Wednesday, May 31, 2006Making a Home
Currently we are living with my husband's family. We have just moved across the country and are in the process of renovating our new house. In the meantime we have a bedroom to ourselves here. My husband gets up early every morning and goes to work all day. He comes home a tired man, to his little room, our own private space in the house. As he doesn't have his house-"castle" to walk into every night and only has this little room, I try to make it as much a home as possible. I have drying roses on the walls, books stacked inside of a sideways wooden crate, laundry set into shelves and his shirts hanging from a rack...and I try to keep the bed made and the laundry sorted and folded so that we don't go insane. -It may be a small space, but we've made a little home here. Although it's pretty cramped at times, it's a cozy, peaceful little place where we keep the windows open to let in the smell of the fir trees and so that we can hear the rain and the wind coming through the Columbia River gorge at night as we fall asleep.
I recall when I was 18, still living with my family, and we had to live in our basement for a whole winter. We'd had a fire in our just-built house on our 55 acres of land, leaving the whole house black and smoke-damaged, with a gaping hole in the side of the kitchen. We all lived in a basement room together, sleeping on camping pads in our sleeping bags on the sides of the walls. We had to collect our dirty pots and pans and other dishes into a large plastic tote, then carry the tote through the black house to the kitchen sink to wash them. We moved a little electric stove into the room we shared, as well as a table and some chairs, and borrowed clothes and other necessities from friends. -Sometimes that winter we nearly went crazy with cabin fever, when we could see every speck of dust on the cement floor, when we were sick of the stinky morning smell after a night of forgetting to open the windows... It was hard. -Yet we made a really cozy home there, making paper snowflakes for the windows, putting candles on the walls and on the table, keeping clothes and books organized on pieced-together shelving. Outside the window we could see our snowy fieldsglistening on the moon-lit nights, and my brother and I would stay up late over cups of tea, studying and reading by candlelight while the others were snoring in their corners. We even had 2 dinner parties with about 15 extra people over for dinner! Oddly enough, some of my favorite memories of living on my family's land are from that winter.
When my husband and I were first married, it took us over 5 months to finish the construction projects around our apartment. We lived in our living room for the whole duration of the work, stumbling over paint cans lying around the house, cooking in an empty kitchen with no countertops...I'm sure many of you have had times like that in your own lives.
Whatever project we are amidst or whatever our living circumstances are, we can make a home out of barely anything, making a castle for our family just by keeping it cozy and clean. Through these odd circumstances, more memories are being made. Even now when I smell smoke on an old book that was with me that winter, it is pleasant to me!
~Sia writes from Vancouver, WA
Monday, May 29, 2006What keeps me going
19 month old Leo and 3 year old Xavier are playing outside on our swingset. Unbeknownst to them, I am casually watching them through the kitchen window over a sudsy sink of dishes.
-Leo falls off the swing and stays on the ground just crying.
-Xavier, (sensing that their blithe moment of play might end because of this) hesitates, then pretends to fall off the swing too... laying next to Leo.
-He says to him: "It's okay, Buddy, we're okay... see?!"
-Leo, adequately consoled, gets up and continues playing with big brother.
That is sibling love my friends... that's what makes me feel like it's all worth it.
-Ellie, Oak Harbor
Sunday, May 28, 2006coffee tip of the day
With summer peeking slowly around the corner, some of you may switch to iced coffee drinks for your pick-me-up. If you aren't the type to make it yourself, you may be a victim to profiteering coffee stands! One thing that is really frustrating about iced coffee from a stand or shop, is that oftentimes the barrista will fill the cup up to 3/4 full of just ice!!! This makes the drink enjoyable still, but it lasts only a few sips.
Just ask for "easy on the ice"... to get more yum for your yen. It may take a few minutes to be completely cold, but you'll be able to savor your iced coffee much longer this way and be assured that your $3 was well spent!
Labels: useful ideas
Thursday, May 25, 2006Can you really put a price on it?!
