example, I was trying to figure out a way to teach The Omniscience of God to a group of high school juniors. I believed in this Truth, though I can't say I really understood it. How could God know ahead of time without affecting an out come. I began to think and think of how to explain the seemingly unexplainable. In the middle of the class, an analogy came to me:

My sister and I went out for lunch yesterday. I was facing the door and she was facing me. I saw her old boyfriend walk through the door. I smiled to myself picturing her turn around and see him. She would whip back in my direction and with her elbows on the table, place her hands on either side of her head and say, "OH MY GOSH. Did you see who just walked in the door. OH, MY GOSH! Does my hair look okay?" A few seconds later, she scanned the room as she was speaking. She saw her old boy friend. She whipped back in my direction and with her elbows on the table, placed her hands on either side of her head and said, "OH MY GOSH. Did you see who just walked in the door. OH, MY GOSH! Does my hair look okay?"

I mused to my students. Did I make her act this way? No. Was I somehow in control of her choices? No. I just know her so well, I KNEW how she would act. God knows us so well, He is of course our Creator. He knows us so well, He knows how we will act in each and every situation of our life. He does not control our choices. He simply knows what we will choose.

I have had similar experiences with everything from the morality of natural family planning to the Transfiguration of Christ.

I love this way of getting to know God. I love challenging my brain to try and grasp a small part of who He is. But for awhile now, I have been left with the feeling that this is not prayer. I have come to think I am not talking to God when I do these things, but talking to myself. I have been dealing with the premise that REAL prayer is listening to God. That we are supposed to hear with our hearts and not with our heads. I have tried to spend more time reading Scripture and then spending time in reflection or contemplation. I read God's word and then I try and listen.

If you read me much, you know I am not the most disciplined person. I often get off track and find when I should be listening, I am talking: Making connections in my mind, asking questions about what I have read, trying to figure out what in the heck, "Like mud in the trees" could possibly mean. Then like an excited child who speaks out of turn, I chastise myself and try to get back to the listening.

I read an article today in our Catholic Paper about ethics. There was a great quote in it. "People want to know what it would be wise and right to do; but they don't want to grasp a truth so lucid that they might feel actually required to walk in its light." I felt an old excitement that I haven't felt for awhile. I want to be required. I want to grasp.

Like all human beings, I fall short. But I used to know what was short and what hit the mark. Now I feel like a piece of drift wood trying to float in a straight line. I have been trying to shut up and listen.

And guess what...It ain't workin'!

When I talked all the time, when I thought all the time, I could hear God in my light bulbs. Now I hear crickets.

It just doesn't work unless I engage my intellectual side. And my thinking means talking. Unless I debate myself and those I read or talk to over one of the endless aspects of God the Creator, God the Redeemer, God the Sanctifier; I don't feel any growth. I miss those light bulbs. I miss the feeling that I have grasped the tiniest speck of truth and now am required to raise the mark. I still fall short, but I know what I am shooting for.

God is omniscient. He gave me my other half. And now that I think about it, while ours are not one sided conversations, when I am trying to figure something out, they are heavily weighted to my side. I think out loud, my husband listens, then he tells me where I am right and where I am wrong. They are just like the conversations I had with my dad. I don't mean to say either of these men is/was condescending. They are not telling me that I am wrong like a teacher to a pupil. They are telling me where they believe my logic is flawed and where it is not. I never considered these conversations to be talking to myself. I needed them to listen, to give in put, to help me figure something out. And I believe it is through my incessant talking that they often were able to figure things out as well.

God is omniscient. He knows me. I talk and wait for illumination. Well, wait may be a bit of a stretch, perhaps the illumination comes while I am talking. So maybe this was prayer for me. I certainly never assumed I was figuring it out by myself. I always felt He was in the conversation, it was just heavily weighted on my side.

Like the verbosity of this post, I use a lot of unnecessary words to get where I am going. But by talking which is my way of thinking, I usually get there. I am wondering today if that isn't such a bad thing. If it is how God expects me to get to know Him. It has certainly worked in the past.

I may quit trying to listen, as I am simply not holy enough to get very far with that. I may quit trying to hear with my heart and settle for seeing with my head. I may go back to the mental gymnastics and talking incessantly knowing God will talk over me when He has something He wants me to hear. Or will just turn on the light bulb to let me know He is there.