Pretend for a moment that all the non-tangible rewards of being at home with your children do not exist. But if you were to translate all of your stay-at-home-mom duties into a "real" job... what would you be worth? Let's hear it.
On a related note: Who ever came up with the term "stay-at-home-mom?" What is its logical opposite? "leave-the-home-mom?" Things that make you go hmmmm...
Wednesday, May 24, 2006Day by day
I didn't want to get out of bed this morning. There is a host of reasons why, but the bottom line is that I asked myself how I could possibly live up to the great dignity of my vocation. I am so weak; when I hear the praises and glories of motherhood I am both inspired and overwhelmed. Sure, I'll be the first to tell you that there is no more important work in this world a woman can do than to raise her children with love for Christ. Putting that into my daily realities of untimely diaper blowouts and disobedient moments with grouchy kids is another story.
We have all heard the wise "Do ordinary things with extraordinary love" (Mother Teresa) but I even question just HOW extraordinary my love is when I go about my day grumbling and bitter. I say my morning offering but what kind of gift am I giving God if I do it with reluctance and resentment? It's not a gift at all.
Anyway, I read something yesterday that really struck a chord with me. Someone asked Mother Teresa how she managed to glorify God so wonderfully in all her work. Her answer was so simple. She said that she simply did what was in front of her to do that day. If only we could adopt such humble attitudes! Instead of trying to live up to the impossible holy pedestal you may envision motherhood to be... just live one day at a time and do what is front of you that day. Spend time with your children. Raising kids is more than dragging them along in your errands and hoping they stay quiet while you get stuff done (which is certainly part of it)... it is actively being with them. Talking with them (rather than at them). Today, I refuse to be overwhelmed by what I need to do and how unworthy I am to do it. God entrusted these kids to me for a reason, so while I may not have confidence in myself, I can certainly find peace in knowing that HE has confidence in me.
-Ellie, Oak Harbor
Monday, May 22, 2006The Family Meal
I recently read something about how families who experience regular, home-cooked meals will be more securely adjusted than those who often eat out. Despite my best efforts I was unable to google up this article but found a related one instead that laments the "disappearing dinner hour".
It's interesting how we, as Americans, pride ourselves on being able to afford eating out much more frequently now than in years past. Certainly some of the freedoms/comforts afforded by financial growth is a positive thing. But in this particular case, it comes at a high cost. While the average American eats out 4.2 of his meals per week, other depressing statistics mirror this shift to convenience and expediency in our meals. It is an unfortunate loss as children psychologically need the routine and consistency of homemade meals in their lives.
Whether you spend hours slaving over the stove or simply open up another box of Hamburger Helper is beside the point here (another topic for another day): there is something satisfying to be said about a mother can easily answer a child who runs indoors, breathless from a game of tag: "What's for dinner, Mom?" Even more provocative are the subconscious effects of the smells that inevitably fill the home while a meal is being prepared. The harried announcement of "Let's just go to McDonalds" will undoubtedly bring shouts of glee from little ones, but the repercussions of this becoming a habit can be grave indeed. Routine is critical for children. Of course, eating out isn't to be entirely shunned. It has it's proper place as a special treat or when traveling, etc. But by no means should it be a norm in trying to create a stable family life. We must do our best to reclaim our meals, our traditions, our consistency... our very health and well-being of the home.
-Ellie writes from Oak Harbor, WA
Tuesday, May 16, 2006G.K. Chesterton on Babies
(from the essay "In Defence of Baby Worship" from THE DEFENDANT. 1903.)
"The two facts which attract almost every normal person to children are, first, that they are very serious, and secondly, that they are in consequence very happy. . .
The most unfathomable schools and sages have never attained to the gravity which dwells in the eyes of a baby of three months old. It is the gravity of astonishment at the universe, and astonishment at the universe is not mysticism, but a transcendent common sense. The fascination of children lies in this: that with each of them all things are remade, and the universe is put again upon its trial. As we walk the streets and see below us those delightful bulbous heads, three times too big for the body, which mark these human mushrooms, we ought always to remember that within every one of these heads there is a new universe, as new as it was on the seventh day of creation. In ech of those orbs there is a new system of stars, new grass, new cities, a new sea.
. . . If we could see the stars as a child sees them, we should need no other apocalypse. . . We may scale the heavens and find new stars innumerable, but there is still the new star we have not found - [the one] on which we were born. But the influence of children goes further than its first trifling effort of remaking heaven and earth. It forces us actually to remodel our conduct in accordance with this revloutionary theory of the marvellousness of all things. We do actually treat talking in children as marvellous, walking in children as marvellous, common intelligence in children as marvellous. . . [and] that attitude towards children is right. It is our attitude towards grown up people that is wrong. . .
Our attitude towards children consists in a condescending indulgence, overlying an unfathomable respect; [we reverence, love, fear and forgive them.] We bow to grown people, take off our hats to them, refrain from contradicting them flatly, but we do not appreciate them properly. . . If we treated all grown-up persons with precisely that dark affection and dazed respect with which we treat [the limitations of an infant, accepting their blunders, delighted at all their faltering attempts, marveling at their small accomplishments], we should be in a far more wise and tolerant temper. . .
The essential rectitude of our view of children lies in the fact that we feel them and their ways to be supernatural while, for some mysterious reason, we do not feel oursleves or our own ways to be supernatural. The very smallness of children makes it possible to regard them as marvels; we seem to be dealing with a new race, only to been through a microscope. I doubt if anyone of any tenderness or imagination can see the hand of a child and not be a little frightened of it. It is awful to think of the essential human energy moving so tiny a thing; it is like imagining that human nature could live in the wing of a butterfly or the leaf of a tree. When we look upon lives so human and yet so small. . . we feel the same kind of obligation to these creatures that [God] might feel. . .
But [it is] the humorous look of children [that] is perhaps the most endearing of all the bonds that hold the cosmos together. . . [They] give us the most perfect hint of the humor that awaits us in the kingdom of heaven."
Thursday, May 11, 2006The Witching Hour
We all know it... husband not home yet, whiny toddler clinging to your thigh, hungry baby wanting to nurse, you are trying that new recipe in which your kitchen is a disaster and the meal may be as well, telemarketers are calling, children pleading "can we watch a movie?" to which you yell "NO!"... everybody's tired and you'd almost put them to bed if it wasn't for the fact that they are starving, as are you. You were hoping to get a chance to put on a little make-up before he gets home but that's the last thing on your mind now- All of your patience and grace that you had proudly exhibited throughout the day is thrown out the window... again.
I was out with some friends last night and heard a story about a woman who whenever she got hurt would say "Thank you Jesus". As I was trying to decide if that seemed over-the-top I realized she had a completely different understanding of suffering and in fact inconvenience that most people have. I asked, "Would she say that if she locked her keys in her car too?" I've been wondering about that woman all day today. Do I have the strength to THANK GOD for annoyances? Another friend had commented "you know that makes sense because you have to go through the suffering one way or another so you might as well offer it up and thank the Lord for the opportunity."
I have this picture in my mind of how the evening should go... Husband enters the door and there is soft but cool music playing, children are bathed, house is clean, there are flowers on the table with a really yummy healthy dinner, I look halfway decent (not like a tired hag at only 25) and I greet him at the door with get ready for this... a smile, and of course a kiss. But I am thinking now maybe God has a different view of that than I do. Maybe He wants me to be pushed, challenged, inconvenienced, and frustrated. Of course it is good to plan well and do what you can to avoid the witching part of the witching hour, but every woman I know experiences it as usually the roughest part of the day, the climax of daily toil and trial. When mine comes tonight I am going to try to say "Thank you Jesus" when I reach my breaking point. I am kind of nervous for that. Like I won't be able to feel thankful when I say it. But I think the important thing is that I say it. And if when my husband comes home the house is not as nice as I wished, and I didn't get a chance to spruce up my appearance, maybe if I still smile, the rest won't matter anyway.