Monday, January 17, 2011

More Poetry

I just remembered one of my first poems. It has a funny story. Two of my good friends were down on guys. We had the opinion that they were all jerks. I wrote the following poem for them. Of the three of us, I was the only literary one. They had more of a mathematical bent and did not consider writing poetry as anything more than educational torture. One needed a poem for English class. She asked if she could turn mine in for her assignment. In typical high school girl fashion, I was delighted to help out a friend. It was surely not technically cheating as I had written it with her in mind. Then she found herself in a pickle as her teacher, who must have had a similar opinion of grown men as we had of high school boys, wanted to publish it in some High School Literary Magazine. She declined feigning humility. Oh, and to think, I could have been published:)

If you would like to buy a man
Here's the place to be
We've plenty to choose from
Complete with guarantee

Guaranteed to ruin your life
With no feelings of remorse
Ready to steal your heart
To return, broken, of course

We've more than just one style
And more than just one type
But all have common qualities
Like deceit and how to gripe.

So get your man today
And when you take him home
Just remember this, my dear,
It's guaranteed you'll be alone.

I might conclude that there were probably times in my life when the narrator of the poem and its author held similar views of the masculine sex. However, with the wisdom of age and experience (and thirteen years of marriage bliss) I can assure you that a current poem of the same title would differ in its description of men. :)


I am in a poemey mood:

Settles in my neck
Head won't turn

Burrows in my chest
Ache not burn

Buzzes in my head
Angry bees

Hunches forth my back
Weakens knees

Springs forth from my eyes
Salty hot

Criss crosses my skin
No wise thought

Wakes me in the night
Sticky sheets

Lingers in dawn's light
No retreat

Steals lungs of all air
Heart beats hard

Steals soul of its joy
Help me, Lord.


Settles in my soul
Shoots of spring

Burrows in my heart

Filters through my thoughts
Lightens load

Straightens up my spine
Not alone

Springs forth from my eyes

Rosy glow in cheeks

Hushes me to sleep
Angel's prayer

Lingers in dawn's light
Goodness there

Fills lungs breathing slows
Love not hard

Showers soul with joy
Thank thee, Lord

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Just a add a Little of This and a Little of That.

So, my two oldest sons are terrible eaters. It is my fault, I know. With my oldest, I was a nervous wreck about the whole eating thing. We had to start him on prune juice when he was very young, I'll let you figure out why. I hadn't even started him on rice cereal at that point. I had read all the literature: Vegetables BEFORE fruit. So, I started feeding him solid food way too early. He was a nice fat little guy fed only on breast milk and was doing fine, but I was neurotic.

Fast forward ten years. He eats peanut butter bagels, yogurt, lots of milk, a few juices and crackers and gold fish. They only meat he eats willingly is bacon and chicken nuggets.

I have tried a variety of strategies. The Nazi food program was when they ate it for dinner or got it for breakfast the next day. He threw up on a regular basis trying to swallow the three grains of rice or bite of carrot he was given. My goals was that he fill up on whatever I serve or starve. He was a trooper and was willing to try a few small bites, usually gagging. The tears and regurgitated food were never going to equate to a full stomach of whatever I had made. This was soon abandoned.

Son two was not really my fault. He started out a pretty good eater. But then it turned out he had many food allergies. Getting sick from some food turned him off on most. He was not a trooper and dinner time became a nightmare. With number one puking and number two throwing huge fits, it just wasn't worth it.

I did not make the same mistake with the girls who followed them. I waited until they reached up on the table to grab food before I began feeding them. I didn't do baby food and just gave them whatever we were eating. They are great eaters. Number five's eating issues will have to wait for another post.

I was never worried about the boys' health. It was more about hospitality for me. I hate the idea of picky eaters. I think it rude. The oldest is a sturdy build and does not even like to eat sweets. He is the kind who has Halloween candy at Easter. He also doesn't feel hunger. If I said no food if you don't eat dinner. He wouldn't eat. If I said no peanut butter and bagels for a week, he would drink milk and orange juice for a month. Son two is small. But he has never lacked energy and looks healthy. He will eat sweets on the sly if I don't watch him.

Lately, I had begun to worry about the oldest. I talked to a nurse about his sluggishness. She said it was very normal for boys his age who are growing like crazy. I started giving him a protein shake for breakfast. It helped calm my fears a bit. But then he started showing signs from being hungry. You know the signs: like a two year old that needs a nap. I just knew he needed more nutrition, but I had tried everything I could think of or that had been suggested save sending him to a food psychologist.

Then to make a long story even longer, my sister decided to sell her house. Needing to down size she asked if I wanted anything. "Actually, I will take that juicer you never even opened that I gave you for Christmas two years ago when your husband started his healthy kick." She dropped it off this weekend.

And ALLELUIA! I have made a new deal with my boys. They do not have to EAT dinner if they will drink what I give them instead. They agreed.