~Hope Schneir writes from Fillmore, California
Wednesday, May 10, 2006Diaper by Diaper: Our Path to Love
What a noble task: to be a mother, physical and spiritual, of children! To raise little beings, body and soul, to guide them to sainthood, to give of oneself totally for the life of her family: this is an awesome calling. Amidst the hardest times of noisiness, daily tasks, responsibilities, sickness and more, it is hard to embrace our callings as mothers, to give it our all, offering up to God every moment. But these moments are the moments when we need to remind ourselves that it is not in spite of these tasks that we will grow in love for God, but THROUGH them. Making time for personal prayer on the side when we have a quiet moment is important. But is is equally important to recognize that our work can become a prayer, that every task is a lesson in discipline and an oportunity to make an act of love for our family.
Because my vocation is marriage and motherhood, my children and husband are the primary instruments in my life to lead me to God. I feel so blessed to have housework and a child and a husband all to love and embrace.
This is the humble life which Our Lady of Nazareth lived. She was a wife and a mother. She cooked, cleaned, nursed, changed diapers, and loved her spouse.
"...Nor can we forget our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, a humble housewife in Palestine, who did all the household chores without our modern conveniences! So, for your own soul's sake, for your health, look upon housework and all manual labor with great dignity, glorified and sanctified by the Holy Family-the Lord Himself, Our Lady, and St. Joseph!"
A child learns so much through watching the mother kneading bread, washing dishes, nursing babies, folding laundry, feeding the little children and changing diapers. - IF done with love. Many people don't look on motherhood as a good thing, but as slavery and captivity, as a burdensome endpoint. How sad. I like to think of motherhood and family life as a beacon of light shining in the darkness: a place of love, life, beauty, and goodness: a place where Christ's love is triumphantly on view. The home is the heart of family life, a place where love can grow: where Christ can enter in and thrive.
Kimberly Hahn, a homemaker, speaker, convert to Catholicism and author of many books, recently wrote a wonderful article for Lay Witness. She writes on motherhood and "Living God's Call in the Domestic Church". She, as we all do, found herself momentarily frustrated by the tedious tasks of laundry and other daily duties in the home. But, all in a moment, she recognized that through these tasks she was being given opportunity after opportunity to love her children and husband through the washing of their clothes. In the article she then goes into our callings, witnessing to the gospel and more. To read the article, go to www.cuf.org and look up the May/June 2006 issue. (It will probably not be available to read until June, but the hard copy is out. Some bits from Kimberly's article which struck me are below. She writes:
~ "I realized, with gratitude, that though the work was repetitive, God's work on my mind was not. Through the mundane work of a homemaker, He was fashioning a home in my heart where love could be expressed in numerous acts of kindness, including laundering the same shirt..."
~"Many of the tasks of married life don't seem very spiritual: taking out the trash, doing the laundry, cooking, cleaning, carpooling, helping with homework- yet every task can have a spiritual dimension, provided we do it with great love."
~"We were made by Love Himself, for Love. For those of us who are married, we have been called to be a living reflection of Him to our spouse, our children, and to those touched by our family. Before we can love our spouse or children properly, we need to cultivate our love for God. He must be our deepest love from whom we draw all our strength and the grace to love others well. We may have all kinds of natural virtues, good habits, and a kind nature, but we will not raise a godly family without the grace of God."
~"The love of husband and wife is the wellspring of love for the entire family. The greatest need of our children is to experience the love of their parents for eachother."
~Sia writes from Vancouver, WA
We have a new "Blessed" in the Church! I've just read in Lay Witness magazine that Pope Benedict XVI has added a wife and mother to the Roll of the Blesseds. He called her "a model of Christian life in the lay state."
Her name is Blessed Eurosia Fabris, known as "Mama Rosa". She was born in 1866 outside of Vicenza, Italy and was the mother of eleven children, two adopted and nine of her own. She was married to a man named Carlo Barban. Six of their children had vocations to the priesthood or religious life, and Vatican Radio said on the eve of the beatification ceremony that "She knew how to transform her very large family into a school of holiness." Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, president of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, praised her for "the sweetness of her motherhood".
That's all I know about this, but it is always inspiring to hear of women in the vocations of married life who have achieved holiness. Trudge on, friends, and remember that our sanctity will be through embracing our day-to-day tasks and duties of motherhood with great love. "Ora et Labora".
-Sia writes from Vancouver, WA
Friday, May 05, 2006Healthy bodies - Healthy minds
As a disclaimer, I want to say that this post is simply meant to raise awareness on the issue of toys. In no way are we condemning people who happen to have a house full of "twaddle" toys. Most people simply buy or give toys because they love to see kids smile... and who can be blamed for that?! This post is just meant to get us to think a little bit deeper about the things we are offering to our children, not as a fire and brimstone speech against those who have not yet adopted these play methods... we too, are works in progress after all.
In the same vein, I feel strongly about music. I've heard many kids' tunes that are fine and tinkly and annoying: the stuff kids love. And there may be nothing wrong with that; I won't outlaw the sing-songs from our house (my kids get cookies every now and then). I simply make sure to balance it out with the good stuff: real Mozart, real Beethoven...not the tinkled down baby versions manufacturers so thoughtfully install into mobiles. That stuff is saccharine. Stimulate their brains with the real world...let them hear the violins and pianos in their fullest glory. They don't benefit from this watered down/dumbed-down version of reality we call "kid-friendly" music.
I'm sure you can tell by now how I feel about most television programs. I admit to turning on cartoons so I can take a shower in peace in the morning. But I am VERY watchful about what movies or programs they see...when they see them at all. A topic for another day entirely.
Finally, there's the tricky part about gift-receiving. Most family members or friends, with the best of intentions, give kids SpongeBob slippers or flashing, plastic toy garages (I'm not entirely against plastic...we are Lego fans after all). They feel good being able to say, "The kids love it!!!") Of course they do!!! And, I love double-fudge chocolate cheesecake!!! Kids have a natural sweet-tooth. They also have a natural attraction to any kind of bright, interesting toy. In such cases, we kindly thank the giver... let the kid play with the toy for a while, and then pass it on to Goodwill when they aren't looking; they rarely know the difference. And you can tell yourself that a poor child will be getting a nice gift this way (then there's the ethical dilemma of passing on mind-junk to begin with... but I digress). We must always remember however, to be thankful for any gift given out of love, and realize that most people aren't reflecting on the "deeper significance" of the toys they give; so be charitable! That said, gift givers shouldn't get bogged down by the consumer rat race to begin with. Girls don't benefit from having the newest talking Barbie on the store shelves. Buy her a real baby doll and let her mother it. I've found that the gaudy, flashing, noisy toys lose their novelty really fast anyway. The best toys my boys have received have been their Radio Flyer wagon, their die cast metal cars, their blocks and their wooden train set.
This is the stuff they play with in the long run...the simple things with imaginative potential. Kids don't need a lot to be happy...indeed it's foolish to buy them excessive toys just to make them excited. Their minds just need to be introduced to the possibilities of what a giant cardboard box can be! Show them! Play with them! Open up the world to them! Avoid the Twinkies...
-Ellie writes from Oak Harbor, WA
Wednesday, May 03, 2006Words form our late Pope John Paul II on motherhood
"Motherhood must be treated in work policy and economy as a great end and a great task in itself. For with it is connected the mother's work in giving birth, feeding and rearing, and no one can take her place. Nothing can take the place of the heart of a mother always present and always waiting in the home. True respect for work brings with it due esteem for motherhood. It cannot be otherwise. The moral health of the whole of society depends on that."
Pope John Paul II, Homily, June 7th, 1979
~Sia (quotes) from Vancouver, WA