To give an example, last night they had between the two of them: ten large carrots, an apple, three cups of lettuce, five strawberries and a lime. The lime makes the whole concoction taste like a limeade even if it has a very odd color. Do you know how many weeks it would have taken me to get them to eat what they drank in about thirty seconds? Why do I ask, they haven't eaten that much good food in eleven and nine years.

If you are in a similar boat and want to try my solution, I use the Breville Juice Fountain. It is a snap. You throw the food in whole.: no cutting or peeling or anything. All parts can be washed in the top of the dishwasher. But if you line the place where the pulp goes with a plastic grocery bag (a new use for those awful things), you don't even have to wash it. The other parts are easily washed by hand if you don't want to take up space in the dishwasher.

That is right. I just added a little bit of this and a little bit of that and ended up with peace of mind.

Monday, January 3, 2011

FillHer Up

It's a new year. Did you make resolutions and all that jazz? I always do. I think we all do, even if it isn't specific. I think it must be programmed into our DNA to desire a fresh start at certain times in the changing year. I always laugh at the gym in the first week of the new year. It is packed, I am sure with people who are trying to make a fresh start, a healthier life, a slimmer physique. I laugh because I can compare it to the gym during, say Lent, when it is not so packed. These are the few times you will find me at the gym.

After many years of New Year and Lenten Resolutions, I have discovered something about myself. I am not very good at giving things up. I can last a week or so, then it is back to normal. This is in part due to the fact that I always set the bar way too high, then when I lapse, I give up completely. The Lenten resolution that worked best for me was to give up creamer in my coffee. It was a big sacrifice, though it sounds small. I got out of bed for my coffee creamer. It worked because I didn't give up the coffee. I just made it less enjoyable. Had I tried to give up the morning Joe, it would have lasted a couple days at best, instead it lasted all forty days. The funniest thing was it took away my desire for the creamer all together. I now drink my coffee black.

I have acquired a lot of bad habits this year of 2010. Oh, they are the same old bad habits, but they are so much worse. They seem close to engulfing my whole life. It has been a stressful year, and stress always makes me fall into those things which bring me temporary comfort. So my new years resolution is of course, to get rid of them. But I am not naive enough to believe that I can just whittle them away or cut them out with a carving knife. Not me, doesn't work for me.

Instead, I plan to fill my life so full of good things, there is no room for the bad, or at least the room left will become smaller and result in moderation, patience, peace.

Step number one is Daily Mass. Somewhere along the line of 2010, this good habit left. Not sure when, why or how, but that part of my day became a little more sleep followed by a harried morning. I am not an early bird under the best of circumstances, but when I get up when it is still dark and the house is quiet and go to mass, the morning goes better. Well, it probably goes the same, but I can handle it better.

Step number two: Use my time in the car line to pray a rosary. This is a completely new one that I just thought of. We have bribed the kids into getting a Wi (We are the only family for at least a gazillion miles that doesn't have one.) It requires thirty days of peace in our house hold to attain. I have divided each day into three parts: Morning, after school, and bed time. I bet you can guess why. I bet you can also guess why I might need a bit of a boost right before they get into the car.

Step number three: Evening prayer. We have a little prayer room in our house. I had great intentions when I set it up. It was for the kids and our family prayer. I have decided to use it for myself after dinner. I am not going to require that anyone join me. I tried this approach with daily mass during the days of Christmas before they went to school. I was going, they knew it, if they wanted to join me, they could. I never went alone. Maybe they will join me for some quiet time with God each evening before bed. And if not, that is okay, even if they don't feel they need it, I do.

So you see, I plan to try and fill myself up at regular intervals during the day. Rather than try and lessen the bad things: impatience, compulsiveness, immoderation; I am instead going to try and increase the good things. There have been times in my life when I considered the good things to be part of me: creativity, hospitality, moderation, being easy going. It has been a hard and humbling year. I am really not too impressed with myself. I want to be empty and have God fill me up. But I am too selfish to try the old way, they way of Paul and the Saints: empty so God can fill.

The goal is to be God filled, right? And there is only so much room, right? So if I just keep filling, maybe the bad will spill over and out. Instead of emptying the selfishness to make room for God, I will try and increase God so there is no room for the selfishness. I will let Him do the work for me this year. And then maybe next year, I will be ready to do some work for Him. I wish I could help Him more, but 2010 has drained me. He is a loving Father, and I think He will understand that in the year of our Lord Two Thousand and Eleven, I will make myself pull into the station, but it can not be a year of self-service. It is a year where I will ask again and again and again, "Please, Sir, Fill Her Up."